Ephemeral, expiring creatures all consumption and nihilism
Pedestals and gallows built from fragility and vulnerability
and the attractive kind of crazy
built by men who hate what women become
Extinguished just before it spoils, before you discover too late that real sadness is by definition not interesting.
“the man who does not know sick woman does not know woman” but you wouldn’t love me if I was well.
Dear Vice magazine, Ophelia and Cassie bore the tits off me. Suicide is not charming.
And no of course not, of course this isn’t about you.
Why do you take it so personally
Try to be a little more objective
“Take the issue of class inequality – how can that be an issue if anyone can become rich by thinking about it?
If any one of us can just attract wealth to ourselves: no issue.
The powerlessness of positive thinking. It always envisions you as a lone individual.. redesigning the world to fit your ideas. But we do have strength, we do have power. We have collective power, which we could use to make changes which would end a great deal of unnecessary suffering in the world.”
Didier Fassin is possibly one of the most inspiring anthropologists I’ve ever read, and his 2011 Munro Lecture, “Humanitarian reason: a moral economy of our time” was without doubt the best lecture I heard at Edinburgh while studying for my MSc. So I’m now almost delirious with excitement having heard of his forthcoming book, Enforcing Order: An Ethnography of Urban Policing, the result of 15 months of fieldwork based in a police station in the Paris banlieues.
The abstract for a recent lecture at NYU summarised Fassin’s latest work as follows:
Most incidents of urban unrest over the past decades in Western countries have followed lethal interactions between the youth and the police in disadvantaged neighborhoods generally composed of working-class families of immigrant origin or belonging to minorities. But beyond these tragic events, abundantly covered by the media, little is known about the everyday of urban policing.
Over the course of 15 months, at the time of the 2005 riots, Didier Fassin has conducted an ethnographic study, the first of its kind in France, in one of the largest precincts in the Paris region, sharing the life of a police station and cruising with the patrols, in particular the dreaded anti-crime squads. Far from the imagination nourishing television series and action movies, his study reveals the inactivity and boredom of eventless days and nights where minor infractions give rise to spectacular displays of force, uncovers invisible expressions of violence and unrecognized forms of discrimination against minority youngsters, undocumented immigrants and Roma people, and explores the social conditions that make them possible and tolerable, notably decades of policies of urban segregation, racial stigmatization and economic marginalization.
Already published in French, titled La force de l’ordre: une anthropologie de la police des quartiers, I’ll have to wait until August 2013 to get hold of the translation. Which might give me time to work through the ever-growing stack of amazing, soon-to-be-read books on my desk…
Trailer for “The Clinic and Elsewhere”, Meyers discussing his new ethnography about Baltimore adolescents as both ‘addicts’ and ‘patients’.
I was always the belligerent child at school who spent far too long on my soapbox (little has changed), and every year I’d have the same argument about the poppy appeal. Yesterday I came across an excellent piece from Wales Online written ahead of Remembrance Day in 2010, where ex-SAS soldier Ben Griffin publicly, and excellently, criticised the Poppy Appeal as a political tool.
Griffin was the first SAS soldier to refuse to go into combat on political grounds, and left the army in 2005. He questions the Royal British Legion’s use of celebrities (such as The Saturdays, seen above), and reminds us there’s more to war than joyful frolicking in poppy-shaped confetti: “The RBL would say they are modernising and appealing to a younger generation. I disagree. I think that their stunts trivialise, normalise and sanitise war.”
Griffin also points out that the language of the campaign, urging us to remember our “heroes” and “support our troops” attempts to depoliticise and mystify not just the Poppy Appeal but war itself:
“The use of the word ‘hero’ glorifies war and glosses over the ugly reality. War is nothing like a John Wayne movie. There is nothing heroic about being blown up in a vehicle, there is nothing heroic about being shot in an ambush and there is nothing heroic about the deaths of countless civilians. Calling our soldiers heroes is an attempt to stifle criticism of the wars we are fighting in. It leads us to that most subtle piece of propaganda: You might not support the war but you must support our heroes, ergo you support the war.” (Emphasis mine)
Griffin of course is not alone in his critique of war from a veteran’s perspective, and Harry Patch’s famous quote has been given a thorough airing on the social network feeds of those with anti-war persuasions.
But what is it “our heroes” are actually fighting for? The noble cause of “freedom” is a slippery category, which everyone can claim as their own, as shown by the bizarre cognitive dissonance that allows the EDL to throw Nazi salutes…
…whilst also “honouring” the fallen troops of WWII on Remembrance Day. For this and many other reasons, I share Griffin’s unease at the subtle ideology exercised by the all-pervasive poppy, claimed by the RBL to be “neutral” but in reality anything but. Happily, the use and misuse of political ideals such as humanitarianism, freedom, democracy, and female emancipation to justify imperialist military interventions has been written about by a selection of my current favourite writers.
In his introduction to Violence (read it, it’s excellent), Slavoj Žižek critiques the sense of “humanitarian urgency” so often used as window dressing to justify war. After all, if we’re fighting a war for human rights, freedom, democracy and all those great things, how can you be anti-war? How could you be anti-democracy, anti-freedom? Even Bush and Blair supported “democracy” after all.
Žižek has written elsewhere on the depoliticisation of “human rights” as “the ideology of military interventionism serving specific economico-political purposes“, and this has been explored brilliantly in Didier Fassin’s Humanitarian Reason and Eyal Weizman’s The Least of All Possible Evils: Humanitarian Violence from Ardent to Gaza (which I have still to read with the dedication it deserves, despite my excitable anticipation of its publication almost a year ago).
Nina Power, in One Dimensional Woman, draws attention to the increasing co-option of feminism to support military interventions, particularly with regard to recent conflicts in the Middle East. The Taliban’s abhorrent treatment of women was cited over and over again as the compelling reason why we have to go to war with Afghanistan, and we have to go NOW. How can you oppose war with Afghanistan, if peace with Afghanistan means supporting a brutal regime that throws acid in the faces of would-be school girls? Power points out, quite rightly, that the war made it even more dangerous to be an Afghan feminist, lest you be labelled an agent of the occupying forces. Not to mention the absurdity of the political right suddenly adopting women’s rights as their battle cry and cause célèbre, whilst simultaneously attacking women at home.
There’s many other compelling arguments against the Poppy Appeal and what it represents – the seemingly apolitical use of kitsch nationalism to dampen any critical reflection or dissent (as discussed with reference to the Jubilee and the use of nationalist rhetoric amongst some on the left by Wail Qasim); the absurdity of “remembering” the war, whilst we continue with multiple military campaigns and occupations around the world; the hypocrisy of a government that can afford to send soldiers to war, but leaves their welfare up to charity upon their return. All things considered, I still won’t be buying a poppy this year.
Today I got my provisional mark for my MSc by Research dissertation – a provisional 70, which is a provisional first, which gives me an overall provisional distinction. All subject to change with external examiners and exam boards, but still, right now I’m more than happy!