Wow, has it really been three years since I last updated this blog? I must admit that I kinda got freaked out by the deluge of hatred that came my way after I posted my criticisms of that Kony 2012 charade and so that did turn me off blogging for a while. I noticed that this blog still gets some traffic so I figured that a wee update was wanted.
In the past three years quite a lot has happened. I finished my undergraduate degree in Archaeology (2:1, woo!) last year but still haven’t managed to score a job in the heritage sector. I’ve also taken up writing under the name A(W) Baader. I was writing as A(W) Hendry for a while but recently had to change my name for reasons I won’t go into here. I’ve had one story, ‘Din’, published in Visiak’s Mirror which can be viewed here and have another story in issue two of Xnoybis which is available for pre-order here. It’s limited to 100 copies so if you want it you had better get your orders in fast. I also have a sampling of my fiction available as an ebook which you can purchase here and as a paperback/pamphlet here.
My new blog can be found here.
This will be my last post to this blog so if you want to keep up to date with what’s going on with me you should follow me over there.
Being an absolutely massive nerd I’ve been up since 4a.m. watching the livestream from NASA of the Curiosity rover landing. It was genuinely nerve wracking, especially the last 15 minutes or so as the lander entered the atmosphere. I was literally on the edge of my seat and then when the first pictures started coming in.
I can’t wait until the rover’s head extends and we get the hi-res images coming in. The images above come from the hazard cams on the rover’s wheels. When Curiosity landed it was basically a box with six wheels and all instrumentation was folded inside to protect it from the dust that would be thrown up by landing.
One interesting thing that came up during the hang out was that the folk at NASA don’t get paid until the mission succeeds. No wonder they always look so relieved. That is also a really shitty condition of employment. (Unionise FFS!)
Here in the UK at the moment everything seems to be covered in b/s promoting the latest excuse to try and bolster feelings of patriotism and British nationalism, the Olympics 2012. The Olympics have cost, at the moment, £24,000,000,000. Landing Curiosity cost £1,600,000,000. So, for the amount of money that has been spunked on the Olympics we could have landed 15 rovers. Hell, we could be well on the way to landing a manned mission on Mars. Priorities, ours are clearly skewed.
Some cool pics I’ve found on the interwebs since the landing. :)
Also, from the Curiosity Rover’s Twitter feed :D
I went to see Prometheus…
Prometheus shouldn’t have been a good film. It should have been a fucking fantastic film. With Ridley Scott directing and an absolutely cracking cast. However despite this and despite having some mind blowing special effects and an overarching plot that promises epic philosophical and ethical exploration it is let down sorely by one thing. Well, one thing and two people. The script and the people, Damon Lindelof and Jon Sphaits, who wrote it.
Overall the script was clunky and seemed to me to be a rehash of a rejected 1950’s B movie. The actors all deserve credit for managing to work their way through it as well as they did. The script is full of major plot holes, cod philosophy and so many basic scientific(and archaeological) inaccuracies that anyone with a high school education should have been wincing all the way through. Character development is nearly non-existent, aside from the character of David played by Michael Fassbender, so it is difficult to find any sympathy for any of the characters. The characters almost all act in a completely unfathomable way, even David who is the most developed character by far.
But it is the simple scientific, and archaeological, fuck ups that really irritated the fuck out of me. I’m not concerned with ‘realism’ when it comes to things that we don’t have today and so need bullshit explanations but when it is things that are available on wiki-fucking-pedia there is absolutely no excuse. Sorry, no fucking excuse.
For starters we are told that the crew have been asleep for a little over two years yet the nearest star to Earth is something like 4 light years away so they must have broken the speed of light to get there. A pretty remarkable advance for the next 70-80 years. But then we are told that they a visiting a galactic cluster that has a star in it around which orbits a planet with a moon. So the planet, sorry moon, we are visiting is in a different galaxy? And they got there in 2 years? And this galaxy, nay this entire galactic fucking cluster, only has one star with a planet? WTF????
Then there is the archaeological stuff that was just absurd. At the beginning of the film we are told that we are on the Isle of Skye at an archaeological dig. We see Noomi Rapace hard at work making a discovery and sending a fellow archaeologist to call Dr. Holloway, hereafter Annoying American Dude(AAD) ‘quickly’. Said archaeologist rushes out of the cave and shouts down the hill to AAD who is hard at work sieving some soil samples(meinne gotte! Some actual archaeology!). AAD quickly throws his sieve to the floor and dashes up the hillside because you have to be quick off the mark to catch archaeology… Anyway, AAD gets to the cave where Noomi Rapace has found a wall full of cave paintings in the style of Lascaux. “Have you dated it?” AAD asks, and here I am willing to suspend disbelief and accept that there has been some super fast and portable means of radiometric, or other technique, dating developed in the 80 years between now and then. The response though “Yes, 35,000 years”. 35,000 years? W.T.F??? The earliest evidence for human occupation in Scotland goes back maybe 10,500 years. 35,000 years ago Scotland, and therefore Skye, was under a sheet of ice a kilometre thick. It was uninhabitable. Also bear in mind that the paintings at Lascaux date back around 17,500 years.
Seriously. Hollywood. There are plenty of folk out there with archaeology degrees. Just pay one of us to give your script the once over. As it goes the film comes across as something produced by the SyFy channel but with better effects and an expensive cast who are wasted on a clunky script written by morons who deserve to have their livers eaten by birds.
It is a pretty film mind…
Edited to add: Lol, can’t believe I missed this one :D
*URGENT: Please help Aziz and Gemma!*
**Aziz Hussini (Home Office Ref: *H1206065*) is currently in detention
and is due to be forcibly removed from the UK to Afghanistan on *Monday
12^rd March*, on charter flight *PVT081* to Kabul at *23:10.*
The UK Borders Agency arrested 18 year old Aziz on his wedding day,
bursting into the Registry Office and dragging him away. Waiting to walk
down the aisle, Gemma, his distraught fiancé, who is a British citizen,
did not know what was happening until 2 UKBA officials in their stab
proof vests came out to tell her that her wedding could not happen
because they had detained her fiancé.
/Aziz and Gemma Gemma on the morning of her wedding/
Aziz and Gemma have been together for over a year, and were planning a
life together before they were torn apart by Border Agency officials.
Gemma is beside herself with worry, and hasn’t eaten or slept properly
since Monday, when she was supposed to get married.Gemma first met Aziz
in February last year, and says that /“When I first saw him, the
connection was there straight away, we’ve been together ever
since”./This is not a ‘sham marriage’, Gemma has had an ‘/A’/ tattood
behind her ear at Christmas as a symbol of her commitment to Aziz, and
is learning Dari, Aziz’s native language.She says she will fly to
Afghanistan to live with Aziz if necessary.
Their relationship has never been properly considered by the UKBA even
though they clearly knew he was due to get married on the day that he
was detained at the Registry Office.
Aziz arrived in the UK 2009 as an unaccompanied minor. Despite a
difficult start, Aziz is flourishing in Glasgow.When he first arrived in
the UK, he couldn’t speak a word of English, but is now hoping to study
at University and has many close friends who he has met through
collage.After first studying English, Aziz is now working for an HNC in
Computing, where Gemma says he worked twice as hard as everyone else.In
Glasgow, he was completed a voluntary work placement as textiles artist
with Little Persia,a Persian rug shop in Glasgow.He has also received
awards from the John Muir Environmental Award, and an accreditation from
the ASDAN charitable foundation, illustrating his commitment to his
Forcibly removing Aziz to Afghanistan would be a devastating violation
of his Right to a Family and Private Life (Article 8 of the European
Convention of Human Rights, 1998 Human Rights Act).The UKBA didn’t even
bother to consider Gemma when they refused to allow Aziz to continue
with his life in the UK, claiming that /“There is no evidence that the
appellant has any close family in the UK”./Now that they’ve ruined Gemma
and Aziz’s wedding, they must know that this isn’t the case.
However, Aziz is also terrified that if he is returned, he will never be
reunited with Gemma.His life is in danger in Afghanistan, which he fled
after being commissioned to make satirical depictions of a
fundamentalist party leader on a carpet.Aziz has lost contact with his
family, so will have no-one to support or protect him, and would be left
alone and afraid in an impoverished and dangerous country he has had no
contact with for the three years he has been in the UK.
Aziz is due to be forcibly removed on one of the infamous charter
flights used by the UKBA for mass deportations of people to the same
country. Flight number PVT 081 is scheduled to depart at 23.10 to Kabul
on Monday evening.
These charter flights have been regularly criticised. In particular,
guards accompanying the detainees have been criticised for using
excessive force as there are not any other passengers to act as
witnesses. Similarly concern has been expressed about the UKBA’s
practise of substituting people at the last minute without warning to
fill spaces on the flight left by people whose lawyers managed to
successfully get them off the flight.
*Please urgently contact the Home Secretary, Theresa May, your MP, and
Aziz’s MP, Ann McKechin, to ask them to halt the forced removal of Aziz,
and allow him to stay in Glasgow, with Gemma, where he belongs.*
*Contact the Home Secretary:***
Theresa May, MP
Secretary of State for the Home Office
2 Marsham Street
Contact Aziz’s MP too
Ann McKechin MP,
154-156 Raeberry Street
The UNITY Centre
30 Ibrox Street
The UNITY Centre is run entirely by volunteers and funded completely by
donations from our supporters. We need your help! If you would like to
help by making a donation or by volunteering you can find more details
on our website. Thank you! UNITY!
Template Letter Aziz & Gemma (.doc)
Wow, that post on the Kony 2012 campaign really went a bit crazy. 150,000 hits and hundreds of comments. Whilst I had expected people to have a knee jerk reaction to my post I wasn’t expecting quite that level of venom. From reading a lot of the comments I feel that a lot of people either didn’t read the post or didn’t understand it. If it’s the latter then it is totally my fault for not being clear enough. I’ll try and rectify this here and will expand on some points from the original post and bring in some things that came up in the “discussion” in the comments thread.
Thanks by the way to all the people who commented constructively, whether in agreement or disagreement, and to those who didn’t post in anything approaching a rational manner. Well.. (click here)
I’m going to split this post into 9 sections to try and make it easy to follow and refer to in the comments. It will also allow me to keep track of all the points I want to make so please bear with me.
An oxymoronic phrase if ever there was one. I want to start out with the strangeness of a humanitarian campaign calling for military intervention. This doesn’t just go for Uganda but anywhere. If you claim to be wanting to protect people you don’t do that by shooting them to safety. A humanitarian campaign, by its very nature, seeks a humanitarian goal by humanitarian means. Military action, which will always result in death and injury(to humans), is the antithesis of humanitarianism. It really makes me think of the mantra from 1984.
War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength.
I wanted to point that out up front as it is one of the most glaring inconsistencies of the campaign.
Is Kony the Biggest Problem in Uganda?
No one is denying that Kony is evil(a word I am not prone to use often). The actions carried out by him and the Lord’s Resistance Army(LRA) are some of the worst atrocities many people will have ever heard of. Especially if they don’t follow world politics and history, which unfortunately is most people I feel.
Uganda was in a state of civil war in the north ever since the Lord’s Resistance Army were formed in 1987 but a war has two sides remember and the enemy of the LRA is the Ugandan government of Yoweri Museveni. Museveni is known to be extremely racist particularly towards the Acholi people. He used the war as an excuse to carry out a slow genocide against the Acholi people as he herded over a million of them into ‘displacement’ camps in the north. In these camps people were forced to live in conditions that were a terrible insult to them. Disease was rampant and spread like wild fire as living conditions are so cramped. People were commonly abused by the military including rapes and mutilations. The death toll in the camps is horrific with around 1,000 people a week dying. 1,000 a week. For 20 years. You do the maths.
When you add to this government brutality and genocide the actions of the LRA then we get a feeling for the immense suffering this war has caused the people of Northern Uganda. A suffering that is, thankfully, unimaginable to most people who will read this and to pretty much everyone that has been sharing the Kony 2012 video.
Since the cessation of hostilities in 2006 the people of Northern Uganda have begun the long and arduous task of, if not returning to normality, then figuring out what their new normality will look like now that after all this time the violence has stopped. They are rebuilding their communities, ploughing their farms and trying to heal themselves of the harm that has been wrought upon them by both the Ugandan government and the Lord’s Resistance Army.
Kony is presently not in Uganda. He is not attacking the Alochi people and stealing their children for soldiers and slaves, something he learned from the Ugandan military of President Museveni by the way. So he simply isn’t a problem for these people and they have a long task ahead of them recovering from this war. A task that presents a multitude of problems which they are facing.
Now people will be screaming SAUCE over this. So I suggest they watch this wee documentary from 2008 about the situation in Uganda. None of the snazzy production of the Kony 2012 video but a far greater connection to reality. I should warn you that there are some traumatising scenes in the film.
Update: Just saw this on Youtube and followers of Kony 2012 should listen to this woman.
White Man’s Burden
A lot of people took umbrage with my description of the Kony 2012 campaign as a modern liberal manifestation of the White Man’s Burden. I think this is a perfectly fitting description and if you are offended by it then you should maybe take a moment to reflect how your actions could be perceived in such a way.
The full poem can be found here but I am going to quote a few verses from it just here for reference.
Take up the White Man’s burden–
Send forth the best ye breed–
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild–
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.
Take up the White Man’s burden–
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain
To seek another’s profit,
And work another’s gain.
Take up the White Man’s burden–
The savage wars of peace–
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.
So you can see that the poem is a call for white people to bring civilisation to those ‘without’. A paternalistic attitude towards ‘lesser races’ who can not achieve the heights of European civilisation by themselves, who must be guided by the white man as they are but “Half-devil and half-child”.
This perfectly fits with the narrative created by Invisible Children and the Kony 2012 campaign. The people of Uganda can not rid themselves of Kony(let’s ignore the fact that he hasn’t been in the country for 5+ years) so they need the paternalistic assistance of those with the money and resources to do so. Regardless of whether or not the ‘white man’ has been asked to lend assistance he knows best. This is an attitude that was repeated over and over in the comments on my previous post and will probably continue to be espoused by followers of the campaign.
It is patronising and outright insulting to the people of Uganda and of Africa in general.
Invisible Children/Kony 2012
I don’t want to talk too much about the group themselves or their past interventions in Uganda. This has been covered perfectly eloquently and adequately elsewhere.
What I do want to mention however is the dishonesty in the video and the way that it plays on people’s basic humanity and sense of compassion to get them to support it.
The video uses footage from before the LRA left Uganda in order to imply that the situation there is the same now. Whilst they do say in the video that Kony and the LRA are no longer in Uganda they confuse this with the shocking visual images of the conflict. The video also implies that Kony is a singularly evil person and the responsibility for all the atrocities rests on his shoulders. It completely ignores the genocide and brutality meted out by the ruling regime and in fact wishes to get people to support it in reinstigating hostilities with the LRA.
This is extremely dishonest and Invisible Children should be condemned for playing with people’s emotions to coerce them into supporting their call for military intervention in the region. That’s the sort of trick warmongering governments play and it is never acceptable.
The call from Kony 2012 is to highlight the man’s existence to the world in order to hopefully put pressure on the world’s governments to take action in bringing him to justice. Ideally they want him caught and put on trial for war crimes. That’s not the attitude of the followers of the campaign. I’ve lost count of the amount of people I’ve seen, both in the comments here and elsewhere on the net, calling for him to be summarily executed like Osama Bin Laden.
Let’s assume that Kony 2012 is successful and we see a military initiative put into play to capture Joseph Kony. What would happen?
Firstly we would see the militarisation of Northern Uganda and the resultant horrors that will come from this, the murders, the rapes and the mutilations that happened before.
Secondly we would see the Lord’s Resistance Army forced to mobilise to defend itself and it’s leader. This would require more troops for starters and so more kidnappings, more pain and suffering. It would also mean the LRA again beginning to act in Uganda which had been free of them since 2006.
Now let’s assume that the military operation is successful in finding Kony wherever he has crawled under a rock. He will be defended by soldiers. Many of these soldiers will be children. Fighting will break out and children will die. I have mentioned this many times in the comments section of my previous post and have been sickened by the amount of people who see this as acceptable losses in order to catch a monster. I really think these people need to look in the mirror if they are looking to catch a monster.
Now let’s assume that the operation is again successful in capturing Kony, unlike previous attempts which have just ended up leaving the LRA better armed, and he is either taken to incarceration or murdered ala Bin Laden.
What happens next?
Do the members of the LRA all put down their guns and head home to become integrated members of society? Or does a new person assume leadership of the LRA? Do we then end up with a completely smashed peace and an armed rebel army out for revenge. The result. More abductions to get meat for the grinder. More dead children. More burned villages. More suffering.
This is what Invisible Children are calling for. This is what the Kony 2012 campaign seeks to achieve. This isn’t what they want but it is what they will get which is why I call them and their campaign both naïve and dangerous.
Justice is a strange word. It seems so simple in its meaning but there are many different ways of achieving justice and as many forms for that justice to take. A lot of people also seem to confuse vengeance with justice. Vengeance is the seeking of retribution for a wrong. Justice seeks to make right that wrong as best as possible. Justice should be for healing, for improving the world. You may argue that the world would be a better place with Joseph Kony not in it and I would have to agree, the world being one bastard lighter is always a good thing. However Kony is just one man and his actions, along with those of Yoweri Museveni, have affected millions. That is a lot of justice. Would an execution really be enough?
I believe that justice is best achieved when it is the people who were wronged who decide, with the support of their friends, what they want to see as justice. In this case that would be the people wronged by both parties in the hostilities. They must dictate what they want and those who support them should do all that is asked of them to achieve that end.
In all the ways of achieving justice the focus must be on the person or people that were wronged rather than on punishing the perpetrator. The survivor of an injustice is the person who needs our help and attention, not the perp.
If the Kony 2012 campaign supporters really want to help the people affected by the utter scum that is Joseph Kony and Yoweri Museveni then they must first listen to what the people of Uganda want. Not what a group of people not connected want in their call for revenge.
On Doing Nothing
Another common theme in the comments of my previous post was that of accusing those who challenge the Kony 2012 campaign of asking people to do nothing rather than participate in this campaign. That was often coupled with the apparent truism that “Doing something is always better than doing nothing”. Something with which I fundamentally disagree. As I have outlined above, if this campaign is successful then all these people “doing something rather than nothing” will have blood on their hands. They probably won’t notice however as this may well be a year or two down the line and they will have long moved onto other campaigns.
This accusation of asking people to do nothing whilst these atrocities that aren’t happening any more continue to not happen is also patently untrue. I have repeatedly advised people to investigate the situation and to seek ways of offering help. I even suggested a couple of projects that need exposure and aid.
No one has been saying “Do nothing”, what we are saying is “Don’t do this” which is completely different.
I enthusiastically encourage people to go out, take action and improve our world. But to do that you need the right tools and the right information. You need to learn about the world and the way it works. You need to learn about social movements, where they have succeeded and where they have failed. You need to talk to people about how they see the world improving and listen to what it is that they, and you, want to achieve.
Changing the World, one click at a time
This new wave of ‘Facebooktivism’ seems to have been fuelled, in part, by the “Arab Spring” or as certain lazy pundits described it “the Facebook revolution”. One of the facets of the various uprisings that the media seized upon was the use of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter as well as media like Youtube and blogging to spread information about what was going on. Social media, for the media, seemed to define the events in the various countries like Tunisia and Egypt.
Whilst it is true that these new forms of communication helped facilitate communication they were but one facet of a broader movement that took place, primarily, on the streets of towns and cities across the region. However as most of us who live an embarrassing amount of our lives hooked up to Facebook and the like these events were mediated by social media. Social media being a dialectic experience we felt like we were participating, that we were one step closer to what was happening as we retweeted and shared information coming out of the revolts. This has led us to associate clicking the ‘like’ or ‘retweet’ button with actual concrete action. Unfortunately this is not the case.
All you are doing when you click that button is spreading information as a substitute for actual action. We don’t change the world one click at a time we change the world by engaging with it, by being actors in the drama that is the world and by trying to change the script so that we might find a happy ending, or at least a more interesting story.
The internet is like a library and community centre rolled into one. You can find information on the world in almost unlimited supply, you can find notices of things that are happening around the world and in your neighbourhood. But it isn’t the place where we change the world. We change the world when we become political.
Politics is in the street, in your neighbourhood and in your place of work or study.
If seeing that video produced by Invisible Children has enraged you, has made you want to make a difference, to make the world a better place then I salute you. But to do that you have to move beyond the virtual world into the actual. Move beyond ‘spreading awareness’ into taking action.
Please don’t think that I am writing off electronic means of spreading information. The internet, and especially social media, has become a powerful tool to spread information and to call people to action. The Kony 2012 campaign is a terrific example of that if it is nothing else. But it can’t be a substitute for being active in your community and at work or school. It is merely a tool to help you be more effective at those activities.
Click Here [/irony]
I’ve already suggested a couple of places where you could donate money, and encourage others to do the same, but what about getting active? What about making the world a better place?
Wars and genocide have caused the world to be flooded with refugees, only a minority of whom ever make it so far as Europe or the USA despite what the press may claim. It may seem like there is little you can do to stop these wars and whilst it is a daunting task it is not an insurmountable one. Because of these wars people have been forced to respond to aid those who have fled the fighting and murder.
In refugee camps around the world Medecins Sans Frontiers provide free health care and support. They always need support and donating to them means that you make a real and practical difference and improve people’s lives.
In countries throughout Europe refugees, the people that flee scum like Joseph Kony and Yoweri Museveni, are treated like second or third class citizens and denied even the most basic of human rights. But there are, as ever, good people trying to help their fellows. People like the Unity Centre in Glasgow who for the last 6 years have been providing much needed support for refugees going through the nightmarish process of claiming asylum with the ever present threat of being forcibly sent to the place from which they fled.
Elsewhere in the UK the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns networks groups around the country to help one another in stopping the brutal treatment of refugees in Britain. I’m assuming that there are other such organisations in other countries but I’m only familiar with the ones in Britain.
If you want to learn about the history of various social movements, including social revolutions, then the library at Libcom.org is a great place to start. It has an extensive catalogue of books and articles that date from a record of the first recorded strike in history, 5,000 years ago in Egypt, to events that are happening now around the world.
The website also has a handy section on organising with tips and advice for people new to all this.
If you do want to make the world a better place then there is nothing wrong with your journey beginning with a click of a ‘share’ button or a retweet of something that has got your dander up. But change is made by boots on the ground, as it were, and by, more than anything else, organising with the people around you to force change to happen.
There is a Margaret Mead quote that is often liked by activists.
Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
This is patently untrue. The only thing that has ever changed the world is a fuck lot of people working together for a common goal. To achieve this we don’t need to shy away from criticism but to embrace it. For it is criticism, dialogue and education that help to ensure that when there are a fuck load of us working towards a common goal we don’t accidentally make a mess of things. That’s why I speak out against Invisible Children and Kony 2012. Because I want a better world for me, for the people of Uganda, the people of the USA and every other person on the planet. It’s our world after all, we should damn well all be able to enjoy it.