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Archive for Mass Violence

Hedging Albinos

January 12, 2012 by and tagged , , ,

Because that is what it is, right? A form of hedging.

Again, I have blogged multiple times about the murders of albinos in Tanzania. Here is a more recent example of this, with some connection made to the gold mining business from the excellent Aljazeera:

As noted in the film,

“Over the last five years in Tanzania, however, the situation has become much, much worse, with albinos increasingly subjected to murder and mutilation because of a completely spurious myth that albino body parts are effective in witchcraft rituals. Despite international outrage and repeated attempts by the Tanzanian government to stamp out this truly appalling practice, since it first came to light many albinos have been hunted down and attacked purely for their limbs and organs. Indeed the incidents seem to be increasing. Since 2008, at least 62 albinos have been killed in Tanzania, 16 have been violently assaulted and had their limbs amputated and the bodies of 12 albinos have been exhumed from graves and dismembered.

Against this background, it is perhaps not surprising that estimates of the numbers of albinos in Tanzania vary significantly. Officially there are around 5,000 registered, but the country’s Albino Association says the real number is in excess of 150,000. They say that many albinos are still kept hidden by their families because of the stigma some associate with the condition or because of fear that they might be attacked.”

Posted in Human Rights, Mass Violence, religion, Social Stigma | No Comments »

Extreme Patriarchy and Local Tyranny are a Toxic Mix

January 2, 2012 by and tagged , , ,

Seriously:

“A 15-year-old Afghan girl who was nearly tortured to death by her husband and his family attempted to escape her attackers more than four months ago but was sent back home by local authorities, it has emerged.

Sahar Gul, a child-bride married off to a soldier called Gulam Sakhi who then tried to force her into prostitution, is being treated for horrific injuries in a hospital in Kabul after she was rescued last week.

During her ordeal several of her fingernails were ripped out with pliers and one of her ears was badly burned by an iron. Her husband is now on the run, and her mother-in-law and sister-in-law have been arrested.

Her case has caused uproar in Afghanistan and Hamid Karzai, the country’s president, has vowed that those responsible will be punished.

But disturbing new details about how the local community and authorities responded to her abuse has highlighted the ambivalence many Afghans have over how far women should be able to exercise the most basic legal rights.

“She ran away to her neighbour’s house and told them that her husband was trying to make her become a prostitute,” said local community leader Ziaulhaq. ” ‘If you are a Muslim, you must tell the government what is happening to me,’ she told them.”

The locals said they did take the case to the authorities. When the police arrived Sahar’s mother-in-law tried to fight them off, screaming all the while that her son had “bought” the girl who therefore had to do what she was told.

She appeared to be alluding to the dowry paid by Sakhi’s family, a sum thought to be around £2,700.

Locals say the family simply promised to stop hurting her. Ziaulhaq also alleged that bribes were paid to government officials to hush up the affair.

Although she emphatically denied money was paid, Rahima Zarifi, the women’s affairs chief in Baghlan province, said she could not remember the details of the case, or why Gul was sent back home.

The abuse resumed and continued for months until a male relative visited. When he found the girl, who had been starved in a locked basement for weeks, Gul was almost unable to speak.

Fauzia Kufi, an MP who campaigns on women’s issues, said that even then local authorities attempted to resolve the abuse through “traditional means. Basically they wanted the relative to sit down with his sister’s abusers and work out an agreement,” she said.”

This is why the idea of the big bad “globalization from above” meme often implies some fetishism of the local, the idea that people know better when it comes to their local conditions, that global rule, global corporations, “world government”, etc. always impose unjustified power. But as I have shown many times over, the fetishism of the local often conveniently forgets that national laws were often passed to fight local tyranny, often based on racial / ethnic or patriarchal rule that oppress a local minority and give it a legal standing. This is especially true for women and girls in extreme patriarchal and religious local settings:

Posted in Gender, Mass Violence, Patriarchy, Sexism | No Comments »

Book Review – Games of Empire

December 10, 2011 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Nick Dyer-Witheford and Greig de Peuter‘s Games of Empire – Global Capitalism and Video Games is a very interesting and well-written book that uses the conceptual apparatus laid out by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri (with a touch of Deleuze and Guattari thrown in for good measure) in Empire and Multitude and apply them to the social world of video games as they are embedded in the global capitalist system. The book might be a bit advanced for an undergraduate audience with constant references to more abstract theories but is ultimately fascinating in relating the ins-and-outs of the videogame industry and culture to the workings of the world system.

The main argument of the book is this:

“The “militainment” of America’s Army and the “ludocapitalism” of Second Life display the interaction of virtual games and actual power in the context of Empire, an apparatus whose two pillars are the military and the market (Burston 2003; Dibbell 2006). Consider that the virtualities of Second Life feed back into the actualities of capital via the medium of the Linden dollar, and that the virtualities of America’s Army cycle into the actualities of combat via the Web link to the U.S. Army home page. Add, moreover, that the two games are connected: the high energy consumption and consumer goods of Second Life are what America’s Army recruits soldiers to fight and die for.  The two games reassert, rehearse, and reinforce Empire’s twin vital subjectivities of worker-consumer and soldier-citizen: Second Life recapitulates patterns of online shopping, social networking, and digital labor crucial to global capitalism; America’s Army is but one among an arsenal of simulators that the militarized states of capital – preeminently the United States – depend on to protect their power and use to promote, prepare, and preemptively practice deadly operations in computerized battlespaces (Blackmore 2005). Yet the examples of digital dissent in Second Life and America’s Army show that not all gamers accept the dominion of what James Der Derian (2001) terms “MIME-NET” – the military-industrial-media-entertainment network. Minor gestures that they are, these protests nevertheless suggest a route from game virtualities to another sort of actualities, that of the myriad activisms of twenty-first-century radicals seeking to construct an alternative to Empire.

Our hypothesis, then, is that video games are a paradigmatic media of Empire – planetary, militarized hypercapitalism – and of some of the forces presently challenging it.” (xiv – xv)

This connection is pretty obvious to make, after all, virtual games, along with the computer and the Internet, were products of military research. And more than just universes where otakus spend their lonely lives, virtual environments have gone legit by being used in the corporate world as training and surveillance tools.

Of course, Dyer-Witheford and de Peuter go over Hardt and Negri’s conceptual apparatus and provide some clear definitions and examinations, especially Empire (the planetary regime of economic, military and technological power with no outside) whose global governance is multilayered, involving global institutions, nation-states and various agencies. The counterreaction to the power of Empire is Multitude, which covers all the forms of activism that, also in a multilayered and decentralized fashion, challenge the logic and processes of Empire. This is TINA (there is no alternative) versus AWIP (another world is possible).

A major process of empire is its capacity to extract energy from its subjects: as workers, as consumers, as soldiers, and as gamers, through immaterial labor, that is, the labor that involves use of information and communication and produces the affective component of commodities. Immaterial labor reveals the centrality of marketing, advertising and media in creating new products and managing workplaces that produce them.

Why virtual games?

“Virtual games are exemplary media of Empire. They crystallize in a paradigmatic way its constitution and its conflicts. Just as the eighteenth century novel was a textual apparatus generating bourgeois personality required by mercantile colonialism (but also capable of criticizing it), and just as twentieth-century cinema and television were integral to industrial consumerism (yet screened some of its darkest depictions), so virtual games are media constitutive of twenty-first century global hypercapitalism and, perhaps, also lines of exodus from it.” (xxix)

The first part of the book is a pretty extensive history of video games and the rise of the corporate giants that currently dominate the market (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo). In that section, the authors deal with the issue of gender in video games. Two main developments are central to this: (1) with the massive entry of women in the workforce and the relative absence of equalization of domestic work by men (the whole Second Shift thing), the deficit in care work has been compensated through technology (including game consoles that are perfect for latchkey kids). (2) As deindustrialization pushed men away from manufacturing into the computer and information technology sectors, it left women stuck in the service sector that involved most of the emotional work. These service jobs pay less, are more physically demanding and are less prestigious. Even when women got into the ICT sector, it was in different, less “fun”, functions than men and the gendered division of labor persisted.

And despite technology, the second shift was still there, leaving women with less leisure time than men, and therefore less time to invest in video games that involve long hours of practice and involvement in building characters, accumulating goodies and reaching level after level. In other words, male privilege may have been challenged in a lot of spheres of social life but video games created a domain of “remasculinization” where the in-game experience is thoroughly based on the tropes and cultural scripts of hegemonic masculinity where sexism is rampant. As a result, there are fewer women gamers, a fact then used to claim that women are “naturally” less into gaming, a convenient justification that avoids looking into the structural dynamics of gaming. Actually, when given the opportunity and not drowned in sexist and misogynistic abuse, a lot of women love to game.

How does that fit with Empire?

“The world market is a dynamo at drawing people into the circuit of production and consumption, but it neglects, to a catastrophic degree, social and ecological reproduction – care for households, community, and environment. The ongoing sexism of virtual play mirrors this imbalance. Reproductive work, material and immaterial, has historically been performed overwhelmingly by women, and this, even after successive waves of feminism, still largely continues to be the case. The virtual play industry addresses itself to an ideal male subject, a ‘digital boy’ (Burrill 2008, 15) who can spend hours at game play and game production, and positions women, of not now as completely invisible other, still as a subsidiary participant, a ‘second sex’, making the dinner, sustaining relationships, and gaming occasionally, ‘casually’. It is precisely this non-universality, this prioritization of consumption and production over social and ecological reproduction, that males virtual play so symptomatic of Empire.” (23)

What is especially introduced by virtual play is the concept of playbor (play as labor as a form of immaterial labor). Players are free laborers, toiling for fun and for a price but they offer their free labor. Playbor has four aspects;

  • microdevelopment ( a lot of games are created by small teams in someone’s garage, being micro-developed until a select few get bought by giant corporations while millions of others just crash and burn)
  • modding (modifications and improvements on already commercialized and released games by altering the codes)
  • MMOs (massive multiplayer online games where the players are running massive experiments in community- and team-building for free)
  • machinima (players creating cinema from games)

Playbor is the version 2.0 of the hacker culture based on autoproduction, networked cooperation and self-organization. All four modalities of playbor are free labor provided by the players to the companies commercializing the games. Playbor is now also a tool used in corporate training and the knowledge economy in general.

Similarly, the virtual game industry is paradigmatic of cognitive capitalism:

“Cognitive capitalism is the situation where workers’ minds become the ‘machine’ of production, generating profit for owners who have purchased, with a wage, its thinking power.

(…)

To speak of cognitive capitalism is specifically to suggest the recent rise to prominence of a set of industries for whom the mobilization, extraction, and commodification of advanced forms of collective  knowledge are foundational: the computer hardware and software industries; the biotechnology, medical, and pharmaceutical sectors; the financial analysis sector, marketing, and data mining; and an array of media and entertainment enterprises, including video games. All these industries, in turn, presuppose a socially ‘diffuse intellectuality’, generated by an increasingly vast educational apparatus. (Vercellone 2007b).” (37-8)

Cognitive capital has specific characteristics:

  • production of software to record, manipulate, manage, simulate and stimulate cognitive activity;
  • intellectual property rights, patents, trademarks, and copyrights become the main mode of revenues in an increasingly rent economy, or turning living knowledge into dead knowledge (studied unoriginality)
  • globalization: sectors of cognitive capital aim for the global market in both production and consumption;
  • dependence on the cognitariat: a workforce with intellectual, technological and affective skills that needs to be organized, disciplined, and ultimately exploited (through three devices: creativity, cooperation and cool)
  • cognitive capital is also the terrain where owners and workers conflict.

In that respect, the whole chapter dedicated to EA is highly enlightening.

Another aspect of Empire is the use of social machines:

“A social machine is a functionally connected assemblage of human subjects and technical machines, people and tools.” (70)

In the case of virtual games, the assemblage goes as follows:

  • technical machine: the console (replaced by the human body with Wii and then Kinect)
  • corporate machine: the EULA, patents and copyrights attached to any device, the flows of capital, labor and technology
  • time machine: the profitable using up of software and other virtual commodities that have a limited life (consoles are sold at a loss, all the money is in the software that have a planned obsolescence)
  • machinic subjects: the mobilization of hard core gamers (mostly in the trope of  the hypermasculine “man of action”)
  • transgressive war machines of hacking and piracy
  • machine wars between the three corporate giant of the gaming world
  • global biopolitical machine of Empire:

“The Xbox, the PS3, and even the charming Wii are machines of Empire; their technological assemblages of circuitry and cell processors build the corporate territories of Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo, which in turn are components in the worldwide capitalist machine.

(…)

Consoles are intimate machines, seamlessly inserted into our domestic or personal space or even carried close to our skin, responsive to our skills and prowess, becoming, with the Wii, remote body extensions.” (93)

Hence is extended a society of control or surveillance society, with our consent and enjoyment.

Having laid out the structural context of gaming in the first part of the book, the authors move on, in the second part, to the actual games that banalize the idea of permanent war by socializing boys early on through war play. This is especially crucial in the aftermath of the War on Terror, which officialized a state of permanent conflict everywhere against elusive, never quite clearly defined enemies. For Hardt and Negri, after all, war is not for conflict resolution between countries but for control and order in the global system.

In this context, war is

  1. interminable and therefore becomes a general phenomenon and a permanent mode of social relations
  2. lacking boundaries as ‘security’ becomes the rationale for incursions everywhere and anywhere and where the boundaries between domestic and international become blurry
  3. legitimizing a permanent state of exception, which requires the suspension of rights
  4. the new normal

Virtual games provide an important agent of socialization to all of this. War becomes part of the culture of everyday life and joins, again, the video game culture and the military apparatus and the overlaps are rather obvious. For instance, developments in military thinking involve Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT), a scenario that is often played out in different games (such as the Full Spectrum series) and in real life (in the cities of Iraq, for instance or the US cities by a more and more militarized police).

Banalization of war not only habituates and socializes the population to permanent war, but it also maintains its will to fight. Through the exercise of virtual violence, the games train, discipline and disinhibit deadly aggression against enemies, or at least, socialize people to indifference to torture, mass killing of these “others”. The mass media play their part in that process as well.

And then, there was World of Warcraft as illustration of biopower. The makers of the game try to control the game “from above” and in most aspects of the game while the gamers organize themselves “from below”. Running an MMO requires tight governance in the face of constant violations, hacking and modding with specific sanctions and surveillance mechanisms while being careful to not kill the fun out of the game through too much control and sanctions. And this gets trickier as the gaming population increases with a gaming boom in Asia, especially China.

In WoW, Gold is what matters and gold farming is booming but gold farmers are reviled and stigmatized by other players as fake players. At the same time, one forgets that gold farmers are also real-life super-exploited workers by corporations that supply a demand, mostly from wealthier players. This is a rather perfect illustration of the relationship workers / consumers of core countries have to workers from the periphery and semi-periphery.

This phenomenon (along with the exploitation of peripheral workers to work up the levels – power leveling – by western players) was nicely illustrated in Cory Doctorow’s novel, For The Win.

“Here the intersection of Blizzard’s [the company that produces WoW] digital biopower with the material biopower of Chinese capitalism snaps into sharp focus. Wgen Blizzard polices the digital realm of Azeroth (a kingdom created from the commercial enclosure of cyberspace) for virtual gold farmers, the offenders it seeks are likely to be actual peasant farmers who have left or been thrown off their fields by Chinese capitalism’s enclosures, abandoning an impoverished and ecologically devastated countryside for its cyber-connected cities. Some have probably been displaced by megaprojects such as the Three Gorges Dam, supplying insatiable demand for electrical power, primarily for industry, but also for Internet servers, in China’s eastern’s coastal cities.” (145)

And corporations do not like gold farming because it impedes on the free labor provided by paying players. And so, the super-exploited players bear the brunt of exploitation AND discipline so that playbor can prevail and continue to provide massive quantities of free labor. As a result, the production relations of the real world are reproduced in virtual world as well in hyper-subsumption (the gradual full colonizing of every sphere of life by capitalist social relations).

If there is one thing that is clear, whether with the success of Slumdog Millionaire or the current occupation movement, it is that the city (especially the global city) is a key site of Empire, and Grand Theft Auto is a perfect illustration of the centrality of the urban environment. The global cities are where we can see the full spectrum of global stratification and the consolidation of global hierarchies, where massive wealth but also surveillance and repression take place. GTA is a perfect representation of the neoliberal urbanism:

“GTA’s constitution of a metropolitan entirely enveloped by, and subsumed within, crime also performs a normalization of corporate criminality. Its game world asserts that crime is the way the universe is – the way money changes hands, business is done, society organized; it is the nature of reality. Why be outraged when the financial rulers of the world disregard the pettiness of the law, since all of this just reveals their superior grasp of the rules of the game? The omnipresence of crime in Liberty City is thus one more cultural contribution to the generalized indifference that greets the news of corporate crimes in Empire,  an indifference whose rational kernel is perhaps, as David Harvey observes, the popular assumption that criminal behavior is hardly ‘easily distinguishable from the normal practices of influence-peddling and making money in the marketplace.’ (2007, 166)” (178)

And if GTA presents a world that is thoroughly corrupt, it does not offer any alternative than to be really good at the rotten game. There is no way out of Empire. GTA may be satirical but it also normalizes the state of affair as “that’s just the way it is”.

But for the authors, there are alternatives to the games of Empire, the games of Multitude, which are the subject of the final part of the book. Multitude is the counterreaction to Empire, all the forms of resistance and activism to the logics of Empire. Multitude manifests itself in different ways:

  • through new subjectivities, new forms of producing, cooperating and communicating on a global scale and mobilizing skills to subvert Empire – subjective capacity
  • through new social movements opposing global capital – social movements
  • through the development and protection of alternatives such as open source, indymedia and other forms of freeing information from global capital – political project

The key is to have all three coalesce.

In the case of video games, resistance from the multitude takes a variety of forms all subsumed under the concept of countergaming:

  • Counterplay: acts of contestation within the established games of Empire and their ideologies
  • Dissonant development: emergence of critical content in a few mainstream games, dissident infiltration
  • Tactical games: dissemination of radical social critique through game designed by activists
  • Polity simulators: serious educational and training projects
  • Self-organized worlds: independent production of game content in MMOs
  • Software commons: challenges on the whole intellectual property rights regime

This follows rather closely the logic of “another world is possible” made famous by the World Social Forum. And all six paths are part of repertoires of contention within the game world. And all of them may contribute potential paths to exodus from Empire. The authors present a whole variety of examples of the ways this can be accomplished. After all, Empire is a contested terrain and multiple forms of resistance are always at work in the minutiae of social life as well as the major social institutions.

It is a very dense book but a very important one to understand the logic of Empire, as a good introduction to the work of Hardt and Negri, as well as new social movements.

Highly recommended.

Posted in Book Reviews, Corporatism, Culture, Globalization, Ideologies, Mass Violence, Media, Militarism, Neo-Colonialism, Networks, Precarization, Racism, Sexism, Social Inequalities, Social Movements, Social Privilege, Social Theory, Surveillance Society, Technology | 2 Comments »

The Visual Du Jour – Murders

October 10, 2011 by and tagged ,

Worldwide:

Note how not green the US is. Also note which countries are green (like China and most of the Middle East). And I had to explain yet again to my students that, no, diversity is not the reason for the elevated murder rate in the US compared to other rich countries.

Posted in Mass Violence, Social Deviance, Sociology | 1 Comment »

The Visual Du Jour – Gun Violence

October 1, 2011 by and tagged

Via. So guns do kill people after all:

Geebus, California (and Texas and New York).

Changes between 2009 and 2010:

Firearms murders per 100,000:

Firearm robberies:

Firearm assaults:

Posted in Mass Violence | No Comments »

Child Reassignment as Totalitarian Strategy

August 4, 2011 by and tagged ,

I had heard of the practice of taking away the children of political opponents and have them adopted into more “suitable” families during the military dictatorship in Argentina. But, as this episode of Al-Jazeera’s excellent program, People and Power, shows that the same thing was taking place in another fascist dictatorship, Franco’s Spain.

It is such a perfect strategy for fascist dictators: get rid of one generation of political opponents (in Argentina, the mothers were often killed after giving birth), and make sure that the next generation won’t be a problem. And, of course, the money involved provided incentives. And the hospitals kept dead babies in the freezer to show the mothers that their babies were dead, even though they were not and were being sold to other families.

It takes a special kind of dehumanization to suppress one generation – let’s call it politicide or ethnocide – and completely reassign the next one.

Posted in Mass Violence, Militarism | No Comments »

Michael T. Klare on The New Thirty Years’ War

July 11, 2011 by and tagged , , , , , ,

Here.

Why the comparison to the original Thirty Years War?

“From 1618 to 1648, Europe was engulfed in a series of intensely brutal conflicts known collectively as the Thirty Years’ War. It was, in part, a struggle between an imperial system of governance and the emerging nation-state. Indeed, many historians believe that the modern international system of nation-states was crystallized in the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, which finally ended the fighting.

Think of us today as embarking on a new Thirty Years’ War. It may not result in as much bloodshed as that of the 1600s, though bloodshed there will be, but it will prove no less momentous for the future of the planet. Over the coming decades, we will be embroiled at a global level in a succeed-or-perish contest among the major forms of energy, the corporations which supply them, and the countries that run on them. The question will be: Which will dominate the world’s energy supply in the second half of the twenty-first century? The winners will determine how — and how badly — we live, work, and play in those not-so-distant decades, and will profit enormously as a result. The losers will be cast aside and dismembered.

Why 30 years? Because that’s how long it will take for experimental energy systems like hydrogen power, cellulosic ethanol, wave power, algae fuel, and advanced nuclear reactors to make it from the laboratory to full-scale industrial development. Some of these systems (as well, undoubtedly, as others not yet on our radar screens) will survive the winnowing process. Some will not. And there is little way to predict how it will go at this stage in the game. At the same time, the use of existing fuels like oil and coal, which spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, is likely to plummet, thanks both to diminished supplies and rising concerns over the growing dangers of carbon emissions.

This will be a war because the future profitability, or even survival, of many of the world’s most powerful and wealthy corporations will be at risk, and because every nation has a potentially life-or-death stake in the contest.”

Is there no other path?

“When these three decades are over, as with the Treaty of Westphalia, the planet is likely to have in place the foundations of a new system for organizing itself — this time around energy needs. In the meantime, the struggle for energy resources is guaranteed to grow ever more intense for a simple reason: there is no way the existing energy system can satisfy the world’s future requirements. It must be replaced or supplemented in a major way by a renewable alternative system or, forget Westphalia, the planet will be subject to environmental disaster of a sort hard to imagine today.

(…)

To appreciate the nature of our predicament, begin with a quick look at the world’s existing energy portfolio. According to BP, the world consumed 13.2 billion tons of oil-equivalent from all sources in 2010: 33.6% from oil, 29.6% from coal, 23.8% from natural gas, 6.5% from hydroelectricity, 5.2% from nuclear energy, and a mere 1.3% percent from all renewable forms of energy. Together, fossil fuels — oil, coal, and gas — supplied 10.4 billion tons, or 87% of the total.

Even attempting to preserve this level of energy output in 30 years’ time, using the same proportion of fuels, would be a near-hopeless feat. Achieving a 40% increase in energy output, as most analysts believe will be needed to satisfy the existing requirements of older industrial powers and rising demand in China and other rapidly developing nations, is simply impossible.”

And two facts are unavoidable: we are running out of oil (and certainly the era of “cheap” and easily accessible oil is over) and global climate change.

And this also means that we will see an over-militarization of the states in order to access these diminishing resources, if it bankrupts them in the process (as with the US, for instance).

And yes, there are already existing alternatives and research done to find more, but nothing will be really usable on a larger scale within the next thirty years.

How will it end?

“Thirty years from now, for better or worse, the world will be a far different place: hotter, stormier, and with less land (given the loss of shoreline and low-lying areas to rising sea levels). Strict limitations on carbon emissions will certainly be universally enforced and the consumption of fossil fuels, except under controlled circumstances, actively discouraged. Oil will still be available to those who can afford it, but will no longer be the world’s paramount fuel. New powers, corporate and otherwise, in new combinations will have risen with a new energy universe. No one can know, of course, what our version of the Treaty of Westphalia will look like or who will be the winners and losers on this planet. In the intervening 30 years, however, that much violence and suffering will have ensued goes without question. Nor can anyone say today which of the contending forms of energy will prove dominant in 2041 and beyond.

(…)

Whichever countries move most swiftly to embrace these or similar energy possibilities will be the likeliest to emerge in 2041 with vibrant economies — and given the state of the planet, if luck holds, just in the nick of time.”

My guess is it won’t be the US as it is still in denial about peak oil and global climate change.

Posted in Environment, Mass Violence, Militarism, New Wars, Resource Wars, Risk Society, Sustainability | No Comments »

Double Whammy: War Rapes and Honorable Murders

June 16, 2011 by and tagged , , , ,

If this is true, this is horrible:

“Libyan women and girls who become pregnant through rape risk being murdered by their own families in so-called “honour killings”, according to Libyan aid workers.

Rape is a sensitive topic worldwide, but in this country it is even more of a taboo.

“In Libya when rape occurs, it seems to be a whole village or town which is seen to be dishonoured,” says Arafat Jamal of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.

Libyan charities say they are getting reports that in the west of the country, which is particularly conservative, Col Muammar Gaddafi’s forces have tended to rape women and girls in front of their fathers and brothers.

“To be seen naked and violated is worse than death for them,” says Hana Elgadi. “This is a region where women will not go out of the house without covering their face with a veil.”

Ms Elgadi is in a group of Libyan volunteers offering medical help and HIV tests. The organisation is also offering to pay for abortions for women who have been raped in the war.

(…)

The International Criminal Court says it believes Col Gaddafi’s forces are using rape as a weapon of war. The ICC says it has reason to believe orders to rape were given, and the drug Viagra was distributed to fighters.

A major in the Libyan army who has now deserted told the BBC the shipments of Viagra were widely known about, but neither he nor his colleagues saw them.

“The order to rape was not given to the regular army,” says the major, who did not want his name to be used, because his family is still in Tripoli. “Col Gaddafi knew we would never accept it. It was given to the mercenaries.”

Mr Jamal, the UNHCR’s emergency co-ordinator for Libya, says it has not so far uncovered evidence that rape has been used as a weapon of war, although it has seen evidence of individual instances of rape throughout the country.

“We have also seen evidence that would seem to suggest that rape has been carried out by both sides, but we cannot say on what scale,” he says.”

Posted in Gender, Human Rights, Mass Violence, Patriarchy, Sexism | 1 Comment »

The Patriarchy Continuum: Missing Girls and Murdered Women

April 11, 2011 by and tagged , , , ,

Where are the girls?

Aborted or neglected so they die younger:

“India’s economic growth rate is increasing. But its population of girls in relation to boys is declining. In that contradiction lies a truth that many in India choose to ignore: that economic growth does not automatically mean gender justice.

Yes, in the India of 2011 – where the pride of having won the ICC Cricket World Cup after 28 years has yet to wear off – girls are either eliminated before they are born or die before they reach the age of six. We already knew this. In the 2001 census, the number of girls to every 1,000 boys in the 0-6 years age group was a dismal 927. With the preliminary results of the 2011 census just out, the picture is wore today: 914 girls to 1,000 boys.

So where have these girls gone? They disappear principally through sex-selection techniques. If the tests confirm a girl, the decision is quick and sure. Why bother to bring them into the world? Resort to sex-selective abortion.

These statistics demonstrate a macabre and ruthless aspect of our society that is sometimes hard to understand. Women are worshipped as gods in India, some of them occupy the highest positions in our society, more girls go to school today than ever before, young women are entering professions closed to them in the past. Yet, a girl is still considered a burden”

And no, it’s not poverty. Blame the patriarchy:

“Interestingly, the most skewed sex ratios are from states with the highest economic growth rate. So wherever there is wealth, to be shared by members of the family, girls are not wanted. The “family”, meaning the men, must divide the wealth among themselves. Girls marry other men, and their share of the family wealth would go to these other men.

Girls also have to be loaded with goodies when they marry these other men. Hence they are an additional expense. Boys, on the other hand, bring home the goodies when they marry – plus an additional hand to do all the chores around the house.

Put simply, education and economic growth have not changed mindsets, have not touched a patriarchal structure that values men and women differently. On the contrary, more wealth appears to have consolidated old prejudices. What else can explain the coincidence of prosperity and a skewed child-sex ratio?”

And weak governance:

“The sex ratio conundrum has also exposed the inability of successive governments in India to implement social laws. There has been an anti-dowry law on the statute book since 1961. Yet dowry continues as a custom that has spread even to communities that did not follow it earlier.

There is a specific law, enacted in 1994, which prohibits the use of technology to detect the sex of a foetus. All ultrasonography machines have to be registered, and anyone indicating to a pregnant woman the sex of her foetus can be fined and even given a jail term. Yet, the law has been ineffective in stopping the practice of sex-detection. Where it is enforced, people simply go elsewhere. The wealthy go abroad. Thailand is a favoured destination for techniques that ensure you have a boy.”

And while we’re on the subject of weak / failed states:

“Latin America is stained red. And once again the blood spilt belongs to a woman.

Unfortunately the number of violent crimes against the feminine gender has increased so much in recent years that the experts describe it as a pandemic.

And the figures speak for themselves. According to data supplied by the UN Development Programme in 2006, between 30% and 45% of women in Latin America have been the objects of physical, sexual or psychological violence from a man on some occasion.

In Mexico the number of victims reaches 44%, , followed by Colombia, Peru and Chile with around 40%. Nicaragua, Haiti and the Dominican Republic have recorded lower levels, between 20 and 30%, but still cause for concern.

However the real alarm has been sounded in countries like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, where the culture of hatred against women is deeply rooted.”

The reasons?

“According to the Guatemalan sociologist Carmen Rosa de León-Escribano, who is executive director of the Instituto de Enseñanza para el Desarollo (IEPADES, the Institute of Teaching for Development), in her article Violence and Gender in Latin America , these acts involve a considerable number of causes which can include domestic violence, street crime, racist attacks, territorial conflicts between mafias, sexual violence, and the result of armed conflicts led either by the state or by other armed groups.

However for Rebecca Grynspan, the regional director of the UN Development Programme (PNUD), other factors like social class and economic situation promote relations of inequality between the genders, since “ the more economic independence and decision-making power that women have, the lower are the levels of violence”.

In her opinion the Mexican academic Marcela Lagarde says in an interview for Pagina 12 , that discrimination against women in Latin America is encouraged by a serious social devaluation: “ They make jokes and commentaries on the inabilities of women, then they pick some women on which to vent their fury against others, and this feeds misogyny against all women. But it is not just misogyny, but the situation of women in society, which combined with misogyny puts women at risk of violence”. And she adds “ when we women in Mexico come to ask for action based on our rights we receive maltreatment and discrimination from the health and education services and from the justice system””

And there is quite a bit of indifference to femicides from the governments throughout the region.

This is how the patriarchy is reproduced: through a combination of structural, symbolic and interpersonal violence.

Posted in Gender, Human Rights, Mass Violence, Patriarchy, Sexism | No Comments »

Global Women

March 8, 2011 by and tagged , ,

So, it’s International Women Day. Yay! We get one day in the year.

In the past two days, The Guardian did an extraordinary job on this subject (although seeing Margaret Thatcher in the Top 100 Women makes me want to vomit).

Needless to say, there is still so much work to do to obtain basic safety, security, dignity for women and girls in the world, let alone equality.

And, of course, most of you have seen this clip of Daniel Craig in drags for the occasion, which, I guess, makes it all worth it

But because I’m a party pooper, let me go over some stuff that tends to get forgotten the rest of the year.

First, you must play with this neat tool (below and from here) regarding the various wages gaps (and yes, I know it will bleed over to the sides) for a number of occupations (and social science researchers is one of the few occupations where the median wage for women is higher than it is for men, but then, it is a dominated field, so, no surprise here). Other than that, the glass ceiling is still firmly in place.

The French Observatoire des Inégalités has also tabulated a series of gender gaps:

Wage Gaps 2010

Beyond the socio-economic inequalities, a lot of women and girls have to endure mass and structural violence imposed upon them by patriarchal cultures, such as suicide provocation following gang rape:

“A fresh suicide provocation case can be filed against nine alleged rapists of indigenous girl Serafina Mardi as the case filed by police in Godagari upazila of Rajshahi district did not include their names as accused, legal experts observe.

The to be accused should be included in the case already filed by police against the priest of Surshunipara Catholic Church and 12 other indigenous community leaders for instigating Serafina’s suicide through deciding to solemnise her marriage with one of the rapists in an out-of-court settlement, they said.

“Serafina’s mother Sushana Soren is preparing to lodge a fresh case for provoking suicide as per advice of the legal experts,” said Dil Sitara Begum Chuni, president of Rajshahi divisional unit of Bangladesh National Women Lawyers Association that is providing legal support to the victim’s family.

Although national media referring to the victim’s family members reported that the rapists and their family members had also roles in provoking her to self-immolation, it was not mentioned in the police case.

(…)

Earlier all the nine accused in the case for gang rape of Serafina were acquitted from the court following ‘misleading’ statement of her father made allegedly under pressure from community leaders.

“Serafina’s suicide followed the nine alleged rapists’ acquittal from the court and her family members have alleged that the criminals’ behaviour provoked her to commit suicide. Now, relieving them from the accusation of provoking suicide would be tantamount to saving them,” Hamidul Haque, a senior lawyer of Rajshahi court, said after analysing all of Serafina’s case documents.

(…)

Serafina’s sister Sabina Mardi, who along with her father Cornelius Mardi has been shifted to Rajshahi city for security, said, “Since their acquittal, the rapists used to roam around our house and often teased Serafina. The rapists and their family members often told her that she should die.”

Failing to cope with the humiliation, Serafina set herself on fire after pouring kerosene at her Amtulipara village home on February 17 and she succumbed to her injuries on February 20.”

And then, you might remember the case of Afshan Azad, the young actress playing in the Harry Potter movies, who barely escaped an honorable murder:

“The court was told Miss Azad was assaulted and branded a “prostitute” after meeting a young Hindu man, a relationship which brought anger from her father and brother.

The frightened actress, whose character was a witch in the same year as Harry Potter at Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft And Wizardry, later fled through her bedroom window after threats were made to kill her.

Richard Vardon QC, prosecuting, told the court the incident had taken place on 21 May at the family home in Beresford Road, Longsight, Manchester.

“Specifically she spoke not only of assault but also threats to kill, made jointly by her father and brother.”

Chudi Grant, representing the father, told the court he “emphatically” denied any wrong-doing but was prepared to be bound over.

“At the forefront of his mind is the welfare and happiness of his daughter,” Mr Grant added.”

Well, of course. *eyeroll*

And should I remind everybody of the mass rape in the Congo?

And mass rape as a weapon of war is only one of the manifestations of the rape culture which is also pervasive in our own oh-so-enlightened societies, as Anna Holmes so aptly demonstrates in her “Disposable Woman” column, a rape culture that requires women to subject to sexual objectification but strongly punishes sexual agency (which is what the forced birth movement is all about):

“Gold diggers,” “prostitutes” and “sluts” are just some of the epithets lobbed at the women Mr. Sheen has chosen to spend his time with. Andy Cohen, a senior executive at Bravo and a TV star in his own right, referred to the actor’s current companions, Natalie Kenly and Bree Olson, as “whores” on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program on Tuesday. Arianna Huffington sarcastically tweeted that Mr. Sheen’s girlfriends “symbolize modesty, loyalty and good taste.” Mr. Sheen’s own nickname for Ms. Kenly and Ms. Olson — “the goddesses” — is in its own way indicative of their perceived interchangeability and disposability.

It’s these sorts of explicit and implicit value judgments that underscore our contempt for women who are assumed to be trading on their sexuality. A woman’s active embrace of the fame monster or participation in the sex industry, we seem to say, means that she compromises her right not to be assaulted, let alone humiliated, insulted or degraded; it’s part of the deal. The promise of a modern Cinderella ending — attention, fame, the love and savings account of a rich man — is always the assumed goal.

Objectification and abuse, it follows, is not only an accepted occupational hazard for certain women, but something that men like Mr. Sheen have earned the right to indulge in.

(…)

On reality television, gratuitous violence and explicit sexuality are not only entertainment but a means to an end. These enthusiastically documented humiliations are positioned as necessities in the service of some final prize or larger benefit — a marriage proposal, a modeling contract, $1 million. But they also make assault and abasement seem commonplace, acceptable behavior, tolerated by women and encouraged in men.”

So, yeah, Happy Freakin’ International Women Day to us all, especially the women of Afghanistan:

“A senior U.S. official involved in Afghanistan policy said changes to the land program also stem from a desire at the top levels of the Obama administration to triage the war and focus on the overriding goal of ending the conflict.

“Gender issues are going to have to take a back seat to other priorities,” said the senior official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal policy deliberations. “There’s no way we can be successful if we maintain every special interest and pet project. All those pet rocks in our rucksack were taking us down.”

The changes come at a time of growing concern among rights advocates that the modest gains Afghan women have achieved since the fall of the Taliban government in 2001 are being rolled back.

New rules being drafted by President Hamid Karzai’s government would bar private safe houses for women who are fleeing abuse and place new rules on those seeking refuge in the country’s 14 public shelters, including forcing women to submit to medical examinations and evicting them if their families want them back. The proposed rules would also bring the shelters – funded by international organizations, Western governments and private donors – under the direct control of the Afghan government.

Women’s advocates say the restrictions on shelters, which have been embraced by religious conservatives sympathetic to the Taliban, are an early sign of the compromises the Karzai government is willing to make to reach a peace deal with insurgents. The advocates fear that reconciliation with the Taliban – a goal supported by the U.S. government – will result in a significant erosion of women’s rights.”

Women are pet rocks, how lovely.

Posted in Gender, Labor, Mass Violence | No Comments »

No World for Women

February 16, 2011 by and tagged , , ,

The title for this post is shamelessly borrowed from Agnese Vardanega’s own post on the deplorable situation of women in Italy, compared to their European counterparts, from higher unemployment to shouldering most of the second shift, to being the victims of domestic violence and bullying:

“Nel 2009, il tasso di disoccupazione femminile è stato del 9,3% contro il 6,8% di quello maschile (). Nel corso di quello stesso anno, nell’Europa a 27 il tasso di disoccupazione maschile aveva addirittura superato quello femminile (Eurostat).

Secondo una recente indagine di Manageritalia, in  «le dirigenti sono solo l’11,9% del totale, ultime in Europa, contro una media europea del 33%, e a superarci sono anche la Turchia con un 22,3% e la Grecia con un 14,6% (…) Guardando alle donne nei Consigli di Amministrazione delle società quotate, poi, siamo al quart’ultimo posto con un misero 3,2% rispetto a una media dell’Europa a 27 dell’11,4% (…). le donne imprenditrici sono il 23,4%, contro una media Europea superiore al 33%» (fonte: La Repubblica).

Nel corso della sua vita, ha subito mobbing (situazioni di vessazione, demansionamento o privazione dei compiti) il 9,9% delle donne, contro l’8,3% degli uomini. Ma la principale differenza è che «le lavoratrici subiscono più di frequente … le scenate, le critiche senza motivo, vengono più spesso umiliate, non si rivolge loro la parola e ricevono più offerte o offese di tipo sessuale. Per gli uomini le situazioni critiche riguardano più direttamente l’attività lavorativa» (fonte: Istat).

In una famiglia in cui la donna (25-44 anni) non lavora, l’83% del lavoro domestico ricade sulle sue spalle; nel caso in cui ci siano 2 o più figli, questo valore (detto “indice di asimmetria”) sale all’83,9%. E anche quando la donna lavora, l’indice di asimmetria non scende al di sotto del 71,4% (fonte: Istat).

Nel 2006, infine, ha dichiarato di aver subito – nel corso della propria vita – violenza fisica e sessuale il 32% delle donne di età compresa fra i 16 e i 70 anni: nel corso di quel solo anno, le violenze hanno riguardato il 5,4% delle donne (non sono disponibili i dati relative alle bambine). In molti casi, i responsabili di tali violenze sono stati i partner o gli ex-partner (2,4%).”

To be fair, the situation in France is not exactly much better. The second shift rests solidly on women’s shoulders even when they work full-time. And for sociologists, this is a larger social problem as fundamental inequalities have their roots in domestic inequalities:

“Mais les enjeux de ce combat de tous les jours dépassent la sphère du couple. Les sociologues de la vie quotidienne estiment que la redistribution des rôles à la maison est une affaire publique, et même un enjeu politique, les inégalités ménagères étant à l’origine de toutes les autres. «  Les inégalités hommes-femmes dans le monde du travail trouvent en partie leur origine dans la répartition très déséquilibrée des tâches ménagères, dénonce Brigitte Grésy, auteure du rapport 2009 sur l’égalité professionnelle entre les femmes et les hommes, pour le ministère du Travail. C’est en permettant aux hommes d’avoir une vie familiale reconnue par le monde du travail et aux femmes de lâcher prise qu’on arrivera à un nouveau contrat social entre les hommes et les femmes, et grâce au temps gagné, à une meilleure égalité professionnelle.  »

De nombreux experts plaident pour des politiques publiques visant à changer les mentalités. «  Il faut agir sur plusieurs fronts, souligne la sociologue Dominique Méda [9]   : multiplier les places en crèche, revoir l’organisation dans l’entreprise pour favoriser l’investissement des hommes dans la vie familiale, en s’inspirant de l’exemple suédois. Comme un congé parental à partager obligatoirement entre père et mère, et mieux rémunéré que l’actuel Complément de libre choix d’activité, donc plus incitatif pour les pères.  » Il ne faut toutefois pas surévaluer les mythiques pères suédois qui, en réalité, ne prennent que 17 % des congés auxquels ils ont droit … Le vrai exemple de l’égalité à la maison  ? L’Islande, qui a mis en place un congé parental de neuf mois dont un tiers est réservé à la mère, un tiers au père et un tiers partageable entre les deux, avant les 18 mois de l’enfant, chaque partie étant perdue si elle n’est pas prise par son destinataire. D’après les premières statistiques, ce dispositif serait efficace puisque les pères islandais prendraient déjà 30 % du total disponible, soit quatre-vingt-trois jours.  »

Nos pères à nous ne sont pour le moment que deux tiers à réussir à prendre les onze petites journées auxquelles ils ont droit, et pendant lesquelles (une fois n’est pas coutume) ils participent statistiquement deux fois plus aux tâches ménagères qu’à l’accoutumée. Avant de retomber petit à petit dans leurs mauvaises habitudes.”

Of course, these social data correlate with the blatant and obscene promotion of sexism and rape culture at the higher level in Italy:

“Hundreds of thousands of women gathered in city centres across Italy yesterday to protest at Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s incorrigible sexism and in particular his fondness, in the words of his estranged wife, for consorting with minors – a penchant that may see him charged with sex-related offences in the coming week.

Some of the protesters, who were demanding the Prime Minister’s resignation, carried banners that said: “Italy is not a brothel.”

Organisers say the 74-year-old premier’s antediluvian attitude to women has been made clearer than ever by the allegation that he paid for sex with a 17-year-old Moroccan belly dancer, Karima “Ruby” el-Mahroug.

“The Ruby case has revealed a system of political selection based on an exchange of sex and power,” said Iaia Caputo of the organising committee of the protests. “We want to send a message to the country and to the parties that do not see themselves a part of what has happened over the last few weeks – it’s possible to change route.”

The rape culture, of course, is not an Italian specialty:

“American TV reporter Lara Logan “suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault” while covering the resignation of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, according to a statement by her employer,  CBS.

Logan was separated from her crew at a mass rally in Tahrir Square on Friday and was surrounded by a large group of men and she was sexually assaulted and beaten, according to the statement.

She was reportedly saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers.

She eventually reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel and went back to the United States on the first flight the next morning.”

And if you think that Lara Logan is just a unique case, think again:

“Women have risen to the top of war and foreign reportage. They run bureaus in dodgy places and do jobs that are just as dangerous as those that men do. But there is one area where they differ from the boys – sexual harassment and rape. Female reporters are targets in lawless places where guns are common and punishment rare. Yet the compulsion to be part of the macho club is so fierce that women often don’t tell their bosses. Groping hands and lewd come-ons are stoically accepted as part of the job, especially in places where western women are viewed as promiscuous. War zones in particular seem to invite unwanted advances, and sometimes the creeps can be the drivers, guards, and even the sources that one depends on to do the job. Often they are drunk. But female journalists tend to grit their teeth and keep on working, unless it gets worse.

Because of the secrecy around sexual assaults, it’s hard to judge their frequency. Yet I know of a dozen such assaults, including one suffered by a man. Eight of the cases involve forced intercourse, mostly in combat zones. The perpetrators included hotel employees, support staff, colleagues, and the very people who are paid to guarantee safety – policemen and security guards. None of the victims want to be named. For many women, going public can cause further distress. In the words of an American correspondent who awoke in her Baghdad compound to find her security guard’s head in her lap, “I don’t want it out there, for people to look at me and think, ‘Hmmm. This guy did that to her, yuck.’ I don’t want to be viewed in my worst vulnerability.

(…)

Like most foreign correspondents who were assaulted, those women were targets of opportunity. The predators took advantage because they could. Local journalists face the added risk of politically motivated attacks. The Committee to Protect Journalists, for example, cites rape threats against female reporters in Egypt who were seen as government critics. Rebels raped someone I worked with in Angola for her perceived sympathy for the ruling party. In one notorious case in Colombia in 2000, the reporter Jineth Bedoya Lima was kidnapped and gang-raped in what she took as reprisal for her newspaper’s suggestion that a paramilitary group ordered some executions. She is the only colleague I know of who has gone on the record about her rape.”

And, of course, as Peter Daou demonstrates, this is not limited either to foreign correspondents and local reporters. His list is sickening and he concludes:

“Across the globe, women’s rights, their basic dignity, is under assault. It can manifest with physical violence, but it can also be part of a pervasive pattern of sexism and misogyny. Whatever form it takes, one thing is clear: there can be no justice on earth until there is justice for women.”

In other words, it is a world based partly on a global (yet culturally diverse) rape culture. And, of course, every time we make excuses by invoking culture, traditions, religions, biology, evolutionary psychology (“men have to rape, dontcha know, to pass on their genes!”), or every time we invoke restrictions on women’s participation in the public sphere as a solution (“well, women should not go to these dangerous places!”), we all perpetuate it.

While discussing this topic, I am always reminded of this story about Golda Meir:

“When there was an outbreak in assaults against women at night, a minister in the cabinet suggested a curfew to keep women in after dark. But it’s the men who are attacking the women, Golda responded. If there’s to be a curfew, let the men stay at home, not the women.”

Posted in Gender, Human Rights, Mass Violence, Patriarchy, Sexism | No Comments »

The Patriarchy Continuum – House of Horror Edition

February 14, 2011 by

So, after the old Australian guy who locked up and raped his daughter for  24 years, here is the German version:

“A man known as “the German Fritzl” goes on trial on Tuesday accused of raping his stepdaughter and fathering eight of her children.

Detlef S, 48, is charged with a catalogue of incest-related offences committed between 1987 and 2010. As well as the repeated rape of his stepdaughter, known by the pseudonym Natalie and now aged 28, he is charged with abusing his biological son and daughter.

According to the indictment, he also charged his friends to have sex with his two daughters. He denies all the charges.

A spokesman for the court in Koblenz said DNA tests suggested the man was the father of at least seven of Natalie’s children. Another child, whom he may also have fathered, is believed to have died.

Until his arrest, Detlef S lived with his 52-year-old wife in a village in western Germany, along with up to 15 children. Four of the children reportedly came from his wife’s first marriage, four belonged to them both and seven were the result of incest.

Questions have already been asked over why no one intervened earlier. Fluterschen in Rheinland-Pfalz has only 750 inhabitants, and yet it is alleged that no one ever told police about the family.”

If I am doing the maths correctly, he has been raping her since she was about 5 years-old. I guess it does take a village.

And other institutions failed to protect the children:

“The village priest, Joachim Triebel-Kulpe, denied that Fluterschen turned a blind eye. “There was speculation, of course, and whispers in the village. I never would have imagined that something like this would happen in our community,” he said.

Social services admitted they were aware of Natalie and her family. Once a week a social worker called in to check on them. “The young woman was overwhelmed,” said Hermann-Josef Greb, head of the local youth welfare service. He told Die Welt newspaper that the social worker continually asked whether Detlef S was the children’s father, “but the victim always denied this, saying there was nothing in those rumours”.

Natalie will be the chief prosecution witness. She contacted social services after finding a letter from her 18-year-old sister, addressed to her father, describing the horrors she experienced at his hands.”

It’s patriarchal power at its worst:

“Her lawyer, Katharine Hellwig, said the family was too frightened of Detlef to raise the alarm earlier. “He had them so under control that they did what he wanted. There was no point fighting; they bowed down to him,” she told Bild.

Sandra Buhr, lawyer for Detlef’s biological daughter, said: “I have never read – or had to read – such disgusting things,” she said. “Sometimes, when studying the legal papers, I feel I have to take a break, or simply do not want to read on.”"

Posted in Gender, Mass Violence, Patriarchy | No Comments »

The Visuals Du Jour – War and Peace

February 12, 2011 by and tagged ,

The great French magazine Alternatives Internationales (the international version of the equally great Alternatives Economiques) has a whole issue dedicated to globalization. One of the articles centers on conflicts and has some pretty neat illustrations to go along with it.

For instance, in the current context, isn’t it interesting that Saudia Arabia and the UAE are big weapon buyers? Also, note how buyers and sellers are distributed: only the US sells to Israel (and to Singapore… really?), Russia still seems in Cold War mode.

Equally interesting, this map showing the almost perfect correspondence between failed states and piracy. We have heard of piracy on the African East coast but I didn’t know South East Asia had it so bad as well:

I also did not know that South Africa had become such an attractive destination of asylum seekers and refugees:

And finally, the now classic bar chart showing how the US is spending more than the rest of the world combined on its military. Apparently, military expenses are growing everywhere. If I believed in conspiracy theories, I’d say governments are preparing themselves for unruly masses, what with the economic crisis and rising food prices… gotta keep the riff-raff in line.

Posted in Mass Violence, New Wars | No Comments »

The Fetishism of the Local – Village Courts

February 3, 2011 by and tagged ,

As part of the ongoing discussions regarding governance and lack of responsiveness of national governments, or the evils of global institutions, there is, as I have mentioned before, a fetishism of the local, that is, the idea that the local is inherently more democratic and more responsive. This is something found, for instance, the resilient communities movement.

I have argued repeatedly that there is nothing so inherent in local communities. Local communities can be just as oppressive or unresponsive (especially with regards to the status of women and minorities). Local communities are often the locus of power of male elders (often religious leaders) who are unaccountable in the name of patriarchal tradition.

Well:

“Four people have been arrested in Bangladesh after the death of a 14-year-old girl who was given 100 lashes on the orders of a village cleric.

Mosammet Hena died in hospital on Sunday after being beaten with a bamboo cane for allegedly having an illicit relationship with a married cousin. A complaint had been made against her by the man’s wife, Shilpi Begum, at a makeshift village court, or shalish, presided over by senior community members.

Begum has now been arrested on suspicion of murder alongside three villagers including imam Mofiz Uddin, who allegedly issued the edict. Another 14 villagers who are accused of taking part in the public lashing, or of being complicit in the girl’s murder by failing to prevent her from being whipped, are still being hunted by police.

“What sort of justice is this? My daughter has been beaten to death in the name of justice,” Mosammet’s father, Dorbesh Khan, 60, told the BBC.

Mosammet was buried yesterday in her family graveyard in Naria, Shariatpur, about 40 miles south of the capital, Dhaka.

Police said Begum told the shalish she had seen Mosammet speaking to her husband, Mahbub, 40, near their home. The shalish ruled that Mosammet and Mahbub should each be flogged 100 times, according to Assistant Superintendent Talebur Rahman. Mosammet was dragged inside a house by about 20 to 25 people, including four women. She collapsed unconscious halfway through and was taken to hospital, where she died a week later. Mahbub, who was beaten by his father, is said by police to be on the run.”

Posted in Mass Violence, Patriarchy | No Comments »

Patriarchal Punishment as Spectacle for Men

January 26, 2011 by and tagged , , ,

What strikes me between these two items:

- couple stoned to death in Pakistan (video at the link)

- woman flogged in Sudan

is how much the male participants, those inflicting pain seem to be enjoying themselves. For all the talk of Shariah Law being ultra puritan and repressive, there is a great deal of fun, apparently, to be had in punishing women (mostly, and some men as well). And these punishments always have to be public rituals (although technically not to be leaked to the Western media) that certainly would fit well in the first pages of Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish.

I know Foucault is Todd Krohn’s Sociologist of the Semester, so, I am stepping into his territory here. But I want to note that, in Foucault’s book, the old fashioned punishment, the gruesome and extended torture was designed to be disproportionate punishment to expose the overwhelming power of the monarch. And the complete destruction of the executed body was the representation of what happens when one challenges such power.

I would argue that the same logic is at work here. The Taliban rule by what they see as divine right. The super-charged patriarchal / religious punishment is also the reestablishment of a religious order disrupted by “immoral” people. As such, the punishment has to be public, involving humiliation, and gruesome.

The fact that many men are willing and smiling participants speaks volume to the status of women.

In the case of the stoned couple though, Shariah Law does not seem to prohibit lying as they had eloped but returned after a promise that nothing would happen to them.

Posted in Gender, Human Rights, Mass Violence, Patriarchy, Sexism | No Comments »

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