Sam PF's Journal Below are the 10 most recent journal entries recorded in the "Sam PF" journal:

[<< Previous 10 entries]

April 9th, 2014
01:49 pm

[Link]

The situation at SIPRI
Further to my previous post. The Chair of my union, ST, has actually made a statement about the situation at SIPRI, posted to their website. It says pretty much similar things to the previous press report, but it also attaches a letter sent by the two trade unions to the Cabinet Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, that is responsible for SIPRI. The text of the letter is here. My translation is below. I have capitalized some specific Swedish legal terms that translate rather oddly.

I will not add anything save to say that I fully support my Union's actions in this matter.

letter from ST and SACO to the Foreign MinistryCollapse )

Tags: ,

(9 comments | Leave a comment)

April 8th, 2014
11:56 pm

[Link]

Stuff
It seems that the situation at my workplace, SIPRI, has become the subject of media attention. I repost the linked article with my own rough translation, and without further comment.

Union: SIPRI could be closed.

Many employees at peace research institute SIPRI are suffering from stress, sleeping problems, anxiety, high blood pressure and suicidal thoughts, according to [trade unions] ST and SACO-S. The trade unions have therefore put the foundation under so called special protection measures.

"If the demands are not met, the workplace could be closed," said ST Press Secretary Sofia Johansson.

She states that the special protection measures involve demands for systematic efforts to improve the work environment, and to deal with specific identified problems.

According to the union, employees at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI, which employs about 50 people at its Solna office, have experienced degrading and discriminatory treatment, and there have been no improvements since the previous work environment survey.

ST and SACO are pursuing eleven grievance processes against SIPRI, and more are to be filed. The local cooperation agreement and collective employment agreement have been cancelled.

There has been no comment from SIPRI's side.

Tags: ,

(Leave a comment)

April 7th, 2014
01:04 am

[Link]

Blent: tee-shirts
Kate B asks "Of the subversive tee-shirts at redmolotov.com, which most appeals to you?

Oh dear, there are so many!

Also, this reverts to the question of "what is subversive?", and should we include some of the pop culture and TV and films ones and so forth? Is the Ministry of Silly Walks inherently subversive in its ridiculing of power and officialdom? But I will stick to the political ones just to narrow the field.

Then there are all sorts of other issues.

First, do I agree with the sentiments expressed? Or is it OK if I don't if it's being ironic? But is it sufficiently clear that it's being ironic, or is it too obviously ironic so as to degenerate into mere sarcasm? Or is it too cleverly ironic?

Then, is it too pretentious?

Is it too mainstream and sheepish, like you just can't wear Che Guevara anymore, unless you're being really ironic and retro in a way that is far too clever for me to pull off.

Is it too po-faced and worthy? Anything involving, say, Martin Luther King or Gandhi risks this.

Do you have a right to wear it? Is it about some cause that you think is cool but really you have absolutely nothing the fuck to do with and there's a whole load of appropriation going on in wearing it?

Too old? Too new? Too familiar? Too obscure?

Oh, and I almost forgot: does it actually look any good?

Subversive/political tee-shirts are a real Scylla and Charybdis and probably a third really dangerous thing sitting somewhere in the middle. I would definitely need advice from sabotabby before attempting this sort of thing in earnest.

Having said this, I will step into the maelstrom and identify a few I like (and a few I'd not be seen dead in). Alphabetically, as they are listed, in no particular order

The Fascist snake. I've always had a thing for the Spanish Civil War. And I rather like this one.

Woody Guthrie. One of the greats.

Been an Orwell fan since when Kate B. and I were both at Woodroffe. This one seems well-designed and a good quote.

I'm the one the Daily Mail warned you about. Not one I have a right to wear, being a white hetero cis male (immigrant in Sweden but of the privileged variety), so only really have lefty in terms of things the Daily Mail hates. But a good one.

Of the Marx ones (Karl as opposed to Groucho and bros), this is probably the best, but it loses a lot of points in my book for using faux-Cyrillic, treating a Я as an R and an И as an N.

No man has any right to buy and sell the earth for private gain. Risks the overly po-faced and worthy, but it is a line from an awesome folk song, and of course a Bardcamp favourite.

Subcomandante Marcos. The quote is too small to be readable, but it is an awesome quote, and generally seems a nice design.

Well, there's a short list at any rate.

I think this is the only post I've tagged with 'fashion' or probably ever will. ;-)

Tags: , ,

(1 comment | Leave a comment)

April 2nd, 2014
12:07 am

[Link]

Blent: sacred place
Been slipping here - partly due to being away for the weekend in London, at a readthrough of the Lord of the Rings radio series, organized by mirabehn and mirrorshard. It was wonderful! I got to be Gandalf! (I should get a Gandalf icon along with the Treebeard one - I played Treebeard the first time Elly organized such a readthrough).

Anyhoo. There are various more substantive intellectual posts in the queue, but brain not up to that just now. So, an easier one, from the self-same mirabehn, who asked "Where is your favourite sacred place?"

That's a fairly easy one - has to be Iona, the Scottish island where St. Columba landed and founded his monastic community, which became the center of Celtic Christianity in northern Britain for centuries; and which is now a base for the modern-day Iona Community, a social-justice oriented ecumenical Christian community (their other base is in inner-city Glasgow). They practice a creation-centered form of Celtic Christianity that probably bares only a little more resemblance to the original than modern Celtic Paganism to its ancient inspiration, but which is no less awesome for that.

I went there with a chaplaincy trip from Warwick Uni in 1993. There was a student week, with groups from various unis.

It is of course a stunningly beautiful natural setting, and both the island and the abbey where we stayed are incredibly peaceful, spiritual, well, sacred places. The founder of the Iona Community, Rev. George MacLeod, described it as a 'thin place', where the veil between earth and heaven is weaker. Kind of like a reverse Hellmouth, if you will.

And, well, it was a powerful experience, with the music and the services and the walks round the island, and the ceilidhs, and it was where I was introduced to Single Malt Scotch, and where I first started properly encountering folk music.

Yeah, really want to go back there some time.

Tags: , ,

(1 comment | Leave a comment)

March 27th, 2014
01:06 am

[Link]

Blent: TMI
From Kate B: "This is a question about self-censorship: about which subject(s) would you not blog/post on Facebook? (I'm not talking about those which you would f-lock.) In other words, when is it *not* 'good to share'?"

I don't post personal stuff to Facebook. I mean, basic life things like going to a concert or traveling to A or B, but not *personal* stuff. As opposed to Livejournal, where I have a range of filters for posting different sorts of things that can be seen by different people. There's very little I wouldn't be willing in principle to post on LJ to an appropriate filter. I think the only things I would not post to LJ is those that would be TMI, in other words that people have no need or desire to read! (Whether I do post something depends a lot on whether I get round to it or am in the mood, etc.)

Anything political though (except internal organizational politics), I always make public. (Also, as someone asked recently, what is posted publicly here may be publicly shared).

I don't know why I don't post personal stuff to Facebook. Well, for one thing I'd have to go and create a whole new set of filters. I know they exist, close friends and stuff, but why bother? If it's stuff I want to tell to a narrow audience, then by and large that audience is also on LJ. Also, I don't know, FB just seems less suited to the long form when people have this whole feed of trivia and photos and linkies passing their eyes. Then again I just got into FB a lot later. And, kinda, probably irrational this one, I just kind of don't trust it as much. It just feels so... open. LJ feels more intimate and secluded. Which is nonsense. Filters and all.

Of course, Facebook is a big mega corporation so the extent it can be trusted with one's privacy is dubious. But then not sure how ultimately trustworthy SUP Media are, that own LJ. It's one third owned by Kommersant which is owned by a Russian oligarch. And, presumably if Vlad the Magnificent were to click his fingers they wouldn't be in a hurry to say "Sorry Mr. P., but our customers' privacy is sacred. We have our principles you know!" On the other hand, although LJ has sometimes screwed up, and many folk lament that it is not the pure, independent, idealistic IT-start up it once was, I think FB have done a lot more nefarious stuff to their users on the privacy front, though I can never keep up with what's real and what's a hoax scare story. But maybe there's something to my reluctance. Like, with FB you never know if they'll be like "Ah, you restricted this post to Close Friends, but then one of your Close Friends commented on the post and tagged one of their Close Friends which means they can see it!" or some such, or sell your deepest, darkest secrets to advertisers who will then try to sell you relevant medications/sex toys/therapy/weapons/cats. That's another thing. I have a permanent account on LJ, so no ads, so I don't run the risk of being confronted with disturbing adverts responding to my deep dark secrets.

So there may be some rationality to my greater willingness to share on LJ than FB, but I think mostly it's just habit and comfort.

Tags: , ,

(1 comment | Leave a comment)

March 25th, 2014
01:23 am

[Link]

Blent: what I'm most proud of
shreena asked "What are you most proud of?"

I think this would have to be being involved in the solidarity campaign for East Timor in the 1990s. It's one of the campaigns I have been most intensively involved in and, unlike a lot of others, actually saw a positive outcome.

A brief history: as for links, well you know where to find Wikipedia as well as I, or here is the history as given by the Timor Leste government website.

historyCollapse )

As I say, I got involved in the campaign after seeing a video of John Pilger's 1994 film, along with a group of fellow activists at Warwick, in 1995. We were starting a local Campaign Against Arms Trade group, and also started a student East Timor solidarity group, which we sought to expand nationally.

In Britain, the campaign largely revolved around the UK's sale of arms to Indonesia, including armoured vehicles, and Hawk Trainer/Light ground attack aircraft, exactly the sort that had been used to such effect by Indonesia in the past. A clearer case of siding with evil by a western government would be hard to find. (Well, there are a fair number of as-clear cases mind you). My good friend Chris Cole, who has been willing to put far more on the line than I ever have, went to prison for breaking into a BAE base and hammering on the nose cone of a Hawk destined for Indonesia. The women of the Seeds of Hope Ploughshares group also broke into BAE Warton in Lancashire in 1996 and smashed up a Hawk; they were acquitted by a Liverpool jury on the grounds that they had acted to prevent a greater crime.

As for me, I got involved in national CAAT when I moved to London, with the arms to Indonesia being one of the key campaigns. I and a friend also started up a Christian-based solidarity movement for East Timor - playing on the fact that the East Timorese were predominantly Catholic, and the prominent role of the Catholic Church in the peaceful resistance. All in all, it kept me pretty busy, though to how much effect is of course always impossible to say. I was particularly active, with the British Coalition for East Timor, in the run-up to the referendum and its appalling aftermath.

The credit for Timor Leste's freedom lies first with the East Timorese, who endured unimaginable horrors and still stood firm to demand and win it. Second with the Indonesian people, who created an opening for change when they overthrew Suharto. But I think the international campaign made a real difference - a swing vote if you will. Like I said, it meant that when Indonesia was transitioning to democracy, there was enough of a noise and a smell over East Timor that it wasn't something they could ignore, and then the post-referendum violence became something the 'international community' couldn't ignore.

I played my part in that; a minor one in the scale of things, but not a negligible one in terms of time and energy. I met Xanana when he came to speak in London. He thanked all of us who had been part of the solidarity movement.

This one, we won. Timor Leste is free. I am proud of that.

Tags: , , ,

(2 comments | Leave a comment)

March 23rd, 2014
12:34 am

[Link]

Blent: rebooting
Kate B. asks "If the world-wide web/similar hadn't been invented, and technology had stayed the same as when we were kids, how different would your life be now?"

Wow. Gosh. That's a tough one.

It wouldn't have been that different up to my 1st PhD, the Maths one, in 1996. I'd only recently discovered the web. I mean, I'd used email a bit, but it wasn't my principle means of communication.

Wouldn't have necessarily affected the first job I did so much, the one commercial job I had - I mean, not having the web as a research tool would have been different, but it wasn't yet so central. Or what I was doing as a volunteer with Campaign Against Arms Trade. I mean, it would have affected how I did these things somewhat, but wouldn't have fundamentally affected life path, I think.

The work I do now though... it is very hard to imagine doing it without the internet. The vast majority of the research we do is web-based. But SIPRI did collect military expenditure data before the web, so I guess it's like a lot of things where you can't imagine how people did them before, but of course they did.

I certainly wouldn't have a lot of the communities I have. I think. Certainly, there are some people I only know because I know them online. Others... I knew offline originally, but online became a principle mode of interaction. But maybe wouldn't have been so different.

Certainly fandom would never have been a thing. I might have been a Buffy fan, but it wouldn't have been a thing I'd have shared.

Apart from that, I'm trying to think where life-path would really have branched... maybe I wouldn't have been willing to make my first (temporary) move to Sweden back in 2002 had I not had internet community to fall back on. Or maybe I would not have been able to cope with the loneliness. No internet, so how would I have job-hunted back in Britain? THES delivered to my door in Sweden? Mebbe. I think here we've got to factor in the way the internet and other technological developments have made the world smaller. Made regular travel back and forth between countries feasible for people a lot further down the ladder.

So this is a big thing - I don't know whether I would have still gone to work for SIPRI, but it made moving country seem like much less of a huge thing.

So, 2001-2 is a real branch point for me. 2001 is when, after the end of Buffy Season 5, with Buffy's death and wondering whether there was going to be any more Buffy and what was going to happen, that's when I first typed "Buffy" into a search engine and encountered online fandom, and the first online community I was really significantly part of (save a political listserve or two at Warwick I wasn't that deeply into), the BBC Buffy forum, where I first met whiskyinmind. Then 2002 when I first went to work at SIPRI.

On the flip side, I wonder if I would have been more productive without the distractions of the internet, but then I found all manner of ways to be unproductive before that, so probably not.

Any one else who wants to request a topic, you are most welcome! You may do so here. I am not out of topics by any means, but Easter is still four weeks away!

Tags: , , , , ,

(2 comments | Leave a comment)

March 21st, 2014
02:56 am

[Link]

Blent: Effective Altruism
the_alchemist asked for "The effective altruism movement."

So, as I see it, effective altruism has two key premises:

1) Altruism/giving to charity is a moral obligation for those who can afford it; expanding slightly, it is a moral obligation to give at least some portion of one's resources over and above what is needed for healthy survival (not all over the minimum, but at least some), to purposes that will help those in more urgent need.

2) Having decided how much one will give, one should donate money in the way that is most likely to be effective in terms of saving most lives, or doing most good in some broader, but hopefully measurable, sense.

Effective Altruism takes organizational form in, amongst others, Givening What We Can, which encourages people to pledge to give 10% of their income to good causes, and to do so in the most effective way possible. GWWC recommends certain charities as being particularly cost-effective in terms of lives saved per dollar.

diversion on UtilitarianismCollapse ).

However, EA seems to me to be more like triage - it is not about justifying doing harm or injustice so as to achieve a greater good, it is about choosing which good to do when one is not in a position to do all possible good, to meet all urgent needs.

Some practical consequences of EA tend to be, most obviously, to prioritize 3rd World problems over 1st. You can save a lot more lives per dollar that way. Another is, don't prioritize causes just because you know someone affected by it, or because your friend is running a marathon to prove how much it matters to them. The person you don't know matters as much as the person you do, and by and large the people who have most money to spare don't know the people who can most easily and cost-effectively be helped (namely, people in the 3rd World).

Specifically, when GWWC evaluates charities relating to health - the most easily measurable area - giving money to e.g. cancer research[1] or heart disease is very inefficient, tackling malaria via mosquito nets etc. is much better, and tackling neglected tropical diseases which can be vaccinated against with a $1 dose and which wreak huge devastation amongst many societies, is best of all. (Then there's Give Directly - a whole nother thing that I shan't go into).

I think I basically agree with the premises of EA? At any rate, under the_alchemist's influence I started up a couple of years ago a regular monthly donation to the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative, though I have not switched ALL my charitable donations over to them as GWWC would appear to recommend (or to a similarly high-effectiveness cause). I do have some reservations, which are not necessarily insuperable objections:

- The fact that some benefits (e.g. health-related) are much easier to measure than others. That is not a theoretical objection, more a practical, and in particular that it's likely to mean a bias towards certain types of charities simply because their output is more measurable.

- The balancing of seeking social and political change versus dealing with acute needs. The former is intrinsically extremely hard to measure, in particular because of the difficulty of linking marginal effort to marginal likelihood of a successful outcome. Maybe what this actually tells us is that one should stop bothering with trying to fight Capitalism because it is expending an awful lot of effort and resources for something with very low probability of successful outcome and uncertain benefits, and instead focus on neglected tropical diseases, because a) it will save far, far more lives in the short term and b) people who are not affected by NTDs and can thus have education and work and so on are much more likely to be in a position to fight Capitalism in places where its effects are most disastrous. Actually, that's quite a convincing argument. But I do have an intuition that political action really does matter and is essentially complimentary to direct need-fulfillment.

- The Justice question. I actually do think there is added importance in saving the life of someone who is going to be, say, killed for their beliefs or because of their sexuality, or in war, because of the fact that it's not just something that is happening to someone but something that is being done to someone, especially by an abuse of power. Then again, poverty is done to people, preventable diseases are done to people by societies that are organized in a way that deprives people of the means of survival. So, maybe again tackling NTDs is just as much about righting injustice as supporting an Amnesty campaign or campaigning against a war or campaigning against policies that cause poverty. Actually, that seems like rather a good argument too.

TL;DR: ethics is complicated. I is tired. Goodnight.



[1] Cancer should absolutely not be seen as a "first world" disease. It is growing extremely rapidly in developing countries. However, the key things there, some of which need to be done by developing countries themselves, are probably a) breaking the hold of Big Tobacco b) tackling pollution and c) building up public health-care systems. IMO cancer research etc. in the west should, overwhelmingly, be funded publicly as part of our collective healthcare provisions, rather than as discretionary acts of charity.

Tags: ,

(4 comments | Leave a comment)

March 19th, 2014
02:29 am

[Link]

Blent: memeshead revisited
Kate B. asked: ""In December 2004 at http://smhwpf.livejournal.com/47460.html you posted replies to a meme “On pain of death...” regarding your past, present and future ambitions. Nearly 10 years later, how many of those answers have changed, and why?"

Won't go over all the elements of that meme, but those where there is something to say.

So, Q1 and 2 omitted, Q3 was. THREE THINGS YOU LIKE ABOUT YOURSELF:
1. My ability to communicate
2. My intelligence
3. My beard

I still like my beard, but I am also frustrated by it. It won't grow down, it curls up. And it dresses to the right. But on the other hand I do like the fact that I can learn from my mistakes, occasionally.

THREE THINGS YOU HATE (hate is a strong word, lets go with dislike) ABOUT YOURSELF:
1. My laziness
2. My lack of confidence with women
3. My insensensitivity

Yeah, pretty much still, but I'd delete the superfluous second "sen" from point 3.

THREE PARTS OF YOUR HERITAGE:
1. Jewish
2. American
3. Anglo/Irish

It turns out the Anglo-Irish was a myth, I think. I think now I'd say Jewish, English, Christian. I never felt that English before I lived in Sweden for so long. Christian ought not to be part of my 'heritage' in that I do not come from a Christian family, but by now it really is.

THREE THINGS YOU'RE AFRAID OF:
1. Failure (to do the things I want to do and know I'm capable of doing. See under laziness.)
2. Rejection
3. Debilitating illness

I think I am more at home with failure. And I have experienced at least temporary debilitating illness, and have friends who have it much longer term and are still incredibly awesome. So still somewhat scared of that, but less so. On the other hand, I'm definitely afraid of snakes. Snakes are skerry. Did you see the snake that ate the crocodile? Also I am afraid of crocodiles. But not as much as snakes.

(Q7 ad 8 omitted)

THREE OF YOUR FAVORITE BANDS:
1. Simon & Garfunkel
2. Altan
3. The Pogues

All still awesome. But after last night I should add the Dixie Chicks. Also the Moulettes.

(Q10 omitted)

THREE NEW THINGS YOU WANT TO TRY IN THE NEXT 12 MONTHS
1. Going back to Palestine
2. If time allows, Visiting OL friends in North America
3. Getting a sensible amount of sleep

1) is no longer an option. 2) I have done and will do again soon! 3) is very much still a thing. Others to replace the previous... really relaxing properly for a good couple of weeks.

THREE THINGS YOU WANT IN A RELATIONSHIP (love is a given):
1. Trust
2. Shared values
3. Good conversation

Yeah, pretty much.

TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE
1. I qualified as a basketball referee in 6th form
2. I'm a big Britney Spears fan
3. I once worked in a prison

Actually, I am not a big Britney Spears fan. I never really worked in a prison. I may well soon be unemployed. One of these is a lie.

(Q14 omitted)

THREE THINGS YOU JUST CAN'T DO:
1. (At present) Organise my life
2. Knowingly eat meat.
3. Stick my tongue out

My tongue goes out noticeably further than it used to. But I still can't roll my R's.

(Q16 omitted)

THREE THINGS YOU WANT TO DO REALLY BADLY RIGHT NOW:
1. Get my life organised
2. Get my Christmas shopping done
3. Get a fic I'm woring on finished

1. still holds. Delete 2 and 3. Replace with: find a new job. Get my chromatic scales right.

THREE CAREERS YOU'RE CONSIDERING:
Well, have considered or am currently doing
1. Academic
2. Priest
3. NGO worker

Drunkard. Not necessarily incompatible with any of the above.

THREE PLACES YOU WANT TO GO ON VACATION:
1. North America
2. India
3. Palestine (When it can actually be a vacation!)

I've been to North America a few times since. I'll add Morocco. Palestine off the menu for now, but given the caveat "when it can actually be a vacation" (as opposed to something that probably ends prematurely in an Israeli police cell), it still stands.

(Q 20 omitted)

THREE THINGS YOU WANT TO DO BEFORE YOU DIE:
1. Meet a life partner
2. Become a Professor (In the UK sense)
3. make a difference

Not so set on no. 2. Replace with "Go to Palestine when it can actually be a vacation".

THREE PEOPLE WHO HAVE TO TAKE THIS QUIZ NOW OR DIE PAINFULLY
1. the_lady_lily
2. dragonydreams
3. tea_at_bettys (mostly because I can't believe there's a meme she's not done!)

Don't remember if they did, but I hope they haven't died painfully or otherwise either way!

Obviously I must now add Kate B. WINOLJ.

Tags:

(Leave a comment)

March 17th, 2014
01:35 am

[Link]

Blent: subversive potential of pop culture
Been a bit quiet on the Blent front owing to Life stuff getting in the way.

sabotabby requested "The potential of pop culture to be subversive". So now she is returned from Moroccan climes, I will essay a post on the subject, though it it somewhat outside my comfort zone!

Wikipedia tells me that "popular culture" can be defined as "...the entirety of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes, images, and other phenomena that are within the mainstream of a given culture, especially Western culture of the early to mid 20th century and the emerging global mainstream of the late 20th and early 21st century."

So, that's quite a nice narrow, well-delineated field to discuss then...

Though apparently "pop", while sometimes used interchangeably with "popular" can be defined more narrowly as "...specific of something containing qualities of mass appeal" which is not in the least a problematic definition.

Hmm.

I suppose my primary reaction would be to be dubious of the subversive potential of pop culture. That, even when an aspect of pop culture starts as something subversive, by the time it becomes truly "pop", in particular mainstream, it has generally been sanitized and commercialized into something that has essentially lost its subversive qualities. Examples such as punk and hip-hop come to mind in particular.

Moreover, I think dominant power structures find a very useful role for sanitized versions of originally radical pop culture as a means of channeling potentially subversive tendencies within society - especially but not only amongst young people - into something safe and ultimately unthreatening to those power structures. It allows people to feel that they are rebelling and being subversive, without actually changing anything. Again one can think of punk or hop-hop, or from something more related to my own experience (and possibly less 'pop') I think of all of us standing round at Bardcamp and singing World Turned Upside Down and feeling all warm and fuzzy and radical, while being as likely to turn the world upside down as a cucumber sandwich. Nothing wrong with singing the Diggers song, much enjoy doing so, but like I say, a very safe form of subversion.

One does not need to restrict attention to modern times or music. Take Robin Hood for example, one of our most popular English legends. Stealing from the rich, giving to the poor, a radical notion, and yes, still used as a banner name for (center)-left wing ideas, like the "Robin Hood tax". But again it seems to me to have served a function of making this idea, which of course has always been present in our culture and carried considerable mass appeal, into something comforting and safe. No peasants revolts, no revolutions, but an aristocratic hero fighting a corrupt local ruler in the name of the rightful King. I was interested to read recently, again in the font of all knowledge, that the setting of the Robin Hood legend in the reign of Richard the Lionheart and the attributing to the hero of an aristocratic title of which he was wrongfully deprived, was a 16th century innovation. But even without that aspect, there's still a strong extent to which that sort of story comforts people with the idea that some time this great hero of the poor existed, rather than encouraging them to go thou do likewise.

Similarly, how many stories are there, in many cultures, of the bold young maidens who defy their mean parents to marry for love? And how many where the virtuous parents discipline the wayward child into marrying as they are told? Yet, the 'subversive' stories coexist happily within a patriarchal, honour culture where the chances for real live bold young maidens to defy their parents were all to rare and all to likely to end far from happily ever after. Again, the stories channel and render harmless the subversive instincts.

However, there is another side to this, which is that any good movement absolutely needs its songs, its stories, its poetry, and so forth. For inspiration, for a common language, as a means of communication that speaks to the heart rather than just the head. Al Jazeera today was running a programme for example on some of the Egyptian poets that inspired the revolutionary movement there, and whose words were to be found scrawled on walls across Cairo. The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls indeed. (And tenement halls).

I'm not exactly saying that as soon as something becomes 'mainstream' or too popular it loses its subversive force. Rather, once it becomes disconnected from a living movement that is struggling for something, that's more when it tends to lose its subversive power. The fault then lies not with the culture, more of the failure of the movement.

I am probably missing all sorts of aspects of the question, which more than happy to toss around in the comments. But those are the thoughts that occur to me initially.

Tags: ,

(2 comments | Leave a comment)

[<< Previous 10 entries]

Powered by LiveJournal.com