Category Archives: politics

RIP Agnès Varda (1928 – 2019)

Agnès Varda was a Belgian-born French film director.

Her films were popular among critics and directors, giving her the status of a cult director.

This is perhaps not the best of times to rid the world of a minor misconception regarding the work of Varda, but it is what I must do after researching her oeuvre following her death.

Agnès Varda made one film about the Black Panther Party, just one. That film was Black Panthers (1968), a color film which can be viewed in its entirety at Archive.org[1].

Another film from that same year is called Huey! and is directed by a certain Sally Pugh. It can be seen in full on YouTube [below] and has nothing to do with Varda, although the general subject matter as well as some scenes overlap.

Kishore Mahbubani cites “How does it feel?” Gabriel García Márquez hoax

A good friend of mine suggested we read Has the West Lost It? A Provocation (2018) by Kishore Mahbubani in order to discuss it.

I read it.

Its thesis?

Mahbubani advocates a minimum of Western interventionism after what he sees as a period of Western arrogance in which the west humiliated both the Muslims and Russia. The book centers on the premise that economic growth will make everyone happier (except for the west which can no longer grow).

The book fails to mention the coming ecocalypse and does not seem to mind the violations of human rights.

In an astonishing case of academic incompetence, Mahbubani cites the “How does it feel?” Gabriel García Márquez hoax without acknowledging it as such:

Mahbubani had previously cited the hoax in his book Beyond the Age of Innocence (2005):

I might take some classes in geopolitics coming academic season.

What does it mean to be a revolutionary today? by Slavoj Zizek’s @ Marxism 2009

Via Belgian blogger Martin Pulaski comes What does it mean to be a revolutionary today?, Slavoj Zizek‘s response[1] to Alex Callinicos at Marxism 2009.

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GD69Cc20rw]

At exactly 21:55 comes a hilarious joke on the self-inflatibility of futile resistance.

In the good old days — now comes the dirty conclusion, I’ve warned you, it’s really dirty — in the good old days of really existing socialism a joke was popular among dissidents. A joke used to illustrate the futility of their progresses. In 15th century Russia, occupied by Mongols, that’s the joke, a farmer and his wife walked along a dusty country road, a mongol warrior on a horse stops at their side and tells the farmer that he will now rape his wife. He then adds, but since their is a lot of dust on the ground, you should hold my testicles, while I am raping your wife so that they do not get dusty — dirty. After the Mongol finishes his job and rides away, the farmer starts to laugh and jump with joy. The surprised wife asks him: “How can you be jumping with joy when I just brutally raped?” The farmer answers: “But I got him! His balls were full of dust.”

This sad joke tells of the predicament of dissidents. They thought they were dealing serious blows to the party nomenclatura. But all they were doing was getting a little bit of dust on the nomenclatura’s testicles.

What is so brilliant in this piece of “toilet philosophy[2] (I am more inclined while writing these words of nobrow philosophy, of which Zizek and Sloterdijk are the greatest contemporary examples in this category) is that Zizek returns to this joke for closing his arguments. In the same vein in the same speech he has the embodied metaphor of “cutting of the balls of capitalism” and how to proceed for capitalism’s castration. Brilliant.

Other outstanding episodes include Victor Kravchenko I Chose Freedom/I Chose Justice case.

John Calvin @500

John Calvin @500

Calvinism has been known at times for its simple, spartan and unadorned churches and lifestyles, as depicted in this painting by Emmanuel de Witte. Belgium, where I live, is on the Protestant-Catholic border between Northern and Southern Europe. The South is known for its joie de vivre, haute cuisine and exuberance, the North for its antithesis: frugality, meager food and general restraint.

John Calvin Jean Cauvin (10 July 1509 – 27 May 1564) was an influential French theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system of Christian theology later called Calvinism. Originally trained as a humanist lawyer, he suddenly broke from the Roman Catholic Church in the 1520s. After religious tensions provoked a violent uprising against Protestants in France, Calvin fled to Basel, Switzerland, where in 1536 he published the first edition of his seminal work Institutes of the Christian Religion.

In the 1540s the Frenchman John Calvin founded a church in Geneva which forbade alcohol and dancing, and which taught God had selected those destined to be saved from the beginning of time. His Calvinist Church gained about half of Switzerland and churches based on his teachings became dominant in the Netherlands (the Dutch Reformed Church) and Scotland (the Presbyterian Church).

Anyone against him was called a Libertine, providing the origins of a well-loved term of this blog. The group of Libertines was led by Ami Perrin and argued against Calvin’s “insistence that church discipline should be enforced uniformly against all members of Genevan society”. By 1555, Calvinists were firmly in place on the Genevan town council, so the Libertines, led by Perrin, responded with an “attempted coup against the government and called for the massacre of the French … This was the last great political challenge Calvin had to face in Geneva.

Engraving of the Iconoclasm from G. Bouttat (1640-1703)

Many Protestant reformers including John Calvin were against religious art by invoking the Decalogue’s prohibition of idolatry and the manufacture of graven images of God. As a result, statues and images were damaged in spontaneous individual attacks as well as unauthorised iconoclastic riots. In my part of the world, this started in 1566, two years after Calvin’s death and resulted in the Beeldenstorm.

Calvin’s legacy in modern times has produced a variety of opinions. Certainly the execution of Servetus has left a negative view of Calvin. Voltaire mentions the event in his Poème sur la loi naturelle (Poem on Natural Law, 1756) and Dialogues chrétiens (Christian Dialogues, 1760). For Voltaire, Calvin’s philosophy had not produced any improvement over the intolerance presented in previous revealed religions. Calvin is discussed in Max Weber’s classic work on the The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism in which he argues that Calvin’s teachings provided ideological impetus for the development of capitalism. Political historians have recognised his contributions to the development of representative democracy in general and the American system of government in particular.

In find Calvin only mildly interesting, more radical Reformation info can be found under the headings of Thomas Müntzer, Jan Hus, the anabaptists and the Peasants’ War.

As was to be expected, John Calvin‘s writing was put on one of the more interesting compendiums of Western literature, The Index.

The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (1824) – James Hogg [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
Illustration by William Blake.

If you’d like to know more about religious fanaticism and the intricacies of Protestantism, I can recommend James Hogg‘s The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner (by way of Lichanos).

see also Calvinism, 16th century Europe, Northern Renaissance, Protestant work ethic, iconoclasm

Supporting two minorities at once

Election time is upon us in Belgium. Today I tore off some extreme right election posters (see photo). An old and ugly supporter (they all are) of the particular party whose posters I was vandalizing shouted from a distance, inquiring why I was doing it. Reductive militantism, is what I decided to coin it.

For years I did not vote in a country where voting is compulsory. Since I started to vote in my mid-thirties I’ve consistently voted for immigrant women candidates, supporting two minorities at once.

RIP Christopher Gray (1942 – 2009)

RIP Christopher Gray (1942 – 2009)

Leaving the 20th Century: The Incomplete Work of the Situationist International (1974) – Christopher Gray [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Christopher Gray is a British writer and activist, editor of Leaving the 20th Century: The Incomplete Work of the Situationist International (1974). He was a member of the British SI and of King Mob.

Leaving the 20th Century: The Incomplete Work of the Situationist International (1974) is an anthology of Situationist texts edited by British activist Christopher Gray. The original edition was designed by Jamie Reid.

Niccolò Machiavelli @540

Niccolò Machiavelli @540

Niccolò Machiavelli (Detail of 1500 portrait of Niccolò Machiavelli, May 3, 1469 – June 21, 1527) by Santi di Tito)

Niccolò Machiavelli (Detail of 1500 portrait of Machiavelli by Santi di Tito)

Niccolò Machiavelli (May 3, 1469June 21, 1527) was Italian historian, statesman and political author. His best-known work is The Prince, the posthumously published treatise responsible for bringing the authorial descriptiveMachiavellian” into wide usage as a pejorative term to denote power-hungry, megalomanic, unethical or despotic practices or methods.

Machiavellian

  1. Attempting to achieve their goals by cunning, scheming, and unscrupulous methods.
    Iago is the Machiavellian antagonist in William Shakespeare’s play, Othello.

RIP Tom McGrath (1940 – 2009), co-founder International Times

RIP Tom McGrath

Logo (IT Jan–Feb ’69).

See “Invisible Insurrection of a Million Minds

Tom McGrath (born 23 October, 1940 in Rutherglen, Glasgow, died 29 April 2009) is a Scottish playwright and jazz pianist.

During the mid 1960s he was associated with the emerging UK underground culture, participating in Alexander Trocchi‘s Project Sigma and becoming founding editor of the International Times. He was involved with the International Poetry Incarnation and published in the anthology Children of Albion: Poetry of the Underground in Britain.

The International Times (it or IT) was an underground paper started in 1966 in the UK, based in central London. ITs first editor was the acclaimed playwright Tom McGrath.   Paul McCartney helped found the paper.The iconic logo for IT was a black and white photo of Theda Bara, vampish star of silent films. The original idea had been to use an image of actress Clara Bow because she was iconically known as The IT girl – but an image of Theda Bara was used accidentally and once deployed, it was never changed.

Tom connects with Hawkwind, John Peel, Alexander Trocchi, Schoolkids OZ, Arthur Brown (musician), The Pretty Things, AMM (group), Soft Machine, Felix Dennis, Jeff Nuttall, The Incredible String Band, Blackhill Enterprises, Children of Albion: Poetry of the Underground in Britain, Joe Boyd, Edgar Broughton Band, Steve Peregrin Took, Mick Farren, UK underground, International Times, UFO Club, Pink Fairies, Gay News, Martin Sharp, Oz (magazine), Freak scene, John Hopkins (political activist), Quintessence (English band), Tomorrow (band), The Deviants (band), Mark Boyle, Peace News, Third Ear Band, The Mersey Sound (book), Jimmy Boyle (artist), The Purple Gang (band), Gandalf’s Garden, Friends (magazine), The Black Dwarf (Ali), Barry Miles, James Haynes, Hapshash and the Coloured Coat, Pink Floyd, Thomas McGrath, Caroline Coon, Spare Rib, The 14 Hour Technicolour Dream, Michael Horovitz, Richard Neville (writer), Jim Anderson (editor), International Poetry Incarnation, Tron Theatre, Granny Takes a Trip, Play for Tomorrow, Release (agency), Derby Playhouse production history, Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and Germaine Greer.

I was three years old when May 68 happened

May 1968

burning Citroën DS during May 68 from here.

I was three years old when May 68 happened. May 68 was the direct precursor of the hippie movement here in Western Europe. Most of our teachers had been brought up in the “hippie” climate.

Yesterday E-L-I-S-E posted this burning Citroën DS (the photo is new to me and is unsourced at E-L-I-S-E). It brings me to repost one of my favorite quotes on art and politics.This is from one year before May 68.

The juvenile delinquents — not the pop artists — are the true inheritors of Dada. Instinctively grasping their exclusion from the whole of social life, they have denounced its products, ridiculed, degraded and destroyed them.

A smashed telephone, a burnt car, a terrorised cripple are the living denial of the ‘values’ in the name of which life is eliminated. Delinquent violence is a spontaneous overthrow of the abstract and contemplative role imposed on everyone, but the delinquents’ inability to grasp any possibility of really changing things once and for all forces them, like the Dadaists, to remain purely nihilistic.

They can neither understand nor find a coherent form for the direct participation in the reality they have discovered, for the intoxication and sense of purpose they feel, for the revolutionary values they embody. The Stockholm riots, the Hell’s Angels, the riots of Mods and Rockers — all are the assertion of the desire to play in a situation where it is totally impossible.

All reveal quite clearly the relationship between pure destructivity and the desire to play: the destruction of the game can only be avenged by destruction. Destructivity is the only passionate use to which one can put everything that remains irremediably separated. It is the only game the nihilist can play; the bloodbath of the 120 Days of Sodom proletarianised along with the rest. —Timothy Clark, Christopher Gray, Donald Nicholson-Smith & Charles Radcliffe in The Revolution of Modern Art and the Modern Art of Revolution (1967) via http://www.notbored.org/english.html

“Rap das Armas,” or, Parapapapapapapapapapa

Rap das Armas by Cidinho and Doca

Rap das Armas” (1990s) by MC Cidinho and MC Doca

MC Cidinho and MC Doca

Rap das Armas (Rap of Weapons) is a Brazilianproibidão” song by that has become very popular through the film 2007 film Tropa de Elite, however the original song was already very popular in the early 1990s (there is no info on original release dates on discogs). The song illustrates the elite police who invade the favelas (shantytowns) on a daily basis to fight the drug dealers, with lyrics about fireweapons such as the AK47 popular among said dealers and their confronts with the police and other drug dealer factions, but clearly being on the side of bad guys.

Because of the allegations that the songs are an apology for crime, they are  banned from recording and broadcasting. The obvious analogy here is with its American counterpart gangsta rap.

The song was produced by MC Cidinho and MC Doca. The song, despite its popularity, is never played on the radio, and was taken out of the movie’s soundtrack after 2 weeks. The motive behind this was that the lyrics in “Rap das Armas” praise the use of drugs, the criminal factions of Rio de Janeiro, and the drug dealers themselves.

The song illustrates the violence of everyday life in the favelas. Brazilians are in danger not only when they take drugs but also when they take the bus or attend funk dances.

Proibidão, which literally translates to “strongly prohibited,” is a genre of Brazilian funk (pronounced “funkee”) music originating from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro where it began in the early 1990s as a parallel phenomenon to the growth of drug gangs in the many slums of the city. The drug gangs sponsored DJs and baile funks in the favelas they controlled to spread respect and love for their gang as well as hate to the other gangs. The music that resulted is proibidão and its most famous example is Rap das Armas.

I’ve been repeatedly listening to this song, enthused by the sheer simplicity of it. Researching its history brings memories of the film Pixote (1980) by Hector Babenco, an arthouse hit when it came out and my first exposure to the favelas. The favelas were recently depicted in Cidade de Deus, one of the best films of the 2000s.

[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrAZ48gHJII&]

Parapapapapapapapapapa,

papara papara papara clack bum,

Parapapapapapapapapapa!

The original lyrics:

Morro do Dendê é ruim de invadir
Nós com os alemão vamos se divertir
Porque no Dendê eu vou dizer como é que é
Aqui não tem mole nem pra DRE
Pra subir aqui no morro até a BOPE Treme
Não tem mole pro Exército, Civil nem pra PM
Eu Dou o maior conceito para os amigos meus
Mas morro do Dendê, também é terra de Deus
Vem um de AR15 e outro de 12 na mão
Vem mais um de pistola e outro com 2 oitão
Um vai de Uru na frente, escoltando o camburão
Vem mais dois na retaguarda mas tão de crok na mão.

De AK47 na outra mão a metralha
Esse rap é maneiro eu digo pra vocês
Quem é aqueles caras de M16
A Vizinhança dessa massa já diz que não agüenta
Nas entradas da favela já tem ponto 50
E Se tu tomar um “PÁ” será que você grita?
Seja de ponto 50 ou então de ponto 30 …

Translated and annotated lyrics[2]

The neigbourhood of Dendê is hard to invade
We with the Germans (German from enemy in the WWII meaning, by analogy, the police; it could also refer to gangs from the Complexo do Alemão favela) will have some fun
Because here in Dendê I will tell you how it is done
Here there is no “easiness” to the DRE (special police)
To climb up this neigbourhood even the BOPE (Police Special Forces) is afraid
Here there are no “easiness” to the Army the Civil(ian police) or to the P.M. (Military Police)
I give the best advice to the friends of mine
But Dendê neighbourhood, is also God’s land
There comes one with AR15 and another with a 12 (gage) in their hands
One cames with a pistol and another with two big eights (heavy arms again)
One comes with a “Uru” in the front, escorting the dumb ass (police officer)
Two more follow with Glocks in their hands

With an AK47 and the other with a machine gun
This rap is really cool, I can tell to you
Who are those guys with M-16
The neighbours of all our people (the Favelas) are already saying that they can not handle it (here it refers to the white middle and high classes of Rio who live properly in the city)
At the doors of the favelas there is already .50 (caliber)
And if you get a Pá! (BOOM!) will you scream?
Being of .50 or .30 (weapons’ calibers).