Saturday, December 29, 2007

Max Roach (1924-2007): Freedom Now

In the last few days of 2007, I note some of those that have passed away and offered transformative ideas (in the spirit of Engage). Max Roach has always been one of my favorite jazz drummers. He was known for pioneering the style of hard bop. This year, I found out he released an album in 1960 entitled "We Insist--Freedom Now Suite". It is a compelling musical story that moves from slavery to protest to freedom to peace and makes comparison between the United States and South Africa's apartheid. Roach was a jazz master, using this art form that orginated out of slave songs to try to push our society toward justice and cosmopolitan awareness.

In this beautiful clip you can witness Roach's virtuosity and listen to Abby Lincoln's soulful cry "Rumors flying/ Must be lying/ can it really be?/ can't conceive it/ don't believe it/ but that's what they say/ slave no longer/ slave no longer/ this is freedom day!"

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Latin America Human Rights Roundup

New developments on human rights in Latin America in the past few days:

In Guatemala, Nobel Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu criticized the courts for not taking action against military officials accused of participating in the genocide of civilians during the 1980s civil war. She filed a case in Spain and the Guatemalan legal system has refused to honor the indictments or hand over the accused.

In Argentina, on the other hand, the former head of the army during the 'dirty wars' in the 1970s and 1980s was sentenced to some 20 to 25 years for his abuses, including murders and torture, against civilians. However, he is 80 and in ill health and will probably not serve time.

Finally, in Mexico, it is the 10th anniversary of the Acteal massacre, in which pro-government supporters massacred a group of Zapatista supporters in an effort to intimidate the peasant community. Few of the perpetrators have been brought to justice and live side by side with families of the victims. Perhaps, luckily for the murderers, the victims were members of a pacifist group, Las Abejas (the Bees), who support the Zapatista uprising, but are personally non believers in violence.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Hate Crime in Spain

Via Guanabee:

I've been recently tracking examples of racist and anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe. Here is a shocking video from Barcelona, Spain. A young Ecuadorian woman was attacked by a Spanish man who entered the metro train. Apparently, he was ranting on about various racist things on the phone prior to the attack. He told her to go back to where she came from, calling her various names, all the while kicking her in the face.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

How Modern is Your Torture?

Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern tries to show the political links behind the CIA's decision to destroy video tapes showing "harsh" interrogation techniques against suspects in the war on terrorism. He says the scandal should move the U.S. to abandon tactics, such as waterboarding, that find their origins in the Spanish Inquisition.

What's interesting is that now, unlike during the Inquisition, we have the technology to record the images of such practices. The CIA tapes might have recorded felonies taking place. But what could they reveal about the tortue itself or about the people who inflict this kind of harm on others? Reporter John Barry recounts here how he was able to watch torture films from Iran and Greece many years ago and how it dispelled some myths about what torture might be like.

Of course, one of the myths we might want to dispel is that torture is a tactic that is a hold-over from more brutal days or that it only developed in the context of authoritarian societies, such as the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany. If you look at the introduction to Darius Rejali's Torture and Democracy, you realize that there is a whole genre of "clean" torture methods developed in the 20th century by the world's strongest democracies (America, France, UK) that have spread and found their way into use by the dictators. But they started here, with the intent of being undetectable, not leaving marks on the body. Rejali's book is intended to be a civic primer for democratic citizens on the deployment of these practices of violence in our own societies. Perhaps we need to stop worrying about plunging back into the Dark Ages and start asking how much of our modern political institutions are literally built on the broken backs of victims.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Racism and Patriarchy Linked?

A new study suggests that the practice of ethnic discrimination may be linked to the level of a person's identification with patriarchal social dominance. Feminism and anti-racist work go hand in hand?

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Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Best Black Women are White

From Feminist Philosophers: Another interesting portrayal of race from over the pond. The Independent (UK) did a special issue on Africa recently. Its cover? A black woman. Nothing untoward about that. Except that the black woman is supermodel Kate Moss. In blackface.

Read Hanna Pool's discussion from the above link, but here is a really good excerpt (and something that directly relates to my previous discussion about the Dutch Sony ads):

"Why has it become OK for people to black up? "People feel free to play with this stuff because they are operating in an environment where the criticisim of being politcally correct allows you to do what you want," says academic Paul Gilroy. "The threat of being labelled politically correct creates an environment where we are scared to voice our objections." Given the context, the Kate Moss picture is "empty nihilism," he says.

Blacking up has become acceptable in the same way that pole dancing is now sold to women as an empowering thing to do. Both assume that the thing they are poking fun at no longer exists - ie discrimination, racism and sexism. But of course they are wrong. If blacking up existed in a society where racism was not an issue, then it would not be such a problem. But then it would also lose its power to shock. After all, what is so shocking about a white person being made to look black if black and white are equal?"

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

New Podcast: Did the Aztecs Do Philosophy?

At long last, there is a new Engage Podcast available. This one features a lecture by Dr. Alejandro Santana (University of Portland).

Dr. Santana examines the question of whether or not the Aztec (or Nahau) intellectuals engaged in an activity that we would recognize today as "philosophy". Part of Santana's work questions the boundaries of philosophy and makes room for the thought of Mesoamerican peoples as serious philosophical interlocutors for us today.

Along the same lines, I want to also mention the publication of some of the papers of Native American philosopher, Viola Cordova. The new edition is How is it: The Native American Philosophy of V.F. Cordova and it is edited by colleagues here at Oregon State.

Some people want to argue that the ideas of indigenous peoples should more properly be called "thought", and they want to reserve "philosophy" for the practice of rational inquiry, using the tools of logical analysis, to investigate fundamental questions of existence. Is this defintion ethnocentric?

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Monday, December 03, 2007

New Philosophers' Carnival

is available at Philosophy Sucks!