Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Contrasting News - Linked in the Middle
It seems that something very interesting and positive is going on in Bolivia, as the Qhepus Anarchist Collective (posed on the excellent ainfos anarchist newswire) take up the story...

Bolivia is a poor, backward country, turned into a colony of Yankee imperialism, where an insipid bourgeoisie uses this "nation" as its own property, rotating the country's governors between the members of its social class, and opening the doors of the country to imperialism and the transnational companies so that they can pillage the natural resources of the country however they feel fit. And this has already been going on for a long time....To all this must be added that there are a total of 10 municipalities that have expelled the state authorities and got rid of institutions like the police and army, to put into practice, once and for all, the communitarian model that the Aymará people call "ayllu".

This "ayllu", in agreement with the Aymará view of things, is a system where Direct Democracy is put into practice, as the main decisions are made on the basis of open assemblies of the whole population, and where Mutual Aid and Solidarity form part of daily life for these people, who are looking to build a better society through means of these valuable tools. And without doubt they will obtain it, as long as they, together with the inhabitants of the cities, can free themselves from the claws of the State, be it national or supranational (imperialist).

The world's libertarians must salute with raised fists these initiatives by the indigenous communities that inhabit Bolivia, who, without parties or vanguards, support each other in natural organizations, seeking by themselves to construct a future of Freedom....

Well, if it is as you say, I salute you with raised fist.

On the flip side - Seymour Hersh, the multi-award winning journalist who originally broke the My Lai massacre story and who recently broke the Abu Ghraib torture, gave a speech recently in which he shows how deep the hole goes in that prison and Iraq really goes. It's really deep:

"I can tell you it was much worse. There are worse photos, worse events....some of the worse things that happened you don't know about.....The women were passing messages out saying 'please come and kill me' because of what's happened, basically what happened is those women who were arrested with young boys, children, the boys were sodomised with the cameras rolling, the worse above all of them is the sound track of the boys shrieking. That your government has...."

You could dismiss this as the ramblings of a conspiracy theorist with a tinfoil-hat if it was not for the fact that the assertions come from somebody who has received the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting. How fundamentally wrong can this Iraq enterprise be when we are asked to stand shoulder to shoulder with a corpse-machine that uses the rape of children as a weapon of war? Can you rape your way to a democracy? If you accept (as the evidence points to) that the horrific operations in Abu Ghraib come from the top - there is no other conclusion than it is all wrong. Blair can ask us to rejoice because Iraq is free, well Tony, state sanctioned rape is not freedom. It is all wrong. The enterprise that is Operation Iraqi Freedom and the system that spawned and sustained it must be brought down, person by person, bit by bit. Then we can talk freedom.

And here is the link between the two - I am hopeful that what is happening in Bolivia is part and parcel of building a better world. A world without the corpse-machine of the military industrial complex. A world of direct democracy. Dick Cheney was right, we are entering a state of perpetual war - but for those opposing the corpse machine, the war will not be fought with cruise missiles or Depleted Uranium rounds - it will be fought in hearts and minds, on streets, in lockdowns, insurgencies, petitions, die-ins, demos, by surviving, through non-compliance and a million other ways - until their whole enterprise is stopped dead.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The Russians might be sending troops to Iraq.  The report going around is that in exchange for oil concessions and help in getting Russia into the World Trade Organisation.  The report says that it may be as many as 40,000.  Money not only talks, it mobilises armies!  It circular irony of the few al-Qaeda fighters in Iraq, who cut their teeth fighting the Russians in Afghanistan in the 80s then alongside the US – will now once more be facing the Russians – different decade, different land – but to them, I guess, its all for the same cause.
On a totally unrelated topic – there is a cool picture of Roni Size at Ashton Court here:

Monday, July 19, 2004

Ashton Court Walkabout
Well for anyone who missed it, another year of Ashton Court madness has come and gone.  First up I’d like to send a shout-out to the people who made it a great two days – the mentalists!  You knows you make it what it is!  Guy in all-over body-glove dancing round talking to people who weren’t there – mentalist.  Guy who stood on the comedy tent stage with his tackle out singing (badly) the Burt Bacharach cover the Stranglers do, to an audience of around 200 people – mentalist.  The people at the disinformation tent – mentalists.  The (many) people whos summer tipple of choice was a gallon bottle of skullfuck cider – apple mentalists. 
Here is how it went down for me:  Saturday I spent quite a while at the Blackout stage and hugely enjoyed Distance/Time (but I’m bias in that opinion).  Distance/Time kept the audience pretty rapt with contemporary dance, electro-acoustic music and VJing and is (I guess) the first time contemporary dance has been done with a breakcore soundtrack?  Correct me if I’m wrong.  I hung around to see Deaf Rave:  When I first heard about this event I was thinking Death Rave – which sounded pretty hardcore, in the event it was actually Deaf Rave; but it was really focused, impressive and got the crowd moving. The performers were very confident and full-on, resulting in an event that felt like a kind of top of the pops on acid.  I also spend some time in the comedy tent and really enjoyed that too; partly thanks to the mentalist described, but also due to some very funny people giving it some.  I ended the evening listening to Goldie Lookin Chain and could not hear a fucking word.  All I could see is around 150 people in tracksuits running around on stage trying not to bump into each other.  Given that the fun of Goldie Lookin Chain is in the lyrics – this was a bit of a disappointment.  The only line I heard was the chorus, "...JLo ain't shit to me, PDiddy ain't shit to me, fuck you Alisha Keys" ….From there I went off to a party, which was a bit of a washout because, given the bridge was shut, by the time people had yomped the 38 miles back home everyone – party organisers included – were knackered and only seemed to have enough energy to make tea, not war.
Incidentally the security were living up to the rep of Bristol bounders, generally driving round at boy-racer speed and busily dismounting their Armoured Personal Carriers to tackle non-existent emergencies each time.  They had also taken a lesson from the cops that is familiar to activists – getting a camera stuffed into your face - I saw a gaggle of these body-armoured goons videoing and shunting a trader along like there were pulling protestors from lockdown as Fairford rather than trying to stop some woman selling hash-cake.
So Sunday I got up early (1.30pm) and aimed to get to Ashton Court by 5.15pm to see Five Knuckle Shuffle.  I got there and had a place in the sun ready to punk-out and the boys did not disappoint.  Full-on-punk!  I also noted that the lead singer pledged to do all he could to keep the festival community and cheap to attend.  From there I wondered around (aimlessly) for a bit (as you do) and observed the mentalists being mental.  In the meantime I saw some of Bug Planet, which was good, but as I could only get space to sit by the speaker – was painful in one ear.  The Blackout tent was a top destination for me this year – they had lots of kooky shit on and it was always worth staggering in to check out the sounds.  From there I then saw Rebalado, which was a Brazilian-salsa-carnival type thing.  The rhythms were pretty funky and I noticed that the audience for the show went from a gender mix of around 50/50 to being 70/30 in favour of males after the carnival dancers in silver bikinis and half the EC glitter mountain on, emerged.   That said, they did get the crowd moving and for a while it seemed that the only difference between Bristol and Brazil was the weather.  That done I was dragged to see Banghra Fever; the poor guys of whom were having massive technical troubles and ended up doing the gig with only 1 turntable and no CD player, but they had lots energy and enthusiasm and that made up the slack.  From there more comedy tent stuff, which was still funny but no naked people (invite the mentalist back next year!) and once that was done it the stage went to Blackout (not the top tent, but a drum'n'bass act).  Now, I know Roni and the Stranglers were playing, and I only saw one Roni track in passing, but for me, ending the festival in a tent with full-on grassroots drum'and'bass, a nod to the place where the sound was tempered all those years ago, made a kind of poetic sense.  Blackout were pretty fantastic and kept the huge crowd jumping with singers, MCs, guitars, DJ, wired-noise boxes, flute and sax.  As the sun set to the thumping bass and banging drum, this, rather than the big names, was where Ashton Court belongs.

Monday, July 05, 2004

So I’m at the St.Pauls Carnival and enjoyed the day – much fun was had and it was a late night/eary morining when the party ended. But a few things happened that night I think worthy of note: First up is that the army had three recruiters out in the crowd offering people the opportunity to sign up and go to facilitate the plunder foreign lands at gun point – very in-keeping with the carnival feel. The irony of the army looking for more willing cannon fodder for the US empire, in a district of St.Pauls who's population are still suffering the historic schism of an earlier empire was not lost of those I saw hassling these army drones.

Second up was later on: While sitting with some cold lager I was sat down chatting to an enthusiastic council official (she/he will remain nameless) and we had a good chat about plunder. The view of this person (and I'm sure other enthusiastic employees) is that they are making the city a better place. From my point of view they are not. Not because they are evil minions planning our impoverishment - but because they are the administrators of a system that cannot, indeed will not let power go. Ever. We talked about the Broadmead development – which in my world view is not a million miles from what is going on in Iraq: The state facilitated plunder. In both cases the infrastructure of the state (here the council, there the US army) smooth the ground over for the transfer of wealth into private hands (here through London based developers who are looking to make a killing from luxury housing, there as Haliburton et al come in to mop up the oil/tax revenues). State facilitated plunder. In both cases the wishes of those to be effected by this wealth-transfer are an unknown quantity. (People objected to both the Iraq war and the Broadmead development and in both cases it went ahead anyway.) Even if there had been access to a truthful account of what people wanted, how could this be separated from the propaganda of either the developers manipulation (see Bristle #16) or the US empire's psyops to result in anything as valuable as a truth?

This council employee's heart might be in the right place – and I don't doubt that – but while you only glimpse tiny portions of the whole, its easy to miss the truth. Because the truth is that if the council was democratic then the Broadmead development would not consist of luxury housing. Because if there was economic justice then the residents of St.Pauls would have a wealth comparable to that of the slavery-made Merchant Ventures. If there was no state propaganda machine then we would have revolted at the government support for Saddam in the 80s and not arrived at the mess we are at now. I would urge this employee to get radical – and by that I mean the real meaning of the word, which is from the Latin for root.