Media on refugee crises in Mediterranean & Europe: “if we don’t report it, it isn’t happening”

Kurdish refugee at Calais (Reuters:Pascal Rossignol) Jan 19 2016

In the journalistic genre known as “if we don’t report it, it isn’t happening,” there is almost a complete photojournalistic news blackout on the refugee crises in the Mediterranean & in Europe. Occasionally a photo will appear & if you search you can find some reports, but otherwise it’s as if thousands of refugees have simply dropped off the face of the earth.

At an EU meeting a few days ago, the EU “migration commissioner” warned officials that the refugee crisis was getting worse. He reported that over Christmas & New Year, 4,000 people continued to arrive daily in Greece, that Greece was unable or unwilling to register or lodge them in the squalid, overcrowded refugee camps there, & that hundreds of thousands were still heading north without papers. He also reported that more EU member states, most recently Germany, Sweden, Denmark, & Austria, are installing border controls to keep refugees out. “Border controls” is a euphemism for razor wire fences & soldiers with tear gas forcibly driving refugees back.

Our man needs to explain a whole lot more than that. Like what’s happening to the thousands of refugees when they’re locked out of a country & have no place to go in the middle of winter? Is someone providing adequate shelter & food for them? Or are they being left to starve & freeze to death to let nature solve the refugee crisis?

What about big-talking Francois Hollande who promised he would let thousands enter France? Why is he instead using bulldozers & storm troopers at Calais to dismantle makeshift shelters in the middle of winter? Why aren’t EU officials calling him on his promise? The Kurdish refugee in this photo now has to keep warm by an open fire. What about the little kids in the camp?

What about the FRONTEX military operation on the central Mediterranean route from Northern Africa to Italy? Last June when they launched operation EUNAVFOR Med., they had a one-year mandate with all sorts of warships & airplanes deployed to conduct boarding, search & seizure operations on
the high seas & stop refugees from leaving Libya. What, no progress report!? Did they rescue refugees from drowning? Return them to Libya? Incarcerate them on Lampedusa or Malta? Or have they scared off all the refugees from even trying?

So many question, so few answers. So much deceit & even more treachery. The EU commissioner expressed concern that the refugee crisis would signal the collapse of the Schengen visa-free travel system & be “the beginning of the end of the European project”–meaning the EU. The entire capitalist nation-state system is rocking on its foundations by its unwillingness & inability to address the massive problems it creates–like war & refugees.

Immigration is a human right. Open the damn borders.

(Photo by Pascal Rossignol/Reuters)

Danza Voluminosa: the modern ballet troupe for heavy set dancers in Cuba

Danza Voluminosa (Adalberto Roque:AFP:Getty Images) Jan 19 2016

Because of the role of prima ballerina Alicia Alonso (now 94-years-old) in developing & popularizing ballet in Cuba, ballet is not considered high-brow art (as in the US & most other places) but is as popular as baseball. Cuban ballet has become renowned worldwide & the principals in many leading ballet troupes around the world are Cuban-trained.

A notable thing about ballet generally is the size-zero tutus worn by dancers as they pirouette & execute mid-air leaps. Classical ballet is not the art form for anyone weighing over 100 pounds–although it does not exclude disabilities. Alonso was partially blind most of her dance career & accommodations had to be made with her partners & stage lighting to guide her on stage.

Juan Miguel Mas (now 50-years-old) was a heavyset Cuban-trained dancer who had difficulty fitting into the Cuban dance scene. Roles were limited & had to be modified or created specially for him. In November 1996, out of frustration, he created Danza Voluminosa, a professional modern ballet troupe for heavy dancers that includes six women & one man. It has now produced three full-length choreographies, 30 shorter works, been the subject of a Canadian documentary (“Defying Gravity,” 2004), & has become a cultural phenomenon in Cuba. They now draw record crowds & play all the top venues in Cuba. In this photo, they are rehearsing at the National Theater in Havana.

According to Mas, the purpose of Danza Voluminosa was to create a troupe where heavy dancers could perform a style suited to their bodies because heavy people move differently & slower. They don’t soar, spin like tops, & leap but are more grounded & keep a lower center of gravity. The only comparable phenomenon in US dance is Judith Jamison, the Alvin Ailey dancer & choreographer who was not heavy but was also not petite & is nearly 6 feet tall.

As choreographer, Mas says he borrows from the work of Martha Graham & Jose Limón, & incorporates African, jazz, & Caribbean folkloric dance often with West African roots. “I use whatever I can,” he said.

According to the dancers, when the troupe first performed they endured ridicule & laughter. Mas incorporated humor into their repertoire with a parody of “Swan Lake” & comical renditions of the cancan–perhaps as a device to blunt the cruelty & indignity of ridicule. Some of their pieces address the issues of weight, including overeating & the psychic toll of prejudice. But they also have works that address the universal themes of love, loss, & erotic longing that, according to Mas, make the audience forget to laugh & feel the dance. He uses humor consciously to get audiences to that place of common humanity.

Mas created a dance troupe, not as a therapy group nor intending to glorify weight or sermonize against prejudice, but to give heavyset dancers a place to perform, to explore the inherent beauty of the human body & of movement.

Nice job Senor Mas!

(Photo by Adalberto Roque/AFP/Getty Images)

Girl Scout cookie time: or how to get free child labor

It’s the annual Girl Scout cookie time. Troupe leaders are coming on the news to explain that selling cookies is a character-building exercise that teaches young girls how to interact socially. I never got past the Brownies since I hated outdoor camping so have never sold a single cookie. My character, for good or worse, got built without going door-to-door making a damn nuisance of myself. As for learning how to interact socially, that’s still a challenge that no amount of cookies will help.