Oppressed peoples reclaim their own names & shuck oppressor’s misnomers

One of the peculiar features of colonialism & oppression is dispossessing people of their proper names. Often colonial forces simply changed the tribal names of people but they always invented entire catalogs of insulting epithets. The peculiarity is understanding whether this demeaning originated in some psychological device in the oppressor to justify oppression or whether it is a conscious device of social hatred & social control. And it isn’t just with ethnic groups: you see it with women (we have our own catalog of epithets to ward off), with LGBTI people, & others.

This name-changing thing is a common feature of oppression–from oppressed castes in India to Native Americans, Blacks, & Latinos in the Americas. And if we knew enough about Africa, we would probably find it prevails there too. (We don’t glory in our ignorance; it is very hard to find sufficient texts in US libraries on almost any country or region of Africa. The precious few texts available are most often pickled in racism & white supremacy–& oddly are often only in the juvenile section of the library.)

There are dozens of names for Blacks in the US alone. Excluding the repugnant epithets, the proper name has changed at least four or five times since the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. The Term “African-American” so in vogue now seems to be an attempt to break with the association of “Black” with Black power. As a Black co-worker once explained, “They think if they keep changing our names we’ll be fooled into thinking things are changing & stepping in the right direction when they aren’t.” Almost every single history on Native Americans is prefaced with an explanation of the name that text will use. And people, even those who are not disrespectful, are still confused over whether Hispanic is the correct term, or is it Latino?

That would explain why so many groups organizing against oppression reclaim their historic names & shuck the colonizers labels. Women are doing the same thing (though that slut thing might be a regression & concession to the oppessor’s language more than a reclaiming). Reclaiming their own names is part of reclaiming their dignity & it behooves the rest of us to learn their proper names & not just refer to them with the ethnic equivalent of “hey you.” They should not all be simply lumped together as “Indigenous”; they have names. In North America, the colonizer’s misnomer is Ojibway–the tribe calls itself Anishinaabe; the colonizer’s misnomer is Comanche–the tribe calls itself Numinu

This chart includes just a few US tribes but this process is being repeated throughout the Americas & throughout the world. Reclaiming proper names is asserting dignity & demanding respect & that’s an essential part of social transformation.

(Chart from http://blog.nrcprograms.org/american-indian-tribes-names/)

Central American immigrants endangered in Mexico

One of the most significant developments in immigration rights in several countries is that immigrants themselves are fed up to their eyeballs with racist injustice & have begun to fight on their own behalf. They are among the toughest people on the planet, given what they have to go through–& their entry into political action is one of the most promising things to come down the pike in a long time.

This 46-year-old Honduran man named Norman Saul Varela is here holding his prosthetic leg. He lost his own limb in 2005 while riding the train called “La bestia de muerta” (“the train of death) through Mexico north toward the US border. Hundreds of Central American immigrants lose limbs, are injured, murdered, assaulted, kidnapped, disappeared, raped, & robbed riding those trains. Many end up in mass graves.

If you want to know why 50,000 Mexican soldiers deployed in the militarization of the country can’t put a stop to this violence, the answer is they are likely involved through paramilitary squads serving as the southern flank of US immigration policy. They’ve certainly proven no use in stopping drug trafficking, which has increased substantially since the massive military deployments.

Senor Varela is in Mexico City to ask the Mexican Senate to stop government persecution of Central Americans & protect them from “criminal gangs”. The Senate legislated a few years ago that it is legal for Central American immigrants to transit Mexico. The problem is they haven’t made it safe. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that people forced to hop on & off moving trains & ride on top of moving trains are in grave danger. And it doesn’t take a genius or big bucks to provide safe transit–like passenger trains. But the Senate has to call off the military, reign in the paramilitary squads, & stop federal cops from searching buses & trucks traveling north for immigrants. And it has to expel all US military, civilian, & covert operatives from Mexico because the violence against immigrants has the distinct whiff of “la migra” (US border patrol) written all over it.

Our fullest solidarity with Senor Varela & his fellow immigrants. Immigration is a human right! Open the borders!

(Photo by Marco Ugarte/AP)

Forcible evictions of Roma in Madrid to commemorate International Roma Day

City officials of Madrid, Spain must have taken sensitivity training since they waited till the day after UN-designated International Roma Day on April 8th to evict & raze the homes of Roma residents in the shanty settlement of El Gallinero on the outskirts of Madrid. Madrid’s urban planners have designs on the property & apparently got an obliging judiciary to issue a court order for eviction.

This isn’t the first time city bulldozers had a go at the settlement. Last June, cops surrounded the area & moved demolition crews in; several homes were destroyed & 34 people were left homeless. Soon after the cops & bulldozers left, residents started building new shanties since they have no place else to go. The government claims it offered one-way tickets to residents to return to their own countries. What these bureaucrats need to get through their thick skulls is that Spain is their country–even though discrimination means the poverty rate in El Gallinero is 93%.

El Gallinero is a settlement of cardboard & tin huts without running water or sewage in an area prone to flooding. Residents survive, just barely, by selling scrap metal & begging.

Since April 8th was International Roma Day, we ought to remind Madrid officials that an estimated two million Roma were killed by Germany’s Third Reich; that up until 1980 Roma women were force sterilized in Czechoslovakia to stop Roma from “breeding”; that Norway only stopped sterilization of Roma in 1977; that Roma are persecuted, segregated, thrown out of settlements in several European countries, & forcibly deported–most notoriously & ruthlessly in France by the so-called socialist government.

But Madrid officials know all that. They not only want Roma settlements for gentrification schemes but they want to use Roma, as they use undocumented immigrants, to scapegoat for the neoliberal policies reducing the rest of the populations in those countries to penurious austerity.

Here Mariana Marin, her daughter, Rebeca, & daughter-in-law Alina Holban sit among Marin’s belongings after their home was demolished in belated commemoration of International Roma Day.

(Photo by Susana Vera/Reuters)

African immigrants in Germany under siege

The remarkable 1974 German film titled, “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul,” by Rainer Werner Fassbinder
is about a young Moroccan immigrant who meets a dowdy middle-aged cleaning woman when he is taunted into asking her to dance in a bar where she has sought refuge from rain. The signature moment in the film is when his ridicule melts into nothingness as she asks him about himself & the humanity of both merges. The rest of the film is taken up with the ferocious discrimination they faced as a couple–not primarily due to their age difference but to his nationality.

It was evident from that film that racism against immigrants was rampant in Germany even before immigration became a central issue in US politics. There certainly is no glory in outpacing the US on that question but a considerable amount of shame. There are now an estimated one million African immigrants in Germany, distinguished as either North African or Sub-Saharan, which is code describing either Arabic or Black ethnicity. Some immigration agencies estimate there are now between 7 & 8 million undocumented African immigrants living throughout the European Union (EU) countries–at least two-thirds of them from North Africa since EU immigration policy toward Black Africans is so violent, attempting to keep them isolated in squalid refugee camps on Mediterranean islands or massively deport them.

European regimes are torn on the issue of immigration in the same way as the US regime. On the one hand, these countries rely on the cheap, exploitable labor of foreign workers for any number of jobs–& “illegal” status makes them super-exploitable. But on the other hand, whipping up anti-immigrant fervor among working people is a marvelously effective weapon for divide & conquer.

This young immigrant is being dragged away from a confrontation where riot cops in Berlin surrounded & tried to dismantle a makeshift refugee camp. The report says “violence broke out” between refugees who had accepted a deal by the city to leave the camp & move to a renovated hostel & refugees who insisted on staying. The confrontation was likely less between skepticism & credulity about authorities & their promises than it was another instance of ‘violence breaking out’ when riot cops attack protestors.

Immigration is a human right!

(Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Chinese betrayal of the Palestinians

It may still be uncertain where China is headed politically since linking its fortunes to the barbarities of neoliberalism but this picture shows its headed fast in the wrong direction. Chinese president Xi Jinping invited Israeli president Shimon Peres for a three day state visit which began today. There are no reports on why Peres was invited or what they will be negotiating but it doesn’t fare well for Palestinians that in welcoming oratory, Xi encouraged Israel in the phony Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. The talks have long been dead as a doornail & all attempts to slap them into life only make them look more politically obscene. You cannot bomb people & wrest their farms & cities from them while talking peace. You are either completely stupid or corrupt as hell to claim otherwise. Though in Xi’s case, he’s likely sucking up to Israel to get a better deal on military technology like the $1 billion surveillance equipment they once bought.

In cringe-worthy rhetoric, Xi said the Chinese & Jewish people have always gotten along, especially during WWII when they commonly opposed fascism & militarism. Of course the falling out came after WWII with the establishment of Israel on Palestinian lands in 1948. Until Mao’s death in 1976, China’s foreign policy was based, at least rhetorically, on opposing colonialism & championing the oppressed. Diplomatic relations with Israel were not established until 1992 but Israel had a long, secretive military relationship with China since at least 1979, but probably earlier. It now has what is called a “pragmatic, flexible diplomatic strategy” in the Middle East–a term that covers a multitude of betrayals of the oppressed, & not just the Palestinians.

The Jerusalem Post, a conservative Israeli newspaper, reported a few years ago that the Chinese were “allured by Israeli military prowess & by “Jewish genius” exhibited in men such as Karl Marx & Albert Einstein.” We don’t know about Einstein but we’re certain Marx would roll over in his grave at such a statement. He may have been an imperfect man, but he had no truck with such elitist ethnic chauvinism & would never have betrayed the oppressed. If there is such a thing as “Jewish genius” you sure wouldn’t know it from the Zionist propaganda machine which has been stuck on one note shrieking “antisemite” since its inception.

Any extant Maoists should try to explain this disgraceful scene where innocent Chinese children are hauled out to wave flags for a country shamed before the world for its violence toward Palestinians.

(Photo of Peres at the welcoming ceremony by Alexander F. Yuan/AP)

Israeli bombing & ethnic cleansing in Gaza

This photo of a Palestinian responding to the Israeli bombing of a smuggling tunnel (earlier this month) captures the breadth & barbarism of Israel against Gaza–which is at once a siege of constant bombings & an embargo on vital human needs like medicine & foods. Palestinians are forced to build underground tunnels to smuggle what Israel won’t allow claiming Gaza uses much of the stuff to build bombs–though Israel has never been able to explain how books, paper, blankets, penicillin, aspirins, antibiotics, chocolate, spices, & other vital products are used in constructing heavy artillery. Such an embargo is however extremely effective in ethnic cleansing.

There are concentrated periods, often lasting several days & weeks, of Israeli bombing in Gaza but it never really ends. Drone sorties are most often triggered by Israeli claims of rocket attacks from Gaza. It’s become difficult for Israel to explain why thousands of alleged rockets have caused so little property damage & no casualties (including injuries from shrapnel) directly related to a rocket in the past several years. Zionist ideologues do not know shame but you have to hand to hand it to them for inventiveness in war & malice. They claim the lack of death & destruction is due to the massive civil defense infrastructure they built up in southern Israel near Gaza. They have bomb shelters, the noisy Red Dawn siren system, & the vaunted Iron Dome missile shield against rockets from Gaza. That means they never have to produce a single piece of evidence for the alleged rocket barrage.

There’s no question Israel sets off that noisy siren system & ushers people into bomb shelters to scare the hell out of them & justify the war footing against Gaza. It’s also likely some Palestinians in Gaza attempt to send over makeshift bombs loaded with blankets & oregano. But isn’t that Iron Dome working for Israel? Can’t the damn thing thwart such artillery?

Israel also claims it’s targeting Hamas military sites in Gaza. That doesn’t explain why they took out a washing machine factory in a refugee camp, a metal shop, schools, & homes; killed many civilians; injured dozens of others; & are keeping the people of Gaza under a reign of terror.

According to B’Tselem & the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, two Israeli human rights groups, there is a dramatic increase in the number of Palestinians injured or killed by gunfire near Israel’s apartheid wall encircling Gaza. Since December, B’Tselem documented 55 Palestinians injured near the fence–43 of them by live ammunition & two by tear gas canisters. There have also been several fatalities, including children & a mentally ill woman, but there is no reliable figure on how many. Mind you, they were all killed within Gaza on farm lands considered off-limit zones to the Israeli military. The military claims they were sabotaging the fence but that’s as believable as thousands of rockets bombarding Israel.

Support Palestinian justice by boycotting all Israeli products (barcode beginning 729), supporting the cultural boycott of Israel, & demanding “No military aid to Israel!”

(Photo by Hatem Omar/AP)

Homeless in Los Angeles, USA

The more you know about the world, the more you realize the global predators with manicured nails & swanky clothes collaborate with each other on everything from immigration policy to housing policy–& collaborate in ways working people haven’t yet learned to do. In Manila & Rio de Janeiro & Dakar, in the interests of gentrification, they’re forcibly evicting people from tenements, sometimes offering them chump change to just disappear, & refusing to build affordable housing for increasing numbers of impoverished residents. This explains the astronomical growth in homelessness.

And here we are in Los Angeles, the capital of glitz & glamor, the center of the movie industry with its diamond-specked red carpets, & countless millionaires & billionaires who make their fortunes producing American mythology & fostering white supremacy. The city of LA is on a gentrification spree with federal monies pouring into the area for redevelopment–which does not include a massive affordable housing program. Thousands of people, including children, elderly, & disabled, are not only homeless but forced to live in their cars, or become squatters in garages & abandoned, dilapidated office buildings, warehouses & manufactories. Many of these properties are firetraps filled with mold & lacking sanitation. Many residents actually pay rents upwards of $600 a month to live in these hellholes. So much for the “richest country in the world!”

LA County has an estimated 376,000 families (likely a lowball figure) earning less than $25,000 a year for a family of four in a city where the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,500 to $1,700 a month. $25,000 a year won’t get you an affordable broom closet. Poverty in the US is considered a relative thing since the World Bank considers $1.25 a day per person the poverty line in most of the world. That adds up to about $470 bucks a year or $1,880 for a family of four. World Bank officials likely consider the poor in LA to be living high on the hog–& the poor in general to be living far too long.

That’s probably why federal monies for redevelopment are zoned around areas of greatest poverty like South LA & directed instead to upscale areas like Hollywood. This gives homelessness & poverty its distinctive ethnic colorations.There’s an international think tank somewhere coming up with these schemes to impoverish most of us & enrich the few & the only way they will be stopped is working people collaborating, from Manila to Rio to Dakar to LA. That “workers of the world” thing has become an iron law of survival in the barbaric phase of capitalism. Our demand must be an outraged chorus of “Housing is a human right!”–& we will accept nothing less.

(Photo from it.paperblog.com; photographer not identified)

The dangers of journalism in war zones

We should take a moment to honor Anja Niedringhaus, a photojournalist based in Afghanistan who was shot & killed this past week. It is estimated that at least 70 journalists were killed last year & 20 so far this year. Twenty-eight of those killed in 2013 were reporting from Syria. Journalists face many dangers in war zones & areas of conflict since they are often targeted for assassination. It’s not a glamorous job.

One press freedom group estimates over 850 journalists were killed in the line of duty between 1992 & 2012. Mexico is considered by press freedom groups to be among the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists. Almost 100 reporters have been killed or disappeared since 2000 with most of those crimes unsolved, un-investigated, & with few arrests. Many Mexican journalists have sought refuge in neighboring countries from possible assassination. Unsolved murders of journalists exist in many countries, including Russia & the US. Presently, a group of al-Jazeera reporters are in a kangaroo court in Egypt for alleged collaboration with the Muslim Brotherhood. There are many such cases around the world & press freedom groups have formed ostensibly to monitor & defend media workers when they are targeted, arrested, prosecuted, or murdered by tyrannous regimes.

Most notable groups include the Committee to Protect Journalists (formed in 1981), which has a conservative board of directors including Christiane Amanpour, Tom Brokaw, & Dan Rather. The association of such establishment figures should put up a huge red banner saying “donors beware”.

Reporters Without Borders (formed in 1985), has questionable corporate & foundation financial sponsorship (like the Open Society Institute of George Soros & anti-Cuban immigrant groups in the US); & extremely reactionary political associations (like Otto Reich, a former Reagan & Bush official with a political rap sheet a mile long). The group shows particular venom toward Cuba (explaining their association with Reich) & is accused of disinformation campaigns against the Haitian government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide & the Venezuelan government under Hugo Chávez–giving the group its distinct malodorous whiff of deceit & nefarious connections with tyranny.

Another group is the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which has existed off & on since 1926 & now claims 600,000 members in 100 countries. It claims it has no political point of view as an organization & is based on the trade unions. That association does not make it free of political fault but it does appear to be run by journalists, not by corporate & tyrannous agendas, & seems the least compromised of the press freedom groups. It advocates for women journalists who face threats, assaults, rape, & murder due to gender, particularly in Israel, Mexico, the Philippines, Somalia, Russia, & Nepal.

Calling out Israel for targeting women journalists & for endangering journalists in Israeli bombing sieges in Lebanon (2006) & Gaza (Dec. 2008-Jan 2009) put the group at loggerheads with the Israeli journalist association. The resolution of that conflict nearly a year after Israel’s Operation Cast Lead (a three-week ground invasion & aerial bombardment of Gaza) is not the IFJ’s finest moment. In fact, it was despicable. One of the issues was Palestinian press freedom after Operation Cast Lead & Israeli journalist complaints that they were not consulted in the IFJ’s investigative mission. In the rapprochement brokered by Franco Siddi from the Italian IFJ with the Israeli journalist association, Siddi said, “Eliminating the contribution of Israeli journalists to our international federation was inconceivable. Israeli media are amongst the most independent & freest in the world, & their voices are an essential element in the IFJ, which is based on democratic, ethical principals.” That would constitute shameless groveling & outright lies.

In fact, at the IFJ world congress in Dublin, Ireland, in June 2013, the delegates launched a campaign protesting Israeli restrictions on Palestinian journalists with official press passes from free movement between Israel, Gaza, East Jerusalem, & the West Bank & within the West Bank itself. No mention how Signore Siddi voted on the resolution. Hopefully he was covering his head in shame or hiding in the bathroom in disgrace.

According to independent sources, not just restrictions on movement, but attacks on Palestinian journalists is common, including targeting them in the same way they target all Palestinians–with rubber-coated bullets, tear gas, stun grenades, stink bombs.

This petition launched last year by Palestinian journalists demanding press freedom is still active & requires signatures; please take a moment to sign it: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Freedom_of_Movement_for_Palestinian_Journalists

This 2012 photo by Anja Niedringhaus (done for AP), is an Afghan nomad with his daughter in Helmand province. The caption read that Helmand province was one of the country’s deadliest battlefields, leaving the residents terrorized. They say the promised development by US-NATO forces has not materialized & Taliban rule is often preferred.

May Ms Niedringhaus RIP.

Obama sheds phony tears over Fort Hood murder-suicide

Obama says he’s “heartbroken” over the shooting deaths of three soldiers & the suicide of the shooter at the Fort Hood military base in Texas. That would be a step in the right direction–if it were at all believable. The US War-Monger in Chief didn’t express any sorrow when they reported in 2012 that suicides in the military eclipsed the number of combat-related deaths. Suicides among soldiers & veterans is now about one-a-day & increasing.

Of course, the Pentagon cooks the books when it comes to accurate reporting of combat deaths so none of those figures are reliable. On the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC, there are about 58,000 names of soldiers killed in that war. Names continue to be added. But more importantly, for that memorial the Pentagon only released the names of soldiers who were injured & died in Vietnam. If they were injured in Vietnam but died on a ship en route to a hospital in Japan, if they died from Agent Orange poisoning in a US hospice, or died from complications of combat injuries after release from the military, or if they were injured in the US invasion of Cambodia, the Pentagon does not include their names among Vietnam War casualties. It should also be added, they’re not counted if they just drank or doped themselves to death over grief & guilt at what they had done in war.

Obama has yet to shed any tears over the monumental numbers of civilian deaths caused by US wars–they number in the millions, not even including those who suffer from injuries like dismemberment, disfigurement, & birth disabilities.

Last year, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study funded by the Pentagon that claimed the real reason behind the catastrophic number of military suicides was not combat experiences or extended deployments but in fact underlying mental health issues in the population. It’s inarguable a society built & sustained by racist policies & wars will have more than its fair share of insanity. US politicians give glaring testimony to that–only rivaled by the parliament of England. But to find scientists willing to sing for their supper who dare claim soldiers who kill, massacre, rape, participate in torturing prisoners, are coming home sane is an abomination of science & politics.

So hold your tears, Obama! You’ll need them when you meet the devil as he leads you to that special hellhole set aside for war criminals. You’ll be spending your eternity with the smelly likes of Hitler, Kissinger, Bush, Reagan, Nixon, & Dick Cheney. You earned that shame, buster!

(Photo of US soldier in Afghanistan putting children in harm’s way from antiwar.com; photographer not identified)

Immigration is a human right! Open the damn borders!

This photo is of two African immigrants who on March 18th made it past the 20-foot chain-link fence between Morocco & Melilla, an outpost of Spain on the coast of northern Africa. Because the detention center already has triple its capacity of immigrants, the Spanish Red Cross set up additional tents (seen in the background).

The photo is posted not to evoke pity–a patronizing emotion–because immigrants are among the toughest, most determined people on the planet. It is posted because the faces of these young men express the fear, trauma, & ordeal of undocumented immigrants routed by neoliberal barbarisms, forced to leave their families & countries, travel thousands of often treacherous miles, risk their lives & limbs simply to find work.

Our fullest solidarity with them. Immigration is a human right!

(Photographer not identified; photo from CNN)

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