Pat Parker (1944-1989), poet, teacher and activist, wrote this poem: For the White Person Who Wants to Know How to Be My Friend and had this wonderful line:
The first thing you do is to forget that i’m Black. Second, you must never forget that i’m Black.
For any social difference that exists in any society, we can place it there, in the space of “Black.” In any case, color-blindness, gender-blindness, mixed-space blindness, sexual orientation blindness, socio-economic class blindness, neighborhood blindness, body-size blindness, nationality blindness etc. etc. — we have to pay attention to how quickly we may subsume, make invisible, refuse (ignore), make trivial, something that makes a difference. Sameness is too valorized in the globalizing society. It’s not about any particular choices we have in holding on and letting go—-because even this is an action and a series of action (holding or letting go, that is), that come from political positionings that rely on privilege, luck, ability, amount of trauma, fear, violence, and a host of other things that come from oppression and social constructions of society.
Let us not forget how completely and utterly different we are from each other. This way, we truly understand diversity. If we “understand,” then perhaps we do not understand difference at all. We just consume, co-opt, and bring into our own history and culture and language and values, that OTHER. This is a violence to that Other.
But in saying they are different, do we automatically become AFRAID? Or do we automatically become ANGRY? Do we automatically IGNORE? Do we assume we can translate, communicate? Yes we can communicate, but understanding its partiality is important.
Honor you. Honor me.
In our difference. Utterly different. Utterly ourselves. Yet somehow, we are related as humans, as that who has experienced pain.
Perhaps other things. But do not assume equality.
There . . . . . . Can we allow difficulty, struggle, powerful connection and dissonance?
She bridges the traditional and pop/jazz/worldmusic genres. She sings in Uzbek Turkic languages and also in Russian. She is one of my favorites.
Sevara Nazazrkhan, along with Yulduz Uzmanova, are credited to have brought Uzebek music from its relatively isolated Central Asian and Turkic music scenes, onto the world scene. Recent events in Uzbekistan remind us of the severe problems existing in the Caucuses and Central Asia due to the several imperial governments that have ruled through violence and heavy-handed central rule via invasions. Mongols, Turkic tribes, Persians and the Russians are the most standout imperial forces that have invaded and ruled the area, and influence the many kinds of peoples, cultures and tribes existing in the nation-state of Uzbekistan. The recent massacres in 2005, the Andijan massacres ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2005_civil_unrest_in_Uzbekistan), attest to the central government’s use of violence to control the state and having some of the worst human violations in the world that go along with impunity.
The rich cultural heritage of Uzbekistan’s cultural arts are reflected in Sevara Nazarkhan’s wonderful music. Islamic/Sufi spiritual tradition, Turkic communal music, popular music, Russian balladry, and various western and local dance styles dot the many music-scapes of Sevara’s albums. Please enjoy.
Sir Ken Robinson, who has recently received the Benjamin Franklin Award, is a renowned thinker of educational reform. He speaks to the Educational systems that have proliferated worldwide, through the nation-state system and global colonial enterprise. This has created increasingly similar educational systems worldwide based on European enlightenment-era thought on a biopolitical education system which rests many of its basic tenets on assumptions, structures, discourses, and patterns of human worldview, an assumption of a ‘human nature,’ and on hierarchical and miltaristic structures that benefit economic systems, not people.
In this video on changing the educational paradigm, he presents many important concepts that we should think about in relation to how we ourselves, have formed our thinking. In creating forms of education that are ‘meaningful,’ where do we construct continuities, priorities, and disjunctures? When we do, who benefits from it and who loses out? How can communties create a structure that is now attempting to accommodate more diverse aspects of information, culture, tradition, hopes, dreams and failulres, into itself? In our efforts to ‘replace’ and ‘re-do’ our systems, what assumptions from our own education do we latch onto our view of a more ‘creative’ educational system that can ‘hold’ our children and the future of our nations and communities?
Aspects of this question are not covered in this video, while others are brilliantly commented on. One person should not have to cover ‘everything,’ in an issue. That is impossible, and unfair. Sir Robinson does not attempt to say that he is covering ‘everything.’ That is up to the rest of us. The issue is domination, oppression, who is allowed and not allowed? Also there is the issue of privilege, entitlement and the kinds of questions we ask in order to decide how to re-structure something like ‘an educational institution’ when local schools are behoven to the most powerful, wealthy, and often most-corrupt and socio-pathic of persons who have constructed and *want to maintain* their wealth and privilege. Many of them will resist to the point of killing and disposing of their created enemies. There is accountability to consider in this picture as well.
I do not mention these things in order to ‘darken’ or to dampen the motivation for change. Why do I mention these things to begin? Because in order to transform education systems, we must acknowledge how our identities and ways we live and think and desire and dislike, are all bound-up with our histories within the global colonization of life. Thus, many of our most cherished thoughts may be continuities that may prevent more creative ways of working with living within the economies that exist, to adjust to changes (or not), and also to prepare to live in a world where the economies are absolutely nothing like what has existed in our lives or imaginations. Then the topic is “who is governing” or “managing” or “controlling” these things? And can every person on the face of this planet expect to get everything they want? Some are willing to concede and negotiate. However, there are a vast number of people who conceive of their lives as an entitlement to get everything they want out of life. This usually means someone else, or another community, will suffer because of it. What must go into a ‘re-education?’ Let us ask ourselves this and begin to build the *capacities* required of what we may desire. Does what we desire exclude?
This may also include ideas of multiculturalism. To me, multiculturalism is a failure. Multiculturalism seeks *inclusion.* Inclusion into a system of exploitation and economies that must exploit and depend on its maintenance through military and economic power, expressed and managed through social institutions and worldviews, does not do away with hierarchy and injustice. In disturbing this, many of us may react by doing opposites, while not questioning how anti-authoritarianism may destroy powers, certain people and structures that may be beneficial. Entitlement and inpatience (getting our own way NOW!!!) kind of thinking is very dangerous, especially when we understand that all of us have internalized as live almost every moment as enlightenment-produced peoples and cultures. Colonized minds tend to think into re-colonizing in different ways, calling it ‘creative.’ In reality, it may be the same things dressed in new clothes. But the good news, I think, is that not every moment of our lives is that internalized colonization. And in other ways, resistance to colonizing is also part of the same dynamic. Resistance and dominance go hand-in-hand. They are related. If we think in different ways, then what will that look like?
Still the other problem is ethics? I know many people who think in creative ways and have great ideas and attempt implementing them. However, I often see some problems with this (not that we can ever get away from problems). Yes, nothing is going to be perfect and total. So that is important to tell ourselves. However, I mention this in a way to point out a form of colonization of the mind that we often do not examine. That is the reality of unethical behaviors passing for good creativity. Ideas of progress, internalized, so that ideas of older persons and the wisdom of older ways or traditions can be relegated to ‘old’ and ‘outdated.’ In other ways, it is racialized or subsumed within hierarchies. So we can say that if a woman thinks it, then it’s not good enough (unless it matches with a few elite men’s ideas), or it’s too black and doesn’t include whites, or it’s too Asian and therefore doesn’t do this or that, or it’s too ‘gay’ or it’s too this or that. We may be creative but in service of a ‘progress’ that demotes sustainable solutions and ideas, traditions and methods that may have already been practiced in traditions that were devasted and killed during the rise of nation-building and industrialization that globalized through colonial expansionist practices worldwide, then maintained by the elites of the world nations. It is not a moral issue. Those of us who have studied the world-system currently in mode, understand that it has been an act of survival to do it, lest our nation or community is starved by the elite, or invaded. To join the global elite game has been largely both an act of wanting to be the boss, as well as an act of survival in the face of more militarily powerful and who have the more resources.
To reform education will return to the same problem. To transform it, to shift it, will take large efforts on our parts, and to truly re-organize how we think about how we work with each other and our planet. What must be laid for the conditions of possibility to give birth to more just, creative, and empowering ways that honor our lives and begin to heal as well as build?
Political bodies arguing. States and nations being more important than people currently, increasingly.
Political bodies arguing that institutions and processes are in place in many European nations regarding ‘how to deal with’ the Roma.
The Roma, having to assimilate into the ‘civilized’ European, North American and Japanese colonial systems…..is already a violence, an exclusion, a globally-mandated assumption of obedient minorities having to create themselves into something they are not. It is already a set-up. The fascisms are not acceptable now. But there are residues of fascism in every state, in certain attitudes of many individuals, ourselves possibly. When things go underground, they adapt to the current milieu and operate with new tactics. It is easier to follow an ideology or a fundamental structure in our minds, families and neighborhoods. Many of the scientists and thinkers of fascist governments were paid by the so-called democratic states, to survive and thrive and continue to create in the name of the elites. They are everywhere. The residues show up in people’s attitudes. As I write this, some people have wanted me dead. It is not a surprise. Ethics, love, negotiation, difference, intensity, and struggle, are seen as unwanted. It’s so much easier if everyone just obeyed. It takes lots of obedience to be civilized. It takes lots of obedience to be many things. It is a struggle to think creatively about our issues and what it is we want.
There is little talk of getting programs and institutions together, providing counseling and educational change and other activities, to address the prejudice, racism, violence, brutality, impunity, and aggression of the dominant attitudes and behaviors against the Roma and other minorities. It is a set-up. But there are many who are privately setting up creative ways of resisting the dominant flow of treating minorities like something to do surgery on, to assimilate. The issue is dominance and resistance.
Apparently, much like some of the US Americans I know who are anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim (and whose families were probably anti-Japanese-American during WWII etc.), states have a right to keep the ‘other’ out. Who is ‘us’ and who is ‘them’?? The lines are often justifications for our psychological/social violences to be played out. It is that division, that demarcation, where we give permissions of violence. Nations and national systems are that place, an extension or perhaps where it begins through histories of developing from tribalism to ethnic/sexual/gender/racial/religious identity and national identity currently.
Now it all plays out in its failures. Violent nationalism internalized into safe havens and names such as ‘our state’ and ‘our city’ and ‘our people’. Tribalism continues as democracy fades. But democracy isn’t fading for many. It is enacted and seen everyday. There are thousands around the world, millions around the world, right next to us, who understand the difficult struggle for democratic ethics in our lives. We cannot confuse permissions without ethics with democracy. We cannot confuse the boundaries of identities as demarcations of democracy.
The Roma, the Kurds, the Jews, the Armenians, the Dahlit, the Ainu, the Mayans, and millions of other bodies are forced into the isolation called ‘minority’ and are treated like chess pieces and diseases in the national systems now global. We must make our way in the violent world structured by the dominant system and we are supposed to listen to these people and bodies that have somehow assumed precedence. Even as those in governments are for justice, the system requires you to be a strong state, complete with strong militaries and economies and secret hiding places and hidden tactics and lots of money to pay the secret operators to make the state into a certain self-image, leaving certain ideas, cultures, ways-of-thinking and acting, out of the equation of this imagined state. It’s an imaginary of violence, playing out with hollow words such as ‘rights’ and ‘diversity’ and ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ in many cases.
There are many people in world government, such as can be seen in this video snapshot of politicians arguing about what to do with the Roma people, who actually care and want peace. However, justice cannot come in states where peace is about obedience to laws, no matter how lofty. Laws, in most powerful states, ignore the brutality of how that state came into being in the first place. Law is not justice. Neither is law about anarchic violence and tearing down of all. Justice is more of an attention to history and creative processes of negotiation through differences. But in positions of privilege, where a person or a body of people ‘decide what to do with others’ is precarious when the rules of law are interpreted in different ways. What is worse, as Raphael Lemkin (1900-1959) himself, wrote the first writings on the term ‘genocide’ and watched about a third of the laws he proposed be left out when the genocide laws were implemented by the international body–because those laws that were too threatening to the so-called integrity of the state would make all states culpable and make the global national system criminal itself). The human rights system is a necessary group of policies, laws, and research and documentation bodies, do not get me wrong. But no one can enforce them. There cannot be a human rights police. So human rights are continually broken in the United States, the European Union, Japan and other nations. All one can do is watch arguments or invasions.
What’s even more daunting is that the term ‘genocide’ has been coined as an event, a moment in time with a certain look, an obvious massacre and displacement and hatred. The issue is that genocides rarely happen as an event. Culminations in massacres happen, but the processes of cleansing in states and regions happen over long periods of time, due to intensifications of exclusion-wishing and creating our living spaces in certain ways that do not allow certain differences. Displacements may happen continually for centuries, making a certain group poor. Policies to exclude and keep them poor keep being passed, while institutions are set-up to ‘help’ these minorities. The help keeps that group in their particular circumstances and are designed to construct assimilation. Help is usually a form of surveillance and identity-making. It is created through the dominant’s will, not those who are marginalized. Propaganda can be created over decades, where racism and prejudice can strangle the look of a city or a state or a people into a reality where certain people and communities and areas can only be seen through that lens of the constructed dominant instead of through a different lens. Criminalizating minorities and their actions is a tactic of killing the spirits and locking the men away, leaving vulnerable populations to fend for themselves. Since laws concern the privileged, what does survival look like for the already-vulnerable? Genocide is not an event. The killing of spirits and ideas and lives happen over prolonged periods in all of the ways Raphael Lemkin has stated (in the complete version, not only in the edited version the international body has made public). So genocide may not look like genocide. For change in our world, we must intervene into these smaller structures of cultural killings before an event. In fact, some philosophers have actually spoken to the everydayness of genocide. Our ignoring and going about our lives is an aspect of the killing of another community. Buying or not buying certain things can also play into killing ‘the other.’ We cannot wait for the ‘event’ that we recognize. By then it is usually too late.
These politicians can argue, but whoever has the biggest weapons currently controls whatever happens, regardless of human rights. States have more power than groups of persecuted peoples. States have become more important to maintain, rather than communities. Self-hatred begins to creep in as we think of ways to empower and resist. Making ourselves into ethnic groups, then wanting a state, seems to be a logical conclusion of ways to live, as the stronger states treat those within its boundaries that are not the dominant group, as well as weaker states and non-dominant peoples globally, as things to extract work from (exploit) and displace and make into problems at will. It is ugly. There is no secret. We all know individual people like this in our lives. But when it is larger, we may think they are nice people, but the structures will a certain pattern, a certain way for things to turn out. More and more people are no longer willing to take it, however.
Issues of dominance and dominant attitudes control the so-called ‘Roma issue’ and other minority peoples’ and stateless peoples’ living circumstances, continuing to be ‘cases,’ as can be seen in this video, in the early 21st century. It brings up memories of World War II, fascism, and the current crisis of human, social, ecological systems at crossroads. They don’t fit it. ‘They’ are nomadic, ‘they’ are communal and not individualistic, ‘they’ have ties to life-ways that are contradictory to the dominant globalizing state system. Where does difference come into play? What can be done? Must we/they obey to survive? Where is our creativity?
Élie Boniche – b. 1921 – d. March 6, 2008), born to a Sephardic Jewish family in the Kasbah area of Algiers, was a singer of Andalusian-Arab music. He died in Paris. In addition to writing music for commercial release, he also was a film composer.
Ethan Zuckerman is a writer and internet technologies activist.
Although I have spoken critically of globalization, I have critiqued, not criticized, many aspects of the neo-colonial aspects of globalization. The world has been interconnected for centuries. In most areas connected by landmass, there has been an incredible diversity of trade and trade routes, and the encounters between different peoples and groups, ways of living and thinking, ways of conflict, ways of resolution, ways of continuity, ways of destruction. In the present incarnation of globalizing intentions, there is that continuity of colonial expansion which continues the legacy of entitled exploitations, the destruction of diversity, homogenization and assimilation, and the complex and contradictory elements of cultural contact and the residues of ‘whiteness’ that create neo-liberal formations mixed with local intentions and power relations.
At the same time, the decreasing of time/space through faster transportation, telecommunications and computer and future technologies, has made global contact in more frantic and easier pace. This has given the illusion of an increasingly global world, but in fact, as Ethan Zuckerman points out, the elites are the ones who do most of the contact and travel towards traveling and face-to-face contact. In addition, he points out that there is an illusion of increased contact because in reality, as we have been developed in nation-state mentalities, which separate and form nations based on race and ethnicity and controlled by socio-economically more privileged, we tend to do everything, including internet searches and research, along the lines of our ‘flock.’ This points to the re-tribalizations that happen in globalization, where we tend to find those who think like us and have common interests, and depend on them for information that is ‘other.’ The ‘other’ is not just a person/body. The ‘other,’ in the case of the internet and these modern visual/audio technologies, is also ideas and thought formations, news events and issues that are not within our own ‘flock’ way of doing research. Even simple things like doing ‘searches’ will be done in a culturally familiar way for most of us. This leaves out that which is outside of our domain. For many who think of themselves as global, it may not be so ‘global’ at all. Our patterns of in-group ways of acting in the world, performing ourselves, include aspects of xenophobia, possibly. Put in another way, we are largely informed and shaped by society and culture(s).
Ethan Zuckerman points to the sad fact of US American media and the historical trajectory of the information we receive. It mentions that nowadays, many US Americans prefer UK news because many feel that the US media is very limited. He points to the decrease in international news and the fact that most news, especially in the US, is about local news and the news of countries the US has invaded (i.e. Iraq, Puerto Rico, etc.) He also mentions that internet search statistics reveal that most searches are done across first-world (the richest nations of the world) news and those of areas the US has invaded. Also, in search patterns, there are some areas that are hardly touched in search patterns on the internet, and they are usually smaller countries, the Middle East and the former Soviet states in Central Asia and the Caucuses, and Africa. These lands happen to be where western and first world interests have shaped their governments and have created turmoil. It is understood that it is not just an accident that news and searches and general knowledge of these areas are kept out.
The colonial nature of our ‘freedom’ must be questioned. We must question our own thought patterns and what ‘turns us on’ as far as news media, entertainment, activism, and world events. We must question the terms through which we must become interested. This is what Ethan Zuckerman would ask us to do. He has been attempting to form new ways where citizens who want a globally more understanding and knowledgeable world, to actually begin going ‘outside of their known patterns’ and to be able to go outside of their language/culture, to think differently, and to break the patterns that we have been living in order to access a more global, instead of imaginary global. He asks us to do this to become different people, with a more varied and multiple array of stories in which to make a difference in the world and to not succumb to nation-state and corporate brain-washing when it comes to information and important issues. We should want to go to unfamiliar places and try some serendipity in order to think differently.
My critique would be that this is a continuation of the co-opting of various cultures and knowledge for exploitative intellectual/cultural gain, personal enjoyment, without a concern for alliances, justice, friendship, political involvement, curiosity, peace. My hope is that this is not a continuation of that energy and that is broken to create more spaces for creative thought and discussion towards alliance-building and a better understanding of our place in power-relations and history. I think this is what Ethan Zuckerman also would want……..but I’m not going to speak for him.
When I traveled to the UK in the fall of 2009, it was my second time in Europe and my first time in the UK (besides a layover in Heathrow airport the previous year when I traveled to the Netherlands and Turkey).
In October of 2009, I was happy to see the UK for my first time as I have always wanted to visit. For my visit, I made sure that I visited two railroad stations in London, as they were world famous for their historical significance and architectural beauty. Most of my stay was in Wales, but for one week, I was able to visit London and I spent a little time at the huge and great St. Pancras Station for few hours, then I did spend one almost entire half-day at Victoria Station. Both of these stations are quite impressive and I, of course, being a train fan, was thrilled.
When I was a child, growing up in Japan, train travel was the most important way for Japanese to get around. Even today, it is the primary mode of travel. Trains were immaculate, impressive, beautiful and fast. Steam trains were thrilling in their energy, smoke, steam, and sounds but by the time the late 70s came, steam trains in Japan had disappeared except for special excursion trips. When our family moved to the United States in 1962, my father was loving enough and wanted me to experience steam trains in the US but was told that they were all gone and that we would ride the new modern diesel-powered ‘El Capitan’ of the Santa Fe Railroad from Los Angeles to Albuquerque.
I, of course wanted to see and ride behind a steam locomotive, but was nevertheless thrilled to ride on the beautiful ‘war bonnet’ red, gold, white diesel-powered streamliner, double-decked throughout.
Today, even that mode of travel is gone in the US. In the 1970s, the railroads increasingly became financially strapped and the conglomerate Amtrak was formed. Rail travel continues its downward spiral in the US, with a very few people in the US who even know that people can travel by train. Most train stations are torn down, empty and dirty, abandoned and un-cared for, and people could really care less. Trains and airlines are the way to go. However, with the airlines in trouble and the economy on a down-turn, there has been a slight renewed interest in rail passenger travel. President Obama has announced plans and wishes for a new high-speed rail system in the US with certain regions receiving major financial backing. Where this will lead we will see.
Along with the trains themselves, the train station has played an important part in national histories around the world. As mentioned earlier, the train station is where passengers come to ride the rails. When rail was in its heyday, the train stations were more than places to get onto trains. They were meeting places, places to eat and drink and spend time, to shop. They played an important part in urban and rural community identity, when train stations and their surroundings were most often the first place that passengers would see when getting off the train. First impressions played a major role in business and economic growth. The more attractive the stations and surroundings were, along with the train itself and its ride, the more lucrative your community (town, village, city) would become.
There are notably three types of hubs for passenger travel stops. For rural places, the buildings were called stations. Stations would have station-masters, who were in charge of the ambience of the station, the passengers and the workers’ relationship with the town itself. The station-masters kept these small stations going and provided the friendly and professional face and also the lead in making sure the employees of the station did their jobs in providing out-of-towners a good welcoming experience. Comfort, safety, and pleasantries were the mode of operation, while making sure the details of baggage handling, mail, schedules, hotels, land transportation, and other aspects of traveling were taken care of. It was very true that in most of the small towns, the entire population would know the train schedule at heart. This was because the train station was usually the most intense and powerful communication with the world outside of the station. Sometimes there was only one phone in the town and the telegraph machines. They would be at the train station. No one had personal phones in many of these towns in the early days. Also, packages from relatives and loved ones would arrive at the station. Indeed, the train station was the most important place in town next to the markets and banks.
Union stations, as they were called, were usually in large cities and were the centerpiece of individual railroad companies. Union stations were often owned by one railroad, along with the smaller stations in the rural areas. Usually, these union stations were designed by some of the top architects in the country and were the pride of the city.
Terminals are usually huge, and represented a meeting of several railroads in one building. Some terminals had several hundred trains of four to ten or more railroad companies’ trains departing and arriving, transporting a hundreds of thousands of passengers a day.
In Europe, Eastern and South Asia and most parts of the Middle East, railroads still carry a primary importance in passenger travel. In the US, privatization has created different ideas on the preservation and/or destruction of rail service. In Europe and Asia, the governments view railroad station and rail service, as a public service. This creates a special feeling towards pride and care. In Japan, privatization has taken over. However, rail service is the primary way people are mobile in Japan and its maintenance is of continued importance.
The two videos below are of the two London train terminals I visited. These are not my videos and I thank these great video artists in providing beautiful images of these great buildings. I am transported back to my visit when seeing these videos. I want my visit to the UK to be longer next time!!!!!
For readers interested in Stations and railroads, steam trains and rail history, please visit my new blog site, always in progress: