The 9/11 Memorial Museum doesn’t just display artifacts, it ritualizes grief on a loop – The Washington Post

The 9/11 Memorial Museum doesn’t just display artifacts, it ritualizes grief on a loop – The Washington Post.

This paragraph caught my eye:

“…memorial museums remain a problematic hybrid form, with an unstable balance between education and emotion. Often they are activated not just by haunting reminders of the victim, but continuing anger at the perpetrator. Without exceptional restraint, they can catalyze new and ugly forms of nationalism.”

The Rwandans too would do well to remember this…memory and forgiveness are negotiated spaces, each requiring us to remain aware that how and what we chose to remember determines when and if we chose to forgive. Which still leaves to contestation the question of history and the ability to critically see how we too were part of its writing.


Piketty, Marx and the roots of inequality – Le Monde diplomatique – English edition

Piketty, Marx and the roots of inequality – Le Monde diplomatique – English edition.

Selwyn is right to note that:

“…a closer examination of Marx alongside Piketty provides a complementary understanding of inequality. An important difference between the two is that Piketty treats capital as wealth, whilst Marx understands it as a social relationship. Piketty’s explanation begins after capital and labour have been remunerated. Marx starts a step before, within the production process. For Marx, capitalist production is not, as neoclassical economists argue, simply the site where different factors of production are combined to generate output. Rather, he argues that capitalist production is based upon and reproduces a fundamentally unequal relationship between capitalist and working classes.”

..but he fails to then realise that this is the weakness, perhaps even the flaw, in Piketty’s thought and recommendations. This flaw is most obvious when Piketty’s recommends a global wealth tax as a solution to the inequalities, and inequities of Capital. This is utopian thinking at its worst – this is never likely to happen at all and is in fact a recommendation that simply argues that we leave all as it is – the processes and social structures of Capitalism, complete with their inherent impetus towards labor exploitation, capital flight, financial speculation, asset accumulation, deregulatory preferences, and imperialism and war, in place, and just hope that a tax works. This is simply the classic neo-liberalism at work: that man is simply a Pavlovian creature responding to rewards – tax him to punish, or tax-exempt him to reward, and all is fine.

If yo see Capitalism as a process, as Marx was right to see, you realise the weakness of this suggestion. The solutions to our greatest challenges – environmental decline, resource extraction and depletion, urban blight, mass migrations and movements, water shortages, etc. etc. are not a tax solution away. They require a fundamental restructuring of the process of Capitalism. Read Marx!

PND Online June 2014 Issue And My Short Piece on Hackathons…Not Mincing Any Words!

PDN Online   June 2014   Page 28 29

You can read the entire piece online by clicking on the image above, or on this link here.

The Case for Reparations: Ta-Nehisi Coates on Reckoning With U.S. Slavery

Yes, there is a powerful case for reparations and it should be made. But it seems that Coates may have made a mistake by arguing that this is an issue of reparation for past crimes, and not a direct call for a redistribution and social welfare program for current inequalities and injustices. That what is required is institutional reform, and structural change

What I mean is: the impoverishment, the marginalisation, the social, political and economic inequality may have historical roots, but will it be solved by simply ‘paying off’ the descendants of slaves? Isn’t what is needed, and isn’t what Coates wants to argue, is an explicit wealth redistribution, social investment and greater affirmative action program across the board. That is, what he should be asking for is a socialist democracy that institutes a massive public centred program of benefits, services, tax exemptions, community investments and so on. Reparations should be argued in the form of social reform, and near economic revolution. Asking for some sort of ‘penalty for past crimes’ seems rather egregiously misleading and pointless if it leaves in place all the structural and institutional injustices in place!

Did the Atlantic place this on the cover because ‘reparations’ are in fact an easy answer and can also be a way to hide deeper structural and institutional structures of exploitation and marginalisation. Its what the rich do in post-colonial states after a human disaster or catastrophe: they run in and pay off individual families in the hope to break a larger, community wide uproar for universal reform, and try to effectively divide communities by dangling individual payment and immediate gains as a distraction.

Black Americans suffer decades of violence and injustices because of the institutions and practices that have remained in place. Reparations will not solve this. It will in fact cleanse the criminals of their crimes, while leaving in place the systems, presumptions and prejudices that got them there in the first place. Calculating and creating a number to ‘solve’ this while saying nothing about the more complex challenge of legislation and policing / monitoring of adherence seems a bit a hedge and frankly, an acceptable solution to those who hold the levers of power. It absolves them by simply asking them for cash. and leaves them with nothing else left to do.

This is an important argument and Coates has written a powerful piece. But his focus on cash payments, and calculations of costs, seems to miss the point completely!

The Bagram Prisoner Campaign & The Parsons School Of Design – A Exhibition May 14th – 23rd 2014

Some months ago I was approached by the designer Ammar Belal who wanted to see if I would be open to a collaboration with him. Ammar had attended a panel discussion with me, Saadia Toor, and Sarah Belal (his sister), at the Open Society in New York and seen the portraits I had made of the families of the prisoners being held at Bagram Detention Center in Bagram. Ammar was moved by the arguments we made, and affected by the stories of the families themselves. In a discussion we had soon afterwards it was clear that he had been shaken out of his world of high fashion and design and compelled to turn his attention to an injustice that he had been aware of, thanks to his sister’s work, but until then had remained unconcerned about. Details »

Musings On Confusions – April 30 2014

Yet again I find myself behind on my writing. New  York has been simply overwhelming and with too much to focus on, too much to concentrate on, too much to keep up with and too much that I am already behind on. But some weeks have gone by and some new pieces and perspectives have gone public (via publications online), and I thought I would take a rare quiet morning and just share some of them here. The cold, wet, grey day outside is of course another reason to just stay at home a little longer and get this out there. So without further delay…. Details »

The Dahlan Factor by Joseph Massad

Asim Rafiqui‘s insight:

This is an image of the Dahlan article by Joseph Massad that Al-Jazeera quietly removed from its website. Pass it along after reading it.

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The Battle for Justice in Palestine by Ali Abunimah

“The Palestinians are winning,” writes Ali Abunimah in his new book, The Battle for Justice in Palestine. It’s an audacious assessment, and arguably true even in the U.S. This moment of Palestine activism is dynamic and by some measures unprecedented. Of course, Palestinian activism and scholarship have always been vigorous, but at no time in the United States, going back even to the anti-Zionist activity of al-muhjar (the Arab American writers of the early 20th century), has Israel’s behavior been under the sort of scrutiny in evidence today. That scrutiny has been forced into conversation by linking of the Palestine struggle to international movements of decolonization in new media venues, coming together under the name of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions [BDS] movement.

BDS is not simply a political tactic. Even its most optimistic supporter would have a hard time arguing that it will significantly affect détente at the level of the state. However, if we view BDS as a phenomenon on the level of discourse, as Abunimah does, we can better understand its influence on public debate, where pressure on Israel has altered the dynamics of organizing and the vocabularies of advocacy. BDS as a specific movement is nearly a decade old, and emerged out of a weariness about the traditional modes of resistance (dialogue, state intervention, outreach, and so forth), which had largely proved ineffective. BDS has developed through systematic decolonial analysis, with the result that Israel continues to be situated—rightly, in Abunimah’s opinion—as a settler colony.

More here:


Ali Abunimah and Omar Barghouti – brilliant and self-confident Palestinian activists and writers – are the true heirs of Edward Said’s legacy. Writing clearly, honestly and with tremendous generosity of spirit and consistency of morals, they make the argument with strength, and reveal Israel’s unsustainable hypocrisy with wonderful clarity.


Ali Abunimah’s new book promises to be a wonderful read, and an important source of clarity for those who strangely remain confused about what is taking place.

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Murder in Uganda by Helen Epstein

Politics in Uganda is not for the faint-hearted. For years, opposition supporters have been beaten, robbed, murdered, imprisoned in secret police cells, tortured, and charged with treason. Ruling party supporters have shut down the generators of radio stations and even destroyed bridges to prevent opposition candidates from campaigning in some areas. The supposedly impartial Electoral Commission has used donor-funded “civic education” programs to campaign for the ruling party. Cell phone companies and radio stations had been intimidated into refusing to carry opposition advertisements and even text messages.


American Evangelicals, and a venal political establishment that so loves them, and that they so love. To say nothing about the use of ‘homosexuality’ as a weapon to silence dissent and distract from the brutality of the politicians. Epstein yet again is brilliant.

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Not A Part Of It, Nor Safe In It – A New York City I Cannot Recognize

New York is proving to be a strange place to try to work. And for reasons I had not expected. There is an atmosphere of deep fear and suspicion that is casting a pall over the lives and communities I am working with and completely transforming the very idea I have had of this city. Over the last week I have been visiting places – communities and homes there, where I have felt as if I have left the United States of America I once recognized and arrived in a land where the citizens cow in fear, remain silent out of suspicion, constantly look over their shoulders to see who may be watching, refuse to express any opinions, and simply want to disappear. It is a post-surveillance state America and it is all around me, except that I – for the moment enjoying the privileges of a bourgeois life, have simply not noticed that there are possibly hundreds of thousands of people in the greater New York area who cannot live as carefree and as casually as I do here. Details »

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