Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Post-Christmas Rampage

/ season's greetings /
...'Tis the season for some follies. A quick denouncement of the rotund commercialising icon in red, british parental concerns save children from the ugly truth - and the Perfect Christian Gift.

1. Letter to Santa

Dear Santa

OK, to be frank I don't like you. Apart from your garish sartorial habits and the fact that you make elves and other vertically challenged minorities (quite possibly underage) to work in what are (no doubt) sweatshop conditions (and thus help legitimize child labor in the process - or  simply outsource it), under permanent surveillance (and note the sign: it's been "0 days" since they had an accident, which means no labour safety standards), and surely abuse your reindeer making them travel the whole world in a single night, you are the personification of the overcommercialization of everything. Your likeness is used to sell everything from condoms, to cigarettes, to, of course Coke, which was the corporate sponsor of the spread and internationalization of your current shape and form.

Add to that the fact that over here (as in many places the world over) you have been slowly displacing the local traditions: Saint Nicholas, from whom you are derived, is the patron saint of seafarers and ships in the Greek tradition and most certainly was not fat and did not dress in drag to deliver presents to children on Christmas. This was done, minus the suit, the chimney and the reindeer, according to Greek Orthodox lore, by Saint Basil of Caesarea, a scholar and a theologian of great calibre who was indeed active in creating poorhouses and charities during his life. Instead of this ascetic saint - we are now presented with an image (for the saint that brings gifts is still named Ayios Vassilis here and that means that the fat guy in red is supposed to represent him) of a guy in weird clothes residing in some snow-covered place, far, far away...

2. No! Not the Tooth Fairy!

As far as myths are concerned, they seem to be protected as such by the British school system, thanks to parental vigilance. The story reads like a spoof, but apparently it's real and actually it's two incidents, in one of which:

...At yet another school, pupils went home in tears after being told Father Christmas does not exist by a teacher who was telling a class of nine-year-olds how Christmas is celebrated across the world.

Angry parents at Calcot Junior School in Berkshire said the teacher had 'ruined' Christmas for their children.

Mel Barefield, whose son was in the lesson, said: 'The teacher had said to them that Father Christmas wasn't real, Rudolph was a cartoon character and that Christmas trees come from Germany.'

A governor said: 'It's not just Father Christmas that's the problem. We also have issues with things like the Tooth Fairy...

3. Onward Christian Soldiers: Kill them all and let God sort them out... and a very Merry Christmas:

Known Christmasphobe Matt Taibbi, reports on the one present that he really would like to get from Santa: Left Behind: Eternal Forces, the game version of the well known Left Behind Christian fundamentalist action novel series. The whole concept is so grotesque that it is some kind of genius in an accidental post-dada happening sort of way, in which cultural artefacts themselves serve as their own magnificent, marketable parodies. To quote Taibbi on the pre-launch press releases (prayer requests actually) for the game, which he celebrates as "easily some of the greatest examples of unintentional comedy ever to grace the Internet" (after cheering for nativity desecrations the world over):

...But when the date arrived, the company's "Prayer Team leader," Annette Brown, began to get more and more specific in her corporate prayer goals [circulated by email]:

   1. Pray God will put it on the heart of the consumers to purchase our product at select Walamart [sic] Stores (top 100 stores) that have our invetory [sic].

    2. Next weekend is the biggest shopping weekend of the year, pray the game hits record sales for PC Games.

    3. The press is still reviewing the game, pray they will be kind in their reviews.

    I mean, how twisted do you have to be to pray that consumers will buy your product at select Wal-Mart stores? Wouldn't you hesitate and call a psychiatrist before sending that out into cyberspace?

... And a Happy New Year everyone!
[Cross-posted in the European Tribune]

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

And the winner is...

/ evilest lobby /
The final results for the 2006 Worst EU Lobby Award, are in!

ExxonMobile's efforts in generously funding misinformation campaigns which try to convince people that there is no climate change problem, really, at all, swept the Worst EU Lobbying award, gathering more than 50% of all votes - an acknowledgment of their hard work and open purses...

In the category of "Worst Privileged Access", the award went to Directorate-General Internal Market, "For manipulating a consultation on EU patent policies"...

The list of runner-ups includes some impressive nominees, a true pity that there are no awards for them - maybe next year, eh?

[and an update on C4C, last year's winner]

In denial

/ iran's aryan fans /
Iranian president Mahmud Ahmadinejad (his site) has recently proved without a doubt that he lacks basic political skills, to a degree I never thought possible for a leader of such a huge country. His recent "Holocaust conference", is an affair of such astounding stupidity and ignorance that, were it not a fact that he is pretty much under the command of the (ruthless yet) rather more intelligent religious leadership, might be really bloody scary - if only because of the childishness that this whole matter indicates residing in the upper levels of a powerful country.

As Norman Markowitz notes in a recent article in Political Affairs magazine:

If I were a conspiracy theorist, which I am not, I would say that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's far right president, was an agent provocateur of the Bush administration, working to isolate his country from the civilized world and set the stage for a military attack on it. Ahmadinejad seems to think that the best way to advance himself is to seek alliances with open fascists throughout the world while distracting his own people's attention from the high unemployment and inflation that they face, posing as the defender of the Palestinian people and the enemy of the U.S. and the Israeli governments.

In fact, as Markowitz concludes:

Actually Ahmadinejad has helped Bush more than if he were an agent. He has on his own given the Bush administration a propaganda victory against his country that millions of CIA dollars could not have accomplished. If he continues on this path he may even top Saddam Hussein as a paragon of political wisdom.

Alternatively, inviting a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan (among other similar illuminaries) as a panelist, might indeed indicate that the man is truly a racist and a fascist, in which case it would be nice if someone would ask his theologically erudite superiors if they consider racism and nazi ideology compatible with Islam.

Despite the regime making an effort to exclude from the conference, participants who were in a position to dispute the holocaust denialists, there was a host of reactions from the Arab and Muslim world. Especially worthy of note is the open letter of Mahmoud Al-Safadi, in Le Monde (original in French), who is a PFLP member, recently released from an Israeli prison, where he was locked up for 18 years for throwing molotov cocktails (no, really). In it he decries Ahmadinejad's conference and holocaust denial, stating among other things that:

...Whatever the number of victims -- Jewish and non-Jewish -- the crime is monumental. Any attempt to deny it deprives the denier of his own humanity and sends him immediately to the side of torturers. Whoever denies the fact that this human disaster really took place should not be astonished that others deny the sufferings and persecutions inflicted on his own people by tyrannical leaders or foreign occupiers...
...Concerning the struggle of my people for their independence and their freedom: perhaps do you regard the negation of the Holocaust as an expression of support for the Palestinians? There, again, you are mistaken. We fight for our existence and our rights and against the historical injustice which was inflicted on us in 1948. We will not win our victory and our independence by denying the genocide perpetrated against the Jewish people, even though the forces who occupy our country today and dispossess us are part of the Jewish people...

[Translation: MRZine]

Similar condemnation comes from the Muslim American Society:

...President Ahmedinejad should recognize that the issue of the Palestinian people must not, and cannot, be transmogrified into the ugly and spiritually bankrupt context of racial hatred. The cause of freedom must never drink from the well of hatred and racism...

Finally, Fawwaz Traboulsi, writing in the Beirut daily as-Safir of 14 December 2006 has much to comment on, regarding the regional contradictions of holocaust denial:

...How can we ever hope to make a convincing contribution to the unmasking of the "Holocaust industry" if we deny Nazi crimes against the Jews? How can we ever hope to draw attention to the crimes of the "new Nazis" against the Palestinian people if we decrease the number of victims of the historical Nazis? What is the significance of making comparisons between Nazism and Zionism, in order to denounce the latter, if we also exonerate the Nazis of their greatest historical crime, which is the Holocaust? And is this not the mirror image of what the Zionists have done when they appropriate the role of victims and deny the Palestinians of even claiming they are victims?...

The apologetics for Nazi Germany, are not acceptable. The reality of the holocaust and the colossal human toll of the Nazi hordes in all of Europe, is only denied by committed fascists and assorted nuts. In aligning himself with the global extreme-right, Ahmadinejad reveals his utter cluelessness. At the same time he is providing the New Colonialists with more fodder for their spin machines.

Thankfully, things aren't going too well for him on the electoral front, recently.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Death and the Dictator

/ a death too quiet /

So on Human Rights Day, 2006, Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte, died, aged 91 and not in custody. The death of the man responsible for thousands of deaths, torture and imprisonment in Chile, a crook, who supported a bizzare zoo of sadists, and turned Chile into a neoliberal Guinea Pig, was a cause for joy to many, a relief to some. It also means that among the protagonists of September 11, 1973 in Chile, only one remains alive today...
Instead of further expounding on the man's horrors, I present the following poem by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda (who died a few days after Pinochet's coup).

The Dictators

An odor has remained among the sugarcane:
a mixture of blood and body, a penetrating
petal that brings nausea.
Between the coconut palms the graves are full
of ruined bones, of speechless death-rattles.
The delicate dictator is talking
with top hats, gold braid, and collars.
The tiny palace gleams like a watch
and the rapid laughs with gloves on
cross the corridors at times
and join the dead voices
and the blue mouths freshly buried.
The weeping cannot be seen, like a plant
whose seeds fall endlessly on the earth,
whose large blind leaves grow even without light.
Hatred has grown scale on scale,
blow on blow, in the ghastly water of the swamp,
with a snout full of ooze and silence
[translator unknown, found i.e. here,
more info on the translator welcome]
Los Dictadores

Canto General (1950)

Ha quedado un olor entre los cañaverales:
Una mezcla de sangre y cuerpo, un penetrante
Pétalo nauseabundo.
Entre los cocoteros las tumbas están llenas
De huesos demolidos, de estertores callados.
El delicado sátrapa conversa
Con copas, cuellos y cordones de oro.
El pequeño palacio brilla como un reloj
Y las rápidas risas enguatadas
Atraviesan a veces los pasillos
Y se reúnen a las voces muertas
Y a las bocas azules frescamente enterradas.
El llanto está escondido como una planta
cuya semilla cae sin cesar sobre el suelo
y hace crecer sin luz las grandes hojas ciegas.
El odio se ha formado escama a escama,
Golpe a golpe, en el agua terrible del pantano
Con un hocico lleno de légamo y silencio.