Sense-making and Media Commentary
I usually appreciate Media Watch. Usually. On this occasion though, I can’t help but feel that the story is a beat-up that fails to acknowledge one of the basic social functions of media. Holmes’ point seems to be that anyone who was not in the UK at the time of the riots and who had not actually spoken to any of the rioters did not have a legitimate right to comment. I beg to differ on this one. First a disclaimer: I put my own thoughts to keyboard here last week.
Yes, much of the commentary was speculation. At this point, it had to be. . .
More Going On than Bored and Reckless Youth – Riots and Citizenship Rights
There’s been some excellent commentary on the London riots today, for instance this by Gavin Heaton and this one by Laurie Penny. I won’t add much to it, but I want to point interested readers in the direction of Jon Stratton’s article in the most recent Continuum: Journals of Media & Cultural Studies 25.3, June 2011. The article is about the Cronulla riots, and while superficially it might seem to be drawing a long bow to compare the two situations, what makes Stratton’s article so useful for thinking about London is that he grounds his observations solidly in theories of citizenship. He also, in a move far too infrequently undertaken in commentary, tries to understand where the rioters are coming from. (There’s been enough people saying about both events that there is no excuse. No, there’s not, but the discourse of individual moral responsibility does little to help us understand what is going on here because it is thoroughly grounded in the causal conditions.)
He looks at the way that those involved in the riots, both the young people ‘of Middle Eastern appearance’ and the young white Australians, have experienced reduced levels of citizenship in an exclusionary state. Changes to migration legislation have made it more difficult for migrants to become citizens, and Temporary Protection Visas created different classes of relationship to the nation with differential rights.
In the past, the notion of the inclusive state meant that once citizenship was gained, certain rights came with it. No longer . . .
The Power of Community Film Night
I’ve long had an interest in the environment and sustainability, and am a keen, if rather infrequent and not particularly successful, gardener. So when I spotted an advertisement for this film night about how Cuba survived peak oil come through my email I was even willing to rearrange the family’s week so that I could get to it on a Friday night. The event was sponsored by the Australian Green Development Forum, the EcoVillage at Currumbin, and Queensland University of Technology.
Whether or not you accept the reality of peak oil, the story of Cuba is fascinating as it had to face its own artificial and internationally orchestrated peak oil crisis.
World Humanitarian Day 2010
In 2008 the UN declared 19 August as World Humanitarian Day. I tend to be sceptical about these sorts of things, but in an age where “what’s in it for me?” gets a better run than “how can I help?” these things need saying. The Oxfam Australia website says this:
The day is also held to emphasize current humanitarian needs and challenges worldwide, such as threats to humanitarian aid workers by conflicting parties, challenges in reaching the people we try to assist, and the increasing complexity of the humanitarian environment due to food price shocks, global market turbulence, water shortages and climate change. Particular focus will be placed on the people on whose behalf we work.
The Inter-Agency Standing Committee Principals agreed there would be three main areas of focus for this year’s commemoration of the day:
- To draw attention to humanitarian needs worldwide;
- To explain, in simple, visual terms what humanitarian aid work entails;
- To remember those who have lost their lives in humanitarian service.
As part of the commemoration of the day, the UN has released a short film (an ad, really), which you can watch here. Feel free to spread it far and wide.
When is a Vindaloo not a Vindaloo?
According to some reports about 17,000 people joined in Tuesday’s Vindaloo Against Violence event to demonstrate solidarity with the Australian-Indian community, following a number of apparently racist attacks against Indian nationals—mainly students—in Melbourne.
Now this strikes me as mainly a consciousness-raising exercise. No, it probably won’t have much effect on its own, but 17,000 agreeing to do something (admittedly something with very little cost to themselves) creates a community of sorts, and fosters a sense of solidarity with Indian students and with other people who abhor racist violence.
I started thinking about then when I came across a discussion on Twitter with a couple of people, including Barry Saunders, who asked the question:
While I appreciate the gesture behind Vindaloo against Violence, isn’t reducing Indian culture to, um, buying a curry, a bit problematic?
This is a good question. For a start, Vindaloo was originally a Portuguese dish, and is largely unknown in India, being far more popular in Anglophone countries. As DPN pointed out on Twitter, it is ironic that this was the dish chosen to be emblematic: it underlines the huge gulf of understanding between many Australians and their India guests.
Murdered for being a Unionist
The IUF condemns the assassination of yet another member of the Colombian rural workers’ union SINTRAINAGRO, union activist Jesús Marino Mosquera, who was murdered while returning from work on October 11. Mosquera was employed for over 20 years at a farm in the municipality of Carepa, where he served as a union representative on the joint labour/management committee for the past 12 years. Mosquera’s murder brings to well over 400 the number of SINTRAINAGRO officers and members who have been murdered since the union was founded.
As a member of the NTEU, I sometimes find it a little difficult to muster the energy to attend the Labour Day march, or go to branch meetings, but at least I don’t have to worry about being gunned down! Makes Howard’s union-busting laws look a little insipid…
Guilty of Travelling While Asian
The Daily Mail reports that two men of Arabic appearance were removed from a flight from Spain to Britain because passengers feared they were terrorists:
...two British citizens in their 20s waited in the departure lounge to board the pre-dawn flight and were heard talking what passengers took to be Arabic. Worries spread after a female passenger said she had heard something that alarmed her.
Passengers noticed that, despite the heat, the pair were wearing leather jackets and thick jumpers and were regularly checking their watches.
Thank God I’m white, and don’t wear a watch…
While it is easy (and somewhat satisfying) to scorn the implied racism of the gullible passengers, this a clearly one of the logical outcomes of the policies of panic indulged in by many western governments, Australia’s included. It is such a small step from “Alert but not alarmed”, to lynch mobs…
An especially shiny and unsurprisingly optimistic take on new shifts in globalised capitalist production from BusinessWeek:
Take clothing retailer H&M. Every time it designs a new outfit, the Swedish company can choose on the fly among more than 700 manufacturers worldwide. It looks for the right skills, geographic proximity, and ability to finish the job quickly—and then gets the plant rolling in a matter of hours or days. Or consider Wipro Ltd., the Indian outsourcing firm. It does engineering and design for clients, and in some cases, part of its fee is based on the success of the product it delivers. Customers can keep costs low, until they know they’ve got a hit on their hands. “Our clients are under a lot of pressure to get new products faster into the market. Their core employment isn’t adequate for it, so they’re looking for partners who can do it for them,” says Azim Premji, Wipro’s chairman.
It’s all about speed, you see. Might be time to start reading up on Paul Virilio again.