World Humanitarian Day 2010

Posted Thursday August 19, 2010 by John Gunders in |

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?

Posted Friday February 26, 2010 by John Gunders in |

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.

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Murdered for being a Unionist

Posted Thursday October 19, 2006 by John Gunders in |

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.

Read more here…

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

Posted Monday August 21, 2006 by John Gunders in |

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.

Read the full story here.

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…

Capital Speed

Posted Sunday March 19, 2006 by Nick Caldwell in |

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.