Turning disagreement to dialogue (DUO)

I watched with dismay as the “peaceniks” broke off into a huddle after Fred Odisho‘s presentation on “Discourse During Insurgency/Counterinsurgency: The Importance of Achieving Communication Superiority in Gaining the Support of the People.” In the front of the room was another huddle &emdash; all men, most of them big &emdash; talking with this Iraqi military officer. I joined the huddle up front. “You’ve got guts,” I said to Fred, “an army man coming to talk in a nest of peaceniks.” He gave me a wink, “Someone’s got to do it,” he said, “otherwise people only get what CNN gives them.”
I’m not convinced that the academics gathered here only get their news from CNN, but it was obvious to me that here was a split in the conference body. Ruth opened the questioning of Fred, his father Edward (“The Iraqi War: A Typical Example of Cultural and Linguistic Dis-course”), and Russell Zanca (audio report May 17) (“Losing Hearts and Minds in Iraq? Cultural Competence and War”) wondering how it is that people who are otherwise so smart could have made the mistakes detailed in this panel. Tove continued: ” are we as researchers, in some way supporting the occupiers to become “nice occupiers” through training in intercultural communication?”
I took her question seriously. I share her frustration. Every time I hear someone mention Iraqis killed because they didn’t understand English and thus couldn’t follow directions, I am reminded of similar tragic incidents with police and people who are deaf. One can’t “stop” or “raise your hands slowly” if you don’t hear the words. Tove invited me to join the gang for lunch…I hesitated over whom to join because I had already been engaged in banter with the Hawaiians. These were the guys I’d observed in “hypermasculine homoeroticism” with the Iraqis. NO! Not really, but it is a good line, isn’t it? ­čÖé (Not my line, alas, hence the quotation marks.) I told Ruth I was going “to infiltrate the enemy.”
The blatant gender division (five-on-five) was disrupted only by (husband) Robert in the peacenik huddle and the comment by a woman in the audience who had noted that the military might explicitly want not to promote intercultural understanding because such capability humanizes the enemy, making them harder to kill. In this regard, she suggested that intercultural training conducted by/for the military is actually quite subversive. Is this as simple as men vs women? I don’t think so, but gender is difficult to dismiss completely. Tove’s morning keynote addressed “Kurds in Turkey and in (Iraqi) Kurdistan &emdash; Comparison of Educational Linguistic Human Rights in Two Situations of Occupation.”
Perhaps it is not surprising that a champion of the Kurds might be drawn into conflict with champions of the Iraqis? The Hawai’ians, meanwhile, made identifications with the Iraqis on terms of literal occupation while recognizing the “legal brief” being constructed by Tove to present a case for the violation of Kurdish linguistic human rights. These political scientists, Kuhio, Keanu, Kalawai’a, and Stephen (I think he’s honorary, and an actual lawyer, of some kind, not above bribery), kept my pen flying as they discussed international law’s definitions of insurgency, occupation, sovereignty, genocide, and human rights.

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Nero’s Guests

P. Sainath spoke yesterday at the Labor Center regarding the growing inequality of the rich and the poor in India. Not about you, you say? Sainath discussed the rate of inequality being faster in the last fifteen years than in the previous fifty, and being “so carefully constructed.” He argues that the rich have seceded from the nation, that mass media is in cahoots with big corporations, and the intelligentsia is skilled at disassociating ourselves from the ugly downside of neoliberal capitalism.
He detailed the negative realities of the effects of global restructuring which are systematically diverting government resources from the poor and working classes (which, I clarify, includes much of the so-called middle class) to the wealthiest class. Explaining in precise language with poignant examples exactly how free trade creates certain market conditions which systematically deprive small landowners of sustainable use of their own property, resulting in an appalling suicide rate and the slow transfer of private land to corporate ownership. [NOTE: Bernie Sanders describes a crucial difference between free trade and fair trade.]
Proceeds of his book, Everybody Loves a Good Drought, go to a fund for the support of families who have lost their primary wage earner to suicide.
We should not be so surprised, Sainath suggests, at the level, depth, and extent of atrocities committed by humans against one another. It has been the case throughout history that the elite pleasure themselves at the expense of the poor. Sainath cited the example of “Empress” Victoria who, in 1877, held a huge public feast in her own honor from which the starving poor were brutally banned. Then he discussed Nero, who had much earlier promoted a huge feast to distract people from the devastation of the Burning of Rome. At this feast, according to an entry made by the historian Tacitus, people were burned at the stake to provide light for the festivities. No one protested.


It took well over an hour for the thousands of protesters, from a hundred different groups and organizations, to pass by me in Kadikoy yesterday afternoon. I was immediately impressed by the wide age range (I bet the average would be late thirties/early forties), and the gender distribution (more men than women, it seemed). Conspicuous by their absence, however, were Muslims. Are they not against Israel’s military incursions into Lebanon? Do they not support a Palestinian state? Or is Istanbul less integrated than it seems? Perhaps there were many Muslim men and non-veiled women among the marchers but they were undistinctive. Finally, toward the end, one group of thirty veiled women appeared.
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Later, someone explained that the groups in this march were all of the political left, and the religious right won’t mix with them in this kind of way: religious Muslims exercise their politics by different means. It reminded a bit of the debate at the hostel before I left, which included criticisms that there were too many different groups, with unclear agendas or simply gut-level reactions against what they don’t like with no thought to consequences or alternatives. This is always the problem of politics, of course, the challenge of building broad-based coalitions with clear and coherent strategies. What struck me most, however, was the fact of my friends’ concern for my physical safety.
I was encouraged not to let anyone know I’m American (the crowd might turn on me?), but then it became clear it was not the protestors that was the cause for concern. It is the police. Or maybe both. Some friends had witnessed a protest on Istiklak where shop windows had been broken and police had used tear gas. They also recounted stories of police suddenly lashing out and beating people for no reason. I argued that we must make the police accountable through visibility of abuses (media coverage etc), that we can’t let the threat of violence prevent peaceful protest.
At any rate, I probably would not have been so aware of the police if we had not had this conversation. As it was, I noticed them everywhere: on the dock when the ferry landed,
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massed (in riot gear) behind the central stage area,
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observing from rooftops (military I think, not police),
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with back-ups lurking in nearby side streets.
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The main road around the staged area was kept closed long after the march was over. Leaving the protest area was no problem, but I was struck by the fact that it was completely enclosed.
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To enter, one had to be searched. The men were patted down. I was directed to a female officer who only peeked in my shoulder bag. I wasn’t searched as intensively, but the atmosphere was definitely designed to be intimidating: you had to really want to be “in” the protest, not so easy for people passing by to be drawn in spontaneously.
As far as I know, there were no incidents.

Continue reading “protest”

Is change in the wind?

Paula hopes so, reflecting (by email) both on an impressive Day Without Immigrants demonstration in Amherst yesterday and this national media event:
Colbert rips Bush to his face (video) at the White House press correspondents dinner.
I imagine many, if not most, of the persons who made an appearance in his speech weren’t too happy about it. There was laughter from the crowd at some points, as well as by some of the individuals targeted. There were also palpable silences.
Previous protests for immigrant rights on April 10 surprised politicians in Washington forging ahead with their elitist agenda. The Boston Globe reports largest local participation for yesterday’s protests within Latino communities. The NYTimes headlines the Show of Strength.

dissing diversity

Of course, immigrants seeking to become US citizens should learn the national anthem in English but why does this preclude an interpretation? All kinds of folks LOVE American Sign Language interpretations of the national anthem, does the Deaf community’s desire to embrace patriotic sentiments in their own language minimize their integrity?
The assertion from the right that concepts of national identity and multiculturalism are somehow naturally in conflict is a lie. These notions are being used in political debates for the agenda of maintaining economic power.

Mark Crispin Miller on The Daily Show

Hilarious! Thanks Viveca, for sending the link.
Looks like C-SPAN2 will air his keynote address at UMass’ Communication in Crisis conference this Sunday at 1 pm EST on the program Book TV, and again at 11 pm EST.