Sunday, April 29, 2012

The flames of occupation

Dear Laila has kindly provided a translation of my Al Akhbar article

The Flames of Occupation
Rami Zurayk
The Occupy movement arose spontaneously in several areas of the world. Its momentum was inspired by the Arab protests, particularly those in Tahrir Square during the Egyptian uprising. This global movement, which demands social and economic justice, is famous for its occupation of Wall Street in New York, the beating heart of capitalism.
This was in September 2011, when the flame of popular “occupations” spilled into the streets and public spaces of over 25 countries, from Hong Kong to London, before the authorities suppressed them and emptied the streets and squares of protestors. But the movement did not end with this first wave of activity. Although it may have shrunk somewhat, it still is an effective channel for political and social activity, especially in the countries where it started. 
On 22 April, a group of hundreds of environmental and agricultural activists occupied a piece of land owned by the University of California, Berkeley. They planted thousands of saplings and seeds and declared it a public farm. They were protesting against a plan to sell the piece of land to a real estate development company, who would have turned it into houses and commercial buildings. The protestors demanded that their right to produce their own food be recognized in a world where food is controlled by a handful of giant corporations. 
This is a radical change for the Occupy movement, which had been described as hippy and lazy. It has moved from verbal protest to productive work. No matter how symbolic, this act challenges the principle of private land ownership, one of the main obstacles impeding the improvement of rural people’s living conditions. It is also a crucial part of the process of the redistribution of resources. For example, Honduras has recently witnessed a farmers’ movement, which included over 3500 poor rural families, who took possession of vast tracts of agricultural land owned by the government. They began to reclaim it and plant it. 
I wonder, will these activities and protests spread to the Arab world, just like the protests in Tahrir spread to Wall Street?

The translated article can also be found in Al Akhbar English here

شعلة الاحتلالات

شعلة الاحتلالات

رامي زريق
انطلقت حركت «احتل!» _ «!Occupy» بعفوية في مناطق عدة من العالم، مستوحية زخمها من الاحتجاجات العربية، وخصوصاً من احتجاجات ميدان التحرير خلال الانتفاضة المصرية. اشتهرت الحركة العالمية التي تسعى إلى العدالة الاجتماعية والاقتصادية باحتلالها لوول ستريت في مدينة نيويورك، وهو القلب النابض لرأس المال. كان هذا في أيلول عام ٢٠١١، عندما امتدت شعلة «الاحتلالات» الشعبية إلى الشوارع والمرافق العامة في أكثر من ٢٥ دولة، انطلاقاً من هونغ كونغ ووصولاً إلى لندن، قبل أن تقمعها السلطات وتفرغ الشوارع والساحات من المحتجين. لم تنته الحركة بعد موجة النشاطات الأولى، إنما تقلصت بعض الشيء. لكنها لا تزال تمثّل إطاراً فعالاً للعمل الاجتماعي السياسي، وخصوصاً في البلدان التي نشأت فيها. وفي ٢٢ نيسان الجاري، احتلت مجموعة مؤلفة من المئات من الناشطين البيئيين والزراعيين قطعة أرض تملكها جامعة كاليفورنيا في مدينة بيركلي، وغرست فيها آلاف الشتول والبذور وأعلنتها مزرعة عامة. وجاء هذا العمل احتجاجاً على مشروع بيع قطعة الأرض لشركة استثمارات عقارية قد تحولها إلى أبنية ومجمعات تجارية. وطالب المحتجون بالاعتراف بحقهم في إنتاج غذائهم في عالم تسيطر على غذائه حفنة من الشركات العملاقة. يشير هذا التحرك إلى تحول جوهري في حركة «احتل!» التي كانت قد نعتت بالـ«هبيّة» وبالكسل، فنقلتها من الاحتجاج الكلامي إلى العمل الإنتاجي، مهما كانت رمزيته. يتحدى هذا العمل مبدأ ملكية الأراضي الخاصة التي تمثّل أحد العوائق الأساسية أمام تحسين أوضاع الفلاحين المعيشية. كذلك فإنها تمثّل جزءاً أساسياً من عملية إعادة توزيع الموارد. فعلى سبيل المثال، شهدت هندوراس أخيراً تحركاً فلاحياً ضم أكثر من ٣٥٠٠ عائلة ريفية فقيرة وضعت يدها على مساحات زراعية واسعة تملكها الدولة، وباشرت باستصلاحها وغرسها. تُرى، هل تمتد هذه النشاطات والاحتجاجات إلى الوطن العربي، كما امتدت الاعتصامات من التحرير إلى وول ستريت؟

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Finally they see the light

"An expert group convened by the Royal Society spent nearly two years reading evidence and writing their report. Firm recommendations include giving all women access to family planning, moving beyond GDP as the yardstick of economic health and reducing food waste."

The state makes the difference. So why can't we have one?

""I think the real single biggest difference," Banerjee agrees, "is that the state has delivered a whole bunch of stuff for us, and we forget how much is enforced and sustained by the state. The poorest person in the UK drinks extremely high-quality water, and this is not something that is just God-given; water in the UK in the 17th century was horrible. It's not that there was some pure fountain of water that exists in the UK that doesn't exist in Mali; it's just the water has been cleaned by a system that has been set up for it." If we had to remember to laboriously sterilise everything we drank, we would probably get careless too." (Thanks Laila)

Occupy land in Honduras

"Thousands of Honduran farm workers have launched a co-ordinated land occupation, squatting on about 12,000 hectares nationwide and fuelling new tensions over land rights, authorities said.
More than 3,500 families started squatting on farmland in the provinces of Yoro, Cortes, Santa Barbara, Intibuca, Comayagua, Francisco Morazan, El Paraiso and Choluteca on Tuesday - the International Peasant Day of Struggle.
Activists say the seized arable land is public property and small farmers have the legal right to grow crops under Honduran law. The large landowners who have been farming the land say they bought it legally from the government.
On Wednesday, police and soldiers read an eviction notice to farm workers on the San Manuel sugar plantation, about 22km north of the capital Tegucigalpa. The workers then peacefully vacated the 2,500 hectare area.
The rest of the farms were still occupied late on Wednesday, activists said."

I've always loved this song: Paris Lumiere by Francois Beranger, circa 1975

François Béranger

Autrefois y avait des gens
Qui ont dit faisons des villes
Pour enterrer nos frayeurs
Ce sera plus simple à plusieurs
Ce sera plus simple à beaucoup
Derrière nos murs de pierre
L'oeil collé aux meurtrières
De chasser les hordes de loups
De chasser tout ce qu'est pas nous
Etrangers pestiférés
Truands saltimbanques filous
Juifs errants et faux prophètes
Jour et nuit de la lumière
Temples d'or chatoyants
Rumeurs douces de la vie
Tous les samedis la fête
L'âge d'or des villes vint
Villes phares éblouissants
Vers qui vont tous les désirs
Et les rêves de continents
Et puis les villes ont grandi
Sont devenues boulimiques
Monstrueuses et hystériques
Bouffant tout ne rendant rien
Gigantesques tentaculaires
Boursouflées et hydropiques
Pestilentielles et criardes
Villes mutilées dans leur corps
Qui exhalent des senteurs
De mille tortures chimiques
Cadavre très avancé
Nous nous sommes les produits
D'une de ces saloperies
Ça s'appelle Paris Lumière
Ça agonise comme Venise
"Sous les ponts de Paris
Coule la Seine"... et la merde
Nous nous sommes les produits
D'une de ces saloperies
Où l'un est l'ennemi de l'autre
Retranché aveugle et muet
Chacun fait sa propre geôle
Dans un désert surpeuplé
Des millions de morts s'agitent
Dans un flot d'indifférence
Tu me croises je te croise
Et vite nos regards s'évitent
On se frôle par accident
C'est la décharge électrique
Les nourritures éclectiques
Ensachées dans du plastique
Vont faire de nous des mutants
Grosses têtes et corps éthiques
Et bientôt le Centième Plan
Bétonnera notre cerveau
Plus jamais d'insurrection
Grâce au conditionnement
Alors nous naïvement
Pour nous sauver du néant
Par nos guitares fluettes
Nos ridicules voix aphones
On balance nos curieux chants
Chants dérisoires inutiles
Essayant juste un moment
D'être avec vous vous avec nous
Puis après comme si souvent
Dans la salle morte et déserte
La solitude va rentrer
Nous aider à tout ranger
Dans la nuit les bagnoles vont
Vers l'hôtel aseptisé
Dont les murs pissent une musique
De pauvres musiciens châtrés
Et dans le lit seul et froid
Mains en coquille sur le sexe
Comme un foetus dans un ventre
Rêves enluminés d'enfant.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The market to the rescue of the poor

Check this

"The MoU was signed by Investbank CEO, Mr. Muntaser Dawwas, and the Director General of RSCN, Mr. Yehya Khaled in the presence of Mr. Bisher Jardaneh, Investbank Chairman and His Excellency Mr. Khaled Irani, Chairman of RSCN's Board of Directors and additional representatives attended the event.

According to the MoU, the project will help small local farmers in Ajloun to grow organic produce as a new form of agriculture that will enable them to earn a better living, while protecting the environment and the surrounding forests. Organic farming specialists will work with the farmers to guide the process and ensure that the program is scientifically planned and developed, starting from the materials and skills required to grow organic crops and ending with the development of officially recognized certification for the crops being produced."

But check this too

"Brown explains that fair trade networks were created as "market-based initiatives that seek to leverage working conditions for farm workers." These networks wanted to move beyond organic food products (which simply look at the agricultural inputs in the soil) by engaging with social justice practices and addressing labor conditions. But the reality is that fair trade farms, especially those that supply transnational corporations, are pressured by the market to cut corners in other ways in order to maintain the fair trade premium: by hiring contract labor sources who are not bound by fair trade contracts or by expanding production of a single profitable crop, thereby undermining the ecological sustainability of the farm. Among other things, fair trade networks shift the original conversation about labor conditions to one about profits through price premiums."

(Thanks Anne)

I was on a break

happens to all of us!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Speculating our lives away

"Speculation by large investment banks is driving up food prices for the world's poorest people, tipping millions into hunger and poverty. Investment in food commodities by banks and hedge funds has risen from $65bn to $126bn (£41bn to £79bn) in the past five years, helping to push prices to 30-year highs and causing sharp price fluctuations that have little to do with the actual supply of food, says the United Nations' leading expert on food." (Thanks Laila)

Farming under occupation

"His father explains that the family has only five dunums of land (1 dunum is 1,000 square meters). To cultivate one dunum costs 2000 NIS (around US$ 530). “What can five dunums do for a big family? And you know, we are under occupation. We cannot export or obtain good prices in our markets. And when the prices improve, Israeli produce floods our markets. When checkpoints are closed, our products are damaged. So these are the reasons why my son Mohammed is forced to leave school and work in the settlements.”"