Muslim blogs

Editorial: UK General Election 2017 Is Our Chance to Save Britain

The Platform - Tue, 23/05/2017 - 01:42

We have a rare opportunity to change the course of this nation for the better

As the voter registration closes, Britain is bracing itself for the most whirlwind election period in decades. The lead up to the elections has been littered with increasingly meaningless intonations of “strong and stable”, dramatised news items including that of the Labour party leader supposedly running over a cameraman’s foot, and quite serious disasters in the form of the NHS cyber attack, upon which the Conservative Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt seemingly went into hiding. Amid these moments of confusion, Britain has a serious decision to make and little time within which to make it.

Prime Minister Theresa May appears intent on promoting her One Nation Toryism narrative, attempting to woo both the marginal voter and the quintessential Labour voter. But her manifesto pledges, including a controversial plan to end school lunches for infants that garnered her the title “lunch snatcher”, do little to convince. Barely three days since the Conservatives launched their uncosted manifesto, May is facing pressure for the party’s ‘U-turn’ on social care. This follows a weekend of social media meltdown as the prime minister lamented Jeremy Corbyn’s “utopian vision” and declared, “I believe in being upfront and straight with people”. Yet what has now been labelled a Conservative “manifesto of chaos” is anything but.

Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party have in turn produced a costed manifesto that clearly sets out its socialist democratic priorities, and confidently offers an alternative to the entrenched Conservatism of the current and previous governments. Revealing Keynesian economic principles in contrast to the Marxist labels thrown by Corbyn opponents, Labour pledges to increase investment in infrastructure over a ten-year period and return public spending to the levels pre-dating the savage cuts implemented under the Tories. There is a strong focus on investment in education with the scrapping of tuition fees as early as autumn this year, as well as attention to health and social care at a time when the NHS is spiralling to ever-greater depths of crisis. A commitment to securing a fairer living wage, an end to zero hours contracts, an inflation cap on rent rises and the building of a million new homes including affordable homes, are further commitments designed to serve many struggling citizens. Meanwhile, against the more antagonistic stance to Brexit assumed by the Tories, Labour’s commitments on Brexit focus on the protection of jobs, living standards and environmental standards as priority.

Crucially, the Labour manifesto commitments to appropriate and progressive taxation alongside investment in education, health and social care are not only a means to level the playing field for a fairer and more humane society, but also make economic sense. Investment in education can only serve the economy in the long-term by developing a diverse and highly skilled workforce. Likewise, investment in health and social care maintain a healthy population and prevent the creation or exacerbation of ill health that places a greater financial burden on services, while keeping people genuinely fit for work.

Despite ideological differences, even the Conservative manifesto recognises that the role of the state cannot be reduced indefinitely without electoral consequences. Whether in her pledge to cap energy prices, to protects workers’ rights including those of so-called ‘gig’ workers, or to create more council houses, Theresa May senses the growing discontent surrounding social insecurity and flailing national institutions. Yet, it is difficult to believe that the interests of working-class politics lies with the Conservatives.

Whether in health and social care or wealth redistribution, years of Tory ideological austerity have reinvigorated the “nasty party” image. The legacy of the Tory government has all the hallmarks of reinforcing social inequality and preventing social mobility: child poverty in the UK has increased to 4 million; tuition fees have increased exponentially; grants for adult learners and educational maintenance have been scrapped; homelessness has soared by 30 per cent in some UK regions; food banks are reporting record demand (May controversially responded by saying that the reasons for using food banks were “complex”); and increased government surveillance powers with ever-eroding civil liberties have developed to a frightening degree.

One Nation Toryism will only benefit the few. On a range of issues, the priorities of big business takes precedence over the majority of the population. While severe cuts are applied on crucial services, including the scrapping of planned IT upgrades that left the NHS vulnerable to the disastrous attacks, corporation tax has been cut repeatedly to well below EU levels. Meanwhile, with the shadow of Brexit looming, the Tories not only threaten a hard Brexit with damaging consequences, but have already lumbered upon a destructive and alienating path by targeting remarkable allegations of interference in the UK elections at the EU.

Against this backdrop, and despite a continuous media onslaught by a heavily right-wing and anti-Corbyn press, Labour is making significant gains in the polls. The latest YouGov / Sunday Times voting intention figures show the Conservatives on 44 per cent and Labour on 35 per cent, giving the Tories a 9 point lead – their lowest of the campaign so far. Meanwhile, in Wales, YouGov is projecting a ten-point lead for Labour, the highest since 2013. Labour is polling higher under Corbyn than it did under Ed Miliband.

The notions of a fairer and more equal society are core principles of social democracy valued by the vast majority of the population. On that measure, it is without a doubt that Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, as defined by their 2017 manifesto, presents the better choice. The great challenge for Labour is to ensure that its policies continue to make in-roads with the electorate in the remaining fortnight before election day. And the great challenge for we, the electorate, is that we grasp the monumental opportunity now presented to us to change Britain for the better.

The UK General Elections will take place on 8th June 2017.

 

Editorial update at 8am on Friday 26th May 2017

Britain mourns deeply. Monday witnessed the horrific suicide bombing at the Manchester Arena that saw 22 murdered and dozens more grievously injured. In the face of such a crushing tragedy, Manchester rose from the ashes – its community committed to combatting hate and showing the very best spirit of our nation.

When the suspended election campaigns resume, the electorate will face the challenge – once again – of sifting through the rhetoric to make the right choice at the ballot on 8th June. This choice has the potential to change lives and save lives, both here in Britain and abroad.

There is no doubt that Prime Minister Theresa May is in her element in the aftermath of the attack, going from flagging trust in the Tories and their U-turns, to the very familiar territory of counter-terrorism policy. Raising the terror threat level to critical, applying curfews and blockades, increasing stop and search and deploying the army to the streets, Britain is being militarised overnight.

Few have assessed the complex conditions which have led to this point, preferring instead to focus on the foreign bogeyman and his wretched ways. The Conservatives will certainly not face up to their role in cutting frontline services that have left policing in England and Wales in a “perilous state”, nor will they delve into their own complex and damaging foreign policy blunders, including operating an “open door” policy allowing Libyan exiles and British-Libyan citizens to join rebel forces in Libya, despite some being under counter-terrorism control orders. What’s more, civil liberties in Britain have fallen to a historic low under Theresa May’s watch – Amnesty has described the counter terror laws as the most Orwellian in Europe – and, yet, they have proven ineffective in preventing attacks.

We know that Jeremy Corbyn has consistently opposed foreign wars, specifically because of the cycle of conflict and terrorism they create. His was the unpopular position in the establishment, yet he stood his ground and he was right. While May capitalises on the sentiment of the nation to provide a militarised response that accompanies her much-loved slogan, we can expect Corbyn to be far truer to the values that Britain holds dear when he takes to the podium today. “We are determined to not allow the poison of terror to pollute our democratic politics.”

Image from here

Categories: Muslim blogs

Monotonous Misogyny in A Lie of the Mind

The Platform - Sun, 21/05/2017 - 13:14

Sam Shepard’s 1985 play newly staged at London’s Southwark Playhouse features characters stuck in the past and repetitive scenes

When the name of Sam Shepard makes an appearance anywhere on stage, the great and the good amongst the thespians generally follow. And so they did, on the press night of a play that was first written for production in 1985 and which claimed an array of theatrical accolades. This time they turned out to see a new production at London’s Southwark Playhouse.

A Lie of the Mind is set in the American Midwest and ostensibly features two families dealing with the impact of domestic violence. With clever staging that swaps the main scene between the two families, the theme of violence within a couple soon gives way to other family problems which now have a chance to voice themselves and surface. It’s all done under the guise of sorting out the problems of a very argumentative couple and the devastating consequences of those fights and resentments.

The narratives that subsequently present themselves are always framed through the eyes of the men of the family and are about a world that is owned by and revolves around them, with the women merely around to do their bidding and behaving like their appendages. The family of Beth (Alexandra Dowling) has a bizarre and aloof attitude towards the violence she has endured at the hands of husband Jake (Gethin Anthony), whose hot-headed jealousy and irrational justifications for his actions would be hard to comprehend, even for the most misogynistic of viewers.

Beth’s own parents seem to be nonplussed by the life-changing injuries she has sustained, with her brother and father taking it on themselves to protect their “territories” – the family name, land and home – rather than looking out for the well-being of their daughter and sister respectively. What is most at odds with rational thinking, however, is the attitude of the women in the play: Meg, Beth’s mother (Nancy Crane), is almost wilfully ignorant of her daughter’s plight, and her mother-in-law Lorraine (Kate Fahy) excuses her son’s behaviour and tells her other child, Sally (Laura Rogers), that Jake’s temper is only to do with other people. In her mind, her blue-eyed boy would never harm family, and so she concentrates on looking after him and recreating the time she had with him as a little boy when she nurtured and attended to his every need.

All said though, domestic violence in real life is often said to defy belief with the attitudes of family members in these circumstances running contrary to expectation – victim blaming, denial of things as they are, the twisting of facts, or merely hoping that the situation will resolve itself, even if the root causes remain unaddressed. In so far as that, the characterisations may indeed represent an array of the odd sentiments and behaviours that violence within the family can present, hence the play’s title of A Lie of the Mind.

What the dialogue also brought out was the backstories, persistently harping back to the past and refusing to embrace the present, featuring a group of people who are essentially shadows of their former selves. The problem with the play is that it takes too long to get there – too many rambling and over-earnest conversations regarding family history ran throughout the performance.

Among all this, a welcome interjection was the live guitar folk-blues melodies that helped convey the loneliness of life among great barren tracts of land in that part of America. The music helped punctuate the talk of red-necked men. It’s talk that’s upheld by the women in this world who are only too happy to be peripheries to their husbands, fathers and sons. While some leeway has to be allowed for the fact that it was written in 1985, one would have hoped that even back then, the voices of women would have been a bit more spirited. Accepting this, however, the dialogue was often quite clunky and lacked dramatic diminuendos and crescendos, instead presenting a lot of similarly pitched scenes. Ultimately, it meant that be it the words of men or of women, the audience didn’t fully own or care about the characters in front of them, and that made the three hours of play-acting go rather more slowly.

A Lie of the Mind runs at the Southwark Playhouse until 27 May 2017: http://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/show/a-lie-of-the-mind/.

Photo Credit: Lidia Crisafulli

Categories: Muslim blogs

Raw Realities of Conflict in Mogadishu

The Platform - Fri, 12/05/2017 - 20:02

Mogadishu’s boy soldiers show the plight of Somalia’s future in this observational documentary

The Frames of Representation documentary festival at the ICA focused on the theme of ‘work’ this year. The itinerary featured a diverse range of documentaries spanning the globe from a textile factory in India, to Peruvian gold mines and African Union troops in Mogadishu, Somalia.

I went to see Mogadishu Soldier by Norwegian director Torstein Grude, who explained in the introduction the dramatic circumstances which led to the documentary’s creation. While working in a refugee camp in Tanzania, tensions with local authorities meant that Grude had to flee to neighbouring Burundi. When he arrived he was caught by militia, he explained calmly to the audience, and thought he would die.

Thankfully, he was saved by the Burundian army. This is where he met two soldiers who showed an interest in the filming equipment he had with him. He had the idea to ask them to film their next deployment to Mogadishu, as part of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM).

The documentary starts there, on a concrete strip at Mogadishu airport, with Burundian soldiers in fresh uniform marching out of a jumbo jet airplane. AMISOM are African Union troops mandated to help the federal government of Somalia stabilise the country and support it in its fight against al-Shabaab, a Salafist militant group. The documentary was taped from 2011–12 while the Burundi army was stationed there.

With no filming experience, the early scenes shot by the soldiers-turned-cameramen are akin to home movies, with shaky frames and sound equipment appearing in shot. They show us everyday scenes: inside the armoured vehicles transporting them across the city, their new garrisons, and soldiers’ conversations while grooming or eating. However, the film gradually becomes more artistic, with shots of derelict, bullet hole-ridden mansions and old office buildings. These scenes capture the battered spirit of the city, despite the people’s resilience. Nearly three decade of wars, battles and skirmishes have created an adversarial ecosystem in Mogadishu, encompassing death, despair, survival and hope.

The soldiers’ interactions with the people of the city is limited. One soldier states matter-of-factly that it’s not possible to make friends with the Somalis here as they could end up working for al-Shabaab. So they treat the city and its inhabitants with suspicion. When we finally see the infamous al-Shabaab fighters, it is not trained militants we come across, like the images of al-Shabaab paraded on social media, but rather teenage and prepubescent boys in t-shirts and jeans. Caught by the AMISOM soldiers, who also show surprise at who they are fighting, the boys shown in the documentary are visibly worried and scared. Two of them look 12 or 13 years old, and the third is in his late teens or early twenties. In their interviews they reveal how they ended up fighting for al-Shabaab: the two younger ones say they were kidnapped en route to school and the militants threatened to kill their family if they did not cooperate. The older one says he was not paid much but offered enough for basics such as food and shampoo.

Grude says he tried to trace what happened to these boys, and one of the Burundian soldiers informed him that he heard they were all shot dead after they were caught. However, the AMISOM/Burundian army told Grude that this was not true, but they could not confirm what had happened. This brings to light what becomes apparent in the documentary: the unredeemable brutality found in Mogadishu and in some of the organisations who claim to want to bring peace to it.

What’s striking while watching the documentary is that Mogadishu is a very youthful city. There are children and young people everywhere: playing outside the army barracks, injured in the hospitals, and in the neighbourhoods where the soldiers go to find and fight al-Shabaab. These young people are also, of course, fighting for al-Shabaab (which means ‘the youth’ in Arabic and is ironically a robbery of it), and also fighting for the Somalia National Army. There is a segment in the documentary where the Somali National Army are being trained by AMISOM, involving a boy no older than 12!

The difficulty with this documentary, which is also part of its authenticity, is that there is no commentary or explanations about what we are seeing, including the AMISOM training scenes and other brutal moments. This leaves the audience grappling for meaning in horrific and chaotic scenes. The documentary doesn’t leave the audience any more knowledgeable about the plight of Somalia, apart from reinforcing the assumptions many people probably came to the auditorium with.

As Grude puts it, if he were physically present at the filming or inserted commentary, it would not be the same documentary. By using the two soldiers as cameramen, he eliminated his professional gaze and influence on the filming. The benefits of this observational approach are apparent in the behind-the-scenes experience this documentary offers.

The question of what the audience are supposed to make of the disturbing scenes, with little understanding of the context, remains unresolved. What the documentary does show is a city fighting – with all it has – for stability. This is exemplified, however controversially, by the presence of AMISOM troops, who the federal government could not do without. But if the youth are battered and bruised – physically, emotionally and psychologically – by both sides, it begs the question: if stability is ever achieved, once the dust settles, what will be revealed about the multigenerational trauma caused by war?

Read more about the Frames of Representation festival here: http://www.framesofrepresentation.com/ and https://www.ica.art/whats-on/season/frames-representation-new-visions-documentary-cinema-2017.

Photo via Frames of Representation

Categories: Muslim blogs

Making Doodles and Recording History: Hamja Ahsan On DIY Cultures 2017

The Platform - Tue, 09/05/2017 - 19:32

Hamja Ahsan discusses zines and activism on the fifth anniversary of the DIY Cultures festival in London

Print cultures are making a fierce resurgence. In the absence of a grassroots, varied and colourful media landscape, an appetite for self-publishing is taking hold. Even the ebook frenzy is dying down, with consumer sales plunging by almost a fifth last year. There seems to be no better time for ‘doing it yourself’.

As a member of the new Khidr Collective and fascinated by the rise in print ‘zines’, I was keen to find out more. So I spoke to Hamja Ahsan, one of our contributors and the co-curator of the DIY Cultures festival, an annual day festival exploring the intersections of art and activism.

The festival on 14th May will showcase more than 90 exhibitors at Rich Mix, East London. It will be accompanied by an extended exhibition, DIY Knowledge, which you can see from now until 2nd June.

Hamja is a writer, artist and human rights campaigner, and will be debuting his book Shy Radicals: Antisystemic Politics of the Militant Introvert as part of the programme this year.

How would you define a ‘zine’?

A zine is a sub-culture – independent, self-published, and usually cheaply made publication. It’s associated with photocopying. It has its own particular history. I guess a zine is something that’s not official. The antithesis of the mainstream. That’s the ethos of it.

Are zines for the marginalised?

It’s strange because zines are now bigger than ever, even though we have social media. And because production is small-scale, you never lose that face-to-face interaction. When you sell a zine you often meet your buyers at stalls, so I guess you don’t need capital, authoritisation or grants – it doesn’t have that dependency.

It’s also accessible, it doesn’t require any special abilities. You get a piece of paper, fold it in two and throw in some felt-tips. In some ways, it’s for people who don’t really want to grow up.

At DIY Cultures, there’ll be a communal table, lots of workshops, and anyone can bring their zines.

How has DIY Cultures evolved since you, Sofia and Helena started the festival five years ago?

When I was making zines 11 years ago, it seemed to be only me and Sofia. There was that white exclusivity and domination, but that’s changed.

Each year, DIY Cultures has become more and more ambitious. We now commission short films and animations. I think you can take a zine attitude to anything, whether it’s science, or architecture or interior design. This year we’ve got an architectural collective and a live TV webcast station by Clapham Film Unit playing in the background.

Instead of the same circuit of people, what I’ve tried to do in the past is feature people who aren’t necessarily in the foreground. My favourite talk I ever did in the first year was ‘Unemployment and Creativity’ and I just invited seven unemployed people to give their insights. I’m quite sick of hearing Owen Jones’ voice – that statement alone can sum up what I’m aiming for.

So have you sought to expand what it means to be ‘lefty’?

There’s lots of different routes into DIY Cultures and I’m not necessarily representative of everyone. Some may be more interested in craft-making, some infographics, and so on. Even between the organisers, not all of us are particularly ‘radical’.

I don’t personally agree with all the sub-cultures that we feature and that’s fine. I don’t particularly like what I’d call hyper-intersectionality, because I view it as very academic, very ossified, very US college campus imperialism. People use academic terms as they would use sunnah or hadeeth. I’m not interested in trigger warning culture and calling everything ‘problematic’ every two seconds, I find that just like orthodoxy.

What we do in the Other Asias collective (who feature in DIY Knowledge) is make up our own critical theory phrases, like ‘whiteous indignation’, ‘sub-alterneering’, so we try to be a bit playful with that sort of critical theory. If you take the value of doodling, play, informality, that’s what I value, that’s what I’m trying to foster.

Why did you choose ‘radical mental health’ as a theme for DIY Cultures?

The most popular event we’ve ever done was the radical mental health event last year to an audience of over 900 people. The idea just came from the pit of my stomach.

The cliché of our times is to say, “let’s talk about mental health”, and everyone from Theresa May to the latest fuzzy NGO uses that rhetoric. I’d like to turn that on its head. Before seeing a psychiatrist or medic, there is this other zone.

The reason I got into zines when I was 13 was the Manic Street Preacher zines in the early ‘90s. There was a guitarist called Richard James Edwards, who was very public in speaking about anorexia, self-harm and depression in his interviews and during his hospitalisation. I found such a level of empathy and insight within those interviews. I produced my own Manic-inspired zine called ‘Nausea’ when I was 13.

I’m interested in redefining, reclaiming and re-authoring depression. I think the relationship between a GP and a patient has its limits. Things like austerity – a doctor is not going to register that. I even find some of the anti-stigma campaigns reinforce biomedical reduction, when they push statistics like ‘1 in 4’. I’m interested in the spiritual dimension of things too.

Why did the Hillsborough campaign capture your attention?

Hillsborough is the ultimate example of what it means to be fucked over by the mainstream. There’s an amnesia towards the crimes of the British state. Even though I say DIY Cultures is about empowerment of people of colour, the way Liverpool was treated in the 1980s – and I’ll say this strongly as a statement – was akin to racism. There’s no other way of putting it.

There was the language of managed population decline used by Margaret Thatcher, and when the James Bulger child murder happened, many blamed the culture of the people of Liverpool – this was in the liberal Guardian, it wasn’t the right-wing press.

When I went to Liverpool to make my film for the DIY Knowledge exhibition, I found people had an extra level of hospitality, friendliness and support that I hadn’t experienced in London. I saw what a beautiful, resistant, defiant city it was in the ‘80s. I could see the falseness of Thatcher’s demonisation.

Hamja Ahsan with Sheila Coleman

How did Liverpool champion an alternative media culture?

People forget that there were many wilderness years where no one had any interest in Hillsborough. Everyone would parrot the same lies about football hooligans killing their own. The zines helped the real stories survive.

There’s amazing levels of class critique, wit and humour, and creativity in these football fanzines. They had a particular attitude towards mocking Thatcherism, the police and the state, and the language of chairmen of boards. They often use that Scouse sense of humour, laughing through adversity. Zines like ‘The End’ by Peter Hooton and ‘What’s the Score’ by Pete Naylor. They showed the truth decades before it entered the mainstream – things that weren’t highlighted officially until the second inquest last year.

Speaking to the campaigners, it was new to me to hear zines talked about as a white working class medium, because we usually assume they’re for middle class hipsters. I built a whole archive of zines from the ‘80s and ‘90s that are totally out of print – they’re treasures for me and I want to give them the time and space they really deserve in future exhibitions.

Can you tell us more about the Theresa May statue?

The sculpture shows Theresa May as she really is. Don’t get scared. One of my brother’s campaign supporters did a life-sized sculpture of May and my brother’s prison poetry is carved into the back.

The first talk at this year’s festival is called ‘Theresa May & the Others’. May referred to my brother as ‘the others’, and you think, ‘who are the others?’ And I realised there were other others, and that the others is all of us.

We didn’t know when we started this that a General Election would come. This is my bit to ‘making June the end of May’.

The DIY Cultures 2017 day festival: Zines, Artists’ Books and Comics will be held on 14th May. See the full programme here: http://diycultures.tumblr.com/programme.

The DIY Knowledge exhibition is open from now until 2nd June in the Lower Cafe Gallery of Rich Mix: https://www.richmix.org.uk/events/exhibitions/diy-cultures-exhibition-diy-knowledge.

featured and body (final) photo by Aimee Valinski

Categories: Muslim blogs

You Have No Idea How Much I Love You: Laborious Psychotherapy On Screen

The Platform - Sun, 07/05/2017 - 20:31

Pawel Lozinski’s meditation on family does not avoid gendered metaphors

You Have No Idea How Much I Love You, an experimental documentary by Polish director Pawel Lozinski, screened recently as part of ‘Frames of Representations: New Visions for Documentary Cinema’ festival at the London ICA. The festival, in its second year, explored the theme of the contemporary experience of ‘working’ in its social, political and cultural guises. Numerous films in the programme engaged with the issues of manual labour and exploitation rather viscerally. However, as signalled in the title of Argentinian-Brazilian documentary Docile Bodies (Los Cuerpos Dociles), it is useful to draw on ideas of Michel Foucault when considering a multi-layered regime of control of human bodies within society. Lozinski’s film focuses on immaterial kinds of labour which are still performed within the overarching framework of power and access to knowledge.

The film has been promoted as ‘representing psychotherapy on screen’ and a meditation on family and the complexity of our relationships with people in our lives. It is an edited record of five therapy sessions between estranged mother (Ewa) and daughter (Hania), led with authority by the renowned Polish psychiatrist and psychotherapist Bogdan de Barbaro. With his guidance, two women try to recover or perhaps re-invent a shared language after what the viewer concludes must have been years of misunderstandings and spells of outright silence. Reserved and awkward in the beginning, from session to session Ewa and Hania talk more freely, both expressing grievances about each other and reflecting on their own lives, thoughts and emotions.

In this space of vulnerability and healing, the therapist exercises his power by imposing the specific technique: the women are encouraged not to talk to directly to each other but rather use de Barbaro as a mediator and a conduit. Presenting his power as gentle, he offers himself during the first session as the necessary ‘third’, thus enabling the loosening of the knot between the two. This setup draws attention to the therapist’s effort alongside perhaps more obvious labour performed here by two clients, ‘working through’ their thorny relationship. The stories of past disappointments and life’s turning points are theirs but it’s the therapist who makes them think about those words, showing how powerful the act of naming is and how changing a certain phrase can help reconciliation.

Although the fruits of the hard labour of therapy done by three protagonists may be invisible, their combined efforts seem to pay off, and in the last onscreen session it seems that a certain progress has been made. As de Barbaro’s therapy seems to have reached its goal, the wider questions arise, such as that of the documentary’s impact on its audience, as we witness the therapeutic process, and the related one of our labour – the work we do in the process of viewing. It’s rather common to discuss documentary-making as therapeutic for filmmakers, and sometimes their families, and Lozinski himself made a film called Father and son (2013), in which he films an extended conversation with his father about certain painful past events as they are stuck together in a campervan on a long journey through Europe. Can this kind of therapy extend to the audience?

Risking a hackneyed statement from the realm of audience reception theories, I suggest that what goes through the head of a viewer, confronted with close-ups of Hania and Ewa’s faces sculpted by raw emotions in real time, very much depends on their family history and relationships with other people. While Polish writer Sylwia Chutnik was enthused (in Polish) about the film, admitting she cried through most of it, I did not feel their pain as mine.

Lozinski explains his casting decision, made after filming 25 mixed-gender couples in different family configurations, by the fact that Ewa and Hania were “so authentic, so brave to give their real stories”. However, the issue of gender is too crucial to be dismissed in the name of universality of interpersonal relationships, not least because the gendered metaphor presides over this therapy: the last words spoken by de Barbaro before the credits roll refer to the healing of the wound after the umbilical cord is severed. As a feminist critic, I found it difficult not to diverge from the singular case of ‘Ewa and Hania’ into the gendered discourse they grew up in, they live in, and from within which they speak. The film was at times painful for me to watch, but not because I empathised with their pain. I cringed when the two were rehashing clichés about ‘mad’ old women, distant and passionless mothers, and so on. On the other hand, I cheered Hania on as she confronted her childhood view of the ‘cool father’, who in fact abandoned her, but she only confronted this after her mother recalled being sick in a car all over herself after her husband had left her.

Whether the process of filming enhanced the therapy we witness is problematised by the piece of information revealed towards the end, which I am not going to disclose and which made my work as a reviewer considerably harder. Because of the specific situations and emotions the women describe, the film can resonate powerfully, though in different ways, to each individual viewer. When it comes to ‘working’, this year’s festival theme, the way Ewa and Hania reflect on their past shows evidence of a great amount of ‘emotional labour’: the effort put into managing not only your emotions in a stressful situation but also those of others. This work of making sure that ‘everyone is OK’, performed in society overwhelmingly by women, often remains taken for granted or sidelined. In Lozinski’s film, you can find it if you look beneath the dominant layer of a family therapy narrative.

Image from here

Categories: Muslim blogs

Poem: Irish Liberal Foresees Own Enduring Relevance

The Platform - Fri, 05/05/2017 - 14:29

The false imprisonment of political rights in Ireland

 

Introduction

In 2014, after six years of severe austerity in Ireland, the then Fine Gael-Labour coalition government attempted to impose additional charges for domestic water, and it was widely believed that this was a first step towards privatisation of the country’s water supply.

This provoked the biggest mass movement in recent Irish history, by far.

But in November that year, a group of protesters blocked the car of then Deputy Government leader and Labour Party leader Joan Burton for about three hours. The incident provoked both hysteria from the political establishment who accused the protesters of “false imprisonment” (illegal confinement of an individual against his or her will), as well as the media who, for the previous six years, had often commented that it was amazing there hadn’t been more serious protests against savage cuts to services. When the Irish did say “no” to the IMF/EU-imposed austerity, the liberal media was every bit as rabid in its condemnation as the country’s tabloids.

Following this furore, in our February 2016 General Election the pro-austerity Irish Labour Party, of which Joan Burton was leader, lost 80% of its seats.

The campaign against water charges has been successful and the charges are to be abolished. In this trial, the state is attempting to take some revenge.

My poem below satirises the reaction to the anti-water charges protests of the Irish pseudo-left.

 

Irish Liberal Foresees Own Enduring Relevance

My words are smoother than the essential oils
the Taoiseach last week
had his parliamentary assistant rub
into his badly traumatised buttocks.
My psychotherapist insists
half the people who’ve taken
shotguns to their own heads,
during this recession, would’ve reconsidered,
if only they’d heard me talk for an hour
each week about the dangers of Sinn Fein,
or how I live in the hope of a woman Pope.

I’m all for the good people of middle Ireland
making their point in a dignified manner
with china cups of nothing stronger than tea in their hands.
But when thugs from the far parts start burning vans
and generally acting as if they owned the place;
and gurriers from the depths begin picking up bricks
and tossing words so terrible,
they’re not even in the dictionary,
at the Minister for Poverty’s hair-style.
(How would you like your wife,
sister, great grandmother,
kidnapped in her car
for two and a half hours?)

The world will not be changed by fools
banging on the bonnet of a BMW.
But by the likes of me talking
against social exclusion in TV studios.
And fundraising concerts organised
by former pop-stars.
And the well-meaning priest
with whom I regularly have dinner;
between the two us we’ve enough
concern for the poor to construct a second
Fergal Keane of the BBC,
as a back-up in case
the existing one breaks.

Trust in us. Pay no heed
to the sweary-mouthed crowd,
who if they’re not put back where they belong
will soon be eating pot noodle from scooped out skulls
confiscated from their betters
in defiance of international law.
By the likes of them,
the world must not be changed.

Image from here.

Categories: Muslim blogs

Naturally

Imam Zaid Shakir Blog - Sun, 16/04/2017 - 06:39

Her smile reflects the beauty of the sky.
Her benefits are there for passersby.
Her hair adorned sometimes with colors: gold,
and red, yellow, so splendid to behold.

Her life is spent measured as seasons pass.
The world adorned. Her gift? Her grace, her class.
The poet thought that he would never see,
a poem as lovely as a natural tree.

Categories: Muslim blogs

Suffering From Military Complex

Imam Zaid Shakir Blog - Tue, 11/04/2017 - 21:35

We look upon the problems of the world,
We see the refugees the boys and girls,

We see the poor pushed from pillar to post,
We see the rich propose another toast;

To celebrate the lives that they’ve destroyed.
We see the lands they throw around like toys.

And when the poor voices rise in protest,
They’re labeled terrorists and savages.

But surely as the night follows the day,
We will proceed along this wretched way.

Regardless of the battles lost or won,
Business is much too good for Raytheon.

And if we had no enemies to shoot
We’d get new ones from Kellogg Brown and Root.

Some think our military fights to win,
I think they fight for Lockheed and Martin.

The saints come marching in amidst the drummin’
Our money marches out to Northrup Grumman.

With climate change we see far less snowing,
But money rains down on our friends at Boeing.

Is this our fate or have we all been vexed
To suffer from military complex?

Categories: Muslim blogs
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