» THE WINGED SIN-EATERS: Vultures & the Vital Importance of Scavengers

by Brian Awehali

Tlazolteotl, the Aztec goddess of earth, motherhood and fertility, played a redemptive role in the religious practices of Meso-American civilization: At the end of life, an individual was allowed to confess hir misdeeds to this deity, and according to legend she would cleanse the supplicant’s soul by “eating the filth”…

As they ride the wind, vultures seek dead things, not dying things, using a sense of smell far more highly developed than any other bird’s. They can detect a dead mouse under leaves from 200 feet up. They are discriminating, preferring corpses between two and four days dead….Vultures, whose name comes from vellere, Latin for to tear, begin their eating at vulnerable spots on the carcass—the anus and eyes. All that being said, you really wouldn’t want to live in a world without them.

A truly fascinating article in the Virginia Quarterly Review, by Meera Subramian, and with gorgeous photos like the one below, by Ami Vitale, goes into a lot of detail about the vital role of vultures and scavengers, and the alarming decline of their species on the Indian subcontinent.

As the article explains,

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» CONSIDERING ZOMIA: Elevation & the Art of Not Being Governed

by Brian Awehali

Last year, while traveling in East Asia, I read a fascinating book, The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia, by James C. Scott, a professor of Agrarian Studies at Yale University.

Scott’s book is roughly 100 million fugitives from state formation in Southeast Asia, who fled to the higher elevations– a region Scott calls Zomia that spans at least seven Asian countries and formed primarily oral, highly mobile cultures in which the fluid transformation of ethnic identities was commonplace.

 

Tibetans are Zomians. They are are, as I think almost everybody knows, long-term resisters against the Han Chinese empire. The Tibetans are fierce and lovely people who wish not to be told where or how to live. Their monks are known for many things, including sparking militant protest, as they did in March 2008 in Lhasa (elevation: 11,450ft) :


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» PEOPLE’S HISTORIAN LIAO YIWU (廖亦武) LEAVES CHINA

Liao Yiwu in Wenjiang, July 2010. Photo (c) Brian Awehali


JULY 2011 | After repeatedly being threatened with imprisonment if he chose to continue publishing his “illegal work” in foreign countries, Liao Yiwu (廖亦武) has fled to asylum in Germany
. In the weeks and months following the outbreak of popular revolt in the Arab world, the Chinese government’s repression of critical voices intensified, and Liao had been warned that he would be arrested if he chose to publish the German edition of his forthcoming memoir, Testimonials: The Witness of the 4th of June.

Philip Gourevitch has written a typically solid piece for the New Yorker detailing Liao’s “escape” from China and the reason his work is important enough to be threatening to China’s leadership. The piece includes the following quote from Liao about his status as a political “refugee”:

“I’m excited about political developments in China, and looking forward to a Jasmine Revolution. I am quite sure that Hu Jintao may be a refugee some day, but not Liao Yiwu.”

May this be so. When I had the opportunity to meet and interview Liao several times in 2010, I was deeply inspired by his willingness to take enormous risks in service of truth-telling, free thought, and art. Interested readers can check out the lengthy profile I did of Liao following these interviews, “Dangerous Words,” which appeared originally on Counterpunch, then in expanded form here on LOUDCANARY.

» SWEATSHOP-PRODUCED RAINBOW FLAGS & PARTICIPATORY PATRIARCHY: Why the Gay Rights Movement is a Sham

Newly available as part of the online release of Tipping the Sacred Cow – The Best of LiP: Informed Revolt, edited by Brian Awehali (AK Press) [PDF]. From the “Constructively Negative” Sacred Cows issue.

As legends go, San Francisco is the place for sexual debauchery, gender transgression and political deviance (not to mention sexual deviance, gender debauchery and political transgression). The reality is that while San Francisco still shelters outsider queer cultures unimaginable in most other cities, these cultures of resistance have been ravaged by AIDS, drug addiction and gentrification. Direct on-the-street violence by rampaging straights remains rare in comparison to other queer destination cities like New York, Chicago or New Orleans, but a newer threat has emerged. San Francisco, more than any other US city, is the place where a privileged gay (and lesbian) elite has actually succeeded at its goal of becoming part of the power structure. Unfortunately (but not surprisingly), members of the gaysbian elite use their newfound influence to oppress less privileged queers in order to secure their status within the status quo. This pattern occurs nationwide, but San Francisco is the place where the violence of this assimilation is most palpable.

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» IF WOMEN RULED THE WORLD, NOTHING WOULD BE DIFFERENT

Femininism - illustration by Hugh D'Andrade

by Lisa Jervis

[This article, first published in Fall 2005, is made available here as part of the online release of Tipping the Sacred Cow – The Best of LiP: Informed Revolt(AK Press) – Full PDF]

The biggest problem with American feminism today is its obsession with women. Yes, you heard me: It’s time for those of us who care deeply about eliminating sexism within the context of social justice struggles to stop caring so damn much about what women, as a group, are doing. Because a useful, idealistic, transformative progressive feminism is not about women. It’s about gender, and all the legal and cultural rules that govern it, and power—who has it and what they do with it.

A transformative progressive feminism envisions a world that is different from the one we currently inhabit in two major and related ways. Most obviously, this world would be one in which gender doesn’t determine social roles or expected behavior. More broadly, it would also be one in which people are not sacrificed on the altar of profit—which would mean universal health care, living wages, drastically reduced consumption, and an end to the voracious marketing machine that fuels it. The link between these two elements is clear: Both gender and race, as they currently exist, are socially enforced categories that shore up a consumer capitalist system by providing opportunities for both marketing and exploitation.

But much of the contemporary American feminist movement is preoccupied with the mistaken belief—call it femininism—that female leadership is inherently different from male; that having more women in positions of power, authority, or visibility will automatically lead to, or can be equated with, feminist social change; that women are uniquely equipped as a force for action on a given issue; and that isolating feminist work as solely pertaining to women is necessary or even useful.

The influence of femininist thinking is broadly in evidence today, from casual conversations in which arrogant know-it-alls are described in shorthand terms like “typically male” and “how very boy” to nonprofit groups that exist to promote the leadership of women—any women—in business and politics. It manifests itself in the topics that are considered most central to feminism. The problems feminism should be trying to solve are not caused primarily by a dearth of women with power. The overwhelming maleness of the American population of congressional representatives and physics professors, CEOs and major-newspaper op-ed columnists is a symptom, sure, of a confluence of economic, political, and cultural forces that devalue women’s work, denigrate our ideas as less important than men’s, and discourage us from aiming high. Would more women in high places signify a change in that? Yeah. And that would be nice.

But any changes would likely be superficial: More women in high-paying corporate jobs might mean that women would finally be making more, on average, than 76 cents to the male dollar, but it would do nothing about the 35.8 million people under the poverty line—and it’s definitely not going to transform the values of profit maximization that keep them there. It wouldn’t even necessarily mean that large numbers of women were being paid wages closer to their male counterparts. Like the wage gap itself, it would be a symptom of power at work, a signal that women are being allowed more access to the benefits of a destructive value system. If we’re fighting just for that access on behalf of women, without mounting a challenge to it, then feminism is, to borrow a phrase from Barbara Smith, nothing more than female self-aggrandizement.

Furthermore, the most pressing issues facing women worldwide—slave wages, inadequate health care systems, environmental degradation, war and surveillance society, and the rampant corporate profiteering involved in all of the above—are a) no less important to feminists just because they also happen to be the most pressing issues facing men and b) directly related to the particularly ruthless brand of global capitalism we’re currently living under.

This vulture capitalism would not magically disappear if women were in charge of more stuff. Racism would not go away. Hell, sexism itself would probably be alive and kicking. God knows the gender binary would be stronger than ever. In short: The actual workings of power will not change with more chromosomal diversity among the powerful. Continue reading

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» UNDER THE ETERNAL SKY: Mongolia’s Wilderness and People Threatened by Mining Boom

by Brian Awehali

An article I wrote based on my travels in Mongolia was published in Earth Island Journal, then subsequently picked up by the Guardian, and I cordially invite you, dear reader, to check it out.

Mongolia today is the least densely populated country in the world (Antarctica doesn’t count; it’s “just” a continent). It is home to a staggering array of largely untouched natural splendors, as well as some of the last traditional nomadic peoples and wild horses on earth. It’s also home to the largest mining boom in history, and despite projections that the boom is expected to triple or quadruple the size of Mongolia’s economy in the next five years, times are tough for most Mongolians, and the relationship between the country’s great natural resources and the wealth of its people is still to be determined. What’s clear is that the actual land and 3 million people of Mongolia will never be the same.

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» YUSHU EARTHQUAKE RELIEF EFFORTS: Fact vs. Fiction

On April 14, 2010, a 6.9-magnitude quake struck the predominantly ethnic Tibetan area of Yushu, Qinghai, in southern China. Over 2000 people were killed and over 12,000 were injured, according to “official” reports.

There is rarely agreement between “official” and actual accounts in China, especially when politicized matters involving Tibetans are concerned.

A friend of mine here in China speaks excellent Chinese and keeps a close eye on a number of important things. Today I am sharing some of his work. He writes:

A Chinese blogger combined pictures of pre-quake Yushu with this article by Ai Mo艾墨, “The Stage,” that appeared recently in Hong Kong’s Mingbao newspaper. The full text of that short article, which did not appear on the Mingbao website, is copied below, after my translation. [Some papers in Hong Kong face pressure over the publication of sensitive material and do not keep such material online. I have no direct knowledge of the track record of Mingbao in this regard. – ed]

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