LET THE WORLD SHAKE: THE LYRICAL ACTIVISM OF PJ HARVEY

by Jake Reynolds

On October 2nd, 2011, PJ Harvey appeared on The Andrew Marr Show alongside David Cameron. As soon as Marr mentions that Harvey’s then-latest album, the glorious Let England Shake, tackles ‘a big political subject, in this case Britain and war’, Cameron grits his teeth and asserts that he is ‘very keen’ on the album. Harvey’s polite laugh is the kind we all offer when confronted with a mildly xenophobic taxi driver.

‘Do you think they [the government] are doing alright on culture?’ Marr asks. At this point, Harvey gently and articulately condemns the ‘100% cuts’ in her home county of Somerset. She laments the notion that economic growth in Tory Britain is viewed as the only worthwhile goal. Bizarrely, Cameron awkwardly nods, as if a brief and sudden shot of humanity has temporarily penetrated his reptilian hide. She is, of course, swiftly and patronisingly cut off. ‘You’d better go and get your guitar ready,’ Marr says, clapping his hands together. And so the camera crops her out and focuses back on the men in suits.Continue Reading

ONLINE DEMOCRACY UNDER THREAT IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD

by Faizal Nor Izham

One novel I’ve always been meaning to finish is the the award-winning sci-fi classic Neuromancer by William Gibson. Since the initial publication of the counter-cultural novel in – of all years – 1984, it went on to inspire the ‘cyberpunk’ movement in the science fiction genre, as well as the ‘high-tech, low life’ type neo-noir aesthetic that often goes with it. Neuromancer has also gone on to inspire popular films such as Ghost in the Shell and The Matrix.

But what makes the novel so prominent in popular culture is that fact that it was the first to coin the term ‘cyberspace’, i.e. a ‘consensual hallucination‘ replicated artificially by millions of interconnected computer users – which in turn makes up the Internet as we know it today. The story revolves around a washed-up computer hacker hired by a mysterious employer to pull off the ultimate hack (not dissimilar from Keanu Reeves’ original role in The Matrix). This in itself can be seen as an allegory for counter-cultural movements literally taking place within this ‘Matrix’ – a term first coined by the novel way before the movie of the same name was released – a world within the world, similar to the setting of the Tron films.

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INTERNATIONAL WOMENS DAY AND THE EU SHAMBLES

by Robyn Banks

This International Women’s day was supposed to be devoted to refugee women. Well, it was in name — the EU parliament website published a series of articles highlighting the plight of women refugees, such as the fact that two in five are underage. But as EU leaders hammered out a deal on the long night between Mother’s day and International Women’s day, it seemed that the only thing the EU really planned on doing to help women refugees was to use them as fodder for a Brussels photo exhibit.

For a long time, people in the EU from both left and right have been questioning if what they see is really what they get, and nothing is more exemplary of this dishonesty than the EU’s recent deal with Turkey. On two days when much fanfare was made about Mothers, about the trauma of women refugees, about family reunification, we learned about the EUs most absurd plan to date. The plan involves a one in, one out scheme whereby boats crossing to Greece from Turkey carrying ‘irregular’ or ‘illegal’ migrants — e.g. everybody not using official channels, refugee or otherwise — would be intercepted and forcibly turned back. In return for paying their life savings and risking their lives to make the dangerous crossing to Europe by dinghy, they will be sent to the ‘back of the queue’ for asylum seeking.Continue Reading

THE TRUTH OF THE JUNGLE EVICTION: SEPARATING FACT FROM FICTION

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by Robyn Banks

On Monday, French authorities moved in to begin a mass eviction of the Calais refugee camp known as the Jungle, resulting in ‘clashes’ between the police and activists alongside refugees. Unfortunately, that seems to be about as much as anyone really knows. As my house is currently full with donations for the camp, I was pretty invested in finding out exactly what was going on. Which charities should I contact now? What do they need? Where will all the refugees go and how many of them will remain?

As I scrolled through page after page of pictures of tents on fire and riot police, every headline seemed to be ‘Clashes between police and…’ and even those that were helpful were contradictory. It seems that misinformation is rife, whether deliberate or due to the incompetency of authorities on the ground, and even long term and well informed activists in the camp have been confused.Continue Reading

THE MEMORY OF THE WORLD IS SHORT

by Ellen Musgrove

Cherokee writer and academic Daniel Heath Justice writes in The Kynship Chronicles that ‘the memory of the world is short, and death rides hard in the forgetting.’ Being indigenous and queer, Justice knows very well the selective amnesia of the nation-state, and the resistance that demands.

Such an introduction may seem obscure, but this perceived obscurity demonstrates the problem I want to discuss. The same nation-state amnesia is imbricated in “western” society’s selective mourning of recent terror attacks, the current refugee crisis, and now renewed military intervention.

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THE WRITING OF A REFUGEE

by Jess Howard

At the end of last month, an image of a refugee in Beirut appearing to be selling a handful of biros, with his young daughter held to his chest, went viral. The image was captured and tweeted by activist Gissur Simonarson, whose Twitter feed was then flooded with requests for him to identify the pair. Simonarson quickly set up #BuyPens to find them, and within thirty minutes they were identified as Abdul Halim Attar, a single father of two, and his daughter Reem.

After identifying Abdul, through a woman who saw him daily around his house, Simonarson then set about organising a crowdfunding campaign on indiegogo.com, with the aim of raising funds for him and his family. Since the date this article was written the campaign has raised $190,824, completely overtaking the original target of $5,000. The amount of money that has been raised is incredible, and will completely change the lives of Abdul and his children.Continue Reading

THE MIGRANT CRISIS DOES PLACE EUROPE UNDER THREAT

by Robyn Banks

The migrant hoard was coming, a swarm of extremist middle Easterners desperate for new teeth who were going to simultaneously take all of the jobs and all of the job seekers allowance and probably wouldn’t even take a can of lager to the job centre like a proper British. They were going to threaten our way of life, make us all Muslim and were probably responsible for the recession. But somewhere along the way something changed and they became refugees — women, children, young men escaping war torn countries — deserving of our help and accommodation.

Talk of exits and bailouts have been plaguing the EU recently, and for a while it seemed as though the ‘migrant crisis’ was going to be the narrative sold to pull us all together, to make a case for the borders of Fortress Europe and to show that the EU was a big union capable of solving big problems. But then the public mood seemed to change. Suddenly people were ferrying van loads of donations to the camps at Calais and networks of volunteers seemed to spring up across the country. Syria was in the news again and ‘Refugees welcome’ marches attracted thousands. The establishment responded, but only with compromise.Continue Reading