terça-feira, 29 de novembro de 2016

Livros, personagens e recordações de infância: "Mulherzinhas" - Louisa May Alcott


International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People


Lettre d’Erich Maria Remarque à Marlene Dietrich


Erich Maria Remarque (1898-1970) rencontre Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992) à Venise en 1937. Les premières années de leur relation s’accompagnent d’une correspondance passionnée, dont demeurent surtout les lettres de l’écrivain à l’« ange bleu » du cinéma allemand. Dans cette lettre écrite peu après la Noël 1937, l’élan lyrique prend des accents cosmiques.

Quand je suis rentré auprès des chiens, des tapis, des tableaux, du lac et enfin du soleil, j’ai pensé que je serais très content. Mais l’après-midi s’est obscurci, bien que rien ne se fût passé, et, peu à peu, tout s’est replié en un sentiment de manque misérable auquel je pendais comme à un parachute, et je m’y suis senti étranger, j’étais prêt à le quitter, et je ne voulais rien d’autre que cela : être seul quelque part avec toi, au-delà du temps, au-delà de tous les liens et de toutes les entraves des années, au-delà des pensées et des souvenirs, au-delà de moi-même et de ma vie gâchée et détruite —

Et puis il y a eu ton appel et j’étais seul avec toi — seul par-delà le monde entier, seul avec ta tendre voix — et pourquoi le nier, mes mains tremblaient et, après, j’ai dû regarder plusieurs fois dans la glace : je pensais que tout le monde devait lire sur mon visage et que je devais rayonner de bonheur.

Chérie — je ne sais pas ce que cela donnera, d’ailleurs je ne veux pas le savoir. Je n’arrive pas à imaginer que je puisse un jour aimer quelqu’un d’autre. Je ne veux pas dire, aimer comme je t’aime toi, — non, même aimer d’un petit amour. Il ne me reste plus rien. Tout est auprès de toi. Non seulement l’amour. Mais aussi toute la vie qui tremble derrière mes yeux. Mes mains sont tes mains, mon front est ton front, et toutes mes pensées sont imbibées de toi comme le lin blanc des Coptes, de la pourpre millénaire qui ne pâlit jamais, et de la couleur impériale du safran doré.

Doux arc-en-ciel devant l’orage de ma vie en train de s’éloigner ! Vent, lourd d’humidité et de senteurs de jardins étrangers, doux vent de jeunesse venant de forêts oubliées, vent d’enfant au-dessus des champs durs, craquelés de mon existence, chant d’oiseau au-dessus de terres brûlées, douce flûte de berger parlant de rêves enfuis, toi, mélodie venant d’un temps inimaginablement lointain, que je ne cherchais déjà plus depuis longtemps —

Que tu sois née ! Qu’après des millions d’années, la trajectoire de ta vie ait rencontré les rares trajectoires — feux follets — de la mienne ! Ô créature de Noël ! Cadeau, jamais cherché, jamais demandé, parce que jamais cru possible ! Et que tout n’ait pas été détruit ! Que mes yeux gardent encore suffisamment de leur ancienne lumière pour te voir et te reconnaître, que mes mains aient été suffisamment sensibles encore pour te saisir et te tenir ! Doux arc-en-ciel avant que viennent la nuit et l’abandon éternel.

Ai-je seulement vécu, avant toi ? Pourquoi donc ai-je déchiré et laissé choir ma vie sans y prendre garde ? Toi qui m’étais prédestinée ! Il est bon que je l’aie fait. Je l’ai oubliée avant même d’avoir fini de la vivre. Et, maintenant, c’est comme si toutes ces années tombaient, feuilles sèches, et je suis très vieux et très jeune à la fois, et comme rien n’est resté, rien n’a pu rester, qui m’étais prédestinée !

Orion est placé haut dans le ciel, la neige luit sur les montagnes, le lac bruit et la nuit de nouvelle lune tempête, dehors. Elle tempête et pousse le temps devant elle, le temps qui nous sépare, la sombre montagne de nuages des journées sans toi. Des journées longues, vides et pourtant remplies en même temps, tristes et pourtant pleines de bonheur, mouvementées et non plus indifférentes, insipides et sans but — les eaux de la vie remontent de nouveau, les sources coulent et, tâtonnant à travers le sable et l’entrelacs des racines, arrivent à la surface, atteignent la lumière pour monter et se changer en nuage, nuage et pluie et rosée dans le cercle mystique du devenir et de la mort —

Rosée au-dessus des champs de narcisses en mai
Douce terre sombre
Et douce source ruisseau et fleuve —
Et larmes —
Très-aimée — ne mourons jamais —

domingo, 27 de novembro de 2016

"A Water War in Asia?" - Brahma Chellaney


Tensions over water are rising in Asia – and not only because of conflicting maritime claims. While territorial disputes, such as in the South China Sea, attract the most attention – after all, they threaten the safety of sea lanes and freedom of navigation, which affects outside powers as well – the strategic ramifications of competition over transnationally shared freshwater resources are just as ominous.

"We must rethink globalization, or Trumpism will prevail" - Thomas Piketty


Let it be said at once: Trump’s victory is primarily due to the explosion in economic and geographic inequality in the United States over several decades and the inability of successive governments to deal with this.

"Small-town 'terrorists'" - Abbie Van Sickle


Part 1 - The Infamous Post-9/11 California "Sleeper Cell Case Continues to Anravel

Part 2 - Star Witness in "Sleeper Cell" Case Blazed a Trail of Lies From Pakistan to California

sábado, 26 de novembro de 2016

"Hasta la vitória, siempre!"


Morreu Fidel Castro.

Um homem polémico com uma obra inagualável. Fidel Castro foi o líder da revolução cubana que, em 1959, libertou Cuba do domínio imperialista dos EUA. Um facto histórico que demonstrou que era possível um punhado de jovens revolucionários mudarem o mundo.

A vida de Cuba foi, a partir dessa data, uma amálgama de contradições para os revolucionários:

- como em todas as revoluções, foram cometidos, à época, fuzilamentos e mortes;
- como em todas as revoluções, foram feitos prisioneiros políticos;
- como em todas as revoluções, foram feitas injustiças.

Desde 1960, Cuba passou a ser vítima do embargo dos EUA com o objetivo de derrubar um governo revolucionário diferente de todos. Face a isso, Cuba foi obrigada a ter como aliado principal A União Soviética.

Fidel e Cuba resistiram até hoje e os EUA obrigados a reconhcer hoje, por Barak Obama, que essa foi uma atitude que não resolveu nada. Atacados por Kennedy em 1961, os cubanos não desistiram de contruir uma sociedade diferente.

Mas o regime cubano tem sido um regime contra os direitos humanos. Pessoas presas e assassinadas, partido único, sem liberdade de expressão, milhares de exilados: um regime que não defendo. Talvez o embargo tenha tido uma grande responsabilidade nisto tudo, mas nada desculpa uma ditadura.

Contudo, esta foi e é uma ditadura diferente: um ensino extraordinário, o país mais desenvolvido nos cuidados primários de saúde, uma diminuta percentagem de mortalidade infantil. Um líder amado pelo povo.

Fídel foi um homem corajoso, determinado. Apesar das minhas diferenças, respeito essa determinação e coragem.

quinta-feira, 24 de novembro de 2016

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women


At long last, there is growing global recognition that violence against women and girls is a human rights violation, public health pandemic and serious obstacle to sustainable development. Yet there is still much more we can and must do to turn this awareness into meaningful prevention and response.

Violence against women and girls imposes large-scale costs on families, communities and economies. When women cannot work as a result of violence, their employment may be put at risk, jeopardizing much-needed income, autonomy and their ability to leave abusive relationships. Violence against women also results in lost productivity for businesses, and drains resources from social services, the justice system and health-care agencies. Domestic and intimate partner violence remains widespread, compounded by impunity for those crimes. The net result is enormous suffering as well as the exclusion of women from playing their full and rightful roles in society.

The world cannot afford to pay this price. Women and girls cannot afford it – and should not have to. Yet such violence persists every day, around the world. And efforts to address this challenge, although rich in political commitment, are chronically under-funded.

Since 2008, I have led the UNiTE campaign to End Violence against Women, which calls for global action to increase resources and promote solutions. I call on governments to show their commitment by dramatically increasing national spending in all relevant areas, including in support of women’s movements and civil society organizations. I also encourage world leaders to contribute to UN Women and to the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women. We look as well to the private sector, philanthropies and concerned citizens to do their part.

Today, we are seeing the world lit up in orange, symbolizing a bright future for women and girls. With dedicated investment, we can keep these lights shining, uphold human rights and eliminate violence against women and girls for good.


Ban Ki-moon

ONU

APAV


Os 50 melhores discos da música brasileira - 34


Chico Science & Nação Zumbi - Afrociberdelia from Vitor Beltrao on Vimeo.

quarta-feira, 23 de novembro de 2016

Lettre d’Antoine de Saint-Exupéry à une inconnue


Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (29 juin 1900 – 31 juillet 1944), auteur français emblématique, est le père créateur du célèbre personnage le Petit Prince, héros du roman éponyme. Poète mais également rédacteur et aviateur, il meurt tragiquement d’un accident d’avion au service de son pays. Dans son œuvre épistolaire Lettres à l’inconnue , Saint-Exupéry s’adresse directement à une ambulancière en faisant parler le Petit Prince de manière particulièrement onirique.


Je puis bien écrire encore puisque c’est ma dernière lettre. Mais j’écris couché et mes lignes s’en vont de travers, comme si j’avais bu : je n’ai bu qu’un peu de chagrin.

Ça m’ennuie que mon chagrin même soit abîmé. Ç’aurait été mélancolique si vous n’aviez pu venir. Mais pour tous, la vie est difficile. Je ne vous en aurais pas voulu. Je vous en ai voulu de me laisser attendre, et non de n’être pas venue. C’est le moins joli de mes souvenirs. Il ne fallait pas abîmer mes souvenirs.

Je voulais effacer ça. Il me fait un autre dernier souvenir. Voilà. Je me souviens d’avoir été berger. Je veillais seul. On dormait à côté de moi tout enroulée dans sa laine comme une brebis. Et je posais la main sur la toison de laine. Je veillais seul mon petit troupeau endormi.

Je posais la main sur le front têtu de la brebis. Ça la protégeait contre la vie. C’est difficile, la vie. Mais moi je connais bien les périls de mer. J’ai tant bourlingué dans le monde. J’ai tant eu soif, froid et peur. J’ai tant eu mal. Et puis aussi j’ai tant maraudé, j’ai tant sauté de murs, j’ai tant volé de fruits dans les vergers, je me suis tant promené avec l’amour sous les étoiles. Et j’étais ce soir-là comme un vieux capitaine plein d’expérience à bord d’un tout petit navire. Il fallait le conduire vers le jour… Il fallait lui faire, jusqu’au jour, douce la traversée de la nuit, comme de la mer.

Je disais au petit navire « vous êtes un bien joli petit navire, un brave petit navire aussi. Et je suis bien heureux d’avoir pu être, une fois, votre capitaine jusqu’au jour. »

Et je disais à la brebis, quand ça me plaisait mieux d’être berger, « vous êtes une bien jolie brebis, une brebis droite et courageuse. Et il est doux de poser la main sur votre laine. On a l’impression de bénir… »

Et puis quelquefois je rêvais que ce n’était ni une brebis, ni un petit navire. C’était une femme. Alors, j’imaginais que j’en étais responsable comme d’une maîtresse — jusqu’au jour. Alors je disais « dormez bien aimée… » Oh ! bien sûr ça ne voulait sans doute pas dire grand-chose sinon que j’ai tellement l’amour de l’amour. Je lui disais « dormez… » et aussitôt je la réveillais. C’est comme ça, l’amour.

Je lui disais « dormez… » et je la réveillais. Sans ça comment aurais-je pu l’endormir ?… Et quand je l’avais réveillée, oh je trichais ! Je pensais que l’on va aussi loin dans l’amour que dans le sommeil. Je voulais la faire voyager dans l’amour.

J’étais un peu le capitaine qu’emmène son navire là où il ne faut pas, dans les étoiles, j’étais un peu comme le berger qui mange sa brebis. J’étais un peu un cambrioleur du sommeil…

Voilà l’histoire que j’ai rêvée pour m’inventer un souvenir, un dernier souvenir qui vaille la peine. Je sais bien que ce n’est pas vrai. Je sais bien que ce n’est qu’un rêve sans aucun sens. Je sais bien que je n’ai le droit d’être ni berger d’une brebis, ni capitaine d’un navire, ni berger d’un navire, ni capitaine d’une brebis… mais si ça me plaît, à moi, d’oublier son oubli et de m’inventer un souvenir ?

Harpo Marx


Harpo Marx: 10 things you might not know



Clássicos do "Film Noir" - "Cause for Alarm!"


Realização de Tay Garnett


segunda-feira, 21 de novembro de 2016

domingo, 20 de novembro de 2016

"The Most Influential Images of All Time" - 1: Lennart Nilsson


Fetus, 18 weeks - Lennart Nilsson

When LIFE published Lennart Nilsson’s photo essay “Drama of Life Before Birth” in 1965, the issue was so popular that it sold out within days. And for good reason. Nilsson’s images publicly revealed for the first time what a developing fetus looks like, and in the process raised pointed new questions about when life begins. In the accompanying story, LIFE explained that all but one of the fetuses pictured were photographed outside the womb and had been removed—or aborted—“for a variety of medical reasons.” Nilsson had struck a deal with a hospital in Stockholm, whose doctors called him whenever a fetus was available to photograph. There, in a dedicated room with lights and lenses specially designed for the project, Nilsson arranged the fetuses so they appeared to be floating as if in the womb.

In the years since Nilsson’s essay was published, the images have been widely appropriated without his permission. Antiabortion activists in particular have used them to advance their cause. (Nilsson has never taken a public stand on abortion.) Still, decades after they first appeared, Nilsson’s images endure for their unprecedentedly clear, detailed view of human life at its earliest stages.

"Will black people also be excluded from Mars?" - Ziyaad Bhorat


In the new space race, whose version of humanity is being targeted for saving?

"The Eternally Wonderful Present, or Russia’s need for a new culture" - Kirill Kobrin


The experiment in creating a “national culture” has worked in some places and not in others, but I think it is only in Russia that it has been completely successful. Here, of course, we need to define the concept of “national” in this context, not to mention the concept of “success”.

In this series of essays I have often referred to Lenin and to his ideas — we can’t talk about “post-Soviet” in isolation from the person who created the “Soviet”. Our discussion of the ideological and social elements of the “post-Soviet project” has already touched on the fact that “post-“ in this context actually means “anti-“, albeit disguised under a sense of continuity with the previous period.

But where culture is concerned, these relationships are more complex.

Let’s start with Lenin

In one of Lenin’s best known works, his 1913 article “Critical Remarks on the National Question”, there is a statement that is depressingly familiar to anyone whose childhood, youth and even part of their adulthood was spent in the Soviet Union. Here it is: “We say to all national-socialists, ‘there are two nations in every modern nation. There are two national cultures in every national culture. There is the Great Russian culture of the Purishkeviches, Guchkovs and Struves – but there is also the Great-Russian culture represented by the names of Chernyshevsky and Plekhanov’.”

If you dust these statements off and forget that they were used to mentally abuse several generations of Soviet citizens, you will find their content exceptionally interesting. On a superficial, banal level, Lenin divides national culture into “the culture of the ruling classes” (reactionaries such as Vladimir Purishkevich, a member of the “Black-Hundreds”; the “Octoberist” Aleksandr Guchkov and the former Marxist turned “liberal conservative” Pyotr Struve) and “democratic culture”, represented by the democratic revolutionary Nikolay Chernyshevsky and Marxist theoretician Georgy Plekhanov.

It is interesting that Lenin refers to “the culture of the ruling classes” as a whole, disregarding the huge political gulf between, say, Purishkevich and Struve. In this, Lenin was amazingly insightful, as though he knew that Struve would towards the end of his life adopt an ultra-monarchical vision reminiscent of Purishkevich (although without the open nationalist and racist element).

So here we have “two national cultures” — the undemocratic culture of the oppressors and the democratic culture of the oppressed. This distinction ignores everything else, including the contrast between “high culture” and “low culture”. Also, the "popular culture” so graphically described by the philosopher and literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin bears no relation to Lenin’s definitions — neither the intellectual Chernyshevsky nor the intellectual Plekhanov have any relevance to it.

What Lenin effectively does is describe two kinds of “high culture”: the culture of educated people, such as reading, writing, reflecting on various matters using the instruments traditional to this social caste. The only difference is that one culture “transmits” the wrong values and world view to the masses; the other - the right values and views.

These were what initially formed the basis of Soviet culture: it was less a question of “who” than of “what line they took”. The cultural revolution proposed by Lenin after the October Revolution and the Civil War assumed the extension of the country’s “cultured class” to include its entire population.

Thus, the Bolsheviks’ mass literacy programme was mainly aimed at making communist propaganda accessible to all, exemplified by a picture of a peasant reading the party newspaper “Pravda” in his spare time. This was why cinema was hailed as “the most important of all the arts” and eminent Bolsheviks were involved in the development of radio services. “Culture” as a mass propaganda tool with no intrinsic value in itself — that was Lenin’s legacy to future generations.

After Lenin, this vision was transformed in, moreover, a reactionary, romantic direction. The “national” element returned — it was tolerated only within strict limits, and required to serve the ultimate goal, but it was nevertheless permitted and given official support.

Lenin’s vision of a homogeneous international Soviet culture was replaced by a patchwork quilt stitched together out of multicoloured national pieces. “Soviet” disappeared as an intrinsic “content”, and instead became a framework, a horizon, a goal, an ideological intent.

But one national culture, that of Russia, was designed to stand out in the pattern of the quilt — placed in the middle, it defined the positions of the other elements.

Nostalgia for Soviet pop culture

If we, however, return to the idea of “high culture” and “low, popular culture”, in the USSR’s later years the first category seemed to embody a purely “national” idea, and the second an “international”, indeed properly “Soviet” one. Classical literature and classical music, “serious” theatre and visual art all enjoyed incredibly high status, bookmarked as “cultural legacy”. The classics were not just dead stuff, but things produced within a national culture (Russian, Ukrainian, Georgian or whatever).

The fact that the Russian people were the “big brothers”, and so their culture was higher and more important than other peoples’, was another matter. What it meant was a total rejection of Lenin’s conception of culture, a much more serious rejection even than those relating to economic and social issues.

If “the classics” consist of dead stuff elevated to inaccessibly aesthetic and moral heights, the USSR’s “pop culture” was, on the other hand, lively and international. This is the culture behind the “Soviet” image that inspires the nostalgia we find among people living in the post-Soviet space today.

These people don’t elegise the ostensibly Soviet Hermitage and Bolshoi Theatre, or academic collected editions of Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky’s works — no, they long for the return of 1970s comedies and romcoms, the Samotsvety pop group and the young Alla Pugacheva. This was the sphere where Soviet internationalism worked best, mixing everyone and everything — a young Moldavian singer from Ukraine with a Leningrad film director, a Georgian song with the inside of a Moscow restaurant.

Here everyone was equal and the ubiquitous slogan about “the friendship of peoples” rang true. And it couldn’t be otherwise, for pop culture has to aim at universality — otherwise, it’s not “popular culture”. The hatred and contempt of “Russian patriots” of the time, such as “serious writers” from Viktor Astafyev to Vladimir Chivilikhin, towards popular music and other symptoms of decadence was a reaction to the lively outpourings of the custodians of the corpse of “Great Russian culture”.

It’s strange that these late Soviet naysayers had no idea that their “great culture”, which in their opinion was something special and elevated, was dreamed up by Stalin in the year of the country-wide commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Pushkin’s death, otherwise known as the terrible year of 1937.

These people don’t elegise the ostensibly Soviet Hermitage and Bolshoi Theatre, or academic collected editions of Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky’s works — no, they long for the return of 1970s comedies and romcoms, the Samotsvety pop group and the young Alla Pugacheva. This was the sphere where Soviet internationalism worked best, mixing everyone and everything — a young Moldavian singer from Ukraine with a Leningrad film director, a Georgian song with the inside of a Moscow restaurant.

Here everyone was equal and the ubiquitous slogan about “the friendship of peoples” rang true. And it couldn’t be otherwise, for pop culture has to aim at universality — otherwise, it’s not “popular culture”. The hatred and contempt of “Russian patriots” of the time, such as “serious writers” from Viktor Astafyev to Vladimir Chivilikhin, towards popular music and other symptoms of decadence was a reaction to the lively outpourings of the custodians of the corpse of “Great Russian culture”.

It’s strange that these late Soviet naysayers had no idea that their “great culture”, which in their opinion was something special and elevated, was dreamed up by Stalin in the year of the country-wide commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Pushkin’s death, otherwise known as the terrible year of 1937.

All this finally ended in 1991, when a new, very different era began. The 1990s, and particularly the first half of the decade, were the backdrop to an exceptionally interesting experiment when one type of culture — rather complex, hierarchical and subject to strict controls — was replaced by something totally unlike it, decentralised, focussed on pure profit and, most importantly, alien.

Western pop culture, which had grown out of a specific public-political and socio-cultural context, tantalised Soviet citizens as something distant and barely accessible. It embodied their secret dreams about real style, real beauty and real sexual freedom. As an object of desire seen darkly in bad photos through the glass of Alexandr Kukharkin’s ideologically unsound book Bourgeois Mass Culture and the few songs, novels and films that somehow got through the Iron Curtain, it looked wonderful.

But the image of this culture changed when it arrived in the former USSR and settled down as though it owned the place. It was a culture that appealed to general, universal, mass-produced people. But post-Soviet people suddenly found themselves longing for something special. Post-Soviet man and woman wanted to define themselves through culture — and reading War and Peaceand listening to Prokofiev’s opera based on it didn’t do the trick. So they had to create their own, national pop culture.

There was nothing new in this — the same thing happened long ago in India and Japan, and a little later in China. In the countries of the “first world”, even in Europe, pop culture, or mass culture as it is also known, has become not just “national” — it is a marker of national identity and even nationalism. The mass readership tabloid press and lowbrow TV channels are cornerstones of xenophobia in today’s world. In this sense, post-Soviet Russia is not exceptional. In today’s world, pop culture is rooted in universal principles, but its content is national.

The main condition for creating or constructing a pop culture is a general consensus on a number of issues. Firstly, it’s a question of aesthetic and ethical values and perceptions, and also measures of social identity. This consensus is usually a result of long tradition, though it can also be a consequence of recent turmoil, as in post-war Germany.

Post-Soviet Russia has not gone through anything along the lines of German denazification and rejection of the horrors of the past. There was no “old Russian pre-revolutionary tradition” to fall back on, whatever romantically-minded Russian patriots may say.

But there was a consensus, and it was based on Soviet pop culture — the only real living value inherited by post-Soviet Russians (and most post-Soviet people in general). So this is what provided the content for the new post-Soviet mass culture. It’s amusing that a former cornerstone of Soviet internationalism should have turned into an embodiment of our national identity.

Soviet culture is a finite resource

This culture is “lowbrow”, “mass”, “popular”. But what happened to “high”, even “highbrow” culture? In contrast to what was happening before 1991, this suddenly became international, a part of “world culture”. In fact, highbrow culture, which is by definition “anti-democratic”, paradoxically became a haven for those (both its creators and its small audience) who espoused democratic, “liberal” values.

Here post-Soviet Russia can take pride in its avant-garde credentials — this process started earlier here than it did in the west. The British have only just got their heads round the fact that sophisticated intellectuals, Guardiannewspaper readers who despise the tabloid press, pulp fiction and Justin Bieber, are the chief defenders of the “people”. The “people”, meanwhile, aren’t interested in defending themselves and see no need to: they’re too busy reading the Sun, watching soap operas and hating foreigners.

If we substituted the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta or the Colta.Ruonline journal for the Guardian, and Komsomolskaya Pravda or Life.Ru for the Sun, we would see that in Russia this all happened a lot earlier.

Television journalism is, of course, the exception. In Russia it’s as though the ultra-right populist Fox News has become the state broadcaster, aired as it is, with a few variations, on every channel. (I can imagine how Lenin would have hated it.)

This is the main reason for considering the post-Soviet period at an end in terms of culture. It has been 25 years since the collapse of the USSR. The very concept of “Soviet”, and Soviet pop culture in particular, is wearing thin — both in terms of a physical space and as an essential element of national identity. It can’t last forever, especially since the exploitation of this late-Soviet cultural resource is as barbaric as that of Russia’s natural resources.

Most of the heroes of this pop culture are no longer alive; nor are their fans. Their function has been assumed by the “1990s” and even the “2000s”. (The perestroika years were too traumatic for Russia’s national consciousness and so have been relegated to a distant corner of collective memory.)

Finally, our present rulers have also realised that this particular seam of cultural value has been exhausted and is looking back into the past in search of something new. Some of them are trying to find a consensus in the Stalin era; others to revive sentimental rubbish about “eternal Russia, destroyed by the non-Russian Bolsheviks” and call for a return to “the Russia we have lost”.

The Russian Federation’s multi-ethnic population is, however, unlikely to buy into the idea that this “we” has anything to do with them. Having rapidly exhausted the cultural reserves left over from the Brezhnev era, post-Soviet Russia will now have to either a) dig deeper into its history or b) cobble together a conception of an “Eternally Wonderful Present”.

The first option won’t hold anyone’s interest for long: who needs rusty tin cans? The second requires an enormous gift for self-persuasion, or more precisely, an enormous gift for persuading the public. It’s clear that the “present” of this poor, backward Russia, split by social inequality, is not eternal and is far from wonderful. And it seems unlikely that Russia’s culture minister Vladimir Medinsky and his minions possess the gift of persuading the public — this kind of talent isn’t something you can find in an amateur dissertation by a nobleman, defended at a serf academic council.

However, whatever kind of culture we end up with, it will, like the society it serves, no longer be a “post-Soviet” one. And bearing in mind the huge gap between the rich and poor in Russia, I would advise a close re-reading of Lenin’s “Critical Remarks on the National Question”. And not just to residents of Russia.

Kirill Kobrin

quinta-feira, 17 de novembro de 2016

"The roots of Russia’s atomised mourning" - Kirill Kobrin


A casual observer should be amazed at the gulf between publicly expressed emotions and the reality of life in Russia over the past 25 years.

Almost immediately after the fall of the USSR, Russian society was gripped by an obsession with all things Soviet, but this obsession combined with support for the most anti-Soviet economic and social policies you could think of. With the catchphrases of everyone’s favourite late Soviet comedies on his or her lips, the post-Soviet individual busied himself with building a life that excluded both the heroes of those films and the possibility of making those films again. It was, in effect, like watching a Bolshevik-era militant atheist destroying a church brick-by-brick while singing psalms at the top of his voice.

From the viewpoint of the public consciousness, the post-Soviet period embodied this schizophrenia. Moreover, I’d even say that the “post-Soviet project” itself was based on this schizophrenia. But was this really schizophrenia as such? Or can these contrasts between sentiment and real life be connected? Is it possible they even came from the same place?


“The breakdown is not in our bathrooms but in our heads”

If you put together a glossary of a post-Soviet person’s most frequent phrases, especially if the person in question has a certain income and certain expectations of society, the following expressions would likely be the most popular”

“A thief must sit in jail!”

“I do not love the proletariat”

The first phrase belongs to the manly hero of Stanislav Govorukhin’s 1970s police serial “The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed”. The hero was played by Russian bard Vladimir Vysotsky, which immediately made this phrase sound 100% convincing. The second two expressions are lifted from Vladimir Bortko’s TV movie (and adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov) “Heart of a Dog”, used by the jovial Professor Preobrazhensky, a dedicated foe of the Soviet government and, at the same time, a doctor who treats and takes care of Soviet leaders.

The publicly expressed worldview of the post-Soviet person, especially a person who lived through perestroika at a conscious age, is almost entirely summed up by these three lines.

Instead of the law, you have a faceless tautology. Nobody says that a thief “must be put in prison” — this implies the existence of people who will do the judging and jailing. Instead, we see a purely abstract thought that pretends to describe how things really work. A thief must be in prison. If I’m not in jail, then I’m not a thief. What’s also interesting is the archaisation, typical for that miniseries. The word “thief” is used in its old, Russian meaning - “criminal”. So those who are in jail are criminals, those who are free are not criminals, everything happens on its own, without police, judges, or the state. That’s just how it happens.

As we have seen, there is no contradiction here — you can be a real thief, conman, corrupt official and criminal, and you can argue that thieves should be in jail, because if you are free and are allowed to speak out, then you are not a thief by definition. This is why there are so many security/law enforcement officials, ministers, Duma deputies, businessmen, journalists and regular people, who repeat this mantra daily without it being, in the strictest terms, an expression of doublethink or schizophrenia.

This manifestation of a total lack of belief in institutions — in the law, in the state, as well as the rejection of social responsibility for an individual — is widespread in an atomised society. You have the individual and then you have Fate, and How Things Really Work, which will either send this person to jail and make him into a “thief”, or leave him alone.

The expressions taken from “Heart of a Dog” (“The breakdown is not in our bathrooms but in our heads”; “I do not love the proletariat”) transfer this problem to the level of society. The reasoning behind the “breakdown” is not a philosophical maxim that calls on your fellow citizens to get their own thinking in order. It’s a doctor who says it — a doctor who pretends that he is above the new Soviet life that surrounds him, even though he owes his position to those who built this life and govern it.

Kindess, mutual assistance, justice?

Here we see a typical pattern of behaviour for two groups in post-Soviet society — the urban intelligentsia and public officials, especially officials at the top. The first group was almost always ready to serve a state it despised. The second group was forced to demonstrate a passionate love for “simple people”, so that it could keep squeezing those simple people for resources in order to support itself.

Professor Preobrazhensky helps rejuvenate Soviet party higher-ups, but gets a disdainful look on his face whenever he hears the very word “Soviet”. A liberal post-Soviet culture worker will travel abroad on the government dime (assuming he is invited), but will avoid being photographed next to culture minister Vladimir Medinsky.

A post-Soviet official with Swiss bank accounts, a house in Nice, and a daughter studying in Oxford is sometimes forced to travel to some factory and meet “the workers” there. He will even eat at the factory canteen, while straining from sheer disgust, but when he escapes to his official vehicle, he will wash away the taste of that eternal Soviet chicken cutlet with single malt whiskey from his flask.

This isn’t hypocrisy, no, this is a conscious separation of the different aspects of life, one aspect has nothing to do with the other — there is no schizophrenia here. It is here that an important truth about modern Russian society is buried.

Repeating, for the hundredth time, that line about a “breakdown in the heads,” the post-Soviet individual is talking about something else — this is his or her refusal to stop the breakdown taking place in the bathroom, wanting others to take care of it instead (“Nothing in my head is breaking down!” he or she believes, just as Professor Preobrazhensky did). The “breakdown” is not about me, it’s about other people. I have nothing to do with it.

The situation is the same as with the line about the thief who “must sit in jail.” It’s about others. Other people can be thieves, sit in jail, have a breakdown in their heads, clean up bathrooms, but I will stand off to the side, separately, I will take care of my own stuff and keep logic chopping. This is a social conscious that is completely free of any social, or even anthropological, solidarity.

This becomes evident in that third line about the proletariat. In my home neighbourhood of the town of Gorky, this would be known as being a cheap show-off. If Professor Preobrazhensky said that he doesn’t love the proletariat back in 1918, if the Red Army showed up at his door, then he would know that if you say the wrong word, the armed proletarian will tear you to shreds.

But in his new, stable, hierarchical Soviet world, protected by paperwork from the Central Committee, he can say whatever he wants to these funny dreamers from the local residential committee, say it directly to their faces with the disgusted grimace of a lord. The professor is just being rude.

The infamous post-Soviet rudeness, rudeness that exists on all levels of society, from top to bottom, is contained in its entirety in a single phrase — and it this rudeness which was behind the most despicable, brazen, inhuman phrase that Putin ever used when, referring to the tragedy of the Kursk submarine, he simply responded to the question of “What happened?” with “It sank”. This is the luxury of the cynical tautology, uttered by a powerful person who doesn’t have to pretend as he addresses the weak. Yes, I don’t love the proletariat — this is the truth that you can do nothing about, just as you can do nothing to me. Yes, the Kursk sank and we lied to you about it — this is the only truth in this story about a monstrous lie, but you can’t do anything about it or about us.

Here is something else that’s interesting: if you don’t love the proletariat while living in a country built by the proletariat and for it, you’re a coquettish hypocrite. Russia’s post-Soviet project was precisely hypocritical and coquettish, it enthusiastically used everything physically or culturally valuable that was built up by the Soviets, but pretended that this had nothing to do with anything, that this inheritance sort of fell out of the sky.

Soviet nostalgia was the other side of that, it was a kind of psychological compensation, an essential detail of the project — or else there wouldn’t be balance. As the years went by, the balance was destroyed — as Soviet infrastructure aged and crumbled, and as feelings of belonging to the previous epoch crumbled too.

As post-Soviet society moved further away in time from the Soviets, the nostalgia grew, because unmediated notions of what was “Soviet” was disappearing from collective memory. The balance was no longer needed. For new generations, Soviet infrastructure was just there — it wasn’t even Soviet to them, it was just the weather-beaten material ontology of life. Soviet life, which looked restored and nicely done up in Soviet films, began to replace Hollywood images. At this point, the post-Soviet project within Russia’s public conscious dies — it cannot exist without the balance.

Final countdown

These processes were meant to conceal the great catastrophe happening to society — its final atomisation. The history of Russia of the last two centuries and a half can be viewed as a series of social catastrophes, which destroyed horizontal ties in society, which connected the overwhelming majority of the population together. Serfdom abolished, urbanisation follows, the village community falls apart. The 1917 Revolution and the subsequent destruction of the social system. Stalinist industrialisation, collectivisation, and mass repressions.

A break began only in the second half of the 1960s and lasted for twenty years. For various reasons, the government left the Soviet people alone for a while. Beyond that, the government gave these people living spaces, some limited abilities to build up posessions, a settled way of life — and a wide spectrum of social connections, from nepotism and cronyism to collecting stamps, from chess clubs to learning Esperanto. Stalin wanted to kill esperantists, but Brezhnev couldn’t care less about them.

The end result was an unofficial, horizontal social world, which combined personal interests, territorial, professional and other social interests, and even that thing that almost disappeared under Stalin, which was solidarity. Crazy capitalism, which was set loose in Russia in 1992 and the absolute absence of social policies within government ripped up this world into pieces, into atoms. There were just phantom memories of alleged “kindness”, “mutual assistance” and “justice” that ruled the USSR. And if there was mutual assistance and solidarity on the personal level there — they were expressed by very different people. In either way, what we have is the last component of Soviet nostalgia as expressed by post-Soviet people.

As a socio-psychological or socio-cultural phenomenon, nostalgia can only exist privately, unofficially, as a process, and not as a complete entity. For several years now, Soviet nostalgia is being used as an ideological instrument and (for a longer period now) as a commercial strategy. From a sentiment, it has morphed into officious rhetoric and even “high style” — bringing an end to the kind of public conscious we could call “post-Soviet”. When nostalgia becomes a cast-iron slogan, it became apparent that post-Soviet atoms are not held together by anything – not even phantom sentiments.

This is where the danger lurks. The disintegration of social cultures and the atomization of society is the main reason behind the disasters plaguing several of the world’s regions, in Africa, in Central Asia, and, for example, in today’s Donbas. If you need to stop a war of everyone against everyone, to stop a prolonged catastrophe, you must lean on stable social structures — if they don’t exist, your efforts are meaningless.

The Russian state, which has taken up ultra-conservatism and traditionalism with a vengeance, knows this. The state is trying to create (while insisting that it is actually “re-creating”) these social structures, but with its other hand it destroys all timorous beginnings of a new, horizontally connected society which arise in contradiction to the government’s will.

By doing this, the government pushes both society and itself toward greater troubles. Attempts to avoid these troubles will, judging by how things are going, will come to define the next period of Russian history.

Kirill Kobrin

quinta-feira, 10 de novembro de 2016

"Trump voters will not like what happens next" - Garrison Keillor


So he won. The nation takes a deep breath. Raw ego and proud illiteracy have won out, and a severely learning-disabled man with a real character problem will be president. We are so exhausted from thinking about this election, millions of people will take up leaf-raking and garage cleaning with intense pleasure. We liberal elitists are wrecks. The Trumpers had a whale of a good time, waving their signs, jeering at the media, beating up protesters, chanting “Lock her up” — we elitists just stood and clapped. Nobody chanted “Stronger Together.” It just doesn’t chant.

"Best of luck with the wall"



Field of Vision - Best of Luck with the Wall from Field Of Vision on Vimeo.

A voyage across the US-Mexico border, stitched together from 200,000 satellite images.

Directed by
Josh Begley

Ainda as eleições americanas: "The media didn’t want to believe Trump could win. So they looked the other way." - Margaret Sullivan


To put it bluntly, the media missed the story. In the end, a huge number of American voters wanted something different. And although these voters shouted and screamed it, most journalists just weren’t listening. They didn’t get it.

"Drawing the drama: Cartoonists from around the world on Trump's defeat of Clinton"









Thomas McClure











quarta-feira, 9 de novembro de 2016

"Why are UK workers so unproductive?" - Charlotte Seager

Working hours are at an all-time high yet productivity has collapsed – low wages, inflexible work practices and job insecurity are to blame

Nada será como dantes






Donald Trump ganhou as eleições os republicanos têm a maioria no Senado e na Câmara dos Representantes.

Os resultados são fruto daquilo que os americanos queriam: alguém que lhes falasse de esperança, que lhes falasse de criação de empregos, de segurança. Claro que Trump é xenófobo, racista, demagogo e populista. Provavelmente não vai fazer muito do que prometeu, mas Clinton é uma mulher do sistema, do sistema de que a maioria dos americanos está farto. O erro dos democratas foi Clinton. O único que poderia fazer frente a Trump era Bernie Sanders. Assim, o mundo vai mudar e não é para melhor.

Nada será como dantes.

Vale a pena ler os artigos de Kevin Baker e Paul Krugman no The New York Times.