sexta-feira, 30 de dezembro de 2016

Rudyard Kipling (30/12/1865) - "IF"


IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!


Rudyard Kipling

Plato's Cave


segunda-feira, 26 de dezembro de 2016

Magnum Photography Awards 2016 - Asger Ladefoged - Open Single Image Winner


Jean Ferrat - n. 26/12/1930




Jean Ferrat

Lettre de Camille Claudel au Docteur Truelle


Après ses déboires passionnels avec le sculpteur Auguste Rodin, Camille Claudel (née le 8 décembre 1864) est internée dans un asile psychiatrique en 1913. Souffrant d’un délire paranoïde, elle se pense victime des persécutions de son ancien amant. Dans cette lettre à son médecin, elle lui fait part de ses peurs, et l’implore de la libérer : le texte constitue une confession effrayante dans l’intimité tourmentée de l’artiste. Elle reste internée trente ans, jusqu’à sa mort, en 1943. La dépouille n’a jamais été réclamée par sa famille. Le film Camille Claudel de Bruno Nuytten, sorti en 1988, dans lequel Isabelle Adjani prête ses traits à l’artiste, marque une étape importante pour la réhabilitation de Camille Claudel.

Monsieur le Docteur,

Je vous ai demandé plusieurs fois de me laisser voir quelques personnes de ma famille : j’espère que vous accéderez favorablement à ma demande car il y a déjà longtemps que je suis ici sans savoir pourquoi.

Je comprends que c’est l’intérêt de ces beaux messieurs qui se sont jetés sur mon atelier pour emporter toutes mes oeuvres de me laisser le plus longtemps possible en prison. Ils sont bien pressés de jeter l’éteignoir sur cette femme qui serait pour eux une accusation vivante, fantôme gênant de leur crime. Il n’y a pas de danger, ils ne me laisseront pas sortir ; Rodin les tient dans ses griffes, ils sont forcés de lui obéir. C’est Rodin qui s’est servi d’eux pour s’emparer de mon atelier, mais aussi il les tient dans ses griffes, ils ne peuvent plus bouger sans sa permission.

Depuis plusieurs années déjà l’affaire était combinée de façon à ce que je n’en puisse pas réchapper.

Depuis longtemps je n’osais plus sortir de chez moi : chaque fois que je m’absentais des messieurs pénétraient chez moi par la fenêtre, fouillaient dans mes albums et mes croquis sur lesquels ils faisaient main-basse : c’est Rodin qui les avait dressés à faire le même métier qu’il faisait depuis de nombreuses années, ils trouvaient ainsi en eux des complices et une excuse. Mais en même temps, il s’était arrangé pour les tenir dans ses griffes.

Pendant qu’ils pénétraient chez moi par la fenêtre, il les faisaient photographier sur le quai d’en face par un photographe de ses amis. Possédant ces photographies, ils ne peuvent plus bouger sans sa permission, ils sont forcés de faire tout ce qu’il veut. Aussi espère-t-il se servir d’eux pour me détruire tout à fait, ils ne peuvent pas faire autrement que de lui obéir.
Je vous les nommerais bien si je voulais, ceux qui pénétraient chez moi pour fureter dans mes albums. Si je suis encore ici d’ici quelque temps je vous les nommerai !
Ça vaut bien la peine !

Vous voyez que dans toute cette affaire, tout est arrangé pour ma perte ; tout le monde a intérêt à me perdre. Ma famille aussi puisque pendant que je suis enfermée ici, le gredin a profité de ça pour faire donner mon héritage à ma soeur, et que par conséquent ma soeur a tout intérêt à ce que je ne sorte plus !
Et quant à vous M. le docteur Truelle, je vous conseille de prendre garde ! Ces messieurs (Rodin et Cie) se sont servis de vous pour me séquestrer, c’était pour vous donner toute la responsabilité (eux, ils sont par derrière, on ne les voit pas).
Maintenant ils vont essayer de vous détruire, car ils voudraient mettre à votre place un autre docteur très méchant qui serait chargé de m’achever.
Je vous conseille de vous méfier !
Je vous prie de faire votre possible pour me libérer !

Je n’ai pas l’intention de rien réclamer. Je ne suis pas assez forte pour ça. Je me contenterai de vivre dans mon petit coin comme j’ai toujours fait.
La vie que je mène ici, ne me convient pas, c’est trop dur pour moi !

Excusez moi de vous parler franchement et agréez mes civilités.

C. Claudel

"Edward Hopper’s Iconic Painting Nighthawks Explained in a 7-Minute Video"



If any one painting stands for mid-twentieth-century America, Nighthawks does. In fact, Edward Hopper’s 1942 canvas of four figures in a late-night New York City diner may qualify as the most vivid evocation of that country and time in any form. For Evan Puschak, better known as the video essayist Nerdwriter, the experience of Nighthawks goes well beyond the visual realm. “I’ve always thought of him in a sort of aromatic way,” says Puschak of the artist, “because his paintings evoke the same kinds of feelings and memories that I get from the sense of smell, as if he was channeling directly into my limbic system, excavating moments that were stored deeply away.”

But Puschak wouldn’t have experienced the early 1940s first-hand, much less the turn-of-the-century period in which Hopper grew up. Nor would have most of the people captivated by Nighthawks today, much less those countless appreciators as yet unborn. How does Hopper, in his most famous painting and many others, at once capture a time and a place while also resonating on a deeper, more universally human level?


terça-feira, 20 de dezembro de 2016

"Duterte’s Flip-Flop Into Bed With China Is a Disaster for the United States" - Max Boot


With the Philippine president ditching Washington for Beijing, the contest to control the South China Sea just got a lot more complicated.

"The Most Influential Images of All Time" - 3: Jeff Widener


Tank Man - Jeff Widener

On the morning of June 5, 1989, photographer Jeff Widener was perched on a sixth-floor balcony of the Beijing Hotel. It was a day after the Tiananmen Square massacre, when Chinese troops attacked pro-democracy demonstrators camped on the plaza, and the Associated Press sent Widener to document the aftermath. As he photographed bloody victims, passersby on bicycles and the occasional scorched bus, a column of tanks began rolling out of the ­plaza. Widener lined up his lens just as a man carrying shopping bags stepped in front of the war machines, waving his arms and refusing to move.

The tanks tried to go around the man, but he stepped back into their path, climbing atop one briefly. Widener assumed the man would be killed, but the tanks held their fire. Eventually the man was whisked away, but not before Widener immortalized his singular act of resistance. Others also captured the scene, but Widener’s image was transmitted over the AP wire and appeared on front pages all over the world. Decades after Tank Man became a global hero, he remains unidentified. The anonymity makes the photograph all the more universal, a symbol of resistance to unjust regimes everywhere.


Lettre de Victor Hugo à Charles Baudelaire


Charles Baudelaire (9 avril 1821 – 31 août 1867), « Dante d’une époque déchue » selon les termes de Barbey d’Aurevilly, occupe une place prestigieuse parmi les poètes français, signant un chef-d’œuvre qu’il aura bâtie une vie durant et qui n’aura de cesse d’inspirer les générations futures : Les Fleurs du mal. Ce chantre de la modernité a été amené à échanger avec un autre visionnaire, Victor Hugo, qui avait la capacité de reconnaître les génies de son époque. Dans cette lettre, il lui apporte tout son soutien et le félicite pour ses « fleurs maladives », malgré le procès dont Baudelaire est victime au même moment…

J’ai reçu, Monsieur, votre noble lettre et votre beau livre. L’art est comme l’azur, c’est le champ infini. Vous venez de le prouver. Vos Fleurs du mal rayonnent et éblouissent comme des étoiles. Continuez. Je crie bravo de toutes mes forces à votre vigoureux esprit. Permettez-moi de finir ces quelques lignes par une félicitation. Une des rares décorations que le régime actuel peut accorder, vous venez de la recevoir. Ce qu’il appelle sa justice vous a condamné au nom de ce qu’il appelle sa morale. C’est là une couronne de plus.

Je vous serre la main, poëte.

Victor Hugo

domingo, 18 de dezembro de 2016

"HERE’S THE PUBLIC EVIDENCE RUSSIA HACKED THE DNC — IT’S NOT ENOUGH" - Sam Biddle


THERE ARE SOME good reasons to believe Russians had something to do with the breaches into email accounts belonging to members of the Democratic party, which proved varyingly embarrassing or disruptive for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. But “good” doesn’t necessarily mean good enough to indict Russia’s head of state for sabotaging our democracy.

"Si ce tank se mettait enfin à tirer, il exploserait leur putain de maison" - Wilson Fache


Les peshmergas, les combattants kurdes d'Irak, participent à la campagne militaire pour encercler Mossoul. Depuis jeudi, les Kurdes tentent de prendre la ville de Baachiqa, située à 20 kilomètres au nord-est du dernier grand bastion en Irak des terroristes de groupe État islamique. « L'Orient-Le Jour » s'est embarqué au côté des peshmergas pour raconter leur offensive, heure par heure.

Steve Biko


Nesta data associa-mo ao Google.

Steve Biko

segunda-feira, 12 de dezembro de 2016

António Guterres - Brilhante discurso


"Inside Russia’s new Gulag" - Anastasya Zotova


My husband was humiliated, beaten and tortured in Russia's penitentiary system. Here are the stories that I’ve collected from his prison.

One year ago, Ildar Dadin, a well-known Moscow activist (and my husband), was sent to prison: the court sentenced him to three years for carrying out solitary pickets. After a lengthy imprisonment in a Moscow investigation prison, Ildar was transferred to a prison colony — and disappeared. His family wasn’t told where he’d been sent. A month and a half later, Ildar was found in Karelia, in Prison Colony No.7 in the town of Segezha, where he told his lawyer how prison officers were torturing and beating prisoners. This story caused a scandal both in Russia and abroad.

When you talk about torture in Russia, the hardest thing is explaining why it’s so hard to deal with. For instance, someone asked me today: “Nastya, if the prisoners in Karelia Colony No.7 have been tortured for several years now, why haven’t they complained?” My response that letters from prison rarely make it to their intended recipients, and that the state prosecutor is a good friend of the colony director (the head sadist), meets with an iron logic: “But they should…”

Yes, they should. They should observe human rights. They shouldn’t beat prisoners. But that’s all in theory. In practice, they tell prisoners that if someone complains, they’ll kill them. And prisoners know that prison officers can do that. They can, because there will never be any punishment: investigations won’t find any violations in the actions of the killers, and the courts will let them off.

To be blunt, many people know about the situation in Russia’s prisons. In one way or another, prisoners’ testimony finds its way into the newspapers together with terrifying photographs where you can clearly see signs of force and torture. But this changes nothing. When the story of Vitaly Buntov (a prisoner in the Tula region whose fingernails were pulled out) hit the media a couple of years ago, the authorities’ reply was simple: “He bit them off himself.” Despite the demands of the European Court on Human Rights to defend Buntov, the prison officers told him: “We’ll continue until you die.”

“I wrote several letters about the torture, but after official representatives and representatives of the prosecutor’s office left, they began to beat and torture me with double the cruelty,” Zelimkhan Geliskhanov, a prisoner at Karelia’s Colony No.7, tells me. He’s still there. When Zelimkhan’s mother wrote a letter to the General Prosecutor’s office, he was beaten even harder. They shouted at him: “The prosecutor’s office doesn’t mean anything here! Your mother doesn’t mean anything here! You mean nothing here! Understand?”

Why has the story of my partner — one among many — managed to provoke such a response? It’s possibly because journalists and politicians know Ildar personally, from his activism. Even if you saw Ildar only once, you could be sure: a person like Ildar doesn’t lie. The public outrage was particularly strong because Ildar was imprisoned on a political charge, for opposition protest. It’s not enough that they sent an innocent man to prison, now they’re torturing him.

Over the last month, Ildar has gone from a normal guy to a symbol of Russia’s struggle against torture. Not only for rights defenders, but for the prisoners in Colony No.7 in Karelia too. Prisoners who used to be afraid to reveal the torture and humiliation are now giving evidence. The issue may have reached the higher levels, but this is still a brave step — prisoners who complain are in the full power of the prisoner administration. And nothing, not even the attention of the Russian and European public, can protect them from the administration’s revenge.

Former prisoners have also responded, taking part in a press conference in later November where they confirmed that torture is taking place. People who live in regions across Russia and knew nothing about one another are saying the same thing about what’s happening inside this Karelian prison.

Listening to these stories is unbearable.

The process of humiliation begins as soon as prisoners arrive in the colony. “Get out of the van, animals,” they’re told. And indeed, they are not treated like people.

After prisoners arrive in Colony No.7, prison officers remove all their belongings, and, of course, beat them. Absolutely everyone is subjected to this, and then the prisoners are forced to confirm it. For instance, prisoners are forced to say: “I am worthless”. Those who get scared quickly and lose their pride are beaten rarely, just to keep them in line. In the opinion of the administration, this is what prisoners should look like — scared and broken.

Those prisoners who try and defend their rights are tortured cruelly. They’re thrown into a cold cell where the temperature is far below zero. There’s no clothing, they’ve got nothing to warm themselves with. As a rule, when a prisoner spends a long time in the cold, they begin to have spasms, and they call the prison doctor. But that’s useless, of course. The doctor just laughs and says: “Just grin and bear it, that’s what you should do.”

Prisoners are beaten during inspection every morning and every evening. They’re lead along a certain corridor (where there’s no CCTV), are forced to spread their legs and, with prison officers pressing on their backs, are made to do the splits until their genitals touch the floor. This can cause ligaments to rupture. If a prisoner can’t hold out and falls on the floor, then he’s given a kicking: officers stand on him and stamp on him with their boots.

“During the medical inspection, my hands were cuffed behind my back, I was placed on the floor and they began to beat me. The doctor tried to stuff my slipper into my mouth instead of a gag to muffle my screams. That’s the doctor who should examine me for signs of bodily harm…” Ali Islamov tells me. He’s still a prisoner at Colony No. 7.

What happens to a prisoner next? That one’s easy: broken bones, compressed fracture of the spine. People become invalids at the will of prison sadists.

“In Cell 35, the one next to mine, they beat Koba Shurgaya a minimum of three or four times a week,” Murat Nagoev remembers. Murat, an accountant by training, is sober and meticulous, and remembers all the details. “When they came in to beat Koba up, they demanded that he shout the regiment loudly — name, date of birth, conviction — that’s why I remembered his name so well. When they beat him, they forced him to do something, to sign something. He would shout: ‘No, no, I won’t do it!’ and they beat him even harder. They beat him like that the whole of December, in the end they damaged some organs.”

When Murat told me this, he didn’t know that Koba Shurgaya, the fellow prisoner he’d never seen, was lying in the cell next door with broken ribs.

This is what Shurgaya himself told me: “Around ten officers used force against me. They kicked and punched me. They made me bend me legs to the point where they could push my head against the floor. Then they took me into the office to see the head of the colony. He would threaten me that they’d lock me up outside naked, where I’d die from the cold ‘like a dog’. After the beating, I experienced a strong pain in my chest. When you feel this place I can still feel my broken rib sticking out. There was damage to my legs. My left leg healed after a while, but my right is still all swollen up. After the beating, a local lawyer came to see me — I’d asked him for advice on what to do. But this lawyer recommended me not to write a complaint about the prison officers at the colony. This would only make things worse for me.” I don’t think I have to explain that this prisoner with broken ribs did not receive medical help.

Nationality is a frequent punch line in prison. Here’s the testimony of one witness: “A Tajik was in Cell 7. I don’t remember his details. He spoke Russian very badly, and they laughed at him for this, mocked him, forced him to write a confession. One of his hands was broken, and the prison officers beat this hand in particular, he shouted from pain. They forced him to sit in the corner, put his hands in the air and imitate a monkey.”

Sometimes the prison officers threaten you with rape, and that’s not just a threat. They’ll rip your trousers and underwear off, wave their genitals in front of your face and you think it’s going to happen… Men will open their veins to stop this humiliation. But even that doesn’t save them from the bullying: it’s a rare occasion when the administration thinks to take an injured man to the hospital.

“To avoid the humiliation, and frightened of being raped, I opened up my veins in my cell. They stopped the blood, bandaged my hands and then, under the pretense of taking me to the medical block, they took me to the corridor without CCTV and continued to beat me. They left me behind the entry door on the concrete floor and opened the door. They cuffed me to the door. I lay in that position for days, periodically receiving a blow from the door being opened. When my hands began to turn blue, the prison officers came over and loosened the cuffs.”

A few years ago, one of the prisoners in Colony No. 7 was brutally raped. Sixty prisoners opened their veins in protest, and then another 40. But the ensuing inspection, of course, did not find any violations.

The administration also resorts to other forms of torture: they force a prisoner’s arms behind his back, cuff him and then hang him up on a hook. Ildar told us that this torture was the worst. It puts such pressure on your hands that you want to scream from pain: your back goes wooden, the tears come without your control, snot, spit… At this point, a prisoner is ready to do everything just to make sure they let him go. And this is the torture described by George Orwell in 1984, when a prisoner is ready to shout: “Take my wife, my mother – torture them, just not me, not me!”

To force some naked into the cold, to cover them in urine, to make them clean the latrines — you can bully and humiliate a prisoner however you want. Send them to tuberculosis hospital? Easy. Throw them in a dark cell without food and water? Easier still. Prisoners have no rights, and there’s no one to intervene. Relatives aren’t allowed to meet prisoners who are beaten, and their correspondence is blocked.

The more cunning officers use prisoners as a free work force. There’s a phrase doing the rounds at Colony No.7. It was said by Sergei Kossiev, the head of the colony, who owns a small pig farm: “Why should I order equipment to clear up manure when I’ve got 500 slaves?”

Now the situation at Colony No.7 in Segezha has changed somewhat. If the prison administration used to be completely sure of its impunity, then now that confidence has been rocked. The guards walk around scared, they’ve stopped beating the prisoners, and even stopped swearing. Often, they’re not even let into work — inspections! But the idyll can’t last. When the door slams behind the last rights activist, the times of the inquisition return.

Those who have made complaints are facing the officers’ revenge. The administration wanted to open a criminal case against Ildar, whether it was for a “fight” with a cellmate, or the “libelous” story of torture.

If only it was a problem of one prison colony! My number, which is openly available on the Internet, gets calls from various colonies across Russia. Most often, from the colonies in Karelia — there, it seems, there is a huge amount of problems.

According to the rumours, Ildar has been transferred to Kirov region. Someone managed to call me from there — they say it’s no better than Karelia.

I don’t want to take them at their word, but it’s hard not to believe them. I’ve seen my husband, who’s aged by more than a decade in the space of a month. I’ve seen the men who begin to shake at the very mention of Karelia. I’ve seen the wide eyes of lawyers after they come back from meeting prisoners in these colonies.

“It’s just a concentration camp!” I shouted after a conversation with one of the former prisoners. “Yes, that’s what we called it,” my interlocutor confirmed.

It’s hard to say that Russia’s investigative authorities are burning with the desire to conduct an inspection, and this is why we, Russia’s rights defenders, have to do them ourselves — send experienced lawyers to meet prisoners, collect testimony on what’s happened.

No one else is going to do this. The prisoners who ring me from their cells say it bluntly: “There’s no hope for anyone but you.” Their words provoke laughter through tears: “When I heard that they’d beat up Dadin, I thought – thank God! That is, of course, I’m sorry that your husband had to go through that, but at least now people hear us!”

You can’t help but agree. And then run to the Investigative Committee, the General Prosecutor’s Office, the Ombudsman, to ring rights defenders endlessly and hire lawyers. The result? The Presidential Council on Human Rights has taken the situation under its control. Even Vladimir Putin has declared publicly that prisoners cannot be tortured. Under the conditions of the power vertical, this kind of statement means a lot, and could have a serious effect on the fate of prisoners, and the sadists – the prison officers.

It’s impossible to live in a country where the concentration camp, the Gulag, the Inquisition is back. But you have to fight it, otherwise it’s impossible: listening to prisoners’ complaints, you become ready for anything, just to break this inhumane system.

I answer the endless telephone calls from prison, making my way down the street past passers-by, ruddy-faced, laughing. Along the street, there’s the windows of shops and restaurants. New Year is approaching, and people in Russia are cheerful, they buy presents, go to have fun — and they prefer not to think of those who, at this very moment, the heavy hand of a prison guard is about to fall.

domingo, 11 de dezembro de 2016

Livro recomendado - "À Beira do Abismo, a Europa 1914-1949" - Ian Kershaw


"The battle for Moscow" - Petr V. Ivanov


Public infatuation with urban planning in Moscow has exhausted itself through disappointment. Could city-focused activism become the field of real political struggle in Russia?

In Russia, urban space only became a real subject of public discussion comparatively recently. This happened at the start of the decade, when key elements in Russia’s urbanism debate — the Strelka Institute, The Villageonline platform, bloggers Ilya Varlamov and Maksim Katz with their “Urban projects”, the Vysokovsky Graduate School of Urbanism, the Moscow Urban Planning Forum, the “Do It Yourself” Festival and the Partizaning urban re-planning movement, and other media and institutions after them — introduced the uninitiated but fashion-conscious reader to the unfamiliar concepts of “urban planning”, “urban planners” and “urban environment”.

Russia’s “Fair elections” protest movement of 2011-2012 played an important role in focusing public attention on the city: one of the protests’ slogans was “The city belongs to us!”, and one of its leaders, anti-corruption blogger Aleksey Navalny, appealed to protesters to stand for election as town and city councillors. Indeed, the protest wave was a catalyst for independent councillors in many districts of Moscow and created a new type of civil society actors — urban activists.

A whole bundle of phenomena began to emerge, yet to be fully thought through — the all-purpose “hipster” tag that became attached to them hasn’t helped the process of understanding. Public speakers, in newspaper articles and in the prelude to their lectures, started to be defined as “urbanists”. Everyone suddenly began discussing the quality of the urban environment and their desires, requirements and expert opinions on the planning of cycle lanes, how many benches were needed on streets and in general, and how our cities could become “European”.

The people at the centre of this debate, to whom Moscow’s city authorities increasingly looked for guidance, contributed to the discussions by providing new concepts and foreign experts — the Danish urban design specialist Jan Geyl, the Colombian politician and urban planning consultant Enrique Peñalosa and the Serbian-born American public transport expert Vukan Vuchic, not to mention the unseen presence of the American urban studies guru Richard Florida.

Few saw the influence of ideology behind the race for a pleasant urban environment — there was little discussion of such things as ideology. The minor attempts to raise this dramatic aspect were doomed to be dismissed as irrelevant to the new reality of proactive measures designed to trigger a hyper-leap into a shining future of the Comfortable City. It seemed that the faith and knowledge of experts and activists, in combination with city authorities’ concern for public welfare, would result in a rejection of all ideological controversies and lead us to new principles for urban living.

That, of course, didn’t happen.

Urban planning according to Terry Pratchett

In parallel with the delight over the redesign of Gorky Park, the rise of neighbourhood dinners and the appearance of pedestrian zones in central Moscow, Muscovites began to refer to new concepts such as “city planning conflict”, “radial highway expansion” and “Pyotr Biryukov” (Moscow’s deputy mayor for utilities and beautification).

It turned out that as well as the smiling city culture minister Sergey Kapkov with his electric car (resigned 2015), Moscow’s city government could also boast the services of economic manager Pyotr Biryukov, who carpet bombed the city with beautification, and the fiendish Marat Khusnullin, deputy mayor for urban development and construction, whose development ambitions are unacquainted with the term “urban planning”. These two figures, who are really in charge for most parts of city’s physical space, have been in no hurry to change their practices according to public discussions on the urban environment.

Thus, individual reserves of the “new Russian urbanism” have sprung up — in the central administrative district, naturally — and some of them have actually been attractive.

But it was clear from the start that it was neoliberalism that stood behind the declared goal of a city planned in a human’s scale. Gorky Park in its new form, praised in unison by the city’s media, is too noisy and full of activity for elderly visitors and too orientated towards more wealthy Muscovites, especially its creative class. Pedestrian zones have also been controversial innovations, since they are based on the city authorities’ (very clumsy) understanding of pedestrian infrastructure, with planning insensitive to detail and indifferent to their present and future function.

One of the characters in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is Death. Death lives in his own world, but observes the world of the living with interest and even occasionally tries to recreate it, so that his granddaughter Susan will feel at home. So, for example, Death has a bathroom with beautiful, but solid, towels and piping made out of solid metal, without a hole in the middle to let water through. Death’s bathroom is a perfect metaphor for the city that Moscow’s city government has built for its residents.

The features and elements of the urban environment that popular blogger Ilya Varlamov raves about in his reports from European and American cities are not only, and not so much, are products of advanced urban design, but are products of the democratic process, a system of checks and balances, scientific analysis, public discussion and long term planning.

The democratic process does not, of course, protect us from architectural and planning mistakes, but it allows them to be acknowledged. In Moscow, even the minimal democratic process that previously existed has been grounded in the last few years and replaced by the technology of pseudo-engagement.

Municipalities and the institution of public hearings have been dismantled before our very eyes. Instead, we have “Active Citizen” website and a “Youth Parliament” platform that supposedly provide means for participation in decision-making and other aspects of urban life, but in fact replace residents’ engagement and means of expressing their wills with game imitatative participation in acclamations.

The 2013 Moscow mayoral and 2016 city Duma elections have demoralised the opposition (despite Aleksey Navalny coming second in the mayoral race): the result didn’t correspond with their efforts and expectations during the campaigns. Social security authorities, administrative pressure and local government voter-mercenaries annulated their energy and commitments.

The voter base of the 2011-2012 protests was virtually enchanted with a fantasy of hipster urbanism. An Emerald Dream of them “living in Europe” right here and now.

Meanwhile, funding for our health system was cut, schools were merged and the publicly financed “Zhilishnik” Housing Management Company enthusiastically turned whole districts into deserts, ignoring the directives of the city’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection on limiting the mowing of vegetation. The neoliberal policy of cutting public budgets and transferring more costs to residents was rolled out with ever-greater intensity.

Goodbye parks

And now, in 2016, Moscow’s public space has been reborn — not as a realm governed by positive or indifferent consensus, but as a battlefield.

Urban planning conflicts have affected almost every district of the city. Protests over the felling of trees in Dubki Park and a church being built in Torfyanka Park; a planned six lane motorway that would dispatch and pollute the Ramenki neighbourhood; the destruction of the Kuskovo and Druzhby parks and the felling of trees in the square in front of the “Sputnik” hotel; housing development on experiment fields Timeryazov Agricultural University (which are the part of worldwide century-long agricultural selection element!); the demolition of the iconic Constructivist Taganskaya Telephone Exchange — these are only a few of the hundreds of planning conflicts where local people got together, attended rallies and formed cross-district coalitions.

At the rallies there were loud calls for people to run for election to local councils, so that there would be at least one real councillor in each district, and possibly a whole council-full.

Speakers at the rallies also emphasised the fact that these are not isolated issues of urban conflicts that need resolving solely in their uniqueness, but these are the symptoms of a systemic dysfunction in Moscow’s planning regulations and legislation, which gave the unlimited power to Marat Khusnullin’s Urban Planning and Land Commission.

There was also a common environmental thread running through the protests, with speakers citing Article 42 of the Russian Constitution, which guarantees Russian citizens the right to a congenial environment. And while in the early days of new Russian urbanism urban activists were sceptical about “tree-huggers”, now we all realise that the urban space and nature are not only not mutually exclusive, but are organically interwoven realities.

But while there were flashfires of planning conflicts all over the Moscow, while residents resisted attacks from both construction bulldozers and grunts from the “patriotic” Officers of Russia organisation with police officers standing calm and grinning sadistically, the established art expert Grigory Revzin was writing in his articles (link in Russian) about how Muscovites, like sheep, will move of their own accord towards the newly restored streets of the central district.

These streets, as Rezvin explained, are now designed by leading specialists and according to all the laws of urban planning. I.e. according to the standard laid down by the Strelka Institute soon after the works were done, and according to the wishes of their residents, who were socially surveyed during the works were carried out.

Meanwhile, Marat Khusnullin’s bodyguards threw Aleksandra Parushinа, a municipal councillor, out of the Moscow Urban Planning Forum after she attempted to ask a question about the destruction of the Kuskovo and Luzhniki parks. And everyone was given understanding, that the Forum is not the place for discussions.

The limits of non-democratic planning

These days, Moscow’s population is more or less used to being ironically amazed at the number of festivals taking place in various parts of the central district and filling the streets and squares with more and more extraordinary small architectural forms.

“Urban population” is, in fact, not a very exact term — it’s more a question of the people who became involved in the city planning process in the early 2010s. For most Muscovites, there was nothing scandalous about the sculptures in the temporay “Urbantino” park on Bolotnaya Square over the summer.

These festivals, which took place in the pedestrian zones created for the creative class, were aimed not at hipsters, but at those who had previously been ignored by the Moscow authorities’ policy — the lower income residents living on the outskirts of town, who only rarely come into the centre and who are not quite against seeing some “drive” there. Meanwhile, the city authorities have, conducted a much more devious trap for the creative class.

The point is that the creative class feels best in stable, growing economies. Their work does not involve producing basic necessities — they become vulnerable in times of economic crisis. The demand for their work falls, they are paid less for their projects, and that money goes to less highly qualified creatives, who agree to work in poorer conditions. We’re talking, of course, about the commercial sector.

In the Russian economy, the most stable customer in times of crisis is the state. But the state understands the dramatic situation of its creative class, and offers it a contract that is more about buying its loyalty than its services. If in the pre-crisis years it was possible to take on state-funded commissions and criticise the pervading state of affairs at the same time, but the current economic and political crisis requires you to publicly approve of any decisions taken by the party and government.

And this is precisely where the idea that urban planning is in favour of whatever good and against whatever bad falls apart, and the real ideological and political nature of urban processes is revealed. Can any planner who observes the hundreds of planning conflicts around the capital say that Sergey Sobyanin’s election as Moscow mayor in 2010 brought an end to infill development?

Can a planner attend Moscow Urban Forum, where everything you could hear is praise for Sobyanin? Over this last summer, the very term “urbanist” became a dirty word, concoction of a lack of professionalism, bad taste and complete insensitivity to reality. The only way to rehabilitate the word would be for its professional community to accept and raise civic responsibility. But planners have not yet managed to come together as a professional community, while theirs pledge to be loyal to those in power gets in the way of their accepting their civil responsibility.

These two trends — on the one hand, demands for a democratic urban planning process from the residents of threatened neighbourhoods, and on the other, the impervious resolve of the neoliberal alliance of government, business and the loyal creative class — create the political arena in which the new discourse about urban development will emerge.

It’s not easy to see how this process will unfold. But I foresee a major role of self-organisation: the involvement of professionals in activist projects to develop insurgent plans for local districts and the creation of trade unions for planners; alliance of local initiative groups into a Moscow-wide coalition that could create a platform for mutual aid and sharing of skills between activists and professionals; public education in urban planning, local and municipal government and the urban environment.

The forthcoming municipal elections could give such a coalition a real chance to get a huge number of independent members into district councils, where they could start building democracy from the bottom up. And with democracy, a demand for real professionals.

Many of these processes are already unfolding, albeit in still uncertain formats or only at the level of discussion, intention or desire. But the main thing is to realise that the era of hipster planning and an apolitical happiness at the fact that you have heard about “right to the city” drom Henri Lefebvre’s book has gone forever.

It’s time for us to stand for the right to city in ideological and political struggle. It’s time to reclaim the city back for ourselves.

sexta-feira, 9 de dezembro de 2016

"Russia’s role on the world stage: a Soviet foreign policy without the USSR?" - Kirill Kobrin


A country that most of the world wished well, a country that became fashionable for a time, a country that received humanitarian aid — and a country that was assumed to have a glorious future before it — has turned, if not into a pariah state, at least into a global “scarecrow”.

Many people Russia are proud of their country’s newfound role and status, but we mustn’t forget what this word means. It conjures up a hastily cobbled together puppet, dressed up in old rags, its scary face designed to see birds off from crops, fields, gardens and vegetable patches. A scarecrow can be seen from a distance, and does its job well, but nobody is going to use it to build a house or to protect that house from robbers. It’s just a straw doll wrapped in hand-me-downs to terrify the short sighted, and that’s all it is.

So how could a promising new state, proud of the fact that it had voluntarily abandoned its role as a monster, shaken off the yoke of an authoritarian regime and announced a new era in its existence and that of its neighbours, have come to this?

Back to Brezhnev?

We cannot, of course, believe everything that was said about Russia in the 1990s, or indeed what is said today, but those claiming that the bombing of Grozny in 1994 (or in the early 2000s) and the bombing of Aleppo today are basically the same thing, are mistaken.

The obvious difference is that Aleppo lies outside the borders of the Russian Federation and that, strictly speaking, Russia has no business meddling in Syria’s affairs. Basically, the west took its eye off the ball, and here we are. It is reminiscent of the logic of the Cold War, when the two sides were quick to exploit any conflict in the “third” (and not only the “third”) world as an excuse to open yet another front.

As a result, the entire world was a field of action, in any part of which one could find particles “charged” by the west and particles “charged” by the east. This was, indeed, the source of most of the catastrophic international problems that have arisen since the collapse of the USSR — the fact that both sides recruited allies on the single basis of their potential use in the game against their archenemies.

It’s the same principle as “this guy is a bastard, but at least he’s our bastard!” However, when the Cold War ended, all these various “bastards” stopped being, supposedly, “ours” and began their own game — Bin Laden, the Taliban and so on. Some, however, preferred to remain (for want of any remaining backers) in their own splendid isolation — Cuba led this type of existence until recently; North Korea still does.

The old principle of “our bastard” is being imitated today by Russia’s leaders, who have refused to understand what’s going on and what goal this or that client of Moscow may be pursuing — the late Syrian president Hafez al-Assad, Venezuela’s Chavez and so on. They are important as figures in a game with the strategic enemy, but Russia has no interest in what they are made of. It reminds one of the blessed “Soviet era” when Khrushchev banged his shoe on a table at the UN and prepared to turn our planet into a cloud of radioactive dust — and all because of a newly converted friend of the USSR, a “bastard” from Cuba whose services the USA had stupidly declined not long before.

It seemed odd even then: to blow the world to bits in order to build a better future for it. But it was all done in the name of, at the very least, “a better world” and “a glorious future”. Whereas today all Russia has to offer the world is an ugly present. And it persistently tries to make this present even more ugly, unpleasant and dangerous.

A new state for a new world

But let’s cast our minds back to the early 1990s. When a new state comes into being, it starts to seek out a place for itself in the existing world.

The Russian Federation had to go through this process, but the conditions for it were eminently favourable. It’s true that the Soviet economy had collapsed; the USSR’s armed forces were almost disintegrating. But the advantages were much greater, and in particular the sympathetic international support that Russia enjoyed in the early Yeltsin years. The question was how to use that window of opportunity — that combination of circumstances couldn’t last long, as many in Russia realised. But that required an answer to the question with which we began: what was Russia’s place and role to be in the modern world?

It was not an easy question to answer — especially since that role was evolving out of many different levels of international relations. The highest level, the closest relationship, was with republics of the former USSR, although only some of them (Ukraine, Belarus and the Central Asian states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan). The second level was with the Transcaucasian republics of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the third with the Baltic States — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. After that, in fourth place, came former Warsaw pact countries of Eastern Europe, with Yugoslavia and Albania occupying a slightly separate place, followed by the rest of Europe, basically the EU.

The sixth level of relations was with the former USSR’s client states around the world, from Cuba to Vietnam, and the seventh with the countries of the “third world”, with China and India considered a separate category. And on the eighth level were major economies outside the EU (although not the USA) — Canada, Australia and Japan (the last also with a slightly separate relationship). And finally, the ninth, lowest level was occupied by Russia’s former archenemy, the United States. I have omitted another half dozen sub-levels, leaving them to specialists in international politics to complete the tally.

Moscow’s relations with each of these levels required specific tuning or retuning, entailing long, painstaking and meticulous work, like any real diplomatic process. But even the best results of this tuning would have been unthinkable, had they not emerged out of the total, general “tone” of the external politics of this new Russia, which needed to be newly considered and defined.

A new problem
This was where a difficulty arose: a difficulty that lay behind the first post-Soviet stage of the Russian Federation’s international course.

What has been the basis of any country’s external politics over the last two centuries? What considerations — apart from the personal qualities of its leaders and diplomatic corps — have defined these policies? There are a number of these, all of them clear. Economic interests, however they may be understood, from those of the ruling classes to those of the masses. Ideology, of both the sacred and secular kinds. Another very important factor is tradition: the centuries-old customs and manners of one country or another that still count for a lot, however old fashioned and unnecessary they may appear. And last but not least, internal politics: the interests of the current system of government and so on.

All these factors, apart, perhaps from ideology, are only very rarely actually thought about. It’s more a question of a vague set of perceptions of how to conduct oneself on the international stage, a kind of energy field of the possible and the acceptable through which the people who lay down their country’s international direction mostly feel their way, reacting to outside events as they go.

In other words, what we see here is a fluid pragmatism that is nonetheless bound by certain objective factors. As for the declared aims of international politics, these declarations are usually imposed from above and made post factum. Each individual case is a matter of balancing objective reality with accident, awareness of long-term factors with the needs of the moment.

This is how Russian external politics worked between 1992 until quite recently — 2008, or even 2014. This stage may be known, if only post factum, as part of the post-Soviet project. This was a time when Russia’s international relations, as opposed to its internal politics and nationbuilding, looked pretty logical, sophisticated, well-considered and even based in part on common sense.

Its main thrust was as follows: realising that the west was not going to accept the New Russia as either an equal partner or, even less likely, an ally, and that the neoliberals in charge in the west at the time had lost all touch with reality to the extent of attempting to “export democracy” to regions that had absolutely no desire for such a gift, Russia (and here I refer to the later Yeltsin years and the first 10 or so years of Putin’s rule) instinctively distanced itself from what was happening and adopted the position most advantageous to itself.

This position was that of a critically inclined observer, always happy to remind unlucky global players “Don’t say we didn’t warn you”, while otherwise minding its own business. It was a pragmatic course of action that reflected its own economic vulnerability, its technological backwardness and dependency and its totally rational certainty that nothing would come out of “exporting democracy” to Serbia and Croatia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

And Kremlin was right: the world had become a much more dangerous place than it had been before these schemes. They did, however, provide cover for Russia beginning to strengthen its links with some former Soviet republics, increase its influence — both political and financial — in some other countries and develop new economic partnerships and revive old ones (with Brazil, China, India) and, most importantly, to do this in such a way as to prevent other countries interfering in its own affairs.

This, indeed, was the crux of the post-Soviet Russian international relations project — to end up being untouchable. In that sense, Russia very sensibly followed the example of India and, especially, China.

But Russia is no China

The only problem is that Russia is not China. Despite the ubiquitous corruption in that country and the lack of transparency in its political, social and economic life, the People's Republic of China has long since consciously embodied an image of a “great power”, consisting of a blend of old Imperial concepts, Maoist ideas of a Third Global Power and the rigid pragmatism of the technocrats. Inside the country there is an unspoken consensus that this is the only possible and right road, the one best aligned with its “national interest”.

This is the image of a country that is dynamically developing today, but whose high point is yet to come. And this is what drives Chinese foreign politics, which are very cautious in matters that do not affect it directly, but very forceful in everything else. And the line between the two is dictated by the selfsame “national interest”.

Russia’s leaders, on the other hand, have not succeeded in creating any rational concept of “national interest” that would be shared by its people.

This is related to its specific nature: it is not a failed state, but a fake state that masks a group of half a dozen or so clans, now already hereditary, which exploit their own country as though it were a colony. On the other hand, it is also linked to the extreme atomisation of post-Soviet society that we discussed in a previous article. This kind of society is incapable of consensus on any issue, let alone something as abstract as “national interest”.

Russia’s “national interests” have been much discussed, but each time the list of interests have been different, as have the issues surrounding them; this strange, fluid, changeable national interest is one of the main characteristics of the post-Soviet stage of Russia’s history.

Another new reality

It was all going to end sooner or later — and most people who followed Russia’s role and place in international politics more or less knew how and why it would come to an end.

Several factors came into play. The first was that the “export of democracy”, which angered the Russian government (not known for its democratic tendencies) from the start, reached Russia’s close neighbours (the so-called “colour revolutions”). This was a very “soft export”, more a case of western political and media campaigns in support of the various “colour revolutions”, but in the Kremlin it was seen in the context of what had happened or was happening in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and so on. Then in 2011-2012 a wave of mass protest began in Moscow, and the Russian government’s suspicions turned into certainty, even paranoia. The “Chinese model” of external politics was abandoned, along with common sense, and the “Soviet model” was revived.

Only in the Russia of 2012 there was no longer any “Warsaw Pact” or military parity with the west, let alone “bastards” (with the odd exception) around the world, military bases, money or — most importantly — anything that could be offered as encouragement to potential allies. The USSR educated specialists of all kinds from countries with a “socialist orientation”; sent its own specialists to these same countries; installed the latest technology; invested enormous sums in their economies and, finally, promised them a bright future without neo-colonialists and capitalists. What can Russia offer today? The best it can do is slip some local dictator a bribe and send an aging aircraft carrier to help him murder his own population.

A Soviet foreign policy without the USSR, the Soviet bloc, Soviet ideology or any chance of Soviet economics or technology — this is what has turned Russia into an international bogeyman. It is also what has ended the post-Soviet period of its existence on the world stage. Russia is feared, not surprisingly, as it has a large army and nuclear weapons, but everyone, especially in the west, is well aware that it has not much in the way of options.

So it can be used as a disgusting, aggressive figure in any number of internal and external political and media games, from the USA presidential campaign to intricate plots in the Near and Middle East. Russia’s leaders have no alternative but to follow the road recommended by stronger powers — to become even scarier and even more disgusting; to make friends with bastards like Assad; to give money to right extremists in Europe and to play dirty tricks on the west whenever they possibly can.

The Kremlin apparatchiks think they are behaving like Brezhnev during the Cold War, but they don’t realise that they are more like old woman Shapoklyak, the evil character from a 1970s Soviet animated series who sings: “Helping someone is a waste of time/ You won’t get famous doing good deeds.”

If you replace “get famous” with “build”, you have the crux of a wonderful new era in the history of Russia that is replacing the post-Soviet project in front of our very eyes.

Kirill Kobrin

Kirk Douglas - 100 anos


quinta-feira, 8 de dezembro de 2016

"15 Years Later the Taliban Is Back in Power in Afghanistan, and More Radical Than Ever" - Vijay Prashad


Fifteen years ago, the United States went to war on Afghanistan. It was the opening salvo in the Global War on Terror. Massive US bombardment chased the Taliban and al-Qaeda into the mountains as well as into neighboring states – such as Pakistan. Amongst those who fled the scene was Osama Bin Laden, who was not killed until 2011 – ten years later. The US war aims were simple: prevent Afghanistan from being a haven for al-Qaeda and bring democracy to Afghanistan by ejecting the Taliban. There were also noises made about liberating women and educating the Afghan citizenry.

Lettre d’amour de Sylvia Plath


Sylvia Plath (27 octobre 1932 – 11 février 1963) est une écrivaine américaine. Elle écrit ses premiers vers à huit ans. À dix-sept, elle conduit son apprentissage de poétesse avec autant de rigueur que de passion. L’auteur de La Cloche de détresse fascine, elle qui flirte avec la folie, comme Virginia Woolf et tant d’autres. Son suicide à l’âge de trente ans la transforme en véritable symbole, en « suicidée de la société des hommes ». L’écriture poétique de Sylvia Plath se mêle avec subtilité à une écriture parlée, langage d’une génération perdue. Cette lettre poème nous plonge directement dans l’intimité de celle qui n’aura de cesse d’avoir « une main dans la nuit ».


Love Letter

Not easy to state the change you made.
If I'm alive now, then I was dead,
Though, like a stone, unbothered by it,
Staying put according to habit.
You didn't just tow me an inch, no-
Nor leave me to set my small bald eye
Skyward again, without hope, of course,
Of apprehending blueness, or stars.

That wasn't it. I slept, say: a snake
Masked among black rocks as a black rock
In the white hiatus of winter-
Like my neighbors, taking no pleasure
In the million perfectly-chisled
Cheeks alighting each moment to melt
My cheeks of basalt. They turned to tears,
Angels weeping over dull natures,
But didn't convince me. Those tears froze.
Each dead head had a visor of ice.

And I slept on like a bent finger.
The first thing I was was sheer air
And the locked drops rising in dew
Limpid as spirits. Many stones lay
Dense and expressionless round about.
I didn't know what to make of it.
I shone, mice-scaled, and unfolded
To pour myself out like a fluid
Among bird feet and the stems of plants.
I wasn't fooled. I knew you at once.

Tree and stone glittered, without shadows.
My finger-length grew lucent as glass.
I started to bud like a March twig:
An arm and a leg, and arm, a leg.
From stone to cloud, so I ascended.
Now I resemble a sort of god
Floating through the air in my soul-shift
Pure as a pane of ice. It's a gift.

quarta-feira, 7 de dezembro de 2016

"The Most Influential Images of All Time" - 2: Harold Edgerton


Milk Drop Coronet - Harold Edgerton

Before Harold Edgerton rigged a milk dropper next to a timer and a camera of his own invention, it was virtually impossible to take a good photo in the dark without bulky equipment. It was similarly futile to try to photograph a fleeting moment. But in the 1950s at his lab at MIT, Edgerton started tinkering with a process that would change the future of photography. There the electrical-engineering professor combined high-tech strobe lights with camera shutter motors to capture moments imperceptible to the naked eye. Milk Drop Coronet, his revolutionary stop-motion photograph, freezes the impact of a drop of milk on a table, a crown of liquid discernible to the camera for only a millisecond. The picture proved that photography could advance human understanding of the physical world, and the technology Edgerton used to take it laid the foundation for the modern electronic flash.

Edgerton worked for years to perfect his milk-drop photographs, many of which were black and white; one version was featured in the first photography exhibition at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, in 1937. And while the man known as Doc captured other blink-and-you-missed-it moments, like balloons bursting and a bullet piercing an apple, his milk drop remains a quintessential example of photography’s ability to make art out of evidence.


Daqui

"Engaging Trump" - Ana Palacio


If Donald Trump’s victory in the United States’ presidential election was an earthquake, then the transition period leading up to his inauguration on January 20 feels like a tsunami warning. The entire world is speculating about what will happen, and, depending on who has appointments at Trump Tower that day, the mood oscillates between concern and panic. But, rather than wallow in fatalism, we must take steps to avert the worst.

terça-feira, 6 de dezembro de 2016

"Los nietos de la Revolución aspiran a una vida normal, sin utopía ni frustraciones" - Yoani Sánchez


Este será un viaje por al menos tres etapas que ha vivido mi nación. Tres instantes en que los jóvenes amasaron esperanzas, recibieron frustraciones y emplearon su ingenio para sortear los obstáculos del camino. Sin esa energía renovadora y esa capacidad para desafiar lo establecido, muy probablemente hoy estaríamos mucho más hundidos en la falta de derechos, en la vigilancia y el control.

"Trump isn’t Hitler. But the United States could be another Germany." - Richard Cohen


Last week on MSNBC’s “All In with Chris Hayes,” a guest mentioned the new unmentionable: Weimar. The guest was Bob Garfield, a liberal media critic, and he was discussing Donald Trump. Hayes was mildly disapproving of the reference. “I tend to stay away from Weimar comparisons for a variety of reasons,” he said. That would make sense if only Trump himself did not constantly bring them to mind.

"When robots read books" - Inderjeet Mani


Artificial intelligence sheds new light on classic texts. Literary theorists who don’t embrace it face obsolescence