Cultural Dissent

The situation for Palestinian and Arab football (soccer) players in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza has, for some time, been dire.

On one side of Israel’s Apartheid Wall, within the formal borders of Israel, segregated youth teams, racist abuse, and heckling — including charming chants such as “Death to the Arabs” — are frequent. On the other, in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, checkpoint detention, jailings, and the bombing of stadiums have become regular features of what is supposed to be the people’s game.

Given the powerful role that football plays as a point of community cohesion in the West Bank and Gaza, this everyday violence feels like a full-frontal attack on civil society, normalcy and hope.

Chilean hip-hop artist Ana Tijoux has penned a forceful call to re-empower the concept of feminism. In it, she calls for “another feminism” that is at the same time anti-patriarchal, anti-capitalist and anti-fascist.

A look at three important new books on the growing global environmental crisis and two that mark the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.

The scene is one as old as the long history of the Middle East. A child mixes straw and dung to light a fire, some of the straw on his knee. His face is obscured by a beanie so that this child ­– not an infant but still young – could be any child.

Behind the child is a wall. Such structures are common throughout the Middle East, but it seems symbolic. The dribbles of concrete from its construction make the wall, in rural Homs, seem to weep, for this child and for Syria.

“I’d like to call bullshit.” So declared Melissa Barbieri, a former captain of Australian women’s football (soccer) team the Matildas, on the symbolic support for women’s rights offered by sporting clubs and bodies on International Women’s Day.

The Brazilian football team El Cruzeiro wore T-shirts highlighting the many issues that women in the South American country still face on a daily basis. Meanwhile, a similar initiative was announced by the Costa Rican football league. On March 8, players did not celebrate goals scored as part of a campaign meant to express solidarity with women victims of violence.

“I just don’t see how I could be living an honest, truthful life and have that in the background,” said My-King Johnson, the first openly gay recruit in major conference American college football (grid iron) on his sexuality.

Professional football players are the latest sector to hold strikes in Argentina amid a struggling economy and harsh austerity measures imposed by right-wing President Mauricio Macri. 

Fans from Western Sydney Wanderers A-League football team distributed hundreds of rainbow flags to those attending the club’s March 5 match against Adelaide United. The move came after two weeks of controversy sparked by a banner raised by some Wanderers fans during their team’s 1-0 victory over cross-town rivals Sydney FC, which was widely condemned in the media and among many fans for being homophobic.

Eleanor Marx
By Rachel Holmes
Bloomsbury, 2015
508 pages

“Is it not wonderful when you come to look at things squarely in the face, how rarely we seem to practise all the fine things we preach to others?” lamented Eleanor Marx in 1892. 

Karl Marx’s youngest daughter was to be the tragic victim of this truism, as Rachel Holmes explores in her biography that extricates this pioneering revolutionary socialist feminist from the giant shadow of her father.

Lady Constance Lytton: Aristocrat, Suffragette, Martyr
Lyndsey Jenkins
Biteback Publishing, 2015
282 pages

When Lady Constance Bulwer-Lytton was arrested in 1909 for protesting outside British parliament, and went on prison hunger-strike, for demanding women’s right to vote, she was, to prevent an embarrassing political fuss, released early.

This avoided the spectacle of one of Britain’s best-connected aristocrats being subjected to the government’s policy of force-feeding hunger-striking suffragettes.

Of course, die-hard misogynist and self-confessed Donald Trump fan Sam Newman was hostile to the AFL Women’s (AFLW) league infamously calling it “unbelievably stupid and ridiculous” on Channel Nine’s The Footy Show.

It turns out plenty think otherwise.

“Now we’re judging people by their religion — trying to keep Muslims out,” said Stan Van Gundy, head coach of the US National Basketball Association (NBA) team Detroit Piston in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigration and refugees from seven predominantly Muslim nations.

“We’re getting back to the days of putting the Japanese in relocation camps, of Hitler registering the Jews. That’s where we’re heading.”

George Mann is a folk singer from New York. He is also an activist, artist and staunch unionist.

Mann is returning to Australia to perform his inspiring collection of activist folk songs. He is an annual visitor to Victorian Trades Hall and Geelong Trades Hall. He has a dedicated following, especially among the trade unionists who love his rousing rendition of labour movement favourites like, “Union Maid” and “The Internationale”.

I often hear that music and politics should remain separate. I snigger at such a concept; as if they have ever been separate.

Those proponents may as well take the next logical turn and suggest that drugs and pop have never taken the same fork in the road.

Without some form of statement, music would have become as relevant as the novella, or Spanish mime.

Every turn in society has been reflected in the music of the day, from medieval folk to early jazz and blues, to punk and beyond. In some societies, it is one of the few ways of telling how brutal life is.

Palestinian artists, cultural groups and human rights supporters have welcomed the Australian-British singer Natalie Imbruglia’s cancellation of her planned March performance in Tel Aviv and thanked her for deciding to be “on the right side of history, on the side of the oppressed”.

Immediately after contributing to his team’s Super Bowl victory on February, Martellus Bennett of the New England Patriots was asked what he thought about an upcoming visit to Mexico to represent the National Football League (NFL).

“Tear down the wall! Tear down the wall! That’s what I think about going to Mexico,” he cried.

Bennett then became the first of a number of Patriots players to confirm they would skip a visit with President Donald Trump at the White House.

Mapping My Return: A Palestinian Memoir
By Salman Abu Sitta
American University in Cairo Press
2016

Given the centrality of memory and history to the modern Palestinian identity, it is fitting that the number of memoirs and diaries being published by Palestinians seems to be rising.

“The United States has almost 1000 military bases around the world, covering every continent, every ocean,” filmmaker John Pilger says. “China has one!” 

He points out: “The US Pacific Command in Hawaii claims responsibility for 52% of the Earth’s surface.”

The Coming War On China
Written & directed by John Pilger
http://thecomingwarmovie.com
Screening now, visit site for details

The Coming War on China is possibly John Pilger’s best film in years.

In classic Pilger style, the Australian-born filmmaker — responsible for dozens of films critical of great power — depicts the threat the US war machine poses in the Asian region in the context of the rise of China.

English singer Lily Allen unveiled a haunting cover of Rufus Wainwright's 2007 song “Going to a Town” along with a stark video of her performance of the track at the Women's March against Donald Trump in London on January 21,

In an article for The Conversation, Daryl Adair, a professor of Sport Management at the University of Technology, Sydney, makes a pertinent observation regarding the interaction between sport and politics: “It is sometimes said that sport ought to be separate from politics, or that politics should be removed from sport. These sentiments are well meaning – if idealistic.”

Time to Draw the Line
Directed by Amanda King & Fabio Cavadini
2016, 58 minutes
Demand.Film

A new documentary examines the largely overlooked story of the dispute between Australia and its near neighbour – the new state of East Timor.

Oro
Written & directed by Alvin Yapan
Feliz Film Productions, 2016

Oro, the Filipino film written and directed by Alvin Yapan released in December, is based on the 2014 murder of four small-scale miners in Sitio, Lahuy.

For 20 years, Elmer (Joem Bascon) and his men have freely mined in the tiny but gold-rich island of Lahuy Island in the town of Caramoan in Bicol.

The New England Patriots won the NFL Super Bowl 34–28, in the most gobsmacking, unfathomable comeback in Super Bowl history. Down 28–3 against the Atlanta Falcons, they came all the back to win in overtime in Houston, Texas on February 5.

That will mean joy in the White House — as Donald Trump’s favourite American Football team is victorious. It is also joy for Patriots player Martellus Bennett, who won’t be joining the team upon their inevitable White House visit, in protest against the man inhabiting that space.

Revolution in Rojava: Democratic Autonomy & Women’s Liberation in Syrian Kurdistan
By Michael Knapp, Anja Flack & Ercan Ayboga (translated by Janet Biehl)
Pluto, 2016
285 pp., $38.95

Rojava, which is Kurdish for the “west”, is to be found in Northern Syria. In the middle of a conflict zone, marked by the war against the Assad regime, a Turkish invasion and ongoing conflict with the brutal jihadists of ISIS and al-Nusra, the Kurds and their allies are creating a new kind of democratic system.

Janis Joplin.

Janis, Little Girl Blue
Directed by Amy J. Berg
https://youtu.be/YodSfezlpeQ

Janis Joplin, the gravel-voiced Queen of the San Francisco psychedelic music scene, may seem a bit dated to today’s listeners. But this documentary shows just how important she is.

Born into a conservative family in a Texas back-water, she discovered early that she was different. Her sexual feelings towards other girls cut her apart from the rest of the KKK-drenched society.

Having come back from a much needed break with much time spent curled up with books, here are some notes on seven of interest to ecosocialists.

I particularly enjoyed two excellent accounts of the role of trees and other plants in Earth System. The Emerald Planet, by David Beerling, (Oxford University Press, 2007) covers the 500 million years since plants migrated from the oceans.

Protesters hold up a placards in support of Leader of the opposition Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn outside parliament during a pro-Corbyn demonstration in London in June last year.

Alex Nunns’ new book, The Candidate, charts the improbable rise of the socialist Jeremy Corbyn from a long-time backbencher to the leader of the Labour Party.

Hendrix, possibly the greatest-ever rock guitarist, arrived in public consciousness at exactly the right moment. His music summarised the desire of millions of youth to break through to a new society.

Serena Williams and Common discuss race, gender and sport in an ESPN interview.

One of the best tennis players and athletes of all time, US star Serena Williams has been scrutinised so much for being a strong, Black woman that she herself began to doubt her own strength and body, the star told her long-time friend and rapper, Common, in a special ESPN interview last month.

“There was a time where I didn’t feel incredibly comfortable about my body because I felt like I was too strong,” Williams said during the one hour-long ESPN special, The Undefeated In-Depth: Serena with Common.

The Conscription Conflict & the Great War
Edited by Robin Archer, Joy Damousi, Murray Goot & Sean Scalmer
Monash University Publishing, 2016
Paperback, $29.95.

Activist filmmaker Zebedee Parkes, a member of Socialist Alliance who produces content for Green Left TV, won “best short documentary” at the 2016 Sydney Indie Film Festival for his refugee documentary For My Friend In Detention.

Who Rules The World?
By Noam Chomsky
Hamish Hamilton, 2016

Noam Chomsky, who turns 88 this month, revolutionised the study of linguistics in the second half of the 20th century, starting with books like Syntactic Structures (1957) and Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (1965). He remains professor emeritus at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology.

The Business Affairs of Mr Julius Caesar
By Bertolt Brecht
Bloomsbury, 2016
216 pages, $31.99

Like Karl Marx before him, the great German writer Bertolt Brecht had a passion for Roman history — and it shines through in the sadly incomplete text of The Business Affairs of Mr Julius Caesar. He researched it for years before first attempting to write it as a play and then turning to the novel form.

Nazis In Our Midst: German-Australians, Internment and the Second World War
David Henderson
Australian Scholarly Publishing, 2016
197 pages

When World Word II began, Australia’s then Prime Minister Robert Menzies said that it would be “absurd to intern refugees and anti-fascists when they were on the Allies’ side”.

Yet, writes La Trobe University historian, David Henderson, in his case-study history, Nazis in our Midst, this is exactly what happened in Australia during the war.

This year has seen a remarkable renaissance of star athletes in the United States for the first time since the 1960s and ’70s using their hyper-exalted platform to speak about politics.

One person who can speak about these eras like no one else is legendary sports sociologist Dr Harry Edwards, who played a role in advising activist athletes from Muhammad Ali to Colin Kaepernick.

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