Cultural Dissent

Silence is a film of ideas, examining the meaning of mercy and compassion, and the personal cost of betrayal. It is also visually stunning. The cinematography has been nominated for an Academy Award and rightfully so.

It poses fascinating theological questions, their historical bases and the comparison between their Christian and Buddhist understandings. With so much going for it, why does Silence fail?

Self-described “extreme folk” Scottish band Mouse Eat Mouse are one of the more obscure acts around, which makes it all the more satisfying to hear any new works.

Last year’s Toxic Tails is an album of beauty, anger and passion, traits often missing in today’s sanitised music industry.

I decided, therefore, to get in touch with CD Shade, the bald-headed, smooth-singing wordsmith who is the backbone of the act.

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The ongoing genocide of Rohingya people in western Myanmar (also known as Burma) remains almost ignored by world media. Displaced from their homes, attacked by the military, interned in refugee camps and driven across the border into neighbouring Bangladesh, the Rohingya have become known as one of the world's most persecuted people.

Last year, photographer Ali MC visited Rohingya refugee and internally displaced peoples’ camps in Myanmar and Bangladesh. His aim was to photograph Rohingya people, document their living conditions and better understand the events that forced them into this situation

A Turkish court has handed down a two-year, nine-month and 22-day jail sentence to a Kurdish artist because of her painting of a Kurdish village being razed by Turkish security forces.

Zehra Dogan, an ethnic Kurd from Diyarbakir in south-eastern Turkey, was given the sentence by the Second High Criminal Court of Mardin province after having been arrested last July. The painting in question shows the destroyed cityscape of Nusaybin, with Turkish flags draped across blown-out buildings.

Hundreds of Brazilian artists demonstrated on March 27 outside the Municipal Theatre in Sao Paulo on World Theatre Day to protest against the freezing of funds allocated for culture.

The cultural protest is one of the biggest of its kind in the country in decades, as artists, students, workers and other social movements rail against the austerity agenda under the neoliberal government of unelected President Michel Temer.

There have been countless predictions that the election of Donald Trump as US president would bring a renaissance of political music - and it finally seems to be happening. Here are 10 of the best from this month (plus a few extra - count them).

On an August evening in Glasgow last year, supporters of Celtic Football Club waved dozens of Palestinian flags during a Champions League playoff match against Israeli team Hapoel Be’er Sheva, garnering global attention.

Lenin on the Train
Catherine Merridale
Allen Lane, 2016, 354 pages

The German “sealed train” that gave Vladimir I Lenin safe passage from exile in Switzerland through wartime Germany to Russia in April 1917, in the aftermath of the overthrow of Russia’s monarchy that had exiled the Russian revolutionary leader, was historically pivotal.

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.

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