robertogreco + yemen   13

The Trouble with Knowledge | Shikshantar
"First Main Trouble with Knowledge and Education is Dishonesty

I do believe that one aspect which characterizes education, development and the production and dissemination of knowledge, in today’s world, is the lack of intellectual honesty. This belief is an outcome of reflecting on my experience during my school and university years and my almost 40 years of work. The dishonesty is connected to the values, which govern the thinking and practice in the fields of education, knowledge and development (mirroring the values in dominant societies and serving mainly the lifestyle of consumerism): control, winning, profit, individualism and competition. Having a syllabus and textbooks, and evaluating and judging people (students, teachers, administrators, and academics) through linear forms of authority and through linear symbolic values (such as arbitrary letters or grades or preferential labels), almost guarantee cheating, lack of honesty, and lack of relevance. (The recent reports that cheating and testing are on the rise in the Maryland and Chicago areas are just one example that came up to the surface. And of course teachers, principles and superintendents were blamed and had to pay the price.) I taught many years and put exams both at the level of classrooms and at the national level, and I labored and spent a lot of time and effort in order to be fair. But, then, I discovered that the problem is not in the intentions or the way we conduct things but, rather, in the values that run societies in general and which are propagated by education, development and knowledge -- among other venues. Thus, the main trouble with knowledge and education, is not so much their irrelevance or process of selection or the issue of power (though these are definitely part of the trouble) as it is with the lack of intellectual honesty in these areas. Giving a number or a letter to measure a human being is dishonest and inhuman; it is a degrading to the human mind and to human beings. Grading, in this sense, is degrading. It is one of the biggest abuses of mathematics in its history! Moreover, as long as the above-mentioned values remain as the governing values, education will continue to be fundamentally an obstacle to learning. Under these conditions, talking about improving or reforming education is naïve at best and hypocritical at worst. At most, it would touch a very small percentage of the student population in any particular region. Of course, we can go on putting our heads in the sand and refusing to see or care. But one main concern I will continue to have is what happens to the 80 some pecent of students whom the “compulsory suit” does not fit. Why imposing the same-size suit on all bodies sounds ridiculous but imposing the same curriculum on all minds does not?! The human mind is definitely more diverse that the human body.

Labeling a child as a “failure” is a criminal act against that child. For a child, who has learned so much from life before entering school, to be labeled a failure, just because s/he doesn’t see any sense in the mostly senseless knowledge we offer in most schools, is unfair – to say the least; it is really outrageous. But few of us around the world seem to be outraged, simply because we usually lose our senses in the process of getting educated. We are like those in Hans Christian Anderson’s story that lost their ability to see and had to be reminded by the little child that the emperor is without clothes.

Most people in the educational world (students, teachers, administrators, scholars, suprintendents, …) are dishonest (often without realizing it) either because we are too lazy to reflect on and see the absurdities in what we are doing (and just give to students what we were given in schools and universities, or during training courses and enrichment seminars!), or because we are simply afraid and need to protect ourselves from punishment or from being judged and labeled as inept or failures. This dishonesty prevails at all levels. I had a friend who was working in a prestigious university in the U.S. and who often went as an educational consultant and expert to countries to “improve and develop” their educational systems. Once, when he was on his way to Egypt as a consultant to help in reforming the educational system there, I asked him, “Have you ever been to Egypt?” He said no. I said, “Don’t you find it strange that you don’t know Egypt but you know what is good for it?!” Obviously, the richness, the wisdom and the depth of that 7000-year civilization is totally ignored by him, or more accurately, cannot be comprehended by him. Or, he may simply believe in what Kipling believed in in relation to India: to be ruled by Britain was India’s right; to rule India was Britain’s duty! In a very real sense, that friend of mine does not only abstract the theories he carries along with him everywhere but also abstracts the people by assuming that they all have the same deficits and, thus, the same solution – and that he has the solution.

Let’s take the term “sustainable development,” for example, which is widely used today and it is used in the concept paper for this conference. If we mean by development what we see in “developed” nations, then sustainable development is a nightmare. If we all start consuming, for example, at the rate at which “developed” nations currently do, then (as a friend of mine from Mexico says) we need at least five planets to provide the needed resources and to provide dumping sites for our waste! If “developing” nations consume natural resources (such as water) at the same rate “developed” nations do, such resources would be depleted in few years! Such “development” would be destructive to the soil of the earth and to the soil of cultures, both of which nurture and sustain human beings and human societies. The price would be very high at the level of the environment and at the level of beautiful relationships among people. Thus, those who believe in sustainable development (in its current conception and practice) are either naïve or dishonest or right out indifferent to what happens to nature, to beautiful relationship among people, and to the joyful harmony within human beings and between them and their surroundings. Nature and relationships among human beings are probably the two most precious treasures in life; the most valuable things human beings have. The survival of human and natural diversity (and even of human communities) are at stake here.

We do not detect dishonesty in the fields of education, knowledge and development because usually we are protected (in scools) from having much contact with life, through stressing verbal, symbolic and technical “knowledge,” through avoiding people’s experiences and surroundings, through the means we follow in evaluating people, and through ignoring history (history of people, of ideas, …). The main connection most school textbooks have with life is through the sections that carry the title “applications” – another instance of dishonesty. During the 1970s, for example, and as the head supervisor of math instruction in all the schools of the West Bank (in Palestine), one question I kept asking children was “is 1=1?” 1=1 is true in schoolbooks and on tests but in real life it has uses, abuses and misuses, but no real instances. We abstract apples in textbooks and make them equal but in real life there is no apple which is exactly equal to another apple. The same is true when we say that Newton discovered gravity. Almost every child by the age of one discovers it. (When my grandson, for example, was 15 months old, I was watching him once pick up pieces of cereal and put them in his mouth. Everytime he lost a piece, he would look for it down, never up!) By teaching that Newton discovered gravity, we do not only lie but also fail to clarify Newton’s real contribution. Similarly with teaching that Columbus discovered America …. Everyone of us can give tens of examples on dishonesty in the way we were taught and the way we teach."



"Second Main Trouble with Knowledge and Education: Lack of Connection with the Lives of the Social Majorities in the World"



"Building Learning Societies

From what has been said so far, two main approaches to knowledge and learning can be identified: (1) learning by doing; i.e. by the person being embedded in life, in one’s cultural soil. In this approach, learning is almost synonymous to living, and (2) the formal approach, which usually starts with ready pre-prepared content (usually fragmented into several subjucts, and usually put together in the absence of the two most important “actors” in learning: teachers and students). This approach also embodies tests and grades."



"Finally, I would like to affirm -- as a form of summary -- certain points, and point out to the need of dismantling others:

1. We need to dismantle the claim that learning can only take place in schools.

2. We need to dismantle the practice of separating students from life For at least 12 years) and still claim that learning is taking place.

3. We need to dismantle the assumption/ myth that teachers can teach what they don’t do.

4. We need to dismantle the myth that education can be improved through professionals and experts.

5. We need to dismantle the hegemony of words like education, development, progress, excellence, and rights and reclaim, instead, words like wisdom, faith, generosity, hope, learning, living, happiness, and duties.

6. We need to affirm that the vast mojority of people go to school not to learn but to get a diploma. We need to create diverse environments of learning.

7. We need to affirm our capacity for doing and learning, not for getting degrees.

8. We need to affirm and regain the concept and practice of “learning from the world,” not “about the world.”

9. We need to affirm that people are the real solution, not the obstacle and … [more]
munirfasheh  education  unschooling  schooling  schooliness  deschooling  diplomas  credentials  wisdom  degrees  faith  honesty  generosity  hope  learning  howwelearn  love  loving  lving  happiness  duties  duty  development  progress  excellence  rights  schools  community  learningcommunities  lcproject  openstudioproject  grades  grading  assessment  dishonesty  culture  society  hegemony  knowledge  influence  power  colonization  globalization  yemen  israel  palestine  humanism  governance  government  policy  politics  statism  children  egypt  india  westbank  religion  cordoba  cordova  gaza  freedom  failure  labeling  canon 
february 2019 by robertogreco
M.I.A. Talks 'Maya,' Sri Lanka, and Political Pop - The Atlantic
"Kornhaber: This is what your documentary is in large part about—your career-long attempt to get the world to care about Sri Lanka. Do you think the film will receive a different response than, say, you did in 2009, when you were protested and dismissed while trying to bring attention to the shelling of Tamil civilians?

Arulpragasam: When I was met with pushback back then, it was by people who had optimism toward state oppression. [They believed] that there would be an effort to change. But after 10 years of waiting for justice, Tamils not being heard, the [increasing] militarization in Sri Lanka, and the country being billions of dollars in debt to China, hopefully people are understanding and won’t see me as a flippant pop star who is using this for fame.

A million diasporic Tamil people abroad were silenced when the war ended. They were called terrorists. They were told not to be proud of who they are and their flag. After 10 years of waiting, there’s been no progress in the Sri Lankan state getting rid of extremism on their side. Extreme Buddhist chauvinism and fascism is inciting hateful actions toward not just Tamils but Muslims, as well. We’ve seen Sri Lanka’s template spread like cancer to other countries, like Burma. You’ve had the Killing Fields documentary that’s come out. Hopefully these all add to people making the right decision on Sri Lanka.

Kornhaber: If people are fans of yours, is it their responsibility to be with you on these issues—to be paying attention and to be vocal on Sri Lanka?

Arulpragasam: I’ve never asked them to be with me before, but I think I do need them to be with me now. Because especially in America, you can’t discuss the concept of activism, standing up against Donald Trump, standing up against a right-wing government, females standing up against sexual violence, or racism, genocide—you can’t stand up against any of these things if you don’t stand up for somebody else going through the same thing. We live in a global community now. The days of hypocrisy and seeing your problems in isolation are over.

The struggles of the Tamil people connect with the struggles of the spirit of people across the world fighting state oppression. If you are a Tamil, you can relate to what’s going on in the African American community in America. You can relate to what’s happening in Yemen. You can relate to what’s happening to the Rohingya dissidents. It’s very difficult to talk about immigration or refugee problems without discussing how people get made to fall into those categories and what makes them refugees.

Kornhaber: When the documentary first premiered, you said you were surprised it didn’t focus more on your music. Did that reaction stem from a general feeling that people think of you more in terms of politics than art?

Arulpragasam: It’s very difficult to separate the two. It’s a luxury not to be political in your work. If I lived in the land of marshmallows with unicorns flying around, that is what my art would be about. But unfortunately, what I know is what I know. And that’s what I make work about. As the only [mainstream] Tamil musician who made it to the West ever, it was not an option to remove that. I just happened to have people who loved me and people who hated me for it. The whole idea is to encourage discussion and give people something they might not get from anybody else.

Kornhaber: But when you watch the documentary, do you come to feel like the twists and turns of your career stemmed more from your musical choices or more from controversies outside of music? After the success of “Paper Planes,” you made Maya, which was a gonzo, challenging album. But its reception coincided with backlash over a brutal music video and a New York Times profile.

Arulpragasam: It was about all of it. Up to that point, I had a very romantic idea about the West and America and creativity and the internet. I didn’t just pick up a guitar and make acoustic music. I brought you an entire brand-new genre. I brought so much to the table that didn’t exist before, and that has inspired what you’ve seen for the last 15 years in the mainstream. They made millions out of my experiences—how I traveled, how I met people, how I was the outcast that had to fight the boring system. I fed this society. I fed the West.

And when it came to the crunch, the West chose to back the oppressors. They backed a genocide. They chose to back the [state] that bombed [hundreds of thousands of] people on a strip of beach. The UN said, Yeah, there’s war crimes, but they couldn’t really penetrate into changing the Sri Lanka government. Everybody was like, Oh look, it’s great they’ve defeated terrorism. It was heartbreaking to see that the survival of the fittest, survival of the richest, survival of the biggest guns is what people want. To me, that’s way more violent than what the Tamil side was accused of.

Do you think I’m going to make a celebratory album after that and give them the same thing I gave them before? Absolutely not. Because you literally are dealing with a separation. It was a divorce. I’m not looking for acceptance. I’m looking to say, as a society, you should make the right decisions.

Kornhaber: As you look around at pop music and hip-hop in the West these days, do you feel influential?

Arulpragasam: Yeah. I think the fact that your charts have been filled with Diplo songs for the last five years is something I did. People being activists overnight is something I did. Where you have mainstream artists—who encouraged girls shaking booties in front of mirrors and singing into hairbrushes for 10 years—turn their fan base into politicized beings, that’s my influence, but without substance. It wasn’t easy to speak up for all of these things back in 2009. I didn’t get invited to the White House. I wasn’t given a Grammy, and I wasn’t celebrated for speaking out.

Kornhaber: Do you want to talk about any specific examples of political pop that rub you the wrong way?

Arulpragasam: I encourage people becoming politicized. And women being more empowered. But the idea of female empowerment in America excludes the women who are exposed to the heavily militarized Sri Lankan state, who are raping and murdering. Sri Lankan women are not invited to that conversation about feminism and uprising and empowerment, because that conversation is being held in America. When will these women get brought to the table to join in that conversation? How do we open up that discussion so it doesn’t only include shiny Hollywood girls?

Kornhaber: Do you worry it’s going to be even harder to get Westerners to care about these issues when all eyes are on the crises in America under Trump?

Arulpragasam: They need to understand the root of Donald Trump: not being conscious of your effect on the world, and not being conscious that you have been living the good life the last 20 years and that the wars across the world have helped the American economy. Greed is what put Donald Trump there. The obsession with our celebrity culture is what put Donald Trump there. All of these things are what we champion in the mainstream—through movies, through music, through the news.

Everyone has to be more conscious of what we support. You don’t like refugees; you don’t like immigrants? Well, stop creating them!

Kornhaber: Do you take inspiration from any figures in musical history who’ve changed public opinion with their work?

Arulpragasam: Back in the day, I romanticized American artists who worked together through music to change the culture to oppose the Vietnam War. I don’t think that’s happened since. It’d be a beautiful thing if that could happen again, to where citizens are that empowered and artists encourage change. But that’s real change, where you can actually stop people from dying and not look after the interests of just America.

Now [the U.S. government is] talking about getting rid of the International Criminal Court. And that’s what [the international community] told the Tamils was the solution: Don’t worry. Just lose, just die, and then spend 10 years trying to get somebody convicted in the criminal court. Then, boom, out of nowhere Trump comes in and says, That thing is bullshit. So we’re left with nothing. This is why Americans and my fans need to know that everything is connected.

Kornhaber: The documentary is such a personal story, delving into your life and your family. Is that personal approach the best way to get people to care about big issues?

Arulpragasam: What happened to [the] Tamils is a collective experience. It’s not just an individual experience. But right now, discussing individual experiences has become trendy in America. So even when documenting human-rights violations by the Sri Lankan government, we had to reduce it to talking about it on a personal level: [This person] from this little village was raped by the Sri Lankan government and here’s her particular story. You have to isolate the experience in order to communicate to the West, because, at the moment, that’s how they’re engaged in the rest of the world. Whether you’re a girl from Saudi Arabia who can drive, a girl from Pakistan who’s wanting to wear a short dress on Instagram, a trans girl in New York, or a woman who’s pro-abortion in South America, you cannot be a movement. You have to reduce it to personal stories."
mia  srilanka  activism  feminism  race  resistance  protest  solidarity  2018  yemen  burma  fascism  isolationism  myanmar  rohingya  oppression  genocide  storytelling  us 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Martin Luther King Jr was a radical. We must not sterilize his legacy | Cornel West | Opinion | The Guardian
"The major threat of Martin Luther King Jr to us is a spiritual and moral one. King’s courageous and compassionate example shatters the dominant neoliberal soul-craft of smartness, money and bombs. His grand fight against poverty, militarism, materialism and racism undercuts the superficial lip service and pretentious posturing of so-called progressives as well as the candid contempt and proud prejudices of genuine reactionaries. King was neither perfect nor pure in his prophetic witness – but he was the real thing in sharp contrast to the market-driven semblances and simulacra of our day.

In this brief celebratory moment of King’s life and death we should be highly suspicious of those who sing his praises yet refuse to pay the cost of embodying King’s strong indictment of the US empire, capitalism and racism in their own lives.

We now expect the depressing spectacle every January of King’s “fans” giving us the sanitized versions of his life. We now come to the 50th anniversary of his assassination, and we once again are met with sterilized versions of his legacy. A radical man deeply hated and held in contempt is recast as if he was a universally loved moderate.

These neoliberal revisionists thrive on the spectacle of their smartness and the visibility of their mainstream status – yet rarely, if ever, have they said a mumbling word about what would have concerned King, such as US drone strikes, house raids, and torture sites, or raised their voices about escalating inequality, poverty or Wall Street domination under neoliberal administrations – be the president white or black.

The police killing of Stephon Clark in Sacramento may stir them but the imperial massacres in Yemen, Libya or Gaza leave them cold. Why? Because so many of King’s “fans” are afraid. Yet one of King’s favorite sayings was “I would rather be dead than afraid.” Why are they afraid? Because they fear for their careers in and acceptance by the neoliberal establishment. Yet King said angrily: “What you’re saying may get you a foundation grant, but it won’t get you into the Kingdom of Truth.”

The neoliberal soul craft of our day shuns integrity, honesty and courage, and rewards venality, hypocrisy and cowardice. To be successful is to forge a non-threatening image, sustain one’s brand, expand one’s pecuniary network – and maintain a distance from critiques of Wall Street, neoliberal leaders and especially the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and peoples.

Martin Luther King Jr turned away from popularity in his quest for spiritual and moral greatness – a greatness measured by what he was willing to give up and sacrifice due to his deep love of everyday people, especially vulnerable and precious black people. Neoliberal soul craft avoids risk and evades the cost of prophetic witness, even as it poses as “progressive”.

The killing of Martin Luther King Jr was the ultimate result of the fusion of ugly white supremacist elites in the US government and citizenry and cowardly liberal careerists who feared King’s radical moves against empire, capitalism and white supremacy. If King were alive today, his words and witness against drone strikes, invasions, occupations, police murders, caste in Asia, Roma oppression in Europe, as well as capitalist wealth inequality and poverty, would threaten most of those who now sing his praises. As he rightly predicted: “I am nevertheless greatly saddened … that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling.”

If we really want to know King in all of his fallible prophetic witness, we must shed any neoliberal soul craft and take seriously – in our words and deeds – his critiques and resistances to US empire, capitalism and xenophobia. Needless to say, his relentless condemnation of Trump’s escalating neo-fascist rule would be unequivocal – but not to be viewed as an excuse to downplay some of the repressive continuities of the two Bush, Clinton and Obama administrations.

In fact, in a low moment, when the American nightmare crushed his dream, King noted: “I don’t have any faith in the whites in power responding in the right way … they’ll treat us like they did our Japanese brothers and sisters in World War II. They’ll throw us into concentration camps. The Wallaces and the Birchites will take over. The sick people and the fascists will be strengthened. They’ll cordon off the ghetto and issue passes for us to get in and out.”

These words may sound like those of Malcolm X, but they are those of Martin Luther King Jr – with undeniable relevance to the neo-fascist stirrings in our day.

King’s last sermon was entitled Why America May Go to Hell. His personal loneliness and political isolation loomed large. J Edgar Hoover said he was “the most dangerous man in America”. President Johnson called him “a nigger preacher”. Fellow Christian ministers, white and black, closed their pulpits to him. Young revolutionaries dismissed and tried to humiliate him with walkouts, booing and heckling. Life magazine – echoing Time magazine, the New York Times, and the Washington Post (all bastions of the liberal establishment) – trashed King’s anti-war stance as “demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi”.

And the leading black journalist of the day, Carl Rowan, wrote in the Reader’s Digest that King’s “exaggerated appraisal of his own self-importance” and the communist influence on his thinking made King “persona non-grata to Lyndon Johnson” and “has alienated many of the Negro’s friends and armed the Negro’s foes”.

One of the last and true friends of King, the great Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel prophetically said: “The whole future of America will depend upon the impact and influence of Dr King.” When King was murdered something died in many of us. The bullets sucked some of the free and democratic spirit out of the US experiment. The next day over 100 American cities and towns were in flames – the fire this time had arrived again!

Today, 50 years later the US imperial meltdown deepens. And King’s radical legacy remains primarily among the awakening youth and militant citizens who choose to be extremists of love, justice, courage and freedom, even if our chances to win are that of a snowball in hell! This kind of unstoppable King-like extremism is a threat to every status quo!"
cornelwest  martinlutherkingjr  2018  neoliberalism  capitalism  imperialism  materialism  race  racism  poverty  inequality  progressive  militarism  violence  us  society  politics  policy  courage  death  fear  integrity  revisionism  history  justice  socialjustice  drones  wallstreet  finance  stephonclark  libya  gaza  palestine  yemen  hypocrisy  venality  cowardice  honesty  sfsh  cv  mlk  xenophobia  christianity  carlrowan  jedgarhoover  love  freedom  extremism 
april 2018 by robertogreco
The burning issue in Banksy’s Graffiti — Medium
"Over half term Banksy broke into Bridge Farm Primary School in Bristol and drew a giant image of a girl rolling a burning tyre away from a distant school house. Media coverage of this event has, perhaps inevitably, gravitated towards the price of the art work and the disciplinary implications of Banksy’s letter to the children telling them that it’s “always easier to get forgiveness than permission”. What is less covered, and what is perhaps more worthy of a national discussion, are the subversive criticisms of the state of formal education and the lives of children in the UK and around the world which are evident in Banksy’s latest piece of work.

Banksy’s painting depicts a 14 foot stick figure girl with her back to a school house. The school, also drawn in simple lines, appears small and insignificant in the background. Its windows are barred. The one element of the painting that appears vivid and real is the burning tyre, with smoke billowing up into the air. The girl holds a stick in her hand and is pushing the tyre along, away from the school and towards a solitary flower. Her expression is blank and somewhat confused. The game she is playing is hoop rolling, where children use a stick to tap a hoop or tyre along, rolling it forward and preventing it from toppling over. Children used to play it on the streets of England as early as the 15th century, though you are unlikely to encounter a hoop roller on the streets today. Children in many parts of the world, especially in less economically developed countries, can still be seen rolling and racing tyres down the road for fun. The difference in Banksy’s image is that the tyre is billowing in flames.

One’s initial instinct upon seeing the image may be concern for the child. The fire appears large and out of control and the girl is blindly ploughing forward pushing it away from the seemingly safe space of the school building. Does the tyre represent the world outside the school walls? Have we created a world that is so hostile to children that we have to keep them cocooned in schools for 13 years of their lives before they are equipped enough to survive it? Is this why we have created schools that compartmentalize and pre-package the world into safe and “useful” learning parcels rather than letting children learn and be inspired first hand?

Education and learning have always been around in one form or another, yet the ways in which we learned in the past were more diverse, local, contextual, culturally and ecologically sound. However mass compulsory schooling, the idea that every child must spend a vast chunk of their lives in an institution, is a very new idea. It originated in Prussia in the 19th century in order to produce obedient and disciplined soldiers following Prussia’s defeat in the Napoleonic wars. Men did not know how to fight, or perhaps did not want to fight, so they were bred to fight. The model worked well for the industrial revolution as well, freeing parents from childcare in order to work in the factories, and breeding children with basic skills and literacy who would follow in their parents’ footsteps, working for others. During the colonial era, education was used intentionally to wipe out indigenous cultures and create subservient clerks for the colonial administration. As Thomas Macaulay, who was largely responsible for the development of modern schooling in India put it, schools needed to create “a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect”. Today, we imagine that schools are more liberating and have a broader curriculum, but perhaps we need to look again.

I have a vested interest in the different ways formal schooling has been designed and accessed around the world. In 2004, fresh out of university, I went to work in Yemen, on the island of Socotra. I had visited the island in 1997 on a school trip from the capital, Sanaa, and it had left a deep impact on my learning. Socotra is an island of extreme botanical diversity and natural beauty, and one where traditional environmental management systems had maintained harmony between human needs and the balance of the ecosystems which sustained them. When I arrived, Socotra was going through its first real boom in development. An airport had been built, tourists were starting to arrive, and villagers and nomads were settling in towns and sending their children to schools. The schools that were being built were of two types: government schools that promised students a path towards a secure government or private sector job, or faith schools that promised parents and children a route towards a secure religious identity. Both types of schools removed children from the land, the forests, the streams and the beaches they used to roam, play on and learn from. Slowly, children who used to know the names of all the plants and their uses and who used to follow generations old customs to preserve the unique diversity of the island forgot the names of the plants, they forgot how to scramble up the mountains and dive for seashells, and they happily started driving their 4x4s, playing loud music and chucking litter out the windows. The new environmental management system for the island then had to be imported, with computers, international experts, degrees from western universities, and more 4x4s.

My experience watching this transformation in Socotra has remained with me. Since then, I’ve worked and visited schools in other parts of Yemen, in Jordan, in Morocco, in Chad, in India, in the UK and in refugee camps from Algeria to Palestine. Around the world, a similar story can be seen. A story where children’s connection to place and to community is being replaced by a connection to a very narrow idea of what success and happiness looks like. A vision of identity and status being linked to consumption, where learning “useful” knowledge is done in classrooms and not in the real world.

Children in schools today wear school uniforms, blazers, suits and ties. We teach them that in order to be successful they must sit behind a desk and use a computer. School children don’t wear dungarees as uniforms. Most don’t learn that they can be happy being woodworkers or growing food or fixing bikes. They by and large don’t get the chance to learn about deciduous forests by being in them, smelling them, feeling them and playing in them. They learn about deciduous forests by reading about them and answering exam questions about them. When we took a group of year 11 students from my school in London to the south coast, one of them looked at the English channel and asked “is that the river?” One in four of the children in my Modern Foreign Languages class had never seen the River Thames, despite living within a half hour’s walk from it. These children attend a school that sets very high expectations and cares incredibly about the wellbeing of its students. The same children would go on to achieve GCSE results which place them in the top 10% in the country. They are highly successful students.

Schools have discipline and authority. Some schools may have active student councils, but by no stretch of the imagination are our schools democratic structures. We tell our children that we live in a democracy but children know fully well that they have no power to change the status quo, or to challenge authority. I understood this very quickly teaching in London. The school rules stated that “I do as I’m asked the first time I’m asked”. There was no room for negotiation, it was for the greater good of maintaining discipline and not “disrupting learning”. The unwritten rules were even more disconcerting. I quickly learnt that as a teacher, if I were to witness a dispute between a teacher and a student, it was my job to back my colleagues regardless of the situation. It was for the greater good of maintaining discipline. Perhaps we need to look at these dynamics to understand why Britain is struggling to get its youth to vote in the European referendum.

We give lessons about sustainability, and some schools may even have recycling bins and green clubs, but the environmental footprint of schools from construction to transport, energy and water has a long way to go to meet sustainability parameters. Seeing the smoke billowing out of Banky’s tyre, one cannot but think of environmental damage, pollution and global warming. Does the tyre represent the environmental destruction that we as humans are creating? Does it represent the mindset that we instill in our children during their schooling where we are inherently taught to blindly plough forward, producing waste and consuming fossil fuels, because that is the path to growth?

In the international development agenda, the goal of ‘Education for All’ is inseparable from the development path of nations. Children have to learn their Maths and their English. They forget about traditional knowledge systems, local food sources, water resources, languages and community cohesion. The world is a competitive place and they must learn the skills to allow them to move to cities where they too will consume and fuel our endless growth and our endless piles of burning tyres. It is also clear that a lot of very well intentioned work is being done. For example, when I worked on education in refugee camps in Jordan, people were thinking about psychosocial care for children affected by trauma, on creating safe spaces and child friendly spaces for children and on equipping them with the skills they would need to move on after devastating conflict. All of this is important and invaluable work, but where are these learning models coming from? How do they connect to local identities, and what vision of a happy, successful and ecologically sound future do they aspire to?

Maybe Banksy was being kind by sending us a note along with his art. He gave us a red herring to tend to our sensibilities, in case we are not quite ready to face the art. But perhaps one can hope that, … [more]
education  unschooling  deschooling  rowansalim  colonialism  happiness  success  community  children  learning  culture  place  experience  2016  banksy  environment  development  summerhill  asneill  shikshantar  highered  highereducation  compulsory  schooling  schooliness  via:carolblack  society  nature  knowledge  ater  food  jordan  yemen  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  discipline  authority  negotiation  socotra  morocco  chad  india  uk  algeria  palestine  identity  status  consumption  economics  sanaa  thomasmacaulay  liberation  curriculum  sfsh 
june 2016 by robertogreco
A Low and Distant Paradise - Pacific Standard
"My grandmother was born to the Italian lira, grew up under the British pound, revolted against the Ethiopian birr, lived under the American dollar in order to raise me, and died, finally, buried under her country’s first currency, the Eritrean nakfa. She was home to me, my link to a land generations had fought for and to the sand in Florida on which I played. A reminder of how far and against what odds my blood had traveled for the promise of autonomy. And now she was gone.

It’s been 12 years since I lived in Miami, and yet enough of the city is embedded in me that I feel at home wherever I stand in it. It’s in every exhalation. I feel this connection to the land and my past more than any kinship with my remaining family. I am at once grateful for the freedom and devastated by this tangible unmooring of blood. It is only appropriate that things feel adrift.

Erasure is a prickly topic for members of the African diaspora. We want recognition, we who have lost so much to attain it and are severed from those who know this best. I still look for my country every time I see a globe. Did we exist yet? Were we our own? It is a validation I can’t stop myself from seeking having grown up in a state intent on its own destruction.

One can look to Hawaii’s volcanoes to see exactly how land is formed. Florida, then, is where we look to see land’s undoing. In Florida, we are racing New Orleans into the sea. I tell most inquirers South Florida is what happens when people build cities on sponges and call it salvation. I tell them we will learn."



"It is clear to me that the history of Eritrea and Eritreans in the 21st century has stopped being one of how to win, but of how we might lose the least by the end of the century’s first quarter. Here in America, I am the only person with whom each member of my immediate family interacts. Two out of the three live on separate continents. Sometimes I’ll like a new song because it is the type my sister would play and I need a thread to hold on to. Some streets I’ll walk, as my father taught me, because they show more of the sky. But most days I’ll hold the weightless braid of my family in my palm and wonder when it will find the wind. I am trying to keep my own two halves from fracturing; I never learned to excavate the dread.

It all feels like too much.

When politicians campaign on platforms of keeping Africans out of their country. When the anti­-blackness in the surrounding MENA region goes largely unreported. When the refugee camps in the country you gained independence from are overflowing with your people. When the journey to South Africa, a popular refuge for African migrants, is met with xenophobic attacks. When crossing the Red Sea into Yemen means entering a war zone; when Yemenis are crossing the Red Sea into the Horn you fled. When human traffickers are harvesting your organs in the Sinai. When the open ports of Libya have no despot to keep you on your side of the grave. When drowning is the best option. When the world asks wouldn't it be convenient to stay in place? To see your doom as your salvation? Now that they have all tried their hand at exploiting your land, your people, your geography—and since autonomy can only be granted by those who have control over the physical world. After all this, how, how, how. How can we keep you there?"
2015  rahawahaile  eritrea  diaspora  place  identity  belonging  cities  climate  miami  nyc  asmara  family  freedom  ethiopia  migration  immigration  refugees  history  yemen  redsea  joandidion  race  climatechange  inequality  water  labor  work  economics  politics  everglades  hawaii  erasure  florida 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Everything You Believe About East African Women Is Wrong
"East African womanhood is a minefield between the region’s war zones and too-simple Western understanding thereof. The experiences of women from Ethiopia and Somalia serve largely as a barometer of the nations’ violence. But our foremothers taught us resistance long before we had a name for it. Their stories alchemize the violence that forced them out of the arms of their families and toward countries that don’t recognize their strength. Spinning blood into honey and bone into gold, they transformed their pain into our power.

In the parts of East Africa our ancestors are from, warfare and political and religious tension prevent women from cultivating connections across borders. But in America, our experiences overlap in ways that illuminate our shared history. To be from East Africa is to bear the mark of our region’s hurt and pain. We’re called upon to explain famine and female genital mutilation, veils and victimhood. Our foremothers taught us that these scripts don’t define us, even when prepackaged stereotypes offer us convenient roles to slip into. Their stories complicate the Western feminism that paints them as objects of rescue rather than subjects with agency."



"We write overlapping stories today but grew up worlds apart from each other — one an Ethiopian girl under California sun, the other a Somali girl enduring Minneapolis winters that refused to cooperate with her. But our experiences as young East African women in America are imbued with the same sense of danger (violence at the hands of men) and uncertainty (economic and otherwise) that our foremothers understood on the other side of the world. After all, Shukri and Aida did not inherit prosperity when they came to America. They got a mixed bag of opportunity and dismay: With every hurdle leap toward the American dream, there was the kickback of dust and debt.

As black, immigrant women in a country that penalizes all three, we carry cumulative burdens and find ways to dance underneath the weight. The revelry has come slowly, through sharing stories with one another, first on Twitter and later in the spaces where we live and write.

Aida showed us that words can make magic. She makes phone calls as she cooks, cleans, categorizes, catches, contorts. Her voice is soothing, full of warmth. To receive a phone call from her is to know you are loved — wherever you may be — part of her patchwork, and she wants you to know your beauty completes the whole. Relatives everywhere from Canada to Ethiopia sense the honey in her “hello,” and in the Ethiopian proverbs that roll gently off her tongue, even when she’s scolding. The one she repeats most often is simple. Translated into English, it highlights the beauty of the collectivism she and the women around her model: “For one person, 50 lemons is a burden. But for 50 people, those same 50 lemons are simply decorations.”

Indebted to ancestry that forms the mosaic of our identities, we are composites of the women who came before us. We are the products of their survival, resilience, creativity, and collective brilliance. Rejecting submission while caring deeply for one another, they forged a kind of feminism that found its power in the collective. They carried each other, sometimes literally, across borders and milestones. With the maps our foremothers have passed down to us, we’re creating a promised land for ourselves and for the women whose names have been forgotten."
eastafrica  africa  somalia  ethiopia  yemen  islam  resistance  gender  women  agency  2015  hannahgiorgis  safy-hallanfarah  survival  resilience 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Unmournable Bodies - The New Yorker
"A northern-Italian miller in the sixteenth century, known as Menocchio, literate but not a member of the literary élite, held a number of unconventional theological beliefs. He believed that the soul died with the body, that the world was created out of a chaotic substance, not ex nihilo, and that it was more important to love one’s neighbor than to love God. He found eccentric justification for these beliefs in the few books he read, among them the Decameron, the Bible, the Koran, and “The Travels of Sir John Mandeville,” all in translation. For his pains, Menocchio was dragged before the Inquisition several times, tortured, and, in 1599, burned at the stake. He was one of thousands who met such a fate.

Western societies are not, even now, the paradise of skepticism and rationalism that they believe themselves to be. The West is a variegated space, in which both freedom of thought and tightly regulated speech exist, and in which disavowals of deadly violence happen at the same time as clandestine torture. But, at moments when Western societies consider themselves under attack, the discourse is quickly dominated by an ahistorical fantasy of long-suffering serenity and fortitude in the face of provocation. Yet European and American history are so strongly marked by efforts to control speech that the persecution of rebellious thought must be considered among the foundational buttresses of these societies. Witch burnings, heresy trials, and the untiring work of the Inquisition shaped Europe, and these ideas extended into American history as well and took on American modes, from the breaking of slaves to the censuring of critics of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

More than a dozen people were killed by terrorists in Paris this week. The victims of these crimes are being mourned worldwide: they were human beings, beloved by their families and precious to their friends. On Wednesday, twelve of them were targeted by gunmen for their affiliation with the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo. Charlie has often been often aimed at Muslims, and it’s taken particular joy in flouting the Islamic ban on depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. It’s done more than that, including taking on political targets, as well as Christian and Jewish ones. The magazine depicted the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost in a sexual threesome. Illustrations such as this have been cited as evidence of Charlie Hebdo’s willingness to offend everyone. But in recent years the magazine has gone specifically for racist and Islamophobic provocations, and its numerous anti-Islam images have been inventively perverse, featuring hook-nosed Arabs, bullet-ridden Korans, variations on the theme of sodomy, and mockery of the victims of a massacre. It is not always easy to see the difference between a certain witty dissent from religion and a bullyingly racist agenda, but it is necessary to try. Even Voltaire, a hero to many who extol free speech, got it wrong. His sparkling and courageous anti-clericalism can be a joy to read, but he was also a committed anti-Semite, whose criticisms of Judaism were accompanied by calumnies about the innate character of Jews.

This week’s events took place against the backdrop of France’s ugly colonial history, its sizable Muslim population, and the suppression, in the name of secularism, of some Islamic cultural expressions, such as the hijab. Blacks have hardly had it easier in Charlie Hebdo: one of the magazine’s cartoons depicts the Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira, who is of Guianese origin, as a monkey (naturally, the defense is that a violently racist image was being used to satirize racism); another portrays Obama with the black-Sambo imagery familiar from Jim Crow-era illustrations.

On Thursday morning, the day after the massacre, I happened to be in Paris. The headline of Le Figaro was “LA LIBERTÉ ASSASSINÉE” Le Parisien and L’Humanité also used the word liberté in their headlines. Liberty was indeed under attack—as a writer, I cherish the right to offend, and I support that right in other writers—but what was being excluded in this framing? A tone of genuine puzzlement always seems to accompany terrorist attacks in the centers of Western power. Why have they visited violent horror on our peaceful societies? Why do they kill when we don’t? A widely shared illustration, by Lucille Clerc, of a broken pencil regenerating itself as two sharpened pencils, was typical. The message was clear, as it was with the “jesuischarlie” hashtag: that what is at stake is not merely the right of people to draw what they wish but that, in the wake of the murders, what they drew should be celebrated and disseminated. Accordingly, not only have many of Charlie Hebdo’s images been published and shared, but the magazine itself has received large sums of money in the wake of the attacks—a hundred thousand pounds from the Guardian Media Group and three hundred thousand dollars from Google.

But it is possible to defend the right to obscene and racist speech without promoting or sponsoring the content of that speech. It is possible to approve of sacrilege without endorsing racism. And it is possible to consider Islamophobia immoral without wishing it illegal. Moments of grief neither rob us of our complexity nor absolve us of the responsibility of making distinctions. The A.C.L.U. got it right in defending a neo-Nazi group that, in 1978, sought to march through Skokie, Illinois. The extreme offensiveness of the marchers, absent a particular threat of violence, was not and should not be illegal. But no sensible person takes a defense of those First Amendment rights as a defense of Nazi beliefs. The Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were not mere gadflies, not simple martyrs to the right to offend: they were ideologues. Just because one condemns their brutal murders doesn’t mean one must condone their ideology.

Rather than posit that the Paris attacks are the moment of crisis in free speech—as so many commentators have done—it is necessary to understand that free speech and other expressions of liberté are already in crisis in Western societies; the crisis was not precipitated by three deranged gunmen. The U.S., for example, has consolidated its traditional monopoly on extreme violence, and, in the era of big data, has also hoarded information about its deployment of that violence. There are harsh consequences for those who interrogate this monopoly. The only person in prison for the C.I.A.’s abominable torture regime is John Kiriakou, the whistle-blower. Edward Snowden is a hunted man for divulging information about mass surveillance. Chelsea Manning is serving a thirty-five-year sentence for her role in WikiLeaks. They, too, are blasphemers, but they have not been universally valorized, as have the cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo.

The killings in Paris were an appalling offence to human life and dignity. The enormity of these crimes will shock us all for a long time. But the suggestion that violence by self-proclaimed Jihadists is the only threat to liberty in Western societies ignores other, often more immediate and intimate, dangers. The U.S., the U.K., and France approach statecraft in different ways, but they are allies in a certain vision of the world, and one important thing they share is an expectation of proper respect for Western secular religion. Heresies against state power are monitored and punished. People have been arrested for making anti-military or anti-police comments on social media in the U.K. Mass surveillance has had a chilling effect on journalism and on the practice of the law in the U.S. Meanwhile, the armed forces and intelligence agencies in these countries demand, and generally receive, unwavering support from their citizens. When they commit torture or war crimes, no matter how illegal or depraved, there is little expectation of a full accounting or of the prosecution of the parties responsible.

The scale, intensity, and manner of the solidarity that we are seeing for the victims of the Paris killings, encouraging as it may be, indicates how easy it is in Western societies to focus on radical Islamism as the real, or the only, enemy. This focus is part of the consensus about mournable bodies, and it often keeps us from paying proper attention to other, ongoing, instances of horrific carnage around the world: abductions and killings in Mexico, hundreds of children (and more than a dozen journalists) killed in Gaza by Israel last year, internecine massacres in the Central African Republic, and so on. And even when we rightly condemn criminals who claim to act in the name of Islam, little of our grief is extended to the numerous Muslim victims of their attacks, whether in Yemen or Nigeria—in both of which there were deadly massacres this week—or in Saudi Arabia, where, among many violations of human rights, the punishment for journalists who “insult Islam” is flogging. We may not be able to attend to each outrage in every corner of the world, but we should at least pause to consider how it is that mainstream opinion so quickly decides that certain violent deaths are more meaningful, and more worthy of commemoration, than others.

France is in sorrow today, and will be for many weeks come. We mourn with France. We ought to. But it is also true that violence from “our” side continues unabated. By this time next month, in all likelihood, many more “young men of military age” and many others, neither young nor male, will have been killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere. If past strikes are anything to go by, many of these people will be innocent of wrongdoing. Their deaths will be considered as natural and incontestable as deaths like Menocchio’s, under the Inquisition. Those of us who are writers will not consider our pencils broken by such killings. But that incontestability, that unmournability, just as much as the massacre in Paris, is the clear and present danger to our collective libert… [more]
tejucole  2015  charliehebdo  politics  society  freedom  #JeSuisCharlieHebdo  france  freespeech  freedomofspeech  islam  gravenimages  middleages  medieval  power  language  religion  racism  liberty  violence  inquision  spanishinquision  ideology  edwardsnowden  chelseamanning  johnkiriakou  cia  yemen  nigeria  mexico  centralafricanrepublic  suadiarabia  pakistan  us  drones  #JeSuisCharlie 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Sana'a (Idle Words)
[Part 2: http://www.idlewords.com/2014/08/green_arabia.htm ]

"Sana’a is a city full of problems, but the biggest problem is hiding under our feet. That well in the basement is never going to draw water again. Sana'a is on the point of running completely dry.

There are no rivers in Yemen. Sana’a used to get by with wells, but back then Sana'a was a much smaller city. In modern times, the population has exploded, from sixty thousand residents in the nineteen forties to estimates of over two million today (the country is too broken for an actual census). The days when you could sink a well from your basement are long gone.

In the seventies, you might hit water after drilling a few dozen meters. Today there are wells going dry that are over a kilometer deep. The water table is dropping by two meters a year. The city is drinking fossil water deposited thousands of years ago, and what's worse, using it for agriculture. Part of the urgency in my trip is the worry that there won't be a city to visit for much longer.

In a less broken country, the water crisis would dominate every facet of public life. In Yemen, public life is a joke. The government is so corrupt and paralyzed by crisis that it can't perform the most basic tasks. The city's wells are completely unmonitored; no one even knows how many there are. Private owners will keep drilling for as long as they can, but at some point even the deepest wells are going to run dry. And then something awful will happen.

Old Sana’a may survive as some kind of a museum exhibit, but in a matter of years (not decades) the rest of this vast city will have to move or die. The situation is so dire that the previous government seriously considered moving the capital to the stifling Red Sea coast, or somehow piping desalinated water over the three kilometer high mountains that separate the capital from the coast, at inconceivable expense.

It's hard to look at a city this old and imagine it could just go away. But the numbers don't add up. There isn't enough water here for two million people. There certainly isn't enough water for two million people and agriculture. But how do you tell a desperately poor farmer to stop growing qat? And who is going to make him listen?

The streets have grown livelier now that the sun is not so high. The market is filling up with silent black ghosts. Most of them have toddlers in tow. Fouad takes me through the pungent spice market to the large Souq al-Milh (salt market) where everything is on sale, from men's decorative daggers to textiles to cookware. This is technically the most touristed spot in Yemen, yet there's not a single t-shirt store or even postcard stand in the place.

Having just come from Morocco, I'm used to mild commercial harrasment and the kind of instant street friendships that end with one party bringing home a carpet. So Sana’a really puts me off my stride. Merchants who yell out 'hello' really just want to say hello. If I stop and engage them, they ask me where I'm from, welcome me to Yemen, and send me on my way. A lot of people insist I take their picture with no expectation that they'll ever get to see it themselves. It's a upside down world for a tourist.

Watching Fouad teaches me how to move through public spaces. You never stop to let people through; you just adjust your pace and path to squeeze by as necessary. People in tight spaces will flow like a liquid, and it turns out that if everyone presses forward, the system works. The only way to screw up is by being unpredictable in your movements, or trying to apologize. People who need to get through more urgently will yell or honk as they're coming up behind you. Tomorrow I'll learn that this system applies also to driving, and works just as well. For now it's enough to experience it on foot."
yemen  maciejceglowski  travel  sana'a  2014  maciejcegłowski 
july 2014 by robertogreco
How We Read a NYTimes Story on Drone Strikes in Yemen | Just Security
"In this post, we’re trying something new. Below, we present an almost line-by-line annotation of yesterday’s New York Times story on US and Yemeni military operations in Yemen. Among other things, the following is intended to identify legal implications of the news being reported, the significance of some of the revelations, and paths for further investigative reporting."
yemen  drones  droneproject  nytimes  2014  security  military  legal  news  reporting  journalism  language  editorial 
april 2014 by robertogreco
Rebecca Solnit on Hope on Vimeo
"Despair is a black leather jacket in which everyone looks good, while hope is a frilly pink dress few dare to wear. Rebecca Solnit thinks this virtue needs to be redefined.

Here she takes to our pulpit to deliver a sermon that looks at the remarkable social changes of the past half century, the stories the mainstream media neglects and the big surprises that keep on landing.

She explores why disaster makes us behave better and why it's braver to hope than to hide behind despair's confidence and cynicism's safety.

History is not an army. It's more like a crab scuttling sideways. And we need to be brave enough to hope change is possible in order to have a chance of making it happen."
mainstreammedia  davidgraeber  venezuela  indigeneity  indigenousrights  indigenous  us  mexico  ecuador  anti-globalization  latinamerica  bolivia  evamorales  lula  cynicism  uncertainty  struggle  paulofreire  barackobama  georgewbush  humanrights  insurgency  hosnimubarak  egypt  yemen  china  saudiarabia  bahrain  change  protest  tunisia  optimism  future  environment  contrarians  peterkro  peterkropotkin  worldbank  imf  globaljustice  history  freemarkets  freetrade  media  globalization  publicdiscourse  neoliberalism  easttimor  syria  control  power  children  brasil  argentina  postcapitalism  passion  learning  education  giftgiving  gifteconomy  gifts  politics  policy  generosity  kindness  sustainability  life  labor  work  schooloflife  social  society  capitalism  economics  hope  2011  anti-authoritarians  antiauthority  anarchy  anarchism  rebeccasolnit  brazil  shrequest1  luladasilva  from delicious
february 2012 by robertogreco
Nonformality | The revolt of the young
"From revolutions and protests to riots and unrests: young people are taking their fight for the future to the streets. Intergenerational contracts have become obsolete, with many young people feeling robbed of their future in the light of the employment crisis, a damaged environment and social inequality. Observers and activists describe a world awakening with rage, and a revolt of the young that has only just begun. But what will happen next?"
2011  unrest  politics  policy  generations  generationalstrife  classwarfare  economics  environment  inequality  disparity  unemployment  youth  arabspring  crisis  wealth  awakening  engagement  uk  chile  egypt  tunisia  zizek  manuelcastells  wolfganggründiger  future  pankajmishra  dissent  revolt  revolution  algeria  iraq  iran  morocco  oman  israel  jordan  syria  yemen  bahrain  greece  spain  españa  portugal  iceland  andreaskarsten  change  protests  riots  from delicious
august 2011 by robertogreco

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