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Thursday, 29 November 2012

Viva Viva Palestina!

Today, 29th November, is the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People.

 In 1977, the General Assembly of the United Nations called for the annual observance of 29 November as the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People (resolution 32/40 B). On that day, in 1947, the Assembly adopted the resolution on the partition of Palestine (resolution 181 (II)).

In resolution 60/37 of 1 December 2005, the Assembly requested the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the Division for Palestinian Rights, as part of the observance of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on 29 November, to continue to organize an annual exhibit on Palestinian rights or a cultural event in cooperation with the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the UN. It also encouraged Member States to continue to give the widest support and publicity to the observance of the Day of Solidarity.

Today, the UN general assembly looks set to implicitly recognise a sovereign state of Palestine despite threats by the United States and Israel to punish the Palestinian Authority by withholding much-needed funds for the West Bank government. A resolution to change the Palestinian Authority's UN observer status from "entity" to "non-member state," is expected to pass easily in the 193-nation general assembly.

Accordingly, the Streetlamp would like to declare our support for the people of Palestine and  bring you some good free hip-hop music at the same time. The song we're embedding today (below) is a remix of Lowkey's epic chant-along anthem 'Free Palestine'by Khaki Mustafa, a Palestinian-American Hip-hop artist. Khaki's music focuses on spreading awareness on the issues affecting the Middle East, the pain and struggle of life and ways to promote unity among humanity.

Hope you liked that. The song is just one of the tracks from the #BeTheRevolution mixtape available now as a free download on bandcamp or as a physical copy for $4.99, available in December 2012. As well as Khaki, the mixtape features legendary QueensBridge hip-hop artist Tragedy Khadafi, Baltimore's own Sullee J, DC area's Radio Rahim, Bird & Sharif the Truth from STL, Tree reppin Southeast Portland, Faz from Australia & Leeky Apollo and RP from Charlotte.

Free hip-hop music with a social conscience. Sounds good, right? OK, now in return go and find out what your local Palestinian Solidarity group is up to and get involved.

All together now - Free Free Palestine!


Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Any action leading towards the revolution is moral, every inaction criminal

I thought long and hard about a title for this post as it's probably the most important thing I'll write this year. In the end I settled for a quote from Bakunin, the father of anarchist theory, as I felt I needed some truly heavy-weight backing.

The reason I need that backing is that I'm not a particularly 'good' libertarian socialist, I've compromised with statism throughout my life and continue to do so, much to my own disappointment. So I'm no Ammon Hennacy, that much is clear, but I am, still, at heart a libertarian socialist and, in my own flawed way, I try to be guided by libertarian principles and to oppose coercive force, hierarchical structures and the empty promise/farce of Parliamentary democracy. Those of you who follow this blog will, hopefully, be aware that I am an industrial relations representative in my workplace and a trade union activist, and that, such faith as I have, is placed in the hope of reforming the Trades Unions to become genuine vehicles of workers' power and social change.

Ok, so what's all this confessionalism leading too, you're probably wondering. Well, on Saturday I attended, along with 900 other delegates,  the Radical Independence Conference in Glasgow. The Conference was called to draw together socialists, feminists, trade unionists, greens, peace movement activists, anti-poverty campaigners, anti-racists groups, community activists, civil liberty campaigners, the equalities movement and more. These representatives, from all across the progressive movement, have united to build an extra-parliamentary conference in support of Scottish independence. The aim of the conference, and the campaign that will follow, will be to maximise grassroots involvement, which is the key to winning public support for independence in the run-up to the referendum in 2014.

I have to admit now that, my own emotions about the conference were that, for anyone involved in progressive politics in Scotland, this event was truly momentous. I honestly think that, those of us who are still around, will look back on this day  in 20, 30, even 50 years time and say, "This was the day that the Scottish left finally got its act together and became part of the global struggle against international capitalism".

Pause to let that sink in.

Yes, that's right, I'm advocating that an essentially nationalist movement, and one that asks us to participate by, in part, voting is a key element in Scottish workers' part in the growing, and increasingly intense, struggle against corporate fascism.

Let me explain.

Firstly, let's deal with the Nationalism issue. I know that many anarchists (yes you, Neil!) will be rolling their eyes at the naïveté of thinking that replacing one state with another is any kind of answer but I'd ask them to consider the following;

Scottish nationhood is part of a process, not an end point. If we break up the state that most of us were born into and have lived in our whole lives, we thereby illustrate to the populace, who have been cowed/fooled into believing otherwise, that true power resides with them and that change IS possible. Thereafter, an empowered population can move towards other goals as it sees fit.

This referendum is about nationalism either way. Whoever wins, we are going to have either the Scottish or UK version of it. The Saltire or the Union flag - hold your nose and take your pick. However, do bear in mind that a Yes vote and a new constitutional settlement allows us to rewrite everything. That's right, everything. We could have a constitution that seriously limits politicians power, protects workers' rights, properly respects our obligations to refugees and asylum seekers, curbs the power of capital, promotes green and environmental issues and gives real equality to ALL. These are all concepts which were endorsed by Conference on Saturday. This really would make us a 'beacon for other nations' in a real and meaningful way, but only if a united left starts working now to educate the public and make the alternative case to the SNP's wishy-washy neoliberalism. If we do, we could effect REAL change. If we don't, we are left with the status quo. That is, the UK. The nation that brought genocide to North America and Australasia, the nation that raised the idea of 'the market' to its current fetishistic position in world economics, the country that created, by force of arms, the world's largest ever Empire (covering a quarter of the globe and enslaving, murdering and exploititng the people who came under its control), the country that has deference to unelected wealth and privilege running like an unbreakable chain through its unwritten constitution, a country that invented the concentration camp, a country responsible for famine, torture, foul play and deceit at home and all over the globe in pursuit of its own ends, the country that has been involved in 100 years of aggressive oil wars and destruction of the natural environment . The UK is a country that at its inception was ruled by an elite class of wealthy, authoritarian, racist, snobbish parasites and right now is ruled by... well, you get the picture.

So, you want to smash the state? OK, let's start with the UK. And there is one huge, as yet unmentioned,  reason that I am behind the Radical Independence Campaign, and it is that, if we win the day, we can UNILATERALLY DISARM THE UK OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS!

Imagine that. Imagine the global repercussions. And we really CAN make this happen as Leonna O'Neill of Faslane Peace Camp made clear at the conference. Indeed, we've already started. The No to Nato Coalition and Scottish CND have called for a national day of action against Trident nuclear weapons to take place in Spring 2013. The Radical Independence campaign is throwing its full support, and its hundreds of activists,  behind this. We can make this the biggest demonstration at Faslane that we have ever seen. If we unite everyone in the independence movement and the whole peace movement: we can shut down Trident. This campaign can be about direct action if we make sure events like this are on the agenda. We can only do this from inside the campaign. Think about it.

And that brings us to my second point. Some anarchists/libertarians will continue to have objections to engaging with political parties and the electoral process (yes, you again, Neil!) and may claim that 'Voting for freedom is like fucking for virginity'. Those people may well be right, I cannot deny that engaging in the political process in Britain is like dancing with the devil. For those whose conscience won't allow it, I accept that and wish them well. I accept that many take the view of Emma Goldman that voting is useless at best and dangerous at worst, providing an illusion of participation while masking the true structures of decision-making. For those who believe that voting can be a tactical weapon to supplement the armoury of direct action, or who are undecided I offer the following:

Anarchists can and do vote. History shows us that prior to the Spanish Civil War, in the municipal elections, which had precipitated the departure of King Alfonso XIII, many anarchists had gone to the polls, against their publicly-proclaimed principles, for the tactical reason that a republic seemed more favourable to their aims than a monarchy. You're maybe thinking that the Spanish Civil War didn't end too well for the anarchists, but consider this; it wasn't that vote that really led to the elevation of Franco within the Right but, instead, the C.N.T.'s vigorous abstentionist campaign in 1933. The lack of the million votes which it controlled meant defeat for the Left and two years of reactionary right-wing government, as well as the crushing of the October 1934 rebellion in Asturias. This operation earned Franco the nickname "Butcher of Asturias". The rest is history.

More recently, and closer to home, Irish anarchists voted NO to the Twenty-fifth Amendment Bill (2002). This was a second attempt to strengthen the constitutional ban on abortion. It was submitted to a referendum on 6 March 2002 but was defeated. Leading up to the vote, members of the Workers Solidarity Movement, and most other Irish anarchists, were out in the streets putting up posters, delivering leaflets, raising funds, organising meetings and convincing their neighbours, friends and family to also vote NO.

Most anarchists vote to elect shop stewards in their workplaces, they vote for a secretary in their local residents associations, they vote where small local groups make direct democracy possible. Voting in itself is not wrong, the process of finding out how many and how few people want to do something is essential to acheiving consensus and getting organised. If we fail to do this, we risk leaving all the decisions that effect us to a few leaders or to powerful vested interests.

Remember too, that the vote in 2014 is a referendum. You will not be voting for the half-baked/half-hearted policies proferred by a career politician or party hack who upon achieving office will swiftly renege on all pre-election promises. No, this is about an idea; a referendum is an entirely different beast. Your vote will count. Direct action and activism will be necessary too but the pragmatic approach is, I believe, to see this referendum vote as supplementing that. Bear in mind too that this is something that is likely to happen once in your lifetime. Will you engage with hope in a progression (even a tiny step) towards something better or will you disengage in a spirit of cynicism or otherworldly purity? Please give it some thought. And once more, as Bakunin said:

"Any action leading towards the revolution is moral, every inaction criminal"

If you are interested in learning more about the aims of the Radical Independence Campaign then have a look at the declaration read out on the day of the conference. The campaign will be taking to the streets over the next two years. It will only succeed if it engages in direct action. It will only succeed if it engages with Scotland's blighted communities, for so long ignored by the politicians. It is vital that these communities, currently being targeted by the fascists of the SDL, are given an alternative narrative to the race-hate scapegoating being fed to them by Scotland's new Right. A representative of the Greek Coalition of the Radical Left, Syriza,spoke to the conference on Saturday. He urged us to get organised against the rising spectre of European fascism. The radical groups on the left in Scotland must unite. To my mind, the Radical Independence Campaign is about internationalism not nationalism. Let us recognise this. Let us unite now and argue about our differences once we have won.


Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Griff says; All part of life's rich pageant

 Regular readers will be aware of the Streetlamp's fondness for Scottish hip hop outsiders Stanley Odd and, in particular, our penchant for MC Solareye's wordplay. We're pleased, then, to announce that Solareye is to release an EP called 'The Pageant', which will be available as of tomorrow as a free download from the Stanley Odd website.

Written, recorded and released in a month, The Pageant, is a collection of stories and meanderings; grim fairytales and unlikely truths; ripples and reflections, all narrated by Solareye and featuring Harvey Kartel, Louie (Hector Bizerk) and Tickle (Black Lantern). The EP was produced by Dunt (ABAGA Records).

To promote the EP,  Solareye and Harvey Kartel will be performing live tomorrow night,  21st Nov,  at Bloc, Glasgow, supporting Hector Bizerk and on the 22nd Nov at Electric Circus, Edinburgh, supporting The Milk. The gig in Glasgow is free as well, so no excuses for not turning up unless, like me, you are working late that night (even so, if I can get finished in time I'll be along). Incidentally, the last time Stanley Odd played Glasgow I was also working late - I'm beginning to think someone's given them a copy of my rota!

Anyway, enough of my troubles, here's the brand new video for single 'The Pageant' below:


Sunday, 18 November 2012

'The Boiler' - Rhoda with the Special AKA

Recently, I wrote about Rape Crisis, Glasgow's 16 Days of Action for the Elimination of Violence Against Women campaign and the Glasgow Reclaim the Night march (see 'here'). As part of this campaign, I've been trying to organise, along with one of my union colleagues, a few suitable consciousness-raising events at my workplace. Another organisation which I support, White Ribbon Scotland, a campaign for men in Scotland who want to end violence against women, are also taking part in the 16 days of action and from them I got the idea to put on an after-work film showing.

My union colleague and I were having a discussion about which film we thought would be best suited to the event and I suggested the powerful and harrowing New Zealand drama 'Once Were Warriors'.
My colleague hadn't seen it and agreed to have a look at it to assess its suitability. After she'd agreed to watch it I began to have some doubts about it. After all, while it is a superbly acted and critically acclaimed piece, it can be very difficult viewing. And, sure, while the main female character, Beth, does eventually find the strength to leave her abusive partner, the journey to this point is not an easy one, for the character or the viewer. Eventually, my colleague and I decided that something else would better suit the bill, but our decision did make me think quite a bit about the portrayal of domestic and sexual violence in popular art-forms and  just where the line should be drawn between raising an issue and Cinéma vérité-style portrayals of violence. It also reminded me of an extremely controversial song, which caused quite a few waves in the world of popular music back in 1982, but which is barely mentioned nowadays. The song in question is 'The Boiler', a chilling and nakedly-emotional story of date-rape released by “Rhoda with the Special AKA”.

The Rhoda  in question was Rhoda Dakar, the former lead singer of minor ska revival band The Bodysnatchers. The Bodysnatchers were a seven-piece, all-female band, who were signed to Jerry Dammers' (The Specials' musical mastermind) 2 Tone record label.The Bodysnatchers were infamous for forming when they were barely able to play their instruments with the intention of "learning to play as they went along". The band played together for less than two years, disbanding in 1981, without having released an album.

'The Boiler' was actually the first song that The Bodysnatchers ever wrote, previously they had just played covers of old ska and reggae classics. Jerry Dammers heard it and was keen to produce it for the band, but pressure from Chrysalis (who were 2 Tone's parent company) caused The Bodysnatchers to record the safer, and more commercial, single 'Let's Do Rocksteady'. However, Dammers didn't forget about the song and made plans to record it in the future.

The song itself, which features a chilling, never to be forgotten, first-person narrative, spoken word vocal performance from Rhoda, came about through her improvising and just talking over a riff in rehearsal. Rhoda herself says of the song:

"I didn't know about writing songs, but I knew how to improvise - I had originally wanted to act and had worked in the theatre on leaving school. Performing it live was acting, that's all. A friend had been raped a couple of years earlier and I suppose I was thinking of her at the time. Recording it was a very long and drawn out process."

Indeed it was. After The Bodysnatchers split, citing ‘musical differences’ for their decline, with some members purportedly wanting to take a more political stance while others wanted to follow a more pop orientated career, Rhoda began working informally with The Specials on their second album 'More Specials'. However, The Specials too were coming to the end of their shelf-life and were soon to split themselves, with vocalists Terry Hall, Neville Staple and Lynval Golding leaving to form the Fun Boy Three. Prior to this, in the summer of 1981, Jerry Dammers had started working again on 'The Boiler', making several different remixes and, after the bands' break-up, finally began recording it. The recording of Rhoda's vocal started about a year before the song's eventual release and has been described by those involved as "a long and difficult process".

The song was released on 23 January 1982 under the name of “Rhoda with the Special AKA”. Jerry Dammers, who was adamant that the song should be released in order to raise an important issue, has desribed it as follows:

 "It is the only record that was ever made quite deliberately to be listened to once and once only".

 Most radio stations disagreed with playing it even once, and it was widely banned from commercial radio. The BBC banished it to a few plays on the night time schedule, where it was predictably championed by John Peel, but mainly tried to ignore it. Some retailers thought even less of it and refused to stock it. Despite this, the song reached a creditable number 35 in the UK singles chart.

I was one of the many people who bought a copy, but I will also admit that this is not a song that I have listened to much subsequently. It is a wonderfully produced piece of work, with Dammers' haunting musical accompaniment a perfect vehicle for Dakar's vocal. However, it is, without a doubt, one of the most difficult songs to hear through to the end, or to listen to more than once. In particular, the final 90 seconds are heart-rendingly horrific. I remember, at the height of the record's infamy, that some feminists argued that although the song highlighted the date-rape issue they felt that the way it did so was too harrowing and for that reason they could not support its release. I can certainly understand that argument although, personally, I feel that the right of an artist to explore the darkest parts of the human psyche is a considerable counter-balance to it. As such, I am embedding the song below, for those who are interested, but I am also warning any victims of sexual abuse or rape that this song is a potential trauma trigger. If you have any doubts at all about whether you want to hear this - then don't.

I mentioned the White Ribbon Scotland campaign above. I would be grateful if any Scottish boys or men reading this would consider visiting their website in order to show their support and to make their personal pledge never to commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women.

Thank you.


Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Griff says; Reclaim the Night!

The Streetlamp would like all of our readers in central Scotland to be aware that  Rape Crisis, Glasgow is marking the 16 Days of Action for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on Monday 26th November 2012 with their annual Reclaim the Night march and rally.

The 16 Days of Action links 25th November, which is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and 10th December, International Human Rights Day so that we can recognise that violence against women is a violation of women’s human rights.

This year the theme of the Glasgow event will be 'WOMEN ARE NOT FOR SALE IN SCOTLAND'. We here at the Streetlamp want to join  Rape Crisis, Glasgow in speaking out in support of the importance of promoting equality in Scotland for all women, using a challenging demand approach to prostitution and highlighting potential legislation to support this.

The route for the Reclaim the Night march in Glasgow will once again start from Botanic Gardens corner of Great Western Road and Queen Margaret Drive at 6.30 pm, down Byres Road, University Avenue, Gibson Street, Eldon Street and will end with a rally in the STUC. As always, there will be hot drinks, food, speeches and music at the end of the march.

 All are welcome. This is not a women only event. The Streetlamp will be there and we hope that you can join us.

If you don't live close to Glasgow, then please take some time to check out the website of the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership 'here' for more information on what’s happening elsewhere between 25th November and 10th December 2012.


Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Griff says; eliotE and the Ritournelles - Toy Story

I've something gentle and mild for you tonight in the shape of Inédit, the new release from French, folk-pop, experimentalists eliotE and the Ritournelles, available on bandcamp on a name your price basis. eliotE is singer, composer and songwriter Minnie Benoliel who performs her music on a diverse variety of instruments, including hand-made percussion and childrens' toys. The Ritournelles, who ably accompany her, are Thomas Charlet et Guillaume Magne. The band have been together for a bit over four years since the release of the Goodbye Ghosts EP in 2007.

If you enjoy your music playful and whimsical with a touch of the lullaby about it then you'll love this. Here's
'Pour les enfants qui ont peur de l'orage' from the new EP to whet your appetite:

Pour Les Enfants Qui Ont Peur de L'Orage - eliotE & The Ritournelles by eliotE

Check out the band's bandcamp site for more releases.


Thursday, 1 November 2012

Griff says; Jeux Sans Frontières

Regular readers will by now have cottoned on to the fact that I occasionally like to write about gaming. I must admit I'm not really much of a gamer myself but I do find the interface between the gaming and art worlds particularly fascinating. Gaming, after all, is a very new art form, and is one which is often characterised as trivial or juvenile. The obvious parallels can be drawn with the establishment reaction to the new-fangled fad of pop music in the 1950s or the early 20th century theatre owners dismissal of early film as a mere gimmick. For this reason, we are in an especially privileged position in that we belong to a generation, or generations, who can watch first-hand as gaming develops a remit which extends beyond entertainment into something more profound. And it will do that. Indeed, it already is doing that as my previous blogs on gaming (see 'here') have sought to make clear.

So, tonight, I wanted to introduce you to the wonderful world of Pippin Barr - author, blogger, artist, lecturer, thesis supervisor and game designer. Dr. Pippin Barr previously taught the experimental interaction and programming for game designers courses at IT University of Copenhagen in Denmark and his Ph.D. was about video game values, while his M.Sc. was about user-interface metaphors. This background is obvious in his games designing, which he began at the start of 2011,as he continually pushes at the boundaries of game-play. In particular, stretching the limits of simple narratives by the inherent mechanics contained within the game-play choices. If none of that last sentence makes any sense then I direct you to my previous blog on the experimental, minimalistic 'notgames' of Jordan Magnuson 'here'. Pippin Barr's short flashgames are reminiscent of Magnuson's work but with an added element of subversive black humour.

I first came across Barr due to his most famous creation, the game 'The Artist Is Present'. Astute Streetlamp readers, who tend to be familiar with the world of avant-garde art, will recognise the title as belonging to the monumental performance piece delivered by the divine Marina Abramovic at the New York Museum of Modern Art in 2010. If you have no idea who Marina Abramovic is or why this particular piece of performance art is so famous and well-loved have a look at this very good documentary 'here'. Anyway, Barr has taken the full 'The Artist Is Present' experience, including the interminable queuing and the multiple dashed hopes of finally being able to sit opposite Marina (yes, the Streetlamp team have been thoroughly seduced by the sublime Serbian ) and turned it into an 8-bit game experience. Does that make sense? Perhaps not, maybe its best to tell you that you can play the game 'here'. I loved it, but then I love Marina (sigh) so perhaps I'm biased.

Barr has many more extremely interesting games on his site. For my money, the best of these are the slyly satirical 'War Game', which takes an early arcade-style shooting game and turns it into a commentary on war and the military mind-set worthy of Catch-22. 'You Say Jump I Say How High' is another totally addictive game, particularly if, like me, you are a bit of a physics geek. You see, this game allows you, in fact requires you, to adjust the physical parameters of the world in which your little ghost character collects coins and moves through the levels. Imagine Super Mario as imagined by David Bohm.
Barr's game play ideas are continually surprising and inventive. Check out his conversion of the famous philosophical thought experiment The Trolley Problem into a game. Play for yourself and marvel at how fun philosophy can be (and how empty of any value utilitarianism is).
Then there are Barr's thirty-six separate versions of the grand-daddy of arcade video games Pong. Barr's versions include Blind Pong, Epilepsy Pong, Schizo Pong and Shrink Pong amongst others. You will be literally amazed at the sheer breadth of invention Barr can bring to such an ostensibly unsophisticated set-up.

I'll finish up by pointing out that Barr is also a visual artist and that the illustrations used throughout this piece are all his own work. More of this can be seen at his website.