There is no turning back

[Article originally published in Spanish in Quilombo. Kindly translated by Richard, to whom I am thankful]

“It’s not a crisis, it’s a con”.

Actually, we are faced with both a crisis and also a con. It’s a crisis because we are at a historic crossroads, a moment of systemic chaos in which, after the failure of the neoliberal governance model, “competition and conflicts escalate beyond the regulatory capacity of existing structures” (G. Arrighi). This occurs on a global scale, but with special intensity in the complex and segmented European subsystem. It’s a con because the efforts to curb the disorder, to take advantage of it, and to institutionalise new relations of production and government, are carried out by extorting those from below.

In Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece this translates into a deepening of the economic depression. This is nothing that could not have been predicted when said depression is brought about through shock therapies that seek to undertake looting that could not have been approved otherwise. What is happening in Spain is neither new nor unusual, even if the situation is more serious because of the power held by conservative forces. Staying within recent history, since Mexico suspended payments in 1982 debt crises have multiplied, with greater intensity and frequency than in preceding decades: 2.6 banking crises a year (compared with 0.1 per year in the period 1948-1972); 3.7 monetary crises per year (compared with 1.7 in the same period); 1.3 governments per year suspending payments (compared to 0.7). The consequences of the adjustment policies that accompanied these crises are widely known, so there should be no cause for surprise. What is new –remaining in the frame of recent history- is that these dynamics of debt-adjustment-looting are no longer occurring in Latin America, in Eastern Europe or in Africa, but in a zone that benefitted from the former: Western Europe. The relations of subordination are reproduced in this case within the same political framework, that of the European Union, thereby destabilising it.

What got off to a gradual and wavering start under the previous PSOE government, and what has been intensified, with even fewer scruples by the (State and autonomous community) governments of the PP (and CiU), are thus deliberate policies, in the knowledge that they will cause suffering and transfers of wealth to European business elites. It is true that there is strong pressure on the part of British, French and German financial groups to prevent a devaluation of their assets and take an even bigger cut, and that the European Central Bank and the German government use a very big stick and a very small carrot on the peripheral countries so that they accelerate the cuts, privatise public assets and reform their labour markets. But it never occurs to any of the political parties “of government” to break with this logic. All they do is argue clumsily about timeframes, the odds for debt rollover, the possible offsetting through “growth policies” (which they identify with large infrastructure projects) and only because they see their own political shelf-life in danger.

* * *

By this point, then, it ought to be clear to everyone what future is offered to us by the current political regime, Spanish and European: cuts to public spending budgets that affect the welfare of the population; dismantling of public services and their reconfiguration along the lines of debt relations (health re-payment [the reference here is to what is known in Spain as copago, or co-payment, a concept familiar to users of the Irish health system – R] student loans, etc.), widespread impoverishment through a deliberate wage reduction policy (internal devaluation); onerous tax burdens for impoverished wage labourers, the precarious and unemployed; diversion of public funds to keep private or privatised financial institutions afloat; repression of protest through the criminalisation of activities previously allowed for (relatively speaking) in rights of demonstration and association; the stigmatisation of certain social groups, etc. More looting and more con.

All of these are polítical decisions, not necessities imposed by a fictitious scarcity. Nor is there an obedience due to Brussels or Berlin that might exempt our rulers from responsibility. But the existing institutional mechanisms do not allow the articulation of any democratic alternative from within the national State. Less still with the “bound and tied” [In the original, ‘atado y bien atado’: the reference here is to the famous words of Franco, referring to the future longevity of his regime after his death – R] constitutional lockdown agreed by the PSOE and the PP in 2011, and the numerous reforms that limit political representation (electoral law, city councils, the forthcoming ‘vote for exiles’ in Euskadi). The PP’s absolute majority, derived from a considerable (declining) support in society but above all from the socialist meltdown, forces minority groups that oppose the adjustment to practise politics more outside the Congress than inside, if they do not wish to fall into irrelevance. Though the new parliamentary division ought to be between those parties who support the adjustment policies called for by the bailout referendum and those who reject them, what happens in the street is key. Votes received in elections during the blackmail of the crisis in no way legitimise government actions that violate the rights of the people and are based on lies and fraud.

The coming to power of a particular party will not in itself allow a process of change to begin. History shows the opposite is true, and I include here the electoral rise of a force such as Syriza in Greece. First of all it is the multitudes who change the correlation of forces in the street, since it is they who produce wealth, knowledge, and new ways of thinking and acting. This is what can then allow for an electoral defeat of the ruling parties even when the game is rigged. Those who attack the 15-M from the outside with a ferocity they do not use against the system itself, without making the effort to bring forward their own ideas on the inside, are unable to see this. Movements include explicit social mobilisations, organised to a greater or lesser degree, assemblies that might prove tedious, but also –and this is not reflected in the media- implicit changes in attitude, less visible repertoires of political experimentation, the gestation of new narratives, diverse practices of exodus. Not even an election victory will be enough, especially if it only serves in turn to politically disarm the citizens. The electoral game should at any rate be contemplated as a tactic subordinate to broader strategies.

And what we are witnessing in the Spanish state is a destituent process. An accelerated process of political delegitimisation not just of the government, but of the very power constituted during the transition. Especially for the generation that was born afterwards. The PP’s absolute majority, and the control it exercises over the majority of autonomous region governments, far from entailing a guarantee of stability, exacerbates, through its authoritarian intransigence, the rebellion against authorities that a growing number of people view as parasitical. This is the main fear of investors and international bodies and the main reason for the ‘technical’ interventions that accompany the so-called ‘bailouts’. The political conclusion is obvious. If we want to short-circuit this drift we have to stop seeing the aforementioned delegitimisation as a danger, and work seriously on the democratic opportunities opening up. Work towards the unpredictable.

* * *

It is not a simple task. Feelings such as indifference, resignation, fear, guilt and cynicism continue to dominate a large part of society in the sphere of the political. Property-owning individualism promoted by neoliberal utopianism has left its imprint in our subjectivities. This makes it difficult for a democratic alternative to be formed from and for the common, and explains in part the ease with which the new right-wing forces sell anti-democratic alternatives. The discourse of “against all politicians“, and the lack of interest in politics, feed off the crisis of representation, but if it is not grounded in the pro-common it ends up contributing to the attack against what is public (lo público) and ultimately against democracy.

Thus, I meet public healthcare workers who believe the cuts are on account of “abuses of the health system”. Council public servants who justify the cuts because of past wastefulness. Self-employed who maintain that if the economic situation is bad it is because those who have a job do little work (it is always other people, of course) and the rest do what they can in order not to work. People with mortgages who blame those who got into debt in order to gain access to a home without having enough economic means. Unemployed people who give off stink about other unemployed people. There is no shortage of people who add that immigrants get too much assistance. Amid blatant lies and many half-truths, they take on board a particular story about the “crisis”, the one that confuses symptoms with causes and reasons, or simply doles out blame. And in the game of recriminations, deep down they feel they are entitled to something. How can the wheat be separated from the chaff, when they always conceived of housing, political parties, and social relations, as investments?

They cannot stop seeing themselves as middle class, that virtuous term midway between offensive wealth and ignominious poverty, but which gradually moves away from the former and draws closer to the latter. They have spent their adult lives in the Transition’s framework of social consensus, they hang on to their jobs, they fill the terraces and continue paying their mortgages and their taxes, once the corresponding deductions have been made. It is surprising how naturally they take on board the ‘need’ for the cuts, the loss of purchasing power, the deterioration of public services, the rise in university fees. As if it were a matter of a storm that they hope will pass at some stage for normality to be resumed.

***

But there is no normality to go back to when the state of exception becomes permanent. There is no turning back. Unless we consider as normal and acceptable the trajectory that has left us with the economic, social and ecological consequences we see today. If we do not, we cannot confine ourselves to reacting against each new outrage; to imploring a lesser suffering, like the left in Andalusia does; to meeting with our own (those of our class, union or professional organisation) and only when we see some degradation of our social status as imminent. It makes no sense to go on requesting the restoration of what has been altered from someone who makes clear, time and again, that they will act by decree without listening to us, without consulting us, without obeying us. In this way we are destined to lose, and we may end up becoming reactionaries ourselves.

There is no turning back. Not to a partitocracy whose democratic deficit was already obvious prior to the economic crisis, nor to a welfare state in which the coverage for risks that one confronts throughout one’s life depends on waged employment that is ever more scarce and precarious. And which Capital does not hesitate to dismantle as soon as the profit rate falls. These risks ought to be covered collectively, but in a way that is universal and unconditional. And labour must no longer be identified with employment. There is no turning back, but looking ahead the game is wide open.

It will be better for us to demand and build together a new political framework, a different economy that is not based on the fiction of unlimited growth. This is the debate that I believe must be promoted. Hence the healthiest, most creative and most innovative thing we can see in Spanish politics is the program set forth by the movements and the inclusive communication they deploy. It is good for us to meet up with others, with our peers though they might not resemble us, in the way that miners, public servants, the unemployed and the precarious did in Madrid, to understand that what government propaganda calls ‘privileges’ are in reality the material conditions necessary for a real democracy: in particular, the need to avail of an adequate and stable income that covers vital necessities. The fairest way of preventing these material conditions from being the privilege of a few consists of extending them to everyone.

The family is often cited as the institution in Spain that, along with the informal economy, shores up the decomposition of what is public and the rise in unemployment. Beyond the hierarchical and patriarchal relations that still pervade it, I wish to point out that the family is a sphere where the majority of people find it natural to act with criteria not of the market but of co-operation, of giving, of care and of affection. Something similar happens with the closest of friendships. When cooperation transcends these narrow circles it becomes the main source of innovation, before it has a value placed on it and is captured by Capital. Let us draw the logical conclusions from this, both economic and political, before it is too late. It is not money that makes society.

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Drill, Canary, drill!

Manifestación LanzaroteMore than 20.000 people demonstrated in Arrecife, Lanzarote (Canary Islands), on 24 March 2012 against the offshore oil prospections authorised by the Spanish Government. Photography: Kepa Herrero (Lancelot Digital).

Many people visit the Canary Islands but few bother to get to know them. They are usually considered not as a country or region, or as a community with its own history and complexities, but as ‘a product’, something that is there just to be consumed, mainly by others. A recent initiative by the new conservative Spanish government follows this logic. On Friday 16 March 2012 a proposal by Ministry of Industry, Energy and Tourism José Manuel Soria (born himself in Gran Canaria) was approved, authorising a consortium led by Madrid-based Repsol to explore for oil a significant area just 37 miles offshore Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. They expect to find oil in rock formations 3,000 (9,900 feet) to 3,500 meters below the surface. The objective is to reduce dependence on crude imports and raise money to reduce Spain´s budget deficit. But this time the islanders want to have a say on their political, economic and environmental future.

Ever since Norman nobles conquered Lanzarote and Fuerteventura and subdued the aborigine population to the Crown of Castile, the Canary archipelago found itself in a subordinate position within the capitalist world-system. The Canary Islands have been more dependent on the world’s economic cycles than on Spain’s, and external shocks have regularly affected their economy and environment. Most recently, mass tourism and the related real-state boom abruptly transformed the old rural and scarcely populated societies into highly developed service economies, doubling its population and more than tripling its urbanisation in a very short period of time. As a consequence, the islands’ fragile eco-systems have been and continue to be subjected to strong pressure from growth-oriented policies.

The approval of exploration licenses for oil drilling is the last chapter of this story. It followed the suspension of a subsidy program for new installations of renewable-energy projects as part of the package of spending cuts – a highly contested policy shift. With this decision the Spanish government put the Canary Islands in the race for ‘tough oils’, to use Michael T. Klare’s term. It refers to oil that ‘can only be exploited through costly, environmentally hazardous techniques’.

José María Aznar’s government had first granted Repsol the right to explore the area in early 2002. But local governments objected, and in 2004 the Supreme Court ruled that the permits were illegal, as no serious environmental impact study had been undertaken. According to Repsol, hydrocarbons production could reach 100,000 oil barrels per day. Maybe not too much for world markets, but significant for Spain, amounting to about 10% of its daily crude oil imports, according to 2011 government data. ‘Spain’, Soria stated weeks ago, ‘cannot afford the luxury of disregarding possible sources of energy’, especially when Morocco has already allowed oil exploration on their side of the imaginary frontier. This emphasis on the Spanish interests at the expense of the archipelago has strained the relations with the regional government (a coalition between Coalición Canaria and PSOE) and the cabildos or Island Councils of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. All of them oppose the explorations and drillings and have announced legal actions.

It is not that the Government of the Canary Islands – which in the past has promoted unsustainable infrastructures and massive urbanisation – has suddenly found a passion for the environment. There is certainly an element of political strife between old partners (José Manuel Soria was the regional government’s vice-president when PP governed in coalition with Coalición Canaria), but the truth is that from the local bourgeoisie’s perspective there is little to win with Repsol drillings. It is the Spanish central government that issues the permits, potential tax revenues will be collected by Madrid and it is very unlikely that oil production will create local jobs on a significant scale. The islands would only suffer the risks, potentially detrimental for tourism and fisheries. In a recent visit to the islands Repsol’s CEO Antoni Brufau tried to appease the regional government by promising the creation of thousands of jobs. But very few islanders really believe this. Canary Islands’ rate of unemployment of 31% ranks among the highest in Western Europe despite the significant influx of tourists in the last years (more than 10 million in 2011), but this is due to structural imbalances that oil production -delinked from the rest of the Canaries’ economy- won’t solve.

The regional government’s incapacity to confront Madrid’s fait accompli has angered many nationalists within the co-ruling party and from other political groups. Some local politicians threaten to revise what many call the ‘colonial pact’ -the centennial Canary Island’s pragmatic integration in Spain after the independence of the American colonies. This pact allows for several fiscal and economic peculiarities, namely low-taxation, free trade and in recent years generous transfers to finance infrastructure projects. Although explicit pro-independence movements are a minority in the region, Spanish Repsol´s triumphant entry offers them a powerful argument: as the Canary Islands is not a sovereign state they cannot decide upon the waters surrounding the islands beyond the 12-mile limit, according to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, so waters between the islands are considered international waters. And unlike Portugal with Madera and Azores, the Spanish government has not yet delimited an exclusive economic zone in application of the straight baseline method due to disagreements with Morocco, as well as to the unsolved status of Western Sahara. The sovereignty argument thus puts the emphasis on who decides on the oil drilling and who can benefit the most from the oil revenues.

“Barranco de los Canarios” Beach, Sotavento coast, South Fuerteventura (Canary Islands). Photography: Carlos de Saá

Stronger opposition comes from the local environmental movements. They denounce the important risks at all stages of oil production, endangering islands that have been declared biosphere reserves by Unesco, that is, commons to be shared by humanity and developed on a sustainable way. Seismic prospection can cause high damage to submarine fauna. Opening well perforations produce waste that spills into the sea, negatively affecting submarine habitats of high ecological value, like the marine seagrass meadows. During oil extraction, materials like heavy metals or aromatic hydrocarbons are released; they can affect the food chain and therefore the human being, causing health damage. Accidents frequently happen, either small spills unnoticed by the media, or huge catastrophes like the BP Deepwater disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. A significant amount of oil is already regularly dumped from oil tanker vessels into the Canaries’ uncontrolled waters. From the perspective of a more human and ecologically oriented economy, the negative externalities clearly outweigh the positive ones, and the Canary Islands get mainly the former.

Other concerns relate to the geopolitical instability linked to oil production, especially if there are US oil companies involved. The Canary Islands, which voted against NATO integration in the referendum of 1986, could however be further militarized under Africom. A cable leaked by Wikileaks revealed that in 2008 José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero’s socialist government already offered to add “Las Palmas to the list of ports where [the US] can take nuclear powered warships”.

Many people in the Canary Islands are now mobilizing on the Internet and in social media, asking for online signatures against the drilling and demonstrating. They demonstrated in the streets in unprecedented numbers on the 24th March, some days before the 29th March general strike against labour market reforms. They thus join a global fight against the extraction of fossil fuels at all cost, whether they are in the natural reserves of Alaska, in Canada or Latin America. If prospection finally confirms the existence of hydrocarbons and drilling starts in a few years, it will still take a decade for Repsol to reach plateau production. A long struggle has started, one that may substantially modify the political and social landscape of the archipelago, hopefully for the better. We will need support for such a big challenge.

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The debt and the body

Friedrich Nietschze wrote in Genealogy of the morals that in ancient times “the creditor could subject the body of the debtor to all manner of ignominy and torture“. Well, this is what happened in Spain, a dreadful cocktail of debt, forced labour and body torture. Quite symbolic indeed.

Image

Spanish Police Arrest ‘Bar Code Pimps’ Gang

By HAROLD HECKLE Associated Press
MADRID March 24, 2012 (AP)

Spanish police arrested 22 suspected pimps who allegedly used violence to force women into prostitution and tattooed them with bar codes as a sign of ownership, officials said Saturday.

Police are calling the gang the “bar code pimps.” Officers freed one 19-year-old woman who had been beaten, held against her will and tattooed with a bar code and an amount of money — €2,000 ($2,650) — which investigators believe was the debt the gang wished to extort before releasing her.

All those arrested were of Romanian nationality and had forced the women to hand over part of their earnings, the statement said.

The women were tattooed on their wrists if they tried to escape, the statement said. Police also seized guns and ammunition. It was not immediately clear when the raids took place. (to continue, click here)

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The power of the financial lobby in the European Union

If there was any doubt about the rationale behind EU economic policies… Below you can watch an interesting report from a German TV on the influence of the financial lobby in the EU institutions (in German; click cc for English subtitles).

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The magma

El Hierro: Mar y cielo

El Hierro: el faro y dos mares

Feeling its way, moving slowly since years or centuries, the magma had been trying to get rid of all the pressure got from above. It tried to find a gap where it could come to the surface.  It could be a crack on the slope of a mountain, or a ridge under the sea. It could also take several paths at the same time. It had no preferences. The only thing it needed was to find a weak flank. When it found the magma gathered speed, with no hesitation. Then the world shaked. Some received it with fear, as they felt the earth move under their feet, while others welcomed it with cheer, like children in a circus show. It doesn’t matter. Its time is not ours. It only wishes one thing: that its mixture of molten rocks and gas becomes one day life. 

El Hierro: Pinar

Photographies taken in the island of El Hierro in 2009. Author: Samuel

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What Utøya tells us

[Originally published in Spanish on the 24/07/2011. Kindly translated into English by Herr Kryptocommunist]

1

In the beginning there was the media. They transmitted and shaped the news of the Oslo attack and the subsequent killing spree on the island of Utøya. Instead of informing us on what was actually known at that moment, journalists spawned wantonly all kinds of speculations on who was responsible for the attacks. When one doesn’t have information, the possibilities are endless, but on this occasion only one was repeated endlessly: “probably” it was Al Qaeda that was responsible for the attack, or an islamist group close to it, in retaliation for the publication of the Mohamed cartoons, or the participation of Norway in the occupation of Afghanistan. Such remarks reflect a political agenda that has been in the making for many years. We no longer need a José María Aznar who calls the editors-in-chief of the newspapers [Note of the translator: Hours after the Madrid bombing in 2004, Mr. Aznar had called the editors of Spanish newspapers to emphasize the government’s conviction that ETA was responsible]. The mechanism has been completely interiorized, so that such sentences come out automatically and become routine.

2

One does not need to back-up information with facts: suffice “expert opinion” in the ideological construction of the enemy. Once again the so-called experts played a fundamental role in fabricating news that afterwards turned out to be completely wrong. In Spain, it is impossible to have an attack or event attributed to islamists that  does not  immediately lead to the publication of an El País article by Fernando Reinares, “Senior Researcher on terrorism at the Real Instituto Elcano, and Professor at the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos”. And indeed, after the massacres in Oslo and Utøya, El País digital immediately published an article of his that linked “the terrorist threat to Norway” with “the processes of jihadist radicalization that can be observed in some segments of the muslim community in Norway“. Although the column concluded with the admission that “this is a hypothesis on what happened in Norway yesterday, but not the only possible one“, in the text Reinares focussed exclusively on the Al Qaeda option.  That is why it is no longer possible to consult the text: the author requested El País to redraw it from the digital edition, and it was published only in some regional editions of the paper. For the moment, at least, Google still has a cached version.

Reinares-Oslo

Screenshot of Fernando Reinares’s article, published online in El País on the 23/07/2011

A few days later, Fernando Reinares admitted, in the ‘Letters to the editor’ section, that the article had been written in a rush and that it had been published after the bomb blast in Oslo, but before the massacre on the island become known, and before it was known how the Oslo explosion had taken place. It was all Reinares needed to prepare a cocktail with the words “radicalization”, “global jihad”, and “muslim communities”. If there only had been a bomb in Oslo, and if Anders Behring Breivik wouldn’t have been seen indiscriminately shooting young labour activists gathered in Utøya, the article would not have been redrawn – such are the ethical and professional standards used in “terrorism studies”.  The latter serve two fundamental functions: first, they legitimize the policing of what are essentially political issues; and secondly, they create networks that link certain research centres, the governments that fund them, the analysts that work for both of them, and the media that amplify their voices.

3

After the confirmation that the attacks were the work of a white individual with Norwegian nationality and far right leanings, the press oscillated between considering it the action of a disturbed isolated individual (especially in the US), and a dissimulated unease at qualifying it as a terrorist act (especially in Europe). Making a virtue of necessity, the same message had to be repeated but in a different form. The El País editorial does so with eloquence:

the events would have confirmed […] that the prevention of terrorist attacks cannot and should not be focussed on jihadism alone. There are social pathologies, probably with a more imprecise religious component, but fired up by racist fever, loneliness and frustration, that make their appearance even in the most advanced societies.  Part of these pathologies can be observed in the social networks, because of the latter’s narcissist qualities. Once again we see that latent threats were not taken seriously, or that the means for controlling them were not available

While condemning the events, the editorial this time does not mention the Christian religion of Anders Behring Breivik, his fascist ideas, the fact that his “racist fever” was inspired by no less than John Stuart Mill, his admiration for neoconservative experts like Daniel Pipes or for the Israeli government, his inspiration in politicians like Geert Wilders, or his links with far-right European parties. The vague reference to “social pathologies” on the other hand allow to warn for the dangers of radicalization, while insisting that the internet and the society at large should be controlled, in pre-emptive fashion. Many commentaries talk about the “ingenuity” and the “innocence” of the Norwegian authorities, incapable of foreseeing what in general is impossible to predict.

4

If the literature on “global jihad” allows to stigmatize entire communities in Europe, “extremism” and “radicalization” and its variants permit to recreate at will many other enemy figures and the adequate dispositifs for controlling them. But if we look at the Europol 2010 list of “failed, foiled and completed attacks”, categorized by member state and ideological affiliation, we see the following:

Acciones terroristas - 2010

The first thing to call our attention is how few “terrorist acts” are actually linked to islamism, a finding also confirmed in previous years. Second, the large majority can be attributed to a single organization, ETA, which explains why France and Spain figure so prominently in the graph. And all of this despite the fact that in 2010 the only incident worth mentioning was the shooting on March 16 in which a French gendarme was killed.  Most cases in reality are so-called “aborted actions” by the police, or events that have more to do with the badly named “milieu” rather than armed organization per se. Thirdly, after ETA (and attacks carried out by Northern Irish and Republican groups) most attacks are those attributed to “far-left” organizations in the south of Europa, and especially Greece. Finally, not a single completed action is attributed to the far right, nor are there supposed to be failed or foiled plots. Perhaps the fascists, neo-nazi’s and ultra’s limited themselves in 2010 to writing in forums, blogs, and general trolling on the net? Of course not.

In reality, violent actions by the far right are usually classified as “vandalism” or “racist attacks“, hardly ever as “terrorism”. This has important consequences: the same actions by “separatists” or “radical leftists” are punished much more severely as those perpetrated by those belonging to the “far right”. Moreover, the latter are the object of far less zealous police scrutiny, sometimes even sharing common objectives, environments and forums.

5

Politically, Norway does not escape the conservative and racist wave that is engulfing the rest of Europe, just like other Scandinavian countries too.  The neoliberal and anti-immigrant Progress Party to which Breivik belonged is already the second political formation of the country, with 22,9% of the votes in the last elections. But in Norway, with the lowest unemployment numbers if Europe (3,4%), the new nativist and anti-immigrant discourse even permeates the governing Labour Party. The coalition it is in wants to make immigration laws stricter, based on arguments that are more cultural than economic. At the same time it adopts and promotes an individualism that is markedly hostile towards the Welfare State. In this synthesis education, culture, common values and religion become selection criteria and ways to (re)segment the labour market. At the same time, the “war of each against all” – against the barbarians, but also those that have allowed the “invasion” to take place – converts the multitudes into a mob of predators devouring each other.

There are no police-oriented solutions against the Anders Beehring Breiviks of Europe, or those that might end up doing similar things like him. It is immensely hypocritical to be horrified by the criminal and racist consequences while those very same “popular” or “progressive” governments impose labour conditions that can only be characterized as semi-servitude, deny civil rights to certain “immigrants” and consolidate anti-terrorist legislation incompatible with fundamental liberties. The far right knows this all too well, and is quick to exploit said hypocrisy. Faced by the genocidal option, the only alternative is political, creating an overwhelming and empowering democratic movement, as the one that we have seen in Madrid lately.

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Google Maps forgets South Sudan

After years of civil war, a new nation is born today: South Sudan. Maps will have to be redesigned. The Guardian already did it. Not Google, though.

Google - Sudan - 9 July

This is a capture taken on 9 July at 11:19 GMT. Sudan still appears as a unified country. It is not that at Google Inc. they didn’t know what was going on there. On 8th July this was posted on the official Google Africa blog:

In anticipation of this significant development, the World Bank, UNOSAT, RCMRD, Satellite Sentinel Project and Google organized a South Sudan Community Mapping event in Nairobi on June 30. This was the second in a series of mapping events intended to encourage local people to create accurate and detailed maps of South Sudan, to help them navigate their path to independence. There were over 100 attendees in the room, mostly Sudanese — university students, humanitarian workers, journalists, developers, donors, citizens — coming from Nairobi and its surroundings, but also as far as Juba, the capital of South Sudan.

In fact, Google’s Africa policy manager Ory Okolloh, who helped create Ushahidi, is very fond of interactive social mapping. But it seems that Africa is not yet on the top of Google’s agenda. This time Google did not create a doodle to celebrate the event and did not update Google Maps. And that despite heavy US involvement in the process leading to South Sudan’s independence. Those trying to find their way in that region by using Google Maps on their mobile phones will still be in Sudan.

Update (11 June 2011): PC Mag asked Google about this. This was their answer:

We are following the situation in South Sudan and are working with data providers to ensure that we depict the area accurately,” the Google spokeswoman added. “However, we aren’t able to specify when the update to these borders will be made, as the changes are often dependent on a variety of factors such as provider data availability and our system update schedule.”

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