So, it’s on. We have revolutions to the north, to the west, to the south, to the east. All across the world, youth, the unemployed, students, workers and people from all social classes are demanding governments that represent their interests instead of the nepotism and cronyism which have benefitted  a small class of moneyed elite and the political alliances that they make.

So what now? “If the Egyptian uprising wants to progress toward a revolution, it has to push aside all lame liberal voices.” -Asad Abu Khalil.

New governments are being formed in Tunisia and Egypt, yet they mainly reproduce old notions of statehood, power and representation. We are unable to express difference in terms of power. This, so far, has been our human quandary. How to build a government that truly represents the ideas of minority groups instead of excluding or co-opting them? Or, a government that is not divided into majoritarian and oppositional groups?

There are many models for this, yet all of them remain partial. I think, in the coming months, it will be necessary to stick to a radical insistance on thinking that is new, denying all tried paths. Of course, I am not telling my contemporaries anything that they do not already know.

Interesting Questions from the 2011 Revolutions:

1. Is there such a thing as the collective mind? Popular wisdom seems to think so. Can we really think for ourselves at all? Or do we merely pick from a numer of choices that we have cobbled together from media images and societal expectations? Are we just products of our time? If we admit that we do have a collective destiny or situation, that might be the first step towards making a revolution permanently.

2. Activism is an accumulation of small daily acts of resistance. Never underestimate the power of ideas. Ideas in the hands of millions turn into material force, as Karl Marx said. This is why art, culture and media are essential to the continuing global revolution.

3. Don’t be naive about “democracy.” Democracy is not just voting. Americans have had democracy for 200 years and still manage to have one of the highest inequality ratios in the world while perpetrating numerous wars, coups, military assistance and torture centers around the world. Could we form a new system that expresses the real will of the people?

Saif Al-Islam Al-Qaddafi

The BBC calls him “stylish.” As the regime’s face to the West, he spent much of his time hob-nobbing with the British royal family and the international jet set.

This calls to mind Tayyib Salih’s brilliant novel, Season of Migration to the North, which tells the story of a Sudanese mathematician who moves to London. His professional colleagues never really accept him, despite giving him awards and inviting him to glamorous parties.

When Saif al-Islam’s role in the crackdown against protesters was reported, LSE director Howard Davies resigned from his post after facing criticism for accepting donations from the charitable foundation led by the son of the Libyan leader.

The university is also investigating the authenticity of Saif al-Islam’s PhD thesis, amid reports it was plagiarized.

I will leave you with a list of maxims:

Clothes don’t make the man.

Costume makes the king.

The emperor has no clothes.

For more, click here.

Guide to Politics

May 24, 2011

Key to Politics.

1. It is the responsibility of governments to equally provide social services including health care, housing, education, security and the right to adequately-paid work.

2. It is the responsibility of the people to make sure their governments are providing the above with the highest efficiency and transparency possible. To that end, they have at their disposal all tools and methods from advocacy to armed resistance.

That’s it. Everything else is just bullshit.

Revolution 2011

January 27, 2011

In case you’ve been under a rock for the last few days, let’s recap the momentous and thrilling happenings taking place around the world:

1. The complete overthrow of Ben Ali’s regime by the Tunisian people

2. Massive protests in Egypt demanding Mubarak’s resignation

3. Al-Jazeera’s leak of incriminating documents against the PA during the Israel/Palestine peace process

4. Palestinian students staging a sit-in at the PLO offices in London

5. Protests of tens of thousands in Yemen calling for the ousting of president Saleh

Facebook. WikiLeaks. The Palestine Papers. Twitter (follow me @safaliy0!)

We are deluged with digital information. Nevertheless, I still sit sometimes and write my journals by hand. In returning to something old-fashioned; writing, I also wanted to point to the timelessness of sitting, discussing politics over coffee, organizing face to face. Students, dockworkers, academics, lawyers, cab drivers. This revolution is for everyone. A people’s revolution is the only thing that can stop unchecked corporate greed and the militarized corrupt governments which suport them. It is the only thing which has ever worked and the only thing which ever will.

“That fear barrier seems to have been broken,” Shenker says. “These are sort of middle-class people who are generally enjoying quite a comfortable standard of living… They’ve got a lot to lose, and yet they’re still being motivated to come out, to be beaten, to be hit by water cannons, to be carried off into the desert,” he says. “There’s so much energy and so much momentum behind what’s going on … I think we’ll still see a lot of people on the streets tomorrow.”

So, viva Palestine, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Lebanon, the United Kingdom and all other countries living under the yoke of oppression. It is your destiny to be free. Like birds, we all wither until we are free.

In solidarity,


I stumbled across Kesha’s Tik Tok video because of the clip which showed Israeli soldiers dancing to it in the occupied city of Hebron. That Hebron is the site of an ongoing Israeli settler-colonial project nullifies any funny aspect of this performance, at least for me. More about the Orientalism of the Israeli troop’s dancing can be found on Juan Cole’s blog here. I thought that two of the latest pop videos could help to elaborate on the colonial anxiety facing America at this moment. I say colonial rather than post-colonial because it seems to me that the post-colonial moment was born and survived in a narrative of modernization, development and independence that no longer exists.

It should be plain to everyone now that national sovereignty means nothing when capital flows across borders and the profit/loss of resources by a few corporations dictates military action and state policy more than the needs or interests of any group of constituents. Also, I do not say that we are post post-colonial because unfortunately, we have not made any progress. The humanitarian rhetoric of the 80’s and 90’s has now been shown to be a sham, advancing only the cultural “soft power,” of the US and Europe. Any gains that NGOs or humanitarian aid projects have made have been nullified by the increasing capitalization and militarization of the world. Instead, we are going historically backwards, back to a state of colonial military jostling over resource control.

Kesha’s video has a lot to say about contemporary American society. The pop star wakes up alone in a suburban bathtub. She wanders through a world populated by bemused suburbanites and faceless hipsters, their faces obscured by huge sunglasses and/or eye makeup. They don’t need facial expressions because the clothes (the red plastic cups and the Converse)  are all there is. There is nothing else to perform. Kesha, on her golden bicycle, rides past a sign saying “Money,” which she then goes on to sing, she doesn’t have. Her hipster friends live with their parents in this global economic crisis. The video ends with voices babbling indistinctly in Spanish. “We came here for a better life, but we are realizing we made a mistake.” -Tunisian migrants in Italy. Predictable flows of labour are being reversed. With them, the post-colonial anxieties they engendered in Europe and America.

(The belated feminisms of both these videos deserves a separate article, but I will mention how modern pop-stars in America, like their Sex and the City counterparts, both view and treat men as an accessory, like a ring or a pair of shoes. Men are lifeless, suits or stylishly clothed. Boys are the new… girls?)

The most interesting thing in both videos is the amount of American flag paraphernalia. It would be hard to imagine, in 1995, either Britney or Christina explicitly waving American flags. They didn’t have to. The empire was secure, it’s foundations solid and invisible. Now, 15 years later, that is not the case. (As weird as it is to be nostalgic about Jay Z and Britney, as if they were the Beatles or Elvis… At 22, I feel old.) America’s drive to civilize and develop the world through benevolent military intervention and humanitarian aid has failed, largely through it’s own hypocrisy and greed.

So, singing their way through this zeitgeist created by their parents, both Kesha and Miley are emblems of a nostalgia, for the Phoenix Sunbird, for cowboy boots, emblems of an America that once existed but no longer does. By priveleging a “real” America; Nashville over L.A. in Miley’s video, we see the ordinary American’s desire to return to something stable, a comfortable self-confidence that came from living at the center of the world. Before a backdrop of a huge American flag, Miley’s “Made in the USA” video could easily be a stage perfomance to boost the flagging morale of our troops in Afghanistan, who perhaps (unluckily for the innocent civilians around them) haven’t gotten the memo that the empire has fallen. They continue to maim and kill Iraqis and Afghans with the same bravado, acting out a mission that lives on only within them. Ordinary Americans continue to deal with the fallout from the recession and the oil spill, both huge and intractable problems that will mark the future of our country for decades. Obama has not “changed” anything and looks increasingly powerless in a world stage that is largely a prop for the same corporate interests. “It’s a party in the USA…” Oh, how we wish…

Update: Afghan soldiers dancing to Lady Gaga… (thanks Ange!)