Category Archives: Politics

My new hero

Rebecca Ferguson is my new hero.

I’ve been asked and this is my answer. If you allow me to sing “strange fruit” a song that has huge historical importance, a song that was blacklisted in the United States for being too controversial. A song that speaks to all the disregarded and down trodden black people in the United States. A song that is a reminder of how love is the only thing that will conquer all the hatred in this world, then I will graciously accept your invitation and see you in Washington. Best Rebecca

Brilliant! Way better than saying no. THANK YOU.

http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1spgc5t

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Are you serious? Julian Assange used Wikileaks to support Donald Trump, with the additional support of some unidentified secret team of very sophisticated hackers? For real?

Yes, this does seem to be real. There is an additional allegation that the hackers were based in Russia and spoke Russian, but this is not confirmed.

Bernie Supporters: YOU ARE GETTING PLAYED.

Yes, the DNC functioned as an arm of the Clinton campaign. That is how it goes: candidates work to get their people into key positions, and then work every angle. It is not fair according to the party rules, but it is the norm. It is American electoral politics as usual. Hillary is good at it, and has been putting her people into place for years. Duh.

Anyway you already knew that because Bernie had been telling you that over and over. It is great to have so many new and passionate activists. The campaign was amazing, surely one of the high point of the left in the history of the US. That means you are playing in a big league now at a time of real danger in the world. This is no time to cling to your naivety.

Looking at the Assange interview, and reading other interviews he has recently given, is actually quite scary. His position is that anyone who is not for the kind of freedom of information he espouses is his enemy. This makes Clinton an enemy. Assange says he doesn’t know what Trump’s position on Wikileaks will be, so he prefers the unknown Trump to Clinton, whom he unequivocally considers a personal enemy.

This is nowhere near any sort of notion of an institution which is about transparency and protecting whistleblowers. There is no whistleblower to protect here. No one from the DNC freaked out with guilt over the misdeeds of their superiors and gave Assange documentation of it. Nor was there anything to blow a whistle on, other than the ugly everyday face of electoral politics.

The polls now show Trump ahead, and the bump that put him ahead was timed with Assange’s carefully orchestrated roll-out of the stolen emails.

The amount of power Assange wields is breathtaking. And the amount of power he thinks he should wield is even bigger. He is the nightmare combination of the extreme ego and extremist libertarianism of the digital elite, intervening in world events as a major player accountable to no one … in support of Donald Trump.

If it is true that the hackers were Russian, or even more explosively tied to Putin, that would make a trio of Trump-Putin-Assange vs. Clinton. But the Russian connection is an allegation at this point. The allegation that somehow “the Russians” did this adds to other recent allegations about Trump’s connections to Putin which as far as I can tell have been verified.

We are wading into very murky waters here. Global brinksmanship. Sabers are rattling. Blocks are shifting and forming. Is England in Europe or out? Will the US defend Europe from Russia or not?

Putin in Russia. Xi in China. And Trump up in the polls in the US.

Wow.

Lonely and Scary Times for Sexual Diversity in Indonesia

A recent New York Times editorial decried new laws against nongovernmental organizations that promote human rights and democracy in China, India, Egypt and elsewhere. In China, the new law comes as part of a broader package of restrictions which have essentially shut down the vibrant experimental music scene which I visited and performed in last October. The venues at the center of the scene just a short while ago are now closed. The organizer of my tour has decided that the current political climate makes it impossible for him to book shows. There is no question in the minds of young Chinese musicians that even though this law deals specifically with NGOs, it targets social freedoms of all kinds, like the freedom to make music.

After China I went to Indonesia, where the state soon launched an orchestrated and vicious campaign of homophobia.The Vice President instructed the United Nations Development Program to cut funding to LGBT-rights education programs. TV and radio programs that portray queer lives as “normal” were banned. There were calls for LGBT people to be barred from employment, from university, and even killed. The Minister of Defense called the LGBT community “a form of proxy war” more dangerous than nuclear warfare. And so on.

This campaign is the Indonesian manifestation of the same drive to control civil society that led to the laws in China and elsewhere decried by the New York Times. Indonesia has used not laws but state-incited violence to maintain their desired level of social control. The current campaign against the queer community falls squarely within this tradition.

Queers in Indonesia have a rational basis for fearing for their lives. In the recent past, similar state-run efforts to incite violence erupted into mass violence against religious and ethnic minorities in which thousands were killed. And it was only fifty years ago that a military government directed a wave of mass murder that killed somewhere between five hundred thousand and two million people. So things like making hiding places and evacuation plans are on the to-do list of queer Indonesian activists.

Sadly, none of the musicians and artists I met in Indonesia felt any sense of connection to the plight of their queer compatriots. To the contrary, musicians would repeat the talking points of the homophobia campaign almost verbatim: this was all the fault of the queer community itself: asking for too much too fast; being too militant; pushing for gay marriage; and not respecting traditional Indonesian values. Certainly the musicians and artists saw little connection between sexual diversity rights and, for example, the relatively new social space they themselves were claiming as young people making art and music far outside the bounds of what is commonly understood to be traditional in Indonesian, and living defiantly non-mainstream lifestyles in a country vexed by an increasingly aggressive religious conservatism.

In fact, sexual diversity activists have not pushed for gay marriage in Indonesia. What they have tried to do more than anything is exist. Most of their activism goes into supporting each other in some way or other, in this poor and marginal country within which they are even poorer and more marginal than most.

As for traditional Indonesian values, Indonesia has one of the longest and best documented traditions of sexual diversity in the world. In just the island of Sulawesi, pre-Islamic culture recognized five genders, not two. The novelty of what the state and conservative Islamic groups claim to be traditional Indonesian values was thrown into sharp relief in a recent incident involving Facebook. A government minister demanded that social media platforms remove any emojis “that smack of LGBT.” Facebook then censored the account of a young Indonesian woman who posted old photographs of topless Indonesian women. Facebook claimed to have acted to protect traditional Indonesian values, but the account holder found the photos by searching on Google for historical photos of Indonesian women. The campaign to protect “Indonesian values” has succeeding in protecting Indonesians from their own history.

The fact that young Indonesian artists and musicians sitting in coffee houses late into the night talking art and politics feel angry and threatened about the attempt to eradicate memory of the fact that many Indonesian women recently went topless, yet dismiss as unimportant the attempt to eradicate all memory of sex, love, and gender in Indonesia that strayed from what is acceptable to today’s conservative Islam – this fact is a reflection of how thoroughly the state controls the sexuality narrative in Indonesia. Indonesia’s queers are left on their own. Their rights and their plight is not part of the discussion of the defense of civil society in Asia – not among the power elite like the New York Times, and not among their natural local allies in Indonesia.

It is a lonely place to be.

There is a CAMPAIGN TO RAISE FUNDS FOR THE INDONESIAN QUEER COMMUNITY HERE. If you live in a place where ¡queers can live comfortable and easy lives, you might think about sending some money.

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With Vinolia Wakijo, Sexual Diversity hero of Yogyakarta