Maquina Lectora

Notes of a curious mind

Category: Politics (Page 2 of 5)

Thirteen Days – The Cuban Missile Crisis, October 1962 by Robert F. Kennedy

U-2 was a remarkable plane. It was designed to operate at 70,000 feet (about 21,000 metres), higher and for longer periods than any other aircraft since then. It was equipped with large-format cameras, finer that any made before, designed by Edwin Land, a flamboyant genius and Harvard dropout who had already invented the Polaroid.

In October 1962, a U-2 flying above Cuba photographed nuclear missile sites being built in secret by the Soviet Union. John F. Kennedy was stunned by the provocation. For the past year his administration was making efforts to establish better relations with the USSR. The installation of ballistic missiles in Cuba represented an existential threat to America.

It was the beginning of the Cuban crisis – a confrontation between the two giant atomic nations, the United States and the U.S.S.R which “brought the world to the abyss of nuclear destruction and the end of mankind.”

Thirteen days is Robert F. Kennedy’s personal perspective about this significant period in history. Bob Kennedy, brother and trusted advisor of the President, ovides a behind the scenes, sensitive and insightful account of the events, the tense debates and the ethical questions that took place from 16 October to 28 October, 1962. 13 dates during which the world held its breath.

On October 28, 1962, Khrushchev agreed to turn his ships carrying more arms back and to remove the missiles already stationed on the island. The world was able to breathe a big sigh of relief. After more than a half century, nuclear weapons still pose a real threat.

In this little book, Bob Kennedy remind us that a leader’s supreme quality, is the responsibility to consider the effect of his/her actions on others.

The Good Immigrant. What it means to be a person of ethnic minority in Britain today.

Here’s the truth of the matter,’ says Musa Okwonga. ‘I find racism boring.’

Musa Okwonga, is one of the 21 British black, Asian and minority ethnic writers, poets, journalists and artists that have contributed in this important collection of essays that explores what it means to be a person of ethnic minority in Britain today.

I don’t like labels. I don’t use them. Individuals are defined by several characteristics, nationality, gender, religion, profession, etc. Colour or race do not necessarily define an individual.  Terms like BAME (British black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) put everyone in the same pot by erasing huge cultural differences between individuals. That said, terms like BAME are a necessity. They exist because society recognises that racial prejudices and discrimination is a fact. We may live in a multicultural country, but this does not mean that a BAME person is accepted.  Studies show that throughout the UK, young black unemployment is close to 50%, and around two-fifths of people from ethnic minorities live in low-income households, twice the rate for white people.

The Good Immigrant is a crowdfunding project. It is funded directly by readers through the new website, Unbound. It is a new way, quite promising I would like to think, way of publishing. The book emerged out of a comment on a Guardian article. It is a book “of what it means to be a person of colour” in Britain now. What it means to be ‘other’ in a country that doesn’t accept you.  “The constant anxiety we feel as people of colour to justify our space, to show that we have earned our place at the table, continues to hounds us”, says the editor of the book, the writer Nikesh Shukla.

The Good Immigrant is not a comfortable read, does not meant to be. It is an important collection of poignant, angry, humorous, challenging, eye-opening stories.

This changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein

“You have been negotiating all my life.” said the Canadian college student Anjali Appadurai, addressing the assembled government negotiators at the 2011 United Nations climate conference in Durban, South Africa. In 2011, Anjali was twenty-one years old.

The international response to climate change was launched in 1992, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, with the signing of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  The Earth Summit convention committed countries to stabilise “greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”. It set a voluntary goal of reducing emissions from developed countries to 1990 by 2000, a goal the most countries did not met. Our governments wasted years fudging numbers and squabbling over start dates, perpetually trying to get extensions.  In the meantime, the emissions form fossil fuels, instead of reducing, have significantly increased. The history of climate change policy is full of missed targets and broken promises.

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America, by Melissa Harris-Perry

What means to be a black woman and an American citizen?  This is the question that Melissa Harris-Perry tries to answer in Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America.

Sister Citizen is a multi-layered book about the complexities in the lives of African American women.  About what it feels like to be a citizen in America when you are a black woman, in a body that it has been racialized and gendered in a way that
produces shame, fear and distress.

There are some broad ideas in the book, particularly the notion of politics recognition and visibility of the black woman in the American society and politics. ‘Recognition’, says Harris-Perry, ‘is a useful framework because it emphasises the interconnection between individuals and groups. Individuals from disempowered social groups desire recognition for their group but also want recognition of their distinctiveness from the group.’

Taking recognition seriously means understanding the correct relations between the state and its citizens. Citizenship is membership in a community and a nation. Citizenship is bound with recognition. Harris-Perry argues, that black women in America are frequently not recognised for what they really are. Their bodies, their minds, are invisible to many whites who do not see them as individuals with distinctive talents, accomplishments, and burdens. The myth of strong black woman has formed a crooked image and contributed to the misrecognition of black women by denying them their humanity.

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You must learn to listen to the land…..

“…and I mean really listen, a young Palestinian from Balata Refugee Camp told me”

A Land without Borders is a journey that lasted more than a year, around West Bank, including East Jerusalem. In a series of 12 chapters, the Israeli journalist and author Nir Baram recounts his journey and discussions with people from diverse backgrounds – Israeli and Palestinians – throughout the country from Palestinian refugee camps, to Israeli settlements and from crossings like Kalandia to Al-Aqsa Temple Mount. He provides a direct, honest, painful even shocking overview of the misery and violence and the impacts of occupation on communities, families and individuals across the West Bank.

Baram offers a new insight into a conflict that lasts fifty years and reveals a troubling situation of Israel-  both Palestinian and Israeli. At the beginning of his book Nir Baram poses three questions:

  1. Had the West Bank become a different place since the 1967 war?
  2. Where the two states solution implementable anymore?
  3. Were Israelis and Palestinians acknowledging the core of the conflict?

By now more than 550.000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank and they are spreading further partly through outposts. In the meantime, Palestinians continue to face serious threats, destruction to homes, loss of land, assets and livelihoods, forced displacement and restrictions on freedom of movement, insecurity and psychological distress.  Palestinians, natives of Jerusalem, do not have the same rights as Jews. Separating by the wall, the Palestinians districts are not accessible to ambulances services or waste collection. Palestinians are tread as second class citizens.

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The Reproach of Hunger by David Rieff

There has been a considerable reduction in extreme poverty over the last 25 years. The number of people living in extreme poverty worldwide has reduced by more than 50 percent. Still, according to most recent estimate of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization,  233 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are hungry or undernourished  and 795 million people are hungry worldwide.

The causes of poverty are varied; rapid population growth, harmful economic systems, local conflicts and deterioration in the environment, have a negative effect on families’ income. Poverty is the principal cause of hunger and undernourishment and malnutrition. Poor people are forced to devote a far higher share of income to buying food. A sudden fall on their income or rising food prices can have devastating effects. Without enough food, people are likely to become ill and unable to work to earn a sufficient income to buy food. They start reducing the quality of the food they eat and spend less on their other needs, such as clothes, shelter, medicines, school for the children.

Following the success of the Millennium Development goals (MDGs), UN have now committed to a bolder set of objectives, one of them is to eradicate poverty by 2030 and to do so in an environmentally sustainable way. It is a worthy and expensive objective. The role of philanthropy and private-public ventures in achieving this goal is crucial.

The Reproach of Hunger: Food, Justice and Money in the 21st Century is a dense, detailed and rather pessimistic analysis of the global food crisis.  David Rieff exposes the challenges and the contradictions of modern philanthropy and addresses some big questions.

There is now a new generation of wealthy technocrat philanthropists who offer a big part of their wealth to solve a few of the world’s problems.  Philanthrocapitalism or venture philanthropy, as it is known, because of its alignment with core business interests, has become a formidable and innovative force for social good. But it also raises some difficult questions, argues David Reiff. He emphasises that he does not doubt philanthrocapitalists’ sincerity to do good, but he is also criticising their un-democratic operations. David Rieff doesn’t claim to have all the answers. He argues that the solution to hunger is political but he falls into the trap of moralism to justify his position.  This is a convincing way to reason if you can get your readers to accept your moral rules. But people do not generally agree on the same moral rules.

This is a thorough and well-researched book, rife with references on poverty, inequality, international development, and the “charitable industry”, but it lacks  perspective and it misses clarity.

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