The Refugee Crisis is About Us | Ai Weiwei’s Human Flow

was born in 1957, the same year China purged more than 300,000 intellectuals, including writers, teachers, journalists and whoever dared to criticise the newly established communist government. As part of a series of campaigns led by what was known as the anti-rightist movement, these intellectuals were sent to labour camps for “re-education”.

Because my father, Ai Qing, was the most renowned poet in China then, the government made a symbolic example of him. In 1958, my family was forced from our home in Beijing and banished to the most remote area of the country – we had no idea that this was the beginning of a very dark, long journey that would last for two decades….


A Reckoning for Our Species

Timothy Morton wants humanity to give up some of its core beliefs, from the fantasy that we can control the planet to the notion that we are ‘above’ other beings.

[Morton’s terminology is “slowly infecting all the humanities”, says his friend and fellow thinker Graham Harman. Though many academics have a reputation for writing exclusively for their colleagues down the hall, Morton’s peculiar conceptual vocabulary – “dark ecology”, “the strange stranger”, “the mesh” – has been picked up by writers in a cornucopia of fields, from literature and epistemology to legal theory and religion. Last year, he was included in a much-discussed list of the 50 most influential living philosophers. His ideas have also percolated into traditional media outlets such as Newsweek, the New Yorker and the New York Times….

Morton’s theories might sound bizarre, but they are in tune with the most earth-shaking idea to emerge in the 21st century: that we are entering a new phase in the history of the planet – a phase that Morton and many others now call the “Anthropocene”.]

Read the full story here | The Guardian

The Norway that Never Was: Slavoj Zizek on the Refugee Crisis

[In escaping their war-torn homelands, the refugees are possessed by a dream. Refugees arriving in southern Italy do not want to stay there: many of them are trying to get to Scandinavia. The thousands of migrants in Calais are not satisfied with France: they are ready to risk their lives to enter the UK. Tens of thousands of refugees in Balkan countries are desperate to get to Germany. They assert their dreams as their unconditional right, and demand from the European authorities not only proper food and medical care but also transportation to the destination of their choice. There is something enigmatically utopian in this demand: as if it were the duty of Europe to realise their dreams – dreams which, incidentally, are out of reach of most Europeans (surely a good number of Southern and Eastern Europeans would prefer to live in Norway too?). It is precisely when people find themselves in poverty, distress and danger – when we’d expect them to settle for a minimum of safety and wellbeing – that their utopianism becomes most intransigent. But the hard truth to be faced by the refugees is that ‘there is no Norway,’ even in Norway.

We must abandon the notion that it is inherently racist or proto-fascist for host populations to talk of protecting their ‘way of life’. If we don’t, the way will be clear for the forward march of anti-immigration sentiment in Europe whose latest manifestation is in Sweden, where according to the latest polling the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats have overtaken the Social Democrats as the country’s most popular party. The standard left-liberal line on this is an arrogant moralism: the moment we give any credence to the idea of ‘protecting our way of life’, we compromise our position, since we’re merely proposing a more modest version of what anti-immigrant populists openly advocate. And this is indeed the cautious approach that centrist parties have adopted in recent years. They reject the open racism of anti-immigrant populists, but at the same time profess that they ‘understand the concerns’ of ordinary people, and so enact a more ‘rational’ anti-immigration policy.

We should nevertheless reject the left-liberal attitude. The complaints that moralise the situation – ‘Europe is indifferent to the suffering of others’ etc – are merely the obverse of anti-immigrant brutality. They share the presupposition, which is in no way self-evident, that the defence of one’s own way of life is incompatible with ethical universalism. We should avoid getting trapped in the liberal self-interrogation, ‘How much tolerance can we afford?’ Should we tolerate migrants who prevent their children going to state schools; who force their women to dress and behave in a certain way; who arrange their children’s marriages; who discriminate against homosexuals? We can never be tolerant enough, or we are always already too tolerant. The only way to break this deadlock is to move beyond mere tolerance: we should offer others not just our respect, but the prospect of joining them in a common struggle, since our problems today are problems we share.

Refugees are the price we pay for a globalised economy in which commodities – but not people – are permitted to circulate freely. The idea of porous borders, of being inundated by foreigners, is immanent to global capitalism. The migrations in Europe are not unique. In South Africa, more than a million refugees from neighbouring states came under attack in April from the local poor for stealing their jobs. There will be more of these stories, caused not only by armed conflict but also by economic crises, natural disasters, climate change and so on. There was a moment, in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, when the Japanese authorities were preparing to evacuate the entire Tokyo area – more than twenty million people. If that had happened, where would they have gone? Should they have been given a piece of land to develop in Japan, or been dispersed around the world? What if climate change makes northern Siberia more habitable and appropriate for agriculture, while large parts of sub-Saharan Africa become too dry to support a large population? How will the redistribution of people be organised? When events of this kind happened in the past, the social transformations were wild and spontaneous, accompanied by violence and destruction.

Humankind should get ready to live in a more ‘plastic’ and nomadic way. One thing is clear: national sovereignty will have to be radically redefined and new methods of global co-operation and decision-making devised….]

Read the full article | LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS

Also… Norway Copies Danish Anti-Refugee Adverts | THE LOCAL


After just a handful of migrant crossings here in the first half of this year, the number “exploded” in September, with 420 asylum seekers pedaling into northern Norway at Storskog, said Stein Kristian Hansen, the police superintendent in charge of the Norwegian border post|

Birth of the Prison: A Military-​Medical Gaze and the US-​Mexico Border

[…. In The Politics of Health in the Eighteenth Century, Michel Foucault traces the historical shift in medical perception towards the poor by which the poor became no longer the objects of a charitable, ecclesiastical concern for justice but instead an economic, political and medical liability of the nation-​state. For Foucault this transition from an ecclesiastical model of care based on justice in the 17th century to our more familiar economic, security-​centric model of care that emerged in the 18th century thus forms the politics within which our perceptions of the poor are circumscribed today. In The Birth of the Clinic, Foucault had observed that this peculiar economic-​political analysis of the sick poor also extended to the relationship between the examiner and the examined where, in order to be cured, the sick patient must submit to being objectified, her suffering made a spectacle for the benefit of public health and the economic interests of the nation. This implicit contract between the doctor and patient created in the space of the clinic, Foucault observed, was a “tacit form of violence” foisted upon “…a sick body that demands to be comforted, not displayed.” [4] The modern medical gaze, for Foucault, was thus constituted from the moment that the sick poor were transformed into a useful asset and economic liability for the liberal state.

In the context of US-​Mexico Border Patrol, perceptions and policies towards immigrant refugees fleeing the poverty and violence of Mexico and Central America had, in the 1990s, for the most part resisted the transition Foucault marks between a more humanitarian and security-​centric model of care. Indeed, throughout the 1990s, Border Patrol adopted what was referred to as a “Good Samaritan” policy towards the sick and injured, wherein agents were restricted from taking into custody subjects who were sick or injured, and were prevented from attempting to establish alienage (undocumented status) in cases where injury or illness was suspected. As political geographer Jill Williams has documented, pre-​9/​11 Border Patrol security policy and attitudes towards undocumented immigrants had, in general, respected the boundary between enforcement and the humanitarian concern for helping the sick and injured asylum seeker.[5]Before 9/​11, Williams notes, border patrol agents viewed sick or injured border crossers as ‘off-​limits’, since the unofficial “hands-​off” approach to migrant care adopted by the border security apparatus prevented agents from getting involved in the responsibility of delivering medical care to the undocumented border-​crossers. Rather than attempting to establish an injured persons’ alienage – and thus begin the process of removal and repatriation – Border Patrol policy in the 1990s held that “(W)here an alien’s injured condition precludes our determination of alienage or deportability, or where an alien’s injured condition renders the alien unlikely to escape, we cannot and do not take custody at the scene.”[6]Medical care, in the eyes of 1990s border security, was the responsibility of non-​governmental humanitarian and church-​based organizations. In short, the sick or injured 1990s border-​crosser remained for the Border Patrol off-​limits to the security apparatus of the state….]

Read the full article | Critical Legal Thinking


Multitude of Aftershocks | Nepal Earthquake survivors Face Threat from Human Traffickers Supplying Sex Trade

[Tens of thousands of young women from regions devastated by the earthquake inNepal are being targeted by human traffickers supplying a network of brothels across south Asia, campaigners in Kathmandu and affected areas say.

The 7.8-magnitude quake, which killed more than 7,000 people, has devastated poor rural communities, with hundreds of thousands losing their homes andpossessions. Girls and young women in these communities have long been targeted by traffickers, who abduct them and force them into sex work.

The UN and local NGOs estimate 12,000 to 15,000 girls a year are trafficked from Nepal. Some are taken overseas, to South Korea and as far as South Africa. But the majority end up in Indian brothels where tens of thousands are working in appalling conditions.]

Read the full article | THE GUARDIAN


With Nothing but Bare Hands and a Pick

This video, posted on YouTube by Syrian activists, appears to show a recovery team frantically digging to rescue a buried toddler in Aleppo, reportedly after government bombings last Wednesday. Read more | The Independent

Emerging and Re-Emerging Infectious Diseases

There is a large number of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases worldwide, according to WHO and CDC (Center for Disease Control – USA). Among them: cholera, diphtheria, hepatitis C, malaria, meningitis, HIV/AIDS, the plague (yes), rabies, smallpox, tuberculosis (with an outbreak in India, and a new drug-resistant variation), and yellow fever.

See the full list of emerging and re-emerging diseases at: CDC | Emerging infectious diseases