করোনাকালের করুণা খান

এই গল্পের সাথে কেউ কোন চরিত্র মিলাইবেন না। যে মিলাইবেন দায় তার… কয়া দিলাম কিন্তু….
করোনার প্রকোপে আর কিছু না হোক আমি যে পাগল হইতেছি এইটা তার বড় প্রমান। সো পাগলে কী না বলে…🧟‍♂🧟‍♂🧟‍♂🧟‍♂
Nahida Ashrafi_ by rahnuma ahmedNahida Ashrafi. Photo: Rahnuma Ahmed

করোনাকালের করুণা খান

নাহিদা আশরাফী

-আপা, শইলডা বালো?  একখান কতা ছিলো।
করুণা খান চোখ বড় বড় করে চম্পার দিকে তাকালেন, শইলডা কি চম্পা? বলেছি না ঠিক করে কথা বলবে? বলো শুভ সকাল আপা, আপনার শরীর ভালো? বলো বলো। কষ্ট হলেও সময় নিয়ে বলো। তবু শুদ্ধ বলবে। যাও চা নিয়ে এসো, আর রান্না শেষ করে আবার আমাকে শুদ্ধ করে কথাটা শোনাবে। তোমাদের নিয়ে আর পারি না।
কিছুটা বিরক্তি নিয়ে বিছানা থেকে উঠে এক ঘন্টা বাথটাকে বডিশপের শাওয়ার জেলে নিজেকে ডুবিয়ে রেখে রেডি হয়ে নীচে নামলেন তিনি । আড়াইটায় তার ওয়ার্কারদের সাথে মিটিং ফিক্সড।যদিও তা ভিডিও কনফারেন্স এর মাধ্যমে। গতকালের সিদ্ধান্ত নিয়ে দারুণ খোশমেজাজে আছেন । নিজের আপত প্রতিভায় নিজেই মুগ্ধ!
খাওয়া শেষ করে ডাইনিং টেবিল ক্লিয়ার করতে করতেই চা নিয়ে ঢুকলো চম্পা। কাচুমাচু করে দাঁড়িয়ে থাকতে দেখে নিজে থেকেই চম্পাকে কথাগুলো শুদ্ধ করে বলতে বল্লেন৷ চম্পা গলা কেশে শুদ্ধ করে বলার চেষ্টা করলো –
-আপা, আপোনার শরীলটা ভালো?
– উফ! আপোনার নয় চম্পা বলো আপনার। আর শরীলটা নয়। বলো শরীরটা৷ বলো, আবার বলো
চম্পা এই দুই লাইনেই আটকে রইলো টানা পনেরো মিনিট। তারপর খানিকটা খুশী হলেন মালকিন৷
– ওকে, এবার পরের লাইন বলো। তাড়াতাড়ি বলো। আমার আবার মিটিং আছে৷
– জ্বি আপা বলেছিলাম কি আমার পাঁচদিন ধ…ধ… ধইরা।
– উহু ধইরা নয়, বলো ধরে। হ্যাঁ বলো। পাঁচ দিন ধরে কি?
– জ্বর। গলায় বেদনা।
– আহা বেদনা না। বলো ব্যাথা।…  কী!!!
ব্যাথা শব্দটা উচ্চারণের সাথে সাথে ভয়ংকর শীতল এক স্রোত তার শিরদাঁড়া বেয়ে নামতে লাগলো। তিনি চিৎকার করে উঠলেন,
– তুই আগে বলিস নাই ক্যান? বেয়াদব কোথাকার।
– আপা ক্যাম্নে বলবো?  সকাল থেকে শুদ্ধ শুদ্ধ খেলায় আপ্নে আমারে যে ধমকের উপ্রে রাখছেন।
এই চম্পা তার বিছানা ঝাড়পোঁছ করেছে, রান্না করেছে, কাবার্ড থেকে শাড়ি নামিয়ে দিয়েছে, শাওয়ারের পর চুল আচঁড়ে দিয়েছে। আর এখন চা ও বানিয়েও খাইয়েছে৷ উফ!  আর ভাবতে পারে না করুণা খান। এক দৌড়ে বাসা থেকে বেরিয়ে ডাক্তারের কাছে যাবেন বলে গাড়িতে ওঠেন। চেনা পরিচিত সব ডাক্তার কল করে ফেলেছেন ততক্ষণে। হল কী এই মরার দেশে। কেউ ফোন ধরে না। ভাবতে ভাবতে অফিসে ঢোকেন। কী আশ্চর্য!  কেউ নেই কেন? ফিরে গিয়ে ড্রাইভারকে জিজ্ঞেস করতে যাবেন দেখেন ড্রাইভার নেই চম্পা ড্রাইভিং সিটে বসে দাত কেলিয়ে হাসছে। তিনি ভয়ানক আর্তচিৎকার দিয়ে গাড়ি থেকে ছিটকে  রাস্তার দিকে যান। গেটের কাছেই ড্রাইভার কাসেমের দেখা পান। কাশেম তার জন্য লাশবাহী গাড়ি এনে তাতে  উঠতে বলছে। সব কী পাগল হয়ে গেল। লাশবাহী গাড়িতে তিনি কেন উঠবেন?
তিনি দৌড়াতে শুরু করলেন,
দৌড় মিইয়ে এসে জোরে হাঁটায় রুপ নিলো।
জোরে হাঁটাও মিইয়ে এসে একসময় বসে পড়লেন।
পিছনে তাকিয়ে দেখলেন একদল মানুষ তাকে অনুসরণ করে হাটছে। হাঁটছে তো হাঁটছে… সামনে গোরস্তান, ডানে চম্পা,বায়ে কাশেম মিয়া ও তার লাশবাহী গাড়ি।
সরো, সরে যাও। দূরে যাও। আমার কাছে কেউ আসবে না বলছি। আমাকে ছোঁবে না। সাইকিক পেসেন্টের মত ভয়াবহ চিৎকার করতে লাগলেন তিনি।
– কই যাবো ম্যাডাম ? ডেকে এনে চলে যেতে বলছেন? একবার এলে আর তো যাওয়া যায় না । এটা তো একমুখী রাস্তা। তাই ঠিক করেছি সবাই একসাথে এই লাশবাহী গাড়িটাতেই থাকবো৷ ভালো হবে না ম্যাডাম?  কী বলেন?
তিনি হাতপা ছুঁড়ে মানসিক রোগীর মত চিৎকার করতে থাকেন। দিগবিদিক ছুটতে থাকেন কিন্তু বুঝতে পারেন না কোন দিকে যাবেন।
এগিয়ে আসছে চম্পা…
এগিয়ে আসছে কাশেম মিয়া…
এগিয়ে আসছে একদল পায়েচলা শ্রমিক…
আর তিনি একটু একটু করে এগিয়ে যাচ্ছেন গোরস্তানের দিকে …
দূরে কোথাও কৈলাশ খেরের গান বাজছে,
’জয় জয় কারা জয় জয় কারা সোয়ামি দে না সাথ হামারা।’

The Price of Social Distancing

Rahnuma forwarded me Laily’s wrenching FaceBook post. Her father is dying, far away in a UK hospital. Heart breaking, holding back tears, she and her family watch from afar. Unable to touch, to hold, to caress the person who is dearest to them. This is what Corona means in real terms. It was through her research on one of my heroes, the peasant leader Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani, and later through them staying at the Pathshala Guest House, that we got to know her. Bhashani’s principle of putting nation before self and his simple lifestyle is a very distant reality from the ruling politicians of today. Despite its pain, Laily’s post reminded me of my own dad and my childhood. I remembered dad resting in his easy chair. His belly just the right slope for us kids to use as a living slide. We used to call him bhalluk (bear), and every day as he rested after lunch, my cousins and I would line up behind the easy chair, clamber up to his shoulders and slide down his belly. Mum would freak out, as my dad had osteomyelitis as a child and had never fully recovered. His shins were always exposed and very fragile. Quite apart from wanting him to rest, the idea that we might aggravate his injury worried her. Abba was unperturbed, happy to be teddy bear to a room full of kids. We’d run back to the end of the queue to slide down again. We were always tired before Abba ever did. We didn’t think of it as physical contact in those days. When Abba died, I remember feeling the stubble that had grown on his soft skin, as I stroked him before we laid him down.

Newcomers to Bangladesh are overwhelmed by the generosity of our village folk. They love it when strangers clasp their hands, but are somewhat unsure when seconds, sometimes minutes pass, before their hands are reluctantly released. Years ago, when we at Drik were trying to improve our English skills, we struck a deal with the local office of the British Council. Unable to pay for the expensive English classes, we negotiated a barter. We would do their photography. They in turn, would teach us English. It wasn’t just language skills though, it was learning English culture. One of the first things our English teachers told us was to release the hand quickly! Prolonged physical contact could make the English squirm.

Workers sleeping in shipbreaking yard in Rahman Yard in Chittagong. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
Continue reading “The Price of Social Distancing”

We will not be silenced

By Mike van Graan

Let us remind you”

They say

These new tyrants

Grown deaf with their own propaganda

Drunk on the spoils of incumbency

And their patrons’ gifts

Blinded by the arrogance

Of too-long

Too-much power

It is us who brought you freedom

If it were not for us

You would not have the right to write

What you like

To say as you please

To insult us with your poems

Your naked paint

Your twisted tunes and

Crass cartoons

Show some respect”

They say

These bloated 1994 pigs

Ten years late to the Orwellian trough

Fast having made up for time lost

Caricatures of that which once they said they loathed

Would have us silent

In the face of betrayal

Would have us genuflect

To them as lords

When first they promised they would serve

Hear this

You thieves of dreams

You robbers of hope

Who seek to balaclava your looting

With radical rhetoric

That springs hollow from

Your empty hearts

Your false smiles

Your crooked tongues

Ours are freedoms we carry in our hearts

They were not yours to give

They are not yours to take

The freedoms written in our hearts

Will find expression

On the streets

In our workplace

On our stages

In the voting booths

So make your hay

While your sun goes down

For soon our onward march

Will footnote you to history

5-year-old Palestinian schools Israeli soldiers on War Crimes

1-minute video: 5-year-old Palestinian schools Israeli soldiers on War Crimes

5-year-old Janna Ayyad shames Israeli soldiers with Sami Yusuf?s poetry:

All your armies, all your fighters,
All your tanks, and all your soldiers,
Against a boy holding a stone.
Standing there all alone,
In his eyes I see the sun.
In his smile I see the moon.
And I wonder, I only wonder.
Who is weak, and who is strong?
Who is right, and who is wrong?
And I wish, I only wish,
That the truth has a tongue!

The Ruin of Indonesian Society

Indonesia: 50 Years After the Coup and the CIA Sponsored Terrorist Massacre. The Ruin of Indonesian Society

indonesia

Last year, I stopped travelling to Indonesia. I simply did… I just could not bear being there, anymore. It was making me unwell. I felt psychologically and physically sick.

Indonesia has matured into perhaps the most corrupt country on Earth, and possibly into the most indoctrinated and compassionless place anywhere under the sun. Here, even the victims were not aware of their own conditions anymore. The victims felt shame, while the mass murderers were proudly bragging about all those horrendous killings and rapes they had committed. Genocidal cadres are all over the government.

Continue reading “The Ruin of Indonesian Society”

Moving opening ceremony of "Kalpana's Warriors"

Remarkable: Noam Chomsky

Absolutely stunning: Jess Worth. New Internationalist Magazine (Oxford)

We had a fabulous opening with moving recitation of Kabita Chakma’s poem “I will defy” by Aungmakhai ChakMarium Rupa and Rahnuma Ahmed. Many of the warriors were present in person. We were sad to miss Saydia Gulrukh, but her presence was felt.

I will resist, I shall defy
Will you do as you please?
You turned my home into sand
It was a forest where I stand
You made daylight go dark
Left it barren never a spark
I will resist. I shall defy
You strip me of my land
On my women, your hand
No longer shall I see
No longer will I be
Abandon, neglect, rage
A throbbing womb, my stage
I curl, I tear asunder
Awake, I search, I wander
I am who I am
And I will resist
I shall defy
Poem by Kabita Chakma
Translation by Shahidul Alam
Thanks to Arshad Jamal and Chris Riley for their support and Mohammad Mohsin Miah for helping with the printing. ASM Rezaur Rahman curated the show and the entire teams from Drik’s Publication, Gallery, Photography and Audio Visual Department as well as the volunteers from Pathshala did a wonderful job. We shall resist and we will continue to defy.

#kalpana ‘s Warriors by #Shahidul Alam at #Drik Gallery #photography #art #bangladesh #CHT #rights #dhaka #dhanmondi

A photo posted by Shahidul Alam (@shahidul001) on


Opening of "Kalpana's Warriors" at Drik Gallery II. Photo by Habibul@Drik
Opening of “Kalpana’s Warriors” at Drik Gallery II. Photo by Habibul@Drik

 

Opening of #kalpanaswarriors at #Drik gallery #dhaka #dhanmondi #photography #bangladesh #cht #rights A photo posted by Shahidul Alam (@shahidul001) on

Kalpana's Warriors_Exehibition Opening Kalpana's Warriors_Exehibition Opening Kalpana's Warriors_Exehibition Opening Kalpana's Warriors_Exehibition Opening Kalpana's Warriors_Exehibition Opening Kalpana's Warriors_Exehibition Opening Kalpana's Warriors_Exehibition Opening Kalpana's Warriors_Exehibition Opening Kalpana's Warriors_Exehibition Opening Kalpana's Warriors exhibition opening at Drik Gallery

Kalpana's Warriors

Remarkable: Noam Chomsky

Absolutely stunning: Jess Worth. New Internationalist Magazine (Oxford)

E-Invitation card

They told me you were quiet. But I felt the rage in your silence. That when you spoke, they rose above themselves. But I felt their fear. That they held you amidst them. But I felt their loneliness. They pointed to the Koroi tree where you would all meet. The banyan tree under which you spoke. Ever so powerfully. They pointed to the mud floor, where you slept. I touched the mat that you had rested upon, and I knew I had found the vessel that must hold your image.

New settlements with glistening tin roofs dot the hillsides. According to Amnesty International as of June 2013 the Bangladeshi government had still not honored the terms of the peace accord nor addressed the Jumma peoples concerns over the return of their land. Amnesty estimate that there are currently 90,000 internally displaced Jumma families. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
New settlements with glistening tin roofs dot the hillsides. According to Amnesty International as of June 2013 the Bangladeshi government had still not honored the terms of the peace accord nor addressed the Jumma peoples concerns over the return of their land. Amnesty estimate that there are currently 90,000 internally displaced Jumma families. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

They had tried to erase you, your people, your memory. They had torched your homes and when coercion failed, when you remained defiant, they took you away, in the dead of night.

Abandoned typewriter in the room where Kalpana and her comrades used to meet. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
Abandoned typewriter in the room where Kalpana and her comrades used to meet. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

The leaves burned as the soldiers stood and watched. The same leaves they weave to make your mat. The same leaves I shall burn, to etch your image. Will the burning mat hold your pain? Will the charred leaves hold your anger? Will the image rising from the crisp ashen leaves reignite us? Will you return Kalpana?

Pahari protestors could previously go to the GOC's office to express their grievances. Today, in Khagrachori, they no longer have that access. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
Pahari protestors could previously go to the GOC’s office to express their grievances. Today, in Khagrachori, they no longer have that access. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
The Shapla Mor in Khagrachori was also a centre of protest. Pahari protesters are no longer allowed there, though Bangali settlers have access, says Kabita Chakma, former president of the Hill Women's Federation. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
The Shapla Mor in Khagrachori was also a centre of protest. Pahari protesters are no longer allowed there, though Bangali settlers have access, says Kabita Chakma, former president of the Hill Women’s Federation. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

For nineteen years I have waited, my unseen sister. For nineteen years they have waited, your warriors. Pahari, Bangali, men, women, young old. Was it what you said? What you stood for? Was it because you could see beyond the land, and language, the shape of one?s eyes and see what it meant to be a citizen of a free nation? For pahari, bangali, bihari, man, woman, hijra, rich, poor, destitute, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Atheist, Agnostic, Animist.

Posters in the meeting room where Kalpana and her comrades used to gather. Khagrachori. CHT. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World
Posters in the meeting room where Kalpana and her comrades used to gather. Khagrachori. CHT. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

You had reminded us that a nation that fought oppression, could not rule by oppressing. That a people that fought for a language, could not triumph by suppressing another’s. That the martyrs who died, so we might be free, did not shed their blood, so we could become tyrants. That we who overcame the bullets and bayonets of soldiers, must never again be ruled through the barrel of a gun.

That Kalpana is what binds us. That is why Kalpana, you are not a pahari, or a woman or a chakma or a buddhist, but each one of us. For there can be no freedom that is built on the pain of the other. No friendship that relies on fear. No peace at the muzzle of a gun.

These Kalpana are your warriors. They have engaged in different ways, at different levels, sometimes with different beliefs. Some have stayed with you from the beginning. Others have drifted. They have not always shared political beliefs. But for you Kalpana, my unseen sister, they fight as one.

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The Process

The process involved in creating these images are rooted to the everyday realities of the hill people, the paharis. Repeatedly, the interviewees talked of the bareness of Kalpana’s home. That there was no furniture, that Kalpana slept on the floor on a straw mat.

Rather than print on conventional photographic media, we decided we would use material that was part of pahari daily lives. The straw mat became our canvas. The fire that had been used to raze pahari homes, also needed to be represented, so a laser beam was used to burn the straw, etching with flames, the images of rebellion.

It was the politics of this interaction that determined the physicality of the process. The laser beam consisted of a binary pulse. A binary present on our politics. In order to render the image, the image had to be converted in various ways. From RGB to Greyscale to Bitmap, from 16 bit to 8 bit to 1 bit. To keep detail in the skin tone despite the high contrast, the red channel needed to be enhanced. The Resolution and intensity and duration of the laser beam needed to be brought down to levels that resulted in the straw being selectively charred but not burnt to cinders.

A screen ruling that separated charred pixels while maintaining gradation had to be carefully selected. And then, working backwards, a lighting mechanism needed to be found that broke up the image into a discrete grid of light and dark tones, providing the contrast, the segmentation and the gradation, necessary to simulate the entire range of tones one expects in a fine print. This combination of lighting, digital rendering, printing technique and choice of medium, has led to the unique one off prints you see in this exhibition. A tribute to a unique woman that had walked among us.

Raise Shit

downtown eastside poem of resistance
by Bud Osbornosborn

“…the myth of the frontier is an invention that rationalizes the violence of gentrification and displacement”
neil smith 1996

“these pioneers in the gradual gentrification of the downtown eastside say their hopes for a middle-class lifestyle are undermined by the tenderloin scene down the street”
doug ward 1997

“prominent amid the aspects of this story which have caught the imagination are the massacres of innocent peoples, the atrocities committed against them and, among other horrific excesses, the ways in which towns, provinces, and whole kingdoms have been entirely cleared of their native inhabitants”
bartolome de la casas 1542

there is a planetary resistance
against consequences of globalization
against poor people being driven from land they have occupied
in common
and in community
for many years

and while resistance to and rapidity of global gentrification
differs according to specific local conditions
we in the downtown eastside
in the poorest and most disabled and ill community in Canada
are part of the resistance
which includes
the zapatistas in chiapas mexico
the ogoni tribe in nigeria
and the resistance efforts on behalf of and with
the lavalas in Haiti
the minjung in korea
the dalits in india
the zabaleen in Egypt
the johatsu in japan
and these are names for
the floor
the abandoned
the outcasts
the garbage people
the homeless poor
and marginalized people

and gentrification has become a central characteristic
of what neil smith perceives as
“a revengeful and reactionary viciousness
against various populations accused of ‘stealing’ the city
from the white upper classes”
and this viciousness and violence
brought to the downtown eastside
by friendly predators
such as builders planners architects landlords bankers and politicians
is like violence brought to our community
by other predators
by johns and oblivion seekers
by sensationalizing journalists
by arrogant evangelizing Christians
predators like
developers and real estate agents
who remind of no one so much
as gilbert Jordan
the serial killer
who came down here repeatedly
and seduced bribed and bullied
10 native women
into drinking alcohol until they were dead
and one woman
revived after a night with jordan
though pronounced dead on arrival
at st pauls hospital
described jordan as
“a real decent-looking person
very mild-mannered
a real gentleman
he looked like a school teacher
white shirt and tie
I trusted him”

and in our situation in the downtown eastside
the single weapon we wield
like the weapon native indian prophets
like the weapon ancient hebrew prophets
used in situations of vicious displacement
and threatened destruction of their communities
was the word
words against the power
of money and law and politics and media
words against a global economic system

the word ‘hebrew’ originally designated not a racial class
but a social class
of despised drifters and outcasts
who existed on the margins of middle eastern cultures
and those advocates
those ancient hebrew prophets said
“the wealthy move the boundaries
and the poor have to keep out of the way
the poor spend the night naked, lacking clothes
with no covering against the cold
the child of the poor is exacted as security
from the city comes the groan of the dying
and the gasp of the wounded crying for help
damn those who destroy the huts of the poor
plundering their homes instead of building them up
those who tear the skin from off our people
who grind the faces of the poor
who join house to house
who add field to field
until there is room for no one but them
those who turn aside the way of the afflicted
who trample upon the oppressed”

and the native prophets of the americas who said
“when these times arrive
we will leave our homes like dying deer
the land will be sold and the people will be moved
and many things that we used to have in this land
will be taken from us
we have been made to drink
of the bitter cup of humiliation
they have taken away our lands
until we find ourselves fugitives vagrants and strangers
in our own community
our existence as a distinct community
seems to be drawing to a close
our position may be compared
to a solitary tree in an open space
where all the forest trees around have been prostrated
by a furious tornado”

we have become a community of prophets in the downtown eastside
rebuking the system
and speaking hope and possibility into situations
of apparent impossibility

a first nations’ man recently told me
he had come to the downtown eastside to die
he heard the propaganda that this is only a place of death disease and despair
and since his life had become a hopeless misery
he came here specifically to die
but he said
since living in the downtown eastside
what with the people he has met
and the groups he has found
he now wants very much to live

and his words go directly
to the heart of what makes for real community
a new life out of apparent death
and this is what we speak and live
with our words our weapons

our words
like bolts of lightning in a dark night
lighting our way
our words
like tears like rain like cries like hail from our hearts
feeling with each other in our suffering for each other
our words
angry as thunder exploding in the ears of those
who would ignore or dismiss or inflict upon us
what they in their ignorance think is best for us
our words defiant as streetkids in a cop’s face
our words
brilliant and beautiful as the rainbow I saw
spanning our streets
our words
of resistance and comfort and commitment
like mountains
our words
prophetic on behalf of the hard-pressed poor

our words
buttons tshirts fliers inserts newsletters pamphlets
posters spraypaint slogans stickers placards speeches
interviews essays poetry songs letters chalks paints
graffiti

for as one prophet said
“when all is dark the murderer leaves his bed
to kill the poor and oppressed”

our words
to block the murderers’ paths

our words spoken by
jeff and muggs and eldon and kathleen and frank and maggie and
carl and lori and duncan and margaret and mark and sonny and ken
and fred and sheila and liz and tora and terri and ian and chris and
bob and leigh and jen and shawn and darren and sarah and
irene and cathy and ann and lorelie and nick and linda and lorraine
and john and Joanne and judy and allison and sharon and deb and
marg and dan and jean and don and libby and carol and lou and dayle
and mo and barb and ellen and sandy and torn and luke and gary and
travis and bruce and paul and deidre and jim and so many others

our words and our presence create
a strange and profound unity
outraged at each other
disappointing each other
misinterpreting each other
reacting against each other
resenting each other
unhealed wounds dividing us
when to be about unity
is to be caught in a crossfire
of conflicting ambitions understandings and perspectives

still our words and presence create
a strange and profound and strong unity
as in memory of
the long hard nerve-wracking battles we’ve fought
for the carnegie centre
against the casino
for crab park
against brad holme
for zero displacement by-laws
against hotel evictions
for poor people living in woodwards
against condominium monstrosities
and for our very name
the downtown eastside
removed from city maps
the most stable community and neighbourhood in Vancouver
suddenly disappeared
but recovered through struggle
our name reclaimed
but the meetings
the pressure

the downtown eastside community
besieged and beleaguered
strung-out and dissipated
running on constant low grade burn-out fever
meetings and meetings and meetings
a dozen fronts to fight at the same time
deal with one and a dozen more appear
another dehumanizing media story
or new condo threat
a hundred needs crying out all at once
a hundred individuals with emergencies crying for a response
sirens and sirens and sirens
construction noise
automobile mayhem
a disabled population
a poor and ill population
criminalized
up against globalization
pressure cooker emotional atmosphere
excruciating questions and dilemmas
so much happens so fast

how much compromise?
how to organize?
where to fight?
more sirens and screams and break-ins
welfare cuts
more murders and suicides
more bodies on the sidewalks and in the alloys and parks
space and places for poor people shrinking
and the ambiguities of advocacy
the rumours
the well-founded paranoias
the political manipulations
exploitations confusions deliberate obfuscations
and seductions of the gentrification system
the backroom deals somewhere else
in office towers and government offices
meetings and more meetings
and yet
beneath the ostensible reason
for attending another goddamned meeting
is that which truly holds us together
holds and has held every real community together

love

love
not as passive abstraction or a commodity privatized
but love
as fiery personal and collective social justice passion
love as in our public celebrations
love as in our public grieving
love going past fatigue again
love taking risks in the face of uncertainty
love as stubbornness sticking to community principles
love as willingness to go one more length
to make one more leaflet
love sitting down together one more time
love saying hello to hate and fear and goodbye
love as resistance tolerance and acceptance
love
for this poor beloved community reeling from global upheavals
love
taking on the consequences of a system producing
more wounded
more damaged
more excluded
more refugees
more unemployed and never-to-be-employed
and love’s
immense capacity to care
and love as courage

like the other day near main and hastings
an old white man headed across hastings
in the middle of the block
traffic roared and blasted in both directions
the old man was using a cane and moving very slowly
his eyes fixed somewhere beyond
it sure looked like he’d never make it
but would become
another vehicular maiming or death down here
and then a native fellow
waiting at the bus stop
like a matador dodging furious bulls
dodged into the traffic
and stopped it
using his body as a shield
and escorted the old white man
safely to the curb

words and courage and love and hope and unity
if only we had
the means for self-determination
instead

“the real estate cowboys … also enlisted the cavalry of city government for
… reclaiming the land and quelling the natives, in its housing policy,
drug crackdowns, and especially in its parks strategy, the city devoted
its efforts not toward providing basic services and living opportunities
for existing residents but toward routing many of the locals and
subsidizing opportunities for real estate development”
wrote neil smith about the lower east side of new york

sounds familiar literal
like the day the police showed-up on horseback
to patrol the 100 block of east hastings
horses on the sidewalk
where some of the most ill and suffering human beings
most drugged and drunk and staggering human beings
slipped and stumbled through the huge horse turds
left laying on the sidewalk

I remember attending a kind of gentrification summit
called by a vancouver city planner
to examine the city’s victory square redevelopment plan
david ley jeff sommers nick blomley and chris olds
reached a similar conclusion
the plan does nothing to prevent
displacement and gentrification
but when recently reminded of this verdict
the city planner still pushing his plan said
“I don’t care if god and david ley …”

and that’s just it
the necessity for heeding
the prophetic blast and rallying cry
delivered by larry campbell
now the provincial coroner
in the carnegie centre last summer

“raise shit’ he said

raise shit against the kind of “urban cleansing”
gentrification unleashes
it’s a war
against the poorest of the poor
1000 overdose deaths in the downtown eastside in 4 years
highest rate and number of suicides in vancouver
lowest life expectancy for both men and women
fatal epidemics of aids and hepatitis c
and lack of humane housing
identified as a major factor
in all this violence against us

raise shit
when a friend of mine a gay native man tells me
“I’ll try anything to get a decent home
I’m gonna become a mental case
I’ll even go into an institution
if it’ll help me get a decent home”

raise shit
when both young people and hardcore addicts either deliberately infect
themselves with h.i.v. or take no precautions to prevent infection so that
they have a better chance at obtaining housing income health care and
meals

raise shit
when a city cop in a newspaper column says “the locals were at their best
fighting and howling” and calls drug addicts
“vampires”

raise shit
when an extremely influential north american
theoretician of displacement george kelling
is brought to vancouver by the business people and the police
to define and divide our community against itself
against panhandlers and prostitutes

raise shit
when a city planner involved with the convention centre scam says “the
voters of vancouver can easily live with 20 to 25 000 homeless people and
not even notice it”

and when I think of raising shit
I think of this basketball team I once played on
composed of middle-aged beat-up alcoholics and addicts
from the streets
who’d been sober for awhile
and we entered a city recreational league
against teams that were
younger stronger faster healthier and more skilled
and though we lost most games by a large margin
we determined that
no matter what the score
each hotshot team we played would know

by their fatigue and sweat and bruises
that they had been in a game
that they were up against an opponent
we knew we couldn’t out jump or outrun those teams
but we sure could raise shit
better than they could
and amazingly we actually won a few games

to raise shit is to actively resist
and we resist with our presence
with our words
with our love
with our courage

we resist
person by person
square foot by square foot
room by room
building by building
block by block

we resist
because we are a community
of prophets of activists of advocates
of volunteers and agency workers
and we you and I us
are all that stands between
the unique vulnerable troubled life-giving and death-attacked
community of the downtown eastside
we are all that stands between our vast community of thousands
and those who would
gentrify and displace and replace it
replace with greed
the singular leadership we have here
where it is said we lack
a single dynamic individual leader
but we have
the most powerful leader there is
the most effective leader we can have
in this grave situation
our community
our community itself
has emerged as our leader
the downtown eastside community itself
leads us
and it is to our credit that this is so
for it is from our
prophetic courageous conflictual and loving unity
that our community
raises shit
and resists

Pictures that question the world

BY PAWEL KUCZYNSKI

ArtFido
Good set, except that Israel is curiously missing.

Pawel Kuczynski is a Polish artist who specialises in images that make you think hard about the world we live in.

Continue reading “Pictures that question the world”

Behind the Gaza ceasefire Israel and Hamas talk potential peace

By James m. Dorsey Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Synopsis

Israel and Hamas have significantly moderated their attitudes towards one another despite official denials. Indirect talks in Cairo designed to achieve a lasting ceasefire between the two war weary parties effectively constitute negotiations about the parameters of a potential future peace agreement. Continue reading “Behind the Gaza ceasefire Israel and Hamas talk potential peace”