Sunday, August 30, 2020

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Why Protest Tactics Spread Like Memes

When items like umbrellas and leaf blowers are subverted into objects of resistance, they become very shareable.


A video frame captured in Hong Kong in August 2019 shows a group of pro-democracy protesters, smoke pluming toward them, racing to place an orange traffic cone over a tear-gas canister. A video taken nine months later and 7,000 miles away, at a Black Lives Matter protest in Minneapolis, shows another small group using the same maneuver. Two moments, two continents, two cone placers, their postures nearly identical.


Images of protest spread on social media reveal many other matching moments from opposite sides of the world, and they often feature everyday objects wielded ingeniously.

Leaf blowers are used to diffuse clouds of tear gas; hockey sticks and tennis rackets are brandished to bat canisters back toward authorities; high-power laser pointers are used to thwart surveillance cameras; and plywood, boogie boards, umbrellas and more have served as shields to protect protesters from projectiles and create barricades.

An Xiao Mina, an author, internet researcher and alumnus of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, has studied these echoes. In the summer of 2014, when the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong and the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States that followed the police killing of Michael Brown were taking place, she noted that the protesters spoke a common language, even sharing the same hand gesture characterized by the chant “Hands up, don’t shoot.”

July 31, 2020

With Natalie Shutler,Written by Jonah Engel Bromwich,Video by 
Shane O’Neill

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The Shepherd’s Story of the Bond of Friendship

A translation of Hans Christian Andersen’s “Venskabs-pagten” by  Jean Hersholt.


We've recently made a little journey, and already we want to make a longer one. Where? To Sparta, or Mycenae, or Delphi? There are hundreds of places whose names make the heart pound with the love of travel. On horseback we climb mountain paths, through shrubs and brush. A single traveler looks like a whole caravan. He rides in front with his guide; a pack horse carries luggage, tent, and provisions; a couple of soldiers guard the rear for his protection. No inn with soft beds awaits him at the end of a tiring day's journey; often the tent is his roof in nature's great wilderness, and the guide cooks him his supper-a pilau of rice, fowl, and curry. Thousands of gnats swarm around the little tent. It is a miserable night, and tomorrow the route will head across swollen streams. Sit tight on your horse lest you are washed away!

What reward is there for these hardships? The greatest! The richest! Nature reveals herself here in all her glory; every spot is history; eye and mind alike are delighted. The poet can sing of it, the painter portray it in splendid pictures; but neither can reproduce the air of reality that sinks deep into the soul of the spectator, and remains there.

The lonely herdsman up on the hills could, perhaps, by the simple story of an event in his life, open your eyes, and with a few words let you behold the land of the Hellenes better than any travel book could do. Let him speak, then! About a custom, a beautiful, peculiar custom. The shepherd in the mountains will tell about it. He calls it the bond of friendship, and relates:

Our house was built of clay, but the doorposts were fluted marble pillars found on the spot where the house was built. The roof almost reached the ground. Now it was black-brown and ugly; but when it was new it was covered with blooming oleander and fresh laurel branches fetched from beyond the mountains. The walks around our house were narrow. Walls of rock rose steeply up, bare and black in color. On top of them, clouds often hung like white living beings. I never heard a bird sing here, and never did the men dance here to the sound of the bagpipe; but the place was sacred from olden times. Its very name reminded of that, for it was called Delphi. The dark, solemn mountains were all covered with snow. The brightest, which gleamed in the red evening sun the longest, was Parnassus. The brook close by our house rushed down from it, and was also sacred, long ago. Now the donkey makes it muddy with its feet, but the current rolls on and becomes clear again.

Monday, August 10, 2020

This Is Not Beirut

This is not Beirut.

But no—this is Beirut! A city broken and wounded, whose blood spreads like glass over the eyes. A city paved with glass, as though glass had turned into eyes, plucked out and filling the streets. In Beirut, you must tread on your eyes in order to see. And when you see, you are struck blind. A city of glassy blindness, of ammonium nitrate, and of the searing blast that swallowed the city and split the sea.

This is not Beirut.

For forty-five years we have been saying of Beirut that it is not Beirut. We lost Beirut while searching for it in the deficient past. “The City of Is-No-More”—that is the name we gave it, for, starting with the destruction of the civil war, we have attributed everything in Beirut to its past. This week, however, as we fell to the ground before the monster that exploded at the city’s port, we discovered that it was the destruction itself that was our city, these houses stripped naked were our houses, these groans were our groans.

This is Beirut! Everyone, tear your eyes away from the ground and behold your city reflected in these ruins! Stop searching for its deficient past! Do not stand and wonder, for the explosion that turned your city to rubble was neither coincidence nor mere accident. It was your truth that you have tried so long to hide. A city handed over to thieves to violate, a city where the authority of idiots holds sway and which has been ripped apart by warlords working for foreign powers.

A city that exploded because it lay prone on the bed of its drawn-out death agonies.

Don’t ask the city who killed it. Those who killed it were those who rule it. Beirut knows this, and all of you know it.

The killers of the city are the ones who tried to kill the 17 October Revolution by forming a government of technocratic puppets and who unleashed the dogs of repression on the streets.

The killers of the city are the communal party Mafias that took the country over and proclaimed the civil war ended by converting its menacing ghost into a political regime.

The killers of the city are the ones who elected Michel Aoun as president, converting the catastrophe created by oligarchy into farce.

Your city—our city—is dying. Twenty-seven hundred tons of ammonium nitrate, confiscated and placed in the port six years ago, exploded, and the flesh of its children was scattered. What monstrous nonchalance and stupidity!

In the past, the warlords of the civil war buried chemical wastes in our mountains. Today we discover that the nonchalance of these same warlords, who have transformed themselves into the Mafia bosses of this era that they declared to be that of “national peace,” has allowed Beirut to be smashed to pieces by something approaching an atomic bomb.

They sit on thrones fashioned from the bones of our dead, our poverty, and our hunger.

Hyenas! Are you not yet done with tearing our corpses apart?

Be gone! The time has come for you to be gone! Leave us be with our country that you have dragged into the abyss! Go to the Caribbean with its islands and its ocean, to which you have smuggled the people’s wealth and property so that you can live in luxury there!

Are you not yet done?

Your death knell has struck. Our death, and the torment in our hearts, have today become the weapon with which we shall face the coming days of darkness and humiliation.

We shall face you with our charred corpses and with our bleeding faces, and you will drown with us in the abyss of this destruction.

Listen well! Beirut has blown us apart to proclaim your demise, not ours.

Beirut is not its past. Beirut is its present. It bleeds blood, not honor. Stop talking! Shut up! Nothing you have to say concerns us. We want just one thing from you, to be gone.

Go—you, and the bankers, and everyone else who has gambled with our lives all the way to Hell!

Then we shall bind Beirut’s wounds. We shall tell our city that it will return to us, poor but joyful. Its soul shall be renewed, and, though weakened by its wounds, it will hold us tight to its pain and wipe away the tears from our eyes.

The time of the bastards who have ruled our lives for so long is over!

We don’t want your masters’ oil, we don’t believe your mullahs, and we don’t give a damn about your sects!

Take your sects with you and get out of our way!

The young women and men of the 17 October uprising must know that the time for total revolution has come.

Arise, and let us take vengeance for Beirut!

Arise, and build a homeland for yourselves from the ruins!

Arise, and redraw Beirut in the ink of its children’s blood!


Elias Khoury

Translated by Humphrey Davies

Ethel Léontine Gabain and John Copley


Ethel Léontine Gabain and John Copley printing  at Hampstead, 1930’s


 Ἐλπῆνορ, πῶς ἦλθες ...


Τοπίο θανάτου. Η πετρωμένη θάλασσα τα μαύρα κυπαρίσσια
το χαμηλό ακρογιάλι ρημαγμένο από τ’ αλάτι και το φως
τα κούφια βράχια ο αδυσώπητος ήλιος απάνω
και μήτε κύλισμα νερού μήτε πουλιού φτερούγα
μονάχα απέραντη αρυτίδωτη πηχτή σιγή.

Ήταν κάποιος από τη συνοδεία που τον αντίκρισε
όχι ο πιο γέροντας: Κοιτάχτε ο Ελπήνωρ πρέπει να ’ναι εκείνος.
Εστρίψαμε τα μάτια γρήγορα. Παράξενο πώς θυμηθήκαμε
αφού είχε η μνήμη ξεραθεί σαν ποταμιά το καλοκαίρι.
Ήταν αυτός ο Ελπήνωρ πράγματι στα μαύρα κυπαρίσσια
τυφλός από τον ήλιο και τους στοχασμούς
σκαλίζοντας την άμμο μ’ ακρωτηριασμένα δάχτυλα.
Και τότε τον εφώναξα με μια χαρούμενη φωνή: Ελπήνορα
Ελπήνορα πώς βρέθηκες ξάφνου σ’ αυτή τη χώρα;
είχες τελειώσει με το μαύρο σίδερο μπηγμένο στα πλευρά
τον περσινό χειμώνα κι είδαμε στα χείλη σου το αίμα πηχτό
καθώς εστέγνωνε η καρδιά σου δίπλα στου σκαρμού το ξύλο.
Μ’ ένα κουπί σπασμένο σε φυτέψαμε στην άκρη του γιαλού
ν’ ακούς τ’ ανέμου το μουρμούρισμα το ρόχθο της θαλάσσης.
Τώρα πώς είσαι τόσο ζωντανός; πώς βρέθηκες σ’ αυτή τη χώρα
τυφλός από την πίκρα και τους στοχασμούς;

Δε γύρισε να ιδεί. Δεν άκουσε. Και τότε πάλι εφώναξα
βαθιά τρομάζοντας: Ελπήνορα που ’χες λαγού μαλλί
για φυλαχτάρι κρεμασμένο στο λαιμό σου Ελπήνορα
χαμένε στις απέραντες παράγραφους της ιστορίας
εγώ σε κράζω και σα σπήλαιο αντιλαλούν τα στήθια μου
πώς ήρθες φίλε αλλοτινέ πώς μπόρεσες
να φτάσεις το κατάμαυρο καράβι που μας φέρνει
περιπλανώμενους νεκρούς κάτω απ’ τον ήλιον αποκρίσου
αν η καρδιά σου επιθυμεί μαζί μας νά ’ρθεις αποκρίσου.

Δε γύρισε να ιδεί. Δεν άκουσε. Ξανάδεσε η σιωπή τριγύρω.
Το φως σκάβοντας ακατάπαυστα βαθούλωνε τη γη.
Η θάλασσα τα κυπαρίσσια τ’ ακρογιάλι πετρωμένα
σ’ ακινησία θανατερή. Και μόνο αυτός ο Ελπήνωρ
που τον γυρεύαμε με τόση επιμονή μες στα παλιά χειρόγραφα
τυραννισμένος απ’ την πίκρα της παντοτινής του μοναξιάς
με τον ήλιο να πέφτει στα κενά των στοχασμών του
σκαλίζοντας τυφλός την άμμο μ’ ακρωτηριασμένα δάχτυλα
σαν όραμα έφευγε και χάνονταν αργά
στον αδειανό χωρίς φτερά χωρίς ηχώ γαλάζιο αιθέρα.


Τάκης Σινόπουλος, 1951