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My Proposed Article on Bristol’s Slavery Reparations – Ignored and Rejected by the Press?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/04/2021 - 8:20pm in

Okay, I’ve blogged about it before when Bristol City council first passed the motion all those weeks ago. These were a couple of pieces about the motion, brought by Green councillor Cleo Lake, and seconded by Labour’s deputy mayor and head of equalities Asher Green, calling for the payment of reparations for slavery to all of Britain’s ‘Afrikan’ community. I criticised this because this motion effectively means the payment of reparations to the African peoples responsible for the raiding and enslavement, and their sale to outsiders. It wasn’t just European, who purchased and enslaved the continent’s peoples, but also Muslims, Arabs and Indians. The motion falsifies history by reducing a complex situation to simple Black and White – White Europeans versus Black Africans. I believe Lake and Craig are playing racial politics here by trying to create a unified Black British community by presenting all British Blacks as the victims of White, European, British slavery when this was not historically the case.

The motion also raises other issues by setting the precedent for formerly enslaved peoples to sue their former captors. Thus Black Africans could also demand reparations from Morocco, Algeria, Turkey and the successors to the great Arab caliphates of the Middle Ages – perhaps Saudi Arabia? – Oman and other states for their enslavement. As could Europeans. 2.5 million White Europeans were carried off into slavery by the Barbary pirates from Morocco and Algiers. Would the councillors, who supported and passed Lake’s and Craig’s slavery reparations motion also support similar motions for the payment of reparations to these people from their former masters?

I wrote to Lake and Craig raising these issues, and so far have received no reply. Perhaps they’re too busy. Craig has received 6,000 racially abusive messages, which I condemn, so perhaps she hasn’t looked at it because it’s been lost in all the other mail she’s received about it.

I tried to get the press interested in this issue, and so submitted an article about it. I first sent it to the Guardian, and then to a number of right-wing newspapers when I heard nothing from the Groan. I thought the right-wing press would be perhaps be more likely to publish it, and it contradicts some of the attitudes and assumptions of the pro-Black activists that newspapers like the I, Independent and Observer share and promote. Along with the article itself, I sent the following cover message.

Dear Sir,

I would be very grateful if you would consider the attached article laying out some of the problems with the motion passed a few weeks ago in Bristol calling for the payment of reparations for slavery to the Black community. There are a number of difficult and complex issues raised by this, which I do not believe have been adequately discussed in the press. One of these is that the motion calls for both Africans and Afro-Caribbean people to be granted reparations. While I’ve no doubt that Black African people are as disadvantaged as people of West Indian heritage, there is a problem here as historically it was African peoples who did the dirty business of slaving, selling them not just to Europeans, but also to Muslim, Arab and Indian slavers. It would therefore be unjust for people the British enslave or who actively collaborated in slaving to receive compensation for slavery.

Other problems with the motion are that it sets a precedent for other peoples to demand reparations for their enslavement. White Europeans would, following this logic, also be justified in demanding reparations for the enslavement of 2 1/2 million Europeans by the Barbary pirates. And Black Africans would also be entitled to ask Muslim and Arab nations for reparations for their enslavement of them.

I also consider the motion to be racially divisive, as it seeks to create a unified Black community, who are represented as equal victims, against Whites, who are considered slavers, thus simplifying a complex historical issue.

I hope you will consider the article suitable, and look forward to your reply.


And here’s the article itself.

Slavery Reparations: Not All Blacks Were the Victims, Some Were the Slavers

A few weeks ago Bristol Council passed a motion calling for the payment of reparations to the Black British community for their enslavement. The motion was introduced by Cleo Lake, a former mayor and the Green Councillor for Cotham in the city, and seconded by Asher Craig, the city’s deputy mayor and head of equality. The reparations were to be both financial and cultural. It was moved that they should take the form of proper funding for projects to improve conditions for the Black community and raise them to the same, sustainable level of equality with the rest of British society. These projects were to be led and guided by Black organisations themselves. And the reparations should include all ‘Afrikans’, by which eccentric spelling Councillor Lake meant both Afro-Caribbean people and Black Africans. The motion was passed 47 to 11. It was supported by the Greens, Labour and the Lib Dems. Only the Tories opposed it. They said that while it came from ‘a good place’, the motion was ‘divisive’. In fact, there are a number of reasons why it should be opposed. The most important of these is that Black Africans were hardly innocent of slaving themselves.

Slavery existed in Africa long before the European invasion, and Britain wasn’t the only country that traded in enslaved Africans.  So did the Arabs, Ottoman Turks, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch. The first Black slaves in Europe were enslaved by Arabs and taken to al-Andalus, Muslim Spain. In addition to the transatlantic slave trade, there was also an Islamic slave trade to north Africa and Muslim nations in Asia. Although there were exceptions, Europeans did not directly enslave their African victims. Before the 19th century ‘Scramble for Africa’, powerful African states prevented Europeans from penetrating inland and seizing African territory. The European slave merchants were largely confined to specific quarters, rather like European ghettos, in these state’s main towns, from whom they purchased their human cargo. By the 19th century powerful African slaving nations, such as Dahomey, Whydah and Badagry had emerged in West Africa. In East Africa, the Yao, Marganja and Swahili peoples enslaved the people of other nations to sell to the Arabs. Some were purchased by the Imaum of Muscat, now Oman, for labour on his immensely profitable clove plantations in Zanzibar. It was to prevent Indian merchants from importing enslaved Africans into British India that the British government opened negotiations with the Imaum to halt the east African slave trade.

Part of the rationale for British imperialism was to stamp out the slave trade and slavery at its point of supply, and this was one of the causes of African resistance to British expansionism. The Mahdi’s rebellion in the Sudan, for example, was caused by the British attempting to abolish the Arab enslavement of Black Sudanese. It was to halt slaving by Dahomey that Britain fought a war against its king, Guezo. In some parts of Africa, slavery continued up to the 20th century because these countries had not been conquered by Europeans. The slave trade to Morocco continued to 1910 because the European powers had blocked the European invasion of that country. Slavery also persisted in Ethiopia, whose armies also preyed on the peoples of the surrounding African states, prompting a British punitive expedition in the 1880s.

This obviously presents problems for the payment of reparations to all sections of the Black British community, because some African nations weren’t the victims of White enslavement. They were the slavers. Someone once remarked on this situation that if reparations were to be paid, it should be by Africans compensating the Black peoples of the Caribbean and Americas.

And there are other problems with slavery reparations. If reparations were paid to Blacks for the enslavement of their ancestors, it would set a precedent for similar demands by other ethnicities. For example, up until the conquest of Algeria by France in the 19th century, White Europeans were captured and enslaved by Muslim pirates from Morocco and Algiers. About 2 ½ million people, including those from Bristol and the West Country, were carried off. The demand for reparations for the Black victims of slavery means that, by the same logic, White Europeans would also be justified in demanding reparations for the enslavement of their ancestors from those countries. At the same time, Black Africans would also be entirely justified in claiming reparations from the Muslim nations that enslaved them, such as perhaps Turkey or Saudi Arabia. But there have been no such demands, at least to my knowledge.

I don’t doubt that Black Africans in Bristol or elsewhere in the UK suffer the same problems of marginalisation, poverty, unemployment and discrimination as the rest of the Black population, nor that there should be official programmes to tackle these problems. And it is only fair and proper that they should be guided and informed by the Black community itself. But reparations cannot justly be paid to the Black community as a whole because of the deep involvement of some African peoples in slavery and the slave trade.

Furthermore, there’s a nasty, anti-White dimension to Lake’s motion. By claiming that all Blacks, both West Indian and African, were equally victims of the slave trade, she and her supporters seem to be trying to create a unified Black community by presenting all of them as the victims of White predation, simplifying a complex historical situation along racial lines.

I’ve written to councillors Lake and Craig about these issues, but so far have not received an answer. In Councillor Craig’s case, it may well be that my message to her got lost amongst the 6,000 abusive emails she is reported to have received. It is, of course, disgusting that she should suffer such abuse, and she has my sympathies in this. But this does not alter the fact that reparations for Black slavery raise a number of difficult issues which make it unsuitable as a means of improving conditions for Black Britons.

Well, I haven’t heard anything from any of the newspapers I submitted it to, not even an acknowledgement. It seems the news cycle has moved on and they’re not interested. But this doesn’t mean that the arguments against the motion are any less valid, and I thought people would like to read these arguments again for themselves, as well as about my efforts to raise them in the press.

Why India is Banking on Health Diplomacy to Grow African Footprint

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 05/04/2021 - 8:50pm in

India has stepped up its foreign policy re-engagement with African countries and has focused on health diplomacy.

Boris Says There’s No Money to Pay Nurses, But Has Millions to Spend on Atomic Weapons

Mike’s put up an excellent and disturbing article today, which shows very clearly where Boris Johnson’s priority’s really are. He’s planning to reverse the proposed reduction of Britain’s nuclear arsenal to 180 warheads and increase it instead to 260. As the peeps on Twitter have pointed out, this is a 45 per cent increase. It’s supposed to be in preparation for a possible terrorist attack using chemical or nuclear weapons by 2030. ‘Russ’, one of the critics of this insane proposal, has asked what Boris intends to do in the event of an attack like 9/11, when the terrorists came from four different countries. Would he launch those missiles at four different capitals? He states ‘Not a chance. Idiotic, dangerous, flashy bullshit.’

The question about 9/11 is a very good one. The vast majority of the plotters came from Saudi Arabia, and there is very, very strong evidence that responsibility for the attack goes all the way to the very top, to country’s present king or his head of intelligence. But George Dubya and Blair didn’t order reprisals against Saudi Arabia. Instead, we invaded Afghanistan. The country was indeed hosting Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the organisation responsible for it. But I’ve also heard that the Afghans denied all knowledge of the plot and offered to surrender bin Laden to the Americans, but were ignored. The American military were planning the possibility of invading Afghanistan several years before in order to control a planned oil pipeline passing through it.

Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was also accused of complicity with 9/11, and Blair was scaremongering about Hussein having weapons of mass destruction that could be launched within three quarters of an hour. This was also a lie. The real reason for the invasion was, once again, oil. The American and Saudi oil companies wanted Iraq’s reserves and its oil industry, while American multinationals also wanted to get their grubby mitts on the country’s state industries. The actual cost to the Iraqi people has been horrendous. The country’s tariff barriers were lowered as part of a plan to create the low tax, free market state the Neo-Cons dreamed about, with a result that every nation dumped their excess goods there, undermining its domestic businesses. The result was soaring bankruptcy and unemployment. The country’s welfare state was destroyed, as was the ability of women to pursue a career in safety outside the home. The country was riven by sectarian violence, and the mercenaries used as part of the invasion force ran amok, running drugs and prostitution rings. They also shot ordinary Iraqis for sport. The Allied forces also used depleted uranium and other highly toxic materials in their armaments, with the result that the country also has a horrendously high rate of birth defects.

And now Boris wants more nukes. Does he intend to use them on further victims of western imperialism, countries deliberately and wrongfully blamed for terrorist attacks just to further western geopolitical and commercial goals? Mike also suggests that it seems to him that Boris is planning to start some kind of war with a country on or near the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and would like to set off a few nukes to show how tough he is.

This is all too possible. The American radical magazine, Counterpunch, published an article a few years ago arguing that the American military was set on a policy of ‘full spectrum dominance’. This meant that it was to remain the world’s only superpower with the ability to destroy or conquer any other country that could threaten it. And it looked very, very much that Hillary Clinton, who claimed to be terribly offended by the treatment of Meghan Markle, was preparing for a war with China. Lobster has also published a very detailed article arguing that, despite the rhetoric and posturing about the Chinese threatening western security interests in the South China Sea, the Chinese actually aren’t any danger at all. But they do threaten the global American commercial power both in practice and at an ideological level. The Americans believe in deregulation and free trade, while in China capitalism is regulated and state-directed. The global struggle between America and China is partly about which model of capitalism should be dominant.

And then there’s the issue of whether you could ever use a nuclear bomb in the event of a terrorist attack. From the 1970s to historic Good Friday peace agreement in the ’90s, Northern Ireland and Britain suffered terrorist violence and bombings. In Ulster this was by Irish Nationalist and Loyalist paramilitaries, while in Britain the bombings were carried out by the IRA. Following 9/11, one of the critics of the invasion of Afghanistan or Iraq asked whether Britain would have used the same tactics of mass bombing and air strikes on Northern Ireland in response to the IRA’s terrorism. Of course we wouldn’t, although we did send troops there to suppress it. There’s a real possibility that, thanks to Brexit, the Good Friday Agreement could break down and Ulster could once again fall into violence and bloodshed. Which also raises the spectre of further terrorist bombings in Britain. Would Boris nuke Derry or Belfast in response? I doubt it. At the same time, many of the Islamist terrorists responsible for atrocities in Britain seem to be homegrown, Muslim Brits who come from ordinary, peaceful families, but who have been radicalised by Islamist propaganda on the Net or from some firebrand preacher in a British mosque. Obviously, Boris isn’t going to use it in Britain itself.

There’s also the danger that if Boris every uses them against a foreign enemy, it’ll pitch the world into a nuclear war that will end very quickly with the destruction of the planet. I can remember the late, great Irish comedian Dave Allen commenting on this in one of his shows on the Beeb during Reagan and Thatcher’s New Cold War of the 1980s. ‘Do you know,’ he said in his tobacco and whisky cured voice, ‘that there are enough nuclear weapons to blow up the world three times. Three times! Once is enough for me!’ It was a profound relief for millions around the world when Reagan and Gorbachev signed their arms limitation agreement in Iceland. That, and the collapse of Communism, promised the beginning of a better world, where we wouldn’t have to fear nuclear annihilation. Well, it was until India and Pakistan looked set to nuke each other later in the ’90s.

But now those dreams of a better, more peaceful world are fading as Boris once again wishes to send us all back to the days of Thatcher and the Cold War. Thatcher was vehemently in favour of keeping Britain’s nuclear deterrent. So much so that she falsified the results of an experiment to estimate the results of a nuclear war on Britain. The experiment showed that it would end with the country’s major cities reduced to nuclear cinders. This was too much for the leaderene, who had the parameters of the projection altered to give the results she wanted. But this still would have resulted in millions dead, and so she had the parameters altered again to show that Britain would have survived with minimal damage. By which time the whole exercise had to be scrapped as it was completely unreliable.

Michael Foot, the leader of the Labour party at the time, favoured unilateral nuclear disarmament. He was right, but the Tories and their puppet press viciously attacked him as some kind of fool or traitor, who would give in to the evil Commies. The complaint of many Tories was that he would give our nuclear weapons away. Unlike Maggie, the bargain basement Boadicea, as I think Roy Hattersley once called her.

It looks very much like Boris is playing the same game. He’s wrecking the economy, destroying the health service and welfare state, but he’ll have the right-leaning part of the British public praising him for standing up to those evil foreigners and protecting the country with nukes.

And all the while he’s claiming that there’s no money to give the nurses and other hardworking, front-line professionals anything more than what is in reality a derisory cut in wages. Which is clearly a lie. But it does remind me of what Goering once said:

‘Guns will make us powerful. Butter will make us fat.’

He’s following the Nazis in deliberately starving people while splashing the cash on arms.

For further information, see: Nuclear bomb announcement sends clear message: warmonger Johnson has cash to KILL, not heal | Vox Political (

How an Unloved Bird Captured a Community’s Heart

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 17/03/2021 - 7:00pm in

Flipping the bird

In India, populations of an endangered, so-ugly-it’s-beautiful stork have rebounded thanks to a community-driven conservation effort shepherded by “an army” of local women.

It started with Purnima Devi Barman, a wildlife biologist who has worked to shift negative attitudes about the garbage-picking birds in her home state of Assam. Knowing that the storks are viewed by some as a bad omen, she began holding traditional “baby showers” at their egg-filled nests, inviting local women to participate. The events included prayers and meals, as well as lessons from Barman about the birds’ ecological importance. Barman appealed to the attendees’ maternal instincts. Soon, dozens of women were attending the events. 

storkCredit: Ali Arsh / Flickr

Barman’s empathy-building approach has been a success. To date, about 10,000 women have taken part in the baby showers, and some 400 participate daily in organized conservation efforts. Now, the number of storks in Assam has tripled from 400 to 1,200, and the number of egg-bearing nests in many communities has increased by a factor of ten. Perhaps most impressive, in some villages the bird’s image has been rehabilitated from reviled pest to symbol of community pride. “[Barman] not only brought the species back from the brink, but she empowered women in a way that they probably hadn’t been empowered before,” said one participant.

Read more at Yes! Magazine

From the ashes

A decade of war in northern Uganda left the village of Okere Mom-Kok destroyed. Now, it is being reborn as a town powered by solar energy and social enterprises.

The town’s rejuvenation began with an investment from Ojok Okello, a local resident who had fled when his father was killed and has since returned after working at NGOs abroad. He invested about $50,000 of his own money to start up a school, a community bank and a health clinic, as well as infrastructure for solar power and clean water. Now, the town is generating its own revenue. Students pay their school fees in maize and firewood, and shea butter — the smell of which now permeates Okere — is produced from the town’s shea trees. An investment club provides loans for locals to start their own enterprises. 

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“There’s a lot of improvement,” one resident told the Guardian. “We have more buildings now and even the people are increasing.” For Okello’s part, he believes in the power of local control in revitalization efforts. “I don’t want this project to be at the mercy of some white people,” he said. “I want us to be responsible for shaping the destiny and the future of the project.”

Read more at the Guardian

An education in prevention

At Jesuit High School in Sacramento, days start with nose swabs followed by ping pong while the students await the results of their rapid Covid-19 tests. It’s just one component of a broad and rigorous approach to preventing outbreaks that have allowed the school of 800 boys to operate almost Covid-free for two months. 

The Los Angeles Times looks at this and other examples of schools in the capital area defying the odds to keep their student bodies protected, even while open for in-person learning. The common threads are thorough testing, strict social distancing and a sense of social trust in which everyone, from students to parents to teachers, agrees to do the right thing. 

At St. Mary’s parochial school just outside the city, the playground is divided so kids can play together in small groups, and an intercom message has replaced morning assembly. But perhaps most powerfully, there’s a tacit and pervasive understanding that prevention depends on everyone doing the right thing. “No one testing positive wants to be forced to admit taking a secret vacation and being ‘the reason the school closed,’” said the principal.

Read more at the Los Angeles Times

The post How an Unloved Bird Captured a Community’s Heart appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Indian Vaccine Manufacturers: U.S. Use of Wartime Export Controls Threatens World Vaccine Production

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 16/03/2021 - 3:55am in

Will the U.S. relax export controls that threaten global vaccine production? What's the next step for U.S. vacccine diplomacy?

‘Disturbing’: Rich Nations Vaccinating Person Per Second While Blocking Effort to Share Recipe With Poor Countries

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 15/03/2021 - 9:55pm in

Rich nations continue to block a propsed waiver of intellectual property rights to allow global sharing of vaccine tecnology and production.

The Purposeful Beauty of India’s ‘Saree Libraries’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 13/03/2021 - 1:54am in

In a small village in the state of Gujarat, India, Amari Kanti Parmar stands in a spacious room admiring a dazzling selection of 50 sarees hanging neatly on a wooden stand. She plucks a teal saree from the rack, pure silk with a paisley pattern, and hangs it on her right shoulder, staring at the full-length mirror on the wall.

“Perhaps a lighter shade would work better,” she muses. Her eyes quickly land on another: a mustard-colored nine-yard in Chanderi silk with a luxurious golden border. “Yes, this would be fit for the morning function at my sister’s wedding,” she tells Kamala Arvind Chauhan, standing next to her to help her decide. “I agree,” Chauhan says and moves on to suggest an additional maroon saree with zari embroidery for the wedding dinner. 

saree librarySaree libraries provide access to top-end sarees for women who cannot otherwise afford the items critical to every Indian woman’s ability to participate fully in social life.

Parmar neatly folds both the sarees, stowing them in her sling bag as Chauhan documents the items in a long notebook. No money exchanges hands. “I’m sure you’ll get a lot of envious looks at the wedding,” Chauhan teases. “Don’t worry if you are a little late returning them.”

With a spring in her step, Parmar steps out of Chauhan’s home.

Launched by the Ahmedabad-based NGO Gramshree Trust in December 2020, this saree library in the village of Chadotar is part of a growing network across the state. One of the latest additions to Gramshree’s lineup of 11, eight of which are in rural areas like Chadotar, the libraries provide access to top-end sarees for women who cannot otherwise afford the items critical to every Indian woman’s ability to participate fully in social life. 

In India, women buy several showy sarees to be worn in the weeks following their wedding. Each of Gramshree’s libraries stock 30 to 50 such pieces.

Living in a small community, Parmar is invited to at least six to eight weddings each year, where her absence could strain important relationships. At the same time, the pressure for women to dress well is high. Wedding rituals in India last three to four days and women are expected to wear a new outfit for every function. Quality attire is an investment in social capital. Other social events such as births and mundan ceremonies — the ritual shaving of a toddler’s head — also require festive attire that Parmar is unable to buy with her day laborer’s income of 3,000 rupees (about USD$40) per month.

Gramshree operates 11 saree libraries, eight of which are in rural areas like Chadotar.

In the past, Parmar purchased used party-wear sarees for 100 or 150 rupees ($1.37 or $2.06), which were mostly worn out and lasted just a couple of washes. But now she regularly makes trips to Chauhan’s house to admire the extravagant selection, retailing between 2,000 to 20,000 rupees ($27.50 to $275), and has earmarked a few for upcoming events. There is no renting fee; borrowers must only have the saree drycleaned, which costs 50 rupees (70 cents), a small fraction of the price of purchase.

Overflowing wardrobes put to use

The saree library concept was developed nine years ago by Vandana Agrawal, a trustee and board member of Gramshree, which works to support women in becoming economically self-reliant by training and employing them in textile arts.

saree libraryOne donator prefers to donate her sarees to the libraries instead of giving them away to one woman because it “widens the scope of their use.”

“Whenever I went to the Gramshree centers, women working there surrounded me and appreciated my dress or accessories. When I told them they were looking nice too, I got big smiles,” she says.

At the same time, Agrawal knew plenty of wealthy women with overflowing wardrobes of sarees they were unable to use. Typically in India, women buy several showy sarees for their trousseau — a collection of outfits “suitable for a new bride” worn in the weeks following their wedding. Most women have little use for these dresses a few months after marriage, so each of Gramshree’s libraries stock 30 to 50 such pieces. 

Ami Udeshi, a donator to the library from Ahmedabad, prefers to donate her sarees to the libraries instead of giving them away to one woman because it “widens the scope of their use,” she says.  

saree library“Women who are underprivileged do not give any significance to their desires. Spending on themselves is their last priority.”

The first library premiered in the winter — wedding season — of 2011 at a Gramshree center in Ahmedabad. Though it was originally launched just for the women working with Gramshree, word of mouth spread quickly, eventually leading to the libraries’ doors opening to the wider public.

Libraries are set up at Gramshree’s centers, village temples and people’s homes — like the library Chauhan manages out of her spare room in Chadotar. Chauhan knows most of the women in her village already and keeps the library open for two hours every evening for borrowers to stop by. The library operates on a trust-based system and so far every item has been returned. “I love welcoming women into my home and chatting with them,” she says. 

“Spending on themselves is their last priority”

Asha Suresh Makwan lives in Ahmedabad and works as a domestic helper for about the same income as Parmar. “I don’t have a single festive saree, since I can’t afford one,” Makwan says. “But I love the selection at the library and borrow quite often.”

sareeSo far the Gramshree saree libraries have served over 4,700 women across Gujarat.

Makwan likes to spend whatever she can save from her salary on her children’s needs. Despite doing all the cooking at home, the food she puts on the table caters to her family’s liking. She foregoes her favorite dishes like kadhi, a sweet-sour Gujarati curry with chickpea flour and yogurt, that her family isn’t fond of. “I prepare what my children and husband like to eat,” she says.

“Women who are underprivileged do not give any significance to their desires. Spending on themselves is their last priority,” Agrawal says. “The saree library is just one of the catalysts to change women’s mindsets about themselves. We want them to understand that the society will never pay attention to their needs and desires if they don’t do it themselves.” 

Gramshree’s other programs for its employees, such as talks and camps on health and nutrition, all have a similar aim: to help women understand their physical, sexual and mental health and fulfill some of their own desires. 

saree libraryWomen in India are certainly not alone in withstanding high pressure and social or economic consequences stemming from expectations around attire.

So far the Gramshree saree libraries have served over 4,700 women across Gujarat. Due to high demand, Gramshree’s sister organization Manav Sadhna also opened three in Ahmedabad. While saree libraries do not yet exist in other states — save one retail shop in Kerala that distributes free designer wedding wear — Agrawal is quick to point out that the opportunity for growth is infinite. “The library is easy to maintain and the idea is easily replicable across the world,” Agrawal says. Women in India are certainly not alone in withstanding high pressure and social or economic consequences stemming from expectations around attire.

Parmar associates the sarees she borrows with joy. “Dressing well is important to me — so what if I earn so little?” she says. “I feel good and confident when I wear a new saree.” 

“So many people appreciated the sarees I wore at my sister’s wedding,” Parmar says. “I told them: We have a saree library where I can get something new to wear every time I want to.”

Photos by Ashit Parikh

The post The Purposeful Beauty of India’s ‘Saree Libraries’ appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

My Letter to Councillors Lake and Craig About their Slavery Reparations Motion

Last week Bristol city council passed a motion supporting the payment of reparations for slavery to Black Britons. The motion was brought by Cleo Lake, a Green councillor for Cotham, and seconded by Asher Craig, the city’s deputy mayor and head of equality. Lake stated that it was to include everyone of ‘Afrikan’ descent as shown by her preferred spelling of the word with a K. She claimed this was the original spelling of the continent before it was changed by White Europeans. The reparations themselves would not be a handout, but instead funding for schemes to improve conditions for the Black community to put them in a position of equality with the rest of society. The schemes were to be guided and informed by the Black communities themselves.

This is all well and good, and certainly comes from the best of motives. But it raises a number of issues that rather complicate matters. Apart from her eccentric spelling, which looks to me like Afrocentric pseudohistory, there is the matter of who should be the proper recipient of these payments. Arguably, it should not include as Africans, as it was African kingdoms and chiefs who actually did the dirty business of raiding for slaves and selling them to European and American merchants.

Then there is the fact that the payment of reparations for slavery in the instance also sets a general principle that states that every nation that has engaged in slaving should pay reparations to its victims. So, are the Arab countries and India also going to pay reparations for their enslavement of Black Africans, which predates the European slave trade? Are Morocco and Algeria, the home countries of the Barbary pirates, going to pay reparations for the 2 1/2 million White Europeans they carried off into slavery?

And what about contemporary slavery today? Real slavery has returned in Africa with slave markets being opened by Islamists in their areas of Libya and in Uganda. What steps are being taken to counter this, or is the city council just interested in historic European slavery? And what measures are being taken by the council to protect modern migrants from enslavement? A few years ago a Gloucestershire farmer was prosecuted for enslaving migrant labourers, as have other employers across the UK. And then there is the problem of sex trafficking and the sexual enslavement of migrant women across the world, who are frequently lured into it with the lie that they will be taken to Europe and given proper, decent employment. What steps is the council taking to protect them?

I also don’t like the undercurrent of anti-White racism in the motion. By including Africans, Lake and Craig are attempting to build up and promote a unified Black British community by presenting the enslavement of Black Africans as something that was only done by Whites. This is not only historically wrong, but it promotes racism against Whites. I’ve heard Black Bristolians on the bus talking to their White friends about other Whites they know in the Black majority parts of Bristol, who are suffering racist abuse. Sasha Johnson, the leader of Black Lives Matter in Oxford, was thrown off Twitter for advocating the enslavement of Whites. Lake’s and Craig’s motion, while well meant, seems dangerous in that it has the potential to increase Black racism towards Whites, not lessen it.

I therefore sent the following letter to councillors Lake and Craig yesterday. So far the only answer I’ve received is an automatic one from Asher Craig. This simply states that she’s receiving a large amount of messages recently and so it may take some time before she answers it. She also says she won’t respond to any message in which she’s been copied. As I’ve sent the email to both her and Lake, it wouldn’t surprise me if this means that I don’t get a reply at all from her. Councillor Lake hasn’t sent me any reply at all. Perhaps she’s too busy.

I do wonder if, by writing this letter, I’m setting myself up for more condescension and gibes about my race and gender by Craig and Lake. When I Craig a letter expressing my concerns about the comments she made about Bristol and slavery on the Beeb, which I believed were flatly untrue, I did get a reply. This simply asserted that I wouldn’t make such comments if I had heard the whole interview, but gave no further information. It ended by telling me that their One Bristol schools curriculum would promote Black Bristolians, both Caribbean and African. They would be inclusive, ‘which hasn’t always happened with White men, I’m afraid’. So no facts, no proper answers, just evasions and the implication that I was somehow being racist and sexist, because I’m a White man.

Nevertheless, I believe very strongly that these a real issues that need to be challenged, rather than ignored or simply gone along with for the sake of a quiet life, or the desire to be seen to be doing the right thing.

I blogged about this a few days ago, and will write something further about any reply I receive, or the absence of one. As I said, I feel I’m setting myself up for patronising sneers and evasions from them, but it will be interesting to read what they have to say.

Dear Madam Councillors,

Congratulations on the passage of your motion last week calling for the payment of reparations for slavery to the Black British community. I am writing to you not to take issue with the question of paying reparations and certainly not with your aim of creating a sustainable process, led and guided by Black communities themselves, to improve conditions for the Black British community. What I wish to dispute here is the inclusion of Black Africans as equal victims of the transatlantic slave trade, as well as other issues raised by your motion.. Black Africans were not just victims of transatlantic slavery..  They were also trading partners, both of ourselves and the other nations and ethnicities involved in the abominable trade.

I’d first like to question Councillor Lake’s assertion that Africa was originally spelt with a ‘K’ and that Europeans changed it to a ‘C’. We use the Latin alphabet, which the Romans developed from the Etruscans, both of which cultures were majority White European. I am not aware of any African culture using the Latin alphabet before the Roman conquest of north Africa. The ancient Egyptians and Nubians used hieroglyphs, the Berber peoples have their own ancient script, Tufinaq, while Ge’ez and Amharic, the languages of Christian Ethiopia, also have their own alphabet. The Coptic language, which is the last stage of the ancient Egyptian language, uses the Greek alphabet with some characters taken from Demotic Egyptian. And the Arabic script and language was used by the Muslim African cultures before the European conquest of the continent. I am therefore at a loss to know where the assertion that Africans originally spelt the name of themselves and their continent with a ‘K’.

Regarding the issue of Africans receiving reparations for slavery, it existed in the continent long before the development of the transatlantic slave trade in the 15th century. For example, in the early Middle Ages West African kingdoms were using slaves in a form of plantation agriculture to grow cotton and foodstuffs. Black Africans were also enslaved by the Arabs and Berbers of North Africa, and the first Black slaves imported into Europe were taken to al-Andalus, Muslim Spain. And when the European transatlantic slave trade arose, it was carried on not just by Europeans but also by powerful African states such as Dahomey, Whydah, Badagry and others in West Africa. These states were responsible for enslaving the surrounding peoples and selling them to European and later American slave merchants. There were occasional slave raids by Europeans themselves, as was done by Jack Hawkins. But mostly the European slave traders were confined to specific quarters in the West African city states, which were sufficiently strong to prevent European expansion inland.

The British mostly took their slaves from West Africa. In eastern Africa the slave trade was conducted by the Arabs, Portuguese and the Dutch, who transported them to their colonies further east in what is now Indonesia. There was also a trade in African slaves in the 19th century by merchants from India. It was also carried out by east African peoples such as the Ngoni, Yao, Balowoka, Swahili and Marganja. These peoples strongly resisted British efforts to suppress the slave trade. In the late 1820s one of the west African slaving nations attacked a British trading post with the aim of forcing the British to resume the trade. In the 1850s the British fought a war against King Guezo of Dahomey with the intention of stamping out slaving by this west African state. In the 1870s the British soldier, Samuel Baker, was employed by the Khedive Ismail of Egypt to suppress Arab slaving in what is now the Sudan and parts of Uganda. The campaign to suppress the slave trade through military force formed part of the rationale for the British invasion of the continent in the Scramble for Africa. But it was also to protect their newly acquired territories in the Sudan and Uganda from slave-raiding by the Abyssinians that the British also launched a punitive expedition into that nation. And the Mahdi’s rebellion in the Sudan, in which General Gordon was killed, was partly caused by the British authorities’ attempts to ban the slave trade and slavery there.

In addition to the use of force, the British also attempted to stamp it out through negotiations. Talks were opened and treaties made with African kings as well as the Imam of Muscat, the suzerain of the east African slave depots and city states, including Zanzibar and Pemba. Subsidies were also paid to some African rulers in order to pay them off from slaving.

I am sure you are aware of all of this. But regrettably none of it seems to have been mentioned in the motion, and this greatly complicates the issue of reparations for slavery. Firstly, there is the general question of whether any Africans should receive compensation for slavery because of the active complicity of African states. So great has this historic involvement in the transatlantic slave trade been that one commenter said that when it came to reparations, it should be Africans compensating western Blacks. Even if it’s conceded that reparations should be paid to Africans for slavery, this, it could be argued, should only apply to some Africans. Those African nations from which we never acquired our slaves should not be compensated, as we were not responsible for their enslavement or the enslavement of other Africans.

When it comes to improving conditions and achieving equality for Bristol and Britain’s Black communities, I do appreciate that Africans may be as underprivileged and as subject to racism as Afro-Caribbeans. I don’t dispute here either that they should also receive official aid and assistance. What is questionable is including them in reparations for slavery. It should be done instead, in my view, with a package of affirmative action programmes, of which reparations for slavery for people of West Indian heritage is one component. This would mixed amongst other aid policies that equally cover all sections of the Black community. I am not trying to create division here, only suggest ways in which the issue of reparations should in accordance with the actual historical roles of the individual peoples involved in the slave trade.

And this is another matter that concerns me about this motion. It seeks to simplify the African slave trade into White Europeans preying upon Black Africans. It appears to be an attempt to promote a united Black community by placing all the blame for slavery and the slave trade on Whites. This is completely ahistorical and, I believe, dangerous. It allows those states that were involved to cover up their involvement in the slave trade and creates hostility against White British. The Conservative journalist Peter Hitchens, speaking on LBC radio a few weeks ago, described how an Ethiopian taxi driver told him that he hated the British, because we were responsible for slavery. He was completely unaware of his own cultures participation in slavery and the enslavement of other African peoples. I’m sure you are also aware that Sasha Johnson, the leader of Black Lives Matter Oxford and the founder of the Taking the Initiative Party, was thrown off Twitter for a tweet advocating the enslavement of Whites: ‘The White man will not be our equal. He will be our slave. History is changing’. I am also concerned about possible prejudice being generated against White members of majority Black communities. I have heard Black Bristolians telling their White friends about the abuse other White people they know get in some  majority Black or Asian parts of Bristol because of their colour. I appreciate the need to protect Black Bristolians from prejudice and abuse, but feel that this also needs to be extended to Whites. Racism can be found in people of all colours.

The lack of discussion of African involvement in the slave trade also concerns me just as a matter of general education. Councillor Craig said in an interview on BBC television during the BLM protests that she would like a museum of slavery in Bristol, just as there is in Liverpool and Nantes. I feel very strongly that any such museum should put it in its proper, global context. White Europeans enslaved Black Africans, yes, but slavery was never exclusive to White Europeans. Other nations and races throughout the world were also involved.

The question of reparations also brings up the issue of possible payments for White enslavement and the question of measures to suppress the resurgence of slavery in Africa. As you are no doubt aware, White Europeans also suffered enslavement by north African pirates from Morocco and Algeria. It is believed about 2 ½ million Europeans were thus carried off. This includes people from Bristol and the West Country. If Britain should pay compensation to Blacks for enslaving them, then by the same logic these nations should pay White Britons reparations for their enslavement. Would you therefore support such a motion? And do you also agree that the Muslim nations, that also enslaved Black Africans, such as Egypt and the Ottoman Turkish Empire, as well as Morocco, should also pay reparations to the descendants of the people they enslaved?

Apart from Britain’s historic role in the slave trade, there is also the matter of the resurgence of slavery in Africa today. Slave markets have been opened in Islamist-held Libya and Uganda. I feel it would be unjust to concentrate on the historic victims of slavery to the exclusion of its modern, recent victims, and hope you agree. What steps should Bristol take to help suppress it today, and support asylum seekers, who may have come to the city fleeing such enslavement?

This also applies to the resurgence of slavery in Britain. There have been cases of migrant labourers being enslaved by their employers in Gloucestershire, as well as the problem of sex trafficking. What steps is the city taking to protect vulnerable workers and immigrants here?

I hope you will appreciate the need for proper education in Bristol about the city’s role in the slave trade and the involvement of other nations, one that does not lead to a simplistic blaming of all of it on White Europeans, as well as the question the issue of reparations raises about the culpability of other nations, who may also be responsible for paying their share.

Yours faithfully,

Consider This Pineapple: Some Thoughts on Food Waste

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 09/03/2021 - 1:55am in

Food waste is a major contributor to global warming, not only the rotten stuff per se, but the carbon expended by moving it hither and yon.

The Conviction of Protest: Sedition and the Farmers Protest

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 04/03/2021 - 3:01am in


India, Law, Protest

Climate activist Disha Ravi’s statement, ‘If highlighting farmers’ protest globally is sedition, I’m better in jail’, courageously challenges the way her actions have been criminalised by the Delhi police acting on behalf of the Indian state. Without questioning the necessity and power of these words, we should nevertheless notice that they depend on a certain logic that even opponents of such police actions often inadvertently replicate. While Ravi’s words are, of course, meant to convince us that acts such as hers, undertaken with a view to the public good and the future of human life on earth, should not be categorised as seditious, they also perhaps imply that other acts, entirely unlike hers, may in fact be considered properly seditious.

But as many lawyers and legal scholars have pointed out, the very idea of sedition appears today in our politico-legal space as an anomaly. Sedition forbids the incitement of hatred, contempt or disaffection towards a legally established government. It first became a crime in sixteenth-century England, where the king assumed, in his own person, the sovereignty of the state. Both sedition, the charge of publicly expressing disagreement with or hatred for the king, and its twin, loyalty or love for the state, belong to a political space predicated on the king’s exclusive embodiment of sovereignty and hence on the violent suppression of disagreement. But how could one conceive of sedition as a crime in a democracy?

Let us recall on what grounds the Indian National Congress passed its historic ‘purna swaraj’ (complete independence) declaration on 19 December 1929 at the Lahore session of the Congress: ‘We believe it is the inalienable right of the Indian people, as of any other people, to have freedom and to enjoy the fruits of their toil and to have the necessities of life, so that they may have full opportunities of growth. We also believe that if any government deprives a people of these rights and oppresses them, the people have a further right to alter it or to abolish it’ (emphasis added). While of course the writers of the document did not advocate the violent overthrow of the government, they seem to have envisioned as perfectly legitimate the voicing of dissent and disaffection in order to alter the government. The entire resolution is premised on the ‘inalienable right’ to freedom and, explicitly, to freedom of expression, especially when such expression concerns policies of the government. The resolution recognises, moreover, in perhaps the most interesting phrase of the entire document, the right of ALL peoples to such freedom: ‘it is the inalienable right of the Indian people, as of any other people…’.Now,any other people’ could mean not only people who already exist as part of already determined nations but also people who are yet to come—people who do not exist as yet but may, at some point, come to exist as ‘a people’. All such people may claim, says the declaration, an ‘inalienable’ right to freedom.

Needless to say, such freedom was never imagined as limitless or unbounded. But sedition, conceived as the act of expressing disaffection or contempt for the government, names so evidently one of the chief ways of enacting a people’s claim to self-determination and self-government that surely it is sheer bad faith to declare it a crime. Its criminality, however, should not be seen only as the consequence of bad faith. It is, rather, the consequence of that formidably brazen manoeuvre by which the yearning for freedom and self-determination, once consecrated by the anticolonial struggle, is now deftly outwitted and punished by the postcolonial state. Barely had the first glimmer of that long-sought-after democracy appeared than democracy itself reverted, as though by magic, to the old habits of monarchy.

That does not mean, however, that the postcolonial state has not also learnt to exploit and profit from the machinery of democracy. Recognising that the space of the nation is more likely to be constituted not by commonality but by antagonism, it has now succeeded in instituting the most powerful of all antagonisms: the split between the punishers and the punished. The criminalisation not only of Disha Ravi, Nodeep Kaur and Shiv Kumar but also of the protesting farmers themselves—and, before them, many who have protested against the policies of the government, most notably the new citizenship laws it has sought to implement—shows us very clearly that democracy’s imagined conflict of ideologies or parties has now been decisively supplanted by this other, stronger and most profitable division between the punishers and the punished. The farmers’ insistence that a deregulated market is not in their interest is read as a manifestation of, first, their ignorance and, second, their enmity: they are separatists, they are aligned withenemies of the state, with terrorists, and so on. This is the choice the current regime offers its subjects, every day, not in covert but in overt ways. One can punish with impunity by aligning oneself with ‘nationalist’ and patriarchal vigilante groups or one can join the beleaguered ranks of the punished—those firmly characterised as the internal enemy for the crime of articulating opposition. 

The miracle is that the protest continues. It continues, and against the kingly symbols of the punishers—now the epic warrior Rama, now the early modern warrior Shivaji—it pits its own symbols: a Bhagat Singh, an Ambedkar, a Pash and a Faiz, turning again and again to the ephemeral poetry of revolution. The miracle is that the farmers of the world do unite, even if they do so fleetingly and even if these coalitions do not hold. The miracle is that, driven by a certain love for dignity and justice, there are still those—not only thousands of farmers across the country, but also young activists like Nodeep Kaur, Shiv Kumar, and Disha Ravi–who willingly join the ranks of the punished.

(NB. Disha Ravi and Nodeep Kaur have now been released on bail, but Shiv Kumar continues to be imprisoned at the time of writing this article.)

Note: This piece comes to Arena Online via the Institute of Postcolonial Studies.

Indian Farmers Resist Neoliberalism

Vikas Rawal, 4 Mar 2021

It is noteworthy that, while farmers have built solidarity across states, between different classes of rural society, and between different castes and communities, the ruling party and its machinery have been working overtime to create divisions between organisations and communities, and accusing the movement of infiltration by separatists and terrorists.