Friday, August 24, 2007

The masses be damned

They're a funny old bunch, the commenters at this blog. I offer them lengthy lectures about weighty subjects like rioting in East Timor, EP Thompson's 1976 visit to India, and the problems of contemporary Kiwi poetry (alright, maybe that last subject is flabby, rather than weighty), and they snub me, preferring to discourse about short, throwaway posts on vege pies and kickboxing. Anyone would think I was a boring intellectual out of touch with the masses...

Since you're all so interested in scrapping about scrapping, though, here's an interesting article about Mike Tyson, race, class and boxing which appeared a few years ago in my favourite left-wing rag, Britain's Weekly Worker. Its author, professional sports writer Mark Marqusee, argues that boxing needs to be reclaimed from big business. Money quote:

It is important to realise that over the past decade there has been a conspiracy among boxing authorities, broadcasters, municipal officials, doctors, medical experts, promoters, advertisers and of course bookmakers to keep Tyson fighting in the ring, when he should have been excluded years ago. Again, not because of his criminal record, not because of his bizarre pronouncements and image, but very specifically because he consistently breaks the rules of the game inside the ring. The rules of the ring do not represent a higher morality, but they are the basic requirement of sport. Sport simply does not work, either as a spectacle or a pastime, if you compromise them.

Sport works because it sets up parameters within which various human attributes - speed, stamina, strength, agility, tactical/strategic thinking, inventiveness, discipline and many others - are showcased and tested and explored, and can form a deeply engaging and compelling spectacle. So, very simply, what we need to regulate is not the free movement of individuals across borders, but the global industry of sport and the way it has been distorted by capitalism.

My most recent piece on East Timor has stopped in at a few places around the web, including the popular British blog Lenin's Tomb, where there has been some discussion about the situation in Timor and the rest of the so-called 'arc of instability' to Australasia's north. On indymedia, a couple of commenters have mentioned the strange position of the Socialist Party of Timor, which has joined Gusmao's unconstitutional and fervently pro-Australian government. Thanks to Urihao and the anarchists at infoshop for plugs, and to the industrious folks at the bilingual Timor Online for a translation.

Since you asked, the latest news from East Timor is bad. I don't see how the Anzac approach to door knocking is helping things, either.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's amazing that you have 50 comments and growing on the kickboxing! It's good to see a new audience appearing on your blog.

Cute photo you uploaded with this post. Vege pies rock!!!

it's terrible what's going on in East Timor and most people don't know or care about it :-(

12:16 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

kickboxing and boxing are NOT the same thing.

boxing is corporate kitsch.

kickboxing is quite close to socialism, in some ways.

12:33 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know how you class the new Govt of Timor-Leste as illegitimate, given that it has the majority in Parliament.

That is how you form Government.

Also mystified that you think the Australian Govt split the army and police forces. Bizarre! You seem to have a neat theory which doesn't tally at all with the facts. After living through that time in Dili, it had rather more to do with those in power in TL at the time.

6:40 pm  
Blogger maps said...

If my claims are as far from reality as you claim, why is half of East Timor up in arms claiming the government is illegitimate, why is Gusmao hurriedly offering Fretilin a place at the Cabinet table, and why are experts on East Timor like Aussie academic Helen Hill saying the government is unconstitutional?

And if I'm deluded to think that Howard's government had anything to do with the fall of Alkatiri, why does John Pilger, who knws more about East Timor than any other Western journo, talk about a coup made in Canberra, and why do the leaders of neighbouring countries like Papua New Guinea and the Solomons concur?

I agree that the Aussies didn't want to start a civil war, and that Alkatiri didn't help himself by being a nice guy in power. I've argued on this blog against that sort of completely manichean thinking.

But I think there is strong evidence that the Howard government, in an alliance with the US Embassy, the Catholic Church, a wing of the security forces represented by Alfedo Reinado, and of course Horta and Gusmao, did work to destabilise Alkatiri. I think things got out of hand, and occupation became necessary. And I think the same process is going on right now in Papua New Guinea, where the Australians are calling Somare a criminal, are refusing to accept his victory in the recent elections, and instead backing opposition figure Julius Chan's attempt to overturn the Organic Electoral Act and bribe
pro-government MPs into his camp.

If Chan succeeds then the PNG could easily be plunged into the same chaos as East Timor and the Solomons. And why is this happening? Because Somare wouldn't accept the placement of Australian 'advisers' near the top of his government's ministries, didn't want Aussie cops running security in his country, and doesn't go along with Australia's campaign against the Solomons government.
The Howard docrine is as interventionist in the Pacific region as the Bush doctrine is in the Middle East.

7:30 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

When one sees things about East Timor and Russia or whatever - of course they are important -but they are very different in their effect than seeing a woman kick boxing (that effect or impact is very fundamental - we can all relate to it it -it seems real - there is an erotic element - as in the scene in
a James Bond book that I read as teenager ("From Russia with Love"? - two women fighting to death over a man - great eroticism -esp. fr a 17 year old) - the image cuts into the human psyche like a knife. East Timor with some tired looking black bastards (all over the world they always seem* (or are depicted as looking*) tired and depressed, moody or even psychotic, dying and or and sick - who really wants to know about that?) - it's hard to really care... it's like the 'starving millions' cliche.

It is hard to say why - I think it is deeper than it is trivia - how to define same? And vege pies - hmm - food - heart of it all. Think Maps. Actually psycholgists have commented that for many people 9/11 had tremendous impact (as did say Kennedy's assassination I recall that vividly as I do The Bay of Pigs - we thought we were all going to die) - it seemed terrible to many - very tragic and horrible - but what about all that suffering in other places? The psychologist pointed out that we just don't relate that way to big numbers, to remoteness, to others, to otherness - we relate less to those who are not of our own race - now also - the News media is controlled by those who, besides utilising knowledge of all of this, are experts at making images and presenting the world to us -thus disguised as a tragedy - in fact 9/11 and similar events give many people a big adrenalin rush whereas seeing dusty scrunched up tired and hopeless unhealthy looking people in some (seemingly) remote place - of another race - has very little impact - again this is partly the way we are programmed (by evolution I think) and the way that the news etc is presented. (The Bali bombings had big impact because they looked dramatic and (especially young - why should the young matter less than the old? Alan Curnow thought not.. Europeans were being killed. But I - personally - was quite indifferent to them.(Not that it wasn't a tragedy or that I wanted (or didn't want) it to happen or is about relating to things.)

When you (anyone else) wake (bedraggled, tired, full of nightmares, grumpy or whatever)in the morning: do you reach for one of your 28 volume set - which ever one of Lenin's books you are up to or perusing - to read with great avidness? - or do you get coffee and have great breakfast? Who is going to rush home from work excited by the latest developments in Iraq?

I would be interested to hear of some big tax reductions or (for me the dollar dropping as that helps me sell books to the US etc, and say they announced they were going to pay out say $20,000 to everyone in NZ or something...that would excite me) - but Iraq and other world events - yes it (they) is very important - but it is remote - and a hopeless and a stupid mess ... so manifestly a botch up by the US that one almost feels sorry for them - not the Iraqis.
True one can read Lenin or whatever over breakfast - or while having coffee or etc in bed - but...

That said - of course East Timor is important - and other politics.

*This is the key word "seem" - that is the image - Bishop wrote a poem about this - or was it? - years ago.

7:55 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

"I don't know how you class the new Govt of Timor-Leste as illegitimate, given that it has the majority in Parliament.

That is how you form Government."

This can be quite a wrong idea - Australia and New Zealand are acting as agents of US Imperialism in the Pacific - it is well known that the Australian Govt particularly wants the Gas Reserves in Indonesia etc

Divide et imperum.

Remember - political power comes out of the barrel of gun.

Maps is onto the politics of this region - he knows whats going on - what I say above is on another aspect - it is about perception of "truth" etc

But more informed people -who are politically astute (our NZ politicians in our parliament are often effectively politically
stupid)* - can work out what is going on pretty well even from afar.

*(I DONT mean they are of low intelligence)

8:06 pm  
Blogger Richard Taylor said...

"It's terrible what's going on in East Timor and most people don't know or care about it :-("

This is true but see my comment above - there are very human reasons why this is so. In NZ, rugby occupies most of the time for the News.

8:08 pm  
Blogger fat old sod said...

goActually Maps, a lot of what you say is complete bollocks. Half of East Timor is NOT up in arms claiming the government is illegitimate, I live here, have done for 7 years and believe me if half the country was ‘up in arms’ I reckon I would know about it. Incidentally, I haven’t met a Timorese yet who has told me they voted for Fretilin.
Gusmao is obviously offering Fretilin places in the cabinet because he is a diplomat. That’s what diplomats do. They negotiate, make concessions etc. Aussie academic Helen Hill may be saying the government is unconstitutional but a lot of other academic’s disagree with her. It depends on the interpretation of a single line in the constitution. It is a very ambiguous line, as evidenced, I think, by Fretilin’s refusal to take the issue to a court of law. Also, check out Anna Pessoa’s new appointment today.
As for John Pilger knowing more about East Timor than any other western journalist, I beg to differ. What about Max Stahl, Lindsey Murdoch, Mark Dodd, Jill Jollife?
I think your adoration of Pilger is probably more due to the fact that he says what you want to hear. And who cares what the leaders of PNG and The Solomons are saying about East Timor? They are irrelevant and ill-informed.
The picture being painted about this place is exaggerated and overblown. Yes, we do have sporadic violence, but a lot of it is gang and extortion related and absolutely nothing to do with the political situation. Most young men in ET are out of work, and like young men in many countries vent their frustrations by fighting and of course nicking stuff.
Thats it, I've said my piece.

12:17 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

'I haven’t met a Timorese yet who has told me they voted for Fretilin'

And yet they got more votes than any other party. Your praise for the Anzac troops on your own blog makes me wonder whether you've engaged with the criticisms of their presence in East Timor and the people in the country who have made these criticisms.

What do you think about the statement calling for Australian withdrawal made by the Comoro refugee camp, after the Aussies killed two of their residents, and the persistent complaints of harrassment and intimidation by Fretilin over the past few months?

If you have never talked to anyone who voted Fretilin, then you're not likely to be meeting the people who complain of the injustices of the occupation.

11:15 am  
Blogger fat old sod said...

Or Fretilin’s publicity machine is a lot more sophisticated than many people give it credit for.
And if you’ve read all of my blog you would see that as well as praising the ISF I’ve damned them as well. I try quite hard not to be partisan; I attempt to hate everybody equally.
I know Fretilin got more votes than any other party but more than 70 percent of voters did not vote for them. That’s quite a big number and not far off the percentage who voted for independence.
What do I think about the IDP statement re withdrawal? I think that if I was one of the community leaders at the airport camp I too would be calling for withdrawal. But I’m not.
And I would imagine that I have spoken to many Timorese that voted Fretilin. They just didn’t tell me that they had.

4:24 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Richard what do you mean "we"?

9/11 happened to a bunch of foriegners - almost all of them of other ethnicities to those we have here.

They live on the other side of the world. Some of them might as well be speaking another language as I can't understand a word they say. They eat weird food (cheeze wiz) they laugh at things that aren't funny, they practice barbarous customs.

How are those people "we" more than anyone else?

4:25 pm  

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