Dinner for One

Asking a German[or Swedish] person if they know Dinner For One is a guaranteed way to make their eyes light up. The film is about a bonkers aristocrat Miss Sophie who celebrates her 90th birthday with friends who, given they’ve all died off, are imaginary. Her butler, James, comically fills in for each of them, mimicking their voices, drinking their toasts in turn and getting steadily more sloshed. It’s been shown every New Year’s Eve in Germany since the early 70s and is nothing short of a national institution. When your acquaintance, hours later, is done enthusing and quoting, quietly point out to them that, despite holding a Guinness Record for the most aired TV program in history, Dinner For One has never, ever been screened in Britain or the States, and only a few times in Australia.

´How the hell did it come to be shown both on Swedish and German television every new years eve? Does it hold true also for the other Scandis?

Scarcity of sanity

Number crunching: An estimated 80bn new clothes are made around the world each year. There are only 7bn people on this planet….


via Dirty White Gold.

There is no scarcity in our systems of production and our ability to use resources in our disposal. Where scarcity exists, it is in the sanity and equity of how we distribute the fruits of our labour.

Neo-nazi kids

At 29m54s is when it turns quite scary, though hardly surprising. HOWEVER, a more subtle interesting thing happens at 42m05s when they ask the documentary maker – “who do you usually date? do you usually date white women?”. They think they’ve made some great point about how he should be a racist too, but rather the point they’re making (in my eyes) is how race (even in the unconscious actions of a self-confessed “multiculturalist”) is still very much material. Despite living in the UK (I assume) and probably in London (I assume) and despite being a “multiculturalist” this white boy, dates white girls.

If only my wall could talk

I’d like to have a wall, which at various random moments would either record a few minutes or so, or play back any previously stored recording. Playback with appropriate fade-in and maybe even a clearing of the throat for effect. Imagine after 30 years suddenly being interrupted by a conversation you had when you were half your age, oh joy.

Get me that, a dry erase wall and a round bed and I should be pretty much set for life.

Privileged blind spots

Walking on my way to work today I saw a sign post for One Billion Rising – the campaign recently created by now famous Eve Ensler (who doesn’t seem to be an all-together unsympathetic woman). The logo struck me as unnecessarily highlighting “a female form” (non-cis women need not apply?) and got me thinking about the campaign and the critiques that M had about it. Then, while reading the gale (and here, and here, and here – do read them all) that has blown up around an announcement by the Harvard College Women Center’s blog post, somehow I came across this article about OBR:

I recently listened to a Congolese woman talk in a speak-easy setting of radical grassroots feminists. She was radiantly and beautifully powerful in her unfiltered anger towards the One Billion Rising movement, as she used the words “insulting” and “neo-colonial”. She used the analogy of past crimes against humanity, asking us if we could imagine people turning up at the scenes of atrocities and taking pictures or filming for the purposes of “telling their story to the rest of the world”. Take it one step further and try to imagine a white, middle class, educated, American women turning up on the scene to tell survivors to ‘rise’ above the violence they have seen and experienced by…wait for it…dancing. “Imagine someone doing that to holocaust survivors”, she said.

Eve Ensler has reportedly spent much time in the DRC in the build-up to Valentines Day. I really wonder under what premise she is there? What goes through her mind? Does she think that her shared experiences of abuse make her a kindred spirit to Congolese women? That her presence will bring about comfort? Change? Does she really have such an inflated sense of ego that she simply must jet set around, visiting One Billion Rising hubs?

Another woman at the same event, an Iranian woman who had demonstrated in the 70’s and seen female comrades beaten, raped, doused in acid, set alight, imprisoned and murdered, also used the word “insulting”. “Who is someone else to come to my country and claim to ‘help’ me by telling me to ‘rise’ above the experiences I have had?!” She went on to recount the numerous occasions when she’d been patronised by white, middle class, educated feminists who assumed that as an Iranian woman she lacked education and had lived a sheltered and oppressed life (only to be left open-mouthed by her exceptional education, theoretical knowledge and sharp gendered analysis). We laughed at the hilarity of the questions she’d been asked (“So do you go everywhere by camel in Iran?”) but reflected soberly at the state of a feminist movement dominated by white academics.

The consensus from those on the ground, providing services to women survivors, was that women of privilege should not preach feminist ideals, particularly where gender and race intersect – and essentially where ‘developed’/’developing’ world’s intersect. The focus for white, western feminists should be on gender equality at home, where there are enough problems for a lifetime of activism. But, if the white saviour complex were to endure, that the best form of action would be to lobby their own governments to stop their patriarchal, neo-colonial influence in so-called ‘developing countries’. For it is western companies that create resource enclaves in oil and mineral rich countries, the profits from which local communities never benefit. And it is western governments that continue to pervade the economic systems of ‘developing countries’ with their development aid laden with conditionality to replicate western models of governance which is often irreconcilable with historical economic, cultural, social and economic patterns. And it is western backed arms traders which cash in on conflict in many ‘developing’ regions, fuelling both sides for financial gain. Not content with its first wave of colonisation, the west continues to insist upon ‘helping’ other countries. Word on the street is that the people don’t want ‘help’; they want to make their own decisions and bring about change free from outside influence.

via Natalie Gyte: Why I Won’t Support One Billion Rising.

What I find specifically interesting about both this article and the HCWC committee are how they highlight the general blind spot for anybody in a position of power (whether it’s being white, middle/upper class, from a western country, man,… – or any intersections thereof) of the potential harm and pain that can be caused when dealing with/interceding/involving oneself with problems/conflicts/issues of people from other groups.

While there certainly is a fair deal of academic writing on the subject, and people more well-versed with both the language and theories in said writing could deliver much better or scathing critiques of the people behind both the Harvard committee and the OBR campaign (again, see articles mentioned above) – I find it personally hard to grasp how this naivety can still exist with people who have hopefully studied this dynamic of power as well as most likely experienced it themselves.

Being a person of just about the most privileged positions available in the world (white, middle-class, educated, male, Swedish), I have found it almost impossible not to shed this naivety and become aware of how my real my privilege is as well as of how easy (and harmful) it is for me to turn a blind eye to it and pretend that my life (and my ability to act, interven or comment) is distinct from it. While I still have certainly not shed it completely, I can claim a certain awareness of it – and that’s purely from experience rather than say any real academic study (of which I believe the Harvard College professors & Eve should have loads). 

In fact (as I think Charles W Mills points out in one of the Youtube lectures I keep on in the background at work), turning a blind eye to the privilege from which my actions, way of interacting with others and ideas for interventions all stem from is in a way an attempt to keep those very power-structures alive – pretending they don’t exist is way more effective (and insidious) than defending them out-right, even when it’s stemming from ignorance rather than intention.

Taking it one step further, thinking of people of privilege in any type of scheme intending to “help” people with less privilege (whether males in women empowerment, rich people in poverty alleviation and of course any intersection thereof – rich, women in the empowerment of poor women) risk not only drowning out their voice and ignoring the work that they’ve already done (the megaphones of the powerful are far louder), but also belittle their wills, desires, ideas or ability to act on their own. As commented here, the will of people of privilege to do “good” or “help” is “[…] A good thing, except for the fact that they[we] tend to believe that their[our] good intentions are sufficient; in-depth knowledge of history, language, politics, and culture is not necessary;“. 

I guess, ideally, everyone of us should work the closest with and to greatest extent for the communities we know the best (I guess our home communities). If not that, we should be humble and accept that any community we intend to work for we’d best listen to, and thereafter only act if we have the understanding that we cannot ever claim to really “understand” what it’s like to live in a world without our own set of privileges nor can we really act outside of that system of privilege.

Ladies traveling alone with dogs

A passenger traveling in First Air condition class or first class may take a dog into the compartment only with the concurrence of fellow passengers on payment of charges vide Clause(1) above. The charges are to be prepaid. If fellow passengers subsequently object to the dog remainig in the compartment, it will be removed to the Guard’s van, no refund being given. Dogs detected unbooked with the passenger in IA and Ist class compartments will be charged six times the Luggage scale Rate subject to a minimum of Rs.50/-. A lady travelling alone with children under 12 years of age in a first class compartment may take with her in the compartment one dog on payment of charges at the Dog Box Rates,subject to a minimum of Rs.10/-provided that if another lady enters the compartment, the dog can only be allowed to remain in the compartment with her consent. Any dog detected unbooked will be charged at double the dog-box rate for the distance up to the point of detection and at the dog-box rate for the distance beyond the total charge being subject to a minimum of Rs.20/- for each dog.

Yes, you got it right, the rules for carrying dogs (a k a any minor pets) don’t make much sense. Not that the rules matter much. A full narrative of my experiences with animals (cats) on India rail is forthcoming!

via Welcome to Indian Railway Passenger reservation Enquiry.

Breaking News: Wombs of Women on Birth Control Embedded with Dead Babies

Swanson: I’m beginning to get some evidence from certain doctors and certain scientists that have done research on women’s wombs after they’ve gone through the surgery, and they’ve compared the wombs of women who were on the birth control pill to those who were not on the birth control pill. And they have found that with women who are on the birth control pill, there are these little tiny fetuses, these little babies, that are embedded into the womb. They’re just like dead babies. They’re on the inside of the womb. And these wombs of women who have been on the birth control pill effectively have become graveyards for lots and lots of little babies.

via Swanson: Wombs of Women on Birth Control Embedded with Dead Babies | Right Wing Watch.