Friday the 6th of August, after a battle of two years against motor neuron disease ,Tony Judt, celebrated historian and intellectual extraordinaire, passed away. The more frequent readers of Gibburt will know that I greatly admire mr. Judt and as such I could not let his passing go without a small token of my appreciation for his work.
Although Tony Judt was mostly famous for his open stance against the Israeli policies in dealing with their Palestinian country members, I will remember him most for his lifework: Postwar, a history of Europe since 1945. Both insightful and well informed I have yet to come across a work that explains the European condition so well as Postwar does. His last two books Reappraisals and – what is already being called his testament – Ill fares the land are waiting on my nightstand for me.
Tony, the world is less without your piercing mind in it.
For more information on his passing please see here. And for more articles on Gibburt on Tony Judt please refer here or here.
Peaceful protest against injustice can take many forms. Very common is the gathering of a group, walking in concert through the streets with banners and shouting paroles. Writing letters, discussing the issue, protest songs, satirical video clips, pamphlets, the list goes on and on.
Recently I came across one of my favorite forms of protest: the ridiculing protest.
In Moscow blue buckets are being used by car drivers to protest against the illicit use of migalki: removable blue lights used by high ranking government officials and wealthy businessmen in Moscow to get through traffic easily.
Officially the use of the migalka was restricted in 2007, but in a city where corruption makes the world go round, the number of migalki is much greater than the intended 2,000.
The same reason that made the administration impose the restriction in 2007 is now salient again: traffic accidents. A streak of lethal accidents, caused by migalki chauffeurs driving like madmen, combined by the fact that local police is not actively arresting the culprits but sometimes even assisting in cover ups, has driven people to protest.
The only radio station in the Netherlands that’s entirely about alternative music is KinkFM. Broadcasting for about 15 years now, it has gathered a small but steady crowd of listeners that can enjoy ‘mainstream’ alternative, but also more obscure genres, like ska, avant garde, metal and even contemporary poetry and literature. No other Dutch radio station treasures music beyond pop the way KinkFM does.
A few days ago the inspirator behind KinkFM died: Arjen Grolleman, aged 37. He went like his hero John Balance from Coil: at home, fallen from the stairs, breaking his neck. The mere banality how easily life can cease to be is chilling to the bone.
Since the holidays are behind us now and we have all started again with our regular lives, this would be the time to reflect on the previous year. I for one have been very happy with both the readership and the penmanship of the articles on Gibburt in 2009 and since, like any other website, we measure how much our articles are read, I put together a top 5 of our most read posts. Enjoy!
1. Russia still loves Stalin
2. The gay marriage: All animals are equal but some are more equal than others
4.The fall of the DSB bank
5. Succes, personally.
The holiday season also hit Gibburt and as such we have not been as active for the last few weeks as we could have been. After the vacation however you can again expect many different discussions and opinions so keep checking in.
For now I would like to draw your attention to the following article from Tony Judt,written for the New York Review of Books. In case I did not yet manage to convince you to read Judt’s book Postwar, this article might give you a taste of his intellectual might. In it he discusses how our modern concept of evil has its roots in the horrible events of World War II. Furthermore he argues that bringing these events out on every possible occasion -whether it is to justify or to condemn – will lead to a watering down of both our memory and our understanding of this period. For another view on why bringing out the events of World War II is detrimental to every discussion please see here.
If you would like to read some more from Tony Judt, I can also recommend a number of other articles he wrote for the same website. Please find them here.
One of the advantages of writing book reviews for your own blog is that you can choose only to review those books that you like. This definitely applies to the book I would like to talk about today: Postwar, a history of Europe since 1945 by Tony Judt.
Tony Judt is a Cambridge trained historian whose academic focus has been on French history for a significant part of his career. Nevertheless being an activist at heart led him to quite some controversy as he is never afraid to voice his ‘always well considered but sometimes unpopular’ opinions on a other issues, especially those dealing with the Israeli conflict and US-Israel relations.
In 2005 he released Postwar, A history of Europe since 1945. Being majestic both in size and in scope (the book weighs in at almost 900 pages), Postwar can truly be called a life work. Postwar received much critical acclaim and by now has been translated in over 15 other languages. In 2008 Tony Judt was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease (a progressive degenerative muscle condition), that, at the time of this writing, left him paralyzed from the neck down. Nevertheless on occasion he still speaks in public.
Great bit of poetry by german writer Bertold Brecht. For those of you who would like to read the orginal German version please find it at the end of the post.
by Bertold Brecht
After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?
For the German version: (more…)
Last week the two Azerbaijan bloggers we blogged about, were convicted for hooliganism. Despite international pressure they were sentenced to an outrageous two and two and a half years in jail. (Go here for an excellent link list with various reactions and here if you want to take action.)
The verdict fits the impression that the Azerbaijan regime is closing its fist on free speech and free press. This has also been noticed by several international organizations. The OSCE and the Council of Europe critisized the verdict heavily, expressing fear that this could become a trend (more journalists are jailed in Azerbaijan), critisizing the legal procedures of this case and expressing doubt on the independence of the police and judges. Although the OSCE and the Council of Europe don’t have any authority to sanction or punish (they gather information and advise), their influence is considerable. (more…)
Antônio Vicente Mendes Maciel (1830 – 1897), or Antônio Conselheiro (Anthony the Counselor) as he was called, led a turbulent life. He was born from a family of cattle breeders in the Brazilian Northeast and educated by his grandfather, who was a local teacher. He married and settled down but after his wife betrayed him, he became restless and started to wander around. Being both an outspoken religious man and sensitive to the needs of the poor, Antonio slowly developed a following. Furthermore Antonio was not shy of criticizing the Catholic Church, so when his following grew, it did not take long for the Church to publicly declare him a ‘madman’.
In 1888 slavery was abolished in Brazil and shortly thereafter the Brazilian republic was founded. The consequences were enormous: five million Brazilians were suddenly unemployed… and hungry. Antonio had always spoken out against slavery and as a consequence his following started to grow rapidly. In 1893, after a small conflict between some of his followers and the local police, Antonio decided to settle down in an abandoned farm called Canudos. In the years following the amount of people living in Canudos increased to about 30 000. The settlement was organized in a semi-communistic way applying socialistic ideas like the division of labor and produce, having common property, and the abolition of the official currency.
The trial around the kidnapping of the Egyptian imam Abu Omar has been concluded. See for a short update my post on Filip Spagnoli’s blog here.