The Malala you won’t hear about
October 16, 2014
Malala Yousafzai, the 17-year-old Pakistani activist, has won a well-deserved Nobel Peace Prize, putting her and her amazing, tragic story back in the spotlight. Per usual, nevertheless, the corporate media has taken this positive development and exploited it in the service of U.S. imperialism.
The corporate media loves talking about Malala’s remarkable bravery and strength in standing up for girls’ rights to education, and the brutality of the Taliban forces that tried to assassinate her on her school bus. Such coverage fuels its orientalist, neocolonialist narrative about “backward,” misogynist Muslims and their need for “white saviors,” thereby legitimizing Western imperialist interests in South and West Asia.
Malala’s Nobel victory can be appropriated by the U.S. political establishment to “prove” that its invasion, occupation and destruction of Afghanistan has “helped” its people. (As for the hundreds of thousands killed and injured in the process, well, those inconvenient exceptions aren’t part of this narrative.)
As Michael Parenti points out, while most people who win the Nobel “Peace” Prize do so for war-mongering and crimes against humanity (Henry Kissinger boasts one, for example, along with Barack Obomba himself), Malala actually deserves hers. This makes the exploitation even more grotesque.
Malala has devoted her life to fighting for education for children—a most noble and important cause. When she implored at the United Nations, “Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen, can change the world. Education is the only solution,” the Western intelligentsia ate it up like a voracious canine gobbling up its kibbles (on second thought, perhaps a vulture would have been a more apt choice for this simile).
Everyone can agree that education for children is a positive goal. By emphasizing that education is the only solution, the West can draw attention away from the very realmaterial concerns facing the vast majority of the world.
This oversight is by no means the fault of Malala. In that same speech, just before the above excerpt, she spoke of “a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism.” Two of these three things are endlessly emphasized throughout the corporate press. You can guess which one is excluded.
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The Malala Who Opposes Global Poverty
Roughly half of the world still lives on less than $2.50 per day. Around one-quarter of people live in extreme poverty, less than $1.25 a day. UNICEF estimates that 24,000 children under the age of five die each and every day because of poverty, meaning that “every 3.6 seconds one person dies of starvation. Usually, it is a child under the age of 5.” And, in many countries, poverty is getting worse.
Education certainly has a role in the fight against poverty, and it’s important that one learns, say, basic chemistry. (Malala was sitting in chemistry class when she was informed she had won the Nobel Prize.) But learning basic chemistry does not provide billions of impoverished people with food, clean water, and health care. That takes material, collective action.
Malala understands how poverty creates and perpetuates the very social and political ills against which she is fighting. She continuously stresses the importance of not just spreading education, but of directly combating poverty. Yet these calls fall on the selectively deaf ears of the Western media.
The press picks and chooses which of Malala’s messages are amplified—and which are silenced. It can hardly get enough of her insistence on the importance of “the philosophy of nonviolence I have learned from Gandhi, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa.” The Western intelligentsia positively salivates upon hearing such messages, despite the fact (or because of it?) that Gandhi was a virulent racist and Mother Teresa had ties to Central and South American dictators.
Interestingly, many of the same people lauding the Nobel Peace Prize laureate for her advocacy of nonviolence also happily cheered on the violence of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. The utter hypocrisy does not strike them. After all, it has always been much more useful to advocate a philosophy of nonviolence for individuals and oppressed groups than hegemons and states.
As much as it highlights Malala’s words on education and nonviolence, the U.S. corporate media never mentions the side of Malala that it doesn’t like, the side of Malala that doesn’t serve but rather challenges Western imperialist interests, the side of Malala that overtly opposes not just U.S. drone strikes but capitalism itself.
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The Malala Who Opposes Drones
On October 11, 2013, Malala met with Barack Obama in the Oval Office. The press could hardly have lauded the president more for taking the time out of his busy schedule to meet the 16-year-old activist, and for bringing his family with him.
What went much less reported was that at this meeting, Malala warned that U.S. “drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people.”
The White House, which, given its supposed investment in fighting terrorism, would presumably not be interested in spreading it further, left these comments out of its official statement.
Just a few weeks after this meeting, another Pakistani girl visited Washington to testify before Congress, and received much less media attention. Nabila Rehman was 8 years old when she was out in a field picking okra and her grandmother was eviscerated before her eyes by a U.S. drone strike. Seven children were also wounded, including family members.
Nabila’s brother Zubair, a 13-year-old who was injured in the US drone attack, told the five congress-people decent enough to show up, “I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer grey skies. Drones don’t fly when sky is grey.” The Rehman family’s story was so dreadful that the translator burst into tears while telling it to Congress.
Given such a horrific report, you’d think the U.S. government would express interest in learning from it to make sure random civilians are not again slaughtered by bombs falling from microscopic dots in the sky. Yet only five (out of 435) House members attended the hearing.
Al Jazeera writer Murtaza Hussein noted that, in a symbol of the “utter contempt in which the government holds the people it claims to be liberating, while the Rehmans recounted their plight, Barack Obama was spending the same time meeting with the CEO of weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin.”
Clearly, stoking the military-industrial complex that creates the Predator drones that havemurdered and injured thousands of innocent civilians is a higher priority for the president of the United States than meeting the actual victims of what can only correctly be referred to as state terrorism.
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The Malala Who Opposes Capitalism
Last year, I wrote a brief article titled Malala Yousafzai, Spivak, Abu-Lughod and the White Savior Complex. I noted that Gayatri Spivak, in her classic article "Can The Subaltern Speak?" explained that colonialist powers justify their draconian, parasitic rule with the belief that they are “white men are saving brown women from brown men.”
In her well-known essay, "Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?" Lila Abu-Lughod situated Spivak’s thesis in a contemporary setting, explaining how the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan was justified with the exact same argument—the Bush administration was a group of overwhelmingly white leaders who consistently workedagainst women’s rights in their own country but now acted desperate to “save” Afghan women from Afghan men.
In his article Malala Yousafzai and the White Saviour Complex, journalist Assed Baig explored how this racist “white man’s burden” phenomenon is still alive and well, detailing the repugnant ways in which the West has exploited Malala Yousafzai’s amazing strength and bravery to support its interests.
Absent from many of these discussions, however, is that Malala herself is well aware of this manipulation. In a statement released on October 13, 2013, she defiantly declared that she is "not a Western puppet."
When discussing the way in which the neocolonialist West exploits and manipulates those working against oppression, one should be careful to establish that this is not done to them unwittingly. We are dealing with agents, individuals who understand the implications of their actions and change them accordingly. To forget this fact is, in a less overt way, to uphold the very paternalist, neocolonialist strictures we seek to destroy.
As Spivak reminds us, the subaltern indeed speaks—and not only speaks but resists oppressors. Articulated a bit differently, Arundhati Roy insisted, “There’s really no such thing as ‘the voiceless.’ There are only the deliberately silenced or the preferably unheard.”
The attempt to deliberately silence Malala is not only evident in the way the U.S. corporate media ignores her criticism of U.S. drones; even more insidious is its complete disregard for the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s politics. In March 2013, Malala sent this message to the congress of Pakistani Marxists:
First of all, I’d like to thank The Struggle and the IMT [International Marxist Tendency] for giving me a chance to speak last year at their Summer Marxist School in Swat and also for introducing me to Marxism and Socialism. I just want to say that in terms of education, as well as other problems in Pakistan, it is high time that we did something to tackle them ourselves. It’s important to take the initiative. We cannot wait around for any one else to come and do it. Why are we waiting for someone else to come and fix things? Why aren’t we doing it ourselves?
I would like to send my heartfelt greetings to the congress. I am convinced Socialism is the only answer and I urge all comrades to take this struggle to a victorious conclusion. Only this will free us from the chains of bigotry and exploitation.
This is the Malala the Western corporate media doesn’t like to quote. This is the Malala whose politics do not fit neatly into the neocolonialist, cookie-cutter frame of presentation. This is the Malala who recognizes that true liberation will take more than just education, that it will take the establishment of not just bourgeois political “democracy,” but ofeconomic democracy, of socialism.
When the courageous activist speaks of the importance of education and nonviolence, the West shouts her words loudly from the media mountaintops. When that same activist criticizes predator drones and, that most sacrosanct entity of all, capitalism, the silence is deafening.
Only the distinctive buzzing of U.S. killer drones can be heard, watching and bombing overhead, protecting empire and “freedom.”
Truth or Dare - Bleeding Knees Club
Look at my tattoo
A heart for me and you
Stab a dagger through
Kesha was sexually, physically, verbally and emotionally abused for 10 years by her producer, Dr. Luke, to the point where she nearly died.
According to a new lawsuit — obtained by TMZ — Kesha claims Dr. Luke was abusive towards her almost from the get-go — when she signed on with him at 18 — and made repeated sexual advances toward her. She claims he would force her to use drugs and alcohol to remove her defenses.
In one instance, Kesha claims he forced her to snort something before getting on a plane … and during the trip he forced himself on her while she was drugged.
On another occasion, Kesha claims after forcing her to drink with him, Dr. Luke gave her what he called “sober pills.” Kesha claims she woke up the following afternoon, naked in Dr. Luke’s bed, sore, sick … and with no memory of how she got there.
Kesha says the alleged abuse led to her eating disorder — a story TMZ broke earlier this year. She claims Dr. Luke said, among other things, “You are not that pretty, you are not that talented, you are just lucky to have me.” As we reported, she claims he called her “a fat f***ing refrigerator.”
Kesha also says there was physical abuse … once she says he attacked her at his Malibu house where he was “violently thrashing his arms at her.” She says she escaped and ran barefoot down PCH and hid in the mountains.
Kesha is asking a judge to let her out of her contract with Luke.
Kesha’s lawyer, Mark Geragos, tells TMZ … “This lawsuit is a wholehearted effort by Kesha to regain control of her music career and her personal freedom after suffering for ten years as a victim of mental manipulation, emotional abuse and an instance of sexual assault at the hands of Dr. Luke.”
Geragos adds, “The facts presented in our lawsuit paint a picture of a man who is controlling and willing to commit horrible acts of abuse in an attempt to intimidate an impressionable, talented, young female artist into submission for his personal gain. Kesha is focused on moving her life and her career beyond this terrible time.”
Van Herk, What Is Sociolinguistics, chapter 11. (via transliterations)
The Wikipedia article on code-switching has a nice classification of the types and linguistic rules involved:
- you know what is so great about you?
- i’m good at folding the laundry?
- no, sweetie, you’re terrible at folding the laundry
this movie though. so. fucking. on. point.
Veronika Scott was a fashion student at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit when her teacher, Stephen Schock, challenged her class to create a product that filled a need, rather than satisfying or creating a fad. Veronika’s design was a coat for homeless people that could transform into a sleeping bag, since in her city, she says, “you are constantly faced with the homeless epidemic.”
Not only did her design win a International Design Excellence Award from the Industrial Designers Society of America, it’s become the core of Veronika’s nonprofit organization, The Empowerment Plan, which hires people from homeless shelters and transition homes to help her make the coats. Now, three years later, the 24-year-old social entrepreneur expects that her team of 15 seamstresses will produce over 6,000 coats in 2014 — all of which will be distributed free of charge to people living on the streets.
Veronika originally designed the coats seeking input from people at a homeless shelter. After receiving feedback from people who used the prototype over a Detroit winter, she refined the design to create her final version which, in addition to being a waterproof and windproof coat and sleeping bag, also transforms into an over-the-shoulder bag with storage in the arm sockets.
When she started out, Veronika states,
“Everybody told me that my business was going to fail — not because of who I was giving my product to but because of who I was hiring. They said that these homeless women will never make more than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich — you cannot rely on them for anything. And I know my ladies enjoy proving everybody wrong.”
And, their impact is growing — according to CNN, which recently honored Veronika as one of their 10 Visionary Women of 2014, “The Empowerment Plan expects to launch a ‘buy one, give one’ program that will make it sustainable beyond the donations and sponsorships that keep it running now. Hunters and backpackers who’ve asked to buy the coat will be able to do so, and the Empowerment Plan will still create coats for homeless people who need them.”
Veronika is also excited to show other clothing producers that local manufacturing is possible: “I think we’re going to show a lot of people: you think it’s outdated to do manufacturing in your neighborhood, but I think it’s something that we have to do in the future, where it’s sustainable, where you invest in people, where they’re not interchangeable parts.”
You can read more about Veronika’s organization on CNN, or watch a short video about her work here.
To learn more about The Empowerment Plan or how you can support their work, visit http://www.empowermentplan.org/
For a wonderful book about women’s great inventions throughout history, check out “Girls Think of Everything” for readers 8 to 13.
For those in the US who would like to support efforts to end homelessness and help the over 600,000 people who experience homelessness on any given night, visit the National Alliance to End Homelessness athttp://www.naeh.org/ or to find a local homeless shelter to support in your area, visit http://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/
Important in so many ways.
This is amazing and wonderful.