Snipe Media Column – Advance Notice

Posted by Cila Warncke

Snipe London


London is about to have its first dalliance with a North American-style free newspaper in the form of Snipe and — I’m pleased to say — yours truly will be writing a media column for the bi-weekly publication.

Check out their pre-release website. Then look for the launch issue, out 15 May. I won’t be home yet, quite, so grab me a copy please!

Free Thinking – Fighting Capitalism from Within

Posted by Cila Warncke

I just finished Peter Chapman’s excellent expose Jungle Capitalists about ruthless banana baron United Fruit Corporation which ran Central America as its private fiefdom for most of a century – casually killing off unruly workers, uncooperative heads of state, uncharted jungle and anything else that got in its way. It got me thinking about the antidote to brute free market economics. Given that we live in an anxiety-riddled, security obsessed, paranoid late-capitalist society there are limited alternatives. You can’t drop out and live off the land anymore unless you’re rich enough to buy the land in the first place, and our high-tech culture makes it difficult to live a private life. It isn’t easy to shape your own existence, given the physical, legal and ideological constraints on personal freedom. There are people, however, who take on the challenge and look for creative ways to address the ever-present imperative to pay the rent while doing something that is personally meaningful and socially beneficial. These unsung freedom fighters fuck with the system by surviving within it while doing what they want to do – and by using their skills in constructive, cooperative ways. In a perfect world, it’s what everyone would do.

This is the first instalment of what I hope will become a long series of blogs profiling individuals and businesses that operate outside the prevailing paradigm. First up, Algo Mas – a 100% Fair Trade shop in Ibiza.

Thursday evening in the tiny village of Sant Miquel and the plaza below the Iglesia is full of children, music and the scent of home baking. On the corner, door and sky-blue shutters flung open, sits Algo Mas. This small Fair Trade shop has just celebrated its second anniversary and judging by the stream of locals who stop to say hello, it is firmly cemented in the community. Italian expats Valeria Cova and Aurietta Sala run the shop, along with Blanca Llosent. Aurietta and Valeria are Italian, but have each lived in Ibiza for more than 30 years and have fond memories of the days when visiting friends meant half a day’s walk through the countryside and dinner by candlelight. They are not hippie dilettantes, however, or airy fairy idealists. Algo Mas is the product of hard work, common sense and a firm commitment to the principles of Fair Trade. Click here to continue reading

A Place Called Home

Posted by Cila Warncke

HQ

HQ

It is finally, slowly, occurring to me that perhaps I’m not quite the wandering wonder I long to be. Though I am surprisingly okay with my wardrobe consisting of two dresses, three pair of yoga trousers, two bikinis, three vests and a Gap hoodie my spirit doesn’t exactly thrill at being in someone else’s space. Possibly I learned a little too well at Sunday school that it is better to give than to receive; in any case, I am a guilt-riddled guest. So far on my aventura Mexicana I’ve stayed at two hotels of middling quality and with two very lovely host families who have put me up in much finer style.

The niggling fact remains I’d rather live in my own cold-water shack than in someone else’s mansion. Hence my cross country flight (literally) from the seaside splendour of Troncones to my new home in Merida, Yucatan.

It sticky-hot, the plaster is cracked, the sidewalks are crumbling and I had to kill a giant cockroach in the sink before I could make breakfast yesterday, but it is, for now, home. So far I’ve learned that the cranky cat, Domino, who lives out back never shuts up – not even if you feed him – and that the internet is not to be relied upon (it bounces like one of those awful fairground balls they strap idiots into before flinging them skywards on giant rubber bands).

All of this is relatively insignificant next to the fact I have a big box of a room with a not-uncomfortable bed and two large, unprepossessing wooden tables I can strew with the usual litter of pens, notebooks, sunglasses, slips of paper, water bottles, dictionaries and USB cables. I have rearranged all the furniture so my bed is in the corner, surrounded by desks, leaving a big empty swathe of tile floor. My domain to survey from my queen-sized look-out post.

There’s no getting around the general bugginess of the place, or the smell of drains from the alley behind my en suite, or the mild panic of having to do something about paying the rent, but I like it. I like it because it’s mine. Perhaps I should reconsider that ‘property is theft’ tattoo. Or perhaps not.

Facing up to the narcotic appeal of having a place where I can just be, where I can spend a night being quietly ill from eating off frijoles refritos without interference, where – if so inclined – I can spend the whole day sprawled on my bed in my pants seeing and speaking to no-one, tends to make me more socialist. This psychological kick isn’t a privilege; it’s a right. A right which is, unfortunately, denied to vast swathes of the world’s population by the capitalism junkies who insist people earn a room of their own.

The way I see it, property is still theft. The sense of wellbeing I gain from this room has nothing to do with ownership. It doesn’t belong to me and would make no difference if it did. It could be owned by the government, aliens or an cohort of super-intelligent arthropods for all I care; all that matters is I have the right to stay here and, also, to go.

That is all that’s required. Ownership, deeds, papers are all simply used to buttress excess. People with overblown houses want locks on the doors and legal documents to protect them from the righteous impulses of those who have no house at all. In a state of equality, where everyone was comfortable and had the same basic rights of access and egress, there would be no privilege in ownership.

I didn’t mean to veer off into property rights, but that’s what happens when you have a space where you can sit and think: you do. Maybe that’s why the powers that be would rather keep the masses hustling for rent. It means they never have a chance to sit back and question the fucked-up system that has one hand around their windpipe and the other in their wallet.

What I was going to say is that I have discovered possibly my favourite food-spot in the world. Two minutes away is a tortilleria where you can get a dozen fresh-from the-griddle tortillas for 2 pesos. Tomorrow morning I’ll get up and shuffle around the corner. Dona Mary will fill a plastic bag with a palm-high stack of rich, earthy-smelling corn tortillas. I’ll walk home, warming my hands on the bag, then make a big pan of spicy scrambled eggs, a black coffee and sit cross-legged on my bed, smiling, and eat the lot.

Daily Pennsylvanian: The Politics of Protest

Originally published in The Daily Pennsylvanian, Autumn 2000

Hirsute masses camped around Washington, D.C.’s Reflecting Pool. Stormy-faced libbers incinerating lingerie. Stoic figures reeling under the barrage of fire hoses. And perhaps the most horrific, memorable image of all: stunned Kent State students staring at their compatriots’ bodies on a day that will live in infamy.

Somehow, between the so-called idealism of the ’60s and the hustle-bustle/every-person-for-himself world of the ’80s and ’90s, the word “protest” became just a little bit dirty.

Dirty like an apple cart-upsetting urchin, a useless nose-thumbing at the powers that be, the value of which – if any – is both marginal and decidedly historical.

After all, didn’t the protesters of the ’60s settle down, cut their hair, quit smoking dope and – on their way to becoming our parents – turn into the respectable, law-abiding citizens of today’s USA? That is evidence, we are led to believe, that they eventually recognized just how foolish they looked with their flowers and peace signs.

Implicit in this version of history is the idea that the problems which confronted America in the ’60s – racial inequality, an unjust war, sexual inequality and all the rest – have no present-day counterparts. A dangerous heresy that hints that mass protest is a social relic, irrelevant to our modern age.

The subtle message is that protesting is something of an anachronism. Sure, we still have problems – there are still some social injustices and minor governmental cock-ups – but nothing worthy of making a big, noisy, grubby traffic-halting fuss. Demonstrating – with all the accompanying banner waving, fist pumping and commerce interrupting – is hopelessly naïve and out-dated.

Or is that just what the government and media would like us to believe?

In the backlash of the anti-establishment ’60s, it must have become the Establishment’s top priority to stop any further social upheaval. With women and people of color demanding rights and nice middle-class children standing up to the government and demanding to know what right it had to go bombing a poor Asian country back into the Stone Age, it must have been an ulcer-inducing epoch for the denizens of power in Washington, D.C.

So, how to forestall the upheavals? Well, the easiest way was to convince the next generation that all their parents did was waste a lot of time and look a little silly in the process. Remind them of the peccadilloes, the disorganization, the selfishness, the stubborn idealism, remind them that those hippies were all just doped up to their eyeballs anyway.

Most of all, remind them how inefficient it all was, how messy and unnecessary. Imply, if you don’t actually come out and say it, that the government would have sorted out all the social ills a lot more quickly if officials hadn’t had to waste their time trying to keep well-meaning but daft protesters from wrecking political conventions or getting beaten up by racist rednecks.

Apparently, this approach has succeeded. When was the last time you saw a massive student rally? A serious political protest of any kind? Chances are, even if there was one, the media systemically ignored or belittled it. Remember the Million Man March? Recall that rather than discussing the social and ideological implications the media focused most of its attention on the rather silly post-march controversy over whether or not there were actually a million men, imputing that the whole thing was merely a bizarre ego-gratification exercise for Louis Farrakhan.

More recently, in London, more than 15,000 students rallied to protest against expensive tuition fees. It was a peaceful, organized and generally serious demonstration — which the media just ignored.
It is inexcusable, though, that our generation should submit to such treatment, that we should allow ourselves to be indoctrinated into apathy. There are still battles to be fought for justice, equality and political accountability. All of us have different passions and it is of paramount importance that we educate ourselves to stand up for what we believe in — and to resist what we find objectionable.

Unless we learn, now, to band together and hold up a dignified middle finger to the establishment that would like to convince us of our collective impotence, we will someday find injustice being meted out not to others but to us — and by then it will be too late.

Stop The Killing In Gaza – Join Amnesty Campaign

Amnesty International are heading up a letter-writing campaign to demand the UK back an immediate humanitarian truce in Gaza.

There’s fuck-all else I can do about it, so I wrote:

Dear Rt. Hon David Miliband MP – Foreign Secretary,

Dear Foreign Secretary:

The slaughter in Gaza must stop.

Britain looked the other way while the Nazis systematically killed the Jews; it now looks the other way as Israel systematically murders Palestinians. Two historical wrongs do not make a right.

“There is no way anyone with a conscience can sit on the fence about this. Not when Israel has killed over 500 people in the Gaza Strip in the last nine days. Not when they’re bombing houses, mosques, cemeteries, markets and government buildings. Not when their fearsome armaments are rolling through the streets of crumpled little island of misery and despair. Not when Israel is blocking humanitarian aid and cheerfully condemning to death hundreds – potentially thousands – of innocent civilians.

There is only one word for this: genocide. Or if you wish to luxuriate in the awfulness of it, two words: ethnic cleansing. Israel is systematically annihilating Gaza’s Arab population as surely as if they were marching them into gas chambers. What does it matter if your family dies beneath a cloud of Zyklon B or is blasted to bits in an airstrike? Either way, your family is dead and the horror and tragedy of it will live as long as anyone has memory.

It sits badly with me that Israel uses the tragedy of the Holocaust as a ‘get out of jail free’ card for its human rights abuses. This is a nation that since its inception has made a practice of state-sponsored terror as retribution. Understandably, there was little objection when the Mossad hunted down Nazi war criminals. However, there is no justification for the West giving Israel carte blanche to murder civilians. ” from http://irresponsibility.wordpress.com

I call upon you to use your authority to demand an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire to allow vital aid to reach Gaza, to evacuate civilians, to help claw back precious human lives from the brink of hell. All I can do is write, speak, complain, protest, and I shall.

You, sir, can act. If you fail to do so the judgement of history will not rest lightly upon your head.

Sincerely,
Cila Warncke


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