Saturday, January 29, 2011
The upheavals in Tunisia, Egypt and even Yemen have shown the limits of both „authoritarianism” and of „democracy”. Those who rule without even the veneer of passive popular support are doomed to become currupt, inefficient and unjust; to repress the protest this creates – thereby creating a vicious circle of repression and protest. However, the arab world world is supposed to be fatalistic and immune from aspirations of democracy. So says a large (American inspired?) literature. And watching American statespeople cope with these protests is a real education about the reality of democracy in the USA. Two years ago, the world was full of hope when Barack Obama was sworn in as American President; but he has neither the will nor the capacity to change his country’s consistent support for dictators who give America what it needs – whether that is repression of alternative ways of governing or access to the petrol America needs.
And a year ago Hilary Clinton delivered a paen of praise to the internet – and its contribution to freedom and democracy. But her strong reaction to Wilileaks showed how empty and self-serving were her words. State interests conquer all.
People like Chomsky and Arundhati Roy have been exposing these hypocrisies for many years. The Guardian carries today a good interview with Roy - whose work, I have to confess, is not well known to me. A quick search threw up a strong 2002 piece on the damage Enron was doing in Indiaand a much more recent (and longer) article on the time she spent with Indian Maoist rebels in the field.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll know that I am interested in labels and Roy readily admits, in the Guardian interview, that she sees her writing as an important tool in the struggle for dignity and respect for ordinary people. In that sense she is a "writer", „activist” and „visionary” – although that latter term sits uneasily with activism. Someone (William Murtha) had a nice idea recently – to ask (200) people to put their vision into 100 words and also to list the five books which had inspired them. The result was – 100 words; 200 visionaries share their hope for the future I said it was a nice idea - not necessarily a good book! The invitations seem to have been restricted to "new age" Northern americans - and the contributors don't say why the books have inspired them. It was Scott London’s blog which put me on to this - at least in that posting he does give a nice little summary of what his 5 books meant to him.
Nice bit of serendipity yesterday - the 22 tram outside takes me to the old (outdoor) market in the down-at-heel area just past the mosque and Jewish synagogue. My main interest was the Araab shops - for spices for the flat. I had intended to have another look at a (modern) painting of Varna port which is a good buy at 225 euros but decided to check again on the Valmar Gallery (at 55 Stamboloyski Bvd where it crosses Hristo Botev Bvd) which seemd to have disappeared last time I tried to go in the summer. Lo and behold it was still there - and open - although its windows were covered in shrouds and it looked closed and derelict. To enter it is to enter an Aladdin's Cave. I showed Valery my list - and he spent the next 90 minutes hours pulling paintings from the piles. What a contrast with the reception you get when you go to the Viktoria Gallery (and auctioneers) - where you are met with a deadpan look!! Not satisfied with showing me examples of those I had on my list, he introduced me to the works of more than 15 painters whose work was sufficiently attractive to me to have me scribbling their names down. By the end, I had almost 10 paintings put to one side for consideration - having regrettfully passed on a 15,000 euros Nikola Tanev painting and a 4,000 euros painting by one Ianko Marinov (born 1902). But I did get a Dobre Dobrev (which I have been looking for for some time - an example is above) - and another Alexandra Mechkuevska to add to my collection.