Optimism of the will

If there’s one struggle that’s looking on the up at the moment, it’s the fight to get Ashwin Desai’s job back at the Centre for Civil Society, where I work. Ashwin’s one of few veterans of the anti-apartheid struggle who has neither self-destructed nor self-enriched. Click here for a fine interview with him in Z Magazine, and here for an excerpt from his excellent We are the Poors. The uncompromising honesty of his analysis might explain why, now, he’s being banned from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, as the University refashions itself as a credentialing institution for the middle classes.

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Make Capit a dirty word

News from Retort

you can’t even mention the words “socialist” or “socialism” in comments on Salon blogs any more. For why? It’s the Scunthorpe problem: the words contain the brand name for a Viagra-type medication — Cialis. So the unresticted global capitalism of the spammers’ economy has finally made it impossible even to mention an alternative.

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Do they know it’s Christmas?

The Independent carries news of how Geldof, Bono et al hijacked the Make Poverty History campaign. Seasoned Class Worriers will, of course, have seen this coming a mile off (the hijack, not the audit). A better sense of what’s happening in poverty this Christmas can be found through
this article, from two women in the Kennedy Road Informal Settlement in Clare Estate. Endemic structural violence, poverty and sexism aren’t anything that our fading pop-star heroes have yet addressed. And we know better than to give them time.

Africans should emulate Punjab’s example

At nearly all our childhood tables, we were fed the following non sequitur: “eat your greens! there are children in Africa who are starving!”. In Africa, at least, the lesson is a little more accurate “eat up! there are children in India who are dying of hunger!”. In the gruesome arithmetic of famine-related deaths, there are indeed more in India than Africa. Which makes today’s news all the more chilling.

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The Rise of the Machinima

As ever, Wikipedia has the good stuff when it comes to breaking news about techie innovation. Machinima is the net’s newest fad (though by the time you read this, it will no doubt have been overtaken, and rendered obsolete, by several others). Still, if it produces thought-provoking representations, such as this one, of the recent Parisian uprisings, then it deserves a full and long life on the web.

Incentivising Tlön

It’s assessment time in the South African academy. To understand how the hard work of supervision, learning, teaching, writing, reading, research, administration, public service, peer support and review are all combined into an assessment of your net worth, you need two things: a system of logic, and a standardised calculus on which to apply it. The logic is summarised well by Jorge Borges in his discussion of mathematics on Tlön. Continue reading