Tag Archives: 2013

Miley, Minecraft, Mandela: Negin Farsad leaves 2013′s shenanigans in the dust

All the Time by TED Fellow Alicia Eggert

All the Time by TED Fellow Alicia Eggert

 

As 2013 inexorably rolls into 2014, social justice comedian and filmmaker Negin Farsad has a few choice words for the outgoing 365 days…

You started 2013 thinking it was gonna be a real hoot. There was an inauguration for a president, a bunch of balls, Beyoncé sang, spirits were high!

2013 had its moments! You saw the royal baby, the Kimye baby, the brilliant death of Walter White. You got a colorful iPhone, you started Instagramming your favorite cappuccinos, you actually used all the Pilates classes you got in that one Groupon. You gave up snark for smarm, you tried kale for the first time, and you finally replaced your desk chair with an exercise ball! You were doing GOOD.

But things got murky with ol’ 2013. Take Miley Cyrus, she was suddenly full of haircuts, tongue gestures and twerking – or was it tweeking? Or was it butt-clapping? You resolved to keep better track of popular dance moves. But how could you? You hadn’t logged onto Twitter in like a week! You may as well be dead. So you start furiously tweeting pithy one-liners about Carlos Danger, about crack smoking mayors, about Paula Deen hating black people, about fictional fat Santa’s race.

You were super in love with Obama until his website didn’t work immediately and then you were super mad at Obama. Your 3D printer keeps jamming, which is probably Obama’s fault too. You ended up with health insurance but you were still inexplicably mad at the Prez.

You get excited because there might be a House vote on the immigration bill. No wait, there isn’t. No wait, there is. No wait… You look at your toilet, you realized that by carting off your family’s pooh throughout the year it has done more than all of Congress.

You try to figure out the rules on being gay – you can marry in some states (woo hoo!); not in others (boo!); you’re welcomed as Olympic athletes in some countries (woo hoo!); shunned in others (boo!); beloved by the pope (woo hoo!); scorned by people who sell duck calls (boo!). The rules are too complicated so you ditch that and play Minecraft.

And pow! There’s a government shutdown, bitches! You realize that little joke you made about Congress and your toilet is actually true! You also realize that apparently the US government ain’t no match for the minority wing of an already unpopular political party that’s obsessed with tea and three cornered hats. Hell no it isn’t!

You learn that all your carefully crafted text messages, voicemails and cell phone calls were being saved, archived, tapped, reread, reviewed, and re-enjoyed all by the country’s very own National Security Agency. You decide not to think about civil liberties or privacy or like “law” or whatever, and focus your attention on Edward Snowden, the dude with the laptops. Did you know he had a stripper girlfriend? Now there’s something to post on Facebook!

Oh yes, Facebook’s stock was down and then up again and… does it even matter? Because once you log on you’re reminded that all of your friends have BETTER LIVES THAN YOU. They’re au courant on Walking Dead episodes and have interesting thoughts on the morality of Snapchat. They post multitudinous photos of the kind of joy you couldn’t possibly ever achieve because you’re single with no kids or because you have too many children or because you hate your husband or because you’re divorced and plan on hating all future women… Aw man! 2013 has you feeling like garbage.

But forget 2013, it just soiled itself. Its like the last one left at the party, it won’t get the hint. The hosts are already clearing out the empty bottles. Its time for it to go! 2013 is goosed, it’s cooked, its burnt on one side, it will never taste good in these buns, gah!

But here comes 2014 and 2014 is the year you’re going to remember to vote, to jog, to care, to be fair. You’re gonna clean the gutters and stand on the side of justice and you’re not gonna let Ted Cruz or the NSA or duck hunters keep you down. You’re gonna get all inspire-y like Malala, you’re gonna get in the trenches like Madiba. This is your year to throw on your Google Glass, punch the boogeyman in the dick, and tell all them schmos to tread lightly ’cause 2014 is about to Turn. This. All. Around.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chile’s people, 40 years after Pinochet: Jon Lowenstein captures a society in recovery and transformation

Patio 29 is a section of  Santiago's General Cemetery where political dissidents and supporters of Salvador Allende were buried anonymously in mass graves. To this day not all of the peole have been identified correctly; many families are still not sure what happened to their loved ones during that era.  Forty years after the coup headed by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, Chile remains a wounded, divided nation where the past lives in the present.  The nation’s enduring rifts are visible in the glaring contrast between the entrenched poverty in Santiago’s shantytowns and the country’s elite, who enriched themselves during the dictatorship.  History is alive in the homes of people like Ana Gonzalez, a woman whose husband, two of her sons and pregnant daughter-in-law were disappeared during the dictatorship.   And it’s a force in the November presidential election featuring Michelle Bachelet and Evelyn Matthei.  The daughters of Air Force Generals played together as children, but their lives were changed permanently by the coup.    Matthei’s father Fernando joined the junta. Bachelet’s father Alberto remained loyal to Salvador Allende and the constitution, paying for that decision with his life.   Yet there are also glimmerings of Chile’s coming to terms with its bloody past.  Among the most important: this September 11 saw an unprecedented outpouring of memory-related activity.

Patio 29 is a section of Santiago’s General Cemetery where political dissidents and supporters of Salvador Allende were buried anonymously in mass graves. To this day, not all of the people have been identified correctly; many families are still not sure what happened to their loved ones during that era.

Documentary photographer Jon Lowenstein and his brother Jeff Kelly Lowenstein, a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Diego Portales, are currently in Chile in the run-up to the country’s 2013 presidential election. Together they are documenting how the nation’s people are faring during this historic period 40 years after the coup overthrowing President Salvador Allende by General Augusto Pinochet. Jon’s images are currently being streamed on the New Yorker magazine’s Instagram feed, and the brothers have just posted the first in a series of three articles on the New Yorker’s Photo Booth blog. Below, find an introduction to the work by the Lowensteins, and more sample images from this powerful body of work in progress.

“Forty years after the coup headed by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, Chile remains a wounded, divided nation where the past lives in the present. The nation’s enduring rifts are visible in the glaring contrast between the entrenched poverty in Santiago’s shantytowns and the country’s elite, who enriched themselves during the dictatorship.

History is alive in the homes of people like Ana Gonzalez, a woman whose husband, two of her sons and pregnant daughter-in-law were disappeared during the dictatorship.

And it’s a force in the November presidential election featuring Michelle Bachelet and Evelyn Matthei. The daughters of Air Force Generals played together as children, but their lives were changed permanently by the coup. Matthei’s father Fernando joined the junta. Bachelet’s father Alberto remained loyal to Salvador Allende and the constitution, paying for that decision with his life.

Yet there are also glimmerings of Chile’s coming to terms with its bloody past. Among the most important: this September 11 saw an unprecedented outpouring of memory-related activity.”

Located in Santiago, Villa Grimaldi is considered the most important and infamous of DINA’s (Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional, the Chilean secret police) many places that were used for the detention, interrogation and torture of political prisoners during Gen. Augusto’s Pinochet’s dictatorship. The former social club was open from 1974 to 1978. About 4,500 detainees were brought to Villa Grimaldi during these years, at least 240 of whom were “disappeared” or killed by DINA. Rebuilt from survivors’ memories, the site is dedicated to preserving the memory of those tortured, interrogated and killed by Pinochet’s henchmen.

AFEP (Agrupacion de Familiares de Ejecutados Politicos - Group of Family Members of the Politically Executed) is a support group for family members of people who were executed during the Pinochet dictatorship. Group members call for truth and justice for the perpetrators and help each other to deal with the effects of the trauma.  Forty years after the coup headed by Gen. Augusto Pinochet, Chile remains a wounded, divided nation where the past lives in the present.  The nation’s enduring rifts are visible in the glaring contrast between the entrenched poverty in Santiago’s shantytowns and the country’s elite, who enriched themselves during the dictatorship.  History is alive in the homes of people like Ana Gonzalez, a woman whose husband, two sons and daughter-in-law were disappeared during the dictatorship.   And it’s a force in the November presidential election featuring Michelle Bachelet and Evelyn Matthei.  The daughters of Air Force Generals played together as children, but their lives were changed permanently by the coup.    Matthei’s father Fernando joined the junta. Bachelet’s father Alberto remained loyal to Salvador Allende and the constitution, paying for that decision with his life.   Yet there are also glimmerings of Chile’s coming to terms with its bloody past.  Among the most important: this September 11 saw an unprecedented outpouring of memory-related activity.

AFEP (Agrupacion de Familiares de Ejecutados Politicos – Group of Family Members of the Politically Executed) is a support group for family members of people who were executed during the Pinochet dictatorship. Group members call for truth and justice for the perpetrators and help each other to deal with the effects of the trauma.

Tahrir Square, Brazil? No, not yet.

Overhead photos of Brazilian cities. Photos: anonymous, from Facebook

Overhead photos of Brazilian cities. Photos: anonymous, from Facebook

In the last few days, vast protests sparked by a bus-fare increase have rocked Brazil, taking its leaders – and the world – by surprise. TED Fellow and conservation biologist Juliana M Ferreira offers an insider’s perspective on how and why this is happening.

With all the eyes of the world on Brazil due to the upcoming World Cup 2014 and Olympics 2016, the view of the last few days, especially on June 17th, was a little different from the world’s stereotypes of Brazil: happy and beautiful people partying and dancing semi-naked samba, and enjoying soccer matches while sipping caipirinhas.

What the world saw was the explosion from pressure that had been accumulating for a long time. News agencies claim that altogether, 250,000 people were protesting that day in many Brazilian capitals. However, photos show that this number was actually much higher. It started when local governments raised bus fares by some cents (different values in each State). In Sao Paulo, the fare went from 3.00 to 3.20 Reais, the equivalent of US$0.10. The first protests were organized by a movement called “Free Pass,” which advocates for free public transportation to guarantee citizens’ right to move freely. These first protests, however, gathered fewer people and were less organized, more violent and more linked to some political parties than the one that happened on June 17th. In these first protests, some protesters vandalized public and private properties. However, when police responded with apparently unscrupulous violence, all eyes in Brazil began to turn to this movement, and people from all walks of life started to join the movement to protest police violence, for the people’s right to protest and reduced fares or free public transportation.

However, this is the social networking era. And just as it happened in the Arab Spring, protesters in Brazil began to self-organize through social networks, calling more people, persuading friends to participate. The movement changed and became more spontaneous, less violent and definitely not headed or organized by political parties. With more people joining the protests, the list of claims grew and became less focused. People were not protesting anymore for the 10 cents raise on bus fares. All repressed disappointment exploded in the voices of Brazilians from very different backgrounds.
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Above and below: protests in São Paulo, Brazil, June 17, 2013. Photos: Rodrigo Vieira, Flickr.com

Protests in São Paulo, Brazil, June 17, 2013. Photo: Rodrigo Vieira, Flickr.com

Young people don’t see any opportunities in their future and more experienced people are disenchanted with politics after a lifetime of fights against military dictatorship, for democracy and direct elections. Older Brazilians have hoped for so many times and for many years that the political situation in Brazil would change, but instead, the politicians in power are the same, political parties seem to have lost connection with any ideologies and only function as sellers and buyers of political support for funding or positions in the government.

Brazilians are also watching powerlessly as inflation increases and the government manipulates numbers to deny this obvious fact. The state’s expenditure is as high as ever, and we have never had this many appointed positions (just the president’s cabinet has approximately 20,000) and ministries/cabinets (we have 39 now). There is widespread corruption in all levels of power, and public resources are used for personal or parties’ interests and in exchange for companies’ financial support during elections. Politicians in Brazil have very high salaries and unbelievable privileges such as cars, drivers, plane tickets, apartments, immense cabinet funding, right to employ several assessors and lifelong benefits, just to mention a few. Brazil is organizing the most expensive World Cup of all time, building overpriced stadiums that will not have much use in the future, while public education, health and security are hanging by a thread. Our country also has one of the highest tax rates in the world. At the same time, there are virtually no public services. Those who can pay for private services and those who can’t are left helpless. Programs that were initially created for wealth distribution became tools used to buy votes and mass manipulation. The government is clearly focused on infrastructure development, ignoring technical information related to environmental conservation or energy, for example, making decisions based on political interests that are completely ignorant about technicalities involved in these decisions.

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Above: Protesters. Below: Police watch. São Paulo, Brazil, June 17, 2013. Photos:  Rodrigo Vieira, Flickr.com

Police watch, São Paulo, Brazil, June 17, 2013. Photo: Rodrigo Vieira, Flickr.com

Brazil is also known for the almost complete lack of independence between legislative, executive and judiciary powers, the most basic principle of democracy. The last maneuver of the government in this direction is the infamous PEC37, a proposal to change Brazil’s constitution to restrict just to police forces the prerogative of investigating law infractions. This would restrict the ability of the “public ministry” (the Brazilian body of independent public prosecutors, working both at the federal and state level) to perform investigations. Such restriction only exists in a few totalitarian countries and would mean a significant regression in our democracy. Lastly, the opposing party is mute and, in reality, practically inexistent, becoming accessary to this situation.

The cherry on the top of this cake was the trial of the “mensalao,” one of the biggest corruption schemes of all times, in which the government paid congressmen and senators in exchange for political support. Defendants that were convicted by the Supreme Federal Court not only are not facing their penalties, but some of them, after the conviction, were tenured as federal congressmen with all benefits.

So for many Brazilians, the protests are now much more than just about the public transportation problem. The biggest difference that I see in comparison to the Arab Spring is that our movement lacks one clear demand, such as that the president resigns, for example. Even if he did, this would not change a single thing, as the vice-president, the president of the congress and all in line of succession are as bad as or worse.

In a sense, these protests are more of a wake-up call for citizens to show all their discontent, and to show politicians that Brazilians are done being manipulated, lied to and robbed. However, the movement still needs to mature and become a force with political results. In my opinion, the only way for things to start changing substantially in Brazilian politics are long-overdue political and fiscal reforms. Otherwise, there is the possibility that we will just go back to the lethargy we were in up to now. I hope not, from the bottom of my heart and for the future of my beloved nation.