Above, a picture from the Casbah of Algiers, with children running playfully down some steps, chasing each other. They are a long way away from the French colonial period and from the 'Black Decade' of the 1990s, and yet around them linger not only the signs of those periods but also their structural residues.
In Frontline this week I have a diary on my wanderings through Algiers and my wonderings about Algerian history. The key moment that focused my thoughts was a chance encounter with a young boy named Akram. I asked him a benign question, which could not remain at the level of pleasantries for him:
- A young boy, Akram, runs past me. He is on his way home from school. The Casbah is known as a place of great poverty although what one sees is a great dignity. Corrugated iron roofs are repaired with strips of plastic, held down with bricks. TV dishes sprout like mushrooms beside colourful bedding, which is drying in the winter sun. Old buildings seem perilously close to collapse. Children run through the streets, cheerful. Akram is like them. I ask him innocently: “All good with you?” He bristles at my question. “How can we be good? You know our situation,” he says with his hands gesturing to the area.
You can read the rest of the diary, which includes a meetings with elected officials, artists, the publisher Samia Zennadi and the Democratic and Social Movement, here.
In Alternet today I have a column which asks why those in the West who are confronted by the suffering in the battlefields of the War on Terror and the War on Livelihood find it hard to grasp the authors of the crisis. Why is there this illusion that Western powers are humanitarian, when the record plainly shows that they are merely geo-political agents, pushing not for universal interests but for very particular - not always national - interests.
The picture above - for instance - is from Fallujah, during the 2004 destruction of that city by the US armed forces. Fulminations in the Western media over Aleppo, for instance, forget entirely the razing of the cities of Iraq during the early years of that illegal war.
This essay is a cry from the heart. I hope you will read it, here, in that spirit.
Finally, at the LeftWord Books blog, I have a short post on the question of Communist Histories. LeftWord Books has a major project to encourage the writing of histories that return the communists, socialists, anarchists and other left-wing forces to the record. This does not mean that we want to artificially inflate their importance. Quite the contrary - as I note in the post - we are interested in an honest assessment of their role. Please glance at the post, which you can see here.
The picture above is from Yenan in 1938. This is the women's militia. There is perhaps a link between this communist outfit and the Red Spear societies - or village defense units - that could be found across Northern China.
Today we are sending Teesta Setalvad's memoir to the printers. By the time I write to you next, I can introduce you to the book and of course its brilliant cover. The book will be available from January 26th, Indian Republic Day.