Madness deepens in the world around us; an age of anger - as Pankaj Mishra puts it - has enveloped us. There is just cause for this anger - deep inequalities that seem hopelessly permanent. But there is also great sadness occasioned by permanent wars. It would be too parochial to see this as merely about Trump or even about Brexit. This dialectic of anger and sadness whips around the entire planet.
But there are also brave people - over half a million who went out on the streets in Romania and millions of people who took to the airports and streets of the United States to protest the #MuslimBan and the many hundreds of millions elsewhere who are in protest upon protest against inequality and cruelty. There are a million stories of grief and confusion as well as of resistance and resilience.
Amongst them is the tale of Nael Zaino and Leen Arafat, two Syrians caught in the eddies of world history and then swept into the main current against their will. At Alternet, I wrote a short essay on the tribulation of this Syrian family, caught between war on the one side and the high walls of caprice on the other. The essay is called 'What is Feels Like to Be A Target of Trump's Muslim Ban'. This was precisely the mood - to capture the feeling of being victimized by Trump's Executive Order.
You can read the essay here.
The picture above was taken seconds after Nael Zaino left the border post at Boston's Logan Airport. He is being greeted by his sister-in-law Katty al-Hayek.
The 9th Circuit has not yet offered its final sense of the temporary stay on the Executive Order. This decision will go to the US Supreme Court.
Of the seven countries on Trump's list is Yemen. It is entirely heartrending to consider the fate of the poorest Arab state. The UN predicts famine conditions in the country during this year. The health system has failed, nothing seems to work properly. Meanwhile, the UK and the US continue to arm Saudi Arabia for its murderous war. And then, in the chaos, al-Qaeda gains territory.
I was looking up the curriculum at three counter-terrorism MA programs recently. I was stunned by the lack of attention to history - to the history of the world on the one side and to the history of proxy wars and interventions on the other. They teach 'armchair intelligence' and 'home grown radicalisation' - nothing on colonial histories, coups and collaborations and wars of choice. Now wonder they sow war with such callous disregard for the past.
Care for the people of places like Yemen is insignificant amongst the Masters of War. The UN suggests that Yemen is one of the main humanitarian disasters of our time. On social media, the hashtag is #KefayaWar - Enough War.
My report for Alternet is on the catastrophic effects of the war and the return of al-Qaeda to a position of authority. You can read it here.
The picture above is by the great Yemeni artist Murad Subay. One might call Banksy the Murad Subay of the West. This is from Murad's work Ruins, which he made with his Yemeni artist Thi Yazen and with community members.
Finally, I am very happy to report that a fine little book I have been working on is now out from LeftWord Books (cover above). This is a book that is anchored by Naomi Klein's 2016 Edward Said Lecture on climate change, Othering and the occupation of the Palestinians. It is a fabulous essay, and it opens the book. Following it come a series of meditations by writers from around the world - John Bellamy Foster, Ghassan Hage, Rafia Zakaria, Masturah Alatas, Shalini Singh and susan abulhawa. They hail from Malaysia, Lebanon, India, Palestine, Pakistan, the United States and Australia. The book ends with a clever essay by Amitav Ghosh on the idea of globalisation and climate change. I am so proud of this little, little book.
The book is available from our website here. It is also available from Amazon's Kindle store as an e-book. LeftWord ships worldwide, by the way.
It is worthy of a blush that the actor Emma Thompson gave the book this blurb,
'With the earth and its inhabitants under more pressure than ever before, and with bona fide climate change deniers in the most powerful positions on the planet, reading this book is essential. It informs and inspires the actions that we all need to take to protect ourselves and our homes. Read it, and after you’ve wept, act'.
I hope you'll be able to read the book.