Tomorrow We Disappear: The Human Price of Development

Tomorrow We Disappear: New Dehli’s Kathputli Slum

Al Jazeera (2016)

Film Review

This is one of the saddest and most beautifully made documentaries I’ve ever seen. It concerns a 60-year-old artist colony in a New Dehli slum called Kathputli. The film follows the artists’ futile struggle to block government plans to evict them to make way for a shopping mall and high rise commercial and residential buildings.

The 1500 artists who have learned their craft from parents and grandparents, consist of magicians, puppeteers, musicians, carvers, acrobats, fire eater, dancers and jugglers. Most earn a meager living as street performers in the crowded streets of New Dehli. The documentary follows their fruitless negotiations with government officials and property developers.

In the end they organize a series of colorful protests featuringde giant puppets, stilt walkers, jugglers, acrobats and magicians in brilliantly colored costumes. Their goal is to call public attention to what is being lost.

Their colony was bulldozed in late 2017, and they were all moved to temporary “transit” camps (they look more like concentration camps) at considerable distance from Dehli.

The Middle Ages: More Hidden History

Cathedral, Forge, and Waterwheel: Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages

By Frances and Joseph Gies

Harper Collins (1994)

Book Review

This book debunks the prevailing misconception that the Middle Ages was a Dark Ages and that all knowledge and technology was lost when “barbarian tribes” caused the collapse of the Roman Empire. The authors do this very convincingly by identifying a number of key medieval technologies (most from the Far East) without which the 15th century Renaissance would have been impossible.

These include

  • the heavy plow
  • open field agriculture, water powered machinery
  • Hindu-Arab numerals
  • double entry bookkeeping
  • the compass and navigational charts
  • clockwork
  • firearms
  • moveable type
  • stirrups
  • the horse collar harness
  • paper
  • canal locks
  • underground mining

The barbarians themselves (ie Germanic tribes) also provided European civilization with several key inventions:

  • soap (the Greeks and Romans never used it)
  • socks
  • laced boots
  • clothing made from multiple pieces of cloth sewn together
  • wooden barrels (replacing fragile clay jars and animal skins previously used for food storage).

The book maintains that China was far more important than Rome as a source of medieval technologies. In most cases, technological innovations filtered into Europe along Arab trade routes. It devotes specific attention to the horizontal loom (the Romans used a vertical loom), moveable type (adopted by Gutenberg for his printing press), the water wheel, the wheelbarrow, the odometer, mechanical clocks, gunpowder and the crossbow.

Europeans gained access to Hindu-Arab numbers, the cotton gin and the windmill via India and Persia.

Given the extremely Eurocentric education I received in school, I was extremely surprised to learn about all the inventions Europeans take credit for which originated elsewhere.

 

 

 

Kidney Valley: Nepal’s Thriving Organ Black Market

Kidney Valley

RT (2017)

Film Review

This documentary concerns Karnali Province in Nepal, where approximately 10,000 kidneys are illegally harvested every year by traffickers. Most are smuggled into India, where patients buy them for $15,000-20,000 each. Filmmakers visit one village where roughly one person per household has sold a kidney.

The traffickers take advantage of extreme poverty and low education levels to coerce villagers to agree to surgery. Although they are promised $5,000-6,000 for undergoing the procedure, “donors” typically receive $500-1,000 at most.

Nepal’s illegal kidney trade has been in operation for roughly 20 years report Karnali residents are much more willing to up up their kidneys since a 2015 earthquake made tens of thousands of them homeless.

Pipelinestan: The Taliban, Unocal and 9-11

Taliban Oil

Al Jazeera (2015)

Film Review

Taliban Oil is a documentary about secret negotiations between Unocal and the Taliban to build a pipeline transporting natural gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India – via Afghanistan. It features interviews with the former president of Unocal (who entertained Taliban leaders in his home in Sugarland Texas), a female Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) operative who lost her security clearance for a report warning the Clinton administration for a against US collaboration with the Taliban.

This film contradicts the conventional wisdom that the US invaded Afghanistan because the Taliban refused to build the Unocal pipeline. Filmmakers maintain it was Unocal who canceled the pipeline project. Already by the late nineties, Afghanistan was suffering the ravages of a 20-years of civil war – the Taliban were extremely keen to use the $400 million/year transit fees for reconstruction. The Clinton administration was also heavily promoting the pipeline deal, arranging for Taliban leaders to meet with the State Department, CIA and NSA.

Unocal reportedly withdrew from the deal in 1998, after suicide bombers blew up US embassies in Nairobi and Tanzania. Clinton blamed the suicide bombing on Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden, who was operating jihadist training camps in Afghanistan.

In addition to attacking various training camps with cruise missiles, Clinton made 30 separate requests for the Taliban to extradite bin Laden to the US. Although supreme Taliban leader Mullah Omar opposed the training camps, bin Laden was a national hero for his role in expelling the Soviets. It would have brought great shame on the Taliban leadership to hand him over to the Americans. .

In 2001 George W Bush and Dick Cheney reiterated the requests for bin Laden’s extradition, while simultaneously making deals for their own petroleum companies to build the pipeline.

Rejecting the Taliban’s offer to expel bin Laden to a third country, in summer 2001 the Bush administration made plans to invade Afghanistan in mid-autumn. One source* quoted in the film states the jihadists were aware of the impending attack and decided to launch a preemptive strike on the Twin Towers.


*For documentation filmmakers provide an old YouTube clip from Adam Gaddan, the Jewish-born “American” al-Qaeda spokesperson. Gaddan has long been suspected of either Israeli or US intelligence links.

Offline is the New Luxury

Offline is the New Luxury

VPRO (2017)

Film Review

This documentary is about taking back control of our Internet connectivity. Ironically it starts by recommending a new app that allows you to identify increasingly rare “white spots” – areas of the earth that aren’t blanketed with WiFi signals. One MIT psychology professor, who bans cellphones, laptops and tablets in her classes, is part of a movement to create sacred spaces in these white spots – areas where people fully engage with each other instead of their electronic devices.

The filmmakers also talk about the late Steve Jobs and other prominent Silicon Valley moguls not allowing their kids to have cellphones and tablets and sending them to low tech Montessori and Waldorf schools. Increasingly the well-to-do are seeking out expensive retreats and detox facilities to cure their Internet addiction. While growing numbers of law firms and security agencies patronize a highly successful Dutch firm selling Faraday cages and microwave shields to protect clients from electronic snooping and damaging microwave radiation.

The Amish, of course, have a cheap low-tech solution to Internet addiction – namely a value system that rejects most advanced electronic technology.

The video concludes by explaining the concept of “surveillance capitalism,” in which our personal information is “monetized,” ie in which the data Google, Facebook and Amazon collect on us is sold to advertisers.

A key strategy of surveillance capitalism is to use drones, satellites and giant balloons to expand connectivity to remote areas of the developing world. At the time of filming, Facebook was pressuring the Indian government to allow the introduction of Free Basics (free Internet connectivity) to all Indian residents, with Facebook retaining control of their Internet access. Google, meanwhile, is pushing to extend 100% connectivity to Sri Lanka by launching giant WiFi balloons.

According to one analyst, the drive to acquire massive troves of Indian personal data is a ploy to placate shareholders. The latter are understandably concerned about a drop-off in Facebook users in the developing world – due to privacy concerns and the recognition that most Facebook content is meaningless drivel.

Bribery and Corruption: The Clintons are a Textbook Case

Narrated by author Peter Schweizer, Clinton Cash explores how former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton granted special concessions to wealthy investors and foreign leaders in return for donations to the Clinton foundation and humongous speaking fees (for her husband Bill).

Examples include

  • State Department approval for Joe Wilson’s mining company to cut a mineral deal with Sudanese warlords in return for large donations to the Clinton Foundation.
  • Waiver of US sanctions against Democratic Republic of Congo – enabling Swedish oligarch Lucas Lundin to access their mineral reserves – in return for a $100 million donation to the Clinton Foundation.
  • State Department reversal of sanctions President Bill Clinton initiated against India for violating the nuclear anti-proliferation treaty – in return for big donations to the Clinton Foundation, millions in speaking fees and illegal donations to Hillary’s senate campaign.
  • Approval of the sale of 50% of America’s uranium deposits to Uranium One, putting 20% of US uranium production under Russian control – in return for millions of Clinton Foundation donations from Uranium One shareholders and a half a million dollars in speaking fees.
  • A favorable State Department environmental impact statement on the Keystone XL Pipeline – after TD Bank, one of Keystone’s major investors, paid Bill for ten speaking engagements.

The film also details the massive corruption associated with the Haiti Reconstruction Commission, which the Clintons headed after the 2008 Haiti earthquake. Instead of being used to rebuild homes and roads, most of the international aid ended up in the pockets of Clinton corporate benefactors. This includes hundreds of millions for luxury hotels and for a company with no gold mining experience to build the first Haitian gold mine in sixty years. The Clintons also authorized Caracol, a new textile factory in northern Haiti (the earthquake occurred in southern Haiti), which pays sweatshop wages to produce clothing for the Gap, Target and Walmart.

 

Colonizing the Third World via Appearance Marketing

The Illusionists

Directed by Elena Rossini

Film Review

The Illusionists is about cultural globalization and the colonization of the third world via appearance marketing. The westernized image of whiteness and thinness is aggressively marketing through out the world as synonymous with power.

The effect of this marketing is to continuously bombard women with messages that their appearance is unsatisfactory – to convince them the way they look is all that matters, that no one will love them if they aren’t sexy and that anyone can be beautiful and sexy if they work at it and purchase enough beauty and weight loss products.

I was amazed to learn of all the skin whitening products being sold in Japan, India and Africa. To my immense astonishment Lebanon, where 1/3 of all women undergo it, is the plastic surgery capital of the world.

The most concerning segment concerns the deliberate sexualization of preschool children in marketing campaigns that, in my view, amount to soft porn. In addition to marketing make-up and lingerie to preschoolers, the ultimate goal of such campaigns is to “eroticize” shopping for young girls.

Brave Girls Alliance is a grassroots group started by teenagers campaigning to end the role of Wall Street corporations in defining beauty standards. See Brave Girls Take Back the Media

This film can’t be embedded but can be viewed for free at Films for Action