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Despite often feeling that I work among people who have lost their ideals, and being immersed deeply myself in the last few months of this PhD, there is still a burning sense of injustice that enrages me every day, and it frustrates me that people around me cannot feel it too.

Recently, Bradley Manning completed his 1000th day in custody as his trial continues to be delayed, postponed and rainchecked by a ‘justice’ system and a long-term political regime that is institutionally prejudiced against those who speak the inconvenient truth.

Assange still spends his days in the Ecuadorean embassy in Knightsbridge, just a half hour away on the tube from where I am sitting now, an ‘enemy of the state’ for showing the world – or, at least, those who are interested – that American governments are not all they appear to be.

Hardly anyone even speaks about Jeremy Hammond, nor of the hundreds of journalists and political activists who are still behind bars today for making their dissent against injustice known, or even for reporting on the existence of injustice.

In many parts of the world today, gays still cannot marry without judgement from the prejudiced, women cannot be priests or even be educated without backlash from patriarchal fundamentalists, Blacks cannot go about their lives without being stop-and-searched, and intellectuals cannot speak their minds without being censored. The young are patronised and the old victimised, the poor overlooked and the wealthy put on a pedestal.

We should be enraged about these, yet so many of us wake up each morning and go to bed each night with these thoughts never having crossed our minds.

We should take heed of Assange’s words:

“Every time we witness an injustice and do not act, we train our character to be passive in its presence and thereby eventually lose all ability to defend ourselves and those we love. In a modern economy it is impossible to seal oneself off from injustice.

If we have brains or courage, then we are blessed and called on not to frit these qualities away, standing agape at the ideas of others, winning pissing contests, improving the efficiencies of the neocorporate state, or immersing ourselves in obscuranta, but rather to prove the vigor of our talents against the strongest opponents of love we can find.

If we can only live once, then let it be a daring adventure that draws on all our powers. Let it be with similar types whose hearts and heads we may be proud of. Let our grandchildren delight to find the start of our stories in their ears but the endings all around in their wandering eyes.
The whole universe or the structure that perceives it is a worthy opponent, but try as I may I can not escape the sound of suffering.

Perhaps as an old man I will take great comfort in pottering around in a lab and gently talking to students in the summer evening and will accept suffering with insouciance. But not now; men in their prime, if they have convictions are tasked to act on them.”

 

First thing’s first – here’s Assange’s address from last night: http://wikileaks.org/Statement-by-Julian-Assange-after.html

Secondly, while I’m aware some of you follow this blog more regularly than others, I should probably say that I won’t be blogging as regularly as I usually do for the next few months. That’s because ‘crunch time’ has finally arrived – I have run my last study, analysed the data, and now I must go into the self-imposed solitary confinement I’ve promised myself I will, I must, go into, to finish writing my thesis.

Writing my thesis.

It has a funny ring to it when you say it out loud. I’ve been doing the field work, the desk work, the paperwork for this thing for two and a half years; there’s so much work piled up that’s been done. Everything’s done, and just waiting around to get written up. I terrifies me.

Come March, I must have the full thesis written, complete, reviewed, edited, formatted, and ready to go. I am in a state of disbelief that this could even be possible. And yet, I know, it can and must be done.

And if you are working on your own thesis right now, take heart, and keep working with the faith that you too will reach your goal in the end! A PhD is a long and lonely journey. That’s what my supervisor warned me at the very beginning, when I was first considering putting an application in to grad school. But I said I’d take the hit, and so, here I am. I have come this far, and now I am going to give it one last shot to make the home run. And so are you! We will accomplish this, all together.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go write my thesis.

Onwards and upwards!

I’m probably going to be at home with my nose in a book, but I’m hoping RT will stream it live.

He’s given assorted interviews over the past 6 months, plus his new book Cypherpunks has recently come out, but rumor has it tonight’s address is going to contain a few surprises. Oh, the anticipation! What will we hear next? More details about the plan to join the Aussie senate? Launching the new WikiLeaks political party?

For all the festivities and fun of the season, it’s a shame we still live in a world where Assange is holed up in an embassy he can’t leave, still hasn’t been charged with any crime, and is probably worse for wear in terms of his physical health. It’s sad that we live in a world where people – peace heroes like Manning – who dare to show the public the war crimes committed by governments are preyed on by liberty-forsaking powers and hidden away in classified locations for weeks, months, years on end.

Whatever Assange says tonight, I hope we will soon see both him and Manning, and all people struggling against political persecution in their quest to show us an alternative view of the world, free to speak their minds and free to do what they believe is right.

 

 

 

It is a small victory for the sisterhood that it is the words of a female poet – Emma Lazarus – that grace the pedestals of the Statue of Liberty in New York’s great harbour.

What a shame that those words have come to represent an ideal that, in practice, America may never reach. Because the fact is, however much we idealise  equality among all people, regardless of their backgrounds, and however much we believe that we must protect those at the very bottom of society, we are still shamefully unequal. And for all the rhetoric of “difficult times” and “making do” used by politicians, our inequality is unjustifiable, indefensible, immoral.

Not long ago, Jon Ronson from GQ Magazine drove across America to interview some of the richest and poorest people in the country. In this striking story, the comfortable, protected life of a Forbes billionaire is put in contrast with a migrant from Haiti who lives in a slum and washes dishes for a meager wage. Inequality in America is, actually, still as bad as, if not worse than, it was in 1774. And that’s got to be bad, considering slavery was still in operation back then.

Today, we still live in a world where inequality prevails, where the rich hold power, and where the poorest masses are silent in the face of injustice.

In a world where those who dare to show us the truth – like Assange or Manning – are held captive by authorities that have long exceeded the powers granted them by constitutional law.

In a world where the tired, the poor, the huddled masses find no ‘world-wide welcome’ in the countries that hold equality ideal.

In a world where they find themselves, instead, destitute, and this destitution is more appalling in America and in Western cradles of democracy than it is in countries poorer, because it is here in the West that so many others bask in needless wealth, and in the greed that justifies holding on to it.

And here in London, in Stratford where I live and work, at what was the heart of the pomp and the glory of the 2012 Olympics, the homeless men and women still sit silent on the benches in the mall, wrapped tight in tattered clothes, smelling of garbage, a few bags of belongings tucked under their legs. In a country where £11 billion was spent on the games, how can it be fair that these unwanted castaways are no closer to decency and dignity than they were before?

If the West is really a ‘Mother of Exiles’, why did it not build shelters, open kitchens, create jobs and education programmes for its homeless?

And in its blind celebration of needless expenditure why, why can it not see the homeless, the tempest-tost on whom it treads?

 

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame.
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazarus (1849-1887)

David Cameron has once again shown the world the extent of his policy of double standards by agreeing that Syrian head of state Assad should be given safe passage out of Syria should he ask for it.

Safe passage for Assad, who has openly failed to put an end to state violence against civilians across the country for almost 2 years, but not for Assange, who has been unlawfully detained without charge or trial also for almost 2 years.

Why so selective about whom you protect, Cameron?

Why is it that you would go to such extreme lengths to negotiate escape for a president accused of heinous war crimes against his own people, but not for an ordinary man who showed the world that many of its governments are corrupt with double standards like yours?

Assange has always maintained he will face allegations of sex offences in Sweden provided he is protected from persecution by the US – persecution which has nothing to do with sex offences but with the way WikiLeaks has revealed, and continues to reveal, the increasingly unethical and inhumane activities conducted by US governments past and present. If you are so concerned about justice, Cameron, why don’t you lobby Sweden for protection for Assange?

Why do you instead agree to safe passage for Assad? Do you think that is fair, even if Assad is sent to The Hague? Is it fair that the man responsible for the murder of so many of his own citizens, in what is one of the longest-running Arab Spring revolutions yet seen, should be allowed safely out of his country to trial, while the man partially responsible for inspiring the Arab Spring in the first place, through the revelations of WikiLeaks, is awaited day and night to just dare to step out of the Ecuadorian Embassy so that he can be arrested and extradited to Sweden without guarantee of protection from unlawful persecution from the US?

Is it fair?

If you think it is fair, Cameron, it is clear that you pursue a politics that is rife with the corruption of double standards. If you think it is fair, it is clear that you value the silencing of threats to your own government but not the growing revolution of open governance. It is clear that you value all that suits you, and nothing that does not.

One of the most honourable qualities of a political leader is the ability to pursue liberty impartially. Too often, though, political leaders choose liberty for themselves, for their secrets and their lies, for their allies and their partners in crime, for their donors and their friends, but not for those who try to reveal this unjust liberty to the rest of the people. If you were a leader who pursued liberty impartially, Cameron, you would recognise that Assange deserves liberty from persecution and surveillance and that Assad does not.

Whilst we cannot be certain of Alfred Nobel’s reasons for prohibiting Nobel Prize nominees from being publicly identified until 50 years after their nomination, the rule seems to have come in handy to the Norwegian award committee this year, who are responsible for selecting the winner of the Peace Prize category. The winner this year, of course, was announced last Friday, and was the European Union.

For a pan-governmental authority currently bowing to the political persecution of individuals like Julian Assange, directly contributing to widespread unhappiness and political unrest in the Greek population through severe austerity, and, for one particular member, following the Bush administration into unethical and expensive wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, I must say I am surprised by the committee’s choice.

Naturally, because the nominees considered alongside the Union cannot be revealed until 2062, we have no reliable way of evaluating whether the committee’s choice might reflect general public opinion. I have a feeling it might not.

It seems senseless to award the European Union a Nobel Peace Prize when the European Union is constituted only by a range of member states, each of which have engaged in acts that both promote peace and damn it at the same time. Moreover, I would personally favour everyday individuals or non-governmental organisations for the Peace Prize over and above governmental authorities, whether over a single state or a whole continent. Mostly because I believe grassroots movements have generally achieved more in the way of progressive social change than any government.

So, if and when we come to the day when the European Union’s fellow nominees for Peace are announced, I shall look forward to shaking my head and pitying Nobel award committees’ seeming fascination with an outdated reverence to state and pan-state authority.

…it turns out Lady Gaga is friends with Julian Assange.

One of those ‘WTF?!’ moments…

toolwielder

Underground: The Julian Assange Story (2012)

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Now that he’s spoken, I’m reminded that I am, actually, trying to finish my PhD, and that I should probably get on with it.

So what’s happened in the fortnight since I returned to the office?

I had resolved to begin drafting out chapters and collecting my last bit of data immediately, but for a few different reasons, I haven’t been moving as quickly as I’d hoped. Firstly, I confess there’s been some procrastination. Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed by all the different things that need my attention that I can’t decide which one I should start with and how I should go about finishing. So all of them stay unattended to, and I wallow in the misery of feeling inefficient and incapable.

Secondly, I’ve realised it’s meaningless to start collecting data immediately, because since university students comprise my target population, I’d be wasting my time in searching for them when the semester has only just started. Undergraduates are milling around everywhere at the moment, like headless chickens, trying to find lecture theatres, working out timetabling abbreviations (“What does ‘TBA’ mean? What does ‘TBA’ mean??” one was screeching yesterday) and getting frustrated upon finding out they actually need to reach into their pocket, extract their student card, and swipe it on the card reader before the automatic door will open for them. What a drag. So I’m waiting till next week before I start my hopefully-not-much-longer-than-6-weeks surveying.

Another reason I can’t seem to move faster with my work is this feeling of not being ready. Chatting with a resident postdoc yesterday, I suddenly realised how unaccustomed I am to talking about my ‘thesis’, my ‘examiners’, my ‘viva’, and my ‘career’. These are things that happen towards the tail end of PhDs. I’ve become so used to being at the beginning and in the middle of my PhD, I can’t get my head around the end of it. What’s it like to actually have a fully written, edited, proofed and bound thesis? What’s it like to come face to face with your examiners? And have a viva? And, God forbid, what about my career? I’ve been a full time student since the age of four – I don’t know a thing about careers! I guess this is what causes many a PhD student nearing completion to dilly-dally and drag their feet, feeling comfortable with the way things are and needing a little more time to consider what they want to do next.

But we just don’t live in a world like that any more. We don’t have time to dilly-dally. While we’re dilly-dallying, other PhD go-getters, who aren’t necessarily smarter than us, but just more ambitious, are already out there, throwing themselves into competitive jobs, publishing, presenting, networking, globetrotting and getting promoted.

What a drag.

And then there’s this talk of postdocs. I always thought I’d take up a lectureship at the end of my PhD, and live happily ever after. Now I’m not so sure. I like research, and there are continuations of my PhD research that I’d like to do after I finish. And with all respect to lecturers, at least the ones I’ve seen, they work long hours for average pay and spend so much time managing ‘unskilled’ research methods courses they hardly have a moment to do research or even teach on specialist courses. I’m not sure I want that – I don’t want to have done all this research I’m really interested in, only to spend the next 3 to 6 years of my life teaching undergrads what a variable is. I respect that someone’s got to do it. I just don’t want it to be me.

Oh, woe to us on the brink of thesis submission. There is just so much confusion.

UN permanent representatives yesterday received an address by Assange in relation to human rights and the legitimacy of diplomatic asylum. The address came not long after both Assange and the wider WikiLeaks community were declared enemies of the state by the US, putting them on the same list as well-known ‘terrorist’ organisations like Al-Qaeda.

‘It is time for the US to cease its persecution of WikiLeaks’

So it’s a huge shame for that so-called ‘cradle of democracy’ that any American military personnel serving in the armed forces who should decide to express solidarity with the WikiLeaks movement by helping classified information be published in the public domain will now be at risk of indefinite detainment, charge, torture, and capital punishment for treason.

The same as Bradley Manning.

And it is amazing to watch the hundreds of thousands of ordinary people around the world rallying (for almost 2 years) for freedom for Assange, freedom for WikiLeaks, and freedom for all individuals in the pursuit of progressive change who act as their sources, and it is amazing to see how their screams continue to fall on deaf ears:

Protest in cyberspace

Protest in Melbourne

Protest in London

Protest in New York

Protest in Sao Paulo, Sydney, Amsterdam, and Lima

It’s amazing to think about the intellectually narrow, never-changing politics that continue to shape the way government authorities bind themselves rigidly to the ‘law’, even when the law is morally wrong. And at other times, it’s equally amazing how they ignore the law, even when the law is morally right.

It’s time to free not only Assange from his political persecution of over 600 days, but the truth from its forsaken grave deep in the classified vaults of world governments.

Friend of WikiLeaks

June 2017
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The Final Countdown

Submission of PhD ThesisMay 1st, 2013
The big day is here. Joy to the world!