Tag Archives: invazn

the middle eastern unrest in context

posted by brazn

A demonstrator faces a police line. (Credit: theatlantic.com)

To say that the recent unrest in the Middle East has come as a bit of a surprise is a wild understatement. This is perhaps in equal measure due to it truthfully having escalated seemingly overnight, and the fact that we take the Western foreign policy narrative that tells us that the Middle East is supposed to run through dictatorships as gospel. This narrative, as much informed by realpolitik as it is racism, has lulled us in the Global North into adopting a sense of cultural relativism that ultimately clouds our perception. The recent unrest seems to not only have shaken long-oppressed citizens from their submission to the status quo, but also challenged our own perceptions of what the people in the Middle East want.

Over the past many decades Western think tanks, diplomats and policy analysts, and politicians have worked hard at creating, perpetuating, and reinforcing a narrative that allowed not only the extension of influence to the far corners of the globe, but one that also did so in as benign a way as possible. And it’s monumental; by all accounts they should be proud because no one even bothers to question it anymore. It is a common truth that the Global South, a collection of resource rich or geographically important political backwaters, simply runs better when governed in the ‘old’ style. No democracy, only dictatorships; that’s just the natural order of things. This view tends to hold a particular rigidity in political thought about the Arab Middle East. Crazy Islamists need an especially strong fist to keep them in check and that’s why in every ‘post’-colonial state from North Africa to the Eastern frontiers of Afghanistan, it is a messy collection of tribal chiefs, presidents and monarchs who seem to rule in perpetuity. Apparent exemptions might include Iraq, a place were a ‘functioning’ democracy was installed, but one need look no further than the rhetoric of alarmists who feared a Shiite and Kurd resurgence upon the ouster of the Ba’athist Saddam Hussein in 2003. Saddam had kept them repressed for decades and upon his removal, they would flow out of the woodwork.

That was, of course, until some twenty-six year old street vendor in Tunisia set himself on fire in front of a government building in the middle of last December. His act, brought on by the desperation of poverty and humiliation at the hands of a corrupt government, has done more to burn down the edifices of Western-backed dictatorships and the false beliefs that supported them than anything else in recent memory. A little poetic, perhaps, that the work of thousands of people at the top levels of government, millions of man-hours of analysis, countless billions of dollars in foreign aid, and regime after regime of oppressive dictators came undone at the hands of one downtrodden, impoverished young man in a North-African country that seldom registers on the Western psyche.

The rest speaks for itself. Since December, the streets of the Arab world have been flooded with discontented youth who have known nothing but the stifling status quo: excruciating poverty, soaring unemployment despite an educated workforce, highly inflated prices for basic necessities, and paralyzing government corruption. Following their example, the rest of civil society has followed them into the streets. Large protests have also happened in Yemen, Jordan, Algeria, as well as smaller ones happening all across the Arab world. Just under a month ago, the Tunisian president after more than two decades in power fled the country after resigning. Just a few days ago, Hosni Mubarak, the draconian president of Egypt stepped down after three weeks of continuous protests. Other long-time ‘democratically-elected’ leaders have announced substantial changes in cabinet make-up, social and economic policy, or a commitment to not run for re-election.

In each of these cases, broad swaths of citizens in cities around each country have come out demanding change. They are tired of stagnant, fraudulent governments buttressed through foreign aid and clandestine intervention. They are speaking out against rising food, fuel and commodity prices that have been an effect of the global economic collapse (that was, by the by, caused by an avaricious American speculative bubble). They are demonstrating because of their ongoing torture and exploitation. They are clamouring for freedom of speech, press, the right to peaceful assembly, and for free and fair elections. They have in one resounding, clear and unified voice made a demand for democracy.

Within the course of a month, then, the picture of the Middle East has changed. The very place where we were told democracy would never take root, and if it did it would lead to Islamist, anti-Western governments, we are now seeing and hearing the raw and unfiltered voice of the people. In Egypt, we have seen amidst state sponsored violence, people have remained largely peaceful; despite the effective removal of all telecommunications, citizens have gathered at mosques and churches to organize and assemble. Even the removal of emergency infrastructure (state police, fire brigades, etc.) has done little to stem protests as groups of young men and women have taken to the streets to set up neighbourhood patrols, security checkpoints, and assisted in preventing the looting and destruction of the nation’s rich historical artefacts. We have seen doctors, lawyers, factory workers, unions, civil servants and public works employees, parents, children, men, women, the rich, the poor, the young and the old all band together over weeks of continuous protests.

Anti-Western and anti-Israeli ideology has not driven these protests, and neither has a sense of religious fundamentalism. Nor can we say that it was only Arab men who demonstrated, as we saw the sisters of the nation came out in full force with just as much as stake. The only thing negative in tone about these protests was the desire to remove parasitic leaders and malignant governments; rather, a firm and constructive desire to rebuild the nature has fuelled these demonstrations. These protests have effectively undone every rationale that the Western foreign policy establishment has used to buttress repressive governments.

Those willing to read just between the lines of the Western narrative about Middle Eastern politics have always been able to detect the racist veneer that justifies the unconditional support of dictators; Western citizens, though, whether they see the façade or not, materially support the oppression of those in the Global South through their tax dollars used for foreign aid. Recent events in the Arab world have all but removed the flimsy stereotypes that suggested that people in the Middle East are necessarily Islamist and harbour anti-democratic sentiment thereby posing a threat to life in the Global North. It becomes all too clear to us now that those who live on less than two dollars a day under constant fear of the state are more interested in the basic dignities of life that should be afforded to every human being. Decades of lies have created the assumption that we in the West are inherently different from those in the Middle East. Tunisians, Egyptians and now Algerians, by simply reclaiming their nations, are proving in many ways how wrong we were. It is high time to take the example that they have set for us and knock down the doors of government to demand that the lies that perpetuate misery and oppression end.

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ed lee to become the first azn-american mayor of san francisco

posted by kltw

As of 4:30 PST this afternoon, the Board of Supervisor for the city and county of San Francisco tabbed Azn-American Edwin Lee to be the interim mayor in the wake of the departure of the current mayor, Gavin Newsom, for the seat of Lieutenant Governor.  Ed Lee will be the first Azn-American mayor of San Francisco, who, along with the newly minted mayor of Oakland, Jean Quan, signify the remarkable gains for Azn-Americans in Bay Area politics.  Both these mayors come from activist backgrounds, with Lee working with the Asian Law Caucus to fight for tenant rights in the 80’s and Quan fighting as a part of the Third World Liberation movement for the creation of Ethnic Studies.

Though Lee has a history of fighting for grassroots communities, his work as the city administrator has often put him in line with business interests and pitted him against organized labour, all factors which made him a key ally for the moderate, pro-business Newsom.  Only time will tell if his mayoral legacy will match his long term track record of protecting marginalized communities, or his more recent work as the city administrator.  In any case, it is exciting to see people of colour in major positions of power.

That is, enjoy it until we dismantle this hedgemonic hierarchical system.

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invaded: november

posted by missmsian

I’ve been putting off a recap of Azns in North American media for November because I know I’ll have to bring up the ‘too Azn’ controversy and, frankly, I’m tired of it.

Azn invazn

In case you missed the whole shebang, Maclean’s published a story on Nov. 10 that Azns (they meant Chinese) were taking over campuses, creating ethnic ghettos (their words, not mine) and destroying fun for boozy white kids.

The article said elite U.S. schools like Harvard use unofficial race quotas to keep ambitious students of Azn descent out, in order to maintain their white heritage, and essentially suggested Canada do the same. The magazine published a second piece on Nov. 25 claiming they actually meant they wanted Canadian campuses to maintain merit-based admissions. Durrr.

The only good in this is that many groups committed to anti-racism have mobilized against not only Maclean’s (and the Toronto Star) but a lot of the discourse on Azn presence in Canada. Victoria city council passed a resolution condemning the Maclean’s article. Vancouver city council is set to vote on a motion demanding media accountability and ethical reporting in relation to the Maclean’s and Star pieces this week. Toronto city council is voting on a resolution that Orientals work like dogs next week. Just kidding. Or am I … ?

New eats

West Vancouver, how ya enjoying Osaka Supermarket? Recently opened by T&T Supermarket Inc., this store boasts 80 kinds of Japanese noodles … yum! The only slightly confusing part of the Vancouver Sun‘s story: “Osaka Supermarket will provide the ethnic Chinese food that has made its parent T&T Supermarket chain so successful, but it’s character will be Japanese-themed, as befits its name.” Huh? Do all Azn foods look the same too?

Soft white people

Edmonton now has an anti-racism program aimed at white people, teaching them how to recognize (and presumably choose to give up) their white privilege, much to the distress of, well, white people. Don’t call them racist, okay?! Their feelings are hurt. Boo hoo.

Celebrating David Lam

You may remember him as the first Azn-Canadian lieutenant governor, a highly successful real estate businessman, a philanthropist or founder of Vancouver’s dragon boat festival. But to Tung Chan, he was a friend and hero, and so we use Chan’s words to describe this powerhouse, who lost his battle to prostate cancer on Nov. 22:

“When he became LG, he showed the way to all of us, that you can maintain your cultural identity, you can continue to promote the good values of your heritage while maintaining and not compromising your Canadian-ness.”

An Azn Cosby Show?!

In a similar vein to ‘Azn Jersey Shore,’ U.S. producers are working on a show tentatively titled “The Chin Chens,” about a Chinese-Vietnamese-American family a la Cosby. Errr … thoughts on this?

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fyi: rogers doorcrasher

posted by theinvazn

are you an azn in toronto? were you offended by maclean’s “too azn?” article?

rogers owns maclean’s and has refused to properly respond to the inflammatory piece, so we’re gearing up to give ’em a big surprise.

CAN SOMEONE SAY FLASH MOB?!

not this

not this either

something more like …

this is what shows up when you google "azn mob"!

so this saturday, meet at college subway station’s food court at 11 a.m. bring friends, allies, your hardass azn parents and your outrage! feel free to rsvp on facebook.

see you there!

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do i wear a poppy?

posted by andrea

Do I wear a poppy on Remembrance Day? Or, do I remember? According to Wikipedia, Remembrance Day is a “Commonwealth holiday to commemorate the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and of civilians in times of war.”

Shortly after the bombing of Pearl Habour, Hawaii in 1941, Executive Order 9066 was ordered by the president of United States to “relocate” members of the Japanese ancestry to “internment camps”. More than half these people, were American citizens, born and raised in America, they simply happened to look like the soldiers who bombed Pearl Habour. According to George Takei (an internment camps survivor), there were no trial and no charges laid upon the Japanese-Americans, they were all, just taken without much justification.

These camps involved barb wires, machine guns pointed to the face. Let’s face it, they were nothing but concentration camps. These Japanese-Americans were held there throughout the war, in which, many decided to join the U.S. Army Force. In 1944, the 442nd combat team, an Asian-American unit, which consisted mostly of Japanese-Americans suffered over 800 casualties in the “Lost Battalion”. The 442nd had a casualty rate five times higher than average. While these soldiers were in war, their families were still held in “internment camps”, facing daily discrimination and struggle to survive. When they came back to America, discrimination continued and many towns overtly expressed the need to “keep their homes free of Japs.”

Canada was not better, the government relocated Japanese-Canadians to similar “internment camps,” stealing their rightful claims to properties, freedom, innocence and dignity. Similarly, many Japanese-Canadians also served in the war, only to find out later that they would be repatriated or resettled back to Japan, or East to the Rockies. Both were lands that they knew nothing about.

Though I can never be sure, these Canadians and Americans also had a high chance of suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, survivors’ guilt, etc.

At the same time, many Chinese-Canadians (after the ridiculous history of the “Chinese Exclusion Act”, 1923) joined the army but the Canadian government was unwilling to send these people to action because they didn’t want them to ask for enfranchisement after the war. In my opinion, since the Chinese came in so handy (and disposable) when it comes to explosive during the building of the CPR, they made a terrible decision.

Knowing these unsettling histories, I went to the Veterans Affairs Canada website, specifically, to the “Whom do we remember” section. Not surprisingly, none of the above was mentioned, and I only saw pictures of white faces. I, hereby, am in no way making statements that European-Canadians shouldn’t be remembered for their efforts and sacrifices. However, it is disappointing that the Canadian government doesn’t seem to remember other ethnic Canadians who made the same sacrifices and experienced the same sufferings.

So, no, I do not wear a poppy, not because I refuse to acknowledge the sacrifices of Canadian soldiers and civilians, but because our government doesn’t.

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invaded: september

posted by missmsian

September was a relatively quiet month for Azns in North American media coverage and decidedly less Islamophobic than August.

Mongolia, repeat after me: “Mine! Mine! Mine! Not yours.”

Prime Minister Harper met with Mongolia’s PM Sükhbaatar Batbold last Tuesday to discuss free trade and expressed at one point that Canada is interested in the Azn country’s gold, copper and uranium deposits. I have two pieces of advice for Mongolians:

(1) RUN AWAY. RUN VERY FAR AWAY. Remember the situation in Ecuador where armed security forces (for Canadian mining companies) allegedly attacked unarmed anti-mining protestors? Or the UN report calling out seven Canadian companies on exploitation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo? Or the 15 Canadian-hired mine workers who were gunned down in the Philippines? You get the idea. I haven’t even included the damage done to Indigenous lands and peoples in this country.

(2) Learn from India: the government recently rejected a British firm’s proposal to mine bauxite in Orissa, saying the project would have caused extensive environmental damage and endangered the livelihoods of the Indigenous people in that region.

Experience an Azn oasis …

… right in your back–errrr–side. Cintas’ online poll ranks The Spice Route Asian Bistro and Bar as the second best bathroom in Canada because you can pee while admiring exotic Azn plants in a private garden.

Oh hai, ethnic shoppers

A new report shows that retailers who don’t target “ethnic shoppers” are missing out on a large revenue pool. This shouldn’t really be news because, duh, you lose big when you don’t cater to half the population’s needs/wants. My major issue with the coverage–aside from the sweeping generalizations about how “ethnic shoppers” purchase goods–is the use of the word “ethnic” as the opposite of “mainstream.” Really? C’mon now. You may as well have used “Oriental.”

Honouring Korematsu

During World War II, U.S. citizen Fred Korematsu bravely refused to be “relocated” to an internment camp and challenged the detention of Japanese-Americans as unconstitutional. He was arrested, convicted and sentenced to five years’ probation. Although he appealed, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the conviction. It was only in the 1980s that the conviction was overturned and his name was cleared.

In post-9/11 years, Korematsu spoke against the indefinite detention of those deemed to be “enemy combatants” without charge.

This month, California’s Guvenator signed a bill designating every January 30 as Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.

A great “situ-asian”

Team Jumba on The Amazing Race, Grace Park and Daniel Dae Kim on Hawaii Five-O, Jenna Ushkowitz (Tina) and Harry “Situ-Asian” Shum Jr. (Mike Chang) on Glee … to end off on a positive note, Azns are getting a lot of love in American pop culture these days. Let’s hope this keeps up.

Yes, they are Azn. Yes, they are dating.

And speaking of situ-azns … what’s going on with Azn Jersey Shore? Has it been picked up by a major network yet?

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“dude, you have no qur’an”

posted by theinvazn

“i was like, ‘dude, you have no qur’an’ and ran off.” credit to the unshakeable @raza_syed for this amazing vid.

so, dear readers, we gonna make this a meme or what?

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