Archive for conflict

Saudi “scholarship students” leaving Canada

I’ve had a number of superb students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University from that country. This is awful news.

From Inside Higher Ed this morning:

Saudi Arabian students in Canada are caught in diplomatic crossfire.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education is making plans to transfer students out of Canada to institutions in other countries after a diplomatic meltdown between the two countries sparked by Canada’s criticism of the kingdom’s arrest and detention of human rights activists.

A spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s education ministry said on Twitter that the ministry is “working on preparing and implementing an emergency plan to facilitate the transfer of our students to other countries.”

CNN reported that 7,000 Saudi students on government scholarships in Canada will be relocated.

Dan Drezner of the Washington Post has three “not mutually exclusive” explanations for the Saudi action:

– Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is “trying to demonstrate that he is in control [in his country], even if these sanctions will not lead to any Canadian concessions.” …

– “Another possibility is that these sanctions are less about compelling Canada and more about deterring other Western countries from criticizing Saudi Arabia.”

There is one final, more speculative explanation. There has been some recent international relations research into “prestige goods” or “Veblen goods,” things that states spend costly sums of money on with little tangible return. … As I explained this summer: “Veblen goods are positional goods, in which demand increases along with price because the good is seen as a display of prestige. Veblen goods can explain why some countries choose to invest in aircraft carriers or space programs when they should be allocating scarce resources elsewhere.” …

Maybe, just maybe, economic sanctions themselves have become a kind of Veblen good. Not many countries have the resources to impose economic sanctions of any kind on another state in world politics. The United States sanctions a lot, the European Union sanctions some, so do Russia and China, and then . . . crickets.

Except for Saudi Arabia. If Saudi Arabia is seen as a country that can sanction others, it starts to look more like a great power. The very fact that these sanctions are costly is what makes them such a compelling Veblen good. According to this logic, it does not matter whether they work: Most sanctions fail anyway. What makes them successful is that Mohammed has demonstrated that he can impose them in the first place.

Obviously not obvious

If you throw everything *but* the kitchen sink at your problem, you will surely fail. You always need a kitchen sink.

Bobbie Louise Hawkins

BobbiHawkins

Bobbie Louise Hawkins called poet Robert Creeley “the most interesting man I ever met.” Their marriage and divorce – “Bob and Bobbie” – were famous among his students at SUNY/Buffalo, where I studied under and befriended Creeley. I was told that Bobbie once tried to run over Bob with a car. I knew Creeley was angry and quarrelsome as a young man, but this scene was still hard to picture.

Ms. Hawkins passed away on May 4. I had been reading about her on that very day (she appears prominently and vividly in Joe Brainard’s “Bolinas Journal,” found in Brainard’s Collected Writings).

From the New York Times obituary:

“When Bob and I were first together, he had three things he would say,” Ms Hawkins said. “One of them was ‘I’ll never live in a house with a woman who writes.’ One of them was ‘Everybody’s wife wants to be a writer.’ And one of them was ‘If you had been going to be a writer, you would have been one by now.’ That pretty much put the cap on it. I was too married, too old and too late, but he was wrong.”

She added: “I think a part of what attracted Bob to me was competences I had within myself, but it was as if once I was within his purview, those competences were only to be used for his needs, in the space where we lived, and not as though they were my own.”

“What I was really fighting for wasn’t the right to be some kind of brilliant writer,” she said. “I was fighting for the right to write badly until it got better.”

It did, once she and Mr. Creeley separated around 1975 and she stopped writing surreptitiously.

I like how the obituary ends:

Ms. Hawkins could bluntly revert to her Texas frontier forthrightness, as she did once when Neal Cassady, the wheelman in the cross-country trips that Jack Kerouac chronicled in “On the Road,” came for a visit and commandeered her car. …

“Get in back, Neal,” she is said to have declared. “It’s my car and you’re a lousy driver.”

Here’s a video of Bobbie reading from one of her memoirs:

HawkinsReading

 

Solidarity

West Virginia’s teachers and school personnel get their salary increases to end their strike.

One down, countless more to go …

And yet a long ways to go …

… certainly in my home province. From the CBC a few minutes ago:

B.C. Liberal MLA Mike Morris is under fire after comments he made in the legislature on Monday, suggesting that funding committed to Indigenous languages in the province would be better spent on policing resources.

The province announced $50 million in funding toward preserving and revitalizing Indigenous languages throughout the province in the NDP government’s budget last week. …

Morris is the former B.C. public safety minister and before entering politics spent 32 years in the RCMP.  …

“They’re sad comment from the Liberals, but it’s not surprising, and that’s the saddest part of it all,” said Bob Chamberlin, chief councillor for the Kwikwasut’inuxw Haxwa’mis First Nation and vice-president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

Chamberlain said instead of attacking the funding for Indigenous languages, the investment should be applauded.

“It’s a way to save a vital component of our people, all the way across British Columbia,” he said.

“The fact that the MLA spoke about the alcoholism, the drug addiction and so on — and the need to take this money for better policing — it just perpetuates a negative stereotype that needs to be overcome.

“I think that he needs to do a lot more reading on the history of Canada and relationship to First Nations people.”

… and over in Saskatchewan as well …

Merry morning reading …

… from two favourite bloggers.

Atrios:

I do think one element of conservatism is imagining that they’d win the post-apocalyptic feudal games. …

Let’s suppose you’re minding your business in a lovely suburb of Honolulu. Honolulu gets ALL BLOWED UP. But, hey, you don’t die in the initial fireball. OK let’s say you don’t die of radiation poisoning within the next week or two. You’ve survived! That cancer will be along in a few years, but, hey, no worries for now.

Best case scenario, you live in current day Puerto Rico for a bit. No electricity, no water, but, hey, you’re alive. Also, nobody is going to get near your radiation zone. No rescues, no supplies, no nothing. Enjoy your last couple of weeks on Earth, I guess. I suppose you can forage for fruit, for a bit, and as a good conservative you own guns so you can shoot all the “looters” who are trying to take “your” fruit, but…

No, I do not want to survive the initial blast.

Clarissa:

A cultural apparatus always arises to serve the needs of capital. It’s not a conspiracy of any sort, of course. People intuit what would make them more competitive and promote these qualities in themselves, declaring them socially desirable.

What does capital currently need? A rootless labor force that won’t he held back by networks of human relationships from picking up and going whenever capital needs it at this point.

In order to create such a labor force, human relationships need to be devalued and come to be seen as fraught, dangerous, and really not worth the hassle. Remember all these checklists of “How to Support a Bereaved Colleague?” or “How NOT to Talk to a Special Needs Child’s Parent” variety? Obviously, nobody is going to memorize all those laundry lists of prohibitions and exhortations for every occasion. It’s easier to pretend that the bereaved colleague or SNC parent don’t exist.

Another strategy is to displace liquid capital’s qualities, such as unpredictability and endless mutability, onto human relationships. It’s not capital that’s making you feel confused and like you can’t keep up. Oh no, not at all. It’s the changing nature of dating norms and workplace flirtation.

Workplace as a space where people work together for protracted periods of time is positioned as extremely dangerous. Capital prefers self-employed, alienated workers who simply don’t have colleagues they know in person and could, say, form a union with. The next best thing (for capital but clearly not for workers) is a revolving-door office where nobody stays long enough to create any meaningful links.

Enjoy your day, everyone!

[Addendum: My daily feed.]

Abuse Ranking

From the wonderful Melissa McEwan:

My go-to strategy as a younger woman was always to turn incidents of sexual harassment and/or assault into “humorous” anecdotes, which allowed me to talk about what happened without really talking about what happened.

This instinct is the result of, in part, policing women’s lived experiences, a central piece of which is inevitably abuse ranking. 

It goes like this: Your harassment wasn’t as bad as being hit and your being hit wasn’t as bad as being raped and being raped by a boyfriend isn’t as bad as being raped by a relative and being raped by a relative isn’t as bad as genital cutting…

Until many of us feel as though we aren’t allowed to say anything, unless it’s in the context of saying “I didn’t have it that bad” — to express our “good luck” if our suffering hasn’t passed some arbitrary threshold past which survivors will allegedly be allowed to express that we were affected by abuse.

This idea can be expanded: I’ve seen lots of “pain ranking” and “poverty ranking” in my day.