Tuesday, January 31, 2012

a new book on Bombay squatters

Katherine Boo's new book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers, about life in the Mumbai squatter community of Annawadi, sounds interesting, according to this review in The New York Times.

Monday, January 30, 2012

From the Super Bowl to Kibera

cross-posted from Stealth of Nations: http://bit.ly/ymHS6E

Friday, January 13, 2012

invest in life

crossposted from Stealth of Nations:

You, too, can invest in something infinitely more valuable than profits. It's a strange new commodity called life.

As The New York Times reports, Copenhagen's Christiania squatters, famed for their anti-free market ways, are selling shares in their community so they can buy it from the government. What do you get for your investment: "a symbolic sense of ownership in Christiania and the promise of an invitation to a planned annual shareholder party." As one squatter calls it, "ownership in an abstract form."

According to the Copenhagen Post, after striking a deal with the state this summer,  Christiania residents now need to raise 76.2 million kroner (almost $13 million) to buy the  majority of the area’s properties and an additional six million kroner  to rent adjoining green spaces. The first 43 million kroner (or approximately $8 million) is due on 15  April 2012. Several prominent people have purchased Christiania Shares, including  Margrethe Vestager, minister of the economy and interior, and Mogens  Lykketoft, president of parliament. The shares are available for  purchase online at www.christianiafolkeaktie.dk.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Squatters in New York

A decade or so ago, there were well-established communities of the homeless all over the New York City, set up by people who formed close bonds and knew that the shelter system was too dehumanizing and brutalizing for them. The pier on Twelfth Avenue just across from the Chinese consulate had several dozen wooden shacks. A median in Long Island City, Queens, where two seldom-used freight lines parted ways, was a friendly location for another encampment. Photographer Margaret Morton documented the homeless casitas of the city and the community in the tunnel under Riverside Park.

Most of these communities have been destroyed, either because these locations have been reclaimed for use (AMTRAK now runs trains to Albany along the previously derelict Riverside Park tracks) or because real estate interests pushed to clear these parcels.

Now, The Brooklyn Daily reports on a small shantytown in Coney Island that has lived against the odds for five years. I hope this community survives its new-found publicity.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

who guards the guardians

The New York Times offers a recap of the violent doings of the police in Rio de Janeiro. Which brings up the question: with the growth of the program of so-called 'pacification' that pushes drug dealers out from their perches in the favelas and replaces them with the police, are they making life in the favelas any better. One answer, from Alba Zaluar, a famous Brazilian academic who has long studied police tactics in Rio: “They’re invading, watching over, buying favelas from traffickers.” Not comforting words.

It's long been known that the police take payoffs from the drug gangs. It's long been known that most of the shooting deaths in Rio involve the cops. As the Times article shows, the cops are just like the drug dealers--they're not afraid to torture and kill people they perceive as their enemies, and the top echelon of police militia leaders run their semi-official gangs from jail.

Pacification, it seems, only replaces one brutal criminal gang with another. And the new one may be worse. The police are invaders and occupiers with no roots in the favelas. At least the drug dealers were communitarian outlaws.