This is pathetically reductive, and it is shameful to see it coming from “Egyptian Atheists”, or what I would assume to be a non-Western source. The argument made is that these nations used to be free and democratic before Islam “took over”. Such arguments are ignorant, malicious, and do nothing but further negative misconceptions of Islam and people in Southwest Asia.
First, here is a history lesson on Afghanistan. From 1933 until 1973, Afghanistan was ruled under a man named Mohammed Zahir Shah. While he was a devout Muslim, he had a Western education in France. His reign marked four decades of peace and stability. With the introduction of a constitution Afghanistan progressively developed into a modern democratic state with free elections and a parliament, as well as a massive push for women’s rights, universal suffrage, education, worker’s rights, and civil rights. So yes, Afghanistan was doing well in the 60’s as this photo suggests. However, the photo doesn’t give you context for what went wrong.
During this period in time, the Soviet Union had a strong influence in Afghanistan. They supported modernization and education in the Afghan state. The United States, not wanting to risk their hegemony in the region, clearly had a major problem with this. They were terrified of the spread of Communism and quickly developed a plan. Afghanistan would become the Cold War’s chessboard. In the late 80’s, the Saudis, Pakistanis, and the Americans brought in radical Islamists from around the world. They armed, trained, and directed them into a militant force, and they were called the mujahideen. They became the US’ main offense against the Soviets. It wasn’t to defend the Afghans against the Soviets who were ready to pull out, but to deliver as much harm against them imaginable. Carter wanted Afghanistan to be the Soviet’s “Vietnam”. And it was. When they finally retreated Afghanistan spun into chaos and a civil war ensued under the militant mujahideen warriors. Within this framework we saw the rise of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and of course Osama bin Laden. All under the auspices of the United States security forces and American tax-payer monies. Clinton’s bombing of Sudan and Afghanistan was directly responsible for their rise. Oh, and then in what was most likely the greatest immoral injustice of the 21st century the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001 only further driving the besieged nation further into turmoil.
What does this mean? The mujahideen, the Taliban, and Al Qaeda do not represent thousands of years of Afghan culture and Islam. They are a direct reaction to Western imperialism. The root cause for the disparity between the two pictures is foreign intervention. Not Islam, and certainly not Afghan people.
Second, here is a history on Iran. Before 1953, Iran was ruled under a democratically elected man called Mohammad Mosaddegh. Under his reign Iran saw a progressive movement of social and political reforms. During this time Britain tried to establish an oil company (British Petroleum) on Iranian soil, and promised to share profit and technology with the Iranian government. However the British, as usual, didn’t honor their agreement. They, and the United States, began to steal Iran’s oil. Prime Minister Mosaddegh would not stand for this and demanded the seizure of the oil fields and the ouster of the British. In response, the British and the United States overthrew him in a coup and installed the Shah who was a brutal tyrant and ruled the nation under an absolute monarchy. The women in this picture did live well, but that was because they were members of a very small minority and in the Shah’s social circle. Everyone else in Iran lived under harsh conditions. The economy was failing, education was abysmal, and the entire nation was rural and very religious.
Today, Iran’s health care is better. They have more political freedom. Education is improving, and the country is slowly globalizing. The economy is slightly better off, however that is quickly changing with the Western world’s sanctions against Iran in midst of their nuclear propaganda campaign at the behest of Israel.
What does this mean? Essentially, the Islamic Revolution had little to do with the rise of an Islamic state; it was the resistance of Western imperialism. Almost every social and political group was united in resisting the Shah, from the communists to the secularists to the Islamists. They demanded Iranian sovereignty and political freedoms. Is the current regime in Iran perfect? Absolutely not, and I’m passionately against it. But this picture is extremely distortive of the truth.
Unfortunately, we have gone full circle. Today, the United States is supporting terrorist cells in Iran in an attempt to oust the current Iranian regime. They want to establish another pro-Western government like the Shah and “try again” where they failed. They have been doing this for decades and it hasn’t been working well. That is why we are now seeing media hysteria against Iran, and their false quest to achieve nuclear power and bomb Israel. Iran is a peaceful nation, and always has been. They have never attacked another nation, and have absolutely no intention of attacking Israel or anyone else for that matter. The United States’ war against Iran is rooted solely to seek revenge for their failed foreign policy in the 70’s and to once again take control of their natural resources.
In conclusion, if you think you can understand decades of history in Iran and Afghanistan, or anywhere for that matter, by looking at a photograph or two, you have absolutely no right to engage in intellectual discussion or give your opinion on anything. Ever.
Q:wondering what happens behind the scenes at p4k (I knew you were a contributor, and im also curious about your departure or non-activity or whatever...) specifically, are album ratings absolutely decided by the individual writers or are some artists pushed forward by the top editing staff. BNM seems like a consensus, pre-determined thing. and thanks, and I'll admit I'm assuming you won't be able to answer this question because of bullshit non-disclosure agreements and their ilk.
Oh boy. So, I’m going to answer this and that’s probably enough to upset people over at Pitchfork or whatever who are legendarily embattled, but I don’t think I’m being vindictive, here…
When it comes to Pitchfork and scoring, I would say that you would be shocked by just how democratic the rating process is. Without giving much away (because I don’t think that’s fair to Pitchfork), it goes something like this: In general, a record is discussed by the writers and generally, through that, the site arrives at a score consensus. Then reviews are assigned or fit to a writer (usually that writer has sent a pitch). So, in a sense yeah, the reviews are controlled by the editors because they assign someone whose opinion on the record (especially if it is a notable or relevant record) fits the view of the site. This really isn’t that different from how every publication assigns reviews. The one difference I would say is that Pitchfork is rarely going to give a review over to a critic with a cool point of view if that point of view doesn’t fit the editorial stance, especially if that stance is negative. Yeah yeah yeah, I work for SPIN, so this is probably a bad example, but SPIN let Rob Harvilla rip Watch The Throne to pieces (he gave it a 6). I don’t think Pitchfork would ever do that. At least not anymore.
One example (which again, I will keep vague because it just doesn’t seem necessary to provide the specifics) that did stick in my craw (and was one of a number of annoying actions that made me decide I ultimately didn’t want to write for Pitchfork anymore): A certain buzzing artist was not well-recieved by most of the writers whose opinions on the given genre that this artist operates in are usually valued. One of the people in charge of P4K was pushing hard for the artist and for the most part, the writers who care passionately about this type of music were just like, “I don’t know, man, the album’s all right, but that’s it.” Finally, the review of this record came out and the artist got a ‘Best New Music.’ And I noticed it was written by a writer new to the site. It felt a little weird for a number of reasons. 1. Why are you asking for the opinions of the writers if you’re ultimately going to blow them off? 2. This particular artist was very buzz worthy and SEO-friendly. 3. I don’t know anything about this, so this part is pure speculation, but it seemed creepy to assign it to a new writer who you know, is going to be easier to persuade because hey, they want to keep writing for the site they just started writing for, you know? Don’t waste your time guessing who the artist is, that’s not the point, and it’s not who you probably think it is.
So, that sequence of events put a bad taste in my mouth. It represented what, to me, was a bit of a shift in the site’s approach to reviewing, which suddenly seemed more SEO-oriented and buzz band-friendly around mid-2011. The act of editing seemed to take a backseat, though to be frank, the editing even when they did edit, tended to be kind of half-assed. I don’t know anything about Scott Plagenhoef’s exit AT ALL, but I feel like the site’s approach shifted once he left. Of course, everybody who works for anybody ever feels like at some point or another, “It all changed, mannnnn,” so take this all with a grain of salt. My frustration with Pitchfork was probably exacerbated by my increased involvement with SPIN, who let me do whatever the fuck I want, and pay me more, and whose staff I just get along with on a personal level, much better. Which is all just me really saying, I started to dislike writing for Pitchfork when I could, professionally, start to dislike writing for Pitchfork. I stopped writing for them because I didn’t feel good about writing for them, but I only did that when I didn’t feel like I was squandering an opportunity. I’m a fucking phony like the rest of them.
I want to stress that when I was hired by Pitchfork in November of 2010 (Summer of 2010, Pitchfork put out a call for writers and I submitted a resume; that’s how I got hired), it was a total “Holy fuck!” moment for me. The teenaged me would’ve shit out of his dick with excitement. Within a few months though, I kinda already felt weird and a bit cynical about the site. One time, on the staff message board, someone whose name I didn’t recognize was kind of being aggressive about certain peoples’ reception to a certain record, and I looked the dude up and he was like, part of the advertising team? That gave me the creeps. Also, I just never felt like I fit in. I’m probably just not a good fit over there.
I also think Pitchfork kind of brews this embattled cult mentality that’s really toxic. You see this even now on say, Twitter, when one of the writers or editors is all, “Who me? What us?” any time anyone calls them out for anything. You guys are the big dogs! People are gonna criticize you! I mean this is the site that obnoxiously promoted the fact that they would now be premiering music like NPR and plenty of other sites, as if they had just invented some amazing new thing. You know, I admire the fuck out of Pitchfork for not succumbing to the slideshow disease, even with their year-end lists where it would be justified, but they tend to ramp up their integrity rhetoric in a way that’s off-putting and even, troll-ish. Sure, they don’t do slideshows, but the news is often super short, gossip-y garbage clearly aiming for firsties, and the track write-ups are like sub-FADER level, these days.
Um, I also think their pay is pretty shitty (though they do pay on time, which almost nobody does). And I know it’s a separate aspect of the site’s branding/entity/whatever, but finding how much they paid for Animal Collective the year I went to Pitchfork Festival when I was writing for them, and thinking about how much they pay their writers was a low-key “what the fuck” moment. This past summer, the PRI show Marketplace talked to Ryan Schreiber before Pitchfork Fest and presented Pitchfork as a site that is thriving when music publishing and even just music writing is on the decline. It infuriated me because the whole angle of the story, supported by Schreiber, was that P4K thrived because of its integrity. That is part of the story (it’s a brand that people trust), but well, you know, if a site pays their writers about a quarter of what sites of similar popularity pay, then it’s going to be a lot easier to stay afloat. And like I said in the previous paragraph, the angle that they’re just so much less craven than other music publications is some bullshit. Pitchfork won’t like this, but I kind of don’t care and also, this is definitely not me being vindictive. As anyone who follows me on Twitter can probably attest, if I wanted to send out cheap shots and air someone out, I would have no problem doing that. I fucking love cheap shots! I get a sick fuck charge out of taking the low road! But here, I feel like I am being fair but honest about my experience with the site.
Imagine, against the backdrop of a lot more failed and bankrupt states, the continued development of mutuals, alternative currency systems, p2p networks, community-suppported agriculture, squats, land trusts, cohousing projects, eco-villages and Transition Towns, etc., coordinated to varying extents with and through networked movements like Occupy, Syntagma and M15.
What we’re likely to see is local economies in which a great deal of economic activity is carried on through small shops and collectives exchanging with one another on the market, and a great deal more is carried out on a subsistence basis using high-tech tabletop machinery of various sorts in the informal and household sector.
When wealth is passed off as merit, bad luck is seen as bad character. This is how ideologues justify punishing the sick and the poor. But poverty is neither a crime nor a character flaw. Stigmatise those who let people die, not those who struggle to live.