Archive for October 1, 2011

A major international initiative was launched in London September 15th 2011, calling on all governments to record every person killed in armed violence.

The campaign was launched by the UK-based Oxford Research Group and has been compared to the foundation of the International Committee of the Red Cross more than a century ago.

The Charter for the Recognition of Every Casualty of Armed Violence demands that all states ensure every casualty of armed violence is:

  • Promptly recorded
  • Correctly identified
  • Publicly acknowledged

Nearly 40 major humanitarian and human rights organisations around the world have already endorsed the Charter.

Sir Adam Roberts, president of the British Academy which hosted the launch, said: ‘Governments increasingly recognise the salience of civilian casualties. If so, why not a willingness to record the civilian casualties we claim to care about so much?’

The charter has been drawn up part in reaction to the continuing search for many thousands of ‘missing’ people from high profile conflicts, such as Bosnia, where more than 10,000 people are still unaccounted for.

Hamid Dardagan of Oxford Research Group explained: ‘Armed violence continues to exact its human toll throughout the world, yet all too many of its victims die in obscurity, unnamed and unacknowledged, the pain and tragedy of their loss forever missing from the public record.’

Sandra Orlovic works with the Belgrade and Pristina-based Humantiarian Law Centre, which this week published the first volume of its Kosovo Memory Book – detailing 2,000 of an estimated 13,000 dead. She said: ‘We heard a lot of warnings not to present narratives of war crimes victims in the same document as of soldiers; or of Serbs and Albanians together. Our response is simple: all people are the same in death. And no picture is complete without all deaths being recorded.’

Armed violence continues to exact its human toll throughout the world, yet all too many of its victims die in obscurity, unnamed and unacknowledged, the pain and tragedy of their loss forever missing from the public record.
Hamid Dardagan, Oxford Research Group

Wissam Tarif, whose Insan organisation is attempting to document deaths in Syria’s ongoing uprising, spoke at the launch about the current efforts by that regime to suppress the recording of casualties: ‘They kidnap our researchers, cut off peoples’ phones, threaten with violence… all to prevent a record of what is happening. ‘

The Bureau has endorsed the campaign and as a result of its ongoing investigation into civilian casualties of drone strikes in Pakistan, has also joined the International Practitioner Network of casualty recording organisations, many of whose members support the new Charter.

Iain Overton, the Bureau’s managing editor said: ‘Through our own work in recording the consequences of the CIA’s drone strikes in Pakistan, we know just how crucial it is that information on deaths and injuries is freely accessible. The onus is on governments around the world to endorse the need for such recording, and we hope this initiative will help achieve this.’

The Bureau is already exploring possible collaboration with other Network members which record casualty data in Pakistan.

source: The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 2011

Even though on Boket and on a mission… Keith’s memory of the newspaper ad with the famous actor flogging expensive watches still lingered. So did the bad aftertaste of the Murdochs at the Common’s Select Committee – like mean baddies from a Frank Capra movie.  Oh yeah, and the revelations of their cosy Christmas lunches with the Tory Old Etonian PM and his obsequious predecessors.

He’d stopped over on his way to Boket…Hong Kong is semiotic addiction run wild. Prada the biggest new listing on the HKEx . Seemingly obscure Swiss watch brands adorn trams and billboards with taglines referring to ‘depuis 1786’ etc. $60,000 time pieces adorn the mandarins of new China.

Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei, is adept at using signs and symbols – the juxtaposition of iconic Coca Cola lettering hand painted onto a Ming like vase…the iconography of Chairman Mao jumbled by means of winged, flying Mao’s that are like abstract and faintly disturbing angels. Pop Art meets the little red book.

Hermes’ Hong Kong store front featuring the most dour, ordinary looking clothes and accessories of exorbitant cost. Value magnified by the semiotics of the context and brand. If the same items were in a different context, what then would be their value? An interesting experiment would be to do precisely this – to take the dour clothes, remove the labels and scatter the items among rows of other clothes in something like our Australian op shops. Any takers, folks?

Branding is akin to alchemy. The transformation of the mundane into that must have object of desire. Almost like we’re programmed to form more and more material attachments. Are we so lacking in identity that we need the object of desire to tell us who we are, to define our identity? The response may be, “oh but it’s harmless”;  “we all like nice things”…people should be free to… blah, blah, blah”. Fair enough, up to a point, but this shouldn’t prevent us from examining our own semiotic addictions and attachments.

The French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, wrote of developmental stages from infant to ‘adult’: need, demand and finally…desire. Semiotic addiction perhaps functions in reverse.

Commercial forces are permitted to influence and ultimately alter our behaviour for commercial gain. This is the intent behind many of our semiotic addictions. Propaganda has an intrinsic motivation and intent too. It actually intends to be mind altering. Its elements can be subtle and nuanced if taken at face value, rather than from a more mindful perspective. The late 80’s Reagan era crack cocaine boom coincided with the post Carter assault of market fundamentalism – accompanied by Milton Friedman’s spooky and blinkered “Freedom to Choose” Is market fundamentalism a ‘choice’ to us, its subjects? Where is the freedom to choose in a fully compliant, conformist consumerist existence? Where is freedom to choose for the homeless, the addicted and the imprisoned?

The evidence is definitely in re the awful correlation of high $GDP and epidemic rates of depression. Social isolation viewed from virtually any econometric model is found to be as toxic as smoking 20 a day.

Anyway, back to the Kikimongulat compound….

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