The Ossington Circle Episode 15: Ukraine, Russophobia, and Canada with Halyna Mokrushyna

The Ossington Circle Episode 15: Ukraine, Russophobia, and Canada with Halyna Mokrushyna

In this episode of the Ossington Circle, Ukrainian-Canadian academic Halyna Mokrushyna discusses the conflict in Ukraine, Russia and Russophobia, and the Ukrainian diaspora in Canada.

The much-maligned views of Rania Khalek on Syria

When journalist Rania Khalek's lecture was cancelled on February 27, the group that invited her, Students for Justice in Palestine – University of North Carolina (SJP-UNC) issued a statement saying that the cancellation was because of Rania's “views” on Syria, and that they believed “her invitation would mistakenly imply SJP to hold such views”. They also added that they “do not endorse nor reject her views on the Syrian civil war as they remain relatively unclear according to our members’ diverse opinions of Rania's analyses.”

Image of RK

In response to the cancellation, a large number of signers, many of whom have been involved with Palestine solidarity, signed a statement against Rania's blacklisting but also against blacklisting in general. That statement concluded:

“The signers of this statement hold a range of views on Syria. Some agree with Khalek; others disagree – in some cases quite vehemently. But we feel that when a group seeking justice in Palestine subjects speakers or members to a political litmus test related to their views on Syria, it inevitably leads to splits, silencing, confusion, and a serious erosion of trust. It runs contrary to the possibility of people learning from one another, changing their minds, and educating one another through their activism. Disagreements about political issues exist inside every movement coalition. They must not be made fodder for targeted vilification of activists in the movement.”

The statement “against blacklisting” triggered another wave of slanders, as many of the same people who had pressured the SJP to cancel her talk approached signers to argue that they should not have signed. Among their arguments was that there is and should be a political litmus test, one that Rania fails. As an initial signer myself, I was approached more than once by friends who suggested that I didn't really know Rania's views.

The Ossington Circle Episode 14: Clouds of war gathering with Manuel Rozental

The Ossington Circle Episode 14: Clouds of war gathering with Manuel Rozental

In this episode of The Ossington Circle, Colombian physician and activist Manuel Rozental returns from a trip to Turkey, during which he spent time with Syrian refugees, to talk about the advancing war in Syria and on the planet.

The Ossington Circle Episode 13: The view of Trump's America from the ground with Cynthia Peters

The Ossington Circle Episode 13: The view of Trump's America from the ground with Cynthia Peters

In this episode of The Ossington Circle I talk to Cynthia Peters, a City Life/Vida Urbana organizer in Boston, about changes, continuities, and strategy in a USA now under Trump's administration. 

The Ossington Circle Episode 12: Social Self Defense Against Trump with Jeremy Brecher

The Ossington Circle Episode 12: Social Self Defense Against Trump with Jeremy Brecher

In this episode of The Ossington Circle, I talk to labor historian and activist Jeremy Brecher about a possible strategy against Trump called Social Self Defense.

The Ossington Circle Episode 11: Trumpism and Capitalism with William I. Robinson

The Ossington Circle Episode 11: Trumpism and Capitalism with William I. Robinson

In this episode of The Ossington Circle, I interview sociologist William I. Robinson about the relationship between Trumpism, capitalism, and fascism and what leftists could do in this environment.

The Ossington Circle Episode 10: Surviving Trump with Luke Elliott-Negri

The Ossington Circle Episode 10: Surviving Trump with Luke Elliott-Negri

In this episode of The Ossington Circle, I interview New York-based labor activist and graduate student Luke Elliott-Negri. We discuss the role and importance of organizing, of third parties, of local electoral work, and of labor unions in surviving the new Trump Era.

The Carnage of Demonetisation in India

On the evening of November 8, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, went on live television to tell over one billion people that their 500- and 1000- rupee bills were invalid as of that night. They could exchange their invalid bills for new 500- and 2000-rupee bills at the bank. The exchange of notes was stopped on November 24, equally abruptly. There is a new deadline of December 30, 2016 for the deposit of all of the demonetised notes.

The economic damage caused by this unannounced fiat remains to be calculated. But it will be devastating. A ratings agency, Fitch, predicted a reduction of growth of 0.5% of GDP solely due to this 'demonetisation'. Other estimates have been a 1% reduction, or a 2% reduction in growth. But the Forbes article reporting the prediction, in its title, points out that “No One Really Knows”. As for the editor of Forbes Magazine, he has called demonetisation “sickening” and “immoral”: “What India has done is commit a massive theft of people's property without even the pretense of due process--a shocking move for a democratically elected government.” Forbes compared the move to the forced sterilization program of the 1970s: “Not since India's short-lived forced-sterilization program in the 1970s--this bout of Nazi-like eugenics was instituted to deal with the country's "overpopulation"--has the government engaged in something so immoral.” Historian Sashi Sivramkrishna pointed out that induced currency shortages helped cause the Great Bengal Famine of 1770.

My studies of writing

Everybody writes. I started studying writing in the high school writer's craft course. I don't remember many craft lessons from that class but I do remember writing a lot of stories, which is what was important – to get writing. Since 2010 but intensifying in 2015 and 2016, I have spent a lot of time reading about writing, taking courses about writing, and trying to apply the lessons I've learned. Here's some of what I've read and thought.

Style

I started around 2010 because in that year I tried to submit my writing to a bunch of magazines that I had never submitted to before. I thought my writing was pretty good. I'd been in Znet and Z Magazine with the best of them, so why not try some other publications? I got a raft of decisive rejections and very little feedback. What feedback I did get, suggested that they didn't like my style. Style, and voice, are elusive terms. I started on a quest to figure out first what they meant, and then, whether we would have to agree to disagree (which I have mainly concluded) or whether I could improve my style (which maybe I have done).

I had already read Strunk and White's The Elements of Style, which is mainly about writing concise and clear prose. Followed that with Zinsser's On Writing Well, which didn't stick with me very much but which I remember liking. I had also read Orwell's Politics and the English Language, very important stuff about avoiding bureaucratic, deliberately muddled language and cliched images.

Recently picked up Steven Pinker's The Sense of Style, which had some interesting stuff in it – what I took from it mainly was his prescription to use classical style, in which you describe exactly what you mean using visual metaphors and talking across to your reader (as opposed to talking down to your reader). Very recently I read Roy Peter Clark's Writing Tools, in which he talks about a “ladder of abstraction”, of using higher and lower levels of abstraction, and the placement of nouns and verbs in the sentence (at the beginning and at the end). Along the same lines, I was recommended Sol Stein On Writing, and Theodore A. Rees's Getting the Words Right – 39 ways to improve your writing.