Adios, Juan Flores

I hereby direct you to a sweet, thoughtful piece on the NACLA website that opens with the caption

Translating is a dangerous act of resistance, and Juan knew that danger all too well, but never stopped striving to avoid losing anything in that translation.

I didn’t know Prof. Flores – I have to admit, I hadn’t even heard of him until I saw this article. But he was an NYC-based Latin American studies scholar with a PhD in German literature and (yes!) a translator. So he has a place near my heart, even if only by default. RIP, señor.

Beautiful Trouble

I’ve been doing some translation work for the good folks over at Beautiful Trouble lately (one of the many things that has been keeping me preoccupied lo these past many months). I haven’t been posting those pieces here simply because they all have a very particular format that only really makes sense in the context of their website (and eponymous book!). But I recommend checking out their site, perhaps starting with this little number here.

More soon …

California Prison Hunger Strike: Day 34

This is not a translated article nor is it theoretical or international in nature. But this situation has been badly underreported and it deserves more attention. Please follow the link, give them your support, and disseminate widely.

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Day 34 Countdown for Humane Conditions

As the medical conditions of over 200 prisoners on the 34th day on hunger strike enter the danger zone for permanent damage to health, or death, prisoners remain clear that their mission has not been accomplished and that this non-violent action must continue until indefinite isolation is ended.

The Brown Administration has not only refused to negotiate, it has begun a demonization campaign to inflame public fears about dangerous criminals who allegedly have their own nefarious motives for refusing to eat. The choice these men have made to work across all the gang designations to agree on a non-violent tactic and a set of reasonable demands for reforms tells a different story. Another example of these men working together is The Call to End Hostilities, originally issued in 2012. 16 prisoners signed the Call from across ethnic lines at Pelican Bay. It is an effort to remove the impetus for solitary confinement by addressing the alleged need for it. If these units are necessary to manage gang violence, the prisoners decided to try a different approach. The Call says, among other things:

Beginning on Oct. 10, 2012, all hostilities between our racial groups in SHU, ad-seg, general population and county jails will officially cease. This means that from this date on, all racial group hostilities need to be at an end. If personal issues arise between individuals, people need to do all they can to exhaust all diplomatic means to settle such disputes; do not allow personal, individual issues to escalate into racial group issues.

In conclusion, we must all hold strong to our mutual agreement from this point on and focus our time, attention and energy on mutual causes beneficial to all of us [i.e., prisoners] and our best interests. We can no longer allow CDCR to use us against each other for their benefit!” This Call, and the demands related to the hunger strike, urge a return to a more open, just, and rehabilitative system.

Though authorities have done nothing to publicize the Call, (just as law enforcement has rarely encouraged truces among gangs on the streets), CDCR has admitted that violence has declined since the call went out. If the Department devoted just a quarter of the resources currently devoted to gang control to programs that bring people together across racial lines, there could really be an end to hostilities. We call on the Governor and his prison administrators to negotiate an end to this peaceful protest immediately, before more people become sick and die. Nothing will be accomplished by rigid refusal to come together. Public safety requires us to promote peace, not fear and hatred.

Does Continuing the Student Strike Play into the Liberals’ Game? (La Presse)

By Blandine Parchemal, Ph.D. student, Université de Montréal
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable (see info below).
Original French here; translation source here.

August 9, 2012

“If the student strike continues, that will play into the Liberals’ game”. “By prolonging the strike, students are participating in the re-election of the Liberal Party”. These words can be heard everywhere these days: as much from right wing pundits opposed to the movement as from those wearing the red square, be they citizens, journalists, professors or students.

But what exactly does that mean, playing the Liberals’ game?

The reasoning goes like this: if the strike continues and the anticipated return to classes does not happen in most universities and colleges (CÉGEPs), there will be a lot of violence, mostly due to law 12 (formerly Bill 78). The Liberal Party would then simply to roll out a law and order campaign platform, which would appeal to what is touted as a public desire for a return to peace and security. Thus, because continuing the strike would provoke feelings of insecurity in the population and those feelings would favour a vote for the Liberals, students would be partly responsible for the re-election of the government of Jean Charest.

Given this background, it’s necessary to make a few points.

How can people accuse striking students to be ushering in the re-election of the QLP (Québec Liberal Party) when in fact it’s been over six months that our fight is specifically against the Liberal Party? Do we have such short memories that we have forgotten all of this struggle, the entire social movement opposing the Liberal government? Have we already forgotten the refreshing springtime and fallen into a suffocating summer? Our objective has always been to denounce the entire QLP agenda: tuition fee hike, Plan Nord, shale gas, corruption, collusion and so on. Our new slogan is “Out with the Neoliberals”. It’s therefore painful to hear that the student strike could help the Liberal Party get re-elected after all the energy that went into criticizing that same party.

As well, the advice is to return to classes to avoid all incidents of violence that would be favourable to the Liberal campaign. But who started the violence? Who enacted law 12? Who failed to react in a just and intelligent manner to the conflict?

We are not the cause of this violence: the real violence is that of law 12, it is that of not honouring our strike votes taken in general assemblies. The real violence is that which does not recognize real democracy.

To actually play the game of the Liberals would to not continue the strike, instead caving to their strategy: to accept the scheduled return to classes at the end of August, to not contravene law 12 and especially to consider the election call as a signal to stop the movement — even though this election was consciously launched to coincide with the return to classes precisely to silence the movement.

To play the Liberals’ game would be to remain stuck in the status quo and to buy into the idea of a fixed public opinion, always looking for security and order. To play the Liberals’ game would be to silence our ideals in the name of a so-called strategic truce or end of the strike.

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Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.

*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English. These are amateur translations; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may still leave something to be desired. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us at translatingtheprintempsderable@gmail.com. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.

On Occupy, Reproduction and the Commons

This article from Occupy the Crisis is a couple of months old by now, but it hits on some of the major theoretical themes behind Occupy. There’s a lot of important stuff that it doesn’t get to (race and class issues and technology come immediately to mind), but definitely a good run down of why Occupy is generally a good thing, an important development, and worth supporting. Arguably the best part comes from George Caffentzis (referencing Sylvia Federici):

The truly subversive intent of the Occupy site is to transform public space into a commons. A public space is ultimately a space owned and opened/closed by the state, it is a res-publica, a public thing. A common space, in contrast, is opened by those who occupy it, i.e., those who live on it and share it according to their own rules. The worldwide movement of occupiers (through their practice) is demanding common spaces where they can live on in order to give body to their political thoughts. That is why the first acts of the Occupations involve housework: where are we to sleep, eat, urinate, defecate, clean up, etc.? This is not trivial, for in discovering the power of bodies that present themselves instead of being re-presented by others, their continued presence multiplies that power and momentum. This is what the government and Wall Street especially hate about the occupations and why there has been so much violence unleashed against them: they prefigure another way to organize society and to create a new commons. The parliaments and council chambers are temples of absence, while the Tahrir Squares of the world are places where a general will is embodied and in action.

Just read the whole damned thing. It won’t take you that long. Trust me.