Government Tries to Shut Down Geneva’s Counterculture

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Subculture and counterculture are the backbone of the art world, challenging the established order and values, preventing the arts from falling into complacency and decadence. Much like a single party political system, a cultural scene devoid of counterculture is doomed to be stagnant, elitist, and ultimately counterproductive both to its own progress and to the fulfillment of its members. Yet, as valuable as this natural opposition to mainstream culture may be, local governments seem ever more intent on shutting it down for no better reason than conservative stubbornness and self aggrandizement.

A prime example of such egotistical government is the ongoing struggle that faces l’Usine (one of Geneva’s most notorious alternative haunts) and the Geneva city council. The abridged story goes as follows: about 20 years ago, a group of people took the initiative to make constructive use of an abandoned building that used to be part of a factory which has since fallen into disuse. They did it up at their own expense and developed it into an independent, non-profit cultural center with the sole aim of promoting the arts in all their forms. This, however, did not sit well with the city council, whose world view did not have place for such an organisation and they proceeded to pressure l’Usine to shut down over the years. This was neither the first nor the last clash that Geneva city council had with its local underground scene; over the past 10 years they have successfully shut down several comparable cultural venues, among which are Artamis and Rhino, but where others failed l’Usine triumphed in the face of adversity and has managed to stay open and active. Today, l’Usine serves an average of 5,000 persons per week (more than any other venue in the city) and provides a wide variety of social and cultural activities for the alternative community.

However, the venue’s future has now been put in question once more by Geneva’s city council; they have approved a new law that imposes numerous restrictions on the owners and operators of establishments dedicated to serving food, beverages, and hospitality. Among the many conditions it imposes on such establishments, it requires every bar within to have a separate alcohol vending license on grounds of public safety. They also require the owner, as well as every employee to be officially qualified to exercise their function (that is to say: be in possession of a certificate either granted or approved by the government). Furthermore those running the establishment must have the express authorization to do so from the owners of the premises to do so if they are not the owners. [Read more…]

How to Roll Back Global Homophobia

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In my previous article I addressed the issues faced by people concerning their sexual orientation, practices, and preferences. The arbitrary nature of societal norms regarding sexuality and love was pointed out, and the conclusion was reached that the current system which insists on heterosexual, monogamous, vanilla relationships and (for the larger part) misrepresents or even demonizes any other paradigm is positively absurd.

So how do we change this? How can we take a step towards an open society where sexual orientation or practices aren’t an issue? Well, first off, we need to define what is generally acceptable and what isn’t. Now, at the risk of coming off as a hypocrite, I’ll draw the hypothetical line at the point of consent; it is my opinion that if the person cannot give you clear consent, then sex should not be had with them. This admittedly prejudices people who practice zoophilia, pedophilia, and suchlike, but I’m afraid that remains a steadfast line in my opinion. The basis for this is a notion of mutual respect; that is to say that while one should be free to explore their sexuality, this should by no means impinge on anybody’s right to personal safety or their freedom to make their own choices.

The next point of order is how to make it possible for people to express themselves in a manner where no one’s rights are being stepped on. What comes to mind is a situation where people can:
a) Be able to openly express themselves without fear of repercussions
b) No one’s orientations or preferences are being forced onto anyone
c) People remain tasteful at all times [Read more…]

Freedom to Love

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Among the freedoms that many of us take for granted these days, is the freedom to choose one’s partner and to express one’s sexuality and love towards them. Indeed, global society has come a very long way from the days where affection and sexuality were so taboo that the very thought was considered sinful. And yet, the progress made is mitigated by its own exclusive nature; while certain people began expressing their sexuality and affection more openly, the vast majority of the world’s LGBT population remained oppressed.

To some extent, it is understandable that society would have a difficult transition period from prudish to sexually open, and it does make sense that the most common and familiar forms of sexuality would be recognized first. However, progress in the field has stagnated significantly since this social upheaval began, and in some places society has regressed to primitive notions of superiority based on sexual orientation.

Russia and Uganda are prime examples of what can happen when homophobia spills over into legal policy, situations where homophobia is either condoned or encouraged, and the homosexual community is left without the means to defend themselves either physically or politically. The laws against pro-gay protests and demonstrations prevent people from raising awareness, leaving the majority of the population in ignorance, leading to persecution and abuse. To give the most extreme of recent examples: Russia has proposed a law that makes the act of coming out (i.e. publicly declaring one’s hitherto secret sexual orientation) a criminal offense! [Read more…]

Mideast Conflict: A Blanket of Hatred

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Xenophobia has always been regarded as an internal problem for states, and while many governments have taken some kind of measure towards educating people against it, often it seems to end up on the back-burner. However, the long term consequences of persisting xenophobia are beginning to show.

Media attention has recently been given to ISIS as the world is beginning to wake up to the threat they pose. Meanwhile, hundreds of Muslim and activist teens have run away to join the ranks of Jihadist fighters. How did this come to happen, and who must be held responsible?

A brief summary of the past two decades:

– 1990: Iraq annexes Kuwait. The official reason quoted is that Kuwait had been accused of stealing oil from Iraq by slant drilling, opinions on the true reasons are divided.

– 1991: The US, Saudi Arabia, the UK and France and later Kuwait form a coalition to fight off Iraq’s occupation. Iraqi forces are bombarded by air and sea, and a ground assault follows. A ceasefire is declared 100 hours after the ground campaign is launched. Vast numbers of chemical weapons are apparently found and destroyed. President Saddam Hussein is allowed to remain in power.

– 2001: UK and US carry out bombing raids on Iraq in an attempt to disable its air defense network. This is part of an effort to disarm Iraq on the part of the UN by request of the US on the grounds that the Iraqi government refuses to allow the US to inspect for unconventional weaponry.
Military commander of the Afghan Northern Alliance Ahmad Shah Massoud is killed by a suicide bomber.
9/11 terrorist attacks on the US trigger a global uproar, war is waged in Afghanistan by the US with international support.

– 2003: US invasion of Iraq with international support begins. US forces take Baghdad. Former President Saddam Hussein is captured, tried, and executed by the new Iraqi Government. Iraqi militant group Tanzim Qaidat Al-Jihad Fi Bilad Al-Rafidayn (an Al Qaeda offshoot) joins forces with insurgent Sunni groups to form the Mujahideen Shura Council, they declare the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) shortly after.

– 2011: Civil war breaks out in Syria. President Bashar El Assad’s government fights groups of civilian rebel fighters. Casualties are in the tens to hundreds of thousands. US refrains from intervening at first, but decides to support and arm the rebels when Russia lends its support to the Syrian government.

– 2013: ISIL joins the civil war on the side of the rebels, and the name is changed into the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The conflict is still ongoing.

– 2014: Al Qaeda disowns ISIS, the official reason quoted being their brutality. They have been accused of war crimes, religious persecution, mistreatment of civilians, sexual violence, and slavery. [Read more…]

Is U.S.-Russian Rivalry Only for Show?

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The United States and Russia put on a good display of being at each other’s throats. But what if that rivalry is nothing more than a show?

As I covered in my last article on the relationship between the Russian and U.S. Intelligence Services, it’s according to Intelligence that governments plan their negotiations and decide whether or not to put forth a plan for military deployment. This is a perfectly normal and sensible approach to foreign policy. However, the line is crossed at the point where Intelligence Services are used to create situations where deployment would seem viable, e.g. by manipulating intelligence and cooking up statistics.

Russian and U.S. foreign policy has been both very intimately and very discretely linked in the past few decades: wherever the U.S. deploys its troops, they find themselves faced with enemies armed with Russian weaponry and gear; and whenever Russia cracks down on former Soviet allies for insubordination, they very often find themselves facing rebels armed with supposedly stolen or smuggled U.S. weapons. At the same time, Russia often sends the U.S. warnings when it is about to launch an attack in the Middle East, and threatens to stay out of the conflict and leave the U.S. to their own devices (for example the deployments in Syria and Iraq), while the U.S. calls Russia on what it calls infringements of human rights and impingements on the sovereignty of its neighbors. And yet, neither ever actually personally intervenes in the other’s affairs! [Read more…]

Did the Cold War ever really end?

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The Cold War, the epic global military standoff between the United States of America and the Soviet Union, ended decades ago. Everyone knows that.

Well, what if I were to tell you that, beneath the surface, the Cold War is in fact still in full effect?

The Cold War of espionage and intelligence gathering that followed the end of the 2nd World War and the 3rd Reich was a grim time for international relations, a time where governments were at each other’s throats and where spies lurked behind every dark corner. As the story goes, the Cold War ended with the fall of Stalin’s Soviet regime and the tearing down of the Berlin wall. But what if the Cold War had in fact gone even further underground, only to resurface at a time where it could be once more legitimately justified?

Russia resumed its infamous intelligence activities since Putin’s rise to power at the end of the 90’s. But while it’s true that Russian intelligence thrived under Putin, the KGB never truly stopped its activities in the intermittent time; it all simply became increasingly obscure and discrete. [Read more…]