Who is that Masked Woman – and Why?

masks on a beach in China

New Orleans    Rifling through the papers on my return, I am confronted by a picture of women on the beach in ski masks.  What’s up with that?  Flip a couple of pages and there are even more of them, as if it is a blooming fad of some kind.  Reading further it was some of the same phenomena we had found on our Organizers’ Forum trips to Vietnam and Thailand, a desire to not “appear like peasants” in the clash of fashion, culture, and race.

A little farther back a man is being arrested in Russia supporting the women’s band and its protest of the autocratic methods of Prime Minister Putin.  Another day’s paper spotlighted the members of the Russian punk rock band, the so-called Pussy Riot, all wearing ski masks as they did their “prayer protest” in the cathedral against Putin’s methods.    All of this was reminiscent of the emergence some years ago of Subcomandante Marcos and his Zapatista Army of National Liberation who became popular heroes from the Mexican state of Chiapas and an articulate force for reform and protest against globalization and advocates for the poor.

man protesting the arrests of members of Pussy Riot

Could balaclavas be catching on as a political statement and tactic, and not some weird anti-fashion race statement?

In fact the Riot-ers seem to have adopted the ski mask for the same reason as Marcos and the Zapatistas had done – to not be identified.  It seems that the Riot-ers were a band of about a dozen who upon donning their masks became interchangeable.  The three young women now in the dock for up to 7 years could have been any combination of others who might have taken their places.  Except for the brutal honesty of the situation, what an amazing story that would make in the hands of a skilled novelist!

members of Pussy Riot

In a world of solidarity with perhaps cooler temperatures, perhaps we would all be donning balaclavas now.  Whenever protests are masked in anonymity for fear of reaction and retaliation, we have to recognize that these tactics say something fundamentally about a society and its political norms, all of which are worth hearing, and none of which augur well for people forced to hide their faces and silence their voices.

on the beach in China, people wearing masks for sun protection
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Americans No Longer Trust in S**t

New Orleans The Wall Street Journal did a Busimagesiness Roundtable of sorts, and one thing should have been enough to scare the stuffing (a sop to Thanksgiving, ok?) out of the business community if they bothered to read it.  Journal reporter, Matt Murray, talked to Peter Hart, the Democratic pollster, and Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster.  In a throw away comment at the end of the interview, Hart may have not only explained more about why something like the Tea-People and their Tea Party caucus are on the rise, but also why this may be the time for other  bands to form and enter the lists.

The bottom line is the American people currently have lost confidence in everybody and don’t believe in s**t.  They know who to blame, but the distrust and alienation is such that they don’t trust anyone out there now among the regular players, talking heads, and standard institutions unless their lives depend on it.  The numbers also explain why there is a total mind meld between the left and right now on the issue of free trade with both looking to tighten it down in a reaction against globalization for various reasons.

Here’s what they said:

Who’s to Blame

MR. MURRAY: Who do people blame for that alienation? Business, government, everybody?

MR. HART: It’s all institutions. In the exit polls, first and foremost they named Wall Street and business, I think it was something like 35%. Second was the Bush administration, and third was the Obama administration.

But of those who said the business community, they voted more Republican than Democratic, so go figure. What it really comes back around to is we’ve lost confidence in every single institution. The only institutions that sort of remain are the military, firefighters, paramedics, that kind of thing.

But you look at the news media, you look at the business community, you look at banking and you look at Wall Street, it’s now about 10% confidence. It used to be 40%, 50%, 70%. A lot of this has to do with a sense of, who’s fighting for me and who understands where I’m at?

Continue reading “Americans No Longer Trust in S**t”

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