Road to Gauntanamo

Have you seen the film Road to Guantanamo yet? If not then go see it. I have put it off for some time but now that I have – it absolutly terrified me. The story is about four young men who travel to Pakistan. One is about to be married and the others are there to attend.

Through a mix of youthful carelessness, bad luck and the chaos of war they are detained and considered to be members of Al-Qaeda. The brutal treatment and torture they face at the hands of the US military is absolutly barbaric. They are abused and tortured to obtain confessions – something which the military fail to obtain despite their treatment.

Even if they had obtained forced confessions from the men – what are these results worth? They are not the truth. And the treatment makes those carrying it out less human. The US cannot claim to be the “good-guy” anymore. Their brutality does not make them better than any other “evil” torturer which we would condemn elsewhere.

Despite the torture being carried out at Guantanamo and the number of detainees and the number of years they have been held it is important to remember that the US has not achieved one single conviction. It is only brutality without law. To those who want to claim the honour of fighting for their beliefs and country – the actions of the men at Guantanamo put your actions, your country and your armed forces to shame.

See this movie!! It is an important movie about the horror of war, the madness of belief over reason, against the evils of torture and the strength of those who are subjected to evil treatment.

What terrifies me the most is the ability of countries to commit crimes while being able to maintain a rhetoric of peace and humanity…

The movie website contains both the trailer and information about the infamous prison. Amnesty International has a broschure to accompany the film: The Road to Guantanamo Action Guide.
About the detainees at Guantanamo Amnesty International writes:

None of the detainees have been granted prisoner of war status or brought before a â??competent tribunalâ?? to determine his statusâ?¦The US government refuses to clarify their legal status, despite calls from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to do so. Instead, the US government labels them â??enemy combatantsâ?? or â??terroristsâ??, flouting their right to be presumed innocent and illegally presuming justification for the denial of many of their most basic human rights.

Can we forgive if we never forget?

An old saying which is often cited is â??forgive and forgetâ??. Another is the idea that â??time heals all woundsâ??. These two useful adages express an interesting idea that bad memories fade with time. This may be true. But they do not take into consideration the ubiquitous camera phone.

Most people have forgotten most of the painfully embarrassing things they did as a teenage. Some people are able to recall things they did as a teenager that they are thankful not many others remember. A few of us, hopefully not very many, may still carry scars of things that happened long ago.

But things are different now. This is a simplistic statement. But valid nonetheless.

Most things that happened in the teenage period of most adults today occurred off-camera. Not all â?? but most. Growing up today is different. Most, if not all, friends and acquaintances carry cameras with them in their mobile telephones. This ensures that most, if not all, memorable occasions will be recorded.

Can you imagine if the un-reflected, immature actions of your youth were stored on a hard disk somewhere? The threat of revelation will ensure that you can never relax completely. This goes beyond an old friend showing up and discussing â??the old daysâ?? â?? there is no element of deniability once the image is produced. But there is ample room for misinterpretation.

How will the future accommodate this? Will the future be filled with paranoid stunted people fearing the revelation of past indiscretions? Or will the future free itself from the actions of its youth? The latter would be the same as experiencing the past as an exotic, but irrelevant, distant country. Familiar but not.

The forgiving and forgetting will not be quite so easy anymoreâ?¦

Read Book Change World

Do you have a guilty conscious about books you should have read? I do. Most of the time I can ignore this little voice but every so often the voice shouts too loud to be ignored.

One book which I thought I should read when it came out in 2000 was Monbiotâ??s â??The Age of Consent: A manifesto for a new world orderâ?? but somehow I always had other stuff to do.

Then I began reading Monbiotâ??s writing online. He posts some (all?) of his newspaper articles online a short while after they have appeared in the newspapers. His â??Children of the Machineâ?? (2006) is an insightful understanding of how RFID technology will slowly come to be accepted and to control us.

Anyway I bought his Age of Consent and I was not disappointed. Here is a man who writes about the complicated hypocrisies of world economics in a manner that is understandable, entertaining and at the same time provoking.

His final goal is to provoke the reader into action. But he is aware that he must move the reader from ignorance, to understanding, to agreement before he gets anyone to act.

Some short quotes:

We must accept that democracy will always be something of a mess. Attempting to tidy it up too much could mean subordinating diversity to universalism and the individual consciousness to the general will to such an extent that we may establish the preconditions not for freedom but for captivity. We must leave gaps between the building blocks, in case we accidentally build a wall. (Monbiot, Age of Consent, p 115)

Throughout this manifesto, I have sought to suggest ways in which we can use the strengths of our opponents to our advantage, and it seems to me that the roaming hunger of corporations is another asset we can turn to our account. (Monbiot, Age of Consent, p)

â?¦the curtailment of the world-eating mathematically impossible system we call capitalism, and its replacement with a benign and viable means of economic exchangeâ?¦ (Monbiot, Age of Consent, p 238)

I end this with the same words with which he ends his book:

Well? What are you waiting for?

Walls of design, imagination and segregation

For most of their history walls have been used as a cheap method of control. Their popularity increased in the middle ages with the development of castle architecture in the Crusader kingdoms. The reason for the developments at that particular time and place were that the architecture allowed for the defence of large tracts of land with relatively low numbers of military.

Castles and walls began a period of decline with the development of efficient artillery. As a form of true defence the end of the large-scale fortification came with the vast defence system of the Maginot Line. Its uselessness was demonstrated when the invading army simply moved around the defences.

The wall that symbolises my generation is the Berlin wall. A structure designed to prevent attacks but in reality was there to prevent citizens of the east from defecting to the west. This east-west mentality was the hegemonic worldview until a whole world watched in utter amazement when the citizens of Berlin lost their fear of the wall and began to ignore it as a barrier, hit it with hammers and slowly wear it down. As it turned out the wall was an illusion â?? only powerful as long as everyone agreed it was an impenetrable barrier. When the illusion was lost the wall fell.

With the loss of this wall an odd idea took form. We are a world without such walls. Since the symbol of division was lost we began to think that there were no more divisions. But this is wrong. The wall has never been destroyed. Even though some concrete in Germany was removed.

Three lines of defensive fences have been built around the Spanish enclaves in Africa (Ceuta & Melilla). the purpose of these fences is not to defend these contested pieces of Spanish rule on the African continent but more to prevent immigrants from attempting to enter Spain (and the EU).

The Moroccan Wall is a 2,720 km-long system of defensive walls/berms, running mainly through Moroccan-controlled Western Sahara. It is dubbed The Wall of shame by the Polisario Front and other Sahrawi independence-seekers. It consists of sand and stone walls about three meters in height, with bunkers, fences and landmines throughout.

Israel & West Bank
The Israeli West Bank barrier is arguably the most publicised wall at present. It consists of a network of fences with vehicle-barrier trenches surrounded by an on average 60 meters wide exclusion area (90%) and up to 8 meters high concrete walls (10%). It is located partly within the West Bank, partly along the border between the West Bank and Israel proper.

Serenissima is a suburb to the Italian city of Padua. It sounds idyllic. Translated it means something like the most serene. Padua is known for its great art and the university, where Galileo was once a professor of mathematics. But this romanticised image is far from the truth. Serenissima is a place filled to the brim with social problems, illegal immigrants, drugs & prostitution. Last month riots, described as pitched battes, broke out between the residents of Serenissima and the police.

An attempt to resolve this has been taken. Not a large scale attempt to deal with the social and economic problems in the area. The solution is a barrier.

A large and ugly barrier has been erected to help protect local residents from the run-down apartment blocks, largely filled with immigrants. Stretching for 84 metres, three metres high and made of thick steel panels, there is a police checkpoint at the entrance as well as CCTV camerasâ?¦The barricade has already been dubbed Paduaâ??s Berlin wall and has reignited a debate about how to treat foreign migrants. (The Guardian).

These examples are not intended to provide a full list. We create walls and barriers of segregation all around ourselves. From gated communities to national defence systems we create and implement technological systems (not always particularly high-tech) to efficiently segregate and control populations.

Odds & Ends

Occasionally when writing my PhD I could attempt to image what the period between handing in and defence felt like. Just as I still try to image what the day after the defence feels like.

Naturally nothing is what it seems. My days are not spent in still contemplation and preparation but rather an endless list of tasks ranging from the trivial to the truly important.

I move from discussing with a reporter whether the investigators guidelines for modernizing the use of content delivery were biased in favour of the music industry or not (they are).  To the more trivial buying stuff at Ikea (how very Swedish). From preparing a very important personâ??s 10:th birthday to buying socks. Itâ??s high and low at the same time.

Today I am off to Slovenia (Maribor) for a conference in Social Informatics where I am looking forward to taking my mind of the waiting by engaging in real discussion. I shall be presenting a paper on Internet censorship and the different approaches to circumvent such practices.

Not a fashion blog

This is not a fashion blog. I have no intention of attempting to bore you with pictures of what I am currently wearing (or not wearing) but I want to share with you my latest purchase.

After looking at these online I was very happy to find them being sold in a store locally. The shop is called Minni Ekoaffair on Sveagatan 3 in Göteborg.
We’re using 100% organic hemp, which is processed with natural methods such as water retting, eliminating the need to use chemicals. The Blackspot Sneaker has a rubber sole and a toe cap that is 70% biodegradable, whereas The Unswoosher has a sole made from recovered car tires. We’re not currently using water-based glues, as they lack permanence so shoe longevity suffers. The white anti-logo and the red splotches are hand-painted, and the soles are stitched, glued and embedded for extra durability.
This makes it one of the world’s most environmentally friendly shoes. In addition to this they are union friendly and anti-corporation.
The Blackspot Anticorporation and the Blackspot Shoes venture are projects of Adbusters Media Foundation.


In April I wrote a short entry about the growing problems of high-tech trash. One way of understanding the problems is to look at Chris Jordan‘s photographs of our discarded tech-junk. Take a look at the piles of cell phone chargers or the sea of cell phones. These photographs show how quickly yesterday’s technology of desire becomes tomorrows garbage – and next weeks environmental crisis.
There seem to be few solutions to what we should be doing with our discarded high-tech junk but some companies are working on small scale remedies to the problem. Recellular is a company that buys and sells used mobile telephones in bulk. While this does not really prevent high-tech junk it at least ensures that we get the most milage out of our technology before it ends up in the pile.

Obviously a good first step, but what do we do next?

The guilt of a travelling techie

I replaced my iPod yesterday after the total collapse of my last one. Today I read about the iSweatshops. The iPods are assembled in China by mainly female workers. The workforceâ?¦

â?¦resides in “iPod cities” with as many as 200,000 employees. Outsiders are forbidden, and 15-hour workdays are the norm. As you might expect, the wages are low, even for China. (Foreign Policy).

Tomorrow I will fly to Barcelona to participate in the GPLv3 conference besides being an event that I am looking forward to, the privilege of visiting foreign cities is one I value. Recently the discussion on environmental damage caused by flights has taken speed â?? especially with the rapid rise of cheap tickets which increases our â??unnecessaryâ?? flights.

Monbiot writes: â??Flying kills. We all know it, and we all do it.

Monbiot is referring to the environmental effects of flying. He claims (convincingly) that while most of our reliance on fuels causing carbon emissions can be reduced without a too serious limitation to our freedom â?? this does not apply to flying. Reducing carbon emissions caused by flying means reducing the number of flights we take.

Both these arguments (iSweatshops & flying) have something important in common. They both bring into question things I appreciate. The question that must be posed from this information is â?? what shall I do about it?

When bringing this information to people he meets Monbiot writes of the listeners response: â??They just want to enjoy themselves. Who am I to spoil their fun? The moral dissonance is deafening.â??

The first impulse may be the ostrich approach â?? by sticking oneâ??s neck into the sand the bad news can be ignored. This approach should not be ignored â?? it works surprisingly well and is applied successfully by many. I tried this for a while â?? unfortunately it eventually wears thin. Another approach is self-denial. A no-excuses approach to technology and flights. This entails limiting everything to the bare necessities â?? without allowing for rationalisations. This involves denying oneself of many of the things that I appreciate â?? not an easy approach.

Can there be a middle-of-the-road approach? Is awareness better than ignorance? This argument would mean that our knowledge of the harm our choices entail legitimises our actions even if this has no real effect on physical events (better working conditions or environment). As much as I would like this, I cannot believe this is a solid approach to improvement.

The answer? Donâ??t look at me. I believe it is better to be aware than ignorant of the harm I do â?? even if this cannot mitigate the harm.