Black Widows

These are the faces, we are told, of the two young women who blew themselves up on the Moscow Metro and killed 39 commuters.
Picture 1
The woman on the right seems attractive, beautiful cheek bones and the burns to her eyebrows emphasise their lovely line. Their lips are sightly apart and their eyes are sadly closed – not because they are sleeping, but because they are dead of course. We wonder so many things about them: were they mothers? how could they have become so committed to their cause, so angry that they failed to see the humanity of the people thoughtlessly getting off their train on the way to another day at work? or were they heavily pressured into this act, as some news sources are saying about the black widows? In the seventies I remember there was something romantic about the young woman terrorists like Astrid Proll. I also remember the women bombers dolling themselves up to more easily get through the checkpoints in The Battle of Algiers ( but what is happening here? Is this preparing and sending women in to commit suicide just an extreme and cynical piece of sexism from communities who may not hold women in high regard? And we wonder how these photographs were taken, by maybe slightly hardened but still shocked on this occasion police photographers. How could they work out from that mangle of bodies that these two were the bombers? Their faces seem strangely intact for the people closest to the blast. We cannot help but ask whether their bodies were blown in two by the explosive belts they were said to be wearing. What expression, what feelings can we read from these two dead faces? We can only read our own fantasies about them I suppose. There seems a hint of triumph in the woman on the right. The other woman still seems more like a child. I wonder if the coming weeks will bring their stories into the light. I feel a deep sadness for them and anguish for those killed and maimed.

Random comment about Serbia

Drifting around the Balkan corner of Youtube, from my Slovak clips to Roma to Serbian folk music I notice the deep and hearfelt patriotism expressed by many commenters. But then I came upon this (in response to some lovely Serbian accordion music):
Serbia is just too precious to me! SERBIA FOREVER! CCCC! Serbia is an outstanding country&the Serbs are phenomenal people out of the ordinary! Your music is eternal&rules! May others understand Your history, get it straight&support You a lot more than today! May Your country be fast-tracked to prosperity&Your glorious past acknowledged all over the world! You deserve it so much! Živela Srbija!!! VOLIM TE SRBIJO! Wish I could be heading there immediately! POZDRAV! from a Norwegian.

Random thoughts on Slovakia

Last summer I spent a couple of days in Slovakia. The only people I talked to about the country were the Dutch couple that ran the campsite I stayed in. they had decised to move there and settle down and send their children to school there. We talked about the Roma and about how there is serious prejudice against them. They mentioned a hotel where the owner employed a Roma girl and everyone refused to work with her. I heard on the BBC World Service the other morning that the Slovaks had build a great fence (I can’t remember where) in order to keep the Roma out. On youtube just now I was revisiting the short clips I made there and clicked onto someone’s film, from their car, of Roma people selling fruit by the roadside. Some cheery Slovak commented:
Miretz919 (7 months ago) Show Hide
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Why you filmed gypsies?:( Slovakia is nice country too and gypsies are shame of our country and shame of all Europe.
But they mostly dont want live as a cultural peoples, all their houses are broke cause they are problematic..
Berry Selling Gypsies

Writing, speech-which is parasitic? A new slant on an old debate

Which is the real, original – speaking or writing? Jacques Derrida and others argued that speech is parasitic on writing rather than the other way round (for example Plato condemned writing as a bastardised form of communication, according to Derrida and Jonathan Culler. When we come to evaluating the trustworthiness (whatever we mean by that) of religious systems we often come up against the ‘problem’ that its founding texts were only set down in writing many years after the death of its founder. So it was quite revealing to come across the following in  Bhikku’s Blog from a month or so ago: “Pali was originally a spoken language only, and was not committed to writing until several hundred years after the Buddha’s time. During the Buddha’s own lifetime writing was, in India, a fairly recent technological innovation and was used only for practical purposes such as commercial and diplomatic messages. It was still considered improper to use such a vulgar medium for religious texts.” Even Ferdinand de Saussure (early 20th century founder of structural linguistics) saw writing as dangerous and open to ambiguity and other weaknesses that are not, accoring to him, features of spoken language. So that puts this problem of the authority of religious texts (and by extension, teaching) into a new light.