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About

Bio

A simple bio you can use:

Justin Podur is the author of Haiti's New Dictatorship (Pluto Press 2012). He has contributed chapters to Empire's Ally: Canada and the War in Afghanistan (University of Toronto Press 2013) and Real Utopia (AK Press 2008). He is an Associate Professor at York University's Faculty of Environmental Studies.

He has reported from India (Kashmir, Chhattisgarh), Afghanistan, Pakistan, Haiti, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico (Chiapas), and Israel/Palestine.

He is also the author of the novel, The Demands of the Dead (2014).

Email: justin (at the domain of this blog)

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Speaking

What are these speaking engagements? In recent years I have spoken on the following topics.

International politics relating to:

-Haiti
-The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
-Colombia & Venezuela
-Canadian foreign policy (and indigenous issues)
-Israel/Palestine (and Middle East politics more generally)
-Afghanistan, Pakistan, India (including Kashmir and Chhattisgarh)

Politics of:

-Race/Antiracism
-Alternative media/journalism
-Environmental issues
-Globalization, economics, imperialism & anti-imperialism

I can talk on most things that I write about - these are the talks that I get invited to do. If there is an audience that will benefit from it, I will speak for expenses (having read George Monbiot's book, "Heat", I increasingly think traveling long-distances to give talks is ecologically unsound and prefer to speak around where I live, and I guess I would encourage others to book speakers who are local).

Why "Killing Train"?

For six years, this blog was called "The Killing Train". It started as a blog on ZNet, which was founded by Michael Albert. This was my introduction to why I gave the blog the name I did:

Hello all. I apologize in advance for the gruesome name of the blog. The name comes from an essay by Michael Albert, that dates back to Operation Desert Storm, I think, written when I was just a little too young to have found or read it. I came across it years later though, and I thought it would make an appropriate image. I was able to find a re-published version in 1999. This is what it says:

Suppose a hypothetical god got tired of what we humans do to one another and decided that from January 1, 1999 onward all corpses unnaturally created anywhere in the "free world" would cease to decompose. Anyone dying for want of food or medicine, anyone hung or garroted to death, shot or beaten to death, raped or bombed to death, anyone dying unjustly and inhumanely would, as a corpse, persist without decomposing. And the permanent corpse would then automatically enter a glass-walled cattle car attached to an ethereal train traveling monotonously across the U.S., state by state, never stopping.

One by one the corpses would be loaded onto the cattle cars and after every thousand corpses piled in a new car would hitch up and begin filling too. Mile after mile the killing train would roll along, each corpse viewed through its transparent walls, 200 new corpses a minute, one new car every five minutes, day and night, without pause.

By the end of 1999, on its first birthday, the first day of the new millennium, the killing train would measure over 2,000 miles long. Traveling at 20 miles an hour it would take about five days to pass any intersection. By the year 2009, assuming no dramatic change in institutions and behavior, the train would stretch from coast to coast about seven times. It would take about six weeks from the time its engine passed the Statue of Liberty to when its caboose would go by. God still wondering when pitiful, aspiring humanity would get the message.

Think how a young child sometimes points to a picture in a book or magazine and asks for an explanation, "Tell me about a tree?" A car? A boat? Or a train? A big train? The killing train?" Go ahead, answer that one.

I have, in the past, been accused of 'overquoting' in my writing. But blogs are supposed to reflect their authors. So I think I shall have to finish this first blog entry with more quotes. These are all by people I admire, similar to the tone of Mike Albert's 'Killing Train', and I suspect that they will provide some idea of the motivation behind the postings here (they don't, however, provide a preview of what the postings will be -- the next message will describe what I want to accomplish in the blog).

A recent quote by Robert Fisk, on the Iraq War:

Well as a matter of fact this afternoon, I took several roles of filmreel film, not digitized camera film into my film development shop here, and was looking again at the film of children whod been hit by American cluster bombs in Hilla and Babylon whom I took photographs of. Im rather shocked at myself for taking pictures of people in such suffering. I would have to say, and one must be fair as a correspondent, that I think that the Iraqis did position military tanks and missiles in civilian areas. They did so deliberately; they did so in order to try and preserve their military apparatus in the hope that the Americans would not bomb civilian areas. The Americans did bomb civilian areas. They may or may not have destroyed the military targets; they certainly destroyed human beings and innocent civilians.

War is a disgusting, cruel, vicious affair. You know, I say to people over and over again: war is not about primarily victory or defeat, its primarily about human suffering and death. And if you look through the pictures, which I have beside me now as I speak to you, of little girls with huge wounds in the side of their faces made by the pieces of metal from cluster bombs, American cluster bombs, its degoutant, as the French say, disgusting to even look at. But I have to look at them. I took these pictures.

An interview with Subcomandante Marcos, interviewed in the Mexican journal, 'Proceso':

Poverty is much more than an emaciated body. It's the child Heberto Castillo saw clutching a stone, her daughter, it's the fifty girls of a refugee camp sharing the remaining shreds of a doll. And you, Marcos, what's your picture of poverty?

Also a child. A girl who died in my arms, less than five years old, of fever, in the community of Las Tazas, because there was no remedy to lower her temperature, and she died in my hands. We tried to lower the temperature with water, with wet rags, we bathed her and everything, her father and I. She died on us. She didn't require surgery, nor a hospital. She needed a pill, a little remedy... It's ridiculous, because that girl was not even born, there was no birth certificate. What is there more miserable than being born and dying and nobody knows you?

And you, what did you feel?

Impotence, rage. The whole world falls in on you, that everything you believed and everything you did before is useless if I can't prevent this death, this unjust, absurd, irrational, stupid...

And if these terrible emotions are multiplied over a wide area, do I sense, brewing in the background, although they're not declaring it, a fight to get even?

That's the danger. If that general bitterness doesn't find a social voice, revenge is bound to follow. And in the case of indigenous groups it can tend toward essentialism, and there's certainly no worthwhile dialog in that... That's why we say it's preferable that the discontent get organized. In any case, let the movement in its wisdom or knowledge make the choice.

Marcos, how many victims lived without knowing what life was?

That's what we don't want repeated any more. We don't want any more people who aren't born and don't die, who don't exist, who don't exist for you, for the public, for Fox or for anybody. Beyond their families, they didn't exist for anybody. Now, with indigenous communities taking a stand, we lowered the mortality rate to between two and three hundred per year. We used to have, before 1994, fifteen thousand per year, mostly under five who never had any birth certificate (...)

The last one is by Arundhati Roy, about India:

Unfortunately there's no quick fix. Fascism itself can only be turned away if all those who are outraged by it show a commitment to social justice that equals the intensity of their indignation."

"Are we ready to get off our starting blocks? Are we ready, many millions of us, to rally not just on the streets, but at work and in schools and in our homes, in every decision we take, and every choice we make?

"Or not just yet...

If not, then years from now, when the rest of the world has shunned us (as it should), like the ordinary citizens of Hitler's Germany, we too will learn to recognise revulsion in the gaze of our fellow human beings. We too will find ourselves unable to look our own children in the eye, for the shame of what we did and did not do. For the shame of what we allowed to happen.

I suppose these quotes function as a personal statement of motivation -- so you, dear reader, know something about the person whose blog you're reading. As to what you'll find in the blog -- that's for the next post.

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