Saturday, May 19, 2007


yesterday was a bit of an odd day. firstly, i swear i saw someone that i know. i was in london. upon first seeing this person there was that momentary recognition (i thought), but then, since the person (on the face of it) looked different appearance-wise, i said to myself "how could it be him. it´s impossible". so, i didn´t think about it again. there was another event, but i won´t elaborate on that now.

then, as i walk to marble arch to take the bus back to oxf, i swear i saw ashley judd. yes. but i am not one to intrude when i see well-known people. i don´t rush up and say "aren´t you so-and-so?". after all, if they are out in public just to be out shopping say, then i don´t think it´s okay for me to run over and intrude on what is a private moment/space (even if they are out in public).

later that evening i went to my first oxford union debate. there i saw peter gabriel. no doubt that it was him. not really surprising to see him there either. and then when he spoke, his unmistakable voice confirmed what i had already known (i.e. that it was him). after the debate i´d wondered for a moment or so whether i should go over to him and say something. i didn´t want to go into gush-gush-you´re-such-a-wonderful-artist kind of thing. no.

it is that upon the death-in-detention of one of the (if not _the_) foremost black South African intellectuals, Steve Biko, in 1977, Peter Gabriel wrote a song about and dedicated to Biko, titled "Biko". i was way too young to have actual meaningful political memory of 1977, but i remember there was a wall over a canal in my neighbourhood scrawled with Biko´s name on it. it stayed there all through my childhood, which was surprising since the police station was not so far away, and i would have thought that they (the authorities) would have white-washed the graffiti, but they didn´t. Gabriel´s "Biko" song had been banned in South Africa throughout the apartheid era. eventually it was unbanned, and then some years ago during the first 46664 AIDS benefit concert (hosted by Nelson Mandela) in Green Point, Cape Town, i remember it as a great moment when Peter Gabriel came on stage to perform "Biko" _in_ South Africa. i remember thinking then, proudly, "wow, look how far we´ve come".
i do have a copy of the song. i´d bought the CD last year when in Madrid.

well, i wanted to thank Peter Gabriel somehow, for his writing the song, etc. but in the end, no he aprovechado del momento justo para hacerlo.

i will write later about the oxford debate, and also on the conference i had attended in london all day, titled "the rule of law and post-conflict states"
what was striking to me was the stark contrast between the seriousness of the engagement in the day´s conference, versus the near-ridicularization of the politics of oppression in the evening´s event. the reasons for which i will explain later.

for now, here´s the blurb from the conference site:

“The Institute’s Annual Conference in 2007 will focus upon a single theme: the International Legal Issues Raised for Societies in Post–Conflict Situations.

The application of the international rule of law in the aftermath of civil and international conflicts – while vitally important in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sierre Leone, East Timor, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo – is by no means clear. Speakers will consider the obligations of occupying powers, economic reconstruction and trade, access of foreign investors to natural resource exploitation, war crimes trials, the relationship between human rights and the 1949 Geneva ‘Red Cross’ Conventions and the role of non state actors, particularly the United Nations, World Bank and the EU. A core question is whether treaty-based and customary international law provides an adequate response to the contemporary problems faced by States post–conflict where the objectives of key players may range from conserving prior rights to regime change.”

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