Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sunday Top of Pops (?): Late Sixties

My classmate Kavindra Nethsingha sent me this link about the Diamonds, Little Darling
It just evoked an whole host of memories, the Sunday afternoon Radio Ceylon program at around 2 pm on Sunday. This was the late sixties, early seventies no TV at that time and I was a pre teen. The theme song to the program was by the Platters, "To Each his Own" (1959). I recalled it as the "Sun and the Rain" and Jagdish Mirchandani set me right including that it was the Platters who sang the song.

Anyways, 40 years later I still recall these songs and dragged them out from the deep recesses of my memory and see a common theme. The theme being African American singers. At that time I a 9-10 year old did not know who were African Americans. Preconditioning or triggering latent tastes. Then my parents too loved Paul Robeson, all American superstar who was blacklisted by the US govt. I just wonder if my parents knew he was a Black African American. Unhappily for an African American and son of a slave who is known world over, very few contemporary African Americans know his background, even though they may have heard his songs.
Robeson was an All-American athlete, and Phi Beta Kappa Society laureate during his years at Rutgers University. In 1923, Robeson drifted into amateur theater work and within a decade he had become an international star of stage, screen, radio and film. Robeson went on to be a recipient of the NAACP's Spingarn Medal, the Stalin Peace Prize and of honorary memberships in over half a dozen trade unions.[4][5][6][7] James Earl Jones, Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte have cited Robeson's lead film roles as being the first to display dignity for black actors and pride in African heritage.[8][9] Though one of the most internationally famous people of the 20th century, blacklisting during the Cold War has nearly erased Robeson from mainstream interpretations of history.[6]
Then as a teenager Eric Fernando (and Mahes (?) a lady) just sealed the deal with them playing more of the same. Recall Rose Royce (yes really) among the less well known African American groups being played.

See below, the Platters "To Each his Own" (1959), then Paul Robesons Summertime (1936) and Janis Joplins version of Summertime (1969) and finally Paul Robeson's version of "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" from 1926. Paul Robeson's Ole Man River, 1936 as well as Swing Low Sweet Chariot I recall were hits with my father. All other than Janis Joplin used to be played on the Top of the Pops
  • The song dates back to the era of slavery in the United States when it was common practice to sell children of slaves away from their parents. An early performance of the song dates back to the 1870s by the Fisk Jubilee Singers.[1][2] Like many traditional songs, it has many variations and has been recorded widely (see partial lists of choral arrangements and covers below).
Platters: To Each His Own (1959)

Paul Robeson: Summertime (1936)

Janis Joplin: Summertime (1969)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Land Reform, Big Ag and Social Unrest

My friend Rajaratarala has a blog post on that argues land reforms of the 70's caused economically unfeasible sizes of agricultural property.

My contention is that land reform has brought social stability specially during economic downturns. Yes, sounds idiotic given that we are coming out of a 30 year civil war. But then there were no large landholdings in the North, so no gain from land reform to the poorer section. They were probably expecting jobs, University entrance etc which is an whole other discussion. Whats more applicable was the JVP insurrection which kind of disappeared after the reforms.

The opposite example is the US, where since the 60's small holders have been sold out to Big Ag.
In 1962, a committee of the most powerful corporate executives in the United States issued "An Adaptive Program for Agriculture," a plan to eliminate farmers and farms. Called the Committee for Economic Development, this group represented oil and gas, insurance, investment and retail concerns as well as the food industry. Industry giants such as Campbell Soup, General Foods, Pillsbury and Swift lobbied Congress with the message that the biggest problem in agriculture was too many farmers. The U.S. government encouraged farmers to move off their farms and retrain, allowing their land to be consolidated in the ownership of fewer and fewer corporations.

The Bill

This has resulted in extreme urbanization even ghettos (Projects e.g. Cabrini Green). These are social powder kegs that would explode in unrest. The two main reasons that have kept the lid on is high employment and welfare programs. There are cynics who also think drugs and alcohol prevent organized unrest. Anyway with decrease in welfare and increasing unemployment expect social unrest where the Watts Riots would look like a picnic.

Some other thoughts of the US and Global Agri systems.
Farming itself is the least profitable and least energy intensive segment of the entire economy of agriculture. Of the roughly 2,000 liters of oil required per year to feed each American (Pimentel 459), only one-fifth of that energy is actually used for agriculture, with the rest going toward transport, processing, packaging, marketing, and food preparation and storage (Brown 35). The transformation of farm products into consumer commodities, along with the provision of farm inputs, are the biggest moneymakers in the American food system, and not surprisingly, the sectors dominated by large agrifood corporations. Farmers operating under the capitalist system must sell their products on the open market, which usually means selling to the large transnational corporations that dominate the market.

The example of Cuba shows that it is possible to feed an entire nation with organic agriculture, but it also demonstrates the hardships involved in moving away from fossil fuels. In the first few years after the Soviet Union’s collapse, the average Cuban’s daily caloric intake decreased by 36 percent and protein consumption by 40 percent, while undernourishment increased by 15 percent (Pfeiffer 57). It must be noted that Cuban government policies played a critical role in helping to ensure that the collapse of industrialized agriculture did not turn catastrophic. There has also been a change in attitude towards farming amongst the Cuban people. Cubans now see farming as an important and profitable endeavor and many families have migrated to rural areas to become farmers or have started urban gardens (Pfeiffer 60).