From Paul Robeson the revolutionary to Biden’s new Cold war, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.
It was reported in his New York Times obituary that Paul Robeson became a “virtual recluse” by the time of his death on January 23, 1976. He was living in his sister’s home in a working-class neighborhood in Philadelphia, completely retired from public life. From a pinnacle of roughly $100,000 per year in the early-1940s, Robeson’s income had dwindled by the mid-1950s to a few thousand dollars, largely a consequence of his U.S. passport being revoked. Though his finances rebounded some by the 1960s, Robeson never regained the domestic celebrity status he once enjoyed.
This African American History Month we should analyze the context of Robeson’s forced marginalization, as well as the marginalization of the Communist-led left. The two are interconnected. As Gerald Horne notes in his biography of Robeson, “you cannot fully appreciate how the Jim Crow system came to an end without an understanding of the life of Paul Robeson.” Similarly, to appreciate Robeson’s stratospheric rise and his cataclysmic fall we should view his life through the lens of his principled affinity for the Communist-led left during a time of right-wing hysteria. [continue reading]
World-first research confirms Australia’s forests became catastrophic fire risk after British invasion
Michela Mariani, Michael-Shawn Fletcher, and Simon Connor
Australia’s forests now carry far more flammable fuel than before British invasion, our research shows, revealing the catastrophic risk created by non-Indigenous bushfire management approaches.
Contemporary approaches to forest management in Australia are based on suppression – extinguishing bushfires once they’ve started, or seeking to prevent them through hazard-reduction burning. This differs from the approach of Indigenous Australians who’ve developed sophisticated relationships with fire over tens of thousands of years. They minimise bushfire risk through frequent low-intensity burning – in contrast to the current scenario of random, high-intensity fires. [continue reading]
Rock Paper Shotgun
“When will esports be part of the Olympics?” is a question often asked by people desperate for approval from cultural authorities or from their parents. But some sporting events are in turn eager to piggyback the youth appeal of esports, which is why the 2022 Commonwealth Games will be accompanied by a pilot esports competition. The organisers today announced the Commonwealth Esports Championships, running in August alongside the main event. And maybe it’ll lead to more esports?
The Commonwealth Games is a quadrennial multi-sport international competition—a bit like the Olympics, but about fragments of the former British Empire. This year’s event is in Birmingham, England. And running alongside it, allied but quite separate, will be a Commonwealth Esports Championships. Organised with the Global Esports Federation and British Esports Association with support from a tourism fund, it’ll see ethletes from across the Commonwealth duking it across a variety of genres in yet-unconfirmed games. [continue reading]
Since President Joe Biden entered the White House a year ago, he and his top advisers have insisted they are not looking for a return to the superpower competition between the United States and the Soviet Union that dominated world affairs for nearly five decades. Yet one year into his presidency, Biden’s actions have indicated otherwise. Notably, Biden has framed international politics as a struggle between democracies and autocracies. In February 2021, he told the Munich Security Conference the world was at an “inflection point” in this contest and that democracies “must prevail.” To accomplish this feat, the United States and its allies would need to prepare for a “long-term strategic competition” with China.
The president’s rhetoric, which he has repeated many times, has had the unwelcome effect of helping divide the world into two competing ideological blocs: democratic nations in one camp and the rest in another. This mindset revives an unhelpful Cold War-era framework that split nations into rival groups on Manichean terms, usually preventing cooperation across a range of vital issues. It also casts Beijing, viewed as the leader of the opposing camp, as an uncompromising and confrontational adversary at a time when Washington needs to work with it to tackle problems that require global solutions, including climate change, migration flows, nuclear proliferation, and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. [continue reading]