Tower of Babel

27 January 2006
Last night's panel discussion on Hegemony, Neoliberal Governance, and Social Movements did not surprise me in its discourse.  There was the usual talk of how the imperialist Western model is destroying the Earth and its people.  The need for solidarity was expressed and the rhetoric often turned to blanket generalizations that elicited applause from the audience.  I had the expectation that the forum would discuss more pathways to achieving these goals and for a while I was disappointed in hearing people say the exact same thing over and over again to people that had heard it over and over again.  But then I realized that these kinds of events do not bring solutions.  In some capacity they educate about global realities, but the general theme is commonly known among the participants.  The real value of the forum seems to be in letting people know that they are not alone, giving them a chance to vent, and mingling with the like minded so that injustice in the world is not forgotten.  Though the delegates come from a multitude of countries and speak dozens of different languages, they all come with essentially the same story and purpose (only the facts change). 
The citizens of Babel may not have been able to build a tower to heaven, but it seems likely that they could commiserate on an unattainable paradise. 

Note: Speaking of Babel, the voluntary interpreters from the organization Babels deserve a mention for being severely understaffed at the forum.  They were unable to secure tickets for two thirds of their translators and have the difficult job of running all over the place to translate as many events as possible. Kudos!

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

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