Transformation https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/12848/all cached version 16/10/2018 20:25:04 en The everyday power of movement activism https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/laurence-cox/everyday-power-of-movement-activism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Activism is normal; what’s strange is that we don’t see it that way.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/LaurenceCox.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Dublin Castle after the abortion referendum results were declared, 26 May 2018. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:REPEAL_YES04.jpg">Katenolan1979 via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en">CC BY-SA 4.0</a>.</p> <p>On September 29th 2018 I took part in Ireland’s annual “<a href="https://www.abortionrightscampaign.ie/2018/09/16/march-for-choice-29th-september/">March for Choice</a>” to pressure the government for “free, safe, legal” abortion following the pro-choice vote in May’s referendum. You could feel the demo coming for miles on the train: people got on displaying rows of badges in fantastic costumes and holding placards. The march was cheerful, confident and determined.</p> <p>A conservative cliché has it that ‘Irish people don’t protest,’ and that they are afraid of standing out or saying something controversial. Yet from the start of the referendum campaign people with no previous experience of activism wore “Repeal” jumpers in the streets, told their often horrendous stories in public, and knocked on strangers’ doors, usually meeting a positive response (66.4% of voters voted ‘yes’). </p> <p>As this shows, it doesn’t take so much for social expectations and personal behaviour to change, for a country to become a “<a href="https://medium.com/colloquium/why-social-movements-matter-316eaef9bcf6">movement society</a>” where activism is a normal everyday thing rather than strange or alien – and where its results can transform not just laws but lives. </p> <p>Women’s movements have powerfully changed the vast majority of the world’s countries over the past half-century – and continue to do so, as the #MeToo movement testifies. As that movement also shows, public controversy and private transformation are not so separate. Between the high-profile challenge to a Harvey Weinstein and a non-celebrity woman quietly telling her story lies the slow and difficult process of challenging workplace cultures, community norms, family relationships and adolescent culture. </p> <p>Moving further back in time, most of the world’s countries including Ireland became independent from European empires within living memory. Others overthrew fascism, state socialism, apartheid, other dictatorships and the odd monarchy. The idea that activism is something other than a normal, everyday part of human activity is just a story.</p> <p>In working-class and ethnic minority communities where struggle is routine to get basic services, resist police oppression, self-organise to meet everyday needs or assert community pride, those who do much of this work often resist the term ‘activist’ because it drives a wedge between them and their friends, neighbours, families and other community members who are also involved, if perhaps not so frequently or determinedly. </p> <p>But more generally, when activism is seen as separate from the rest of life or as an eccentric leisure activity we need to ask why this is. What happens to make movements seem so impossibly distant?</p> <p>I once took part in a discussion about engaged Buddhism in my local meditation centre. Participants talked in hushed tones about earth-shattering decisions like choosing to buy this rather than that or voting for a different party as the outward limit of what they could imagine. It reminded me of other Buddhist discussions about ethics where similarly young, well-educated, ethnically-privileged people talked about helping others as a strange, radical step to support their meditation practice.</p> <p>The questions that struck me were: what sort of world do you have to live in to think that <em>helping other people</em> is unusual? How do you imagine people actually survive when they don’t have money to meet their needs? What is it about working together to make things better that seems so hard to imagine? </p> <p>One answer is that much of what is represented in our media as normal is anything but. As <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2007/jan/24/comment.politics">Oliver James</a> notes in his book <em>Affluenza</em>, the US and UK&nbsp; – whose cultural production dominates both global media and academia and which are often taken as the norm for psychological research – show particularly high levels of social and family disconnection and isolation, especially among the wealthy (and, I would add, men, whites and straight/cis populations). But these post-Reagan, post-Thatcher subcultures that revolve around individuals and their bank balances are not the human norm, and their disconnect from everyday solidarity, caring labour and collective action is not representative of our species as a whole.</p> <p>In the rural west of Ireland, for example, things are very different. Here too people can be very nervous of activism, but for other reasons. In small communities, people are so involved with one another for everyday practicalities like lifts, childcare, lending or giving things, and helping out that the costs of falling out are very high. As a result, people watch carefully to find out which way the wind is blowing before putting their heads above the parapet. And when such communities do engage in action it is typically collective for this reason. </p> <p>Neither situation – being so disconnected from other human beings that collective action seems emotionally impossible or being so dependent on others that individual decisions seem too threatening to take – is particularly good for us. And despite what the inhabitants of these different worlds often think, neither represents the human norm. </p> <p>In fact, despite the stories they tell themselves, people in these worlds also engage in social movements. For example, early second-wave feminism had strong bases among college-educated women (among others), and pro-choice canvassers in rural Irish communities met with remarkable levels of support. As Galileo is supposed to have said, “and yet it does move.” Why?</p> <p>A simple answer is that activism and movements express real human needs against the structures and cultures that deny them, and which block our development and force us into narrow and stunted lives; they are part of a fuller human life. </p> <p>The Italian communist Antonio <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antonio_Gramsci">Gramsci</a> put this particularly clearly: against the “common sense” that seeks to resign us to the way things are right now and to get our consent for the power structures in society, we need to develop a “good sense.” This good sense articulates stifled needs and tries to find ways of helping them to breathe: but for them to breathe fully, real change is needed in an oppressive and exploitative world.</p> <p>This means that we have to overcome the “<a href="https://www.academia.edu/8707364/_The_muck_of_ages_Reflections_on_proletarian_self-emancipation">muck of ages</a>” as Marx put it - the ways in which we routinely buy into this common sense; develop relationships that reproduce existing structures of wealth, power and status; battle one another for relative privilege within a social order that we fail to challenge; and internalise our own forms of oppression, exploitation and stigmatisation. </p> <p>In this<em> </em>sense, changing the world and changing ourselves are not two separate things: if there is one consistent finding from the history of social movements, it is that the <em>means </em>of how we organise, theorise and strategise, and the forms of personhood we encourage and reward among activists, all too predictably become the <em>ends</em>. Or put another way, what we do to and with each other in organising has real and direct effects on participants, whether or not we are successful in the much chancier business of reorganising wider society. </p> <p>We remake ourselves, not individually but collectively, in movements. Notably, we move away from a local and ethnocentric sense of ‘we’ to a much broader identity through the process of solidarity and alliance-building – and to a much longer one as we come to situate our activism in a movement history that is not restricted to our own immediate concerns.</p> <p>In these ways, participating in movements can be emotionally healthy in very basic ways - a form of deeper maturing beyond the restricted possibilities presented by a world shaped by capitalism, patriarchy and racism. This means articulating our needs together against how things currently happen to be. It means coming to live in a wider world than the one that is immediately presented to us. </p> <p>It also means coming to <em>make</em> our world in a way which is less and less available in modernity. For most of us, most of the time, our lifeworld is presented to us for relatively passive consumption, not something we actively create. This is why the greatest satisfaction in alienated workplaces is often found either in manual skill or in helping people effectively – against the profit, power and <a href="https://strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs/">bullshit</a> that actually structure most jobs; and why gardening, cooking, DIY, craft and other forms of shaping our own environment are so rewarding. </p> <p>Social movements are transformative not only in the changes they bring about in the worlds we live in. They are transformative <em>because</em> we are attempting to bring about these changes, because we are experiencing ourselves as subjects rather than objects in the big structures that shape our lives, and so living a fuller adulthood. In this sense movement activism is a fundamental aspect of emotional health and maturity.</p> <p><em>This essay draws on Laurence Cox’s new book </em><a href="https://whysocialmovementsmatter.com/">Why Social Movements Matter</a> <em>(Rowman and Littlefield International), available from the publishers at a 30% discount using code WSMM18.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/frances-lee/no-justice-without-love-why-activism-must-be-more-generous">No justice without love: why activism must be more generous</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/john-picton/social-activism-and-economics-of-mental-health">Social activism and the economics of mental health</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ghazal-tipu/is-it-time-for-voluntary-poverty">Is it time for voluntary poverty?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Laurence Cox Transformative nonviolence Activism Tue, 16 Oct 2018 19:21:17 +0000 Laurence Cox 120037 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Feminisms – in the plural – as a politics of love https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jessica-hoffmann-and-daria-yudacufski/feminisms-in-plural-as-politics-of-love <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Intersectionality is the exact opposite of ‘divisive.’</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/DariaYudafuski.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Daria Yudacufski and her&nbsp;daughter at&nbsp;the Women's March in Los Angeles in January 2017. Credit:&nbsp;Daria Yudacufski. All rights reserved.</p> <p>The #metoo movement. Massive Women’s Marches. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford giving a testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee that – at least for those of us who take sexual violence seriously – begged the question, will people who violently exercise power continue to be the enforcers of so-called justice? The Kavanaugh confirmation answered, awfully, “Yes.”</p> <p>It may feel like a huge feminist upsurge just hit a brick wall. But feminism is much bigger than this moment. Feminism is vast and various. In fact feminisms are multiple.</p> <p>Some of them are focused on one moment or one issue or one narrow conception of women. But the feminisms we need to end sexual and every other form of violence are those that actively involve and embrace many people and many issues.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>About 40 years ago, the <a href="https://combaheerivercollective.weebly.com/">Combahee River Collective</a>, a group of Black feminists, posited that: “If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all systems of oppression.”</p> <p>It’s no coincidence that this quote appears in the opening pages of two new books: <em><a href="https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780807019412">Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements</a> </em>by Charlene A. Carruthers and <em><a href="https://www.akpress.org/feminisms-in-motion.html">Feminisms in Motion: Voices for Justice, Liberation, and Transformation</a></em>, which the two of us have co-edited.&nbsp;</p> <p>The 1977 Combahee River Collective statement is a beacon for those of us who practice intersectional feminism, a term coined by <a href="http://www.aapf.org/kimberle-crenshaw/">Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw</a> in the late 1980s that articulated what women of color have been saying forever: systems of domination – including racism, sexism, ableism, heteronormativity and economic exploitation – are interlocking. Change or transformation will grow from an understanding of the interconnectedness of all aspects of our identities, lives, and struggles.</p> <p>With considerable pain and anxiety, we are experiencing and witnessing what the opposite of interconnectedness looks like. A society based on hierarchy and separateness is what produced a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that positioned survivors of traumatic assault in opposition to the nation’s supposed ultimate arbiters of justice. Children in tears after being separated from their parents at national borders. Men wielding (or desperately hanging on to) economic, political, and other forms of power through sexual violence, gun violence, war, or all of the above. Police violence, especially targeted against Black people. Growing economic inequality, the devastating effects of which are visible all around us.</p> <p>As the philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote in 1970 in her book <em><a href="https://books.google.com/books/about/On_Violence.html?id=_VM7xoPW6PsC">On Violence</a>:&nbsp;</em>“Those who hold power and feel it slipping from their hands have always found it difficult to resist the temptation of substituting violence for it.” Yet at the same time, other ways of being are happening, and growing. Movements mindful of the connections between different systems of violence have been working toward transformations for a long while, with the understanding that this work is neither simple nor quick.</p> <p>Many of us know that #metoo didn’t just pop into the world in 2017; it was founded in 2006 by <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/20/us/me-too-movement-tarana-burke.html">Tarana Burke</a> to support survivors and end sexual violence. To offer another example, a Bay Area–based organization called <a href="http://www.generationfive.org/">Generation Five</a> has spent the last decade working to end child sexual abuse within the next five generations. They use an approach called ‘transformative justice’ which focuses on healing and the agency of survivors, accountability and change for people who do harm, and transformation of the social conditions that perpetuate violence.</p> <p>We’re not going to end sexual violence by looking at it in a vacuum or punishing a few extreme individual perpetrators through a patriarchal criminal-legal system that upholds white supremacy. Sexual violence, like all forms of violence, is rooted in hierarchy, disconnection, and the dehumanization of the other; in separateness and fear.</p> <p>The simple – but not so simple – alternative is wholeness, connection and love.</p> <p>When we envision a world without sexual violence we have to envision a world in which we have done – and continue to do -the deep, complex work of healing and learning together. We need to learn how to relate in ways that are not rooted in domination; how to honor bodies and value difference. We need to co-create and practice a kind of justice that recognizes, faces, and deals with harm honestly and in all its complexity.&nbsp;</p> <p>A couple of weeks ago we were lucky enough to see the premiere of <em><a href="http://visionsandvoices.usc.edu/events/listing.php?event_id=1297220">joyUs justUs</a></em>, a new work by the Los Angeles-based dance-theatre company <a href="http://www.contra-tiempo.org/">CONTRA-TIEMPO</a> that celebrates “joy as the ultimate expression of resistance.” An ensemble of different bodies spoke, sang and danced, calling for a gorgeously multifarious kind of justice and freedom that rings with love.&nbsp;</p> <p>Holistic and expansive visions that transcend the reductive, polarized discourse that dominates national newsfeeds are already here. Queer- and women-of-color-centered intersectional feminisms have, for generations, been connecting the personal and the political, the intimate and the public, and the critical and the creative; embracing difference; calling for healing and transformation; and cultivating a way of living together in which the safety or freedom or wealth of some are not predicated on the denial of those same things to others.</p> <p>Intersectional-feminist history offers many beacons for those who question whether a focus on marginalized identities has divided or otherwise weakened the Left. In the mid-nineteenth century, a black woman named <a href="https://www.pbs.org/thisfarbyfaith/people/sojourner_truth.html">Sojourner Truth</a> challenged both white women and black men by insisting that the struggles for women’s suffrage, black male suffrage, and the abolition of slavery should be linked, calling out at a women’s rights convention in 1851, “Ain’t I a woman?” She knew these struggles were interconnected <em>because they were in her life</em>. Few people looking back on that period admire the supposedly strategic choices of the abolitionists or women’s suffragists who effectively said, ‘my issue first.’</p> <p>In 1983, the Chicana lesbian feminist writer and activist <a href="https://cherriemoraga.com/">Cherríe Moraga</a> introduced her book <em><a href="https://cherriemoraga.com/index.php/back-list/56-loving-in-the-war-years">Loving in the War Years</a></em> with a poem in which two lovers are imprisoned together, facing certain death. One of them sees a slight possibility for escape if she goes it alone, but realizes there is no way to escape together. Will she try to make her way toward freedom, leaving her lover behind? She considers it, but then, Moraga writes,</p> <p>“Immediately I understand that we must, at all costs, remain with each other. Even unto death. That it is our being together that makes the pain, even our dying, human.”</p> <p>Intersectional feminism is the exact opposite of ‘divisive.’ It’s a vast vision of wholeness rooted in the lived experiences of those who are directly affected by multiple systems of violence. Developed over many generations, mostly by women of color, multi-issue feminisms make connections that allow us to challenge injustice at its interlocking roots – in order to build a world where everyone can be free. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jon-greenberg/how-intersectional-feminism-transformed-me-from-asshole-to-activist">How intersectional feminism transformed me from an asshole to an activist</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/yoav-litvin/why-misunderstanding-identity-politics-undermines-goals-of-just-society">Why misunderstanding identity politics undermines the goals of a just society</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sincere-kirabo/why-criticisms-of-identity-politics-sound-ridiculous-to-me">Why criticisms of identity politics sound ridiculous to me</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Equality </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Equality feminism Jessica Hoffmann and Daria Yudacufski Liberation Intersectionality Sun, 14 Oct 2018 19:17:27 +0000 Jessica Hoffmann and Daria Yudacufski 120035 at https://www.opendemocracy.net With the crisis of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation comes opportunity https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/george-lakey/with-crisis-of-brett-kavanaugh-s-confirmation-comes-opportunity <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>All of us living through America’s crisis time need to remember that our strategizing brain lives within a whole person: acknowledge your feelings and turn to the group for support.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/kavanough-confirmation-legitimacy-crisis-opportunity/">Waging Nonviolence</a></em></p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/GeorgeLakey7.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Stop Brett Kavanaugh Rally, Downtown Chicago, 2018. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/cemillerphotography/43596176034">Flickr/Charles Edward Miller</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">CC BY-SA 2.0</a>.</p> <p>October 6 was a tough day for a group of social justice activists to hold a strategy retreat. Brett Kavanaugh was clearly going to be confirmed to the Supreme Court, and we weren’t in any kind of mood to plan next steps for our campaign.</p> <p>Fortunately, facilitator Yotam Marom was prepared. He invited everyone to take two sheets of paper and a set of pastel crayons. Each of us was to make two pictures: One would represent what losing our fight might look like, and the other one would represent what winning the fight might look like.</p> <p>The group came through: the array of images we created and our talking about them permitted and normalized the rage, grief and despair we were experiencing. Because fear is so rooted in individual ego, our sharing about it in the group brought us back to the present moment, able to think again. We ended the day with a plan, and a higher degree of unity than before.</p> <p>All of us living through America’s crisis time need to remember that our strategizing brain lives within a whole person, holding feelings that can block clarity and creativity. Fortunately, humans have evolved to handle this problem: feel and acknowledge your feelings, and turn to the group for support.</p> <p><strong>Kavanaugh creates an opportunity.</strong></p> <p>While trust in elected officials has been waning in recent years, the Supreme Court has managed to retain at least some respect as “above the fray.” Even though the court was trending toward the political right, neither political extreme has fully gotten what it wants from the court and most of the citizenry has had some confidence in its steadiness and caution — until now.</p> <p>The 2016 refusal of the Republicans to fill the empty seat, and now the choice of Brett Kavanaugh, combine to reduce the court’s reputation. This means that the entire federal government’s credibility is in serious decline.</p> <p>People on the left do not agree on a diagnosis of this legitimacy crisis. Some don’t see its link to the&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/how-build-progressive-movement-polarized-country/">dramatic polarization</a>&nbsp;that has been accelerating in recent decades and that it is structural, related as it is to the widening income gap. They therefore believe there’s a political fix that can restore trust in government, like a third party or limiting campaign contributions or persuading the Democratic Party to defy its Wall Street controllers.</p> <p>What they don’t see is that the legitimacy crisis is an opportunity. It’s a truism in political science that when regimes lose their legitimacy, major change — even revolution — becomes a possibility. After all, that’s when the&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/how-swedes-and-norwegians-broke-the-power-of-the-1-percent/">Swedish and Norwegian movements made their move</a>, and pushed their economic elites out of dominance.</p> <p>In the United States, movements aimed for that during the Great Depression, when free market capitalism lost its legitimacy. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Democrats responded to the nonviolent action of mass movements by changing the role of the state. Unfortunately, the grassroots movements had two competing visions for what they wanted: communism verses democratic socialism. Among other factors at play, the competing visions gave Roosevelt maneuvering room to build the credibility of the state by making reforms — thereby restraining capitalism enough to save it.</p> <p><strong>Barack Obama and the Rooseveltian moment.</strong></p> <p>2008 was a year when people were staring over a cliff. Even Republicans were ready for “socialism,” as mass media noted. While campaigning, Sen. Obama said the United States should do what the Swedes did when their banks failed them in the early ‘90s: seize them and run them for the public good. He also acknowledged that, if elected, he wouldn’t be able to do that because the United States didn’t have that kind of “political culture.” In other words, unlike the Swedish social movements, we wouldn’t demand it with direct action.</p> <p>He was right. And even though he kept saying people would need to step up and pressure for change, most liberals sat back and expected him to do the heavy lifting — and then criticized him when he didn’t do it by himself. But Obama did, through many acts of leadership, maintain the legitimacy of the presidency, offsetting his Democratic colleagues in Congress who couldn’t even pass a climate bill despite being in the majority.</p> <p>The failure of Obama’s supporters to form social movements that would demand the changes he himself wanted and that we all needed, was the key difference from the 1930s. Even the health reform effort was supine and Obama was forced — given the vacuum — to call out Big Pharma and the health insurance companies himself.</p> <p>On his own, he was powerless to stop the overall Democratic abandonment of the working class, Main Street, family farmers and black people as they lost their homes.</p> <p>However, people’s heads continued to change during those eight years of Obama, judging from the polls and subsequent events. The elements of a democratic socialist vision emerged, even strongly enough to support a self-proclaimed democratic socialist presidential candidate who came from obscurity in 2015. Pollsters found that a couple years after the Republicans had gathered working class and small business people into the Tea Party, most Tea Party members were still furious with Wall Street.</p> <p>To oversimplify: In the 1930s, we had plenty of direct action by mass movements, but we also had the downside of two visions for major change competing for majority support. In the late 2000s, we had an emerging vision that was growing, but a paucity of mass movements waging sustained direct action. (Even Occupy failed to morph into multiple campaigns, win available victories and generate an economic justice direct action movement.)</p> <p><strong>Let’s not miss the boat this time.</strong></p> <p>The easiest thing to predict these days is crisis. The Florida teens showed the grown-ups in the gun control lobby how to use a crisis: mount a direct action campaign that compels (in the case of Florida) a response from politicians. Since we know crises are coming, why not prepare?</p> <p>As it happens, there’s a way to prepare that builds our skills, supports our mental health and gives us the jump on the historical moments of crisis. It’s called creating direct action campaigns. Choose a demand that is winnable and a target that can yield the demand, gather a group of people eager to win and willing to focus their attention, and begin.</p> <p>In the&nbsp;<a href="https://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/">Global Nonviolent Action Database</a>, we find successful campaigns both small and large. High school students in Flour Bluff, Texas,&nbsp;<a href="https://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/students-win-gay-straight-alliance-club-flour-bluff-texas-high-school-2010-2011">won the right to have a gay-straight alliance</a>. Waterfront residents and Green Justice Philly&nbsp;<a href="https://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/environmentalist-groups-stop-construction-oil-export-terminal-philadelphia-2016">stopped construction of an oil export terminal</a>. Iranians nonviolently&nbsp;<a href="https://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/iranians-overthrow-shah-1977-79">brought down the Shah of Iran</a>, even though the dictator was supported by a modern army, torture chambers and the U.S. government.</p> <p>Those who doubt that direct action campaigns can take on the economic elite of the United States need to take another look at what the civil rights campaigns of the 1950s and ‘60s were up against. Southern black people faced the largest American terrorist organization in history, the Ku Klux Klan. Local law enforcement was on the side of the Klan. State law enforcement was directed by the White Citizens Councils. The federal government declined to enforce its own laws. The FBI actively worked to undermine the freedom movement. Neither national political party wanted to stand up for the rights of black people. Yet, 10 years after the mass phase of the movement began, President Lyndon B. Johnson was forced to intervene, following the Selma direct action campaign in 1965. His fervent hope was that the campaign would disappear.</p> <p>For a decade that was the lop-sidedness of the U.S. power equation: local terrorism and state repression with a federal government wanting to avoid the whole thing on one side, and the power of nonviolent direct action mobilized through campaigns on the other.</p> <p><strong>But how is the power best applied?</strong></p> <p>Even if direct action campaigns can develop the power to function unprotected in Klan country and bring down military dictatorships, how can that power be tapped for this political moment?</p> <p>This is where the drawings at the beginning of this story come into play. Strategists in each of the earlier-mentioned campaigns were able to think clearly enough to map out campaigns that won. We need to step up and use our strategy heads to do the same — especially since the declining legitimacy of government reveals more and more people who feel their disenfranchisement and are open to alternative ways to stand up for themselves.</p> <p>We may need to use Yotam’s wisdom at the strategy retreat. First, feel our range of feelings and reach for each other. Then, in community, clear our heads and do the thinking required. You can learn your strategy skills in a campaign where you live. And there’s no need to try to do it alone.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/navigating-white-water-of-these-turbulent-times">Navigating the white water of these turbulent times</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/how-to-build-progressive-movement-in-divided-country">How to build a progressive movement in a divided country</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/what-role-were-you-born-to-play-in-social-change">What role were you born to play in social change?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation George Lakey Activism Thu, 11 Oct 2018 21:28:03 +0000 George Lakey 120032 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Art after money https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/max-haiven/art-after-money <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Banksy’s prank on the art market rhymes with our common struggle against financialization’s shredding of society.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Max Haiven.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p><span class="image-caption">28th installment from Banksy's "Better Out Than In" October 2013 New York City residency. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Banksy_28_October_installment_from_%22Better_Out_Than_In%22_New_York_City_residency.jpg">Flickr/Scott Lynch via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en">CC BY-SA 2.0</a></span></p> <p>Banksy’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/oct/06/banksy-sothebys-auction-prank-leaves-art-world-in-shreds-girl-with-balloon">latest art prank</a>, in which one of his iconic works <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/video/2018/oct/07/banksy-publishes-video-detailing-auction-prank-plan-video">shredded itself</a> after being won at auction, has enthused many of us who have been following the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.lundhumphries.com/products/83146">depravities of the art world</a>&nbsp;for some time. The artist’s antagonism towards the elites who buy and sell contemporary art is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/film/2010/mar/04/exit-through-the-gift-shop-review">well known</a>, and this stunt comes almost a year after the world record was set for the auction sale of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/aug/06/leonardo-da-vinci-scholar-challenges-attribution-salvator-mundi-bernardino-luini">Salvador Mundi</a>, allegedly by Leonardo Da Vinci, for a jaw-dropping $450,312,500 - sold by a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/sep/25/russian-billionaire-picassos-art-dealer-feud">notorious Russian oligarch</a>&nbsp;to a member of the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/sep/03/louvre-abu-dhabi-postpones-display-of-worlds-most-expensive-painting-leonardo-da-vinci">Saudi Royal Family</a>.</p> <p>At a time when &nbsp;spoiled billionaires seem to get anything they want, Banksy’s act of vengeance can appear deeply satisfying, but there is more going on here than a simple loathing of the rich and powerful. In my recent book&nbsp;<em><a href="https://www.plutobooks.com/9780745338248/art-after-money-money-after-art">Art After Money, Money After Art: Creative Strategies Against Financialization</a></em>&nbsp;I argue that the fate of art is a bellwether for broader trends in society, trends that affect not only artists but practically everyone else.</p> <p>The primary trend is&nbsp;<a href="https://truthout.org/articles/financial-totalitarianism-the-economic-political-social-and-cultural-rule-of-speculative-capital/">financialization</a>. Usually this term is taken to refer to the increased power and influence of the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2018/oct/05/the-finance-curse-how-the-outsized-power-of-the-city-of-london-makes-britain-poorer">financial sector</a>: big banks, hedge funds and other firms in The City or on Wall Street. Even before these institutions started using&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2018/aug/29/coding-algorithms-frankenalgos-program-danger">algorithms and AI</a>&nbsp;to automate the trading of assets (which include things like the world’s&nbsp;<a href="http://www.zero-books.net/books/hungry-capital">food supply</a>) this industry had already created havoc in the global economy by transforming it into a kind of casino.</p> <p>But the notion of financialization also speaks to the way&nbsp;in which <a href="http://tupress.temple.edu/book/3182">nearly everything in our society</a> is being transformed into a means for someone to make profit, or reformatted as if they were corporate products. Even public services like education, health-care and anti-poverty initiatives are managed and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.palgrave.com/us/book/9781137355966">spoken of</a>&nbsp;as if they are ‘investments.’ Young people are increasingly taught to see themselves not as the next generation of citizens but as private speculators improving their human capital to compete on the job market. Housing has increasingly come to be seen as a private means of securing wealth for tomorrow and hedging against future economic uncertainty in a world where few forms of collective insurance (such as state-backed programs for social welfare) remain.</p> <p>In the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/oct/17/artists-fighting-power-of-market-internet-hito-steyerl">financialization of art</a>, then, we see a grim reflection of wider trends. It’s not simply that art has become the plaything of a financially-engorged global elite. After all, even in the Italian renaissance, the Dutch Golden Age or 19th century Paris, rich patrons and benefactors have always shaped art markets. Today, however, the influence of fast money on art (and everything else) is more&nbsp;<a href="https://www.plutobooks.com/9780745338248/art-after-money-money-after-art">profound and penetrating</a>. </p> <p>Over the past 20 years, a whole array of intermediaries have emerged to help transform art into a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/dec/04/art-set-to-become-best-performing-luxury-investment-asset-of-2017">purely financial asset</a>. These include&nbsp;<a href="https://press.princeton.edu/titles/10361.html">art investment funds</a>&nbsp;that allow wealthy people to buy art for speculative future returns; the mushrooming of secretive and hyper-secured &nbsp;<a href="https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-freeports-operate-margins-global-art-market">Freeport facilities</a>&nbsp;in Switzerland, Singapore and elsewhere where investors can stash their masterpieces in climate-controlled vaults, the better to buy and sell their rights to ownership or hide these assets from taxation; and a wide range of institutions (like the world’s leading insurance brokers) and startups who jockey to provide&nbsp;<a href="https://arttactic.com/podcasts/">services</a>&nbsp;to those who leverage art as a&nbsp;<a href="https://www2.deloitte.com/lu/en/pages/art-finance/articles/art-finance-report.html">special asset class</a> as part of a carefully counterbalanced portfolio of mega-wealth.</p> <p>The accelerating speculation on the financial value of art has led to a rise in demand for new saleable works, since many of the old classics have already been snatched up. This has led to all manner of aesthetic pathologies and the rise of whole new genres of art like the notorious “<a href="http://www.vulture.com/2014/06/why-new-abstract-paintings-look-the-same.html">zombie formalism</a>” of 2014 - a term introduced by art critic&nbsp;<a href="https://www.artspace.com/magazine/contributors/see_here/the_rise_of_zombie_formalism-52184">Walter Robinson</a>&nbsp;to describe the inoffensive but technically proficient work of a set of very young American artists (all graduates of extremely expensive art schools) who rocketed to market success as speculative bonbons of the plutocrats.</p> <p>As a staunch anti-capitalist and someone who is generally&nbsp;<a href="https://www.zedbooks.net/shop/book/crises-of-imagination-crises-of-power/">more interested</a>&nbsp;in protest banners than artistic canvases, I couldn’t care less about <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2018/oct/08/why-shredder-is-banksy-greatest-work">the fate of ‘great art’</a> under financialization. What’s more important are two things that this process is teaching us about the societies in which we live.</p> <p>First, art offers us an excellent example of the ways in which almost any social institution can be financialized, even something as obscure, diverse and just plain weird as art. Historically art markets have been&nbsp;<a href="https://guardianbookshop.com/12-million-stuffed-shark.html">notoriously opaque</a>&nbsp;and cliqueish, and the trends and currents of artistic fashion and innovation are, by their very nature, delightfully unpredictable, fickle and arcane. A century after artists like <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fountain_(Duchamp)">Duchamp’s&nbsp;Fountain</a> - where a everyday urinal was transmuted into ‘art’ by the magic of the artist’s signature - art is everywhere and nowhere, taking the form not only of paintings and sculpture but performance, text, concept and even participatory activities. That our financialized economic system can so thoroughly conscript and subsume art into its operations should give us pause for thought.</p> <p>In this context everything of potential future value is transformed into an asset to be leveraged, and one in which we are each, no matter how humble our means, tasked with becoming a miniature financier. We have learned to see our education, housing, skills and even personal relationships as investments to be put into play, to see all aspects of our life as a terrain of lonely competition. Take, for example, the rhetoric that surrounds visual art classes for children: these are typically presented as an ‘investment’ in the skills, capacities and cognitive development of the child as a future worker or economic agent. </p> <p>Financialization has remade society in its image, and in this moment, financialized art (regardless of what is or is not on the canvas) presents us with a kind of collective self-portrait. No wonder we delight in its being shredded. As the radical philosopher&nbsp;<a href="https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ge/benjamin.htm">Walter Benjamin</a>&nbsp;warned almost a century ago in his prophetic work on art’s relationship to capitalism and fascism, “self-alienation has reached such a degree that it can experience its own destruction as an aesthetic pleasure of the first order.”</p> <p>Secondly, almost 20 years ago the noted British cultural theorist Angela McRobbie observed that, in post-industrial societies, artists were increasingly being held up as the “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/node/652">pioneers of the new economy</a>” - new model workers for a neoliberal age of freelance, temporary, part-time, episodic careerism in which people must compete for gigs by leveraging their own passions, connections, determination and &nbsp;personal portfolios. In the intervening years Richard Florida’s notion of the “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/oct/26/gentrification-richard-florida-interview-creative-class-new-urban-crisis">creative class</a>” has dramatically influenced policy-makers and urban planners around the world who imagined that attracting and retaining artists, designers and other ‘creative’ workers would raise the fortunes of struggling economies and communities. </p> <p>‘Creative destruction’ and ‘disruptive innovation’ became keywords for the rapaciousness of financialization as it tore apart whole industries in search of short-term profit. While in 1968 the slogan “<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/28/beach-beneath-street-mckenzie-wark-review">all power to the imagination</a>” was a radical threat to capitalism, by the mid-2000s it was a corporate rallying-cry, with tech firms leading the way in redesigning managerialism around the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/sep/26/against-creativity-oli-mould-review">excitement and elicitation</a>&nbsp;of their employees’ creativity.</p> <p>Ultimately, financialization names a moment when our imaginations have been turned against us. We are increasingly exhorted to orient our creative powers towards the tasks of economic survival - juggling debt, precarity and anxiety while trying to leverage anything we can to stay afloat or get ahead. What is missing is the broader,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.zedbooks.net/shop/book/the-radical-imagination/">radical imagination</a>: the possibility of questioning and reformulating our societies and economies altogether. While individualized, quarantined, competitive creativity is valorized everywhere, collective or social creativity - the creativity that would allow us to&nbsp;<a href="https://roarmag.org/essays/max-haiven-crises-of-imagination/">transform our lived reality together</a> - is increasingly foreclosed.</p> <p>Banksy’s self-annihilating work reflects this condition. Accusations that it was self-serving because it potentially increased the future sale price of the work seem to me to be in bad faith: first, Banksy is already rich and has had many opportunities to get richer if he wants to. Second, the piece had already been sold for the hammer price: even if Banksy were the seller (which is unclear) he would (except in certain jurisdictions) not see any profits from the future resale of the work. But that doesn’t change the deeper fact that the hyper-financialized art market has refined its methods for generating speculative value out of anything, even acts of defiance. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>To my mind, we can read this intervention in several ways. On the one hand, it can be seen as emblematic of a certain kind of nihilistic self-loathing: the artist destroying their own work as a pyrrhic but ultimately harmless gesture of cynical defiance. There but for the grace of god go any of us. On the other, it can be seen as an invitation to ask much deeper and more profound questions: if the financialized economy that is so sickeningly reflected in the art market depends on putting our creativity to work, then what if we were to withdraw those services? How can we <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/2471-strike-art">strike</a>, and strike back, against a financialized order where even our defiance can become an object of speculation? To what other ends could our <a href="https://www.rowmaninternational.com/book/the_composition_of_movements_to_come/3-156-835f1858-46d6-4b7a-ae49-2c8db75abce4">imagination</a>, individually and collectively, be put?</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/alex-khasnabish-max-haiven/why-social-movements-need-radical-imagination">Why social movements need the radical imagination</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/maria-askew/priceless-moments-how-capitalism-eats-our-time">Priceless moments: how capitalism eats our time</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/joel-millward-hopkins/neoliberal-psychology">Neoliberal psychology</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Max Haiven Economics Culture Wed, 10 Oct 2018 18:59:32 +0000 Max Haiven 120031 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The DIY Central Bank https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/dan-edelstyn-and-hilary-powell/the-DIY-Central-Bank <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Asserting the moral right to repudiate debt may be the only way of rebuilding democracy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/DanielEdelstyn.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Members of Bank Job in Walthamstow, London. Credit: Peter Searle. All rights reserved.</p> <blockquote><p><em>“</em>Our future is mortgaged, calculated, and owned far in advance, and our democratic right to change it for the better is effectively minimized.” Andrew Ross, <a href="https://www.orbooks.com/catalog/creditocracy/">Creditocracy</a>.</p></blockquote> <p>At the peak of the 2008 banking crisis the UK government had <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/8262037/Bank-bail-out-adds-1.5-trillion-to-debt.html">liabilities worth £1.5 trillion</a>.&nbsp;In the emergency bailouts that were agreed at the time by the then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the British taxpayer bought <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/aug/03/rbs-sale-fred-goodwin-bailout-years-of-losses">£45 billion of shares</a> in the Royal Bank of Scotland and <a href="http://uk.businessinsider.com/uk-government-lloyds-sale-2017-4">almost £20 billion</a> in Lloyds. It was, as commentators said, a nationalization project that would have put Lenin to shame.</p> <p>However, while the public owned the lion’s share of these banks the ensuing stimulus packages and sell offs have not been carried out with the wellbeing of the population in mind nor the transformation of the banking system. Ten years of austerity - allegedly to balance the national books - have left the poorest even worse off than before.</p> <p>Declining government spending in Britain has seen private debts balloon to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/sep/18/uk-debt-crisis-credit-cards-car-loans">over £1.6 trillion in 2018</a>, most of which are mortgages. Between 2012 and 2017 unsecured credit <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/sep/18/uk-debt-crisis-credit-cards-car-loans">increased by 19 per cent, student debt doubled to £100 billion, and Council Tax Arrears increased by 12 per cent</a>. These data are symptoms of a creditor class gone wild.</p> <p>But what if the crash had been used as an opportunity to reshape the financial system with fresh purpose, and to create space to re-imagine an economy that works for all of us and promotes economic justice? While it’s impossible to correct the debt crisis through local action alone, grassroots experiments can provide both inspiration and concrete assistance to those who are caught at the sharp end of the problem and who are often forced into traditional structures of shame which leave them feeling crushed and even suicidal.</p> <p>This leap of imagination lies at the heart of ‘<a href="https://bankjob.pictures/">Bank Job</a>,’ a team of artists and activists who took over the former Co-Op Bank on Hoe Street in Walthamstow, London, in early 2018, and replaced it with ‘HSCB’ – the ‘Hoe Street Central Bank.’ We were united by a desire to do something about the status quo and to rally against a system we felt had let us down. Our rebel bank is a place to come together and discover the collective power of art, sharing and community action to defy the alienating power that financial capital has in our lives.</p> <p>In concrete terms we’ve opened our own bank and we’re printing our own art-based banknotes. In place of the Queen and other famous figures from British history, each denomination of our banknotes features the face of a local cause: the ‘Gary’ (after Gary Nash, the founder of local foodbank ‘Eat or Heat’); the ‘Saira’ (after Saira Mir who, together with her family, set up a kitchen for the homeless called “Pl84U-Al Suffa”); the ‘Steve’ (featuring Stephen Barnabis who set up ‘The Soul Project’ for young people after his nephew was fatally stabbed); and the ‘Tracey’ (the headmistress of local Barn Croft Primary School).</p> <p>Our banknotes are printed on-site and sold at face value for Pounds Sterling, and we’ve raised just shy of £40,000 so far. The proceeds are split into two, with half going to buy up £1million worth of local payday debt (you can buy up people’s debts for as little as two pence in the pound), and half going to the four causes depicted on the notes. People who buy them are supporting those causes and purchasing artwork we produce. The notes are not exchangeable for other goods or services.</p> <p>The team that’s gathered around the bank has their own stories of how debt has touched their lives. Alison, for example, had worked as a teacher in one of our local primary schools but was laid off due to the school’s debt from the UK Government’s ‘Private Finance Initiative’ or PFI - a way of creating ‘public private partnerships’ in which private firms are contracted to complete and manage public projects using loans &nbsp;from bond markets or private investors. The firms then charge high rates of interest to the public trust that’s responsible for the assets the project creates.</p> <p>“I’ve been a primary school teacher for 33 years” <a href="https://vimeo.com/271975525">she told us</a>, and “Last summer I was made redundant, quite a shock and surprise. The school I was at is a PFI school so it means that every year quite a large proportion of their budget has to go to the PFI company, and so five teachers like myself who were non-class based were made redundant.” Such debts have proved incredibly controversial because the interest rates are widely seen as immoral.</p> <p>In Walthamstow our health trust, Barts, is the <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ournhs/john-lister/bart%E2%80%99s-flagship-hits-rocks-of-pfi">most indebted in the country in terms of PFI</a>. To pay these debts the hospitals have to cut staff and are therefore overcrowded and dangerously under-resourced. An excellent <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-41778609">report from the BBC</a> shows that five of the biggest PFI companies are based in tax havens, despite earning more than £2 billion in profit.</p> <p>Isabell is another member of Bank Job - a banknote printer who is also a recent graduate. “I’ve spent seven years of my life in education,” <a href="https://vimeo.com/271975975">she says</a>, and “Coming out of uni today, young people are just saddled with this huge debt burden. I’ve got credit cards, personal loans, overdrafts, I’ve got student loans.”</p> <p>To run our bank we borrowed pieces of equipment and drew on the talent of our community in setting up what we needed to design and print the new currency. It became a sort of ‘DIY uprising’ in which the bank became a space of work and play, with economics talks laid on in the evenings for anyone who wanted to come and learn.&nbsp; When <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/mar/23/hoe-street-central-bank-walthamstow-london-debt">an article about the bank came out in The Guardian</a> and went viral people travelled from all over Britain and queued around the block to buy banknotes and talk about the impact of the debt crisis and what we can do to address it.</p> <p>In October 2018 the bank is moving into a new phase - printing gilt-edged paper bonds as part of what we’re referring to as a ‘collectively owned and distributed explosion’ of the £1 million payday debt that we’ve bought so far through bank note sales. The bonds are being sold to finance the literal, cathartic explosion of this debt at the end of 2018 in order to push the message of the project into greater public view. Each bond grants the holder the bond itself as an artwork and a share in the explosion – called ‘Big Bang 2’ - in which a transit van filled with debt will be detonated. What remains will be transformed into commemorative coins to be distributed to bond holders.</p> <p>In all these ways we feel we’ve made some useful progress, though there’s a long way to go. But how has the project changed people who have come into contact with it?</p> <p>At one level the answer is clear: having even part of your debts written off through a simple act of citizen intervention feels good. But this isn’t a hack that can be used to fix the entire system; rather, it’s a stunt that draws people into the story of debt and teaches them about the secondary market, perhaps empowering them in the future to have a different conversation with creditors who chase them for debts that are in some sense imaginary.</p> <p>At a deeper level, the project has given us hope that communities can be resilient and will fight together – that we owe it to one another to shape the sort of world which our children can inherit with confidence and pride. The feeling that we are not alone – or as the <a href="http://strikedebt.org/">Strike Debt</a> campaign puts it “not a loan;” that we can get together and create value that transcends the traditional debtor/creditor relationships that are ripping our communities apart; and that we oughtn’t to feel so ashamed of our debts because they reflect negatively on our characters – have all taken root.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The project has also allowed us to imagine that the world we want is not just a vague or distant dream, but something that can be achieved in the here and now by getting together to take control of our immediate surroundings and rewrite the rules. If you can get hold of the money supply, you have infinite power. That is what this is really all about - taking back the power to choose the sorts of lives we feel are useful. As Andrew Ross argues in his excellent book <a href="https://www.orbooks.com/catalog/creditocracy/">Creditocracy</a><em>:</em></p> <blockquote><p>“Loading debt onto the citizenry creates grievous harm to our democracies - when a government cannot or will not respond on behalf of a citizenry then taking relief for ourselves may be the most indispensible act of civil disobedience. Asserting the moral right to repudiate debt may be the only way of rebuilding democracy.”</p></blockquote><p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/emily-kawano/seven-ways-to-build-solidarity-economy">Seven ways to build the solidarity economy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/laurie-macfarlane/transforming-financial-system-from-within-interview-with-finance-innovation-lab">Transforming the financial system from within: an interview with the Finance Innovation Lab</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/esteban-kelly/why-transforming-economy-begins-and-ends-with-cooperation">Why transforming the economy begins and ends with cooperation</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Dan Edelstyn and Hilary Powell The role of money Economics Activism Tue, 09 Oct 2018 18:07:53 +0000 Dan Edelstyn and Hilary Powell 119947 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How are we doing on a ‘Green New Deal?’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/edward-robinson/how-are-we-doing-on-green-new-deal <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As the IPCC publishes its new report on global warming of 1.5 degrees, we need a political and economic stock-take.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/EdwardRobinson.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">A two-megawatt solar panel array at Fort Carson, Colorado, produces enough power for 540 homes. Credit: U.S. Army photo. Public Domain.</p> <p>Nearly three years on from the Paris Agreement to hold global average temperatures to well under two degrees above pre-industrial levels it’s time for a political and economic stock-take. Is the massive mobilisation of human and financial resources needed to cap global warming finally underway, and can coordinated capitalism save us? <a href="https://bios.fi/bios-governance_of_economic_transition.pdf">A recent paper</a> by a group of Finnish scientists written for the UN’s Global Sustainable Development Report calls this claim into question.&nbsp; </p> <p>The publication of&nbsp;today’s&nbsp;Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change&nbsp;(IPCC)&nbsp;Special Report into Global Warming of 1.5ºC&nbsp;is unlikely to yield many surprises, but that doesn’t make its message any less urgent.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.iea.org/geco/emissions/" target="_blank">After plateauing for three years, global CO2&nbsp;emissions from fossil fuels hit a new record in 2017, climbing by 1.4 per cent</a>.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-42736397" target="_blank">2017 also went down as the hottest year on record without an El Niño</a>&nbsp;weather event.</p> <p>Based on previous IPCC data, <a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-four-years-left-one-point-five-carbon-budget">CarbonBrief</a> estimates that there are <a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-four-years-left-one-point-five-carbon-budget">under seven years</a> of current emissions budgets left to have even <em>a 50 per cent chance</em> of remaining below the 1.5-degree limit. That means that the world would blow its total GHG emissions allowance in less than seven additional years if net-emissions continue at today’s level. The global ‘Green New Deal’ was supposed to meet these challenges, so what happened?&nbsp; </p> <p>Last year, worldwide clean energy investment rose by three per cent according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, <a href="https://about.bnef.com/blog/runaway-53gw-solar-boom-in-china-pushed-global-clean-energy-investment-ahead-in-2017/">taking cumulative investment since 2010 to $2.5 trillion.</a> But this masks a 26 per cent year-on-year <em>fall</em> in investment in Europe and a 20 per cent decline in India – leaving the heavy lifting to China, whose nearly 60 per cent growth in installation is impressive but may now be hampered by recent decisions in Beijing <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/985341f4-6a57-11e8-8cf3-0c230fa67aec">to reduce feed-in tariffs and limit subsidies for new solar generation</a>. Renewable energy supplies face an uphill battle as energy efficiency efforts stall and <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-energy-carbon-iea/global-carbon-emissions-hit-record-high-in-2017-idUSKBN1GY0RB">global energy demand rises</a>. &nbsp;</p> <p>Figures on total green investment are hard to compile, but some of the most comprehensive come from the <a href="https://climatepolicyinitiative.org/publication/global-landscape-of-climate-finance-2017/">Climate Policy Initiative (CPI)</a>. The CPI found total investment peaking in 2015 at $437 billion, then falling to $388 billion in 2016, overwhelmingly driven by private sector investment in wind and solar energy (which partly explains the fall since generation costs from solar PV, for example, are falling at an average rate of 17% per year). But total green investment is still overshadowed by overall investment in fossil fuel projects ($800 billion in 2016) and the CPI acknowledge that – despite the positives – <a href="https://climatepolicyinitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/2017-Global-Landscape-of-Climate-Finance.pdf">“climate finance remains far below estimates of what is needed.”</a> </p> <p>In terms of the flow of multilateral climate funds from developed to developing countries - the target for which was set in 2009 at $100 billion per year by 2020 - the principle vehicle (the Green Climate Fund) is <a href="https://www.euractiv.com/section/energy-environment/news/le-fonds-vert-pour-le-climat-cristallise-la-tension-des-negociations-climatiques/">under severe pressure</a> at the moment. It has only committed <a href="https://www.greenclimate.fund/what-we-do/portfolio-dashboard">around $3.5 billion to 74 projects in the</a> last three years.&nbsp; </p> <p>How much investment would be needed for a genuine Green New Deal? Estimates vary. In 2013, the <a href="http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GreenInvestment_Report_2013.pdf">World Economic Forum</a> suggested an <em>annual</em> investment need of around $5.7 trillion from 2010 to 2030 to keep global infrastructure in-line with a 2-degree climate target, with the ‘green’ portion needing to be around $700 billion per year. </p> <p>Meanwhile, <a href="https://newclimateeconomy.report/2014/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2014/08/BetterGrowth-BetterClimate_NCE_Synthesis-Report_web.pdf">The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate</a> calculated a higher annual investment requirement of around $6 trillion for the same period but with a much lower “green increment” of $270 billion for a 2-degree target. A 1.5-degree target would require three times as much, as a 2017 paper from the <a href="https://globalclimateforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/GCF_WorkingPaper2-20171.pdf">Global Climate Forum</a> points out.</p> <p>Whatever the exact figures, the fundamentals are concerning. Emissions are still rising, energy demand is still rising, green investment is stalling and fossil fuel investment and subsidies continue. Time is running out. So how are policymakers responding? </p> <p>The effort to finalise the Paris Agreement “rulebook” before 2020 is being hampered by arguments about money. The European Union has announced an “<a href="http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-18-1404_en.htm">Action Plan” for Sustainable Finance</a> with a timetable to come up with a “taxonomy” for green bonds in the next couple of years. When the “High-Level Group on Sustainable Finance” issued its report in <a href="https://ec.europa.eu/info/publications/180131-sustainable-finance-report_en">January</a> 2018, the European Commission appointed a “technical expert group” to work on a policy roadmap. It has suggested ringfencing around 25 per cent of its next long-term budget for climate action, but has not ruled-out using some of that budget for high-emissions infrastructure like gas pipelines (unhelpful when countering, for example, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/sep/23/opec-predicts-massive-rise-in-oil-production-over-next-five-years">OPEC narratives</a> of an oil boom in the future). </p> <p>Meanwhile, Mark Carney and Michael Bloomberg’s <a href="https://www.tcfdhub.org/Downloads/pdfs/E03%20-%20Implementation%20path.pdf"><em>Taskforce for Climate-Related Financial Disclosures</em> (TCFD)</a> is working off a five-year timetable towards achieving “broad understanding of the concentration of carbon-related assets in the financial system and the financial system’s exposure to climate-related risk. In a <a href="https://www.fsb-tcfd.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/TCFD-2018-Report-Slides-092418.pdf">status report</a> published in September 2018, the TCFD noted that “Climate-related disclosures are still in early stages and further work is still needed for disclosures to contain more decision-useful climate-related information.”</p> <p>One fears that global institutions will, rather like Balzac’s Frenhofer, produce a masterpiece just at the moment that emissions breach the 1.5-degree budget, setting off the feedback loops to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/23/hitting-toughest-climate-target-will-save-world-30tn-in-damages-analysis-shows">destroy trillions of dollars’ worth of assets</a>. Or perhaps the resistance will be too strong. A leaked memo attributed to BusinessEurope on how to respond to the EU’s plans for more ambitious emissions targets captures the moment completely: <a href="https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-environment/news/business-lobby-prepares-pushback-against-eu-climate-goals-update/">“[the response] should be rather positive, as long as it remains a political statement with no implications.”</a> </p> <p>So, can regulated markets save us? The evidence is mixed. States must do more to help boost and sustain investment (especially in less mature technologies than wind and solar PV), but technical groups and taxonomies won’t do this alone. Higher carbon prices will certainly help. </p> <p>However, if we are going to deliver a global Green New Deal we need to consider even more radical policies like ‘<a href="http://www.financeforthefuture.com/GreenQuEasing.pdf">Green Quantitative Easing</a>’ (QE), combined with legally-binding timetables for fossil fuel phase-outs (the <a href="https://beyond-coal.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Overview-of-national-coal-phase-out-announcements-Europe-Beyond-Coal-September-2018.pdf"><em>Europe Beyond Coal</em></a> campaign tracks phase-outs for coal power), and significant behaviour change. &nbsp;</p> <p>We know that meat-rich diets (and the factory farming that supplies them), single-use plastics and single-occupancy vehicles are very carbon-intensive. So we should be moving to tax (or price) their carbon content more appropriately and fund better public transport and recycling and re-use infrastructure to enable people to avoid the worst-offending products. The question of meat-eating is obviously cultural and will require civil society pressure. A <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/nov/07/tax-meat-and-dairy-to-cut-emissions-and-save-lives-study-urges">meat tax</a> may be too far, but we should not rule it out. </p> <p>On Green QE, the main idea is that a central bank would create an amount of money for the purchase of ‘green bonds’ issued by organisations to finance investment that helps us achieve our climate targets. These could include sovereign green bonds issued by governments and bought in the secondary market. The aim of classic QE is to reduce long-term interest rates, and a programme of Green QE could also do this while creating real economic value by stimulating the issuance of green bonds and reducing risks for conventional investors (especially in large-scale projects). </p> <p>The Bank of England has already created £435 billion for bond buying since 2009, while the European Central Bank has created nearly €2.5 trillion since 2014. Unfortunately, <a href="http://positivemoney.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/PositiveMoney_AGreenBankofEngland_Web.pdf">there is evidence that a lot of this bond buying has served high-carbon interests</a>. Furthermore, as is well known, while classic QE may have had the desired effect of reducing long-term interest rates, the flip side has been inflated asset prices and, therefore, growing wealth inequality. A programme of Green QE would aim to channel money into non-financial growth sectors (rather than just property markets or stock markets), and so could create a more widely shared ‘wealth effect’ at the same time as tackling climate change. </p> <p>A still more radical option would be ‘Green Overt Monetary Finance’ (OMF), whereby a central bank would buy zero-interest, perpetual government bonds in the primary market in order to fund direct government spending on low carbon projects. This is currently prohibited by the Treaty of Lisbon, although a number of financial experts <a href="https://www.ippr.org/juncture-item/juncture-interview-adair-turner">like Adair Turner</a> have championed it (albeit not for climate-related reasons). </p> <p>The biggest risk of OMF is that it would spiral out of control, thus fuelling hyperinflation. But in a world of sluggish growth, output gaps and ultra-low interest rates, this concern seems very distant, and at this stage we need to be weighing the risks more accurately. As the IPCC is about to illustrate, spiralling global temperatures are a much more present danger than hyperinflation. It is time for more radicalism and a real Green New Deal. &nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/stephen-jackson/catastrophism-is-as-much-obstacle-to-addressing-climate-change-as-den">Catastrophism is as much an obstacle to addressing climate change as denial</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/charles-eisenstein/fear-of-living-planet">Fear of a living planet</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/richard-heinberg/100-renewable-energy-what-we-can-do-in-10-years">100% renewable energy: what we can do in 10 years</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation climate change Edward Robinson Environment Sun, 07 Oct 2018 19:42:10 +0000 Edward Robinson 119945 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What would a society designed for well-being look like? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/tabita-green/what-would-society-designed-for-well-being-look-like <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Economic justice goes a long way to improving mental health up and down the socioeconomic ladder.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/LydiaSmith4_0.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://pixabay.com/en/despair-alone-being-alone-archetype-513529/">Pixabay/Geralt</a>.&nbsp;<a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p>In early June of this year, the back-to-back suicides of celebrities Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, coupled with&nbsp;<a href="https://stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/53785">a new report revealing a more than 25 percent rise in U.S. suicides&nbsp;</a>since 2000, prompted—again—a national discussion on suicide prevention, depression, and the need for improved treatment. Some have called for the development of new antidepressants, noting the lack of efficacy in current medical therapies. But developing better drugs buys into the mainstream notion that the collection of human experiences called “mental illness” is primarily physiological in nature, caused by a “broken” brain.</p> <p>This notion is misguided and distracting at best, deadly at worst. Research has shown that, to the contrary, economic inequality could be a significant contributor to mental illness. Greater disparities in wealth and income are associated with increased status anxiety and stress at all levels of the socioeconomic ladder. In the United States, poverty has a negative impact on children’s development and can contribute to social, emotional, and cognitive impairment. A society designed to meet everyone’s needs could help prevent many of these problems before they start.</p> <p>To address the dramatic increase in mental and emotional distress in the U.S., we must move beyond a focus on the individual and think of well-being as a social issue. Both the World Health Organization and the United Nations have made statements in the past decade that mental health is a social indicator, requiring “<a href="http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0012/100821/E92227.pdf">social, as well as individual, solutions</a>.” Indeed, WHO Europe stated in 2009 that “[a] focus on social justice may provide an important corrective to what has been seen as a growing overemphasis on individual pathology.” </p> <p>The UN’s independent adviser&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21689">Dainius Pūras reported in 2017&nbsp;</a>that “mental health policies and services are in crisis—not a crisis of chemical imbalances, but of power imbalances,” and that decision-making is controlled by “biomedical gatekeepers,” whose outdated methods “perpetuate stigma and discrimination.” Our economic system is a fundamental aspect of our social environment, and the side effects of neoliberal capitalism are contributing to mass malaise.</p> <p>In&nbsp;<em>The Spirit Level</em>, epidemiologists Kate Pickett and Richard G. Wilkinson show a close correlation between income inequality and rates of mental illness in 12 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member countries. The more unequal the country, the higher the prevalence of mental illness. Of the 12 countries measured on the book’s mental illness scatter chart, the United States sits alone in the top right corner—the most unequal and the most mentally ill.</p> <p>The seminal&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/about.html">Adverse Childhood Experiences Study&nbsp;</a>revealed that repeated childhood trauma results in both physical and mental negative health outcomes in adulthood. Economic hardship is the most common form of childhood trauma in the U.S.—one of the richest countries in the world. And the likelihood of experiencing other forms of childhood trauma—such as living through divorce, death of a parent or guardian, a parent or guardian in prison, various forms of violence, and living with anyone abusing alcohol or drugs—also increases with poverty.</p> <p>Clearly, many of those suffering mental and emotional distress are actually having a rational response to a sick society and an unjust economy. This revelation doesn’t reduce the suffering, but it completely changes the paradigm of mental health and how we choose to move forward to optimize human well-being. </p> <p>Instead of focusing only on piecemeal solutions for various forms of social ills, we must consider that the real and lasting solution is a new economy designed for all people, not only for the ruling corporate elite. This new economy must be based on principles and strategies that contribute to human well-being, such as family-friendly policies, meaningful and democratic work, and community wealth-building activities to minimize the widening income gap and reduce poverty.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Tabitagreen2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p>The seeds of human well-being are sown during pregnancy and the early years of childhood.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3640562/">Research shows that mothers&nbsp;</a>who are able to stay home longer (at least six months) with their infants are less likely to experience depressive symptoms, which contributes to greater familial well-being. Yet in the United States, one-quarter of new mothers return to work within two weeks of giving birth, and only 13 percent of workers have access to paid leave. A new economy would recognize and value the care of children in the same way it values other work, provide options for flexible and part-time work, and, thus, enable parents to spend formative time with their young children—resulting in optimized well-being for the whole family.</p> <p>In his book&nbsp;<em>Lost Connections,&nbsp;</em>journalist Johann Hari lifts up meaningful work and worker cooperatives as an “unexpected solution” to depression. “We spend most of our waking time working—and 87 percent of us feel either disengaged or enraged by our jobs,” Hari writes.</p> <p>A lack of control in the workplace is particularly detrimental to workers’ well-being, which is a direct result of our hierarchical, military-influenced way of working in most organizations. Worker cooperatives, a building block of the solidarity economy, extend democracy to the workplace, providing employee ownership and control. When workers participate in the mission and governance of their workplace, it creates meaning, which contributes to greater well-being. While more research is needed, Hari writes, “it seems fair ... to assume that a spread of cooperatives would have an antidepressant effect.”</p> <p>Worker cooperatives also contribute to minimizing income inequality through low employee income ratios and wealth-building through ownership—and can provide a way out of poverty for workers from marginalized groups. In an&nbsp;<a href="https://soundcloud.com/upstreampodcast/jessica-gordon-nembhard">Upstream podcast interview</a>, activist scholar Jessica Gordon Nembhard says, “We have a racialized capitalist system that believes that only a certain group and number of people should get ahead and that nobody else deserves to … I got excited about co-ops because I saw [them] as a place to start for people who are left behind.” </p> <p>A concrete example of this is the Cleveland Model, in which a city’s anchor institutions, such as hospitals and universities, commit to purchasing goods and services from local, large-scale worker cooperatives, thus building community wealth and reducing poverty.</p> <p>The worker cooperative is one of several ways to democratize wealth and create economic justice. The Democracy Collaborative lists dozens of strategies and models to bring wealth back to the people on the website community-wealth.org. The list includes municipal enterprise, community land trusts, reclaiming the commons, impact investing, and local food systems. All these pieces of the new economy puzzle play a role in contributing to economic justice, which is inextricably intertwined with mental and emotional well-being.</p> <p>In&nbsp;<em>Lost Connections,</em>&nbsp;Hari writes to his suffering teenage self: “You aren’t a machine with broken parts. You are an animal whose needs are not being met.” Mental and emotional distress are the canaries in the coal mine, where the coal mine is our corporate capitalist society. Perhaps if enough people recognize the clear connection between mental and emotional well-being and our socioeconomic environment, we can create a sense of urgency to move beyond corporate capitalism—toward a new economy designed to optimize human well-being and planetary health.</p> <p>Our lives literally depend on it.</p> <p class="image-caption">This article was first published in <a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/mental-health/what-a-society-design-for-well-being-looks-like-20180912?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180914&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180914+CID_3a58e48b2a7b6e0ca7425d920c5743f5&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=What%20a%20Society%20D">YES! Magazine</a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar/mental-health-why-were-all-sick-under-neoliberalism">Mental health: why we&#039;re all sick under neoliberalism </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/lydia-smith/why-mental-health-is-hidden-cost-of-housing-crisis">Why mental health is the hidden cost of the housing crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/joel-millward-hopkins/neoliberal-psychology">Neoliberal psychology</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation ourNHS Transformation Tabita Green The politics of mental health Care Thu, 04 Oct 2018 15:00:36 +0000 Tabita Green 119712 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Entrepreneurs of hate https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ian-hughes/entrepreneurs-of-hate <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Where does hate come from, and why has it played such a role in recent political history?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/IanHughes6.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Disarm_Hate_13490727_10153529326845493_5683356208398203158_o.jpg">Moveon.org via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/share-your-work/public-domain/">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p>Is it possible to transform politics around values such as empathy, solidarity and love? Many progressive commentators think so, and have <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/max-harris-philip-mckibbin/all-you-need-is-politics-of-love">laid out different plans</a> to put these ideas into practice. But empathy and love seem in short supply in the actuality of politics today, crowded out by hate and intolerance.&nbsp; In one society after another fear-mongering proceeds apace against poor people, immigrants, minorities and anyone else who is not part of the dominant group.</p> <p>Politics have always been animated as much by passions as by policies, but we can’t assume those passions will be positive. Therefore it’s incumbent on us to understand how negative emotions play out in politics and how politicians exploit these feelings to advance their agendas. Where does hate come from, and why has it played such a role in recent political history?</p> <p>According to psychologist <a href="http://www.robertjsternberg.com/hate/">Robert Sternberg</a> hatred is not a single emotion, but instead comprises three distinct components. The first of these components is the negation of intimacy. Instead of wanting to be close to others, hatred grips us with a feeling of repulsion, an impulse to distance ourselves from the hated other. </p> <p>The second component is hate’s passionate element: hate fills us with a mix of burning anger and unnerving fear. Sternberg’s third component is hate’s cognitive element, namely the stories we tell ourselves to justify the feelings of repulsion, anger and anxiety that hatred evokes within us.</p> <p>Tragically, we have ample evidence to draw upon to understand how hatred can ignite and consume large parts of societies. In my new book <em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Disordered-Minds-Dangerous-Personalities-Destroying/dp/1785358804/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1537308483&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=disordered+minds+ian+hughes">Disordered Minds</a></em> I examine some of the 20th century’s most appalling atrocities including the Holocaust, Stalin’s Gulag, Mao’s Great Famine, and Pol Pot’s Killing Fields in Cambodia. What stands out clearly from these examples is the critical role played by hate-mongers in fomenting each of these horrors. Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot all had an uncanny ability to inflame all three of Sternberg’s elements of hate. </p> <p>For each of these tyrants, their first goal was to exacerbate the feelings of separateness and otherness felt towards their chosen target out-group, whether they were Jews, <em>kulaks</em>, ‘capitalist railroaders’ or other ‘enemies of the people.’ Their second goal was to inflame feelings of anger and fear towards that out-group. And their third goal was to spread stories that explained, in false and simple terms, why that outgroup was a deserving target of people’s hate.</p> <p>These stories varied widely but they had certain elements in common: ‘the enemy is repulsive in looks and habits; ‘the enemy is contaminated and is spreading disease;’ ‘the enemy is part of a conspiracy seeking to control us;’ ‘the enemy is a criminal;’ ‘the enemy is a seducer and a rapist;’ ‘the enemy is an animal, an insect or a germ;’ ‘the enemy is the enemy of God’ ‘the enemy is a murderer who delights in killing;’ ‘the enemy is standing in the way of our making our country great again.’</p> <p>In their mission to create divisions and target scapegoats for political gain, history’s hate-mongers repeated these stories relentlessly so that they became accepted wisdom, reinforced by propaganda –the ‘fake news’ media of the day—but they were also helped by existing fears and prejudices within their societies. </p> <p>Initially they found their most devoted supporters among those who already shared the leader’s hatreds. A tyrants’ first step towards power, therefore, is to incite hatred among those who share their own warped worldview. But hate-mongers not only denigrate their chosen enemies; they also portray their core followers as exceptional human beings, as moral paragons and ‘fine people.’ The more hatred a toxic leader directs towards the ‘enemy’ while praising their in-group, the more galvanised their base of true believers becomes.</p> <p>Once a tyrant has secured the adulation of a core group of true believers, their task is then to spread their hatred towards the target group as widely as possible throughout society. Whether or not they succeed in this mission depends in large part on what psychologist <a href="http://www.nber.org/papers/w9171">Edward Glaeser</a> calls the ‘demand for hatred.’ As Glaeser explains, by spreading hate-filled stories hate-mongers increase the supply of hate, but the willingness of society to accept those stories constitutes the demand side of the equation.</p> <p>Many factors contribute to a society’s willingness to accept a hate-monger’s lies. Economic hardship plays a central role. A society in which a substantial proportion of the population faces a daily struggle to make ends meet is susceptible to simple explanations and false remedies. Cultural differences can also be important. Majority populations experiencing significant immigration or demographic change can react defensively by turning on ‘outsiders’ who differ from them in terms of their culture or religion.</p> <p>Geography too can be significant. Research shows that prejudices are stronger when they are based not on personal experience but result instead from hearsay or second-hand news. This finding sheds light on the puzzling fact that xenophobic populism has taken hold most strongly today in areas like Eastern Europe and rural America which have the lowest shares of immigrants. Our greatest commitment to destruction, it seems, is often towards those we have never met.</p> <p>The famous symbol of a triangle that is used for fire safety purposes illustrates the three elements that are needed for any fire to take hold, namely a spark, fuel and oxygen. In political terms, hate-mongers act as the spark; their prejudiced true believers are the fuel; and the conditions which create the demand for hate in wider society provide the oxygen that allows the smouldering embers of hatred to ignite, grow and spread. </p> <p>We don’t have to look far to find examples of the same phenomenon today. In the US, for example, President Trump has skilfully tuned into feelings of resentment on the part of substantial numbers of rural white Americans, openly denigrating immigrants as ‘rapists’ and ‘murderers’ and the press as ‘the enemy of the people.’ Inequality and demographic change have created the conditions in which Trump’s vitriolic scapegoating finds a ready response. A critical mass of people in positions of influence act as enablers of the President (whether out of self-interest or a belief in his broader agenda), and a siloed social media fans the flames of division. </p> <p>In Hungary, <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/04/viktor-orban-hungary/557246/">Viktor Orban</a> too has chosen to kindle hatred as a means of winning votes. He has vilified migrants, saying that they bring crime and terror, mass disorder, and “gangs hunting down our women and daughters.” He has labelled refugees and migrants as a pollutant, a distant other, and a threat to Hungarian culture and religion, saying, “The masses arriving from other civilisations endanger our way of life, our culture, our customs and our Christian traditions.” Orban has used his electoral victories to hollow out Hungarian democracy from within. In 2018 Hungary was <a href="http://hungarianfreepress.com/2018/01/16/freedom-house-hungary-is-the-least-democratic-country-in-the-eu/">named</a> by Freedom House the “least democratic country” among the European Union’s 28 members.</p> <p>The destruction caused by hate-mongers is evident to anyone with a cursory knowledge of history; their ongoing influence is equally clear to viewers of the daily news. Through their rhetoric they fundamentally alter the swing of the pendulum in the conduct of human affairs from compromise to conflict, from inclusion to vilification, and from compassion to cruelty. </p> <p>While there is no simple solution to this problem, the most effective way to reduce the influence of hate-mongers is to strengthen democracy. Strengthening democratic norms and institutions can be effective because it addresses all three sides of the triangle of toxic leaders, susceptible followers, and conducive environments. </p> <p>Democracy places limits on those in power. It reduces the scope for recourse to violence on the part of ruthless leaders. It forbids the abuse of state power against individuals and against sub-sections of society. And it subjects those in power to the rule of law. In this way it provides a powerful constraint on the destructive actions of hate-mongers and their followers. A properly functioning democracy can also address the social and economic concerns that allow hate-mongers to rise and stay in power.</p> <p>In an earlier time of crisis, Dr Martin Luther King Jr responded to hatred by saying “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” In our current time of division it is worth bearing that advice in mind: when hate-mongers are threatening the very foundations of democracy, the most powerful act of love is to vote against hate at every opportunity.</p> <p><em>Ian Hughes’ new book is <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Disordered-Minds-Dangerous-Personalities-Destroying/dp/1785358804/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1537308483&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=disordered+minds+ian+hughes">Disordered Minds: How Dangerous Personalities are Destroying Democracy</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ian-hughes/demons-and-angels-strongman-leaders-and-social-violence">Demons and angels: strongman leaders and social violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/ian-hughes/real-clash-of-civilisations">The real clash of civilisations</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/mana-farooghi/internet-can-spread-hate-but-it-can-also-help-to-tackle-it">The internet can spread hate, but it can also help to tackle it</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Ian Hughes Culture Care Tue, 02 Oct 2018 14:49:16 +0000 Ian Hughes 119750 at https://www.opendemocracy.net All you need is love? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sujatha-fernandes/all-you-need-is-love <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Transformative organizing fails to address the underlying conditions through which exploitative care relationships are generated and maintained.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/SujathaFernandes2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">New York City Rally and March to raise the minimum wage in America, April 15 2015. Credit: The All-Nite Images via Wikimedia Commons. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en">CC BY-SA 2.0</a>.</p> <p>The last decade has seen many pioneering approaches to social justice organizing that revolve around personal-political transformation. One notable example is domestic worker organizing in the United States. During several Bill of Rights campaigns across the country, coalitions of domestic worker organizations emphasized <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/maureen-purtill/labor-of-love">the transformative power of love and connection and the need to make employers part of the solution</a>. It has been just over eight years since these coalitions won a <a href="https://labor.ny.gov/legal/domestic-workers-bill-of-rights.shtm">New York Bill of Rights for Domestic Workers</a> and five since the passage of <a href="https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/DomesticWorkerBillOfRights.html">a similar Bill in California</a>.</p> <p>These Bill of Rights campaigns have shifted the broader public consciousness about the value of domestic work and created a greater sense of dignity for workers. But in evaluating this approach in the aftermath of the passage of these Bills, is it true that ‘all you need is love?’</p> <p>My own experience with labor abuses among care workers in New York City convinced me that demonizing employers is not the best way forward. The lack of affordable state-provisioned childcare for working parents often forces them into exploitative employment situations with domestic workers. However, our ability to truly transform the broader universe of caring relationships is limited under the current conditions of the global domestic work industry.</p> <p>Exploitation and abuse are inherent in the employer-employee relationship in contexts where cheap and vulnerable migrant labor has come to fill the gaps left by an absence of subsidized childcare services and non-flexible employment conditions for working parents. In order to end the chain of exploitative relationships produced by this situation we need to challenge the conditions that send migrant women to high-income countries for care work and force working parents into undesirable arrangements with their employees.</p> <p>One of the main organizations within the New York Bill of Rights coalition was Domestic Workers United (DWU). DWU was founded in New York in 2000 as a collaboration between three organizers: Ai-jen Poo, Carolyn de Leon and Nahar Alam. Over the course of six years, DWU enlisted a multi-ethnic coalition of organizations in the city to work on the Bill of Rights campaign which included CAAAV (originally the Committee against Anti-Asian Violence), Andolan, Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees, Unity Housecleaners, the Damayan Migrant Workers Association, and (later) Adhikar for Human Rights.</p> <p>The coalition argued that existing labor laws and government protections were vastly out of sync with workers’ realities, and proposed a new Bill to include mandated health insurance, notice of termination, personal days, severance pay, and a minimum wage of up to $16 per hour. These ‘dream’ provisions eventually became the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.</p> <p class="PI">Initially, the campaign sought to make a technical argument about why basic rights were necessary for domestic workers. But after becoming mired in frustrating debates with a small number of legislators, Poo felt the need to shift the debate away from legal technicalities toward fundamental human rights, and to change the perception of domestic work outside of the state capital, Albany. As <a href="http://newlaborforum.cuny.edu/2011/01/03/a-twenty-first-century-organizing-model-lessons-from-the-new-york-domestic-workers-bill-of-rights-campaign/">she said at a City University of New York Labor Forum in 2011</a>:</p> <blockquote><p class="PI">“The problem was not just technical—domestic workers were dehumanized and invisible in&nbsp;popular consciousness, so it was hard for many to see the connections between the issues facing domestic workers and the issues facing all New Yorkers.”</p></blockquote> <p class="PI">As part of a more effective approach, Poo argued that the campaign would have to humanize care workers and show their interconnections with others, partly through personal storytelling. Poo frequently told her own story of realizing the interconnectedness of all humanity when her grandfather was paralyzed by a stroke and cared for by a home attendant.</p> <p class="PI">The strength of this approach was most apparent in the area of movement building. Meetings and rallies became sites for sharing stories and collective witness, which helped to inspire other domestic workers and bring them into the campaign. As domestic worker Jennifer Bernard related to me in an interview, she heard one such story that really moved her when she attended her first DWU meeting:</p> <blockquote><p class="PI">“I found myself there, very excited and enthused and hurt at the same time, because I was sitting there listening to the story of a domestic worker who, when she came to this country spoke very little English, and now had enough English to tell her story, and every domestic worker in that room, in that meeting, had tears in their eyes…after listening to her that day I just knew that I wanted to be a part of this movement that makes changes.”</p></blockquote> <p>The same techniques were used in building alliances with employers and formal sector unions, creating sympathy for the cause among prominent media outlets, and convincing legislators to pass the Bill of Rights. During the New York State Senate debate on June 1, 2010, for example, several senators testified about the histories of their own immigrant mothers and grandmothers who had worked as domestic workers.</p> <p>By emphasizing ‘our collective humanity’ the campaign garnered widespread support, but this framing also encouraged a conformity to the dominant myths and tropes that would resonate for a mainstream, white liberal audience. In media interviews, workers were often required to present themselves as isolated, helpless and powerless, and had to excise emotions such as anger for fear of appearing violent.</p> <p>In legal hearings around the Bill, domestic workers were asked to focus on their labor conditions and leave out any analysis of the broader conditions of inequality that structured their work, thereby making it seem as though the problem consisted of ‘bad’ individual employers rather than a system of exploitation. The need to appeal to both Democratic and Republican lawmakers imposed restrictions on the kinds of representations domestic workers could fashion, which worked against the building of a class-based movement that could draw on existing bases of solidarity among workers and challenge the underlying system of economic exploitation.</p> <p>By focusing attention on interpersonal relationships, individual stories and reforming laws to the exclusion of analysing and challenging global structures, the legal advocacy approach failed to address the underlying conditions through which exploitative care relationships are generated and maintained.</p> <p>The final Bill that was signed into law by New York Governor David Paterson on August 31 2010 was watered down from the original proposal and established a very low floor of protections. <a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/curated-stories-9780190618056?lang=en&amp;cc=us">Some domestic workers</a> who had been involved in the campaign were skeptical of the benefits the whittled-down bill would bring them. In the aftermath of the campaign, these domestic workers along with other allies came together to restructure DWU as a worker-led organization focused on member outreach, direct action tactics, and community resources rather than large foundation grants. In their daily organizing and storytelling events such as the PEN World Voices Festival, they have sought to engage deeply and critically with the broader structures that perpetuate the care industry.</p> <p>A vision of social change that transforms caring relationships is vital, but it can only be achieved by removing the power relations and vulnerabilities induced by the current regime of labor migration that uses poor women from the global south to fill care gaps in the north. As an anonymous domestic worker said when submitting a written testimony on behalf of fellow domestic worker Marichu Baoanan at a New York State Assembly Labor Committee hearing for the Bill of Rights campaign in 2008:</p> <blockquote><p class="EXT">"Marichu and I are part of the global crisis that enslaves Third World women into dehumanizing conditions—working in a foreign land as second-class immigrants. We are two of the ten million Filipinos abroad who are treated as products in the global market. We prop up the Phillipine economy with more than $20 million in remittances. We also contribute to the annual $952.6 billion that is generated by the New York City’s economy. We not only shoulder the crisis of our homeland, but we also carry the weight of the deepening crisis in the US. Billions of dollars turn into profits as a result of our labor and at the expense of our dignity and humanity.”</p></blockquote> <p class="EXT">Advocates of transformative organizing aim to solve worker exploitation by improving the wages and conditions of undocumented workers and challenging the draconian immigration policies that make them vulnerable to abusive employers. As a rapidly aging population and a growing need for childcare create a demand for more care workers in the global north, there’s a clear need to fill this gap with workers who are treated with dignity and respect. These are important and worthy goals, but on their own they don’t address the underlying inequalities that drive the global care industry.</p> <p class="EXT">Even if workers from the global south could receive better wages and work visas to reduce their vulnerability, the fact remains that they are often forced to leave their own homelands and families behind in order to service families in richer countries. This is what we need to challenge, and that means demanding an end to the free trade agreements and other policies that turn the global south into a source of cheap labor.</p> <p class="EXT">Local sources of work have to be expanded so that labor migration is a choice and not a necessity, and comprehensive, government-funded childcare and elder-care in the global north is required to give people the option of subsidized home or institutional care. In all these areas campaigning is vital, but love is not enough: worker-led and community-funded organizations like the newly reorganized DWU —who are prepared to use adversarial actions to pursue these goals—are essential.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/maureen-purtill/labor-of-love">A labor of love</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sujatha-fernandes/evisceration-of-storytelling">The evisceration of storytelling</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/steven-parfitt/future-of-trade-unions">The future of trade unions</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Sujatha Fernandes Care Activism Sun, 30 Sep 2018 18:50:34 +0000 Sujatha Fernandes 119700 at https://www.opendemocracy.net If the soul is ignored long enough, the body rebels https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sriram-shamasunder/if-soul-is-ignored-long-enough-body-rebels <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Sometimes when I fill out death certificates I wish I could write the cause of death as poverty or racism.<br /> </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/sriramshamsunder.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: Copyright Sheila Menezes. All rights reserved.</p> <p>My dark skin, so much like my patients:<br /> <br /> In residency I trained at a county hospital in Los Angeles. Black and brown patients lay on gurneys in the emergency room, and lined the halls on the wards. Our patients were mostly poor, often undocumented. The doctors were mostly white.<br /> <br /> One of my Guatemalan patients told me that on the difficult month-long walk into the US, with blisters and diarrhea, our hospital was known as the first place to get decent, free care.<br /> <br /> As residents, we worked and lived in the hospital so many nights. It felt like home.<br /> <br /> On one of my days off, in street clothes, jeans and a T-shirt, I went into the hospital to finish dictating some patient notes. It was morning. There was a metal detector coming into the hospital. I collected my stale coffee from the cafeteria. Later that morning, I got stopped by a police guard coming out of the bathroom, suspicious I might have been shooting up in one of the bathroom stalls.&nbsp;I presented my doctors ID out of my jeans pocket and immediately apologies flowed like water from an open faucet from the mouth of the police guard.<br /> <br /> My dark skin is so much like my patients.&nbsp;I learned never to walk the hospital without an ID. Until then, the hospital had felt like home. It was not a home where I could move freely without question. It was not my home.&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> <br /> A few months later, after a long call shift I decide to drive to the ocean. Making my way to the water feels like making my way home. This is a habit of mine. The air by the water is fresh and clean and welcoming and opens the lungs after 30 continuous hours in the hospital.&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> <br /> The neighboring cities of Redondo Beach, and Hermosa Beach, are beautiful, with strips of bars and flocks of white folks that flood them in the evening hours.&nbsp; It's 11 pm on a Thursday and the beach front parking is full.&nbsp;I want to bypass the crowds and the bars and go sit on the beach to clear my head.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> As I circle for parking in my sister’s black, beat-up 2004 Jetta, I can see a cop car eye me as I come around the block again not finding parking.<br /> <br /> My black, beat-up car and my nearly black skin in this dark night.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> My third time around the block, the cop starts to follow me on my parking search, a slow dance around a three block radius.&nbsp;He pulls me over.<br /> <br /> The cop is rude.&nbsp;He flashes his light onto the back seat where he suspiciously eyes an ophthalmoscope and reflex hammer.&nbsp;He shines the light in my eyes and asks what the paraphernalia in the back seat is all about.<br /> <br /> He doesn't give me a chance to answer.&nbsp;He asks for my drivers’ license and registration and proof of insurance, his voice finding its footing somewhere between irritated and angry.<br /> <br /> I am nervous. I lived in New York on 9/11 and immediately after I saw fear in older white women's eyes as they looked at me.&nbsp;It is a look I recognize in my dying patients - the fear - but it always catches me off guard when I look in someone’s eyes and realize I am the thing they fear.&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> <br /> Back in the Jetta, my white coat hangs off the back of my driver’s seat. My doctor ID hangs off my white coat close to the drivers’ side window. The policeman's flashlight catches the ID and he asks if I am a doctor. I say yes, at the LA county a few miles away.<br /> <br /> The pile of papers in his hand, drivers’ license, registration, proof of insurance, become like a lotus flower as he opens his palms and they flow back to me.<br /> <br /> He apologizes and apologizes. He says he didn't realize I was a doctor. He didn't realize that I worked at the hospital, the trauma center that takes care of cops when they get hurt or shot.<br /> <br /> My doctors ID becomes a get out of jail free card. An I exist card.&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> <br /> I exist. I exist. Something to distinguish me from the black the brown, the sick the poor, the nameless, the undocumented. From my patients.<br /> <br /> What if I had been a plumber, looking for the sea after a hard day’s work?&nbsp; What if I had been one of my patients, black and brown and nameless?&nbsp;<br /> <br /> I remember taking care of an undocumented Mexican man who worked and worked for four decades in the vineyards of Napa.&nbsp; He never had health insurance.&nbsp;I saw him in the hospital when his bone marrow finally failed, exhausted by decades of field work.&nbsp; His body was announcing its existence the only way it could.<br /> <br /> If the soul is ignored long enough, the body rebels. A mass in the throat rises to the surface of the skin. A cavity of a lung, riddled with tuberculosis starts to bleed.&nbsp; The body announces its existence.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> Sometimes when I fill out death certificates I wish I could write the cause of death as poverty. Or American racism.<br /> <br /> As a doctor, I am looking to make common cause with Navajo woman. Uranium mined from the earth and left bare for Navajo folks to fall ill. The uranium in the earth rises as a lump in a Navajo woman’s breast.<br /> <br /> As a doctor, I am looking to make common cause with black boys stopped by the police, shot by police without a doctors ID to protect them.<br /> <br /> My patients where we work in Liberia. I am looking to make common cause with the 11,310 black bodies who died from Ebola!&nbsp; They came into our awareness only in sickness and in death.<br /> <br /> Before blood flows from every orifice can we note their existence?&nbsp;<br /> <br /> The 109 black bodies killed by the police this year.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> May we learn their names in life. They exist.<br /> <br /> As a doctor, I aim to stand with them before the beautiful fire of their lives becomes ash.<br /> <br /> In this country, the only way I know home is through them.&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> <br /> I aim to reclaim a space for home for the black the brown, the nameless, my patients, myself.&nbsp; I try to find my home through them.</p> <p><em>This article was first published on <a href="http://www.dailygood.org/story/2104/as-a-doctor-i-am-looking-to-make-common-cause-sriram-shamasunder/">Daily Good</a> under a different title. </em><br /> <br /> </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/nathan-scolaro-and-rachel-callander/bringing-love-compassion-and-humanity-back-into-h">Bringing love, compassion and humanity back into healthcare</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/lydia-smith/what-happens-when-mental-health-professionals-also-get-sick">What happens when mental health professionals also get sick?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-sunshine-manning/decolonizing-birth">Decolonizing birth </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Sriram Shamasunder Thu, 27 Sep 2018 21:08:29 +0000 Sriram Shamasunder 119829 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Don’t click here to save the world – go to the theatre and get inspired https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/rob-watt/don-t-click-here-to-save-world-go-to-theatre-and-get-inspired <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="normal">This is not a moment to ‘keep calm and carry on:’ the UK’s leading spoken word artists declare their rebel yell in south London. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normalCxSpFirst"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/RobWatt.gif" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: Rallying Cry, Apples and Snakes/Jerry Kiesewetter. All rights reserved.</p><p class="normalCxSpMiddle"> On the 14 April 2014 the far-right Islamist group <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/boko-haram">Boko Haram</a> abducted 276 girls in the northern Nigerian village of Chibok; the nation was distraught. It was an event – similar to the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/12/-sp-boko-haram-attacks-nigeria-baga-ignored-media">assault on the town of Baga</a> in that same year – which incensed the country and soon became a viral social media campaign. As Nigerians took to the streets, marched and rallied the government to do something about the atrocity, the online world called to #BringBackOurGirls.</p> <p class="normal">This hashtag proliferated and was used over one million times in less than three weeks. <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/09/celebrity-tweets-nigeria-girls_n_5297188.html">Celebrities, actors, rappers and the first lady of the United States all tweeted it</a>, adding to the social media outcry. Three months later the World Cup started, the #BringBackOurGirls campaign subsided and was soon forgotten. Four years on, 100 of those girls are still missing and the kidnappings continue; in February 2018 <a href="http://time.com/5174951/nigeria-girls-missing-boko-haram-attack/">another 150 girls were taken from their schools</a>.</p> <p class="normal">Any collective sentiment of solidarity has power, but how much change did the #bringbackourgirls campaign actually elicit? It is difficult to truly know, but ultimately many of the girls are still missing. From the comfort of our armchairs and coffee shops we are able to tweet, click, add a hashtag and join an online campaign on causes like this, but does it really do anything?</p> <p class="normal">The website <a href="http://www.clicktivist.org/what-is-clicktivism/">clicktivist.org</a> emphasises the positives, suggesting that “the use of digital media for facilitating social change and activism can include a whole a range of activities” including organising protests, signing petitions, crowdfunding and circumventing news blackouts. In reality, however, clicktivism is messier than this.</p> <p class="normal">One of the fundamental problems is that it often marks the end of a person’s involvement with a cause instead of the beginning. Clicktivism may connect individuals and draw attention to an issue for a brief amount of time, but it often fails to sustain that engagement fully in the struggle. It’s impulsive – a response to something encountered online - and instantly gratifying rather than a considered political act like voting or marching.</p> <p class="normal">It’s also noncommittal, meaning that in isolation it doesn’t require any further action – you can click ‘like’ and then you’re done. Such actions can be easily replicated and that’s the point: clicktivism is about getting as many people as possible to repeat the same action over and over again, and in that sense it’s an effective viral marketing tool. But does quantity also mean quality? Clicks don’t always translate into changes beyond the Internet.</p> <p class="normal">Importantly, clicktivism is about a particular political device - a person or a decision - rather than a particular ideology. That could be why people sometimes dismiss it as meaningless, because it’s a small, non-risky, one-off act instead of a sustained engagement in a larger movement.</p> <p class="normal">Of course there are some success stories. The<em> </em><a href="http://www.alsa.org/fight-als/ice-bucket-challenge.html">ALS ‘ice bucket challenge</a>’<em> </em>has reportedly raised over $100 million for the fight against progressive neurodegenerative disease, and has led to a 60 percent increase in participation in traditional fundraising activities like sponsored walks.</p> <p class="normal">I’ve indulged in activities like this myself by using hashtags or signing a change.org petition, and it feels good, right? It makes us feel like we are doing something. In a world where people are angry and apathetic in equal measure, clicktivism could provide an answer. While fleeting, it’s democratic in the sense that it makes activism accessible to millions of people, regardless of how much time, energy or money they may have. Decades of <a href="https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/digitally-enabled-social-change">research</a> have shown that people are more willing to engage in activism that is easier and less costly emotionally, physically and financially.</p> <p class="normal">So what’s the alternative?</p> <p class="normal">I think theatre and poetry have an answer. Theatre, at its best, is a dialogue. It’s democratic, shapeshifting and powerful. Poetry uncovers and dissects the crunchy, oblique and often difficult situations that are happening in our world and brings people into a deeper emotional connection with both problems and solutions. &nbsp;That’s the rationale behind a new show I’m directing at the Battersea Arts Centre next week called “<a href="https://www.bac.org.uk/content/45069/whats_on/whats_on/shows/rallying_cry">Rallying Cry</a>.” </p> <p class="normal">The production <a href="https://applesandsnakes.org/rallying-cry/">takes its name, and in part its inspiration</a>, from the poet and activist Audre Lorde. As she once wrote, “Without community there is no liberation. In our rallying and marching we rediscovered community in one another.” At a time when the world is revolting, people are angry and a storm is coming, this is a protest and a call to arms.<br /> <br /> In “Rallying Cry” the UK’s leading spoken word artists declare their rebel yell as Battersea Arts Centre is plunged into a rabble-rousing ruckus. This is not a moment to ‘keep calm and carry on.’<br /> <br /> I set out to create a show that deconstructed why the world has become so binary - both extremely angry and in large part apathetic; paralysed by not knowing what to do when nothing seems to affect real change anymore.</p> <p class="normal">Poetry is the ideal device to tell these stories, but poetry and politics are uncomfortable bedfellows. Poetry, like political language, is rarely uttered without intention, without wanting to create a real effect. So I decided to work with a selection of the best and most exciting poets in the UK to reflect on where we are in the world and how to change it.</p> <p class="normal">The show is also immersive, surrounding the audience in order to involve them completely in the performance rather than being passive bystanders. I want them to be active, and to experience how the work makes them feel since emotions are such powerful motivators of social action.</p> <p class="normal">Theatre may not become a viral sensation, but I hope it will leave a deep mark on its audience, a lasting impression of how the world could be and what the alternatives are to the current status quo. Stories will always be more complex and affecting than a hashtag, but to be effective mobilisers the audience for them has to show up and get involved.</p> <p class="normal">The journalist and writer <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malcolm_Gladwell">Malcolm Gladwell</a> once said that “Where activists were once defined by their causes, they are now defined by their tools.” Clicktivism and its even lazier cousin Slacktivism provide more of these tools, and they aren't going away; nor should they. They can draw attention to causes, build a mass following, and involve large numbers of people in showing their solidarity and support. However, they should not be seen or used in isolation in the ways we change things. They are tools in a much more expansive activist’s toolkit and should live in the larger ecology of social action. </p> <p class="normal">For me, no amount of clicking or hash-tagging can ever substitute for showing up. Social media can help activists to spread their message and connect with others, but the success of social movements hinges on people who get offline and take real, physical risks.</p> <p class="normal">Change is painful, and it takes energy and effort. Changing policies, opinions and attitudes take a momentous amount of time and commitment. Twitter and Facebook may not be the tools to do this on their own, but coupled with stories of change that disrupt, inspire and give us hope they can help to tip the balance. Welcome to Rallying Cry. I hope you’ll join us.</p> <p class="normal"><strong><a href="https://www.bac.org.uk/content/45069/whats_on/whats_on/shows/rallying_cry"><em>Rallying Cry </em></a><a href="https://www.bac.org.uk/content/45069/whats_on/whats_on/shows/rallying_cry">will be performed at the Battersea Arts Centre in London from 4th - 6th October 2018. </a></strong></p> <p class="normal">&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/toby-ealden/it-s-communication-isn-t-it-using-theatre-to-bring-people-together">It’s communication isn’t it? Using theatre to bring people together</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/rocky-rodriguez-junior/can-theatre-change-your-mind">Can theatre change your mind?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/amber-massie-blomfield/austerity-inequality-and-arts">Austerity, inequality and the arts</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Social transformation and the arts Rob Watt Culture Wed, 26 Sep 2018 21:38:09 +0000 Rob Watt 119836 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Healing solidarity: re-imagining international development https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/mary-ann-clements/healing-solidarity-re-imagining-international-development <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>NGOs and other aid agencies need to lead in the <em>practice</em> of re-distributing wealth and power—not just the theory.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MaryAnnClements2.png" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.maxpixel.net/">https://www.maxpixel.net</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p>What are the first two words that come to mind when you think about foreign aid? Probably not ‘healing’ and ‘solidarity,’ especially in the context of recent scandals at Oxfam, Save the Children and Amnesty International and the emergence of the #Aidtoo movement. Yet an online conference last week was buzzing with over 1,500 people who are actively re-imagining the values and practices of the international development sector around these radically different principles.</p> <p>Fundamental to this process is the recognition that there will be no change in the ways in which wealth and power are so unequally distributed in the world unless we do things differently at both the individual and the collective levels—unless we acknowledge that we are all part of the problem as well as the solution, however well-intentioned our efforts. And that means transforming ourselves and the institutions we’ve created if we are serious about transforming the broader structures that dispossess and discriminate against certain groups of people, wherever in the world they live.</p> <p>International NGOs (INGOs) and other aid agencies are late in waking up to this fact, but why is that, and what can be done to put it right?</p> <p>The first issue raised by many of the conference speakers was that colonial and racist structures still permeate much of the work of the international development sector, and are both pervasive and strongly rooted. These attitudes show themselves in the concrete details of decision-making, governance, spending patterns, staff selection and remuneration beyond and beneath the rhetoric of NGOs, UN agencies and governments.</p> <p>Researcher <a href="http://gemmahouldey.com/">Gemma Houldey</a> puts this down in part to the idea of the ‘perfect humanitarian:’</p> <blockquote><p>“This idea that to be a really good humanitarian you have to be a certain person. And that certain person is the one that's put out in all the awareness raising materials of NGOs and charities, often a white, western aid worker who’s flying from one emergency to another, who’s so committed [and] doesn't have any family ties because they're just there throwing themselves into their work.”</p></blockquote> <p>This archetype continues to pervade the structures through which many INGOs operate, structures in which the power over decisions and resources still sits with people in offices in places like London, New York, Oxford and Geneva rather than those whose lives are directly affected by poverty and marginalisation.</p> <p>It’s also reflected in the differentials that often exist between staff with similar levels of training and expertise but who are treated differently as a result of where they come from and work. As Wanja Muguongo, Founding Executive Director of <a href="http://www.uhai-eashri.org/">UHAI</a> (The East African Sexual Health and Rights Initiative) asked the audience:</p> <blockquote><p>“Is the Yale graduate that will be employed by a funder in the Global North different from the Yale graduates that I employ in Kenya? Because they have the same kind of education...the same kind of thinking about what their brain is worth but somehow there is an assumption that African labour is cheaper.&nbsp; Maybe we want to go back to the historical truism that African labour should be free.”</p></blockquote> <p>The second challenge raised by many speakers was the need to reconceptualise the work of the international development sector from a frame of benevolence (with all the hierarchies it implies between ‘givers’ and receivers’) to one of solidarity that’s marked out by equality and <em>horizontal</em> relationships. One way to do this would be to re-frame foreign aid as reparations for the horrors of slavery and colonialism. In this frame the right to decide on what happens to money would stand squarely with those whose lives have been shaped by those horrors, whether in the past or the present.</p> <p>There are other ways to operationalise the principle of solidarity beyond reparations, but the general point is this: so long as we keep imagining ourselves and our work through a framework of benevolence towards distant others we will miss the need for transformation in ourselves, in the ways in which we live and the histories and realties we take for granted. International aid as it is right now exists because we created a deeply unfair and unjust world. Working for change in that world therefore means identifying and addressing injustice within us as much as without.&nbsp;</p> <p>That was the third theme of the conference: a constant tendency in the sector to externalise problems and solutions while failing to provide enough opportunities for self-critique and the self-care that must go with it to avoid burnout and alienation. <a href="https://www.devex.com/news/authors/angela-b-1378362">Angela Bruce Raeburn</a>, who previously worked for Oxfam in Haiti, put it like this:</p> <blockquote><p>“We don't lead with our authentic selves. We don't lead with the conversations about truth, about race.”</p></blockquote> <p>And as Lisa VeneKlasen Executive Director of <a href="https://justassociates.org/">JASS</a> added, nothing will change:</p> <blockquote><p>“unless you really change the culture and how we see ourselves. And that means changing who we are and being comfortable to be able to step into something that maybe we didn't know...[otherwise] we're not going to be able to contribute to major, major shifts. So it is really about changing who we are but from a place of much deeper politics.”</p></blockquote> <p>One of the reasons why deeper work of this kind is so rarely prioritised is the drive towards ‘value for money’ in the sector, a drive which emanates from the headquarters of aid agencies and funders rather than from the communities and people affected. “It’s as if you shouldn't be paying salaries—you should just be doing work” as Muguongo pointed out, an attitude that actually <em>devalues</em> people.</p> <p>It is hard to see how such inequitable frameworks consolidated by corporatised INGO and other aid agency structures can be fit for the purpose of transforming inequity in the world, but what should replace them? A plethora of ideas emerged from the conference, all of which seek to re-distribute power and centralise wellbeing and an ethic of care throughout our work.</p> <p>Speakers included representatives of two other funds which, like UHAI, have found ways to develop decision making processes in which those whose lives are affected by the resources they allocate can be involved in making decisions about how those resources are utilised. At <a href="https://youngfeministfund.org/">FRIDA (the Young Feminist Fund</a>) and the <a href="http://www.starsfoundation.org.uk/">Stars Foundation</a>, participatory grant making processes are accompanied by a focus on, and a willingness to fund, wellbeing and self-care for the activists and organisations they support: when people are involved in making decisions they are also being valued in and of themselves.</p> <p>Secondly, whilst <a href="https://www.devex.com/news/opinion-can-aid-organizations-really-be-part-of-social-movements-92738">INGOs are not social movements</a> and are by nature institutions that are not representative of the communities they serve, we should be willing to take more of our inspiration from their flexibility, responsiveness and commitment to challenging power rather than following in the footsteps of corporate brands and the planning processes, communications strategies and funder demands they impose. Muguongo put it like this;</p> <blockquote><p>“If philanthropy structured itself as a partner and came to the table from a place of humility, of ‘Hey, this is what I bring in the room, what do you bring in the room and how can we work together?’ I actually think that would resolve a whole load of problems.”</p></blockquote> <p>In short we need to lead in the <em>practice</em> of re-distributing power and wealth and not just the theory.&nbsp;Jennifer Lentfer, Director of Communications at <a href="https://www.how-matters.org/">Thousand Currents</a> and Founder of the <a href="https://www.how-matters.org/">How Matters Blog</a>, called on those of us working in the sector to acknowledge the lived histories of colonialism and patriarchy in our own lives and those of our ancestors:</p> <blockquote><p>“Working in Africa eventually necessitated...understanding the place where my people are from, and the genocide and removal and erasure of native Americans that created the ‘manifest destiny’ so that my great great great grandfather could own that land.”&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p>An awareness of our own stories and histories seems an essential first step in reforming our actions and seeking to be in solidarity with others in ways that actively re-distribute power and resources. “I don't know that in our lifetimes we can right that wrong,” Lentfer added, but “I do know that we can acknowledge that wrong.”</p> <p>True solidarity of this nature may not be able to operate within the large INGO structures which—as researcher and consultant <a href="https://www.linkedin.com/in/tina-wallace-9021939/">Tina Wallace</a> reminded us during the conference—only took on their current corporatised nature in the 1990s and 2000s.&nbsp;But none of these reforms require us to expend ourselves in service to some imagined other—only that we accept the concrete practice of solidarity rather than paternalism in everything we do. The message of the conference is that we can start to re-imagine our sector by paying due care and attention to ourselves and each other, and by developing a commitment to honest reflection about our own roles and histories.</p> <p>That requires that we put people and relationships first, and in doing so acknowledge that they have legitimate needs for rest, fun and happiness. Jessica Horn, <a href="http://www.stillsherises.com/">writer</a> and Director of Programmes at the <a href="http://awdf.org/">African Women’s Development Fund</a> spoke pointedly to the fact that in 17 years working in the sector she had seldom heard anyone speak about “African women's happiness;” instead we expect only ‘resilience’ and continual hard work, as well as placing the risks and responsibilities for fighting injustice on their shoulders. We have to do better.</p> <p>If we can be much more open about things we have struggled to talk about for so long, then we can begin to shift our practice towards one that prioritises actual justice rather than colonial benevolence, takes its lead from activists and communities rather than the corporate bodies that cause so much of the harm we are fighting, and places humility and self-development at the heart of all the work we do.</p> <p><em>Find out more about the conference and access recordings from it at <a href="http://healingsolidarity.org/" target="_blank">healingsolidarity.org</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/could-ngos-flourish-in-future-without-foreign-aid">Could NGOs flourish in a future without foreign aid?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/pablo-yanguas/foreign-aid-is-waste-of-money-unless-it-s-used-for-transformation">Foreign aid is a waste of money—unless it’s used for transformation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/david-sogge/inconvenient-truth-about-foreign-aid">The inconvenient truth about foreign aid</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation foreign aid NGOs Mary Ann Clements The role of money Activism Economics Tue, 25 Sep 2018 16:18:24 +0000 Mary Ann Clements 119791 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The politics of Latinx recognition https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ed-morales/politics-of-latinx-recognition <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A new fluid, multiracial and multicultural identity is emerging in American politics. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/ed-morales/latinx-el-reconocimiento-de-una-nueva-identidad-pol-tica">Español</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/EdMorales.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez canvasses in Sunnyside, Queens on June 26th, 2018. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Alexandria_Ocasio-Cortez#/media/File:Alexandria_Ocasio_Cortez_Primary_Election_Day_Photo_by_Corey_Torpie_02.jpg">Corey Torpie/Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/">CC BY-SA 4.0</a>.</p> <p>In March of this year, 18-year-old South Floridian <a href="https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/politics/a18715714/protesting-nra-gun-control-true-story/">Emma Gonzalez</a> announced that she was “Cuban and bisexual” in the midst of her battle for stronger gun controls following the <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/police-respond-shooting-parkland-florida-high-school-n848101">Valentine’s Day shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School</a>. A few months later, 28-year-old <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/07/23/alexandria-ocasio-cortezs-historic-win-and-the-future-of-the-democratic-party">Alexandria Ocasio Cortez</a> claimed a working-class, Puerto Rican identity during her successful challenge to the&nbsp;<a title="Democratic Caucus Chairman of the United States House of Representatives" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_Caucus_Chairman_of_the_United_States_House_of_Representatives">Democratic Caucus Chair</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Crowley">Joe Crowley</a>, clearing the way for her to represent the Bronx and Queens in the US Congress.</p> <p>These young women were asserting an intersectional identity that is easily recognized by many of their millennial generation peers but unfamiliar to many others: after years of debate within the Latino community they became emblematic of “Latinx,” a new identifying label that is rapidly taking hold among millennials, Latino activists and advocacy groups, and academics.</p> <p>In a political climate marred by the continuing ascendance of authoritarian, nativist politics embodied by the Trump presidency, Latinx may be able to create a wealth of political capital by embracing a fluid, multiracial and multicultural identity. And this might stimulate a more effective reaction to Trumpian rhetoric which uses the phrase “America First” as a code to further anti-immigrant scapegoating, reaching sordid new lows with the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/12/us/migrant-children-detention.html">separation and detention of over 12,000 immigrant children</a> from their families in 2018.</p> <p>The advent of the term Latinx is the most recent iteration of a naming debate that is grounded in the politics of race and ethnicity. For several decades the term ‘Latino’ was the progressive choice over the European-ethnic sounding ‘Hispanic,’ carrying with it the notion that Latin American migrants to the United States were not merely hyphenated Europeans but products of mixed-race societies and cultures.</p> <p>Still, as Latino became the preferred choice of those who wanted to identify as multiracial, gender politics quickly emerged in the politics of labeling. As racial identity began intersecting with gender and sexual preference, Latino became ‘Latino/a,’ then ‘Latina/o’ to move the ‘o’ out of its privileged position. After the universalization of digital communication it briefly became ‘Latin@.’</p> <p>In the last few years the term Latinx has become popular among members of the LGBTQ community who wanted to dispense with gender identifiers in language—as witness the now-ubiquitous millennial practice of posting pronouns to be used when referring to an individual like ‘she/her,’ ‘him/her’ and ‘they/them.’</p> <p>When many of us first see the word in print, Latinx can seem strange and unpronounceable, but after closer inspection it appears liberating and futurist. Just as identifying as Latino represented an attempt to defy America’s black/white racial binary, Latinx defies conventional gender conformity by defying the male/female gender binary. As far as I know, Latinx is the first attempt by a racial and/or ethnic group to make a statement about emerging issues of gender identification.</p> <p>When political figures like Ocasio Cortez, González, and other emerging candidates like <a href="https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/julia-salazar-new-york-722616/">Julia Salazar</a> openly tout their multiple identifications alongside progressive policies, they are representing a new form of intersectional politics (Salazar recently won her Democratic Primary for State Senator in New York and identifies as Colombian and Jewish, though not without controversy). Pioneered by African American feminist projects led by the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_Smith#Combahee_River_Collective">Cohambee River Collective</a> in the 1970s and coined by legal scholar<strong> </strong><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kimberl%C3%A9_Williams_Crenshaw">Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw</a> as well as the Chicana “border thinking” feminism of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gloria_E._Anzald%C3%BAa">Gloria Anzadúa</a> and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cherr%C3%ADe_Moraga">Cherrie Moraga</a>, intersectionalism seems like a fitting antidote to a political landscape in crisis over the conflict between neoliberalism and nativist authoritarianism.</p> <p>Even before the ascension of Trump, community organizers and street demonstrations were trying to promote a message that Black Lives Matter, the Women’s Movement and the Sanctuary Cities movement to protect the rights of the undocumented were intersecting causes that should be joined together. So it wasn’t that much of a surprise that the demonstrations that were held at JFK airport in early 2017 against Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban were organized by a coalition of Jewish and Muslim groups and featured a multiracial cross-section of New Yorkers.</p> <p>For Latin American descendants, multiracial identity is, to varying degrees, ‘cooked into’ their varying national cultures. <em>Raza, </em>the Spanish word for race, is often used to designate a collective identity that is itself a mixture of races. Prominent Mexican scholar <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jos%C3%A9_Vasconcelos">José Vasconcelos</a>’ essay <em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_raza_c%C3%B3smica">La Raza Cósmica</a> </em>tried to celebrate mixture as a path to transcendence beyond racism, but in many ways it only served to privilege European identity at the expense of indigenous culture.</p> <p>For many Latinx in the US, the harsh reality of the black-white racial binary they confront as immigrants is a wake-up call that in many cases reinforces their solidarity with their roots as marginalized people. This was manifested most clearly in the 1970s among Puerto Rican migrants in New York, whose embrace of African roots informed cultural and political movements, and in the West, where Mexican Americans came to identify as ‘Chicanos,’ a name derived from their indigenous ancestors in Mexico and the Southwestern USA.</p> <p>While dormant for much of the last 30 years, these new multicultural and intersectional forms of identity are gaining in prominence, and they represent a kind of synergy between people of color and white millennials whose dampened economic prospects have led them to embrace class politics. Much of Ocasio Cortez and Salazar’s support comes from neighborhoods in Queens with an increasing millennial demographic. The two women are both members of <a href="https://www.dsausa.org/">Democratic Socialists of America</a>, a group favored by politically-aware millennials which stresses class politics and socialist solutions to social problems.</p> <p>Yet the case of Latinx also argues against the supposed dichotomy between class-based politics and so-called identity politics. Much of the debate among progressives following the Trump election centered on whether Republicans were more successful in appealing to class-based politics through their critiques of free trade agreements and the loss of jobs overseas, as opposed to the Democrats’ perceived focus on identity politics rooted in Obama’s victory. Latinx and other marginalized groups are large constituencies that are affected by growing global inequality as much as, if not more than, the white working class.</p> <p>“Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office,” says Ocasio-Cortez in her <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/27/nyregion/alexandria-ocasio-cortez.html">now-famous campaign video</a> depicting her ties to working-class Bronx. “I wasn’t born to a wealthy or powerful family. I was born in a place where your zip code determines your destiny.” For <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/17/nyregion/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-outfit-designer-criticism.html">all of the critique</a> recently leveled at her for posing in an <em>Interview</em> magazine photo shoot wearing thousands of dollars of designer clothing, Ocasio-Cortez is practicing the politics of recognition. She is asking to be recognized, not only as a woman of color—the &nbsp;object of both racial and sexual discrimination—but also as part of the struggling 99 per cent: central to her platform is an increase in the minimum wage, universal health care, affordable housing, criminal justice reform, immigration reform, confronting climate change and campaign-finance reform.</p> <p>It's this politics of recognition that Francis Fukuyama attacks in his new book, <em><a href="https://us.macmillan.com/books/9780374129293">Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment</a>. </em>For Fukuyama, the claim to difference, whether it’s Black Lives Matter, gay marriage, Osama Bin Laden or Vladimir Putin, is the ultimate threat to the new liberal order established by the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989. For him, this form of identity politics is a kind of misplaced passion somewhere between desire and reason.</p> <p>Latinx does represent something in between, a way of thinking that moves in and around borders, but on that journey it retains memories and moments of everywhere it travels. It’s a politics of recognition that not only brings to light the unrepresented and the marginalized, but also sees many forms of marginalization existing in one person. For that reason, the new politics it represents, defined by mulitiracial and multicultural awareness and inclusive of gender difference, is not the end of history but a new beginning.</p> <p><em>Ed Morales’ new book is <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/2563-latinx">Latinx: The New Force in American Politics and Culture</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arts-Music/barretto_3302.jsp">Rice and beans with collard greens: the America of Ray Barretto, 1929-2006</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/oliver-ward/what-hope-for-millennial-generation-in-politics">What hope for the millennial generation in politics?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/where-are-all-leaders">Where are all the leaders?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Ed Morales Trans-partisan politics Activism Culture Intersectionality Sun, 23 Sep 2018 19:13:47 +0000 Ed Morales 119763 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Welcome to barbershop therapy https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/celeste-hamilton-dennis/welcome-to-barbershop-therapy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Barbers in the US South are training as first responders to assist men with their mental health concerns.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/CelesteDennis.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Lorenzo Lewis, founder of The Confess Project, holds a barbershop talk in Columbia, South Carolina. Photo by Santanna Hayes for YES! Magazine. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Amid the sound of television and hair clippers buzzing around him at Goodfellas Barbershop in Little Rock, Arkansas, Lorenzo Lewis was trying to get a man wearing a mask to talk about his emotional pain.</p> <p>Lewis asked the man how he was doing. “I’m good, I’m good,” he responded. Lewis said how he’d noticed he seemed on edge recently. Same response. Lewis kept asking questions until the man eventually took off his mask. “I’m hurting,” he said. “I’m just really going through something right now.” When asked if he was feeling suicidal, the man nodded.</p> <p>Lewis is founder of The Confess Project, a mental health initiative for boys and men of color. His demonstration was attempting to show barbers and their clients how men hold in their pain—and how to break through.</p> <p>Why do it in a barbershop?</p> <p>The barbershop in the Black community has historically been a safe, nonjudgmental space for men to talk about anything—sports, politics, religion, women, manhood. The 90-minute conversations about mental health, called Beyond the Shop, are an opportunity to deepen sharing that is already happening, Lewis says. The initiative is similar to New York City-based Barbershop Books and the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program in Inglewood, California, which focuses on hypertension prevention.</p> <p>Through an interactive format, Beyond the Shop aims not only to help Black boys and men confess their vulnerabilities and give them resources to begin a healthier way of living, but also to show barbers how they can be mental health advocates, too.</p> <p>“When you go to your barber, you’re trusting them with your prized possession—your hair,” says Goodfellas owner Matt Dillon. “So if you can trust and respect someone to do your hair, you can trust and respect them to help you with a problem.”</p> <p>For Black men, seeking help can be difficult, an effect of stigma that Beyond the Shop is hoping to erase.</p> <p>“At the barbershop, guys are already outspoken and opinionated, but we don’t tend to talk about self-care and the things that make sure we’re around for our kids and future generations,” says Sam Johnson, a Beyond the Shop participant in Louisville, Kentucky. “The biggest thing I took away was checking on my brothers. We’re so quick to say, ‘Man up,’ when I really should be asking more questions and letting him know that if he needs help, I’m here.”</p> <p>The numbers are telling: Black people&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2931265/">more frequently have post-traumatic stress disorder&nbsp;</a>than other ethnic groups. Yet Black men are&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db206.htm">less likely to get treatment&nbsp;</a>than the general population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Alliance on Mental Illness. There’s a lack of mental health awareness. Disproportionate access to health care. Increased exposure to violence. Distrust and misdiagnosis due to the lack of culturally competent care.</p> <p>Lewis’ approach with Beyond the Shop is modeling vulnerability through storytelling. He draws empathy from his own story.</p> <p>Born in jail to an incarcerated mother, Lewis struggled with depression, anxiety, and anger throughout his youth. At 17, involved with a gang, he turned it around. Reaching out for support from family and friends was key, as was professional help. “I was in bad relationships, and not able to get along with others. I had a horrible time getting girlfriends, and when I did, I didn’t know how to treat them right because I’d been through so much trauma,” he told the men in Goodfellas. “I started realizing, maybe I need some therapy.”</p> <p>Since starting The Confess Project in 2016, he’s facilitated mental health awareness sessions for thousands around the country—from national universities and organizations, including NAMI, to local health fairs and high schools. He draws from his experience of working in behavioral health facilities in Little Rock for over a decade, where he underwent training in suicide prevention and cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy.</p> <p>At Goodfellas, the men were apprehensive at first about Lewis interrupting their haircuts. They didn’t know what to think of him—or the strange mask the man was wearing, to illustrate how men hide their emotions.</p> <p>But the men in the shop did start talking. One man spoke about the pain of being separated from his children and the stress of child support. Another admitted how he turned to unhealthy outlets to cope with working menial jobs. Heads nodded. In the next chair over, a man talked about the anger and fear that come with being pulled over by police. A common thread was how society treats Black men.</p> <p>“Our mental illness is criminalized. You take a person not of color that goes in and shoots up a school and automatically the response is, ‘He’s mentally ill.’ When a person of color does anything remotely like that, not that we even do, he’s a thug,” says Dr. Karen Mathis, psychotherapist in Little Rock. “But I think we would rather be labeled a thug than mentally ill. Why? Because it’s a sign of weakness. And we don’t want to appear weak.”</p> <p>Mental illness in the U.S. carries a stigma. For the Black community, especially for men, Lewis says, that stigma is manifold and gets in the way of asking for help.</p> <p>At the end of Beyond the Shop, along with holistic ideas for self-care and information on suicide prevention, Lewis provides information on local support groups and culturally competent therapists. Black mental health professionals make up only 2.6 percent of the field, according to the American Psychological Association. And therapy can also be a financial barrier for many.</p> <p>That’s where barbers step in.</p> <p>Barbers learn how to help the men in their chairs—from recognizing that lack of eye contact might be a sign of depression to being comfortable asking someone if they’re suicidal (this can be&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/suicide-faq/suicideinamericafaq-508_149986.pdf">the best way to identify risk,&nbsp;</a>according to the National Institute of Mental Health). They can point to resources in the community.</p> <p>“I feel more able to help somebody,” says JJ Harness, owner of Broski Barbershop in Little Rock. “Now, once I see the hints they’re throwing out there that they need to talk, I’ll open the door up for discussion.”</p> <p>Increasingly, communities are starting to see the need to equip unlikely first responders to better recognize health concerns in the people they interact with on a daily basis. Librarians in Sacramento, California, for example, underwent “mental health first aid” training at the beginning of the year to be able to identify issues in the homeless people who come through their doors and point them to help. In&nbsp;<a href="http://dementiafriendlyduluth.org/">Duluth, Minnesota, a community-wide effort&nbsp;</a>trains everyone from neighbors to business owners to support people living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Baristas double as mental health aides in a new coffee shop in Chicago that’s openly committed to mental health awareness and suicide prevention.</p> <p>Since the initial pilot in Little Rock, Lewis has taken Beyond the Shop to five other barbershops in cities across the South: Louisville, Kentucky; Memphis, Tennessee; Columbia, South Carolina; Atlanta; and, most recently, New Orleans. Response to Beyond the Shop conversations overall has been positive. A survey of participants even showed 58 percent would be more prone to seek treatment if a therapist was located in the barbershop.</p> <p>In Louisville, a city that saw its&nbsp;<a href="http://wfpl.org/louisvilles-2017-homicide-count-ranks-among-highest-record/">highest ever homicide rates in the past two years</a>, 40 people, including the mayor, showed up at The Campus Barber Shop in January. Representatives from the Louisville Urban League and Metro United Way also came. Men openly shared their stories and offered each other advice.</p> <p>Shortly after the event, owner J. “Divine” Alexander went to a homeless shelter to volunteer his barber services. He met a man there who was without a job and feeling down. Alexander, who struggles with depression himself, has been more open with others since the talk. He gave the man a haircut and a beard trim and at the same time encouraged him to seek help. A few months later, the man came into his barbershop—employed and ready to become a regular.</p> <p>He credited Alexander for the turnaround. “He was like, ‘Yeah, man, it all started with a haircut and a conversation to do better.’”</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/mental-health/what-is-barbershop-therapy-20180823?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180824&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180824+CID_3e11412dfd3d4db3312c0612d55d6eca&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=What%20Is%20Barbershop%20Therapy">YES! Magazine</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/lydia-smith/what-happens-when-mental-health-professionals-also-get-sick">What happens when mental health professionals also get sick?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/penny-wangari-jones/how-to-decolonise-mental-health-services">How to decolonise mental health services</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/louisa-harvey/we-need-to-talk-about-stigma-within-mental-health-system">We need to talk about stigma within the mental health system</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Celeste Hamilton Dennis The politics of mental health Care Intersectionality Thu, 20 Sep 2018 16:13:57 +0000 Celeste Hamilton Dennis 119679 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What happens when mental health professionals also get sick? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/lydia-smith/what-happens-when-mental-health-professionals-also-get-sick <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="normal">It’s no wonder that almost half of all psychotherapists in the National Health Service say they feel depressed.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/LydiaSmith4.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/despair-alone-being-alone-archetype-513529/">Pixabay/Geralt</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p class="normal">Overwhelmed by soaring demand, mental health services are under growing pressure on both sides of the Atlantic. According to a <a href="https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/surviving-or-thriving-state-uks-mental-health">2017 Mental Health Foundation survey</a> two-thirds of British adults experience mental ill-health issues at some point in their lives. In England alone, <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/psychological-medicine/article/mental-health-and-wellbeing-trends-among-children-and-young-people-in-the-uk-19952014-analysis-of-repeated-crosssectional-national-health-surveys/AB71DE760C0027EDC5F5CF0AF507FD1B">such issues in young people have risen sixfold since 1995</a>. US figures paint a similar picture: <a href="https://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ps.201600260">a study published in Psychiatry Online in 2017</a> found that more than eight million Americans suffer from serious psychological distress.</p> <p class="normal">But this crisis isn’t just affecting the general public; an increasing number of mental health professionals are also struggling with their wellbeing. In a recent <a href="https://www.bps.org.uk/news-and-policy/new-savoy-survey-shows-increasing-mental-health-problems-nhs-psychotherapists">survey</a> undertaken by the New Savoy Partnership—a coalition of organisations that came together in 2007 to persuade government to recognise the value of providing psychological therapies free of charge—almost half of 1,227 NHS psychotherapists said that they had felt depressed in the last week “some, most or all of the time,” up from 40 per cent in 2014.</p> <p class="normal">In already highly-pressured environments like the NHS, increasing demands on staff, tight time limits and the prominence of targets mean that many nurses and specialists are suffering from the same mental health problems they are treating in their patients. This isn’t just a problem for professionals who lack access to the appropriate support; keeping staff healthy is also crucial for patients, communities and our collective wellbeing.</p> <p class="normal">“High caseloads, lots of clients back to back—the work of a therapist is tough emotionally and takes a lot of energy out of you,” counsellor and psychotherapist Katerina Georgiou told me in a recent interview. “It’s also a very responsible role—you’ve got vulnerable people placing their trust in you, and that’s a responsibility you can’t take lightly. You need to care about people and fully attend to them. You’re switched on throughout a session. If you’ve then got five or six sessions back to back, that’s a lot of time switched on,” adding that burnout can be common.</p> <p class="normal">At a time when the demand for mental health services is rising, funding cuts and austerity measures have caused essential resources to dwindle, staff workloads to mount, pay stagnate and morale crumble. According to <a href="https://www.centreformentalhealth.org.uk/parity-of-esteem">The Centre for Mental Health</a>, mental illness accounts for 28 per cent of the overall disease burden of the NHS but receives just 13 per cent of total funding.&nbsp; Between 2009 and 2017, the King’s Fund think tank reported a <a href="https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/funding-staffing-mental-health-providers">13 per cent drop in full-time NHS mental health nurses</a>.</p> <p class="normal">“Mental health professionals will feel the cuts in the sense of noticing increased caseloads, perhaps not having much time in between clients, not as much time to write up notes, and the demand for outcomes increased,” Georgiou says. “The breathing space decreases, which can increase stress, maybe even build resentment. And the thing is, you can’t let that stress and resentment get in the way of your work.”</p> <p class="normal">Health staff are being asked to see huge numbers of patients for shorter periods of time, and their managers are under pressure to prioritise targets—like treating minimum numbers of clients—over their wellbeing. As a result, sickness rates among staff have become a common concern, with stress and anxiety-issues <a href="https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/funding-staffing-mental-health-providers">one of the most frequently stated causes of absence among mental health </a><a href="https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/funding-staffing-mental-health-providers">nurses</a>.</p> <p class="normal">“Working in an under-resourced, under-pressure NHS leaves doctors struggling to provide the high-quality care patients deserve,” <a href="https://www.bma.org.uk/">British Medical Association</a> Consultants’ Committee mental health lead Dr Andrew Molodynski told me. “This leads to doctors burning out and becoming unwell, and patients suffer further.”</p> <p class="normal">Louise Watson, a UK-based clinical psychologist, adds that professionals working privately may also face “internal pressures,” perhaps seeing more clients in a day than may be healthy because of the intense nature of the job. Moreover, mental health professionals may struggle to come forward for help, or simply soldier on and mask their problems. “I think another internal pressure is that perhaps mental health professionals feel a level of demand that they shouldn’t be struggling with mental health issues themselves,” Watson told me.</p> <p class="normal">“Most people who are in the profession are there because there is something in their personality or background that means they are comfortable in that role of helping other people, so to be on the other side of the fence is difficult. They may put off going for help longer than they should because of that.”</p> <p class="normal">Making sure that everyone who needs help is able to access it is essential, not least because the number of people in need of specialist care is growing, and staffing levels are already in crisis. “It speaks for itself that if mental health professionals are off work with stress, or aren’t functioning to their full capacity because they are under too much pressure, then there won’t be anybody to look after anybody,” Watson says. “It’s a bit like on an airplane and the oxygen masks drop down, you need to fit your own oxygen mask first before you help others.”</p> <p class="normal">Mental health services in the US are also under threat. Earlier this year, President <a href="https://www.apnews.com/4db5c3de76d6440fbe35485af6cc0678/Budget-undercuts-Trump-focus-on-mental-health,-school-safety">&nbsp;Trump’s budget proposed slashing Medicaid, the major source of public funds for mental health treatment</a> which serves more than 70 million low-income and disabled people. America is also facing an acute shortage of mental health professionals in rural areas, with 65 per cent of non-metropolitan counties lacking a psychiatrist and nearly half without a psychologist according to a recent study in the <a href="https://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(18)30005-9/fulltext">American Journal of Preventive Medicine</a>.</p> <p class="normal">It’s no surprise that a shortage of staff and other resources have had a direct impact on access to services, including longer waits for people in dire need of help, which can lead to an <a href="https://www.bma.org.uk/news/2018/february/the-devastating-cost-of-treatment-delays">increased risk of self-harm and suicide.</a> In 2018, the US <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6722a1.htm?s_cid=mm6722a1_w">Centers for Disease Control</a> found that suicide rates have risen by 30 per cent in America since 1999. An increasing number of teenagers in England and Wales are also dying by suicide, <a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/suicidesintheunitedkingdom/2017registrations">with 177 suicides among 15- to 19-year-olds in 2017</a> compared to 110 in 2010.</p> <p class="normal">“There would be an argument to say that we ought to be prioritising making sure people who are helping others are healthy,” Watson told me. “If we don’t, there won’t be any mental health care. And that will have knock on effects on society like having large numbers of people off work with stress.”</p> <p class="normal">It’s not just public health that suffers if we fail to support mental health staff but the whole of society and the economy. The UK government’s <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/thriving-at-work-a-review-of-mental-health-and-employers">Thriving at Work review</a> published in 2017 concluded that poor mental health costs the economy up to £99 billion a year. Of this amount, employers lose up to £42 billion through staff turnover, sick leave and ‘presenteeism’—working while sick, which causes losses in productivity.</p> <p class="normal">Importantly though, if a mental health professional is experiencing a problem and seeks help, this can be a positive thing for care all-round. “It increases your ability to empathise with your own clients if you have been through a similar situation, and gives you first-hand experience of seeing what you thought was helpful,” Watson explained. “If you work in mental health and you suffer with an issue yourself, maybe it ought to be seen as a helpful experience in terms of improving our own practice.”</p> <p class="normal">It also breaks down the ‘them and us’ feeling that is common in the health system, Watson adds. “The client may see the psychologist as a doctor who is there to fix them, but what I think can be helpful in a therapeutic relationship is to feel a rapport—that we are both human beings. It is about working together to find an answer.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/lydia-smith/why-mental-health-is-hidden-cost-of-housing-crisis">Why mental health is the hidden cost of the housing crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/lydia-smith/why-we-should-all-be-concerned-about-musicians-mental-health">Why we should all be concerned about musicians’ mental health</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar/mental-health-why-were-all-sick-under-neoliberalism">Mental health: why we&#039;re all sick under neoliberalism </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation ourNHS Transformation Lydia Smith The politics of mental health Care Tue, 18 Sep 2018 19:09:08 +0000 Lydia Smith 119690 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What should we teach our children about religion? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/philip-wood/what-should-we-teach-our-children-about-religion <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Learning about different worldviews is a critical component of education for democracy.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/philipwood.png" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wikipedia_Wordle_-_Religion.png">Wikimedia Commons/RichardF</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/">CC BY 3.0</a>.</p> <p>Last week saw the publication of the ‘Way Forward,’ the final <a href="https://www.commissiononre.org.uk/">report of the UK Commission for Religious Education</a> (RE). The report was published in response to the increasing diversity of religious attitudes in Britain and concerns about the quality of RE teaching in British schools. As <a href="https://schoolsweek.co.uk/make-schools-teach-new-religion-and-worldview-subject-says-commission/">one commentator</a> put it in a recent issue of Schools Week, religious education has become a subject that is “withering on the vine.”</p> <p>At a time when the links between religion and politics are increasingly controversial one might ask, ‘so what?’ For many people religion carries associations of intolerance or extremism, and the school subject of RE has been seen as divisive and perhaps even anachronistic—the strange descendant of 1950s religious instruction and the state’s subsequent interest in community cohesion. However, there is much in this report that is fresh and challenging, especially its key recommendation that the curriculum be broadened to teach religions as one example of a range of different worldviews alongside non-religious frames such as atheism, agnosticism and humanism. </p> <p>The report defines a ‘worldview’ as a way of experiencing and responding to the world that is rooted in different beliefs, values and identities. In part this recognizes the increasing numbers of young people who identify as non-religious (what the academic literature refers to as ‘nots’), but it also stresses the importance of lived experience, context and choice in terms of how a commitment to a particular worldview is expressed.<br /> <br /> Changes to long-established subjects in schools almost inevitably attract controversy. The <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2018/09/08/religious-education-should-re-branded-religion-andworldviews/">Catholic Education Service</a> has expressed concern that religious education is “in danger of losing all its value and integrity.” But I think there is much to be gained from broadening RE to include a much wider set of worldviews and adopting the Commission’s recommendation of an approach that is “nuanced and multi-disciplinary.”<br /> <br /> That said, the range of potential worldviews that are taught needs to be even broader than the Commission suggests. Their report gives examples such as agnosticism and atheism. The key feature of these positions is their attitude to theism, so if we take them as emblematic of non-religious worldviews then implicitly, the key shared feature of religions is their belief in God(s). In practice however, religions do much more than make a statement about the existence and nature of God, and&nbsp;non-religious worldviews are about much more than their atheism or agnosticism.<br /> <br /> In a landmark <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1469-8676.1997.tb00375.x">article</a> published in the 1990s, the anthropologist David Gellner argued that ‘religions’ might concern themselves with a number of different spheres including legitimising the behavior of households (especially with regard to marriage choices and gender roles); sanctifying particular places or even whole nations (as in a ‘chosen people’); providing rites of passage for a life cycle such as baptism, confirmation and last rites; and providing moral codes, psychological reassurance and a ‘soteriology’ (an account of what occurs after death).<br /> <br /> Not all religions attempt to fill all of these functions, and those that do aren’t always successful in doing so. Gellner suggests that because many anthropologists have come from backgrounds in Abrahamic religions they do assume that a religion will cover them all, but he finds examples in Nepal and Japan where Buddhism coexists with other religious systems such as Hinduism and Shintoism. In these examples, different religions, each of which is internally coherent, takes on discrete functions for the same communities and individuals.<br /> <br /> Gellner’s argument has several important consequences for how we think about religion in a contemporary context, especially this one: the presumption that religions need to be exclusive emerges as an Abrahamic peculiarity. One can practice Shintoism and Buddhism or Daoism and Confucianism, but his schema also highlights the possibility of being, for example, a Jewish atheist—someone for whom the soteriology of Judaism has no attraction but who continues to participate in Jewish rites of passage.<br /> <br /> The Commission’s report briefly acknowledges that individuals may hold multiple worldviews, and Gellner’s schema gives us a way of describing how this might work in practice. Of course, mixing and matching between worldviews may be disapproved of by the state or by religious authorities, who may seek to align the different aspects of a person’s life to produce a totalizing frame in which all of a person’s actions can be seen as ‘Islamic’ or ‘Jewish.’ But this kind of policing isn’t inevitable or natural (or necessarily desirable). This is an empowering insight: once students begin to think of totalizing worldviews as just one possibility among many they can begin to assess whether they are good or bad and whether or how they wish to commit themselves to one or another.<br /> <br /> The Commission also highlights the failure of RE teaching to engage effectively with Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism. This inability is not just about the ‘alien’ content of these religions, but also about religions that occupy different functions and therefore challenge the Abrahamic presumption about what religion is. This is a crucial point.<br /> <br /> Non-religious worldviews can be about much more than a position on theism. The Commission does include humanism as a worldview, but I also have in mind the inclusion of political philosophies such as anarchism, fascism and communism. I do not, of course, envisage teachers advocating for any of these positions; teachers should not publicly recommend any of the worldviews they teach about. But including these political philosophies in a worldviews curriculum makes the point that the purpose of enquiry is to understand different perspectives and assess how worldviews are produced by different experiences, irrespective of whether we agree with the positions that are reached.<br /> <br /> The inclusion of political philosophies as worldviews would encourage students to think about the material requirements of transforming a philosophy, which gives moral rules to an individual, into a social group, one with common rules and a hierarchy. The Commission makes a distinction between institutionalized worldviews and those without an institutional foundation. I think this is important, but we need to develop this idea by asking how institutions maintain their members (for example through attraction and coercion), and who benefits from these institutional structures. In other words, we can ask some of the same questions of worldviews that we ask of states. RE has not traditionally investigated how religious groups are maintained over time (by controlling marriage, for instance) or how they influence politics, but these are central issues that need to be discussed.<br /> <br /> To presume that religion ‘naturally’ has no place in public life is to imagine that the belief in internalized private religion that is seen in some forms of Protestant Christianity is universal for all religions. But many versions of Christianity and Islam, for example, presume a much closer connection between religious doctrine and the state. If we were to consider political philosophies and religious traditions alongside one another as worldviews then this might stimulate students’ questions over where the boundaries of politics and religion actually lie in theory and in practice, and where political philosophies and religions appear to address the same kinds of problems.<br /> <br /> These observations illustrate the difficulties of defining the term ‘religion’ and generalizing from the assumptions we make about it that stem from Protestant Christian experience. The report comments on the absence of a disciplinary training for teachers of religious education, and one side-effect of this has been that British RE has been strangely divorced from developments in the academic study of religion at universities. This scholarship, which has been especially strong in Scandinavia and parts of the US, has long problematized the term ‘religion’ and interrogated the assumptions that it may invoke of discrete, institutionalized worldviews based around a scripture. Instead, it asks a broader and more challenging question: what do we gain or lose from characterizing a worldview as a religion?<br /> <br /> We should bear these caveats in mind when we design curricula for schools. But we can also treat these higher-order questions as an end in themselves for teaching: these are not just questions that curriculum designers need to ask, but fundamental questions for students and all others in society: why should we use the term religion in any given situation; who gets to define the term and who benefits from this definition; and is it right for this to be so? </p> <p>Public discussion of religion can often be reduced to binary divisions between people who label themselves as pro- or anti-. But even for the same individuals, ‘religion’ means quite different things in different contexts. If the first instinct of young people is to challenge the question—to ask ‘what do you mean by religion and why?’—we will have come a long way in promoting a healthier debate about this contentious subject.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/gregory-leffel/is-christianity-finished-as-source-of-inspiration-for-progressive-soci">Is Christianity finished as a source of inspiration for progressive social change?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/chris-shannahan/love-and-hunger-in-breadline-britain">Love and hunger in breadline Britain </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/rachel-mann/did-great-war-leave-god-hanging-on-old-barbed-wire">Did the Great War leave God “hanging on the old barbed wire”?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation religion and social transformation Philip Wood Love and Spirituality Culture Sun, 16 Sep 2018 20:43:35 +0000 Philip Wood 119678 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Bringing love, compassion and humanity back into healthcare https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/nathan-scolaro-and-rachel-callander/bringing-love-compassion-and-humanity-back-into-h <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Disability isn’t a deficit within a person, it’s a deficit in a culture that doesn’t accept or enable a person for who they are.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/NathanScolaro1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Scattering Evie’s ashes. Photo: <a href="https://www.dumbofeather.com/people/stephen-maddigan/">Nathan Maddigan</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p><strong>Nathan Scolaro (NS): </strong><strong>So let’s talk about the work you’re doing now and then journey back through your story.</strong></p> <p>Rachel Callander (RC): Okay cool. My work involves&nbsp;speaking to health professionals about the need to communicate with patients using openhearted language, especially at diagnosis.&nbsp;I teach how the first words used at diagnosis critically shape how a patient or parent or family member perceives the present and navigates their future. These words can either help the individual be their best self through this challenging time and find meaning even in pain, or they can create anger, mistrust, frustration, and break down the crucial relationship between with the health professional.&nbsp;So essentially it’s a conversation about empowerment, and how language can elevate those critical exchanges for the patient and for the health professional.&nbsp;And&nbsp;I’m not a health professional at all, I should say. I studied fine arts and have a photography background. I was a wedding and portrait photographer for 10 years in New Zealand. My first major experience with the healthcare system and with disability was in 2008, when my daughter Evie was born. She had a very rare chromosome condition,&nbsp;and what I noticed after she was born was that the language I was using about her and the language that the doctors were using was very different.</p> <p>And I liked my language better [laughs]. Because it highlighted ability and it highlighted humanity—whereas theirs was very negative, deficit language. And it took all of her ability and potential away. The healthcare professionals would use these cold, horrible phrases—like she was “incompatible with life.” I’d just given birth and was an emotional mess coming to terms with what they were saying and then they would use words like “mental retardation,” “abnormal,” “dimorphic,” which just seemed to exasperate everything. None of their words made sense. Their words didn’t sound like they were describing a human being.</p> <p><strong>And you’re not in a position to challenge them either—when you’re already vulnerable.</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Yeah, I felt very small a lot of the time. And I just expected that was normal, that they are the heroes. I remember one of the first pediatricians we met was trying to explain chromosomes to me. We had been living in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for two weeks and Evie had undergone so many tests, and he was trying to explain the long and short arms of the chromosome, the nature of splitting and how it all works. I was sleep deprived, recovering from a caesarean and emotionally exhausted, and I thought he was telling me that Evie had short arms. I was really confused because her arms were perfect! They were a perfectly long length! I thought,&nbsp;<em>Why, on top of everything else that was going on in her fragile little body, were they so focused on her arms anyway?</em>&nbsp;Surely her arms were the least of our concerns! Then he used a library book metaphor to explain how Evie’s condition actually came from my own chromosomal translocation, which was more new information to me. All of a sudden I was thinking about library books, short arms and the mysterious behaviour of chromosomes, and I had no idea how to make sense of it all. The pediatrician’s manner was really brusque and impersonal too and I decided then and there that I did not like this man at all. Which meant nothing he said after that landed. I heard nothing. I couldn’t even remember what Evie’s new diagnosis was called—let alone how to spell it. I was so confused, and didn’t know what questions to ask. Then after a while I thought,&nbsp;<em>I don’t think this is how it has to be.</em></p> <p><strong>So tell me what you saw when you looked at Evie. Who was the little human you saw staring back? &nbsp;&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Evie was the embodiment of her name. Her full name is Evie Amore, and to us that means “life is possible because of love.”&nbsp;Evie showed us a completely different kind of love. Hers was a love without words. When I walked in to see her each morning, she’d see me and flap her arms and legs about in complete happiness. She giggled all the time. And she was mischievous. We would have friends around in the lounge room and she would slide down her bed, do a little back flip belly flop onto the floor, scoot along the hallway and pop out around the corner!</p> <p><strong>Ah! So cute!</strong></p> <p>Her love was freedom, pain, growth and wonder, all packaged up in a tiny fragile body.</p> <p><strong>So what was it like learning that Evie had this condition?</strong></p> <p>It wasn’t a big thing for me at all. To be honest it was kind of liberating.</p> <p><strong>Yeah?</strong></p> <p>This is a funny thing. I was really nervous about being a mum. I just thought,&nbsp;<em>I don’t think I’m made for this</em>.&nbsp;I love freedom and creativity and I felt that the way I wanted to parent was not really compatible with the systems of the world—education systems, career paths, life paths. And accidentally I fell pregnant and it took a while to get to the point where I was feeling okay about being a mother. Then Evie was born with all of these unique things about her and I just had this sense of overwhelming relief as well as the fear and the heartbreak of potentially losing her and her not surviving. But I had a sense of,&nbsp;<em>Oh my gosh, we can live our life however we want.&nbsp;</em>Like, there were no rules. &nbsp;The doctors couldn’t give us all the answers because Evie’s condition was so rare, so the relief came from her being unique I guess. We could do the parenting thing our own way. I love the fact that she was a complete anomaly, and we would be part of her unique journey—with her own set of rules and way of doing things. The layers of pressure and expectations just fell away. There was so much freedom.</p> <p><strong>So interesting. It’s similar to how I felt when I came out as gay. It was this massive feeling of liberation because I didn’t have to get married by this age, own a house by that age, do life the way society tells you. I could write my own story. Like, no one has written the rulebook for how to be a gay man.</strong></p> <p>Yeah! That’s exactly how I felt as a mum with Evie.&nbsp;Growing up I had some health issues that made me think I could never have children. And at 13 I lost my granddad who was my biggest hero. That had a huge impact on me. All my work at art school was created from a space of finding meaning in suffering and seeing beauty in brokenness, so when Evie was born I had this sense of, “Of course it’s her! Of course she would be the baby!”&nbsp;It felt like my whole life I’d been preparing for this devastating moment, and in that moment I felt complete happiness and freedom.&nbsp;So while it was a shock and it was hard and there was all this pain because the doctors didn’t know what was going to happen, I loved her. And there was a beautiful tension in being so happy and so fearful of losing her. And she taught me so much about being a mother. She showed me parts of myself that only came out because of her.&nbsp;She taught me that motherhood is about being constantly broken and put back together a little bit stronger and braver, a more whole human.</p> <p><strong>And she lived to be two and a half?</strong></p> <p>She did. And over that time it was a rollercoaster of highs and lows, ambulance trips and learning so much from her. She never learnt how to eat food so she had this special formula and it made her breath smell like vanilla. I loved that [laughs]. She had so many amazing things about her and the way that she interacted with the world was just so beautiful. I started saying that she had superpowers because I believe she had electromagnetic sensitivity. When we drove under electrical pylons or went through electric sliding doors she’d cry every time. It was like a switch. So I imagined her as baby Magneto off X-Men! She was a person with disability and the world would see her as something less-than, but to me it just elevated her into something really incredible.</p> <p><strong>You saw her for everything she was.</strong></p> <p>Yeah, and you know, it was just exhausting always answering the “what’s wrong with her” questions. I didn’t want to focus on the list of medical conditions. So with this new language I started saying, “Actually, she has superpowers.” And then they’d look at me funny and ask what I meant, and then I would tell them all the amazing things about her. Then in that moment they’d really get to know her, and she became a human to them rather than a collection of failing body parts. And after that they had a different view of disability as well. Because&nbsp;disability isn’t a deficit within a person, it’s a deficit in a culture that doesn’t accept or enable a person for who they are.</p> <p>Evie had such magnetism as a tiny human. I could see how she would draw people in, how her fragility and pure joy disarmed people and softened them, and encouraged them to see beyond her disability. She helped bring perspective and healing to people in very meaningful ways. And I had the sense that this was how she was choosing to do life. That she wasn’t limited in her body. It just made her innovative [laughs]. Her limitations were actually her greatest strength because she was so determined to do the things that she wanted to do. She scooted on her back instead of walking. She communicated with us just with the tone of her voice and a little sound “ooh.” I could feel what she was thinking or feeling and I knew she understood me. And she had this wicked giggle when we’d make her laugh and it was just so much fun. It was such an honour being her mum.</p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/NathanScolaro2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Evie Callander. Photo by <a href="https://www.dumbofeather.com/people/stephen-maddigan/">Nathan Maddigan</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p><strong>And so how has your life changed through all of this?</strong></p> <p>Oh man. It’s made me braver and stronger. It’s helped me to see a bigger version of humanity, and to see that chasing perfection is such a damaging lie. I’ve become more accepting of people, less afraid of them—especially those who are different to me. And I was just really proud of the mum that Evie allowed me to be. I was stronger than I thought. I called the ambulance so many times I lost count. We nearly lost her so many times and through it all I remained clear and calm. I stepped up and coped in extremely difficult situations. So even though it was hard and there were challenges, at the same time there was a lot of growth. I became innovative too. I found ways to communicate with her and play with her and advocate and fight for her.</p> <p>I think also my heart was working overtime too. Through everything with Evie my marriage was suffering. All the love my husband and I had we directed to Evie and through Evie. She was our connecting point. It was a painful love. Every day I’d wake up and rush to her room, “Is she alive? Is she alive?” And just constantly holding that in tension, I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s like being so vulnerable and open all at the same time. It hurts! Like even when you’re in love, you know, you love so much it hurts. It’s that same feeling.&nbsp;I think to be openhearted has more sharp edges than we think. It’s not fluffy.</p> <p><strong>It’s painful as you say. Although maybe pain is what helps us love more fully. If we actually acknowledge that this love could be lost maybe that’s just a deepening.</strong></p> <p>I think so. And I think as a parent holding the knowledge that every day could be the last made love even more critical. I was really in the present. And after Evie died it took me ages, like years, to be able to think about and plan for the future. I’d almost forgotten that way of thinking. I’d been so in the moment with her. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>So how was that period of losing Evie, and that grieving process for you?</strong></p> <p>On the night Evie died she had gone to stay with Mum. They got on so well—Evie and my mum. She was fantastic. She knew all about Evie’s medical stuff and how to do all of her treatments. And I was with a friend for her birthday, and Sam was two hours away in Timaru. We were struggling with our own relationship and needed space from each other. It was all really hard. The next morning Sam called me and I said, “How are you?” I can remember this clearly. And he said, “I’m bad.” I said, “What’s happened?” He said, “Evie’s dead.” Just out of nowhere. Evie was in Christchurch and I was in Dunedin and Sam was in Timaru and our physical and emotional separation was so apparent. And my poor Mum. She found Evie in the morning and thought she must have suffocated somehow. She thought it was her fault. But when I saw Evie she looked so peaceful. As if she had chosen her time. I don’t know what happened to her, we didn’t want an autopsy.</p> <p>But you asked about grief. I feel like there’s a language of grief that people don’t understand. No one knows what to say. When Evie was still alive—this is a story I have to tell—when she was alive, Sam and I went to a Coldplay concert and they played the song “Yellow.” It was one of the last songs and there were these giant yellow balls falling from the roof. It was so great! And I was just a mess. I turned to Sam and tears were streaming down his face and I said, “Why are you crying?” He said, “Why are you crying?” [Laughs]. I said, “It reminds me of Evie!” And he said, “Me too.” I think it was just that line, you know, “You’re skin and bone turned into something beautiful.” And she was so skinny. She had an extra pair of ribs and she was so long and… and so tiny and long and skinny and bony and she had these little stick legs! And I used to put her in stripy tights… she was so sweet. And I remember thinking this was her song. And then when it came to her funeral I didn’t know what to wear. Nothing felt right. I wanted just to wear comfy clothes because I didn’t… nothing felt good. And then I said, “I want to wear something yellow.” And so my friend went out and bought me some yellow things. And we played “Yellow.” And every day since then I’ve worn something yellow. For the last seven years now. It has become a way for people to connect with my experience—because they knew this about me. They could enter into my world of grief by sharing something yellow. They would say, “Rach, I was walking and I found a little yellow flower and I picked it for you and Evie.”</p> <p><strong>What a beautiful open gesture.</strong></p> <p>It was magical. And people would leave me yellow jellybeans on my desk sometimes. And there’s a friend who gave me daffodils every spring because he has a farm full of them. It’s become this language that has allowed so many people to express their love and sense of loss of Evie as well.</p> <p><strong>Because words can be hard.</strong></p> <p>Because they don’t know what to say, and they don’t want to say the wrong thing, but they want to express care.</p> <p><strong>And how was that time after her death for you?</strong></p> <p>It was shit. I went through a dark hideous phase of not wanting to live. Just that enormous absence of love. I didn’t know how I would ever be okay.</p> <p><strong>Who was your support? What was getting you through?</strong></p> <p>Well I was writing in a journal a lot, and listening to a lot of Mumford and Sons. Their songs speak about love and loss in a way that just went right to my core. The experiences they sing about resonate so strongly and I found comfort in the lyrics. And I was talking to my friends and Sam. But at the same time Sam and I found it so hard to talk to each other because it was too painful. I’d look at him and I could see his pain and I couldn’t hold mine and watch his. So it wasn’t until about six years after Evie died that I finally felt the grieving process had come to a place of peace. That’s when Sam and I took Evie’s ashes to a very special place to us, Lake Pukaki under Aoraki, which is a mountain in New Zealand. And&nbsp;we scattered her ashes, and she became stardust and galaxies, she became part of the water and the sky all at once.</p> <p>And in letting her go I actually felt joy. I didn’t know what I’d feel, and thought that I’d be afraid to let her go fully. But there was just so much peace and overwhelming gratitude to her for teaching us so much and for being part of our lives.</p> <p><strong>It’s such a profound story of learning and love between a parent and a child. Really a reminder of just how much young people have to teach us as adults about how to live fully. And so tell me how the Super Power Baby Project came about—because that’s been huge for you.</strong></p> <p>Yeah, so one day while Evie was still alive I had this idea to travel around New Zealand and meet other children with chromosomal and genetic conditions and photograph them beautifully and discover what their unique superpowers were. I just thought,&nbsp;<em>If I felt so much joy in being Evie’s mum and in discovering her abilities, maybe there were other parents out there who felt the same way but didn’t know how to communicate those feelings.</em>&nbsp;Three years after she died, we started making this book. I’d never made a book before in my life but Sam and I were a great team and we worked it all out and did it really well. And I think in doing this project, that’s when my real grief healing process began—meeting the families, sitting in their lounges talking with them, and just being part of that world again, it connected me to that way of parenting. It just threw me straight back into that world again, and just the way that I was able to communicate with their kids, it was exactly how I used to communicate with Evie. It felt so natural.</p> <p><strong>Tell me more about this way of communicating.</strong></p> <p>This way of communicating is really about intention. You don’t use words, because you can’t, you use your thoughts and you send love to the other person. And they feel it through your body, your facial expressions, sound, touch. It’s amazing!&nbsp;After Evie died, people with children were wary around me because they thought their children would make me miss Evie. But it wasn’t the case because the experience I had with Evie was completely different to theirs. Other children just fascinated me because Evie was so different to them. But when I met the families with children like Evie, that was when I missed her—because I understood the parents, I knew the depth of their challenges and the joys of their triumphs. I spoke their language.</p> <p><strong>And that’s actually a big part of the work you’re doing now, sharing this language. I loved hearing about this form you created for the healthcare practitioners to highlight the potential in babies with medical conditions.</strong></p> <p>Oh yeah, Evie’s Awesomeness form! That’s been really cool actually. So at one point we were asked to fill out a “needs assessment form” by some of Evie’s specialists. This form is actually positive—it asks questions about a child’s abilities to gauge the level of support a family requires. And at the time, being exhausted and so used to medical stuff surrounding us, this form actually broke me. I couldn’t tick a single answer to the questions they were asking about our child. So I had this feeling that when the people at the other end read this form, they would think from the answers I gave that Evie was a child who couldn’t do anything and that she had no value. And while this might mean we would get a bit more medical or even financial support, it wasn’t the most important thing to us. I wanted the people at the other end to know about Evie’s abilities. I wanted to be asked about the things she could do. And I had become so exhausted by all the could-nots that I decided to make up my own form to go alongside the official one, with better questions. And I loved answering my own questions, because I could see how far Evie had come and how she was growing and developing in her own excellent style. So I guess looking back now, the motivation for making this form came from a place of wanting a better way of getting the information on how we might need some support. I wanted to share the humanity of my child. I talked to my OT and speech therapist, they were beautiful ladies, and I said, “I’ve made my own form, is that okay?” And they said “yes!” [Laughs]. And I said, “Can you send this one in with the official one too? I don’t even care if no one reads it but I will get the sense that I’ve done something good!” And they did! So it’s called “Evie’s Awesomeness” with my questions on it with big yeses to every single question. And some of the questions are just super random—“Does she like it when soft objects fall on or near her face?” [Laughs]. Because she loved it! She loved it! [Laughs]. And every time I talk to health professionals now, I share the Evie’s Awesomeness form. It’s such a simple idea that clinicians are drawing inspiration from.</p> <p>I’m suggesting that health professionals add a paragraph about things that a child does that brings their family joy. “What does your child love?” or “What have you enjoyed about your child this week?” Then these beautiful things become part of the child’s official medical report.&nbsp;Actually, some health professionals are calling this section “the Awesomeness Report.” Which is so cool! And both parents and professionals are seeing great progress when this attitude of ability and humanity is adopted.</p> <p><strong>Amazing. It’s so amazing! And so I’d also really love to hear about some of the kindness you did experience in the healthcare system, I imagine you did amongst the difficult ones—how did that affect your experience?</strong></p> <p>Yeah, I remember we were in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in Starship Hospital in Auckland and we met this beautiful doctor, Lindy. She had such an impact on me. She got Evie stable and then spent half an hour on the computer making her a pretty bedside poster with her name and a picture of a fairy on it. To make her bed less scary.</p> <p><strong>Oh how gorgeous!</strong></p> <p>Little moments like that are magical and completely unexpected and just something that changed my whole perception of what healthcare could be. And I still have that piece of paper now.&nbsp;It means so much to me, she was so particular about it. And she didn’t rush it—she wanted it to be perfect. It was like this little poster was just as important as everything else she was doing for Evie.</p> <p>So I guess to circle back to where we started, in response to all my experiences with Evie in the healthcare system, I’ve been thinking about the impact of language and communication quite seriously. And I’m part of the Thought Leadership Business School here in Australia which is helping me develop my ideas around how communication style can destroy or build the relationship between a health professional and a parent or patient. I developed a language matrix that came from me thinking deeply about where language fits. And my favourite health professionals were the ones like Lindy that communicated in an openhearted way. They were warm and positive, they spoke to me in a way that made me feel important and that the things I knew about Evie were really valuable too. And their approach was not only best for me and best for Evie, it was also best for them as health professionals because I wasn’t relying so much on them. You know, they taught me new skills so I could do more for Evie at home. There was respect and trust and I was empowered as a mother.</p> <p>I think the relationships between medical staff and parent or patient are often being severed by thoughtless words, and that’s such a tragedy because the knowledge of the professional isn’t being utilised. And the knowledge of the parents isn’t being respected.&nbsp;And it’s so simple and easy to change, which is the beauty of what I’m teaching.</p> <p><strong>But does the system have to change as well? I mean I know you’re not a health practitioner. But what have you noticed as to why communication isn’t as effective as it could be? Doctors have all these great skills, this great knowledge and intellect, why does the empathy and the compassion seem to be absent? And obviously this isn’t the case for all. But what are your thoughts?</strong></p> <p>Well from what I know, it’s not taught well from the beginning. And if people had it when they got into the medical system, it’s almost trained out of them.&nbsp;The system is really set up for 10-minute interviews. People say there’s no time to be compassionate, they’ve just got to give the facts, the diagnosis, the medication, get people in and out. So there’s an emphasis on the disease rather than the human, and to be honest I think professionals hate this as well—because they want to care. They want to help people and have better relationships with parents and patients. And they’re limited by the system too. So they’re burning out because they’re seeing too many patients at not enough depth. Maybe they feel like they’re being ineffective. There are actually so many studies and statistics about the fear of failure from health professionals. We’re all humans and I feel like we forget that when we walk into a hospital. I know that when I let go of the expectation that the doctors should know everything, I let them be human. I was kinder towards them and myself, and I learned to respect what they knew and the things they didn’t know.&nbsp;I think what is also often missing in the healthcare system is a sense of true hospitality. Hospital and hospitality come from the same Latin root word,&nbsp;<em>hospes—</em>which means guest or stranger, and carries with it a story of mutual respect between guest and host.&nbsp;An expectation of all parties to exhibit care, trust and kindness. So the etymology of the whole system is actually based on a beautifully kind and compassionate foundation. But I don’t actually think compassion is&nbsp;missing&nbsp;in healthcare, it is just often&nbsp;misunderstood—by patient and carer.&nbsp;When we can build a healthcare system that can look after everybody under the hospital roof, then we will have something pretty incredible.</p> <p><strong>Given you’re an artist yourself, I wonder what are your thoughts on the role arts can play in building a&nbsp;better healthcare system? What is the relationship between the two?</strong></p> <p>It’s pretty exciting actually, seeing how my art brain is connecting to this deep thinking I have around systems and&nbsp;change. I am able to build models by using art, story and metaphor as a way to communicate solutions to complex problems, which is really cool.&nbsp;The way I see it, a hospital is a place where all the vicissitudes of life reside. All the shifts and turns and highs and lows, all the seasons of life—and they all deserve care.&nbsp;And the best way to care for a person is to respect them.&nbsp;Art helps us do this, it has a way of transcending language itself—instantly connecting us as sensory beings. It reveals messages and meaning, it can create comfort through a colour palette, a chord, a poem, a photograph.&nbsp;Art can enhance an environment or soften it. It creates space, it allows room to breathe and connect to the present.&nbsp;I think art helps us acknowledge our own humanity, and remind us that we are all in this together, all deserving of the kindness of strangers.</p> <p>Which is why the Super Power Baby Project has had such an impact I guess. The images in the book shine back at you with so much life! Photography was my tool for communicating how amazing the children are. I was able to capture them, and their personalities and spark in a way that connects with people in a really deep way. I actually show a slideshow of the images from the book at some of the talks I give, and health professionals are in tears because the images speak so much of meaningful life and love.&nbsp;It’s almost&nbsp;like they are reminded of a language they forgot, like they are reminded of why they became doctors in the first place.</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://www.dumbofeather.com/articles/">Dumbo Feather Magazine</a>.</em></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Nathan Scolaro and Rachel Callander Love and Spirituality Care Thu, 13 Sep 2018 18:35:38 +0000 Nathan Scolaro and Rachel Callander 119503 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why positive thinking won’t get you out of poverty https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/farwa-sial-and-carolina-alves/why-positive-thinking-won-t-get-you-out-of-poverty <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>To say that poor people don’t have enough hope, tenacity and aspiration is to deny their agency as well as the size of the structural odds they face.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/FarwalSial.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/martazappia/8705332490">Flickr/MartaZ</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p>In a recent <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/13/business/think-positive-climb-out-of-poverty-it-just-might-work.html">article in the New York Times</a>, the development economist Seema Jayachandran discusses three studies that used&nbsp;Randomised Controlled Trials (or RCTs) to understand&nbsp;the benefits of enhancing the self-worth of poor people. Despite wide differences in context, all the cases explore the viability of ‘modest interventions’ to ‘instill hope’ in marginalised communities, concluding that ‘remarkable improvements’ in the quest for poverty reduction are possible. </p> <p><a href="http://www.csae.ox.ac.uk/materials/papers/csae-wps-2017-13.pdf">One of the studies</a> from Uganda, for example, argues that “a role model can have significant effects on students’ educational attainment,” so the suggestion for policy-makers might be “to place more emphasis on motivation and inspiration through example.”<em> </em>Another <a href="http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/65931/">case study of sex workers in Kolkata Brothels</a> argues that “psychological barriers impede such disadvantaged groups from breaking the vicious circle and achieving better outcomes in life,” so small but effective changes that address these psychological constraints can alleviate the effects of poverty and social exclusion. </p> <p>The underlying theme of these studies is that individuals can surmount the structural challenges of poverty through their own efforts using tools like ‘effective role models,’ the generation of ‘more hope,’ and the ‘improvement of their mental health.’ Positive psychology of this kind and an emphasis on behavior change to meet the goals of individuals have been around at least since the 1950s, first in the popular literature of self-help books and now in academia, where they form part of an increasingly fashionable trend to ‘do poverty reduction differently.’ </p> <p>The push for&nbsp;<a href="http://africanarguments.org/2018/06/12/tedx-comes-kakuma-refugee-camp-aka-think-your-way-oppression/">rebranding refugees as ‘entrepreneurs</a>’&nbsp;follows the same logic. In the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and TEDx hosted an event to showcase the personal narratives of refugees. The resulting talk was designed to highlight the role of positive thinking in overcoming adversity, with the harsh realities of being a refugee and resorting to extreme survival skills portrayed through the lens of individual motivation. The implicit assumption was that positive attitudes could determine better opportunities in life. </p> <p>This trend relies on RCTs as the key methodological tool to prove its case, a technique born out of an increasing focus in economics on the behaviour of individuals and the use of computing power to process enormous amounts of data in econometric analyses. RCTs are supposed to provide “<a href="http://www.ideasforindia.in/topics/miscellany/evidence-policy-and-politics.html">evidence-based</a>” answers that form a scientific basis for policy-making. In reality however, they have some serious limitations. </p> <p>An&nbsp;RCT is an evaluation technique that draws from experimental design in order to measure the impact of a development project. As the name suggests, the process is based on a selection of a ‘random’ or unspecified distribution of people or communities who are subjected to a trial or an experiment. The proponents of this method suggest that it is possible to measure the impact of an intervention and attribute a causal relationship between the intervention and its outcomes when compared to a ‘control group’ who are not included—a worrying feature in and of itself because people in that group may be denied the essentials of a decent life if they are only provided to those who participate in the trials.</p> <p>According to <a href="https://olc.worldbank.org/content/state-economics-influence-randomized-controlled-trials-development-economics-research-and">Esther Duflo</a>, the top five journals in economics published 21 articles on development in 2000, none of which represented this methodology; by 2015 there were 32 such articles, of which 10 were RCTs.&nbsp;Researchers <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00130095.2017.1392235">Sophie Webber and Carolyn Prouse</a> go so far as to say that RCTs have become the new ‘gold standard’ in&nbsp; development economics, so it comes as no surprise that poverty has started to be studied in the context of this new&nbsp;framework. </p> <p>Poverty alleviation, however, is a hugely complex subject that touches on the strengthening of institutions, the health of governance,&nbsp;the structure and dynamics of markets, the workings of social classes, macroeconomic policies, distribution, international integration and many other issues, none of which can be replicated from one context to another. That means that analyses of poverty have to be based on a critical examination of processes and actors that cannot be ‘controlled’ against—thus violating the principle of RCTs.</p> <p>Recent developments in economics have failed to account for these fundamental determinants of poverty.&nbsp;Instead, the success of RCTs can be narrowed down to essentially&nbsp;statistical arguments that seek to identify ‘what works’ and ‘which interventions’ should therefore be employed to improve&nbsp;the lives of the poor. In such processes, the focus tends towards the individual or the household and (initially at least) to the design of small changes that are supposed to enable them to exit poverty, although eventually the ‘scaling up’ of interventions might also occur. Akin to the ‘nudge’ approach that has been popularised by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nudge_(book)">Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler</a>, the idea is that people’s choices can be shaped to allow them to escape from poverty and dispossession.</p> <p>As a consequence, this approach&nbsp;individualises the&nbsp;‘problem’ of poverty whilst failing to acknowledge, contextualize, highlight or analyse the structures, institutions and actors that actually make and keep some people poor. For example, the idea that&nbsp;role models can be effective in changing people’s behaviour, emotions and self-concepts isn’t new; what’s new is the belief that&nbsp;these aspirations can lift people out of poverty without broader changes in politics, social structures and institutions. Returning to the brothels of Kolkata, advocating for the removal of psychological barriers may not be effective if the working conditions of sex workers and the structures on which their material deprivation stands continue to go unchallenged.</p> <p>To be fair, The York Times piece introduces some important caveats to such strategies:</p> <blockquote><p>“Hope isn’t a cure-all and in none of these examples can we be certain that it actually explains the gains in people’s income or education…instilling hope without skills or financial resources is unlikely to be enough to lift people out of poverty.”</p></blockquote> <p>Nevertheless, if the caveats are so strong as to question the validity of the experiments then they are not caveats at all, but fundamental inputs on which any successful methodology must be based. Economics distracts itself by reforming symptoms and ignoring the conditions which cause the malaise in the first place. As the development economist <a href="http://www.ras.org.in/randomise_this_on_poor_economics">Sanjay G. Reddy</a> has written:</p> <blockquote><p>“The larger questions once asked within the discipline regarding the effect of alternative economic institutions and policies (such as those concerning property arrangements, trade, agricultural, industrial and fiscal policy, and the role of social protection mechanisms), for instance, and the impact of political dynamics and processes of social change, have been pushed to the background in favour of such questions as whether bed-nets dipped in insecticide should be distributed free of charge or not, or whether two schoolteachers in the classroom are much better than one.”</p></blockquote> <p>Hence, in a <a href="https://www.globalpolicyjournal.com/blog/06/08/2018/open-letter-fifteen-leading-development-economists">recent open</a>&nbsp;letter published in the Guardian, fifteen leading economists argued that relying on RCTs to guide aid spending will lead to short-term, superficial and misplaced policies. Asking relevant questions is the first step towards understanding problems. And understanding why widespread hunger&nbsp;and poverty persist in an era of unprecedented opulence, rapid technological transformation and democratic governance is the most important problem of the day.&nbsp;Inequality is not born in a vacuum; it is a fundamental aspect of the distribution of income and wealth. Unless we understand how extreme wealth accumulation is connected to extreme inequality the question of poverty will go unaddressed. </p> <p>More than&nbsp;<a href="http://www.un.org/millenniumgoals/poverty.shtml">800 million</a>&nbsp;people live in extreme poverty today. To say that they do not have sufficient hope, aspiration and tenacity to fight for their rights is to deny their agency. The structural odds against them inhibit their ability to leave the vicious cycles of poverty. Without additional resources and much more concerted action on the underlying causes, no amount of positive thinking will enable the great mass of individuals to climb out of poverty. We cannot afford to rely on methods that suggest that poor people are simply failing to make the ‘right choices.’</p> <p>This doesn’t mean that we should disregard RCTs or any other ways of empowering communities, but it does mean that we should build on an understanding of poverty alleviation which is concerned with attacking the malaise of unequal distribution as opposed to remediating its symptoms. That means confronting structures and actors that have not only failed to address poverty but may also have reinforced the nature of uneven development across the globe.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/lisa-herzog/can-effective-altruism-really-change-world">Can ‘effective altruism’ really change the world?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/dionne-lew/why-i-choose-samuel-beckett-over-positive-thinking-any-day">Why I choose Samuel Beckett over positive thinking, any day</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sonja-avlijas/why-positive-thinking-isn-t-neoliberal">Why positive thinking isn’t neoliberal</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation positive thinking Farwa Sial and Carolina Alves Culture Economics Tue, 11 Sep 2018 17:34:28 +0000 Farwa Sial and Carolina Alves 119501 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How does change happen? One man’s journey through the personal and the political https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jason-angell/how-does-change-happen-one-man-s-journey-through-personal-and-political <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The first step to building a new world is to start living it, but don’t stop there.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Jason Angell.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="normal">J<span class="image-caption">ason Angell at Longhaul Farm in the Hudson Valley, New York. Credit: Theo Angell. All rights reserved.</span></p> <p class="normal">For most of my life I‘ve been a political activist, believing the story that social transformation comes through radical legislation pushed along by brave elected leaders. I once imagined becoming one of those leaders myself, and had a mental picture of giving a speech to a massive group of people in what looked like the National Mall in Washington DC.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> I know I inherited that picture from my father, who harbored dreams of being a politician who had something true to say to people that would lead them out of the wilderness. He ran for Congress in 1972 unsuccessfully in the same community where I now live and have a farm, but my path to becoming a farmer was unexpected, paved by three experiences that challenged my belief that the change I hoped to see in the world could be won through the current political system.<br /> <br /> The first was a brief run for the New York State Senate in my early thirties in the Hudson Valley.&nbsp; Most of my days were spent alone, calling people to ask for money which I dreaded. Sometimes I would stand in front of civic groups, introduce myself, and tell them why <em>I</em> had the answers (which I didn’t). So I dropped out.<br /> <br /> Eventually I got a job as Director of the Center for Working Families—a think-tank allied to the <a href="http://workingfamilies.org/">Working Families Party</a> (WFP) and a place where ideas could be translated into direct action through the Party’s political muscle. It was 2009 and New York State faced one of the largest budget deficits in the country. The old debate raged on: increase taxes or cut public services drastically? This was a fight I wanted to be a part of. I still remembered the visceral wrongness of walking by homeless people on frigid winter streets when I moved to New York City as a kid in 1986.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Now Manhattan was the playground of the world’s wealthy elite—bankers and hedge fund managers bringing home bonus check millions while the economy collapsed under the weight of their subprime mortgage lending greed. My job was to design a tax reform proposal to increase taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers, which had been slashed for decades.<br /> <br /> Progressives united around the cause—teacher and healthcare unions, poor people’s organizations, private foundations, (some) Democrats and WFP legislators—and the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/29/nyregion/29tax.html">“Millionaire’s Tax” became law</a>. But in the aftermath of this victory I grew increasingly skeptical.&nbsp; The tax reform was won on the argument that putting a few hundred dollars in people’s pockets was better for economic growth than cutting public services.&nbsp; But what about putting capitalism’s unregulated greed on trial or questioning the spiritual damage of living in a culture that maintains money should remain our highest aspiration? Things were changing on the surface but not deep down.<br /> <br /> As a third party in New York (and active in 17 other states), the WFP organizes to drag the Democratic Party left by organizing progressive voters in close elections.&nbsp; It’s good at what it does, using the remaining power of organized labor to place working people’s issues on the agenda.&nbsp; But at the end of the day, it is still very much a creature of the political system, often constrained by the narrow agendas of its most powerful union leaders and more dedicated to winning a seat at the table where political decisions are made than democratizing decision-making so that regular people have more power.</p><p class="normal"> As I came into the office everyday to craft more powerpoints and papers, was I happy or fulfilled or convinced that any of this would lead to transformation? Life in the city was expensive, so both I and my partner Jocelyn had to work full-time. The city was pushing us towards a way of living that seemed to be just as much a part of the problems I hoped to solve through new policies and laws. Cracks began to appear in the first story I had told myself about how change is accomplished, and I didn’t have another to replace it.</p> <p class="normal">A year after that blank page moment we quit our jobs and moved to Argentina. I had to imagine a new story of life and needed as much space as possible to create it. We moved to El Hoyo, a small rural town in Patagonia a friend had traveled through years ago and rented a small cottage on a farm called Chacra Millalen, run sustainably by a family for 20 years. Our mornings were spent thinking, writing, and exploring what was most important to us and in the afternoons we worked in the garden and learned how to farm. I had grown up privileged, never really doing much physical labor, and I found that the balance of the mental and the physical left me more content at the end of the day than I had ever been before.</p> <p class="normal">Living in El Hoyo exposed us to a much larger sense of community than any we had experienced in New York. We were eating and cooking together. A lot of neighbors bartered, trading vegetables for having a car fixed for example. Large jobs like hauling wood for the winter were collective and people relied on each other more. Everything was treated as invaluable, so was cooked, canned, preserved, fixed and sharpened until the bitter end. <br /> <br /> One day we woke up and realized that we had built a new story of a life for ourselves, one that involved farming and trying to build the same kind of communities back home. We realized that the first step to building a new world is to start living it.<br /> <br /> So we moved back to the Hudson Valley and started <a href="https://www.instagram.com/longhaulfarm/">Longhaul Farm</a> and the <a href="https://www.instagram.com/ecologicalcitizensproject/?hl=en">Ecological Citizen’s Project</a> to create spaces, programs and podcasts through which people can <a href="http://ecologicalcitizens.org/nextstopnow">learn about&nbsp; ways of life that are built around different values and routines</a> than those offered by mainstream America. But we didn’t want to repeat the same mistakes we saw in the ‘back to the land’ and earlier Utopianist movements, which became islands of personal improvement and perfect community creation cut off from larger political work required to transform society.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> It’s very difficult to sustain a countercultural personal life in a society that doesn’t value that kind of life nor is built to support it. Farming at our scale doesn’t pay all the bills or provide benefits.&nbsp; Eventually, we were able to find flexible teaching work that allowed us to share child care duties, get our healthcare through a mix of work-based and state programs, and reduce our housing costs through a farming tax credit. Transformation requires that we both pioneer new personal ways of life while also working together to enact policies and build new social institutions that will sustain them.<br /> <br /> I’ve begun to reconsider the old picture that I had in my head, the one where I’m delivering the speech on the Mall. I’ve realized that a lot of that dream came from my ego, which is a barrier to greater progress.&nbsp; Our culture celebrates the greatness of the individual—celebrities, business icons and agents of social change—without acknowledging the collectives around them that are the true source of greatness.<br /> <br /> We’ve built a political industrial complex made up of candidates, political operatives, lobbyists and think tankers that keep people far from the privileged places of decision-making. It’s no wonder that <a href="https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/mgilens/files/gilens_and_page_2014_-testing_theories_of_american_politics.doc.pdf">what the majority of people want</a> doesn’t really matter if it runs counter to moneyed interests. Conventional politics treats citizens largely as consumers, whose only power is to vote for the best person to represent them from a field of candidates culled by donors. Since campaigns follow a zero-sum dynamic that leads candidates to tear down all their competitor’s ideas and magnify their negatives in the pursuit of winning office, the bitter partisan divide grows ever wider.</p><p class="normal"> Who really believes that the problems we face can be addressed by selecting the right candidate in this kind of system? To bridge the divide between our personal and political lives we need to build new democratic norms and institutions that abandon the ego-driven ‘great individual’ model and allow mass participation in coming up with solutions, while also demanding that we enact them in our own lives. <br /> <br /> Over the past year, we’ve tried to do this by conducting a <a href="https://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/opinion/valley-views/2017/11/13/civic-engagement-thriving-democracy/852677001/">local experiment</a> in the Town of Philipstown called the <a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/551bf6b6e4b088e1f8030880/t/5b6c9928aa4a9997a24e1023/1533843763178/HVCC%2C+Process+%2B+Impact+%285%29.pdf">Community Congress</a>. We asked any resident to answer the question, “What’s your idea for preserving and promoting a strong community?” Over the course of three public forums, residents proposed 40 ideas across a range of issues. Then we invited all Philipstown residents age 13 years and older to name their top three priorities through an online and mail-in ballot. <br /> <br /> Over 750 residents voted, and even more hopefully 450 identified themselves as willing volunteers to roll up their sleeves and get to work turning the priorities they voted for into reality. In the next few years we’ll begin the work of building other Community Congresses throughout the Hudson Valley, forging a more people-centered democracy to build the world that people want.</p><p>I realize now that the path to social transformation is not a binary choice between personal or political change.&nbsp; We must live our political values within the daily routines of our personal lives and grow a new kind of politics that’s grounded in a higher quality of human relationships—unafraid of asking much more of us than our votes. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/chris-moore-backman/what-we-can-really-learn-from-gandhi">What we can really learn from Gandhi?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/liam-barringtonbush/you-can%E2%80%99t-love-whole-planet">You can’t love a whole planet</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ted-fertik/can-working-families-party-succeed-in-america">Can the Working Families Party succeed in America?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Jason Angell Transformative nonviolence Trans-partisan politics Care Activism Sun, 09 Sep 2018 17:20:13 +0000 Jason Angell 119499 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How to help inmates heal after the trauma of prison https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/allen-arthur/how-to-help-inmates-heal-after-trauma-of-prison <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Half of all prisoners in American jails suffer from some sort of psychiatric disorder. Can prayer and meditation support them?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/AllenArthur.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Brother Zachariah Presutti leads a group of incarcerated men and volunteers through a guided meditation. Credit: Mike Benigno/YES! Magazine. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Pedro Javier Rodriguez sings and dances so passionately, people call him “The Flame.” Prison life, however, didn’t allow the aspiring musician much opportunity to perform.</p> <p>“I started fighting, people trying to kill me in prison,” says Rodriguez, who was incarcerated in New York state prisons for 27 years. “I get stabbed, I get cut up. I start cutting people. But I don’t like violence. I had to fight for my life.”</p> <p>In 2007, he started going to church again, began playing music and rediscovered both his passion and spirituality. He also began attending every prison program he could, including&nbsp;<a href="https://www.thriveforlife.org/">Thrive for Life Prison Project</a>, designed to bring healing and structure to men currently and formerly incarcerated.</p> <p>“That’s when I met brother Zach, brother for life, the beautiful angel, the beautiful people,” Rodriguez says. “Thank God for having these people in the world.”</p> <p>In 2017, Zachariah Presutti, a Jesuit of the northeast province of the Society of Jesus, officially launched Thrive, whose volunteers provide support to men incarcerated in six New York jails and prisons and help them find stable housing, education, and employment once they leave. While those are often considered the pillars of rehabilitation and recidivism reduction, Thrive also adds another focus: healing.</p> <p>“Really what we’re dealing with is trauma,” says Presutti, who is also a psychotherapist. “The … trauma of being a victim of abuse, neglect, poverty, sociological constructions growing up. The trauma of being incarcerated, the trauma of inflicting pain and hurt on other people. Those have real psychological effects.”</p> <p>Thrive provides spiritual retreats at the correctional facilities it serves and estimates about 700 men have benefited from them. The retreats offer a space for vulnerability and reflection, something nearly impossible to find on the inside. Thrive has also helped more than two dozen of them transition after release. In addition to seeing virtually no recidivism, Thrive has helped them make peace with their pasts and reconnect with family. Rodriguez, for example, now has a stable job and housing, while also sharing what he’s gained from his experience with others.</p> <p>“We’re kind of witnesses of miracles,” Presutti says.</p> <p>Sometime this summer, Thrive will open&nbsp;<a href="https://www.thriveforlife.org/ignacio-house/">Ignacio House</a>, a residential center in the Bronx for 24 formerly incarcerated men, intended to address more directly the stress and uncertainty that can accompany those returning from prison.</p> <p>The organization addresses the trauma of the prison experience using what it calls “Ignatian spirituality.” In the 1500s, Saint Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus, a religious order of the Catholic Church. Recovering after a cannonball shattered his leg, Ignatius read the gospels and grew to believe that closeness to God could be achieved by self-reflection, meditation, and service to others—practices Thrive sees as essential to helping men survive in prison and after returning home.</p> <p>“We’re not trying to fix people or save people,” says Joe Van Brussel, the group’s chief operating officer. “We’re trying to give people tools and a lens to understand their stories.”</p> <p>Those stories are frequently troubling ones, reflecting larger societal problems. Many participants have dealt with substance abuse or mental health issues and, according to Presutti, most have themselves been victimized in some way.</p> <p>“I think prison is how we handle all our sociological questions,” Presutti says. “We have a hard time dealing with poverty, so we lock it away. We have a hard time dealing with [different races] so we lock them away. We have a hard time dealing with mental health. Well, we don’t have services for them, so lock them away.”</p> <p>There’s evidence to suggest he’s right. As many as half of all inmates in American jails and prisons suffer from some sort of psychiatric disorder, according to new book&nbsp;<a href="http://alisaroth.com/"><em>America’s Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness</em>.&nbsp;</a>The Bureau of Justice Statistics&nbsp;<a href="https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/imhprpji1112.pdf">reports</a>&nbsp;that 37 percent of prisoners and 44 percent of people in jail had been diagnosed at some point with a mental health disorder. Jails in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago are now the three largest institutions providing psychiatric care in the U.S.</p> <p>Van Brussel said the conditions of prison—chaotic, violent, and uncertain—further erode the psyche. The retreats give the men a chance to be vulnerable, uncommon inside prisons.</p> <p>“They never get a chance to breathe or just talk in a safe environment,” he says. “People have told us, ‘It’s been months since someone listened or wanted to hear my story.’”</p> <p>Tracy Tynan, who volunteers at Thrive retreats, says they begin with a guided meditation that encompasses anything from envisioning relaxing on a beach to a “conversation with God.” Then, participants share positive recent events in their lives, such as phone calls from loved ones or progress with an appeal. But they also talk about the hardships of prison life—fights, fear, and lockdowns. Retreats might include art or music.</p> <p>The centerpiece of the retreats is the&nbsp;<em>lectio divina—</em>a reading from the Gospels coupled with “imaginative prayer” and introspection based on how the reading resonates individually. All this combines to create the rare space where incarcerated people can close their eyes, relax safely, and look deeply within themselves.</p> <p>“It really, really helps them,” Tynan says. “It’s unusual to close your eyes in prison.”</p> <p>Santiago Ramirez served 36 years in prisons throughout New York state for committing a deadly robbery while in the throes of substance abuse. He remembers those retreats as his only opportunity to trust inside.</p> <p>“Sometimes in prison, you can develop friendships and relationships,” Ramirez says, “but you’re not really comfortable disclosing everything about yourself. Then you worry: Is that person going to betray your trust? But Thrive is so welcoming, so encouraging, so supportive, so loving.”</p> <p>Presutti says because love is such a rare commodity among formerly and currently incarcerated men, extending it is an important part of Thrive’s mission. “They need to experience love, to be loved, and I think that’s when healing begins,” Presutti says. “Healing begins when we realize just how much we’re loved. A lot of people have bad experiences of being loved. Someone told them they were loved one time and abused them. Someone told them they loved them one time and kicked them out onto the street or gave them a needle.”</p> <p>Outside prison, Thrive provides emotional support and a sense of community some participants have never experienced—employing everything from monthly group dinners to counseling and transportation.</p> <p>Convicted as an accomplice to a murder he said he witnessed but wasn’t involved in, Rodriguez wanted to live in Buffalo after his release where another organization was offering re-entry help. As a condition of his release, however, he had to return to New York City, the site of his arrest. Presutti and Thrive’s volunteers stepped in, picking him up from the prison, helped him get clothes, and gave him a place to stay.</p> <p>“They told me, ‘You gotta follow the rules. Step by step, little by little,&nbsp;<em>poquito, suavacito,&nbsp;</em>you’re gonna be OK,’” recalls Rodriguez. “’But you got to take it easy because you been locked up for too many years, and life is not like it used to be when you were there.’”</p> <p>At Ignacio House, which Thrive hopes to open by the end of summer, men with whom it connected on the inside will be given priority in housing. They will receive workforce training and gain access to scholarships from Manhattan College. Thrive wants to use open space inside the house for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and local events, all designed to create a foundation of support for these men as they work to build their lives on the outside and develop a sense of community.</p> <p>“It’s not building agencies,” says Presutti, who openly resists joining what he calls the nonprofit industrial complex. “It’s about being there as a community. Community brings connection and intimacy ultimately, which leads to the experience of love.”</p> <p>Volunteers and participants hope that Thrive’s approach will take hold around the country, presenting it as an antidote to both the causes and effects of mass incarceration.</p> <p>“I think it’s a way that we’ve been dealing with the issues we just don’t know how to deal with,” Presutti says. “If we can just put [incarcerated people] out on an island, nobody will know how to get to them and hopefully people will forget about them. The grace in the whole thing is if people haven’t forgotten about them.”</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/mental-health/how-to-help-inmates-heal-after-the-trauma-of-prison-20180725?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180727&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180727+CID_93fcab22827be21ad0036500518e4b96&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=How%20to%20Help%20Inmates%25">YES! Magazine</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/kazu-haga/transformation-of-warrior-behind-bars">The transformation of a warrior behind bars</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/molly-rowan-leach/can-prison-system-be-transformed-shaka-senghor-and-cut50">Can the prison system be transformed? Shaka Senghor and #Cut50</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/melissa-hellman/town-that-adopted-trauma-informed-care-and-saw-decrease-in-crime-and-">The town that adopted trauma-informed care—and saw a decrease in crime and suspension</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Allen Arthur Prison abolition Love and Spirituality Care Thu, 06 Sep 2018 20:12:02 +0000 Allen Arthur 119073 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Seven ways to build the solidarity economy https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/emily-kawano/seven-ways-to-build-solidarity-economy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We can transform capitalism by encouraging the ‘better angels of our nature.’</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JemBendell5.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Life_is_Sharing_(8188824613).jpg">Flickr/Cogdogblog</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p>The solidarity economy is a global movement to build a post-capitalist world that puts people and planet front and center, rather than the pursuit of blind growth and profit maximization. It isn’t a blueprint but a framework that includes a broad range of economic practices that align with its values: solidarity, participatory democracy, equity in every dimension including race, class and gender, sustainability and pluralism, which means that it can’t be a one-size-fits all approach. Nevertheless, the notion of <em>buen vivir,</em> or living well and in harmony with nature and each other permeates everything the movement does.</p> <p>Some of these practices are old and some are new; some are mainstream and others are ‘alternative.’ Solidarity economy practices exist in every sector of the economy: production, distribution and exchange, consumption, finance and governance/state. People often think about cooperatives and credit unions which are collectively owned and managed by their members, but they are just one example. Others include community land trusts, participatory budgeting, social currencies, time banks, peer lending, barter systems, gift exchange, community gardens, ideas around ‘the commons,’ some kinds of fair trade and the sharing economy, and non-monetized care work.</p> <p>The idea of the solidarity economy is to build on and knit together all of these practices in order to transform capitalism by lifting up and encouraging the ‘better angels of our nature.’ Rather than making a virtue out of the pursuit of calculated self-interest, profit maximization, and competition—the things that underpin capitalism—this economy nurtures our capacity for solidarity, cooperation, reciprocity, mutual aid, altruism, caring, sharing, compassion and love. Increasingly, research across many disciplines has shown that we are hard wired to cooperate—that in fact, the survival of the human species has depended on our ability to work together.</p> <p>If this sounds like something you want to support, here are seven ways to help build the solidarity economy.</p><p><strong>1.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong><strong>Increase self-provisioning and community production.</strong></p> <p>Throughout history communities have grown and foraged for food; built roads, irrigation systems and housing; developed medicines and made clothing, furniture and art in order to sustain themselves. But under capitalism we are incentivized to buy all this stuff and so need jobs to earn money in order to pay for it. Since the 2008 global economic meltdown there have been increasing fears about the instability and fragility of this kind of economy. Add to this the projection that 40 per cent of jobs in the US could be replaced by Artificial Intelligence and automation and it becomes even more urgent to think about how communities can provide more for themselves in order to survive impending economic collapse or massive job destruction.</p> <p>Community production includes low-tech ways of meeting needs like growing food and raising chickens in community gardens and ‘edible’ urban landscapes, as well as swap-meets, mutual aid networks and skill-shares. But it also extends to democratizing cutting-edge technologies. In Detroit, for example, (where some communities have been living with massive joblessness for decades), the <a href="http://boggscenter.org/">James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership</a> and <a href="https://www.incite-focus.org/">Incite/Focus</a>, a ‘fablab’ that puts cutting-edge fabrication technology into community hands, support a whole spectrum of community production experiments from permaculture, swapmeets and skillshares to 3D printed buildings and digital fabrication using Computer Aided Design (CAD).</p><p><strong>2.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong><strong>Move your money.</strong></p> <p>If you have an account at a big bank, consider moving your money to a local credit union. Credit unions are financial cooperatives that are owned by and run for the benefit of their members—the account holders. Better yet, find a <em>community development</em> credit union which is committed to serving low and moderate income communities. Credit unions are just like a bank in that you can open up a savings or checking account, get an ATM/Debit card, and take out a loan, but (on the whole) they have not engaged in the kinds of predatory lending and other financial shenanigans that crashed the economy in 2008.</p><p><strong>3.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong><strong>Invest in or gift to new economic institutions.</strong></p> <p>There are a many ways to support the solidarity economy financially. For example, ‘Direct Public Offerings’ (DPOs) have become a popular and successful way to raise capital for co-ops. DPOs reach out to the community to find investors who are willing to accept relatively low rates of interest because they believe in the mission of the enterprise. Lending circles, an age-old practice that has become increasingly popular, bring together a group of people who contribute a set amount each month, and each member gets a turn to receive the whole pot of money at zero interest. There’s also the option of participating in crowdfunding campaigns or gifting money and other forms of support to solidarity economy organizations and networks.</p><p><strong>4.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong><strong>Prioritize housing for use not speculation.</strong></p> <p>Our current real estate system leads to crazy outcomes. At a conservative estimate, for example, over half-a-million people in the US sleep on the streets each night even though there are 5.8 million vacant units (excluding seasonal and for-sale housing). One reason for this mismatch is that housing has increasingly become a <em>speculative commodity</em>—an asset to gamble with for huge potential gain—rather than to meet human needs. Not only does speculation add to the housing shortage by keeping units off the market and driving up prices, it can also implode, as it did spectacularly in 2008, leading to a global economic meltdown.</p> <p>If you are looking at housing options, consider ‘limited equity’ housing like community land trusts and some housing co-ops and co-housing developments that take housing out of the speculative market. In these approaches re-sale prices are capped in order to maintain affordability. Concerns have been raised about preventing low and moderate income people from building wealth through real estate appreciation in this way, but it is the limited equity model that makes prices affordable in the first place.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><strong>5.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong><strong>Be your own boss—look for a job in a worker co-op or start your own.</strong></p> <p>Worker co-ops are owned and managed by their workers, who decide how to run their business and what to do with the profits—share them, reinvest them in the enterprise, and/or allocate some of them to community projects. This is in contrast to a capitalist business where the owners capture all the profits generated through the labor of the workers—a process of exploitation as well as class struggle.</p> <p>Some cities like New York and Madison, Wisconsin, are investing millions of dollars to incubate and finance worker co-ops as part of an inclusive economic development strategy to create jobs and wealth building opportunities in low-income communities and communities of color. If you’re interested in this form of economic democracy you can look for a job in an existing co-op or start your own. That’s challenging but there’s <a href="https://usworker.coop/service-provider-directory/">a growing support system</a> that provides <a href="https://institute.coop/projects">co-op training programs and other forms of support</a> to help you navigate your way.</p><p><strong>6.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong><strong>Connect with and talk to others in the emerging economic system.</strong></p> <p>If you’re interested, learn more about what’s happening and consider joining the <a href="http://www.ussen.org/">U.S. Solidarity Economy Network</a> or <a href="http://www.ripess.org/?lang=en">RIPESS</a> (the Intercontinental Social Solidarity Economy Network) for other parts of the world. If you’re a writer then write about it; if you’re a student, study it; if you’re a teacher, teach about it; if you’re an activist, nudge your organization to adopt a solidarity economy framework. If you’re a politician, then promote policies that support it; if you’re already involved in an institution like a co-op, find ways to connect with others to build supply chains that work on solidarity principles. There are a million ways to help make the solidarity economy stronger and more visible. Even just talking about it is valuable.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><strong>7.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong><strong>Live the principles.</strong></p> <p>Capitalism nurtures competitive, calculating, and self-interested values and behavior, but Elinor Ostrom (who won a Nobel prize for her work on the commons) and others have documented how community-managed resources like forests, fisheries, pasturelands and water can be managed more efficiently, sustainably and equitably than those in private hands, <em>provided</em> that there are rules and enforcement mechanisms to prevent anyone from taking unfair advantage.</p> <p>We need to build an economy that is premised on the whole of our beings and that leans towards solidarity in this way. We are all engaged in the valuable social and economic work of providing care for our children, elders, neighbors, and communities—not for money, but from our innate capacity for love, friendship, reciprocity, caring and compassion. So recognize that the solidarity economy is all around you and that you already live it. Nurture your better angels and live it well.</p> <p><em>To learn more about the Solidarity Economy and the global movement to realize it, visit <a href="http://www.ussen.org/">http://www.ussen.org</a>.</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/esteban-kelly/why-transforming-economy-begins-and-ends-with-cooperation">Why transforming the economy begins and ends with cooperation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jem-bendell/future-of-sharing-its-still-about-freedom">The future of sharing: it&#039;s still about freedom</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/eli-feghali/where-next-for-new-economy-movement">Where next for the New Economy movement?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Emily Kawano The role of money Economics Tue, 04 Sep 2018 18:34:51 +0000 Emily Kawano 119360 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Love and hunger in breadline Britain https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/chris-shannahan/love-and-hunger-in-breadline-britain <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We need a moral and spiritual revolution to replace the culture of shame with a politics of love and solidarity.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/ChrisShanahan3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2015/03/13/students-view-healthier-school-brighter-future">United States Department of Agriculture/Bob Nichols</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/share-your-work/public-domain/">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p>When I was at school I used to count down the days to the long summer holidays, but in breadline Britain huge numbers of parents approach the school break knowing that ‘holiday hunger’ awaits their children. In the sixth wealthiest country on earth, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jul/25/holiday-hunger-shame-government-childrens-clubs?CMP=share_btn_tw">why do four million children go hungry during their holidays</a>, and how can we respond more effectively to this scandal? We can’t rely on policies alone: two concepts drawn from the New Testament—<em>agape</em> (selfless love) and <em>koinonia</em> (fellowship or solidarity)—provide deeper guidance and inspiration for the struggles that lie ahead.</p> <p>During the 2017-2018 school year <a href="http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN06700/SN06700.pdf">approximately two million children in England received ‘Pupil Premium</a>,’ a payment allocated to schools which provides young people with a free hot meal at lunch-time. Approximately <a href="https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/603946/Evaluation_of_Breakfast_Clubs_-_Final_Report.pdf">40 per cent of the children who attend breakfast clubs run by schools also receive free school meals</a>.</p> <p>Such provision appears to reflect a commitment to supporting children living in poverty, but in April 2018 the UK Government introduced means testing for the Pupil Premium and linked it to the receipt of Universal Credit.<a href="https://www.tes.com/news/government-sets-ps7400-annual-income-threshold-free-school-meals"> Families now have to earn less than £7,400 a year to qualify,</a> a decision that—according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies—will mean that <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/free-school-meals-children-miss-out-government-threshold-universal-credit-ifs-institute-fiscal-a8288976.html">100,000 children who are currently receiving free school meals will therefore miss out</a>. Even before this decision, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/may/07/million-more-uk-children-in-poverty-than-in-2010">a third of British children living in poverty</a> didn’t receive the Pupil Premium anyway.</p> <p>Holiday hunger illustrates the deeper poverty that has reared its head in Britain since the 2010 General Election, leaving one million more children living in poverty after a fall of 800,000 during the previous decade, and giving rise to a dramatic rise in the use of foodbanks. Research by the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/may/29/report-reveals-scale-of-food-bank-use-in-the-uk-ifan">Independent Food Aid Network identified 2,024 foodbanks and distribution centres in 2017</a>, more than half of them run in collaboration with the Christian NGO the <a href="https://www.trusselltrust.org/what-we-do/how-foodbanks-work/">Trussell Trust</a> which fed more than 1.3 million people in that year. The<a href="https://www.trusselltrust.org/news-and-blog/latest-stats/end-year-stats/"> Trust’s foodbanks also gave food parcels to over 484,000 children, 13 per cent more than in 2016</a>.</p> <p>Foodbanks meet people’s immediate needs and their importance cannot be overstated, but they don’t tackle systemic social exclusion. Increasingly therefore, organizations like the <a href="https://www.feedingbritain.org/on-a-mission-to-eliminate-hunger-by-2020">Feeding Britain</a> network (established in 2015) and local Trussell Trust affiliates provide debt counselling and benefits, housing and legal advice, and <a href="https://www.feedingbritain.org/fuel-banks-project">energy vouchers to counter fuel poverty</a> to those who visit food banks in an effort to tackle these deeper issues. A related approach to tackling food poverty is the emergence of <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/real-junk-food-project-food-waste-shop-supermarketadam-smith-pay-what-you-feel-a8443496.html">‘junk food’ shops</a>, <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/the-real-junk-food-project-founder-adam-smith-on-how-to-make-restaurant-quality-meals-out-of-food-a7316231.html">cafés</a> and <a href="https://www.feedingbritain.org/citizens-supermarkets">‘citizens’ supermarkets’</a> which recycle food that supermarkets have discarded. Such shops charge low prices or ask shoppers to offer a donation in exchange for the food they receive.</p> <p>The growth of these initiatives exemplifies the commitment of faith-based and other voluntary sector groups to stand alongside people living in poverty. However, such initiatives have become increasingly stretched since the launch of the Conservative Government’s <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jan/25/universal-credit-benefits-scheme-iain-duncan-smith">Universal Credit</a> programme in 2017. Trailed as a streamlining of the benefits system that would enable people to move into paid work, Universal Credit has been widely accused of deepening the poverty Ministers claim it will alleviate.</p> <p>In 2017 for example, former government adviser <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-41433019.%20Accessed%2027">Dame Louise Casey urged Prime Minister Theresa May to halt the roll-out of Universal Credit</a>, and in 2018 the columnist <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jun/15/universal-credit-colossal-catastrophe-national-audit-office">Polly Toynbee described it as a ‘catastrophe’ that has increased foodbank usage by 30 per cent</a>. Potentially aware of the political damage done by this bleak picture, a July 2018 <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/foodbanks-records-jobcentre-dwp_uk_5b61c1bde4b0b15aba9ebcc9?utm_hp_ref=uk-homepage&amp;ncid=fcbklnkukhpmg00000001&amp;guccounter=1&amp;guce_referrer_us=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZmFjZWJvb2suY29tLw&amp;guce_referrer_cs=qrFww9gVSZnqIuQ5w45-hQ">Department of Work and Pensions directive instructed Job Centre staff to stop keeping records of the number of people they refer to foodbanks</a>. But what else can be done?</p> <p>Holiday hunger highlights the fracture in the fabric of society that’s caused by the ‘age of austerity. It is an example of what the peace studies scholar <a href="http://www2.kobe-u.ac.jp/~alexroni/IPD%202015%20readings/IPD%202015_7/Galtung_Violence,%20Peace,%20and%20Peace%20Research.pdf">Johann Galtung called ‘structural violence’</a> and the pioneer of Latin American liberation theology <a href="https://liberationtheology.org/people-organizations/gustavo-gutierrez/">Gustavo Gutiérrez</a> ‘systemic sin.’ Foodbanks, breakfast clubs, junk food shops and other small-scale initiatives will help to heal this fracture but they won’t be enough to turn the tide. Instead we need a moral and spiritual revolution that comprehensively rejects the culture of shame which blames people living in poverty for their own social exclusion and replaces it with a politics of love and solidarity.</p> <p>Mentioning ‘love’ in political discourse can lead to accusations of naïve romanticism, but this misunderstands love’s potential as a source of liberative social change. When I see the person whose child has to go to school hungry as a reflection of myself it’s easier to move beyond a blame-game culture in which people living in poverty are seen as the helpless victims of amoral neo-liberal economics or as inadequate individuals. When we recognize that we are, in fact, our sister and brother’s keepers we see that the damage done by Universal Credit, rationing free school meals, the insecurity of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/23/number-of-zero-hours-contracts-in-uk-rose-by-100000-in-2017-ons">zero hours contract</a> work and low pay harms us all, not just those relying on the local foodbank.</p> <p>This commitment to mutuality is a reflection of the New Testament term <em>koinonia</em>, which is better understood as a basis for liberative solidarity rather than apolitical fellowship. In his parable about the Day of Judgement in Matthew 25 Jesus illustrates the potential of this radical ethic: ‘When you feed the hungry, clothe the naked or welcome the stranger you feed, clothe and welcome me.’ The ‘age of austerity’ in the UK and the early years of the Trump Presidency in the USA have been characterized by social policies that seem intended to make life more comfortable for wealthy people at the expense of those who are living in poverty. These policies undermine the empowering solidarity exemplified by <em>koinonia</em>.</p> <p>In the face of endemic injustice a commitment to friendship and mutuality is important, but on its own is unlikely to defeat post-crash poverty. A further, less comfortable, step is needed into the realm of self-sacrificial love or <em>agape</em>. <a href="https://stanford.app.box.com/s/5qzd0p500bd99rqbmb6y9127j2wrzdn8">As early as his 1962 ‘Levels of Love’ sermon</a>, Dr Martin Luther King Jr argued that only unconditional and selfless love of this kind could challenge ingrained systemic injustice—what he called the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0uEVTh0ios">‘love that does justice</a>.’ Such selfless love, which King suggested is <a href="http://www.thekingcenter.org/archive/document/power-nonviolence">‘overflowing…and seeks nothing in return’</a>, shaped the US Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and animates similar efforts today such as the <a href="https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/">Poor People’s Campaign</a> led by <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/05/14/william-barber-takes-on-poverty-and-race-in-the-age-of-trump">Rev. William Barber</a> and <a href="http://liztheoharis.org/about/">Rev. Liz Theoharis</a>.</p> <p>The embrace of self-sacrificial love is, in a Christian context, a response to a God who ‘becomes flesh and lives among us’ (John 1:14). Such unbounded love moves us beyond a symbolic solidarity with people living in poverty into the realm of costly struggle, just as it led <a href="http://www.thekinglegacy.org/books/where-do-we-go-here-chaos-or-community">Martin Luther King</a>, towards the end of his life, to move beyond a compartmentalized advocacy for racial justice to issue a deeper and broader challenge to global economic injustice and US imperialism in Vietnam. King’s original <a href="https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/history/">Poor People’s Campaign</a> (the precursor to Barber and Theoharis’ movement today) implicitly embodied the vision of God’s ‘preferential option for the poor’ first articulated by Latin American liberation theologians like Gutiérrez.</p> <p>Could a similar movement be built in Britain to attack the scandal of holiday hunger and its underlying ideology of austerity? We see the first-stirrings of such a movement in the holistic activism of networks like <a href="http://endhungeruk.org/">End Hunger</a>, but these still need to be translated into concrete political action. The ending of Universal Credit, the further engagement of foodbanks in advocacy and campaigning, the provision of free school meals for all British children, the introduction of a <a href="https://www.livingwage.org.uk/">genuine living wage</a> and the guarantee of a <a href="https://www.basicincome.org.uk/what_is_basic_income">‘basic income’</a> for all citizens would represent a good start.</p> <p>But without a deeper cultural shift—a commitment to loving each other in political as well as personal terms—the effects of such a movement will be transient, and that’s where faith and spirit can be vital.&nbsp; Of course, faith-based organizations are not alone in their ability to mount this kind of challenge to poverty and austerity, and only a movement that brings together people of faith with their humanist counterparts will have any chance of success. However, armed with a political philosophy premised on selfless love, faith-based and other activists can build a movement that integrates pastoral responses to holiday hunger such as foodbanks with political action for structural change.</p> <p>2018’s bout of holiday hunger may be drawing to a close as schools re-open their doors in September, but the injustice it highlights will not disappear. It is vital that practitioners, preachers and politicians hold government accountable for a decade of austerity in which the landscape of breadline Britain has become increasingly marked by rough-sleepers, foodbanks and children’s breakfast clubs. A commitment to a radical and liberative love which turns society the right-way up again can arm us for the struggles that lie ahead. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/chris-shannahan/desmond-tutu-was-right">Desmond Tutu was right</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/chris-shannahan/president-trump-and-christian-right">President Trump and the Christian right</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/gregory-leffel/is-christianity-finished-as-source-of-inspiration-for-progressive-soci">Is Christianity finished as a source of inspiration for progressive social change?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation religion and social transformation Chris Shannahan Love and Spirituality Economics Care Sun, 02 Sep 2018 17:20:49 +0000 Chris Shannahan 119413 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How repression can fuel a movement https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/lester-kurtz-lee-smithey/How%20repression%20can%20fuel%20a%20movement <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Repression often energizes resistance and undercuts the legitimacy of elites.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/how-repression-can-fuel-a-movement/">Waging Nonviolence</a></em></p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/LesterKurtz.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Rally "for a free Russia without repression and despotism" Moscow, June 10 2018. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:For_a_free_Russia_without_repression_and_despotism_163.jpg">Don Simon via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/choose/zero/">CC0</a>.</p> <p>From Bull Connor’s dogs and fire hoses attacking U.S. civil rights demonstrators to the massacre at Amritsar in colonial India, the use of coercive force against dissidents often backfires, becoming a transformative event that can change the course of a conflict. Rather than demobilizing a movement, repression often ironically fuels resistance and undercuts the legitimacy of a power elite. Although a long scholarly tradition explores the unintended consequences of martyrdom and other acts of violence, more attention could be paid to what we call the paradox of repression—that is, when repression creates unanticipated consequences that authorities do not desire. Efforts by power elites to oppress movements often backfire, mobilizing popular support for the movements and undermining authorities, potentially leading to significant reforms or even a regime’s overthrow.</p> <p>As civil rights activist, clergyman and author Will Campbell writes, “Of one thing I am certain: [the civil rights movement] was not destroyed by hooded vigilantes and flaming crosses. Nor by chains used on school children, dynamiting of churches and homes, mass jailings. All those things were an impetus to the movement and brought determination to the victims.” Repressive coercion can weaken a regime’s authority, turning public opinion against it. Paradoxically, the more a power elite applies force, the more citizens and third parties are likely to become disaffected, sometimes inducing the regime to disintegrate from internal dissent.</p> <p>According to political scientist Christian Davenport, repression is often defined as “actual or threatened use of physical sanctions against an individual or organization, within the territorial jurisdiction of the state, for the purpose of imposing a cost on the target as well as deterring specific activities and/or beliefs perceived to be challenging to government personnel, practices or institutions.” We prefer to see repression as a much more complex phenomenon that goes far beyond physical threats or sanctions. We find it conceptually helpful to place these methods along a continuum stretching from overt violence, on one end, to hegemony on the other. Viewing repression from this broad perspective helps to correct some of the narrowness of previous research.</p> <p>Overt violence includes the actions we usually think of when we consider repression, such as beatings, torture, shooting unarmed demonstrators and arrests. They are the repressive tactics most likely to cause moral outrage within the broader population and are, therefore, more likely to precipitate backfire. Because authorities are sometimes aware of the risks involved in using brute force, they may employ less-lethal methods such as pepper spray or “active denial systems” or simply intimidate activists with indirect threats, harassment or surveillance. </p> <p>Soft repression, a concept developed by Myra Marx Ferree, includes such actions as stigmatization of protesters and their movements, framing contests, and manipulative attempts to divide, divert, or distract social movement organizations or their pool of potential recruits. “The distinguishing criterion of soft repression,” Marx Ferree explains, “is the collective mobilization of power, albeit in nonviolent forms and often highly informal ways, to limit and exclude ideas and identities from the public forum.” Although she develops the concept to explain gender-based movements, it is a strategy widely used by power elites to minimize the participation of movements and dissidents. Finally, the most effective demobilization technique used by authorities is the promotion of hegemony, in which dissidents censor themselves.</p> <p><strong>Nonviolence and the paradox of repression.</strong></p> <p>As Jonathan Schell eloquently asserts in “The Unconquerable World,” one of the most profound legacies within modernity has been the realization of popular nonviolent power. The last century produced a surge of innovation in nonviolent conflict strategies and methods, many of which have made effective use of the paradox of repression. (Violent insurgencies may also sometimes benefit from the paradox of repression, but their own use of violence can undermine and diminish support within their own communities and especially among third parties.)</p> <p>Despite its ubiquity, the obscurity of the paradox of repression should not be particularly surprising. It is most apparent in conflicts in which one party employs strategic nonviolent strategy. However, it is only in the 20th century that we witness the prodigious expansion of nonviolence corresponding with globalization and accelerating technological development. In a globalizing world where communications, travel and arms technologies have become widely available, even small pockets of resistance have developed the capacity to challenge more traditionally powerful institutions, such as corporations and states.</p> <p>Greater international interdependence requires economic and political cooperation across an increasingly complex network of cross-cutting alliances. The use of coercive force in this environment may offend or inconvenience mutual allies and neighbors and leave an aggressor isolated. The United States has experienced this dilemma in connection with the invasion of Iraq. Despite considerable support from the United Kingdom, the Bush administration encountered significant obstacles in cobbling together a coalition of smaller, less influential states. Larger states on the United Nations Security Council, such as France, Germany, and Russia, probably declined to participate in part because of significant economic interests in the region, but they were also under pressure from their own citizens who sympathized with the Iraqi people and considered the invasion unjustified aggression.</p> <p>The structure of insurgent groups has also changed to take advantage of ever-emerging electronic communications technologies, such as fax machines, the internet, cell phones and instant messaging, while limiting the ability of authorities to repress resistance. Nonviolent direct action sometimes takes on the form of cell or affinity groups developed by non-state terror organizations to avoid repression. However, this trend may diminish the paradox of repression. </p> <p>As explained later in the book, the paradox of repression relies in large part not on avoiding repression but on enduring and sometimes provoking it. In order for insurgents to invoke the sympathy and outrage of bystander publics, these publics must relate to and identify with the target of repression. Although affinity groups may make resistance groups appear shadowy and unrecognizable, much important organizing for nonviolent campaigns has taken place underground. The latter approach is more likely to prove effective in highly asymmetrical scenarios, where there is little ambiguity over public sympathies and the illegitimacy of a regime.</p> <p>The paradox of repression is one manifestation of what the pre-eminent scholar of nonviolence, Gene Sharp, calls “political jiu-jitsu.” In the martial art of jiu-jitsu, one uses the weight and momentum of one’s opponent to throw the opponent. Similarly, in strategic nonviolent action, one can use an opponent’s resources, needs and culture to one’s own advantage. Thus, for example, arrests and imprisonment have always been a primary tool of governmental authorities against agents of social change. </p> <p>Nonviolent activists, however, have often prepared for arrest and willingly accepted or even sought incarceration in order to overload jails and strain government bureaucracies. The same dynamic can apply to the use of cultural resources to trigger the paradox of repression. Social philosopher Richard Gregg first wrote about this dynamic as “moral jiu-jitsu,” drawing on Gandhi’s idea that self-suffering would induce conversion by an opponent, who, when confronted by a nonviolent resister, would lose “the moral support which the violent resistance of most victims would render him.”</p> <p>As students and activists of nonviolence understand, the paradox of repression can be cultivated. True, in some cases, such as the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans, repression has been so complete as to overcome nearly all resistance. In other cases, however, where the relationship between opponents has been better integrated and where those traditionally considered less powerful have developed effective methods of resistance (such as cell structures and nonviolent collective action techniques), imperial and authoritarian states have found themselves unable to contend with grassroots opposition, often because the movement was able to rob the regime of some of its legitimacy. </p> <p>While the overtly systematic use of nonviolent collective action theory varies widely from case to case, training and strategic planning continues to spread. The cases we offer as illustrations do not always document an intentional preparation for the paradox of repression (though preparation is common, as we elaborate below) but indicate how challengers adopted collective action tactics that often both amplified and subverted attempts to repress and intimidate nonviolent activists.</p> <p><strong>An overview of the book.</strong></p> <p>The chapters in this book have two main goals: to gain a more nuanced understanding of how the paradox of repression works and when it has happened, on the one hand, and to examine how nonviolent activists have managed it, on the other, to enhance the extent to which it empowers movements and undermines unjust systems. We hope this book will be valuable to scholars and activists alike, and we have recruited both scholars and activists as chapter authors (including several authors who are both). </p> <p>The first task of the contributors is thus to look at various aspects and cases of the paradox of repression to get a better sense of its topography beyond the isolated anecdotal cases diffused through the scholarly literature and activists’ lore. We provide a conceptual and empirical overview and bring together quantitative and qualitative scholarship with activists who have experienced repression and experimented with its management. We begin with Erica Chenoweth’s quantitative birdseye view of the phenomenon across the globe over half a century. Chapter two, “Backfire in Action: Insights from Nonviolent Campaigns, 1945–2006,” analyzes her large data set comparing 323 violent and nonviolent campaigns for major change to evaluate how backfire works and which movement features are most likely to provoke it.</p> <p>Chenoweth identifies three critical factors facilitating a positive outcome from repression: (1) sustained high levels of campaign participation, (2) loyalty shifts among security forces and civilian leaders, and (3) the withdrawal of support from its foreign allies.</p> <p>Doron Shultziner’s conceptual chapter addresses a key aspect of the paradox of repression by delving into two historical cases. In chapter three, “Transformative Events, Repression, and Regime Change,” he focuses on the central tension between the parameters of opportunity structures and the agency of collective action. He explores the social psychological impact of “transformative events,” which can sometimes suspend the habits and assumptions that normally underpin the political status quo and open up new opportunities for resistance. Transformative events that involve repression can thus operate as a causal mechanism or path to regime change and democratic outcomes. Shultziner focuses on cases such as the Soweto Uprising in South Africa and the Montgomery bus boycott to illustrate the relationship between repression and backfire as transformative events.</p> <p>Elite defection has been identified as an important factor in the success or failure of nonviolent civil resistance campaigns, demanding that we delve into the ways in which agents of repression experience the repression they carry out. In her exploration of successful nonviolent revolutions, Sharon Erickson Nepstad found that defections by security forces were an important strategic factor. Nonviolent resistance has an advantage in managing and framing repression because it can create dilemmas for repressors.</p> <p>Rachel MacNair reminds us in chapter four, “The Psychology of Agents of Repression: The Paradox of Defection,” that aggression and fear are not physical properties that people hold in their hands, but are psychological experiences. Agents of repression do not merely follow orders; they are caught up in complex psychological dynamics and risk suffering what she calls perpetration induced traumatic stress.</p> <p>In recent years, the nature of civil resistance has changed with the increased role of the internet and social media in political processes. Jessica Beyer and Jennifer Earl bring their extensive expertise in this emerging field to bear in chapter five, “Backfire Online: Studying Reactions to the Repression of Internet Activism.” It is crucial to understand the ways in which online activism and the activists behind it interact with the state and other entities interested in silencing them. Drawing on recent cases studies, Beyer and Earl systematically present various forms of online repression and show how it has backfired on elites. They explore the affinities between different types of internet activism and repressive tactics, identifying multiple levels of analysis of how backfire and deterrence can be differentiated according to the actors involved (individual versus group and public versus private).</p> <p>A second major aspect of the book turns to repression management — that is, how nonviolent resisters, but also repressors, have attempted to shape the outcome of repression to their benefit. We begin with the firsthand experience of Jenni Williams, founder of the movement Women of Zimbabwe Arise, or WOZA. In chapter six, “Overcoming Fear to Overcome Repression,” Williams emphasizes the importance of establishing a movement culture that prioritizes nonviolence and encourages empowerment through shared leadership and the creative use of traditional cultural themes to withstand and blunt repression. </p> <p>When WOZA transformed the traditional role of motherhood to scold and challenge the dictatorship of Robert Mugabe, the activists were met with a brutal repression of their movement. By accepting and even courting arrest, Williams argues, the activists took away the regime’s major weapon of repression, turning it instead into a source of empowerment for the movement and individual participants, increasing the costs of the regime’s efforts to thwart them. They mobilized a campaign of “tough love,” transforming a culture of fear into a culture of resistance and constructing a creative leadership structure that allowed them to be more flexible in their tactics than the rigid authoritarian police establishment bound by its limited repertoire.</p> <p>Chapter seven, “Culture and Repression Management,” focuses on the symbolic aspects of repression and its backfire. We conceptualize nonviolent struggle as a dance between an establishment and its dissidents, a regime and its insurgents, as they contest the frames used to make meaning of repressive events. This chapter explores proactive efforts by nonviolent activists to choreograph actions in ways that help to ensure the backfire effect of repression by clearly establishing the aggression of the agents of repression. In chapter eight, “‘Smart’ Repression,” we address the growing efforts by elites to be more strategic about how they use repression, in order to mitigate the effects of its potentially backfiring. That chapter examines a relatively unexplored aspect of repression, the use of tactics that are deliberately crafted to demobilize movements while mitigating or eliminating a backfire effect.</p> <p>Dalia Ziada gives us a participant’s-eye-view of the Egyptian revolution of 2011 in chapter nine, “Egypt: Military Strategy and the 2011 Revolution,” although she is also familiar with the literature on strategic nonviolent action. What she found most remarkable was that the army in some instances chose not to use violence during the citizen uprising, and ended up collaborating with the activists to oust President Hosni Mubarak, although they returned to the usual armed forces modus operandi after seizing power from Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood in 2014. Ziada provides a firsthand account of the events of 2011 based on her own participation in the revolution and draws on her interviews with Egyptian and American military personnel.</p> <p>In chapter 10, “Repression Engendering Creative Nonviolent Action in Thailand,” Chaiwat Satha-Anand explores activist creativity following repression in Thailand. He argues that repression, such as the violent actions in 2010 of the Thai government against protesters in the Red Shirts movement, created space for new movement leadership and the introduction of creative nonviolent resistance. He calls this dynamic “the cleansing effect of violent repression.” In this Thai case, Sombat Boonngamanong developed a series of highly symbolic and creative flash mob actions that drew on a history of nonviolent resistance in Thai society.</p> <p>Finally, veteran activist, scholar and trainer George Lakey concludes the volume by providing insights from decades of practical experience and reflection in chapter 11, “Making Meaning of Pain and Fear: Enacting the Paradox of Repression.” According to Lakey, nonviolent activists create narratives that provide meaning for their risks, injuries, suffering and losses, helping them to transform pain and fear into opportunities for mobilization. These stories in turn have consequences for the tactics and strategies they choose and help to trigger the paradox of repression. Activists use these stories to prepare in advance for repressive events by training and shaping confrontations.</p> <p>By weaving together these case studies, scholarly analysis and activists’ reflection, we aim to shed light on how the paradox of repression works in multiple contexts and how activists have managed repression to enhance its potential to backfire and empower resistance.</p> <p><strong>Repression as relational conflict.</strong></p> <p>Nonviolent resistance is based in large part on the strategic harnessing of relational power. We focus on one subform in this volume: the strategic cultivation of the paradox of repression. Sometimes, when one party takes coercive action that violates basic norms, its ability to rally support and cooperation—its legitimacy—is undermined, threatening its capacity to meet its own goals. The contributors to this volume present cases in which authorities or elites used intimidation, coercion and sometimes violence in attempts to crush dissident movements. However, in each case, intimidation and physical force were seen to violate norms of proportionate response and helped to mobilize movement recruits. Elites’ efforts rebounded on them, undermining their legitimacy and diminishing their ability to govern as they wished.</p> <p>Moreover, activists can rhetorically frame the actions of their opponents or can choreograph their own actions in ways that draw attention to repression by opponents. By adopting nonviolent tactics, activists can generate a striking contrast between their own actions and the “unfair” tactics of their opponents. The dissonance that gap creates can, in turn, provoke a moral outrage that increases the support and involvement of local and third parties. Such a contrast can also cause factions to develop among a movement’s opponents as some withdraw their cooperation and refuse to participate in further repression. When repression does occur against nonviolent civilians, it may serve as a deterrent to other regimes, as when Gorbachev took note of the negative consequences worldwide of the Tiananmen Square massacre and decided not to back communist states across Eastern Europe with force when they faced nonviolent uprisings a few months later.</p> <p>Activists may also draw on local indigenous cultural resources to sensitize potential recruits and sympathetic publics to acts of repression. Legacies may be framed that perpetuate the paradox of repression long after the immediate crisis has passed. Dissidents in Czechoslovakia in 1989 commemorated the death of a young student, Jan Palach, who self-immolated in response to the 1968 invasion of Prague by Warsaw Pact troops two decades earlier. Similarly, the legacy of the British Army’s killing of civilians on Bloody Sunday in 1972 continues to influence Northern Ireland politics today, more than 40 years after the event. </p> <p>Figuring out how to harness cultural resources requires indigenous creativity or what sociologist James Jasper has called “artfulness” in developing effective tactics. The ability of activists to design effective nonviolent collective action creatively that mitigates repression or induces it to backfire may develop out of rational strategizing, but it will often emerge instinctively from the habitus, the intimate, unspoken and inarticulable perception of relations that is uniquely local. This creativity is the source of agency, which complicates cost-benefit paradigms since it is elusive and difficult to measure, and yet can significantly enhance the power potential of groups who might otherwise be considered susceptible to repression.</p> <p>In short, although the paradox of repression is a phenomenon that is widely glossed over in both policy and academic circles, it seems an obvious and ubiquitous fact in 21st century political culture and a key element in the history of successful nonviolent movements. We hope that this collection of studies will enhance understanding by reconceptualizing repression as an interaction between conflicting parties, by expanding our scope of the spheres in which repression occurs, by delving into the social, psychological and cultural dimensions of repression, by thinking more closely about the costs of repression among agents of repression, and by introducing repression management to explore ways in which strategic nonviolent activists become powerful agents within repressive contexts.</p> <p><em>Purchase a copy of “The Paradox of Repression and Nonviolent Movements” at&nbsp;<a href="http://syracuseuniversitypress.syr.edu/spring-2018/paradox-repression.html">Syracuse University Press</a>.</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/chris-moore-backman/what-we-can-really-learn-from-gandhi">What we can really learn from Gandhi?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/steven-parfitt/us-teachers-strike-in-historical-perspective">The US teachers strike in historical perspective</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/james-rowe-mike-simpson/lessons-from-front-lines-of-anti-colonial-pipeline-resistance">Lessons from the front lines of anti-colonial pipeline resistance</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Lee Smithey Lester Kurtz Transformative nonviolence Activism Fri, 31 Aug 2018 07:00:00 +0000 Lester Kurtz and Lee Smithey 119213 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Trapped on Brexit Island https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/paul-walsh/trapped-on-brexit-island <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How did we get here, and how do we escape? Transforming education would be a start.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/PaulWalsh3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Anti Brexit People's Vote March, London, June 23 2018. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/zongo/42972119401">Flickr/David Holt</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p>Stuck in a political twilight zone where the laws of causality are suspended, people stagger around in a kind of waking sickness—a disease whose most worrying symptoms are the mental gymnastics which imagine Brexit as a success and Boris Johnson as Prime Minister. Do you ever think to yourself <em>what the hell is happening?&nbsp;</em>Do you see the Johnson come-what-may-Brexit on the horizon?</p> <p>By bringing disrepute into repute, making arrogance a virtue and carving up politics according to a code known only to insiders, Johnson and company aim to spark a regulatory fire sale that leads us away from a dark European bureaucracy to the sunlit uplands of a butter-side-up Britain. No matter what kind of Brit you are—from Galashiels to Gibraltar—we’re all trapped in the same bizarre mental archipelago: <em>Brexit Island.</em> And we need an explanation of how we arrived here. </p> <p>One overlooked factor is that many of those embroiled in the Brexit narrative boarded at elite schools. Boris Johnson, David Cameron, and Jacob Rees-Mogg went to Eton, and Daniel Hannan—<a href="https://www.google.de/search?q=the+man+who+brought+you+Brexit&amp;rlz=1C1CHWA_enDE580DE580&amp;oq=the+man+who+brought+you+Brexit&amp;aqs=chrome..69i57j69i60.5210j0j7&amp;sourceid=chrome&amp;ie=UTF-8">described</a> by journalist Sam Knight as “the man who brought you Brexit” (he also invented that Maoist sound-bite “Project Fear”)—boarded at Marlborough College in the Cotswolds. </p> <p>Psychotherapist Nick Duffell knows about the psychic plumbing in such minds. His work with boarding school survivors documents the damage done by separating young boys from their mothers (some as young as six) and thrusting them into a loveless world of strangers, giving the child what George Orwell, <a href="http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/joys/english/e_joys">reflecting on his own boarding</a>, called “a sense of inferiority and the dread of offending against mysterious laws.”</p> <p>In his 2014 book <a href="https://woundedleaders.co.uk/"><em>Wounded Leaders</em></a>, Duffell writes that this forces children to develop a “strategic survival personality” characterised by “the maintenance of a facade of confidence and success, masking a rigid emotional illiteracy and intimacy avoidance.” Private school boarders become “pseudo-adults” who employ pathological tics to hide their wounded selves. They bully, they dissemble, they protect themselves with a self-invented carapace—whether it’s <em>hug-a-hoodie</em> Cameron or Johnson’s schoolyard <em>bonhomie</em>.</p> <p>Speaking from France, Duffell tells me that he can see this personality at work.</p> <blockquote><p>“Look at Jeremy Hunt. The smile on his face – <em>the NHS is falling apart ... well that’s why we’re putting in another million pounds</em> – and he never loses his cool. And Boris, always on the edge of rage. People think he’s a clown but he’s not. He’s a bully; his cleverness is all about putting someone else down.”&nbsp;&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p>These people have never grown up, giving politics on <em>Brexit Island </em>a timeless quality. Duffell writes that “Boris would have been just as much of a success in 1911 or even 1811.” And the deference shown to such figures indicates a widespread belief that privilege has been fairly earned by those who have it; we’re unable to see the systems that entrench inequality because inequality has become so entrenched. Duffell calls this the “Entitlement Illusion”, a mind trick which allows rulers to feel good about ruling and those ruled to acquiesce.</p> <p>Yet dividing a population into rulers and ruled splinters social cohesion. Foreigners see this, the Scots and Welsh increasingly see this, but if you’re English you have to acclimatise yourself to it; you have to learn to see the privilege anchoring our education system and our whole society in place. And then you see it everywhere.</p> <p>Obviously, schooling on <em>Brexit Island</em> has long been a source of mystique; elite ‘public’ schools such as Eton or Harrow that were originally endowed for the deserving poor (hence their charitable status) couldn’t be further from public control; and the role of grammar schools which operate by selection has always been to get students through their Oxbridge entrance exams (hence the focus on the Latin ‘grammar’).</p> <p>Yet there have been times when elite schooling has come under attack. The socialist <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._H._Tawney">R.H. Tawney</a> let off an early shot in his 1931 book <em>Equality</em>: </p><blockquote><p>“A special system of schools, reserved for children whose parents have larger bank-accounts than their neighbours...does more than any other single cause, except capitalism itself, to perpetuate the division of the nation into classes of which one is almost unintelligible to the other.”</p></blockquote> <p>Anthony Crosland, Harold Wilson’s education minister, <a href="http://labour-uncut.co.uk/2011/02/19/34-years-today-since-his-death-tony-croslands-challenge-to-ed-miliband/">vowed to</a> “destroy every fucking grammar school in England. And Wales. And Northern Ireland,” yet failed to kill off selection by merely <em>requesting</em> local authorities to submit plans for reorganisation in 1965. The post-war ideal was still the grammar school; <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Gaitskell">Hugh Gaitskell</a>, Labour party leader from 1955 to 1963, <a href="http://educationengland.org.uk/articles/31labourgrammar.html">argued that</a> "It would be nearer the truth to describe our proposals as a grammar-school education for all.”&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>There have always been defenders of this system from both right and left. The 1944 Butler Act sent working-class children to grammar schools via the 11-plus exam. The writer Angela Carter <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/the-return-of-the-magic-story-teller-1567062.html">thought</a> this gave Britain its first “full-blooded, enquiring rootless urban intelligentsia which didn’t define itself as a class by what its parents had done”—including filmmaker Ken Loach and journalist Janet Street-Porter. Likewise, with his own brand of working-class boosterism, Nigel Farage has <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jun/01/nigel-farage-ukip-schools-taxes">said</a> he wants to see “a grammar school in every town” to emulate his schooling at Dulwich College, where the assisted places scheme gave a few kids a leg over the educational wall.</p> <p>But you never hear from the majority whom selection failed—like my mum for example. Born in Newcastle during World War II, her class took the 11-plus in 1952. Her best friend Wilma was the only one to pass, getting a scholarship to the local grammar school and going on to become a teacher. Everyone else went to the secondary modern, which funnelled the boys to the shipyards on the Tyne and the girls to Wills’ tobacco factory to make Woodbine cigarettes. In an <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/may/04/grammar-schools-secondary-modern-11-plus-theresa-may">article on grammar schools</a> for the Guardian, Chris Horrie writes that until the 11-plus was phased out in 1976, over 20 million children received a brown envelope containing a state-certified stamp of failure.</p> <p>Little has changed. The recent BBC documentary <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b57ynx"><em>Grammar Schools:</em> <em>Who Will Get In?</em></a> told the story of Joanita who, despite her mother working at Poundland to cover the £300 needed each month for extra tuition, still received the same message of failure—by text message this time rather than by post.</p> <p>It’s this failing education system that Melissa Benn diagnoses in her 2011 book <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/1196-school-wars"><em>School Wars</em></a>. Scotland and Wales operate a comprehensive system, Northern Ireland is phasing out selection, but England is an educational patchwork, with academies operating outside local authority control, maintained schools overseen by local authorities (former comprehensives that aren’t selective), state-funded grammar schools (that select via exams), and independents (fee-paying schools some of whom, confusingly, retain the title of 'grammar school'). UK education is like quantum theory: if you understand it, you’re obviously mistaken.</p> <p>In her new book <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/2899-life-lessons"><em>Life Lessons: The Case for a National Education Service</em></a>, Benn makes a convincing case for change. To cut the Gordian educational knot, she makes several proposals that will make many parents, teachers, and heads cheer: abolish Ofsted, give the power to open schools back to local authorities, set up a commission to look at integrating academies into a public system, restore national pay for teachers, get rid of the 11-plus, give teachers their professional autonomy back, and establish an educational trust to advise on bringing private schools under the control of the state.</p> <p>Yet all these reforms could crash on the reefs of social mobility, the resilient ideology wielded by both left and right that has powered the drive towards a '<a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/1392913?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents">parentocracy</a>' based on <em>choice</em>, shifting power from producers (teachers and schools) to consumers (parents). And it's not that social mobility is <em>true</em> that keeps us believing in it; historian Selina Todd describes the much-vaunted 1950s as a time when “there were very few golden tickets to go round, and most of them went to the children of privileged parents.” It’s the fact that <em>we act as if it’s true—</em>which inevitably has real consequences.</p> <p>“Imagination is both the fabric of social life and the motor of history” <a href="https://newleftreview.org/II/111/simone-weil-meditations-on-a-corpse">wrote</a> philosopher Simone Weil. There's a cloud of uncertainty and growing elite panic over Brexit, but for the left, a path of ideas leading forward: an industrial strategy, fair taxation, reforming the financial system, and public ownership—all policies in the <a href="https://labour.org.uk/manifesto/">Labour manifesto</a>—could make Britain a fairer island.</p> <p>A 21st-century National Education Service might transform our archaic system of educational provision. Yet even that won’t be enough: to escape <em>Brexit Island </em>we need to accept that while the Boris Johnsons of this world might well deserve our pity, they certainly don’t deserve our respect.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/paul-walsh/brexit-corbyn-and-us-what-disappointment-can-teach-us-about-politics-and-o">Brexit, Corbyn and us: what disappointment can teach us about politics and ourselves</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/how-to-win-brexit-civil-war-open-letter-to-my-fellow-remainers">How to win the Brexit Civil War. An open letter to my fellow Remainers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/paul-walsh/life-s-pitch">Life’s a pitch</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation UK Brexit Education Paul Walsh Care Thu, 30 Aug 2018 11:36:50 +0000 Paul Walsh 119487 at https://www.opendemocracy.net No justice without love: why activism must be more generous https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/frances-lee/no-justice-without-love-why-activism-must-be-more-generous <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="normal">I want to be a member of a thriving and diverse social movement, not a cult or a religion.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/FrancesLee.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Occupy Love, Hella Love Oakland March, February 14 2012.<strong> </strong>Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/ghalog/6880222317/">Flickr/Glenn Halog</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">CC BY-NC 2.0.</a></p> <p class="normalCxSpMiddle">As an intersectional activist who is concerned about the future of our movements, I’m really worried that social justice activism in the West is stuck in a dangerous state of disrepair. Ideological purity has become the norm. Social justice movements, which were originally about freeing marginalized people from oppressive institutions and social structures, have become imbued with their own narrow framework of morality.</p> <p class="normal">Our knowledge base is made up of reactionary think-pieces, self-righteous social media posts, romanticized narratives of movement histories and prescriptive checklists of how to stop being problematic. &nbsp;Activists who are deemed <a href="https://www.theroot.com/the-6-degrees-of-wokeness-1819384614">“woke”</a> are praised and accepted, while others who are judged not to possess a sufficiently layered analysis of power and oppression on the axes of race, gender, sexuality and disability are demeaned or excluded. In many social justice communities, fear and shame are regularly used to control other people’s behavior and shut down contentious discussions.</p> <p class="normal">As someone who is deeply embedded in activist communities in Seattle that organize around anti-racism, prison abolition, and queer and trans folks of color this affects me every day. I’m so afraid of being <a href="https://thebodyisnotanapology.com/magazine/6-signs-your-call-out-isnt-actually-about-accountability/">called out</a> in this way by another member or group—and possibly losing access to my networks of belonging and support—that &nbsp;I am very, very careful about the political opinions and ideas I put out into the world, especially if they are still in development.</p> <p class="normal">After publishing an <a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/why-ive-started-to-fear-my-fellow-social-justice-activists-20171013">essay</a> in YES! Magazine about this anxiety I received countless letters from readers around the world expressing similar stories. Many of them identified as <em>former</em> activists and leftists, having been pushed out of activist spaces for ‘not being radical enough’ or ‘being too privileged.’</p> <p class="normal">Some readers relayed that they wept with relief to read that they weren’t the only ones feeling utterly ostracized. Others shared that they felt like they were not allowed speak up in activist spaces because they were newer to activism and weren’t familiar with social justice language, norms and analyses. Readers who identified as having privilege expressed feeling turned off by the ways they had to perform unquestioning allyship to marginalized people and respond to the guilt by shrinking themselves into nothingness.</p> <p class="normal">This pattern is hugely counterproductive because movements need critical masses of people to function in ways that transform the structures of power. It doesn’t make sense to push out members because they don’t go about doing social justice work in exactly the same way you do. Sometimes people make horrible mistakes that reinforce the status quo of power, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need them alongside us.</p> <p class="normal">Heated debates are unfolding in progressive spaces around <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/10/the-dos-and-donts-of-cultural-appropriation/411292/">cultural appropriation</a>, <a href="https://thoughtcatalog.com/sade-andria-zabala/2017/01/7-famous-white-feminists-im-so-over/">white feminists co-opting activist movements</a> and ‘<a href="https://everydayfeminism.com/2013/07/intentions-dont-really-matter/">intent vs. impact</a>’ among other issues, and such debates are important; but while we argue the finer points of detail among ourselves the Trump administration has been largely left to its own devices to <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/ct-trump-immigration-bill-negotiating-tool-20180615-story.html">separate immigrant families</a>, <a href="https://www.politico.com/story/2018/07/30/eye-popping-payouts-for-ceos-follow-trumps-tax-cuts-747649">increase corporate tax cuts</a>, <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2018/06/26/supreme-court-rules-in-trump-muslim-travel-ban-case.html">reinforce the Muslim travel ban</a> and <a href="https://splinternews.com/the-state-department-is-retroactively-revoking-transgen-1827946847">revoke trans women’s passports</a>. The danger is that intra-group debates create rifts within, or even implode, communities that have to be strong and united in the fight for justice.</p> <p class="normal">Modern activists are now expected to follow specific sets of standards to be trusted and heard by the larger group. These standards are largely driven by the evolving conversation on power, privilege and oppression on social media. Rather than opening up discussions ideas are often presented as diktats in uncomplicated listicles like <a href="https://everydayfeminism.com/2018/07/white-people-this-is-how-to-check-your-privilege-when-asking-people-of-color-for-their-labor/">“This Is How To Check Your Privilege When Asking People of Color For Their Labor”</a> or in viral infographics like <a href="https://upload.democraticunderground.com/100210942645">“Cool Kids vs Organizers.”</a></p> <p class="normal">I have no problem with the well-intentioned content of these pieces since they often bring up forgotten voices or conveniently-ignored viewpoints. But the way they are presented, re-shared and absorbed into activist culture as infallible gospel truths removes people’s agency to think for themselves. I want to be a member of a thriving and diverse social movement, not a <a href="http://www.catalystwedco.com/blog/2017/7/10/kin-aesthetics-excommunicate-me-from-the-church-of-social-justice">cult or a religion</a>.</p> <p class="normal">Furthermore, I worry that identity is being deployed as a way to separate people rather than to create coalitions to work together <em>en masse</em>. There is so much distrust of white, male, and/or straight people that marginalized identities often serve to regulate the makeup of activist communities. To tell the truth, I’ve also participated in this kind of behavior myself in queer and trans people-of-color spaces.</p> <p class="normal">After being rejected from dominant society for so long, it felt good at first to have full permission to turn away from the kinds of people who had invalidated me for much of my life. While I do believe it’s critical to curate identity-specific spaces, at this point I wonder if judging all people with more privilege hurts more than it helps. As former US president Barack Obama <a href="https://mobile.twitter.com/ABC/status/1019233996943683591">tweeted</a> recently about democracy: "You can't do it if you insist that those who aren't like you because they're white, or because they're male...that somehow they lack standing to speak on certain matters."</p> <p class="normal">What’s the antidote to this situation? I believe that social justice activists must be committed to rooting out supremacy, dogmatism, and unhealthy behaviors inside themselves while fighting for justice in society. And that means prioritizing the building of healthy relationships both with ourselves and with others, choosing alternatives to rage, and honoring ourselves as whole beings.</p> <p class="normal">So much of modern activism is a public performance, amplified by the lightning-quick churn of the internet. What does it tell us about the condition of our hearts when we are reactive and not engaging in slow contemplation? The ancient Chinese philosopher <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/100074-d-o-d-j-ng">Lao Tze reminds us</a> that “knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom.” Tending to our internal landscapes and cultivating wisdom and character is paramount to maintaining integrity as an activist. Whether through practices steeped in spirituality, religion, movement, ancient texts, nature or any kind of higher power, some sort of internal practice is necessary for sustaining ourselves.</p> <p class="normal">For example, Black Lives Matter co-founder Alicia Garza goes against popular opinion and <a href="https://mic.com/articles/166720/blm-co-founder-protesting-isnt-about-who-can-be-the-most-radical-its-about-winning#.AX4Sq69Gw">espouses</a> an attitude of welcome and forgiveness towards newer activists, especially toward white feminists who are still trying to grasp the uniquely harsh struggles of Black women. As she says, “if our movement is not serious about building power, then we are just engaged in a futile exercise of who can be the most radical.” This means setting aside the desire to be seen as the ‘most woke’ or the ‘most correct’ and accepting people at all stages of their activist journeys, no matter how outdated their politics may appear.</p> <p class="normal">Another internal quality that strengthens and grows activist movements is compassion. So often, when we as marginalized people are disregarded and abused by society we respond with rage and fighting back. How can we challenge ourselves to cultivate care and compassion for those we perceive as our enemies, so that they can be transformed into accomplices and allies? How can we hold anger and love in balance at the same time in our hearts?</p> <p class="normal">One great example is the life and work of Civil Rights elder <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruby_Sales">Ruby Sales</a>. In a recent <a href="https://onbeing.org/programs/ruby-sales-where-does-it-hurt/">radio interview</a> she called for a ‘liberating theology’ for poor, white people that shows them that they worthy of recognition. She understands that speaking to the redeeming parts of white people is essential for bringing them along in the fight for racial justice. This is a profoundly different message from the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/nov/06/my-travels-in-white-america-a-land-of-anxiety-division-and-pockets-of-pain">flurry</a> of <a href="https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/12/31/trump-white-working-class-history-216200">think-pieces</a> that have blamed working-class white people who ‘voted against their own interests’ to elect Donald Trump.</p> <p class="normal">My new book, <a href="https://hellofranceslee.files.wordpress.com/2018/05/toward-an-ethics-of-activism-20182.pdf">Toward An Ethics of Activism: A Community Investigation of Humility, Grace and Compassion in Movements for Justice</a>, maps out a whole range of ways to address the relational problems of progressive activism. For example, trans activist and law professor Dean Spade outlines a toolkit for resolving interpersonal conflicts within activist organizations so that they can stay intact. He draws on the embodied practice of <a href="http://www.generativesomatics.org/content/what-somatics">Generative Somatics</a> to lead the reader into a set of self-reflective questions when feelings of anger, hurt or disappointment arise towards another person. This includes taking space to recognize how you are feeling in your body, identify past wounds that are being triggered, ask yourself what else is true about the person who harmed you, and attempt to seek reconciliation privately.</p> <p class="normal">At the root of all this work is a long and deep-seated history of oppression. Marginalized people have every right to fight back and rage about the injustices we and our ancestors have experienced in the face of colonization, slavery, imperialism and capitalism. At the same time, holding onto a constant state of antagonism towards those who are more privileged than you is exhausting and <a href="https://www.lennyletter.com/story/how-i-overcame-anger-as-a-black-writer-online">leads to devastating personal burn out.</a></p> <p class="normal">Aligning on the ‘right side of history’ in struggles for justice doesn’t mean that our own communities don’t have serious areas of growth to address, including patterns of <a href="https://selfishactivist.com/the-hidden-cost-of-call-out-culture-is-bigotry/">intolerance</a> and dominance. I believe that we must create ample space for rage and critique and also humility and gentleness, understanding that they are all valid expressions of the spectrum of human emotions. We must honor our full humanity, especially the parts of ourselves that aren’t in alignment yet with our liberatory values. And part of honoring our humanity means honoring the humanity of others, even that of our enemies and oppressors. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/pacita-rudder/building-different-form-of-power-young-people-s-voices-from-california-">Building a different form of power: young people’s voices from California’s Central Valley</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/mysticism-of-wide-open-eyes">The mysticism of wide open eyes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/fearless-collective/we-protest-by-creating-beauty">We protest by creating beauty</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Frances Lee Transformative nonviolence Activism Tue, 28 Aug 2018 18:47:30 +0000 Frances Lee 119358 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why transforming the economy begins and ends with cooperation https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/esteban-kelly/why-transforming-economy-begins-and-ends-with-cooperation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Co-ops might not transform people, but the act of cooperation often does.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/EstebanKelly2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Worker-owners of the CERO co-op with one of their zero-waste transport vehicles. Credit: Copyright 2016 <a href="http://www.cero.coop/">CERO</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p class="normal">“When I heard about the green economy for the first time, a light bulb went off in my head. We can create businesses and jobs for ourselves.” That’s how co-op worker-owner Tim Hall explains his <a href="http://www.cero.coop/about.html">initial spark of inspiration</a>. Eventually he joined together with other unemployed Boston residents to found <a href="http://www.cero.coop/">CERO</a> (Cooperative Energy, Recycling, and Organics), an award-winning food waste pickup and diversion service. The name is fitting, since “CERO”—which means “zero” in Spanish—seamlessly blends their zero-waste mission with a green jobs strategy of workforce development among low-skilled workers, especially immigrants and people of color.</p> <p class="normal">Cooperatives provide a sustainable and accountable way of providing goods and services—and they can help to transform our economies before it is too late. They promise a tantalizing future of sustainable social enterprise, community control, worker self-management and workplace democracy that places economic decision-making back into the hands of workers and consumers. Could co-ops dislodge capitalism and loosen its chokehold on what feels like every facet of our lives, or will they themselves become co-opted?</p> <p class="normal">At some point in the last 50 years capitalism corralled the power to define everything about how we think about economics. That’s one of the benefits baked into being the dominant organizing force of the economy. But the bigger truth is that ‘the economy’ includes more than the profit-maximizing ethos of capitalism, just as ‘democracy’ isn’t the property of Congress or parliament. In democratic societies (at least in theory) we have elected and accountable representatives for everything from parent-teacher associations and children’s sports leagues to the general assemblies where members deliberate with each other in neighborhood associations and union halls.</p> <p class="normal">The same is true for economics, where undemocratic, shareholder-controlled, profit-obsessed enterprises have come to be equated with the concept of business itself—and especially with commerce, money, mission and productivity. Cooperatives are for-profit businesses which operate in virtually every industry. They undergird global commerce, particularly in agriculture, energy, and local banking via credit unions, but instead of maximizing profits for their investors they are driven primarily by the interests of their members–– who may be producers on a farm, the residents of an apartment complex, the consumers of utilities and retail goods, or the workers in a factory. In co-ops the goal is to get a better price for farmers, more affordable housing for residents, higher-quality goods for consumers, and meaningful, healthy, fair-paying jobs for workers.</p> <p class="normal">Is this inherently anti-capitalist? In a way, yes, because co-ops use capital to put people over profit, which inverts the profit-over-people logic of the current global economy. Worker cooperatives may be the most coherent alternative to capitalism as we know it because they put capital at the service of labor rather than the other way around. Some fall short of this ideal of course, and co-ops don’t guarantee social justice by themselves (which is why we still need social movements), but the co-op model inherently prioritizes the good of the many over the benefit of the few.</p> <p class="normal">Generally speaking, the cooperative economy is better described as ‘a-capitalist’ rather than ‘anti-capitalist,’ because it can prosper in both market economies and socialist economies like Cuba, which currently has <a href="https://www.ncba.coop/images/Cuba-Photo-Gallery/Cuba-Report-2017-FINAL.pdf">about the same number of worker co-ops</a> as the United States. But in its desperation to legitimize and stabilize itself, capitalism is eager to co-opt at least the superficial characteristics of the cooperative economy, much as it has co-opted sustainable business through <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/greenwashing-green-energy-hoffman/">greenwashing</a> campaigns over the last 20 years. Throughout the 20th century we have witnessed capitalism absorb cooperative elements into its structures in an attempt to reconstitute itself during its many crises.</p> <p class="normal">At the same time, it’s disappointing but necessary to point out that some of the world’s largest cooperatives have managed to compete and survive against conventional businesses by mimicking the corporate cultures of late-capitalist firms. Who knew that American household brands like <a href="http://www.landolakes.com/">Land O’Lakes</a> and <a href="http://www.oceanspray.com/">Ocean Spray</a> were both cooperatives? And when was the last time you were invited to vote in a general membership meeting of your credit union?</p> <p class="normal">What’s more important than being ‘pro- ‘or ‘anti-capitalist’ is the recognition that cooperatives must figure heavily in any democratic, post-capitalist economy. This matters a great deal now, because while the contradictions and unsustainable nature of capitalism have become glaringly clear, many people struggle to articulate what will replace it. The exception is a rising consensus that cooperatives (along with small independent and family businesses) will replace the capitalist firm as the core non-governmental form of enterprise in the future. Cooperatives are an essential instrument of economic democracy.</p> <p class="normal">But to succeed in this way, co-ops must stay true to the mission and guiding values. Employee-owned cooperatives force us to confront our own desire to do what it takes to live justly, sustainably, and in a participatory, people-centered way. They remove the excuse that the problem is the demands of the shareholder or the red-tape of government bureaucracy or the bullish will of a boss. When we have worker owned and controlled businesses, we must take responsibility for how well we pay ourselves, how connected our businesses are to the community and its needs, and how healthy our own workloads and quality of life truly are.</p> <p class="normal">For as long as cooperatives fight to persist in a ravenous capitalist economy, these challenges will be greater, because a co-op’s products and services must rival the quality and price point of deceitful capitalist enterprises which cut corners on safety and the environment, and steal wages from workers in order to maximize benefits for their shareholders. Cooperatives are put on trial time and again because people want to imbue them with some magical or mechanical power to resolve societal problems. In the current context (or perhaps any context) this is impossible, but they do have the potential to be healthy and restorative as in the case of CERO.</p> <p class="normal">The lowest income people in Boston may be on the frontlines of environmental disaster in their city, but Hall and his colleagues have found a way for their communities to become protagonists in creating solutions. Cooperatives put folks like them at the center of the economy, which means that ordinary people can use the power of business to address their needs and guide how change happens, thus helping to fulfill the promise of a democratic economy—not just voting once or twice a year but coming together to solve problems every day. The real question is this: can we as people put our full weight behind a new economic paradigm that is inclusive, inter-dependent, anti-sexist, multi-racial, anti-imperialist and liberatory?</p> <p class="normal">I’ve spent 20 years as an active member of many different types of cooperative in the US, including the intimate living spaces of over a dozen shared housing co-ops and handling the day-to-day business of two different worker-run cooperatives. What I can tell you is this: by themselves such co-ops aren’t going to save us, nor are they going to transform society. But co-ops are an especially effective tool for change. They leverage innovations from the capitalist era of enterprise and turn them into a positive force within the broader spheres of human relationships, responsible resource consumption, and transparent governance and accountability— typically while staying rooted locally and showing concern for the community.</p> <p class="normal">Deep transformation happens at the level of human beings, who then bring their reorientation to the structures in which they participate. Cooperatives are a vehicle to catalyze that change, but they only yoke together the people in the pilot’s seat. What ultimately matters is the disposition of the pilots themselves. We are the ones that have to change.</p> <p class="normal">However, what I’ve also seen during my decades in cooperative communities is that while co-ops might not transform people, the act of cooperation often does. Not overnight, and not evenly for everyone. But the more my co-workers and housemates participated in cooperative processes like facilities maintenance, financial planning, passing a health inspection or some other shared work or act of problem-solving, the more humility, trust, empathy, stewardship and solidarity we each expressed. The habits of hierarchical, capitalist behaviors receded like the tide as we practiced interdependence and cooperation.</p> <p class="normal">What we need are more opportunities to practice, screw up and improve in this way. And with more practice, we can all develop the qualities required to work through conflict and manage operations sensibly and democratically. Cooperation is the key to a new economy.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/eli-feghali/where-next-for-new-economy-movement">Where next for the New Economy movement?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jem-bendell/future-of-sharing-its-still-about-freedom">The future of sharing: it&#039;s still about freedom</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jeremy-lent/five-ways-to-curb-power-of-corporations">Five ways to curb the power of corporations</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation cooperatives Esteban Kelly The role of money Economics Sun, 26 Aug 2018 18:17:54 +0000 Esteban Kelly 119356 at https://www.opendemocracy.net No, the existence of trans people doesn’t validate gender essentialism https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kaylee-jakubowski/no-existence-of-trans-people-doesn-t-validate-gender-essentialism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Finding the middle ground between our bodies and our cultural influences has always been a paramount idea in feminism—and the politics of transitioning are no different.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Kaylee Jakubowski.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p><em>Blue for boys; pink for girls. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikecogh/5712981936">Flickr/Michael Coghlan</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">CC BY-SA 2.0</a>.</em></p> <p><em>Originally published on <a href="https://everydayfeminism.com/2015/03/trans-people-gender-essentialism/?mc_cid=7acf0211e2&amp;mc_eid=31d9702634">Everyday Feminism</a>.</em></p> <p>By now, it should be no secret that&nbsp;<a title="10 Misconceptions Every Trans Ally Needs to Understand" href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/11/misconceptions-trans-ally-understand/">allyship with trans people</a>&nbsp;is a core component to&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/01/why-our-feminism-must-be-intersectional/">intersectional feminist thought</a>. Yet there is still one question I consistently hear from well-intentioned friends and colleagues: “<em>Don’t trans people validate the idea that men and women must exist within certain societal roles? Doesn’t it perpetuate gender essentialism?</em>”</p> <p>This question—conjoined with the constant assault of doubt and skepticism aimed at the entire existence of trans identities—has likely haunted a fair share of politically conscious trans activists themselves at one point or another over the course of their transition.To answer this question, we’ll need to start by defining&nbsp;<a href="http://std.about.com/od/G-L/fl/What-is-gender-essentialism.htm" target="_blank">gender essentialism</a>.</p> <p>Gender essentialism is the idea that men and women have inherent, unique, and natural attributes that qualify them as their separate genders. These differences are often biological or sexual, and they are almost exclusively viewed as polar opposites: Men are strong, women are weak; men are dominant, women are submissive; men have penises, women have vulvas; men have a high sex drive, women constantly need convincing; and so on and so forth. Gross right?</p> <p>Moreover, gender essentialism fuses gender and sex to one another intrinsically. To someone promoting gender essentialism, gender and sex are identical. Naturally, growing a masculine-read body but being a woman (i.e. a trans woman) is a sheer impossibility. This is the reason why some see&nbsp;<a title="10 Things I Wished I’d Known When I Started My Transition" href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/12/10-things-starting-transition/">transitioning</a>&nbsp;as a submission to essentialist thought: trans women and trans men are making their bodies more feminine or masculine, accordingly, and thus promoting this fusion of gender and sex. Right?</p> <p>Not exactly.&nbsp;This assertion isn’t as cut-and-dry as it might seem. In fact, it is absolutely possible to take a stance against gender essentialism and still continue to transition – or to support your Queer kin who are doing so.</p> <p><strong>Transition itself is non-essentialist.</strong></p> <p>As I mentioned above, two core parts of gender essentialist thought are the biological and sexual assumptions that go along with a person’s definition of what it means to be a man or a woman (<em>and being&nbsp;</em><a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/10/non-binary-people-portraits/"><em>neither of these</em></a><em>, of course, is right out of the question</em>).</p> <p>A common narrative that trans people express is that they aim to become their&nbsp;<em>“</em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/05/transgender-woman_n_1311562.html" target="_blank"><em>true selves</em></a><em>.”&nbsp;</em>However,&nbsp;striving to become one’s true self is not the same thing as the popular misconception that trans men or trans women are working to “<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/19/magazine/when-women-become-men-at-wellesley-college.html" target="_blank"><em>become the opposite sex.</em></a>” The differences between these two are subtle, but important.</p> <p>The first description implies that they are&nbsp;<em>already</em>&nbsp;men, women, or non-binary and are searching for ways to&nbsp;<a title="Separating Out Gender Identity from Gender Expression" href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/05/separating-identity-expression/">better express their reality</a>. The second implies that their identity is completely invalid&nbsp;<em>until</em>&nbsp;they alter their bodies.&nbsp;Right from the get-go, we’re subjected to a cissexist perspective on trans realities.</p> <p>Of course we’re going to believe that transitioning is inherently essentialist when the argument starts this way—because it has been inaccurately presented to us&nbsp;as&nbsp;<em>inherently </em>essentialist. The journey to become one’s “<em>true self</em>” frequently passes through many places.&nbsp;A common one involves the person freeing themselves from the gender expression expected of people with their body and adopting one that feels more natural. Another involves altering their body so that they can feel more comfortable in it, which allows them to reclaim it for themselves in the way that they see best fit.</p> <p>Both of these self-affirmations break apart the idea that the person is permanently and biologically tied to their gender,&nbsp;while still affirming their&nbsp;<a title="3 Ways to Respect Your Child’s Autonomy While Still Being a Parent" href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/02/respecting-your-childs-autonomy/">right to be autonomous</a>&nbsp;over their own body and to alter it to their content. Transitioning is non-essentialist by its nature because it actively defies the idea that bodies need to or should operate in accordance with how they “<em>naturally</em>” operate. It denies the presumption that our bodies have a biological predestination and queers (<em>as opposed to maintains</em>) the social constructs surrounding gender and our bodies.</p> <p><strong>Trans people are diverse.</strong></p> <p>Another major reason why the “<em>transition-as-essentialist</em>” argument falls flat is because not every trans person is identical or wants the same things. A full body transition is not desired by every trans person. There are even major trans activists who promote the radical idea that&nbsp;<a href="http://thoughtcatalog.com/zinnia-jones/2013/08/10-rules-for-managing-your-penis-when-youre-trans/" target="_blank">trans women can actually love the body they’re in</a>&nbsp;and don’t need to feel coerced to change themselves.</p> <p>Conversations between trans people about their bodies, the gendering of them, and the significance and political meaning of physical transition have been happening in Western culture for as long as two trans people have been talking to one another. In fact, trans people have been defying the gendered expectations of their bodies for at least as long.</p> <p>Furthermore,&nbsp;the argument that transitioning is inherently essentialist undermines the diversity that exists even within people who&nbsp;<em>are </em>transitioning.</p> <p>Butch trans women&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCxH0s0YtPU" target="_blank">exist</a>.</p> <p>Femme trans men&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WO1TqUaLPZk" target="_blank">exist</a>.</p> <p>Transitioning agender and non-binary people&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJCdGw4g-vg" target="_blank">exist</a>.</p> <p>These expressions and identities, in and of themselves, subvert gender essentialist expectations by queering the binary constructs of gender, gender roles, and expectations.</p> <p>A person’s&nbsp;<a title="16 Myths About Gender Confirmation Surgery" href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/10/gender-confirmation-surgery/" target="_blank">decision to change their body</a>—or advocating for increased autonomy so that they can—does not necessitate advocacy for a gender essentialist world. Just the opposite, it adds options and opportunity for people to exist in non-essentialist ways. It opens doors for people to express their genders and reclaim their bodies where they would otherwise feel trapped.</p> <p>Most importantly, it shows off the gender binary and the norm of arbitrarily gendering children for what these systems really are: broken as hell.</p> <p><strong>Well okay, maybe it’s a&nbsp;<em>little</em>&nbsp;essentialist.</strong></p> <p>I’ve spent the last two sections demonizing gender essentialism and showing how it is not the sole purpose for transitioning, and I stand by those arguments. Gender essentialism—in <em>the way I defined it above and the way that it’s understood throughout our society—is </em>a totally garbage concept that is largely to blame for much of the gender-based oppression within our culture.</p> <p>This is obvious just by looking at how our own identities differ from the social norms that exist around us. We alone dictate that gender essentialism simply&nbsp;<em>can’t&nbsp;</em>be natural law. Biologist and Queer-feminist activist&nbsp;<a href="http://juliaserano.com/" target="_blank">Julia Serano</a>&nbsp;talks about her own apprehensions toward gender essentialism in regards to her own identity in her book&nbsp;<a href="http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781580055048" target="_blank"><em>Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive</em></a>. She compares the nature-vs-nurture dichotomy first by showing the flaws in gender being recognized as only genetic:</p> <blockquote><p><em>“[I]f being genetically male automatically led to a male identity, masculine gender expression, and exclusive attraction to women, [then] how did I become a bisexual femme-tomboy transsexual woman?”</em></p></blockquote> <p>Simply put, if gender essentialism were the rule, genderqueer identities just wouldn’t exist. The ills that gender essentialism has brought women and non-binary folx has led many of these people to embrace&nbsp;<em>gender artifactualism</em>, the understanding of gender as strictly a&nbsp;<a href="http://thefeministagenda.blogspot.com/2009/04/social-construction-of-gender.html" target="_blank">social construction</a>. After all, gender norms differ from culture to culture, and they certainly don’t accurately describe every person within our own culture, so they can’t be natural or inherent to us as humans. But Serano addresses an inconsistency with the idea that gender is exclusively a social phenomenon as well.</p> <p>She describes scenarios in which male children were reassigned as female (<em>after their&nbsp;“ambiguous”&nbsp;genitals or&nbsp;</em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Reimer" target="_blank"><em>botched circumcisions</em></a><em>&nbsp;led doctors to mandate it for them</em>) grew up to be men or have “male-typical” traits, despite them being raised and socialized as girls. She also touches on how this gender artifactualism doesn’t coincide with her own gender reality, using a similar argument as above:</p> <blockquote><p><em>“[If] socialization artificially brainwashes all of us into becoming heterosexual masculine men and feminine women, then how do you explain the existence of fabulous bisexual femme-tomboy transsexual women such as myself?”</em></p></blockquote> <p>Out of this conundrum, Serano concludes that there is only one explanation:&nbsp;Gender is neither essentialist&nbsp;<em>nor&nbsp;</em>artifactualist, but is&nbsp;<em>both&nbsp;</em>essentialist&nbsp;<em>and</em>&nbsp;artifactualist, each to some degree depending on the individual person.&nbsp;She refers to this concept as the&nbsp;<em>holistic model of gender</em>.</p> <p>So while neither our biology nor our socialization&nbsp;<em>exclusively&nbsp;</em>dictate who we will be and how we will identify, there is evidence that&nbsp;<em>both</em>&nbsp;of these influences simultaneously and convolutedly guide us toward one direction or another. (<em>This outcome should be unsurprising in a field of study that works to&nbsp;</em><a href="http://artsites.ucsc.edu/faculty/gustafson/FILM%20165A.W11/film%20165A%5BW11%5D%20readings%20/Lorber.Beyond.pdf" target="_blank"><em>deny binaries and dichotomies</em></a>). From there, finding the comfort zone between self-affirmation and political idealism is up to the individual; not every trans person is an activist, after all.</p> <p>Gender essentialism is a tricky topic. On one hand, it’s been used to legitimize both sexism and trans-antagonism; on the other, evidence suggests that it might not be entirely unfounded for every person.</p> <p>Finding the middle ground between our bodies and our cultural influences has always been a paramount idea in feminism—and the politics of transitioning are no different. Advocating for and supporting transgender rights by acknowledging the diversity that exists within trans people is inherently non-essentialist, and opens more doors and opportunities for people to explore their genders and create a society that respects the full array of human experience.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sofa-gradin/it-s-gender-that-s-joke-not-queerness">It’s gender that’s a joke, not queerness</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/t-m-murray/why-are-religious-conservatives-embracing-transgender-rights">Why are religious conservatives embracing transgender rights? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jon-greenberg/how-intersectional-feminism-transformed-me-from-asshole-to-activist">How intersectional feminism transformed me from an asshole to an activist</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Trans* and non-binary genders Kaylee Jakubowski Liberation Intersectionality Thu, 23 Aug 2018 18:19:25 +0000 Kaylee Jakubowski 119233 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Social activism and the economics of mental health https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/john-picton/social-activism-and-economics-of-mental-health <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Apolitical volunteering is ill-equipped to address the structural causes of depression.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/John Picton.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">“Volunteering.” Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/danielthornton/8620041374">Flickr/Daniel Thornton</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p>‘Social prescribing,’ where patients with depression join in community activities as a part of their treatment, is moving from the fringe of medical practice to the mainstream. Matt Hancock, the new British Minister for Health and Social Care, <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/social-prescribing-schemes-across-england-to-receive-45-million">has pledged £4.5m to promote it</a>, but we should stop to think before we take this medicine: linking patients to their communities is a positive step, but a better move would be for people to get involved in social activism.</p> <p>The Minister probably has one eye on his budget, since social prescribing <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/social-prescribing-health-conditions_uk_5b586a95e4b0de86f4923524">is thought to stop patients coming back to doctor’s surgeries</a>—so saving the state money in the National Health Service (NHS). But this scheme, which normally involves referring the patient to a link worker who then recommends different types of community activity for them, is about more than balancing the books: in fact the NHS is administering a large dose of social theory. </p> <p>Almost 20 years ago, the American Political Scientist <a href="http://robertdputnam.com/">Robert Putnam</a> published <em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bowling_Alone">Bowling Alone</a></em>. Since then there has been a groundswell of interest in its central concept of ‘social capital’—the idea that community bonds such as those developed in bowling leagues in the USA make both individuals and societies happier and healthier. </p> <p>Putnam is a nuanced writer, but the core focus of <em>Bowling Alone</em> is on community participation not social activism. He wants to unify us not cause political fights, and hopes to develop a country of association-joiners: religious service attenders, sports club players, park gardeners, members of knitting circles and school governors. In one interview <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2007/jul/18/communities.guardiansocietysupplement">he analogises this to a honeycomb</a>, a social system of welcoming and interlocking groups, each empowered as a part of a greater civic whole.</p> <p>Charismatic, and with the enigmatic appearance of a nineteenth century preacher, Putnam has become an academic celebrity. His ideas on social capital have been met with great enthusiasm by policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic. <a href="https://www.behaviouralinsights.co.uk/north-america/robert-putnam-celebrating-his-incredible-contribution-to-the-study-of-social-capital/">One British policy group</a> working right at the heart of the Cabinet Office has called him the most influential political scientist alive. Before his promotion, Hancock held the British Government’s brief for civil society, and the influence of <em>Bowling Alone</em> can be clearly felt in his new policy on social prescribing. Linking individual depression to a lack of community activity takes a leaf straight out of Putnam’s book. </p> <p>At core the idea is simple: integrating patients into their communities is thought to <a href="https://bmcfampract.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2296-9-27">develop self-esteem</a> and social support, providing a holistic treatment instead of just prescribing drugs. In turn, the community will also be improved. It would take a hard heart to reject this idea completely; friends and community really are an important element in our lives whether or not we have depression. </p> <p><a href="https://www.ageuk.org.uk/Documents/EN-GB/For-professionals/Health-and-wellbeing/Social_Prescribing_Report.pdf?dtrk=true">One report by the charity Age Concern</a> describes the case of a woman who, having lost her husband to suicide, found solace in volunteering as a befriender and in theatre outings. Another, trapped in a rural community without access to transport, was encouraged to organise a local party. Social prescribing <a href="https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/social-prescribing">is also deployed</a> in support of community gardening, sports and arts and crafts. Although there <a href="https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/7/4/e013384">is little hard evidence</a> to back this up, strengthening the community links of patients seems likely to have a positive impact on their health.</p> <p>But there is something missing from this picture. Depression is intimately connected with economic structures. Even when we are well paid we might still have a difficult boss. Target-driven work culture <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/article/PIIS2215-0366(18)30176-7/fulltext">is bad for us</a>, leading to intense and demanding jobs in environments over which we have little control. When we are also short of money our situation gets even worse; unemployment impacts negatively on health, and <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0001879109000037">the effect is more pronounced</a> in countries with weak social security systems. Discrimination <a href="http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1471-6402.00090">impairs our mental well-being</a>.</p> <p>In their new book <em><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kate-pickett-richard-wilkinson/enemy-between-us-how-inequality-erodes-our-mental-heal">The Inner Level</a></em>, epidemiologists Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson make a data-based case, not only that unequal societies are worse to live in but also that inequality erodes trust and leads to anxiety, causing an arms race in competitive consumption. This animus is good for no one; disparities in wealth connect with the prevalence of mental illness, and so depression is linked to a deep economic ordering which volunteering is ill-equipped to address. No bowling league will work for a fairer society and no gardening club can keep your boss off your back. </p> <p>It’s not that social capital theory is wrong, just incomplete: community networks are an important, perhaps vital, element of our lives. But even combined with medication they are not a truly holistic solution to depression. By emphasising community over political action, social prescribing side-steps the economics of mental illness: a focus on social capital shifts the frame away from the social effects of capitalism. It is <em>economic </em>society that needs a visit to the doctor. </p> <p>Of course we should not abandon hope in voluntary action. In its more radical guise as social activism it focuses attention on the economic context of depression. In this vein, a charity called <a href="https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/get-involved/activity/persuade-your-employer-sign-time-change-pledge">Time to Change</a> encourages its members to meet with their bosses, requesting a pledge to tackle mental health stigma in the workplace. Another charity, <a href="https://www.mind.org.uk/about-us/our-policy-work/benefits/">Mind</a>, works to improve welfare benefits for mental health sufferers, encouraging its members to lobby Parliament. In contrast to much community work, these campaigns put politics at the centre.</p> <p>In the period since Putnam wrote <em>Bowling Alone</em>, it has become obvious that society cannot realistically be theorised as a civic whole of interlocking groups: there is no ‘honeycomb.’ News reports reflect a world of irreconcilable conflict, from Brexit in the UK to the polarising impact of President Trump in the USA. Yet the fact that we can no longer ignore our divisions might lead us to mount a back-to-front argument <em>against</em> politicising volunteering in this way: in a context of strife, non-political community work could be said to provide a neutral space which opens up a civic domain in which we can come together and leave politics at the door; a place where we might give it all a rest and just concentrate on something fun like bowling.</p> <p>There is some mileage in this view. It’s true that not everyone wants to talk politics with their neighbours, but all political silence has a cost. After two years of field work, the American Sociologist <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/658024?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents">Nina Eliasoph concluded</a> that volunteers often work to keep their conversations neutral, taking care not to sour the mood at meetings. Yet to disengage on social questions is to accept a type of disempowerment, a self-removal from the scene. For Eliasoph, social activists have something valuable that community workers do not—a willingness to recognise complexity, challenge authority, and relate deeply with each other. To confront political issues is only to recognise social reality. </p> <p>While a focus on the economics of depression might push some right-leaning volunteers out of the meeting room, single-issue activism can still be reasonably inclusive. In contrast to party membership, which might require the broad embrace of a cluster of divisive policies, social activism hones in on a cause. A single issue can provide a point around which diverse people might coalesce, even when they agree on little else. At best, activists enjoy the community advantages of a cell in Putnam’s honeycomb. They can be tightly bound together as friends, but they also have a critical awareness of cracks in the overall social and political structure.</p> <p>Social activism can mean leafletting, door knocking and collecting signatures, but it is not necessary to get cold outside in order to change the world. Those that prefer the warm might turn to art. <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/3653925?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents">William Morris</a>, the Victorian socialist and designer thought that joy in creativity was nature’s compensation for toil in labour. Depressed in office work, we might still take pleasure in music, dance, film, photography, crafts or ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kali-swenson/social-justice-with-knitting">craftivism</a>.’ It is even possible to politicise a knitting circle if activists put slogans onto clothes, quilts and samplers, voicing the economics of depression in cross-stitch. Or they might write and blog together, explaining the world in order to change it. What matters is that we do all our work with an awareness of society, politics and economics, combined with a willingness to change all three.</p> <p>The British Minister for Health should be given credit for being innovative, but it is unrealistic to expect him embrace or encourage social activism. No Minister could prescribe social change on the National Health Service; part of the attraction of Putnam’s theory is precisely its political safety. Policy-makers are responsible for steadying the ship of state not rocking it. </p> <p>When Brooks Newmark, a former British Minister for Civil Society <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/sep/03/charities-knitting-politics-brook-newmark">said recently</a> that charities should “stick to their knitting,” he meant to imply that they should keep out of political and economic issues. But that is the voice of the <em>status quo</em>. In fact, politics is precisely what volunteers should be doing—not least with their needlework.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/when-is-civil-society-force-for-social-transformation">When is civil society a force for social transformation?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/participation-now/hilde-c-stephansen-leah-lievrouw-nick-mahony/when-is-citizen-participation-transfo">When is citizen participation transformative? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/peroline-ainsworth-kiran-nihalani/five-ways-to-build-solidarity-across-our-difference">Five ways to build solidarity across our differences</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation ourNHS Transformation Civil society John Picton The politics of mental health Activism Tue, 21 Aug 2018 20:02:44 +0000 John Picton 119353 at https://www.opendemocracy.net 1968: The revolution that will not die https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/gregory-leffel/revolution-that-will-not-die <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How conservatives won the counter-revolution after 1968—and how they might lose.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/GregLeffel.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/year-retro-1968-memory-737433/">Pixabay/Geralt</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">CCO 1.0</a>.</p> <p>This year’s fiftieth-anniversary media celebration of 1968’s ‘year from hell’ feels a lot like opening a high school yearbook to reminisce about old friends. HBO’s fresh take on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVGRg89DbyM">Martin Luther King Jr's</a>&nbsp;last years and Netflix’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Io3uQ6Q4NlU">Bobby Kennedy</a> bio-pic reconnect us to our ‘class presidents.’ And who can forget the colorful gallery of ‘classmates’ in CNN’s <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEnRklOsCCk"><em>1968: The Year that Changed America</em></a><em>, </em>from Abbie Hoffman and Daniel Cohn-Bendit to Alexander Dubcek and Richard Nixon?</p> <p>But so what? Why not lock up 1968 in a time capsule and forget about it? The answer is simple: because it was a hugely-significant event that even now refuses to leave us alone.</p> <p><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immanuel_Wallerstein">Immanual Wallerstein,</a> faculty representative that year for radical students at Columbia University, insists that 1968 was a “world revolution,” comparing it to Europe’s numerous 1848 national revolutions, many of which backfired, but all of which together redefined radical and reactionary politics for a century. Likewise, 1968 will play out well beyond 2018, but not only in a positive sense: it was that year’s reactionary counter-revolution that undid the promise of radical freedom and equality and continues to do so today.</p> <p>What did the Sixties’ “<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Sixties-Years-Hope-Days-Rage/dp/0553372122/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1533332657&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=todd+gitlin+years+of+hope">years of hope, days of rage</a>” actually reveal? In a nutshell: a cultural transformation that marked the beginning of the end of white, liberal, male-dominated America as we had known it. The Sixties broke the cultural authority of liberal democratic-capitalism and the West’s grand narrative of ‘progress.’ A wide public came to agree with <a href="https://kinginstitute.stanford.edu/king-papers/documents/beyond-vietnam">King’s demand</a> for “a revolution of values” to challenge the “giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism and militarism,” to which feminists added emancipation from patriarchy.</p> <p>We lost trust in our institutions, especially political institutions, thus commencing their 50-year slide into a crisis of legitimacy. Bourgeois mores and ‘high culture’ gave way to the sexual and pop revolutions; Enlightenment rationality to new forms of consciousness; the hegemony of homogeneous white culture to diversity; and excessive economic growth to protecting the planet. The personal became political, while identity and identity rights replaced national citizenship as the foundation of political solidarity.</p> <p>All these gains—and they are substantial when compared to the pre-1960s world—continue to define the left’s thinking and political culture. Disastrously, however, the’68ers never put in place a coherent political economy to institutionalize these gains; nor did they manage to assert enough cultural authority to define the new world on their own terms. Instead, that initiative was picked up by racial and economic reactionaries.&nbsp;</p> <p>The conservative counter-revolution began in 1968 with Richard Nixon’s race-baiting, ‘law and order,’ “<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/1970/05/17/archives/nixons-southern-strategy-its-all-in-the-charts.html">southern strategy</a>” and the shift of the anti-civil rights vote to the Republican Party. This story of &nbsp;white backlash in the aftermath of the Civil Rights era is well-known—‘white flight,’ continued housing discrimination, private ‘segregation’ schools, violence over mandated school bussing, resistance to affirmative action, and vicious ‘law and order’ policies that targeted African-Americans.</p> <p>But there is another side to this coin: the furious counter-revolution of business elites to protect their ‘freedom’ from the insurgent democratic and ‘socialist’ masses. ‘<em>Panicked’ </em>might be a better word in light of their perception of a concerted left-wing attack on capitalism. Just as the radical student New Left organized around the 1962 <a href="http://www2.iath.virginia.edu/sixties/HTML_docs/Resources/Primary/Manifestos/SDS_Port_Huron.html"><em>Port Huron Statement</em></a>, radical capitalism’s call-to-arms grew from the 1971 <a href="http://reclaimdemocracy.org/powell_memo_lewis/"><em>Powell Memorandum</em></a>, and the movement it set off continues to drive the counter-revolutionary narrative 50 years later.</p> <p>The first part of this story has been well-told by economic historian&nbsp;<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Globalists-End-Empire-Birth-Neoliberalism/dp/0674979524/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1533320991&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=quinn+slobodian+globalists">Quinn Slobodian</a> in terms of the acceleration of global <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/aug/18/neoliberalism-the-idea-that-changed-the-world">neoliberal</a> capitalism from the early 1970s. Neoliberals set two revolutionary goals to protect capitalists from insurgent radicals.</p> <p>First, to re-organize capitalism on a universal, transnational scale and thus place global markets out of reach of the influence of national governments, making markets less subject to national-scale popular democratic demands and freeing corporations to exploit labor and the environment at will.</p> <p>Second, to apply global economics in a <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_to_the_bottom">“race to the bottom”</a> competition between nations, creating ‘austerity societies’ of disempowered consumers at the expense of social groups and their ‘market-distorting’ demands. &nbsp;The formation of the World Trade Organization in 1995 capped-off this revolutionary process of transferring economic power from nations—which ostensibly could be controlled democratically—to the much-less accountable global level.</p> <p>The second part of the counter-revolution’s story is unique to the United States. Historian&nbsp;<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Democracy-Chains-History-Radical-Stealth/dp/1101980974/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1533335608&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=nancy+maclean%2C+democracy+in+chains">Nancy MacLean</a> and journalist <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Dark-Money-History-Billionaires-Radical/dp/0307947904/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1533335658&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=jane+mayer+dark+money">Jane Mayer</a> have at long last given it a systematic, critical narrative. Copying from the Sixties’ New Left revolutionary style and even adopting Lenin’s plan for secret, revolutionary cadres, radical libertarians created their own revolutionary movement for economic ‘freedom’—a capitalist ‘declaration of independence at the expense of popular democratic government.</p> <p>The libertarian’s ‘stealth revolution’ was not exactly a secret: Senator&nbsp;<a href="https://www.randpaul.com/">Rand Paul</a>, anti-tax crusader&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grover_Norquist">Grover Norquist,</a> the <a href="https://www.cato.org/">Cato Institute</a>, the legislative policy-setting council <a href="https://www.alec.org/">ALEC</a> and the <a href="https://fedsoc.org/">Federalist Society</a> (which has ties to Supreme Court justices Alito, Roberts and Gorsuch as well as new nominee Brett Kavanaugh) are all connected to it; while the 2010 <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_Party_movement">Tea Party</a> movement gave it more visibility. It seeks to restrain democracy altogether to protect a ‘pure’ market economy of ‘makers’ from the voting power of ‘takers’—the ‘grasping masses.’ Take Wisconsin politics as an example of this logic in action: Congressman Paul Ryan’s assault on welfare entitlements and tax slashing; and Governor Scott Walker’s union-busting, education-cutting and voter-suppression policies.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Their success would, as MacLean puts it, “unquestionably take the ‘demos’ out of American democratic government.” In terms of money raised, organizations created (like think-tanks, media outlets and activist networks), and numbers of employees, it is substantially stronger than the Republican party apparatus and has taken over the conservative movement itself, providing a stronger ideological foundation for the laissez-faire, democracy-suppressing, ‘classical liberalism’ that has defined Republicans since they abandoned Reconstruction in the 1870s.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>What are they after? Something far more prosaic than you might think, and deeply rooted in U.S. history, culture and jurisprudence: a return to the 19th Century’s<em> fin-de-siècle</em> era of <em>laissez-faire</em> economics and racial segregation (though they would deny it). Here is the connection between the racial and the business backlash after 1968.</p><p>Arcane as it may seem, the ultimate libertarian objective is a recovery of the U.S. Supreme Court’s convoluted 19th century history of applying the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourteenth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution">Fourteenth Amendment</a> of the US Constitution to individuals, an argument always advanced in favor of business and segregation.</p> <p>Passed in 1868 to defend the individual rights of former slaves, the Amendment was <a href="https://haasinstitute.berkeley.edu/beyond-publicprivate-understanding-excessive-corporate-prerogative">applied by the Court most often</a> to defend white individual rights—most famously, the right of individuals to discriminate on the basis of race (through the 1897 <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plessy_v._Ferguson"><em>Plessy</em></a> decision legalizing Southern Jim Crow segregation laws), and to protect individual corporate ‘persons’ from industrial regulation and labor organizing (through the 1905 <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lochner_v._New_York"><em>Lochner</em></a> decision that made regulation nearly impossible for 30 years).</p> <p>Returning the Supreme Court to this earlier era of ‘strict,’ individualist Constitutional jurisprudence backed-up by retrograde state legislatures that are permeated by the institutions of the counter-revolution ties the hands of citizens’ groups, unions and popular democracy and effectively creates a veto power over progressive government policy making and regulation.</p> <p>The result of ‘individualizing’ Constitutional law in this way takes us back to what legal scholar&nbsp;<a href="https://www.amazon.com/World-Fire-Chua-amy/dp/B001GTV4SG/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1533337375&amp;sr=8-2&amp;keywords=amy+chua+world+on+fire">Amy Chua</a> calls an era of “market-dominant minority” rule. By that she means the capacity of a wealthy minority (usually defined by race) to maintain permanent control over the majority—made all the more salient today by the coming minority-majority demographic wave. The net effect of the Supreme Court’s transformation in this direction will be nothing short of creeping <em>de facto</em> class- and race-based economic and social apartheid, advanced one ruling at a time. Hence the crucial importance of libertarian judge Brett Kavanaugh’s current nomination to the Court.</p> <p>We’ve seen this story before—conservative Court activism, unrestrained economic elites, judicially limited recourse for social justice, and a racial majority that perceives itself as ‘threatened’—and it wasn’t pretty. In fact, it took the Great Depression, the New Deal and the Sixties revolution to overturn it.</p> <p>This year’s 1968 ‘year book’-quality reminiscences may engender nostalgia, but they should be taken as a wake-up call to remember what was gained, and what we risk losing. The ’68ers (and the still-struggling left they inspired) have to face the reality that the liberal establishment they brought down in 1968—which despite its faults had produced hard-won advances from the New Deal to the Great Society—opened the door to a libertarian-conservative counter-attack that was intent on dismantling them. Libertarians are winning today by paralyzing the very political institutions on which progressives depend. We are stuck. No wonder we’re at each others’ throats.</p> <p>I once heard Wallerstein asked a question about how to translate anger into productive activism. “Cold, hard analysis” was his answer. It’s time to relearn the lesson that the New Left forgot but the Old Left understood: popular democracy and unregulated markets are locked in a perpetual death match, and have cycled back and forth through modern history.</p> <p>We need to rebuild our democratic institutions once again, recover their legitimacy, and assert collective cultural authority in favor of people and the planet to rein in the power of property. It was a new story in 1848 and an old one in 1968; it’s still a necessary story in 2018. The revolution is far from over.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/hans-georg-betz/everything-that-is-wrong-is-fault-of-68-regaining-cultural-hegemony-by-trashing-left">Everything that is wrong is the fault of &#039;68: regaining cultural hegemony by trashing the left</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/gregory-leffel/left-s-problem-isn-t-politics-it-s-metaphysics">The left’s problem isn’t politics—it’s metaphysics </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/gregory-leffel/is-catastrophe-only-cure-for-weakness-of-radical-politics">Is catastrophe the only cure for the weakness of radical politics? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation 1968 Gregory Leffel Trans-partisan politics Culture Activism Sun, 19 Aug 2018 19:11:03 +0000 Gregory Leffel 119235 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “The price on everything is love:” how a Detroit community overcomes a lack of city services https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kevon-paynter/price-on-everything-is-love-how-detroit-community-overcomes-lack-of-cit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A range of neighbor-to-neighbor efforts address basic needs that aren’t met by local government.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/KevonPaynter2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Jessica Ramirez in front of the storefront that houses&nbsp;<a href="http://detroitershelpingeachother.weebly.com/">Detroiters Helping Each Other (DHEO)</a>. Credit: Kevon Paynter for YES! Magazine. All rights reserved.</p> <p>A multitude of voicemails and text messages from desperate neighbors flooded Jessica Ramirez’s cell phone on a brisk morning in October 2013. Winter was coming.</p> <p>Using social media to reach potential donors as well as those seeking help, Ramirez created a makeshift donation center on the sidewalk outside her Southwest Detroit home. There, the community organizer and her neighbors handed out warm clothing to children and recycled beds, dressers and microwaves to new mothers who needed furniture.</p> <p>When school began the next year, she was at it again, donating reams of school supplies she had collected from businesses and individuals. “Everything was being done out of my home when I started,” Ramirez says.</p> <p>Recognizing her efforts, the property manager of an abandoned local storefront gave her use of the facility. That’s when her charitable acts became a community shop—<a href="http://detroitershelpingeachother.weebly.com/">Detroiters Helping Each Other (DHEO)</a>—where kindness and generosity, not money, is the currency of exchange. Their motto: Teamwork makes the dream work.</p> <p>“I would love to see us not need this anymore,” she says.</p> <p>“In the meantime it’s showing people the community still cares.”</p> <p>Decades of economic and population decline, a depleted tax base, and critically underfunded city services have forced Southwest Detroiters to self-organize, establishing a local network of goods and services to fill in for missing city services. The result is a range of neighbor-to-neighbor efforts, like DHEO, that seek to address broader needs that are going unmet by local government agencies.</p> <p>The&nbsp;<a href="http://cocswdetroit.com/2018/04/" target="_self">Congress of Communities</a>, for example, is a charitable programming organization that, among other things, offers anti-domestic violence trainings to Southwest Detroit residents in 2010. The trainings aimed to improve public safety at a time when it took police nearly an hour to arrive at a crime scene.&nbsp;</p> <p>A coordinated effort called<em>&nbsp;</em><a href="https://www.facebook.com/MowerGang">Detroit Mowers Gang&nbsp;</a>organized volunteers with gloves and protective eye gear to mow overgrown grass in the city’s abandoned lots and public playgrounds. The so-called weed vigilantes get together every other Wednesday to do what the city doesn’t, calling itself a “crafty crew” that refuses to let budgets and bureaucracy stand in the way of unruly grass on a playground getting cut.</p> <p>And the&nbsp;<a href="http://detroitblackfoodsecurity.org/">Detroit Black Community Food Security Network</a>, organized educational programs for youth and adults, and operated a food co-op to ensure Detroiters had access to affordable, nutritious and culturally appropriate food. Its ongoing work includes a food council that promotes a sustainable food system and advocates for food justice and food sovereignty in the city.</p> <p>“The price on everything is love, man,” says Rico Razo, a native Southwest Detroiter and a former mayor-appointed district manager tasked with ensuring city services respond to residents’ needs.</p> <p>“It’s spreading love through giving with the hopes that the people they’re helping out—if they catch someone else who’s on hard times—that they pay it forward. That’s the model that [DHEO] rolls with. I think it’s been successful.”</p> <p>Three years ago, the city of Detroit named DHEO “Organization of the Year” for its role helping families recover from a fire that burned seven homes to the ground, just blocks from Ramirez’s home. Her generosity has extended beyond helping people in need. She collected a U-Haul truck of dog food to feed 369 of her neighbors’ dogs and donated straw to keep their kennels warm during Detroit’s cold months.&nbsp;</p> <p>She shares stories about DHEO’s work on social media, so that donors can see who they’re helping.</p> <p>She vets people who say they are in need to make sure no one is taking undue advantage of the community’s generosity. “We do our homework,” she says.</p> <p>She has asked for a police report in the case of a family replacing items they say were taken in a home burglary or documentation when a family asked for a donated bed to keep their children out of Child Protective Services.</p> <p>But Ramirez says a family’s inability to produce any of those things won’t be a hindrance to receiving help. And ultimately, the organization relies on trust between neighbors in the community and the social networks that underlie it.</p> <p>“Yeah, they get stuff for free,” Ramirez says. “But we can call recipients up and say ‘come volunteer.’ If they’re able-bodied, we tell them ‘hey go cut the elderlies’ grass’ or ‘show up to a community feeding event.’ And they show up,” she says.</p> <p>Razo said that for the longest time when the city cut back on services, including trash pickup, streetlights, and lawn maintenance, he saw self-organized community initiatives and nonprofits offer food and healthcare to people in need. After-school programs and summer jobs for high school students emerged as well as job training and job readiness efforts.</p> <p>City and state government services are rebounding but the hope is they won’t threaten what neighbors have already built to save their communities.</p> <p>Rather, Razo said he believes the city should look to them and partner with them to remove some of the burden and empower them to continue. He’s said he running for state representative to the Michigan Legislature on a platform that seeks to bolster Detroit’s community-based sharing economies, especially by integrating them into city services.</p> <p>“They don’t do it for us,” Ramirez says of business and city government. “The community takes care of itself without the suit and ties.”</p> <p><em>This article was funded in part by a grant from the Surdna Foundation and was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/the-price-on-everything-is-love-how-a-detroit-community-overcomes-a-lack-of-city-services-20180719">YES! Magazine</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/kevon-paynter/with-marijuana-now-legal-los-angeles-goes-further-to-make-amends-for-wa">With marijuana now legal, Los Angeles goes further to make amends for the war on drugs</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/kevon-paynter/before-nfl-took-knee-four-lesser-known-moments-of-resistance-in-sports-">Before the NFL took a knee: four lesser-known moments of resistance in sports history</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/caitlin-endyke-sean-thomas-breitfeld/breakfast-in-detroit">Breakfast in Detroit </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Kevon Paynter Economics Care Activism Thu, 16 Aug 2018 19:29:34 +0000 Kevon Paynter 118981 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Who can we trust? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/harry-blain/who-can-we-trust <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How can we cultivate a healthy skepticism of our institutions even as we rely on them for information, knowledge, and crucially, protection from aspiring autocrats?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/HarryBlain7.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">MRC billboard, Charlotte 2016. <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Charlotte_billboard_1.jpg">Emolchan1 via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en">CC BY-SA 4.0</a>.</p> <p>At some point since the US presidential election on November 8 2016 you’ve probably been told that ‘our institutions are in crisis.’ The media is menaced by Twitter mobs taking their cues from the White House. Academics are ignored even more than usual. The intelligence community is subjected to ‘deep state’ conspiracy theories. Scientists are treated with mindless suspicion. What brought us to this point? </p> <p>For many people the answer is obvious: Donald Trump. But there are two big problems with this view: firstly, the idea that we can’t trust those with polished credentials and college degrees isn’t new, nor has it been confined to the “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pizzagate_conspiracy_theory">Pizzagate</a>” wing of the far-right. In fact, it has deep roots on the left. </p> <p>Moreover—and perhaps more disturbingly—the whirling diatribes of Trump and his supporters do actually hint at some truths. We don’t have to wear ‘Make America Great Again’ hats to realize that the media <em>is</em> often corrupt, that the FBI is <em>not</em> a dispassionate guardian of the US constitution, and that scientists <em>can </em>be wrong or misleading. </p> <p>This speaks to the core of the challenge we face: how can we cultivate a healthy skepticism of our institutions even as we rely on them for information, knowledge, and crucially, protection from aspiring autocrats? Who can we trust? </p> <p>Throughout American history these questions have been particularly difficult for the left. On the one hand, there is the legacy of ‘progressives’ emerging at the beginning of the 20th Century: men (and they were mostly men) whose gospel was science, rationality and enlightened political leadership. </p> <p>In his days as a political scientist, <a href="https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/capsule-review/2009-05-01/reconsidering-woodrow-wilson-progressivism-internationalism-war">Woodrow Wilson</a> was a leading figure in this movement, blending reformism with elitism in his <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Congressional-Government-American-Politics-Library/dp/0765809281">call for</a> the United States to embrace more elements of the British constitution. With fewer restrictions on party leaders and less rigid ‘checks and balances,’ he argued, Britain had become much better at empowering wise men than the Americans, who were stuck with their messy separation-of-powers and ponderous congressional committees.</p> <p>Like many of his progressive contemporaries, Wilson also believed passionately in Science (with a capital ‘S’), including <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-liberals-who-loved-eugenics/2017/03/08/0cc5e9a0-0362-11e7-b9fa-ed727b644a0b_story.html?utm_term=.548e701af96c">the promise of eugenics</a> &nbsp;through which society could be remade from its biological foundations. His shameless racism and aggressive repression of the left during the First World War has led to Wilson’s exclusion from many progressive narratives, but the next Democratic President, Franklin Roosevelt, remains front-and-center. </p> <p>Roosevelt’s own faults are numerous, including his timidity on African-American civil rights and his irredeemable assault on Japanese-Americans in World War II. But his role in creating the modern American welfare state ensures that he is still frequently venerated. In pursuing this mission, his commitment to expertise—embodied in the “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain_trust">Brain Trust</a>” network of economists, lawyers, sociologists, scientists and social workers who designed the “<a href="https://www.nyhistory.org/exhibitions/fdr-brain-trust">New Deal</a>”—stands in sharp contrast to President Trump and his cabinet of unqualified, unprincipled and self-enriching vandals.</p> <p>This was old-school progressivism at its finest: recruiting and trusting the best available minds to grapple with stubborn social injustices. Yet the left has never fully embraced this strand of thought. For one thing, high-minded and public-spirited “Brain Trusts” have often let us down. Roosevelt’s, for example, surgically excluded African-Americans from almost every New Deal program, especially <a href="https://www.amazon.com/When-Affirmative-Action-White-Twentieth-Century/dp/0393328511">labor protection, social security</a> and <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Color-Law-Forgotten-Government-Segregated/dp/1631492853">federal housing assistance</a>, largely to mollify a Southern-dominated Congress. The Wilsonian experts also <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Opponents-War-1917-1918-Gilbert-Fite/dp/0313251320">became autocratic</a> as soon as they lurched into World War I. More recently, Barack Obama’s professorial team promised the necessary revolution of universal health care—and instead delivered a 900-page bureaucratic maze. </p> <p>The left, then, has good reason to treat even the most brilliant progressive minds with suspicion, but this impulse goes beyond the question of trusting or distrusting politicians and their advisers. </p> <p>Take, for instance, the left’s approach to science. Today, we ridicule the flat earthers, the young earthers, the creationists, the biblical literalists and the climate deniers for their rejection of scientific facts. However, we also know that science is often distorted and abused: to <a href="https://www.centeronaddiction.org/the-buzz-blog/revealing-bad-science-behind-oxycontin">sell heavy and addictive narcotics as every-day painkillers</a>, for example; to <a href="http://broughttolife.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/themes/controversies/thalidomide">promote new drugs before their side-effects are known</a>; or to <a href="http://broughttolife.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/techniques/tuskegee">conduct experiments on the most vulnerable people in society</a>. </p> <p>These tensions were best exemplified by the three-time Democratic Presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, who is often remembered for his <a href="http://www.pbs.org/godinamerica/people/william-jennings-bryan.html">fumbling attack on the teaching of evolution</a> in the 1925 Scopes “Monkey” trial. Now mainly the subject of scorn, in his time Bryan was considered one of the great spokesmen of the left, <a href="http://www.pbs.org/godinamerica/people/william-jennings-bryan.html">and his concerns</a> that science could be “an evil genius” in war, or could build a cold society of “intelligence not consecrated by love” are far from antiquated. Indeed, they reflect intellectual and spiritual dilemmas that we are yet to overcome.</p> <p>There are similar difficulties with the media. At the most basic level, journalists, like scientists, have the mundane yet indispensable job of giving us information. They also—depending on our mood and political allegiances—regularly alternate in the public mind between the image of guardians of heroic truth and scurrilous servants of those in power. </p> <p>Because the Trump movement has taken so much joy from hitting the ‘fake news’ punching bag, many on the left have rallied around the cause of press freedom. In principle this is a very good thing, but again, the larger picture is complicated. </p> <p>Even as we condemn the notion that the <em>New York Times</em>, the <em>Washington Post</em>, MSNBC or CNN constitute “enemies of the people,” we shouldn’t forget that they all, to some extent, <a href="https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2004/02/26/now-they-tell-us/">sold us the Iraq War</a>, or—in the case of the broadcasters—gave Candidate Trump the <a href="https://www.commondreams.org/views/2016/12/03/how-media-iced-out-bernie-sanders-helped-donald-trump-win">endless free publicity</a> that was central to his campaign’s success. And in their zeal to report on the ‘epidemic of fake news’ online, some of these media outlets have also, since the election, played <a href="https://fair.org/home/public-radios-mccarthyite-smear-of-black-activists-shows-danger-of-russia-panic/">an unpleasant role</a> in <a href="https://theintercept.com/2016/11/26/washington-post-disgracefully-promotes-a-mccarthyite-blacklist-from-a-new-hidden-and-very-shady-group/">smearing</a> small, often left-wing websites as tools of ‘<a href="https://theintercept.com/2016/11/26/washington-post-disgracefully-promotes-a-mccarthyite-blacklist-from-a-new-hidden-and-very-shady-group/">Russian propaganda</a>.’</p> <p>To the extent that there is a crisis of confidence in the American media, it cannot solely be attributed to Trump. Instead, it stems from the commercialization and centralization of media ownership—trends that have crushed local, independent media and promoted the kind of ratings-worship infamously distilled in <a href="https://fair.org/home/trump-bad-for-america-good-for-cbs/">Les Moonves’s summary of Trump</a> as “bad for America” but “damn good for CBS.” </p> <p>Comparable pressures have squeezed the knowledge and information producers of academia. Although there is no clamor for ratings or sensational headlines, there is the same financial and employment insecurity that constricts time, freedom and independence. The results are predictable: history professors scrambling around desperately for funding; new PhDs taking jobs with whatever lobbying firm will <a href="https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/in-plain-sight/poverty-u-many-adjunct-professors-food-stamps-n336596">keep them off food stamps</a>; and overworked graduate students mumbling ‘<a href="https://www.chronicle.com/article/Publish-or-Perish-Yes/235319">publish or perish</a>’ in their sleep.</p> <p>In this context, it’s no surprise to hear stories of <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2012/07/25/professor-behind-pro-fracking-study-slammed-for-oil-industry-connections/#20ab28f29b27">respected academics selling their expertise to the oil industry</a> or <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/oct/10/the-science-of-spying-how-the-cia-secretly-recruits-academics">freedom-loving government agencies like the CIA</a>. It’s even less surprising to see the public’s total lack of enthusiasm for ‘outreach’ proposals like teams of academics<a href="https://www.poynter.org/news/these-academics-are-frontlines-fake-news-research"> sifting through the news</a>: separating real from fake; good from bad; and, presumably, Russian from red-white-and-blue American.</p> <p>To be sure, market forces can’t take all the blame for this situation. Few peer-reviewed journal articles, even in supposedly accessible fields like my own (international relations), make the slightest effort to use language that connects with anyone other than the mysterious gatekeepers who are empowered to say ‘accepted,’ ‘rejected’ or ‘revise and review.’ Everyone else can justly claim to be suspicious of self-appointed authority figures who seem to deliberately exclude them from discussion and debate. </p> <p>In short, despite their differences, society’s expert authorities display several common signs of decay. Although some are undoubtedly self-inflicted, many are also structural, rooted in a near-crippling exposure to the imperatives of what we fatalistically call ‘the market.’ </p> <p>But this market has not been created by an ‘invisible hand’ or by the actions of Donald Trump alone, but by much longer-term actions and institutions: the profit-driven patent regime that pushes medical research towards <a href="https://newint.org/features/2016/05/01/medical-research-priorities">male baldness over malaria</a>, for example; the <a href="https://www.cbpp.org/research/state-budget-and-tax/a-lost-decade-in-higher-education-funding">collapse of public funding for universities</a>; and the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/02/nyregion/dnainfo-gothamist-shutting-down.html">refusal of media barons to tolerate even minimal job security demands from their newsrooms</a>.</p> <p>Because this mess is human-made, we can collectively clean it up. A good start would be to pursue the complete opposite goals and policies of Trump and his friends. Their attempt to eviscerate public science agencies was thankfully <a href="https://www.aip.org/fyi/2018/trump-fy19-budget-spares-some-science-agencies-slashes-others-following-deal-boost-spending">contained by Congress</a>, but this is small consolation when the Secretary of Education is <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/13/business/education-department-for-profit-colleges.html">killing investigations into fraudulent colleges</a> and the Federal Communications Commission is encouraging the growth of media monopolies (<a href="https://money.cnn.com/2018/02/16/media/doj-trump-bias-att-lawsuit/index.html">except CNN</a>) <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/ajit-pai-man-who-killed-net-neutrality/">on</a> and <a href="https://www.mercurynews.com/2017/11/16/fcc-repeals-decades-old-rules-on-media-monopolies/">offline</a>. What is needed is more, not less public money in all these areas; strong, not supine regulation of media oligarchs; and an attack on, not an embrace of, snake oil universities.&nbsp; </p> <p>Would this be enough to restore trust? It wouldn’t eliminate the expert who abuses their power or the citizen who hides their cash in a mattress. But it could go some way towards eliminating a culture in which knowledge is the property of the highest bidder, helping us to tell the difference between the scientist and the fracking lobbyist, the journalist and the lurid entertainer, the historian and the paid-for hagiographer. </p> <p>Perhaps then we could begin the task of refining our old and precious gifts of skepticism, doubt, critical thought and imagination. &nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/harry-blain/why-left-needs-to-re-embrace-first-amendment">Why the left needs to re-embrace the First Amendment</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/harry-blain/can-there-be-progressive-patriotism">Can there be a progressive patriotism? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/harry-blain/why-is-american-left-so-prejudiced-about-south">Why is the American left so prejudiced about the South? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Harry Blain Trans-partisan politics Culture Tue, 14 Aug 2018 19:35:28 +0000 Harry Blain 119232 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The enemy between us: how inequality erodes our mental health https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kate-pickett-richard-wilkinson/enemy-between-us-how-inequality-erodes-our-mental-heal <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Inequality creates the social and political divisions that isolate us from each other.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/KatePickett.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/27305863@N07/6023390537">Flickr/mSeattle</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p>When people are asked what matters most for their happiness and wellbeing, they tend to talk about the importance of their relationships with family, friends and colleagues. It is their intimate world, their personal networks that mean the most to them, rather than material goods, income or wealth.&nbsp; </p> <p>Most people probably don’t think that broader, structural issues to do with politics and the economy have anything to do with their emotional health and wellbeing, but they do. We’ve known for a long time that inequality causes a wide range of health and social problems, including everything from reduced life expectancy and higher infant mortality to poor educational attainment, lower social mobility and increased levels of violence. Differences in these areas between more and less equal societies are large, and everyone is affected by them.</p> <p>In our 2009 book <em><a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Spirit-Level-Equality-Better-Everyone/dp/0241954290/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1533714435&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=wilkinson+spirit">The Spirit Level</a></em>, we hypothesised that this happens because inequality increases the grip of class and social status on us, making social comparisons more insidious and increasing the social and psychological distances between people.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>In our new book,&nbsp;<em><a href="https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/188607/the-inner-level/">The Inner Level,</a></em> we bring together a robust body of evidence that shows we were on the right track: inequality eats into the heart of our immediate, personal world, and the vast majority of the population are affected by the ways in which inequality becomes the enemy between us. What gets between us and other people are all the things that make us feel ill at ease with one another, worried about how others see us, and shy and awkward in company—in short, all our social anxieties. </p> <p>For some people, these anxieties become so severe that social contact becomes an ordeal and they withdraw from social life. Others continue to participate in social life but are beset by the constant worry that they have no small talk or come across as boring, stupid or unattractive. Sadly, we all tend to feel that these anxieties are our own personal psychological weaknesses and that we need to hide them from others or seek therapy or treatment to try to overcome them by ourselves.</p> <p>But a recent <a href="https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/news/stressed-nation-74-uk-overwhelmed-or-unable-cope-some-point-past-year">Mental Health Foundation Survey</a> found that 74 percent of adults in the UK were so stressed at times in the past year that they felt overwhelmed and unable to cope. One-third had suicidal thoughts and 16 percent had self-harmed sometime in their lives. The figures were much higher for young people. In the USA, mortality rates are rising, particularly for white middle-aged men and women, due to ‘despair’, meaning deaths due to drug and alcohol addictions, suicide, and vehicle accidents.&nbsp; An epidemic of distress seems to be gripping some of the richest nations in the world.</p> <p>Socioeconomic inequality matters because it strengthens the belief that some people are worth much more than others. Those at the top seem hugely important and those at the bottom are seen as almost worthless. In more unequal societies we come to judge each other more by status and worry more about how others judge us. <a href="https://academic.oup.com/esr/article/30/4/525/2763459">Research on 28 European countries</a> shows that inequality increases status anxiety in all income groups, from the poorest ten percent to the richest tenth. The poor are affected most but even the richest ten percent of the population are more worried about status in unequal societies. </p> <p><a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-social-policy/article/poverty-in-global-perspective-is-shame-a-common-denominator/DED0C9DC02D8ABCAA8F177BA3CC477AB">Another study</a> of how people experience low social status in both rich and poor countries found that, despite huge differences in their material living standards, across the world people living in relative poverty had a strong sense of shame and self-loathing and felt that they were failures: being at the bottom of the social ladder feels the same whether you live in the UK, Norway, Uganda or Pakistan. Therefore, simply raising material living standards is not enough to produce genuine wellbeing or quality of life in the face of inequality.</p> <p>Although it appears that the vast majority of the population are affected by inequality, we respond in different ways to the worries it creates about how others see and judge us. As we show in <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Inner-Level-Societies-Everyones-Wellbeing/dp/1846147417/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8">The Inner Level</a>, one way is to feel burdened and oppressed by lack of confidence, feelings of inferiority and low self-esteem, and that leads to high levels of depression and anxiety in more unequal societies. </p> <p>A second is to try to flaunt your own worth and achievements, to ‘self enhance’ and become narcissistic.<strong> </strong>Psychotic symptoms such as delusions of grandeur are more common in more unequal countries, as is schizophrenia. As the graph below shows, narcissism increases as income inequality rises, as measured by ‘<a href="https://www.ipearlab.org/media/publications/JoP2008a.pdf">Narcissistic Personality Inventory’ (NPI)</a> scores from successive samples of the US population. </p> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Katepickett.png" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Sources: <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Inner-Level-Societies-Everyones-Wellbeing/dp/1846147417/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8">The Inner Level</a> and <a href="https://www.ipearlab.org/media/publications/JoP2008a.pdf">Twenge et al 2008</a>.</p> <p>A third response is to find other ways to overcome what psychologists call the ‘social evaluative threat’ through drugs, alcohol or gambling, through comfort eating, or through status consumption and conspicuous consumerism. Those who live in more unequal places are more likely to spend money on expensive cars and shop for status goods; and they are more likely to have high levels of personal debt because they try to show that they are not ‘second-class people’ by owning ‘first-class things.’ </p> <p>In <em>The Inner Level, </em>the evidence we show of the impact of inequality on mental wellbeing is only part of the new picture. We also discuss two of the key myths that some commentators use to justify the perpetuation and tolerance of inequality. </p> <p>First, by examining our evolutionary past and our history as egalitarian, cooperative, sharing hunter-gatherers, we dispel the false idea that humans are, in their very nature, competitive, aggressive and individualistic. Inequality is not inevitable and we humans have all the psychological and social aptitudes to live differently.&nbsp; </p> <p>Second, we also tackle the idea that current levels of inequality reflect a justifiable ‘meritocracy’ where those of natural ability move up and the incapable languish at the bottom. In fact the reverse is true: inequalities of outcome limit equality of opportunity; differences in achievement and attainment are driven by inequality, rather than being a consequence of it.</p> <p>Finally, we argue that inequality is a major roadblock to creating sustainable economies that serve to optimise the health and wellbeing of both people and planet. &nbsp;Because consumerism is about self-enhancement and status competition, it is intensified by inequality. And as inequality leads to a societal breakdown in trust, solidarity and social cohesion, it reduces people’s willingness to act for the common good. This is shown in everything from the tendency for more unequal societies to do less recycling to surveys which show that business leaders in more unequal societies are less supportive of international environmental protection agreements. &nbsp;By acting as an enemy between us, inequality prevents us from acting together to create the world that we want.</p> <p>So what can we do? The first step is to recognise the problem and spread the word.&nbsp; Empowering people to see the roots of their distress and unease not in their personal weaknesses but in the divisiveness of inequality and its emphasis on superiority and inferiority is a necessary step in releasing our collective capacity to fight for change.&nbsp; </p> <p>The UK charity we founded, The Equality Trust, has <a href="https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/take-action">resources for activists</a> and a network of local groups. In the USA, check out <a href="http://inequality.org/">inequality.org. </a>Worldwide, the <a href="https://www.fightinequality.org/en/about/">Fight Inequality Alliance</a> works with more than 100 partners to work for a more equal world. And look out for the new global <a href="http://wellbeingeconomy.org/">Wellbeing Economy Alliance</a> this autumn.</p> <p>Our own focus for change is to work for the increase of all kinds of economic democracy—everything from more cooperatives and employee-owned companies to stronger trade unions, more workers on company boards and the publication of pay-ratios. We believe that extending democratic rights to workers embeds greater equality more firmly into any culture.&nbsp; </p> <p>Of course, we would also like to see more progressive taxation and action on tax evasion and tax havens. We’d like to see more citizens paid a Living Wage, and action taken on universal provision of high-quality lifelong education, universal health and social services. There are lots of ways to tackle inequality at the international, national and local levels, so we all need to work in ways that suit our capabilities and values. </p> <p>Inequality creates the social and political divisions that isolate us from each other, so it’s time for us all to reach out, connect, communicate and act collectively. We really are all in this together.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson’s new book is<strong> </strong><a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Inner-Level-Societies-Everyones-Wellbeing/dp/1846147417">The Inner Level: How More Equal Societies Reduce Stress, Restore Sanity and Improve Everyone’s Wellbeing</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar/mental-health-why-were-all-sick-under-neoliberalism">Mental health: why we&#039;re all sick under neoliberalism </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/kira-m-newman/why-does-happiness-inequality-matter">Why does happiness inequality matter?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sue-gerhardt/hard-times-human-face-of-neoliberalism">Hard times: the human face of neo-liberalism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/joel-millward-hopkins/neoliberal-psychology">Neoliberal psychology</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Inequality Richard Wilkinson Kate Pickett The politics of mental health Economics Care Sun, 12 Aug 2018 18:08:05 +0000 Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson 119209 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Navigating the white water of these turbulent times https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/george-lakey/navigating-white-water-of-these-turbulent-times <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The struggle for liberation has never been about safety; justice is gained by confronting reality, however dangerous it may be.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article first appeared on <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/navigate-turbulent-times/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/GeorgeLakey4.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">White water rafting, Rangitata Valley, NZ. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:White_water_rafting,_Rangitata_Valley,_NZ.jpg">Flickr/Rob Chandler via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p>The latest lurch in global statecraft—Trump’s dissing NATO allies then playing footsie with Vladimir Putin—leaves many scrambling to maintain some balance. Republicans for whom the enemy status of Russia is an article of faith are beside themselves. Democrats are running out of adjectives to describe Trump’s behavior. And activists who have been around for longer than the last election are wondering how to steer a steady course in the midst of extremities.</p> <p>It reminds me of whitewater rafting on the Upper Gauley River in West Virginia, the kind where people aren’t supposed to even get into the raft unless they’ve had prior experience. I never paddled so hard in my life. At one point, even our guide was tossed out of the raft; thankfully a nearby kayaker grabbed him and returned him to us.</p> <p>When the activist and lesbian feminist writer Barbara Deming encountered Frantz Fanon’s “Wretched of the Earth,” she praised his raising the question of balance. Fanon, involved with with the Algerian war of independence from the French empire, was writing about armed struggle for liberation. He said a major challenge for revolutionaries at a time of accelerating turbulence is how to avoid vertigo, the dizziness that accompanies highly emotional events happening around us.</p> <p>Deming’s personal experience in the 1960s civil rights movement brought that kind of challenge, she said in her reflection “<a href="https://www.warresisters.org/store/revolution-and-equilibrium-barbara-deming">On Revolution and Equilibrium</a>.” Deming found in the midst of turbulence that her commitment to nonviolence was steadying for her and others. Locked up in jail in Albany, Georgia, as one of a group of pacifists arrested for breaking the segregation laws, Deming undertook a fast that—when I saw her in the courtroom—left her hardly able to walk. The group won their struggle with the infamous Sheriff Laurie Pritchett.</p> <p>When I read her essay, I saw that her nonviolent commitment had a steadying ability to lead her more deeply into her center—where, as organizer and trainer Starhawk teaches, one source of power lies.</p> <p><strong>What does the white water mean for strategizing?</strong></p> <p>Whichever practices we choose for self- and group-centering, there is still the question of strategy. When paddling to keep up with the river, it matters whether you avoid the biggest rocks and how you handle the waterfall that lies just ahead. Black historian Vincent Harding&nbsp;<a href="https://books.google.com/books/about/There_is_a_River.html?id=ppCEJb_lZh0C">likened the history of his people to a river</a>, sometimes so placid that the current was hardly noticeable, and other times racing at a furious pace. His metaphor helped me to see that in black history the ability of people to make the most of the rapids was linked to the group capacity they’d built in the quieter times.</p> <p>Community organizers know this, nurturing leadership skills and supporting group solidarity—so that when the white water comes, the team will paddle together. But what do we do now that we’ve already entered the white water?</p> <p><strong>Use opportunities efficiently.</strong></p> <p>We need to choose tactics that achieve strategic goals. Venting is not enough reason to have a demonstration. For a hundred years we can express ourselves through one-off actions and not make a difference. Corporate executives and politicians know that we can gather a hundred thousand or a million people together and that we’ll go home the next day. From their point of view, no problem.</p> <p>A politician running for office knows that winning requires more than holding a rally and then counting the votes. To win, they need a campaign. That’s exactly the case for activists: direct action campaigns give us a chance to win. A campaign has a demand, a target (the decider who can yield the demand), and a series of escalating actions that reflect campaign growth and increased campaign militancy.</p> <p><strong>Expect attitude change.</strong></p> <p>In the accelerating 1960s, a number of white segregationists began to accept the need for integration. In the turbulent 1930s, stoutly racist white auto workers in Michigan&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/unions-have-been-down-before-history-shows-how-they-can-come-back/">began to see the value of an integrated United Auto Workers</a>. I’ve watched patriots supporting the Vietnam War start to oppose it and family members contemptuous toward LGBT people embrace us. A century ago, while war and industrialization accelerated change, male chauvinists became willing to give the vote to women.</p> <p>As the river runs faster, the big problem becomes rigidity among activists who grew accustomed to excluding those who weren’t “in the know.” Judgment becomes more important than effectiveness, when activists would rather be right than learn how to unite to win.</p> <p>I’m told that increasing numbers of young people are now realizing that “the calling out culture” was a toxic trap, creating activist groups on campuses and elsewhere that marginalized themselves.</p> <p>As a gay man brought up working class, I am in touch with the fear that leads me to judging, to differentiating myself from people who I expect through long experience will keep the micro-aggressions coming. These days I rage and cry, at home, about the professional middle-class activists whose description of Trump supporters is riddled with prejudice against my class.</p> <p>It helps me to know that the struggle for liberation has never been about safety, about protecting myself inside a bubble apart from the reality that is out there. Justice is gained through campaigns confronting the reality and changing it. Ironically, the greatest availability for change is in those political moments when the ugly reality is most apparent, when the bigots yelled “fag” at me and my people as we campaigned for equality.</p> <p>In the midst of turbulence humans tend to “gird ourselves for defense” instead of continually scanning for the changes in attitude that happen around us. Then we miss opportunities to support the changes. It helps to watch revealing films like John Singleton’s “Higher Learning,”<em>&nbsp;</em>or listen to reformed white nationalist&nbsp;<a href="https://www.npr.org/podcasts/510298/ted-radio-hour">Christian Picciolini tell his story</a>.</p> <p><strong>Support growing interest in alternatives.</strong></p> <p>Most people experience political turbulence as stressful, since it comes on top of what can be challenging personal lives. Some respond with nostalgia for the “good old days,” but others open their minds to an alternative vision.</p> <p>The 1850s in the United States was a period of whitewater. In the turbulence surrounding the Fugitive Slave Act and the Dred Scott decision, black abolitionist Martin R. Delany published a utopian novel “Blake.” Feminists and ecological writers famously published visions in the 1970s. We see the theme now again in the hit movie “Black Panther.”</p> <p>Alternative visions help in vital ways. They express hope, especially needed now by those distracted by the negativity of Trump. Visions help to create platforms for uniting a movement of movements, an essential if we want a living revolution. They also add significance to the new economy institutions that are being built in our midst, the start-ups for what needs to happen after a power shift opens the way to the new society.</p> <p>In her book “No Is Not Enough,” Naomi Klein shares the process Canadian civil society groups went through to come up with&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/resistance-cant-win-without-vision/">their vision of a just Canada: The LEAP Manifesto</a>. They intentionally called it a “leap” to distinguish from the step-by-step incrementalism that held many Canadian progressives in its soggy embrace.</p> <p>In short, acceleration of the pace of change opens opportunities that activists need in order to launch mass movements. After the failure of Occupy, we’ve been in a period of what I’ve called “low-grade depression,” a dogged determination accompanied by a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.</p> <p>Symptoms include plodding through tactical rituals (marches and rallies) and indulgence in blaming and guilting. The choppy white water of the river we’re traveling on invites a different orientation: to devise creative tactics as part of ongoing campaigns that can produce wins, to invite everyone to join whether or not they’re hip or use our favorite language, and to plant alternatives while taking seriously the need for a vision to replace the imploding status quo.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/what-role-were-you-born-to-play-in-social-change">What role were you born to play in social change?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/how-to-build-progressive-movement-in-divided-country">How to build a progressive movement in a divided country</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/reaching-trump-supporters-with-promise-of-vision">Reaching Trump supporters with the promise of vision</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation George Lakey Transformative nonviolence Activism Thu, 09 Aug 2018 18:26:17 +0000 George Lakey 119084 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why Boris is wrong about the burka https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/mathew-guest/why-boris-is-wrong-about-burka <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What is more offensive—concealing your face or misleading the public?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MathewGuest2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Colien's Winter Burka. Credit: Flickr/<a title="Go to Eduard Bezembinder&#039;s photostream" href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/bezembinder/">Eduard Bezembinder</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">CC BY-NC 2.0</a>.</p> <p class="xxxbody">Boris Johnson has become the latest in a long line of right-wing politicians to criticise Muslim women who wear the <em><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niq%C4%81b">niqab</a> </em>or<em> <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burqa">burqa</a></em>. Writing in <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/08/05/denmark-has-got-wrong-yes-burka-oppressive-ridiculous-still/">his column for <em>The Telegraph</em></a>, Johnson mocked such women as looking&nbsp;“like letter boxes,” “bank robbers”&nbsp;and&nbsp;“absolutely ridiculous.” Despite calls for an apology from opponents and colleagues, at the time of writing Johnson remains unrepentant.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Body">Perhaps we’ve come to expect tabloid jibes from Johnson, and his attempt to re-insert himself into the public eye after his resignation as foreign secretary is predictably clumsy. But what is arguably more alarming is his attempt to position himself as the voice of reason and moderate good sense.</p> <p class="Body">Across Europe and beyond, governments have passed legislation that bans the wearing of the <em>burqa</em> in public, and Johnson’s column focuses on the introduction of a new measure passed in Denmark. While Johnson warms to the assured individualism he finds amongst the Danes, he opposes an outright <em>burqa</em> ban as a step too far into strident secularism. He is uncomfortable with the regulation of religious dress in public, and is mindful of how such measures play into the hands of radicals. He is even gracious enough to affirm the rights of a ‘free born’ woman, ‘minding her own business,’ to be left to get on with her life unimpeded by a heavy handed state. Enter Boris the liberal…</p> <p class="Body">In case we were under any illusions that the former foreign secretary had finally seen the light and migrated to the centre ground, he expands on his perspective with a series of caveats. It seems there are limits to Johnson’s newfound ‘live and let live’ philosophy. Specifically, businesses and government agencies should be able to ‘enforce a dress code’ that obliges women to reveal their faces. He already feels ‘fully entitled’ to expect Muslim women to do the same at his constituency surgeries, and he supports the same approach within schools and universities.</p> <p class="Body">So Johnson is gracious enough not to call for a ban, but nevertheless feels entitled to expect women to behave according to his own understanding of&nbsp;“full disclosure.” As he says,&nbsp;“it’s how we work,”&nbsp;the implication being that ‘we’—presumably the British public—have ‘our’ customs and conventions, and minorities need to observe them in order that society can function properly. &nbsp;It all makes good, plain sense doesn’t it? No prejudice here, just a sincere call for everyone to play by the same rules (i.e. Boris’s rules).</p> <p class="xxxbody">We might reflect on the irony of such a mercurial and opportunist politician calling for more transparent expression in public life. In the opaque and fractious politics of Brexit, we have learnt that those who speak loudest, simplest and with bare-faced confidence are not necessarily those we should trust.</p> <p class="xxxbody">Johnson mirrors another pattern among right-wing commentators: he presumes to comment on women’s intentions on the basis of their clothing. We’re probably more familiar with the moral judgements that are often projected onto women in western garb, but what values are imputed to Muslim women wearing the <em>niqab</em>? No doubt they frustrate conventional expectations, and perhaps that’s why figures like Johnson find such women so problematic—they are too covered, too hidden, and therefore break the rules that inform the male sense of entitlement to see what lies beneath.</p> <p class="xxxbody">The many Muslim women who have been attacked on Britain’s streets know what this feels like, since a common act of violence is <a href="https://news.sky.com/story/man-tries-to-pull-off-muslim-womans-hijab-in-suspected-hate-crime-attack-10950692">to pull the veil or <em>hijab</em> from their faces</a>. This is why so much hate crime against Muslims is best understood as a form of misogyny. It is targeted against those women who most visibly transgress the prevailing assumptions about what the female form should look like, and who implicitly challenge the assumption that men should have an unimpeded view.</p> <p class="xxxbody">Johnson also assumes that wearing the face veil indicates an experience of oppression, alluding to the&nbsp;“weird and bullying”&nbsp;expectations of men. There is no acknowledgement that women may freely choose to wear the <em>niqab</em>, and no effort to find out why. Any religious meaning it may convey is lost behind Johnson’s faux liberalism.</p> <p class="xxxbody">Unfortunately, uncompromising criticism of the <em>niqab</em> is also found among some liberal and <a href="https://newhumanist.org.uk/articles/4199/why-feminists-should-oppose-the-burqa">feminist commentators</a>, whose western lens on human agency struggles to see such covering as anything other than <a href="https://amp.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/20/muslim-woman-veil-hijab">forced concealment</a>. In this view, the liberated self is exposed and, it is assumed, is therefore more honest, more forthcoming, more trusting—and in our own context, more British.</p> <p class="xxxbody">Those on the right may want to excuse Johnson as a voice of so-called&nbsp;‘common sense.’ After all, he rejects the need for an outright ban, thereby distancing himself from those European nations who have imposed punitive measures on their Muslim minorities, and preserving intact his Brexiteer credentials while rehearsing the myth of the great British compromise.&nbsp;Neither loony left nor hard right nor confused continental, his position is presented as a sensible middle way—laudable for avoiding extremes, an argument from practical sense that needs no further justfication.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> But this is why his comments are so dangerous: it is the unexamined cultural conventions that are often the most insidious carriers of prejudice and ignorance. By categorizing them as uncomplicated truths we abdicate our responsibility as citizens to question the norms by which we live, and risk overlooking the injustices that persist in our midst.</p> <p class="xxxbody">When uttered by an embodiment of that most British of clichés, the upper class eccentric, comments like Johnson’s slip neatly into a cluster of associations that together reinforce our most deep-seated and intractable habits of thought, as if Eton and Oxbridge had bestowed a special gift of sight on those socially-awkward elites who we both love and loathe. We don’t have to think about our British customs and presumptions because Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg will do it for us. Except that they won’t—they’ll just keep us cosy in our habits by telling us that all is well; we’re British after all.</p> <p class="Body">This is unsettling not just because of the platform Johnson enjoys, but because it is a habit of thought that achieves new plausibility within our Brexit-obsessed context. The underlying message is not just that Muslim women who wear the <em>burqa </em>are veering wide of the true British way, but that the nativist narrative that excludes them is essentially benign and obvious. It is an expression of the age old Tory conceit that to be a Conservative has nothing to do with ideology, and everything to do with good, pragmatic sense.</p> <p class="Body">With such confusion about the labyrinthine complexities of Brexit there’s an understandable attraction to plain speaking, and to the idea that cultural problems are easily solved with a little of the good sense we all possess. But behind this apparent democratisation of wisdom lies a more malign populism, one whose story is deceptively simple yet is quietly fierce in its defence of our narrowest boundaries.&nbsp;</p> <p class="xxxbody">The reactionary perspective affirmed by Johnson states that those who cover their faces aren’t just suspect; they aren’t playing the game. They are out of step culturally speaking, and so, in an important sense they don’t belong. They isolate themselves by concealing their faces from us, and this is a most unBritish practice.</p> <p class="xxxbody">Face-veiling elicits a curiously passionate counter-response, as though it indicates a strategy of deceit. Somehow, concealing one’s face is presented as more offensive than concealing one’s intentions, ambitions and moral shortcomings, more offensive even than misleading the public. Johnson needs to take a look in the mirror the next time he considers opining on the British tradition of honest speaking. He may find the problems of concealment lie much closer to home.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/anisur-rahman/should-britain-consider-banning-burqa-and-niqab">Should Britain consider banning burqa and niqab?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/val%C3%A9rie-hartwich/dangers-of-burqa-ban">The dangers of a burqa ban</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/mathew-guest/can-universities-still-provide-transformative-experience">Can universities still provide a transformative experience?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation religion and social transformation Mathew Guest Love and Spirituality Intersectionality Culture Wed, 08 Aug 2018 00:09:35 +0000 Mathew Guest 119176 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Sexual exploitation and abuse: why pick on charities? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/mike-aaronson/sexual-exploitation-and-abuse-why-pick-on-charities <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>There is always a line to be drawn between protecting reputation and doing the right thing. Charity trustees should be judged on whether they draw it in the right place.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Mike Aaronson.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption"><a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/dfataustralianaid/21614837788/">Members of the Solomon Islands Young Women’s Christian Association march in support of female rights during International Women’s Day in Honiara</a>, 2011. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Members_of_the_Solomon_Islands_Young_Women%E2%80%99s_Christian_Association_(YWCA)_march_in_support_of_female_rights_during_International_Women%E2%80%99s_Day_in_Honiara_(21614837788).jpg">Flickr/DFAT/Jeremy Miller via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p>In February 2018 The Times newspaper claimed that Oxfam GB workers in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake had paid young women for sex and that Oxfam had covered this up. This provoked a frenzy of criticism of Oxfam in <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43112200">the media</a> and in <a href="https://dfidnews.blog.gov.uk/2018/02/20/international-development-secretarys-statement-to-parliament-on-oxfam-and-safeguarding-in-the-aid-sector/">Parliament</a>. It was followed by further assertions that the aid sector had failed to deal adequately with sexual exploitation and abuse, including alleged poor governance and process around the handling of sexual harassment claims at Save the Children UK. Oxfam in particular has been forced onto the back foot and has struggled to defend itself. Both charities have suffered serious <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-44496430?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/cz3nmk0k7k3t/oxfam&amp;link_location=live-reporting-story">falls</a> in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jul/09/save-the-children-uk-expects-income-to-fall-by-67m">income</a>. </p> <p>The Charity Commission has launched two statutory inquiries and the House of Commons International Development Select Committee (the IDSC) has undertaken an investigation into sexual exploitation and abuse in the wider aid sector. The Charity Commission is yet to pronounce, but the IDSC’s <a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmintdev/840/840.pdf">report</a> was published on 31 July. It is an impressive piece of work, a welcome attempt to provide a holistic and balanced view of a complex and difficult issue.</p> <p>Yet having worked in the sector in a leadership role and grappled with these problems I find some of the report’s conclusions harsh, particularly with regard to Oxfam. Aid organisations carry a lot of risk, operating in chaotic and stressful environments where in trying to do good they can end up doing harm. Recent revelations of sexual exploitation and abuse have pointed the finger at aid charities, but actually they are the ones who have done most to address this issue. The problem is complex and there are no easy answers; sensationalising the debate doesn’t help.</p> <p>We should definitely take the IDSC’s recommendations seriously: the aid community’s duty to protect vulnerable people demands that it does better than it has done so far. Even if some of the proposals turn out to be unworkable, doing nothing is not acceptable. Improved systems and processes will make a difference, but ultimately it is the integrity and quality of leadership that counts most.</p> <p>Nevertheless it is important to stress that the report is not about aid charities but the “aid sector” as a whole (including United Nations and other multilateral bodies, UN peacekeepers, bilateral donors including the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), and international and local NGOs. Yet you would struggle to understand this from some of the media coverage of the report’s launch.</p> <p>For example the headline on the BBC <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/cme28xx5grnt/charities-sexual-misconduct-scandal">website’s coverage</a> was “Charities' sexual misconduct scandal,” while the more <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-45013078?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/cme28xx5grnt/charities-sexual-misconduct-scandal&amp;link_location=live-reporting-story">detailed report</a> that followed quotes the IDSC’s reference to a "collective failure of leadership" and then lazily links this to “the charities” rather than to the wider aid sector. Indeed, much of the criticism directed against charities since February has been disproportionate. Why have they been the target when the problem goes much wider?</p> <p>One answer is that they are in the spotlight because they take the issue of safeguarding seriously. The report’s starting point is the 2002 <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/international-development/2002-Report-of-sexual-exploitation-and-abuse-Save%20the%20Children.pdf">enquiry</a> carried out for Save the Children and UNHCR into sexual exploitation and abuse of refugee children by aid workers and peacekeepers in West Africa. It draws extensively both on this and on a further 2008 Save the Children <a href="https://resourcecentre.savethechildren.net/sites/default/files/documents/no_one_to_turn_to_1.pdf">study</a> covering Haiti, Cote d’Ivoire and South Sudan. </p> <p>Following the 2002 enquiry the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response (SCHR), which comprises the chief executives of the leading international relief agency networks including Oxfam and Save the Children, instituted a process of peer review and chose the issue of safeguarding as its first topic. </p> <p>In other words, these are responsible agencies who attempt to do the right thing even if they don’t always succeed—though I distinguish here between Save the Children’s approach to safeguarding in its operational work and the way it appears to have handled <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/international-development-committee/sexual-exploitation-and-abuse-in-the-aid-sector/oral/83412.pdf">allegations concerning its senior executives</a>&nbsp;in 2012 and 2015, which I make no attempt to defend. Bad behaviour at the top of an organisation certainly weakens efforts to tackle it lower down. </p> <p>In terms of its operational work, however, the only reason the unacceptable conduct of Oxfam staff in Haiti came to light was because Oxfam had policies and procedures in place that allowed them to discover the problem and to deal with it—including putting the information in the <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-14514905">public domain</a> (although not all of it - see below). As the report makes clear, of more concern is what goes on in those agencies that don’t have the same standards, who don’t take safeguarding seriously enough, and where there is a “culture of denial” that sexual exploitation and abuse actually takes place.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Unacceptable behaviour by expatriate relief workers has dominated the media coverage of the Oxfam/Haiti saga. However the IDSC was told that local people make up the highest proportion of abusers (simply because they are more numerous), and that it is impossible to deal with sexual exploitation and abuse by staff in any culture in isolation from how women—especially—are treated in those cultures; in other words the problem goes beyond the aid sector. </p> <p>This highlights the limitations of one of the flagship recommendations of the report, the introduction of “a global register of aid workers.” I would support this measure because it sends a clear message, but it will almost certainly not catch the majority of potential offenders. We must not let a focus by the media on a few individuals blind us to the wider dimensions of the problem. </p> <p>At various points the report accuses the aid sector of being more concerned with protecting its own reputation than with tackling the root problem of sexual exploitation and abuse. It argues that Oxfam should have given DFID more details of what happened in Haiti and that aid agencies should always be “fully transparent.” While I accept the importance of transparency it seems to me that this fails to take into account the genuine challenges faced by the trustees of charities, who have a fiduciary duty to protect the reputation of the organisation. That is because, if the charity suffers, so do its beneficiaries. So, up to a point, it is perfectly reasonable for charitable trustees to seek to act in a way that protects the charity’s reputation.</p> <p>Charities are independent organisations, not arms length bodies of government. Clearly they must keep their donors and regulators informed of serious failings. But this sits alongside other obligations, and difficult decisions have to be made. What do trustees do when legal advice and values clash? For example, the legal advice Oxfam received made clear that if it had shared externally the names of those staff members it had disciplined or the reasons for their dismissal it would have exposed itself to legal risk in terms of potential privacy/human rights claims. Any costs arising from such claims would have had to be met from charitable funds that could otherwise have been used to support beneficiaries. It is easy to see why Oxfam were cautious. </p> <p>Clearly, this duty to protect the reputation of the charity has limits; it cannot legitimise neglecting the interests of beneficiaries or promoting the self-interests of the organization over the values to which it subscribes. There is a balance to be struck and a line to be drawn; trustees should be judged by whether they draw that line in the right place. In the Haiti case, Oxfam at the time judged that they had; the IDSC disagrees. The Charity Commission’s conclusions on this matter will be interesting. </p> <p>These considerations aside, the central argument in the report is that the aid sector must demonstrate zero tolerance of sexual exploitation and abuse. The Committee is absolutely right about this. Fundamentally this is about just two things: values and leadership. All organisations—but particularly those claiming to be values-based—need to be clear on what they stand for, spell out the behaviours they expect to see and those they will not accept, and demonstrate that they mean what they say through courageous and consistent leadership.</p> <p>Not for the first time, I am reminded of the wise dictum of philosopher Onora O’Neill: “<a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01p457t">trustworthiness before trust</a>”—in other words, if you want people to trust you, you have to show you are worthy of their trust. Even if all the recommendations in the IDSC report proved to be workable and were adopted, they could not on their own achieve that end. Systems and processes have an important role to play, but ultimately the only way to sustain trust in the aid sector—among its beneficiaries as much as its donors—is for all aid organisations to behave in a trustworthy way. And if they can’t achieve that they shouldn’t be operating at all.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/stephen-twigg/international-aid-groups-must-reform-in-face-of-sexual-abuse-scandals">International Aid groups must reform in the face of sexual abuse scandals</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jonathan-glennie/at-what-cost-reflection-on-crisis-at-save-children-uk">At what cost? A reflection on the crisis at Save the Children UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam-part-2">What’s to be done with Oxfam, part 2?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Mike Aaronson The role of money Economics Care Tue, 07 Aug 2018 06:45:19 +0000 Mike Aaronson 119155 at https://www.opendemocracy.net