Transformation cached version 11/12/2018 14:41:37 en If you oppose Donald Trump, please don’t hate him <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>When we allow ourselves to fall victim to hatred, we are doing our opponents’ work for them.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="western"><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Protester against Donald Trump in Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 31 2017. Credit: <a href="">Flickr/Fibonacci Blue</a>. <a href="">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p class="western">President Trump has already done great harm and will do a great deal more before he leaves office. Therefore, we must oppose him using all legal means. It is&nbsp;because&nbsp;we oppose him that we discourage hatred.&nbsp;</p> <p class="western">Our reasons are not based in religion or ethics but in strategy.&nbsp;Creating sound&nbsp;strategies depends on having an accurate assessment of your opponent or competitor.&nbsp;In his book&nbsp;<a href="">The Art of War</a>,&nbsp;the Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu said, “If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.”&nbsp;It was clear to Master Sun in&nbsp;600 BC&nbsp;that you need to see your opponents&nbsp;clearly and assess them accurately. This is just as true today: crafting sound strategies requires the objective and unprejudiced analysis of your targets. Strong feelings of contempt or animosity hinder this analysis. Objectivity is crucial in opposition research because intelligence is required to predict and respond to another person’s actions.</p> <p class="western">If&nbsp;we wish to oppose&nbsp;someone effectively we should not allow ourselves to hate&nbsp;them. Hatred clouds our assessment and makes us less able to predict our opponents’ behavior.&nbsp;It encourages us to develop simplistic views&nbsp;and ignore the&nbsp;subtleties of the personalities and situation at hand. If we can develop&nbsp;a&nbsp;more nuanced and complex&nbsp;understanding&nbsp;we can predict&nbsp;people’s behavior&nbsp;more accurately. Unless&nbsp;we&nbsp;try to empathize with our&nbsp;adversaries&nbsp;we&nbsp;will&nbsp;never understand them, and this will put us at a disadvantage.</p> <p class="western">When we love someone, we often ignore or discount negative information about them. Conversely, when we hate them we tend to ignore the positives, thus reinforcing the well-known effects of&nbsp;‘<a href="">confirmation bias’</a> – the tendency to pay more attention to information that confirms our prior views than information that challenges them. For example, the United States initiated the second Iraq war in the mistaken belief that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. President George W. Bush was too ready to believe questionable intelligence on this topic, in part because he had such personal animosity towards Hussein, who had threatened to kill his father, George H. W. Bush, <a href="">who died last week</a>.</p> <p class="western">As we become more entrenched in such views we become even more resistant to information that contradicts them, a process known as the&nbsp;‘<a href="">backfire effect.&nbsp;</a>’And as our commitment to misinformation escalates, we become willing to invest more and more resources in defending our mistakes. The Vietnam War is an example of&nbsp;escalating commitment&nbsp;to a failing course of action. The ‘<a href="">Sunk Cost Fallacy</a>’ is the term economists use to describe the tendency to invest more resources in bad projects just because we have already invested in them, or to ‘throw good money after bad.’</p> <p class="western">At the extreme, hatred harms us mentally, emotionally, and physically. It clouds our judgments, sours our dispositions, and upsets our stomachs. Therefore, it weakens us and helps our opponents. When we let ourselves fall victim to hatred, we are doing our enemies’ work for them.</p> <p class="western">Trump’s own business career illustrates the harmful effects of indulging in hatred in this way. His book&nbsp;<a href="">Think Big&nbsp;</a>contains a chapter entitled “Revenge” in which he revels in the suffering he has caused his enemies and the pleasure revenge has brought him. But in fact his hatred has actually hurt his business judgment, causing him to over-pay for real estate in order to beat out his rivals and alienate potential business allies through his bullying and tantrums. When Trump taunts and slanders his opponents he is encouraging them to weaken themselves by hating him, since in the process they become less formidable. So when either of us feels hatred for the President we remind ourselves of these facts:</p><p>- Trump has no real friends and cannot really love his wife and family.&nbsp;He is alone in a way that&nbsp;people who&nbsp;genuinely&nbsp;love other people&nbsp;cannot fully understand.</p><p>- His desire for wealth and attention is insatiable. Therefore, he will die dissatisfied and confused.</p><p>- Now that he is President, his past criminal activities and associates are being investigated. For the remainder of his life&nbsp;he will be dealing with the legal consequences of his past misdeeds.</p><p>- Because he acts capriciously&nbsp;and maliciously,&nbsp;most of what Trump does has negative consequences.&nbsp;&nbsp;Although he is a multi-billionaire and holds the highest office in the land he is living in a hell of his own making.</p> <p class="western">In short, Trump is a pitiable man. He is harming others so we must oppose him, but we can do this more effectively if we realize how sad his life is. Pity is an unpleasant emotion, but it is better to feel pity than hatred, especially when it can be transformed into compassion,&nbsp;an active desire to help another person.&nbsp;Compassion can be cultivated through practices like <a href="">loving-kindness meditation</a> and consciously refusing to malign and slander those with whom we disagree, even as they may malign and slander you. </p> <p class="western">We are not saying that people need to love Donald Trump - merely that we should try to stop hating him. When we learn about another of his hateful actions or statements it is only natural to feel momentary disgust and anger. However, we should not allow this momentary feeling to grow into enduring enmity. Instead, we should use whatever techniques and practices work for us to cultivate equanimity. Once we are calm, we can work against him with renewed focus and determination.</p> <p class="western">Perhaps the best way to keep from indulging in hatred of Trump is to&nbsp;maintain our&nbsp;focus on what we are doing to&nbsp;oppose him and reduce the damage he is doing.&nbsp;That’s the strategy we’ve adopted ourselves. When&nbsp;either of us&nbsp;notices&nbsp;feelings of enmity we&nbsp;redirect&nbsp;our&nbsp;attention to the actions&nbsp;we are&nbsp;taking, whether it’s how to allocate our limited resources&nbsp;to&nbsp;Democratic candidates in&nbsp;toss-up races for the House of Representatives&nbsp;or signing petitions to&nbsp;oppose some of Trump’s most egregious policies. We may not be able to do much directly but we can all help a little in reducing the harm Trump is doing&nbsp;and&nbsp;repairing the social fabric that he&nbsp;is tearing to pieces.</p> <p class="western">Instead of hating Trump, we should oppose him in a spirit of compassion, since that will help to ensure that we do so in the most effective ways. If we can minimize the damage he does in office and remove him as soon as possible we will be helping him as well as everyone else on this planet. Once Trump does leave office the rest of us will have a world of work to do in dealing with the climate of hatred and mistrust he has fostered. </p> <p class="western">“Hasn’t Trump done hateful things? Doesn’t he hate people like us who oppose him? Why shouldn’t we hate him?” The answer to the first two questions is, “yes.” The answer to the last question is, “He wants you to hate him.” So if you want to oppose him successfully, please don’t do it.</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/without-empathy-for-trump-voters-movements-can-t-succeed">Without empathy for Trump voters, movements can’t succeed</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/beautiful-trouble-team/six-principles-for-resisting-presidency-of-donald-trump">Six principles for resisting the presidency of Donald Trump</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/edward-sugden/donald-trump-and-politics-of-emotion">Donald Trump and the politics of emotion</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 Susan L. Rhodes and Charles R. Schwenk Empathy Care Love and Spirituality Sun, 09 Dec 2018 19:23:33 +0000 Susan L. Rhodes and Charles R. Schwenk 120881 at The dangers of a push-button Brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The 2016 vote offered a binary choice of in or out. Any new vote must expand the conversation.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="xmsonormal"><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="">Pixabay/Geralt</a>. <a href="">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">My wife grew up in rural New York State, where many working-class families kept horses. One day her best friend came to school and told everyone about her new cream-gold Palomino, comparing it to the cantankerous ponies the girls were used to riding. “You just send the right signals and it does what you want. It's a push-button horse.”&nbsp;</p> <p class="xmsonormal">Buttons are everywhere these days, though not on horses. They’re on our phones, cookers and washing machines; on trains, planes and buses, cars and lifts.&nbsp;Buttons act as physical shorthand, taking us out of danger or discomfort and getting us to the office. Smooth under our fingers, they direct our energy forwards as if by magic while our minds turn to the next need or desire. Buttons work so well that we forget they’re even there.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">Rachel Plotnick’s new book&nbsp;<em><a href="" target="_blank">Power Button: A History of Pleasure, Panic, and the Politics of Pushing&nbsp;</a></em>reminds us of their presence. The push button was first used to call servants, creating a convenient distance between commander and command. Early critics of push-button technology criticised this distancing function and the narcotizing effect of constant convenience. EM Forster's 1909 story ‘<a href="" target="_blank">The Machine Stops</a>’ opens with Vashti, his female protagonist, surrounded by buttons: buttons for food and clothing; buttons for music and literature; and buttons to talk to friends—as well as an isolation knob “so that no one else could speak to her.”&nbsp;</p> <p class="xmsonormal">The Leave campaign provided a ‘No’ button for people to press for Brexit, and an isolation knob for people to ignore each other. The campaign also linked this button to an imagined reality, an ideological dream-time where, so the story went, we would control our own laws, our own money and our borders; a time when everyone would have a job, foreigners would know their place, austerity would disappear and tea would flow piping hot from taps; a fantasy as real as a Narnia with coconuts.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">You have to admire their ambition. This reality was never true, and is simply unachievable given the way European economies link together in an intimate <a href="">regulatory embrace</a>, but at least they had a vision. By contrast, the Remain campaign was unable to offer any picture of the future other than more of the same, arrogantly assuming that ‘NO CHANGE’ would be the rational button that rational people would press.&nbsp;But this just explains the machinery, the Brexit buttons. What of the method? For this we might blame an earlier generation.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">In the early sixties Scottish novelist Alexander <a href="">Trocchi</a> turned away from writing books to launch a “cultural revolt.” His&nbsp;1963 <a href="">essay</a> “A Revolutionary Proposal: Invisible Insurrection of a Million Minds” looked admiringly at Trotsky and Lenin, who with their “thousand technicians” took the railway stations, telephone exchanges and powerhouses, leaving “the old men in the Kremlin” alone with their own irrelevance. His revolt was meant to work by similar means. Rather than overthrow governments it would “outflank” them, seizing the “grids of expression and the powerhouses of the mind.”</p> <p class="xmsonormal">The Brexit campaign seized social media&nbsp;– our modern “grids of expression”&nbsp;– pushing immigration through this grid&nbsp;in an “invisible insurrection” from the right. All too often the mainstream media also fell in with this narrative. A 2017&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">report</a>&nbsp;from the Policy Institute found that coverage of immigration more than tripled during the campaign, and that “migrants were blamed for many of Britain's economic and social problems” in media coverage that was “acrimonious and divisive.”</p> <p class="xmsonormal">Instead of a push-button horse, UK Prime Minister Theresa May is riding a Brexit unicorn made of little else but xenophobic fantasies; a unicorn that’s approaching a very bumpy landing. An English-driven Brexit will do little to quell the desire for an independent Scotland, but much to accelerate its arrival. And though&nbsp;Labour MP Diane Abbott may be right in&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">warning</a>&nbsp;that a new referendum may just reawaken discontent, it’s hard to see a parliamentary path that doesn’t end in disappointment.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">So as we enter a new battle of bad ideas, something obviously needs to change. Why not a change of direction from the left? Moving towards a people’s vote, a radical remain-and-reform platform could renew left forces both here and across Europe, and policies like a <a href="">European New Deal</a> (proposed by the Democracy in Europe 25 movement or <a href="">DiEM25</a>) would win converts. Or do we travel further down the populist road of a European Union distant from its citizens, a Europe where one in four voters now&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">votes for a populist party</a>?</p> <p class="xmsonormal">The problem with buttons is the paucity of information they provide. The 2016 vote offered a binary choice of in or out, with the button pressed in anger and fear as the winner. With any new vote, the conversation should be expanded to a wider vision of social prosperity, cultivating a politics of hope rather than a knee-jerk reaction to social despair. We need an affirmation of unity rather than an affirmation of unicorns; a cantankerous politics rather than another push-button nightmare.</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="/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-won-t-work-eu-is-about-regulation-not-sovereignty">Why Brexit won’t work: the EU is about regulation not sovereignty </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 odd"> <a href="/transformation/paul-walsh/trapped-on-brexit-island">Trapped on Brexit Island</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 uk Transformation Brexit Paul Walsh Thu, 06 Dec 2018 14:26:31 +0000 Paul Walsh 120880 at What really happened when Kanye West met Donald Trump? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The famous rapper shows how racially-defined but wealthy individuals are used to mask deep structures of oppression.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">President Donald J. Trump and Kanye West in the Oval Office, 2018-10-11. Credit: White House Official Photo via <a href="">Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="">Public Domain</a>.</p> <p>In early October 2018 Kanye West met with Donald Trump at the White House in Washington DC. Sitting opposite one another in the oval office, <a href="">they exchanged views</a> on the abolition of slavery, gang and police violence in Chicago, mental health, plane design, entrepreneurialism, a potential 2024 presidential run, the cosmos, and multiverse theory.</p> <p>Gathered around the two men were stacks of flashing cameras and a mob of suited media representatives who were called on sporadically to ask mild-mannered questions. Even by the standards of a presidency that has <a href="">turned governance into little more than mass entertainment</a> it was an unedifying spectacle.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Yet the Trump phenomenon has an uncanny ability to make structural fault lines in American society visible, literal and painful. What historically has remained unsaid or gestured towards in euphemistic half-phrases has, in the past three years, been shouted from the rooftops or become brazenly physicalized.</p> <p>Trump’s meeting with West was no different, in that it revealed the antagonistic relationship between race and class in the United States in the twenty-first century. West’s position as a millionaire <em>and</em> an African American has forced him to embody two contradictory forces at once. These forces have entered into an irresolvable battle for power over his mind</p> <p>This tension is revealed by a close analysis of West’s monologue in the White House. His digressive talk veered between the parroting of neoliberal economic shibboleths and insightful analysis of oppression from a man who, with more perception than most, <a href="">called out the governmental response to Hurricane Katrina for what it was</a> – a vast act of racialized state apathy.</p> <p>As a millionaire businessman living a life of luxury in Los Angeles, West is an archetypal plutocrat: moneyed, pro-free market, pro-tax cuts for the ultra-rich, and apparently able to pay for a <a href="">private fire service</a> to protect his family from the effects of climate change.</p> <p>In the White House meeting, he churned out the tiresome right-wing attack line on the undeserving racialized poor, saying that “welfare is the reason why a lot of black people end up being Democrat.” He boasted of his entrepreneurial nous in a world that fetishizes big business, claiming that “I’ve never stepped into a situation where I didn’t make people more money.”And amidst praise of billionaires, he talked enthusiastically about private healthcare and his desire to “empower the pharmaceuticals.”&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>On the other hand, West has been subject to structural racism - a process in which racial difference is used to create and maintain an uneven socio-economic hierarchy. Such racism has been a basic precondition for the functioning of the same plutocratic state of which West is a part economically, from the moment the plantation system was dissolved at the end of the Civil War.</p> <p>Dissonantly intruding into his conversation with Trump was the repressed presence of systematic state violence against African Americans in the USA. West drew attention to the premeditated disinvestment that has taken place in community programs in US inner cities, and how the shrinking of state support has augmented America’s prison-industrial complex: “we got rid of the mental health institutes of the ‘80s and the ‘90s,” he told the president, “and the prison rates shot up.”</p> <p>West also reflected on the lack of educational provision in historically African American areas, saying that “we never had anyone who taught us, they didn’t teach us.” Most challenging of all, he showed how the system of chattel slavery persists in contemporary America when he concluded that “we’re putting people in positions to have to do illegal things to have to end up in the cheapest factory ever, the prison system.”&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>West’s analysis points to the neoliberal transformation of race relations that has occurred in the US since the 1980s. The removal of infrastructural supports for minority populations, whether in employment, economic or community development, has collided with an increasingly militarized state apparatus that criminalizes people of color. This project has bled exploited minority bodies dry of surplus value and created a theatre of violence that is used to justify increased discipline and punishment by the state and its security apparatus.</p> <p>While this is comparatively recent history, it has a much deeper provenance. Since the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1865, the entwined class and race warfare that has raged in the USA has reinstituted plantation slavery on transformed terms by generating veiled forms of enforced labor, establishing supposedly-neutral juridical frameworks that override civil rights, and creating extra-legal structures that condemn populations of color to dispossession.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>As a result of this process, West’s race and class are in schizophrenic conflict with each-other, two different and opposing elements that are forced to share the same mind. In this sense, the most revealing part of his monologue in the Oval Office was when he spoke about his “bipolar disorder.” We ought not to understand his bipolarity as simply an individual phenomenon, the product of a mind that may be disintegrating in the face of the pressures of fame. Instead, such contradictions are best understood as the product of a particular racial history.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>The great African American thinker <a href="">W.E.B. Du Bois</a> called this phenomenon ‘double consciousness’ in his masterpiece <em>The Souls of Black Folk</em>: “One ever feels his two-ness,” he wrote, “an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.” Hence, the imperative to identify with a nation that has exerted systemic violence on the basis of race generates inevitable internal divisions, of which mental illness is one manifestation.</p> <p>The rationale for covering up these divisions by the plutocratic class is obvious: West is the latest example of the tactical deployment of a single racially-defined but wealthy individual to mask deep structures of oppression. By turning the issue of race into a question of friendship between powerful men, sustaining the illusion that anyone from anywhere can become rich, and suggesting that people of color can share in their worldview, this class can perpetuate demonstrably racist structures while presenting a blithe and innocent countenance to the world.&nbsp;</p> <p>The media reaction to West’s appearance in the White House has been every bit as insidious. Many commentators have gorged themselves on his clear mental distress; just look at how often words like “<a href="">bizarre</a>” and “<a href="">surreal</a>” are used in reference to the meeting. These op-eds cast West as the latest in a long line of African American ‘fool’ characters that have entertained white populations from the days of the minstrels. Most of these readings fail to carry out even the most basic political analysis of the root causes of this purportedly eccentric behavior. Once again, individual personality takes the place of history.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“My eyes are wide open and now (I) realize I’ve been used to spread messages I don’t believe in,” wrote Kanye in a <a href="">recent tweet</a> that announced his political retirement. In many ways, however, it is not so much that he was used as a vessel by others that is most problematic in his encounter with Trump. Rather, it is the way in which the whole sorry episode has elucidated the continuing racial divisions in American society and the techniques by which mass spectacle has depoliticized them. These divisions have real and damaging effects on individual consciousness and the wider struggle for justice in America. &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/edward-sugden/donald-trump-and-politics-of-emotion">Donald Trump and the politics of emotion</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/lori-lakin-hutcherson/my-white-friend-asked-me-to-explain-white-privilege-so-i-decide">My white friend asked me to explain white privilege, so I decided to be honest.</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/scot-nakagawa/blacklivesmatter-and-white-progressive-colorblindness">#Blacklivesmatter and white progressive colorblindness</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 Class Race Edward Sugden Liberation Culture Intersectionality Tue, 04 Dec 2018 19:23:30 +0000 Edward Sugden 120756 at Freedom is claimed, not granted <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Today’s actions by Central Americans and Palestinians show a historic convergence of resistance to borders.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Solidarity protest in New York City, November 25 2018. Credit: Nora Lester Murad. All rights reserved.</p><p>A photograph of Maria Virginia Duarte sits on my desk, and as I watch the coverage of the <a href="">migrant caravan</a> approaching the US border I think about her again. Maria arrived in the United States without documents from El Salvador in in the early 1970s. She became part of my family, and when I had my first daughter Maria dipped her finger in a cup of coffee and put it in my baby’s mouth (apparently in El Salvador that’s considered good for babies).</p> <p>In 1986, Maria was one of the almost three million “illegal aliens” <a href="">granted amnesty by Ronald Reagan</a>, and she no longer needed to live in hiding. When she and her sister decided to visit El Salvador for the first time since they had escaped, I went with them. I met their relatives on both sides of the brutal <a href="">civil war that took the lives of 75,000</a> people between 1980 and 1992. I took rickety buses on narrow, unpaved mountain roads to visit relatives who had no water, sewage or electricity. I was in the marketplace when in the blink of an eye, all the young boys disappeared into shops and houses just minutes before government forces marched around the corner to “<a href="">recruit</a>” child soldiers.</p> <p>Nearly four decades later, Central Americans continue to <a href="">risk their lives to escape conditions</a> caused in great part <a href="">by US foreign policy</a>, only to find themselves <a href="">unwelcome</a> in the oft-touted “<a href="">land of immigrants</a>.” But something feels different this time around. Individuals and families are marching together. It is not ‘merely’ that thousands of scared people are risking their lives to stay alive as we have seen in the <a href="">exodus from Syria</a>. It is also a protest of sorts, a refusal to comply, and it’s being met not only with humanitarian aid but with <a href="">political solidarity</a>.</p> <p>It might just be me, influenced by 35 years of being married into a Palestinian family including 13 years living under Israeli military occupation, but no matter how they are portrayed in the media, the Central American caravan and <a href="">Gaza’s Great Return March</a> feel to me like a convergence. Regular people are taking brave steps, inspiring others to join, and building community while claiming freedom.</p> <p>Today’s protests stand firmly on generations of resistance. They are <a href="">parts of movements</a>, cultivated over decades out of smaller attempts and in response to <a href="">increasing repression</a> that has made clear to people that freedom is claimed not granted. And our claims for freedom must be global.</p> <p>Of course there are many differences in the situations of the Palestinians in Gaza and the Central Americans on the caravan, but there are also a surprising number of similarities. The Central Americans are running away from their homelands to find refuge in the United States. They are challenging the borders that prevent them from living in safety with respect for their human rights. The Palestinians in Gaza are running towards their homeland and challenging the <a href="">blockade of a “border” that illegally</a> prevents two million people from returning (<a href="">1.3 million of whom are documented refugees</a>).</p> <p>The Central Americans are seeking the <a href="">legal status of asylum</a>, which is part of <a href="">refugee law</a>, while in Gaza, legally-recognized refugees are denied their <a href="">right of return</a>. In both cases, the US and Israel distort the law in an attempt to claim that the relevant protections don’t apply.</p> <p>For example, the US government portrays Central Americans not as asylum seekers but as migrants – people who choose to move “not because of a direct threat to life or freedom, but in order to find work, for education, family reunion, or other personal reasons,” <a href="">as the UN puts it</a>. This enables the authorities to evoke their rights as sovereign states to deny entry across their borders, and say that caravan participants should apply using existing immigration procedures or face deportation. In fact, <a href="">Trump has repeatedly called them “invaders,”</a> subject to a <a href="">security rather than a humanitarian response</a>.</p> <p>This is nearly identical to Israel’s portrayal of the Gaza protesters. They are <a href="">deemed a security risk to Israel</a>, criminal, and not subject to any rights and protections – certainly not the right to return to their homeland, the right to protest to secure their human rights, or the right to international protection from a belligerent occupying power.</p> <p>In fact, <a href="">according to UNHCR</a>, the UN Refugee Agency:</p> <blockquote><p>“State responsibility starts with addressing root causes of forced displacement. Strengthening the rule of law and providing citizens with security, justice, and equal opportunities are crucial to breaking the cycles of violence, abuse and discrimination that can lead to displacement.”</p></blockquote> <p>Yet in both cases, the US and its allies have not fulfilled their obligations to prevent displacement. Instead, they have invested in funding conflicts and then erecting obstacles to rights-claiming by those who are displaced as a result. <a href="">Israel constructed an Apartheid Wall that has been deemed illegal</a>; <a href="">Trump is trying to construct a similar wall</a> along the US-Mexico border, <a href="">even citing the Israeli wall as a model</a>.</p> <p>One mechanism used in both cases is the outsourcing of foreign policy enforcement, often paid for with foreign aid. <a href="">Israel outsources enforcement to the Palestinian Authority</a> (paid for by international donors), while the <a href=";;fbclid=IwAR1n4pWGv7d_2-qin5WvFO0eMck4DNGHbB-dxZJE-Hlk1lG9WUEH_Rydaq0">US has outsourced enforcement to Mexico, again paid for with aid.</a></p> <p>In both cases, governments and multilateral organizations are complicit in the violation of human rights. The most obvious example is the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism (GRM), ostensibly created to facilitate the reconstruction of Gaza after the 2014 Israeli attack by putting the United Nations in charge of vetting materials and beneficiaries using Israeli-approved criteria.</p> <p>In <a title="," href="">my own research</a> &nbsp;I found that the GRM potentially legalizes the perpetuation of a wrongful act (the blockade of Gaza), and also potentially enables the perpetuation of violations by Israel, while the United Nations did not follow a correct process in becoming a legal party to the GRM agreement and inaccurately portrayed its role as a mere facilitator. In addition, the UN and other parties failed to fulfill their legal obligation of due diligence to ensure that the GRM agreement did not violate human rights, and the agreement appears unbalanced in assigning rights and responsibilities in Israel’s favor, while obligations are borne by the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority. Finally, the GRM potentially compromises the humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality, humanity and independence (for example, by allowing Israel a veto power over aid beneficiaries).</p> <p>It doesn’t take much digging to uncover the shameful failure of international organizations to protect the rights of Central Americans too. A recent article in an official United Nations news source <a href="">reported</a> that the “Secretary-General António Guterres was urging all parties to abide by international law, including the principle of ‘full respect for countries’ rights to manage their own borders.’” The failure to prioritize the protection of displaced Central Americans, Palestinians, Syrians, Rohingya, Afghanis, South Sudanese, Somalis and so many more demonstrates that an ongoing battle between human rights and states rights is at play - an existential fight to realize or crush the aspirational potential of international law and global governance.</p> <p>When the declaration of a “humanitarian situation” becomes a justification for a military build-up, checkpoints, and the collection of personal information that threatens security (as in both these cases), people increasingly recognize that this as a rhetorical slight-of-hand. When Donald Trump says that Central American <a href="">migrants who throw stones would be shot</a>, a policy almost identical to <a href="">Netanyahu’s stance against Palestinian rock throwers</a>, people see what they are up against: this cadre of power-mongers intend to criminalize communities that seek to protect human beings from the unconstrained power of militarized states.</p> <p>But people like Maria Duarte and my friends in Gaza have no intention of giving up, nor of succumbing to the cowardly strategy of divide-and-conquer. Like the generations of activists on whose achievements we stand today, we will respond by recognizing the parallels and similarities in our struggles and in our aspirations for a safe place to live with dignity, and call home.</p> <p><em>Nora Lester Murad’s new book is&nbsp;“<a href="">Rest in My Shade, a poem about roots</a>,” co-authored with Danna Masad and published by <a href="">Interlink Books</a> with support from the <a href="">Palestine Museum US</a>. More information at <a href=""></a>.</em><span></span></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="/openglobalrights/nora-lester-murad/no-shortage-of-international-complicity-with-israeli-occupation">No shortage of international complicity with Israeli occupation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/oska-paul/refugee-to-refugee-humanitarianism">Refugee-to-refugee humanitarianism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/byung-chul-han/who-is-refugee">Who is a refugee?</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 refugees Nora Lester Murad Transforming Palestine and the Israeli occupation Activism Care Sun, 02 Dec 2018 19:26:26 +0000 Nora Lester Murad 120676 at Why co-ops and community farms can’t close the racial wealth gap <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Circulating local dollars or pounds can’t create more wealth when there isn’t enough to begin with.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Malik Yakini, executive director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. Credit: Brian Rozman/YES! Magazine.</p> <p>Residents of one Detroit historic neighborhood have been looking forward to next year’s opening of a food co-op. It will help bring to market produce from a community farm and is part of a larger community development project that will include a health food cafe, an incubator kitchen for food entrepreneurs, and space for events. The project expects to employ 20 people from the mostly low- to moderate-income area.</p> <p>Twenty jobs may not seem like a lot when&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">unemployment</a>&nbsp;in the approximately 80 percent Black city is 8.7 percent, twice that of state and national rates. But this is what economic progress generally looks like in many Black communities: cooperative ventures such as grocery stores and community farms. More than 150 years ago, Black people emerging from slavery formed cooperatives to grow, sell, and distribute food together because their very survival depended on it.</p> <p>&nbsp;“Black people have a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">long history</a>&nbsp;of using co-ops as a way of navigating through an economic system that has been intentionally aimed to disinvest in our communities and prevent any kind of parity,” says Malik Yakini, executive director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, which is spearheading the project. “So, this is us latching onto a historical strategy that Black people have used in this country to try to build collective wealth.”</p> <p>Yakini believes in the cooperative strategy, and has made it his life’s work of 40-plus years. When he was a college student at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, he and a group of colleagues started the Ujamaa Co-op Buying Club. “We would come to Detroit on Saturdays, buy in bulk, and bring it back to campus,” Yakini says. “Members—students and faculty—would [then] pick up their baskets.”</p> <p>He also understands what cooperatives don’t fix.</p> <p><a href="" target="_self">Cooperatives are a $500 billion industry</a>, so clearly they have capacity to build wealth. But little of that reaches Black and other marginalized communities. Of the approximately&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">30,000 co-ops holding 350 million memberships</a>&nbsp;in the United States, only a fraction are Black-owned.</p> <p>Other efforts aimed at amassing Black dollars have fallen short. The&nbsp;<a href="" target="_self">number of Black-owned banks and credit unions</a>&nbsp;continues to dwindle. A decade ago there were more than 50; that number is now&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">down to 2</a><a href="" target="_blank">3</a>. And Black-owned businesses in general&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">struggle financially</a>.</p> <p>As much pride and empowerment as there is in community ownership of food-producing gardens and financial services such as credit unions to support local businesses, research shows those sorts of grassroots efforts cannot close the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">ever-growing wealth gap</a>&nbsp;that has been historically and systematically created along racial lines. Controlling wealth by buying and banking Black is one piece of self-determination, but undoing economic segregation may be a problem too complicated for cooperative ownership alone to solve.</p> <p>That problem needs a “set of solutions,” Yakini says.</p> <p><strong>Banking fail.</strong></p> <p>Mehrsa Baradaran’s&nbsp;<em>The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap</em>&nbsp;details the history of Black banking and the laws that have created and continue to sustain separate economies for Black and White Americans.</p> <p>Baradaran tells the story of the Freedman’s Bank. After the emancipation of enslaved Africans, the bank was established with about $200,000 in unclaimed funds of Black soldiers who had died in the Civil War. Chartered by Congress and operated by White managers, Freedman’s was based on a popular new philanthropic banking model of savings banks for the poor. The purpose of savings banks was to hold money instead of growing it, unlike commercial banks, used by White people, that made loans and investments.</p> <p>Within a decade, more than&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">70,000 Freedmen depositors made more than $57 million in deposits</a>.&nbsp;Most of the money was being saved to buy land, tools, and agricultural supplies, as the freed men believed that turning wages into landownership was the way to climb the economic ladder.</p> <p>But the bank closed in 1874 with more than half of the accumulated Black wealth having disappeared through mismanagement and fraud by managers.</p> <p>The loss of all that capital was something Black populations never recovered from, says Baradaran, who is also a banking law professor at the University of Georgia Law School.</p> <p>The promise of banking Black is that doing so will keep dollars in Black communities. While that might be theoretically true, Baradaran says, Black banks cannot thrive outside of the mainstream—mostly White—banking system; by default capital filters into it. And because Black banks often serve communities with high rates of poverty, their assets are smaller. The typical Black bank is one-third the size of an average commercial bank, as measured by assets, and one-quarter to one-third as profitable.</p> <p>Capital can’t concentrate in areas where capital doesn’t exist.</p> <p>“These banks have been used by policymakers … presidents, and their administrations as cheap alternatives to land and reparations,” Baradaran says.</p> <p><strong>Moving the money.</strong></p> <p>“The racial wealth gap is a byproduct of years, even centuries of economic policy choices and decisions that benefited the economic status and wealth-building potential of White households that has been compounded over time,” says Emanuel Nieves, senior policy manager at Prosperity&nbsp;Now, an organization with a mission of financial stability for all.</p> <p>“It’s absolutely going to take more than the grassroots efforts [to close it].”</p> <p>The only “logical” path is through policy intervention, says Nieves, one of the authors of the 2017 report, “The Road to Zero Wealth: How the Racial Wealth Divide Is Hollowing Out America’s Middle Class.” It lays out the magnitude of racial wealth disparity and suggests policy interventions to address the growing crisis.</p> <p>According to the report,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_self">if the racial wealth divide is left unaddressed</a>, median Black household wealth will hit zero by 2053, a decade or so after households of color reach a majority in this country. Latino household wealth is projected to hit zero in 2073. In contrast, median White household wealth is projected to climb to $137,000 by 2053.</p> <p>Nieves says the reason policy is important is because the gap is too large to be closed by the private sector alone.</p> <p>Baradaran explains it like this: Banks make money from loans and investments, not deposits. Even if affluent White—or Black—people decided to open accounts in a Black bank in a less affluent Black community, the money still would not get to the people who need it most.</p> <p>&nbsp;“People don’t understand the difference between deposits and loans,” Baradaran says. “Loans are what create wealth, not deposits. So you can give a bank deposits, but the bank isn’t lending into wealth-creating houses. And they can’t because they don’t have the dollars. What banks need is capital … good loan potential.”</p> <p>Then the loans have to be paid back.</p> <p>But the bank customers in marginalized communities don’t have the money to pay back the money, let alone the interest. And so the very problem that the banks exist to help makes them vulnerable.</p> <p><strong>Policy can intervene.</strong></p> <p>One solution may exist within the Federal Housing Administration, which offers down-payment assistance to low-income people and can provide the kind of guarantees on low-interest loans to Black borrowers that enable banks to lend more freely.</p> <p>“It’s not impossible,” Baradaran says. “We did it for White Americans. Before the New Deal, we had a ton of poor White Americans who, because of the FHA loans, it became cheaper for them to buy a home and have a mortgage than to rent an apartment. And so those people all moved into the suburbs and started paying very little mortgage, and that’s what built White American wealth.”</p> <p>Baradaran points out that before the mortgage program made them wealthy, or at least middle class, many—maybe most—Whites suffered the same fate as Black people. But where they were elevated, “Black people were cut off” through the FHA policy of redlining—the practice of denying loans in predominantly Black neighborhoods.&nbsp;</p> <p>There are opportunities now to correct that, Nieves says. And no shortage of ideas for reparative policies that could shift capital into Black communities.</p> <p>In the “Road to Zero Wealth” report, Nieves and the others suggest,<a href="" target="_blank">among other things</a>, changes to the tax code to “stop subsidizing the already-wealthy.” They believe that reforming the mortgage interest deduction and other tax expenditures would strengthen and grow the federal estate tax and create a net-worth tax on multimillion dollar fortunes—freeing up funds for investment in opportunities that allow low-wealth families to build wealth.</p> <p>Other suggestions have included issuing Baby Bonds—government trust accounts given to babies, based on a family’s household wealth. Economist Darrick Hamilton has presented the concept to members of Congress. While not race-specific, Baby Bonds would give an advantage to Black and Brown children and would be used for a “clearly defined asset-enhancing activity,” such as financing a debt-free education, buying a home, or purchasing a business.</p> <p>Nieves, Baradaran, and Hamilton posit that without policies like these that redistribute capital into Black and Brown communities, people will at best merely continue to circulate&nbsp;the same meager dollars for generations to come—no matter how many local cooperatives and credit unions they have.</p> <p><strong>Dealing with reality.</strong></p> <p>And while policymakers argue the politics of wealth redistribution and the details of implementation, lack of capital continues to present challenges for local-economy organizers such as Yakini and the&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Detroit Black Community Food Security Network</a>.</p> <p>Obtaining capital is always a challenge, he said, particularly large amounts of capital that can make a big difference in people’s lives.</p> <p>In recent years, he says, smaller pots in the amounts of $5,000 to maybe $50,000 from philanthropic foundations have opened up. But these are often framed within a competition for one project over others.</p> <p>&nbsp;“You have to compete against other people [in the same financial position]. It pits people against each other,” Yakini says. “But the larger amounts that are really needed to really do large-scale development, to compete on any level with the development we see happening in the city of Detroit, requires multimillions of dollars.”</p> <p>And for those large grants, grantors want to give money to the group that has the “best capacity” to manage the funds. And that’s when the racial divide kicks in once again.</p> <p>“Because of historical inequity, and historical underdevelopment which has occurred in Black communities and Brown communities, often we don’t have the mechanisms in place to handle large grants, like a large White nonprofit that’s been around for 20 years might have,” Yakini says. “And so, if the grantor is looking at who has the most capacity, then invariably more established White nonprofits have that capacity over smaller emerging groups.”</p> <p>And while this may not be intended to function in such a way, certainly the impact is that it concentrates wealth in the hands of Whites, the very problem that these grassroots efforts are trying to solve.</p> <p>“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve moved away from straight-line thinking,” Yakini says. “The world is very complicated, and trying to create justice in a system where you have hundreds of years of injustice happening on multiple levels in multiple ways, there’s not any one thing that’s going to solve that.”</p> <p>The smaller projects—planting gardens, building wells—he believes, get people to think about how they act on their own behalf, how they create smaller economies. “When an economy is smaller and more local, people by definition in that locale have more say-so over it, presumably.”</p> <p>Ultimately, he says, it can give people glimpses into the future to ignite within their consciousness what’s possible.</p> <p>And so, Yakini says, he’s receptive to all solutions that work—from grassroots to government.</p> <p>“We have to fight on all these fronts,” he says. “The question is how we build the vehicles that are sophisticated enough to function on all of these levels.”</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href=";utm_campaign=YTW_20181109&amp;utm_content=YTW_20181109+CID_55e0b59519f5b782d58bb5a52eae1215&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=Why%20Co-">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/dan-edelstyn-and-hilary-powell/the-DIY-Central-Bank">The DIY Central Bank</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/emily-kawano/seven-ways-to-build-solidarity-economy">Seven ways to build the solidarity economy</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 Zenobia Jeffries Warfield The role of money Economics Thu, 29 Nov 2018 14:11:01 +0000 Zenobia Jeffries Warfield 120545 at Finding purpose in the future of work <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="BodyA">Supporting disadvantaged young people to find meaningful careers benefits both them and the rest of society.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="BodyA"><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">The former Littlewoods Building in Liverpool, England. Credit: Joe Entwistle. All rights reserved.</p> <p class="BodyA">We live in a world of work that is going to change dramatically over the next 15 years. During the first industrial revolution, work was shaped by the adoption of machinery, where production was more important than human life. Improved working conditions were hard fought for. The next revolution in work, which is happening now, will be more diverse, profuse and fragmented.</p> <p class="BodyA">We might need to abandon the very notion of a career in an increasingly non-linear and precarious labour market – thinking instead in terms of how we can use transferrable skills to jump from job to job. So should we abandon the potential for work to provide us with purpose and meaning in life? Should we be aiming for a post-work future in which automation and a universal basic income mean we don’t have to find or keep a job at all?</p> <p class="BodyA">If we could, most of us would probably choose to work less. In the UK <a href="">nearly two-thirds of workers </a>are keen to reduce their hours, and as a recent report from the Trades Union Congress confirms people would choose <a href="">a four day working week</a> as the ideal. We can certainly aim to work less, but at the same time we need to make sure that we also improve working life both now and in the future. Researcher <a href="">Alex Wood</a> says that decent employment can help our well-being; it can provide us with structure, social connection and collective purpose. But how?</p> <p class="BodyA">The <a href="">Merseyside Youth Association</a> (MYA) provides one useful example. They work with young people across the Liverpool City Region to support the development of meaningful careers that provide a sense of purpose, while making sure that genuine opportunities are more evenly distributed throughout the population. Through the Talent Match programme, MYA works with some of the most marginalised young people across Merseyside who aren’t in any form of training, education or employment. Many face multiple barriers to finding decent work: the vast majority don’t have any decent qualifications from school; 50 per cent haven’t worked for at least two years; nearly one in five has been homeless; and many have physical or mental health problems.</p> <p class="BodyA">Through the UK government’s ‘welfare to work’ approach, young people who experience disadvantage can find themselves pushed into ill-fitting jobs or facing a punitive sanctions regime. Even when they are in work, jobs are often as insecure as they are unrewarding. As Phil, who is 26 and from north Liverpool explained to me:</p> <blockquote><p class="BodyA">“It may sound rather dystopian, but basically what society would prefer is a bunch of people who just go into a job, do it, and shut up. In most jobs that are available you are just there to be used and abused. If you complain, they kick you out and get other desperate people in.”</p></blockquote> <p class="BodyA">MYA has much higher hopes. Joe, who’s a youth worker at the agency, explained how they support young people to think about their futures - and then put things in place to help them move closer to their ambitions, step by step. “Recognising that each young person is different,” he told me, “means that the young people will get a career that they really want, rather than setting them up to fail.”</p> <p class="BodyA">Having a meaningful career is important to young people in the group. One of them, Stacey Prescott-Howard, shared how “young people get told all the time just to get off benefits and get any job that is coming. It makes you feel that you are not worth having a career.”</p> <p class="BodyA">MYA enabled Stacey to overcome some of the barriers she faced by helping her to become a support worker for children and young people with disabilities. For nearly two years now, she’s been working with children and young people who have complex needs in a range of settings including mainstream youth centres, nurseries, schools and behavioural units - where children excluded from school are sent.</p><p class="BodyA"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="688" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Stacey Prescott-Howard. Credit: Joe Entwistle. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p>Stacey feels as though her “dreams came back. I have got a career now. Having a career has taught me that I am worthy of having a future, I am confident enough to having a future, I am strong enough to have a future.”</p> <p class="BodyA">Enabling young people to develop their ambitions takes time, so MYA works with them over the medium term to build on their interests, capabilities and experiences. They explore what young people really want to do with their lives, and then put incremental steps in place to help them make progress.</p> <p class="BodyA">Sometimes, these steps need to begin with the basic foundation of survival. MYA has set up a foodbank just for 16-25 year-olds after they were told that many young people were going hungry but remained reluctant to use foodbanks due to stigma, anxiety, or from a feeling of not wanting to take food from families with children. The foodbank is a safe space for young people that they can call their own.</p> <p class="BodyA">Every week, they can come to get bags of food, but they can also speak with MYA volunteers and staff about additional support that might be needed - whether it’s counselling, mentoring or personal development. </p><p class="BodyA">Stacey Bridge, another member of the group, described her situation before she first came to use the foodbank:</p> <blockquote><p class="BodyA">“My dad was killed. Then I lost my flat. I had a choice of paying for my dad’s funeral or keeping up to date with the rent. I ended up homeless. I went to a hostel with half a loaf of bread and a bottle of juice. The hostel gave me a leaflet for the foodbank at MYA.”</p></blockquote> <p class="BodyA">After going to the foodbank, Stacey’s life has changed through her hard work and through a plan of support that she came up with in collaboration with MYA.</p> <blockquote><p class="BodyA">“They could see I was stressed. At the time, I didn’t know whether it was Christmas or Tuesday. I thought there was no coming back from what happened. But here I am, volunteering at the place that helped me and training to be a youth worker. I’ve found something I love doing. Knowing that I’ve done something to help people feels good.”</p></blockquote><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="//" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//" alt="" title="" width="460" height="688" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Stacey Bridge. Credit: Joe Entwistle. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>By taking small steps, Stacey has developed a stronger sense of purpose and is a real asset to her community. That’s how MYA operates; they see the strengths in young people not just the weaknesses, and help them to overcome the things that are getting in their way.</p> <p class="BodyA">Social anxiety creates barriers for many young people in ways, for example, that stop them from going to college or attending job interviews. Such anxieties are not things that can be wished away, but through personal support young people can develop their confidence. Sometimes this begins with feeling comfortable on the bus, or being around groups of people. Bobbie is in college to do her Maths and English qualifications, and hopes to work in childcare. She explained how MYA supported her to deal with her anxieties:</p> <blockquote><p class="BodyA">“When I have to go somewhere, I can text Joe from MYA and he will come with me. He came to college with me and sat with me when I did the exams. Instead of being scared, you feel more confident with someone there with you. They support you step by step.”</p></blockquote> <p class="BodyA">MYA shows how incremental changes to people’s lives can add up to something more transformative by providing personal support to secure the emotional and material foundations that young people need; recognizing and building on their existing strengths and experiences; and enabling young people to demand better futures.</p> <p class="BodyA">But there is more. Through the Talent Match Programme, MYA are highlighting the need for new thinking about the ways in which we “skill-up” ourselves, and how we include young people who have experienced disadvantage. Their approach points to an alternative world of work and skills in which we think beyond the dominant frames of the market and move towards what sociologist <a href="">Bev Skeggs</a> identifies as values of social support, care and cooperation.</p> <p class="BodyA">We should aim to develop relationships and institutions that can create a future that enables purposeful careers in which all young people can achieve what they want to achieve. By encouraging our democratic imaginations to become more hopeful and energetic we might yet be able to find purpose in the future world of work.</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/dan-silver-steph-niciu/we-deserve-right-to-exist-on-our-own-terms">“We deserve the right to exist on our own terms”</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/dan-silver/politicians-don-t-live-our-lives-diy-social-action">Politicians don’t live our lives: DIY social action</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/dan-silver/taking-pictures-that-mean-something-everyday-life-in-salford">Taking pictures that mean something: everyday life in Salford</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 Silver Activism Care Economics Tue, 27 Nov 2018 19:36:56 +0000 Dan Silver 120659 at Are you really on our side? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We are all interdependent, but a person’s economic situation determines whether dependency is seen as acceptable or not.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="">Flickr/lambs.frances</a>. <a href="">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p>‘That’s what happens when they don’t pay their rent,’ says one of the people caught on video at<a href=""> a Bonfire Night party joking as they burn an effigy of London’s Grenfell tower</a>. The video is shocking and has sparked outrage on social media, but are the attitudes behind it so surprising? Is that ‘joke’ so different from ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne &nbsp;<a href="">stirring anger at those “sleeping off a life on benefits?</a>” “People say things like that all the time,” says Hazel, a member of the women’s cooperative skills network we work with in south London who lives at the sharp end of this rhetoric, “it’s in the air.”</p> <p>The Bonfire Night video has been <a href="">linked to immigrant bashing</a>, but more widely it reveals a <a href="">disregard for the lives of social housing tenants in general</a>. The journalist <a href="">Owen Jones argues that this is the product of the systematic dehumanisation of poor people in this country</a>. It’s good that people are feeling outrage about such disregard and the cruelty of UK welfare policies, recently condemned<a href=";NewsID=23881"> as ‘punitive’ and ‘callous’</a> by UN Envoy Philip Alston.&nbsp;</p> <p>But is outrage at a few ‘hateful’ video-makers and politicians enough? In rightly condemning the callousness of the Bonfire video we take comfort in the idea that we’d never do anything like that ourselves, or that we’d never introduce something as cruel as Universal Credit. We’re not so sure. Should we let ourselves off the hook so easily?</p> <p>After all, callous narratives have become routine in debates about UK welfare policy. Remember ‘strivers versus scroungers,’ or those who ‘do the right thing’ versus those who ‘cheat the system’?&nbsp; Such language hasn’t just been used by conservatives.&nbsp; In the run-up to the 2015 general election Liam Byrne, the-then Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, argued that Labour had lost the previous election because it was seen as the <a href="">party for ‘shirkers’ not&nbsp; workers</a>.&nbsp; <a href="">Only since Jeremy Corbyn became leader has Labour refused to shore up this narrative. </a>&nbsp;</p> <p>Such language has devastating effects on people. “When they talk about scroungers” says Sonia, one of the members of the network, “they mean me. They assume because I need financial support I’m lazy. They don’t know me or my situation.” Hazel told us how her autistic son has picked up on such derogatory language: “He feels stressed, anxious, inadequate. Like a failure because he has to do things slowly and says ‘mum, will people think I’m lazy?’” “I get it,” says Sonia, “I’m nobody.” “You feel worthless, pointless” adds Jo, another member. </p> <p>Binaries like ‘shirker and worker’ would be unacceptable if they were used in terms of race, gender or sexuality, but in the context of poverty they are rarely challenged. How many of us speak out against the skiver/striver language to show politicians we won’t stand for it, or the policies it justifies?</p> <p>‘Hardworking families’ is another favourite phrase that’s been used repeatedly by ex-Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, for example, and by Ian Duncan Smith, the former Work and Pensions Secretary.&nbsp; In October 2018 the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, announced a budget that delivered for ‘hardworking families - the ‘grafters’ and ‘strivers.’ </p> <p>“What’s a ‘hardworking’ family?” asks Sonia, “even when I didn’t work for a salary I was hard at work at home, raising three children.”&nbsp; “They mean people that aren’t on benefits,” Jo responded, “(if) you’re not rich, independent, you can’t possibly be hardworking.”</p> <p>As with many seemingly innocuous phrases which are loaded with prejudice, ‘hardworking families’ passes easily unnoticed. But <a href="">sociologist Stephen Crossley argues</a> that this term sets up an insidious binary against so-called ‘problem’ or ‘troubled’ families that are repeatedly presented as a burden on taxpayers. This framing has allowed the government more room to push through a punitive ‘<a href="">culture change</a>’ in the UK welfare system. </p><p>The ‘hardworking families’ rhetoric is linked to other narratives that have served to justify the callous welfare reforms that have been implemented in the UK over the past ten years. Sanctions (stopping benefits payments as a punishment) and closely monitoring the behaviour of benefit recipients have been portrayed as necessary in order to help people become ‘responsible citizens’ who make ‘good choices’ and are not ‘dependent on the state.’ If people are not wholly independent, so the logic goes, it’s because they’ve made the ‘wrong’ choices and must therefore be forced into ‘taking responsibility.’</p> <p>But many women in our network question the idea that their circumstances are the result of choice. “Bad choices?” says Jo, “Maybe. I mean I made&nbsp;<em>a&nbsp;</em>choice. Whether it was bad or not I don’t know. It was hard for me to work when my eldest was younger and ill, I wouldn’t have been able to when I was attending [hospital] every 2 weeks….But I was responsible for him. I suppose I made that choice not to work, but what were my options?”</p> <p>That question - ‘what were my options?’ comes up repeatedly in our discussions. Members of the network feel that they have few meaningful choices in terms of balancing care responsibilities with paid work, and to survive, they’ve often had to make choices which were less than ideal. “You have to look at the circumstances people are in,” says Hazel, “people make the best choices they can...(but) this talk makes us a scapegoat. It’s a way of blaming the poor and having reasons for their policies.” </p> <p>Different standards are applied to people who are financially comfortable (like the two of us) and those who aren’t. We’ve both made plenty of choices that didn’t work out, but we had a safety net and influential friends which protected us from any terrible impacts. Our ‘bad choices’ are seen as positive learning experiences, not things that should be criticised because they show that we’re dependent on other people.</p> <p>In reality we are all interdependent, but a person’s economic situation determines whether dependency is seen as acceptable or not. Our jobs pay enough to choose childminders we’re happy with, but lots of people’s don’t. They can’t pick a place where their kids will be as well cared for as with them, so they take on less paid work. Does that make them less responsible? According to current welfare policy it does. </p> <p>People who weren’t born into financial stability may need state support more than people whose parents gave them a deposit for a flat, or who have the advantage of well-placed social networks. Does that make them irresponsible? According to current welfare policy it does. </p> <p>A woman with young kids who is financially independent, or who has a high-earning partner, can choose to be a stay-at-home mother or devote some of her time to creative pursuits that don’t earn much money - without any rebuke or criticism. But a woman who wants to do this with support from the state is deemed ‘irresponsible.’ </p> <p>Why don’t we question this language? It’s difficult to say. The campaigner Simon Duffy suggests that the hardworking families rhetoric appeals to the <a href="">“fears and anxieties of the middle-classes by identifying weak groups who can be easily blamed for society’s&nbsp;problems</a>.” But perhaps it’s simpler than that. Perhaps we all tend to buy into what makes us feel okay about ourselves and justifies our privilege. </p> <p>We may care about social justice and consider ourselves as activists, but sometimes life is stressful - finding childcare, paying the mortgage and so forth - and it’s easy to ‘play the martyr,’ to believe that we’ve actually earned the advantages we have because we’ve worked hard, made good choices and been responsible - &nbsp;and others haven’t. At some level we know this isn’t true, but it's easy to slip into these ways of thinking, </p> <p>Is the widespread outrage provoked by the bonfire video a sign that people are waking up to the devastating undercurrent of prejudice that exists against people on benefits and low incomes?&nbsp;Maybe, but many in our group remain wary: “People say they care” says Sonia, “but (it’s) what’s hot at the moment. When something else comes that grabs your emotion, it’s forgotten. Caring is fickle, it’s fleeting.”</p> <p>The&nbsp;anger and compassion unleashed by Grenfell and by Philip Alston's report on UK poverty will only be transformative if&nbsp;people use it to examine themselves and their decisions: why have we failed to challenge the language and policies that drive the UK welfare system?&nbsp;Why has it taken such extreme events to wake us up? Why have these dehumanising narratives been allowed to persist for so many years? And what are the blindspots that lead people who care about social justice&nbsp;to unwittingly collude with oppression?&nbsp;</p> <p>“Unless you feel connected to it,” Sonia warns, “you stop caring, you don’t have that drive.”&nbsp;&nbsp;Only by challenging ourselves in this way can we reach a deeper sense of connection and shared humanity, the things that are needed to build lasting solidarity and change.&nbsp;</p> <p>“These awful things will keep happening,” says Hazel, “unless people with more power, more weight, more money, more education, more anything come together with us who have been made to feel we’re at the bottom of the pile, and support us.” Jo’s plea is more urgent: “What are you going to do about it? Are you really on our side?”</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/elena-blackmore/strivers-and-skivers-we%E2%80%99re-all-in-this-together">Strivers and skivers? We’re all in this together</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/peroline-ainsworth-kiran-nihalani-hannah-rollins/three-more-ways-to-build-solidarity-">Three more ways to build solidarity across our differences</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 Kiran Nihalani and Peroline Ainsworth The role of money Care Economics Sun, 25 Nov 2018 20:09:33 +0000 Kiran Nihalani and Peroline Ainsworth 120688 at Lessons on building democracy after nonviolent revolutions <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why do some nonviolent revolutions end in democracy while others do not?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on&nbsp;<a href="">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></em></p><p class="image-caption">Tahrir Square, Cairo, April 1 2011. Credit: Flickr/Lilian Wagdy via <a href="">Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="">CC BY 2.0.</a></p> <p>In 2011, Egypt began a political transition following a nonviolent revolution. There was tremendous optimism both&nbsp;<a href="">from within the country</a>&nbsp;<a href="">and abroad</a>&nbsp;that the transition was likely to lead to a democratic outcome. In 2014, Burkina Faso also began a political transition after&nbsp;<a href="">a nonviolent revolution overthrew longtime authoritarian President Blaise Compaoré</a>. While many admired the revolution, its unfavorable conditions — low levels of economic development and a region that was less conducive to democracy — made the prospects for democratic advancement less optimistic. Yet, today, Egypt is once again under autocratic rule, following a 2013 coup by General Abdel-Fatah al-Sissi. Popular mobilization defeated a similar coup in Burkina Faso in 2015, and the country has now&nbsp;<a href="">had democratic elections</a>, putting it on the road to a long-term sustainable democracy.</p> <p>What explains these differences? Why do some nonviolent revolutions end in democracy while others do not? And is nonviolent resistance really that much of a factor in promoting democracy in the first place? These are the questions that I examine in a new monograph from ICNC press:&nbsp;<a href=""><em>When Civil Resistance Succeeds: Building Democracy after Nonviolent Uprisings</em></a>. The monograph builds on statistical research into 78 political transitions initiated by nonviolent resistance from 1945 to 2011, as well as interviews and in-depth examination of three particular transitions:&nbsp;<a href="">Brazil’s transition away from military rule in the 1980s</a>,&nbsp;<a href="">Zambia’s transition away from single party rule in the 1990s</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="">Nepal’s transition away from monarchy in the 2000s</a>. It focuses first on building our understanding of these questions using the best tools of social science research, and second on generating practical lessons that activists, political leaders and external actors interested in helping promote democracy after nonviolent revolutions can apply to their own situations.</p> <p>The first major takeaway from the research is that nonviolent resistance does encourage democratic progress, even in very unfavorable circumstances. Out of the 78 political transitions initiated by nonviolent resistance, 60 ended with at least a minimal level of democracy. This is a much higher proportion than political transitions initiated through any other means. This strengthens the findings of earlier research that found that&nbsp;<a href="">nonviolent resistance led to more democracy than violent resistance</a>.</p> <p>The second major takeaway is that when nonviolent revolutions fail to lead to democracy, this typically happens because of two specific challenges, which I refer to as the challenges of&nbsp;<em>transitional mobilization</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>street radicalism</em>. If these challenges are successfully resolved, then democratic outcomes are much more likely. If they are not successfully resolved, then countries tend to revert to non-democratic regimes, or end up with a hybrid regime mixing some elements of democracy and autocracy.</p> <p>The first challenge is transitional mobilization. Nonviolent revolutions typically involve very high levels of social mobilization, with huge numbers of people from all walks of life pushing for positive change. Yet often after an initial democratic breakthrough this mobilization significantly declines. This is a problem because establishing democracy involves much more than simply removing a dictator. There are many more milestones on the road to democracy, and if popular pressure isn’t there for each one of them, then transitions can easily become derailed.</p> <p>I highlight three lessons for maintaining mobilization during transitions after nonviolent revolutions. The first is to foster independent sources of civic pressure. It is difficult during a political transition to keep independent civil society groups vibrant and pushing for the needs of ordinary people. Often groups that were independent from the state enter politics en masse during the transition, undermining their independent voice and becoming too focused on gaining power. Or they become too professionalized, often because of connection to international donors, losing their “movement” character and connection to ordinary people. Neither entering politics nor professionalization are inherently bad things, and often both can be very useful. But it is crucial to maintain some independent voices that can sustain or escalate pressure for the sake of democratic change.</p> <p>The second lesson for maintaining mobilization is to not put too much faith in your leaders. There is a strong tendency in many movements to personalize one’s opponents as wholly evil and one’s own leaders as wholly good. This tendency can lead to a belief that if your leaders could only be in positions of power then democratic progress would naturally follow. But the sad truth is that even good people who have gone through great sacrifices as part of a movement can also be corrupted by power. So, during political transitions, when movement leaders may be entering positions of political power for the first time, it is critical that they are judged based on their actions not on their history.</p> <p>The third lesson is to build and maintain a positive vision of the future. Pro-democracy movements often focus on negative goals to mobilize people against dictators. It can be easier to unite a diverse coalition around getting rid of a particularly hated leader, rather than having hard conversations about what the future will look like once the leader is gone. But having those hard conversations is crucial because, once the hated leader or regime is gone, people need a reason to continue to engage in activism.</p> <p>The second challenge is preventing what I call street radicalism. This challenge is in some ways the mirror image of the challenge of transitional mobilization. Nonviolent revolutions can provide strong signals that the tools of nonviolent political action can be wielded powerfully to achieve particular political goals. In the uncertainty of a political transition, this often means that there is a breakdown in building new regular avenues of politics and a common return to the streets. New institutions are delegitimized, and factions focus on using the most extreme tactics of nonviolent (and sometimes violent) resistance to gain short-term power advantages.</p> <p>Street radicalism during transitions can prevent new institutions from forming, disrupt the creation of normal politics, and often lead to an authoritarian resurgence as ordinary people get fed up with the disruptions and uncertainty of politics. For example,&nbsp;<a href="">in 2006 a primarily nonviolent resistance movement ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra</a>. In the following years, back and forth campaigns by Shinawatra’s “Red Shirt” supporters and their “Yellow Shirt” opponents severely undermined Thailand’s economic and political stability, leading to&nbsp;<a href="">a 2014 military coup</a>&nbsp;that ended the country’s democracy and has led to a dictatorship ruled over by former General Prayut Chanocha.</p> <p>The first lesson on preventing street radicalism is to be careful when using highly disruptive protest tactics. Nonviolent resistance has many important “weapons” in its arsenal that can be very effective in disrupting social, economic and political life. This is what makes it a potent way of fighting injustice and oppression. But when these tools are deployed for selfish ends, or called upon too readily when new political institutions are still weak, they can backfire. Short-term gains achieved through disruption often rebound against the activists gaining them as ordinary people’s lives are destabilized.</p> <p>The second lesson is to focus mobilization on new institutional channels. Political regimes, to be stable over the long-term, need to develop regular norms of interaction and participation. Movements can help to direct these norms in a democratic direction by focusing activism on institutional channels. For instance, one major feature of most political transitions is the writing of a new constitution. Activism can focus on directing the rules of that constitution towards expanding freedoms and human rights protections, setting up an institutional environment that can protect democracy for a long time to come.</p> <p>The third lesson is to not shut out everyone from the old regime. Accountability for past crimes, particularly grievous human rights abuses, is central to any meaningful democratic tradition. But often the focus in political transitions moves beyond accountability to punishment and vindictiveness towards all those associated with the old regime. This creates a whole class of political players who have political skills but now no way of exercising them, and no reason to buy into the new democratic politics. They can thus often turn into a potent force seeking to undermine new democratic politics and preventing the creation of new institutions.</p> <p>Maintaining mobilization and preventing street radicalism certainly aren’t the only challenges that political transitions after nonviolent revolutions face. Specific countries have their own unique challenges related to any number of different aspects of democratic progress. I focus on these challenges for two reasons. First, we see their dynamics across many different kinds of contexts. Second, they are characteristics of political transitions that are most open to change by those interested in promoting democracy.</p> <p>It is important to emphasize as well that these lessons are meant to inform, rather than to limit, the choices that activists and politicians make during political transitions. There is no simple recipe for creating democracy after a nonviolent revolution, and the ways that these challenges, general as they are, will develop in particular countries will vary widely.</p> <p>Nor does the successful resolution of these challenges necessarily guarantee that one’s country will remain a robust democracy indefinitely into the future. For instance, while Brazil’s transition in the 1980s was a good example of both high mobilization and low street radicalism, recent years have brought significant challenges to that country’s democracy, captured most recently by the election to the presidency of far-right populist Jair Bolsonaro. However, getting a country through the uncertainty of a political transition through high mobilization and low street radicalism tends to put countries on a stronger path towards a freer and more democratic future.</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/why-moral-argument-for-nonviolence-matters">Why the moral argument for nonviolence matters</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 odd"> <a href="/transformation/brian-martin/what-can-be-learned-from-recent-studies-on-nonviolent-action">What can be learned from recent studies on nonviolent action?</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 Jonathan Pinckney Transformative nonviolence Activism Fri, 23 Nov 2018 10:55:58 +0000 Jonathan Pinckney 120574 at Refugee-to-refugee humanitarianism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="normal">The realities of care-giving belie the assumption that male refugees, especially those from Muslim backgrounds, pose an inherent threat to Europe.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Refugees in Athens, 2018. Credit: Photograph provided by research participant to author. All rights reserved.</p><p class="normal">The scale of forced displacement to Greece is <a href="">well-documented</a>, having reached&nbsp;<a href="">unprecedented levels</a>&nbsp;for any European Union (EU) country in 2015. Three years later, and&nbsp;<a href="">despite significant spending</a>, many of the global humanitarian agencies such as UNHCR and the European Union continue to show insufficient interest in providing meaningful support. This is evidenced by the horrendous&nbsp;<a href="">reception conditions</a> for refugees still arriving and residing in Greece. &nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">However, alongside this neglect, a network of alternative, grassroots humanitarian initiatives have blossomed, with the aim of providing assistance to displaced persons in more egalitarian ways. The emergence of these ‘solidarity’ initiatives can be linked to&nbsp;<a href="">larger social mobilisations of the Left</a>&nbsp;since 2011, as well as to <a href="">growing demands to support the material needs of refugees</a>&nbsp;since 2015.</p> <p class="normal">Greek solidarity movements have rightly received much <a href="">public</a>,&nbsp;<a href=",-urges-world%E2%80%99s-solidarity-for-refugees">political</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="">academic</a>&nbsp;attention over the last five years, most of it positive. During this period, a remarkable amount of material and financial donations have arrived from across the world, as well as many international volunteers. Yet one key humanitarian figure is missing from&nbsp;<a href="">almost</a>&nbsp;all of these discussions: refugees who themselves are volunteering in response to displacement.</p> <p class="normal">In many organisations in Athens, young single refugee men and women are active in the delivery of care services. These include free <a href="">dental</a> and <a href="">medical care</a>, <a href="">social pharmacies,</a> <a href="">youth centres</a>, <a href="">language</a> and <a href="">business training</a>, and <a href="">community kitchens and clothes shops</a> among <a href="">other things</a>. Yet despite the visible presence and contribution of refugees in Athens they are rarely represented in official discussions and publications, <a href="">unlike volunteers from the global North</a> such as myself. This bias triggered my own interest in how, if at all, refugees perceive themselves as ‘humanitarians’ and their participation as volunteers more generally. </p> <p class="normal">While it is widely-acknowledged that gender relations undergo processes of change during forced displacement, attention to male-specific forms of social identity in exile remains relatively rare. In general, there has been little engagement with refugee men as subjects who experience and respond&nbsp;positively&nbsp;to the implications of the injustices they face. Most analyses tend to assume that normative power dynamics between men and women are disrupted and renegotiated as a result of either the diminished socio-economic standing of refugee men or the ‘emancipation’ of refugee women in the host countries of the global North. </p> <p class="normal">These discourses promote and sustain highly gendered and racialised understandings of who it is that needs to be ‘secured,’ both in terms of those who are perceived as helpless victims in need of ‘saving’ (i.e. women and children), and those who are seen to&nbsp;<a href="">pose a potential threat</a>&nbsp;(i.e. ‘Other’ men). In Greece, refugee men experience this representational discrimination through their systematic exclusion from the humanitarian care and assistance that is provided by both the state and independent organisations, irrespective of their needs. In spite of such marginalisation, many of these men choose to support other refugees in both less and more fortunate situations than themselves, and often without any immediate benefit to their own precarious lives. </p> <p class="normal">In this context, acknowledging the humanitarian action of young refugee men is significant, not only in foregrounding their attempts to redefine the terms of their own inclusion in humanitarian responses to displacement, but also in challenging suspicions in Europe that such men pose an inherent threat. </p> <p class="normal">In the summer of 2018, I conducted research with ten male refugee-volunteers, who, being both young and single, are typically the target of anti-immigration policies and sentiment. All of these men are currently volunteering in different organisations across Athens, having fled their countries of origin for a variety of different reasons. </p> <p class="normal">Nassif, for example, left Syria in 2015. A few months after he first arrived in Athens, he helped to establish several squats in Exarchia: a neighbourhood known for its <a href="">activism and anarchism</a>. Many of these squats are run by refugees themselves and provide alternative solutions to the city’s <a href="">housing crisis</a>, since - <a href="">despite the existence of numerous abandoned buildings</a> - asylum-seekers, refugees and even <a href="">citizens</a> are homeless. As a humanitarian who has experienced the effects of forced displacement, Nassif emphasised the importance of the “unsaid connection” he shares with other displaced people, a connection expressed by all of my interviewees. Mohammed, for example, who coordinates a mobile medical team that operates across Athens, explained to me that as refugees:</p> <blockquote><p class="normal">“We have been through a long journey of awful things happening, and we share the same experience through this. It gets you closer to the refugees - Pakistani, Algerian, Nigerian, whatever. This makes it much, much easier…to define, locate or give the right support.”</p></blockquote> <p class="normal">Nassif and Mohammed’s experiences highlight the ways in which refugees’&nbsp;<a href="">collective enactments</a>&nbsp;create a sense of belonging that is rooted in forces beyond traditional paradigms of language, culture and nation. Despite different experiences of displacement, a shared sense of precariousness in exile provides the spur for refugees’ humanitarian action. In this sense, refugee humanitarianism not only responds to immediate needs but is also embedded in reciprocal exchanges beyond material or rights-based assistance.</p> <p class="normal">For example Nour, a former sea captain from Syria, told me that this connection enables him to assist the younger boys he works with as a social worker at a youth centre more effectively than Western volunteers:</p> <blockquote><p class="normal">“These boys have not seen their family in five years, maybe, six. When he starts to cry, you will cry also…you cry together, you want to hold him, you want to tell them ‘we are together.’ That’s built a lot of relationships.”</p></blockquote> <p class="normal">On the other hand, hearing other refugees’ stories of conflict, cruelty and displacement is also seen as the greatest challenge of volunteering as a refugee. In response to such challenges, many men spoke of developing a greater capacity for expressing tenderness, vulnerability and care in order to negotiate the complex and difficult emotions involved in the humanitarian encounter more effectively.</p> <p class="normal">One of my other interviewees from Afghanistan, Pezhvak, was homeless for a long time whilst volunteering in a legal support team which, among other things, helps people to find accommodation. He told me that one-to-one legal assessments “[are] really tough, [because] you have to hear some really tough the end of this I became more strong. I had empathy, I had sensitivity.” Such expressions of care are central to the ways in which young refugee men conceive of and provide effective humanitarian assistance.</p> <p class="normal">Most single refugee men in Greece have had to leave loved ones behind in dangerous or fatal situations, and they suffer as a consequence. In many ways volunteering offers them the chance to rebuild familial or familiar bonds of care and responsibility that were lost during displacement. So although volunteering poses many emotional challenges, the men I spoke to suggested that they gladly, and perhaps even gratefully, engaged in humanitarian action for such reasons. Indeed, for Hadi, another interviewee who lost his fiancé during the war in Syria, volunteering has helped him to reconstitute his own life in exile:</p> <blockquote><p class="normal">“When I came to Greece I was completely destroyed. I lost my fiancé in the war. This pain is hard to control. In the beginning I couldn’t control it. In the beginning I drank a lot: to forget. Exactly when I start helping other people, I controlled this pain. Volunteering helped me to control that pain a lot.”</p></blockquote> <p class="normal">In this way, the ability to express pain and care more readily with others who have also felt the effects of forced displacement not only shapes the ways in which refugee-volunteers support other people but also fosters more enduring ways to cope with their own grief. The success of mimicking or recreating lost familial bonds is always partial, yet the relationships that volunteering creates are significant for single refugee men and their need to care and be cared for. </p> <p class="normal">It’s also important not to overlook the broader implications of establishing solidarity in humanitarian action through the particularities of co-suffering rather than the universality of rights or the mechanisms of the aid industry. But one shouldn’t overstate or romanticise the positive effects of refugee men’s volunteering practices. As Pezhvak told me, “being a volunteer has changed my mind so much. But it hasn’t changed my physical situation, because unfortunately I’m not independent, I do not have a job, I do not have my own house.” </p> <p class="normal">Yet attention to the multiple ways in which caregiving is provided by refugee men - and its value for those who give and receive it - is important in helping to disrupt the growing assumption in the West that male refugees, especially those from Muslim backgrounds, are by ‘nature’ non-egalitarian, brutish, and violent. If we are to challenge the image of refugee men as incapable of responding positively to extreme social injustice, this process begins by acknowledging their own positive responses to the forced displacement of others and themselves.</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/byung-chul-han/who-is-refugee">Who is a refugee?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/beyondslavery/alex-fusco/portrait-of-greek-refugee-camp">Portrait of a Greek refugee camp</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jessica-abrahams/building-community-in-berlin-s-sharehaus">Building community in Berlin’s Sharehaus</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 refugees Oska Paul Empathy Care Love and Spirituality Tue, 20 Nov 2018 19:26:28 +0000 Oska Paul 120547 at “We deserve the right to exist on our own terms” <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="BodyA">Emotional labour plays a crucial role in society. It’s time it was recognized and supported.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Default"><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Screen-printing workshop organized by Womxn is Work in Liverpool, UK, 2018. Credit: Jazamin Sinclair/FACT/ Liv Winter/Grrl Power. All rights reserved.</p> <blockquote><p class="Body">“Being a woman is work. We deserve to be recognised and for our labour to be valued. We deserve to be seen, heard and taken seriously, with recognition not just for what we do, but for what and who we are. We deserve autonomy, agency, and the right to choose our own path not predetermined by gendered expectations. We deserve the right to be selfish, to be emotional, to reject those that hurt us, and to nurture each other. We deserve the right to exist on our own terms.” </p><p class="Body">&nbsp;</p><p class="Body"><span><strong>From a statement produced by the Womxn is Work project in Liverpool, England, 2018.</strong></span></p></blockquote> <p class="Body">On a daily basis, women undertake a disproportionate amount of unrecognised work, be it emotional labour or the vital care duties of a parent or a guardian. As researcher <a href="">Fiona Jeffries</a> puts it, work of this kind is “indispensable to the daily re-making of life itself but is…typically consigned to the backstage of political life.”</p> <p class="Body">But in Liverpool and thousands of other communities this is being challenged by grassroots groups who are determined to publicise the injustice of unrecognized labour and support women to deal with its implications in concrete terms. For the past ten months we’ve been working with a number of these groups to document their stories as part of a collaboration with the <a href="">Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT)</a>, a media arts centre based in the city, and <a href="">Voluntary Sector North West</a>, a charity that aims to shape policy to support social justice.</p> <p class="Body">One of these groups is Womxn is Work, an art-led campaign built around a critique of gender based marginalisation that was developed under FACT’s <a href="">Future World of Work programme</a>. The group is made up of school students, mothers, carers, teachers and retired women who are united in the fight against unrecognised labour, and who have made a special effort to include minorities that are often ignored in mainstream feminism - hence the inclusion of ‘x’ in ‘womxn.’ Artist-activist Liv Wynter and a local research collective called “Grrrl Power” developed the approach for the campaign by drawing on radical organising, social critique and art. </p> <p class="Body"><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Screen-printing workshop organized by Womxn is Work in Liverpool, UK, 2018. Credit: Jazamin Sinclair/FACT/Liv Winter/Grrl Power. All rights reserved.</p> <p class="Body">At FACT’s mixed use cultural venue in Liverpool city centre, for example, Womxn is Work created a safe space for women and non-binary people to work together, culminating in a screen printing workshop where personal experiences were converted into powerful visual provocations exploring the future world of work. But how do these provocations show up in real life? How does recognising the importance of emotional labour create the foundations for women to gain power, knowledge and equality?</p> <p class="Body">To understand the answers to these questions let’s move across the city to the Swan Women’s Centre in Bootle, a charity that has been working alongside women from the area to improve their well-being since 1989 - and whose everyday actions illustrate the demands of the Womxn is Work campaign in practice. The Centre currently runs on a paid staff of eight (six of whom are part time) and 50 volunteers, all of whom understand the experiences of the women who come in for support because many have had similar experiences themselves. “All the women that work and volunteer at the Swan Centre are all really strong positive women. It is a great environment to be in” as one women who uses the centre told us. Another woman who has been involved for 15 years summed things up like this:</p> <blockquote><p class="BodyA">“I came to Swan when I had a nervous breakdown and was suffering with depression…Swan would reassure me that I wasn’t going crazy. It was so important having someone to speak to, and who would tell me that lots of women go through depression and anxiety...I would always feel better after I came to Swan.”</p></blockquote> <p class="BodyA">In an area that has experienced historic industrial decline, everyday life for many women living in north Liverpool can be a struggle, juggling numerous roles that include paid employment, looking after children, caring for relatives and minding their grandchildren because childcare is too expensive, so unrecognized labour is a fact of life. As a grassroots charity the Swan Women’s Centre can’t address entrenched poverty, but it does provide a break for women from the everyday experience of struggle, described by one volunteer as the “stuff out there and the things in our heads which we can’t escape from.” In so doing the Centre creates opportunities for women to take care of themselves, ultimately sustaining the textured and informal networks of care that communities are built on.</p><p class="BodyA"><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Workers and volunteers at the Swan Centre in Liverpool, England. Credit: Joe Entwistle. All rights reserved.</p> <p class="BodyA">Joan, one of the workers at the Swan Centre, told us that many women feel properly listened to for the first time in their lives when they walk through the door; normally, “they talk, but they are not heard.” At the Centre women feel that they can be more honest about what they are going through. Rita is another of the Centre’s workers who visit women who experience social anxiety or other mental health problems in their homes. She describes how women are often told by people close to them “that they are having one of their turns, and to get some happy pills down them. Their mental health is totally dismissed. It is used against them...Their concerns are dismissed, but here we acknowledge those concerns, and we listen to them.”</p> <p class="BodyA">Sue (not her real name) is a good example of this approach, someone who was too anxious to even open her letters when she first met Rita; as a result, she “would get in all kinds of trouble, and get into terrible debt.” Sue now opens her post, and doesn’t have “piles of letters” in her house anymore. Her experience of mainstream social services often felt like a “punishment,” where she was just treated as a number. In contrast, the Centre staff support her as a person, and help with changes at a pace that she’s comfortable with, so she can now do things that other people would consider everyday activities - like going to the shops or putting the washing on the line outside. Sue feels that at least she “has some form of normality now,” and no longer “beats herself up” about things she can’t manage at the moment. </p> <p class="BodyA">Such changes are incremental, but they can add up to be transformative by helping women to reclaim control over their lives. Central to this process is the fact that staff and volunteers listen to women on their own terms. There is professional counselling available, but more informally there’s always someone available to have a chat over a cup of tea. And if women don’t want to share their experiences they don’t have to; they can join one of the Centre’s social groups instead such as a coffee afternoon, gardening, or mosaics and creative writing classes. </p> <p class="BodyA">Lynda, who has volunteered and worked with the Centre for over a decade, identifies “a silent power” in these groups of women coming together. The approach isn’t prescriptive or limited to box-ticking; instead, tangible changes are arrived at based on the particular needs and capabilities of each person who comes in. Staff and volunteers consciously try to equalise unequal relations of power through the ways in which they work, encouraging women to take the lead and focus on what they want to do to improve their own well-being, rather than do what they feel might be expected of them. As Karen, the chief executive of the Swan Centre, explained: </p> <blockquote><p class="BodyA">“we are respectful to the women, and they are respectful back to us. And so the women begin to see that they are worthy of respect. Then the women start to believe in themselves incrementally. If people treat you well, then you start to believe that you are worth something. We build power with the women to continue that outside of Swan.”</p></blockquote> <p class="BodyA">By creating spaces that represent a rupture with the struggles of everyday life and which feature relationships rooted in listening, mutual respect, and participation, both the Swan Centre and Womxn is Work demonstrate the potential of <a href="">everyday radicalism</a> to expand our democratic imaginations. </p> <p class="BodyA">The Womxn is Work campaign raises vital questions about society’s relationship to unrecognised labour, but it also shows that there is still much work to be done. Relating the feminist ethics of care embodied by the Swan Centre to these questions can help us to re-imagine how everyday politics is carried out in ways that value caring, listening and cooperation. Taken together, these groups highlight the foundations of care that underpin healthy communities and economies, inviting us to consider how to recognise and support the crucial role of emotional labour in society in more egalitarian ways.</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/dan-silver/politicians-don-t-live-our-lives-diy-social-action">Politicians don’t live our lives: DIY social action</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/dan-silver/taking-pictures-that-mean-something-everyday-life-in-salford">Taking pictures that mean something: everyday life in Salford</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/gary-barker/why-don%E2%80%99t-men-care">Why don’t men care?</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 Steph Niciu Dan Silver Liberation Activism Care Intersectionality Sun, 18 Nov 2018 18:56:04 +0000 Dan Silver and Steph Niciu 120571 at Five ways new social movement leaders are effecting change <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Parkland students and others are reinventing models for people-powered activism that adapt to today’s rapid pace of change.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Emma González attends March for Our Lives on Mar. 24, 2018, in Washington, D.C. Credit: Noam Galai/WireImage/Getty Images via YES! Magazine.</p> <p>It’s hard to think of anything more embarrassing than throwing up in front of millions of people waiting to hear you speak. But that’s exactly what Sam Fuentes did at the&nbsp;<a href="">March for Our Lives</a>&nbsp;rally she helped to organize in Washington, D.C.</p> <p>Here’s the kicker: The school shooting survivor didn’t act embarrassed at all. Instead of running off the stage—like most of us would—she took it in stride and went on to give an impassioned speech.</p> <p>Since 17 of their classmates were gunned down in February, Fuentes and other survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, have turned their trauma into a mass movement against gun violence. They organized a national march without any infrastructure—and in record time. And this summer, they toured the country for a campaign to mobilize the youth vote in the upcoming midterm elections.</p> <p>But perhaps most significantly, these young people have debunked the assumption that this issue could never be wrested from the hands of powerful and well-funded gun rights forces.</p> <p>Among the doubtful were older activists and professional campaigners who’d been in the organizing trenches for years—and with the scars to prove it. While thrilled about the new movement’s success, they also had a feeling that something had changed. Is this the&nbsp;dawn&nbsp;of a&nbsp;<a href="" target="_self">new kind of organizing and campaigning</a>?</p> <p>In short, yes. And the March for Our Lives movement is only one example. From the Movement for Black Lives and to the Women’s March and the tea party, a new wave of people-powered action is flipping the script and in some ways confounding traditional organizations that have been unable to convert into nimble social movements.</p> <p>What all have in common is what authors Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms are calling “<a href="">new power</a>”—new models that are organic and grow directly from the people rather than being directed or managed by formal organizations that control what gets done and by whom.</p> <p>“Old power models ask of us only that we comply (pay your taxes, do your homework) or consume,” they write. “New power models demand and allow for more: that we share ideas, create new content (as on YouTube) or assets (as on Etsy), even shape a community (think of the sprawling digital movements resisting the Trump presidency).”</p> <p>Today, new movements are working with more established organizations to capitalize on their wide-reaching networks. And they are learning to embrace the kinds of technologically savvy tactics used by the Parkland students. Here are five strategies that are proving valuable.</p><p><strong>Ditch the script.</strong></p> <p>Seasoned campaigners have long understood that the most effective messengers and organizers are those with the most at stake, or—like the Parkland students—little to lose. Those most directly affected by an issue can speak from the heart, while many campaigners and advocates sound scripted when they cite statistics or the latest study to make their points.</p> <p>Soon after taking the stage at the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., Parkland and speaking for two minutes, senior Emma González went silent. After standing wordlessly at the podium&nbsp;<a href="">for another four minutes and 26 seconds</a>, she informed the crowd that her entire six minute and 20 second speech had lasted the same amount of time as she and her classmates had endured an active shooter.</p> <p>She captured attention not only by speaking from the heart, but by showing rather than telling. González and her fellow student leaders are compelling to us because they have what Frank Sesno, director of George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs, says are the three critical elements of&nbsp;good stories: (1) compelling characters, (2) characters who have overcome obstacles, and (3) characters who have achieved a worthy outcome.</p><p><strong>Step back so others can step up.</strong></p> <p>We all want to be recognized for the work we’re doing, especially when it comes to issues we’re passionate about. That desire to be front and center can sometimes hurt, rather than advance, a movement or mission.</p> <p>At the March for Our Lives in Washington, for example, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, a nationally recognized gun violence survivor,&nbsp;<a href="">stood in the crowd instead of onstage</a>. She had stepped back so students’ voices could be heard. At the same time, she stepped up in other ways such as paying for many students’ travel to Washington.</p> <p>The bottom line: Transformative social change is going to come from organizations that see people as change agents, not just cheerleaders or foot soldiers carrying out plans designed by those “in charge.”</p><p><strong>Use the power of social media.</strong></p> <p>When Fox News host Laura Ingraham mocked Parkland student organizer and survivor David Hogg for not being accepted into certain colleges, Hogg didn’t spend the next few days convening staff meetings on how to respond.</p> <p>Instead, he quickly posted a list of Ingraham’s advertisers on Twitter and <a href=";utm_term=.61348e009ed6">asked his outraged followers&nbsp;</a>to let those companies know how they felt. As a result, more than a dozen advertisers dropped her show.</p> <p>The most effective social change organizations understand that as technology moves everything to warp speed, the ability to respond rapidly and nimbly matters more than ever before.</p> <p>The key to such agility?&nbsp;<a href="">Agreeing on an overarching vision and message</a>. This provides team members with the autonomy needed to respond quickly and creatively when opportunities arise.</p><p><strong>Dream big to go big.</strong></p> <p>In one of the most viewed&nbsp;<a href="">TED talks</a>&nbsp;of all time, behavioral researcher and author Simon Sinek uses Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech to explain why a big, bold idea is a key element of movement building and social change.</p> <p>“He gave the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, not the ‘I Have a Plan’ speech,” Sinek says. “He spoke for a different world, how to go from here to there. And he so beautifully described what ‘there’ is.”</p> <p>King’s vision of a positive future mobilized a quarter of a million people to make the trek to Washington, D.C. (long before the internet). The Parkland students inspired&nbsp;over a million&nbsp;to&nbsp;<a href="" target="_self">stand up against gun violence</a> in Washington and cities across the U.S. And March for Our Lives inspired an even bigger nationwide school walkout to keep up pressure on politicians and continue building local power.</p><p><strong>Adopt a movement mindset.</strong></p> <p>Could your organization pull off a national march in five weeks? Without any infrastructure or paid staff? With little financial support? And while leaders are still reeling from major trauma?</p> <p>A lot of people told the Parkland students that what they were attempting was impossible. Luckily, they ignored the concerns because they weren’t fixating on what they didn’t have. Instead, they had a “movement mindset” that allowed them to focus on creatively and efficiently using the resources they<em>&nbsp;did&nbsp;</em>have.</p> <p>Organizations of all sizes are discovering that they can take a page from social movements and find ways to act before everything is in place or completely figured out. Through participatory planning, rapid audience testing, and real-time ongoing improvements, organizations are developing initiatives that can be successful in rapidly shifting and unpredictable contexts. In short, the perfect is no longer the enemy of the good.</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href=";utm_campaign=YTW_20181019&amp;utm_content=YTW_20181019+CID_c0e79b49645d2a673aa5f6de88b17ab1&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=5%20Ways%20New%20Movement%20">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/ed-morales/politics-of-latinx-recognition">The politics of Latinx recognition</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/laurence-cox/everyday-power-of-movement-activism">The everyday power of movement activism</a> </div> <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> </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 Movements Michael Silberman Transformative nonviolence Activism Thu, 15 Nov 2018 18:07:35 +0000 Michael Silberman 120193 at Adopting a child is a revolutionary act <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="normal">Both policy reforms and face-to-face caring are fundamental components of a just society.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Children on Holi Day in India. Credit: <a href="">Pixabay/shekharchopra85</a>. <a href="">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p class="normal">The gravity of the situation of India’s most vulnerable children escapes attention because it’s an under-reported topic in the media and hasn’t been prioritised by government, thus leading to a lack of awareness among the general public as a whole. But there are approximately 30 million orphaned and abandoned children in the country according to <a href="">UNICEF</a>.</p> <p class="normal">These children make up <a href="">four per cent</a> of the country’s child population, and they are struggling to survive in the most vulnerable conditions, prone to exploitation since they are so far off the government’s radar screen. According to the Ministry of Women and Child Development only 470,000 of these children were living in institutionalised care as of <a href="">2017</a>. This figure actually fell to 260,000 in <a href="">2018</a> so clearly these are unreliable statistics.</p> <p class="normal">But even if we stick to the higher end of the official numbers only a tiny fraction of children in care are placed for adoption, and are eventually adopted. Adoption is a much better option for a child's overall development because children thrive in a loving and supportive environment that gives them more space and opportunities to realise themselves. However, adoption levels have always been low in India due to lack of awareness and social prejudices.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">Between April 2017 and March 2018, for example, there were only <a href="">3,276 in-country adoptions</a> in India according to the Central Adoption and Resource Authority’s statistics, with a mere <a href="">20,000 parents</a> waiting to adopt. These are abysmal figures for a country with the world’s second largest population. No-one knows where the rest of those 30 million orphaned and abandoned children end up: “We don’t know whether the children are being trafficked, or whether they are ending up on the streets, being used as child labour, or being absorbed in their communities. We just don’t know whether they are safe,” adoption campaigners told me.</p> <p class="normal">Faced by these data it’s easy to feel disempowered, but a group of adoptive mothers are taking matters into their own hands by launching a new<a href=""> campaign</a> called “Where are India’s Children.” Currently, the Indian government is ignoring this extremely vulnerable yet important segment of society because children don’t have a voice and they don’t constitute a vote bank. Smriti Gupta and Protima Sharma, the two leaders of the campaign, are working with a core team of five and a broader group of volunteers to create awareness of India’s broken system of childcare and adoption and give as many of those <a href="">30 million children</a> the chance of a better life.</p> <p class="normal">Both women are child rights campaigners and adoption activists, and Protima is also a certified adoption counselor. The core team had worked together at an Indian NGO which provides adoption services and spreads awareness about the need for more people to get involved, but they realised that the scale of the problem meant pooling their skills and resources to promote the cause much more effectively. “Our first goal through this campaign is to spread awareness about these children. We want people to start thinking about them, rather than just ignoring or pitying them,” Smriti told me. “The big goal, though, is a home for every child.”</p> <p class="normal">Each of the core team members has already fulfilled this goal in a personal sense by choosing to have children through adoption themselves. Smriti always knew she would eventually adopt, finding India’s vast economic disparities unsettling and the injustice of denying so many children a home through accident of birth completely unacceptable. She adopted her first child, a daughter, in 2014 and her second daughter in 2016.</p> <p class="normal">But the campaign is also active at the broader poitical level. Before India celebrates Children’s Day on November 14 2018, the core team aims to leverage social media to collect strength in numbers through registrations so that on the day itself, all registered members of the campaign can send messages to the Indian government in an attempt to force them to pay attention. After November 14 the on-ground battle will begin, one district at a time, by engaging with local politicians and district officials to discuss problems in the child welfare system and present them with potential solutions that they hope can be used as models for practical implementation.</p> <p class="normal">One of the key asks of the campaign is to promote transparency via a monthly report that monitors results and publicizes progress. This, they hope, will create more accountability. The campaigners also want to make child welfare an autonomous constitutional body so that the implementation of policies is stronger and more efficient. “Despite the presence of District Child Protect Units (DCPU) and Child Welfare Committees, five per cent of abandoned and orphaned children reach shelters, and barely 2,000 are in the adoption stream. Currently there are 40-50,000 children who can be brought into adoption,” says the campaign team.</p> <p class="normal">What came through most strongly from my conversations with the campaigners is that they see no fault-line between personal and political action – between the social duty of adopting children themselves and fighting for radical improvements in national childcare and adoption policies. It’s also impossible to tell exactly which comes first, and whether these women became activists before or after they adopted, but it seems to be a circular process: they wouldn’t have adopted children if they didn’t embody a passionate sense of care and compassion for others, but their social activism wouldn’t have extended outside of their homes if they hadn’t experienced the broken system of child welfare and adoption in India directly.</p> <p class="normal">“It all starts with a belief. And if there is one thing I do in my life, it will be this,” says Smriti, citing the <em>Bhagavad Gita</em>. “I'm doing my duty without feeling entitled to the fruits of my actions.” By committing themselves to the cause of children both inside and outside their homes, the group is determined to challenge a status-quo which is denying children the right to a family and a chance to thrive in a loving and supportive environment.</p> <p>Another of the core team members is Meera Marthi, who adopted her son in 2012 and is also an adoption counsellor. “Democracy needs people’s voices and [for them] to come together,” she told me. The numbers can seem overwhelming, but instead of letting the scale of the problem dissuade them the campaigners are using their personal experiences of adoption as a springboard for action.</p> <p class="normal">These personal experiences allow for the development of greater empathy and determination, and it’s those qualities that help to create strong and sustainable social movements. #MeToo has become a powerful global movement on the back of millions of women speaking up about their own experiences with sexual assault and harassment. The organisers of “Where are India’s Children” aim to do something similar, building off the individual experiences of parents with adopted children but extending the campaign into a broader movement by finding more people who care.</p> <p class="normal">“And people do care,” says Smriti. Many may have become indifferent and others perhaps simply don’t know what to do, but building awareness might instill greater zeal in the public to make a change.</p> <p class="normal">Most people vacillate between hope and resignation when it comes to seemingly intractable problems. But Protima, Meera, Smriti and the rest of this group of adoptive mothers see both the big picture and the responsibility for face-to-face caring that are fundamental components of a just and decent society. It’s the small, patient but collective efforts of a larger united group that leads to radical change.</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/katherine-webb-hehn/meet-glasscos-lesbian-foster-parents-in-america-s-bible-belt">Meet the Glasscos: lesbian foster parents in America’s Bible Belt</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jo-warner/emotional-politics-suffer-little-children">Emotional politics: suffer the little children? </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/niki-seth-smith/motherhood-and-end-to-women-s-civil-war">Motherhood and an end to women’s civil war</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 Shreya Kalra Love and Spirituality Care Tue, 13 Nov 2018 22:12:15 +0000 Shreya Kalra 120477 at Donald Trump and the politics of emotion <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Trump’s ability to create a shared mood among voters was honed in the world of professional wrestling.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">The ‘Trump Unity Bridge’ trailer on August 18, 2017 in Iowa City, Iowa. Credit: <a href="">Tony Webster via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="">CC BY-SA 2.0</a>.</p> <p>In 2017 Donald Trump posted a clip of himself on Twitter wrestling an <a href="">avatar of CNN to the ground</a>. In the thirty-second vignette he seizes an individual with CNN’s logo where the head should be and pummels them. The point was to position himself as a defender of truth, flattening media enemies who spread disinformation about his reign.</p> <p>It was a predictable move: Trump is a <a href="">recurring character on World Wrestling Entertainment</a> (WWE), body slamming its CEO Vince McMahon, “buying” its ‘Monday Night Raw’ program and remaining unperturbed by an egregiously <a href="">racialised boogeyman</a> who regularly appears in the ring. He is the only US President to be inducted as a member of the <a href="">WWE Hall of Fame</a>.</p> <p>His immersion in this world might appear to be just another instance of the absurdly comic combining with the brutally terrifying in his presidency, but it is much more than that: the collision between Trump and wrestling provides an insight into his tactics and the broader contemporary transformation of electoral politics. The WWE taught Trump how to fuse the interests of big business with a mass of people coagulated around shared rage.</p> <p>Nationalist populism is an odd phenomenon in the ways in which it creates alliances between voters who occupy structurally opposed positions. Trump has managed to combine support from the corporate world, evangelical Christians, rural southerners and ex-union Democrats in a way that confounds <a href="">existing psephological models</a>. Transcending, at least to some extent, distinctions between left and right, this alliance <a href="">melds together</a> the ultra-rich with the people they have actively disempowered.</p> <p>There’s an obvious inconsistency here: big capital fattens itself on the democratic choices of its victims. But this also suggests that ideology and demography no longer provide a satisfactory explanation for the results of elections. Something else brings this bloc together - mass emotion which has taken the place of ideological identification. What unites the electoral victories of nationalist populists is their ability to manipulate affect, to induct their voters into a shared mood that usually resonates in the key of anger and hate. So could ‘emotional politics’ of this kind also be used to anchor a progressive revival?</p> <p>The shift from ideology to emotion that has taken place in politics over the past 30 years passed through a phase of centrism in the 1990s when <a href="">liberal democracy</a> was seen as <a href="">the ‘end of history.’</a> Dominated by a managerial technocracy, the role of politicians was to oversee public affairs in a rational, detached manner in an affectless world. Neither the governments they ran nor the people they governed were expected to behave emotionally. Politics was stripped of any sense of mob mentality in order to save the populace from their supposedly self-destructive urges.</p> <p>This model of governance also aimed to create a new citizen who would vote similarly according to rational, calculating self-interest. Manifestoes were not statements of belief so much as collections of incentives directed at different demographics. While this might encourage voters to retreat ever further into an atomized individualism, on the up side communities would never again fall into violence or pathology.</p> <p>It was these pathological urges, so the thinking went, that had led to fascism earlier in the century. Mass displays of orchestrated emotion characterized fascist governments and led whole populations to run willingly towards their own destruction. Once these regimes were defeated, ‘the people’ awoke, self-forgetful and stunned, their spent emotions discarded all about them.</p> <p>But in reality these emotions never went away. They were repressed, perhaps, but remained lodged deep in the political subconscious, desperately searching for routes back out into the world. If there is one lesson that is shared by almost every school of psychoanalysis after Freud it is this: an unrequited emotion will return with twice the fury of its repression. And it’s here that Trump returns to the WWE arena</p> <p><a href="">Picture the scene</a>: Donald Trump, eerie and disembodied on a giant raised TV screen, addressing an audience of enthusiastic wrestling fans. He rails against McMahon and pretends to advance the cause of an increasingly agitated audience against this vast media conglomerate. He pauses, and then releases money from the ceiling, huge wafts of dollar bills of different denominations floating down to the floor. The audience grabs and grasps at what they can.</p> <p>It is an exemplary moment, as prescient as it is troubling for how it anticipates Trump’s electoral tactics. In this knowingly theatrical moment he transforms his vast wealth into a mass spectacle that unifies the crowd into a seething mood of collective affect. Trickle-down economics, one of the great shams of neo-liberalism, becomes material for entertainment, literally and metaphorically. The audience experiences emotion at its most visceral and unrefined, and crucially, recognizes the same affect in others.&nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>This transformation of entrenched financial power into cod drama that elicits an intense, shared response is characteristic of Trump’s appearances on WWE, and, to a lesser extent, on his own TV series <em>The Apprentice. </em>In each case, Trump is able to make big money and big emotion equivalent to each other, and to use business as a tapestry for negative manifestations of group emotion. The entrenched financial power of oligarchs transmutes into a form of spectacular entertainment that unearths citizens from their ideological substrata and lifts them into a shared mood of frenzy. It’s precisely this fusion that brought him to power in 2016.</p> <p>These actions exploit a contradiction in the liberal democracy of the previous era: while politics became increasingly technocratic, emotion was outsourced to, among other places, corporations and consumerism. To buy anything in this era was to experience a swelling of emotion, a visceral experience of selfish desire that swallowed up both need and utility. This is why branding became the preeminent business activity: <a href="">in a context where function is effectively homogenous, consumer choices are driven increasingly by feeling</a>.</p> <p>But these outsourced emotions could also eat up liberal democracy itself. There was always the risk that the calculated manipulation of the collective emotional world could break out into self-destructive actions. The riotous outpourings of <a href="">consumer violence that mark the sales, special offers and mark-downs of ‘Black Friday</a>’ in the US reveal just how fragile the balance can be between corporatism and mania.</p> <p>As businesses made emotions central to consumption, emotion and feeling became the yardstick for authenticity: if something felt good then it was. Corporatism catered for affect, and objectivity be damned. It was precisely these contradictions and intersections that Trump sensed could be useful in his campaign by redirecting emotional frenzy from products to politics. Trump’s rallies resemble the wrestling arenas in which he appears and the shopping centres that are ravaged by riots among consumers.</p> <p>That emotions have displaced objectivity also explains Trump’s post-fact world. In this universe it doesn’t matter whether a statement is true or false. Instead, the positive or negative feelings invoked by any given statement are taken as self-authenticating and total. The reaction of the audience is deemed legitimate regardless of the content of the stimulus that provoked it. This is exactly how the WWE also operates. The authenticity of the scene is irrelevant: it is a known sham. What is significant is the power of the mass spectacle to create a shared mood of rage, a mood that can bring together the millionaires and those they have dispossessed.</p> <p>A basic principle of electoral strategy is to acknowledge things as they are. This means that if the left is to reverse the rise of nationalist populism it will have to do so by generating an affective atmosphere using similar techniques of mass spectacle and participation. The emotional realm need not be divorced from policy; every ideology comes with its own mood after all. Fortunately, the left has access to a set of positive emotions that the right does not: optimism over fear, love over hate, care over callousness and tolerance over hatred. These emotions are tougher, more textured and more rewarding than the dark binaries with which they are twinned. They offer us a route to bring people together in a mood of mass hope.</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/izzy-goldstein/art-of-dissonance-dissecting-language-of-donald-trump">The art of dissonance: dissecting the language of Donald Trump</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/nicholas-baer/american-idiot-rethinking-anti-intellectualism-in-age-of-trump">American idiot: rethinking anti-intellectualism in the age of Trump</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ian-hughes/does-donald-trump-s-foreign-policy-actually-make-sense">Does Donald Trump’s foreign policy actually make sense?</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"> Democracy and government </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 Democracy and government Donald Trump Political polarization Edward Sugden Activism Culture Sun, 11 Nov 2018 21:21:06 +0000 Edward Sugden 120503 at It’s time to go on the offensive against racism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Nonviolent direct action campaigns that stay on the offensive can build vision-led movements that win.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on&nbsp;<a href="">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Black Lives Matter protesters kneel and raise their hands in London's Oxford Street - 8 July 2016. Credit: <a href="">Flickr/Alasdair Hickson</a>. <a href="">CC BY-NC 2.0</a>.</p> <p>When I read this in the morning paper, my heart stopped: Just 40 minutes away from me, the white mother of black children in New Jersey was repeatedly harassed via Facebook by a stranger, who told her that her children should be hung.</p> <p>Kentucky police arrested the young white man on Oct. 18, as he was backing out of his driveway with weapons, 200 rounds of ammunition and plans for shooting up a nearby school. The authorities thanked the mom —&nbsp;<a href="">Koeberle Bull</a>&nbsp;of Lumberton, New Jersey — for alerting them.</p> <p>I’m the white grandfather of a family of mostly black children. Someone armed and active is so offended by a mixed-race family that he wants to kill children like mine. Supported by my white daughter Ingrid, I allowed the terror to move through me while I raged and cried.</p> <p>After a while, when the intensity of my feelings lessened, Ingrid asked, “Isn’t it time to go on the offensive against racism?”</p> <p>I needed to access positive energy. While I was still identifying with the New Jersey mom and immersed in the feelings of fear, the ideas running through my head were all about defense.</p> <p>That’s the intention of terror, after all, whether it’s expressed in packages of bombs sent to prominent people or conducting a massacre in a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh. I was gripped by my human programming: When under attack, defend!</p> <p>When I released enough fear to be able to think again, I could hear Ingrid’s question and access my strategy brain. Strategy urges the opposite of fear’s reactivity. Mohandas K. Gandhi, observing Indians reacting against the British Empire, urged his people to go on the offensive. Military generals agree with Gandhi: Wars can’t be won by staying on the defense.</p> <p>For its part, folk wisdom couldn’t be clearer: “The best defense is a good offense.”</p> <p>Despite this, many Americans at this moment — perhaps especially activists — are locked into reactivity and defense. I see the resulting frustration when I observe activists attacking each other. Going on the offense has different outcomes: It builds healthier movement cultures and shifts our focus to winning over allies in an expanding struggle.</p> <p><strong>What an offensive against racism looks like.</strong></p> <p>I often heard Bayard Rustin, a senior strategist for Martin Luther King Jr., say at the height of the civil rights movement, “We’ve got to change our economic system or in 50 years we’ll still have ugly racism!”</p> <p>He’s backed up by a trio of political scientists who recently&nbsp;<a href="">studied polarization in the United States</a>. They found that polarization was directly linked to economic inequality. In other words, the economic elite that makes the basic decisions in the United States has, since the Reagan revolution, dramatically increased inequality and therefore accelerated polarization.</p> <p>But what does polarization have to do with the violent expression of racism?</p> <p>Even though racism is an integral part of American culture, how strongly it is felt and expressed varies on a spectrum, from subtle stereotyping and micro-aggressions on one end to the would-be Kentucky shooter on the other. That means there is always some racial hatred around; we need to just face that. What usually keeps people from violently acting out their hatred is the social context.</p> <p>Polarization releases people to act out their hatred. In the 1920s economic inequality deepened, polarization grew, and the Ku Klux Klan was everywhere. It’s not only racism that’s released by polarization. As society heats up movements on the left grow, too. That’s why we saw powerful movements for progressive change in the 1930s, even while the American Nazis were busy recruiting.</p> <p>The biggest mistake 1930s activists could have made was going on the defensive because, as it turns out, it was exactly the time to go on the offensive. Thankfully, that’s what they did. The result was the biggest decade of gains for American progress in the first half of the 20th century. Historic breakthroughs on&nbsp;<a href="">racial integration of industrial unions</a>&nbsp;were made in that very period.</p> <p>In the 1960s, bombings of Mississippi black churches became epidemic, along with killings of black people and their white allies — even in broad daylight. Nonviolent civil rights leaders understood this dynamic. </p> <p>King and his comrades were clear that the remedy is to take the offensive, and the movement won gains that, at the time, appeared to be impossible. The economic emphasis of Rustin and A. Philip Randolph also gained support. The 1963 March on Washington — dreaded by President John F. Kennedy and most Democratic Party leaders — significantly named itself the March for Jobs and Freedom, attracting significant trade union support.</p> <p>King modeled for all of us what offensive strategizing looks like, as illustrated in the outstanding film&nbsp;<em>Selma</em>. He felt his feelings about the latest outrage, but instead of letting his feelings control his behavior he channeled the energy into action aimed at changing institutions. The more that vicious attacks targeted him and his people, the more clearly he saw that injustice is reinforced by the economic structure. Increasingly he linked racism and poverty to capitalism.</p> <p>As the current political turbulence swirls around us, the need grows for models of grounded campaigns that take the offensive and make the racial and economic connections. One example is the&nbsp;<a href="">Power Local Green Jobs campaign</a>&nbsp;in North Philadelphia, which incorporates a strong racial and economic justice dimension.</p> <p>Most activists can find ways to connect the dots even if their primary issue is gun control, sexism, incarceration, rights for trans people, peace or raising the minimum wage. Progress on many issues is opposed by the economic elite, whether acting through Donald Trump or Congress or state governments. The only way to break this opposition is to push the economic elite out of its position of dominance, so we can make the required changes toward equality (both economic and racial) and enjoy the social peace that results.</p> <p><strong>Three steps help put us back on the offensive.</strong></p> <p>The good news is that activists, by taking three strategic steps, can dramatically increase our power and effectiveness. The steps are not rocket science — in fact, they are perceived by people outside the activist bubble as common sense steps to take.</p> <p><em>1. Shift away from reactive, one-off demonstrations.</em>&nbsp;Protests can be emotionally satisfying, but they rarely produce change. Again, the black-led civil rights movement showed its strategic brilliance by focusing on campaigns rather than episodic protests. A campaign has a specific demand for change, a target (the deciders who can yield to the demand) and an escalating series of actions that build the campaign. Campaigning doesn’t guarantee winning, but it increases the chance of success from near-zero using one-off demonstrations to a chance that’s better than even.</p> <p>2.&nbsp;<em>Link the network of campaigns on an issue into a movement</em>. That movement can result in the movement winning in the big picture, even if some specific campaigns within the movement&nbsp;<a href="">don’t win</a>. The military analogy is that generals don’t expect to win every battle, but if they retain the initiative they do expect to win the war.</p> <p>Linking campaigns into a movement also promotes the learning curve of the campaigners, by comparing themselves to each other. They learn how to figure out the opponent’s vulnerabilities and how to sustain themselves over time.</p> <p>3.&nbsp;<em>Create a vision of what justice looks like</em>. While the Occupy movement changed the conversation, it was held back partly by its lack of a concrete vision of what should replace the unjust status quo. Fortunately, the&nbsp;<a href="">Movement for Black Lives issued a vision draft</a>&nbsp;in 2016 that has gathered endorsements by many national and grassroots groups.</p> <p>The hope for a movement of movements that can amass enough power to push the 1 percent out of dominance lies, I believe, in taking at least these steps. A series of nonviolent direct action campaigns that stay on the offensive can build vision-led movements that — finding themselves facing the same opponent — create a coalition and win.</p> <p>That is the shift that can make possible, at long last, a decisive win against racism.</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/to-succeed-movements-must-overcome-tension-between-rationality-and-emoti">To succeed, movements must overcome the tension between rationality and emotion</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 Transformative nonviolence Activism Thu, 08 Nov 2018 20:43:43 +0000 George Lakey 120382 at Degrowth as a concrete utopia <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Economic growth can’t reduce inequalities; it merely postpones confronting exploitation. <em><strong><a href="">Español</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">“My Visit to the Mountain Homestead.” <a href="">Credit: Flickr/Eli Duke</a>. <a href="">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p>The emergence of interest in degrowth can be traced back to the 1st International Degrowth Conference organized in Paris in 2008. At this conference, degrowth was defined as a “voluntary transition towards a just, participatory, and ecologically sustainable society,” so challenging the dogma of economic growth. Another five international conferences were organized between 2010 and 2018, with the latest <a href="">in Malmo </a>in August. </p> <p>This year also saw the publication of Giorgos Kallis’ landmark book&nbsp;<em><a href="">Degrowth</a></em><a href="">,</a> which&nbsp;opens with three bold statements. First, the&nbsp;global economy should slow down to avert the destruction of Earth’s life support systems, because a higher rate of production and consumption will run parallel to higher rates of damage to the environment.&nbsp;Hence,&nbsp;we should extract, produce and consume&nbsp;<em>less</em>, and we should do it all&nbsp;<em>differently</em>. Since growth-based economies collapse without growth we have to establish a radically different economic system and way of living in order to prosper in the future.</p> <p>Second, economic growth is no longer desirable. An increasing share of GDP growth is devoted to&nbsp;‘defensive expenditure,’ meaning the costs people face as a result of environmental externalities such as pollution. Hence, growth (at least in rich countries)&nbsp;has become “un-economic:” its benefits no longer exceed its costs.</p> <p>Third, growth is always based on exploitation, because it is driven by investment that, in turn, depends on surplus. If capitalists or governments paid for the real value of work then they would have no surplus and there would be no growth. Hence, growth cannot reduce inequalities; it merely postpones confronting exploitation.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>The growth paradigm.</strong></p> <p>Economic growth implies the acceleration of the production of goods and services.&nbsp; But it is not only GDP that has grown exponentially in the twentieth century: all indicators of work, environmental impact and ‘<a href="">social metabolism</a>’ have also accelerated (the processes of energy and material transformation in a society that are necessary for its continued existence), because GDP growth involves an increase in work and investment, the extraction of resources, and the disposal of waste.</p> <p>However growth isn’t only a material process; it’s also cultural, political and social. After first appearing in colonial and industrial centres in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it entrenched itself as a global ideology in the 1950s. Kallis calls this ideology “the growth paradigm:” the idea that perpetual economic growth is natural, necessary and desirable. This paradigm became the central concept of the geopolitical world order at a confluence of historical forces: the Cold War and the arms race, the end of colonialism and its indirect continuation under the guise of ‘development,’ and the failure of socialist projects for equality. </p> <p>Even though growth is the child of capitalism, the pursuit of growth survived the abolition of capitalist relations in socialist countries. It is now easier to imagine the end of capitalism than the end of growth. Kallis argues that “every crisis leaves the idea of growth strengthened: the time when growth falters and seems to be coming to an end, when the costs of growth come to the forefront, is also when it becomes most necessary and is most ardently pursued, since without growth the system collapses.” The problem, however, is that economic growth is both&nbsp;<a href="">increasingly harder to come by</a>&nbsp;and is causing a&nbsp;<a href="">planetary&nbsp;ecological breakdown</a>.</p> <p><strong>Exiting the economy.</strong></p> <p>Degrowth evolved as much as a critique of the limits and costs of growth as a critique of economic reasoning. The problem isn’t only that economic growth is socially undesirable and environmentally unsustainable; it’s that the way economists frame reality is wrong. Kallis calls for “exiting the economy,” meaning de-centering the economy as a unit of analysis and a focus of political action. To do this it is necessary to mobilize different forms of knowledge and representations of reality.</p> <p>Drawing from the work of <a href="">Karl Polanyi</a>, Kallis develops a critique of “economism:” the expansion under capitalism of the logic of commodity and market exchange to realms of life from which they were previously excluded. Indeed, what we today understand as ‘economic’ activities were once embedded in social institutions in pre-capitalist societies like rituals, kinship networks, and state or religious mechanisms of redistribution. Market activities were subordinate to politics and values.</p> <p>Therefore the economy “is the instituted process of interactions between humans and their environments, involving the use of material means for the satisfaction of human values.” Societies develop institutions within which economic activities are embedded, so these institutions aren’t neutral; rather they order conflicting values and interests and are themselves a domain of power and struggle.</p> <p>The economy is also part of the ‘social imaginary’ - how we organize our world based on certain foundational ideas that express what we think it should look like. Imaginaries rest on a system of symbols, “significations” and institutions like GDP and central banks. Kallis explains that “an imaginary provides a culture with the meaning that drives its actions. The imaginary of a market economy is imprinted in the institutions of a market economy, which in turn produce subjects who behave like the rational maximizers of market economics. Market economics is then validated by a world that it has helped create.”</p> <p>But when a tension between these imaginaries and actual experience emerges, change becomes more likely through a process that is rife with conflicts, since the pursuit of new imaginaries is never shared by the whole of society. Those who hold power have an interest in things staying as they are, while the rest strive to unleash the social potential that can change the world.</p> <p>In the case of degrowth the new imaginaries that we need revolve around the idea that there will never be enough until we share what there is; sharing and enjoying a limited planet is what degrowth is all about.</p> <p><strong>A concrete utopia.</strong></p> <p>Degrowth refers to a path where throughput, and in all likelihood output, shrinks while living conditions improve. Kallis frames this as a hypothesis: “subject to a radical and egalitarian social transformation, it is possible to sustain well-being and improve living and ecological conditions in an economy that unavoidably will contract. Seen as a research programme, the agenda is to find how, or under what conditions, this may become possible.”</p> <p>Such a transformation is meant to re-embed the economy within society. And securing conditions that enable everyone to have enough will ensure that nobody faces scarcity - even if society produces less than today - by providing all the basic goods essential for human wellbeing free from payment.</p> <p>Revisioning productivity is also important: taking resources and time out of the production circuit and devoting them instead to politics and leisure, or to spending time with family and friends. Unlike today, productivity would not be the final objective of public policies. Even if we are less productive, relational ‘goods’ increase and compensate for the loss of material goods. Furthermore, in degrowth, unpaid care work would be valued, and cooperatives or not-for-profits would become the dominant producers, employing most of the working population. As a consequence, the realm of production for profit would be radically reduced, and opportunities for accumulation – that is, investment for expansion and further profit – would be curtailed.</p> <p>Even though the contraction of the economy is not the goal, in the long run this is inevitable. And it will happen either as a broader political project of social transformation (i.e. degrowth) or catastrophically through a series of crises. Kallis calls this project a “concrete utopia,” since there are concrete steps that can to help bring it closer. </p> <p>To this end he discusses policy proposals including the replacement of GDP; a reduction in working hours to create employment in the absence of growth; a universal income or a guaranteed bundle of public services to ensure that everyone has enough to get by without depending on money; redistributive taxation to increase equality and the establishment of a maximum income to arrest competition for positional consumption; a redirection of public investments from the private sector to the public, and from infrastructure and activities that increase productivity to expenditures that green the economy and reclaim the commons; and the adoption of environmental caps. </p> <p>It is worth noting that some of these policy proposals were included in a recent&nbsp;<a href="">open letter</a>&nbsp;signed by 238 scientists who called on the European Union to plan for a post-growth future in which human and ecological well-being is prioritised. Kallis concludes his book by arguing that, even though such policies may appear reformist compared with the utopian vision of degrowth, they are extremely radical when compared to where things currently stand. Borrowing the term ‘non-reformist reforms’ from <a href="">André Gorz</a>, he explains that if such reforms were to be implemented they “would require the very contours of the system to change radically to accommodate them. And simple and commonsensical as they are, they expose the irrationality of a system that makes them seem impossible and yet deems possible what in all likelihood will end in catastrophe.”</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/andr%C3%A9-reichel/why-green-growth-won%E2%80%99t-transform-economy">Why green growth won’t transform the economy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/emily-kawano/seven-ways-to-build-solidarity-economy">Seven ways to build the solidarity economy</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Riccardo Mastini The role of money Economics Wed, 07 Nov 2018 06:30:00 +0000 Riccardo Mastini 120356 at The art of dissonance: dissecting the language of Donald Trump <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Modes of communication which allow for compromise are being deliberately delegitimised.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Donald Trump&nbsp;on the campaign trail in 2016. Credit: <a href="">Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="">CC BY-SA 2.0</a>.</p> <p>“Every word has consequences, every silence too.”&nbsp;<a href="">Jean Paul Satre’s famous epithet</a> was a popular feature of news headlines when a wave of&nbsp;<a title="//" href="" target="_blank">bombs were sent to high profile Liberals</a>&nbsp;at the end of October 2018, including George Soros, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, as well as to CNN’s offices in New York. Reports of a mass shooting in a Synagogue in Pittsburgh two days later seemed to confirm hate-fuelled violence as a defining characteristic of Donald Trump’s presidency, with dangerous linguistic abstractions reproducing themselves in reality. </p> <p>This conviction has been strengthened over the past two years as Trump’s tweets and calls-to-action have become increasingly incendiary. When the president describes right wing extremists as <a href="">“very fine people,”</a> encourages supporters to <a href="">“knock the crap”</a> out of protestors and <a href="">endorses attacks on the press</a> by his party’s congressional representatives it seems reasonable to draw a correlation between political rhetoric and the mainstreaming of violent extremism. </p> <p>Demonstrating the effects of the president’s provocations is obviously important. But to truly understand Trump’s actions and hold him to account for the substance of his language we must conduct a closer analysis of his style, else we risk bypassing an important factor in the chain of causality: dissonance.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Dissonance and the language of politics.</strong></p> <p>Simply defined, dissonance means a <a href="">lack of agreement or harmony between people or things</a>.&nbsp;In music, dissonance is produced via the organisation of sounds in ways that are jarring; in poetry by rearranging text in order to disrupt and create tension; and in language, by engineering a clash between words, feelings and content. </p> <p>Political rhetoric employs these linguistic qualities to inspire people to align their beliefs in line with a particular stance or ideological perspective. <a href="">According to social psychologist Leon Festinger,</a> human beings strive for internal psychological consistency.&nbsp;When discrepancies arise between what a person perceives and their internal belief system they tend to become psychologically uncomfortable. This compels them to reduce the resulting ‘cognitive dissonance’ by adding new parts to the story or actively avoiding contradictory information. </p> <p>Trump is an expert in using rhetoric to exploit this tendency, for example, through his use of superlatives and absolutisms like “amazing,” “tremendous” and “big league.” These terms jar with our sense of reality and proportion, and when deployed as expressions of fact they serve to skew the line between objective truth and subjective opinion. Resolving this conflict requires us to make a choice: either we reject Trump’s claims as inconsistent with our understanding of what is accurate, or we find methods of justifying them in order to deal with the dissonance they create. These methods include misperception (altering the meaning that is associated with a claim), rejection (denying it completely), and refutation (advancing an alternative intended meaning). </p> <p>This process of rationalising information that contradicts our established ideas and empirical understanding is practiced prolifically by Trump on Twitter. His favoured social media platform enables him to respond with repeated, consistent assertions such as “<a href="">I have the absolute right to PARDON myself</a>,” and diversions like “<a href="">There is so much GUILT by Democrats/Clinton, and now the facts are pouring out. DO SOMETHING!</a>” which deny any conflict between claim and truth.</p> <p>The cumulative effect is one of subversion, with semantics destabilised and democratic authority undermined. Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s Counsellor, exemplified this psychology when she coined the term “<a href="">alternative facts</a>” soon after his election. In attempting to persuade the world that the White House’s claims to truth can be squared with the reality of its lies, Conway denied the existence of dissonance whilst simultaneously deploying it to destabilise objectivity.</p> <p>The challenge this creates is twofold. First, modes of communication which allow for compromise have been delegitimised. The erasure of complex meaning has induced a preference for a world conceived through binary categories and contrast, so that, for example, people and countries are portrayed as “strong” or “weak,” “winners” or “losers,” but nothing in between.</p> <p>Second, an increasingly fundamentalist culture of political discussion is emerging. In this context, accusations and inferences are transformed all too easily into calls-to-action, especially when belief systems appear to be under threat.</p> <p>Take, for example, Trump’s suggestion that the “<a href="">second amendment</a>” on the right to bear arms might provide a good method of silencing his rivals. To suggest that firearms should be used to shut down pluralistic debate whilst smearing opponents as “corrupt,” “crooked” and “enemies of the people” is both wholly undemocratic and extremely dangerous, proscribing dissent and denying any empathy for others in the process. Those others then come to represent an existential threat, with their narratives requiring wholesale destruction. Suddenly, the second amendment suggestion seems less of a joke and more of a prophecy. Hypothetical objects of contempt become real subjects of attack.</p> <p>Expertly deployed by those on the alt-and far right, dissonant language is detaching us from the ethical implications of expression, enabling dehumanization, and&nbsp;justifying the use of force in service to political aims. It has become a widespread mechanism for engineering social discord.</p> <p><strong>Reversing the rhetorical tide.</strong></p> <p>Understanding the mechanisms through which Trump perpetrates linguistic violence is one thing. Knowing how best to counter them is quite another. In a&nbsp;<a href="">CNN interview</a>&nbsp;on October 2018, Hillary Clinton declared that Democrats “need to be tougher” if they’re to have any hope of winning Congress in the upcoming mid-term elections or defeating Trump in 2020. But what does it mean to be “tougher?” </p> <p>If it means recasting Trump’s language in the blue tones of the Democratic Party then I’m sceptical. Trump’s method of sowing discord works because the structure of his language supports the impact of dissonance. His hyperbole is a mechanism for self-aggrandisement, underscoring his claim to be America’s “<a href="">best</a>” deal maker; whilst his binary language creates a false choice between protecting the integrity of America and surrendering to “<a href="">illegals</a>.” When they’re repeated enough times, the evidence that discounts these claims becomes irrelevant, and impression and meaning coalesce to create a speech that is “truthful” in so far as truth has been redefined.</p> <p>Democrats face a more imperfect marriage between language and ideas. Hypothetically, the same rules could be used to amplify a Bernie Sanders-esque politics of democratic socialism. But even if the party’s members and leaders could be persuaded to&nbsp;<a href="">resolve the ideological splits that face the party</a>&nbsp;and coalesce around a common language, the&nbsp;<a href="">US electoral system</a>&nbsp;remains a significant barrier to progress. Republican gerrymandering and the peculiarities of the Electoral College render a small number of swing states crucial to electoral success, and it’s uncertain whether a rhetorical move to the left will appeal to this key segment of voters.</p> <p>There’s also the risk of slipping into a discourse of identity that <a href="">can have</a>&nbsp;isolating or polarising effects. The American left should resist modes of communication that&nbsp;<a href=";guce_referrer_us=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&amp;guce_referrer_cs=8eRRbKxa0iTjwVbiaz4z2Q">pit identities against one another</a>, disregard shared histories, and problematise consensus building. Instead, they should focus on using some of Trump’s more sophisticated linguistic tricks in order to conduct a parallel redefinition of the American value system.</p> <p>Democrats <a href="">should harness repetition</a>, charged adjectives and colloquialisms&nbsp;when they discuss the challenges of the future, framing national and global politics as a balancing act that only Democratic leaders have the integrity and dynamism to perform effectively. They should also focus on the erosion of traditional values such as kindness and charity. In this way, Democrats can reclaim the left as a force for compassion and equanimity, tapping into visceral concerns about cultural erosion, social isolation and loss of dignity. By deploying a rhetoric that forcefully and unequivocally advocates for a belief system based on principle and liberal justice, Democrats can communicate a powerful alternative to Trumpism whilst deploying some of his most effective linguistic tactics.</p> <p>It’s necessary to pay attention to the connections between Trump's words and ensuing events, but if all our focus is on these effects we may serve to provide him with the publicity he desires without identifying the underlying causes at play. We'd do better to examine how Trump applies language to claim subservience to his mode of thinking, feeling and believing. In doing so we might gain more insight into Trump's supporters and the symbiotic relationship between “truthful hyperbole” and incitement to violence, as well as illuminating how Democrats can employ dissonance to advocate their own alternative path to victory.</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/nicholas-baer/american-idiot-rethinking-anti-intellectualism-in-age-of-trump">American idiot: rethinking anti-intellectualism in the age of Trump</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/ian-hughes/does-donald-trump-s-foreign-policy-actually-make-sense">Does Donald Trump’s foreign policy actually make sense?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/beautiful-trouble-team/six-principles-for-resisting-presidency-of-donald-trump">Six principles for resisting the presidency of Donald Trump</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"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </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 United States Culture Democracy and government Donald Trump Political polarization Izzy Goldstein Activism Culture Sun, 04 Nov 2018 21:16:34 +0000 Izzy Goldstein 120424 at A ‘great and merciless thinning:’ the vanishing world of insects <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Imagining the disappearance of species (however small they are) should spur us to fight for their survival.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit. <a href=""></a>.<a href="">CC0</a>.</p> <p>What would English literature look or sound like if there were no insects? What if someone were to ransack the literary past, taking away all the references that poets have made to crickets, grasshoppers, beetles and bees?</p> <p>A great silence would follow. Poems that were full of life would suddenly be untenanted, their landscapes no longer pulsing with clicking beetles, stridulating crickets, whirring mosquitoes or the various wing-tones of dragonflies, mayflies and damselflies. </p> <p>If you were to hold a bug-less collection of Emily Dickinson’s poetry in your hands – a copy in which all descriptions of insects had been removed with a penknife – what would be left? <a href="">One scholar,</a> tabulating the number of insects and arthropods that appear in her work, concludes that&nbsp;10 per cent of&nbsp;Dickinson’s&nbsp;poetry concerns the world of bugs. The book you hold would be shot through with holes.</p> <p>Dickinson wrote her poems when the American countryside was teeming with insect life, a time of incredible abundance for those “little things” that, in biologist’s E. O. Wilson’s phrase, “<a href="">run the world</a>.” Today, the prospects for insect life are very different. According to one recent <a href="">study</a>, insect numbers in Germany have plummeted by 75 percent in the past three decades. Worse still, this study is based on data taken from nature reserves – meaning that the decline of populations on intensively managed farms is likely to be even greater. Other countries are faring no better. We are living, as naturalist Michael McCarthy puts it, through a “<a href=";pg=PT96&amp;lpg=PT96&amp;dq=michael+mccarthy+%22great+and+merciless+thinning%22&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=EEoheBlG89&amp;sig=7vWWsdpVbbPsXSbiHi31xPfMcPg&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=2ahUKEwji48aIt67eAhUntIsKHWWiC2gQ6AEwAHoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&amp;q=michael%20mccarthy%20%22great%20and%20merciless%20thinning%22&amp;f=false">great and merciless thinning</a>.”</p> <p>But while rates of insect extinction are increasing there seems to be no corresponding shift in our attention to these species. Insects remain the victims of human ignorance and industrial pesticides – a doubly lethal combination. For conservationists, the challenges could not be greater. </p> <p>One problem is how to encourage citizens to care about animals about which they know little. How does one begin to appreciate the loss of the endangered Darkling Beetle, the V Moth, or the Wart Biter cricket, especially when these animals are not part of our daily experience? Another problem is the difficulty of visualising these threats. Images of polar bears on melting ice have a visceral effect, but it is much harder to observe – and therefore to feel – the damage that is being wrought to insect life. So much destruction is happening at a scale which is beyond our capacity to see it.&nbsp;</p> <p>One of the key tasks, therefore, is to find ways of portraying the ‘great thinning’ in ways that can’t be ignored, and it is here that artists, poets and environmental scholars have a role to play. By asking different questions from conservationists, and bringing new perspectives to bear on the issue, they may be able to illuminate the consequences of extinction in other ways. “The hardest thing of all to see is what is really there,” the writer J. A. Baker wrote in his classic book,&nbsp;<em><a href="">The Peregrine</a>.&nbsp;</em>That statement is no less true today, but perhaps it is much more urgent.</p> <p>In&nbsp;his book <em><a href="">Song of the Earth</a></em>, the scholar Jonathan Bate argues that we can think of nature poems as ecosystems – as texts that imaginatively recreate the landscapes they describe. But what if we extended that thought a little further? What if we also thought of poems as <em>vulnerable</em>&nbsp;ecosystems, as living landscapes that continue to be affected by changes that are happening today? What if, every time an animal became endangered or extinct, the poetry of the past was retrospectively altered, terrible redactions made, and certain lines struck out from the record? </p> <p>If that were to happen the landscape of an Emily Dickinson <a href="">poem</a> would look like this:</p><p><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p>And Yeats’s <a href="">‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree’</a> would read as follows:</p><p><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p>These two images are taken from a scrapbook that I have been compiling as part of my research into endangered life, the aim being to visualise what the&nbsp;disappearance of insects from our environment and culture would ‘look like.’ The insects that have been removed – Dickinson’s ‘minor Nation’ of cicadas and Yeats’s cricket and bees – are still part of our landscapes today, but their populations have suffered huge collapses in recent years. If they were to vanish completely, part of the meaning of these poems would disappear too. Extinction always involves two stages: the loss of a species, and the unravelling of the relationships that these species make possible; a biological loss followed by one that is deeply cultural.</p><p>The process of compiling the scrapbook produced many feelings of unease: to remove lines from a poem felt like an act of desecration. At the same time, it offered a way of giving concrete expression to ecological degradation. Without his ‘bee-loud glade’, Yeats’s Innisfree is impoverished, and what is Dickinson’s field without her cicadas, observing their ‘unobtrusive mass’? Stripped of insects, these poems not only lose a set of nouns – ‘cricket,’ ‘bee,’ ‘cicada’ – but also the diverse worlds these beings help to create. If conservationists struggle to get people to care about extinction, then perhaps one way of underscoring their message is to work backwards – not by imagining losses in the future but by subtracting actual presences from the past (literary and otherwise). </p><p>The point of making such a subtraction is not to promote nostalgia or despair, but to deepen our appreciation of insect life; to see – through a process of negation – the rich marvelousness of their lives. It was only when the passenger pigeon was gone for good – once enormous flocks no longer blotted out the sky for hours on end – that their presence in landscapes was truly appreciated.</p><p>It is too late for the passenger pigeon, but it is not too late for millions of insect species. Imagining their disappearance should spur us to fight for their survival.</p><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 Vegan politics and animal rights Michael Malay Environment Thu, 01 Nov 2018 19:10:30 +0000 Michael Malay 120388 at The oppressiveness of creativity <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Has capitalism co-opted our creative juices? A review of Oli Mould’s new book ‘Against Creativity.’</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="">Pixabay/Ramdlon</a>. <a href="">CCO 1.0</a>.</p> <p>Given that I’m writing about creativity it’s tempting to come up with a dazzling opening line - something unexpected that will sell this article to you. I need not have worried.</p> <p>Oli Mould’s blistering critique&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank"><em>Against Creativity</em></a> suggests that we are all under constant pressure to be ever more creative and original; such demands are an inescapable part of the capitalist structures we occupy. The result is that creativity has mutated in the pressure cooker of advanced capitalism. Filtering down from the wider political economy, his thesis is that constant calls for us to be more creative are the product of a more general and engrained push toward entrepreneurialism and productivity. </p> <p>Yet the co-option of creativity into capitalism is nothing new in itself, and we can of course resist this kind of appropriation. So why try to find a problem with something that, in general, we probably all wish we had more of?&nbsp;Mould acknowledges early on in his book that creativity is a ‘slippery’ and ‘nebulous’ concept, and as it turns out, he isn’t actually against creativity as such. Rather he is against certain types of creative processes in which monetization is central. So the book is not so much against creativity but the wrong type of creative impulse and its negative effects. Rather than banishing creativity, Mould wants to reset our approach to how we see and use it.</p> <p>“Being creative today,’ he writes, “means seeing the world around you as a resource to fuel your inner entrepreneur. Creativity is a distinctly neoliberal trait because it feeds the notion that the world and everything in it can be monetised. The language of creativity has been subsumed by capitalism.”</p> <p>This seems a fair point. Capitalism and creativity have clearly become entwined in the creative economy and in the wider honing of the entrepreneurial self. The language of creativity readily gets folded into capitalist structures and drives the pressure to demonstrate greater ingenuity in everyday contexts. </p> <p>Inspired by, amongst others, the critical theorists <a href="">Theodor Adorno</a> and <a href="">Max Horkheimer</a> and their famous arguments in the 1940s concerning the rise of ‘the culture industry’ and the imprinting of the profit motive onto cultural production, &nbsp;Mould &nbsp;focuses on the confines or limits in which creativity now works. He finds that the possibilities have come to be highly circumscribed by the aims and visions of neoliberal capitalism: “creativity under capitalism is not creative at all because it only produces more of the same form of society; it merely replicates existing capitalist registers into ever-deeper recesses of socioeconomic life…capitalism co-opts creativity for its own growth.” </p> <p>It is this process of co-option that his book explores by focusing in turn on work, people, politics, technology and the city. It is hard not to be drawn into agreeing with the picture of the toil of creativity he paints. The chapter on work is particularly powerful and builds an image of the constant drive for creative angles under increasingly precarious conditions.</p> <p>The uneven distribution of costs and benefits that flow from this reductive vision of creativity forms a strong theme throughout the book. As Mould puts it, “the politics of creativity is crucial,” since creativity in this narrow sense works out well for certain people whilst having a crushing or exclusionary effect on others. </p> <p>Occasionally, the concept of neoliberalism takes on a little too much of the explanatory burden in trying to get to grip with this politics of creativity. It is used, at times, as an answer rather than being unpacked to explore the real forces at work. Neoliberalism is a haunting spectre in the book, a malevolent presence that exerts a powerful influence without ever quite becoming flesh. Yet Mould has produced a pointed polemic that makes frequent and telling connections between creativity and social inequalities. </p> <p>The impact of austerity is one way he gets into these connections. The heightened precarity of austerity has brought a new and inescapable demand for creative expression, with increasing uncertainty and anxiety adding to the harm. This is just one way that Mould develops his core argument. Elsewhere his book looks at how norms act as obstacles to creative thought, hemming us in with expectations about how to think and act. He couples this with an exploration of how the ‘horizontalization’ and decentralisation of media structures limits rather than enhances spaces for thinking. </p> <p>For those who might imagine that artificial intelligence will overcome human shortcomings, Mould provides a discussion of how algorithms and machine learning change the terms of human creative thought rather than improve its prospects. And then we come to the rise of the social media entrepreneur seeking to use their creative nouse simply to get noticed (which he also links to the rise of a win-at-all-costs TV talent-show type culture). Across these themes Mould unsettles our understandings of creativity and questions the part it might play in achieving more progressive outcomes.</p> <p>From all of this, he concludes that:</p> <blockquote><p>“if creativity is about power to create something from nothing, then believing in impossible things is its most critical component. We need to believe that impossible worlds can be reached, if these impossibilities can ever be realized and become lived experiences.”</p></blockquote> <p>There is an energising boundlessness to this suggestion about removing limits to what is possible in order for creativity to take on less damaging forms and really thrive. But is this the case? Some time ago, back in the mid 2000s, I was working on a small project exploring the impact of digital technologies on music. As part of that project I was speaking to a recording engineer about their practices. </p> <p>We reflected on the changing technologies of music production, the impact of the infinite number of tracks in recording studios, and the unlimited possibilities of post-production. We discussed whether creativity might actually be hampered by these endless options, since at least in part it is about overcoming limits, and is not always, as Mould suggests, about creating something from&nbsp;<em>nothing</em>. In a much larger <a href="">follow up project</a> a few years later, we found that the recording engineer actually sees it as their role to find ways to realise the sonic vision of the recording artist even as it clashes against the material constraints of the studio. Here, the constraints are an active part of the way that such artistic creations are made real.</p> <p>When we think of the fear that is induced in the writer by the blank page, perhaps it is not so much a completely open space for the imagination that we need but a more energetic engagement with the boundaries that constrain creative thinking, organizing and action. As the recording engineer suggested to me, we might use the boundaries we face to inspire creative action and help us to imagine alternatives. Creativity has a complex set of relations with such boundaries, and despite the careful arguments in Mould’s book these relations are left a little unresolved. Mould seeks to remove the barriers of possibility, but we might wonder whether this will leave us with nothing to bounce off, to solve or circumvent.&nbsp;</p> <p>The other key question that Mould’s book leaves unanswered is how to tell pathological forms of creativity from their more progressive or transformational counterparts. The political quagmires of today undoubtedly call for more imaginative thinking in which the politics of creativity are central. Breaking out of the constraints of politics or economics-as-usual calls for genuinely novel ideas and institutions. </p> <p>Against this pressing need, Mould’s warning - and it is a useful one - is that if we seek change then we need to be careful that we don’t cling to a type of creativity that is anchored in neoliberal economic interests. If we do fall into this trap then we may simply perpetuate the values and limits that established modes of governance and production bring with them. </p> <p>Creativity itself is not the problem, as Mould’s book makes clear; rather it is the limits that are placed on the future by engrained notions of what is possible and worthwhile.</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/oli-mould/does-being-creative-just-mean-maintaining-status-quo">Does “being creative” just mean maintaining the status quo?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/david-beer/living-with-smartness">Living with smartness</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/david-beer/four-futures-life-after-capitalism">Four futures: life after capitalism</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 David Beer The role of money Culture Economics Tue, 30 Oct 2018 18:42:26 +0000 David Beer 120108 at Can politics ever be compassionate? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="xmsonormal">To turn towards suffering and make that the centerpiece of your decisions takes guts and determination. <em><strong><a href="">Español</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="">Enver Rahmanov via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="">CC BY-SA 3.0</a>.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">Every now and then you come across a book, a film, an article or a TV show that helps you to make a little bit more sense of the world. I had such an experience recently when reading Paul Gilbert’s&nbsp;<a href="">The Compassionate Mind</a>. Rich in evolutionary theory and practical advice, Gilbert’s book describes how the coming together of our ‘mammalian’ and ‘human’ brains has created seemingly incompatible capacities for love and destruction. Modern society, he argues, has been structured in such a way as to encourage the latter while diminishing the former through our economies, the stories our politicians tell, and the examples they set.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">It is, perhaps, unusual for a book focused on the evolutionary history of our brains to plant the seeds for a new political movement, but that’s what Gilbert’s book did for me, along with works by other authors from <a href="">Daniel Dennett</a> to <a href="">Martha Nussbaum</a>. I also found a friend and colleague, the author and activist <a href="">Jennifer Nadel</a>, who was on a similar journey to mine, having just <a href="">published a book</a> on how to live a more compassionate life - though hers had begun by following the progress of the <a href="">Charter for Compassion</a>, founded by the historian <a href="">Karen Armstrong</a>.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">It struck both of us as absurd that there was no bridge between cutting-edge research on the value of compassion in helping people to overcome mental illness and live better lives, and the figureheads in society who are most responsible for setting the values by which societies live: our politicians and the media. In fact the opposite is true: a neoliberal model of economics developed in the 1980s and devoid of scientific value has convinced people that they are defined by selfishness, greed and vice. It’s also created a political system that puts party above universal progress, majorities in parliament over collaboration, and the attainment of power over the means that are used to get it.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">What can be done to upend this destructive narrative? Issue-specific campaigns could help, but unless the guiding assumptions we live by are changed there will be no long-term, sustainable transformation. So we decided to dip our toes into the water by launching a new initiative called <a href="" target="_blank">Compassion in Politics</a>&nbsp;at the start of 2018.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">With austerity continuing to inflict pain and suffering on the most vulnerable in society and inequality rising, it’s an opportune time to get this initiative off the ground. The mental health crisis worsens year-on-year and the <a href="">alarming report</a> issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in early October warns that, unless we dramatically change course, then irreversibly-damaging global warming could be upon us in less than a generation. Brexit is pulling Britain apart, and in the USA, Donald Trump has benefitted from, and continues to peddle, his own toxic brand of politics.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">Perhaps because of this (unfortunately) fertile ground, the response to our message has thus far been encouraging. We’ve&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">received messages of support</a>&nbsp;from a wide range of individuals and organisations including Noam Chomsky, Laurie Penny, Show Racism the Red Card, and MPs including Caroline Lucas, and our first conference took place in Oxford last weekend with a large and enthusiastic audience who helped us plan the next stages of the campaign. Coming together from all walks of life, the audience was united by a shared commitment to debunking the popular, mythological view of humans as a race of self-obsessed ego-centrics, and to building a new political system forged from compassion – a commitment to understanding others and standing with them through whatever difficulties they may face.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p class="xmsonormal">Of course the conference also brought up lots of questions: is compassion enough? Where does anger fit in? Do we need to have compassion only for ‘the people’ or for politicians too? And perhaps most pertinently, how do we change a culture that has been force-fed the message that we are all inherently selfish and that the only way to manage this condition is by building a society which harnesses those values through a growth-oriented, free-market economy?</p> <p class="xmsonormal">On the last of these points I believe we’ve already started to reach an understanding.&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">In his keynote speech to the conference Lord Dubs</a>, the Labour peer and campaigner for child refugees, repeated his belief that the British public wants to ‘do the right thing’ - they want to be compassionate, and they want Britain to be seen as a caring nation. I think he is right, but I also recognise that our ability to live up to these standards is hampered by social, economic and political norms and structures that give precedence to money-making, possession-hoarding, and status-seeking behaviour.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">So we need to change the language that’s used by politicians and the press, and we need to share our own stories, examples, and commitment to compassion in practice as a way to undermine the existing cultural hegemony. And that means transforming institutions in concrete terms by, for example, encouraging much more cross-party collaboration, ending the tit-for-tat style of debate in parliament, and establishing a new compassionate code-of-conduct for MPs.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">Every new policy issued by government should have to prove that it will - and has - improved the lives of those most in need of help; that it was developed through a spirit of cooperation with other parties which utilizes respectful debate to improve policies with the proper degree of scrutiny; and that it does not impinge negatively on the lives of future generations. The legacies of austerity and climate breakdown are proof enough that this has not been the case in the past. Think of this is a kind of ‘compassion test’ to be embedded throughout decision-making.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">In the media world we need new codes of conduct that commit newspaper editors to steer clear of personal slander and stereotyping language. Under such a code, corrosive attacks on the press as “enemies of the people” by President Trump and others, or Boris Johnson’s incendiary description of Muslim women as looking like “letterboxes,” would never be allowed or tolerated.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">It’s also important to work with politicians on reforms to the policy-making process that make cross-party working easier, while helping to boost the numbers of representatives in parliament or Congress from less privileged backgrounds so that those entering politics have a better understanding of the lives of the people they govern.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">Naturally, ideas like these will come up against those who argue that compassion is too weak or vague to guide the political or economic sphere and that only cold-hearted rationality makes for good decision-making. To those detractors I’d raise a number of responses.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">First, being compassionate in a world that teaches you to be otherwise is courageous. To turn towards and not away from suffering, and make that the centerpiece of your decisions, takes guts and determination.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">Second, to deny the role of emotion in politics is to deny that human beings are central to the way politics works. Emotions are who we are, and so we want people who enter politics (and in doing so become responsible for the lives of millions) to understand their emotions, the emotions of others, and how both influence their decision-making. This kind of emotional intelligence should be an essential requirement for anyone who is thinking of a career in politics, business or journalism.</p> <p class="xmsonormal">We can make this change happen. The seeds are already there - in people’s imaginations, in their desire for a better world, and in the examples they are already setting for one another when they care for family, friends, and colleagues. We’ve done it before. The National Health Service, for example, the ‘<a href="">Kindertransport</a>’ which helped to save the lives of 10,000 Jewish children during the Second World War by offering them sanctuary in Britain, and the legalisation of homosexuality and same-sex marriage - all these things and more were built on one central idea: compassion. Society can undoubtedly be fashioned in its image. </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/max-harris-philip-mckibbin/all-you-need-is-politics-of-love">All you need is a politics of love </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/dermot-feenan-daniel-bedford/should-compassion-be-election-issue">Should compassion be an election issue?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/samantha-rose-hill/what-does-it-mean-to-love-world-hannah-arendt-and-amor-mundi">What does it mean to love the world? Hannah Arendt and Amor Mundi</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 Political polarization Matt Hawkins Trans-partisan politics Love and Spirituality Sun, 28 Oct 2018 17:35:32 +0000 Matt Hawkins 120292 at What the map of U.S. hate groups reveals <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>New research offers clues on how to stop the spread of organized hate groups in the U.S.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">White Supremacists encircle&nbsp;counterprotesters at the base of a statue of Thomas Jefferson after marching through the University of Virginia campus with torches in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Aug. 11, 2017. Credit: Shay Horse/NurPhoto via Getty Images and YES! Magazine. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Organized hate groups span all geographic areas of the United States, from White nationalists in Washington state to neo-Nazis in Alabama to radical traditionalist Catholics in New Hampshire. While persecution of classes of people happens everywhere, the drivers that push people to join hate groups are unique to specific places. In this way, hatred can be a study in geography as much as anything else.</p> <p>A new model tracking organized hate groups upends a long-held, simplistic view of the issue, one that placed a generalized blame on education or immigration, for example, positing that a person’s education level could be a sole indicator of whether they would join a hate group.</p><p>New&nbsp;<a href="">research from the University of Utah</a>&nbsp;provides a much more nuanced picture of what gives rise to organized hate groups that can better serve those working to dismantle them. In the Midwest, economics is a more influential factor than immigration. On the East Coast, more religious areas correlate with more per capita hate groups, while education has little influence.</p> <p>Richard Medina, University of Utah assistant professor of geography and lead author of the research, said public perceptions of hate and its motivating factors are often oversimplified. “Drivers of hate are dependent on regions and cultures and all the things we see and study in geography,” he said. “It can be really complicated. People don’t just hate for one reason.”</p> <p>Medina’s group had been working on the research before the White supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, where a woman was killed in the violence. Emily Nicolosi, University of Utah graduate student and co-author of the paper, said that what happened in Charlottesville started national conversations she believes the research can support.</p> <p>“The motivators and drivers of hate look very different in different places,” Nicolosi said. “If you look at the maps, you can see that these sort of regions emerge where the [different] variables are playing the same role.”</p> <p>The research used census data to track specific socioeconomic variables, such as population changes over a five-year period, poverty, and education levels. Researchers mapped population percentage of White non-Latinos because places changing from strong racial and ethnic similarity are more likely to experience a negative reaction to change. Poverty is a driver of hate because extremist groups promise the impoverished a way out of financial difficulty or provide a group to blame. The group also measured conservative religious and political ideology.</p> <p>The maps of these socioeconomic factors were then compared to a&nbsp;<a href="">2014 map of 784 organized hate groups&nbsp;</a>across the country that the Southern Poverty Law Center created.</p> <p>The hate groups were mapped down to the county level in each state. The states with the most hate groups per million people in population were Montana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Vermont. Comparing the socioeconomic map with the hate group map showed which factors were the strongest indicators in different regions of the country.</p><p><strong>What drives hate?</strong></p> <p>In general, the research reveals that less diversity, more poverty, less population change, and less education all correlate with more hate groups. But how influential those factors are depends on where you live.</p> <p>On the West Coast, high poverty and a large concentration of White people in an area are the most influential factors driving hate groups. While the region generally has racial diversity, non-White people moving in and changing a demographic quickly can become targets, Medina said. In the southern parts of California and Arizona, lower education levels and higher poverty levels are the most important indicators.</p> <p>In the central United States, economic factors—such as poverty and employment levels—are most likely to push people into hate groups. Immigration is less of a factor because fewer people are moving into the region compared to the coasts.</p> <p>Population shift is the most telling factor on the East Coast. Areas with more people leaving than coming have more hate groups. This trend is also present throughout the country, Medina said, but is most prominent in the East. Rates of education, poverty, and diversity have less influence there.</p> <p>The measurements of ideology—by concentrations of religious people and Republicans—created somewhat different regional maps. Counties with strong religious communities have fewer hate groups on the West Coast and parts of the Midwest and Southeast. Yet, most of the Midwest and East Coast see more hate groups as counties grow more religious. Similar geographic trends are seen when tracking hate groups and Republicanism.</p> <p>This mapping reveals what fuels different biases, Nicolosi said. Movement organizers working for social justice must recognize the most important factors in their own communities to create positive change.</p> <p>Politicians can better understand their constituents and the cultures influencing them, Medina said.</p><p><strong>How to change minds?</strong></p> <p>Citing research such as this, Medina said creating interactions with people from different races, religions, and places is one of the most effective strategies to combat organized hatred.</p> <p>And that is what Peace Catalyst International does, creating opportunities for interaction and relationships between Christians and Muslims in both the United States and Indonesia. City by city, the group brings together people from different religions, organizing meals and group discussions. The dynamics of each city or region play out differently, so local organizers must respond accordingly.</p> <p>Rebecca Brown, grants manager for Peace Catalyst International, said Christian communities often struggle to overcome misconceptions and fears about Muslims they have internalized from American culture. Islam is often&nbsp;<a href="">portrayed as a violent religion in American media</a>. According to the Pew Research Center, non-Muslim Americans are&nbsp;<a href="">more likely to have positive feelings about Islam&nbsp;</a>if they know a Muslim. But studies show non-Muslim Americans are&nbsp;<a href="">more likely to know someone&nbsp;</a>who is atheist, Jewish, or Mormon than someone who is Muslim.</p> <p>People can be transformed by one relationship, Brown said. “The xenophobic, anti-Muslim threat is a very real threat and a growing threat in our community,” she said. Her organization wants to “provide viable theological and ideological ways for [people] to cling to peace rather than ... moving toward fear.”</p> <p>Similar to the work Peace Catalyst International does, Life After Hate helps create relationships across ideological divides. The organization was co-founded by Christian Picciolini with a mission of researching extremism and helping radicalized people disengage from hate movements.</p> <p>In his&nbsp;<a href="">2017 TEDx Talk</a>, Picciolini describes how feelings of abandonment and anger toward people he saw as different led him to join the neo-Nazis at 14.</p> <p>The birth of his son and interactions Picciolini had with customers in his record shop pushed him away from the hate movement. “A gay couple came in with their son, and it was undeniable to me that they loved their son in the same profound ways that I loved mine,” Picciolini said in his talk. “Suddenly, I couldn’t rationalize or justify the prejudice that I had in my head.”</p> <p>Picciolini underscores the importance of the research findings. The most effective way to change a radicalized person’s view is to understand what is driving their prejudice,&nbsp;<a href="">Picciolini said in an interview&nbsp;</a>with the Southern Poverty Law Center. “It’s about changing their perspective just a little bit,” he said. “Because often when you change their perspective just a little bit, it allows them to see the cracks in the foundation of the ideology that they believe in.”</p> <p>Both extremism research and the rush to understand and combat organized hate groups are happening at a time when technology is helping to target potential recruits. Hate groups use&nbsp;<a href="">similar strategies as ISIS or al Qaeda</a>, focusing on individuals who feel victimized or isolated. Hate groups tap into beliefs that racial or religious groups are attacking Whites, as seen in a&nbsp;<a href="">Ku Klux Klan recruitment flier&nbsp;</a>distributed at a North Carolina high school in 2017. An appeal to religious conservatism is an effective tactic in North Carolina, Medina said, though playing off a fear of losing one’s culture is used across the country.</p> <p>The research begins to offer a measurable picture of where in the country different types of messaging will attract members. And Medina would like to investigate further, for instance, the roles that specific religions play; the current study groups all religions together. He also plans to work with researchers who will do qualitative studies to learn about motivations directly from citizens.</p> <p>“[Hate] is not uniform. But people treat it like it’s a uniform phenomenon across the country. It just doesn’t work that way.”</p><p><em>This article was first published in <a href=";utm_campaign=YTW_20181005&amp;utm_content=YTW_20181005+CID_adcc4ea2884932357efd74c7380100f3&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=What%20the%20Maps%20of%20Hate%20Gr">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/ian-hughes/entrepreneurs-of-hate">Entrepreneurs of hate</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/shane-burley/is-new-breed-of-white-nationalists-in-retreat">Is the new breed of white nationalists in retreat?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ae-elliott/assemble-ye-trolls-rise-of-online-hate-speech">‘Assemble ye trolls:’ the rise of online hate speech</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 Political polarization Wyatt Massey Activism Culture Thu, 25 Oct 2018 19:11:47 +0000 Wyatt Massey 120033 at Helping people to find common ground on Brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Conversations across divides are very hard, but they’re essential to democracy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Manchester anti-Brexit protest for Conservative conference, October 1, 2017. Credit: <a href=",_October_1,_2017.jpg">Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="">CC BY-SA 4.0</a>.</p> <p>On the first day of October 2018 I did something I’d never done before: I went to the UK Conservative party conference in Birmingham. The theme of the event I attended was ‘Chuck Chequers’ – a reference to Prime Minister Theresa May’s controversial plan for Brexit. It was organised by the Bruges Group, which takes its inspiration from a <a href="">speech made by Margaret Thatcher in Bruges in 1988.</a> The most quoted part of that speech was her statement that "We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level." </p> <p>I went to Birmingham because, as someone who voted Remain in the EU referendum, I wanted to talk to people who voted Leave, to try and understand their position. We might not agree, I thought, but at least an honest dialogue might start to overcome the polarisation to which the Brexit vote has led. I particularly wanted to see if I could voice my concerns without getting into a slanging match. </p> <p>Waiting for the event to begin, I talked to a woman called Monica. Despite being part-Italian she was a Leaver believer, but the conversation started well. We identified a shared value, that of democracy, and explored the other values we held that had led us to such different conclusions. Then the speakers spoke, with applause at its loudest when Conservative MP Owen Patterson promised to vote against the Chequers plan. &nbsp;</p> <p>The Q&amp;A session that followed included some ritual if low-key booing of a journalist from the left-leaning Guardian newspaper. As we all started to disperse, I leaned over to Monica and said that I was probably the only person in the room who had warmed to a reference to Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission and his recent <a href="">State of the Union speech</a>. Juncker had called for a ‘pooling of sovereignty’ at the EU level. That’s where things started to go wrong. </p> <p>I can’t put my finger on exactly what happened, but something shifted in her body language. &nbsp;I had piqued her at some fundamental level. She made a remark that I heard as an assertion that this pooling would lead to a United States of Europe, and in turn open the door for a European version of Donald Trump. I’m sure that she had a much more nuanced position in her mind, but in the moment, and with everyone starting to leave, I couldn’t see a way to explore it. Despite my best intentions, I had started the slide into the kind of altercation I wanted to avoid, so I thanked her for the conversation and we went our separate ways. </p> <p>This preamble is by way of stressing that ‘<a href="">both/and’ conversations</a> across the Leave/Remain divide are very hard work. My organisation, <a href="">Talk Shop</a>, had already experienced this, when, in the run-up to the EU referendum in 2016, we organised and facilitated ten events around the country. They were among the few opportunities for Leavers and Remainers to meet and appreciate each other.&nbsp; But were there to be a general election or a second referendum I wouldn’t repeat those events. They were incredibly difficult to set up, and even with this number our small team of facilitators was very stretched. Rather, we need to find ways in which people can organise and run sessions for themselves. How could this be done?</p> <p>My first clue comes from a structured conversation called <a href="">the Listening Roadshow</a>, which was offered after the referendum by an organisation called <a href="">Initiatives of Change</a>. The name was chosen to emphasise the need for deep listening to each other, without judgement. It was built around the question, “What do you most hope for, and what most concerns you, following the EU Referendum?” </p> <p>In almost all of their 18 events, at least one person said that this was the first time they had heard someone who voted differently to them in the referendum talk about why they had done so. Once people saw the possibility, there was considerable interest in reaching out across divides to ‘the other.’ </p> <p>Given this interest, perhaps the best way to get people together across the Brexit divide is to draw on <a href="">an American model</a> called <a href="">Living Room Conversations</a>, which asks anyone who wants to do so to find someone from across the divide who shares that aim. The two of them co-host the event, with each inviting two other people who share their point of view. The resulting group of six meets in the home of the organiser over an agreed length of time. </p> <p>This approach enables people to self-organise, and it guarantees equal numbers of participants from both sides. &nbsp;But what would they talk about? First, start not with Brexit but with daily life. The late <a href="">Daniel Yankelovich, an American pollster, wrote that</a>, “in focus groups where those holding contrary views have been demonized, each side makes the unexpected discovery that the other is human: a kindred soul who laughs at the same jokes and has similar worries.” In <a href="">a dialogue in the city of Srebrenica in Bosnia-Herzegovina</a> between&nbsp; Serbs and Bosnjaks (Muslims), for example, a Bosnjak man started by complaining about having to drive his daughter to school because of stray dogs. Almost everyone in the room, it turned out, had a story to tell about the same dogs; people started to realise that they lived in the same world.</p> <p>Second, have them make the case for the other side. That was the best part of our 2016 events. As a Remainer in Liverpool put it, “Arguing the case for leaving helped me realise that people who take that view, especially because of immigration, may have thought it through, rather than simply absorbing messages from the media.”</p> <p>Third, ask them to look for the ‘joining point,’ an idea that comes from <a href="">a story told by American feminist Sally Miller Gearhart</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>“Five years ago when I’d see a logging truck loaded with redwoods or old oak, I’d shoot the driver a finger. He’d shoot one right back at me…Three years ago, I was a shade more gentle. I would stop dead in my tracks, glare at the driver of a logging truck and make sure he read my lips: ‘Fuck you, mister.’</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>I’ve [now] learned that my pain, anger and/or hatred accomplish nothing except to render me ineffectual and to increase the problem by adding to the pain, anger and hatred that already burden the world…These days when I meet an erstwhile ‘enemy’ I look for the joining point, the place where we are the same, where we can meet each other as beings who share the experience of living together on this planet.”</p></blockquote> <p>I’d extend that idea to cover points of overlap on Brexit itself. And because this could be challenging for a self-organised event, I’d make a game of it. I’d devise a scoring system that encouraged people to make suggestions that appeal to the whole group, and are specific. Someone might propose, as Monica and I did, ‘democracy’ as a joining point, but someone else might extend that, for example, to ‘democracy in the sense of being able to vote out the people in charge.’&nbsp; </p> <p>The group could then use these joining points to explore their implications for the future relationship between the UK and the rest of the EU. In doing this, they might also bear in mind that people can support the same outcome for different reasons. A citizens’ income, for example, is supported by many people on the right to reduce the size of the state, and by many on the left to tackle poverty. &nbsp;</p> <p>In the children’s programmes of my youth like <a href="">Blue Peter</a>, some hair-raising stunt would be preceded by a caution: “Don’t try this at home.” In this case, please do.</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/beauty-of-bothand-mind">The beauty of a both/and mind</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/peroline-ainsworth-kiran-nihalani-hannah-rollins/three-more-ways-to-build-solidarity-">Three more ways to build solidarity across our differences</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 Brexit Political polarization Perry Walker Activism Care Tue, 23 Oct 2018 18:54:33 +0000 Perry Walker 120104 at We need an ecological civilization before it’s too late <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Promises of green growth are magical thinking. We have to restructure the fundamentals of our cultural and economic systems.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//" alt="" /></p><p class="image-caption">View from lookout hill of Japanese Gardens, Cowra, NSW, Australia. Credit: <a href=",_Cowra,_NSW,_22.09.2006.jpg">John O’Neill/Wikimedia Commons</a>.&nbsp; CC BY-SA 3.0.</p><p>We’ve now been warned by the world’s leading climate scientists that we have just twelve years to limit climate catastrophe. The UN’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) <a href="">has put the world on notice</a> that going from a 1.5° to 2.0° C rise in temperature above preindustrial levels would have disastrous consequences, with unprecedented flooding, drought, ocean devastation, and famine.</p> <p>Meanwhile, the world’s current policies <a href="">have us on track</a> for a more than 3° increase by the end of this century, and climate scientists publish dire warnings that amplifying feedbacks could <a href="">make things far worse</a> than even these projections, and thus <a href="">place at risk</a> the very continuation of our civilization. We need, <a href="">according to the IPCC</a>, “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.” But what exactly does that mean?</p> <p>Last month, at the <a href="">Global Climate Action Summit</a> (GCAS) in San Francisco, luminaries such as Governor Jerry Brown, Michael Bloomberg, and Al Gore gave their version of what’s needed with <a href="">an ambitious report</a> entitled “Unlocking the Inclusive Growth Story of the 21st Century by the New Climate Economy.” It trumpets a <a href="">New Growth Agenda</a>: through enlightened strategic initiatives, they claim, it’s possible to transition to a low-carbon economy that could generate millions more jobs, raise trillions of dollars for green investment, and lead to higher global GDP growth.</p> <p>But these buoyant projections by mainstream leaders, while overwhelmingly preferable to the Republican Party’s malfeasance, are utterly insufficient to respond to the crisis we face. In promising that the current system can fix itself with a few adjustments, they are turning a blind eye to <a href="">the fundamental drivers</a> that are propelling civilization toward collapse. By offering false hope, they deflect attention from the profound structural changes that our global economic system must make if we hope to bequeath a flourishing society to future generations.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Ecological overshoot.</strong></p> <p>That’s because even the climate emergency is merely a harbinger of other existential threats looming over humanity as a result of ecological overshoot—the fact that we’re depleting the earth’s natural resources at a faster rate than they can be replenished. As long as government policies emphasize growing GDP as a national priority, and as long as transnational corporations <a href="">relentlessly pursue greater shareholder returns</a> by ransacking the earth, we will continue to accelerate towards&nbsp; catastrophe.</p> <p>Currently, our civilization is running at <a href="">40% above its sustainable capacity</a>. We’re rapidly depleting the earth’s&nbsp;<a href="">forests</a>,&nbsp;<a href="">animals</a>,&nbsp;<a href="">insects</a>,&nbsp;<a href="">fish</a>, <a href="">freshwater</a> and even the&nbsp;<a href="">topsoil</a> we require to grow our crops.&nbsp;We’ve already transgressed three of the <a href="">nine planetary boundaries</a> that define humanity’s safe operating space, and yet global GDP is expected to <a href="">more than double</a> by mid-century, with potentially irreversible and devastating consequences. By 2050, it is estimated that <a href="">there will be more plastic</a> in the world’s oceans than fish. Last year, over fifteen thousand scientists from 184 countries <a href="">issued an ominous warning</a> to humanity that time is running out: “Soon it will be too late,” they wrote, “to shift course away from our failing trajectory.”</p> <p>Techno-optimists, including many of the GCAS dignitaries, like to dismiss these warnings with talk of “green growth”—essentially decoupling GDP growth from increased use of resources. While that would be a laudable goal, a number of studies have shown that it’s <a href="">simply not feasible</a>. Even the most wildly aggressive assumptions for greater efficiency would still result in consuming global resources <a href="">at double the sustainable capacity</a> by mid-century -a desperate situation indeed, but one that need not lead to despair. </p> <p>There is a scenario in which we can redirect humanity to a thriving future on a regenerated earth. But it would require us to rethink some of the sacrosanct beliefs of our modern world, beginning with the unquestioning reliance on <a href="">perpetual economic growth</a> within a global capitalist system directed by transnational corporations <a href="">driven exclusively by the need</a> to increase shareholder value for their investors.</p> <p>In short, we need to change the basis of our global civilization. We must move from a civilization based on wealth production to one based on the health of living systems: an ecological civilization.</p><p><strong>An ecological civilization.</strong></p> <p>The crucial idea behind an ecological civilization is that our society needs to change at a level far deeper than most people realize. It’s not just a matter of investing in renewables, eating less meat, and driving an electric car. The intrinsic framework of our global social and economic organization needs to be transformed. And this will only happen when enough people recognize the destructive nature of our current mainstream culture and replace it with one that is life-affirming—embracing values that emphasize growth in the quality of life rather than in the consumption of goods and services.</p> <p>A change of such magnitude would be an epochal event. There have been only two occasions in history when radical dislocations led to a transformation of virtually every aspect of the human experience: the Agricultural Revolution that began about twelve thousand years ago, and the Scientific Revolution of the 17th century. If our civilization is to survive and prosper through the looming crises of this century, we will need a transformation of our values, goals, and collective behavior on a similar scale. </p> <p>An ecological civilization would be based on the core principles that sustain living systems that coexist in natural ecologies. Insights into how ecologies self-organize offer a model for how we could organize human society in ways that could permit sustainable abundance. Organisms prosper when they develop multiple symbiotic relationships, wherein each party to a relationship both takes and gives reciprocally. In an ecology, energy flows are balanced and one species’ waste matter becomes nourishment for another. </p> <p>Entities within an ecology scale fractally, with microsystems existing as integral parts of larger systems to form a coherent whole. In a well-functioning ecosystem, each organism thrives by optimizing for its own existence within a network of relationships that enhances the common good. The inherent resilience caused by these dynamics means that—without human disruption—ecosystems can maintain their integrity for many thousands, and sometimes millions, of years.</p> <p>In practice, transitioning to an ecological civilization would mean restructuring some of the fundamental institutions driving our current civilization to destruction. In place of an economy based on perpetual growth in GDP, it would institute one that emphasized quality of life, using alternative measures such as a <a href="">Genuine Progress Indicator</a> to gauge success. Economic systems would be based on respect for individual dignity and fairly rewarding each person’s contribution to the greater good, while ensuring that nutrition, housing, healthcare, and educational needs were fully met for everyone. </p> <p>Transnational corporations <a href="">would be fundamentally reorganized</a> and made accountable to the communities they purportedly serve, to optimize human and environmental wellbeing rather than shareholder profits. Locally owned cooperatives would become the default organizational structure. Food systems would be designed to emphasize local production using <a href="">state-of-the-art agroecology</a> practices in place of fossil fuel-based fertilizer and pesticides, while manufacturing would prioritize <a href="">circular flows</a> where efficient re-use of waste products is built into the process from the outset.</p> <p>In an ecological civilization, the local community would be the basic building block of society. Face-to-face interaction would regain ascendance as a crucial part of human flourishing, and each community’s relationship with others would be based on principles of mutual respect, learning, and reciprocity. Technological innovation would still be encouraged, but would be prized for its effectiveness in enhancing the vitality of living systems rather than minting billionaires. The driving principle of enterprise would be that we are all interconnected in the web of life—and long-term human prosperity is therefore founded on a healthy Earth.</p><p><strong>Cultivating a flourishing future.</strong></p> <p>While this vision may seem a distant dream to those who are transfixed by the daily frenzy of current events, innumerable pioneering organizations around the world are already planting the seeds for this cultural metamorphosis. </p> <p>In China, President Xi Jinping <a href="">has declared</a> an ecological civilization to be a central part of his long-term vision for the country. In Bolivia and Ecuador, the related values of <a href=""><em>buen vivir</em></a> and <a href=""><em>sumak kawsay</em></a> (“good living’) are written into the constitution, and in Africa the concept of <a href=""><em>ubuntu</em></a> (“I am because we are”) is a widely-discussed principle of human relations. In Europe, hundreds of scientists, politicians, and policy-makers recently <a href="">co-authored a call</a> for the EU to plan for a sustainable future in which human and ecological wellbeing is prioritized over GDP. </p> <p>Examples of large-scale thriving cooperatives such as <a href="">Mondragon</a> in Spain demonstrate that it’s possible for companies to provide effectively for human needs without utilizing a shareholder-based profit model. Think tanks such as <a href="">The Next System Project</a>, <a href="">The Global Citizens Initiative</a>, and the <a href="">P2P Foundation</a> are laying down parameters for the political, economic, and social organization of an ecological civilization. Visionary authors such as <a href="">Kate Raworth</a> and <a href="">David Korten</a> have written extensively on how to reframe the way we think about our economic and political path forward.</p> <p>As the mainstream juggernaut drives our current civilization inexorably toward breaking point, it’s easy to dismiss these steps toward a new form of civilization as too insignificant to make a difference. However, as the current system begins to break down in the coming years, increasing numbers of people around the world will come to realize that a fundamentally different alternative is needed. Whether they turn to movements based on prejudice and fear or join in a vision for a better future for humanity depends, to a large extent, on the ideas available to them. </p> <p>One way or another, humanity is headed for the third great transformation in its history: either in the form of global collapse or a metamorphosis to a new foundation for sustainable flourishing. An ecological civilization offers a path forward that may be the only true hope for our descendants to thrive on Earth into the distant future. </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/jeremy-lent/culture-shift-redirecting-humanity-s-path-to-flourishing-future">Culture shift: redirecting humanity’s path to a flourishing future</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jeremy-lent/steven-pinker-s-ideas-are-fatally-flawed-these-eight-graphs-show-why">Steven Pinker’s ideas are fatally flawed. These eight graphs show why.</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 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation ecology climate change Jeremy Lent Environment Sun, 21 Oct 2018 19:36:26 +0000 Jeremy Lent 120111 at What came before #MeToo? The ‘himpathy’ that shaped misogyny <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Kate Manne’s “<a href=";lang=en&amp;">Down Girl</a>” describes the origins of a punitive social system that keeps women in their place by rewarding compliance and punishing resistance.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">llustration&nbsp;by Fran Murphy for YES! Magazine. All rights reserved.</p> <p>The #MeToo movement has brought unprecedented attention to sexual harassment and assault. It’s revealed just how many women feel besieged by sexually predatory behavior—especially in the workplace. The wave of women coming forward has shown that sexual harassment is the rule in many institutions.  </p> <p>And #MeToo has only revealed a small piece of a much larger problem. Although the most high-profile #MeToo stories have focused on celebrities or executives, most victims are disproportionately young, low-income, and minority women. Also less evident in the #MeToo movement have been cases of sexual violence: where shaming, trolling, threats, and unwelcome advances have given way to rape, physical violence, and even forms of torture—of which choking is the most common. </p> <p>In its most extreme cases, it can literally be a matter of life and death, and yet sexual harassment and violence remain largely hidden by an elaborate system of denial, gaslighting, and retraction of accusations by women. Meanwhile, unrepentant abusers are often comforted or excused while victims are blamed. </p> <p>How did we get here? Moral philosopher Kate Manne’s book,&nbsp;<em><a href=";lang=en&amp;">Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny</a></em>, helps explain. Thanks to Manne, the undue comfort that men receive now has a name: It’s called himpathy. And, together with how she defines misogyny, Manne provides a useful framework for understanding not just the present #MeToo moment, but what came before. </p> <p>For Manne, misogyny is not simply “men who hate women.” That’s far too simplistic, she says. Rather, it’s a far-reaching, punitive social system that keeps women in their place by rewarding </p> <p>Himpathy, a term destined to become part of the feminist vocabulary, names a problem previously unrecognized—and perhaps that’s the first step in solving it. Manne defines himpathy as the “excessive sympathy sometimes shown to male perpetrators of sexual violence,” in the attempt to preserve their reputation, power, or status. Accused men, especially those with privilege, are broadly treated with deference by the media and the public, and if they’re brought to court are given lenient sentences. </p> <p>This is so common as to be a given for men in power. Harvey Weinstein is a case in point. Wielding control over the film careers of many and trading on his artistic reputation, he escaped unscathed for decades. Excuses are abundantly generated: alcohol, flirtation taken too far, or provocation on the part of the victim. Himpathy builds on the idea that sexual predators and rapists are creepy monsters, not “golden boys.” Correspondingly, the women in these situations are characterized as hysterical, misguided, or liars who misread the intentions of their attackers. </p> <p>Himpathy is a helpful explanation of the response after sexual abuse allegations are revealed. Over and over, we’ve seen victim blaming and rewriting of the story by friends, family, media, and sometimes even the victim. Responses to #MeToo revelations by close-at-hand onlookers are often characterized by shock and guilt for having looked the other way when powerful and respected men are involved. </p> <p>But himpathy is certainly not a recent phenomenon. Historically, misogyny and himpathy have been normal, if unrecognized, fare for women in the workplace. </p> <p>Sexual coercion at work had to be named before it could be fought, and feminists of the 1970s identified common experiences women suffered by naming marital rape and domestic abuse. The term “sexual harassment” in the workplace was defined by Lin Farley in her 1978 book, “Sexual Shakedown: The Sexual Harassment of Women on the Job,” as “unsolicited nonreciprocal male behavior that asserts a woman’s sex role over her function as a worker.” </p> <p>Farley joined the legal scholar Catharine A. MacKinnon in pressing the courts to consider it part of “sex discrimination” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Act gave women and minorities new rights in employment. But there was still backlash. A law on the books is only the first step in triggering a cultural shift. And law is not useful unless some are willing to use it and make a claim.</p> <p>The recognition of sexual harassment as a form of employment-related discrimination opened the floodgates: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission began receiving tens of thousands of claims each year. Even with a rush of claims, many from low-wage workers, the definition of sexual harassment as interpreted by the courts is narrow and fails to consider the disadvantaged social circumstances of women that dissuade many from seeking legal recourse. Over the next 40 years, as women entered previously male-dominated fields, sexual harassment, though illegal under the law, persisted. </p> <p>Take, for example, the high-profile cases of Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas in 1991 or Bill Clinton and Paula Jones in 1994. Despite attracting a great deal of attention, these failed to mobilize a mass movement. In both cases, the men involved were held by many to be blameless while Hill and Jones were scrutinized for ill intentions. Hill’s accusation on national television ultimately did not stop the Thomas confirmation, and Jones faded into obscurity. High-profile cases like these are easily dismissed as aberrations, a moral failure of one individual, a political plot, or gold-digging on the part of victims. Non-transgressing men benefit from a system that keeps women in their place, and low-profile cases continue to be invisible. </p> <p>The backlash against #MeToo, in an already global movement, has begun. Sometimes the case is taken up by women, such as the actress Catherine Deneuve, who evoked the French tradition of seduction against sexual puritanism: “Clumsy flirting is not a crime,” she said. Claire Berlinski, writing for The American Interest, charged that in #MeToo, “mass hysteria had set in [as] a form of moral panic” that misinterprets naturally romantic interactions as nefarious. </p> <p>This women-against-women narrative is part of the story of misogyny and himpathy—and it’s part of why it’s so difficult to remedy. By standing by their man, “good women” show their deference and act as enforcers. In exchange for upholding gender norms—and participating in misogyny by punishing those who don’t—they earn favors and advancement, which reinforces even further the social deviance of the victims.</p> <p>After all, women can say no, these defenders say. But if you are not a woman with executive power or Meryl Streep, saying no is difficult.</p> <p>Women who work to support their families have few options. When the choice is between your job and your dignity, himpathy is likely to work as a silencing mechanism. Unless #MeToo successfully expands beyond professional women by reaching out to empower pink- and blue-collar women who suffer in silence under male supervisors, it will leave its mark but will not have done its most significant work. </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/ruth-c-white/is-toxic-masculinity-mask-for-anxiety">Is toxic masculinity a mask for anxiety?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/perry-dougherty/metoo-dialogue-and-healing">#MeToo, dialogue and healing</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/angela-mcrobbie/women-beware-president-trump-and-promise-of-violence"> Women beware: President Trump and the promise of violence</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 Lilian Calles Barger Liberation Care Intersectionality Thu, 18 Oct 2018 18:28:39 +0000 Lilian Calles Barger 119873 at The 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="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Dublin Castle after the abortion referendum results were declared, 26 May 2018. Credit: <a href="">Katenolan1979 via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="">CC BY-SA 4.0</a>.</p> <p>On September 29th 2018 I took part in Ireland’s annual “<a href="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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 1968 Laurence Cox Transformative nonviolence Activism Tue, 16 Oct 2018 19:21:17 +0000 Laurence Cox 120037 at Feminisms – in the plural – as a 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="//" 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="">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="">Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements</a> </em>by Charlene A. Carruthers and <em><a href="">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="">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="">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="">Tarana Burke</a> to support survivors and end sexual violence. To offer another example, a Bay Area–based organization called <a href="">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="">joyUs justUs</a></em>, a new work by the Los Angeles-based dance-theatre company <a href="">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="">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="">Cherríe Moraga</a> introduced her book <em><a href="">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 With the 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="">Waging Nonviolence</a></em></p><p><img src="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Stop Brett Kavanaugh Rally, Downtown Chicago, 2018. Credit: <a href="">Flickr/Charles Edward Miller</a>. <a href="">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="">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="">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="">Global Nonviolent Action Database</a>, we find successful campaigns both small and large. High school students in Flour Bluff, Texas,&nbsp;<a href="">won the right to have a gay-straight alliance</a>. Waterfront residents and Green Justice Philly&nbsp;<a href="">stopped construction of an oil export terminal</a>. Iranians nonviolently&nbsp;<a href="">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 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="// 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="">Flickr/Scott Lynch via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="">CC BY-SA 2.0</a></span></p> <p>Banksy’s&nbsp;<a href="">latest art prank</a>, in which one of his iconic works <a href="">shredded itself</a> after being won at auction, has enthused many of us who have been following the&nbsp;<a href="">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="">well known</a>, and this stunt comes almost a year after the world record was set for the auction sale of&nbsp;<a href="">Salvador Mundi</a>, allegedly by Leonardo Da Vinci, for a jaw-dropping $450,312,500 - sold by a&nbsp;<a href="">notorious Russian oligarch</a>&nbsp;to a member of the&nbsp;<a href="">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="">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="">financialization</a>. Usually this term is taken to refer to the increased power and influence of the&nbsp;<a href="">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="">algorithms and AI</a>&nbsp;to automate the trading of assets (which include things like the world’s&nbsp;<a href="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">purely financial asset</a>. These include&nbsp;<a href="">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="">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="">services</a>&nbsp;to those who leverage art as a&nbsp;<a href="">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="">zombie formalism</a>” of 2014 - a term introduced by art critic&nbsp;<a href="">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="">more interested</a>&nbsp;in protest banners than artistic canvases, I couldn’t care less about <a href="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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 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="//" 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="">Creditocracy</a>.</p></blockquote> <p>At the peak of the 2008 banking crisis the UK government had <a href="">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="">£45 billion of shares</a> in the Royal Bank of Scotland and <a href="">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="">over £1.6 trillion in 2018</a>, most of which are mortgages. Between 2012 and 2017 unsecured credit <a href="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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 Activism Economics Tue, 09 Oct 2018 18:07:53 +0000 Dan Edelstyn and Hilary Powell 119947 at How are we doing on a ‘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="//" 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="">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="" 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="" 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="">CarbonBrief</a> estimates that there are <a href="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">“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="">under severe pressure</a> at the moment. It has only committed <a href="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">OPEC narratives</a> of an oil boom in the future). </p> <p>Meanwhile, Mark Carney and Michael Bloomberg’s <a href=""><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="">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="">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="">“[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="">Green Quantitative Easing</a>’ (QE), combined with legally-binding timetables for fossil fuel phase-outs (the <a href=""><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="">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="">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="">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 What would a 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="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit:&nbsp;<a href="">Pixabay/Geralt</a>.&nbsp;<a href="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="//" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p>The seeds of human well-being are sown during pregnancy and the early years of childhood.&nbsp;<a href="">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="">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 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=";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 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="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href=""> via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="">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="">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="">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=";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="">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="">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="">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=";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 Political polarization Ian Hughes Care Culture Tue, 02 Oct 2018 14:49:16 +0000 Ian Hughes 119750 at 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="//" 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="">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="">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="">New York Bill of Rights for Domestic Workers</a> and five since the passage of <a href="">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="">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=";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 If the soul is ignored long enough, the 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="//" 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="">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 Don’t click here to save the world – go to the 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="//" 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="">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="">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="">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="">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=""></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="">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 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="">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="">Rallying Cry</a>.” </p> <p class="normal">The production <a href="">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="">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=""><em>Rallying Cry </em></a><a href="">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 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="//" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href=""></a>. <a href="">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="">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="">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="">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="">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="">FRIDA (the Young Feminist Fund</a>) and the <a href="">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="">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="">Thousand Currents</a> and Founder of the <a href="">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="">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="">writer</a> and Director of Programmes at the <a href="">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="" target="_blank"></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