Transformation https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/12848/all cached version 15/02/2019 11:58:00 en How can allies protect communities threatened with violence? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/george-lakey/how-can-allies-protect-communities-threatened-with-violence <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How to avoid the ‘white savior syndrome.’</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="wp-caption-text"><em>This article first appeared on <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/how-can-allies-protect-communities-threatened-with-violence/?pf=true">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p class="wp-caption-text"><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/GeorgeLakey8_0.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p><p class="image-caption">Black Lives Matter protesters kneel and raise their hands in London's Oxford Street - 8 July 2016. Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/alisdare/28087609562">Flickr/Alasdair Hickson</a>.&nbsp;<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">CC BY-NC 2.0</a>.</p> <p>A favorite tactic of the extremist right is to attack oppressed communities in order to discourage them from standing up for themselves. Milo Yiannopolous and Ann Coulter stand out as two celebrities who have done this verbally, while new groups like the Proud Boys and old groups like the Ku Klux Klan do it physically.</p> <p>When those who aren’t the ones being targeted show solidarity in some way, progressive movements have a better chance to grow. In the early 1970s gay men suffered a wave of physical attacks outside bars in Philadelphia’s Gayborhood because we’d gained publicity while campaigning for our rights. I led nonviolent workshops for the Gay Activist Alliance on how to respond to the bashers. I remember how moved I was when heterosexuals turned up at the workshops as well.</p> <p>In the proud history of LGBTQ progress, heterosexuals played an ally role even when it put them in jeopardy in one way or another. They were following the path of white people who’d risked by joining civil rights actions even though they were sometimes more severely beaten than their black comrades because whites were regarded as “race-traitors.” An example is portrayed in the Danny Glover film “Freedom Song,” the story of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s entrance into Mississippi Klan territory.</p> <p><strong>Avoiding the ‘white savior syndrome.’</strong></p> <p>Starting in the early 1980s liberals and progressives in the United States developed a culture that prioritized defense. When the economic elite initiated its fierce pushback, symbolized by President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 firing of the air traffic controllers in order to break their union, most of the major progressive movements of the 1960s and ‘70s became reactive. They decided to focus on retaining previously-won gains.</p> <p>A brave exception was the LGBTQ movement, which remained on the offensive and continued to win victories. The rest — labor, civil rights, women, school reformers — found their gains eroding, which is what happens when people go on the defensive.</p> <p>The progressives’ new defense-oriented culture means that antifa’s claim to defend vulnerable communities is appealing. For example, if you’re a middle-class activist already trying to defend previously-achieved gains, it will only seem natural to apply that approach to your newfound embrace of identity politics. After all, if your collective identity includes privilege, shouldn’t you leap to defend a group that is more oppressed? Isn’t that just “common sense”?</p> <p>Unfortunately, there’s a problem with this new progressive mode of thinking: being on the defense means coming from an inherent place of weakness. But that’s not the only problem of being on the defense — it also raises the always-tricky relationship of allies to an oppressed group.</p> <p>As is so often the case in trying to untangle the discourse on oppression, we find both classism and patriarchy have edged their way into the discussion. The very phrase “vulnerable communities” is a signal; the words suggest that I, the privileged ally, believe others — as communities — are weaker and need protection.</p> <p>It’s much more straightforward to respond to individuals being threatened. I’ve shared&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/re-writing-attackers-script/">stories of intervention</a>&nbsp;in situations where someone was being attacked or threatened. Luckily, my fellow teacher George Willoughby was nearby to step in nonviolently when I was being threatened with a knife by an outraged student. We intervene in those situations not because we’re privileged but because we’re able to be useful.</p> <p>What’s not helpful is the abstract assignment of “vulnerability” to a collective identity. The Collins Dictionary defines the word vulnerable as “weakness.” The very act of describing oppressed groups as needing help from me, “the stronger one,” fits all too neatly into classist, racist and other oppressive conditioning.</p> <p>The reality is that most of the wins for justice despite opposition by the economic elite have been gained mainly by the oppressed, not by the privileged. Based on results, the more vulnerable have been the stronger ones.</p> <p>Some men assisted in the woman suffrage movements, but most of the heavy lifting was done by “the weaker sex.” In the U.S. case, it was women picketing the White House who were beaten up, not men, and their willingness to respond nonviolently changed the politics of a nation at war.</p> <p><strong>Learning to trust ‘mother wit.’</strong></p> <p>I learned this phrase from a black student when I was teaching at the Martin Luther King School of Social Change. Because oppressed people have experienced so much mistreatment and survived, many of them have a finely-tuned intuition about how to handle their oppressors.</p> <p>I entrusted my life to that intuition, when — in 1989 — I joined the first Peace Brigades International, or PBI, team in Sri Lanka. Our job was to act as unarmed bodyguards for lawyers who were threatened with assassination because they were standing up for activists’ human rights.</p> <p>Each of us followed the directions of whichever lawyer we were assigned to. In one case I was told to live with the lawyer’s family and answer the doorbell at night after curfew, on the chance it was the hit squad there to kill the lawyer. Whatever delaying tactics I used, enhanced by my American white skin privilege, might give him the margin of safety he needed. He readily agreed to PBI’s policy that he needed to lock up his gun, believing that nonviolent intervention gave him a better chance than a shoot-out.</p> <p>After I moved into his house he took me on a “social call” to drink tea with the family of a colleague. On the way home he told me that the colleague was acquainted with the controller of the hit squad. “By tonight,” he said, “the controller will know all about PBI and possible repercussions if he kills me. He’ll think twice about dispatching the next hit squad.”</p> <p>The lawyer’s immediate tactical move once again reminded me of one reason why oppressed people have so often taken leadership in nonviolent breakthroughs. Their subordinate situation incentivizes them to look for subtle dynamics that provide openings, ways to move forward and still stay safe.</p> <p>I could relate. When the epidemic of gay-bashing broke out in my town, would I have wanted heterosexual allies to come into the Gayborhood with weapons to protect us, the “vulnerable community”? No way!</p> <p>As a gay man struggling in the ‘70s, the last thing I wanted was well-meaning allies to pack a gun to protect me. I had gay friends who’d been bashed and I knew of lesbians and gay men who’d been killed. Our movement chose nonviolent tactics because, in our judgment, more of us were likely to get badly hurt or killed if violence was used for “protection.”</p> <p>That’s like the Jewish congregations of today who, after the Squirrel Hill massacre in Pittsburgh, are refusing to use armed guards partly because they believe it’s safer to rely on the community of nonviolent allies than to risk the possibility of violent escalation with violent anti-Jewish forces.</p> <p>The Sri Lankan lawyer and other human rights defenders’ intuitive choice to rely on nonviolent intervention for survival has been borne out empirically. For decades now&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/laboratories-for-nonviolent-defense/">PBI and other unarmed civilian peacekeepers</a>&nbsp;have been operating in violent situations, keeping people alive.</p> <p><strong>Violence is a hatchet when a surgeon’s knife is needed.</strong></p> <p>The intention of well-meaning allies to assist threatened communities is made more difficult with violence. As shown by the examples above, allies to oppressed people will do better by letting go of the “father knows best” syndrome and respecting the intuitive survival knowledge of those in that community who can see the subtleties and therefore can appreciate the value of creative nonviolent intervention.</p> <p>Violence is anything but subtle; in fact, it is such a gross tool that it often spins a situation out of control. Cornell West was relieved when armed anti-fascists came to the rescue in Charlottesville, Virginia when he and other pastors were surrounded by menacing white supremacists. However, because counter-violence usually amps up a confrontation, the pastors could instead have been hurt or killed by random cross-fire.</p> <p>In fact, in the growing chaos other anti-racists were injured and killed in Charlottesville. Hopefully the next time professor West enters a chancy situation he’ll make sure that those doing the intervention know their nonviolent tactics and know how to de-escalate instead of bringing a higher degree of chaos.</p> <p>As the civil rights movement learned brilliantly in multiple situations of violent threat by white supremacists, tactics of disruption can be effective when we’re in charge. That means, for one thing, doing our nonviolent direct action as part of a strategic campaign, as in Birmingham, Selma, and Mississippi. Chaos, on the other hand, is not our friend. Even the weapon-carrying experiment by the&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/did-civil-rights-need-deacons-for-defense/">Deacons of Defense</a>, composed of other black people, was problematic.</p> <p><strong>And what about winning?</strong></p> <p>In the LGBTQ community we want more than relief from the bullying and life-threatening violence we have endured. We also wanted to win equality. Those in any oppressed community ready to struggle know there are risks, would like to minimize them, and still want to choose a strategy that maximizes their chance of winning.</p> <p>Political scientists Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan found in their sample of 323 cases of mass struggle that the opponent responded with violent repression 88 percent of the time – in both violent and nonviolent struggles. The opponent’s power and privilege was, after all, threatened whether the movement used violence or nonviolent action. However, nonviolent campaigns that responded to the repression with nonviolent tactics increased their chance of winning by about 22 percent.</p> <p>In other words, if your goals are substantial enough, expect suffering no matter which means you use. Choosing to respond nonviolently increases the chance that the suffering will result in more justice for your community. My new book, “How We Win,” aims to maximize your chance of winning, by drawing from a century’s worth of successful campaigns to find lessons especially applicable to today’s political moment.</p> <p>The civil rights movement, running ahead of the political scientists, believed that nonviolent discipline would increase their probability of success when facing terroristic violence. The overwhelming majority of black participants in the Deep South relied on nonviolent discipline instead of violent self-defense. The movement won its greatest victories in the part of the United States where the violence against it was the worst.</p> <p>This wisdom about how we win is very much alive today. On November 22, 2015, five members of Black Lives Matter were shot by white supremacists during a late-night demonstration at a police precinct station in Minneapolis.</p> <p>Instead of the movement asking the mostly-white members of Standing Up for Racial Justice, or SURJ, to bring armed protection for continued demonstrations,&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/black-lives-matter-came-back-stronger-white-supremacist-attacks/">Black Lives Matter raised its level of nonviolent confrontation</a>. They led a mass march from the precinct to City Hall. Instead of relying on masks (which signal fear), the organizers began the march by circling the precinct, urging the demonstrators to “let them see our faces, let them know who is here.”</p> <p>The white supremacists backed off instead of continuing to attack the campaign’s actions. Expecting bullets to intimidate black people into stopping their campaign just wasn’t working, and white allies worked in tandem with that.</p> <p>It’s only one story of many in which oppressed communities lead the way, innovating nonviolent responses to attack that not only reduced further injury but also pushed the campaign assertively forward. Antifa, and all of us, need to learn from those innovations.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/what-role-were-you-born-to-play-in-social-change">What role were you born to play in social change?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/george-lakey/navigating-white-water-of-these-turbulent-times">Navigating the white water of these turbulent times</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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> </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, 14 Feb 2019 20:54:38 +0000 George Lakey 121668 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Love beyond borders https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/niki-seth-smith/love-beyond-borders <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How will the hardening of immigration policies affect the radical potential of romance?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/NikiSethSmithnew.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/ludalmg90/35405380270/">Flickr/Ludalmg90</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">CC BY-NC-ND 2.0</a>.</p> <p class="Default">Worldwide, we now have the highest level of displaced people in recorded history, 68.65 million <a href="https://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html">according to the UN Refugee Agency</a>. With borders hardening around the world, more people than ever are taking on the slippery, often tortuous challenge of proving their relationships to the authorities, which often boils down to having their love recognised as legitimate by the state. I’m one of them, or fear I soon will be.</p> <p class="Default">Last summer I got engaged to my partner, a Greek national. We bid the blue skies of Athens goodbye and moved permanently back to London. I can’t pretend that Brexit had nothing to do with it. Yes, our commitment to each other is an act of two souls, a gesture towards the infinite. But when it comes to ‘this world and the next’, our decision is very much of this one. While civil partnerships might be acknowledged in the EU (where the ECHR’s ‘right to respect of private and family life’ <a href="https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/human-rights-act/article-8-respect-your-private-and-family-life">also covers unmarried couples</a>), the easiest route to security and recognition is getting hitched.</p> <p class="Default">It’s a world where bumbling technocrats <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/28/frictionless-unicorns-max-fac-brexit-lingo">bray about unicorns</a> and metaphorical cake while the UK inches slowly towards the precipice of leaving the European Union on 29th March without a deal. The British government has provided assurances that they’ll protect the rights of the 3.5 million EU citizens currently residing on these islands like my partner, but I don’t trust a word of it. After all, it’s the current Prime Minister who, as Home Secretary in 2010, decided to put a price on love - £18,600 per year to be exact. Anyone earning below that minimum can’t bring a foreign spouse into the country. But don’t worry, if you’re wealthy enough you can still study, or be a homemaker, or whatever you want. All you need is a paltry <a href="https://crossborderlegal.co.uk/using-cash-saving-meet-income-threshold-uk-spouse-visa/">£62,500 in cash savings</a>.</p> <p class="Default">None of this should be a shock. The deeply unsettling feeling that I may be treated as a second-class citizen in my own country, that my rights and those of my partner may be curtailed or withdrawn, is the norm for vast swathes of the population. Wake up, I hear you say. Look around. Read some history. But ‘we’ never thought it would happen to ‘us.’ After the EU referendum, white privileged Westerners like me are having to confront the fact that our citizenship may not be enough - or perhaps enough for us but not for our loved ones.</p> <p class="Default">Our most enduring love stories are all about bridging divides. Romeo and Juliet, The Little Mermaid, Pretty Woman…&nbsp; In these stories romantic passion overcomes various kinds of differences - whether family, race, nationality, class or even species. As Juliet says of her Romeo, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Our favourite fridge-magnets say it all. This is the ‘power of love:’ its capacity to bring two people together in spite of society’s arbitrary barriers; and also the ‘blindness of love’ - the besotted’s capacity to see through to the inner truth of the Other.</p> <p>This capacity has always been political. Love, as an irrational and unifying force is dangerous to those who wish to maintain rule-bound divisions between demographics. One of the most moving voices on the politics of love is James Baldwin, a man whose lifework was inseparable from his wrestling with the distinctions of sexual and racial identity. It takes strength to break down the walls of the self and society in order to encounter the beloved. “Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within,” <a href="https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Byc3bSmjtb8C&amp;pg=PA62&amp;lpg=PA62&amp;dq=%E2%80%9Ca+state+of+grace%E2%80%9D,+%E2%80%9Ca+tough+and+universal+sense+of+quest+and+daring+and+growth%E2%80%9D.+James+Baldwin&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=kpdzoYKYzr&amp;sig=ACfU3U2EgEicckS2a_K6QTagFvxC-Nvm2A&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=2ahUKEwjt8ZLhirTgAhWLUhUIHej_BMAQ6AEwAHoECAMQAQ#v=onepage&amp;q=%E2%80%9Ca%20state%20of%20grace%E2%80%9D%2C%20%E2%80%9Ca%20tough%20and%20universal%20sense%20of%20quest%20and%20daring%20and%20growth%E2%80%9D.%20James%20Baldwin&amp;f=false">Baldwin writes</a>. He describes it as a “state of grace” which demands “a tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.”</p> <p class="Default">For most of Baldwin’s life inter-racial marriages were forbidden, and he never got to see gay marriage. Whatever your approach to this institution, marriage is the primary mechanism by which societies have traditionally sought to limit the transgressive power of love. Now, in the United States, you can get married to a person of any race, nationality or gender - but not if they don’t have the right papers.</p> <p class="Default">In the US, the institution of marriage has traditionally been a ‘golden loophole.’ Undocumented immigrants married to American citizens were rarely deported under President Obama, but Trump has <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/19/us/immigration-marriage-green-card.html">upended this consensus</a>. Marriage in America, as in Britain, is no longer enough to guarantee the right to live with your spouse. Apparently President Trump has no qualms about tearing married couples apart, even if he eventually relented on his <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jan/17/trump-family-separations-report-latest-news-zero-tolerance-policy-immigrant-children">devastating policy </a>of family separation.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Default">The Washington Post <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Xo5awEkZyg&amp;fbclid=IwAR057DVMee6BeZjkKAQsvppyoTgPYlUuZWWPM4X-7vTlFqE80ifC_pkZ71I">recently posted</a> a short film showing the effects of the travel ban more than two years after it was first enacted against seven Muslim-majority countries. The film follows two estranged married couples. At one point a young American woman who got married to her Iranian partner more than two years ago and is agonisingly awaiting their re-union, answers the question ‘why him?’ Because, she says, “Our differences make up the other.” </p> <p>The philosopher <a href="http://labos.ulg.ac.be/cipa/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2015/07/73_shwartz.pdf">Michael Hardt</a> has developed a politics of love that posits “love of the same” and “love of the neighbour,” which can function within certain kinds of nationalism and religious fundamentalism, against “love of the different” and “love of the stranger.” &nbsp;Hardt is against the institution of marriage, the “bourgeois couple and the claustrophobic confines of the nuclear family.” Yet presumably, by the same logic he’d also be against the restriction of the rights of migrants or trans-national low-income couples to marry or have their marriage recognised by the state. The further we travel along this road, the more we are consigned to a culture that disparages “love of the different” and celebrates “love of the same.” </p> <p>Of course, this is only the latest crack-down on the radical potential of love. It’s no surprise that LGBTQI+ groups have been some of the most vocal and active in supporting refugee and immigrant communities across Europe and the USA. It’s not only that queer asylum seekers often face insurmountable hurdles when asked to provide evidence of their life and relationships to their destination countries. This community also bring a broader understanding, born out of centuries of experience, of what it means for your choice of partner to be invisible, rejected or attacked by the state. </p> <p class="Default">The policing of love, for migrants as for others deemed to be outsiders, is arguably as old as society itself. It’s just that the current refugee crisis is producing new and obscene results. The EU has recently set up <a href="https://edri.org/greece-clarifications-sought-on-human-rights-impacts-of-iborderctrl/">Artificial Intelligence lie detectors</a> in Greece, Latvia and Hungary in a trial worth 45 million Euros. Despite evidence that the technology <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/02/eu-border-lie-detection-system-criticised-as-pseudoscience">may be ‘pseudo-scientific,’</a> they are being used to interview immigrants and asylum seekers about many things, including their relationships. The results will count with other ‘proofs’ of true love, along with children’s birth certificates, marriage photos and even Facebook posts. The UK is <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-46830373">being urged</a> to employ these machines in order to halt “abuse of the asylum system” and spot “signs of deception.”</p> <p class="Default">I heard some horrific Love Police stories while volunteering at a refugee school run by Palestinians in the centre of Athens. There was the Syrian salesman who discovered that his wife couldn’t join him because they’d been married by a Sheik (a <a href="https://fanack.com/refugees/unregistered-marriages-among-syrian-refugees/">significant proportion</a> of the Syrian refugee population are married but lack official papers). There was the maddening account of the immigration officer who declared that an Afghani-Greek couple weren’t cohabiting because their doorbell didn’t bear both of their names (he never even bothered to ring).&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p class="Default">Then again, there was also the British woman running the education program who had fallen in love with her Palestinian partner while volunteering in a refugee camp. Now she’s looking into moving with him to the UK, either by meeting or working around the £18,600 minimum income attached to partner sponsorship. They’ll find a way, or they’ll go elsewhere. While borders are closing down, the flow of people across the globe is also forging new connections.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p class="Default">For my part, I can testify to love as a pathway to radical empathy. I would never have engaged as profoundly with Athens and the people I met there without the connection I have with my partner. &nbsp;I’m grateful that we were given that time, now that the future looks uncertain.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p class="Default">When we met in 2014 at a house party on a snowy night in Finsbury Park, when the EU referendum was just a glint in Nigel Farage’s eye, it never occurred to me to think about the future implications of my partner’s passport. I never imagined that we might be here now, amassing the requisite papers, obsessively refreshing the Brexit headlines.</p> <p class="Default">How could I have predicted 2019? I was raised on the ‘Cool Britannia’ dream of frictionless globalisation. No-one could take away our rights to “workin, ravin, chattin, roamin” as the Remain campaign put it in a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/may/24/ravin-chattin-roamin-eu-remain-campaign-appeals-to-young-voters">noxious video</a> designed to encourage the ‘EasyJet generation’ to vote against separating ourselves from Europe. Behind this offer of Euro-rail and sunny jobs abroad was always the promise of foreign flings. Sex and love were supposed to be free.</p> <p class="Default">But this was always a white-washed illusion, one that is being shaken now for ‘us’ Western white people who are having to question our assumption that our rights as citizens will be protected along with the rights of our loved ones. We’re having to taste the anxiety experienced by billions across the globe who have never been able to make such assumptions. Needless to say, there’s no equivalency here. In a post-Trump, post-Brexit world, we can only attempt to grow our love.</p> <p class="Default">Love trumps hate. Love against borders. These slogans aren’t only about extending compassion to the strangers around us, or the rights of couples to be together regardless of their passport or immigration status. They’re also about the basic human drive to come together across divides. We urgently need to harness this drive, whatever the future may bring. </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/niki-seth-smith/romantic-love-agent-of-change-0">Romantic love: an agent of change? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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 class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/mary-evans/love-in-time-of-neo-liberalism">Love in a time of neo-liberalism</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 immigration migration Niki Seth-Smith Love and Spirituality Tue, 12 Feb 2019 20:36:53 +0000 Niki Seth-Smith 121661 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “Alle Shalle Be Wele:” Julian of Norwich and the process of transformation https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/veronica-mary-rolf/alle-shalle-be-wele-julian-of-norwich-and-process-of-transformatio <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What might a medieval recluse say to postmodern activists?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/VeronicaRolf.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Julian of Norwich. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/londonmatt/35231829295">Flickr/Matt Brown</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Explorers-Guide-Julian-Norwich-Guides/dp/0830850880">Julian of Norwich</a> was born in 1342. No stranger to violence and suffering, she grew up in a world ravaged by <a href="https://www.history.com/topics/middle-ages/hundred-years-war">the Hundred Years’ War</a> between England and France and torn apart by <a href="https://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-28/1378-great-papal-schism.html">the Great Papal Schism</a>. She also lived through the <a href="https://www.britannica.com/event/Peasants-Revolt">Peasants’ Revolt</a> in 1381, during which thousands of disenfranchised tenant farmers and laborers marched all over England looting monasteries, burning records of their serfdom and debt, and killing their hated overlords. Most tragic of all, from the time Julian was six years old, she endured repeated outbreaks of the <a href="https://www.historytoday.com/ole-j-benedictow/black-death-greatest-catastrophe-ever">Great Pestilence - later termed the Black Death</a> - which eventually killed more than half the population of Europe, some <em>50 million </em>people. It was no less than apocalyptic.</p> <p>In May of 1373 when Julian was 30, her body broke down. She became paralyzed and was near death. The local curate told her to fix her eyes on the crucifix. Suddenly all her pain was taken away and the figure of Christ on the cross appeared to come alive. For the next 12 hours, Julian entered into a profound mystical experience of Christ’s sufferings and his transformation into glory. She received sixteen revelations and heard locutions that stayed with her for the rest of her life - especially Christ’s personal reassurance that “Alle shalle be wele and alle shalle be wele and all manner of thing shalle be wele.”</p> <p>At first, Julian could not accept these words. How could she believe that ‘all things would be well’ when her own world was obviously falling apart? She was so tortured by the success of evil and the degradation of suffering that she had often wondered why “the beginning of sin had not been prevented. For then I thought all would have been wele.” She dared to question the vision: “Ah, good lord, <em>how </em>might alle be wele for the great harm that has come by sin to thy creatures?” Julian’s mental anguish was not just an excessive medieval preoccupation with sin; it was indicative of humanity’s innate sense that our lives are terribly broken and that we don’t know how to fix them. We simply cannot save ourselves from the messes we get into because of our pride, anger, selfishness, jealousy, greed and lies.</p> <p>Surprisingly, Julian was told in a locution that sin could be “behovely” - that is, “useful,” even “necessary”- because it forces us to realize our need for divine mercy and spiritual healing. She further understood that in God there is no wrath or blame - all the anger and recrimination are on <em>our</em> side. God shows only compassion and pity for human beings because of the inevitable suffering we have to endure as a result of our misdeeds. Julian became convinced that everyone is loved unconditionally by God. As she wrote:</p> <blockquote><p>“For our soul is so preciously loved by him that is highest, that it overpasses the knowing of all creatures: that is to say, there is no creature that is made that may know how much and how sweetly and how tenderly our maker loves us…And therefore we may ask of our lover, with reverence, all that we will.”</p></blockquote> <p>This revelation filled Julian with immense compassion for her fellow human beings. She longed to bear witness to divine love, mercy, and the revelations she had experienced. Admittedly, Julian did not become ‘politically active’ in our contemporary sense. No woman in her time was allowed to be educated at university (i.e. Oxford or Cambridge), hold public office, instruct others, or preach from a pulpit. Lay people were forbidden to teach religion (except to their children). But if we consider that ‘political’ connotes selfless devotion to serving the ‘body politic’ and showing compassion to those in need, then Julian did become a force for social transformation. There were three things she decided to do: <em>pray, counsel, and write</em>.</p> <p>Around 1390, Julian chose to be enclosed as an anchorite - literally “anchored” to the side of the church of St. Julian (no relation) in Norwich. There she lived for about 25 years in a small hermit’s cell, attended by a maid who brought her food, clean clothing, parchment and ink. She devoted herself to prayer and contemplation, to counseling those who came to her anchorage window seeking spiritual direction, and to writing.</p> <p>Julian worked diligently on several versions of the Long Text of her revelations (she had penned a Short Text in the 1370s). She developed a mystical theology of the Trinity; of the goodness of God reflected in a tiny hazelnut; of the lack of wrath or blame in God; of the godly will “that never assented to sin, nor never shall;” of the Great Deed that Christ will accomplish at the end of the world; of divine inspiration that is the ground of our beseeching in prayer; of the value of suffering; and of the ‘motherhood’ of God, so relevant to our time.</p> <p>She realized that “as truly as God is our father, as truly is God our mother.” By giving birth to humankind in blood and water on the cross and by nurturing and inspiring us throughout our lives, Mother Christ is the paradigm for all earthly mothers, caregivers, advisors, teachers, and volunteers; for all those who dedicate their lives to the works of mercy and social service. All the while, Julian searched for the deeper meaning of all the Lord’s revelations. One day she was answered in prayer: “Know it well, love was his meaning.” Divine love became the meaning of her life and her message to the world.</p> <p>Although Julian was, by her own account, “unlettered” (she could not read or write Latin, the language of Scripture and theology), she was the first woman ever to write a book in the English language. She implored her readers to receive the revelations as if they had been shown to<em> us</em>, not her. She died sometime after 1416, and her writings were almost destroyed during the Reformation. Providentially, the Long Text was scurried away to France by recusant Benedictine nuns. It was not until 1910 that the Short Text finally resurfaced at a Sotheby’s auction. Since then, Julian’s reputation and influence have grown worldwide. The American mystic and activist <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/susan-rakoczy/dorothy-day-and-thomas-merton-two-journeys-to-wholeness">Thomas Merton</a> called Julian one of “the greatest English theologians,” and former Archbishop of Canterbury <a href="http://www.brepols.net/Pages/ShowProduct.aspx?prod_id=IS-9782503522968-1">Rowan Williams</a> considered Julian’s book to be “the most important work of Christian reflection in the English language.”</p> <p>What has Julian to tell us about the process of transformation? How can we work to make ‘all things well’ in our world without losing heart? Anyone who has ever served the poor, the persecuted, or the marginalized knows that the two greatest dangers are disillusionment and burnout. The problems are so vast and our efforts so small. In our frustration, we may try to dictate solutions instead of eliciting creative collaboration. We become exhausted, infuriated, and sometimes feel betrayed. We question how we can continue when the odds seem stacked against us.</p> <p>Julian would tell us that we must go into the “ground” of our being in order to “live contemplatively.” Like her, we must develop a daily practice in which we learn to rest and breathe in silence and stillness, becoming aware of the turbulence in our minds, releasing thoughts and letting go of our emotional attachment to those thoughts. We need to become ever more <em>aware of</em> <em>being aware,</em> in order to experience the deep interconnectedness of our own awareness with divine awareness. And then we must rely on divine awareness working in us and through us if we are to make a difference. We cannot do it alone. And we cannot do what others must do for themselves. We can only evaluate, advise, encourage, and empower.</p> <p>Will such a contemplative practice transform the world? Not immediately. But it will transform <em>us</em>. Our love will go deeper, our patience will grow stronger, and our service will become more authentic and productive. We will be able to feel compassion for those who challenge us, and keep our balance in situations that threaten to undermine us. We will listen more attentively, evaluate opposing viewpoints more generously, and cooperate more willingly. We will recognize that the real work of transformation - whether of individuals or of nations - is <em>divine </em>work. Nevertheless, we humans play an indispensable part: every act of peace and loving service, and every word of kindness or forgiveness helps to make “alle manner of thing” well. The more we collaborate with the work of divine love, the more we will experience that love bearing fruit in our own lives and in the lives of others. As we are transformed, others will be too.</p> <p>The revelation that “alle shalle be wele” does not provide an instant cure-all for our personal, family, and global problems. These words are a prophecy and a promise - of an <em>ultimate</em> transformation. Eventually, divine love will convert every evil into good, every inequality into justice, and every suffering into joy. However, we will not be able to see how this will happen until we have been fully transformed from within; until we have been recreated through death and rebirth into the divine dimension. Then at last we will be able to understand how “alle manner of thing shalle be wele” - because the divine dimension is love.</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/mysticism-of-wide-open-eyes">The mysticism of wide open eyes</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/erika-summerseffler-hyunjin-deborah-kwak/where-are-missing-mystics-of-revolution">Where are the missing mystics of the revolution?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/susan-rakoczy/dorothy-day-and-thomas-merton-two-journeys-to-wholeness">Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton: two journeys to wholeness</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation religion and social transformation Veronica Mary Rolf Liberation Love and Spirituality Sun, 10 Feb 2019 21:34:28 +0000 Veronica Mary Rolf 121598 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Five behaviors that perpetuate toxic capitalism https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/suzannah-weiss/five-behaviors-that-perpetuate-toxic-capitalism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Money and productivity don’t define us; love does.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Susaannahweiss.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/buridan/3173736881">Flickr/Jeremy Hunsinger</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p><em>Originally published on <a href="https://everydayfeminism.com/2016/11/common-behaviors-toxic-capitalism/?mc_cid=7d8121e158&amp;mc_eid=31d9702634">Everyday Feminism</a>.</em></p> <p>This summer, I spoke with a therapist about my issues with workaholism and compulsive saving.</p> <p>I was working 17 hours a day, making ten times the money I needed to survive, and depriving myself of doctors’ appointments, food, and other necessities out of fear of seeing the number in my bank account go down.</p> <p>“How do I stop?” I asked.</p> <p>And then he said something that really rang true: Trying to stop working so much or saving so much money probably won’t work. But when I feel better about myself, I’ll naturally do those things – because I won’t rely on work or money for my value.</p> <p>That’s when I realized why I can’t stop torturing myself to gain things I don’t need or benefit from: I don’t have an identity outside my achievements or my money. I determine my self-worth based on how much traditionally-defined success I attain.</p> <p>And I didn’t decide that. I learned that somewhere – namely, from toxic capitalist values.</p> <p>When I talk about capitalism, I’m not talking about the economic system. It may be possible to live somewhere with a capitalist economy and see yourself as a valuable human being regardless of your wealth or your job.</p> <p>But it does make it difficult, especially in places like the US, where one’s rung on the economic ladder determines&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2012/11/lies-of-plutocracy/">how much respect</a>&nbsp;they’re afforded.</p> <p>We live in a society where many don’t consider unemployed people worthy of basic life necessities, where poor or working class&nbsp;people are deemed unproductive and incompetent, and where we have so little respect for people without a traditional job that our government&nbsp;<a href="https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs28.htm" target="_blank">requires no paid family leave</a>.</p> <p>Through this culture, we internalize the idea that people with more “impressive” jobs and money are superior.</p> <p>Paradoxically, Americans also learn that&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/11/american-dream-for-white-ppl/">everyone is equal</a>. And we often try to apply this value to other people, at least on the surface. But the belief that people are&nbsp;<em>unequal</em>&nbsp;still comes out in our subconscious behaviors – and in our attitudes toward ourselves.</p> <p>Toxic capitalism teaches us to view ourselves as machines and calculate our worth based on how much we produce, whether that’s in money or work output.</p> <p>I’m not saying we’re powerless to change our lifestyles for the sake of our mental health.</p> <p>What I&nbsp;<em>am</em>&nbsp;saying is that we’re not the ones who decided our worth lay in our productivity. Other people teach us this lesson – it’s part of our everyday norms, even as this belief erodes at our well being and humanity.</p> <p>Here are just a few behaviors that encourage destructive behaviors by promoting toxic capitalist values.</p> <p><strong>1. Praising kids conditionally.</strong></p> <p>When we’re growing up, authority figures shower us with praise for good grades and excellence in extracurriculars. But we’re rarely told we’re valuable or special or loved even if all that goes away.</p> <p>The way to get gold stars from teachers is to ace tests. The way to get high fives or special meals from our parents may be to win sports games or awards.</p> <p>In short, we learn that the way to make adults like us and love us is to achieve.</p> <p>And when we’re kids, we need adults to like and love us. We depend on them to survive. We’ll do whatever it takes to gain their approval.</p> <p>As adults, we may not need our elders’ care anymore. But our brains mainly develop when we’re kids, and the neural pathways leading from achievement to reward are deeply ingrained, like a route you move through in the woods until it’s an indented path.</p> <p>Parents don’t realize that when they praise kids for being smart or athletic or pretty, they’re implying that this is what makes them worthy of love. But when they don’t praise them unconditionally – outside their accomplishments or even their qualities – this is what kids conclude.</p> <p>Our brains, after all, are wired to detect patterns, like&nbsp;<em>When I eat, I stop feeling hungry,</em>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<em>when I do all my homework, Mom’s nicer to me.</em></p> <p>Detecting these patterns is how we survive. It’s no wonder they’re so hard to undo once we realize they don’t serve us anymore.<strong></strong></p> <p><strong>2. Pushing kids, even when it takes a toll on them.</strong></p> <p>Under toxic capitalism, you learn that you’re not working hard enough if you’re not in discomfort.</p> <p>Some of us may first learn this through sports.</p> <p>When I was seven, I remember seeing my eleven-year-old brother throw up during an elementary school race that my dad had trained us for. I thought,&nbsp;<em>I’m not throwing up. I’m not working hard enough.</em></p> <p>Then there were the soccer games, where my dad would yell at me from the sidelines. “Come on!” he’d say angrily.</p> <p>It was scary. Desperate to avoid his anger, I threw my all into games, ignoring pain and cold because he’d tell me I was tough for playing in the cold and not complaining about bruises. I loved my bruises. They proved I wasn’t weak.</p> <p>I felt ashamed for wishing soccer games were canceled after my dad talked scornfully about the “laziness” of a classmate with the same hope.</p> <p>I grew up in an especially achievement-orientated culture and family, so some of this may be specific to my upbringing, which was filled with race and class privilege.</p> <p>But many people can probably relate to what I learned from this: Comfort meant indulgence. Comfort meant stagnation. It’s outside your comfort zone that you grow. No pain, no gain.</p> <p>This mentality also comes out in our approach to academics. I remember hearing my high school classmates talk about how much sleep they missed to study for tests. I felt inadequate for not making such a sacrifice.</p> <p>One night in college, my friend observed that she did less reading for the classes she liked most because she had this nagging feeling that it wasn’t work.</p> <p>We all laughed, because a lot of us also had trouble convincing ourselves that enjoyable work was worth our time.</p> <p>Somewhere along the way, we’d learned that pain was a sign of progress and pleasure was dangerous – because pleasure&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/02/self-care-productivity-monsters/">was supposedly unproductive</a>.</p> <p>Under toxic capitalism, happiness is considered inherently bad, even when it’s not actually getting in the way of anything.</p> <p><strong>3. Looking down on people who get less done.</strong></p> <p>Throughout our lives, we implicitly learn that it’s “stronger” and “more respectable” to spend time working than it is to spend time relaxing.</p> <p>This may start with our parents. My dad, for example, would criticize people who didn’t get a lot of work done or have full-time jobs with words like “ineffectual,” and praise people with “hardworking” and “disciplined” jobs. I earned both labels depending how I behaved, which made me work extra hard to get the good words.</p> <p>This same attitude is also in the media and in our schools. Students at my elementary school, for example, received grades for “conscientiousness” on our report cards.</p> <p>The “good” students were the ones who stayed in their seats and got all their work done. The “bad” ones arrived at school without their homework.</p> <p>I was constantly terrified of becoming one of the “bad” kids and getting in trouble. So I never did.</p> <p>I would work through lunch. I would work on the bus. I would work while my friends were out at night. Nobody would ever catch me being undisciplined.</p> <p>I recently told a friend I was scared of quitting any work because I didn’t want to be idle. “But what’s wrong with that?” he asked.</p> <p>I didn’t know, I realized. Being idle actually sounded fun. I wasn’t the one who decided it was wrong. Toxic capitalism and the people who perpetuated it decided that for me.</p> <p>In a capitalist society that says you are only as good as what you contribute, being undisciplined is akin to not being human. And people will go to extraordinary lengths to see their humanity acknowledged.</p> <p><strong>4. Praising people based on money.</strong></p> <p>People love to say that they only care about people’s inner qualities, not their material possessions, and that it’s important to follow passion, not money.</p> <p>But even those who most vehemently declare this often promote the idea that the more money you make, the better – and that people in higher-paying jobs are succeeding at life.</p> <p>The Internet and bookstores are full of advice from millionaires on how to become successful, as if they’re the authorities on success. Magazines publish lists celebrating the highest-paid people in their industries. People get their own TV shows, where everyone hears what they have to say, just for being rich.</p> <p>As students, many of us are taught to study computer science or business to have a better shot at a large paycheck after graduation. Even the effort to get more women and people of color into&nbsp;STEM and leadership roles&nbsp;– which is<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/04/stem-outreach-feminist-issue/">&nbsp;generally a good thing</a>&nbsp;– often teaches them to pursue these careers because they’re high-paying and prestigious, not because they love them.</p> <p>People, and especially women,&nbsp;are also taught to aspire to date doctors, lawyers, and financiers even when they’re already supporting themselves. I once literally got a high five for dating a medical resident.</p> <p>Obviously, we need money to survive. But our culture values money for its own sake, way beyond the point needed for survival.</p> <p>As someone with a stereotypically low-paying job, but above-average annual earnings, I clearly see how&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/05/common-classist-assumptions/">the way people treat me</a>&nbsp;changes when they find out what I make.</p> <p>They go from making comments like “Well, as long as you enjoy it” to “Wow, that’s impressive,” “Could you help me with this thing I’m working on,” and even, “Do you want to speak at our school?” Suddenly, they want to know what I have to say.</p> <p>On the anniversary of my grandpa’s death this year, my dad told me my grandpa would be so proud of me if he were alive, given my success and my money.</p> <p>In fact, he often tells me he’s proud of me for being so disciplined and making so much money. Probably because my grandpa valued those things in him.</p> <p>And I’ll admit it: I bask in that praise. Many of us, after all, are hungry for our caregivers’ approval.</p> <p>People get criticized for caring how much money they make, but you know what? It’s really hard not to care about material things when they’ve been tied to your family’s love for you.</p> <p>The desire for love from our families is one of the strongest and most deep-seated desires. And when that’s tied to money, people who aren’t materialistic at all end up caring about money because what they really care about is love.</p> <p>In this way, toxic capitalism equates money with love.</p> <p><strong>5. Telling people to care about their health so they can work.</strong></p> <p>There’s an alarming contrast between how we treat workaholism and other addictions and mental health issues.</p> <p>When people suffer from alcoholism or binge eating disorder, for example, we want them to recover. When they suffer from workaholism, we brush it aside or even praise it.</p> <p>That’s because workaholism ostensibly increases your productivity, while many other addictions don’t. But not everyone supports my workaholic lifestyle. Many tell me to cut back.</p> <p>Except that when they do, they almost always employ an argument along the lines of “If you don’t take care of your health, you can’t work” or “The quality of your work may actually suffer when the quantity is so high.”</p> <p>What this means, basically, is that I’m a machine that requires maintenance in order to operate.</p> <p>When I do pause to do something besides working, I justify it by saying, “Well, sometimes talking to friends can give you inspiration for work” or “it’s easier to work after exercising.”</p> <p>The problem is, I&nbsp;<em>can&nbsp;</em>operate in poor health. I’ve accomplished things while sick, sad, hungover, sleep-deprived, and more.</p> <p>So, should people like me just not take care of their health, since we can work without it?</p> <p>Or maybe – just maybe – we’re worth more than our work? Maybe we’re humans, not machines.</p> <p>But “We’re humans” is almost a meaningless statement under toxic capitalism, which defines a human as a living, breathing machine.</p> <p>I may seem like an extreme case of all the problems I’m illustrating. I grew up with a high-achieving family. I went to a Long Island prep school. I was my school valedictorian. I work more than even severe workaholics. I neglect showering, eating, leaving the house, seeing the doctor, and&nbsp;<a href="http://everydayfeminism.com/2016/10/self-care-in-stress-culture/">other basic human necessities</a>.</p> <p>But&nbsp;I am the logical conclusion of capitalism. This is exactly what capitalism looks like.</p> <p>But in the process of following the rules of capitalism, I have lost my sense of worth and my belief that I deserve happiness. I have lost my humanity.</p> <p>Not entirely. Every once in a while, there’s that little fighting voice inside me that says I can spare a few dollars to buy my dad a birthday present or half an hour to actually pay attention to my boyfriend rather than just being in the same room as him while I work.</p> <p>That voice is wild, hungry, free, and immersed in the moment, not the future. It doesn’t want to achieve; it wants to be.</p> <p>That voice is stereotypically feminine in a world that only values the stereotypically masculine, which is one way patriarchy feeds capitalism.</p> <p>That voice is capitalism’s worst enemy. But it’s everything life’s about. When I’m on my deathbed, I’ll regret the times I didn’t spend time with my loved ones because I decided to work instead, not the times I turned down work to be with them.</p> <p>Playing along with the rules of capitalism rewards you – but eventually, you start asking yourself questions like:</p> <p><em>Why do I act this way? Because I’ll gain praise in the eyes of capitalism.</em></p> <p><em>Why do I want that? Because capitalism tells me I do.</em></p> <p>Everything eventually boils down to “because capitalism.”</p> <p>That logic is flawed. I know my parents would love me if I gave up everything. People would still admire me, and if they didn’t, I wouldn’t care, because I’d admire myself. I have little to lose and more to gain.</p> <p>But capitalism tells us we have a lot to lose, because capitalism operates through fear: fear of getting fired, fear of losing money, fear of being unproductive.</p> <p>These fears all boil down to one basic fear: not being loved. Because children growing up under toxic capitalism learn that the way to gain love is to achieve.</p> <p>Toxic capitalism plants its seeds in children’s brains. And as children, we believe the harmful lies adults feed us because we need them to love us.</p> <p>But we don’t need them anymore. We can survive without fulfilling toxic capitalist ideals. And that’s not as obvious as it sounds when you’ve learned to link achievement to love and love to survival.</p> <p>We can lose all our money and lose all our accomplishments and still be worthy of love and life. Toxic capitalism may look down on us, but we never even needed its approval in the first place.</p> <p>We were already whole when we were born. </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/carmen-rios/seven-everyday-things-poor-people-worry-about-that-rich-people-never-do">Seven everyday things poor people worry about that rich people never do</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 Suzannah Weiss The role of money Economics Culture Thu, 07 Feb 2019 20:23:31 +0000 Suzannah Weiss 121576 at https://www.opendemocracy.net No disaster is natural https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jason-von-meding-djair-sergio-de-freitas-junior-and-ma-ra-irigaray/no-disaster-is-nat <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Should the Brumadinho dam collapse be framed as corporate incompetence or a crime against people and nature? <strong><em><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/jason-von-meding-djair-sergio-de-freitas-junior-ma-ra-irigaray/no-hay-desastres-na">Español</a></em></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Jasonvonmedding.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Aftermath of the Brumadinho dam collapse, January 26 2019. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Resumo_da_agenda_do_Presidente_da_Rep%C3%BAblica_26.01.2019_(video_screenshot)_01_(cropped).jpg">Wikimedia/Youtube</a><a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en">. CC BY 3.0</a>.</p> <p>The <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/25/world/americas/brazil-dam-burst-brumadinho.html?module=inline">latest environmental and human catastrophe</a> involving Brazilian mining giant Vale occurred on the 25th January 2019 when a mine-tailings dam in Minas Gerais state ruptured. Mining waste and sludge <a href="https://ejatlas.org/conflict/vale-tailingsdamfailure-brumadinho-minasgerais">engulfed the town of Brumadinho</a>, with over <a href="https://www.smh.com.au/world/south-america/brazil-dam-death-toll-increases-some-missing-may-never-be-recovered-20190205-p50vqh.html">a hundred people confirmed dead</a> and more than 200 missing.</p> <p>This catastrophe comes in the wake of the collapse of the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/10/brazil-dam-burst-mining-rules">Fundão tailings dam</a> near Mariana in November 2015. Despite <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/28/brazil-dam-collapse-samarco-fundao-mining">allegedly knowing of the potential for the dam to collapse</a> in advance, Vale declined to act, leading to the worst environmental disaster in Brazilian history.</p> <p>These are shocking events, but without concerted action they will surely happen again. Brazil faces an uphill battle to navigate the issues inherent in an aging network of dams, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/feb/28/brazil-dam-collapse-samarco-fundao-mining">many of which are at risk of collapse</a>.</p> <p>Brazil is at crossroads. The recently elected President Jair Bolsonaro has made no apology for his brazenly <a href="https://theconversation.com/jair-bolsonaro-will-now-run-into-brazils-massive-grassroots-movements-of-resistance-106024">anti-environmental approach</a>, aimed squarely at the expansion of agribusiness and the exploitation of primary commodities - this in a country filled with expensive and poorly constructed infrastructure projects, permeated by human rights and environmental violations and with little or no oversight.</p> <p>Despite some environmentally-friendly rhetoric, progress was slow under the previous administrations of Michel Temer, Dilma Rousseff and Lula. Deforestation continued, mining and agriculture expanded and more dams were built. Only a national and global campaign of pressure prevented Temer from <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/sep/26/brazil-backtracks-on-plan-to-open-up-amazon-forest-to-mining">abolishing the Renca forest reserve</a> in 2017.</p> <p>Rising income inequality and declining social indicators are high on the agenda of the Brazilian public. Public discontent with this situation was undoubtedly <a href="https://inequality.org/research/inequality-feature-driver-bolsonaro-brazil/">a factor in Bolsonaro’s election</a>. For some, the environmental cost of development is not a priority. Inequalities and injustices within society create risk. Structural problems intersect with development failures and corporate negligence.</p> <p>But despite efforts to assign blame, the reality is that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/29/world/americas/brazil-dam-arrests.html?module=inline">arresting a few Vale employees</a> will not address the root causes of the problem. Though technical negligence may have played a part, there are much more systemic issues at play. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/ksenia-chmutina-jason-von-meding-jc-gaillard-lee-bosher/why-natural-disasters-arent-all-that-natural">No disaster is ‘natural</a>’ - so could the Brumadinho dam collapse more accurately be framed as a crime against nature and humanity?</p> <p>Last week in Davos, President Bolsonaro spoke about Brazil’s status as a world leader on environmental protection, but the images of a tsunami of mud and toxic mining tailings engulfing Brumadinho made his words ring hollow. His administration has a lot in common with the Trump White House, which has also been criticised for its attitude towards environmental concerns. <a href="https://www.counterpunch.org/2019/01/30/a-theology-of-power-mike-pence-and-the-dominionists/?fbclid=IwAR097uQEDtxt_X7SEVhKbEyHFnQSXObBh9wqu2GSakVR6fRTdG4vKdctiVY">Some argue</a> that a religious ideology of “dominionism” underpins the environmental position that many conservatives adhere to - the idea that human beings have the right to exploit the earth and all other life-forms.</p> <p>But as <a href="https://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/trudellwearepower.html">John Trudell, a Native American (Santee Lakota</a>) leader said in 1980, “we must go beyond the arrogance of human rights. We must go beyond the arrogance of civil rights. We must step into the reality of natural rights because the natural world has a right to existence. We are only a small part of it. There can be no trade-off.” As a global society we are facing an <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/nov/14/earth-death-spiral-radical-action-climate-breakdown">earth system breakdown</a> that requires a deep cultural shift designed to re-imagine our relationship to the planet. How will this shift happen?</p> <p><strong>The failures of top-down action.</strong></p> <p>In Brazil, a culture of collusion between governmental and corporate actors makes meaningful top-down change a slow and painful process.&nbsp;</p> <p>The collective failure of private and public stakeholders to mitigate the risks of environmental catastrophe is not exclusive to the present government. Legislation to protect the environment has <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-politics-environment/brazil-home-of-amazon-rolls-back-environmental-protection-idUSKCN18B21P">long been under threat</a> in Brazil, as the economy has slumped in recent years. President Michel Temer previously sanctioned the creation of the <a href="http://www.mining.com/brazil-opens-new-mining-agency-days-temers-govt-ends/">National Mining Agency</a> while vetoing the creation of 130 positions dedicated to overseeing the activities of mining companies, ostensibly to avoid an increase in state spending.</p> <p>The environmental licensing process in Brazil is seen by many business interests as an obstacle to ‘progress.’ <a href="https://thelawreviews.co.uk/edition/the-environment-and-climate-change-law-review-edition-2/1153044/brazil">Legislation is progressive</a> and robust on paper, but once a political decision is made about a project there is minimal enforcement. According to the <a href="http://english.tse.jus.br/arquivos/federal-constitution">1988 constitution of Brazil</a>, the State has an obligation to protect local communities and workers who face excessive daily risks. The problems with the Brumadinho dam were well known but neither Vale nor the State’s environmental agency took any action.</p> <p>Dam collapses are the tip of the iceberg in a global web of corporate dominance within governing structures that openly prefer profit above all else. Priority is given to investors, corporations and special interest groups to the detriment of human and environmental wellbeing. Climate treaties are trampled. Human rights are violated and the State is complicit.</p> <p>João Clímaco, general coordinator of FONASC (the National Forum of Civil Society on Hydrographic Basin Committees) lamented this crisis of governance, telling us that it is “an established model that is totally unrelated to the Brazilian reality, the rights of the people…a model that privileges the concentrated power of big capital to the detriment of society and the weakening of democratic institutions.”</p> <p>When the Vale Company was privatized by former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, it sold for a little more than $3 billion Brazilian <em>reais</em>. Twenty years on, <a href="http://www.vale.com/EN/aboutvale/reports/4t17/Pages/default.aspx">profits have soared</a> by over 1,700%, with the National Development Bank providing public funds to guarantee further business expansion.</p> <p>From the outset, the company has underestimated risk in its operations and shown contempt for human life and the environment. Consider the location of the building where the workers were lodged in the latest disaster, immediately below the tailings dam and the first building to be buried by toxic sludge. This is not an isolated incident. Several years before the Mariana disaster, Vale won the dubious <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2012/01/30/worst-company-in-the-world-award-goes-to/#73b424946a0a">“Nobel Award of Shame” in 2012</a> when it was voted the world’s worst company.</p> <p>Neither the government nor Vale have learned from their past mistakes; nor do they appear willing to do so. Despite attempts to create special commissions on mining and increase oversight, the influence of the mining lobby in politics is intense. For example, <a href="https://www.otempo.com.br/capa/pol%C3%ADtica/mineradoras-bancaram-102-deputados-eleitos-por-minas-gerais-em-2014-1.2129410">46 of the 53 federal deputies elected in Minas Gerais in 2014</a> were backed by industry money.</p> <p><strong>The promise of bottom-up action.</strong></p> <p>Moving forward, a framework for protecting the environment and promoting human and non-human wellbeing is already established in the <a href="http://english.tse.jus.br/arquivos/federal-constitution">Brazilian constitution</a> and (to a lesser extent) in the legislative arena. But it will take people power to move beyond ‘unenforceable laws’ towards real action. There is no time to wait for those in power to make the necessary technological and legislative decisions.</p> <p>Grassroots action is urgent and is already underway. In January 2019, for example, 46 environmental, human rights, labor and civil society organizations <a href="https://grassrootsonline.org/in-the-news/in-support-of-democracy-human-rights-and-the-environment-in-brazil/">signed a statement</a> committing them to “speak out against hateful rhetoric and acts of violence, intimidation or persecution” against the communities and civil society advocates that Bolsonaro has branded as ‘enemies’ or ‘terrorists.’</p> <p>But expanded activism won’t be enough without a deeper re-evaluation of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/nicki-carter/connecting-to-nature-is-matter-of-environmental-justice">human relationships with natural systems</a>. As people grow weary of a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jeremy-lent/we-need-ecological-civilization-before-it-s-too-late">global socio-economic system</a> that thrives on the myths of scarcity and competition, we must make and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/tatty-hennessy/why-should-we-care-about-stories">tell better stories</a> about our relationship with nature and create new narratives to bind our communities and the natural world together.</p> <p><a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03066150.2016.1141198">As a recent article in the Journal of Peasant Studies argues,</a> we need an “environmentalism cognizant of the dialectic between expanded capitalist accumulation at a global scale and environmental dispossession.” The fight for this kind of environmentalism continues in <a href="https://ejatlas.org/">every corner of the world</a>. Environmental disasters are an affront to our collective efforts to survive and thrive. We must depart from the trajectory defined by a status quo that actively <a href="http://currents.plos.org/disasters/article/the-good-the-bad-and-the-ugly-disaster-risk-reduction-drr-versus-disaster-risk-creation-drc/">creates more disaster risks</a>.</p> <p>This would represent a complete shift in worldview and a transformation of conscience. Human beings have the capacity to fulfil a duty towards future generations: unlike any other time in history, it is (technically) possible to supply energy, food and water to all. But clearly the problem is not a technical one. It is one that requires re-orienting our socio-economic values.</p> <p>It is only through love, compassion, solidarity and urgent action that we have the potential, not only to survive but to become stronger, both with each other and within the web of life that connects us to nature. In fact, we are not separate from nature; we are nature itself.</p> <p>That has been the cosmovision of indigenous peoples all around the world. &nbsp;But it has taken us far too many calamities to learn that we cannot eat or breathe money. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/jan/29/bill-gates-davos-global-poverty-infographic-neoliberal">Capitalism only serves itself</a>, and we need a system that <a href="https://www.jasonhickel.org/blog/2018/10/27/degrowth-a-call-for-radical-abundance">serves people and protects the planet</a>. Otherwise, there won’t be any future left.</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="/democraciaabierta/manuela-ferraro/dam-burst-in-brazil-but-problems-cross-its-borders">A dam bursts in Brazil, but the problems cross its borders</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/shannon-biggs/welcome-to-frackland-does-river-have-right-not-to-be-polluted">Welcome to &#039;frackland&#039;: does a river have the right not to be polluted?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/leslie-davenport/strengthening-our-ecological-imagination">Strengthening our ecological imagination</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 Maíra Irigaray Djair Sergio de Freitas Junior Jason von Meding Environment Tue, 05 Feb 2019 21:11:37 +0000 Jason von Meding, Djair Sergio de Freitas Junior and Maíra Irigaray 121584 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Praxis in a polarized world: the dilemma of activist scholars on the left https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/musa-al-gharbi/praxis-in-polarized-world-dilemma-of-activist-scholars-on-left <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>If progressive academics want to work with ‘the people,’ then we’ll have to meet ‘the people’ where they are.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Musa alGharbi.png" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/colorful-prismatic-chromatic-1331934/">Pixabay/GDJ</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/share-your-work/public-domain/">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p>Most of us who go into the humanities and social sciences don’t just want to&nbsp;<em>understand</em>&nbsp;social problems; we want to&nbsp;<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Project-American-Sociology/dp/0199377138">help resolve them</a>&nbsp;as well. There is strong agreement on the biggest problems of societies (like inequality), and broadly, how to go about solving them by harnessing expertise and leveraging the state or other major social institutions for technocratic interventions. In part this is because most of us in the humanities and social sciences&nbsp;<a href="https://heterodoxacademy.org/ideological-underrepresentation-compared-to-race-gender-sexuality/">are decisively on the left</a> of politics.</p> <p>Students in our fields are rarely exposed to non-left or non-secular viewpoints in the classroom, let alone&nbsp;<a href="https://www.chronicle.com/article/Taking-the-Right-Seriously/48333/">encouraged to engage with them</a>&nbsp;as morally or epistemologically legitimate options (i.e. as perspectives that reasonable and educated people could hold in good faith). Scholars rarely make use of these perspectives in working to understand or address social problems, except to define them&nbsp;<em>as&nbsp;</em>a problem in that so many people are religious, conservative or insufficiently deferent to technocratic expertise. If anything, academics<a href="https://heterodoxacademy.org/research-summary-race-and-the-race-for-the-white-house-on-social-research-in-the-age-of-trump/">&nbsp;in the age of Trump</a> seem even&nbsp;<em>less&nbsp;</em>interested in, or capable of, extending any kind of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/25/opinion/james-baldwin-public-morality-empathy.html">moral or intellectual charity</a>&nbsp;to towards those we view as ‘the enemy.’</p> <p>This siege mentality is understandable: in many respects,&nbsp;<a href="https://musaalgharbi.com/2018/02/08/george-ciccariello-maher/">academics and their concerns <em>are</em> under siege</a>. However, we hunker down&nbsp;<a href="http://bostonreview.net/forum/robin-d-g-kelley-black-study-black-struggle">at the expense of our capacity</a>&nbsp;to influence society in meaningful ways. If we truly want to be agents of change, students and scholars alike need to understand and engage with a much wider range of perspectives.</p> <p>Despite the aspirations of many social researchers it is&nbsp;<em>really&nbsp;</em>hard to produce impactful work. A huge portion of academic research is never&nbsp;<a href="http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2014/04/23/academic-papers-citation-rates-remler/">cited</a>&nbsp;or even&nbsp;<a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/half-academic-studies-are-never-read-more-three-people-180950222/">read</a>&nbsp;by anyone other than the authors and editors who produced it. Fewer still make any significant difference outside the ivory tower. It’s easy to see why: academic writing&nbsp;<a href="https://www.currentaffairs.org/2017/07/academic-language-and-the-problem-of-meaninglessness">tends to be</a>&nbsp;needlessly technical, abstract, verbose and dry. Social researchers obsess over&nbsp;<a href="https://musaalgharbi.com/2017/07/25/want-shake-status-quo-account-default-effect/">identifying and analyzing problems</a>, but provide&nbsp;<a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/is-social-science-an-oxymoron-will-that-ever-change/">few practical solutions</a>&nbsp;to perceived societal ills. </p> <p>In response to these shortcomings, organizations like the<a href="http://www.scholarsstrategynetwork.org/what-scholars-strategy-network">&nbsp;Scholars Strategy Network</a>&nbsp;and the&nbsp;<a href="http://frameworksinstitute.org/">Frameworks Institute</a>&nbsp;have sprung up to help translate research into more&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/2015/sep/23/academics-leave-your-ivory-towers-and-pitch-your-work-to-the-media">accessible and actionable</a> formats, and to connect scholars to journalists and policymakers. However, even in these instances, the impact of social research is limited because scholars typically interact with&nbsp;<a href="http://www.academia.edu/32303560/A_Lack_of_Ideological_Diversity_is_Killing_Social_Research">only one swath of the political spectrum</a>: the left-of-center.</p> <p>Yet in the United States,&nbsp;Republicans&nbsp;control the White House and the Senate; they dominate the judiciary; and they control a majority of state and local governments nationwide. Despite the<a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3059384">&nbsp;unpopularity of Trump</a> and<a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3056106">&nbsp;ongoing demographic changes</a>, Republicans are likely to maintain veto power over major social policy issues for the foreseeable future – well beyond the current administration. Indeed, even were the pendulum to swing all the way back to the Democrats’ near-historic consolidations&nbsp;<a href="http://news.gallup.com/poll/114016/State-States-Political-Party-Affiliation.aspx?_ga=2.263377935.263185585.1517950379-1491750596.1517414671">around 2008</a>, as President Obama was&nbsp;<a href="https://www.vox.com/2015/11/17/9749754/obama-presidential-power">himself somewhat astonished to discover</a>, many Republicans would still have to be brought on board (or at least, not actively resist) for significant reforms to succeed in areas like health care and taxation.</p> <p>There is no way around it: progressive academics will be&nbsp;<a href="https://theintercept.com/2017/08/25/mark-lillas-book-criticizes-identity-politics-but-falls-short-on-proposing-an-alternative/">unable to achieve their social objectives</a>&nbsp;to the extent that they engage only with other progressives or their fellow academics.</p> <p>Consider that only about&nbsp;<a href="http://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/326995-census-more-americans-have-college-degrees-than-ever-before">one-third of Americans</a>&nbsp;have a four-year degree, and while progressives outnumber conservatives&nbsp;<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Professors-Their-Politics-Neil-Gross/dp/1421413345/">more than 10:1</a>&nbsp;in fields like the humanities and social sciences, in the broader society&nbsp;Americans are (and basically always have been)&nbsp;<a href="http://news.gallup.com/poll/225074/conservative-lead-ideology-down-single-digits.aspx">more likely to identify</a>&nbsp;as conservative than liberal. When one adds in the moderates, the picture is clear: the American public is&nbsp;<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/11/09/trump-won-because-college-educated-americans-are-out-of-touch/">decisively to the right</a>&nbsp;of most university faculty and students.</p> <p>To the extent that experts and the institutions which produce them like universities seem to have a political agenda that is out of step with the will and interests of the general public, populists like Trump&nbsp;will be able to seize and maintain power by exploiting&nbsp;a <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/01/trump-edelman-trust-crisis/513350/">growing mistrust of elites</a>. Meanwhile, social research will increasingly be&nbsp;<a href="http://www.academia.edu/32303560/A_Lack_of_Ideological_Diversity_is_Killing_Social_Research">devalued and defunded</a>.</p> <p>For scholars who live outside the U.S. or Western Europe, or those who want to work abroad with NGOs, advise foreign governments, or support global social movements, these problems of disconnection are even <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Tyranny-Experts-Economists-Dictators-Forgotten/dp/0465089739/">more severe</a>. Across much of China, Africa, Latin America, South Asia and the Middle East (which is my area of expertise), people hold views on race, gender, sexuality and social justice that aren’t even&nbsp;<a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3056098">within the bounds</a>&nbsp;of acceptable Western political discourse – let alone falling to the left of the U.S. spectrum. This matters&nbsp;<em>a lot</em>&nbsp;for those who want to design and implement social policies.</p> <p><a href="https://heterodoxacademy.org/three-strategies-moral-disagreements/">Research shows</a>&nbsp;that appealing to the moral values, group identities and cultural-historical narratives of others tends to be far more effective in convincing people to accept changes or sacrifices than appeals to material incentives, statistics or scientific facts. In many contexts,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/3512031">religion subsumes</a>&nbsp;these transcendent commitments. Indeed, across most of the rest of the world, people are&nbsp;<a href="http://www.pewforum.org/2015/04/02/religious-projections-2010-2050/">far more religious</a>, and perhaps even religious in&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2016/06/the-meaningless-politics-of-liberal-democracies/486089/">fundamentally different ways</a>, than progressives tend to be in the U.S. and Western Europe.</p> <p>Yet social researchers tend to be&nbsp;<a href="http://foreignpolicy.com/2012/08/06/god-and-the-ivory-tower/">substantively ignorant</a>&nbsp;about religion and are often&nbsp;<a href="https://academic.oup.com/socrel/article/76/3/315/1723124">disdainful of believers</a>; they are&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2013/10/study-theology-even-if-you-dont-believe-in-god/280999/">ill-equipped</a>&nbsp;to understand or engage in religious discourse. The distance between those who are designing policies and those whom the same policies are intended to serve can cause well-meaning programs to&nbsp;<a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2292051">fail in achieving</a>&nbsp;their stated objectives, or even&nbsp;<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Seeing-like-State-Certain-Condition/dp/0300078153/">bring harm</a>&nbsp;on those they intend to help.</p> <p>Put another way, if scholars want to work with ‘the people,’ then we’ll have to be able to meet ‘the people’ where they are. By listening to and coming to understand those on the ‘<a href="https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=746508">other side</a>’ of issues they care about, researchers can gain far deeper insights into social problems, how they are created and why they persist - and they might therefore be able to develop more viable strategies to mitigate them. In the process, they are&nbsp;<a href="https://arxiv.org/pdf/1712.06414.pdf">more likely to discover</a>&nbsp;holes in their arguments, problematic assumptions and ineffective framing which may not be noticed by allies who share their prior assumptions, but could prove lethal to projects in the ‘real world.’</p> <p>We may even find opportunities to build broader coalitions to realize our objectives. As I explained in an article for&nbsp;<em><a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2018/10/08/why-its-vital-academe-have-more-viewpoint-diversity-opinion">Inside Higher Ed</a></em>, there are conservatives who support causes ranging from<a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/08/why-arent-reformicons-pushing-a-guaranteed-basic-income/375600/">&nbsp;guaranteed basic income</a>&nbsp;and<a href="http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-conservative-case-for-universal-healthcare/">&nbsp;single-payer healthcare</a>&nbsp;to<a href="http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/a-republican-against-prisons/">&nbsp;criminal justice reform</a>,<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/10/20/republican-environment_n_1020633.html">&nbsp;environmental protection,</a>&nbsp;&nbsp;the <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/05/27/a-conservative-case-for-gay-marriage/">recognition of gay marriages</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/some-conservatives-have-been-against-capitalism-for-centuries/">restraining corporate power</a>. However, without exposure to the&nbsp;<a href="https://arcdigital.media/conservatism-an-intellectual-defense-db37af1879e7">complexity and diversity</a>&nbsp;of conservative thought, activist scholars may&nbsp;<a href="https://musaalgharbi.com/2015/08/25/its-time-to-stop-patronizing-white-people/">alienate</a>&nbsp;potential allies needlessly and undermine the very causes they seek to advance.</p> <p>Up to now, criticisms of campus activism have focused intensely on issues like misplaced priorities. For example, ostensibly progressive students seem to be more easily outraged and mobilized by&nbsp;<a href="http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/194874/person-up-yale-students">inappropriate Halloween costumes</a>&nbsp;at a frat party than&nbsp;<a href="http://www.higheredtoday.org/2015/06/29/fighting-food-insecurity-on-campus/">pervasive food insecurity on campus</a>. Professors focus on “<a href="https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/421123">deconstructing</a>” abstractions like “the patriarchy” while&nbsp;remaining <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/07/advice-for-the-left-on-achieving-a-more-perfect-union/531054/">disengaged from practical politics</a>. There is&nbsp;<a href="https://heterodoxacademy.org/academic-grievance-studies/">more than a little legitimacy</a>&nbsp;to these lines of critique.</p> <p>However, even if these academics&nbsp;<em>were&nbsp;</em>to dedicate themselves to more meaningful and concrete &nbsp;efforts at reform and transformation, and even if student activists transcended campus solipsism in favor of the broader societies in which universities are embedded,&nbsp;<a href="https://thebaffler.com/the-poverty-of-theory/accidental-elitism-alvarez">it is not clear</a>&nbsp;that they would be able to realize their aspirations effectively. Our abilities to listen to, and engage with, non-progressives and non-academics are rapidly eroding – and with them, our abilities to effect social change, or to make our work&nbsp;<em>matter.</em></p> <p>Effective advocacy and activism require a much more expansive approach to politics – one that makes room for people who are usually excluded from university spaces like&nbsp;<a href="https://www.politico.com/story/2017/11/09/university-of-michigan-admissions-low-income-244420">working class people</a>&nbsp;(<a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/12/the-community-college-segregation-machine/548357/">not to be synonymized</a>&nbsp;with ‘whites’),&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2018/02/15/581895659/whos-missing-from-america-s-colleges-rural-high-school-graduates">rural populations</a>, and yes,&nbsp;<a href="https://heterodoxacademy.org/why-should-we-care-about-ideological-diversity-in-the-academy-the-definitive-response/">conservative and religious people</a>&nbsp;too.</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/kelly-teamey-udi-mandel/reimagining-higher-education">Re-imagining higher education </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/nina-eliasoph/scorn-wars-rural-white-people-and-us">Scorn wars: rural white people and us</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/budd-hall-rajesh-tandon/no-more-enclosures-knowledge-democracy-and-social-transformat">No more enclosures: knowledge democracy and social transformation</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 Musa al-Gharbi Activism Culture Sun, 03 Feb 2019 20:54:12 +0000 Musa al-Gharbi 121532 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “Bright words:” finding common ground in environmental negotiations https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/scott-slovic/bright-words-finding-common-ground-in-environmental-negotiations <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We cannot create what we cannot imagine, and to imagine we need stories and words to tell them.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/ScottSlovic.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/usfwsnortheast/15031466241">Flickr/US Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/share-your-work/public-domain/">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p>In the American West there’s an old saying: ‘whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting.’ But is this necessarily the case, and <em>should</em> it be?</p> <p>Rather than thinking of natural resources as commodities in winner-take-all negotiations where some gain and others inevitably lose, what if we learned to begin conversations about resource management with the premise that every human being has an equal need for (and right to) water, air, energy and food, and that this need and right is shared by other living beings?</p> <p>Water policy expert Jerome Delli Priscolli has spent his career tackling water disputes as a mediator, and he asks negotiators to begin their presentations with their own stories in order to reveal their personal connections to disputed places or resources. The immediate response to an abstract policy statement is likely to be a counter-proposal or a quarrel - a ‘yes’ or a ‘no.’ Stories, on the other hand, evoke another story and another one after that. The accumulation of such stories clarifies the common ground on which further conversation has the potential to take root and achieve a mutually-positive resolution.</p> <p>Adopting stories as a negotiating tool hinges on the idea of ‘narrative empathy,’ defined by theorist <a href="http://www.lhn.uni-hamburg.de/article/narrative-empathy">Suzanne Keen</a> as “the shared feeling and perspective-taking induced by reading, viewing, hearing, or imagining narratives of another’s situation and condition.” The particular kind of narrative empathy at work during negotiations between representatives of different communities and perspectives is known as “ambassadorial narrative empathy.” The key point from Keen’s work is that stories have the ability to strike a chord even with adversaries. Environmental author <a href="http://bigskyjournal.com/william-kittredge-western-storyteller/">William Kittredge</a> suggests that “Storytelling invites readers to make up a story of their own, to use the story they’re being told as a mirror in which to view their own responses to their own concerns.”</p> <p>This is true for public officials and seasoned negotiators, and it is also true for regular citizens. Delli Priscolli advocates the need for more forums and channels for public involvement in guiding decision-makers to receive and absorb public comments. Just as the citizen science movement recognizes the value of receiving empirical observations from the public in studying biodiversity and climate-related topics, it is important to consider the potential of ‘citizen storytelling’ as a means for producing and incorporating the will of the people into public policy effectively.</p> <p>In her book <em><a href="https://www.smallplanet.org/democracys-edge">Democracy’s Edge: Choosing to Save Our Country by Bringing Democracy to Life,</a></em> the writer and activist Frances Moore Lappé argues that “We cannot create what we cannot imagine, and to imagine, we humans need stories and we need words to tell them.” In all areas of civil society, there is potential to cultivate storytelling skills and bring narrative discourse into the professional contexts of law and policy-making. Legal scholar Charles Wilkinson made this case in 1992 in his landmark essay “Language, Law, and the Eagle Bird.”</p> <p>He suggests that gray, emotionless, hyper-rational language supports the status quo of contentious debate rather than promoting consensus with regard to natural resource management decisions: “Those who favor the status quo have much to gain by keeping emotions down. Evocative statutes with a strong emotional and scientific and philosophical content make a difference. A federal judge can more easily see the force behind the statute when he or she is alerted by bright words.”</p> <p>Wilkinson’s call for the use of “bright words” in natural resource negotiations and the laws and policies that emerge from such discussions refers not only to the specific diction used by negotiators but also to the possibility of broader styles of communication—such as stories—that capture readers’ or listeners’ attention and empathy.</p> <p>Psychologists such as Paul Slovic and Daniel Västfjäll have explained that the human capacity to feel empathy is limited to small-scale phenomena. We are prone to appreciate the situations of small groups of characters or individuals rather than large groups, even when the goal of communication is to describe the impact of a decision on a large class of people or on other species (or different kinds of abstract phenomena). Storytelling is a communication strategy that helps the tellers and the audience to find common ground. The website <a href="http://www.arithmeticofcompassion.org/">www.arithmeticofcompassion.org</a> highlights the role of stories as an antidote to the numbing, distancing effects of abstract information and technical jargon.</p> <p>But even if we all have the potential to be citizen storytellers - raising our voices to share personal experiences and galvanize the attention of our communities and our public officials to issues of shared concern - this doesn’t mean that we necessarily understand what goes into an effective story and how to pull together salient details from our lives into efficient, focused narratives that reach toward public consensus.</p> <p>As a writing teacher, I train my students to read examples of policy-oriented storytelling, which can be found in the short essays by Bill McKibben, Nicholas Kristof, and other contemporary writers whose work appears in newspapers, on websites, and elsewhere. General introductions to the style and structure of op-ed essays can be found on websites such as <a href="https://www.smith.edu/about-smith/college-relations/news-office/op-ed-guidelines">this one</a>.</p> <p>We hear a lot of talk these days about the distressing tribalism of American society and the splintering of our diverse communities into bitter factions. But if we step away from political partisanship and entrenched stances on pipelines, border walls, and who’s hacking whose campaign website, we have genuine potential to listen to each other’s stories and find common ground. Organizations like <a href="https://www.handsacrossthehills.org/">Hands Across the Hills</a> show us how to do this effectively.</p> <p>Do you know anyone who <em>doesn’t</em> live on the same planet and require natural resources in order to get by? Do you know a single person who doesn’t have a story to tell? Nature brings us all to the table, and stories allow us to hear each other when we get there.</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/tatty-hennessy/why-should-we-care-about-stories">Why should we care about stories? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/leslie-davenport/strengthening-our-ecological-imagination">Strengthening our ecological imagination</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/tim-flinders/going-out-i-found-i-was-really-going-in-john-muir-s-spiritual-and-politi">Going out, I found I was really going in: John Muir’s spiritual and political journey</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 storytelling Scott Slovic Empathy Environment Fri, 01 Feb 2019 00:18:52 +0000 Scott Slovic 121518 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Irish Revolution’s overlooked history of nonviolent resistance https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/david-carroll-cochran/irish-revolution-s-overlooked-history-of-nonviolent-resistance <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The founding of the Irish Parliament was a path-breaking event in the emergence of nonviolence.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published in&nbsp;<a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/irish-revolution-overlooked-history-nonviolent-resistance/">Waging Nonviolence</a>, with additional photos.</em></p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/DavidCochran.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">The Sinn Fein members elected in the December 1918 election at the first Dail Eireann meeting, January 21 1919. Credit: <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_D%C3%A1il#/media/File:First_dail_restoration3.jpg">Wikipedia</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/share-your-work/public-domain/">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p>This month marks the 100th anniversary of Dáil Éireann, Ireland’s Parliament. Amid the better-known events of a century ago that led to Ireland’s independence from its union with Britain, such as the Easter Rising or the island’s partition with the Anglo-Irish Treaty, the significance of Dáil Éireann’s founding on January 21, 1919 is often underappreciated. This is unfortunate, since it played a crucial role in the Irish Revolution’s outcome and was a path-breaking event in the emergence of nonviolent civil resistance methods over the last century.</p> <p>The usual story of Ireland’s independence struggle runs something like this: Revolutionary movements such as Wolfe Tone’s United Irishmen in 1798 or the Fenians in 1867 staged a series of violent “risings” against British rule that, while creating romantic nationalist heroes, were easily suppressed (Google “the battle of Widow McCormack’s cabbage patch” to get a sense of how they often turned out). These “physical force nationalists” were opposed by “constitutional nationalists” such as Daniel O’Connell and Charles Stewart Parnell who instead pursued a nonviolent reformist agenda within the British political system that gradually proved more successful.</p> <p>O’Connell’s Catholic Emancipation movement won civil and political rights for Irish Catholics in the first half of the 19th century. Toward the end of the century, Parnell welded most of the British Parliament’s Irish representatives into the Irish Parliamentary Party, a block of votes that traded its ability to make or break majorities for concessions such as land reform that helped transfer farms from absentee British landlords to their Irish tenants. The chief goal of the constitutional nationalists was Home Rule, which would grant Ireland its own parliament and significant autonomy, though still as part of the larger British constitutional system and under some measure of British sovereignty. After a decades-long fight and several near misses, the British finally granted Home Rule in 1914, only to suspend it with the outbreak of World War I.</p> <p>This is where momentum shifted back toward physical force nationalism. As majority-Protestant areas around Belfast in the north raised a militia and imported arms to resist Home Rule and keep the British union as it was, majority-Catholic areas in the rest of Ireland responded in kind. In an environment of increasing militarism, Patrick Pearse and a small group of armed rebels seized key positions in Dublin on Easter Monday in 1916 and proclaimed an Irish Republic completely independent of Britain.</p> <p>The British military’s heavy-handed response — reducing the center of Dublin to ruin, executing the Rising’s leaders, imprisoning thousands not even involved, and declaring martial law — further radicalized the country. Within three years, the Irish Republican Army, or IRA, had launched a bloody insurgency campaign against British troops and local police units. The Anglo-Irish War, fought as a series of ambushes, assassinations and civilian reprisals, finally forced the British to cede Ireland its de facto independence in 1922, but only after partitioning off six counties that would remain part of the British union as Northern Ireland.</p> <p>The usual story’s framing of violent versus reformist methods in Irish nationalism is true as far as it goes, but also incomplete. What it misses is a powerful third tradition of radical, extralegal, but still nonviolent resistance. In the 19th century, many rural communities, often organized by women in the Ladies’ Land League, refused to pay rent to British absentee landlords or work for their local land agents at harvest time. Indeed, our word “boycott” is named for Captain Charles Boycott, a land agent in County Mayo ostracized by his local community in 1880 during a noncooperation campaign.</p> <p>Nonviolent methods grew more widespread leading up to and during the revolutionary period. In the years preceding to the Easter Rising, Dublin saw major industrial and transportation strikes; activists such as Helena Molony, arrested for destroying a picture of King George V during his coronation visit to Ireland, refused to pay fines and took jail sentences instead; and some Irish juries would not convict locals accused of opposing the British war effort during World War I. After the Rising, railway workers refused to carry British troops and munitions, other work-stoppages secured the release of political prisoners, and hunger strikes by Irish nationalists in British custody brought international condemnation down on the British government.</p> <p>The key figure in this tide of nonviolent defiance was Arthur Griffith, the founder of Sinn Féin. Griffith was not a principled pacifist, but he believed nonviolent methods would prove more effective against British rule in Ireland. His was a nationalism that advocated dissolving the political and economic ties that linked Ireland to Britain by acting as if they no longer existed, an approach signaled by the name Sinn Féin, which is Irish for “Ourselves.”</p> <p>Founded a decade before the Easter Rising, Griffith’s Sinn Féin movement came into its own in the revolutionary environment of the Rising’s aftermath. When the British government, desperate to replace soldiers killed at the front during World War I, decided to extend military conscription to Ireland in early 1918, Sinn Féin joined labor unions and Catholic clergy to coordinate a massive nationwide civil disobedience campaign. Almost two million people signed an anti-conscription pledge after Sunday masses that April 21. Arresting Griffith and other movement leaders only strengthened opposition, and ultimately the British found conscription unenforceable.</p> <p>The anti-conscription campaign was a springboard for Griffith’s most innovative idea: using British elections themselves to select, legitimize and seat a rival Irish government outside the British system. When elections to the British Parliament, long delayed by World War I and featuring a newly expanded franchise with the inclusion of women voters, arrived in late 1918, Sinn Féin candidates, again backed by labor activists and Catholic leaders, swept to victory everywhere except the unionist strongholds in the north. Following Griffith’s policy of “abstentionism,” they refused to take their seats in the British Parliament and instead, acting as if British authority no longer existed, gathered at Mansion House in Dublin to declare themselves Dáil Éireann, or Assembly of Ireland, establishing the independent Irish government that exists to this day.</p> <p>While the British outlawed the Dáil as a “terrorist organization,” it continued to operate underground in accordance with its newly drafted constitution, appointing government ministers, sending diplomats to foreign capitals, and issuing bonds to raise money hidden from British authorities in sympathetic Irish banks. Operating as a parallel government, it attracted increasing allegiance from ordinary Irish people.</p> <p>Crucial to its growing legitimacy was the Dáil’s ability to extend its authority down to local communities. In early 1920, Sinn Féin again swept elections, this time at the city and county levels, gaining control of many local governments that quickly flipped their loyalty to the Dáil, refused to cooperate with British tax collection, switched their purchasing contracts to Irish-owned firms, and closed workhouses associated with the hated British poor-law system. Even more dramatic was the creation of “Dáil Courts,” a multi-tiered parallel judicial system that spread across most of Ireland. British courts formally remained in place, but they essentially ceased functioning as enforcers of British law when local people instead began taking their disputes to the new Dáil judicial system that became, in the words of one local observer, “the only authority in the County.”</p> <p>The nonviolent defiance of British authority led by Dáil Éireann existed alongside and overlapped significantly with violent methods during the Anglo-Irish War. Many nationalists supported both approaches and moved back and forth between the Dáil’s political resistance and the IRA’s military operations. But while mainstream, popular historical accounts give the violence more attention and credit for the Irish Revolution’s outcome — often through romanticized accounts of leaders such as Michael Collins — they underplay or miss entirely other critically important aspects of the struggle.</p> <p>The historical evidence is clear that the Dáil’s campaign of noncooperation and parallel government did just as much or more to make Ireland ungovernable and force the British into negotiations. These actions eventually led to an independent country in the 26 southern counties and the formal handover of administrative power to the Dáil as that country’s legitimate government.</p> <p>If the methods developed by Arthur Griffith and Dáil Éireann are underappreciated in the usual story of Ireland’s independence struggle, the same is true of their contributions to the history of nonviolent civil resistance more generally. Few realize the impact Griffith’s innovative techniques for withdrawing authority from an occupier had on better-known nonviolent campaigns that followed him. India’s is the most notable. After attending a Dublin Sinn Féin meeting in 1907, Jawaharlal Nehru wrote: “They do not want to fight England by arms but to ignore her, boycott her, and quietly assume the administration of Irish affairs.” Leaders of the Swadeshi movement that organized boycotts of British goods praised Griffith as a “model.” And, perhaps most significantly, Gandhi himself cited Griffith’s direct influence on his own ideas, though he decried the later turn to violence by many Sinn Féin members.</p> <p>This influence shows how Griffith’s noncooperation techniques embodied by Dáil Éireann were important early contributors to one of the most significant developments of the last century: the emergence of organized civil resistance as an alternative to armed struggle. Indeed, as researchers such as Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth demonstrate, nonviolent civil resistance movements since 1900 are twice as likely as violent ones to succeed against an oppressive regime or foreign occupier.</p> <p>And the case of Griffith and Dáil Éireann suggests such comparisons may actually understate the power of nonviolence. The Irish Revolution is an example of nonviolent strategies operating effectively, if more quietly, within an otherwise violent campaign, revealing how even seemingly successful violent movements may actually owe much of that success to overlooked nonviolent techniques operating behind the scenes. Dáil Éireann’s centenary, then, is a chance to celebrate this still-underappreciated revolutionary power of nonviolence.</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-nagler/six-principles-of-nonviolence">Six principles of nonviolence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jonathan-pinckney/lessons-on-building-democracy-after-nonviolent-revolutions">Lessons on building democracy after nonviolent revolutions</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 David Carroll Cochran Transformative nonviolence Activism Tue, 29 Jan 2019 21:00:55 +0000 David Carroll Cochran 121406 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why should we care about stories? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/tatty-hennessy/why-should-we-care-about-stories <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A system that privileges rationality over emotion is a system that protects the status quo. Stories have no such qualms.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/TattyHennessy.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: Tatty Hennessy: all rights reserved.</p> <p>I’m a playwright, which means I spend my time wondering what it would be like to be other people in the worst moments of their lives, how they might fight back or react or flounder when things go wrong, and how I can make their struggles more compelling for strangers to watch or read. </p> <p>So I spend a lot<em> </em>of my time thinking about stories; telling them, reading them, hunting them, taking them apart and reworking them to make them better. But so what? What can a story do in the face of problems like climate change or political division? Actually, I think they’re vital.</p> <p>Stories run on emotions and heart; the good ones make you <em>feel. </em>When you read a story, you take yourself out of your own small world and into another, much broader one, trying as best you can to understand the shape of another person’s mind. You sit with their dreams and pain and triumph and try them on for size. And then the lights come up or you turn the page or you take the headphones off and you’re you again, but not the same ‘you’ that you were before. </p> <p>Sometimes this shift doesn’t fully happen. You follow the details of the story but the connections are missed, the feeling isn’t right, or the shoe just won’t fit – or when you do make this kind of contact the impact is slight - a glancing feeling that’s shrugged off quickly on your way out of the theatre or when the book is closed. But at other times stories can change your life. When you really get into a story, the story gets into you. I have no doubt that I am who I am in no small part because of the stories I’ve read and written. </p> <p>This matters because the problems we’re facing feel less and less ‘people-sized,’ and that weakens the connections between problems and solutions - between personal commitment and political action. Storytelling is a way to close that gap. For example, my last play, <em><a href="https://ahundredwordsforsnow.com/">A Hundred Words for Snow</a>, </em>follows a teenage girl called Rory who runs away from home to the Arctic Circle with her father’s ashes to help him walk posthumously in the footsteps of his favourite explorers. It’s an exploration of adolescence and grief as well as the impact of climate change in the region. </p> <p>When I first started to research the play it felt like I was approaching the edge of a cliff without any handholds. I knew the climate situation was dire, that lives and livelihoods are threatened, and that we’re facing tremendous and irreversible losses. But I couldn’t take that sense of loss inside; instead it engulfed me. &nbsp;</p> <p>It’s easy to look at the structural, systemic, global nature of the issues we face and feel tired or baffled or even apathetic. It’s not that we don’t <em>know </em>what’s going on - we’re more informed than we’ve ever been. The problem is that it can be hard to care about things that feel so much bigger than ourselves. It’s hard to care about a concept, but it’s easy to care about a person. We’re wired to do it, and stories run on people. A story can put a unique, individual, human face to nebulous ideas, bypassing our intellect and getting right to the heart of the matter. It can make us care, and caring is the root of action.</p> <p>A story also allows emotion and sentiment into the picture. More than that, it demands it. So much of the conversation about politics and economics today revolves around eradicating feelings<em> </em>from the equation. We want to be rational,<em> </em>which we’re told to believe is the opposite of emotion. ‘Facts don’t care about our feelings.’ But this dichotomy privileges those who have nothing to lose from the outcomes of discussion. &nbsp;It’s easy to stay emotionless, to appear ‘rational,’ when the conversation is, for you, theoretical. It’s only possible to discuss institutional racism, poverty, sexual violence or disability discrimination without emotion when those things have never threatened you. </p> <p>Climate change is like that too. It affects people living in poverty disproportionately and drastically exacerbates its effects, but it is largely fuelled and driven by those whose wealth and privilege protect them from the outcomes of their actions. A system that privileges rationality over emotion is a system that protects the status quo. Stories have no such qualms. That’s why it’s so important to ensure that a wide variety of stories can be told and heard.</p> <p>Now more than ever, it’s also important that we all know how to read stories, so that we know when we’re being told one ourselves. During my English degree one of my favourite lessons was lexicography, or how dictionaries are made. Until that point I had imagined that dictionaries just sort of happened, springing into existence as accurate, objective and inert lists of words and definitions. The idea that someone had to <em>write </em>the dictionary, and in doing so <em>decided what words meant, </em>shifted the ground beneath me. </p> <p>Someone somewhere decided that certain words should be included and others marked as obsolete or vulgar; that certain examples best illustrated the usage of each word; and that only some words were important enough to survive the cull for the dictionary’s pocket edition. The veneer of objectivity fell away. And just like dictionaries, little in the news media is objective either; different journalists and commentators tell different stories in support of their agendas and beliefs. As with Brexit at the moment, there’s no single national narrative.</p> <p>That’s important because a well-told story can change your mind. It can also change history. The story you believe about the state of the planet dictates what you want to happen next, what you’re going do to about it, and what you want your government to do. We’re not rational <em>or </em>emotional, we’re both, acting on our feelings as well as our perceptions of the facts. And those feelings make us malleable - more receptive to a well-spun story, regardless of the facts that make it up. We’re being told stories all the time, but often in ways and from sources that don’t look like storytellers. So it matters that we know how stories work, how to spot them, how to understand what they’re doing to us, and who benefits.</p> <p>When faced with problems like climate change it’s easy to feel hopeless. Stories can present us with more opportunities for hopeful change. They show us a way forward. In <em>A Hundred Words for Snow, </em>Rory starts out by idolising the colonial explorers of the past, admiring how they smashed through the ice to dominate the Arctic for mankind. She imagines the Arctic as an empty, inert place of death, waiting to be found and conquered. What she finds instead is a beautiful, interconnected system of life which is complicated, frightening and glorious. She realises that she needs to find a better, gentler kind of exploration, one that celebrates and protects how connected we all are to each other and the natural world. I wanted this story to inspire the belief that if we can change ourselves then we can change the world, and maybe save it.</p> <p>Stories stop us from seeing ourselves simply as the ‘default’ in life. They allow feeling and emotion into our collective grappling with the biggest questions and concerns of our times. They warn us of the power that words can wield in manipulating our responses. And they give us the chance, if we’ll take it, to stand at another point on the world and take in a different view. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><em>RJG Productions’ A Hundred Words for Snow is about to embark on a UK tour. For further information, please visit: <a href="https://ahundredwordsforsnow.com/" target="_blank">https://ahundredwordsforsnow.com/</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/simon-hodges/what%E2%80%99s-so-special-about-storytelling-for-social-change">What’s so special about storytelling for social change?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/joanna-wheeler/unlocking-transformative-potential-of-storytelling">Unlocking the transformative potential of storytelling</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/matt-hopwood/can-love-stories-change-world">Can love stories change the world?</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 storytelling Tatty Hennessy Environment Culture Sun, 27 Jan 2019 21:32:32 +0000 Tatty Hennessy 121449 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Advice for future corpses https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sallie-tisdale/advice-for-future-corpses <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>When we allow death to happen, we are not killing people, we are caring for them.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/SallieTidsdale.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: Maskot/Getty Images via YES! Magazine. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Death takes many forms. One death is anticipated over months. Another death is stunningly abrupt. And now and then death is held back by technology. I have seen how these deaths are different, and they are all the same, in the end: a person breathes and then breathes no more. He enters a stillness like no other. Breath. Another breath, and then no more. But when the breaths are made by a machine or the blood pressure is sustained by powerful drugs, someone has to make an awful decision.</p> <p>Many aspects of medical and nursing care become unnecessary or intrusive for a dying person. Will the result of a lab test change the plan? If not, then don’t do it. Why take another vitamin? Are you really worried about the cholesterol level at this point? You don’t need to check blood pressure routinely. But sometimes a person is already hooked up - intravenous fluids and drugs to raise blood pressure and support for breathing - and the only way to stop the intrusion is to unhook. The advent of machines like defibrillators and ventilators created a new kind of crisis for the dying; one report from the time referred to “this era of resuscitatory arrogance.” A lecture in 1967 about how medicine should define death was called “The Right to Be Let Alone.”</p> <p><em>Futility&nbsp;</em>is a legal term in health care. A doctor, a team of people, even a hospital, can invoke futility and refuse to continue treatment that only prolongs suffering. This doesn’t happen immediately; it’s a drawn-out, painful process. The vocabulary makes everything worse. Doctors speak almost glibly about “withdrawing” or “withholding” treatment. The nurse says, “There’s nothing more to be done.” Which is a stupid thing to say, because there are all kinds of things to be done; they just don’t involve trying to keep someone alive. Such comments create a terrible sense of culpability in a heartbroken spouse or child. But what is really being done is good care.</p> <p>Journalist and author Virginia Morris pleads for a change of terms: “When we take a terminally ill patient off life support, we are not ‘pulling the plug,’ we are ‘freeing’ the patient to die. We are ‘releasing’ her from excessive technology and invasive treatments. When we allow death to happen, we are not killing people, we are caring for them. We are loving them.”</p> <p>We want to put it off as long as possible. Even if we are sure that Mom or Dad wouldn’t want to be kept alive “on a machine,” in the moment of crisis when everyone is yelling at us to decide, we’re not prepared. We literally have no experience making such a decision; we may do it only once in our lives.&nbsp;</p> <p>The hardest part is the loss, but a close second is the need to shove your own fears and desires to the side. Surgeon and bioethicist Sherwin Nuland said that at the time when decisions about life support and life-prolonging treatments are being made, “everybody becomes enormously selfish.” He emphatically includes doctors and nurses in with the family. We may not recognize that selfishness is driving the words we choose or the kind of advice that’s given. Doctors may not have any idea they are doing this. When they offer yet another experimental drug, they may genuinely believe they know what’s best for the patient. But&nbsp;<em>best</em>? Best is subjective. Best is your point of view. Best is what&nbsp;<em>you&nbsp;</em>want.</p> <p>Being able to make a decision like this for another requires an understanding of each other, and time for self-reflection. You have to consider the painful, scary, and unwanted fact of separation. You are the proxy for the person in the bed. What she wants is all that counts. You want the person to live. Or you want the person to die your version of a “good” death. Or you want him to live another week until the rest of the family arrives. You want the gasping holler of pain in your chest to go away. </p> <p>Can you choose a course of treatment that will allow the person you love most in the world to die? Can you say&nbsp;<em>no&nbsp;</em>on their behalf to something you would choose for yourself? Can you say&nbsp;<em>yes&nbsp;</em>on their behalf to an end you would never want? Can you set your own beliefs to the side? This inevitable conflict of interest - you are dying and I want you to live - is why a spouse or close family member often should&nbsp;<em>not&nbsp;</em>be the one making all the decisions. You have to ignore the begging chorus in your head, because it’s not about what&nbsp;<em>you&nbsp;</em>want.</p> <p>In an old Japanese tradition, a person writes a poem on New Year’s Eve that will be read at their funeral if they die in the coming year. A modern addition to this practice includes having a professional funeral photograph taken and picking out the clothing you want to wear, in styles specially made for corpses. The Japanese word&nbsp;<em>jōjū</em>&nbsp;means ever-present or unchanging. I like the translation “everlasting.” The image of&nbsp;<em>jōjū&nbsp;</em>is often the moon. How can the moon, which is never the same from night to night, be everlasting? And yet it is always the same moon.&nbsp;<em>Jōjū</em>&nbsp;is that quality of unstoppable change and the eternal at once. Death comes even while we are alive.</p> <p>In the early 1700s, Mizuta Masahide, an admirer of the great poet Bashō and a doctor by profession, had a fire at his home. It burned down his storehouse, leaving his family impoverished. His poem that year:</p> <blockquote><p><em>My storehouse burned down.</em></p><p><em>Now nothing stands between me</em></p><p><em>And the moon above.</em></p></blockquote> <p>Everlasting.</p> <p>A dying person’s attention turns toward a place we do not see and that they cannot explain. They are done with the business of the living, as it were, and more or less finished with us. Now they are not a mother or a plumber or a friend. Now they are entirely a dying person, and the world begins to shine. In spite of going hours without speaking, in spite of needing help to button a shirt, he is busy. He may not have the energy to talk, because he is waiting for something and that takes everything he has left.</p> <p>He may be waiting to understand&nbsp;<em>why</em>.</p> <p>Laugh. Laugh! Sing. The last kiss, the last dream, the last joke to tell. I have been telling you all the many things we might say, and shouldn’t. Things to say as the end is coming:&nbsp;<em>I love you. I hope the best for you. We will be all right. Go with peace.</em></p> <p>Then we are listening again. We are returning to stillness, and to hearing what is being said without words. Most of us are not used to silence. It takes getting used to. The background noise of our lives is near-constant: endless voices, television, music, traffic, the ping from incoming texts, the demanding requests of daily life. Because we aren’t used to silence, we don’t understand how to be in it, how full it is. We may struggle against it, but silence is part of this world now. </p> <p>Silence is attention. Attention on this, right here, right now. Attention on the hand against the sheet, the texture of the cotton, the cool cotton. The hand rising to take a cup; the hard, warm curve of the cup. The steam. The heat. The sensation of the bending tendon in the hand, the scratch of a nail along the bedcover. Inhalation. Exhalation. All this in silence, filled with the music between words, what you might call the music of the spheres - the world’s hum. The faint vibration of breath and muscle and time.</p> <p>The writer Dennis Potter died of pancreatic cancer. A few months before his death, he gave a remarkable interview on the BBC. His wife was also dying, of breast cancer, and he was her main caregiver. He was relaxed and smiling - his pain cocktail was a combination of morphine, champagne, and cigarettes - and full of his signature dark humor. Dying, he said, gave him a new perspective on life; it gave him a way to celebrate.</p> <p>“The blossom is out in full now,” he said, describing what he saw from his office window. “It’s a plum tree, it looks like apple blossom but it’s white, and looking at it, instead of saying, ‘Oh, that’s a nice blossom’<em>…</em>last week looking at it through the window when I’m writing, I&nbsp;<em>see&nbsp;</em>it is the whitest, frothiest, blossomiest blossom that there ever could be, and I can see it. Things are both more trivial than they ever were, and more important than they ever were, and the difference between the trivial and the important doesn’t seem to matter. But the nowness of everything is absolutely wondrous.” </p> <p>He couldn’t really explain, he added; you have to experience it. “The glory of it, if you like, the comfort of it, the reassurance…not that I’m interested in reassuring people, bugger that. The fact is, if you see the present tense, boy do you see it! And boy can you celebrate it.”</p> <p>He died nine days after his wife.</p> <p><em>Excerpted from&nbsp;</em><em><a href="https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Advice-for-Future-Corpses-(and-Those-Who-Love-Them)/Sallie-Tisdale/9781501182174">Advice for Future Corpses<em>&nbsp;</em></a></em><em>by Sallie Tisdale. Copyright © 2018 by Sallie Tisdale. Reprinted by permission of Touchstone, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Inc.</em></p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/happiness/the-choices-we-make-for-others-at-the-end-of-life-20190115?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20190118&amp;utm_content=YTW_20190118+CID_85178c688cabc30f50e3d7a2d1e73994&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=The%20Choices%20We%20Make%20for">YES! Magazine</a> under a different title and stand-first.</em><em></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/samantha-wood-mccourt/can-end-of-life-be-opportunity-for-social-change">Can the end of life be an opportunity for social change?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/david-clark/works-of-love-cicely-saunders-and-hospice-movement">Works of love: Cicely Saunders and the hospice movement</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/yasmin-gunaratnam/stephen-sutton-and-politics-of-deathbed-smile">Stephen Sutton and the politics of the deathbed smile</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 Sallie Tisdale Empathy Care Thu, 24 Jan 2019 21:03:54 +0000 Sallie Tisdale 121377 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Meet the corporations who sue governments to undermine progressive change https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/rosa-pavanelli/meet-corporations-who-sue-governments-to-undermine-progressive-change <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Today, campaigners dressed as wolves in suits invaded the streets of Davos to highlight the real face of private-sector influence.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;</p><p class="MsoNormal"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/LeoHyde.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span><span class="image-caption">Credit: Public Services International. All rights reserved.</span><span>&nbsp;</span></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span><span>The World Economic Forum (WEF), currently taking place in Davos, is the premiere sales-pitch for private-sector solutions. CEO’s will spend the week rubbing shoulders with politicians and promoting their vision of the world, all tucked away in the secrecy of the Swiss Alps.</span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span> Yet many of the corporations involved in the WEF have consistently used Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) - a set of rules within trade and investment treaties - to sue our governments, undermine progressive policy, win huge payouts from the public purse and prevent the urgent policy changes we need to address the world’s problems. Alarmingly the European Union is using this year’s Davos meeting to sell its ideas for making this even easier.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span><a href="https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ASQRYKOqPx7eKjaDXAXtrZGFgAENhy6mQj0lvhW7lp8/edit">An analysis by Public Services International</a> reveals that over forty WEF Industry Partners have used ISDS provisions to sue states for policies or decisions they don’t like. Among the most egregious examples include ISDS cases brought against environmental protections, public health measures and attempts to make electricity more affordable.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>In 2005 for example, WEF-regular Cargill</span><span><a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/canada-mexico-cargill/nafta-award-to-cargill-against-mexico-stands-idUSL1E8G9HV420120510"> </a><a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/canada-mexico-cargill/nafta-award-to-cargill-against-mexico-stands-idUSL1E8G9HV420120510">sued</a></span><span><a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/canada-mexico-cargill/nafta-award-to-cargill-against-mexico-stands-idUSL1E8G9HV420120510">&nbsp;</a></span><span><a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/canada-mexico-cargill/nafta-award-to-cargill-against-mexico-stands-idUSL1E8G9HV420120510">Mexico</a> for implementing a tax on high-fructose corn syrup to address the country’s obesity crisis. In 2008, <span>Dow Chemical</span><span> </span>sued Canada after the province of Quebec banned a harmful pesticide. And pharma-giant <span>Novartis recently</span></span><a href="https://www.publiceye.ch/en/news/detail/glivec-in-colombia-new-leaked-letter-from-novartis-attests-to-pressure-at-highest-level"><span> </span><span>threatened</span></a><span><span> </span></span><span>to use ISDS to successfully discourage the Colombian government from making a life-saving leukaemia drug more accessible.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Of course, multinationals haven’t been able to implement ISDS on their own. Our public leaders have drunk the corporate cool-aid - often convinced by false claims that ISDS is the best way to secure Foreign Direct Investment. It is in this context that the European Union has been cashing in on its “Social Europe” image to promote a new model of ISDS it calls the Multilateral Investment Court (MIC).<br /> <br /> When, thanks to great work by campaigners, a recent EU Commission consultation resulted in 97% of respondents rejecting ISDS, the EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Maelstrom was forced to admit that “ISDS is now the most toxic acronym in Europe.”<strong> </strong>Nevertheless, at a time when even the United States is backing away from these flawed provisions, the EU Commission is continuing to</span><a href="http://www.world-psi.org/sites/default/files/documents/research/en_wolfics_web.pdf"><span> </span></a><a href="http://www.world-psi.org/sites/default/files/documents/research/en_wolfics_web.pdf"><span>rebrand and promote them</span></a><span>.<span>&nbsp; </span>They’ve updated the acronym and made superficial changes without addressing the underlying issues; they’ve even attempted to promote the positives of ISDS for small businesses.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Yet over 90% of ISDS awards go to companies with at least US$ 1 billion in annual revenue or to individuals with over US$100 million in net wealth. ISDS isn’t made for shop-owners or workers. It’s made for the Davos Class.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>If the EU is serious about stopping the rising tide of right wing populism that views the European Union as part of a globalised elite, it must stop its dishonest campaign to establish a permanent ISDS court against the wishes of the 97%.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>That’s why the “</span><a href="https://stopisds.org/?password-protected=login&amp;redirect_to=https%3A%2F%2Fstopisds.org%2Falliance%2F"><span>Stop ISDS coalition</span></a>,<span>” an alliance of over a hundred organisations, has chosen the WEF to launch a new campaign that calls on European leaders to end their dogmatic promotion of ISDS and instead support a binding United Nations Treaty on Transnational Corporations so that we can hold big business to account. Today campaigners, dressed as Corporate ISDS Wolves invaded the streets of Davos to highlight the real face of corporate power.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Nothing epitomizes the coziness between politicians and corporations quite like the WEF. And nothing epitomizes the troubling results of unchecked corporate political power quite like ISDS. It’s time it was ended.</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="/transformation/rosa-pavanelli/fifty-years-later-we-still-have-dream">Fifty years later, we still have a dream</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/meet-activist-who-brought-monopoly-man-to-life">Meet the activist who brought Monopoly Man to life</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 Rosa Pavanelli The role of money Economics Wed, 23 Jan 2019 13:40:58 +0000 Rosa Pavanelli 121401 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Brexit, democracy and the sacred https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jonathan-rowson/brexit-democracy-and-sacred <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>There is no way back to anything resembling a&nbsp;united&nbsp;kingdom without some kind of sacrifice.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JonathanRowson.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/brexit-europe-britain-referendum-2704055/">Pixabay</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p>The philosophical heart of Brexit is the unexamined relationship between democracy and the sacred. The crux of the UK’s problem is that there is something sacred about democracy but there is nothing democratic about the sacred; that’s why the first EU referendum is considered by many to be sacrosanct while a second risks being sacrilegious.</p> <p>What makes something sacred is not that it is religious or even that it is good, but that it represents a moral touchstone or boundary; something held to be fundamental and inviolable. We hold as sacred whatever we are deeply invested in to the extent that to lose it&nbsp;–&nbsp;family, flag, place, idea &nbsp;–&nbsp; would represent an existential threat to our identity and capacity to make meaning out of life. The sacred is not an ally to instrumental thinking but its antidote. Hard though it is for Remainers to understand, Brexit is sacred in precisely that way for many who voted to leave. </p> <p>At the core of our Brexit predicament is therefore an unresolved sense of dissonance. Two and a half years after the initial vote, in aggregate the country appears to feel both that we should not leave the EU and that we have to leave. This dissonance has taken hold because there has been no national consensus about what the result of the referendum meant in its fullest sense. Back in June 2016, we needed a moment of collective reckoning, a wholehearted conversation about the causes and consequences of leaving the EU. Instead we had “Brexit means Brexit,” a series of unhelpful negotiating postures and political decisions, and an irresolute opposition; all of which manifests now in the lack of a parliamentary majority for a viable way forward.</p> <p>What makes Brexit so maddening is that two of democracy’s moral logics are talking past each other. The utilitarian logic is about avoiding or managing the negative consequences of Brexit; but the deontological<a href="https://medium.com/@jonathanrowson/brexit-democracy-and-the-sacred-why-a-second-referendum-has-to-be-sacrificial-c1c4a84e853a#_msocom_1"></a>&nbsp;logic (whatever is inherently right, regardless of the consequences) is about guarding the&nbsp;<em>sanctity</em>&nbsp;of the decision to leave, again regardless of the consequences. Another major moral logic, currently neglected but crucial for moving on from the impasse, is virtue development, the missing conversation about what it means to live well together.</p> <p>Alas, we are now spending billions of pounds preparing for a no deal Brexit that few want because there is no sense of shared purpose, and the language of consequences has no standing in matters that are perceived to be sacred. As pragmatism and principle go head to head, what looks superficially like a civil war between Leavers and Remainers is actually more like a decisive challenge to a barely coherent political system. </p> <p>Whether you think leaving the EU increases our sovereignty or diminishes it, democracy is a valid touchstone in this debate. Democracy is grounded in a principle of moral equality between citizens, manifest in our human rights within the rule of law, and made politically tangible through the principle of One Person One Vote where voting outcomes are respected. When Brexiteers speak of not leaving the EU in terms of ‘frustrating the will of the people’ or ‘betraying democracy’ it can sound shrill, but it is the violation of this principle of moral equality that they are invoking, even if their ultimate motivation may lie elsewhere. Democracy is the founding principle of our shared life together. If that shared touchstone goes, or is seen to have gone, everything else could go with it.</p> <p>The success of Brexiteers has been to sacralise a particular outcome of a democratic process in the name of democracy, despite the fact that it is the principles underlying the process that are sacred, not the outcome. <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/jonathan-rowson/deeper-into-democracy-legitimacy-of-challenging-brexit-s-majoritarian-mandate">Democracy</a> should be an evolving historical and institutional process, part of a shared setting in which complexities are aired, opinions evolve and debates are resolved. But Brexit&nbsp;has <em>reduced</em>&nbsp;democracy to a distilled opinion of 17.4 million people at one moment in time; a revealed religion that found evangelical form in ‘the will of the people.’</p> <p>What follows for what we should do now? We might find a way to stumble through without another referendum, but not without economic harm and continued cultural rancor. In light of our tangled moral logics there is a case for a resolutely cathartic approach. The deeper rationale for a new public vote is not just to ‘sort it out,’ but to subsume the toxic and divisive energy of the first referendum with a more transformative approach in the second. </p> <p>The details need careful attention, but the extension of Article 50 (notification of intention to leave the EU) needs to provide enough time to connect the new referendum process to a national conversation about all the issues that are implicated in Brexit; everything from social and economic policy to status, identity and constitutional change. </p> <p>As a sacrifice to Remainers, the new referendum should include those forsaken in the last one; EU nationals who have made the UK their home and 16-17 year olds, many of whom see the EU as part of their home too. That loads the dice heavily in favour of Remain. However, as a sacrifice to Leavers, we should set the bar for remaining in the EU much higher, requiring a simple majority in all four home nations and an overall UK supermajority of anywhere between 52% (eclipsing the 51.9% victory for Leave in 2016) to the highest supermajority bar required for constitutional change in some countries - 66.6%. </p> <p>Whatever figure is chosen should leave the outcome of the referendum in doubt, with a positive campaign to be fought and won. A vote lower than 40% for Remain could lead to a managed No Deal Brexit on WTO terms, and between 40-50% would be an acceptance of Theresa May’s negotiated deal. A further concession to Leave is that even if Remain won over 50% but less than the agreed supermajority, this would entail Leaving, but with the softest possible Brexit, pre-negotiated in outline with the EU and EFTA countries and detailed in a White Paper. It is a messy approach, but honestly and purposively so, because our problem is not primarily procedural in nature. </p> <p>The purpose of the supermajority requirement and expanded electorate is to neutralise the legitimate claim that another referendum would cause further division and be a betrayal of democracy. The resulting campaign cannot be about wishing away the first vote; it should focus on national renewal within a further-democratised transnational alliance, and it should be collaborative and inclusive by design.</p> <p>In the light of existing support for independence in Scotland and growing support for a United Ireland; and due to the socio-economic divisions and alienation between rulers and ruled that drove the original referendum result, there is no way back to anything resembling a&nbsp;<em>united</em>&nbsp;kingdom without some kind of sacrifice. The UK has been weakened both by the Brexit process and all currently conceivable outcomes, but sacrifice is precisely about the transition from weakness to power, in which, as <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=Vrwj2IWMLTUC&amp;pg=PA129&amp;lpg=PA129&amp;dq=Terry+Eagleton+puts+it,+self-dispossession+is+a+condition+for+self-fulfillment.&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=n7wQKaCX16&amp;sig=ACfU3U3gQn1qXxm-TYk4Tq2svDinh9dZpQ&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=2ahUKEwjK9Pan7_TfAhUBc98KHfZ">Terry Eagleton puts it</a>, self-dispossession is a condition for self-fulfillment. Asking for a second referendum in which we can only remain with a supermajority and leave even with a simple majority for Remain is a form of self-dispossession, but this has to be a genuine sacrifice for there to be a chance of fulfillment.&nbsp; </p> <p>The sacred has two faces. One is what <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren%C3%A9_Girard">Rene Girard</a> calls the archaic sacred, in which someone or something is sacrificed to sustain the natural order and the cohesion of society. It comes at a cost, but mainly <em>to</em> an Other; in the extreme case it’s the expulsion or killing of a scapegoat, an action which is cathartic in restoring order and propitiating the gods. Arguably this is what happened with immigration on Brexit.</p> <p>The other aspect of the sacred is modelled in the Christian tradition by Jesus, the kenotic self-giving <em>for</em> the Other that we see in parental love and self-sacrificial care. These two forms of the sacred manifest all the time in politics: scapegoating, violence and purging happen, but so do compromise and the willingness to recognise obligations to, and the demands of, Others. The challenge is that a sacralised goal that calls for other-sacrifice is liable to be obnoxious, which is why a re-run of the referendum is viewed by many as unacceptable, or as The Daily Express might put it: ‘They are going to take away your Brexit.’</p> <p>However, a sacred approach that calls for self-sacrifice and self-giving in other ways has the potential to be healing. Clearly, moving towards these kinds of transformative ideas will require more political vision and capacity for sacrifice than is currently evident in British political life. Still, there is a dearth of good alternatives, and stranger things have happened. </p> <p>The current impasse might well lead to a second referendum with terms similar to the first, but that entails significant political risks (losing again due to strength of the betrayal narrative) and cultural risks (enduring divisions). We have learned that referendums often offer neither closure nor catharsis and it would be foolish to carry on regardless. Yet perhaps the real lesson is that we haven’t been doing public votes properly. Brexit was a wake-up call, and we need to stay awake, grow through crisis, and commit to reweaving the social fabric of the country as a whole. Whatever form it finally takes, any new referendum has to be more truly democratic than the one it seeks to subsume, and to be seen to be so.</p> <p><em>A longer and referenced version of this piece is available <a href="https://medium.com/@jonathanrowson/brexit-democracy-and-the-sacred-why-a-second-referendum-has-to-be-sacrificial-c1c4a84e853a">here</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="/uk/anthony-barnett/into-vortex">What does the unprecedented Brexit defeat of the UK government mean?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/caroline-lucas/how-do-we-ensure-that-project-hope-overcomes-project-fear">How do we ensure that Project Hope overcomes Project Fear?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jonathan-rowson/charlie-hebdo-is-nothing-sacred">Charlie Hebdo: is nothing sacred?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation uk Transformation UK Brexit Jonathan Rowson Trans-partisan politics Love and Spirituality Sun, 20 Jan 2019 19:28:57 +0000 Jonathan Rowson 121329 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Technology with limits https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/leo-babauta/technology-with-limits <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How can we tame technology to do what we need and then let it go so that we can be more connected to each other in real life?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/LeoBabauta.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/143601516@N03/28083375162">Flickr/Blogtrepeneur</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p>I am no technophobe, but I do believe in&nbsp;<a href="https://zenhabits.net/deliberate/">living consciously</a>, and technology has a tendency to overrun our attention and our lives.</p> <p>It’s designed to do that: tech companies are motivated to keep our attention in their apps, their websites, their devices. They’ve found incentives for us to keep using the technology, shiny new things every second, powerful recommendation engines, tapping into our desire not to miss out, to be entertained, to run to comfort.</p> <p>But you know all that. The problem comes when we try to figure out how to get a grip on it all, to tame technology to do what we need and then let it go so we can be more present, go outside more, move more, be connected to each other in real life more. Wrangling the chaos into something that we use consciously isn’t always easy.</p> <p>I propose simplicity. And the method I propose is limits.</p> <p>This is nothing new - I’ve been an advocate of the simplicity of limits for well over a decade, and many others have proposed simplicity and limits as well. It’s a movement, if one that’s drowned out by technology.</p> <p>But as with anything, we have to keep revisiting it. Keep coming back. Keep reminding ourselves. Keep practicing.</p> <p>Here’s the practice of simplicity through limits, as applied to technology:</p> <p><strong>Notice where it’s overrunning your life</strong>. Where do you get caught in a loop of watching videos or looking at people’s photos over and over, in a rabbithole of reading social media or news sites, in response mode of checking messages often and replying to everything right away? If you feel a bit addicted to Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Youtube, Netflix, Facebook, Messenger/Whatsapp or the like…this is an area to apply a little focus. You might make a short list of places to focus on. Add to this when you notice other areas overrunning your attention.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Think of the simplicity that you’d like</strong>. Are you happy with technology filling up your attention as it is right now? If so, there’s no need to simplify. But if you’d like to be more present, more connected to others, more focused on your meaningful work, more active outside of technology…then ask yourself how much you care about this. Are you really committed to change here, or is it something you’ll just say you’re going to do? If you care about it, visualize the simplicity you’d like here. What does that look like? What benefits will it bring to your life?&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Think of appropriate limits</strong>. So let’s say you want to limit your time on Instagram (let’s say it’s a big time suck for you)…one limit might be to not check it on your phone (delete the app). And you decide to only look at it on your web browser after 7pm. Now, these are just examples - the right limit is one that feels workable for you, but that creates the amount of simplicity and focus you’d like. I’ll give more specific ideas for limits below, but in this step, you just choose the limit(s) that you think will work for you in each area of technology.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Write the limits down &amp; share it with one person</strong>. Actually write down your limits. For example, in a notebook, write, “I will only check Facebook once a day, from 5-6pm.” Make a list of all of your limits in one place and share it with someone, so you are committed to these limits.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Put the limits to the test</strong>. Try these new limits for a week. Really commit to it, don’t just say you’re going to do it. Feel committed to it in your heart. Then actually try to stick to the limits. At the end of each day, reflect on how it went…did you stick to the limits? What got in the way? See how it goes each day for a week. This is the real-world test for the limits you’ve created.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Adjust as needed</strong>. Do you need to change the limits in some way to make them more doable? Or is there a way you&nbsp;can deepen your commitment? What reminders can you set? What accountability can you create? How can you adjust your method? Maybe other areas are coming up that you didn’t realize - reading blogs browsing through certain websites, perhaps. Add these to your list, set limits. Adjust each week.</p> <p>That’s the general process…but let’s talk about some specific ideas.</p> <p><strong>Simple Limits for the Phone. </strong>The phone is one of the biggest addictions for most people, because it has so many other addictions inside of it! From Facebook and Instagram to news and messages, it’s all there, anytime you get the itch.<strong></strong></p> <p>Here are some ways you might limit your phone (pick and choose what would work for you):</p> <p><strong>No phone use in the car, at the dining table, while in line, or while talking with other people</strong>. If you’re having coffee or lunch with someone, agree to put the phones away unless you really, really need to look something up or put your next date on the calendar. If you’re eating dinner with family, make the same agreement. If you’re driving in the car (or riding with someone), tell yourself that all messages and other stuff can wait until you get to your destination. If you’re in line, there’s a strong tendency to fill the waiting by looking at something on your phone or doing something useful…but cut that off and see if you can just be present.</p> <p><strong>Delete the apps that are your biggest temptations</strong>. I recently deleted all social media, news and other distracting apps on my phone. Now I have Instapaper and Kindle (for long-form reading), Whatsapp (for family messages), Todoist to update my todo list, and some other as-needed apps (Chrome for looking things up, some financial apps, and some travel apps). Having a phone without the biggest temptations (Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, etc.) will drastically simplify your tech life.</p> <p><strong>Limit messaging to certain times, unless urgent</strong>. I have given in to the importance of messaging - I use Whatsapp for family, and Gmail and Slack for work. But I also believe in limiting all of these, otherwise it’s constant interruptions and responding to everyone else’s requests. Instead, I limit the responding to certain times - email in the morning and late afternoon, and 1-2 times a day for messaging. I make an exception for urgent messages that need a response sooner, which means I leave my notifications on so I can respond if really needed. My family would love it if I responded more quickly, I know, but setting limits means making tough decisions like this.</p> <p>Imagine if you implemented limits like this - it would make most of our lives simpler, and give us greater focus. And yes, it could be even simpler, but this is what works for me right now.</p> <p><strong>Simple Limits for the Computer. </strong>Many of us work online, in addition to finding news and entertainment on the Internet. If you’re one of us, then you know how working and living online can mean that your life becomes overtaken by technology.<strong></strong></p> <p>But no matter your work situation, it’s likely that creating some limits can simplify things.</p> <p>Here are some ideas for setting limits and simplifying:</p> <p><strong>Set intentions &amp; Most Important Tasks (MITs) as you start</strong>. As you get started for the day, instead of just diving in, take a minute to pick out your 1-3 Most Important Tasks for the day. Set an intention or two: to push into your meaningful work, to be mindful throughout the day, to be loving to anyone you message, etc. This creates a more intentional way of working. Now try to focus first on your MITs.</p> <p><strong>Close tabs, do one task at a time</strong>. Instead of having a thousand tabs open in your browser, close them all but one. That means bookmarking the others to go to later (maybe in a “Later” bookmark folder), maybe putting ones associated with projects and tasks in your to-do list (use a browser plug-in to quick add your tasks). Clear everything away, so you can have just one tab open to do your MIT and have full focus.</p> <p><strong>Set a reminder &amp; take breaks</strong>. Use a&nbsp;<a href="https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/break-timer/hklkdbpicdmlpoiellngedpejjkmapei">reminder extension like Break Timer</a>&nbsp;to remind you to take breaks and move around more often. Sitting too much isn’t good for us! And setting limits for how long you sit at a time is a good way to keep technology from overrunning our minds. As you return from each break, check in with your intention - do you have a new intention? How are you doing with your last intentions? Do you need to close tabs? What do you want to focus on now?</p> <p><strong>Block distractions except during certain time boxes</strong>. There are lots of site blockers or Internet blockers (<a href="https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/stayfocusd/laankejkbhbdhmipfmgcngdelahlfoji">here’s one for Chrome</a>) - just pick one. Think about what sites you’d like to limit. When do you want to be able to use them? Perhaps you check news from 10-10:30 am, and go to your distractions after 6pm. Set up those limits in your site blocker. That way you can still have time with your distractions or information sources, but with enforced limits.</p> <p><strong>Limit messaging, checking things, and random browsing</strong>. Just like with the phone, setting times when you do email or messaging is a good way to limit those activities. You can do something similar with the things you need to check - set times for when you check them. Or limit yourself to 5 minutes (set a timer in the browser). Same thing with random browsing…if you want to allow yourself to start reading about some fascinating new subject, set a timer. Or save the articles for later (I use&nbsp;<a href="https://www.instapaper.com/">Instapaper</a>, but there are other good ones as well).</p> <p>Of course, you don’t have to do all of these. You might have other ideas of simplifying through limits. These are just some examples. But give some of them a shot, and see if you can achieve greater simplicity through the power of limits.</p> <p><em>This article was first published on <a href="http://zenhabits.net/" target="_blank">Zen Habits</a> and re-posted on <a href="http://www.dailygood.org/story/2199/simplify-technology-with-limits-leo-babauta/">Daily Good</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/kaliya-identity-woman/humanizing-technology">Humanizing technology</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/charles-m-johnston/techno-brilliance-or-techno-stupidity">Techno-brilliance or techno-stupidity?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jeff-rasley/could-facebook-provide-antidote-to-political-polarization">Could Facebook provide an antidote to political polarization?</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 Leo Babauta Social media and social transformation Culture Thu, 17 Jan 2019 21:06:32 +0000 Leo Babauta 121281 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Connecting to nature is a matter of environmental justice https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/nicki-carter/connecting-to-nature-is-matter-of-environmental-justice <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The climate crisis necessitates deep shifts in our thinking that go beyond the conventional remit of left-wing politics.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Nicki Carter.jpg" alt="" width="640" /></p><p class="image-caption">People’s Climate March, September 21 2014. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/35130853@N05/15313479981/in/photolist-pkcA5V-4inujq-dhTgrw-aPhjL6-aUreUB-aPhqGB-aPhqBK-85faBu-8j6ua8-8jakow-8j9XLQ-8j73d4-8j6vw4-8j6HXT-8j6Knr-8j9PUS-8j6EoP-4ypPmg-r6sgFa-s3c8iB-s3cc4T-rHVDkg-s3c9ez-s3fHbp-rZYdUQ-s3g6R4-r6fq2o">Flickr/Alan Greig</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">CC BY-NC-SA 4.0</a>.</p> <p>The environmental crisis is fundamentally a racist crisis; it is also classist crisis, a sexist crisis, and a crisis of capitalism. Environmental activism is meaningless if it does not grapple with issues of injustice and expose the links between environmental devastation, colonial history, and the exploitative relationships of the North and the South. But does this mean that campaigns focused on our connections to the natural world and the suffering of non-human animals are irrelevant?</p> <p>Not at all: activists must reclaim these connections as a core political issue, instead of leaving the task of re-learning our place in nature to the National Trust or David Attenborough.&nbsp;We need to ask why saving the whales and fighting racism have come to be seen as separate ways of approaching the environmental crisis, and how we can join them back together.</p> <p>Judging from my own conversations with other activists, there seems to be gap between environmental groups that focus on reconsidering our relationships with the natural world - which have a tendency to be less justice-based and overtly “political” - and those that focus on exposing the structures that have brought us to our current crisis. Would it not be more effective to consider these approaches as two sides of the same, destructive mindset?&nbsp;</p> <p>Many of us in the global North see ourselves as outside of nature, a separation that is written into our language. The whole concept of an “environmental movement” is indicative of the fact that it is hard for us to conceive of the crises we face as broad, deep and multi-faceted. Separation is built into the borders we create between the “city” and the “countryside,” and into the way we’re conditioned to see the food on our plates and the objects we own as divorced from the ecosystems that sustain us. The idea that “humans” and “nature” are separate is a child of a colonial mindset that has been forcibly ingrained into every aspect of our lives by economic and political systems built on extraction at any cost.&nbsp;</p> <p>In order to colonize people, the colonizers had to see land that indigenous people had cultivated for generations in harmony with nature as something with no worth. This ‘new’ land was not ‘pristine;’ indigenous communities had always promoted its biological diversity and beauty. Writer and researcher <a href="https://www.ucpress.edu/book/9780520280434/tending-the-wild">M. Kat Anderson</a>&nbsp;describes how indigenous people in pre-colonial California used a variety of techniques to nurture the world around them to<em>&nbsp;</em>“allow for sustainable harvest of plants over centuries and possibly thousands of years.”</p> <p>When indigenous communities were massacred or enslaved to make room for a new, extractive form of agriculture, many of these techniques were eradicated.&nbsp;Their suppression, and the widespread refusal to acknowledge the violent origins of modern societies, goes hand-in-hand with the loss of our perception of the earth as an entity with which we can have a mutually beneficial relationship. Even the most optimistic among us seem to be able to imagine a world in which human beings become “neutral” actors in relation to nature. Not only does this dramatically restrict our horizons; it also leaves a gaping hole in the idea of climate justice. </p> <p>Many communities still maintain such mutually beneficial relationships and carry within them a deep knowledge and understanding of the natural world. This is perhaps the most valuable form of knowledge that exists. It is also the most undervalued. If we are to create a world based on justice, activists in the global North need to do more than stand in solidarity with indigenous communities; we need to learn from them. Those of us who are living in societies where it is becoming increasingly difficult to see ourselves as connected to nature need to start a process of re-learning how to restore ways of living that have been stolen, suppressed or made to seem outdated, when in fact they are indispensible.</p> <p>No matter what we do to mitigate the worse effects of climate change, we already have decades of built-up global warming that have yet to play out in the atmosphere. Adapting to a changed planet will be inescapable, and adapting in a way that upholds justice will be a huge challenge. Even if countries like the UK take responsibility for the disproportionate damage they have caused and transform their economic systems to match up with planetary limits, justice requires that we also challenge the way we <em>think</em>&nbsp;about the world around us, in order to avoid reproducing existing hierarchies of knowledge and destructive relationships with nature. We must learn how to live justly and creatively in co-operation with a vastly-altered planet. </p> <p>Interacting with the natural environment has also been proven to have positive effects on wellbeing, to the point where doctors are starting to point patients towards green gyms and community gardens to benefit their physical and mental health.&nbsp;Studies by <a href="http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/4792791243161600">Natural England</a> and <a href="https://www.mind.org.uk/media/336359/Feel-better-outside-feel-better-inside-report.pdf">Mind</a> support this contention, while research from <a href="http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/4524600415223808">Kings College London</a> confirms that learning in nature is beneficial for children’s confidence, resilience and academic progress - though current education systems don’t give children enough opportunity to reap these benefits.&nbsp;Connecting to nature can improve self-awareness and allow us to discover how we fit into the world constructively. But access to nature is far from equal; this is a much-neglected issue of climate justice.&nbsp;</p> <p>The amount of access each person has to the natural world is deeply entwined with issues of class and race. In the centuries following the first enclosures of agricultural land, access to the natural environment has been gradually privatized.&nbsp;It’s no accident that poorer areas are more polluted, or that parks used by predominantly working class people are turned into luxury flats, or that children from working class backgrounds have less access to nature. According to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2018/mar/01/improving-childrens-access-nature-addressing-inequality-bame-low-income-backgrounds">Natural England:</a></p> <blockquote><p>“more than one in nine children had not set foot in a park, forest or other natural environment over the previous year. Children from low income and black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) families were particularly affected. Just 56% of under-16s from BAME households visited the natural environment at least once a week, compared to 74% from white households.”&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p>Access to nature is constantly being restricted in new ways. As well as being deeply unjust, this is deeply unhelpful to the fight against environmental destruction; how can a child be expected to envision a world in which people work with nature if they have never had the chance to get to know their own natural environment?&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Many community gardening and permaculture projects in the UK are taking steps to tackle these injustices. The community garden is one of the most diverse and politically powerful spaces possible. There may not be any placards, but the act of occupying space and growing food together with people you would never normally meet is a political act, creating spaces and relationships that capitalism does not control. </p> <p>That being said, permaculture could be far more powerful if it engaged more actively with social and environmental justice. The practices of permaculture are heavily influenced by indigenous practices and techniques that small-scale farmers in the global South have been using for generations. It is important that this heritage is recognised by permaculturists and transition movements, lest they become green oases for the privileged.&nbsp;</p> <p>To suggest that we can move closer to environmental justice by reconsidering how we relate to nature doesn’t mean that anybody who calls themselves an environmentalist must be vegan and grow their own food. But it&nbsp;is&nbsp;to suggest that we ask ourselves whether our attitudes towards the natural world can sometimes echo the exploitative and fractured mindsets we are actually trying to fight. When we think about a post-capitalist future we must think about one in which we reclaim the knowledge and understanding of nature that has been violently eroded over the past 300 years. Movements for climate and other forms of justice will be far more powerful together than apart.&nbsp;</p> <p>This shift in mentality will be huge, and it's a big ask in a time of crisis on multiple fronts. But it is precisely the nature of this crisis that necessitates deep shifts in our thinking that go beyond the conventional remit of left-wing politics. No doubt this challenge will take a different shape for every person who undertakes it. We cannot all become ecologists overnight, but we can at least be aware of our own attitudes towards the natural world and how we might want to challenge them. In doing so, we might find that the empathy and curiosity that are generated through our interactions with nature make us both better people and better activists.</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/we-need-ecological-civilization-before-it-s-too-late">We need an ecological civilization before it’s too late</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/janey-stephenson/you-don-t-have-to-be-embarrassed-to-be-vegan">You don’t have to be embarrassed to be vegan</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jay-shooster/Why-human-rights-groups-are-beginning-to-support-the-rights-of-non-human-animals">Why human rights groups are beginning to support the rights of non-human animals</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 Nicki Carter Environment Tue, 15 Jan 2019 22:56:40 +0000 Nicki Carter 121299 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Could we force politicians to tell the truth? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/david-mountain/could-we-force-politicians-to-tell-truth <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Politics is pre-truth not post-truth. Does the regulation of advertising provide some answers?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/DavidMountain.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">People’s Vote March in London, June 23 2018. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:People%27s_vote_on_Brexit_march,_London,_June_23,_2018_29.jpg">Wikimedia/Ilovetheeu</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en">CC BY-SA 4.0</a>.</p> <p>It’s a truism that politicians lie. &nbsp;Even politicians themselves half-acknowledge this fact: they are, in their own words, ‘terminologically inexact’ or ‘economical with the truth.’ When asked whether lying is widespread in politics, former deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats Malcolm Bruce answered: ‘<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/may/26/mps-lies-sliding-scale-alistair-carmichael">No. Well, yes,</a>’ which pretty much sums it up.</p> <p>As a result, there’s a deep-seated and growing sense of apathy when it comes to politics. When 2016 was declared the dawn of post-truth, no one batted an eyelid. So pervasive is this sense of resignation that a 2014&nbsp;<a href="https://www.change.org/p/it-s-entirely-legal-for-an-mp-to-lie-to-parliament-doesn-t-sound-right-does-it-makelyinghistory?recruiter=26008075&amp;utm_source=share_petition&amp;utm_medium=facebook&amp;utm_campaign=autopublish&amp;utm_term=des-lg-no_src-no_msg">petition</a>&nbsp;to make lying in the House of Commons an offence was widely regarded as a joke, even by the petition’s founder.</p> <p>This fatalism is understandable but dangerously self-defeating. It convinces us that our elected representatives will always spout falsehoods whether we like it or not. It encourages us not to act, which is a curious attitude given that all of us would like our politicians to be more truthful. So what to do? I’d suggest we look at how advertisers have been forced to tell the truth through a series of laws, rules and regulations, and then apply those lessons to politics.</p> <p>Anyone wishing to sell their wares in the 21st century is constricted by a wide range of laws and regulations. In many countries advertisers are legally required to carry out their work&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gov.uk/marketing-advertising-law">honestly and truthfully</a>, and to provide accurate descriptions of their products and services. In the UK it’s a crime to mislead the public, whether by providing them with&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gov.uk/marketing-advertising-law/regulations-that-affect-advertising">false or incomplete information</a>&nbsp;or by making&nbsp;<a href="https://www.gov.uk/marketing-advertising-law/advertising-codes-of-practice">inaccurate comparisons with competitors</a>.</p> <p>But it wasn’t always like this. At the turn of the 20th century advertising was an unregulated Wild West, where the only limit to an advertiser’s fantastical claims was their imagination. For example, the makers of the drug Thorazine claimed it could ‘<a href="https://weirdomatic.com/creepy-ads.html">control the agitated, belligerent senile</a>.’ In the USA, quack medic Lydia Pinkham’s suspiciously vague ‘Herb Medicine’ promised to alleviate ‘<a href="http://business.time.com/2011/10/11/14-products-with-notoriously-misleading-advertising-claims/slide/lydia-pickhams-vegetable-compound/">all womanly ailments</a>.’ Fellow phony Dr William Koch declared that his miracle drug glyoxylide could cure ‘<a href="http://business.time.com/2011/10/11/14-products-with-notoriously-misleading-advertising-claims/slide/dr-kochs-cure-all/">all human ills</a>’ (it turned out to be nothing more than distilled water). At least Koch’s homeopathic panacea was harmless; many miracle cures – even those marketed for children – were laced with alcohol, opiates, narcotics and hallucinogens and could be highly&nbsp;<a href="http://revolutionsincommunication.com/law/?page_id=730">dangerous and addictive</a>.</p> <p>It was the health risks of these snake oil cures that finally spurred governments to outlaw false advertising. Until the early 20th century advertisers could only be punished under broad, non-specific laws, such as those against&nbsp;<a href="http://revolutionsincommunication.com/law/?page_id=730">indecency and sedition</a>. But with the arrival of statutes such as the USA’s 1946&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/content/lanham-act.html">Lanham Act</a> (which allowed members of the public to file lawsuits against misleading advertisers), and governing bodies such as the UK’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.asa.org.uk/">Advertising Standards Authority</a>&nbsp;(ASA), advertisers found it much harder to make unsubstantiated claims - though it’s not for lack of trying. In 2017 the ASA forced nearly&nbsp;<a href="https://www.asa.org.uk/about-asa-and-cap/about-regulation/about-the-asa-and-cap.html">4,500 adverts</a>&nbsp;to be changed or removed. Listerine used to claim that its mouthwash could&nbsp;<a href="http://business.time.com/2011/10/11/14-products-with-notoriously-misleading-advertising-claims/slide/listerine/">cure the common cold</a>&nbsp;until it was banned from making that claim in the 1970s; in 2008 Maltesers and Jaffa Cakes were forced to stop implying that their snacks were&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/media/2008/oct/15/advertising-television">low in calories or fat</a>; and&nbsp; as recently as 2011, Nivea was still trying to convince us that their&nbsp;<a href="http://business.time.com/2011/10/11/14-products-with-notoriously-misleading-advertising-claims/slide/nivea-my-silhouette-skin-cream/">skin cream made us thinner</a> until they were ordered to stop.</p> <p>Advertising regulation ought to be credited as one of the 20th century’s unsung success stories. Thanks to the application of a number of common-sense laws, advertisers are now forced to tell the truth, with the result that the general public is safer and much more informed. This stands in stark contrast to politics, where it’s still perfectly legal for a politician to lie to the public. True, there are some scattered pieces of legislation which touch on this topic. The&nbsp;<a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Vict/34-35/83/contents/enacted">Parliamentary Witnesses Oaths Act of 1871</a>&nbsp;makes it possible for politicians to be found guilty of perjury if they lie under Parliamentary oath. The&nbsp;<a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1983/2">1983 Representation of the People Act</a> allows politicians to be punished for making false statements about a political candidate. It’s also true that election campaigns are subject to fairly tight scrutiny thanks to the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/">Electoral Commission</a>&nbsp;and associated election courts.</p> <p>Nevertheless, outside of elections and parliamentary oaths, politicians are pretty much free to bend the truth as they please. The&nbsp;<a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmcode/1474/1474.pdf">MP’s Code of Conduct</a> contains just a single sentence under the heading of ‘honesty,’ and that refers to the declaration of conflicts of interest. The&nbsp;<a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld/ldcond/code.pdf">House of Lords Code of Conduct</a> has only seven words: ‘Holders of public office should be truthful.’ What’s more, on the rare occasions an MP is found to be in breach of these codes, the consequences are so half-hearted that they can hardly be classed as punishments. Misbehaving politicians can be asked ‘<a href="https://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-information-office/g06.pdf">to apologise to the House</a>’ (not the public) or suspended from parliament for a short time, although they may still be paid their&nbsp;<a href="https://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-information-office/g06.pdf">full salary</a> while suspended.</p> <p>Clearly, current checks on politicians’ behaviour leave a lot to be desired. It’s not surprising that Westminster is swimming in falsehoods when the rules governing honest conduct are so weak and patchy. So why not apply the tried and tested methods of advertising regulation to the world of politics?</p> <p>After all, there are a number of important similarities between advertisers and politicians. Both are trying to sell something, whether it’s a product, a policy or a political party. And both are willing to play fast and loose with the truth in order to do so. But whereas advertisers have been forced to reign in these dangerous antics, politicians have been left virtually untouched. British politics isn’t post-truth, it’s pre-truth: we’re yet to establish any firm rules for honest political conduct, and politicians are free to peddle quack cures and phony panaceas for our political ailments regardless of the damage they may cause. They can slap a lie on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-latest-news-vote-leave-director-dominic-cummings-leave-eu-error-nhs-350-million-lie-bus-a7822386.html">the side of a bus</a>&nbsp;and then recant it without any consequences, or pack their election campaigns full of promises and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9790333/In-full-the-Coalitions-75-failed-election-pledges.html">fail to deliver </a>without breaking any rules.</p> <p>The existing rules governing political behaviour in the UK are designed with the self-serving aim of protecting parliament from a bad press – or, as the MP’s&nbsp;<a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmcode/1474/1474.pdf">Code of Conduct</a>&nbsp;puts it, ‘any action which would cause significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons.’ None are geared towards protecting the public from political deception. Imagine, then, if politicians found themselves as restricted as advertisers in their pronouncements. A raft of honesty laws could make it illegal for them to willingly mislead or deceive the public, to omit important information from their speeches, or to make false comparisons with rivals. There could be an independent Political Standards Authority, with which any member of the public could lodge a complaint. Punishments for those found guilty of lying could range from fines to firing. </p> <p>There could even be the equivalent of corrective advertising, where companies are forced to spend their own money correcting their previous misinformation. Alternatively, a political version of the USA’s Lanham Act would allow anyone who voted for a politician or party on the basis of a claim that was later revealed to be false to bring a lawsuit against the dishonest party. Might politicians think twice before making election pledges if they knew that their actions could land them in court?</p> <p>We already have evidence to indicate that such measures might actually work. A study by political scientists at the University of Exeter found that politicians were ‘<a href="http://www.dartmouth.edu/~nyhan/fact-checking-elites.pdf">less likely to make inaccurate statements</a>’ if they thought that their utterances were likely to be fact-checked. Further research from the USA suggests that politicians were&nbsp;<a href="https://insight.kellogg.northwestern.edu/article/media-influence-on-lawmakers-accountability">more faithful to their constituents’ wishes</a>&nbsp;when more media attention was focused on them.</p> <p>One might argue that any attempt to make lying illegal is impractical&nbsp;As<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/may/26/sir-malcolm-bruce-house-of-commons-lying-mps"> Malcolm Bruce</a> put it, “If you are suggesting every MP who has never quite told the truth [should be sacked], we would clear out the House of Commons very fast.” So much the better you might say: the by-elections triggered by a mass clear-out might feature candidates who knew full well the consequences of dishonest conduct. But what about parliamentary privilege? Parliament has&nbsp;<a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/the-big-question-what-is-parliamentary-privilege-and-is-it-being-abused-1893348.html">previously suggested</a>&nbsp;that any laws governing MPs’ conduct could violate their right ‘to speak frankly of opinions which will not be subject to the civil courts’ and their ‘need to be able to speak freely, uninhibited by possible defamation claims.’ Parliamentary privilege has an importance place in British democracy, but it isn’t a valid argument against honesty laws. The right to speak freely and frankly is not the right to lie.</p> <p>However, it’s true that politicians have to deal with sensitive information; doesn’t this require them to be a little economical with the truth at times? I don’t think so; discretion, even secrecy, is permissible when it comes to sensitive political information, but the honesty laws I’m proposing would only apply to information that politicians themselves offer to the public voluntarily - in election pledges, speeches, campaign materials and so forth. There’s no way they could be used to force officials to spill national secrets, just as advertising laws can’t force Coca Cola to reveal its secret formula.</p> <p>Then there’s the issue of free speech: would a law prohibiting MPs from lying be an infringement of their basic rights? Hardly - it’s akin to saying that advertising regulations violate the free speech of advertisers. In their private lives politicians would be entitled to lie as much as they want. The philosopher Karl Popper considered this issue and argued that imposing limitations on the behaviour of politicians actually serves to ‘<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Open_Society_and_Its_Enemies">protect freedom rather than endanger it</a>.’ Popper drew an analogy with a court of law, where restrictions on behaviour make it easier to get at the truth. A free-for-all, in which plaintiffs and defendants are free to do and say whatever they like, would make it impossible to work out who is being dishonest.</p><p> I don’t pretend it will be easy to get politicians to start censuring their own behaviour, something which they are notoriously reticent to do. A&nbsp;<a href="https://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-information-office/g06.pdf">1967 Select Committee on Parliamentary Privilege</a>&nbsp;states that ‘the House should exercise its penal jurisdiction…as sparingly as possible.’ Nevertheless, politicians – as they love to remind us – are here to carry out the wishes of the people. So if the dishonesty of politics bothers us as much as we say it does, then we should direct that displeasure at politicians themselves. If the complaints are loud enough, and if enough people join in, any politician who wishes to stay in power will have to listen and act. It’s happened before, with politicians&nbsp;<a href="https://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/17240374.southampton-city-council-members-reject-plans-for-pay-rises-for-top-councillors/">rejecting pay rises</a> and&nbsp;<a href="http://econwpa.repec.org/eps/pe/papers/0512/0512006.pdf">imposing term limits</a>&nbsp;on themselves. It could happen again if politicians are ready to face the truth.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/harry-blain/who-can-we-trust">Who can we trust?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/wfd/can-europe-make-it/thomas-weyn/arendtian-approach-to-post-truth-politics">An Arendtian approach to post-truth politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/tom-shillam/why-gandhi-s-ideas-continue-to-thrive-even-in-post-truth-era">Why Gandhi’s ideas continue to thrive, even in the post-truth era</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 Mountain Trans-partisan politics Culture Sun, 13 Jan 2019 21:48:08 +0000 David Mountain 121267 at https://www.opendemocracy.net When crafts become activism https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/tracy-l-barnett/when-crafts-become-activism <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A new generation of craftivists are channeling homespun energy into social justice.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/TracyBarnett1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Craftivist Collective Mini Protest Banner, Brick Lane, London. Credit: Craftivist Collective. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Sarah Corbett never dreamed a cross-stitched teddy bear could change her life and how she approached her career. But looking back, she realizes that that’s when it all started.</p> <p>Corbett, a professional campaigner for causes and charities, was preparing to board a train from London to Glasgow to give yet another workshop on training people as activists.</p> <p>But she was exhausted, stressed, and burning out. With a five-hour journey ahead of her, she couldn’t work because it made her travel sick. Feeling a hankering to do something creative, she picked up the tiny cross-stitch kit. As she took her seat and began to work, she immediately noticed something.</p> <p>“Separating the threads, you have to go slowly so that it doesn’t tangle, and it made me aware of how tight my shoulders were, and that’s something I hadn’t checked in with myself about,” she says. “As activists, my colleagues never checked in with each other - ‘Are you OK?’ You just do lots of campaigning, because that’s what you’re passionate about.”</p> <p>People began to ask her what she was doing. “I immediately thought to myself, ‘Oh, if I was cross-stitching a Gandhi quote, we could have a conversation about that.’ But the fact that a stranger was asking me what I was doing, it made me think how powerful it was that I wasn’t giving eye contact, I wasn’t shouting at them with megaphones, and they were asking me.”</p> <p>That made Corbett realize that there might be better ways to engage with activist communities. She had just moved to London, but was having a hard time fitting in.</p> <p>“A lot of them were very extroverted, very loud, very transactional, sometimes quite demonizing - or treating people like robots or just doing stalls or petitions,” she says.</p> <p>By contrast, the repetitive action of cross-stitching made her aware of how tense she was. The process was comforting and gave her space to ask herself whether she was really being an effective activist, or was she just doing lots of things to feel effective?</p> <p>What Corbett discovered for herself on her train trip is known as “craftivism,” a term popularized by North Carolina activist Betsy Greer. With Greer’s blessing, Corbett spun it into her unique “gentle protest” approach, and a decade later has turned that epiphany into a high-impact career, the international&nbsp;Craftivist Collective&nbsp;and a whole lot of creative social change. Corbett’s book,&nbsp;<em>How to Be a Craftivist: The Art of Gentle Protest&nbsp;</em>(Random House, 2018), was just released in the U.S. and will be presented at&nbsp;<a href="https://schedule.sxsw.com/2019/speakers/2004951">SXSW in Austin, Texas, in March</a>&nbsp;2019.</p> <p>Greer, for her part, has been surprised and delighted to see how the concept has spread across the globe. “For a while, you could track the word back to me,” she says. “Eventually I got an email from Africa. I was getting emails from people in places I’d never been that were way outside my demographic.”</p> <p>Greer learned to knit from her grandmother before knitting was cool. She studied craft as a sociology student, and wrote her dissertation on knitting, DIY culture, and community development. That led to her first book,&nbsp;<em>Knitting for Good: A Guide to Creating Personal, Social, and Political Change Stitch by Stitch</em>&nbsp;(Roost Books, 2008).</p> <p>In her research on crafting and activism, Greer began to realize that this was nothing new. She has traced craft as a form of resistance to&nbsp;<a href="https://slate.com/human-interest/2014/09/history-of-quilting-arpilleras-made-by-chilean-women-to-protest-pinochet.html">tapestries of the disappeared&nbsp;</a>under Pinochet’s regime in Chile, and diapers and headscarves made by Argentina’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/may/19/argentina-human-rights">Mothers of Plaza de Mayo</a>. Even the legendary abolitionist&nbsp;<a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/BpXYnZhg4h_/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&amp;igshid=bmascxfgm7us">Sojourner Truth&nbsp;</a>engaged in knitting and needlework as a form of resistance.</p> <p>Greer comes from a military family, so the war in Afghanistan affected her personally, with a cousin and a friend who served there. In the mid-2000s, she began a needlework series based on anti-war graffiti from around the world. Taking anonymous images - a bomb as a head on a human body, the Statue of Liberty holding a missile instead of a torch - and working them in cross-stitch, she illustrated the effects and toll of war: “How it embeds itself in our daily vocabulary in the news, in conversation, in our worries, even though in many cases, we are spared the actual gravity of war at our doorstep,” she wrote in an email.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/TracyBarnett2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Participants at a Craftivist Collective workshop in Bristol. Credit: Craftivist Collective. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Working on those pieces, she found, was a great way to explore her feelings about war. She created the series, she says, “to show that people all around the world are against war, but very few people actually make the decision to go to war.”</p> <p>In the U.K., Corbett was taking the concept in new directions. In 2016, she and a small group from the Craftivist Collective teamed up with ShareAction, a movement for responsible investment, to organize a living-wage campaign aimed at the British retail giant Marks and Spencer. They used gift handkerchiefs with bespoke embroidered messages for the company’s board members and investors, then followed up by carefully cultivating relationships with them. The campaign eventually resulted in&nbsp;<a href="https://blueandgreentomorrow.com/society/ms-wages-increase-living-wage/">pay increases</a>&nbsp;for the company’s 50,000 workers.</p> <p>Other campaigns involved embroidered messages on&nbsp;<a href="https://craftivist-collective.com/blog/2013/04/project-mini-protest-banner/">small protest banners</a>&nbsp;to be hung at eye level in public places and on&nbsp;<a href="https://craftivist-collective.com/A-Heart-For-Your-Sleeve-fortheloveof">embroidered hearts</a>&nbsp;worn on sleeves. Last year, the Craftivist Collective created a campaign to support Fashion Revolution, a global movement launched after the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, which killed more than 1,100 garment workers. Makers dropped tiny, handwritten scrolls into the pockets of clothing sold by retailers who engage in unfair trade practices. The scrolls had messages such as, “Our clothes can never be truly beautiful if they hide the ugliness of worker exploitation.”</p> <p>The idea, Corbett says, was to encourage them to be curious about who made their clothes, without making them feel judged, and give them options so they could join the movement, as well. The campaign resulted in global media on the homepage of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-42181743">BBC News</a>, a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/oct/22/the-eco-guide-to-the-new-mindful-activism">double-page spread in&nbsp;<em>The Guardian</em></a>&nbsp;and rare coverage in fashion magazines because of Corbett’s “gentle protest” approach to activism.</p> <p>The line between craftivism and artivism - the use of art in activism - is a fine one.</p> <p>Greer says she intentionally chose craft as a way to reclaim a practice that has been historically demeaned and undervalued for thousands of years. Additionally, she says, she uses craft as a way to encourage people to be creative precisely because it’s not art.</p> <p>“There can be a lower barrier to entry because due to its utilitarian roots it doesn’t have to be beautiful as culturally defined, and it doesn’t have to go up on a wall - but it can! - so there can be less pressure mentally to be good,” she says.</p> <p>Elizabeth Vega, who has been using art to empower and inform since the early days of the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson, Missouri, prefers to give the work the stature she feels it deserves—so she calls it artivism.</p> <p>“It stems from the place that art and craft is something we all have within us,” Vega says, who has degrees in sociology and counseling psychology. “It’s a way to make sense of things and a way to have cultural intersections but also to process.”</p> <p>She remembers the moment when she began to realize the power that art could have within the fight against racism in St. Louis. Her social justice group had set up a story wall to help people process the death of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old Black man who was shot by a White police officer in 2014, setting off the Black Lives Matter movement.</p> <p>“There was a mother and daughter who came to see the memorial. And as they walked away, you could tell they were really feeling it. They were walking kind of separately. And I noticed the 13-year-old, and I said to her, ‘Can I give you a hug?’ and this child fell into my arms and wept like I was a member of her own family.”</p> <p>Vega encouraged the two to create something that they could put on the memorial, and they collaborated and came up with a beautiful image: the words “hands up” with two hearts, the word “unfair” and a tear.</p> <p>“And I think that’s the role it has,” Vega says. “Sometimes before we even have language, we have images, we have things that are visual. And so holding space with art materials gives people an opportunity to process, so that by end of it they do have words, and they have a greater understanding of it.”</p> <p>But besides the inner work, the act of creating together can have an even greater impact socially, Vega says.</p> <p>“The beauty of art and craftivism and this kind of resistance work is that oftentimes we are fighting against things - we’re constantly fighting against oppression, against racism, against sexism - but the art reminds us of what we’re fighting for,” she says. “And that’s connection, and beauty, and humanity, and the ability to create and dream and collaborate.”</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/when-crafts-become-activism-a-more-beautiful-movement-20181218">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/kali-swenson/social-justice-with-knitting">Social justice with knitting</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/valarie-lee-james/migrant-quilt-re-stitching-fabric-of-community-along-us-mexico-bord">The Migrant Quilt: re-stitching the fabric of community</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/virtues-of-many-sided-life">The virtues of a many-sided life</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 Tracy L. Barnett Activism Culture Thu, 10 Jan 2019 20:23:40 +0000 Tracy L. Barnett 121253 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Are we prepared to pay the price for farmworker justice? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/olivia-heffernan/are-we-prepared-to-pay-price-for-farmworker-justice <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“We need an awakening of consciousness for everyone to understand how important we are as workers of the land.”</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/OliviaHeffernan.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Migrant workers picking cabbages in Ohio, 2010. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/bobjagendorf/5123728839">Flickr/Bob Jagendorf</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">CC BY-NC 2.0</a>.</p> <p>Wearing a flannel shirt, <em>Wrangler</em> jeans and worn-in beige boots, Juan Antonio Zuniga has the look of a farmer but not the entitlements that come with owning an actual farm. Fleeing violence in El Salvador, Zuniga came to the US in 1991 and has been a farmworker in New York ever since. Today, he lives and works on a farm in Mattituck, Long Island, where he picks grains and grows vegetables. According to the <a href="http://nfwm.org/resources/low-wages/">National Farmworker Ministry</a>, the annual average income of crop workers is between $10,000 and $12,499 for individuals and $15,000 to $17,499 for a family, an offensively noticeable difference from the $5 billion-plus that<a href="https://www.nyfb.org/about/about-ny-ag"> New York’s agricultural industry brought in last year.</a></p> <p>“We are seen as an industry that does not need services,” Zuniga told attendees of a conference on Food Justice and Labor in the Hudson Valley in November 2018, “People think fieldwork provides for itself. Without us, there would be no vegetables, fruit, grains or wine. Farmworkers are the foundation of production. But we are hidden. We don’t exist. Farmworkers do not have a voice or a vote.”</p> <p>Like Zuniga, Librada Paz also began life in the US as a farmworker, but now works as a farm labor advocate for <a href="http://ruralmigrantministry.org/">The Rural Migrant &amp; Ministry</a>, a New York nonprofit that seeks to create a just and equitable environment for rural and migrant workers in the state. Originally from Oaxaca, Mexico, Paz and her family came to the US when she was 15. When I met her in Midtown Manhattan, she cried as she remembered her first years as an apple picker in upstate New York.</p> <p>“When you come here, your only option is farm working because it is the job no one else wants to do. There’s nothing here to protect you. It doesn’t matter who you are, your immigration status or the color of your skin. If you are a farmworker, you do not have basic rights,” Paz told me. While picking apples on a small farm in Orleans County, New York, Paz lived in a one-room home with eight other men and women. “Each night we would switch who got to sleep on the mattress. Living in those crowded places really affected me. Everywhere I went men were molesting me, but I couldn’t complain because I feared they would not believe me. Even if I screamed no one would hear me.”&nbsp;</p> <p>A recipient of the 2012 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award for her farmworker activism, Paz leads ‘know your rights’ trainings for farmworkers across New York State, and over her 30 years as a farmworker and activist in the US she has witnessed everything from farm owners who routinely fired their workers after each season, to farmworkers who lost their jobs because they asked for a sick day or got injured on the job. A few years after migrating to the US her own father fell from an old, unsteady ladder while picking apples. Paz remembers him with a broken arm but afraid to seek medical help or stop working. Eventually he was fired and forced to work at an egg factory in Maine. He never received injury or workers’ compensation.</p> <p>Legislation to address these problems is essential, but on its own it won’t be enough to protect and enhance farmworker justice. What’s also needed is a reconceptualization among consumers and activists of what it takes to create and sustain ‘good farms’ – whether corporate or local. Improved wages and working conditions, lowering pollution from chemical fertilizers, increasing seed diversity, and protecting animal welfare all translate into a willingness to pay higher prices that can help to secure a more robust set of labor protections and rights. Agricultural workers make an indispensable contribution to the US economy, and they should be treated with dignity and respect. As Zuniga told the Hudson Valley conference, “We need an awakening of consciousness for everyone to understand how important we are as workers of the land.”</p> <p>Paz says that a key problem are the loopholes in US labor laws that exempt farmworkers from the same labor protections that every other worker is afforded. “We’re only asking for basic rights, to protect us from abuse, from violence, from sickness and so much more. We’re not asking for much,” she told me.</p> <p>This January, the New York State Senate has the opportunity to address this problem when the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act (FFLPA), a 20-year old piece of legislation, will be reintroduced to the State Senate Floor. The legislation proposes amendments to New York Labor and Public Health Laws that would grant farmworkers the rights to bargain collectively, and to receive overtime pay, a day of rest, access to unemployment and disability benefits, and insurance if they are injured during the course of employment. It would also prohibit employers from paying certain farmworkers less than the minimum wage, and expand labor sanitary codes to all farm and food processing camps.</p> <p>While it has been proposed in each new Senate session since 2010, the FFLPA has yet to receive the required votes from New York Senators for it to pass. However, with a newly Democratic-controlled Senate for the first time since 2009, there is renewed hope for the 100,000 farmworkers of New York.</p> <p>Among many other things, the FFPLA attempts to resolve a contradiction between the Constitution of New York, which states that<a href="https://www.dos.ny.gov/info/constitution/article_1_bill_of_rights.html"> all employees have the right to organize and bargain collectively</a>, and the New York’s Labor Relations Act, which exempts farmworkers from this specific provision of the Constitution. To date, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2016/sep/14/california-overtime-farm-workers-union">California</a> is the only state in the US that has granted agricultural workers the right to overtime pay. As Renan Salgado, Senior Human Trafficking Expert for the New York Worker Justice Center, told me in an interview:</p> <blockquote><p>“Agriculture and slavery have always gone hand in hand in the US. It began with indentured servitude and since 1942 the flavor has been Mexican. The blue print is simple: you bring foreigners, whether through force, coercion, enticement or manipulation and once they are here, you criminalize their status and put them in agriculture to sustain our most profitable industry.”</p></blockquote> <p>Even with political support to pass legislation and policy changes to address these structural issues, we still need to build much greater personal awareness of the realities of farm work in order to create a long-term constituency for change. Through ten years and hundreds of interviews, Margaret Gray, the author of <em><a href="https://www.ucpress.edu/book/9780520276697/labor-and-the-locavore">Labor and the Locavore,</a></em> found that most depictions of local farms obfuscate the reality of agricultural labor. Activism for farmworker justice has been focused on large corporate farms as exploitative industries, while small local producers have been seen as archetypes of the ‘salt of the earth,’ featured and admired by progressive writers like <a href="https://michaelpollan.com/books/">Michael Pollan</a> and in publications such as <em>Edible</em>, <em>Kinfolk</em> or <em>Hudson Valley Magazine</em>.</p> <p>In these glossy magazine spreads, instead of photos of workers’ living in dilapidated trailers or working with duct-taped hands, New Yorkers see images of rugged farm owners proudly dangling their unwashed carrots from the roots to the tips. Such images are romantic and aesthetically pleasing, but they condition consumers at farmers’ markets and organic restaurants in New York City into believing that small local farms upstate are unquestionably humane, hardworking and just.</p> <p>“We need to consider what’s local about an international undocumented workforce,” Gray told me, “There’s an inherent contradiction in us allocating praise and wholesomeness to land and farmers. I think consumers are identifying benefits of local that are not being passed on to workers just in the basic sense of recognizing them, their humanity, and need for improved rights and working conditions.”</p> <p>By dichotomizing corporate and local farms and assuming that ‘local’ means ‘moral,’ food justice activists can miss the fact that whether organic fresh kale is shipped to a supermarket warehouse or an upscale ‘farm to table’ restaurant in the West Village is irrelevant to the treatment of farmworkers—they are still exempt from the protections that all other hourly workers are granted.</p> <p>“I think we should rethink that dichotomy,” Gray added, “and imagine how a farm system premised on improving labor rights and labor conditions might benefit everyone in New York…as opposed to just buy local, buy organic, and buy sustainable, buy <em>labor friendly</em> should be added to a roster of marketing efforts.”&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/nur-lalji/how-florida-farmworkers-won-fairer-pay-from-america%27s-biggest-food-companie">How Florida farm-workers won fairer pay from America&#039;s biggest food companies</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/danica-jorden/red-sky-at-morning-no-recourse-for-migrant-farmworkers-during-and-af">Red sky at morning: no recourse for migrant farmworkers during and after hurricane florence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/pacita-rudder/building-different-form-of-power-young-people-s-voices-from-california-">Building a different form of power: young people’s voices from California’s Central Valley</a> </div> </div> </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 Olivia Heffernan Activism Culture Economics Tue, 08 Jan 2019 20:23:25 +0000 Olivia Heffernan 121234 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The unacknowledged fictions of Yuval Harari https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jeremy-lent/unacknowledged-fictions-of-yuval-harari <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Replacing one set of myths with another is no basis for confronting the earth’s existential problems.<em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/jeremy-lent/sapiens-homo-deus-12-lecciones-y-las-ficciones-inconfesadas-de-yuval-h"> Español</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JeremyLentnew3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Yuval Noah Harari in Davos, January 24, 2018. Copyright by <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/worldeconomicforum/39165596054">World Economic Forum/Ciaran McCrickard</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">CC BY-SA-NC 2.0</a>.</p> <p>When Yuval Noah Harari speaks, the world listens. Or at least, much of the world’s reading public. His first two blockbusters, <em><a href="https://www.ynharari.com/book/sapiens/">Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind</a></em>, and <em><a href="https://www.ynharari.com/book/homo-deus/">Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow</a></em>, <a href="https://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/books/sapiens-author-on-rewriting-the-rule-book-after-a-cult-bestseller-a3860256.html">have sold</a> 12 million copies globally, and his new book, <em><a href="https://www.ynharari.com/book/21-lessons/">21 Lessons for the 21st Century</a></em>, is on bestseller lists everywhere. His fans include Barack Obama, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg, he’s admired by opinion shapers as diverse as Sam Harris and Russell Brand, and he’s fêted at the IMF and World Economic Forum.</p> <p>A galvanizing theme of Harari’s writing is that humans are driven by shared, frequently unacknowledged fictions. Many of these fictions, he rightly points out, underlie the concepts that organize society, such as the value of the US dollar or the authority of nation states. In critiquing the current vogue topic of “fake news,” Harari observes that this is nothing new, but has been around for millennia in the form of organized religion.</p> <p>However, though apparently unwittingly, Harari himself perpetuates a set of unacknowledged fictions that he relies on as foundations for his own version of reality. Given his enormous sway as a public intellectual, this risks causing considerable harm. Like the traditional religious dogmas that he mocks, his own implicit stories wield great influence over the global power elite as long as they remain unacknowledged.</p><p><strong>Fiction #1: nature is a machine.</strong></p> <p>One of Harari’s most striking prophecies is that artificial intelligence will come to replace even the most creative human endeavors, and ultimately be capable of controlling every aspect of human cognition. The underlying rationale for his prediction is that human consciousness -including emotions, intuitions, and feelings - is nothing more than a series of algorithms, which could all theoretically be deciphered and predicted by a computer program. Our feelings, <a href="https://www.ynharari.com/book/21-lessons/">he tells us</a>, are merely “biochemical mechanisms” resulting from “billions of neurons calculating” based on algorithms honed by evolution.</p> <p>The idea that humans - and indeed all of nature - can be understood as very complicated machines is in fact a <a href="https://www.jeremylent.com/is-nature-a-machine.html">uniquely European cultural myth</a> that arose in the 17th century and has since taken hold of the popular imagination. In the heady days of the Scientific Revolution, Descartes declared he saw no difference “between the machines made by craftsmen and the various bodies that nature alone composes.” The preferred machine metaphor is now the computer, with <a href="https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Richard_Dawkins">Richard Dawkins</a> (apparently influencing Harari) writing that “life is just bytes and bytes and bytes of digital information,” but the idea remains the same - everything in nature can ultimately be reduced to its component parts and understood accordingly.</p> <p>This myth, however attractive it might be to our technology-driven age, is as fictional as the theory that God created the universe in six days. Biologists point out principles intrinsic to life that categorically differentiate it from even the most complicated machine. Living organisms cannot be split, like a computer, between hardware and software. A neuron’s biophysical makeup is intrinsically linked to its behavior: the information it transmits doesn’t exist separately from its material construction. As prominent neuroscientist Antonio Damasio states in <em><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/feb/02/strange-order-of-things-antonio-damasio-review">The Strange Order of Things</a></em>, Harari’s assumptions are “not scientifically sound” and his conclusions are “certainly wrong.”</p> <p>The dangers of this fiction arise when others base their actions on this flawed foundation. Believing that nature is a machine inspires a hubristic arrogance that technology can solve all humanity’s problems. Molecular biologists promote genetic engineering to enhance food production, while others advocate geo-engineering as a solution to climate breakdown - strategies fraught with the risk of massive unintended consequences. Recognizing that natural processes, from the human mind to the entire global ecosystem, are complex, nonlinear, and inherently unpredictable, is a necessary first step in crafting truly systemic solutions to the existential crises facing our civilization.</p><p><strong>Fiction #2: “there is no alternative.”</strong></p> <p>When Margaret Thatcher teamed up with Ronald Reagan in the 1980s to impose the free-market, corporate-driven doctrine of neoliberalism on the world, she famously used the slogan “There Is No Alternative” to argue that the other two great ideologies of the twentieth century - fascism and communism - had failed, leaving her brand of unrestrained market capitalism as the only meaningful choice. </p> <p>Astonishingly, three decades later, Harari echoes her caricatured version of history, declaring how, after the collapse of communism, only “the liberal story remained.” The current crisis, as Harari sees it, is that “liberalism has no obvious answers to the biggest problems we face.” We now need to “craft a completely new story,” he avers, to respond to the turmoil of modern times.</p> <p>Sadly, Harari seems to have missed the abundant, effervescent broth of inspiring visions for a flourishing future developed over decades by progressive thinkers across the globe. He appears to be entirely ignorant of the new foundations for economics proffered by pioneering thinkers such as <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kate-raworth/seven-ways-to-think-like-21st-century-economist">Kate Raworth</a>; the exciting new principles for a life-affirming future within the framework of an <a href="https://patternsofmeaning.com/2018/10/10/we-need-an-ecological-civilization-before-its-too-late/">Ecological Civilization</a>; the stirring moral foundation established by <a href="http://earthcharter.org/discover/what-is-the-earth-charter/">the Earth Charter</a> and endorsed by over 6,000 organizations worldwide; in addition to countless other variations of the “new story” that Harari laments is missing. It’s a story of hope that celebrates our shared humanity and emphasizes our deep connection with a living earth.</p> <p>The problem is not, as Harari argues, that we are “left without any story.” It is, rather, that <a href="https://patternsofmeaning.com/2017/12/19/what-will-it-really-take-to-avoid-collapse/">the world’s mass media is dominated</a> by the same overpowering transnational corporations that maintain a stranglehold over virtually all other aspects of global activity, and choose not to give a platform to the stories that undermine the Thatcherian myth that neoliberalism is still the only game in town.</p> <p>Harari is well positioned to apprise mainstream thinkers of the hopeful possibilities on offer. In doing so, he would have the opportunity to influence the future that—as he rightly points out—holds terrifying prospects without a change in direction. Is he ready for this challenge? Perhaps, but first he would need to investigate the assumptions underlying Fiction #3.</p><p><strong>Fiction #3: Life Is meaningless - It’s best to do nothing.</strong></p> <p>Yuval Harari is a dedicated meditator, sitting for two hours a day to practice <em><a href="https://tricycle.org/magazine/vipassana-meditation/">vipassana</a></em> (insight) meditation, which he learned from the celebrated teacher <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S._N._Goenka">Goenka</a>. Based on Goenka’s tutelage, Harari offers his own version of the Buddha’s original teaching: “Life,” he writes, “has no meaning, and people don’t need to create any meaning.” In answer to the question as to what people should do, Harari summarizes his view of the Buddha’s answer: “Do nothing. Absolutely nothing.”</p> <p>As a fellow meditator and admirer of Buddhist principles, I share Harari’s conviction that Buddhist insight can help reduce suffering on many levels. However, I am concerned that, in distilling the Buddha’s teaching to these sound bites, Harari gives a philosophical justification to those who choose to do nothing to avert the imminent humanitarian and ecological catastrophes threatening our future.</p> <p>The statement that “life has no meaning” seems to arise more from the modern reductionist ontology of physicist <a href="https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Steven_Weinberg">Steven Weinberg</a> than the mouth of the Buddha. To suggest that “people don’t need to create any meaning” contradicts an evolved instinct of the human species. As I describe in <a href="https://www.jeremylent.com/the-patterning-instinct.html">my own book</a>, <em>The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity’s Search for Meaning</em>, human cognition drives us to impose meaning into the universe, a process that’s substantially shaped by the culture a person is born into. However, by recognizing the underlying structures of meaning instilled in us by our own culture, we can become mindful of our own patterns of thought, thus enabling us to reshape them for more beneficial outcomes - a process I call “cultural mindfulness.”</p> <p>There are, in fact, other interpretations of the Buddha’s core teachings that lead to very different distillations - ones that cry out “Do Something!” - inspiring meaningful engagement in worldly activities. The principle of ‘dependent origination,’ for example, emphasizes the intrinsic interdependence of all aspects of existence, and forms the basis for the <a href="https://www.mindfulnessbell.org/archive/2015/02/dharma-talk-history-of-engaged-buddhism-2">politically engaged Buddhism</a> of prominent monk and peace activist, Thích Nhất Hạnh. Another essential Buddhist practice is <em><a href="https://tricycle.org/magazine/metta-practice/">metta</a></em>, or compassion meditation, which focuses on identifying with the suffering of others, and resolving to devote one’s own life energies to reducing that suffering. These are sources of meaning in life that are fundamentally consistent with Buddhist principles.</p><p><strong>Fiction #4: Humanity’s future Is a spectator sport.</strong></p> <p>A distinguishing characteristic of Harari’s writing, and one that may account for much of his prodigious success, is his ability to transcend the preconceptions of everyday life and offer a panoramic view of human history - as though he’s orbiting the earth from ten thousand miles and transmitting what he sees. &nbsp;Through his meditation practice, Harari confides, he has been able to “actually observe reality as it is,” which gave him the focus and clear-sightedness to write <em>Sapiens</em> and <em>Homo Deus</em>. He differentiates his recent <em>21 Lessons for the 21st Century</em> from his first two books by declaring that, in contrast to their ten thousand-mile Earth orbit, he will now “zoom in on the here and now.”</p> <p>While the content of his new book is definitely the messy present, Harari continues to view the world as if through a scientist’s objective lens. However, Harari’s understanding of science appears to be limited to the confines of Fiction #1 - “Nature Is a Machine” - which requires complete detachment from whatever is being studied. Acknowledging that his forecast for humanity “seems patently unjust,” <a href="https://www.ynharari.com/book/homo-deus/">he justifies his own moral detachment, retorting that</a> “this is a historical prediction, not a political manifesto.”</p> <p>In recent decades, however, systems thinkers in multiple scientific disciplines have transformed this notion of pristine scientific objectivity. Recognizing nature as a dynamic, self-organized fractal complex of nonlinear systems, which can only be truly understood in terms of how each part relates to each other and the whole, they have shown how these principles apply, not just to the natural world, but also our own human social systems. A crucial implication is that the observer is part of what is being observed, with the result that the observer’s conclusions and ensuing actions feed back into the system being investigated.</p> <p>This insight holds important ethical implications for approaching the great problems facing humanity. Once you recognize that you are part of the system you’re analyzing, this raises a moral imperative to act on your findings, and to raise awareness of others regarding their own intrinsic responsibilities. The future is not a spectator sport - in fact, every one of us is on the team and can make a difference in the outcome. We can no longer afford any fictions - the stakes have become too high. </p> <p><em>For anyone interested in exploring the issues raised in this article, I offer<a href="https://patternsofmeaning.com/the-patterning-instinct/a-reading-list-for-yuval-noah-harari/"> sources here</a> for further inquiry. </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/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 even"> <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 odd"> <a href="/transformation/jeremy-lent/we-need-ecological-civilization-before-it-s-too-late">We need an ecological civilization before it’s too late</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 Jeremy Lent Economics Culture Sun, 06 Jan 2019 19:52:52 +0000 Jeremy Lent 121096 at https://www.opendemocracy.net An anarchist guide to Christmas https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ruth-kinna/anarchist-guide-to-christmas <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On the night before Christmas, we’ll all be about.&nbsp;While the people are sleeping, we’ll realise our clout.&nbsp;We’ll expropriate goods from the stores, ‘cos that’s fair.&nbsp;And distribute them widely, to those who need care.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/RuthKinna Christmas.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Can we reclaim Christmas for the masses? Credit: Grace Wilson/STRIKE! magazine."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/541222/RuthKinna Christmas.jpg" alt="Can we reclaim Christmas for the masses? Credit: Grace Wilson/STRIKE! magazine." title="Can we reclaim Christmas for the masses? Credit: Grace Wilson/STRIKE! magazine." width="460" height="398" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Can we reclaim Christmas for the masses? Credit: Grace Wilson/STRIKE! magazine.</span></span></span></p><p>It’s no surprise to discover that anarchist theorist Pyotr Kropotkin was interested in Christmas. In Russian culture, St. Nicholas (Николай Чудотворец) was revered as a defender of the oppressed, the weak and the disadvantaged. Kropotkin shared the sentiments. </p><p>But there was also a family link. As everyone knows, Kropotkin could trace his ancestry to the ancient Rurik dynasty that ruled Russia before the upstart Romanovs and which, from the first century CE, controlled the trade routes between Moscow and the Byzantine Empire. Nicholas’s branch of the family had been sent out to patrol the Black Sea. But Nicholas was a spiritual man and sought an escape from the piracy and brigandage for which his Russian Viking family was famed. So he settled under a new name in the southern lands of the Empire, now Greece, and decided to use the wealth that he had amassed from his life of crime to alleviate the sufferings of the poor.</p><p>Unpublished archival sources recently discovered in Moscow reveal that Kropotkin was fascinated by this family tie and the striking physical similarity between himself and the figure of Father Christmas, popularised by the publication of ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ (better known as ‘The Night Before Christmas’) in 1823. </p><p>Kropotkin was not quite so portly as Klaus, but with a cushion stuffed up his tunic, he felt he could pass. His friend Elisée Reclus advised him to drop the fur trim on the outfit. That was a good idea as it would also allow him to wear a bit more black with the red. He’d decided to follow Elisée’s advice on the reindeer, too, and to use a hand driven sleigh. Kropotkin wasn’t normally given to dressing up. But exploiting the resemblance to spread the anarchist message was excellent propaganda by the deed. </p><p>Anticipating ‘V’, Kropotkin thought that we could all pose as Santa Claus. On the edge of one page Kropotkin writes: "Infiltrate the stores, give away the toys!"</p><p>Faint remnants on the back of a postcard read:</p><p class="blockquote-new">On the night before Christmas, we’ll all be about<br />While the people are sleeping, we’ll realise our clout<br />We’ll expropriate goods from the stores, ‘cos that’s fair<br />And distribute them widely, to those who need care.</p><p>His project notes also reveal some valuable insights into his ideas about the anarchistic features of Christmas and his thinking about the ways in which Victorian Christmas rituals might be adapted.</p><p>"We all know", he wrote, "that the big stores – John Lewis, Harrods and Selfridges – are beginning to exploit the sales potential of Christmas, establishing magic caves, grottos and fantastic fairylands to lure our children and pressurise us to buy gifts that we do not want and cannot afford". </p><p>"If you are one of us", he continued, "you will realise that the magic of Christmas depends on Father Christmas’s system of production, not the stores’ attempts to seduce you to consume useless luxuries". Kropotkin described the sprawling workshops at the North Pole, where elves worked all year, happily because they knew that they were producing for other peoples’ pleasure. Noting that these workshops were strictly not-for profit, craft-based and run on communal lines, Kropotkin treated them as prototypes for the factories of the future (outlined in Fields, Factories and Workshops). </p><p>Some people, he felt, thought that Father Christmas’s dream to see that everyone received gifts on Christmas day, was quixotic. But it could be realised. Indeed, the extension of the workshops – which were quite expensive to run in the Arctic – would facilitate generalised production for need and the transformation of occasional gift-giving into regular sharing. "We need to tell the people", Kropotkin wrote, "that community workshops can be set up anywhere and that we can pool our resources to make sure that everybody has their needs met"!</p><p>One of the issues that most bothered Kropotkin about Christmas was the way in which the inspirational role that Nicholas’s had played in conjuring Christmas myths had confused the ethics of Christmas. Nicholas was wrongly represented as a charitable, benevolent man: saintly because he was beneficent. Absorbed in the figure of Father Christmas, Nicholas’s motivations for giving had become further skewed by the Victorian’s fixation with children. </p><p>Kropotkin didn’t really understand the links, but felt that it reflected an attempt to moralise childhood through a concept of purity that was symbolised in the birth of Jesus. Naturally he couldn’t imagine the creation of the Big Brother Santa Claus who knows when children are asleep and awake and comes to town apparently knowing which have dared to cry or pout. </p><p>But sooner or later, he warned, this idea of purity would be used to distinguish naughty from nice children and only those in the latter group would be rewarded with presents.</p><p>Whatever the case, it was important both to recover the principle of Nicholas’ compassion from this confusing mumbo-jumbo and the folkloric origins of Santa Claus. Nicholas gave because he was pained by his awareness of other peoples’ hardship. Though he wasn’t an assassin (as far as Kropotkin knew), he shared the same ethics as Sofia Petrovskaya. And while it was obviously important to worry about the well-being of children, the anarchist principle was to take account of everyone’s suffering. </p><p>Similarly, the practice of giving was mistakenly thought to require the implementation of a centrally-directed plan, overseen by an omniscient administrator. This was quite wrong: Father Christmas came from the imagination of the people (just consider the range of local names that Nicholas had accrued – Sinterklaas, Tomte, de Kerstman). And the spreading of good cheer – through festivity – was organised from the bottom up. </p><p>Buried in Christmas, Kropotkin argued, was the solidaristic principle of mutual aid.</p><p>Kropotkin appreciated the significance of the ritual and the real value that individuals and communities attached to carnivals, acts of remembrance and commemoration. He no more wanted to abolish Christmas than he wished to see it republicanised through some wrong-headed bureaucratic re-ordering of the calendar. </p><p>It was important, nonetheless, to detach the ethic that Christmas supported from the singularity of its celebration. Having a party was just that: extending the principle of mutual aid and compassion into everyday life was something else. In capitalist society, Christmas provided a space for special good behaviours. While it might be possible to be a Christian once a year, anarchism was for life.</p><p>Kropotkin realised his propaganda would have the best chance of success if he could show how the anarchist message was also embedded in mainstream culture. His notes reveal that he looked particularly to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to find a vehicle for his ideas. The book was widely credited with cementing ideas of love, merriment and goodwill in Christmas. Kropotkin found the genius of the book in its structure. What else was the story of Scrooge’s encounter with the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future than a prefigurative account of change? </p><p>By seeing his present through his past, Scrooge was given the chance to alter his miserly ways and re-shape both his future and the future of the Cratchit family. Even if it was only remembered once a year, Kropotkin thought, Dickens’s book lent anarchists a perfect vehicle to teach this lesson: by altering what we do today, by modelling our behaviours on Nicholas, we can help construct a future which is Christmas!</p><p class="image-caption"><strong>This article was originally published by <a href="http://strikemag.org/anarchist-guide-christmas/" target="_blank">STRIKE! magazine</a>&nbsp;in 2014.</strong></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/andrea-abi-karam-taylor-miles/berlin%E2%80%99s-system-error-free-shop">Berlin’s ‘system error’ free shop</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/shannan-stoll/seven-practical-ideas-for-compassionate-communities">Seven practical ideas for compassionate communities</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-byrnes/how-to-win-friends-and-influence-new-economy">How to win friends and influence the new economy </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Transformation Transformation Anarchism Christmas Mutual Aid Ruth Kinna Economics Activism Thu, 20 Dec 2018 13:10:13 +0000 Ruth Kinna 88989 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why Gandhi’s ideas continue to thrive, even in the post-truth era https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/tom-shillam/why-gandhi-s-ideas-continue-to-thrive-even-in-post-truth-era <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="wp-caption-text">Faced by a global dearth of alternative ideas, it’s no wonder we are turning again to the Mahatma for inspiration.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="wp-caption-text"><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/gandhi-is-still-relevant-and-can-inspire-a-new-form-of-politics-today-106565"><em>This article was first published by</em>&nbsp;The Conversation</a>.</em></p><p class="wp-caption-text"><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/TomShillam.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p><p class="image-caption">Gandhi spinning in the 1920s. Credit: Wikimedia. Public Domain.</p> <p>Seventy years after Gandhi’s assassination on the streets of New Delhi, Ramachandra Guha’s new book, “Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World, 1914-48,”&nbsp;<a href="https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/196463/gandhi-the-years-that-changed-the-world-1914-1948-by-ramachandra-guha/9780385532310/">reopens a familiar debate</a>&nbsp;around his legacy. What was Gandhi’s message? What were his politics? What can we learn from him today? And is he still relevant?</p> <p>Guha, presenting the second half of a biography that began with his 2013 book,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/09/gandhi-before-india-ramachandra-guha-review">Gandhi Before India</a>, offers a straightforward but detailed narrative in which “the Mahatma” negotiates a principled path between the warring political trends of the age. Historian of empire,&nbsp;<a href="https://literaryreview.co.uk/the-making-of-mahatma">Bernard Porter</a>, welcomed Guha’s work and its subtle defence of a “gentler, more tolerant and consensual forms of politics” that is now, in the age of Donald Trump, Brexit and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, on the decline in the West and elsewhere.</p> <p>Others are more biting. Fellow Gandhi scholar&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/oct/04/gandhi-1914-1948-ramachandra-guha-review">Faisal Devji</a>&nbsp;charges Guha with neutralizing the Mahatma’s radicalism. Meanwhile, author&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/10/22/gandhi-for-the-post-truth-age">Pankaj Mishra</a>, reexamining Gandhi’s writings in a “post-truth age” of “furious revisionism,” uncovers a “relentlessly counter-intuitive thought” left untapped by Guha’s tales of a “bland do-gooder.”</p> <p><strong>Resurrection.</strong></p> <p>All these accounts, however, seek to resurrect Gandhi&nbsp;<a href="https://www.prospectmagazine.co.uk/magazine/arguing-for-india-what-gandhis-ideas-mean-today">as a political mentor for today</a>. Modern politics – and its new formula of Twitter hashtags, populist sloganeering and strongman dictators – may seem an unlikely place for the teachings of Gandhi to offer fresh inspiration. But just such a thing also happened during the Cold War, when politics faced some very similar problems.</p> <p>Gandhi is sometimes imagined sitting beside a spinning wheel pouring scorn on science and modernity. Indeed, when asked by a reporter what he thought of “Western civilisation”, he famously replied:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2004/01/21/opinion/meanwhile-gandhi-for-one-would-have-found-it-funny.html">“I think it would be a good idea.”</a></p> <p>But his politics were more complex than this. Gandhi read the works of Western political thinkers including John Ruskin and Leo Tolstoy. India was being sucked into a global economy based on the exploitation and automation of labour. Industrial capitalism – and its partner, imperialism – only cemented uneven power relations and alienated one Indian from the next. He believed what was needed, instead, was a social and economic life based around local production for local needs, something that would also foster greater cultural enjoyment.</p> <p>But is the current post-truth age still able to make use of this simple, authentic message?</p> <p>A look into early 1950s Indian history provides some clues. When India achieved independence in August 1947 – with Jawaharlal Nehru as its first prime minister – Gandhi, it is supposed, remained as a spiritual and moral, rather than political, guide. His vision of a “village India” died in 1948 with his&nbsp;<a href="https://www.businesstoday.in/current/economy-politics/mahatma-gandhi-economic-beliefs-that-are-still-relevant/story/283518.html">assassin Nathuram Godse’s bullet</a>. And as Cold War ideological competition ramped up between communism and capitalism, rapid and&nbsp;<a href="https://newrepublic.com/article/144998/cold-war-world-new-history-redefines-conflict-true-extent-enduring-costs">centralized economic growth seemed inevitable</a>.</p> <p>Some intellectuals, however, returned to the Mahatma’s ideas in this new and hostile climate. In 1950, the CIA covertly funded the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theawl.com/2015/08/literary-magazines-for-socialists-funded-by-the-cia-ranked/">formation of the Congress for Cultural Freedom</a>&nbsp;(CCF), an organization which brought together liberal and leftist intellectuals from around the world to discuss the threat posed by Soviet collectivism to free cultural expression.</p> <p>In sponsoring conferences and magazines in which these intellectuals could articulate their views, the CIA hoped it could channel their anti-authoritarianism to a useful Cold War end. But this did not work out. CCF branches often acted as&nbsp;<a href="https://newrepublic.com/article/136622/congress-cultural-freedoms-ultimate-failure">repositories for radical aspirations</a>&nbsp;which could find no other home.</p> <p>The Indian Committee for Cultural Freedom (ICCF), formed in 1951, was a&nbsp;<a href="https://thewire.in/history/cia-sponsored-indian-magazines-engaged-indias-best-writers">striking example</a>. Freedom First, its maiden publication, eschewed cultural criticism for discussions of domestic politics. The CCF’s push for the formation of a new journal, Quest, which reversed this was in vain, with one writer taking the opportunity to rail against a Westernized Indian “ruling class” whose interest in state-led development was bound to create “a situation reminiscent of the looking-glass world” – in other words,&nbsp;<a href="http://freedomfirst.in/quest/quest-archives.aspx">to impose Western ideologies onto India</a>.</p> <p><strong>A stateless society.</strong></p> <p>These writers – often former freedom fighters who had gone to prison for their travails – wanted a new egalitarian politics they sometimes termed “direct democracy.” Views on how this should be approached varied, and as the decade wore on, some took to advocating for a pro-capitalist, if also welfare state-friendly, program.</p> <p>Others, though, found in Gandhi a source of optimism. In 1951,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.dailyexcelsior.com/remembering-vinoba-bhave/">Vinoba Bhave</a>&nbsp;and other social reformers committed to Gandhi’s “sarvodaya” – progress of all – concept, founded the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.thequint.com/videos/news-videos/remembering-vinoba-bhave-father-of-bhoodan">“Bhoodan Movement.”</a>&nbsp;This was aimed at encouraging landowners to redistribute land without violence and rapidly reduce inequality in agrarian India.</p> <p>This fascinated the ICCF. Marathi trade unionist and columnist, Prabhakar Padhye, named Bhoodan one of several reform movements capable of constituting “a new social force in the life of the country.” The ICCF’s annual conference welcomed the movement, with speakers calling for a “Gandhian” politics which made&nbsp;<a href="http://freedomfirst.in/archives/archives.aspx">“cooperation, rather than competition, the rule of life.”</a></p> <p>Soon, key ICCF writer, Minoo Masani,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.unz.com/print/Encounter-1954dec-00008/">reported</a>&nbsp;on a tour undertaken around the Indian state of Bihar with fellow member Jayaprakash Narayan. Speaking with crowds of peasants and rural poor, Narayan bracketed together totalitarianism and the welfare state as inherently coercive. What the pair supported was “Gandhism” – or a more spontaneous and participatory politics which “like anarchism or communism, visualizes ultimately a stateless society”.</p> <p>The point is that these intellectuals were drawing on Gandhi in defiance of an oppressive global political climate and its relentless classification of different ideas and visions as good or bad, communist or anti-communist, modernist or traditional.</p> <p>In its vacuous rhetoric and sleazy sloganeering, the early Cold War era was like today. And then, as now, Gandhi’s ideas were of renewed interest. As we now face a global dearth of alternative political ideas, perhaps it’s no wonder we are turning again to the Mahatma for inspiration.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/chris-moore-backman/what-we-can-really-learn-from-gandhi">What we can really learn from Gandhi?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/mark-engler-paul-engler/how-did-gandhi-win">How did Gandhi win?</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 Tom Shillam Transformative nonviolence Economics Activism Tue, 18 Dec 2018 19:35:44 +0000 Tom Shillam 120990 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Mental health for all – a gift that will keep on giving https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/rob-yates/mental-health-for-all-gift-that-will-keep-on-giving <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Mental health receives less than 11 per cent of health spending in the UK and one per cent in low-­income countries, yet it is central to national wellbeing.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555454/Rob Yates.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555454/Rob Yates.png" alt="lead " title="" width="460" height="332" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/mental-health-birds-head-human-3813766/">Pixabay/GDJ</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p>The holiday season is generally a cause for joy. Yet for millions of people it can also herald declines in mental health, whether due to economic stress, familial tensions, loneliness, overeating or drinking too much alcohol.</p> <p>Across the world, countries are recognising that the best way to tackle the growing burden of mental illness is through <a href="https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/universal-health-coverage-(uhc)">Universal Health Coverage</a> (UHC). This is achieved when everyone receives the quality health services they need without suffering financial hardship.</p> <p>An idea whose time has come, UHC has been the overarching concept guiding <a href="https://www.who.int/dg/tedros/biography/en/">Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus</a>’ stewardship of the World Health Organization since he took over as its Director-General in 2017.&nbsp;</p> <p>Equity is fundamental to UHC, which ensures that services are allocated according to need and financed based on people’s ability to pay. To ensure effective quality care that is accessible to everyone, the healthy and wealthy must cross-subsidise the sick and poor.</p> <p>This makes UHC a political choice. To lead the way, governments must be willing to get their hands dirty - they must raise taxes, pool funds and finance services that focus on the needs of the poor and vulnerable. They must also resist market-driven models that ultimately fail the poorest in society.</p> <p>Given that there is no health without mental health, UHC provides a golden opportunity for the improvement of prevention, treatment and promotion of mental health, leaving no one behind. Global leaders must work to incorporate all three elements within primary health care systems. Both UHC and mental health advocates can also take advantage of the Sustainable Development Goal target to reduce premature mortality from non-communicable diseases by a third by 2030.&nbsp;</p> <p>For their part, UHC proponents should care about mental health, which affects almost every person directly or indirectly. 300 million people globally have depression, which is the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/depression">leading cause of disability</a>&nbsp;worldwide. Given these numbers, and the significant burden on health systems, any UHC programme must adequately serve people with mental health conditions.&nbsp;</p> <p>Unfortunately, mental health gets hardly any public money – less than 1% of national health budgets in low-­income countries. Even in the UK,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-41125009">only 11% of health funding</a>&nbsp;goes to mental health trusts, even though the issue relates to 24% of overall health service activities.</p> <p>To give a sense of what these figures&nbsp;<em>should</em>&nbsp;look like, the&nbsp;<a href="https://globalmentalhealthcommission.org/">Lancet Commission on Global Mental Health</a> recommends that low- and middle-countries should allocate at least 5% of their health budgets to mental health, and high-­income countries at least 10%.</p> <p>Proper funding levels are vital to ensure that health services make special provisions for people with mental health conditions, since existing health systems currently have a poor track record of taking care of them. People with the most serious mental health disorders such as severe depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia typically die between&nbsp;<a href="https://www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/guidelines_physical_health_and_severe_mental_disorders/en/">ten and twenty years</a>&nbsp;earlier than the general public.&nbsp;</p> <p>Clearly, people with poor mental health are in deep need of effective services. Yet those with the greatest need for services typically have the least ability to pay for them due often to their difficulties in sustaining permanent employment. This is often exacerbated by discrimination in the labour market. Mental health services need to be free, particularly for the most vulnerable. Financial barriers can have life-threatening consequences or can force people into debt and a cycle of poverty, which often exacerbates mental health challenges.</p> <p>Moving from budget lines to staff on the frontlines, it’s also important to consider how doctors, nurses and community health workers can act on this issue, because they are ultimately responsible for delivering services and realising the vision of UHC. Stigma around mental health within the health workforce means that medical professionals are less likely to choose this specialty, leaving the world without adequate numbers of psychiatrists; for example, there are only three in Sierra Leone.&nbsp;</p> <p>Despite all that we still have to achieve, there is much to celebrate. For example, on December 13 2018, Kenya launched a pilot program providing&nbsp;<a href="https://www.standardmedia.co.ke/health/article/2001304550/future-of-nhif-in-question-as-uhc-package-is-unveiled">free treatment for mental disorders</a>&nbsp;in four counties. 2019 also marks a big year for UHC. The UN General Assembly will host a High-level Meeting on the topic, bringing Heads of State together to make commitments. The meeting should follow the example of the UN Commission on Non-Communicable Diseases and this year’s High-level Meeting on the same subject, which both featured mental health prominently.</p> <p>Given the opportunities ahead, let’s make sure the next time this holiday season comes around we are many steps closer to achieving Universal Health Coverage globally, with mental health at the core.&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/kate-pickett-richard-wilkinson/enemy-between-us-how-inequality-erodes-our-mental-heal">The enemy between us: how inequality erodes our mental health</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/louisa-harvey/we-need-to-talk-about-stigma-within-mental-health-system">We need to talk about stigma within the mental health system</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jill-simpson/visualising-mental-illness">Visualising mental illness</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 Rob Yates The politics of mental health Care Sun, 16 Dec 2018 22:38:22 +0000 Rob Yates 120978 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Meet the activist who brought Monopoly Man to life https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sarah-freeman-woolpert/meet-activist-who-brought-monopoly-man-to-life <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Behind the fake mustache and provocative message is a dedicated activist for economic justice.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published on <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/meet-the-activist-who-brought-the-monopoly-man-meme-to-life/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Sarah Freeeman-Woolpert.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Monopoly Man lurking just above the shoulder of Google CEO Sundar Pichai at the House Judiciary Committee hearing in Washington DC on December 11 2018. Credit: Twitter/Ian Madrigal.</p> <p>On Tuesday morning, when Google CEO Sundar Pichai testified before the House Judiciary Committee about his company’s data collection practices, there was a familiar mustachioed face in the crowd. To most people, this person — also wearing a monocle and toting a bag of cash — is none other than the famous board game character most commonly known as Monopoly Man. But behind the fake mustache and provocative message about capitalist greed is a dedicated activist for economic justice.</p> <p>Ian Madrigal, who uses they/them pronouns, gained internet fame when they first dressed up as Monopoly Man during an&nbsp;<a href="http://time.com/money/4969855/monopoly-man-equifax-hearing/">October 2017 Senate Banking Committee hearing</a>&nbsp;with the CEO of credit reporting agency Equifax, following its massive data breach. Their creative stunts — which have taken on powerful figures from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen — are effective, in part, because they understand how to strategically draw the worlds of politics, art and activism together. With a background in music and improv — plus a law degree from UCLA — Madrigal’s Monopoly Man has inspired activists around the country, as well as people on both sides of the aisle.</p> <p><strong>Why was the hearing with Google’s CEO an important place for Monopoly Man to make an appearance?</strong></p> <p>My appearance as Monopoly Man aims to highlight the need for regulation and antitrust action to rein in Google’s monopoly in many areas of tech. I’m also hoping to call attention to the controversy raging over Google’s development of&nbsp;<a href="https://theintercept.com/2018/11/29/google-china-censored-search/">Project Dragonfly</a>, a censored search engine that would endanger dissidents and human rights defenders in China, as well as internal battles over sexual harassment, racial discrimination and pay inequity. All of these various controversies show that Google and other tech giants cannot be allowed to self-regulate. We need comprehensive legislation and agency oversight that we have in many areas of business outside of tech.</p> <p><strong>You have done a number of creative stunts during Congressional hearings, from playing the audio of children crying in detention centers to dressing up as a Russian troll. How do you prepare for these actions and what makes them so successful?</strong></p> <p>I usually just come up with a random idea and bounce ideas off of friends to get their reactions. I order something to use as a costume on Amazon Prime, which I think of as using one billionaire to fight other billionaires. And when I go to the hearings, I have to ask a friend to hold a spot in line for me because waiting there in a costume for five hours would give them way too much lead time to figure out what to do with me.</p> <p>For me, one of the singular successes of the first Monopoly Man action was not just the attention it got, but the fact that every single article — from the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2017/10/04/monopoly-man-trolls-former-equifax-ceo-richard-smith-at-senate-hearing/"><em>Washington Post</em></a>&nbsp;to the most clickbaitey news site — talked about the reason I was there, which was to oppose Equifax’s use of forced arbitration and specifically to oppose a bill that was pending in the Senate. Everyone who was writing and tweeting about it mentioned the bill. So you have to be really conscious when you’re using these antics. You don’t just want to be funny — you want to make your message clear.</p> <p><strong>You have been doing creative activism for a long time. How did you first get started?</strong></p> <p>I’ve basically been raising hell since I was a child. I’ve naturally been a troublemaker challenging authority. When I first got active in politics, one of the first things I learned about was corporations and sweatshops and slave labor happening abroad. When I was 14, I went to the Disney Store at the mall and printed little slips of paper that said, “This clothing item was made in a sweatshop.” I slipped it into the pockets of the clothes and staged a protest outside. Within about five minutes I got kicked out of the mall. So those were my roots.</p> <p><strong>How did your family and community react to your activism early on?</strong></p> <p>Honestly, I don’t even think anyone knew about it. I did a lot of things at that age without my parents knowing. My parents are actually Republicans. So they would not have been particularly supportive of that. They’re where a lot of my insight comes from. There are a lot of hand-wringing articles about how progressives don’t understand Trump voters and I’m like, “No, I grew up with them. I know them very well.”</p> <p>I grew up in a very odd place in southern California between Los Angeles County and Orange County. Our town slogan is: “Towns change, values don’t.” But the weird contradiction is that this buttoned-up suburb is next to one of most diverse places in the country. There were no [openly gay] kids at my school of 3,000 people — even though we were close to Long Beach, which is a hub of the gay community. So I had no idea how I fit in.</p> <p><strong>You eventually ended up going to law school. How has that fit in your work as an activist?</strong></p> <p>I always worked for some kind of cause. As I was organizing with people, anytime we would achieve a victory it would be overturned in the court system or there would be a law passed that undid it. So it became clearer to me that if I wanted to make long-lasting change, I needed to understand how these systems work and be able to infiltrate them to some extent. So I actually went to law school with the intention of just suing all these corporations. I thought if part of the problem is people trying to sue them and just running out of money, I could avoid that problem by becoming the lawyer. Now I see that was a very naïve way of thinking about litigation. I just wanted to be a pain in the ass for corporate America for the rest of my life. It turns out I took a slightly different tack. Instead of suing them, I’m just harassing them in Congress.</p> <p>But my legal training has been really helpful. It’s good to understand how laws actually work once you pass them, but I think what people in the Washington, D.C. policy realm are missing is the artistic and cultural push of knowing how those ideas resonate with people. You have to know your audience, and the audience is the American people who are very removed from life here in D.C. I’m a musician and I’ve also worked in film, so I have those different perspectives I can fuse together for theatrics and art and creativity. It’s always been my natural approach to be a jack of all trades.</p> <p><strong>What role has social media played in shaping your activism and amplifying the message of your actions?</strong></p> <p>Using Twitter allows me to not only go viral, but to also control the narrative when it does go viral. The toughest thing about viral internet culture is that it’s hard to control how people will interpret what you do. You can use these tools to help interpret it. When the cameras are on me during a hearing, I’m hamming it up. But when they aren’t, I am on Twitter frantically tweeting at anyone about the bill I am opposing, so that every single person gets my message.</p> <p>The whole Monopoly Man concept essentially brings a meme to life. There is a novelty in this type of humor that has evolved within internet culture in the last decade or so, and this approach takes it into the real world. Monopoly Man is over-the-top internet culture — it’s cartoonish, it’s baseline humor everyone can get that draws on imagery people can relate to from a lot of different perspectives.</p> <p><strong>What role does your specific brand of creative activism play in engaging people at this political moment when people feel so much rage at the Trump administration, but also somewhat powerless to do anything about it?</strong></p> <p>The Trump presidency has really been an important moment for creative and innovative action, specifically those targeted to get media attention. Obviously, one of the central challenges of the Trump era is that he’s always sucking up all the air time, so even if you do something huge at a policy level or organizing level it gets ignored. The actions I have seen become so successful are the ones where people get in front of cameras and make themselves impossible to ignore. The reason Monopoly Man worked was because I was in every single photo. They couldn’t talk about the hearing without talking about who the person was twirling their mustache in the back. It’s important to be entertaining, which is something progressives have shied away from in an effort to seem serious, angry, dignified — you name it. If you add something inspiring, instead of this nihilistic approach, you can actually use that to advance your goals.</p> <p>Even though we’re in a really divisive time right now, there is a pretty large set of issues that I think Americans agree on. We have these large issues of white supremacy and patriarchy to battle, but at the end of the day there is also a central struggle between the rich and powerful, and everyone else. Monopoly Man was successful because it cut across the aisle in many ways. I even got an interview request from&nbsp;<a href="https://video.foxbusiness.com/v/5604198062001/?#sp=show-clips">Fox News</a>. I wasn’t sure what to make of it at the time, or if they were going to try to trap me. I had just come out publicly as trans a couple of days before, so I was wondering if they were going to ridicule me. But, surprisingly, they didn’t go on the attack. The host asked me a couple of leading questions to make me say something silly, but I stuck to my talking points. The interview actually went really well and reached a really wide audience.</p> <p><strong>Are there times you have found humor to not be the right approach?</strong></p> <p>I’ve been trying to tailor my creative protest to the moment. One of my more recent protests that went pretty viral was of Kirstjen Nielsen. It was the week after the child separation policy was announced and two days after audio of the child crying in the detention center had been released. I got a text from a friend who saw her eating at a Mexican restaurant, and they said I should get folks down there. So I put out the call on Twitter and Facebook and texted all my friends. We got a group from the Metro DC Democratic Socialist Alliance — we had about&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/20/us/kirstjen-nielsen-protesters-restaurant.html">15 people there protesting her</a>. And with that action, it wasn’t the right moment to use humor. That would have hurt a lot of folks at such a vulnerable time. When you’re talking about children being imprisoned, anger is the right approach and sadness is the right approach. A lot of things this administration does are ripe for satire and mockery, but you have to read the room and make sure you’re hitting the right chord.</p> <p><strong>Shaming and ridicule can also alienate people from supporting your cause. How have you struck a balance in your work with calling people out and calling them in?</strong></p> <p>For me, it’s been very important to use ridicule against people who have a lot of power, whether that’s elected officials or the extremely wealthy who hold a lot of power in society. I do think there’s a difference in making fun of people in power and making fun of everyday people. You can punch up or punch down, and I only advocate punching up. A lot of oppression that exists in our society is born out of the shame oppressors impose, so I don’t want to increase that. But it’s different to ridicule ideas. When you give hatred a platform, you legitimize it. You never want to delegitimize people themselves, but if you delegitimize their leaders and the ideas that cause suffering in the world, I think people move away from those leaders and ideas.</p> <p><strong>What will creative activism look like in a post-Trump era?</strong></p> <p>I’m inspired by how people have dug in and started organizing together since Trump was elected, but I’m nervous that it could disappear. In American culture, especially white American culture, we have a tendency to ignore issues if we ourselves are comfortable, and to engage with oppression only when it’s in front of our faces. The moment it isn’t right there, we stop thinking about it. I’m very aware that the moment Trump is gone, folks on the left could become complacent again. I do have hope that it won’t happen because we’ve seen that organizing really works. There have been a lot of victories in the past couple of years. If we have stopped as much of it as we have with zero institutional power, imagine what we could do when we have power. I just hope we’ll see it as a moment to build stronger institutions instead of going back to the ones we had before.</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-nagler-karen-ridd/humor-but-not-humiliation-finding-sweet-spot-in-nonviolent-">Humor but not humiliation: finding the sweet spot in nonviolent conflict resolution</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 Sarah Freeman-Woolpert Transformative nonviolence Economics Activism Fri, 14 Dec 2018 09:13:12 +0000 Sarah Freeman-Woolpert 120989 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How to treat a stranger in need: a moral response to the migrant caravans https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/don-mackenzie-jamal-rahman-and-ted-falcon/how-to-treat-stranger-in-need-moral-respons <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Throughout history, the story of Exodus has inspired people around the world fleeing persecution.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/YESMagazine.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Aerial view of Salvadoran migrants crossing the Suchiate River to Mexico, from Ciudad Tecun Uman, Guatemala, making their way to the U.S. on November 2, 2018.&nbsp;Credit: Carlos Alonzo/AFP/Getty Images via YES! Magazine. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Migrants fleeing persecution and violence in their homes and seeking refuge is a narrative often repeated in the troubled history of humankind. As Jews and Christians, we celebrate the biblical story of an entire people taken from slavery to journey toward the Promised Land.</p> <p>Like the Central Americans fleeing violence as well as economic and political instability in their home countries, the Israelites also found themselves unwelcome as they wandered through the wilderness.</p> <p>Yet, over time, the story of the Exodus has served as an inspiration for many groups, including non-Jewish people, fleeing persecution. In the Muslim tradition, the Hijra, the migration of the Prophet Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina, reflects this same transition.</p> <p>But while comparisons to these ancient events are compelling, they are also complicated. What is critical is realizing that all of us continually seek greater safety for ourselves and our families. And we believe that when called on by our faith traditions to provide that same safety and comfort to strangers, we are obligated to answer that call.</p> <p><strong>Pastor Don Mackenzie</strong></p> <p>Tragically, Christianity is part of the reason for a migration. Christian supremacy, a close cousin of White supremacy, is a source of oppression that forces the movement of populations. It is also a condition of imprisonment—although rarely named and understood as such—preventing people from participating in a more inclusive understanding of what it means to be human.</p> <p>It may be that almost all of the immigrants massing at our southern border are, in fact, Christian. But they are also, for the most part, Brown-skinned Hispanics. The role played by cultural Christianity in this particular migration is one that creates a fear of “other”—the one different from Christian White people. The need to feel that Christianity (and being White) is superior, reflects an extremely deep need to feel valued.</p> <p>As a pastor, I believe the lack of self-esteem, coupled with the cultural conviction that Christianity is superior to all other spiritual paths, constitutes the driver for both the oppressive and imprisoning nature of the behavior of those who claim Christianity as a spiritual path.</p> <p>From a spiritual point of view, the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth would suggest that we welcome the migrants. We need them. They need us. And from a spiritual point of view, we must also recognize the ways we in the United States help to create a climate of need in other parts of the world.</p> <p>Free trade is not the same as fair trade. The standard of living in the United States is much higher than it is in Central and South America. The support of repressive political regimes in other parts of the world helps to sustain the needs of the United States at the expense of the needs of other nations.</p> <p>All these things are rooted in the conviction that America (like Christianity and like being White) is, in fact, divinely ordained to be superior and entitled to the best of everything. None of these things is consistent with the unconditional love and essential inclusivity of Jesus’ teachings. The “us against them,” driven by fear of the other, has eclipsed the substance of Christianity’s teachings. Were we to recover that substance, the need for migration would be lessened and we would be able to grow toward a greater inclusivity and hospitality.</p> <p><strong>Imam Jamal Rahman</strong></p> <p>The migrant caravan raises spiritual questions. How should we treat those who are in dire need, especially when they offer us no immediate advantage, and we have problems of our own?</p> <p>For Muslims, the answer lies in a chapter of the Quran titled, “He Frowned.” Surrounded by powerful enemies who sought to destroy his embryonic community, the Prophet Muhammad<strong>&nbsp;</strong>sought treaties with local tribes. During negotiations with a powerful chieftain, an old blind man interrupted with questions about the Quran. The Prophet frowned, and, according to the Quran, received a revelation that night: “And the one who regards himself as self-sufficient you pay attention…but as for the one who came eagerly to you and with an inner awe you disregarded.”</p> <p>The message here is that we need to give priority to the dispossessed migrants who are traveling “with an inner awe” for the safety and opportunity of our blessed land. When we do what is just and compassionate, we are, in good time, rewarded by the spirit in ways we cannot imagine.</p> <p>Another question is how can we deal with those whose hearts are opposed to helping them? Influenced by a president who recklessly makes unsubstantiated claims that within the caravan lurk rapists, drug dealers, and terrorists, some Americans agree the response should be to build a wall and deploy the military to the border. Some hearts have become blind to the humanity of these desperate people.</p> <p>How do we open blinded hearts? If our own hearts are open, these vibrations will open other hearts. We are unimaginably interconnected, as the prophet experienced when he fled to Medina from Mecca in 622 CE. Having escaped death in Mecca, he requested the inhabitants of Medina to open their hearts and homes to the exiles from Mecca. Those who opened their hearts had a cumulative effect on those whose hearts were clenched. This laid the groundwork for an Islamic civilization to flourish from that nascent community in Medina.</p> <p>The question to ask ourselves then is: Am I ready to house or share my resources in another way, no matter how small, with at least one of the migrants? If enough of us are ready to make the sacrifice, the spiritual mystery of the invisible realms will take care of any problems. If we are unwilling to open our hearts, we are simply spouting beautiful verses from the Quran and shrugging the blame onto others.</p> <p><strong>Rabbi Ted Falcon</strong></p> <p>The commandment to care for the stranger, to welcome and to support the “other,” appears at least 36 times in the Torah—more often than any other commandment. Again and again it is stressed: “You shall not wrong nor oppress the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:20).</p> <p>Furthermore, these “others” must be accepted as a full citizens: “The strangers who reside with you shall be to you as your citizens… for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:34).</p> <p>The “other” must be treated with justice, be given the rights of all citizens, and, ultimately, must be loved: “For the Eternal your God…upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger… so you too must love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).</p> <p>But why is the injunction to care for, to welcome, to treat justly, and to love the stranger the most often repeated in the Torah? And why has this basic principle been so easy to ignore?</p> <p>The answer is a matter of who we consider ourselves to be. As long as we identify solely with our separate ego-selves, we are doomed to racism, injustice, economic disparity, and environmental degradation. Our ego identities convince us that we are separate from others and separate from all other living beings on this planet. From this limited identity, we use animals, and even other people, to serve our own needs. We form ourselves into groups defining ourselves against “others.” This is our natural response to the insecurities resulting from wholly defining ourselves as separate and disconnected beings in this material world.</p> <p>Only by recognizing both the value and the limits of this identity can we transcend our natural tendencies toward polarization and the demonization of others. Without opening to our more inclusive identity, without realizing our interconnectedness with all life, we cannot avoid causing pain stimulated by our belief in our separateness.</p> <p>The work of spiritual teachers of all faiths and non-faiths must be to support our awakening to our more inclusive identity. This is the way toward true welcoming, authentic justice, and love.</p> <p>For centuries, both Jewish and Christian communities have repeated this central teaching: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). Yet we will not be able to love until we see ourselves in the face of the other.</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/how-to-treat-a-stranger-in-need-a-moral-response-to-the-migrant-caravans-20181128?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20181130&amp;utm_content=YTW_20181130+CID_fc1c4a6a9261a357b7b760773b4cdbe0&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=How%25">YES! Magazine</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/nora-lester-murad/freedom-is-claimed-not-granted">Freedom is claimed, not granted</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/oska-paul/refugee-to-refugee-humanitarianism">Refugee-to-refugee humanitarianism</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation religion and social transformation migrant rights Jamal Rahman and Ted Falcon Don Mackenzie Care Love and Spirituality Wed, 12 Dec 2018 12:33:09 +0000 Don Mackenzie and Jamal Rahman and Ted Falcon 120799 at https://www.opendemocracy.net If you oppose Donald Trump, please don’t hate him https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/susan-l-rhodes-and-charles-r-schwenk/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="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/SusanRhodes.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Protester against Donald Trump in Minneapolis, Minnesota, January 31 2017. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/fibonacciblue/32648710855">Flickr/Fibonacci Blue</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">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="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Art_of_War">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="https://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/books/review/thinking-fast-and-slow-by-daniel-kahneman-book-review.html">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="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/dec/01/george-hw-bush-former-us-president-dies-aged-94">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="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11109-010-9112-2">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="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/smj.4250050203">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="https://www.amazon.com/Think-Big-Make-Happen-Business/dp/0061547840">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="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/loving-kindness-%E2%80%93-it-just-takes-practice">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 Love and Spirituality Care Sun, 09 Dec 2018 19:23:33 +0000 Susan L. Rhodes and Charles R. Schwenk 120881 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The dangers of a push-button Brexit https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/paul-walsh/dangers-of-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="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/PaulWalsh5.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/war-nuclear-war-red-button-finger-3038098/">Pixabay/Geralt</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">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="https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/power-button" 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="https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/The_Machine_Stops" 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="https://www.opendemocracy.net/anthony-barnett/why-brexit-won-t-work-eu-is-about-regulation-not-sovereignty">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="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Trocchi">Trocchi</a> turned away from writing books to launch a “cultural revolt.” His&nbsp;1963 <a href="http://www.notbored.org/invisible.html">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="https://www.kcl.ac.uk/sspp/policy-institute/CMCP/UK-media-coverage-of-the-2016-EU-Referendum-campaign.pdf" 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="https://inews.co.uk/news/brexit/diane-abbott-says-uk-vote-leave-again-second-referendum/" 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="https://diem25.org/end/">European New Deal</a> (proposed by the Democracy in Europe 25 movement or <a href="https://diem25.org/what-is-diem25/">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="https://www.theguardian.com/world/ng-interactive/2018/nov/20/revealed-one-in-four-europeans-vote-populist" 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 https://www.opendemocracy.net What really happened when Kanye West met Donald Trump? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/edward-sugden/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="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/EdwardSugden2.jpg" 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="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:President_Donald_Trump_and_Kanye_West_2018-10-11.jpg">Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/share-your-work/public-domain/">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="https://www.vulture.com/2018/10/kanye-west-and-donald-trump-meeting-transcript.html">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="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/edward-sugden/donald-trump-and-politics-of-emotion">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="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIUzLpO1kxI">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="https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/11/kim-kardashian-kanye-west-history-private-firefighting/575887/">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="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._E._B._Du_Bois">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="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/trump-kanye-west-meeting-video-quotes-white-house-hugging-maga-a8579926.html">bizarre</a>” and “<a href="https://edition.cnn.com/2018/10/11/politics/kanye-west-donald-trump/index.html">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="https://twitter.com/kanyewest/status/1057382916760707072">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 https://www.opendemocracy.net Freedom is claimed, not granted https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/nora-lester-murad/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. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/nora-lester-murad/la-libertad-se-reclama-no-se-concede">Español</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/NoraMurad2.JPG" 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="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-45951782">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="https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128303672">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="https://cja.org/where-we-work/el-salvador/">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="https://www.nytimes.com/1989/04/21/world/salvador-army-fills-ranks-by-force.html">recruit</a>” child soldiers.</p> <p>Nearly four decades later, Central Americans continue to <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jA0G3NJmx00">risk their lives to escape conditions</a> caused in great part <a href="https://www.fairobserver.com/region/north_america/us-mexico-border-migrant-crisis-foreign-policy-world-news-23230/">by US foreign policy</a>, only to find themselves <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYnV5lV2xOQ">unwelcome</a> in the oft-touted “<a href="https://www.counterpunch.org/2006/05/31/stop-saying-this-is-a-nation-of-immigrants/">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="https://www.unhcr.org/en-us/europe-emergency.html">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="http://www.newsanctuarynyc.org/">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="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/14/opinion/gaza-protests-organizer-great-return-march.html">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="https://www.afsc.org/blogs/news-and-commentary/what-is-great-return-march">parts of movements</a>, cultivated over decades out of smaller attempts and in response to <a href="https://www.thenation.com/article/asylum-refugees-trump-proclamation/">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="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-israel-blockade-icrc/israels-gaza-blockade-breaks-law-says-icrc-idUSTRE65D00R20100614">blockade of a “border” that illegally</a> prevents two million people from returning (<a href="https://www.unrwa.org/where-we-work/gaza-strip">1.3 million of whom are documented refugees</a>).</p> <p>The Central Americans are seeking the <a href="https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/research/asylum-united-states">legal status of asylum</a>, which is part of <a href="http://www.unhcr.org/en-us/publications/legal/3d4aba564/refugee-protection-guide-international-refugee-law-handbook-parliamentarians.html">refugee law</a>, while in Gaza, legally-recognized refugees are denied their <a href="https://electronicintifada.net/content/right-return-heart-palestines-struggle/17856">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="https://www.unhcr.org/en-us/publications/legal/3d4aba564/refugee-protection-guide-international-refugee-law-handbook-parliamentarians.html">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="https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/413624-trump-calls-migrant-caravan-an-invasion">Trump has repeatedly called them “invaders,”</a> subject to a <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-46026050">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="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/16/world/middleeast/israel-gaza-fence.html">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="https://www.unhcr.org/en-us/publications/legal/3d4aba564/refugee-protection-guide-international-refugee-law-handbook-parliamentarians.html">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="https://www.icj-cij.org/en/case/131">Israel constructed an Apartheid Wall that has been deemed illegal</a>; <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-us-canada-40755559/trump-s-wall-on-patrol-in-the-border-s-deadliest-town">Trump is trying to construct a similar wall</a> along the US-Mexico border, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/27/world/middleeast/trump-mexico-wall-israel-west-bank.html">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="https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/11/security-aid-pa-sustains-israel-occupation-161103120213593.html">Israel outsources enforcement to the Palestinian Authority</a> (paid for by international donors), while the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xbt0ACMbiA&amp;feature=youtu.be&amp;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="https://www.academia.edu/30909451/The_Gaza_Reconstruction_Mechanism_Smoke_and_Mirrors_">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="https://news.un.org/en/story/2018/10/1023852">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="https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/11/01/donald-trump-suggests-migrants-could-shot-throwing-rocks/1850582002/">migrants who throw stones would be shot</a>, a policy almost identical to <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/israel-stone-throwers-punishment_us_56045fade4b08820d91c447d">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="https://www.restinmyshade.com/">Rest in My Shade, a poem about roots</a>,” co-authored with Danna Masad and published by <a href="http://www.interlinkbooks.com/product_info.php?products_id=3510">Interlink Books</a> with support from the <a href="https://www.palestinemuseum.us/new-products/">Palestine Museum US</a>. More information at <a href="https://www.restinmyshade.com/">https://www.restinmyshade.com</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 Care Activism Sun, 02 Dec 2018 19:26:26 +0000 Nora Lester Murad 120676 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why co-ops and community farms can’t close the racial wealth gap https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/zenobia-jeffries-warfield/why-co-ops-and-community-farms-can-t-close-racial-wealth-ga <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="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/ZenobiaJeffrieswarfield.jpg" 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="https://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000" 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="http://scua.library.umass.edu/digital/dubois/dubois12.pdf" 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="https://www.strongertogether.coop/food-coops/co-op-faqs-and-facts" 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="https://www.strongertogether.coop/food-coops/co-op-faqs-and-facts" 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="https://www.ebony.com/career-finance/black-banks-pt-1" 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="https://www.fdic.gov/regulations/resources/minority/mdi.html" target="_blank">down to 2</a><a href="https://www.fdic.gov/regulations/resources/minority/mdi.html" target="_blank">3</a>. And Black-owned businesses in general&nbsp;<a href="https://washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/marchaprilmay-2017/the-decline-of-black-business/" 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="https://ips-dc.org/report-ever-growing-gap/" 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="http://freedmansbank.org/" 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="https://ips-dc.org/report-the-road-to-zero-wealth/" 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="https://ips-dc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/The-Road-to-Zero-Wealth_FINAL.pdf" 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="https://www.dbcfsn.org/detroit-people-s-food-co-op" 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="https://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/good-money/why-co-ops-and-community-farms-cant-close-the-racial-wealth-gap-20181109?utm_medium=email&amp;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 https://www.opendemocracy.net Finding purpose in the future of work https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/dan-silver/finding-purpose-in-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="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/DanSilver11.jpeg" 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="https://www.cipd.co.uk/knowledge/work/trends/uk-working-lives">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="https://www.tuc.org.uk/sites/default/files/FutureofWorkReport1.pdf">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="https://futuresofwork.co.uk/2018/09/05/post-work-fallacies-and-the-social-reproduction-of-capitalism/">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="https://www.mya.org.uk/">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="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555454/DanSilver10.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555454/DanSilver10.jpeg" 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="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/555454/DanSilver12_0.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555454/DanSilver12_0.jpeg" 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="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1468-4446.12072">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 Economics Care Activism Tue, 27 Nov 2018 19:36:56 +0000 Dan Silver 120659 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Are you really on our side? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/peroline-ainsworth-and-kiran-nihalani/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="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/peroandkirannew.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/29976014@N02/4049804470">Flickr/lambs.frances</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">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="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/11/05/home-secretary-condemns-sick-video-people-burning-effigy-grenfell/"> 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="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/jan/08/strivers-shirkers-language-welfare">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="https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/grenfell-tower-fire-bonfire-night-effigy-video-immigration-asylum-seekers-a8619946.html">linked to immigrant bashing</a>, but more widely it reveals a <a href="https://leftfootforward.org/2018/11/why-wouldnt-some-idiots-burn-an-effigy-of-grenfell-the-government-has-treated-survivors-with-just-as-much-contempt/">disregard for the lives of social housing tenants in general</a>. The journalist <a href="http://newsvideo.su/video/9647456">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="https://ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?LangID=E&amp;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="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPzCsg1Huf4">party for ‘shirkers’ not&nbsp; workers</a>.&nbsp; <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/sep/16/labour-vows-to-abandon-language-of-strivers-and-scroungers">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="http://www.academia.edu/18862184/Realizing_the_troubled_family_crafting_the_neoliberal_state">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="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34447916">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="https://www.centreforwelfarereform.org/library/by-az/the-great-troubled-families-fraud.html">“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 Grenfell Tower fire 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 https://www.opendemocracy.net Lessons on building democracy after nonviolent revolutions https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jonathan-pinckney/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="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/lessons-building-democracy-after-nonviolent-revolutions/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JonathanPinckney.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p><p class="image-caption">Tahrir Square, Cairo, April 1 2011. Credit: Flickr/Lilian Wagdy via <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14768252">Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">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="https://www.amazon.com/Revolution-2-0-People-Greater-Memoir/dp/0547773986">from within the country</a>&nbsp;<a href="https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/middle-east/2011-04-14/understanding-revolutions-2011">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="https://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/burkina-faso-protesters-remove-blaise-compaore-power-2014">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="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2015/12/06/burkina-faso-elections-mark-a-turning-point-in-a-country-in-political-turmoil/?utm_term=.f5234e326329">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="https://www.nonviolent-conflict.org/civil-resistance-building-democracy-popular-nonviolent-uprisings/"><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="https://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/brazilians-act-end-military-rule-diretas-j-1983-84">Brazil’s transition away from military rule in the 1980s</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02589349308704989">Zambia’s transition away from single party rule in the 1990s</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="https://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/nepalese-general-strike-protest-monarchic-rule-2006">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="https://cup.columbia.edu/book/why-civil-resistance-works/9780231156820">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="https://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/urban-thais-overthrow-prime-minister-thaksin-thailand-2005-2006">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="https://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/23/world/asia/thailand-military-coup.html">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 https://www.opendemocracy.net Refugee-to-refugee humanitarianism https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/oska-paul/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="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/OskaPaul2.png" 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="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/fotini-rantsiou/punish-smuggler-or-reward-smuggler-recent-refugee-arrivals-in-greece">well-documented</a>, having reached&nbsp;<a href="https://ec.europa.eu/echo/where/europe/greece_en">unprecedented levels</a>&nbsp;for any European Union (EU) country in 2015. Three years later, and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newsdeeply.com/refugees/articles/2017/03/06/the-refugee-archipelago-the-inside-story-of-what-went-wrong-in-greece">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="https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/07/27/greece-inhumane-conditions-land-border">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="https://radicalantipode.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/book-review_vradis-on-douzinas.pdf">larger social mobilisations of the Left</a>&nbsp;since 2011, as well as to <a href="http://allegralaboratory.net/solidarity-humanitarianism/">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="https://www.oxfam.org/en/refugee-and-migrant-crisis/museum-without-home-exhibition-hospitality-goes-live-exhibits-all-around">public</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.greeknewsagenda.gr/index.php/topics/politics-polity/6059-un-chief-praises-greece,-urges-world%E2%80%99s-solidarity-for-refugees">political</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/toc/14698676/24/2">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="https://refugeehosts.org/2018/02/19/learning-from-the-local-in-greece/">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="http://seedsof-humanity.org/news/news/33/Our-Mission.html">dental</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/docmobile.org/">medical care</a>, <a href="http://seedsof-humanity.org/news/news/33/Our-Mission.html">social pharmacies,</a> <a href="https://www.refugeeyouthservice.net/">youth centres</a>, <a href="https://jafrafoundation.org/2017/12/02/the-opening-of-bab-el-shams-center-in-athens-greece/">language</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/pg/Project-Esteghlal-2225521534351859/about/?ref=page_internal">business training</a>, and <a href="http://www.khora-athens.org/current-future-projects/">community kitchens and clothes shops</a> among <a href="https://www.refugee.info/greece/services/by-location/athens/">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="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/dec/16/help-refugees-charity-central-athens-vulnerable-young-people">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="https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/05/world-afraid-young-refugee-men-160530110614219.html">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="https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2015/11/anarchy-future-greece-151122113214286.html">activism and anarchism</a>. Many of these squats are run by refugees themselves and provide alternative solutions to the city’s <a href="http://infomobile.w2eu.net/stories/homelessness-and-refugee-reception-centres-in-greece/">housing crisis</a>, since - <a href="https://www.athenssocialatlas.gr/en/article/vacant-houses/">despite the existence of numerous abandoned buildings</a> - asylum-seekers, refugees and even <a href="https://greece.greekreporter.com/2016/05/31/most-of-the-athens-homeless-are-greeks-victims-of-economic-crisis/">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="http://theconversation.com/welcome-to-city-plaza-athens-a-new-approach-to-housing-refugees-63904">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 stories...at 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 https://www.opendemocracy.net “We deserve the right to exist on our own terms” https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/dan-silver-steph-niciu/we-deserve-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="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/DanSilver6.JPG" 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="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0038026117742085?journalCode=sora">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="https://www.fact.co.uk/">Foundation for Art and Creative Technology (FACT)</a>, a media arts centre based in the city, and <a href="https://www.vsnw.org.uk/">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="https://www.fact.co.uk/projects/the-future-world-of-work.aspx">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="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/DanSilver8.jpg" 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="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/DanSilver9.jpeg" 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="https://www.cogitatiopress.com/politicsandgovernance/article/view/1213/1213">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 https://www.opendemocracy.net Five ways new social movement leaders are effecting change https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-silberman/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="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MichaelSiberman.jpg" 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="https://marchforourlives.com/">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="https://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/news/civicus-at-25/3183-the-green-shoots-of-a-new-civic-activism" 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 350.org 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="https://thisisnewpower.com/">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="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/24/us/emma-gonzalez-march-for-our-lives.html">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="https://twitter.com/GabbyGiffords/status/977628591151337478">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="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2018/03/31/laura-ingraham-takes-an-easter-break-amid-david-hogg-controversy-and-advertiser-revolt/?noredirect=on&amp;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="https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/03/inside-the-secret-meme-lab-designed-to-propel-neveragain-beyond-the-march">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="https://www.npr.org/templates/transcript/transcript.php?storyId=612154435">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="https://thehill.com/homenews/state-watch/380321-more-than-a-million-people-participated-in-anti-gun-violence-marches" 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="https://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/5-ways-new-movement-leaders-are-effecting-change-20181016?utm_medium=email&amp;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 https://www.opendemocracy.net Adopting a child is a revolutionary act https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/shreya-kalra/adopting-child-is-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="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/ShreyaKalra.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Children on Holi Day in India. Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/holi-india-children-color-culture-594333/">Pixabay/shekharchopra85</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">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="http://www.uniindia.com/-every-child-deserves-the-touchofcare-states-vicks-in-2nd-edition-of-its-campaign/states/news/1375165.html">UNICEF</a>.</p> <p class="normal">These children make up <a href="https://www.soschildrensvillages.ca/india-now-home-20-million-orphans-study-finds">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="https://www.thequint.com/news/india/abuse-of-children-in-indias-institutions-reveals-nationwide-crisis-of-reform">2017</a>. This figure actually fell to 260,000 in <a href="https://www.thequint.com/news/india/abuse-of-children-in-indias-institutions-reveals-nationwide-crisis-of-reform">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="http://cara.nic.in/resource/adoption_Stattistics.html">3,276 in-country adoptions</a> in India according to the Central Adoption and Resource Authority’s statistics, with a mere <a href="https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/just-one-child-available-for-every-nine-adoptive-parents-carings/articleshow/65278454.cms">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="https://waic.in/"> 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="http://www.uniindia.com/-every-child-deserves-the-touchofcare-states-vicks-in-2nd-edition-of-its-campaign/states/news/1375165.html">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 https://www.opendemocracy.net