Care https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/18671/all cached version 14/12/2018 13:28:57 en 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 Care Love and Spirituality Sun, 09 Dec 2018 19:23:33 +0000 Susan L. Rhodes and Charles R. Schwenk 120881 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.</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 Activism Care Sun, 02 Dec 2018 19:26:26 +0000 Nora Lester Murad 120676 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 Activism Care Economics 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 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 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 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 Helping people to find common ground on Brexit https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/perry-walker/helping-people-to-find-common-ground-on-brexit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Conversations across divides are very hard, but they’re essential to democracy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/PerryWalker2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Manchester anti-Brexit protest for Conservative conference, October 1, 2017. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:IMG_2816_Manchester_anti-Brexit_protest_for_Conservative_conference,_October_1,_2017.jpg">Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en">CC BY-SA 4.0</a>.</p> <p>On the first day of October 2018 I did something I’d never done before: I went to the UK Conservative party conference in Birmingham. The theme of the event I attended was ‘Chuck Chequers’ – a reference to Prime Minister Theresa May’s controversial plan for Brexit. It was organised by the Bruges Group, which takes its inspiration from a <a href="https://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/107332">speech made by Margaret Thatcher in Bruges in 1988.</a> The most quoted part of that speech was her statement that "We have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only to see them re-imposed at a European level." </p> <p>I went to Birmingham because, as someone who voted Remain in the EU referendum, I wanted to talk to people who voted Leave, to try and understand their position. We might not agree, I thought, but at least an honest dialogue might start to overcome the polarisation to which the Brexit vote has led. I particularly wanted to see if I could voice my concerns without getting into a slanging match. </p> <p>Waiting for the event to begin, I talked to a woman called Monica. Despite being part-Italian she was a Leaver believer, but the conversation started well. We identified a shared value, that of democracy, and explored the other values we held that had led us to such different conclusions. Then the speakers spoke, with applause at its loudest when Conservative MP Owen Patterson promised to vote against the Chequers plan. &nbsp;</p> <p>The Q&amp;A session that followed included some ritual if low-key booing of a journalist from the left-leaning Guardian newspaper. As we all started to disperse, I leaned over to Monica and said that I was probably the only person in the room who had warmed to a reference to Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission and his recent <a href="http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-18-5808_en.htm">State of the Union speech</a>. Juncker had called for a ‘pooling of sovereignty’ at the EU level. That’s where things started to go wrong. </p> <p>I can’t put my finger on exactly what happened, but something shifted in her body language. &nbsp;I had piqued her at some fundamental level. She made a remark that I heard as an assertion that this pooling would lead to a United States of Europe, and in turn open the door for a European version of Donald Trump. I’m sure that she had a much more nuanced position in her mind, but in the moment, and with everyone starting to leave, I couldn’t see a way to explore it. Despite my best intentions, I had started the slide into the kind of altercation I wanted to avoid, so I thanked her for the conversation and we went our separate ways. </p> <p>This preamble is by way of stressing that ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/beauty-of-bothand-mind">both/and’ conversations</a> across the Leave/Remain divide are very hard work. My organisation, <a href="http://www.talkshopuk.org/">Talk Shop</a>, had already experienced this, when, in the run-up to the EU referendum in 2016, we organised and facilitated ten events around the country. They were among the few opportunities for Leavers and Remainers to meet and appreciate each other.&nbsp; But were there to be a general election or a second referendum I wouldn’t repeat those events. They were incredibly difficult to set up, and even with this number our small team of facilitators was very stretched. Rather, we need to find ways in which people can organise and run sessions for themselves. How could this be done?</p> <p>My first clue comes from a structured conversation called <a href="https://uk.iofc.org/listening-roadshow-0">the Listening Roadshow</a>, which was offered after the referendum by an organisation called <a href="https://uk.iofc.org/">Initiatives of Change</a>. The name was chosen to emphasise the need for deep listening to each other, without judgement. It was built around the question, “What do you most hope for, and what most concerns you, following the EU Referendum?” </p> <p>In almost all of their 18 events, at least one person said that this was the first time they had heard someone who voted differently to them in the referendum talk about why they had done so. Once people saw the possibility, there was considerable interest in reaching out across divides to ‘the other.’ </p> <p>Given this interest, perhaps the best way to get people together across the Brexit divide is to draw on <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jacob-z-hess-joan-blades/can-you-change-world-from-your-living-room">an American model</a> called <a href="https://www.livingroomconversations.org/">Living Room Conversations</a>, which asks anyone who wants to do so to find someone from across the divide who shares that aim. The two of them co-host the event, with each inviting two other people who share their point of view. The resulting group of six meets in the home of the organiser over an agreed length of time. </p> <p>This approach enables people to self-organise, and it guarantees equal numbers of participants from both sides. &nbsp;But what would they talk about? First, start not with Brexit but with daily life. The late <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Dialogue-Transforming-Conflict-Cooperation/dp/0684865661">Daniel Yankelovich, an American pollster, wrote that</a>, “in focus groups where those holding contrary views have been demonized, each side makes the unexpected discovery that the other is human: a kindred soul who laughs at the same jokes and has similar worries.” In <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Foundations-Deliberative-Democracy-Empirical-Implications/dp/1107625017">a dialogue in the city of Srebrenica in Bosnia-Herzegovina</a> between&nbsp; Serbs and Bosnjaks (Muslims), for example, a Bosnjak man started by complaining about having to drive his daughter to school because of stray dogs. Almost everyone in the room, it turned out, had a story to tell about the same dogs; people started to realise that they lived in the same world.</p> <p>Second, have them make the case for the other side. That was the best part of our 2016 events. As a Remainer in Liverpool put it, “Arguing the case for leaving helped me realise that people who take that view, especially because of immigration, may have thought it through, rather than simply absorbing messages from the media.”</p> <p>Third, ask them to look for the ‘joining point,’ an idea that comes from <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Bridges-Not-Walls-Interpersonal-Communication/dp/0073534315">a story told by American feminist Sally Miller Gearhart</a>:</p> <blockquote><p>“Five years ago when I’d see a logging truck loaded with redwoods or old oak, I’d shoot the driver a finger. He’d shoot one right back at me…Three years ago, I was a shade more gentle. I would stop dead in my tracks, glare at the driver of a logging truck and make sure he read my lips: ‘Fuck you, mister.’</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>I’ve [now] learned that my pain, anger and/or hatred accomplish nothing except to render me ineffectual and to increase the problem by adding to the pain, anger and hatred that already burden the world…These days when I meet an erstwhile ‘enemy’ I look for the joining point, the place where we are the same, where we can meet each other as beings who share the experience of living together on this planet.”</p></blockquote> <p>I’d extend that idea to cover points of overlap on Brexit itself. And because this could be challenging for a self-organised event, I’d make a game of it. I’d devise a scoring system that encouraged people to make suggestions that appeal to the whole group, and are specific. Someone might propose, as Monica and I did, ‘democracy’ as a joining point, but someone else might extend that, for example, to ‘democracy in the sense of being able to vote out the people in charge.’&nbsp; </p> <p>The group could then use these joining points to explore their implications for the future relationship between the UK and the rest of the EU. In doing this, they might also bear in mind that people can support the same outcome for different reasons. A citizens’ income, for example, is supported by many people on the right to reduce the size of the state, and by many on the left to tackle poverty. &nbsp;</p> <p>In the children’s programmes of my youth like <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Peter">Blue Peter</a>, some hair-raising stunt would be preceded by a caution: “Don’t try this at home.” In this case, please do.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/beauty-of-bothand-mind">The beauty of a both/and mind</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/peroline-ainsworth-kiran-nihalani/five-ways-to-build-solidarity-across-our-difference">Five ways to build solidarity across our differences</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/peroline-ainsworth-kiran-nihalani-hannah-rollins/three-more-ways-to-build-solidarity-">Three more ways to build solidarity across our differences</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Brexit Political polarization Perry Walker Activism Care Tue, 23 Oct 2018 18:54:33 +0000 Perry Walker 120104 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What came before #MeToo? The ‘himpathy’ that shaped misogyny https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/lilian-calles-barger/what-came-before-metoo-himpathy-that-shaped-misogyny <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Kate Manne’s “<a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/down-girl-9780190604981?cc=us&amp;lang=en&amp;">Down Girl</a>” describes the origins of a punitive social system that keeps women in their place by rewarding compliance and punishing resistance.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/LilianBarger.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">llustration&nbsp;by Fran Murphy for YES! Magazine. All rights reserved.</p> <p>The #MeToo movement has brought unprecedented attention to sexual harassment and assault. It’s revealed just how many women feel besieged by sexually predatory behavior—especially in the workplace. The wave of women coming forward has shown that sexual harassment is the rule in many institutions.  </p> <p>And #MeToo has only revealed a small piece of a much larger problem. Although the most high-profile #MeToo stories have focused on celebrities or executives, most victims are disproportionately young, low-income, and minority women. Also less evident in the #MeToo movement have been cases of sexual violence: where shaming, trolling, threats, and unwelcome advances have given way to rape, physical violence, and even forms of torture—of which choking is the most common. </p> <p>In its most extreme cases, it can literally be a matter of life and death, and yet sexual harassment and violence remain largely hidden by an elaborate system of denial, gaslighting, and retraction of accusations by women. Meanwhile, unrepentant abusers are often comforted or excused while victims are blamed. </p> <p>How did we get here? Moral philosopher Kate Manne’s book,&nbsp;<em><a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/down-girl-9780190604981?cc=us&amp;lang=en&amp;">Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny</a></em>, helps explain. Thanks to Manne, the undue comfort that men receive now has a name: It’s called himpathy. And, together with how she defines misogyny, Manne provides a useful framework for understanding not just the present #MeToo moment, but what came before. </p> <p>For Manne, misogyny is not simply “men who hate women.” That’s far too simplistic, she says. Rather, it’s a far-reaching, punitive social system that keeps women in their place by rewarding </p> <p>Himpathy, a term destined to become part of the feminist vocabulary, names a problem previously unrecognized—and perhaps that’s the first step in solving it. Manne defines himpathy as the “excessive sympathy sometimes shown to male perpetrators of sexual violence,” in the attempt to preserve their reputation, power, or status. Accused men, especially those with privilege, are broadly treated with deference by the media and the public, and if they’re brought to court are given lenient sentences. </p> <p>This is so common as to be a given for men in power. Harvey Weinstein is a case in point. Wielding control over the film careers of many and trading on his artistic reputation, he escaped unscathed for decades. Excuses are abundantly generated: alcohol, flirtation taken too far, or provocation on the part of the victim. Himpathy builds on the idea that sexual predators and rapists are creepy monsters, not “golden boys.” Correspondingly, the women in these situations are characterized as hysterical, misguided, or liars who misread the intentions of their attackers. </p> <p>Himpathy is a helpful explanation of the response after sexual abuse allegations are revealed. Over and over, we’ve seen victim blaming and rewriting of the story by friends, family, media, and sometimes even the victim. Responses to #MeToo revelations by close-at-hand onlookers are often characterized by shock and guilt for having looked the other way when powerful and respected men are involved. </p> <p>But himpathy is certainly not a recent phenomenon. Historically, misogyny and himpathy have been normal, if unrecognized, fare for women in the workplace. </p> <p>Sexual coercion at work had to be named before it could be fought, and feminists of the 1970s identified common experiences women suffered by naming marital rape and domestic abuse. The term “sexual harassment” in the workplace was defined by Lin Farley in her 1978 book, “Sexual Shakedown: The Sexual Harassment of Women on the Job,” as “unsolicited nonreciprocal male behavior that asserts a woman’s sex role over her function as a worker.” </p> <p>Farley joined the legal scholar Catharine A. MacKinnon in pressing the courts to consider it part of “sex discrimination” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Act gave women and minorities new rights in employment. But there was still backlash. A law on the books is only the first step in triggering a cultural shift. And law is not useful unless some are willing to use it and make a claim.</p> <p>The recognition of sexual harassment as a form of employment-related discrimination opened the floodgates: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission began receiving tens of thousands of claims each year. Even with a rush of claims, many from low-wage workers, the definition of sexual harassment as interpreted by the courts is narrow and fails to consider the disadvantaged social circumstances of women that dissuade many from seeking legal recourse. Over the next 40 years, as women entered previously male-dominated fields, sexual harassment, though illegal under the law, persisted. </p> <p>Take, for example, the high-profile cases of Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas in 1991 or Bill Clinton and Paula Jones in 1994. Despite attracting a great deal of attention, these failed to mobilize a mass movement. In both cases, the men involved were held by many to be blameless while Hill and Jones were scrutinized for ill intentions. Hill’s accusation on national television ultimately did not stop the Thomas confirmation, and Jones faded into obscurity. High-profile cases like these are easily dismissed as aberrations, a moral failure of one individual, a political plot, or gold-digging on the part of victims. Non-transgressing men benefit from a system that keeps women in their place, and low-profile cases continue to be invisible. </p> <p>The backlash against #MeToo, in an already global movement, has begun. Sometimes the case is taken up by women, such as the actress Catherine Deneuve, who evoked the French tradition of seduction against sexual puritanism: “Clumsy flirting is not a crime,” she said. Claire Berlinski, writing for The American Interest, charged that in #MeToo, “mass hysteria had set in [as] a form of moral panic” that misinterprets naturally romantic interactions as nefarious. </p> <p>This women-against-women narrative is part of the story of misogyny and himpathy—and it’s part of why it’s so difficult to remedy. By standing by their man, “good women” show their deference and act as enforcers. In exchange for upholding gender norms—and participating in misogyny by punishing those who don’t—they earn favors and advancement, which reinforces even further the social deviance of the victims.</p> <p>After all, women can say no, these defenders say. But if you are not a woman with executive power or Meryl Streep, saying no is difficult.</p> <p>Women who work to support their families have few options. When the choice is between your job and your dignity, himpathy is likely to work as a silencing mechanism. Unless #MeToo successfully expands beyond professional women by reaching out to empower pink- and blue-collar women who suffer in silence under male supervisors, it will leave its mark but will not have done its most significant work. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ruth-c-white/is-toxic-masculinity-mask-for-anxiety">Is toxic masculinity a mask for anxiety?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/perry-dougherty/metoo-dialogue-and-healing">#MeToo, dialogue and healing</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/angela-mcrobbie/women-beware-president-trump-and-promise-of-violence"> Women beware: President Trump and the promise of violence</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Lilian Calles Barger Liberation Care Intersectionality Thu, 18 Oct 2018 18:28:39 +0000 Lilian Calles Barger 119873 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What would a society designed for well-being look like? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/tabita-green/what-would-society-designed-for-well-being-look-like <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Economic justice goes a long way to improving mental health up and down the socioeconomic ladder.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/LydiaSmith4_0.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://pixabay.com/en/despair-alone-being-alone-archetype-513529/">Pixabay/Geralt</a>.&nbsp;<a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p>In early June of this year, the back-to-back suicides of celebrities Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, coupled with&nbsp;<a href="https://stacks.cdc.gov/view/cdc/53785">a new report revealing a more than 25 percent rise in U.S. suicides&nbsp;</a>since 2000, prompted—again—a national discussion on suicide prevention, depression, and the need for improved treatment. Some have called for the development of new antidepressants, noting the lack of efficacy in current medical therapies. But developing better drugs buys into the mainstream notion that the collection of human experiences called “mental illness” is primarily physiological in nature, caused by a “broken” brain.</p> <p>This notion is misguided and distracting at best, deadly at worst. Research has shown that, to the contrary, economic inequality could be a significant contributor to mental illness. Greater disparities in wealth and income are associated with increased status anxiety and stress at all levels of the socioeconomic ladder. In the United States, poverty has a negative impact on children’s development and can contribute to social, emotional, and cognitive impairment. A society designed to meet everyone’s needs could help prevent many of these problems before they start.</p> <p>To address the dramatic increase in mental and emotional distress in the U.S., we must move beyond a focus on the individual and think of well-being as a social issue. Both the World Health Organization and the United Nations have made statements in the past decade that mental health is a social indicator, requiring “<a href="http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0012/100821/E92227.pdf">social, as well as individual, solutions</a>.” Indeed, WHO Europe stated in 2009 that “[a] focus on social justice may provide an important corrective to what has been seen as a growing overemphasis on individual pathology.” </p> <p>The UN’s independent adviser&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21689">Dainius Pūras reported in 2017&nbsp;</a>that “mental health policies and services are in crisis—not a crisis of chemical imbalances, but of power imbalances,” and that decision-making is controlled by “biomedical gatekeepers,” whose outdated methods “perpetuate stigma and discrimination.” Our economic system is a fundamental aspect of our social environment, and the side effects of neoliberal capitalism are contributing to mass malaise.</p> <p>In&nbsp;<em>The Spirit Level</em>, epidemiologists Kate Pickett and Richard G. Wilkinson show a close correlation between income inequality and rates of mental illness in 12 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member countries. The more unequal the country, the higher the prevalence of mental illness. Of the 12 countries measured on the book’s mental illness scatter chart, the United States sits alone in the top right corner—the most unequal and the most mentally ill.</p> <p>The seminal&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/acestudy/about.html">Adverse Childhood Experiences Study&nbsp;</a>revealed that repeated childhood trauma results in both physical and mental negative health outcomes in adulthood. Economic hardship is the most common form of childhood trauma in the U.S.—one of the richest countries in the world. And the likelihood of experiencing other forms of childhood trauma—such as living through divorce, death of a parent or guardian, a parent or guardian in prison, various forms of violence, and living with anyone abusing alcohol or drugs—also increases with poverty.</p> <p>Clearly, many of those suffering mental and emotional distress are actually having a rational response to a sick society and an unjust economy. This revelation doesn’t reduce the suffering, but it completely changes the paradigm of mental health and how we choose to move forward to optimize human well-being. </p> <p>Instead of focusing only on piecemeal solutions for various forms of social ills, we must consider that the real and lasting solution is a new economy designed for all people, not only for the ruling corporate elite. This new economy must be based on principles and strategies that contribute to human well-being, such as family-friendly policies, meaningful and democratic work, and community wealth-building activities to minimize the widening income gap and reduce poverty.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Tabitagreen2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p>The seeds of human well-being are sown during pregnancy and the early years of childhood.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3640562/">Research shows that mothers&nbsp;</a>who are able to stay home longer (at least six months) with their infants are less likely to experience depressive symptoms, which contributes to greater familial well-being. Yet in the United States, one-quarter of new mothers return to work within two weeks of giving birth, and only 13 percent of workers have access to paid leave. A new economy would recognize and value the care of children in the same way it values other work, provide options for flexible and part-time work, and, thus, enable parents to spend formative time with their young children—resulting in optimized well-being for the whole family.</p> <p>In his book&nbsp;<em>Lost Connections,&nbsp;</em>journalist Johann Hari lifts up meaningful work and worker cooperatives as an “unexpected solution” to depression. “We spend most of our waking time working—and 87 percent of us feel either disengaged or enraged by our jobs,” Hari writes.</p> <p>A lack of control in the workplace is particularly detrimental to workers’ well-being, which is a direct result of our hierarchical, military-influenced way of working in most organizations. Worker cooperatives, a building block of the solidarity economy, extend democracy to the workplace, providing employee ownership and control. When workers participate in the mission and governance of their workplace, it creates meaning, which contributes to greater well-being. While more research is needed, Hari writes, “it seems fair ... to assume that a spread of cooperatives would have an antidepressant effect.”</p> <p>Worker cooperatives also contribute to minimizing income inequality through low employee income ratios and wealth-building through ownership—and can provide a way out of poverty for workers from marginalized groups. In an&nbsp;<a href="https://soundcloud.com/upstreampodcast/jessica-gordon-nembhard">Upstream podcast interview</a>, activist scholar Jessica Gordon Nembhard says, “We have a racialized capitalist system that believes that only a certain group and number of people should get ahead and that nobody else deserves to … I got excited about co-ops because I saw [them] as a place to start for people who are left behind.” </p> <p>A concrete example of this is the Cleveland Model, in which a city’s anchor institutions, such as hospitals and universities, commit to purchasing goods and services from local, large-scale worker cooperatives, thus building community wealth and reducing poverty.</p> <p>The worker cooperative is one of several ways to democratize wealth and create economic justice. The Democracy Collaborative lists dozens of strategies and models to bring wealth back to the people on the website community-wealth.org. The list includes municipal enterprise, community land trusts, reclaiming the commons, impact investing, and local food systems. All these pieces of the new economy puzzle play a role in contributing to economic justice, which is inextricably intertwined with mental and emotional well-being.</p> <p>In&nbsp;<em>Lost Connections,</em>&nbsp;Hari writes to his suffering teenage self: “You aren’t a machine with broken parts. You are an animal whose needs are not being met.” Mental and emotional distress are the canaries in the coal mine, where the coal mine is our corporate capitalist society. Perhaps if enough people recognize the clear connection between mental and emotional well-being and our socioeconomic environment, we can create a sense of urgency to move beyond corporate capitalism—toward a new economy designed to optimize human well-being and planetary health.</p> <p>Our lives literally depend on it.</p> <p class="image-caption">This article was first published in <a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/mental-health/what-a-society-design-for-well-being-looks-like-20180912?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180914&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180914+CID_3a58e48b2a7b6e0ca7425d920c5743f5&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=What%20a%20Society%20D">YES! Magazine</a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar/mental-health-why-were-all-sick-under-neoliberalism">Mental health: why we&#039;re all sick under neoliberalism </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/lydia-smith/why-mental-health-is-hidden-cost-of-housing-crisis">Why mental health is the hidden cost of the housing crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/joel-millward-hopkins/neoliberal-psychology">Neoliberal psychology</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation ourNHS Transformation Tabita Green The politics of mental health Care Thu, 04 Oct 2018 15:00:36 +0000 Tabita Green 119712 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Entrepreneurs of hate https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ian-hughes/entrepreneurs-of-hate <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Where does hate come from, and why has it played such a role in recent political history?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/IanHughes6.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Disarm_Hate_13490727_10153529326845493_5683356208398203158_o.jpg">Moveon.org via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/share-your-work/public-domain/">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p>Is it possible to transform politics around values such as empathy, solidarity and love? Many progressive commentators think so, and have <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/max-harris-philip-mckibbin/all-you-need-is-politics-of-love">laid out different plans</a> to put these ideas into practice. But empathy and love seem in short supply in the actuality of politics today, crowded out by hate and intolerance.&nbsp; In one society after another fear-mongering proceeds apace against poor people, immigrants, minorities and anyone else who is not part of the dominant group.</p> <p>Politics have always been animated as much by passions as by policies, but we can’t assume those passions will be positive. Therefore it’s incumbent on us to understand how negative emotions play out in politics and how politicians exploit these feelings to advance their agendas. Where does hate come from, and why has it played such a role in recent political history?</p> <p>According to psychologist <a href="http://www.robertjsternberg.com/hate/">Robert Sternberg</a> hatred is not a single emotion, but instead comprises three distinct components. The first of these components is the negation of intimacy. Instead of wanting to be close to others, hatred grips us with a feeling of repulsion, an impulse to distance ourselves from the hated other. </p> <p>The second component is hate’s passionate element: hate fills us with a mix of burning anger and unnerving fear. Sternberg’s third component is hate’s cognitive element, namely the stories we tell ourselves to justify the feelings of repulsion, anger and anxiety that hatred evokes within us.</p> <p>Tragically, we have ample evidence to draw upon to understand how hatred can ignite and consume large parts of societies. In my new book <em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Disordered-Minds-Dangerous-Personalities-Destroying/dp/1785358804/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1537308483&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=disordered+minds+ian+hughes">Disordered Minds</a></em> I examine some of the 20th century’s most appalling atrocities including the Holocaust, Stalin’s Gulag, Mao’s Great Famine, and Pol Pot’s Killing Fields in Cambodia. What stands out clearly from these examples is the critical role played by hate-mongers in fomenting each of these horrors. Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot all had an uncanny ability to inflame all three of Sternberg’s elements of hate. </p> <p>For each of these tyrants, their first goal was to exacerbate the feelings of separateness and otherness felt towards their chosen target out-group, whether they were Jews, <em>kulaks</em>, ‘capitalist railroaders’ or other ‘enemies of the people.’ Their second goal was to inflame feelings of anger and fear towards that out-group. And their third goal was to spread stories that explained, in false and simple terms, why that outgroup was a deserving target of people’s hate.</p> <p>These stories varied widely but they had certain elements in common: ‘the enemy is repulsive in looks and habits; ‘the enemy is contaminated and is spreading disease;’ ‘the enemy is part of a conspiracy seeking to control us;’ ‘the enemy is a criminal;’ ‘the enemy is a seducer and a rapist;’ ‘the enemy is an animal, an insect or a germ;’ ‘the enemy is the enemy of God’ ‘the enemy is a murderer who delights in killing;’ ‘the enemy is standing in the way of our making our country great again.’</p> <p>In their mission to create divisions and target scapegoats for political gain, history’s hate-mongers repeated these stories relentlessly so that they became accepted wisdom, reinforced by propaganda –the ‘fake news’ media of the day—but they were also helped by existing fears and prejudices within their societies. </p> <p>Initially they found their most devoted supporters among those who already shared the leader’s hatreds. A tyrants’ first step towards power, therefore, is to incite hatred among those who share their own warped worldview. But hate-mongers not only denigrate their chosen enemies; they also portray their core followers as exceptional human beings, as moral paragons and ‘fine people.’ The more hatred a toxic leader directs towards the ‘enemy’ while praising their in-group, the more galvanised their base of true believers becomes.</p> <p>Once a tyrant has secured the adulation of a core group of true believers, their task is then to spread their hatred towards the target group as widely as possible throughout society. Whether or not they succeed in this mission depends in large part on what psychologist <a href="http://www.nber.org/papers/w9171">Edward Glaeser</a> calls the ‘demand for hatred.’ As Glaeser explains, by spreading hate-filled stories hate-mongers increase the supply of hate, but the willingness of society to accept those stories constitutes the demand side of the equation.</p> <p>Many factors contribute to a society’s willingness to accept a hate-monger’s lies. Economic hardship plays a central role. A society in which a substantial proportion of the population faces a daily struggle to make ends meet is susceptible to simple explanations and false remedies. Cultural differences can also be important. Majority populations experiencing significant immigration or demographic change can react defensively by turning on ‘outsiders’ who differ from them in terms of their culture or religion.</p> <p>Geography too can be significant. Research shows that prejudices are stronger when they are based not on personal experience but result instead from hearsay or second-hand news. This finding sheds light on the puzzling fact that xenophobic populism has taken hold most strongly today in areas like Eastern Europe and rural America which have the lowest shares of immigrants. Our greatest commitment to destruction, it seems, is often towards those we have never met.</p> <p>The famous symbol of a triangle that is used for fire safety purposes illustrates the three elements that are needed for any fire to take hold, namely a spark, fuel and oxygen. In political terms, hate-mongers act as the spark; their prejudiced true believers are the fuel; and the conditions which create the demand for hate in wider society provide the oxygen that allows the smouldering embers of hatred to ignite, grow and spread. </p> <p>We don’t have to look far to find examples of the same phenomenon today. In the US, for example, President Trump has skilfully tuned into feelings of resentment on the part of substantial numbers of rural white Americans, openly denigrating immigrants as ‘rapists’ and ‘murderers’ and the press as ‘the enemy of the people.’ Inequality and demographic change have created the conditions in which Trump’s vitriolic scapegoating finds a ready response. A critical mass of people in positions of influence act as enablers of the President (whether out of self-interest or a belief in his broader agenda), and a siloed social media fans the flames of division. </p> <p>In Hungary, <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2018/04/viktor-orban-hungary/557246/">Viktor Orban</a> too has chosen to kindle hatred as a means of winning votes. He has vilified migrants, saying that they bring crime and terror, mass disorder, and “gangs hunting down our women and daughters.” He has labelled refugees and migrants as a pollutant, a distant other, and a threat to Hungarian culture and religion, saying, “The masses arriving from other civilisations endanger our way of life, our culture, our customs and our Christian traditions.” Orban has used his electoral victories to hollow out Hungarian democracy from within. In 2018 Hungary was <a href="http://hungarianfreepress.com/2018/01/16/freedom-house-hungary-is-the-least-democratic-country-in-the-eu/">named</a> by Freedom House the “least democratic country” among the European Union’s 28 members.</p> <p>The destruction caused by hate-mongers is evident to anyone with a cursory knowledge of history; their ongoing influence is equally clear to viewers of the daily news. Through their rhetoric they fundamentally alter the swing of the pendulum in the conduct of human affairs from compromise to conflict, from inclusion to vilification, and from compassion to cruelty. </p> <p>While there is no simple solution to this problem, the most effective way to reduce the influence of hate-mongers is to strengthen democracy. Strengthening democratic norms and institutions can be effective because it addresses all three sides of the triangle of toxic leaders, susceptible followers, and conducive environments. </p> <p>Democracy places limits on those in power. It reduces the scope for recourse to violence on the part of ruthless leaders. It forbids the abuse of state power against individuals and against sub-sections of society. And it subjects those in power to the rule of law. In this way it provides a powerful constraint on the destructive actions of hate-mongers and their followers. A properly functioning democracy can also address the social and economic concerns that allow hate-mongers to rise and stay in power.</p> <p>In an earlier time of crisis, Dr Martin Luther King Jr responded to hatred by saying “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” In our current time of division it is worth bearing that advice in mind: when hate-mongers are threatening the very foundations of democracy, the most powerful act of love is to vote against hate at every opportunity.</p> <p><em>Ian Hughes’ new book is <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Disordered-Minds-Dangerous-Personalities-Destroying/dp/1785358804/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1537308483&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=disordered+minds+ian+hughes">Disordered Minds: How Dangerous Personalities are Destroying Democracy</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ian-hughes/demons-and-angels-strongman-leaders-and-social-violence">Demons and angels: strongman leaders and social violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/ian-hughes/real-clash-of-civilisations">The real clash of civilisations</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/mana-farooghi/internet-can-spread-hate-but-it-can-also-help-to-tackle-it">The internet can spread hate, but it can also help to tackle it</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Political polarization Ian Hughes Care Culture Tue, 02 Oct 2018 14:49:16 +0000 Ian Hughes 119750 at https://www.opendemocracy.net All you need is love? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sujatha-fernandes/all-you-need-is-love <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Transformative organizing fails to address the underlying conditions through which exploitative care relationships are generated and maintained.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/SujathaFernandes2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">New York City Rally and March to raise the minimum wage in America, April 15 2015. Credit: The All-Nite Images via Wikimedia Commons. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en">CC BY-SA 2.0</a>.</p> <p>The last decade has seen many pioneering approaches to social justice organizing that revolve around personal-political transformation. One notable example is domestic worker organizing in the United States. During several Bill of Rights campaigns across the country, coalitions of domestic worker organizations emphasized <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/maureen-purtill/labor-of-love">the transformative power of love and connection and the need to make employers part of the solution</a>. It has been just over eight years since these coalitions won a <a href="https://labor.ny.gov/legal/domestic-workers-bill-of-rights.shtm">New York Bill of Rights for Domestic Workers</a> and five since the passage of <a href="https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/DomesticWorkerBillOfRights.html">a similar Bill in California</a>.</p> <p>These Bill of Rights campaigns have shifted the broader public consciousness about the value of domestic work and created a greater sense of dignity for workers. But in evaluating this approach in the aftermath of the passage of these Bills, is it true that ‘all you need is love?’</p> <p>My own experience with labor abuses among care workers in New York City convinced me that demonizing employers is not the best way forward. The lack of affordable state-provisioned childcare for working parents often forces them into exploitative employment situations with domestic workers. However, our ability to truly transform the broader universe of caring relationships is limited under the current conditions of the global domestic work industry.</p> <p>Exploitation and abuse are inherent in the employer-employee relationship in contexts where cheap and vulnerable migrant labor has come to fill the gaps left by an absence of subsidized childcare services and non-flexible employment conditions for working parents. In order to end the chain of exploitative relationships produced by this situation we need to challenge the conditions that send migrant women to high-income countries for care work and force working parents into undesirable arrangements with their employees.</p> <p>One of the main organizations within the New York Bill of Rights coalition was Domestic Workers United (DWU). DWU was founded in New York in 2000 as a collaboration between three organizers: Ai-jen Poo, Carolyn de Leon and Nahar Alam. Over the course of six years, DWU enlisted a multi-ethnic coalition of organizations in the city to work on the Bill of Rights campaign which included CAAAV (originally the Committee against Anti-Asian Violence), Andolan, Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees, Unity Housecleaners, the Damayan Migrant Workers Association, and (later) Adhikar for Human Rights.</p> <p>The coalition argued that existing labor laws and government protections were vastly out of sync with workers’ realities, and proposed a new Bill to include mandated health insurance, notice of termination, personal days, severance pay, and a minimum wage of up to $16 per hour. These ‘dream’ provisions eventually became the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.</p> <p class="PI">Initially, the campaign sought to make a technical argument about why basic rights were necessary for domestic workers. But after becoming mired in frustrating debates with a small number of legislators, Poo felt the need to shift the debate away from legal technicalities toward fundamental human rights, and to change the perception of domestic work outside of the state capital, Albany. As <a href="http://newlaborforum.cuny.edu/2011/01/03/a-twenty-first-century-organizing-model-lessons-from-the-new-york-domestic-workers-bill-of-rights-campaign/">she said at a City University of New York Labor Forum in 2011</a>:</p> <blockquote><p class="PI">“The problem was not just technical—domestic workers were dehumanized and invisible in&nbsp;popular consciousness, so it was hard for many to see the connections between the issues facing domestic workers and the issues facing all New Yorkers.”</p></blockquote> <p class="PI">As part of a more effective approach, Poo argued that the campaign would have to humanize care workers and show their interconnections with others, partly through personal storytelling. Poo frequently told her own story of realizing the interconnectedness of all humanity when her grandfather was paralyzed by a stroke and cared for by a home attendant.</p> <p class="PI">The strength of this approach was most apparent in the area of movement building. Meetings and rallies became sites for sharing stories and collective witness, which helped to inspire other domestic workers and bring them into the campaign. As domestic worker Jennifer Bernard related to me in an interview, she heard one such story that really moved her when she attended her first DWU meeting:</p> <blockquote><p class="PI">“I found myself there, very excited and enthused and hurt at the same time, because I was sitting there listening to the story of a domestic worker who, when she came to this country spoke very little English, and now had enough English to tell her story, and every domestic worker in that room, in that meeting, had tears in their eyes…after listening to her that day I just knew that I wanted to be a part of this movement that makes changes.”</p></blockquote> <p>The same techniques were used in building alliances with employers and formal sector unions, creating sympathy for the cause among prominent media outlets, and convincing legislators to pass the Bill of Rights. During the New York State Senate debate on June 1, 2010, for example, several senators testified about the histories of their own immigrant mothers and grandmothers who had worked as domestic workers.</p> <p>By emphasizing ‘our collective humanity’ the campaign garnered widespread support, but this framing also encouraged a conformity to the dominant myths and tropes that would resonate for a mainstream, white liberal audience. In media interviews, workers were often required to present themselves as isolated, helpless and powerless, and had to excise emotions such as anger for fear of appearing violent.</p> <p>In legal hearings around the Bill, domestic workers were asked to focus on their labor conditions and leave out any analysis of the broader conditions of inequality that structured their work, thereby making it seem as though the problem consisted of ‘bad’ individual employers rather than a system of exploitation. The need to appeal to both Democratic and Republican lawmakers imposed restrictions on the kinds of representations domestic workers could fashion, which worked against the building of a class-based movement that could draw on existing bases of solidarity among workers and challenge the underlying system of economic exploitation.</p> <p>By focusing attention on interpersonal relationships, individual stories and reforming laws to the exclusion of analysing and challenging global structures, the legal advocacy approach failed to address the underlying conditions through which exploitative care relationships are generated and maintained.</p> <p>The final Bill that was signed into law by New York Governor David Paterson on August 31 2010 was watered down from the original proposal and established a very low floor of protections. <a href="https://global.oup.com/academic/product/curated-stories-9780190618056?lang=en&amp;cc=us">Some domestic workers</a> who had been involved in the campaign were skeptical of the benefits the whittled-down bill would bring them. In the aftermath of the campaign, these domestic workers along with other allies came together to restructure DWU as a worker-led organization focused on member outreach, direct action tactics, and community resources rather than large foundation grants. In their daily organizing and storytelling events such as the PEN World Voices Festival, they have sought to engage deeply and critically with the broader structures that perpetuate the care industry.</p> <p>A vision of social change that transforms caring relationships is vital, but it can only be achieved by removing the power relations and vulnerabilities induced by the current regime of labor migration that uses poor women from the global south to fill care gaps in the north. As an anonymous domestic worker said when submitting a written testimony on behalf of fellow domestic worker Marichu Baoanan at a New York State Assembly Labor Committee hearing for the Bill of Rights campaign in 2008:</p> <blockquote><p class="EXT">"Marichu and I are part of the global crisis that enslaves Third World women into dehumanizing conditions—working in a foreign land as second-class immigrants. We are two of the ten million Filipinos abroad who are treated as products in the global market. We prop up the Phillipine economy with more than $20 million in remittances. We also contribute to the annual $952.6 billion that is generated by the New York City’s economy. We not only shoulder the crisis of our homeland, but we also carry the weight of the deepening crisis in the US. Billions of dollars turn into profits as a result of our labor and at the expense of our dignity and humanity.”</p></blockquote> <p class="EXT">Advocates of transformative organizing aim to solve worker exploitation by improving the wages and conditions of undocumented workers and challenging the draconian immigration policies that make them vulnerable to abusive employers. As a rapidly aging population and a growing need for childcare create a demand for more care workers in the global north, there’s a clear need to fill this gap with workers who are treated with dignity and respect. These are important and worthy goals, but on their own they don’t address the underlying inequalities that drive the global care industry.</p> <p class="EXT">Even if workers from the global south could receive better wages and work visas to reduce their vulnerability, the fact remains that they are often forced to leave their own homelands and families behind in order to service families in richer countries. This is what we need to challenge, and that means demanding an end to the free trade agreements and other policies that turn the global south into a source of cheap labor.</p> <p class="EXT">Local sources of work have to be expanded so that labor migration is a choice and not a necessity, and comprehensive, government-funded childcare and elder-care in the global north is required to give people the option of subsidized home or institutional care. In all these areas campaigning is vital, but love is not enough: worker-led and community-funded organizations like the newly reorganized DWU —who are prepared to use adversarial actions to pursue these goals—are essential.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/maureen-purtill/labor-of-love">A labor of love</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sujatha-fernandes/evisceration-of-storytelling">The evisceration of storytelling</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/steven-parfitt/future-of-trade-unions">The future of trade unions</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Sujatha Fernandes Care Activism Sun, 30 Sep 2018 18:50:34 +0000 Sujatha Fernandes 119700 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Welcome to barbershop therapy https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/celeste-hamilton-dennis/welcome-to-barbershop-therapy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Barbers in the US South are training as first responders to assist men with their mental health concerns.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/CelesteDennis.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Lorenzo Lewis, founder of The Confess Project, holds a barbershop talk in Columbia, South Carolina. Photo by Santanna Hayes for YES! Magazine. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Amid the sound of television and hair clippers buzzing around him at Goodfellas Barbershop in Little Rock, Arkansas, Lorenzo Lewis was trying to get a man wearing a mask to talk about his emotional pain.</p> <p>Lewis asked the man how he was doing. “I’m good, I’m good,” he responded. Lewis said how he’d noticed he seemed on edge recently. Same response. Lewis kept asking questions until the man eventually took off his mask. “I’m hurting,” he said. “I’m just really going through something right now.” When asked if he was feeling suicidal, the man nodded.</p> <p>Lewis is founder of The Confess Project, a mental health initiative for boys and men of color. His demonstration was attempting to show barbers and their clients how men hold in their pain—and how to break through.</p> <p>Why do it in a barbershop?</p> <p>The barbershop in the Black community has historically been a safe, nonjudgmental space for men to talk about anything—sports, politics, religion, women, manhood. The 90-minute conversations about mental health, called Beyond the Shop, are an opportunity to deepen sharing that is already happening, Lewis says. The initiative is similar to New York City-based Barbershop Books and the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program in Inglewood, California, which focuses on hypertension prevention.</p> <p>Through an interactive format, Beyond the Shop aims not only to help Black boys and men confess their vulnerabilities and give them resources to begin a healthier way of living, but also to show barbers how they can be mental health advocates, too.</p> <p>“When you go to your barber, you’re trusting them with your prized possession—your hair,” says Goodfellas owner Matt Dillon. “So if you can trust and respect someone to do your hair, you can trust and respect them to help you with a problem.”</p> <p>For Black men, seeking help can be difficult, an effect of stigma that Beyond the Shop is hoping to erase.</p> <p>“At the barbershop, guys are already outspoken and opinionated, but we don’t tend to talk about self-care and the things that make sure we’re around for our kids and future generations,” says Sam Johnson, a Beyond the Shop participant in Louisville, Kentucky. “The biggest thing I took away was checking on my brothers. We’re so quick to say, ‘Man up,’ when I really should be asking more questions and letting him know that if he needs help, I’m here.”</p> <p>The numbers are telling: Black people&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2931265/">more frequently have post-traumatic stress disorder&nbsp;</a>than other ethnic groups. Yet Black men are&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db206.htm">less likely to get treatment&nbsp;</a>than the general population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Alliance on Mental Illness. There’s a lack of mental health awareness. Disproportionate access to health care. Increased exposure to violence. Distrust and misdiagnosis due to the lack of culturally competent care.</p> <p>Lewis’ approach with Beyond the Shop is modeling vulnerability through storytelling. He draws empathy from his own story.</p> <p>Born in jail to an incarcerated mother, Lewis struggled with depression, anxiety, and anger throughout his youth. At 17, involved with a gang, he turned it around. Reaching out for support from family and friends was key, as was professional help. “I was in bad relationships, and not able to get along with others. I had a horrible time getting girlfriends, and when I did, I didn’t know how to treat them right because I’d been through so much trauma,” he told the men in Goodfellas. “I started realizing, maybe I need some therapy.”</p> <p>Since starting The Confess Project in 2016, he’s facilitated mental health awareness sessions for thousands around the country—from national universities and organizations, including NAMI, to local health fairs and high schools. He draws from his experience of working in behavioral health facilities in Little Rock for over a decade, where he underwent training in suicide prevention and cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy.</p> <p>At Goodfellas, the men were apprehensive at first about Lewis interrupting their haircuts. They didn’t know what to think of him—or the strange mask the man was wearing, to illustrate how men hide their emotions.</p> <p>But the men in the shop did start talking. One man spoke about the pain of being separated from his children and the stress of child support. Another admitted how he turned to unhealthy outlets to cope with working menial jobs. Heads nodded. In the next chair over, a man talked about the anger and fear that come with being pulled over by police. A common thread was how society treats Black men.</p> <p>“Our mental illness is criminalized. You take a person not of color that goes in and shoots up a school and automatically the response is, ‘He’s mentally ill.’ When a person of color does anything remotely like that, not that we even do, he’s a thug,” says Dr. Karen Mathis, psychotherapist in Little Rock. “But I think we would rather be labeled a thug than mentally ill. Why? Because it’s a sign of weakness. And we don’t want to appear weak.”</p> <p>Mental illness in the U.S. carries a stigma. For the Black community, especially for men, Lewis says, that stigma is manifold and gets in the way of asking for help.</p> <p>At the end of Beyond the Shop, along with holistic ideas for self-care and information on suicide prevention, Lewis provides information on local support groups and culturally competent therapists. Black mental health professionals make up only 2.6 percent of the field, according to the American Psychological Association. And therapy can also be a financial barrier for many.</p> <p>That’s where barbers step in.</p> <p>Barbers learn how to help the men in their chairs—from recognizing that lack of eye contact might be a sign of depression to being comfortable asking someone if they’re suicidal (this can be&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/suicide-faq/suicideinamericafaq-508_149986.pdf">the best way to identify risk,&nbsp;</a>according to the National Institute of Mental Health). They can point to resources in the community.</p> <p>“I feel more able to help somebody,” says JJ Harness, owner of Broski Barbershop in Little Rock. “Now, once I see the hints they’re throwing out there that they need to talk, I’ll open the door up for discussion.”</p> <p>Increasingly, communities are starting to see the need to equip unlikely first responders to better recognize health concerns in the people they interact with on a daily basis. Librarians in Sacramento, California, for example, underwent “mental health first aid” training at the beginning of the year to be able to identify issues in the homeless people who come through their doors and point them to help. In&nbsp;<a href="http://dementiafriendlyduluth.org/">Duluth, Minnesota, a community-wide effort&nbsp;</a>trains everyone from neighbors to business owners to support people living with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Baristas double as mental health aides in a new coffee shop in Chicago that’s openly committed to mental health awareness and suicide prevention.</p> <p>Since the initial pilot in Little Rock, Lewis has taken Beyond the Shop to five other barbershops in cities across the South: Louisville, Kentucky; Memphis, Tennessee; Columbia, South Carolina; Atlanta; and, most recently, New Orleans. Response to Beyond the Shop conversations overall has been positive. A survey of participants even showed 58 percent would be more prone to seek treatment if a therapist was located in the barbershop.</p> <p>In Louisville, a city that saw its&nbsp;<a href="http://wfpl.org/louisvilles-2017-homicide-count-ranks-among-highest-record/">highest ever homicide rates in the past two years</a>, 40 people, including the mayor, showed up at The Campus Barber Shop in January. Representatives from the Louisville Urban League and Metro United Way also came. Men openly shared their stories and offered each other advice.</p> <p>Shortly after the event, owner J. “Divine” Alexander went to a homeless shelter to volunteer his barber services. He met a man there who was without a job and feeling down. Alexander, who struggles with depression himself, has been more open with others since the talk. He gave the man a haircut and a beard trim and at the same time encouraged him to seek help. A few months later, the man came into his barbershop—employed and ready to become a regular.</p> <p>He credited Alexander for the turnaround. “He was like, ‘Yeah, man, it all started with a haircut and a conversation to do better.’”</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/mental-health/what-is-barbershop-therapy-20180823?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180824&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180824+CID_3e11412dfd3d4db3312c0612d55d6eca&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=What%20Is%20Barbershop%20Therapy">YES! Magazine</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/lydia-smith/what-happens-when-mental-health-professionals-also-get-sick">What happens when mental health professionals also get sick?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/penny-wangari-jones/how-to-decolonise-mental-health-services">How to decolonise mental health services</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/louisa-harvey/we-need-to-talk-about-stigma-within-mental-health-system">We need to talk about stigma within the mental health system</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Celeste Hamilton Dennis The politics of mental health Care Intersectionality Thu, 20 Sep 2018 16:13:57 +0000 Celeste Hamilton Dennis 119679 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What happens when mental health professionals also get sick? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/lydia-smith/what-happens-when-mental-health-professionals-also-get-sick <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="normal">It’s no wonder that almost half of all psychotherapists in the National Health Service say they feel depressed.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/LydiaSmith4.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/despair-alone-being-alone-archetype-513529/">Pixabay/Geralt</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p class="normal">Overwhelmed by soaring demand, mental health services are under growing pressure on both sides of the Atlantic. According to a <a href="https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/surviving-or-thriving-state-uks-mental-health">2017 Mental Health Foundation survey</a> two-thirds of British adults experience mental ill-health issues at some point in their lives. In England alone, <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/psychological-medicine/article/mental-health-and-wellbeing-trends-among-children-and-young-people-in-the-uk-19952014-analysis-of-repeated-crosssectional-national-health-surveys/AB71DE760C0027EDC5F5CF0AF507FD1B">such issues in young people have risen sixfold since 1995</a>. US figures paint a similar picture: <a href="https://ps.psychiatryonline.org/doi/full/10.1176/appi.ps.201600260">a study published in Psychiatry Online in 2017</a> found that more than eight million Americans suffer from serious psychological distress.</p> <p class="normal">But this crisis isn’t just affecting the general public; an increasing number of mental health professionals are also struggling with their wellbeing. In a recent <a href="https://www.bps.org.uk/news-and-policy/new-savoy-survey-shows-increasing-mental-health-problems-nhs-psychotherapists">survey</a> undertaken by the New Savoy Partnership—a coalition of organisations that came together in 2007 to persuade government to recognise the value of providing psychological therapies free of charge—almost half of 1,227 NHS psychotherapists said that they had felt depressed in the last week “some, most or all of the time,” up from 40 per cent in 2014.</p> <p class="normal">In already highly-pressured environments like the NHS, increasing demands on staff, tight time limits and the prominence of targets mean that many nurses and specialists are suffering from the same mental health problems they are treating in their patients. This isn’t just a problem for professionals who lack access to the appropriate support; keeping staff healthy is also crucial for patients, communities and our collective wellbeing.</p> <p class="normal">“High caseloads, lots of clients back to back—the work of a therapist is tough emotionally and takes a lot of energy out of you,” counsellor and psychotherapist Katerina Georgiou told me in a recent interview. “It’s also a very responsible role—you’ve got vulnerable people placing their trust in you, and that’s a responsibility you can’t take lightly. You need to care about people and fully attend to them. You’re switched on throughout a session. If you’ve then got five or six sessions back to back, that’s a lot of time switched on,” adding that burnout can be common.</p> <p class="normal">At a time when the demand for mental health services is rising, funding cuts and austerity measures have caused essential resources to dwindle, staff workloads to mount, pay stagnate and morale crumble. According to <a href="https://www.centreformentalhealth.org.uk/parity-of-esteem">The Centre for Mental Health</a>, mental illness accounts for 28 per cent of the overall disease burden of the NHS but receives just 13 per cent of total funding.&nbsp; Between 2009 and 2017, the King’s Fund think tank reported a <a href="https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/funding-staffing-mental-health-providers">13 per cent drop in full-time NHS mental health nurses</a>.</p> <p class="normal">“Mental health professionals will feel the cuts in the sense of noticing increased caseloads, perhaps not having much time in between clients, not as much time to write up notes, and the demand for outcomes increased,” Georgiou says. “The breathing space decreases, which can increase stress, maybe even build resentment. And the thing is, you can’t let that stress and resentment get in the way of your work.”</p> <p class="normal">Health staff are being asked to see huge numbers of patients for shorter periods of time, and their managers are under pressure to prioritise targets—like treating minimum numbers of clients—over their wellbeing. As a result, sickness rates among staff have become a common concern, with stress and anxiety-issues <a href="https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/funding-staffing-mental-health-providers">one of the most frequently stated causes of absence among mental health </a><a href="https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/funding-staffing-mental-health-providers">nurses</a>.</p> <p class="normal">“Working in an under-resourced, under-pressure NHS leaves doctors struggling to provide the high-quality care patients deserve,” <a href="https://www.bma.org.uk/">British Medical Association</a> Consultants’ Committee mental health lead Dr Andrew Molodynski told me. “This leads to doctors burning out and becoming unwell, and patients suffer further.”</p> <p class="normal">Louise Watson, a UK-based clinical psychologist, adds that professionals working privately may also face “internal pressures,” perhaps seeing more clients in a day than may be healthy because of the intense nature of the job. Moreover, mental health professionals may struggle to come forward for help, or simply soldier on and mask their problems. “I think another internal pressure is that perhaps mental health professionals feel a level of demand that they shouldn’t be struggling with mental health issues themselves,” Watson told me.</p> <p class="normal">“Most people who are in the profession are there because there is something in their personality or background that means they are comfortable in that role of helping other people, so to be on the other side of the fence is difficult. They may put off going for help longer than they should because of that.”</p> <p class="normal">Making sure that everyone who needs help is able to access it is essential, not least because the number of people in need of specialist care is growing, and staffing levels are already in crisis. “It speaks for itself that if mental health professionals are off work with stress, or aren’t functioning to their full capacity because they are under too much pressure, then there won’t be anybody to look after anybody,” Watson says. “It’s a bit like on an airplane and the oxygen masks drop down, you need to fit your own oxygen mask first before you help others.”</p> <p class="normal">Mental health services in the US are also under threat. Earlier this year, President <a href="https://www.apnews.com/4db5c3de76d6440fbe35485af6cc0678/Budget-undercuts-Trump-focus-on-mental-health,-school-safety">&nbsp;Trump’s budget proposed slashing Medicaid, the major source of public funds for mental health treatment</a> which serves more than 70 million low-income and disabled people. America is also facing an acute shortage of mental health professionals in rural areas, with 65 per cent of non-metropolitan counties lacking a psychiatrist and nearly half without a psychologist according to a recent study in the <a href="https://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(18)30005-9/fulltext">American Journal of Preventive Medicine</a>.</p> <p class="normal">It’s no surprise that a shortage of staff and other resources have had a direct impact on access to services, including longer waits for people in dire need of help, which can lead to an <a href="https://www.bma.org.uk/news/2018/february/the-devastating-cost-of-treatment-delays">increased risk of self-harm and suicide.</a> In 2018, the US <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6722a1.htm?s_cid=mm6722a1_w">Centers for Disease Control</a> found that suicide rates have risen by 30 per cent in America since 1999. An increasing number of teenagers in England and Wales are also dying by suicide, <a href="https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/suicidesintheunitedkingdom/2017registrations">with 177 suicides among 15- to 19-year-olds in 2017</a> compared to 110 in 2010.</p> <p class="normal">“There would be an argument to say that we ought to be prioritising making sure people who are helping others are healthy,” Watson told me. “If we don’t, there won’t be any mental health care. And that will have knock on effects on society like having large numbers of people off work with stress.”</p> <p class="normal">It’s not just public health that suffers if we fail to support mental health staff but the whole of society and the economy. The UK government’s <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/thriving-at-work-a-review-of-mental-health-and-employers">Thriving at Work review</a> published in 2017 concluded that poor mental health costs the economy up to £99 billion a year. Of this amount, employers lose up to £42 billion through staff turnover, sick leave and ‘presenteeism’—working while sick, which causes losses in productivity.</p> <p class="normal">Importantly though, if a mental health professional is experiencing a problem and seeks help, this can be a positive thing for care all-round. “It increases your ability to empathise with your own clients if you have been through a similar situation, and gives you first-hand experience of seeing what you thought was helpful,” Watson explained. “If you work in mental health and you suffer with an issue yourself, maybe it ought to be seen as a helpful experience in terms of improving our own practice.”</p> <p class="normal">It also breaks down the ‘them and us’ feeling that is common in the health system, Watson adds. “The client may see the psychologist as a doctor who is there to fix them, but what I think can be helpful in a therapeutic relationship is to feel a rapport—that we are both human beings. It is about working together to find an answer.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/lydia-smith/why-mental-health-is-hidden-cost-of-housing-crisis">Why mental health is the hidden cost of the housing crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/lydia-smith/why-we-should-all-be-concerned-about-musicians-mental-health">Why we should all be concerned about musicians’ mental health</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar/mental-health-why-were-all-sick-under-neoliberalism">Mental health: why we&#039;re all sick under neoliberalism </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation ourNHS Transformation Lydia Smith The politics of mental health Care Tue, 18 Sep 2018 19:09:08 +0000 Lydia Smith 119690 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Bringing love, compassion and humanity back into healthcare https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/nathan-scolaro-and-rachel-callander/bringing-love-compassion-and-humanity-back-into-h <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Disability isn’t a deficit within a person, it’s a deficit in a culture that doesn’t accept or enable a person for who they are.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/NathanScolaro1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Scattering Evie’s ashes. Photo: <a href="https://www.dumbofeather.com/people/stephen-maddigan/">Nathan Maddigan</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p><strong>Nathan Scolaro (NS): </strong><strong>So let’s talk about the work you’re doing now and then journey back through your story.</strong></p> <p>Rachel Callander (RC): Okay cool. My work involves&nbsp;speaking to health professionals about the need to communicate with patients using openhearted language, especially at diagnosis.&nbsp;I teach how the first words used at diagnosis critically shape how a patient or parent or family member perceives the present and navigates their future. These words can either help the individual be their best self through this challenging time and find meaning even in pain, or they can create anger, mistrust, frustration, and break down the crucial relationship between with the health professional.&nbsp;So essentially it’s a conversation about empowerment, and how language can elevate those critical exchanges for the patient and for the health professional.&nbsp;And&nbsp;I’m not a health professional at all, I should say. I studied fine arts and have a photography background. I was a wedding and portrait photographer for 10 years in New Zealand. My first major experience with the healthcare system and with disability was in 2008, when my daughter Evie was born. She had a very rare chromosome condition,&nbsp;and what I noticed after she was born was that the language I was using about her and the language that the doctors were using was very different.</p> <p>And I liked my language better [laughs]. Because it highlighted ability and it highlighted humanity—whereas theirs was very negative, deficit language. And it took all of her ability and potential away. The healthcare professionals would use these cold, horrible phrases—like she was “incompatible with life.” I’d just given birth and was an emotional mess coming to terms with what they were saying and then they would use words like “mental retardation,” “abnormal,” “dimorphic,” which just seemed to exasperate everything. None of their words made sense. Their words didn’t sound like they were describing a human being.</p> <p><strong>And you’re not in a position to challenge them either—when you’re already vulnerable.</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Yeah, I felt very small a lot of the time. And I just expected that was normal, that they are the heroes. I remember one of the first pediatricians we met was trying to explain chromosomes to me. We had been living in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for two weeks and Evie had undergone so many tests, and he was trying to explain the long and short arms of the chromosome, the nature of splitting and how it all works. I was sleep deprived, recovering from a caesarean and emotionally exhausted, and I thought he was telling me that Evie had short arms. I was really confused because her arms were perfect! They were a perfectly long length! I thought,&nbsp;<em>Why, on top of everything else that was going on in her fragile little body, were they so focused on her arms anyway?</em>&nbsp;Surely her arms were the least of our concerns! Then he used a library book metaphor to explain how Evie’s condition actually came from my own chromosomal translocation, which was more new information to me. All of a sudden I was thinking about library books, short arms and the mysterious behaviour of chromosomes, and I had no idea how to make sense of it all. The pediatrician’s manner was really brusque and impersonal too and I decided then and there that I did not like this man at all. Which meant nothing he said after that landed. I heard nothing. I couldn’t even remember what Evie’s new diagnosis was called—let alone how to spell it. I was so confused, and didn’t know what questions to ask. Then after a while I thought,&nbsp;<em>I don’t think this is how it has to be.</em></p> <p><strong>So tell me what you saw when you looked at Evie. Who was the little human you saw staring back? &nbsp;&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Evie was the embodiment of her name. Her full name is Evie Amore, and to us that means “life is possible because of love.”&nbsp;Evie showed us a completely different kind of love. Hers was a love without words. When I walked in to see her each morning, she’d see me and flap her arms and legs about in complete happiness. She giggled all the time. And she was mischievous. We would have friends around in the lounge room and she would slide down her bed, do a little back flip belly flop onto the floor, scoot along the hallway and pop out around the corner!</p> <p><strong>Ah! So cute!</strong></p> <p>Her love was freedom, pain, growth and wonder, all packaged up in a tiny fragile body.</p> <p><strong>So what was it like learning that Evie had this condition?</strong></p> <p>It wasn’t a big thing for me at all. To be honest it was kind of liberating.</p> <p><strong>Yeah?</strong></p> <p>This is a funny thing. I was really nervous about being a mum. I just thought,&nbsp;<em>I don’t think I’m made for this</em>.&nbsp;I love freedom and creativity and I felt that the way I wanted to parent was not really compatible with the systems of the world—education systems, career paths, life paths. And accidentally I fell pregnant and it took a while to get to the point where I was feeling okay about being a mother. Then Evie was born with all of these unique things about her and I just had this sense of overwhelming relief as well as the fear and the heartbreak of potentially losing her and her not surviving. But I had a sense of,&nbsp;<em>Oh my gosh, we can live our life however we want.&nbsp;</em>Like, there were no rules. &nbsp;The doctors couldn’t give us all the answers because Evie’s condition was so rare, so the relief came from her being unique I guess. We could do the parenting thing our own way. I love the fact that she was a complete anomaly, and we would be part of her unique journey—with her own set of rules and way of doing things. The layers of pressure and expectations just fell away. There was so much freedom.</p> <p><strong>So interesting. It’s similar to how I felt when I came out as gay. It was this massive feeling of liberation because I didn’t have to get married by this age, own a house by that age, do life the way society tells you. I could write my own story. Like, no one has written the rulebook for how to be a gay man.</strong></p> <p>Yeah! That’s exactly how I felt as a mum with Evie.&nbsp;Growing up I had some health issues that made me think I could never have children. And at 13 I lost my granddad who was my biggest hero. That had a huge impact on me. All my work at art school was created from a space of finding meaning in suffering and seeing beauty in brokenness, so when Evie was born I had this sense of, “Of course it’s her! Of course she would be the baby!”&nbsp;It felt like my whole life I’d been preparing for this devastating moment, and in that moment I felt complete happiness and freedom.&nbsp;So while it was a shock and it was hard and there was all this pain because the doctors didn’t know what was going to happen, I loved her. And there was a beautiful tension in being so happy and so fearful of losing her. And she taught me so much about being a mother. She showed me parts of myself that only came out because of her.&nbsp;She taught me that motherhood is about being constantly broken and put back together a little bit stronger and braver, a more whole human.</p> <p><strong>And she lived to be two and a half?</strong></p> <p>She did. And over that time it was a rollercoaster of highs and lows, ambulance trips and learning so much from her. She never learnt how to eat food so she had this special formula and it made her breath smell like vanilla. I loved that [laughs]. She had so many amazing things about her and the way that she interacted with the world was just so beautiful. I started saying that she had superpowers because I believe she had electromagnetic sensitivity. When we drove under electrical pylons or went through electric sliding doors she’d cry every time. It was like a switch. So I imagined her as baby Magneto off X-Men! She was a person with disability and the world would see her as something less-than, but to me it just elevated her into something really incredible.</p> <p><strong>You saw her for everything she was.</strong></p> <p>Yeah, and you know, it was just exhausting always answering the “what’s wrong with her” questions. I didn’t want to focus on the list of medical conditions. So with this new language I started saying, “Actually, she has superpowers.” And then they’d look at me funny and ask what I meant, and then I would tell them all the amazing things about her. Then in that moment they’d really get to know her, and she became a human to them rather than a collection of failing body parts. And after that they had a different view of disability as well. Because&nbsp;disability isn’t a deficit within a person, it’s a deficit in a culture that doesn’t accept or enable a person for who they are.</p> <p>Evie had such magnetism as a tiny human. I could see how she would draw people in, how her fragility and pure joy disarmed people and softened them, and encouraged them to see beyond her disability. She helped bring perspective and healing to people in very meaningful ways. And I had the sense that this was how she was choosing to do life. That she wasn’t limited in her body. It just made her innovative [laughs]. Her limitations were actually her greatest strength because she was so determined to do the things that she wanted to do. She scooted on her back instead of walking. She communicated with us just with the tone of her voice and a little sound “ooh.” I could feel what she was thinking or feeling and I knew she understood me. And she had this wicked giggle when we’d make her laugh and it was just so much fun. It was such an honour being her mum.</p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/NathanScolaro2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Evie Callander. Photo by <a href="https://www.dumbofeather.com/people/stephen-maddigan/">Nathan Maddigan</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p><strong>And so how has your life changed through all of this?</strong></p> <p>Oh man. It’s made me braver and stronger. It’s helped me to see a bigger version of humanity, and to see that chasing perfection is such a damaging lie. I’ve become more accepting of people, less afraid of them—especially those who are different to me. And I was just really proud of the mum that Evie allowed me to be. I was stronger than I thought. I called the ambulance so many times I lost count. We nearly lost her so many times and through it all I remained clear and calm. I stepped up and coped in extremely difficult situations. So even though it was hard and there were challenges, at the same time there was a lot of growth. I became innovative too. I found ways to communicate with her and play with her and advocate and fight for her.</p> <p>I think also my heart was working overtime too. Through everything with Evie my marriage was suffering. All the love my husband and I had we directed to Evie and through Evie. She was our connecting point. It was a painful love. Every day I’d wake up and rush to her room, “Is she alive? Is she alive?” And just constantly holding that in tension, I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s like being so vulnerable and open all at the same time. It hurts! Like even when you’re in love, you know, you love so much it hurts. It’s that same feeling.&nbsp;I think to be openhearted has more sharp edges than we think. It’s not fluffy.</p> <p><strong>It’s painful as you say. Although maybe pain is what helps us love more fully. If we actually acknowledge that this love could be lost maybe that’s just a deepening.</strong></p> <p>I think so. And I think as a parent holding the knowledge that every day could be the last made love even more critical. I was really in the present. And after Evie died it took me ages, like years, to be able to think about and plan for the future. I’d almost forgotten that way of thinking. I’d been so in the moment with her. &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>So how was that period of losing Evie, and that grieving process for you?</strong></p> <p>On the night Evie died she had gone to stay with Mum. They got on so well—Evie and my mum. She was fantastic. She knew all about Evie’s medical stuff and how to do all of her treatments. And I was with a friend for her birthday, and Sam was two hours away in Timaru. We were struggling with our own relationship and needed space from each other. It was all really hard. The next morning Sam called me and I said, “How are you?” I can remember this clearly. And he said, “I’m bad.” I said, “What’s happened?” He said, “Evie’s dead.” Just out of nowhere. Evie was in Christchurch and I was in Dunedin and Sam was in Timaru and our physical and emotional separation was so apparent. And my poor Mum. She found Evie in the morning and thought she must have suffocated somehow. She thought it was her fault. But when I saw Evie she looked so peaceful. As if she had chosen her time. I don’t know what happened to her, we didn’t want an autopsy.</p> <p>But you asked about grief. I feel like there’s a language of grief that people don’t understand. No one knows what to say. When Evie was still alive—this is a story I have to tell—when she was alive, Sam and I went to a Coldplay concert and they played the song “Yellow.” It was one of the last songs and there were these giant yellow balls falling from the roof. It was so great! And I was just a mess. I turned to Sam and tears were streaming down his face and I said, “Why are you crying?” He said, “Why are you crying?” [Laughs]. I said, “It reminds me of Evie!” And he said, “Me too.” I think it was just that line, you know, “You’re skin and bone turned into something beautiful.” And she was so skinny. She had an extra pair of ribs and she was so long and… and so tiny and long and skinny and bony and she had these little stick legs! And I used to put her in stripy tights… she was so sweet. And I remember thinking this was her song. And then when it came to her funeral I didn’t know what to wear. Nothing felt right. I wanted just to wear comfy clothes because I didn’t… nothing felt good. And then I said, “I want to wear something yellow.” And so my friend went out and bought me some yellow things. And we played “Yellow.” And every day since then I’ve worn something yellow. For the last seven years now. It has become a way for people to connect with my experience—because they knew this about me. They could enter into my world of grief by sharing something yellow. They would say, “Rach, I was walking and I found a little yellow flower and I picked it for you and Evie.”</p> <p><strong>What a beautiful open gesture.</strong></p> <p>It was magical. And people would leave me yellow jellybeans on my desk sometimes. And there’s a friend who gave me daffodils every spring because he has a farm full of them. It’s become this language that has allowed so many people to express their love and sense of loss of Evie as well.</p> <p><strong>Because words can be hard.</strong></p> <p>Because they don’t know what to say, and they don’t want to say the wrong thing, but they want to express care.</p> <p><strong>And how was that time after her death for you?</strong></p> <p>It was shit. I went through a dark hideous phase of not wanting to live. Just that enormous absence of love. I didn’t know how I would ever be okay.</p> <p><strong>Who was your support? What was getting you through?</strong></p> <p>Well I was writing in a journal a lot, and listening to a lot of Mumford and Sons. Their songs speak about love and loss in a way that just went right to my core. The experiences they sing about resonate so strongly and I found comfort in the lyrics. And I was talking to my friends and Sam. But at the same time Sam and I found it so hard to talk to each other because it was too painful. I’d look at him and I could see his pain and I couldn’t hold mine and watch his. So it wasn’t until about six years after Evie died that I finally felt the grieving process had come to a place of peace. That’s when Sam and I took Evie’s ashes to a very special place to us, Lake Pukaki under Aoraki, which is a mountain in New Zealand. And&nbsp;we scattered her ashes, and she became stardust and galaxies, she became part of the water and the sky all at once.</p> <p>And in letting her go I actually felt joy. I didn’t know what I’d feel, and thought that I’d be afraid to let her go fully. But there was just so much peace and overwhelming gratitude to her for teaching us so much and for being part of our lives.</p> <p><strong>It’s such a profound story of learning and love between a parent and a child. Really a reminder of just how much young people have to teach us as adults about how to live fully. And so tell me how the Super Power Baby Project came about—because that’s been huge for you.</strong></p> <p>Yeah, so one day while Evie was still alive I had this idea to travel around New Zealand and meet other children with chromosomal and genetic conditions and photograph them beautifully and discover what their unique superpowers were. I just thought,&nbsp;<em>If I felt so much joy in being Evie’s mum and in discovering her abilities, maybe there were other parents out there who felt the same way but didn’t know how to communicate those feelings.</em>&nbsp;Three years after she died, we started making this book. I’d never made a book before in my life but Sam and I were a great team and we worked it all out and did it really well. And I think in doing this project, that’s when my real grief healing process began—meeting the families, sitting in their lounges talking with them, and just being part of that world again, it connected me to that way of parenting. It just threw me straight back into that world again, and just the way that I was able to communicate with their kids, it was exactly how I used to communicate with Evie. It felt so natural.</p> <p><strong>Tell me more about this way of communicating.</strong></p> <p>This way of communicating is really about intention. You don’t use words, because you can’t, you use your thoughts and you send love to the other person. And they feel it through your body, your facial expressions, sound, touch. It’s amazing!&nbsp;After Evie died, people with children were wary around me because they thought their children would make me miss Evie. But it wasn’t the case because the experience I had with Evie was completely different to theirs. Other children just fascinated me because Evie was so different to them. But when I met the families with children like Evie, that was when I missed her—because I understood the parents, I knew the depth of their challenges and the joys of their triumphs. I spoke their language.</p> <p><strong>And that’s actually a big part of the work you’re doing now, sharing this language. I loved hearing about this form you created for the healthcare practitioners to highlight the potential in babies with medical conditions.</strong></p> <p>Oh yeah, Evie’s Awesomeness form! That’s been really cool actually. So at one point we were asked to fill out a “needs assessment form” by some of Evie’s specialists. This form is actually positive—it asks questions about a child’s abilities to gauge the level of support a family requires. And at the time, being exhausted and so used to medical stuff surrounding us, this form actually broke me. I couldn’t tick a single answer to the questions they were asking about our child. So I had this feeling that when the people at the other end read this form, they would think from the answers I gave that Evie was a child who couldn’t do anything and that she had no value. And while this might mean we would get a bit more medical or even financial support, it wasn’t the most important thing to us. I wanted the people at the other end to know about Evie’s abilities. I wanted to be asked about the things she could do. And I had become so exhausted by all the could-nots that I decided to make up my own form to go alongside the official one, with better questions. And I loved answering my own questions, because I could see how far Evie had come and how she was growing and developing in her own excellent style. So I guess looking back now, the motivation for making this form came from a place of wanting a better way of getting the information on how we might need some support. I wanted to share the humanity of my child. I talked to my OT and speech therapist, they were beautiful ladies, and I said, “I’ve made my own form, is that okay?” And they said “yes!” [Laughs]. And I said, “Can you send this one in with the official one too? I don’t even care if no one reads it but I will get the sense that I’ve done something good!” And they did! So it’s called “Evie’s Awesomeness” with my questions on it with big yeses to every single question. And some of the questions are just super random—“Does she like it when soft objects fall on or near her face?” [Laughs]. Because she loved it! She loved it! [Laughs]. And every time I talk to health professionals now, I share the Evie’s Awesomeness form. It’s such a simple idea that clinicians are drawing inspiration from.</p> <p>I’m suggesting that health professionals add a paragraph about things that a child does that brings their family joy. “What does your child love?” or “What have you enjoyed about your child this week?” Then these beautiful things become part of the child’s official medical report.&nbsp;Actually, some health professionals are calling this section “the Awesomeness Report.” Which is so cool! And both parents and professionals are seeing great progress when this attitude of ability and humanity is adopted.</p> <p><strong>Amazing. It’s so amazing! And so I’d also really love to hear about some of the kindness you did experience in the healthcare system, I imagine you did amongst the difficult ones—how did that affect your experience?</strong></p> <p>Yeah, I remember we were in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in Starship Hospital in Auckland and we met this beautiful doctor, Lindy. She had such an impact on me. She got Evie stable and then spent half an hour on the computer making her a pretty bedside poster with her name and a picture of a fairy on it. To make her bed less scary.</p> <p><strong>Oh how gorgeous!</strong></p> <p>Little moments like that are magical and completely unexpected and just something that changed my whole perception of what healthcare could be. And I still have that piece of paper now.&nbsp;It means so much to me, she was so particular about it. And she didn’t rush it—she wanted it to be perfect. It was like this little poster was just as important as everything else she was doing for Evie.</p> <p>So I guess to circle back to where we started, in response to all my experiences with Evie in the healthcare system, I’ve been thinking about the impact of language and communication quite seriously. And I’m part of the Thought Leadership Business School here in Australia which is helping me develop my ideas around how communication style can destroy or build the relationship between a health professional and a parent or patient. I developed a language matrix that came from me thinking deeply about where language fits. And my favourite health professionals were the ones like Lindy that communicated in an openhearted way. They were warm and positive, they spoke to me in a way that made me feel important and that the things I knew about Evie were really valuable too. And their approach was not only best for me and best for Evie, it was also best for them as health professionals because I wasn’t relying so much on them. You know, they taught me new skills so I could do more for Evie at home. There was respect and trust and I was empowered as a mother.</p> <p>I think the relationships between medical staff and parent or patient are often being severed by thoughtless words, and that’s such a tragedy because the knowledge of the professional isn’t being utilised. And the knowledge of the parents isn’t being respected.&nbsp;And it’s so simple and easy to change, which is the beauty of what I’m teaching.</p> <p><strong>But does the system have to change as well? I mean I know you’re not a health practitioner. But what have you noticed as to why communication isn’t as effective as it could be? Doctors have all these great skills, this great knowledge and intellect, why does the empathy and the compassion seem to be absent? And obviously this isn’t the case for all. But what are your thoughts?</strong></p> <p>Well from what I know, it’s not taught well from the beginning. And if people had it when they got into the medical system, it’s almost trained out of them.&nbsp;The system is really set up for 10-minute interviews. People say there’s no time to be compassionate, they’ve just got to give the facts, the diagnosis, the medication, get people in and out. So there’s an emphasis on the disease rather than the human, and to be honest I think professionals hate this as well—because they want to care. They want to help people and have better relationships with parents and patients. And they’re limited by the system too. So they’re burning out because they’re seeing too many patients at not enough depth. Maybe they feel like they’re being ineffective. There are actually so many studies and statistics about the fear of failure from health professionals. We’re all humans and I feel like we forget that when we walk into a hospital. I know that when I let go of the expectation that the doctors should know everything, I let them be human. I was kinder towards them and myself, and I learned to respect what they knew and the things they didn’t know.&nbsp;I think what is also often missing in the healthcare system is a sense of true hospitality. Hospital and hospitality come from the same Latin root word,&nbsp;<em>hospes—</em>which means guest or stranger, and carries with it a story of mutual respect between guest and host.&nbsp;An expectation of all parties to exhibit care, trust and kindness. So the etymology of the whole system is actually based on a beautifully kind and compassionate foundation. But I don’t actually think compassion is&nbsp;missing&nbsp;in healthcare, it is just often&nbsp;misunderstood—by patient and carer.&nbsp;When we can build a healthcare system that can look after everybody under the hospital roof, then we will have something pretty incredible.</p> <p><strong>Given you’re an artist yourself, I wonder what are your thoughts on the role arts can play in building a&nbsp;better healthcare system? What is the relationship between the two?</strong></p> <p>It’s pretty exciting actually, seeing how my art brain is connecting to this deep thinking I have around systems and&nbsp;change. I am able to build models by using art, story and metaphor as a way to communicate solutions to complex problems, which is really cool.&nbsp;The way I see it, a hospital is a place where all the vicissitudes of life reside. All the shifts and turns and highs and lows, all the seasons of life—and they all deserve care.&nbsp;And the best way to care for a person is to respect them.&nbsp;Art helps us do this, it has a way of transcending language itself—instantly connecting us as sensory beings. It reveals messages and meaning, it can create comfort through a colour palette, a chord, a poem, a photograph.&nbsp;Art can enhance an environment or soften it. It creates space, it allows room to breathe and connect to the present.&nbsp;I think art helps us acknowledge our own humanity, and remind us that we are all in this together, all deserving of the kindness of strangers.</p> <p>Which is why the Super Power Baby Project has had such an impact I guess. The images in the book shine back at you with so much life! Photography was my tool for communicating how amazing the children are. I was able to capture them, and their personalities and spark in a way that connects with people in a really deep way. I actually show a slideshow of the images from the book at some of the talks I give, and health professionals are in tears because the images speak so much of meaningful life and love.&nbsp;It’s almost&nbsp;like they are reminded of a language they forgot, like they are reminded of why they became doctors in the first place.</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://www.dumbofeather.com/articles/">Dumbo Feather Magazine</a>.</em></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Nathan Scolaro and Rachel Callander Care Love and Spirituality Thu, 13 Sep 2018 18:35:38 +0000 Nathan Scolaro and Rachel Callander 119503 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How does change happen? One man’s journey through the personal and the political https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jason-angell/how-does-change-happen-one-man-s-journey-through-personal-and-political <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The first step to building a new world is to start living it, but don’t stop there.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Jason Angell.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="normal">J<span class="image-caption">ason Angell at Longhaul Farm in the Hudson Valley, New York. Credit: Theo Angell. All rights reserved.</span></p> <p class="normal">For most of my life I‘ve been a political activist, believing the story that social transformation comes through radical legislation pushed along by brave elected leaders. I once imagined becoming one of those leaders myself, and had a mental picture of giving a speech to a massive group of people in what looked like the National Mall in Washington DC.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> I know I inherited that picture from my father, who harbored dreams of being a politician who had something true to say to people that would lead them out of the wilderness. He ran for Congress in 1972 unsuccessfully in the same community where I now live and have a farm, but my path to becoming a farmer was unexpected, paved by three experiences that challenged my belief that the change I hoped to see in the world could be won through the current political system.<br /> <br /> The first was a brief run for the New York State Senate in my early thirties in the Hudson Valley.&nbsp; Most of my days were spent alone, calling people to ask for money which I dreaded. Sometimes I would stand in front of civic groups, introduce myself, and tell them why <em>I</em> had the answers (which I didn’t). So I dropped out.<br /> <br /> Eventually I got a job as Director of the Center for Working Families—a think-tank allied to the <a href="http://workingfamilies.org/">Working Families Party</a> (WFP) and a place where ideas could be translated into direct action through the Party’s political muscle. It was 2009 and New York State faced one of the largest budget deficits in the country. The old debate raged on: increase taxes or cut public services drastically? This was a fight I wanted to be a part of. I still remembered the visceral wrongness of walking by homeless people on frigid winter streets when I moved to New York City as a kid in 1986.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> Now Manhattan was the playground of the world’s wealthy elite—bankers and hedge fund managers bringing home bonus check millions while the economy collapsed under the weight of their subprime mortgage lending greed. My job was to design a tax reform proposal to increase taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers, which had been slashed for decades.<br /> <br /> Progressives united around the cause—teacher and healthcare unions, poor people’s organizations, private foundations, (some) Democrats and WFP legislators—and the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/29/nyregion/29tax.html">“Millionaire’s Tax” became law</a>. But in the aftermath of this victory I grew increasingly skeptical.&nbsp; The tax reform was won on the argument that putting a few hundred dollars in people’s pockets was better for economic growth than cutting public services.&nbsp; But what about putting capitalism’s unregulated greed on trial or questioning the spiritual damage of living in a culture that maintains money should remain our highest aspiration? Things were changing on the surface but not deep down.<br /> <br /> As a third party in New York (and active in 17 other states), the WFP organizes to drag the Democratic Party left by organizing progressive voters in close elections.&nbsp; It’s good at what it does, using the remaining power of organized labor to place working people’s issues on the agenda.&nbsp; But at the end of the day, it is still very much a creature of the political system, often constrained by the narrow agendas of its most powerful union leaders and more dedicated to winning a seat at the table where political decisions are made than democratizing decision-making so that regular people have more power.</p><p class="normal"> As I came into the office everyday to craft more powerpoints and papers, was I happy or fulfilled or convinced that any of this would lead to transformation? Life in the city was expensive, so both I and my partner Jocelyn had to work full-time. The city was pushing us towards a way of living that seemed to be just as much a part of the problems I hoped to solve through new policies and laws. Cracks began to appear in the first story I had told myself about how change is accomplished, and I didn’t have another to replace it.</p> <p class="normal">A year after that blank page moment we quit our jobs and moved to Argentina. I had to imagine a new story of life and needed as much space as possible to create it. We moved to El Hoyo, a small rural town in Patagonia a friend had traveled through years ago and rented a small cottage on a farm called Chacra Millalen, run sustainably by a family for 20 years. Our mornings were spent thinking, writing, and exploring what was most important to us and in the afternoons we worked in the garden and learned how to farm. I had grown up privileged, never really doing much physical labor, and I found that the balance of the mental and the physical left me more content at the end of the day than I had ever been before.</p> <p class="normal">Living in El Hoyo exposed us to a much larger sense of community than any we had experienced in New York. We were eating and cooking together. A lot of neighbors bartered, trading vegetables for having a car fixed for example. Large jobs like hauling wood for the winter were collective and people relied on each other more. Everything was treated as invaluable, so was cooked, canned, preserved, fixed and sharpened until the bitter end. <br /> <br /> One day we woke up and realized that we had built a new story of a life for ourselves, one that involved farming and trying to build the same kind of communities back home. We realized that the first step to building a new world is to start living it.<br /> <br /> So we moved back to the Hudson Valley and started <a href="https://www.instagram.com/longhaulfarm/">Longhaul Farm</a> and the <a href="https://www.instagram.com/ecologicalcitizensproject/?hl=en">Ecological Citizen’s Project</a> to create spaces, programs and podcasts through which people can <a href="http://ecologicalcitizens.org/nextstopnow">learn about&nbsp; ways of life that are built around different values and routines</a> than those offered by mainstream America. But we didn’t want to repeat the same mistakes we saw in the ‘back to the land’ and earlier Utopianist movements, which became islands of personal improvement and perfect community creation cut off from larger political work required to transform society.&nbsp; <br /> <br /> It’s very difficult to sustain a countercultural personal life in a society that doesn’t value that kind of life nor is built to support it. Farming at our scale doesn’t pay all the bills or provide benefits.&nbsp; Eventually, we were able to find flexible teaching work that allowed us to share child care duties, get our healthcare through a mix of work-based and state programs, and reduce our housing costs through a farming tax credit. Transformation requires that we both pioneer new personal ways of life while also working together to enact policies and build new social institutions that will sustain them.<br /> <br /> I’ve begun to reconsider the old picture that I had in my head, the one where I’m delivering the speech on the Mall. I’ve realized that a lot of that dream came from my ego, which is a barrier to greater progress.&nbsp; Our culture celebrates the greatness of the individual—celebrities, business icons and agents of social change—without acknowledging the collectives around them that are the true source of greatness.<br /> <br /> We’ve built a political industrial complex made up of candidates, political operatives, lobbyists and think tankers that keep people far from the privileged places of decision-making. It’s no wonder that <a href="https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/mgilens/files/gilens_and_page_2014_-testing_theories_of_american_politics.doc.pdf">what the majority of people want</a> doesn’t really matter if it runs counter to moneyed interests. Conventional politics treats citizens largely as consumers, whose only power is to vote for the best person to represent them from a field of candidates culled by donors. Since campaigns follow a zero-sum dynamic that leads candidates to tear down all their competitor’s ideas and magnify their negatives in the pursuit of winning office, the bitter partisan divide grows ever wider.</p><p class="normal"> Who really believes that the problems we face can be addressed by selecting the right candidate in this kind of system? To bridge the divide between our personal and political lives we need to build new democratic norms and institutions that abandon the ego-driven ‘great individual’ model and allow mass participation in coming up with solutions, while also demanding that we enact them in our own lives. <br /> <br /> Over the past year, we’ve tried to do this by conducting a <a href="https://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/story/opinion/valley-views/2017/11/13/civic-engagement-thriving-democracy/852677001/">local experiment</a> in the Town of Philipstown called the <a href="https://static1.squarespace.com/static/551bf6b6e4b088e1f8030880/t/5b6c9928aa4a9997a24e1023/1533843763178/HVCC%2C+Process+%2B+Impact+%285%29.pdf">Community Congress</a>. We asked any resident to answer the question, “What’s your idea for preserving and promoting a strong community?” Over the course of three public forums, residents proposed 40 ideas across a range of issues. Then we invited all Philipstown residents age 13 years and older to name their top three priorities through an online and mail-in ballot. <br /> <br /> Over 750 residents voted, and even more hopefully 450 identified themselves as willing volunteers to roll up their sleeves and get to work turning the priorities they voted for into reality. In the next few years we’ll begin the work of building other Community Congresses throughout the Hudson Valley, forging a more people-centered democracy to build the world that people want.</p><p>I realize now that the path to social transformation is not a binary choice between personal or political change.&nbsp; We must live our political values within the daily routines of our personal lives and grow a new kind of politics that’s grounded in a higher quality of human relationships—unafraid of asking much more of us than our votes. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/chris-moore-backman/what-we-can-really-learn-from-gandhi">What we can really learn from Gandhi?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/liam-barringtonbush/you-can%E2%80%99t-love-whole-planet">You can’t love a whole planet</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ted-fertik/can-working-families-party-succeed-in-america">Can the Working Families Party succeed in America?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Jason Angell Transformative nonviolence Trans-partisan politics Activism Care Sun, 09 Sep 2018 17:20:13 +0000 Jason Angell 119499 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How to help inmates heal after the trauma of prison https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/allen-arthur/how-to-help-inmates-heal-after-trauma-of-prison <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Half of all prisoners in American jails suffer from some sort of psychiatric disorder. Can prayer and meditation support them?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/AllenArthur.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Brother Zachariah Presutti leads a group of incarcerated men and volunteers through a guided meditation. Credit: Mike Benigno/YES! Magazine. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Pedro Javier Rodriguez sings and dances so passionately, people call him “The Flame.” Prison life, however, didn’t allow the aspiring musician much opportunity to perform.</p> <p>“I started fighting, people trying to kill me in prison,” says Rodriguez, who was incarcerated in New York state prisons for 27 years. “I get stabbed, I get cut up. I start cutting people. But I don’t like violence. I had to fight for my life.”</p> <p>In 2007, he started going to church again, began playing music and rediscovered both his passion and spirituality. He also began attending every prison program he could, including&nbsp;<a href="https://www.thriveforlife.org/">Thrive for Life Prison Project</a>, designed to bring healing and structure to men currently and formerly incarcerated.</p> <p>“That’s when I met brother Zach, brother for life, the beautiful angel, the beautiful people,” Rodriguez says. “Thank God for having these people in the world.”</p> <p>In 2017, Zachariah Presutti, a Jesuit of the northeast province of the Society of Jesus, officially launched Thrive, whose volunteers provide support to men incarcerated in six New York jails and prisons and help them find stable housing, education, and employment once they leave. While those are often considered the pillars of rehabilitation and recidivism reduction, Thrive also adds another focus: healing.</p> <p>“Really what we’re dealing with is trauma,” says Presutti, who is also a psychotherapist. “The … trauma of being a victim of abuse, neglect, poverty, sociological constructions growing up. The trauma of being incarcerated, the trauma of inflicting pain and hurt on other people. Those have real psychological effects.”</p> <p>Thrive provides spiritual retreats at the correctional facilities it serves and estimates about 700 men have benefited from them. The retreats offer a space for vulnerability and reflection, something nearly impossible to find on the inside. Thrive has also helped more than two dozen of them transition after release. In addition to seeing virtually no recidivism, Thrive has helped them make peace with their pasts and reconnect with family. Rodriguez, for example, now has a stable job and housing, while also sharing what he’s gained from his experience with others.</p> <p>“We’re kind of witnesses of miracles,” Presutti says.</p> <p>Sometime this summer, Thrive will open&nbsp;<a href="https://www.thriveforlife.org/ignacio-house/">Ignacio House</a>, a residential center in the Bronx for 24 formerly incarcerated men, intended to address more directly the stress and uncertainty that can accompany those returning from prison.</p> <p>The organization addresses the trauma of the prison experience using what it calls “Ignatian spirituality.” In the 1500s, Saint Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus, a religious order of the Catholic Church. Recovering after a cannonball shattered his leg, Ignatius read the gospels and grew to believe that closeness to God could be achieved by self-reflection, meditation, and service to others—practices Thrive sees as essential to helping men survive in prison and after returning home.</p> <p>“We’re not trying to fix people or save people,” says Joe Van Brussel, the group’s chief operating officer. “We’re trying to give people tools and a lens to understand their stories.”</p> <p>Those stories are frequently troubling ones, reflecting larger societal problems. Many participants have dealt with substance abuse or mental health issues and, according to Presutti, most have themselves been victimized in some way.</p> <p>“I think prison is how we handle all our sociological questions,” Presutti says. “We have a hard time dealing with poverty, so we lock it away. We have a hard time dealing with [different races] so we lock them away. We have a hard time dealing with mental health. Well, we don’t have services for them, so lock them away.”</p> <p>There’s evidence to suggest he’s right. As many as half of all inmates in American jails and prisons suffer from some sort of psychiatric disorder, according to new book&nbsp;<a href="http://alisaroth.com/"><em>America’s Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness</em>.&nbsp;</a>The Bureau of Justice Statistics&nbsp;<a href="https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/imhprpji1112.pdf">reports</a>&nbsp;that 37 percent of prisoners and 44 percent of people in jail had been diagnosed at some point with a mental health disorder. Jails in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago are now the three largest institutions providing psychiatric care in the U.S.</p> <p>Van Brussel said the conditions of prison—chaotic, violent, and uncertain—further erode the psyche. The retreats give the men a chance to be vulnerable, uncommon inside prisons.</p> <p>“They never get a chance to breathe or just talk in a safe environment,” he says. “People have told us, ‘It’s been months since someone listened or wanted to hear my story.’”</p> <p>Tracy Tynan, who volunteers at Thrive retreats, says they begin with a guided meditation that encompasses anything from envisioning relaxing on a beach to a “conversation with God.” Then, participants share positive recent events in their lives, such as phone calls from loved ones or progress with an appeal. But they also talk about the hardships of prison life—fights, fear, and lockdowns. Retreats might include art or music.</p> <p>The centerpiece of the retreats is the&nbsp;<em>lectio divina—</em>a reading from the Gospels coupled with “imaginative prayer” and introspection based on how the reading resonates individually. All this combines to create the rare space where incarcerated people can close their eyes, relax safely, and look deeply within themselves.</p> <p>“It really, really helps them,” Tynan says. “It’s unusual to close your eyes in prison.”</p> <p>Santiago Ramirez served 36 years in prisons throughout New York state for committing a deadly robbery while in the throes of substance abuse. He remembers those retreats as his only opportunity to trust inside.</p> <p>“Sometimes in prison, you can develop friendships and relationships,” Ramirez says, “but you’re not really comfortable disclosing everything about yourself. Then you worry: Is that person going to betray your trust? But Thrive is so welcoming, so encouraging, so supportive, so loving.”</p> <p>Presutti says because love is such a rare commodity among formerly and currently incarcerated men, extending it is an important part of Thrive’s mission. “They need to experience love, to be loved, and I think that’s when healing begins,” Presutti says. “Healing begins when we realize just how much we’re loved. A lot of people have bad experiences of being loved. Someone told them they were loved one time and abused them. Someone told them they loved them one time and kicked them out onto the street or gave them a needle.”</p> <p>Outside prison, Thrive provides emotional support and a sense of community some participants have never experienced—employing everything from monthly group dinners to counseling and transportation.</p> <p>Convicted as an accomplice to a murder he said he witnessed but wasn’t involved in, Rodriguez wanted to live in Buffalo after his release where another organization was offering re-entry help. As a condition of his release, however, he had to return to New York City, the site of his arrest. Presutti and Thrive’s volunteers stepped in, picking him up from the prison, helped him get clothes, and gave him a place to stay.</p> <p>“They told me, ‘You gotta follow the rules. Step by step, little by little,&nbsp;<em>poquito, suavacito,&nbsp;</em>you’re gonna be OK,’” recalls Rodriguez. “’But you got to take it easy because you been locked up for too many years, and life is not like it used to be when you were there.’”</p> <p>At Ignacio House, which Thrive hopes to open by the end of summer, men with whom it connected on the inside will be given priority in housing. They will receive workforce training and gain access to scholarships from Manhattan College. Thrive wants to use open space inside the house for Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and local events, all designed to create a foundation of support for these men as they work to build their lives on the outside and develop a sense of community.</p> <p>“It’s not building agencies,” says Presutti, who openly resists joining what he calls the nonprofit industrial complex. “It’s about being there as a community. Community brings connection and intimacy ultimately, which leads to the experience of love.”</p> <p>Volunteers and participants hope that Thrive’s approach will take hold around the country, presenting it as an antidote to both the causes and effects of mass incarceration.</p> <p>“I think it’s a way that we’ve been dealing with the issues we just don’t know how to deal with,” Presutti says. “If we can just put [incarcerated people] out on an island, nobody will know how to get to them and hopefully people will forget about them. The grace in the whole thing is if people haven’t forgotten about them.”</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/mental-health/how-to-help-inmates-heal-after-the-trauma-of-prison-20180725?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180727&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180727+CID_93fcab22827be21ad0036500518e4b96&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=How%20to%20Help%20Inmates%25">YES! Magazine</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/kazu-haga/transformation-of-warrior-behind-bars">The transformation of a warrior behind bars</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/molly-rowan-leach/can-prison-system-be-transformed-shaka-senghor-and-cut50">Can the prison system be transformed? Shaka Senghor and #Cut50</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/melissa-hellman/town-that-adopted-trauma-informed-care-and-saw-decrease-in-crime-and-">The town that adopted trauma-informed care—and saw a decrease in crime and suspension</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Allen Arthur Prison abolition Care Love and Spirituality Thu, 06 Sep 2018 20:12:02 +0000 Allen Arthur 119073 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Love and hunger in breadline Britain https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/chris-shannahan/love-and-hunger-in-breadline-britain <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>We need a moral and spiritual revolution to replace the culture of shame with a politics of love and solidarity.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/ChrisShanahan3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2015/03/13/students-view-healthier-school-brighter-future">United States Department of Agriculture/Bob Nichols</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/share-your-work/public-domain/">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p>When I was at school I used to count down the days to the long summer holidays, but in breadline Britain huge numbers of parents approach the school break knowing that ‘holiday hunger’ awaits their children. In the sixth wealthiest country on earth, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jul/25/holiday-hunger-shame-government-childrens-clubs?CMP=share_btn_tw">why do four million children go hungry during their holidays</a>, and how can we respond more effectively to this scandal? We can’t rely on policies alone: two concepts drawn from the New Testament—<em>agape</em> (selfless love) and <em>koinonia</em> (fellowship or solidarity)—provide deeper guidance and inspiration for the struggles that lie ahead.</p> <p>During the 2017-2018 school year <a href="http://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/SN06700/SN06700.pdf">approximately two million children in England received ‘Pupil Premium</a>,’ a payment allocated to schools which provides young people with a free hot meal at lunch-time. Approximately <a href="https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/603946/Evaluation_of_Breakfast_Clubs_-_Final_Report.pdf">40 per cent of the children who attend breakfast clubs run by schools also receive free school meals</a>.</p> <p>Such provision appears to reflect a commitment to supporting children living in poverty, but in April 2018 the UK Government introduced means testing for the Pupil Premium and linked it to the receipt of Universal Credit.<a href="https://www.tes.com/news/government-sets-ps7400-annual-income-threshold-free-school-meals"> Families now have to earn less than £7,400 a year to qualify,</a> a decision that—according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies—will mean that <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/free-school-meals-children-miss-out-government-threshold-universal-credit-ifs-institute-fiscal-a8288976.html">100,000 children who are currently receiving free school meals will therefore miss out</a>. Even before this decision, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/may/07/million-more-uk-children-in-poverty-than-in-2010">a third of British children living in poverty</a> didn’t receive the Pupil Premium anyway.</p> <p>Holiday hunger illustrates the deeper poverty that has reared its head in Britain since the 2010 General Election, leaving one million more children living in poverty after a fall of 800,000 during the previous decade, and giving rise to a dramatic rise in the use of foodbanks. Research by the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/may/29/report-reveals-scale-of-food-bank-use-in-the-uk-ifan">Independent Food Aid Network identified 2,024 foodbanks and distribution centres in 2017</a>, more than half of them run in collaboration with the Christian NGO the <a href="https://www.trusselltrust.org/what-we-do/how-foodbanks-work/">Trussell Trust</a> which fed more than 1.3 million people in that year. The<a href="https://www.trusselltrust.org/news-and-blog/latest-stats/end-year-stats/"> Trust’s foodbanks also gave food parcels to over 484,000 children, 13 per cent more than in 2016</a>.</p> <p>Foodbanks meet people’s immediate needs and their importance cannot be overstated, but they don’t tackle systemic social exclusion. Increasingly therefore, organizations like the <a href="https://www.feedingbritain.org/on-a-mission-to-eliminate-hunger-by-2020">Feeding Britain</a> network (established in 2015) and local Trussell Trust affiliates provide debt counselling and benefits, housing and legal advice, and <a href="https://www.feedingbritain.org/fuel-banks-project">energy vouchers to counter fuel poverty</a> to those who visit food banks in an effort to tackle these deeper issues. A related approach to tackling food poverty is the emergence of <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/real-junk-food-project-food-waste-shop-supermarketadam-smith-pay-what-you-feel-a8443496.html">‘junk food’ shops</a>, <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/the-real-junk-food-project-founder-adam-smith-on-how-to-make-restaurant-quality-meals-out-of-food-a7316231.html">cafés</a> and <a href="https://www.feedingbritain.org/citizens-supermarkets">‘citizens’ supermarkets’</a> which recycle food that supermarkets have discarded. Such shops charge low prices or ask shoppers to offer a donation in exchange for the food they receive.</p> <p>The growth of these initiatives exemplifies the commitment of faith-based and other voluntary sector groups to stand alongside people living in poverty. However, such initiatives have become increasingly stretched since the launch of the Conservative Government’s <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jan/25/universal-credit-benefits-scheme-iain-duncan-smith">Universal Credit</a> programme in 2017. Trailed as a streamlining of the benefits system that would enable people to move into paid work, Universal Credit has been widely accused of deepening the poverty Ministers claim it will alleviate.</p> <p>In 2017 for example, former government adviser <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-41433019.%20Accessed%2027">Dame Louise Casey urged Prime Minister Theresa May to halt the roll-out of Universal Credit</a>, and in 2018 the columnist <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jun/15/universal-credit-colossal-catastrophe-national-audit-office">Polly Toynbee described it as a ‘catastrophe’ that has increased foodbank usage by 30 per cent</a>. Potentially aware of the political damage done by this bleak picture, a July 2018 <a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/foodbanks-records-jobcentre-dwp_uk_5b61c1bde4b0b15aba9ebcc9?utm_hp_ref=uk-homepage&amp;ncid=fcbklnkukhpmg00000001&amp;guccounter=1&amp;guce_referrer_us=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZmFjZWJvb2suY29tLw&amp;guce_referrer_cs=qrFww9gVSZnqIuQ5w45-hQ">Department of Work and Pensions directive instructed Job Centre staff to stop keeping records of the number of people they refer to foodbanks</a>. But what else can be done?</p> <p>Holiday hunger highlights the fracture in the fabric of society that’s caused by the ‘age of austerity. It is an example of what the peace studies scholar <a href="http://www2.kobe-u.ac.jp/~alexroni/IPD%202015%20readings/IPD%202015_7/Galtung_Violence,%20Peace,%20and%20Peace%20Research.pdf">Johann Galtung called ‘structural violence’</a> and the pioneer of Latin American liberation theology <a href="https://liberationtheology.org/people-organizations/gustavo-gutierrez/">Gustavo Gutiérrez</a> ‘systemic sin.’ Foodbanks, breakfast clubs, junk food shops and other small-scale initiatives will help to heal this fracture but they won’t be enough to turn the tide. Instead we need a moral and spiritual revolution that comprehensively rejects the culture of shame which blames people living in poverty for their own social exclusion and replaces it with a politics of love and solidarity.</p> <p>Mentioning ‘love’ in political discourse can lead to accusations of naïve romanticism, but this misunderstands love’s potential as a source of liberative social change. When I see the person whose child has to go to school hungry as a reflection of myself it’s easier to move beyond a blame-game culture in which people living in poverty are seen as the helpless victims of amoral neo-liberal economics or as inadequate individuals. When we recognize that we are, in fact, our sister and brother’s keepers we see that the damage done by Universal Credit, rationing free school meals, the insecurity of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/apr/23/number-of-zero-hours-contracts-in-uk-rose-by-100000-in-2017-ons">zero hours contract</a> work and low pay harms us all, not just those relying on the local foodbank.</p> <p>This commitment to mutuality is a reflection of the New Testament term <em>koinonia</em>, which is better understood as a basis for liberative solidarity rather than apolitical fellowship. In his parable about the Day of Judgement in Matthew 25 Jesus illustrates the potential of this radical ethic: ‘When you feed the hungry, clothe the naked or welcome the stranger you feed, clothe and welcome me.’ The ‘age of austerity’ in the UK and the early years of the Trump Presidency in the USA have been characterized by social policies that seem intended to make life more comfortable for wealthy people at the expense of those who are living in poverty. These policies undermine the empowering solidarity exemplified by <em>koinonia</em>.</p> <p>In the face of endemic injustice a commitment to friendship and mutuality is important, but on its own is unlikely to defeat post-crash poverty. A further, less comfortable, step is needed into the realm of self-sacrificial love or <em>agape</em>. <a href="https://stanford.app.box.com/s/5qzd0p500bd99rqbmb6y9127j2wrzdn8">As early as his 1962 ‘Levels of Love’ sermon</a>, Dr Martin Luther King Jr argued that only unconditional and selfless love of this kind could challenge ingrained systemic injustice—what he called the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0uEVTh0ios">‘love that does justice</a>.’ Such selfless love, which King suggested is <a href="http://www.thekingcenter.org/archive/document/power-nonviolence">‘overflowing…and seeks nothing in return’</a>, shaped the US Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and animates similar efforts today such as the <a href="https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/">Poor People’s Campaign</a> led by <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/05/14/william-barber-takes-on-poverty-and-race-in-the-age-of-trump">Rev. William Barber</a> and <a href="http://liztheoharis.org/about/">Rev. Liz Theoharis</a>.</p> <p>The embrace of self-sacrificial love is, in a Christian context, a response to a God who ‘becomes flesh and lives among us’ (John 1:14). Such unbounded love moves us beyond a symbolic solidarity with people living in poverty into the realm of costly struggle, just as it led <a href="http://www.thekinglegacy.org/books/where-do-we-go-here-chaos-or-community">Martin Luther King</a>, towards the end of his life, to move beyond a compartmentalized advocacy for racial justice to issue a deeper and broader challenge to global economic injustice and US imperialism in Vietnam. King’s original <a href="https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/history/">Poor People’s Campaign</a> (the precursor to Barber and Theoharis’ movement today) implicitly embodied the vision of God’s ‘preferential option for the poor’ first articulated by Latin American liberation theologians like Gutiérrez.</p> <p>Could a similar movement be built in Britain to attack the scandal of holiday hunger and its underlying ideology of austerity? We see the first-stirrings of such a movement in the holistic activism of networks like <a href="http://endhungeruk.org/">End Hunger</a>, but these still need to be translated into concrete political action. The ending of Universal Credit, the further engagement of foodbanks in advocacy and campaigning, the provision of free school meals for all British children, the introduction of a <a href="https://www.livingwage.org.uk/">genuine living wage</a> and the guarantee of a <a href="https://www.basicincome.org.uk/what_is_basic_income">‘basic income’</a> for all citizens would represent a good start.</p> <p>But without a deeper cultural shift—a commitment to loving each other in political as well as personal terms—the effects of such a movement will be transient, and that’s where faith and spirit can be vital.&nbsp; Of course, faith-based organizations are not alone in their ability to mount this kind of challenge to poverty and austerity, and only a movement that brings together people of faith with their humanist counterparts will have any chance of success. However, armed with a political philosophy premised on selfless love, faith-based and other activists can build a movement that integrates pastoral responses to holiday hunger such as foodbanks with political action for structural change.</p> <p>2018’s bout of holiday hunger may be drawing to a close as schools re-open their doors in September, but the injustice it highlights will not disappear. It is vital that practitioners, preachers and politicians hold government accountable for a decade of austerity in which the landscape of breadline Britain has become increasingly marked by rough-sleepers, foodbanks and children’s breakfast clubs. A commitment to a radical and liberative love which turns society the right-way up again can arm us for the struggles that lie ahead. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/chris-shannahan/desmond-tutu-was-right">Desmond Tutu was right</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/chris-shannahan/president-trump-and-christian-right">President Trump and the Christian right</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/gregory-leffel/is-christianity-finished-as-source-of-inspiration-for-progressive-soci">Is Christianity finished as a source of inspiration for progressive social change?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation religion and social transformation Chris Shannahan Care Economics Love and Spirituality Sun, 02 Sep 2018 17:20:49 +0000 Chris Shannahan 119413 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Trapped on Brexit Island https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/paul-walsh/trapped-on-brexit-island <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How did we get here, and how do we escape? Transforming education would be a start.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/PaulWalsh3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Anti Brexit People's Vote March, London, June 23 2018. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/zongo/42972119401">Flickr/David Holt</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p>Stuck in a political twilight zone where the laws of causality are suspended, people stagger around in a kind of waking sickness—a disease whose most worrying symptoms are the mental gymnastics which imagine Brexit as a success and Boris Johnson as Prime Minister. Do you ever think to yourself <em>what the hell is happening?&nbsp;</em>Do you see the Johnson come-what-may-Brexit on the horizon?</p> <p>By bringing disrepute into repute, making arrogance a virtue and carving up politics according to a code known only to insiders, Johnson and company aim to spark a regulatory fire sale that leads us away from a dark European bureaucracy to the sunlit uplands of a butter-side-up Britain. No matter what kind of Brit you are—from Galashiels to Gibraltar—we’re all trapped in the same bizarre mental archipelago: <em>Brexit Island.</em> And we need an explanation of how we arrived here. </p> <p>One overlooked factor is that many of those embroiled in the Brexit narrative boarded at elite schools. Boris Johnson, David Cameron, and Jacob Rees-Mogg went to Eton, and Daniel Hannan—<a href="https://www.google.de/search?q=the+man+who+brought+you+Brexit&amp;rlz=1C1CHWA_enDE580DE580&amp;oq=the+man+who+brought+you+Brexit&amp;aqs=chrome..69i57j69i60.5210j0j7&amp;sourceid=chrome&amp;ie=UTF-8">described</a> by journalist Sam Knight as “the man who brought you Brexit” (he also invented that Maoist sound-bite “Project Fear”)—boarded at Marlborough College in the Cotswolds. </p> <p>Psychotherapist Nick Duffell knows about the psychic plumbing in such minds. His work with boarding school survivors documents the damage done by separating young boys from their mothers (some as young as six) and thrusting them into a loveless world of strangers, giving the child what George Orwell, <a href="http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/joys/english/e_joys">reflecting on his own boarding</a>, called “a sense of inferiority and the dread of offending against mysterious laws.”</p> <p>In his 2014 book <a href="https://woundedleaders.co.uk/"><em>Wounded Leaders</em></a>, Duffell writes that this forces children to develop a “strategic survival personality” characterised by “the maintenance of a facade of confidence and success, masking a rigid emotional illiteracy and intimacy avoidance.” Private school boarders become “pseudo-adults” who employ pathological tics to hide their wounded selves. They bully, they dissemble, they protect themselves with a self-invented carapace—whether it’s <em>hug-a-hoodie</em> Cameron or Johnson’s schoolyard <em>bonhomie</em>.</p> <p>Speaking from France, Duffell tells me that he can see this personality at work.</p> <blockquote><p>“Look at Jeremy Hunt. The smile on his face – <em>the NHS is falling apart ... well that’s why we’re putting in another million pounds</em> – and he never loses his cool. And Boris, always on the edge of rage. People think he’s a clown but he’s not. He’s a bully; his cleverness is all about putting someone else down.”&nbsp;&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p>These people have never grown up, giving politics on <em>Brexit Island </em>a timeless quality. Duffell writes that “Boris would have been just as much of a success in 1911 or even 1811.” And the deference shown to such figures indicates a widespread belief that privilege has been fairly earned by those who have it; we’re unable to see the systems that entrench inequality because inequality has become so entrenched. Duffell calls this the “Entitlement Illusion”, a mind trick which allows rulers to feel good about ruling and those ruled to acquiesce.</p> <p>Yet dividing a population into rulers and ruled splinters social cohesion. Foreigners see this, the Scots and Welsh increasingly see this, but if you’re English you have to acclimatise yourself to it; you have to learn to see the privilege anchoring our education system and our whole society in place. And then you see it everywhere.</p> <p>Obviously, schooling on <em>Brexit Island</em> has long been a source of mystique; elite ‘public’ schools such as Eton or Harrow that were originally endowed for the deserving poor (hence their charitable status) couldn’t be further from public control; and the role of grammar schools which operate by selection has always been to get students through their Oxbridge entrance exams (hence the focus on the Latin ‘grammar’).</p> <p>Yet there have been times when elite schooling has come under attack. The socialist <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._H._Tawney">R.H. Tawney</a> let off an early shot in his 1931 book <em>Equality</em>: </p><blockquote><p>“A special system of schools, reserved for children whose parents have larger bank-accounts than their neighbours...does more than any other single cause, except capitalism itself, to perpetuate the division of the nation into classes of which one is almost unintelligible to the other.”</p></blockquote> <p>Anthony Crosland, Harold Wilson’s education minister, <a href="http://labour-uncut.co.uk/2011/02/19/34-years-today-since-his-death-tony-croslands-challenge-to-ed-miliband/">vowed to</a> “destroy every fucking grammar school in England. And Wales. And Northern Ireland,” yet failed to kill off selection by merely <em>requesting</em> local authorities to submit plans for reorganisation in 1965. The post-war ideal was still the grammar school; <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Gaitskell">Hugh Gaitskell</a>, Labour party leader from 1955 to 1963, <a href="http://educationengland.org.uk/articles/31labourgrammar.html">argued that</a> "It would be nearer the truth to describe our proposals as a grammar-school education for all.”&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>There have always been defenders of this system from both right and left. The 1944 Butler Act sent working-class children to grammar schools via the 11-plus exam. The writer Angela Carter <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/the-return-of-the-magic-story-teller-1567062.html">thought</a> this gave Britain its first “full-blooded, enquiring rootless urban intelligentsia which didn’t define itself as a class by what its parents had done”—including filmmaker Ken Loach and journalist Janet Street-Porter. Likewise, with his own brand of working-class boosterism, Nigel Farage has <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jun/01/nigel-farage-ukip-schools-taxes">said</a> he wants to see “a grammar school in every town” to emulate his schooling at Dulwich College, where the assisted places scheme gave a few kids a leg over the educational wall.</p> <p>But you never hear from the majority whom selection failed—like my mum for example. Born in Newcastle during World War II, her class took the 11-plus in 1952. Her best friend Wilma was the only one to pass, getting a scholarship to the local grammar school and going on to become a teacher. Everyone else went to the secondary modern, which funnelled the boys to the shipyards on the Tyne and the girls to Wills’ tobacco factory to make Woodbine cigarettes. In an <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/news/2017/may/04/grammar-schools-secondary-modern-11-plus-theresa-may">article on grammar schools</a> for the Guardian, Chris Horrie writes that until the 11-plus was phased out in 1976, over 20 million children received a brown envelope containing a state-certified stamp of failure.</p> <p>Little has changed. The recent BBC documentary <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b57ynx"><em>Grammar Schools:</em> <em>Who Will Get In?</em></a> told the story of Joanita who, despite her mother working at Poundland to cover the £300 needed each month for extra tuition, still received the same message of failure—by text message this time rather than by post.</p> <p>It’s this failing education system that Melissa Benn diagnoses in her 2011 book <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/1196-school-wars"><em>School Wars</em></a>. Scotland and Wales operate a comprehensive system, Northern Ireland is phasing out selection, but England is an educational patchwork, with academies operating outside local authority control, maintained schools overseen by local authorities (former comprehensives that aren’t selective), state-funded grammar schools (that select via exams), and independents (fee-paying schools some of whom, confusingly, retain the title of 'grammar school'). UK education is like quantum theory: if you understand it, you’re obviously mistaken.</p> <p>In her new book <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/2899-life-lessons"><em>Life Lessons: The Case for a National Education Service</em></a>, Benn makes a convincing case for change. To cut the Gordian educational knot, she makes several proposals that will make many parents, teachers, and heads cheer: abolish Ofsted, give the power to open schools back to local authorities, set up a commission to look at integrating academies into a public system, restore national pay for teachers, get rid of the 11-plus, give teachers their professional autonomy back, and establish an educational trust to advise on bringing private schools under the control of the state.</p> <p>Yet all these reforms could crash on the reefs of social mobility, the resilient ideology wielded by both left and right that has powered the drive towards a '<a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/1392913?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents">parentocracy</a>' based on <em>choice</em>, shifting power from producers (teachers and schools) to consumers (parents). And it's not that social mobility is <em>true</em> that keeps us believing in it; historian Selina Todd describes the much-vaunted 1950s as a time when “there were very few golden tickets to go round, and most of them went to the children of privileged parents.” It’s the fact that <em>we act as if it’s true—</em>which inevitably has real consequences.</p> <p>“Imagination is both the fabric of social life and the motor of history” <a href="https://newleftreview.org/II/111/simone-weil-meditations-on-a-corpse">wrote</a> philosopher Simone Weil. There's a cloud of uncertainty and growing elite panic over Brexit, but for the left, a path of ideas leading forward: an industrial strategy, fair taxation, reforming the financial system, and public ownership—all policies in the <a href="https://labour.org.uk/manifesto/">Labour manifesto</a>—could make Britain a fairer island.</p> <p>A 21st-century National Education Service might transform our archaic system of educational provision. Yet even that won’t be enough: to escape <em>Brexit Island </em>we need to accept that while the Boris Johnsons of this world might well deserve our pity, they certainly don’t deserve our respect.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/paul-walsh/brexit-corbyn-and-us-what-disappointment-can-teach-us-about-politics-and-o">Brexit, Corbyn and us: what disappointment can teach us about politics and ourselves</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/uk/anthony-barnett/how-to-win-brexit-civil-war-open-letter-to-my-fellow-remainers">How to win the Brexit Civil War. An open letter to my fellow Remainers</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/paul-walsh/life-s-pitch">Life’s a pitch</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation UK Brexit Education Paul Walsh Care Thu, 30 Aug 2018 11:36:50 +0000 Paul Walsh 119487 at https://www.opendemocracy.net “The price on everything is love:” how a Detroit community overcomes a lack of city services https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kevon-paynter/price-on-everything-is-love-how-detroit-community-overcomes-lack-of-cit <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A range of neighbor-to-neighbor efforts address basic needs that aren’t met by local government.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/KevonPaynter2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Jessica Ramirez in front of the storefront that houses&nbsp;<a href="http://detroitershelpingeachother.weebly.com/">Detroiters Helping Each Other (DHEO)</a>. Credit: Kevon Paynter for YES! Magazine. All rights reserved.</p> <p>A multitude of voicemails and text messages from desperate neighbors flooded Jessica Ramirez’s cell phone on a brisk morning in October 2013. Winter was coming.</p> <p>Using social media to reach potential donors as well as those seeking help, Ramirez created a makeshift donation center on the sidewalk outside her Southwest Detroit home. There, the community organizer and her neighbors handed out warm clothing to children and recycled beds, dressers and microwaves to new mothers who needed furniture.</p> <p>When school began the next year, she was at it again, donating reams of school supplies she had collected from businesses and individuals. “Everything was being done out of my home when I started,” Ramirez says.</p> <p>Recognizing her efforts, the property manager of an abandoned local storefront gave her use of the facility. That’s when her charitable acts became a community shop—<a href="http://detroitershelpingeachother.weebly.com/">Detroiters Helping Each Other (DHEO)</a>—where kindness and generosity, not money, is the currency of exchange. Their motto: Teamwork makes the dream work.</p> <p>“I would love to see us not need this anymore,” she says.</p> <p>“In the meantime it’s showing people the community still cares.”</p> <p>Decades of economic and population decline, a depleted tax base, and critically underfunded city services have forced Southwest Detroiters to self-organize, establishing a local network of goods and services to fill in for missing city services. The result is a range of neighbor-to-neighbor efforts, like DHEO, that seek to address broader needs that are going unmet by local government agencies.</p> <p>The&nbsp;<a href="http://cocswdetroit.com/2018/04/" target="_self">Congress of Communities</a>, for example, is a charitable programming organization that, among other things, offers anti-domestic violence trainings to Southwest Detroit residents in 2010. The trainings aimed to improve public safety at a time when it took police nearly an hour to arrive at a crime scene.&nbsp;</p> <p>A coordinated effort called<em>&nbsp;</em><a href="https://www.facebook.com/MowerGang">Detroit Mowers Gang&nbsp;</a>organized volunteers with gloves and protective eye gear to mow overgrown grass in the city’s abandoned lots and public playgrounds. The so-called weed vigilantes get together every other Wednesday to do what the city doesn’t, calling itself a “crafty crew” that refuses to let budgets and bureaucracy stand in the way of unruly grass on a playground getting cut.</p> <p>And the&nbsp;<a href="http://detroitblackfoodsecurity.org/">Detroit Black Community Food Security Network</a>, organized educational programs for youth and adults, and operated a food co-op to ensure Detroiters had access to affordable, nutritious and culturally appropriate food. Its ongoing work includes a food council that promotes a sustainable food system and advocates for food justice and food sovereignty in the city.</p> <p>“The price on everything is love, man,” says Rico Razo, a native Southwest Detroiter and a former mayor-appointed district manager tasked with ensuring city services respond to residents’ needs.</p> <p>“It’s spreading love through giving with the hopes that the people they’re helping out—if they catch someone else who’s on hard times—that they pay it forward. That’s the model that [DHEO] rolls with. I think it’s been successful.”</p> <p>Three years ago, the city of Detroit named DHEO “Organization of the Year” for its role helping families recover from a fire that burned seven homes to the ground, just blocks from Ramirez’s home. Her generosity has extended beyond helping people in need. She collected a U-Haul truck of dog food to feed 369 of her neighbors’ dogs and donated straw to keep their kennels warm during Detroit’s cold months.&nbsp;</p> <p>She shares stories about DHEO’s work on social media, so that donors can see who they’re helping.</p> <p>She vets people who say they are in need to make sure no one is taking undue advantage of the community’s generosity. “We do our homework,” she says.</p> <p>She has asked for a police report in the case of a family replacing items they say were taken in a home burglary or documentation when a family asked for a donated bed to keep their children out of Child Protective Services.</p> <p>But Ramirez says a family’s inability to produce any of those things won’t be a hindrance to receiving help. And ultimately, the organization relies on trust between neighbors in the community and the social networks that underlie it.</p> <p>“Yeah, they get stuff for free,” Ramirez says. “But we can call recipients up and say ‘come volunteer.’ If they’re able-bodied, we tell them ‘hey go cut the elderlies’ grass’ or ‘show up to a community feeding event.’ And they show up,” she says.</p> <p>Razo said that for the longest time when the city cut back on services, including trash pickup, streetlights, and lawn maintenance, he saw self-organized community initiatives and nonprofits offer food and healthcare to people in need. After-school programs and summer jobs for high school students emerged as well as job training and job readiness efforts.</p> <p>City and state government services are rebounding but the hope is they won’t threaten what neighbors have already built to save their communities.</p> <p>Rather, Razo said he believes the city should look to them and partner with them to remove some of the burden and empower them to continue. He’s said he running for state representative to the Michigan Legislature on a platform that seeks to bolster Detroit’s community-based sharing economies, especially by integrating them into city services.</p> <p>“They don’t do it for us,” Ramirez says of business and city government. “The community takes care of itself without the suit and ties.”</p> <p><em>This article was funded in part by a grant from the Surdna Foundation and was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/the-price-on-everything-is-love-how-a-detroit-community-overcomes-a-lack-of-city-services-20180719">YES! Magazine</a>.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/kevon-paynter/with-marijuana-now-legal-los-angeles-goes-further-to-make-amends-for-wa">With marijuana now legal, Los Angeles goes further to make amends for the war on drugs</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/kevon-paynter/before-nfl-took-knee-four-lesser-known-moments-of-resistance-in-sports-">Before the NFL took a knee: four lesser-known moments of resistance in sports history</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/caitlin-endyke-sean-thomas-breitfeld/breakfast-in-detroit">Breakfast in Detroit </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Kevon Paynter Economics Care Activism Thu, 16 Aug 2018 19:29:34 +0000 Kevon Paynter 118981 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The enemy between us: how inequality erodes our mental health https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kate-pickett-richard-wilkinson/enemy-between-us-how-inequality-erodes-our-mental-heal <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Inequality creates the social and political divisions that isolate us from each other.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/KatePickett.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/27305863@N07/6023390537">Flickr/mSeattle</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p>When people are asked what matters most for their happiness and wellbeing, they tend to talk about the importance of their relationships with family, friends and colleagues. It is their intimate world, their personal networks that mean the most to them, rather than material goods, income or wealth.&nbsp; </p> <p>Most people probably don’t think that broader, structural issues to do with politics and the economy have anything to do with their emotional health and wellbeing, but they do. We’ve known for a long time that inequality causes a wide range of health and social problems, including everything from reduced life expectancy and higher infant mortality to poor educational attainment, lower social mobility and increased levels of violence. Differences in these areas between more and less equal societies are large, and everyone is affected by them.</p> <p>In our 2009 book <em><a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Spirit-Level-Equality-Better-Everyone/dp/0241954290/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1533714435&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=wilkinson+spirit">The Spirit Level</a></em>, we hypothesised that this happens because inequality increases the grip of class and social status on us, making social comparisons more insidious and increasing the social and psychological distances between people.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>In our new book,&nbsp;<em><a href="https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/188607/the-inner-level/">The Inner Level,</a></em> we bring together a robust body of evidence that shows we were on the right track: inequality eats into the heart of our immediate, personal world, and the vast majority of the population are affected by the ways in which inequality becomes the enemy between us. What gets between us and other people are all the things that make us feel ill at ease with one another, worried about how others see us, and shy and awkward in company—in short, all our social anxieties. </p> <p>For some people, these anxieties become so severe that social contact becomes an ordeal and they withdraw from social life. Others continue to participate in social life but are beset by the constant worry that they have no small talk or come across as boring, stupid or unattractive. Sadly, we all tend to feel that these anxieties are our own personal psychological weaknesses and that we need to hide them from others or seek therapy or treatment to try to overcome them by ourselves.</p> <p>But a recent <a href="https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/news/stressed-nation-74-uk-overwhelmed-or-unable-cope-some-point-past-year">Mental Health Foundation Survey</a> found that 74 percent of adults in the UK were so stressed at times in the past year that they felt overwhelmed and unable to cope. One-third had suicidal thoughts and 16 percent had self-harmed sometime in their lives. The figures were much higher for young people. In the USA, mortality rates are rising, particularly for white middle-aged men and women, due to ‘despair’, meaning deaths due to drug and alcohol addictions, suicide, and vehicle accidents.&nbsp; An epidemic of distress seems to be gripping some of the richest nations in the world.</p> <p>Socioeconomic inequality matters because it strengthens the belief that some people are worth much more than others. Those at the top seem hugely important and those at the bottom are seen as almost worthless. In more unequal societies we come to judge each other more by status and worry more about how others judge us. <a href="https://academic.oup.com/esr/article/30/4/525/2763459">Research on 28 European countries</a> shows that inequality increases status anxiety in all income groups, from the poorest ten percent to the richest tenth. The poor are affected most but even the richest ten percent of the population are more worried about status in unequal societies. </p> <p><a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-social-policy/article/poverty-in-global-perspective-is-shame-a-common-denominator/DED0C9DC02D8ABCAA8F177BA3CC477AB">Another study</a> of how people experience low social status in both rich and poor countries found that, despite huge differences in their material living standards, across the world people living in relative poverty had a strong sense of shame and self-loathing and felt that they were failures: being at the bottom of the social ladder feels the same whether you live in the UK, Norway, Uganda or Pakistan. Therefore, simply raising material living standards is not enough to produce genuine wellbeing or quality of life in the face of inequality.</p> <p>Although it appears that the vast majority of the population are affected by inequality, we respond in different ways to the worries it creates about how others see and judge us. As we show in <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Inner-Level-Societies-Everyones-Wellbeing/dp/1846147417/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8">The Inner Level</a>, one way is to feel burdened and oppressed by lack of confidence, feelings of inferiority and low self-esteem, and that leads to high levels of depression and anxiety in more unequal societies. </p> <p>A second is to try to flaunt your own worth and achievements, to ‘self enhance’ and become narcissistic.<strong> </strong>Psychotic symptoms such as delusions of grandeur are more common in more unequal countries, as is schizophrenia. As the graph below shows, narcissism increases as income inequality rises, as measured by ‘<a href="https://www.ipearlab.org/media/publications/JoP2008a.pdf">Narcissistic Personality Inventory’ (NPI)</a> scores from successive samples of the US population. </p> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Katepickett.png" alt="" width="460" /></p> <p class="image-caption">Sources: <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Inner-Level-Societies-Everyones-Wellbeing/dp/1846147417/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8">The Inner Level</a> and <a href="https://www.ipearlab.org/media/publications/JoP2008a.pdf">Twenge et al 2008</a>.</p> <p>A third response is to find other ways to overcome what psychologists call the ‘social evaluative threat’ through drugs, alcohol or gambling, through comfort eating, or through status consumption and conspicuous consumerism. Those who live in more unequal places are more likely to spend money on expensive cars and shop for status goods; and they are more likely to have high levels of personal debt because they try to show that they are not ‘second-class people’ by owning ‘first-class things.’ </p> <p>In <em>The Inner Level, </em>the evidence we show of the impact of inequality on mental wellbeing is only part of the new picture. We also discuss two of the key myths that some commentators use to justify the perpetuation and tolerance of inequality. </p> <p>First, by examining our evolutionary past and our history as egalitarian, cooperative, sharing hunter-gatherers, we dispel the false idea that humans are, in their very nature, competitive, aggressive and individualistic. Inequality is not inevitable and we humans have all the psychological and social aptitudes to live differently.&nbsp; </p> <p>Second, we also tackle the idea that current levels of inequality reflect a justifiable ‘meritocracy’ where those of natural ability move up and the incapable languish at the bottom. In fact the reverse is true: inequalities of outcome limit equality of opportunity; differences in achievement and attainment are driven by inequality, rather than being a consequence of it.</p> <p>Finally, we argue that inequality is a major roadblock to creating sustainable economies that serve to optimise the health and wellbeing of both people and planet. &nbsp;Because consumerism is about self-enhancement and status competition, it is intensified by inequality. And as inequality leads to a societal breakdown in trust, solidarity and social cohesion, it reduces people’s willingness to act for the common good. This is shown in everything from the tendency for more unequal societies to do less recycling to surveys which show that business leaders in more unequal societies are less supportive of international environmental protection agreements. &nbsp;By acting as an enemy between us, inequality prevents us from acting together to create the world that we want.</p> <p>So what can we do? The first step is to recognise the problem and spread the word.&nbsp; Empowering people to see the roots of their distress and unease not in their personal weaknesses but in the divisiveness of inequality and its emphasis on superiority and inferiority is a necessary step in releasing our collective capacity to fight for change.&nbsp; </p> <p>The UK charity we founded, The Equality Trust, has <a href="https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/take-action">resources for activists</a> and a network of local groups. In the USA, check out <a href="http://inequality.org/">inequality.org. </a>Worldwide, the <a href="https://www.fightinequality.org/en/about/">Fight Inequality Alliance</a> works with more than 100 partners to work for a more equal world. And look out for the new global <a href="http://wellbeingeconomy.org/">Wellbeing Economy Alliance</a> this autumn.</p> <p>Our own focus for change is to work for the increase of all kinds of economic democracy—everything from more cooperatives and employee-owned companies to stronger trade unions, more workers on company boards and the publication of pay-ratios. We believe that extending democratic rights to workers embeds greater equality more firmly into any culture.&nbsp; </p> <p>Of course, we would also like to see more progressive taxation and action on tax evasion and tax havens. We’d like to see more citizens paid a Living Wage, and action taken on universal provision of high-quality lifelong education, universal health and social services. There are lots of ways to tackle inequality at the international, national and local levels, so we all need to work in ways that suit our capabilities and values. </p> <p>Inequality creates the social and political divisions that isolate us from each other, so it’s time for us all to reach out, connect, communicate and act collectively. We really are all in this together.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson’s new book is<strong> </strong><a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/Inner-Level-Societies-Everyones-Wellbeing/dp/1846147417">The Inner Level: How More Equal Societies Reduce Stress, Restore Sanity and Improve Everyone’s Wellbeing</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar/mental-health-why-were-all-sick-under-neoliberalism">Mental health: why we&#039;re all sick under neoliberalism </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/kira-m-newman/why-does-happiness-inequality-matter">Why does happiness inequality matter?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sue-gerhardt/hard-times-human-face-of-neoliberalism">Hard times: the human face of neo-liberalism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/joel-millward-hopkins/neoliberal-psychology">Neoliberal psychology</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Inequality Richard Wilkinson Kate Pickett The politics of mental health Care Economics Sun, 12 Aug 2018 18:08:05 +0000 Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson 119209 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Sexual exploitation and abuse: why pick on charities? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/mike-aaronson/sexual-exploitation-and-abuse-why-pick-on-charities <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>There is always a line to be drawn between protecting reputation and doing the right thing. Charity trustees should be judged on whether they draw it in the right place.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Mike Aaronson.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption"><a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/dfataustralianaid/21614837788/">Members of the Solomon Islands Young Women’s Christian Association march in support of female rights during International Women’s Day in Honiara</a>, 2011. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Members_of_the_Solomon_Islands_Young_Women%E2%80%99s_Christian_Association_(YWCA)_march_in_support_of_female_rights_during_International_Women%E2%80%99s_Day_in_Honiara_(21614837788).jpg">Flickr/DFAT/Jeremy Miller via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p>In February 2018 The Times newspaper claimed that Oxfam GB workers in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake had paid young women for sex and that Oxfam had covered this up. This provoked a frenzy of criticism of Oxfam in <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-43112200">the media</a> and in <a href="https://dfidnews.blog.gov.uk/2018/02/20/international-development-secretarys-statement-to-parliament-on-oxfam-and-safeguarding-in-the-aid-sector/">Parliament</a>. It was followed by further assertions that the aid sector had failed to deal adequately with sexual exploitation and abuse, including alleged poor governance and process around the handling of sexual harassment claims at Save the Children UK. Oxfam in particular has been forced onto the back foot and has struggled to defend itself. Both charities have suffered serious <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-44496430?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/cz3nmk0k7k3t/oxfam&amp;link_location=live-reporting-story">falls</a> in <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/jul/09/save-the-children-uk-expects-income-to-fall-by-67m">income</a>. </p> <p>The Charity Commission has launched two statutory inquiries and the House of Commons International Development Select Committee (the IDSC) has undertaken an investigation into sexual exploitation and abuse in the wider aid sector. The Charity Commission is yet to pronounce, but the IDSC’s <a href="https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmintdev/840/840.pdf">report</a> was published on 31 July. It is an impressive piece of work, a welcome attempt to provide a holistic and balanced view of a complex and difficult issue.</p> <p>Yet having worked in the sector in a leadership role and grappled with these problems I find some of the report’s conclusions harsh, particularly with regard to Oxfam. Aid organisations carry a lot of risk, operating in chaotic and stressful environments where in trying to do good they can end up doing harm. Recent revelations of sexual exploitation and abuse have pointed the finger at aid charities, but actually they are the ones who have done most to address this issue. The problem is complex and there are no easy answers; sensationalising the debate doesn’t help.</p> <p>We should definitely take the IDSC’s recommendations seriously: the aid community’s duty to protect vulnerable people demands that it does better than it has done so far. Even if some of the proposals turn out to be unworkable, doing nothing is not acceptable. Improved systems and processes will make a difference, but ultimately it is the integrity and quality of leadership that counts most.</p> <p>Nevertheless it is important to stress that the report is not about aid charities but the “aid sector” as a whole (including United Nations and other multilateral bodies, UN peacekeepers, bilateral donors including the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), and international and local NGOs. Yet you would struggle to understand this from some of the media coverage of the report’s launch.</p> <p>For example the headline on the BBC <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/cme28xx5grnt/charities-sexual-misconduct-scandal">website’s coverage</a> was “Charities' sexual misconduct scandal,” while the more <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-45013078?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/cme28xx5grnt/charities-sexual-misconduct-scandal&amp;link_location=live-reporting-story">detailed report</a> that followed quotes the IDSC’s reference to a "collective failure of leadership" and then lazily links this to “the charities” rather than to the wider aid sector. Indeed, much of the criticism directed against charities since February has been disproportionate. Why have they been the target when the problem goes much wider?</p> <p>One answer is that they are in the spotlight because they take the issue of safeguarding seriously. The report’s starting point is the 2002 <a href="https://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/international-development/2002-Report-of-sexual-exploitation-and-abuse-Save%20the%20Children.pdf">enquiry</a> carried out for Save the Children and UNHCR into sexual exploitation and abuse of refugee children by aid workers and peacekeepers in West Africa. It draws extensively both on this and on a further 2008 Save the Children <a href="https://resourcecentre.savethechildren.net/sites/default/files/documents/no_one_to_turn_to_1.pdf">study</a> covering Haiti, Cote d’Ivoire and South Sudan. </p> <p>Following the 2002 enquiry the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response (SCHR), which comprises the chief executives of the leading international relief agency networks including Oxfam and Save the Children, instituted a process of peer review and chose the issue of safeguarding as its first topic. </p> <p>In other words, these are responsible agencies who attempt to do the right thing even if they don’t always succeed—though I distinguish here between Save the Children’s approach to safeguarding in its operational work and the way it appears to have handled <a href="http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/international-development-committee/sexual-exploitation-and-abuse-in-the-aid-sector/oral/83412.pdf">allegations concerning its senior executives</a>&nbsp;in 2012 and 2015, which I make no attempt to defend. Bad behaviour at the top of an organisation certainly weakens efforts to tackle it lower down. </p> <p>In terms of its operational work, however, the only reason the unacceptable conduct of Oxfam staff in Haiti came to light was because Oxfam had policies and procedures in place that allowed them to discover the problem and to deal with it—including putting the information in the <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-14514905">public domain</a> (although not all of it - see below). As the report makes clear, of more concern is what goes on in those agencies that don’t have the same standards, who don’t take safeguarding seriously enough, and where there is a “culture of denial” that sexual exploitation and abuse actually takes place.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p>Unacceptable behaviour by expatriate relief workers has dominated the media coverage of the Oxfam/Haiti saga. However the IDSC was told that local people make up the highest proportion of abusers (simply because they are more numerous), and that it is impossible to deal with sexual exploitation and abuse by staff in any culture in isolation from how women—especially—are treated in those cultures; in other words the problem goes beyond the aid sector. </p> <p>This highlights the limitations of one of the flagship recommendations of the report, the introduction of “a global register of aid workers.” I would support this measure because it sends a clear message, but it will almost certainly not catch the majority of potential offenders. We must not let a focus by the media on a few individuals blind us to the wider dimensions of the problem. </p> <p>At various points the report accuses the aid sector of being more concerned with protecting its own reputation than with tackling the root problem of sexual exploitation and abuse. It argues that Oxfam should have given DFID more details of what happened in Haiti and that aid agencies should always be “fully transparent.” While I accept the importance of transparency it seems to me that this fails to take into account the genuine challenges faced by the trustees of charities, who have a fiduciary duty to protect the reputation of the organisation. That is because, if the charity suffers, so do its beneficiaries. So, up to a point, it is perfectly reasonable for charitable trustees to seek to act in a way that protects the charity’s reputation.</p> <p>Charities are independent organisations, not arms length bodies of government. Clearly they must keep their donors and regulators informed of serious failings. But this sits alongside other obligations, and difficult decisions have to be made. What do trustees do when legal advice and values clash? For example, the legal advice Oxfam received made clear that if it had shared externally the names of those staff members it had disciplined or the reasons for their dismissal it would have exposed itself to legal risk in terms of potential privacy/human rights claims. Any costs arising from such claims would have had to be met from charitable funds that could otherwise have been used to support beneficiaries. It is easy to see why Oxfam were cautious. </p> <p>Clearly, this duty to protect the reputation of the charity has limits; it cannot legitimise neglecting the interests of beneficiaries or promoting the self-interests of the organization over the values to which it subscribes. There is a balance to be struck and a line to be drawn; trustees should be judged by whether they draw that line in the right place. In the Haiti case, Oxfam at the time judged that they had; the IDSC disagrees. The Charity Commission’s conclusions on this matter will be interesting. </p> <p>These considerations aside, the central argument in the report is that the aid sector must demonstrate zero tolerance of sexual exploitation and abuse. The Committee is absolutely right about this. Fundamentally this is about just two things: values and leadership. All organisations—but particularly those claiming to be values-based—need to be clear on what they stand for, spell out the behaviours they expect to see and those they will not accept, and demonstrate that they mean what they say through courageous and consistent leadership.</p> <p>Not for the first time, I am reminded of the wise dictum of philosopher Onora O’Neill: “<a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01p457t">trustworthiness before trust</a>”—in other words, if you want people to trust you, you have to show you are worthy of their trust. Even if all the recommendations in the IDSC report proved to be workable and were adopted, they could not on their own achieve that end. Systems and processes have an important role to play, but ultimately the only way to sustain trust in the aid sector—among its beneficiaries as much as its donors—is for all aid organisations to behave in a trustworthy way. And if they can’t achieve that they shouldn’t be operating at all.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/uk/stephen-twigg/international-aid-groups-must-reform-in-face-of-sexual-abuse-scandals">International Aid groups must reform in the face of sexual abuse scandals</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jonathan-glennie/at-what-cost-reflection-on-crisis-at-save-children-uk">At what cost? A reflection on the crisis at Save the Children UK</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam-part-2">What’s to be done with Oxfam, part 2?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Mike Aaronson The role of money Care Economics Tue, 07 Aug 2018 06:45:19 +0000 Mike Aaronson 119155 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Does Donald Trump’s foreign policy actually make sense? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ian-hughes/does-donald-trump-s-foreign-policy-actually-make-sense <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>It’s entirely logical for narcissists to seek alliances with authoritarian leaders.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/IanHughes5.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">President Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump meet in Hamburg, Germany on July 7 2017. Credit: <a href="http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/news/55006/photos">en.Kremlin.ru</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/">CC BY 4.0</a>.</p> <p>After leaving allies rattled at the NATO Summit in Brussels and dodging mass protests in the UK, Donald Trump is now traveling on to meet with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki—a meeting <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/10/politics/trump-putin-meeting/index.html">he has said</a> “may be the easiest of all.” Trump’s boorish behaviour in Brussels fits a now well-established pattern of attacks on democratic allies and praise for authoritarian leaders that has left the rest of the world struggling to make sense of his seemingly incomprehensible conduct. Viewed from the perspective of Trump’s possible mental state, however, his foreign policy makes perfect sense.</p> <p>From the beginning of his involvement in politics Trump’s behaviour has prompted questions about the state of his mental health. During the 2016 presidential election campaign, <a href="https://qz.com/871961/a-harvard-psychiatrist-wrote-to-obama-to-demand-a-psychiatric-evaluation-of-trump/">three psychiatrists wrote</a> to then-President Barack Obama warning that Trump’s “widely reported symptoms of mental instability—including &nbsp;grandiosity, impulsivity, hypersensitivity to slights or criticism, and an apparent inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality—lead us to question his fitness for the immense responsibilities of the office.”</p> <p>After Trump was sworn in as President, 27 psychologists and mental health professionals <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Dangerous-Case-Donald-Trump-Psychiatrists/dp/1250179459/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1531128837&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=the+dangerous+case+of+donald+trump%27+27+psychiatrists+assess">published a book</a> called “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump,” in which the authors expressed their collective professional opinion “that anyone as mentally unstable as this man simply should not be entrusted with the life-and-death powers of the presidency.”</p> <p>While a range of conditions have been mooted by mental health professionals as possible explanations for Trump’s disturbing behaviour, the condition that most concerns these psychiatrists is a disorder known as ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ian-hughes/fire-and-fury-psychodrama-of-stable-genius">malignant narcissism</a>.’ This disorder combines extreme narcissistic behaviour and acute paranoia with the absence of conscience that is usually exhibited by psychopaths.</p> <p>One of the distinguishing traits of malignant narcissism, as the psychiatrists’ letter to President Obama noted, is a hypersensitivity to slights or criticism, which results in what is known as ‘narcissistic rage’ towards anyone who disagrees. &nbsp;When exhibited by someone in a position of power, this would manifest as a kind of fury towards one’s political opponents, the press and the courts, together with active measures to curtail their dissent.</p> <p>Individuals with acute paranoia are characterised by a worldview that sees other people as inherently untrustworthy, along with an unshakable conviction that these others are out to harm them. A paranoid leader would therefore recoil from alliances and seek to fortify their territory against internal and external threats. Leaders who combine both extreme narcissistic and paranoid traits characteristically hold deeply racist beliefs, viewing others unlike themselves as not only inferior but also as existential threats to this territory, or to ‘the nation’ and ‘our values.’</p> <p>A third feature of malignant narcissism is perhaps the most dangerous aspect of the condition, namely an inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Leaders with this condition tend to view themselves as world figures capable of bending history to their will, and the blueprint they have in mind for reshaping the world is typically a dangerously simplistic, narcissistic and psychopathic vision. </p> <p><a href="https://disorderedworld.com/2013/04/01/hitler/">Adolf Hitler’s narcissistic fantasy</a>, as laid out in <em>Mein Kampf</em> and later enacted in the Second World War, saw the ‘true’ international order as one where ‘pure’ nations fought to the death. In his view, war was a means by which the strongest nations on earth assumed their rightful position as overlords. In preparation for such a war, nations must ‘purify’ themselves of their ‘polluting elements’—whether Jews, homosexuals, the disabled or ‘inferior’ races. Hitler’s ambition was to conquer Europe and eliminate the ‘inferior’ populations of Russia and Eastern Europe, while retaining a minority as slave labour, becoming ‘Emperor of all Europe’ in the process. In pursuit of this fantasy, tens of millions of people were killed.</p> <p>Trump is not Hitler, but the debate on his mental health must consider the possibility that he too harbours a terrifying narcissistic fantasy. The outline of that fantasy is beginning to become clear: </p> <p>That the world is a dangerous and threatening place; that alliances are treacherous; and that only strong nations standing alone can survive. That in this dangerous world the ‘superior’ white Christian civilisation is existentially threatened by ‘inferior’ civilisations, chiefly non-white people, Islam and China. And that under these circumstances, the US must ‘purify’ itself, build up its military strength and seek new alliances with ‘strong’ powers in place of the ‘weak’ nations with which it is currently aligned. </p> <p>That America must therefore seek the dissolution of its alliances with NATO and its small East Asian allies, along with the breakup of the European Union, and form a new and stronger alliance with white Christian Russia. And that an alliance of the US and Russia, which would command 92 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, would be unassailable in the coming confrontation with Islam and China. In this narcissistic fantasy, Donald Trump would become ‘Emperor of the World.’ But while this may be a fantasy there’s a definite logic to it, albeit one that is distorted and pathological. </p> <p>Malignant narcissism is a dangerous mental disorder. In their quest for and exercise of power, the malignant narcissist’s greatest weapon is the fact that psychologically healthy people are not able to believe that any individual could harbour such insane ideas. But our tendency to dismiss the unthinkable without serious consideration leaves us without a frame of reference to interpret and address the malignant narcissist as they relentlessly pursue objectives that are clear and consistent. Our refusal to think the unthinkable leaves us confused, disoriented and unable to resist effectively.</p> <p>History clearly shows how extreme the danger from malignant narcissistic leaders can be. Tyrants such as Hitler, Stalin and Mao each displayed traits associated with psychopathy, extreme narcissism and acute paranoia. The lethal mixture that each of these leaders displayed in terms of their total disregard for human life, their pathological paranoia, their narcissistic inability to doubt their own beliefs, and the pathological fantasies that propelled them, were significant factors that led to the Holocaust, the Gulag, and Mao’s Great Famine.</p> <p>If, as it appears, Trump came to Europe to undermine NATO and align the US more closely with Russia, we urgently need to begin to think the unthinkable, before the unthinkable happens again. The NATO Summit and Trump’s meeting with Putin should mark a turning point in the Republican Party’s support for this dangerous President. Recognising that a distorted logic may be driving Trump’s every decision should unite democrats on both sides of the aisle to curb his actions and remove him lawfully from power. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ian-hughes/fire-and-fury-psychodrama-of-stable-genius">Fire and fury: the psychodrama of a very stable genius</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/ian-hughes/demons-and-angels-strongman-leaders-and-social-violence">Demons and angels: strongman leaders and social violence</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ian-hughes/real-clash-of-civilisations">The real clash of civilisations</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation United States International politics Donald Trump Ian Hughes Care Sun, 15 Jul 2018 17:12:09 +0000 Ian Hughes 118857 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Who is a refugee? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/byung-chul-han/who-is-refugee <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>I would like nothing better than to flee to a dreamland again, a hospitable country in which I can fully be a patriot again, a lover of the country. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/ByungChulHan.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Demo "Gleiche Rechte für alle" (Refugee-Solidaritätsdemo) am 16. Februar 2013 in Wien. Credit: <a title="Haeferl" href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Haeferl">Haeferl</a> via <a href="https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/13/2013-02-16_-_Wien_-_Demo_Gleiche_Rechte_f%C3%BCr_alle_%28Refugee-Solidarit%C3%A4tsdemo%29_-_Refugees_are_human_beings.jpg/1024px-2013-02-16_-_Wien_-_Demo_Gleiche_Rechte_f%C3%BCr_alle_%28Refugee-Soli">Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en">CC BY-SA 3.0</a>.</p> <p>“We Refugees” is the title of <a href="http://www.arendtcenter.it/en/2016/10/11/hannah-arendt-we-refugees-1943/">an essay by Hannah Arendt</a> that was published in 1943 in <em>The Menorah Journal.</em> There, in a refreshing manner, she abandons the conventional concept of the refugee. She writes:</p> <blockquote><p>“A refugee used to be a person driven to seek refuge because of some act committed or some political opinion held. Well, it is true we have had to seek refuge; but we committed no acts and most of us never dreamt of having any radical opinion. With us the meaning of the term ‘refugee’ has changed. Now ‘refugees’ are those of us who have been so unfortunate as to arrive in a new country without means and have to be helped by Refugee Committees.”</p></blockquote> <p>Arendt, then, will describe herself not as a ‘refugee’ but as a ‘newcomer’ or ‘immigrant.’ Here Arendt is imagining an entirely new figure of the refugee, perhaps one that is yet to come. This refugee is simply someone who goes to a new country in the expectation of a better life. Arendt describes the figure of the ‘optimistic refugee’ as follows:</p> <blockquote><p>“The more optimistic among us would even add that their whole former life had been passed in a kind of unconscious exile and only their new country now taught them what a home really looks like. [...] after a year optimists are convinced they speak English as well as their mother tongue; and after two years they swear solemnly that they speak English better than any other language—their German is a language they barely remember.”</p></blockquote> <p>In order to forget, this species of refugee avoids any reference to the concentration and internment camps, as this would make them ‘pessimists’. Arendt quotes the words of a fellow countryman who had barely arrived in France before founding what were known as ‘assimilation societies:’ “We were good Germans in Germany and therefore we shall be good Frenchmen in France.” The ideal immigrant, Arendt argues, is like “a woman of tidy size [who is] delighted with every new dress that promises to give her the desired waistline.”</p> <p><strong>First, the painful social isolation.</strong></p> <p>In Hannah Arendt’s terms, I was an optimistic refugee myself. I wanted to live a new life in a new country that was impossible for me in my home country. The expectations of my social environment and its conventional structures would not have allowed me to live and even think differently, radically differently. I was twenty-two at the time. After studying metallurgy in Korea I wanted to study philosophy, literature and theology in Germany.</p> <p>On the campus of my university in Seoul I often gazed at the sky, thinking to myself that it was too beautiful for me to want to spend my entire life as a metallurgist beneath that sky. I dreamt of a better, more beautiful life. I wanted to reflect philosophically on life. I fled to Germany and arrived there, twenty-two years old, penniless and devoid of language; at the time I hardly spoke any German.</p> <p>At the beginning, like every optimistic refugee, I was confronted with social isolation. It is painful. This makes me feel deeply the pain of today’s refugees. I suffer with them. With my poor German, it was hard to integrate into the social structures I encountered. Inadequate language skills were the main obstacle to settling in as I sought to do (I am reluctant to speak of so-called integration). Then love proved to be the best strategy for settling in.</p> <p>A German woman who loved me, I thought simple-mindedly, would listen to me and quickly teach me the German language in order to understand what I thought of her, what feelings I had towards her and so forth. I was greedy for every new German word. I wanted German; my ambition was to speak like the Germans.</p> <p>We know that <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Willy_Brandt">Willy Brandt</a> also followed this strategy: within a few months of exile he was writing articles and speeches in Norwegian. While living under the pseudonym of Gunnar Gaasland in the Berlin underground he spoke German with a Norwegian accent. Clearly it was not only his talent but also his greed for language, in fact his greed for love, that accelerated his acquisition of a foreign language to such an extent.</p> <p>One year after arriving in Germany I believed, like the optimistic refugee described by Hannah Arendt, that I spoke German better than any other language. For Arendt, patriotism too is purely a ‘matter of practice’. The ‘ideal immigrant’ is one who “immediately discovers and loves the native mountains.” They are a patriot, a lover of the country. They love the country in which they have set up a new life. I too love this country. One day I adopted German citizenship and gave up my Korean pass in exchange; now I am a German.</p> <p>Meanwhile I speak German better than my mother tongue, which has literally been reduced to a mere mother tongue: I only speak Korean to my mother. My mother tongue has become foreign to me. I love Germany. I would even call myself a patriot, a country-lover. I am certainly more patriotic than <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frauke_Petry">Frauke Petry</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Gauland">Alexander Gauland</a> and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bj%C3%B6rn_H%C3%B6cke">Björn Höcke</a> put together. With their irresponsible populism they degrade Germany, my country, which has always been a very hospitable country towards me.</p> <p><strong>What does it mean to be a good citizen?</strong></p> <p>Someone who was a good citizen in their native country will also be a good citizen in the new one. We should continue to welcome these ‘newcomers’. Someone who was already a criminal in their native country, like Tunisian-born &nbsp;<a href="https://www.cnn.com/2016/12/22/europe/anis-amri-berlin-christmas-market/index.html">Anis Amri</a>, the perpetrator of the 2016 Berlin attack, will remain a criminal in the new one. We will turn them away. But we should offer the newcomers an environment in which they can become good citizens.</p> <p>But what does it mean to be a good citizen? I am the second Korean to hold a professorship at Berlin’s University of the Arts; the first Korean professor was <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isang_Yun">Isang Yun</a>. He was a significant composer. He was a political person. In the 1960s he protested vehemently against the military dictatorship that was ruling South Korea. He was arrested by the South Korean secret service in 1967, in the middle of Germany.</p> <p>In Seoul he was sentenced to life imprisonment. After being released early he returned to Germany, now stripped of his citizenship by the South Korean regime. He became a refugee and was naturalized in Germany. But perhaps he too, like Hannah Arendt, would deny that he was a refugee. Like Arendt, he would have said, ‘I am a good, optimistic immigrant’. His German was excellent.</p> <p><strong>I would like nothing better than another dreamland.</strong></p> <p>A good citizen is good on the basis of their mentality. They share moral values like liberty, fraternity and justice. Their actions against the ruling political system may be criminalized by it; but because of their moral mentality (in the Kantian sense) they are still a good citizen and also a patriot, someone who loves the country and its people.</p> <p>In the last years of his life, Isang Yun despaired at the open eruptions of xenophobia in the reunified Germany. He was distressed by images of the crowd applauding in front of the firebombed residence for former Vietnamese contract workers in <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rostock-Lichtenhagen_riots">Rostock-Lichenhagen</a>. And he was disappointed, for he loved Germany. I too consider the events in Rostock a pogrom.</p> <p>At the moment I am unsettled by the resurgence of xenophobia in response to large numbers of refugees, both in Germany and other European countries. I would like nothing better than to flee to a dreamland again, a hospitable country in which I can fully be a patriot again, a lover of the country.</p> <p><em>This article was first published in the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.faz.net/aktuell/feuilleton/optimismus-der-fremden-wer-ist-fluechtling-14718649.html">Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung</a>. It has been translated by Wieland Hoban.</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/byung-chul-han/why-revolution-is-no-longer-possible">Why revolution is no longer possible</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/chitra-nagarajan/how-politicians-and-media-made-us-hate-immigrants">How politicians and the media made us hate immigrants </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/lena-kainz-rebecca-buxton/all-refugees-want-to-go-home-right">All refugees want to go home. Right?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation refugees Byung-Chul Han Care Culture Tue, 10 Jul 2018 19:50:23 +0000 Byung-Chul Han 118733 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Motherhood and an end to women’s civil war https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/niki-seth-smith/motherhood-and-end-to-women-s-civil-war <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Maternal ambivalence has always been provocative: a review of Sheila Heti’s new book.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/NikiSethSmith5.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Doors, choices, decisions. Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/doors-choices-choose-decision-1767562/">Pixabay/qimono</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p>Sheila Heti’s <a href="https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/1098254/motherhood/">‘Motherhood’</a> came out in May, not a day too soon for me. Her book is something I urgently needed to read, a novel drawn from life and a kind of fictionalized diary that allows Heti to interrogate the question, ‘Should I become a mother?’</p> <p>Her answer is ‘no,’ she will not. Or given that Heti inverts the question, seeing it as a positive choice: ‘yes,’ she will remain childfree. Although the book doesn’t use this term, <em>freedom</em> is an idea to which it keeps returning.</p> <p>The narrator calls writing the book a “prophylactic” or a “raft” to get her to the other side of 40, an age Heti reached while finishing the manuscript. The reading experience is often maddening, like watching a mouse scurry around in a trap.</p> <p>&nbsp;“On the one hand, the joy of children,” she writes, “On the other hand, the misery of them. On the one hand, the freedom of not having children. On the other hand, the loss of never having had them…”</p> <p>As in Heti’s breakthrough work <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/jan/11/sheila-heti-how-should-person-be">‘How Should a Person Be?’</a> much of ‘Motherhood’ consists of recounted conversations with friends and family as the narrator seeks direction from anyone and everyone in her life. In offbeat injections that brighten the prose she also consults ‘the coins’ (a flipping method adapted from the I-Ching), producing exchanges in which we are tempted to find meaning, at turns comic and profound.</p> <blockquote><p>“Are these women punished? </p><p><em>Yes </em><em></em></p><p>By not experiencing the mystery and joy?</p><p><em>Yes</em><em></em></p><p>In any other way? </p><p><em>Yes </em><em></em></p><p>By not passing on their genes? </p><p><em>Yes </em><em></em></p><p>But I don't care about passing on my genes! Can't one pass on one’s genes through art? </p><p><em>Yes</em><em></em></p><p>Do men who don't procreate receive punishment from the universe?<br /> <em>No”</em></p></blockquote> <p>There’s a note at the beginning of the book explaining that the coin results are real. This is typical of Heti’s irreverent approach to philosophy, allowing her to both poke fun at and acknowledge the desire for a spiritual destiny or guide.</p> <p>This constant self-seeking has led Heti to be <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/06/25/true-lives-2">accused</a> of narcissism. A <a href="https://harpers.org/archive/2018/04/never-done/3/">caustic review</a> of ‘Motherhood’ in Harpers Magazine went even further, denouncing the book as “existential solipsism.” The reviewer, Christine Smallwood, doesn’t seem to acknowledge the echo of an accusation that’s levelled at all non-mothers—that&nbsp; they are ‘selfish, shallow and self-absorbed,’ which turns out to be the title of a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/12/books/review/selfish-shallow-and-self-absorbed-sixteen-writers-on-the-decision-not-to-have-kids.html">recent collection of essays</a> from 16 writers on their decision not to have kids (three are childless men but there’s an acknowledgment that women come in for greater social punishment).</p> <p>Maternal ambivalence has always been provocative. Rachel Cusk’s 2001 memoir ‘A Life’s Work’ <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2008/mar/21/biography.women">led to a vicious backlash</a>, including accusations similar to those levelled at Heti that she was a “self-obsessed bore” and overly-intellectual (Smallwood says Heti is “only interested in abstraction”). If doubting one’s own choice to be a mother is taboo, dwelling on the decision is <em>verboten</em>. At a recent <a href="https://www.londonreviewbookshop.co.uk/events/past/2018/5/motherhood-sheila-heti-and-sally-rooney">London Review of Books event</a> the host asked Heti how it felt to “write into the void.” Heti confessed that she’d struggled to find any books on which to build.</p> <p>That’s why I’m grateful that ‘Motherhood’ exists. Yes, the book has tunnel vision: it never looks far beyond the particular perspective of a Canadian woman with Hungarian Jewish heritage who belongs to a charmed circle of writers, yet it never pretends to try. Rather, it’s a book of pillow fears, drenched in the night sweats of the moments when we’re terribly alone with ourselves.</p> <p>While Heti is attempting to exit the long phase of life shadowed by the 'Big Decision', at the age of 32 I’m still at the threshold. The dismay and surprise I’ve already encountered from family, friends and even medical professionals has dismayed and surprised me. “But you’ll make a great mother!” “You don’t want to leave it too late and miss out.” My mother’s initial response was, “People shouldn’t think about it too much”.</p> <p>Likewise, Heti’s narrator wonders if she should simply obey her impulses. “Does the lizard brain trick the body into singing its ancient song?” Yet she finally follows another urge, also located deep in the psyche, to remain without children.&nbsp;</p> <p>The number of childless women is rising. In 2016, <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/childless-women-on-rise-more-than-ever-before-fertility-crisis-menopause-career-study-reveals-a7882496.html">17 per cent of women in England and Wales</a> over child-bearing age (defined as 45) didn’t have kids. That’s nearly twice as many as the last generation and is a trend that’s <a href="https://www.economist.com/international/2017/07/27/the-rise-of-childlessness">reflected across Europe</a>. Yet the demand to justify one’s position, and the increasing media visibility of ‘<a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/topic/childfree-by-choice">childfree by choice</a>’ or ‘voluntarily childless’ as a growing identity, means that we usually hear from women only after they have made the decision. <a href="https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Why+I+Don%2527t+want+kids">‘Why I don’t want kids’</a> YouTube videos are now practically a genre of their own—fierce , fun, feminist and 110 per cent sure.&nbsp;</p> <p>Young women like me are urged to choose a side in what one of the voices in ‘Motherhood’ calls a “civil war.” Even Heti, making up her mind, clearly feels that she is on the frontlines. Many of the book’s descriptions of mothering radiate admiring wonder yet often veil a violent rage, as in the narrator’s reaction to the constant news of her friends’ pregnancies. “There are craters, all around, and no home is safe enough not to be pummeled to dust by these blessings, by these bits of stardust, these thousand-pound babies aimed straight at the earth.”</p> <p>The pressure to decide on a role, and then to play it convincingly, is also in the theme of ‘trying on’ lives, as the narrator does with her friend Nicola, who is described as a “respectable” mother with three kids, a marriage and a house. The narrator finally rejects this life. “I realized that my fantasies were misplaced—they wormed inside me like a disease.” “Look at her life like a beautiful ocean liner, a grand old steam liner passing by…”</p> <p>This dismissal is horribly dehumanizing, as is the image of the worm. No mother’s life is a pleasure cruise. This is recognized as the poison of rivalry later in the book: “…one person’s life is not a political or general statement about how all lives should be,” the narrator admits. She shouldn’t feel superior <em>or</em> ashamed.</p> <p>‘Motherhood’ could just as well have been titled, ‘How should a woman be?’ The drive to pose this question, and the struggle to resist it, is the primary tension in Heti’s work. No wonder it raises hackles. Only the privileged have the luxury to reach for the ‘best kind of life,’ just as the vast majority of women in the world have never had the choice not to bear children.</p> <p>Yet this doesn’t make ‘Motherhood’ apolitical. It is precisely this oppressive edict—to embody the one true perfect woman—that&nbsp; exposes womanhood itself as a fraught and impossible performance beset by contradictory pressures. Being childfree is a threat to this illusion by rejecting the drive for success. “What if I pursue being a bad woman and don’t breed…” the narrator considers. “Only in the pursuit of failure can a person really be free.”</p> <p>Where ‘Motherhood’ disappoints is in failing to acknowledge the same psychic oppression that is at work on mothers themselves. If childless women are seen as failures, so too are women with kids. As <a href="https://www.telegraph.co.uk/health-fitness/mind/why-being-the-perfect-parent-can-be-bad-for-your-health/">various studies</a> have shown, reaching for the modern holy grail of ‘perfect parenthood’ is a rigged game. The feminist socialist Angela McRobbie <a href="https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1G1-353212615/feminism-the-family-and-the-new-mediated-maternalism">has described</a> a "neoliberal intensification of mothering," particularly since the financial crash. As state support is stripped away, more responsibility is piled on women to be ideal mothers, workers and wives: they have already failed before they begin.</p> <p>Jacqueline Rose takes this further in her latest work, ‘<a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35406477-mothers">Mothers: An Essay on Love and Cruelty.’</a> Drawing on diverse philosophical, literary and cultural sources including Ancient Greek medical lore, Elena Ferrante's <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26828169-the-neapolitan-novels">Neapolitan novels</a> and post-natal depression in South Africa, the book argues that mothers have long been held accountable for the suffering of the world. “Motherhood is, in Western discourse, the place in our culture where we lodge, or rather bury, the reality of our own conflicts, of what it means to be fully human,” she writes. In other words, mothers are the “ultimate scapegoats.”</p> <p>As Rose goes to great lengths to show, mothers, just like childless women, are always perceived both as threats and failures. In this she builds on Adrienne Rich’s ‘<a href="https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/305826.Of_Woman_Born">Of Woman Born: ‘Motherhood’ as Experience and Institution’</a>, a pioneering work of second-wave feminism which agued that “there is much to suggest that the male mind has always been haunted by the force of the idea of dependence on a woman for life itself.”&nbsp;Women have the ultimate power: to bring life into the world, or not. Therein lies the threat. The fight for control over women’s bodies will be lost for good if women decide not to breed.</p> <p>So who bears the heaviest cross—the outcast witch or the always-inadequate mother? This, of course, is the wrong question. Both camps are under siege, and as so often under patriarchy, they are conveniently turned against each other. We don’t even possess a neutral language. Whether we use ‘childless’ (implying defectiveness) or ‘childfree’ (implying that mothers are ‘unfree’) is just one of the many battle-lines. By getting lost in the fray and exposing the bitterness and sorrow of division, Heti’s book can be read as an urgent missive to lay down arms.</p> <p>There has never been a better moment to acknowledge that neither position is ‘natural,’ and to accept <a href="https://philosophynow.org/issues/69/Becoming_A_Woman_Simone_de_Beauvoir_on_Female_Embodiment">Simone De Beauvoir’s classic statement</a> on the realities of self-construction: “One is not born, but rather becomes a woman.” It’s not only the rising number of childless women; it’s also the growth of different kinds of mothering through the increased use of reproductive technologies like IVF that’s used by lesbian couples to <a href="http://helloflo.com/the-rise-of-shared-motherhood-in-lesbian-couples/">share motherhood</a>. There’s an ongoing struggle for the rights of queer bodies to use this tech, as well as a class and racial divide due to its expense. Yet the possibilities give new meaning to the question, ‘Will I make a good mother?’</p> <p>I, for one, am undecided. ‘Motherhood’ is also a raft for me in entering these turbid waters. Heti doesn’t touch on some of my most vital concerns. For a book published in the Trump era, it doesn’t waste many words considering what kind of future might be bequeathed to the next generation. If I listen to my animal instincts, they are telling me to direct all my powers, such as they are, towards protecting the good that is already in the world. Practically, financially, and in deeper terms of emotional energy, I am not sure I can also have children.</p> <p>There is much more to say, yet Heti is brave to have opened the door. ‘Motherhood’ is a gesture towards honesty, bringing much that was dark into light. The book makes it more possible to <em>think</em> the decision, but also to dream, embody and feel it. And that’s what I intend to do. </p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sofa-gradin/we-don-t-have-to-be-related-to-be-family">We don’t have to be related to be a family</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/emily-rowland/i-want-to-talk-about-my-miscarriage">I want to talk about my miscarriage</a> </div> <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> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Niki Seth-Smith Liberation Care Intersectionality Sun, 08 Jul 2018 18:48:29 +0000 Niki Seth-Smith 118732 at https://www.opendemocracy.net I love you just the way you are https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/richard-gunderman/i-love-you-just-way-you-are <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why kindness matters, personally and politically.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Zoe Ferguson_1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/planeta/30870467422">Flickr/Ron Mader</a>.&nbsp;<a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">CC BY-SA 2.0</a>.</p> <p>The release of the Mister Rogers documentary&nbsp;<a href="https://slate.com/culture/2018/06/mr-rogers-documentary-wont-you-be-my-neighbor-reviewed.html"><em>Won’t You Be My Neighbor?</em>&nbsp;</a>calls to mind the essential message of Rogers’ long-running children’s program in the USA,&nbsp;<em>Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood</em>.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/28/arts/mister-rogers-tv-s-friend-for-children-is-dead-at-74.html">Fred McFeely Rogers</a>, who died in 2003, was also an ordained Presbyterian minister. Over the course of three decades on public broadcasting, he brought to millions of children what his faith’s&nbsp;<a href="https://www.pcusa.org/resource/minutes-215th-general-assembly-2003-part-i-journal/">General Assembly&nbsp;</a>referred to as “unconditional love.”</p> <p>In preaching love, Rogers wasn’t just attending to the moral character of his youthful audience. He believed that he was also promoting their health. As he said in&nbsp;<a href="https://www.law.cornell.edu/copyright/cases/464_US_417.htm#464us417n27">1979</a>, “My whole approach in broadcasting has always been, ‘You are an important person just the way you are. You can make healthy decisions.’ Maybe I’m going on too long, but I just feel that anything that allows a person to be more active in the control of his or her life, in a healthy way, is important.”</p> <p>Since Rogers’ death, evidence has mounted that he was on to something—namely, that love and kindness truly are healthful, and that people who express them regularly really do lead healthier lives. Simply put, people who are generous and volunteer their time for the benefit of others seem to be happier than those who don’t, and&nbsp;<a href="https://www.dartmouth.edu/wellness/emotional/rakhealthfacts.pdf">happy people&nbsp;</a>tend to have fewer health complaints and live longer than those who are unhappy.</p> <p><strong>Love gave rise to a calling.</strong></p> <p>Born in Pennsylvania in 1928, as a young minister, Rogers regretted the messages television was conveying to children in the 1960s. He&nbsp;<a href="https://www.salon.com/1999/08/10/rogers_2/">said</a>, “I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there’s some way of using this fabulous instrument to nurture those who would watch and listen.”&nbsp;<em>Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood</em>&nbsp;debuted nationally in 1968 and won its creator and host many&nbsp;<a href="https://www.fredrogers.org/fred-rogers/bio/">accolades</a>, including a Presidential Medal of Freedom, two Peabody Awards, and over 40 honorary degrees.</p> <p>Rogers believed that the need to love and be loved was universal, and he sought to cultivate these capacities through every program, saying in a 2004&nbsp;<a href="https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0433376/">documentary</a>&nbsp;hosted by actor Michael Keaton, one of his former stagehands, “You know, I think everybody longs to be loved, and longs to know that he or she is lovable. And consequently, the greatest thing we can do is to help somebody know they’re loved and capable of loving.”</p> <p><strong>Love and health.</strong></p> <p>As it turns out, there are many ways in which love and kindness are good for health. For one thing, they tend to reduce&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27100366">factors</a>&nbsp;that undermine it. Doing something nice for someone causes the release of endorphins, which help to relieve pain. People who make kindness a habit have lower levels of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/12/17/460030338/be-kind-unwind-how-helping-others-can-help-keep-stress-in-check">stress hormones&nbsp;</a>such as cortisol. Intentionally helping others can even lower levels of&nbsp;<a href="https://health.clevelandclinic.org/acts-kindness-can-ease-social-anxiety/">anxiety&nbsp;</a>in individuals who normally avoid social situations.</p> <p>Carrying out acts of kindness, or even merely&nbsp;<a href="https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_our_bodies_react_human_goodness">witnessing&nbsp;</a>them, also increases levels of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/hormones/oxytocin">oxytocin</a>, a hormone with&nbsp;<a href="https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/0ac8/c14228b62b9c87636f5b6eb536a434fd04de.pdf">health benefits&nbsp;</a>as diverse as lowering blood pressure, promoting good sleep, and reducing cravings for drugs such as cocaine and alcohol. That oxytocin should have so many health benefits is not so surprising when we recall its central role in stimulating uterine contractions during birth, the letdown of milk during lactation, the pleasure associated with orgasm and pair bonding.</p> <p>Acts of generosity and compassion also appear to be good for mood. A <a href="https://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/11189976/dunn,%20aknin,%20norton_prosocial_cdips.pdf?sequence=1">2010 study&nbsp;</a>showed that while people with money tend to be somewhat happier than those without it, people who spend money on others report even greater levels of happiness, an effect that can be detected even in toddlers. When people give money to others, areas of the brain associated with&nbsp;<a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17569866">pleasure</a>&nbsp;are activated, and this response is greater when the transfer is voluntary rather than mandatory.</p> <p>Such happiness can have big benefits in longevity. For example, a&nbsp;<a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1758-0854.2010.01045.x">review</a>of 160 published studies concluded that there is compelling evidence that life satisfaction and optimism are associated with better health and enhanced longevity. Another&nbsp;<a href="http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2011/10/happiness-associated-longer-life">study&nbsp;</a>of older people showed that, even after correcting for other factors such as age, disease, and health habits, those who rated their happiness highest were 35 percent less likely to die in five years than those who were least content.</p> <p><strong>What would Mister Rogers say?</strong></p> <p>Of course, Rogers would remind us that there are reasons to be committed to love and kindness that extend far beyond their health benefits. Rogers was, after all, not a physician but a minister, and ultimately he was ministering to an aspect of human wholeness that cannot be analyzed by blood tests or visualized with CT scans. In a&nbsp;<a href="https://news.dartmouth.edu/news/2018/03/revisiting-fred-rogers-2002-commencement-address">commencement address&nbsp;</a>at Dartmouth College in 2002, he focused less on the body than what he might have called the spirit:</p> <p>“When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.”</p> <p>When Rogers encouraged children to be kinder and more loving, he believed that he was not only promoting public health, but also nurturing the most important part of a human being—the part that exhibits a divine spark. As Rogers indicated in another&nbsp;<a href="https://archive.org/details/rogers_speech_5_27_01">commencement speech&nbsp;</a>the year before at Middlebury College, “I believe that appreciation is a holy thing, that when we look for what’s best in the person we happen to be with at the moment, we’re doing what God does; so in appreciating our neighbor, we’re participating in something truly sacred.”</p> <p>In expressing such deeply religious sentiments, Rogers was not trying to undermine a concern with bodily health. In fact, he regularly encouraged his viewers to adopt healthy life habits, and Rogers himself was a committed&nbsp;<a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-g-long/what-would-mister-rogers-eat_b_6193910.html">vegetarian&nbsp;</a>and lifelong swimmer who maintained a low body weight his entire life. Yet he also believed that health alone does not a full life make, and he regarded the soundness of the body as but part of the wellness of whole persons and communities, which may explain why he was able to face his own mortality with such equanimity.</p> <p>Just a few months before he died, Rogers recorded a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/watch-fred-rogers-heart-warming-final-message-grownup-fans">message&nbsp;</a>for the many adult fans who had grown up watching&nbsp;<em>Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood</em>. In it, he practiced what he preached, saying:</p> <p>“I would like to tell you what I often told you when you were much younger. I like you just the way you are. And what’s more, I’m so grateful to you for helping the children in your life to know that you’ll do everything you can to keep them safe. And to help them express their feelings in ways that will bring healing in many different neighborhoods. It’s such a good feeling to know that we’re lifelong friends.”</p><p><em>This article was originally published by&nbsp;<a href="https://theconversation.com/why-mister-rogers-message-of-love-and-kindness-is-good-for-your-health-97970" target="_self">The Conversation</a>. It was edited for <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/happiness/why-mister-rogers-message-of-love-is-good-for-your-health-20180608?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180608&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180608+CID_899529f3182c0e0e8ca592dd4bbada4a&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=hy%20Mister%20Rogers%20M">YES! Magazine</a> and re-posted on Transformation under a new title, stand-first and image. </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/zoe-ferguson/does-kindness-matter">Does kindness matter?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/genevieve-vaughan/why-kindness-is-key-to-new-economy">Why kindness is the key to a new economy</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/beulah-maud-devaney/how-random-acts-of-kindness-could-transform-support-for-battered-">How random acts of kindness could transform support for battered women</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Richard Gunderman Empathy Care Love and Spirituality Thu, 05 Jul 2018 12:25:57 +0000 Richard Gunderman 118419 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Migrant Quilt: re-stitching the fabric of community https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/valarie-lee-james/migrant-quilt-re-stitching-fabric-of-community-along-us-mexico-bord <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Memory is the first form of resistance.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/ValerieLeeJames.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Part of the Migrant Quilt, photographed at the opening of <em>What the Eye Doesn’t See Doesn’t Move the Heart:&nbsp;Migrant Quilts of the Southern Arizona Borderlands”</em> in Nogales, Arizona. Credit: Valarie Lee James. All rights reserved.</p><p>In the late 1990s in Northern California, we placed a photo of Liz (my late wife) and me, taken by the renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz, onto a quilt. Friends and family members gathered around and hand-sewed keepsakes of their lives with Liz into the cloth: bits of jewelry, ribbons, and personal messages.</p> <p>By the time the black and white photograph, created for a national “Be Here for the Cure” AIDS campaign could be seen in magazines and writ large on subway walls, many of the people Leibovitz photographed would be dead: the cute guy, the sparky little kid, the strong transgender woman and the straight teenage girl. Few would make it for the cure.</p> <p>People died by the thousands while the government turned a blind eye. Families mourned, shrouded in secrecy. The closest friends I will ever have grieved for each other even as they, too, prepared to die.</p> <p>America as a whole seemed to shake itself awake only when thousands of AIDS Names Project Quilts were laid end-to-end on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., forming a master quilt strewn with names as far as the eye could manage—a seemingly endless landscape of unspeakable loss and undeniable love. Visitors dropped to their knees, humbled by such terrible beauty.</p> <p>Now in my backyard, another quilt—the Migrant Quilt Project—continues to take shape. Now on show at the Pimeria Alta Museum in the border town of Nogales, Arizona, it is inspired in large part by the AIDS Quilt. The Migrant Quilt panels are traveling across the country and the artist/activist Jody Ipsen (the quilt’s originator) and Peggy Hazard (the project’s curator), along with many volunteer makers, hope for a similar impact on hearts and minds.</p> <p>Women on the border often have a different take on immigration issues: more of a ‘tend and befriend’ approach, a kind of common sense, needle-to-fabric mend. The responses of women to the Migrant Quilt exhibit define the soft heart of what it means to be human. The day we visited, we watched female visitors leaving in tears.</p> <p>“Docents had to go out and buy boxes of tissues” said Ipsen, “you cannot walk away from this without being moved.”</p> <p>&nbsp;The 17 quilts in the project bear the names of people who have died each year crossing the desert in the Tucson Sector since 2000—the year the county medical examiner’s office began documenting the names of the dead, including unidentified remains. Patched together with denim, work shirts, embroidered cloth, and bandanas left behind on the desert floor, the quilts are scrappy in design and raw with truth.</p> <p>Many of the&nbsp;<em>bordados</em>&nbsp;(embroidered&nbsp;cloths) stitched into the Migrant Quilts are inscribed with endearments.&nbsp;<em>Contigo en la Distancia</em>&nbsp;(With You Far Away) or&nbsp;<em>Duerme Amor Mio</em>&nbsp;(Sleep My Love) shock the viewer with familial intimacy. These personal embroideries, sometimes used as&nbsp;<em>servilletas</em>&nbsp;to carry food across the desert, are often blessed then sent along with a traveling family member. The embroideries have come a long way. Now they rest alongside the names of the deceased. &nbsp;</p> <p>Each quilt represents countless lives lost on border ground, a hundred-mile strip of geography spanning two countries. The interstitial border region has morphed into a distinct culture of its own, and the quilts, with their binational contributors, fly its flag.</p> <p>On the US side of the border, volunteers create each piece according to their own inspiration. Worn material migrates through the quilts and melds in the viewer’s eye. Names of the dead rise off the surface in bas-relief like rogue wildflowers pushing up through the desert floor, commanding the same kind of attention as the white crosses we see strung with wire in and around the slats of the border wall.</p> <p>“Quilts have traditionally been made to memorialize loved ones who died,” said Curator Hazard, “and also, to raise consciousness.” In the Nineteenth century, women used quilts not only to raise funds for the anti-slavery movement, but to express their feelings about slavery.</p> <p>Memory is the first form of resistance, and quilt-making—a primary tool of resistance and remembrance—stands the test of time. At QuiltCon 2018, the Modern Quilt Guild’s annual convention, the exhibits were honeycombed with activist quilts. The resurgence in “truth textiles” also carries on at the Social Justice Sewing Academy, which empowers youth activists for social change.</p> <p>The humblest materials can communicate what cannot be said in dangerous times, can comfort the family, and can mourn the dead. Quilting, embroidery, and applique—arts of hearth and home—remain a language shared.</p> <p>Two decades ago in Northern California, our fragile but fierce community took turns stitching Liz’s favorite piece of mud cloth onto a quilt. I remember the silence that day as we worked together, united in the province of memory. Craig, Liz’s long-time brother-in-arms, his large brown eyes brimming with tears, leaned over and carefully sewed a cowrie shell onto the fabric. Craig would be the next to die.</p> <p>Now, on our southern border, our neighbors continue to die crossing cultures. The personal is political and the political is spiritual. Rather than ask “How do we build higher walls?” we are best served as people to ask, “How do we meet?” and “How do we mourn?”</p> <p>The root of the word ‘memory’ stems from the word ‘mourn.’ The devotional art of making quilts in the service of others allows us on the US side of the border wall to touch the essence of the Other, to offer witness, and to mourn.</p> <p>The Migrant Quilt Project succeeds where rhetoric fails. Pinning and stitching, working the cloth to make sure the dead are not forgotten, these quilt-makers trust that no one turns a blind eye.</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://www.kosmosjournal.org/kj_article/the-migrant-quilt/">Kosmos Journal</a>.</em></p> <p><em>The Migrant Quilts are on exhibit at the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts, through July 15. After that, they will travel to Michigan and Illinois. See&nbsp;<a href="http://migrantquiltproject.org/">here</a>&nbsp;for the exhibit schedule and more information.</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/michael-edwards/virtues-of-many-sided-life">The virtues of a many-sided life</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/chitra-nagarajan/how-politicians-and-media-made-us-hate-immigrants">How politicians and the media made us hate immigrants </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation immigration Valarie Lee James Activism Care Culture Tue, 03 Jul 2018 12:20:00 +0000 Valarie Lee James 118604 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why we should all be concerned about musicians’ mental health https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/lydia-smith/why-we-should-all-be-concerned-about-musicians-mental-health <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="normal">Music is crucial to everyone’s wellbeing, so when musicians suffer so does the rest of society.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/LydiaSmith3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit live @ The Caves, Edinburgh. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/markusthorsen/3106578760">Flickr/Marcus Thorsen</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p class="normal">Last month, the tragic news of the death of Frightened Rabbit singer <a href="https://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/frightened-rabbit-singer-scott-hutchison-dead-at-36-w520181">Scott Hutchison</a> hit the music community hard. He had spoken openly about his struggles with anxiety and depression, and channelled raw emotion into his songs. He was found dead at the age of 36.</p> <p class="normal">Hutchison wasn’t alone in facing these problems. Around <a href="https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/statistics-and-facts-about-mental-health/how-common-are-mental-health-problems/">one in four people</a> in the UK experience mental health issues each year, and this problem affects musicians disproportionately. A <a href="https://www.westminster.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2016/can-music-make-you-sick-new-research-from-the-university-of-westminster-finds-musicians-are-three-times-more-likely-to-suffer-illness">2016 survey</a> by the University of Westminster for the charity <a href="https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/">Help Musicians UK</a> found that those working in music can be up to three times more likely to suffer from depression than the general public. Addressing this problem isn’t just crucial for musicians; it’s crucial for the whole of society and the economy, and for our collective health and wellbeing, because we all benefit when the creative arts are thriving.</p> <p class="normal">Mental health is complex and there are many factors that can impact our wellbeing, from our surroundings to our relationships. But the Westminster research highlighted something that many people already know only too well—that musicians face unique pressures.</p> <p class="normal">Low and unpredictable pay and a lack of financial stability affect musicians’ mental health, and the uncertainties around employment go hand in hand with the pressure to be ‘creative on demand.’ Many are forced to juggle several jobs and often work away from home which can be exhausting and isolating. The absence of a regular routine along with poor sleep and bad eating habits all influence wellbeing.</p> <p class="normal">“Being a musician has the impact of any self-employed job, you never switch off, everything is connected to your success; your relationships, your friendships and your social life,” Joe Tilson told me in a recent interview, a singer-songwriter from West Yorkshire. “At the time I never thought of music as the cause of any of my low points, I saw it as the escape and cure, that I was lucky to have it.</p> <p class="normal">Now I’m looking back from a more balanced life of music, work and family, I can recognise that a lot of the things that caused me anxiety and dark times were as a result of my devotion to music. Maybe if being devoted to music was more widely accepted as a choice for a living, the less disconnect there would be from the majority of people.”</p> <p class="normal">But it’s not just the conditions that musicians face in the music industry that creates these problems—it’s also the condition of the industry itself. Over the last decade, austerity in the UK has <a href="https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/download-file/Funding%20Arts%20and%20Culture%20in%20a%20time%20of%20Austerity%20(Adrian%20Harvey).pdf">squeezed</a> local authority spending on arts and culture. Early in 2018, <a href="https://www.musiciansunion.org.uk/Home/News/2018/May/Britain-risks-cultural-void">research by the Musicians’ Union</a> found that 44 per cent of orchestral musicians in the UK say they don’t earn enough to live on because of funding cuts.</p> <p class="normal">Because of this increasing financial squeeze, professional musicians who have spent years honing their talents are being forced to take other jobs, and it’s not a stretch to say that someone’s self-worth may decline when they aren’t able to use their skills to make a living. Musicians in the UK aren’t alone in facing this problem. In the US, for example, President Trump has repeatedly <a href="https://variety.com/2018/tv/news/trump-budget-eliminates-pbs-nea-funding-1202695205/">sought</a> to end federal funding for government arts programmes, although fortunately, he’s been unsuccessful so far.</p> <p class="normal">Despite the huge contribution of the music industry to the economy—with creative industries <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/news/creative-industries-worth-almost-10-million-an-hour-to-economy">estimated to generate £85 billion net annually to Britain’s GDP</a> according to 2016 figures—governments &nbsp;still fail to recognise its importance, including in education. Recent research by the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-42862996">BBC</a> found that creative arts subjects are being cut back in many schools because of funding pressures and an emphasis on a narrow core curriculum. For universities meanwhile, courses in creative subjects are being undermined by a focus on graduate salaries as a measure of success, with many arts and humanities courses being labelled as a waste of time because they won’t lead to well-paid employment.</p> <p class="normal">Music venues, which are integral to local communities, are closing. Around a third of the UK's small gig spaces have closed in the past decade, according to <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/41152834/the-new-campaign-to-save-small-music-venues">Music Venue Trust</a>. One venue in south London, <a href="https://www.southwarknews.co.uk/news/20919-2/">The Montague Arms</a>, shut just a few months ago only to be replaced with a music-less gastropub—of &nbsp;which there are plenty already.</p> <p class="normal">While these issues may not directly lead to mental health problems they send out the message that creativity isn’t valued, and when combined with the challenges musicians already face they have the potential to undermine their wellbeing even further. Witnessing the arts being sidelined runs the risk of depleting musicians’ self-worth and self-belief. Therefore, ensuring that everyone working in music has access to mental health support is essential, and there are a number of organisations which do offer help.</p> <p class="normal">Last year for example, <a href="https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/">Help Musicians UK</a> launched <a href="https://www.musicmindsmatter.org.uk/">Music Minds Matter</a>, a 24/7 nationwide mental health service for anyone working in the music industry. Despite government cuts to arts funding, the charity is increasing its support for various initiatives including the <a href="https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/working-retired-musicians/musicians-hearing-health-scheme">Musician’s Hearing Health Scheme</a> and the <a href="https://www.helpmusicians.org.uk/creative-programme">Creative Programme</a>, which supports emerging artists.</p> <p class="normal">Musicians can also access free health assessments through <a href="http://www.bapam.org.uk/">The British Association for Performing Arts Medicine (BAPAM)</a>, while the charity <a href="http://www.musicsupport.org/what-we-do">Music Support</a> offers help to anyone working in the music industry struggling with their mental health. It also provides ‘safe tents’ at music festivals for artists and those working backstage to address issues that may come up while on tour. <a href="http://www.mind.org.uk/">Mind</a>, the national mental health charity, also provides advice and support.</p> <p class="normal">None of this is just an issue for individual musicians; protecting them and their ability to make music is also crucial for the health and creativity of society as a whole. We often express our innermost emotions and feelings through music and communicate to others what isn’t always possible in words. Listening to music has a major, positive impact on our mental health, in part because <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-12135590">it releases dopamine</a>, a neurochemical that’s linked to wellbeing.</p> <p class="normal">Music lessons in schools also have huge benefits for children, boosting their <a href="https://www.makeabignoise.org.uk/news-events/raplochs-big-noise-children-are-happier-more-confident-and-better-behaved/">happiness</a>, self-esteem, concentration, <a href="http://www.ucl.ac.uk/impact/case-study-repository/music-in-schools">numeracy and language skill</a>s. “The positive impact of art and culture on society can’t be overstated,” Ruth Kilpatrick told me, who works with the ‘<a href="https://twitter.com/prsfund">PRS for Music Fund</a>,’ a charity providing financial help and support to members of <a href="https://www.prsformusic.com/">PRS</a>, the UK’s music licensing organisation.</p> <p class="normal">“Human beings thrive on connection and shared experience, a feeling of belonging and a sense of purpose. Music, art and culture in general all connect us to a common thread and deserve to be valued as such.”</p> <p class="normal">Singer-songwriter Joe Tilson takes this argument one stage further: in an age where more work is being automated, he told me, it’s especially important to recognise the importance of creative arts and music.</p> <p class="normal">“There is so much value and transferable skills from the world of performing music that can make people a positive addition to the workplace. People will always be creative. The less support the government gives, the more the government will be the focus of poor, angry, frustrated musicians.”</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/lydia-smith/why-mental-health-is-hidden-cost-of-housing-crisis">Why mental health is the hidden cost of the housing crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar/mental-health-why-were-all-sick-under-neoliberalism">Mental health: why we&#039;re all sick under neoliberalism </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/amber-massie-blomfield/austerity-inequality-and-arts">Austerity, inequality and the arts</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Lydia Smith The politics of mental health Care Culture Tue, 12 Jun 2018 20:29:41 +0000 Lydia Smith 118284 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Reveal, remember and resist: the three Rs remixed https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/leon-prescod/reveal-remember-and-resist-three-rs-remixed <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Passivity in the young is an obstacle to social transformation. Let’s teach kids to recognize and use their agency.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/LeonPescod.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Student protesters with placards at the Morristown New Jersey student protest, March 24 2018. Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Student_protesters_with_placards_at_the_Morristown_New_Jersey_student_protest_March_24_2018_9_of_15.jpg">Tomwsulcer via Wikimedia Commons</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <blockquote><p>“It is not important what we cover, but what you discover.” <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victor_Weisskopf">Victor&nbsp;Weisskopf</a></p></blockquote> <p>I spent eight years at two schools in the UK as a parent governor and was vice chair on two very different governing bodies, working with committed staff and volunteers to try and improve educational opportunities for thousands of children.&nbsp;I’m not sure how much we achieved.&nbsp;When a system is focused on teaching children to pass tests rather than how to learn, it turns out young adults who are highly efficient at regurgitating facts and relatively inefficient when it comes to intelligent questioning and independent thought.&nbsp; </p> <p>Passivity in the young is an obstacle to progressive change, so whilst acknowledging the value of the traditional ‘three Rs’ of reading, writing and arithmetic I’m proposing three more which &nbsp;might result in a more engaged citizenry, and ultimately a more equitable society: reveal, remember and resist.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Reveal.</strong></p> <p>Recently, my son returned from school and told us about a presentation pupils had received from a group of young Israelis.&nbsp;The presenters extolled the virtues of life in Israel, speaking of their wonderful experiences of education, community and of how proud they were to serve in the Israeli Defence Force.&nbsp;My son was uncomfortable with what he perceived as a propaganda exercise on behalf of the Israeli state.&nbsp;One of his peers bravely raised a hand and asked how the presenters felt about Palestinians wanting their land back in the Occupied Territories.&nbsp;The dismissive reply was that they had not come to talk about that issue.&nbsp;</p> <p>Prompted by his sense of injustice, we accompanied my son to speak with one of the school leaders about the need for balance when addressing such a contentious issue. We pointed out that providing a platform for representatives of an occupying force without offering any counter narrative is at best an oversight and at worst an endorsement of what is viewed by many as a violently oppressive militaristic regime.</p> <p>Apparently a parent at the school had offered to organise the presentation and no checks were carried out to determine the content.&nbsp;The deputy head was embarrassed, understood our concerns and agreed to look for opportunities to provide a more balanced presentation for students in future.&nbsp;That recognition will hopefully benefit all the students at the school, and it came about because a child spotted something he thought was unfair and chose to reveal rather than ignore it.&nbsp;</p> <p>Sometimes it feels as if we live in the age of revelation—not in a biblical sense but a technological one.&nbsp;From Edward Snowden to Chelsea Manning to Christopher Wylie, modern-day whistle-blowers have direct access to information classified as secret by government agencies or private corporations.&nbsp;The growing impact of people-led movements, not just data-led, is evidence of the power even of smaller, personal revelations.</p> <p>You have agency, so use it. &nbsp;Revelation is an active process.</p> <p><strong>Remember.</strong></p> <p>On 14 June 2017, <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-40272168">the catastrophic fire at Grenfell Tower</a> in west London killed 71 people, injured scores more and left hundreds homeless.&nbsp;I cried as I watched the images on my television; I was moved to donate immediately to a charitable fund offering support to those affected; I visited the neighbourhood in the following days, not as a voyeur but as a bereaved community member.&nbsp;</p> <p>In my childhood, I learned to ride my bicycle in the shadow of Grenfell; as a teenager, I learned to love and hate on the estate and the streets surrounding the tower.&nbsp;My parents have lived for over six decades no more than a two-minute walk from what is now a charred carcass, a Kubrickian monolith, testament to the deadly folly of man’s vaunting ambition and limitless greed. I felt the loss of those lives in a painfully profound way, not as a dispassionate observer.&nbsp;</p> <p>And yet, in order to write the previous paragraph I had to Google the date of the fire and the numbers killed.&nbsp;I’m not devoid of empathy or indifferent to the suffering of others.&nbsp;It is human to forget. Healing requires us to leave the hurt behind, when we’re able to.&nbsp;As an individual coping with loss I don’t berate myself for forgetting.&nbsp;At a societal level however, we would do well to attend to the oft-quoted words of <a href="https://www.iep.utm.edu/santayan/">George Santayana</a>: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”</p> <p>Ask yourself what the date was when planes crashed into the World Trade Centre.&nbsp;What year did the Second World War start and finish?&nbsp;These dates are, quite rightly, seared into our collective consciousness.&nbsp;This not-forgetting arises because those events have radically altered our reality.&nbsp; But it is also true that our reality has been radically altered in part&nbsp;<em>because</em>&nbsp;of that not-forgetting. The process of learning from the past in order to shape our future requires us to remember. Regardless of the direction of change we wish to take, it is important to recognise significant historical moments if we are to be taken seriously in our attempts to articulate a vision for change.&nbsp;</p> <p>The act of societal remembering must not be passive, because societal forgetting is often engineered, imposed and active.&nbsp;Our governments move from one murderous overseas war to another,&nbsp;continuously privilege the most wealthy over the most deprived, relentlessly under-resource the services required to increase equality, and ceaselessly churn out the message that we’ve ‘never had it so good.’&nbsp; </p> <p>But of that money promised by the government for rehousing and support for the families left homeless in Grenfell Tower, how much has been forthcoming? &nbsp;As we approach the anniversary of this beacon of inequality in one of the richest countries on Earth, why are there still families without a place they call home?</p> <p>You have agency, so use it.&nbsp; Not-forgetting is an active process.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Resist.</strong></p> <p>Most great narratives of myth and history feature individuals or groups struggling against seemingly insurmountable forces.&nbsp;Everybody loves an underdog because those tales reflect a universal truth about societies: if the objective is to better the lot of the masses, what is required is to challenge concentrations of power and authority.&nbsp;This is the fundamental mathematics of equality and justice—that the cake should always be shared fairly.</p> <p>Holding on to that clarity is crucial, but it requires commitment and daily acts of resistance. The utter chaos that is the education system in England is a perfect example of something which runs contrary to the basic mathematics of equality and justice.&nbsp;When my children were younger there was a huge effort from the local authority to turn their small community primary school into an academy run by a large chain, headed by former and current hedge fund managers.&nbsp;</p> <p>Initially, parents, pupils and staff worked to maintain a sense of togetherness, continuing to provide a village school feel for children from some of London’s most deprived areas.&nbsp;The demonstrable love for the school from pupils, parents and teachers was clear evidence of an institution rising to meet the needs of local people.&nbsp;In the face of what constituted an attempted hostile takeover, working to increase that love and to serve the community to the best of their ability was an act of resistance.&nbsp;In embodying the values we hold dear, in being the change we want to see in the world, we resist that which stands in opposition to those values.&nbsp; </p> <p>As a parent governor, I sat in meetings with the local authority and representatives of the proposed academy chain where we asked for justifications, evidence and plans; scrutinised detail; and returned with further questions. All the governors agreed that this was not something anyone in our school community wished to proceed with.&nbsp;We started delaying, using all the tools at our disposal to tie the process up in red tape, knowing that if we could prove difficult enough for long enough, the proposal would go away.&nbsp; </p> <p>One staff member then involved her union, who wrote to the press, organised community meetings, and mobilised parents and pupils to protest loudly with placards and chants. This was painfully uncomfortable for governors, who were often lumped in with the local authority as having betrayed the community and sold the school down the river, which was the opposite of the truth.&nbsp;But it was another effective tactic.&nbsp; </p> <p>Eventually, the local authority agreed to give us six months to recruit an outstanding headteacher and to hit various progress targets as a school.&nbsp;We did so, and the following year the school was one of the most improved in London according to Ofsted (whether or not that measure means anything).&nbsp; The academy proposal disappeared, and five years later ours remains a state school sanctuary for many underprivileged children, successfully serving the needs of the community in which it sits.</p> <p>You have agency, so use it.&nbsp; Resistance is an active process.&nbsp;</p> <p>Resist, reveal and remember are the keys to any education worthy of the name.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/paul-tritschler/what-s-point-of-education">What’s the point of education?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/molly-rowan-leach/unspoken-atrocity-of-standardized-education">The unspoken atrocity of standardized education</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ernest-anemone/badass-teachers-and-future-of-american-democracy">Badass teachers and the future of American democracy</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation schools Leon Prescod Care Culture Tue, 22 May 2018 20:16:26 +0000 Leon Prescod 117799 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why human rights groups are beginning to support the rights of non-human animals https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jay-shooster/Why-human-rights-groups-are-beginning-to-support-the-rights-of-non-human-animals <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Solidarity must extend, not only to all people but also to animals, the earth, and the environment.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Jayshooster_0.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Undercover Investigation at Manitoba Pork Factory Farm. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/mercyforanimalscanada/8250115715">Flickr/Mercy For Animals Canada</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p>I’ve told this story<a href="https://socialchangenyu.com/harbinger/justice-for-all-including-animal-rights-in-social-justice-activism/">&nbsp;before</a>. It doesn’t have a happy ending—but at least this time it has a hopeful one. &nbsp;</p> <p>The day the men took Sasha away from her mother she was only three weeks old. A few months later they took her to the cage where she spent the rest of her life. This was ‘home:’ a prison of concrete and metal. No sunshine, no space to turn around, and nothing to do. Even though she had just hit puberty they forced her to get pregnant. It went on that way until the end, forced to give birth over and over until her body couldn’t take it anymore.</p> <p>After years of confinement and abuse Sasha was packed into a pen with dozens of others in preparation for slaughter. No more boredom and no more pain, but the worst wasn’t over. One by one, they were pulled out until there was nobody left but Sasha. She ran back and forth, and then in circles, screaming. She struggled to lift the gate of the pen from its hinges but it was no use. She died because she was no longer useful. She died because she was born as a member of the wrong species, because she was a pig, and pigs don’t have rights.</p> <p>But is that true, or even acceptable in an era when conceptions of rights are broadening? I’ve worked with many human rights organizations and admire their goals, but I’ve also felt a profound sense of despair, loneliness, and disappointment at how communities that are so deeply concerned with justice can so thoroughly fail to stand up for the rights of non-human animals.</p> <p>When we see the horrors that human beings inflict on animals in <a href="https://thinkprogress.org/undercover-investigation-finds-shocking-torture-of-chickens-in-slaughterhouse-141d18a8db0f/">slaughterhouses</a>, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDwMeUNcimA">fur farms</a>, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECspj0daAlE">circuses</a> and other settings, how, as decent people, can we not act? That was the question posed to me by a senior <a href="https://www.aclu.org/">ACLU</a> attorney when I sat down to talk with him about animal rights last fall. I had realized that something big was happening in the human rights world: after years of<a href="https://socialchangenyu.com/harbinger/justice-for-all-including-animal-rights-in-social-justice-activism/">&nbsp;neglect</a>&nbsp;and<a href="https://jayforjustice.wordpress.com/2015/12/02/standing-up-to-the-left-on-animal-rights/">&nbsp;hostility</a> the human rights movement was embracing animal rights in earnest.</p> <p>A week after that meeting I learned that the <a href="https://chrgj.org/">Center for Human Rights and Global Justice</a> (CHRGJ) at New York University—one of the premier human rights programs in the world—was taking a stand for animal rights and committing to an all-vegetarian food policy, which was <a href="https://chrgj.org/2018/04/25/chrgj-adopts-vegetarian-food-policy/">announced</a>&nbsp;publicly in April of 2018. The <a href="https://chrgj.org/2018/04/25/chrgj-adopts-vegetarian-food-policy/">policy</a> makes clear that the fundamental values underlying human rights advocacy demand that we have “respect for animals.” And crucially, it recognizes that an institution committed to working towards “a more just and humane world” must take a stand for the animals who are victimized by industrial agriculture.</p> <p>Even more importantly, the policy—which requires the Center to purchase only vegetarian foods for its events—is&nbsp; grounded in an understanding of the interconnectedness of the struggles for human and animal rights—in “respect for animals and the humans impacted by the animal agriculture and processing industries, and out of concern for the environment on which we all depend.”</p> <p><a href="https://its.law.nyu.edu/facultyprofiles/index.cfm?fuseaction=profile.biography&amp;personid=22544">Margaret Satterthwaite</a>, a renowned human rights law professor, attorney and a director of the Center, has recognized that this new policy is reflective of a profound and necessary shift in the human rights movement. As she told me in a recent email:</p> <p>“The human rights community is beginning to recognize that our solidarity must extend to embrace not only all people, but also animals, the earth, and our environment. In moving to a vegetarian policy, CHRGJ is taking an important step to match our actions with our values.”</p> <p>CHGRJ isn’t alone. The <a href="https://ccrjustice.org/">Center for Constitutional Rights</a> (CCR), another of the world’s leading human rights organizations, <a href="https://youtu.be/jThcsTUWPv8?t=976">recently embraced a vegan/vegetarian policy</a> as “a meaningful act of solidarity” with the animal rights movement. The CCR policy further recognizes that an “increasing number of CCR staff members see violence against animals as contrary to a fundamental commitment to justice.”</p> <p>The progressive <a href="https://www.nlg.org/">National Lawyers Guild</a> &nbsp;has adopted a similar position through an&nbsp;initiative&nbsp;spearheaded by women of color in the Guild's Animal Rights Activism Committee (now an independent project).&nbsp;In the wake of the steps taken by other human rights groups, the Guild’s President-Elect, Elena Cohen, told me that: “I am so proud that we have joined in the movement of progressive organizations in adopting a vegan food policy, to make clear that non-human animal oppression is integral to our anti-oppression work and vision for a more just world.” In addition, the <a href="https://reblaw.yale.edu/">Rebellious Lawyering Conference</a> at Yale University—the largest student-run public interest conference in the United States—has been<a href="https://reblaw.yale.edu/sites/default/files/2018_final_reblaw_program_1.pdf">&nbsp;fully vegetarian</a>&nbsp;for several years in a row.</p> <p>Importantly, this support for animal rights is beginning to extend beyond internal food policy to the substantive work of human rights organizations. In April 2018, the CCR supported the <a href="https://www.nonhumanrights.org/">Nonhuman Rights Project’s</a> lawsuit to grant legal rights to chimpanzees by<a href="https://ccrjustice.org/letter-brief-amicus-curiae-support-nonhuman-rights-project-behalf-tommy-kiko-0">&nbsp;filing</a>&nbsp;an “amicus brief” on their behalf in the Court of Appeals of New York. In another example, a recent<a href="https://www.aclu.org/news/lawsuit-challenging-iowas-ag-gag-law-proceeds">&nbsp;statement</a>&nbsp;from ACLU attorney Rita Bettis made clear that one of its recent ‘ag-gag’ cases which challenge laws that criminalize undercover investigations of factory farms is not just about promoting free speech, but about preventing “animal cruelty, unsafe food safety practices, environmental hazards, and inhumane working conditions.”</p> <p>To be clear, this trend is not entirely new. Legendary human rights activists like<a href="http://www.mercyforanimals.org/angela-davis-feminist-civil-rights-activist">&nbsp;Angela Davis</a>,<a href="http://ufw.org/ZNET-Cesar-Ch-vez-and-Comprehensive-Rights/">&nbsp;Cesar Chávez</a>&nbsp; and<a href="https://www.peta.org/living/entertainment/dick-gregory-circuses/">&nbsp;Dick Gregory</a>&nbsp;have championed animal rights for decades, and prominent progressive law professors—including<a href="https://www.nonhumanrights.org/blog/scholarly-support-nonhuman-rights/">&nbsp;Cass Sunstein, Martha Nussbaum, Laurence Tribe,</a> <a href="http://www.dorfonlaw.org/2018/05/specious-speciesism-in-monkey-selfie.html">Michael Dorf, </a><a href="https://hls.harvard.edu/faculty/directory/10852/Stilt/">Kristin Stilt </a>and<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Mind-If-Order-Cheeseburger-Questions/dp/1590563840">&nbsp;Sherry Colb—</a>have all been strong advocates. What is new is that major human rights organizations are taking a stance on this issue through a wave of change in their institutional policies and practices. Crucially, this isn’t just a random hodge-podge of radical organizations. The ACLU, CCR and others are widely-respected organizations in the vanguard of the human rights movement, and bellwethers for social justice advocacy as a whole. </p> <p>The leadership of CHRGJ includes two high-level UN appointees and several world renowned international legal scholars; the Center for Constitutional Rights secured historic Supreme Court victories on behalf of Guantánamo detainees years before other organizations got involved; and the National Lawyers Guild was the<a href="https://www.nlg.org/nlg80/">&nbsp;first</a>&nbsp;racially integrated national bar association. The fact that change is happening in such organizations is a strong indication of a much broader, movement-wide shift towards the embrace of animal rights.</p> <p>Prominent members of other major human rights organizations are also becoming more vocal in their support. For example, Simon Cox, a Legal Officer at the <a href="https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/">Open Society Foundations</a> (one of the world’s largest funders of human rights advocacy and also a donor to openDemocracy), wrote in a recent email that “the idea of human rights is grounded in the notion that sentient creatures deserve respect and that harms to them should only be permitted when justified.” &nbsp;</p> <p><a href="https://carrcenter.hks.harvard.edu/people/william-f-bill-schulz">William F. “Bill” Schultz</a>, former executive director Amnesty International USA and Senior Fellow at Harvard’s <a href="https://carrcenter.hks.harvard.edu/home">Carr Center for Human Rights Policy</a>,<a href="https://www.huffingtonpost.com/william-f-schulz/are-animal-rights-human-rights_b_4453593.html">&nbsp;argues</a>&nbsp;that animals deserve at least some legal rights. In October of 2017, he told me about an illuminating recent conversation about animal rights with his fellow board members in a leading US human rights organization:</p> <p>“I say, ‘Screw ‘em,’” bellowed one board member. “Torture, genocide, people—they’re all more important.” &nbsp;And maybe they are. But all the other board members were sympathetic to the notion of rights for animals, knowing that it behooves human rights activists to extend their circle of care and concern to complex creatures outside the narrow confines of convention. He went on to <a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=GRUY468Z13QC&amp;pg=PA239&amp;lpg=PA239&amp;dq=%22I+love+forms+beyond+my+own,+and+regret+the+borders+between+us%22&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=8n2NdnkA-R&amp;sig=phY9cNO-ue3y2-K9rHnI_T1XEqY&amp;hl=en&amp;sa=X&amp;ved=0ahUKEwiRkuKrufvaAhViplkKHYtABSwQ6AEIUTAL#v=one">quote the anthropologist Loren Eiseley</a>: “I love forms beyond my own and regret the borders between us.” The extension of rights to animals, he added, is one way to diminish that distance.</p> <p>In fact, that distance is already diminishing, and quickly. I’m grateful to all the human rights organizations and advocates that are taking serious steps to fight the arbitrary discrimination that denies our moral and legal obligations to non-human animals. Thank you for showing me that our commitment to liberty and justice for all really does mean something for <em>all</em> victims of injustice, brutality, and discrimination—human and non-human alike.</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/gary-l-francione-anna-e-charlton/why-we-must-respect-rights-of-all-sentient-animals">Why we must respect the rights of all sentient animals</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sam-earle/how-should-we-feel-about-feelings-of-animals-we-eat">How should we feel about the feelings of the animals we eat?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/andy-west/i-stopped-eating-animals-because-of-human-rights">I stopped eating animals because of human rights</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Vegan politics and animal rights Jay Shooster Activism Care Culture Sun, 13 May 2018 20:08:31 +0000 Jay Shooster 117802 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The beauty of a both/and mind https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/beauty-of-bothand-mind <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How can we find our way out of the impasse that stymies action on the really big issues of the day?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/bothandmind.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: By Mushki Brichta - Own work via <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=65958190">Wikimedia Commons</a>, <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/">CC BY-SA 4.0</a>.</p> <p>When Massachusetts Congressman Joseph Kennedy III delivered the <a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fnews.huffingtonpost.com%2Ft%2Ft-l-urtdnd-ujhdjdai-u%2F&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7C364c3efeec124b474a2908d568a69e21%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636529987180296022&amp;sdata=tyiH8E4FH0O3xDoV6pTcFkCkffjF%2FKrVvggy9vucXIg%3D&amp;reserved=0" target="_blank">Democratic response</a> to President Trump’s State of the Union address in January 2018 he chose an intriguing frame for his remarks. Not satisfied with rebutting Trump’s admittedly-minimal record on policy and legislation, JFK’s grand-nephew denounced the President for “turning&nbsp;American life into a zero-sum game” in which the well-being of some Americans must come at the expense of others—“as if the mechanic in Pittsburgh and the teacher in Tulsa and the day-care worker in Birmingham are somehow bitter rivals rather than mutual casualties of a system forcefully rigged for those at the top.”</p> <p>The alternative to ‘zero sum’ is ‘positive sum’ thinking—a way of reasoning that rejects the dichotomies of ‘either/or’ judgments in favor of a ‘both/and mind.’ Kennedy argued that there’s no contradiction between raising living standards for one group or another, but the same technique could be applied to any set of issues or constituencies where more than one thing can be true. Does the image above show a 6, a 9, or both, depending on your point of view? That realization provides the key to a different way of interacting with one another in activism and politics. </p> <p>Positive sum thinking is much more than lowest-common-denominator compromise and negotiation. It demands new methods of navigating our way through complex problems and solutions—a different mental architecture that encourages everyone to leave their comfort zones and enter into a genuine conversation that isn’t so pre-structured. But if we can make it work the benefits could be huge: both/and thinking might provide a route out of the impasse that stymies action on the really big issues of the day. How so?</p> <p>Most contemporary democracies produce alternating periods of intellectual and political superiority for one side or another. That’s because political and cultural differences go much deeper, and are much more enduring, than we might admit—they don’t disappear through education or campaigning, or through changing demographics or rising incomes. The victory of one set of ideas or values also produces a counter-reaction which usually strengthens the opposition. Over time therefore, policy changes tend to cancel each other out, making it extremely difficult to make lasting progress on issues that require permanent, cross-party constituencies like human security, the abolition of nuclear weapons, and action on global warming.</p> <p>This problem is getting worse as a result of rising political polarization, religious zealotry, fake news, and filter bubbles or echo chambers on the internet, all of which reinforce the infrastructure of zero-sum, either/or thinking. It’s now almost impossible to change your mind without being treated with suspicion, or to value someone else’s point of view without being labeled as a weakling, or simply to avoid a rush to judgment when presented with ideas with which you disagree. Even within the same political tradition like the progressive left in the UK and the US, factions are hardening, positions are defended to the death, and disagreement leads to censure. </p> <p>The current debate around ‘identity politics’ is a classic case in point. Promoters of an ‘<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intersectionality">intersectional’ point of view</a> emphasize the connections that exist between class, race, gender, sexuality, geography and disability. But <a href="http://www.seattleweekly.com/news/a-marxist-critiques-identity-politics/">they’ve been criticized</a> for abandoning the traditional concerns of the left and escaping into victimhood, classified into ever-more elaborate sub-communities of oppression. Not so say the intersectionalists, since there are no forms of politics that function independently of our identities, which continue to be different. Therefore, a single-minded focus on economic questions will inevitably lead to the resurgence of social and sexual discrimination. </p> <p>Recent exchanges between these two positions <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sofa-gradin/is-there-really-crisis-around-identity-politics-on-left">have generated much heat but very little light</a>. They typify the limitations of zero-sum thinking, which stokes up the emotions of different combatants and exaggerates the gulf that lies between them. The result is an impasse, and a weakening of the left as a whole. But what if both positions were true, or at least were seen to contain enough elements of value to produce a new level of intellectual and political integration? That’s what Kennedy was getting at, albeit in a very different context—that positive sum, both/and thinking can find commonality at a deeper level that connects different experiences of oppression and inequality to the same underlying causes. </p> <p>After all, why do we have to choose between non-exclusive options? The approach we adopt to something like ‘identity politics’ will be heavily influenced by our own position in society, our experience of discrimination, and our personal reading of strategy and history. These different trajectories may lead us to emphasize some forms of oppression and inequality over others at different points in time, or at different stages of the argument; in fact it would be remarkable—even unreal—if they didn’t. </p> <p>But there’s much less disagreement on the origins of oppression and the long-term goals of liberation. “I want everyone on the left to understand that we’re all fighting the same struggle—that it’s people’s material wellbeing that matters in the end. On the other hand, everyone within the Left isn’t the same,” as Sofa Gradin put it in a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sofa-gradin/is-there-really-crisis-around-identity-politics-on-left">recent article for Transformation</a>.</p> <p>The same analysis could be applied to any other deep-rooted disagreement where arguments are polarized so much that zero-sum thinking seems permanently entrenched—like <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/ed-straw-ray-ison/duality-dualism-duelling-and-brexit?utm_content=bufferdad1d&amp;utm_medium=social&amp;utm_source=twitter.com&amp;utm_campaign=buffer">Brexit</a>, for example, or ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/harry-blain/why-left-needs-to-re-embrace-first-amendment">freedom of speech,</a>’ abortion, the sex industry, or how to engage with those <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/nina-eliasoph/scorn-wars-rural-white-people-and-us">who voted for Donald Trump</a>. The benefits of a both/and mind seem obvious in situations like these, but how do we train our brains and manage our emotions to act in this way when the counter-pressures are so strong? </p> <p>For starters, how about: ‘don’t rush to judgment, keep an open mind, put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and remember you could be wrong.’ This may sound easy, but in fact it’s immensely challenging, since none of these things arise automatically; they require some form of deliberate and conscious preparation, whether through techniques like mindfulness or meditation or some form of centering that stops you from leaping to conclusions about others and their views. Working through something like the identity politics debate requires mental agility&nbsp;<em>without</em> losing sight of fundamental principles. It’s like walking through a maze whose walls re-arrange themselves with every step you take. </p> <p>Zero sum thinking implies closure, fixed boundaries and mutually-exclusive positioning; both/and thinking implies expansiveness, creativity, and the belief that multiple versions of the same account can be valuable or true. The only way we can really understand something is by looking at it from every angle, especially when even the most independent-minded among us are socialized into particular communities over time, each with their own assumptions, no-go areas and pressures to conform. </p> <p>By contrast, the ability to hold contradictory realities in your mind for long enough to consider what they have to offer is characteristic of spiritual experience, expressed in ideas like detachment and non-judgment—what the writer and activist Gregory Leffel calls “<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/gregory-leffel/will-cuba-become-test-case-for-post-postmodern-future">metamodern mindfulness</a>,” the willingness to place yourself between fixed ideological positions in order to appreciate ideas that don’t belong to any one of them exclusively. Think of this process as akin to rolling a sweet around and around in your mouth as it slowly dissolves, layer by layer by layer, instead of swallowing it whole or spitting it out because you don’t like the taste.</p> <p>This is why <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Civil-Society-Michael-Edwards/dp/0745679366/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8">philosophers from Hannah Arendt to Michael Walzer</a> have seen ‘moral maturity’ as a willingness to welcome diversity <em>and</em> seek the common good together among people whose interests, at least sometimes, stretch further than themselves and their familiars. Clearly, there are some situations where this kind of mental and emotional openness and flexibility aren’t appropriate—in encounters with violent authoritarians, for example, or extreme sexism, racism and other forms of injustice—but in most situations it’s perfectly possible to keep a ‘straight back and soft front’ as some US activists describe it, simultaneously holding fast to your fundamental principles while being open to negotiating how they manifest in practice. We need “realists of a larger reality” as the late and great author <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/araz-hachadourian/ursula-k-leguin-calls-on-fantasy-and-sci-fi-writers-to-envision-alt">Ursula le Guin once said</a>, people with both grounding and creativity who can see transformative solutions beyond the status quo. </p> <p>There are also some institutional innovations that seem to help people exercise both/and thinking, like alternative electoral systems that re-orient incentives away from winner-take-all solutions and exaggerated conflicts, and civil society groups that mix people of different views and backgrounds together in voluntary associations. “Standing shoulder to shoulder with people across our differences and creating new understandings and visions together is where the real transformative potential lies,” say activists&nbsp;<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/peroline-ainsworth-kiran-nihalani/five-ways-to-build-solidarity-across-our-difference">Peroline Ainsworth and Kiran Nihalani</a>&nbsp;on the basis of their experience of women’s co-operatives in south London. </p> <p>Any civil society or democracy worthy of the name needs both/and thinkers to animate its institutions. Otherwise separation will be permanent. That doesn’t mean that everyone agrees on every issue, but it does require some agreement on how disagreement should be handled—as an invitation to deeper dialogue instead of a prelude to further fractures. This is exceptionally challenging because it runs counter to the realities of modern politics, media and knowledge production, but the other options are much, much worse: a slide into authoritarianism, enforced artificial unity, or permanent division.</p> <p>Faced by these ‘beasts,’ there's beauty in a both/and mind.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/gregory-leffel/will-cuba-become-test-case-for-post-postmodern-future">Will Cuba become a test case for a post-postmodern future? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sofa-gradin/is-there-really-crisis-around-identity-politics-on-left">Is there really a crisis around identity politics on the left?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/when-will-there-be-harmony">When will there be harmony?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Political polarization Michael Edwards Care Culture Sun, 29 Apr 2018 19:28:36 +0000 Michael Edwards 117548 at https://www.opendemocracy.net I want to talk about my miscarriage https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/emily-rowland/i-want-to-talk-about-my-miscarriage <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>I am heartbroken, and I’m begging you to ask me why.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Emily Rowland.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/87128018@N00/139136870">Flickr/Anil Kumar</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/">CC BY-ND 2.0</a>. </p> <p>I had been moving through the world with a secret. I dreamed of this secret as a little girl, through adolescence and even more regularly once I was married. But I had to keep this secret close in case it slipped away. I couldn’t let it out until I knew for certain that my secret was here to stay.</p> <p>My entire being changed the moment I found out that I was pregnant. I felt new light inside of me. Now it was my time to gripe about the struggles of new motherhood—grievances I’d been aching to have. My new narrative would be anchored in sleep deprivation, cracked nipples and hair loss. I couldn’t wait to be a part of that world, part of The Club. </p> <p>When you are trying to conceive you want nothing more than to experience those struggles, as opposed to the monthly cramps, tampons and ovulation monitors that remind you of your lack of fertility. A combination of working in healthcare and wanting a baby for as long as I can remember equipped me with extensive knowledge on pregnancy, childbirth, and new motherhood. </p> <p>I knew the risks of miscarriage and how common this tragedy occurs. I knew that one in four women will lose their baby in the first trimester. Knowing this, I resisted letting myself speak too freely about my excitement. Even when I let people in on the secret of my pregnancy I reiterated the facts about miscarriage. </p> <p>Several days after multiple positive pregnancy tests I announced my secret to my immediate family, and then to some very close friends a few weeks later. But I was still just out of reach of the supposed safety of 12 weeks. ‘Stay silent until then.’ That way no one will ever know that you were even pregnant. </p> <p>Why do we do this? Miscarriages happen all the time. We know that they are random physiological errors that can happen to anyone and not the result of poor care. Going to work was tasking. I was nauseous, exhausted and foggy. Perhaps if I had not kept my secret so close for so long, my employers would have had more empathy and compassion for what I was experiencing. Perhaps they would even have shared in my excitement and offered support. Perhaps they would have supported me when I experienced my loss.</p> <p>I miscarried the day of my first ultrasound. I noticed blood between my legs that night and as I stood up, I knew. My secret was leaving my body, and I felt like I was being wrung from the inside out. I couldn’t control my tears as I tried to wake up from this nightmare. My husband was pale, completely helpless. We drove to the hospital where it was confirmed that I was actively miscarrying. There’s no shortage of first person accounts of miscarriage, but they do nothing to dull or ease the rawness of the experience. </p> <p>And that’s the thing. We live in a culture that encourages withholding news during the first trimester, but this is the time when pregnant mothers might need the most support. The range of physical, emotional, and psychological adjustments that accompany early pregnancy can be debilitating even though the source of these symptoms is incredibly powerful and should be celebrated. As a community, we need to start reframing the way we respond to pregnancy. Knowing about it earlier could prevent lost work, protect the quality of work by creating new accommodations, prepare employers for a maternity leave further in advance, and support people if they do miscarry. </p> <p>My own experience demonstrated the lack of understanding of the catastrophic void that this loss leaves in its wake. Losing a long awaited pregnancy can feel like a bomb detonating from your deepest core, shattering through each layer of your being. You will never get the dreams of that baby back. You will never get back the announcement to your friends, family and partner. I hated the task of deleting the pregnancy app from my phone and returning it to “menstruation” mode. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>We don’t talk about miscarriage nearly enough. When we do, the discussion is focused on rates and statistics, as if that provides any comfort. Perhaps it does to some, but we rarely talk about all the aspects of loss that can occur when you miscarry and the ripple effects they can have. Miscarriage is not an isolated moment in time that has a start and a finish. </p> <p>Body and mind need time to adjust to the loss and often they don’t heal in tandem. Hormones take longer to level out, and the telltale signs of pregnancy don’t just disappear. Your body is still pregnant but there is no baby. Emotionally, you don’t know how to make sense of this new normal. You shared your body and now you don’t. The nature of your secret is now very, very different.</p> <p>It is not the bleeding that’s so significant—it’s the time afterwards, the telling people and watching their faces as they struggle to understand, or cancelling preparations for a new nursery. &nbsp;Ironically, when I divulged this new secret no one wanted to talk about it. It was too uncomfortable for them, but I want to talk about it, I need to, I’m begging you to ask me about it. I need to talk about it as a part of my journey, my experience, and the scars that I am left with.</p> <p>Stepping into the uncomfortable and asking hard questions can provide someone with the opportunity to grieve and celebrate something that was. Avoiding the topic in the hope that you don’t upset them isn’t doing them a favor. It’s not protecting them, though it may be protecting you.</p> <p>The overwhelming anger I feel comes from the people close to me who were aware of my loss but didn’t want to broach it. Maybe they were trying to get my mind off the pain, but my mind and my heart wanted to be exactly focused on that lost baby, on my secret. Friends who did reach out and inquire allowed me to address the fact that I was not okay. Providing the space to do that was a gift. </p> <p>My anger is also rooted in the environment we’ve created that governs when we can and cannot talk about pregnancy A colleague at work advised me not to let people in on my secret because it would be “career suicide.” What have we done to create this narrative? Are we so afraid that employers will become aware that we hope to be pregnant, or that we have miscarried? </p> <p>Others who have experienced such loss tell me that there’s no space to talk about it, even though the need for such spaces is intense—not just to heal from the loss but also to keep spirits alive, cherished and celebrated. I want everyone to know that I was pregnant and I want everyone to know that I had a miscarriage. It was not my fault. It was not my husband’s fault. There was nothing we could have done to guarantee a different outcome. But what <em>can</em> be done is to help those around me to understand that I am heartbroken. I feel like less of a woman, unworthy of another pregnancy. </p> <p>I don’t think that we all need to talk about our pregnancies. If you are more comfortable keeping it to yourself then that’s the best decision for you. But 12 weeks of secrecy makes no sense. We all have a responsibility to lift each other up during these times. Our norms and systems need to shift in order to focus on support for the human beings involved, not for the benefit of a business bottom line or administrative convenience. Support should be available at each step of the family planning process. </p> <p>I’ve learned a lot from my own miscarriage, especially the value and importance of disclosing pregnancy early on, and then being asked about it, again and again and again. The internal scars don’t heal overnight. Healing takes a very long time, physically, emotionally and spiritually. So don’t be afraid to ask: you never know, people may have secrets of their own they need to talk about.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sarah-sunshine-manning/decolonizing-birth">Decolonizing birth </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/hermine-hayesklein/forced-episiotomy-kelly%27s-story">Forced episiotomy: Kelly&#039;s story</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/melissa-hellmann/they-rode-on-horseback-to-deliver-babies-century-later-midwives-are-">They rode on horseback to deliver babies: a century later, midwives are still crucial</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Emily Rowland Care Tue, 17 Apr 2018 16:50:27 +0000 Emily Rowland 117036 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Decolonizing birth https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sarah-sunshine-manning/decolonizing-birth <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Indigenous women are taking back their power as life-givers.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Sunshine.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">This portrait of Zintkala Mahpiya Win Blackowl and her daughter, Mni Wiconi, was created by Indigenous photographer Tomás Karmelo Amaya on Nov. 16, 2016, moments before a women’s meeting at Oceti Sakowin.&nbsp;Credit:&nbsp;Tomás Karmelo Amaya/YES! Magazine.</p> <p>Zintkala Mahpiya Win Blackowl didn’t plan to have her sixth baby in a tipi on the windy plains of North Dakota during a historic resistance. Thousands of people had gathered for months in camps sprawled along the northern borderlands of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation to protest the Dakota Access pipeline. But Blackowl already knew that she would birth her babies outside of a hospital, in the comfort and safety of a sacred space.</p> <p>“So much of how women experience birth today has to do with how we are socialized,” says Blackowl, 36, whose first five children were born at home with the aid of certified and traditional Indigenous midwives. “We are told that you have to be hospitalized, that doctors know best, and that you can trust them with your life.”</p> <p>In August 2016, having traveled from her home in Ashland, Oregon, to the Sacred Stone Camp on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation borderlands, she felt overwhelmed by the energy of the movement. Blackowl is Sicangu Lakota and Ihanktonwan Dakota, with origins and ancestral ties in the Dakotas, but she had spent most of her adult life in Oregon and Idaho. “I was pregnant, and I hadn’t been home [to the Dakotas] for 12 years,” she says, “but I saw that I was capable of coming to Standing Rock, and I had a responsibility to provide that support. It was about responsibility to my people.”</p> <p>When she returned to the resistance camps in the fall, Blackowl was in her third trimester. Early on Oct. 12, while everyone slept, she delivered her daughter alone in her tipi, not long after her husband left to get female relatives. The baby girl was born without complication and in perfect health. She was named Mni Wiconi, “Water of Life.”</p> <p>The arrival was a momentous event in the camps. But also in the larger Indigenous birth movement as Native American women take back their roles as life-givers and birth-workers and reclaim rights to their bodies, their traditions, and their birthing experiences. Interest is growing, from Indigenous certified nurse midwives—14 total, today, trained at the the American College of Nurse-Midwives—to mothers educating themselves and choosing to have unassisted births at home.</p> <p>Measuring the complexity and scale of this grassroots movement is impossible, but evidence is plentiful. The Facebook page Indigenous Midwifery was launched in December 2013 and has since grown to almost 10,000 followers. Several popular artworks honoring traditional birth and motherhood, most notably by ledger artist Wakeah Jhane of the Comanche, Blackfeet, and Kiowa tribes, have been exhibited at the Smithsonian and the Santa Fe Indian Market.</p> <p>Since the late 1800s, Native Americans’ lives largely have been dictated by federal government policies designed to stamp out traditions and create dependency on white institutions. Many traditions and ceremonies were outlawed, and families were separated as Native American children were forcibly removed from their homes to be placed in Indian boarding schools, where their language and culture were forbidden. Then, in 1955, the federal Indian Health Service was established to manage the health care of Native Americans. Birth became a medicalized affair and was, more often than not, directed by white male obstetricians.</p> <p>But that morning in Standing Rock, intersecting movements for Indigenous self-determination and human rights created the backdrop for an extraordinary traditional birth with women at the helm.</p> <p>“A lot of the time in hospitals, people don’t approach women in a way that says to them that they are the center of the birth, or in a way that gives the woman control,” says Nicolle Gonzales, 36, a Navajo nurse midwife from New Mexico who was nearby when Blackowl gave birth. “When a woman is birthing, it’s her space, and we have to honor that space. But nobody tells you that.”</p> <p>Gonzales traveled to Standing Rock to show solidarity and to help provide culturally responsive and respectful care for women at camp. While working as a nurse for two years in an IHS hospital in New Mexico, Gonzales recognized a need for better prenatal and birthing care for Indigenous women, and this inspired her to pursue training as a midwife.</p> <p>Gonzales is a mother of three and the founder and executive director of the Changing Woman Initiative, a nonprofit organization in Santa Fe working to renew Indigenous birth knowledge. The initiative is planning a culturally centered clinic and birth center committed to providing family-centered care where the woman is the decision-maker.</p> <p>“Indigenous midwifery is not a new thing,” Gonzales says. “It has always been here. We’re just beginning to bring those Indigenous perspectives forward again.”</p> <p>In the span of just a century on reservations, Indigenous women were stripped of their power as matriarchs, once foundational to their communities—as knowledge keepers, decision-makers, and birth workers. Native American communities overall had been threatened by genocidal government policies from the early colonies to the 1970s. At least 25 percent of Native American women who received care in IHS hospitals were involuntarily sterilized, according to a 2000 American Indian Quarterly report.</p> <p>But Indigenous women are trying to regain that power. Jodi Lynn Maracle, 33, a traditional doula from the Tyendinaga Mohawk nation, says the effort is fivefold. “We talk about reclaiming language, and ceremony, and tradition, but it’s also about reclaiming our bodies and our relationship to our bodies, especially as women.”</p> <p>Maracle is mother to a 3-year-old boy. She is a doula with training from the Seventh Generation Midwives in Toronto and from the Six Nations Birthing Centre. She is pursuing a doctoral degree at the University of Buffalo in New York, centering her research on Haudenosaunee midwifery and birth work.</p> <p>“During the boarding school era, there weren’t many choices for Indigenous people,” Maracle says. “Today, there are so many choices. I think the empowerment is just in having people say that you have a choice.”</p> <p>Women who choose to have their babies in hospitals still have ways to incorporate traditions. Simple adjustments can be made during birth: singing traditional songs; facing the bed toward the east, where the sun rises; squatting versus lying down; or cleansing the area with sage or other traditional medicines. The key is for women to ask a lot of questions and to educate themselves as much as possible about their options before, during, and after birth.</p> <p>Yet reaching back to traditions, or decolonizing birth, is not so straightforward in many Indigenous communities. Some tribes have fewer teachings intact today, and it may not be as simple as asking an elder. Women may have to consult historical records or reach out to sister tribes, and above all, re-establish a relationship with their bodies and intuitive power as women.</p> <p>After the births of each of her children, Blackowl chose to root her newborn babies to the physical world by burying their placentas in the ground—a tradition tied to Lakota/Dakota birth. During the Standing Rock resistance, Blackowl buried the placenta that nurtured Mni Wiconi near the place of her birth, at the height of a movement for Indigenous self-determination.</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/decolonize/decolonizing-birth-women-take-back-their-power-as-life-givers-20180305?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180309&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180309+CID_25d7f264a4aecad6f740d55ac868995c&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=Decolonizing">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/chelsea-macmillan/living-prayer-at-standing-rock">Living prayer at Standing Rock</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/fearless-collective/we-protest-by-creating-beauty">We protest by creating beauty</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/harry-hendrick/love-and-reason-how-should-we-raise-our-children">Love and reason: how should we raise our children?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Sarah Sunshine Manning Activism Care Culture Love and Spirituality Thu, 29 Mar 2018 19:42:13 +0000 Sarah Sunshine Manning 116631 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Is toxic masculinity a mask for anxiety? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ruth-c-white/is-toxic-masculinity-mask-for-anxiety <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What is it that makes so many boys grow up to believe that sex is theirs for the taking?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/RuthWhite.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/victory-day-masculinity-1396495/">Pixabay/Katy_foto</a>. <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/victory-day-masculinity-1396495/">CC0 1.0</a>.</p> <p>The widespread discussion of sexual harassment and what is being defined as <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxic_masculinity">'toxic masculinity</a>' leads to questions about what it is in the ways in which we are raising young boys that would make so many of them (though definitely not all) grow up to believe that sex is theirs for the taking, and that consent is an undefined state that is theirs to manipulate and interpret as they see fit.</p> <p>Just like too many women who were once girls who were taught to be compliant and polite and to be afraid of men and their power, so are way too many boys being taught that their pleasure is paramount and coercion is part of what they need to do to in order to get their needs satisfied.</p> <p>So what are we doing wrong and how can we change our social and cultural expectations of boys so that they grow up to be men who are more inclined to protect and respect their sexual partners instead of exploiting and denigrating them?</p> <p><strong>What is 'toxic' masculinity?</strong></p> <p>Perusing many definitions—whether in the hip Urban Dictionary or summarized from&nbsp;various social science articles—‘toxic masculinity’&nbsp;refers to the social expectations that men, and thus also boys, should be sexually&nbsp;aggressive, physically violent, unemotional and homophobic, and should also devalue women. It is the kind of behavior that is stereotypically referred to as 'locker room' or 'frat-boy behavior.' It is also the type of behavior that emphasizes&nbsp;<a title="Psychology Today looks at competition" href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/sport-and-competition">competition</a>&nbsp;based on physical power,&nbsp;<a title="Psychology Today looks at risk-taking" href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/sensation-seeking">risk-taking</a>&nbsp;and sexual prowess and promiscuity. </p> <p>The research shows that these expectations of boys are damaging to both men and women, and to society at large. Toxic masculinity has been discussed as <a href="http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1097184X16664952">a cause of&nbsp;mass shootings&nbsp;</a>and&nbsp;of <a href="http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-jackson-men-group-therapy-folsom-prison-the-work-toxic-masculinity-20171130-story.html" target="_blank">violence</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>The impact of toxic masculinity on mental&nbsp;health.</strong></p> <p>In a&nbsp;<a href="http://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fcou0000176" target="_blank">meta-study</a>&nbsp;that looked at the findings of more than 70&nbsp;studies of&nbsp;<a title="Psychology Today looks at conformity" href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/conformity">conformity</a>&nbsp;to masculine norms, researchers found that these norms were "unfavorably, robustly and consistently" related to negative mental health outcomes and reduced the likelihood of men seeking out mental health services. The three most powerful masculine norms that predicted these negative outcomes were self-reliance, power over women and the pursuit of sexual promiscuity. </p> <p>In&nbsp;<a href="https://www.popsci.com/research-shows-that-toxic-masculinity-is-harmful-to-mens-mental-health" target="_blank">an interview</a>, Y. Joel Wong of Indiana University at Bloomington (one of the authors of the study) said that the links to sexism mean that these behaviors are particularly problematic, because society has changed and sexism is no longer acceptable behavior—though the multitude of&nbsp;reports of sexual harassment in the last few months make it quite clear that, even if unacceptable, such attacks are still suffered in silence by too many women. </p> <p>But women are not the only ones suffering in silence, because the emphasis on self-reliance and the rigidity of the ways in which we perceive masculinity mean that many men feel that they have no other choice but to fulfill these social expectations. Wong argues that men feel trapped by these norms even if they do not align with their personal values; they perpetuate such norms because they&nbsp;<a title="Psychology Today looks at fear" href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/fear">fear</a>&nbsp;not being perceived as 'masculine.' So what does this mean for boys?</p> <p><strong>Toxic masculinity and boys.</strong></p> <p>There are many efforts to undo this toxicity including courses and initiatives in masculinity on university campuses such as&nbsp;<a href="https://campuslife.wustl.edu/leadership-programs/mens-project/" target="_blank">Washington University in St. Louis</a>,&nbsp;the <a href="https://win.wisc.edu/organization/mensproject" target="_blank">University of Wisconsin</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.dukechronicle.com/article/2016/09/deconstructing-masculinity-duke-mens-project-aims-to-facilitate-discussions-of-male-privilege-and-patriarchy" target="_blank">Duke University</a> and others. These efforts reflect a broader societal effort to change the way we define and express masculinity.</p> <p>But why wait until boys get to college to change the way they see themselves? Masculinities scholar&nbsp;<a href="http://www.drronaldlevant.com/content.html" target="_blank">Ronald Levant</a>, author of&nbsp;<em><a href="http://www.apa.org/pubs/books/4318144.aspx" target="_blank">The Psychology of Men and Masculinities</a></em>, shows how the socialization of boys into behaviors such as dominance, emotional restriction, toughness and self-reliance begins as young as infancy, and is transmitted through&nbsp;<a title="Psychology Today looks at parents" href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/parenting">parents</a>, the media and the world at large. </p> <p>Therefore, it would seem that these behaviors and beliefs would have the same negative impacts for young people in high school and earlier, yet a search of the PsycInfo database (the leading database of psychology articles) does not find any articles linking 'toxic masculinity' with 'boys' or 'adolescents', though there are lots of studies exploring the impact of&nbsp;<a title="Psychology Today looks at gender" href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/gender">gender stereotypes</a>&nbsp;on adolescent males. </p> <p>As stated by University of Illinois Chicago sociologist Barbara Risman, "boys make fun of other boys if they step just a little outside the rigid masculine&nbsp;stereotype." Families may even&nbsp;<a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2013/dec/26/local/la-me-one-way-gender-revolution-20131227" target="_blank">become&nbsp;socially ostracized and threatened</a>&nbsp;with violence because their son gravitates towards more feminine toys such as Barbies and Disney princesses.</p> <p>According to psychologist Tali Shenfield, author of popular&nbsp;<a href="http://www.psy-ed.com/wpblog/child-and-teen-anxiety/" target="_blank">anxiety tests for children</a>, negative emotionality is one of the most common triggers for anxiety. Fear of rejection can cause&nbsp;<a title="Psychology Today looks at anxiety " href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/anxiety">anxiety&nbsp;</a>and&nbsp;<a title="Psychology Today looks at anger" href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/anger">anger</a>&nbsp;in boys, with the 'lone wolf' stereotype being implicated in instances of violence that include&nbsp;<a href="https://search-proquest-com.libproxy2.usc.edu/psycinfo/docview/621848461/7C29AAAF35084533PQ/5?accountid=14749" target="_blank">Columbine</a>&nbsp;and other shootings. </p> <p>The&nbsp;<a title="Psychology Today looks at bullying" href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/bullying">bullying</a>&nbsp;that many boys experience if they deviate from dominant social norms is a source&nbsp;of anxiety, as shown by recent studies by researchers at Duke University and at University College London. Dealing with this anxiety may help male adolescents find less problematic ways to express their frustration, and help to build emotional&nbsp;<a title="Psychology Today looks at resilience" href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/resilience">resilience</a>.</p> <p>Having strategies to deal with this anxiety and being able to foster broader definitions of masculinity will help boys to grow up to be less attached to stereotyped ways of being, especially those which are no longer valued in a society where gender equity,&nbsp;<a title="Psychology Today looks at cooperation" href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/teamwork">cooperation</a>, and emotional expression are more socially acceptable.</p> <p><strong>Broadening the definition of masculinity.</strong></p> <p>Many articles are being written about the shifting definitions of masculinity and the&nbsp;difficulties that some men are having in adapting to these new norms. In an&nbsp;<a href="http://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/02/men-left-behind.aspx" target="_blank">article in the Monitor on Psychology&nbsp;</a>published by the American Psychological Association entitled "The Men America Left Behind," Kristin Weir explores the disconnection that many men, particularly white men, now feel because of this shift in social expectations regarding male roles.</p> <p>Allowing boys the freedom to be who they are without defining such behaviors as masculine or feminine will decrease the&nbsp;<a title="Psychology Today looks at cognitive dissonance" href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/cognitive-dissonance">cognitive dissonance</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a title="Psychology Today looks at stress" href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/stress">emotional stress</a>&nbsp;that so many men feel as they try to navigate changing social norms. Encouraging expressions of emotionality such as tears — whether of joy or sadness — will reduce the stress of stifling emotions that often are expressed in less healthy ways such as violence. Encouraging boys to talk about their feelings will help them build social support networks that go beyond typical ways of 'male bonding.'</p> <p>Teaching boys healthy ways to express their&nbsp;sexuality&nbsp;through mutual respect and communication will help them to understand how to have sexual relations that produce enjoyment and satisfaction for both parties. Sex as shared instead of sex that is taken is something that too many adult men find difficult to&nbsp;understand in terms of acceptable forms of sexual engagement.</p> <p>It requires all of us to shift our expectations of men and boys so that these new norms are rewarded. Women will no longer 'protect' men by suffering in silence, and men need to hold each other responsible for being masculine without the toxicity that creates so many problems for us all.</p> <p class="image-caption">This article was first published by <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/experts/ruth-c-white-phd">Psychology Today</a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/gary-barker/why-don%E2%80%99t-men-care">Why don’t men care?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/rebecca-tinsley/if-this-is-what-it-feels-like-to-be-woman-what-does-it-mean-to-be-man">If this is what it feels like to be a woman, what does it mean to be a man?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/dan-mahle/how-i-stopped-watching-porn-for-one-year-and-why-im-not-going-back">How I stopped watching porn for one year and why I&#039;m not going back</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation masculinity Ruth C. White Liberation Care Culture Intersectionality Thu, 22 Mar 2018 19:51:31 +0000 Ruth C. White 115895 at https://www.opendemocracy.net