Care https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/18671/all cached version 15/06/2018 13:37:48 en 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 Culture Care 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 Love and Spirituality Culture Care Activism 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 With marijuana now legal, Los Angeles goes further to make amends for the war on drugs https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kevon-paynter/with-marijuana-now-legal-los-angeles-goes-further-to-make-amends-for-wa <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How one city is repairing the damage caused by marijuana prohibition for the people who’ve been most affected.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/KevonPaynter.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Marijuana&nbsp;displayed in West Hollywood on the first day of recreational sales on January 2, 2018. Credit: Christina House/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images via YES! Magazine.</p> <p>Decades of marijuana prohibition in California are coming to an end thanks to ballot initiative Proposition 64, or the Adult Use of Marijuana Act.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.sccgov.org/sites/ceo/Pages/adult-marijuana-act-AUMA.aspx">Approved by a majority of voters</a>&nbsp;in November 2016, Prop 64 reduces criminal penalties for various marijuana-related offenses for adults and juveniles and allows marijuana entrepreneurs to participate in the recreational sale of cannabis to adults.</p> <p>Yet Californians didn’t just legalize marijuana. In Los Angeles, the City Council went one step further, enacting some of the most progressive criminal justice reforms in the country to rectify the disproportionate effect the war on drugs has had on minority communities.</p> <p>“We are L.A. We are leaders. We take on the tough issues,” City Council<a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-marijuana-rules-20171205-story.html">President Herb Wesson said</a>&nbsp;Dec. 6 right before the bill passed, reported the Los Angeles Times.</p> <p>Proposition 64 legalizes a marijuana industry that experts estimate will add&nbsp;<a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/california-weed-marijuana-legalization-2016-9">$4 billion</a>&nbsp;to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-california-pot-20170129-story.html">$7 billion</a>&nbsp;to the state economy that, if California were its own country, would be sixth largest in the world. And within that huge economy, L.A. has become the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.dailynews.com/2017/09/14/la-in-the-spotlight-as-it-races-to-legalize-local-marijuana-industry/">world’s largest market</a>&nbsp;to approve the sale of recreational cannabis.</p> <p>California was on the front lines of the war on drugs for decades. The state experienced nearly 500,000 marijuana arrests between 2006 and 2015, according to the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.drugpolicy.org/sites/default/files/California_Marijuana_Arrest_Report_081816.pdf">Drug Policy Alliance</a>.</p> <p>The&nbsp;new ordinances in L.A. create a “social equity” tier of applicants who will receive priority for licenses to own and operate marijuana businesses. These are people who have past convictions for marijuana-related crimes, or who live in an L.A. neighborhood that was a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-marijuana-equity-20171020-story.html">verifiable</a>&nbsp;target of enforcement during the drug war. It’s an attempt at restorative justice for the minority communities most negatively impacted by marijuana prohibition.</p> <p>The law takes effect even as Attorney General Jeff Sessions&nbsp;<a href="https://www.apnews.com/19f6bfec15a74733b40eaf0ff9162bfa">reverses U.S. Justice Department guidance</a>&nbsp;to leave enforcement of marijuana laws to the states. It’s unclear yet what effect new federal policies would have.</p> <p>L.A. resident&nbsp;<a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2016/11/california-prop-47-helped-african-americans-161101172049495.html">Donnie Anderson</a>&nbsp;plans to remain vigilant during the<em>&nbsp;</em>city’s implementation of the rules. As chairman of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.californiaminorityalliance.com/">California Minority State Alliance</a>, Anderson advocated for the social equity program that they hope will play a major role in deciding which marijuana businesses will be allowed to open.</p> <p>“The difference is justice is at the forefront,” Anderson says.</p> <p>Anderson and Virgil Grant own MedEX, a medical cannabis dispensary in South L.A.&nbsp;<a href="http://blog.margolinlawrence.com/do-i-need-to-be-a-pre-ico-to-qualify-for-las-priority-licensing">Since 1996, when medical marijuana was legalized in California, 135</a>&nbsp;shops have been licensed to sell cannabis to patients.</p> <p>According to the proposed rules, medical dispensaries will be first in line to receive a license to expand into recreational sales. However, Anderson and Grant and other groups like California NORML and the NAACP fought to ensure people with previous convictions wouldn’t be disqualified.</p> <p>&nbsp;“[They] fought for cannabis to make sure we can build generational wealth from this plant,” says Walter Lance Edwards, who has a past drug-related conviction and plans to open a cannabis delivery service.</p> <p>Anderson is helping Edwards obtain a fair shot at reaping the rewards of an industry that experts predict will bring in over&nbsp;<a href="https://merryjane.com/news/california-los-angeles-approves-controversial-cannabis-regulations-legalization">$50 million in local tax revenue</a>&nbsp;in 2018.</p> <p>“We’ve been the ones going to prison for it,” Edwards said. “Now it’s time for us to own it and operate it in a business.”</p> <p>As the nation’s attitudes<strong>&nbsp;</strong>toward marijuana shift—eight states have legalized recreational pot so far—Anderson believes the social equity program offers minorities in L.A.<strong>&nbsp;</strong>a&nbsp;chance at justice, equity, and fair development<em>.</em></p> <p>“It’s about those who’ve been harmed by the failed war on drugs,” Anderson says. “Our goal is about the socio-economics, and that’s what social equity really means.”</p> <p>Because federal law still prohibits marijuana,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-jerry-brown-marijuana-banking-plan-20171217-story.html">federally insured banks won’t lend</a>&nbsp;to marijuana businesses or handle cash from the proceeds of marijuana sales. This would place Edwards and other would-be entrepreneurs on unequal footing when competing with well-funded cannabis operations that have pockets&nbsp;deep enough not to need the assistance of commercial banks.</p> <p><a href="https://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/craig-bannister/la-approves-plan-help-cannabis-convicts-open-pot-shop">L.A.’s plan is to waive or defer fees and provide startup loans</a>&nbsp;at low interest rates to create equal opportunities for social equity applicants. It’s a move Edwards calls “a good start.”</p> <p>Another component of the new regulations would ensure that people with low incomes, residents of neighborhoods heavily affected by marijuana arrests, or those who have been convicted of marijuana-related crimes make up at least half of the workforce in the city’s new<strong>&nbsp;</strong>cannabis businesses. Both Edwards and Anderson grew up in South L.A. neighborhoods that were hotspots for drug arrests.</p> <p>“I’m still rising out of the ashes from this, and the effects are still here,” Edwards says.</p> <p>In ’82 and ’83 you saw Black “fathers in the household, mothers working,” Anderson says. The war on drugs, he says, “took the man, took the woman, and put the children in foster care. It created a warfare that I’ve never seen in my lifetime and I never want to see it again.”</p> <p>Edwards says that over the years, as good industrial jobs abandoned the neighborhood, few options were left other than selling marijuana. “What do you got to do to feed your family?” he says. “It’s by all means necessary.”</p> <p>Decades of independent studies confirm Edwards’ firsthand experience—while people of every race are equally likely to buy, use, and sell drugs, Black people are more than&nbsp;<a href="https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/assets/141027_iachr_racial_disparities_aclu_submission_0.pdf">three</a>&nbsp;times as likely to be charged, convicted, and harshly sentenced.</p> <p>Instead of crackdowns, under the new equity program, the L.A. city council set up a<strong><em>&nbsp;</em></strong>neighborhood health fund that will direct a portion of city revenue from taxing marijuana businesses to pay for community beautification, addiction treatment, youth extracurricular education, and mental health services in areas affected by the war on drugs.</p> <p>Taxes from legal cannabis will also go to community-based legal service providers that have already helped at least&nbsp;<a href="http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/Prop64-Filings.pdf">4,500</a>&nbsp;people petition to have their convictions for low-level nonviolent crimes, such as drug possession and petty theft, changed from felonies to misdemeanors.</p> <p>That reclassification of most drug- and theft-related crimes is a result of Proposition 47, which went into effect in 2014. As a result, the number of drug arrests in Los Angeles County has dropped by a third and, according to the Washington Post, it’s led to&nbsp;<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/national/2015/10/10/prop47/?utm_term=.544f1e3d1979">hundreds of thousands</a>&nbsp;of people applying to get their previous drug convictions revised or erased.</p> <p>Eunisses Hernandez, policy coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance, organizes expungement clinics where translators and attorneys working pro bono help 50–100 people file the paperwork to remove those convictions.</p> <p>“They’re coming, many of them with months or years of struggling to get a job or housing, and just that weight is really heavy, and you can sense that weight in the room,” Hernandez says.</p> <p>What’s happening in L.A. and across California echoes a movement to atone for harsh penalties during the war on drugs. At least nine states, including Maryland, Oregon, and Vermont, have passed laws expunging or reducing marijuana convictions,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ncsl.org/research/civil-and-criminal-justice/marijuana-overview.aspx">according to the National Conference of State Legislatures</a>, even while the sale, transportation, or possession of marijuana remains illegal under federal law.</p> <p>Getting those stains removed from their records is something most people expected never to happen after their experiences during the years of marijuana prohibition.</p> <p>“People leave [the expungement clinics] crying because they never thought they could get these offenses taken care of—especially for free,” Hernandez says.</p> <p>“The point of this is to repair the damages caused by marijuana prohibition … for the people who’ve been most severely impacted,” she says. “We wanted to be that resource to repair those harms.”</p> <p class="image-caption">This article was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/with-marijuana-now-legal-la-goes-further-to-make-amends-for-the-war-on-drugs-20180118?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180119&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180119+CID_957f50d47bd51c3187274340c496fa36&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=R">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="/drugpolicy/ezekiel-edwards/in-us-war-on-drugs-equal-justice-under-law-rings-hollow">In the US war on drugs, “equal justice under law” rings hollow</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/drugpolicy/opendemocracy/9-things-we-ve-learned-from-50-year-war-on-drugs">9 things we’ve learned from a 50-year war on drugs</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <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> </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 Activism Care Culture Thu, 15 Mar 2018 20:43:28 +0000 Kevon Paynter 115787 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Three more ways to build solidarity across our differences https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/peroline-ainsworth-kiran-nihalani-hannah-rollins/three-more-ways-to-build-solidarity- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For most people divisive rhetoric isn’t new; they’ve been developing ways to counter it for years.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Peroandkiran2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/londonmatt/28720644722">Flickr/Matt Brown</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC-BY-2.0</a>.</p> <p>In 2017 we reported on <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/peroline-ainsworth-kiran-nihalani/five-ways-to-build-solidarity-across-our-difference">the work we’ve been doing with the Skills Network in south London</a> to nurture less siloed communities in the context of the post-Brexit debate. Reactions to that article encouraged us to go one step further in deepening our learning with other groups trying to build collective forms of support and social justice. For most people divisive rhetoric isn’t new; they’ve been developing ways to counter it for years. Here are three more lessons from our experience.</p><p><strong>1.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong><strong>We have more in common than divides us, but our situations are never equal.</strong></p> <blockquote><p><em>”You’ve got to remember when you bring all these people together in the beginning…they’ve got to have someone to shout at…Both sides have got to be equal. It’s got to be a level playing field otherwise it doesn’t work…(to do this) you need to create a ‘them and us’ situation...But the goal is to work towards the ‘us.’” </em>(Steve Scott, long-term Groundswell activist)<em></em></p></blockquote> <p>When we started Skills Network we were keen to focus on our shared experiences and values. We wanted the space to feel safe and positive, to ‘enact’ our ideal world, so we played down differences between us. But as we developed as a cooperative, frustrations at these differences came out in unexpected, sometimes disruptive ways, forcing us to think about more explicit ways to confront them.&nbsp; </p> <p>The reality is that there <em>are</em> inequalities between people—financial and in terms of status, confidence to voice opinions, general life opportunities and expectations. These differences are often internalised, glossed over by well-meaning attempts to ‘bridge divides’ and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/jun/17/jo-coxs-widower-awed-by-scale-of-uk-events-to-remember-his-wife">‘build communities.</a>’ It’s difficult to get the balance right between acknowledging them and letting them define the group, but some groups manage this balancing act better than others.&nbsp; </p> <p><a href="http://groundswell.org.uk/">Groundswell</a>, for example, facilitates peer-to-peer support and advocacy around homelessness, and for many years has been training local councils and other organisations in user involvement.&nbsp; The organisation started in the 1990s as a movement "very explicitly campaigning for the homeless and roofless–engaging with people who were having those experiences and following their agenda"&nbsp;as Simone Helleren from Groundswell puts it. Over time it grew into a network of smaller groups doing localised ‘self-help’ which started to advocate for more fundamental changes to policies and attitudes around housing. </p> <p>Groundswell recognised the crucial importance of taking the knowledge and anger of people at the sharp end of inequality seriously. The group pioneered the ‘Speakout’ model which brought together self-help groups, people experiencing homelessness, and people working in the sector to learn from each other through workshops and debates. These events brought homeless people into direct dialogue with policymakers and gave them an opportunity to express their opinions. </p> <p>Allowing space for those who had experienced homelessness to share their feelings with those responsible for making and implementing housing policy helped the group to move past these divisions and laid the groundwork for years of productive collaboration. Over time speakouts evolved into citizens’ juries which were at the centre of the group’s radical inquiry into UK housing policy: the <a href="http://lcu.iopan.co.uk/publications/the-homeless-peoples-commission.pdf">Homeless People’s Commission</a>. The key was to confront, not suppress, the injustices and inequalities that divide people, and to build connections and communities that eventually overcame them.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>2.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong><strong>Create frameworks that recognise we <em>all</em> have things to give and take.</strong></p> <blockquote><p><em>“The difference between traditional charity and timebanking? It’s the power thing, isn’t it? It’s more equal. You get to feel good about yourself by giving and remembering ‘oh yeah I am actually quite good at things.’ And you get help back as well -rather than one set of people are always the givers and then the other lot are the passive beneficiaries.” </em>(Alison Paule, Paxton Green Timebank Coordinator).</p></blockquote> <p>We initially thought at Skills Network that a flat pay-rate and shared decision-making would ensure everyone’s contributions felt equally valued. But ‘conventional’ hierarchies kept creeping into our dynamics.&nbsp; Searching for learning from other organisations in South London, we discovered <a href="https://www.rgtb.org.uk/">Rushey Green</a> and Paxton Green Timebanks. The timebanking movement seeks to create ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/edgar-cahn/empathy-democracy-and-economy">operating systems’</a> which consciously facilitate exchange and support in a way that makes clear that “nobody is better than anybody else.<em>”</em> They do this by focusing on ‘proactive’ time as the principal unit of currency<strong>.</strong></p> <p>For every hour participants ‘deposit’ in a timebank they can ‘withdraw’ the equivalent in support when they need something—“ironing or accounting…an hour is an hour.” In this context being ‘in need’ is not stigmatizing or shameful—it’s a normal part of everyone’s life.</p> <p>Timebanks globally have different characteristics. In south London, they bring together individuals who live very near each other but otherwise are worlds apart. Paule notes that “it quite surprises people to start with, probably more so for the posher people – ‘oh these are different people that I don’t usually interact with!&nbsp; And they are quite nice actually."<em>&nbsp;</em>One older woman member described the effects of a friendship that had grown out of her involvement:<em> </em></p> <blockquote><p><em>“My friend who subsequently has died, she actually lived down the bottom of my road and I would never have listened and talked to her. She was afro-Caribbean, from Jamaica…I would never had actually been able to [sighing] comprehend, understand certain aspects of other people lives if it wasn’t for her.” </em></p></blockquote> <p>But these new relationships and insights don’t happen overnight. They evolve very gradually as people engage in mutual support.&nbsp;<em>“</em>When you first get involved it may be quite passive” according to Robert, a member of both timebanks, “just coming along (to an event), drinking a cup of tea. But the aim is to give people the opportunity to grow, to get more involved.”</p> <p>This framework acknowledges that some people have had knock-backs in their lives and may need support in taking the lead on something—perhaps from something “really small like (starting) a knitting group…helping them think through the steps…Where do you want to have the group? What day of the week? What time? We’ve got spare kettles, tea, biscuits.”</p> <p>The careful, slow work that happens within timebanks may seem insignificant to the untrained eye, focusing as it does on tiny interactions and exchanges and incremental shifts in people’s understanding of themselves and each other. These shifts are difficult to capture and count, but they can have profound resonance because they break down the sense of difference that those involved often have about each-other.&nbsp; </p> <blockquote><p><em>“It felt very different, completely different from anything that had been going on before. You started to feel as if you have got some value to give. And lo and behold somebody is giving you something that you never expected.” </em>(Marilyn, Paxton Green member)</p></blockquote><p><strong>3.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</strong><strong>Having an equal conversation is a deliberate, political act.</strong></p><p>Even a single conversation in which people feel like they are interacting as equals can help to shift the status quo in hierarchies, but it’s a challenge, and one that often overwhelmed us at Skills Network. ‘<a href="https://leftroots.net/organizing-transformation-best-practices-in-the-transformative-organizing-model/">Transformative organising</a>’ approaches (which came out of community organising in the US) have taught us a lot about how to do it better. It starts by acknowledging the entrenched hierarchies that play out in all our interactions, but which are often more obvious to those with less power who are used to subtly deferring to, agreeing with or apologising to those who have more. </p> <p>These approaches use specific techniques to slowly equalise these hierarchies, like ‘<a href="http://www.intentionalpeersupport.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Peer-Support_A-Systemic-Approach.pdf">Intentional Peer Support,</a>’ which was developed in the 1990s as a challenge to top-down mental health services but has since become a wider method in community organising. Core to this method is the disruption of the tendency to replicate unequal ‘helping’ dynamics by building awareness of the power roles we all fall into, and by finding ways to be more aware of our own tendencies and assumptions. </p> <p>Their listening and questioning techniques help people engage with each other with real curiosity and openness, and form connections across divides, shifting from notions of ‘helping’ towards ones of ‘learning together.’ Key to transformative approaches is the conviction that they form a continual and relentless process, and one that will keep being slightly undone by the rest of the world—meaning the job is never ‘done.’ </p> <p>Many people are looking for new ways to heal divides and that’s heartening. But enacting these sentiments in a long-lasting way is complex and challenging, especially when some people face very real resource shortages and others may have internalised very different notions of their power. If we are to come together across the entrenched divisions and disillusionment that many people are feeling, our starting point is clear: engage as equals. </p> <p>That means a continuous, ever-evolving process in which we must all be self-aware and open to being challenged again and again. It involves challenging the structures and values that set up inequalities between us through our daily interactions and with everyone we meet. Our plea is for people who have been relatively inoculated from the effects of divisive rhetoric and policy to really try and ‘see’ the inspirational alternatives that are already being enacted around them—and bring their knowledge and skills to this existing, slow, un-photogenic, but potentially transformative experience.&nbsp;&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/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 even"> <a href="/transformation/kylie-noble/we-re-movement-not-just-magazine">“We’re a movement, not just a magazine”</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 Political polarization Kiran Nihalani and Peroline Ainsworth Hannah Rollins Activism Care Culture Sun, 11 Mar 2018 19:48:20 +0000 Hannah Rollins and Kiran Nihalani and Peroline Ainsworth 116589 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Meet the Glasscos: lesbian foster parents in America’s Bible Belt https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/katherine-webb-hehn/meet-glasscos-lesbian-foster-parents-in-america-s-bible-belt <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In Alabama, religiously-affiliated private adoption agencies can legally discriminate against same-sex couples, but the law may be having the opposite effect.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/KatherineWebb1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Chelsey and Bailey Glassco in front of their new home in Childersburg, Alabama, where they’re raising a foster son. Photo by the author.</p><p><em>This article was first published in <a href="https://www.scalawagmagazine.org/2018/01/meet-the-glasscos-lesbian-foster-parents-in-the-bible-belt/">Scalawag</a>.</em></p> <p>Childersburg is a typical river town in Alabama: tackle shops, Waffle House, a Piggly Wiggly. Near the Glassco house, a Cajun restaurant called Bigman’s serves grilled gator and BBQ.</p> <p>But the Glasscos aren’t exactly the typical Childersburg family, because, as they’d say, of the whole lesbian thing.</p> <p>When I meet Chelsey and Bailey Glassco on a Wednesday afternoon in their new home in a neighborhood called Pleasant Valley, they’re a few weeks into the semester at the private Christian Academy where they’re both teachers, and their foster son, Jay (that’s not his real name), is in first grade. Bailey teaches high school English. Chelsey teaches music and Spanish to the younger grades. They welcome me inside still buttoned-up from the day, preppy: slacks, loafers, dress shirts.</p> <p>The house is buzzing with new home-owner energy: Jay is bouncing between his two dogs and us, asking if I’d like to see his room, if I’d like to play, if I’d like to eat ice cream with him. Chelsey is apologizing for the move-in mess and shuffling the dogs back into the yard. Bailey, who grew up, as she says, “in the wilderness” near Sand Mountain, Alabama, is on the phone giving directions to a social worker from their adoption agency, Ashley Douthard, by offering local, posted road names instead of state-issued monikers on maps. I get the feeling Bailey can rebuild engines while quoting Eudora Welty. (On the way to their house, when I got lost, too, and called for help, she told me, “Turn back and hang a right at the little pew-jumping church.” When I laughed, she added, “That’s not a judgment. Just a description.”)</p> <p>They’re only the second owners of the property, a midcentury fixer-upper on 3.7 acres. Signs of the couple who built the house half a century ago are everywhere: a wheelchair ramp off the back deck, a glass collection carefully stacked in the butler pantry. Everything is a little worn-in from age but full of potential.</p> <p>When I ask to go to the bathroom, Chelsey takes me down the hall, following me to point out the ‘50s-era ceramic work. We’ve known one another two minutes, and we’re admiring tiling around a toilet together. A dentist’s daughter from Bonifay, Florida, who grew up singing in an Assembly of God church, Chelsey speaks like the talky tracks of Loretta Lynn records, sweetly Southern, bitingly witty. Back in the living room, Jay dashes outside and we stand amid empty boxes, watching their boy through a bank of west-facing windows.</p> <p>Jay trots up the grassy slope of his new backyard in boots and a yellow T-shirt, waving a stick toward the sky, two dogs trailing behind. The whole scene is downright Norman Rockwell-ish.</p> <p>The irony of being in a neighborhood called Pleasant Valley hits me when Chelsey cuts the chitchat to tell me Jay has had a hard week, and I remember why I’m here.</p> <p>In May, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed&nbsp;<a href="https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/alabama/articles/2017-05-03/ivey-signs-bill-letting-adoption-groups-turn-away-gays" target="_blank">HB24 into law</a>, protecting adoption agencies when they deem parents unfit on the basis of religious beliefs. I’m here because the law means religious-affiliated private adoption agencies can now legally discriminate against same-sex couples like the Glasscos.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/KatherineWebb2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Bailey Glassco and her dogs in the back plot of her 3.7-acre home. Glassco is trying to legally adopt her foster son with her wife, Chelsey. Photo by the author.</p><p>Jay has a condition called Reactive Attachment Disorder.</p><p>When the Glasscos met Jay, his family had been in the system for two years, and he’d cycled through multiple placements. He was underweight. He was balding. His skin itched nonstop from stress-induced psoriasis and eczema. “He’s constantly telling us he’s afraid he’s not going to be fed,” Bailey says.</p><p>Common in children raised in orphanages or environments of neglect, Bailey describes RAD as a wiring malfunction that happens when a young child is forced to self-soothe in moments when they need to be cuddled or fed. The result can be a lifelong struggle with relationships.</p><p>The Glasscos work with Jay each day on understanding boundaries and establishing appropriate trust. He sees a therapist. He takes medicine. They receive weekly support from Douthard, the social worker. They’re waiting on a special, weighted vest to arrive in the mail, a garment that’s supposed to help comfort Jay when they physically can’t hold and calm him.</p><p>Today, Douthard is coming for an emergency visit. As a therapeutic social worker for the foster and adoption agency working with the Glasscos (they asked we not name the agency to protect Jay’s privacy), Douthard offers weekly check-in sessions to families fostering children like Jay who are undergoing medical treatment for psychological or behavioral disorders.</p><p>Going to school has been challenging for Jay, navigating the social landscape, and to cope, he’s been hitting himself and his classmates. Violence is common in RAD kids. As they begin to make attachments, something in their brain fires off a warning, and they lash out. Without treatment, this behavior can continue into adulthood with potentially horrific results. To give a point of reference for the difference between a child who does or doesn’t receive help, Chelsey names two famous examples of people with RAD, “You could be Helen Keller or Ted Bundy.”</p><p>The frustrating part to Chelsey is that RAD is 100 percent preventable, but once kids have the disorder, they have it for life. She says Jay’s biological family struggled to meet his basic needs. “It’s a really sad situation,” Chelsey says. “Everybody and their mama, no pun intended, had been abused in [Jay’s] family.” Because the Glasscos will be in court soon, they can’t offer details publicly of Jay’s history.</p><p>I spoke to other foster parents for this story who were also in the middle of court proceedings and didn’t want their names to be public. Many of those foster kids came from families where no one has a job or a car to get to a job, where multiple generations suffer from drug addiction, and where state intervention is common. Finding family members to offer these children safer homes can be difficult.</p><p>Jay has lived with the Glasscos for six months. It’s the longest he’s lived anywhere. “When we hit the three-month mark,” Bailey says, “he started to ask if he was staying with us. His internal clock knew it was time to be moved to another foster home.”</p><p>Outside, Jay is running, hollering down to us that he’s “supah fast.” His white athletic socks are poking out of the tops of his boots, and it’s the sight of those socks that kills me. My own son is 16 months old. I think about all the socks he’s tossed off in the car, the grocery store, wherever. Hundreds of times a day he needs me or my husband to hold him, to help him. I can’t even think about Jay when he was a baby.</p><p>When I ask if this is how the Glasscos envisioned parenthood, Chelsey says they think about having a baby—“Bailey has always wanted to be pregnant. I’d love to plan four hospital routes and be the one going ‘you can do this!’”—but every time they’ve seriously considered it, another kid has needed them. They met their first foster kid when she was in high school and living in a group home. “[She] was going to have to be housed back with her mother who was a drug dealer. And she didn’t have another option,” Chelsey says. “So we got certified.”</p><p>But the Glasscos say they were denied by a dozen adoption agencies before finding one willing to work with a same-sex couple—all prior to the passing of HB24. Chelsey drops into a snooty voice, joking, “We were like, ‘We don’t want to work with you guys anyways.’” Bailey says they didn’t worry about the other agencies, and never considered legal action, focusing instead on helping their foster teen transition to adulthood, figure out how to get job, a car, an apartment. She lived with them until she turned 18 and got her own apartment.</p><p>“We have a soft spot for that age, because we were so vulnerable during that time,” Chelsey says. When Chelsey and Bailey themselves were entering adulthood, they were homeless.</p><p>They met at a small all-women’s Baptist College, where Bailey was a star on the volleyball team and Chelsey sang in Sunday services. (Even though Chelsey came out at 15, she wanted a challenging academic environment where she could better explore religion. Her folks wanted her to be a Christian singer. “Like Amy Grant?” I ask, half-kidding. “Exactly. Actually, she was my first crush,” she says.)</p><p>When they made their relationship public, their families launched campaigns to pray them straight. The congregation of Chelsey’s church back in Bonifay began calling and sending letters. Bailey’s family contacted teachers and administrators at their school. Certain administrators at the university contacted ministers at churches where Chelsey sang, worried she might have spread propaganda like rainbow flags.</p><p>“We’re some potent gay,” Bailey jokes.</p><p>By the time they graduated, they didn’t have anywhere to go. They lost contact with nearly everyone, from youth group buddies to their own brothers.</p><p>“Our families were basically like goodbye and good luck,” Chelsey says. A handful of people they met—through churches—helped them get on their feet but things still weren’t easy. They lost teaching jobs when a board member at a school didn’t want lesbians on staff, so they moved to a new town and took jobs at Olive Garden and Firehouse Subs until finding the school where they now teach.</p><p>Jay pops in to ask for water. He pants like the dog at his hip to show us how hard he’s been playing.</p><p>I realize I haven’t asked how old they are (Bailey’s 28, Chesley’s 27) or how long they’ve been married (seven years). “That’s our numerical age,” Bailey says, “but we say it’s about the mileage.”</p><p>Now, Chelsey says they’re visiting an LGBT-affirming church in Birmingham, where they’ve found a preacher willing to be a male mentor for Jay, and where he can grow up in “a village” like they did. Even though her old congregation no longer serves as her support system, Chelsey says, growing up, there were “16 people I could have called if I needed something. Foster kids don’t have that. That’s the reason they’re in foster care.”</p><p>When Douthard arrives, I wander around a bit, tagging along for a tour of the house before heading to the backyard to pet the dogs and stay out of the way. Jay is telling the social worker about mowing the lawn, how his moms are going to let him do it someday but first he has to master picking up sticks, and I see Chelsey and Bailey reach for one another’s hand. I know that reach, that moment you need to connect with your partner to say, “Maybe we’re doing something right.”</p><p>I wonder how things would be different for the Glasscos if they’d been embraced instead of excommunicated from their families. Would they still have Jay? If not, where would he be?</p><p>Here’s the thing: Chelsey and Bailey didn’t choose Jay. They signed up to be foster parents to any child in need. When things get too difficult, as foster parents, the Glasscos have the option to ask for respite or terminate their time with him. It happens. Families don’t click. A child presents too great of challenges, or as with Jay, a foster child changes the family’s option to have other children.</p><p>But next week, the Glasscos will have their first meeting to begin the arduous legal process determining what is best for Jay’s future, either reunification with a family member or adoption into the Glassco home.</p><p>The cicadas start their nightly hum as the Glasscos tell the social worker about their renovation plans, where the vegetable garden will go next spring, how they’d met most of the neighbors already. I wonder how people could see this—the Glassco home—as dangerous.</p><p>It’s not like people are fighting over foster children. We have more children seeking homes in Alabama than families seeking children. The latest report from&nbsp;<a href="http://dhr.alabama.gov/documents/Monthly_Stats/2017/STAT0617.pdf" target="_blank">Alabama Department of Human Resources</a>&nbsp;showed 6,028 children were in custody of the department at the end of June 2017. One lawyer I interviewed said 1,000 of those children are in need of new homes.</p><p>&nbsp;So, what’s our hope, or responsibility, for kids like Jay?</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/KatherineWebb3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">A portrait of the Glasscos by their son, Jay, gifted to the author. Photo by the author.</p><p>There’s a narrative we’re asked to believe in the discussion surrounding same-sex adoption: A great battle exists between Christians and queers. If you are of the opinion that exposure to an LGBT lifestyle might turn children queer and therefore land them in eternal damnation then I’m not sure harm on earth has much argumentative power. But everyone I spoke to for this story, most of whom identify as queer, made a point to tell me they identify as Christian, too. Beyond a battle over the role of religion as it pertains to government, in Alabama, a law like HB24 is a battle over interpretations of Christianity.</p><p>As Reverend Jennifer Sanders put it, “The role of the government is to prevent harm. Now, it’s all about how you define harm. I think that’s what we’re arguing over.”</p><p>Sanders is one of 70 faith leaders who opposed HB24. The week before I came to Childersburg, I met Sanders at a café next door to Beloved Community Church in Birmingham, where she said she leads a congregation as active in social justice efforts as they are in Sunday worship. Sanders is a Christian liberation theologian, a lesbian, and a mom. She says she’s less interested in the outcome of this particular law than she is the liberation of the world from mankind’s harm. To her, the LGBT adoption battle matters only if lost. If won, it’s just a step toward equality in an inherently unjust system.</p><p>When I asked her how she entered conversations with conservative Christian ministers and policymakers, she said conversation doesn’t go far. “There tends to be a fair amount of smug disregard because people will treat you politely but that’s because they know they have the power, and your own power is curtailed by the structure.”</p><p>I tell Sanders about a moment in<a href="https://www.alabamaboundfilm.com/" target="_blank">&nbsp;Alabama Bound</a>, a film that follows lesbians in the state as they advocate for marriage equality prior to&nbsp;Obergefell v. Hodges, when the U.S. Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal across the country. I’d seen the film’s premiere a few weekends before at the Lyric Theatre in Birmingham. There’s a scene where openly gay Representative Patricia Todd is preparing for a pro-LGBT vote on the Montgomery Capitol floor, and GOP Representative Barry Moore walks up to her, gives her an awkward back-patting, side-hug and says something like: “You know I love you, girl, got all the respect in the world for you, but this ain’t gonna happen.”</p><p>&nbsp;The scene sums up the dynamic when it comes to marginalized groups gaining rights: Love ya. Ain’t happening.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/KatherineWebb4.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Rev. Jennifer Sanders believes the fight for LGBT adoption only matters if it’s lost. Photo by the author.</p><p>In Alabama, White, evangelical, Republican men hold the power.</p><p>Alabama lawmakers pushed hard for HB24, placing duplicates in the House and Senate, sponsored by Representative Rich Wingo and State Senator Bill Hightower, respectively. Neither agreed to an interview for this story. Even though both have told the press the law isn’t about denying LGBT couples the right to adopt,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.npr.org/2017/02/26/515585721/lgbtq-advocates-fear-religious-freedom-bills-moving-forward-in-states" target="_blank">Wingo told NPR</a>that other states have seen religious organizations close their doors instead of working with same-sex couples. The burden on the state, he said, would be overwhelming if Alabama’s private, religious agencies shuttered. But no Alabama agency has publicly announced it would shutter. I attempted to contact Wingo multiple times over several months for this story, and didn’t hear back from his office.</p><p>Even though Wingo is credited for the law’s success, the reality is this law is one of many in a recent batch of so-called “religious freedom” bills strategically&nbsp;<a href="https://www.npr.org/2017/02/26/515585721/lgbtq-advocates-fear-religious-freedom-bills-moving-forward-in-states" target="_blank">popping up</a> all over the country, backed by well-funded right wing groups. By passing HB24, Alabama joined Michigan, Virginia, and the Dakotas, where Republicans have approved related religious freedom bills. Even the name of the law—the Alabama Child Placing Agency Inclusion Act—is strategic. (Still,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/new-alabama-gov-to-sign-law-protecting-religious-freedom-of-adoption-agenci" target="_blank">Conservative news outlets</a> celebrated the law as a victory in efforts to discriminate against LGBT couples.)</p><p>The law is particularly problematic, according to Eva Kendrick, the Human Rights Campaign Alabama State Director, when you consider LGBT minors are more likely to be in the foster system than their hetero or cisgendered peers, and LGBT couples are four times more likely to raise adopted kids and six times more likely to raise foster children than hetero couples, according to nonpartisan studies, like the 2014 report released by the&nbsp;<a href="https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/press/press-releases/new-study-sheds-light-on-problems-facing-lgbtq-youth-experiencing-homelessness/" target="_blank">Williams Institute</a>.</p><p>Kendrick, who fosters a baby with her wife, says only two adoption agencies supported the bill while nearly 70 faith leaders signed a letter in opposition. Because you have to be legally married for one year before you can adopt in Alabama, and adoption only recently became legal for gay and lesbian couples in the state, she says the law is mostly just causing confusion over who will or won’t work with them.</p><p>I tried to contact religious adoption agencies all over the state to ask about their policies on same-sex adoption. No one has returned my calls or emails. But Kendrick works with agencies statewide, and she said the attention the law is receiving has actually been a boon for same-sex adoption training. HRC has seen a spike in collaborative requests, and Kendrick said she’s trained more than 250 social workers in LGBT adoption courses. So the law may be having the opposite effect of Wingo’s intentions.</p><p>But even though same-sex couples have agencies to choose from when adopting, problems with the law still arise during family reunification for foster kids, according to Kendrick. Here’s an example: I spoke to Tony Christon-Walker, the Director of Prevention and Community Partnerships at AIDS Alabama, who worried he’d be denied parental rights when his half-sister lost custody of her son, Maurice. His sister asked Christon-Walker to adopt the boy. Christon-Walker, 50, is gay and HIV positive. A judge in Birmingham granted him parental rights, but if Maurice had been under the care of a private religious organization in Alabama instead, then under this new law, Christon-Walker could have been denied and would have no legal action to keep Maurice in the family.</p><p> The reality is, right now, no one really knows how this law will or won’t play out in court. I read&nbsp;<a href="https://legiscan.com/AL/bill/HB24/2017" target="_blank">the bill and its amendments</a>&nbsp;a dozen times until I began to feel the way you do when you repeat a word aloud until it loses meaning.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/KatherineWebb5.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Tony Christon-Walker with his husband and their adopted son, Maurice. Under new Alabama law, same-sex couples like the Christon-Walkers might not be able to adopt children from their own families. Photo courtesy of the author.</p><p>As written, HB24 protects privately-funded adoption agencies in Alabama when they turn away parents based on “closely held religious beliefs.” That vernacular vagueness is confusing even to practitioners in the legal system; several lawyers told me they weren’t comfortable offering a definitive explication of the law’s application for this story. One lawyer, Shane T. Smith, cut to the core of what’s so confusing: “While I respect everyone’s closely held religious beliefs,” he said, “I know a lot of Christians who are fine with people who are divorced. I know some Christians who won’t associate with people who are divorced. It’s not just a lesbian or gay thing; it’s whatever they deem to be sinful or wrong in their doctrine.”</p><p>Hypotheticals run rampant: Could Catholics deny an adoptive parent who was previously divorced? Could Baptists deny the unbaptized? Could Wiccans deny worshippers of Sun Ra? If these religious groups meet the criteria for protection—owning and operating a privately-funded, state-licensed adoption agency in Alabama—then, in theory, they sure could.</p><p>But in all the confusion over what HB24 means for gay families, who can and cannot adopt and from which agencies, it can feel like the kids themselves get lost in the mix. And what are the consequences if kids like Jay spend more time, possibly their entire childhoods, in group homes or transitional housing?</p><p>For a lot of kids, that life leads to higher instances of traumatic childhood events, which psychological studies show can affect everything from earning power to emotional well-being. Christon-Walker and his son serve as an example here, too. He said Maurice was believed to have an IQ of 69 while in foster care. He’s thankful the judge in Birmingham “believes in family,” because today, Maurice is a well-adjusted kid thriving at a Birmingham private school. He likes to joke with other kids by asking them where their second daddies are.</p><p>When I asked Christon-Walker where Maurice would be if he hadn’t been able to adopt him, he started to cry. “I don’t even want to think about it.”</p><p>At the Glasscos, we’re all out back with Jay now, the sun setting over the hills.</p><p>The social worker has wrapped up her visit, and I finally ask them about the law.</p><p>“This law is a protection for the majority, for a group who doesn’t need protection,” Bailey says. I tell her about what I’d heard from people in Birmingham, about progressive change, open-minded judges, and welcoming adoption agencies. I tell them what Eva Kendrick of HRC (who introduced me to the Glasscos) said about the increase in training for LGBT adoption.</p><p>“It’s easy to say the law is not going to change anything for the worse. But how can you predict that?” Bailey wonders. “This month, they’re feeling gay friendly. Let’s say Mr. So and So, who usually puts foster care in the homes of gay couples, goes home and his wife just read an article about some pedophile and how he had boyfriends or whatever, and he says we’re not dealing with gay people anymore. Things won’t change immediately, but it just takes one person.”</p><p>They’re worried groups that have been quietly working with LGBT couples will suddenly have board members wondering what their same-sex policies are. Chelsey does an imitation of an evangelical adoption director: “Hey, y’all! Welcome! Thanks for coming to the back door!”</p><p>“Now they might close the back door,” Bailey says.</p><p>Chelsey says right now, they’re more interested in making inroads with their families than lawmakers. A few years back, they reconciled with Bailey’s brother’s family. Since Jay came into their lives, Chelsey says her parents are more receptive to a relationship with Chelsey and Bailey (before they were only comfortable seeing their daughter without her wife).</p><p>Jay is on the deck below, out of earshot, playing with the dog who licks him chin to forehead.</p><p>“Ugh. He’s so stinking cute,” Chelsey says. “It makes me want to shake his parents. We see all the potential.”</p><p>“Sometimes we think he’s a baby, then he’ll sweep the floor,” Bailey says. “I mean, where the heck did that come from? You can’t button your daggum britches, son.”</p><p>The Glasscos are hopeful they will be able to adopt Jay. “The guardian ad litem, social workers, psychiatrist are working tirelessly to assure he ends up in a safe and healthy home,” Chelsey says.</p><p>“There’s always a chance the parents wake up, have an epiphany, go out and get a job and start making good choices.” If that does happen, and his parents are able to offer Jay a healthy environment, the Glasscos say they’ll be heartbroken but also unburdened. Chelsey says they have to trust the doctors who tell them long-term care will bring Jay healing. “We keep thinking… about when he’s 18, and he’s an amazing young man going to be a teacher or a doctor or joining the military,” Chelsey says.</p><p>“Or going to be a plumber! Or an electrician or anything that contributes to society,” Bailey says. “Or a football player, a third string kicker who rides the bench and sets us up for life!” They laugh. Jay offers a not-so-subtle hint it’s time we wrap up our conversation and his moms get dinner going: “I smell pizza!”</p><p>As I’m leaving, Jay pulls a drawing from his pocket and offers it to me as a gift. I ask him to describe the scene, and he tells me it’s him and his moms cleaning up the yard while the dogs play.</p><p>One side of the house in bathed in light. The other in darkness. Jay says he’s afraid to go in the dark, but his moms are brave.</p><p>They aren’t afraid, he says, and someday, he won’t be either.</p><p>&nbsp;</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/jasmine-aguilera/inside-texas-megachurch-where-90-percent-of-worshipers-are-lgbt">Inside the Texas megachurch where 90 percent of worshipers are LGBT</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/will-left-ever-get-religion">Will the left ever get religion?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/harry-blain/why-is-american-left-so-prejudiced-about-south">Why is the American left so prejudiced about the South? </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation religion and social transformation Katherine Webb-Hehn Love and Spirituality Culture Care Thu, 08 Mar 2018 20:35:08 +0000 Katherine Webb-Hehn 115984 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Gun violence has dropped dramatically in three US states with very different gun laws https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/mike-males/gun-violence-has-dropped-dramatically-in-three-us-states-with-very-differe <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>To have an honest, nonpartisan discussion about gun violence, we must look at what happened in New York, California, and Texas.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MikeMales1.gif" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Kristi Gilroy hugs a young woman at a police check point near the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 people were killed by a gunman on February 15, 2018 in Parkland, Florida.&nbsp;Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images via YES! Magazine. All rights reserved.</p> <p>On February 15 2018, 17 teachers, students, and visitors died in a Florida high school, in a country where&nbsp;<a href="http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2018/feb/14/what-we-know-about-mass-shootings/">mass shootings</a> have been devastatingly routine. This was followed by another day of despairing, angry furor over guns, schools, and shootings that replayed the same reactions from dozens of past shootings.</p> <p>Once the warring factions settle into their talking points and scapegoats, the debate rages on for decades with little sign of progress. America’s gun debate is like a Greek tragedy, with predetermined lines plodding to inevitable doom.</p> <p>The Right, represented by the National Rifle Association and Republicans, shows no interest in reducing the gun killing epidemic beyond prayers that the “good guy with a gun” (who never seems to be around) will save the day when a “bad guy” opens fire.</p> <p>Liberals’ dishonesty is more nuanced. Background checks and gun control have proven effective at&nbsp;<a href="https://everytownresearch.org/infographic-background-checks-save-lives/">reducing gun suicides and domestic shootings</a>(both very worthwhile goals), but not the gun homicides or mass shootings such remedies are invoked to redress.</p> <p>On both sides, destructive scapegoating of young people, whether they are suburban school shooters or immigrant gangsters, present blatant falsehoods. FBI tabulations show half of&nbsp;<a href="https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/activeshooter_incidents_2001-2016.pdf/view">active mass shooters&nbsp;</a>are 35 and older, a large&nbsp;<a href="https://www.statista.com/statistics/476456/mass-shootings-in-the-us-by-shooter-s-race/">majority are white</a>, and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.newsweek.com/white-men-have-committed-more-mass-shootings-any-other-group-675602">nearly all are men</a>. One middle-aged white shooter&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/19/us/las-vegas-attack-shooting-paddock.html">murdered more people in Las Vegas&nbsp;</a>in 10 minutes than the best available count of documented&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MS-13">murders</a>&nbsp;over the last 15 years that have been attributed to the Latino&nbsp;<a href="http://time.com/4783163/ms-13-gang/">MS-13 gang</a>, a favorite target of President Donald Trump.</p> <p>We can keep on quarreling over myths and prejudices, or we can start looking for new approaches, as many communities are doing in the face of national default. The hopeful thing is there is plenty new to say—if anyone is willing to say it.</p> <p>Let’s begin with one of the most hopeful and obvious: the massive decline in gun homicides in the nation’s three biggest states, concentrated among young people and urban residents all sides claim to be concerned about—so long as the discussion doesn’t challenge pet positions.</p> <p>Over the last 25 years—though other time periods show similar results—New York, California, and Texas show&nbsp;<a href="http://ajph.aphapublications.org/doi/10.2105/AJPH.2017.303782">massive declines in gun homicides</a>, ones that far exceed those of any other state. These three states also show the country’s largest decreases in gun suicide and gun accident death rates.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MarkMales2.gif" alt="" width="460" /></p><p>These major states containing seven in 10 of the country’s largest cities once had gun homicide rates far above the national average; now, their rates are well below those elsewhere in the country.</p><p>The declines are most pronounced in urban young people. Among ages 15-24, gun homicide rates are down nearly 80 percent in cities of 500,000 or more in the three largest states, led by declines—approaching 90 percent in New York City’s central boroughs, more than 80 percent in Los Angeles, and 74 percent in Dallas.</p><p>Isn’t this what all sides have claimed to want: big reductions in gun killings, especially among young people? Why, then, aren’t researchers flocking to our three biggest states and their major cities to analyze what happened there—or, at least, talking about their stunningly hopeful trends?</p><p>Anyone familiar with the gun debate will see the political problem right away. California and New York have the nation’s strictest and fifth-strictest&nbsp;<a href="http://crimadvisor.com/data/Brady-State-Scorecard-2015.pdf">gun control laws</a>, respectively, in the country, earning “A-“ ratings from the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bradycampaign.org/">Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence</a>, and low rates of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/gun-ownership-by-state-2015-7">gun ownership</a>. So, gun-rights conservatives don’t like to talk about successes in those states—nor about the fact that those declines in violence correspond with an increasingly racially diverse young urban population, driven by Latino, Asian, and African immigration.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MikeMales3.gif" alt="" width="460" /></p><p>On the other side, Texas has among the weakest gun laws in the country (“open carry” is its most recent gun-rights salvo, earning an “F” grade) and some of the highest rates of gun ownership. Gun-control lobbies are loath to acknowledge any success in Texas. So, we have to look beyond current gun politics and commentary to community-based initiatives.</p><p>Most major cities have gun violence prevention programs, but if these deserve some credit, we would need to study why they worked so much better in New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas, San Diego, and El Paso than in Chicago, Miami, or Philadelphia. If young Texans can show large declines in killings without tough gun controls, we need to understand what forces are at work in its cities.</p><p>Rather than jockeying for political advantage, we need to acknowledge young people of all races, who as a generation have sharply&nbsp;<a href="http://www.vpc.org/studies/ownership.pdf">lower levels of gun ownership&nbsp;</a>and numbers of gun killings despite continued high rates of poverty. White, Black, Latino, and Asian youth (Native American numbers are too small to determine accurate trends) each show much faster declines in gun homicide rates in the three largest states than do their national counterparts.</p><p>The pattern suggests a generational trend in the three major states’ cities—and to a lesser extent, nationwide—that urgently needs scrutiny. When youth homicide arrests in the city of Los Angeles fall from 680 in 1990-92 to 104 in 2000-02 to 17 in 2014-16, and the number of teenage girls&nbsp;<a href="http://homicide.latimes.com/">murdered</a>&nbsp;falls from dozens in the early 1990s to zero in the last 12 months ending February 15, 2018, it’s time to shake up everyone’s frozen thinking. Gun violence indeed remains an unspeakably tragic, American epidemic, but there is no excuse for recycling old futilities when dramatic and hopeful new information is at hand.</p><p class="image-caption">This article was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/gun-violence-has-dropped-dramatically-in-3-states-with-very-different-gun-laws-20180216?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180216&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180216+CID_b05a5cae1e6d28729ed9d8d569101cf7&amp;utm_source=CM">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/sarah-aziza/has-movement-to-prevent-gun-violence-hit-tipping-point">Has the movement to prevent gun violence hit a tipping point?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sarah-clements/gun-violence-trump-america">How to fight gun violence in Trump’s America</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/transformation/preventing-gun-violence-without-just-talking-about-gun">Preventing gun violence without just talking about the gun</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 gun control Mike Males Transformative nonviolence Care Thu, 01 Mar 2018 22:29:09 +0000 Mike Males 116233 at https://www.opendemocracy.net #MeToo, dialogue and healing https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/perry-dougherty/metoo-dialogue-and-healing <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>To give voice to our deepest experiences is to cultivate connection and collective healing.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/PerryDougherty1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/healing-glow-dreamlike-ultraviolet-2324796/">Pixabay/Chulhwan</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">CC0 Public Domain</a>.</p> <p>Washington University, St Louis, 2002. We sit on the floor, friends and others, each of us holding vigil.</p> <p>I wonder if I will even be able to find the words if I choose to speak. There are fewer facts than I wish for—more self-judgments and denials than cohesive narrative.</p> <p>It is the story of a date gone bad—broken but intrusive memories, tainted, tamed, and tortured by reoccurrence and repetition.</p> <p>Heavy, loaded, and strange, the words that come out feel foreign on my tongue as if the story were not mine.</p> <p>There was the taxi cab, the woman giving herself a pedicure in the living room, my hurrying down the stairs and out the door only to realize I was locked in. There was having to go back inside to ask him to let me out of the gates.</p> <p>There was, if I let myself feel it, the sensation of watching my body on the bed from far up above where the wall met the ceiling by the doorway to the room. There was voicelessness and fear—the shame of knowing that I did not yell or fight.</p> <p>There was my wandering of the streets not knowing if I would find my way home or if I even wanted to. There was the feeling of a disorienting sense of safety or freedom in those dark, foreign streets—he was not there.</p> <p>For the first time, that night I give voice to the words: “I was raped.”</p> <p>I wonder if the sentence will ever feel real. I do not cry. I just sit in the room, on the floor, where we have all come to share our stories. I stay still and listen to others after I speak. The candles around us seem to offer some comfort of illumination and the darkness in which they flutter holds the safety of an emerging connection to myself and to something else unfolding and unseen.</p> <p>Daring to break our silences, even those that have kept us safe, is vulnerable work, no matter when or where or how we make the choice. Giving voice to stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault carries with it uncertainty, fear, and the possibility of re-traumatization. Those of us who have experienced the trauma of sexualized violence run the pros and cons of whether to tell people in our lives or offices or communities a million times over.</p> <p>Times may be changing. Our societies may be ready to receive these stories without questioning them or us. <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Me_Too_movement">#MeToo</a> has given us a sense of solidarity and togetherness. But even in this watershed moment we are left with the question of collective healing; of how to be in relationship with one another, grieve together, and rebuild a society without such ubiquitous violence.</p> <p>The only way I’ve found even a glimmer of hope for answers to these questions lies in the practice of dialogue, through which we come to understand ourselves and others, and from that understanding create the relational trust that’s needed to re-imagine and rename how we want to live together.</p> <p>To give voice to our deepest experiences is to cultivate connection. I have come to believe that sharing personal stories invites us to enter into transformative dialogue with oneself, with others, and also with the sacred. I have come to see much of my ministry as opening up spaces for people to be with one another in solidarity and dialogue, much like the one I experienced in St Louis that night.</p> <p>It is hard for those of us committed to working for peace, justice and healing to find safe places to honestly explore our stories. As the demands for outcomes, impact, and measurable change drive us toward easily quantifiable, transactional engagements, we are devaluing the power of sitting together with the simple task of naming the world as we have experienced it.</p> <p>As we practice giving voice to our experiences and listening to those of others in <em>non</em>-transactional environments, it is impossible to ignore the presence, understanding, and insight that emerges personally and collectively. Such spaces, I have found, are schools of healing, reconciliation, awareness, and spiritual growth.</p> <p>Paulo Freire, in his book <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedagogy_of_the_Oppressed">Pedagogy of the Oppressed</a>, discusses this power: “To exist, humanly, is to name the world, to change it. Once named, the world in its turn reappears to the namers as a problem and requires of them a new naming. Some may think that to affirm dialogue—the encounter of women and men in the world in order to transform the world—is naively and subjectively idealistic. There is nothing, however, more real or concrete than people in the world and with the world, than humans with other humans.”</p> <p>To engage in dialogue requires that we surrender the desire to control ourselves, others, and outcomes. Such a practice requires that we remain firmly and faithfully committed to the cultivation of an abiding and unconditional love, humility, faith, and hope—essential qualities of both our spiritual and practical co-existence. Speaking the story of my rape aloud for the first time back in 2002 did not heal me or free me from my pain and fear. But as I look back, I realize that in the moment I opened up and people listened. I unlocked the possibility for change within me, and maybe outside of me too.</p> <p>Whether sitting with an individual in spiritual direction, leading a leadership development effort or designing a community healing program, I’m consistently struck by the fragmentation of relationship that comes with suffering. With the wounds of trauma, we all crave a concrete path to healing—if only there were the equivalent of surgery and sutures. But trauma is different. The suffering following trauma can be as multifaceted as the wound. Often one’s connections to self, others, and the sacred cease or change so dramatically that they feel chaotic and meaningless.</p> <p>If relationship is to be a path to liberation, we must understand the nature of what it means to enter dialogue from a place of pain, loss or trauma. All of the people and places that have offered me something of healing—whether therapists or spiritual teachers, community healing events, 12-step programs, meditation halls or activist groups—have honored the power of dialogue through pain, discomfort, and uncertainty. They have allowed me to name my experience freely and openly, listen to myself and others, rename my experience, and embrace the interconnected nature of all life.</p> <p>This dance of dialogue has taught me what safety in relationship means. It has helped me to honor the depths of myself and others, and has enabled me to trust again. Slowly, I have realized that I am not alone, that the highs and lows can co-exist. I have realized that I can show up fully to life as it is.</p> <p>As I pay these gifts forward I am reminded of how much people yearn for spirit-filled opportunities to begin healing with others as a complement to their mental health care and other supports. At my organization <a href="http://stillharbor.org/">Still Harbor</a>, we remain committed to accompanying communities as they discover the power of dialogue-based approaches for healing together. We have offered such experiences in many ways over the years.</p> <p>In Boston, for example, we’ve trained trauma-informed &nbsp;‘companions’ in the art of spiritual listening to offer peer support to their neighbors in a community that experiences chronic violence in its streets. We’ve hosted monthly events and small group dialogues that invite people into an open, creative, and expressive space to share their stories of loss, fear, hardship, suffering and hope. This program has unlocked a powerful, transformative energy and a felt sense of connection for all involved.</p> <p>The profound simplicity of these principles is challenged only by people’s collective fear of the unknown, the fear of what might unfold when we invite people to show up and share their past, pains, and prayers. It can be hard to see others struggle. It can be hard to struggle ourselves. It can be hard to cultivate enough faith in our own spirituality to allow for the kind of authentic dialogue that leads us together toward healing. But I have discovered that in this, as in so much of life, it is well worth the effort.</p> <p>I used to say that suffering was my teacher. But in truth, I learned very little from mine until I started to name it for myself and in relationship with others. It was the naming and renaming of my suffering that set me on a path towards healing, growth, and happiness.</p> <p>My hope for all of us is it that we find the courage to create more spaces for this kind of dialogue. As we recognize and enter such places I am confident that we will begin to free ourselves from the oppressive silence of realities unnamed, unheard, and un-integrated. This, I believe, is the power of wholeness, relationship, and community.</p> <p><em>A longer version of this article appears in <a href="http://stillharbor.org/anchormagazine/2015/5/18/fierce-embrace-dialogue-as-a-path-to-healing">Anchor 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/desdemona-dallas/after-metoo-healing-from-trauma-of-sexual-assault">After #MeToo: healing from the trauma of sexual assault</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/emma-hyndman/invisible-metoo-anonymous-testimony-sexual-abuse">The invisible #MeToo: how anonymous testimony can help survivors of sexual abuse</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ted-comet/on-good-day-she-would-kiss-me-back-transforming-trauma-into-creative-energy">On a good day she would kiss me back: transforming trauma into creative energy and action</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation healing Sexual Violence Trauma Perry Dougherty Care Intersectionality Fri, 23 Feb 2018 07:30:00 +0000 Perry Dougherty 115986 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why mental health is the hidden cost of the housing crisis https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/lydia-smith/why-mental-health-is-hidden-cost-of-housing-crisis <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Our homes are supposed to be safe and welcoming, yet one in five adults in the UK suffer from mental health problems due to housing pressures.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/LydiaSmith.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/anxiety-stress-depression-1157437/">Pixabay/TheDigitalArtist</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">CC0 Public Domain</a></p> <p>For six years, Anastasia Miari has suffered from clinical insomnia triggered by anxiety.</p> <p>Like many other people, financial worries keep her awake at night. The 27-year-old freelance writer lives in a house-share in east London and pays £750 a month for her room, but is considering moving to cut down on her rent.</p> <p>“I get bouts of real anxiety but it doesn’t come in the form of panic attacks—it rears its ugly head in my sleep,” Miari told me in a recent interview, adding that she only slept one hour the previous night.</p> <p>“Basically, it is difficult to know how much money you’re going to earn every month and if your rent is super expensive, you can’t afford to save to buy a house. A place has just become available at a friend’s house and it is £100 cheaper a month than mine, but it’s a box room.”</p> <p>Our homes are supposed to be safe and welcoming places free from the pressures of everyday life, so it’s no wonder that housing problems have a major impact on our mental wellbeing.</p> <p>High rents, the threat of eviction, overcrowding, substandard housing and financial pressures brought on by the ‘<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jan/27/the-bedroom-tax-explained">bedroom tax</a>’ (in which tenants in social housing have their benefits reduced if they have a so-called ‘spare’ room) are all issues which can lead to stress, anxiety and depression, and which have a knock-on effect on all aspects of our lives from work to relationships.</p> <p>London is Europe’s most expensive city in which to rent according to recent research by the analytics firm <a href="https://www.eca-international.com/news/january-2018/london-remains-the-most-expensive-location-for-ren">ECA International</a>, but prices are rising across the UK, including in Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow. And with increasing rents and stagnating wages comes financial insecurity, which plays havoc with our mental health.</p> <p>In fact one in five adults in the UK suffer from mental health problems due to housing pressures, according to research carried out by the <a href="https://england.shelter.org.uk/professional_resources/housing_and_mental_health">charity Shelter</a>. In the worst cases, some people reported experiencing suicidal thoughts.</p> <p>According to the same source, around one in six adults also said that housing problems had affected their physical health too, in the form of hair loss, nausea, headaches and exhaustion.</p> <p>“Housing and mental health are closely related,” said Helen Rowbottom, policy officer at the National Housing Federation, when I talked to her. “The negative impact of poor housing on someone’s health and wellbeing is well evidenced. In many cases, it can prolong illness and escalate healthcare costs.”</p> <p>Housing problems not only cause mental health problems, they also have the potential to make existing conditions worse. People with mental health conditions are one and a half times more likely to live in rented housing, according to research by the <a href="http://www.nhsconfed.org/~/media/Confederation/Files/Publications/Documents/Housing_MH_021211.pdf">NHS Confederation mental health network and the National Housing Federation</a>, leaving them at higher risk of rent increases which perpetuate the cycle of stress and anxiety.</p> <p>In addition, since it was introduced nearly five years ago, the bedroom tax has hit some of the most vulnerable people in society the hardest, leaving tenants in social housing out of pocket just because they have a ‘spare’ room. Three-quarters of people paying the tax have had to cut back on food, according to a report published by the <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/removal-of-the-spare-room-subsidy-evaluation-final-report">Department for Work and Pensions</a> in 2015. Nearly half had also cut back on heating for their homes.</p> <p>It doesn’t take much imagination to link these problems to mental illness. Three months after the Department’s report was published, a <a href="https://academic.oup.com/jpubhealth/article/38/2/197/1752995">study</a> in the Journal of Public Health found that all of the residents in one community in northern England—in which 68.5 per cent of the population live in social housing—reported stress and symptoms of anxiety and depression as a result of the bedroom tax.</p> <p>In a recent interview, Gareth Bradbury, a 54-year-old single father from Bolton, told me that his girls were nine and five years old when they came to live with him. The family lived in a three-bedroom house and he worked as a gardener to support his daughters, who went on to attend university.</p> <p>Then, a string of problems changed Bradbury’s situation. He had a heart attack and had to have bypass surgery, but later went back to work. While cleaning the gutters of his house he fell and seriously injured one of his legs, leaving him unable to work. When the bedroom tax was brought in in 2013, the added pressure on his finances took its toll on his mental health.</p> <p>“The bedroom tax came in and I have to pay £30 a week out of my benefits,” he said, “but I also need a car to get about so my disability [allowance] pays for that. I have been on meds for depression and I’m still on them. I went for a swap of houses to a two-bedroom house, but got knocked back. I was offered a one-bedroom flat but my daughters still come and stay with me so I could not accept it. I’m stuck paying this forever.”</p> <p>Against the odds, Bradbury says he has managed to cope. “I got on with my life and now I run a small group of volunteers called <a href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/936470503034948/about/">Bolton Community Kitchen</a>. We feed the homeless, vulnerable and elderly people of Bolton every Monday night. I’m a lucky one that will bounce back.”</p> <p><a href="https://www.theguardian.com/profile/anne-power">Anne Power</a>, a professor of social policy at the London School of Economics, told me that the bedroom tax has undermined people’s confidence in their entitlement to the “peaceful occupation of their home,” which is a legal entitlement—a right.</p> <p>“It has made them feel insecure when they simply cannot afford to pay the additional rent and many people have had to turn to family when they couldn’t meet the rent, increasing the feeling of being a burden,” she said. “Generally, welfare reform has greatly increased people’s sense of anxiety and uncertainty, which is the last thing you need in your home.”</p> <p>For Bradbury, his community has been a source of support during difficult times. But if you don’t have that kind of support and housing pressures are affecting your mental health, it’s worth getting in touch with Shelter which provides <a href="http://england.shelter.org.uk/get_advice">advice</a> on a range of issues, from falling behind on your rent to living in a home which isn’t up to standards.</p> <p>The mental health charity <a href="https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/housing/">Mind</a> also covers the impact of housing problems on mental health extensively and can provide crucial support, as can another organisation called <a href="https://www.rethink.org/living-with-mental-illness/housing/housing-options">Rethink</a>. Speaking to your GP about a mental health problem is always important.</p> <p>It may also be helpful to contact <a href="https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/housing/">Citizens Advice</a>, who give free, confidential advice to people struggling with housing issues. Your local council may also be able to help in the form of a <a href="https://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_advice/housing_benefit/discretionary_housing_payments_dhp">discretionary housing payment</a>—an extra payment to people who claim housing benefit—which could help you if your housing benefit doesn’t cover your rent.</p> <p>Whether it’s the pressure of paying an extortionate rent or financial anxiety caused by the bedroom tax, Britain’s housing crisis is having a serious effect on mental health. What’s worse, this is a problem that is being largely overlooked, and with very dangerous consequences.</p> <p>When Brenda, from Manchester, was evicted from her home she spiralled into a deep depression. “You blame yourself and you feel a sense of total helplessness. I remember not wanting to go on and wondering if I should end it,” she told <a href="https://england.shelter.org.uk/media/press_releases/articles/1_in_5_adults_suffer_mental_health_problems_such_as_anxiety,_depression_and_panic_attacks_due_to_housing_pressures">Shelter</a>.</p> <p>Things began to turn around after she spoke to one of the charity’s advisors. “She was the first person who had asked how they could help me. It was the beginning of me taking back some control. I think about that call practically every day. All you need is someone to listen.”</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/rhiannon-colvin/why-aren-t-we-thriving-at-work">Why aren’t we thriving at work?</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/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 NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Housing Rights Lydia Smith The politics of mental health Care Mon, 19 Feb 2018 08:00:00 +0000 Lydia Smith 116128 at https://www.opendemocracy.net What’s to be done with Oxfam, part 2? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam-part-2 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Is it gratuitous to link the scandal engulfing Oxfam with the need to transform NGOs and foreign aid?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Oxfam3_5.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Recycle_for_Oxfam_or_you%27ll_be_sorted_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1501324.jpg">Wikimedia/Chris Reynolds</a>.&nbsp;<a title="Creative Commons" href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Creative_Commons">Creative Commons</a>&nbsp;Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.</p><blockquote><p>“Tensions between reform and transformation are hardwired into the NGO community and look set to continue, unless or until some large scale shock arrives to force through more fundamental changes—like the end of foreign aid, or the removal of public credibility in the wake of some massive scandal, or a blanket ejection of foreign organizations by Southern governments. <strong>But those prospects seem remote</strong>.” <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam">What’s to be done with Oxfam?</a> August 1 2016.</p></blockquote> <p>Well, ‘be careful what you wish for.’ Eighteen months after I wrote these words that “scandal” has come to pass, though exactly how “massive” it is a matter for debate. As <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxfam#Allegations_of_sexual_misconduct_by_staff_in_Haiti_and_Chad">allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by a small number of Oxfam staff</a> in Haiti, South Sudan and Chad, and in some of its shops in <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-the-papers-43039432">the UK</a> have exploded around the charity’s head, there have been many forceful and legitimate demands to tighten up procedures, make reparations and strengthen accountability so that such instances are prevented wherever possible and dealt with decisively when they do happen. ‘Case closed,’ you might say.</p> <p>Except that critics have used this opportunity to castigate Oxfam, NGOs and foreign aid in much more general terms. What has occurred proves that <a href="https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/5563124/corrupt-oxfam-chief-resign-sun-says/">charities are corrupt and incompetent</a>, they say, that they have <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5379143/Oxfam-admits-moral-failure-prostitutes-scandal.html">no ethics or moral value</a>, and that <a href="https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/call-to-end-taxpayer-aid-for-oxfam-over-cover-up-0zchqhgkq">aid should therefore be abolished</a>. Even friendlier critics like <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/14/oxfam-scandal-charities-international-development">Larry Elliot</a>, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/12/the-oxfam-scandal-shows-colonialism-is-alive-and-well">Suzanne Moore</a> and <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/feb/13/oxfam-scandal-must-force-aid-sector-to-finally-address-its-own-power">Deborah Doane</a> (all writing in the Guardian) have accused Oxfam of abandoning its moral core, practicing colonialism and becoming little more than an international business. </p> <p>Meanwhile Oxfam itself is in turmoil, offering a delayed, incomplete and surprisingly cack-handed response which goes against its own communications advice and ignores decades of experience in how to handle revelations of this nature: tell the whole truth as soon as you find any evidence of wrong-doing; do everything you can to prevent it happening again; and don’t allow abusers to slink away silently into the rest of the system—regardless of any potential embarrassment, loss of funds or legal complications. Don’t hedge or fudge or offer unconvincing justifications of what you <em>can’t </em>do, and don’t wring your hands in public. </p> <p>Only <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/02/13/585304983/oxfam-official-resigns-amid-allegations-that-prostitutes-hired-in-disaster-zones">one head has rolled thus far</a> in this fiasco, but would you or I have done any better under such enormous pressures? Speaking as an ex-Oxfam manager, I’m not sure I would. And in any case, isn’t it a bit gratuitous to use the pain and trauma of all those involved as a hook on which to hang a lecture about the politics of the international system, or to mount generalized attacks that are largely spurious? </p> <p>I’ve been a critic of NGOs like Oxfam myself for many years, but I value the international solidarity they can help to build when they are at their best. I’m trying to see all sides of the story and avoid throwing any babies out with the bathwater, so for me the question boils down to this: is there a link between what happened in Haiti and what needs to happen in the aid sector more broadly going forward? If not, we should limit ourselves to addressing the case in hand and its consequences. If yes, there’s a legitimate claim that Oxfam and the others should use this opportunity to make those broader changes, and be held accountable for doing so.</p> <p>At the simplest and most basic level, abuse and exploitation happen when someone near the top of a hierarchy uses someone lower down who has less power, outside of a system of clear rules and accountability. The fact that this case concerns the hierarchy of an NGO or the aid industry more broadly is irrelevant—unless one believes that Oxfam is staffed by saints or that institutions behave more ethically just because they say so. We know that neither of these things are true, and I’m certain that we’ll hear more evidence to substantiate that fact in the coming months as other instances of abuse come to light in other settings.</p> <p>In <a href="http://www.france24.com/en/20180213-oxfam-faces-new-sex-abuse-allegations-south-sudan-haiti">a recent interview with AFP</a> about the Oxfam furor,&nbsp;Mike Jennings, head of the Department of Development Studies at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, said this: </p> <blockquote><p>“Emergency situations are almost a perfect environment for these kind of activities to emerge. You have extremely vulnerable people...and a few people who are effectively controlling access to resources, or have huge amounts of power. Whenever you have those inequalities and variances in power, you have scope for abuse.”</p></blockquote> <p>That’s true, but ‘access to resources’ and ‘inequalities in power’ are not a given. They are formed in particular contexts by human hands, and they can be re-formed in similar fashion. Inequalities in power and resources are what Oxfam and the others were set up to confront and ultimately transform, not just in relations between men and women or employers and employees but throughout society and its institutions—and especially between rich and poor. You can’t secure those sorts of transformations unless you attack their constituent parts at the level of daily practice, and it’s here that the link between the specific and the general becomes a little clearer.</p> <p>For at least the last 25 years there has been <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam">a lively debate about power, aid and NGOs</a>, focusing on the inability or unwillingness of agencies to hand over control and share their resources—as opposed to building their own brands and competing for market share from their fundraising base in the global North, and notwithstanding the recent trend to decentralize some parts of their operations. There are echoes of this debate among the friendlier critics of Oxfam since the Haiti scandal broke. The central issue is that, while NGOs are happy to criticize inequality when it is caused by others—billionaires for example, or the World Bank or multinational corporations—they have not been prepared to face up to the inequalities for which they themselves are at least partly responsible</p> <p>Those inequalities stem from a failure to build or support indigenous institutions in order to remove the need for any foreign presence, and the taking away of political and intellectual space from organizations in the global South, and grassroots groups everywhere, in the worlds of advocacy, research and campaigning. </p> <p>If inequality is tolerated anywhere it can be reproduced everywhere; by contrast, if it is honestly acknowledged and dealt with in one part of the system it can act as a spur to confront other inequalities elsewhere. That, it seems to me, is the potential wider significance of what has happened in Haiti. But it’s important to note that reducing inequality doesn’t automatically curb sexual abuse and exploitation. There are no saints in the global South either.</p> <p>Hence, it is not gratuitous to link yesterday’s <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/14/us/parkland-school-shooting.html?mtrref=www.google.com&amp;gwh=D4F42DF244B0ACACCAEF3B24EE7C5B83&amp;gwt=pay">horrific school shooting in Florida</a> to the need for gun control across the USA. Specific cases call for a generalized response, not just improved security in one school. In the same way, putting measures in place to curb sexual abuse in one agency or country requires us to look more deeply into the inequalities that lie at the root of the problem, and to address them in a general framework. Although that may sound unlikely in the heat of the current moment, its results could be revolutionary. We may finally get a healthy, ethical and equal-minded movement for international cooperation to confront global problems. </p> <p>Can its own #metoo moment help the aid industry to question and transform its role in this way? When you face an outside threat to your integrity, and even to your existence, it’s difficult to focus on anything except circling the wagons in order to survive. But the emotional experience of vulnerability—the enforced stripping away of arrogance and defensiveness and inertia—can also create a space for acceptance, an acceptance that things do now need to change. </p> <p>At the human level we should all feel for Oxfam’s staff in these times, just as we must feel for those who have endured abuse and exploitation at the hands of a very small minority of their number. As the global leader of the NGO community Oxfam has a special responsibility to make sure this opportunity isn’t wasted. &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/michael-edwards/what-s-to-be-done-with-oxfam">What’s to be done with Oxfam?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/guilaine/since-i-gave-you-phone-it-s-not-rape">Since I gave you a phone it’s not rape </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/alessandra-pigni/no-you-can%E2%80%99t-%E2%80%98be-change%E2%80%99-alone">No, you can’t ‘be the change’ alone</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 foreign aid NGOs Oxfam Michael Edwards The role of money Care Thu, 15 Feb 2018 16:11:33 +0000 Michael Edwards 116157 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Radical happiness: moments of collective joy https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/catherine-rottenberg/radical-happiness-moments-of-collective-joy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>True happiness is produced by cultivating our ties to one another: a review of Lynne Segal’s new book.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/JaneyStephenson3_2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/sistersuncut/photos/a.1814453402116856.1073741847.1589626181266247/1814453455450184/?type=3&amp;theater">Sisters Uncut/Jade Jackman</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p>In a recent Guardian <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/dec/15/homelessness-report-working-families-stable-jobs-local-government-ombudsman">expose</a>, Michael King, a London ombudsman, warns of a new phenomenon—the rise of homelessness in the UK among people who have stable jobs and a steady income. In 2017 it is not unusual to see nurses, taxi drivers, hospitality staff and council workers find themselves on the streets after being evicted by private-sector landlords seeking higher rents. The problem of homelessness, King continues, can no longer simply be ascribed to drug addiction or mental health issues; rather, the erosion of the social safety net is what is pushing an ever-increasing number of people into precarity. </p> <p>It is in the midst of these devastating new realities that Lynne Segal’s book <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/2576-radical-happiness">Radical Happiness: Moments of Collective Joy</a> has appeared on the literary scene. In her new book, Segal adamantly refuses despair. Instead, she insists that we must never stop imagining and struggling for alternative—and, yes, even utopic—spaces and futures. This urging could not come at a more opportune time. </p> <p>As study after study has <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ray-filar/mental-health-why-were-all-sick-under-neoliberalism">shown</a>, levels of individual misery, depression, anxiety, loneliness, and isolation are at all-time highs in the Anglo-American world.&nbsp; Meanwhile, the billion-dollar happiness industry—that&nbsp; “culturally orchestrated ideology of individual happiness with its ubiquitous commercial incitement to pleasure” as Segal puts it—continues to thrive, from positive psychology to mindfulness and the wellness movement: think Gwyneth Paltrow’s <a href="https://goop.com/whats-goop/">GOOP</a> and the explosion and popularity of <a href="https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are">TED talks</a> endlessly exhorting us to foster a positive outlook. </p> <p>In her book, Segal posits radical happiness as the antidote, not only to the ersatz happiness that is sold to us via pills, apps, and self-help guides but also to the more general sense of despondency. Happiness, Segal gently reminds us, is not something we find; nor can it be bought on the market. Unlike the dominant ideology of individual felicity—with consumerism and individuated sexual desire mixed up with ideals of romantic love at its core—radical happiness is produced by cultivating and reaffirming our ties to one another and to the world. </p> <p>Thus, while love is central to happiness (both individual and collective), love is also infinite in its variety, making it imperative to expand notions of attachment and care well beyond heteronormative coupledom. As the title of the book suggests, radical happiness is therefore most accurately defined in terms of moments of collective joy, moments that are created when we are moved to go beyond and outside ourselves to act together with a plurality of others. Crucially, for Segal, these moments emerge as we forge communities that struggle together to ensure the creation of social conditions and infrastructure that would enable the greatest number of people possible to thrive. </p> <p>Much of <em>Radical Happiness</em> charts how and why this movement beyond oneself has become more difficult in the contemporary era. Despite the Anglo-American obsession with happiness and the thriving happiness industry, the populace is increasingly miserable. Segal draws on a range of thinkers from <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89mile_Durkheim">Émile Durkheim</a> to <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hannah_Arendt">Hannah Arendt</a> to underline the point that that such widespread misery, even though it may be experienced at the individual level, has deep roots in social context and structures.&nbsp; </p> <p>One of these roots—and the preponderant one for Segal—is the rise of neoliberal governance, which has, since the 1980s and the era of Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Reagan in the US, seen the steady dismantling of the welfare state and the social safety net. This has, as the book details, translated into increasing economic insecurity for ever more people. Not only has work become increasingly precarious over the past few decades but employees are also putting in more hours for less money, which, in turn, leaves people less time for leisure and, often, the ability to fulfill care commitments. Furthermore, neoliberal governance erodes any sense of social responsibility while fostering intensified individualism, which merely exacerbates feelings of isolation and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/graham-peebles/pain-of-loneliness">loneliness</a>. </p> <p>This deepening cultural crisis is the direct result of on-going policies of austerity and privatization, which siphon wealth upwards at a staggering pace while eviscerating public resources, spaces, and community life. The <a href="http://wir2018.wid.world/">World Inequality Report</a> recently published data showing that the richest 0.1 per cent of the world’s population have increased their combined wealth so much that they currently have as much as the poorest 50 per cent, or 3.8 billion people. With rising rates of poverty and homelessness alongside deteriorating health and educational infrastructure, it really is no wonder that so many people are miserable and feel so alone. &nbsp;</p> <p>Radical Happiness is not, however, a gloomy book.&nbsp; Rather, after diagnosing the ills of the current Anglo-American political and social landscape it offers us hope, reminding us of the wealth of resources on which we can draw in order to continue struggling for alternative futures. Taking us back to the ancient Greeks, Segal underscores Aristotle’s notion of happiness or <a href="https://www.britannica.com/topic/eudaimonia">eudonomia</a> as a form of human flourishing; it derives from activities we desire to do for their own sake, which are both noble and good. Happiness was thus conceived as <em>activity</em>, not a static emotional state. This is a crucial insight and one that could potentially reorient our understandings of pleasure and joy in the present. &nbsp;</p> <p>Indeed, throughout the book, Segal taps into the resistance archive, drawing on a wide range of resources from socialist visionaries like <a href="http://robert-owen-museum.org.uk/">Robert Owen</a> to anarchist and political activist <a href="http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/goldman/">Emma Goldman</a> to utopian feminist fiction like Marge Piercy’s <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman_on_the_Edge_of_Time">Women on the Edge of Time</a>. These dreamers and their political engagements serve as key resources for the on-going struggle to create a more egalitarian world, even as this task appears more daunting today than ever before. </p> <p>Segal also recounts her own participation in the woman’s movement in the 1970s, underscoring how her involvement in such a movement was utterly transformative, personally as well as politically. Collective resistance to oppression in its various forms—with its shared sense of agency—symbolizes for Segal the very essence of radical happiness. These movements or moments of collectivity are often fleeting, but they make us feel alive and hence happier. </p> <p>In other words, whether or not these struggles for a more egalitarian world ultimately succeed—and historically they most often have not—the very struggle to cultivate and (re)build a sense of the commons compels us to move beyond ourselves while reaffirming our connection to each other. It is precisely this kind of “acting in concert” to create a more just and better world that facilitates these life-affirming moments of collective joy. </p> <p>While Segal herself is perhaps best known for her feminist interventions—particularly her <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/1770-straight-sex">Straight Sex</a>, and for her more recent critical musing on ageing, <a href="https://www.versobooks.com/books/1634-out-of-time">Out of Time</a>—in the neighborhood of Islington in London (where she lives) she is renowned for her decades of radical activism as well as for her indominable spirit. Radical Happiness is a panoramic yet exquisitely detailed book, erudite but extremely accessible, and cautiously optimistic while scathingly critical. It is a tour de force and a vital light in these dark times. &nbsp;&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/janey-stephenson/subversive-power-of-joy">The subversive power of joy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/veena-vasista/wise-fools-for-love-arts-activism-and-social-transformation">Wise fools for love? Arts activism and social transformation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/fearless-collective/we-protest-by-creating-beauty">We protest by creating beauty</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Catherine Rottenberg Transformative nonviolence Culture Care Activism Sun, 11 Feb 2018 21:48:54 +0000 Catherine Rottenberg 115999 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Can polarisation be eroded by design? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/alice-thwaite-jazza-john/can-polarisation-be-eroded-by-design <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>How can society encourage more nuance and compromise when entrenched opposition is baked into consumerism and politics? <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/alice-thwaite-jazza-john/c-mo-erosionar-la-polarizaci-n">Español</a></strong></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/AliceandJazza.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/pair-man-woman-discussion-707509/">Pixabay/geralt</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">CC0</a>.</p> <p class="normal">"People love those who are like themselves” said Aristotle in his <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicomachean_Ethics">Nicomachean Ethics</a> over 2,300 years ago. In 2018 we’re still tackling the same problem: how can we create cohesive communities that understand each other despite their differences?</p> <p class="normal">Research from the writer <a href="http://righteousmind.com/buy-the-book/">Jonathan Haidt</a>&nbsp; shows that polarisation between Republicans and Democrats has been getting steadily worse in the US for decades. What’s more, it seems that these different groups now regard each other with even more suspicion, and truly believes that the other acts for nefarious reasons.</p> <p class="normal">In the UK, both of us work on projects that aim to reduce polarisation. Jazza is a vlogger and podcaster known for bridging the political divide by <a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Dg7A-RLk-9Ag&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7Cd79da6270dcf45d06eea08d5536abd66%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636506640286534770&amp;sdata=eyTnW%2FoReCVOnIXRH%2Fa%2Fe%2FYrouYAKUJssXoj27p5BJo%3D&amp;reserved=0">interviewing the NRA (among others) on his YouTube channel</a>, and founding the <a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Frightdishonourable.com%2Fcategory%2Fpodcast%2F&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7Cd79da6270dcf45d06eea08d5536abd66%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636506640286534770&amp;sdata=7pwuijteQoPvabXjxPOrqGUvG7pSxWx%2FI4mzR002lyI%3D&amp;reserved=0">Right Dishonourable Podcast</a> which he hosts with <a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Frightdishonourable.com%2Fauthor%2Fjimmy-nicholls%2F&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7Cd79da6270dcf45d06eea08d5536abd66%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636506640286534770&amp;sdata=BzxOBFJCwOX2ENzYnxQKM12h7E4DBXq01RylKiNmdXI%3D&amp;reserved=0">Jimmy Nicholls</a>. Nicholls voted to leave the European Union; Jazza to remain.</p> <p class="normal">Alice is the founder and editor of the <a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fechochamber.club&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7Cd79da6270dcf45d06eea08d5536abd66%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636506640286534770&amp;sdata=N%2BJzmX0FY3imHwdMC3hhDJvDlncbFrxNV0yh9TBR55o%3D&amp;reserved=0">Echo Chamber Club</a> which aims to introduce liberal and progressive metropolitans to views and voices they may not agree with. It’s been running now for over 18 months. As time has gone by we’ve both realised that polarisation seems to be something that’s baked deep into our society. What’s more, new communication technologies can amplify how these structures are exploited by politicians and businesses. In which case, what can we do about it?</p> <p class="normal">Debates about polarisation aren’t new. Social psychologists have worked on theories of ‘<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homophily">homophily</a>’ since the late 19th century: the idea that people of similar age, class, gender, race and education, as well as political and values-driven beliefs, are more likely to gather together and network with each other. Now in the internet age, we have the power to network outside of our local geography—which may or may not alter this tendency—but for the moment the status quo usually leans towards in-group connection.</p> <p class="normal">Indeed, 2016 was the year that voters defined themselves along binary lines: unity or independence, remain or leave, Trump or Hilary. And 2017 was the year in which these trenches were dug even deeper and people settled in for a much longer battle. Despite reporting from hopeful liberal commentators suggesting that those who supported <a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fprojects.fivethirtyeight.com%2Ftrump-approval-ratings%2F&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7Cd79da6270dcf45d06eea08d5536abd66%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636506640286534770&amp;sdata=bJOA%2F%2BVr18rNykEAjU1EF3QDNBICfO9ITLNiZJDd0M8%3D&amp;reserved=0">Trump in 2016 are growing weary</a> and that <a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fyougov.co.uk%2Fnews%2F2017%2F10%2F27%2Fthere-has-been-shift-against-brexit-public-still-t%2F&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7Cd79da6270dcf45d06eea08d5536abd66%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636506640286534770&amp;sdata=lDZ3zHEcJPa5hpzYniHcW5Sd%2BBsJYCAXUi9BLoSwhnk%3D&amp;reserved=0">Brexit voters are slowly changing their minds</a>, there has been little change in how these individuals identify with opposing viewpoints.</p> <p class="normal"><a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fblogs.lse.ac.uk%2Fpoliticsandpolicy%2Fthe-polarisation-of-party-supporters-since-2015%2F&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7Cd79da6270dcf45d06eea08d5536abd66%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636506640286534770&amp;sdata=8uhBIcHHZsUFYU7YdivLn3SOpiakDrufR3azwliukIc%3D&amp;reserved=0">Research from Jonathon Wheatley of the London School of Economics</a> shows an increase in polarisation along both economic and cultural lines among the British public in the run up to the 2017 election when the Conservatives lost their majority, when compared to the voters who rewarded ex-Prime Minister David Cameron with a majority in 2015. In the United States, the Pew Research Centre has been documenting the widening gulf between Democrats and Republicans <a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.people-press.org%2Finteractives%2Fpolitical-polarization-1994-2017%2F&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7Cd79da6270dcf45d06eea08d5536abd66%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636506640286534770&amp;sdata=COaNO0kqM%2BKZ8UDHiIJbrKw7YgFoDD0t6hMU3y%2BUnRM%3D&amp;reserved=0">for at least 30 years</a>.</p> <p class="normal">Polarisation is even cemented into the buildings that house our political institutions. Very deliberately for example, the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Commons">Houses of Parliament’s Common’s Chamber</a> has two sides facing each other to seat the government and its opposition, with other parties squeezed in beside them. When the building was rebuilt after bombing in the Second World War, Prime Minister Winston Churchill insisted the architect (<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giles_Gilbert_Scott">Giles Gilbert Scott</a>) maintain the same adversarial design, which, he said,<a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.parliament.uk%2Fabout%2Fliving-heritage%2Fbuilding%2Fpalace%2Farchitecture%2Fpalacestructure%2Fchurchill%2F&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7Cd79da6270dcf45d06eea08d5536abd66%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636506640286534770&amp;sdata=N24SHWW4oLGmf5U2tjon%2BN8tLNvQXWY%2FlliwxzOfhgM%3D&amp;reserved=0"> was key in creating a system that worked because it was dominated by two parties</a>. In Churchill’s eyes the binary structure of politics was key to maintaining stability and power, favouring it above the crescent shape that’s increasingly used by legislatures that aim to be more open to cooperation and compromise.</p> <p class="normal">It’s clear that creating common enemies can reap rewards on the political stage, but the same is also true in other fields of life. Vin Clancy for example, is the moderator of the Facebook group <a href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/trafficandcopy"><em>Traffic and </em></a><a href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/trafficandcopy"><em>Copy</em></a><a href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/trafficandcopy"> (a network for entrepreneurs)</a>, and a self-described ‘growth-hacker’ who has built Facebook and Twitter accounts from nothing to tens of thousands of followers in a matter of days. When creating a new online community, he swears by the need to have a common opponent, not just a hopeful message (<em>“Vegans will save the planet!”</em>). <span>“A very good idea if you’re building a following, tribe, or community,” he says, “is to attack an enemy. It can be an idea or person.</span>”</p> <p class="normal">The pages of successful Instagram and Youtube stars often attack those who are ‘opposed’ to their mission. Take <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/Bdez2oTlZWX/?hl=en&amp;taken-by=kayla_itsines">Kayla Itsines</a> for example, an incredibly successful fitness instructor who gained recognition through social media. “Before you judge those of us who are committed to the gym as self-centred or superficial,” <a href="https://www.instagram.com/p/Bdez2oTlZWX/?hl=en&amp;taken-by=kayla_itsines">she said in a recent post</a>, “realise for many of us it is our escape, our sanity and a place where we work not only on becoming strong physically, but mentally as well”. It’s important to these communities that they are working on something meaningful, and they can only attract attention if it’s believed that there is hostility towards their cause.</p> <p class="normal">Clancy’s techniques are aimed at the growth of online communities, but the creation of a community opposed to an out-group is nothing new. <a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3D_MfV0yA7bck&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7Cd79da6270dcf45d06eea08d5536abd66%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636506640286534770&amp;sdata=YSiTLvIC%2B1Sh68GSkFJYciOTg%2FihuOk5K9OB0eg2Has%3D&amp;reserved=0">Think Marmite</a>, for example, with their highly effective <em>“love it or hate it” </em>campaign, or Apple’s <a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3De9s6Lfzdtfo&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7Cd79da6270dcf45d06eea08d5536abd66%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636506640286534770&amp;sdata=Wx95lPenDM5A7U4P3JhZvbIsQMkEafgSZce3DDbYjAs%3D&amp;reserved=0">&nbsp;iconic advertising</a> that divided the population between Mac and Windows users. A study in the Harvard Business Review found that <a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fhbr.org%2F2013%2F11%2Fmake-the-most-of-a-polarizing-brand&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7Cd79da6270dcf45d06eea08d5536abd66%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636506640286534770&amp;sdata=2YlhNwU0a5rqFgeXMNGei1paM%2FIfla%2FrcQ3fmusdzo4%3D&amp;reserved=0">“highly polarizing brands tend to perform more poorly than others, but they also tend to be less risky”</a><em>.</em> Having a clear enemy provides a defined and loyal base, with a common cause to fight against.</p> <p class="normal">In which case, how can society encourage more nuance and compromise when entrenched opposition is baked into consumerism and politics?</p> <p class="normal">One immediate problem is that funding and support for initiatives which are trying to reduce polarisation is so difficult to come by. There are a wealth of public funds to improve society in the UK like <a href="https://www.nesta.org.uk/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI7p6FmJ7E2AIVQlcNCh2Pog6dEAAYASAAEgJd3PD_BwE">Nesta</a>, the <a href="https://www.national-lottery.co.uk/">National Lottery</a> and the <a href="https://ec.europa.eu/commission/index_en">European Commission</a> (for as long as the UK stays in the EU), but despite depolarisation being a non-partisan issue it is still treated as ‘political,’ and thereby lies outside the guidelines that donors typically set for charities and social enterprises. The Echo Chamber Club has been rejected by numerous funders for being ‘too political,’ and by more political donors as not being political <em>enough</em>.</p> <p class="normal">Crowdfunding provides an alternative source of support, but would you give your money to a cause that will further the goals of those you disagree with, or encourage a dialogue with your ‘enemy?’ In the United States at least, the <a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.engadget.com%2F2017%2F07%2F05%2Fobama-foundation-social-media-echo-chambers%2F&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7Cd79da6270dcf45d06eea08d5536abd66%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636506640286534770&amp;sdata=DdoPn4ZKpaGNHj8XCe4NcSztO3M%2B%2Fvf5a3KyXMhHHLM%3D&amp;reserved=0">Obama Foundation is awarding funds to combat echo chambers</a> and fight the ‘balkanisation’ of public discourse:</p> <blockquote><p class="normal"><span>“[We] now have a situation,” the Foundation says, “in which everybody's listening to people who already agree with them...reinforc[ing] their own realities to the neglect of a common reality that allows us to have a healthy debate and then try to find common ground and actually move solutions forward.”</span></p></blockquote> <p class="normal">In addition, our structures of communication are fractured, and perhaps even exacerbate the problem. The British population may no longer be effectively represented by the traditional left/right dichotomy but by what the Economist has labeled “<a href="https://eur02.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.economist.com%2Fnews%2Fleaders%2F21702750-farewell-left-versus-right-contest-matters-now-open-against-closed-new&amp;data=02%7C01%7C%7Cd79da6270dcf45d06eea08d5536abd66%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636506640286534770&amp;sdata=DWvnubhRSmEmLOr%2FtjZD0h4Ok47%2FVrzxH%2FA2FgOYoTQ%3D&amp;reserved=0">The New Political Divide</a>” of an “open and closed” society, with internationalists and social liberals on one side and nationalists and social conservatives on the other. However, the chasm that split society between 48 per cent of ‘Remainers’ on one side and 52 per cent of ‘Leavers’ on the other in 2016 is still very wide.</p> <p class="normal">When you tune into <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006t1q9">Question Time</a> or the <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qj9z">Today Programme</a>, you’re more likely to hear individuals talking past each other than finding common ground. The BBC aims to practice impartiality, but enforcing a false political binary between left and right is no longer a useful way to achieve this. One of the reasons the Echo Chamber Club has succeeded is that we don’t force any of these false binaries in political discourse, presenting not just conservative points of view but also Hindu voices, perspectives from software engineers, academics on North Korea and lots of other perspectives that aren’t part of the dominant discourse. Establishing a non-linear narrative requires this kind of philosophy.</p> <p class="normal">On <a href="https://rightdishonourable.com/category/podcast/">The Right Dishonourable Podcast</a>, the format of forcing a Brexiteer and a remainer to understand each other's’ point of view rather than simply debating it helps to counter the combative nature of other talk shows and the regular news cycle. We’ve held conversations with YouTube darling of the alt-right Carl Benjamin, better known as <a href="https://www.youtube.com/user/SargonofAkkad100">Sargon of Akkad</a>, and <a href="https://www.youtube.com/user/SargonofAkkad100">were able to get a men’s rights activist to talk about Scottish </a><a href="https://www.youtube.com/user/SargonofAkkad100">independence</a><a href="https://www.youtube.com/user/SargonofAkkad100"> and Parliament’s Brexit bill in 2016</a>. This type of calmer, conversational media exists in other pockets on the Internet too, like Leena Norms’ <a href="https://www.acast.com/imnotbeingfunnybut"><em>I’m Not Being Funny But…</em></a>, Dylan Marron’s <a href="http://www.dylanmarron.com/podcast/"><em>Conversations with People Who Hate Me</em></a>, and the new <a href="https://www.kialo.com/">Kialo site</a> in the US. These are examples of using media to ‘break bread’ rather than ‘cross swords,’ and we need more of them.</p> <p class="normal">But even with greater support and resources, it will be very difficult to overcome polarisation whilst it remains profitable to create niche communities and entrench division in politics. &nbsp;Nevertheless, we have to act and act quickly. Recognising that anti-polarisation efforts are a deeply political act, but one which is as neutral as political acts can be, is a good place to start in healing the deep ruptures of society.</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/alice-thwaite/escaping-from-echo-chambers-of-politics">Escaping from the echo-chambers of politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/when-will-there-be-harmony">When will there be harmony?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/peroline-ainsworth-kiran-nihalani/five-ways-to-build-solidarity-across-our-difference">Five ways to build solidarity across our differences</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-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 Jazza John Alice Thwaite Care Culture Tue, 16 Jan 2018 22:20:58 +0000 Alice Thwaite and Jazza John 115578 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Fire and fury: the psychodrama of a very stable genius https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ian-hughes/fire-and-fury-psychodrama-of-stable-genius <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Donald Trump is portrayed as a narcissist, but what exactly does that mean?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/IanHughes4.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Donald-Trump-Trump-Alzheimers-Warning-Dementia-1750965">Max Pixel/Free Great Picture</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">CC0</a>.</p> <p>The release of <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Fire-Fury-Inside-Trump-White/dp/1250158060/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&amp;qid=1515789001&amp;sr=8-1">Michael Wolff’s book <em>Fire and Fury</em></a> has heightened concerns about Donald Trump’s mental fitness for office. In <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2018/01/03/whats-surprising-and-what-isnt-in-the-new-trump-tell-all/?tid=ss_tw&amp;utm_term=.fc0b01a459ec">her review of the book for the Washington Post</a>, Jennifer Rubin says that it shows Trump to be “an unhinged man-child utterly lacking in the skill needed to be president”—despite Trump’s assertion that in fact he’s a “<a href="http://www.cnn.com/2018/01/06/politics/donald-trump-white-house-fitness-very-stable-genius/index.html">very stable genius</a>.” </p> <p>In the Guardian, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jan/05/fire-and-fury-republicans-donald-trump-party?CMP=share_btn_tw&amp;utm_content=bufferb7aeb&amp;utm_medium=social&amp;utm_source=twitter.com&amp;utm_campaign=buffer">Jonathan Freedland writes</a> that Wolff’s revelations “prove—yet again—what a vile, narcissistic and dangerous man we have in the Oval Office.” And in the New Yorker, <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/fire-and-fury-is-a-book-all-too-worthy-of-the-president">Masha Gessen, warns</a> that Trump’s White House is “waging a daily assault on the public’s sense of sanity, decency, and cohesion. It makes us feel crazy.”</p> <p>Is there any way to get beneath the daily assault on our sanity and try to understand what might be driving the chaos of the Trump Presidency? A good place to start is with the word that many say best sums up the man, which is <em>narcissism</em>. </p> <p>As Wolff reports, “I will tell you the one description that everyone gave, everyone has in common. They all say, ‘He is like a child,’ and what they mean by that is he has a need for immediate gratification. It’s all about him.” And ‘It’s all about him’ is a pretty good definition of narcissism.</p> <p>Psychologists are at pains to stress that it is not narcissistic for a person to value a quality in themselves that they actually possess, or to want to be admired and valued by others. What’s problematic is when someone loves and admires themselves excessively for qualities for which there is little or no foundation, a condition known as “<a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/narcissistic-personality-disorder">narcissistic personality disorder</a>.” </p> <p>The characteristics of this disorder are well known: a grandiose sense of self-importance or uniqueness; an exhibitionistic need for constant attention and admiration; a lack of empathy and an inability to recognise how others feel; disregard for the personal integrity and rights of other people; and relationships marked out by a sense of entitlement and the exploitation of others.</p> <p>The ancient <a href="https://www.ancient.eu/Narcissus/">myth of Narcissus</a> conveys these features powerfully. The myth tells us how the handsome Narcissus was doted on by the nymph Echo, whom he rejected. In retaliation, the gods decided to punish Narcissus by making him fall in love with his own reflection in a mountain pool. Every time Narcissus reached out to this image of perfection, the image fragmented, eventually causing him to die of sadness. </p> <p>To fathom the psychological origins of narcissistic personality disorder and the real meaning of this myth, we have to go back to the earliest days of infancy. In very early childhood, when a baby’s mind and brain are still developing, it is thought that they are unable to distinguish between themselves and the world around them. At this stage in their development there is a magical, omnipotent quality to the child’s experiences. </p> <p>They cry and are automatically enveloped in a warm soothing embrace. They are hungry, and warm milk is quickly conjured up to satisfy their needs. Physical discomfort from a soiled nappy is magically dispelled whenever it’s required. In these earliest days, the infant is the world and the world responds to their every need. But life does not continue in this magical vein for long.</p> <p>This state of “primary narcissism” <a href="https://disorderedworld.com/2015/04/07/how-neuro-science-is-proving-that-freud-was-right/">as Freud called it</a> is soon disrupted as the child experiences the inevitable frustrations that occur as the mother and father slowly withdraw from the intensity of care that was necessary in the first few months of life.&nbsp; Now the child’s every wish is no longer immediately and magically satisfied, and the existence of an outside reality begins to break in.</p> <p>Psychoanalysts refer to this crucial period of development as the beginning of <a href="http://www.melanie-klein-trust.org.uk/internal-objects">“object relations.”</a> The child’s dawning and painful realisation that an external reality exists, and that they are not the sum total of the universe, happens when the child’s mind is still a bundle of loosely interacting parts. The infant’s first relationships are not only to people outside themselves, but also to the fragmented and developing parts of their own mind.</p> <p>Two of these fragments of the mind, the “<a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/theory-knowledge/201306/the-elements-ego-functioning">ego</a>” and “<a href="https://www.verywell.com/what-is-the-superego-2795876">superego</a>,” are familiar to us. The ego is the part of the psyche that we most readily relate to as the ‘self.’ Freud described the ego as the part of the personality that enables the individual to delay immediate gratification. A mature ego acts as the seat of judgement, rationality and control.</p> <p>A second part of the mind is the superego. According to psychoanalysis, as the intensity of the mother and father’s care is slowly reduced, the child deals with the terrifying feelings of loss and anxiety that result from being left alone by internalising aspects of the caregiver within their own mind. This internalised image is the superego. It plays the role of an ever-present carer, guarding over the thoughts and behaviour of the child, and eventually comes to act as the source of conscience and guilt. </p> <p>In the infant’s mind, two other psychic parts are also initially present that are less well known in popular discussion—the <a href="http://www.sakkyndig.com/psykologi/artvit/russell1985.pdf">“ego ideal” and the “narcissistic self</a>.”</p> <p>The ego ideal is that part of the mind which holds onto the belief in the child’s omnipotence despite all evidence to the contrary. Refusing to adapt to the limitations placed on it by the external world, the ego ideal continues to exert relentless demands for grandiosity and perfection. And like a cruel circus trainer, it stands ever ready to pour scorn on the ego should its unattainable standards for omnipotence and control of the external world not be met.</p> <p>The fourth part of the infant psyche—the narcissistic self—contains the child’s natural drive for love and admiration and their desire to be looked at and admired. In early infancy, the narcissistic self has a heightened intensity that reflects the infant’s existential need for attention. During the course of normal development, the narcissistic self eventually loses its original all-consuming quality and becomes the source of healthy self-esteem. </p> <p>Under normal circumstances then, as the child matures, their developing ego manages to moderate the extreme demands for perfection and omnipotence of the ego ideal, and to contain the childish exhibitionism and desperate need for acclaim of the narcissistic self. As a result, as psychoanalyst <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/books/01/06/03/reviews/010603.03edmundt.html">Heinz Kohut writes</a>, the mature personality becomes dominated by the ego—which &nbsp;exercises a measure of rational control—under &nbsp;the guidance of the superego which sets realistic ideals and moderates behaviour through a healthy modicum of guilt.</p> <p>Hence, during the course of normal psychic development, a person acquires a measure of humility, the recognition of external reality, and the acceptance that others are not here simply to serve their own needs. But these qualities are not those that people see in Donald Trump. Instead, as Wolff reminds us, “it’s all about him.”</p> <p>A number of quotes from <em>Fire and Fury</em> about Trump’s behaviour are consistent with someone with narcissistic personality disorder—someone whose psyche is dominated not by a mature rational ego and an ethical superego, but by the immature parts of the infant psyche, namely the narcissistic self and the ego ideal.</p> <p>For example, <a href="https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/58345679-fire-and-fury-inside-the-trump-white-house">Wolff writes that</a> “Bannon described Trump as a simple machine. The On switch was full of flattery, the Off switch full of calumny. The flattery was dripping, slavish, cast in ultimate superlatives, and entirely disconnected from reality: so-and-so was the best, the most incredible, the ne plus ultra, the eternal. The calumny was angry, bitter, resentful, ever a casting out and closing of the iron door.” </p> <p>“[<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2018/01/03/whats-surprising-and-what-isnt-in-the-new-trump-tell-all/?tid=ss_tw&amp;utm_term=.59f2d9611a27">Trump] neither particularly listened</a> to what was said to him nor particularly considered what he said in response. He demanded you pay him attention, and then decided you were weak for grovelling. In a sense, he was like an instinctive, pampered, and hugely successful actor. Everybody was either a lackey who did his bidding or a high-ranking film functionary trying to coax out his performance—without making him angry or petulant.” </p> <p>These quotes suggest a mind dominated by a constant battle between the childish exhibitionism of the narcissistic self and the unattainable demands of the unforgiving ego ideal. Every interaction is a desperate attempt to prove perfection and omnipotence against the background of a constant fear of shame and humiliation. </p> <p>In the ancient myth, Narcissus eventually died of sadness because every time he reached out to himself his self-image fragmented and disappeared. Every time he tried to know himself he found that there was nothing solid. </p> <p>The myth’s message for our times is a warning that people with narcissistic personality disorder are driven to live out their lives by damaging others and pursuing their grandiose destructive dreams—often at enormous expense to society—because they are psychologically incapable of coming to terms with the Fire and Fury that lie within.</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/danger-there-s-centrifuge-in-white-house">Danger: there’s a centrifuge in the White House</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-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 Ian Hughes Empathy Care Culture Sun, 14 Jan 2018 22:31:32 +0000 Ian Hughes 115635 at https://www.opendemocracy.net After Erica Garner’s death, I can’t breathe through the tears https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/zenobia-jeffries/after-erica-garner-s-death-i-can-t-breathe-through-tears <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In praise and memory of a great advocate for peace and social justice.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/ZenobiaJeffries3.gif" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Erica Garner, daughter of Eric Garner, leads a march of people protesting the Staten Island, New York grand jury's decision not to indict a police officer involved in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in July, on December 11, 2014 in the Staten Island Neighborhood of New York City. Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images via Yes! Magazine.</p> <p>Three weeks before her death, anti-police violence activist Erica Garner spoke in an interview of the trauma and struggle that caused&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kv6gSl4JcFA">Kalief Browder</a>’s mother to die of heart problems—literally, a broken heart. Browder was the 16-year-old boy from the Bronx accused of stealing a backpack in 2010 who then spent three years in an adult prison, often in solitary, without being convicted. After he was released, he struggled with mental health and eventually took his own life.</p> <p>In the&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/BenjaminPDixon/status/946436687588192257">interview</a>, Erica discussed her own trauma of seeing her father, Eric Garner, killed by a New York police officer, her own health struggles, and the stress of fighting injustice since that summer day in July 2014.</p> <p>“This thing, it beats you down,” she said to podcast and YouTube show host Benjamin Dixon. “The system beats you down to where you can’t win.”</p> <p>Erica shared that she felt her father’s pain watching the viral video that shook the nation, showing New York police officer Dan Pantaleo putting her father in an illegal chokehold, killing him. “That same pain when he said he can’t breathe. That same pain when he said he was tired of being harassed” by police officers.</p> <p>But the self-proclaimed daddy’s girl, the oldest daughter of Eric Garner’s children, stated emphatically, “It’s hard, but you have to keep going. No matter how long it takes, we deserve justice, and I want to get justice for other people.”</p> <p>Erica was tireless in fighting for justice for her father, whose death was ruled a homicide, although no charges were brought against Pantaleo. She died fighting for police accountability and justice for others.</p> <p>Like so many others’, my social media feeds were flooded with the news of Erica’s death on Saturday. People expressed their own pain, anger, frustration, and sadness.</p> <p>But I had no words. I could barely make out my own emotions. I didn’t want to jump on the bandwagon of quick sentiments. I didn’t know Erica personally or professionally. I didn’t follow her work. My reaction was similar to when I saw the “I can’t breathe” video of her father’s killing, similar to when I saw the killing of Philando Castile, the killing of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/when-they-shot-terence-crutcher-this-time-i-watched-20160922">Terence Crutcher</a>, the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.</p> <p>There was only numbness.</p> <p>But now the tears won’t stop.&nbsp;<em>I can’t breathe </em>through the sobs.</p> <p>I remember the fatal chokehold that took Erica’s father’s life. I remember the image of a Black child being gunned down by a police officer at the park. I remember the image of a Black driver being shot while reaching for his identification, his girlfriend screaming when he dies on camera, the sound of their 4-year-old daughter consoling her mother. “It’s OK, Mommy, I’m right here with you.” Pleading with her mom to stop “’cause I don’t want you to get shooted.”</p> <p><em>I can’t breathe&nbsp;</em>through all this remembering.</p> <p>My tears will not bring her back, and they will not get the justice that she fought for so personally and passionately. But maybe these tears, along with these words, can touch a few hearts.</p> <p>And maybe many words and many tears can spark a lot of people—tens of thousands, millions—to join the movement to end the oppression of marginalized people in their communities.</p> <p>And maybe those people will propose legislation that refuses to give police violence a pass, and that fully prosecutes wrongful acts of policing. This is something the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/the-call-to-end-the-war-on-black-lives-starts-with-accountability-20161103">Movement for Black Lives</a>&nbsp;has already begun.</p> <p>And maybe out of that will come the Eric Garner Law or the Tamir Rice Law, or pick a name—maybe just the Black Lives Matter Law, which sees to it that police officers are not allowed to just retire following an act of violence. Maybe this law will instead suspend them without pay during an investigation of a killing, a rape, harassment—any form of police violence. Maybe this law will encourage just and appropriate charges. And maybe convictions, too.</p> <p>And maybe all the programs that have been proposed to actually train police officers in implicit bias and de-escalation will be mandated for every policing agency in the smallest town to the largest city—rural, urban, suburban, county, state, and federal.</p> <p><em>I can’t breathe&nbsp;</em>through all these maybes.</p> <p>Erica died fighting for justice. Like her father, her heart gave out from the task. She died seeing the person who killed her father not be held accountable for taking his life unjustly.</p> <p>I do not want to die knowing that I said nothing. Did nothing, knowing that oppressed people every day are dying unjustly at the hands of police, moving along with my days numb, as if that is just the normal way things are. It is not normal.</p> <p>So I will fight through the numbness and the tears, and offer my words.</p> <p class="image-caption">This article was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/after-erica-garners-death-i-cant-breathe-through-the-tears-20170103?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20180105&amp;utm_content=YTW_20180105+CID_c325be1d4f4e3aa12eddef67b19b729b&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=After%20Erica%20Gar">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/zenobia-jeffries/why-redneck-revolt-says-deal-with-racism-first-then-economics">Why Redneck Revolt says deal with racism first, then economics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/alexis-buchanan/blacklivesmatter-makes-some-people-angry-isn-t-that-good">#BlackLivesMatter makes some people angry. Isn’t that good?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/zenobia-jeffries/what-dna-ancestry-testing-can-and-can-t-tell-you">What DNA ancestry testing can and can’t tell you</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 Zenobia Jeffries Transformative nonviolence Activism Care Intersectionality Thu, 11 Jan 2018 22:12:17 +0000 Zenobia Jeffries 115577 at https://www.opendemocracy.net It’s time to reconsider the meaning of ‘animal welfare’ https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/gary-francione/it-s-time-to-reconsider-meaning-of-animal-welfare <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Current standards simply make us feel better about the continued exploitation of animals.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/GaryFrancione.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/horse-pure-arab-blood-eye-look-1843081/">https://pixabay.com/en/horse-pure-arab-blood-eye-look-1843081/</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/deed.en">CC0</a></p> <p>At the end of 2017 British Prime Minister Theresa May <a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-fox-hunting-manifesto-pledge-downing-street-michael-gove-a8127281.html">abandoned</a> the Tory manifesto pledge to hold a free vote on repealing the legal ban on using dogs to hunt foxes. May’s decision followed complaints from Tory MPs that support for repealing the ban, while popular in some rural communities, had cost them votes during the 2017 general election. The pro-hunting position is very unpopular.</p> <p><a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/fox-hunting-theresa-may-general-election-british-public-animal-cruelty-a7765746.html">Polling</a> released in May 2017 showed that almost 70 per cent of British voters were opposed to fox hunting, and half were less likely to vote for a pro-hunting candidate in the general election. Opposition is not limited to fox hunting. A <a href="https://www.ipsos.com/ipsos-mori/en-uk/attitudes-hunting-2016">2016 poll</a> indicated that, in addition to the 84 per cent opposed to fox hunting, significant numbers of people in the UK were opposed to deer hunting (88 per cent), hare hunting and coursing (91 per cent), dog fighting (98 per cent), and badger baiting (94 per cent).</p> <p>Why is there such opposition to these activities?</p> <p>The answer is simple: we <em>care</em> about animals. We believe that they matter morally. We reject the position which prevailed before the 19th century that animals are merely <em>things</em> to whom we have no moral or legal obligations. Instead, most people embrace the <em>animal welfare</em> position which has two key components.</p> <p>The first component is that—although animals can be used for human purposes—we should not impose <em>unnecessary</em> suffering or death on them. The second is that when we do use animals, we have an obligation to treat them ‘humanely.’</p> <p>The activities to which most of the British public objects involve imposing suffering and death on animals where there is no necessity or compulsion to do so; it is wrong to make animals suffer or to kill them when the only purported justification is that humans derive some sort of pleasure or amusement. The use of animals for frivolous purposes is tantamount to denying their moral value. Most people reject that.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The problem is that, although most people regard the imposition of unnecessary suffering and death on animals as immoral, their actual behavior is not consistent with their moral position. They participate in imposing suffering and death on animals in situations where there is no necessity, and in which the treatment of animals is anything but ‘humane.’</p> <p><strong>‘Unnecessary’ suffering and death.</strong></p> <p>Most people eat animals and products made from animals, and both involve a great deal of cruelty. In the UK alone, more than <a href="https://www.hsa.org.uk/faqs/general">one billion</a> animals are killed every year for food. Many animals are raised in intensive conditions that constitute torture. Even those who are raised in supposedly more ‘humane’ circumstances suffer distress throughout and at the end of their lives.</p> <p>This is not just a matter of meat. The cows used to produce milk are repeatedly impregnated and have their calves taken away from them shortly after birth. And all animals, whether used for meat, dairy, or eggs, are subjected to terror and distress at the abattoir.</p> <p>Is <em>any</em> of this suffering and death ‘necessary?’ Is there any <em>compulsion</em> involved?&nbsp; The answer is no.</p> <p>No one maintains that it is necessary to consume animal products to be optimally healthy. The UK National Health Service says that a sensible vegan diet can be <a href="https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Vegetarianhealth/Pages/Vegetarianhealthqanda.aspx">“very healthy,”</a> while mainstream health care professionals all over the world are increasingly taking the position that animal products are <a href="https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/08/06/advice-from-a-vegan-cardiologist/">detrimental</a> to human health.</p> <p>We don’t have to settle the debate about whether it is <em>more </em>healthy to live on a diet of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds. The point is that a vegan diet is certainly no <em>less </em>healthy than a diet of decomposing flesh, cow secretions and chicken ova. And that’s the only point relevant to the issue of whether suffering and death are necessary or not.</p> <p>Moreover, animal agriculture constitutes an <a href="http://science.time.com/2013/12/16/the-triple-whopper-environmental-impact-of-global-meat-production/">ecological disaster</a>. It is responsible for more greenhouse gases than the burning of fossil fuel for transportation, and results in deforestation, soil erosion and water pollution. The grain fed to animals in the United States alone could feed <a href="http://news.cornell.edu/stories/1997/08/us-could-feed-800-million-people-grain-livestock-eat">800 million</a> people. Against this background, what is the best justification we have for inflicting suffering and death on animals?</p> <p>The answer is simple: we think they taste good. We derive pleasure from eating them. Eating animals and animal products is a tradition, and we have been following it for a very long time.</p> <p>But how is that position any different from the justification offered for animal uses to which most of us object? How is palate pleasure any different from the pleasure that some people derive from participating in blood sports? There is no difference<em>.</em> Fox hunting, badger baiting and dog fighting are all traditions. Indeed, almost every practice to which we object—whether involving animals or humans—involves a tradition valued by someone. Patriarchy is also a tradition that has existed for a very long time, but that says nothing about its moral status.</p> <p>Many people oppose hunting foxes because they can see no morally significant distinction between the dog they love and the fox who is chased and killed. But what is the difference between the animals we love and those into whom we stick a fork and a knife? There is no difference. The dogs and cats we love are <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sam-earle/how-should-we-feel-about-feelings-of-animals-we-eat"><em>sentient</em></a>—just as are the chickens, cows, pigs, fish, and other animals we exploit. They all feel pain and experience distress; they all have an interest in continuing to live.</p> <p><strong>‘Humane’ treatment.</strong></p> <p>If most of our animal use cannot plausibly be characterized as ‘necessary,’ what about the second component of the animal welfare position—that we have an obligation to use animals ‘humanely?’ This is also a fantasy.</p> <p>Animals are <a href="http://www.temple.edu/tempress/titles/1156_reg.html">property.</a> They are chattel. They are things that are bought and sold. It costs money to protect animal interests, and the property status of animals ensures that, as a general matter, standards of animal welfare (whether mandated by law or adopted by industry) will always be very low. We will protect animal interests when we get a financial benefit of some sort from doing so. Most of the time, welfare standards will be linked to the level of protection that is needed to exploit animals in an economically efficient way, so these standards will (to the extent that they are even enforced) prohibit nothing more than <em>gratuitous</em> suffering.</p> <p>Animal welfare standards in Britain are claimed to be amongst the <a href="https://www.worldanimalprotection.org/news/ground-breaking-animal-protection-index-assesses-animal-welfare-around-world">highest in the world</a>, but the treatment accorded to British animals is still appalling. To say that animals in the UK are ‘humanely’ treated would be false using <em>any</em> plausible understanding of that word.</p> <p>On some level we all know this. That is why we have seen the rise of a niche market in Britain and elsewhere that purports to provide ‘higher-welfare’ meat and animal products. But as various <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3489317/And-call-free-range-s-disturbing-images-16-000-free-range-hens-crammed-shed-fact-conditions-approved-RSPCA.html">exposes</a> of this niche market have shown, the promise of ‘humane’ treatment is never realised. We may give animals a bit more space; we may allow them to see a bit of sunlight; we may allow cows to spend a bit more time with their calves before they are taken away from them. But these changes are minor in their effects even when they are implemented.</p> <p>Animal welfare organizations campaign against the ‘abuse’ of animals. But even if all of these abuses stopped and all animals were treated in perfect accordance with applicable laws and regulations, the situation would still be terrible. Animals would still be killed without there being <em>any </em>necessity to do so, and even if we transformed animal agriculture in the direction of family farms there would still be a huge amount of morally-unjustified suffering and death.</p> <p>In fact, standards of animal welfare are not about animals at all; they are about <em>us.</em> These standards make us feel better about continuing to exploit animals. They were formulated at a time when most people thought that killing and eating animals was necessary for human health. No one can reasonably believe that any longer.</p> <p>Therefore, it is time to examine the moral justification for <a href="https://aeon.co/ideas/a-humanely-killed-animal-is-still-killed-and-thats-wrong">using</a> animals. As someone who maintains an <a href="http://www.abolitionistapproach.com/"><em>animal rights</em></a> position rather than an animal welfare position, it is my view that we cannot justify exploiting animals for <em>any</em> purpose, including biomedical research aimed at finding cures for serious human illnesses, any more than we can justify using humans whom we believe are cognitively ‘inferior’ for such a purpose.</p> <p>But even if you do not accept the rights position, the position that you probably do accept—that it is wrong to inflict <em>unnecessary </em>suffering and death on animals—makes it impossible for you to avoid the conclusion that the use of animals for any purpose that does not involve true compulsion or necessity, including the use of animals for food, clothing, and entertainment, must be ruled out. Any other position relegates animals to the category of things that have no moral value. We see this where fox hunting and other blood sports are involved; it’s time that we see it in other contexts too. &nbsp;&nbsp; &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/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 even"> <a href="/transformation/andy-west/i-stopped-eating-animals-because-of-human-rights">I stopped eating animals because of human rights</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/rupert-read/how-whales-and-dolphins-can-teach-us-to-be-less-stupid">How whales and dolphins can teach us to be less stupid</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 Gary Francione Care Culture Environment Sun, 07 Jan 2018 22:51:48 +0000 Gary Francione 115516 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How whales and dolphins can teach us to be less stupid https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/rupert-read/how-whales-and-dolphins-can-teach-us-to-be-less-stupid <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Learning from the other inhabitants of our ‘blue planet.’</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Default"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/rupertread.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Upside down dolphins and killer whale or orca. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/rumpleteaser/5025633919">Flickr/Rumpleteaser</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY 2.0</a>.</p> <p class="Default">For those tens of millions of us who have been watching the extraordinary ‘<a href="http://www.bbcearth.com/blueplanet2/">Blue Planet II</a>’, the final programme in the series (which looked at the human-caused threats facing the seas) may have come as both a wake-up call and a disappointment. Disappointment, at what we’ve done to this beautiful planet. And perhaps also, disappointment that the BBC didn’t look deeply enough into why these harms have happened.</p> <p class="Default">What emerges when we reflect more profoundly in this way?</p> <p class="Default">The background to what we’re doing to the oceans includes, crucially, this: that the world is possessed by the ideology of possessive individualism, which comes in different varieties: liberal, neoliberal and libertarian. This possession is utterly disastrous, at a moment when we need to think and act collectively, politically, and <em>as a civilisation</em>, not just as an aggregate of individuals.</p> <p class="Default">What would it mean to really take seriously our identity as a ‘we’, our belonging to each other and to our homes—<em>our</em> common home? To be <em>us</em>, rather than just a lot of ‘me’s?</p> <p class="Default">Central to such a transformation is the need to overcome the prejudice—the very idea—of the ‘individual.’ It is not persons who are the fundamental units of social existence, it’s embedded communities.</p> <p class="Default">We are born into community, and in this respect our political starting point should never be the fantasy of the ‘social contract.’ That fantasy, of the individual-as-person allegedly prior to society, dangerously gets in the way of the ultra-long time-scale of community. Individuals die. The community lives—unless it stupidly commits itself to death.</p> <p class="Default">We humans seem very far from understanding this at present. The situation is pretty desperate. Might we be able to learn from other animals who seem, in the ways they live, to have a better grasp of this crucial point? Could other animals possibly have anything to <em>teach</em> us? And even if they did, how could we understand it?</p> <p class="Default">Perhaps in the way indicated by cetologist <a href="https://www.cumbria.ac.uk/study/academic-staff/all-staff-members/volker-deecke.php">Volker Deecke</a>. “To appreciate other people’s cultures”, <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Grandest-Lives-Eye-Whales/dp/1578051479">he once wrote</a>, “you have to shed your prejudices—strip yourself down to where you are just human and then build up your understanding. With [orcas]…you must strip all the way down to just being a mammal, then start from scratch trying to imagine how whales perceive and interpret the world. Imagine ‘clicking’ [focusing a sonar beam] on another member of your society.”</p> <p class="Default">Or consider Hal Whitehead and Luke Rendell’s well-regarded book, <em><a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/C/bo12789830.html">The cultural lives of whales and dolphins</a>,</em> with its audacious title about the <em>cultures</em> of these beings—really? Are they genuinely cultural? Roughly speaking, a culture exists if there are substantial specific traditions that are inherited by way of teaching, learning and emulation, rather than by way of genes.</p> <p class="Default">Whitehead and Rendell show that there’s little possibility of debate over this question when it comes to cetaceans like whales and dolphins, which are social species with their own cultures. Take a famous example: <a href="http://cetus.ucsd.edu/voicesinthesea_org/videos/videoHumpbackSong.html">Humpback Whales singing</a>. It’s now been shown that different groups of Humpbacks alter their songs in patterns that look much the same as human fashions. We are still somewhat far from understanding what these songs mean, but we already know enough to see that they’re far more clearly cultural than most bird songs.</p> <p class="Default">Or take this example, which was a clincher for me: the way that some groups of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killer_whale">killer whales or orcas</a> ‘go on holiday.’ They travel hundreds of miles to interesting, warm parts of the ocean, and hang out and play. They don’t eat or engage in sexual activity there. When they have had a good rest, they return, as it were, ‘to work.’</p> <p class="Default">We can probably understand all of these phenomena to some degree by rough analogy to ourselves. And it’s truly extraordinary that cetaceans have managed to maintain and develop their cultures when one considers the quite fantastic butchery that they’ve been subject to at human hands over the past few centuries. Imagine humanity, from a far lower initial base of numbers, being then taken down murderously to about a thousandth of its size, and what <em>that</em> would do to <em>our</em> cultures. This is what we have done to cetaceans. It is incredible in its barbarity, cruelty and stupidity. It is soul-rending. And yet, they manage to go on.</p> <p class="Default">Whitehead and Rendell suggest that another mark of culture, which we should look for in cetaceans to confirm that the adjective “cultural” is appropriately applied, is social stupidity—it is possible for cultural beings to be stupid or sub-optimal in ways that are not open to uncultural beings.</p> <p class="Default">This too we can understand at a suitably high level of abstraction by reference to ourselves—we are all too familiar with human stupidity at scale—but the point about such irrational or incoherent behaviour is that in its specificity it resists such understanding. Thus we’ll typically say of people who we describe as doing something stupid, “But that’s <em>stupid,</em> why are they doing it?”</p> <p class="Default">Stupid social behaviour like this is very unusual in the animal world, though more often than not, we’ll assume that animals lack the cognitive capacity to be capable either of relevant intelligence <em>or</em> stupidity. However, Whitehead and Rendell offer a powerful example of cetacean behaviour that could be considered stupid in this way: mass strandings.</p> <p class="Default">Some mass strandings can be explained by reference to pollution that makes the cetaceans in question ill; or by reference to the sonar with which our navies are filling our seas, indiscriminately and highly-destructively. But there are plenty of cases which don’t fit this kind of model, cases where one or some of the pod are beached ill or wounded while others are fit and healthy.</p> <p class="Default">It certainly appears stupid that the latter are unwilling to save themselves even when their conspecifics are doomed, <em>unless</em> we change the frame and, instead of asking repeatedly, ‘Why won’t this dolphin save itself, or even allow itself to be saved?’, we step back to think about whether the notion of ‘self’ in play here may be prejudicial. Perhaps the cetacean sense of self transcends what for us are divisions between individuals.</p> <p class="Default">To understand cetacean society, we have to let go of philosophical and ideological assumptions about the separateness of living beings from one another, assumptions which seem natural to us re human beings—though perhaps only because we are so deeply captive to an ideology of individualism: we don’t see it, for it’s the sea <em>we</em> swim in. Instead, we may have to contemplate the lived reality of what <em>we</em> would call ‘larger-than-self’ individual as indivisible identities.</p> <p class="Default">I’d argue that, if cetaceans were able to speak to us, and were part of a pod undergoing a mass stranding who we were seeking to lead back out to sea, they might say something like this: “You ask me to save <em>myself</em>. But you haven’t understood that it would be part of <em>myself</em> that I would be leaving on the beach if I did as you asked.” If we could understand <em>that</em>, then we might have a much better chance of survival on this planet ourselves. <em>That</em> would be ‘being <em>us</em>.’</p> <p class="Default">Then we might be better placed to think as a civilisation and to survive, for we would feel directly the reality of all the others who we are committing to suffering or death through our actions—and maybe then, we wouldn’t be able to go on doing these things.</p> <p class="Default">Cetaceans expand our sense of what is humanly possible<em> vis-a-vis</em> relationships and community. Or perhaps they exceed it. They indicate a spectrum along which we are far from reptiles (who have no interest in their own young, and will eat them if they come across them), but perhaps not quite as advanced as cetaceans.</p> <p class="Default">What kinds of beings do we need to become in order to survive the coming ecological devastation, and in order to avoid accelerating it beyond the range of civilisational survival? I would say: communitarian animals, <em>not</em> libertarians, liberals or neoliberals. I think cetaceans present us with an enormous clue as to what that could mean, if we are willing to hear them.</p> <p class="Default">Maybe reflecting deeply on how cetaceans <em>do</em> sometimes walk willingly into mass strandings might help <em>us</em> to figure out how not to walk into our own global suicide, because, in a way so wonderfully, they’re unable or unwilling to imagine leaving each other, as we see played out in the incredibly-moving way they actively resist being saved.</p> <p class="Default">But perhaps we’re only doing so because, unlike them, we find it too easy to imagine leaving each other, and in particular, leaving our children to their fates. Maybe we can learn to be more like cetaceans—who simply will not do this.</p> <p class="image-caption">Thanks to Silvia Panizza and Sam Earle for really helpful comments on earlier drafts of this piece.</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/charles-eisenstein/oceans-are-not-worth-24-trillion">The oceans are not worth $24 trillion</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/margi-prideaux/when-tiger-has-no-value">When a tiger has no value</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 Rupert Read Care Culture Economics Environment Tue, 19 Dec 2017 21:56:01 +0000 Rupert Read 115351 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why Redneck Revolt says deal with racism first, then economics https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/zenobia-jeffries/why-redneck-revolt-says-deal-with-racism-first-then-economics <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Addressing systems of White supremacy can’t be dismissed as ‘identity politics.’</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Lori2_1.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><blockquote><p>“Moved by the need for control, for an unchallenged top tier, the power elite in American history has thrived by placating the vulnerable and creating for them a false sense of identification—denying real class differences where possible.”&nbsp;Nancy Isenberg,&nbsp;White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America</p></blockquote> <p>There is no shortage of media commentary discrediting “identity politics,” particularly the focus on Black, Latinx, LGBTQ, and immigrant communities calling for justice and equity. Economics is our real problem, a counter argument goes, not race, sex, gender, citizenship. But as author Nancy Isenberg points out in&nbsp;<em>White Trash,</em>&nbsp;“identity has always been a part of politics.”</p> <p>Laws have been written to oppress and exploit particular identities—Native Americans, Black Americans, Asians, homosexuals, transgender, and women—in a successful effort to maintain a system of White supremacy. Yet, members of these communities have worked for the rights and equality of everyone. In turn, White allies have joined in these anti-racism fights.</p> <p>The&nbsp;<a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/the-redneck-revolt-is-showing-up-at-gun-shows-and-kkk-rallies-to-end-white-supremacy-20171117">Redneck Revolt</a>&nbsp;is one such organization. The self-described anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-fascist group challenges working-class White people to stand against White supremacy.</p> <p>I recently talked to Brett, one of the members who heads up the network’s Southeast Michigan Chapter (because of hostilities toward the organization, Redneck Revolt members use only their first names publicly).There are about 40 chapters nationwide.<em>&nbsp;</em>He explained why the group focuses on anti-racism rather than economics even though it seeks out white working-class and poor people in economically struggling rural areas. The interview has been condensed and lightly edited.</p> <p><strong>Zenobia Jeffries:&nbsp;</strong>What is the significance of the name Redneck Revolt? Why did the name change from the John Brown Gun Club?</p> <p><strong>Brett:</strong>&nbsp;They’re two sides of the same coin. We have some branches that are still the John Brown Gun Club. Our national network is Redneck Revolt.</p> <p>Redneck Revolt chapters like ours in Michigan here primarily focus on outreach, and winning hearts and minds, counter recruitment, showing up, being present, being allies, being where we need to be to show our community support.</p> <p>Whereas, John Brown Gun Club pretty much only deals with the firearm aspect of things. It deals with a lot of tactical training, a lot of information security-type stuff.</p> <p><strong>Jeffries:</strong>&nbsp;Can you give an example of what you mean by “changing hearts and minds.” What does that look like?</p> <p><strong>Brett:</strong>&nbsp;A really great example would be back in June. The ACT for America folks did an anti-sharia law march. Redneck Revolt was there. We were on one side of the barricades along with a slew of other leftist organizations. On the other side of the barricades were Proud Boys, Vanguard America, and a hodgepodge of other alt-right groups. But one of the most prominent was the Michigan Liberty Militia, which is famously racist and famously exclusionary.</p> <p>Toward the end of the demonstration, this one older gentleman—he was an older White man up at the barricade with all the gear on, and armed—had his rifle. One of my members and [I] went up to this guy and were like, “I understand mixing state and religion is not good. Nobody here wants to mix state and religion, nobody is protesting that. [But] it’s clearly anti-Muslim. This protest is against Muslims.</p> <p>“Furthermore, it’s against all people of color because this neighborhood [is] first-generation Somali, first-generation people form sub-Saharan Africa who are fleeing abject poverty and warfare, starvation, disease. So how can you be in this neighborhood and be like, ‘This is what America stands for’?</p> <p>“Not only that, if you look to your left and right, those kids with the sun wheel on their shields, and the eagle on their shirts, those guys are self-described, literal Nazis. We fought a war about this. I thought we were all in unanimous agreement that Nazis are bad.”</p> <p>And this guy he kind of started tearing up, and he was like, “You know, I’ll tell you, my dad died in World War II in Europe fighting Nazis.” And he goes, “This really has given me [something to think about]. You know I may not agree with everything you say. But associating myself like this has really given me pause, and has really made me think about what I’m doing here.”</p> <p>We don’t expect anybody to walk away from someplace where we’re counter-recruiting waving the red flag of revolution. But if we can at least pull them out of that mindset, that’s a win for us.</p> <p><strong>Jeffries:</strong>&nbsp;One of the things I find fascinating about Redneck Revolt is that your primary focus is organizing working-class Whites, yet you center race and anti-racism in the work that you do. So many are putting the focus on the economy, and calling anti-racism work “identity politics.” How did you all decide that you wanted to focus on White supremacy—that it is just as much of a problem for working-class Whites as for people of color?</p> <p><strong>Brett:&nbsp;</strong>Our stance is that our entire capitalist system is built on a bedrock of White supremacy, and as White folks we have access to spaces that people of color don’t. So we try to exploit the spaces and put ourselves in those positions to reach the White working class because it’s like the old IWW [Industrial Workers World] saying, “If we don’t get to them first, the Klan will.”</p> <p>And we understand that if there’s going to be any kind of serious discourse about dismantling capitalism, about building the new world from the ashes of the old, as they say, that description can’t be had until the underlying issue of racism is addressed.</p> <p>That’s why [we] don’t engage law enforcement. We believe law enforcement is an extension of the old slave catchers.</p> <p>We don’t engage with anything that reinforces the current system that basically is built on White supremacy. We go to great lengths to dismantle that system and empower people to help us do that, but at the same time using the spaces that we have access to, to get other people to see that.</p> <p>And I believe that a lot of people we speak to may generally not be racist in a conventional sense. But they’re certainly benefitting from the system of White supremacy that has been built. They’re not doing anything to actually help dismantle it.</p> <p>So, that’s kind of the message that we try to bring across. Nobody is saying [to them], “You’re like burning crosses, you’re actively racist.” But you have to acknowledge that … as a White person in America, you are benefitting from White supremacy.</p> <p>So, in order to address capitalism, in order to address economics, the issue of systemic racism first has to be addressed.</p> <p><strong>Jeffries:</strong>&nbsp;I would imagine that when you’re in those spaces, and saying what you’re saying, that people respond, “But Black people are racist, too.”</p> <p><strong>Brett:&nbsp;</strong>Yes, we get that a lot.</p> <p>For an example, I was talking to a gentleman the other day. He was like, “Blacks have a whole month. They have Black History Month, where we do nothing but celebrate Black history. Blacks have their own channel. People would be up in arms if we had a White Entertainment Television.” And that’s the kind of thing we get most often.</p> <p>What I say, first of all, is there is no such thing as White culture—that’s a myth.</p> <p>Secondly, we do celebrate White holidays: Oktoberfest, St. Patrick’s Day, arguably Columbus Day. Not to mention our entire society is [tilted toward] celebrating Whiteness. What I try to tell people is, Look at your ancestors. Most White people can point to a single village. I’ll use myself as an example. I can point to a single village in Sweden. I know exactly where my people are from. That’s why I take a lot of pride in my Scandinavian heritage.</p> <p>Whereas with Black folks—and other people of color, but especially Black folks—the reason they celebrate Black culture is because their culture, everything Blacks had, was ripped away from them when they were taken from Africa. So that’s why it’s celebrated; that’s why it’s important.</p> <p>Because it’s the counter narrative to hundreds of years of systemic murder, oppression, just brutal slavery. That’s why we celebrate Black culture, because that’s all most folks have.</p> <p>The conversation we have to have is how can we look at ourselves and say, “I’m benefitting from this culture that has been built to only make sure people that look like me get the advantage.”</p> <p>And, obviously, the topic of privilege comes up, and most White folks will deny that they have White privilege. They’ll say things like, “I pulled myself up by my bootstraps” or “My grandfather started his own business."</p> <p>It’s hard to get people out of that mindset.</p> <p>[We] start explaining to them that “I’m sure your grandfather was a hardworking man, I’d never doubt that he was. But the fact that he was able to do that, and given that opportunity, I can promise you that postwar United States, a Black man applying to that same position definitely would not have gotten it.”</p> <p><strong>Jeffries:&nbsp;</strong>Along the lines of the “I pulled myself up by my bootstraps” mindset, I’m sure you also get folks who say, “Why should we poor and working-class Whites care about what’s happening to Blacks and other people of color when we’re struggling, too?” Especially, when the issue of crime is brought up.</p> <p><strong>Brett:&nbsp;</strong>We get a lot of reactionary questions, and it keeps us on our toes. But it makes our practice better. What we try to explain is that Black communities have their own set of problems just as other communities have their set of problems.</p> <p>The difference is White communities have the support of the state. For example, [when] a Black family moves into a primarily White neighborhood, then the housing values tend to go down. So what happens? The state intervenes and then makes the price of housing so high that then that Black family has to leave. That’s one example of how the state supports White supremacy. I’ve given that example a whole lot, and it tends to resonate with people.</p> <p>I have the clarity to understand that I am a college-educated [man] … who’s had uncountable numbers of opportunities thrown my way because I’m White. And given the same circumstances with a young Black man, that most certainly would not have happened. That’s what I try to explain: that people of color in the United States categorically do not have the same opportunities as White folks. Even if you are poor, which a lot are.</p> <p>But there are systems in place to make sure that I succeed. There are systems in place that make sure that my Black counterpart does not. And it’s designed that way.</p> <p>Until we as White folks can recognize collectively that we are benefitting from a system of oppression, then economics is secondary, or tertiary at best. There is no point in talking about economics when the only people affected by these economics are White people.</p> <p><strong>Jeffries:&nbsp;</strong>I’ve read some articles stating that Redneck Revolution doesn’t have a political ideology. While you may not align yourselves with the status quo parties of Democrat or Republican, your actions and principles are very much political. How do you describe your politics?</p> <p><strong>Brett:</strong>&nbsp;We’re broadly on the left. We’re what’s called a “big tent” organization. We’re overwhelmingly anarchists, but we have some communists in our ranks, we have some capitalist Democrats, progressives, and Republicans, believe it or not. I mean, we have people from all political stripes.</p> <p>That being said, we do understand there’s not going to be any grand revolution tomorrow. But the best thing that we can do short of a revolution is revolutionary change. We believe that revolutionary change comes in the form of dismantling the system of White supremacy that exists.</p> <p><strong>Jeffries:</strong>&nbsp;What is the end goal of Redneck Revolt?</p> <p><strong>Brett:&nbsp;</strong>Part of it is dismantling White supremacy. Another part of it is creating spaces inside of communities [where we can] help people not rely on the state. We help to create and encourage radical spaces that encourage things like mutual aid and direct action, as opposed to relying on the state for whatever means.</p> <p>For example, we’re working very closely with the IWW, one of the oldest radical unions in the country. They have a soup kitchen in Detroit where they distribute food and clothes every second and fourth Sunday in Cass Park. They’ve been doing it since 1996, or something like that. We’re trying to build a sustainable model like that close to Ypsilanti [in Michigan], especially with the winter months coming up. There’s another organization called the Michigan People of Defense, who do a lot of street medic training. There are a lot of us, including myself, who have military experience. I’m a combat lifesaver, so I have skills I can teach people.</p> <p>People get hung up on the firearms thing, but we also believe that it’s very important for the working class to be armed. We also understand that that puts people of color at a very high risk. So we try to put ourselves at the tip of the spear, so that way we can teach people the knowledge that we have. We can show them safe operation of firearms. How to use them, how to safely handle them.</p> <p>In [one community], there are a bunch of Hammerskins [a White supremacist group]. They basically patrol the neighborhood, and we have people of color over there who are in fear for their lives, and they’ve been reaching out to Redneck Revolt to help show them to use firearms.</p> <p>We’ve taken proactive steps, and if a community needs us, they know they can call on us, and in a heartbeat we’ll be there to help in any capacity that we’re able.</p> <p>The big point is building mutual aid, radical spaces inside of existing communities to not have to rely on the state, and while doing that trying to dismantle the system of White supremacy.</p> <p>We think that by doing that, one kind of complements the other.</p> <p><strong>Jeffries:&nbsp;</strong>Was the Trump campaign for the presidency the catalyst for Redneck Revolt?</p> <p><strong>Brett:&nbsp;</strong>We were already around, it’s just people didn’t know about us. And that’s probably one of the problems that we face, is that people don’t know we exist. And I want to say it’s our own fault, but we do things very intentionally.</p> <p>We don’t have much of a social media presence, and we do that on purpose because we have no interest in getting bogged down in spam wars on the internet. If you have a legitimate critique of our practices, meet us in the streets, tell us what we’re doing wrong. And if your idea is better, then we’ll incorporate your idea. That’s the way we operate.</p> <p>We feel like we’re an organization that is meant to be in the streets with the people doing things, making differences in people’s lives, not sitting behind a keyboard crying about capitalism.</p> <p>You can be any [ideology] you want. If you agree with the fact that capitalism is a system of oppression, and that system of oppression is largely held up by White supremacy, and you’re willing to dismantle that system, then welcome aboard.</p> <p><strong>Jeffries:&nbsp;</strong>What would be your message to the middle and upper-middle classes, to so-called elite/progressive/liberal Whites who dismiss rural poor and working-class Whites simply as Trump supporters?</p> <p><strong>Brett:&nbsp;</strong>The major issue is getting them to come out of their bubble of comfort. They hear the word “redneck” and they don’t see it through the [same] lens that we do.</p> <p>The word redneck has always been used pejoratively, but we don’t see it that way. We look at our grandfathers, great-grandfathers, and great-great-grandfathers and understand why they were called rednecks. You look back at the Harlan County wars, and those folks would wear bandanas to keep the sun off their necks, and that’s where the term redneck comes from. We embrace that term, and say, “Yeah, that’s who we are. We’re working-class people who are out in the streets.”</p> <p>If you can take the blinders off, you’ll see that … your comfort is still built on a system of White supremacy. Your comfort and the things that you’re enjoying are a byproduct of 150 years of working-class struggle. If you like the weekends, thank a union man. You like your 40-hour work week, you like that there are no kids slaving in textile factories, thank a union worker.</p> <p>It’s working-class people who brought those changes. It wasn’t [the] middle-class bourgeois who brought that change. It was working-class people out fighting in the streets. That’s who we are, that’s what we do.</p> <p><em>This article was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/peace-justice/why-redneck-revolt-says-deal-with-racism-first-then-economics-20171129?utm_medium=email&amp;utm_campaign=YTW_20171201&amp;utm_content=YTW_20171201+CID_ef20847be54fa7ba0fc41d3e42961bc1&amp;utm_source=CM&amp;utm_term=Why%20Redneck%20">YES! Magazine</a>.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/lori-lakin-hutcherson/my-white-friend-asked-me-to-explain-white-privilege-so-i-decide">My white friend asked me to explain white privilege, so I decided to be honest.</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jennifer-lentfer/wrestling-with-my-white-fragility">Wrestling with my white fragility</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/scot-nakagawa/blacklivesmatter-and-white-progressive-colorblindness">#Blacklivesmatter and white progressive colorblindness</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Zenobia Jeffries Liberation Activism Care Culture Intersectionality Thu, 14 Dec 2017 22:12:51 +0000 Zenobia Jeffries 115081 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How should we feel about the feelings of the animals we eat? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/sam-earle/how-should-we-feel-about-feelings-of-animals-we-eat <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Acknowledging the sentience of other species requires us to be vegan.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/shutterstock_273600215_3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/">www.shutterstock.com</a>/<a href="http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-2479768p1.html">Ledmark</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p>In the second half of November 2017 there was a considerable amount of emotion and confusion surrounding the UK’s ‘<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/animal-sentience-brexit-vote-caroline-lucas-michael-gove-truth-fact-argument-a8072071.html">animal sentience’ bill</a>, which sought to include the notion that animals have feelings in post-Brexit animal welfare legislation. These reactions have been fuelled by the viral sharing of posts on social media claiming that Members of Parliament have rejected the idea that animals feel pain.</p> <p>In fact, MPs did not vote against this proposition. Rather, they rejected a motion that explicitly recognised animal sentience, <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/jimwaterson/independent-animal-sentience?utm_term=.vgJvBwvv9G#.giazm5zzEM">purportedly</a> so that the Brexit legislation can be passed with as few amendments as possible. In the ensuing public outrage, the Conservative Government issued a statement claiming that the UK will lead the way in animal protection policies.&nbsp;</p> <p>One could argue that UK legislation on animal welfare such as the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/45/pdfs/ukpga_20060045_en.pdf">Animal Welfare Act of 2006&nbsp;</a>and the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2007/2078/pdfs/uksi_20072078_en.pdf">Welfare of Farmed Animals Act of 2007</a> already recognises that animals are ‘<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sentience">sentient</a>’—that they are subjectively aware, and have interests that are manifested as preferences, desires or wants. Anti-cruelty stipulations, of which a considerable number are enshrined in <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_welfare_in_the_United_Kingdom">UK legislation</a>, are also premised on the assumption that animals are aware of their feelings and emotions. </p> <p>Critics <a href="https://www.rspca.org.uk/whatwedo/latest/details/-/articleName/2017_11_21_AnimalSentience">claim</a> that this body of legislation falls short because it doesn’t include fish, wild animals or laboratory animals; nor does it explicitly mention sentience. But the logic that underpins these laws clearly points in this direction. </p> <p>Not surprisingly perhaps, many people have been quick to assume that a government that seems to relish the gratuitous punishment of foxes and the poor would be inclined to reject the notion of animal sentience. But there is something deeper going on here, and it isn’t restricted to ‘virtue signaling’ as LSE journalism professor Charlie Becket has <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/jimwaterson/independent-animal-sentience?utm_term=.nkjqQyqqjl#.yabqaxqqRV">suggested</a>—in other words, claiming to act ethically without&nbsp;<a href="https://www.spectator.co.uk/2015/10/i-invented-virtue-signalling-now-its-taking-over-the-world/">actually doing anything virtuous.</a> </p> <p>“People want to demonstrate their values,” he is quoted as saying in <a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/jimwaterson/independent-animal-sentience?utm_term=.nkjqQyqqjl#.yabqaxqqRV">Buzzfeed</a>, and “What can you be more angry about than sentient animals?” Such anger is real, but the more important issue is that accepting the reality of animal sentience (even implicitly) directs us to a set of political positions and personal behaviours that reject eating meat: the belief that it is wrong to cause unnecessary harm to sentient beings requires us to be vegan.</p> <p>What does it mean to say that animals are sentient? A sentient being is one that can experience pain and distress. We cannot be cruel to rocks and trees and other non-sentient beings; we can only be cruel to those beings that are aware of their feelings and emotions.</p> <p>As the late Harvard biologist <a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/A/bo3640817.html">Donald Griffin</a> once noted, such feelings necessitate a form of self-consciousness in their subject. Sentience also has an evolutionary function, since pain makes us aware of what is bad for us, while love allows the formation of strong social bonds that are necessary for wellbeing—or&nbsp; just plain survival. “Sentience is not an end in itself” as the animal ethicist <a href="http://www.temple.edu/tempress/titles/1359_reg.html">Gary Francione</a> puts it, “it is a means to the end of staying alive.” </p> <p>If most of the animals we use in food production systems and other aspects of our lives are sentient, and if we care deeply about this as a moral matter, then two key questions must be answered.</p> <p>Firstly, even if animal welfare laws recognise that animals are sentient, can those laws ever protect the interests that sentient animals have? </p> <p>As Francione noted, because animals are seen and used as human property, animal welfare laws—even the arguably more progressive ones we have in the UK—don’t do much more than prohibit the kinds of gratuitous harm that are in any case economically inefficient. All such legislation comes up against this fundamental contradiction: while it may aim to protect the interests of sentient beings, it cannot do so in any meaningful way while those same beings are the property of another.</p> <p>Secondly, if we care morally about animal suffering, and we really do object to the infliction of ‘unnecessary’ harm, then we should ask ourselves what forms of harm count as ‘necessary.’ </p> <p>In terms of sheer numbers and scale, the most significant use of animals is for food. <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/546546/slaughter-statsnotice-14jul16.pdf">It is estimated that&nbsp;over one billion animals are killed for food every year in the UK alone,</a> yet no one—nutritionists and medical experts included—maintains that this is ‘necessary.’ In fact, there is evidence that&nbsp;<a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/vegan-meat-life-expectancy-eggs-dairy-research-a7168036.html">vegans live longer lives than non-vegans</a>. Eating animals isn’t essential for good health or wellbeing; we do it because it is customary, and because we like the taste of their flesh. </p> <p>But are those good reasons to inflict suffering and death on a sentient being who, by definition, seeks to avoid pain and to continue to live?&nbsp;The fact of the matter is that there is only one way to respect the sentience of living beings, and that is by being vegan. </p> <p>Being vegan means refusing to treat animals as property, refusing to participate in their exploitation, and avoiding as far as is possible the degradation of the conditions required for their well-being. Veganism is sometimes painted as an extreme—even aggressive—life-style choice. The contrary is true. It’s actually a matter of respecting sentience and rejecting violence—values that so many people claim to share. </p> <p>Indeed, for those of us who profess to care about animal sentience, veganism is a moral imperative. If we are to avoid the charge of virtue-signaling, then respecting animal sentience requires us to be vegan.</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/man-s-weisskircher/rise-of-veganism-in-politics">The rise of veganism in politics</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/sophie-barnes/veganism-and-compassion">Veganism and compassion </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/samantha-earle/symbolic-summit">A symbolic summit</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 Sam Earle Activism Care Economics Environment Tue, 12 Dec 2017 22:14:16 +0000 Sam Earle 115076 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The virtues of a many-sided life https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/virtues-of-many-sided-life <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A rounded human being has got to be better than a square one for the tasks that lie ahead.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/head, heart and hands.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:USMC-101008-M-1558F-390.jpg">Wikimedia/USMC</a>. Public Domain.</p> <p>A couple of weeks ago, covered in lake slime and pieces of <a href="http://www.nyis.info/index.php?action=invasive_detail&amp;id=39">European water chestnut weed</a>, I climbed into the bathtub and turned on my favorite podcast from the BBC called <a href="http://www.radioline.co/podcast-bbc-radio-4-coast-and-country">Coast and Country</a>. The subject of the podcast was <a href="https://www.dartington.org/about/">Dartington Hall</a> in Devon, a seedbed for radical ideas and creativity since it was founded in 1925. </p> <p>The core of Dartington’s philosophy is a “many-sided life:” the idea that we should draw on all of our faculties in our efforts to transform the world, and by doing so, become transformed ourselves—“head, hands and heart.” A life with many sides instead of one is bound to be more productive and fulfilling, both for individuals and for the societies they create.</p> <p>Without knowing exactly what I was doing or why it might be important, I’ve been following the same philosophy since leaving my last full-time desk job in 2008. Helping to clear the rampantly-invasive chestnut weed from our local lake is the latest installment of my efforts to build in more manual labor to my life. </p> <p>I call it ‘manual labor,’ though of course it’s more a hobby than a livelihood—there’s little dignity in a sweatshop, and I don’t pretend to be ‘a worker’ as in ‘working class.’ I’m comfortably off, with enough security to choose how to spend my time. So increasingly, I’m choosing to use my hands and not just my head by getting stuck into the hard, physical, collective work of the community.</p> <p>As often happens, the more I thought about Dartington and its ideas, the more I started to come across examples of the same philosophy in action. An <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/13/jimmy-carter-collapses-dehydration-habitat-for-humanity">article in the Guardian</a> reported that ex-President Jimmy Carter was treated for dehydration after he collapsed while building a house with Habitat for Humanity in Canada. A <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/05/books/james-c-scott-farmer-and-scholar-of-anarchism.html">piece in the New York Times</a> explored the life of political scientist James C Scott, who divides his time between studying peasant resistance and working on a farm in Connecticut.</p> <p>Then there was a visit to <a href="http://www.brantwood.org.uk/ruskin/">John Ruskin’s home at Brantwood</a> in the English Lake District, where reputedly he was just as happy when building guesthouses, garden walls and harbors with his friends and neighbors as he was when spinning out radical new ideas on politics and economics. Those ideas included a minimum wage, social security, free universal education and public ownership of land, and they set the stage for future developments like the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welfare_state">welfare state</a> and the <a href="https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/">National Trust</a>. </p> <p>I also commissioned a <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/freeform-tags/intentional-communities">series of articles for Transformation on ‘intentional communities’</a>—places like <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/thomas-miller/findhorn-inner-listening-outer-action">Findhorn</a> in Scotland, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/leila-dregger/sacred-activism-story-of-tamera">Tamera</a> in Portugal and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/andrea-kuhn/head-heart-and-hands-25-years-of-schumacher-college">Schumacher College</a> in Devon (another outgrowth of Dartington Hall), which aim to ‘be the change they want to see’ in the world. Incorporating manual labor into learning is a central tenet of the experience they offer, whether that’s through shared domestic tasks like cooking and washing-up, or digging in the garden, or learning how to paint or make pots and other crafts. </p> <p>At Dartington’s School for “multi-dimensional” education, “Students were as likely to learn how to fix a car engine as to read Chekhov” as <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/andrea-kuhn/head-heart-and-hands-25-years-of-schumacher-college">Andrea Kuhn</a> puts it. That probably came in useful for graduates like <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Young,_Baron_Young_of_Dartington">Michael Young</a>, who spent the rest of his life inventing new institutions like the Open University. The virtues of a many-sided life are a common theme in radical experiments like these, and I’m definitely happier and more fulfilled as a result of diversifying myself, but why? I can think of at least three reasons.</p> <p>First of all, while it does little to dissolve material class boundaries, shared physical labor begins to erode some of the artificial barriers that have been erected over time between ‘more’ and ‘less valuable’ forms of work. Manual labor becomes something that belongs to everyone, rather than being relegated to a secondary status for a separate group of people who are permanently under-rewarded.</p> <p>There’s more than a touch of voyeurism in what I’m doing since it is always voluntary rather than enforced. But getting stuck into collective work is surely a better way of dealing with this problem than simply observing or studying the lives of others. As the late <a href="https://www.orwellfoundation.com/the-orwell-prize/orwell/resources/ben-pimlott-introduction-to-orwells-england/">Ben Pimlott</a> once wrote about <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Orwell">George Orwell</a>, “the author uses his account of proletarian life as a peg on which to hang what really interested him: not just the lives of working-class people as such, but his own inner dialogue about how middle-class people like himself did and should relate to them.” Shared work takes this dialogue one step further.</p> <p>Second, and without wanting to sound like your Grandad, manual labor is good for you—and it’s also good for your role in the struggle for social change. In an age when so much social interaction, communication and activism are virtual, getting stuck into physical work, especially in a group, provides a much more direct experience of engagement with other people and a different set of challenges to navigate. </p> <p>The pace of work is usually much slower than what’s possible on social media and the internet, and the level of commitment required is correspondingly higher (we reckon it will take at least ten years of continuous activity to get rid of the chestnut weed in the lake). In contrast to the current fashion for ‘<a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/who-wants-to-live-in-frictionless-world">frictionless’ solutions,</a> face-to-face negotiations, trade-offs and conflicts are inevitable because of the sheer scale of the problem or its lack of malleability, or the vagaries of the weather and the environment, or delays caused by ill-health or a thousand other things. Translated into social action, these experiences can build stability and sticking power into movements.</p> <p>Third and most important, a fully-integrated life is the best grounding for democratic politics, new forms of economics, and social problem-solving. We need activists who are also scholars, nurses and teachers who are also politicians, carpenters who sit on town councils, entrepreneurs who are also artists, and politicians who are anything except professional politicians. Mixing things up in this way is far more likely to generate collective energy, creativity, ideas and perhaps even consensus than keeping people trapped in boxes that are permanently marked as one thing or the other.</p> <p>It also helps in cross-fertilization, as when thoughts and ideas are born during physical work, or when physical work provides a testing ground to put them into practice. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that someone like Scott <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/05/books/james-c-scott-farmer-and-scholar-of-anarchism.html">frames his academic work in terms of real world problems instead of theoretical abstractions</a>, a philosophy that has seen him produce a string of hugely-influential books like <em><a href="https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300036411/weapons-weak">Weapons of the Weak</a></em> and <em><a href="https://yalebooks.yale.edu/search/node/seeing%20like%20a%20state">Seeing like a State</a></em>. “I’m as proud of knowing how to shear a sheep as I am of anything, and I’ve been a better scholar partly because I’ve had this other activity,” <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/05/books/james-c-scott-farmer-and-scholar-of-anarchism.html">he told the New York Times</a>.</p> <p>Of course, here’s no necessary link between manual labor and the adoption of progressive politics; both <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1981/11/26/us/on-holiday-back-at-the-reagans-ranch.html?pagewanted=all">Ronald Reagan</a> and <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/30/AR2005123001326.html">George W. Bush</a> delighted in hosting brush-clearing parties down on the ranch during their respective US presidencies. But at least in an integrated life, each set of faculties—head, hands and heart—can help to counterbalance the others, guarding against <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/globalization-vision_reflections/love_3149.jsp">too much reason, emotion or brute force</a> in judgment and decision making. </p> <p>As <a href="https://harpers.org/archive/2005/03/the-enlightenment-is-dead-long-live-the-enlightenment/">Terry Eagleton once pointed out</a>, atrocities like The Holocaust are rooted in the pursuit of reason unmediated by ethics or emotion, but one can also argue that a surfeit of ‘heart over head’ or ‘hands over both’ can be just as damaging. Not only is a many-sided life more personally fulfilling, it also has social and political effects when scaled-up. </p> <p>But is such a life a luxury reserved for those who can afford it? That’s certainly the case today, when so many people have been boxed into narrow categories and assigned a role and value according to the dictates of contemporary capitalism—so that speculators and managers are hugely over-rewarded, while nurses, care workers, labourers and others are penalized through salary structures, taxation and the unequal allocation of financial risks. The erosion of institutions that used to challenge some of these categories and reward systems (like <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Workers%27_Educational_Association">workers’ education</a> and <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/michael-edwards/when-is-civil-society-force-for-social-transformation">cross-class civil society groups</a>) has been immensely damaging.</p> <p>Therefore, re-valuing manual labor and/or instituting some form of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_income">basic income</a> is vital if everyone is to have the opportunity to do different things with their time—“there is no wealth but life” <a href="https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/John_Ruskin">as Ruskin famously put it</a>. After all, a rounded human being has got to be better than a square one that’s designed to fit neatly into all those boxes of bureaucracy, hierarchy and convention that force people to live a life that is both limited and divided.</p> <p>Satish Kumar, one of the founders of Schumacher College, <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/andrea-kuhn/head-heart-and-hands-25-years-of-schumacher-college">calls this a “path to wisdom</a>” instead of just cleverness or shallow success, a preparation for the essential work of transformation that lies ahead for all of us. So get out your gloves and your boots and your tools and your brushes and get stuck in. You won’t regret 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/michael-edwards/who-wants-to-live-in-frictionless-world">Who wants to live in a frictionless world?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/mysticism-of-wide-open-eyes">The mysticism of wide open eyes</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/michael-edwards/welcome-to-another-year-of-transformation">Welcome to another year of transformation</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Michael Edwards Activism Care Culture Mon, 11 Dec 2017 00:25:00 +0000 Michael Edwards 114908 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Visualising the human price of gold https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/shirin-m-rai-beth-goldblatt/visualising-human-price-of-gold <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An exhibition of powerful photographs brings home the real costs of illness and incapacitation for miners and their families.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/RaiandGoldblatt1.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Nosipho Eunice Dala, widow of Zwelakhe Dala who worked in the mines for 28 years and contracted silicosis. Credit and copyright:<a href="http://thompierce.com/tpog/">Thom Pierce</a>. All rights reserved.</p> <p>In May 2016 the South African High Court (Gauteng Local Division) <a href="http://www.saflii.org/za/cases/ZAGPJHC/2016/97.html">granted an order in the case of&nbsp;<em>Nkala and Others v Harmony Gold Mining Company Limited and Others</em></a> that certified a consolidated class action against 32 mining companies. The action had been brought by mineworkers who had contracted silicosis by breathing in the silica dust that is generated during mining, along with their dependents. This disease can take many years to manifest, is incurable, debilitating and often fatal. </p> <p>The mineworkers argued that exposure to silica dust also increased the risk of contracting TB, a lung disease caused by bacterial infection. Once miners became too ill to work they returned to their families, who became tasked with their care. The&nbsp;<em>Nkala </em>decision authorised the commencement of <a href="https://features.dailymaverick.co.za/whenthedustsettles/">the largest class action litigation ever to occur in South Africa, with almost half-a-million possible claimants</a>.</p> <p>The mining companies lodged an appeal against the High Court judgment which will be heard by the Supreme Court of Appeal in March 2018. Parallel to the appeal process, <a href="http://www.groundup.org.za/article/silicosis-unpacking-gold-mines-strategy/">there are discussions occurring between some of the parties</a> regarding a possible settlement. In the meantime, significant numbers of plaintiffs are dying each year without seeing the case resolved.</p> <p>In addition, given that the miners’ families have had to take on many more responsibilities as a result of their incapacitation, shouldn’t they also have access to compensatory damages? The High Court recognised the contribution that women make to caring for the miners, but like most international measures that calculate GDP (such as <a href="https://unstats.un.org/unsd/nationalaccount/sna.asp">UN System of National Accounts</a>) it did not recognise the value of domestic labour as labour that has real economic and financial value. </p> <p>This is largely because domestic work is placed outside the ‘production boundary’ and is not seen to be contributing to the national economy, a non-recognition that leads to a measurable deterioration in the health and well-being of individuals, households and communities <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14616742.2013.789641">because the inflows required to support social reproduction fall below a sustainable threshold</a>. This is especially important in the context of the reduction of state-provided services in countries like South Africa as a result of economic crises, austerity policies and government retrenchment.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/RaiandGoldblatt2.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Mncedisi Dlisani, who worked in the mines for 15 years and contracted silicosis, with members of his family. Credit and copyright:<a href="http://thompierce.com/tpog/">Thom Pierce</a>. All rights reserved.</p><p>One way to document, raise up and publicise these under-appreciated issues of care and compensation is through visualisation, which brings home the human costs of gold-mining and silicosis through powerful imagery and associated commentary. </p><p>In a remarkable collaboration organized in the weeks prior to the court case, Cape-Town based British photographic artist <a href="http://thompierce.com/tpog/">Thom Pierce</a> worked with <a href="http://section27.org.za/">Section 27</a> and the <a href="https://tac.org.za/">Treatment Action Campaign</a>—two South African civil society groups that work on health rights—and &nbsp;<a href="http://www.genderjustice.org.za/">Sonke Gender Justice</a>, which works on the rights of carers, to photograph all 56 of the named miners in the space of 26 days. The portraits were taken in the homes of the miners that were spread all around the country. </p><p>As Pierce told us in an interview about the project:</p><blockquote><p>“One of the biggest challenges is to find some simplicity and balance. You don’t want to overload the photograph with information and you want the person to be the centre piece with other supporting information that tells a story. After meeting each of the miners or widows we would explain the project in as much detail as possible, making sure they understood what we were doing and why we were doing it. We would then do the interview so that I had a chance to get to know each person a little better.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The interviews started being about silicosis and how they struggle with the illness but I soon realised that I was getting the same answers from everyone, because that is what it is, the same illness with the same symptoms. Once I realised this I started just finding out about them as people and this led to some much more interesting stories that told relatable stories, forcing the viewer to connect more deeply with each person.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>I shot portraits with the wife or other family member wherever possible. I wanted to tell the story of the family. The widows were all photographed alone but where the miners were living with sisters or brothers I wanted to include them. Only one wife refused to be photographed due to her being a traditional healer.”</p></blockquote><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/RaiandGoldblatt3.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Patrick Sitwayi, who worked in the mines for 22 years and contracted silicosis, and Asive Bingwa. Credit and copyright:<a href="http://thompierce.com/tpog/">Thom Pierce</a>. All rights reserved.</p><p>To go along with the photos and increase their potential impact on the climate of public opinion surrounding the court proceedings, Pierce <a href="http://www.the-price-of-gold.com/">wrote a blog</a> that pulled from his conversations with miners and their families. He also made sure that <a href="http://www.the-price-of-gold.com/blog/9/12/2015/the-price-of-gold-exhibition">they were exhibited</a> in the most powerful way possible using sound and visual effects that were designed to pull the viewer more deeply into the experience:</p><blockquote><p>“All of the portraits were beautifully printed and mounted on board, and then displayed in a pitch black room so that they formed tunnels for people to walk through. We had a soundtrack on a loop of the wheezing from the miners that I had recorded during my interviews, together with industrial mining sounds, and we provided hard hats and head torches. The only way to view the images was to walk through the tunnels and use the head torch to see. All of the individual stories were also displayed next to each portrait. As you can imagine it had a huge impact; people came out crying.”</p></blockquote><p>By using these techniques, Pierce was able to walk the fine line between exposing the collapse of the worlds of the miners and their families, and displaying their courage and dignity in the face of such adverse circumstances. His photographs are striking in what they say and what they omit, what they make visible and what remains invisible. He supplements some of these gaps with captions containing information that he has selected about each of the miners.</p><p>The social construction of illness—of silicosis acquired by black, male bodies working in white owned mines—frames the social context of these photographs. Pierce aims to alert the audience to the pain and loss the photos reveal, and to support the legal claims of the miners and their families in the process. He gives attention both to the male workers and their relatives since each group has been so clearly affected by the men’s illness and their loss of employment.</p><p>The photographs also speak to the issue of gender and gendered roles: in most of them the description is of male lives, even when female bodies are present in the same frame. There are women in kitchens, situated in their homes with the accoutrements of everyday life. Their dwellings showing plenty of wear and tear, but also careful maintenance.</p><p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/RaiandGoldblatt4.jpeg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Zama Gangi, who worked in the mines for 19 years and contracted silicosis, and his wife Matshozi. Credit and copyright:<a href="http://thompierce.com/tpog/">Thom Pierce</a>. All rights reserved.</p><p>Looking at compensation claims through the lens of photography helps us to think about which forms of harm are recognized and which are not—and why. It also leads us to ask <a href="http://wrap.warwick.ac.uk/49070/">who is compensated for the harms done to them and who is not</a>, and what happens when compensation is denied to those who must assume extra responsibilities. </p><p>Understanding these questions as they manifest themselves in Pierce’s photographs points to the need for a deep and textured reconsideration of ideas about loss and injury as they are normally understood and quantified for the purpose of compensatory damages in law.</p><p><em>Thom Pierce’s award-winning photographs can be seen at the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.npg.org.uk/whatson/twppp-2017/exhibition/">Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize Exhibition</a> in the National Portrait Gallery in London in November 2017.</em></p><p><em>A longer version of this article has been published in <a href="http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0964663917739455">Social &amp; Legal Studies</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/florence-goddard/inside-miners-fight-against-silicosis">Why South Africa&#039;s gold miners are suing their bosses</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/natalia-duarte/beyond-blood-diamonds-violence-behind-gold-route">Beyond blood diamonds: the violence behind the gold route</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/democraciaabierta/anthony-rond-n-camacho/cajamarca-minining-colombia">How a popular vote of a local community can halt a gold mining mega project</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 Beth Goldblatt Shirin M. Rai Activism Care Intersectionality Tue, 28 Nov 2017 17:00:00 +0000 Shirin M. Rai and Beth Goldblatt 114781 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why aren’t we thriving at work? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/rhiannon-colvin/why-aren-t-we-thriving-at-work <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>With mental health problems forcing thousands of people out of their jobs, we need to fundamentally re-imagine the role that work plays in our lives. &nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/RhiannonColvin5.jpg" alt="" width="460" height="500" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: Constance Laisne. All rights reserved.</p><p class="normal">This month the UK government-commissioned ‘<a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/thriving-at-work-a-review-of-mental-health-and-employers">Thriving at Work</a>’ report was released, stating that 300,000 people with long term mental health problems are losing their jobs each year, and that poor mental health is costing the UK economy up to £99 billion.</p> <p class="normal">For those who graduated from university into a post-crisis economy, this is no surprise. In 2016 The Mental Health foundation <a href="https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/sites/default/files/fundamental-facts-about-mental-health-2016.pdf">reported</a> that young people in the UK have some of the poorest mental wellbeing in the world: could this have something to do with the ever-greater precarity of work, the rise of zero hours contracts, and the constant pressure we face to fight for a shrinking number of well-paid jobs?&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">For my generation the recommendations made in the report— like developing greater mental health awareness in workplaces and encouraging a healthier work-life balance—feel like moving chairs around on a sinking ship. They don’t go nearly far enough to deal with the interlinked crisis of work and mental health that we face today.</p> <p class="normal">In order to solve this crisis we need something much, much bigger: we need to fundamentally re-imagine the role that work plays in our lives.</p> <p class="normal">The causes of mental health problems are complex, but it’s well known that they are<a href="http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/134999/e94837.pdf"> related to deprivation, poverty and inequality</a>. Against the background of these wider factors, both the <a href="http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/usefulresources/workandmentalhealth.aspx">Royal College of Psychiatrists</a> and <a href="http://www.who.int/mental_health/media/en/712.pdf">The World Health Organisation</a> (WHO) cite the workplace as one of the key determinants of mental well-being, so why is the workplace so important?</p> <p class="normal">The <a href="http://www.who.int/mental_health/media/en/712.pdf">WHO</a> suggests that employment provides five categories of psychological experience that promote mental well-being: time structure, social contact, collective effort and purpose, social identity and regular activity. But with an increase in unemployment, zero-hours contracts and freelance work, many of those positive aspects of work have been eroded. The isolation of freelancers and an associated increase in depression have been <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/careers/2017/may/09/freelancing-made-my-depression-worse-heres-how-i-learnt-to-cope">well-documented</a>. The instability of zero-hours contracts—and moving continuously in and out of work—fail to provide regular routines, strong social identities and time structure. And<a href="https://www.publicpolicy.cam.ac.uk/zero-hours-contracts"> anxieties linked to financial survival as a consequence of irregular work</a> and the increasing cost of living have never been higher.</p> <p class="normal">Lobbying big employers to improve working conditions for those suffering from mental health problems at work is all well and good, but for the rest of us that don’t even know what holiday and sick pay look like, things will likely remain the same. Furthermore, this strategy fails to get to the root of the problem: why are so many of us feeling depressed and anxious at work?</p> <p class="normal">In a <a href="https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/08/12/british-jobs-meaningless/">2015 survey</a> more than a third of British workers said that their job “was making no meaningful contribution to the world,” a phenomenon that anthropologist David Graeber has called the rise of “<a href="https://libcom.org/library/phenomenon-bullshit-jobs-david-graeber">bullshit jobs</a>.” We’re either overworked or unemployed, so let’s face it: the current reality of work isn’t working.</p> <p class="normal">So what’s the solution? What would a different world of work entail—one that is beneficial for people, the planet and society?</p> <p class="normal">First, let’s liberate ourselves from the idea that work is how we should be spending most of our time.</p> <p class="normal">This may sound utopian, but the idea of a three-day working week has gained traction in recent years. <a href="http://neweconomics.org/2014/07/10-reasons-for-a-shorter-working-week/">Research</a> shows that a shorter working week would not only decrease our carbon footprint, increase gender equality, improve our health and strengthen democracy, but it would also boost worker productivity. Those who work less tend to be more productive hour for hour, and they are less prone to sickness and absenteeism. All of us working less would overcome the interlinked problems of overwork and unemployment and mean that we all could lead more healthy and balanced lives—<a href="http://neweconomics.org/2010/02/21-hours/">without there being any significant damage to the economy</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">Second, we should separate income from work, and provide all citizens with an income or a ‘social dividend’ that is enough to cover their basic needs. This income would be a set amount of money provided by the state, regardless of income or employment status, and is most commonly known as <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_income">Universal Basic </a><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_income">Income</a>. UBI is currently being trialled in countries such as Canada, Finland, Holland and Namibia.</p> <p class="normal">Contrary to popular belief, these trials—like the one that took place in <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/12/23/mincome-in-dauphin-manitoba_n_6335682.html">Canada in the 1970s</a>—have found that people who receive a basic income don’t spend all their time watching TV. Instead, they use the income in different ways to support their families out of poverty. Not only could UBI play an equalising role in society, it could also empower us to have greater agency over when we want to work and for what causes, and it could enable a wider range of people to engage in entrepreneurial, creative and innovative thinking.&nbsp;</p> <p class="normal">A basic income <a href="https://qz.com/611644/we-talked-to-five-experts-about-what-it-would-take-to-actually-institute-universal-basic-income/">could be financed</a> by raising income tax rates or through new taxes on wealth, land value or pollution. Renationalising public assets, or scrapping <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trident_nuclear_programme">schemes such as Trident</a> and lowering our spending on the military and defence, could also generate the required resources.</p> <p class="normal">Third, we need structures that support people to find, develop and share their gifts and skills for the positive benefit of themselves and society. The rise of automation is set to transform work, and with the right political policies and support this could liberate us from menial, manual jobs, enabling us to focus on doing work that expresses our true human capabilities: the ‘three C’s’ of <a href="https://www.cusp.ac.uk/blog/tj-growing_prosperity/">care, creativity and craft</a>.</p> <p class="normal">Taken together, re-imagining work around these three pillars could have huge positive impacts for the wellbeing of society at large, <em>and</em> it could provide one of the keys to solving the mental health crisis of my generation. It could liberate us from unpaid internships, freelance contracts and bullshit jobs, and the anxiety and depression that so often come with them.</p> <p class="normal">In this new future of work the economy could be something we engage with from a place of security and safety. Work could be something we choose to do as a way to share our ingenuity, our creativity, our skills and our passions to enrich the lives of ourselves and others. It could fulfill all those psychological needs identified by the WHO like social contact and collective purpose, <em>without</em> being the most important thing in our lives.</p> <p class="normal">It’s time to create a new vision for the world of work: to make work something that supports and nourishes our mental health and the world around us.&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/rhiannon-colvin/reimagining-future-of-work">Re-imagining the future of work</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/louisa-harvey/we-need-to-talk-about-stigma-within-mental-health-system">We need to talk about stigma within the mental health system</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/rhiannon-colvin/love-anger-and-social-transformation">Love, anger and social transformation</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Rhiannon Colvin The politics of mental health Care Economics Sun, 26 Nov 2017 19:33:33 +0000 Rhiannon Colvin 114778 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Combating online abuse with the principles of nonviolent resistance https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/brian-martin/combating-online-abuse-with-principles-of-nonviolent-resistance <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Individual and collective empowerment may be a more effective strategy than policing or legal action.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>This article was first published by <a href="https://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/combating-online-abuse-nonviolent-resistance/">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</em></p><p><em><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Brian Martin4.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></em></p> <p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/atlassocialmedia/32786886766">Flickr/Atlas Social Media</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/mark/1.0/">Public Domain</a>.</p> <p>Online harassment is on the rise, according to a recent&nbsp;<a href="http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/07/11/online-harassment-2017/">Pew Research Center study</a>. While that may not seem surprising—since even the president of the United States regularly engages in it—researchers are, nevertheless,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.newscientist.com/article/2140342-online-harassment-on-the-rise-but-no-one-can-agree-what-it-is/">perplexed</a>, given the many widespread efforts to combat the phenomenon.</p> <p>An examination of these efforts, which have been the subject of several books in recent years, may yield a better understanding of not only what’s working and not working, but also what’s missing—namely an approach that relies more on individual and collective empowerment, as opposed to legal and police action.</p> <p><strong>Online harassment as a crime.</strong></p> <p><a href="http://www.daniellecitron.com/">Danielle Keats Citron</a>’s 2014 book “Hate Crimes in Cyberspace” is a comprehensive account of online harassment directed at women. Citron uses three case studies to illustrate the seriousness and seeming intractability of the problem. In one case, a woman was targeted by various anonymous individuals, perhaps including her university classmates, who spread horrendous lies about her, sending them to family, friends, her teachers and later her employers. The harassment continued for years.</p> <p>A key theme in “Hate Crimes in Cyberspace” involves comparisons with sexual harassment and domestic violence. Decades ago, these were not seen as issues of importance. Sexual harassment was seen as something women at work just had to accept, and likewise domestic violence was invisible as a social issue. Then along came the feminist movement. Sexual harassment and domestic violence were given names, stigmatized as wrong and even contemptible, and criminalized by the passing of laws.</p> <p>Citron says cyber harassment should be treated the same way. In all three forms of abuse, women and men can be victims, but women are much more likely to be targeted.</p> <p>Citron is a lawyer with extensive experience with abuse online. She devotes considerable attention to legal remedies, but the overall message is that they are inadequate even when they can be brought to bear. Another avenue for redress is via complaint mechanisms provided by service providers. However, in many cases, harassers are anonymous and change their online identities. For example, on Twitter it’s possible to set up a new account within minutes, so shutting down the account of an abuser may provide only temporary relief.</p> <p>Some targets of abuse go to the police, but this is usually disappointing, as many police do not understand the online world. For example, they fail to appreciate the importance of Twitter for some women’s work and how harassers can abuse the service. Police may suggest going offline to avoid the abuse, but this is unrealistic in an online world. It is like suggesting never going outside because of the risk of assault.</p> <p><strong>The misogyny of online abuse.</strong></p> <p><a href="http://emmajane.info/">Emma Jane</a>&nbsp;is an academic at the University of New South Wales, in Sydney, where she researches online harassment of women. Before this, for two decades she was a well-known media commentator under the name Emma Tom. Before the internet, she and other female figures in the media were used to receiving hostile written letters. But something changed in the 1990s after she started adding her email address at the bottom of her newspaper columns. The abuse she received in response to her columns became more insistent, graphic and voluminous. She started saving all this abuse, not knowing what to make of it.</p> <p>In her research, inspired by her own experience and based on interviews and other evidence, she is quite clear that online harassment targeted at women is intended to tear them down and drive them off the internet. She has written several academic articles about the phenomenon and a 2017 book titled “Misogyny Online: A Short (and Brutish) History.”</p> <p>Jane addresses the frequency of online abuse, its gendered features, the weakness of the rationales for doing it, the terrible consequences for targets and the failure of institutional channels to address it. She terms the inadequacy of police and service providers to address abuse as an “epic fail”—Jane has a delightful turn of phrase and manner of plain-speaking.</p> <p>Unlike most other commentators, Jane gives many examples of some of the worst abuse received by women. That is why the subtitle of her book refers to a “brutish” history: to read examples of abuse can be disturbing even when you are not the target. By presenting graphic examples, Jane challenges the usual dismissals of this form of harassment as just a normal part of the internet. To get a feeling for the sort of abusive messages women receive, visit&nbsp;<a href="http://rapeglish.com/RRTG.html">Random Rape Threat Generator</a>&nbsp;(note: this is explicit and confronting).</p> <p>Jane also gives special attention to academic work in the area, castigating scholars for not addressing an important topic or, when they do, not taking the abuse seriously. For example, incorporating rape and death threats in the category of “trolling” reduces their seriousness.</p> <p><strong>The problem with rationalizing abuse.</strong></p> <p><a href="https://www.baileythebookworm.com/">Bailey Poland</a>&nbsp;is a writer and editor who became interested in cybersexism and wrote the book “Haters: Harassment, Abuse and Violence Online” published in 2016. It is a comprehensive, scholarly treatment. Poland learned about the problem in part through her own experiences of coming under attack. She recounts the stories of many other women harassed online.</p> <p>Some cases have become notorious, most prominently what is known as Gamergate. Zoe Quinn, a game developer, was abused online and openly complained about it. This led to a huge increase in abuse and threats, in turn triggering a countermovement. Gaming is highly male dominated, and women working in the field are regular targets.</p> <p>Poland takes aim at the many justifications for cyber harassment and at the advice regularly given to women. One often-repeated mantra is “Don’t feed the trolls.” This assumes that trolling is the problem, but trolling is not an accurate description of rape and death threats. Not feeding the trolls means not replying to abusers, on the assumption that they get their kicks by seeing their target squirm: without replies, they should tire of the game and give up. The problem with this advice is that it doesn’t work. The attackers continue as long as their target is online, and may escalate by sending abuse, threats, and derogatory comments to family members and employers.</p> <p>(For insights about trolling, see Whitney Phillips’ book “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things.” Phillips argues that trolling can’t be addressed on its own because it draws its energy from damaging behaviors in mainstream culture.)</p> <p>One of the rationalizations for abuse is that “everyone gets harassed.” In other words, women shouldn’t complain because men are harassed too and, anyway, it’s just part of the way the internet works. Poland reports on studies showing that although many people are harassed, women are harassed far more, and furthermore much of the abuse aimed at them is specifically about gender.</p> <p>Another regular piece of advice is to block the harassers. This is all very well, but is not protection from the harmful effects of abuse. When damaging claims are posted online, they can hinder a woman’s job prospects, because employers often do a Google search on the names of prospective employees. Blocking harassers also takes time; some of them create several new identities every day.</p> <p>Harassers cloak their actions in the righteous mantle of free speech. In their eyes, it seems, sending unsolicited derogatory comments is an exercise of free speech, and to protest against such messages is an intolerable restraint. Setting aside the fact that rape and death threats are not legally protected speech, one of the consequences of online abuse is the silencing of targets. Indeed, silencing women seems to be the purpose of much of the abuse. This is a serious restraint on their own free speech. If the goal is a public forum where people can express their views, then moderation and respect for others are crucial.</p> <p>To get a handle on how to respond to cyber harassment, Poland turns to a perspective developed by feminists in the early days of the internet, called cyber feminism. Some women use privacy settings for protection. Groups of women have set up closed online networks for sharing information, including about harassers. A few, for example&nbsp;<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/lindsay-bottos-tumblr-anonymous-comments_n_4703344">Lindsay Bottos</a>, use art to challenge online harassment.</p> <p>But the burden of responding to online abuse should not rest only on women. Poland cites work by Leigh Alexander on what men can do. The first step is to not engage in cyber harassment themselves. Men can also provide one-on-one support for targeted women, focusing on a woman’s work (not just the harassment) and intervening online to draw attention away from the target.</p> <p>Poland usefully refers to the activism of several U.S. groups, including&nbsp;<a href="http://www.haltabuse.org/">Working to Halt Online Abuse</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://www.endcyberbullying.org/">End to Cyber Bullying</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.crashoverridenetwork.com/">Crash Override Network</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://iheartmob.org/">HeartMob</a>.</p> <p><strong>The psychology of abusers.</strong></p> <p>Citron, Jane and Poland cite studies about typical perpetrators, but it seems to me that more could be done to understand what drives them. It is not sufficient to look at the effects of their harassment (namely, women driven off online spaces) and assume that is why perpetrators do it. Roy Baumeister, in his book “Evil: Understanding Human Violence and Cruelty,” looked at what is known about the psychology of Nazi camp guards, serial killers, and other perpetrators and concluded that usually they feel justified in their actions, feel they are the real victims, and do not think the consequences of their actions are very significant. If the same analysis applied to perpetrators of online harassment, it implies they do not think sending rape and death threats to women is a big deal and that their targets deserve what they get. This is not far from the usual rationales provided.</p> <p>But why are women targets? One explanation is based on the psychological process of projection, in which a person unconsciously rejects a part of their self or behavior and attributes it to others. For example, a man might reject his own attraction to other men, fearing it, project it on to gay men and sometimes attack them.</p> <p>All people have, as part of their personalities, both masculine and feminine aspects. Some men may not want to recognize their feminine side. Instead, they project it onto others, onto women, naturally enough, and then try to destroy it. In this picture, powerful and prominent women would be the most likely targets. This perspective seems compatible with a perpetrator pattern called DARVO—deny, attack, reverse victim and offender—in which perpetrators deny their own abuse, blame it on the target and say, when they are criticized, that they are actually the ones being abused.</p> <p>The point of gaining a deeper understanding of the psychology of abusers is to come up with more effective responses.</p> <p><strong>Insights from nonviolent action.</strong></p> <p>In acting against online abuse, what can be learned from the theory and practice of nonviolent action? This is not straightforward, because nonviolent action most commonly involves collective action in public spaces against identifiable opponents. Cyberabuse typically targets individuals, often in private spaces, and many attackers are anonymous. Nevertheless, several of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.bmartin.cc/pubs/15nvu/index.html">key features</a>&nbsp;of effective nonviolent action—non-standard, limited harm, participation, voluntary participation, fairness, prefiguration and skillful use—are relevant to countering cyberharassment.</p> <p>The most commonly recommended response to online abuse is to report it to authorities, something each of the three authors find is usually unhelpful. A nonviolence-inspired response needs to be something else, something non-standard.</p> <p>In effective nonviolent action, actionists try to limit the harm to their opponent. In cyberspace, this means not using abuse to counter abuse. It seems that few targets do this anyway. When they do, it is often counterproductive, as would be expected from nonviolence theory.</p> <p>In nonviolent action, a high level of participation greatly increases effectiveness. Methods such as strikes, boycotts and rallies enable many people to participate regardless of age, sex and ability. In the online environment, the implication is to choose methods of resistance that enable greater participation. A first step is for targeted women (and men) to join together with allies to formulate a collective response. This might be making supportive comments, challenging ISPs that allow abuse and developing campaigns that allow safe participation.</p> <p>One of the benefits of greater participation in nonviolent action, especially when people with varied backgrounds and experiences are involved, is more ideas about responding and more innovation in techniques. This suggests that campaigners against online misogyny should attempt to involve diverse sectors of the population, for example men as well as women, old and young, different social classes, social media newbies, as well as digital natives, and people from different cultural backgrounds. Especially important is building support among people who would not normally be interested in the social media platforms where abuse often occurs.</p> <p>Taking the issue to broader sectors of the population has the prospect of getting to friends (online and off), neighbors, parents and children of abusers. This is the same broadening of concern that has been effective in stigmatizing sexual harassment offline.</p> <p>Another important facet of effective nonviolent action is skillful use of methods. Responding to abusers needs to be done well, based on assessments of the psychology of the attacker, audiences, the likelihood of others joining in the abuse or opposing it and other factors. Developing skills requires guidance and practice. The implication is that targets of abuse need to reach out to others, gain support and, in particular, get help in improving responses. By improving skills in judging the motivations, intent, and psychological weaknesses of harassers, targets should be better able to judge whether to make a polite response, to not respond, to ask for personal assistance or to seek help in mounting a campaign. Similarly, skills can make a big difference when making a response to abusers, finding supporters and campaigning.</p> <p>All too often, targets feel isolated and humiliated and attempt to deal with the situation on their own. Reaching out to others, and others being willing and able to help, are crucial for mobilizing support and for making better choices and responses.</p> <p>The implications of ideas from nonviolent action for challenging online abuse seem, at one level, all too obvious: Get more people involved, including from different backgrounds; learn and practice skills; and work cooperatively to develop responses and campaigns. Yet, at another level, these implications are not obvious at all, given the continual attention to addressing the problem through laws and actions by police, ISPs and other officials. Rather than looking for authorities to provide protection, it may be more effective to aim at individual and collective empowerment.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><span>openDemocracy will be at this year's World Forum for Democracy, exploring the impact of populism on our media, political parties and democracy (see the<span class="Apple-converted-space">&nbsp;</span></span><a href="https://www.coe.int/en/web/world-forum-democracy/programme-2017">programme</a><span><span class="Apple-converted-space">&nbsp;</span>for more details).</span></p> </div> </div> </div> <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/sally-kohn/dont-feed-trolls-cultivating-civility-online">Don&#039;t feed the trolls? Cultivating civility online</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/ae-elliott/assemble-ye-trolls-rise-of-online-hate-speech">‘Assemble ye trolls:’ the rise of online hate speech</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/jeff-rasley/could-facebook-provide-antidote-to-political-polarization">Could Facebook provide an antidote to political polarization?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation World Forum for Democracy 2017 Brian Martin Social media and social transformation Activism Care Culture Fri, 27 Oct 2017 06:00:00 +0000 Brian Martin 113794 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Danger: there’s a centrifuge in the White House https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ian-hughes/danger-there-s-centrifuge-in-white-house <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>While centrifugal forces tear things apart, centripetal forces bring things together again.</p> </div> </div> </div> <h2><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/IanHughes3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></h2><p class="image-caption">French H-Bomb 1968. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/x-ray_delta_one/9754867684">Flickr/James Vaughan</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/">CC BY-NC-SA 2.0</a></p> <p>Today, nuclear weapons occupy the headlines in a way not seen since the <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/01/the-real-cuban-missile-crisis/309190/">Cuban Missile Crisis</a>. On the positive side, this year’s <a href="https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2017/press.html">Nobel Peace Prize</a> has been awarded to <a href="http://www.icanw.org/">ICAN</a>, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, an advocacy group that promoted the historic treaty to prohibit these weapons that was reached at the <a href="http://www.icanw.org/the-treaty/">United Nations</a> in July 2017. </p> <p>Although the treaty has been dismissed by the world’s nine nuclear-armed powers, its proponents believe that it will help to build a groundswell of support for the destruction of all nuclear weapons as the only way to guarantee that they will never be used again.</p> <p>In more worrying developments, President Trump’s opposition to the Iran <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/node/328996">nuclear deal</a> threatens to revive the prospect of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, while North Korea’s headlong pursuit of multiple nuclear warheads, alongside its development of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking the United States, has heightened the confrontation between the US and North Korea to alarming levels. </p> <p>These tensions have prompted the <a href="http://thebulletin.org/clock/2017">Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists</a> to move the hands of the Doomsday Clock to two and a half minutes to midnight, and to warn that, “the probability of global catastrophe is very high, and the actions needed to reduce the risks of disaster must be taken very soon.”</p> <p>At the heart of the process of assembling a nuclear bomb is a relatively simple device called a <a href="http://science.howstuffworks.com/uranium-centrifuge.htm">nuclear centrifuge</a>. A centrifuge is basically a cylinder that spins at very high speeds in order to separate out different materials. It’s what a washing machine becomes when it spins wet laundry to remove the water. Nuclear scientists use centrifuges to separate heavier Uranium 238 atoms from their lighter and more explosive Uranium 235 counterparts, which is what you need to make a nuclear bomb.</p> <p>That’s why centrifuges occupy centre stage in the current debate. Under the Iran Nuclear Deal, Iran has drastically reduced the number of centrifuges in operation at its two uranium enrichment facilities at <a href="http://www.nti.org/learn/facilities/170/">Natanz</a> and <a href="http://www.nti.org/learn/facilities/165/">Fordow</a>, and agreed to undergo inspections by the global nuclear watchdog, the <a href="https://www.iaea.org/about/overview/">International Atomic Energy Agency</a>, to ensure that the Ur235 it still produces is only used for peaceful purposes (mainly as fuel for its nuclear power stations). </p> <p>By contrast, centrifuges in North Korea have been working overtime. It is <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-nuclear-fuel/north-korea-ramps-up-uranium-enrichment-enough-for-six-nuclear-bombs-a-year-experts-idUSKCN11K07Y">thought</a> that Kim Jong Un now has enough of them to produce the material required to make six nuclear bombs a year. Kim’s regime is <a href="http://time.com/4906219/north-korea-nuclear-weapons-how-many/">estimated</a> to have perhaps 30 nuclear warheads already, and is continually building more. </p> <p>But what’s raising the dangers to extreme levels isn’t just the spread of this technology; it’s &nbsp;the fact that in the 2016 Presidential Election, the American people voted to install a centrifuge in the White House. His name is Donald Trump. </p> <p>Like a centrifuge that continually throws things apart, Trump himself is acting as a great divider, widening divisions, separating those who formerly agreed with one another, and leaving only explosive rhetoric where calm thinking and compromise are required.</p> <p>In response to North Korea’s provocations, Trump has warned Kim Jong Un’s similarly-erratic regime that “they won’t be around much <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/International/trump-warns-north-korea-wont-longer-threats-continue/story?id=50053390">longer</a>.” He has told Rex Tillerson, his Secretary of State, that he is “<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/01/us/politics/trump-tillerson-north-korea.html">wasting his time</a> trying to negotiate” a resolution to the standoff. He has said that he believes “only <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2017/10/07/politics/trump-north-korea-negotiations-tweet/index.html">one thing will work</a>!” </p> <p>He has threatened to “<a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/09/trump-un-speech/540264/">totally destroy</a>” North Korea, promising “<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/09/world/asia/north-korea-trump-threat-fire-and-fury.html">fire and fury</a> like the world has never seen.” Trump’s threats have been met with counter-threats by Kim to strike the U.S. Pacific territory of <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2017/08/29/asia/north-korea-missile-launch-guam-threat/index.html">Guam</a> and conduct an <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/21/kim-jong-un-trump-north-korea-threats">aerial nuclear test</a> over the Pacific. As the brinkmanship continues and the rhetoric spins ever faster out of control, threat and paranoia remain at the centre while caution and reason are thrown to the side.</p> <p>North Korea and Iran are the two most dangerous examples of how Trump is increasing international tensions, but there are many others. As <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/06/01/the-most-extraordinary-op-ed-of-2017/?utm_term=.044d90c24f1a">outlined</a> by his senior advisors <a href="http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/dec/12/donald-trump-picks-gary-cohn-goldman-sachs-preside/">Gary Cohn</a> and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/20/us/politics/mcmaster-national-security-adviser-trump.html">H.R. McMaster</a>, Trump’s vision of the new global order he seeks to create is one in which “the world is not a global community, but an arena where nations…compete for advantage.” </p> <p>Rather than deny “this elemental nature of international affairs” Trump seeks to embrace it. By pulling the U.S. out of the <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/13/paris-climate-deal-cop-diplomacy-developing-united-nations">Paris Agreement</a> on climate change, he has also signalled his lack of concern, not only for those currently being impacted by global warming but also for future generations.</p> <p>Aside from his divisive influence on foreign policy, Trump has two other centrifuges in the Oval Office that he is spinning to devastating effect. On domestic policy, his signature issues like immigration, healthcare, tax reform, and freeing Wall Street from regulation are set to vastly exacerbate the problems they purport to address. As journalist and author Martin Wolf has noted, after campaigning on a populist agenda and promising to govern in the interests of those left behind, Trump is actually governing as a <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/69fe4862-2f20-11e7-9555-23ef563ecf9a">pluto-populist</a> (paywall). </p> <p>What Wolf means is that, having risen to power with the support of the ‘forgotten America’, Trump is seeking to enact policies that will increase the fortunes of the richest one per cent and further widen the yawning inequalities that are fuelling grassroots populism. The nonpartisan <a href="http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/publications/preliminary-analysis-unified-framework">Tax Policy Centre</a> has estimated that under Trump’s tax proposals, the top one per cent of taxpayers would receive around 50 per cent of the total tax benefit, while taxpayers in the bottom 95 per cent would see their incomes rise by between 0.5 and 1.2 per cent. </p> <p>Similarly, Trump’s plans for the <a href="http://uk.businessinsider.com/trump-wall-street-deregulation-risks-another-lehman-crisis-2017-6?r=US&amp;IR=T">massive deregulation</a> of Wall Street threaten to remove the <a href="https://www.thebalance.com/dodd-frank-wall-street-reform-act-3305688">safeguards</a> that were put in place by the Obama Administration to guard against a repeat of the 2008 Financial Crisis, unleashing once again the spiral of recklessness and predatory lending that underpinned it. </p> <p>Trump’s final centrifuge is also the one that is most visibly tearing America apart, namely his personal vortex of narcissism, paranoia and threat. By stigmatising immigrants and stoking fears of cultural dilution, he is rending the fabric of a nation that, in part, has been built on immigration. By valorising racism and white supremacy he is widening racial divides. </p> <p>Through his hyper-masculine rhetoric which debases women and glorifies violence, he is casting aside values like equality and empathy that underpin democratic community. From the Obama <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/17/us/politics/donald-trump-obama-birther.html">birther lie</a>, to the <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/08/us/donald-trump-tape-transcript.html">Access Hollywood</a> tape, to his description of Charlottesville’s ‘<a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/trump-defends-white-nationalist-protesters-some-very-fine-people-on-both-sides/537012/">very fine people</a>’, Trump’s vitriol is throwing equality, civility and respect to the margins of public discourse, leaving only egotism, vindictiveness and hatred in their place.</p> <p>Given the nature and scale of the crises facing America and the rest of world, it is essential that Trump’s angry centrifuges are spun down, and that rationality is restored to domestic and foreign affairs. </p> <p>While centrifugal forces tear things apart, their opposite, centripetal forces bring things together. This is precisely what international negotiation, treaties, and international cooperation aim to achieve. At a domestic level, it is what actions aimed at narrowing inequality and reducing racial tensions would do by making citizens feel once again that they are all part of a democratic community in which everyone has a say. And it is what disarming Trump’s rhetoric of blame, threat and hatred would achieve by allowing the virtues of tolerance and shared identity—on which our futures rely—to re-take centre stage. &nbsp;</p> <p>Mahatma Gandhi, a leader diametrically opposed to Trump in both character and temperament, once <a href="http://www.lifequoteslib.com/authors/mahatma_gandhi_8.html">remarked</a> that “the fact that mankind persists shows that the cohesive force is greater than the disruptive force, centripetal force greater than centrifugal.” The danger is that Donald Trump is testing Gandhi’s wisdom to the limit.</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/real-clash-of-civilisations">The real clash of civilisations</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> </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 Ian Hughes Care Tue, 17 Oct 2017 22:38:04 +0000 Ian Hughes 113977 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Love and reason: how should we raise our children? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/harry-hendrick/love-and-reason-how-should-we-raise-our-children <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The ways in which we’re brought up go on to influence the systems we choose to build.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/harryhendrick2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Unconditional Love. <a href="http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2531999">Graffiti art next to Elder Place</a> with&nbsp;<a href="http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2531996">TQ3105 : Vantage Point</a>&nbsp;in the background. &nbsp;© Copyright&nbsp;<a title="View profile" href="http://www.geograph.org.uk/profile/1833">Simon Carey</a>&nbsp;and licensed for&nbsp;<a href="http://www.geograph.org.uk/reuse.php?id=2531999">reuse</a>&nbsp;under this&nbsp;<a title="Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Licence" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">Creative Commons Licence</a>.</p> <p class="normal">As the <a href="https://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/the-good-childhood-report-2017">2017 ‘Good Childhood’ report</a> and <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201001/the-decline-play-and-rise-in-childrens-mental-disorders">several other surveys reveal</a>, large numbers of children in the UK and the US are anxious, depressed and fearful, and the scope of their unease seems to be broadening.</p> <p class="normal">Parenting styles are only one of many factors at work in producing this situation, and assessing the costs and benefits of different child-rearing patterns on personal, social and political change is controversial. But there is a substantial<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Affect-Emotion-Ideas-Psychoanalysis-Graham/dp/1840462434"> body of research</a> in psychology, psychoanalysis, neuroscience and attachment theory that shows that—while <a href="http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-1405110619.html">&nbsp;genetic endowment interacts with the environment</a>—the&nbsp; emergence and progress of personhood is very much conditioned by the quality of <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Bowlby-Attachment-Theory-Makers-Psychotherapy/dp/0415077303">attachment</a> in one’s early life, whether secure or insecure.</p> <p class="normal">Ideally, as a mother or other primary caregiver responds to their child’s needs, so an ‘<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Making-Breaking-Affectional-Routledge-Classics/dp/0415354811">affectional bond</a><span>’</span> is formed, becoming integrated into the child’s developing <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personality">personality</a>—the blend of qualities giving us our distinct character—and serving as the basis for future affective relationships.</p> <p class="normal">But the ways in which we are brought up don’t only influence our childhood identities; they also help to shape our relationships, beliefs and values throughout our lives, which go on to influence the kinds of economic, political and social systems we choose to build. In this respect, infancy is ‘<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Selfish-Society-Forgot-Another-Instead/dp/1847375715">the hub of cultural transmission</a><span>’</span>—the place where we first learn how to feel for the self and others. Put plainly, <span>‘</span><a href="https://www.amazon.com/Unprincipled-Society-David-Marquand/dp/0006861539">people...think as they do partly because they have been brought up to think it</a>.’</p> <p class="normal">What we have learnt, however, is not always uplifting. We are beset by the multitude of vices that characterise the <a href="http://uk.sagepub.com/en-gb/eur/the-vertigo-of-late-modernity/book230911">vertigo </a>of our modern malaise: materialism, narcissism, inequality, vindictiveness and indifference. Each one is tutored through the therapeutics of <a href="http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-0745639054.html">emotional capitalism </a>so that even <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/will-davies/happiness-and-children">happiness</a> is exploited and corrupted. We appear to be living in an 'age of anger', marked by <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Age-Anger-History-Pankaj-Mishra/dp/0374274789">ressentiment</a><span> </span>with its trail of envy, humiliation and powerlessness.</p> <p class="normal">Over the last 20 years, childcare gurus of all political hues—including&nbsp; government departments, charitable agencies, and health and social work professionals—have&nbsp; converged around the ‘authoritative’ approach to parenting, also sometimes known as ‘positive,’ as in neither ‘authoritarian’ nor ‘permissive.’</p> <p class="normal"><a href="http://arowe.pbworks.com/f/baumrind_1966_parenting.pdf">‘Authoritative parental control</a>’ was first proposed in the late 1960s by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diana_Baumrind">Diana Baumrind</a>, an American psychologist, as a liberal response to the conservative critique of ‘permissiveness’ in the divided America of that period. It is based on a ‘<a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13575270500526212">two factor’ model of discipline</a>: emphasising ‘control’ (‘demandingness’) and ‘warmth’ (‘responsiveness’). Authoritarian parents exercise ‘high control’ but are ‘too hard’ and low on ‘warmth;’ while permissive parents, although showing ‘high warmth’, are ‘damagingly’ low on control and ‘too soft’ altogether. Only the authoritative parent, it is claimed, gets it just right.</p> <p class="normal">Children who are loved 'unconditionally', says Baumrind, do not become ‘good, or competent, or disciplined.’ She dismisses criticism of punishment as ‘utopian,’ claiming that ‘structure’ in families requires ‘contingent reinforcement,’ and labelling parents who fail to use their power to achieve obedience as ‘indecisive.’ Ironically for a Marxist,&nbsp; underpinning her disciplinary model is the principle of ‘<a href="https://scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu/bitstream/10125/47542/1/EDPVol19%234_3-9.pdf">reciprocity</a>,’ which may be defined as little more than a <a href="https://www.amazon.com/What-Money-Cant-Buy-Markets/dp/0374533652">marke</a><span>t</span> view of human relationships and, as such, a precursor to <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/29/neoliberalism-economic-system-ethics-personality-psychopathicsthic">neoliberal ethics</a>: “<span>the rule of reciprocity, of paying for value received, is a law of life that applies to us all</span>.” But possibly it's less ironic than first appears since the popularity of her parenting style across the political spectrum suggests that <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/child-in-mind/201201/understanding-childism-are-we-prejudiced-against-children">childism </a>is <a href="http://www.alfiekohn.org/myth-spoiled-child/">as much alive on the left as it is on the right.</a></p> <p class="normal">The authoritative approach derives its psychological status from the ‘<a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/distributed/N/bo25064983.html">new behaviourism</a>,’ with its focus on what can be observed and measured (i.e. behaviour), rather than on feelings. Behaviours are said to function on the basis of ‘reinforcements’—positive , aversive, or constructional—which&nbsp; emphasise the role of <em>external</em> forces in being brought to bear on what people <em>do</em>. ‘Subjective’ information is discarded in preference to ‘objective’ assessment. Consequently, authoritative parents are keen to set their children ‘boundaries,’ and to use rewards like star charts and punishments like a ‘naughty step’ to induce compliant behaviour in their children.</p> <p class="normal">However, <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Psychology-Parental-Control-Well-meant-Parenting/dp/0805835415">critics</a> of this approach have shown that authoritative control is associated with a <a href="https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ264929">lower level of intrinsic motivation, less internalisation of ethical values, lower self-esteem, and relatively poor self regulation</a>, <em>and </em>that these negative consequences continue into adulthood. Control is no less damaging in minimising <a href="https://www.jstor.org/stable/4640083">relational virtues</a> such as considerateness and tolerance, in ignoring the art of combining perceptiveness and imaginativeness, and in failing to encourage <a href="https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ817993">integrative parent-child relationships.</a></p> <p class="normal">Perhaps even more important, the children of authoritative parents do not receive warmth as a gift of love (as a right or entitlement), because in such families warmth itself is a feature of control and reciprocity—almost a transaction. The child learns neither how to ‘love’ herself for being who she is, nor how to <em>give</em> warmth to others unconditionally. This is the path to a <span>‘</span><a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/True_self_and_false_self">false</a><span>’</span> or <span>‘</span><a href="https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/the-minimal-self-by-christopher-lasch/">minimal</a><span>’</span> self, which can develop into neurosis and be passed on from one parenting generation to another with tragic results.</p> <p class="normal">Of course, it is not always <em>what</em> is done but the <em>way</em> it is done that yields long-lasting effects for good or ill (including the tone, moods and rhythms of parental speech). One of the most beneficial of these effects comes when children learn to ‘<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJ1Y9zw-n7U">mentalise,</a>’ i.e. to reflect positively on their own emotional experiences while also engaging with and understanding those of other people. Unfortunately, in embodying the popular appeal of discipline, authoritative control prioritises autocratic parental power to <em>do to </em>others<em> </em>over the democratic responsibility to <em>work with </em>them<em>. </em>This inhibits children’s capacity for mentalisation; consequently, their ability to build up relational intelligence is undermined.</p> <p class="normal">The radical American educationalist <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfie_Kohn">Alfie Kohn</a> campaigns for a very different approach to ‘<a href="https://www.amazon.com/Unconditional-Parenting-Moving-Rewards-Punishments/dp/0743487486">unconditional parenting</a>,’ which involves not rewards and punishments but ‘love and reason.’ Rather than seeing behavioural conduct as a sum total, he views it respectfully<em> </em>as an expression of feelings, thoughts, needs and intentions. The child <em>as a person</em> becomes the focus of interest, instead of only his behaviour<em>.</em> Naturally, these children are encouraged to do likewise in their own relationships, supporting them to develop an interdependent and emotionally mature self that is connected to other selves in the wider world.</p> <p class="normal">By contrast, the temptation with conditional parenting is to love children for <em>what they do</em>—mainly, being obedient, successful and ‘good’ (as in ‘trouble free for adults’)—rather than for <em>who they are</em>, accepting that they may not always be the sort of people we wish them to be. In Kohn’s words, we should let our children know that we love them ‘for no good reason;’ it is vital that they know this: that they <em>feel</em> loved. This helps children to like themselves, which is important for coherent social development, since without a reasoned belief in their own being they risk becoming unhealthily <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/warning-signs-parents/201701/childhood-roots-narcissistic-personality-disorder">narcissistic.</a></p> <p class="normal">In thinking about the significance of these different child-rearing styles, the psychologist <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alison_Gopnik">Alison Gopnik’s</a> critique of ‘parenting’ as a verb is insightful. She uses the metaphor of <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Gardener-Carpenter-Development-Relationship-Children/dp/0374229708">the gardener and the carpenter</a> to show that parenting is often likened to carpentry as a collection of skills and techniques that set out to produce a final product as a goal-driven and controlled exercise—the&nbsp; objective being ‘valuable’ children who will develop into equally ‘valuable’ adults.</p> <p class="normal">But through its emphasis on producing a valuable child, the carpentry approach weakens the moral good of caring for children as <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/introduction/endinitself.shtml">ends in themselves</a>, each with a ‘<a href="http://assets.cambridge.org/97805218/54177/frontmatter/9780521854177_frontmatter.pdf">cherished uniqueness.</a><a href="http://assets.cambridge.org/97805218/54177/frontmatter/9780521854177_frontmatter.pdf">’</a> It also sets children a poor example in terms of the demands and rewards of <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Challenge-Affluence-Self-Control-Well-Being-Britain/dp/0199216622">commitment.</a> In subverting <em>our</em> commitment to them, the value of commitment as a universal worth is similarly compromised.</p> <p class="normal">Virtuous parental care for children is better compared to gardening: providing the child with a safe and secure environment in which a variety of flowers, shrubs and trees will bloom. In the garden, the child creates an untold number of futures, each unavoidably unpredictable. Furthermore, just as the good gardener works with and through trust in Nature, so good parents do likewise with their children. After all, without trust we are mere cynics.</p> <p class="normal">In truth, whatever our best intentions, we cannot ensure that any particular childrearing pattern will <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/harry-hendrick/new-vision-for-left">make people better than they are</a><span>.</span> But we can <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Understand-Help-Susan-Isaacs-1885-1948/dp/0838632114">understand and help</a> our children as <em>they</em> work at growing up. Instead of practising behavioural techniques for so-called ‘character building,’ we should rely on the example of goodwill that is set through unconditional love, shepherded by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Piaget">Paiget’s</a> astute warning against exaggerating the importance of morality: ‘<span>How much more precious is a little humanity than all the rules in the world</span><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="/transformation/harry-hendrick/new-vision-for-left">A new vision for the left</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/will-davies/happiness-and-children">Happiness and children</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/paul-tritschler/what-s-point-of-education">What’s the point of education?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Transformation Transformation Harry Hendrick Culture Care Tue, 10 Oct 2017 22:29:52 +0000 Harry Hendrick 113747 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Findhorn: inner listening, outer action https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/thomas-miller/findhorn-inner-listening-outer-action <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="normal">When we turn within, we find life far kinder than it seemed before, and the possibilities far more open.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/ThomasMiller.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Part of the Findhorn community in northern Scotland. Credit: Findhorn Foundation. All rights reserved.</p> <p class="normal">In the slanting sunlight of autumn in the north of Scotland, a group of people in gardening clothes sit on a circle of tree stumps, eyes closed. “Tune into which area you would like to work this afternoon,” says Iris, a middle aged woman wearing bright orange garden gloves. The rest of the group stay still for a few moments as she names the different areas of the garden, then Iris says “thank you” and they open their eyes. The shift leaders get up and stand at different sides, and the participants move to join them. Then they move to different areas of the gardens to start their work.</p> <p class="normal">This simple process of ‘attunement’ is a key to understanding the <a href="https://www.findhorn.org/">Findhorn Foundation</a>, a community that <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christiana_Figueres">Christina Figueres</a>, Executive Secretary of the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Framework_Convention_on_Climate_Change">UN Framework Convention on Climate Change,</a> has called the ‘Alternative Davos.’ The center’s programmes now regularly draw thousands of people each year from all walks of life, many of whom return several years in a row and participate in work shifts alongside members of the community. Part of what attracts them is how Findhorn makes a direct connection between listening within and acting outwardly in everything it does.</p> <p class="normal">“I see how attunement works for participants and for myself all the time,” notes Iris, a former hotel and real estate company manager in Israel. Her dream is to bring the skills she has learned at Findhorn back to her native country to build peace gardens. “People really come into contact with what is meaningful for them, sometimes for the first time in a long time.”</p> <p class="normal">But taking time to be still and look within for direction is not our cultures’ predominant way of living.</p> <p class="normal">Most of society’s structures—government, schools, religious institutions and even families—operate on the unspoken assumption that there must be external rules. The government makes laws that everyone should obey; religions set rigid definitions of what is good and bad; and schools rank students according to their grades.</p> <p class="normal">In many cases, the cost of choosing to pay attention to outer rules rather than the inner life is high.</p> <p class="normal">On a personal level, when people choose what the dominant culture tells them they should value instead of what they sense is their calling—money over relationships and power over fulfillment—stress, burnout and depression are frequent results. And on the collective level, when enough people stop acting on their sense of meaning and purpose, the end result is a dysfunctional system that runs on addictions, distractions, short-term gratification and a sense of separation.</p> <p class="normal">What complicates the situation is that when messages from outside ourselves have colonized people’s hearts and minds, we inevitably find it more difficult to sense what is truly meaningful for us.</p> <p class="normal">The Findhorn community takes a very different approach. It is an imperfect experiment in organizing groups around each person’s inner life. In small ways—like deciding which part of the garden to work in—as well as larger ones, it offers people different paths to attune to what is actually meaningful to them, and then to do it alone and with others.</p> <p class="normal">“Most people have layers of conditioning from family, culture, religion and so on,” explains Iris, “when I work with people, I usually do something to help people quiet down, like hold a meditation or ask them to take some deep breaths. Then the mental chatter from all the conditioning can lessen and they can begin to sense into deeper levels.”</p> <p class="normal">In our experience, doing this inevitably brings with it a greater awareness of each person’s higher purpose; and acting from this sense of higher purpose lies at the heart of constructing a different world.</p> <p class="normal"><a href="https://www.findhorn.org/about-us/">Findhorn’s story</a> began with three ordinary people who gave their lives in service to this ideal. Feeling drawn by a sense of deep calling to serve the world, they took the rare step of pledging themselves to act on that calling come what may. Years later, after meditating daily and putting what they heard into practice, they ended up penniless and out of jobs in a desolate caravan park in the remote north of the Scottish Highlands. Their families didn’t understand their ‘crazy’ obsession, and they attracted negative press for being part of a counter-cultural spiritual group.</p> <p class="normal">When the garden they started in the arid sand began to flourish unexpectedly, they drew more positive media attention and more visitors. They purchased caravans for guests, and within weeks, people had arrived to purchase and occupy them. With 20 community members, they built a kitchen for hundreds more, and they came too.</p> <p class="normal">Over the years the community grew and developed, becoming a founding member of the <a href="https://ecovillage.org/">Global Ecovillage Network</a> which links Findhorn with other similar centres like <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/leila-dregger/sacred-activism-story-of-tamera">Tamera in Portugal</a> and <a href="http://www.dartington.org/visit/?gclid=CMif0bfewtYCFdqNswodysAAkA">Dartington Hall</a>/<a href="https://www.schumachercollege.org.uk/">Schumacher College</a> in Devon. We have gained recognition from the United Nations as a center for sustainability education, and developed a wide range of college-level programmes in ecovillage design, alternative energy, Spirituality and Wellness and permaculture.</p> <p class="normal">Something that began on the farthest margins of society has started to grow into a center of influence.</p> <p class="normal">The pattern is the same for many individuals. The feelings, intuitions and fleeting impressions that may get marginalized in everyday life hold clues about our deeper calling. When people pay attention to and act on their inner lives instead of condemning their experiences and impressions to internal ghettos, those parts of themselves that have been marginalized begin to gain more influence. If we continue to pay attention and act on them, we begin to sense the larger social and spiritual wholes to which we belong.</p> <p class="normal">Meditation and other inner life awareness practices have gained much ground in recent years, in part thanks to Findhorn and other innovative centers that have helped to popularize them. Still, talking about inner experiences, especially ones that people regard as spiritual, tends to be categorized as anything from flaky to clinically insane.</p> <p class="normal">Nevertheless, the community’s experience is that paying attention to the inner life and acting on its insights is what helps people to regain a sense of identity, sovereignty and joy. NGO workers at Findhorn often remark that they come away feeling rejuvenated and reconnected, full of fresh ideas. Participants from corporate jobs find it transformational to work in the garden and experience warm, human contact.</p> <p class="normal">Often, however, reconnecting with the inner life produces things that seem unexpected, strange or extreme. New information can come in the form of a dream, a sudden knowing or a visionary spiritual experience. This makes sense, given that most of us are used to interpreting life according to the definitions of others.</p> <p class="normal">In many ways, our current economic, political and religious systems seem headed towards destructive ends and are telling us destructive stories. But traditionally they have also been the wielders of authority and respectability that shape the overarching narrative of most of our lives. And if we have become convinced that a crazy way of being is respectable and authoritative, then the way out might indeed seem disreputable and strange.</p> <p class="normal">What the community has discovered over 55 years of spiritual and practical action is that the decision to trust our sense of meaning, regardless of how strange it seems at first, is the road to freedom. The metaphysics of what people are doing when they meditate and listen within are open to debate. Findhorn itself avoids any kind of religious statements in order to focus attention on people’s lived experiences, not any particular theory of them.</p> <p class="normal">However, one of the most common experiences among members and participants is that once we do turn within, we find life far kinder than it seemed before, and the possibilities far more open.</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/leila-dregger/sacred-activism-story-of-tamera">Sacred activism: the story of Tamera</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/kelly-teamey-udi-mandel/are-eco-versities-future-for-higher-education">Are eco-versities the future for higher education?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/charlotte-du-cann/under-volcano">Under the volcano</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 Intentional communities Thomas Miller Activism Care Culture Love and Spirituality Tue, 03 Oct 2017 22:50:10 +0000 Thomas Miller 113654 at https://www.opendemocracy.net They rode on horseback to deliver babies: a century later, midwives are still crucial https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/melissa-hellmann/they-rode-on-horseback-to-deliver-babies-century-later-midwives-are- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“I grew up with mares foaling and cows calving. I knew critters could do better than that; kinda figured women could too if given the chance.”</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/MelissaHellman.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Jean Fee shows photos from her time as a nurse midwife for the Frontier Nursing Service.&nbsp; Credit: YES! Magazine/Melissa Hellmann. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Carrie Hall was in the middle of a hair-coloring appointment when she received a call from nurses at a nearby hospital: One of her patients was about to deliver.</p> <p>Her blonde hair still wrapped in foil, Hall rushed from the beauty salon to the delivery room and within 20 minutes was holding a baby boy in her arms.</p> <p>“I was at the salon and nature called!” Hall wrote that April day in a Facebook post through her alma mater, Frontier Nursing University. It went viral.&nbsp;“1st time for everything!”</p> <p>As one of only two nurse midwives within about 40 miles of her hometown of Whitesburg in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, the 38-year-old Hall is accustomed to dropping everything at a moment’s notice to deliver a baby or conduct a checkup.</p> <p>But hers is a profession in flux. As the number of obstetrician-gynecologists declines in rural parts of the country and more primary care physicians stop delivering babies, the need for health professionals like her, who specialize in women’s reproductive care and childbirth, is becoming critical.</p> <p>Yet, nearly 100 years after the first American nurse midwives rode on horseback across the Appalachian Mountains to help women in childbirth, many in this region in particular and across America as a whole have still not fully embraced this more natural form of care. Nurse midwives are nurses who have completed graduate-level courses in midwifery. They are licensed in all 50 states to deliver babies and specialize in women’s reproductive health. A&nbsp;<a href="http://california.midwife.org/california/files/ccLibraryFiles/Filename/000000000270/StateswithSupervision2013.pdf">few states&nbsp;</a>require they be supervised by a physician to practice, but Kentucky isn’t one of them. They differ from certified professional midwives, who are trained to attend to home births and can’t be licensed to practice in Kentucky.</p> <p>Still, not enough hospitals and other health care facilities are opening their doors to nurse midwives, and general misconceptions about the kind of education midwives receive leave the profession struggling for acceptance—even in areas where studies suggest they are most needed.</p> <p>“Often there’s a belief that midwives are trained by their grandmothers,” said Dr. Susan Stone, president of Frontier Nursing University in Hyden.</p> <p>Hall grew up in Whitesburg, a former coal mining town of about 2,000 nestled in the Appalachian Mountains. Her great-grandmother and great-aunt were trained to deliver babies by other neighborhood women and became lay midwives during the turn of the 20th&nbsp;century. “She basically did it because she had to,” Hall said. “There were no other women to do it.”</p> <p>That family history inspired her career choice. Hall wanted to practice in her hometown so she could give back to her community, she said.</p> <p>In 2003, she enrolled in a distance-learning nurse-midwifery program that FNU created 14 years earlier. It recruits students from rural and underserved areas and keeps them in their communities as they earn their degrees.</p> <p>The students could get clinical experience at local clinics and hospitals and are encouraged to stay and practice in their home area once they graduate.</p> <p>Hall received her nurse midwifery degree in 2005 while working at the Mountain Comprehensive Health Center. She continued her education at FNU to become a women’s health care nurse practitioner, and then a family nurse practitioner.</p> <p>The everyday struggles of life in a town devastated by the loss of coal are embodied in the patients she sees at the clinic.&nbsp;<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/06/28/us/mcconnell-kentucky-health-care-bill.html?mcubz=1&amp;_r=0">Opioid addiction&nbsp;</a>is rampant here and many of the babies she delivers are born with drug withdrawal that cause tremors, constant crying, and low birth weight. Because of poverty and lack of transportation, she also sees poor prenatal care that includes smoking and unhealthy eating. These habits can lead to gestational diabetes and premature births.</p> <p>The childbirth complications she sees aren’t unique to Whitesburg, either. According to a 2016&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/vsrr/report002.pdf">Center for Disease Control report&nbsp;</a>that looked at births before 37 weeks of gestation, Kentucky has one of the highest pre-term birth rates in the country. Premature births can cause a lifetime of learning disabilities and is the leading cause of death in children under 5, according to the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs363/en/">World Health Organization</a>.</p> <p>The&nbsp;<a href="https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/vsrr/report002.pdf">CDC report</a>&nbsp;also found that Kentucky has the nation’s sixth&nbsp;highest rate of C-sections, a procedure that can save lives when medically necessary but also poses serious risks to both mother and child. And the state’s infant mortality rates have also long been higher than the national average, according to a 2013 state public health department <a href="http://chfs.ky.gov/nr/rdonlyres/813312e0-07de-4d33-b3a1-fa2cc891fc47/0/22413pretermdatabrief6_rev.pdf">report</a>.</p> <p>Studies show that engaging a midwife for prenatal care can reduce many of these risk factors by highlighting the natural childbirth process and focusing on preventative measures through health education.</p> <p>In a 2012&nbsp;<a href="http://www.midwife.org/acnm/files/cclibraryfiles/filename/000000002128/midwifery%20evidence-based%20practice%20issue%20brief%20finalmay%202012.pdf">American College of Nurse Midwives study</a>, researchers found that midwifery improved the infant mortality rate for low-risk women compared to physicians caring for women of similar risk. Women who received prenatal care from midwives were also more likely to have a closer relationship with their health care provider, receive more prenatal education, and have higher rates of breastfeeding, researchers found.</p> <p>Yet, widespread misinformation persists about midwives, and people falsely assume they will get substandard care.</p> <p>As a nurse midwife, Hall can address a range of issues her clients face because her nursing background emphasizes patient care. Unlike OB/GYNS, she cannot perform C-sections, but the care she provides prioritizes taking the time to develop personal relationships with her patients.</p> <p>“We get very close to them,” Hall says about her clients. This allows her to counsel and educate patients on healthy diets, breastfeeding, birth control options, and substance abuse. She typically delivers between 10 and 15 babies a year at a nearby hospital, mostly through natural childbirth with zero to minimal painkillers.</p> <p>Stone of FNU thinks that more expectant mothers will turn to caregivers like Hall<strong>&nbsp;</strong>as the number of OB/GYNS continues to decline in rural areas, particularly in Kentucky, where a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.acog.org/~/media/Departments/Government%20Relations%20and%20Outreach/WF2011KY.pdf?dmc=1">2014 The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists report&nbsp;</a>found nearly half of the state’s 120 counties didn’t have OB/GYNs.</p> <p>FNU’s response has been to step up recruitment—and that appears to be showing some results. Of the 2,000 students enrolled at FNU, about 800 are in the nurse midwifery programs, Stone said. “We’re always looking for opportunities to promote and educate nurse midwives.”</p> <p>Frontier Nursing University has long been at the forefront of increasing access to midwifery across the country. In fact, it began as a nurse midwifery service back when women rode for long distances on horseback to deliver babies.</p> <p>Mary Breckinridge, a nurse who founded the university, had traveled to Europe in 1919 to join the post-war relief efforts. Traveling through England and France, she observed midwives who were trained to deliver babies and care for mothers. At the time, there was no formal education for midwives in America, said the school’s development officer, Michael Claussen. And Breckinridge observed how France’s system of using decentralized stations to deliver midwifery care could be implemented in the rural South, where there was a shortage of doctors.</p> <p>She received midwifery training in England and returned to Kentucky in 1925 to start a clinic, which would later become Frontier Nursing Service. The clinic’s staff was originally trained as nurse midwives in England, and returned to Kentucky to practice. In 1939, the Frontier Nursing Service founded a university in Hyden, Kentucky, so women could receive training in the U.S.</p> <p>On a June evening, I drove to Breckinridge’s former home in Wendover. The two-story log cabin, built from trees of the surrounding area, overlooks the middle fork of the Kentucky River. The home became a bed-and-breakfast in 2001 and now holds memorabilia of early years—midwives’ saddlebags and powder-blue uniforms. The walls were covered with black-and-white photos of women astride horseback.</p> <p>In the one-traffic light town of Mckee, Kentucky, about 60 miles northwest of Wendover, I met a former nurse midwife who had worked with Breckinridge before her death in 1965.</p> <p>Jean Fee met me in a church parking lot and drove with a careless confidence through the woods to her one-story house located in a clearing.</p> <p>Originally from Alberta, Canada, Fee, now 80, was intrigued by the natural process of midwifery and appalled by the sterile efficiency of childbirth in hospitals, where mothers were largely removed from the process and didn’t get a chance to bond with the babies.</p> <p>“I grew up with mares foaling and cows calving,” Fee said while she ate stew in her dining room. “I knew critters could do better than that; kinda figured women could too if given the chance.”</p> <p>She graduated from Frontier Nursing University (then called the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.frontier.edu/namechangefaqs">Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing</a>)<strong>&nbsp;</strong>in 1959 and stayed on as a nurse midwife with Frontier Nursing Service. Fee often made house calls to homes where lay midwives—usually older women without formal training—had formerly used superstition to solve childbirth complications. A common one was placing an ax under the bed to stop heavy bleeding during labor and childbirth.</p> <p>Infant mortality rates started to decrease and women started delivering healthier babies once the Frontier Nursing Service came on the scene, she said. Fee taught women how to breathe and relax during labor and used her training as a nurse to diagnose symptoms.</p> <p>Breckinridge’s emphasis on patient care and the natural childbirth process can be seen in midwifery care today. At the MCHC clinic, Hall leads me into a small, stark room where her patient, 23-year-old Hallie Wolford, sits at the exam table. Wolford has short blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail and a slight frame that magnifies her protruding belly.</p> <p>She and her partner drove 45 minutes to see Hall because there aren’t any midwives in the nearby town of Pikeville, where she lives. “Everyone’s told me Carrie is really nice,” says Wolford, pregnant with her first child.</p> <p>Hall lowers the exam table as Wolford explains that dizzy spells caused her to fall a couple of days earlier. Hall’s voice rises to a soothing tone, as she recommends that Wolford drink more water and consult her cardiologist. After examining Wolford’s stomach, she asks her to return if specialists haven’t discovered the source of her problem.</p> <p>Hall chats volubly in a southern drawl peppered with “darling” and “sweetie.” The appointment ends with Hall joking that Wolford’s partner drives too quickly to get to the clinic. “Listen, don’t kill my patient,” she warns him as they all erupt in laughter.</p> <p>When asked about the easy banter, she says: “I’m like that with all of my patients.”</p> <p class="image-caption">This article was first published in <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/people-power/they-rode-horseback-to-deliver-babies-a-century-later-midwives-are-still-crucial-20170907?utm_source=YTW&amp;utm_medium=Email&amp;utm_campaign=20170908">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/zoe-ferguson/does-kindness-matter">Does kindness matter?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/kim-eckart/where-strangers-become-family">Where strangers become family </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/sean-osullivan/getting-midwifery-workforce-right">Don&#039;t leave midwives out in the cold</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 Melissa Hellmann Empathy Care Love and Spirituality Thu, 21 Sep 2017 22:08:54 +0000 Melissa Hellmann 113463 at https://www.opendemocracy.net We need to talk about stigma within the mental health system https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/louisa-harvey/we-need-to-talk-about-stigma-within-mental-health-system <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>‘There’s nothing wrong with you; stop playing games; no one believes you.’</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="normal"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/LouisaHarvey.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: By Chitrapa at English Wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.) Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.</p> <p class="normal">I’ve experienced mental health problems for the past 24 years, and in that time the stigma I have experienced has come, not so much from outside the system as&nbsp;<em>within</em>&nbsp;it. And yet we don’t seem to be having conversations about this issue in the mainstream media.</p> <p class="normal">I was first hospitalised at the age of 17 in an adult psychiatric ward in the UK. It was an inappropriate place for someone still in the throes of adolescence and somewhat emotionally behind due to having suffered in silence for the three years preceding my admission. </p> <p class="normal">Quickly it became clear that I was considered to be a histrionic, attention-seeking young woman whose problems amounted to an individual moral failing, and a refusal to take responsibility. I was not alone. There were other young women my age and we were all subject to the same invalidating experiences which served only to exacerbate our distress. </p> <p class="normal">Our common presentation was self-destructive; we self-harmed and attempted to take our own lives, refusing to suffer silently once our despair had surfaced, the seasons of being able to keep our demons under lock and key well and truly over.</p> <p class="normal">The common refrains we would hear from mental health nurses and doctors went like this: ‘just take responsibility;’ ‘there’s nothing wrong with you;’ ‘you are bed-blocking’ (even though they had sectioned many of us, including myself, and it wasn’t in our power to free up any bed); ‘stop playing games;’ and the worst of all, ‘no one believes you.’</p> <p class="normal">Despite being considered a risk to myself, and lacking mental capacity, these judgements were accusations of mere misbehaviour and laden with mixed messages: ‘you are too ill to make your own decisions,’ and simultaneously, ‘you should stop being willfully disobedient.’ It must be noted that these comments were not levelled at the male patients on the ward, and were not reserved solely for younger patients.</p> <p class="normal">This kind of treatment followed me for years until a desperate attempt to take my own life by jumping from a bridge startled others into taking me seriously. I wasn’t meant to survive. I felt that I was a lost cause and that my inability to just snap out of the madness was a personal failing. </p> <p class="normal">I may not have died, but stigma within the system&nbsp;<em>kills</em>. It is far deadlier than any amount of stigma that one might face outside of the system because these are the professionals we are told to go to for help. Many of my friends who were treated as I was have since taken their own lives because their distress was not taken seriously.</p> <p class="normal">So forgive me if I roll my eyes at the ever-prolific mental health awareness campaigns. Sure, they have their place, and it’s important that we all become more emotionally literate and sensitive to those who struggle with their mental health. But for some, there will <em>be</em> no help because they will be viewed in the same way I was, and consequently may be excluded from services because they are not seen as legitimately ill by those who are supposed to be specialist clinicians.</p> <p class="normal">Over the past nine years my distress has been taken more seriously. This is because my difficulties are now understood to be of a psychotic nature, which can be labelled in biomedical terms and, thus, not my fault. It is not that the system has significantly changed, because I read every day of people who are being shut out of services, but that my suffering is now seen as a bona fide mental illness. </p> <p class="normal">The context of people’s distress is rarely acknowledged, despite the fact that a great percentage of people who experience mental ill health have also experienced trauma. Their emotional and psychological responses to the world and those around them make great sense in the light of their experiences. Further traumatized by the services supposedly in place to treat them, they are frequently labelled ‘untreatable.’</p> <p class="normal">Some critical psychologists and psychiatrists are attempting to address the stigma and injustices&nbsp;within&nbsp;the system, but many have their own agendas in putting forward particular approaches, and may be anti-medication to a fault. I personally believe that drugs are overprescribed, but I also respect that they can help some people some of the time. </p> <p class="normal">Other groups of grassroots activists comprised of people who have experience of mental health services like&nbsp;<a href="https://recoveryinthebin.org/">Recovery in the Bin</a> are emerging, and have important contributions to make in bringing to light the injustices within the psychiatric system, providing critiques of the recovery model as well as offering peer support that has not been co-opted by service-providers in the ways that many peer-led, service-user initiatives driven by mental health teams across the UK have been.</p> <p class="normal">I’m not sure that&nbsp;<a href="https://blogs.canterbury.ac.uk/discursive/borderline-personality-disorder-abandon-the-label-find-the-person/">removing stigmatized diagnoses</a> such as personality disorders (as some are calling for) is enough to change the attitudes of many of the mental health professionals who have prejudices against certain presentations of madness and mental distress. A mere linguistic turn is not going to significantly address the sexist, patriarchal discourses involved in understandings of what constitutes ‘legitimate’ suffering in women and men, and, indeed, who is deemed worthy of treatment.</p> <p class="normal">Change needs to happen at the very beginning of mental health training. I have seen many trainee mental health nurses and doctors who appear to bring compassion and empathy to their placements, only to be indoctrinated by more senior members of staff about who is considered worthy of care and who isn’t. </p> <p class="normal">Of course, I acknowledge that there are mental health professionals who take a much more humane and inclusive approach towards patients, and who are trying to change the system from within. However, there is a clear code in the system that relegates certain sufferers to substandard care, if any. And that’s something we need to talk about.</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/louisa-harvey/its-ok-for-you-to-be-fat-but-not-for-me-life-beyond-anorexias-lies">It&#039;s ok for you to be fat but not for me: life beyond anorexia&#039;s lies</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/jill-simpson/visualising-mental-illness">Visualising mental illness</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/lea/leas-story-my-days-as-mad-girl">Lea&#039;s story: my days as a mad girl</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/shinealight/wasi-daniju-rebecca-omonira-oyekanmi/remembering-sarah-reed">Remembering Sarah Reed</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 Louisa Harvey The politics of mental health Care Mon, 18 Sep 2017 05:00:47 +0000 Louisa Harvey 113148 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Does kindness matter? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/zoe-ferguson/does-kindness-matter <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Body">Like spraying water on a spider’s web, research reveals the taken for granted infrastructure of human relationships.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Zoe Ferguson.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/planeta/30870467422">Flickr/Ron Mader</a>. <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/">CC BY-SA 2.0</a>.</p> <p>Does being kind have any role to play in achieving real and lasting gains in social and economic justice? At first sight it sounds unlikely. Kindness is so soft a virtue and injustice is so hard. Individual acts of love and compassion are no substitute for removing centuries of structural oppression.</p> <p class="BodyA">But after a year of working with seven organisations in different communities<a href="https://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/publications/place-kindness-combating-loneliness-building-stronger-communities/"> </a><a href="https://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/publications/place-kindness-combating-loneliness-building-stronger-communities/">in Scotland with a team supported by the Carnegie UK Trust and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation</a>, I’m convinced that kindness lies at the heart, not only of our ability to generate wellbeing but also to strengthen the foundations on which the power for change can be built. Here’s the argument in a nutshell: </p> <p class="BodyA">Kindness makes people’s lives better, but just encouraging individuals to be kinder to each other has significant limitations. Therefore, we have to transform the social, economic and political structures that inhibit our ability to act in kindness, and at the same time strengthen the links between these actions and our aspirations for greater social and economic justice. </p> <p class="BodyA">That may sound simple, but researching these issues is like spraying water on a spider’s web, making visible the taken for granted infrastructure of relationships that makes a significant impact on the quality of our lives. </p> <p class="BodyA">We know that resilient individuals have at least one strong emotional attachment, along with access to wider support and positive community experiences, so there’s a well-documented association between strong social ties and lower adult mortality. <a href="http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1745691614568352">A recent meta-analysis shows a 26 percent increase</a> in the likelihood of death when measured over an eight year period as a result of loneliness, irrespective of a person’s age. In an increasingly virtual world, we still live in real houses on real streets, and rely on direct contact with real people to make our lives work. </p> <p class="BodyA">As part of our research we spoke to many of these ‘real people,’ who talked eloquently about what kindness means to them <a href="https://vimeo.com/226765202">in the film</a> that accompanies our <a href="https://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/publications/place-kindness-combating-loneliness-building-stronger-communities/">report</a>. One of them, Hannah, spoke about kindness in terms of “sharing, trust, encouraging and being gentle with each other;” another, called Angela, described it as “a true opening of your heart, true belief in the talents, abilities and love that everyone can share.”</p> <p class="BodyA">When we spoke to customers at the Tesco supermarket in Maryhill, Glasgow, we found that many isolated older people were shopping every day or so in order to break up their day with at least some form of human interaction. When asked if they took part in activities or groups to meet other people, many of those we spoke to said that they didn’t like anything that was formally organized; they would rather have a good neighbour than someone who is paid to spend time with them, or even a volunteer.</p> <p class="BodyA">But kindness is also difficult, especially given the pressures of living and working in contemporary capitalist societies where altruism and compassion often have to be rationed, or are actively discouraged. Talking to older people in particular, it was striking to hear how far their notion of ‘neighbourliness’ extends beyond what would nowadays be considered ‘normal.’</p> <p class="BodyA">For example, Maureen and Isabella—two residents of Maryhill—talked fondly of their past experience of tenement life in Glasgow, sharing childcare and chores and taking meals to older neighbours. The creation of the welfare state relieved some of those obligations and provided vital services at a time of national crisis, but social needs have multiplied and expectations have since been raised.</p> <p class="BodyA">Alongside changes in family structures and growing geographic mobility, these developments have weakened some of the bonds that held communities together. We found that—whilst people understand the economic and social shifts that underpin these changes—they still miss a sense of that older community spirit. In many cases however, people said that fixing this problem ‘was someone else’s job.’&nbsp; </p> <p class="BodyA">Looking for evidence of ‘what works’ in creating kindness revealed a mismatch between what we wanted to explore—relational experience in communities—and the existing body of research and policy studies that focus on the transactional, the evaluation of interventions which assume that success depends on formal institutions. </p> <p class="BodyA">This pattern—identify a problem and then task or create an organisation to find the solution—is common in the social policy field, but nurturing the values of community and caring for each other isn’t something that can be achieved through top-down, bureaucratic action.&nbsp; We’re not going to find the answers in services, programmes or projects, but at a much deeper level in the humanity of individuals, and how to let that humanity grow and flourish.&nbsp; </p> <p class="BodyA">For example, one of our respondents (called Margaret) wore a ‘Friendly Dumfries’ badge to indicate that she was someone who was happy to have a chat. She found that wearing the badge made her think about her role and presence in helping to strengthen community. Other respondents talked about creating welcoming places and informal opportunities to get together and explore what kind of society or neighbourhood people want to live in. Simple steps like these can help to create the conditions for greater kindness in communities. </p> <p class="BodyA">But equally important is finding out what gets in the way of kindness, and acting to remove those barriers beyond the level of the individual. Part of the problem is that many of those we talked to saw greater risks in altruistic action than in previous decades. As a result, they are increasingly likely to seek out more formal routes to be helpful in their communities through established charities, as opposed to through their individual interactions with each other. </p> <p class="BodyA">Shug, for example, a community worker in Kircaldy, suggested a weekly kickabout in a local park with kids and their parents. He went ahead and put the idea into practice, but after a couple of weeks he was challenged by the local authority to produce his ‘risk assessment’ paperwork and identify a ‘lead for child protection.’ In this case, regulation, or perhaps more accurately our current interpretation of what regulation means, is getting in the way of encouraging more opportunities for people to come together and express their care and attention for each other informally; the official structures of caring form a barrier to ‘unofficial’ kindness.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p class="BodyA">Intuitively it might make sense to conclude that if we care more actively for each other in communities then we place less pressure on overburdened public services, but this doesn’t necessarily lead to greater empowerment in communities, still less to broader social change. So what is it that connects kindness to social transformation?</p> <p class="BodyA">In Tesco Maryhill for example, individual caring connects with community empowerment because checkout staff have taken the time to get to know their isolated customers, talking with them, helping to build their confidence, and nudging them to join local groups, as well as raising money and volunteering for community projects like after school clubs where kids get a healthy snack and help with homework, community gardens and cooking projects.&nbsp; </p> <p class="BodyA">There was much less recognizable agency involved in the Cook Club in Moredun in Edinburgh, where people (often facing severe difficulties) come together once a week to prepare and share food with one another. Individual kindness is clearly evident in Moredun, but it is limited in challenging the underlying factors that produce adverse childhood experiences, poverty, deprivation, neighbourhood hostility, addiction and inadequate responses from the state. </p> <p class="BodyA">The best results seem to come from mutually-reinforcing relationships between structures and individuals, as, for example, when TESCO’s corporate policy in Maryhill was changed to give permission to staff to become more active in community engagement. Whilst kindness is obviously not sufficient in itself, it seems to be a necessary element in creating the power for positive change. </p> <p class="BodyA">It’s difficult, though, to talk about kindness at all in a public policy context. These conversations are uncomfortable, and kindness sometimes feels too soft or too glib in contrast to other, more formal and more recognised approaches to social research and social policy. However, it has been liberating to have so many conversations about something that everyone can connect with, and to become explicitly involved with the work both intellectually, and personally and emotionally. </p> <p class="BodyA">Our conversations with Maureen and Isabella and Margaret and Shug and all the others show that we can all talk about kindness, and talk about it in ways that are powerful both personally and politically.&nbsp; That universality of understanding matters if we are to affect social change for the good, rather than merely providing superficial solutions through social services.&nbsp; &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/genevieve-vaughan/why-kindness-is-key-to-new-economy">Why kindness is the key to a new economy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/juliana-breines/three-research-based-ways-to-cultivate-kindness-in-your-life">Three research-based ways to cultivate kindness in your life</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 Zoe Ferguson Empathy Care Love and Spirituality Wed, 13 Sep 2017 04:30:00 +0000 Zoe Ferguson 113144 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why are religious conservatives embracing transgender rights? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/t-m-murray/why-are-religious-conservatives-embracing-transgender-rights <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Iran has the second highest number of sexual reassignment surgeries in the world. What’s going on?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/TMMurray.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">A transgender flag in San Francisco. Credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/gazeronly/14511581936">Flickr/Torbackhopper</a>. Some rights reserved.</p><p><span></span>Transgender rights activists emphasize that they belong to a minority that’s <a href="http://www.transequality.org/issues/resources/transgender-terminology?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI4aKKpvy91QIVUkwNCh2RHAhtEAAYASAAEgLTDfD_BwE">defined by a gender identity that is different from that typically associated with their assigned sex at birth</a>. This transgender identity presupposes that ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity’ are innate psychological states that are intrinsic in the human subject, conceptualized as things akin to hair color or skin pigmentation. However, attempts to <a href="http://www.cell.com/trends/genetics/fulltext/S0168-9525(02)02666-5">link gender to a supposedly ‘male’ or ‘female’&nbsp;brain&nbsp;</a>have been <a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060975199/ref=ox_sc_act_title_1?smid=A1W9YO40S7WJUH&amp;psc=1">fraught with confusion</a>, since the science involved&nbsp;has often been&nbsp;<a href="http://ssc.wisc.edu/soc/faculty/pages/docs/fujimura/Signs%20fujimura%20sex%20genes.pdf">biased by&nbsp;social presuppositions</a>.</p> <p>It may be true that an adult person’s&nbsp;sexual biochemistry&nbsp;determines arousal and sexual preference (i.e. the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endocrine_system">endocrine system</a>, which is responsible for the regulation of androgens such as <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estrogen">Estrogen</a> and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Testosterone">Testosterone</a>), but there is no evidence that it determines the range of stereotypical ‘personality attributes’ that we associate with ‘masculinity’ and ‘femininity.’ What we ‘make’ of our sex is up to each one of us. It’s clear that only women can bear children, for example, but the implications are undetermined—the current social division of labour around childcare is only one of many possible arrangements. &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>Hence, the idea that all men share a set of intrinsic heterosexual personality attributes that are different to all women is a socially and politically-conservative fiction, designed to maintain certain dominant institutional arrangements.&nbsp;After all, if gendered behaviours, mannerisms and styles of dress were ‘natural’ then the need for ‘role models’ to teach children how to be ‘men’ and ‘women’ would evaporate.&nbsp;</p> <p>Nevertheless, stereotypes about gender and sex continue to be widely circulated by parents, teachers, television, cinema, sport, literature, children’s toys, clothing, hairstyles, the beauty industry, and religion. Exaggerating differences between men and women far&nbsp;beyond&nbsp;reproductive biology, along with mystifying the opposite sex and making unregulated sexual activity between men and women taboo, only strengthens these stereotypes. As a result, we are unable or unwilling to see the opposite sex primarily as a person like ourselves, with similar needs and desires.</p> <p>But here’s the thing: in arguing that a small number of people are born with a sense of gender that does not ‘match’ their genital sex, there’s a danger that the Trans movement might strengthen the assumption that all of us possess an innate identity that’s inherently ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’&nbsp;<em>prior</em>&nbsp;<em>to socialisation</em>. This might explain why many ultra-conservative religious bodies from the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ibtimes.com/iran-transgender-law-islamic-republic-advances-bill-protect-transsexuals-amid-1940978" target="_blank">Iranian Parliament</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/pakistan-first-passport-transgender-designation_us_59513135e4b05c37bb782260" target="_blank">Pakistan’s Ministry of the Interior</a> to the&nbsp;<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/may/21/proposal-for-transgender-baptism-to-go-before-church-of-england" target="_blank">Church of England</a> are throwing their weight behind transgender rights while remaining steadfastly homophobic.&nbsp;</p> <p>Conservative religious views of ‘creation’ cling to the view that all healthy humans possess an innate heterosexuality, a belief that’s based on the compatibility of male and female&nbsp;genitals&nbsp;for reproduction. Accordingly, homosexuals are simply defective or disordered heterosexuals.&nbsp;However, if homosexuality is naturally-occurring then this reasoning collapses. &nbsp;And since we know that many individuals do not conform to traditional gender norms it’s clear that these norms cannot be innate.&nbsp;</p> <p>According to conservatives, if anyone born with a penis were to have an innate desire to ‘act like women’ then he would be diagnosed as sick or “<a href="http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/gender-dysphoria#1" target="_blank">dysphoric</a>.” The same goes for biological females who feel a stronger affinity to normatively ‘masculine’ social roles and sexual attractions. In this context, it would be surprising if homosexuals did <em>not</em> feel confused.</p> <p>Some clinicians do identify gender ‘dysphoria’ (or ‘unhappiness’) as an abnormal psycho-sexual condition that exists within the ‘patient,’ but is this true? Is it the person, or their<em> </em>relationship&nbsp;to society’s strict gender expectations,&nbsp;that makes them feel unhappy in their body? This question has real political consequences, because any criticism of social institutions that need reforming can easily be redirected towards the ‘aberrant’ individual: <em>they</em>&nbsp;must be altered to fit the norms of health and social acceptability.</p> <p>To get some purchase on how this works in practice, consider the situation of&nbsp;<span>queers in Iran</span>. Iran is a sexist, intolerant, homophobic theocracy in which fundamentalist religious laws are strictly enforced to support the hetero-normative status quo. The official state solution to homosexuality is either to&nbsp;<span>punish or execute</span>&nbsp;those who practice it openly, or to ‘encourage’ homosexuals to transition surgically to the ‘correct’ sex so that they can ‘fit back into’ society.</p> <p>Consequently,&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transsexuality_in_Iran" target="_blank">Iran</a>&nbsp;has the second highest number of sexual reassignment surgeries in the world, second only to Thailand. The government even provides financial assistance for them. This seems analogous to chemically lightening a black person’s skin to make them more comfortable in a racist society rather than tackling that society’s racism.</p> <p>In the same way, the seemingly compassionate ‘recognition’ of transgender ‘patients’ by many progressive clinicians and others in the Transgender rights movement may actually be&nbsp;reinforcing&nbsp;the hetero-normative binary that has long caused suffering and alienation for both homosexuals and gender non-conforming heterosexuals.&nbsp;</p> <p>As a child I wanted my body to be male so that I could do things that only men in my culture were permitted to do, like playing football or marrying a woman. It may be that I ‘identified’ as a boy when I was a little girl, but this could well be because I simply preferred to do what my culture had taught me were exclusively ‘boyish’ activities.&nbsp;&nbsp;There’s no way to test whether being unhappy with one’s biological body is a by-product of dogmatic gender enculturation&nbsp;or&nbsp;an innate condition as conservatives would have it, since all cultures indoctrinate their children with gender norms, albeit in slightly different ways. There is no ‘control group’ against which we could compare gender-indoctrinated individuals.</p> <p>In this confusing context, it becomes very difficult to distinguish homosexuals from ‘transgendered people.’ Given the heterosexist expectations that are built into social gender norms, homosexuality represents one very good reason why a subset of people simply cannot feel ‘at home’ in their bodies. The stereotypical expectation that all men are the same (and all women too) furnishes us with another excellent reason. Such individuals are not suffering from a disease; their societies are suffering from an inability to accept diversity.&nbsp;</p> <p>That said, some individuals might still be happier to transition than to cross-dress or to live as a gender non-conformist. In a liberal society, the option to surgically transition to the opposite sex should never be off the table for consenting adults. However, it should not enjoy automatic precedence over fighting for social reforms that are aimed at achieving more tolerance for gender non-conformists. Gender reassignment should be a decision taken by people who are fully aware of the part that learned social norms have played in their understanding of themselves and their sexuality.</p> <p>We need not object to informed and consenting adults surgically transitioning to live in a body in which they feel more comfortable. But we should all—including progressives in and outside the transgender rights movement—eschew the popular rush to embrace this option uncritically, or as the&nbsp;primary&nbsp;solution for youngsters who suffer unhappiness because of their bodies. &nbsp;&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/rebecca-gould/love-without-monogamy">Love without monogamy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/edgar-rodriguez/theres-more-to-being-gay-than-anal-penetration">There&#039;s more to being gay than anal penetration</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/sofa-gradin/it-s-gender-that-s-joke-not-queerness">It’s gender that’s a joke, not queerness</a> </div> </div> </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 T. M. Murray Liberation Care Culture Intersectionality Sun, 13 Aug 2017 23:53:57 +0000 T. M. Murray 112713 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Do we still need human judges in the age of Artificial Intelligence? https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ziyaad-bhorat/do-we-still-need-human-judges-in-age-of-artificial-intelligence <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Technology and the law are converging, but what does that mean for justice?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/ZiyaadBhorat3.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="https://pixabay.com/en/artificial-intelligence-698122/">Pixabay/Geralt.</a></p> <p>The <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond/#https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/the-fourth-industrial-revolution-what-it-means-and-how-to-respond/">Fourth Industrial Revolution</a> is fusing disciplines across the digital and physical worlds, with legal technology the latest example of how improved automation is reaching further and further into service-oriented professions. <a href="https://casetext.com/">Casetext</a> for example—a &nbsp;legal tech-startup providing Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based research for lawyers—<a href="http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170322005380/en/AI-Based-Legal-Research-Firm-Casetext-Closes-12#http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20170322005380/en/AI-Based-Legal-Research-Firm-Casetext-Closes-12">recently secured $12 million</a> in one of the industry’s largest funding rounds, but research is just one area where AI is being used to assist the legal profession.</p> <p><a href="http://www.topbots.com/automating-the-law-a-landscape-of-legal-a-i-solutions/#http://www.topbots.com/automating-the-law-a-landscape-of-legal-a-i-solutions/">Others include</a> contract review and due diligence, analytics, prediction, the discovery of evidence, and legal advice. Technology and the law are converging, and where they meet new questions arise about the relative roles of artificial and human agents—and the ethical issues involved in the shift from one to the other. While legal technology has largely focused on the activities of the bar, it challenges us to think about its application to the bench as well. In particular, could AI replace human judges?</p> <p>Before going any further, we should distinguish algorithms from Artificial Intelligence. In simple terms, algorithms are self-contained instructions, and are already being applied in judicial decision-making. In New Jersey, for example, the <a href="http://www.arnoldfoundation.org/initiative/criminal-justice/crime-prevention/public-safety-assessment/#http://www.arnoldfoundation.org/initiative/criminal-justice/crime-prevention/public-safety-assessment/">Public Safety Assessment</a> algorithm supplements the decisions made by judges over bail by using data to determine the risk of granting bail to a defendant. The idea is to assist judges in being more objective, and increase access to justice by reducing the costs associated with complicated manual bail assessments.</p> <p>AI is more difficult to define. People often conflate it with machine learning, which is the ability of a machine to work with data and processes, analyzing patterns that then allow it to analyze new data without being explicitly programmed. Deeper machine learning techniques can take in enormous amounts of data, tapping into neural networks to simulate human decision-making. AI subsumes machine learning, but it is also sometimes used to describe a futuristic machine super-intelligence that is far beyond our own.</p> <p>The idea of &nbsp;AI judges raises important ethical issues around bias and autonomy. &nbsp;AI programs <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/apr/13/ai-programs-exhibit-racist-and-sexist-biases-research-reveals">may incorporate the biases of their programmers</a> and the humans they interact with. For example, a Microsoft AI Twitter chatbot named <a href="https://www.theverge.com/2016/3/24/11297050/tay-microsoft-chatbot-racist">Tay became racist, sexist, and anti-Semitic within 24 hours of interactive learning with its human audience</a>. But while such programs may replicate existing human biases, the distinguishing feature of AI over an algorithm &nbsp;is that it can behave in surprising and unintended ways as it ‘learns.’ Eradicating bias therefore becomes even more difficult, though not impossible. Any AI judging program would need to account for, and be <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/19/discrimination-by-algorithm-scientists-devise-test-to-detect-ai-bias">tested</a> for, these biases.</p> <p>Giving AI decision-making powers over human cases also raises a fundamental issue of autonomy. In 1976, the German-American computer scientist <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/13/world/europe/13weizenbaum.html">Joseph Weizenbaum</a> argued against replacing humans in positions of respect and care, and specifically mentioned judges. He argued that doing so would threaten human dignity and lead to alienation and devaluation.</p> <p>Appealing to rationality, the counter-argument is that human judges are already biased, and that AI can be used to improve the way we deal with them and reduce our ignorance. Yet suspicions about AI judges remain, and are already enough of a concern to lead the European Union to promulgate a <a href="http://www.eugdpr.org/">General Data Protection Regulation</a> which becomes effective in 2018. This Regulation contains “<a href="http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-5419-2016-INIT/en/pdf">the right not to be subject to a decision based <em>solely</em> on automated processing</a>”.</p> <p>In any case, could an AI judge actually do what human judges claim to do? If AI can correctly identify patterns in judicial decision-making, it might be better at using precedent to decide or predict cases. For example, an <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/oct/24/artificial-intelligence-judge-university-college-london-computer-scientists#https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/oct/24/artificial-intelligence-judge-university-college-london-computer-sci">AI judge recently developed</a> by computer scientists at <a href="https://www.ucl.ac.uk/#https://www.ucl.ac.uk/">University College London</a> drew on extensive data from 584 cases before the <a href="http://www.echr.coe.int/Pages/home.aspx%3Fp=home#http://www.echr.coe.int/Pages/home.aspx%253Fp=home">European Court of Human Rights</a> (ECHR).</p> <p>The AI judge was able to analyze existing case law and deliver the same verdict as the ECHR 79 per cent of the time, and it found that the ECHR judgments actually depended more on non-legal facts around issues of torture, privacy, fair trials and degrading treatment than on legal arguments. This is an interesting case for <a href="http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Legal+Realism">legal realists</a> who focus on what judges actually do over what they <em>say</em> they do. If AI can examine the case record and accurately decide cases based on the facts, human judges could be reserved for higher courts where more complex legal questions need to be examined.</p> <p>But AI may even be able to examine such questions itself. In the case of <a href="https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/legal-positivism/">positivist</a> judges who separate morality from the law, legal interpretation could be transformed into an algorithmic task according to any given formal method. For example, if we believe that the law is socially constructed and follow the thinking of British legal theorist <a href="http://www2.law.ox.ac.uk/jurisprudence/hart.htm#http://www2.law.ox.ac.uk/jurisprudence/hart.htm">H. L. A. Hart</a>, then the possibility exists to program both the ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ rules of any legal system in this way.</p> <p>Primary rules confer legal rights and duties—telling people, for example, that they cannot murder or steal. Secondary rules recognize, change or adjudicate these primary rules. For example, deep machine learning AI may be able to process how to recognize the sources of the law—like precedent and the constitution­—that are relevant in a case.</p> <p>Alternatively, if we think <a href="http://carneades.pomona.edu/2007-Law/ScaliaOriginalism.shtml">originalists</a> like the late <a href="https://www.biography.com/people/antonin-scalia-9473091">Justice Antonin Scalia</a> are right to say that the correct interpretation of the law is what reasonable people, living at the time of a legal source’s adoption, would have understood as its ordinary meaning, then AI natural language processing could be used to program this method. Natural language processing allows AI to understand and analyze the language that we use to communicate. In the era of voice-recognition software like <a href="https://www.apple.com/ios/siri/">Siri</a>, <a href="https://developer.amazon.com/alexa">Alexa</a>, and <a href="https://www.ibm.com/watson/">Watson</a>, natural language processing is only going to get better.</p> <p>AI might be able to replicate these <a href="http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/The+Realist-Formalist+Debate">formalist</a> jurists’ interpretive methods. More importantly, it might help them to be and remain consistent in their judgments. As the English utilitarian legal theorist <a href="https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/bentham/">Jeremy Bentham</a> once wrote in <em>An Introduction To The Principles of Morals and Legislation,</em> “in principle and in practice, in a right track and in a wrong one, the rarest of all human qualities is consistency.” With the ability to process far more data and variables in the case record than humans could ever do, an AI judge might be able to outstrip a human one in many cases.</p> <p>Things get trickier in the case of judges who introduce morality into the law—a complicated task because ethical values and the origins of morality are contested. For example, some <a href="http://www.iep.utm.edu/natlaw/">natural lawyers</a> believe that morality emanates from God, nature, or some other transcendent source. Programming AI with a practical, adjudicative understanding of these divine or divine-like sources in a changing human society is a hugely complex undertaking. Moreover, the surprising and unintended nature of AI ‘learning’ could lead to a distinct line of interpretation, a <em>lex artificialis</em> of sorts.</p> <p>Even so, AI judges may not solve classical questions of legal validity so much as raise new questions about the role of humans, since—if &nbsp;we believe that ethics and morality in the law are important—then they necessarily lie, or ought to lie, in the domain of human judgment. In that case, AI may assist or replace humans in lower courts but human judges should retain their place as the final arbiters at the apex of any legal system. In practical terms, if we apply this conclusion to the perspective of American legal theorist <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/law/2013/feb/14/ronald-dworkin">Ronald Dworkin</a>, for example, AI could assist with examining the entire breadth and depth of the law, but humans would ultimately choose what they consider a morally-superior interpretation.</p> <p>Any use of AI over algorithms in legal decision-making will likely progress upwards through the judicial hierarchy. Research bodies like the <a href="http://www.iaail.org/?q=page/about">International Association for Artificial Intelligence and Law</a> (IAAIL) are already <a href="http://www.iaail.org/?q=article/workshop-evidence-decision-making-law-theoretical-computational-and-empirical-approaches">exploring</a> AI in legal evidence-gathering and decision-making. The American Judge <a href="http://harvardmagazine.com/2015/12/rhetoric-and-law">Richard Posner</a> believes that the immediate use of AI and automation should be restricted to <a href="///C:/Users/Downloads/nvcourts.gov/Conferences/New_Judges/Documents/ROLE_OF_JUDGE_-_Wlaker">assisting judges in uncovering their own biases and maintaining consistency</a>. However, the increasing use of automation and AI decision-making in the courts will inevitably shape human judicial decision-making along the way. An increased reliance on AI may therefore blur the line between human and AI judging over time.</p> <p>The sheer pace at which these technologies are developing has led some to call for a <a href="https://www.wired.com/2017/04/courts-using-ai-sentence-criminals-must-stop-now/">complete moratorium</a> in the field so that policy and the courts can catch up. This is perhaps extreme, but it is certainly clear that the issue of AI and the law needs much more concerted attention from policymakers, ethicists and scholars. Organizations like the IAAIL as well as <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/jan/27/ai-artificial-intelligence-watchdog-needed-to-prevent-discriminatory-automated-decisions">AI regulatory bodies</a> are needed to provide an interface between jurists, ethicists, technologists, government and the public in order to develop rules and guidelines for the appropriate use and ownership of AI in the legal system.</p> <p>In the 21st century, legal scholars have their work cut out for them in addressing a host of new issues. At the heart of these issues is a hugely challenging question: what does it mean to be human in the age of Artificial Intelligence?</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/ziyaad-bhorat/lost-in-space-silicon-valley-and-future-of-democracy">Lost in space? Silicon Valley and the future of democracy</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/emma-jones/why-shouldn-t-law-ignore-emotion">Why shouldn’t the law ignore emotion?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/ziyaad-bhorat/in-fight-for-our-genes-could-we-lose-what-makes-us-human">In the fight for our genes, could we lose what makes us human?</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 hri Legal frontiers Re-humanizing technology World Forum for Democracy 2017 Ziyaad Bhorat Care Culture Tue, 08 Aug 2017 23:11:07 +0000 Ziyaad Bhorat 112687 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The real clash of civilisations https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ian-hughes/real-clash-of-civilisations <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The presence or absence of conscience is perhaps the deepest human division.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/IanHughes2.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p><span class="image-caption">Credit: <a href="http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/">http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com</a>. Public Domain.</span><strong></strong></p> <p>Six months into the Presidency of Donald J. Trump, two speeches can serve as bookends to aid our understanding of what has been a tumultuous and deeply worrying time—his <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/inaugural-address">Inaugural address</a> and <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/06/politics/trump-speech-poland-transcript/index.html">his speech in Poland</a> on July 6 2017. What stand out from these two speeches are the images of “<a href="https://thinkprogress.org/trump-inaugural-speech-debunked-f1e79dcfabf2">American carnage</a>” from his opening statement to the nation, and the ominous warning he issued in Warsaw of a ‘clash of civilisations’—along with the corresponding need to act decisively to save ‘Western values.’</p> <p>“The fundamental question of our time,” Trump warned in Poland, “is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost?” Although the spectre of communism no longer haunts Europe, he continued, another existential threat has emerged. “We are confronted by another oppressive ideology—one that seeks to export terrorism and extremism all around the globe.”</p> <p>Poland is a fitting setting in which to speak about the dangers of a ‘clash of civilisations,’ since no other country has experienced the horrors of human cruelty so brutally. The country was targeted by Hitler for mass annihilation, with only a remnant of its people to be preserved to act as slave labour for the Third Reich. It was occupied by the Soviet Union and brutally cleansed in waves of executions to remove those whom Stalin deemed a threat to ‘Soviet values.’ And it was chosen by Hitler as the site of the largest factories of mass murder in history: Chelmo, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, Majdenek and Auschwitz.</p> <p>So Poland knows something about the clash of civilisations. Not surprisingly then, it is a Pole who can best help us to understand how the horrors—not &nbsp;only of Auschwitz but also of the Soviet Gulag, Cambodia’s Killing Fields, Mao’s man-made famine, Rwanda’s genocide, and many other stains on humanity—do &nbsp;indeed result from such a clash, but not in the way Trump expressed it.&nbsp; </p> <p><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ian-hughes/demons-and-angels-strongman-leaders-and-social-violence">Andrew Lobaczewski</a> was a Polish psychiatrist who observed the brutalisation of Polish society at first hand when Hitler’s Nazis, and then Stalin’s Bolsheviks, forced their violent ideologies on his homeland. What Lobaczewski recognised was that the real division in values and behaviour was not simply between Germans and Russians and Poles, but between people of all nationalities who abhorred the cruelty and violence around them, and those who embraced it. He realised that the fundamental ‘clash of civilisations’ was based on psychology, between a majority of ordinary people and a small but highly influential pathological minority.</p> <blockquote><p>“… each society on earth contains a certain percentage of individuals, a relatively small but active minority, who cannot be considered normal,” <a href="http://www.ponerology.com/psychopaths_1.html">Lobaczewski wrote</a>. Although statistically small in number, he continued, the quality of difference of such individuals is such that “it can affect hundreds, thousands, even millions of other human beings in negative ways.” </p></blockquote> <p>This small but active minority are those who suffer from dangerous personality disorders, namely psychopaths, and those with <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/ian-hughes/demons-and-angels-strongman-leaders-and-social-violence">narcissistic personality disorder and paranoid personality disorder</a>. These disorders render those affected essentially devoid of conscience. And as the <a href="http://www.interviewmagazine.com/culture/conscience-lack-of/#_">psychologist Martha Stout spells out</a>, the presence or absence of conscience is perhaps the deepest human division, arguably more significant than intelligence, race or gender.</p> <p>In a passage originally written about Stalin and Hitler but equally applicable to present times, Lobaczewski wrote this: </p> <blockquote><p>“In a civilisation deficient in psychological cognition, hyperactive individuals driven by their internal doubts caused by a feeling of being different easily find a ready echo in other people’s insufficiently developed consciousness. Such individuals dream of imposing their power and their different experiential manner upon their environment and their society. Unfortunately, in a psychologically ignorant society, their dreams have a good chance of becoming reality for them and a nightmare for others.”</p></blockquote> <p>How would Lobaczewski have understood and interpreted Trump’s Washington and Warsaw speeches?</p> <p>Russian and American journalist <a href="http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2017/07/12/waking-up-to-the-trumpian-world/">Masha Gessen has observed</a> that Trump’s ability to produce an endless stream of common sense-defying statements—the gap between the world Trump seems to inhabit and the world as most of the rest of us understand it—makes his pronouncements extremely difficult to absorb. His endless lies and hypocrisy prompted <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/07/trump-warsaw-speech/532917/">David Frum of the Atlantic magazine to remark that</a> the values Trump defended in Warsaw such as human rights, the rule of law, gender equality and press freedom are precisely the values he puts at risk in his presidency every day. </p> <p>But I think Lobaczewski would caution us to listen differently. When people with emotional-cognitive disorders speak, they do so from within their own distorted worldview. Consider just one sentence from Trump’s Warsaw speech: “We cannot accept those who reject our values and who use hatred to justify violence against the innocent.”</p> <p>Imagine for a moment that what Trump was referring to by ‘our values’ were not the norms and values of democracy (as Frum was assuming), but the core values and beliefs that he himself holds with the fiercest conviction: his belief in his own superiority, and his rights to unfettered power; to act impulsively in his own interest at all times regardless of the consequences for others; and to crush any opponent who threatens him. </p> <p>What if the ‘violence against the innocent’ he referred to was not the violence that is visited on the poor and vulnerable in society, but the violence that he himself must suffer daily as he sees it, attacked as he is from every corner—by the media, the justice system, the majority of Americans outside his political base, and the legion of ‘leakers’ who feed the ‘fake news’ with an endless torrent of accusations. </p> <p>What if Trump’s agenda is the same as that of the authoritarians of history about whom Lobaczewski wrote, and the agenda of the strongmen of the present who Trump admires? What if Trump is in office, not to serve his country but to protect his own position of power, while enriching himself and his family along the way?</p> <p>Analysing Trump’s first six months as President from this perspective allows us to see how close he may be to achieving his primary objectives. While Trump’s critics take comfort in his lack of legislative successes to date, such coverage may simply be ‘background noise’ which masks the degree to which he is succeeding in what matters to him most—namely establishing &nbsp;himself as the head of a dynastic, autocratic pseudo-democracy. </p> <p><a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/20/opinions/trump-authoritarian-playbook-continues-ben-ghiat-opinion/index.html">Ruth Ben-Ghiat</a>, a professor of history at New York University and an expert on authoritarianism, <a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/20/opinions/trump-authoritarian-playbook-continues-ben-ghiat-opinion/index.html">has written</a> that Trump is already close to accomplishing the most important things an authoritarian leader must do in order to survive over the long term. He has cultivated ties within the structures of government that are based primarily on loyalty to his person rather than to the rule of law or democratic norms. He has stoked the flames of a cultural civil war that benefits him by polarizing the country and mobilising his base. </p> <p>He has conducted a relentless campaign aimed at discrediting institutions and individuals who might hold him accountable. And he has been directing a concerted effort, begun during his election campaign and carried out in parallel with (if not in direct collusion with) Russia, aimed at undermining the American people’s faith in the entire democratic process.</p> <p>If this is indeed Trump’s vision and should it come to pass, elections will continue to be held, but there will rarely be any doubt about the winner. In the absence of sufficient checks and balances, the continued gerrymandering of districts, increased voter suppression, the dominance of special interests in campaign financing and the manipulation of information could allow the Trump dynasty and its backers in the Republican Party to remain in power for decades. Trump will have succeeded in bringing about the demise of democracy in the USA.</p> <p>The president ended his speech in Warsaw by saying this: “Our own fight for the West does not begin on the battlefield—it begins with our minds, our wills, and our souls.”&nbsp; “Our values will prevail,” he vowed. “Our people will thrive. And our civilization will triumph.”&nbsp;</p> <p>In response I can hear Lobaczewski’s voice echoing in my mind: the fundamental question of our time is indeed whose values will prevail: will it be Trump’s values or our own?</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/michael-edwards/is-there-any-hope-for-new-age-politics">How can we make our politics reflect what’s best in us and not what’s worst?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/nina-eliasoph/scorn-wars-rural-white-people-and-us">Scorn wars: rural white people and us</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 Ian Hughes The politics of mental health Empathy Activism Care Sun, 30 Jul 2017 23:18:32 +0000 Ian Hughes 112546 at https://www.opendemocracy.net