Kieran Ford https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/20574/all cached version 18/01/2018 04:26:15 en The UK government thinks I am an extremist – and you might be one too https://www.opendemocracy.net/kieran-ford/uk-government-thinks-i-am-extremist-and-you-might-be-one-too <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The UK government has turned to the policing of ideas in their efforts to pre-empt and thwart terrorism. Such a strategy makes anyone who rejects the status quo a potential suspect.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563362/23261468319_4cc4e43708_k.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563362/23261468319_4cc4e43708_k.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Theresa May as Home Secretary in 2015 speaking at Chatham House event 'Countering Terrorism: A Global Perspective'. Chatham House/Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Given the recent attacks in London and Manchester, the violence of the far right in murdering the MP Jo Cox, and the images of the London bombings in 2005 still fresh in Britain’s collective memory, it is no surprise that preventing terrorism remains a high priority for the UK government. Yet, since 2005, preventing terrorism has shifted, from attempting to stop terrorist attacks, to attempting to pre-empt terrorism by discouraging the ideas that appear to be behind these attacks. Since 2005, the fear of ‘home-grown terrorism’ has led to a policy focus on ‘extremism’ – defined as a precursor stage on a ‘radicalisation’ journey towards political violence. Yet, what does ‘extremism’ mean? And what ideas are therefore considered threatening?</p><p dir="ltr">A certain logic appears to dictate how we comprehend an attack having taken place. The perpetrator of the violence is a ‘terrorist’ who must have been ‘radicalised’ to believe that violence is a legitimate action to achieve a political goal. Furthermore, this radicalisation must have been promoted by an ‘extreme’ political ideology that catalysed that journey. Whether we look at <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-31641569">Mohammed Emwazi</a> (the British ISIS fighter known more commonly as ‘Jihadi John’), or <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/nov/23/thomas-mair-slow-burning-hatred-led-to-jo-cox-murder">Thomas Mair</a> (Jo Cox’s murderer), newspapers are awash with analyses of the ‘radicalisation journey’, which attempt to pinpoint the very moment, and the very factors, that caused that person to take up a violent struggle.</p><p dir="ltr">Yet, this fascination with journeys to terrorism, and this emphasis on ideology, is not supported by academic research. The fact of the matter is that the empirical evidence is very weak and uncertain. We simply do not have the ability to say why one person turns to violence, while another, under the very same conditions, does not. Despite this focus on ‘extremism’ and ‘extremist ideology’, we are no closer to saying what impact it has on political violence. In the words of terrorism scholar, <a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09546553.2014.895649">Mark Sageman</a>, “There is no doubt that ideology, including global neo-jihadi ideology, is an important part of any explanation in the turn to political violence, but we still don’t know how”. The American scholar <a href="https://search.proquest.com/openview/e3f502b4969209a6c43d588ddc931758/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&amp;cbl=2031898">Randy Borum</a> is even more dismissive of theories of radicalisation: “None of them yet have a very firm social-scientific basis as an established ‘cause’ of terrorism, and few of them have been subjected to any rigorous scientific systematic enquiry”.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">This uncertainty in the ‘science’ behind radicalisation does not appear to have translated into policy circles.</p><p dir="ltr">This uncertainty in the ‘science’ behind radicalisation does not appear to have translated into policy circles. In the 2011 major overhaul of the UK’s counter-terrorism <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/prevent-strategy-2011">Prevent strategy</a>, the emphasis on the ‘ideology’ of terrorist groups was made objective number one. The strategy writes that Prevent will, “respond to the ideological challenge of terrorism and the threat we face from those who promote it”. It is this transformation of counter-terrorism strategy into a counter-ideological project that makes the UK’s approach to countering terrorism so threatening to democracy and political change more broadly.</p><p dir="ltr">Prevent explicitly aims to counter extremist ideology. One arena in which it aims to achieve this is in schools. <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/protecting-children-from-radicalisation-the-prevent-duty">Since 2015, schools must by law,</a> comply with the ‘Prevent duty’ – a legal requirement that teachers are trained to identify to relevant authorities any students that might display signs of ‘radicalisation’. Such a requirement has had profound and traumatic impact on some students, the vast majority of whom are Muslim. A report by the Open Society Justice Initiative entitled <a href="https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/reports/eroding-trust-uk-s-prevent-counter-extremism-strategy-health-and-education">Eroding Trust</a> listed a number of troubling cases including: primary school students having their political opinions recorded by the Home Office; a 12-year-old being interviewed by school leaders after playing a ‘terrorist’ in a drama class, and a secondary school-aged student being interviewed by police for expressing pro-Palestinian views in school. All of the students involved were Muslim.</p><p dir="ltr">But schools must not just scrutinise and survey their students. <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/protecting-children-from-radicalisation-the-prevent-duty">They are also regulated</a> on their ability to promote “fundamental British values” and their ability to “challenge extremist views”. This curious expression of ‘fundamental British values’ was conceived within the first attempt by a UK government to define extremism – within the 2011 overhaul of the Prevent strategy:</p><p class="blockquote-new" dir="ltr">“Extremism is vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. We also include in our definition of extremism calls for the death of members of our armed forces, whether in this country or overseas.”</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10402659.2017.1308189">Despite clear divergence and contestation in the academic literature</a> regarding the meaning of extremism, the UK government defines an extremist as someone opposed to a certain group of values. These values have been critiqued for not being uniquely British, for being vaguely grouped under the word ‘including’, and for being potentially contradictory – the Suffragettes’ necessity to break the law in order to make Britain more democratic being oft-cited in this regard. Despite this, schools make frequent reference to this definition, with common citations in school counter-extremism policies, school assemblies on fundamental British values, and in classes that teach students about terrorism and extremism.</p><p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/563362/Suffragettes,_England,_1908.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/563362/Suffragettes,_England,_1908.JPG" alt="" title="" width="460" height="313" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A suffragette meeting in Caxton Hall, Manchester, England circa 1908. Image via Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>But how do schools interpret ‘extremism’ and how do they challenge extremist narratives? Exploring this aids an understanding of the broader implications of this focus on ‘extremism’ in countering terrorism. This article reports findings from an on-going study, which has analysed nearly 200 lessons currently used in British classrooms that teach students about the issues of extremism and fundamental British values. Exploring schools’ teaching on the topic offers us all great pause for thought as to the dangers of current thinking about extremism and counter-extremism, and in particular its threat to democracy.</p><p dir="ltr">The study analysed how extremism was defined in each of these 200 lessons. It found three broad groups of definitions. Some lessons offered no definition at all – assuming students would already know what extremism is. Others would offer tautological definitions suggesting ‘extremists are people with extreme political or religious views’. The third group would cite the government’s definition straight from the Prevent strategy directly into classroom presentations.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">It is heavily implied that the UK government holds British values, and that anyone who does not is therefore an extremist.</p><p dir="ltr">Students are thus being offered very little assistance in assessing what might be considered ‘extreme’, but they are certainly being aided in understanding what the ‘moderate’ or the ‘reasonable’ is. Through citing the government’s definition, students are being taught that the UK government is the barometer from which extremism is measured. It is heavily implied that the UK government also holds British values, and that anyone who does not is therefore an extremist. The government is thereby in a position to adjudicate the ‘normal’ or the ‘reasonable’. One sees this most clearly when the fundamental British values themselves are being taught. Democracy, for instance, is often taught in direct contrast to dictatorship. One presentation explains, “The UK is a democracy, of course”. Another compares the pros and cons of living in the UK or living in IS-controlled Syria, and asks students where they would prefer to live. That the UK could be more democratic is a suggestion that is very rarely offered.</p><p dir="ltr">In cases where definitions of extremism are absent or tautological, students are asked to fill in the gaps. But this does not stop these resources building up a picture of the ‘normal’ from which extremism is said to deviate. Extremists are painted as being ‘manipulated’, and ‘vulnerable’ to being ‘brainwashed’. As such, rational, moderate, correct views and values are implied into existence. Extremists are painted as abnormal. As one classroom presentation to students explained: “Extremism in its broadest sense is an individual or group of individuals who take an extreme position from that of the norm, or take an extreme action”.</p><p dir="ltr">Extremists are thus painted as people who have “crossed a line” from the permissible to the illegitimate. In an educational video, one interviewee explains: “Extremism for me is when somebody goes too far because of something that they believe in”. Exploring the multitude of examples of ‘extremism’ that are given across these lessons helps to explain both a lack of clarity as to what extremism is, and the sheer breadth of ideas that are seen to have crossed this line into extremism.</p><p dir="ltr">Alongside the many mentions of what might be termed ‘Islamic extremism’ and the frequent mentions of what might be termed ‘right wing extremism’, it is fascinating to examine the more unusual examples of extremism on show in these materials. In particular, these examples tend to focus on having crossed one of two ‘lines’ – into the realm of illegality or into the realm of violence.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">Caroline Lucas MP’s arrest at an anti-fracking demonstration&nbsp;was given as an example of extremism.</p><p dir="ltr">With regard to the latter, it is interesting how often examples of genocide – the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide in particular – are given as examples of extremism. While these are both certainly forms of ‘extreme’ violence, they appear to bear little relation to contemporary threats, and are particularly at a distance from current terror threats from those inspired by white supremacists or the Islamic State. The violence of genocide is horrific, but is it terrorism? In another case of ‘extreme’ violence, students examine violent clashes that occurred between members of the EDL and anti-fascist protesters, and are asked, “when does protest cross the line?” – with the occurrence of violence demonstrating the presence of extremism.</p><p dir="ltr">In other cases, it is breaking the law that indicates ‘extremism’ – the rule of law being one of the ‘fundamental British values’. One respondent in an educational video, when asked ‘what is extremism?’ answers: “Anything that doesn’t obey the law of the land is extreme”. Examples included students protesting tuition fees in 2011 damaging property, or an educational play in which a fictional ‘anti-capitalist’ group had planned to break into and graffiti a bank. It seems of little surprise, therefore, that Caroline Lucas MP’s arrest at an anti-fracking demonstration <a href="https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/police-tell-teachers-beware-green-activists-counter-terrorism-talk">was given as an example of extremism by a police officer</a> training teachers in the Prevent duty. It appears that civil disobedience, despite it playing a vital role in struggles for women’s suffrage or employment rights, both contradicts ‘fundamental British values’ and is ‘extreme’.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">What is perhaps of most concern are examples of 'extremism' where it is merely an opinion or view, rather than an action.</p><p dir="ltr">What is perhaps of most concern however, are examples of 'extremism' where it is merely an opinion or view, rather than an action, that has strayed across a ‘line’ too far from the norm. The Westboro Baptist Church (organisers of the &nbsp;“God Hates Fags” protests) is given as an example. One presentation offered a series of examples of ‘extreme’ views that students were required to challenge including “Multiculturalism is bad for Britain” – an argument made strongly in a speech by David Cameron back in 2011 – yet, one would be hard-pressed to argue the then Prime Minister was an extremist. One can be ‘extreme’ about a whole host of issues according to some teaching materials – rights for fathers, nuclear power, whale hunting, even vegetarianism. 'Extreme' appears synonymous with being passionate for unpopular ideas – and yet, these ideas are also being painted as threatening.</p><p dir="ltr">While these examples of extremism appear broad, and at times laughable, what is of most concern is the links drawn between these ‘extreme’ views and the potential for political violence. Despite, as mentioned above, the lack of scientific support that can link so-called ‘extremist ideology’ to the use of political violence with any certainty, the linkages between ideas and violence is made very clear in educational resources. As one teaching resource explains: “Extremism can lead to violence and so it is never OK because we can’t predict what will become of extreme views and innocent people don’t deserve to suffer.” As the UK government themselves argue in the Prevent strategy: “Terrorist groups of all kinds very often draw upon ideologies which have been developed, disseminated and popularised by extremist organisations that appear to be non-violent”. Extreme ideas in non-violent organisations may lead to violence, and thus need to be discouraged: the threat to democracy appears considerable.</p><p class="mag-quote-center" dir="ltr">As someone who has engaged in civil disobedience and been threatened with arrest, I have “crossed the line” into extremism.</p><p dir="ltr">In compiling this research, it appears that, according to the UK government, I am an extremist. As someone who has engaged in civil disobedience and been threatened with arrest, I have “crossed the line” into extremism. But moreover, even if I had not done this, and did not ever plan to do so in the future, simply acknowledging the legitimacy of civil disobedience might be enough to be considered an extremist if, after hearing my views, someone else went to protest illegally. In linking the term ‘extreme’ both to the threat of violence and to the idea of ‘abnormal views’, the UK government is transforming diverse ideas into a threat, and narrowing the window of legitimate opinion. In countering extremism, the UK government is therefore countering a key tenet of democracy – free and open debate of a diversity of views and ideas. It is deeply ironic that in attempting to protect so-called fundamental British values, the UK government appears to endanger those very same values it champions. It is deeply troubling that the window of ‘reasonable’ and ‘permissable’ political views that we are offering to our young people in their education on extremism and terrorism is so narrow.</p><p dir="ltr">It is clear a new strategy is needed if the UK wishes to both counter extremism and promote democracy. Perhaps clearly discouraging the use of violence rather than discouraging diverse political views would be a good first step forward.</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="/kieran-ford/banality-of-terrorism-story-we-ve-all-heard-before"> The banality of terrorism</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/kieran-ford/which-lives-do-we-mourn-and-other-questions-we-no-longer-decide-for-o"> Which lives do we mourn? And other questions we no longer decide for ourselves</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/eva-nanopoulos/corbyn-led-government-should-start-by-scrapping-prevent-strategy">A Corbyn-led government should start by scrapping the Prevent Strategy</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> uk uk Kieran Ford Mon, 24 Jul 2017 11:20:50 +0000 Kieran Ford 112371 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The banality of terrorism https://www.opendemocracy.net/kieran-ford/banality-of-terrorism-story-we-ve-all-heard-before <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Current responses seem to normalise terrorism – cementing it into the everyday reality of daily life, in the same way that we accept poverty, homelessness or inequality. The way things are.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-30658134.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/PA-30658134.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Candlelight vigil in Trafalgar Square, London to remember those who lost their lives in the Westminster terrorist attack. Yui Mok/Press Association. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>So, once again, we face a terrorist attack in the western world. And moreover, not only do we face the reality of the bloodshed, the violence and the affront we all feel in the sense of a violation of security, we also face the need to respond. Each time these attacks take place, whether in Brussels, Paris or London (but perhaps not Baghdad) the same messages, texts and narratives emerge across newspapers, television screens and social media. What is interesting to note is how these narratives, themes and ideas are appearing increasingly lazy and inadequate. </p> <p>As soon as the events in Westminster began to unfold, each actor began to play their role – their lines rehearsed, their movements pre-determined and choreographed. News outlets poured across our social media with timelines of events, dramatic and amateur hand-held camera footage, action shot images, trigger warnings about graphic scenes we may find distressing (but cannot look away from), profiles of a hero captured in the moment, and speculative pieces on the character of the main suspect and any potential links to carefully constructed phrases such as ‘Islamist-inspired’ terrorism.</p> <p>Politicians then have their share of the narrative space offering their contributions: discourses of freedom, of never giving in, of being above this – Britain’s values won’t be defeated. Each political leader had their turn and had their say, and they all said the same thing. </p> <p>And then you have the critics. Those who point out how you weren’t upset by the bombing the other day in Kabul, those who mention the number of people who died yesterday in car accidents, those who blame British foreign policy, those who attempt to open the debate from the stock of narratives that come from more powerful voices.</p> <p>And of course, you have the more fringe responses: from racist tweeters jumping on a bandwagon to incite hate and division to those who perhaps support the actions of the attacker, taking pride in taunting victims. </p> <p>And yet, through all these diverse narratives there appears one common theme: they are all wearing thin. Each of these narratives appears tired, over-used, more emaciated than when last rolled out in a tweet or a post. In examining media responses, both print and social, there appears a potent sense of boredom, of tiredness, of having seen this story before and of knowing how it will probably end: tragedy for the victims, a tightening of surveillance and a spike in hate crime. </p> <p>The cracks in the political narrative are certainly more obvious than on their last outing. Take Theresa May’s speech on the night of the attacks for example: a sombre tone, a podium positioned for strength and leadership, a message of defiance, an emphasis on values. One can’t help but feel like these themes have simply been copied and pasted from the last time an attack took place – a template story taken from the shelf with only the dates and names altered. Quite equally, Sadiq Khan’s video lacked the leadership or poignancy of Ken Livingstone’s in 2005 – a speech, which even while delivered on video from Singapore, seemed to speak the voice of the Londoner, rather than the looping voice of the ‘terrorist attack responder’ of today: repeating ad nauseam exactly what has been said before. The speeches lacked punch, gravitas or a political energy on which a critical counter-terror policy could take hold.</p> <p>But these inadequacies in leadership and oratory demonstrate not the mediocre quality of current political leaders, but rather demonstrate the need for a profound shift in the way that such incidents are both spoken of and dealt with by political institutions and leaders. Seemingly endless and brazenly empty narratives around values, freedom and defiance cannot alter the fact that the public is aware that little is being done to alter the political landscape such that the next attack won’t take place. Instead, these repeated phrases instil a fatalistic and normalising mode of thinking in the wider public: there’s been another attack, I hope I’m not caught up in the next one. </p> <p>Yet, the critics equally need to reflect on their own narratives. The message that terrorists kill fewer people annually in the western world than bathtubs appears to fall on deaf ears. And not because of ignorance. Many people in society are aware of the irrationality of the heightened fear of the terrorist. Yet, as the philosopher Slavoj Zizek argued – it’s not that we don’t know what we do, it’s that we do know, and yet we still do it. We know we shouldn’t be as scared of the looming terrorist as the increasing number of cars on Britain’s roads, or the meagre provision of safe cycling infrastructure, and yet we still are. And that is not going to change by itself. If the critics want to change counter-terror policy, it is their narrative that must also shift. It needs a more creative response to burst through this complacent thinking.</p> <p>Responses to terror need a fresh approach if these responses are to play a constructive part in the production of a world where terror ceases to exist. Current responses seem to normalise terrorism – cementing it in the everyday reality of daily life, much in the same way we accept poverty, homelessness or inequality. We’ve accepted that this is just the way things are. This is unhelpful thinking both for policy-makers, and for those working on a more critical approach to terrorism. Terrorism is becoming banal. We need to shift that thinking.</p> <p>But what should that response be? </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="/nafeez-ahmed/isis-wants-destroy-greyzone-how-we-defend">ISIS wants to destroy the &#039;grey zone&#039;. Here&#039;s how we defend it</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/oscar-reyes-bertie-russell/eight-lessons-from-barcelona-en-com-on-how-to-take-bac">Eight lessons from Barcelona en Comú on how to Take Back Control</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/wfd/ben-hayes/worried-about-return-of-fascism-six-things-dissenter-can-do-in-2016">Worried about the return of fascism? Six things a dissenter can do in 2016</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? uk United States EU UK Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Ideas International politics Kieran Ford Fri, 24 Mar 2017 08:24:19 +0000 Kieran Ford 109647 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Don’t mourn, organize! Three ways millennials can build a better post-Trump future https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/kieran-ford/don-t-mourn-organize-three-ways-millennials-can-build-better-post-trump-f <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Still in shock from last night’s US election? It’s time to turn those negative emotions into optimistic energy.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Trump.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p><span class="image-caption">President-elect Donald Trump speaks on election night. Evan Vucci AP/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.</span></p><p>Populism Trumped—literally.</p> <p>Whether waking up, or staying up, many of us faced a future on Wednesday of which we had not dared conceive—Donald Trump walking into the White House as the 45th President of the United States. Emotions were high. Some felt anger, others sadness, depression, frustration, despair. Some stared blankly as the news rolled in, unable to conjure up words with which to respond to the events in front of them. </p> <p>People everywhere quickly entered what appeared to be a period of mourning. This piece is written to turn those negative emotions into an energised optimism. It is written for those who may have cried, who feel empty in their stomach, and are unsure of what the future holds. But it has a simple message: don't mourn, organise.</p> <p>Trump's victory is yet another plot twist in a chapter of global politics governed by a turn to the extremes, and away from the Establishment. Whether one looks to the Brexit vote in the UK, the election of Duterte in the Phillipines, the rise of right-wing political parties in France, Germany and Austria, one could easily conclude that the world is taking a turn to the right. Yet, concurrently, the world is also looking left. The UK Labour party recently re-elected the left-wing candidate Jeremy Corbyn as leader. The Democratic Primaries were dominated by the astounding support received by Bernie Sanders. In Spain and Greece, left wing parties have played key roles in political life since the 2008 recession. Politics is parting like the Red Sea, and it is the Establishment, not the Left that sits powerless in the drought.&nbsp;</p> <p>But it is not the Left that is in power. The US is to be led by Trump, Alternative for Germany are making gains against Merkel's Christian Democrats, and polls suggest Corbyn's Labour party is making little headway in gaining widespread support in the UK, while the anti-EU and anti-immigration UK Independence Party continues to retain support. But rather than sending us into a period of mourning, the news that Trump has entered the White House should offer a well-needed wake up call. Lessons need to be learned about why, despite what appears to be popular support for left-wing candidates, when it comes to a vote, those candidates are left for dust, while populist right-wing candidates can sweep up a whirlwind of support.</p> <p>Who is it in this Red Sea moment in politics that is turning left, and who is turning right? Here, the results of the Brexit vote are helpful in our understanding. While younger generations, like millennials, were enthusiastic about remaining in the EU, older generations voted to leave. The young remain pro-immigration, while the elderly want greater control. Yet, while older generations voted in large numbers, voter turnout amongst younger generations remains low. Furthermore, the vote displayed economic divisions. </p> <p>Anti-immigration sentiment was highest amongst the former industrial powerhouse communities of Northern England, home to largely poor communities suffering from high unemployment. The middle class millennials, mostly living in urban areas, voted to stay in the EU. During the Democratic and Republican primaries such demographic differences were mirrored. While the largely middle-class millennial generation supported Sanders, Trump found his greatest support amongst the poorer and more rural communities of the US. It was the young who voted for Sanders, and later, for the most part, shifted their vote to Clinton. Trump relied on older voters.</p> <p>As a millennial myself, the question seems particularly pertinent: how do we, our generation, get our voices heard in this seemingly uncertain political time? How do we regain a sense of balance across communities and across demographics when it comes to who should be in power?</p> <p>Here are three things that we can do straight away.</p> <p>Trump's victory was built on two factors: money and fear. On both those factors, millennials can beat him. Trump will be the least politically experienced US President of all time. His sole experience is in business and money-making. Whether Trump's money-making abilities are as strong as he says they are is debatable, but one thing is clear: it was wealth that brought Trump to the debates and to the ballot paper. Yet, it was also wealth that brought Sanders to the debate too. However, it was wealth of a different kind.</p> <p>Rather than being funded largely from personal funds like Trump, or large corporate donations like Clinton, Sanders' candidacy was funded predominantly through thousands of small donations from individuals like you and me. Sanders was truly a crowd-sourced candidate. And this is the first thing that we can be doing as millennials. </p> <p>The 2008 financial crisis taught the world a key lesson: leaving financial wealth in the hands of the few leads only to the abuse of power. Collectively putting wealth into the hands of the many can change how politics operates and for whose advantage it seeks to work. We can start by putting our money where our mouth is, and start funding political organisations that seek a better future. Whether that is supporting a political party, or supporting small organisations helping keep refugees safe in the Mediterranean,<strong>&nbsp;</strong><strong>task number one is to kick start a more just world.</strong></p> <p>Secondly, Trump's candidacy was based on fear. Whether fear based on ethnicity, religion, gender or sexuality, Trump presented a black and white world in which scapegoats were easy to notice and stigmatise. It was a narrative that told people that their world was not how it needed to be, that their poverty was not the work of nature, but of greed. But it was a narrative that shielded the real villains and instead pointed to other victims: the refugees, the Muslims, the people of Mexico.</p> <p>Yet, while fear holds great political capital, it has nothing on hope. However, hope alone cannot retain the political capital as a grand vision of a better future. While fear can be universalised, hope needs to be personalised. While fear is a narrative that feeds off tearing people apart, hope is nourished when we bring people together. The greatest and easiest way to respond to Trump's victory is simply to be together, to build community. </p> <p>Whether it is smiling to someone on the bus, or saying hello to a neighbour, greeting the homeless on the street, or joining a community garden, this coming together builds hope. By recognising the commonality in us all, and particularly with those in whom we might predominantly recognise difference, the fear on which Trump's candidacy was built will wither and fade.&nbsp;<strong>So</strong> <strong>t</strong><strong>ask number two is to build community.</strong></p> <p>However, such community-building and hope-nurturing will falter unless a third task is acknowledged: the need to bridge those divides that the Red Sea of politics has created. While Sanders in the US could bring thousands of supporters to overcrowded stadium rallies, and Corbyn in the UK can fill city squares with activists shouting his name, this mass support has not translated into votes on election day. There is a clear and distinct gap between the web of support that encircles left-wing candidates and the wider electorate. </p> <p>Indeed these two groups stare uncertainly at each other from each side of the political chasm that’s in front of us. This gap requires critical attention, and it is us millennials who need to be at the forefront of bridging this divide. Because the simple fact of the matter is: we fear the unknown, and we put hope in the known. As the millennial generation, we need to build hope in those communities isolated from years of economic and social deprivation. If not, then they will continue to vote against our—and indeed, their—best interests.&nbsp;<strong>So task number three is bridging these divides.</strong></p> <p>As the days and weeks ahead unfold, and the reality of what a Trump Presidency might look like begins to become clear, we must resist the desire to blame, to shame and to shout at those who voted for him. Instead, if we take a step back, there are plenty of signs for optimism. But it will take every single one of us to stand up and be counted. So millennials I ask you: don't mourn, organize!</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="/michael-edwards-francesc-badia-i-dalmases-thomas-rowley-natalia-antonova/trump-wins">Trump wins, what now?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/yanis-varoufakis/trumps-triumph-how-progressives-must-react">Trump&#039;s triumph: how progressives must react</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/brian-eno/whats-happening-here-on-earth">What&#039;s happening here, on Earth</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 Kieran Ford Wed, 09 Nov 2016 13:22:43 +0000 Kieran Ford 106620 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Kieran Ford, https://www.opendemocracy.net/content/kieran-ford <div class="field field-au-term"> <div class="field-label">Author:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Kieran Ford </div> </div> </div> <p>Kieran Ford is currently a PhD student and researcher at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Otago, New Zealand. Having grown up in the UK, Kieran has a background in education and activism. His research interests include education, extremism, community, peace and social change.</p><div class="field field-au-shortbio"> <div class="field-label">One-Line Biography:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Kieran Ford is currently a PhD student and researcher at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Otago, New Zealand. Having grown up in the UK, Kieran has a background in education and activism. His research interests include education, extremism, community, peace and social change. </div> </div> </div> Kieran Ford Thu, 19 Nov 2015 00:36:06 +0000 Kieran Ford 97773 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Which lives do we mourn? And other questions we no longer decide for ourselves https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/kieran-ford/which-lives-do-we-mourn-and-other-questions-we-no-longer-decide-for-o <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>What control does Facebook have over our experience of tragedy?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/9067074.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/9067074.jpg" alt="Berlin mourns after Paris attacks." title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Berlin mourns after Paris attacks. Demotix/Christina Palitzsch. All rights reserved. </span></span></span>As news began to roll in of the horror unfolding on the streets of Paris on Friday night, it was Facebook where I went to get timely updates, to react with friends and indeed, to make sure that someone I knew who was visiting Paris at the time, was safe. </p> <p>Facebook once again, and the online community in general became the eyes through which I could witness the events unfolding.Yet through watching my online community come together in grief, we learned uncomfortable things about Facebook's role in our mourning. What control does Facebook have over our experience of tragedy?</p> <p>As often is the case in our modern world, it was online where friends could share with one another, to express our anger, sorrow, solidarity and fear as one community. With messages of prayer, thought, wishes and solidarity, we could express something to the online community that without technology in a previous generation may have remained much more restrained in a church, home or other private setting.</p> <p>Facebook, and social media in general, have brought private lives into public view. Whether through sharing photos of birthday parties or post-work drinks, or through expressing a political opinion, a comment on a news article, whereas in a pre-technological era we would have expressed such things privately, now we do so publicly. </p> <p>We no longer print out camera film to share over cups of tea on the sofa, we no longer cut out news articles we might have thought a friend would have found interesting. Instead, as we post, comment, muse and share, two things happen. Firstly, we end up doing all these things in front of many more people, who never would have sat down on the sofa next to us, who never would have received the news cutting or rescued the paper that might be of interest. Secondly, if we don't post these things, and publicly acknowledge the tragedy around us, it raises some doubt as to whether we have acknowledged them at all.</p> <p>In the aftermath of the Paris attacks such a new way of expressing grief and anger emerged. First, a public comment became essential. To not comment, to remain silent was no longer an option. There remains no room for private opinion it seems in today's world. We could not simply pray, or send our thoughts, or wish in solidarity that those in Paris could feel our pain, sorrow and anger. </p> <p>If we didn't post, it didn't happen.</p> <p>This became even more acutely obvious when Facebook offered us the chance to place a tricolour lens upon our photo. I watched as picture after picture changed colour, as more and more people expressed something that was at one level so wonderful – what could be better than an expression of humanity's connection in times of tragedy? - and yet on another level, I felt a great sense of discomfort. I felt this because in some sense I felt powerless, that there was a level of disconnect between me and my voice – if I did not change my picture, then what message did that send? </p> <p>Having made my life public through having Facebook at all, to not change my picture was to send as much of a message as to change it. I was left with no choice – without speaking. My opinion was there, as crystal clear as it would have been if I'd just simply said what everyone else was saying. I had lost control of my voice.</p> <p>Facebook was telling us how to feel. This is not to say that many of us did not want to express our feelings in as many ways as possible, and that Facebook offered many outlets that seemed to allow us to do such things. We wanted to tell everyone how sad we were, to express what we could of this seemingly unimaginable violence – so we told them. We wanted to show we were in solidarity with Paris, so we changed our pictures. Yet, as the dust settled, and shock turned to talk, to discussion and debate, Facebook's perceived acts of humanity turned slightly sour.</p> <p>In the days before the Paris attacks in Beirut, 40 people were killed in attacks by ISIS. Since the Paris attacks, Boko Haram, in Nigeria, it has been estimated, has killed nearly 2000 people. In the war in Syria seemingly countless numbers of unarmed civilians, men, women and children have been killed. Some started to ask – where was Facebook's Syrian flag, Lebanese flag, Nigerian flag? Why did Facebook decide that the deaths in Paris were worth our mourning, and indeed – why did Facebook allow users to tell their networks that they were ‘safe’ after the Paris attacks, but such features were not accessible in other parts of the world?</p> <p>It may seem like a side issue when facing the horror of death and tragedy on the streets of Paris. Yet, through witnessing atrocity through social media, we learn many things. Not only the horrors of the violence in the world, but also how public our voices have become, and how certain lives appear to matter more than others. Perhaps what is most worrying of all, is that in this world where social media is King, it is not necessarily us who get to decide whose lives we want to measure as equal to one another.</p><p><span>If you enjoyed this article then please consider liking </span><strong>Can Europe Make it?</strong><span> on </span><a href="https://www.facebook.com/caneuropemakeit">Facebook</a><span> and following us on Twitter </span><a href="https://twitter.com/oD_Europe">@oD_Europe</a></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> France </div> <div class="field-item even"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Can Europe make it? Can Europe make it? EU France Civil society Conflict Culture Ideas International politics Kieran Ford Thu, 19 Nov 2015 00:28:17 +0000 Kieran Ford 97772 at https://www.opendemocracy.net