openDemocracy en Present perfect <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>With neither past nor future in common, what do relationships that exist entirely in the present have to offer? (video: 5 minutes)<em></em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Providence Mount St. Vincent in Seattle, Washington, is home to more than 400 elderly residents <em>and</em> a pre-school. Documenting the interactions of the very young and the very old, this film asks what these two groups can offer one another, while re-affirming the power of human connection.Here's the trailer:</p><p><iframe src="" width="460" height="360" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe> </p><p>Video from <a href="">KarmaTube</a></p> <p><a href="">Learn more</a> about this forthcoming film <a href="">directed and produced by Evan Briggs</a>, and follow Present Perfect on <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a> for regular updates.</p><p>Learn about <a href="">HelpAge International</a>, a global movement for the rights and wellbeing of older people. &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/laurie-petrie/who-cares-preparing-for-age-wave-of-future">Who cares? Preparing for the age wave of the future.</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/david-clark/works-of-love-cicely-saunders-and-hospice-movement">Works of love: Cicely Saunders and the hospice movement</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/samantha-wood-mccourt/can-end-of-life-be-opportunity-for-social-change">Can the end of life be an opportunity for social change?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> Transformation Transformation the politics of care pre-schools aging Evan Briggs Empathy Care Love and Spirituality Tue, 06 Oct 2015 23:30:00 +0000 Evan Briggs 96540 at 3 reasons why the Tories obsession with 'hardwork' is blind idiocy <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Why on earth would an increasingly automated future require us to work ever harder?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p dir="ltr"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="" title="" width="460" height="190" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'></span></span></span></p><p dir="ltr">Yesterday, health secretary Jeremy Hunt, <a href="">reaffirmed</a> that the Conservative Party is intent on keeping poor people working hard while their offspring (probably) copulate with dead pigs in Oxford.</p><p dir="ltr">They cannot get enough of it – not pig-sex, work. '<a href="">Hardwork</a>' is the air that Tories breath – or more accurately it is the bad breath they insist on breathing in everyone else's faces – they themselves being, by-and-large, a gibbering herd of the born-rich and the lucky.</p><p dir="ltr">Asked at the annual Conservative party conference whether cuts to in-work benefits – which will mean up to £1,300 a year less for 3 million families on low pay as of next April – were happening too quickly, the <a href="">health secretary</a> that will most likely go down in history as the man who finished off the privatisation of the NHS (after his predecessor Andrew Lansley got <a href="">slewed</a> by a second-rate rapper) responded thus:</p><p dir="ltr">“No. We have to proceed with these tax credit changes because they are a very important cultural signal. My wife is Chinese. We want this to be one of the most successful countries in the world in 20, 30, 40 years’ time. There’s a pretty difficult question that we have to answer, which is essentially: are we going to be a country which is prepared to work hard in the way that Asian economies are prepared to work hard, in the way that Americans are prepared to work hard? And that is about creating a culture where work is at the heart of our success.”</p><p dir="ltr">Such exceptionally concise bullshit deserves a closer look.</p><p dir="ltr">Firstly, this is perhaps the clearest statement to date of the ideological motivation behind Tory austerity. Have you ever heard somebody say that the cuts are '<a href="">ideological</a>', rather than an economic necessity? Well, this is precisely what they mean. As Hunt lays out so magnificently, cutting in-work benefits is a 'cultural signal' intended to somehow magic up some national spirit of graft. Not to worry that the crux of the issue is that low pay is set by unscrupulous employers and bears no relation to how hard people work whatsoever.</p><p dir="ltr">Your wife is Chinese? Nice touch. Very personal. This is pretty much the first interview technique that your below par career politician will be taught in politician school: always link your answer back to something 'personal'. The idea is that this helps people 'relate' to you, rather than suspecting you for what you really are: <a href="">a feckless aristocrat</a>. The problem is, if you read through Hunt's answer again – slowly – you will notice that he has quite simply hang dropped the nationality of his wife into the middle of the response, with no substantive reason, leaving her floating pitifully in the midst of his incoherent babble about work.</p><p dir="ltr">To add insult to injury, Hunt also suggested that people on low enough wages to need top up tax credits lacked ‘self-respect’ and ‘dignity’.</p><p dir="ltr">But enough about Hunt and his surreal choice of words. What about the actual content of what he is saying? 'Hardwork' is idea that just won't go away – here are four reasons why we need to call time on it:</p><p dir="ltr">1. However hard we work, automation is going to eat our jobs. As <a href="">Martin Ford</a>, Silicon Valley speaker, puts it, the idea that <a href="">robots</a> are going to render us all unemployed in the near future is like the story of the boy who cried wolf: there are a few red herrings along the way, but ultimately, the wolf shows up in the end. It didn't come to pass with the first industrial revolution. But this time, there is mounting evidence that rapid advances in robotics and 'artificial intelligence' are going replace not only monotonous factory jobs, but also so-called 'high skilled' work: journalism, law, radiology, and pretty much any other job you can imagine. News articles are already being generated by computers (this one?). If we want to be 'one of the most successful countries in the world in 20, 30, 40 years time', as Hunt put it, then we need to invest in this technology and learn how to manage its political consequences, not 'work hard in the way that Asian economies are prepared to work hard'.</p><p>Why work hard when robots could do it all for us? The hardest work to be done right now is the political task of ensuring that advances in technology mean that we all have more time to do what we want, rather than enriching a few people who own robots while the rest of us languish in unemployed poverty. This means demanding two things: first, tax the robot owners to pay for a Universal Basic Income so we can all live without work, and second, owning the robots collectively so that the spoils can be shared out fairly.</p><p dir="ltr">2. Hard work does not equal better pay. Why listen to a millionaire aristocratic telling you to work harder to better yourself and your country while he avoids taxes? Especially when, as it turns out, productivity no longer bears any relation to compensation. One of Hunts shining beacons of 'hardwork', America, is the best example of this. Despite gains in productivity over the last 40 years, real wages has stagnated and even declined. That means that however much more has been produced per hour – be it through technological innovation, efficiencies, or 'hardwork' – the gains have gone to shareholders, not to wage increases.</p><p dir="ltr">Sure, 'hardwork' might get you a promotion. But some other poor soul is just going to fill your shoes. Meaning that however hard we work, poor people gonna stay poor and rich people gonna get richer. Put in simple terms, it is in Jeremy Hunt's class interest that people work harder, not in the interests of the country.</p><p dir="ltr">3. Sweden is moving to a <a href="">6 hour working day</a>. As usual, Scandinavia is ahead of the curve. Rather than beating their population with a blunt instrument and screaming 'hardwork!', it was announced last week that Swedes are moving to a 6 hour working day. This is because they understand, unlike Hunt, that life outside of work is generally better. And indeed, even the Daily Mail – screaming banshees of 'hardwork' that they are – <a href="">reported</a> that Swedish employees are happier and more productive when working shorter hours.</p><p>Research by the <a href="">New Economics Foundation</a> has shown that a shorter working week – say 30 or even <a href="">21 hours</a> – could provide a whole host of benefits to society. Health improves due to reduced levels of stress, childcare could be shared more equally between women and men, and (as in Sweden) productivity would go up because workers would all be less numbed by unspeakable hours spent procrastinating at a desk.</p><p>So next time you hear a Tory say 'hardwork!', tell them to relax. Tell them that work – wage labour – is so last century. Tell them to read '<a href="">The Rise of the Robots</a>' by Martin Ford. Tell them that you would prefer an income and a share in the robots than low paid toil. Tell them you would rather spend your time pursuing the things you love than work for pittance. Because you're worth 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="/ourkingdom/john-maynard-keynes/response-to-jeremy-hunt-economic-possibilities-for-our-grandchildren">A response to Jeremy Hunt: economic possibilities for our grandchildren</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> OurKingdom OurKingdom Gabriel Bristow Tue, 06 Oct 2015 16:44:52 +0000 Gabriel Bristow 96618 at England’s Health Secretary wants to make us all work as hard as the Chinese – and our doctors and nurses already know it <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Tories have been talking about the ‘global race’ for a few years now – but Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s unguarded comments have revealed that it’s a global race to the bottom.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="" title="" width="460" height="225" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Protect Our NHS</em></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>This week, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt <a href="">told a Conservative Conference fringe</a>&nbsp;meeting how inspired he was by the Chinese working culture. The </span><a href="">richest multi-millionaire in the cabinet</a><span> said that Tory plans to cut tax credits to millions of the lowest paid workers were essential to preserve their “independence, self-respect and dignity”. He added that the cuts “sent an important cultural signal”:</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>“My wife is Chinese. We want this to be one of the most successful countries in the world in 20, 30, 40 years’ time. There’s a pretty difficult question that we have to answer, which is essentially: are we going to be a country which is prepared to work hard in the way that Asian economies are prepared to work hard, in the way that Americans are prepared to work hard? And that is about creating a culture where work is at the heart of our success.”</span><span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>David Cameron has now waded in to the ensuing outcry, helpfully <a href="">clarifying</a> that in no way did Jeremy Hunt mean to suggest that the Tories’ ‘<a href="">global race’</a> was in fact a ‘global race to the bottom’, where the UK competes with China to offer quick returns to investors on the back of a Chinese-style system of long hours, low pay, and oppressive labour relations. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Any resemblance to a global race to the bottom in how Hunt is currently treating his <em>own</em> staff, the 1.6million NHS workers who make up the largest global workforce outside of the Chinese Red Army, is of course purely accidental.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Hunt is currently telling junior doctors – the backbone of our NHS - that they <a href="">aren’t working hard enough</a>, that 9pm on a Saturday night is no longer considered an ‘unsocial’ hour to work, and that £20,000 a year is a generous sum to pay people making life and death decisions after years of hard training. (Oh, and that if they take time off to have a baby they’ll basically have to start their careers over.) </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Nurses continue to work <a href="">masses of unpaid overtime</a> trying to provide decent care. The reward for this level of commitment to patients? Years of pay cuts under the last government, and no serious attempt to tackle under-staffing that affects <a href="">nearly half of wards</a>. The Coalition government promised independent recommendations into safe numbers of nurses, as part of its response to the Mid-Staffs scandal. But straight after the May General Election, Hunt’s man Simon Stevens <a href="">closed that work down</a>. 82% of nurses now turn up for work when they are sick, a <a href="">poll revealed this week</a>. But Hunt’s NHS ‘Efficiency Tsar’ suggests there’s billions more to be saved by <a href="">squeezing down further on nurses sick pay and holidays</a>. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>It’s not just long hours, low pay and declining standards of training and regulation, though.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Thankfully, the modern day NHS may not quite have reached the level of the Chinese firm that last week <a href="">forced executives who’d missed targets to crawl on their hands and knees through the streets</a>.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>But Hunt’s not above a bit of punishment. Having finished (for now) smearing nurses for their ‘<a href="">normalisation of cruelty</a>’, Hunt has just told us that <a href="">the years of underfunding of GPs is their ‘penance’</a> for the 2004 contract the Labour government signed with them.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Hunt’s culture of punishment extends across the whole NHS. His government <a href=";s-really-causing-ae-crisis-and-how-can-we-fix-it">fines hospitals if increased numbers of patients turn up in A&amp;E</a> – even though the causes are out of their control. Hospital managers <a href="">resign after a couple of years</a> on average, fed up carrying the can for <a href="">historic PFI debts</a>, mounting <a href="">agency fees</a>, <a href="">bed shortages</a>, and other bad decisions imposed on them by government policy.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>When clinical failings arise as a result of <a href="">cuts to frontline cash</a>, those who blow the whistle are often bullied out of the NHS. Hunt <a href="">promised to protect whistleblowers</a>, another of his post-Mid-Staffs promises – and another promise <a href="">effectively ditched after the May election</a>. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Whilst the bullying culture continues downstream, upstream in Hunt’s own Department, a culture of secrecy worthy of the Chinese Communist Party prevails. The Department of Health now routinely <a href="">refuses to answer parliamentary questions</a> and Freedom of Information requests about where the NHS’s money is going, and to whom, on the basis that they ‘don’t keep that information’. Conveniently perhaps, no-one’s keeping central tabs any more, since the fragmentation of the NHS into a plethora of competing ‘Trusts’, ‘Commissioners’ and regulatory quangos. Even overdue information on the financial crisis engulfing hospitals was unexpectedly&nbsp;<a href="">tucked away from view this week</a>, until after the Tory Party conference. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>And policy-making is now similarly hidden away, largely outsourced to unaccountable think tanks like the <a href="">Kings Fund</a> or - worse - <a href="">Reform</a>.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>It’s a bit rich to hear the famously ‘hands-off’ Tory Health Secretary (who since 2012 <a href="">no longer has responsibility for securing comprehensive health services for us</a>, and blames ‘local decisions’ <a href="">when things go wrong</a>) lecturing all of <em>us</em> on the value of hard work. It’s particularly galling for those health staff who work so hard to keep us well – and who’ve spent years in long and hard training to do so. Hunt’s own qualifications for one of the most important jobs in politics are uncertain, but they do include a former Health Secretary (Virginia Bottomley) as his cousin. Chinese-style nepotism, anyone?</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>In 2011 a <a href="">top Chinese official said</a> that the EU’s troubles were “</span><span>purely because of the accumulated troubles of the worn out welfare society… The labour laws induce sloth and indolence rather than hard work.</span>” T<span>he Tories saw their opportunity. The fact that <em>Britain’s</em> labour laws are already more oppressive than anywhere else in the EU hasn’t stopped this government from launching <a href="">a wholly unnecessary clamp-down on trade unions</a> that, in the words of the Trade Union Congress, will make legal strikes ‘virtually impossible’ and prevent health workers and others from taking action to protect standards and patients from privatisation and cost-cutting. Free unions are an essential check and balance on excess employer power – as the Chinese know. In theory all Chinese workers have had the right (since 1995) to </span><span>rest periods, no excessive overtime and the right to carry out group negotiations</span> – but the reality is that that <a href="">organising in non-state sanctioned unions is against the law</a>, the right to strike is restricted, and <a href="">labour rights abuses</a> continue, even as strikes rise and some improvements are gained.<span></span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Doctors and other health workers already work long shifts to provide critical and urgent care round the clock – should we really expect them to work ‘24/7’ to provide non-urgent care too, just so that private sector employers don’t have to allow staff reasonable time off work to see a doctor? And if we <em>do</em> need to improve some aspects of weekend healthcare, let’s have a sensible discussion – not <a href="">political soundbites</a> based on figures and assumptions that the British Medical Journal says are <a href="">‘rash and misleading’</a>.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>No wonder <a href="">morale is plummeting</a>, <a href="">stress</a> is soaring,&nbsp;<a href="">two thirds of nurses are thinking about quitting</a>, and <a href="">doctors are leaving in droves</a>.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Junior doctors will be gathering <a href="">in Westminster on 17th October to protest</a> the imposition of their new contract and the long working hours culture - and want as many of the public as possible to join them. As argued <a href="">elsewhere</a> on this site today, this junior doctor contract needs to be seen as part of the wider attack on workers – and human - rights.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Hunt’s comments this week reveal the real agenda of the Tories’ ‘global race’ – a headlong drive to deregulate standards of employment and health protection to better enable investors to squeeze out more profits from the rest of us. This is the context of controversial <a href=";t-only-&#039;trade&#039;-takeover-busting-our-sovereignty">global trade deals like TTIP, too</a>. The time has come for the 1.6million NHS workers and the rest of the UK’s citizens to stand in solidarity together, and call ‘halt’.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span><em><strong>Like this piece? Please donate to OurNHS&nbsp;</strong></em><a href="" target="_blank"><strong>here&nbsp;</strong></a><em><strong>to help keep us producing the NHS stories that matter.&nbsp;Thank you.</strong></em></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="/ournhs/neil-singh/we-junior-doctors-must-strike%E2%80%94but-for-right-reasons">We junior doctors must strike—but for the right reasons</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/caroline-molloy/trade-union-bill-is-attack-on-nhs-our-services-and-all-that-it-means-to-be-br">The Trade Union Bill is an attack on the NHS, our services, and all that it means to be British</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/minh-alexander-david-drew/why-jeremy-hunt%27s-promise-to-protect-whistleblowers-is-nothing-but-">Why Jeremy Hunt&#039;s promise to protect whistleblowers is nothing but hot air</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/shibley-rahman/247-transparent-nhs-%E2%80%93-or-rise-of-planet-of-apps">A 24/7, transparent NHS – or the rise of the planet of the apps?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/steve-smith/jeremy-we-have-problem">Why is Jeremy Hunt trying to discredit doctors?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/david-zigmond/doctors-have-always-been-overworked-so-what-really-lies-behind-recruitment-cris">Doctors have always been over-worked, but that&#039;s not what&#039;s causing the recruitment crisis</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> ourNHS OurKingdom ourNHS Caroline Molloy Tue, 06 Oct 2015 15:51:35 +0000 Caroline Molloy 96617 at China dialogue: perils of parallel <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>There is more talk than ever about China and the world - but also less listening. A serious upgrade of language and ideas is needed.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Liu Yunshan, the current ideological and propaganda <a href="">chief </a>of the Communist Party of China, gave a speech at the party school in Beijing in 2008 in which he complained about the international press that China was receiving as it built up to hosting the Olympic games. Far from being a global celebration of the good and fine things that had been achieved in his country since 1978 when reforms started, the outside world had chosen to carp: over the role of Chinese investment in Africa, the situation in <a href="">Tibet</a>, even the fractious journey of the "flame" as it made its way across the world. </p><p><a href="">Liu</a> drew a stark conclusion. For years, leaders and officials in the outside world had complained that their Chinese <a href="">counterparts</a> were unwilling to spell out a vision for the country and its global role. They had urged further reforms and changes upon China. They had wanted to see a country more like their own, with capitalism, openness and variety. Well, Liu said, isn’t this what they have now? Today's China has sent over a million of its young to <a href="">study</a> abroad, accepted vast amounts of foreign investment, and opened up almost the whole of its country to visitors and business. In fact, the country is so plugged into the outside world that it was now hosting an event like the <a href="">Olympics</a>. What, therefore, was the problem now: why the chorus of criticisms and moans?</p><p>Liu then delivered the punchline of his diagnosis. The problem was not in China. Nor was it about China’s message. The simple fact was that a sizeable part of the outside world, particularly in the United States, would reject China no matter what it did. There was no point carrying on pretending these people’s minds could be changed. The key thing was to remorselessly <a href="">promote</a> China’s self-image, whether the world beyond its borders cared to listen or not. The message needed no change. The problem was the minds of the people outside. </p><p>A near-decade later, the results have become clearer by the day. The official message from China has been categorical - from its current president, <a href="">Xi Jinping</a>, downwards. Either the world accepts China on its own terms, or it can live in darkness. On a host of matters - Hong Kong, Taiwan, multiparty democracy, China’s legal system, media freedom - <a href="">official</a> China gives short shrift to even the lightest indications by outsiders that these are issues of concern which might benefit from a broader, more imaginative debate. </p><p><strong>A control error</strong></p><p>Now, it can't be denied that Chinese officials in the past had a point when they felt boxed in and misunderstood. Those abroad should have put more effort into understanding conditions within China, and where its sense of grievances arose from. </p><p>Yet the response has exacerbated a situation where China and much of the outside world seem to spend all the time talking past, but never listening to, each other. Instead there are two massive, but parallel conversations going on - China about itself, and much of the rest of the world about China. China doesn’t feel <a href="">understood</a>, and the many in the world beyond don’t feel like they are being listened to. The net result is that everyone feels frustrated. </p><p>Things are not quite as straightforward as this, of course. China's government may like to give the impression that it doesn't care what the outside world says or thinks about the country - but it is still remarkably quick in becoming inflamed and irritated at any perceived slight. So on some level, Chinese official <a href="">outlets</a> are in fact still listening - just not liking much what they hear. </p><p>The <a href="">visit</a> by Xi Jinping to the US on 22-28 September 2015 is an illustration. Clearly, China’s government wanted Xi to be <a href="">portrayed</a> as a global leader: it placed adverts on television aimed at both Chinese and non-Chinese audiences which extolled Xi’s virtues, and orchestrated the trip carefully to make his <a href="">authority</a> and power visible at almost every turn. </p><p>Yet the harsh fact is that such dense <a href="">control</a> by Chinese officials is precisely the sort of image-and-information management that impede - not promote - greater mutual understanding. It is not that Americans on the whole occupy an antagonistic position towards China by default. It is more that (generalising here to make the point) audiences in the US, Europe and elsewhere are deeply wary of presentation that looks to be tightly managed, particularly by the state. For these audiences, a lot of the "messaging" backed by China's government tends to be dead on arrival, even more because it <a href="">proves</a> so poor at covering its heavy-handed traces.</p><p><strong>A step change</strong></p><p>The Chinese government and the outside world desperately need a better-quality dialogue. This is not an issue of volume. Never have there been more people-to-people interactions, or government meetings, at almost every conceivable level. Inside and outside China, endless varieties of conversation, <a href="">conference</a> and symposium are convened, including events hosted by such bodies as the <a href="">Boao Forum</a> and the <a href="">China Forum</a>, with Chinese participants and partners, on the subject of China and its relations with the rest of the world.</p><p>But despite all this talking, there is still no shared conceptual <a href="">language</a> of a good-quality, dispassionate kind in which issues of political and ethical values, rights and justice - the more complex, challenging things - can be discussed between China and the outside world without breaking down into defensiveness, frustration or, in the worst case, communication meltdown and anger, often on both sides. </p><p>China - as a country, a society, a phenomenon - does deserve better service than it currently gets in intellectual debate and exchange, both from its own government and the outside world. Everyone has to take responsibility for changing this parlous situation. The worst thing would be to prolong the current reality of two enormous parallel conversations with precious little attempt to link them. <br /><br /></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><a href="">China Studies Centre, </a>University of Sydney</p><p><span class="st">Kerry Brown, <a href=""><em>The New Emperors: Power and the Princelings in China</em></a> (IB Tauris, 2014)</span></p><p><span class="st">Kerry Brown (</span><span class="st">editor-in-chief) <a href=""><em><span><span>Berkshire Dictionary of Chinese Biography</span></span></em></a> (Berkshire, 2014-15)</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="/kerry-brown/leviathan-comes-to-beijing">Leviathan comes to Beijing</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/kerry-brown/china-and-world-beyond-exceptionalism">China and the world: beyond exceptionalism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/kerry-brown/reading-xi-jinping-in-beijing">Reading Xi Jinping in Beijing</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/kerry-brown/china-ideahungry-nation">China, the idea-hungry nation </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/kerry-brown/weighing-history-in-china">Weighing history in China</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/kerry-brown/china-time-to-accept-differences">China, time to accept differences</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/kerry-brown/china-between-self-and-society">China, between self and society</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/kerry-brown/chinas-elite-language-deficit">China&#039;s elite: a language deficit</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> china & the world Kerry Brown Tue, 06 Oct 2015 14:05:25 +0000 Kerry Brown 96591 at The Sun trials: Tuesday 6th October "News International pays public officials" <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>openDemocracy is been bringing daily coverage of <a href="">the trial of Sun journalists</a> charged with aiding and abetting misconduct in public office by paying a police officer for information. Here's Tuesday's report.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="" title="" width="460" height="202" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Old Bailey,</span></span></span></p><p>A Sun reporter told a court he felt justified paying a police officer for information because Rupert Murdoch's top executive, Rebekah Brooks, made it clear "News International pays public officials."</p><p>Jamie Pyatt said he had watched a TV news report of Rebekah Brooks, then Sun editor, telling a Commons select committee in 2003: "We have paid police officers for information in the past."</p><p>Mr Pyatt who paid a Surrey PC £10,000 between 2000 and 2011 said that Mrs Brooks's comments reinforced his belief that he was acting properly.</p><p>"It made it clear to me that I was not doing anything wrong" Mr Pyatt, 52, told the Old Bailey.</p><p>He said he had never made a secret to the Sun that he was paying a Surrey police officer.</p><p>Mr Pyatt and Chris Pharo, the Sun's Assistant Editor (News), deny aiding and abetting misconduct in a public office.</p><p>Giving evidence for the fourth day at his trial, Mr Pyatt told Court 13 that he had always been "open with the office" that he was paying the PC, known as Officer 2044.</p><p>Of Mrs Brooks's comments to MPs about paying police, Mr Pyatt said: "It made it clear to me that I was not doing anything wrong."</p><p>Mr Pyatt's QC, Richard Kovalevsky, asked for Mrs Brooks' comments to MPs on 11 March 2003 to be read to the jury – which Judge Charles Wide QC agreed, saying that doing so would not breach Parliamentary privilege.</p><p>The court heard that Mrs Brooks, who had just become Sun editor, told the Culture, Media and Sport Committee: "We have paid police officers for information in the past."</p><p>Asked if she would do it in the future, Mrs Brooks replied: "It depends," before Andy Coulson, editor of the News of the World, explained NI only made payments in line with the law - to which the MP Chris Bryant said paying the police was always illegal.</p><p>Mr Pyatt said the message was clear: "News International pays public officials."</p><p>He told the court he had never tried to hide his payments to Officer 2044.</p><p>"It was not a secret," the reporter told Court 13.</p><p>"I was very open with the office."</p><p>He agreed he had paid Officer 2044 £250 cash for a police photo of the "Trophy Rapist" Tony Imiela and a further £250 for a police mugshot of the quadruple killer Daniel Gonzalez.</p><p>He also paid Officer 2044 for three witness statements made by female police officers to a rape investigation into two police constables.</p><p>"I think he had every right to pass that information to me," Mr Pyatt, a Sun reporter for 28 years, told the court.</p><p>He said it was not clear at the time he bought the statements that charges would be brought against the two police officers and Officer 2044 had been worried their behaviour would be "swept under the carpet."&nbsp;</p><p>He said there was nothing wrong with being told the name of the rape complainant - or calling at her home after the case reached court.</p><p>Asked where he and Officer 2044 discussed stories, Mr Pyatt responded: "Usually in a pub."</p><p>He admitted he had "lied" in his defence statement in 2013 when he denied paying a police officer, saying he was trying to protect his source.</p><p>But he also agreed that he could have said he had paid a policeman without disclosing Officer 2044's identity. Mr Pyatt said he regretted the lie, but could not change it now.</p><p>The case continues.</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="/ourkingdom/martin-hickman/sun-corruption-trial-setting-scene">The Sun corruption trial - setting the scene</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/martin-hickman/sun-trials">The Sun trials - Tuesday 23 and Thursday 24</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/martin-hickman/sun-trials-24th-september-2015">The Sun trials - Thursday 24th September 2015</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/martin-hickman/sun-trials-friday-25th-september-2015">The Sun trials - Friday 25th September 2015 </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/martin-hickman/sun-trials-tuesday-29th-september-2015">The Sun trials - Tuesday 29th September 2015 </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/martin-hickman/sun-trials-wednesday-30th-september-2015">The Sun trials - Wednesday 30th September 2015</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/martin-hickman/sun-trials-thursday-1st-october-2015">The Sun trials - Thursday 1st October 2015</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourkingdom/martin-hickman/sun-trials-friday-2nd-october-2015">The Sun trials - Friday 2nd October 2015</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourkingdom/martin-hickman/sun-trials-monday-5-october-sun-journalist-knew-his-informant-was-breaking">The Sun trials: Monday 5 October: Sun journalist knew his informant was breaking the rules</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> OurKingdom The Sun Trials OurKingdom Martin Hickman Tue, 06 Oct 2015 13:48:29 +0000 Martin Hickman 96615 at Channel 4: the joker in the pack <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The privatisation of Channel 4, providing there were the right safeguards, might just be a means of re-invigorating public service broadcasting.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Flickr / Loz Pycock</span></span></span></p><p>Channel 4 – the right-on, publicly-owned, Jon Snow-fronted broadcaster, improbably created by the first Thatcher government – seems to be in play. Last week, a civil servant was seen bearing documents referring to options for change. </p> <p>If the renewal of the BBC Charter is an open – and fiercely contested – process, the prospect of privatisation for Channel 4 has been kept well under wraps, with ministers trotting out those familiar phrases – such as “no change is presently planned” – that so often prove a foretaste of precisely the opposite.</p> <p>The chair of the BBC Trust, in responding to the July Green Paper on the BBC’s future, conceded that “the status quo is not an option”. Yet for Channel 4, “no change” must at the very least be one of the options: it is performing reasonably well in commercial and programming terms, it fulfils its public service obligations, as agreed with the media regulator Ofcom, and has steered clear of the kind of criticism so often experienced by our other publicly-owned broadcaster, apart from an occasional gasp of disbelief at the level of management salaries – at over £800,000 a year, chief executive David Abraham is the UK’s second highest paid public employee, earning nearly twice what his counterpart at the vastly larger BBC is paid.</p> <p>Supporters of the current structure are quick to point out that private ownership of Channel 4 would create pressure to deliver dividends, potentially at the expense of programme budgets: the case put forward by David Abraham when asked last month about the possibility of privatisation. Reducing investment in Channel 4’s output in order to reward shareholders would, he said, reduce Channel 4 to Channel 5 (in his lofty view, a retrograde step).</p> <p>That was essentially the defence advanced in 1996 by Sir Michael Bishop, then chairman of Channel 4, when John Major’s government was flirting with privatisation. As a Conservative donor (and later peer), Bishop felt he was well placed to disparage the role of private investors in media businesses.</p> <p>Yet the argument is easily exposed as hollow. If all that were contemplated were replacing the current non-executives with private shareholders, the least that one could expect would be a reduction in non-programme costs to fund the dividends needed to justify a purchase price. After all, Channel 4 has turnover of nearly £1 billion a year: even a 2% saving on that delivers £20 million a year of value. Without shareholder pressure to hold down costs, Channel 4’s staff have attained salary levels that are the envy of the industry. At one point, the top three managers earned twice as much across two years as the Channel Four Corporation made in profits: £4.8 million.</p> <p>And, of course, the great likelihood is that any sale of Channel 4 would be to an existing media organisation, allowing savings from joint operations of many tens of millions of pounds a year to be generated. 15 years ago, when I was running Channel 5, I proposed a merger of back office operations to Channel 4 which would have saved us jointly some £100 million a year, whilst leaving Channel 4 entirely at liberty to pursue its broadcasting agenda.</p> <p>Channel 4 ignored my offer, but then spent much of the following decade, trying to follow the same logic by a different path: diversification and acquisition. Sadly, nearly all those endeavours failed, under Bishop’s leadership and that of his successor as chairman, City lawyer Vanni Treves. Nearly £300 million was squandered, on pay-TV channels, film production and distribution companies, a horseracing channel, music channels, radio investments, websites and a range of joint ventures.</p> <p>The simple truth is that Channel 4 is too vulnerable as a stand-alone business, as the Channel’s own attempts to broaden its base demonstrate. With diversification efforts so regularly unsuccessful, Channel 4 belatedly tried to buy Channel 5 (but was outbid by Richard Desmond) and then tried to buy the Living TV portfolio of channels from Virgin Media (but was outbid by Sky). </p> <p>The fact is that a larger business has far greater scope for cost savings. If another TV organisation bought Channel 4, it should be able to pump more money into the channel budget, meet all the current public service obligations imposed by the regulator, and still make enough profit to justify paying the Treasury between £500 million and £1 billion to take control.</p> <p>So the false choice of budget versus dividends need not detain George Osborne and John Whittingdale as they ponder their options. However, one possibility that looks unlikely to be pursued is transferring ownership to a non-profit mutual structure – an idea that has been investigated by Channel 4’s current chairman, Lord Burns. The government’s decision to reject Ofcom’s proposal to extend his chairmanship for another year (it is due to expire within six months) strongly suggests that ministers were not prepared to have an “in-house” solution being pushed by Channel 4’s own board.</p> <p>Of course, enforcing licence terms on a private owner – especially after internal rationalisation has made it hard to unpick any deal – will be a challenge for Ofcom, which certainly finds publicly-owned (and non-profit seeking) Channel 4 easier to hold to its promises than, say, ITV. </p> <p>So Ofcom would need to ring-fence the programme budget (as was the case when Channel 4 launched, with ITV providing the finance in return for the right to sell the station’s advertising slots); and it would need the power to impose large fines for failure to meet defined targets (such as proportions of the programme budget spent outside London, outside England and on key public service genres). A backstop right to withdraw the broadcast licence and re-auction it would also concentrate the new owner’s mind.</p> <p>Even if all this were to be achieved, there would still be strong opposition to privatisation, from Labour and the LibDems, from powerful lobbying groups and from those who worry that Jon Snow’s colourful ties might disappear from the screen. Is the prize of half a billion or even a billion pounds worth the political cost, especially when the downside risk of a worse programme outcome remains?</p> <p>For some backbench Tories, privatisation of Channel 4 might represent an acceptable consolation prize if BBC Charter renewal results in far less change to that organisation than they had urged. But a way of avoiding much of the political opposition would be to borrow an idea from when William Hague was leading the Conservatives, in opposition, and proposed using the proceeds from any sale of Channel 4 to create a public service content fund.</p> <p>Such a fund was then advocated by – yes – Lord Burns when he was advising Tessa Jowell on BBC Charter renewal in 2005, and was endorsed by Whittingdale’s own Commons Committee on Culture, Media and Sport just before he was appointed Secretary of State.</p> <p>In July, Ofcom’s latest triennial report on the state of public service broadcasting noted yet further decline in the amount spent on original first-run programming by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five. That decline has been steady and steep for more than a decade. A privatisation of Channel 4 presented as a means of re-invigorating public service broadcasting with a really large, contestable programming fund could be the joker in the pack.</p><p dir="ltr"><em><strong><span>If you want to keep OurBeeb debating the BBC, </span><a href=""><span>please chip in</span></a><span> what you can afford.</span></strong></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="/ourbeeb/john-sheil/imagining-bbc-as-new">Imagining the BBC as new</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ourbeeb/am-poppy/good-bad-and-corbynmania-how-to-defend-bbc">The good, the bad, and Corbynmania: how to defend the BBC</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ourbeeb/david-elstein/bbc-fight-back-begins">The BBC fight back begins </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> OurBeeb OurBeeb OurKingdom David Elstein Tue, 06 Oct 2015 12:45:26 +0000 David Elstein 96570 at We junior doctors must strike—but for the right reasons <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: justify;">Our protest should be driven by solidarities, not salaries.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>Image: Junior doctors protest - Not fair, not safe.</em></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Finally, junior doctors have taken to the streets in protest. In </span><a href="">Manchester</a><span> and </span><a href="">London</a><span>, thousands of young doctors marched last week against the Conservative government's plans to change junior doctors' employment contracts. These changes </span><a href="">redefine</a><span> “unsocial hours” such that any work between 7am and 10pm, Monday to Saturday, will be paid at only standard rates.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal">This move would sweep away the “average work week” first set out by the 1850 Factory Act, and defended by decades of activism since. The result would be a <a href="">20-40% pay drop</a> for junior doctors like me.</p><p class="MsoNormal">Jeremy Hunt tries to justify the changes by saying that he wants a <a href="">“7-day NHS”</a>, as if anyone would argue with consistently high standards of care throughout the week. Of course, we too believe that the quality of our care should not dip during evenings and weekends, but this does not mean that our wages should remain flat then too. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Nine Royal Colleges have issued an unusually fervent response, jointly <a href="">denouncing</a> the proposed changes as “a real and immediate threat to…the recruitment and retention of front line staff and the provision of services across seven days”.</p><p class="MsoNormal"><strong>An attack on workers</strong></p><p class="MsoNormal">We should have seen it coming. Austerity (a euphemism for public sector cuts) corrodes society slowly, from the bottom up, starting with the least well-off. But eventually even <a href="">the middle class</a> feels the burn – including doctors. The Conservatives have taken two swipes at health workers, one per term in office: first came the effective <a href="">freezing of the salaries</a> of nurses, paramedics and other paramedical staff; and now this latest attack on the working conditions of junior doctors. </p><p class="MsoNormal">What we are witnessing is not merely an attack on doctors, but just the latest part of an attack on workers of all stripes, and accordingly it must be challenged by all of us—together.</p><p class="MsoNormal">A junior doctor strike has overwhelming <a href="">public support</a>, with 95% of those polled saying that they are approve. But do we deserve their backing? UK doctors have only gone on strike twice since the NHS was founded (once, in 1974, to protect their private incomes; and once in 2012, to protect their pension package). Where were the marching white-coats when other healthcare workers were striking in October last year? Where were the angry and co-ordinated open letters from our medical establishment in opposition to the damaging Health and Social Care Bill? With one or two notable exceptions, most of the Royal Colleges effectively muted their opposition and – through a lack of action – effectively rubber-stamped the 2012 Act.</p><p class="MsoNormal"><strong>The need for solidarity strikes</strong></p><p class="MsoNormal">A successful junior doctor strike would need to be a broader campaign—both in terms of the participants and the objectives of the strike. They’ll need support from the upper reaches of their own profession - backing from senior doctors who have permanent positions and thus carry more clout than junior doctors who are often viewed as relatively disposable commodities by hospital management. Will they strike in solidarity with their juniors, the buzzing brains and hurrying hands that power their teams?</p><p class="MsoNormal">Once senior backing has been guaranteed, junior doctors also need to persuade their fellow health workers to hold strikes in solidarity with the junior doctors' cause. But why should they? Last year, the BMA (the doctor's union) failed to do the same when nurses, paramedics and radiographers were striking. So why should paramedical staff support junior doctors—who will have far higher lifetime earnings than they will—in their struggle?</p><p class="MsoNormal"><strong>What should our demands be?</strong></p><p class="MsoNormal">This protest needs to be about more than protecting our salaries—it should be about defending the entire health service. I fully support a junior doctors' strike, but our organisers must make demands broader than those about doctor’s salaries alone. If we succeed only in forcing a promise maintaining our own contracts, then we will not have succeeded at all. We will only confirm the public's fears that we are a profession serving ourselves, whilst our fellow workers and patients suffer as a result of the violent transformations occurring in our NHS. </p><p class="MsoNormal">Our strike must make demands for broader systemic change in our health service—meaning better working conditions for all health workers, better care for our patients, and a rejection of privatisation—and couple itself to ongoing and future actions by other health workers.</p><p class="MsoNormal">In order to do so, it is not enough to strike only when our contracts are at risk. We doctors must use our substantial privilege and power to launch a sustained and multi-pronged attack on all the threats to the NHS. </p><p class="MsoNormal">So we must fight against <a href="">TTIP</a>, a trade deal that will entrench the creeping privatisation of the NHS. We must demand an end to the <a href="">Private Finance Initiatives</a> (PFIs) that are forcing our hospitals into debt. We must support the <a href="">NHS Reinstatement Bill</a>, and all efforts to reject the privatisation of the NHS. And we must oppose the <a href="">Trade Union Bill</a> (which is already at the committee stage in the House of Commons), which will restrict the ability of NHS unions to organize legal strikes, making it nearly impossible for future generations of health workers to even contemplate strike action in the first place.</p><p class="MsoNormal"><strong>Fixing our malunion of unions</strong></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Healthcare strikes have worked before, as I discussed </span><a href="">last year</a><span>. And our sheer numbers—1.6 million of us work for the NHS—should give us a great deal of bargaining power. But the fact that NHS workers are splintered into so many smaller unions—UNITE, UNISON, GMB, BMA, MPU, BOS, BDA, CDNA, FCS, SOR, SCP, RCM, RCN and UCATT—does none of us any favours, and demonstrates everything but unity among NHS staff. </span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>We must refuse to think in silos, and resist acting selfishly about issues that solely affect our own sub-professions and specialties. Rather, we must regularly talk to one another and act in solidarity when our working conditions are threatened. A threat to one worker is a threat to all workers. Only by genuinely uniting under the banner of “workers” will we succeed in protecting our rights. Without such unity, the proposed junior doctors' strike, and any subsequent health sector strike, will fail to meet its potential.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal">&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="/ournhs/david-zigmond/doctors-have-always-been-overworked-so-what-really-lies-behind-recruitment-cris">Doctors have always been over-worked, but that&#039;s not what&#039;s causing the recruitment crisis</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/benedict-cooper/doctors-new-political-scapegoat">Doctors - the new political scapegoat?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/ournhs/steve-smith/jeremy-we-have-problem">Why is Jeremy Hunt trying to discredit doctors?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/ournhs/paul-teed/locum-ae-doctor-speaks-out-about-silent-privatisation-of-nhs-workforce">A locum A&amp;E doctor speaks out about the silent privatisation of the NHS workforce</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/steve-smith/why-i-don%27t-want-jeremy-hunt%27s-head-on-plate">Do we want Jeremy Hunt&#039;s head on a plate?</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> ourNHS OurKingdom ourNHS Neil Singh Tue, 06 Oct 2015 11:02:09 +0000 Neil Singh 96610 at Cognitive dissonance in Egypt <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><img src="" alt="Mina Fayek" hspace="5" width="80" align="left" /></p><p>The Egyptian regime tries to show the world an image of respect for freedoms and rights while widely violating them.</p><p>&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">Brittany Somerset/Demotix. All rights reserved.</span></p><p>Cognitive dissonance is defined as a state of contradiction or inconsistency between ones beliefs and actions. Recently, this term has aptly described the state of Egypt's officials - if we assume that they believe what they say - and President Sisi's recent visit to the US is the clearest manifestation of it.</p> <p>President Sisi was in New York last week to address the United Nations General Assembly. The numbers of supporters welcoming him were remarkably low compared to the previous year. He addressed numerous issues during his <a href="">speech</a>, including extremism, regional conflicts, and Egypt's latest economic projects such as the expansion of the Suez Canal.</p> <p>A number of American media outlets also interviewed Sisi, such as <a href="">CNN</a>. This is when he expressed his views on Syria and his preference for keeping Assad in power, asserting the importance of countering terrorism and extremist ideas. He also emphasised that Egypt is not a repressive state. </p> <p>A closer look at what is taking place in Egypt indicates otherwise, however. While Sisi presents himself as a custodian of moderation, claiming his regime fights "extremism", his security forces have been reluctant to protect Copts from <a href="">attacks</a> by extremists in the neighborhood of Amreya in Alexandria. The latest incident took place the very same week he was addressing the UN in New York. The homes of the Coptic community were attacked with stones and the church was besieged. According to the church pastor, he called the police but they failed to come to the rescue.</p> <p><span class="mag-quote-right">&nbsp;Those who had a little faith have now lost it.</span></p><p>This is not the first time Sisi presents the world with a picture that is the complete opposite of reality. Last year during his visit to the 2014 UNGA, while he discussed "countering extremism", Egyptian security forces <a href="">broke into</a> the houses of Copts in the village of Deir Gabal al-Tayr in Minya, Upper Egypt. Hundreds of men were rounded up, and according to victims, women and children were beaten and called “infidels”. This is another clear example of the conflict between what the Egyptian regime wants people to believe and what it does.</p> <p>This year, when asked about freedom of expression by CNN, Sisi replied: “We have unprecedented freedom of expression in Egypt. No one in Egypt can bar anyone working in media or journalism or on TV from expressing their views". This came a few days after the <em>Aljazeera</em> journalists were pardoned after having been sentenced to three years in prison on flimsy, absurd <a href="">evidence</a>.</p> <p>The Egyptian media is now effectively a choir of supporters who spread lies without question as if they were ‘real’ <a href="">news</a>. TV anchors like Yosri Fouda and Dina Abdel Rahman have been barred from presenting their shows, and even political satire is no longer accepted—<a href="">Bassem Youssef</a> was pressured not to continue his work.</p> <p>Egyptian rights groups were quick to <a href="">respond</a> to Sisi's claims by stating that there are currently 60 journalists behind bars. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) counts at least 18 journalists imprisoned in Egypt. The Egyptian Press syndicate said the number of detained journalists has in fact jumped from 22 at the beginning of this year to 35 last August.</p> <p>Some journalists were also detained for months without trail or charges being brought forward. Photojournalist <a href="">Mahmoud Shawkan</a> was arrested while covering the forcible dispersal of the Muslim Brotherhood's Rabaa sit-in summer of 2013. His trial was only recently <a href="">set</a> for December 2015. Shawkan has been unjustly detained for over two years without charges.</p> <p>During this UNGA speech, Sisi announced a new youth initiative called "Hope and Action for a New Direction" that is aimed "to employ youth's capabilities in building the future that will soon be their own”.&nbsp;<span>I personally have not heard anything about this initiative nor do I know anyone who has, which is quite typical of government initiatives—just talk, no action, public involvement, or follow up.</span></p> <p>On the other hand, at the beginning of his rule, Sisi <a href="">met</a> a group of young techies and entrepreneurs, including some friends and work colleagues. They expressed ideas and projects that could benefit the country in fields such as education, e-commerce, etc. The meeting was widely touted by Egyptian media as the beginning of a new era between the regime and the country’s youth and the attendees were told that the government would support their ambitions. My friends were never contacted again and their projects were either put on hold or carried out of their own accord. One can safely assume that it was a publicity stunt.</p> <p>As time has passed one thing seems certain, the relation between this regime and the youth is one of aversion. The youth have been greatly marginalised, prosecuted and many are languishing in <a href="">jail</a> for just protesting. Those who had a little faith have now lost it.</p><p>While the Egyptian regime tries to show the world an image of respect for freedoms and rights, it widely violates them. And while it uses media outlets to secure support from the Egyptian public, it does the least to ensure their welfare.&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="/arab-awakening/wael-eskandar/egypt-pardon-evokes-frustration-rather-than-celebration">Egypt: pardon evokes frustration rather than celebration</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/andrew-smith/arms-sales-to-egypt-when-rhetoric-overtakes-reality">Arms sales to Egypt: when rhetoric overtakes reality</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arab-awakening/mina-fayek/coptic-church-mixing-politics-with-religion">The Coptic Church: mixing politics with religion</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/mina-fayek/three-years-on-and-copts%27-plight-continues">Three years on and the Copts&#039; plight continues</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arab-awakening/mina-fayek/rewriting-egypt%27s-unforgettable-history">Re-writing Egypt&#039;s unforgettable history</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/mina-fayek/egypt%E2%80%99s-police-department-of-thugs">Egypt’s police: a department of thugs</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"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> Arab Awakening Arab Awakening Egypt Conflict Democracy and government middle east You tell us Egypt in the balance Mina Fayek Tue, 06 Oct 2015 10:53:27 +0000 Mina Fayek 96565 at Inside the Dream Defenders' social media blackout <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The Dream Defenders are a loud voice in the movement for black lives, boasting nearly 53,000 Twitter followers and national media coverage. So why have they quit the internet?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption">This interview was originally published at <a href="" target="_blank">Waging Nonviolence</a>.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="The Dream Defenders: social media blackout. Credit: Waging Nonviolence/Dream Defenders."><img src="" alt="The Dream Defenders: social media blackout. Credit: Waging Nonviolence/Dream Defenders." title="The Dream Defenders: social media blackout. Credit: Waging Nonviolence/Dream Defenders." width="460" height="337" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Dream Defenders: social media blackout. Credit: Waging Nonviolence/Dream Defenders.</span></span></span></p><p>Last week, the Florida-based&nbsp;<a href="">Dream Defenders</a>&nbsp;announced a six week “<a href="">social media sabbatical</a>” from their personal and organizational Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, promising to digitally resurface in November “with a fresh voice; one that emanates from the grassroots and is a complement to movement work, not just characters.”</p><p>Founded in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s murder in 2012, the Dream Defenders’ first major action was a&nbsp;<a href="">three-day, 40-mile march from Daytona to Sanford</a>, where they held a sit-in at the town’s police headquarters to demand the long-awaited arrest of Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman. </p><p>The group soared into the national spotlight just over a year later, staging a&nbsp;<a href="">31-day occupation</a>&nbsp;of the Florida statehouse following Zimmerman’s acquittal by a grand jury. Having been organizing on the ground in Florida ever since, the Dream Defenders have emerged in the last year as a leading voice in the movement for black lives, boasting iconic branding, nearly 53,000 Twitter followers and a steady stream of interview requests from national media outlets. </p><p>Explaining the blackout on their site, they wrote: “Our culture rewards folks for RTs and posting the same information, articles and snarky comments. Our profiles get more attention for talking about tragedies than they do for highlighting the work that our membership is doing day in and day out.”</p><p>To learn more, I sat down via Google Hangout with Elijah Armstrong and Rachel Gilmer. Armstrong, Dream Defenders’ Central Florida representative and a member of the group’s advisory board, grew up in Bartow, Florida. He has organized with Dream Defenders since its inception, working on campaigns against the school-to-prison pipeline and private prisons. Gilmer joined the Dream Defenders this July as chief of strategy. A long-time community organizer, she has worked extensively on issues of equity and racial justice both in her home state of Oregon and in New York City, where she previously served as associate director of the African American Policy Forum.</p><p><strong>What has the relationship been like so far between Dream Defenders</strong><strong>’&nbsp;</strong><strong>on-the-ground organizing and its social media presence?</strong></p><p><strong>Elijah:</strong>&nbsp;Everything from the ground has influenced our social media work. After the Capitol takeover, our social media really boomed. Out of nowhere, we had a lot of followers. That was a real undertaking. Folks came out saying we were a new voice. It was weird to go to different spaces, and the first thing people would mention would be our social media presence. </p><p>After a while, it seems like social media can overshadow the work that’s being done on the ground because it’s not uplifted in the same light or held in the same regard. The on-the-ground work is the most important work we do, and we got caught up a little bit in social media. For the most part, though, I think we’ve done a good job of connecting the work that we do on social media to our base, and we make sure that it’s staying in line with that.</p><p><strong>Rachel:&nbsp;</strong>As a young organizer seeing the Dream Defenders take over the Capitol was deeply inspiring and in many ways, changed my life. It was reinvigorating to see other young people out there who believe in the same things I do, who weren’t interested in accepting the status quo, who were fighting in new ways and who were building real power. It’s been a real experience coming down here and working for the Dream Defenders because most of my understanding of who they were was shaped by social media. It’s been really amazing to see on-the-ground work, which — to some extent — can be expressed over social media, but only to some extent. Sometimes we have this idea in our head that we are our social media, but it is in no way a substitute for really knowing someone, and really experiencing something.</p><p><strong>Why a blackout?</strong></p><p><strong>Elijah:</strong>&nbsp;Right now we’re at a crucial point in our movement. A lot of folks have been using social media in a very negative manner within the movement, to make personal attacks and critiques. The way social media is going, I think that the big media is doing a good job of controlling our narrative, and we aren’t really controlling it — whether they’re taking sound bites from us, or just misrepresenting us or misquoting us. </p><p>With different folks beefing on social media, it’s gotten to a point where the platform isn’t being used in the most positive light, like for political education or as a way to bond and work. It’s just being used as a way to say “You don’t do this” or “You don’t do that” or “I’ve done this” and “I’ve done that.” All these arguments that you see on social media … people have each other’s numbers, and won’t even pick up the phone to call or even text. </p><p>W<span>hole conversations will play out on social media in 140 characters, so there’s no way that you’re going to actually have a real conversation. It just further disconnects us. It’s almost become a circus, in a way, that’s really being run by big media. I think this is, first, a time to really shift people’s focus away from big media, and two, to regroup the work that we’re doing on the ground to make sure that we aren’t getting caught up in that nonsense of the back-and-forth. We really just want to take the time to continue to build with our base.</span></p><p><strong>Rachel:&nbsp;</strong>I totally agree. Personally, I don’t have a big social media following and, to be honest, it’s not really my thing. But ever since the movement really erupted, I have started to, subconsciously, equate my worth as an organizer with my presence online. Because of this, I’ve devalued myself and told myself I’m unimportant because I don’t have a strong social media presence. I’ve actually thought of my own community organizing as less important because I don’t know how to package it and present it online. It feels like lesser work. When you look at all these lists that are generated, like “The Top 10 Youth Organizers” from our generation, they’re largely people with a strong social media presence. And that’s not to say that that’s not important, or that I don’t value that type of work. </p><p>But it seems that work has been uplifted over other types of organizing. And then I have to question why I even care about those top 10 lists in the first place. Social media has completely skewed my perspective of what’s important — both fueling and draining my ego, making me feel like the center of the universe and making me feel like an absolute nobody at the same time. It’s a really sick and viscous cycle.</p><p>Not only does social media cause trauma in this way, but it can also be an incredibly damaging way to receive information. If you look at the Sandra Bland case, for instance, all the details of her death came out one little piece of information at a time. It would flood your feed for a day, and then the next piece of the story would come out and it would flood your feed for a day. I think digesting information in this way is a form of psychological warfare: It’s traumatizing and re-traumatizing and re-traumatizing. I don’t think that people actually realize how much damage this is doing to us psychologically, especially to our young people who don’t necessarily have the tools to understand why people like them are being killed with impunity by the police.</p><p>I think being off social media is an opportunity for us to really understand how social media is impacting us, how it’s being used to manipulate us by our oppressor and how we can be intentional in understanding its limitations and what the opportunities are.</p><p>Lastly, to Elijah’s point, I think social media has created this illusion of deep relationships within the movement. You can say, “Hey fam!” on Twitter, acting like we all know each other really well. That’s not to say that we haven’t built real relationships on social media, but I also think that all the fighting that happens over social media is indicative of the fact that people really don’t know each other. Social media provides the illusion of deep relationships. So long as people don’t really know each other, the work is never going to go that far. This is doing the work of COINTELPRO in the sense that you see people calling each other out online, and you see all these rifts being created. Social media is doing that to us. Stepping back from all that is really important right now. We’re in a really critical time where all of this could actually kill the movement.<strong><br /></strong></p><p><strong>What are your plans for base-building, and the deep relationship-building work you hope to feed by stepping back from social media?</strong></p><p><strong>Elijah:&nbsp;</strong>Right now, we’re going through a process of revamping who we are, what we do and how we do it — to really get more in touch with our base because we are a membership-based organization, and membership should lead from the bottom-up, not the top-down. It’s really just about trying to rebuild and deepen relationships with our members. We’ve been doing work in these communities for a long time and we know some of the needs, but we don’t know all of them. We want to make sure that we’re adequately representing the folks that we work with. We are a part of these communities, not just random folks coming in to say that we live there. We breathe in these communities, so this work affects us as well.</p><p>As someone who’s been off social media for the last couple of days, I’ve actually had to try to remember my friends’ birthdays because that’s what Facebook does. I’ve texted and called more of my friends instead of talking to them via Facebook. It feels like I’m in 2004 again, where there’s no Myspace, and that’s cool. It’s really been helpful to me, in the sense of relationships and just with my productivity. It’s so routine to constantly check your social media. I didn’t realize how much I was depending on it. It’s only been a couple days and it’s been weird, but really liberating and awesome. It’s funny: The more connected you are on social media, the less connected it feels like you are offline. Right now, we’re just focused on being offline. I think we’re so used to being online that we’re not used to thinking about what it’s like to be fully offline and fully engaged with folks, not having anything standing in the way of that.</p><p><strong>Rachel:</strong>&nbsp;A couple studies came out last year on how&nbsp;<a href="">Facebook can literally mess with your emotions</a>&nbsp;by changing what comes on your feed. It’s scary to think about the impact that could have on a movement, not only in terms of your emotional health but also in terms of strategy and how that could manipulate your understanding of issues. Social media is so much about spectacle. As a movement, we’ve been really caught up in it. We’ve done a lot of amazing tactical work.</p><p>We’ve shut stuff down, and it’s changed the world. But one of the things that we’re thinking about is how we can move beyond tactical level organizing that forces us to react to what’s been given to us, and instead, be visionary and build a strategy for how we build power and the world we want to see in the long run.</p><p>We’re preparing to launch a new initiative, called the Free Campaign, where we’re having all of our [chapters] go door-to-door and do street canvassing to talk to folks about what freedom means, and to really build relationships with the community around the basic concept of what it would look like to be free. They’re also doing intensive research projects to gain a deeper understanding of the local political and community landscape, and the history of revolutionary organizations and movements around the world and how we can embody this as the Dream Defenders. All of this will help us build a vision for Florida and a strategy for building power here, with the hopes that it will have a reverberating effect across the country.</p><p><strong>What would an ideal, mutually reinforcing relationship between social media and on-the-ground organizing look like?</strong></p><p><strong>Elijah:</strong>&nbsp;Social media sees organizing on a very surface level, which is also, I think, a part of social media wanting you to see it on a very surface level. It helps being able to share movies and stories and actions. But that’s only a window; it’s not the whole house. I think we’ve got to be more realistic about that. Social media is not the end all be all, but it definitely does help. Like Rachel said, folks seeing us take over the Capitol was something that inspired them to continue to do more work. </p><p>But social media also makes you think that if you’re not there where the social media is then you’re not doing the same amount of work. That is a huge fatal flaw. Rachel shouldn’t have seen what we did out there in Florida and wanted to come join us, which — don’t get me wrong — is cool. But she should have been more inspired to continue to do the work where she was. Last summer, everybody shouldn’t have rushed to Ferguson when Mike Brown died. There were organizers already there on the ground. Social media is the thing that showed people “doing the work” in Ferguson, but really they were just doing interviews and talking about the trauma that the police were causing. They don’t ever show the stuff that you need. </p><p>A prime example is #BlackLivesMatter. Social media only takes soundbites; social media doesn’t cover your strategy meetings. It doesn’t cover all the different work that goes into the whole totality that is organizing. As organizers, we have to be mindful of that and constantly try to let folks know that they’re only seeing 10 percent of the iceberg, if that.</p><p><strong>Rachel:&nbsp;</strong>The next month and a half for us organizationally and as individuals, is an opportunity to come back in November with an intentional strategy for how we will use social media: recognizing what it is, recognizing what it isn’t, and understanding how it can amplify, but not substitute the on-the-ground organizing being led by our members. It’s a time to process. When you’re on social media, you're submersed in thousands of other people’s lives, thoughts and perspectives. </p><p>What does that do for your own thinking, and your own ability to process, assesses what you believe in, and strategize for yourself and your people? Given the way that social media uplifts this idea of celebrity activism, I think it’s really important for us to step back and understand the way that it has manipulated people’s understanding of who the Dream Defenders are. How do we, organizationally, navigate this structure, understanding both its strengths for building connections and its limitations in order to really change the course for our people?</p><p><strong>What do you think about the long-term role of social media in movement organizing?</strong></p><p><strong>Elijah:</strong>&nbsp;I’ve been thinking a lot about&nbsp;<a href="">this song</a>&nbsp;by Gil Scott Heron, “The Revolution Will Not be Televised.” In other words, television is an institution used to support the powers that be, so you’re not going to get the revolution through that medium. Now I see people saying the revolution won’t be televised, but it’ll be digitalized. I don’t know if that’s true. There’s a potential that it could be, but the way we’re doing it now I don’t think we’re going to get there. With the Internet being so big, if we were able to craft it and control our own narrative then maybe we could, using our own platforms. But relying on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, to me, is no different than relying on CNN, MSNBC and FOX to tell our story. Having more direct contact with these platforms doesn’t mean we have more control.</p><p><strong>Rachel:</strong>&nbsp;I’d agree with everything Elijah said. I think the Internet might also be creating a sense of rugged individualism. How is it that I can Google something and Elijah can Google something and we can both get totally different results? The fact that Google can control the way information goes out creates deep discrepancies in our understanding of the way the world works. I think there’s an illusion that we control our social media because we are choosing what we put out into the world. But we must understand the way this is being manipulated so that the oppressor can’t continue to control the narrative.</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/david-beer/living-with-smartness">Living with smartness</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/ray-filar/dead-name-why-facebook-doesnt-know-who-we-really-are">Dead name: why Facebook is wrong about who we are</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/kaliya-%E2%80%9Cidentity-woman%E2%80%9D/open-protocols-and-open-people-preserving-transformational-po">Open protocols and open people: preserving the transformational potential of social media</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/alice-neeson/small-steps-big-changes-how-social-media-contribute-to-social-transforma">Small steps, big changes: how social media contribute to social transformation</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/stephen-hopgood/why-social-media-won%E2%80%99t-transform-our-politics">Why social media won’t transform our politics</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 Kate Aronoff Tue, 06 Oct 2015 10:28:44 +0000 Kate Aronoff 96609 at Your fatwa does not apply here <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The <a href=";LangID=E">UN Human Rights Council</a> has appointed Karima Bennoune as Special Rapporteur in the field of Cultural Rights. Read articles by Karima on openDemocracy 50.50's platform, <em><a href="">Frontline voices against Muslim fundamentalism</a></em>. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="Woman holds pen, listening, as another woman in foreground of image is speaking, dictaphone in hand." title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="400" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Karima Bennoune interviewing Malian lawyer Sara Keita Diakite in<br />Bamako, December 2012. Photo: author's own (c)</span></span></span></p><p><em>Karima Bennoune won the <a href="">2014 Dayton Literary Peace Prize</a> for Nonfiction with her book <a href="">Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism</a>. She spoke to Deniz Kandiyoti in August 2013 about the path that led her to collect these stories.</em></p><p><strong>Deniz Kandiyoti:</strong> Your new book <a href="">Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: <em>Untold Stories from the Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism</em></a> gives a voice to the victims of fundamentalist violence in Muslim majority countries. What led you to this project? </p> <p><strong>Karima Bennoune: </strong>The book was inspired by my father’s experiences in Algeria in the 1990s when, as a progressive intellectual of Muslim heritage, he <a href="">spoke out against rising Muslim fundamentalism</a> in his own country and faced grave threats as a result. He and Algerian democrats generally received little international solidarity, including from the left, during this terrible time. So I set out to meet people doing similar work today, to try to understand their analysis of the challenges they face, to try to give them more exposure and win them more support than their Algerian&nbsp; counterparts received in the 90s.</p><p>I interviewed nearly 300 people from almost 30 countries – from Afghanistan to Mali. They include teachers in northern Mali who risked everything to keep their co-educational schools open under Jihadist domination, <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="Woman holding dictaphone as if to speak into it" title="" width="160" height="174" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Nigerien sociologist Zeinabou<br />Hadari, one of nearly 300 people<br />Karima Bennoune interviewed.<br />Photo: author's own (c)</span></span></span>women lawyers in Afghanistan who dared prosecute in cases of violence against women despite Taliban threats and U.S. attempts to “reconcile” with the Taliban, feminists in Egypt and Tunisia who participated in revolutions against autocrats and then <a href="">fought</a> to stop those revolutions being hijacked by Islamists, or journalists in Chechnya who braved both Russian bombardment and the crimes of foreign fighters but continued to <a href="">speak out</a>.&nbsp; By portraying these lives in struggle and conveying these voices of conviction, I also hope to challenge stereotypical notions – whether on the left or on the right in the West - about the people we now simply call “Muslims”. </p><p>DK: Your arguments clearly shift the focus of analysis from “a clash of civilizations” to a clash <em>within </em>civilizations, or as you put it, “a clash of right wings, not civilizations”. How does this dynamic play out?</p> <p>KB: I have been inspired in my thinking about these issues by the work of the anthropologist Jeanne Favret-Saada. She wrote the best book about the Danish cartoons controversy, called <em><a href="">Comment Produire une crise mondiale avec douze petit dessins</a></em> (How to produce a global crisis with twelve little drawings). In it, she speaks critically both about the politics of the Danish far right and the Muslim far right. She is able to look at the problem through multiple lenses – that of discrimination against people of Muslim heritage, and that of Muslim fundamentalism&nbsp; simultaneously,&nbsp; thus better grasping the whole picture. That is what I am also trying to do.&nbsp; Reacting to the conflagration over the offensive pseudo-film <em><a href="">The Innocence of Muslims</a></em>, Favret-Saada <a href="">wrote</a> “On the one side we have cowardly networks of so-called defenders of the West who manufacture a provocation… and make terroristic use of freedom of expression, and on the other side Muslim fundamentalist commandoes… eagerly welcome this provocation… [E]ach needs the other to produce the desired effect… Together these militant groups cause considerable damage.”&nbsp; </p> <p>DK: As a secular feminist of Algerian origin, you convey a sense of betrayal on the part of the liberal left in the West who, in their eagerness to denounce imperialism, armed interventions and the abuses unleashed by the so-called war on terror, have endorsed some Islamist tendencies with little discernment about their policies or record. How did we get here?</p> <p>KB: There are many examples of this stance – whether it is the <a href="">uncritical attitude</a> of parts of the left and the human rights movement in Britain toward Moazzam Begg and Cage Prisoners that has been so strongly criticized by prominent South Asian feminists and others, or the pro bono representation of the interests of the late Anwar Awlaki and his family by the U.S. civil liberties group the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), with no effort to recognize Awlaki’s own record and his culpability in issuing threats of assassination (calling him simply “a Muslim cleric”), that has been <a href="">opposed</a> by Algerian survivors of terrorism – and by myself when I sat on CCR’s Board. <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right 0'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="Book cover with title "Your Fatwa Does not Apply Here"" title="" width="160" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>How did we get here? There are a number of answers. The first has to do with the increasing <a href="">hegemony of identity politics</a> and the assumption that this always represents a “progressive” stance. Yet identity politics covers over the fact that peoples of the Global South are as diverse as the rest of humanity, and are situated all across the political spectrum just like everyone else. Supporting the Muslim far right because they are Muslims still represents support for the far right. I was reminded again during the interviews for this <a href="">book</a> that one has to be uncompromising in challenging the far right wherever one lives – whether one is Muslim, Christian, Jewish or atheist.&nbsp; </p> <p>Another irony is the reliance of some “post-colonial” scholars on a very colonial worldview –whereby there is one largely homogenous group of colonizers and a similarly homogenized group of colonized – and the only power dynamic that matters is that&nbsp; between those two&nbsp; groups. This is an oversimplification of today’s world where the dynamics are more complex, and in which there are <a href="">multiple axes</a> along which power is exerted and dominance is asserted – multiple processes of subordination that resemble colonial domination. For example, women’s rights advocates I interviewed in Niger talked about Muslim fundamentalists’ attempts to “de-Africanize” their lived Islams, by imposing garments like the djilbab which are not indigenous to West Africa ,a quasi-colonial intrusion.&nbsp; If we are committed to human rights and to equality, we have to take all these dynamics seriously. I refuse to be forced to choose between opposing colonialism and the burqa which are in fact about the same idea – subordination.</p> <p>DK: Can you clarify your reluctance to accept at face value the distinctions the West has tried so hard to establish between so-called “moderate Islamists” (of the Ennahda and Muslim Brotherhood variety) and the jihadi manifestations of Islam? Where and how do you draw the lines?</p> <p>KB: I&nbsp;do recognize distinctions among Islamist tendencies but have misgivings about the implications that have been&nbsp;ascribed to these distinctions in the West, and especially the way in which movements like Ennahda and the Muslim Brotherhood have often been whitewashed in the process. At the end of the day, they are all right wing movements that uphold theocratic agendas of varying stripes which they promote by diverse means.&nbsp; </p> <p>What is fascinating to me is the attachment to the notion of “moderate Islamists” in the West, when, in many Muslim majority societies today, this is a highly contested notion.&nbsp; For example, after the recent assassination of Mohamed Brahmi in Tunisia, many of the articles reporting this event in the Western media used the phrase “moderate party” to describe Tunisia’s ruling party Ennahda, even though many on the ground were blaming Ennahda for the assassination, either directly or at least indirectly by <a href=";">fostering the climate</a> that led to the killing. One leading Ennahda deputy made an inflammatory speech saying that anyone who supported the removal of Mohamed Morsi in Egypt&nbsp; was a legitimate target – and Brahmi did praise what happened in Egypt before being <a href=";t=520&amp;a=39354">felled</a> by 14 bullets. And yet this embrace of the “moderate Islamist” notion appeared in Western press articles on that same day. </p> <p>I am trying to understand that attitude which, I think, comes from a number of different places. In official circles in the West&nbsp; a desire to use the Islamists politically to&nbsp; maintain order in the “Muslim world” (a term I do not use) while avoiding what is officially perceived as the only significant downside, namely, terrorism against “us,” seems to dictate the agenda.&nbsp; How “Islamists” wish to treat “their own people” is not their problem. Yet, in left and in liberal circles that would see themselves as critical of those official circles, you also sometimes find a similar embrace of this term, which I think again goes back to the previous question and an apology for Islamism in the name of a kind of thin cultural politics. Meanwhile, across North Africa you see a rejection of this notion of “moderate Islamism” not only in liberal and left political circles, but among ordinary people. There is a realization there of the fact that the minute your project is to use religion to take power or to rule you have crossed a line which takes you out of what we would ordinarily think of as “democracy” in the substantive sense. </p> <p>The other thing I find disturbing is that the actual track record of the “moderate Islamists” gets entirely lost in the Western embrace of the notion. Almost no one&nbsp; in the West talks about the fact that you have Ennahda politicians openly threatening people who disagree with them, you have Ennahda female deputies calling for the gender segregation of public transportation. You have Ennahda tolerating an environment in which Salafist preachers are coming in and <a href="">advocating</a> female genital mutilation in a society where it has never been practiced. Moreover, the so-called “moderates” open the door to the jihadis which is precisely what happened in Tunisia with Ennahda and the terror groups now operating in parts of the country, or in Egypt with Morsi’s <a href="">nomination of Adel el-Khayat</a>, a founding member of Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, to be governor of Luxor (when his own terror group was responsible for the worst attack in the city’s history). </p> <p>So what does “moderate” actually mean?&nbsp; On the ground, what people see is that the Muslim Brotherhood and Ennahda have attempted to use religion as a tool of governance and repression. A few days before I left Tunisia, I went to hear Mbarka Brahmi, Mohamed Brahmi’s widow, speak during a protest in front of the Constituent Assembly, calling for the Ennahda government to step down. She is a devout Muslim woman, and she said something very beautiful, "<em>We also say ‘Allahu Akbar.’ We also say ‘Mohamed Rasoul Allah.’ But we don’t say it to take power</em>."&nbsp; She distinguished carefully between ordinary Muslims, and “merchants of religion.”</p> <p>DK: Another interesting suggestion you make about the readiness with which voices like yours are dismissed and marginalized is that embracing “Muslim otherness” has become a convenient way for the West to absolve itself of the responsibility of its own actions. In fact you hold the policies of the West partly responsible for the rise of political Islam. Can you tell us more?</p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong>Many progressive anti-fundamentalists of Muslim heritage today believe the U.S. supports Muslim fundamentalism in many instances. Indeed, there is no question that the U.S. has sometimes fostered Muslim fundamentalist groups to suit its own geo-political agenda. During the 1980s in the context of the Cold War, the United States poured <a href="">money and military aid</a> into the Islamizing Pakistani dictatorship of Zia ul-Haq, and into Afghan mujahideen groups, no matter how extreme, as a way to counter communism. Disaffected men from many countries joined this U.S.- sponsored jihad in Afghanistan, then went home with their training and experience. This had a direct impact on countries like Algeria, where the worst jihadi killers were called “Afghans” for their battle experience in that faraway jihad.</p> <p>The U.S. was not alone in this blunder. Britain supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in the colonial period as a more palatable alternative to secular nationalists. As I was told by both Israelis and Palestinians I met, even Israel prefers Hamas to the secular Palestinian Authority and PLO.&nbsp; Fundamentalists are useful. They fulfill the stereotypes of Muslims, and can be counted on to keep “their own people” in line, usually causing great suffering to their compatriots in the process.</p> <p>Meanwhile, anyone who dares to think critically about these issues and to speak from the perspective of a Muslim or Arab secularist, who dares to criticize Muslim fundamentalism and its relationship to the West, has to be disciplined. The fundamentalists themselves often engage in a very literal, physical discipline based on threats and actual violence. Some left intellectuals in the West&nbsp; use the violence of words by employing labels such as “imperialist feminism” to attack critical voices. However, deploying the epithet of imperialism as a slur simply displays a lack of understanding of the gravity of imperialism itself, and entirely obscures the fact that those of us trying to challenge the apology for Muslim fundamentalism in the West, including in the academy, are actually <a href="">heeding the voices of progressive and feminist activists on the ground</a> – whether in the Irhal Campaign in Tunisia, or in Djazairouna, the Algerian Association of Victims of Islamist Terrorism, who are themselves on the frontlines. </p> <p>Personally, I find this line of attack rather remarkable given that I come from a family of peasants, two generations removed, that was very involved in the anti-colonial movement. My grandfather, one of the people to whom <a href="">my book</a> was dedicated, was killed by the French military. My father was imprisoned and tortured by the French authorities during the Algerian war of independence.&nbsp; I grew up with a very heavy sense of the responsibility of that legacy – which was to fight for the freedom and human rights of ordinary people in the region against any who would seek to trample them. That is why the dedication of my book to my grandfather Lakhdar Bennoune, a peasant leader who organized massive protests against French domination and was repeatedly interned as a result, says that he “died defeating colonialism that his descendants might be free.”&nbsp; The fundamentalists, on the other hand, believe that those who died freeing Algeria were not real martyrs because they did not die fighting for an Islamic State. </p> <p>DK:&nbsp; When you discuss the way forward for Muslim majority societies you state that upholding women’s human rights is a <em>sine qua non</em> about which there can be no compromise. What do you make of the contention that<strong> </strong>Muslim women must forge their own feminist discourse using the interpretative resources available to them in the corpus of Islamic jurisprudence? Where do you stand on these debates?</p> <p>KB:<strong> </strong>The question facing women’s rights advocates is what strategy or strategies they should employ to be most effective today, in the face of fundamentalist movements and all the other challenges they face – patriarchy, racism, misogyny, autocracy, neo-liberalism run amok. I was compelled in my interview with the Algerian sociologist Marieme Helie-Lucas by her <a href="">argument</a> that right now the difficulties are so great, and the shared threat of fundamentalist movements so powerful, and we are so outgunned politically, that feminists who engage in feminist (re)interpretation of Islam and those who make secular human rights arguments, should be allies against fundamentalism. For me as a committed secularist, it was a great honor to attend a <a href="">Sisters in Islam</a> event in Kuala Lumpur in May this year on feminist interpretation of the Qur’an. I do believe our work can be complementary, and I am persuaded by the Tunisian feminist law professor Sana Ben Achour in her <a href="">paper</a> “Feminismes Laïcs en Pays d’Islam” (Secular Feminism in Muslim Majority Countries) that we have to be careful of setting out a stark binary opposition between the two tendencies, each of which are diverse, and indeed in practice often porous – she gives the example of the work of <em><a href="">Collectif 95 Maghreb Egalité</a></em>. Nigerian feminist Ayesha Imam, for example, told me that she and her colleagues in <a href="">Baobab for Women’s Rights</a> used tools from whichever system can as she put it “recuperate rights”, believing it is possible to arrive at similar conclusions by working through Muslim discourses or international human rights. “My issue” she underscores, “is not where you come from, but where you arrive at.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="Photos of 44 women" title="" width="400" height="301" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A collage of women killed by Algeria's fundamentalist armed groups during the<br />1990s. Image courtesy of Djazairouna</span></span></span></p> <p>However, I do think that there are some potential dangers in applying what is called Islamic feminism in the current moment that have to be confronted. First of all, I think this discussion has to be very context specific. Though I am also a committed universalist, I do think one has to think strategically across contexts about how one raises issues. In some regions, sub-regions and countries, it may make sense to make arguments within religion, especially when confronting certain types of challenges. However, elsewhere, such as in northwest Africa where there was a pre-existing secular republican political tradition, where women already have (or perhaps now I should say had) formal equality in constitutions, engaging in religious argument when one is talking about social and political change – about women’s participation in politics, about development, about health, may be a step backward onto theocratic terrain, and away from citizenship and universal human rights. For example, I asked the Senegalese sociologist Fatou Sow, who coordinates the network of <a href="">Women Living Under Muslim Laws</a> whether secular or religious discourse on women’s rights was more useful. She insisted that the best approach depends on context noting that “as a Senegalese I refuse to reinterpret the Qur’an to change the family law. I am not going to enter into the religious debate. I do not want to close myself off.” She argues that the strategy for combating fundamentalisms must be a political one that takes the debate off “the religious terrain where they wish to trap us. Nowadays, all questions take you back to the Qur’an.”&nbsp; </p><p>One of the most worrying trends is the embrace of Islamic feminism in the West as the only legitimate paradigm. There seems to be a desperate need in the West now for people in certain regions of the world to be simply “Muslims” – not citizens or human beings – what Iranian women’s rights activist <a href="">Mahnaz Afkhami</a> criticizes as&nbsp; “Islamic exceptionalism.”&nbsp; <a href="">Sana Ben Achour</a> recently asked in response to such ideas at play in Tunisia’s constitutional drafting debate, “are there some human rights which we Tunisians do not deserve?” </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="" alt="Women hold signs " title="" width="400" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Lahore protest against Pakistan's blasphemy laws, called by the<br />Institute for Peace and Secular Studies. Photo: author's own </span></span></span></p><p>Women’s rights advocates and other progressive opponents of fundamentalism must act with urgency, and whatever their strategic choices, must find ways to work together now. If they do, they can have great political success at this particular moment. This, again, reminds me of the words of <a href="">Mbarka Brahmi</a> in front of the Constituent Assembly: “The people will bring down the obscurantists, the murderers and the terrorists…. But we will sweep them away with civilized methods, not with their methods… with social movements, in every corner of Tunisia.&nbsp; And we will win, justice will win, Tunisia will win, a civil republic will win over the dark Tunisia that they wish for…”&nbsp; </p> <p><strong><em>This interview was first published on August 27th 2013, and is republished here in celebration of Karima's appointment as UN Special Rapporteur in the field of Cultural Rights, 2 October 2015.</em></strong></p><p><em><strong>Karima is a regular contributor to openDemocracy 50.50. 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