openDemocracy https://www.opendemocracy.net/ en Job: oDR lead editor https://www.opendemocracy.net/opendemocracy/job-odr-lead-editor <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>openDemocracy is seeking a dynamic editor to lead openDemocracy Russia (oDR) at this pivotal moment for the post-Soviet world.&nbsp;<a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://opendemocracy.net/opendemocracy/%D0%B2%D0%B0%D0%BA%D0%B0%D0%BD%D1%81%D0%B8%D1%8F-%D0%B3%D0%BB%D0%B0%D0%B2%D0%BD%D1%8B%D0%B9-%D1%80%D0%B5%D0%B4%D0%B0%D0%BA%D1%82%D0%BE%D1%80-%D1%81%D0%B0%D0%B9%D1%82%D0%B0-opendemocracyrussia">на русском языке</a></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/XYUYMsJnxCkgpxh5j9bmE84_SSlDcKvivZGdQ0e6uBE/mtime:1439371463/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/555493/6930252877_f9c23ae22c_z.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow. Max Avdeev / Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><p><strong>We are seeking an ambitious and dynamic Lead Editor to manage a small and talented editorial team based in London, Russia and Eastern Europe, and tap into a wide network of contributors across the region.</strong></p><p><span>The post-Soviet world has changed considerably in the past five years. By mid-2014, the 'Russian Winter' of 2011-2012 had given way to the 'Russian Spring'. Military conflict in eastern Ukraine has been followed by economic crisis across the region, revealing structural instabilities at the heart of these newly-forged states.</span></p><p>The transition paradigm is debunking itself in front of our eyes, and the Eurasian media landscape itself is transforming rapidly—internationalising and polarising at the same stroke. The need for balanced and critical coverage of the region has never been clearer, and so is the need for reasoned dialogue and debate.</p><p>openDemocracy is a fiercely independent not-for-profit global website which has been publishing challenging, in-depth analysis of human rights issues across the world for 15 years. We had nine million unique visits in the past year, with an audience made up of journalists, activists, academics, policymakers, a range of other civil society actors and the general public.</p><p>Founded in 2008, openDemocracy Russia (oDR) is committed to providing a range of views in the region’s increasingly polarised environment, as well as giving voice to people left behind by economic and political developments on the ground.</p><p>oDR works with journalists, activists and academics to cover political and social issues across Eastern Europe and Central Asia, focusing on human rights, civil society and the media, as well as providing strategic insights into problems facing the region. Our ambition is to expand our work in reporting and analysis, growing our network of contributors into a fully-fledged forum for discussion, debate and dialogue in both English and Russian.</p><p><span><strong>Responsibilities</strong></span><span>:</span></p><p>- Editorial strategy and direction. Working with the team to commission, edit and publicise oDR content in order to grow readership and impact</p><p>- Build and maintain strategic partnerships with organisations across the region to achieve the same</p><p>- Lead on fundraising: working with the oDR team and the wider oD network to secure the funds needed not only to secure oDR’s continuation but to ensure it grows</p><p><strong>Skill requirements:</strong></p><p>- In-depth knowledge of region; an understanding of how state and independent media operate in Eastern Europe and Central Asia</p><p>- Languages: fluent Russian and English (desirable)</p><p>- Track-record in developing projects, as well as working effectively with partner organisations</p><p>- Experience in writing, editing and translation</p><p>- Experience in online publishing, particularly growing online readership and stimulating interest in key debates</p><p>- Fundraising experience (desirable)</p><p><strong>Pay:</strong> Competitive, commensurate with experience</p><p><strong>Contract type:</strong> Freelance, hours negotiable but this would be your primary job</p><p><strong>Location: </strong>Europe, including Russia&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Application deadline:</strong>&nbsp;15 September 2015<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><strong>How to apply:</strong> Please send your CV/resume with a cover letter to recruitment@opendemocracy.net. In your cover letter, we<span>&nbsp;</span><span>want to hear about h</span><span>ow would you grow oDR's audience and impact, what tools and techniques could be used to attract audiences, h</span><span>ow you would foster genuine cross-border dialogue, and what do you see as the issues most likely to bring audiences in eastern and western Europe together.&nbsp;</span></p><div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> oD Russia Opportunities at openDemocracy openDemocracy Tue, 11 Aug 2015 19:08:52 +0000 openDemocracy 95184 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The politics of sorrow https://www.opendemocracy.net/elliot-murphy/politics-of-sorrow <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>David Foster Wallace is best known for his experimental fiction and comic essays, but a strong political current, deeply anarchist in sentiment, runs through his work.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/7MqJqZt5-1_vtAHv1-buRM_0S35deupTCVMjTXSl6aU/mtime:1440783070/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/David%20Foster%20Wallace.%20Steve%20Rhodes_Flickr.%20Some%20rights%20reserved.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="David Foster Wallace. Flickr/Steve Rhodes. Some rights reserved."><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/w7sR2T493-x3U4AjVtofK1j7P9zUMIVrIxngNfWeT6U/mtime:1440781693/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/David%20Foster%20Wallace.%20Steve%20Rhodes_Flickr.%20Some%20rights%20reserved.jpg" alt="David Foster Wallace. Flickr/Steve Rhodes. Some rights reserved." title="David Foster Wallace. Flickr/Steve Rhodes. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="191" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>David Foster Wallace. Flickr/Steve Rhodes. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></span></p><p>“I hated childhood<br />I hate adulthood<br />And I love being alive.”<br />Mary Ruefle, “Provenance”, <em>Trances of the Blast</em></p><p><span>David Foster Wallace is best known for his experimental fiction and comic essays, but a strong political current, deeply anarchist in sentiment, can be detected in works such as </span><em>Infinite Jest</em><span>, </span><em>The Pale King</em><span>, and his short stories and essays on popular culture. Wallace stood out as a uniquely radical novelist amongst his generation, although since his suicide in 2008 he has often been attacked for his supposedly reactionary politics. In 2012, Bret Easton Ellis </span><a href="http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2012/09/06/bret_easton_ellis_calls_david_foster_wallace_a_fraud_not_the_first_shots_fired_in_this_literary_feud_.html">tweeted</a><span> that Wallace was “so needy, so conservative” and “the most tedious, overrated, tortured, pretentious writer of my generation”. Last year, James Santel added in the </span><em><a href="http://hudsonreview.com/2014/02/on-david-foster-wallaces-conservatism/#.VdSL50Jj5Dp">Hudson Review</a></em><span> that Wallace’s supposed conservatism stemmed from his obsession with the theme of loneliness in his writings.</span></p> <p><span>Wallace critics should indeed take note of how he voted for Reagan, but also how his distaste for Bush turned him into something of a radical by the early 2000s. In a </span><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWsM8nYXL7E">2003 interview</a><span> with the German TV station ZDF, Wallace deeply resented his country’s involvement in Iraq and, discussing forms of rebellion against US imperialism, said that “the people that I know who are rebelling meaningfully, you know, don’t buy a lot of stuff and don’t get their view of the world from television, and are willing to spend four of five hours researching an election rather than going by commercials. The thing about it is that in America we think of rebellion as this very sexy thing and that it involves action and force. My guess is that the forms of rebellion that will end up changing anything meaningfully here will be very quiet and very individual and probably not all that interesting to look at from the outside”. In 2007, in a piece called “Just Asking” for </span><em>The Atlantic</em><span>, Wallace noted how the US has used the 9/11 attacks as an excuse to push through ‘security’ measures which are extremely harmful to the freedom of American citizens.</span></p> <p><span>Wallace was well aware that political action is purely an end to a means, and not an end in itself. In </span><em>Brief Interviews with Hideous Men</em><span>, Wallace exposes how drastically opposed sexual pleasure is with political struggle, even revolutionary struggle. “Brief interview number 14”, dated August 1996, begins as follows: “It’s cost me every sexual relationship I ever had. I don’t know why I do it. I’m not a political person, I don’t consider myself. … I’ll be doing it with some girl, it doesn’t matter who. It’s when I start to come. That it happens. … [W]hen I start to come and always start yelling it it’s not insulting, it’s not obscene, it’s always the same thing, and it’s always so weird but I don’t think insulting. I think it’s just weird. And uncontrolled. It’s like it comes out the same way the spooge comes out, it feels like that. I don’t know what it’s about and I can’t help it. … “Victory for the Forces of Democratic Freedom!” Only way louder. As in really shouting it. Uncontrollably. I’m not even thinking it until it comes out and I hear it. “Victory for the Forces of Democratic Freedom!” Only louder than that: “VICTORY–” … Well it totally freaks them out, what do you think? And I just about die of embarrassment. I don’t ever know what to say. What do you say if you just shouted “Victory for the forces of Democratic Freedom!” right when you came?”</span></p> <p><span>Some of the lines Wallace used in his fiction and essay may seem reactionary on the surface, but as Wallace explains in “Authority and American Usage”: “This reviewer’s own humble opinion is that some of the cultural and political realities of American life are themselves racially insensitive and elitist and offensive and unfair, and that pussyfooting around these realities with euphemistic doublespeak is not only hypocritical but toxic to the project of ever really changing them”. This rejection of euphemism manifests itself in Wallace’s most well-known novel, </span><em>Infinite Jest</em><span>: “[T]o my way of thinking, the word “abuse” is vacuous. Who can define “abuse”? The difficulty with really interesting cases of abuse is that the ambiguity of the abuse becomes part of the abuse”. This level of emotional and intellectual bluntness led the poet </span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jul/12/my-hero-david-foster-wallace-by-colin-barrett">Colin Barrett to comment</a><span> in the </span><em>Guardian</em><span> that “</span><em>Infinite Jest</em><span> gave me back to myself, and left me with nowhere to hide. I stopped writing my brittle, evasive poems. I began to wonder how on earth you do something like this”.</span></p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/804DMJQJuBwDq7azT9txeliKa8g0Ov8mdPAuFxoTUXw/mtime:1440783054/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Beautifully%20designed%20cover%20of%20the%20German%20translation%20of%20Infinite%20Jest.%20Erasing%20Scott_Flickr.%20Some%20rights%20reserved.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="German translation of Infinite Jest. Flickr/Erasing Scott. Some rights reserved."><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/n5mRK70LVmoxeLVMOPUVIUyj84jvFDBpZxsdft7CvZM/mtime:1440781793/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Beautifully%20designed%20cover%20of%20the%20German%20translation%20of%20Infinite%20Jest.%20Erasing%20Scott_Flickr.%20Some%20rights%20reserved.jpg" alt="German translation of Infinite Jest. Flickr/Erasing Scott. Some rights reserved." title="German translation of Infinite Jest. Flickr/Erasing Scott. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="309" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>German translation of Infinite Jest. Flickr/Erasing Scott. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><h2>Boredom and black miracles</h2> <p><span>“The truth will set you free, but not until it’s done with you.”<br />David Foster Wallace</span></p> <p><span>Wallace, widely considered one of the greatest American writers of his generation, spent his life eager to write what he called “morally passionate” fiction, which he believed at its core is “about what it is to be a fucking human being”, helping readers “become less alone inside”. He believed, as his school teacher had taught him, that the purpose of fiction is to “comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable”. He was, to quote </span><em>Infinite Jest</em><span>, a “man who was very quiet and broken-seeming and fatherly and strange. There was this kind of broken authority about him”. Wallace’s essay “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction” contains a related biographically-infused opening paragraph:</span></p> <p><span>“Fiction writers as a species tend to be oglers. They tend to lurk and to stare. They are born watchers. They are viewers. They are the ones on the subway about whose nonchalant stare there is something creepy, somehow. Almost predatory. This is because human situations are writers’ food. Fiction writers watch other humans sort of the way gapers slow down for car wrecks: they covet a vision of themselves as </span><em>witnesses</em><span>.”</span></p> <p><em>Infinite Jest</em><span> also proposes that the world’s objects should be treated and handled as if they were extensions of our own body; much like, Wallace candidly suggests, the economical movements and “animal grace” of Marlon Brando. Wallace’s general ideology can be detected in perhaps his most famous public speech, his 2005 commencement address to the graduates of Kenyon College:</span></p> <p><span>“Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they’re evil or sinful, it’s that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.”</span></p> <p><span>By disturbing such comfortable souls, Wallace saw literature as a means to radicalise and confront his readership. He told Charlie Rose that he wrote books to make him happy, but this ironically just made him even unhappier, transitioning him into what his short story “Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley” terms an “initiation into true adult sadness”. The way Dom Joly compares his sudden rise to fame to the feeling of being a father in his recent autobiography, </span><em>Here Comes the Clown</em><span>, no doubt would have resonated with Wallace: “You know that certain tiny people call you “Dad” and you answer to this moniker but, deep down, you wonder whom they are really talking to … There is a constant sense of being a fraud”.</span></p> <p><span>Unlike George Orwell and numerous other literary figures, Wallace wrote more with sorrow than anger, but this is by no means a shortcoming. The moral passion of Wallace’s politics and personality translated well into all of his major prose works. To take the most obvious example, </span><em>Infinite Jest </em><span>is a darkly comic satire of American culture and entertainment. In fictional Boston, even the names of the years have been corporatized, with the action taking place predominantly in the “Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment”. Around the time he was writing </span><em>Infinite Jest</em><span>, in 1994 Wallace had relatedly described the advertisements at the Illinois State Fair with his standard critical detachment: “One tent says CORN: TOUCHING OUR LIVES EVERY DAY”. The next year he wrote an </span><em>Esquire</em><span> essay on the Canadian Open tennis tournament and commented that in order to be a sponsor you have to “supply free stuff to the tournament and put your name on it in really big letters. All the courts’ tall umpire-chairs have a sign that says they’re supplied by TROPICANA”.</span></p> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/Ni1-uxEl0OTp1KM2j6hA0SGYS43tJ4nSKxbrmicVa9k/mtime:1440783055/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Foster%20Wallace%20obituary.%20K%20Parks_Flickr.%20Some%20rights%20reserved.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Foster Wallace obituary. Flickr/K Parks. Some rights reserved."><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/S_8M8-FQZSKziB7NEu0e509tZS3sojeGgO22WGKDlBo/mtime:1440782272/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Foster%20Wallace%20obituary.%20K%20Parks_Flickr.%20Some%20rights%20reserved.jpg" alt="Foster Wallace obituary. Flickr/K Parks. Some rights reserved." title="Foster Wallace obituary. Flickr/K Parks. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Foster Wallace obituary. Flickr/K Parks. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Discussing these concentrations of media and entertainment power, Wallace told David Lipsky in 1996 that “all of us who </span><em>grouse</em><span>, all the anarchists who grouse about power being localized in these media elites, are gonna realize that the actual system dictates that”. Here we see Wallace explicitly aligning himself with a form of political radicalism, but making an important qualification about the standard critique of concentrated power. In his </span><em>Harper’s </em><span>essay “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again”, Wallace also pens the following observation about what the calls the “Professional Smile” in the service sector and world of advertising: “Am I the only consumer in whom high doses of such a smile produce despair? Am I the only person who’s sure that the growing number of cases in which totally average-looking people suddenly open up with automatic weapons in shopping malls and insurance offices and medical complexes and McDonald’ses is somehow causally related to the fact that these venues are well-known dissemination-loci of the Professional Smile?”</span></p> <p><span>Wallace’s final, unfinished novel, </span><em>The Pale King</em><span>, contains similar discussions at the Internal Revenue Service at Peoria, Illinois. It can essentially be seen, among many other things, as a defence of the public sector again the encroachment of private capital. Concerned as the novel is with the themes of institutionalised boredom and depression, staff at the IRS often discuss the nature of the state:</span></p> <p><span><span>“As citizens we cede more and more of our autonomy, but if we the government take away the citizens’ freedom to cede their autonomy we’re now taking away their autonomy. It’s a paradox. Citizens are constitutionally empowered to choose to default and leave the decisions to corporations and to a government we expect to control them. Corporations are getting better and better at seducing us into thinking the way they think – of profits as the </span><em>telos</em><span> and responsibility as something to be enshrined in symbol and evaded in reality. Cleverness as opposed to wisdom. Wanting and having instead of thinking and making. We cannot stop it. I suspect what’ll happen is that there will be some sort of disaster – depression, hyperinflation – and then it’ll be showtime: We’ll either wake up and retake our freedom or we’ll fall apart utterly. Like Rome – conqueror of its own people.”</span></span></p> <p><span>Already in <em>Brief Interviews with Hideous Men</em> Wallace was critiquing the centrality of institutionalised boredom to service sector workers. One interview relates the story of a lavatory assistant who exists through his job only when witnessed and needed by the wealthy men who infrequently stop by: “Imagine not existing until a man needs you. Being there and yet not there. A willed translucence. Provisionally there, contingently there. The old saw </span><em>Lives to serve</em><span>”. In </span><em>Infinite Jest</em><span>,</span><em> </em><span>the corporate forms of seduction Wallace often discussed took the form of advertisements which do “what all ads are supposed to do: create an anxiety relievable by purchase”. Yet when Lipsky implies that Wallace is making claims about state institutions and the media in his critiques of information overload, Wallace corrects him by saying “I’m not talking about the system, I’m talking about what it feels like to be </span><em>alive</em><span>”. This statement generalises: Wallace rarely attacked state capitalist institutions in his work, but rather focused on how they influence perceptions and emotional attachments, being something of an indirect, even reluctant radical.</span></p> <p><span>One of the major themes of </span><em>Infinite Jest </em><span>is the need Wallace claimed most people have to connect to some sort of higher power, to give themselves away to something, or someone, in the service of self-fulfilment. Towards the end of the novel we find glimpses of an account by Hal Incandenza – the character most like Wallace – of his days at the Enfield Tennis Academy, with Wallace throughout the novel drawing some subtle, and some not-too-subtle, comparisons between drug addiction and the desperate need of top athletes and intellectuals to compete and over-perform:</span></p> <p><span>“It now lately sometimes seemed like a kind of black miracle to me that people could actually care deeply about a subject or pursuit, and could go on caring this way for years on end. Could dedicate their entire lives to it. It seemed admirable and at the same time pathetic. We are all dying to give our lives away to something, maybe. God or Satan, politics or grammar, topology or philately – the object seemed incidental to this will to give oneself away, utterly. To games or needles, to some other person. Something pathetic about it. A flight-from in the form of a plunging into. Flight from exactly what?”</span></p> <p><span>Similar reminders of disappointment arise early in </span><em>The Pale King</em><span> during an in-flight description of passing through clouds: “Wisps and flashes of uncolored cloud flashed past the window. Above and below were a different story, but there was always something disappointing about clouds when you were inside them; they ceased to be clouds at all. It just got really foggy”. The urge to “give oneself away, utterly” is also found elsewhere in the novel during a discussion of religion: “Fervent Christians are always remembering themselves as – and thus, by extension, judging everyone else outside their sect to be – lost and hopeless and just barely clinging to any kind of interior sense of value or reason to even go on living, before they were “saved.””</span></p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/A7usUrY8FpwrvRj6qHNghBPSp92X5Np_k2hHBqpP6-Q/mtime:1440783055/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/The%20Pale%20King%20-%20David%20Foster%20Wallace.%20ErasingScott_Flickr.%20Some%20rights%20reserved.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="The Pale King. Flickr/Erasing Scott. Some rights reserved."><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/48fmxOUFtQc4TE0-l2_zvOqXqO9RTArARZOEqBrS5as/mtime:1440782459/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/The%20Pale%20King%20-%20David%20Foster%20Wallace.%20ErasingScott_Flickr.%20Some%20rights%20reserved.jpg" alt="The Pale King. Flickr/Erasing Scott. Some rights reserved." title="The Pale King. Flickr/Erasing Scott. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="309" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The Pale King. Flickr/Erasing Scott. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><h2>Irony, art and the “New Sincerity”</h2> <p>“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”<br />Annie Dillard</p> <p><span>The culture Wallace identifies in </span><em>Infinite Jest</em><span> as his object of study is modern consumerism and commercialism, with the novel exploring boredom, excessive consumption and a lack of certainty, spurred on by the political and financial class’s “obsessive weighing and measuring and projecting, this special calculus of thrust and growth”, as he put it in his essay on tennis and trigonometry. In </span><em>Infinite Jest</em><span>, this culture is associated not with childlike curiosity and innocence, but with the cynicism and irony and values of the corporate entertainment empire, along with the lack of emotional maturity it encourages in its young audiences:</span></p> <p><span>“The older Mario gets, the more confused he gets about the fact that everyone at E.T.A. over the age of about Kent Blott finds stuff that’s really real uncomfortable and they get embarrassed. It’s like there’s some rule that real stuff can only get mentioned if everybody rolls their eyes or laughs in a way that isn’t happy. The worst-feeling thing that happened today was at lunch when Michael Pemulis told Mario he had an idea for setting up a Dial-a-Prayer telephone service for atheists in which the atheist dials the number and the line just rings and rings and no one answers. It was a joke and a good one and Mario got it; what was unpleasant was that Mario was the only one at the big table whose laugh was a happy laugh; everybody else sort of looked down like they were laughing at somebody with a disability.”</span></p> <p><span>Mario’s brother, Hal, “who’s empty but not dumb, theorizes privately that what passes for hip cynical transcendence of sentiment is really some kind of fear of being really human, since to be really human (at least as he conceptualizes it) is probably to be unavoidably sentimental and naïve and goo-prone and generally pathetic, is to be in some basic interior way forever infantile, some sort of not-quite-right-looking infant dragging itself anaclitically around the map, with big wet eyes and froggy-soft skin”. In one of the novel’s hundreds of endnotes, we learn that “one of Hal’s deepest and most pregnant abstractions” was “that we’re all lonely for something we don’t know we’re lonely for. How else to explain the curious feeling that he goes around feeling like he misses somebody he’s never met? Without the universalizing abstraction, the feeling would make no sense”.</span></p> <p><span>The cynicism encountered by Mario and Hal at the tennis academy is also found, Wallace claims in “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction”, in the modern sitcom, which is “almost wholly dependent on laughs and tone on the </span><em>M*A*S*H</em><span>-inspired savaging of some buffoonish spokesman for hypocritical, pre-hip values at the hands of bitingly witty insurgents”. This framework permeates sitcoms so extensively that “just about the only authority figures who retain any credibility on post-’80s shows … are those upholders of values who can communicate some irony about themselves, make fun of themselves before any merciless Group around them can move in for the kill”. The average lonely American, called Joe Briefcase by Wallace, initially finds some level of enjoyment and satisfaction in television, but the grip of cynicism and irony is often strong:</span></p> <p><span>“And to the extent that it can train viewers to laugh at characters’ unending put-downs of one another, to view ridicule as both the mode of social intercourse and the ultimate art-form, television can reinforce its own queer ontology of appearance: the most frightening prospect, for the well-conditioned viewer, becomes leaving oneself open to others’ ridicule by betraying passé expressions of value, emotion, or vulnerability. Other people become judges; the crime is naïveté. The well-trained viewer becomes even more allergic to people. Lonelier. Joe B.’s exhaustive TV-training in how to worry about how he might come across, seem to watching eyes, makes genuine human encounters even scarier. But televisual irony has the solution: further viewing begins to seem almost like required research, lessons in the blank, bored, too-wise expression that Joe must learn how to wear for tomorrow’s excruciating ride on the brightly lit subway, where crowds of blank, bored-looking people have little to look at but each other.”</span></p> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/oGgbx-LWItEuyCPrM0T-JcWvI_nwCs9K888ADI6FSBE/mtime:1440783056/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Biography%20of%20David%20Foster%20Wallace.%20Jim%20Forest_Flickr.%20Some%20rights%20reserved..png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Foster Wallace biography. Flickr/Jim Forest. Some rights reserved."><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/YcN732QX7DW30gC6o6RjTz4rXFcAhWGv3UbvBo-w4vw/mtime:1440782647/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Biography%20of%20David%20Foster%20Wallace.%20Jim%20Forest_Flickr.%20Some%20rights%20reserved..png" alt="Foster Wallace biography. Flickr/Jim Forest. Some rights reserved." title="Foster Wallace biography. Flickr/Jim Forest. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="425" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Foster Wallace biography. Flickr/Jim Forest. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>As a backlash against this cynicism and the sexism of what he called the “Great Male Narcissists” (Roth, Mailer, Updike), along with the shallowness of postmodern writers like DeLillo and Easton Ellis, Wallace instead promoted what Adam Kelly would later call a “New Sincerity”. Wallace approvingly quotes Lewis Hyde’s suggestion that “Irony has only emergency use. Carried over time it is the voice of the trapped who have come to enjoy their cage”. Hyde went on to say that “People who have found a route to power based on their misery – who don’t want to give it up though it would free them – they become ironic”. Irony for Wallace “serves an almost exclusively negative function”, criticising but not proposing alternatives: “I find gifted ironists sort of wickedly fun to listen to at parties, but I always walk away feeling like I’ve had several radical surgical procedures”. He even suggests that this kind of behaviour is “oppressive” – ideas which lead him to more traditional areas of political criticism:</span></p> <p><span>“<span>Think, for a moment, of Third World rebels and coups. Third world rebels are great at exposing and overthrowing corrupt hypocritical regimes, but they seem noticeably less great at the mundane, non-negative task of then establishing a superior governing alternative. Victorious rebels, in fact, seem best at using their tough, cynical rebel-skills to avoid being rebelled against themselves – in other words, they just become better tyrants.”</span></span></p> <p><em>Infinite Jest</em><span> poses the question that “defining yourself in opposition to something is still being anaclitic on that thing, isn’t it? … [M]en who believe they hate what they really </span><em>fear</em><span> they </span><em>need</em><span> are of limited interest, I find”. Despite these insights, Wallace displays, with his usual confessional tone, something of a gross misunderstanding of anarchism: “I’m starting to see why turn-of-the-last-century Americans’ biggest fear was of anarchists and anarchy. For if anarchy actually </span><em>wins</em><span>, if rulelessness become[s] the </span><em>rule</em><span>, then protest and change become not just impossible but incoherent. It’d be like casting a ballot for Stalin: you are voting for an end to all voting”.</span></p> <p><span>Nevertheless, while he plainly did not explicitly endorse anarchism as a political philosophy, his actual writings are steeped in the type of anti-authoritarian, anti-corporate communitarianism promoted by major strands of anarchism. For instance, his </span><em>Harper’s</em><span> essay “Ticket to the Fair” explores the common, underlying social and civic impulses behind idiosyncratically distinct forms of summer fairs from the East Coast to the Midwest, while he can frequently be found excoriating reactionaries for their prioritising of share indexes in </span><em>The Pale King</em><span> or noting in his essay on television and American fiction the “twin tired remedies for all U.S. ills” proposed by “conservative intellectuals”, “viz. the beliefs that (1) the discerning consumer-instincts of the Little Guy will correct all imbalances if only Big Systems will quit stifling his Freedom to Choose, and that (2) technology-bred problems can be resolves technologically”. In his famous cruise ship essay for </span><em>Harper’s</em><span>,</span><em> </em><span>Wallace condemned “that ur-American part of me that craves and responds to pampering and passive pleasure: the Dissatisfied Infant part of me, the part that always and indiscriminately WANTS”. Yet “the Infantile part of me is insatiable – in fact its whole essence or </span><em>dasein</em><span> or whatever lies in its a priori insatiability”.</span></p> <p><span>Hints of Wallace’s concern for emotional and moral sincerity are also found in his essay on David Lynch, where he notes that in Lynch’s films the “very heavy Freudian riffs are powerful instead of ridiculous because they’re deployed Expressionistically, which among other things means they’re deployed in an old-fashioned, pre-postmodern way, i.e. nakedly, </span><em>sincerely</em><span>, without postmodernism’s abstraction or irony”. Along with intensely self-referential and detached cinema, Wallace also hated over-intellectualised literature which had “become involuted and forgotten the reader”, and thought that American poetry would only “come awake again when poets start speaking to people who have to pay the rent”. “I don’t think”, he told David Lipsky, “writers are any </span><em>smarter</em><span> than other people. I think they may be more compelling in their stupidity, or in their </span><em>confusion</em><span>”. Wallace told </span><em>Salon</em><span> in 1996 about </span><em>Infinite Jest</em><span> that “I think it makes at least an in-good-faith attempt to be fun and riveting enough on a page-by-page level so I don’t feel like I’m hitting the reader with a mallet, you know, “Hey, here’s this really hard impossibly smart thing. Fuck you. See if you can read it.” I know books like that and they piss me off”.</span></p> <p><span>He concludes in his Lynch essay that “the difference between experiencing art that succeeds as communication and art that doesn’t is rather like the difference between being sexually intimate with a person and watching that person masturbate”. Wallace also deconstructed the authority of self-absorbed metafiction writers in his outstanding “Octet”, since reading such material is “</span><em>not</em><span> going to make you look wise or secure or accomplished or any of the things readers usually want to pretend they believe the literary artist who wrote what they’re reading is when they sit down to try to escape the insoluble flux of themselves and enter a world of prearranged meaning”.</span></p> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/SpmldbathCy_n8-W5ZwbZwjMURDKMS1ykuOE9oVxpxE/mtime:1440783056/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/MV%20Zenith.%20Wallace%20wrote%20about%207-night%20cruise%20on%20the%20Zenith%20in%201995.%20Gunnar%20Ries.%20Some%20rights%20reserved.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="MV Zenith. Flickr/Gunnar Ries. Some rights reserved."><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/U627GH-82R0HhyFf0q6OeylAUlJGYr-0jXf4fvpwDHU/mtime:1440782792/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/MV%20Zenith.%20Wallace%20wrote%20about%207-night%20cruise%20on%20the%20Zenith%20in%201995.%20Gunnar%20Ries.%20Some%20rights%20reserved.jpg" alt="MV Zenith. Flickr/Gunnar Ries. Some rights reserved." title="MV Zenith. Flickr/Gunnar Ries. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>MV Zenith. Flickr/Gunnar Ries. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The cynicism and irony Wallace critiqued bred, he argued, a special kind of self-consciousness and anxiety. </span><em>Infinite Jest</em><span> discusses how “99% of the head’s thinking activity consists of trying to scare the everliving shit out of itself.” These ideas stemmed from what Wallace called his “raped-by-psychic-Bedouins self-consciousness”. Wallace remained unsure, however, whether these tendencies are a cultural or universal phenomenon. Exploring the former possibility, the neurologist Grey Walter wrote in his 1963 </span><em>Anarchy</em><span> paper “The development and significance of cybernetics”:</span></p> <p><span>“In comparing social with cerebral organisations one important feature of the brain should be kept in mind; we find no boss in the brain, no oligarchic ganglion or glandular Big Brother. Within our heads our very lives depend on equality of opportunity, on specialisation with versatility, on free communication and just restraint, a freedom without interference. Here too local minorities can and do control their own means of production and expression in free and equal intercourse with their neighbours. If we must identify biological and political systems our own brains would seem to illustrate the capacity and limitations of an anarcho-syndicalist community.”</span></p> <p><span>A clear, if not widely known, example of this form of anarchist organisation in practice is the Pioneer Health Centre at Peckham, South London. It was established a few years before the Second World War by physicians who intended to study healthy, rather than abnormal, behaviour. Colin Ward recounts in </span><em>Anarchy in Action</em><span> that by agreeing to medical examinations, in return individuals would enter as “families into a social club and use various facilities, under no rules or constraints. There was initially chaos for the first eight months, but soon after, as Dr Scott Williamson, the founder, explained, “the chaos was reduced to an order in which groups of children could daily be seen swimming, skating, riding bicycles, using the gymnasium or playing some game, occasionally reading a book in the library … the running and screaming were things of the past.”” John Comerford concludes in his account of the Peckham experiment that “A society, therefore, if left to itself in suitable circumstances to express itself spontaneously works out its own salvation and achieves a harmony of actions which superimposed leadership cannot emulate”.</span></p> <p><span>Wallace deeply sympathised with this anarchist urge to undermine and dismantle illegitimate forms of hierarchical authority, believing that the only legitimate conflicts were those internal to individuals. Consider Lane Dean’s depiction of his internal conflicts in </span><em>The Pale King</em><span>, with the martial metaphor reflecting Wallace’s views on the sources of war more generally:</span></p> <p><span>“Lane Dean had never believed in hell as a lake of fire or a loving God consigning folks to a burning lake of fire – he knew in his heart this was not true. What he believed in was a living God of compassion and love and the possibility of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through whom this love was enacted in human time. But sitting here beside this girl as unknown to him now as outer space, waiting for whatever she might say to unfreeze him, now he felt like he could see the edge or outline of what a real vision of hell might be. It was of two great and terrible armies within himself, opposed and facing each other, silent. There would be battle but no victors. Or never a battle – the armies would stay like that, motionless, looking across at each other and seeing therein something so different and alien from themselves that they could not understand, they could not hear each other’s speech as even words or read anything from what their faces looked like, frozen like that, opposed and uncomprehending, for all human time.”</span></p> <p><span>Towards the end of </span><em>The Pale King</em><span>, we find Meredith Rath relating her husband’s words to Shane Drinion, expressing a similar degree of deep insecurity and anxiety to that expressed in </span><em>Infinite Jest</em><span>:</span></p> <p><span>“</span><em>My</em><span> <span>core problem, he said, and this connects to the core problem I told you about just now, was the neat little trap I’d made for myself to ensure that I never really had to grow up and so I could stay immature and waiting forever for somebody to save me because I’d never be able to find out that nobody else can save me because I’d made it impossible for me to get what I was so convinced I needed and deserved, so I could always be angry and I could always get to go around thinking that my real problem was that no one could see or love me the way I needed so I’d always have my problem to sit and hold and stroke on and make believe was the real problem.”</span></span></p> <p><span>Charlie Kaufman’s 2008 film </span><em>Synecdoche, New York</em><span> contains a closely aligned monologue from a minister giving a sermon:</span></p> <p><span>“And even though the world goes on for eons and eons, you are only here for a fraction of a fraction of a second. Most of your time is spent being dead or not yet born. But while alive, you wait in vain, wasting years, for a phone call or a letter or a look from someone or something to make it all right. And it never comes or it seems to but it doesn’t really. And so you spend your time in vague regret or vaguer hope that something good will come along. Something to make you feel connected, something to make you feel whole, something to make you feel loved. And the truth is I feel so angry, and the truth is I feel so fucking sad, and the truth is I’ve felt so fucking hurt for so fucking long and for just as long I’ve been pretending I’m OK, just to get along, just for, I don’t know why, maybe because no one wants to hear about my misery, because they have their own. Well, fuck everybody. Amen.”</span></p> <p><span>Just like “the way we all will look absently, mesmerized, into dozens of mirrors and opportune surfaces every day, both closely and absently, trying it seems to verify something that couldn’t even be described” (</span><em>The Pale King</em><span>), the final lines of Kaufman’s film describe the position of the central character, Caden Cotard (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman), and his futile, life-long attempts to be </span><em>saved</em><span> and </span><em>given away</em><span> to something greater: “As the people who adore you stop adoring you; as they die; as they move on; as you shed them; as you shed your beauty; your youth; as the world forgets you; as you recognize your transience; as you begin to lose your characteristics one by one; as you learn there is no-one watching you, and there never was, you think only about driving – not coming from any place; not arriving any place. Just driving, counting off time”.</span></p> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/yPiigOVDcf-qHTAZRj4T2V4yFHZzwTMNI5A_VkE5HN8/mtime:1440783057/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Oblivion%2C%20by%20David%20Foster%20Wallace.%20Garry%20Ing_Flickr.%20Some%20rights%20reserved.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Oblivion. Flickr/Gary Ing. Some rights reserved."><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/hK7uSIx1p4hrF6CvYbC7KbztUmWTDXjaxYeOgIvo-Fo/mtime:1440782967/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Oblivion%2C%20by%20David%20Foster%20Wallace.%20Garry%20Ing_Flickr.%20Some%20rights%20reserved.jpg" alt="Oblivion. Flickr/Gary Ing. Some rights reserved." title="Oblivion. Flickr/Gary Ing. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Oblivion. Flickr/Gary Ing. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Despite his aversion to the political and personal philosophies promoted by modern irony, Wallace puts it to good use throughout </span><em>Infinite Jest</em><span>, re-appropriating it for the purposes of his grand, Joycean, comic and democratic world vision: “Orin did a long impression of late pop-astronomer Carl Sagan expressing televisual awe at the cosmos’ scale. “Billions and billions,” he said. … “The universe:” – Orin continued long after the wit had worn thin – “cold, immense, incredibly universal.”” Like Joyce, Wallace combined comedy and sorrow in usually provocative ways. The novel contains some of the most carefully crafted comic lines of modern American literature: “Gately went both ways – fullback on offense, outside linebacker on D. He was big enough for the line, but his speed would have been wasted there. Already carrying 230 pounds and bench-pressing well over that, Gately clocked a 4.4 40 in 7th grade, and the legend is that the Beverly Middle School coach ran even faster than that into the locker room to jack off over the stopwatch”. On the well-worn phrase ‘Getting in touch with your feelings’, the novel comments that “A more abstract but truer epigram that White Flaggers with a lot of sober time sometimes change this to goes something like: “Don’t worry about getting in touch with your feelings, they’ll get in touch with you””. In fact “It starts to turn out that the vapider the AA cliché, the sharper the canines of the real truth it covers”.</span><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><span>The theme and political implications of family relations are also major concerns of Wallace’s. In </span><em>Infinite Jest</em><span>, the fatally entertaining film in the novel, called simply “the Entertainment”, also “features Madame Psychosis [a radio show host] as some kind of maternal instantiation of the archetypal figure Death, sitting naked, corporeally gorgeous, ravishing, hugely pregnant, her hideously deformed face either veiled or blanked out by undulating computer-generated squares of color or anamorphosized into unrecognizability as any kind of face by the camera’s apparently very strange and novel lens, sitting there nude, explaining in very simple childlike language to whomever the film’s camera represents that Death is always female, and that the female is always maternal. I.e. that the woman who kills you is always your next life’s mother”. Madame Psychosis is “explaining to the camera as audience-synecdoche that this was why mothers were so obsessively, consumingly, drivenly, and yet somehow narcissistically loving of you, their kid: the mothers are trying frantically to make amends for a murder neither of you quite remember”.</span></p><p><span>&nbsp;</span><span>Likewise, when Orin Incandenza (Hal and Mario’s elder brother) does an impression of his mother, Avril, “what he will do is assume an enormous warm and loving smile and move steadily toward you until he is in so close that his face is spread up flat against your own face and your breaths mingle. If you can get to experience it – the impression – which will seem worse to you: the smothering proximity, or the unimpeachable warmth and love with which it’s effected? For some reason now I am thinking of the sort of philanthropist who seems humanly repellent not in spite of his charity but </span><em>because</em><span> of it: on some level you can tell that he views the recipients of his charity not as persons so much as pieces of exercise equipment on which he can develop and demonstrate his own virtue. What’s creepy and repellent is that this sort of philanthropist clearly </span><em>needs</em><span> privation and suffering to continue, since it is his own virtue he prizes, instead of the ends to which the virtue is ostensibly directed”. Like Oscar Wilde, Wallace preferred not a charitable world, but one in which charity was unnecessary.</span></p> <p><span>Avril is here placed in the same category as the “Great Lovers” from </span><em>Brief Interviews with Hideous Men</em><span>, who are peculiarly selfish in their inability to let their sexual partner reciprocate the pleasure they expertly induce in others: “[T]he catch is they’re </span><em>selfish</em><span> about being generous. They’re no better than the pig is, they’re just sneakier about it”. Throughout Hal’s infancy and childhood, he had also “continually been held and dandled and told at high volume that he was loved, and he feels like he could have told [his friend] K. Bain’s Inner Infant that getting held and told you were loved didn’t automatically seem like it rendered you emotionally whole or Substance-free. Hal finds he rather envies a man who feels he has something to explain his being fucked up, parents to blame it on”.</span></p> <p><span>These personal, more intimate themes are also of interest when considering Wallace’s radicalism. He wrote that “It’s a well-known irony that Dostoevsky, whose work is famous for its compassion and moral rigor, was in many ways a prick in real life – vain, arrogant, spiteful, selfish”. As his biographer D. T. Max contends in </span><em>Every Love Story is a Ghost Story</em><span>, Wallace shared all of these traits. Dostoevsky also shared a sorrowful approach to political action, writing in his 1877 short story </span><em>The Dream of a Ridiculous Man</em><span>. The narrator, considering suicide, falls into a vivid dream in which he arrives at a planet much like Earth after flying through space. The planet resembles an idyllic Greek island, and its inhabitants are sinless and blissful. The narrator explains that “on our earth we can only love with suffering and through suffering. We cannot love otherwise, and we know of no other sort of love. I want suffering in order to love. I long, I thirst, this very instant, to kiss with tears the earth that I have left, and I don’t want, I won’t accept life on any other!”</span></p> <p><span>Bertrand Russell’s interpretation of Dostoevsky, in his 1945 </span><em>History of Western Philosophy</em><span>, that the Russian enjoyed sinning purely for the pleasure of forgiveness, does not find much place here. But Dostoevsky did not ask for misery. He merely noted that without personal suffering the personal and political force of love can never be fully appreciated. The people of Dostoevsky’s twin earth “loved and begot children, but I never noticed in them the impulse of that cruel sensuality which overcomes almost every man on this earth, all and each, and is the source of almost every sin of mankind on earth”. </span></p><p><span>For Wallace, this cruel sensuality can only be overcome by a form of literature which is emotionally compelling, contributes to the combating of loneliness, and makes the reader less terrified of themselves and the political powers which surround them. Unlike the dour cynicism of his postmodern contemporaries, the uniqueness of Wallace lay in his willingness to embrace these traditional agendas, and to know which structures of psychological and political oppression to direct his attention at, defending a passionate and humane instinct over a hyper-intellectualised avant-garde formalism.&nbsp;</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/adrienne-brown/visionary-fiction-when-social-justice-means-giving-up-on-utopias">Science fiction and social justice: giving up on utopias</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </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> Ideas Culture Elliot Murphy Mon, 31 Aug 2015 00:30:53 +0000 Elliot Murphy 95570 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Inside the alternative death care movement https://www.opendemocracy.net/transformation/jennifer-luxton/inside-alternative-death-care-movement <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>From funeral cooperatives to green burials, there's a kinder, gentler, less expensive way to die.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="image-caption"><img src="https://opendemocracy.net/files/JenniferLuxton.png" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Illustration by Jennifer Luxton. Credit: YES! Magazine. All rights reserved.</p> <p><span>Char Barrett walked into a quaint cafe in Seattle with business in mind.</span></p> <p>Over the smell of coffee and freshly baked tarts, she was going to advise a client on how best to host a special event at her home, helping coordinate everything from the logistics of the ceremony, to how to dress the guest of honor. People might cry, they might laugh, and all attention would be on the person of the hour—only that person would never see, hear, or enjoy the festivities, because they would be dead.</p> <p>&nbsp;“People looked at me like I had two heads when I said, ‘Keep the body at home after the person dies,’” says Barrett, a Seattle-based funeral director and certified “death midwife.” “For families who want it, they should have the right to do it.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Barrett has been practicing home funerals in the area since 2006 through her business, A Sacred Moment. In a home funeral service, the body is either brought back to the family from the place of death or stays at home if the person died there. The family then washes the body, in part to prepare it for viewing and in part as a ritual.</p> <p>“It’s really the way we used to do it,” says Barrett.&nbsp;</p> <p>To Barrett and many other professionals who are offering alternatives to the more status-oriented, profit-driven funeral industry, it’s time to rethink how we handle death. From consumer cooperatives that combat price gouging, to putting the power of choice back in the hands of the family, the city of Seattle has become a hub for alternative death care in the last two years, according to Barrett. The subculture of “deathxperts” want not only to empower their clients, but also potentially phase out their jobs altogether—a sort of death of the funeral director as we know it.</p> <p><strong>A history of death</strong></p> <p>For the majority of human history, families handled arrangements for the deceased, from the time immediately after death, to burial or cremation. Until the advent of modern hospitals and health care at the turn of the last century, it was the norm for the old and sick to die at home surrounded by loved ones.</p> <p>During the Civil War, embalming as a form of preservation found a foothold when Union soldier casualties needed to be transported from the sweltering South to mourning families in the North. Today, its pragmatic purpose is to temporarily stop decomposition for viewing and final goodbyes. However, the overwhelming majority of contemporary consumers don’t realize that, in most cases, it’s not legally required to bury a body, although special circumstances vary from state to state.&nbsp;</p> <p>So why has probably every American funeral you’ve been to had an embalmed body in attendance?</p> <p>As 20th century consumerism took hold and people were more likely to die in a hospital than at home, death receded from public consciousness. If a loved one were to die today, you would probably call and pay a funeral home to pick her up from wherever she took her last breath. They would wash her, embalm her, and dress her to your family’s liking. You would briefly visit her one last time at a mortuary or a chapel before she was either buried or burned. In all likelihood, her last bodily contact before disposition would be with a complete stranger.</p> <p>In 1963, investigative journalist Jessica Mitford published "The American Way of Death,"&nbsp;an exposé of the country’s funeral-industrial complex, showing how it exploited the emotions of the living so it could up-sell unnecessary services and products, such as premium caskets and premier vaults. Federal Trade Commission regulations and consumer protections now prevent families from being swindled.&nbsp;</p> <p>Today, the funeral industry has become managed in part by aggregate companies. Mortuary giant Service Corporation International owns a large network of individually operated funeral homes and cemeteries, some of which exist on the same property as combination locations. If you imagine a standard funeral parlor and graveyard, you’re probably picturing an SCI-owned operation. Of the approximately 19,400 funeral homes in America, the publicly traded company owns about 2,300 homes, according to the National Funeral Director’s Association. Families and individuals privately own most of the rest.</p> <p>“The reality is that if you can’t adapt to compete with SCI, you probably shouldn’t be in the market,” says Jeff Jorgenson, owner of Elemental Cremation and Burial, which prides itself in being Seattle’s “only green funeral home.” “But SCI is one of the best competitors you could ever hope for because they’re slow to change and they’re exceptionally resistant to anything progressive.”</p> <p>Jorgenson started his business in 2012 with a special focus on carbon-neutral cremations and “green” embalming using eco-friendly preservatives. In every aspect of his operation, he works to be as environmentally minded as possible, an objective he sees lacking in most business models.</p> <p>As SCI spent the 1960s through 1990s acquiring independent funeral homes to maximize profits, another organization was doing the exact opposite by forming a collective to prioritize consumer rights.&nbsp;</p> <p>People’s Memorial Association is one of the nation’s only nonprofit organizations that pushes consumer freedom for end-of-life arrangements. Located in Seattle, the consumer membership-based group coordinates with 19 different death care providers across the state to offer fixed-price burial, cremation, and memorial services, as well as education and advocacy to encourage death care alternatives. Almost all of the funeral homes are privately owned and have a uniform price structure for PMA members, who contribute a one-time fee of $35. Barrett’s A Sacred Moment is one of PMA’s partners.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;“We negotiate contracts with the funeral homes so members walk in knowing exactly what they’re going to pay, and it’s usually a pretty significant discount from the usual prices,” says Nora Menkin, the managing funeral director of the Co-op Funeral Home. PMA founded it in 2007 when SCI decided to cancel arrangements with several of PMA’s partners. Now, PMA-contract homes offer full-service funerals for 65 percent less than the average local price, according to a 2014 price survey conducted by the PMA Education Fund.&nbsp;</p> <p>“There’s no sales pressure, there’s no up-selling, and we make sure people get what they need,” says Menkin. “It’s about the consumer telling us what they want.”</p> <p>Jorgenson’s Elemental Cremation and Burial works outside the umbrella of PMA’s service providers, but he still finds allies in Menkin and the Co-op Funeral Home.&nbsp;</p> <p>"We’re in it to change an industry,” he says. “Just one of our voices out there is useless. There’s a kinder, gentler, less expensive way, and that’s what we’re all doing. It’s helping families in a new, more collaborative way.”&nbsp;</p> <p>In Jorgenson’s opinion, you don’t even really need a funeral director.&nbsp;</p> <p>“A funeral director is a wedding planner on a compressed time scale,” he says. “With the exception of the legality of filing a death certificate, a funeral director does the exact same things a wedding planner does: They make sure that the venue is available, that the flowers are ordered, the chaplain is there for the service, and that the guest of honor, be it the bride or the dead person, is there on time.”&nbsp;</p> <p>In Washington state, some of the only legal requirements are preservation of the body 24 hours after death by way of embalming or refrigeration, obtaining a signed death certificate, and securing a permit for disposition of the deceased.&nbsp;</p> <p>If the body will be kept at home for longer than 24 hours, preservation can be achieved by putting the body on dry ice for the duration of the viewing. Once the family has had enough time with the person, he or she will be removed for final disposition, which includes burial, cremation, or scientific donation.&nbsp;</p> <p>“A funeral director that is truly in earnest with the services they’re providing these families would have the courage to say that,” says Barrett. “A family can do this themselves. They don’t need a licensed funeral director, especially in the 41 states where legally a family is able to sign their own death certificate.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Even families who still want the guidance of a professional shouldn’t feel powerless.</p> <p>“Too many people go to funeral homes and just want to be told what to do, because they haven’t been through it or they don’t want to think about it. That gives the funeral homes way more power than they really deserve,” says Menkin.</p> <p>Ideally, a funeral home should educate consumers and encourage them to make informed decisions, she says, ultimately just acting as an agent to carry out their wishes.</p> <p><strong>The process</strong></p> <p>For almost every modern funeral home preparation procedure, there is a more sustainable alternative. Dry ice can offset the need for embalming for brief viewing or shipping purposes. In instances where some form of embalming is necessary, such as a violently traumatic death, a mix of essential oils can replace the toxic mix of tinted formaldehyde. Even in the case of burial, biodegradable shrouds can eliminate the need for wood and metal caskets built, in theory, to last forever.</p> <p>The distinctions apply to cemeteries too, which are divided into several camps as outlined by the Green Burial Council, the industry authority on sustainability. It assigns funeral homes, cemeteries, and suppliers a rating based on strict environmental impact standards, which scrutinize everything from embalming practices to casket material.</p> <p>There are traditional cemeteries with standard graves, monuments, mausoleums, and often water-intensive grass landscaping. The next step up are hybrid cemeteries, which still may have regular plots, but also offer burial options that don’t require concrete vaults, embalming, or standard caskets. Natural burial grounds, the middle rank, prohibit the use of vaults, traditional embalming techniques, and burial containers that aren’t made from natural or plant-derived materials; landscaping must incorporate native plants to harmonize with the local ecosystem, conserve energy, and minimize waste. Premier green burial occurs on conservation burial grounds, which in addition to meeting all of the above requirements, requires partnership with an established conservation organization and be dedicated to long-term environmental stewardship.&nbsp;</p> <p>Natural and conservation burial grounds must limit the use and visibility of memorials and headstones so as to preserve the native visual landscape as much as possible. Some properties have switched to GPS-based plot markers—visitors wouldn’t know they’re in the middle of a cemetery unless they were looking for it.&nbsp;</p> <p>As consumers become more comfortable with taking charge of their dead, there will be more room to introduce new methods of body disposition, such as alkaline hydrolodis, a type of liquid cremation, and body composting. Earlier this year, supporters successfully funded a Kickstarter campaign to start research on the Urban Death Project, which aims to turn decomposing bodies into nutrient-rich soil. According to Jorgenson, sustainable burial practices are still part of a boutique market, though that doesn’t change his bottom line.&nbsp;</p> <p>“Death is difficult. People don’t really want to experiment with mom,” he says. “But I count myself fortunate to be out there as one of the people that offers these alternatives, should someone want them.”&nbsp;</p> <p>“The co-op movement is bigger in other countries,” says Menkin, who attended the 2014 International Summit of Funeral Cooperatives in Quebec. “Canada has a large network of funeral cooperatives, but it’s a bit more like a traditional funeral industry, just with a different business model. They’re not about alternative forms of disposition or changing the norm. We’re kind of writing the book on this one.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Eventually, those conversations may become commonplace.</p> <p>“Now when I mention home funerals to people, they don’t think anything of it,” says Barrett. To her, the time has come for people to think outside the box—literally.</p> <p class="image-caption">This article was first published by <a href="http://www.yesmagazine.org/inside-the-alternative-death-care-movement-20150807?utm_source=YTW&amp;utm_medium=Email&amp;utm_campaign=20150807">YES! Magazine</a>.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/samantha-wood-mccourt/can-end-of-life-be-opportunity-for-social-change">Can the end of life be an opportunity for social change?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/transformation/david-clark/works-of-love-cicely-saunders-and-hospice-movement">Works of love: Cicely Saunders and the hospice movement</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/yasmin-gunaratnam/intersectional-pain-what-i%E2%80%99ve-learned-from-hospices-and-feminism-of">Intersectional pain: what I’ve learned from hospices and feminism of colour</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <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> </div> </fieldset> Transformation Transformation the politics of care death and dying Jennifer Luxton Care Sun, 30 Aug 2015 23:15:00 +0000 Jennifer Luxton 95583 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Hurricane and the Empire https://www.opendemocracy.net/mariano-aguirre/hurricane-and-empire <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>On the tenth anniversary of Katrina, we republish an invitation to ponder the incapacity of the US government to respond to the disaster in New Orleans. What was at the root of that paralysis? <em>From the archive, September 5, 2005.</em></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/7Z7PFIpkVlbFU4WgXdQmZOOO3rreQhWV3RO9bQ6Ov_k/mtime:1440968660/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/8410123.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/Sru77c-lkHJzp6EhxMorV_y59e9vdIewoJD_j0Su7NU/mtime:1440968645/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/8410123.jpg" alt="Black community members commemorate 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. " title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Black community members commemorate 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Demotix/ Charles Easterling. All rights reserved</span></span></span>The aftermath of the coastal catastrophe in the United States is deeply instructive about the nature of United States politics and society. Two impressions reported in Spain offer important insight: from a Spanish television correspondent who attributed the inefficient response by US authorities to hurricane Katrina to the disconnection and rigid separation of powers between federal and local authorities, and from Spanish citizens trapped for days in New Orleans who arrived at Barcelona airport to describe a total lack of management and coordination: "only the army was there; it was like a war".&nbsp;<br /><br />To these, a third observation can be added. The US government has in recent years used the tax system to transfer wealth and resources from poor to rich people (see Eric Alterman, <em>The Book on Bush</em>, Penguin 2004); this has increased the fragmentation of the social, political and economic structure of the American public order.&nbsp;<br /><br />Together, these three factors - political dysfunction, militarisation, and socio-economic polarisation - are already sufficient to inflict severe damage on the very possibility of a cohesive social order; when combined with a catastrophe on the scale of Katrina, they reveal what lies just under the surface when the rules of economic Darwinism are applied - the destruction of social networks, abandonment of responsibility by the state for its citizens, devastated cities, broken drainage systems, destroyed levees, and the physical escape of the richest and the middle class while the disabled, the infirm, the old and the poor are left behind.&nbsp;<br /><br /><strong>What Katrina exposes<br /></strong><br />Several technical and engineering reports predicted that the levees around New Orleans would not stand a class-3 hurricane. The US federal government and congress did not pay enough attention, and refused to fund the necessary modernisation of the infrastructure (see Richard Serrano and Nicole Gaoutte, "Despite Warning, Washington Failed to Fund Levee Projects", <em>Los Angeles Times</em>, 4 September 2005).&nbsp;<br /><br />But politicians' lack of mental preparation is just as striking. Frank Rich notes the similarity between George W Bush's "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of levees" and Condoleezza Rice's post-9/11 claim that "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people could take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center" (although, as national security adviser, she had the intelligence reports that envisaged such a possibility). In the same vein, Donald Rumsfeld never expected a violent reaction from some people in Iraq to the invasion of their country (see Frank Rich, "Fallujah Floods the Superdome", <em>New York Times</em>, 4 September 2005).&nbsp;<br /><br />Many people are asking why such post-crisis chaos happened in the world's richest country and sole superpower. A partial answer to the question can be found in the work of several analysts - among them Jeremy Rifkin (<em>The European Dream</em>, Penguin 2004), Emmanuel Todd (<em>After the Empire</em>, Columbia University Press, 2004), and Immanuel Wallerstein (<em>The Decline of American Power,</em> New Press, 2003) - who argue that while the US is the major military power in the world (if not the most efficient), it lags far behind leading countries in other fields: internal organisation, protection of civil rights, provision of social goods, and respect for international legal norms.&nbsp;<br /><br />The consequences of this social regression include the absence of the state in areas where it is needed, an infinite bureaucratisation of daily life, and multiple social divisions: between rich and poor, blacks and whites, and between hundreds of immigrant communities and the wider society.&nbsp;<br /><br />The result too is a lack of trust which contains the permanent potential for dysfunction and (under extreme circumstances or pressures) collapse. As Robert D Putnam of Harvard University, argues, "a society characterised by generalised reciprocity is more efficient than a distrustful society"; such a society generates social capital and is more efficient (see Robert D Putnam, <em>Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community</em>, Simon &amp; Schuster, 2000).</p><p>For the last two years I lived in New York, another citizen of the great metropolis. Personal experiences are always subjective, but the absurd situations I was obliged to go through to undertake simple social transactions seem illustrative of a wider malaise: to buy and then cancel a cell phone, to arrange a decent DSL line, to travel by subway in the expectation of a working timetable, to obtain a credit card and then to cancel it when the bank charged incredible amounts in fees and interest rates, and to be paid medical insurance by a company that always had something to say ... in its own favour. Each step was a nightmare in the labyrinth of non-human electronic messages and atomised bureaucracy. And every step cost money and time.&nbsp;<br /><br />In these two years I encountered many parents in New York who found in September, at the end of the holiday period, that their children had been reassigned to far distant schools - sometimes a ninety-minute journey from home by train. Nor could I believe it when the media reported that some families had to buy flak-jackets and other equipment for their sons and daughters in Iraq, because the ones provided by the army are of Vietnam-era vintage and unusable (see "Body Armor Saves US Lives in Iraq, <em>Washington Post</em>, 4 December 2003).<br /><br /><strong>What America needs</strong><br /><br />There are three ways to approach the US. First, the tourist one: to look at it through the filter of some movies, and to believe that everything is like Manhattan in Woody Allen's <em>Annie Hall </em>or the TV series <em>Sex in the City</em>. Second, to deal only with businessmen or to find a comfortable niche in a nice campus, and then believe that there is no life outside. Third, to take to the streets and ask questions: why the New York subway is so poor and in some areas almost destroyed; why there is so much poverty in this rich country; why so many people have physical problems and (related) why it has the most expensive and most inefficient medical system in the world (see Paul Krugman's <em>New York Times</em> series on "ailing healthcare").<br /><br />The US is a predominantly conservative country, albeit one containing millions of liberal, progressive and democratic people. They and their fellow-citizens live under a state whose social and civic capacities have been severely disabled. Katrina and Baghdad are what happens as a result: the state has lost the capacity to manage critical situations.&nbsp;<br /><br />The global media is now showing the other America that is usually concealed from view (see David K. Shipler, <em>The Working Poor: Invisible in America,</em> Random House 2004). Most of the victims of Katrina are black and latinos; there are few whites, and many old people. Tens of thousands, internally displaced by the hurricane, spent five days inside the New Orleans convention centre and superdome, surrounded by the army and the national guard - regarded more as part of a security threat than as a humanitarian crisis. Many were then assigned to an unknown destination in a way that reflected the existing casualness of their connection to full citizenship. They were ignored before the hurricane passed through their states and their lives, and are being mistreated in its aftermath (see Zygmunt Bauman, <em>Wasted Lives: Modernity and its Outcasts</em>, Polity Press, 2003).<br /><br />Washington deals with this other America in the same way it approaches its problems around the world: using force against Iraq, bullying the United Nations, blackmailing other countries over the International Criminal Court or the Kyoto agreement. No wonder its response to Katrina is, as the returning Spanish tourists noted, militarising New Orleans.<br /><br />The real United States is the one portrayed in Clint Eastwood's film <em>Million Dollar Baby,</em> a ruthless portrait of the self-made (woman) myth, and in Tom Wolfe's novel <em>A Man in Full</em> (1998), a feline illumination of a venal, hierarchical racist and chaotic society. It is the one on display to the world in the past week. This United States - before hurricane Katrina, and even more afterwards - is a country that urgently needs help from and dialogue with the rest of the world.</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="/nick-buxton-ben-hayes/ten-years-on-katrina-militarisation-and-climate-change">Ten years on: Katrina, militarisation and climate change</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> United States Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics International politics Mariano Aguirre Sun, 30 Aug 2015 20:28:16 +0000 Mariano Aguirre 95591 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Death of a peace process: martial law returns to Turkey https://www.opendemocracy.net/international-state-crime-initiative/death-of-peace-process-martial-law-returns-to-turkey <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Turkey has placed the Kurds and their struggle for human rights within a state of exception – outside the protections of due process of law.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/gnf33GgMBEIw1gK33_w1Ne6qBLo_4lgZZtrvHmfj3ig/mtime:1440838865/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/IMG_7105.JPG" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Kurdish women pleading with a Turkish soldier."><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/ShhKER7m8rsoqMgXvV9ocdy89cJElEIKVG-mPR43rcs/mtime:1440838730/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/IMG_7105.JPG" alt="Kurdish women pleading with a Turkish soldier." title="Kurdish women pleading with a Turkish soldier." width="460" height="287" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Kurdish women pleading with a Turkish soldier.</span></span></span>The Kurdish peace process is over and a huge wave of violence has started in Turkey’s south-east.&nbsp; The violence follows the killing of 33 Kurds in the Suruc bombing and the subsequent murders of two policemen in nearby Viransehir. Many fear that what is happening in Kurdish region of Turkey now is a return to the 1990s which were marked by widespread violence and state crimes. In this period much of Turkey’s south-east became what Agamben has described as a state of exception: martial law became normalised during the 1990s and the Kurdish region experienced intensely high levels of state crime including village destruction, massacres, extra-judicial killings, disappearances, mass forced displacement and endemic torture.</span></p> <p>It seems that the nature of the Turkish state in relation to its Kurdish minority has not changed since the dark days of the 1990s – the inherited fear of Kurdish separatism and the Kurds themselves remains. We prefer to call it Kurdophobia, given that for 15 years the leaders of the Kurdish movement have made clear their demands are not for a separate nation but instead for equal citizenship in a democratic state. </p> <p>For the past two years negotiations between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish government had resulted in a peace process – the aim of which, for Kurdish leaders, was an end to the discrimination, human rights violations and violent conflict which the Kurdish community had long suffered at the hands of the Turkish state. </p> <p>The peace process ended abruptly, a result it seems of the recent electoral success of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP) in June, and the consequential thwarting of Erdogan’s presidential ambitions. Erdogan has made no secret of his desire for constitutional change towards a presidential system in which he would assume ultimate power. The approaching early general election in November is unlikely to change this course. The AKP administration’s dramatic loss of support among Kurds has forced it to consider ways in which it can restore those lost votes. Its first step was to re-introduce the ‘terror’ card by declaring a state of emergency in over a hundred different Kurdish regions. These regions have been declared high security regions and civilians are prohibited from entering even their villages or towns for days at a time.&nbsp; </p> <p>Erdogan’s resurrection of the war on terror is, in effect, a return to the institutionalised punishment inflicted on all Turkish Kurds whose daily lives are obstructed at every level. In response to the broken ceasefire and the return of 1990s state practices, some pro-HDP ruling municipalities have declared political self-rule. A declaration of autonomy is a strong message to the state but it is important to distinguish between what the state understands as democratic autonomy and how the Kurdish political community perceives it. For the Kurdish movement, such a declaration is a way of exposing the state’s illegitimate activities in the region and seeking a situation in which elected Kurdish politicians might assume more power while still operating as a part of the Turkish nation. By contrast, the state accepts the declaration of democratic autonomy as a sign of separatism and the first stage in the establishment of a Kurdistan on Turkish land.</p> <p>Most of the declarations of autonomy, perhaps unsurprisingly, have come from those Kurdish regions where security forces and the pro-PKK Kurdish Youth Organization (YDG-H) are engaged in increasingly violent confrontations. This violence, however, has affected the ways in which the declarations of autonomy have been perceived by the state and has, in turn, defined the intensity of the state’s response to those declaring autonomy. It seems that both sides are using a controlled-chaos strategy to threaten and inhibit the actions from the opposing side. Resorting to its long experience in state criminality, and in criminalising its political opponents, the Turkish state is in the process of creating a <em>de facto</em> state of martial law. </p> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/TgptkaYIGBRJW8o5kpOr3STa_1lJgm0ruW0kZ9pgNL0/mtime:1440838866/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/unnamed%20%286%29.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="The mayors of Diyarbakir’s Sur District, Fatma Şık Barut and Seyit Narin, with Kurdish students before their arrest."><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/1wAPkX5GrZN9Sh485Y-RU_amDoUD8vrsPQBrPLbns20/mtime:1440838781/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/unnamed%20%286%29.jpg" alt="The mayors of Diyarbakir’s Sur District, Fatma Şık Barut and Seyit Narin, with Kurdish students before their arrest." title="The mayors of Diyarbakir’s Sur District, Fatma Şık Barut and Seyit Narin, with Kurdish students before their arrest." width="460" height="259" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The mayors of Diyarbakir’s Sur District, Fatma Şık Barut and Seyit Narin, with Kurdish students before their arrest.</span></span></span>Fatma Şık Barut, a pro-HDP mayor of Diyarbakir Sur Municipality, was detained on 19 August, at 5am, in front of her 8-year-old daughter. She was held in detention for 4 days without charge, in contravention of regulations which stipulate a detainee must not be held longer than 24 hours without charge. The Turkish state, however, initiated recent changes which allow for detention without trial for up to four more days if security forces claim that the allegation consists of an organized crime. Despite the fact that it was the Sur neighbourhood committee and not the mayors who declared autonomy, Fatma Şık Barut was arrested with others including another Diyarbakir mayor, Seyit Narin. They were detained in their homes in an early morning raid. Some of those detained have alleged torture and exposure to physical and verbal violence and they were reportedly held in filthy cells without beds. </span></p><p><span>The raids and detentions had the character of performative symbolism. Such raids are normally reserved for suspects of violent crimes and those likely to flee. The mayors fit neither category and should have been invited for police questioning. For Fatma, her arrest and detention came as a complete surprise: “We have collaborated with our governor, the chief of the police department, the city administration and MPs to prevent the conflict that has been taking place over the past 15 days. Even the chief of police has called me several times to thank me for my effort to stop current events. I do not have any statement that explains what has been happening.”</span></p> <p>After four days in custody, on 22 August at 9pm, they were brought before the court and accused under the infamous article 302 of attempting to destroy the unity of the state and integrity of the Republic. Article 302 carries with it a potential life sentence. The court hearing lasted less than 4 hours, and when the accused attempted to defend themselves, they were silenced by the judge. Despite a prohibition against the presence of armed security forces during the court session, weapons were visibly displayed by five officers, four of whom were identified as special police unit members (‘özel harekat’), and the fifth a member of MIT, the Turkish Intelligence Agency. Such was the speed and cursory nature of the court process that the decision on the guilt of the mayors had clearly already made. In a meeting on 18 August, with a neighbourhood ‘Muhtar’ (or headman), Recep Tayyip Erdogan had declared that&nbsp; those responsible for the separatist acts “will be punished in the heaviest way”. </p> <p>Immediately after the ‘hearing’, the detainees were bundled from the court and forced into waiting unplated and unmarked vehicles. The three mayors and two municipality workers were then ‘disappeared’ to an unknown destination revealed to neither the detainees nor their families.</p> <p>Equally reminiscent of the state terror of the 1990s was the special police unit officer’s armed threat to those travelling in the car: “You are going to be executed”.</p> <p>Over 48 hours and travelling only at night, the detainees were subject to persistent humiliation and threats. Following a short stop in the nearby city of Kirikkale, they arrived at Ankara Sincan Prison where the abuse and humiliations continued. There is a medical report confirming the detainees were tortured. Each detainee was strip-searched, a practice which had ended in Sincan Prison some years earlier, but resurrected for the Kurdish mayors. Following the strip-search, they were placed in a cell without any bed or basic furniture, denied food for 24 hours and told they would have to purchase anything they needed. Guilty until proven innocent, the mayors were then removed from their posts with immediate effect. </p> <p>Fatma and her colleagues must now wait for the series of court hearings which will inevitably follow, and, which in Turkey, may take years before a final decision is handed down. This is also a form of judicial punishment. </p> <p>This example show us just how fragile Turkey’s Kurdish reforms indeed are. The Turkish judiciary remain deeply opposed to Kurdish rights and the Turkish criminal justice system remains imbued with a counter-insurgency raison d’etre when dealing with Kurdish issues. &nbsp;Turkey has placed the Kurds and their struggle for human rights within a state of exception – outside the protections of due process of law. In this state of exception unlawful treatments are legitimised and the accused is deprived of both voice and defence.&nbsp; </p> <p>Here, the processes of arrest, trial and custody become in themselves forms of punishment, far removed from the protections of due process: violent house raids in the middle of the night, 4 days without any detailed investigation or charge, denying the right to self-defence, being removed from a farcical court hearing at night in unmarked vehicles, and being subjected to full strip-searches and humiliation. </p> <p>Removed too are the more humane features of locating prisoners close to their homes and families. Despite room in Diyarbakir prison, the state has demanded that these public servant detainees be treated as exemplary high security threats to Turkish integrity. As such, they were theatrically transported to Ankara – a trophy in the President’s campaign for electoral success in November. </p> <p>The message Erdogan is sending is clear – the peace process is over, the Kurds are once again Turkey’s greatest threat, and only a strong man leading a strong state can protect the Turkish population from Kurdish political violence. The attack on the Kurdish mayors and other civilian leaders is a powerful message of intent to all Kurds.</p> <p>The joy felt by the Turkish left and Kurdish populations following the HDP’s success in the June elections has quickly descended into fear and despair in the wake of Erdogan’s campaign of judicial and military violence in the south-east – a campaign designed to restore support for his presidential ambitions, and one which is sure to continue and worsen as the November elections approach.</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/kamran-matin/why-is-turkey-bombing-kurds">Why is Turkey bombing the Kurds?</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"> Turkey </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </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> Turkey Civil society Conflict Democracy and government International State Crime Initiative Sat, 29 Aug 2015 09:01:04 +0000 International State Crime Initiative 95577 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Why 'no-fly zones' or 'IS-free zones' are not a solution in Syria https://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/hrair-balian/why-no-fly-zones-or-is-free-zones-are-not-solution-in-syria <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>An external military intervention to establish these zones, even with the best intentions, is likely to make things worse; the international community should instead work on building consensus. A <a href="http://www.peacebuilding.no/">NOREF</a> policy brief.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/TDfF9twRraetL-H-MQJ6kC9I-79C4AkSRVFxmvaM1AQ/mtime:1440628787/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/7117342.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/7TEOzBcfdvd0iSXrbvw6G1Pr6zpOyaXqgGV5rAx_UlM/mtime:1440628760/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/553378/7117342.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">See Li/Demotix. All rights reserved.</span></p> <p><span>There is a renewed push in Washington for the US military and its allies to establish no-fly zones in Syria to protect civilians. With well over 200,000 people killed, half the population displaced and no end in sight to the war, the need to safeguard civilians is indeed urgent. However, an external military intervention, even with such a good intention, is likely to precipitate more chaotic fighting, ensure the partition of the country into ungovernable fiefdoms and further harm civilians.</span></p> <p><span>Rather than leading another military intervention in the Middle East, the US should assume the more productive role of working to build a minimum consensus among the “Friends of Syria”, and with Russia and Iran. This consensus must accommodate the interests and concerns of Syria’s external stakeholders, and reconcile the existential fears of various communities and regime supporters in Syria with the aspirations of the country’s majority Sunni population. Once these fundamental issues are addressed, a political solution to the Syrian crisis would become possible.</span></p> <p><span>Politically, the regime’s internal and external support base is eroding, with the business elite, the Alawite community, Russia and Iran questioning the regime’s inability to explore a political compromise to end the war. Militarily, the regime is having difficulty recruiting the foot soldiers needed to pursue the war on all fronts (a fact President Assad admitted in his latest address to the nation), and army commanders are resenting the role that external forces have assumed in the conflict. Economically, the country has depleted its foreign currency reserves, its national currency is falling in value and credit lines from abroad are drying up. At the same time, various opposition forces in Syria are on the offensive. Regional powers have tenuously agreed to a common strategy whereby support is channelled to Islamist opposition forces.</span></p> <p><span>The strategy has resulted in recent opposition advances against regime positions throughout the country, but has brought the Syrian people no closer to a resolution of the conflict. Independently, the Islamic State (IS) continues to make inroads throughout opposition-held areas. The Turkish government’s announcement of the creation of an IS-free zone along Turkey’s southern border is unlikely either to protect civilians in major Syrian cities or stop the IS advances elsewhere.</span></p> <p><span>Under these circumstances, external military intervention to impose protected zones or no-fly zones has the potential of inducing further opposition advances, leading to ground wars in major cities between and among various opposition and pro-regime forces, causing more casualties and the additional massive displacement of civilians. IS is likely to fill the vacuum when the regime is further weakened. Moreover, a western-led military intervention in Syria will stiffen internal and external support for the regime, fuelling further militarisation and violence. Military action in the present environment to protect civilians will thus backfire—and it will largely be civilians who will pay the price. Pursuing such military action in lieu of political strategy will indefinitely delay—if not altogether destroy—any possibility of developing a sustainable political solution to the Syrian conflict.</span></p> <p><span>The U.S. and all other international supporters of various sides in the conflict have common interests in Syria, namely ending the catastrophic levels of violence, preventing state collapse and extremist takeover of the country, and creating an orderly transition to a new government. If external stakeholders are able to coalesce around these common interests they will have a far higher chance of success in negotiating an end to the Syrian conflict. The latest consultations between the US, Russia and the Gulf Cooperation Council in Doha, and other current discussions taking place in Riyadh, Tehran and elsewhere on Syria are encouraging new developments in the direction of a political solution to end the war.</span></p> <p><span>The proposed external military intervention to secure no-fly or protected zones is yet another band-aid solution to the conflict, just like the formation of an international coalition to fight IS, the creation of a small IS-free zone, the air strikes against al-Qaeda operatives, the training and equipping of a “moderate” armed opposition, and so on. These measures are politically expedient, but completely ignore the root cause giving rise to the problems that these policies seek to address—the continuing war in Syria. These lazy solutions ignore the elephant in the room, which is that the Syrian war will endure until the powerful backers of Syria’s many antagonists roll up their sleeves and hammer out a compromise between themselves and their Syrian counterparts. Then, and only then, will an international use of force—specifically in defence of an agreement and under a UN Security Council mandate—be justified, productive and legal.</span></p> <p><em>Originally <a href="http://www.peacebuilding.no/Regions/Middle-East-and-North-Africa/Syria/Publications/Why-no-fly-zones-or-IS-free-zones-are-not-a-solution-in-Syria">published</a> by <a href="http://www.peacebuilding.no/">NOREF</a> on 19 August 2015.</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="/arab-awakening/bassma-kodmani/solution-for-syria-part-1">A solution for Syria (part 1)</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/bassma-kodmani/solution-for-syria-part-2">A solution for Syria (part 2)</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/arab-awakening/leila-hilal/united-nations-and-peace-process-strategy-for-syria">The United Nations and a peace process strategy for Syria</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/arab-awakening/josepha-ivanka-wessels/utter-failure-of-international-community-to-protect-civilians-">The utter failure of the international community to protect civilians in Syria</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"> Syria </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 Syria middle east no-fly zone Islamic State consensus NOREF policy briefs NOREF Geopolitics Violent transitions Hrair Balian Fri, 28 Aug 2015 22:01:18 +0000 Hrair Balian 95528 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ten years on: Katrina, militarisation and climate change https://www.opendemocracy.net/nick-buxton-ben-hayes/ten-years-on-katrina-militarisation-and-climate-change <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A security-led approach to climate change and complex emergencies not only fails to address the fundamental causes of these crises – it will often exacerbate them.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/lI5LMFqlMcvvqmInznHy_Ku-q0Ut7lOqeZL2cuQpObg/mtime:1440795104/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/20881021731_51cc8d0499_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Hurricane Katrina 2005. Flickr/NASA. Some rights reserved."><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/2dNx7akQ6_HvQqF4puZbH-o2DGGjQ2djXxmC_kuvM6I/mtime:1440794922/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/20881021731_51cc8d0499_z.jpg" alt="Hurricane Katrina 2005. Flickr/NASA. Some rights reserved." title="Hurricane Katrina 2005. Flickr/NASA. Some rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hurricane Katrina 2005. Flickr/NASA. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>As </span><a href="http://time.com/hurricane-katrina-10-years-later">images from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina are replayed</a><span> around the world, they are still as shocking as they were ten years ago. Many of us watched in disbelief as we saw how the world’s richest and most powerful state seemed unable, then unwilling, to rescue its own citizens – sending in trigger-happy troops who shot at the hurricane’s victims instead. Coming so soon after the Iraq war, the hapless Bush administration appeared unable to respond to any crisis without resort to the military. As the waters receded, America’s deep-seated racism and inequality was laid bare for the whole world to see.</span></p> <p><span>Could it happen again today? To an important extent, the US government’s response to Hurricane Katrina has become a textbook example of ‘how-not-do-it’ for crisis managers around the world. Embarrassed by their failure, the US government carried out a significant reorganisation of the maligned Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). When Hurricane Sandy caused carnage in 2012, their response – while still wanting in places – was more widely praised.</span></p> <p><span>But the structural inequality and institutional racism that underpinned the Bush administration’s response is still there, a fact that President </span><a href="http://edition.cnn.com/2015/08/27/politics/obama-hurricane-katrina-10-new-orleans/index.html">Obama noted on his visit to New Orleans</a><span> this week. Moreover, the already bloated military and security complex that reflected these power relations has expanded enormously since Katrina – and is now using the spectre of climate change to grab yet more public resources.</span></p> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/jUKAUHn2mavAjLxcxZOCAFX9zEaME-aBHQDtMhYO2vs/mtime:1440795105/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/737335874_aa0f662e45_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Storm surge from Katrina. Flickr/AlienGraffiti. Some rights reserved."><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/on9jHh43Qu2weMFWfpa-AUBRavbRNzzGr1o_rnaM0X4/mtime:1440794976/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/737335874_aa0f662e45_z.jpg" alt="Storm surge from Katrina. Flickr/AlienGraffiti. Some rights reserved." title="Storm surge from Katrina. Flickr/AlienGraffiti. Some rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Storm surge from Katrina. Flickr/AlienGraffiti. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Two years after Katrina, in 2007, the Pentagon released its first </span><a href="http://csis.org/files/media/csis/pubs/071105_ageofconsequences.pdf">major report</a><span> on climate change, warning in no uncertain terms of an “age of consequences” in which, amongst other things, “altruism and generosity would likely be blunted.” This was followed up a year later by an </span><a href="http://www.consilium.europa.eu/uedocs/cms_data/docs/pressdata/en/reports/99387.pdf%20">EU security report</a><span> that talked of climate change as a “threat multiplier” that “threatens to overburden states and regions which are already fragile and conflict prone.” It warned that this would lead to “political and security risks that directly affect European interests”. Over the next few years, the national security strategies of the countries across the global north would be rewritten to offer the same self-interested and dystopian vision.</span></p> <p><span>In the aftermath of the financial crisis and the so-called Arab Spring, the dystopian thinking of powerful elites has had to face up to increasingly ‘complex emergencies’ as the reliance of modern societies on global supply lines, industrial food production, transnational infrastructure and high-tech communications have exposed and exacerbated existing vulnerabilities, by ensuring that disaster in one place now reverberates far beyond the initial point of contact. Climate change, the narrative goes, will add more fuel to the fire.</span></p> <p><span>Former UK Government Chief Scientist John Beddington has already warned of a potential “</span><a href="http://www.bis.gov.uk/assets/goscience/docs/p/perfect-storm-paper.pdf">perfect storm</a><span>” of converging food, water and energy crises by 2030, which could see states struggle to control delivery of basic goods and services. Doomsday scenarios are very much the order of the day. For some commentators, this is little more than ‘collapse porn’, a </span><a href="http://publicinterest.org.uk/collapse-porn/">malign and apathy-producing catastrophism</a><span> that fails to take into account the capacity of modern societies to adapt and become more resilient.</span></p> <p><span>However, in one sense, the accuracy of the predictions doesn’t really matter. On the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina&nbsp; we only have to look at how the humanitarian crisis on Europe’s doorstep and in its borderlands is unfolding. In Calais, we see a humanitarian emergency being treated as a security issue as the British government has pledged £22 million pounds on fences, police and dogs to keep out refugees fleeing war and torture. Both Hungary and Bulgaria announced this week that they were deploying troops, so-called “border hunters”, to prevent refugees entering the country from the former Yugoslavia.</span></p> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/Bac4BpcOI3yTjV2JMS1gu6W3Z_SwZUKEIXUA4dhCQqo/mtime:1440795105/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/58505150_575b3e2a4d_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Hurricane Katrina, 2005. Flickr/News Muse. Some rights reserved."><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/szm3vPus104C0sLjYmaaIYE7_4Ph2qrlem8iA32ahoE/mtime:1440795004/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/58505150_575b3e2a4d_z.jpg" alt="Hurricane Katrina, 2005. Flickr/News Muse. Some rights reserved." title="Hurricane Katrina, 2005. Flickr/News Muse. Some rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hurricane Katrina, 2005. Flickr/News Muse. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Further afield in Brazil, there were </span><a href="http://brasil.elpais.com/brasil/2015/05/27/politica/1432728524_009010.html">reports this summer of authorities mobilising troops to defend water infrastructure</a><span> amid an ongoing drought in the megacity of São Paulo. Absent credible plans to conserve water and tackle some of the root causes of water scarcity such as deforestation, journalists reported that approximately 70 soldiers were involved in exercises to prepare the utility for an uprising, with 30 men with machine guns stationed in the facility’s canteen.</span></p> <p><span>And we can already see how the national security planners are factoring protests against inequality and social injustice into the new crisis management paradigms: by trying to predict complex emergencies and social unrest. Today, the UK’s </span><a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-risk-register-for-civil-emergencies-2013-edition">National Risk Register</a><span>, for example, lists “public disorder” and “disruptive industrial action” as among the most severe and likely security threats facing the country. Crucially, by casting these issues as security threats rather than social justice issues, a very different medicine is proscribed. Moreover, the authorities have greatly increased their powers to deal with these so-called ‘threats’. Staying with the UK, the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 permits ministers to introduce "emergency regulations" without recourse to parliament and "give directions or orders" of virtually unlimited scope, including the destruction of property, prohibiting assemblies, banning travel and outlawing "other specified activities". Again, this is the shape of emergency planning the world over.</span></p> <p><span>Dystopian preparations by the state are reflected in the corporate arena. Where we see a future climate crisis, many companies see only opportunity: oil firms looking forward to melting ice caps delivering new accessible fossil fuels; security firms touting the latest technologies to secure borders from ‘climate refugees’; or investment fund managers speculating on weather-related food prices – to name but a few. In 2012, Raytheon, one of the world’s largest defence contractors, </span><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/08/raytheon-climate-change-security">announced "expanded business opportunities" arising from "security concerns and their possible consequences,</a><span>" due to the "effects of climate change" in the form of "storms, droughts, and floods". The rest of the defence sector has been quick to follow.</span></p> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/ZgITtJbvpOWyfRql8ZvUTEHI1z09sFEU9B8IrL6u1Y4/mtime:1440795106/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/4421337456_a625dee4f1_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Damage from Katrina, 2005. Flickr/Loco Steve. Some rights reserved."><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/r5AfpiNtAUVQ7o0pm4eE8g9Q3ij46Ms0jop3bjt7zfg/mtime:1440795059/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/4421337456_a625dee4f1_z.jpg" alt="Damage from Katrina, 2005. Flickr/Loco Steve. Some rights reserved." title="Damage from Katrina, 2005. Flickr/Loco Steve. Some rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Damage from Katrina, 2005. Flickr/Loco Steve. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The implications of a militarised and profit-making approach to climate adaptation and crisis-management are very disturbing – and need to be taken more seriously by anyone concerned with environmental justice, civil liberties and democracy.</span></p> <p><span>Ultimately, a security-led approach to climate change and complex emergencies not only fails to address the fundamental causes of these crises – it will often exacerbate them. Worldwide the increased focus on food security is already driving increased land grabbing. The diversion of resources into military spending and strategies is preventing much needed investment in crisis-prevention and tackling the root causes of human insecurity. Given that climate change will impact disproportionately on the poorest, a militarisation of our response merely compounds a fundamental injustice – that those least responsible for climate change will be most affected.</span></p> <p><span>In this sense, Hurricane Katrina was a watershed moment and a warning to us all as it laid bare the way in which democratic states would become more preoccupied with the threat posed by their own citizens – instead of taking the bold steps needed to protect current and future populations. Transformed by 9/11, it is this vision of ‘Homeland Security’ that is shaping future responses to emergency – and transforming climate change from a social justice issue to a national security one. We the people have to combine our actions to end worsening climate change with a transformation of the institutions that seek to respond to its impacts.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><em>Ben Hayes and Nick Buxton are editors of the forthcoming book, The Secure and the Dispossessed: How the military and corporations are shaping a climate-change world (November 2015) available for pre-order at </em><a href="http://www.plutobooks.com/display.asp?K=9780745336961&amp;"><em>Pluto Press</em></a><span>.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/nick-buxton-carsten-pedersen-mads-christian-barbesgaard/ocean-grabbing-new-wave-of-twenty-first-cent">Ocean grabbing: a new wave of twenty first century enclosures</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/mariano-aguirre/hurricane-and-empire">The Hurricane and the Empire </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Science </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> Civil society Democracy and government International politics Science Ben Hayes Nick Buxton Fri, 28 Aug 2015 20:51:43 +0000 Ben Hayes and Nick Buxton 95574 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Mobilising for peace and freedom: from aspiration to lasting change https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/madeleine-rees/mobilising-for-peace-and-freedom-from-aspiration-to-lasting-change <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The 2015 WILPF manifesto outlines how those who choose peace over conflict must act, and recognises that negotiations on a treaty making transnational corporations accountable for violation of human rights is part of the way forward.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In 2014, Cynthia Cockburn wrote the first <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/cynthia-cockburn/womens-power-to-stop-war-hubris-or-hope">article</a> in the 12-month lead up to the 100th anniversary of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She reprised the formation of the organisation reminding us of our history in April 1915: &nbsp;</p> <p>“<em>More than a thousand women assembled to talk peace. They travelled there from twelve countries, on both sides of the Atlantic and both sides of the conflict, drawn by a belief that women could achieve something male leaders were unwilling or unable to do: stop the carnage. The organisation emerging from the Hague Congress called itself the International Women's Committee for Permanent Peace. A few years on, it would be renamed the </em><a href="http://www.abebooks.com/book-search/title/women%27s-international-league-peace-freedom-1915-1965/page-1/" target="_blank"><em>Women's International League for Peace and Freedom</em></a><em>.”</em></p> <p>In her <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/cynthia-cockburn/womens-power-to-stop-war-hubris-or-hope">article</a> on oD 50.50<a href="https://opendemocracy.net/5050/cynthia-cockburn/womens-power-to-stop-war-hubris-or-hope"></a>, Cockburn announced WILPF’s main strategy to prepare for the centenary: to roll out world-wide mobilisation under the bold headline <em>Women’s Power to Stop War</em>, and to ask the cogent question “is this a statement a fact, or mere aspiration?”</p> <p>Now it is August 2015, and the anniversary is over. A congregation of two parts: the <a href="http://www.womenstopwar.org/">Congress and the Conference.</a> The former to devise and approve the WILPF programme for the next three years, the latter to start building anew, a movement for change, an alliance of women and men to realise women’s power to stop war. Not unambitious, certainly aspirational, but then again one has to be - given what we are up against.&nbsp;</p> <p>Over the last 12 months our sections and members from over 40 countries - many in the midst of conflict - discussed and debated the fundamental issues of women, war and peace. At our Congress in April, we adopted a <a href="http://wilpf.org/adoption-of-the-wilpf-manifesto-renewing-a-centennial-commitment-to-peacemaking/">Manifesto</a> reflecting the culmination of that process.&nbsp; </p><p><img src="https://opendemocracy.net/files/17201035588_25938ee494_k_0.jpg" alt="" width="400" /></p><p>Manifestos can be tricky things. There is always the risk that they can become dogmatic, inflexible, and ultimately part of the problem, or too different from what exists - with the risk of being disregarded as idealistic nonsense. &nbsp;</p> <p>The Manifesto we adopted serves to re-state our purposes as an organisation. To re-visit our history - a history of opposing war, of identifying conflicts’ root causes, and of adhering to principles of multilateralism as a means to address these concerns. In our Manifesto, we contextualized the issues and the challenges of today’s world and clearly outlined the obstacles to peace: </p> <p><em>Militarism as a way of thought, and the militarisation of societies, such that perceived threats are likely to be met with weaponry rather than words;&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>The capitalist economic system, involving the exploitation of the labour and resources of the many by the few, wantonly harming people and the environment, generating conglomerates of global reach and unaccountable power;&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>The nation-state system as it is today, involving dominant states, Imperialist projects, inter-state rivalry, contested borders, and, inside those borders, all too often, failure of democracy, political repression and intolerance of diversity;&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>Social systems of racist supremacy, cultural domination and religious hierarchy;&nbsp;</em></p> <p><em>Patriarchy, the subordination of women by men, in state, community and family, perpetuated by the social shaping of men and women into contrasted, unequal and limiting gender identities, favouring violent masculinities and compliant femininities.</em>&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Environmental destruction and ecocide as both cause and consequence of conflict and possibly the greatest danger we face in the modern world.</em></p> <p>All of these obstacles are interlinked and need to be addressed coherently, consciously, and constantly re-appraised, evaluated and monitored so that we - those who choose peace over conflict - can see and understand when and how to engage. &nbsp;</p> <p>At a conference full of like-minded and inspiring people from 80 countries, it’s easy to get swept away by the euphoria of the moment, by the recognition of commonality of purpose and a unified passion for change. But then you have to make it work. Our Manifesto did set out some of the main issues (as summarized above) that have to be addressed, but these were taken further by the conference - not surprisingly given the range of talents, experience, activism, and commitment of the participants. </p> <p>The main question was and is: how do we implement the Manifesto and the outcomes of the conference? There were some immediate and obvious things identified by the conference:&nbsp;</p> <p>The first element is to campaign for and demand a UN Secretary General who is appointed justly, and not by some secret negotiating process in the Security Council. The ideal is to appoint a person who will truly respect the charter. Who will be serious about human rights and how to realise them. A long list of attributes is necessary, but someone like Mary Robinson has them and she is not the only one.&nbsp; </p> <p>A second element is to engage with men to restructure power and to improve our understanding of gender identities. &nbsp;</p> <p>The third element is to critically analyse what a feminist foreign policy should <em>really</em> look like. A policy that combines the talents of the academics, the economists, the lawyers, the environmentalists, and the development experts. &nbsp;A policy that works with the people of a country and uses their input, their information, and their expertise to really implement change, to really make an impact. Let that be a formula for all foreign policy and see what a difference it would make. It would hit all of the issues in our Manifesto, both directly and indirectly. More importantly, it would not leave Margot Walstrom, the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Sweden, as the lone political advocate of a feminist foreign policy. She has opened the door, it behoves us all to follow her through it.&nbsp;</p> <p>The fourth major issue discussed at the conference was engagement with the United Nations and the multilateral system. Feelings of betrayal surfaced with what they do and how they do it. Words like patriarchy, arrogance, machismo, ineptitude and corruption, were interlaced with a less printable lexicon. The UN is not what it was hoped it would be. The claim was that we must take it back, bring it back to the Charter; engage, on our terms not theirs and on every issue - from development to environment to the women, peace and security agenda - and to be aware that we cannot all do it all. We need to combine, to look at who is doing what and make sure we make the connections.</p> <p>One of the most obvious answers to how we can achieve these goals can be answered in that old cliché: it starts with ourselves. This time, however, we need to analyse our context; we need to understand where we stand in 2015 and adapt to the changing environment. </p> <p>I want to give one simple example of how this could work:</p> <p>In July this year representatives from UN member States gathered in Geneva for a week-long first session of the intergovernmental working group (IGWG) towards a <a href="http://www.odg.cat/en/blog/peoples-mobilizations-un-treaty-tncs-inside-and-outside-unhrc">Treaty on Transnational Corporations (TNC)</a> covering multinational and domestic corporations and other business enterprises, with regards to human rights.&nbsp;This was the start of a series of negotiations, which could lead to a legally binding treaty framing the work of transnational companies and making them accountable for violations of human rights. In some respects, this process implicates the seven points of engagement (as mentioned in the new WILPF Manifesto listed above) and demonstrates the intersectionality of all of the issues while also providing us with a chance to roll out the “how”.&nbsp;</p> <p>If the ‘how’ part of implementing our Manifesto starts with ourselves (the peace makers, even if not signed up as full members yet) then issue one is knowledge: how many people in the world know that this is happening and what an incredible impact it could have in protecting their rights? Everything from greater food and water security, greater environmental protection, improved working conditions, less exploitation, less discrimination, accountability for violations, adherence to ILO conventions. Environmental responsibility. The list of potential benefit is endless.&nbsp;</p> <p>Issue two is States response: most governments stayed away in the first round, the EU tried to block the process. Other States such as Russia and Switzerland stated that the <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/GuidingPrinciplesBusinessHR_EN.pdf" target="_blank">UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights</a> work, and that a treaty would be premature.&nbsp;</p> <p>Issue three is systemic fault lines: this is the exemplification of what is wrong with a mono-economic culture. The dominating principle is neoliberalism, the extremist form of capitalism that puts profit ahead of law, regulation or - heaven forbid - the well being of people or the environment.&nbsp;</p> <p>Issue four is the multilateral system: it’s good that the working group has convened, but it’s not so good that the ways in which negotiations occur is to avoid acknowledging the power dynamics. Look at who the sponsoring states are, then at who is in opposition, and put money on who will prevail? The reason for this lies in the first three issues. Keeping people ignorant of what is happening enables governments and states - which have a primary responsibility for protecting human rights - to subvert legal obligations and consequently to protect the neoliberal economic system which can only survive if regulation based on human rights norms are not enforced. The multilateral system reflects this power imbalance and nothing changes.&nbsp;</p> <p>It does not take genius to see the implications of this for the other issues in our new Manifesto. In particular, the militarisation and consequent arms transfers to ‘protect’ areas where there are natural resources that feed the neoliberal system and hence must be available to the companies who would extract them.</p> <p>Organising intelligently: communication is key in all issues that are dealt with in the multilateral system. The biggest obstacle is knowledge and the media is crucial. Most people see the big picture as too overwhelming to address. They are either too engaged in their own plight - distracting themselves from that of others - to engage in trying to make change on this or any other issue. In the TNCs there is greater responsibility on the States that are the main opponents to the treaty. These are the industrialised “democracies” where we have access to elected representatives and media - if we choose to use them.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>So now revert to the ‘how’. Imagine a system that works: civil society, including trade unions, academic institutions and NGOs (including those which are not usually involved in issues of International corporations or human rights) recognise the link to their issue and engage. There is advocacy and lobbying of elected officials, work on the media to make sure more and more people are aware of what is being done, and being done in their name. We must demand the state actually does what international law (all the human rights conventions, arms trade treaty, the Charter of the UN) demands. &nbsp;</p> <p>The concept of due diligence is such that states should be regulating the conduct of companies registered in their territories. A treaty would give the state more leverage in controlling the activities of these non-state actors and would therefore facilitate the state meeting its obligations under international law. At present, there is a plethora of complicated regulations that severely inhibit the states engagement. I personally know of one case where a state was fairly sure that violations of human rights were being perpetrated by a particular transnational extractive company in DRC, and would have wanted to take action, but there were so many sub- contractors that it would have taken 200 lawyers over a year to work through them all, and even then there would have been little hope of attribution, something which is untenable. In these circumstances the power of the TNC becomes greater than that of the State. That cannot be what people want. Unelected, non-transparent, unaccountable bodies can act with impunity. It’s not what many TNCs themselves want, as witnessed by those that try to comply with the <a href="http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/GuidingPrinciplesBusinessHR_EN.pdf" target="_blank">UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights</a>. &nbsp;</p> <p>Lawyers need to engage using international human rights law. Academic institutions need to engage using the research already available that violations of social and economic rights when combined with the gendered dynamics of political economy, lead inexorably to conflict. </p> <p>Changing the position of the powerful states is a function of democracy. It would make the multilateral system closer to its purpose under the UN Charter.&nbsp; By engaging on the issue of the TNC treaty we would all be putting into action the elements of the WILPF Manifesto for the 21st century and proving it can work.&nbsp;</p> <p>No one ever said this is easy. Mobilising and encouraging people to be engaged in issues they do not see as interesting, in places that are remote, in negotiations which seem interminable and hence irrelevant is not for the faint hearted, but it is what we must do. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Our <a href="http://www.womenstopwar.org/">conference</a> was full of belief in change, not naïve, not merely aspirational but solid, committed and entirely possible. When women from Syria, Libya, Iraq, DRC, -and of all places Palestine—(you name the place which inspires hand wringing and helplessness and there were women from there showing anything but ), embrace that belief, and drive it forward as a way of dealing with their daily experience, then we have something! &nbsp;</p> <p>Our Manifesto states the what, the how, and the consequence if we make it happen. If we do want sustainable peace then we know what we have to do to get it—the TNC treaty is merely one part of the jigsaw.&nbsp;</p><p><strong><em><strong><em>&nbsp;</em></strong>Read more articles from WILPF's </em></strong><strong><em><strong><em><strong><em><a href="http://www.wilpfinternational.org/">Centenary Conference</a> in </em></strong></em></strong>50.50's series <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/women%27s-power-to-stop-war">Women's Power to Stop War.&nbsp;</a></em></strong></p> <p><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/madeleine-rees/this-is-what-feminist-foreign-policy-looks-like">This is what a feminist foreign policy looks like</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/cynthia-cockburn/womens-power-to-stop-war-hubris-or-hope">Women&#039;s power to stop war: Hubris or hope?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/there-are-more-of-us-who-want-peace-than-want-killing-to-continue">There are more of us who want peace than want the killing to continue</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/cynthia-cockburn/world-disarmament-start-by-disarming-masculinity">World disarmament? Start by disarming masculinity</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/robin-lloyd/speaking-truth-to-power-at-un">Speaking truth to power at the UN</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/scrapping-trident-holistic-approach">Scrapping Trident: the holistic approach</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ann-wright/where-your-conscience-can-take-you-north-korea">Where your conscience can take you: North Korea</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/mairead-maguire/north-and-south-korea-why-i-am-walking-across-demilitarized-zone">Mairead Maguire: walking for peace between North and South Korea</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jacqui-true/why-we-need-feminist-foreign-policy-to-stop-war">Why we need a feminist foreign policy to stop war</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/amina-mama/challenging-militarized-masculinities">Challenging militarized masculinities</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/violence-is-not-inevitable-it-is-choice">Violence is not inevitable: It is a choice</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp-zahra%27-langhi/libya-rejoicing-our-bloody-democracy">Libya: &quot;Rejoicing at our bloody democracy&quot;</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/jennifer-allsopp/new-narrative-on-human-rights-security-and-prosperity">A new narrative on human rights, security and prosperity</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/interview-with-cynthia-enloe">The masculinisation of complexity </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/marion-bowman/creating-peace-manifesto-for-21st-century">Creating peace: a manifesto for the 21st century</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/aisling-swaine/debating-long-and-shortterm-view-of-sexual-violence-in-war-contexts">Debating the long and the short-term view of sexual violence in war</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/rebecca-johnson/alternative-history-of-peacemaking-century-of-disarmament-efforts">An alternative history of peacemaking: a century of disarmament efforts </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/christine-ahn/peace-and-reunification-in-korea-in-our-life-time">Peace and reunification in Korea: in our life time</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </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> 50.50 50.50 Conflict Women's Power to Stop War 50.50 Peacework & Human Security Continuum of Violence 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 newsletter feminism patriarchy women and militarism women and power Madeleine Rees Fri, 28 Aug 2015 20:33:27 +0000 Madeleine Rees 95418 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Manic Pixies and Cool Girls: on female solidarity and the male gaze https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/harriet-williamson/manic-pixies-and-cool-girls-on-female-solidarity-and-male-gaze <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Pop culture tropes of ‘the girl who isn’t like other girls’ might seem subversive but they reinforce old sexist ideas that women are frivolous and exist for the male gaze.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>&nbsp;‘I’m not like other girls. I’m more like one of the guys’. This is my voice. This is me speaking, before I discovered feminism. My hair changes colour every couple of weeks. I prefer writing and reading to applying fake tan, watching Zoella, or spending hours getting ready.&nbsp; I’m different, dammit. I’m not like other girls. How many of us are guilty of uttering those words? The poisonous phrase that immediately degrades other women, whilst elevating and separating us from them. </p> <p>Who are these ‘other girls’ that we’re so keen to distance ourselves from? Many women might have a couple of the tastes or characteristics we associate with stereotypical femininity, but no woman is in and of herself a stereotype. There’s no such thing uniform ‘femaleness’. The idea that femininity is characterised by weakness or triviality is a patriarchal construct, and ties into the misogynistic belief that women are somehow lesser than their male counterparts. </p> <p>As women, we grow up in a world where we are already ‘other’. The man, as Simone de Beauvoir wrote in the key feminist text <em>The Second Sex</em>, “represents both the positive and the neutral, as indicated by the common use of man to designate human beings in general”. Maleness is considered standard in politics, finance, science, sport, and tech. Many music genres are dominated by men. Men are rarely relegated to the status of ‘sexual object’ and don’t have to use their sexuality as a tool to gain traction within various industries. </p> <p>Pop culture doesn’t often help, mainly due to the fact that the majority of writers, producers, and directors are male. In films, men make up the bulk of action heroes, police officers, gangsters, spies, and ‘neutral’ characters. In games, men are much more likely to be the hero of the story and not a non-playable character with a limited, sexualized function. Men can fulfil a variety of roles, often without being stereotyped or forced to be part of a romantic narrative that’s crowbarred into the story. Women are too often tokenized, still the exception rather than the rule. There is no need to deny the individuality of women and ‘other’ them further by insisting on our difference. </p> <p>Desperately not wanting to be ‘like other girls’ shows how sneakily patriarchal values can be internalized. It’s a form of sexism that we slip into as easily as a cosy, well-worn coat. In the most part, we don’t attempt to distance ourselves from other women due to a sense of gender dysphoria. We do it because we’ve realised that the prescribed idea of homogenous womanhood doesn’t look like us, and we don’t know how best to articulate this. </p> <h2><strong>The ‘Only Girl’ and other isolating female tropes</strong></h2> <p>The ‘Only Girl’ is very common in popular culture. She’s Evey in <em>V for Vendetta</em>, Marla in <em>Fight Club</em>, and Clarice in <em>Silence of the Lambs</em>. She’s important to the male-dominated plot, but it’s not her story. She represents another way that pop culture ‘others’ women, inserting them into stories as props to facilitate male character development, to be love interests, or to represent ‘all women’.</p> <p>The stories available to us are crucial in terms of how we navigate the world around us, particularly when we’re young and trying to form an identity separate from our parents and friends. Consuming media that presents women as the ‘Only Girl Surrounded By Boys’, contributes to the I’m Not Like Other Girls or ‘Megan Fox aka Wendy from Peter Pan’ syndrome. </p><p>The latter term was <a href="http://thisrecording.com/today/2011/2/22/in-which-we-teach-you-how-to-be-a-woman-in-any-boys-club.html">coined by Molly Lambert</a>, who describes it as “the delusion that you can become an official part of the boys' club if you are its strictest enforcer, its most useful prole. That if you follow the rules exactly you can become the Official Woman”. Being the ‘official woman’ or the honorary boys club member often leads to other women being barred from joining the club. </p> <p>In order to be the exception to the rule and the only woman in the club, you may be compelled to exclude other women to maintain your place. This can manifest itself in the spouting of ‘ironic’ sexist language, ‘rating’ other women because you’re one of the guys, or complaining about how needy and trivial the majority of the female species is. This behaviour is a kind of internalized oppression. It’s a survival tactic for women who realise that they are part of a marginalized group, and take on the discriminatory values of the dominant group to prove their exceptionality. </p> <p>The ‘Only Girl’ comes in other shapes and forms. She’s also available in models such as the ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ and the 'Cool Girl’. The term ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ was first coined by critic Nathan Rabin in his review of the 2005 film <em>Elizabethtown</em>, when he described the character played by Kirsten Dunst. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is quirky and interesting. She’s not like other girls. She helps the sensitive, moody male protagonist figure out how to enjoy life and fulfil his potential. Unfortunately, as cute and oddball as Zooey Deschanel’s character in <em>(500) Days of Summer</em> might seem, she and other MPDGs like her are completely devoid of an interior life. As<a href="http://www.newstatesman.com/lifestyle/2013/06/i-was-manic-pixie-dream-girl"> Laurie Penny writes in her excellent essay</a> for New Statesman, “instead of a personality, she has eccentricities, a vaguely-offbeat favourite band, a funky fringe”. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/7vQc1atn1ixcpER0zn9AocSBRiTZWL9yDCNQPjndRMw/mtime:1440792267/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/400px-Zooey_deschanel.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/-HflC-WBsTFQWCJE37dEJ1P6cx4wGcIa2jDFV_ozWcg/mtime:1440792224/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/400px-Zooey_deschanel.jpg" alt="" title="" width="400" height="600" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Zooey Deschanel has, fairly or not, come to be used as a shorthand for Manic Pixie Dream Girls. Photo via Wikicommons.</span></span></span><span>It’s important here to mention that MPDGs are characters written by men. They might be vaguely quirky or subversive in terms of their music taste or dress sense, but they’re still seen through the lens of the male gaze. The normal power structure of man as subject, woman as object is still in place here because a male writer has created a shallow, cut-out woman, and she’s a muse rather than a fleshed-out character.</span></p> <p>The term ‘Cool Girl’ was popularized by Gillian Flynn’s novel <em>Gone Girl</em>. The Cool Girl, according to protagonist Amy, means being the “hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding”.</p> <p>In the Guardian, <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/sep/17/cool-girl-gone-girl">Bim Adewunmi argues that</a> the Cool Girl trope, just like the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope, doesn’t describe a whole person. “She is a collection of attributes, a list of someone's favourite things. Womanhood is a broad church; call us legion, for we are many. The real issue is that we are still being boxed into narrow definitions of what we can be.” Although Gone Girl has a female author, the ‘Cool Girl’ described is a part that Amy Dunne plays to put the men in her life at ease. She is as unreal as the MPDG, but unlike many Manic Pixies, Amy’s performance unravels within the story and reveals the lie that is her ‘Cool Girl’ persona. </p> <h2><strong>The decline of sisterhood?</strong></h2> <p>It sounds a bit cheesy to talk about ‘sisterhood’ in 2015, and the notion that all women should be friends and love one another is both cringeworthy and unrealistic. However, the concept of solidarity remains important when it comes to fighting patriarchy. </p> <p>In the 1970s, Conservatives were pretty frightened of female solidarity because they figured it could result in the mobilization of half the human race. </p> <p>Unfortunately, despite the current mainstream status of feminism, we don’t seem to be very close to mobilizing half of humanity. This could be because we’ve become increasingly individualistic, particularly in Western nations. Thatcherism might be a distant memory to many of us, but her ethos of individualism and free market capitalism has forever altered the political landscape in Britain. She hacked away at the post-war consensus, dug chunks out of the welfare state, and promoted the idea that people should care about themselves and their family units at the expense of all others. </p> <p>Thatcher is a striking example of a woman who rose above the glass ceiling, but kept it in place for others. She was a pioneer, but not a feminist. She climbed up the ladder, only to set it on fire afterwards so her female peers could not clamber up. In eleven years, she avoided female-friendly policies, promoted only one woman to her cabinet, and demonstrated an <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/apr/09/margaret-thatcher-no-feminist">“utter lack of interest in childcare provision or positive action”</a>. </p> <p>Have capitalism and individualism co-opted feminism and made it more about ‘equality for me’ than ‘equality for everyone’? The ‘I’m alright Jack’ Thatcherite approach might allow some women (mostly white, wealthy, straight and cisgender) to get to the top and imagine sexism as something that happens to other people, but it does nothing for women who suffer most at the hands of the patriarchy. If your feminism doesn’t include women of colour, working class women, disabled women, trans women, queer women, and sex workers, it isn’t a feminism worth having.&nbsp; </p> <p>Taylor Swift recently described herself as a feminist, and yet the sum of her feminism appears to be inviting a white parade of shiny famous friends onstage with her. It’s the perfect meeting of feminism and capitalism. As <a href="http://gawker.com/taylor-swift-is-not-your-friend-1717745581">Dayna Evans wrote for Gawker</a>: “Swift isn’t here to help women—she’s here to make bank. Seeing her on stage cavorting with World Cup winners and supermodels was not a win for feminism, but a win for Taylor Swift. Her plan—to be as famous and as rich as she can possibly be—is working, and by using other women as tools of her self-promotion, she is distilling feminism for her own benefit.”</p> <p>When Nicki Minaj called out the VMAs for failing to properly recognize and celebrate black artists, Swift accused Minaj of <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/jul/22/nicki-minaj-debate-bigger-than-taylor-swifts-ego">‘pitting women against each other’</a>. This is ‘individualistic feminism’ at its most obvious, even while dressing it up in the language of solidarity. Swift failed to listen to a woman of colour’s experience of racism (basic intersectionality), and imagined that Minaj’s concerns were directed at her (‘it’s all about me’).</p> <p>If we are committed to combating the patriarchy in all its forms, we need to address the bits that we internalize. This means giving up the idea that we’re ‘not like other girls’ or ‘more like one of the guys’. All women are individuals, so there really is enough difference and quirk to go around. It means seeing through idealistic female tropes in pop culture, largely created by men. It means really supporting other women and adopting a feminism that’s inclusive and intersectional, and not merely championing friends or fellow wealthy, white women <em>a la</em> Taylor Swift.</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="/5050/harriet-williamson/misogyny-and-homophobia-patriarchy-gender-policing-and-male-gaze">Misogyny and homophobia: patriarchy, gender policing, and the male gaze</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/harriet-williamson/reddit-ellen-pao-and-false-neutrality-of-free-speech">Reddit, Ellen Pao, and the false neutrality of ‘free speech’</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/reni-eddolodge/women-everywhere-have-their-movement-limited-by-male-gaze">Women everywhere have their movement limited by the male gaze</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/harriet-williamson/game-of-trolls-on-pop-culture-and-public-voice-of-women">Game of trolls: on pop culture and the public voice of women</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/reni-eddolodge/women-everywhere-have-their-movement-limited-by-male-gaze">Women everywhere have their movement limited by the male gaze</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/reni-eddo-lodge/can-conversations-about-women-in-pop-move-beyond-binary-of-agency-or-exploitati">Can conversations about women in pop move beyond a binary of agency or exploitation?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/laurie-penny-on-unspeakable-things">Laurie Penny on Unspeakable Things </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> 50.50 50.50 50.50 Women's Movement Building 50.50 Structures of Sexism 50.50 Contesting Patriarchy 50.50 Editor's Pick 50.50 Voices for Change 50.50 newsletter feminism patriarchy Harriet Williamson Fri, 28 Aug 2015 20:04:25 +0000 Harriet Williamson 95573 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Haveit: Kosovo’s conscience disguised in performance art https://www.opendemocracy.net/5050/adem-ferizaj/haveit-kosovos-conscience-disguised-in-performance-art <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Haveit, a Kosovan art collective consisting of four young women, use their performances to explore gender and social issues.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>On May 18, 2011, <a href="http://www.ecmikosovo.org/wp-content/Publications/Press_releases_and_information_bulletin/04%20December%202013%20-%20The%20Diana%20Kastrati%20Case:%20Violence%20Against%20Women%20and%20Kosovar%20Justice/engl.pdf">Diana Kastrati</a>, a 27-year old student on her way to university, was shot dead in Prishtina, Kosovo’s capital, at about 10 am. The perpetrator was Adnan Jashari, her ex-husband of 10 years.</p> <p>A few days later, four friends from Prishtina were sitting in <a href="http://www.lonelyplanet.com/kosovo/prishtina/entertainment-nightlife/other/tingle-tangle">Tingle Tangle</a>, an art café hidden in a courtyard of residential buildings in the city centre.&nbsp; They were enraged by the tragic murder. “We have to do something,” one of them proposed. And on March 20, 2011, they participated in the march for Diana Kastrati organized by the <a href="http://www.womensnetwork.org/">Kosova Women’s network</a>. Disguised as brides wearing black clothes and a white veil on their heads, they held a sign with the following message: “every marriage ends in violence.” This was the start of the art collective the four girls formed: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/haveit">Haveit</a>.</p> <p>Haveit consists of Hana and Vesa Qena, and Lola and Alketa Sylaj. The two pairs of sisters live in Prishtina and are all in their mid-twenties. Alketa explained that the four chose to call their artistic project Haveit, because it fits to the theme of their performance protests. Artistically, they vehemently rebel against the problems of their society. “What we do is art out of necessity,” Lola said.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/d6He1uht66EAipsRzAbqy0R5h5k9GTvKgiNv5-B2Ito/mtime:1440788550/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/Haveit%20picture.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/YBFU9eRiQdVtL2R1g9A4xp8yYbwH02LX76dTna-7E6A/mtime:1440788224/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/Haveit%20picture.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>The four members of Haveit. Photo via: http://www.facebook.com/Haveit</span></span></span></p><h2><strong>Against nationalism and women’s oppression</strong></h2> <p>They illustrated, for example, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiAmmROU_R4">the Kosovan struggle with power and water shortages</a> by washing hand towels in the fountain of the Mother Teresa square, the main pedestrian street in Prishtina, in July 2013. This performance was called <a href="http://www.kosovotwopointzero.com/en/article/528/there-is-no-water-but-there-are-fountains-a-performance-by-haveit-theatre"><em>There Is No Water, But There Are Fountains</em></a>. The four criticized nationalism – in abundance everywhere in the Balkans – by replacing the graffiti “traitors have merited the bullet” in the city centre with “<a href="https://www.facebook.com/haveit/photos/pb.190014827825292.-2207520000.1440250329./317905935036180/?type=3&amp;theater">what color is your flag when it burns?</a>” in July 2014. With a performance called <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DeLdLLBJyu0"><em>Tager</em></a><em>*</em>, Haveit also fought against the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanun_(Albania)">Kanun</a>, the fundamental text of women’s oppression in Kosovo. They poured flour on the book and spread it with a rolling pin on this year’s International Women’s Day.</p> <p>All four artists studied art at the University of Prishtina, but they found the conservative environment at the university restrictive. “Our professors didn’t want us to produce new things. They only wanted us to copy old things,” Alketa said. But this disappointment did not discourage the four. Haveit’s decision to do art performances was quite groundbreaking: it made them understand that what they want is not only to make art for art exhibitions. They wanted to be more obtrusive, in order to reach people who aren’t the usual art admirers.</p> <p>Haveit’s performances are not modelled on any other artist, three of the members explained to me in an interview (Hana Qena was absent as she was in Tirana, Albania’s capital, that day). Kosovan society serves as inspiration for them: their performances continue to address the problems of Kosovan society that originally inspired them to begin making performance art. </p><p>And Kosovo’s society is predominantly conservative; not to the effect that political disagreement with the known cleavages between right and left – for example church (right) versus state (left) – are decisive. Kosovo is conservative in a traditional sense, which means that there is a cleavage between those who protect tradition – for instance <a href="http://europeandcis.undp.org/blog/2013/10/23/kosovo-assembly-pushes-for-womens-human-rights/">no heritage rights for women</a> – and those who challenge it.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/lYAPpTCTOs__-Gs1U5nzN7t51EkPiaR70mKJeRQgoDI/mtime:1440788550/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/what%20colour%20is%20your%20flag%20when%20it%20burns.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/k3KAWmryTSIyq-T5Hqztpky3RaSVOjhcruccZXeTNPU/mtime:1440788272/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/what%20colour%20is%20your%20flag%20when%20it%20burns.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="320" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Haveit stencilling 'What colour is your flag when it burns?'. Photo via: http://www.facebook.com/Haveit</span></span></span></p><h2><strong>“Mom and Dad are frightened that we will end up like Don Quixote”</strong></h2> <p>The parents of the Sylaj sisters, for example, don’t take their daughters art seriously. At the same time, their parents don’t put obstacles in Lola’s and Alketa’s way. “Mom and Dad are frightened that we will end up like Don Quixote,” they said. Don Quixote lives in a dream world, in which he is a knight and stumbles from defeat to defeat. Transferred to Haveit’s performances, this could mean that Kosovo’s traditional conservative society is so omnipotent, that the four are fighting a battle without the slightest chance of winning.</p> <p>Lola, Alketa, Vesa and Hana are well aware of the texture of conservatism in their society, and the difficulty of their undertaking. So they define the main objective of their artistic efforts as “helping to create a space for critical discussion of the problems of our society,” as Vesa Qena explained. And they partly succeeded: after they performed <a href="http://www.kosovotwopointzero.com/en/article/528/there-is-no-water-but-there-are-fountains-a-performance-by-haveit-theatre"><em>There Is No Water, But There Are Fountains</em></a><em> </em>in July 2013, politicians increasingly began to finally address the plight of water outages, Alketa explained. Shpend Ahmeti became mayor of Prishtina in December 2013. One of his key promises of his election campaign was <a href="http://www.kosovotwopointzero.com/en/article/1279/why-is-there-not-247-water-in-prishtina">the fixing-up of the city’s water pipes</a>. If he keeps this promise, there will be no more water cuts in Kosovo’s capital from December 2015 on.</p> <p>Haveit’s most provocative performance was when Vesa kissed Lola and Alketa kissed Hana on Prishtina’s main pedestrian street on Valentine’s Day 2013. The kiss went viral <a href="https://www.facebook.com/haveit/photos/pb.190014827825292.-2207520000.1440421391./412068352286604/?type=1&amp;theater">on Facebook</a> – shared in Serbia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania. “It made ordinary people speak about a stigmatised topic in our society,” Vesa said. A local survey realised in December 2012 showed that 62 per cent of those interviewed considered <a href="http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/06/12/challenge-kosovo-justice-all">homosexuality as a threat to society</a>. Not all Kosovans hailed this breach of taboo. Some postulated the conspiracy theory that Serbia paid the young women for the “propaganda of homosexuality.” Others insulted them: “you’ll never get married” (in Kosovar society this is really an insult for women). And others wrote death threats to the four.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none_left caption-xlarge'><a href="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/AUM1YlYe5uQsYBdW8v917lybbBe2CARw3K9yWkHVHE0/mtime:1440788551/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/Haveit%20performance.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="https://dy1m18dp41gup.cloudfront.net/cdn/farfuture/Ugusn6IRKsBn_MJX02BfeoOnJ1QNT2fEz7dEoeMhuzc/mtime:1440788340/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/536137/Haveit%20performance.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Haveit performance. Photo via: http://www.facebook.com/Haveit</span></span></span></p><h2><strong>Modesty and financial autarky</strong></h2> <p>I asked Haveit where they currently see room for improvement, and they said that they could do more performances. So far their performances in Kosovo have been limited to Prishtina. But one of their future projects will take their art to other Kosovan cities and maybe villages. This is crucial to that extend that Kosovo consists not only of Prishtina and the society problems the four criticize apply to the whole country.</p> <p>When asked about their biggest success, the young women were silent for a few seconds and thought about it. “Honestly speaking, we had neither big successes nor big defeats yet. We also have no big expectations regarding our performances, therefore most of our experiences were good,” they agreed. And if they were to name one success, Lola said: “We are still working together and are still planning to work together.” Besides this modesty, something else is also considerable in Haveit’s work: everything they do is self-made – from the financial matters to the organisational structure.</p> <p>In the coming September, Haveit will be very busy. They are going to participate at the <a href="http://www.cityofwomen.org/en"><em>City of Women</em> feminist festival</a> in Ljubljana, Slovenia, at the <a href="http://www.biennalemilano.it/">Biennale in Milano</a>, Italy with the performance <em>Tager*</em> and at the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/hapufest/timeline"><em>Hapu</em> festival</a>, an event for art in public space, in Prishtina. Furthermore, one cannot be sure whether this is all they are planning to do. “Haveit also means surprise,” Vesa Qena said with a smile.</p> <p><em>For more information, visit </em><a href="https://www.facebook.com/haveit"><em>Haveit’s Facebook page</em></a><em>.&nbsp;</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/adem-ferizaj/unidentified-serbian-war-criminals-and-albanian-mass-graves-exposed-in-new-documen">Unidentified Serbian war criminals, and Albanian mass graves, exposed in new documentary </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/jack-davies/are-photos-of-badass-protester-girls-really-so-badass">Are photos of ‘badass protester girls’ really so badass?</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie-slavenka-drakulic/slavenka-drakuli%C4%87-violence-memory-and-nation">Slavenka Drakulić: violence, memory, and the nation</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sidita-kushi/feminism-is-for-all-exposing-gendered-limitations-of-albanian-male">Feminism is for all: exposing gendered limitations of the Albanian male</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/adem-ferizaj/albanian-male-feminists-do-they-exist">Albanian male feminists: do they exist?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/adem-ferizaj/retelling-stories-alice-munros-portraits-of-albanian-hearts">Re-telling stories: Alice Munro’s portraits of Albanian hearts</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/heather-mcrobie/feminism-is-funny">Feminism is funny</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sidita-kushi/gendered-legacies-of-communist-albania-paradox-of-progress">Gendered legacies of Communist Albania: a paradox of progress</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/adem-ferizaj/wartime-rape-is-no-longer-kept-under-wraps-in-kosovo">Wartime rape is no longer kept under wraps in Kosovo</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/sidita-kushi/women-of-kosovo-mirage-of-freedom-and-equality">Women of Kosovo: a mirage of freedom and equality </a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/adem-ferizaj/haki-st%C3%ABrmillis-if-i-were-boy-first-albanian-feminist-manifesto">Haki Stërmilli’s &#039;If I Were a Boy&#039;: the first Albanian feminist manifesto</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/5050/adem-ferizaj/texture-of-patriarchy-in-kosovo">The texture of patriarchy in Kosovo</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> 50.50 50.50 Gender in the Albanosphere 50.50 newsletter Adem Ferizaj Fri, 28 Aug 2015 19:02:29 +0000 Adem Ferizaj 95572 at https://www.opendemocracy.net