Video

The propaganda of ‘British Values’ is a distortion of history – video from Akala

 

I stumbled today across this new video on The Guardian website from Akala.

It gives me shivers.

“The propaganda of ‘British Values’ is a distortion of history.

What does it mean to be British? Many things have apparently come to define British values  Winston Churchill, the monarchy, Empire, received pronunciation, aristocracy, whiteness.

But some of the people of this island have a much more interesting, subversive, countercultural set of traditions buried beneath the surface. These traditions don’t fit the elites message that they alone are responsible for everything that’s good in society. Therefore it’s no surprise that most of us learn more at school about Henry VIII’s marital dramas that we do about the Peterloo Massacre. These are the traditions embodied by striking miners, peasants revolting against private tyranny and by the suffragettes. Also embodied by William Cuffay (Kofi) the disabled black man from Kent who lead the 19th Century Chartist movement for free speech.

A tradition embodied by the John Brown Women’s society from Sheffield, who refused to make manacles for factories that supported slavery, but because they were poor and women to boot, their names have vanished into history.

A tradition whose legacies include Notting Hill Carnival, Europe’s largest street festival, which was born out of multicultural, anti-racist activism in what was, 50 years ago, one of London’s poorest areas.

Today these traditions are embodied by activists, youth workers, school teachers and nurses that go that extra mile for the people they are trying to serve.

These traditions have often been persecuted and even labelled anti-British or anti-state until they bear fruit that the state then wants to claim for itself, such as poor people getting the right to vote or the abolition of child labour. These gains are then presented as the result of inherent British values rather than as the results of serious political struggle that they in fact were.

Whilst I’m not a nationalist, how national peoples and cultures see themselves undoubtedly has real world implications.

The question in these tumultuous times, is which of the traditions of the people of this island will you be drawing on and identifying with? The one that promotes and reinforces race and class oppression and explains away the genocide of Empire as a civilising mission? Or, the one of relentless activism that secured for us the very fragile freedoms that we have today.

I know my answer.”

Aside

Is it time for #PornWarnings?

So the proliferation of mobile phones around the world has increased accessibility to online pornography.

This…PLUS terrible sex education for young people, which I think we can all agree is a pretty international problem…(*flashbacks to awkward afternoons with your maths teacher trying to explain periods to a room of giggling children*) means that, increasingly, porn is becoming a de facto sexual education for many teenagers (boys in particular).

Not only are young people learning about sex via what is essentially often extreme ‘theatre’, but they are also given no sense of what good sexual health looks like. There’s no warning or discussion of contraception, STIs, pregnancy risks, consent…etc…in porn. All they are shown is often submissive women ‘performing’ for the male gaze. Frequently without condoms.

This is dangerous.

And I anticipate this becoming an increasingly huge problem for countries where access to sexual health services is difficult and costly at best (I know of sexual health clinics where they are unaware of chlamydia, for example) and in countries where sex education is either non-existent or uncomfortable and basic (which I think might be almost everywhere).

Whatever you think of porn, I wonder if it’s about time that the porn industry took responsibility and ensured all their content came with an engaging/fun health warning, or were required to produce short sexual health and consent films for a global audience that users MUST watch before viewing… What do you think?

‪#‎PornWarnings‬

The dark side of Davos

What do the Chairman of the Board of Nestlé, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo and the President of the Inter-American Development Bank have in common? They’re all on the board of The World Economic Forum.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is a Swiss non-profit foundation, which cites its mission as being “committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas.”

Its annual winter meeting in Davos is currently taking place, bringing together more than 2,500 top international business and political leaders, invited academics and journalists to discuss pressing global issues. In short – it’s a pretty influential set up.

So let’s take a closer look at the 24 WEF board, which is currently made up of

  • Gender: 18 men and 6 women
  • Employment: 12 corporate executives, 4 university academics, 4 financial insitutions, 1 Director of WEF, 1 Intergovernmental Organisation, 1 Non-governmental Organisation, 1 Queen
  • Geographical location: 10 Europeans (including Russia), 6 North Americans, 6 Asians, 1 Middle Eastern, 1 South American, 0 Africans, 0 Oceanians
  • Education: 22 of the 24 went to universities in the USA or EU

Many of the board members have been through the revolving doors in their careers; work for or sit on boards or advisory boards to some of the world’s most powerful corporations; have strong political and academic ties; belong to powerful lobbying, policy-making and advisory groups and a number have been implicated in accusations of corporate malfeasance during their career.

Susan George described the board as follows:

“The Davos class, despite its members’ nice manners and well-tailored clothes is predatory… They run our major institutions, including the media, know exactly what they want and are much more united and better organized than we are. But this dominant class has weaknesses too; one is that it has an ideology but virtually no ideas and no imagination.”

My source for this post is this amazing infographic which has more detailed information about the careers of the current board: http://davosclass.tni.org/. The infographic is a collaboration of the Transnational Institute and Occupy.com. They believe the World Economic Forum is fundamentally about increasing corporate profits and rewarding political elites rather than “improving the state of the world” and describe it as an undemocratic, unaccountable and illegitimate institution that, far from improving the world, has over decades reinforced the global crisis of inequality, poverty, and environmental destruction.

The Davos class are powerful, with many corporate interests and completely unrepresentative of global society – should they be responsible for such an influential forum discussing and impacting global issues?

Image: https://www.tni.org/sites/www.tni.org/files/images/davos-facebook-share.png

Video

I name this video: “Enthusiastic majority white progressives saving the world in a Western lecture hall while multicultural stock video beneficiaries from across the globe dance with happiness and gratitude’

#Facepalm. #WhiteSaviours

Does anyone singing this song realise how much they (we) are part of the problem, or that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are NOT going to fix a system that has inequality and oppression built into it?

I don’t really want to give this any more oxygen. But. Really?

A question for the UK about ‘immigration’

As April looms large in the UK as the month when non-EU migrants who have lived in the UK for more than five years and are earning less that £35,000 will face deportation, my question, to the UK Government, is this:

Can anyone please enlighten me as to why it’s ok to INVADE countries around the world; ENSLAVE people; build an entire empire that exists only to serve the central power; create a global system that OPPRESSES and dominates untold swathes of people and actively works to destroy their functioning and blossoming social, political and economic structures; wage devastating WARS for the sake of resources and ideology and then sit there and say to these fellow human beings…

“YOU’RE NOT WELCOME HERE”?

Asylum seekers, migrants, skilled migrants… screw your labels and let them in.

Photo credit: Konrad Lembcke via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC

The refugee who took on the British government, or why ‘aid’ doesn’t work in an international system of oppression and inequality

“For British politicians, foreign aid to Africa has become a cherished emblem of our idealism and generosity.” But this is a powerful story we’ve been told.

The following article details yet another tale of foreign ‘aid’ and corrupt governance (on all sides) doing irreversible damage to the lives and livelihoods of the supposedly intended recipients.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jan/12/ethiopian-refugee-who-took-on-the-british-government

I’d strongly recommend you reading the full article, but it’s a long read, so I’ve pulled out a few of the paragraphs I found most interesting and poignant.

“Ethiopia is in a race to develop. In a similar fashion to Rwanda, the authoritarian government, lacking a democratic mandate, has staked its claims to legitimacy on its ability to deliver economic growth, and it is in a terrible hurry. During the past decade, Ethiopia has pursued a Chinese-style rush to develop its economy: locking up dissenters, crushing the opposition with a succession of 99% electoral victories, and building massive road, rail, agribusiness and hydropower schemes without pausing to conduct the necessary social and environmental impact assessments.

Nonetheless, despite still knocking along the bottom of every poverty index, Ethiopia has earned a reputation as a development success story, and donors, including the UK, are very keen to help, praising Ethiopia’s apparent strong progress towards the UN’s millennium development goals: increasing primary school enrolment and improving statistics on access to healthcare, water and so on. But donors are steadfastly silent on human rights abuses. Ethiopia receives more aid than any other African country – close to $3bn per year, or about half the national government budget. For the donors, Ethiopia is a priority, a linchpin of their development efforts, research and policy; especially so for the UK, where rising aid budgets have propelled Ethiopia into second place, behind Pakistan, as the recipient of the most British aid.”

“In Gambella, the government’s plans for delivering these things took the form of villagisation. The inhabitants of Opik’s village, though, were mistrustful of the government’s intentions. There had been no dialogue, no consultation. If the government had done little for them before, why would they suddenly start caring now? They suspected a plot to steal their land. They had heard of investors coming to test soil in certain areas.

Their suspicions were well founded. In Opik’s district, the allocation of land for agribusiness was well under way. Information was patchy, but a study by the Oakland Institute, a US-based thinktank, estimated that in Gambella, at that time, the government had leased or marketed 42% of the region to investors. Speaking to investors in India, government officials referred to the land on offer as “unused,” “under-utilised” or “completely uninhabited”.”

“The Anuak had to wait 10 months for a clue. In October 2012, after questions were asked in the British parliament, the findings of the DfiD visits were quietlydeposited in the House of Commons library. They described massive flaws in the villagisation programme, inadequate services and insufficient food, possibly requiring an emergency response.

The first report, which has since disappeared from the parliament website, noted that more than half of respondents had said they did not want to move. The report warned of a “potential humanitarian crisis” due to the people’s “limited livelihood options”. It also warned of “reputational risks” to donors’ aid programmes. This, then, was the heart of the matter.”

“For first Tony Blair and now David Cameron, the essentialising of Africa has been a useful political arena for the exercise of idealism untainted by politics. It was a deft move, following the Iraq war, to establish the Blair Commission for Africaand the Make Poverty History campaign. For Cameron, ring-fencing aid spending “was a key part of the compassionate Conservative makeover,” a senior former No 10 adviser told me.”

“A former chief economist of DfID, who did not want to be named, told me, “If you’re asking, ‘Am I prepared to tolerate a certain level of human rights abuses in exchange for progress on development?’, the answer is yes.” The question, then, is who decides what constitutes a “tolerable” level of repression in the absence of a democratic system?”

“A former head of DfID Ethiopia said to me, in relation to the relocation of the Omo peoples, “but if they’re being relocated anyway, aren’t we making their lives better?” She could not see that there was a problem with underwriting the transaction. It is almost impossible for those who make a living dispensing aid to imagine how easily it can become a tool of repression. She evinced a kind of helplessness, whereas a report by the Oakland Institute into alleged cover-ups of human rights abuses noted that DfID and USAid are, “wilful accomplices and supporters of a development strategy that will have irreversible devastating impacts on the environment and natural resources and will destroy the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of indigenous people.””

“Of all the academic economists working on Ethiopia, I could not find one who was willing to speak on the record for this article. Much of the professional field of development studies is dependent on DfID research grants, with many academics serving on multimillion-pound study teams.

“If you challenge the consensus and make headlines, it is going to make your life harder,” said one economist at a London university, speaking on condition of anonymity. “Career progression is not just about where you publish, it is also about the amount of money you can raise and, in that regard, DfID is the biggest donor by miles,” he said. The two main centres of development studies research in the UK, the Overseas Development Institute in London and theInstitute of Development Studies at Sussex University, have depended heavily on DfID contracts over many years: “If that dependence is not a kind of institutional capture, then I am not sure what is,” said Warwick’s Prof David Anderson, a rare critic.”

Thoughts and feelings welcomed as always…

News: GJN asks – is the Gates Foundation always a force for good?

If you’ve read the blog, you might be aware that I’m not exactly the greatest supporter of The Gates Foundation. Our team at The Rules criticised their ‘Narrative Project’, which invested much in pushing foreign aid as a solution to global poverty and inequality; and I have called them out on here for Melinda’s use of patriarchal language to talk about ‘development‘ and the organisation’s neoliberal agenda – I just don’t think they’re good news.

So it was really good to see UK organisation Global Justice Now releasing an important research project today: ‘Gated Development – is the Gates Foundation always a force for good?’, which examines how it is pushing a corporate vision of development features.

The report demonstrates that the trend to involve business in addressing poverty and inequality is central to the priorities and funding of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and argues that this is far from a “neutral charitable strategy but instead an ideological commitment to promote neoliberal economic policies and corporate globalisation. Big business is directly benefitting, in particular in the fields of agriculture and health, as a result of the foundation’s activities, despite evidence to show that business solutions are not the most effective.”

Global Justice Now suggests that, for the foundation in particular, there is an overt focus on technological solutions to poverty. They argue that while technology should have a role in addressing poverty and inequality, long term solutions require social and economic justice which “cannot be given by donors in the form of a climate resilient crop or cheaper smartphone, but must be about systemic social, economic and political change – issues not represented in the foundation’s funding priorities.”

One of the most poignant parts of the report for me is where it highlights the fact that despite the Gates Foundation’s aggressive corporate strategy and extraordinary influence across governments, academics and the media, there is an absence of critical voices. Global Justice Now is concerned that the foundation’s influence is so pervasive that many actors in international development, which would otherwise critique the policy and practice of the foundation, are unable to speak out independently as a result of its funding and patronage – this is something I certainly have witnessed explicitly speaking to organisations and people working within the development sector.

Specifically, the report calls on the OECD to undertake an independent international review and evaluation of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and the UK’s International Development Select Committee to conduct an inquiry into the relationship between DFID and the foundation and the impact and effectiveness of any joint activity in addressing poverty and inequality.

Read the full report here >> www.globaljustice.org.uk/gateddeveloped

It’s also been featured in the UK’s Independent newspaper, which you can read here.

Let me know what you think – is the Gates Foundation a force for good or an exercise in rampant neoliberalism…?