Tag Archives: news

Patients not passports

When the government talks about British values, think about deliberate cruelty of Universal Credit:

“Already the evidence from Citizens Advice is that UC is pushing people further into debt. The National Landlords Association has just reported that four out of five landlords are now reluctant to let to tenants in receipt of housing benefit or UC. Food banks are buckling under the strain. Child Poverty Action Group has estimated that if all the cuts made to UC since it was first mooted were reversed, up to 1 million children could be kept out of poverty. As it is, they calculate lone parent families will lose a huge £2,380 a year on average by 2020. “

Then consider the hostile environment.

Today the government introduced up front charging for foreign nationals using the NHS. They already pay a £200 surcharge on top of taxes. And they already pay for hospital treatment. Now, this extends to NHS community services and will have to be paid in full before treatment is given.

And who is likely to be targeted, in a country where we don’t routinely carry ID documents? Those with foreign names, accents and anyone who “looks foreign” – whether they are British or not.

Doctors are protesting because they quite rightly want to focus on providing care, not checking people’s immigration status. But Theresa May’s endless border continues to encroach on community life – and what started as a regime primarly targeted at non-EU migrants continues to suck ever more Europeans and Britons into its net.

Advertisements
Tagged , , ,

Where does it hurt?

I don’t have a hot take in me for the events of today: the Turkey attack. Germany’s. The news that UK-made cluster bombs are being used in Yemen. Amnesty’s report accusing the Burmese military of perpetrating crimes against humanity against the Rohingya.

Right now we need the arts more than ever: poets, comedians, artists, sculptors, writers, painters…

So a poet then, with the words for these times:

“later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?

it answered
everywhere
everywhere
everywhere.” – Warsan Shire

 

Tagged , , , , ,

2016-a-geddon

I think it’s safe to say that 2016 is a dumpster fire. Between the deaths, Brexit, the impending US election, rising xenophobia and racism across Europe, terrorism, natural disasters…

Every year has its horrors, but it does feel like the status quo is being given an almighty shaking down this year.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself, but it’s scary. Some of what has been unleashed – racism here, for instance –  is truly horrific, but I suppose it was there all along. Perhaps this is the year of things coming to light, being laid bare, a mirror held up to ourselves.

After all, there’s Trump and there are the baying crowds cheering him on.

There’s Farage and now the spectacle of so-called mainstream politicians nicking not only his clothes but his manifesto.

The Establishment, intellectually exhausted and/or simply unwilling to admit that the neoliberal consensus has failed the many, takes comfort instead in populism. It is willing to “listen” and”pander” to only the most extreme and rightwing voices, deriding the res of us as the “metropolitan elite” – as if prejudice is a justifiable response to poverty..as if only poor people are racist. They offer no solutions. We have big problems, but our politics is small, its view of our humanity diminished, its perspective on that of the “other” even more so.

For me personally, the last few months have been a wild ride – highs and lows, sweet moments and heartbreak. There comes a point when you start to fear that this might be “it”, maybe you can’t come back together again, hope – and in my case, sleep – deserts you. A few more things happen and you start to wonder, is this the worst year ever?

Maybe.

But you rally. You always do.

I am hopeful that the 2016 tide will also turn. Maybe we won’t have President Trump, though the effects of this vituperative campaign, as with Brexit, will be felt for a long time to come. Things have been said and done which cannot be undone.

T’was ever thus.

We rally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tagged , , ,

The EU Referendum Hokey Cokey

newsnight stillEarlier this week saw the launch of Media Diversified’s political column, White Men Dancing, co-authored by Maurice McLeod (@mowords) and me. My first post was The EU Referendum Hokey Cokey.

I also discussed the EU referendum on BBC Newsnight on 26 February 2016.

Tagged , , ,

Paris

I won’t add much more to the reams and reams of analysis on the Paris attacks except to say:

It’s possible to mourn Paris and Beirut at the same time, while being cognisant of the fact that all around the world, hundreds are dying in events that aren’t marked by the media, let alone facebook – and to feel angry about that. I didn’t change my facebook picture to the French flag overlay but I don’t judge those that do. What do you do when the world is full of horrors? You do what you can and what your conscience demands. I don’t think self-righteously denouncing those that do change their facebook status makes a difference to the structural issues that mean a French flag is available but a Lebanese flag isn’t. Others put it best:

warsan

 

Tagged , , , ,

Reading through Writer’s block

I am in a bit of a rut, to be honest. I was heartened to read that writers as accomplished as Musa Okwonga find themselves in this space too. I loved his post on how it can be a good thing. He mentions allowing your creative well to replenish. The thing I’m struggling with is that there is so much going on, so much to say, that I’m almost struck dumb in the face of it. And these are heavy things, knotty things. Like Charleston.

So, I’m reading. I’ll post the links to some great articles below:

Why Charleston was not a Hate Crime – Media Diversified.

Take Down the Confederate Flag Now – TaNehisi Coates in The Atlantic

The Connection between Dylann Roof and white-supremacist regimes in Africa runs through the heart of US conservatism– Africa is a Country.

How Rachel Dolezal overshadowed the story of Arnesha Bowers – Identities.Mic

Tagged , ,

The TV debates or Macho ego fest

Tortured. That’s the only adjective for the ongoing negotiations over the TV election debates. This morning Radio 4 had Michael Grade (former BBC chairman) chastising the broadcasters for throwing their weight around by threatening to “empty chair” Cameron, who is refusing to engage in the format they have suggested. He’s only agreed to one debate so far, with all the parties. The head-to-head with Miliband is dead in the water.

Cameron is tactically right. I think the debates can only help Miliband seem somewhat normal and electable. The public image of him is not so great, but he appears to come across better when he talks to people. If I were Cameron’s adviser, I would also try to avoid giving him a possible “Nick Clegg 2010” moment. Also, when Cameron gets mad, he turns puce and looks petulant. There’s that. He was also right that it made no sense to have UKIP in  one of the debates and no other smaller parties, who have equal or more representation nationally.

Labour’s also quite right: Cameron is running scared. They know full well they have a lot to gain and not much to lose.

The broadcasters have a point too; it would no doubt be a TV event.

But, here’s where they’re all wrong. They’re all dishonest. This has nothing to do with democracy and everything to do with ego, spin and entertainment. And it’s that sort of thing that fuels disengagement with politics.

Cameron’s insistence on including other parties was a stalling tactic. He doesn’t get a cookie* for doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. Labour is so fixated on Cameron that they forgot to pretend to be pleased at the inclusion of other parties, including the Greens, their competition on the left. The broadcasters want ratings. The fact is, if this was about democracy, we wouldn’t have American-style TV debates, we would have debates on issues eg foreign policy, with the appropriate party spokesmen doing the talking. Because even though we’ve all watched a lot of West Wing, House of Cards and Veep, the fact is, we live in a parliamentary democracy so we vote for parties, not leaders. Their debate format obscures, even distorts this fact. Furthermore, is 3 minutes enough time to do anything more than give mindless platitudes and simplistic soundbites?

This is one of the most critical elections for years. Fresh off a referendum on the future of the union, we’re looking at (apparently endless) austerity. The monstering of the poor, the immigrant and whatever other scapegoats we can find. The possibility of flouncing out of the EU while marching to the beat of the UKIP drum as politicians kowtow to an aggrieved, vocal minority who bleat about being marginalised from their comfortable platforms on the BBC and the broadsheets. There is a lot in the balance. And everyone is playing macho games.

*the Scooby snack of justice

Tagged , , ,

And I’m still writing

Still writing my dissertation. My brain is utterly addled. Thinking is like wading through treacle. I have had many shifting deadlines, but for now it’s Monday. Again.

But I’m still watching the news. My reactions, in brief:

Oscar Pistorius verdict: Whisky. Tango. Foxtrot.

Scotland: I actually think  the arguments for independence are very compelling. I also think that this issue is as much emotional as practical and all the whataboutery (Why can’t England vote? Why shouldn’t London vote for independence?) is pretty insulting and historically illiterate. This isn’t happening on a whim. The real question is, how can roughly half of Scotland (the polls change day by day) be so disenchanted with the UK? Why doesn’t the union work for everyone? (OK, let’s be honest, everyone who’s north of London) How can we be better? Even if you’re a happy right-winger, it says a lot that the Scots see this as the only way to realise some sort of social justice. (maybe social justice not a left-wing plot, guys?) Either way, a bum-squeak of a vote isn’t good for either camp. A slim yes vote means independent Scotland is bitterly divided at the outset. A slim no means that about half of Scots are “meh” about the union. That’s a real problem, whichever way you look at it.

IDS: Haven’t heard much from him lately, meaning he and DWP are probably out on the tiles, wasting money and making poor people feel bad about themselves.

Summer: Hello, my lovely. You’re back. I love your bright little face.

 

Tagged , , , ,

Telling Stories

This weekend the Observer published a strong, moving article about the nature of foreign reporting, in particular the propensity of news networks to parachute in special correspondents at a moment’s notice, who may miss or misinterpret a story as they struggle to get up to speed, often supplanting the freelancers (or “stringers”) or local journalists who have been faithfully plugging away at a story (before it got sexy). Every African, and I’m sure many others,  has a example of this, such as the CNN “Kenya election violence” nonsense before the last election, which was not only wrong but inflammatory and which spawned a hashtag by the Kenyan twitterati: #someonetellCNN .

The article also pointed out the changes to news gathering and reporting more generally, which should be of concern to us all, given how important the media is:

“The western news media are in crisis and turning their backs on the world, but we hardly ever notice. Where correspondents were once assigned to a place for months or years, reporters now handle often 20 countries. Bureaux are in hub cities, far from many of the countries they cover. And journalists are often lodged in expensive houses or five-star hotels. As the news has receded, so have our minds.

To the consumer, the news can seem authoritative. But the 24-hour news cycle rarely gives us the stories essential for us to understand the important events of our time. The news machine, confused about its mandate, has faltered. Big stories are often missed. Huge swaths of the world are forgotten or shrouded in myth. The news both creates these myths and dispels them, in a pretence of providing us with truth.”

Actually this article made me think of something I read by a female stringer in Syria, who in 2013 blew the lid open on the conditions she had to work under and the lack of support from her news organization. She pointed out that stringers often undertake dangerous work for little pay, but that their role is so important. (I would add; local journalists too, like the 18 year-old Syrian kid who took photographs for Reuters and died earlier this year – though there are other ethical questions here given his youth and lack of protection)

“People have this romantic image of the freelancer as a journalist who’s exchanged the certainty of a regular salary for the freedom to cover the stories she is most fascinated by. But we aren’t free at all; it’s just the opposite. The truth is that the only job opportunity I have today is staying in Syria, where nobody else wants to stay. And it’s not even Aleppo, to be precise; it’s the frontline. Because the editors back in Italy only ask us for the blood, the bang-bang. I write about the Islamists and their network of social services, the roots of their power—a piece that is definitely more complex to build than a frontline piece. I strive to explain, not just to move, to touch, and I am answered with: “What’s this? Six thousand words and nobody died?”

There is a tension the media industry, which is at once a business and a public information service. Managing editors have to balance the books and all of the outlets (with the exception of some, like the Guardian that have a governing Trust rather than an owner) have to walk the editorial tightrope of independence and pissing off the person that pays the cheques. It’s what makes Murdoch’s dominance of the industry so frightening.

It’s said that the media “doesn’t tell us what to think, but is remarkably successful at telling us what to think about.” What makes the news, how often and in what frames can have a profound influence on public awareness of an issue and subsequent policy decisions.

Reports like these from stringers, and others by local journalists, show that we should all be concerned about what gets reported, why, how and by whom.

Tagged , , , , ,

Shoulders

This week is The Heatwave. I appreciate the warmth, but the air is heavy and oppressive.

So is the news. Israel and Palestine. Flight MH17 and the reminder of ongoing conflict in Ukraine. (and other places too – Central African Republic, for example – which aren’t in the headlines at the moment but which continue to be troubled)… sometimes the mind boggles at all the turmoil in the world.

One tender love poem is on my mind at times like this:

Shoulders

A man crosses the street in rain,

stepping gently, looking two times north and south,
because his son is asleep on his shoulder.

No car must splash him.
No car drive too near to his shadow.

This man carries the world’s most sensitive cargo
but he’s not marked.
Nowhere does his jacket say FRAGILE,
HANDLE WITH CARE.

His ear fills up with breathing.
He hears the hum of a boy’s dream
deep inside him.

We’re not going to be able
to live in this world
if we’re not willing to do what he’s doing
with one another.

The road will only be wide.
The rain will never stop falling.

– Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952

 

Tagged , , , , ,