All organized religions seem to get themselves mixed up in some shady hierarchies…..but F*** imperial feminism.
It’s difficult to know where to start with this. The bare facts, as reported by the BBC website, are that an eighty-year old woman was left without food, water, or medication for nine days after the company responsible for her care was raided and shut down by the UK Border Agency. Sadly, she later died in hospital. The agency, it seems, had been illegally employing folks without papers, although I don’t think that much has been officially confirmed. There are so many things about this tragedy that make me angry. First off, care work is one of the most poorly paid jobs going. A 2010 report by the Low Pay Commission found that 9% of care workers were paid less than the minimum wage. Many were not being reimbursed for their travel costs. No surprise there, as caring has been – and still is – associated with women, and what has traditionally been considered ‘women’s work’ is always more poorly paid than traditionally masculine roles, no matter how important it may be. In addition, few care workers are union members, and as private companies have taken over – and made to compete for – the provision of care, this has led to reduced pay and poorer working conditions. Second, migrants without papers are one of the most easily exploited groups of people – lacking any official means to support themselves, they have to take any work they are offered, and their illegal status means that they have no power over their pay or working conditions. They cannot join a union to fight for a better deal, and they cannot complain if their jobs fail to meet the legally required standards. Third, the existence of such a vulnerable group of people, living in the shadows of our society, makes it harder for those with papers. Their pay and working conditions are driven down by the exploitation of illegal migrants, and they must now compete for work with people who can be paid less, made to work longer hours, and so on – people whom, from a certain perspective, it makes more sense to employ. And there we have it: a matrix of oppression, which leads to the various sufferings of care workers, folks without papers, and those who require care.
As someone who remains ambivalent about having children (and as someone with young nieces and nephews and friends with kids), this is a topic of deep personal concern to me, as I’m sure it is to many readers. The diagnosis of widespread ignorance and ‘soft denial’ seems pretty plausible, although chastising people for being bad parents seems to me fundamentally unhelpful. Plus, isn’t the sense of deep political powerlessness pretty well justified? It certainly seems that way in the current political and economic climate. For my part I find it very difficult to imagine a day when any government would place long-term interests like saving the planet ahead of short-term economic concerns, particularly when most governments are only in office for 5-10 years (though maybe this is just a tempting false dilemma…)
Your thoughts welcome, especially if you can think of a reason not to despair.
More than 120 schoolgirls and 3 teachers have been poisoned in a second attack on classrooms in two months. The attack happened in Takhar province. Toxic chemicals were released into the air inside the school, and left many pupils unconscious. Last month, 150 schoolgirls in the same province were poisoned after drinking contaminated water. Police and education officials blame the attacks on the Taliban, under whose rule it was illegal for women to work or receive education. You can read more from Al Jazeera.
I think the question “Why not change the world” can look quite irresponsible, so I’m going to try to make it sound more sensible than it might at first.
Some background: There’s a non-obvious link between two recent posts, the one on the AWID Istanbul conference and that on Homophobia. The link is actually Elizabeth Reid, with whom I’ve been meeting up in Oxford. We were grad students together at Somerville College, and she has a B.Phil. in ancient philosophy, with special emphasis on Aristotle.
It is Elizabeth who has just been to the Istanbul conference. It is also Elizabeth who has tried to reconnect virtuous behavior and eudaimonia in her work in developing countries on topics such as women’s welfare and AIDS. Some things she has done are spectacular, I think. She was the UN Development Program’s first Director on AIDS in developing countries and from about 1986 advocated what is now a standard opinion: AIDS is as much a social problem as a medical problem.
Advocating new approaches can make one’s life difficult, but I am certain Elizabeth thinks she has been extremely fortunate to bring philosophical and feminist positions to her now quite long period of advocacy.
So of course I have been wondering about the comparative quality of a life as, say, a UN official working for things that are probably more important than, e.g., developing a better account of the mind’s cognitive relation to its environment. Such as working on alleviating the suffering of millions of people.
Going into work on global problems is not especially easy. Entry points today are very often internships, Elizabeth tells me. That is, exploited labor, even with the UN. Still, when we think of what we might do other than teach philosophy, it might be worth shaking things up for a bit and looking at something entirely different, as Monty Python might say. Elizabeth does say one should start with some area one would really like to affect. But she did have a clarity of insight that might have provided unusual motivation.
I can hardly believe I’ve raised this topic, but I probably believe it is true that there are more important things than being a philosophy professor. One answer to “Why Stay?” could be “Don’t”. Mind you, thinking about trekking around Africa to hold workshops on AIDS prevention does make staying in philosophy seem like an easier option.
Apparently a good amount of international peace and justice activists’ discourse is focused these days on issues about security, protection and self-care. At the same time, it can be difficult for policy makers to have much sense of the immense range of responsibilities women’s lives can involve; plans for a nation can too often neglect or work against women’s interests. In responding to this problem, women working for the security and protection of women in developing countries have, over the last several decades, developed a very nuanced and detailed agenda. It is still evolving, of course, but the recent meeting in Istanbul of the Association of Women’s Rights in Development seems to me to suggest an exciting and maturing convergence of agendas.
There is so much going on; so many questions being raised, so many action plans being developed. Follow through on some of the links from the conference, and see what you think.
I’m told there was not much Western presence. I think that is a situation we should think about critically. Many of the problems being discussed are not regional.
Lest we forget, awful deeds are being perpetrated in Syria, as the government forces rain down terror on protesters. This is Marie Colvin’s last report from Baba Amr before she was killed.
They call it the widows’ basement. Crammed amid makeshift beds and scattered belongings are frightened women and children trapped in the horror of Homs, the Syrian city shaken by two weeks of relentless bombardment.
Among the 300 huddling in this wood factory cellar in the besieged district of Baba Amr is 20-year-old Noor, who lost her husband and her home to the shells and rockets.
“Our house was hit by a rocket so 17 of us were staying in one room,” she recalls as Mimi, her three-year-old daughter, and Mohamed, her five-year-old son, cling to her abaya.
“We had had nothing but sugar and water for two days and my husband went to try to find food.” It was the last time she saw Maziad, 30, who had worked in a mobile phone repair shop. “He was torn to pieces by a mortar shell.”
For Noor, it was a double tragedy. Adnan, her 27-year-old brother, was killed at Maziad’s side.
Everyone in the cellar has a similar story of hardship or death. The refuge was chosen because it is one of the few basements in Baba Amr. Foam mattresses are piled against the walls and the children have not seen the light of day since the siege began on February 4. Most families fled their homes with only the clothes on their backs.
The city is running perilously short of supplies and the only food here is rice, tea and some tins of tuna delivered by a local sheikh who looted them from a bombed-out supermarket.
A baby born in the basement last week looked as shellshocked as her mother, Fatima, 19, who fled there when her family’s single-storey house was obliterated. “We survived by a miracle,” she whispers. Fatima is so traumatised that she cannot breastfeed, so the baby has been fed only sugar and water; there is no formula milk.
Fatima may or may not be a widow. Her husband, a shepherd, was in the countryside when the siege started with a ferocious barrage and she has heard no word of him since.
Thousands of Congolese women, children and men have been protesting on the streets of London for the past week. But there has been little/no media coverage. I wonder why that might be?
The protests are about the recent election results. The protesters argue that Étienne Tshisekedi was cheated from power by Jospeh Kabila, during elections marked by violence and chaos. They fear that Kabila is a Western puppet, who will continue to allow rich Western nations access to the DRC’s natural resources. These include, amongst other things, the minerals used to produce our beloved consumer gadgets: mobile phones and laptops. The problem is that control of the resources has brought one of the most violent conflicts to the region, which has led to endless rapes, beatings, and murders.
Many of the London protesters were angry that the media rarely reports on the atrocities happening in the Congo. They carried pictures of dismembered bodies, bearing witness to the many victims of the ongoing chaos.
You can read more about the recent protests here. WARNING: there are graphic photographs of atrocities included in this report.
You can read a bit more about the elections and the contemporary history of the region here.