‘They’re adults lying about their age’

That’s what lots of commenters write on articles about Calais, including people who have commented on my posts here (I haven’t published those remarks). But here’s the thing:

No one said they would be toddlers. Calling them children is an accurate way to describe people who have not yet reached their 18th birthday. But 17 and 18-year-olds who have spent several months in a refugee camp look like adults. Trauma ages them. They might not have been able to shave recently. They might be on the very cusp of adulthood. But for now, they are children and it’s out duty to protect them. They will have spent a huge chunk of their childhood either living in a war zone or escaping it. Should they not now have a chance to rest and recover from that before starting adulthood? It takes a particular kind of callousness to insist they stay in a soon-to-be-demolished camp just because they can’t prove their credentials…

For those who ask harsh questions about where all the tiny children and girls are, I give you harsh answers. They didn’t make it. The girls have been sex-trafficked. The tiny children have died. The ones who are now arriving in the UK are strong looking because only the strongest have survived these harsh conditions. Seven-year-olds aren’t equipped to cross a continent and then fend for themselves in a makeshift tent. They die, they disappear…

More here.

And another thing: why exactly is it that some people are so unwilling to lend sympathy to young men? Can they not also suffer? This seems to be one pernicious effect of the way masculinity is constructed in our still patriarchal system: men are not vulnerable. Men should be able to fend for themselves. Men do not need protection.

What one white person learned whilst visiting Standing Rock

I’m home now in Chicago, but I was at Standing Rock just a few days ago. I know how it feels to sleep outside in two sleeping bags and a winter coat in below-freezing weather, and wake up to the sounds of people coughing from tents surrounding you. I remember feeling the ground shake as horses stampeded past on the way to the front lines. I can hear the elders on the microphone—the voice of the camp at the sacred fire—urging non-violence, keeping everything grounded in prayer and ceremony…

…By allowing Dakota Access to dig under the Missouri River to run this pipeline, the government is putting private interest before the public’s health. Flint, Michigan showed us what a water crisis looks like on a relatively small scale—“small” being an entire city.

By allowing the fossil fuel industry to occupy the land and rivers of the United States instead of shifting to renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal, the government is putting private interest before the environment. In the past 12 months alone, North Dakota reported 272 uncontained oil spills, defined as “an overflow of the facility boundaries or a leak from a facility pipeline.” Contained oil spills: 904 in North Dakota alone.

By allowing this construction to happen on indigenous land, the government is putting private interest before Native American treaty rights. In September, the construction company dug up human remains from a Native American burial ground, which is why dozens of campers are occupying the land at this specific location, directly beside the burial ground. This is land that originally belonged to the tribe as a result of the Fort Laramie treaty of 1851.

Read more here.

Some important observations about achieving gender diversity in philosophy

Paula Boddington has an important paper on achieving gender diversity in philosophy.  She looks at features of philosophy in order to argue – or suggest – that efforts at achieving equity may be undercut either by themselves or by the features of the discipline.  A few examples:

  1.  Efforts at helping young women in philosophy through mentoring, awards, etc., may reinforce the busy-ness of philosophy that distracts from serious attention being paid to underlying moral issues.
  2. The same efforts may distract us from examining the incredible load of credential gathering that a philosophy career now involves, and the resulting competitiveness that means the upper ranks are all the harder to get into.
  3. The same competitiveness may effectively marginalised the important voices of people with different values and abilities.
  4. People who write on moral issues, evidence suggests, may excuse themselves from important moral action; i.e., they are good enough to allow a few transgressions.

I am aware I haven’t done justice to the wonderful richness of Boddington’s paper.  Or to its real sparks of humor, such as the idea that the current proliferation of credentials might have been planned in a meeting of the Vienna Circle and Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts.  Excellence doesn’t exist unless it is measured!

PS:  a few of the ideas I didn’t mention above:  the impact that philosophy’s not having a good exit exerts; the fact that philosophy’s failure at diversifying neededn’t be due to one or a few big awful things; it can be lots and lots of little things, picking off one or a few at a time; the ways in which rules and regulations can dehumanize, etc, etc.


Calais – situation still desperate

The situation in Calais is still completely desperate. Some refugees have been housed in good conditions, but there are a lot still left behind, and no-one is taking proper care of them except the volunteer aid agencies staffed by ordinary folk who’ve gone to Calais to try and help. Day 6, and there are still children sleeping rough, children sleeping in shipping containers being fed by volunteers, with the only government authorities present being the police.


If you would like to help, the volunteer groups have asked for people to tweet about the situation.

We are about to take to twitter (Starting at 12.30pm GMT) to highlight the tragedy that is still unfolding before our eyes. Below are 5 tweets we are asking you to tweet out, you can retweet and share as much as possible by searching #refugeecommunitykitchen I have also included 2 photo’s here if you could attach them. Many thanks.

1500+ children spent night no3 in cold containers no news no help Broken promises. #actnow #AmberRudd #DubsNow #refugeecommunitykitchen

1500+ children in shipping containers #Calais & we are the only ones feeding them. #actnow #AmberRudd #DubsNow #refugeecommunitykitchen

We are still feeding people who have nothing. The situation is beyond cruel. . #actnow #AmberRudd #DubsNow #refugeecommunitykitchen

We are working all night to feed those left behind. Call your MP RT #DubsNow #AmberRudd #Calais #refugeecommunitykitchen

Urgent 1500+ forgotten in Calais. Govts act now. Working all night to feed them. Write to your MP & Amber Rudd #refugeecommunitykitchen

Albert Atkin, at 3AM

Fascinating interview.  A couple of high points for me…

Despite being someone who wants to explore potentially specific problems in philosophy. I think there’s a lot of truth in this:

 I honestly think claims that there is something intrinsic to the discipline that means it attracts a particular type of person (who tends to be male and white and wealthy) is weak tea. Philosophy has a problem, but it has a problem because the world is a shitty place, and the most comfortable and interesting jobs tend to be populated by the most privileged. As much as people complain about academia, it’s a pretty cushy gig. Why are there so few black academics? Because for the most part, society is racist. Why do we struggle to get gender equality? Because for the most part, society is sexist. Why are working class people underrepresented in academia? Because for the most part society makes it easier for the privileged to succeed. Why are people of disability made invisible in academia? Because for the most part society is ableist. Philosophy may be a particularly troublesome and resistant pocket of that society, but it’s hardly the last or biggest hold out.


I think readers of this blog will be especially interested as well to read Albert’s thoughts on philosophy of race and the importance of definitions with respect to Roma identity, a perspective that is (to put it mildly) not often discussed.

I use a particular approach of saying that careful definition and clarity are important, that these are what analytic philosophers take themselves to be good at, and that they should get involved in this project. I can understand why people might not find that approach useful, especially in the current context in America where there needs to be a real focus on the differences in lived experience between races. From my point of view though, understanding what we can do by getting involved in projects of definition are important and do have a role.

To illustrate, I have a paper included in a collection of articles on the condition of Roma in Europe. The collection “We Roma“, is edited by Daniel Baker and Maria Hlavajova and has contributions from both Roma and Non-Roma. In my paper, I try to make it clear that there are official definitions of Roma groups which are designed to identify us with properties that can be (and are being) removed — its definitional genocide. I argue that we need to be involved in defining ourselves, to own the definitional project, otherwise we, as a group, are doomed in Europe. Given the surge in far right sentiment across Europe I worry that we may already be doomed, but while ever someone else controls whats defines us we can simply be erased by fiat.

Read the whole thing.


CFP: Stand-Up Comedy

Ethics and Aesthetics of Stand-Up Comedy Conference
April 5-8, 2017

Bucknell University
Lewisburg PA

Call for Papers

Submission Deadline: December 20, 2016

Online Registration Until March 10, 2017

The Ethics and Aesthetics of Stand-Up Comedy Conference will bring together scholars and practitioners interested in stand-up comedy from a range of academic disciplines, including but not limited to philosophy, performance studies, women’s and gender studies, African-American studies, theatre, art history, and culture studies.

In addition to academic papers, panels, comments, and discussion, the conference also includes workshops, an open mic night, roundtable discussions with comedians, and stand-up comedy performances.

We invite submissions for paper presentations, thematic panels, workshops, and offers to serve as commentator or chair.  Submissions are welcome on any topic in the aesthetics and ethics of stand-up comedy, broadly construed.

ORGANIZERS: Sheila Lintott (Bucknell University); Jason Leddington (Bucknell University); Meenakshi Poonuswami (Bucknell University); Alex Skitolsky (Goddard College); Nikki Young, (Bucknell University); Diane Jakacki, (Bucknell University); Kathryn Maguet (Bucknell University); Aaron Meskin (University of Leeds); Steven Gimbel, (Gettysburg College).

Contact: BUStandUpComCon@bucknell.edu
SPONSORED BY: Bucknell University and the American Society for Aesthetics.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed at this conference do not necessarily represent those of Bucknell University or the American Society of Aesthetics.

How to Help in Calais

The clearing of the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp has left some people, including children, sleeping rough.

All this week bulldozers and police have moved into the camp to evict the people there. It is chaos. Voluntary organisations are desperately trying to help the children eligible to come to Britain safely and legally – whether because they have family in the UK or they qualify under the Dubs amendment.

Yet they and the British officials now working with them have faced persistent difficulties ensuring the children are registered by the French and so in safe locations – resulting in many being put at risk or taken out of Calais to unknown destinations. Without action more could go missing and last night many slept rough in the dangerous remains of the camp.

Stella Creasy MP has produced text of a letter in French and English so that you can write to the French authorities about this.

Go here for instructions. There is also a link for writing to your own MP.

Black Lives Matter UK – UFFC remembrance procession

The United Families and Friends Campaign was set up in the UK in 1997 to seek justice for those who have died in police custody in the UK. Originally a group of black families, the movement has expanded to include people of different ethnicities (and their supporters) whose loved ones have been killed by the police. For the past eighteen years, the UFFC has held a remembrance procession around October, where people walk from Trafalgar Square to Downing Street in memory of the people killed. This year, the procession takes place on Saturday October 29th.

The UFFC calls for the following:

  • Prison deaths be subject to a system of properly funded investigation that is completely independent of the Prison Service;
  • Officers involved in custody deaths be suspended until investigations are completed;
  • Prosecutions should automatically follow ‘unlawful killing’ verdicts;
  • Police forces be made accountable to the communities they serve;
  • Legal Aid and full disclosure of information is available to the relatives of victims;
  • Officers responsible for deaths should face criminal charges, even if retired.

Violence at Standing Stone Camp

Big Oil meets grass roots resistance. I’ve posted a video before from the Sacred Stone Camp. Predictably, as time goes on, things have gotten uglier. Police have been drafted in from various locations to deal with the protesters, along with private security firms hired by the oil companies. They will attempt to secure the pipeline in the face of protests by any means necessary. So far this has included: pepper spraying people at prayer, beatings, firing live rounds at horse riders and their horses, setting trained dogs on protesters, mass arrests, concussion grenades thrown into crowds… the militarised force of the State versus the people. Uncomfortable echoes of earlier times when First Nations people and Native Americans were brutally attacked and murdered by the authorities, trying to defend their land. And as climate change starts to bite, and the need for alternative sources of energy to fossil fuels becomes increasingly urgent, this is everyone’s fight.

Over 300 police officers in riot gear, 8 ATVs, 5 armored vehicles, 2 helicopters, and numerous military-grade humvees showed up north of the newly formed frontline camp just east of Highway 1806.

You can follow what’s happening over at the Sacred Stone Camp Facebook page. The people on the ground there are asking for videos of events to be shared.

If, like me, you’re sat behind a keyboard many, many miles away wondering what you can do, you can donate to the Camp’s legal fund. There’s info here.

An earlier article about the Camp from Huffpo is here.

“This is not your word”

Tiffany Martinez writes:


This morning, my professor handed me back a paper (a literature review) in front of my entire class and exclaimed “this is not your language.” On the top of the page they wrote in blue ink: “Please go back and indicate where you cut and paste.” The period was included. They assumed that the work I turned in was not my own. My professor did not ask me if it was my language, instead they immediately blamed me in front of peers. On the second page the professor circled the word “hence” and wrote in between the typed lines “This is not your word.” The word “not” was underlined. Twice. My professor assumed someone like me would never use language like that. As I stood in the front of the class while a professor challenged my intelligence I could just imagine them reading my paper in their home thinking could someone like her write something like this? 

Read the whole thing.