On why our understanding of historical social movements and changes is important

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“ Movements are reduced to individuals – Rosa Parks’ momentary act of defiance on the bus in Montgomery, Alabama is credited with forcing change, rather than the subsequent year-long transport boycott by the city’s black population. Individuals, meanwhile, are elevated to icons: Parks is sold as a demure seamstress, ignoring a life of activism in which she insisted on the right to use violence in self-defence. Or they are condemned to invisibility: Claudette Colvin was ejected from a bus nine months before Parks after also refusing to give up her seat, but her cause was dropped after she became pregnant at 15. Until recently, she was left out of the story altogether (…) Radical change is most likely to come from below, be fiercely resisted by entrenched interests from above and achieved through confrontation. ‘If those who have do not give, those who haven’t must take,’ argued the late anti-racist intellectual Ambalavaner Sivanandan. This is not a message those in power are keen to promote, lest their own interests be challenged (…) …knowing that some of our most cherished rights were won by often uncelebrated people facing great odds, unrelenting vilification and, at times, state repression, suggests that at least some of those being denigrated today will be celebrated one day. The means by which we might achieve progressive change may shift according to the context – but the need for it never goes away ”

Gary Younge, ‘Big business is hijacking our radical past. We must stop it’, The Guardian

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On the ongoing violence in Italy against black immigrants

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“ The violence to which migrants are now subjected in Italy stretches across cities and countryside, across men and women, Asians and Africans. It is not limited to the acts of tattooed fascists taking potshots on the street, but is part of a broad system of exploitation and racialization that is playing out every day across the country. And to reiterate, this is not a metaphorical violence: it is organized and armed, and either protected directly by institutions — as is the case with killers walking free — or indirectly through deliberate negligence, as is the case with the work camps and hostels (…) the reaction to the shootings — politicians, the media, and the Italian public — that has revealed something far worse: that Italian xenophobia has reached such intensity over the past few years that the actions of a fascist, in a country that has the prohibition of fascism inscribed into its constitution, can somehow be excused so long as the targets are black ”

Richard Brodie, ‘Italy’s New Racist Storm’, Jacobin Magazine

On the help drug addicts need

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“ It’s true that breaking free from heroin, alcohol or sugar requires an effort of individual will. It is equally true that it is easier to summon the strength to quit when others are on hand to help. These truths ought to be self-evident ”

Nick Cohen, ‘You don’t have to be poor to be hooked on alcohol or drugs but it helps’, The Guardian

On how governments should deal with homelessness

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“ In light of the global scale and depth of homelessness and inadequate housing, and the roots of these problems in the failure of governments to regulate the financialisation of housing, it is no longer reasonable for governments to treat these realities as mere policy or programme failures. Homelessness and inadequate housing are violations of human rights – and demand the appropriate response (…) Strategies must transform how governments, at all levels, interact with those who are homeless and inadequately housed. Instead of viewing them as needy beneficiaries, objects of charity, or, worse, as criminals, they must instead recognise that people who are homeless also have rights – and are active citizens who should be involved in decisions affecting their lives ”

Leilani Farha, ‘Housing is a human rights issue – and 2018 must be the year to address it’, The Guardian

On the effectiveness of the political correctness argument

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“ One could then say that no one proclaims or describes himself as “politically correct”: the phrase exists first of all as an accusation. On the part of those who address the accusation, the “not politically correct” or rather the ‘political impropriety”, is instead claimed and built on very solid foundations: those of freedom of thought and expression, of opposition to censorship, of courage to go beyond all the conformism and the speeches granted by the public debate. It also assumes the existence of influential and unspecified (almost mythological) actors who try to control everything that is done and all the words that are used: and that carry with them, automatically, a kind of policeman morality. The use of the “politically correct” argument has great success and effectiveness: it immediately pushes on the defensive, puts in check any answer, disqualifies from the beginning ”

Translated from Italian.

Giulia Siviero, ‘Being ‘politically correct’ in a radical way is subversive’, Il Post

On U.S.’ unacceptable recognisement of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital

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“ Of all the issues at the heart of the enduring conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, none is as sensitive as the status of Jerusalem. The holy city has been at the centre of peace-making efforts for decades. Seventy years ago, when the UN voted to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, Jerusalem was defined as a separate entity under international supervision. In the war of 1948 it was divided, like Berlin in the cold war, into western and eastern sectors under Israeli and Jordanian control respectively. Nineteen years later, in June 1967, Israel captured the eastern side, expanded the city’s boundaries and annexed it – an act that was never recognised internationally. Israel routinely describes the city, with its Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy places, as its “united and eternal” capital. For their part, the Palestinians say East Jerusalem must be the capital of a future independent Palestinian state. The unequivocal international view, accepted by all previous US administrations, is that the city’s status must be addressed in peace negotiations. Recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital puts the US out of step with the rest of the world, and legitimises Israeli settlement-building in the east – considered illegal under international law ”

The Guardian, ‘ Death toll rises to 12 in violence after Trump’s Jerusalem recognition ‘, The Guardian

On how parents should act in a meritocracy

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“ …while parents have every right to act in ways that will help their children’s lives go well, they do not have the right to confer on them a competitive advantage – in other words, to ensure not just that they do well but that they do better than others. This is because, in a society with finite rewards, improving the situation of one child necessarily worsens that of another ”

Richard Reeves, ‘How the middle class hoards wealth and opportunity for itself’, The Guardian