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 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 how Iraqi forces’ abuses resulted in alienated individuals and potential ISIS’ victims

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“ While maintaining security and rebuilding the city is vital for enticing people to return, the behaviour of the Iraqi security forces – which include Shia soldiers – towards the mainly Sunni residents will be one of the ways in which Baghdad’s efforts will be measured in Mosul. Many are quick to point out that the reason, in the summer of 2014, for Isis’s success in the city – an insurgent flashpoint since 2003 – was the abuses of the Iraqi security forces, which led to alienation. Since 2003, Iraqi forces have carried out abuses against the civilian population with complete impunity, mainly targeting Sunni Arabs […] They have carried out campaigns of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture and extrajudicial killings. These have all been key push factors for young Sunni Arab men to join Isis ”

Fazel Hawramy, ‘Mosul’s residents tell of hopes and fears after ISIS flees Iraqi city’, The Guardian

On the death of a young immigrant in Italy

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“ Milet is a victim of the unjust regime of her country, from which she escaped. A country that everyone knows, but nobody cares about. Milet is a victim of our frontiers, as legitimate as unjust, when they are bumped into the face of the people and close inexorably before their cry of help. Milet is the victim of a so-called civilized society, that names principles, those of fraternity, freedom, equality, principles in whose name people have been persecuted and killed. Principles that are not applied equally to everyone. There are those who are more brothers, more free and more equal than others. This is an injustice our civilization must be ashamed of. Milet is a victim of so many files that lie for too long on the tables of those who have responsibilities, of unjust procedures that become a dilation in giving justice to the poor asking for help ”

Translated from Italian.

Michele Luppi & Andrea Quadroni, ‘The deaths of the border in Ventimiglia’, Open Migration

On the gender identities amongst young people

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“ There is a need to be thoughtful about the language we use, and to differentiate between gender, biological sex and sexuality. While biological sex development can be ascertained, an individual’s gender and sexuality cannot be assumed on the basis of this. In general, sex hormones can be said to be binary in terms of their actions. Male sex hormones masculinise the body whereas female sex hormones feminise the body. However it is not just the physical body that is so strongly associated with gender. There are many other attributes associated with being male or female, including behaviours, activity preferences and individual characteristics (…) Most often the gender assigned at birth, based on physical sex characteristics, turns out to be the gender we continue to identify with. But this is certainly not always the case. For gender-diverse young people, self-identified gender does not conform to expectations based on their external genitalia. While most trans young people identify with the opposite gender, other gender identities are emerging, including non-binary, gender-queer and gender fluid ”

Polly Carmichael, ‘A child without a gender challenges our preconceptions about sex’, The Guardian