Poverty is a beautiful way of having power over those who have no means of producing their own food and goods for consumption
Ibiza – a beautiful island, full of hidden gems. Sunsets by the lapping water, jumping off the rocks. I would have gone to raves and danced til the morning.
Oman, Malaysia and Myanmar – I should have jumped on a plane in November 2019/January 2020 to see a couple of familiar faces and smell the sweetness in the air.
Friends and parks and parties – could have gathered together more, drunk more together and danced, dropping the pressure of prioritising what we now know are very unimportant things in life.
Philosophy – read more ancient Greeks and a lot more Edward Said, a whole lot more of Said. They are good for the soul and got it all worked out. If everyone spent one hour a week doing this, the world would be much more prepared for this than it is now.
Notting Hill Carnival 2019 – I would have gotten out of bed at 7, arrive by 9 and put that big costume on offer to me to dance the day away. Still got to dance, but not in the band bc couldn’t get there due to overcrowding which also led to soundsystems being switched off early. Hot days in London…my carnival family which I miss so much.
It’s a tough time for everyone looking ahead from 2020.
May all your moments and wishes evolve into your reality.
Love to you all for a peaceful quiet Christmas and a kinder year ahead.
Well here we go again, only this time things are a bit different.
In London, there are noticeably less people out after dark, but shopping malls and cafes are still serving take outs and grocery essentials.
This means the earlier photos from the lockdown in spring bear a significant difference to the way urban landscapes look now.
For example, there are a fair amount of labourers and cleaning staff going out and about their business as usual. Spaces look less derelict and more like Sundays before London got crowded millennium onwards.
In urban green spaces, people don’t consider being in fairly crowded conditions, a threat from covid anymore. Benches are open and cyclists have equal access to parks.
The level of interaction with larger crowds is a personal preference.
On a recent cycle with Simon around trendy Hackney Wick and guardian reader pretentious Hackney on Victoria Park, the crowds were heavily dense in many public play areas and entrances.
Away from the long queues outside to pick up coffees and take outs in places where some think it’s important to be at, our was certaintly picking a fish and chips from a good old reliable affordable local chippy just east of Victoria Park to the Wick.
No queues, no wait, no hassle. After a five minute walk, we were enjoying dinner on a bench in the park.
In my next blog I will write about meaningful ways to spend preparing for Christmas holidays and Christmas day itself.
Many get carried away with meaningless cultural traditions, missing the point. Culture can be as oppressive as American culture’s cultural non existence, when it adds no experiental reflection or mindful rest.
In a time of self reflection I couldn’t be luckier having met four days after landing back from a two month trip away early August 2019. And here we are still are today.
Back in the park, we sat watching the lowering sun introducing the mist, the temperature drop, the sensation of colours struggling to define themselves in this new reality.
I suppose this time, it is also the first time of the year’s season under covid for our urban neighbourhoods too. Well I say, we can only pay homage to this another new reality for the family albums to come.
Really, what’s there to complain about? And why not to?
I will refer to two recently published articles, from Reuters and Politico, to analyse the developing outcomes as a result of coercive diplomacy in USA’s current international relations. The focus of these two articles is the USA’s negotiating strategies with the European Union and the United Nations International Court of Justice, which I will conclude with a review on the usefulness and limitations of such approaches in the given contexts.
Coercive diplomacy is applied in diplomatic negotiations as ‘deterrence’ or ‘compellence’ (Byman and Waxman, 2008,158 in Holmes and Rofe, 2016) aiming to change the policy or regime of the coerced state. There is a root weakness in coercive diplomacy as it is revealing of intention, and given it is applied in the pre-text of military action, it is also revealing the coercer is on their last option (Kerr and Wiseman, 2013). Coercive diplomacy is often seen as a pre-text for more serious actions (such as military), and is carried on the coersor’s power, military, or economic weight, motivated by a combination of ‘sticks and carrots’ (Jentleson, 2006)
In the Politico article (Cassella, Hanke and Oliver, 2018), the current US president’s application of coercive diplomacy threatens the EU with introducing car tariffs even though in July 2018 the EU and the USA had shared aspirations of zero tariffs between them. USA applied coercive diplomacy through threats of cancelling this proposition, and by attacking EU’s slow decision making, whilst seeking trade deals with non EU states. In the specific three month time-frame, the EU decision making process would not have changed, leading to my conclusion that the USA’s approach is misleading and misaligned with the apparent objectives in which it was applied.
Outside the trade deal issue, the USA may well have aspirations for a regime change in the EU, thus placing the development of an influential market collaboration with the 27 member state block at risk of stalling altogether.
In a Reuters article published 3 October 2018, (Rampton, Wroughton and van den Berg, 2018), the USA threatened to resign from the Vienna Convention to show discontent in response to Iran’s and Palestine’s complain to the United Nations International Court of Justice about the USA’s upcoming tightening of sanctions against Iran.
The Vienna Convention has been followed as a prescription of conduct for international relationships, including facilitating a platform for diplomatic immunity.
USA Secretary of State Mike Pompeo concluded to threaten with USA’s resignation from the Vienna convention, as a result of the application of international law by the United Nations, to unfavourably to the extend it is threatening the domestic security of the USA. Pompeo simultaneously threatens to leave the platform, whilst reminding states they are still very much party to it, undermining the UN.
The application of coercive diplomacy in both situations attempts to manipulate those that have historically been allies of the US.
This is a standard scenario before military action, contradictory to the USA’s objective. Is coerciveness used to widen the gap between prescriptions, thus creating spaces for exploitation?
Holmes, A. and Rofe, J. (2016). Global Diplomacy. Boulder: Routledge, p.199.
Kerr, P. and Wiseman, G. (2013). Diplomacy in a globalizing world. Oxford University Press, p.6.
Jentleson, B. (2006). Coercive Diplomacy: Scope and Limits in the Contemporary World. The Stanley Foundation Policy Analysis Brief, December 2006, p.1.
Cassella, M., Hanke, J. and Oliver, C. (2018). Juncker and Trump’s transatlantic trade truce falters. [online] Politico.com. Available at: https://www.politico.com/amp/story/2018/10/17/trade-truce-europe-trump-911940 [Accessed 28 Oct. 2018].
Rampton, R., Wroughton, L. and van den Berg, S. (2018). U.S. withdraws from international accords, says U.N. world court…. [online] U.S. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-diplomacy-treaty/u-s-withdrawing-from-vienna-protocol-on-dispute-resolution-bolton-idUSKCN1MD2CP [Accessed 3 Oct. 2018].
10th July 2020, a Turkish Court order approved Hagia Sophia’s convertion from a museum to an operational mosque.
For many Christians around the world, aborting a historical monument that represented the centuries of Byzantine Eastern Orthodox with Ottoman faith-inspired culture in the region, to having it reclaimed as a faith space for Islam, is a vilifying act of disrespect. The region has been affected by territorial tensions for millenia and many in the Balkan and Western Asia Minor, have experienced relocations, marginalisation, faith based extradition, torture and incarceration.
It is a non surprise western Turkey struggles with their record on human rights abuses, and corruption has been developmental to the Greek economy even in modern times.
Looking past the historicity of the region, and the unsettled air Erdoğan’s latest move has created, I can attest to the following:
– Erdoğan has three years left before the next election.
– The Hagia Sofia move was his check mate to Europe beyond the Greco-Turkish spats.
– Erdoğan doesn’t want to join EU (and all the monitoring and regulations), the EU will not have Turkey as it is today, but to make sure they don’t interfere, he needed to growl over his territory.
– Putin will turn a blind eye, despite Russia’s Orthodox Church affinity. Faith is only useful when it serves one’s interests by masking transparency. Christian links to the European church history are problematic for Putin’s and Erdoğan’s dark and underhanded populist and divisionary operations.
– Unmonitored, anyone challenging Erdoğan like the Kemalists, will end up in jail or dissappear.
– Turks in Turkey, Germany and the UK love Erdoğan. He took power and water to the favelas. He is making profits from the Syrian refugees that have no labour rights but plenty of will to do whatever yet not get paid or paid scraps of peanuts when they do (a 10th of the Turkish labour rates according to reports).
Noone wants drama on their doorstep. Turning adversity to positive stories is a way for populist governments to get away with the uttermost abuse of human rights.
Minorities and culture are the capital nasty regimes use for political coercion.
Coercion to domestic opposition, and coercion in international relations contexts.
Threatening securities makes vulnerable populations anxious and puts actor resources at high risk and alert. This costs actors money and make populations more predatory between them. Double win.
Hagia Sophia is the starting line of an incredibly narcissistic performance we will expect to see from Erdoğan in the next three years.
I can only hope there will be limited loss and blood lost in the process, but not set on having any hopes at this point.
In the middle of a pandemic, reclaiming a museum to a faith institution is a bold move.
To be continued…
It’s been a while since the last post in the midst of Covid-19 which has become the constant, a bunch of close ones and I have followed the doctor’s advice.
Stay healthy, maintain the distance, and make sure you make memories.
Making memories is what differentiates today’s reality from psychological isolation.
With that, I discovered the invaluable constant.
Through my eyes, a number of things materialised over the past few weeks…
The comfortable space of just being, without obstructions from noise.
That comfortable space on the sofa, the giggles, the awe, the excitement, the unexpected dance, the beer out of the bag, the bag of chips, the walks, the SUPs, the sculls and the steers.
This is the story of the past six weeks.
I would like to start this blogpost acknowledging this has been one changeable mood kind of a month.
It begun in semi frustration and acceptance: this is what we need to do and we commit to it. Blindfolded into commitment, no questions asked. Then days, then weeks passed. The exhaustion of changing habits in and out of home. The disappointment of realising you can’t walk into this pub, or straight into the shop, they are either shut, or there is a queue. You can’t hug your friend or pat the back of your neighbour. And that cycle route you always thought as the best, is out of bounds, too many runners using the tow path and daddies training their little ones to cycle. So forced into rediscovering your vicinity in new conditions, you get to become the tourist again, and that is cool.
Then the important stuff happening unnoticed until you think there’s value in the time you have saved from travelling and all the social stuff you can no longer do. So talking to friends and neighbours you end up rocking up to a community space in a church build on the ruins of one that was built in the 1600s, thinking you’re not the religious type but there are enough Muslim kids and white working class families about to take the edge off.
Next thing you’re committed and talking to new people. That guy is familiar, of course he is in and out of my block, and we chat, I hear the news and off we go.
Those who are organising everything, early on in the outbreak, with little knowledge of the impact yet without hesitation, they set up shop quickly. They asked and got donations, listened unjudgmentally to the community’s input, and attracted people of all ethnicities and faiths to help. They reassigned resources quickly. The initial food was delivered to 40 odd people three times a week and now it has grown to double of that.
Today, the last day of April feels like a halfway point on a long holiday. It’s been thrilling, confusing, too long, too short, too busy, and now seems to be going too fast and to be true, I don’t want it to end yet, but I do want to be able to make plans for the future.
Somehow the reality is: I can’t, and none of us can.
As we will gradually re-enter a version of normality in the coming months, there will be plenty of vulnerable people who will still not be able to leave their home. This help will not stop with our needs being met, and not until they have their fully met. It has been challenging at times running up and down unfamiliar estates, motivating oneself to get out, cover up, do your deed, run home, take everything off, clean everything, shower. Yet it’s been worth it. The smiles, the chats, the waves, the odd requests, or the kind wishes and offers. It all makes it so special.
This month has also been one where I covered nearly 200km cycling. It’s not a lot, however in addition to my training, and the bursting energy of spring colours and smells, there was plenty of visual richness to record.
The blog and the photos are dedicated to the community leaders, and those who need their swift action. They are being both my inspiration and motivation throughout the past six weeks and the very out of the ordinary month of April 2020.
Even more so, this month I hope does not go by forgotten. Everyone has been affected by it and I purposely included the empty canary wharf development. No one is immune to this and I hope this chance for a level playing field is finally grasped like the breath of fresh air we so much need.
Let’s clear up a few things.
So there are a lot of generalised assumptions and fear tactics by media and fake media out there. There has also been pressure on populist political leaders to begin taking scientific advice seriously. There is often more than one scientific advice, based on different modelling approaches. An acquaintance’s COVID-19 modelling presentation has been misrepresented by the news and slaughtered as if it was political advice. Let’s get this right, political decisions are not made by science researchers. Researchers, do exactly this, they research and present their findings. Politicians then, in theory, should compare it with other researchers’ advice, compare it under socio-economic contexts and implications, and make policy decisions. Scientists and boards can make ethical decisions on research pieces involving directly the community, more often than not, in clinical settings. As the COVID-19 virus is not a domestic issue, but one that requires international cooperation, I quote the World Health Organisation’s principles on the ethics of bioethics. The most commonly identified
1) individual autonomy (the ability to make decisions for oneself);
2) beneficence (the obligation to “do good” for others);
3) nonmaleficence (the obligation to avoid causing harm to others);
4) justice (the value of distributing benefits and burdens fairly).
Now I won’t go into much detail on how elastic these can become in domestic policy context, but I refer to them as a signpost of considerate practice.
So going back to the politics. Assuming the politicians understand the principles, they have been called to make political decisions and introduce relevant policies. Policies are drawn on the elites’ understanding of the value of social investments. Social investments are education, health, livelihoods, self-determination/individual voices aka sustainable communities. To date, we have seen the third market crash was no longer dependant on corporations, and that the corporate market may not be salvaged by cash injections alone. Corporations are always dependent on the people that work for them. When people can’t go to work, or refuse to, and corporations can not replace them by informal or imported or illegal labour due to travel restrictions, the value of the local labour offer increases. Thus the involuntary small cash injections from populist governments to the people’s hands.
Their objective remains the same: feeding the corporate machine to jump-start the economy. The value of sustaining a trained workforce, on basic income streams, state-funded, is worth investing so a) corporations don’t fold, and continue funding the political elites and their parties and b) subduing existing breadline populations from rioting against corporations or striking. I believe as long as corporations keep running, things will go back to normal at the end of this pandemic.
Interestingly enough in Germany, the policy decision, after a consistent containment of the virus and early-on testing, smaller businesses will open for business next week. Germany’s policy decision tells us two things: a) they have backed up their scientific modelling with clinical and community-based research and b) the independence of small and medium-sized business owners is the bedrock of healthy and thriving communities. In British conservatism, this would translate into a lesser dependency on state-cash injections directly to the individuals when they are out of work.
In summary, get people safe, provide them the assurances they need to return to work and the community aka let the economy trickle-sustain with prioritising average Joe, because average Joe is doing all the hard work of keeping the fine balances on a local level. Without the local level of support sustaining economic reproduction, there will be no feeding loop.
Interestingly enough populist politicians are looking at Germany for guidance yet without having invested in social care protections in their own domestic policy decisions. They are suggesting opening businesses as usual however ie USA’s and UK’s economic systems are structured entirely differently to that of Germany. A German factory worker is directly linked in value to the German stock exchange. The US or British worker is owned by the corporation they work for, who calls the price of their labour, hence less worker rights and so on. Now the outcome of this means, it is in Germany’s interests to keep this worker secure, and import more workers that can be developed to this capacity, vs the model of disposable workforces in UK and the US (Windrush in the UK, abandoned industries in the US, minorities leading the populist moment against other minorities/xenophobic sentiments).
Furthermore, many of the populist politicians are coming up to election time or will be soon enough. We know, the lax policy adoption of herd immunity without the social investment, is economic suicide for corporations and corporate funded political systems. We also know those very political elites will be left unscathed, unless the corporations pull the rag from under their feet. We also know those corporations will move on to the next guy that will have them, and will sponsor the next guy’s campaigns instead.
So how do those populist politicians intend to close the gap between the average local Joe in the UK and the US and a sustainable community, when we know the cash injections are in fact an insult of a gesture when social-care infrastructure has been disassembled bit by bit (Obama care, NHS and so on).
The supporters of populist ideologies, aka no or limited state investment, may have not realised that without state-funded infrastructure, there is no monitoring, no data (ie lack of health free healthcare services), no statistics from the community (no outreach healthcare services) that can serve the interests of the community.
So scientists can model all they want, but without data, modelling is pretty useless. To put it plainly, these people in the communities don’t exist, or have any chance of benefitting from designs that could be made for their benefit. They will not account towards any losses other than some economic by their corporate employers, who might find/informalise/eventually import a replacement or may not depending on the level of loss and risks to corporate business.
Bio-scientists, then can get together with vaccinologists and jump hoops and do their uttermost best (privately or state invested – doesn’t really matter right now, beggars can’t be choosers).
Even when they come up with the ‘solution’, politicians will still need to drought in the social care investment of distribution, prioritisation and access. And we also know populist politicians have interests in specific balances. And these balances are clearly becoming more about patterns, not who is the perceived winner ie who markets themselves as being the top dog, but perhaps a multilateral consensus about who sustains their position better and leaves average Joe the least unscathed.
Then, for the sake of managing a global issue, there’s a call for serious investment in international knowledge-sharing, energized by today’s very real post-Westphalian conditions.
In one of my last dissertation supervision sessions, my supervisor asked me which animal species are thriving at present?
I took a couple of guesses none of which were right.
I was trying to join the dots between his question and my dissertation topic, which was a comparative study between the political economy of the Sami and the Inuit. I just couldn’t see where he was leading onto.
Jonathan went on to say it is the squid. And the reason for it, is that whilst fishing has focused on other species, the squid had the opportunity to multiply in swarms.
He went on to explain that the obvious answers are not always the correct ones. I suppose he was trying to tell me by focusing on one thing we assume as the path to survival, there are emerging occurrences we leave unnoticed.
I since then took to noticing squid more often.
Walking down SE Division Street. Portland, OR, past Whiskey Soda Lounge with Tim, I took this.
In one way, the story is that of silver linings behind a cloudy day. We are seeing changes to our lives that we have not entertained in detail of how they will be affecting our emotional needs and resilience.
Making a smoothie cocktail with Craken is my resilience recipe for the odd night now we are spending a lot more time at home. And enjoying it over a long video chat to the wee hours of the day.
We know in times of uncertainty there are certain parameters we can measure against, and work towards, to meet those needs.
Our needs are not only our own. They are universal values our humanity exists by. When these are threatened, or placed in new unfamiliar conditions, there’s a couple of things we can do to refocus.
The top ten commandments of emotional needs are:
Meaning & purpose
The overarching point I see across the list of emotional needs, is intimacy.
Intimacy in a non sexual way.
But the space where two people connect over a unique shared experience that rings emotions of belonging, and trust, for both of them.
We are all interconnected. Even at times when we may feel that life becomes unfamiliar, rather than trying to regain a sense of control, our biggest strength may be in our capacity to reflect, learn and evolve.
I don’t know much, but situations like today’s offer a unique chance, that of a lifetime, to improve and rejoin community with renewed values of what we need and how to approach what we have and what presents itself before us.
I grew up thinking of America as this homogenically superficial space fuelled by ignorance and ultra-arrogance imposed by the sound of mad dogs and gun shots in the background. A war within itself.
In the politics and economics of the past thirty years, the trajectory of individualism is a response to the controversy of sharing all, in post anti communism, Cold War era.
This skewed anti reality brewed the covering of the reduction of basic human rights, presented as anti-terror securities to the average folk, and messed up the minds and values of many alike. This was easily absorbed by a weak societal structure in the US that without free access to health, education or meaningful work opportunities, beyond the concept of self-sale, left people scraping by for the ‘mana’. The lack of cultural references, families or friendships providing emotional support systems can not be bought by insurance companies.
In adulthood, we are all paving our way on our own but the multilayered toxicity of American neoliberalism has easily spread a virus with the language of non sense – what people can’t understand conceptually, can’t analyse and therefore are open to manipulation, misinterpretation, abhorrent expressions – they don’t even make sense to those that speak of them.
Today, this translates into the extremist mini-anti-cultures surviving by a bashing each others’ existence in perpetuation.
Jamali Maddix got a few of them covered for Vice.
Bunches of incoherent folks at each other’s throats, caricaturing a very simple and singular dimension as a version of society. We can critique the social movements for not establishing fundamental change but they are not ripping cultures apart or marginalising what holds as a resource of existence to the average folk.
For many on the outside of US, the scene is hopeless and bleak. For many on the outside, we can’t help but romantisize for a mind shift by the immense phoenix like male figures that despite the union’s level of absence in communal conscience, they have held a string light for long enough to beam their connection with and faith in humanity and in hope for a realignment of the American dream. They have the knowledge that one’s resources are equally owned and interconnected by everyone on the planet. Physical and emotional cultural references matter, the intangible connections energise the common pool.
Ultimately, isolationists are believing that by fighting everyone off to protect their patch of land, they will not end up finding out they are fighting against themselves, which they know its not only unsustainable, but plain self destructive and stupid. Sum it up in the simple lesson of the flowers and the bees.
My gratitude goes out to the two American men that know too well where the concept of the American dream really can stem from and what it could really translate into in the daily routes of American self identification. It is a work that will take a generation or two, and these men hold the tortch for the way there.
Respect to Neil Young
Respect for Bernie Sanders