Discussing healthcare in the US through graffiti

So you know Portland is the weird and quirky side of the western coast of the US for being alternative and out there. Well, it is for American standards, but… There are some things so ingrained in the American culture that even Portland can’t shy.

I’ve been visiting the Portland State University library for a while, getting some quiet time to write for hours.

I don’t get to talk to folks when here much. A new friend who studied linguistics mentioned she was considering a PhD study on the linguistics of indoor graffiti to research the public debates drawn out on loo doors, library spaces, lecture theatre desks, cantines and classes amongst others.

Reading the voices in public yet privately defined spaces gives you an idea of what people really want to say. That is usually expressed in a doodle, a few words, at the end of an emotion or thought.

I saw this one in the quiet study area of Portland State University.

dsc_40943787611335575273161.jpg

What shook me was that I was in a relatively trendy and well off part of the world where people are seen as Liberal and progressive. Without assuming the voices on this graffiti represent all American voices, they do sum it up in a nutshell.

Bernie Sanders can shout as much as he wants about healthcare for all. Some may know what universal income is too. How does a population within an economy as such get to the point of believing free healthcare is brainwash? Is that an indication the writer thinks it’s impossible? Or is it inappropriate?

Will the benefits that we have not had the opportunity to experience never materialize? How does fit it in the big American dream?

I now understand that we can’t rely on the young to fight for things they don’t understand. But what happened to them that got them to a place of not believing in the state’s capability of delivering on its social contract. Was it the Republicans, or Democrats before them, the Tories or Blair before them or the disconnected wababee socialist Corbyn? They are all part of the same system, right? Taking their quick and short chances (cause that’s all they’ll ever get nowadays) in power trips and little business for their buddies whilst citizens lose the will to live, and are devalued for their contribution to society and beyond their filling the gaps in the pockets of those near and dear.

Yet the broken system is showing that’s all around us. Segmentations of data that forgot how they came to be.

To be called brainwashed is to have a compliment. A recognition of the presence of a brain that’s been open to dialogue and will continue to do so.

Don’t tell me who I am, tell me who I want to be.

 

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Seattle, chief Seattle

So I will not start from the beginning, why should I, after all, I will start from the point writing this blog post, became urgent. And that wasn’t until I got inspired.
So you know how much I love Camden Town, right? I suppose in many ways it’s the alternativeness I have come to love for decades, even if it is being polished gradually, the edginess is still here.
So what’s up Seattle?
Up University Way and I got blown away. Now this is a quiet Camden, clothes’ exchanges galore, vintage shops with vintage clothes you can actually wear i.e. check out Red Light Vintage http://www.redlightvintage.com/, Korean food that smells beyond tasting good, unintrusive cafes like Cafe Solstice https://www.cafesolsticeseattle.com/ and a second-hand multi-lingo book shop check out Magus Books https://www.magusbooksseattle.com/, all packed on and off a high street where people don’t need to prove they are cool – they kind of are and don’t know it. I loved the dress down punk 90s understated fashion on the street.
Elaborative discussions on how the homeless are better looked after in Seattle than in Portland are complimentary. 90’s vibes. A time before all that uber-conservative shit in politics took off. Where Blur and Bjork are cool to mix with all sorts and cafes don’t mind shitloads of unpretentious laptops.
Now rewind a few days.
The airport; you land in Seattle, you be sure to listen to grunge and rock on the airport speakers. Telling what the city is made off. Even the light rail is called ‘sound’.
Then off to Highline, you could call it a disgruntled neighborhood on the margins, one that will certainly change, because the people may be poorer than average, but have tolerance and are friendly. For Londoners, think of Hackney before the money moved in. In Highline, money is not here yet but I think it won’t show in the same ugly British ways, because the money in the US goes to more affluent areas, whereas money into poorer areas in Seattle means it came from poorer people yet. So you get the picture.
Next off; Gasworks Park, or rewind a few blocks up the hill behind down Sunnyside Avenue North. Probably one of the most beautiful areas in Seattle. Streets manicured pretty green and friendly unpretentious, just the houses are bigger on well thought designed picturesque bliss, but no grandeur here either please, just simply gorgeous. So back down the hill to the Gasworks park and by the Lake Union waterfront – oh my days. My waterways days chucked into the bin, deep deep into the trash bin. The chaos of sup paddleboarding, rowing, kayaking, commercial traffic, houseboats, sailing boats, and water airplanes all using the same water was like watching carnival for the first time. All it felt like, was kind of Greek chaos, only with the confidence. It was fun to watch – put a big smile on my face and gave me another good reason to add to the reasons why I am in this part of the world: it doesn’t make much sense, but it works fine.
A little later, into Fremont, oh my days you have to go, it is so cool and pretty, like an understated really green lightly academic bohemian neighborhood that reminds me of somewhere I would have loved to go before.
So yeah, go Pike Street Market, Alki Beach, the Space Needle (if you must), Westlake Shopping, check out the Fremont Troll and the gum wall (I didn’t – couldn’t bear the thought), look out the wheel from the seafront and maybe jump on the ferry to Bremerton for more really cool views. Pop in at the University of Washington grounds – huge trees bigger spaces to feel academically inspired ;-p and if you are a Harry Potter fan the Library Suzzalo and Allen Libraries is the kind of grandeur that Oxbridge would love to have (I thought my School of Oriental and African Studies university library was big haha). Out of the library look out to the incredible view of the snow-capped Mount Rainier. Whatever you do though, if you are my sort of gang, go up University Way, go down Sunnyside Avenue.

 

Climate change and security

 

This presentation was produced by Athina Fokidou for the MSc Security class (combined) at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 2018.

The Case study is the destruction of the Dawlish seafront railway in the South West coast of the United Kingdom by climatic events and the consequent political battlefield of unmet promises.

The objective of the presentation is to raise awareness of the players in responses to climate, their intentions and unknown coercive strategies in the nexus of the state and individual contractual exchange.

 

Trump and Brexit off the cliff edge

The past few weeks have seen historical levels of political unwill in the US and UK.

Despite the repetitive votes in the parliament on Brexit options, across the pond, considerations over at which level the business interests of the President are conflicting with responsibilities in the public office, have been held back by senior Democrats.

Not very unlike the Labour leader’s opposition to the EU, and dislike the Tories are in the driving seat of the negotiations, with Theresa May being traditionally pro-EU – a clarity of parliamentarian’s will, is anything but a clear cut between for and anti-Brexit voices.

The confusion in UK and US is the re-divergence of the drivers behind people’s voting preferences. Traditional politics, that of the left and the right, have hegemonized to the extent of other areas of connectivity between political preferences has emerged.

Some may think the opinion Brexit will never happen and that Trump will not see through a second term, is premature today. Rightly the politics are still shedding old skin and testing new voices. Traditional far rightism may see some rise or tv coverage however in temporality, people seek new ideas, often held by the young.

Unquestionably it is a unique time in history to live and experience the shifts, twists, and stretches. Yet the presence of Extinction Rebellion and Young People’s Climate Strikes over the past few weeks have an 80’s tone, the global problems are ours and they are ignored by politicians continuing the pursuit of fast results and short term solutions. In the background, seals are dropping off to their death from cliffs in the Arctic they have not had to climb before when the ice area was 40% larger than it is today.

The tide is certainly changing, and we are running out of those in ye olde politics – inevitably will need to work together, for their own survival.

 

Sources:

  • No Brexit more likely than a disorderly one, say economists

https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-poll/no-brexit-more-likely-than-a-disorderly-one-say-economists-idUKKCN1RU01J

  • Landmark moment for Trump as Mueller report on Russia looms

https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-usa-trump-russia/landmark-moment-for-trump-as-mueller-report-on-russia-looms-idUKKCN1RU0EJ

  • UK should ‘cool down’, drop Brexit – Socialist candidate to head EU Commission

https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-britain-eu-timmermans/uk-should-cool-down-drop-brexit-socialist-candidate-to-head-eu-commission-idUKKCN1RT26W?il=0

 

 

Robert Bosch Stiftung Academy Fellowships (Russia and Eurasia) opportunity

The Queen Elizabeth II Academy for Leadership in International Affairs is now inviting applications for Robert Bosch Stiftung Academy Fellowships (Russia and Eurasia). The fellowships are designed for future thought leaders from  Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine. They will run from September 2019 to July 2020.

The Academy is seeking candidates who would like to contribute to Chatham House’s work on the promise and challenge of global governance in the 21st century.

The Fellowships have three main elements:

  • Work on a personal research project (with the aim of producing a peer-reviewed publication)
  • Participation in the Academy’s leadership programme and activities
  • Opportunity to contribute to the wider work of the Russia and Eurasia Programme

Each candidate’s research proposal should consider how their country or region has been affected – positively or negatively – by aspects of global governance.

For more information visit the Academy webpages.

The application window closes on 29 April 2019 at 9:00am UK time.

Please forward this email to anyone you believe may be a suitable candidate.

The Fellowship is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Robert Bosch Stiftung.

Contact:
Rachel Taylor
Academy Coordinator
academy@chathamhouse.org

Informalisation of labour in Developing Countries, the case of Sierra Leone

In autumn 2018, I made an in-class presentation at the SOAS, University of London Faculty of Law & Social Sciences Department of Development Studies for the GLOBALISATION AND DEVELOPMENT module on the topic of the informalisation of Labour in Developing Countries.

Contrary to expectations, informal labour relations have not disappeared but have been reproduced and incorporated into globalised production circuits.

The presentation covered the main theories on the topic with a focus on the case of Sierra Leonian mining work.Informalisation of labour in developing countries G&D presentationInformalisation of labour in developing countries G&D presentation (1)Informalisation of labour in developing countries G&D presentation (2)Informalisation of labour in developing countries G&D presentation (3)Informalisation of labour in developing countries G&D presentation (4)Informalisation of labour in developing countries G&D presentation (5)Informalisation of labour in developing countries G&D presentation (6)Informalisation of labour in developing countries G&D presentation (7)

 

 

A walk in the port of Piraeus

Westward from the ferry port for destinations to the Cyclades and Crete, the port of Pireaus has a few hidden surprises.

Boats get larger and the space wider, abandoned warehouses as a backdrop, grafitti and murals galore.

The Chinese Road and Belt initiative will be redeveloping this area and on a beautifully sunny autumnal Sunday morning, I could not find an excuse to not document the blue of the sea with the yellows and blues of the ferries and the brownish grey concrete warehouses overshadowing the port streets.

I can’t predict what the port will look like in the future development, however I know for sure, the colourful ferries will still be floating on the beautiful coloured sea all the same.

Facebook smearing the Open Society Foundations

Friday evening arrived with this in my inbox. I will likely be revisiting tactics used by Facebook to test our patience further. The next question is how to stop Zuckerberg from exerting so much uncontrolled energy into current affairs.

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Patrick Gaspard <contact@opensocietyfoundations.org>
Date: 16 Nov 2018 11:48 am
Subject: Our Response to Facebook’s Smear Tactics
To:
Cc:

Dear friends,

Earlier this week, in response to a New York Times storydetailing how Facebook had used a PR firm to smear the Open Society Foundations and George Soros, I sent a letter to Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, which you can read below.

She followed up with a phone call yesterday and I appreciated the chance to speak with her and tell her that we need a thorough and independent inquiry on Facebook’s lobbying and PR work, and that the results should be made public within three months.

Our hope is to turn this disappointing moment into an opportunity for debate about how Facebook can be used to push out fake news and hate and the threat disinformation campaigns pose to democracy more broadly.

At this time of upheaval, uncertainty, and fear, it is imperative that the stewards of the world’s most powerful information platform act responsibly. We’re honored to stand with our grantees, partners, and friends—and we’re dedicated to making sure that the kind of destructive behavior outlined by the New York Times does not go unaddressed.

Sincerely,

Patrick Gaspard
President
Open Society Foundations

11/14/18

Sheryl Sandberg
Chief Operating Officer
Facebook
1 Hacker Way
Menlo Park, CA 94025

Dear Ms. Sandberg:

I was shocked to learn from the New York Times that you and your colleagues at Facebook hired a Republican opposition research firm to stir up animus toward George Soros.

As you know, there is a concerted right-wing effort the world over to demonize Mr. Soros and his foundations, which I lead—an effort which has contributed to death threats and the delivery of a pipe bomb to Mr. Soros’s home. You are no doubt also aware that much of this hateful and blatantly false and anti-Semitic information is spread via Facebook.

The notion that your company, at your direction, actively engaged in the same behavior to try to discredit people exercising their First Amendment rights to protest Facebook’s role in disseminating vile propaganda is frankly astonishing to me.

It’s been disappointing to see how you have failed to monitor hate and misinformation on Facebook’s platform. To now learn that you are active in promoting these distortions is beyond the pale.

These efforts appear to have been part of a deliberate strategy to distract from the very real accountability problems your company continues to grapple with. This is reprehensible, and an offense to the core values Open Society seeks to advance. But at bottom, this is not about George Soros or the foundations. Your methods threaten the very values underpinning our democracy.

I would appreciate the opportunity to discuss this matter with you in person, and to hear what steps you might take to help remediate the damage done by this deeply misguided—and dangerous—effort carried out at Facebook’s behest.

Sincerely,

Patrick Gaspard
President
Open Society Foundations

Back in education

I am back at the university studying full time twenty years after the last time I was in formal education.

There are some things that have changed since. I’m not lacking of confidence. And I have work experience on the subject. Did I think I would be an alien, at least a decade older than the majority of the students? Yes. And I can see some twenty years old students talk the theory but weak in joining the dots. Then there are exceptions, the smart ones. That put the hours in and build coherence across perspectives and layers. And the professors the Bank of knowledge of recalculations across parallel universes, the poets that make you laugh, worry, question, empower.

Do the 20 something year olds see what I see?

I’m emerged, taken, absorbed.

The weight of information is frying my brains, I can feel the heat emitting. I feel like a Nick Cave song. Poverty, testosterone, rebirth, death, crisis, grouping, introspection, self and sense check.
I can see again and with that I came to find a purpose for the frame I hold in my hands as I type.

Here are the shots from the first month in uni. After 20 years. Just as my memories from the first time, fading away in the distance, this somehow has poured new colours on to it.