Over the past century South Africa’s African National Congress has demonstrated an infamous display of resistance and progression, however, as it enters it’s 100th year, the party is surrounded by ideas of corruption and regression. Synonymous images of the party to the likes of Nelson Mandela and what is arguably one of the most progressive constitutions in the world often serves to blind out the current realities for both the party and the people and leaving an implication that the work of the ANC is finished. On a day like today, much of the focus is on the liberation efforts of the past - you only need to turn on the TV or open a newspaper to see nostalgic sentiments fixated on the mid 90s. Whilst these efforts cannot be ignored and nothing should be taken away from their impact or sacrifices, we cannot live in the past. Critics to the 1994 constitution, which embodies the ideals of progression, human rights and social equality - the first in the world to include an anti-discrimination clause regarding sexual orientation - are now arguing against many documented ideals, citing stunted development and increased challenges arising as a result of it’s existence.
The face of the New South Africa still represents the concepts of equality and liberation, but standing as an example to the rest of the African continent, and to the world, the work of the ANC needs to get back to basics and reinforce the ideals on which it was founded - and this needs to be reflected in their concrete policies, and not merely exist in past rhetoric.
"The movement that once showed the world the triumph of the human spirit now offers a lesson in human frailty…[but] there is still another chapter to be written, and it is high time for the ANC’s many remaining idealists to start writing it."
Current South African President, and leader of the ANC, Jacob Zuma, is due to give a speech later this afternoon.. So until then, the Mail & Guardian (a South African based newspaper I got very well acquainted with during my internship, last year) are following the events of the day..
Whilst attempts to create a Common European Asylum System (CEAS) are underway on the continent, one country in particular is pushing forward. Subject to reasonable conditions (namely no criminal record and a valid identity card), those migrants residing in Poland who have previously been living under the strain of a lack of documents or a rejected asylum claim, among other less than favourable legalities, will now be eligible to apply for a residency permit for two years. Throughout this time candidates will be able to work legally and as such contribute to Polish society on a variety of levels. Migrants = Win. Polish economy = Win. With many European countries struggling with irregular migrants and weak economies, a new band of people contributing to society on both a social and financial level serves to make the best of the situation and given that the monetary situation on the continent is not set to improve any time soon, there could seemingly be a lot to learn from the Poles.
Like any policy though, particularly in relation to immigration, it is not without it’s flaws. Implementation of a similar idea in the UK for example would create uproar, fuel stereotypes and we can all imagine the headlines the Daily mail would subject us to. This is a policy to be implemented only with careful consideration and a wonderful PR team. The introduction of this policy in Poland does not represent a permanent solution to the issue of irregular migration and the need for long term regulation is still highly evident. It does however highlight a positive move forward and is arguably an example of a positive short term response to a shared European concern. Watch this space..
So with the deadline for CEAS looming later this year, it’s important we push to keep good asylum practices at the forefront of the agenda, else we risk losing any progress that has been made to date and we’ll be left with a diluted system leaving many individuals without their basic human rights.
Like everything, it’s a people thing.
When I was writing my dissertation, seemingly decades ago right now, the issue of moral responsibility was unavoidable; does any human being ever have a moral responsibility to another human being, or can we shift the blame to government, or to charitable organisations?
Are we morally obliged to feed the hungry?
Should we be helping those seeking asylum?
Is the “Western” world to blame for the effects of climate change in lesser-economically developed countries?
The latter being my focal point at this moment in time. I recently read a Guardian article examining the effects of the failure of developed states to uphold their financial commitments to combat climate change. It wasn’t exactly the most uplifting, faith affirming piece I have ever read and I finished with the conclusion that a political culture of “shifting the blame” has arisen in the place of any sense of morality. Depressing, I know. Despite the significant impact this failure has on the lives of individuals all over the developing world, the victims of the floods in Bangladesh being used to contextualise this, and the pleas from the leaders of these countries for an upholding of these financial promises, to date only $2.4bn has been delivered from a legally agreed sum of $30bn. You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to conclude that promises are being broken, people’s lives are being broken and the on-going financial crisis is leading to a regressive international climate in which state interest overrides the greater good.
So the question remains, who is responsible? Is anyone responsible? In an arguably over globalised world, with a diminishing climate of a sole superpower and increasing transnational organisations the issue of responsibility is unclear, that is, if there is even room for moral responsibility in the midst of world politics. Differences in opinion among the EU and China and India at the climate change talks in Durban last year (happy new year by the way!) bring this theoretical concern into reality and an inability to agree on a course of action subsequently results in any sort of progress being pushed further into the future - a future which many don’t have time to wait for. At the forefront. pushing for these obligations to be upheld are NGOs, including Green Peace and Friends of the Earth, who have taken on some of the burden. (Again, is this a Government, individual or charitable obligation?) Working to raise awareness among the public their efforts and message have been recognised but a combination of financial restrictions and resistance for national leaders highlight significant limitations and leave their calls falling on somewhat deaf political ears. So where do we turn?
"The world is on track to a 4C temperature rise, a death sentence for Africa, small island states and the poor and vulnerable worldwide. The richest 1% of the world have decided that it is acceptable to sacrifice the 99%.”
Whilst the question remains unanswered the need for action is evident.
The need for morality is evident.
"Women go into politics to do something; Men go into politics to do something for themselves."
I can’t remember who said this, but it was discussed on a Guardian Podcast a few weeks ago and I have been meaning to sit down and ponder it for a while. Cue ridiculously hectic lifestyle at the moment and I finally have time to write. And breathe. For five minutes at least..
Being wary of overgeneralising here, I think it takes a certain type of woman to get involved in politics, particularly with intentions of upsetting the status quo. I’m still debating the relationship between nature/nurture, with regards to gender, but for the most part I think men do have a greater natural need to lead. Whether to actually try and change things for the greater good or for more personal reasons I am unsure. I think that given human nature, and the nature of British politics and associated esteem, I would argue that it’s a combination of the two. I guess the same goes for women. And while I think perhaps women go into politics with a focus on so-called women’s issues, to try and change things for the female population - their presence a mere representation of progressive change - there has to be some element of personal accomplishment.
Harriet Harman’s recent vocal advocacy of a rule change within the Labour party to ensure that inequality within the party is combated and the “default position” of the leadership and deputy leadership positions being held by men is brought to an end mirrors the increase in women in high powered jobs, including politics and opens up a whole new debate as to the motivations of women in the political sphere. What is interesting here is the way she speaks of the “team”, working best when comprised of both men and women, thus implying the leadership position as merely a symbolic figurehead of the party as opposed to an overriding influence. Drawing on power politics in relation to gender here, if the leadership position serves as symbolic representation, and is occupied only by men, can we not assume therefore that male politicians exert more a powerful, driven image than women before they have even voiced an opinion? Something is clearly wrong, - and it seems that instead of being about motivations, the issue in question braces the idea of gendered stereotypes.
History and traditional social norms, roles and values are, in my opinion, the significant contributors to the vastly differing percentages of men and women in politics. I think they are driven by similar motives with varying but comparable intentions and as such, I think both men and women go into politics to do some something. And both men and women go into politics to do something for themselves. I just think that it takes a certain type of person to get into politics in the first place.
"You don’t have to be gay to support it, you just have to be human."
Today New York State passed the Gay Marriage Bill.
I have such a difficult time understanding WHY this is such a controversial issue in the first place; some people that have been in love for years, in a committed stable relationship yet aren’t allowed to marry in many states (in both the domestic and international sense of the word). However, in Vegas, (as a stereotypical example, apologies!) people get married when they’re so ridiculously intoxicated that they can’t even remember their own name, never mind that of their “significant other.” As a Human Rights student, I invariably spend time discussing issues of individual freedom. A surprising, and somewhat appalling, number of my classmates - even as some of the most tolerant, compassionate people I know, who spend their lives campaigning for equality, dignity and the right to choose - still fail to comprehend LGBTI rights. How can people be so angered, so outraged by something which has no impact whatsoever on their lives, and only serves to improve the lives and opportunities of others? I want to shake people until they open their minds, even just a little. Something definitely needs shaking up.
So to the future; it’s questionable whether the democratic existence of referendums will lead New York down a similar road to California. Despite being the only Republican controlled state legislative chamber in the United States to have voted in favour of gay marriage, only four Republicans voted in support of the bill. While this demonstrates the progressive potential of a decentralised government, it also highlights what a long way is left to go.
Enough of the negative potential, today is about moving forward; Well Done New York!
No one is illegal. The people you call illegal are human beings, whose only crime was being born on the wrong side of a border: A border that was created as a result of an unjust war. When they become desperate, and unable to support their families, they will do what any of you would do, which is look for opportunity elsewhere. Ask yourself, if you were living in a nation where there was very little opportunity, and you knew that by going to the country right next door you might make your life and the lives of your children better, wouldn’t you do it? Wouldn’t any good parent do that? To say no is to say that people should suffer because of circumstances that are beyond their control. Is that really what you want your country to be about?
There seems to be a lot of media coverage concerning the issue of rape at the moment; controversial politicians - namely Kenneth Clarke, accused high profile figures (I feel no name is necessary here!), relativity and sentencing, rape culture and the SlutWalk marches, to mention but a few. I’m not sure whether it’s more prominent in my mind due to my own experiences, or whether society actually is being bombarded with stories and controversies and everything associated.
Rape has always existed. Due to the nature of human beings - power, gender relations, desire, anger, disregard - I reluctantly believe that it always will. In this admittance, I am not accepting its prevalence. Far from it. The exact opposite in fact. There is no difference between proper rape and serious rape. There is no circumstances in which rape is acceptable. And there are no justifications.
The average sentence for being convicted of rape in over eight years. This is the focus of the rape issue; not the fact that the majority of rapes that get reported don’t result in conviction, that people who have experienced sexual violence have to live with the consequences for a lot longer than eight years, the people personally affected by this crime are lost somewhere along the way, in the midst of popular culture, pedantic semantics and ambiguous statistics.
Over the past month we have been bombarded with headlines and images, all carefully designed to ignite controversy. But is outrage really a force for change?
The current related issues in the media serve to raise awareness, they ignite anger and disgust but they also serve to desensitise and construct negative ideas regarding the victim.
"Rape culture is a culture in which people who have survived a violent crime are asked to laugh about it because other people think it’s funny."
Whilst many factors are currently being addressed with regards to this issue, the human story doesn’t seem to be one of them. People aren’t bombarded with messages of support, or empathy, or even a basic level of human compassion. Instead it’s dramatised, and trivialised and for the most part serves to further isolate innocent people whose only crime was being victim to one.
And THIS is what needs to change.
It’s a gut check of what you believe,
Will you stand up for democracy, or a new American century?
Endless empire tyranny,
Will you make a stand for human dignity?
Or never ending hate?
After five years of full time university, at three different schools, in three different countries I can finally say I am only 12,000 words away from the end of HIGHER EDUCATION. Part of me is delightedly happy about this, but the other part, the part that knows nothing else, is pretty terrified. This blog is an attempt to keep my brain working, to write about things I care about, to keep myself sane and to stop myself getting lost is my own little world.
Watch this space..