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Archive for the ‘International’ Category

Poking Fun at Power

In by Kit, Crossing the pond, International, Zeitgeist on October 31, 2010 at 18:06

y last post was about an unspoken voice standing up for itself- the ‘Protest the Pope’ march held last month against Pope Benedict’s “state” visit to the UK. I’m overjoyed that I get to comment on a similar event (although more ironic than emotional) again in the aftermath of the ‘Rally to restore sanity and/or fear’ which happened yesterday afternoon in Washington DC.

The rally, organised by The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report’s Stephen Colbert (and with a lot of help from Comedy Central and some prime time celebs) was a response to a similar but all the more serious rally organised by Fox News anchor Glenn Beck last month called ‘Restoring Honour’. Similar to the Pope protest Colbert and Stewart’s march was a reaction to an often unquestioned unaccountable force, this time it was the force of the mainstream media in America.

The rally was clearly organised to coincide with the US midterm election on Tuesday. However it was timed to raise awareness of media tactics and the fake narratives used to cause fear rather than persuade an electorate. Stewart and Colbert were asking for sanity in the current climate of hysteria driven network news. The satirists accuse Beck and the team at Fox News of fuelling right-wing irrationality and capitalising on the emergence of the tea-party to further their own ideological ends.

Yesterday was definitely a victory for irony and the power of satire to undermine those in power. It’s questionable how much of an impact the rally can have as many attendees were clear converts but like the march against the pope a movement needs a beginning and I’m sure that yesterday was an inspiring event for those lucky enough to be there.

Biting the Hand That Feeds Us

In Guest Writer, International on October 9, 2010 at 17:54

By Fran Sleigh

mongst the triumphant touting of this years awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to a Chinese pro-democracy activist few voices of reason have yet spoken.  Nick Young at the Guardian is one of the few to have raised the issue that having the world police publicly slap China on the wrist does little to advance the cause of human rights in China.

The standard attitude in the west is that China needs democratic reform, by adopting a western-style representative democracy they would release the press, correct the institutional human rights abuses currently occurring and could work to equalize the development disparity between the rich coast and poor interior.  The presumption being that this strategy which worked in Europe and America can work in China.

However there is no reason for this to be the case and this is not what China wants.  This western-oriented view holds nothing for a country with four times the population density of the U.S and a thousand year history of central, dictatorial rule.  Their idea of modernization and reform does not necessarily follow western democratization but instead is trying to forge a new route with Chinese characteristics.  As Young points out, the key issue within this modernization is how to keep China stable, whilst acknowledging the conflicting opinions and forces within.

The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to an activist who openly opposed the Chinese government does nothing but further impress upon many young educated Chinese that the west, and always by implication America, is interfering, destabilizing and playing a two handed game with China.  They both exploit Chinas weak human rights stance by using their factories for cheap produce and then publicly condemn them for the same human rights abuses.

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Inequality and Economics: Peaks and Troughs

In by Sam, Crossing the pond, International on October 9, 2010 at 17:53

n the eve of the publication of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s report into discrimination and disadvantage in British society (How Fair is Britain?) it is worth looking back at one of the oft unnoticed effects of inequality in society.

In the US wealth inequality reached its highest peak in 70 years immediately prior to the 2007/2008 economic crash. In 2007 33.8% of the nation’s wealth was in the pockets of the richest 1% while the richest 10% horded a massive 70.5% between them. The bottom 50% of the nation meanwhile (that’s 151 million people) had only 2.5%.

This could all be coincidental of course. Except the last time inequality reached it’s peak in the US was 1928 – maybe coincidentally – the year of the Great Depression.

But why is equality and economics in the US relevant to us? Well with the huge effect the American economy has on the rest of the world it is clearly in everyone’s interest we live in a more equal world. And, after all, it was the USA, Singapore, Portugal AND the UK named this year as the most unequal nations in a book by Danny Dorling.

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