Wednesday, 11 April 2018

54. Freedom is more collective than individual

Freedom is not exactly what we were told.
It has something of freedom of choice, but freedom is not just freedom of choice. Freedom has more to do with the power to execute this freedom of choice and take it to fruition. This freedom needs others. In this sense, freedom is a system of permissions, enablers and tools that are at our disposal or are within our reach to make things happen, to make our living, to create, to affect the world, etc.

A simple example would be to compare two teenagers that decided they want to study palaeontology and find two different responses from their family. The first one is congratulated, receives full financial support to conduct the studies, receives books that might be interesting, is introduced to family connections that work in this field and received emotional support in periods of frustration. The second one is critised for the poor decision, is cut off from financial support and ignored or even manipulated to redirect this wish and punished severely if unsuccessful.

Current narrative about freedom would portray the second one "you against the world" as the test for the free man, the self-made man, the hero. It is certainly a test. A test of will, a test of individuation. But this individual has been born into an environment with low intensity freedom. In different levels, we all have to break some barriers of this kind and that's why we understand and even believe that this is freedom or that this is all there is to it.

However, if we accept that this first teenager was making a free decision, receiving full permission and full support of the environment makes this teenager infinitely freer. Affluent families send their children to private schools, in part seeking to build the sort of network of connections that would open doors, that would help these children to overcome obstacles in the future but tend to deny this and sustain political views and support political speeches that speak about individual, heroic freedom as the true freedom. In a sense, the slogan "check your privilege" is pointing out at this systemic configuration that makes you freer than others, and more likely than others to succeed.



Freedom as a collective phenomenon

When we think about freedom as a collective phenomenon we understand that the exercise of freedom is not only to develop some sort of self-awareness to make free choices, but also to free others from their limitations and build a network of reciprocal relationships. Freedom is a social enterprise that requires empathy and generosity.  If this side of the equation of freedom is neglected, freedom within a society collapses.

An example that comes to mind is that of a poor woman that followed a government program to finish her school education. In her speech, she described how she had to organise her life differently, how she had to build a network of support (to care for her children while she was away, for example) to succeed. She had the feeling that the diploma itself was not as valuable as what she had to do to achieve it and that the true learning was to organise her life in a way that enabled her to achieve what she wanted. In other words to build an environment that supported her freedom.

The much-discussed freedom of speech needs at least a second person willing to hear. In a recent Whatsapp group discussion about a hot political issue, the first response of the group was censure. The group tried to "legislate" that some ideas could not be said in that group. In front of resistance and discussion about freedom of speech a member said "I'm sure you belong to other groups where you are free to discuss this", which in other words meant "in this group you are not free". It was a chilling alarm that made everyone realise that freedom requires much more work than we are told it needs. It certainly requires tolerance, but also a certain quality of relationships, a certain quality of speech to make any discussion possible.

When we look at freedom from this social perspective, we can understand how a political speech can be understood as a permission to commit hate crimes while at the same time we could discuss more deeply why political correctness is losing so many battles lately.

Love and freedom

When we think deeply about freedom in this way, the issue of love and freedom start to come closer together. Love, not as a romantic love, but rather as a generic way to refer to a relationship that would not be broken when we or the other are expressing individuality, a relationship that we are willing to invest in, to work out, etc. The highest form of freedom is experienced within bonds while being able to break up bonds is the minimal expression of freedom.

Of course, when speaking about love, hate comes to the picture too. In this video, a former leader of a neo-nazi skinhead movement, speaks about his journey in and out of the group. He describes how this group gave him a sense of power and acceptance in a negative way when he could not find it in a positive one. And how much his rejection and hate could not be reconciled with the reality of what he found when he experienced meaningful interactions with people he thought he hated. He goes further and around min 12 he says that one of the biggest problems facing America is white domestic terrorism.
But the most interesting part of this video comes just after, when the case of a father "disowning" his white-supremacist son is discussed and how his cousin wanted the family to not welcome him anymore. This is a very good case where permissions, love, the limits of the relationships are discussed in a meaningful and real way (from min 15).



And finally, a video that I posted before, Zizek discusses freedom and false freedom in this video, in which he concludes inviting the viewer to question the notion of freedom itself. Something we all have to do, quickly, before we lose it.



Investing in freedom

Freedom understood in social terms, means that we have to actively invest in the freedom of others first and demand reciprocity in return, which means that trust is a fundamental piece of the puzzle. We cannot build a free society or freedom in a general sense if we are not actively investing in the freedom of others. This investment might be time, physical work -commitment-, attention or money (mostly through taxes). In this sense, freedom is not only about our own liberation, it comes with the demand of our involvement and commitment to sustain freedom itself.  

It means that we can't be truly free if we are not working first so that we are all free. If I want freedom of speech, I have to invest time in listening to others, if I want access to education, I have to see that there is a system where anyone can access education.

It means that freedom requires relationships of trust. Trust that the others will reciprocate. And reciprocity does not follow a hard mathematical function or interest equation. We don't pay back a favour with interest. We don't pay back with the same "currency" and even we might not match exactly the favour received. However, there is a lot of wisdom in the fluid economics of reciprocity, with a very sophisticated sense of justice measuring intention, means, effort with no maths involved. 

It means that freedom is what we build when we build a system of social justice. 

Love as unpaid work

In feminist economical theory, many experts speak about "love is actually unpaid work" pointing out that women are constantly investing in the others in general (through their care work), including investing in the freedom of others without collecting much. This lack of acknowledgement of the care work that women do, implies the feminisation of poverty: women have less access to jobs, jobs generally lack the flexibility motherhood requires, non working mothers become economically dependant and normally have no access to pensions (or living pensions) in old age. 
There is a pending chapter of the french revolution, where Liberté, egalité, fraternité explicitly excluded  women (fraternity=brotherhood). There is a pending chapter in economics, which are based in Adam Smith's ideas, including that no one does anything that is out of benevolence but rather out of self-interest.  Katrin Marcal points out in her book "Who cooked Adam Smith's dinner" that Adam Smith was living with his mum at the time he was writing the Wealth of the Nations, and even though there might be a degree self-interest in cooking his son's dinner, maternal love and maternal sense of duty cannot be reduced to self-interest.




The easy answer to the question of unpaid work tends to be universal income. But we all know that the year after universal income comes into place, national systems of education or health will become monetised too, because someone will rationally argue that there is no enough money and that now everyone has money and now everyone can pay exactly what they use blah, blah, blah. It will all be perfectly rational, but we will lose the wisdom of the other side of economics, the one that does not measure transactions with maths and interest and achieves a sense of justice regardless. In doing so, we might also be eroding this fabric of trust and social cohesion.

Love, equality, justice, freedom and economics are much more linked together than we think.  

Andrea

Monday, 19 March 2018

53. The collective consciousness, the male gaze and the shape of water

Design of images - The male gaze

One of the most important concepts to expand is the concept of male gaze. This idea, coined by Laula Mulvey comes from the cinema, and explains a basic design and architectural perspective: on the one hand who is framing the picture, who is holding the camera, who is "representing", and on the other hand who is being observed and what is this observation. The conclusion that Laura Mulvey arrived to is that in cinema there is a "male gaze" where men are the camera holders, the directors and women as the object being seen, and often eroticized. This is such a valuable insight, that we can reframe many things and discover that this is a gaze that is much older than cinema. The following video produced by Playground says "it is easier to enter a museum as a naked muse than as a artist with a female name. In 1985, only 5% of the artists in the Metropolitan museum of New York were women, while 85% of the nudes were female. Today, those numbers have not changed much."



Image reading illiteracy 

How images are designed is a key aspect of today's culture. We consume many more "designed images" than we did just a few years ago, and incredibly more than when most of the designed images were in temples. Only in terms of advertising experts quote that in the 70's the american public was exposed to 500 adverts per day, today that figure grew to 5000. If we add our daily quote of Netflix, YouTube or TV that figure is immense. We struggle already with dealing with speeches and complex messaging, but how much do we know about image design? Do we know how to read them in a critical way? Do we spend our time debating frames, positions, poses, lighting, who's in and who's out the picture? No, we generally don't. The awareness of this image reading illiteracy is crucial in today's culture for many reasons:
  • Images are processed much faster than words, 
  • images are designed and read by our subconscious and unconscious mind, they convey, produce and reproduce ideology,
  • we are consuming much more designed images than ever before,
  • ultimately the dominant gaze has a big influence in shaping our collective consciousness/unconsciousness, our idea of God, order, justice and humanity.
Why is this critical thinking important with regards with images. Because they serve as templates to see and interpret reality. 


Women and minorities are the observed objects

One of the most poignant cases of how we are influenced by the male gaze outside the world of pictures is when we encounter a story about sexual abuse or even rape. Imagining a situation forces us to "see a picture" of what happened and probably feel something about it. We imagine the situation without thinking much and... what do we see? The default setting will probably be, seeing woman and her behaviour. We see what she is wearing, what she did or did not do, the "signs" she gave, and start to feel some criticism, disapproval of her behaviour. Basically, we automatically put ourselves in the heads of the male character, ie in the heads of rapists and predators and what they saw and what they felt. "Rapist are more often than not, moralists", says Rita Segato. But if we go back to ourselves, why do we adopt this perspective? Does it mean that we identify with rapists and predators? Yes and no. It mainly reveals that our collective consciousness has been shaped by a male gaze and therefore we imagine this scene through the eyes of the male figure of the scene, through this lens, unconsciously. In this example, the woman is "in frame" and therefore subject to our judgement. We find it easier to see, criticise and regulate behaviour of whomever is on frame. Subsequently, the narrative that follows this frame may tend to describe things in passive voice: "women are raped" (the perpetrator is absent/not named in the sentence, he is "behind the camera" figuratively speaking). But what happens if we put ourselves inside of the head of the woman? What does she see?

The asymmetry of a binary system

This asymmetry makes the issue of gender (and race and minorities) not a matter of a polarised system (of two polar equal opposites) but a binary one.

These labels also create a a system of two laws: 
  • The object observed (The Other) is under strict scrutiny: they have to control every aspect of their behaviour, every gesture, every piece of clothing, failures are considered deep flaws in character, proof of why they should be kept under ever stricter surveillance and control or even deserving of whatever bad happened to them, even if it means death. Under this logic, from a mini skirt to a petty crime can somehow justify capital punishment while any male observer of this behaviour can become instantly the judge and executioner, like the agents in the Matrix. "These executions" are outside the law we all know and discuss in congresses and parliaments, but in line with "the other law". 
  • The observer is somehow innocent, infantilized who do not bear the full weight of accountability and responsibility whose crimes can be either somehow justified, understood, be a matter of mental health (including addictions) or judged as mistakes, temporal losses of judgement or simply be fully justified. In this sense the position of the observer is a position of privilege. When we speak about white privilege, male privilege one of the aspects to understand is how they are observed v the rest. In his latest article for The Guardian, Gary Younge, proposes to analyse Boris Johnson's career from this perspective and points out at how his gaffes are routinely forgiven and overlooked.
Monsters: the fantastical is political

The Oscar winner director Guillermo del Toro has expressed in many occasions something that could be summarised as "the fantastical is political". He explained that zombie movies in the past were critical of consumerism and nowadays are some sort of "otherness hunting", where the other is completely stripped of their humanity and therefore is acceptable to hunt and kill them.

Because the two main character in The Shape of Water don't speak, it forces the viewer to see. In this way it shortens a distance between an animal world and the human world, between body and emotion. The silence offers a detachment from the detachment of language.

In this film, he tells a story with a different gaze but not quite. "I'm Mexican, I've been the otherness my whole life". It holds a different gaze regarding this otherness, because the film shows us a monster as a beautiful being, but the other is still something that is not human. It shows all the relationships and agency a poor mute woman has (she is friends with an Afro-american cleaner, a gay artist and supported by a Russian scientist), but she is a woman with no voice. It plays in this line between obedience in presentation (shape and form), and full disobedience in narrative and action. Not only because this "poor woman" is deeply disobedient, or because it is about a love story of a cleaner lady and a river monster but also because it shows the "bad guy" as part of a complex system of power relations where even the cold war is portrayed as some sort of organised improvisation of a power struggle: Russians and Americans fighting for a Latin-american river god; it shows Americans torturing it, guessing that there must be something useful there but not figuring out exactly what it is or how to find it out and Russians shown as more interested in spoiling it so the Americans do not use it against them.

"There are xenophobic films, that fear the foreigners and integrative films, where the monster is the most human character. No one cheers for the planes attacking King Kong, everyone is on the gorilla's side. I suppose this second option fits better with the way I understand the world".

The Shape of Water is a contradiction, water has no shape as love has no shape, "it can happen with someone very different to you, or have the same sex, and despite of that you recognise it".

In all the explanations that Guillermo del Toro gave about his Oscar winning film, he keeps explaining that films have a gaze, that films are political.

The male collective gaze and our cultural god

Through the default setting of the male gaze that structures our thoughts, our values and our common sense, we see and judge life. This gaze is very close to what we think God thinks and sees. "God does not love you" might be one of the messages routinely thrown out in twitter to any outsider by anyone. If we consider god as this collective gaze, the collective consciousness, even if it is as an exercise, then we can conclude that it is the community itself and no external entity who is rejecting this person, that it is up to us to love each other. In this sense, we can change this cultural god.

Thinking about god as a collective consciousness gives us a perspective of why god is seen as evolving, it gives us the sense that we can change what we judge and how, and we can reflect on how the collective consciousness is shaped. This is important, particularly in times when media is very concentrated and we are being profiled in social media and targeted with customised messages by the likes of Cambridge Analytical and its anti-marketing and anti-politics, where the product does not seek to attract and convince but it is rather a shapeshifter seeking to manipulate and seduce. These images and messages designed by no public figure are shaping, magnifying and deforming the values that decide who's accepted and who's rejected, who has a voice and who doesn't, whose life is worth protection and whose doesn't. Ultimately who lives and who dies.



Andrea


Sunday, 29 October 2017

52. Cities and invisibility: a new type of God

Cities and invisibility: under the the gaze of Google and Facebook and self help books

In the first part of the entry (50), I argued that cities cannot keep the same idea of God as in Villages, because the collective gaze (the gaze of the neighbour) is not ever present. Cities grant a level of privacy to its citizens (there are areas where this gaze is blind to). Therefore people in cities feel different about God's gaze:

  • the gaze is absent (some sort of God forsaken place), 
  • never existed (atheism), 
  • or comes back as a new personal God that looks at you at a more personal level, responding to the atomised structure and individuality of urban life (self help). 
We learn that we should not expect a positive response from a neighbour or a supporting community. We are alone in our problems and should deal with them with self help techniques.

Cities offer indeed a more diverse view than a village. More people and more diverse people live together, share public services, bump into each other in public spaces, etc. In a city we see more and we are more invisible at the same time. Our neighbour is quite busy, he doesn't notice us. It's like being abandoned by the collective gaze, it simply does not have time fore us. However, technology is coming to the rescue. This gaze directed to us -individually- is being incarnated by Facebook and Google. On the one hand we don't seem to bother about how much they know about us and on the other hand their algorithms are acting like the new gatekeepers filtering what we should see. We all know that different people will have different results in a Google search, which it is done with the purpose of offering relevant content. That means there is someone up there in the cloud thinking about what we need (isn't it touching?). This personal god is recreating a virtual village (made up by friends or even friends with whom I agree) where I find normal what my virtual village finds normal.
Technology is recreating through their relevance-ensuring algorithms the old village gaze, what's now called a filter bubble, a womb where we feel safe. 
This, of course, became a hot topic with two surprising election results. Brexit and Donald Trump. People in big cities (in particular) were surprised with the results of the election. They discovered there were tons of people "out there" that have different views that had not been "visible" up to that point.






The problem with the infantilizing effect of relevance is that this blindness to what tech companies deem irrelevant for us, is not very far away from makings us start to  think that a different view is "not normal" and start to approve that powers decide to make these different voices shut up and to reestablish the order of the virtual village. It was in the context of Brexit that I was part of discussions where young people were arguing in favour of qualified voting, for example claiming that people without university degrees should not vote, and idea that is deeply antidemocratic.

Our contribution to the construction of the collective gaze through the acceptance of bubbles gives us as a result a new adolescent God that is happy to punish and banish all who disagree in order to keep Eden in order. As individuals we are no longer sustaining and constructing collective freedom. More and more frequently people build arguments for censorship (let's not talk about politics/ gun control/ Brexit/ Catalunya / the AfD / the financial sector, Santiago Maldonado, etc), supported by concepts of individual freedom. They are surrounded by many more bystanders that in their passivity somehow agree that not speaking up is the best way forward for keeping peace. Silence, censorship and outright repression are being normalised for the sake of peace. For this reason I claimed in the part 1 of this entry (50) that freedom is in danger.

Against the social fracture

Love and freedom are connected concepts. Love is the non-castrating limit of freedom. It is what allows power to show self-restraint in order to not impose itself and to avoid breaking the bond. This self-restraint was missing during the repression of the Referendum in Catalonya.


It is easy to be (or imagine ourselves) free alone, with no relationships and other interests to consider. Enabling each other's freedom within a bond is much more complicated.


And even if those conversations Salman Rushdie speaks about happen, they don't necessarily lead to anything better. In an era with access to what it seems infinite amount of information, information has been found to polarise audiences even more if they are used to disprove our inner beliefs. 




Our gaze, our vision of God

Even though in cities "the collective action" is present everywhere, we might not see it. We open a tap to get water we did not pump, we buy a salad or a tomato we did not plant, we did not watch grow, we did not water, we did not collect, we walk on floors we did not lay. Still we feel the absence of the gaze. The one that looks at us and "sees" our needs (something beyond the needs for water, and food, and infrastructure that we now take for granted). Because we are tailoring our interactions and conversations so much, we are narrowing our view of what's normal. And because of that, we are recreating a village with a more conservative god than in the old testament. The tension in the village is that it is both Eden and Egypt. This village with a narrow sense of what's accepted is Eden for those in power and Egypt for the ones considered not normal. Being a child can be Eden and Egypt. A paradise and the place where we are slaves and we want to escape from. But being dependent (of others, of the collective infrastructure, of our employers, of our country) is not the same as being slaves and being independent is not the same as being free. Is repression the only pacifying method? Is breaking all bonds the only escape?

Going back to the initial argument in entry 50. If we step back and remember that collective freedom is about all of us authorising everyone to be free (which implies a self-restricting limit of love) and, not only that: we go beyond and we confabulate to get out of ourselves every once in a while to help others overcome the restrictions they find in their way. Our gaze is our vision of God, how the collective should order itself. The difference of the village god and the city god is the subjectivity. In the village, we have "the town", "the people", the folk, "el pueblo", a collective that tends to deny the individual. In the city, the subjectivity is that of an individual, that tends to deny the collective. Our gaze should start to see both, the individual and the collective, and become active supporters of the collective from our individuality because it is only in this acknowledgement we can build freedom, our individual freedom. Freedom is a collective phenomenon.




Andrea

Friday, 22 September 2017

51. The raping gaze: Las Vegas and Weinstein

(continues from entry 50.) 

The raping gaze

Feminist theory speaks about the male gaze as the act of depicting the world from the masculine/heterosexual point of view, presenting women as objects of male desire. This gaze has a violent version where women appear through this lens directly as prey (an even lower category than that of objects). This gaze tears apart life, vitality, power from the victim. One of the most poignant descriptions of this, came a few days ago when Prince Harry spoke about dealing with the death of her mother. He said:

 "I think one of the hardest things to come to terms with is the fact that the people that chased her into the tunnel were the same people taking photographs of her while she was still dying on the back seat of the car"
 and
"She had quite a severe head injury, but she was very much still alive on the back seat. And those people that caused the accident, instead of helping were taking photographs of her dying on the backseat. And then those photographs made their way back to news desks in this country."



As I mentioned in the previous article, the "sacrifices" - the crimes and the abuse used to cleanse aggressors of their own negativity- once in a while are seen for what they really are:  violence against an innocent. And every once in a while these cases provoke a change, even if temporary, imposing self-restrictions to power. In this case, the public demanded the power of the media to show self-restraint.


                         

Cruelty as a display of power

Feminists, like anthropologist Rita Segato, argue that in most cases rape is a power crime through sexual means. In this sense, not only women are subjected to it but anyone whose power must be denied through a violent act, who is forced to take the submissive, passive position in what is often a public display of power (with witnesses or performed by a gang). The act that includes humiliation, sexual humiliation, nudity, exposure, inflicting pain or even purposefully looking for multiple completely helpless innocent victims, wants to demonstrate that there are no limits to power. It is a display with a public in mind. This public aspect is not a minor detail. Sometimes this shadow audience is reduced to a circle (most of rapes are performed in gang or in front of a friend), sometimes is imagined (eg a message to all women, to the guardians of the woman involved; her father, a brother) but sometimes the display is addressed to the wide public, like we see in mass shootings. In a violent spectacle there is a gaze that is being addressed: pairs, the male brotherhood, the father, the mother, society, the state: are you looking? Can you see my power? And in an age of mass communication, mass shootings in particular are granted a lot of attention. The invisibility of the individual in the community stops. The community gaze finally sees what they did.

Violence to establish the hierarchical xenophobic, racist and chauvinistic order

In the pictures of Abu Ghraib we, viewers, are seeing the raping gaze in action. Rita Segato, through her studies of rapists in Brazil, concluded that rapists see themselves more often than not as moralists. They see their act as a disciplinary act over someone who had to be put in place, with the objective of imposing an order (eg Harvey Weinstein imposing himself as the gatekeeper to be revered) or reinstating one that was being broken. Internally, this order is higher than the law itself. In their mind they are not breaking any law, they are following it. Nowadays, however, experts are finding something beyond the animal behaviour of establishing hierarchy through sexual means, they are finding a desire to kill their victims morally.

The "morality" that the rapist is enacting does not come up from nowhere. It is sustained by the culture we live in and is propagated through images and concepts that build up the ideal of masculinity, femininity, power, otherness, justice in society, order, etc. Anything that is considered "normal", is normal only through a particular gaze.
Because this cultural hierarchy puts white males at the top, media struggles to condemn white crime. White men are assumed virtuous or "normal":

Highlight positive aspects of white men and negative aspects of victims:


They try to create empathy towards the murderer:


All of this, came to the spotlight again with the recent Las Vegas mass shooting:



Andrea

50. Collective freedom and the gaze we hold (part 1)

Freedom is a collective phenomenon 

We hear speak about freedom on a daily basis. Freedom of choice, freedom of speech, freedom to love, freedom of thought, freedom of movement, etc. Individual freedom is an authorisation we receive or give ourselves to do something, even it is goes against the wishes of the group. It defines the area where we, as individuals, are sovereign.  Individual freedom cannot exist without the development of authority: inside this territory individuals have authorisation to be authors of their words and their acts. In this sense, we need to remember that this freedom is not built by the individual alone but with the community that agrees to set this self-restraining border. However, this collective aspect of the establishment of freedom is often disregarded. It is explained as an individual enterprise. And because of this, freedom is in danger because some groups are losing their willingness to self-restrain and are starting to restrain others and they do so in the name of freedom.

Beyond this situation we are going through in many countries (Spain, Latin America, USA, etc), I'd like to highlight that there is an even higher order of freedom. It is the freedom that comes when the group somehow actively confabulates for its members (everyone) to be free. It takes different forms. Sometimes this is reduced to solidarity but it is more than that. Listening to a friend or colleague with a completely different opinion is not solidarity. A family that supports a kid that decides to follow an unconventional career path is not acting either upon solidarity.

First of all, this freedom does not break the bond if what the person is doing does not please the rest. It does not barely tolerate either, it supports. In acts of solidarity, in freedom of speech, or in actively supporting a member of the family or a friend, what's being built is the highest order of freedom.
When the individuals of a community are transcending their own individuality to support someone, the act of freedom is double: its freeing itself of its own ego and its freeing the other of their own limitations. It is not about becoming saviours of anyone. It is not heroic. It is the art of seeing, of using our gaze and be responsive.

In this building of collective freedom we all play a role. We are all builders, creators. We have a gaze that looks and acknowledges the authority of the other person, recognise their needs or desires and respond to them when it is appropriate. 

This gaze is very important. It is the base of our deepest spiritual needs and beliefs but it is also how we exert power. 

The parents gaze

Being looked at is an essential part of our survival. How we managed to catch the attentions of our parents, how responsive they were to our needs or how they reacted to our mischief or exploration of limits is fundamental to our sense of empowerment or even to how we communicate our need of attention. But this gaze is not always the same. It develops into establishing areas of privacy. Where this gaze is blind or simply turns a blind eye. Our room in our teenage years, our conversations with friends, our exploration of sexuality, other personal explorations. Of course, privacy is a modern concept that emerged with architectural technology: the chimney that allowed the construction of private rooms. Privacy is important to explore our internal spaces, unanswered questions, concerns, look for the words and narratives that are missing or do not fit. Privacy is a limit to the disciplinary power of the external gaze, to its authority. 
In the evolution of the gaze, there are also positive gazes that define us. Those who "saw" something in us. Who acknowledged, recognised our potential, our uniqueness, our authority that we may or may not even be aware of it ourselves.  A teacher, a friend, our parents, an uncle, a completely random person. This is the gaze that talent shows, for example, demonstrate but it is also at play in Social Media.

From the village gaze to the city gaze

Life in a village is constantly watched by a neighbours' gaze and comes alive through the information that s/he generates. This gaze could be paying attention to our needs and activate a collective action of support. It could also watch the compliance of the community norms and show disapproval in many ways. In the village or town is where this gaze is performed by all but at the same time it is external to everyone. It plays a parental role, and authority role but with no parents. This gaze is only possible within a community and therefore is a collective phenomenon. Some argue that this is what shapes our understanding of -or how we imagine- God. This phenomenon that is external to everyone can be represented by a symbol, an eye, a God, an idol to whom we attribute these two functions of the gaze of the community: "see" our needs and come to the rescue, and to "punish" the law breakers.

Villagers built this externality as an all-seeing deity.
Individual freedom is a claim of space against the power of this eye and the threat of being expelled from the clan.

I would argue that is not coincidence that the faith in this sort of God changes with modernity and with urbanisation. On the one hand famines and sickness were considered the ultimate divine punishment, the definitive expulsion or the action of "nature's tyrannical arrogance". At the end of the XIX century, Paris was renovated to its current layout, the modern city, and the German bacteriologist Robert Koch postulated that bacteria caused disease which meant that death stopped to be seen as an act of God -who had been questioned for his failings in responding to prayer to prevent famines and led to a long series of religious reforms-. Soon after in 1882 Nietzsche declared (this) God dead.  

In cities we are more invisible than in towns. Cities will struggle with the idea of an all seeing God. Urban citizens will need a new eye, different to the eye looking over villagers. Cities demand a different type of God.

The WebCam: the new divine eye

Even though cities made it difficult for this idea of an all seeing God to survive, it resurrected with the WebCam. Most of us live in cities, somehow alienated from the old village eye, but we are still in need of this positive gaze who acknowledges our existence and recognises our potential. So we publish stuff in social media, waiting for likes, or go to talent shows expecting to be "discovered". The camera emerged as a technology to show us the world outside and bring it closer, but it was turned around by this unsatisfied need of being looked at.


Television became a social mirror where we could watch not only talent shows, "reality" TV as Big Brother but also people actually watching TV, like in Googlebox. The camera turned to the viewer literally. In a way, this might offer an insight on why the public did not react very strongly to Edward Snowden revelations: being watched is not a big concern, at a certain level is reassuring.




The tension

The tension clearly comes with the balance of power. The power of the gaze lies on the one holding the gaze. The one that looks. This is one of the simplest (and probably the least sophisticated) explanations on why power is invisible. Power is held by the one who sees and is not seen ie is not subjected to public regulation. This appears as a metaphor in Lord of the Rings, where the ring of power makes you invisible but also shows you what others cannot see; it is embodied by HAL 9000, the computer in Kubric's Space Odyssey and its invisible algorithms and somehow are also illustrated by this picture of Mark Zuckerberg taping over the webcam and microphone.


As subjects being observed, a question emerges.
Do I become passive and submissive? Do I adjust my behaviour? How do I look back? Do I accept their gaze? How do I face a power gaze? (like Alex's from the Clockwork Orange)? Do I expect society to adjust their judgement?







The Big Eye (the Big Other) makes us "moral"?

The idea of an eye watching making us more "moral" is illustrated in this poster (the eye as the intermediary between the animal and the man) and is explained and demonstrated by Derren Brown with experiments (min 12 onward) making references to the work of Dr. Jesse Bering.







Questioning the gaze - questioning morality

It is easy to feel identified with the role of the individual being looked at by the gaze of the village and advocate for individual freedom or even rescuing its moralising disciplinary function. However... what happens when we realise this eye is heavily skewed? What happens when we discovered that we are looking at the world through lenses that are neither impartial nor just?

The question of collective freedom comes alive when we are able to question our own gaze and how our gaze plays a role in the collective gaze. When we turn our attention away from how judged we feel to how we are judging, from how alone we feel we feel in our battles to how are we supporting others. But also when we start to recognise the gaze of the community to which we belong through the images we are being fed and accept as "normal". Even if the experiment mentioned above suggests that the idea of an all-seeing-eye makes us more "moral", feminists, social justice movements, amongst others argue that this eye does not see everyone in the same way, therefore morality is measured very subjectively and justice is applied differently eg with a focus in disciplining minorities, women and youngsters.

Even though, many people speak about this gaze from a psychological (the Big Other), philosophical and even an atheist point of view, Christianity itself represents a stance on this gaze, in a way disproving it. "The murder of an innocent" becomes proof that the Father is not there or at least that he won't act. He won't come to the rescue when we are victims, and he won't come to stop us when we are being violent. The eye is not external. What happens depends entirely on the gaze of the community.
This murder becomes a sacrifice, something sacred to remember but proclaims that it will be the last. The last time we kill someone assuming that it will clean us. It was not. Clearly.


Throughout history, power was imposed with violence more frequently than not. But every once in a while, cases emerge that, like Christianity, have enough impact to dictate a pause and eventually a change. What sort of change? The change that recognises that power needs to be managed, needs to be self-aware and self-restrain. This change that happens when a crowd recognises it has the power to act like a god, making life and death decisions, but that it is neither just nor it cannot be. So every once in a while come new Christs, innocents that die or are murdered because the collective gaze decided so, but later it recognises the victim's innocence and therefore its own violence. These moments are always pivotal to delimit power.

One of the cases that is thought to have changed the mood of the French society and had a big influence in the emergence of human rights was the case of Jean Calas. Jean Calas was sentenced to be questioned under torture and to the capital punishment for the death of his son. He claimed in the beginning that his son had been killed by a stranger but then he said his son had committed suicide. He later explained he had lied about the intruder because the bodies of people who committed suicide were denied burial, stripped naked and dragged through the streets. Jean Calas was subjected to pulling of limbs, followed with something similar to waterboarding, then was taken to the public square, tied to a X cross and his bones were broken. He claimed his innocence all the way through. After learning about the case, Voltaire took it and through legal action and multiple publications in different languages to stir public opinion, managed to reopen the case.  A retrial found Jean Calas innocent. This change affected deeply public opinion's view of capital punishment. It somehow changed its gaze. Witnessing the public torture and painful death of a guilty man is different to witnessing one of an innocent one. An act of "justice" -even if brutal- becomes a public murder. Onlookers and bystanders lost their innocence. Their gaze accepted brutality. Human rights became that territory of authority where power had to show self-restraint.

(to be continued)

Andrea

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

49. Disconnection and depolitisation

If Foucault spoke about how the prison design with the use of a panopticon revealed the disciplinary model that would be applied in other institutions, the book about casino design "Addiction by design" by prof Natasha Dow Schüll might make us think about a new disciplinary tool: disconnection.




Casinos have been evolving. They are being purposefully designed with no windows, in cocoon-like spaces,  no straight lines or right angles (which would force you to stop and make a decision), with no clocks, all of which create an environment where people get lost in time and space. There are no references to connect us to the now. They are designed to create dependence, to maximise time on the slotting machines (time on device - TOD), to offer an engaging experience with no sudden or abrupt loss/win but rather with a progressive milking, programmed with a schedule of reinforcement, low volatility and sensorial stimuli that produces a sense of flow. Prof Dow Schüll explains that gamblers refer to this state as "the zone", and she describes it as "a dissociative trance-like state in which they are so focused in playing the game that things like daily worries, social pressures even bodily awareness fade away". They are escaping decision-making and the volatility that surrounds them. This experience changes the common understanding of gambling as a thrill seeking sort of quest, a "getting something from nothing", to a quest where gamblers are seeking nothingness itself. "You are not really there. You are with the machine and that's all you are with" explained a gambler, some sort of eternal present, an immortal death. The players who experience this sensation, come back and become regular customers. And even though designers of these slotting machines do not act like Machiavellian masterminds, by focusing on the purpose of simply seeking revenue maximisation, through experimentation and mathematics... they end up being a bit Machiavellian. Habit forming and ritual establishment (deeply unconscious behaviours) are the most effective ways to minimise volatility in the income for any company. Ironically, in the gambling industry this plan to minimise volatility by creating dependence requires a dissociative state of mind which disregards the effect it is producing to its customers.

In a more recent interview, Prof Dow Schüll explains that there are so many casinos in the US that people stand 30 minutes away of one, and that states have been seeking for this route to increase their own revenues instead of direct taxation, that eventually accounts for a tax on the poor.
Beyond that, this mechanism to disconnect people from reality, from the material world, from the here and now, that includes a sort of soothed exploitation, ends up de-sensitising and even more depolitising people. This model of offering flow states is present in consoles, phones and tablets and even, at some level, when we find some spiritual gurus that guide us through a meditation claiming that all the work is individual and is done at a spiritual level, but then adding that we should not engage in politics or worry about the news because it is some sort of dense energy that contaminate our aura, our vibe, our sense of flow. Meditation that should help us gain clarity to act, to transform, to connect with the other to collaborate, is used instead to sooth, to calm and in many cases to induce us to accept reality as it is and remain passive (or in the game). As long as our energy is positive, positive things will happen, no need to act.To remain connected with the positive energy, disconnection from reality is prescribed. It is not my intention, however, to decry spirituality or religion. In fact there a lot of humble leaders that don't embark in promises of future paradises or wonderful awakenings, but rather guide people to engage. But the other side is also present and it is nothing new, as religion was famously denounced by Marx as the opiate of the people. He was not alone in this reflection, other quotes on the subject are "We have used the Bible as if it were a mere special constable's hand book, an opium dose for keeping beasts of burden patient while they were being overloaded, a mere book to keep the poor in order.", Charles Kingsley (replace the Bible with Mindfulness here as an exercise) or "Their so-called religion works simply as an opiate—stimulating; numbing; breastfeeding pain from weakness", Novalis; "Welcome be a religion that pours into the bitter chalice of the suffering human species some sweet, soporific drops of spiritual opium, some drops of love, hope and faith." Heinrich Heine. Coincidentally, opium itself and pain killers are a talked-about topic that play a role in this disconnection game.


False uterus

A false uterus has particular characteristics. We are alone in this spaces, we are fed with something that we accept, that is predictable or at least stable. Whether we are in a filter bubble in social media, confirming how right we are with a particular news channel, drugged, charmed by candy crush or in front of a slotting machine, we remain physically disconnected from others. Some of these uterusi are built for us, but we too built walls wishing not to be disturbed by whatever is happening in the word (which -to be fair- is constantly curated to become more emotionally unbearable), "it is too much", "I don't want to vote any more". We expect these walls will protect our innocence, a sense of "I don't know" or even "I didn't know" and "It had nothing to do with me" (for any reason, I write these lines thinking of the role of the mother in John Boyne's "The Boy with the striped pyjamas"). This innocence, however, might not be guilty but it is not innocent either.

Connecting with reality and with the other is messy indeed: we cannot have a perfectly curated environment, we cannot be floating Buddhas, we have negative emotions, we make bad decisions. That's why there is something more than unconditional love (which is supposed to be the ultimate power) that we need in order to act together, to engage in any sort of relationship, in social change, to make a couple work, a job and even to have children: commitment. It is probably easier to 'unconditionally' love someone from the distance, that is to say, under the sole condition that they are a bit far away. But it is only through commitment that we decide to put our body, to walk through the mud together, to get dirty, to change nappies and to get transformed in the journey.

Idealising disconnection

In the following video, several economists discuss the lack of History knowledge in the economics profession (with proposition and opposition presentations). Dr Ha-Joon Chan (min 29 onwards) compares it with the series TV hit, the Big Bang Theory, where there is a clear hierarchy: the most detached from reality, the highest it belongs in the academic hierarchy, explaining that the Theoretical physicist (Sheldon) belongs to this highest tier, followed by the experimental physicist (Leonard) and then by the Engineer from MIT (Howard) who belongs to the lowest of ranks. But then continues to highlight that without the context of History, economics cannot be properly understood. He actually says that it should be taken extremely seriously as a theory of economics can kill millions and ruin many people's lives.



Even if economics is not the only discipline where this disconnection with reality is -at some level- idealised, and this is not the first moment in history that we discuss this topic, I found it to be an interesting material.

In the following video (that even if it is old is completely worth watching), around min 14 Jon Ronson speaks about psychopaths in society and how psychopathic traits (including being detached, lack of empathy, victim blaming, etc) are rewarded. Slavoj Zizek adds his comments on Brian Victoria's book, Zen at war, on how Buddhist detachment can be used to create soldiers that detach themselves from very cruel actions.



An Anti-feminist and anti-patriarchal mindset: between soothed dependence and violent extremism

Even if saying that a system can be anti-feminist and anti-patriarchal seems like a provocation, it is not. In the logic in which I write this blog, I suggest we go through the matriarchal and then a patriarchal stage of development in our lives and at social level and that these processes need to be understood. The matriarchy is simply a foundation-building stage which gives us basic tools, the basic building blocks for a psyche, including the most basic recognition of existence, "I am fed, therefore I live", "I am seen, therefore I exist", "I am loved, therefore I am lovable", "I am heard, therefore I have a voice" etc. All of this, whilst we are still dependent and remain highly ignorant of the world. In fact, this foundation building, this learning process, starts in the womb.



With all its shadows and the costs it had historically on women, children and minorities, the patriarchal drive is (or should be) an emancipatory impulse. It is the impulse to become independent, to get out of the comfort of Eden to earn our bread, to get out of the subjugation of Egypt and walk towards a promised land -which the patriarch does not reach-, the land we should "occupy", a place where we can affect the world; and at a personal level (whether our childhood was Eden or Egypt), to get out of the world of mum when is due. It was the impulse of modernity to develop science and stop suffering famines -being dependent on the weather-, or fight illnesses -being dependent on the "will of God" or circumstance-.
Even if it has some lights, the patriarchy has destructively oversimplified the issue of dependency. It decided that dependency is bad and therefore should be cut as soon as possible, as abruptly as possible, which ended up causing trauma and -some feminist would argue- the oedipus complex. This mindset has been seen in many different areas of life. At the core, in trying to minimise the physical contact between mother and child. This first abrupt disconnection is key, because all subsequent disconnections are trying to recreate and somehow repair this stage. Some feminists suggest that baptism, that originally was performed in adults, came to represent a sort of re-birth into the patriarchy that then had to happen in very early infancy, in a way symbolising this urgency to separate the baby from the mother. In a different subject, but with some commonalities studies about post-cult trauma syndrome, it is now argued that what causes the trauma is the way the intervention to liberate people from cults is conducted, not the experience of being in a cult itself or the act of leaving; it argues that studies in the past focused only in people who were removed forcibly from cults and did not studied people leaving it in other ways. This second group of people were found to register the experience as a weird moment in their lives but do not bear the weight of trauma. When and how dependency is cut is important; how involved the individual is in this process, is important too.

Secondly, the patriarchal drive shows a direction forward with the prohibition to go back to the dependent state, to go back in time, to get lost in this nothingness, in a false uterus, to follow the death drive. Even though in principle is a very positive aspect, in this prohibition, everything maternal was demonised both in men and women (including a range of emotions and mechanisms related to a maternal function: nurturing, negativity processing, etc), and the bodies of women were "occupied" trying to impose control over the behaviour of women not only in terms of reproduction (both to reproduce and have multiple children and to control inheritance by ensuring fatherhood) but also in the contact and relationship they establish with their children which became an area of heavy regulation. Women became patriarchal mothers, cold, distant or over-controlling, affecting the foundation stage I mentioned before, ensuring the production of a chain of angry-hungry patriarchal mothers. The final consequence of this prohibition to go back is the loss of memory. Almost the perfect crime.
This had an effect on men too. Men are left incomplete, with vital functions such as nurturing and negativity processing externalised, and need to keep "a cow well tied up to be able to milk it" and a "legitimate" depository of their negativity (patriarchal men are not violent against their bosses, only with someone they consider a "legitimate target", someone with a lower hierarchical status).

From the religion evolution point of view, the patriarchy should've ended with Christianity, where motherhood had a not-demonised-representative, men were stopped from depositing their negativity onto Mary Magdalene, and the Son died with a message of assuming responsibility (carrying the cross) and stop expecting a father to come to the rescue, a father that dies with his resurrection suggesting that the crime is not perfect, that there is something that violence cannot kill. Of course this is the ultimate disobedience. Islam, that came afterwards, directly rewrote the story of Eden, changing some details: the guilt was not longer Eva's alone, and God is not referred to as a father any more. Sometimes it feels we are quite slow...

In any case, the death of the father, does not mean however, the disappearance of the disciplinary entity, it has just been internalised. It is not the "end of history" or the end of the story: that fact poses new challenges. Sometimes it is positive, when the matriarchal stage was positive enough and the emotional foundations are strong, but when this matriarchal stage was not respected, "killing the father" could mean the appearance of leaderless extreme movements (eg neo-nazism, ISIS etc).

Feminism was indeed a step forward, an emancipatory movement for women. It did not take women back to a dependent state with nature, nor it fought to "lose all control over the uterus", but rather to "own" the control. To be able to occupy their own bodies. To be connected and sovereign. It represented a move to integrate the maternal and paternal role by and in women. Recognition and emancipation. This occupation of the body should not only happen in terms of owning the control of reproduction, but also in reclaiming sovereignty in motherhood, a subject that feminism is still struggling with. But beyond the pending battles, there is an attempt of appropriation of feminism, that tries to make women join the game as it is, without trying to change it, maybe promising some marginal gains. It tries to make a label, a brand out of feminism and tries to stop feminism from taking on the real big battles, like the economy and the production of money.

Going back to the first question: how can we describe a political strategy that creates and fosters dependence on mechanisms of soothed extraction, of slow milking? a Political status quo where there is chronic high youth unemployment (up to 50% in several developed EU economies) keeping youngsters in a dependent state, unable to become adults, to have a house, to receive an income and be economical independent? or ensures they enter adulthood in debt (US, UK)? An economic system that is increasingly devaluing labour and work, pushing it towards the lowest paid workers in foreign countries (exposing workers to compete even with unpaid forced labour from prison systems)? A system that does not discuss fully the political implications of having increasingly larger proportion of tax-paying non-voting immigrants -ie formally outside of the political system- in the labour force? A political system that still relies on women working in some sort of shadow economy?

It is a system that is both anti-feminist and anti-patriarchal (in its emancipatory sense) at the same time, that feeds from bottom up, to then disconnect capital from countries and take it to fiscal havens or recycle it in the finance sector. At the end, when soft mediums don't work any more, the system turns easily into something more violent, more brutal, exploiting and even discarding those who oppose. Sometimes they raise with a "popular" speech, creating this idea of "we, the people", but without the emancipatory drive, on the contrary, with the promise of going back, follow the death drive. It is a system that somehow sees the economy very similarly to a company evaluating different business units or brands in a very hierarchical way. An example is the Boston Consulting Group chart, where there are Stars, who deliver growth and receive investment, Dogs -unstable and therefore disposable, question marks that need to be worked out to see if they are stars or not, and then the Milk cows, the cash providers, that are not seen as a unit with potential, therefore no investment beyond minimal maintenance will be committed, while it will be extracted from every drop of milk it can deliver. If and when society is looked at with these glasses, that are even reinforced with harsh judgements on the poor, little investment goes to the sectors that need more support. This thinking is not surprising when more CEOs and disconnected elites occupy the body of government.




THE moment to connect

US dependence on foreign oil has declined significantly
source: Business Insider
This is THE moment to connect. Brexit, Trump, the elections in France, trade agreements being re-discussed and rewritten de facto deciding how work will be distributed globally and affecting how work will be distributed and structured internally, nuclear tensions, climate change, the US energy revolution and what it means in terms of geopolitics, fake news, new political parties, etc, etc. This is the time where structural changes are being fought but there is a model that is anti-feminist and anti-patriarchal (in its emancipatory sense) that will try to gain more territory. If the end of history happened some time in the nineties, then this must be the beginning of a new history. A history we must write together.

Andrea

PS: Aatif Sulleyman for The Independent: The tricks used by Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat to make smartphones so addictive

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

48. Facing the bull: feminism takes on the economy



I found this piece of "guerrilla art" extremely moving. Kristen Visbel designed this sculpture of a girl facing the charging bull of Wall Street. It was installed just before women's international day. State Street Global advisors commissioned the work and explained it was calling for greater diversity in the private sector in general and financial sector in particular. However, the image suggests a bit more than that (to me at least). For example: which of the two figures transmit true authority? which of the two figures is in control of him/herself? which one truly says fearlessness? which one is free -are any of them-? what do they see in each other/do they see each other? which effect are they expecting to have on the other? can any of them have a positive effect on the other?
Looking at it from a feminist point of view: is this girl speaking about contraception, abortion, abuse (the most salient feminist issues)? is she really speaking only about gender diversity in the work place (the topic the organisers claim to be symbolising) ? or is this speechless girl changing the conversation altogether? Does she only represent women? Is feminism ready to face the bull, take on the next big battle: economics?

A girl facing the bull: self-contained strength v rampant hunger/anger

A bull in a state of frenzy might have represented a sense of triumph for Wall Street for surviving a crisis, but it is hardly an inspirational image. This became particularly clear after the 2008 crisis. However, that sense of blind hunger/anger in form of ambition, selfishness, greed was presented back then as something positive, something that was causing the economy to grow and therefore unquestionably good for all.
Having ambition was the mark of someone successful even if it was becoming clear that success was an unreachable moving target that never gets satisfied. A hunger that produced tasteless, unwholesome food that in the attempt to satisfy reproduces hunger and trap us in a circular movement. A hunger that hoarded things that are not touched, are not used, are not played with. A hoarding that sucks up resources that are then recycled but are not used to produce anything else (let's remember that most of the money the finance sector moves never enters the 'real' economy).

A bull that conveys a sense of anticipation, what is about to do, what is about to win in front of a girl satisfied by her own stance, by the present moment, proposing to stop and change the game. This is a challenge as much as it is a proposal, because she does not challenge the bull from the logic of fear.

A girl facing the bull: feminism in economics

There are many feminist voices in economics speaking up. Some of them argue for care work to be considered work, some others discuss universal income, somehow focusing on the distribution issue.
I'm particularly interested (at least for the moment) in the 'female' role (nothing to do with gender) in creation: The one that creates spaces and conditions (and even probably markets), the one the makes the long term investment, not necessarily expecting a "return" on the investment through interests but rather a "forward" on the investment: whatever was invested will be paid forwardly and passed on to future generations. In previous articles, I suggested that "states" tend to adopt the female role in contra-position of the private sector.

Mariana Mazzucato speaks all around the world and wrote several books about the role of the state in innovation that tends to be invisibilised and unacknowledged:


In this video Professor Laura Bear speaks about how financial mechanisms subjugated politics to the finance sector and forces governments to austerity:



Ann Pettifor, one of the few economists that predicted the 2008 financial crisis, has just published a book speaking about the production of money, and argues that it is a feminist issue in this article in The Guardian, where she tries to correct two of the fallacies that another woman, Margaret Tatcher, "incepted" in public common sense: comparing the economy with a household budget, and "there is no money".

The economy is nothing like a house budget


"On the first, the public are told that cuts in spending and in some benefits, combined with rises in income from taxes will – just as with a household – balance the budget. Even though a single household’s budget is a) minuscule compared to that of a government; b) does not, like the government’s, impact on the wider economy; c) does not benefit from tax revenues (now, or in the foreseeable future); and d) is not backed by a powerful central bank. Despite all these obvious differences, government budgets are deemed analogous (by economists and politicians) to a household budget.
To understand why the government/household analogy is false it is important to understand that the balance of the government budget, unlike that of a household, is entirely a function of the wider economy. If the economy slumps (as in 2008-9) and the private sector weakens, then like a see-saw the public sector deficit, and then the debt, rises. When private economic activity revives (thanks to increased investment, employment, sales etc) tax revenues rise, unemployment benefits fall, and the government deficit and debt follow the same downward trajectory.
So, to balance the government’s budget, efforts must be made to revive Britain’s economy, including the indebted private sector. Because government spending (unlike a household’s spending) has a big impact on the economy, governments can use loan-financed investment to expand tax-generating employment – both public (for example, nurses and teachers) and private sector employment (construction workers)."
No money?

"The second myth is that “there is no money” – for social care, the NHS, education and skilled, well-paid employment – all of which disproportionately impact on women’s lives.
Philip Hammond will present his budget on International Women’s Day, but has already warned against any rise in spending, and repeated a meme popular with politicians: namely that “there is no pot of money under my desk”.. His views are echoed by Labour’s shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, who argued in 2016 that “there is no proverbial magic money tree”.
One woman can be said to have given the phrase “there is no money” much credibility. In her 1983 speech to the Conservative party conference, Margaret Thatcher declared that: “The state has no source of money, other than the money people earn themselves. If the state wishes to spend more it can only do so by borrowing your savings, or by taxing you more … There is no such thing as public money. There is only taxpayers’ money.”

Today this framing of the debate is at odds with reality. After the financial crisis, the Bank of England injected £1,000bn into the private finance sector to prevent systemic economic failure. And after the shock of the Brexit vote, the Bank unveiled the “Term Funding Scheme” as part of a £170bn “stimulus package”aimed at the private finance sector. The money was “public money” offered at a historically low interest rate – to bankers. It was not raised by cutting spending, and it was not raised from “your taxes”, even while its issue was backed by Britain’s taxpayers."


And finally, on economics and feminism: 
And while women may have broken the shackles that tie them to work in the home, they have acquired new chains: economic myths that prolong economic weakness, deny them access to the services they need, and to skilled, well-paid work that would improve living standards.

Going back to the girl and the bull: for whom are we routing for? who should win -should any of them win-? is this a battle?

Andrea