On the assassination of George Floyd, anger and hope bring justice #BlackLivesMatter

Another murder by police officers, this time in Minnesota. The video of the assassination of George Floyd, a Black man, by white police officers has shocked, as if it was new and surprising. North or South, the location has no importance. The justification for murders, lies, and other means of destruction of the Other, the otherness grows unscathed from any sufficient doubts. Modern society talks about training, well-trained police officers, well-trained doctors, and well-trained nurses, but what is training if life is annihilated quickly and with “legitimate power”.

The headlines are descriptive: Four Minneapolis officers are fired after video shows one kneeling on neck of black man who later died. Although the article raises questions, it fails to tell the evidence of constructed racism, which is gendered as we observe the incommensurable level of violence imposed on women’s, intersex’s, transgender’s bodies. 

This time, it was a Black man. 

Numerous books, studies are available from which those who would like to learn more about the reasons for this blatant injustice can educate themselves. Still, there is always someone to create a rationale of destruction, of wars of all against all. 

Women are also part of the making of these destructive rationales, as now white women tend to assimilate with their men. The story is different for women of color; they have survived invasion, slavery, and all these “beauties” that were totally justified and still are.

I affirm that being a feminist is not only about having the right to vote (finally), to control our own body, it is about injustice, it is about crude, violent domination by patriarchal thought. This very domination that has created these ice men that can take all their time to assassinate someone because he is a dark-skinned man. There is no separation of good and bad, what makes the difference is the justification, the construction of violence and discrimination as legitimate means.

I have written on many issues that are clear examples of this justified violence. I have written about the cold-blooded decision to send drones to kill women, men, and children far away in Yemen, using a perfect justification of war against terrorism. In reality, they killed people who were in the wrong location, wrong class, wrong belief system.  

I have written on the massive incarceration of gendered bodies of color in Baltimore, a majority Black and Brown city which the man in power in the United States “discredited”. That mass incarceration was justified despite all the work and studies that demonstrated that these policies were non-sense. 

I have written on the shackling of pregnant women while they are in prisons or jails in the United States. The cruelty of shackling women’s bodies for no other reason than asserting power over women’s bodies is apparent and yet invisible, another evidence of madness justified.

I have written about economic cruelty that has deprived women, men, and children of their dignity and sometimes killed them. That’s how the so-called “crisis” in Greece that was actually driven by speculation was justified. 

I have written about new ways of exterminating the undesirables, using the Mediterranean sea as a means of extermination. The justification was easy to find: defend the borders in a time of obscene globalization. That justified Frontex, a legitimate army, to “defend” borders against precarious lives. 

In all these examples, and many more, justifications serve a market driven killing of this Black man, George Floyd. Look at the armaments, observe the development of digital blindness, and the overwhelming growth of inequalities with our worldly wealth being held in very few hands. 

At the end of her life, Hannah Arendt anticipated this danger as she saw the new justification for madness coming: it was called neoliberalism. She declared that if it takes over the world, life would become superfluous. Life has become superfluous for many and for a long time. 

Excuse my anger, although Audre Lorde taught me that anger is sometimes necessary. I want to end acknowledging all the sisters and brothers that have fought these justifications to crude injustice with a passion. All the writing, poetry, and art have been made in the name of justice to inspire us. 

Thank you to all of you, and let’s again remember Audre Lorde, who wrote Sister Outsider to convey hope, encourage solidarity, and instill power to fight sexism and racism that make these things possible. Emmanuel Levinas enounced that at the decisive hours when the lapse of values is revealed, human dignity consists in believing in their return. More than their return, let’s imagine these values and organize everywhere to defend them in solidarity.

Justice for George Floyd is justice for all, #BlackLivesMatter

(Photo credit !: CityBeat) (Photo Credit 2: Jurien Huggins)

Now more than ever, supporting abolition of the debt is a priority!

The covid 19 pandemic has demonstrated that the neoliberal system that leads the world is detrimental to health care systems, public services, and bad for people, especially for the poor and third world populations. We should remind the globalized neoliberal leadership that they asserted not long ago that austerity measures were indispensable to save the economy of an indebted country. There was no alternative. Austerity policies were touted as the only way to save the population of a country. Now, those same countries have their underfunded public services and health care systems unable to guarantee proper safeguards to the people. This scenario exposes that the distribution of poverty is based on exploitation that is gendered, racialized, and divided by class. 

The abolition of the public debt in third world countries has been discussed in supranational assemblies such as the EU, but what exactly is public debt? In the 1980s, “development” became synonymous with  Structural Adjustment Programs, (SAPs), which forced developing countries to incur enormous public debt. The purpose of building public debt is to indebt the entire society, begetting a system of inequality. Today those countries subjected to SAPs are facing the coronavirus pandemic without health resources as they have been whittled away to satisfy repayment of the debt. 

OXFAM’s recent press release reveals two faces of the same coin. One pertains to public debt management of the third world countries and the other one to the budget priorities imposed on these countries. According to Oxfam, 64 countries of the Global South have to spend more on repayment of their “public debt” than health care. For instance, Ghana spends 11 times more on its public debt than on its health care system. Although this reality is not new, it has gone mostly unnoticed and not been considered as a risk for the population. Oxfam highlights that 500 million people in the Global South could face dire poverty, according to UN researchers. Already, 265 million people are facing acute hunger, according to the WHO, showing that “the pandemics are also hunger.”

Meanwhile, since January, the IMF’s wealth has grown by $19.4 billion, while the third world public debt is about $12.4 billion. The IMF and the World Bank promoted Structural Adjustment Programs, SAPs. Will it be time for the IMF to repay its ethical debt to these countries, now that these countries are facing pandemics without protection of any kind? The people in these countries, far from being protected by development, have lost their protection, because the governments of indebted countries were forced to serve the market, not the people. The great ideal of human rights has too often been a place mediated through the neoliberal market-take-all ideology.

The overwhelming influence of the US economic power has influenced the way health care systems around the world work, and the US health care system is the worst system among the OECD countries. It is a for-profit system that has no interest in providing care for the sake of care. In this system, money should not be spent on health care or public services but only on a guaranteed return on investment, removing the idea that health is a basic necessity to guarantee human rights. This approach to health care has dominated the world’s health systems for decades, infecting universal health care system like a contagious virus.

Rebecca Solnit recently asserted: “Coronavirus does discriminate because that’s what humans do.” But who are the ones who discriminate? We certainly don’t feel that we do, and still, we do. We do by not paying attention to systems that promote discrimination while asserting that they do the opposite. We need to organize to persistently denounce, expose, and fight what the globalized neoliberal economy has created. The coronavirus has shown that the prescriptions made by the neoliberal even liberal economists, the gurus of modern power, kill. They warped any political debate to install a mechanism of inequality keeping the entire society eternally indebted. Politics of austerity have spread in every possible niche, including in industrialized countries, affecting all public services. Every nation has seen the number of their hospital beds melting away. France, which had the best health care system in 2000, has seen its health care stripped;, for example the number of beds for 1000 people went from 11 in 1980 to 6 in 2019. In the US that number went from 7.9 in 1970 to 2.8 in 2016. By the same token, funding allocated to fundamental research on virology was curtailed. When the coronavirus spread, the absence of adequate health care resources and research transformed the contamination into a health crisis. This situation is cruel and absurd, and people are starting to talk about it. 

Women, especially women in the Global South, are the most vulnerable to reductions of public services. About 2/3 of their work is unpaid work. This unpaid work represented about 13% of total GDP in 2018. This discrimination is systemic and profoundly anchored in the patriarchal system. Their unpaid work accounted for 13% of global GDP in 2018. It is particularly important in third world countries.  

The priorities have not been on health, clean water, education, local agriculture. They have not been on building a more just society between the North and the South, between the wealthy and the poor. Being poor is determined by gender, race and class. This health crisis has demonstrated that neoliberal leadership had no interest in the protection of the population. In this time of pandemic, the populations who are paying a heavy price are the most vulnerable of the society, whether they live in developing countries, refugee camps, prisons and jails in the United States, or detention centers. This pandemic also offers a window to build kindness and expand global solidarity at the grassroots level. Debunking the official mythical discourse through a transnational feminist lens has to occur to transform the system. The priorities are clear, treating life with respect is the basic of global well-being. This means remove the financial burden on the poor as the wealthy have built hell. Support debt abolition!

Support the abolition of the debt : http://www.cadtm.org/English

(Photo Credit 1: Sara Bakhshi) (Photo Credit 2: Ian Espinosa)

What can we learn from the recent win of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe?

There are various pandemics, some are viral, some are neoliberal, sometimes meeting with deadly results, and sometimes defeated by consistent grassroots efforts, and sometimes life prevails. Recently, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe won against the Dakota Access Pipeline, DAPL, in Federal Court. The court validated everything that the Tribe has argued against DAPL.

First, came the oil industry, then the pipelines, then the Dakota Access Pipeline, DAPL, was conceived to move fracked oil from North Dakota to Illinois, with a plan of 450 000 barrels (71 544 282,7 liters) flowing through every day. In 2016, the US Army Corps of Engineers (USAGE) approved the project using a Nationwide Permit 12 that allows examining such projects without a full evaluation and without a thorough environmental impact evaluation. The route of the pipeline crossed many sacred lands of Native American Sioux. It also crossed under the Missouri River, the main source of water for the local population. The oil companies have honed their skills at profit-making at all costs. They are also known for their disastrous safety record with millions of dollars spent on fines and reparation. For instance, DAPL’s leading company Sunoco Logistics, spent over $53 million for property damage between 2006 and 2016. Meanwhile, land and water has been polluted, sickening the local population. 

For the Sioux Nation situated in North Dakota, DAPL’s environmental damage and disregard for Native rights were unacceptable. They opposed the latest life-threatening actions of the oil industries and their financial investors, pointing to the imminent water pollution with its resulting impact on the land. 

Lakota women were fast to organize in the defense of life against the pipeline, the black snake as they called it. Several sites of resistance were established such as the Sacred Spirit and the Oceti Sakowin camps near Standing Rock reservation. These sites saw the largest gathering of the Sioux Nation since little Big Horn in 1876. Many non-native American supporters assembled with Native Americans in resisting the construction of the pipeline. This struggle attracted international attention, with indigenous peoples from other countries showing their solidarity. 

Lakota women, men and children and national and international protesters showed the world what an inspired coalition building meant. They opposed the oil industry and its financial supporters’ oafish strategies by articulating their veneration of their environment with the strength of their spiritual invocations and prayers in defense of “mother Earth.”  The words Mni Wiconi, water is life, roared from the camps, sacred words which transformed people into water protectors. The beat of their drums were in rhythm with the heartbeat of mother Earth. The water protectors stoically faced the uniformed seemingly unconcerned police and militias who were fully equipped with weapons to hurt the defenders of life. 

The Sioux Nation also fought USAGE’s decision in court, demanding the Nationwide Permit 12 be revoked. They wrote to President Obama who first abandoned another deadly project, the Keystone pipeline project, and then before leaving office, hastily, denied the permit for DAPL.   

After the inauguration, Donald Trump signed a memorandum to forcibly evacuate the camps to clear the way for the construction of the pipeline. The ultimatum said that total evacuation of the camps would have to be effective on February 22, 2017. The menace was dire. Donald Trump resembled more a predator than a president. 

Before leaving the sites, on February 18 to 19, the ceremony “Honoring our grandmothers” was organized. This ceremony was echoed in many indigenous sites around the Americas. 

The invitation to Honoring our Grandmothers was clear:

“As Women of Sovereign Nations, Lands, and Waters, we have been given the honor of caring for the earth, the water and all living beings on it.” “We welcome women of all Nations and ages to come together for this special time of prayer, teachings and unity here in Standing Rock, as a powerful movement to acknowledge the sacredness of Unci Maka, Mni Wiconi and the living grandmothers of the Oceti Sakowin.”

 “Location has nothing to do with how we pray, we are going to keep fighting these big oil companies even if we have to fight for the rest of our life,” declared one of the participants, a grandmother committed to defending life and children’s future.

And continue fighting they did. 

The victory of the Sioux in the Federal court should be an inspiration for many who are fighting for justice. No `pragmatic compromises’ were accepted. The native message is loud and clear: if life is sacred, then the sacred should prevail. A sense of solidarity expanding beyond tribes brought victory on many fronts. Before this decision, Native lawyers lobbied foreign banks that invested in the pipeline to withdraw their support. 

In this moment of a global viral crisis, born from the recklessness of neoliberal globalization, maybe it is time to learn some lessons from this fight for the preservation of water as water is life.

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Mike Faith declared, “It’s humbling to see how actions we took four years ago to defend our ancestral homeland continue to inspire national conversations about how our choices ultimately affect this planet. Perhaps in the wake of this court ruling the federal government will begin to catch on, too, starting by actually listening to us when we voice our concerns.”

Contrast this hopeful message with other decisions taken by the heartless in power. In mid-March, the governors of Kentucky, South Dakota, and West Virginia signed laws to give more power to the states to protect the oil industry and repress protest against oil and gas pipelines and other infrastructures labeled “key” or “critical.”

We are at the crossroads of two visions of the same crisis. In one vision, the heartless system – with its destructive projects generated devastating impacts such as deforestation, extinction of 60% of species, climate change, elimination of public services for the common good, resurgence of authoritarian regimes serving vested interests – will finally come to a change of paradigm. The other vision keeps the delusional neoliberal short-term view in place. The latter may work until climate change and/or another virus or spill of crude oil challenges neoliberal non-sense. 

Maybe this is the time to learn from the unrelenting, uncompromising fight of the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies for the source of life. 

(Photo Credit: Taylor Ruecker, Janine Robinson

When the neoliberal and globalization creed meets the virus

Did we see it coming? In the United States there was a presidential campaign taking place along with social unrest, immigration unrest and wall building. In Europe, countries were passing laws either to exclude people in exile, or people in vulnerable position, with no alternative! Then the novel coronavirus came to life creating Covid 19. We call it now a corona virus crisis. A new crisis in the series of crises that capitalism has been feeding itself from. At the beginning it was a Chinese made virus. But China is the iconic representation of globalization and all a sudden everything was in shambles. 

One should make the connection between globalization and the development of neoliberal economic dogma. However, this dogma initiated after WWII as the colonies were engaged in a struggle for independence from the imperial war mongering West, did not always exist. The response to the independence of former colonies was the creation of this new dogma of globalization, based also on the Western yearning for universalism. Toni Morrison reminds us that globalism “understands itself as historically progressive, enhancing, destined, unifying, utopian”. That is how it forms its delusional promise to allow itself to create a dehumanized system of deregulation, globalization and total competition. 

In the mid 1980s, Structural Adjustment Programs, SAPs, were imposed on poor countries, sometimes former colonies of the rich countries, often rich in natural resources needed in the rich countries. These SAPs were designed according to the logic of the Washington Consensus (growth at all cost and at the expense of public social services) to justify globalization. The IMF and the World Bank provided loans to poor countries under the aegis of development, but these loans came with conditionalities that required repaying these high interest loans in priority rather than developing social and health services. This complete overhaul of social structures with the development of competition for markets undermined women’s economy and women’s position.  

The Ebola virus outbreak in the 2010s shed light on the cruelty of these programs. By the same token, the austerity measures following the same neoliberal economic orthodoxy similarly stoked the elimination of public services in richer countries. The current pandemic, with the risk of infection as a common denominator, has reunited every social class and gender, with some variation according to age; therefore, it has become an international source of anxiety especially that the rich countries have become the epicenter of the epidemics. 

The national responses are different, as, for example, when the contamination of the virus is progressing rapidly in the US due social factors such as lack of a public-run health care system, lack of protection for workers under US labor laws, lack of social services, lack of access to medications. Only now is the US government considering paid sick leave for a number of people who are quarantined and whose jobs are on hold. The US hospital system has the fewest number of beds per 100 among the developed world.  The US pharmaceutical industry depends on its products and ingredients from companies in India and China. Tests for coronavirus are not widely available to identify people affected by this highly contagious disease. In the US only 11 000 tests were administered in the past few days whereas South Korea uses 20 000 tests every day.

If one wants to measure inequality concerning access to health care, one should look at the prison and immigration detention systems. “From a public health perspective, prisons [are] so dangerous because they’re overcrowded and their systems of care provision, such as they are, have intentionally gone from bad to worse”

This coronavirus pandemic reveals how a government’s callous disregard for human life and the environment relies on its “capacity to decide who may live and who must die.” Only this time the powerful are caught in their own game.

(Photo, image credit: Robert Metz and Matteo Paganelli)

In response to proposed pension changes, people in France are learning what solidarity means

Once again, the way the government presents a new law perpetuates gender/class disparity. Government officials use communication techniques to render this disparity invisible. Women’s unpaid domestic work, and women and men’s precarious work are marginalized and rendered invisible. French President Emmanuel  Macron and his government have been pushing neoliberal policies hidden behind the rhetoric of public policies made for the public good to save the country from imaginary disaster. France is still a rich country whose elite pulls the strings of a postcolonial world, and the goal of its market-oriented president is still to serve the market and move the wealth of public goods to private markets.

Since his election, Macron has undertaken “to reform” French public services, diminishing the publicly funded safety net. A safety net is of special importance for women who have typically had very little control over their career because of lower wages and interruptions to their careers because of family responsibilities: women receive an average of 42% less in pension money than their male spouses. Among the 10% of couples who have the lowest level of revenue, one finds the highest proportion of women with either no revenue at all or unemployed or working part time. 

Most recently, President Macron took on reforming the French system of pensions, which is based on solidarity and includes 42 exceptions according to levels of difficulty of work, replacing the solidarity system with a system based on points in which everyone can claim the same point regardless of their social conditions and difficulty of work. The French public noticed the discrepancy between the discourse of universality of the proposed system and the reality of growing economic disparities. The new so-called “universal” plan only pretended to be universal, failing to account for social and gender differences. In the difference of life expectancy between a factory worker and an executive, the latter may enjoy up to 10 more years in retirement because of life expectancy difference. Meanwhile, women’s unaccounted reproductive and domestic work were underrepresented in the 42 special schemes based on work difficulty.

While the reform purported to be more for women, some of the basic protections that widowed and/or divorced women could count on were removed. 

The pension reform triggered complete mayhem in the public transportation services and other services such as distribution of electricity and public education, with the longest strike ever. France has been known for its integrative public transportation, the jewel of the country. And still nothing is more fragile at this time of restrictive funding and austerity measures than challenges to publicly funded services. 

The scam of privatization was hidden in many reform proposals by then candidate Macron. He has changed many of these proposals for the worst claiming that he had been elected on the promise to change French society and to make the country more competitive. Actually, he won elected in the second round with a large number of votes from people who wanted to bar Marine Le Pen, an extreme right candidate who almost won. 

Many economists criticized the proposed pension reform plan, arguing that the system is not financially failing and does not require such an ill-prepared, unfair plan that might bring more privatization than social solidarity. Even the “Conseil d’Etat” declared that the plan was amateurish and opposed it. 

What was unforeseen, however, was the level of support from the general public for the strike and the social movement against this reform, despite the fact that it made going to work a real struggle. 

I had the experience several times of going to work in Paris, having to take my car (which I almost never do) and leave in the early morning (around 4:30), then find a parking space near the city line, then take the subway that would work only during rush hours (a few hours in the morning, a few hours in the evening). The platform was always overcrowded and a few trains passed before I could get on. But the conversations were lively, with people talking about the parts of the reform that were unacceptable. Despite being squeezed to a level I had never experienced before, the conversation on the train was all about the importance of fighting for our rights and the future of our children as well as the importance of remaining in solidarity with the movement. We were squashed in a friendly atmosphere, sharing humorous political jokes and helping each other, a rarity for Parisians. 

Although the current system is in financial equilibrium, that the government decided to rush to design this reform raised suspicion. While the pension system could have been improved and made more just, the government chose to ignore unions’ and economists’ proposals. The goal of this hastily proposed reform was not to gather consensus. The hidden piece concerns the incentive to subscribe to private retirement insurances for the higher revenue bracket, while encouraging feminization of poverty among older people. The Swedes, who passed a similar reform two decades ago, know that women getting older have lost rather than gained the comfort of retirement. 

Some American asset-manager firms, such as BlackRock, were identified as having lobbied the government to open the pension system to the marketplace and more business opportunities for their French branches. In January, when the head of the French branch of BlackRock was tapped to receive a Medal of Honor for service to the nation, there was an immediate outcry. Olivier Faure, the head of the socialist party, declared, “It is anything but anecdotal, BlackRock, it is quite simply the dark side of the pension reform”.

The government is currently introducing its reform to Parliament while the opposition brings thousands of amendments to the floor to block the process. Throughout this process, women are used as an adjusting variable; gender disparity between classes and ethnicities are systematically ignored. Yet again, women lose. Meanwhile, on subway trains they regrouped and talked about their unstable careers, the lack of consideration for their invisible yet crucial work. Women in the global south have done that for a long time and now that the neoliberal and pseudo adjustment programs are reaching the north, people in France are learning what solidarity means.

Solidarity in the French Alps

(Photos by Brigitte Marti)

The heartless in power: Making it impossible to seek refuge in the United States

We are living in a modern time. The president of the United States has been impeached by the House of Representatives. Two articles of impeachment accusing Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress were adopted. He was not impeached for having separated families of asylum seekers, sending children away from their parents, leading to child deaths and missing children. He received no official reproof for all kinds of suggestions he made to make the southern frontier of the United States a place of cruelty. When he suggested to shut down the border, his advisers, reportedly astonished, told him that this decision would trap American tourists in Mexico and would affect the precious asymmetrical NAFTA trade agreement and therefore the economy. The president made many other cruel suggestions, for instance, building an electrified wall with spikes to pierce human flesh (the precision is important), fortifying the wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators. He also had the idea of shooting the legs of people, of the wretched of the earth to use Franz Fanon’s terms, who are crossing the border without proper documentation.

This is the same president who ordered the veto of UN resolution 2467 on ending sexual violence in war unless the health section including sexual and reproductive health was removed. These decisions are real: they show the schism between rights and laws and rights, between precaritized women, children and men, and the laws of men of power. 

The heartless reveal themselves in their hypocritical policies, flouting basic ethical principles. The Trump administration has shaped a new level of cruelty with its immigration policies. The president explained in the simplistic and shallow language of his policy: “Our country is full—can’t take anymore—so turn around that’s the way it is.” They even came up with a senseless title for this policy, “Migrant Protection Protocols” (MPP), which forces asylum seekers reaching the southern border of the United States to return to hazardous and dangerous areas in Mexico. There have been numerous reports of rape, kidnapping, and torture of asylum seekers stuck in Mexico. 

To prove the insensitive character of this policy, the acting commissioner Department of Homeland Security justified it as an alternative to family separation; communication is key in pushing heartless policies.  Alternative is a big word in neoliberal language, either we don’t have any and public systems have to be dismantled or the alternative is to dismantle the asylum system, claiming to “restore integrity in the immigration system.” Meanwhile Mark Morgan, the acting commissioner of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), dismissed the numerous public reports (about 636) of rape, torture, kidnapping as “anecdotal stuff.” 

Meanwhile, asylum seekers have no chance to get a hearing that lasts more than a few minutes in the tent courts making it practically impossible to pass these screenings, according to US senator Jeff Merkley’s office. In the spirit of unfairness, fake hearing notices have been sent to asylum seekers. MPP combined with two other immigration policies will bar the asylum process, making it impossible to seek refuge in the United States, a country fully in the hands of white supremacist and heartless people. 

(Photo Credit 1: Loren Elliott / Reuters / Washington Post) (Photo Credit 2: Time)

Current mass movements protest violence against women

There is always a day assigned for us to think about the troubles of our world. November 25th was the International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women. In the spirit of the moment of uprising to demand respect, women and men took to the streets on Saturday, November 23rd , holding signs to express important messages and demands. Some signs read: “the end of violence against women,” “the end of patriarchy,” “neither women nor the earth are territories for conquest”, “the cup is full” accompanied by a picture of a cup full of blood, “educate children to respect women and girls,” and “feminism never killed anyone, machismo does.”

In France, this year, at the initiative of Nous Toutes (All of Us Women Movement), a large crowd of about 49,000 people hit the streets of Paris versus 12,000 last year, and about 150,000 demonstrated all over France that day. The demonstration was well planned, as the outrage was growing in France. With 138 women killed by their partner or ex at the time of the demonstration, France has seen a notorious increase of femicides this year, despite all the good intentions expressed by the authorities. Many organizations rallied with Nous Toutes, including UN Women France, Femen, the women of the Americas of Argentina and Mexico, Women in Solidarity, Amnesty International, and the National Union of Feminicide Families.

The demonstration started at 2pm, and at 4pm the tail of the demonstration had not moved yet. Men, along with many high school boys, joined the procession of demonstrators. Clearly a sign that something is budging—from merely women rallying to support each other to people rallying to support women.

The demonstrators’ signs and chants addressed the basic social injustice that violence against women and the impunity of the patriarchal system create. The experience of being swept up by this mass protest seemed dreamlike, but an anecdote brought us back to the reality that there is still a long way to go to deconstruct centuries of domination. As we were taking pictures of the demonstration from the sidewalk, two men in their forties who were just there to watch, asked us, “Is patriarchy a new word that has just been invented?” Then, they asked if we could explain to them what patriarchy actually is.

A similar demonstration took place in Madrid, where tens of thousands of people marched in the street chanting, “for those who aren’t with us” and “we demand Justice.” At the end, the 44 names of the women killed within the past twelve months in Madrid were read. 

In six European countries, including Belgium, feminists demanded that an official data collection of femicide be put in place. 

Mass demonstrations to make violence against women visible have been cropping up worldwide. Last weekend, large protests erupted all over India, stemming from Hyderabad, demanding the end of rape and murder of women and the need for justice in fast-track courts. The Nirbhaya protest in New Delhi, the largest of its kind in 2012, is now followed with the protest against the gang rape and murder of a 27-year-old veterinarian. 

Why is violence against women a genocide that continues to be invisible globally? The unavailability of data feeds a supposedly gender-neutral approach to the law, which in turn works in connection with invisibility of the crimes against women, thereby enhancing the objectification and invisibility of women and their ordeal. This constitutes a denial of women’s rights and a normalization of this denial. 

By the same token, women have been objectified as their bodies have become weapons of war in many conflicts in the Global South. The international community has had the hardest time addressing the impunity with which this system has developed. The latest veto of the United States, last June, on the UN resolution 2467, that would have provided medical assistance to women survivors, is just one example of the lack of respect granted for the dignity of over half the world population

The keyword is violence. Violence is the foundation of the patriarchal system as it has developed in economics, medicine, politics, justifying colonization, invasions with never-ending destructive conflicts. Inequality is, as never before, affecting women’s emancipation and rights. It has continued to fragment the social fabric, making precarity a common feature that touches women first. The French government is supporting a series of measures to help individually the victims of violence and at the same time pushing a reform of the retirement programs that will continue to gravely disadvantage women. The Indian government acts with fast-track courts for one high profile victim at a time, without addressing violence against women as a whole.

Women and men globally are conscious of patriarchal domination, but this consciousness has yet to reach the layers of the social fabric and shake up our institutions that still follow outmoded processes. So, the answer is larger solidarity movements, vociferous protests, and voluble writings. Only a solidarity movement will hold the promise to create conditions for a transformational change.

The heartless in power: Targeting head scarfed women downgrades selected citizens

The first story takes place in France in the regional council of Bourgogne Franche-Comté, a region in the east of France. School children are invited to witness how democracy works. They embark on a fieldtrip. In need of chaperone for the field trip, the school teacher solicits the help of the mother of one of her students. She probably explained that it will be an interesting experience to attend a parliamentary session for the children and for the chaperones as well.

Once seated in the public gallery, she hears a representative from the extreme right wing Rassemblement National, National Rally (RN) Julien Odoul address the speaker of the council demanding the chaperone to remove her “Islamic veil.” She does not need to look around to know that she is being targeted since she is the only one who is wearing a headscarf. He erupts that it is the law of the republic and it is in defense of secularism or even in respect for the women who are fighting for their rights in Islamic nations. His rowdy fellow FN representatives shout at the speaker that it is the law. It is not the law, and, further, his party has never defended secularism and has no track record of defending women’s rights. Blinded by his own fundamentalism and drunk on his own power and authority he creates an environment of humiliation. Humiliation of a woman who is fully part of French society, humiliation for her young son who starts crying and humiliation for the entire school and community.   

The speaker of the parliament, Marie Guite Dufay shocked, retorts: “Are you done yet? cool off now.”

The Preamble of the Constitution states, “The French Republic is secular, (…) it protects all beliefs.” This means the Republic does not favor any religion but relegates all beliefs to the private sector. This also means that under the French law, no one must be discriminated based on their religion or their atheism. This guarantees freedom of conscience and freedom to manifest one’s religious affiliation. Religious freedom presupposes the freedom of everyone to express their religion, to practice it and to abandon it, while respecting public order. This requires for the Republic, and the representatives of the Republic, neutrality in the face of all religions and beliefs. This does not apply to citizens who are free to express their beliefs in the public space in the respect of the public. 

Women facing constant inequality in the west like elsewhere have to be saved by the men of that same society that based its colonial enterprise on a patriarchal view of domination and of redistribution of territories. This event made headlines, and rightwing politicians went on to demand restrictive laws for women who are involved in public life, directly targeting Muslim women. Julien Odoul’s comments were able to put in public space hatred of women’s right to be full citizens and hatred of Muslims, two of their favorite targets!

The second story occurred in the south west of France in the city of Bayonne. An 84-year-old man, a former National Rally member, attacked the city’s mosque, injuring two men who happened to be there. He felt that he had the mission of avenging the destruction of Notre Dame. A high-ranking member of the National Rally (RN), Jean Messiha, disseminated his poisonous question “Notre Dame didn’t burn by chance, the Islamic involvement hasn’t been explored enough.” His allegations are completely false and are part of the war path that has been developed against one group identified racially and attacked. Have we already seen this before? How many more déjà vu before the Global North learns its lesson from history? The city of Bayonne known for being an inclusive municipality immediately expressed its support of its Muslim community. 

The third story takes place in the United States. On October 19, 2019, high school cross country runner Noor Alexandria Abukaram, found out that she was not on the list after she had finished her fastest 5K at the Division 1 Northwest District meet. Abukaram was disqualified on account of her hijab. As Abukaram told Sports Illustrated, “My race is supposed to be under my control, but that control was taken away from me because of my hijab, something I hold so close to my heart. I felt so let down by the sport that I had trained so hard to run in. It was humiliating and embarrassing and upsetting.” Rules have been changed by major sports organizations, including the Olympics, to include the diversity of participants. Why then does the Ohio High School Athletic Association enforce an outdated rule about headgear? Abukaram is asking precisely that, “I’m running just like everyone else. Why should you have to sacrifice your religion and a part of who you are to run, to do another thing that you’re very passionate about?”

Are the United States government’s current policies, such as the travel ban for Muslims and surveillance of Muslim families, now reaching their long arm into the arena of sports by attempting to exclude Muslim athletes who wear the hijab? This is not paranoia, but policy that is destructive of democracy.

These rightwing attacks on Muslim women are part of a war machine to impede a targeted community from living as full citizens in their countries. Targeting women in order to rally for some nationalist ideal has become the de facto line among right wing groups. If the chaperone had been a man wearing a beard, would the RN representative have articulated insulting comments? Imagine the result if an RN representative shouted, “Man with beard, shave it at once! It is against the law!”Destabilizing civil society is always a way to keep neoliberalist doctrine controlling the world. According to theorists Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, “Fascism is when a war machine is hidden in every niche, when in every nook and in every cranny of daily life a war machine is hidden. This is fascism.”

https://instagram.com/women.included

Instagram / Twitter

(Photo Credit: Luis Galvez)

The heartless and immigrants: Blindness about the reality of healthcare in the United States

Let’s examine what the heartless are doing. From his position of power, Trump made a de facto decision, issuing a proclamation, on October 4, 2019, that immigrants coming to the United States will have to purchase private health insurance or prove that they have enough funds to pay for their healthcare cost. Taking effect on November 3, this will concern visa applications.

Trump’s position about making immigrants and asylum seekers pay for their health insurance is based on the Republicans’ view of discriminating between who lives and who dies, which life is valued and which life is not. He tweeted, “Let’s take care of our own instead of paying for the undocumented.” But that’s wrong. Let’s look at the numbers of Americans who have been neglected by the health care system: the poor, African Americans, youth, the aged, people who work multiple jobs without benefits, the homeless, the unemployed and precaritized women. Since the health care system in the US is based on private policies that are profit driven, health itself is the casualty. What’s more, there is a false notion harbored by many Republicans that the United States would receive an influx of medical tourists if we offered healthcare to all immigrants entering the country. The reality is that the outrageous health costs force many American citizens to seek care as medical tourists in countries like Mexico, Thailand, India and many others.

So why pit immigrants against citizens and residents? 

Trump’s decision fuels the anti-immigrant sentiment and rhetoric that have permitted the most cruel actions against people looking for safer ground. Between 2016 and 2019 under the Trump administration the number of immigrant deaths detention centers has increased due to ICE’s poor medical standards. As Human Rights Watch has described:  “ICE has proven unable or unwilling to provide adequately for the health and safety of the people it detains.”   These detention centers are expanding across the country. This part of the business of controlling bodies at the border is based on violence, humiliation and redefinition of bodies, as children are put in cages and babies are snatched from their mothers’ arms. Achille Mbembé has developed the concept of borderization to address the treatment that has been randomly applied to undesirables, to immigrants’ bodies, in our world of quantification and digitalization, leading to division between immigrants and citizens who are as a result oblivious to their own deprivation of rights and health care. 

It is crucial to note the heartlessness of the Trump administration’s treatments of immigrants at the border. Although ICE declares that its medical care in detention centers has in fact improved under the Trump administration and provide statistics to support their claim, many organizations including Human Rights Watch provide different detailed accounts that show the rise of immigrant deaths, children and adults, as the result of untimely and poor medical care. Meanwhile, the Trump administration seeks to expand immigration detention centers, which will put more people at risk.  

This dehumanization of the undesirable migrants is occurring around the world. While in France, under the “Fight against Exclusion” program the state provides free health care, Aide Medical d’Etat (AME), to undocumented immigrants with immediate coverage for minors, the conservatives have been calling this program into question. The Health Minister immediately declared that this program is “an absolute necessity”; nonetheless, the President agreed on an audit of the program that can open it to lowering the level of coverage. France is one of the rare if not the last country to provide health care to undocumented immigrants. 

(Image Credit 1: Immigration Impact) (Image Credit 2: Mitch Blunt / Human Rights Watch)

Mots Écrits: déterrer les mots des femmes, archives de femmes, histoire de femmes: les féminicides (2)

La poétesse Pramila Venkateswaran écrit des poèmes féministes qui avec humour et rigueur parlent de la vie des femmes et de leurs batailles pour leur émancipation et leurs droits. Pour elle son travail n’aurait que peu de sens si elle ne pouvait pas le lire à voix haute ce qui lui permet d’entrainer son audience dans l’expérience du poème en faisant vivre le texte.

Pour Mots Écrits il importe de donner vie aux archives de femmes, histoire des femmes qui étaient emprisonnées dans des cartons d’archives. Le son des voix donne à ce texte venu d’outre-tombe une vie sans filtre tel qu’il est. Sophie Bourel explique «on tire le bouchon de la lampe du génie et d’un coup il y a quelque chose qui surgit; c’est ce parfum-là, cette vie-là, cette trace et c’est cette trace qui va réveiller l’imaginaire des spectateurs qui ne font qu’écouter ce que la personne lit. Les archives deviennent vivantes!» 

Mais avant de pouvoir lire à haute voix, il faut constituer le corpus de textes. Quand nous l’avions rencontré un matin, c’était une belle journée pour elle, elle venait de recevoir des documents d’un département français. Elle nous accueillit avec un bonjour de joie comme si elle venait de découvrir un trésor. 

Ce qui l’avait réjoui était l’arrivée d’une archive anonymisée comme elles doivent l’être lorsqu’elles viennent de fonds d’archive de moins de 75 ans. Il s’agissait d’un crime sur une femme survenu après des années d’alertes et comme encore aujourd’hui une femme qui se retrouve seule devant son agresseur qu’elle ne connait que trop bien. Le 16 septembre 2019, la 105ème victime de féminicide de l’année, a été frappée par son ex conjoint de 14 coups de couteau, au Havre en plein jour dans un supermarché devant ses enfants de 2, 4 et 6 ans. Elle s’appelait Johanna. Elle avait déjà déposé deux plaintes dont la dernière en aout 2019 toutes deux classées sans suite. 

Les femmes victimes de féminicide ont prévenu, appelé à l’aide, et elles sont restées seules, elles sont mortes, abattues avec un fusil de chasse, une arme à feu, poignardées, étranglées, battues à mort. 

Au début de son travail Sophie Bourel voulait mettre en relation toutes les femmes tuées de façon similaire à travers les temps. Elle avait créé une liste de tombeaux, comme elle l’avait appelée, de femmes tuées, il y en avait 78 puis 80 et cela ne s’arrêtait pas. L’idée était de former une sorte d’écho, entre la femme tuée il y a cinquante ans ou avant et la femme décédée de la même manière en 2019, elle voulait les relier dans la mort par le mode opératoire, par le lieu où elles avaient été trouvées, etc. Et puis son projet a évolué. Sans renoncement, elle l’a transformé en raison de l’inévitabilité des meurtres de femmes, du caractère inexorable du décompte des corps tombés sous les coups des hommes. L’artiste constate que la liste des femmes féminicidées en 2019 ne s’arrête jamais.

En poursuivant sa recherche dans les archives, elle s’est aperçue que les assassinats de femmes au 19ème siècle étaient si nombreux que les mises en relation entre femmes féminicidées auraient été incommodes et « de toute façon cette liste n’a ni commencement ni fin» précise-t-elle.

La composition du corpus est la vraie difficulté du projet; il faut une diversité d’archives, de matériaux, pour que 50 minutes de performance de lecture à voix haute ouvrent les consciences, les réflexions sur l’omerta qui a si longtemps régnée sur la vie des femmes, leurs histoires invisibles. 

De ce travail de puzzle elle veut montrer que les morts sont chargées de signaux sociétaux qui en disent long sur le silence entourant la subjectivation des femmes. L’artiste se demande pourquoi nous en sommes toujours là. Ce qui lui est intolérable c’est ce système qui consiste à faire d’une différence une hiérarchie ; suivant les mots d’Édouard Glissant, elle ajoute, «je cherche donc à agir dans mon lieu et à penser avec le monde dans lequel je vis.»