Monday, December 30, 2013

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Diane Coyle offers a preview of Thomas Piketty's upcoming book on inequality - featuring a prediction that absent some significant public policy intervention, we may see a return to 19th-century levels of concentration of wealth.

- Meanwhile, Murray Dobbin calls for 2014 to be the year of living consciously - including both a concerted effort to donate to fostering change, as well greater efforts to bring about change through our own lives.

- Veronica Bayetti Flores writes about the challenges in building movements which won't leave people behind:
I am so ready to let go of the America’s Next Top Radical model of social justice; it’s unsustainable, unproductive, and frankly a pretty bad strategy. It seems as though some of us – us being folks invested in the advancement of social justice in some way or another – are calling folks out sometimes not to educate a person who’s wrong, but to position themselves a rung above on the radical ladder. What’s worse, both in real-world organizing and online, this behavior is often rewarded: with pats on the back, social status, followers. We’re waiting and ready to cut folks out when they say the wrong thing. We’ve created an activist culture in which the worst thing we can do is to make a mistake.
Calling folks out in good faith – or calling in – is absolutely necessary. We cannot stand by as people leave the most marginalized folks in our communities out of the conversation, say things that are hurtful, and create projects that continue historical legacies of oppression. It’s important not just because folks need to be educated, but because the ways we organize and the stories we tell affect the lived realities and material conditions of everyone around us. To not confront oppression when you’re in a position to do so is to be complicit in its perpetuity. But it’s also important to ask ourselves why we’re jumping in. It’s cool to be angry – I’m angry as hell, and in a world in which there is so much to hate, I tend to be a hater – but when we’re trying to advance a conversation, it’s important to think about what’s going to be constructive. On the same tip, we need to learn how to react when being called out – how to meaningfully apologize, and how to move forward with new knowledge. To realize that making a mistake does not make us the living worst, and that we can move forward if we take critiques seriously and acknowledge the serious hurt our mistakes have caused.

It’s hard, and a consistent battle, but I don’t see a way out of it. We’ve long been really good at critiquing and saying what we don’t want, but to get to a world we DO want, we have to be able to dream really big. I fear that the ways that cynicism operates in our call-outs (and activism more generally) is limiting our ability to do so. How can we dream utopias if we are so afraid of being wrong?
- Mari Saito and Antoni Soldowski report on the use of homeless people as a cheap labour force to carry out dangerous remediation work at the Fukushima nuclear reactor site. And Gardiner Harris writes about India's continued efforts to make prescription drugs available to its general population - while big pharma tries to stop it from moving prices down from unaffordable levels.

- Finally, Andrew Nikiforuk tests the Cons' public claim as to why they decided to close several science libraries. And not surprisingly, their motivation has nothing to do with efficiency - but everything to do with eliminating inconvenient information.

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