Pictures of dead migrants inspire our sympathy. But what use is that to them? | Gary Younge | Opinion | The Guardian


On the morning of 17 January 2018 a humanitarian group, No More Deaths, released a report showing how, over four years, US border patrol agents had destroyed 3,856 gallons of water that had been left for migrants in the desert.

That afternoon, Scott Warren, a No More Deaths volunteer, was arrested for bringing food, water, bedding and clean clothes to two men who had entered the country illegally. He found them in an area where 32 bodies had been recovered in the previous year alone.

Charged with conspiracy to transport and harbour migrants, he faced up to 20 years in prison. Earlier this month his trial ended in a hung jury.

Put differently, an American jury was asked whether, in effect, it should be illegal for one human being to provide basic sustenance to preserve the lives of other human beings in desperate need – and it could not quite make up its mind. (The jury was deadlocked, having split 8-4 in Warren’s favour. The state will decide whether to try him again next week.)

So when we see a photograph of the lifeless body of 26-year-old Salvadorean Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez, clutching his dead 23-month-old daughter, Angie Valeria, face down in the Rio Grande, it is important to decipher exactly what the source of the shock might be.

As Warren’s case illustrates, such deaths are not news in the conventional sense, any more than the police shooting black men in the street in the US is “news”. In the absence of mass protest there is a level of racialised suffering that rarely exceeds the status of white noise in the west. Not only do we know these things happen and have been happening for a long time; we know they don’t happen by accident, and could be prevented if we, as a society, had the will to do so. There is pathos in the suffering, but there is policy behind it too.

The tragic image is news because the basic humanity of those who perish has been so routinely denied that the evidence that they are not “cockroaches”, “animals”, “aliens”, “illegals”, rats or vermin but actual people feels genuinely novel – it provides an empathic injection into the morally sclerotic vein of a dehumanised political culture.

This was a father and daughter, holding on to each other until the very end: tender, vulnerable, heartbreaking. In a sense this is the problem. If for the stories of their lives to break through in the mainstream they must first be dead, what use is it to them? The fact that they are objects of pity, shame or even anger does not make them any less objects ripe for our projection.

Empathy could be the first step to solidarity – click, share, engage. Warren must have been conscientised and radicalised somehow. In 2006 I drove all the way up the US-Mexican border from Brownsville, Texas, where Angie Valeria and Óscar were found, to San Diego. On the way I spoke to Armando Alarcón, who was carried over the Rio Grande by his father when he was Angie Valeria’s age. When Alarcón saw a news story about the body of an eight-year-old girl found by a border patrol after she had been abandoned by her smuggler, he bought a Cessna 172 plane and founded a group called Paisanos al Rescate – Fellow Countrymen to the Rescue.

 

Source: Pictures of dead migrants inspire our sympathy. But what use is that to them? | Gary Younge | Opinion | The Guardian

Nationalist strongmen are bent on controlling women’s bodies | Afua Hirsch | Opinion | The Guardian


When Brazil, where I am writing from this week, became worried that almost two-thirds of its population was black or mixed race, radical steps were taken. Never mind that the blackness of its population was thanks to its own dependence on African slavery: in the first part of the 20th century, Brazil actively recruitedEuropean migrants with the explicit aim of whitening itself, or keeping, in the words of a presidential decree of 1945, “the most convenient features of its European ancestry”.

The resulting class and race inequalities in the South American country are part of a complex mix that has resulted in Brazil’s own variation on the populist theme. Now, under the Trump of the tropics, as Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is sometimes described, reproductive fascism is back, and focused – so far – on controlling women’s bodies.

One of Bolsonaro’s early acts in office was to replace the government department for human rights with a department for “family values”, and with a rightwing evangelical preacher at the helm. Damares Alves may have said she would help low-income women, but she is also anti-abortion, and is so comfortable with post-truth leadership that she has claimed the Dutch are taught to masturbate from the age of seven months.

In her wisdom, Alves has in turn appointed another woman to run public policy for motherhood. For this she chose Sara Winter, formerly a member of the feminist group Femen but now someone who credits Christianity with “curing” her feminism.

Populist strongmen love a good female antifeminist. Donald Trump recently appointed Rebecca Kleefisch – a conservative former TV anchor who says women should be subservient to their husbands – as the new head of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission. Such appointments must be great fun for populist misogynist men – you get to kill two birds with one stone. First you weaponise anti-women’s rights women against other women, thereby infuriating feminists – who hate you anyway – while simultaneously reducing initiatives that were designed to promote gender equality to a laughing stock, which serves your interests quite nicely.

But when anti-women policies are masquerading as those intended to help women, things get more complicated. Take Poland’s Family 500+ measure, for example, a policy introduced by the ruling Law and Justice party that gives families 500 złotys (£100) a month for each second and subsequent child. As someone who cares equally about the suffering of low-income mothers and child poverty, I’m all for helping families with children. But the idea that assistance for those in poverty is conditional on obedient reproduction is verging on the dystopian.

 

Source: Nationalist strongmen are bent on controlling women’s bodies | Afua Hirsch | Opinion | The Guardian

You thought TTIP was dead? With Brexit we’ll get the same thing, on steroids | Nick Dearden | Opinion | The Guardian


The most extreme free-market fundamentalists in Europe are now in the driver’s seat in Britain. That’s what ‘taking back control’ looks like in practice

Source: You thought TTIP was dead? With Brexit we’ll get the same thing, on steroids | Nick Dearden | Opinion | The Guardian

As an American Muslim, Donald Trump doesn’t scare me. He inspires me to vote | Moustafa Bayoumi | Opinion | The Guardian


The Republican nominee’s campaign traffics in threats, including Islamophobia. But the US is a diverse society now – and mobilising to oppose radical haters

Source: As an American Muslim, Donald Trump doesn’t scare me. He inspires me to vote | Moustafa Bayoumi | Opinion | The Guardian