Merchant’s Quay Ireland launches “The Lived Experience of Addiction” Exhibition

Merchant’s Quay Ireland launches “The Lived Experience of Addiction” Exhibition

Merchant’s Quay Ireland (MQI) has launched a new exhibition of photographs and stories by people with experience of addiction. Titled “The Lived Experience of Addiction”, the Photovoice project was collaboratively created by people who have previously or are currently engaged in MQI services. Aiming to start a conversation about addiction and its surrounding stigma, the work created is personal, meaningful and unfortunately all too relatable for many. 

 

It has been overtly known that the numbers of those requiring support and medical help for their addiction do not match up with the number of detox beds, places on day programmes or staff available for outreach and open access services. Funding is frequently cut, while drug epidemics continue to grow beyond the cities, expanding into rural areas and local communities. Media coverage often vilifies people in active addiction, while our judicial system criminalises them. Public support, campaigning for harm reduction facilities, and positive change stems from voluntary or underpaid services. 

 

The exhibition, alongside the publication accompanying it, is the culmination of six months of work. All contributors come from a variety of backgrounds; from those presently in active addiction to people in recovery. People fighting their way through homelessness, to families coping with loved ones in addiction. As cited on the MQI website, the project “provides an alternative platform for people who are often silenced or marginalised in society to express themselves, and hopes to shed light on the reality of addiction – and in doing so to increase the sense of compassion and empathy all of us in society have for people who are affected by it”. 

 

Located for a short time only at Copper House Gallery, Dublin 8, the project formally launched yesterday, March 5th, 2020, followed by a panel discussion on stigma. Chaired by Joe Little, the audience heard from MQI Chairperson Mick Price, Minister Catherine Byrne, photovoice facilitator Dr Maria Quinlan, and two of the participants in the project.

 

There are plans by the organisation to launch in the Midlands and the East Coast soon, following positive reception from both attendees and those who contributed. The exhibition is open to members of the public on Saturday, March 7th from 11am to 5pm, and Monday March 9th to Wednesday March 11th from 9.30am to 5.30pm. No booking is required, and the display is free of charge. The exhibition is well worth a visit, offering insight and perspective into one of modern Ireland’s most upsetting and widespread issues and struggles. 

 

 

Exhibition photos sourced from MQI website

 

 

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Review: ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ Will Make You Rethink Race

“History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.” Raoul Peck’s documentary about James Baldwin, I Am Not Your Negro, is an introduction to his work and an advanced seminar in racial politics that is extremely important for all in 2020.

Miss Representation (2011) Reveals a Glaring Reality Still Relevant in 2020

The documentary film, Miss Representation, came out in 2011, yet it remains shockingly resonant today in 2020. The film exposes how mainstream media and culture contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. As an American woman, Miss Representation strongly resonates with me, but its message is relevant to women and girls everywhere.

The Innocence Files Review

STAND News reviews the Netflix documentary series, The Innocence Files, a whodunnit with a cause. How does the series that covers the failures of the U.S. judicial system holdup?

‘Stop Filming Us’ – Questioning Neocolonialism through the Camera Lens

In Stop Filming Us (2020) Dutch filmmaker Joris Postema travels to the city of Goma in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where numerous conflicts and even more Western aid organizations have been in the past 25 years. The problem is, sometimes these Westerners would rather define Goma and its people on their terms. Can Postema portray the Congolese reality without becoming part of the problem?

The Obsession with Activism in Acceptance Speeches

Many of us may agree that millionaire celebrities collecting awards from other millionaire celebrities may not be a group best placed to preach to the general public about issues such as climate change and human rights. It has now become a mainstay of almost every award show, with celebrities seeing this platform as a challenge to make the most impassioned speech of the night.

Merchant’s Quay Ireland launches “The Lived Experience of Addiction” Exhibition

Merchant’s Quay Ireland (MQI) has launched a new exhibition of photographs and stories by people with experience of addiction titled “The Lived Experience of Addiction”. Aiming to start a conversation about addiction and its surrounding stigma, the work created is personal, meaningful and unfortunately all too relatable for many.

UCDVO Development series: Review of Gaza, Push and For Sama

UCDVO Development series: Review of Gaza, Push and For Sama

The 8th UCDVO Development Film Series began on the 27th January and will continue until February 2020. The series includes 5 high-quality feature documentary films on subjects relating to global justice and development issues. The event’s highlight is that each screening is followed by a guest speaker with an opportunity for an open discussion. This takes place over 5 consecutive Monday evenings.

 

 

Gaza 

The series began with the screening of Gaza. This angry and heartfelt documentary truly captures the sense of ordinary life. As quoted by the taxi driver in the documentary, “Most of the people here are ordinary people like me. They just want to be left alone to live their lives. They just want to take care of their families and educate their children.”

 

The opening credits give a geographical and a brief history of the narrow strip of Mediterranean coastline bordered by Israel and Egypt that is home to nearly 2 million Palestinians.  The Islamic resistance movement Hamas came to power over the course of three elections and has been governing Gaza since 2007. Since then, Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza, completely sealing its borders. The  film was shot during the Israeli war in 2014 and the border protests in 2018. Gaza, directed by Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell, received a complex reaction in some quarters when it premiered at Sundance in 2019. Some criticize that it only fleetingly mentions Hamas, while others found it to be manipulative.It is important to ponder the reason behind why an immobile child is shown with her eyes closed and the audience is encouraged to think she is dead but in a later scene, she opens her eyes.

 

However, Gaza definitely tries to avoid direct political engagement. The film shows ordinary people courageously going on with  their lives despite living in some of the most challenging conditions in the world. A young woman practises the cello, a young man records rap tracks, a theatre director rehearses a performance piece, a fisherman broods over the oppression of his industry – they are not allowed to fish more than three miles out, and the amount of fish that can be caught so close to shore is pitifully meagre. The film also showcases Deir Al- Balah, Gaza’s smallest refugee camp which hosts about  21,000 refugees who fled from villages in central and southern Palestine as a consequence of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. This is where the audience is introduced to the largest family in Gaza where Ahmed Abu Alqoraan and his 13 brothers and 23 sisters live.

 

The film is a striking piece of film-making. Beautifully shot by McConnell as he manages to capture stunning images that draw out the characters we are introduced to during the film. The images are powerful enough to set forth the mood and intent. Unfortunately, the intrusive score tips the film more so towards manipulation rather than observation. I didn’t want the background score to direct me to think or feel in a particular way, I wanted to feel this emotion myself from the scenes that were unfolding. 

 

Watch the trailer here

 

 

Push

Push documents UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing, Leilani Farha, as she travels the world in an attempt to figure out the reason behind the housing crisis. The documentary rightly explores why housing is considered to be a market instead of a fundamental human right. Push offers a worldwide wake-up call as it examines  the rapidly shifting patterns in the “financialisation” of housing. This crisis, as the film suggests, goes behind gentrification and the concept of financialisation was an eyeopener to me! Private equity firms are now the biggest landlords and houses are considered to be the assets. As prices go up while income stays the same, people are being pushed out of their homes and governments don’t seem to do anything about it. This has become a worldwide phenomenon, which has been particularly evident in Ireland over the last number of years.

 

“You know it’s time to move out of your neighbourhood when vintage shops open, poor people start to dress well (…)  prices go up and you get the push.“

 

Director Frederick Gretten follows Farha through her investigation that takes her to an interconnected pattern of hidden capital with networks in Toronto, Barcelona, Seoul, Berlin, London and other cities revealing just the tip of the iceberg. Her investigation further discloses  the process in which affordable housing becomes a token for hedge funds, investors and criminal networks to increase their profits while driving out ordinary citizens. The familiar sight of empty condos, homes and apartments, owned by anonymous foreign buyers who never set a toe in their luxury homes, paints the cities nothing less than ghost towns.

 

Farha, alongside the United Cities Local Government and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,  started the new worldwide movement The Shift to ‘reclaim and realize the fundamental right to housing – to move away from housing as a place to park excess capital, to housing as a place to live in dignity, to raise families and participate in community’. Gertten’s film captures the community spirit that endures and gives life to the cities. Push is ultimately an empowering story of resistance and the question the film poses is, “ Who are cities for ?”

 

Watch the trailer here

 

 

For Sama

Is the world listening? Are we getting used to documentaries based on Syrian war? Have those stories  that seem to plead with the world fallen on deaf ears or has the world decided to look in the other direction? Despite these questions clouding my mind often, For Sama may be the most powerful plea yet. Syrian filmmaker Waad al-Kateb began a video diary to keep record of events when nobody knew what it was like to live in Aleppo, Syria. Caught between the Assad regime and the Islamic state, every day seems  like a new chapter in the lives of Syrians. This documentary that captures al-Kateb’s life through five years is a human story with no propaganda in sight. It’s a simple appeal from people who bravely stayed behind to fight against the atrocities.

 

In collaboration with British filmmaker Edward Watts, Waad al-Kateb tells us the most compelling story of how this conflict negates  everyday life. The documentary is named after Waad’s daughter, Sama (Arabic for Sky). Through assembled extracts of her video diary, For Sama captures moments of loss, laughter and survival as Waad has to decide between fleeing Aleppo to protect the ones she loves or staying in the city.  Scenes where the new mother struggles to put her baby to sleep and dialogues like, “Lots of airstrikes today…but they didn’t hit us” when she talks to her baby is a sign that we have been silent spectators for far too long. The unforgettable moments come through at every other scene – the tense nighttime drive to get through a regime checkpoint, the time when Assad’s forces are just one street away and the Caesarean section to remove a baby from its wounded mother’s womb may probably be the most miraculous and intimate scenes. The most dramatic scenes unfold  inside hospitals as the documentary shows how they are being systematically blown up one after another. In 2016, airstrikes by Russian and Syrian government forces destroyed eight out of nine hospitals in rebel-held East Aleppo

 

The normalisation of conflict to this level is clearly depicted in this documentary. In my opinion, For Sama that recently won a BAFTA and was nominated for Best Documentary at the Oscars this year is a must-watch.

 

Watch the trailer here

 

 

 

Photos from Twitter

 

 

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Review: ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ Will Make You Rethink Race

“History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.” Raoul Peck’s documentary about James Baldwin, I Am Not Your Negro, is an introduction to his work and an advanced seminar in racial politics that is extremely important for all in 2020.

Miss Representation (2011) Reveals a Glaring Reality Still Relevant in 2020

The documentary film, Miss Representation, came out in 2011, yet it remains shockingly resonant today in 2020. The film exposes how mainstream media and culture contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. As an American woman, Miss Representation strongly resonates with me, but its message is relevant to women and girls everywhere.

The Innocence Files Review

STAND News reviews the Netflix documentary series, The Innocence Files, a whodunnit with a cause. How does the series that covers the failures of the U.S. judicial system holdup?

‘Stop Filming Us’ – Questioning Neocolonialism through the Camera Lens

In Stop Filming Us (2020) Dutch filmmaker Joris Postema travels to the city of Goma in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where numerous conflicts and even more Western aid organizations have been in the past 25 years. The problem is, sometimes these Westerners would rather define Goma and its people on their terms. Can Postema portray the Congolese reality without becoming part of the problem?

The Obsession with Activism in Acceptance Speeches

Many of us may agree that millionaire celebrities collecting awards from other millionaire celebrities may not be a group best placed to preach to the general public about issues such as climate change and human rights. It has now become a mainstay of almost every award show, with celebrities seeing this platform as a challenge to make the most impassioned speech of the night.

Merchant’s Quay Ireland launches “The Lived Experience of Addiction” Exhibition

Merchant’s Quay Ireland (MQI) has launched a new exhibition of photographs and stories by people with experience of addiction titled “The Lived Experience of Addiction”. Aiming to start a conversation about addiction and its surrounding stigma, the work created is personal, meaningful and unfortunately all too relatable for many.

Lack of Diversity Overshadows Another Award Season

Lack of Diversity Overshadows Another Award Season

For the last few years, award ceremonies have come under a huge amount of scrutiny for a lack of diversity in the talent which they choose to celebrate. Heading into a new decade it felt tempting to think that those behind some of the most prestigious awards in entertainment may have started to heed this calls for inclusion. Unfortunately, as the list of nominations came rolling in over the last month, we soon learnt that this was not going to be the case. Although many stars have dipped their toes into political speeches or protests, the huge shadow cast by the lack of diversity is hard to ignore.

 

On the 5th of January, the Golden Globes kicked off this year’s awards season, and there was a glimmer of hope for what 2020 could bring as two young people of colour picked up major acting trophies. Awkwafina, at 31, was the first Asian woman to win the award for Lead Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, and was the first woman of colour to do so since Angela Bassett in 1993. Ramy Youseff picked up the Best Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy, aged only 28. In the heady days before the BAFTA and Oscar nominations were announced, it seemed as though the tide could be changing for a new generation of actors of colour. 

 

Despite calls from host Ricky Gervais for celebrities to refrain from making their speeches too political, many stars touched on issues ranging from the Australian bushfires to abortion rights in the US. Aussie winners such as Cate Blanchett and Russell Crowe (the latter actually absent from the night as he was fighting fires around his own home in New South Wales) made reference to the bushfires and explicitly linked them to global climate change. During her winning speech for her part in Fosse/Verdon, Michelle Williams gave a passionate speech about protecting a woman’s right to choose. She expressed gratitude for living in a time when women could choose when to have children; just as members of Congress in the US are threatening to overturn Roe v Wade. As another nod to environmentalism, the Hollywood Foreign Press made the decision to serve an entirely vegan meal to the guests at the event.

 

Just as we were all winding down from the news that Joaquin Phoenix was saving the planet by wearing the same suit for the entire award season (something we can all relate to), the BAFTA nominations were announced on the 7th of January. Within hours the hashtag #BAFTAsSoWhite was trending all over social media. While the Golden Globes had clearly made some attempt, even simply a token one, to head in the direction of inclusion and diversity; it seemed that the BAFTAs had not learnt from the mistakes of their past. At the 2020 BAFTAs on February 2nd, all the main acting awards will be competed for by white talent, with the only category containing diverse nominations being the EE Rising Star Award. Cynthia Erivo missed out on an acting nomination, while Greta Gerwig was snubbed in the all-male Best Director category as well as in the Best Film category. Joanna Hogg’s acclaimed British film The Souvenir was also completely ignored. 

 

After a week of criticism across social media, as well as from several high profile names in the industry, BAFTA announced that they would undergo a review to their voting system. Director Steve McQueen warned that the BAFTAs could risk becoming obsolete if they continued to fail to recognise diverse talent. In defence of the nominations, BAFTA deputy chairman Krishnendu Majumdar claimed that the lack of female nominees was “an industry-wide problem” which the awards show did not have the power to combat, a statement which was disputed by McQueen who pointed out that even films and actors with critical acclaim were not recognised. 

 

Following the recent backlash against the lack of diversity at the Academy Awards and the creation of the 2015 #OscarsSoWhite hashtag; the Academy vowed to shake up the way its voting works. It announced plans to double the number of women and diverse nominees by 2020, through measures such as limiting the voting to members who have been active in filmmaking for the past 10 years. However, when the highly anticipated Academy Award nominations were revealed on the 13th of January, any last glimmers of hope for diversity were soon dashed. Cynthia Erivo was the sole person of colour in any of the acting categories, earning another Best Actress nomination for her role in Harriet. Despite the South-Korean film Parasite, directed by Bong Joon-ho, becoming the first non-English language film in the Oscars history to win Best Picture, alias the top prize, it would not be inappropriate to keep the #OscarsSoWhite trend going for another year. The small step towards more diversity that Parasite’s success at this year’s Academy Awards represents was immediately bashed by Donald Trump who made some disparaging comments about the film during his rally. After implying that Parasite should not have been considered for an American movie prize because it is not in English, he added “What […] was that all about? We’ve got enough problems with South Korea with trade, on top of it they give them the best movie of the year?” 

 

Despite nominations at the Golden Globes and huge critical acclaim, Lulu Wang’s The Farewell was completely ignored. Greta Gerwig picked up 6 nominations for Little Women but was once again locked out of the eternal boys club that is the Best Director category. Not only were the five nominees in this category all men, but none of their films managed to muster up even a Best Supporting Actress nomination, let alone Best Actress; a fact which is telling of the amount of female representation in these films. Natalie Portman paid tribute on the awards night with a Dior cape embroidered in gold with the names of the female directors who were shut out. Portman has previously openly called out the dismissal of female directors—in 2018, she noted the “all-male nominees” while presenting the Best Director at the Golden Globes. After being criticized by Rose McGowan for having worked with only two female directors in her career so far, one of them herself, Portman opened up about the difficulties that female-directed films are facing in the industry. Apart from being “incredibly hard to get made at studios, or to get independently financed”, their making often represents a great challenge to female directors as difficult working conditions like prejudice and hostility lead them to quit. 

 

It is clear that questions need to be asked not only of the talent which is represented in the nominations but also the stories and narratives that are consistently celebrated by the Academy. Stephen King was widely criticised for his comment that “he would never consider diversity in matters of art”, and although he later amended this to acknowledge the issues faced in terms of getting in the door, it touched a nerve for many. The director Ava DuVernay pointed out that this was part of a greater issue, in that many in the industry felt that quality and diversity were mutually exclusive. April Reign, who created the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, added that the Academy could no longer use the excuse of there not being enough diverse talent to nominate. There is a real possibility that these award ceremonies will become obsolete if they fail to reflect the changing landscape of modern filmmaking. There are millions of stories out there about people who aren’t male, and who aren’t white; but before they can be celebrated and nominated for awards, they should be told.

 

 

Photo by Walt Disney Television on Flickr

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

 

 

Review: ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ Will Make You Rethink Race

“History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history.” Raoul Peck’s documentary about James Baldwin, I Am Not Your Negro, is an introduction to his work and an advanced seminar in racial politics that is extremely important for all in 2020.

Miss Representation (2011) Reveals a Glaring Reality Still Relevant in 2020

The documentary film, Miss Representation, came out in 2011, yet it remains shockingly resonant today in 2020. The film exposes how mainstream media and culture contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. As an American woman, Miss Representation strongly resonates with me, but its message is relevant to women and girls everywhere.

The Innocence Files Review

STAND News reviews the Netflix documentary series, The Innocence Files, a whodunnit with a cause. How does the series that covers the failures of the U.S. judicial system holdup?

‘Stop Filming Us’ – Questioning Neocolonialism through the Camera Lens

In Stop Filming Us (2020) Dutch filmmaker Joris Postema travels to the city of Goma in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where numerous conflicts and even more Western aid organizations have been in the past 25 years. The problem is, sometimes these Westerners would rather define Goma and its people on their terms. Can Postema portray the Congolese reality without becoming part of the problem?

The Obsession with Activism in Acceptance Speeches

Many of us may agree that millionaire celebrities collecting awards from other millionaire celebrities may not be a group best placed to preach to the general public about issues such as climate change and human rights. It has now become a mainstay of almost every award show, with celebrities seeing this platform as a challenge to make the most impassioned speech of the night.

Merchant’s Quay Ireland launches “The Lived Experience of Addiction” Exhibition

Merchant’s Quay Ireland (MQI) has launched a new exhibition of photographs and stories by people with experience of addiction titled “The Lived Experience of Addiction”. Aiming to start a conversation about addiction and its surrounding stigma, the work created is personal, meaningful and unfortunately all too relatable for many.

21st Century Warfare: Drone Technology

21st Century Warfare: Drone Technology

In December 2019, Turkey unveiled its latest military drone named ‘Songar’ equipped with a machine gun. This development indicates that drone warfare is evolving from firing missiles from a distance to engaging in close-quarters combat. According to Asisguard, the company who built the device, its purpose is to increase ‘survival against harassment fire in patrol zones and fortress patrol areas, or in the event of any ambush or threat during the transition of land vehicles and convoys’. Providing up to 200 rounds of ammunition and with accuracy to hit a human target within 200 metres, the website promotes its offensive as well as defensive capabilities. It’s also the latest addition to a complicated debate on the ethics of drone warfare.

 

Drone warfare emerged hand in hand with the ‘War on Terror’ after 9/11, in response to the changing nature of combat. Where traditionally, clearly defined battlefields existed and combatants were uniformed, the United States subsequently found themselves fighting terrorist cells, whose fighters were not easily identifiable. Supporters of the US drone programme state that it reduces the loss of lives of American soldiers, it’s more precise, and, as a result, produces less collateral damage. Critics state that it renders killing too accessible, promotes extremism by terrorising people affected by these strikes, and that there are more civilian casualties than the US government admits.

 

The ethical underpinning for drone strikes is that of the ‘Just War Theory’ which is a set of military ethics guidelines used to authorise the strikes. It is comprised of two broad principles; discrimination and proportionality. Discrimination determines what are and are not legitimate targets in war. Essentially, its purpose is the protection of non-combatant civilians. Proportionality determines how much force is morally appropriate to use, to protect unnecessary damage to civilian life and property. In layman’s terms, the harm caused by these strikes must be proportional to what is being gained by the military.

 

When considering this ethical framework, it is important to understand how drones are operated. Drones are typically piloted by members of the US military located far away at an airbase in the United States or US-controlled bases internationally, and not in the country in which the strike occurs. This certainly complicates human accountability in conflict and, to some degree, disconnects the public from the consequences of warfare. This is because of the reduction in casualties, where American soldiers are concerned, minimises the impact of war felt at home. The number of drone strikes more than doubled under the Obama administration when compared to George W. Bush’s administration, and under Trump’s administration, they have increased to one every 1.25 days on average. The rate of civilian deaths reportedly increased 52% under Trump and in 2019, he revoked an executive order implemented by Barack Obama which required members of the intelligence committee to publish the number of civilians killed in drone strikes. Consequently, the Trump administration is promoting decreased transparency and accountability. Non-combatants stand to lose the most under these conditions.

 

According to Amnesty International, leaked US military documents show that of the casualties as a result of drone strikes carried out within a 5 month period in 2013, 90% were not intended targets of the strike. This, combined with the prospect of lethal autonomous weapons, where technology chooses targets, being a possible reality in warfare, shows there is a clear need for a defined legal framework to be put in place to address modern warfare. Whatever side you are on in this argument between immorality and necessity, one thing is clear, the US is prioritising efficient and effective warfare, at the cost of foreign non-combatant’s lives.

 

 

 

Photo by jjprojects on Flickr

 

 

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STAND Student Podcast: Democratic Republic of Congo Series Episode 6 Pt. 1 + 2

Welcome to episode 5 of our new podcast series on the Democratic Republic of Congo. Listen in to learn more about the history of the DRC – an intricate web of events that seem to have remained in the shadows.

UK and Refugees: Between Dehumanisation and Demonisation

Detached reporting of asylum crossings in the English Channel resemble “a sports commentator watching a boat race or a tour operator on a whale watching tour.” Dehumanising refugees is is a long-standing problem within UK journalism that is seeping into politics and impacting the lives of those seeking international protection.

STAND Student Podcast: Democratic Republic of Congo Series Episode 5

Welcome to episode 5 of our new podcast series on the Democratic Republic of Congo. Listen in to learn more about the history of the DRC – an intricate web of events that seem to have remained in the shadows.

Devoid of Empathy: Greece’s Refugee Policy

The COVID-19 pandemic is pushing more inhumane Greek refugee policies. The revelation by the New York Times that Greece has secretly expelled more than 1,000 asylum seekers, abandoning many of them on inflatable life rafts in the Aegean Sea, is one example of this disturbing trend. Meanwhile, refugees are being locked inside Oinofyta refugee camp while Greece welcomes tourists and allows them to roam freely.

Friendship SPO: ‘Nothing will happen if voices from the field aren’t put on a plateau’

Runa Khan, Founder & Executive Director of Friendship SPO talked to us ahead of this year’s STAND Student Festival about climate migration and Friendship’s work in empowering at-risk communities who face environmental and human rights issues.

STAND Student Podcast: Democratic Republic of Congo Series Episode 4

Welcome to episode 4 of our new podcast series on the Democratic Republic of Congo. Listen in to learn more about the history of the DRC – an intricate web of events that seem to have remained in the shadows.

Xenophobic Ideas Spread Along with the Novel Coronavirus

Xenophobic Ideas Spread Along with the Novel Coronavirus

The novel coronavirus, which came to doctors’ attention in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, now has 75,000 reported cases and has claimed over 2,000 lives in China. The virus has spread outside of China, with cases reported in the U.S., Australia, France, Germany and the UK. There have been six reported deaths as a result of the illness outside of China – in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, France and the Philippines.

 

Understandably, fear is prevalent at the moment. We cannot help but recall previous outbreaks such as bird flu in 2003 and swine flu in 2009. In the midst of this recent outbreak, we might find ourselves more germaphobic than usual: flinching when a stranger in the street sneezes or keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer on your person at all times. While paying extra attention to hygiene is normal and even healthy, there is an insidious side to this newfound germaphobia. Xenophobia has often been a symptom of global outbreaks of infectious disease, and the coronavirus is no exception. 

 

There have been a plethora of reports of racism against people of Chinese origin since the coronavirus has entered the public radar. Even those who haven’t been to China for many years or are of a different Asian ethnicity entirely, have been targeted by the public and press alike. In France, a local newspaper came under fire after it published incredibly racist headlines such as “Alerte Jaune” (“Yellow Alert”) and “Le Peril Jaune?” (“Yellow Peril?”). French Asians took to Twitter using the hashtag #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus in response to these headlines, as well as sharing racist interactions they had experienced in public. 

 

In the UK, many people of Asian backgrounds have spoken out about their experiences. A food writer from Burma posted photos on the Tube of people standing rather than sitting next to her, and Chinese-born Dr. Zhou recounted an experience he had in an elevator in Gatwick airport where a woman muttered to her husband, “they should wear their masks.” Dr. Zhou claimed that the woman clearly thought he was “fresh off the boat” in spite of the fact that he hasn’t been to China in two years, and therefore posed just as much of a risk as any white British person. As well as this, four separate racist incidents relating to the coronavirus have been reported to police in Yorkshire, where there have been two reported cases of the virus. Both the Chinese ambassador to the UK and the Health Secretary Matt Hannock have spoken out against such reactionary and hateful attitudes, Hannock saying, “this is not about one part of the world.”

 

Hostility towards Asian communities across the pond is just as, if not even more, harsh. Even usually reputable sources have been guilty of propagating an anti-Asian sentiment. In an Instagram post which was intended to inform students about common reactions to the threat of outbreak, the University of California Berkeley listed ‘xenophobia’ as one possible reaction. The post was quickly deleted and an apology was issued, but this did not subdue those who felt outrage at the university’s normalisation of the showing of animosity towards people based purely on their ethnic background. 

 

A doctor by the name of Eric Ding added fuel to the fire when he shared an unpublished paper about the coronavirus and its R0 which is supposed to measure the virus’s level of contagiousness. Although he deleted this particular tweet and the subsequent tweets pertaining to it, it managed to drum up a significant amount of hysteria surrounding the virus. A thread remains on his Twitter, however, and although he prefaced this series of tweets by saying, “First, I don’t like unsupported conspiracy theories, but [the origin of the coronavirus] is a lingering question…seafood market isn’t whole story”, the discussion in the following tweets belongs more in the camp of inflammation than information, at one point saying, “…I am absolutely not saying it’s bioengineering … I’m simply saying scientists need to do more research.” 

 

We have seen recently that xenophobia spurred on by the virus is not the only factor rendering the lives of Asian people in the States difficult; you will recall Trump’s restriction on Chinese immigrants and allegations of Chinese spies in the US. The circulation of xenophobic ideas masked as “information” about the virus only serves to reinforce already existing rhetoric villifying Chinese people. It’s important to note that this is not an isolated occurrence of this type of rhetoric; associations between Chinese people and uncleanliness have long been part of Western discourse, specifically in the US, and most often centred around Chinese food and eating habits. 

 

This is particularly relevant considering Wuhan’s food markets have been cited as the source of the virus. The food sold at these markets don’t always fit into Western norms, so there is often a tendency to view it as strange or disgusting. A perfect example of this is the ordeal experienced by Wang Mengyun, a Chinese vlogger who posted a video of herself enjoying fruit bat soup. This video was posted three years ago, but amidst coronavirus madness it resurfaced and was falsely claimed to have been shot in a “Wuhan restaurant”. In spite of the fact that the video was filmed in Palau long before the outbreak of the virus, the video caused fury and disgust online. It was described as “gruesome” and “revolting” by media outlets and Wang even received death threats. The backlash was so severe that she was forced to issue an apology for the video. Although China is thought to have issues around food regulation, this is a governmental concern and hardly the fault of individuals who choose to enjoy traditional menus – it does not justify the demonisation of Chinese people as a result of cultural ignorance. 

 

This attitude fits into a much larger discourse which associates foreigners with disease, a typical case of cultural “othering”. Monica Schoch-Spana, a medical anthropologist and a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, discusses the connection between immigrants and illness: “People with a different national, ethnic or religious background have historically been accused of spreading germs regardless of what the science may say.” This can be seen in public discourse for as long as immigrants have been in the US. The New York Daily Tribunal was circulating similar ideas in 1854, writing that Chinese people were “uncivilised, unclean, filthy beyond all conception.” We like to think we have come a long way in accepting and embracing different cultures, but when xenophobia is perpetuated by popular media outlets and reputable sources, it is important to scratch beneath the surface – usually what seems like a simple tasteless comment is in fact contributing to a larger narrative that stigmatises people of certain cultural backgrounds. 

 

This was seen even more recently during the large-scale migration into New York in the 1920s, during which racial segregation in the city was justified by links that were falsely made between certain ethnic groups and germs. It was also evident during the HIV epidemic in the 80s, when Haitian people were discriminated against;and during the SARS outbreak of 2003, which saw the persecution of people of Asian ethnicity. 

 

In times of public emergency, it is far easier to assign blame than to think rationally. However, it is important not to let a scaremongering narrative surround an outbreak. Priscilla Wald warns against this in her book Culture, Carriers and the Outbreak Narrative. She explains that a sensationalist narrative can “influence how scientists and the lay public understand the nature and consequences of infection, how they imagine the threat.” 

 

During outbreaks, it is in everyone’s best interest to remain calm and compassionate. Not only does this facilitate the spread of helpful information, but ensures that we do not create another layer of xenophobic rhetoric which further marginalises certain groups in society during a period when, of all times, we must stand together. 

 

 

 

Photo by Bicanski on Pixnio

 

 

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Women and the Military: Harmful ‘Feminist’ Recruitment and Whitmore

The British Army has a poor track record when it comes to women’s rights. With this in mind, it is clear why many were sceptical of Whitmore defending her collaboration with the army in the name of feminist discourse. While the British Army’s use of feminist language in their PR campaigns could be interpreted as a sign of progress, it is important to question the intentions behind this move and, most importantly, who benefits from it.

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The COVID-19 pandemic is pushing more inhumane Greek refugee policies. The revelation by the New York Times that Greece has secretly expelled more than 1,000 asylum seekers, abandoning many of them on inflatable life rafts in the Aegean Sea, is one example of this disturbing trend. Meanwhile, refugees are being locked inside Oinofyta refugee camp while Greece welcomes tourists and allows them to roam freely.

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Time and time again, we hear of the massive American “big tech companies” and their origins as “rags-to-riches” success stories. But the problem we are seeing now more than ever, is that the American Dream mentality is backfiring. America’s hunger for profit, no matter the costs to sustainability or human rights, is catering to massive businesses and the people behind them feeling justified in exploiting their workforce.

Holiday Humanity: Celbridge Community Comes Together

Holiday Humanity: Celbridge Community Comes Together

In Ireland, one-third of people over the age of 65 live alone – or 399,815 people – according to the 2016 Census. Halo Café decided to bring people in Celbridge together on Christmas day 2019. Halo Café is located in unit 1 Maynooth Road, Celbridge, Co.Kildare. It sells scones, sandwiches and a variety of hot and cold beverages, as well as operating a catering business for all occasions. However, as well as cooking and selling food over this festive season, Halo Café offered to go the extra mile for locals in need. 

 

Matt and Ellie Ryals from the Bridge Church in Celbridge asked Matthew and Clare Black from Halo Cafe if they could use their kitchens to create Christmas dinner for the people of Celbridge who were going to be alone. Instead of just allowing the Bridge Church to borrow their kitchens, Matthew and Clare Black from Halo Café offered to cook Christmas dinner and help organise the event. The staff at Halo Café even volunteered to help cook and serve the guests during the event. 

 

The Christmas dinner was advertised on the Celbridge Information Facebook group and the event spread through word of mouth. Locals shared it online and told their friends and neighbours about it. A number of people contributed food and money to the event. Some even offered to drive guests to the event. The turkey for the Christmas dinner was donated by some kind locals and some of Halo Café’s suppliers donated food too. St.Vincent De Paul and The Mill Community Centre got on board with the event too. 

 

A total of seventy local people attended the event. Matt and Ellie Ryals and the staff from Halo Café made a big effort to help the guests feel welcome. There was a variety of food available for the guests and the venue was decorated with tablecloths with candles on the tables. The guests had the opportunity to enjoy a glass of mulled wine before the festivities began.

 

 

This wasn’t just your average dinner; there was a starter, main course and dessert. It began with vegetable soup and brown bread. Turkey and ham with stuffing and vegetables followed. There was a huge variety of desserts to finish: chocolate fudge cake, pavlova and Christmas pudding. Alex from the Magic Circle, a magicians group, kicked off the entertainment. Comhaltas Maynooth and Matt Ryals played traditional music. They were accompanied by Alex, Jenny Black from Halo Café and many of the guests who joined in. 

 

The Blacks and the Ryals wanted to spread the message that you do not have to be alone at Christmas. They wanted to bring people together to feel supported, especially at Christmas. Many people even in our local community are struggling with loneliness, some may not have any close family or they may be homeless. Matt Black suggested that small towns across Ireland should organise similar events because it brings communities together. Christmas is full of fun but it can be a difficult time too for those facing the festive season alone.

 

 

Featured photo by Olesia Buyar 

Article photo by Matt Black 

 

 

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