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After Attacks on Muslims, Many Ask: Where Is the Outpouring?

 

PARIS — In recent days, jihadists killed 41 people at Istanbul’s bustling, shiny airport; 22 at a cafe in Bangladesh; and at least 250 celebrating the final days of Ramadan in Baghdad. Then the Islamic State attacked, again, with bombings in three cities in Saudi Arabia.

By Tuesday, Michel Kilo, a Syrian dissident, was leaning wearily over his coffee at a Left Bank cafe, wondering: Where was the global outrage? Where was the outpouring that came after the same terrorist groups unleashed horror in Brussels and here in Paris? In a supposedly globalized world, do nonwhites, non-Christians and non-Westerners count as fully human?

“All this crazy violence has a goal,” Mr. Kilo, who is Christian, said: to create a backlash against Muslims, divide societies and “make Sunnis feel that no matter what happens, they don’t have any other option.”

This is not the first time that the West seems to have shrugged off massacres in predominantly Muslim countries. But the relative indifference after so many deaths caused by the very groups that have plagued the West is more than a matter of hurt feelings.

One of the primary goals of the Islamic State and other radical Islamist groups is to drive a wedge between Sunni Muslims and the wider world, to fuel alienation as a recruiting tool. And when that world appears to show less empathy for the victims of attacks in Muslim nations, who have borne the brunt of the Islamic State’s massacres and predatory rule, it seems to prove their point.

“Why isn’t #PrayForIraq trending?” Razan Hasan of Baghdad posted on Twitter. “Oh yeah no one cares about us.”

Hira Saeed of Ottawa asked on Twitter why Facebook had not activated itsSafety Check feature after recent attacks as it did for Brussels, Paris andOrlando, Fla., and why social media had not been similarly filled with the flags of Turkey, Bangladesh and Iraq. “The hypocrisy is the western world is strong,” she wrote.

The global mood increasingly feels like one of atavism, of retreat into narrower identities of nation, politics or sect, with Britain voting to leave the European Union and many Americans supporting the nativist presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump.

The violence feeds a growing impulse among many in the West to fear Muslims and Arabs, which has already prompted a political crisis over immigration that, in turn, has buttressed extremists’ goals. Europe is convulsing over a movement to reject refugees from Syria and Iraq, who are themselves fleeing violence by jihadists and their own governments.

It is in Syria and Iraq that the Islamic State has established its so-called caliphate, ruling overwhelmingly Muslim populations with the threat of gruesome violence. The group has killed Muslims in those countries by the thousands, by far the largest share of its victims.

When Islamic State militants mowed down cafegoers in Paris in November, people across the world adorned public landmarks and their private Facebook pages with the French flag — not just in Europe and the United States, but also, with an empathy born of experience, in Syria and Iraq.

But over the past week, Facebook activated its Safety Check feature, which allows people in the vicinity of a disaster to mark themselves safe, only after the attack on the Istanbul airport.

The flags of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Bangladesh have not been widely projected on landmarks or adopted as profile pictures. (Photographs on social media showed that in Bosnia and Herzegovina, one of Europe’s two majority-Muslim countries, the Turkish flag was beamed onto a bridge in Mostar, the scene of sectarian killings in the 1990s.) Some wonder if part of the reason is that three of those flags bear Islamic symbols or slogans.

“More deaths in Iraq in the last week than Paris and Orlando combined but nobody is changing their profile pics, building colours, etc.,” Kareem Rahaman wrote on Twitter.

There are some understandable reasons for the differing reactions. People typically identify more closely with places and cultures that are familiar to them. With Iraq, there is also a degree of fatigue, and a feeling that a bombing there is less surprising than one in Europe.

Deadly attacks have been a constant in Iraq after years of American occupation, followed by a sectarian war in which Sunni and Shiite militias slaughtered civilians of the opposite sect. Still, while terrorist attacks in Europe may feel more surprising to the West — though they have become all too common there, too — that does not explain the relative indifference to attacks in Istanbul, Saudi Arabia or Bangladesh.

“That’s what happens in Iraq,” Sajad Jiyad, a researcher in Iraq who rushed to the scene of the Baghdad bombing and found that one of his friends had died there, wrote on his own blog. “Deaths become just statistics, and the frequency of attacks means the shock doesn’t register as it would elsewhere, or that you have enough time to feel sad or grieve.”

In the Muslim world, the partly sectarian nature of some conflicts shades people’s reactions, producing a kind of internal sympathy gap. People from one sect or political group often discount or excuse casualties from another.

In Iraq, the Islamic State took root within an insurgency against the country’s Shiite-led government, and Shiite militias fighting it have been accused of brutality as well. In Syria, it is just one menace; many more Syrians have been killed by the government’s attacks on areas held by Sunni insurgents, including rebel groups opposed to the Islamic State.

Mr. Jiyad added that the Islamic State was “hoping to incite a reaction and a spiral into endless violence,” and that Iraqis played into that when they mourned more for their own sect than for others.

In the West, though, there is a tendency in certain quarters, legitimized by some politicians, to conflate extremist Islamist militants with the Muslim societies that are often their primary victims, or to dismiss Muslim countries as inherently violent.

“Either Iraqi blood is too cheap or murder is normalized,” Sayed Saleh Qazwini, an Islamic educator in Michigan, wrote on Twitter.

In Paris, a rainbow flag hangs on the Hotel de Ville, memorializing the 49 people gunned down at a gay nightclub in Orlando last month. But in a corner shop on Monday, the woman who served me had no such sympathy for the Middle East.

When she asked where I lived, and I told her Beirut, Lebanon, she exclaimed about the violence in the region. Struggling to explain that there is a lot more than just violence happening there, I said: “Yes, there are a lot of problems. What can one do?”

“Exterminer les islamistes,” she said grimly. Exterminate: a strong word. Islamists: a broad category of people.

Mr. Kilo, who spent years in the prisons of the Syrian government and opposes both it and the Islamic State, said his life in Paris had changed since November. Speaking Arabic is now suspect. He sees fear in French people’s eyes when they see Syrians.

“I’m afraid, too,” he said. “Someone could blow himself up anytime.”

He has written an article that will be published in the newspaper Al Araby Al Jadeed, titled “The Curse of Syria.”

The failure of empathy is broader than the Islamic State, he said; it extends to the international community’s unwillingness or inability to stop the slaughter of the Syrian civil war, which began with protests for political change.

“If we lose all humanity,” Mr. Kilo said, “if you allow the slaughter of a nation for five and a half years, after all the leaders of the international community declared the right of these people to revolt against their government, then expect Islamic State — and many other Islamic States in other forms and shapes.”

 

By            :               Anne Barnard

Date         :               July 5, 2016

Source     :               The New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/06/world/europe/muslims-baghdad-dhaka-istanbul-terror.html

 

Posted in Latest Post, Religion, Social and Economic Inequalities | Leave a comment

The worst ISIS attack in days is the one the world probably cares least about

 

First, they came for Istanbul. On Tuesday night, three suspected Islamic State militants launched a brazen assault on Turkey’s main airport, exploding their suicide vests after gunning down numerous passengers and airport staff. At least 45 people were killed. The world panicked; Istanbul Ataturk Airport isone of the busiest hubs in Europe and the Middle East, and it is among the most fortified. Are our airports safe, wondered American TV anchors. Could this happen here on the Fourth of July?

Next, they came for Dhaka. Gunmen whom many have linked to the Islamic State raided a popular cafe in an upscale neighborhood in Bangladesh’s teeming capital. After a 10-hour standoff, authorities stormed the establishment; at least 20 hostages, mostly Italian and Japanese nationals, died at the militants’ hands. U.S. college students also were among the dead. The Islamic State’s reach is growing far from the Middle East, security experts fretted. Foreigners are at risk all over the Muslim world.

Then, they attacked Baghdad. In the early hours of Sunday morning, as hundreds of Iraqis gathered during the holy month of Ramadan, a car bombexploded in the crowded Karrada shopping district. The blast killed a staggering number of people — the latest death toll is at least 187 — including many children. The area is predominantly Shiite, making it a choice target for the Sunni extremist group.

It’s unlikely that this attack, just the latest in an unending stream of tragedy to envelop the Iraqi capital, will generate the same panic in the West as the earlier two incidents. For years now, we have become almost numb to the violence in Baghdad: Deadly car bombings there conjure up no hashtags, no Facebook profile pictures with the Iraqi flag, and no Western newspaper front pages of the victims’ names and life stories, and they attract only muted global sympathy.

The BBC has a timeline of the recent attacks linked to the Islamic State in the city and elsewhere in Iraq, including a hideous week of bombings in Baghdad in mid-May:

 9 June 2016: At least 30 people killed in and around Baghdad in two suicide attacks claimed by IS

17 May 2016: Four bomb blasts kill 69 people in Baghdad; three of the targets were Shia areas

11 May 2016: Car bombs in Baghdad kill 93 people, including 64 in market in Shia district of Sadr City

1 May 2016: Two car bombs kill at least 33 people in southern city of Samawa

26 March 2016: Suicide attack targets football match in central city of Iskandariya, killing at least 32

6 March 2016: Fuel tanker blown up at checkpoint near central city of Hilla, killing 47

28 February 2016: Twin suicide bomb attacks hit market in Sadr City, killing 70

And all of this is only from this year. Since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and the bungled occupation that followed, Baghdad has been the site of numerous rounds of sectarian bloodletting, al-Qaeda attacks and now the ravages of the Islamic State. Despite suffering significant defeats at the hands of the Iraqi army, including the loss of the city of Fallujah, the militant group has shown its willingness and capacity to brutalize the country’s population.

Public anger in the Iraqi capital, as my colleague Loveday Morris reports, is not being directed at foreign conspirators or even — first and foremost — at the militants, but at a much-maligned government that is failing to keep the country safe.

“The street was full of life last night,” one Karrada resident told The Washington Post, “and now the smell of death is all over the place.”

 

By            :               Ishaan Tharoor

Date         :               July 4, 2016

Source     :               The Washington Post

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/07/03/the-worst-alleged-isis-attack-in-days-is-the-one-the-world-probably-cares-least-about/

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Dramatic inequality among world’s poorest, richest children

 

The number of children who do not attend school is rising, child marriage has not dropped in decades and millions of young children will die mostly preventable deaths by 2030 if global poverty is not addressed, UNICEF said in a bleak report issued on Tuesday.

Poor children are twice as likely as rich children to die before age 5, and poor girls are more than twice as likely to become child brides in signs of troubling inequality, said the annual report by the United Nations’ children’s agency.

Noting some progress in halving global mortality rates for children under 5 since 1990 and boys and girls attending primary school in equal numbers in 129 countries, the report said such developments have been neither even nor fair, with repercussions for global turmoil.

“Some of the big challenges that we now face, like refugees and migrants, are connected with inequality and poverty,” Justin Forsyth, Undine’s deputy executive director, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Narrowing that inequity “is good for those children, but it’s also good to stop future crises,” he said.

The report called for stronger efforts to educate the world’s children, noting that on average each additional year of education a child receives increases her or his adult earnings by about 10 percent.

Also it said for each additional year of schooling completed on average by young adults, a nation’s poverty rate drops 9 percent.

About 124 million children do not go to primary and lower-secondary school, a number that has increased about 2 million since 2011, it said.

Children born to educated mothers are almost 3 times less likely to die and more likely to go to school, delay marriage and postpone child bearing, said the report, entitled “State of the World’s Children.”

The rate of child marriages among the world’s poorest girls has remained unchanged since about 1990, and 15 million girls are married as children every year, it said.

If nothing is done, it said 69 million children will die before age 5 from mostly preventable causes by 2030, and nearly of half of them will be from sub-Saharan Africa.

Nine out of ten children in the same region will be living in extreme poverty, which means living on less than $1.90 US per day, it said.

Battling such poverty and equality and promoting education for children, particularly girls, were among the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, a set of 17 goals adopted last fall to tackle an array of global woes by 2030.

Educating children is particularly critical given the global conflicts fueled by decimalization, Forsyth added.

“There is a direct link between children for many, many years missing out on education and then the ability of more extremist elements to organize,” he said.

 

Date         :               June 28, 2016

Source     :               http://english.alarabiya.net/en/perspective/features/2016/06/28/Revealed-Dramatic-inequality-among-world-s-poorest-richest-children-.html

Posted in Latest Post, Social and Economic Inequalities | Leave a comment

Inequality not personalities drove Britain to Brexit

 

Angst, alienation and resentment fueled the vote to leave the EU.

LONDON — Brexit delivered a political earthquake, the tremors of which will be felt for generations. Within only a matter of days Britain voted to end its membership of the European Union, saw its currency slump to a 31-year low, watched the prime minister resign, revived an old constitutional crisis in Scotland and triggered a new one in Northern Ireland, and looked on as the main opposition Labour Party spiraled into a full-blown crisis.

As one journalist quipped the day after the referendum: “It’s been a rather strange day. The prime minister has resigned and it’s only our third most important story.”

How could Euroskeptics — who had been consistently underestimated — defeat the Remain camp by nearly 4 percentage points or 1.3 million votes? The difference between the two sides was even more pronounced in England where Leave won by nearly 7 points.

It would be a mistake to view this as primarily a judgment on Britain’s relationship with Europe or a simplistic verdict on the preceding referendum campaign. Instead voting patterns give full expression to deeper divides that have been bubbling away under the surface of British politics for decades, and which are also visible in other Western democracies. The Remain campaign’s miscalculation was to fail to grasp them.

The town that gave the strongest support for Brexit was the small, East Midlands port of Boston where 76 percent voted to leave the EU. Boston — which also delivered the highest support for UKIP in the 2014 European Parliament elections — offers insight into Brexit heartlands.

The town, which has experienced significant migration from Central and Eastern Europe, is also noticeable for economic deprivation. The median income in Boston is less than £17,000 and one in three people have no formal qualifications at all.

Filled with disadvantaged, working-class Britons who do not feel as though they have been winning from European integration, immigration, and globalization, life in Boston contrasts sharply with that in the area that returned the strongest vote for Remain, the London borough of Lambeth. Here, where 79 percent voted to remain in the EU, life is remarkably different. Compared to Boston, there are more than twice as many professionals, nearly twice as many 18-30-year-olds and fewer than half as many working-class voters, pensioners and people with no qualifications. The average voter in Lambeth earns nearly £10,000 more each year than the average voter in Boston.

Voting patterns in other heartlands for Remain and Leave paint a picture of a country sharply divided along three dimensions: social class, generation, and geography.

On average, for example, across the 20 authorities where support for remaining in the EU was strongest, 45 percent of voters have a university degree, 42 percent are professionals, 26 percent describe themselves as “non-white,” only 11 percent are pensioners and the median income is £27,000. But across the 20 authorities where support for leaving the EU was strongest, only 16 percent of voters have a degree, only 23 percent are professional, less than 5 percent are non-white, nearly 20 percent are pensioners and the median income is £18,000.

My academic research suggested that the Remain camp would be best placed making a positive case for Britain’s EU membership. Instead, it spent almost all of the campaign focusing on the negatives of Brexit, robotically claiming leaving the EU would jeopardize Britain’s economic future. The problem was that most economically disaffected voters who were tempted by Brexit were already resigned to believing that their future would be worse than the past. And they were clear about who was to blame.

Brexit drew most of its strength from voters who have felt left behind by the rapid economic transformation of Britain, or more accurately of London and south-east England. They hold a more socially conservative outlook on Europe, immigration, and national identity that in recent years have become just as important as old disputes between labor and capital.

Such voters have also felt increasingly cut adrift from established parties who have spent much of the past two decades pitching to the middle-classes. Tony Blair and David Cameron both gambled in their own ways that as they battled to win over the middle-classes the more working-class sections of their electorates would stay loyal. But then along came the issues of Europe and immigration that cut directly across the old left-right divide and were instead rooted in a divide between liberals and authoritarians.

This presented blue-collar workers on the left and social conservatives on the right with a unique opportunity to rebel against socially liberal and middle-class elites who promote values that they abhor. Last week they seized this opportunity.

By voting for Brexit these voters imposed a different set of values on the political landscape than those that unite the London-centric media and political classes. As my co-author Robert Ford noted after the result: “Feeling upset by wrenching social change that has been imposed on you by people whose values you don’t share or understand? Now you know how UKIP voters have felt.”

Brexit, therefore, owed less to the personal charisma of Boris Johnson, the failings of David Cameron or the ambivalence of Jeremy Corbyn than to a much deeper sense of angst, alienation and resentment among more financially disadvantaged, less well-educated and older Britons who are often only one financial crisis away from disaster. They are the voters of former industrial strongholds, like the northern towns of Barnsley, Mansfield, Stoke and Doncaster, Welsh towns like Merthyr Tydfil that once fueled the industrial revolution, fading coastal towns such as Blackpool, Great Yarmouth and Castle Point, or blue-collar but aspirational places like Basildon, Havering and Thurrock.

It is certainly true that Brexit also found support in more leafy, affluent Conservative areas such as Aylesbury, Chichester, South Bucks and West Dorset where previously loyal Tories rejected Cameron’s increasingly desperate pleas to remain. By doing so they have ensured that Cameron becomes the third prime minister in post-war Britain who will principally be remembered for just one thing; after Anthony Eden and the Suez Crisis, and then Tony Blair and Iraq, future generations of students will write about Cameron as the man who took Britain out of the EU and also, given the now high probability of a second independence referendum in Scotland, caused the break-up of the entire United Kingdom. For this reason, he may be remembered as one of the most unsuccessful leaders in Britain’s modern political history.

But it remains the case that support for Brexit was unquestionably strongest in a more economically marginal and left-behind Britain.

This is why Nigel Farage and UKIP are an unpopular but important part of the story of how Brexit came to life, having cultivated this political discontent throughout the early years of the 21st century. Brexit built on UKIP’s foundations. Farage and his party already averaged 39 percent of the vote across the 50 areas that would go on to give the strongest support to Brexit but only 13 percent in areas that gave the strongest support to Remain.

Farage failed to lead a UKIP charge into the House of Commons — the party has just one MP — but his decision to fuse Europe with immigration enabled him to politicize these grievances and achieve something far greater: to transform Euroskepticism from a fringe interest into a mainstream concern that would eventually deliver his lifelong ambition of Brexit.

Remainers have unsurprisingly criticized the result and demanded a re-run of the vote, though such an outcome will not be forthcoming. It is worth noting that of the 50 areas that recorded the lowest levels of turnout no fewer than half of them were in London and Scotland, two areas that were supposed to be hotbeds of Remain fervor.

But in the end, the campaign failed to enthuse who it needed to enthuse. Prior to the result, the Remain camp talked enthusiastically about targeting large, young, diverse cities but when the dust cleared these were the places — Manchester, Nottingham, Dundee, Birmingham and Liverpool — where voters turned out in lower numbers.

Most academics, including myself, would reject the claim that higher turnout in such areas would have altered the final result but it is worth noting that areas where objections are loudest are often those where the turnout was lowest. For instance, while the London districts of Hackney and Camden are among the top five areas in terms of the number of people wanting a second referendum, these same areas were also among the bottom 10 percent for turnout, a fact that Remainers might like to reflect on.

It is difficult to see how the underlying divides that gave birth to Brexit can be resolved. If anything they may sharpen further as those who are now responsible for negotiating with the EU begin to backtrack on earlier promises about reducing immigration, which was by far the dominant concern for Brexit voters.

Should a post-Brexit government fail to respond quickly and clearly on this issue then it would be the equivalent of pouring a gasoline all over the fire of populist, anti-establishment sentiment. Britain’s left-behind have already demonstrated their willingness to punch the political elite in the face. I wouldn’t test them again.

 

Matthew Goodwin is professor of politics and international relations at the University of Kent and a senior fellow at Chatham House.

 

By            :               Matthew Goodwin

Date         :               June 28, 2016

Source     :               http://www.politico.eu/article/inequality-not-personalities-drove-britain-to-brexit/

Posted in Inequalities & Social Justice, Latest Post, Social and Economic Inequalities | Leave a comment

The Graduation Speech Harvard Is Calling ‘The Most Powerful’ You’ll Ever Hear

 

It’s the speech Harvard University is calling “the most powerful, heartfelt” speech “you will ever hear.”

Donovan Livingston, a master’s graduate at the university, was chosen by a committee of faculty, staff and students to speak at the School of Education’s convocation, a rep for Harvard told ABC News.

Instead of a traditional speech, Livingston used spoken word to perform his poem, “Lift Off.”

Livingston told ABC News that the “true inspiration behind the piece” was the fact that he couldn’t perform a poem when he gave his commencement remarks during his senior year of high school.

“The teacher who was in charge…threatened to take me offstage or cut my microphone when she caught wind that I wanted to incorporate a poem,” he recalled. “She wanted it to be traditional. So I complied, but I really wanted to address my class in my most authentic voice, which is what I said onstage Wednesday.”

The poem spoke about racial inequalities in the educational system, what it means to be black at Harvard and inspired the class of 2016 to use their roles as future educators to help others realize their full potential.

Livingston told his fellow classmates in part:

“I’ve been a black hole in the classroom for far too long;
Absorbing everything, without allowing my light to escape.
But those days are done. I belong among the stars.
And so do you. And so do they.
Together, we can inspire galaxies of greatness
For generations to come.
So no, sky is not the limit. It is only the beginning.
Lift off.”

The speech has been seen by more than 5 million people and was even shared by Justin Timberlake and Hillary Clinton.

Livingston — who hopes to become a faculty member or an administrator at a university one day — said he did not expect to get a standing ovation, nor did he expect the speech to go viral.

“My wife kind of did,” he admitted. “But I didn’t know it would be so well received. Whenever you put yourself out there especially with poetry, you’re making yourself vulnerable. However it was received, I would’ve felt great at the end of the day because I was being myself, but the fact that it blew up the way it did is a humbling experience.”

Livingston now plans to support his wife Lauren as she enters her second year of medical school at Wake Forest University and start his PhD program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro this fall.

It makes sense for the son of two educators: His father is a retired principal and his mother is a speech pathologist, working with special needs students.

“I’ve always been around education, but I didn’t know it was something I was really passionate about until I got to college and looked around and saw … that everything I did catered to college access [and] college success. It felt natural,” the Winston-Salem, North Carolina, resident said. “I’m just really happy to carry on the legacy of my mother and father and I’m just grateful to walk in their footsteps.”

 

By            :               Joi-Marie McKenzie

Date         :               May 27, 2016

Source     :               ABC News

http://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/graduation-speech-harvard-calling-powerful-youll-hear/story?id=39427065

 

Below is Livingston’s Commencement Speech entitled “Lift Off”

 

The remarks of Donovan Livingston, Ed.M.’16, student speaker at HGSE’s 2016 Convocation exercises.

 

“Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin,

Is a great equalizer of the conditions of men.” – Horace Mann, 1848.
At the time of his remarks I couldn’t read — couldn’t write.
Any attempt to do so, punishable by death.
For generations we have known of knowledge’s infinite power.
Yet somehow, we’ve never questioned the keeper of the keys —
The guardians of information.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen more dividing and conquering
In this order of operations — a heinous miscalculation of reality.
For some, the only difference between a classroom and a plantation is time.
How many times must we be made to feel like quotas —
Like tokens in coined phrases? —
“Diversity. Inclusion”
There are days I feel like one, like only —
A lonely blossom in a briar patch of broken promises.
But I’ve always been a thorn in the side of injustice.

Disruptive. Talkative. A distraction.
With a passion that transcends the confines of my consciousness —
Beyond your curriculum, beyond your standards.
I stand here, a manifestation of love and pain,
With veins pumping revolution.
I am the strange fruit that grew too ripe for the poplar tree.
I am a DREAM Act, Dream Deferred incarnate.
I am a movement – an amalgam of memories America would care to forget
My past, alone won’t allow me to sit still.
So my body, like the mind
Cannot be contained.

As educators, rather than raising your voices
Over the rustling of our chains,
Take them off. Un-cuff us.
Unencumbered by the lumbering weight
Of poverty and privilege,
Policy and ignorance.

I was in the 7th grade, when Ms. Parker told me,
“Donovan, we can put your excess energy to good use!”
And she introduced me to the sound of my own voice.
She gave me a stage. A platform.
She told me that our stories are ladders
That make it easier for us to touch the stars.
So climb and grab them.
Keep climbing. Grab them.
Spill your emotions in the big dipper and pour out your soul.
Light up the world with your luminous allure.

To educate requires Galileo-like patience.
Today, when I look my students in the eyes, all I see are constellations.
If you take the time to connect the dots,
You can plot the true shape of their genius —
Shining in their darkest hour.

I look each of my students in the eyes,
And see the same light that aligned Orion’s Belt
And the pyramids of Giza.
I see the same twinkle
That guided Harriet to freedom.
I see them. Beneath their masks and mischief,
Exists an authentic frustration;
An enslavement to your standardized assessments.

At the core, none of us were meant to be common.
We were born to be comets,
Darting across space and time —
Leaving our mark as we crash into everything.
A crater is a reminder that something amazing happened here —
An indelible impact that shook up the world.
Are we not astronomers — looking for the next shooting star?
I teach in hopes of turning content, into rocket ships —
Tribulations into telescopes,
So a child can see their potential from right where they stand.
An injustice is telling them they are stars
Without acknowledging night that surrounds them.
Injustice is telling them education is the key
While you continue to change the locks.

Education is no equalizer —
Rather, it is the sleep that precedes the American Dream.
So wake up — wake up! Lift your voices
Until you’ve patched every hole in a child’s broken sky.
Wake up every child so they know of their celestial potential.
I’ve been a Black hole in the classroom for far too long;
Absorbing everything, without allowing my light escape.
But those days are done. I belong among the stars.
And so do you. And so do they.
Together, we can inspire galaxies of greatness
For generations to come.
No, sky is not the limit. It is only the beginning.
Lift off.

 

 

Source     :    Harvard Graduate School of Education

http://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/16/05/lift

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Jakarta is a Wounded City: Sociologist

 

Rebertus Robert, a sociologist from the Jakarta State University (UNJ) says that Jakarta cannot suitably be called a ‘city’.

According to Robert, city is not about demographic matters but also cultural and social aspects as well as memory that it has.

What happens to Jakarta, Robert said, is that it does not have ‘civility aspects’, meaning that the city has not given its residents a sense of humanity.

“Jakarta is a wounded city,” Robet said in Central Jakarta on Saturday (28/5).

He added since Jakarta was hit by a riot in 1998 until now, the city has not been ‘fully recovered’.

Robert cited the example of a mall in Klender, East Jakarta, where hundreds of people were burned alive when a riot broke out in 1998. He added that there should have been a monument or something that can serve as a reminder for the residents about the tragedy.

“But this city doesn’t provide that,” he added.

Jakarta, he added, now has more wounds in the form of eviction in places considered as slum areas.

According to him, eviction is not the way to build a city. He added that a city is not built only based on economic needs but must also be balanced with social development.

However, he said that the government has been negligent in the social development of the people and the government’s policies are oriented to economic development has created an increasingly wider social gap.

“For middle and high class people, slum areas are nothing but for those who live there, they are everything for them,” he said.

The government, Robert added, can relocate the residents but their memories and lives will never be able to be relocated.

 

By            :               Maya Ayu Puspitasari

Date         :               May 29, 2016

Source     :               Temp.co

http://en.tempo.co/read/news/2016/05/29/057774995/Jakarta-is-a-Wounded-City-Sociologist

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Cornell Scholars examine structures of inequalities

 

Inequality is one of the central challenges of our time, and with historic increases in income and wealth inequality in recent years, public and scholarly interest in the topic has skyrocketed. The College of Arts & Sciences is a leading center of scholarship on inequality, drawing strength from its many departments and collaborations across the university.

Inequality in the United States takes numerous forms, says Richard Miller, director of the Program on Ethics and Public Life(EPL): unequal political influence, unequal opportunity, the concentration of income and wealth at the top, the persistence of stark racial inequalities, and inequalities in education. These factors reinforce each other, challenging those who seek policies that help meet currently unmet needs and reduce burdens of poverty.

“The social scientific approach to studying inequality dovetails really nicely with the humanities,” says Kim Weeden, director of the Center for the Study of Inequality (CSI), Jan Rock Zubrow ’77 Professor in the Social Sciences, and chair of sociology. “Understanding the sources of inequality, how it affects different groups of people, our political institutions, our economy, is very much in line with Cornell’s value of doing research that matters. It ties in with the public engagement mission.”

Adds Weeden, “all human societies have been characterized by some sort of inequality. Even many hunter gatherers had nearly complete gender segregation and resource scarcity. Inequality has always been with us, as much a part of the human experience as love and death.”

Asking Why

Moral questions of what should be done about inequality are those that humanists are well equipped to illuminate, such as the moral importance of reducing inequality of political influence and the extent to which the best-off should be taxed to help others, says Miller, the Wyn and William Y. Hutchinson Professor in Philosophy

The facts have people alarmed, says Miller, such as the stagnation of median income and the dramatic increase in CEO salaries (from 30 times the wages of the average worker in the mid-1980’s to 300 times now).

“But why are these inequalities important? Reflection on why we should care helps people reach across political divides in discussing what should be done. We have a moral responsibility to seek shared moral convictions that yield yardsticks for judging proposals for change,” says Miller.

This semester the Ethics and Public Life program brought six leading inequality scholars to Cornell for the “Inequalities: How Deep? Why? What Should Be Done?” lecture series. Based in the Philosophy Department, EPL promotes interdisciplinary learning about morally central questions concerning public policies and social, political, and economic processes. As part of this interdisciplinarity, Miller worked with sociologists, political scientists and economists throughout Cornell in planning the series; he notes the special help of CSI in the series’ success. Faculty and graduate students from eleven departments took part in workshops and informal discussions with the speakers. The public lectures were attended by large audiences, sometimes over two hundred, and were discussed in a new set of small-group discussion courses, “Discussions of Justice.”

“Our work in EPL is a good example of how the humanities can provide context and depth for broader conversations,” says Miller. He is currently at work on a series of essays that will form a book, “Ethics of Social Democracy.”

“Some philosophers think government should meet a broad array of needs that include but go way beyond helping poor people,” says Miller. “What are the moral principles we can appeal to in order to justify use of a state which doesn’t’ always benefit everyone?  But if you base beliefs on moral principles alone you are a fanatic. And while politics is about forcing people to do things, there should always be a moral basis for that forcing.”

Crime, Poverty, and the Criminal Justice System

Under Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society in the 1960’s, the root causes of crime and poverty were seen as embedded in legacies of racial oppression and “blocked opportunities,” says Julilly Kohler-Hausmann, assistant professor of history. But in the 1970’s the notion that crime and poverty are the result of deviant, maladjusted individuals or a cultural pathology became ascendant. Punishment was the logical response to such a belief.

Kohler-Hausmann is a member of an interdisciplinary team at the Institute for Social Sciences working on the collaborative project, “The Causes, Consequence and Future of Mass Incarceration in the United States,” led by Peter Enns, associate professor of government. The team, which includes members from the College of Arts & Sciences and College of Human Ecology, is examining the factors leading to mass incarceration and the circumstances that shape the risk, severity and duration of one’s contact with the criminal justice system. The goal is to help inform the policy debate about whether and how to reform the U.S. criminal justice system.

The decline of the welfare state and its social programs and the rise of mass incarceration were connected, says Kohler-Hausmann. Research shows that there’s an inverse relationship between the amount of money spent on social welfare and that spent on the penal system.

In the U.S. the expansion of the penal system saw a dramatic retrenchment of particular social programs; while social insurance programs persisted throughout the last half century, programs targeting marginalized populations declined precipitously. The value of cash support to poor parents through Aid to Families with Dependent Children(AFDC) fell by half between the 1970s and 1990s, where Social Security benefits were indexed to inflation and maintained their value. Populations and communities most dramatically affected by the expansion of the penal system have also seen dramatic reductions in state support.

Kohler-Hausmann is examining the historical processes that produced these changes. “I view it as the result of broad-based struggles over the causes of social inequality,” she says. “During the 1970s, debates escalated over the causes of social marginality and the state’s capacity — or responsibility — to resolve them. My book is chronicling the ways that enacting punitive drug, crime, and welfare policy helped produce answers to these questions—answers that explained disorder and inequality as the work of incorrigible, racialized deviants, such as ‘drug pushers,’ ‘welfare queens,’ and criminals.”

How we understand race and ethnic identity affects how we understand social and economic inequality, says Kohler-Hausmann. “One of the vehicles for undermining social programs was fusing them with racist characterization of African Americans, who were actually often the minority of the people benefiting from these programs. Today, even as we see a movement to reform mass incarceration, there are still punitive laws being passed about welfare.”

Increasingly punitive social and criminal policy has had broad effects on our democracy. Research by Jamila Michener, assistant professor of government, shows how government policies have an effect on political engagement and depress voices in the greater polity. Recipients of social welfare programs also forgo rights; those receiving AFDC assistance can be drug tested , have their houses searched, or limitations placed on where they can spend money. Kohler-Hausmann explains that “Policies that degrade the civic standing of the poor make it harder for them to be heard in public dialogues over inequality.”

Anna Haskins, assistant professor of sociology, has shown that having a father who is incarcerated perpetuates inequality across generations by affecting how ready children are for school, emotionally and behaviorally. She finds that boys, in particular, who have imprisoned fathers are already behind when they arrive in kindergarten at age five, and are more likely to be placed in special education, held back a grade, or continue to experience socio-emotional problems by age nine.

Systemic Surveillance

Professor of History Edward Baptist sees a connection between the research he’s conducting on runaway American slaves and current issues with the criminal justice system. Did the efforts to catch runaway slaves influence attitudes and law enforcement in the U.S relating to blacks?

“Black people’s movements through and into spaces is something that is constantly noted in the 19th century as acceptable or not acceptable,” he explains. “They’re understood as a problem, especially someone whose name wasn’t known or who wasn’t acting in an expected way. That’s still an issue for us in our country today. Blacks constantly encounter the attitude of ‘you don’t belong here,’ such as when they’re followed in a store or stopped by police. Do black people belong in these spaces, or are they in effect fugitives? And how much of this is created by policy and how much by culture?”

Baptist’s latest project looks at the way surveillance – controlling space and activities – is a systemic part of our culture that has been carried forward from the institution of slavery. “The white population was actively involved in maintaining the slavery regime by policing Black movements through space, seeing them as suspicious, a problem that had to be investigated,” Baptist explains. “Black people’s movements through and into spaces were something that 19th-century white America constantly monitored, and saw as either acceptable or not acceptable. African Americans were surveilled, and constantly seen as potential threats–especially those whose names weren’t known, or who didn’t seem to be working like slaves to add to white wealth. Some very similar patterns seem to persist in our our country today. On a large scale it’s easy to see that. For example, police are much less likely to find contraband in a Black driver’s car, yet they far more frequently stop Black travelers’ cars–because they ‘look suspicious.’ How much is this policy, and how much is this culture – are Black people seen as belonging in these spaces, or are they effectively still seen as fugitives?”

Another example, says Baptist, is racialized law enforcement that makes a huge investment in policing areas perceived as “drug corners.” “This is very expensive policy, yet one publicized by the news media as if it is the essence of policing. But the policy is more about controlling black activity in space than it is about preventing crimes against black lives. In contrast, the investment in homicide detectives where most of the murders taking place in areas like South Los Angeles is very low.”

Capitalism and Inequality

The lower 40% of income earners in this country carry significant debt; if they own a home, it is often heavily mortgaged. Such debt creates intense pressure to find and keep a job. But being out of work is a frequent experience for people in a capitalist economy. The result is an inequity: the pressure to be hired doesn’t correspond to the pressure to hire. This raises a moral question, says Miller: should people who benefit from advantages in bargaining power be required to redistribute their wealth? Is it exploitation of workers, when the power of the exchange is all on one side?

One contribution of historic humanities is to stretch people’s viewpoints by showing how assumptions change over time, says Miller. One example is that of wage labor as an evil: Abraham Lincoln regarded wage labor as something to liberate yourself from: every man should have the means to be his own boss, with no one above him. “Some at the time even viewed workers as worse off than slaves, because if times were bad slaves were still fed and housed, whereas workers just got fired,” adds Miller.

“In my Black Radical Tradition class, I teach about that political tradition of thinkers and activists who always said that you cannot have racial justice without wholesale economic redistribution,” says Russell Rickford, assistant professor of history. “You don’t just racialize a group because you don’t like them. You racialize a group in order to expropriate their land, their resources, their wealth. That’s how the incredible opulence and wealth of this society was generated, with 500 years of uncompensated or super-exploited labor. Modern capitalism is an inherently racialized project. You cannot have any kind of racial reconciliation or racial justice without wholesale redistribution. South Africa had the end of apartheid and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but there was no redistribution, so it has the same kind of economic structure as before, with the same structural inequalities.”

Notes Weeden, “there are all sorts of institutions in any country or labor market that protects some types of workers or in some cases protect owners of capital. In the last 20 years, there have been numerous institutional changes that have protected workers at the top of the income distribution while eliminating protections to those on the bottom.”

Weeden’s research looks at the institutional sources of income inequality, as well as the gender gap in earnings, such as how the increase in hourly wages for long work hours has affected the motherhood wage penalty and the fatherhood wage premium.

One example Weeden points to are various bottlenecks in the educational system, some stemming from inadequate primary schools, which prevent the supply of college-educated workers from keeping up with demand. “Those who do get a college degree benefit, indirectly, because their wages are actually higher than what they would be if there were no bottlenecks in the educational system,” explains Weeden.

“The contradiction is that what accompanies capitalist expansion is often deepening inequality and declining freedom. For example, the expansion of the cotton economy resulted in a deepening of slavery and a stripping away of freedoms,” says Baptist, who is part of the History of Capitalism Initiative and author of “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism” (Basic Books, 2014).

“When enslaved African Americans ran away they were trying to rewrite the story of capitalism and their relationship with this expanding capitalist system. They were making a decision that their relationship to capitalism was not going to be that of property, but that of a wage worker. This was the most effective resistance in the history of resistance to the deepening inequality in the U.S.,” says Baptist, because of the driving influence of those who escaped slavery on the abolitionist movement and the coming of the Civil War.

Residential Segregation

“Policymakers across the political spectrum seem to believe that, aside from random acts of racial discrimination, we more or less live in a world where residential segregation is a reflection of individual choice,” says Noliwe Rooks, associate professor of Africana studies, adding that “the racial divide is either not considered to be very bad, or is now taken for granted.”

But in fact this this attitude is wrong, says Rooks: studies show that metro areas with the highest levels of segregation have the largest health inequities, resulting in shorter life spans for black and Latino residents of these areas. And research has shown that two-thirds of the difference between test scores and grades for black and Latino students in the top 30 U.S. schools could be predicted based on the racial segregation of the students’ home neighborhoods.

“We know from 30 years of research that test scores and college-level success are far lower for students of color who attend racially segregated schools,” Rooks says. “And of course we know that schools today remain segregated because neighborhoods remain segregated.”

Rooks’ new seminar, Race and Social Entrepreneurship: Food Justice and Urban Reform,  examines the issue of food justice in Ithaca and surrounding areas, which is often related to residential segregation, and explores innovative approaches for bringing about social equity and justice in relation to food availability, access and sustainability for those on a fixed or low income. The course is both a University Course, and part of an Engaged Cornell Curriculum Grant awarded to Africana Studies. Students in the service learning course will work in collaboration with senior citizens who live at a local residential facility, McGraw House, and are on a fixed income in order to explore both barriers and workable solutions to food access, availability and affordability. In addition, students in the course will work with with local farmers, non-profits and community activists in order to learn about area organizations and experiments intervening in the issues of food justice.

“Our goal is understand how sustainable development can be achieved in the context of racism and social inequality, with a focus on contemporary and historical efforts to build lasting institutions or movements,” says Rooks.

Minoring in Inequality Studies

Cornell offers a minor in inequality studies, which is housed in CSI and the department of sociology. The minor gives students a firm grounding in the literature on inequality, through such large and popular courses as Social Inequality, which gives an overview of theoretical and empirical scholarship on inequality in the social sciences, and Controversies about Inequality, a University Course that focuses on contemporary social scientific and policy debates on inequality. The minor requires students to take courses from multiple social science disciplines as well as offers electives in the humanities, and it allows them to tailor their studies to focus on different aspects of inequality, such as a track on ethics and social justice.

The minor has been very successful and is growing in popularity as inequality has entered public discourse again, says Weeden. Since 2004, the minor has graduated more than 600 students, and 225 enrolled in AY 2015-16. About half of the minors are in Arts & Sciences.

“The Inequality Studies minor was the catalyst that fostered my passion towards social justice, for which I will always be grateful, says Allen Fung ’07. “After studying in-depth the various forms of inequality (racial, gender, socio-economic, etc.) present throughout American history, I knew that I wanted to be part of the effort in correcting these various inequalities.”

Winnie Tong ’14 echoes that sentiment: “as a woman of color from Brooklyn, I have gained so much through the Inequality Studies minor because it allowed me to learn more about the structural and systematic issues within our society. Although I might not have found all the solutions to the larger issues we discussed in class, the minor definitely played a significant part in steering me onto a path of social justice and working with communities of color.”

 

By:         Linda B. Glaser

Date:      May 10, 2016

Source:  The College of Arts and Sciences, Cornell University

http://as.cornell.edu/news/cornell-scholars-examine-structures-inequality

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Perceptions of inequality drive protestors’ motives, says IDS study

 

According to academic literature, civic unrest is driven by rising inequalities. But despite considerable reductions in inequality over the last decade, the numbers of Latin Americans taking to the streets to protest has soared. Why does this paradox exist? A new IDS study reveals that the real motivations for protest relate not to absolute levels of inequality but to individual’s perceptions of disparities and their beliefs around how income should be distributed.

DS researchers analysed what motivations led individuals to mobilise and protest in 18 Latin America countries between 2010 and 2014.

The results show that individual participation in protests was largely motivated by perceptions of inequality which affected their beliefs about income distribution.

The results point to the important role of government policy in affecting perceptions of inequality and ensuring social and political stability.

 

Mismatch between expectations and perceived social change fuels dissent

The study explains how despite large reductions of inequality, driven by efforts to raise incomes among the poorest groups, people across Latin America remained dissatisfied with their governments, levels of corruption, and the quality of institutions and public services.

These were issues that affected predominantly the middle classes: the employed, students and educated people.

Economic conditions also mattered. Individual participation in protests was related to people’s perceptions about their current and past economic conditions, as well as by changes in national economic conditions. Social relations and networks were crucial to mobilising people’s anger and grievances into protests.

Overall, inequality reduction and economic growth have been insufficient to shift the vast majority of people’s perceptions and beliefs, and have not matched overall expectations. Social discontent, in turn, has turned into collective protests.

 

Lessons for policy

The research highlights the role of policy in affecting perceptions of inequality and mitigating the risk of civil unrest. Findings indicate that redistribution via cash transfers to the poorest reduce the probability of protests of the poorest, but the low quality of public services and high tax burdens have eroded the support of political institutions by the middle class. The recent choices of governments across Latin America to focus redistribution mainly on the poor (and excluding the middle class) have generated large gains in terms of poverty and inequality reduction. However, these choices may have also led to unintended consequences in terms of social and political stability when economic growth has started to slow down.

There is large scope for better government performance in terms of addressing the quality of public services as well as to improve the functioning of government institutions and reduce corruption.

All these are key factors explaining the mismatch between perceptions of inequality, distributive beliefs and absolute levels of inequality across Latin America, particularly among the protesting middle-classes.

 

Building the evidence base

The research fills a gap in existing literature on protests and social mobilisation by focusing on motivations at the individual level that may lead people to mobilise and protest. It also advances emerging literature on the importance of perceptions of inequality and distributive beliefs by showing not only how perceptions of inequality and distributive beliefs are formed, but also their consequences in terms of citizen mobilisation and civil protests.

There is surprisingly limited and ambiguous empirical evidence on the relationship between inequality, government policy and civil protests. This paper contributes to this area of research providing new policy lessons by showing how improvements in the quality of public services may be as important as direct social transfers in reducing the probability of individuals participating in collective protests.

 

Date:      May 10. 2016

Source: Institute of Development Studies

http://www.ids.ac.uk/news/perceptions-of-inequality-drive-protestors-motives-says-ids-study

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Global inequality under the microscope

 

New book puts spotlight on world’s wealthiest one per cent.

The ‘Global Top one per cent’ — the lucky 70 million people who have captured a massive share of the new wealth generated in the world economy over the past 30 years — must be squirming over their Bollinger about the public enemy status they are beginning to acquire worldwide.

All the more so with the publication of a hard-hitting new book by the Serbian-American economist Branko Milanovic.

Global Inequality reveals that the main losers of the past three decades of globalisation have been the western middle classes.

No wonder then that politics is turning so populist and pear-shaped in so many countries.

In fact, Milanovic quite persuasively puts inequality worldwide at the heart of a wide range of ills, as threatening our economies and threatening our long-cherished democracies too.

Alongside these main losers, the main gainers of globalisation have not just been the ‘Top one per cent’, and the 1,500 billionaires worldwide at their heart.

They have also been Asia’s emergent middle class — led by China of course. And this has led to a strange outcome; while inequality inside individual countries has widened, inequality between countries has narrowed — and strikingly.

This leads Milanovic to some tough conclusions; the shift in economic power away from the rich west to Asia has been strong and will continue; the economies of the west face decades of stagnation ahead, with their middle classes hurting the most; we see the emergence of a “global plutocracy” built around the interests of the ‘Top one per cent’, which will compromise our democracies, and possibly trigger populist and “localist” backlashes.

We can see this already in the US with Donald Trump. In the UK, with the right-wing call for exit from the European Union and this week in the election of Davao Mayor Duterte as the Philippines’ new president. Our Occupy movement and youthful unrest are likely part of the same phenomenon.

Milanovic sees China’s emergence since the late 1970s as an “epochal change” and China “the great income equaliser.”

In 1970 US GDP per capita was 20 times that of China. It is now less than four times.

But we now see a perverse reversal about to occur; for the past three decades, rising wealth and incomes in China have provided the main force behind narrowing the wealth gap between rich and poor nations.

Average incomes for China’s middle have tripled in the two decades from 1988. But now average incomes in China are coming close to the world average. Once incomes pass the global average, then their continued rise will actually make inequality worse, not reduce it.

To keep global inequality from getting worse, we will need to see incomes strongly rise in other huge poor countries, like Indonesia and Brazil — and of course India.

We might be a long time waiting.

Milanovic identifies different distinct forms of inequality: the first he calls “existential inequality”, and it arises from the sheer luck of where you are born.

Simply by being born in the US rather than the Congo, your income will on average be 93 times higher. This means that 12 per cent of America’s population live gilded lives among the ‘Top one per cent’, along with nine per cent of Japanese or Swiss. By the way, to be in this Top one per cent, your average after-tax income needs to be over $71,000 a year — which puts a very large number of you reading this article in the ‘Top one per cent’.

This compares with the global median income of $1,400. So it is easy to see how existential wealth feeds itself; a one per cent rise in income for someone earning $71,000 would be $710 — equal to a 50 per cent jump for someone earning the median income.

He then identifies “legal inequality,” by which most legal systems entrench the privileges and advantages of social elites.

Then there is income and wealth inequality, by which inherited wealth buys access to the best education and to property wealth that protects and preserves privilege.

Here, he identifies an interesting perversity — that more women in the workforce, on higher incomes, are actually aggravating inequality — because a self-selection process tends to mean that wealthy, well-educated women partner with wealthy, well-educated men — making such couples even more elite.

And there is “meritocratic inequality” — where political commitment to supposedly-equalising meritocratic arrangements actually aggravates inequality.

He asks what is the merit of getting everyone to start at the same starting line, if one competitor has a Ferrari, and another a bicycle.

It is these inequalities inside individual countries that account for the widening rich-versus-poor gap in so many rich western economies and a hollowing out of the politically-moderating middle classes, that is putting democracy in danger.

As the super-rich use wealth to secure political influence, so politicians respond mainly to the concerns of the rich, sowing the seeds of “dictatorships of the propertied class” disguised in the garb of democracy.

He sees producers giving priority to luxury goods and governments cutting welfare spending, instead of giving priority to policing, and infrastructure-building.

Whether you agree with his politics or not, the statistical support for Milanovic’s story is as compelling as that garnered by Pinketty last year.

He is persuasive that political concern about rising inequality is more than a passing fad, and that we need to think about narrowing the gaps, inside countries in particular, if we are going to avoid very ugly social and political developments worldwide.

His solutions; first ensure equal access to good education and widespread property ownership — uncontroversial, except it is easy to see even here in Hong Kong how hard it is to achieve this.

Secondly, more controversially, he calls for lower obstacles to migration and to international labour movement. He argues that this would be massively significant in reducing inequality between countries.

Again, governments around the world facing the present political pickle linked with global recession and massive migration into Europe from Syria and Iraq, are likely to run a mile from Milanovic’s recommendation.

That of course does not make him wrong.

 

David Dodwell is Executive Director of the Hong Kong-APEC Trade Policy Group.

Date:      May 13, 2016

Source:  South China Morning Post

http://www.scmp.com/business/global-economy/article/1944072/global-inequality-under-microscope

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Johns Hopkins sociologists take in-depth look at disparate paths of Baltimore youth

 

Stefanie DeLuca, Kathryn Edin among co-authors of recently released ‘Coming of Age in the Other America’

Not all research happens in a lab.

In the case of the newly released Coming of Age in the Other America, co-authored by Johns Hopkins sociologist Stefanie DeLuca, the core research took place on sofas and at kitchen tables in Baltimore homes. To get a sense of how children born into city public housing in the 1980s and 1990s were faring as young adults, she spent hours interviewing them in their own houses.

The process turned out to be “incredibly intimate,” she says. “You sit down with a stranger, and if you’re doing your work well, you’re able to create the kind of conversation that invites vulnerability, humor, and honesty … in exchange for openness, empathy, and lack of judgment.”

The result is an in-depth portrait of the lives of young Baltimoreans, looking at factors that have helped them or hindered them on their path to adulthood. DeLuca wrote the book along with Johns Hopkins sociologist and Bloomberg Distinguished ProfessorKathryn Edin and Susan Clampet-Lundquist of St. Joseph’s University.

The researchers followed up on an initial 2003-2004 study of parents living in Baltimore’s public housing projects by turning to 150 of their children as they reached adulthood in 2010. They conducted more interviews in 2012.

Then last spring, as the sociologists pulled together more than a decade of research, Baltimore gained national attention with the death of Freddie Gray and the unrest that followed. Though not framed specifically in response to these events, Coming of Age in the Other America addresses the uprising as one piece of an overall narrative of Baltimore that fails to accurately represent the city’s youth.

“The national picture in Baltimore was never optimistic and balanced to begin with,” DeLuca says. “What most people know about Baltimore they know from Homicide or The Corner or The Wire.”

Though all of the book’s subjects were born in distressed environments—”some of the most physically and socially degraded spaces in our nation,” the researchers write—the book offers “a strong corrective to the popular perception of this group as being swept up in crime and delinquency.” Contrary to mainstream media representation, the researchers found that the majority of the youth were “actively resisting the street, determined to be ‘about something else,’ and hungry for postsecondary education and careers.” In most cases, they were far better off than their parents, completing their high school educations and holding employment at much higher rates.

Yet the book also resists a rosy picture, presenting a decidedly “glass half full and glass half empty” portrait. As the researchers prepare to leave their subjects in 2012, they write, “too few had become all that they had hoped to be—and were probably capable of becoming.” Many struggled with low-wage, unstable jobs at the bottom rung of the economy, far removed from middle-class aspirations.

The researchers specifically examine the consequences of policies that helped move the children out of Baltimore’s notorious high-rise public housing complexes, including the Moving to Opportunity program, which provided vouchers for families to shift to wealthier neighborhoods.

But their interviews also consistently reveal the impact of more personal factors. Critical to success for many adolescents was landing on what the researchers call “an identity project”—a consuming, defining passion such as writing poetry, building pigeon coops, attending anime festivals. Those who never found that type of life raft, the researchers write, “had no map, no foothold on their future.”

The book’s title points to Michael Harrington’s seminal 1962 book The Other America, known for “galvanizing the war on poverty,” DeLuca says. By aligning themselves with that work, she says, the authors attempt to “engage in this bigger conversation about inequality in America.”

Says DeLuca: “This isn’t just about Baltimore. This is about the chances that a poor child will become a middle-class adult, and the fact that these chances are becoming less and less likely. Why do we continue to see cycles of intergenerational disadvantage? At what points do we see progress, and at what points can we intervene?”

 

By:                         Katie Pearce

Date:                      April 20, 2016

Source:                  Hub

http://hub.jhu.edu/2016/04/19/coming-of-age-in-the-other-america-deluca

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