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No, Blair – Wokeness Didn’t Cost Labour the Elections, You Did

The recriminations from last week’s elections continue. Unindicted war criminal Tony Blair crawled out from whichever stone he’s been hiding under since leaving office to give his tuppence worth on the reasons Labour did so badly. The headline from one of the papers says that he blames ‘wokeness’ and warns that Labour could ‘cease to exist’. Well, many people are saying the latter. And one of the reasons for its poor performance and disengagement with the working class isn’t ‘wokeness’, the new term that’s overtaken ‘political correctness’ to describe anti-racism, feminism, and an attitude against forms of prejudice, but Blair himself.

Let’s start with an obvious issue that united people across the political spectrum. Blair launched an illegal war against Iraq as part of George W. Bush’s ‘War on Terror’. Saddam Hussein was supposed to have aided Osama bin Laden. He hadn’t, but Blair put pressure on the intelligence services and falsified evidence – he ‘sexed up’ the ‘dodgy dossier’ – to show that Hussein had. Hussein was a monster who butchered his own people, but he hadn’t moved out of Iraq since his failed invasion of Kuwait. Experts on the Middle East said that there he was regarded as a joke. The real reason for Bush and Blair’s invasion was partly to defend Israel, because Hussein occasionally funnelled aid to the Palestinians whenever he felt like it, but mostly to grab the Iraqi oil reserves. They’re the biggest in the Middle East outside Saudi Arabia. They also wanted to steal Iraqi state enterprises, while the Neocons were keen on turning the country into the low-tax, free trade state they wanted to create in America. The result has been chaos, sectarian bloodshed, war crimes, and the destruction of the Iraqi economy and secular society.

Despite the loud backing of hacks from the Groaniad, millions of ordinary Brits knew better. Two million people, including one of the priests at my local church, marched in protest. Blair shrugged it off and the invasion went ahead. It was contrary to international law, and there have been abortive efforts to have Blair and Bush arrested for their crimes and tried in the Hague. The Tory party opposed the war, as did the Spectator. I think in many cases this was just simple opportunism and opposition for the sake of being seen to oppose, as when they’re actually in power, there doesn’t seem to be a war the Tories don’t like. But some Tories, to be fair, were serious. The right-wing journalist Peter Hitchens honestly despises the ‘Blair creature’ for the way he sent our courageous young men and women to their deaths for no reason. People chanted ‘Blair lied, people died’. Absolutely. But somehow he’s being treated as some kind of respectable statesman.

And it was Blair who started the British working class’ disillusionment with Labour. He was far more interested in capturing Tory votes and those of swing voters. Under him, the party became pro-private enterprise, including the privatisation of the NHS, and continued Thatcher’s dismantlement of the welfare state. It was Blair who introduced the ‘work capability tests’ for the disabled and continued Thatcher’s programme of making the process of claiming unemployment benefit as humiliating and degrading as possible in order to deter people from signing on. But he retained the party’s commitment to anti-racism and feminism as some kind of vestige of the party’s liberalism. The result has been that large sections of the White working class felt that they were being deliberately ignored and abandoned in favour of Blacks and ethnic minorities. This is the constituency that then voted for UKIP, and which I dare say has now gone over to supporting Boris Johnson’s Tories.

As far as ‘wokeness’ goes, yes, the shrill, intolerant anti-racism and feminism is off-putting. I am definitely no fan of Black Lives Matter, but it has immense support amongst British Blacks and Asians because of the deprivation of certain parts of those communities. Labour BAME supporters also felt abandoned because of Starmer’s tepid, offhand support for it, and his protection of those credibly accused of racist bullying. They started leaving the party as well.

The Labour party did badly at the elections not because of the lingering influence of Jeremy Corbyn, but because of Blair’s abandonment of the White working class, and Starmer’s contemptuous attitude towards the party’s non-White supporters.

Labour may well be on the verge of ceasing to exist, but it won’t start winning in England again unless to rejects Blairism and returns to proper, traditional Labour values and policies.

‘I act against power’: Sylvana Simons is proudly disrupting politics as usual in the Netherlands

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 12/05/2021 - 10:11am in

Simons, who rose to fame as a glamorous television personality, leads an explicitly feminist, radical, intersectional party.

If you want to know how Sylvana Simons came to be the first Black woman in the Netherlands to head a political party elected to the House of Representatives, you’ll need to look back further than her glamorous 25-year career as a model, dancer, MTV host, television personality, and political activist. You’ll have to go back to when she dropped out of school and ran away from home at the age of 14 because there were “rules” she “didn’t agree with,” and then became a single mother at the age of 21, when she had not a penny to her name. 

It is this lived experience that informs Simons’ political views as leader of BIJ1 (“Together”), the explicitly intersectional, feminist and radical political party that she founded in 2016. Simons was elected to the House of Representatives in March, largely on the back of the urban youth vote. 

BIJ1 ran an impressively diverse list of candidates for parliament. Among the top 10 were five Black people, three of them women; a Muslim woman who is disabled; a trans woman; a sex worker; an artist and youth worker; and a woman of Indonesian background (Indonesia is a former colony of the Netherlands). The party’s manifesto breathed intersectionality. 

In April Simons made headlines with a scathing 5-minute speech in the House of Representatives on the failures of the government’s pandemic policies. “It turns out,” she said from the podium in the House of Representatives, “That allowing intensive care units to fill up with the goal of reaching herd immunity is harmful to the economy, harmful to our wellbeing, harmful to our freedom, harmful to our health, and has cost us many lives.” The government’s vaccine rollout had failed, she continued, and her party intended to pursue a parliamentary inquiry into the matter. 


The speech garnered applause and a rush of positive publicity.

For Simons, the pandemic debate was an excellent opportunity to show what her party stood for, and to push parliament to hold the government to account—an obligation she accuses them of having neglected. “What kind of country do we want to be?” she asked, rhetorically. “We propose systemic change. Do you want authorities to crush citizens, or to protect and help them?” 

Sylvana Simons was born in 1971 in colonial Suriname, four years before the South American country won its independence from the Netherlands—where her family has lived since she was 18 months old. She has been a well-known media figure since the mid-1990s, when she was a presenter for Dutch MTV. But in 2015 her fame morphed into notoriety when, as the host’s side-kick on the popular talk show De Wereld Draait Door (The World Moves On), she pushed back against a guest who used a derogatory term for Black people. The backlash was immediate: Simons was targeted with a tsunami of racist, sexist attacks on social media. 

Overnight, the popular media personality became the most hated woman in the Netherlands. The television guest appearances and invitations to give speeches at corporate events dried up, as the establishment rushed to distance themselves from the suddenly controversial Simons. But she told The Conversationalist that she has no regrets. “It was inevitable,” she said. “I had to practice what I preached: speak out if you are in a position to do so.”

The feminist writer and activist Anja Meulenbelt chuckled appreciatively upon seeing Simons suddenly regaining some of her pre-2015 popularity in the wake of her speech criticizing the government’s failed pandemic policy. Meulenbelt, an icon of 1970s second wave feminism, was one of the first people to join BIJ1. “Sylvana is audacious; she is not afraid of anything,” she said.  BIJ1 had succeeded, asserted Meulenbelt, where the established leftist parties had failed: “We don’t talk about representation; we are representation. We do what other leftist parties [only] talk about.” 

The praise Simons received for her pandemic policy speech was remarkable for the frequency with which it was accompanied by disclaimers—such as, “I’m not a fan of hers, but..!” or “I didn’t vote for her, but..!” or “In general I don’t like her, but..!”

Simons believes those disclaimers are just temporary. She has the stage now, and no longer needs opinion leaders and journalists for exposure. “People think that because of my anti-racism, my politics are exclusive,” she said, adding that the opposite is true. “My politics aren’t exclusive, but inclusive. I act against power. Against a government and institutions that don’t care about citizens but treat them like tools to keep the economy going. That affects all of us, regardless of the color of our skin. And sometimes that means pointing out that the situation of some groups, like Black people or disabled people, requires extra attention.” 

Simons said that her now-famous speech had been “brewing” for a year. But the fluidity and incisiveness of her remarks reveal that she must have been thinking deeply for at least a decade about the issues she addressed so eloquently. Her words reflected a combination of heightened political awareness and outrage over not only the handling of the coronavirus pandemic but also over social justice issues like equality, humanity—and dignity.

Part of her impact is based on her understanding of performance, said Aldith Hunkar, an independent Dutch-Surinamese journalist who has known Simons for many years. “She knows like nobody else which camera is pointed at her, and at which moment to look into it,” said Hunkar, who conducted a video interview in English with Simons earlier this month. She added that Simons was completely sincere—as well as “hyper intelligent.”

Sheila Sitalsing, a Dutch-Surinamese political columnist for the veteran daily newspaper de Volkskrant, described Simons to The Conversationalist as “sensational,” adding that she has “flawless political intuition” and is “factual, calm, with a sharp eye for the rule of law.” 

Simons is a huge fan of Mona Eltahawy, the uncompromising and outspoken Egyptian-American journalist, commentator and activist, but considers herself to be a “diplomat.” In describing her approach, Simons said, “I can find common ground with everybody,” no matter what their background. “I am not bothered by who you are,” she said. “This has to do with my life path.”

Now 50 years old, Simons became a grandmother last year. Reflecting on her life as a high school dropout and single mother who started out as a TV dancer and worked her way up, she said. “I say with pride that I have hardly any formal education. I wasn’t flattened by a system that didn’t work for me. I overcame institutional hurdles, including racism and sexism, and despite society’s consistently low expectations of me. I learned to make connections with everybody. I consider that my strength.”

But how did that life experience transform into a solidly grounded intersectional worldview seemingly overnight? Where did the theory come from? 

Simons mentions Gloria Wekker, a Dutch-Surinamese professor emeritus in gender studies who authored the acclaimed seminal work on Dutch racism, called White Innocence: Paradoxes of Colonialism and Race. Wekker joined BIJ1, taking it upon herself to educate the new party leader—and was struck by how quickly Simons read and understood the texts.

 “I asked Gloria which books I had to read,” said Simons. “The books made scientifically tangible what I have lived and felt throughout my life.” 

Feminism is, naturally, a big part of the story. But Simons cannot answer the question of which comes first for her—feminism or anti-racism. During the interview, she chooses feminism: “But one cannot exist without the other and I may choose anti-racism next week.”

Simons’s feminist, anti-racist message disrupts the Netherlands, a country that sees itself as a beacon of tolerance and progressiveness. She is not the only one speaking out fiercely against Dutch racism. A decade ago, the campaign “Kick out Black Pete” started, aiming to abolish the blackface tradition that pollutes the Dutch Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) festivities. And last year the Black Lives Matter demonstrations were numerous and huge in the Netherlands. Momentum was building for BIJ1’s politics.

Surprisingly enough, Simons reveals that 15 or 20 years ago she defended Black Pete from foreign criticism. “I’d tell people to butt out of our traditions, even though I’ve hated Black Pete since I was a child. But I too suffered from internalized racism. You know, we are raised in the Netherlands to say that we don’t ‘see’ color, that it’s all kumbaya, but underneath that layer of kumbaya we deny identities.”

Foreigners, in other words, are not the only people surprised to discover racism in the Netherlands. The Dutch themselves are surprised, too. “Our tolerance was a facade we were collectively hiding behind and that has only now started to crumble,” said Simons.

Aldith Hunkar, the Dutch-Surinamese independent journalist, agreed. “The Netherlands has built this system over 500 years and it still refuses to see the implications,” she said. “It’s learning very slowly. Simons has changed the discourse already, but it reflects the rigid, dismal Dutch mindset that she is not yet on a pedestal.” Hunkar, 60, resigned in 2007 from a position she held for 14 years as a television presenter for NOS, the state broadcaster, after accusing it of racism in its editorial decisions. 

To know where Sylvana Simons is coming from, one must consider those 500 years of Dutch colonial, racist history. On March 31, the day she was inaugurated into parliament, the party gave its leader a present: a traditional Afro-Surinamese religious ceremony, held at a public square close to the parliament building. A priestess offered a libation to ask the ancestors and God to give Simons power and wisdom. 

Credit: Fréderike GeerdinkAfro-Surinamese ceremony honoring Sylvana Simons (center) on March 31.

Simons said the ceremony made her feel honored: “I was carried by the ancestors. As a child of the colonies, as Simba, the chosen one, I was honored. It meant a lot to me but also for the people who brought me to this point. They didn’t vote for a politician but for their daughter, sister, mother, aunt, and it is completely emotional. It was about spirituality, about keeping the connection with the people who gave their lives for our freedom.”

Going forward, Simons will need all her strength. The same election that brought BIJ1 to parliament also handed victories to several fascist parties, some of which have been in the legislature for several years, pulling policies and the discourse to the right side of the political spectrum. Simons hopes to pull them back to the left. “Pictures of the ceremony were shared [online] and those on the extreme-right of the spectrum saw them too. Everybody saw that my community lifted me so high—who can touch me now? It gave me wings. I flew into parliament.”

The official inauguration was short. The office assigned to her turned out to be in the former Ministry of Colonies. “That is no coincidence,” said Simons. “It closes the circle.”

The post ‘I act against power’: Sylvana Simons is proudly disrupting politics as usual in the Netherlands appeared first on The Conversationalist.

Starmer Insults Working Class, Makes Rachel Reeves Shadow Chancellor

In his flailing attempt to win voters back to the Labour party after the humiliation of last week’s elections, Starmer has decided on a cabinet reshuffle. He’s taking full responsibility for the debacle by placing all the blame on his underlings, like Angela Rayner, who he sacked as the party’s chair. He blamed her for the loss of Hartlepool, despite the fact that she had absolutely nothing to do with it. The choice of candidate and the selection of May 6th as the date of the by-election was that of his personal private secretary, Jenny Chapman. Rayner is due some payback for her betrayal of Corbyn, but she doesn’t deserve to be sacked from her post for something she didn’t do. Except possibly she hasn’t been sacked. Faced with a wave of criticism, Starmer said something about her being kept in the cabinet with a ‘more enhanced role’.

He was also rumoured to be bringing in a number of other members of the party’s extreme right, like the toxic Wes Streeting and the noxious Hilary Benn. And yesterday Mike put up a post reporting that Starmer had appointed as Shadow Chancellor the vile Rachel Reeves. She’s the woman, who’s so left-wing, that she and her fellow right-wing Chucklehead Jess Philips went to a party a few years ago celebrating 100 years of the Spectator. This is the increasingly Alt Right Tory rag that publishes pieces by Taki, a Greek playboy. Unlike Corbyn, who was simply critical of Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians, Taki really does have some vile anti-Semitic opinions. And in one of his pieces for the magazine he praised the neo-Nazi Greek organisation, the Golden Dawn. This is the outfit that beats up illegal immigrants, hands out food to the poor and unemployed, but only if they’re Greek, and whose leader was sent to prison for the murder of a left-wing journalist. But that isn’t the only time Reeves showed her highly selective attitude to real anti-Semites. A few years ago she joined former premier Theresa May in paying tribute to Nancy Astor. Astor was the first woman MP, and obviously a feminist political pioneer. But she was also a vicious Jew-hater and fan of Hitler. So when it comes to anti-Semitism and her attitude to her former party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, she could fairly be called a hypocrite.

But Corbyn wasn’t the only target for her vindictiveness. She also hates the unemployed and people on benefits. Back when Ed Miliband was leader, she declared that Labour would be even harder on the unemployed than the Tories. This was because Labour was the party of working people. This was when dodgy Dave Cameron was demanding that unemployment benefit should be cut even further in order to ‘make work pay’, and justified this spite by claiming that hard-working people didn’t like to look out each morning and see the closed curtains of the unemployed. It was another example of Blairite Labour looking at what the Tories were doing, and then trying to appeal to their voters by being even worse. It was very much an attempt to win over the kind of people who read the Heil and Depress and believe their wretched nonsense about benefit scroungers. It’s bound to fail because, while Murdoch was prepared to back Blair, the Mail resolutely held out against him. Which shows that the terrible rag does have some kind of twisted, political integrity amid all the lies and bigotry.

Many people were really worried about the direction New Labour’s hatred of the unemployed would take. New Labour had introduced workfare in the form of Blair’s New Deal, in which the unemployed were sent to work for charities and the big supermarket chains or else they didn’t get their benefit. It was a way of giving these organisations cheap labour and showed more than a little similarity to the use of forced, slave labour in Stalin’s Soviet Union. Stalin industrialised his country through the massive use of the unfree labour of people arrested for alleged treason and anti-Soviet activities. The heads of various industries and enterprises gave the KGB lists of the type of workers they needed, and the KGB then went out and arrested them. Nazi Germany also expanded this systems of voluntary work the Weimar Republic had started to combat unemployment into the Reichsarbeitsdienst, a compulsory period of unpaid service for all German citizens. The SS also used the slave labour of skilled Jewish artisans and craftsmen to produce a range of luxury goods, available through catalogue. One of the great commenters on this blog wondered if, under Reeves and co., Labour would also develop similar systems of forced labour. In the 1930s, for example, the party had also opened a number of labour camps which were intended to teach the unemployed the habit of working properly. I don’t think Labour would go that far in today’s political climate, but given the way Boris is dragging this country towards real Fascism, I think someone like Reeves would try to get as close as possible.

As well as showing Reeves’ vindictiveness towards the poor and out of work, it also showed how out of touch her comments were with the reality of work today. Thatcher famously declared that she was ending the old culture where someone had a job for life. Under her, it became much easier to fire someone and companies started taking on workers on short term contracts. Blair and Brown were very keen on making sure that the labour market remained fluid, and that companies could take on and sack staff as and when they wished. And Dodgy Dave, Tweezer and the rest of the Tory governments of the unspeakable have pushed this even further. We now live in the gig economy, where large numbers of workers have very precarious employment. When this process was just beginning in the 1980s, right-wing politicos, economists and hacks raved about how workers could make themselves attractive to employers through compiling ‘job portfolios’. Presumably this was lists of the various jobs they done under short-term contracts. In the 1990s the Financial Times stated it was a rubbish idea, and it mercifully seems to have vanished. But punitive policies towards the unemployed also harm the workers in the gig economy, those without proper workers’ rights, who are on zero hours contracts and the rest, who are under enough pressure already without the fear of further humiliation and punishment if their bosses sack them and they are forced to seek what help they can from the DWP.

Reeves’ appointment as Shadow Chancellor shows that Starmer is overtly moving to the extreme right. He’s promoting people who are still clinging to the lies of Thatcherite economics, unaware that it’s failed and is responsible for the real poverty and deprivation now affecting Britain’s working people. Corbyn’s policies – a strong welfare state, fully nationalised and funded NHS, proper rights for working people, strong trade unions and a mixed economy, were popular, despite the devastating effect Tory propaganda had on the image of Corbyn himself. They’re also what the country needs.

But obviously not what Starmer and Reeves want. They want to ingratiate themselves to the rich and the employers at the expense of working people, while copying the Tory attempts to brand themselves as the true defenders of the working class.

Starmer Takes Full Responsibility for Defeat by Sacking People Who Had Nothing To Do With It

Well, there have been some successes for Labour in the recent elections. I’m very glad Labour has entered a sixth term in power in Wales, and that Jo Anderson, Andy Burnham and Sadiq Khan were elected mayors of Liverpool, Manchester and London respectively, and that down here in Bristol, south Gloucestershire and north Somerset, Dan Norris has been elected the metro mayor. But generally, Labour have suffered an humiliating defeat in the local council elections. Keir Starmer said that he was going to take responsibility for the defeat. And so he’s done what he previously done so many times – gone back on his word. If he was truly going to take responsibility, he should have tendered his resignation and walked. But he didn’t. He’s hung on to power, and started blaming and sacking other people instead.

The first of these is Angela Rayner, who has been sacked from her position as the party’s chair. He has decided that she was responsible for the loss of Hartlepool despite the fact that she had nothing to do with it. It was really the fault of his personal private secretary, Jenny Chapman, who, as Mike has posted over at Vox Political, decided on the candidate and chose the date of May 6th. But Chapman remains in place. Others who are lined up for the chop apparently include Lisa Nandy and Anneliese Dodds. This also reminds me of the incident a few weeks ago when Starmer blamed somebody else for a Labour loss. Apparently they failed to communicate his ‘vision’ properly. This would have been impossible. Starmer doesn’t have a vision. As Zelo Street has pointed out, Starmer has constantly evaded. He’s also defiantly agreed with BoJob on various issues and, as leader of the opposition, has spectacularly failed to oppose. People are heartily sick of him. The polls show that the reason the good folk of Hartlepool didn’t vote Labour was him.

And then there are the ‘charmless nurks’, as Norman Stanley Fletcher, the Sartre of Slade prison would say, that Starmer supposedly no wants in his cabinet. Wes Streeting, the bagman between him and the Board of Deputies, a thoroughly poisonous character; the Chuckle Sisters Rachel Reeves and Jessica Philips, who are so left-wing and progressive that they went to a party celebrating 100 years or so of the Spectator, and Hilary ‘Bomber’ Benn. Benn is the man, who wanted us to bomb Syria, as if Britain wasn’t already responsible for enough carnage and bloodshed in the Middle East. He’s been in Private Eye several times as head of the Commonwealth Development Corporation. This used to be the public body that put British aid money into needed projects in the Developing World. Under Benn it’s been privatised, and now only gives money that will provide a profit for shareholders. It’s yet more western capitalist exploitation of the Third World. None of these bozos should be anywhere near power in the Labour party. They’re Thatcherites, who if given shadow cabinet posts, will lead Labour into yet more electoral defeat.

Already the Net has been filled with peeps giving their views on what Starmer should do next. The mad right-wing radio host, Alex Belfield, posted a video stating that Starmer was immensely rich, with millions of acres of land, and out of touch with working people. If Starmer really wants power, he declared, he should drop the ‘woke’ nonsense and talk about things ordinary people are interested in, like roads, buses and so on. And he should talk to Nigel Farage about connecting with ordinary people.

Belfield speaks to the constituency that backed UKIP – the White working class, who feel that Labour has abandoned them in favour of ethnic minorities. But part of Labour’s problem is that Starmer doesn’t appeal to Blacks and Asians. He drove them away with his tepid, opportunistic support of Black Lives Matter and his defence of the party bureaucrats credibly accused of bullying and racially abusing Diane Abbott and other non-White Labour MPs and officials. He’s also right in that Starmer is rich and doesn’t appeal to the working class. He’s a Blairite, which means he’s going for the middle class, swing or Tory vote. But there have been Labour politicos from privileged backgrounds, who have worked for the ordinary man and woman, and were respected for it. Tony Benn was a lord, and Jeremy Corbyn I think comes from a very middle class background. As did Clement Attlee. Being ‘woke’ – having a feminist, anti-racist stance with policies to combat discrimination against and promote women, ethnic minorities, and the LGBTQ peeps needn’t be an electoral liability if they are couple with policies that also benefit the White working class. Like getting decent wages, defending workers’ rights, reversing the privatisation of the health service and strengthening the welfare state that so that it does provide properly for the poor, the old, the disabled, the sick and the unemployed. These are policies that benefit all working people, regardless of their colour, sex or sexuality.

It’s when these policies are abandoned in favour of the middle class with only the pro-minority policies retained to mark the party as left-wing or liberal, that the working class feels abandoned. Blair and Brown did this, and so helped the rise of UKIP and now the kind of working class discontent that is favouring the Tories.

And it’ll only get worse if Starmer turns fully to Blairism.

The only way to restore the party’s fortunes is to return to the popular policies of Jeremy Corbyn, and for Starmer to resign.

See: #Starmergeddon as panicking Labour leader lashes out in night of swivel-eyed lunacy | Vox Political (voxpoliticalonline.com)

Zelo Street: Keir Starmer – No Vision, No Votes (zelo-street.blogspot.com)

Zelo Street: Keir Starmer IS UNRAVELLING (zelo-street.blogspot.com)

Richard Dawkins Stripped of Atheist Award for Questioning the Trans Ideology

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 05/05/2021 - 8:31pm in

This story was over a number of right-wing and gender critical websites last week, and it’s interesting as it shows the comparative power of the trans rights lobby against both organised religion and one of atheism’s fiercest polemicists. Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist and anti-theist activist, was stripped of his Humanist of the Year Award because he’d posted a comment on Twitter comparing trans people to Rachel Dolezal.

Dolezal had been kicked out of the White chapter of NAACP – the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People – because she’d declared she considered herself ‘transracial’. Although White, she identified as Black. This obviously left many people very offended, and so she was expelled. Dawkins followed this with the comment ‘Now we have men identifying as women and women identifying as men. Discuss.’ As commenters like Graham Linehan and Sargon’s and his fellow Lotus Eaters said, it’s a very mild criticism, couched as an invitation for discussion. And indeed Dawkins tried to excuse it as just that – an invitation to discuss the issue. But it was enough to bring down on him the wrath of the trans rights activists and their supporters in the various atheist and sceptic groups. American Atheists accused him of minimising the persecution of marginalised groups, and the British Humanist Society stripped him of his Humanist of the Year Award, which he’d been given in 1996. Dawkins then made an apology, saying that he had no wish to minimise the suffering of trans people, and did not want to ally himself with ‘Republican bigots’.

This is the man, who has a deep, bitter hatred of organised religion and its supporters. Dawkins is the author of the God Delusion, which was published with the explicit aim of destroying people’s belief in the Almighty and converting them to atheism. He was the leader of the ‘New Atheists’, who were notorious for their bitter invective. Dawkins has described raising a child as a member of a particular religion as ‘child abuse’ and called religious people ‘faithheads’. He has also been accused of islamophobia because of comments he has made about that religion’s traditional attitude towards women and the practice among many Muslims of Female Genital Mutilation. HIs attitude towards religion is so bitter and intolerant, that it has actually alienated many more traditional, tolerant atheists. See for example Kim Sterelny’s foreword for his book, Darwin Wars, about the feud between Dawkins and the late Stephen Jay Gould over their differing interpretations of Darwinian evolution. But Dawkins has carried on undaunted with the same bitter polemic. But when faced with attacks for simply questioning trans ideology, he automatically caved in.

This shows the comparative power of organised religion compared to the trans rights lobby, at least within the sphere of progressive politics. Critics of the ideology have described how the trans lobby has captured a plethora of organisations, including the gay rights organisation Stonewall, various, mostly left-wing political parties and have advised organisations like the police and feminist organisations. The only political parties resisting them are those of the conservative right, which explains why Dawkins didn’t want to be seen supporting the Republicans. The problem is, however, that there is a feminist dimension to Republican opposition to trans rights, and that Dawkins asked a perfectly reasonable question.

Sargon of Gasbag and the Lotus Eaters made a video about this last week, pointing out that the academic magazine Hypatia had published an article defending trans-racialism. Hypatia describes itself as a journal of feminist philosophy. It had asked why it should be acceptable for people of one sex to identify as members of the other, but not people of one race to identify as members of a different ethnic group. Historically, there have been other Whites, whose admiration of Black America and its culture has led them to try to live as much as possible as Blacks. Years ago in the 1940s, I believe, one man went so far as to paint himself with melanin in order to live as a Black man. He then published a book about his experiences with the deliberate intention of challenging racism and bringing Whites and Blacks together. The Hypatia article stated that the arguments for transgenderism and trans-racialism are exactly the same, and there is no logical reason why one should be acceptable and the other not.

One of the objections to the transgender movement is the feminist concern that it will disadvantage natural, born women in sports. On average, men are stronger and more powerful than women. Hence there is the entirely justifiable fear that if biological men and boys are allowed to compete in female sports it will put biological females at a disadvantage. Natural women are at risk of being pushed out of their own sports. This has implications for university careers, as it means that sports scholarships to universities will go to transwomen rather than natural women. Hence Republican politicians in Maine and New Hampshire have put forward a bill banning biological men competing as women in women’s sports as a deliberate defence of the latter.

These are issues that at the very least need to be discussed calmly and logically, without accusations of bigotry and persecution. In my opinion, those attacking the trans ideology are right and are actually on the side of traditional feminism, and no amount of abuse will change this.

For all his deeply unpleasant intolerance towards religion, Dawkins was perfectly right in wanting it discussed.

Here’s the Lotus Eater’s video on the issue.

Here’s Black American feminist Karen Davies on the bill in Maine to protect women’s sports.

History Debunked Refutes Critical Race Theory’s Rejection of Objective Fact

In this video from History Debunked, YouTuber and author Simon Webb attacks Critical Race Theory’s epistemology. Critical Race Theory is the theory of racial politics, devised by American Marxists, that Blacks are the victims of institutional racism. As the video states, Critical Race Theory has largely been confined to the US for the past 40 years, but is now being adopted in Britain. It was the McPherson report following the murder of Stephen Lawrence, which introduced the idea of institutional racism in Britain with its conclusion that the Met was institutional racist. Since then a number of other organisations have also been accused of institutional racism, including the NHS.

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy dealing with knowledge. There is a difference between subjective and objective knowledge. The statement that light moves at 186,000 miles per second is objectively true. It can be tested. But the statement that X hates someone is subjective, as it is difficult to prove objectively. In the West, knowledge is generally regarded as objective fact. But Critical Race Theory rejects objective fact in favour of ‘Standpoint Epistemology’. This is the view that the opinions and perceptions of minorities are what matter, and these should be accepted uncritically, as demanding objective proof or questioning them is a form of oppression. The video also states that the theory also promotes instead of facts the stories Black people tell amongst themselves. These stories, which may include myths, are to be regarded as incontrovertible truth, and should similarly not be subjected to criticism or testing.

The video illustrates this by citing the views of a young Black woman, Yomimi, in an article published by the Beeb, and the Oprah Winfrey interview with Meghan Markle. The Beeb article is about the higher percentage of graduate unemployment among Blacks. Yomimi is quoted as saying that she feels it is due to institutional racism, and that employers automatically reject applicants from Black and Asian candidates, whose names are difficult to pronounce. This was the subject of a previous video by History Debunked yesterday, in which he argued against this assertion. Official statistics show that Chinese and Indians are slightly better at obtaining jobs than Whites, but Chinese names are notoriously difficult for westerners to pronounce. However, the Chinese generally do better in education than Whites, while fewer Blacks than Whites obtain two or more ‘A’ levels. Black unemployment may therefore have more to do with poor Black academic performance than institutional racism amongst employers. But what is important about the article is that Yomimi is not asked to provide supporting facts for her arguments. It is just how she feels or sees the situation.

Similarly, Markle said little in her interview with Winfrey that could be objectively verified. Significantly, Winfrey thanked Markle for speaking her ‘truth’. This sounds strange to British ears, but it’s part of the same viewpoint that rejects objective truth in favour of feelings and perceptions.

I’ve no doubt that racism exists in this country, and the police force, especially the Met, has been notorious for the racism of some of its officers. Racism appears to be one explanation for the Met’s failure to prosecute Lawrence’s murderers, but they were also the sons of notorious London gangsters. An alternative explanation was that the cops were afraid of prosecuting them because of their fathers, or else were corrupt and on their payroll. Private Eye also stated a few years ago that an Asian and White lad were also separately the victims of racist murders, and the Met was similarly negligent about finding and prosecuting their killers but that there was no mention of this.

The rejection of objective fact, however, is a fundamental element of Postmodernism and its moral and cultural relativism. Instead, it sees every culture and viewpoint as equal. Way back in the 1990s I tried to do an MA on British Islam at my old College. As part of it, my supervisor sent me to several Cultural Studies seminars, which were thoroughly postmodern. These were on colonial or western views of extra-European cultures. The attitude really did seem to be that westerners really couldn’t understand or appreciate other cultures, who should thus be exempt from western criticism. Any attempt to do so was dangerously prejudiced and ‘othering’.

Unfortunately, parts of the women’s movement have also been contaminated by this irratrionalism. In their book Intellectual Impostures, Sokal and Bricmont, one an American left-wing mathematician and physicist, the other a Belgian philosopher, attack postmodern philosophy and particularly its appropriation of scientific concepts. These are used nonsensically to give an appearance of depth and profundity to arguments that are actually absurd and incoherent nonsense. In one chapter they attack a number of postmodern feminist writers, who refuse to use conventional logical argument because logic and objective are patriarchal concepts that mentally imprison women. I am not joking, and this is most definitely not a wind-up.

A friend of mine came across this attitude, also back in the 1990s, in the women’s committee of the local branch of the National Union of Students. He was told by someone who worked with it, that it was one of three autonomous committees, whose conclusions were automatically passed as NUS policy. The other committees were for Black and LGBTQ students. The women’s committee similarly rejected logic and objective fact. Instead their debates supposedly consisted of them largely talking about their experiences of sexual abuse before concluding with their recommendation on a particularly issue. Which was passed with no debate. This situation should have been unacceptable. I have every sympathy for anyone who has been sexually abused, but official decisions need to be based on logical argument and proper debate, not entirely subjective feelings and personal history unless these are directly relevant to the matter.

Sokal and Bricmont were highly critical of this feminist rejection of logic, not least because it was based on a very traditional view, that has been used to exclude women from authority. For centuries women were largely excluded from a number of professions and political power on the basis that they, unlike men, were emotional rather than reasonable and logical. The Nazis used the same argument to justify their removal of women from the workplace and politics. They also believed in Cultural Relativism, and what was appropriate for one race was unsuitable for others. This is shown in their denunciation of democracy as ‘Jewish’. Now cultural relativism and the rejection of objective fact in favour of feelings and perceptions is being promoted as empowering for Blacks and women.

Proper discussion of racism is entirely appropriate, especially given the continuing poverty and marginalisation of the Black community. But this has to be done through rational discussion and argument, backed up with facts and statistics. And this means a rejection of Postmodernism and Critical Race Theory’s theory of knowledge.

Graham Linehan’s Trans Day of Visibility: It’s Against a Harmful Ideology, Not People

I’m almost two weeks late writing about this, but I think it needs to be covered. On the last day of March, Graham Linehan and his conversationalists on The Mess We’re In channel held their own Trans Day of Visibility. As well as being the writer behind the awesome Father Ted, Linehan is very much a male feminist. He’s become notorious over the past few years for his opposition to the transgender ideology, along with Kellie-Jay Kean, Abigail Shrier, Benjamin Boyce, and the host of another YouTube channel, You’re Kidding, Right?. This last lady presents the arguments against the ideology from the perspective of a Black American woman, which is very enlightening. Especially when she forcefully tells the trans rights activists not to true to compare their ideology to the Civil Rights movement. One of her critics tried to tell her that she was the equivalent of the Klan. Her antecedents came from Georgia when the Klan were powerful and extremely frightening. She made it very, very clear that she was nothing like the Klan. But I digress.

Linehan is joined on his videos with Welsh feminist Helen Staniland and gay Canadian Arty Morty. Morty is, by his own admission, very much a part of the Canadian gay scene and worked as a bar man in a trans bar. Staniland is concerned about the threat to women and girls from biological men being allowed into female spaces on the grounds that they identify as women. Morty is particularly concerned that gender reassignment is being used as a form of conversion therapy to ‘cure’ gender non-conforming children and teens by parents who are afraid that their children will grow up gay. He’s particularly concerned as he was one of these kids. As a boy, he preferred to play with dolls, and he’s afraid that if he was a child today, he would have been put down as transgender and been put on the path to transition.

It was the ‘trans day of visibility’ a few weeks ago, and so Linehan and his friends have as guests in this video their transgender friends and supporters – Debbie Hayton, Miranda Yardlemort, Scott Newgent, and a transman who appears simply as Aaron. These gents and ladies give their perspective on the dangers of trans movement and ideology as transmen and women, and how they came to oppose it.

They did so for a variety of reasons. In the case of Yardlemort, it was through looking at what the gender critical feminists actually wrote for herself, and being horrified at the grotesquely exaggerated response by the trans activists to entirely reasonable points as well as the way opposing feminists were stalked, abused and maltreated. She was also concerned by the way the pro-trans stance of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Women actually invalidates those rights and endangers women. She was thrown off Twitter for such crimes as saying that there are only two genders, transwomen shouldn’t be allowed into women’s spaces, and that rape and death threat to women aren’t acceptable. Yardlemort has also suffered her share of bullying from trans activists, as when one tried to take her to court for alleged ‘transphobia’.

Debbie Hayton joined the anti-trans movement because she was afraid that their extreme claims would actually damage the trans movement, and make trans people less accepted. She argues that being gender critical does not mean being anti-trans. She and Helen Staniland looked back to a time when transwomen and women were largely in harmony with each other, although there was occasional conflicts over the inclusion of transwomen in female-only events, such as the Michfest women-only music festival.

They also talk about the vexed issues of pronouns. The attitude of Arty Morty is that, while he doesn’t believe that there should be laws demanding transgender people be referred to be their chosen pronouns, he has no problem doing so for decent people. It’s only the misogynists he refuses to call ‘she’.

Aaron made it very clear that he believes transitioning is beneficial for some people. It worked for him, but he didn’t have a mental illness. This is important, as some of those being diagnosed a transgender may simply be mentally ill or have a neurological condition like autism. He turned against the trans ideology three years ago from concerns about the homophobia. He’s afraid that the excesses of the trans activists, such as the attacks on J.K. Rowling, will eventually lead to a ban on transitions, which will harm those who really need them. He is also afraid, like Linehan, Staniland, Morty and the others, that children and vulnerable adults are being misdiagnosed as trans and consequently mutilated. Debbie Orlander also shares this fear, especially when it comes to children as young as four or five.

Scott Newgent makes the point that part of the problem is medical corporations, who stand to make a profit from these drugs and treatments, telling vulnerable people they have the solution. This is compounded by social media, as Twitter and other sites will not allow the opposing side to be heard. He also makes the point that the trans ideology is supported by genuinely good people, who want to do the right thing, and have been falsely persuaded that the trans issue is the same as gay rights and comparable to the struggle over gay marriage. He believes that there is a positive side to trans activism, but this is a problem as its acceptance leads also to the acceptance of the negative aspects as well. He and the others also take down some of the ridiculously inflated and entirely false claims of the trans activists. Over here in the Blighty, the trans activists wanted a ‘trans day of remembrance’ for all the transgender people, who’ve been murdered. Except the numbers of transgender people who’ve been killed over here is vanishingly small. No transpeople have been killed in Scotland, for example. Newgent makes the same point about similar claims in his part of the US. He attended a talk about trans rights, in which the speaker claimed that trans children in his state of South Dakota were in danger of committing suicide. Except they weren’t. No trans children have committed suicide there.

The peeps do, however, express concerns that these threats and prophecies of suicide may be self-fulling. There is the danger that people, who have been misled into transitioning, may kill themselves when they find that it is not the cure they have been promised. Lesbian girls may be particularly affected by this. One of them talks about how they’re horrified by the the people, who’ve been physically harmed by the treatment – people with osteopathy and shrunken hearts due to puberty blockers and the hormones they’ve been prescribed. There’s also the case of the medical doctor, who contacted Linehan in distress at being officially barred from telling upset trans people that J.K. Rowling does not in fact want to kill them.

The team talk about the toxicity and violence of the trans activists. One of them physically attacked a gender critical feminist, Cathy Brennan, at Speaker’s Corner, a situation made all the worse by the actions of Stonewall, the gay advocacy organisation. They also criticise the left for its handling of the debate. They state that the left is undemocratic, intolerant of free speech and has a problem with racism and misogyny. Stonewall by its actions over a number of issues has provoked a backlash, of which the gender critical movement is only one part.

Hayton is optimistic, believing that more people are turning against the trans movement and being aware how it affects women’s rights and children’s safeguarding, as well as the way it harms transpeople themselves. Fionne, another transwoman, is also optimistic, noting the success of the Keira Bell case. Like Aaron, she believes that medical transition should be an option, but only for adults, not children, who need psychotherapy and a more diverse approach. She believes that transpeople have made a mistake in demanding access to women’s spaces, and should instead have demanded their own, third spaces. Yardlemort actually emailed a number of LGBTQ organisations about the need for gay spaces away from transpeople, but none of them replied.

The team also debate whether Donald Trump was the only person, who would have been able to stop the progress of trans ideology. They feel we need more people like J.K. Rowlings, who stand up to the trans lobby simply out of principle without any benefit to themselves. Newgent states that he has sacrificed his own career for his principles. He states that when it comes to the treatment of children,

I am very much aware that this is a very emotive issue and that many of my readers don’t share my views on this topic. However, I strongly believe that Linehan and his guests here are correct, and that vulnerable people, particularly women and children, are being unnecessarily put on life-changing, harmful medical treatment. And there is a problem with biological men being allowed into female-only spaces, such as prisons. There have been a series of rapes of women prisoners by biological men, who have been placed in women’s prisons because they have identified, or claimed to identify, as women.

I don’t hate transgender people, and definitely don’t wish anyone to come to any harm, much less be killed. But there are genuine dangers here, but unfortunately the climate of liberal opinion and many ‘official’ gay organisations, like Stonewall, mean that the gender critical side is silenced and their arguments not heard.

As you can see from this video, Linehan and his friends very definitely don’t hate transpeople, although they do discuss some extremely dangerous and predatory individuals. And they clearly have friends and supporters in the trans community, who share their concerns.

At the very least, they need to be heard and listened to. The topic should not be the monopoly of intolerant trans activists.

Tories Once Again Demanding Clampdown in Schools for No Reason At All

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/04/2021 - 8:49pm in

Why do the Tories hate schoolchildren? Why are they so determined to make school as miserable as possible? I ask these questions, ’cause yesterday Mike put up a piece on his blog about the education minister, Gavin Williamson. Williamson has claimed that there’s a lack of discipline in schools because children were allowed greater freedom during the lockdown. Mobile phones are a particularly destructive influence, and shouldn’t be allowed.

Now I agree with Mike about this, who does agree with Williamson. They shouldn’t be allowed in schools because of the danger that children can use them to cheat. Quite apart from the temptation amongst some pupils to play Tetris or whatever at the back of the class instead of concentrating on Miss trying to teach them trigonometry. But this isn’t a new problem. People have been talking about the problems caused by mobile phones in school ever since children started taking them into class in the ’90s. What is remarkable is Williamson going on about the lack of discipline among school students when there’s absolutely no evidence for it. I haven’t heard anyone complain about a decline in schoolchildren’s behaviour in my neck of the woods, and I’m pretty sure you haven’t either.

In fact, not only is there no evidence that the returning pupils are particularly badly behaved, there appears to be plenty of evidence to the contrary. One of our friends down here in south Bristol is a school governor. They told us that the children coming back to school had actually been better behaved. So where does Williamson’s claim that discipline has declined come from?

I think it’s partly due to an habitual Tory distrust of youth. Ever since the ‘youthquake’ of the 1950s and the emergence of modern youth culture, there’s been a particular distrust of young people on the right. This wasn’t entirely unwarranted. I remember the annual fights during the Bank Holidays between Mods and Rockers at Weston Super Mud and elsewhere in the country, and those were frightening. There was a rise in juvenile delinquency, and for years the papers were full of stories about the terrible lack of discipline and poor educational standards in many schools. These were real problems. Private Eye devoted a whole section in one issue to complaints from teachers about the problems they were faced with teaching entirely uninterested, disruptive and sometimes violent students, compounded with lack of support from the headmaster or the education authorities. I dare say in some schools this is still the case, but it doesn’t seem quite the issue it once was. But school discipline is something of a Tory ‘talking point’. School standards are breaking down, and it’s all due to modern, progressive schooling. Kids are being indoctrinated into rebellion by Marxist feminist teachers of ambiguous sexuality.

Except that I don’t think they are. I wondered if this was a response to events at Pimlico academy last week, when the children and some staff decided that the headmaster’s new dress code was somehow racist, as was the flying of the union flag, which some idiot decided to burn. I don’t support the protests there – I think they’re unwarranted and show instead a nasty streak of racism amongst the protesters. But as far as I can make out, it was an isolated incident that was a response to very specific circumstances that has not been repeated elsewhere.

But it also seems to fit with the Tory determination to remove any kind of joy from schooling. When the Tories took over ten years or so ago, they declared that they were going to enforce school discipline and make sure the children worked hard, introducing homework for primary school children. There does seem a determination on the Tories’ part to make school as grim as possible.

And this attitude is shared by some of the academy chains that have been brought in to run schools. Before I came down with the myeloma I did voluntary work listening to children read at one of the local school in south Bristol. This was a normal primary school, whose walls were decorated with the children’s work and paintings along with the usual school notices, and the usual hubbub when the children came in from playground or moved between classroom. It came across as a normal, happy British school, full of normal, happy children.

And then the school was handed over to an academy chain, whose headquarters, incidentally, were registered in Eire as the usual tax dodge. The whole ethos changed. When next I arrived, the walls were bare except for the school notices and children were expected to move from class to class in silence. The children still seemed to be as happy as ever, but a vital part of the school experience had been excised. The place seemed far more dour. I suppose this new austerity was to show that there was now an emphasis on learning and the importance of discipline. It now seemed actually rather joyless and forbidding. I think that putting students’ work up on school walls is enormously encouraging – it rewards pupils for their good work but putting it up for the appreciation of the rest of the school. Or the kids’ parents at parents’ evenings. Ditto with the art. I think it helps to create an attitude among schoolchildren that it is their school, and creates a sense of a common school community. It’s what makes a school a school, rather than a prison.

I think this dour, very authoritarian attitude to education comes partly from Tory authoritarianism. The people at the top set the rules, and the lower orders have to obey, work and suffer. Conditions must be made as hard as possible to encourage people to work and improve themselves. It’s an attitude they’ve introduced into the welfare system by trying to make it as hard as possible to discourage people going onto benefits. This means making benefits all but impossible to obtain and doing their best to hide the fact that people are dying as a result. Now they’re introducing it to education.

I think it also partly comes from the Japanese school system that the Tories are desperate to emulate over here. I got the impression that discipline is extremely strict in Japanese schools, with staff even checking the children’s underwear to make sure they’re the right colour. It’s so strict in fact that in one year in the ’90s, five school kids were beaten to death by their teachers. But this discipline, supposedly, has led to the Japanese and other far eastern countries leading the world in high educational standards. However, a friend of mine told me years ago that this isn’t quite the case. Yes, the east Asian countries do lead the world in their educational standards, but the discipline and extremely hard work are actually typical of a relatively few Chinese and Japanese schools, not the system as a whole. And seeing how hard the schoolchildren in these countries are expected to work, you wonder if something is being lost. Hard work is important, but childhood should also be a time for fun.

Except to the Tories and Gavin Williamson, who seems to be so obsessed with a decline in school discipline that he’s seeing it where it doesn’t actually exist. Perhaps it’s another attempt to put state schools down after the failure of the algorithm he introduced a year ago to predict exam results. This aroused massive outrage because it unfairly assumed that pupils from state schools were perform far less well than those from private schools. Mike and the peeps on Twitter have suggested that Williamson might be trying to revenge himself on schoolkids after one of them tore apart his wretched algorithm on social media.

Whatever the cause, the fact remains that there has been no decline in school discipline. In fact, I’ve heard that in some schools the kids were actually better behaved. This means, as Mike has pointed out on his blog, that children have actually developed self-discipline. And good for them!

As for Williamson, this just shows how out of touch he is with real conditions in schools, and how determined he is to push the Tory view that all schoolchildren and young people are ill-behaved and need the firm hand of authority to keep them in order.

Book Review: Redeeming Leadership: An Anti-Racist Feminist Intervention by Helena Liu

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 24/03/2021 - 10:27pm in

In Redeeming Leadership: An Anti-Racist Feminist InterventionHelena Liu critiques and seeks to dismantle celebrated leadership narratives that draw from and protect systems of oppression rooted in imperialism, white supremacy, neoliberal capitalism and patriarchy in order to consider more substantive actions for institutional and societal change. This is a timely, thought-provoking and hopeful read recommended to all those who wish to reimagine leadership away from the confines of oppression and learn how to practise true allyship, finds Ellen Frank Delgado

Redeeming Leadership: An Anti-Racist Feminist Intervention. Helena Liu. Bristol University Press. 2020.

I was drawn to Helena Liu’s first book initially due to the title, Redeeming Leadership: An Anti-Racist Feminist Intervention. For me, the title provokes images of middle management being held against their will in a 36-hour-long mandatory workplace training session, most likely held in a windowless room on an especially dreich Monday morning. Human resources professionals offer well-intentioned, but surface-level, gestures, like handing out t-shirts reading ‘This is what a feminist looks like’ or pens imprinted with #BLM. Unsurprisingly, Liu’s book is infinitely more engaging than any such intervention, carefully considering substantive actions for institutional change. Liu offers a timely and thought-provoking analysis of leadership as we know it. Accessible for academics and non-academics alike, Liu both critiques and shares how to dismantle celebrated leadership narratives rooted in imperialism, white supremacy, neoliberal capitalism and patriarchy.

Liu’s arguments develop over the course of eight chapters divided into two main parts: the violences of leadership; and anti-racist feminist redemption. Throughout the book, Liu draws on her own experiences working in academic institutions, her extensive critical leadership research as well as commonly accepted grand tales of white leadership. It is the latter that most powerfully forces readers to stop and analyse how leadership draws from and protects systems of oppression.

Liu offers solemn reminders of the overt hate and violence expressed by some of the most dominant, controversial and golden blonde world leaders, but also highlights how covert violence is perpetuated by celebrated and memorialised leaders too. Her argument is reminiscent of the work of sociologists Donald Tomaskovic-Devey and Dustin Avent-Holt who build on Charles Tilly’s categorical inequality theory to develop relational inequality theory. One critical aspect of relational inequality theory is the covertness of systems of oppression in maintaining social hierarchies within institutions. Legislation such as the US Civil Rights Act of 1964 led discrimination to become more discreet (Douglas S. Massey, 2008). Oppression within and upheld by leadership narratives, as Liu argues, is no different (Tomaskovic-Devey and Avent-Holt, 2019; Massey, 2008). Liu hints at this covertness at times and specifically calls it out when she critiques normalisation, whereby whiteness ‘silently imposes itself as the standard’ (31).

Yet, as discreet as oppressive leadership is, it is hard to enter any bookstore without noticing entire sections devoted to self-help leadership books catering to the young, white, able-bodied, cisgender man. As Liu points out, oftentimes the prevailing narrative, regardless of author or academic theory, is one in which leadership is a gene inherited by the visionaries, the hard workers and the intellectuals with unwavering and unstoppable brilliance. Liu is blunt and unforgiving in her questioning of why, in the Western world, do we so zealously accept the tales of white ’heroic’ leaders? If leadership is socially constructed, as Liu argues, why do we construct it in a way that reinforces hierarchies built by neoliberalism, patriarchy, imperialism and white supremacy?

This is the crux of Liu’s argument. Leadership, as it is known and practised today, has a firm foundation in these systems of oppression and therefore also protects these very same systems. Take the late black-turtleneck-wearing visionary Steve Jobs and how the grand tales of his success replicate a neoliberal narrative. The ways his ‘rags-to-riches’ story is spun ‘[…] disregard structures of inequality and histories of oppression, and reduce collective responsibilities onto the individual’ (5). In such narratives of success, the leader figure prevails all on his lonesome.

In Chapter Two, Liu reminds readers that her book is less about critiquing the visionary man, fuelled solely by his feverish pursuit of knowledge, or any one CEO. Instead, it is a critique of the narrative of leadership perpetuated not just by white, cisgender, able-bodied men, but also women engaging in neoliberal, white supremacist, imperialist fantasies too. As Liu reflects, ‘patriarchy […] has no gender’ (26). Similarly, women leaders oftentimes perpetuate whiteness through ‘rituals of exclusion’ (59). This argument is once again reminiscent of relational inequality theory, whereby social hierarchies are maintained through three main mechanisms: claims-making, exploitation and social closure (Tomaskovic-Devey and Avent-Holt, 2019).

Claims-making is when an individual can secure more resources or a position of power more easily due to their identity, while exploitation allows an individual to unfairly take away from others’ resources due to unjust power differences (Tomaskovic-Devey and Avent-Holt, 2019). Social closure involves in-groups hoarding their power and resources away from groups that do not share their identity (opportunity hoarding), as well as blatantly excluding out-groups from the same potentially narrative-altering power and resources (Tomaskovic-Devey and Avent-Holt, 2019).

Liu shares an experience from her own professional life in academia, where white colleagues would ask for fewer migrant students in their classes on the basis of perceived language comprehension. This covert, and as Liu puts it ‘natural’, pattern of exclusion is a strong example of how outright exclusion is becoming increasingly unacceptable, but opportunity hoarding is still a culturally acceptable form of social closure (59; Tomaskovic-Devey and Avent-Holt, 2019). In much the same way, given leadership is the outcome of power allocation, it is only logical that the power transfer from white men to Lean In white women in leadership hardly challenges the conventional leadership narrative. After all, it is still the in-group opportunity hoarding by and for whiteness. Together, these mechanisms result in vicious leadership cycles participating in, and therefore protecting, neoliberal capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy and imperialism.

In the second part of the book, Liu shares her vision for redeeming leadership and how we are routinely getting it wrong. As Douglas S. Massey writes, ‘discrimination moved underground’, and Liu rightfully questions why, despite this, we are still pretending that redeeming leadership is a surface-level numbers game. Liu eloquently reflects:

If commanding a Fortune 500 corporation involves subjugating employees, exploiting workers, and resources in the Global South, dispossessing Indigenous people of their land, and contributing to the degradation of the environment, then simply having a woman or a person of colour at the helm would be unlikely to alleviate the violences of leadership (23).

Inspired by the work of Audre Lorde and bell hooks, Liu also critiques the misapplication of Kimberlé Crenshaw’s theory of intersectionality to organisational practices. Liu maintains that redeeming leadership is not about exhausting neverendingly niche identity political debates either. Rather, Liu’s secret sauce for redeeming leadership is acknowledging and dismantling the interlocking systems of oppression by decolonising our minds, relating with others and reimagining leadership.

Decolonising our minds is a practice directly pulled from hooks, whereby individuals must reject the dominators’ values to create an internal safe space for self-acceptance. Only then can one also hold space for the true acceptance of others as they are. Relating with others involves active allyship, where recognising and working together across differences decentres the dominator’s identity. Finally, reimagining leadership similarly decentres any one individual or identity to refocus leadership on the spaces and relations between people. In doing so, a collaborative leadership emerges and this will inherently guide social justice initiatives more readily than traditional leadership narratives rooted in the individual.

With the social justice summer of 2020 carrying us through to 2021, Liu urges us to not just reconsider, but completely reimagine, leadership narratives that do not continue to fortify systems of oppression. This self-imposed intervention will not be easy. Oppressive leadership narratives are engrained in our universal psyches from the white knight storybooks we read as children to the mandatory case study readings in higher education to the Oscar-winning movies about Harvard dropouts we leisurely watch. In one especially sorrowful and candid footnote, Liu reflects, ‘I wonder if those who dominate assume that everybody strives for domination’ (105). Even so, Liu’s publication presents a highly recommended and hopeful read for all who wish to practise true allyship and urgently free leadership from the confines of oppression.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. The LSE RB blog may receive a small commission if you choose to make a purchase through the above Amazon affiliate link. This is entirely independent of the coverage of the book on LSE Review of Books.

Image Credit: Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash.


Eye to Eye with the Beast

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 19/03/2021 - 3:12am in


Politics, Feminism

For these activists, the issue of abortion is one of paramount importance to nothing less than the future of Brazilian democracy. It’s an institution that is besieged and deeply flawed but also somehow still imbued with the hope and creativity that animated the social movements that more than thirty years ago brought an end to the dictatorship and helped draft an inclusive new constitution. Motherhood, in their eyes, must be elective rather than obligatory, if democracy is to be upheld. As Rosado, the Catholic advocate, told me, “There can be no such thing as dignified motherhood if a woman cannot choose to not be a mother.”