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Article Contributing Creators MICRO CHANGES - JAN/FEB 2019

Brexit and The Policy Changes That Define a Nation

Written by Felix Faillace

So, here we are. Time for a big bowl of Brexit. At the time of publishing, Parliament is holding the vote and soon we will have made a long overdue decision on the toxic relationship it has with Brexit. It is a binary decision, a small change, one of staying or leaving, much like deciding to stay at a party for a while longer or catch the last train home. Except that the party is the EU and the last train home doesn’t let immigrants on board.

Where did this all start? Was it Farage, was it Cameron? Our answer lies deep in our glorious British history (God Save the Queen). From the late 17th century until the early 20th century Britain was the most powerful nation in the world, and by the end of the 19th century Britain ruled over 25% of the world’s population and controlled the global economy. Over the centuries, the Empire faded and a grand disparity developed between the memory of Britannia and the UK of today. In the face of modern challenges, we are left with a superiority complex in our national psyche, and the fact that we can now, in our situation, think we would somehow be better off without the EU, is baffling. Often we like to think that we dominated the globe because we are better than foreigners, but really it’s because we were better bankers.

Past Glory, Thanks to Immigrants

In the early 17th century the newly formed Dutch republic was able to fund the finest trade expeditions through the East India Company. They had established innovative economic instruments, such as the first stock market and the ability to issue bonds to the public, thereby delving into national debt. Holland dominated world trade for a number of decades, winning multiple battles against Britain in the process. However, on the 5th of November 1688, there was a crucial turning point in history as Willem Hendrik van Oranje, better known as William of Orange, landed on British shores and instigated “the Glorious Revolution” in which the Dutch noble took consenting control of the budding empire. Into his new domain, van Oranje imported the pioneering financial institutions of Holland and thrust Britain into the driver’s seat of globalisation.


Prince of Orange Landing at Torbay, engraving by William Miller after J M W Turner (Rawlinson 739), published in The Art Journal 1852 (New Series Volume IV). George Virtue, London, 1852

Today, we are once more at a crossroads in British history, and in the same way these noblemen committed treason and replaced their king, brave politicians must now disregard party loyalties and the “democratic” result of the referendum. There will undoubtedly be change; it is simply a case of whether it will be a return to sanity or a nosedive off the edge of Europe and into economic ruin.

By 1698 Britain had a thriving stock market and the state-funded East India Company was beginning to develop monopolies on the trade between Europe and Asia. Britain even had the money to emerge victorious over France, Spain, and Russia in the Seven Years’ War from 1756 to 1763. Both sides were fairly evenly matched but Britain was able to borrow funds, whilst all the French could do was raise taxes. This war was pivotal in European geopolitics, as the bulk of France’s colonial territories were given to Britain. This failure was felt most acutely by the poorest in France, setting the stage for the French revolution 26 years later.

Britain prospered as a result of the war and they had their financiers to thank for this. Yet most people in Britain perceived their prowess as a result of their innate superiority. They were not aware of the benefits of the stock market – all they saw were the headlines screaming “VICTORY”.

As the nation began to take control of world affairs, the toxic idea of god-granted supremacy began to take root in the British consciousness, a place where it has remained for over 250 years. Of course, the majority of the modern British public doesn’t understand that the glorious Empire was primarily a commercial free trade operation, and this is why it created so much wealth. It was first and foremost a single market, with a single currency, free movement of goods, services, capital and people, and with a single legal framework based on Common Law. Sounds an awful lot like the EU doesn’t it?

The Selective Memory of A Nation

Most of Britain’s success comes down to luck. We have been truly blessed by our geography. As an island, this country is far less susceptible to foreign invasions, and access to the sea allowed his or her majesty to literally rule the waves. This military security meant that Britain was able to focus on other endeavours, such as industrial innovation or improving domestic opportunities. The Magna Carta, Bill of Rights and English Common Law fostered political, economic and civil stability, at a time when other countries were finding their footing as nation states.

While in the 19th century the rest of Western Europe was busy unifying (Germany and Italy), fighting off revolutions (France and Spain) or modernizing from a feudal system (Russia), Britain had already secured a strong national identity and functioning parliament for centuries, keeping the Queen or King in check through heavy dependency on taxation. These are among the most easily identifiable reasons as to why Britain came to dominate, especially for a historian, but, throughout history, it was much easier for the average Brit to point to an inherent national and moral superiority.

For example, we have always ranted and raved about how we ended the slave trade. It is true; the British did blockade the West African coast throughout the early 19th century in order to stop merchants from continuing the trade, whilst being amongst the first European nations to abolish slavery entirely. These actions fully enshrined this effort and many Brits now point to these events as indicators of the morality and benevolence of the Empire.

Official medallion of the British Anti-Slavery Society (1795)

As you might guess, that wasn’t actually the case. In 1793 Britain engaged in war with France and the battles were fought in India, the Caribbean and the Americas, and Britain needed those native populations to support the war effort. Ending slavery was perceived as a move which would raise the overseas political capital of British rule. Slavery was also becoming less and less profitable as mass industry took over, with the slave populations deemed more costly and difficult to control. Successful revolutions had already occurred in territories such as Haiti. Even the forcible ending of the slave trade by the Royal Navy was mainly due to the fact that Britain did not want Brazilian sugar producers to gain an unfair competitive advantage through the use of slave labour.

Again, it was all about the money.

We must not delude ourselves into thinking that it was some moral epiphany that hit British politicians as they walked into the House of Commons one day and realised that enslavement is abhorrent. British authorities have a long tradition of downplaying “their central role in the transatlantic slave trade, while claiming credit for ending slavery.” They preferred to credit the change of heart to Christian lobbying groups such as the Clapham Sect, thereby making the government appear to be both pious and progressive.   

Throughout the 1950s and 60s, there was a steep increase in immigration from ex-colonies and this has led to a visible flaring of racial tensions when combined with the inferiority complex induced by our diminishing imperial might. The two have arrived on British shores simultaneously and led to a staggeringly ironic victim complex, whereby Brits feel colonized in their own land by immigrants from the old colonies. These migrants serve to help the British economy by taking often low-paying jobs and increasing the multiplier effect, never mind the long overdue justice in allowing them opportunities in Britain after centuries of colonisation.

The British public has not been capable of any level of critical introspection or reconciliation, rather remaining begrudged at our new position in the world, as we seek to regain control of our borders at extreme personal cost. However, this sentiment does not exist independently from other factors. It has been greatly exasperated in recent decades by certain economic policy errors, such as not joining the EEC in 1957 at the precise time when the Empire was dissolving.

“We love immigrants. They make great scapegoats.” Photo by Alisdare Hickson

Future Glory, Thanks to Immigrants

Failure to integrate the working class communities of Britain into our increasingly globalized world, followed by harsh austerity imposed on the nation’s poorest, has left many feeling disillusioned and eager to find a scapegoat upon which to drop their insecurities and anger. Politicians such as Margaret Thatcher have redefined the values of modern Britain and have given a legitimate voice to those disillusioned conservatives who simply wish to return to our imperial pre-eminence. However, going back to the old ways implicitly attacks those who represent the new Britain: the hundreds of thousands of economic migrants.

Nowadays, the glory of Britain can be found in our diversity and multiculturalism, but instead, we blame our problems on the social changes experienced in the wake of decolonisation. Many who voted for Brexit did so out of this sentiment. We wish pointlessly for Britannia, yet miss the crucial point that British power was based entirely on free trade and movement of peoples. What 6 words better describe the EU? Perhaps if we were better educated on the true nature of the Empire and not our innate supremacy, we would not have voted to leave the very organisation which continues its legacy.

Contributing Creators Poetry TRANSFORMATIVE TECHNOCRATS - December 2018

Trust The Experts

Art and Text by Marten Bart Stork

Human era.
Human error.
Human terror.
Your mentor.
You made more.
And more.
And more.
End more.
End less.
Begin.
Beginning.
Begging.
Beg for more.
Back for more.
And more.
And more.
Or less?
More or less.
Moralless.
Immoral.
Immortal.
I’m more tall.
Than you all.
That makes me the king.
Thank you all.
For coming.
Forthcoming.
Come again.
And again.
And again.
And a game.
End this game.
Computer game.
Computer gain.
Gain access.
Assess.
Assess the situation.
The simulation.
The stimulation.
The transformation.
The implication.
Thin application.
Expensive cream.
Elaborate dream.
Laboratory sceam.
Mandatory scream.
Screaming.
Greeting.
Greet things.
Hi.
Great things.
Great things will happen.
Just keep clapping.
And smiling.
And waving.
At the machine.
At the new thing.
Trust the experts.
Trust the technology.
To benefit our society.
Our democracy.
Our destiny.
Whatever that may be.
Abigail C. Keane Article Contributing Creators THE BODY AS A PRISON - November 2018

Your Body My Choice

Written by Abigail Ceban Keane with Kimmberly Taylor

The topic of abortion, however worn out it may be, still incites fervent debate – a debate that’s drifted further from the truth. For Americans, the nomination, then confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court relit the long-standing desire of conservatives to overturn Roe v. Wade.

US Abortion debates often rope in the well-known provider of a wide variety of reproductive services. Planned Parenthood. They were targeted in 2015 by an anti-abortion group that secretly filmed executives while posing as a company looking to conduct research with fetal tissue. That footage was then edited to make it appear like Planned Parenthood was profiting from selling aborted fetuses.

“Evidence” that Planned Parenthood should be shut down now, is based purely on the allegation that another company is using aborted fetuses in their creams. The company in question, Neocutis, actually harvested protein cells from a privately donated aborted fetus to create an experimental cream to heal severe dermatological issues. For instance, they researched the healing potential of fetal cells to accelerate “the repair process and reduce scarring in severe burns and wounds.”

To be clear, as described here, the procedure is a gross oversimplification. Where “fetus cells” actually means “proteins derived from cultured skin cells”, and the fetus should be replaced with “a terminated pregnancy that could not survive to term and was deemed medically necessary by the attending physicians.” It’s a bit lengthy, but you get it. What should further be considered is the number of people such research could help in the future.

Now what is demonstrated through these extensive qualifications is that the issue of “donating fetuses” is more complicated than just that, not only is it ethically and morally confusing, but also scientifically.

Yet somehow, the “real” experts don’t know how to back down.

The Morality Angle

Once you get past the initial thread of misinformation, you get to the ideological opinions. First, on abortion: is it murder? And if so, can it be justified? Whether or not abortion is considered murder is more a matter of perspective, and that matter won’t be touched upon in this piece. However, the question of justification is a difficult and pertinent one.

To the claim that women should know better than to have sex without taking birth-control, that with common sense they can foresee the outcome and should be prepared, the sarcastic voice of reason replies, “Force her to have a kid she can’t feed, clothe, educate, house or protect while cutting every program that exists to help her, while absolving men of any responsibility for their role in the situation, including rape…I’d call them pro-birthers, not pro-lifers.”

Note that the argument still speaks of two lives, or at least of a life and the potential for another life. If this potential life is calculated to be extremely unfavourable (presumably with the same common sense that urges one to use contraception), then is it not reasonable for a mother to want to prevent the future misery, deprivation, or possible death that could come after carrying out a pregnancy? To be clear, this is not a suggestion that women should get abortions whenever faced with uncertainty. However, personal health and the future wellbeing of a newborn, or the lack thereof, are considerations some women have to face, especially when it comes to unplanned pregnancy, be it an accident in spite of precautions or the result of rape.

Photo by Mihai Surdu

The Tax Angle

Thus, setting aside a lengthy philosophical debate on the notion of life, it’s preservation, and the prevention of harm (assuming there is no truly correct answer), the question then becomes: who decides on when abortion is justified, or whether it is justified at all? This is where the second contention lies: taxes.

Sure, this isn’t the most intuitive way to think about stakeholders, but just as pacifists condemn the use of taxpayers’ money for supporting military interventions, so are others opposed to inadvertently funding a cause that contradicts their beliefs.

In the context of the US, discussing the issue of taxes funding abortions is mostly irrelevant because abortions are not part of the public health services provided by the state, and out of the only 2 programs that do cover the sexual health of women (Title X and Medicaid), only one provides coverage for abortions. Furthermore, of the 32 states where Medicaid provides coverage for abortions, it is generally restricted to cases of rape, incest, and the endangerment of the woman’s health. Essentially, this entire discussion is just the result of more misinformation and oversimplification.

However, if we were to continue this discussion under the false assumption that Planned Parenthood is funded by taxpayers’ money, the vast majority of the services provided by the organization aren’t abortions. Instead, most of their services cover the testing and treatment of STIs and contraception. So guess what, if Planned Parenthood ceased to exist, not only would millions of people suffer from an undetected STI, but significantly more lower-class women would get pregnant due to an inability to afford contraceptives, or due to a lack of knowledge regarding sexual health and contraception to begin with.

Some may then rise in protest: “Well hang on, that’s still our money being spent on abortions!” The reply to that is 1) that is statistically likely to be factually incorrect, and 2) if it were true, please suggest a better alternative.

Weighing Your Values

Now given that this debate is mainly centered around the United States, the discussion of values will mainly apply to the US situation in particular. Notably, the US is built on principles of liberty, according to which people should be free to choose how to spend their lives and what decisions to make without judgement or legal prohibition as long as it does not harm others – abortion is no exception. Thus, we come to the final point of dispute: liberalism.

Though most interpret liberty in the way described above, a few people feel that the classical interpretation is a bit broad and that freedom can be exercised, as long as it’s not funded by others. Essentially, this comes back to the argument of “why should my taxes go to abortion if I don’t agree with it?”

Setting liberalism aside for a minute, another important factor that enters the discussion is the idea of helping others. Specifically, when it comes to Planned Parenthood, one of the central reasons the organization is often defended is the fact that it helps the less fortunate by providing the sexual health services they need for free or at an affordable price – something the US social security services don’t cover. Interestingly enough, according to a 2018 poll by Reuters, many Americans feel that Medicare should be expanded to operate similarly to the universal healthcare programs found in Europe. This demonstrates that many US citizens value a system that provides for the less fortunate (at least when it comes to medical care).

So, the resulting three key values that at the core of the abortion argument are personal beliefs, helping others, and freedom. Realistically, all three of these can’t be compatible in the case of abortion if one holds on to traditional values. Now the following segment is a thought experiment that will outline the three main options that can result from a weighing of those values.

You can only have two.

What are the options?

There’s an old rule that projects want to be good, fast, and cheap, but can only have two of the three qualities. Let’s assume the same goes for the three key values.

The first option is to forget freedom, but have an effective social security system that complies with your personal beliefs. It isn’t a stretch to say that this system is impossible if it were to be based on everyone’s ideologies.

The second possibility is to screw the less fortunate, but maintain the principles of freedom and personal beliefs. If a majority were to choose an extreme version of this option, just imagine the hell we’d live in: there’d be no taxes, and therefore no public education, no public services, no social security – in sum, no public goods that we take for granted every day.

Finally, there is the case of endorsing freedom and care for others, while putting your personal beliefs aside. This may be the most optimistic option, but it is also the highest chance of coming true since 59% of US Adults believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and 70% of Americans support universal health care.

So What?

Given the arguments outlined above, it is easy to understand why the discussion on abortion rights hasn’t been settled. In the end, it is often an issue of conflicting beliefs and general misinformation. What is important for us, as an audience, is to look at information critically, and to form our opinions based on careful considerations of real facts, as well as on our weighing of what beliefs and values we want to hold dearest in our society.

Contributing Creators Film THE BODY AS A PRISON - November 2018

Pretty Ugly & I Can’t Sleep

Videos by Anchitta “Kitty” Noowong

The two films below were shown as part of Pandemic’s November film screening. Watch the films, then read on to learn more about their creation and their creator, Anchitta who studies film at Portland State University.

“Pretty Ugly”

Initially, I created Pretty Ugly for a scholarship I, unfortunately, didn’t receive. However, the film became a success and earning 53,000 views!

Pretty Ugly was created to challenge society’s ideal of beauty and exposes the adverse effect media has on girls and women around the world. The obsession with “likes” and seeing “pretty girls” on Instagram leads to insecurities and high levels of pressure to be “perfect” – slim waist, clean skin, “thinspo”.

“I Can’t Sleep”

I Can’t Sleep is an experimental film. I occasionally have severe cases of insomnia, and so I made I Can’t Sleep to express how I feel.

The feeling of tiredness and mental impediments lead me to consider physical harms – hitting myself in the head and swallowing sleeping pills so that I can fall asleep. Lying in bed wanting to sleep but not able to is my worst case of the body as a prison.

What led you to become a filmmaker?

My parents used to work in the film and television industry in Thailand. I grew up running around behind the scenes. I’ve tried many different things growing up, but I eventually came back to filmmaking. I love being on set and creating ideas from scratch. Also, I love collaborating with people who are as passionate as I am about telling stories that matter.

Where there limitations on your projects that you needed to overcome?

I don’t own a camera, so that makes it harder to film. The equipment is usually expensive to own and expensive to rent. Nonetheless, I always try to take advantage of being a student by checking out school equipment for free. I also like to associate myself with people from community-based learning organizations as they offer affordable classes and filming gear.

What lessons had you learned from between the first and second films?

The story is what matters most! Of course, it helps if your film looks cinematic. However, if the story isn’t there, it will not resonate with the audiences. And that’s the whole point of filmmaking!

Also, take your time creating. If you don’t like something about the film, change it. Don’t do it just to submit to a film festival. You will regret not taking your time making it the best it could be.

  You can keep up with Anchittas latest work on Instagram @anchittafilms.