I wrote a little feature for toast,
I wrote a little feature for toast,
I wrote something for the Tab about something I hate. Lowbrow. Bite me.
“From the small time promoter who spent half his loan on a pair of Sennheisers, to the 15-year-old sporting fake Beats his mum got him at the market so he’d be down with the latest playground craze, my qualm is the same. Today, massive over-ear headphones are seldom worn for their sonic virtues, but instead as lavish bits of jewellery and little more… owning an expensive pair of headphones might make you look like a DJ, but it doesn’t miraculously make you into a DJ.”
The Gentrification of Trailer Park Living
Half of young people now living at home with parents, are posh caravans the answer?
Recently the Guardian revealed how 48% of Europe’s 18 to 30 year olds are now living at home with their parents. To plenty of young adults currently wondering how to find a little independence and a place of their own, these figures came as no surprise.
We’re the first generation in living memory to be told to expect a lower standard of living than our parents and our student debt is among the highest in the developed world. The little social housing left is reserved for people really in need, property prices are record high, banks aren’t leading, the energy markets are crooked and well paid jobs are few and far between.
But here’s the good news. If like so many, your only options are staying with mum and dad, or sleeping in a caravan…. the caravan is actually looking like an increasingly appealing and acceptable choice.
Across American and via the Internet come the euphemistically named ‘tiny houses people.’ Hipster trailer park heroes seems more accurate to me. They’re currently trying, and succeeding, in making trailer park living not only comfortable, acceptable and civilised but trendy, eco-friendly and somewhat luxurious.
The idea of ‘returning’ to homes of less that 1000 squire feet has been in revival since the 1970s, but the recent resurgence and branding of the ‘movement’ only gathered pace in the US after the financial crash of 2007. It’s an architectural and social movement driven by some inventive craftsmen and designers and epitomised on a selection of popular blogs, and it’s even about to get it’s first TV show.
By drawing on knowledge from house boating, traditional cabins and caravanning, tiny house people have been creating some functional and impressive little buildings – comparatively affordable, hi-tech, efficient or even self-sufficient units. Look at these things; some are like ultimate little hideouts designed for urban free-living, rammed full of gadgets, space saving mind fucks and creature comforts.
Admittedly life in a house the size of a traditional caravan or shipping container isn’t for everyone. Plainly many 21st century adults simply wouldn’t fit. But even if you’re modestly sized like myself, a certain lifestyle adjustment is required for life in a tiny house. The philosophy and ethos promoted by the movement is a necessary precursor – a simple, slimed down life style. Such a life style is innately eco-friendly and very, very economical.
Unlike traditional travellers who’s choice to live in caravans is due to cultural heritage, tiny house people willingly select this mode of living. But like traditional travellers, it’s often because they favor simplicity and freedom, freedom from the alienation and debilitating restrains imposed by modern consumerism and home ownership.
Despite this, rightly or wrongly, the ‘tiny houses’ identity has been so rigorously marketed by the ‘tiny house people’ because they’re keen to emerge as distinct. They want to distance themselves from the sigma and prejudice that those living in more tradition caravans are so often subjected to.
Tiny house people in the US are twice as likely to have a collage degree and don’t earn any less than your average American [Link]. They’re not people who would otherwise be out on the street, they’re people who no longer want to play the increasingly demanding game of bills, council tax and mortgage/rent. Some try to pass off their tiny houses as alternative studio-flat on wheels, but lets be frank, they’re just spectacular bourgeois caravans. They’re so affordable because just like caravans and “RVs” they don’t require building permits and the majority are readily portable.
Such is the ‘cost of living crisis’ rent controls and regulating energy markets are now being seriously discussed in parliament. The acute housing shortage has made even finding a house difficult and property prices are eye watering, especially in the south. And if you are lucky enough to get a mortgage off the banks, you’ll be paying it back for a debilitating and depressing amount of time.
Apparently the recover has begun, and unsurprisingly it’s the property market that’s excelling itself, with no less that 6% growth. But that’s largely because the UK’s property market is little more than a monopoly board for foreign investors. Wages remain stagnant and a booming property market only benefits the people who already own the country. Our parents and grandparents made a killing on property, but entering that property market is a dream for half of young people today.
Is an incongruous idea – That some of the many young middle class adults unable to purchase property today could now adopt a mode of living once associated with poverty. Well, not really. Technology, the climate and our unbalanced society have change sufficiently to make the idea quite plausible.
The remaining questions are obviously land, and regulation? Once you’ve got yourself a cozy little house, where do you park it? Well, tiny house people gentrified the caravans so they’ve also gentrified caravan parks. ‘Tiny house villages’ are now a thing – private, exclusive, comparatively affordable little communities. It’s only a matter of time until the UK gets its first village.
This is a very thoughtful response to a tricky and divisive question. However, the article fails to fully recognise one important complication that is at the very root of the controversy surrounding this question.
As the article points out, harassment can be flirting “gone wrong” or flirting in and un-”sensitive” manner, but then surely it can also be unintended? There is a huge grey area here that is not mention, between flirting and harassment, a grey area usually occupied by ugly, unfortunate or mislead men. The clear line draw in the article, between the two, is only clearly visible in the eyes of a woman. The perpetrators of harassment simply can’t see it in some cases… leading to them crossing over from flirting and into harassment territory.
Rightly of wrongly, in the endless dance we call flirting, the man is often the proactive agent. So, he is far more likely to act in an unwanted manner if he miss-reads or miss-interprets the body language / situation. If every time a mislead sexual advance is rebuffed, we call it harassment, then men start to feel victimised.
I’m not talking about those who try and pass off harassment as “harmless flirtation” or those who harass because they do not try to understand the woman. I’m talking about those who thought they read the woman correctly, and genuinely intended on flirting, but were interpreted as harassing. Reading body language is notoriously difficult and hopeful, hetrosexual men are probably more prone to it that most. Unintended harassment is still harassment and the woman has a right to defend herself and criticise it. But it is not the same as intended, malicious or aggressive harassment. As I’ve maintained, there is a blurry line between the two, so both parties have a right to disagree.
Sexual harassment is clearly a huge huge problem, but there will always be instances when it was unintended as such. We must allow for the grey area and the mislead men who find themselves in it. Failing to engage with the male perspective leads to ugly, arrogant articles like the one in the Guardian yesterday, “Flirting or sexual harassment? A six-pint checklist?” Such articles only serve to give feminism a bad name, particularly in the eyes of sexist men who need feminism the most.
Ms Rebecca Reilly-Cooper, a political philosopher in the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick, gave a response to this re-blog that i feel is really worth sharing here. She draws more nuanced distinctions than were present in the original article and I agree with her on many points.
“Thanks for your comment Liam.
I thought I was very clear that harassment is NOT “flirting gone wrong”. I do not think that it is. It is a completely different species of behaviour, for the reasons I have identified here.
When flirting goes wrong, the useless Flirt is still trying to interpret the body language and micro-behaviours of the other to assess whether his advances are welcome. It just turns out he isn’t very good at doing that, and so makes a mistake.
The Harasser does not try to interpret these things because he does not care whether or not his advances are welcome. He is going to proceed regardless.
For this reason, I don’t think unintended harassment is actually that likely. I think if you are really, genuinely, trying your best not to impose yourself or someone or make them feel threatened or intimidated, they won’t feel these things. They might feel awkward or embarrassed at your inept flirting. But if you’re really, genuinely trying not to harass someone, you probably won’t end up harassing them.
I did not say that every time a misread signal leads to a rebuffed advance this is harassment. I think women are perfectly sensitive to the difference between a well-intentioned sexual advance (however undesired this may be), and sexual harassment. We get enough practice at dealing with them.”
Originally posted on Slave of the Passions:
As a couple of recentarticles have perfectly illustrated, whenever feminists try to talk about the issue of sexual harassment – be it the catcalls and leers that women commonly experience while minding their own business walking down the street, or just good old-fashioned workplace sexual harassment – they are inevitably met with the supposedly killer objection: “but isn’t a lot of this just harmless flirtation? What’s your problem with people trying to flirt with you?”
The power of this response comes from the fact that nobody wants to be the frigid old prude who objects to friendly, good-natured, charming men paying you a well-intentioned compliment. We all enjoy being flirted with, at least sometimes. But if you say that men shouldn’t make advances towards women they find attractive, aren’t you in effect saying that we should prohibit flirting?
I think this response is usually rather disingenuous, because it’s pretty clear that objections to workplace and street harassment have got nothing…
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This is an Article i co-wrote with Max Daily (author of @Narcomania) for VICE.
The article takes a comprehensive look at the phenomena of student drug dealing. It includes some in depth research and very interesting interviews.
It should hardly come a surprise that students sell drugs to each other, in fact, it should kind of be expected. Students are poor, selling drugs is very profitable and university presents a lucrative and dense market. Because of this, student dealers are often quite distance from the criminal despots who run the majority of the industry.
Research we looked at from the university of Plymouth concluded that, “because some dealers sell for minimal profit… “social supply” should become a distinct criminal offence, to differentiate the type of low-level dealer most common in universities from career drug sellers driven entirely by profit.” I think this is a really important point that needs to be observed by law makers.
Please take a read.
View this on my HuffPost blog - http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/liam-deacon/atheism-sunday-assemblies_b_4993851.html
How ‘Atheist’ should Sunday Assemblies be?
In a recent twitter exchange had between myself, @dimacdonald, @alomshaha, @AlexGabriel and Sanderson Jones, co-founder of Sunday Assembly movement, we discussed the difficult question of just how ‘Atheist’ Sunday Assemblies should be?
MacConald points out, “it’s sadly true that Sunday Assembly has divorced itself of explicit atheism… the Sunday Assembly’s philosophy of ‘live better, help often and wonder more’ [could] end up neglecting that very cornerstone of freethought – freethinking itself.”
I Share his concerns. I hope Atheist assemblies can find a way of marrying the theatre, uplifting spirt and sense of community monopolised by religious assemblies without, “the Sunday Assembly speaker platform just become[ing] an opportunity for every nutter off the street to promote their own personal pseudoscientific self-help shite,” as he put it.
Atheism, and Atheist assemblies, should always maintain a focus on reason and a commitment to the scientific method that elevates them above the sometimes dangerous dogmatism of religion. Furthermore they should be democratic and pluralistic organisations in opposition to the autocracy, hegemony and pressurised conformity of religion.
— Melody Hensley (@MelodyHensley) January 13, 2014
— Liam Deacon (@liamdeacon) January 13, 2014
— Liam Deacon (@liamdeacon) January 13, 2014
I really support the essence and ambition of the Sunday Assembly. However, Atheism’s greatest strength will always be it’s intrinsic inclusiveness, honesty, openness and enlightened spirit. This must not be forgot in an attempt to market the Sunday Assembly as a friendly (yet ignorant) song and dance.
Really well said by @dimacdonald !
Originally posted on The Failed Gael:
— sandersonjones (@sandersonjones) January 13, 2014
— sandersonjones (@sandersonjones) January 13, 2014
…which is all fair enough, and confirms everything in the article below about the founders of this “godless congregation” wanting nothing to do with atheism, and tightly controlling the philosophy of their so-called ‘grassroots’…
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I wrote an article for VICE about a story I initially blogged about a year a ago, based on an interview taken by Alex Deadman (@Deadmanjunglist). Read it here,
it’s the story of Niche club and the genera of Bassline (a mad and unique form of speed garage) that was created in the club.
Like all dance music scene it attracted drug use. But trouble with the police only started when a turf war between drug dealers began. The police made war of the scene and had the genera effectively banned from the city.
It’s a classic example of the war on drugs damaging music and nightlife and I’m really glad the story is finally getting the media attention it deserves.
The recent bill persecuting gay people in Uganda is caused by imperialistic Western Christian fundamentalists.
Watching Uganda’s president chuckle as he signed into law a bill that meant life imprisonment for homosexuality and not reporting gay family members a criminal offence was chilling. Many western observers shared an intuition that the West should surely respond in swift and principled manner to this ‘odious’ bill (as Obama described it). Sweden has suspended aid to Uganda and Richard Branson has already withdrawn all investment in the country. “I urge other companies worldwide to follow suit. Uganda must reconsider or find it being ostracized by companies and tourists worldwide,” he said, capturing a commonly expressed opinion held by statesmen and businessmen alike.
Their well-intentioned responses are misled. Ruthless economic ‘sanctions’ will indiscriminately increase poverty for all Uganda’s – gay, straight, liberal and bigoted. Cutting commercial investment will harm the economy and slashing governmental aid is futile; the vast majority is spent via NGOs, so little direct pressure will be put on the relevant legislators. However, a less draconian and potentially more effective response is available that has received little consideration in the ethnocentric and historically Christian west.
Homophobia is rife in much of Africa and homosexuality is illegal across most of the continent, so much of the western reporting has deplored this regressive law as characteristic of a distinctively African moral issue. But, particularly in the case of the much publicized and criticized law in Uganda, the problem is representative of a recognizably western, institutionalized homophobic narrative which has been financed and facilitated by politicized western religious extremists and justified by some ‘bad’ science coming out of America.
A recent film by called ‘God Loves Uganda’, by Rodger Ross Willis, has exposed in detail the fundamentalists who have been traveling to Uganda in their thousands and investing vast sums of money to insure their twisted religious social agenda is enforced. The social conservatives who have been definitively losing the ‘culture war’ on ‘sexual immorality’ back in America, as gay marriage has been legalized state by state, have now intensified their efforts to spread and legislate their hatred elsewhere – and they see developing nations such as Uganda as the perfect place to install their intolerant and violent interpretation of Biblical law.
Hate preachers like Scott Lively, who have previously written how, “homosexuals [are] the true inventors of Nazism and the guiding force behind many Nazi atrocities” are very active in Uganda. He was instrumental in organizing a conference about “the gay agenda… that whole hidden and dark agenda, and the threat homosexuals posed to Bible-based values and the traditional African family,” and just one month later, a Ugandan politician with close ties to American evangelicals introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009. Lively was even invited to address the Ugandan parliament for five hours to propagate his violence and hatred.
Following in their footsteps, thousands of young ‘born again’ American evangelicals have been traveling to Uganda in search of adventure whilst attempting to do something that’s “gonna blow god’s freakin mind!” and they have gained influence over politics, business, education and entertainment. There’s something infuriatingly obnoxious and patronizing about white-bred, middle class kids trying to save people afflicted by poverty, war and AIDS with backward and bigoted sexual moral codes. These people and their ‘missionary work’ have “set a fire they can’t quench,” and now Uganda is facing a wave of homophobic violence that these westerners are largely responsible for.
Hate preachers like Lively are in the same category as Anjem Choudary and Abu Qatada – if they were Muslim they would be swiftly labeled terrorists and reprimanded. But Lively and his accomplices like Lou Engle have been permitted to continue propagating violence simply because they are ‘Christian’. During the Bush administration, many American officials actually praised Uganda’s ‘family-value policies’ and directed millions of dollars into abstinence programs.
I recently blogged about the controversial and ordinarily employed term ‘islamophobia’, of which there is no equivalent term to describe and distinguish those who irrationally fear and hate Christianity from those who simply criticize it. But what is not questioned is the fact that the Christian equivalent to the term ‘Islamism’ (dominionism) is hardly evoked at all. Could this linguistic deficiency be revealing of a subliminal cultural prejudice? I think so.
Strains of politicized Islam have seen resurgence in Egypt and recently Turkey, and have received plenty of media coverage. Generally in the west Christianity is less political. But in parts of America, literalist, intolerant and explicitly political Biblical interpretations are prominent, and they are potently dangerous when exported by wealthy and influential zealots who forcefully propagate their ideology in developing, sovereign nations like Uganda.
I see little difference between some Saudi Wahabis that the West labels terrorists (because they fund extremism and violence) and the evangelical Christian fundamentalists doing the same in Uganda, but are labeled ‘missionaries’ instead. They too have an explicitly political agenda and wish to impose archaic, religious conceptions of morality upon diverse and pluralistic population. They see no place for gay people in “God’s kingdom” and have been vigorously promoting violence on the African continent, backed by millions of dollars of donations given in America churches.
Missionaries first went to Africa to “civilize” and “save” the African people. But it was an aggressive form of moral arrogance that manifested as cultural imperialism and has overwhelmed, undermined and eroded many fragile and unwritten African cultures. The American evangelical missionaries who continue this tradition today are some of the most aggressive, ignorant and dangerous yet, and are directly responsible for the Ugandan bill.
The ancient Ethiopian Orthodox Church claims lineage back to Solomon – but European missionaries converted the vast majority of protestant and catholic Christians in Africa today. Islam swept out of Arabia in the seventh century and established a Muslim tradition across North Africa. Later, European colonialists, Victorian enthusiasts, Jesuits and now the equally self-righteous American evangelicals continue to arrived and fuel a monotheistic proxy war being fought out on African soil – a theological war that has recently become very real in the Central Africa Republic and Mali.
President Museveni of Uganda claims he is asserting himself ‘against western imperialism’, but in reality he is promoting and fostering a pernicious western cultural import. As Jomo Kenyatta famously said, “when the missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land and the Missionaries had the Bible. They taught us how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.”
Successful diplomatic response from the West to moral and human rights crisis in the developing world are never easy. We must strive to uphold the highly regarded principles of universal human rights, avoiding behaving like cultural imperialists of the past yet also not slide towards cultural relativism. Recent western attempts to ‘punish’ other African nations for human rights violations (such as Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Sudan) have not often been successful, and have simply pushed these nations closer to China.
In the case of Uganda, it would make more sense for the west to resist harsh economic sanctions that will directly increase poverty and instead address a major cause of the gay rights crisis, which is coming directly from the west. We should begin to question the naive and harmful western evangelical missionaries and punish the most dangerous hate preachers who are so pervasive and powerful in African and continue to openly fund and promote violence and homophobia.
This also featured on my HuffPost blog - http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/liam-deacon/maajid-nawaz_b_4905802.html
Rights, Democracy and Cartoons
Last week journalists and politicians attempted to have a serious debate over a comic strip. Much ammunition was spent in the ensuing media trial of Maajid Nawaz who provoked the petition that prompted the debate. But frustratingly little of that discussion touched upon the motivating tension behind the issue. Tension derived from the controversial question of weather there is a need or democratic will to sign away certain individual rights to protect certain group rights here in the UK. Including and in particular the religious sensibilities at hand in this case.
The debate over group rights is contested, but what shouldn’t be, is the fact that calling for instant and somewhat arbitrary retributive action against a single MP candidate, who has exercised a right afforded to everyone else, just isn’t a convincing way to invite this debate into the public domain. Neither is it just or democratic.
They issue will remain controversial, but it certainly may be fair to invite the question into democratic conversation as the nation changes – to query if certain group identities might now need protecting by the curtailing of certain individual rights, such as those of Mr. Nawaz. It’s a discussion that’s been had in Canada, where the assignment of fishing rights to native ethnic groups and religious rights to particular immigrant groups has been very contentious.
Many assert that their existence creates different levels of citizenship and is ultimately divisive. The philosophical viability of group rights is sometimes rejected outright, because they are seen to utterly undermine the existence of essential universal and human rights. But supporters also argue that assigning group rights and protections in diverse democracies is essential to the survival of the distinct identities and cultures of minority groups, even if protections are only used temporarily.
I’m sure those who are really concerned with protecting religious traditionalists from cartoons are perusing the relevant lobbying or legislative pathways. But those who also lost their temper over the actions of one political figure have shown their increasing assertion of certain purported religious rights to be representative of what the opposition contends them to be – misappropriated as a tool to silence those who disagree.
A major argument advanced by those who attempted to have him ousted is that that many Muslims do not favour Mr. Nawaz or feel he is representative of them as a demographic group. This might be true; however, Mr. Nawaz’s message is that Islam is a diverse group and is not always appreciated as such. He wouldn’t claim for a moment to represent all British Muslims. He represents the change he and his organization wish to see and it is for the electorate of Hampstead and Kilburn to decide if they want him to represent them. The 20,000 signatures are entitled to be offended, but it certainly has not yet been decided by a court or in parliament that this ‘offender’ should suffer punitive measures for exercising his freedom of speech.
In terms of the Lib Dems, I would hazard a guess that it was an understanding of the importance of individual rights that led Mr. Nawaz towards his chosen party. To then witness them be so dilatory about upholding those very rights, rights they actually purport to embody, must have been despairing. Most worryingly of all, it signaled to the tiny minority who also threatened violence that their actions were productive.