Posts categorised ‘News and Politics’

Link: “Think women have never had it so good? You should take a look at medieval days

Original post found at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/mar/18/history-of-women-equality-medieval-and-modern

Interesting piece about how women in mediaeval Europe were actually much freer than we imagine them to be (and certainly than how they’re depicted in quasi-mediaeval fantasy stories), with jobs as brewers, blacksmiths, court poets, teachers, merchants, and master craftsmen, and also barbers, apothecaries, armourers, shipwrights and tailors. They owned land and controlled their own money. They were not married off as young teenagers, but instead usually got married in their early to mid-20s. Not so much noblewomen, of course, who were traded like pawns, but women of the lower and middle classes were relatively free. This all started to change during the Renaissance, when the middle classes became more anxious to mimic their social “betters”, which meant mimicking their misogyny.

Link: “Texas judge is close to banning medication-induced abortion” by Kevin Drum

Original post found at: https://jabberwocking.com/texas-judge-is-close-to-banning-medication-induced-abortion/

This whole mifepristone business is just infuriating […]

It’s all such horseshit. Everyone knows mifepristone is safe. Everyone knows the FDA approval process in 2000 was fine. Everyone knows there’s more than 20 years of real-world data to demonstrate mifepristone’s safety. Everyone knows it’s been approved for use throughout the entire world. Everyone knows why an obscure judge in a tiny jurisdiction in Texas is hearing this case. And everyone knows the case has nothing to do with safety anyway. It’s just a way to make it harder to get an abortion.

Link: “Jail sentence overturned for climate change activist who blocked Sydney Harbour Bridge

Original post found at: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-03-15/nsw-court-climate-change-protester-jail-sentence-overturned/102097354

Good news: Violet Coco, a protester who was sentenced to 15 months’ jail for blocking one lane of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, has had her sentence overturned on appeal 🎉

Plus, the cops have been called out for including blatant lies in their testimony (that Coco’s protest blocked an ambulance on its way to an emergency). It remains to be seen whether NSW Police will face any actual consequences for lying, but it’s a start…

Link: “The Heresy of Decline

Original post found at: https://longnow.org/ideas/the-heresy-of-decline/

Thought-provoking article about the long-term fall in fertility rates. At this point, 72% of the world’s population lives in a country with sub-replacement fertility rates, and the trends suggest that’s only going to increase. Indeed, not too long ago I read a different article suggesting that the world’s already at “peak child”, as in, even though the overall population will continue to increase for a while due to rising life expectancy as that generation ages, there will never be more children on Earth than there are now. In the long term, the human population is going to decline.

The article also talks about how politics makes a lot of people not want to talk about this topic frankly. For right-wing nationalists, falling fertility rates are a big problem. For the Left, it’s either considered a neutral development or maybe even a positive step towards “degrowth”. Then there are anti-natalists, whether they claim to be environmentalists or whether they just hate people (particularly, of course, the “undesirable” kinds of people, like the disabled, the poor and POC…), for whom falling fertility rates are unequivocally a good thing. But the reality is, falling fertility rates are a long-term trend that seem destined to continue regardless of politics, so the only appropriate policy measures are to accommodate it.

It also touches on the reasons why fertility rates are falling – higher levels of education and gender equality, and the increasing acceptability of childfree lifestyles – but from my point of view it doesn’t give enough weight to the huge one, which is economic coercion. It says a large majority of young women still say their ideal family size is two (or more!) children, but a large (and increasing) proportion of those have fewer kids than that. Why? As far as I can see, because millennials are significantly poorer than our parents’ generation, and we can’t afford the kinds of family homes we think of as comfortable for raising children. Plus, middle class people have come to believe their entire lives should revolve around paid employment, making children nothing but a burden, while working class people often have little choice but to make their entire lives revolve around paid employment. Then there’s the hyperindividualism of neoliberal capitalism, according to which everyone should “pay their own way”, and “society” shouldn’t be expected to support the “lifestyle choices” (like having kids, or prioritising your kids over paid work) of individual people… it’s just fucked. Making sure everyone is supported is what society is for.

Link: “The Tragic Life of a Polrugarian Minister

Original post found at: https://jacobin.com/2023/03/communist-leaders-eastern-europe-soviet-union-stalinism-repression-revolution/

Republished here by Jacobin (which gave it a really generic title that I have chosen to ignore), this is a super compelling essay from 1952 by Polish-Jewish Marxist Isaac Deutscher. It tells the life story of a fictional senior minister in a fictional Eastern European country, and honestly, who knew it was possible to make Stalinist cronies so sympathetic while still also writing something so sharply critical of Stalinism? And it’s so beautifully written, literary and not dry or impenetrable at all.

There are two Vincent Adrianos now. One seems never to have known a moment of doubt or hesitation. His Stalinist orthodoxy has never been questioned, his devotion to the party has never flagged, and his virtues as leader and statesman are held to be unsurpassed.

The other Adriano is almost constantly tormented by his communist conscience, a prey to scruple and fear, to illusion and disillusionment. The former is expansive and eloquent, the latter broods in silence and hides even from his oldest friends. The former acts, the latter never ceases to ponder.

Link: “Hundreds of Iranian Schoolgirls Have Been Hospitalized After String of Suspected Poison Attacks

Original post found at: https://jezebel.com/hundreds-of-iranian-schoolgirls-have-been-hospitalized-1850179291

Apparently there’ve been a string of attacks at girls’ schools in Iran, where schoolgirls have been poisoned with gases (nitrous oxide gets named specifically here) while trying to learn. There’s some speculation it’s “punishment” for the fact that girls & young women have been at the forefront of the protest movement in recent times.

The Iranian state isn’t like the Taliban, and it has a long history of promoting the education of women & girls (even though it obviously enforces other kinds of misogynistic controls). So, it doesn’t seem to be thought that the state is organising these poison gas attacks in its own schools… however, there is a lot of skepticism that they’ll actually bother to investigate, or prosecute, those who are responsible. It’s just too convenient, given the desire for “revenge” or “deterrence” against protesters.

Link: “In Catalonia, Class Struggle and National Dispute Have Gone Hand in Hand

Original post found at: https://jacobin.com/2023/02/catalonia-independence-struggle-peoples-history-book-review/

A review of A People’s History of Catalonia by Michael Eaude which gives a broad overview of Catalan history since the Middle Ages. Despite the title, it does admit that nationalists have played reactionary roles in Catalan politics at times (like opposing the workers’ revolution in the 1930s, or ushering in neoliberal reforms in the 80s and 90s). Still, it shows how Catalonia – as a highly industrialised region of Spain – has often been a leader in radical struggle, and that aspirations for national sovereignty have often complemented the demands of the workers’ movement rather than been at cross-purposes with them. Maybe I should buy and read the whole book 😛

a cartoony avatar of Jessica Smith is a socialist and a feminist who loves animals, books, gaming, and cooking; she’s also interested in linguistics, history, technology and society.