Swedish fascists burn homes, blame crisis on refugees

By Rory Smith On November 28, 2015

Post image for Swedish fascists burn homes, blame crisis on refugeesRefugees flee their homes destroyed by a neoliberal thirst for cheap oil, while in the recipient countries the same forces have ruined many lives.

“Burn all of them down, but first nail the doors and windows shut.”

”If you want to achieve the full effect, wait until the house is full of people.”

These are just two examples of the several thousand remarks left by Sweden Democrats’ online following the most recent case of arson; an incident that left a home sheltering 14 refugees destroyed. One Internet thread detailed the various recipes and necessary ingredients to make napalm.

The formerly obscure and enfeebled Sweden Democrats (SD) – a far right, anti-immigrant, nationalist party whose roots are in neo-Nazism – has been transformed into one of the most potent political forces in Sweden. By transmogrifying immigrants into villains – enemies of both the welfare state and Swedish values – the party has gleaned over 25 percent of the popular vote.

The most recent refugee-home torching came after SD political leaders announced that the immigrant issue should be taken to the streets, outside the ambit of parliament. The intentional ambiguity of the statement galvanized more than a few zealous of their supporters to action, resulting in a spike of refugee-home burnings, a trend that was only recently – after the 17th fire – condemned by SD officials.

While the world might have united for a few ephemeral seconds around the image of Aylan – the Syrian boy who drowned alongside his brother in the Mediterranean – in the end the refugee crisis only seems to have bolstered the xenophobia, nationalism, and violence sweeping across Europe. In Germany alone, there have been over 505 attacks against refugees and refugee-homes this year. It is a trend that seems, at first glance, to challenge our approximation to what Jeremy Rifkin coined The Empathetic Civilization.

And though all this might come as a surprise, there is nothing surprising about prejudice and intolerance in Europe. What is surprising, is how the current right-wing political trend as well as the refugee crisis find their origins in the same systemic illness.

European intolerance and Swedish neo-Nazism

While you might think that the experiences of World War II and the Bosnian War would be sufficient deterrents against pursuing anything remotely nationalistic or ethnically intolerant, history invariably reveals our collective short-term memory. The current anti-immigrant demagoguery and the consequent resurgence of nationalist parties across Europe, many of whom have their origins in neo-Nazism, seems to testify to this.

Kenan Malik reminds us in a recent article that Europe has never been a homogenous place – even when its citizens shared the same skin color and religion – and that intolerance has always had its place in European society. The former urban and rural poor were often treated and referred to as “inferior savage races”.

Sweden’s history is no different. Its romance with Nazism precedes World War II, and while it might have dematerialized for a little bit, this uncompromising current never altogether vanished.

The country’s economic crisis in the 1990s, coupled with an immigration policy that provided asylum for around 85,000 war refugees from the former Yugoslavia, led to emergence of various neo-Nazi movements. As immigration slowed so did these sentiments. However once again, the kind of cultural prejudice and intolerance that wouldn’t have been out of place in 18th century France, Victorian England, Nazi Germany, or 1990s Sweden is on the rise.

Bushisms and republican machinations in Europe

The spate of burnings represents a recent and more outwardly aggressive trend against immigrants. It has been fueled in part by Europe’s latest generation of nationalist demagogues, whose irresponsible rhetoric – and subtle complicity, at least in Sweden, by not denouncing these burnings until recently – is partially responsible for the proliferation of this violence.

While it is hard to imagine Europe becoming as politically intransigent as the US, its ultra-right parties are well on their way to sounding as fear-mongering as American Republicans. Jimmie Åkesson, the current leader of SD, ran his last, and very successful, campaign on a platform of fear-inducing casuistry, proclaiming: “The election is a choice between mass immigration and welfare. You choose.”

Nothing is that cut and dry in Sweden or Europe. These are parliaments with an array of eclectic political parties; negotiations, pacts, and compromise are an immutable part of the political machine. Furthermore there isn’t any reliable evidence demonstrating the incompatibility of immigration and a healthy welfare state; as we will see, studies show just the opposite.

But by drawing such a stark line – rendering immigration and the welfare state seemingly irreconcilable – Mr. Åkesson, just like other right-wing politicians in Europe, has polarized the argument. He has pitted immigration directly against the welfare state – a sacrosanct entity in Sweden and Europe.

You almost begin to wonder if Europe’s ultra-right are emulating the rhetorical stratagems of Bush and Rumsfeldt. Mr. Åkesson’s ultimatum had a similar ring to the infamous, “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” Fear corrodes rationality and reason, and such polarizing and fear-mongering rhetoric in the post-9/11 era allowed Bush and Co. to manipulate the American public with the precision of Butcher Ding. In this post-Paris epoch such tactics will be especially potent.

Indulging the particular fears of Swedes, whose long history with the welfare state is an indelible part of the national ethos, is a particularly effective way of gaining support, especially from a demographic whose tenuous position in society renders them especially susceptible to such sophistry.

There are few general demographic features that are characteristic of not only SD supporters, but also ultra-right adherents across Europe. On the whole they are young, male, under-educated, and under-employed. In Sweden their main interests are cars, motorcycles, TV, video games, and sport fishing.

Though it would undoubtedly be much easier to just shake our fists and rebuke the throngs of right-wing voters as racists, Euro-trash, or bigoted nationalists, in the end we would only be playing the same superficial and spurious blame game as their demagogue leaders. Furthermore, this would only give us a very superficial understanding of a population that has been shaped by a much more complicated process.

Neoliberalism – the real enemy

Historically Sweden was one of the strongest and most equitable welfare states in the world. However, in the early ’90s Sweden endured a financial crisis and things began to change. As a stopgap measure to parry the crisis, and the resultant hyperinflation, Sweden instituted a series of austerity measures and reforms that cut social benefits, curtailed union power, reduced the size of the public sector, and initiated a process of privatization that continues today.

If this sounds familiar, it is because it is the same process that has been replicated almost universally since the 1980s around the world. From the US to Latin America, to Africa, to Asia, to Russia, and most recently Greece, IMF and World Bank economists as well as technocrats from these same regions, have been imposing this same package – often coercively or with the support of autocrats propped up by the West.

These reforms reflect a mode of economic thinking known as neoliberalism. Under neoliberalism the individual and the market are supreme entities to which modern nation-states genuflect, serve, and remain subservient. As Margaret Thatcher, one of neoliberalism’s greatest champions said: “There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women…People look to themselves first.”

Whereas it was previously the state’s responsibility to provide employment to its citizens, according to neoliberalism it is the individual’s responsibility. If you are unsuccessful, it isn’t the state, economy, or any of the distortions and inequalities therein entrenched that are accountable; it is your own failure as a human.

SD’s unfortunate relationship with Neoliberalism

So how does this relate to ultra-right in Sweden and Europe, you might be asking. The shrinking of the public sector, and the curtailment of unions meant the weakening of union and labor power, and as a consequence, also a loss of solidarity and identity. The Swedish welfare state, which had previously unified different sectors of Swedish society through its collectivism, was slowly dismembered.

Moreover, by dissolving the public sector as well as union power, many Swedes were left without jobs or the social benefits that would’ve previously buffered the unemployed. With fewer jobs, a greater burden and pressure on the individual to find work – meaningful or not – and no social safeguards to mitigate the precariousness of being unemployment, many Swedes were left behind. One universal legacy of neoliberalism is inequality. Today, among all 34 OECD countries today, inequality is growing fastest in Sweden.

Rising levels of inequality, economic marginalization, and social isolation have limited participation in mainstream Swedish society and the economy. The result has been the disenfranchisement of many Swedes. Today, out of a population of 9 million, 618,000 Swedes are working temporary jobs with little security.

The economic vulnerability and peripheral social status of this vast population renders them susceptible to the populist rhetoric of right-wing politicians, who pander directly to their deepest fears and insecurities. Not only have these leaders created a tangible, albeit specious, enemy and source to their woes, immigrants, but they have also forged a collective sense of identity – through their struggle against both immigration and the neoliberal technocrats in the EU – under which they can unite.

The discourse around immigration has invariably been fueled by misperceptions and xenophobia. You don’t have to dig all that deeply to see the benefits of migration, something that has been for too long severely and irresponsibly misrepresented.

Immigrants are generally entrepreneurial, they fill various labor niches of the economy – especially in Europe where the aging population necessitates more working-age laborers – generally contribute more to the welfare state than they take in benefits, and are highly motivated to contribute and create a better society. Furthermore, over 50 percent of immigration to Europe in 2015 will come from Syria, a population whose highly-skilled workforce sets them apart from immigrants emanating from other countries.

Refugees, Neoliberalism’s collateral damage

Ironically and sadly, neoliberalism – and the associated economic and geopolitical machinations that have swept through the Middle East and Africa over the last 30 years – is also largely responsible for the current refugee crisis.

The imperative of neoliberalism is to open new markets through liberalization and increase global demand by creating new consumer bases. Where certain powers like the US, China, or the EU, see themselves as guardians of the market, and where they have certain market interests, such as mineral extraction in Africa and oil, there are inevitably transgressions, especially where regulations and law are ineffective and corruption is commonplace. Unfortunately this is ubiquitous in most of the developing world.

Neoliberalism might have opened the economies of Africa up for direct foreign investment, but the price has been the disruption and reshuffling of economies, labor markets, and public sectors, such as education, health care, and sanitation, according to Western paradigms and interests. There have been a few winners, but mostly there have been losers. Many immigrants are economic refugeeswhose livelihoods have been crushed by global capital, corporate interests, thecommodification of local agriculture, and the downsizing of the state.

Those refugees fleeing failed-states, where violence, human rights’ abuses, and insecurity prevail, such as Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, and Libya, are the collateral damage of neoliberal geopolitics.

In these areas oil, finance, business, autocracy, democracy, and national economic interests all mix, mingle, and blur into something that may appear opaque but is pretty straightforward. Like an addict, neoliberalism depends on a constant and dependable source of cheap oil. Cheap oil means more pocket money for consumers, and generally, global economic growth. The neoliberal paradigm requires constant growth to continue functioning. Cheap oil is an expedient but very short-term and costly way of achieving this.

While we would all like to believe that the refugee crisis inspired the latest international interventions in Syria, it seems more likely that it is just one more geopolitical power play as Europe tries to wean itself from Russian gas, and Russia tries to protect the several billions it has already invested in oil investments in Syria. And let’s not forget that war has become an economy and market unto itself, with US defense firms making a killing on weapons sales to Iraq and Syria.

We are all burning

There are boons to crises. They bring us face to face with certain paradigmatic insufficiencies and by doing so they encourage us to engage in a kind of collective introspection. While “Generation Me” signals the fruition of Thatcher’s dream, we are beginning to see that a life of me is not only narcissistic and vacuous, but also noxious to the common good.

Neoliberalism, according to former Uruguayan president Jose Mujica, has created, “…a civilization against simplicity, against sobriety, against all natural cycles, and against the most important things: Adventure. Solidarity. Family. Friendship. Love.”

Ironically it isn’t “rational” self-interest, but giving, kindness, and cooperation that guarantee our own longevity and that of our species. If anything is going to change, it will require a collective effort of disengaging ourselves from the current mythology of individualism; of sublimating the self to the whole, taking to giving, and engaging not in the myopic trappings of the hedonic treadmill but in a politics of compassion and empathy.

In the end aren’t we all refugees – a great diaspora of randomness sheltered under the thin blue atmospheric line of the planet? By leaving the roots of neoliberalism in tact and unattended we are only stoking the existential and economic flames that will, at some point, engulf all of us.

Rory Smith is a freelance writer with a masters in International Development and Management and founder of Escalando Fronteras, a non-profit in Mexico that uses climbing as a way of getting at-risk youth away from gangs and organized crime in Monterrey.



Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette: What do Mrs. Pankhurst and an East End laundress have in common?

By Joanne Laurier
28 November 2015

Directed by Sarah Gavron; screenplay by Abi Morgan

British filmmaker Sarah Gavron’s Suffragette is a fictionalized account of the women’s voting rights movement in Britain in the pre-World War I period.

The so-called “suffragettes” were led by Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928), who founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1903. The struggle at times became fierce, involving conflicts with police and minor acts of terrorism. The women were often jailed and tortured during their incarceration. The right to vote for women was eventually won in the UK in 1928.

Carey Mulligan

Gavron’s movie begins in 1912. Its protagonist, Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan), is a 24-year-old laundress, working and living in poverty-stricken and oppressed circumstances. Gavron uses the character to epitomize the growing social awareness of women and their involvement in the suffrage movement.

In Suffragette, Maud labors like a slave at work and goes home to minister to husband Sonny (Ben Whishaw), who also works at the industrial laundry, but for higher wages. She is a caring mother to her adored young son, Georgie. Marital relations are as good as can be expected for a couple living in abject poverty, even perhaps a little better, provided Maud does not deviate from what is expected of her.

At work, Maud is vigilant in regard to her employer, who, besides working people to their chemically scarred bones, sexually abuses young girls. Maud grew up in the laundry as the daughter of a laundress and sustained years of abuse herself.

An outspoken co-worker Violet (Anne-Marie Duff) makes an impression on Maud. The latter discovers that Violet is a member of the local underground suffragette chapter run by the militant Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter). Edith owns a pharmacy with her supportive husband—the only genuinely encouraging male in the movie—which is used as a front for the meetings of the group.

As Maud begins to express an interest in the fight, she almost immediately finds herself, unexpectedly (and somewhat implausibly), giving testimony at a hearing presided over by Chancellor of the Exchequer and future prime minister David Lloyd George (Adrian Schiller) on women’s right to vote, an event that does not shift the government. As Maud’s involvement with the suffragettes grows, so does her alienation from Sonny, who eventually locks her out of the house and, because he has exclusive parental rights over Georgie, bars her from their son—the most painful of all her sacrifices. Furthermore, she is hounded by the dogged Irish-born policeman Steed (Brendan Gleeson), who unsuccessfully tries to browbeat her into becoming an informer.

Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst

The women are inspired by and unswervingly loyal to their leader Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep in a cameo performance), who urges them to stand up to the determined efforts of the government to break their wills. The suffragettes are beaten and imprisoned. In jail, Maud and others go on hunger strike and are brutally force-fed. Even Steed is appalled by their “barbaric” treatment. The movie ends, essentially in mid-air, when one of the suffragettes, Emily Davison (Natalie Press), becomes a martyr for the cause in 1913.

Director Gavron has demonstrated a sensitivity and talent for filmmaking in her previous efforts, This Little Life (2003) about a child born prematurely, andBrick Lane (2007) concerning the Bangladeshi community in London. Unfortunately, the broader the panorama and scope of the subject matter, the weaker and more obviously limited in outlook and approach her work becomes.

Not helping matters, in her latest movie, she has teamed up with screenwriter Abi Morgan, responsible for the deplorable The Iron Lady (2011), a generally sympathetic portrait of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

The chief difficulties with Suffragette arise from what is essentially an act of intellectual sleight of hand on the part of the filmmakers. In the end, the film plays fast and loose with history in the interests of pushing a contemporary political agenda.

Both the scenes of Maud toiling in the laundry and her struggling to make a decent life for her small family are moving. Mulligan, who has often seemed rather bland in the past, gives a restrained and convincing performance here as an oppressed woman whose passionate feelings and opinions only slowly rise to the surface.

However, to a considerable extent, Gavron’s scenes of the abominable laundry and London’s East End belong in a different film.

The WSPU, although it may have had support in certain areas from working class women, was a movement whose leadership and social outlook was overwhelmingly middle class. After all, 40 percent, the poorest layers, of the male population could not vote at the time (including Maud’s husband) and the WSPU advocated women having the right to vote on the same terms as men, i.e., they accepted wealth and property limits on the women who would be able to vote. The Independent Labour Party, which advocated universal suffrage, attacked the WSPU on these grounds.

In all likelihood, a woman like Maud Watts would not have gravitated toward the feminist movement as her consciousness awakened, but toward the socialist movement. The pre-World War I period witnessed an immense growth in the socialist parties internationally and the number of female supporters in particular. The number of women in the Social Democratic Party in Germany, for example, jumped from about 4,000 in 1905 to over 141,000 by 1913. One of its most remarkable leaders, of course, was Rosa Luxemburg.


Maud’s story, so to speak, belongs to a different social and intellectual trajectory than the one the filmmakers imagine for her. They clearly did not want to make a film about an aspiring parliamentarian, lawyer or pharmacist because it would not have had the same emotional or dramatic punch.

A more honest film would have shown women like Maud more attracted to the emerging social struggles of the working class as a whole (the British Labour Party, which also supported universal suffrage, was founded in 1906). A class divide separates the interests of Emmeline Pankhurst and those of Maud and Violet. As Pankhurst says in the movie: “We don’t want to be law breakers, we want to be law makers.” (The phrase actually comes from Anne Cobden Sanderson, another campaigner for votes for women.)

To their discredit, Gavron and Morgan are relying on the generally low level of historical knowledge in removing the socialist movement from the historical equation. Suffragette ’s circumscribed timeline is significant. Had it stretched out a few more years, the film’s creators would have had to show the irreconcilable split that occurred within the Pankhurst family itself.

With the outbreak of World War I, Emmeline and one of her daughters, Christabel, threw their full support behind British imperialism in its conflict with the “German Peril.” Within days of the declaration of war in August 1914, the British government agreed to release all WSPU prisoners and paid the organization £2,000 to organize a patriotic rally under the slogan “Men must fight and women must work.” Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst campaigned tirelessly for millions of young men to be sent into the slaughterhouse of the war. Later, a fervent anti-communist, Emmeline Pankhurst joined the Conservative Party and was chosen as one of its parliamentary candidates.

The film makes much of the WSPU slogan, “Deeds, not words.” There is nothing inherently radical or progressive about such a motto. The character of a movement is determined by its program and social orientation. Many ultra-right organizations would subscribe—and have subscribed—to “Deeds, not words.” In fact, it is worth pointing to the political evolution of Norah Dacre Fox, a leading member, and from 1913 the general secretary, of the WSPU. Fox was one of the organizers of the 1914 pro-war rally and a ferocious anti-German chauvinist. According to The Times in 1918, Mrs. Dacre Fox supported making “a clean sweep of all persons of German blood, without distinction of sex, birthplace, or nationality. … Any person in this country, no matter who he was or what his position, who was suspected of protecting German influence, should be tried as a traitor, and, if necessary, shot. There must be no compromise and no discrimination.” Norah Dacre Fox (later Norah Elam) went on to become a prominent figure in Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists in the 1930s.

For many of the upper-middle class women involved in the WSPU, as for many of their present-day counterparts, the “fight for women’s rights” boiled down to a fight for a bigger share of the professional, political and income pie. There is inevitably a sinister and reactionary logic to any movement based on ethnicity or gender. Many contemporary feminists support the imperialist war drive against Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria today—and tomorrow, Russia—on the spurious grounds of “women’s rights.”

Sylvia Pankhurst in 1909

By contrast, Sylvia Pankhurst (1882-1960) led East End women in the direction of socialism. She broke from the WSPU in 1914, eventually launching the Workers’ Socialist Federation. She founded the newspaper, the Women’s Dreadnought, which later changed its name to the Workers’ Dreadnought. From her own experiences with women like Maud Watts, Sylvia came to the conclusion that the problem was capitalism.

Sylvia Pankhurst supported the Russian Revolution of 1917 and went to the Soviet Union in 1920-21 where she met Lenin and heard Trotsky speak. (While in London, she received a letter from Lenin in August 1919, urging no delay in “the formation of a big workers’ Communist Party in Britain.”). Coming into conflict with her mother, she agreed with Marxists such as Rosa Luxemburg, who wrote in 1914: “Bourgeois women’s rights activists want to acquire political rights, in order to participate in political life. The proletarian woman can only follow the path of workers’ struggle, which in the opposite way achieves every inch of actual power, and only in this way acquires statutory rights.”

No one on the official “left” today, utterly consumed by identity politics and issues of sex and gender, cares to remember the scorn that socialists like Luxemburg, Eleanor Marx, Luise Kautsky, Clara Zetkin and others heaped on the affluent “women rightsers” of their time.

In that period, it was elementary to view the issue in class not gender terms. Eleanor Marx, for example, wrote: “We are not women arrayed in struggle against men but workers who are in struggle against the exploiters.” And: “The real women’s party, the socialist party … has a basic understanding of the economic causes of the present adverse position of workingwomen and … calls on the workingwomen to wage a common fight hand-in-hand with the men of their class against the common enemy, viz. the men and women of the capitalist class.”

And it was Eleanor Marx who noted that “We see no more in common between a Mrs. Fawcett [the leading light of the women’s rights movement in the late 19th century] and a laundress than we see between [the banker] Rothschild and one of his employees. In short, for us there is only the working-class movement.”

Or Clara Zetkin: “For the proletarian woman, it is capital’s need for exploitation, its unceasing search for the cheapest labour power, that has created the women’s question …

“Consequently, the liberation struggle of the proletarian woman cannot be—as it is for the bourgeois woman—a struggle against the men of her own class … The end-goal of her struggle is not free competition with men but bringing about the political rule of the proletariat. Hand in hand with the men of her own class, the proletarian woman fights against capitalist society.”

It should be added that even though Suffragette does have a working class woman as its heroine, it tends to demonstrate contempt for the working class as a whole. The innumerable close-ups of Mulligan’s face speak to the deliberately narrow and confined focus. Virtually all the men in the film are monstrous. In addition, all of Maud’s co-workers, with the exception of Violet, as well as her female neighbors shun and blackguard her for taking up a fight. So while Maud is one of the deserving poor, the rest are portrayed as hopelessly backward and beholden to King and Country.

And what of the fruits of feminism? A study by a UK think tank in 2013 concluded that “fifty years of feminism” has seen the gap between the wages of the average man and woman narrow, while the differences between working class and upper class women “remain far greater than the differences between men and women.”

Morgan-Gavron’s Suffragette attempts to avoid and misrepresent the fact that working class women were thrown into the vortex of political life as part of a class and it was the inescapable logic of the movement of the whole class that imbued them with their “class-conscious defiance.” (Luxemburg)



5 Depressing Signs America Just Isn’t the Country It Used to Be

There exists a common theme amidst these signs of societal decay.

USA flag painted on cracked earth background
Photo Credit: Piotr Krzeslak

While Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning and John Kiriakou are vilifiedfor revealing vital information about spying and bombing and torture, a man who conspired with Goldman Sachs to make billions of dollars on the planned failure of subprime mortgages was honored by New York University for his “Outstanding Contributions to Society.”

This is one example of the distorted thinking leading to the demise of a once-vibrant American society. There are other signs of decay:

1. A House Bill Would View Corporate Crimes as ‘Honest Mistakes’

Wealthy conservatives are pushing a bill that would excuse corporate leaders from financial fraud, environmental pollution, and other crimes that America’s greatest criminals deem simply reckless or negligent. The Heritage Foundationattempts to rationalize, saying “someone who simply has an accident by being slightly careless can hardly be said to have acted with a ‘guilty mind.'”

One must wonder, then, what extremes of evil, in the minds of conservatives, led to criminal charges against people apparently aware of their actions: the Ohio woman who took coins from a fountain to buy food; the California man who broke into a church kitchen to find something to eat; and the 90-year-old Florida activist who boldly tried to feed the homeless.

Of course, even without the explicit protection of Congress, CEOs are rarely charged for their crimes. Not a single Wall Street executive faced prosecution for the fraud-ridden 2008 financial crisis.

2. Unpaid Taxes of 500 Companies Could Pay for a Job for Every Unemployed American

For two years. At the nation’s median salary of $36,000, for all 8 millionunemployed.

Citizens for Tax Justice reports that Fortune 500 companies are holding over $2 trillion in profits offshore to avoid taxes that would amount to over $600 billion. Our society desperately needs infrastructure repair, but 8 million potential jobs are being held hostage beyond our borders.

3. Almost 2/3 of American Families Couldn’t Afford a Single Pill of a Life-Saving Drug

62 percent of polled Americans said they couldn’t cover a $500 repair bill. If any of these Americans need a hepatitis pill from Gilead Sciences, or an anti-infection pill from Martin Shkreli’s company, they will have to do without.

An AARP study of 115 specialty drugs found that the average cost of a year’s worth of prescriptions was over $50,000, three times more than the average Social Security benefit. Although it’s true that most people don’t pay the full retail cost of medicine, the portion paid by insurance companies is ultimately passed on to consumers through higher premiums.

Pharmaceutical companies pay competitors to keep generic drugs out of the market, and they have successfully lobbied Congress to keep Medicare from bargaining for lower drug prices. The companies claim they need the high prices to pay for better medicines. But for every $1 they spend on basic research, they invest $19 in promotion and marketing.

4. Violent Crime Down, Prison Population Doubles

FBI statistics confirm a dramatic decline in violent crimes since 1991, yet the number of prisoners has doubled over approximately the same period.

Meanwhile, white-collar prosecutions have been reduced by over a third, and, as noted above, corporate leaders are steadily working toward 100% tolerance for their crimes.

5. One in Four Americans Suffer Mental Illness, Mental Health Facilities Cut by 90%

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 25 percent of adults experience mental illness in a given year, with almost half of the homeless population so inflicted. Yet from 1970 to 2002, the per capita number of public mental health hospital beds plummeted from over 200 per 100,000 to 20 per 100,000, and after the recession state cutbacks continued.

That leaves prison as the only option for many desperate Americans.

There exists a common theme amidst these signs of societal decay: The super-rich keep taking from the middle class as the middle class becomes a massive lower class. Yet the myth persists that we should all look up with admiration at the “self-made” takers who are ripping our society apart.

Paul Buchheit teaches economic inequality at DePaul University. He is the founder and developer of the Web sites UsAgainstGreed.org,PayUpNow.org and RappingHistory.org, and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached atpaul@UsAgainstGreed.org.



Thanksgiving: celebrating the privilege to forget

By Sarah Yozzo On November 26, 2015

Post image for Thanksgiving: celebrating the privilege to forgetForget the past and today’s suffering, and join in the collective act of giving thanks. But beware not to remember and mourn all that has been lost.

Photo showing Navajo environmental protesters, by Nihígaal bee Iiná.

America is the land of amnesia. “Forget who you were, so that you can become American,” we are told.

Because who we were has no buying power in the colony. This is the land of skyrisers, not basements. Turn in our luggage, our languages. Uproot our identities, in exchange for new and better selves, complete with a well-earned white picket fence and an office with a view. Happy hour, golden retriever, two-week-paid vacation in Barbados, summering in the Hamptons. Take it now and leave everything else behind, this place was made for us.

Who we were would only confuse or anger those who have already properly assimilated. My blood is Sicilian, but I speak no Italian. I don’t even know how to pronounce my own last name correctly. The pasta maker in my mother’s kitchen is the only remaining vestige of my Mediterranean ancestry; the only connection I have to the lost.

But actually, this experience applies only for the privileged among us. Those of us whose parents and grandparents were allowed to choose forgetfulness in pursuit of capital, the American dream, are now encouraged to participate in the broader process of suppressing those who were never given this choice.

So on this thanksgiving, we are all American. We must all sit at the dinner table and choose forgetfulness: “Don’t bring up politics and rain on everyone’s parade. This holiday isn’t about ethnic cleansing; it’s about sharing and giving thanks now.”

Welcome to our Shangri La; our exclusive paradise where as long as one is an owning class, educated, white, able-bodied, cis-gender, heterosexual male English speaker with proper documentation, one has a seat at the table and a voice that will be heard. Regardless of whether one has a seat at the table, we all damn well better be thankful.

In many regards, those at the table are free: free from concern about losing property as it is appropriated in land grabs by the state, free from the burden of considering racial, gender, and legal-status categories as crucial determinants in ability to survive.

It is a freedom that provides suburban families central air while people of the Navajo nation choke on coal dust. Capitalism eats the lives of occupied peoples, collateral damage in a process of wealth accumulation. Our industries seep up, contaminate the ground water that once sat fresh and clean beneath what is left of the Navajo lands, so that America can maintain a healthy middle class with access to affordable electricity.

Black lives are cut short with the shot of a police gun, the poison of an unjust food system, countless violences of inherited dispossession and systemic racism. Beyond territorial borders, the finances of the American colonial project, for which so many nice families are thankful, fund the ammunition of other colonies, where other colonized people continue to resist the encroachment of capitalism’s beneficiaries.

Subhuman, those subaltern people always already are, just as other black and brown people have been throughout contemporary history. “They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.” How many homes have been destroyed, how many humans have been killed by those whose white-supremacist, euro-arrogant hallucinations transform children into serpents.

Gently, let’s all be thankful for forgetfulness.

Those of us whose grandparents turned in their cultures in exchange for capital and social inclusion, we must be thankful for, though not overly cognizant of, our privileges. Everyone else must forget the past, forget the present dispossessions in order to join in the act of giving thanks. And in giving thanks, no space will be left for us to collectively remember and mourn all that has been lost.

Sarah Yozzo teaches English Literature at a high school in Nablus, Palestine. She is a graduate from New York University’s Near East Studies program.



Financial parasitism and the destruction of democracy


24 November 2015

On Monday, US drug maker Pfizer Inc. announced its plans to buy rival Allergan Plc in the third-largest corporate merger in history.

The new company, which would keep the Pfizer name, would be the world’s largest drug maker. As a result of the deal, known as an “inversion” because the smaller Ireland-based Allergan would buy the larger US-based Pfizer, the new company would pay a tax rate of 17–18 percent, compared to the 25.5 percent Pfizer paid last year.

The merger brings the total valuation of global mergers and acquisitions announced so far this year to $4.2 trillion. Mergers activity in 2015 is set to surpass that of any other previous year, including the $4.38 trillion record set in 2007, just before the outbreak of the global financial crisis.

In announcing the merger with Allergan, Pfizer CEO Ian Read said that the deal would “create a leading global pharmaceutical company with the strength to research, discover and deliver more medicines and therapies to more people around the world.”

Reality is the exact opposite. Financial documents released as part of the merger make clear that the resulting company plans to carry out a massive cost-cutting campaign. The company expects to implement some $2 billion in cost savings, including $660,000 in research and development funding, with the remainder of the cuts likely to come from layoffs and other consolidations.

The fundamental purpose of the wave of mergers is to find new ways to funnel money into the pockets of financial investors who are demanding ever greater returns. It is one expression of the financial parasitism that pervades the global economy.

Earlier this month, Birinyi Associates reported that US companies spent $516.72 billion buying back their own shares in the first three quarters of this year, the highest level since 2007. That figure is equivalent to the gross domestic product of Argentina, a country with 45 million people.

Apple, the world’s largest company, has spent $30.22 billion on share buybacks so far this year. During the same period, the company spent only about $6 billion on research and development, and less than $12 billion paying its workers. This includes US retail employees, whose base pay is $13 per hour, and assembly workers in China making only $1.50 per hour.

Apple is far from the exception. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this year that the largest US corporations have in recent years spent more money buying back their own shares than hiring people or building factories. The effect of the share buy-backs is to boost corporate stock prices, in the process inflating the pay of top executives, whose compensation has been increasingly tied to stock “performance.”

An unpublished Bank of America research note cited by Bloomberg noted, “For every job created in the US this decade, companies spent $296,000 buying back their stocks.”

After years of near-record profits, US corporations are sitting on a cash hoard of some $1.4 trillion. But far from using these funds to expand productive investment, global corporations are spending it on share buy-backs, mergers and acquisitions and executive pay raises.

The effect of this process is to further constrict real economic output. US manufacturing grew at the slowest pace in two years last month according to figures released Monday, while the latest monthly jobs report, praised by commentators as “stellar” and “off the charts,” showed that the US added exactly zero jobs in the manufacturing sector in October.

The orgy of financial speculation on Wall Street and in corporate boardrooms is one side of the vast upward redistribution of wealth in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, which has been facilitated by the infusion of cash into the global financial system by the US Federal Reserve and other global central banks. Since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, the world’s central banks have undertaken some $12.4 trillion in asset purchases, and have cut interest rates on 606 separate occasions, according to the Bank of America research note cited above.

The vast accumulation of wealth by the financial elite is predicated on the continuous reduction of the share of social resources going to the working class. Workers’ incomes have stagnated for decades throughout North America and Europe, and in many countries they are significantly lower than they were before the financial crisis. In the United States, for instance, the income of a typical household fell by 12 percent between 2007 and 2013, according to the Federal Reserve’s survey of consumer finances.

As a result of these processes, the top one percent of the population has accumulated 95 percent of all income gains since 2009, while the wealth of the 400 richest individuals in the US has more than doubled. The growth of social inequality has likewise fueled a growth of opposition to the capitalist system and the domination of the financial elite over all aspects of society.

This does much to explain the hysterical response by the ruling classes of Europe and North America to the November 13 terror attacks in Paris, which were seized upon in France and Brussels to implement sweeping and far-reaching attacks on basic constitutional rights, allowing the police to arrest and seize the possessions of anyone, and to ban assemblies and demonstrations. In the United States, the Paris attacks have been used to renew calls for the criminalization of encrypted communications.

It is worth noting that, despite the supposedly earth-shattering and paradigm-changing attacks in Paris, which have led some of the world’s oldest “democracies” to abandon principles that they claim to have upheld for nearly two centuries, the global markets seem unfazed. In the 10 days since the Paris terror attacks, stock prices have risen in almost every country. The French CAC is up by 1.69 percent, the US Nasdaq is up by 3.5 percent and the German DAX is up by 3.59 percent.

“Finance capital strives for domination, not freedom,” noted the Russian revolutionary Lenin, quoting the socialist economist Rudolf Hilferding. As in the periods before the First and Second World Wars, the ruling classes increasingly see an open turn to police-state forms of rule as the surest means to ensure the protection and expansion of their wealth.

Andre Damon



More than 500,000 homeless in the US

By Kate Randall
21 November 2015

More than a half million people were homeless in the United States this year, nearly a quarter of them children, according to a new report. The homelessness crisis is a stark indicator of the social reality in 2015 America and corresponds to a scarcity of affordable housing and dwindling wages for low-income workers and their families.

The report from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released Thursday counted 564,708 people homeless, both sheltered and unsheltered. These figures, gathered by volunteers on a given night in January 2015, are undoubtedly an undercount. Many of those living in motels, doubling up with relatives and friends or living on the streets are likely not represented in the tally.

Twenty-three percent, or 127,787, of the nation’s homeless are children under the age of 18, according to HUD. However, this figure is at odds with statistics from another branch of the federal government. According to the Department of Education, there are 1.36 million homeless students in the nation’s K-12 public schools, double the number in 2006, before the onset of the financial collapse.

According to HUD, 206,286 people were in homeless families with children, or 36.5 percent of the HUD total. Six percent of these homeless families are chronically homeless, in which the head of household has a disability and has been homeless for a year, or has experienced at least four episodes of homelessness over the past three years.

The HUD figures show homelessness declining by 2 percent between 2014 and 2015. But even if these numbers are taken as good coin, this represents a minuscule decline that hardly makes a dent in the homeless population.

A homeless woman in Chicago—the number of unsheltered people with chronic patterns of homelessness increased in the past year for the first time since 2011

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there is a shortage of 7 million units of affordable housing throughout the US, creating a desperate situation for workers and their families as they search for decent and affordable accommodations.

As the majority of working people feel the housing squeeze, they face declining real wages. According to a recent National Employment Law Projet report, workers’ wages have declined by 4 percent, after adjusting for inflation, between 2009 and 2014.

The vast majority of the US population has not experienced the benefits of the “economic recovery,” proclaimed by the Obama administration in mid-2009. Homelessness is one of the brutal consequences of these conditions.

Of the 564,708 people counted as homeless by HUD in January 2015, 69 percent were staying in sheltered locations, and 31 percent were unsheltered, living in places unfit for human habitation, such as under bridges, in cars or in abandoned buildings.

More than half of the homeless population is concentrated in five states:

· California: 21 percent or 115,738 people

· New York: 16 percent or 88,250 people

· Florida: 6 percent or 35,900 people

· Texas: 4 percent or 23,678 people

· Massachusetts: 4 percent or 21,135 people

While homelessness declined in 33 states and the District of Columbia between 2014 and 2015, according to the report, 17 states experienced an increase. New York State experienced an explosion of homelessness, rising by 7,660 people, or by 9.5 percent in one year. Since 2007, New York has seen a staggering 41 percent rise, with 25,649 people added to the homeless ranks.

More than one in five homeless people are located in the nation’s two largest urban areas: New York City, with 75,323 (14 percent of US total); Los Angeles (city and county), with 41,174 (7 percent). These are followed by Seattle/King County, Washington with 10,122; San Diego (city and county), 8,742; Las Vegas/Clark County, Nevada, 7,509; and the District of Columbia, 7,298.

Sixty-three percent of the homeless population are individuals without children. Of these 358,422 people, 57 percent were in emergency shelters, transitional housing programs, or safe havens. The remaining 43 percent were living rough—on the streets, in parks, abandoned buildings and vehicles. Most homeless individuals are men (72 percent).

Nine of every 10 homeless individuals are over 24 years of age. Fifty-four percent are white, while African Americans are disproportionately represented, accounting for 36 percent of the total. About 17 percent of homeless individuals are Hispanic or Latino.

HUD defines unaccompanied youths as persons under age 25 who are not accompanied by a parent or guardian and do not reside with their children. There were 36,907 unaccompanied homeless youth in January 2015, including 87 percent ages 18-24 and 13 percent under age 18. More than half of unaccompanied youth under age 18 were counted in unsheltered locations.

A quarter of all unaccompanied youth, 8,964, live in five major US cities: Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York, San Francisco and San Jose, California.

HUD added a new category for 2015—parenting youth—defined as an individual under age 25 who is the parent or legal guardian of one or more children who sleep in the same place with him/her. There were 9,901 parenting youth in January 2015.

Homeless unaccompanied youth and parenting youth are those hardest hit by unemployment, low wages and student loan debt. This segment of the population, with or without children, is the most likely to live with relatives or friends and go uncounted by HUD and other surveys.

2015 estimates of homeless people by state SOURCE: US Department of Housing and Urban Development

More than one in ten homeless adults are veterans. There were 47,725 homeless veterans on a single night in January 2015, or 11 percent of the 436,921 homeless adults. Veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Vietnam, Korea and the countless US imperialist exploits are included in this total.

Returning veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, brain injuries, substance abuse and other maladies struggle to find housing. Twenty-four percent of homeless veterans (11,311) live in California. Three other states had at least 2,000 homeless veterans: Florida (3,926), New York (2,399), and Texas (2,393).

In January 2015, 83,170 individuals were chronically homeless in the US. Two-thirds of these individuals, or 54,815 people, were staying in unsheltered locations, more than twice the national rate for all homeless people.

The number of unsheltered people with chronic patterns of homelessness increased by 4 percent over the past year, the first such rise since 2011. The number of unsheltered chronically homeless rose by 4,409 in Los Angeles alone.

Despite the massive increase in homelessness since the beginning of the financial crisis, funding for public housing has been repeatedly slashed in the post-2009 period. A report by the San Francisco-based Western Regional Advocacy Project noted that “HUD funding for new public housing units…has been zero since 1996,” while “Capital available to perform maintenance in 2012 [was] $1,875 billion,” representing a fall of $625 million over three years.

Mass homelessness is only the most acute manifestation of America’s housing crisis. According to a study published by Harvard University’s Joint Center For Housing Studies in June, the homeownership rate for 35-44 year-olds, which has been plunging for decades, has hit the lowest levels since the 1960s. Only slightly more than one-third of households headed by those aged 25-35 own their own homes.

The persistence of mass homelessness in the United States, despite six years of “economic recovery,” is an expression of the persistence of mass unemployment, falling wages, the slashing of social services, and the increasingly unaffordable living costs in America’s major cities, including Los Angeles and New York, that are home to a disproportionate share of America’s billionaires.

According to a poll released earlier this month, half of New Yorkers are “either just getting by or finding it difficult to manage financially.” More than one in five said they did not have enough money to buy food over the past year, and 17 percent said that they “have had times over the last year when they lacked the money to provide adequate shelter for their family.”

In the New York borough of Manhattan, median rent prices have grown by 9.5 percent over the past year. To afford a typical Manhattan apartment, one would have to pay over $40,000 a year in rent alone, 30 percent higher than the median wage in the United States. Not surprisingly, one recent study found that it is impossible for any worker making the minimum wage of $8.75 per hour to afford an apartment in any part of New York City—defined as spending no more than 30 percent of monthly income on rent.

The response of the “progressive” administration of Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio to the deepening housing crisis in New York has been to further privatize public housing and drive up costs for low-income residents. De Blasio’s public housing plan, dubbed NextGen NYCHA, would jack up housing fees, such as parking, by up to several thousand dollars a year for low-income residents, while turning over more than 10,000 apartments and 11 acres of prime real estate to private developers.



Paris attacks: it’s time for a more radical reaction

By Claire Veale On November 19, 2015

Post image for Paris attacks: it’s time for a more radical reactionIn the wake of the Paris attacks fingers were pointed in all directions, but few were directed at France itself. What has radicalized the French youth?

Photo: A young man is arrested at a student protest in Paris, by Philipe Leroyer, via Flickr.

The deadly attacks in Paris on the night of Friday, November 13, were quickly met by a global rush of solidarity with France and the French people. From world leaders expressing their sympathies, to raising the French flag on buildings across the globe, and more visibly, on Facebook profiles, everyone stood unequivocally united with France.

The sentiment of solidarity behind this mass concern is heart-warming, however it must come hand in hand with a demand for a serious debate on matters of terrorism, violence and war. Rage and sadness should not hinder our ability to think.

Why Paris? Who were the attackers, and how could they do such things? How can we counter these kind of attacks? Before bowing to the often narrow interpretations provided by the media and our political leaders, we must look for well-informed answers to these important questions. The current response–including more French bombings in Syria and extreme security measures on French territory–may be a fuel for further violence, rather than bring viable solutions.

“Us versus Them”

As a French national, the sudden inundation of the tricolored flag on my Facebook wall was a little unsettling. I do feel grateful for the surge of solidarity and wonderful messages calling for love and unity from all over the world. However, I find myself wondering if the French flag is truly the appropriate symbol to demonstrate this call for peace and inclusiveness, and to bring people together in unity against terror.

To me, the French flag represents first and foremost the French state, the respective governments that have ruled my country, and their foreign policies. Domestically, it is mostly a nationalist symbol, too often used by the likes of Marine Le Pen to create enemies out of foreigners. It represents certain values defined as “French”, as opposed to foreign values France should not welcome, and as such it can be a dangerous vector of racism.

In parallel to this bleu-blanc-rouge frenzy, many artists and humorists have responded to the attacks defending the stereotypes of French culture; drinking wine, enjoying life, smoking on terrasses. They state that any attack on French values is an attack on enjoying life itself. Although flattering in a way, as they praise what may seem the essence of being French, it unjustly encourages us to see the attacks through the lens of the “clash of civilisations” where enemy and foreign ideals threaten our way of life, our moral values.

Let us be clear about two things. First, in this “us” versus “them” discourse, I am not sure who the “us” is supposed to be. Am I–a French citizen who has long opposed aggressive foreign policy in the Middle East–all of a sudden on the same side as my government?

To many of us, the political elites of the country, who have insisted in involving France in wars that we did not want, are part of the problem. The different successive French governments have indirectly contributed to the rise of extremist groups and the radicalization of young men to join them. Waving the French flag could contribute to diminishing their role and the responsibility they hold in this crisis. Worse, it could legitimize further undesirable military actions abroad.

And second, who is “them”? The “War on Terror”, as it has been clearly framed by world leaders, is not a war in the traditional sense, with a clear, visible enemy. The attackers of the Paris killings weren’t foreigners; most of them were French or European citizens, born and raised on European soil. We are not talking about a mysterious, faraway enemy, but about young French men and women who are as much a part of French society as anyone else.

A show of force

And yet, the French president so promptly declared “war” and intensified the direct and aggressive bombings of IS targets in Syria. The terrorists being mostly European citizens, may it not be wiser to ask ourselves what is wrong in our own societies instead of taking such rash military action abroad?

Worryingly, there has been little resistance within the media or even within French left-wing circles, to Hollande’s policies. Has the emotion and anger from the Paris attacks impeded our ability to recognize that dropping bombs in the Middle East will not resolve the security threats that emanate from within?

Terrorism is an invisible enemy emanating from complex socio-political circumstances, which needs to be tackled in a more subtle and thought-through way. History has shown us that 14 years of “War against Terror” in the Middle East has only contributed to more violence, more terrorism and sadly, more deaths. Isn’t it time we started thinking about different tactics?

Since the attacks, Francois Hollande has proposed changes in the constitution, to make it easier for the state to resort to the use of force when facing terrorism. These changes include an increase in presidential powers, allowing Mr Hollande to enforce security measures without the usual scrutiny of the parliament. The president wants to extent the duration of the state of emergency, limiting freedom of movement and freedom of association, including mass demonstrations, in the name of national security.

The suggested changes could also result in widening the definition of targeted citizens to anyone who is “seriously suspected” of being a threat to public order, opening the door to a worrying reality of aggressive police tactics directed towards poor, disillusioned youth. Furthermore, Hollande wants to withdraw French nationality to any bi-national citizen suspected of terrorism acts.

The president’s reaction is deeply disturbing, and reinforces the skewed vision of a “foreign” enemy, which will inevitable result in discriminatory and racist policies and reactions towards foreigners, or anyone perceived as foreign, in France. More worrying still, is a recent poll in Le Parisien, which shows that 84% of respondents supported the decision to increase the manoeuvring power of the police and the army, while 91% agreed with the idea of withdrawing French nationality to suspected terrorists.

Where are the French values of openness and multiculturalism that we so ardently defend now? We must not let fear and an inaccurate “us” versus “them” discourse justify aggressive policies against our own citizens, or against anyone else for that matter, including refugees fleeing the very terror we claim to fight.

Why did French citizens decide to kill?

The reason why the media has focused on this angle of opposing the French values of liberté, egalité, fraternité, with the fearful and hateful values preached by the IS, is that it gives easy answers to complex questions. Why was Paris attacked? Because, we are told, it represents the heart of freedom, multiculturalism, secularism and joie de vivre. But does it really? France doesn’t always seem to live up to the values it professes.

The real question should be: why did young French (and Belgian) men and boys decide to sacrifice their life to kill members of their own society?

Two answers seem to have emerged. The first, mainly employed by the political elite and the media, is that the killers were “insane”, “brainwashed” and “barbaric”, and could not have acted rationally. This approach refuses proper analysis of the killers’ motives, brushing them aside to favour irrational and extremist religious ideology, and thus justifying a purely violent and heavy-handed response.

The second answer, coming from many left-wing, anti-racist circles, claims that such acts of terrorism are a direct result of France’s foreign and domestic policy. Although both seem radically opposed, they do have one thing in common: they undermine the agency and accountability of the attackers. This second approach, which points out undeniable political considerations, remains flawed in the same way as the first: it forgets that the killers are people who think and act, and not simply passive products of racist and imperialist foreign policy.

It is important to recognize the attackers as human beings, capable of acting and thinking rationally, as it is a first step towards understanding the reasoning behind their actions. Religious fanaticism is simply a vector of violence, as has been the case for many other ideologies in the past, such as nationalism, fascism, or communism. These ideologies are not the root causes of violence. Although this may seem obvious, there is a need to stress that religious extremism is not the reason why a young man would take up a gun and shoot into a crowd, it is simply an instrument to channel their anger.

We must try to look at the very roots of these young men’s discontent. Debates should be opened about the school system, about the ghettoization of urban areas across France, about police violence and domestic anti-terror security measures, about the prison system, about structural racism, about our skewed justice system, about oppressive and strict secularism; and the list goes on.

These questions are complex ones, and ones that are not easy to address. Thus, we prefer to paint the picture in black and white, our values versus their values, rather than to face the internal problems of our broken societies.

The little research that has been conducted on IS fighters, abroad and within Europe, shows that young men don’t necessarily join the extremist group for religious reasons. The Kouachi brothers who carried out the Charlie Hebdo shootings had suffered a difficult childhood in poverty after the suicide of their mother, with little support from social services and surrounded by extreme violence as children.

Anger at injustices they face, alienation, and years of increasing humiliation from the very societies they are meant to be a part of can push young men to express their frustrations through the vehicle of religious extremism. IS just happens to be an organized group, which seriously threatens European societies, and which offers these humiliated and enraged young men a way to defend their dignity and their pride.

As Anne Aly explains: “Religion and ideology serve as vehicles for an ‘us versus them’ mentality and as the justification for violence against those who represent ‘the enemy’, but they are not the drivers of radicalization.”

Radical solutions to radical problems

Radical solutions mean, first and foremost, tackling the problem at its roots.Julien Salingue expressed this idea very eloquently after the Charlie Hebdo shootings: “Deep change, and therefore the questioning of a system that generates structural inequalities and exploitation of violence is necessary”.

Every injustice and every act of humiliation towards a member of society can only cause anger and hatred, which might someday transform into violence. James Gilligan has written extensively about the way the prison system in America serves to intensify the feeling of shame and humiliation that push individuals to violence in the first place. This analysis is useful when looking at European societies, and the processes of discrimination and humiliation that push young men to react violently.

We must condemn all policies, discourses and actions that legitimize and reinforce the politics of hatred. Police violence towards young men of Arab origin, for instance, is frequent in France. Amedy Coulibaly, another actor in the Paris shootings in January 2015, suffered the death of his friend in a police “slipup” when he was 18. This kind of direct aggression perpetrated on a daily basis adds to the structural violence and discrimination young men from underprivileged backgrounds experience in European societies. War for them is not such a distant, disconnected reality, but closer to their every day life.

Every racist insult, act of police brutality, unfair trial, or discriminatory treatment brings them one step closer to carry out tragedies as the massacre in Paris. We must therefore question the very system we live in and the way of life we defend so defiantly after the attacks, for the problem may be closer to us than we imagine.

Claire Veale is a graduate from the SOAS, University of London, in Violence, Conflict & Development. Having lived and worked in several continents, she is particularly interested in writing about social movements, Latin American politics, gender rights and international development issues.