Ruled Over While Tilling the Soil: Trans Life, Palestine, and the Texture of Exile

Ruled Over While Tilling the Soil: Trans Life, Palestine, and the Texture of Exile

Ruled Over While Tilling the Soil: Trans Life, Palestine, and the Texture of Exile
A cloudy day above number of buildings' walls ripped apart with building materials scattered on the ground
Penelope Norman
Penelope Norman
1st of July 2022

 

I was walking down Nassau Street one night in early December and I couldn’t stop thinking about Sunnyvale, a trans-majority community centre in north Stoneybatter, which had just been evicted. After the fight, everyone who called the industrial lot home got together to help build it back – climbing over makeshift barricades and crawling through murky halls littered with broken possessions. We picked up nail-sized shards of glass smashed on the concrete ground and took apart walls ripped out of abandoned buildings and caravans after hours of assault by heavies’ invading sledgehammers. We don’t like to talk about it much, though the day and every moment since tends to weigh on us and emerge one way or another. Every humiliation and injury by the gardaí, every community space slated to become a hotel, every time we look at one another and get blocked behind some wall that keeps us from talking about what happened, it’s like we’re living through the eviction all over again, digging ourselves deeper away from the surface.

I reflected on all of this while turning onto Fitzwilliam Street Lower to a house someone I knew had rented for the weekend on Airbnb. It was supposed to be a Haunukkah party with a few friends I’d met in our college’s Jewish society. The host and her family, who had flown all the way from Texas, were Ashkenazi Jews who had all been through all of their life cycle events and education at an average synagogue. Most of us in the college society had a much different experience. Either we had just completed our conversion, or our families had been Jewish for ages and either ignored the fact or hid it from us. My family in particular had gone completely underground (one might say stealth.) After struggling for years to pull anything from my mother and grandmother’s sealed mouths, I learned we were Sephardim and had concealed our Jewish roots for over a century. In other words, everybody in the group was Jewish, just in different, equally complicated ways. The society was and remains an important space for us to meet others and untangle our identities together. The only other relevant fact for what follows is that I had just gotten a new tattoo which was visible under the sleeve of my dress. It said, in Yiddish, ‘באפריי פאלעסטינע [Free Palestine].’

In 2007, the Israeli state decided to launch a marketing campaign to change how the rest of the world viewed its government. The campaign was called Brand Israel and it aimed to promote Israel as a bastion of rights for gay and lesbian people, encouraging LGB tourism to cities like Tel Aviv. At that same time, violence and hatred against Queer minorities was still present in the city, with a mass shooting in 2009 injuring seventeen members of the community. This was specifically part of an effort of what Palestinian activists have identified as ‘pinkwashing’, ‘how the Israeli state and its supporters use the language of gay and trans rights to direct international attention away from the oppression of Palestinians.’ One of the major rhetorical effects of pinkwashing Israeli apartheid has been a new resurgence of Orientalist language which defines Palestine and other regions in the Middle East as inherently repressive in their attitudes towards gender and sexuality (Said, 205). It also defines the Occident, Israel, as welcoming and open minded towards Queerness in comparison (the most important writer on the topic of Orientalism, Edward Said, was Palestinian.)

This ties into a common myth identified by philosopher Gayatri Spivak as ‘white men are saving brown women from brown men’, which sticks itself in our minds by structuring how we talk about international gender issues, limiting the ways resistance or acknowledgement of colonial structures can be discussed (Spivak, 92). To put it more simply, by leaning into gendered, colonial rhetoric which argues the ‘West’ saves the gendered minority of the ‘East’ from its own ‘inherent’ patriarchy, Israel has painted itself as a kind of widely recognisable saviour, giving it power in the eyes of people familiar with that rhetoric regardless of what they actually do. The most obvious problem with this is that it talks about Israel’s settler colonialism as a kind of protection or salvation, making it seem like the mass exodus comprising the experience of the Nakba (meaning ‘The Catastrophe’, a term referring to the ongoing expulsion of Palestinians from Palestine since the 1948 Arab-Israeli War) was a kind of gift.

One of the most famous retellings of the creation of humankind, as detailed by what Christians call the Book of Genesis, is the epic poem Paradise Lost by John Milton. Milton was a Calvinist and an ally of Oliver Cromwell who wrote during the English Civil War. His poem tells the story of Man’s fall due to the schemes and manipulations of Satan, who had just been cast into Hell after turning against his Creator. In the epic, Adam and Eve are depicted as the ultimate example of binary genders in a heterosexual union. When they are first referred to by name in the poem, they are described as, ‘Adam first of men […] first of women Eve.’ In a conversation with Adam in the first half of the text, Eve says,

 “O thou for whom
And from whom I was form’d flesh of thy flesh,
And without whom am to no end, my Guide
And Head, what thou hast said is just and right,”

 

She is written to play a passive role by submitting to her husband, testifying to his rationality and morality. When it comes time for them to Fall, Eve is seduced by Satan’s speech as a snake,

 

“his words replete with guile

Into her heart too easie entrance won:

Fixt on the Fruit she gaz’d, which to behold

Might tempt alone, and in her ears the sound

Yet rung of his perswasive words, impregn’d

With Reason, to her seeming, and with Truth.”

 

Adam on the other hand gets to ruminate on his decision to join her in turning against their Creator, completing the epic’s ongoing conversation about the nature of the Divine and Free Will. He was given the time to make a choice. In other words, Paradise Lost tells the story of the first Man’s foolish, gullible wife and her original sin which resulted from her inability to use critical thinking to avoid trusting a sketchy talking snake.

In Bereshit 1:27-28, from what the Christians call Genesis, the first human was created. To quote in translation,

 

“And יהוה created humankind in the divine image,
creating it in the image of יהוה —
creating them male and female.
יהוה blessed them and יהוה said to them”

In other words, the first human (Adam in Hebrew has connections to both ‘human’ and ‘soil’, referring to how this first Human was created from the material of the earth) was neither male nor female, but contained both aspects within them in a unique combination. When their partner was created,

 

“יהוה took one of [his/their] sides, and closed up the flesh at that site. And יהוה fashioned the side that had been taken from the Human into a woman, bringing her to [him/them].”

 

This gets trickier when we remember that the Sex/gender system which tries to divide bodies and social roles into two polarised categories didn’t really become a thing until much later in the historical record. In other words, in Hebrew translation and Jewish tradition, the creation of Adam and Chava wasn’t the formation of the original cishet nuclear family, but the formation of self and other, the making of difference among all people. This interpretation has been told and retold for generations, treasured by Queer Jews and passed onto their chosen descendants. Notably, conversations about this section of Torah and its implications for Jewish life and practice began to gain newfound attention by rabbis in the sixteenth century after the perils of the Reconquista and Inquisition forced Jews out of Portugal and Spain, a population who would become known as Sephardim and eventually lead, albeit after centuries, to me. The most relevant themes which come up from this story specifically focus on the creations of further differences, between a home made for us and a wilderness we are expelled into or living as part of a shared community and dying in the fossils and shackles of violence from the past.

A recent UN publication not only stated that the situation in Palestine was apartheid, and it also described the occupied territories as an, ‘open-air prison.’ To cross between regions, people must undergo invasive searches and checkpoint procedures, conditions of which vary based on assigned nationality. To navigate these checkpoints, people are required to have a series of corresponding identity cards, permits, and other documents; these borders have been recognised as an explicitly gendered space, a ‘social geography of horror,’ where permissions for crossing are granted on a sexist basis (they’re usually only granted to women for exceptional medical or religious purposes) and the facilitation of crossing is founded on strict compliance with embodied gender norms as enforced by Israeli soldiers’ rifles and gazes. The creation of strict gender norms in the carceral structure of the prison or occupied colony is not unique to Israel; Angela Davis in her book Are Prisons Obsolete? details how, ‘the deeply gendered character of punishment both reflects and further entrenches the gendered structure of the larger society.’ (Davis, 61) Along similar lines, Dean Spade argues how,

 

“For trans people, administrative gender classification and the problems it creates for those who are difficult to classify or are misclassified is a major vector of violence and diminished life chances and life spans […] The aim of creating increased security for the nation hangs on the assumption of a national subject that deserves and requires that protection: a subject for whom these identity classification and verification categories are uncontroversial. (Spade, 77-85)”

In other words, the creation of a security state or prison system relies on the enforcement of an ideal person, a person who is defined by the social systems constituting race and gender in that state. For Palestine, the carceral subject under Israeli occupation is the Palestinian who will soon be eliminated by the settler colonial state. Cruelty is the goal; they are not meant to survive. For trans subjects in particular, the systems of policing, surveillance, and apartheid are made even more dangerous by an increased risk from the normal dangers of not fitting into a stable, identity-based system. Israel and its allies don’t care if they discriminate against trans Palestinians because, in their eyes, they are just particularly targetable Palestinians who shouldn’t be in Israel in the first place. Pinkwashing is not only a dishonest marketing strategy, but also a hypocritical alibi for genocide.

At the party, I decided to help my hosts make latkes, fried potato cakes traditionally served during the holiday. A number of friends I expected would be there had sent their apologies, so for a while the only people around to chat with were all standing with me in a circle binding shavings together and browning them in oil. We made jokes back and forth about which toppings are more Jewish, applesauce or sour cream. I learned all of the men in the family had joined the military in America and were quite proud of this fact. In my head, I could see my dad with his eyes locked on me gripping the honorary sword he received for his work on the border in Korea, keeping it safe like the tokens his dad had taken from Okinawa in the forties. My uncle had flown south to Peru at seventeen and died in a plane crash, and at the same age a version of me went east and quickly transitioned; to him, we both went in the wrong directions. Their father wore a t-shirt with the names and numbers of the people he had served with. I was cutting myself with a grater, spilling blood in the onions, while the rest of them moved and chatted together like a frictionless machine.

I was aware of the fact that I was different from the people around me, what I couldn’t admit was how much I wanted what they had. I needed to feel like I could be in a space without fear of hurting everybody else or being hurt myself. The sister suddenly saw my tattoo and asked with excitement what it meant. I knew I couldn’t tell the truth; I couldn’t lose another home. I tried to shrug it off saying, ‘it’s from an old protest chant.’ They pressed on, wanting to know word for word what I had decided to mark on my body. I lied. ‘It means, “There is no Planet B.”’ It seemed to work; I can’t be sure whether or not they bought it, but they were satisfied either way. I felt caged in and alone, after all that had happened there was no one around the room I could turn to for recognition. They went on to joke about the minor differences between Texas and Dublin. I stepped out into the hallway and tried to feel my feet on the ground.

 

 

Featured Image: ‘Sunnyvale Lost’ by Penelope Norman

This article was supported by: Engagement Coordinator Aislin

 

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LGBTQIA+ Refugees Are Being Deported to a Country That Will Not Protect Them

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Sarah Kennelly

20th of June 2022

To cross the channels in search of hope is a perilous journey that many do not survive. Those who succeed beat the odds working against them. From human traffickers to raging storms, the hurdles are endless. However, the barriers to their safety do not end when they reach our shores, in fact, they are fortified by governments who place policies above people.

 

This is exactly what the UK government is doing with a new policy that will deport refugees to Rwanda. Although Rwanda is making great strides in developing a more equal society, it is still failing to protect many of its marginalised groups.  Although Rwanda does not criminalize same-sex relations, there are no policies that outlaw discrimination against these identities despite the safety of the LGBTQIA+ community being particularly at risk.

 

The UK government is ignoring the concerns raised by many human rights organisations such as Rainbow Migration and ECRE. These institutions work tirelessly to protect the rights of LGBTQIA+ refugees and are experts in how immigration policies affect their clients. They have stressed that the country is an unsafe environment for these migrants who could face discrimination in social and institutional settings. In June of last year, it was even discovered that Rwandan authorities captured and detained over a dozen gay and transgender people, in a bid to “clean up” their streets.

 

 

British officials have openly admitted that they understand the nature of these threats and have expressed their own “concern” for LGBTQIA+ identities in Rwanda. However, they reveal their inhumanity by deciding to move ahead with the policy anyway. It has been justified by claiming it is cost-efficient but this remains doubtful. The top civil servant, Matthew Rycroft, shared this scepticism in a letter to the Home Secretary, stating that there is little evidence to suggest that this agreement would be an effective deterrent enough to save taxpayers money. In another statement, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “our compassion may be infinite but our capacity to help people is not”. It remains unclear how this new policy will benefit the British taxpayer which they are so dutifully claiming to protect. 

 

This decision will also have repercussions for Ukrainian refugees who reach the UK through Ireland. Ireland’s decision to lift all immigration requirements for Ukranians fleeing war has been denounced by politicians in Northern Ireland, who support crackdowns on migrants using illegal routes to enter the country. In response to the policy in the Republic of Ireland, British officials have warned that those who make this illegal crossing will be at risk of deportation to Rwanda

At the time of writing, the most recent development was on Tuesday 14th June when the Strasbourg court blocked the first flight of refugees to Rwanda, citing the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The grounding of the plane came as a result of the countless activists and lawyers campaigning to end this discriminatory policy. The British Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab has expressed his disapproval of the decision but has confirmed the removal of refugees to Rwanda will take place despite international pressure. Further, Johnson has raised the idea of the UK withdrawing from the ECHR, publicly querying “Will it be necessary to change some laws to help us as we go along?”. Although the 7 asylum seekers aboard the plane were granted extra time, their future remains uncertain.

 

Featured Image by Vibeke Sonntag on Flicker

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Maasai Women and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Maasai Women and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Maasai Women and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area

Vehicle driving through Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Maximiliana Eligi Mtenga

31st of May 2022

The Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA) in Tanzania spans the Ngorongoro crater and is surrounded by many flora and fauna. The distinctive volcanic caldera provides an astonishing view to tourists and visitors who mostly come from outside Africa. The NCA is also home to the Indigenous Maasai community, who have been the custodians of the area for centuries.

The NCA was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979 as a “natural site” and in 2010 as a cultural property. One might think that NCA is blessed with the world’s heritage ‘title’ and the protection that comes with it, but in reality, all that glitters is not gold.

For the past five decades, key researchers have highlighted that the United Republic of Tanzania does not have a land rights regime to protect the rights of the dignified livelihood of indigenous Maasai women. The laws of Tanzania do not adequately recognize and protect indigenous pastoralists’ ancestral lands, which constitute their means of survival and the basis for their communal existence.

UNESCO’s efforts to promote respect for humankind and the planet earth in which we live are valuable. Yet, under its watch, ongoing eviction plans by the government of Tanzania are putting all residents of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area at risk of deepened poverty for the indigenous Maasai community and its women.

Indigenous Maasai women’s rights are being violated in the name of conservation. The Maasai Indigenous women are likely to lose their identity and dignity due to losing ancestral land and poverty. Furthermore, evicting the indigenous Maasai women from the NCA will destroy their traditional “Bomas” homes, livestock, economic activities, and handicraft businesses. 

 

The crisis, just like any other crisis 

The continuing threats of evictions of the Indigenous Maasai men and women from their motherland in the name of conservation only exacerbate women’s rights violations that the Maasai women in the NCA have experienced from the Maasai traditional practices for decades. Indigenous women’s rights are embedded in international laws and human rights conventions, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) of 1979, which Tanzania ratified in 1989. However, despite this protection and the mutual agreement at the international level, the Maasai women’s rights are rarely respected in practice. On the contrary, they are violated at the national and international levels by either governments or the private sectors.

These violations amount to a ‘crisis’ because the eviction processes come with significant impacts such as loss of life properties and hunger resulting from day-to-day conspiracies against the indigenous NCA residents who are refusing to be evicted. 

The Director of Advocacy and Reforms from the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) in Tanzania, Fulgence Massawe, says that;

 

“Maasai women need their Bomas (houses) more than men because Maasai men are usually moving with their livestock. So, if the eviction plans succeed, the indigenous Maasai women are more likely to suffer more than men. Indigenous Maasai women are householders; they build Bomas and don’t move easily like men, so their Bomas are their safe settlement.”  

 

Adding on the issues of the co-assistance of the Maasai community with wildlife in the NCA, Massawe continues to express his concerns on the possibility of a loss of Maasai Livelihood amidst the ongoing eviction plans; 

 

“The Maasai people at the NCA are pastoralists, and in an environment where wild animals exist, it means that their livestock can survive in that area, so when you re-allocate them in a place that does not have wildlife, even the survival of their livestock cannot be guaranteed. Therefore, they are going for a disaster, and they will lose their richness, including their livestock; the government might claim that the area is humanly habitable but is it friendly to the Maasai’s livestock?”

 

The fact that there is an ongoing process of evicting the indigenous Maasai men and women in the NCA under the watch of UNESCO is reminiscent of colonial behaviours. Furthermore, the fact that Tanzania is violating the indigenous Maasai women’s rights in the NCA in daylight makes me feel like Tanzania as a country has forgotten the pinch of colonialism. I am forced to think like this because conserving the NCA by evicting the Maasai community, who have been the custodian of that area for decades, means that the Maasai community is being colonized. It’s unbelievable that Tanzania has recently celebrated 60 years of independence while the Maasai community in the NCA are still being colonized. 

Colonialism was indeed a nightmare, and as much as no one wishes to go back to the colonial era, I worry that the indigenous Maasai people in the NCA have never gained independence from their colonial masters. In the long run, the eviction of the Maasai people in the NCA is going to be catastrophic as Massawe continues to add;

 

“We should remember the indigenous Maasai people have their Gods, and they consider their ancestral land to be sacred, so if they are evicting the Maasai people, how are they going to re-allocate their Gods? Because for example, Ol Doinyo Lengai is a sacred mountain to the Maasai where they worship and offer sacrifices to God. So, alienating them from their ancestral land means you are pushing them away from their nature and system of life in general”.

 

From the human rights perspective, if the conservation of the NCA is not in line with rights-based approaches. These include but are not limited to the free, prior, and informed consent for any activity on their land, then that’s the most significant human rights violation which should be condemned by all means.

 

Maasai Women Rights and the SDGs

Regional and international conservators need to employ rights-based approaches in conserving the NCA, which will add to the insightful and innovative work of gender equality in developing countries. That way, indigenous Maasai women are not left behind on the sustainable development agenda 2030 or the Tanzania development vision for 2025. 

What is life if we are not learning from others? What is happening to the indigenous women in the NCA is similar to the situation of Ireland Travellers before and after their official recognition as an indigenous ethnic minority in 2017. The fact that Ireland took decades to recognize the Irish Travellers came with a greater magnitude of effects. The 1963 Report of the Commission on Itinerancy and other State policies attempted to force Travellers to assimilate with “settled” people. As a result of the Travellers’ indigenous rights negligence, almost five years after their official Recognition of Irish Travellers as the Indigenous ethnicity minority, they still suffer from doubt and distrust from other members of the Irish community.

 

A repeated mistake?

Tanzania is bound to repeat the same mistake that the government made a decade ago when it violently evicted the Nyamuma people from their motherland as part of this same ‘conservation’ paradigm. After a decade of battling in the court of law and support from civil society organizations, the Nyamuma people won their case against the government, and their ancestral land was returned. The Director of Advocacy and Reforms from the Legal and Human Rights Centre, Fulgence Massawe, asserts;

 

“The government doesn’t have a realistic re-allocation plan because, for example, they tell you that the population of the NCA residents are almost over 100,000, but the houses they have built-in Handeni Tanga are barely exceeding 100, so where will they take all these people and what will these people do in this circumstance?”. 

 

The Indigenous Maasai women’s rights crisis in the NCA would have been solved if Tanzania had ratified the 1989 International Labour Organization’s Convention (No. 169) Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries. This Convention outlines the special rights of indigenous peoples regarding activities on their customary lands. 

 

 

Anyone interested in supporting the Maasai Women in Ngorongoro can sign a petition from Rainforest-Rescue.org

 

 

Featured Image by Ema Studios on Unsplash

This article was supported by: Engagement Coordinator Aislin

 

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Hidden in Plain Sight: The Covert Conflict of Interdependence

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Refugees Welcome Sticker
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25th of May 2022

“I feel like I am about to completely collapse: Totally disheartened, in despair, I cannot eat or sleep”

“There is an atmosphere of fear everywhere” 

“We needed to get out right away”

“They are beating and shooting us. There’s no food, no water. The children are crying, starving. Please.”

 

As the hearts of Europe beat for Ukraine, human voices cry out. Sounds from those most impacted by conflict and forced migration. The opening quote of this article emerges from a village near Kyiv in March 2022, from the pages of a civilian diary, an account of burgeoning war. The second is an aid worker in Myanmar that same year, in an article by The New Humanitarian concerning eight “other” ongoing conflicts. The third, from Amin Nawabi, expresses the requirement to  ‘flee’ Afghanistan during the 1980s Soviet-Afghan war. Finally, the fourth surfaces from Sally Hayden’s new “book of evidence”, My Fourth Time, We Drowned, a 21st century account of migrant suffering across the Mediterranean. 

Our Irish and European response to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine is welcome. The relaxation of European border controls to welcome Ukrainian refugees along with the concerted Irish effort to provide appropriate, conscious accommodation has been commendable. However, it may prove imprudent to pat ourselves on the back too soon. For all our achievement and praise, international attention must also divert to something of equal salience: what we could have been doing all along. 

In the last year, we’ve observed resources “appear” in mere days to provide thousands with pandemic unemployment payment. Structures once embedded in society, from education to employment, were turned on their head as working-from-home became the “new normal”. Much like policy’s speedy adjustments during the coronavirus, the Russian-Ukrainian conflict highlights a new way of thinking in times of crisis.It would be lovely to say that our world order has changed  in the wake of this pandemic.  A pandemic that demonstrated the unavoidable importance of global interdependence. It would be lovely, but it would be naïve. Vaccine inequity persists. Efforts to collaborate more sustainably are insufficient. At least eight other conflicts continue. And as more and more Ukrainian refugees enter Ireland, those living in an inadequate direct provision system risk even slower processing of their claims for international protection. 

 

So, why the change of heart? Why Ukraine, but not Syria or Afghanistan? Ethiopia, The Sahel, Yemen or Haiti? Why not the climate? Why not those who are already here?

 

 

People on Protest Against War in Ukraine

 

Sharon Mpofu, on behalf of the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI), asks “if they can do it for [Ukrainians], why can’t they do it for other migrants?” She speculated that the media’s disparate depiction of Ukrainian refugees perpetuates a euro-centric approach towards asylum seekers; “I think it’s based on what has been portrayed in the media – they are from a European country, [they receive] preferential treatment compared to people of colour from different migrant societies. But [there is] one human race. We need to be treated equally regardless of race, creed, religion…” She shared her frustration at the quick processing and housing of Ukrainian applicants despite similar struggles of those living in direct provision for months now. The effort to “put tools down” and focus on Ukraine, “because its Ukraine.” 

While the physical distance of this conflict from Ireland is certainly worth consideration, it was when asked to share a final message from MASI that Sharon exposed perhaps the deepest roots of these discrepancies:

 

“[We want to] spread the word; we are not bad guys. We want to work with the government and Irish society and build a better future for tomorrow. We are here for protection, not to sponge off the government. If we work, we pay tax. We want to contribute to this country… and integrate properly.”

 

Structural racism in Ireland has become so entrenched, it’s even internalised by those suffering the bulk of its impact. Sharon emphasises migrants’ ironic understanding of Irish policy, expressing the desire to achieve public approval and “earn” a place here, rather than recognising the right that everyone should have to safe asylum. To food, shelter and adequate healthcare. The “right to have rights”, that can only be secured by international mobility and residence.

 

Where does this belief stem from? Why does it only affect people coming from specific countries and crises? The answers may be hidden in plain sight. 

 

Revealing our own implicit biases is hindered most ardently by the obvious; the fact that they are implicit. Implicit biases are the “attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner”. As overt displays of racism become less prevalent, and a robust far-right political movement fails to form in Ireland compared to other European countries, it is easy to mistake our normative opposition to intolerance as evidence of goodwill. That’s not to say blatant discrimination isn’t present, especially for minorities such as the Travelling community. But peeling back layer upon layer of the past lets slip an even darker undercurrent. A harsher, covert truth. 

The origins of the Irish Free State itself lead to a homogeneous, closed, Catholic society, where in the wake of British invasion patriotism triumphed and “the only enemy was outside”. Despite, and because of this history, Ireland shared an equal hand in the suppression of black societies, through charitable, religious missionaries overseas and the use of this “inherent” nationalism to justify xenophobic policies. Western biases also began to dominate Irish media and culture.  Essentially, in our pursuit of independence and establishment on the world stage, our capacity to discriminate was heightened. Our suspicion of outsiders. Our involvement in inequity. A sovereign state, but an active participant in exclusion. 

The “unproblematic” assertion that Ukraine is “closer to home” and therefore, matters more, says it all; this country differentiates without regard and without critical examination of its own preconceptions. It’s a reality that may be harder to accept in the context of our own occupation. But it is reality all the same. By taking a stand against brazen intolerance and sharing a history of colonisation with developing countries, it’s understandable that most Irish people would be offended if dubbed “racist”. But laced within that history are influences we haven’t escaped. Influences that are inherited, absorbed and instilled, whether we like them are not.

 

“The Europeans like our fish, but they don’t like our people”. Dr Rashid Sumaila, Professor and Director of the Fisheries Economics Research Unit at the University of British Columbia. 

 

This reality was only intensified by international economic development. While globalisation liberalised borders in terms of goods and services, states re-asserted their sovereignty in response to this evolution. International laws loosened to allow for easier trade, while migration policies tightened. What was lacking was a corresponding international obligation to secure human rights. Although many nations have prospered economically from this neoliberalism, the share of the wealth, the work and the impact is disproportionate, with the most devastating effects felt by those in developing countries. In essence, border control was framed in financial terms. Resources, companies and capital were let in, while people, and more often than not, black and brown people, were the ones left out. And in a murkier twist, they’re the ones frequently blamed for the inequalities that neoliberal policies generate. Myths of “welfare cheats” and “security threats” emerged during the early 2000s throughout Western media and politics, beginning the long journey that leads today to Sharon Mpofu’s plea; “we are not bad guys.” Asylum seekers are not, in fact, a burden. 

Ironically, it isn’t immigrants who are “draining resources” from the government. It is the Irish State itself, through a policy environment in which asylum seekers were denied the right to work and contribute economically in Ireland until 2018. In which assimilation into Irish society is arduous, for children and adults alike. Through no fault of their own, asylum seekers are placed within a privately funded, profit-making system that has cost the State over €1.3 billion since its inception. An approach that yet again puts the lives of people in the hands of corporations. An approach that many have contended costs the government more than a socially-funded model would. 

And it’s arguably not just domestic policies that contribute to this strain. It has been long documented that the continuous pull of resources by Western countries from developing countries exacerbates the impoverished conditions that drive people to migrate in the first place. In a similar vein, the impact the West has on climate change intensifies the effects of conflict and poverty overseas. Nobody wants to leave their home. But due to these neo-colonialistic tendencies, again tied up in economic greed and a history of prejudice, many don’t have a choice. Proving that no matter how badly States want to protect their sovereign lands from the monetary weight of migrants, the flow of those seeking asylum is not set to cease any time soon. 

Lastly, asylum seekers are not a burden because asylum seekers are people. And people are not goods or services or capital. People are people, experiencing the same challenges, joys and realities that life presents, no matter where they come from. Except for some people, these realities are made infinitely harder based on exactly that; where they come from. One country’s “economic migrant” is another’s “expat”, based solely on their nationality and a refusal to recognise our shared humanity. 

 

And yet:

 

 “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” Anne Frank, 1947. 

 

The Ukrainian crisis illuminates deep hypocrisies on an Irish and international scale. But the war, alongside Covid-19 and the climate crisis, also signifies the potential for change. The necessity for change, as even the Western economy faces risk. Potentially another reason behind our increased attention, the Ukrainian-Russian conflict represents another threat to our globalised system, unveiling the fragility of the neoliberal agenda in the same way Brexit, Trump and Covid-19 did. Our capacity to connect is both a blessing and a curse. In the face of international challenges that will continue to affect us all, it is time to reimagine a new way of working together. A system that places people and the planet at the centre, rather than on the sidelines. There are inklings of a shift towards this system. The pledge to abolish direct provision by 2024. A new scheme to regularise long-term undocumented migrants. The mass welcoming of Ukrainian people in itself is indicative of good intention. Of a system where we are independent but aligned on issues that matter to all. Where everyone can prosper, economically, socially and environmentally. Not just Ireland, Europe, Ukraine.  

Everybody. 

 

 

 

Featured Image by Markus Spiske from Pexels

Image in article body by Mathias Reding from Pexels

This article was supported by: Engagement Coordinator Aislin

 

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Real People, Tangible Action: a Chat with Climate Love Ireland

Real People, Tangible Action: a Chat with Climate Love Ireland

Real People, Tangible Action: a Chat with Climate Love Ireland

Criomhthann Morrison talks with Laragh McCann
Criomhthann Morrison

4th of May 2022

Laragh McCann is co-founder of Climate Love Ireland, a grassroots, community-led group that started out as a response to the global climate strikes in 2019.

The global strike was a ‘game-changer day’ for Laragh at a time when she was finding it hard to find deeper purpose in her work. The strikes and rising climate justice movement reminded of her younger years “getting so much solace” from connecting with nature, climbing trees and swimming in the sea. 

 

“There was so much momentum in general for the climate at the time, and I had it in me for sure”

 

A day before the strikes, Laragh pulled together a small crew to film the day and make a short video, then Laragh made a new Instagram profile where she posted the video and then started sharing pictures, quotes, and facts about climate change.

The page and team grew organically over time. The graphic designer Emma Conway helped design the logo, and then Laragh met Cormac Nugent at a demonstration outside the Dáil, who helped with the Instagram page. Caoimhe (a former STAND Contributor!) also got involved after reaching out for climate strike footage, and started sharing local businesses on the Instagram page..

Laragh eventually felt the page was becoming repetitive and wasn’t sure they were making much impact. Laragh also knew that she herself needed more time in nature, which ended up setting the tone and pace of Climate Love Ireland going forward.

 

“I felt like connecting with nature kind of embodies the solution in a lot of ways”

 

Nature Connection, Community Action, and System Revolution are the three pillars CLI has focused on over the pandemic, which Laragh feels covers the range of aspects and dimensions to climate change and what people can do about it.

And since restrictions have been easing, the CLI community has grown with in-person events like clean-ups and hikes.

 

“You can’t underestimate meeting people in real life and how much that actually leads to tangible action”

 

Laragh highlighted Rob Coleman as one example of this. She met him at a clean-up, connected him with many people who helped him grow his own project, and now has received funding from Creative Ireland for a tree-planting project with primary schools.

Climate Love Ireland also has a WhatsApp group of 80 people where they share shoutouts and resources and give general support. Even as we spoke during the Live Chat, someone asked in the comments to join it!

I reflected with Laragh on how hard it can be to find where you ‘fit’ in what’s going on, and how there are so many different ways to connect with solutions and movements and make an impact at the individual-level or higher. The most helpful thing to do can be taking time to just find what works for your situation and where you can be proactive. Linking in with a community can be really helpful for doing this.

 

“There’s such a sense of urgency with the climate crisis that […] instinctively one feels you have to be up 24 hours a day doing a mending session, swapping, eating nothing […]. It’s not really like that. It’s more about picking the things you know you’re good at and synchronising it with a wider group so that everybody is ticking lots of boxes and taking the slack off yourself.”

 

Laragh then shared one of her favourite phrases, but with a caveat.

 

“‘Less is more’ is one of my favourite mottos, but skillfully so. Not just saying ‘less is more’ and that’s it, but attaching it more to a wider movement, picking one or two things, not trying to do everything, allowing other people to do their bits”

 

Laragh then talked about promoting the many links across social movements, including examples like groups working towards climate justice, promoting feminism, fighting homelessness, and protection for migrants.

 

“Coming back to our shared humanity is the most important thing”

 

Laragh related this to the story of David and Goliath, emphasising that focusing his aim on the most important point is how David took down Goliath.

Laragh continued thinking about the opportunities and challenges in shifting the public consciousness and engaging political power and decision-makers.

 

“The climate crisis is happening. It’s a present-day thing for people”

 

To people who suggest “it’s going to happen anyway, there’s no point in doing anything”, Laragh highlighted that someone in the middle of the drought wouldn’t accept that, rather they’d be shouting out “Do something now”. And even if someone believes there is no way to hold or slow down climate change, there are still all sorts of issues we need to deal with “to make sure people are okay.”

For anyone looking to connect with Climate Love Ireland and get involved, Laragh recommended following the Instagram page for updates on events and activities to meet other people interested in climate justice. Reaching out to join the WhatsApp group is the next thing someone could do.

Laragh also shared two upcoming events: first the event ‘Swim for Bay’ (costumes optional!) for promoting the conservation and celebration of the Irish Sea. Laragh was going to share some words at the event alongside a speaker from Save Our Seas – Dublin Bay. That happened on the 23rd April.

Second was the ‘Eco-Film Night’ in collaboration with Act Now Collective, Ecohun, and Climate Alarm Clock happening on 13th May in Dublin (details on Instagram!).

Prompted for a final comment for the call, Laragh replied:

 

“Just get involved. There are loads and loads of people out there who genuinely care and are interested.”

 

Laragh shared how she has a pattern of presuming people don’t care, and then shutting down, not engaging, and feeling hopeless. But Laragh finds it helpful to practice being more open and having lower expectations of others.

 

“When that happens, you realise there is loads of people who are mentioning climate and things that are related. Just be more optimistic about people, because people do care. But also surround yourself with people who are on the same page.”

 

I had a really nice time chatting with Laragh and definitely recommend checking out Climate Love Ireland’s Instagram page and website at https://www.climateloveireland.com/.

I’m allergic to the extreme cold of the Irish waters, so you wouldn’t have caught me there. So as long as the place is dry, you’ll see me at the film night!

 

IG Live Chat link: https://www.instagram.com/p/Ccp1JEnFhL3/ or watch the video below

 

Climate Love Ireland Links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/climateloveireland-419849408774988 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/climateloveireland/ 

Website: https://www.climateloveireland.com/ 

 

Other links:

Caoimhe/Kiva’s film and photography website: https://www.kivadurkan.com/

 

 

All images provided by Recrowned Ireland

This article was supported by: Engagement Coordinator Aislin

 

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