Book Review: Klein Gifts Us With Tools to Unite Climate Action in ‘On Fire’

Book Review: Klein Gifts Us With Tools to Unite Climate Action in ‘On Fire’

It’s hard to believe that Naomi Klein has been chronicling the exploitation of people and our planet for over 20 years. As a 24-year-old, her voice emerged around the same time I was born, but I have only discovered her genius in recent months. The author of No Logo, This Changes Everything and The Shock Doctrine among many others has gathered writings and key speeches from the last decade for her latest work emphasising the imperativeness of the Green New Deal. The urgency of her work has only increased with the steady stream of heartbreaking environmental statistics leaking through the cracks of our social media feeds.

 

On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal takes place from numerous vantage points; the Vatican under Pope Francis’ “ecological conversion”, measuring environmental damages from the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, choking on smoke from wildfires in British Columbia, Vancouver and witnessing the die-off in the Great Barrier Reef. Her voice is as accessible as ever while she dissects the scientific and economic jargon for her whole audience to grasp, simultaneously injecting empathy and passion in her fight to hold corporations and fossil fuel companies accountable for the endless hurt they’ve caused.

 

Klein examines the worrying resurgence of narratives regarding the right of supposedly superior white colonisers to inflict violence on those they classify as beneath them in the hierarchy of humans. Her consistent elevation of Indigenous voices is a priority for the climate justice movement, as minorities are the most vulnerable people with the lowest carbon footprint but bear the brunt of climate breakdown’s disastrous effects. From dozens of Indigenous tribes in the Amazon facing prejudice and stripped of land rights under President Bolsonaro and Justin Trudeau’s use of First Nations land for tar sands pipelines to the storms ravaging Puerto Rico and droughts in Africa and East Asia; Klein uses her platform to highlight how horrifically unfair the ecological destruction of our planet is. 

 

Using a rake of data, historical sources and referencing studies, research and interviews, the activist disproves claims that climate change is simply a result of “flawed human behaviour”. The greed of a small but elite group of neoliberal capitalists and 100 corporate fossil fuel companies saw the natural wealth of stolen lands as something to dominate and use up. The idea that the earth’s resources are boundless are reminiscent of capitalism’s grab and pull behaviour, the consistent consumption habits of the planet’s richest inhabitants to the detriment of the systematically unheard. Black and brown lives are being betrayed, while Western, wealthy countries build higher and higher walls.
 

The Canadian author tries to maintain a pragmatic and optimistic tone throughout the novel while making sure to put political leaders blocking climate action on blast. The opening chapter makes sure to reference the shining light of Greta Thunberg, declaring that young people are “cracking open the heart of the climate crisis”. Democratic eco-socialism is the backbone of the Green New Deal resolution, put forward by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey. By the final chapters of Klein’s book, it’s impossible to deny that this plan is the only way forward, which is why she endorses Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination in 2020.  

The Green New Deal has its roots in Indigenous communities and tribes who have a compassionate and respectful relationship to the land, rather than seeing it as something worth draining of all life for the profit of a small few. It makes sure to illustrate that the economic strain of the plan should not be on the poorest people in our society. The plan works to eliminate the racial wealth gap and gender wealth gap while guaranteeing job security, free education, free healthcare, funded art projects and protection of wildlife and nature reserves, transport and childcare as well as 100% renewable energy. 

 

The vicious cycle of placing certain lives above ‘the Other’ has led to a dehumanising effect, with the rise of far-right, authoritarian movements globally and a shutdown of freedom of movement being called for in post-Brexit UK. The irony of anti-immigration sentiment rings hollow, Klein writes, once it dawns on them that Britain invented the coal-burning steam engine and has been burning fossil fuels on an industrial scale longer than any nation on earth. Their anger at the thought of paying for flood defences abroad while ignoring their role in climate-related weather storms in the Global South is peak white privilege.  

 

The writer stresses that the core crises of fake news, election tampering, data harvesting, violent wars over resources, racism, massive wealth inequality, white supremacy, poverty and sexual violence are all interconnected and must be tackled head-on as a collective social mass movement. The Green New Deal has strong plans in place in terms of financing the plan, simply by treating the crisis like the emergency it is; cutting military spending, shutting down tax havens and taxing the billionaires 1%. Funnel the funds back into the public sphere, decentralise power into local communities, keep carbon in the ground, raise the voices of those who were tramped on in society, and there you have it: democratic eco-socialism. Lifestyle changes, of course, are included. Mainly so that disposable income from our green job salary doesn’t go towards “buying crap from China that will inevitably end up in landfill”, as the author eloquently puts. The paradigm of equating personal prosperity with quality of life leads to wealth hoarding, and can’t possibly fulfil us.

 

“Climate change acts as an accelerant to many of our social ills (inequality, wars, racism, sexual violence) but it can also be an accelerant for the opposite, for the forces working for economic and social justice against militarism,” Klein says, instilling a sense of purpose within the reader. “It is not the job of a transformative social movement to reassure members of a panicked, megalomaniacal elite that they are still masters of the universe, nor is it necessary.” We must abandon the extractive, consumerist mindset and repair our relationship with each other as well as with the planet, the era of endless expansion is over.

 

With her usual elegance, humility and logic, Naomi Klein has gifted us with the tools to unite the movement once again and makes sure to assure us that we’re not alone. The issue demands us to act on a scale that humanity has never accomplished before. As Ursula K. Le Guin once said, “We live in capitalism, it’s power seems inescapable – but then, so did the divine right of kings.” Capitalism is not some stoic system that is built into our DNA with no alternative. Human empathy can still triumph, despite the men in the White House, 10 Downing Street and the Kremlin. We could cause the sixth great mass extinction event in Earth’s history, or we could create a prosperous civilisation: it’s our choice.

 

 

Photo by Joe Mabel

 

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Women in Horror Cinema: ‘Screen Queens’ and changing representations

Horror cinema has always been an extremely nuanced genre of film in terms of its representation of female characters. Conventional gender roles and stereotypes permeate the genre with clichéd female archetypes such as the helpless victim and the sexually promiscuous woman. However, things are starting to be challenged.

Oatly Facing Boycotts Following Unsustainable Investment Links to Deforestation and Trump

Oatly has made headlines recently for accepting an investment from Blackstone, one of the largest private equity firms in the world, which has links to deforestation in the Amazon and the Trump administration. The case of Oatly raises the question – is it possible to be 100% sustainable within our current economic framework?

Review: ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ Will Make You Rethink Race

The British Army has a poor track record when it comes to women’s rights. With this in mind, it is clear why many were sceptical of Whitmore defending her collaboration with the army in the name of feminist discourse. While the British Army’s use of feminist language in their PR campaigns could be interpreted as a sign of progress, it is important to question the intentions behind this move and, most importantly, who benefits from it.

Miss Representation (2011) Reveals a Glaring Reality Still Relevant in 2020

The documentary film, Miss Representation, came out in 2011, yet it remains shockingly resonant today in 2020. The film exposes how mainstream media and culture contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. As an American woman, Miss Representation strongly resonates with me, but its message is relevant to women and girls everywhere.

The Innocence Files Review

STAND News reviews the Netflix documentary series, The Innocence Files, a whodunnit with a cause. How does the series that covers the failures of the U.S. judicial system holdup?

‘Stop Filming Us’ – Questioning Neocolonialism through the Camera Lens

In Stop Filming Us (2020) Dutch filmmaker Joris Postema travels to the city of Goma in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where numerous conflicts and even more Western aid organizations have been in the past 25 years. The problem is, sometimes these Westerners would rather define Goma and its people on their terms. Can Postema portray the Congolese reality without becoming part of the problem?

Book Review: New York Times Journalists Take On Weinstein in ‘She Said’

Book Review: New York Times Journalists Take On Weinstein in ‘She Said’

Two New York Times journalists, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey broke the Harvey Weinstein story in October 2017. The publication of the first Weinstein story led to an influx of messages into Kantor and Twohey’s inboxes from women who had also experienced sexual harassment or assault. Their journalism had inspired a societal shift.  In She Said, they explain the process behind their investigative journalism. 

Weinstein, currently in court for the alleged rape and predatory sexual assault of two unnamed women, has over 80 allegations of sexual misconduct against him. Written in the third person, She Said follows Kantor and Twohey from the beginning to the end of their investigation against Weinstein. It includes interview transcripts, emails and texts- making the reader feel like they are almost witnessing the investigation first-hand. The reader gains an understanding of the collaborative process between Kantor and Twohey, who weren’t well acquainted prior to the investigation.

The first person interviewed by Kantor was actor Rose McGowan in May 2017, who had previously tweeted about sexual allegations against an unnamed Hollywood producer. “If white men could have a playground, this [Hollywood] would be it,” she said on the phone to Kantor. Weinstein paid McGowan a $100,000 settlement, which she donated to a rape crisis centre. Kantor knew that this settlement could be traced. Of course, finding other women who had similar experiences of Weinstein would make their case much stronger.

She Said gives an excellent insight into the process of investigative journalism and the huge amount of work and verification it requires. What do you say to someone in the first few seconds of a call in order for them to feel safe enough to tell their story? How do you get people to go on record? How do you prove the information you’ve gathered is correct? The journalists stressed that they always gave Weinstein and his team adequate time to respond to claims before publishing each article.

Kantor and Twohey describe how Weinstein and his team arrived at the New York Times building unannounced and the uncomfortable yet necessary reality of door-stepping potential sources.

Weinstein’s abuse was not limited to stars like McGowan, Ashley Judd and Gweneth Paltrow, but also to ordinary women, some of whose stories are given a platform in the book. Kantor and Twohey found that settlements from Weinstein to cover up the abuse he committed was all too common.

Following a theme of uncovering sexual harassment and sexual abuse by recent widely known persons, She Said also has a chapter discussing Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation of sexual assault against Brett Kavanaugh, now a Supreme Court judge in the United States.

She Said highlights the importance of journalism and holding truth to power, particularly in a time where the integrity of the profession is called into question.

 

Photo by Pexels

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

 

 

Women in Horror Cinema: ‘Screen Queens’ and changing representations

Horror cinema has always been an extremely nuanced genre of film in terms of its representation of female characters. Conventional gender roles and stereotypes permeate the genre with clichéd female archetypes such as the helpless victim and the sexually promiscuous woman. However, things are starting to be challenged.

Oatly Facing Boycotts Following Unsustainable Investment Links to Deforestation and Trump

Oatly has made headlines recently for accepting an investment from Blackstone, one of the largest private equity firms in the world, which has links to deforestation in the Amazon and the Trump administration. The case of Oatly raises the question – is it possible to be 100% sustainable within our current economic framework?

Review: ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ Will Make You Rethink Race

The British Army has a poor track record when it comes to women’s rights. With this in mind, it is clear why many were sceptical of Whitmore defending her collaboration with the army in the name of feminist discourse. While the British Army’s use of feminist language in their PR campaigns could be interpreted as a sign of progress, it is important to question the intentions behind this move and, most importantly, who benefits from it.

Miss Representation (2011) Reveals a Glaring Reality Still Relevant in 2020

The documentary film, Miss Representation, came out in 2011, yet it remains shockingly resonant today in 2020. The film exposes how mainstream media and culture contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. As an American woman, Miss Representation strongly resonates with me, but its message is relevant to women and girls everywhere.

The Innocence Files Review

STAND News reviews the Netflix documentary series, The Innocence Files, a whodunnit with a cause. How does the series that covers the failures of the U.S. judicial system holdup?

‘Stop Filming Us’ – Questioning Neocolonialism through the Camera Lens

In Stop Filming Us (2020) Dutch filmmaker Joris Postema travels to the city of Goma in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where numerous conflicts and even more Western aid organizations have been in the past 25 years. The problem is, sometimes these Westerners would rather define Goma and its people on their terms. Can Postema portray the Congolese reality without becoming part of the problem?

Review: Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’ is a Mob Drama of Epic Proportions

Review: Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’ is a Mob Drama of Epic Proportions

Scorsese’s latest $150 million passion project details the life of the mob hitman Frank Sheeran, and his involvement with the Bufalino crime family as well as the disappearance of the union leader Jimmy Hoffa. This is a mob drama of epic proportions; not only in terms of the running time of 3 hours and 30 minutes but also the scope of the film which spans five decades and different characters and locations. An elderly Sheeran narrates the flashbacks throughout the film. The use of innovative de-ageing technology on the main characters is jarring at first but is easily forgotten thanks to the immersive nature of the film. Scorsese’s attention to detail, as well as the incredibly skilled performances by Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci and Al Pacino; completely transports us into the life of Frank Sheeran and this world of violence and betrayal.    

Sheeran’s identity as a World War 2 veteran helps set the background to his abilities to follow orders and become a cold-blooded killer; as well as for the violent, emotional world that he easily adapts to. The film’s long, protracted conversations punctuated by moments of violence let the audience observe a sense of the rationalism and occasional banality of the mob world, instead of simply glamorising it. It paints the entire picture of one man’s life, bringing the audience along through all the ups and downs.

Although much of the film is in Scorsese’s classic style, the gangsters are older and more worn out than in films such as Goodfellas. The last half-hour of the film shows a much bleaker picture of the mob world, highlighting the emptiness of a life of crime and the ultimate price paid for this life of violence and excess. The emotions that they had learnt to separate from, and the religion which they had performed throughout their lives finally takes a toll on the characters at the end and provides a poignant ending that makes it well worth sticking it out through the long run time. 

 

Photo by  Ypehmish

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

 

 

Women in Horror Cinema: ‘Screen Queens’ and changing representations

Horror cinema has always been an extremely nuanced genre of film in terms of its representation of female characters. Conventional gender roles and stereotypes permeate the genre with clichéd female archetypes such as the helpless victim and the sexually promiscuous woman. However, things are starting to be challenged.

Oatly Facing Boycotts Following Unsustainable Investment Links to Deforestation and Trump

Oatly has made headlines recently for accepting an investment from Blackstone, one of the largest private equity firms in the world, which has links to deforestation in the Amazon and the Trump administration. The case of Oatly raises the question – is it possible to be 100% sustainable within our current economic framework?

Review: ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ Will Make You Rethink Race

The British Army has a poor track record when it comes to women’s rights. With this in mind, it is clear why many were sceptical of Whitmore defending her collaboration with the army in the name of feminist discourse. While the British Army’s use of feminist language in their PR campaigns could be interpreted as a sign of progress, it is important to question the intentions behind this move and, most importantly, who benefits from it.

Miss Representation (2011) Reveals a Glaring Reality Still Relevant in 2020

The documentary film, Miss Representation, came out in 2011, yet it remains shockingly resonant today in 2020. The film exposes how mainstream media and culture contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. As an American woman, Miss Representation strongly resonates with me, but its message is relevant to women and girls everywhere.

The Innocence Files Review

STAND News reviews the Netflix documentary series, The Innocence Files, a whodunnit with a cause. How does the series that covers the failures of the U.S. judicial system holdup?

‘Stop Filming Us’ – Questioning Neocolonialism through the Camera Lens

In Stop Filming Us (2020) Dutch filmmaker Joris Postema travels to the city of Goma in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where numerous conflicts and even more Western aid organizations have been in the past 25 years. The problem is, sometimes these Westerners would rather define Goma and its people on their terms. Can Postema portray the Congolese reality without becoming part of the problem?

Book Review: “Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!”

Book Review: “Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!”

“Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!” is a collection of powerful essays, interspersed with beautiful illustrations, that tell the stories of female human rights defenders from Egypt, Kuwait, Palestine, Tunisia, Turkey, Somalia and Sudan. 

The book has been jointly published by two charities: Fighting Words and Front Line Defenders. Fighting Words works to foster imagination and develop the creative writing skills of children and young people, and Front Line Defenders is dedicated to protecting human rights defenders who are at risk due to the nature of their work.

Behind each story is a meeting of two women. Every piece was created when an inspiring advocate for the rights of others shared her story with an acclaimed writer, who then put it to paper. As a collection, these stories have striking commonalities, yet they are all delightfully unique in their telling.

The core message of the book is not a commendation of the extraordinary work being done by these women (although this is much deserved!). Instead this collaboration celebrates their ordinariness. We are given an insight into some of the most difficult places to be human in the world, and are introduced to women doing just that. 

These women still go for coffee, they still scroll through Instagram, they make jokes, they are as human as you and I, even in the face of absolute inhumanity. One woman describes her life as a human rights defender as “annoying” and “tiring”, as one might describe a tedious office job. For them, rising up to combat injustice is simply an element of their everyday life.

“Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!” is an intimate account of news stories to which we have become immune – too often unable to pierce through the overwhelming din of the media, and too far away to seem real. This book allows us to understand a world we have never been to, through the lens of human commonalities.

You will find yourself confronted with questions. Where was I, while these stories unfolded? Would I have the same courage, if my normal life was upturned by conflict? And what is “normal” life anyway? 

“Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!” is an arresting series of portraits, which gives an insight into the lives of extraordinarily ordinary women. It captures the immutability of our human nature, in even the most hostile of environments. One story offers this wisdom: When you love life, fear of death cannot stop you from taking action to protect it. Living life to the fullest is the greatest retaliation against oppression. 

This book exalts just that. 

You can purchase a copy of “Yes, We Still Drink Coffee!” at https://www.fightingwords.ie/yes-we-still-drink-coffee.

 

Photo by Fighting Words on Twitter

 

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The Time for Action is Now – Beijing +25

Georgetown virtually held Beijing +25: Commemorating a Watershed Moment for Women’s Rights on Sept. 10 with Former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton on the 25th anniversary of the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women. What does the conference mean for politics in 2020?

Women in Horror Cinema: ‘Screen Queens’ and changing representations

Horror cinema has always been an extremely nuanced genre of film in terms of its representation of female characters. Conventional gender roles and stereotypes permeate the genre with clichéd female archetypes such as the helpless victim and the sexually promiscuous woman. However, things are starting to be challenged.

Women and the Military: Could pushing female representation do more harm than good?

How useful is representation in and of itself? If individual members of marginalised groups are in positions of power, will the necessary changes for their community be achieved, or do we need a collective movement of oppressed groups to attack systems of inequality from the outside? These questions have been particularly divisive in feminist discussions on women and the military.

Women and the Military: The unequal burden of war

The image of Western military powers as an emancipatory force for women has been promoted for over a century, yet ultimately could not be further from the truth. Historically, Britain and other European powers have attacked the rights and undermined the autonomy of women in colonised countries.

Oatly Facing Boycotts Following Unsustainable Investment Links to Deforestation and Trump

Oatly has made headlines recently for accepting an investment from Blackstone, one of the largest private equity firms in the world, which has links to deforestation in the Amazon and the Trump administration. The case of Oatly raises the question – is it possible to be 100% sustainable within our current economic framework?

“Women’s Rights are Human Rights” – a Muddy Business in 1995 at Beijing

The Beijing World Conference on Women, took place in September 1995, 25 years ago! Those born after 1990 are probably too young to remember the conference and its significance. But Beijing was a true landmark event. It resulted in more than 30,000 activists, representatives from 189 nations, unanimously adopting the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – a vision of equal rights, freedom, and opportunities for women that continues to shape gender equality and women’s movements worldwide.

Short shorts film festival 2019 in Dublin – What to remember

Short shorts film festival 2019 in Dublin – What to remember

Earlier this month, the European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC) screened some of the best short films produced all over Europe, as part of the Short Shorts film festival. Screenings were hosted by language schools and embassies across Dublin. 

Close to a dozen films were shown, and the audience was asked to vote for their favourite. Films in  competition were: : Tutorial (Goethe-Institut Irland) Fig (Embassy of Greece), Una casa en el campo (Instituto Cervantes/AECID), Non mi posso lamentare (Istituto Italiano Di Cultura – Dublino), Creatures (Polish Embassy Dublin), Thermostat 6 (Alliance Française de Dublin), Nachsaison (Embassy of Austria), Dodgy Dave (British Council Ireland), Late Afternoon (Culture Ireland). What Remains (Irish Film Institute) and Mr Ripple (Cork Film Festival) were also screened but did not take part in the competition.

The movies were a delight to watch. The common theme across the festival was that of forgotten or rekindled human connections. Be it that of love through years, or that of a child looking after her mom, or a girl’s quest to get her voice heard.. The audience seemed to have taken a liking towards two films namely, Una casa en el campo, the entry from Spain, and Fig the official entry from Greece. My personal favourite was “Fig” because I am a closet romantic. An injured man struggles through every unimaginable obstacle to fulfilling his dying wife’s last wish to eat a fig. This story will resonate with the audience of all ages and for times to come (see the trailer here). However, the award for best short went to rightly deserving Una casa en el campo (see the trailer here). The short film cleverly portrays invisible human connections, especially those that are sometimes unwelcome. The film shows the encounter between two neighbours for the first time. Despite their houses being separated by a wall, one of them seem to know everything about the other’s life. By using humour, the film shows that walls may not necessarily keep your lives private after all. Definitely a thought to ponder upon!

 

Photo by France in Ireland on Twitter

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

Women in Horror Cinema: ‘Screen Queens’ and changing representations

Horror cinema has always been an extremely nuanced genre of film in terms of its representation of female characters. Conventional gender roles and stereotypes permeate the genre with clichéd female archetypes such as the helpless victim and the sexually promiscuous woman. However, things are starting to be challenged.

Oatly Facing Boycotts Following Unsustainable Investment Links to Deforestation and Trump

Oatly has made headlines recently for accepting an investment from Blackstone, one of the largest private equity firms in the world, which has links to deforestation in the Amazon and the Trump administration. The case of Oatly raises the question – is it possible to be 100% sustainable within our current economic framework?

Review: ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ Will Make You Rethink Race

The British Army has a poor track record when it comes to women’s rights. With this in mind, it is clear why many were sceptical of Whitmore defending her collaboration with the army in the name of feminist discourse. While the British Army’s use of feminist language in their PR campaigns could be interpreted as a sign of progress, it is important to question the intentions behind this move and, most importantly, who benefits from it.

Miss Representation (2011) Reveals a Glaring Reality Still Relevant in 2020

The documentary film, Miss Representation, came out in 2011, yet it remains shockingly resonant today in 2020. The film exposes how mainstream media and culture contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. As an American woman, Miss Representation strongly resonates with me, but its message is relevant to women and girls everywhere.

The Innocence Files Review

STAND News reviews the Netflix documentary series, The Innocence Files, a whodunnit with a cause. How does the series that covers the failures of the U.S. judicial system holdup?

‘Stop Filming Us’ – Questioning Neocolonialism through the Camera Lens

In Stop Filming Us (2020) Dutch filmmaker Joris Postema travels to the city of Goma in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where numerous conflicts and even more Western aid organizations have been in the past 25 years. The problem is, sometimes these Westerners would rather define Goma and its people on their terms. Can Postema portray the Congolese reality without becoming part of the problem?

Samantha Power’s Book Review: The Ideal Woman for the Job

Samantha Power’s Book Review: The Ideal Woman for the Job

On one of the rainiest days of this rainy season, Samantha Power arrived at her home city of Dublin and was greeted in Trinity College Dublin’s Regent’s House to rapturous applause. Maybe it’s because of her Irish roots, or maybe it’s her warm and affable nature, but there is a real sense of pride for Power’s achievements in the room. The students who managed to secure tickets are upright, hoping to imbibe some of her career secrets. 

I have not long finished reading Power’s political memoir The Education of an Idealist, which tells the story of her incredible career to date. After emigrating to Pittsburgh from Dublin at the age of 9, Power attended Yale before becoming a war correspondent, based in Croatia and Bosnia during the Siege of Sarajevo. After her journalism and research won her a Pulitzer Prize, she taught at Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School. In 2006, she joined Barack Obama, then a newly elected Congressman, as an advisor. Soon, Power left Harvard to work with Obama on his election campaign, and when he became President of the United States, worked as his Human Rights Advisor for his first term and as the United States Ambassador to the UN from 2013-2017. 

Although Power is perhaps best known for her government career in diplomacy, it is her staunch moral compass and dedication to humanitarian issues which have underpinned her career, and do so again in her memoir. She writes about how witnessing the Tiananmen Square protests as a nineteen year-old completely swerved her career path. Some of the most colourful sections of the book come from her time as a freelance journalist during the Balkan war, and the close-calls she faced in trying to help victims. She campaigned for victims in Darfur and spent time on the ground in West Africa at the height of the Ebola crisis in 2014.

Much of The Education of an Idealist centres on the tensions between acting on human suffering and the bureaucracy that dictates government action. This is especially climactic in the ten days in August 2013 after the news of a suspected chemical weapons attack in Damascus, Syria, broke, where the Obama administration had to decide whether to respond with military intervention. The nitty-gritty scenes in the White House Situation Room, and Power’s rallying cry to Obama to respond in honour of the suspected 1,429 dead from this one attack, reads like a thriller novel but with all the more poignancy, because it raises questions about what could have happened in Syria in the ensuing years if Obama had intervened (or at the very least, asks the reader to consider if he was right to not intervene). Power is asked during her interview in Trinity College Dublin whether she believes one can achieve more progress through activism or government, and while she pays homage to both forms of action, she is loyal to the achievements possible in a government structure.  

Overall, The Education of an Idealist is a political memoir with heart. Power does not attempt to use the platform as political ammo to prop up the decisions of Obama’s administration, nor does she use it in a game of one-upmanship against those she has disagreed with throughout her career. Instead, Power offers a warm, candid and gripping read. She tells her story her way, with a touch of self-deprecating humour which feels quite uniquely Irish. 

Standing in line for Power to sign my dog-eared copy of her book, I am struck by the nerves in my stomach. I tell her of my time in Sarajevo this summer, and how I especially enjoyed her descriptions of the camaraderie between correspondents there.  The ambience in the room is one of hope for a safer and better future, of political stability and action on climate change, and so it feels particularly fitting when I realise she has signed my copy ‘With hope, Samantha Power’.

 

Picture by Gerald R. Ford school on Flickr

 

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Voices from Direct Provision: An Online Conference 2020

On 27 September, the organisation Abolish Direct Provision Ireland (ADPI) held an online conference titled “Voices from Direct Provision.” The purpose of the event, which was chaired by ADPI volunteer Louise, was to raise awareness about the adversity experienced by asylum seekers and provide a platform to share their stories.

Women in Horror Cinema: ‘Screen Queens’ and changing representations

Horror cinema has always been an extremely nuanced genre of film in terms of its representation of female characters. Conventional gender roles and stereotypes permeate the genre with clichéd female archetypes such as the helpless victim and the sexually promiscuous woman. However, things are starting to be challenged.

Oatly Facing Boycotts Following Unsustainable Investment Links to Deforestation and Trump

Oatly has made headlines recently for accepting an investment from Blackstone, one of the largest private equity firms in the world, which has links to deforestation in the Amazon and the Trump administration. The case of Oatly raises the question – is it possible to be 100% sustainable within our current economic framework?

Review: ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ Will Make You Rethink Race

The British Army has a poor track record when it comes to women’s rights. With this in mind, it is clear why many were sceptical of Whitmore defending her collaboration with the army in the name of feminist discourse. While the British Army’s use of feminist language in their PR campaigns could be interpreted as a sign of progress, it is important to question the intentions behind this move and, most importantly, who benefits from it.

Miss Representation (2011) Reveals a Glaring Reality Still Relevant in 2020

The documentary film, Miss Representation, came out in 2011, yet it remains shockingly resonant today in 2020. The film exposes how mainstream media and culture contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. As an American woman, Miss Representation strongly resonates with me, but its message is relevant to women and girls everywhere.

UK and Refugees: Between Dehumanisation and Demonisation

Detached reporting of asylum crossings in the English Channel resemble “a sports commentator watching a boat race or a tour operator on a whale watching tour.” Dehumanising refugees is is a long-standing problem within UK journalism that is seeping into politics and impacting the lives of those seeking international protection.