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Pro-Fabulous Anti-Austerity

21 Oct

Some photos from yesterday’s TUC A Future That Works march in London. 100,000 people! My legs are super tired today. Poor legs.

Last photo taken by the lovely Dawn H Foster.

hanna ♥

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Super International Women’s Day!

5 Mar

In honour of International Women’s Day on Thursday, I have to tell you about the coolest discovery I made last week. It’s a total nightmare working just off Brick Lane, because I tend to suffer from these weird black outs where I SOMEHOW end up in a vintage clothing store. Anyway, last week, I ended up purchasing this very beautiful black dress. You can’t really tell what it’s like here, but it fits like a glove, is made of the softest linen, and has that really nipped-in fifties shape that I lurve. It was only after I bought it that I looked at the label:

It says Int’l Ladies Garment Workers Union. OMG I WAS SO EXCITED. I suspected that my dress had been made by totally badass women in the fifties. And I was right.

Here is some info about the International Ladies Garment Workers Union from Wikipedia:

The International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union was once one of the largest labor unions in the United States, one of the first U.S. unions to have a primarily female membership, and a key player in the labor history of the 1920s and 1930s. The union, generally referred to as the “ILGWU” or the “ILG,” merged with the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union in 1995 to form the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE). UNITE merged with the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union (HERE) in 2004 to create a new union known as UNITE HERE. The two unions that formed UNITE in 1995 represented only 250,000 workers between them, down from the ILGWU’s peak membership of 450,000 in 1969.

Having done some research on the kind of label my dress has, I know that it was made sometime between 1955 – 1963. This is what ILGWU workers looked like then.

Members of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union on strike gather in a meeting hall, March 15, 1958.

ILGWU parade float bearing the union label, December 7, 1960

i.e. BLOODY AWESOME.

I love thinking that maybe one of these women made the dress that I own now, in the time she had spare when she wasn’t standing up for her rights. I love thinking that in a small, small way, I might be continuing their tradition by campaigning for green and decent jobs.

There is much, much more brilliant and inspiring history around the ILGWU, especially the part they played in the strikes at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York in 1909, where 20,000 workers walked out in protest against working conditions. During that year, Clara Lemlich, a shirtwaist employee and union activist spoke up at a Town Hall meeting and asked that she and her co-workers receive fair wages and safe working conditions. “We’re human, all of us girls, and we’re young. We like new hats as well as any other women. Why shouldn’t we?” (source). This is what 1909 looked like.

And this is what they looked like marching in 1911 after the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which burned 146 workers to death, who had been locked inside the factory to prevent them from taking breaks (click on the picture to see the non-negative).

And in 1935 during the Great Depression.

I find it really heartening to see these images, and remind myself that women have been on the front lines of these battles for a long, long time. It is easy for us to think that women were just stuck at home, playing housewife, when in actual fact many women were going out to work every day, participating in public life and fighting for those rights that we have either achieved, or are still fighting for today.

It also reminds me of the millions of women around the world who are still in almost exactly the same situation (or worse) that these women were, making clothes under extremely poor working conditions, for very little pay. 76% of the global sweatshop workforce are women.

That’s why I’m going to be celebrating International Women’s Day this week, in solidarity with working women past and present, and why I’m pretty happy to have a piece of this amazing, incredible, inspirational history hanging in my closet.

I can’t wait to wear it.

hanna ♥

Alain de Botton has gone mad…

29 Jan

or, was he always mad? his twitter is fairly mad. what’s the consensus on Botton these days?

ANYWAY, I am prompted to say this because of this Guardian article that describes Botton’s plans “to build a 46-metre (151ft) tower to celebrate a “new atheism” as an antidote to what he describes as Professor Richard Dawkins’s “aggressive” and “destructive” approach to non-belief.”

I have to quote some more of the article so you can get a better idea of what the whole project is about:

De Botton has insisted atheists have as much right to enjoy inspiring architecture as religious believers.

“The dominant feeling you should get will be awe – the same feeling you get when you tip your head back in Ely cathedral,” he said. “You should feel small but not in an intimidated way.”

Another Anglican, the Rev George Pitcher, a priest at St Bride’s, Fleet Street, and a former adviser to the archbishop of Canterbury, “rejoiced” in the idea. “He is referring to a sense of human transcendence, that there is something more than our visceral existence,” Pitcher said.

“This is a more constructive atheism than Dawkins, who is about the destruction of ideas rather than contributing new ones.”

Okay, so now you have a good idea. The ‘Temple to Perspective’ is going to be an incredibly elaborate affair, Botton wants it to be built in the City, and he’s already raised half the funds from a group of property developers who wish to remain anonymous. 

I have two main problems with this whole concept, which are:

  • Atheists aren’t robots. We have the capacity to feel awe and wonder when in a cathedral, or mosque, or synagogue (at least I do). Beautiful architecture is beautiful architecture. It’s totally unnecessary to segregate ourselves.
  • And: think what you like about Dawkins (that he’s belligerent, patronising etc) BUT he is never, EVER destructive. His whole point, and what seems to drive him, is that nature (and consequently, the science of nature) is deserving of our awe and wonder. My question is, why do we need to build another building, specifically for atheists, in order to experience ‘human transcendence’? When, you’d think, that atheists are capable of experiencing that in everyday life, observing the world for what it is and appreciating everything it has to offer. Dawkins says it better than me – 

After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with colour, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn’t it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked — as I am surprisingly often — why I bother to get up in the mornings. To put it the other way round, isn’t it sad to go to your grave without ever wondering why you were born? Who, with such a thought, would not spring from bed, eager to resume discovering the world and rejoicing to be a part of it?

Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder (1998)

Update: An hour after this was posted I got a string of direct messages from Alain de Botton himself on twitter! He said that I had misunderstood the project, that I should read his new book and if I don’t like it he’ll send me a cheque, and that the Guardian is unreliable. I said alright, I’d take him up on his offer, but that it’s not just the Guardian reporting it that way (the Daily Mail article on it, for example, is headlined Battle of the Atheists!, and the copy is almost entirely the same as the Guardian article). So… I guess I have to read his new book then! I’ll get back to you…

A Just Transition or Just a Transition?

8 Dec

This post originally featured on The Occupied Times last week. Let me know what you think!

A major criticism that has been levelled at Occupy LSX is that the movement has become an umbrella for too many issues. “What do they want?” our mainstream media asks, as a stroll through the camp makes it clear that democracy and corporate greed are not the only issues being debated. Linger around St. Pauls, or peek your head into the Tent City University, and you will soon find yourself debating and discussing issues of mental wellbeing, gender equality, class, the environment, parenting, and the role of religion, amongst many, many others. However, rather than betray a lack of focus, to me the diversity of topics being discussed means something quite different – that our movements for social and environmental justice are growing up, that we are seeing connections and joining the dots between issues, and that we recognise that we are most powerful when allied.

There is much that we can learn from each other, and the global Occupy / Indignados movement has provided us with the perfect opportunity to compare notes. What’s working, what isn’t? Are our demands aligned, and does that even matter? However, there is one area of discussion that certainly needs to be addressed by the environmental and Occupy movements together, and that is ‘what does transition look like’? We say that another way is possible, but what journey do we have to take to get there? How can we work together towards building a new low carbon economy, one that incorporates values of social justice, equity, and democracy? Of course this conversation is already well under way in many countries across the world, but different elements of our movement are in danger of pulling in very different directions. You might not think it, but transitioning away from a pollution-based economy and transitioning away from our current capitalist model do not necessarily have to have much in common.

Let’s not kid ourselves – the new, low-carbon economy could be one that retains all of the inequities and corporate greed of our current economic system. One where companies profit from the transition, while workers are stuck in green McJobs, doing the essential work of decarbonising our energy systems and retrofitting our homes but in a vicious circle of low pay and few opportunities for progression or training. Nor does the Anarcho-Marxist model of transition away from a capitalist state make any promises to those who are currently most underserved by our society. The end goal may be distribution of wealth and workers’ rights, but the requisite insurrection and ensuing chaos that it takes to get there may only end up harming those that need the most help. Indeed, members of our unions are concerned that significant periods of economic restructuring in the past have often happened in a chaotic fashion that has left ordinary workers, their families and communities, to bear the brunt. Indeed in the UK, many individuals and communities are still paying the price for the rapid shift away from industrial production over the last 30 years.

Perhaps there is a middle way, one that respects workers’ rights, the rights of the poor, and our planetary boundaries. This is where the idea of Just Transition may come in handy. Just Transition is a framework for a fair and sustainable shift to a low carbon economy, proposed by trades unions and supported by environmental NGOs, that seeks to prevent injustice becoming a feature of environmental transition. Just Transition recognises that support for environmental policies are conditional on a fair distribution of the costs and benefits of those policies across the economy, and on the creation of opportunities for active engagement by those affected in determining the future wellbeing of themselves and their families.

The framework is not fool-proof – it does not deal with the capitalism question, nor does it a build a comprehensive vision of a new world. Questions about growth, nuclear, and means of production go unanswered. However, it is the beginning of an essential conversation about how we can create a new system that is both economically and ecologically viable.

What is not questioned is the speed at which we must act. The need to transition away from our current economic and social model in this country and the rest of the developed world is an urgent one. We are experiencing rapidly rising levels of inequality and, according to the IEA, we have only an estimated 5 years before the fight to mitigate dangerous climate change becomes a fruitless one.

Yes, the challenge ahead is immense, but so is our movement. Who would have thought, just one year ago, that the world would be engaged in a global conversation about corporate greed and the terms of democracy? A fair society that respects our earth may seem out of reach, but that is all the more reason to keep striving for it. As David Harvey has said, “Of course this is utopian!  But so what!  We cannot afford not to be.”

OccuPrint

10 Nov

Some beeyootiful posters have gone up on new site OccuPrint, which is showcasing some of the poster art of the Occupy movement. Check it out. Here are some of my faves!

hanna ♥

Super… Wednesday

9 Nov

hello! bit late and I don’t know what this means for this coming sunday when I’ll have already used up half the week’s superness…hmmm…

1. This is my friend Debs at the student demo today. It looked amazing, I wish I could have gone! Especially as it was my sister’s first demo as well! She loved it! Read more about what went down here.

2. I read a new blog post over at the East London Green Jobs Alliance on how to get started on your own green jobs programme.

3. Got my results, I am officially a master (mistress?) of science! Under the belt.

4. I love these style pics from Rookie Mag, which were taken at Salvation Mountain in the California desert, a crazy adobe monument built by ONE GUY called Leonard Knight. If you watch Into the Wild (great film) there’s a whole bit in it where he takes Kristen Stewart and Emile Hirsch on a tour around it. I’d love to see it one day.

5. The love affair with Mac lipsticks continues. This time it’s called New Temptation. Saucy.

6. On the 19th November (my birthday! more to come on that later… mwahaha) I’m going on the Fawcett Society march to protest against the dreadful impact the cuts are having on women. It’s a 50s dress-up theme as well, which is amazing. So come along!!! Or if you can’t, how about hosting your own Fawcett tea party instead? Watch the video above for instructions how!

7. And finally, yes, women’s rights, student fees, participatory democracy, the global financial system, and the keystone xl pipeline are all very important issues that have great campaigns surrounding them at the minute. But by far the best campaign out there is the one to get the Muppets hosting the 2012 Oscars. YES PLEASE OSCAR PEOPLE!

hanna ♥

Super Sunday (on a Monday)

17 Oct

It’s Monday but I have a good excuse – I just got back from New York! I know I have to go into a corner and think about my carbon footprint, but before I do that, I’ll tell you that I was there to contribute to the Global Transition Dialogue 2012, which was coordinated by Stakeholder Forum and nef. Very interesting, longer blog post on that to follow. Until then…

1. I went down to the Occupy Wall Street protests while in NY and it was so inspiring, can’t wait to check out what’s going on at the Stock Exchange. It was ordered chaos – makeshift kitchens, information and recycling points; a speakers corner where people took turns with an amplifier; people hashing out opinions and arguments with people they’d never met; drumming and tshirt making. My favourite sign was the girl’s above which says. ‘The point is it isn’t working and we need a space to talk about it.’ I think these protests are doing an amazing of creating that space.

“…I knew what I loved. I loved to read; I loved to listen to music; and I love cats. Those three things. So, even though I was an only kid, I could be happy because I knew what I loved. Those three things haven’t changed from my childhood. I know what I love, still, now. That’s a confidence. If you don’t know what you love, you are lost.”

2. Excerpt from a great interview with Haruki Murakami in the Guardian.

3. Street artist Pablo Delgado put up a new piece of his miniature work on our office building last week! I love his other stuff too, especially the shadows all his figures cast.

4. It’s pretty super having friends in far flung places! Stayed with a friend in NY and met up with another three while I was there! Brunch in Brooklyn and strolls around Central Park and the Met, all in fine company.

5. I’ve been introduced to the world of American biscuits (kind of like a scone) and I don’t think I can look back. So good. Picture from kate / for me, for you, but a damn good approximation of what I actually ate. Yummers.

6. Only just seen this excellent photo from 2009 of Obama posing with Zapatero, the Spanish president, and his goth daughters. Hilarious.

7. Saw the new Woody Allen film, Midnight in Paris, on the plane. Really good, and so many good cameos from amazing actors. Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway and Adrien Brody as Dali are especially brilliant.

hanna ♥