Saturday, 13 August 2011

Integration or non-desired assimilation?

Last week we saw the series finale of Sirens, a channel 4 drama about the life of three paramedics.  It was an interesting and funny series, but not the main reason of this article though.

There's a gay character on the series: Ashley Greenwick, played by Richard Madden, who is what some will define as "straight acting", he is out, but not making a fuss out of it  Madden defines his character as a "gay man who isn't defined by his sexuality", adding that he was excited about that  "because I don't remember the last time we saw that on British TV. We don't really get to see gay characters who are completely open with their sexuality, but it doesn't define who they are."  Certainly he has a point in saying that we don't see much of those type of gay men on the media, nor here, nor in the US or other english speaking television or films, and I'm not only thinking on the over the top camp characters, but also the ones that even when not camp, their lives orbit around the scene and their sexuality (eg. Queer as Folk)

But is this a reflection of what is happening inside the gay culture as a whole?  I think it is.

In this country almost all the legal battles are won for gay people, granted, there's still a lot of homophobia in the society, and much work to be done in terms of sexual diversity acceptance, but now the work is down to communities, schools, educate people, since we have laws now that grant protection and rights for people who are not heterosexual.  Perhaps the only battle left is marriage equality, and the campaign Equal Love is fighting this on the European Court of Human Rights.

That has allowed many people, specially the young generation, to be open on their sexuality, yet living their lives without their sexuality being a central part of it or define who they are. There's no more need of being inside the ghetto and being overly flamboyant and camp to diferentiate yourself from the heterosexual men.

However, not everyone seems to be happy with this.  There has being lots of critics on the marriage equality campaign, surprisingly, coming from the gay community itself. The argument: it's a way to force assimilation into the hetero-normative society, and endangers the exciting, visionary, alternative culture that the gay culture represents, being marriage and monogamy a thing for "straight" people. This same criticism is targeted to the "straight acting" gay and bisexual men and women, who are accused of act as a heterosexual, for not conforming with the stereotypes (for some) or gay alternative cultural behaviour (for others)

For some, integration to the society and making sexuality just one of many things in your life is the goal, and an alternative culture is synonym of segregation; for others it's ok being immerse on the gay culture, where everything has to be gay (a gay house, a gay garden, gay music, etc.) and integration is saw as negative assimilation.

I wonder if we are going to be seeing these divisions grow, and these two types of LGBT people in divergent roads?

I think there's still the need of diversity friendly safe havens, as forums, as some gay bars and clubs and activities, but is the majority of people inside the LGBT community wanting to move forward to integration or want to retain their status as alternative and differentiated culture?

Friday, 12 August 2011

England in chaos

The riots that happened across England in the past days have dominated the media, news, blogs, forums, and people all over are taking about it, and first I thought it would be a little redundant to write a blog entry about it, but I decided to do it since I see that there's no much talking about the root causes of them, seems that both the people and the government have decided to go for simplistic explanations.

I'm not expert, nor a sociologist, but I do understand that a social unrest of this magnitude is much more complex than just "pure criminality due to bad parenting" as Mr. Cameron seems to have concluded.  The right wing position seems to be very simple, it has nothing to do with poverty, it has nothing to do with social inequality, it's all just to blame to parents who didn't teach their children what's good and what's wrong and reduce them to a state of wild beasts, they are less than humans, they are just greedy animals and criminals.

We have seen thousands of people, most of them youngsters (but not all), who have lost respect, not for the government and police, which are there not to cause respect, but to serve people; they have lost respect for their communities, they don't care to loot a small shop, if they can get alcohol and fags, they don't care to set buildings in fire, they are totally alienated from the rest of the British society, but why?

The most alarming thing is not just that, since it's not unexpected to have that reaction from the right wing, the alarming thing is that a wider part of society, even if they are not firmly right wing supporters, is agreeing with that, going for the simplistic answer.  It is much more easy to just blame the parents and forget about that, arrest the looters, send them to jail, charge the parents when the looter is too young for a sentence, and that's it, problem solved.

Which are the reasons then?

Well, I'm sure there are even more, but I can identify some:

1) Social inequality. The UK is the country with the worst social mobility in the developed world, and the second (after the US) of socio-economic disparity (difference between the richer and poorer)

2) Social expending and lack of opportunities. Beginning with Tattcher’s destruction of the UK Industry, and her social cuts, passing from Labour inefficiency to solve things for the bottom part of society and ending with more cuts of the current government. It's no surprise that if you take away the last little things that gave people hope, the benefits, the jobs, the possibility of higher education, the support structures, you are hitting both psychologically and economically to the marginalized part of the society, sending a message that they have no future, nor hope of getting out of their circumstances, they are worthless and nobody cares about them, so they have nothing more to lose.
3) The consumerism culture. You are the goods you have in this society, people are no longer aspiring to have a good education, but just the more money and goods they can, and now, quickly, and don’t forget to renew them ASAP. That affects all levels of society, difference is that in people who can’t really access those goods, only causes frustration.  The looters are not starving, let's face it there's not that level of poverty in the first world like in the third world, but they are conditioned to the social "truth" that if you don't have the latest clothes gadgets and technology you're worthless.

4) Parenting and school system lack of discipline. It is also true, that first teachers and now even parents are afraid to control and teach discipline, and this is happening in all levels of society, is not only absent parents, is also parents dropping all the responsibility of education to schools and schools not having the means to enforce discipline. It's broken families on which their children see as the only exit the gang culture, and the only respect and sense of community found inside their gangs. 

5)Racial and Police violence. In the marginalized places of society there has being constant and systematic violence, even racist institutionalized policies. This point is one of the more complex and also more sensitive.

Also, how much does it contribute that we all have seeing MPs making fraud on their expenses and not being punished, corruption on the police on the phone hacking scandal, bankers getting big bonuses even when they basically caused the global crisis.  How all this people are expected to be "responsible for their acts" when we don't see any of that responsibility on the top part of our leaders and representatives?

How can they feel comfortable when they smash in their faces the wedding of two millionaires, one of them born with privileges not only of money, but socially being above the law,  and say that that's the thing that should make them be proud of being British.  Or saying that there's social cuts necessity and at the same time spending millions in foreign wars?

Now that the riots seem to be calmed down it's time for the aftermath. 

What is next?

The government and the society in general have two options, as far as I can see.

1) Ignore the root causes and impose draconian measures, enforcing a police state, limiting privacy and comunication on social media; giving more power to the police, and not caring about "phoney human rights concerns". Taking out all benefits from the rioters, evicting rioters from their houses and jail them, and then turn the page. Sadly for what Cameron has speak in the Commons, this seems to be his course of action.

2) Understand why this hapenned, understanding is NOT justifying, let´s be clear, what this people did was wrong, it was a criminal activity and it affected inocent people on their businesses and houses.  But if we fail to understand why this happened then we will see happening again in the future.  If we as a society and the government as the executive power identify the causes, then we can work in trying to fix them and make something like this less unlikely to happen in the future.

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