Wake up

It has been a hot minute, I know! 2021 has been a very busy start for me, lots of new adventures and opportunities, which is very exciting. However, it has meant I have had much less time to be writing here! I am back today though and do apologise for taking a long absence, I can’t guarantee the posts will be as consistent as they were before but I will do my best to share with you as much as I can. I’ve always wanted to ensure that the content I do share is quality and worthwhile, and that takes time, so bare with me!

Today’s post is an important one. Something I’ve learnt over the past few years of my life is that it is important to always speak up about injustices and global issues, even if they don’t impact you personally. Sometimes, we get stuck in our own bubble, living our lives, dealing with our own issues, that we don’t look up and see what’s going on around the world. So, today, consider this me waking you up to wider world issues that we should be concerned about.

Before we get into it, I do want to disclaim that after the year we have all had, I think that it can be quite overwhelming constantly bombarding yourself with the news. Finding the right balance is important. Don’t constantly check the news or read about world events all day, everyday. Have a designated time to catch up and be aware and then make sure after that, you shut off. We can’t simply ignore what is going on around is, but we must also protect our mental health and know our own limits.

Uighur Muslims in China

It makes me sad to be raising this issue again on my website, but the situation in China and the horrific oppression Uighur Muslims are facing has only worsened. There must be more awareness of this issue. On September 22nd I shared information about the concentration camps in China. Today on the 14th February, the situation has only worsened, five months on.

If you haven’t read my other post. In the province of Xinjiang in China, Uighur Muslims are being detained into ‘re-education camps’, and they have been for the past few years. It is believed that over one million people are being forced into labour and tortured. Inside this camp Uighur women are being sexually assaulted and mass sterilisation has taken place with the goal of supressing the population.

People that have managed to escape these camps have reported physical, mental and sexual torture. Research shows that almost half a million people are being forced to pick cotton which is then supplied to newly built factories next to the concentration camps. These vast cotton fields in Xinjiang account for 1/5 of the cotton that is supplied to the global fashion industry.

The Chinese government continues to deny claims that these camps are anything more than poverty alleviation schemes or vocational training schools. Records suggest that the reality of these camps is to enforce loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party. Holding any different identities of faith and culture is seen as untrustworthy and therefore a radical belief. Uighur Muslims and other minority groups are brought to these camps to be ‘de-radicalised’.

This crackdown on Uighur Muslims began in around 2017 on the grounds of counterterrorism. It was a campaign to assimilate the Uighur community and eligibly de-radicalise with indoctrination programmes, which is really horrific torture methods. This crackdown was justified to the Chinese government because of a Uighur independence movement. Uighur Muslims are native to the Xinjiang province and held independence for short periods, their religious faith has built tension with the Chinese Communist Party.

If you want to read more personal stories of the horrors that have taken place in the concentration camps you can click here. You may find these stories upsetting.

When I last shared my post, little was being done to help stop this injustice. Leaders around the world have finally started to speak up. The US has declared the activity in Xinjiang to be a genocide as well as banning imports from the province because of the inhumane forced labour. The UK has declared China’s actions to be barbaric and has now introduced measures to tackle the human rights violation. UK companies now cannot trade with Chinese companies connected to the forced labour. Fines will be put onto British companies that do not publish modern slavery statements. The UK, as well as various other western governments, have condemned China and continue to put pressure on their actions. Whilst many condemn the actions of China, not enough is being done to save Uighur Muslims from their oppression and to free them from the camps.

What can you do?

Often we learn about this news and think, well, I’m on the other side of the world, what can I do? Firstly, stay educated and keep speaking up. Share posts, read articles, stay up to date with events. The more people know, the better. Overall, the media has struggled to gain coverage from the camps because there are such strict rules and bans in Xinjiang. We need to keep sharing and speaking about this issue, raising awareness is the first step before change can happen, so keep speaking!

Secondly, find resources that can help to amplify voices and spread awareness. The Uyghur Human Rights Project shares press releases and news about the continued oppression in China. It is a great way to keep up to date and share the right information. They are a human rights research, reporting and advocacy organisation. They promote democratic freedom and human rights for the Uighur community.

As well as this, Save Uighur, are working to raise media attention and awareness of the crimes of Xinjiang. They are an education and advocacy project campaigning for the liberation of Uighur Muslims. They are part of a Justice for All campaign based in Chicago, Illinois. Justice for all work with various grassroots, media, and advocacy campaigns to address issues that do not receive enough international, public and political support.

Thirdly, sign petitions, this one here calls for more countries to stand up for Uighur Muslims and to raise awareness. The one here calls for the Winter Olympics in Beijing to be cancelled if Uighur Muslims are not released. A country does not deserve to host the Winter Olympics whilst over a million Uighur Muslims have been stripped of their rights and detained into concentration camps.

Finally, boycott complicit fashion brands. Whilst most countries have banned imports from the Xinjiang province, be conscious of this issue when you shop. It took a long time for awareness to be built up about the mistreatment of Uighur Muslims in China. The entire fashion industry was buying into this human rights violation. A representative from Anti-Slavery International explained that “there is a high likelihood that every high street and luxury brand runs the risk of being linked to what is happening to the Uighur people.” Some of the worlds leading clothing brands buy cotton from the Xinjiang province, be aware of this and shop responsibly. Now more than ever small businesses need support, use this as even more of a reason to buy less from fashion giants who do not ethically source their materials or support their workers.

Thank you for reading…

I hope you found this post insightful and helpful. Even when global events aren’t appearing right in front of our eyes, they are still happening, and this is not the only one. Stay educated and keep speaking up, raising awareness is pivotal if we want leaders to take stronger action against human rights violations. I wanted my first post back to be something important and outside of our general world view. I hope this post woke you up and that you will continue to stay aware of what is going on outside your bubble.

I’m hoping to come back soon with a post on mindfulness. My last one did so well so I want to come back after learning a bit more about it and share some more experiences I’ve had on my own mindfulness journey since then.

Productive communication: Jubilee’s Middle Ground

I’ve had a lot of response to my posts on communication in political conversation. Figuring out the best way to communicate with people who oppose our political views can be tough. I’ve spoken in past posts about the difficulties involved with speaking to people who disagree with us, polarisation has effected us as a society and had led to divisions. A divided nation does not make for an effective democracy, learning to communicate even when we disagree with people is essential for productive debate, but also for respect.

How do we reconcile or communicate with people who disagree so deeply with our values? This is a question I have received from you all in response to my articles and a question I do ask myself. I think the best way to approach this question is to offer a resource I have found helpful and one I’d like to share with you all, the Jubilee YouTube channel. I first of all want to shout out one of my friends for introducing me to Jubilee, Arty! We are obsessed with the channel, its a great conversation starter tool. The videos often spark questions about society and make us look into our values, watching it with friends and family can allow us to have important conversations that we should be having about our society and the way it benefits and disadvantages people. We can understands others perspectives and that is so important. I heavily suggest you check out the channel.

Today I’m going to be talking about their Middle Ground series. This series brings together two opposing groups to discuss their similarities and differences. Examples of opposing groups they bring together are; LGBTQ+ and Christians, Flat-Earthers and Scientists, Rich and Poor, Atheists and Christians, Pro-Gun and Anti-Gun, Feminists and Non-Feminists, Socialists and Capitalists, Democrats and Republicans, and so on. They have so many videos so be sure to check them out, they’re very insightful. I will leave a link here for you to check out their Middle Ground playlist of videos.

Today I’m going to be sharing three of their videos and highlighting parts I think are interesting and important. I’m going to be selecting the videos more focused on political policy and societal issues to keep it related to the past posts I’ve already been discussing.

Pro-Life and Pro-Choice

What is interesting about this video is the diversity in peoples experiences. You’ve got someone who’s had two abortions and regrets that, a man that actually works for planned parenthood, and then a woman who works to reverse abortions after a change of mind. There’s a mixture of people who all have different experiences associated with abortion. We get a humane picture. When I say humane I mean peoples stories. Often when we talk politics or policy the actual people get left out of it. When you hear peoples stories and experiences associated with a policy, such as abortion law, it has a greater impact. I like that we get to see that in this video.

It is also interesting that when asked if anyone ever questions their belief about abortion, half of the group steps forward, explaining that some debates make them question what they believe in. One girl even says she feels that her religion drives her pro-life belief and if she wasn’t religious she would understand the pro-choice stance.

It is refreshing to see people with such different beliefs, still respectfully discussing their opinions and even mentioning that they respect the other persons faith or belief but, this is how they feel. It’s an amicable disagreement, and that’s okay. In the last question, when they are asked if anyone was shocked by a response they heard, they all admit that they respected eachothers responses. One of the women even mentioned that too much of our dialect is through screens and not in person and that creates a whole different way that we respect eachother. I think that point is important to make because at they end of the day we are all people and the internet has affected the way we all communicate and how we respect eachother. It’s a lot easier to not respect someone through a tweet or a Facebook post because you don’t see that real person, they are behind a screen, that influences the level of empathy and understanding in discussion.

Feminist and Non-Feminist

This is a really interesting video, similar to the last one, they respect eachothers views and they listen to eachothers points. They definitely don’t always agree but the effective communication is there. We see this when the non-feminist side agree with the guy talking about his mum, a teacher, being seen as lesser at work and feeling uncomfortable in the workplace. It’s nice to see that respectful agreement is taking place within this conversation, empathy is being utilised.

It is also interesting to see two people from the feminist group disagree on the statement ‘would being a man make life easier?’. This shows how diverse all of our perspectives can be, even within the same group. This is something that is mentioned at the beginning of the video by Faith, a non-feminist. Faith says she isn’t feminist because she doesn’t believe in core feminist ideals. Later in the video she explains that she is pro-life, but she was raised by strong women and she is an independent, strong woman too, but feels certain values of the feminist movement mean she cannot be a part of it. Faith believes in the strength of women and that there should be more women in government, but feels she can’t identify as a feminist due to her other views.

There’s some in the group who do not agree, that’s obvious though, not everyone’s going to agree, this is literally feminists and non-feminists communicating. They definitely reach some tension at certain points. In one part of the video a non-feminist states that there is no wage gap and that women choose lesser paying jobs because of culture, this is going to offend a feminist and is also not factually true. One of the feminists states that as an attorney she is paid less than her male colleagues for the same job and compared to some, she is more qualified. We see this situation happen in many workplaces and for a non-feminist to say this is because a woman chooses a lesser paid job just doesn’t make sense, especially if the job is the same. Conversations that become close to our personal lives become more emotional and we feel attacked when people don’t agree about obvious situations such as the pay gap, which has been proven countless times. Frustrations rising in this scenario make a lot of sense.

The phrase ‘disagree-agreeably’ was mentioned towards the end and this is exactly where we need to strive too. Productive communication can’t take place in an environment where respect and listening are non-existent. There is so much noise, but no listening and understanding; these are imperative for communication to be successful.

Democrats and Republicans

Alright, so this one gets a little heated. Let’s just dive right in.

They do all seem to agree on media bias and the misuse of news channels. Josh (democrat) points out that we live on different information spaces, we all have access to different information which can make it hard to communicate. Both groups do however say that the other party is worse in media bias, so they are clearly not agreeing on one being worse than the other, but are defending their own side. This is probably because of the different access to different information.

On the ‘should me make America great again’ statement the conversation becomes heated. Charity (democrat) discusses how America was not a good place for minorities and people of colour, which is 100% true. There should be no desire to go back to a time where there was less equality. The conversation gets heated because of a more personal comment when Charity (democrat) refers to the group having white privilege and Christy (republican) who is Hispanic is upset by this comment. This whole conversation breaks down because Charity wants to explain her point but Christy won’t let her speak because she is clearly upset. This creates a lot of commotion in the group. Michael (republican) says the statement is based on going back to economic strength and growth, not racism. There is mention of the statement ‘make America great again’ being too broad which I also think is a fair comment to make. If someone says ‘let’s make America great again’ and also is referring to the social issues and racism, that was in even worse shape than our current society, then that is wrong and shouldn’t be something we want. I think the reason why the statement ‘make America great again’, shook up tensions in the group was because people were interpreting that statement in many different ways, there was no shared understanding to begin the conversation and this stunted productive communication here.

Interestingly when speaking about the right to carry a gun, Josh (democrat) actually believes that there should be a right to carry a gun and that it’s a false view to think all democrats believe we should not have this right. Michael (republican) believes there should be more access to education for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Between these two people who have different political views, we see some cross over in belief. Another democrat, Alan, says that gun safety is what should be focused on and that there should be more regulation on gun control, which they all seemed to mutually agree with.

In the final question they all agreed that the nation is too divided. Hope (republican) says she shouldn’t have to lose friends over her political beliefs, but she is, which she says proves the nation is divided. The group say that we need to agree to disagree. Being willing to come to the table and have productive conversation is so important. This was a good end to the video and I think an important note, we need to be able to agree to disagree and to have respectful conversation or we will remain divided.

Concluding thoughts

A lot of the times we can think of our opposition as some radical psychopath. But these videos show us that our opposition can agree on some beliefs that we hold. We can communicate. We don’t always have to agree, but we should still be respectful when having social-political conversations. These videos show that even when people have polar opposite beliefs they can still communicate. I hope these videos showed that respectful and productive communication is not a lost cause for our society. When communicating with someone who has different beliefs to you, remember that you don’t have to agree, but if we want to see any lasting change in policy etc. we have to learn how to communicate with our opposition. These videos show us that this can happen, but mutual respect has to be there, we have to agree to disagree, we can’t force our beliefs onto someone.

I hope you enjoyed todays post and found it interesting! Be sure to check out Jubilee’s other videos on their YouTube Channel. I also wanted to add a thank you for 100 followers! It means a lot that you enjoy reading my posts and that you find them interesting, so thank you for following and please keep your comments and feedback coming, I love to hear from you! I’ll be back soon for a post on mental health during the Christmas period so be sure to come back for that post!

Domestic terrorism: white supremacist terror

Today I’m going to be discussing a very important topic that poses a threat to all communities. It is an area that is increasing in threat levels. This could be a trigger for various minority communities as I will be discussing far-right hate attacks and ideologies. This is one of those topics that is not nice to hear about, but, one we need to be aware of as I believe it is one of the biggest threats to modern society.

There is a racial and prejudice stereotype about terrorism in the West. This has created hostility towards non-white communities, particularly Muslim communities. This prejudice continues to grow and has created a whole group of people who bring about terrorism in the west; white supremacists or far-right extremists. Their hateful ideologies are causing harm to our communities and recently white supremacists have become the biggest terror threat to the western world.

White supremacist terror is very prominent within the US, but that doesn’t mean the threat doesn’t exist right here in the UK. So, today I wanted to briefly talk about the US and then dive more into the threat in the UK.

What is white supremacy?

White supremacism is the belief that white people are the superior race and that they should therefore dominate all races. This is a far-right extremist belief. It is a hateful and dangerous ideology that has led to colonialism, increase in hate crimes, genocide and a long painful history of oppression.

The term has become a political ideology that wishes to maintain the social, political, historical and institutional domination of white people. The beliefs often rely on the now discredited scientific racism doctrine and on pseudoscientific arguments, meaning that they are mistakenly or wrongfully relying on scientific methods to prove something that is false.

White supremacists in the US

The best way to get an idea of the threat white supremacists or far-right extremists pose in the US is to look through the statistics. This is purely because the facts are all there. Domestic terrorism is high and it continues to rise.

  • Since 9/11 white supremacists and other far-right extremists have been responsible for 3x as many attacks on US soil as Islamic terrorists.
  • 2019 was the 6th deadliest year for domestic extremist-related killings. 90% of these killings were from right-wing extremists.
  • The September 2020 draft report from Homeland Security stated that white supremacists presented the greatest threat to the US. These attacks have become far more lethal since Trump became president.
  • From 2009-2018 far right extremists have been responsible for 73% of domestic extremist-related casualties.
  • 2018 and 2019 were the most lethal of all domestic extremism movements over the last 20 years.

The main point we can take away from these stats is that far-right extremist attacks are the biggest threat to the US, and they are still on the rise. These attacks are racially and politically motivated and they aim to incite hate. They are becoming more and more lethal. The added factor of gun violence means these attacks just keep getting worse. There is an epidemic of tragic mass shootings.

One of the biggest factors as to why domestic terrorism has been reaching record highs is also due to the President himself. Trump continually downplays the threat of right-wing extremists. In the early days of his presidency, Trump stripped Homeland Security which focused on combatting violent extremism. As well as also pulling funding that was meant for organisations countering neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other likeminded groups. Efforts to combat domestic extremism came to a halt. In fact the Trump administration focused federal resources on Islamist terrorism even though the greater risk was coming from right-wing extremists. Trump even tried to change the name of ‘Countering Violent Extremism’ to ‘Countering Radical Islamic Extremism’. Trump repeatedly turns a blind eye to the real threat posed to the US; hateful ideologically driven violence.

In a very recent study from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies it was found that white supremacist groups were responsible for 41/61 terrorist plots and attacks in the first 8 months of 2020. That is 67%. Many Americans believe that Trump’s denunciations of left-wing activists and his refusal to condemn an extremist right-wing group has raised fears throughout the year of politically motivated violence. The study warned that violence could continue to rise after the presidential election because of concerns about polarisation, economic hardships, racial injustice and the ever-growing issue of coronavirus. If Biden was to win the report believed white supremacists would violently mobilise against Black, Asian, Muslim, LGBTQ+, Jewish and Latino communities. Protestors and demonstrators are increasingly being targeted which is alarming, particularly when those protesters are exercising their freedom of speech.

White supremacists in the UK

Police have said that the fastest growing UK terror threat comes from far-right extremists. The head of counterterrorism in the UK, Neil Basu, said that 7/22 plots foiled since March 2017 where linked to far-right ideology. Some of these plots were designed to kill, mimicking the attacks seen in jihadist attacks. This rise in threat and hate crime came in the period following the vote to leave the EU in the years 2016-2018. These groups in the UK range from anti-immigration, anti-Islam, Islamophobia, white nationalists, neo-Nazi’s, National Action and Sonnenkrieg Division.

Examples of white terror in the UK

David Copeland

David Copeland, a self-confessed racist and homophobe, was jailed for attacks on Brick Lane, Soho and Brixton in 1999 in a 13-day nail bombing attack that killed 3 people and injured 139. The first attack in Brixton was intended to harm the black community, 48 were injured. A week later in Brick Lane a second bomb was set to target the Bangladeshi community in east London. A passer by in a stroke of luck found the bag containing the bomb, mistaking it for lost property and put it inside their car, reporting it to the police. The final attack was targeting the LGBTQ+ community. This bomb had 1,500 nails and went off at Admiral Duncan Pub in Soho, central London. When Copeland was arrested police discovered Nazi flags hanging in his bedroom along with news reports of his bombings.

Thomas Mair

Thomas Mair, in a politically motivated attack, murdered Labour MP Jo Cox outside a library in West Yorkshire on June 16th 2016. It was discovered that Mair had been using the library computers, just where Cox was devastatingly attacked, to learn about the KKK and how they had killed people supporting civil rights. When his home was raided they discovered an extreme nationalist and racist library, as well as Nazi ornaments and literature about white supremacy. The Southern Poverty Law Centre, an American anti-fascist organisation, has published records that showed Mair had bought books about explosives from the neo-Nazi National Alliance. Those orders were made days after the Copeland attacks in London, attempting to start a ‘race war’.

National Action

National action are unashamedly racist and overtly neo-Nazi. The group claim they are patriotic yet are hostile to all rules of law, democratic processes and people who do not share their views. They were disbanded in 2016 after a government assessment that deemed National action to be an extreme racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic group that raised a concern of terrorist action as well as glorifying terrorism and extreme violence. The group was described as “a really dangerous, well-structured organisation at the heart of a neo-Nazi ideology that seeks to divide communities.” They do still remain active in places but some people have been convicted for holding a membership.

The group was founded in 2014 by Ben Raymond and Alex Davies. They believed British far-right organisations had been diluted so they aimed to respawn far-right extremism. They believe in white power and targeted specific political leaders for being ‘race traitors’.

Oskar Dunn-Koczorowsk and Michal Szewczuk

These two teenagers were jailed for terrorism offences and for being part of the far-right extremist group Sonnenkrieg Division. They encouraged an attack on Prince Harry for marrying a women of mixed race, outside of his own race. They deemed he should be shot for being a ‘race traitor’ and stated that white women who date non-white men should be hanged.

The teens ran personal accounts sharing far-right propaganda that encouraged terrorist attacks, specifically lone attacks against the public. Police found Szewczuk in possession of bomb-making instructions and a white resistance manual when he was a student at the University of Portsmouth.

Martin Snowden, the head of counter terrorism policing in the north-east of England, explained that the teenagers saw themselves as superior to the majority. He explained that it “only takes one individual to be encouraged or be inspired by that propaganda to take that further step” and this “represents a significant risk”.

Links to extra resources

I have linked articles and reports on UK terror attacks from far-right extremists below. I have summarised here their ideologies and attacks in an attempt to censor horrific details, this is also the reason for the lack of photos in this article. If you would like to read more about this topic and the prison sentences, as well as responses from judges, they are all in these articles. The Copeland article features reports from victims 20 years on.

The fuel of the dark internet

Both in the UK and the US, even globally, the internet is the fuel to hateful ideologies fire. It continues the spread and extends the reach of hate groups online. The internet has brought about a new era of violence. White nationalism grows because of the dark corners of the internet that incites violence and allows aspiring white supremacist terrorists to draw inspiration from other killers. They in some cases on different message board forums and sites attempt to copy eachother and one up different attacks. The internet has allowed hateful ideologies to spiral out of control, particularly in the US, where gun violence poses an even greater threat to communities.

Prejudice towards Muslim Communities

Throughout all of this the Muslim community have been discriminated and terrorised against. The islamophobia present in white supremacists hateful views creates violence against innocent Muslim lives. There is a mainstream prejudice against Muslim communities, one possessed particularly by far-right groups that expresses violent hatred against all Muslims. Unfortunately this hatred has led to various targeted attacks towards Muslim communities, with the attack on mosques.

This prejudice is fuelled by false and toxic narratives in the media. When a white supremacist killer attacks communities they are called ‘mentally ill’ or ‘lonely’, not terrorists, even though their action is politically and socially motivated, aiming to bring harm, the definition of terrorism. A US study showed that between 2008-2012, 81% of terrorism suspects that were subjects of news reporting were Muslim, which was a far greater percentage of terrorist attacks in the US actually committed by Muslims. This is a harmful bias that incites violence against the Muslim community.

These prejudices and false media narratives led to the Finsbury park attack where Darren Osborne drove a van into a crowd of Muslim’s near a north London mosque. Osborne injured nine people and killed one. The judge of Osborne’s case said he was rapidly radicalised over the internet where he became exposed to racist and anti-Islamic ideology.

Ignorance and misunderstanding of Islam

The false media narratives fuel the ignorance people have towards Muslim culture, religion and beliefs. The majority of Muslims reject the Jihadist violence involved in terrorist attacks, they believe it is not justified by their religion.

ISIS follows a jihadist tradition, they are a militant Islamist group. They reject all innovation in the religion and aim to return to the early days of Islam. The group has been condemned by many Muslim leaders, explaining that their extremist ideas decay the earth and destroy human civilisation which is in no way a part of Islam, it is an enemy to Islam. Leaders have explained that their sacrifice without legitimate cause it not jihad at all, it is criminality.

An academic criminology paper called ‘ISIS is not Islam: epistemic injustice, everyday religion, and young Muslims narrative resistance’ by Sveinung Sandberg and Sarah Colvin does a great job at explaining the harm prejudice has done to Muslim communities as well as correcting ignorant mainstream beliefs about Islam. They aim to debunk dominant western narratives that construct young Muslims as easily radicalised and potential violent extremists. They undertook a study that addresses prejudices and biases towards Muslims and Islam. Young Muslim participants were interviewed, they openly spoke out against martyrdom and terrorist action, saying it goes completely against Islam. They referred to terrorists as anti-Islamist, wrong and satanic. One participant stated that “It is not only the jihadists who are acting wrongly but also a mainstream media that actively furthers epistemic injustice by spreading the jihadi misrepresentation of what Islam says.” Participants wanted a voice to present another image of Islam than the one they faced daily in the mainstream media. The mainstream media fuels this false idea of Muslim and we urgently need to remove the narrative and present this religion for what it really is.

I urge you to read the paper to learn about Islam from young Muslim accounts and to find out more about the danger false narratives can have on Muslim communities. To read this paper click here and download the PDF.

Concluding thoughts

Far-right extremists and white supremacist groups are the largest and most rapidly growing risk to society. They incite hate against innocent lives and they threaten the very foundation of a multicultural world. They bring harm to the Muslim community with their abhorrent islamophobia. But not only do these groups incite the violence, the media and political leaders spread false narratives of what terrorism really looks like in society. The truth is right here in what I have said today, domestic terrorism and far-right extremist groups are a radicalised and growing threat to the western world. Our political leaders cannot turn a blind eye to their hateful ideologies.

Class division, social immobility, and capitalism in ‘Parasite’

Today I’m going to be analysing the Oscar award winning film, ‘Parasite’. This film was easily one of, if not my favourite film of 2019. It’s ability to tell a story of such harsh realities in a inquisitive yet humorous way was remarkable. Parasite sparks endless questions and debates about the social order and class system we live in, bringing awareness to the effects capitalism and social immobility can have on our everyday lives. It is no wonder that Parasite became a hit globally because of it’s representation of societal themes that are so prevalent and consistent globally.

In February 2020 Parasite became the first non-English film to win best picture at the Oscars, showing how much this film resonated with people across the world. I’ll be giving a summary of the film, so spoilers are definitely ahead! I’ll then analyse different parts of the film and the questions they raise about our social and economic systems.

This is definitely a longer article today but hopefully a really interesting read! I had a lot of fun writing it so I hope you enjoy!

Summarising Parasite

Parasite is a South Korean dark comedy thriller directed and co-written by Bong Joon-ho. It tells the story of the poor, working class Kim family who live in a deprived slum, desperate for work so that they can continue to survive. They infiltrate the wealthy Park’s home fulfilling the duties of tutor, art therapist, driver, and housekeeper. The Kim’s rely on manipulation and cunning deception to obtain jobs within the Park’s household. They act unrelated, lying about their experience and qualifications, convincing the rather gullible Mrs Park, into hiring them. The film deals with issues surrounding class division, wealth inequality and the effects of capitalism on our daily lives.

As the film progresses the Kim family discover the ex-housekeeper has hidden her husband in the basement of the Park’s house, an area of the house the Park’s are unaware of. It appears the ex-housekeeper and her husband are desperate in similar ways to the Kim’s. Moon-gwang, the ex-housekeeper, discovers the Kim’s secret, that they are a family, and threatens to unveil this to the Parks if they expose her husband living beneath the house. The film reaches a turning point when a huge storm hits and the Park’s are returning to their home after a failed camping trip. The Kim’s rush to tidy the home and deal with Moon-gwang and her husband. From this point class division tensions build to a climactic end at Da-song’s birthday party, the son of the Park family. The ex-housekeepers husband escapes the basement, bludgeons Ki-woo, the son of the Kim family, with his symbolic scholars rock and runs into the party, stabbing Ki-jung, the daughter of the Kim family, which leads to her death. Chung-sook, the mother of the Kim family, stabs the ex-housekeeper’s husband for killing her daughter. In a surge of anger for being disrespected and dismissed by Mr Park for so long because of his level of class, Ki-taek, father of the Kim family, stabs Mr Park and fleas to the basement where he remains, to the viewers, for the foreseeable future.

The ending of Parasite is filled with despair as Ki-woo aspires to allow his father to climb the stairs, metaphorically and physically, out of the basement he is trapped in, once he saves the money to buy the house the Park’s have now moved out of. The director explained that Ki-woo would never be able to achieve this aspiration because of the society we live in holding him back, revealing that it would take Ki-woo 564 years to afford the Park’s house. Demonstrating that our aspirations to sore up the social and economic ladder are saturated in false hope and impossibility.

Parasite is a brutally honest representation of the lives we lead within the capitalistic system. Bong fears that this social and economic order will not change for generations, leaving many stuck in a system working directly against them, no matter their aspiration and ability. I will be exploring some of these harsh realities resembled in Parasite in more detail today, playing close attention to how they resemble cultural hegemony, ignorance of the middle class, class division and the lack of social mobility.

Analysing Parasite

The setting: use of stairs

The film follows two families, both leading very different lives. We see the Park family
living in a wealthy mansion on top of a hill, with large windows and modern
amenities. While the Kim family live in a tiny semi-basement, riddled with
stink bugs.

The Park’ house, Bong Joon Ho actually designed and had the houses and sets built from scratch because he had a direct vision in mind.
The interior of the Park house, notice the different stairs and elevations.

The film heavily relies on setting to depict the different levels of class hierarchy, it
is as if, the less sunlight you have access to and the lower down your home is,
the more impoverish you are. The Park family literally live higher up, on top
of a hill. There are stairs leading up to the entrance of their home and can be found around the property showing different elevations. Meanwhile, the Kim’s live within a semi-basement, with small access to light. The Kim’s make reference a lot throughout the film
about how nice the light and sunshine is at the Park’s house, with their big
floor to ceiling windows.

The film uses stairs to resemble different class divisions, as if you must climb the
stairs much as you would climb an economic ladder. We see this at the Park’s
household with its assent up to the top of their home. This visually shows that
they are of a higher social class to the Kim’s who live almost below ground.

The outside of the Kim’s semi-basement. Down the stairs to their home.
Bathroom of the Kim’s home.

Perhaps one of the saddest scenes in the film is where we see Ki-taek and his children descending down the many stairs in the storm from the Park’s house to their home, which
they discover to be flooded. This huge descent down visualises the different
class divides, with the rich living at the top protected from the harsh realities
of the outside world, whilst the poor live almost below ground.

The stairs from the scene where the Kim’s descend back home during the storm.

Capitalistic consumers and the ignorance of the middle class

A significant theme demonstrated in Parasite is the influence capitalism has had on the way we behave. Mr and Mrs Park represent capitalistic consumers of the middle class. As capitalistic consumers, like many of us, they do not need to care about those below them, nor do they want too, because not caring and remaining ignorant gives them peace and protection. Throughout the film Mr Park talks about drawing a professional line between him and his workers. However, this line stretches further than professionalism. Mr Park literally wants to live within his own bubble, out of sight and out of mind from the poverty that does actually surround him and his family. The Park’s are physically distanced up on a hill away from the slums and impoverished lives, but it is still very much there.

Slums in Mumbai, visualises the class divisions and ability to look away from poverty even when it is right there.

Mr and Mrs Park display ignorance by reacting to the smell of Ki-taek, this reaction becomes more and more exaggerated as the film goes on. Mr and Mrs Park refer to the smell as one you would find on a subway, a place they have not been in years, therefore leading us to question how they would know what a subway smells like. They connect the idea of public transport with poorer people, creating a social construct of what a poor person should smell like. Not only is this heavily disrespectful to Ki-taek, it is also ignorant of them. They are fortunate enough to live a luxurious lifestyle yet turn a blind eye to the poverty that lives around them, instead being ignorant and disrespectful.

The Park’s present themselves as kind-hearted people but they are the same as any capitalistic consumer, unaware of the struggles spent below them to afford their lifestyle, a struggle spent by the poor within the capitalistic system. It is easier to look away when you distance yourself from the social and economic issues of the world. The smell of Ki-taek and the rest of the Kim family is a constant reminder to the Park’s that poverty is not far away from them, causing them to draw a line between themselves and the poorer of society, purely for peace of mind in their own lives.

As capitalistic consumers, the Park’s have expectations of how things should be there for them immediately, an example of this is when Mrs Park rings Chung-sook demanding there be Ram-don ready for her when she gets home in 8 minutes. The Park’s expect service from the Kim’s immediately, much like any capitalistic consumer, desiring things as quickly as possible, giving no thought to how that effects a labourer below trying to make that happen. The night after the storm, after the Kim’s house is flooded with sewage water and they have to evacuate to a gym, Mrs Park, ignorant to the fact that the storm did more harm than ruin her son’s camping trip, demands Ki-taek assist her with shopping for her garden party, she also assumes Ki-jung will be available short notice, and both Mr and Mrs Park order Chung-sook to throw together food and lay out furniture for the party rapidly.

The Kim’s home after the flood.

These assumptions from the Park’s, that even after a mass flood the Kim’s will be readily available to work, shows their ignorance that climate and world crisis’ have differing effects on different classes. Climate crisis has unequal repercussions on the rich and the poor. This is something Bong Joon Ho wanted to resemble in this film. For the Park’s, their camping trip is cancelled, but for the Kim’s their whole home is flooded and destroyed with sewage water, leaving their possessions ruined. The next day, when Ki-taek is driving Mrs Park she not only again makes reference to the smell of Ki-taek, she also on the phone talks about what a blessing the storm was because it has cleared out the air pollution and now the skies are blue for her garden party, meanwhile Ki-taek had to spend the night in a gym on the floor because his home was destroyed. Mrs Park disregards the amount of people who lost their homes in the mass floods, instead seeing the storm as a blessing in disguise. The Kim’s are hit with real tragedy whilst the Park’s are merely inconvenienced and quickly move on.

Another example of capitalistic consumer expectations is when Mr Park walks up the stairs in his home, he assumes the lights are on a sensor but actually Moon-gwang’s husband living in the basement below, hit’s a button for the light every time Mr Park walks up and down the stairs. This is meant to resemble that the luxuries Mr Park enjoys are often there due to someone’s hard labour beneath him. Mr Park chooses to be ignorant or unaware of this labour, relishing in the luxury. This choice to ignore is something many do as capitalistic consumers, feeding into fast fashion and next day delivery services, blissfully unaware of the impact that has on the labourer, potentially working in poor conditions.

The Park’s are ignorant to the poverty and socio-economic issues around them because they can afford to be. A further example of this ignorance is Da-song’s enjoyment of Native American culture, to the Park’s it is just a decoration and a fun activity, when in reality Native Americans have an oppressed and complicated history. This is not important to the Park’s however, as they allow their child to dress in Native American clothing and refer to Native Americans in incorrect and sloppy language. The main point of this is that the Park’s can afford to not care because they are not directly affected by any of these issues. They take what they want and stay on the other side of the line, turning away from any sort of complicated world issues.

These examples show that everyone on the other side of the line means nothing to the Park’s, they are merely a means to an end. The Park’s take dignity and time from their labourers, giving a tiny fraction of what they have back. Capitalism at it’s finest.

Cultural hegemony and social immobility

Late capitalism and divisions between the rich and poor exist so widely in our world because of cultural hegemony. This favours the ruling class or the rich because they are seen as the norm that we should all aspire to be. Anyone who falls outside the ruling/rich class is told to work towards that level of luxury. This is shown in the film when the Kim’s change their clothes and their dispositions in an attempt to fit in with the Park’s. They aspire to become them economically and socially, to liberate their lives through wealth. The poor aspire to be the rich, much like how the Kim’s wish to have the lives of the Park’s.

Within cultural hegemony the rich can create an illusion of social mobility within society. Whilst it is largely impossible for the Kim’s to reach a similar level of economic status as the Park’s, they are told by society that with a little bit of hard work they too could have economic freedom. This means that the rich stay rich feeding off the working classes labour, whilst the poor live under the illusion that they can achieve that wealth one day if they just keep working hard. This is the environment that capitalism thrives in because it means labourer’s keep working as hard as they can, for the rich, whilst the rich give back a tiny fraction of what they actually own for this service, trapping those in lower classes.

In Parasite this hope to reach economic freedom is shown the most in Ki-woo, the symbol of his hope comes from the scholar’s rock he is gifted by his friend, the rock is told to bring wealth to a family. As the film goes on, we see Ki-woo literally clinging to the rock hoping to feel its benefits. At the end of the film when Ki-woo and his mother are right back where they started, he has still not lost hope. As the film ends Ki-woo writes the letter to his father promising he will save the money to buy the Park’s house, saying that his father will be able to simply walk up the stairs and be free.

Whilst this is an admirable promise to his father, it is quite the bleak ending that Ki-woo will likely not fulfil this promise. As stated earlier, the director, Bong Joon Ho, explains that it would likely take around 564 years for Ki-woo to save that money, he will remain trapped in his social class working hard laboured time for low wages, stuck in his social and economic position, unable to grow from it.

Social mobility is stalled in this society, the capitalistic order is unforgiving and inescapable for the majority. This way of life is too normalised because of people like the Park’s who can live blissfully unaware feeding off the backs of the poor, keeping them below the line, stunting any form of social or economic progression for those of a lower class. The lower classes work as hard as they can, but it never seems enough to reach the level of the rich because social mobility becomes an illusion.

Disunity of the working class

When the Kim’s infiltrate the Park’s household, in order to replace the current housekeeper with Chung-sook, they come up with an elaborate plan involving a peach, a selfie, some hot sauce and a few lies here and there to influence Mrs Park into firing Moon-gwang. This plan succeeds but, Moon-gwang comes back to the Park’s house which then leads to the Kim’s discovering that Moon-gwang has been hiding her husband in the secret basement. Both of these families are poor, yet they fail to unite and help eachother. Instead they end up fighting in order to keep their secrets from the Park’s.

This lack of solidarity among the working class ends up supporting people like the Park’s even more. The wealthy live within their luxury, way beyond their means. Whilst the poor fight amongst themselves with what little they have. When Chung-sook speaks to Moon-gwang she explains that her family is not needy, the Kim’s in their semi-basement have that slightly higher level of hope in comparison to Moon-gwang and her husband. However, this also fills the Kim’s with fear that there is potential to fall lower than they currently are so they do everything than can to defend themselves.

Class division and tensions reach breaking point

The disrespect that the Kim’s end up feeling from the Park’s ends up intensifying as the film goes on. A growing resentment is created after the storm as the Kim’s now seem discontented fulfilling task they had originally enjoyed. These strained tensions explode at the garden party.

Ki-taek’s anger seems to come from his acknowledgment of inescapable poverty; he has lost hope. The smell becomes a symbol of that feeling. In a previous scene Ki-jung mentions that the smell will not leave them until they leave the basement. This smell reminds Ki-taek of his place within the system and he can no longer deal with these reminders from Mr Park of where his place is within society. As Ki-jung is stabbed and lies on the floor bleeding out, Mr Park demands that Ki-taek leaves Ki-jung to die and drives Da-song to the hospital after he faints due to the hysteria of the events unfolding. Whilst Da-song is Mr Park’s son, this scene shows how much Ki-jung really is merely a commodity to the Park’s. She is literally dying on the floor, but Mr Park would rather everyone focus their assistance on his son who has fainted. This event further enforces Ki-taek’s feelings of disrespect from Mr Park and he stabs him.

The Kim’s are intuitive, smart and resourceful. They infiltrate the Park’s house strategically. Ki-Jung appears to be one of the smartest in the family and shown to be the most accepted by the Park’s with Mrs Park wanting her to be at Da-Song’s birthday party to give him his cake. The Kim’s also mention that Ki-Jung fits in the most in the wealthy environment. Ki-jung was the member of the Kim family with the potential to scale the economic and social ladder. This is why her death is so significant because it symbolises that no matter how much you work, no matter the intuition and vigour you have, society says that you don’t get to move. Social mobility has trapped her, even though she had the potential to go far.

Who is the parasite?

The villain of this film is not properly defined because really, there is no villain. Both the poor and the rich are displayed in ways where we see them as real people, they have their highs and lows but ultimately, they act as humans, and they are not vilified for that.

We see the Kim’s who have dishonestly and deceitfully entered the Park’s home by lying about their qualifications and experiences, pretending that they all are loosely acquainted when in reality they are a family. However, they did this because they needed work. This family are not depicted as a lazy poor family. They are willing to work hard in whatever way to get by. We end up feeling sorry for the family because they very system they live in just will not give them a break. After forging the fake university certificate, Ki-woo says that it is only temporary and that he wishes to go to university one day to obtain a real one. The Kim’s are not bad people, they are doing what they can to survive in a system that constantly pushes them down.

As for the Park’s they are clearly a wealthy family heavily benefiting from the capitalistic system. They can feed off the labour of the working class to afford their luxurious lifestyle. They appear as kind-hearted but they are largely ignorant. However, particularly in Mrs Park, we can feel sorry for her being so manipulated by the Kim’s and how gullible she appears to be, she is after all just trying to do the best thing for her family.

Bong Joon-Ho explained in a video that the name for the film, ‘Parasite’, was decided because the Kim family slowly infiltrate the wealthy Park’s house, much like a parasite. However, this film is riddled with symbolism and many have argued that the term parasite can be flexibly applied to all the characters within this film. Including Moon-gwang and her husband in the basement. It is largely up to interpretation.

Conclusion

Parasite is a very interesting film riddled with deep meanings connected to our social and economic systems. It gives us a lot to think about, including what needs to change in society. Perhaps the darkest part of this film is that it is a depiction of our very lives. The comparisons of class we see between the Kim’s and the Park’s shows how deep class divides are becoming and how social mobility is becoming impossible within a capitalistic system. It is also insightful to see that as capitalistic consumers, we often behave and live in ignorance whilst the rest of the world suffers, and that needs to change. Parasite raises many questions and it’s a thoroughly symbolic film of the very world we all live in.

This film is a comedy without clowns, a tragedy without villains, all leading to a violent tangle and a headlong plunge down the stairs.

Bong Joon-Ho

Issues you should be talking about

First of all, I would like to apologise for not posting in a month! I went away for a couple of weeks and then struggled to get back into the rhythm of writing, but I am back now and ready to continue posting and putting out as much content as I can! If you are returning to my website, thank you so much for coming back and I can’t wait to keep sharing information and thoughts with you all again!

For today’s post I wanted to bring attention to some world events that I think are hugely important and that more people should be aware of. To disclaim there are a huge amount of social, environmental, political and economic issues in the world, sadly too many to count. To list them all in this article would be overwhelming. I’m going to shed some light on 3 today that I have recently heard about and feel others should look into more themselves. I encourage you to look into other ongoing global issues that threaten people’s human rights and identities other than these 3 as well. People’s voices need to be heard and we need to support them.

UK Transgender Rights at risk

The first issue I want to bring to light is the UK government’s plans to stop transgender people from being allowed to legally self-identify. This is an extremely recent issue and something I just learnt about yesterday. This is a huge attack on trans rights and a step in the opposite direction.

Plans were being made to reform the Gender Recognition Act from 2004 to make it easier for trans people to legally change their gender in the UK. These plans would introduce self-identification which would make the legal process of changing your gender much shorter. During a consultation to reform the current gender recognition act they suggested removing a Gender Recognition Panel which consists of two medical professionals certifying a transition. This process can feel overly medical and demeaning. Instead the trans person would have the ability to legally change their gender by making a sworn statutory declaration, removing the long-winded medical process. 70% of people supported this reform. However, it seems the government are going to scrap the plans for the reform this week.

This is a huge setback in the progress of trans rights within the UK and hugely disappointing. Unfortunately, our current conservative government administration simply do not deem trans rights as important as other governmental issues, this comes at a surprise to no one. It is hugely demeaning to trans people that they would have to prove to a medical professional that they are worthy of a transition or change in self-identification. We should be moving forwards, not backwards. This is simply not right. The government has been dragging their feet on this issue for far too long. If you wish to support the transgender and non-binary community and stop this reversal of the governments promise to reform the Gender Recognition Act, please do sign this petition: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/327108

For more information and how to help: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/gender-recognition-act-gra-take-action-trans-equality

The US Supreme Court and the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

After the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a truly remarkable women who fought for gender equality and women’s rights, a seat has opened within the supreme court. Ruth’s dying wish was for her seat to not be filled until after the next president is elected. However, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, announced that they would be filling the seat before the end of President Trump’s term. The hypocrisy of McConnell’s statement is huge because in Obama’s administration, after the passing of Justice Antonin Scalia, he stated that they should not fill the vacancy until they had a new president, even though Obama still had 11 months in office left. Currently Trump has just over a month left, yet McConnell believes they should replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg before the next election. This is hugely controversial of McConnell, double standards should be applied and replacing Supreme Ginsburg is not a process that should be rushed.

Replacements in the supreme court can take a long time. However, Trump announced that he would be nominating a replacement by the end of this week. He appears in a rush for the supreme court to ratify it before the election date. Democrats have argued that Trump is pursuing without delay in order to invalidate the affordable healthcare act before the end of his term. Another huge issue within the US right now that would put countless more lives at risk during a global pandemic.

Supreme Court seats are hugely influential positions. Ruth Bader Ginsburg accomplished some remarkable reforms including the right for women to sign a mortgage without a man, the right for a woman to have a bank account without a male co-signer, the right to a job without being discriminated based on gender and the right for women to work whilst being pregnant and having children. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has paved the way in women’s rights and gender equality and became a true feminist and equality icon. The work she achieved will live on throughout generations.

Photo captured by Getty Images outside McConnell’s home protesting against the rapid replacement of RBG.

Having a supreme court replacement that wishes to see change as much as Ruth did is hugely important. Discrimination and oppression is rampant within the US (as well as globally). The ongoing black lives matter movement has shown that systemic change needs to be made and replacing RBG with someone who will strive for that change is pivotal for the future of the US. Rushing to fill the seat before the election is not right.

Uighur Muslim Re-education Camps in Xinyang, China

An estimated 1 million Uighur Muslims are detained in so called ‘re-education camps’, where they are being brainwashed and stripped of their religious and ethnic identity and replaced with loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party. Hundreds of these camps have been built in the past 3 years throughout Western China within the Xinyang province. They are completely stripping Uighur Muslims of their religion, culture and language. This is a form of torture and brainwashing yet China is portraying it as rehabilitation and education when this is not the case.

Some accounts of the horrific forms of ‘re-education’ Uighur Muslims must undergo are listed below:

  • Forced to drink alcohol and eat pork, acting against their religion.
  • Uyghur women are forced to marry a Chinese man and sleep with him in their bed.
  • China is forcing birth control onto Muslim women to prevent the Muslim population from growing, in even more extreme cases abortions and sterilisations are taking place.
  • Hijabs are being removed, and those in camps are forced to wear sacks and some are shackled.
  • People are living in unsanitary and crowded conditions, their human rights have been completely stripped away. On top of this the coronavirus pandemic has catalysed the unsanitary conditions with many prisoners falling ill.
  • They are shocked and disciplined to support the Chinese Communist Party as if they cannot survive without it, it is the only way. They are told their religion is not right.

BBC Panorama discovered orders sent to the re-education camps: ‘no one escapes, increase discipline and punishment, encourage students to truly transform, promote confession and repentance, make remedial mandarin studies most important.’

This is a hugely horrific and inhumane event, it is a genocide and it had to be stopped. This is a heart-breaking issue that more people need to be talking about and raising awareness on. World leaders are not stepping up in the ways that they should be and action needs to be taken. Trump actually supported the decision to lock up Uighur Muslims and the UK Chinese ambassador claimed it was fake news.

Below are some links to petitions and also the Uyghur Human Rights Project that shares information on this topic in more detail than I have today, as well as Amnesty.

Final Thoughts

For a lot of these issues, if not all of these issues, a person of privilege is not directly affected. In some cases people believe that because they are not directly affected they do not have to care or support change. Just because something doesn’t directly affect you, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care or educate yourself on the topic. It certainly doesn’t mean you should sit in ignorance and silence just because you can.

Millions of people in this world are hurting and have been marginalised because of their identity, whether that be religion, race or sexuality. It is a privilege to not be oppressed and marginalised and we should use that privilege to learn about what’s going on in the world and do what we can to speak out against oppression and injustice. It’s your social responsibility as a decent human being. I myself am a white cis woman, this gives me a level of privilege and ability to speak out against the injustices in society instead of just standing by. It is the right and decent thing to do, we are talking bare minimum, do not praise yourself for it, just be a good human.

I hope you learnt something new about a current global issue and that you will continue to research other global issues that I haven’t mentioned today. I also hope I did these topics justice today by talking about them as best as I could. I may make this a regular post to bring attention to important world issues because I think it’s hugely essential that we stay up to date and do our best to support those who are hurting in any way we can and spread their voices.