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Kaylen Forsyth

The poison of neoliberalism

Author:
article-10006-hero

By Kaylen Forsyth

Perhaps the greatest tragedy of modern politics is its anonymity. It is through this anonymity that those with power are able to manipulate and exploit those without. If people are generally unaware of the poison dominating society, how can they then overcome it?

I’m talking predominantly about neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is everywhere and has been for at least the last thirty years, prominent since the governments of Thatcher and Reagan.

For those who’ve never come across the term Neoliberalism before, it is a political theory running on the idea that governments should not interfere with free markets.
It is beyond destructive. The basic principle behind it is the dehumanisation of individuals. Society is seen as a breeding ground for competition: we are all nothing more than competitors inside a political system.

Essentially, Neoliberalism pushes the idea that wealth will trickle down from the rich to the poor, generating a false belief that “everybody gets what they deserve”. This drivel is fed to us constantly. However, it can be easily disproved.

The amount of money people make is strongly determined by what their parents earn. In the U.S., children tend to earn an extra $0.33 for each dollar that their parents earn. Yet Neoliberalism still results in the rich convincing themselves they earned their wealth fairly without stopping to check their privilege. Meanwhile, the lesser privileged classes find ways to blame themselves for their poverty. Neoliberalism has given birth to an age of competition and blame that seems inescapable.

The effect this ideology has on women, especially, is overlooked- though it definitely shouldn’t be.

The policies involved in Neoliberalism have transferred the wealth of poorer nations to Western nations. Former colonies were made to rely on loans from ex-colonial powers. These loans included harmful conditions, one of the most harmful being cuts to public services.

Export Processing Zones (EPZs) are free trade zones set up by governments to encourage export. These led to multinational companies using cheap labour, mainly women, to produce tax-free goods. What followed was a large increase in poverty, inequality and disability. With women pressured into low-wage jobs and limited public services to help them afterward, these kinds of negative results are inevitable. Women become nothing more than cheap employment for corporations who exploit them guiltlessly.

As well as creating clear gendered labour inequalities, Neoliberalism spreads dangerous values. These ideas often lead to people viewing each other as simple chances to profit. The human aspect that should be the basis of society is lost. Relationships wither soon after opportunities are drained.

Neoliberalist attitudes have led to this twisted consensus that people are to be valued on what they can give. Nothing else seems to matter. Thus, an enormous gender bias arises. Because of age-old stereotypes, women are reduced to what they can domestically provide. Their burden increases evermore. All the while Neoliberalism doesn’t provide any assistance because it believes that individuals should look after themselves – and if they aren’t coping it’s their own fault.

More than just the effects of its policies though, the very language of its philosophy oppresses women. The “market” does not support us. Instead, it perpetuates pre-existing inequalities such as race and gender imbalances. Those with higher income play more influential roles in this “market”. Due to the fact that women and people of colour are already at a disadvantage in terms of unequal pay, the “market” is intrinsically biased.

It’s almost as if Neoliberalism works to discourage those who are already discouraged by society.

This toxic system is maintaining an unhealthy status quo. The gap between different classes of women is widening at a terrifying speed; living standards between women in developing countries and those in developed are starkly different. All of this has come about because of the predominance of Neoliberalism and it is incredibly important people can identify and understand exactly what this system enables. It is the only way to begin overcoming it.

Our protest, not your product

Author:
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By Kaylen Forsyth

These are exhausting times for activists. In the past six months alone, with Trump’s repressive policies causing global outrage, there has been plenty of injustice to challenge. Vast numbers taking to the streets, and to other platforms like social media, reflect the broader courage of a society unwilling to just accept things as they are.

Such strength in the face of adversity is nothing new. For years an array of people from all different nations have been raising their voices when others have wished for their silence. And there has often been a price to pay for this bravery. During the Black Lives Matter protests, the news was inundated with reports of police brutality and unnecessary arrests. This all culminates into a simple fact I’m sure everyone can agree on – the resilience and endurance of activists should not be undermined in any way.

But this is exactly what Pepsi have done. Their new advertisement uses the setting of an American protest as a marketing ploy. And it’s not the first time a billion dollar corporation has exploited literal blood, sweat and tears for their own capitalistic gains. Coca Cola used the anger surrounding the Vietnam War to sell their produce back in 1971. It seems the top 10% take no issue in exploiting the struggles of those without silver-spoon privilege. This, of course, comes as no surprise.

Pepsi’s advertisement features Kendall Jenner striding out into the midst of a mainstream-friendly protest. After high-fiving and fist-bumping a diverse range of people (who don’t seem all too concerned with their cause), she hands a police officer a can of Pepsi. He smiles, satisfied, and everybody on the scene bursts into cheers. There is no ill will in sight. Everyone is ecstatic and social inequality is forgotten. Who cares what they were protesting about in the first place? Who cares that Trump will harm the U.S. even further in the next four years and other countries along with it? Who cares that the death toll is only rising in a chemical weapons attack in Syria? Who cares that we seem to be going backwards in terms of social progression? Who cares that politics is falling apart on a global scale? So long as the Pepsi is all right… the white man is happy … and the wealthy can keep rolling in the cash.

Of course this was not the message the advertisement attempted to portray. The intention, according to the company, was given in a defensive quote released by Pepsi: “This is a global ad that reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony, and we think that’s an important message to convey.”

Whether the intent was decent or not, the fact still remains, Pepsi hijacked the resistance movement with no other motivation than commodifying it. Worse – they did it through the Trojan horse of an inconceivably privileged model, and the entire two and a half minutes is as apolitical as possible. There is no sign calling for equal rights or an end to discrimination. Phrases like “join the conversation” serve the purpose of being as vague as possible. Pepsi is desperate not to alienate.

Overall the advertisement just screams privilege and out-of-touch. A white person encouraging “bold” interactions with police officers, in a country where people of colour are murdered by them on a regular basis. That’s uncomfortable. Not only this, appropriating activism for the purpose of marketing is in itself despicable.

The most recent statement released highlights the pressures to pull the ad: “Clearly, we missed the mark, and we apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”

The only hope is that corporations think twice in future when they consider exploiting such serious matters.

A new lens

Author:
Kabul. Afghanistan. 2012
A meeting of Mirman Baheer, the Ladies’ Literary Society, in Kabul.  The group has roughly one hundred members in Kabul, where they meet openly on most Saturdays. The city of Kabul is, in many ways, a bubble. Its security allows women to gather openly, a near impossibility across most of the country. Outside Kabul, there are as many as three hundred members in the outlying provinces of Khost, Paktia, Wardak, Mazar, Kunduz, Jalalabad, Kandahar, Herat, and Farah. Exact numbers of members are impossible to come by, since the society operates in secret by necessity.

By Kaylen Forsyth

For a poet language is land on the water, is water on the land. The poem becomes necessary to existence, a way of transforming the physical world into something that can’t die. Like with many other art forms, its greatest assets are its humanness and intimacy. “I composed my first poems in the dark“, says Philip Levine in My Lost Poets. This is a small window into the understanding that happens between a writer and the words they either chose or don’t.

“I dream of lost vocabularies that might express some of what we no longer can”, laments Jack Gilbert, as though deprived of self-expression his entire life.

This brings him to a shared affinity with so many women across the globe, today and always, who may be able to fathom even more thoroughly than him exactly what it’s like to be stifled. To have so much pent-up rage and passion that there is no way to coordinate any coherence. This is why poetry plays such a vital role in the lives of many women in Afghanistan.

Recently, it has become clearer than ever just how essential it is for women to have a platform that cannot be deterred by men. Such deterrence is now symptomatic of a growing rather than declining patriarchy. This struggle for a stage is a problem that the women of Afghanistan have faced so much they’ve now formed their own kind of barracks, built out of language. Amidst a country that has seen vast amounts of violence and duplicity, a number of incredibly courageous women are voicing their political and emotional concern through the power of poetry. It takes the form of a “landay”.

The simple structure of the “landay poem” features couplets with nine syllables in the first line and thirteen in the second. This frame is used by many Afghan women who constantly search for new ways to articulate in a society wishing for their silence. Women write and share their poetry any way possible. Sometimes they share via phone calls with other women who are unable to leave their homes. Or other times, they meet up secretly to discuss their creations and merge them. Distribution always takes precedence over attribution.

Western representation of Afghan women would like to ignore this. Instead, it attempts a powerless portrayal. There is such an ethnocentric trend in Western media. It wants us to view other cultures as inherently alien in their differences. This leads to mass polarisation. Some begin to view those who live differently as outlandish. Evidently, this eliminates empathy and the ability to see with human perspective. It is the cause of an inaccurate depiction of Afghan women.

Journalists, specifically the tabloid sensationalists, would love us to view these women as voiceless victims, completely unable to have an opinion that hasn’t been indoctrinated by a patriarch. It’s inaccurate, and reading their “landays” emphasise this massively. Most suggest raw and often bursting passions of lust and love. There are hints of fury over the Taliban and the U.S., and foreign occupation.

My lover is fair as an American soldier can be. / To him I looked dark as a Talib, so he martyred me.
Landay lines like these cut deep and reveal strength, the strength that we all must see. Too prevalently, there is a manipulated view of Muslim women as direct results of oppression. Obviously, the consequence of this is their immediate dehumanisation. They are then seen through a lens that fails to attribute any agency or depth. Even their initiative is brushed aside.

Since the recent inauguration of Trump, women across the globe have risen up in a unified voice against his despicable policies. It’s fantastic! It’s inspiring to see that his government’s blatant misogyny and bigotry is not going unchallenged. People can address the politics of the women marching in the US and Europe, their agency, their intelligence. Yet, there still remains a struggle to identify these qualities in women from Islamic countries. Their acts of revolution and activism are either ignored, dismissed or played down. It’s easy to look at a middle-class American woman and call her a political revolutionary but people don’t want to call an Afghan woman anything of the sort.

In the West there is an erroneous thought that women from Islamic backgrounds are in need of salvation. This has been helpful to politicians in the past, allowing them to justify certain invasions. But to look at these “landays” is to understand that perhaps, these Afghanistan poets are the revolutionaries we should be taking examples from, rather than forcing our examples onto them.

Abbatoir Floor

Author:
Photo by Kaylen Forsyth

A poem by Kaylen Forsyth

Content note: Violent and sexist language, gender based violence and harassment

my name changes from BABY to HONEY,
NEARLY DRUNK ENOUGH, DARLING to BITCH.

i always thought i’d love the first boy to talk in poetry,
but i craved metaphors of moonlight, not war-talk and violence:
BANG, SCREW, NAIL, DESTROY.
“i like this song, do you?”
“i prefer the original,”
and you’d think i’d said something funny;
i guess it’s hard for him to grasp-

i have an opinion, i exist outside of this room,
i exist as a person- when i’m not just a nail
to be banged, to be screwed.
i guess it’s hard for him to grasp- but do you know what’s harder?

watching a girl even younger than myself
with a man twice her age on the abattoir floor.
she’s probably the girl of his dreams
or close to it-
the youngest he won’t be sent down for,
and he grabs at her throat like he’d tear at a steak;
he decides if she’s raw,
if she’s burnt,
if she’s bloody.
“keep your eyes off those boys,
you dirty, little slut!”

he has reigns on her conversations,
her body, her beauty.
and when i check on her later
she’s smiling so wide,
calls the finger-shaped bruises on her neck pretty pearls-
“why should I be afraid? it was just like a movie.”

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