Thousands of people were out on the streets of London Sunday to protest the horrific housing bill which is currently being rushed through parliament (article in the Independent here). As an outsider to the UK nearly three years ago I was initially struck by the institution of social housing which seemed much more vast and ingrained than in other contexts that I knew. Then I began to understand the many ways in which social housing (or council housing as it is known–referring to the local council in charge of each administrative area) in the UK is being steadily undermined. Namely, existing social housing is being sold off for private renting, no new social housing is being built, and discussions now center around “affordable” housing which falls on the whim of private developers to provide, which they usually don’t, and which is allowed to be up to 80% of the market rent. Now, this bill really seems like the nail in the coffin of social housing in the UK, rendering housing even less accessible to both council tenants and private renters. I don’t even understand how such a bill, that caters entirely to ensuring private developers make as much money as possible, has managed to pass so quickly through parliament (detailed explanations of the UK legislative system are most welcome).
The #KilltheHousingBill campaign has produced a great video explaining the housing bill.
Last week the Radical Housing Network also produced a spoof newspaper of the Evening Standard–they call it the ‘Standard Evening’, which was distributed at tube stops all over London. The paper, which detailed what London would be like many years in the future if this housing bill passes, can be accessed online here.
Recommended viewing, along with the new documentary The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution. Incredible to see how a movement that provided a radical view of social transformation came about and how it was slowly but effectively crushed by the United States government.
It really seems like talk of gentrification is everywhere lately. It may be that I’ve just been paying more attention to it, but I think if you live somewhere like London or San Francisco, it’s pretty hard not to notice the changes taking place. It was cool to see a video like this on a mainstream site like BuzzFeed, of a former Mission resident, Kai, who has been evicted from two different homes in San Francisco. While it doesn’t go too deep into the structural causes of gentrification, it does highlight the massive displacement of black and Latino communities in San Francisco, as well as the California policies that have facilitated this. Kai comments on the way the city is segregated by race and class and notes, “the wealth is directly related to people’s displacement from their homes”.
The topic of gentrification was even addressed in a recent Saturday Night Live sketch, which I think brilliantly comments on the intersection of gentrification and race. Why is it so funny to see black men on the corner discussing spin class and the new artisanal mayonnaise shop around the corner? Maybe because we know deep down that the supposed positive effects of gentrification (if 8 dollar mayonnaise can be considered a positive effect) rarely benefit anyone other than white, middle- to upper-class residents.
As (hopefully) more and more debate about gentrification unfolds, I really hope we see fewer people claiming that this is an inevitable process or that, you know, “it’s really all the hipsters’ fault”. We need to dig further into how our current economic system encourages eviction and displacement along race and class lines.
I saw this documentary as part of the 2014 London Palestine Film Festival, followed by a talk with Eyal Weizman, the plucky architect who narrates the film. I learned a lot from his book Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation, for its critical overview of the slow, mundane, pre-meditated way that the occupation of Palestine has been orchestrated over time. The brief documentary, directed by Ana Naomi de Sousa, addresses and visualizes the more striking elements of the book. For example, Israel’s use of “Jerusalem stone” in building housing units in the settlements surrounding Jerusalem, to evoke the old city center of the iconic city. The architect knows these buildings are mostly made of concrete, the outside layer merely a facade. (An added tidbit from the book is that this stone is actually mined and manufactured in the West Bank.) The film explores how “Architecture is used by architects…as a weapon.”
Catcalling and street harassment get some brilliant gender-swapping treatment in a French animated series from the late 1990s.
Gender-swapping is one of these increasingly popular motifs that is so simple but that can be incredibly powerful. It can seem kind of mundane; I mean, why should a man dressed in women’s clothes modeling a perfume be so inherently strange or funny? But the fact that it does seem so strange to us is exactly what starts to reveal the norms that rule our society. Why does it seem so absurd for women to be catcalling a man like they are in the video? How come women almost never act this way in real life? Because, well, there’s this thing called patriarchy, and it dictates how we act and feel even in the smallest interactions. It is what makes men think that it is okay to mutter towards a woman in a public space, in an effort to remind her that the space, and her own body, do not belong to her. It is a structure that is reinforced constantly, even at an everyday scale, and that has be come so normalized that we barely even notice it. Luckily some simple gender-swapping can bring it back into focus.
It’s not a question to be taken for granted. If I had to give a short answer, I might say that Israel continues its occupation for land and resources—that it engages in what it knows to be a doomed “peace process” in order to eventually gain control over all of historic Palestine, “from the river to the sea”. At least, based on its actions, this is what Israel appears to be trying to do.
But there are continual and obvious contradictions in this idea. It is widely recognized among people educated in this topic that the longer Israel continues its occupation, the more it continues to build settlements throughout the West Bank along with infrastructure to serve those settlements, the closer it will come to having to deal with the 4 million+ Palestinians that inhabit the same space. Israel exhibits two conflicting desires: that for territory and that for a majority Jewish state. If Israel gains control over the entirety of historic Palestine, it will paradoxically lose its Jewish majority and thus its identity as a Jewish state.
So then how do we explain the current system? I recently read The Political Economy of Israel’s Occupation: Repression Beyond Exploitation, written by Israeli academic Shir Hever. I outline here some of the theories he describes that can be applied to the occupation of Palestinian land.