Will Self, speaking on the topic of “Political Trojan Horses” on BBC Radio 4 this morning, argues that we should all be more critical of the superficially attractive policies of politicians. In particular, Self takes aim at the “oxymoronic” language of “sustainable growth”, stating:
The suppressed premise on both sides of our increasingly pre-fabricated party wall is precisely the same, all our problems, as a society, as a nation, as a culture can be easily circumvented as long as we feed the horsey the right fodder to ensure its growth… Aah, growth. Everybody loves growth, don’t they? Without growth, we’d be back in the dark ages with Oxen pulling the plough wouldn’t we? And, if you’ll forgive the extended chimerical analogy, an economy is also like a shark isn’t it? Unless it keeps on consuming natural resources and transforming them into the flexible cartilage of technological innovation it dies, and we die with it. In the years leading up to the financial crisis, the most plangent buzzword in our political discourse was, sustainability, a term borrowed from the life sciences that denotes an eco-system capable of maintaining itself without depleting its resource space.. The notion of sustainable growth is oxymoronic, and yet no one except the most extreme Luddite would dream of speaking out against it. Why? Because the assumption is that to deny growth to any one part of the economy, no matter how bloated that may be, is to deprive its most meagre portions of the nutrition they so desperately need.
Click here to listen to the full eleven minute programme. The second issue of Lacuna, which launches in February 2014, will feature a variety of alternative perspectives on prosperity, and question whether Gross Domestic Product is the standard against which our prosperity should be measured. To make sure you don’t miss out on this edition, or our other exciting content, click here to subscribe, follow us on Twitter, and “Like” us on Facebook using the buttons below.
Last week, Lacuna interviewed two people who have dedicated large parts of their careers to ensuring that juries see beyond the worst thing that their clients have ever done. Through a painstaking process of researching and constructing the life history of the client they are defending, they are tasked with ensuring that those who have been convicted of capital offences are seen as humans first and criminals second. The exclusive interview, which will be published as two short films by Lacuna’s Head of Visual Content, Abby Kendrick, will be of interest to anyone who wants to understand what it takes to work on death penalty cases, or to learn more about why it is important that the context in which offending occurs is taken into account during sentencing. To make sure you don’t miss out, follow us on twitter and subscribe to our mailing list.
Andrew Williams: Orwell Prize Winner and Lacuna Editor in Chief
In this piece, Orwell Prize Winner 2013 and Editor in Chief of Lacuna A.T. Williams, explains what motivated him to write his prize winning book: “A Very British Killing: The Death of Baha Mousa”. He also reflects on what George Orwell might have made of the death of Baha Mousa, a hotel receptionist, at the hands of British forces in Iraq, and the reaction of the British establishment to the attempts of Baha Mousa’s family to understand what had happened. Andrew writes:
When A Very British Killing won the George Orwell Prize in May 2013, I wondered what Orwell would have thought about all this. Wouldn’t he have recognised the detachment of so many British army personnel and bureaucrats when faced with the system’s own injustice? Wouldn’t he have thought about his story of a hanging in Burma and hear again the awkward laughter of men who’ve participated, if only as witnesses, in something that is palpably wrong? Wouldn’t he have read the bureaucratic and political language of ‘lines of enquiry’ and ‘learning lessons’ and seen them as ugly and degenerate?
I don’t know. But I think he would have agreed that the writing of the story of Baha Mousa’s death and the failure to address the wrong was a necessary act. I think he would have agreed that political writing fuelled by anger is still an essential response. Orwell wrote once that ‘It seems to me nonsense, in a period like our own, to think that one can avoid writing of such subjects.’ His main target then was the evil of totalitarianism. But I would like to think his underlying aim was to challenge indifference to the suffering of others. That for me was the real devil which emerged amidst the detail of my book.
To read more of Andrew’s writing, and stories from other contributors who write to challenge injustice, follow us on Twitter, “like” us on Facebook and subscribe to our mailing list
Lacuna’s Head of Visual Content, Abby Kendrick, had an opportunity to learn from the best when she attended a masterclass with renowned Guardian video journalist John Domokos. Kendrick stated: ‘for me, the biggest lesson of the weekend was that the form should always follow the story, and also that stories of injustice are everywhere- all you have to do is be willing to speak to people to uncover them”.
A great example of this is Domokos’ work on Job Centre sanctions, which can be viewed here. Domokos told Kendrick that the feature came about by chance: Domokos had been sent to research a story which fell through when instead of going home, he decided to interview some people he met outside the Jobcentre. Upon hearing of the way in which the sudden and often seemingly arbitrary withdrawal of benefits had affected the lives of the people he was speaking to, Domokos knew he had a story. This however, proved to be the tip of the iceberg as Domokos uncovered the pressure placed on Jobcentre staff to stop client’s benefits. Kendrick will be putting these skills into practice in the first edition of LACUNA, which launches in February 2014. To make sure you don’t miss it, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to our mailing list.
The film “Philomena”, starring Steve Coogan and Dame Judi Dench, has received rave reviews for it’s portrayal of the relationship between the journalist Martin Sixsmith and Philomena Lee, a woman whose son was taken from her by the Catholic Church when she was an unmarried teenager and sold to adoptive parents in America. A chance encounter at a New Year’s Eve party led to Sixsmith travelling with Philomena, first to Ireland and then America in order to find out what happened to her son. In doing so Sixsmith uncovered systemic abuses of power perpetuated by the Catholic Church in the 1950’s against unmarried mothers and their children. Sixsmith’s moving first person account of the story is available here, although those who have yet to see the film should be warned that it contains spoilers.
The UK release of Philomena coincides with the Irish Council for Civil Liberties appearing before the UNHCR to appeal for an independent investigation into conditions at the Magdalene Laundries, institutions run by religious authorities where women who were deemed to be “fallen” were incarcerated indefinitely. The first edition of LACUNA, which will be published in February 2014, will feature writings on of the role of protest in uncovering the treatment of women and children in the laundries. To ensure that you don’t miss out on this or any other content, subscribe to our mailing list, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
Members of the Lacuna team headed to the Home Office to find out. Researcher Rebecca Munro (pictured) met with the Chief Civil Servant to the Hillsborough Independent Panel to discuss the mechanisms through which historic injustices can be brought to light. This meeting revealed some surprising and moving insights and is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how protest can bring about change at the highest levels of government.
The feature based on this interview will be published in the first edition of Lacuna which launches in February 2014. To ensure you don’t miss out on this or any of our other original features follow us on Twitter and subscribe to our mailing list.