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Wednesday, 15 August

02:41

Where are the safe spaces for our young trans and non-binary people? Slugger O'Toole

Brian Smyth (Green Party rep. for Lisnasharragh)

International Youth Day was Sunday 12 August and the theme this year is, Safe spaces for youth. There seems to be an International Day for everything, but as a Youth Worker, I believe its important to use these opportunities to tune into the issues that affect young people growing up, particularly those disadvantaged by poverty and inequality.

The notion of safe spaces got me thinking about my safe spaces growing up. It made me think about how segregated and unsafe our city was. Safe spaces came behind the dividing lines that zig zagged across Belfast. My mates and myself knew the safe spaces like the back of our hands and knew exactly where we should and should not venture into. Not knowing your safe spaces meant a guaranteed beating at best, serious injury or death at worst.

Thankfully society has moved on and although Belfast remains a divided city there has been a widening of the shared spaces that young people can use together. The City Centre has become a safer place that we all use when we need to once a no go for a night out and heavily militarised for Saturday shoppers, City Centre bars, restaurants and retail now thrive and the space isnt owned or dominated by any single section of our society.

But what about if you are growing up in Northern Ireland today as a trans & non-binary young person? Where are your safe spaces and is Northern Ireland a safe where you feel proud of your identity and are treated as an equal?

Probably not because the reality is that there are large parts of our society which are inaccessible or hostile to trans & non-binary young people. Its 2018 and here in Northern Ireland weve managed to replace overt sectarianism with overt transphobia.

Even our schools are very often hostile and unsafe spaces for trans & non-binary young people. Single sex schools are common in Northern Ireland along with boys and girls toilets, boy and girls changing rooms and boys and girls school uniforms the norm.

No wonder so many trans and non-binary young people have very difficult experiences in our school system, with poor educational attainment and life chances as a result.

Help and support does exist, with Gender Jam NI leading the way locally. Im very proud to say that Ellen Murray from Gender Jam NI stood for the Green Party as the first trans candidate for either part of this island.

There is so much we can do on a policy level to create safe spaces for trans and non-binary children. I delighted to work with visionary and pioneering organisations like Gender Jam to make that happen.

However, Gender Jam NI is woefully funded. So, Im happy to give them a major plug and promote their excellent support services.

I attended a few events as part of Pride Week this year. Including Alternative Queer Ulster where I had my eyes opened to the issues faced by queer people at...

02:16

New President, the extreme right and popular resistance in Colombia openDemocracy

The outcome of the Colombian presidential elections will have dire political consequences, visible even before the new president took office last August 7. Espaol

Casa de Nario, Bogot, Colombia. Wikimedia Commons. All Rights Reserved.

On June 17th, presidential elections for the period 2018-2022 were held in Colombia. The extreme right-wing candidate Ivan Duque, supported by former president Alvaro Uribe, obtained 10,373,080 votes (equivalent to 53,98%).

In this second round, Duque ran against the Human Colombia proposal, represented by Gustavo Petro, who won the support of 8,034,189 voters (41,81%) expecting a transformation in the way in which the country has been ruled until now.

This election will have consequences in different areas, which were already becoming apparent before the new president officially took power on August 7th.

In the first place, the worrying trend towards growing numbers of assassinations of social leaders and territorial defenders has shot up exponentially. This growth trend began in 2016, after the cease fire and the signing of the Havana Agreement between the Colombian government and the former Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC, by its acronym in Spanish; now known as the political party Common Alternative Force).

In July 2018, seven peasants were assassinated in the village of Argelia, Cauca, a region where peasant and ethnic (indigenous and afro-descendant) movements have organized to defend their territories from foreign investments and against armed conflict. Between January and June 2018, 123 activists were assassinated in Colombia.

In relation to the peace process with the FARC, the elected president has made public his intention to substantially reform some elements of the agreement, mainly those related to the Special Jurisd...

01:20

Latin America is the deadliest region for environmental activists openDemocracy

More land and environmental activists were killed in Latin America last year than anywhere else in the world, according to a new report by watchdog group Global Witness. Espaol

Protest against the murder of Berta Caceres, environmental activist from Honduras in 2016. Wikimedia Commons. All Rights Reserved.

A total of some 207 land and environmental defenders were killed in 2017, according to Global Witnesss new report. Nearly 60% of those killings took place in Latin America, making it the deadliest year on record for this community. The report underscores how shifting organized crime dynamics put environmental defenders at greater risk. 

Brazil recorded the largest number of killings in the region with 57, while Colombia and Mexico recorded the next highest with 24 and 15, respectively, according to the report. Mexico and Peru saw marked increases in killings between 2016 and 2017 as their number jumped 400% in Mexico, and 300% in Peru.

There was also a significant decrease in the number of land defenders killed in Honduras, down from 14 in 2016 to 5 in 2017, although the report stressed that the repression of civil society there is worse than ever.

According to the Global Witness report, the agribusiness industry is one of the main sectors driving attacks against land defenders, in addition to mining and extractive industries and logging. 

According to the Global Witness report, the agribusiness industry is one of the main sectors driving attacks against land defenders, in addition to mining and extractive industries and logging. Criminal gangs are often found to be the suspected perpetrators, followed by soldiers, police and paramilitary forces.

In addition, the report finds that there are a number of factors accentuating and perpetuating the risks that land def...

00:33

Exclusive: Scotland Remain polling data analysed Newsnet.scot

By Russell Bruce

Newsnet has obtained the dataset behind Sundays story in the Observer on the shift in support in 112 UK constituencies from Leave to Remain. We wanted to see the detail of the changes in Scotland, even although Scotland supported Remain convincingly in 2016. The big changes have apparently taken place place in the North of England and Wales where support for leaving the EU in Labour supporting constituencies has dropped heavily in recent weeks according to Focaldatas analysis.

The study was commissioned by Best for Britain and Hope over Hate. YouGov polls in June and July, carried out before and after the Chequers plan was cobbled together somewhat loosely were fed through a methodology YouGov had used to correctly predict the result of the 2017 general election.

Researchers at the Focaldata consumer analytics company compiled the breakdown by modelling the two YouGov polls using Multilevel Regression and Poststratification (MRP) analysis based on YouGov polling of a total of 15,000 people in June and July, before and after the Chequers deal. (28th June 6th July and 26th 31st July)

Focaldata claim MRP is a statistical technique that delivers more accurate and granular estimates of public opinion than traditional methods at market research agencies. It does this by combining raw polling data with more information, in this case detailed constituency-level population information from the Census. The more information the more accurate estimates, as weighting more variables provides greater local accuracy.

But enough of the fancy acronyms

What we want to see is what movement appears to have taken place in Scotland and that, as we discovered is very interesting, having input the data into our own tables to see the potential implications for each Scottish Westminster constituency.

2017 was when the SNP did not just lose 20 of the UK seats it had won in 2015 but lost long held seats and big names.

The results of the 2016 EU referendum in Scotland were issued at local authority area level and all LAs voted Remain. One constituency actually voted Leave Banff and Buchan. The Leave vote was high in North-East fishing constituencies, although Banff and Buchan was the only constituency to actually vote Leave (54% to 46%). And they have second thoughts now according to this analysis with Remain on 51.2% and Leave on 48.8%, a 5.2% shift.

Scottish Tories abandon future with Europe

All Scottish parties campaigned for Remain in 2016 including the Tories whose leader was then quite passionate for Remain. Changed days. Whatever happened to her apart from getting pregnant?

...

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Tuesday, 14 August

23:19

Talking over the heads of unionists has been tried and found wanting for nearly a hundred years Slugger O'Toole

Speculating about a border poll when no one is attending to business in the here and now is a bit like eating your packed lunch at 9.30. It leaves you nothing to eat at lunchtime.

It may be helpful for a talented (and in my experience, diligent) economist like Paul Gosling to point out that with the right deal Northern Ireland could be economically better off in a united Ireland.

But it is quite another thing to create the conditions where such an outcome is possible. Thus far, most focus has been on the past, whilst talking up a dream future that may never happen.

Giving the illusion of UI coming round the corner puts off some of the very stretching decisions in the here and now that might eventually allow the two parts of the island to align sufficiently to get it anywhere near the Overton Window.

The result is an easy dispatch to the boundary of Goslings hypothetical scenario for the DUPs Simon Hamilton:

the report does not dwell too long on its view that 50,000 public sector workers in Northern Ireland would have to be made redundant. However even in this area it expects the United Kingdom Exchequer to bear all the costs, he said.

All these highlight the lack of substance behind many of those who claim a united-Ireland is some kind of inevitability. We cannot be complacent however and must continue putting forward a positive case for the Union.

Whilst post Agreement Nationalism has been keen on outlining ideal endgame scenarios, it has been tardy in mapping out and meeting the challenge of the near term material blocks to unity, many of which are highly emotionally charged.

Eoghan Harris recently put a hammer to head of the nail recently when he highlighted the need for empathy first and foremost particular in respect of the mixed reaction Peter Robinson got for his recent speech in Glenties:

The best help we can give Robinson is to empathise with unionist fears and do our best by difficult deeds or good authority words, to show they can trust us.

Empathising means trying to enter the mind of a Protestant family isolated on its farm in West Cork in 1921, or Fermanagh in 1981.

Multiply that by a million and you get a glimpse of what might be going on in the mind of the Protestant minority on the island.

Why should...

22:00

Feminism is cancer: the angry backlash against our reporting on the mens rights movement openDemocracy

50.50's recent dispatch on this movement received hundreds of comments and messages on social media. We read them so you dont have to.

Screenshot of tweet from @JuliusConrad88. Photo: Nandini Archer.Mens rights activists (MRAs) met in London last month at one of the largest gatherings of anti-feminists in the world. 50.50s dispatch from the conference aroused an angry backlash, as MRAs mobilised their supporters to try to discredit our report and drown out any positive response to it.

They left hundreds of comments under the article and on social media which run from the misguided but sincere, through foolish and provocative to misleading, abusive, and hateful. They show what were up against, and reflect the abuse that women journalists so often face online.

In this case, conference organisers emailed participants to encourage them to attack the dispatch. Many apparently obliged.

We read their comments, so you dont have to. If youre sick of hateful vitriol, take this as a content warning.

An unfiltered window into this angry, anti-feminist backlash.

Countless commenters have left vehemently and explicitly anti-feminist messages, calling us rabid feminists, crazy feminists and feminist bullies.

Several comments were deleted by openDemocracys moderators because they made personal attacks on the articles author, against our guidelines for commenters on the website.  

One of these deleted comments asked, about our reporter: Am I the only one who thought: something have to be done to keep such monster and her ilks away from male children and boys?

Another deleted comment said: Why do you hate baby males, Lara? Baby males are innocent and weak, baby males can't beat you, Lara.

Yet another was left by Paul Elam, founder of the US Voice for Men movement who...

21:37

Why was this vile extreme-right hatemonger given airtime on the BBC? AAV


When the extreme-right hate-monger Jonathan Jennings was jailed the BBC ran a short piece on their website about his 16 month sentence for multiple offences between March and August 2017, which included extreme anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic abuse and a threat to kill Jeremy Corbyn.

One thing the BBC somehow 'forgot' to mention in their article was that this extreme-right fanatic was selected by BBC Question Time producers as one of the select few to be awarded a question on live TV in November 2017 (after the abusive messages and death threats he was jailed for).

By November 2017 Jennings' online abuse had already been well documented and reported to the police, but the BBC somehow managed to pick him out of an entire crowd as one of the lucky ones to be given a question.

It beggars belief that the BBC somehow managed to pick one of the most vile extreme-right fanatics in the UK to be be given a questi...

19:09

Is Labours economic policy really neoliberal? openDemocracy

Acknowledging the risk of capital flight and currency devaluation is not neoliberal it is the only responsible path. 

 

Supporters of Jeremy Corbyns Labour Party have become used to diatribes on social media which predict that its policies will lead Britains economy into a Venezuela type scenario, with a collapse in the currency and hyperinflation. However, readers of three recent blogs by Richard Murphy on his Tax Research website may be surprised to learn that Labour is supposedly trapped in what Murphy describes as deeply neoliberal and profoundly conventional thinking.Supporters of Jeremy Corbyns Labour Party have become used to diatribes on social media which predict that its policies will lead Britains economy into a Venezuela type scenario, with a collapse in the currency and hyperinflation. However, readers of three recent blogs by Richard Murphy on his Tax Research website may be surprised to learn that Labour is supposedly trapped in what Murphy describes as deeply neoliberal and profoundly conventional thinking. They might also be puzzled to discover that this denunciation was provoked not by a new policy statement from John McDonnell, but by a two-sentence comment on someones Facebook page by James Meadway, McDonnells chief economic adviser, on whats known as modern monetary theory (or MMT). According to Meadway: MMT is just plain old bad economics, unfortunately, and a regression of left economic thinking. An economy with its own currency may never run out of money but that money can become entirely worthless In his first response Murphy produced a series of what he claimed to be entirely fair extrapolations from those two sentences alone. These concluded with the rather unfair claims that Meadway believes that achieving full employment and growth will leave the currency valueless; that under a Labour government austerity will remain in place; and even that we can expect Labour to deliver more Tory economic policy. Murphy has a well-deserved reputation as a leading figure in the tax justice movement who, as a trained accountant, has expertly dissected the tax avoidance practices of multinational companies and the failures of successive British governments to crack down on them. He is also a vigorous advocate of MMT, which explains why he was so annoyed by Meadways somewhat dismissive Facebook comment. Sadly, however, he now seems to have descended into quite seriously misrepresenting Labours policy position, and this has much wider implications. One curious aspect to this is that Murphys onslaught is almost entirely focused on just one strand of Labours current econom...

01:45

The NHS deal is not an acceptable settlement openDemocracy

GMB, the only union to vote against the government's NHS pay deal, pledge to continue fighting it.

Junior doctors protest contract changes in 2015. Junior doctors protest contract changes in 2015. Image: Rohin Francis (CC BY 2.0) Since our members overwhelmingly rejected Jeremy Hunts dodgy three year NHS pay deal earlier this year, we have been consulting them on the next steps.

During the past few weeks, members have used the ballot process to tell reps on the ground about their huge disappointment at this pay deal and how let down they feel by it.

After nearly a decade of wage freezes and caps that have seen our dedicated NHS and ambulance workers pay pinched and left them thousands of pounds out of pocket, a below inflation wage increase for some of the longest-serving, most dedicated staff in the health service is not good enough. Our members deserve far more than a real terms pay cut. 

We have said all along that we could not in good conscience recommend Jeremy Hunts offer to our members. And so we didnt. 

GMB was the only union of 14 health service representative bodies to have rejected Jeremy Hunts offer for what it was, and our ability to take industrial action this year alone has been limited accordingly. That, coupled with the governments anti-trade union legislation which makes it extremely difficult to meet legal thresholds for a formal industrial action ballot, are why we are unable to trigger a formal industrial action vote over NHS pay this year. 

Our members deserve far more than a real terms pay cut 

The message from GMB members has been loud and clear throughout our consultation we must continue to campaign for more funding for NHS pay. This three year deal is not an acceptable settlement for us.

A joint meeting between GMB National NHS and Ambulance Service reps and officers has overwhelmingly agreed that although we are not in a posit...

01:23

External Association and the Brexit Dilemma Slugger O'Toole

The Brexit negotiations have been plagued with political point scoring and little real progress since the onset. There is a whirlwind of media noise surrounding any development when in reality the only concrete thing to emerge recently is the Chequers deal.

This serves to embed the perception that Brexit is an intractable enigma, a foreign and absurd entity the likes of which we have not seen before. In reality, this kind of complex negotiation that fundamentally seeks to secure bi-lateral relationships between nation-states is neither novel nor rare. One does not have to look very far from the UK to find examples of this.

Let us look specifically at Autumn, 1921. A team of negotiators consisting of Irish republicans including: Michael Collins, Arthur Griffith, and Gavan Duffy arrive in London to negotiate a treaty to determine Irelands future relationship with Britain and her Empire. This was the result of a prolonged and bloody conflict, a conflict in which many believed Irish republican mythos became reality, where Irish guerrillas justly fought a ruthless British invader.

The ensuing negotiations were complex with future relationships between the two nations uncertain whilst competing demands emerged over issues such as autonomy and head of state. The similarities with the Brexit negotiations stems from this inability to find a position that satisfied those seeking to keep a close relationship with Britain and those that wanted to cut ties entirely to carve a truly independent path. The comparison is tenuous, but if any insight can be gained there is value in the discussion.

The Anglo-Irish negotiations necessitated hard-nosed negotiation and creative thinking from British and Irish negotiators. Eamonn De Valeras thinking in particular could be of considerable value. These days there may seem to be little to agree with Eamonn De Valera (Dev) about. He was a titan of Irish politics during the 20th century, with a political career spanning over half a century, from 1917 to 1973, holding both posts of Taoiseach and President. Today he appears as an out-dated figure of conservative Catholic Ireland with his ideological focus on creating an idyllically rural, Gaelic, Catholic Ireland especially archaic. Some have gone as far to compare him to an Irish Franco. Contrary to this narrow view of De Valera, he is a complex and intelligent figure that likely has greater relevance than generally touted.

De Valera was most likely the best negotiator Ireland had during these negotiations. Lloyd George remarked that negotiating with Dev was like picking up mercury with a fork which Dev wittily responded stating that the Prime Minister should try a spoon. Whether this was mere flattery, De Valera understood the intricate situation at hand. Specifically, that two camps existed that needed appeasing: hard-line republicans and the British government.

De Valera found himself in a position in which he aspired...

00:38

Neoliberalism is to blame for the state of modern Britain AAV


How did Britain come to be in such a mess?

It should be clear to anyone that the looming threat of a catastrophic "no deal" Tory strop out of the European Union didn't just happen in isolation, and that there are numerous factors at play.

Probably the biggest factor of all is the Westminster political establishment's ideological obsession with hard-right neoliberal dogma.

Ever since 1979 neoliberalism has ruled the roost in Westminster. The only period in the last four decades where it's not been Tories pushing hard-right, pro-privatisation, anti-worker, social housing wrecking, bank deregulating neoliberal dogma was 1997-2010 when Tony Blair and Gordon Brown pushed the same ideological madness, but with doses of welfare economics and public service investment to soften the consequences of their adherence to Thatcherite economic dogma.

While policies like tax credits, the minimum wage, and investment in the NHS were admittedly far better than anything you'd expect from a Tory government, New Labour's refusal to reverse the worst aspects of neoliberal dogma meant they were absolutely complicit in the ensuing disaster, which came about when the private banks collapsed under the weight of their gambling debts in the 2007-08 financial sector insolvency crisis (you know, the crisis we still haven't recovered from).

Instead of allowing the reckless and insolvent banks to go under and be replaced in the marketplace by less reckless institutions (as neoliberal economic theory suggests), the British state decided to institute the biggest state bailout in history.

In an unprecedented display of crony capitalism the government pumped hundreds of billions into the financial sector directly while the Bank of England began magicking money out of nowhere via quantitative easing in order to artificially prop up the value of assets held mainly by the mega-rich.

...

Monday, 13 August

22:11

Can the Corbynite left make peace with Zionism? openDemocracy

How does the current Labour antisemitism debate relate to potential states in the Middle East?

Palestinians being expelled from Ramla in July 1948. Image, wikimedia.

At the bitter heart of the antisemitism saga tearing Labour apart is a question over the legitimacy of Israel.

Within the crowded section of the Venn diagram where the Labour left and Palestine solidarity overlap, there is widespread and steadfast refusal to accept the events of 1948. The brutal expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians, the razing of hundreds of towns and villages, and the massacres of Deir Yassin and Lydda remain unpardonable sins that must be redressed. From this perspective, the solution is obvious: a reversal of Zionism, the unmaking of the Jewish state as it is presently constituted, and the return of refugees languishing in the camps of Beirut and Amman, still holding their keys to lost homes across the length and breadth of Mandatory Palestine, in accordance with UN resolution 194.  

The moral and legal case for the rights of refugees, and the people that remained to suffer slow erasure and systematic subjugation, is watertight. Palestinians were victims of historic injustice as surely as were the Native Americans and Aborigines of Australia. No just solution to the conflict could exclude their claims for liberation and restitution. But their supporters may have to think a little harder about what rigid opposition to Zionism means to Jewish people, and whether efforts to keep fighting the war of 1948 are politically useful for Palestinians.

Zionism is a term that is loose enough to allow for any number of interpretations, serving as a Rorschach Test for beholders to project their values upon. The common basis is a belief in the right of Jews to a home in the Promised Land but the form and nature of that home is fiercely contested.

The dominant form of Zionism today is that of the Iron Wall doctrine theorised by Zeev Jabotinsky and practiced by Likud, based on the use of military might to secure a position of unassailable strength for the Jewish population from which to dictate t...

19:28

The Backlash podcast episode 4: the men's rights movement openDemocracy

50.50 attended an international gathering of men's rights activists in London and spoke to some of the men, and women, involved in this movement.

Assembled delegates at the Mens Rights Conference in the Londons Excel Centre. Picture credit: Justice for Men and Boys.For our fourth episode of The Backlash podcast, we went inside one of the worlds largest gatherings of mens rights activists (MRAs) in London, and spoke to some of the men, and women, involved in this anti-feminist movement.

We hear from Alastair (who didn't give us his surname) from the UK fringe political party Justice for Men and Boys which organised the conference. We also speak to Karen Straughan, a revered figure within the MRA movement and the most famous anti-feminist in the world.

Lara Whyte (LW): Hello and welcome to The Backlash: a podcast series tracking threats against womens and LGBT rights, brought to you by 50.50, the gender and sexuality section of openDemocracy. Im Lara Whyte and I am your host.

In July, 50.50 spent a weekend attending the International Conference on Mens Issues in London, where mens rights activists from 24 different countries gathered to discuss the evils of feminism and what can be done about it.

Concepts like mansplaining, manspreading, rape culture on campuses were all used as examples of how feminism and womens rights have supposedly 'gone too far'.

When we talk about the backlash against feminism or womens rights, mens rights activists or MRAs, as they call themselves are a movement that we think needs serious and critical attention.

I wrote a dispatch on the conference for 50.50 and promptly received torrents of abuse as the conference organiser emailed all attendees urging them to troll me in the comments section of our website.

There has been some extreme cherry-picking of the art...

17:11

Multicultural Nationalism openDemocracy

Does multicultural nationalism represent the political idea and tendency most likely to offer a feasible alternative rallying point to monocultural nationalism?

lead Bristol, 2014. Flickr/ Evgeni. Some rights reserved.Tariq Modood, Bhikhu Parekh, Nasar Meer and Varun Uberoi and other scholars associated with the University of Bristols Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship represent a distinctive and important school of multicultural political thought. Thanks go to Sage Journal Ethnicities for giving us three months access to this background account of the Bristol school of multiculturalism by Geoffrey Brahm Levey, which situates the Bristol school in the British context in which it arose, outlines its distinctive approach and principles and critically assesses its positions on liberalism and national identity. Levey explains how the school challenges the liberal biases of much of the corpus of multicultural political thinking and the nostrums of British and other western democracies regarding the status of the majority culture as well as of cultural minorities.

There is a lot of nationalism about today. So, Rosemary Bechler is doing us an important service in raising the question of monocultural nationalism in the openDemocracy debate about the rise of the hard right in liberal democracies.

Yet, what is often described as a new nationalism arguably looks like the old nationalism. What is emerging as genuinely new are the identity-based nationalisms of the centre-left, sometimes called liberal nationalism or progressive patriotism. I want to tell you about one such progressive view, what I call multicultural nationalism.

To get there, not only do I need to get you to think of nationalism in a new way but also multiculturalism.

Multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism

You may think that multiculturalism is...

04:08

The enemy between us: how inequality erodes our mental health openDemocracy

Inequality creates the social and political divisions that isolate us from each other.

Credit: Flickr/mSeattle. CC BY 2.0.

When people are asked what matters most for their happiness and wellbeing, they tend to talk about the importance of their relationships with family, friends and colleagues. It is their intimate world, their personal networks that mean the most to them, rather than material goods, income or wealth. 

Most people probably dont think that broader, structural issues to do with politics and the economy have anything to do with their emotional health and wellbeing, but they do. Weve known for a long time that inequality causes a wide range of health and social problems, including everything from reduced life expectancy and higher infant mortality to poor educational attainment, lower social mobility and increased levels of violence. Differences in these areas between more and less equal societies are large, and everyone is affected by them.

In our 2009 book The Spirit Level, we hypothesised that this happens because inequality increases the grip of class and social status on us, making social comparisons more insidious and increasing the social and psychological distances between people. 

In our new book, The Inner Level, we bring together a robust body of evidence that shows we were on the right track: inequality eats into the heart of our immediate, personal world, and the vast majority of the population are affected by the ways in which inequality becomes the enemy between us. What gets between us and other people are all the things that make us feel ill at ease with one another, worried about how others see us, and shy and awkward in companyin short, all our social anxieties.

For some people, these anxieties become so severe that social contact becomes an ordeal and they withdraw from social life. Others continue to participate in social life but are beset by the constant worry that they have no small talk or come across as boring, stupid or unattractive. Sadly, we all tend to feel that these anxieties are our own personal psychological weaknesses and that we need to hide them from others or seek therapy or treatment to try to overcome them by ourselves.

But a recent...

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