Saturday, February 09, 2013

Marginalizing people

Back in September, I visited a Danish refugee camp together with a group of other people. The reason I went there, was that I wanted to get a better understanding of how Denmark treats refugees who have come to the country.

Refugee camps are places where people claiming refugee status live until their cases have gone through the process. Until recently, these people were not allowed to live outside those camps - a new law has loosened up those requirements, but the majority still have to live there, as there is no-where else for them to live.

Refugee camps are usually set up in old institution, such as former mental hospitals and foster homes, or in old military compounds.

I am, and have always been, against refugee camps for a number of reasons, the most important being that they marginalizes the people living there. People living in refugee camps are not living in a normal setting, and they cannot do a lot of everyday things the rest of us takes for granted. 

My visit to the camp made this even more clear to me. We visited a camp called Avnstrup, which is about an hour away from Copenhagen going by train and bus. Half an hour on each.

The above picture is of the bus schedule, which shows when the buses departs from Avnstrup - it is also the times when the bus arrives. This is the only bus which goes to Avnstrup, and for most people, there are no other means of transportation to and from the camp. 

I took the picture because I think it clearly shows how hard it is for people living there to go out and do anything - e.g. during the weekends, the bus only runs every three hours, and for a very limited period of the day. On Sundays, the first bus is at 12 and the last is at 9 PM - if you take into account the time spent on transportation, it only gives people 7 hours if they want to go into Copenhagen.

On weekdays, the last bus also runs at 9 PM, which means that if you've spent the day at some kind of study in Copenhagen, you won't really have time to do anything else than hurry home.

This is clearly a horrible way of getting people to integrate into society - keeping them isolated from it. Unfortunately, to some politicians, that's feature, not a bug.

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Never give up, never surrender

Never give up, never surrender
The above quote is of course from the movie Galaxy Quest, where it is the catch-phrase of Alan Rickman's character. Or at least, the catchphrase of the character that Rickman's character plays. Confused? Well, you've obviously not watched the movie, and you should stop reading right now, and go watch it.

Why am I using that quote? Well, it was the quote that sprang into mind when I read about Lee Moore's attempt to create a "cease fire" among the fractions in skepticism and atheism (for more reactions to his suggestion, see these posts by Stephanie Zvan and Ophelia Benson).

The fractions that Lee Moore wants to create a "ceasefire" between, are the fraction that thinks that sexism is a problem, and should be addressed, and the fraction fighting this every step along the way. The first group, which I belong to, are trying to get stuff like harassment policies implemented at convention, working for more female speakers, and address occurrences of sexism. The other group, which I am firmly against, spend their time on personal attacks, making threats, and trying to get feminists shut out of the atheist/skeptic/secular movement. The level of time and energy they will spend on attacking their favorite targets is truly sickening.

Going back to the quote. The reason why it sprang into mind, is that this is my feeling on the matter.

To clearify: I wouldn't mind a ceasefire between the two fractions, since in reality, there is only one fraction attacking, the other fraction is trying to introduce change. Yes, this sometimes involves calling out specific people for sexist behavior, but it never, ever involves personal attacks (just a note: spare me links to people on my side insulting people on the other side - those insults are hard-earned, and come as a reaction to the vile behavior they spend so much time on).

But that's not what's meant, when Lee Moore makes his (in my opinion dishonest) attempt to negotiate a ceasefire. Instead he is creating a false equivalence, which I reject. When one group of people are trying to make the movement more inclusive, and the other group is trying to not only stop this, but also to drive the first group out of the movement through harassment, then they are not equal, and to try to create some kind of image of this being two groups, which both have justified grievances (as Lee Moore has said), is dishonest bullshit, and in my opinion, an obvious attempt to give the side with the vile scum some sort of credibility.

Well, I am on record saying that I embrace deep rifts, and I see nothing in Lee Moore's attempt to create false equivalence which would lead me to change my views. There is nothing that the scum on the other fraction could do or say, which would change my view off them and their behavior, and the only way I would accept having anything to do with them, would be if they rejected and renounced everything they stand for at the moment. That would be the "ceasefire" terms I would accept - complete and utter surrender from their side. Somehow I don't think it will happen, but until it does, there is no need to even mention the possibility of a ceasefire.

One more thought: I can't help thinking that Lee Moore knows all this, and his attempt is happening in order to give the impression that the other people have something to offer the movement, and that the movement should not shun them. Well, guess what - I don't think they have anything to offer the movement, and I think that the movement as a whole should take a hard stand against people who behave the way they do. Luckily, it seems like most of the major organizations and conferences in the movement agrees.

A note about comments: On this blog, all comments goes into moderation (mostly due to spam). Any misogynist, racist, homophobic or otherwise vile comments will not be published. Any long, incoherent rants will probably not be published, except perhaps for people to ridicule.

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