Women Soldiers in the PKK

The PKK was known for its women leaders from the beginning; the most famous was Sakine Cansiz who survived years of torture in Turkish prisons but was assassinated. By 1993, about one-third of new PKK recruits were women, leading to the organization of women’s guerilla units called YJA_Star. Part of the motivation was to create equality and mutual respect between men and women soldiers. Unlike short-term expedient use of women guerillas in other revolutionary struggles, the intent of PKK was to permanently change sex roles in contrast to the use of women soldiers in China, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and Nepal; in Cuba, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Angola, Eritrea, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Unlike the PKK, women in these other countries were rarely commanders and were expected to be subordinate to men and certainly not share in the cooking and cleaning. The unusual Zapatistas are similar to the PKK in aiming for permanent gender equality among women and men soldiers.

 

Meredith Tax. A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State. Belleview Literary Publishers, 2016.

The New Revolutionary View: Oscar ten Houten

Oscar ten Houten (born 1978) participated and wrote about the 2011 uprisings in Europe; “For one whole year living in a tent on a hundred different squares.”[i] He observed that the old school view of revolution was that it’s a serious matter with accusations of others not being revolutionary enough.[ii] The new view of youthful revolutionaries is that it brings joy, unity and fun because satire is a powerful weapon against authorities. The new revolutionaries go beyond political theories and isms to the deeper issue of sustainability and have a shared belief in equality. He thinks there’s nothing wrong with supporting a political party if it helps reach an objective and that there are always leaders who get things done, but they should step back when their task is completed. Another new characteristic is the revolution will be televised live. He changed his mind about nonviolence while he participated in the Gezi Occupation in Turkey, realizing that police aggression must be challenged to empower the people, as it was in Istanbul with Molotov cocktails, burning buses and burning sofas, guarding barricades, and shining lasers on police drivers. He realized, “Not many authorities will allow a peaceful revolution to happen.”[iii]

[i] Oscar ten Houten, “First Wave: A Year of Revolution,” Kindle Edition, 2012.

[ii] Oscar ten Houten. #Occupy Gezi. @postvirtual, 2013, pp. 102-4.

[iii] Ibid, p. 105.

How to organize a social movement–the Red Squares of Montreal

Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois (born 1990) was a student leader in CLASSE, the Quebec student union that organized successful strikes in 2013. He said in a video that a key component of student success was the strong culture of hard work.[i] Some said students organized in decentralized totally autonomous groups, but that wasn’t accurate. They’re not like a soldier answering to a general, but a certain amount of centralization was required to make sure the strike would begin and grow. Using a structured process of decision-making, organization power and democracy worked. The student movement has ongoing successes because of extensive organizing through the province, with elected representatives to student unions and centralized decision-making. They also make alliances with workers’ unions (union-led strikes also helped oust presidents in Tunisia and Egypt).

In his book translated as In Defiance (2013), Nadeau-Dubois discussed his role as media spokesperson (along with Jeanne Reynolds) who could only comment on what CLASSE had decided on by voting at weekly meetings representing the various student associations, which he described as soldiers without a commander: “a large portion of the social movement was simply unwilling to be guided by leaders.”[ii] Ungovernable, the movement dealt with long hours of debate and with growing numbers of strikers; on March 22, 2012, more than 300,000 students out of 420,000 enrolled were on strike and many of them marched in Montreal.[iii] Their issues expanded from the 75% tuition increase to condemnation of capitalism and its destruction of the environment. Writing a year after the strike, although they succeed in ousting the Liberal government in elections and getting the tuition increase cancelled plus a moratorium on shale gas exploration, on the surface it looked like little had changed in Quebec. But, he realized “social battles rarely end with victories.”[iv] As in all the other uprisings, many of the participants continued their political interests. A young activist with Idle No More told him that mobilizations are like a wave; it seems to withdraw from the shore but it is always followed by a new wave.

[i] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1–uffcGHq0

[ii] Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois. In Defiance. Between the Lines, Toronto, 2013, p. 73.

[iii] Ibid., p. 75.

[iv] Ibid., p. 1223-124.

50 million child refugees

More than a million refugees traveled to Europe early in 2016, and 80,000 arrived by boat during the first six weeks of 2016.[i] They even had an Olympic games refugee team with 10 athletes from Africa and Syria at the 2016 Brazilian games. Half of the refugees are children and half of them are from Afghanistan or Syria, 50 million of them, including over 100,000 unaccompanied minors who applied for asylum in 78 countries in 2015.[ii]

[i] Katie Reilly, “Rate of Refugees Arriving in Europe Increased in 2016,” TIME Magazine, February 13, 2016.

Rate of Refugees Arriving in Europe Increased in 2016

[ii] Vijay Prashad, “Fifty Milliion Children Have Been Uprooted Worldwide,” TruthDIG, September 21, 2016.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/fifty_million_children_have_been_uprooted_worldwid

Iranian Women Protest Ban on Bicycling

Ayatollah Khamenei recently prohibited Iranian women from riding bicycles stating, “Riding a bicycle often attracts the attention of men and exposes the society to corruption, and thus contravenes women’s chastity, and it must be abandoned.” Women, including those in the movement My Stealthy Freedom, responded by posting photos riding bikes using the hashtag #IranianWomenLoveCycling.[i]

[i] http://mystealthyfreedom.net/en/

Are US Millennials More Anxious and Depressed?

Are Millennials more anxious and depressed?

 

Surveys of college counseling directors: The 2013 and 2015 reports found that anxiety is the most common presenting problem of their clients (42% in 2013/47% in 2015), followed by depression (36%/40%), and relationship problems (36%/32.5%). The 2015 report also found 20% had thoughts of suicide, 13% engaged in self-injury, and 11% alcohol abuse, while 26% of their clients take psychotropic medications.

Jesse Singal is a Millennial reporter for New York Magazine and other journals. He addresses “The Myth of the Ever-More-Fragile College Student” as popularized especially in articles in The Atlantic by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff who decry coddled students and a Psychology Today article by Hara Estroff Marano about “Crisis U.”[i] These authors charge that over-protective helicopter parents raised self-centered kids who too casually “hook up” and are unable to cope with stress or criticism. Overly politically correct these students demand trigger warnings against microaggressions and resent grades lower than an A. But Singal argues the authors’ evidence is merely anecdotal and the moral panic is unsubtantiated. His evidence to contradict the belief that students are more mentally ill than previous generations follows:

  1. Public mental health service have been cut since the 1990s, which puts more pressure on campus counseling centers as more young people turn to them for services. This caused a shift from traditional college counseling services like career counseling to mental health care.
  2. Enrollment rates are up, increasing the numbers and diversity of college students.
  3. Students today are more willing to seek help as counseling centers increase education about mental health.
  4. College counseling directors have reported things are getting worse in all the surveys available since 2004, because they tend to see the anxious depressed students.
  5. Students’ self-report of overwhelming anxiety in the past 12 month increased by 5% from 2009 to 2014 (rom 49% to 54%) after the recession and economic problems that began in 2008. They have reason to be anxious.
  6. Marano provides only two longitudinal statistics, one about surveys of counseling directors and the other reporting that the percent of students who self-injure increased from 21% in 2008 to 24% in 2014. But the 3% increase only pertains to counseling clients not students as a whole.
  7. Victor Schwartz, the medical director of the Jed Foundation that promotes mental health for students, told Singal that “there’s very little evidence to support” claims of increased fragility. Schwartz pointed out that student suicide rates have slightly gone down: “I think both of those articles missed the fact that here are real stresses…the world feels like a really anxious place for young people,” in terms of job prospects, debt burdens, and the news. Allan Schwartz, a psychiatry professor at the University of Rochester, examined data from five studies of college students conducted from 1996 and 2007. He didn’t find that pathologies had gotten worse and thinks the pessimistic belief from college counselors has become a widespread myth accepted as fact.

 

[1] Jesse Singal, “The Myth of the Ever-More-Fragile College Student,” New York Magazine, November 13, 2015.

http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2015/11/myth-of-the-fragile-college-student.html