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The Shooting of Peter R. De Vries – Do Dutch Criminals Rule The Streets in The Netherlands?

This morning I woke up to the news that Dutch crime journalist and investigator Peter R. De Vries, who is a celebrity and national hero to many victims of crime he has helped over his impressive 40 year career, has been shot 5 times of which one in the head, in broad daylight in a busy street in central Amsterdam. He is at this moment still in critical condition in hospital.

PPeter R. De Vries Peter R. de Vries (2017)

Peter is a tenacious investigator and journalist who has sometimes taken years to investigate a case and find new leads in cold cases, and stood by many victim’s families in their search for justice. He is at the moment involved in the huge Marengo court case around a Moroccan drugs gang who are accused of several murders and attempted murders since 2015, all of which happened in broad daylight in residential areas. For a long time these murders went on unchallenged because nobody was willing to talk, and there was not enough evidence. But this all changed when the brother of one of the main suspects was brutally murdered, who had no criminal ties whatsoever. This man, called Nabil B. suddenly came forward in 2017 to give evidence about all these liquidations, in exchange for lower sentencing. He then asked Peter R. De Vries to act as his advisor in the case, which Mr. De Vries accepted together with 2 lawyers.

The main suspect, Ridouan Taghi is thought to have been one of the leaders of this major crime gang, responsible for drug trafficking and at least 10 murders, under which Nabil B.’s brother and his lawyer Derk Wiersum. This murder caused a major uproar and is regarded a direct attack on the Dutch legal system. One other suspect is still out there with a prize of €100.000 on his head.

Saïd Razzouki, the fugitive still at large with €100.000 reward for leads leading to his arrest.

Now to me that is laughable. That amount of money is pocket money for those criminals who rake in millions a year and can easily avoid captivity by buying off people to keep them out of the hands of Dutch courts. This guy Taghi has been arrested and taken to the Netherlands in late 2019 in Dubai. The UIE does not have an extradition treaty with the Netherlands, so the only way to arrest him there and take him back was because he was travelling on a false passport.

Dubai is regarded a major magnet for criminal gangs from all over the world for that reason, as well as Marbella in Spain. The Dutch even have a special prosecutor permanently stationed there as Dutch drug gangs are said to be responsible for the majority of soft drugs imports from South America and North Africa. A large quantity of the world’s synthetic drugs are produced in the Netherlands and trafficked around the world. It is estimated that 18.8 billion Euros ($20.75 billion) worth of ecstacy are produced in Amsterdam alone. With this increased production and trade comes increased violence, and in the last 7 years to 2020 50 murders have been related to drug gangs in the wider Amsterdam area alone. Drug dealing and related violence is now taking place in broad daylight and mayors, police officers and lawyers being threatened, and as we have seen, killed by the gangs (Correa, 2020).

Ordinary citizens are getting hurt in the cross hairs, and lose trust in the police and court system to protect them. Correa (2020) writes in her article that 56% of Dutch citizens believe they live in a narco state and Jan Struijs, the chair of the biggest police union says: “If you look at the infrastructure, the big money earned by organized crime, the parallel economy. Yes, we have a narco-state.”

Off course cuts to police budgets and the judiciary in general is a big reason why the state don’t seem to get much progress on repressing this expanding drug trade. Cause let’s face it, that is all the state under capitalism can do, repress. What could be the answer to stop this from spiralling out of control? Legalisation and state regulation of drug production could be part of it, but I can imagine the cartels won’t be happy with that and will increase the violence to retain their market monopoly. This is a global problem which in my mind needs a global solution. And why do poppy farmers in Colombia and Peru grow poppies? Because it is more lucrative and they are being forced into it by the cartels. So just offering farmers an alternative is not necessarily going to work. I believe this problem needs tackling on all fronts, from the farmers to the users, and in the end, if people are offered better opportunities and lives generally they will take that over crime any day. So yes, and I’m sure I am boring for saying this but we need system change, socialism, for a better life for everyone.

It feels me with intense sadness to write this article about the country I love and grew up in. Since I left 11 years ago the violence has become increasingly worse, and no real change has been achieved to stop this stream of murders and the ocean of despair drugs cause in society. I have been a victim of this myself, and I feel a burning desire to do something about it.

For now I want to conclude by giving my solidarity and love to Peter R. De Vries and his family, my thoughts are with you and I feel even more determined to proceed to study and contribute to the Criminology community, and continue the important work Peter has done, and hopefully will continue to do for my home country.

References/Credits

Image credits Peter R. De Vries: DWDD, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Correa, G. (2020) ‘The Netherlands Is at Risk of Becoming a Narco State‘ Available at https://www.addictioncenter.com/news/2020/01/netherlands-narco-state/ (last accessed 07/07/2021).

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A New Name

As we approach ever deeper into summer, which doesn’t seem to express itself as such, the weather matches my thoughts as I go deeper into my transitioning journey.

But before I go into that, I do feel I owe you a small apology for leaving it so long since the last post. I do however have a good excuse. You might have looked around on my website and found a lot of changes. I have created a web shop called ‘Gif-shop‘ where I intend to sell my artwork on prints, mugs and even t-shirts. But this has had some unforeseen consequences, namely I have had to become a bit of an IT expert as all the big platforms (Google, Facebook, Instagram etc.) have extremely tight rules for small businesses like mine. Anyway, I spare you the details, I just wanted to let you know I haven’t been doing nothing!

So, as I was starting to say, my transitioning journey has been evolving a little since I cut my hair. My youngest child also has noticed and I have been thinking about other aspects of myself that I feel don’t fit anymore. One aspect is that I have been trying for some time now to lose weight. In 2014 I had my last big mental health crisis, after which I finally decided I had no other choice then start taking medication. I have always been anxious and apprehensive about taking any kind of medication, as it also is a means of control over people. Which as an old punk I really don’t like. But in 2006, after finally being diagnosed with EUPD and Dystymic Disorder I went through some very intense therapy, group therapies of all kinds, for over 2.5 years, without medication. That therapy has helped to get some normality back in my day-to-day life, but it did not touch any of the underlying issues and past trauma.

In my orange F1 Max Verstappen top 😉

Anyway, after that crisis in 2014 the mental health team put me on the highest dose of Mirtazipine over a period which frankly changed my life. I have not had another crisis since. But it did mean I gained 30kg until I weighed 115kg at my heaviest (I am 6 foot tall, 1m80). The positives far outweighed (pun!) the negatives cause it allowed me to work fulltime for 5 years as a lorry driver and get my confidence back after a horrendous separation and divorce.

But now, I have asked my psychiatrist to wean me off mirtazipine and instead I get another anti-depressant which doesn’t have the weight gain side-effect. So hopefully I will lose some of that weight. Sadly it doesn’t mean I can come off all the other stuff I’m on either, but hey, I can live with the rest. So that is one change which hopefully is going to make me feel better about myself.

There is something else I want to share with you all though. I have been thinking about changing my name. Mayola is a female name, and I really would like to have a more neutral-male sounding name. How difficult is that though, to think of a name for yourself at age 47 that truly reflects how you feel and expresses your identity! I wanted a cool name, maybe to honour a fellow artist/revolutionary and then I knew it, it is going to be…..Kahlo. In honour and respect for Frida Kahlo who I feel is a great role model and fellow revolutionary artist. But obviously Frida is too feminine, but Kahlo is different and rare, and kind of cool I think.

So, there it is. The big reveal! Haha. So, if you do want to get in touch, please do, and address me as Kahlo, with they/them pronouns. And another trans term you might not know about; my old name is my ‘dead name’. Thank you for reading! Catch you next time.

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Why I wear black

Since I was a teenager my favourite colour has always been black. And this week I have been thinking about that. Why do I wear black? What is it that I like so much about that colour? I hear my 10 year old tell me, black is not a colour. No. It isn’t, because it absorbs all light. And the colour white reflects it.

Now, let’s think about that for a minute. I imagine what it would be like to always wear white. Immediately what comes to my mind is that it would attract attention, because it is more noticeable. That is the inevitable consequence of the reflection of light. Psychologically I think that is not what I want. Attract attention. I have a sense of feeling vulnerable, insecure and self-conscious because of my gender transitioning, because of having been victim of sexual predators and domestic violence, because of my mental-health conditions and how I am perceived. I don’t want to feel that, but it is always there, in my mind somewhere, even if I feel good. It feels like I have a big sign on my forehead saying I am a target, come hunt me down. Perhaps this is just paranoia, and it doesn’t really matter if it is or isn’t. That is how I feel, a lot.

It isn’t just those aspects of myself I just mentioned, it literally is my whole being. Let me explain. Physically I don’t fit in the norm, I am 6 foot 1, assigned female at birth (AFAB), I have a thick Dutch accent, so anyone I talk to knows immediately I am an immigrant, I am big and muscular (well, just overweight actually, lol), I am very direct which in the UK means people think I am aggressive. I am diagnosed with EUPD (Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder), the label already feels like a massive threat and one of the symptoms is paranoia. I also have a mood disorder (Dystymic Disorder) which makes me depressed most of the time, which also includes irritability, and massive mood swings. Luckily I am medicated which have largely made my life better and stabilised most of these. Still, all this has made me a recluse. I struggle to make lasting and meaningful relationships, friendships let alone romantic relationships. I am at home 23 hours a day, 1 hour to walk my dog. That’s it. Strangely I feel very comfortable living like this. I know it is unhealthy, but it feels good.

Wearing black enhances these aspects. It absorbs my feelings, and it is like a protective shield almost. But another aspect of me that is different is my political views. I am a Marxist and Trotskyist and a proud member of the Socialist Party. I am a revolutionary. That is not exactly mainstream. A part of my political views is that it comes with a responsibility. In order to truly be a revolutionary I am obliged to be open about it, and live it in an active way. Hiding this aspect of me would be betrayal of myself, and what I stand for. I have to actively carry out being a revolutionary socialist, and recruit, fundraise, campaign and show solidarity to my class. Unfortunately this is in complete contradiction to my overwhelming urge to isolate and be alone. I have not found a way to merge the two or overcome this. But I do what I can. And wearing black helps me.

Wearing Black

Another thing I was pondering is, maybe it is also an expression of anger and resistance to what the colour of my skin stands for, still. I am white. As I mentioned in earlier episodes of this blog, racism is in my family, my country, my culture, my education, everything I experienced growing up. And from a very young age I rejected it because I could see the immense injustice, discrimination and suffering black & ethnic minority communities endure. I can’t stand it. So in a way, to me wearing black is an act of solidarity with anyone suffering adversity and discrimination.

Black is inclusive, absorbing, all encompassing, enveloping, safety, peace, rest, withdrawal of people, inward, calm and accepting.

I love what Johnny Cash sang in his song ‘Man in Black‘:

“Well, there’s things that never will be right I know
And things need changing everywhere you go
But ’til we start to make a move to make a few things right
You’ll never see me wear a suit of white

Ah, I’d love to wear a rainbow every day
And tell the world that everything’s okay
But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back
‘Til things are brighter, I’m the Man In Black”

And then further down in the song:

“Well, there’s things that never will be right I know
And things need changing everywhere you go
But ’til we start to make a move to make a few things right You’ll never see me wear a suit of white

Ah, I’d love to wear a rainbow every day
And tell the world that everything’s okay
But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back
‘Til things are brighter, I’m the Man In Black”

I think it is about time white people do their bit to set the record of imperialism, plunder, looting and enslaving whole continents straight and redefine the words ‘white’ and ‘black’. Cause how sickening is it to claim the word ‘black’ for everything bad, dirty and evil, and ‘white’ for everything clean, divine and right? When we look at the world today I can only conclude that that is false and we need to redefine those words, and redefine their meaning. For starters. I believe every white person today has the responsibility to do what they can to actively live this change.

For me the only way to change all this is by changing the system of inequality, greed, exploitation and oppression. That is a big task. But if we all talk to our family, neighbours, friends, collegues we will. It starts by not accepting it, calling it out, protesting and asking others to join you.

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Take a look in the mirror – imperialism, racism and white supremacy in the 21st century

One year on from George Floyd’s murder by US police officer Derek Chauvin I reflect on my own (white) experiences of white supremacy, imperialism and racism, and the research I have done over this last year regarding my own family and country’s conduct.

Read about your history

After watching the world erupt in protest of his killing, and the thousands before and after him, I felt compelled to take a long hard look in the mirror. What is my role in all this? What can I do to change the narrative, to change the relationship between white people and everybody else? What have I done, and what do I know about my own family, my own country’s conduct regarding colonialism, imperialism, racism and white supremacy? And what can I do differently to improve?

These are some of the questions I had when I watched all the riots, protests and demands for change over the summer of 2020. I started off by buying 3 books called ‘We, slaves of Surinam‘ by the black communist Anton de Kom, which became a best seller after 86 years of being published and ‘Poet in the jungle‘ by Roelof Van Gelder about J.G. Stedman, a Dutch/British army officer in Surinam in the 18th century. The third book ‘Roofstaat‘ by Ewald Vanvugt is about the atrocities committed by the Dutch state across the world since the first colonising voyages took place 4-5 centuries ago until the present day. None of the information I read about in these books I had ever heard at school or anywhere else. To be honest, I was in complete shock when I finished them. I had never heard of Anton De Kom, who is in my eyes the Martin Luther King of the Netherlands. I only came across these books after a friend posted about them on Facebook. I am 47 years old and I had never heard of this man, who played such a big role in fighting for equality for black people in my country. I felt ashamed. I felt embarrassment. I felt guilt. And I was starting to wonder what my role is in this horrific history of white supremacy, racism and plunder, and what I can do to change it.

Racism in the family

As I have written about in past posts, my younger sister is adopted from India. She is one-and-a-half year younger than me, and she was 5 months old when she arrived. At 5 months old she had already been past around several carers. First her birth mother, who walked 200 miles from a rural village in Bihar to New Delhi whilst pregnant. Then the Mother Theresa children’s home. Then an American lady and her millionaire Indian husband, and then my parents. My parents have treated her like a Cinderella, second class, and subjected her to the most horrific physical and emotional abuse, as well as neglect. In the first year that she arrived, she was in a bad way through malnutrition and scabies, but on top of that she cried 24/7 for a year. She physically rejected my parents attention and showed clear signs of Reactive Attachment Disorder. Off course this disorder was not known back in the 70’s, let alone availability of support and help.

So my question is: is this trend of adopting children from poor countries the new imperialism, the new colonialism, the new racism? I mean my parents’ intention was to help a child who, in their eyes, had very poor prospects of survival let alone development of talents and a career, and to give her a good life.

They never anticipated she would come with a whole host of issues that they were not equipped to deal with, nor had the knowledge of or background for. They never thought about what the consequences are for a baby, a child, a person, who is ripped from their natural environment, her family, her culture, her history at a time she should be physically and emotionally bonding with her mother and father. This child, who is in every possible way so very different from their own, her smell, her cry, her skin colour. How can they keep telling themselves and us children, that she is equal to me and that she will be treated as their child as if she was their own, and then abuse her, neglect her and treat her like dirt?

Towards a socialist system

Why did they not put their efforts and their money into trying to get this country India to the state it should be in, before the British, and I have now found out before them, the Dutch plundered and enslaved its people? If they would have done that, my sister would possibly have been living happily with her family, or at least been adopted by an Indian family. Well, the answer is off course that they did not have the insight, the understanding and the education to think in that direction. We all have been completely brainwashed and conditioned into thinking that we, white people of the West, are superior to everyone else, and we know what civilisation and education is, because look at the state of Western countries. Aren’t we doing great? We have (well, once upon a time) a welfare state, trade unions, holidays and minimum wages and 40 hour working weeks. We have wealth and strong economies.

Che Guavara – symbol of struggle is available at Leftbooks

Racism in the familyYes, we do. Or we did. But where does this wealth come from? From hard work off course! That is what we learn at school, from TV and advertising, from the news even. Generation upon generation is being told this. But it is all a big fat lie. All that wealth comes from plundering, looting and stealing the wealth and enslaving people in the rest of the world and, let’s not forget at home. Because the working classes in the Western world were and are sometimes still treated worse than slaves. Here’s a passage from Friedrich Engels’ (1885) book ‘The Condition of the Working Class in England’, in which he says about the bourgeoisie:

They are slave-masters in effect. The factory system ends all freedom in law and in fact. The operative must be in the mill at half-past five in the morning; if he comes a couple of minutes too late, he is fined; if he comes ten minutes too late, he is not let in until breakfast is over, and a quarter of the day’s wages is withheld, though he loses only two and one-half hours’ work out of twelve. He must eat, drink, and sleep at command.”

Engels makes the comparison with chattel slavery in the US specific when he says,

“They are worse slaves than the Negroes in America, for they are more sharply watched, and yet it is demanded of them that they shall live like human beings, shall think and feel like men! Verily, this they can do only under glowing hatred towards their oppressors, and towards that order of things which places them in such a position, which degrades them as machines.”

Wage slavery today

This account really rings true to me today, when we hear about Amazon drivers pissing in bottles, or in a Sports Direct warehouse a pregnant woman delivering on the warehouse floor, extreme surveillance on workers and union busting, de-skilling and fire-and-rehire techniques. My Tesco delivery guy has to hold down 3 jobs to be able to look after his family of a wife and 2 kids. So I think we can safely conclude that racism, white supremacy and imperialism are ways in which this economic system of capitalism uses to still its indomitable lust for profit.

So what I am trying to say is, that only by fighting for a different system, that is not based on the exploitation of natural resources, people and competition, but aims to build on what people need to flourish, only then can we get rid of racism, imperialism and slavery. To start this process, we white people need to start taking a long hard look in the mirror, and see how we contribute to the continuation of these inequalities and exploitations.

Yes we need to pay reparations, yes we need to apologise for the deeds of our ancestors, yes we need to give back all the art, objects, gold and diamonds. Yes we need to tear down those statues and replace them with true heroes of equality. Yes we need to examine our society today and get rid of everything that contributes to exploitation and racism today. That is a massive task. But it has to be done and it is long overdue. And for me and my family, yes, we do need to do what we can to stop the cycle of abuse, and try to build our relationship as sisters in pain. How? I don’t know, I make it up as I go along, but I do know that learning about my country’s past is helping me in this process.

I urge you, if you agree, to join me in the Socialist Party in England & Wales or in the Committee for a Worker’s International (CWI) in your country.

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Can poverty, crime and inequality end under capitalism?

A contradictio in terminis

To answer this question it is important to know what capitalism really is. How does it function? Capitalism is a hierchiacal economic system which is build around private property of the means of production in pursuit of profit through competition in the market, where prices for goods and services are determined by demand and supply of materials and wage labour. It is build on the exploitation of workers, and the environment. Because wages are the biggest cost for capitalists, the owners of the means of production (the bosses) are always looking for ways to drive the wages down. They have no influence on the price of raw materials, or the running cost of the factory, or transport, so wages are the way to increase profits. They do this for instance by competition for jobs. By playing the workers out against each other. A great example at the moment is the de-skilling of electricians at the Hinkley Point Nuclear Reactor by two big construction companies. By introducing a new apprenticeship in which candidates do a 2 month course with a job at the end they by-pass expensive fully qualified electricians who train for years to get their qualifications. Off course this also goes to the detriment of safety on site, as these apprentices cannot possibly deliver safe work after only 8 weeks on the job.

Cutting cost on wages is one way to increase profit, and cutting cost on safety another. This can be done by increasing working hours, using cheaper materials, and driving wages down through precarious contracts, zero-hour contracts and bogus self-employment for instance in gig-economy jobs. Every morsel of cost is diverted back onto the worker, or the consumer. An example of this can be found in care work. Many care workers are on zero-hours contracts, have to pay for travel between jobs themselves, and are put under extreme time pressure (15 min visits in which they have to wash, cloth and feed a person). These workers are only paid per visit, time waiting in traffic, travelling between clients etc. is unpaid. Many of these workers, millions in fact, are on such a low wage that they cannot sustain themselves and their families. In April 2019 2 million workers earnt on or under the minimum wage in the UK said the Low Pay Commission (2021) as cited in The Commons Library (2021). In April 2019 the minimum wage was £7.83 per hour for adults over 25 (UK Government, 2021).The average rent in the UK in 2019 was £700 a month (ONS, 2020), so an adult working 40 hours a week would earn £313.20 a week which is £1357,20 a month. That person would have £657.20 left per month = £151.66 per week for all other bills, travel, food and clothing. Off course if you have children or are on a zero hour contract you likely have less than this.

It is no wonder that many young people, who are under 25 and earn significantly less than the above, are driven into the arms of gangs and feel there is no other option than crime to earn a living. Austerity has decimated youth services, education opportunities and apprenticeships. All other public service provisions have been cut to the bone, many local authorities are in enormous debt and face bankruptcy (for instance Northamptonshire County Council, in 2018). The capitalist system looks to privatise all public services, so the market can monetise it and make every aspect of life a commodity, to be bought and sold. The result is massive disparity between rich and poor, and the middle classes falling into the poor category more and more, as slowly the greed of an ever decreasing group of exceedingly rich people have to tap into the wealth of an ever increasing group.

Pamphlet ‘The Transitional Programme‘ by Leon Trotsky, Leftbooks

To control this immense army of poor, capitalists use divisions and inequality to their advantage. Individualism is encouraged and promoted, collectivism discouraged and criminalised. Racism, sexism, homo-, and transphobia and any discrimination of ethnic minorities is rife as a result. As long as people fight amongst each other, anger and frustration is not aimed at the real causes of their suffering; the ruling class, the rich, the big corporations, the state and the capitalist system itself.

Last night I attended a Zoom meeting titled: ‘Is it a crime to be poor?’, with speakers including academics and former prisoners, and it was chaired by a Labour MP. The whole discussion was addressing lots of different aspects of the problem, and many attendees gave hosts of ideas what needed to be done about them. But nobody actually addressed HOW we could achieve them. When I asked why we were not talking about the cause of poverty and crime, namely the capitalist system and how to overthrow it, the answer was: ‘Because it is too big to deal with’. Others were saying that when we chip away at the fringes, deal with smaller issues somehow we could change the narrative and slowly change the system. What a cop out.

In my opinion these types of responses are given by people who don’t have any trust in the power of the working class, in the power of many, many millions of people fighting collectively to overcome their suffering. Yes, it is a huge task. Yes it is very difficult and challenging, but it is not impossible. And, above all, it is the only way it will be able to bring about lasting change for the benefit of all. Think about it. How will the capitalists with their wealth and power respond to ‘chipping away at the fringes’ and single issue responses? Exactly, with force and only a little force is needed to stamp that idea out as it only is done by a few well-wishers and do-gooders. But think about what they can do when millions of people strike and protest at the same time, what can they do when the whole economy is disrupted, like you could see happening during the Covid lockdowns worldwide. There is nothing they can do, because together we, the workers make the world go round. So in my view, our task is to convince our families, neighbours, colleagues and friends of this way. Read Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and Leon Trotsky, their ideas are worked out to the letter of what is needed to make this happen, and join the Socialist Party or the Committee for a Worker’s International (CWI)for the section in your country.

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Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment. It may evoke changes in them such as cognitive dissonance or low self-esteem, rendering the victim additionally dependent on the gaslighter for emotional support and validation. Using denial, misdirection, contradiction and disinformation, gaslighting involves attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s beliefs.

(Wikipedia, 2021)

You might have heard of this term in relation to domestic violence and narcissistic personalities, but mostly individual cases. But I would like to consider that gaslighting happens on an industrial scale by political figures and parties, governments and whole industries. The aim? To stay in power, and forever exploit working-class people for the benefit of an ever smaller group of increasingly, obscenely rich individuals. Ultimately, to keep the capitalist system with it’s skewed and unequal political system in place.

As public opinion and understanding of the social world has evolved from the times of slavery and colonisation, so has the capitalist class been forced to result to ever obscure, hidden and underground means of exploitation. Still, slavery exists today, and child labour is rife in poorer countries. But in the western world these abominations have gone completely underground, hidden and banned. I would argue that still, in the UK child labour exists. Gangs use children to transport drugs along their county-lines, as sex slaves and thieves (KSS CRC, 2019). And a seemingly ever expanding network of paedophiles exploit children for their sexual gratification, in which undoubtedly large amounts of money change hands.

Racial gaslighting – Express article

But how does this relates to gaslighting? Well, you might remember the child sexual abuse scandal which started the public inquiry Independent Inquiry Child Sexual Abuse. This unveiled the widespread scale of this problem within our communities, churches and state run services. Victims have a very hard time getting heard, still now. They are being silenced, intimidated and gaslighted into thinking their pain is not valid, not important and dismissed as lies. It has been proven very hard to hold big organisations like the Catholic church, the Church of England and state run children’s homes and schools, football clubs and other powerful figures to account. This points to a system that is functioning to the benefit of a few very powerful people, and subsequently to the exploitation of the vulnerable. But this all starts with an education system that is in the process of being privatised, run for profit, instead of run for the education of young people. So what do children learn in this system? They learn straight away the world is divided in groups, male and female, rich and poor, black and white. They learn everything is a competition, and only the best achievers, the most beautiful and fastest are worth the best wages. And literally, the schools get funding to how well the grades of their pupils are. The higher the grades, the more funding they get. So from a young age, children learn that if you don’t fit in, you are worth less. It undermines people’s confidence, especially in the time of their lives that they are most vulnerable, least confident and still developing their identity. Social media, advertisements and promotions exacerbate and install these judgements, divisions and, frankly, lies. Schools don’t teach children about their country’s colonial, oppressive past, employment rights and empowerment. They teach them just enough to be a productive citizen, but not enough to stand up for yourself and others, question the rules and laws and the power of the collective. Instead it makes people question their sanity, their sense of self, their validity. That is exactly why I think capitalist society uses gaslighting on an industrial scale to pursue profit and keep the gravy train rolling.

References

Kent, Surrey & Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company (2019) Research: County Lines (Literature Review) [Online], December 2019. Available at https://www.ksscrc.co.uk/2020/01/06/research-county-lines-literature-review/ (Accessed 10/05/2021).

Wikipedia (2021) Gaslighting [Online], 04/05/2021. Available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaslighting#References (Accessed 10/05/2021).

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Identity transition

Only a few years ago, in 2019, I realised age 45 that I identify as transgender – androgynous to be precise, which comes under the non-binary branch of the transgender tree. I am still on a journey trying to figure out how to express this, and exactly what it means to me, and also more importantly exactly how I feel. Since then, I have cut off my hair and got a ‘male’ haircut. My clothes have also changed to more unisex and I wear more gender neutral glasses. And off course, I have really thought about it a lot.

I think that when I was younger, if I had received the support and encouragement I needed, I would probably have transitioned to male. But back then, off course this was out of the question, and I was forced to conform as soon as I hit puberty. This, and also massively the childhood trauma I experienced, led to lots of mental health issues, drug abuse and sexual- and domestic abuse.

Only now, I have the mental space and peace inside myself to start to address my gender identity. I accept my body now, as it is female, but I can’t accept the female identity. I still feel mostly male inside, but at the moment the androgynous identity feels best suited to my feelings. I don’t feel I have the strength and endurance to go through a full transition to male, it feels like a massive task to even think about. And, still, I am not sure that is truly how I feel. I do however, feel very confident in my new identity. But, I have no friends or anyone who I can relate to, and talk to about this.

Another aspect is that I am now confused about my sexuality. I have always had hetero sexual relationships, but only had one time I really fancied a woman, although I did not have the courage to make it known to her. Now I question how I feel. I really feel attracted to the idea of pan-sexuality, which means being sexually attracted to people, regardless of their gender identity. But the biggest obstacle in exploring this is that I have no social life to speak of, and struggle to trust anyone. There are so many aspects of me that are not conforming with the norm, I just don’t know where to start or how to find likeminded individuals even just to make friends with. Also my traumatic past is a major factor in this, I just feel I have nothing to fall back on, no reserve, no strong support network.

Basically, I feel I can’t afford to make any more mistakes in my choice of partner, also for my daughter’s sake who is struggling to accept even the idea of me getting another relationship. Well, with a man, cause as far as she’s concerned, she could live with a woman or other transgender person, but not a man. But my concerns are more about my wrong choices of partner, ending up in abusive relationships in the past. But now I have been single for about 7 years, and I really yearn for someone to share life with.

Luckily I have learned a few things over the years which could help me overcome some of the difficulties. I have learned that I need to put strict boundaries in place when I deal with people. And then, adhere to it myself which means that I have to make sure others and myself do not cross my boundaries. For instance, when I get to know a person I should not meet at my or their house the first time, or even the second time. I should not stay the night before I am certain this person will respect my boundaries, and is cautious to give me space to develop trust. This I find very difficult, and I tend to make lots of excuses why I should not stick to this rule, or why the other person doesn’t need to adhere to it, which undermines my self-care regime and sense of self respect. I understand this comes from my self-loathing and lack of self love. So to protect myself I have for years locked myself away in my house, and been quite stand-offish and put up a front.

This does no longer suffice. I am lonely and really suffer from lack of social interaction. At the same time though, the pressure is mounting inside me, because I don’t think I now have the skills to safely go out there and date, or even socialise. That is a dangerous situation developing there. What am I going to do?

For now, I try to reach out in safe places like my friends in the Socialist Party and carefully try to make friends at uni. I am in a few trans/non-binary groups but it seems there’s mainly very young people in there, and quite focused on physical appearance.

So, if any of you are in their 40’s or 50’s, are active socialists and interested in friendship, please get in touch ;).

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Undoing Social Protection

Steve Tombs, The Open University   “It’s going to come to the point where it’s going to affect the residents, the local population, in many ways we are at that point now, public health and protection is being eroded.” Environmental Health Officer, Merseyside   Making Regulation Better   In 2004, Sir Phillip Hampton was appointed […]

Undoing Social Protection
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Developing criminological imagination

As the end of my module is in sight and I finish with an end of module assignment, I will have to explain how my criminological imagination has developed over the course of this year.

What does it mean?

The term criminological imagination was coined by the work of the sociologist Charles Wright Mills (1959) and his book The Sociological Imagination. In his book he states: ‘the sociological imagination* includes ‘a quality of mind’ that offers ‘an understanding of the intimate realities of ourselves in connection with larger social realities’ (p. 15). This means placing individuals in their own past but also of the society in which they live. So the issues of an individual are placed in their own daily experiences and social positions as well as in a society with social divisions and inequalities (as cited in Drake and Scott, 2019, p 238-240).

This way of thinking about crime opens up a way that is much more inclusive and open-minded than the way crime is thought about in the Criminal Justice System (CJS) or in public opinion. The criminological imagination consists of 3 components:

  • Considering crime problems from several different perspectives and using critical methods to look at their effects and possible solutions. Approaching them with a sense of scientific interest.
  • It offers a broad based approach to studying crime which places the individual in their social, historical and structural frame of reference.
  • Its goal is to understand the criminological world by making close associations between a person’s experiences (private troubles) and the wider world (public issues). (Drake and Scott, 2019, p. 242)

This last point really got my interest because when I think about all the blog posts I have written, I have tried to do exactly that: placing my own experiences in a wider context, but also placing particular criminological concepts in a socialist context. By writing my thoughts down every week, I really felt I deepened my understanding and enhanced my learning greatly. I think it has developed my criminological imagination.

The Sociological Imagination by C. Wright Mills

Anchor points

Whilst studying a criminological subject, to really get a good comprehension it is necessary to collect various concepts, evidence and claims. Whilst doing so you can discover the overall scope of this topic through identifying ‘anchor points‘ as Mills (1959) argued. He referred to these as ‘key points that anchor general statements about the shape and the trend of the subject’ (p. 201, as cited in Drake and Scott, 2019, p. 246). Or in a nutshell evidence, a correlation or even a direct opposite that points out a particular subject in a different way or helps to identify its boundaries.

For example when we look at the concept of domestic violence, an anchor point could be that although there has been legislation implemented to define it and prosecute it, there is a disparity in how it is dealt with by the police and also the fact that many victim/survivors don’t press charges against their abuser, or even report it results in 2 women a week being killed by their predominantly male (former) partners in the UK (UKEssays, 2018). By identifying more and more anchor points a criminologist can then pull out powerful outcomes about how a concept is developed in society.

The social harm perspective

Sociologist Paddy Hillyard and colleagues (2004) have concluded after careful examining of various research that instead of only focusing on criminal acts it would be much more helpful to include all social harm including all acts that have influence on someone’s health, wellbeing and wealth during a lifetime. The intention is to enlarge the criminological focus to include these harms instead of minimising criminal acts (Hillyard and Tombs, 2004, p. 21 as cited in Drake and Scott, 2019, p.247).

I think a very good example to examine this idea is the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017. This fire has caused unimaginable suffering and death, but still, nearly 4 years on, there have been no arrests, and no crime has been identified. The reason for this is partly because corporate crime is very difficult to prosecute and mostly results in a fine for the company, rather than that an individual or group of individuals is held to account. But, if the idea of Hillyard and colleagues would be applied, all the harms caused by this fire would become crime, and perhaps the parties involved could be held to account. A point I would like to make though, would be that it is great and in my view absolutely correct this widening of the concept of crime, but within the capitalist system it would never become an actual fact, because it immediately affects big business and those in positions of power within the state. Those people create the law and will never allow their interests to be negatively impacted. It would be like turkeys voting for Christmas. But perhaps that is not the point, after all criminologists can only examine, study and draw conclusions and by doing so put pressure on the legislature and society as a whole to change.

My personal development of criminological imagination

As I pointed out before, my End of Module Assessment (EMA) is coming up in which I have to explain how my criminological imagination has developed over this module. I am very excited to see that I have greatly developed it by writing this blog. I did not realise it would help me so much gathering my thoughts and gaining a deeper understanding of the module material. This blog has been a playground and exercise to figure out my understanding of the different concepts and writing down my thoughts of all the theories and standpoints. I would like to thank in particular Derek Marsdon who has commented on most of my posts and given me great confidence to carry on with in particular my series of articles placing criminology concepts in a socialist context. I would like to take this opportunity to encourage more of you readers to do follow his lead.

I would also like to thank all the lecturers and professors of the Open University involved in writing the module material and the extra study material that the Harm and Evidence Research Collaborative (HERC) have provided. This is another blog on WordPress which I can strongly recommend.

Over the coming months I will continue my blog posts but from September I am going to study fulltime so I am afraid it will become a lot less frequent.

Lastly I would like to thank all my subscribers for following me, and I hope you will continue to. Please leave comments to encourage me, as it does sometimes feel like I am talking to myself (lol).

*Sociological imagination: As criminology is part of the social sciences, I will from here on refer to ‘criminological imagination’ as the term refers to each social science subject respectively.

References

Drake, D. H. and Scott, D. (2019) ‘The criminological imagination’, in Downes, J., Kent, G, Mooney, G., Nightingale, A. and Scott, D. (eds) Introduction to Criminology 2, Milton Keynes, Open University, pp. 237–257.

UKEssays, (November 2018) History of Domestic Violence and Legislation in the UK. [online]. Available from: https://www.ukessays.com/essays/criminology/literature-review-domestic-violence.php?vref=1 [Accessed 20 April 2021].