# society

This is a bombshell story that isn’t getting much uptake in the news: Facebook censored Canadian posts about the assassination of Bhai Hardeep Singh Nijjar due to pressure from India.

“Enslaving countries procured 801.58 million life years of free labour on which they were able to prosper.”

At Aeon, Swedish history professor Lars Trägårdh describes a really interesting framework for understanding power structures, which you can plot on a triangle:

Germany  ╱  ╲  Sweden
Family         Individual
     United States

Each point of the triangle represents a social structure (state, family, individual), and each edge has an example of a country that relies more heavily on the two adjacent power structures.

What does the “family” point represent? To illustrate, the Trägårdh gives the example of going to school in the United States. When the registrar at his university told him that he would need to submit his parents’ income to apply for funding, he was puzzled. This requirement suggested that Trägårdh should rely on his parents for support, even though he was already an adult. It also gave his parents theoretical power over him. If he did rely on them for financial support, they could place demands on him, like telling him what he was allowed to study. As a Swede, this was a completely foreign idea. In Swedish society, the individual is beholden to the collective, but not necessarily to the family.

In the West, we’re very comfortable subsuming the rights of the individual to the family unit — whether in our approach to childcare, divorce, or social support. If we alleviated the pressure on the family unit, maybe individuals would feel more freedom to participate in family life based on joy, rather than expectation.

A UN expert has voiced concerns about the rights of LGBTI people in the UK.

In the current political and media culture, the rights of LGBTI people, particularly trans people, are often presented as a threat to other groups, such as women (with some perhaps forgetting that a significant number of LGBTI people are also women).

Living in the UK, I see every day that those concerns are completely justified. More and more “progressives” monger fear about fictional harms caused by trans people while ignoring the very real spike in hate crimes against trans people.

In my mom’s latest blog, she describes her most extreme form of thrifting: taking things out of the gutter. While I personally struggle to imagine eating a head of lettuce I found in the street, I am grateful to have been raised by someone with such a strong sense of adventure, civic duty, and ingenuity. I’d like to think it rubbed off on me.

The people of Vienna enjoy easy access to high-quality, affordable rental apartments. How did Austria figure it out?

In New York Times Magazine, Francesca Mari explains that it comes down to basic economics. Most Western countries subsidize housing by giving money directly to renters and homeowners, which only increases demand for housing, driving up prices and profits. In America, buying a house is more lucrative than working. Meanwhile, a third of Americans live in inadequate housing.

In Vienna, the government subsidizes the construction of “limited-profit housing,” which ensures that low-cost housing is available to almost anyone. That keeps prices low in the private housing market, too.

Why is housing in America so bad? Mari says it goes back to early American anti-Communism. After the Great Depression, Roosevelt needed to rebuild American housing, but he didn’t want to follow the socialist model of Austria. Instead, his government created huge subsidies for homeowners, including guaranteeing long-term mortgage loans for first-time buyers, which banks would otherwise never touch. This government money provided the fuel for the suburban housing boom after WWII. It also radically reshaped America’s demographic landscape, deepening segregation and inequality.

Over on Substack, my mom has published a call for everyone to embrace litter collection as the new cool trend in active living.

I retrofitted a perfectly good grocery buggy someone had abandoned and now use it for days when I want to take on an entire section of street. Do you live here?, an apartment dweller yells down from his balcony. No, I say, But I’m not picky, Garbage is garbage.

Litter’s not always the product of carelessness; it’s not necessarily the work of a deranged sociopath. Sometimes it’s bagged garbage that’s gotten loose, the victim of a hit and run or a strong wind, contents spilled and spreading. Someone has to deal with it. It won’t pick itself up, my mother would say.

A Google search for “what’s the word for picking up litter” informs me that it’s already starting to happen: Merriam Webster calls it “placking”, derived from the Swedish plogging (picking up litter while jogging) itself a portmanteau of plocka upp (Swedish for picking up) and jogging.

The CBC reports that the Manitoba Department of Justice has told incarcerated Indigenous women that they are no longer allowed to sell beadwork. In Canada, Indigenous women are twelve times more likely to be incarcerated than non-Indigenous women. In the prairies, they make up more than 50% of the female prison population. In 2018, the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women published a study on Indigenous women in federal prisons, which called for more cultural programming in prison that considers Indigenous women’s cultural and economic situations, to support their “ability to heal and rehabilitate.” For many Indigenous women, access to their culture “is the only “way to ground themselves and stay connected physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.” Said one witness in the report, “We have to stop thinking about [Indigenous women in prison] as bundles of risk or as behaviours to manage” — which feels like a good characterization of the justice minister’s rationale for eliminating the program: “it was causing concerns and security issues.”

While the DoJ decision demonstrates the reckless cruelty of the prison system, Mi’kmaw lawyer Pam Palmater has argued that reforms like the ones in the House of Commons report aren’t enough. “The overincarceration of Indigenous peoples in federal, provincial and territorial prisons in Canada today is nothing short of genocide… We must confront racism against Indigenous peoples head on and prevent incarceration in the first place.” We have to question a system that puts entire populations at at the mercy of negligent, reckless legislators.

Enrollment at Nova Scotia schools is rising for the first time in half a century. Maybe the tide is turning on Nova Scotian outmigration.

© Sam Littlefair, 2023