UNWRAPPING SOMETHING RADICAL THIS CHRISTMAS

by Liv Barnett

Christmas is rightfully criticised as an event of extreme consumerism and financially the most challenging time of the year for many, especially as satisfying the desires of children come with an increasingly steep price tag. But it is also a time where everyone celebrating it demonstrates the capacity for generosity, self-sacrifice and thought for others. No doubt, the 20th and 21st century history of Christmas is one where people consume as much as possible, with little care for waste or the environment. Articles circulate annually telling us of ‘Christmas towns’ in China where the whole town is populated by families painting little plastic trinkets red, only to be sent to Europe and America for temporary use during this festive season. It is also the time when people accumulate most of their debt, the time when drunk and disorderly behaviour in the UK sky rockets and domestic violence increases dramatically.

However, let’s not feel too glum, even for the those who resent the un-unionised Amazon workers standing in for “Santa’s Little Helpers”, or the fact that Father Christmas is supposedly an old white dude with a beard who delivers gifts, meanwhile a less old white dude with a less impressive beard is remembered for his anthem aiming ‘to save Africa’. There’s still something positive we can focus on.  

Christmas is a time where people in the western world also mark a moment in time and space with togetherness

It is one of the only times of year where everyone is encouraged to spend time and feast with loved ones. Feasts traditionally bring people together, for better or worse, and contribute to how people make and maintain different forms of social relationships. Rather than thinking of Christmas as a time where we are forced to be with family, we can think of it as a time where family is made. The sharing of particular ritual foods, meats and special vegetables puts Christmas in a similar category to feasts that take place throughout the world during significant moments in life, and just like in societies idealised for their collective way of life, Christmas is a time where people in the western world also mark a moment in time and space with togetherness.

Alongside feasting and sharing of particular foods, there is also gifting. Within the academic discipline of anthropology, gifting is not understood merely as a one way transaction of an object for the sake of demonstrating love or kindness, but rather a social practice that establishes ongoing social relationships. These may not always be benign. Gifts can draw people into obligations to others, or begin the process of competitive gifting where people out-gift each other in value or substance and establish their own prestige. Nonetheless, gifting is the antithesis to alienation – it is a moment we give something of ourselves to another person – it might be time taken to find the gift, money spent purchasing it, or thought gone in to choosing it. The gift is far more than the object that is exchanged, it is a material representation of both the social relationship that exists between the participants of the exchange, and also a symbol of the amount of effort and sacrifice someone is willing to make for another without any direct or immediate material gain. Such sacrifice and thought for others is increasingly more rare and is not a virtue promoted in the current neoliberal climate – where we are expected to exercise individual choice and freedom without regard of our impact on others or the environment.. Thinking of others before ourselves is one aspect of Christmas that exists alongside the otherwise alienating aspects of it, where those producing the objects later purchased and exchanged are never to use the object or meet the people who do so (an aspect of what Marx termed as estrangement).

Therefore, this Christmas (and in the lead up to the New Year) try to remember and remind your loved ones, that what has made this period significant to our communities

Christmas, for those fortunate enough to have the resources to celebrate it, and loved ones to celebrate it with can be a time of closeness. It can also be a time of intense stress with an increase in domestic violence and family conflicts. It puts a huge strain on women in particular, who often carry a large proportion of the invisible material and affective labour of Christmas on their shoulders (cooking, choosing presents, decorating, organising guests, placing presents in stockings and cleaning in preparation for hosting). Therefore, it is certainly not a time of ease. But we should nonetheless remember that it is a time where we reforge and maintain our most significant social relationships. This, paradoxically done through immense consumption –  is nonetheless a moment where many of us make time and effort to reconnect with family and friends. Christmas is one of the few rituals left that brings people together in time and space through feasting, gifting and even singing the odd carol. Therefore, this Christmas (and in the lead up to the New Year) try to remember and remind your loved ones, that what has made this period significant to our communities is not just the birth of a religious figure, the reincarnation of earlier pagan rituals, the royal’s taste for German trees or Coca Cola’s branding skills but our relationships of care that are made and maintained. Through the acts of gifting and sharing at Christmas we emphasise the ways we are all connected and affected by one another, as opposed to prioritising the individual that is otherwise pervasive in contemporary political and economic ideologies.  

Featured image :  Christian C  (no changes made, under CC 2.0)


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THE 100FT TALL CANARY

by Stu Lucy

Back in the day, before Maggie had her way, there used to be a thriving northern powerhouse built on the foundations of a mining industry that provided thousands of jobs to people across a vast expanse of our fair isles. It was a dangerous job with the risks of explosions, cave-ins, and noxious fumes overpowering the brave men and women that dared descend into dark depths. One of the tools the miners had to protect themselves from some of the dangers of this perilous job was a tiny little yellow bird in a cage: a canary. When levels of noxious gases began to amass, this small bird would croak it, indicating to the miners it was time to get out. While hardly the most humane method of protecting themselves, it served its purpose and saved countless lives. The mines have now closed and canaries no longer employed to keep the miners safe, the metaphor however lives on, albeit in a somewhat larger capacity.Continue Reading

ON IMMIGRATION 5. BANKING ON THE FUTURE

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by Stu Lucy

 

In my previous piece I outlined a theory that compared the woes of our current modern condition to a biological model of a disease increasing its prevalence across the planet, particularly in the Western world. Although slightly macabre, I feel it was necessary to characterise the systemic issue of unbridled growth in such a dramatic and sensational fashion – after all it is the fate of humankind, and well… the planet, we are talking about here.

I finished with a simple analogy calling for global treatment of this cancer that has befallen us since the mantra of growth has been so fanatically professed by economists, politicians, and industrialists alike. How though may we undertake such a gargantuan task that requires the remodelling of all aspects of our societies, from our education systems to popular culture to our entire global trade system?Continue Reading

ON IMMIGRATION 4. TIME TO TREAT THE DISEASE

by Stu Lucy

Humans move, we always have done and always will do. Our movement has evolved through the existence of our species from necessity – following the seasonal availability of food – to luxury, such as holidays and recreational travelling. While part  of our species has been afforded the opportunity to travel around the planet in our spare time, absorbing the multitude of cultures and landscapes it has to offer, there continues to exist a drive to move to find something better, not for food, as in pre-modern times, but economic and/or environmental security. Economic, climate and conflict migrant populations are increasing year on year, and are so for one very good reason: a global disease.

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ON IMMIGRATION 3. THE NEED TO FULLY GLOBALISE WAR

by Stu Lucy

Reasons for migration come in many forms.The now globalised and fully interconnected 21st century world allows people the capacity to travel great distances in search of work or a better standard of living for themselves. Increasingly though, more and more individuals, mainly from the developing world, are forced into the migrant sphere through no fault of their own. I have already touched on two types of migrant; those coerced by economic situations to move to foreign countries, as well as those unable to sustain themselves in their native environments as a consequence of various forms of climate effects. There is of course another migrant population that find themselves forced to leave everything they held dear behind as a result of more pervasive and damaging spectre: conflict.Continue Reading

ON IMMIGRATION 2. CARBON CAUSES FOOTPRINTS

by Stu Lucy

Immigration is a complex concept., Sophisticated issues such as this are often reduced to simplistic and narrow trails of thought that exclude some of the intricacies vital in understanding the true scope of the issue. In my previous article, I attempted a brief, but lengthy, outline of aspects of economic history that I believe laid a foundation for the increase in migrants choosing to leave their home behind in search of a life they perceive could potentially produce prosperity. Intrinsically entwined into this history is a mechanism of production that, since the ‘great acceleration’, significantly contributes to environmental changes within our global habitat.

It is through this lens that I wish to proceed with this second piece on immigration, as I touch on a demographic within migrant populations forced from their homes by climate change.Continue Reading

OUR LEADERS ARE DRAGGING US BACK TO THE COAL AGE

by Laura Potts

We expect time to encourage positive progression, as new minds surface and opportunities ripen. But recently we are seeing more of the opposite achieved by the leaders of some of the greatest western ‘powers’. Last week, the current president of the United States announced the country’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate deal. This will have seriously detrimental effects on the environment and the future of our planet.

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YOUNG GERMANS AND URBAN GLORIFICATION

by Candice Nembhard

In recent years the discussion of gentrification and globalisation has become almost unavoidable – and for the most part, these terms have now been resigned as popular buzzwords in pseudo-intellectual conversations. As glib as this may sound, I shall do my best to explain.

While many a piece has been written on this subject, this is in fact not my primary focus. My intention is not to deny the lived and consequential reality of western mobilisation, but rather look towards the supporters and benefactors of this growing socio-economic practice. In particular, a generation of young people who are forgoing academic careers in favour of acquired/inherited wealth and personal development. More specifically, I will focus on my experience in post-Brexit Germany.Continue Reading

KARL MARX DEFENDS HENRY KISSINGER BEFORE THE INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT

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by Gary Olson

Content warning: mentions mass murder and drone warfare

Mr. Robert Walpole
Editor-in-Chief
The Onion
1000 Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611

Dear Mr. Walpole:

I read in The Atlantic that Cole Bolton, The Onion’s editor in 2015, said that his publication is devoted to “calling out bullshit” and has “had an anti-corporate rebellious streak throughout [their] editorial history.”

Taking that mission seriously, I submit to you the satire below.

In the spirit of speaking truth to power,

Gary Olson


In a parallel universe, Henry Kissinger is being prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity before the International Criminal Court at The Hague in the Netherlands. Seated at the table with Kissinger is his cunning choice for Chief Defense Counsel, none other than Karl Marx.

The ICC’s Chief Prosecutor addresses the three-judge Trial Chamber, reminding them that the preamble of the Rome Statute establishing the court states “that the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole must not go unpunished.”

She draws upon a myriad of impeccable sources, including historian Greg Grandin’s new book Kissinger’s Shadow. The judges are stunned by the prosecutor’s searing portrayal of the defendant’s alleged responsibility for so many deaths — six million in Indochina alone. An anguished look crosses the face of Norwegian judge Olaf Ingeborg as he watches some unspeakably macabre visual evidence.Continue Reading

COLD WAR MARK II: UNNECESSARY, AVOIDABLE, AND A CHALLENGE TO INTERNATIONAL SECURITY

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by Oliver Steward

Today in international relations we are witnessing a return to a new Cold War between Russia and the West. However, this Cold War Mark II is avoidable, and has only been institutionalised by the actions of both the West and Russia to antagonise one another, and rejuvenate the old Cold War which ceased since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now in the second decade of the 21st Century it is here once again. This new Cold War is characterised by increased tensions between the West and Russia, with rhetoric particularly from the latter becoming increasingly aggressive, and the use of economic measures such as sanctions against Russia by Western powers.

The recent Russian bombardment of the besieged Syrian city of Aleppo has done nothing to ameliorate the current diplomatic tensions, only deepened it. However two important qualifications need to be made about this new Cold War that makes it different to the Cold War of the 20th Century.Continue Reading

BLUE OF DELETION

by Alex Valente

Original Italian by Maria Attanasio (1943-), ‘Rosso…’

Red
which now is blade and shears
flaking wall shadowContinue Reading

THE INHERENTLY RADICAL IDENTITY OF MULTICULTURALISM

by Julian Canlas

‘You are not alive to please the aesthetic of colonized eyes’
– Ijeoma Umebinyuo

 

An interesting thing happens when fully-assimilated BME in the West engage in politics, whilst retaining and proudly displaying their multicultural and racial identities as minorities—they become characterised as ‘radical’ and disruptive to the everyday function of society. Here are examples of how various politicking non-white figures have been portrayed:

  • Prior to Sadiq Khan becoming mayor of London on May 2016, Khan suffered from smear attacks by Zac Goldsmith. Goldsmith’s attacks included ‘Sadiq Khan won’t stand up for London’s Tamil community’ and ‘his party supports a wealth tax on family jewellery,’ with the latter based upon the uncomfortable, racist assumption that this taxation is a defining political issue for South Asians. Goldsmith also branded Khan as a ‘radical,’ belonging to ‘a Labour party that thinks terrorists is its friends’.
  • The newly-elected first Black Muslim president of the NUS, Malia Bouattia, depicted as an ISIS supporter for having been against a 2011 motion condemning ISIS, because of its apparent wording that demonises all Muslims, despite later supporting a revised version condemning ISIS and Islamophobia. She has also been criticised as anti-Semitic despite publicly declaring her stance as anti-Zionist due to Israel’s continued violation of human rights by its continued military occupation of Palestine.

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THE MEMORY OF THE WORLD IS SHORT

by Ellen Musgrove

Cherokee writer and academic Daniel Heath Justice writes in The Kynship Chronicles that ‘the memory of the world is short, and death rides hard in the forgetting.’ Being indigenous and queer, Justice knows very well the selective amnesia of the nation-state, and the resistance that demands.

Such an introduction may seem obscure, but this perceived obscurity demonstrates the problem I want to discuss. The same nation-state amnesia is imbricated in “western” society’s selective mourning of recent terror attacks, the current refugee crisis, and now renewed military intervention.

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AFTER PARIS – THINKING FOR OURSELVES

by Micha Horgan

The events that took place in Paris are deeply upsetting; the implications, vast and immeasurable. Immediate thoughts are naturally for those killed and injured and those who loved and depended on them but beyond this there is a lot to think about. Blame, heightened surveillance, further scrutiny of immigration policies (at a time when this is not needed) and other discriminatory backlash will be at the forefront of our media in the coming months.

Following Friday’s events the rhetoric from some people has been that the Western world is “no longer safe”, that we are moving into a darker time. What is certain is that it is time to think.Continue Reading

WE DON’T NEED TO TALK ABOUT ISLAM, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT HUMANITY

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by Gunnar Eigener

The terrorist attacks in Paris have brought back a feeling of despair, that no matter where we live, there is always someone who wants to hurt us. The shaky camera footage of police storming a building, the bangs of smoke grenades, the echoes of gunfire, have sent a shockwave through France, Europe and the world. In the aftermath, a reaction is already beginning and anger will turn on Muslim individuals, communities, businesses and places of worship. Already a petition to “Stop all immigration and close UK borders until ISIS is defeated” is circulating and has got over 383,000 signatures so far. This will not solve anything, nor will blaming Islam.

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JIHADI JOHN – PRODUCT OF STRUCTURE OR AGENCY?

by Faizal Nor Izham

So the identity of Jihadi John has been revealed and the local press are now going to town on who Muhammad Emwazi was and what his past life in England was like, presumably to put together the pieces behind his state of mind and what drove him to commit such atrocities. Of course, this writer has been keeping tabs on such developments over the past week or so and, without wanting to sound like an amateur psychologist here, has done so in order to gain an idea of what the mind set of the average ISIS recruit is like.

And, truth be told, there seems very little that differentiates Emwazi’s frame of mind from that of any other garden-variety sociopath, such as Ted Bundy or the infamous Columbine high school shooters. If you’re still under the impression that he believes in a deeply-rooted cause, it’s very likely you’re sadly mistaken.

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THE PROBLEM OF EXTREMISM

by Jonathan Lee

Prime Minister Erdoğan was speaking in reaction to the Obama administration identifying Turkey as a moderate Islamic country. The blunt statement challenges much of the narrative coming from Western governments, and forces the West to question the validity of the term as well as another of its favourite loaded words: ‘Extremism’.

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings and the heavily sidelined Boko Haram massacre at Baga, the media’s use of choice words like ‘extremism’, ‘radicalism’, ‘fundamentalism’, and ‘Islamism’ has once once again been unleashed in a daily barrage on our television and computer screens. The corresponding rise of Islamophobia, which was already latent in the West, has reached even higher levels, resulting in liberals, apologists, and leftists having to try and stem the tide of what is sometimes wanton bigotry and racism. An oft deployed tool of argument is the careful labelling and distinction between ‘moderate Islam’ and ‘extremism’, usually in the vein of ‘moderate Muslims are not to blame, extremism is’.

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