Can South Africa's Courts Help the Fight for Social Justice?

Picture credit: Penn State/flickr

Steven Friedman - The view that courts should decide what government policy should be is not only anti-democratic because it wants unelected judges to dictate to elected politicians. It also removes the most important weapon that poor people have - their ability to act to change the world. The first task of a court, which takes social and economic rights seriously, is to empower people to claim rights themselves. The missionary zeal of those who want the court to decide what poor people should get is not only patronising – it is sure to set the fight against poverty back.


Century of Disaster

Picture credit: Eduardo Galeano courtesy Don Usner/Lannan Foundation Eduardo Galeano - Uruguayan novelist Eduardo Galeano, a champion of the underdog, is known for his beautiful turns of phrase that read more like poetry than prose. His 2009 book, ‘Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone’, is a collection of 600 vignettes that contemplate life’s contradictions, both historical and contemporary. From Fidel Castro to the Berlin Wall, Galeano’s reflections provide a powerful and mesmerizing commentary on history, its people and its injustices. This excerpt of his book ‘Century of Disaster’ covers recent historical figures in movingly transcendental reflections. Read about Joseph Stalin, Albert Einstein, Fidel Castro, Mao Zedong, Muhammad Ali, Josephine Baker and Barbie.

From Marikana to the Fall of African Bank: How Unsecured Loans and Low Wages Create a Hollow Economy

Picture credit: Narrow Bridge Finance Saliem Fakir - The connection between Marikana and African Bank (Abil) may seem tenuous. But there is a connection. "Moneylending" is the unholy connection between Marikana and the position that Abil finds itself in today, revealing the underbelly of a troublesome industry that has become a systemic problem for South Africa. The moneylending industry must be transformed to make way for new forms of banking, which cater to the needs of the poor instead of being an industry that is predatory in nature. Nonetheless, the debt burden will continue to stay high in South Africa if there are no parallel improvements to income levels alongside reforms to the unsecured lending market. The two are interrelated.

Johannesburg's Appalling Air Quality: We Can't Let Sasol and Eskom off the Hook

Picture credit: Arnold Paul/Wikimedia Commons Glenn Ashton - The air in the interior of South Africa is amongst some of the most polluted in the world. Emissions from coal-fired power stations are released over South Africa's interior plateau, where they are trapped by atmospheric temperature inversions, especially during the cold winter months, which causes dangerous concentrations of noxious compounds. A recent visit to Johannesburg reminded me of just how bad this problem has become, with the city barely visible from Sandton, a few miles away. But, more than a decade since the Air Quality Act was passed, Eskom and Sasol are applying for exemption from having to comply with new clear air regulations.

Marikana, Gaza, Ferguson: 'You should think of them always as armed'

Picture credit: A protester in in Ferguson, Missouri courtesy Bilde. Richard Pithouse - Aime Cesaire argued in 1955 that colonialism has a 'boomerang effect' - what is done over there will eventually be done at home. When the overwhelmingly white police department in Ferguson, Missouri, some of whom are Israeli trained, responded to protest at their murder of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, they brought in equipment first used in the Iraq war. It was the boomerang effect. The images that rushed around the world showed what can only be understood as a colonial mode of policing.

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What My Friend Jim Foley Taught Me To Question

Picture credit: The Real News Network Video Watch - Forty-year-old journalist Jim Foley was beheaded in Syria by the extremist group, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The video of his killing has been linked on every major news site in the world. Jessica Desvarieux is a correspondent for the Real News Network and also a friend and former colleague of Foley. In a moving tribute Desvarieux talks about Foley's passion for his work and the reasons that drove to him to cover the conflict in Syria. Desvarieux also remembers Foley for the person that he really was. She says her friend Jim was an incredibly funny person who shared a love of hip-hop with her.

John Oliver on the Shooting of Michael Brown and Police Militarization

Picture credit: NY Daily Video Watch - In the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, whose killing is making global headlines, John Oliver explores the racial inequality in treatment by police as well as the increasing militarization of America’s local police forces. Most shocking is the discovery that the city of Ferguson has just three African-American police officers in a town whose population is two-thirds (63%) black. Ferguson is a case of racial profiling gone out of control. Black people constitute 93% of all arrests. Meanwhile, a staggering amount of military equipment has been handed over to America’s local police forces.

Nick Hanauer: Beware, Fellow Plutocrats, the Pitchforks are Coming

Picture credit: kerrodhall Video Watch - The people over at TED seem to have had a change of heart and allowed billionaire Nick Hanauer back onto their stage. Back in 2012, TED notoriously censored a talk Hanauer gave on income inequality because it challenged some still enduring, but flawed assumptions about who the real job creators are. A self-described plutocrat and unapologetic capitalist, Hanauer is paradoxically calling for changes that challenge the status quo. "No free and open society can long sustain this kind of rising economic inequality…you show me a highly unequal society and I will show you a police state or an uprising" argues Hanauer, as he contends that the pitchforks are coming for the plutocrats.

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