An Open Letter to the John Lewis Partners

funding-hate-paper2

I am writing this letter as a concerned customer, citizen, and in my professional capacity as someone teaching in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility. The reason why I have chosen to do this is the response that the Partnership sent to a campaign requesting that John Lewis and Waitrose stop placing ads in British newspapers that promote hate speech in this country, especially in an environment of increasing violence against many in our society. They have responded on Twitter to communications by @StopFundingHate by arguing that the Partnership does not make editorial judgments on any particular newspaper.

john-lewis

I wish to demonstrate with the following that this stance violates the Partnership’s CSR commitments and to ask YOU, individual partners, to act in order to guide the Partnership to honour its commitments.

The John Lewis Partnership is guided by a series of principles and rules. Principle 7 states the followingThe Partnership aims to obey the spirit as well as the letter of the law and to contribute to the wellbeing of the communities where it operates.

My contention is that placing ads in newspapers promoting hate, undermining the peaceful co-existence of the inhabitants of this island is detrimental to the wellbeing of the communities in which the Partnership operates.

The Partnership proudly declares in its CSR documentation that In 2015 it carried out a detailed review of their approach to respecting human rights, drawing on the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). Indeed the Partnership has a long history of positive involvement in human rights issues and in responsible business. This was the result of John Spedan Lewis’s visionary ideas, behaviours and beliefs as your CSR statements correctly highlight.

Placing advertising in newspapers spouting lies, spreading hate and disseminating misinformation that aims to divide the nation and turn sections of the population against each other, betrays the values of the Partnership’s founder.

The Partnership proclaims to be engaged in responsible marketing. This means that its marketing is considerate of customer needs and wishes and protects vulnerable groups.

Do you not consider that the people who fled their countries to escape persecution are vulnerable groups? Don’t you consider that foreign workers, trying to make a life for their families in this country, under difficult conditions, are vulnerable groups? Do you not consider that ethnic and religious minorities persecuted by an abominable press and far-right fanatics are vulnerable groups?

Adhering to the Advertising Standards Authority Code of Practice and other relevant industry codes is not enough if it is done as a tick-box exercise. Do you not proclaim to obey the spirit as well as the letter of rules?

In my research in the field of CSR I argued that voluntarism can be something beyond pretty dressing for corporate branding exercises. I tell my students in Human Rights that CSR has substantive value and that the aim is for businesses to do the appropriate thing because they believe it, not because it scores some marketing points or makes for good tweets.

Other businesses are indeed doing the right thing.

lego

Have I been wrong about John Lewis?

Crucially, YOU as partners, have YOU being wrong? Do you not aspire for the Partnership to be better?

If you do, then I urge you to heed the calls of the Stop Funding Hate campaign and guide the Partnership to honouring its CSR commitments.

With Regards

Dr. Ioannis Glinavos

@iGlinavos

Advertisements

Legitimate grievances and a brown guy on TV

brown

A lot of us in the Remain camp (and a lot of Leavers to be honest) have spent a lot of time trying to convince ourselves that the Brexit vote (and everything else) has an economic justification in its core.

People are marginalised by globalisation, capitalism, neoliberalism, whateveryouwannacallitism. They are ‘left behind’. They are unrepresented by normal politics and turn to the extremes. They wanted to ‘stick it to the man’, to express their dissatisfaction. This is why they voted for Brexit, why they support Trump, why they vote for neonazis across Europe.

While this is a wonderful explanation, in keeping with our Marxist methodological frameworks, it is sadly not true. Also, it is inconveniently passing the blame for all this mess back on us, university profs, the metropolitan elite, normal politics, the 1% (etc etc).

We know how to blame (and deal with) neoliberalism, austerity, unemployment and the rest. We do not know how to deal with bigotry and racism. We do not know what to make of this alliance of the rancid rich with the racist poor, of the snooty Londoners and provincial bigots. We are at a loss. We are also responsible. Read this great piece by @zackbeauchamp in VOX, and you won’t be able to pretend anymore either.

Why are we responsible you say? Because we found ourselves appeasing the bigots, of saying things like: Immigration is a legitimate grievance.

It is not. Do you hear me? Immigration is not a legitimate grievance.

I can prove it.

I can prove it on the systemic level by showing you rims of statistics that prove migration to be a net benefit to the UK, to Europe, to USA, to everyone.

I can prove it on the personal level too.

Next time a cousin comes along who says ‘You know they do have a point on immigration’, do not accept it. Question him. We have gone along with this lie for so long, we handed the referendum on a platter to the likes of Farage.

Ask people: Why is immigration a problem for YOU? What have YOU experienced that makes immigration a legitimate problem?

Try it and you will discover a surprising thing. They have read a lot of headlines from Nazi-like rags like the Daily Express. They have heard other people complain. They have seen once a brown person on TV.

Enough of that. Enough of the bigotry and racism. Enough with the pretense that this is somehow legitimate. Did you miss a council house to an Afghan? Did you lose your job to a Pole? Where you handicapped by a Greek doctor? Did you have to wait at A&E while they pulled a knife out of a foreigner? Do people speak foreign languages in the bus? Do you see a lot of headlines about all those 70 million Turks on their way here?

No Sir, immigration is a fiction. Other people are supposedly affected and you are scared. You are a fat, tatooed English-man in Manchester, scared of brown people on TV. This is why you voted for Brexit. And we let you do it. Well done to you, now you can vote for Andy and complete the circle.

The left lost this game because it abandoned its core principles and internationalism. You have now Labour MPs talking about ‘restrictions’, taking about reducing immigrants, talking about ‘legitimate concerns’. Talking the UKIP talk. To hell with them.

You are scared of foreign people on TV enough to cut your own legs off via this idiocy of Brexit? You deserve what will happen to you, but do not expect me to cry along about your legitimate grievances. The time has come to make a stand. Yes, you are all racists.

enoch-powell

@iGlinavos

The railway to nowhere

idomeni_railway_web--2-thumb-large

The Channel Tunnel remains closed for the 4th consecutive week, as migrants from the Jungle refuse to remove their encampment from the railway lines.

French police distributed leaflets urging people to move on, arguing that France loves them, and asking them to fight together British demands for borders to remain closed.

The financial impact for both countries is severe, with businesses suing both state authorities and Eurotunnel for its inability to perform its contractual obligations. Eurotunnel itself is suing both governments. In the meantime tonnes of perishables are rotting away in railway platforms all over the north of France.

What?

Exactly! Wouldn’t you be horrified if you turned on BBC Breakfast and listened to this? You would probably think the French have gone mad, and they are unable or unwilling to control basic aspects of security in their territory. You wouldn’t know which is worse, the inability, or the unwillingness.

Yet, this farcical situation is what Greece has allowed to developed in the border crossing of Idomeni, on the border with Macedonia. This village is the main railway crossing to the north. Tracks go from Greece through the Balkans to Europe via this route. Alternate railway crossings via Bulgaria necessitate a significant detour and cost an alleged extra 6000 Euros per wagon for freighters to reach Austria.

The Greek railways (state-owned) are suffering massive losses due to the line closure that has been going on and off for months, and has been continuously blocked for the last 3 weeks. Freighters are planning to sue the railway company, and the government. Many have diverted cargo through non Greek ports.

What is the problem you may ask? The problem is that refugees and migrants stranded in Idomeni, waiting for the borders to open, have camped on the railway line to put pressure on the Greek and Macedonian authorities to open the border.

What has the Greek government’s response been? To ask them politely to move. Leaflets have been distributed (there and in the port of Pireaus) asking people to move on, stressing the good will and brotherly love of the Greek authorities. The police has largely been absent from the chaotic camp in Idomeni, which is run by charities and NGOs with minimal help (or even the presence) of the Greek state.

Why don’t the Greeks do anything about this you ask? The answer is revealed in the statement of Mr Mouzalas (minister for migration) yesterday in Parliament. Residents of the camp are intentionally left in dire conditions, “so that their desperation leads to positive outcomes for us (Greece)”. Yes, this is what he said. People are left to suffer, in the cold, in the mud, with children catching deadly diseases so that they are convinced by their own suffering to move on. Move on to what? To the ‘reception centers’ where conditions are hardly better (but where is at least food). Mouzalas added that “order will come to chaos”, on its own apparently. Very philosophical for a Parliamentary session.

I described in a previous post why Greece might be sliding towards a Failed State. Syriza and their partners ANEL are doing a good job getting her there.

abandoned train

@iGlinavos

Is SyrizAnel turning Greece into a Failed State?

destruction-of-the-parthenon

There is a sense that the situation in Greece is deteriorating rapidly, not only in an economic, but also in every other sense. The combined pressures of the migrant/refugee crisis, economic stagnation, diplomatic torpor and internal strife created and promoted by the government of Tsipras/Kammenos are leading things to the edge. In the summer of 2015 European officials voiced concern that Grexit could lead Greece to degenerate to a failed state. People are beginning to question whether Greece is heading there anyway, Grexit or no Grexit. The following discusses the proposition that Syriza and their far-right partners are turning the country into a failed state. Is this outlandish? Judge for yourselves.

Three elements can be said to characterize the phenomenon of the “failed State” from the political and legal point of view.

Firstly, there is the geographical and territorial aspect, namely the fact that “failed States” are essentially associated with internal and endogenous problems, even though these may incidentally have cross-border impacts. The situation confronting us then is one of an implosion rather than an explosion of the structures of power and authority, the disintegration and de-structuring of States rather than their dismemberment.

Secondly, there is the political aspect, namely the internal collapse of law and order. The emphasis here is on the total or near total breakdown of structures guaranteeing law and order rather than the kind of fragmentation of State authority seen in civil wars, where clearly identified military or paramilitary rebels fight either to strengthen their own position within the State or to break away from it.

Thirdly, there is the functional aspect, namely the absence of bodies capable, on the one hand, of representing the State at the international level and, on the other, of being influenced by the outside world. Either no institution exists which has the authority to negotiate, represent and enforce or, if one does, it is wholly unreliable, typically acting as “statesman by day and bandit by night”.

From a legal point of view, it could be said that the “failed State” is one which, though retaining legal capacity, has for all practical purposes lost the ability to exercise it. A key element in this respect is the fact that there is no body which can commit the State in an effective and legally binding way, for example, by concluding an agreement.

Let us test the above elements against the situation in Greece at the moment.

Does Greece retain sovereignty over its territory? Greece spends more than 2% of its GDP on military expenditure, yet it is unable to patrol the Aegean, in the short-distance crossings between Turkey and the Greek islands that migrants use to come over. NATO and EU’s Frontex is now tasked with securing the sea border. It is unable to patrol its land borders to prevent people smugglers operating, and is absent from the northern border with Macedonia (Idomeni) where there are now daily clashes between stranded people and the Macedonian forces. Yesterday Macedonian police is alleged to have crossed the border and fired upon migrants on the Greek side, sending rubber bullets and tear-gas into the Idomeni camp, which is well within Greek territory.

Is there a collapse of internal law and order? With courts frequently closed due to strikes by judicial staff and/or lawyers there is a significant problem with the administration of justice. Roads are frequently blocked, first by striking farmers, then by migrants. There are violent scenes between police and residents, migrants and police, rival political factions. There is a sense of lawlessness and desperation, especially in areas where welcome centres for refugees are being built.

Finally, is the state adequately represented? Can it conclude and enforce agreements? This is perhaps the area of greatest weakness. If anything Greece in the crisis years has proved an intransigent partner to its creditors. It is even more so now. Mr Tsipras and Mr Kammenos have betrayed every single electoral promise they ever made to the Greek people. They are no better with their promises to foreigners. They are insincere in their dealings with the country’s partners and creditors, discussing on the one hand, denouncing them as occupiers on the other. The latest farcical episode with Tsipras’ insurrection against the IMF proves beyond any reasonable doubt that there is no genuine negotiation going on. It is games, political subterfuge and personal interests.

What is the conclusion? Is Greece a failed state? Not just yet, but the continuation of the current course, and the current government is charting a path to failure. As Syriza’s own ministers proclaim: There is worse to come.

kammenos_mickey

@iGlinavos

Refugee Crisis: A radical proposal

Greece faces an unprecedented migration/refugee crisis. UNHCR reports that more than 100.000 people have arrived in Greece since the start of 2016 alone. With borders closing upstream (Macedonia, Serbia, Austria, Hungary etc) it is not possible for these people to move on.

Turkey is clearly failing (intentionally or not) to live up to its commitments to stem the migrant/refugee flow. The main contributor to the crisis, the Syrian conflict does not seem to be abating. If anything, it is turning into a regional war, and a focal point of international competition reminiscent of cold-war proxy conflicts.

I had suggested in the summer that Greece should treat the refugee emergency in the same way it would treat an earthquake and mobilise emergency response to house and care for those arriving over the summer. Things have become so much worse since the summer, even such response will not do any more.

It is important to understand one thing, Greece is alone in this. Europe should help, other states should agree to take on significantly higher numbers of refugees. Turkey should do something, other than bomb the Kurds. A lot of things should and could happen but they won’t. What is happening is that Greece will have another million people stranded there over the course of the year. I guess, this will stop when the conflict areas empty of non-combatants, but we are a few million away from that yet.

What can happen is that Europe pays for Greece to care for the people stranded there, while everyone else talks and talks pretending to work towards a lasting solution, or the war in Syria burns itself out. No one likes this? No one does. It is happening, it will happen. Greece being recalcitrant will lead to all these people being stuck there without the funding to care for them. Hear that Mr Tsipras?

If people are to stay in Greece for the medium to long term, where are they going to stay?

Here comes the radical part of this proposal.

pogoni

They can come stay in my home. I come from Epirus, Ioannina in fact. My grandfather is from Meropi (Robates) in the Pogoni region bordering Albania.

The Region of Epirus, located in the northwest of Greece. The total area of the region is 9.203 square kilometers, of which 14% is agriculture land, 52% is covered by grassland, 26% is forest and 3% represents the surface waters, while built up areas and other uses account for the remainder of the land. The 74% of the region, is mountainous areas.

According to the census of 2001 Epirus has a population of 353.820 inhabitants, which represents the 3,3% of the total population of Greece. The population density is 38-inhabitants/ square km, which corresponds to less than a half of the average population density in Greece.

The region of Pogoni has a population of 9000 (2011 census) and a surface of 740km².

meropi

We have been complaining for decades about the depopulation of our villages along the border. Of houses falling down, of infrastructure staying unused. The area is full of villages with houses and no people. With fields and no farmers. People used to live there. They lived there for centuries. They could live there again, rebuild the villages with European funds (blood money if you want to call it that).

What about the people who own the land? The government could lease it from them, it could even expropriate it as a measure of last resort. Indeed the government has already expropriated a lot of it as many up there cannot pay the property taxes. Would we give people’s summer houses over the migrants? Well, yes. Would we create Muslim villages in our border towns and villages? Yes.

Any right-winger nationalist itching to call me a traitor can go ahead, and I hope when their own children flee a war someday they get the same treatment Greece is dishing out to refugees at the moment.

My family was evacuated by the British to Corfu during the civil war. They could have let my grandmother get killed.

Our towns rehoused refugees after the Balkan Wars ended in 1923, they could have refused them. The Greeks from Turkey who fled after the end of the war were as alien to the local population in Epirus as the current refugees are. Do not hide behind nationalist myths of fraternity based on religion and language. They did not recognize each other as kin.

dilofo2

You don’t like giving over our empty villages to the refugees? Where would you like them to go? Walk up and down the motorways till they all die? What will people do up there you ask? They will live in safety, farm the land. It is a better existence than walking to Calais or Berlin and better than being killed by Assad or Daesh. In any case, they will not be imprisoned there, they can leave if they want, but Greece will have done its duty, will have offered them an alternative to a life on the road or death at the hands of the jihadists. I do not make a distinction between migrants and refugees here. They are both fleeing terrible fates.

Come on, lets face reality and start suggesting things. The above is a suggestion, bad one perhaps, but it is a suggestion. If my kids were fleeing a war I would like someone to suggest something like this. Or perhaps us living in London or Paris do not expect to survive the next war.

Ok, I do not currently live in the areas I recommend are given over, but I will give up my summer house and inheritance entitlements if need be. What would you give?

@iGlinavos

People animals and sex

It has been a while now that commentators have expressed concern that the wave of immigration passing through Greece will be stuck in Greece. After the cascade of border closures from Austria all the way down to Macedonia (FYROM for the nationalist readers of this blog), the inevitable has come to pass. While Syrians and a select other nationalities are allowed to pass on, everyone else (considered a migrant and not a refugee) is stuck on the Greek side of the border.

After the collected groups of people reacted to their predicament by blocking the railway line linking Greece to the Balkans, the government took action to remove them and offer some ‘progress’ on this issue.

6751f7ad8e4a472487fbe7a879aea456_18

What did they do? They pilled everyone into buses and dropped them in Athens in one of the disused (Olympic legacy anyone?) Olympic stadiums. Here is what the international press said about this ‘solution’.

refugee_line_web-thumb-large

Al Jazeera reported that hundreds of asylum seekers lined up to receive food outside a former Olympic Taekwondo centre – now a makeshift camp for refugees and migrants – while dozens of heavily armed Greek riot police watched.

You may think that these are young men, looking for work, so they can take a bit of rough sleeping? The Guardian told us the story of Amina:

is eight years old and running a fever. In her thinly padded pink anorak, hood pulled up over her curls and pallid face, she watches listlessly from the couch as her parents listen carefully to the doctor’s instructions over her medication.

In another place, in another city, at another time, perhaps, this sick child would be taken home to be tucked up in bed with hot drinks. But Amina has no home any more and tonight her bed is a grey donated blanket on the concrete floor of the tae kwon do stadium in Athens. Once this building was the pride of Greece’s 2004 Olympics; this weekend it is a squalid, cold place full of desperate people.

Yesterday (15.12.15) the people were informed that they will participate in a novel type of Immigrant Olympics and move to a different ex-Olympic venue, this time in Hellinikon (site of the old Athens Airport). Today (16.12.15) everyone was told to await evacuation and relief teams (volunteers) were told not to prepare provisions. Alas, no one had bothered to arrange transportation and those who made it to the new site found the venue closed and unavailable, as teams are trying to clean it from debris collected during the years of ‘use’ after the Olympics.

What sort of government is this you may ask, which brings hundreds of people into its capital city and leaves them stranded to fend for themselves? It is a government represented by this guy, Panos Kammenos, the Minister of Defense.

kamThe government, beyond ignoring border safety, internal security and basic human rights is actually doing something progressive. Civil partnerships for gay couples are getting debated in parliament. Well done to Syriza for bringing this to Parliament and passing the first committee hearing (You see, I am not always negative!).

The aforementioned Mr Kammenos takes a different view however. He is against it, and his MPs are voting against the proposal. Asked by a friendly (oh so friendly) journalist yesterday on national TV whether he is homo-phobic, Mr Kammenos offered this gem:

“Καλά, ο Ομπάμα μπορεί και να τους παντρεύει αν θέλει. Και στη Γερμανία έχουν αποφασίσει να κάνουν οίκο ανοχής για κτηνοβάτες, θέλει ο άλλος να πηγαίνει με σκύλο με γάτα, με καμήλα, με καμηλοπάρδαλη. Επειδή λοιπόν το κάνουν στη Γερμανία, θα θέλω εγώ να παντρεύεται ο άλλος καμήλα;”.

[my translation] “Ok, Mr Obama can marry who he wants. And in Germany they have decided to open brothels for bestiality, if one wants to sleep with dogs, cats, camels, giraffes. Because they are doing it in Germany, would I want someone to marry a camel?”

You have to appreciate the parallel. While the government of Syriza is treating refugees and immigrants like animals, a minister is teaching us about the options for animal sex in other Member States.

Splendid. Given the choice between Mr Kammenos and a camel, I know which I would choose.

man-kissing-camel-300x214

@iGlinavos

Idiocracy and twitter

gidia

What do you call it when the Prime Minister tweets questionable messages to a fellow PM while visiting their country for an international summit?

Lets have a look at the exchange and judge for ourselves.

Tsipras, the Greek PM, tweeted from his personal account in Greek the following:

GR

And then through his English language account, with the help of Google translate it seems, he posted this:

tsipras ENG

Then, surprise surprise the Turkish PM responded:

davutoglou

The ‘managers’ of Tsipras accounts then proceeded to remove the English post, left the Greek one and posted on the Government account this:

Eng2

What have we learned from this exchange? First, it seems that Tsipra’s accounts are run by monkeys, or perhaps a couple of IT savvy goats.

Secondly we learned that the Aegean is an issue to discuss with Turkey. Ever since the Lausanne Treaty that ended the Turkish-Greek war in 1923, Greece has refused to discuss the Aegean arguing that there is no problem to discuss. It has been a cornerstone of Greek foreign policy that there is no territorial dispute in the Aegean for almost 100 years. Yet yesterday Mr Tsipras told us there is something to discuss.

Aegean

Here are the BBC and Guardian accounts of this event.

How do you feel?

@iGlinavos