War on Feminism – Women’s Refuges under attack

womans-refuge-logo_SYOK5_17844 It has come as no surprise that women’s refuges are under corporate attack. It was only a matter of time before the ideological warriors of the new corporate regime would put in their sights frontline services catering for women fleeing domestic violence. Currently in the UK we witness the broadscale closure of women’s refuges that have been providing women and their children an essential service for decades. It also came as no surprise to read in her piece, There Is No Such Thing as a ”More Efficient Alternative” to Refuges Polly Neate’s insightful critique of  that great universal leveller ”efficiency” as the declared motive for the closure of women’s refuges. In my view, this  is not only another devastating cut to an essential social service, it is the undermining of a significant power base of the feminist movement.

In his book Profits of Doom, Antony Loewenstein uses the phrase ”vulture capitalism” to describe the carrion qualities of the private military and reconstruction industries involved in both war and disaster, and to refer to corporations such as Serco, G4S and Transfield who circle around governments waiting to snap up then pick to the bone outsourced services from roads and railways to courts, prisons and detention centres. A visit to their own website will quickly show the reach of such carrion corporations (sSee http://www.serco-ap.com.au/).

In my view the concept of vulture capitalism, while providing much insight into the nature of capitalism in our times, does not reach far enough into the belly of the beast, for a vulture is a bird of instinct, following its natural animal will and while laden with menacing symbology is but an outward aspect of a deeper, more malevolent will. The will of the power Elite (that ultra-exclusive club of the intellectual few – see Sheldon S Wolin, Democracy Inc, Princeton University Press, 2010, pp 159-183) that sends forth the vultures to undermine social democracy at every turn.

There are other ambassadors of change, other sorts of birds sent forth, ravens perhaps operating in tandem with the corporate vultures – Non-government organisations. NGOs seem well-placed to step in and run a raft of social services. Utilising an identical model of asset-stripping, down-sizing and streamlining found in the corporate model, many such organisations operate under the guise of a religious denomination and therefore carry a sanctified patriarchal ideology (for example – Salvation Army, Mission Australia). Such organisations now find themselves, and no doubt with private relish, at the vanguard of  the new and covert war on feminism.

Why a war on feminism? Because feminists are a two-fold threat to the new corporate world of inverted totalitarianism and managed democracy. First feminism contests the patriarchal underpinnings of the dominant or hegemonic ideology of capitalism and second, feminists have been at the forefront of countless social reforms based on fairness, justice and equality that have seen the betterment not only of women and children but also men.

I wrote a letter to my local newspaper this week that illustrates the shadowy processes and the ruthless intent embedded in this latest attack on both feminism and social democracy.

Dear Editor, I attended a rally to save the Bega Women’s Refuge on Monday 4th August and was heartened by the large turnout, all concerned about the refuge’s future and hopeful that common sense would prevail over the fiasco that was the tendering process. So of course I was incredulous when I learnt that SEWACS (South East Women’s and Children’s Services) had been ‘’accidentally’’ undercut by Mission Australia’s tender. I understand that Mission Australia, who won the tender to run homelessness services in the Bega Valley under the new ‘Going Home Staying Home’ rollout of the New South Wales State government, have now been given additional funding to take over the women’s refuge, which they apparently had not realised was part of the package until after their tender was approved.  This despite the fact that SEWACS have been running the refuge and attendant specialist services for women escaping domestic violence in the Bega Valley for thirty years. In my view, the decision to grant Mission Australia this service is unfair and procedurally dubious; there was a lack of transparency and honesty in the process that effectively sidelined SEWACS due to an administrative oversight. In my view, if the Bega Women’s Refuge must be put up for tender then it should at least be done in a fair and proper manner.

I fear that with corporate religious organisation Mission Australia in charge, the refuge will no longer be a place of sanctuary where women fleeing domestic violence feel safe and supported.  I would take the side of any aboriginal woman choosing not to pass through the refuge door, filled with mistrust after the legacy of the Stolen Generation. I too, would be filled with mistrust. I have no idea the narrative or the procedures that Mission Australia would seek to impose on women fleeing violence but I do know that the one provided by SEWACS empowers women.

Yours faithfully,

But we need not fear that women’s empowerment has been disregarded by the corporate Elite, for Gucci has taken up the baton with its Chime for Change campaign, fronted by Beyonce Knowles, Frida Giannini and Salma Hayek Pinault. While I growl like a crossed crone of the old guard at this recent appropriation of feminist discourse,  I realise Chime for Change represents another fight altogether, a  fight on the ground of popular culture and therefore I call upon my young feminist sisters to contest this latest sham while I mourn the loss of society’s most significant feminist-inspired institution.

Hard Attitudes for Hard Times

 

DickensDespite the grandiose speeches and the spin, across western democracies post-GFC austerity seems to have little to do with reducing government debt and everything to do with controlling populations largely through the expansion and oppression of the underclass – the dalits of western civilisation – the guts sucked from the welfare system leaving a wizened carcass of a once plump beast. Welfare services are corporatised, sold off to the lowest bidder whose sole concern is profit. Corporations or quasi-corporate ngos with minimal or no expertise are given tenders for aged care, counselling, women’s refuges and so on. While Australia’s Abbott government’s Benefit reforms will render destitute millions of Australia’s most vulnerable.

All the while the politico-media complex tells the noble-washed of the middle and still-working classes that the underclass are slobbering wretches with unworthy motives, scammers, scoundrels, cheats and the bone idle, pathetic wretches of Dickensian proportions whose begging hands should be promptly severed. After all, why would a decent voter wish to carry such a burden? Best to lock the worst of them up in the newly revamped and much expanded prison service, run naturally by corporations with a now established if troubled history in the industry. Once incarcerated inmates can then work for a pittance or no renumeration at all, and while the noble tax payer pays the government to pay the corporation, the corporation extracts profits from its prisoners’ labour. A perfect solution and a perfect deterrent should any other member of the underclass wish to question the system.

We are I think witnessing the rapid expansion of an underworld within an overworld, and those either unaffected, affected in beneficial ways, or who respond fatalistically and passively to avoid falling into the underworld, will support the new status quo, happy to buy the spin,  happy to scapegoat the the marginalised, the outcasts, the poor. In case the noble-washed should ever waver, a back-up plan is already in place – the cruel treatment of asylum seekers and the attendant carefully crafted propaganda. Every ideological campaign needs a scapegoat through which to harden attitudes that can then be manipulated and directed towards other groups. That the nationalistic ideology is a complete lie invoked to mask the fundamentally globalist agenda unfolding in every country the world over is of great concern. Nationalism is contagious, and in its worst and most fragmented and divisive forms leads to war. War that inevitably creates an exodus of asylum seekers in its wake. A perfect situation perhaps for the structural changes essential for the globalist project to succeed.

Nationalism has the added benefit of parochialising the vision of the masses so they are incapable of reaching any sort of understanding of matters global.

As for the those with just hearts, our governments have plans for us too. Currently in Australia Attorney General, George Brandis has plans afoot to further strengthen surveillance and terror laws on the pretext of protecting citizens from radically infused returnees from Syria – born-again jihadists with malicious intentions. While it may be true that one or two do pose a threat to Australian society, surely ASIO and the AFP can handle them? Isn’t that what they are trained and paid to do? I believe something much more sinister is at work, exemplified by Josh Allen’s piece in the New Internationalist, ‘Anti-extremism’ government programme targets student activist. Allen highlights yet again how anti-terror legislation is used to monitor and harrass activists of all stripes.

As Arundhati Roy states in many of her essays concerning big dams in India, the primary targets of the neoliberalism are always the poor and activists. Terrorism while real, is thus used as a weapon by the politico-media complex against its own people. Australia treads the same path.

I fear that under austerity the underclass are fast becoming ”asylum seekers” in their own nation, activists that seek to support them and hold corporations and their puppet governments to account are rapidly gagged, while the noble-washed conduct their affairs unaware that an even greater harm has befallen them, their hearts, perhaps once soft and kind, now sinewy and beating a callous pulse.