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Chris Ruff

Chris Ruff

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Photo Courtesy of Stronger in Manchester 

Our former editor Chris Ruff gives an enriching insight into the experience of those volunteering for Britain Stronger In Europe. 

At my first campaign stop, decent-length conversations were at a premium. Somewhat awkwardly positioned outside Manchester Victoria train station, with staff having kicked us out, we were at the mercy of the biting winds characteristic of that part of the world. Yes, even in May.

Homs locals
Photo: Brian Dell  (Wikimedia Commons); Licence: CC0 1.0  

It's that time for another of E&M's editors to suggest their favourite reads: Chris Ruff reflects on what the female involvement in the Islamic State could represent and how far did social media impact the british elections.

Chris, Heart / Legs editor

Chris

The women of IS

A powerful article that caught my eye this week is the latest in the New York Times' "State of Terror" series, focusing on the story of three young girls from London who flew to Syria to join the Islamic State in February this year.

The long read has numerous strands to it, including the identity dilemmas of second generation Muslim immigrants in Britain and other Western countries, and the tactics used by IS to lure young women from their safe homes in the West to their violent and dangerous "Caliphate" in the Syrian desert.

But what struck me most was the links to female empowerment and the "twisted form of feminism" that the IS female brigades represent. Of the 4000 foreign fighters who have joined the movement, 550 are estimated to be women and girls. Yet what is clear is that the phenomenon is misunderstood and authorities still don’t know how they should deal with it. One cannot help but notice that the fundamentalist Islamic critique – young Western girls being sexualised from a young age – has some truth to it. But their solution – the complete covering of the face and head and a life of purity and devotion to one’s husband, not to mention actively supporting a murderous regime – is an anathema to our liberal Western values

EVS4ALL1
Photo: Courtesy of the Allianz Cultural Foundation
 

The group who met in Berlin to launch the EVS4ALL project  

 

At the end of April 2015 the Allianz Cultural Foundation welcomed a variety of different groups from across Europe to their Berlin headquarters to launch the EVS4ALL project. As one of the media partners of the event, E&M’s Chris Ruff was there to witness two days of knowledge sharing, diligent planning and infectious optimism for the future of Europe.

 

"We are Europe!" was the rallying cry of the late, great German sociologist Ulrich Beck as he, with his close friend and fellow European titan, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, sat down to write a manifesto for the future of Europe.

 

What they envisaged was a Europe built "from the bottom-up". A Europe far removed from the technocratic elites who so often dominate the news. A Europe "for taxi drivers and theologians, for workers and the workless, for managers and musicians, for teachers and trainees, for sculptors and sous-chefs, for supreme court judges and senior citizens, for men and women".

 

In order to disentangle ourselves from the clutches of the euro-crisis, we must re-build our civil society and rediscover those traits which bind us together, instead of those which tear us apart.

 

But how, I hear you ask, is this wonderful Europe of people supposed to happen? And haven’t we been moving precisely in the other direction in the years since the great crash of 2008?

With the New Year, Good Reads is back on track and our editors are going to keep on sharing the best online articles that got them thinking about Europe recently. This time around, freshly appointed Chris Ruff will be introducing himself to E&M readers by sharing some reflections on the way we consume news these days and also about the German Pegida movement.

 

Chris, Heart/Legs editor

 

Chriss Ruff

2014: a year to forget

 

Whilst reflecting on 2014 around the dinner table with friends this Christmas, it seemed that none of us could remember a year with quite so many awful things that had happened. ISIS, the Ukraine crisis, Gaza, two (now three) passenger jets dropping from the sky leaving no survivors, terrorist attacks in Pakistan, Australia and elsewhere, schoolgirls captured in Nigeria – the list could go on.

 

2014 will certainly go down as a grim year for humanity. However, part of this phenomenon of negativity is due to the way modern news is consumed and distributed, lending an immediacy and urgency to current events. News is now omnipresent – available to us in more ways and at more times than ever before. Events are almost impossible to miss. As such, our perceptions about say, air travel, have been negatively influenced by what appears to be frequent crashes, although the data clearly shows that travelling by plane is actually safer than ever.

 

Yet despite the rolling 24-hour news channels and the pervasive impact of social media, journalism in 2014 has often felt stale or formulaic; perspectives on global crises have seemed like tired re-runs of old arguments, stuck in a by-gone era. It is for this reason that when a piece with genuine insight appears, such as this opinion piece by Jeffrey Sachs, it really makes you sit up and notice. Sachs, a former economic advisor to both the Polish and Russian governments following the end of the Cold War, eloquently describes the West's differing approaches to both countries and how this has had a profound effect on their subsequent development. In short, if the West had chosen to pursue a similarly conciliatory debt strategy with Russia as they did with Poland, the outcome would be very different. Instead, the US and Western Europe's desire to consolidate their victory with punitive measures has led Sachs to compare it with the aftermath of the Treaty of Versailles. The article adds even more, as it is written in first person on the basis of direct experiences.

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