February 19, 2019

Is the world running out of people? This duo believes we might

People aligned wearing yellow teeshirts

No, the title is not a typo: we might get there sooner than you think. That’s if you ask Canadian journalist John Ibbitson and political scientist Darrell Bricker, who believe world population will decline in the next few decades. The two writers, promoting their new book “Empty Planet” during the interview, conclude that within 30 years we’ll begin to a long term demographic shift. Both men believe that once the population decline kicks in, it’ll never stop, challenging assumptions that are held by many people across the world.

What’s really going on?

The book challenges existing UN population models through new studies and number crunching. Unlike the UN which estimates the number to reach 11 billion by 2100, the authors believe old assumptions no longer apply due to tech’s growing impact. In fact, tech impacts people in many different ways, including population growth. Because tech can alleviate certain pain points, fertility rates in some developing countries don’t need to be as high. As the authors outlined:

  • Every woman living within an Indian slum had a smartphone
  • This gave them access to unlimited knowledge via the Internet
  • For context, India is one of the world’s largest countries, with a population well above 1 billion people.

As many economists will attest, economic growth is turbocharged through women’s education as women are often caretakers of future generations. More educated women mean smarter kids, and ultimately better underlying economics for a nation and its population.

 

Who gets the final say?

Although prior forecasts were fairly accurate, the past 100 years won’t be good predictors of our future. The advent of technology and its capabilities change the dynamics of our world, as well as its people and demographics. Perhaps the counter-analysis will be correct, but the fact remains that we are depleting our planet at alarming rates. Smaller populations don’t necessarily mean that this will stop, but harnessing technology properly can help amend these problems. The hard thing for us is to bite the bullet for future generations to thrive.

February 4, 2019

Streetwear for white supremacists is on the rise and rallying groups

Streetwear white supremacy

Streetwear is helping right-wing nationalists communicate and drum up support by mobilizing youth supporters. Clothing and streetwear have always embodied a sense of tribalism, but this radicalized fashion angle hasn’t been seen for some time.

Why this is alarming but not surprising

It’s hard to gain support for a movement when it’s easy to single you out as an extremist. Right-wing nationalists or white supremacists traded in the white robe and pointed hat for business suits in the mid-’70s and similarly, the skinhead look has made that style marked due to its associations with the Neo-Nazi movement.

The open platform nature of streetwear has made it easier for groups to hide their ideologies and messages behind the veil of street culture, making it easier for them to communicate, identify and move around out in the open.

Clothing as “secret handshake”

Aside from acting as a secret ticket to get into events such as concerts, clothing helps targeted youth or other members rally around a cause while acting as a “secret handshake” to identify allies within that cause. Clothing meant for nationalist or white supremacist causes tends to rotate around a few themes regardless of where the movement is located in the word.

Key themes within nationalist streetwear

Re-interpreted cultural iconography: Because the Nazi swastika and similar overt icons have been summarily banned in many parts of the world, the modern movement draws its visual identity from re-interpreted cultural iconography. This could include Viking and Celtic symbols that allude to the supposed Aryan origins of those tribes, hint at warrior culture and a time when people were “harder.” This helps the messaging blend in with the guise of embracing European cultural heritage over the more alarming racial supremacy angle.

Violence: The movement positions followers in an “us versus them” struggle where they’re locked in a war to the end to defend racial purity or national identity against an invasion of foreign peoples or ideas. As such, symbols that suggest combat, violence or warfare can feature heavily too.

Historical or political references: References to myths and historical events, like the Crusades or Reconquista (a Spanish pogrom against Muslims in the Middle Ages), are sometimes paired with mentions of contemporary regional tensions. The phrase “Reconquista Crimea” hints at a violent expulsion of Muslims from Crimea.

Grey area messaging: The highly layered and codified nature of internet slang and meme culture allows racists and nationalists to hide their message in grey zones to elude association. For instance, 2YT4U (“too white for you”) is easy to pass off as something else to law enforcement, teachers parents and the general public. Similarly, “MY FAVORITE COLOR IS WHITE” on a purple shirt can be played off as a reference to the color of the shirt.

In addition to the expansion of fashion-led causes, there’s been a notable uptick in logo and graphic design permeating the white supremacist community.

November 13, 2018

Identity, judgement, and the power plays that find their roots in clothing, with specific reference to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a new representative-elect in The White House, representing NY-14. Megan Garber talks about how the 29-year-old politician has been surrounded by an (un)fair share of gossip and rumor in her short stint in DC. Earlier this week she tweeted about repeatedly being mistaken for an intern. One day later, Eddie Scarry, a writer for the Washington Examiner, tweeted a photo of her taken from behind as she walked down a corridor wearing a tailored black jacket and carrying a coat. The caption: “Hill staffer sent me this pic of Ocasio-Cortez they took just now. I’ll tell you something: that jacket and coat don’t look like a girl who struggles.”

Clothing as identity
We represent ourselves every day through our clothing, whether we like it or not. Supposedly not caring what we wear still consists of making a choice. The problem with the Scarry situation—setting aside the topics of fragile masculinity and exclusion tactics—is that expectations of how we represent ourselves differ from person to person. This means that clothing, as such an obvious and instant medium of judgement, can easily be used to divide as well as to connect.

Division or connection
Through our sartorial choices, we assign ourselves to tribes. We find brands that fit our beliefs, hobbies, or simply have been worn by people we admire, and wear them as suits of armor. And, just like suits of armor emblazoned with flags and embedded with meaning, our outfits divide us into enemies or allies. Ocasio-Cortez’s clothing has been used as a vessel in which to carry personal judgement, and raise points of belonging and power. As a candidate who promised to challenge, to change the status-quo, Ocasio-Cortez is an easy target for those who strive to keep American politics a stationary, stagnant club. It is not surprising that Ocasio-Cortez’s most basic actions–existing in The White House, and wearing clothes—have been the target of derision and seen in themselves as challenges.

Final thoughts
The power of clothing to form identity and send messages are some of its great qualities, and the reason many of us at MAEKAN are fascinated by it. Being instantly visible, clothing has the potential to bring people together at first sight, or divide without a question asked. Describing clothing this way isn’t taking up a position—it is a fact. The fact that Ocasio-Cortez has made such an impact so quickly, intentionally or unintentionally (almost definitely the latter), by wearing certain very normal things, reveals a demographic of insecure, sensitive and childish ‘professionals’ in American politics. More power to Alexandria, may she continue to upset and challenge.

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