Power and Counter-Power – The case of Nikos Romanos

Two weeks ago I wrote a blog post about the case of Nikos Romanos.Finally,two days ago a solution was found as the Minister of Justice Mr Charalampos Athanasiou changed the existing law with a new one that gives the right to all candidates (prisoners)who succeed in their exams ,to attend classes in their schools,with the so-called ” electronic wristband” after completing the first two months of courses from distance .The only opposition in this feature is a legitimate negative decision of the Judicial  Council

athanasiou-romanos

Before this decision was made the situation was unrestrained especially the day of the anniversary of the death of Alexandros Grigoropoulos.At the 6th of December the centrer of Athens was “on fire” and many episodes between the police and protesters took place.Finally 4 days after Nikos Romanos stop his hunger strike.

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This case is going to be analysed in terms of power and counter power as the power-holders where the ones who where actually asked and forced by social actors to find a solution.Of course their decision was not based only  on justice but on political motives as well as the political system in Greece is in crisis and the opposition party SYRIZA seems to gain more and more supporters.

To begin with , according to Castells power is “the capacity of a social actor to impose its will over other social actors.” (Castells,2007:239)At this case, the government and especially the leading party of New Democracy kept a really strict position to this issue.Until December the 9th New Democracy was stating that there were law restrictions and that it would be too dangerous to let that criminal attend school after all these crimes that he had committed.Thus their power was exercised through law and regulation

New Democracy showed a really vengeful face towards that boy who became actually what he became because he stopped believing to state institutions.Remember that :

1.When he was 15 years old his best friend was shot by a policeman in front of his eyes

2.After this tragic event and when he was in psychological recovery the advocates of the defendant(Korkoneas) never stopped searching everywhere for him(through calls and visits at his school) in order to persuade him to testify at court.

3.Fours after, when he got arrested policemen beat him so much that they distorted his face.

Therefore, the government needed to consider that this person’s  teenage years and memories where destroyed because of actions for which the state was responsible.Romanos of course  has committed crimes and he definitely needs to pay for them.The thing is that the state should work on starting building a circle of trust with him.

On the other hand, counter – power is “the capacity of a social actor to resist and challenge power relations that are institutionalized.” (Castells,2007:239). At this specific case there where many social actors who supported the request of Nikos Romanos:protesters,movements,media as well as the opposition party SYRIZA and PASOK(the party that is a member of the government).More specifically both parties proposed two different law suggestions. Someone might say that these parties can not be characterised as social factors because they are institutionalized.The thing is though ,that none of them had majority and power to determine the outcome of  this case.

Even though the groups that supported Nikos Romanos were quite different in terms of views,opinions and ideologies they had a common request:they wanted Nikos Romanos to stay alive and the Government to change the law. Also when it comes to discourse,their discourse (especially the political discourse of SYRIZA)was full of appeals to emotion and really affected public opinion as well as the outcome of this case. The government was attacked by everyone and was presented as a potential murderer.Thus it was verified that ” a discourse can be both an instrument and an effect of powerpower, but also a hindrance, a stumbling point of resistance and a starting point  for an opposing strategy.Discourse transmits and produces power ,it reinforces it ,but also undermines end exposes it,renders it fragile and makes it possible to thwart”.(History of sexuality p.100-1).

Values and Mobilization-Stigma of Bipolar Disorder

The last lecture of this module was about understanding audiences in terms of values ,framing and mobilisation.After I read the  lecture slides and the readings and watched the videos, I tried to remember a moment that  mobilized me and made me act.That moment was when I watched this video:

Even though  this talk is not a part of campaign about social change(but still  it focuses on an issue about human rights,dignity,social equality and social justice), I find it very important in terms of mobilization and participation  as the number of campaigns that support people with mental illnesses is increasing year by year. for the following reasons. Furthermore, TEDx conferences are really popular, as 130 countries and 1200 cities have hosted a TEDx event.Also ,by 2009 the talks which where available online had more than 50 million views. As the slogan of TED is “Ideas Worth Spreading”, it is obvious that one of its goals is to inspire and mobilize people.

The first time that I watched that video, was when a close person of mine was diagnosed with this illness. Until then, I have to admit that I didn’t know basic things about mental illnessess.The only picture that I had in mind, was that unfortunately, people who suffer from these illnesses face isolation and stigma due to the many social prejudices and stereotypes that say “If you suffer from a mental illness you are crazy” or “If you visit a psychiatrist you are definately crazy”. Thus, we are talking about stereotypes and attitudes that are related to our values.

BIPOLAR

The beginning of her speech is quite interesting as she starts by describing herself and her achievements by mobilizing  values which belong to the following groups:

1)ACHIEVEMENT(Personal succes through demonstrating competence according to social standards)(This value belongs to the axe of Self-enhancement which is based on the pursuit of personal status and success)

2)STIMULATION(Excitement,novelty and challenge in life)

3)SELF-DIRECTION(Independent thought and action-choosing,creating exploring)  (These two values belong to the axe of Openness to change which is centred on independence and readiness for change).(Common Cause Handbook p.10,Definitions of the ten values groups p.9)

It is undeniable that Laura, seems great. She seems  pretty normal,smart,ambitious, beautiful,healthy and active.She seems like a person who is “compatible” with the “accepted”values of our society.

The final sentence of her introduction is :”Laura is also an auntie to the cuttest nieces ever.And she is bipolar”. Laura started explaining bipolar disorder by reading a medical book full of medical terms,ways of diagnosis, symptoms,effects etc.At the end she said “Obviously I am the crazy one”. As we live in a society which is characterized by a lack of proper information and knowledge and a sense that people who suffer from mental illnessess are different from us and dangerous from the society, the  problem of equal treatment is becoming something more and more difficult.

When it comes to prejudices,values and attitudes that affect the way that people treat to “different” people,studies showed that prejudice is related to the importance of POWER values(Social status and prestige, control or dominance over people and resources) and SECURITY values (Safety,harmony and stability of society).Power values belong to the axe of Self-enhancement values (based on the pursuit of personal status and success) and security values belong to the axe of Conservation values (based on  order, self-restriction,preservation of the past and resistance to change).(Schwartz’s value circumplex.,Common Cause Handbook p.10,Definitions of the ten values groups p.9)

Her speech was clear,honest and really emotional. Laura described her experience of living with bipolar disorder with such a way that made me feel that she is much more healthy than many people who  are”healthy”. She approached this issue with a way that made me understand that bipolar disorder is not something that a patient can not deal with.Thus, it is obvious that the way that values are presented for a specific issue , set the way that people will react on it. Laura did not present bipolar disorder as an illness that threats other people’s safety and security.She presented herself as a person who loves life and has the will to fight for her future,without shame but with optimism and dignity.

Laura’s speech inspired me in such a way that I decided to do more research about this illness not only because I was curious to learn more but also because I wanted to help my friend and mobilize as many people as I could in order to contribute to the ensuring of proper information and action.After quite a long research I found the site of the Hellenic Bipolar Organisation-ΕΔΟ . I met the founder, a great psychologist who decided to work with bipolar patients ,inspired by his father who was also a  bipolar and I was offered to work as a volunteer.I was surprised when I heard the number of volunteers who also work there.Even though I did not work there for long time , I am really happy that I did something and I tried to mobilize people and I also feel proud because I realised that there are many other people who want to bring social change ,equality and justice when it comes to this issue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Functions of Stories and Mobilisation-The story of Nikos Romanos

“A narrative is an account of a sequence of events in the order in which they occurred to make a point
(Labov &Waletsky1967)”(cited in Polletta et al., 2011, p. 111)

For the last couple of weeks there is a story that is being reproduced by media from all over Greece.This is the story of Nikos Romanos, a 21 year old anarchist prisoned who ‘s in a hunger strike for 3 weeks with the request to take sabbaticals in order to study.These days there are several protests that take place in many cities of Greece and the number of protesters grows  day by day.For more information click here.

Νίκος-Ρωμανός-2-440x308

The story that is presented when it comes to this case is quite interesting and will be analysed  in terms of its functions:

romanos

 

FUNCTIONS OF STORIES

Explaining: In 2008,Nikos Romanos, saw his best friend, Alexandros Grigoropoulos being shot by the special guard Epaminondas Korkoneas.After this tragic event, a huge social crisis arouse and hundreads of people protested against the authorities for the death of the teeanager.
Romanos started getting involved in anarchist groups and a few years later he got arrested for a double robbery in Velvento, Kozani.He was convicted not as a terrorist ,but under the provisions of ordinary criminal code.
Last August  he got married with his girlfriend inside prison.Furthermore, he was also permitted to take exams in order to study at University.He passed the exams and he received congratulations from the Minister of Education(even though he refused to attend the ceremony for ideological reasons) . According to  the law, prisoners were  permitted to get sabbaticals,thus Romano’s would be able to attend classes.Unfrotunately , after the escape of the terrorist Xristodoulos Ksiros, laws changed and sabbaticals are not permitted.Thus the aversion of a law does not grant sabbaticals, although the same law gave him the right to take entrance examinations in higher education.
That’s when Romanos decided to react with a hunger strike.Since today he has lost 17 pounds and his life is in real danger as his heart rate reaches 170 per minutes and according to the doctors,a heart attack is”unfortunately expected”.
For more information click here.
Drawing attention: This story was presented by many greek media and many opinion articles have been written about this case.After some days more more and more groups,individuals as well as political parties (such as the opposition party SYRIZA) support the effort of Nikos Romanos through protests and marches.
Persuading:In this story there is  the “central processing” as there is a description of all the events that took place since 2008 . Even though many supporters of him are anarchists as well , there is a great number of people even though politicians that support Romano’s request.More specifically, the Minister of Education Mr Andreas Loverdos stated:”As the government allowed Romanos to take examinations for admission to a university ,they should give him permission to attend the courses and take  exams at university .Also he said that Romanos can attend courses through Skype conferences, but unfortunately the Dean of the University clearly stated that physical attendance is mandatory.
Constructing identities and actors:When it comes to Romanos as an actor, he is the protagonist and he is presented as a hero.It can not be said that the supporters who protest in favor of Romanos are characterized by organisation and structure, as there is no existence of a specific social movement.Thus their idenity is based on the promotion of democracy,justice and democratic actions from the Government in order to contribute to a fair reformation of prisoners.
Evaluating: This story is full of opportunities(reformations of prisoners) and obstacles(existing restrictions of law), costs(a human life as well as the risk that government takes by allowing prisoners  to circulate outside of prison ) and benefits(reformation of prisoners),success(a middle solution or review of the law) and failure(failure of finding a middle ground)
Legitimating: Even though Romanos is a prisoner with a long criminal record, he is presented as a hero and as a person who fights for his rights.
As it has been mentioned above , these days there are big protests that take place in Greece in order to support Nikos Romanos.Yesterday , there was a march of 4000 protesters that took place in the center of Athens, and there are also many more to come, as at the 6th of December is the anniversary  of Alexandros Grigoropoulos death. As we can see, the functions of the story really lead to mobilisation of many different groups of people in order to support Romano’s request.What remains to be seen is the reaction and the response of the government.

Rethink Mental lllness Campaign-Theories of Change

Theories of Change(ToC) is a very important concept  as it “helps us to monitor consciously and critically our individual and also collective way of thinking and acting”.Also it is “a concsious and creative visualization exercise that enables to focus our energy on specific future realities which are not only desirable,but also possible and probable”. (Theory of Change,Inigo Retolaza Eguren,p.4).

Nevertheless, it is quite difficult to specify and define exactly how social change happens. According to Ronan Krznaric ““There are no generally applicable models of how socialchange happens. Every context has its own history and its own peculiarities… Explanations given for how changehappens are also strongly shaped by the disciplinary perspective that is taken [political, sociological, psychological,economic, historical etc].Each discipline contains different assumptions about human motivation and behaviour, and the role of institutions and worldviews.”(How Change Happens,2007, OxfamGB, page 30).

The ways with whom social change can occur are:

a)Individual behaviour change (Campaigners try to understand what makes people take action in order to bring social change)and/or

b)Structural or institutional change (Campaigners focus on where power lies and how can be used in order to make governments,institutions, corporations etc enforce social change)

When it comes to the implementation of ToC I decided to write about the campaign of the UK charity “Rethink of Mental Illness” and they way that it achieved social change.This charity campaigns for the support of  people who suffer from  mental illness and fights for an equal place in society for them as well as for a better future.Their basic slogan is “People with mental health problems should have the same rights and services as everyone else.

This charity supports every year almost 60,000 people across UK in terms of advice and information,mental health  services and support groups. and of course campaigning. The work of this charity is supervised by the Board of Trustees.

κατάλογος

After visiting the charity’s web site I tried to understand the model that the campaigners used in order to bring  change.First of all I visited the page where there is information about funding.When it comes to fundind, the money of the charity come from donations, health and local authorities.Thus as we can see this charity is open to cooperation not only with other organisations and individuals but also with the national authorities.

Also, I found information about the achievements   from the campaigning of  Rethink Mental Illness Campaigning.Here are some exaples of their success:

INDIVIDUALS

  • 143 campaigners worked together all over the country achieved 4,148 meaningful conversations.
  • 78% said that, following a meaningful conversation they had with a campaigner, they would feel more confident speaking about their own mental health.

GOVERNMENT AND POLITICIANS-SHADOW HEALTH

  • 10,000 campaigners joined the charity in order to  in demand that Jeremy Hunt start listening to mental health patients.The result is that a plan for inspecting mental health services has been announced.
  •  4 MPs shared their mental health experiences during a Mental Health debate in Parliament supported by Rethink Mental Illness.
  • The campaigners of the charity got invited to attend an event  at the Royal College of Psychiatrists

CHARITIES

  • The charity led a coalition of health charities including Macmillan Cancer Support and Age UK, to push for greater patient and public involvement in the new NHS.

For more information click here.

From the above results we can see that the charity used theories which are based both on the Individual behavior change and on the Structural or Institutional change.Campaigners focused both on individuals in terms of mobilisation and information and also on efforts in order to bring change through the government,MPs, as well as the coalition with other organisations and charities.The reasons why the campaigners focused on both approaches might be that mental illnesses is a critical issue.Many patients feel ashamed as they face racism and isolation from the society.Thus , if change is need to be brought,there should be a focus both on the state by itself and the support that provides to these patients and to individuals who need to send down any prejudice they might have.

 

References:

  • Theory of Change (A thinking and action approach to navigate in the complexity of social change processes)-Inigo Retolaza Eguren
  • How Change Happens(Roman Krznaric
  • http://www.rethink.org

 

 

 

 

Social Movements and Professionalisation: The Indignants of Greece

During the last decades there is a debate between those who believe that professionals should get involved in social movements and those who disagree with this approach.The last ones argue that as professionals work in these kind of movements just as paied employees they can undermine the legitimacy and trustworthiness of social movements.On the other hand the activists that participate in social movements ,do it in terms of shared values ,shared motives and shared points of view that they want to express.

Personally I find myself in favor of the first approach.Professionalism should not only discussed in negative terms.As a professional is defined as“A person who does something with a high level of competence, commitment or expertise”(Oxford English Dictionary)  I find myself indined to agree that professionals can contribute effectively in social movements as they know the key tools that have to be used from the movements in order to succeed.

Nevertheless, when it comes to social movements, professionalism can also be defined as the structure and organisation inside the movement , in terms of statements and beliefs.

As Wim van de Donk,Brian D.Loader,Paul G.Nixo,Dieter Rucht(“Cyberprotest:New Media,Citizens and Social Movements”) state,social movements need media in order to attract attention and promote the goals.On the other hand,media do not need social movements as there is a vast variety of different issues that they can cover.As we can see there is an assymetry at this point.If protest groups and social movements want to gain attention they need to meet media’s criteria and requirements(eg:innovation,surprise,drama,passion,spectacle,conflict,threat)The thing is that there are many groups that do not meet these requirements and they are not characterised by professionalization,thus they fail to gain what they want.

An example that actually illustrates the need for professionalisationin protest movements,not only in terms of media coverage, but also in terms of organisations and mobilisation,is the movement of Indignants.

syntagma-2

The beginners of this movement where 2 young citizens from Thessaloniki who were actually inspired by the Spanish movement ” Indignados ” and decided to create a Facebook page called “Indignants of White Tower”.

“Indignants” were protesters who were against the Greek Government and the austerity measures which were imposed in Greece due to the financial crisis. was a mQuite soon, the response of the citizens was tremendous and finally the movement became very popular in many different cities of Greece and especially in Athens.

vouli1

The movement of “Indignants” in Athens became huge.It is estimated that in 29th of May(2011),80.000-100.000 people from all ages and different backrounds participated in the demonstration that took place in Syntagma Square. During the period between May and July, the movement was really alive and active.Even though it gained the attention of the media due to its organised media team and the surprise that caused to the Greek society,it collapsed.Even though today supporters of the movement make efforts to make it alive again, the results are dissapointing.

This movement was the response of Greek people against unemployment, inflation, corruption, harsh austerity measures and recession.Nevertheless, the problem might be that the protesters were people from so different backrounds that finally failed to find a common ground. A characteristic example is that the square was splitted in two:on the one side there were left-wing protesters and on the other side there were right-wingprotesters(there was also a large number of people who were more neutral).

The problem was that even though both sides were indignats, they were protesting many times for different reasons.Thus the effort to make a specific change, failed due to the lack of the similar values and motives.The absence of a specific request beyond the very general and indefinite”leave all” was the problem.Some groups proposed some statements of policy but the majority did not produce a specific proposal.

Finally, I think that the reason that this movement failed, is because of the lack of specific requests due to the absence of organisation and mobilisation for a specific reason. Furthermore, I think that another reason for this failure, was the the fact that “Indignants” didn’t want to politicize the movement in order to come up with concrete proposals.The supporters of the movement were so against the political parties that they didn’t actually realize that at the end..political parties(beyond all wrong) are essentially organized views on the settlement of society’s problem.Thus I find that if the movement was more professionalised in terms of specification of requests and needs,proposals,structure,and organisation,and specification the results would be much more different when it comes to the its contribution to social change.

 

 

 

 

 

Why do we need a Code of Ethics?

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For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been studying and doing research about Codes of Ethics. More specifically, as a group, we have to draft a Code of Ethics about campaigners.

I have to admit that I was not really familiar with this topic and I found it quite interesting. Through research I was able to see and notice the many differencies that appear when it comes to meanings,definitions and practices relating with this kind of codes.

To begin with, I’d like to do a basic distinction between the term “Code of Ethics” and “Code of Conduct”, because many times they seemed to be recognised as similar(but they are not):

Codes of Ethics contain behaviors and actions which are actually unwritten rules and regulations. The violations of these is frowned upon by the organisation or the company, nevertheless is not prohibited under law.These codes are not specific , they are expected to be followed and that’s why their violation does not lead to punishment.They set fundamental principles and provide the basic guides in terms of ethical and moral responsibility.

Codes of Conduct are specific rules and regulations that must be followed by the employees of a company or an organisation and they reqiore strict adherence otherwise there are penalties.They clearly describe the required standards of behavior.

Thus,a code of conduct is about how things should be done whereas a code of ethics is an underlying set of principles that determines why certain actions would be preferred.Ethical codes are focus on broader issues and are often framed as a belief statement regarding the organization’s mission, its values and expectations for its members. A conduct code is designed to translate the ethics code into specific do and don’t guidelines and to promote adherence to the code of ethics by providing specific examples of real world applications of the code of ethics.

After making this distincion, I wondered why a Code of Ethics is needed especially in NGO’s.

An NGO ” is a not-for-profit group, principally independent from government, which is organized on a local, national or international level to address issues in support of the public good”( http://www.unrol.org/article.aspx?article_id=23). These organisations, have grown quite rapidly in the last decades.Furthermore the structure of these organisations has changed as today many of them are professional,are organisations witth strict structures.But as our world has absolutely changed and transformed in terms of globalisation,technology,rising living standards, the framework (political,social and economical) where NGO’s operate has also changed.The areas where NGO’s are getting involved have increased,thus their basic principles and goals have been reconsidered.

I know that the answer to this question could be analysed in a whole essay due to the many factors and aspects that make the need of these codes necessary. But what comes a first in my mind when I think about Ethics and NGO’s is this:

NGO’s are focused to adress and work on issues that support the public good and society.NGO’s duties to society are to inspire people,to promote citizen’s participation and engagement,to respect  diversity,to avoid discriminations.That’s why I believe that it is fundamental that these duties,values, principles,beliefs about the kind of society they aspire to make should not only be adressed to all people but also should be illustrated and incorporated within the organisation.

For more information visit:

http://www.ethicsweb.ca/codes/coe2.htm

http://ncoss.org.au/projects/msu/downloads/resources/information%20sheets/13-ethical-decision-making-2012.pdf

http://www.wango.org/codeofethics/ComplianceManual.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Framing-Greece-See for yourself,feel for yourself

Framing is based on the assumption that how an issue is characterized in news reports can have an influence on how it is understood by audiences. Framing is often traced back to roots in both psychology and sociology (Pan & Kosicki, 1993).For more information about framing click here.

An example that can be used in order to explain and examine framing is the financial crisis in Greece.International media,with the use of “News Values”(Galtung,Ruge 1965) created the narrative  of Greece’s crisis.Greece was presented as an unsafe country, full of problems, with lazy and corrupted citizens.Furthermore it was presented as a country with high rates of violence and lack of hospitality,for whome Greece has been famous for many years.The News Values which were used where the following:

  • Frequency
  • Negativity
  • Conflict
  • Data(selected)
  • Competition
  • Predictability
  • Reference to elit nations-persons

Some examples of the way that Creece was presented in the international press are the following:

greece

libcom.org

greece1

telegraph.co.uk

greece3

opencuny.org

As Greece’s international image was really affected in a negative way,the Borough of Crete, decided to make a campaign in order to attract tourists , by totally changing the framing of the country.This campaign was an effort in order to attract more tourists but mainly,it was an effort  to reconstruct the international image of Greece.

The spot of this campaign is the following:

In the spot that it is attached at this post, there is an example of a tourist who visited Crete, accompanied by his wife. The tourist remains preoccupied by listening to the international news about Greece,and by reading similar articles about the situation of the country.Someone who watched the spot can clearly hear audio material about the way that Greece was presented : “Violence is that we are left with”, “Greek hospitality became a thing of the past”, “This hospitality is being lost to anger and dissapointment”, “Tourists are choosing to stay away”. The tourist kept being focused on these news rather than seeing the reality: The framing of Greece at this specific spot is based on the fact that even though  is that  the  country of course faces problems but the basic values are still alive and Greek people are trying hard to conform to the situation as it.Day by day, the tourist realizes that the reality of the media is different from the original.

In this campaign there were also used some of the “News Values” such us:

  • Personalization
  • Unexpectedness
  • Meaningfulness

The campaign was quite successfull as the rates of tourism increase year by year. Also, the national image of the country has been improved, as the situation is more stabilized.