A discussion-based podcast on politics, ethics, and current affairs, featuring in-depth conversations with (extra)ordinary individuals.
They Call Us And We Go?
What are our moral obligations in times of crisis? Are those who step up heroes, or simply human? In this pilot episode, we delve into these questions with Dr Cara Heuser, a medical doctor on the frontlines of the corona virus. But our discussion goes beyond Covid-19 to grapple with bigger questions of altruism, vocation, and more.Resources:NEJM article: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp2009027William Carlos Williams poem: https://poets.org/poem/complaint-0Recommended reading: Armageddon in Retrospect, by Kurt VonnegutGuest: Dr Cara Heuser (@caraheuser)Host: Dr Julie Norman (@DrJulieNorman2)
Be the Change
What makes community work different from charity? How can those seeking to ‘do good’ avoid creating unintentional dynamics of us and them, of givers and receivers? In this episode, I discuss these questions with Liz Griffith, a community worker in Belfast, who works closely with refugees, asylum seekers, and victims of human trafficking in Northern Ireland. We talk about the current challenges facing communities in the time of the coronavirus, but our conversation ranges to include the moral tension of food banks, the problem of compassion fatigue, and the challenges of oppositional activism.Resources:http://www.belfastfriendshipclub.org/https://flourishni.org/Book recommendation: I Didn’t Do It For You, by Michela Wronghttps://www.harpercollins.com/9780060780937/i-didnt-do-it-for-you/
Hook Me Up
Nearly 1 billion people around the world lack access to electricity. What does this mean for hospitals and clinics in low-income countries trying to treat patients during Covid-19? In this episode, I speak with Dr. James Knuckles, from the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP), on the innovative ways the development sector is trying to connect communities, and why connectivity is so crucial right now. We also talk about how the virus is affecting the much needed movement of food and other goods in low-income countries, the ethical and pragmatic considerations of social enterprises, and broader challenges in working for sustainable development. Resources:Mini-Grids for a Half a Billion People Book Recommendation:Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose
What does a process of institutional police reform look like? How do you build trust after years of distrust, resentment, and structural inequalities?This is a bonus episode that I’m running in light of the ongoing protests taking place this week in the US and around the world, which have included widespread calls for police reform.For this episode, I reached out to Roger McCallum in Belfast, Northern Ireland, who describes himself as a ‘former police person’ now engaged in peacebuilding and human rights. Roger was a police officer in Northern Ireland for 26 years, and most of that time was during the Troubles, the violent conflict that divided Northern Ireland for decades. Police played a significant role in the conflict; as an institution of the British state, they were seen as targeting Catholic and Nationalist communities, and they were also the frequent target of IRA violence.As a result, police reform was a major part of Northern Ireland’s peace process, and Roger was a part of that too. He helped facilitate the Patten Commission, an independent, international commission that suggested 175 reforms to reshape the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) into the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).Roger now advises police services around the world, so I was curious to speak with him to hear about his personal journey in Northern Ireland from a being a police commander during an armed conflict to doing international police reform, and also hear his insights on what’s happening in the US. Neither I nor Roger are suggesting that the lessons from NI are a direct fit for the US; they are different contexts with different histories and structural inequalities, and there are many other voices speaking more eloquently on those topics right now.But one thing that resonated with me in this conversation is Roger’s emphasis on the need for uncomfortable conversations. We both recognise the need for real policy and institutional changes, and we talk about those, too. But Roger has seen that making those policy changes stick requires tough work at the interpersonal level also, and that means engaging in difficult conversations.
Changing the Narrative
How do questions of race, justice, and equality transcend national borders? How is the past tied to the present? How do ideas that were once labelled ‘radical’ become mainstream?In light of the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement for police reform and racial equality, I’m doing another special episode this week, featuring Dr. Esmorie Miller (@esmoriem), a Lecturer in Criminology at London South Bank University.Esmorie has been looking at issues of race, justice, and policing for over 15 years, with a focus on young people. She looks at institutional policies around urban youth gangs; historical narratives on youth justice reform; policing surveillance in schools; and the role of race and gender in punishment. She has a forthcoming book on the role of race in youth justice, with a focus on the UK and Canada, so I wanted to speak with her partly about how and why BLM extends beyond the US borders.But I also wanted to hear from Esmorie about how she, and other researchers in her field, have been working for years to change the narrative on racialised youth. As Esmorie says, the historical discourse around young people of color was long centered around an assumed deviance or reluctance, and that narrative has carried through to today. As she puts it, ‘the present is still tethered to the past.’ But by engaging with that history and understanding it, we might be able to challenge and change that narrative.When Esmorie first started this work, she was told by supervisors that her research was sound, but too ‘radical.’ Now that the idea of systemic racism has become more mainstream, I wanted to hear from Esmorie on how and why understandings and norms shift, and how she sees this present moment.Our conversation gets slightly academic at times, but there’s a lot of great stuff here, and I hope you learn as much as I did.Resources:Policing Black Lives, by Robyn MaynardGhosts in the Schoolyard, bye Eve Ewing
Breaking the Stigma
How might we have better conversations about tough topics like race, sexuality, religion, politics, and mental health? How can we reduce social stigma?Today my guest is Dr. Adrienne Williams (@AAWilliamsPhD), a clinical health psychologist based in Chicago, who specializes in sexuality and gender. She provides therapy for anxiety and depression, and her work with sexuality and gender includes sexual abuse/assault, sexual orientation, and trans*gender care. She is a vocal advocate for primary mental health providers, and breaking down the stigma around mental health. I wanted to speak with Adrienne about her general work and motivations in these areas, but I also wanted to speak with her about the challenges of mental health during Covid-19 and also during the BLM movement. This is a fascinating and wide-ranging conversation. We discuss sexuality, faith, mental health, race, gender, and a whole lot more. One thing that I love about speaking with Adrienne is that she doesn’t shy away from talking about tough topics. Instead, she embraces them. And a lot of her work is devoted to helping people have those hard conversations, and to break down the stigma around them. Resources:We Need Primary Mental Health Providers, by Adrienne Williams (op-ed) Book Recommendations:How to be an Anti-Racist, by Ibram X. KendiWhite Fragility, by Robin DiAngeloWaking Up White, by Debby Irving