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First Tuesday current affairs discussion - Tuesday 5 September 7:00pm start

Tuesday 5th September: First Tuesday Current Affairs discussion

Discussing Militarising the Far East and a second topic

Public discussions and debate in Manchester
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Recent Discussions

Is childhood beginning to dominate adulthood?

September 2013

James Heartfield and Ian Parker spoke of the impact childhood experiences and Freud's unconscious has on adulthood, chaired by Ken McLaughlin


James Heartfield

Freud’s theories of the unconscious, the importance of early childhood experiences and repression have had an enormous impact on society. The debate over recovered and false memories in the 1980s and 1990s centred on whether adult patients were accurately recovering repressed memories of childhood abuse, or whether such memories were constructed during therapy and/or implanted by the therapist. Today, many TV dramas use the theme of disturbing experiences in childhood to set up and explain character motivation.

Ian Parker


Past abuse has also been used to explain anything from the onset of psychotic experiences to violent or criminal behaviour. Pete Townsend, of rock group The Who, on being found to have downloaded images of child pornography said in mitigation that whilst he could not remember being abused in the past he thought that he might have been. If we add to this the current trend in neuroscience to explain behaviour as not consciously chosen but merely as a result of brain activity – my brain made me do it, your honour; is Freud’s legacy the psychoanalytic equivalent – it wasn’t me constable, it was my unconscious.

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Sex sells: promoting images of women

June 2013

Anna Percy, Nina Powell, and Emily Pitts introduced a discussion on the promotional imagery of women and how society should respond

Anna PercyAdvertising and propaganda have a long history of using carefully selected images to visually substantiate claims made in words. Often, images of women for, example, are used to sell a variety of things such as cars (the sexual pose over the bonnet of a car), clothes (the slim, stereotyped version of how women should look) or lifestyle (the 1960s domestic goddess / 1990s ‘girl power’). The right to free speech, and the right of us all to see and read messages that others don't want us to, is often claimed by those opposing restrictions on the form and content of advertising and social or political messaging, and the right to be protected by those wanting restrictions.


Dr Nina Powell

The images and words used in promotional advertising, or those that aim to create a common narrative of a wider socialising character, have long been debated. Feminist campaigners in the 1970s were energetic in developing more progressive images of women in society, and published a variety of pamphlets and story books for children portraying women in the way they thought they should be - deliberately and consciously countering messages of the period portraying women as housewives. Whilst there were some notable campaigns against images of topless women in newspapers, these were often seen as censorious, being associated with Mary Whitehouse prudishness. Today, similar campaigns don't seem to grate so much against society and are gaining a more popular hearing, for example there have been campaigns threatening legal action under employment legislation against newsagents selling lads mags such as Nuts, Zoo and FHM.


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Recent Discussions

Assisted dying: does it benefit society?

May 2013

Kevin Yuill, Ray Tallis, Jane Barraclough and Bob Pounder introduced their considered thoughts on assisted dying / suicide 


Kevin Yuill

As a new Assisted Dying Bill is tabled by Lord Falconer and as religious bodies such as the Unitarian Church show increasing tolerance towards assisted suicide, we ask the question, is taking one's life ever permissible, whatever your faith? The taboo against suicide held for millennia, enforced by sanctions against it in all the world’s major religions. Whereas most humanist and atheist organizations favour a liberalisation of the laws, major churches and most official religious bodies incline against it (the Catholic Church, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Lutheran faiths, Islam) or are simply vague about it.

Ray Tallis


There are some useful case studies from a formalisation of assisted dying being permitted in certain circumstances when particular formalities have been met, so are these examples enough of a reassurance to those who are holding onto the line that assisted dying should not be formalised in law and regulated through procedure? Or do the examples from other countries merely highlight the unnecessary unravelling of a societal norm that could lead to unwelcome consequences of a move toward more generalised acceptance of suicide and euthanasia.

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Recent Discussions

Modernisation, development and conservation

April 2013

Dominic Standish, Angela Connelly, Tom Jarman and Alex Solk opened up 'sustainable development' to some critical thinking, chaired by Jane Leach

Dominic StandishDebates about sustainability and development permeate multiple aspects of life throughout the world in the twenty-first century. With increasing urbanisation, those debates are often focused on the life of cities, including Manchester, Venice, Nairobi, Shanghai and Rio de Janeiro. Appropriate planning according to the changing character of geographical areas is especially challenging due to social and economic transformation. In addition, as rural areas become more managed, how we balance protecting the environment with development has become a pressing question.

 Dr Angela Connelly

With most worldwide manufacturing employment outside Western Europe and North America, how does this change life in these regions? Can Western cities become cultural, tourist, educational and service centres or is there still a role for industry? What implications do these questions have for western city development versus preserving ancient heritage?

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Getting away with murder: genocide and politics

April 2013

Mukesh Kapila, Vanessa Pupavac and Rony Brauman introduced a discussion on countries seeming to get away with genocide, chaired by James Thompson


Professor Mukesh KapilaIn January 2012, the French Senate voted for a bill with cross-party support to make it a criminal offence to deny the mass murder of Armenians in 1915 was genocide. Anyone who ‘outrageously’ questions the official version of events would face a one-year prison sentence. The French Constitutional Court quashed the bill, saying it represented an ‘unconstitutional attack on freedom of expression’. Nonetheless, the European Framework decision on Racism and Xenophobia says genocide denial or gross trivialisation should be a crime in all EU member states. As well as France, a number of member states have rejected this, including the UK, the Netherlands, Italy, Denmark, Sweden and Spain. Their rejection reflects an ongoing dispute about whether historical truths should be treated as legal truths.


Dr Vanessa PupavacConcern over the problem of genocide denial can seem out of proportion to its reality. Some would describe the case of Rwanda as the last genocide of the 20th century, and the case of Darfur as the first genocide of the 21st century. The case of contemporary Nuba and relatively recent events in Srebrenica are also often analysed as related to genocides. The concept of impunity is disputed in many of these examples, and the legal aspects throw up the potential need for new laws, alongside newly evolving human rights norms, as well as the role of the great powers and other global institutions as supposedly standing by and doing nothing (the latter including the UK and the UN). The role of the International Criminal Court, is often contested politically and morally by those on trial there, reflecting a changing balance of power in the world system. 

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Inequality: why the big issue?

February 2013

Daniel Ben-Ami and Danny Dorling introduced a discussion on the impact of inequality

Daniel Ben Ami

There is a broad consensus that we are losing our sense of common purpose as a result of the sharp widening of economic and social inequality in western societies since the 1970s. The super-rich keep themselves aloof at the top, whilst a burgeoning underclass it is thought, if not helped, can easily be tempted into anti-social behaviour at the bottom. What is the best way to respond to this?

 Danny Dorling

A defining feature of socialism was its desire to abolish class and hierarchy so that human potential could be fully realised. Conservatives, meanwhile, have typically argued that material inequality is inevitable and probably also desirable. The contemporary orthodoxy though, sometimes referred to as a “new progressivism”, is fundamentally different from the traditional views of left and right. There are growing campaigns that slate the wealthy for failing to pay their fair share of tax, like for example the Occupy protesters who claim to represent the ‘99 per cent’ against the super-rich ‘1 per cent’.

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