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Chris Bertram

Sunday photoblogging: jet

by Chris Bertram on December 23, 2018


Sunday photoblogging: cobbles

by Chris Bertram on December 16, 2018

Bristol, cobbles

Britain convicts human rights defenders of terrorism offence

by Chris Bertram on December 10, 2018

In the UK every day is Brexit day, but today more than most because our hapless Prime Minister’s attempts to persuade Parliament to back her “deal” have run into the sand. The wall-to-wall coverage means that there’s every danger that the state’s victimization of human rights defenders will not get the coverage it should. The Stansted 15 are a group who took direct action to prevent a flight deporting people from taking off from Stansted Airport last March. Originally charged with “aggravated trespass”, the prosecutors sought and received permission to accuse them of an obscure terrorism offence involving intentional disruption of services at an aerodrome, a provision of the 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act. This was brought in after the Lockerbie bombing of 1988 and carries the possibility of life in prison. The judge in the case instructed the jury to ignore all arguments to the effect that the defendants had prevented a greater evil. It is clear however that they have indeed prevented a great evil, since several of those whose deportation they prevented have now had their cases reassessed and have been granted leave to remain in the UK. I blogged the other day about Candice Delmas’s book A Duty to Resist. At least two of her grounds of justified resistance are plainly at stake in this case: first by preventing the refoulement of people to jurisdictions where they face persecution, the Stansted 15 were acting in accordance with the natural duty of justice to uphold just institutions in a case where states try to subvert or ignore those institutions; second, the Samaritan duty, acting to prevent great harm and human rights violations to individuals, is in play. The most plausible defences of state authority base themselves on the fact that states make justice possible: in this case it is those who have acted against the state and now face prison who have acted in defence of justice.

Sunday photoblogging: Bristol dawn

by Chris Bertram on December 9, 2018

Bristol dawn

Still getting used to the new camera, but there was some fantastic light first thing this morning.

Sunday photoblogging, and an appeal

by Chris Bertram on December 2, 2018


Here’s a row of houses in Southville, Bristol near where I live. I’m hoping to have a burst of photographic activity now, having just taken delivery of a new camera, a Panasonic G9, last week.

And now for an appeal: Bristol Refugee Rights, where I’m chair of the board of trustees, is a charity providing support, advice, education, meals, social space and other services to refugees, asylum seekers and other vulnerable migrants in the Bristol area. Funding is always tight, and we desperately need to raise £29,000 to keep our advice services running. We’ve started a crowdfunder to this purpose, and I’d urge everyone (especially if you like these Sunday photos) to contribute.

Sunday photoblogging: Lyon, France

by Chris Bertram on November 25, 2018

Lyon, France

Sunday photoblogging: fox

by Chris Bertram on November 18, 2018


Sunday photoblogging: Llanberis lake

by Chris Bertram on November 11, 2018

Llanberis Lake,  Snowdonia

Sunday photoblogging: Bordeaux at night

by Chris Bertram on November 4, 2018

Bordeaux at night

A superb new book on the duty of resistance

by Chris Bertram on October 31, 2018

Candice Delmas, A Duty to Resist: When Disobedience Should Be Uncivil (Oxford University Press, 2018).

Political obligation has always been a somewhat unsatisfactory topic in political philosophy, as has, relatedly, civil disobedience. The “standard view” of civil disobedience, to be found in Rawls, presupposes that we live in a nearly just society in which some serious violations of the basic liberties yet occur and conceives of civil disobedience as a deliberate act of public lawbreaking, nonviolent in character, which aims to communicate a sense of grave wrong to our fellow citizens. To demonstrate their fidelity to law, civil disobedients are willing to accept the consequences of their actions and to take their punishment. When Rawls first wrote about civil disobedience, in 1964, parts of the US were openly and flagrantly engaged in the violent subordination of their black population, so it was quite a stretch for him to think of that society as “nearly just”. But perhaps its injustice impinged less obviously on a white professor at an elite university in Massachusetts than it did on poor blacks in the deep South.

The problems with the standard account hardly stop there. Civil disobedience thus conceived is awfully narrow. In truth, the range of actions which amount to resistance to the state and to unjust societies is extremely broad, running from ordinary political opposition, through civil disobedience to disobedience that is rather uncivil, through sabotage, hacktivism, leaking, whistle-blowing, carrying out Samaritan assistance in defiance of laws that prohibit it, striking, occupation, violent resistance, violent revolution, and, ultimately, terrorism. For the non-ideal world in which we actually live and where we are nowhere close to a “nearly just” society, we need a better theory, one which tells us whether Black Lives Matter activists are justified or whether antifa can punch Richard Spencer. Moreover, we need a theory that tells us not only what we may do but also what we are obliged to do: when is standing by in the face of injustice simply not morally permissible.

Step forward Candice Delmas with her superb and challenging book The Duty to Resist: When Disobedience Should Be Uncivil (Oxford University Press). Delmas points out the manifold shortcomings of the standard account and how it is often derived from taking the particular tactics of the civil rights movement and turning pragmatic choices into moral principles. Lots of acts of resistance against unjust societies, in order to be effective, far from being communicative, need to be covert. Non-violence may be an effective strategy, but sometimes those resisting state injustice have a right to defend themselves. [click to continue…]

Sunday photoblogging: cormorants

by Chris Bertram on October 14, 2018

Cormorant (or shag?)-2

One taken this morning:

Cliftonwood houses, through Vauxhall Bridge

Sunday photoblogging: Newcastle

by Chris Bertram on September 30, 2018

I was up in Newcastle this week (the first time I’ve visited the city). Lots of dramatic photo-opportunities, particularly of buildings dwarfed by bridges in the city-centre. Unfortunately, at the only time I had to take pictures, the weather was rather overcast.


Sunday photoblogging: window

by Chris Bertram on September 23, 2018


Should immigration laws be respected?

by Chris Bertram on September 19, 2018

I have a short piece in The Nation, Should Immigration Laws Be Respected?. Comment there or comment here. An excerpt:

The rule of law isn’t just about people obeying the law. It is about having a fair system that works for everyone. A system where some states get to impose their will on outsiders who get neither a chance to shape the law, nor the opportunity to defend themselves against incarceration or deportation, isn’t an example of law in action but of naked force. And people don’t have a duty to submit to naked force: they have a right to resist it.