Aug 022014
 
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I’ve been struggling (as I imagine all of us not trained in the history in question have been struggling) to understand the dynamics of the current conflict in Gaza.  It’s not just from my failure to comprehend how people can be party to so much cruelty, but also from the point of view of how particularly the British and US governments can simultaneously condemn in public and – apparently – support in private such violence.

And so I stumble across a piece of data which, if true, explains at least half of that equation: the US currently tolerates an annual mortality rate by gunshot wounds – suicide and murder both – of 30,000 of its citizens.

That’s almost a hundred a day.

In fact, at least according to this .pdf, the figure can be occasionally even more alarming:

“That is the thing I just can’t understand.  On September 11, 2001, three thousand people died.  And ten times that amount of people die every year in the United States from firearms.  That question comes into my head a lot. Believe me. ”

Hardly surprising, then (perhaps, more accurately, I should say “sadly unsurprising”), that statistics such as these (from the previous Gaza War) and opinions such as these (from only yesterday) can emerge from such an icy cauldron of experience and perceptions:

An Israeli newspaper appeared to attempt to avert a backlash on Friday evening, when it removed a post entitled ‘When Genocide is Permissible’ from its website less than a minute after it was uploaded.

The article in question apparently having been written by a blogger based in the US.

To its credit, the Times of Israel later reacted in the following way:

A spokeswoman from The Times of Israel  has since condemned the blog as “damnable and ignorant”.

She told The Independent: “The blog post, which was both damnable and ignorant, was uploaded by a blogger. It was removed by the Times of Israel for breaching our editorial guidelines. The blog has been discontinued.”

Never mind the Gaza Strip.  This is clearly (even if differently in certain fundamental detail) a case of the #NewWorldStrip: a zone of violence where poverty of thought outstrips the humanity we are all capable of.

The cost, in fact, of violent freedoms.  And the cancer continues to spread.


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Jun 252014
 
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There has been a lot of rubbish written about the subject of British Values recently.  This post of mine will probably serve to make the already high pile even higher.  But hey-ho, here we go.

Although my mother came to Britain as an immigrant, in a sort of way fleeing her experience of Communist oppression in the ex-Yugoslavia (her parents were anti-Communists during World War Two, and so lost a lot by way of opposing Communist privilege in the post-war period of Tito’s regime), I myself was born in Oxford.  About as quintessentially English as anyone could get, in fact.  I’ve always wanted to return there to live – but one of the undeniable British Values of recent times involves finding it prohibitively expensive to get decently-priced accommodation in places where jobs simultaneously exist.

So here I am, making my living via Internet and web tools and environments, in a property no one would care to call their own.

Stoicism, then?  Another British Value?  That’s two already, and I’ve hardly got started.

Actually, the thesis of this post was to be rather different.  For me, born and bred British but having grown up in between quite different cultural vectors (atheist English/Welsh/Yorkshire/British/European versus dyed-in-the-wool anti-Communist Catholic Croatian), it has always seemed that the greatest achievement of our cultural cauldron has – really not surprising, this – mimicked very closely the outlines and structures of our linguistic heritage.  Yes.  We always look to the United States in these matters – and, admittedly, their achievement is considerable: melding (or maybe that’s welding) a multitude of different – still growing, still effervescing – cultures together in a primal soup of patriotic belief in order to create one country out of an astonishing federal association.  But what we’ve achieved in Britain over the years – what lately we’re looking to ditch, too, as we take onboard everything and anything American – is typically contrary to our cousins across the Atlantic, even as in our diffident way we assume we’ve done really nothing at all to differentiate ourselves.

And, actually, maybe we have really done nothing: our secret being this nothing we’ve really not done.  One of my skills, and one way I make my living, is as a language trainer: www.speak-ok.com is where I ply my trade.  Over the years, I have noticed – as many of us who train will concur – that learners of English almost invariably find it difficult to learn because there is a hole at the centre of its grammatical structures.  The beauty of English is that the formation of its tenses is relatively straightforward; that the subjunctive is mostly invisible where not completely unnecessary (and becoming more so); and that you can make yourself easily understood, especially to other foreign speakers of the language, even where you commit mistakes in what we are normally supposed to say.

I would argue, therefore, that – given a chance – English, and the British, are generally forgiving when it comes to meaning.  We’re not pedants; we don’t pursue arguments to the death; we generally look to comprehend what you meant to say rather than, exactly, what you did.

And this huge vacuum at the centre of the language itself finds an analogous vacuum at the centre of what we feel we can agree upon is the essence of British Values.  But in reality, it’s no vacuum at all: in reality, like foreigners attempting – and failing – to find one-to-one grammatical correspondences with their own finely-wrought languages, what’s to blame is our perception of what we believe – perhaps from a US-style perspective we’re absorbing (or that’s absorbing us) – that we should now be encountering in our cultural heritage, even though it has never been there in the first place.

If the greatness of English, as a linguistic construct, is to be found in its forgiving nature as far as comprehending broken forms and attempts at communication, and therefore making them work for the benefit of everyone, then the greatness of British Values is surely located along the same lines: the same lines as one of its key linguistic heritages; the same lines as the people formed by such a set of linguistic patterns and ways of thinking and seeing.

We are what we speak.  And what we speak, for people from other languages, works in the absence of a certain complication they have learnt to need, to value and to use to control their own national characteristics and ways of doing.

So after all of this, what’s my conclusion?  Let’s, once and for all, stop trying to fill the “vacuum” at the centre of British Values.  An absence doesn’t mean a lack.  It can mean a freedom.  It can mean a liberty to do what we choose – when we are taught rightly not to hurt others.  It can mean a space to move as we would wish.  It can mean an efficiency to finish a job without irrelevant and unhelpful fuss.

That, for me, is where British Values are to be found.

In particular, in English’s inclusive ability not only to acquire new vocabulary and ways of communicating from other cultures but also to live alongside other proud and honourable traditions; to collaborate with them; to learn from them; and to synthesise new ideas from them.

English the language, and Values the British, don’t so much simplify stuff; rather, instead, they simply make it easier to get along.  And that, right here, is the real virtue we should perceive.

That, right here, is what we should all be attempting to perpetuate.

British Values: the essence of an existence, well experienced.


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Mar 252013
 
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In times of crisis, paranoia strikes us all.  It’s either unreasonable paranoia about another’s acts or an actual plan from the same, of course – but if we argue the latter, it’s ourselves whom they see as the paranoid.  Whatever the reality of the matter.

I do sincerely wonder, in fact, as a gentle by-the-by, whether those who are defined clinically paranoid will now find comfort and solace in a society such as ours is becoming.  They will now be finding themselves perfectly adjusted to a civilisation which has surely crept towards them – even as its medical folk, investigators and researchers have continued to judge their perceptions as inaccurate.

As far as our European political classes are concerned, paranoia definitely appears to be taking them by a fairly fearsome scruff of the neck.  Witness this story from Spain today (the Spanish original here, robot English here): the youth members of the Spanish Partido Popular (their rather rancidly right-wing ruling party) have set up an “anonymous email” (let’s see how far they get with that assertion) and Twitter hashtag in order to allow Spanish students to denounce their teachers for acts of (presumably) liberal indoctrination.

Now if such objectives and methods were put in place over here, the newspapers and media would be all over its initiators.  Or, at least, that’s what you’d have thought from a country with such a long democratic history as England’s.  Except that, of course, our dear Michael Gove has has once more given a voice to the more prejudiced, incoherent and intellectually insubstantial proclaimers of latterday political correctnesses (the bold is mine):

Referring to the 1938 book Enemies of Promise by Cyril Connolly, which examined ways in which literary talent is thwarted, Mr Gove accused his critics of being “more interested in valuing Marxism, revering jargon and fighting excellence” than improving schools.

He wrote in the Mail on Sunday: “There are millions of talented young people being denied the opportunity to succeed as they deserve. Far too many are having their potential thwarted by a new set of Enemies of Promise.

“The new Enemies of Promise are a set of politically motivated individuals who have been actively trying to prevent millions of our poorest children getting the education they need.”

Political correctnesses as laid down, that is, this time by the right.

But let’s just follow the train of thought – Mr Gove’s nascent little train of thought, I mean – to its logical conclusion.  If teachers and academics are now to be found guilty of indoctrinating Marxist thoughts and ideas, that can surely only mean whole generations of our young – our children, our adolescents, our young men and women – are now tainted by association, and indeed by a very direct process of brainwashing, from an evil educational establishment bent on little more than world domination.

If this is the case, and from what he appears to be arguing it certainly seems a cogent extrapolation of his initial worldview, perhaps he should really come out with a more fully formed plan: a state-sponsored reprogramming of a generation unkindly and unpleasantly lost to the liberal brainwashers of academia.

Something, in fact, along the lines of the political commissars which his Spanish Nuevas Generaciones de Castellón colleagues have apparently already engineered.

More and more, the more I read and see and perceive, I get the feeling it wasn’t the United States which won the Cold War after all.

Don’t you?


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Mar 162013
 
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Peter has just kindly pointed me in the direction of a film I should’ve stumbled across much sooner in my life.  It’s called “Odd Man Out”.  It’s directed by Carol Reed.  You can find out more about it here.

Now watch this clip below – and focus in particular on this saddening reflection.


http://youtu.be/SqctI12CBzo

“I am nothing.”  Not even charity.

Feel lonely?  It’s hardly surprising.  Making us feel lonely has become the weapon of choice of politicians in crisis.  And as the BBC reports on the awful implications of the Cyprus crisis:

The deal also involves a levy on bank deposits intended to ensure investors contribute to the bailout, the BBC’s Andrew Walker in Brussels reports.

People with less than 100,000 euros in Cypriot bank accounts will have to pay a one-time tax of 6.75%, while those with more will have to pay 9.9%. It is expected to raise 5.8bn euros in additional revenue.

A European Central Bank (ECB) official said the Cypriot authorities had already started to take action to ensure that the levy can be collected. Otherwise, there would be a likelihood of massive withdrawals to avoid it, our correspondent adds.

All of a sudden, people with savings become investors.  Amazing, isn’t it?  From bank deposit levies to bedroom taxes, our rapacious and single-minded political overlords are struggling – as we write, speak and exchange our saddest of thoughts – to hold things together with even a smidgen of coherence.  Whilst millions of children are thrust back into British poverty, billions of pounds in bonuses are distributed by failing British banks to their employees.

No wonder we all feel lonely.  “This cannot be right or just – or even efficient,” we think.  “There must be some other way forward.”

In 2003, when the Iraq War approached, I definitely felt I was the Odd Man Out.  It drove me spare; kind of drove me mad.  It took me a long time to recover.

But what I most fear today is that this same process, to a lesser degree, will now affect millions of thinking citizens.  When powerful owners of communication processes tell us over and over again that what we see and feel is wrong and misplaced, how else can it be?  How else can we react?  How else but to go into some kind of shell and begin to hide away from the reality they deny us?

The tactics they now use are to make us all feel we are odd men and women.  And although we perceive in our calmer moments of understanding that you cannot have a whole nation made of square pegs, they have managed to debilitate our comprehension of what’s going on to such an extent that nothing at all surprises us any more.

Nor do we protest very much – or, at least, that’s the way it seems to be going.  From initial despair to an overwhelmingly resigned misery, there are so many people out there who will begin to give up even on their lives.

They will, you must accept by now, be thinking about giving up on anything more than simple survival.

And so we take it slyly onboard.  And so we seamlessly absorb the implications.

Disabled people thrown out of their homes?  Unemployed people blamed for the consequences of government austerity?  The sick and elderly seen as a drain on our economy?  Privilege defined as the solution to a dysfunctional economy?  “Meh!  Meh!  Meh!  Meh!”

My advice?  Understand loneliness as a litmus test of injustice.  Externalise your fears; don’t blame yourself.  Remember your child and comprehend the unkindness of others.  And above all, face up to this undeniable fact: this Coalition government of ours is psychologically ruthless and without qualms of any sort.

Democracy provides us with no tools or processes to get rid of a government which – more than anything – uses psychological abuse to control, organise and impose its political impulses.  Physical violence would provoke a response from the courts.  But psychological violence at a state-engendered level is still not to be found in the rule books.

So then.  A revolution we need – the question is which.  You cannot abuse an abuser if you want to remain at all emotionally whole.  You cannot fight violence with violence and hope to remain aloof.  Where are we now?  What next for those finite perishable goods we call human beings?  Creatures whose lives are simply drifting down that 21st century gadget-ridden creek without a single bloody empowering paddle to their names.

And all this while, these politicians and business leaders whose crises I mention flailingly attack the entirely blameless citizens they still rule over.

In order to make such citizens feel entirely blameworthy.

In order to make them feel entirely odd.


http://youtu.be/KrkwgTBrW78


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Mar 112013
 
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No.  Not a medical stat.  Just a thought.  Twitter, for me, is a massive brainstorming environment.  Ideas spark into existence through social acts of exchange.  In fact, good ideas only present themselves when minds interact.  There was nothing more solitary than the first thought in a train; nothing less likely to lead to success.

But a full train itself – now that is a wonder to behold.

A thought just came my way from someone I follow.  It suggested that:

British society is having a nervous breakdown! From riots to expenses, failed journalism to the break up of UK! Something went badly wrong!

I was minded to reply thus:

@ukschizophrenic That is *so* perceptive. In an evermore connected society, it was inevitable it’d happen one day. And it’s happening now.

And that is the truth of it.  Whilst we conserved our relative separatenesses – our judicious distances and personal spaces – what happened to others did affect us, but not definitively.  Of course, the greater life events – birth, death, marriage, coming-of-age – could still bring a tear or two to one’s eyes, but such tears were not permanent nor affected us so profoundly.

In a hyper-connected world, however, every twitch of those people we are most tightly connected to, like a spider’s web which places us at the centre of every single destiny, leads us to react and respond practically every waking minute of our lives.  We are forever jerked awake from otherwise necessary reverie – jerking like puppets on an unending string of circumstances.  No wonder we do not have the time to relax or disconnect productively.  No wonder our brains are at the very edge of safe existence.

This isn’t only nervous breakdown Britain; there are other societies, I am sure, which find themselves living the same.  But Britain is the society I know best, and the society I currently experience.  And my experience seems to indicate that to share the highs and lows of so many barely touched-on individuals is to place our mental wellbeing in the hands of an amoral ether – to such an extent, in fact, that we can no longer protect ourselves from its wiles.

Via our increasing levels of interconnectedness, we more and more form part of a common brain.  And that brain we form a part of is getting to the point where it quite naturally chooses to sacrifice the occasional neurone.  Yes.  That is what it has come to.  We are little more than neurones in a wider scheme of things.  Virtual ants scrabbling to scale the dry riverbank before the monsoon rains flood our path.

What does it matter if some of us fall by the wayside, if a greater good might thus be served?

It’s enough to drive anyone out of their mind.

The thought that our ancient and socialising instinct to reach out and connect has become so very intimate, unprotected, permanent and potentially noxious that it actually damages our ability to live safe and healthy lives.

A strange thing is happening to this thing we call humanity.

A weird thing is happening to life.

How curiously we are managing to pervert the beauty of human interaction.

And in its wake, how sadly we seem to be engineering an illness of sorts – an illness we still do not fully comprehend but which may, in the rather near future, have profound and unrecognised consequences for much more than those neurones of current misfortune.


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Jan 142013
 
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This report came my way via Patrick on Twitter just now.  It’s published over at the Independent and describes the following set of circumstances (the bold is mine):

From October 2011 to the end of September 2012, HMRC was given 172 authorisations for “directed surveillance” – covert surveillance, mainly in public places – down slightly from the previous year.

HMRC refused to disclose how many times it had been given warrants to intercept and read peoples’ private emails, or listen to their phone calls. This is the most intrusive type of surveillance, which needs to be authorised by the Home Secretary. It also refused to disclose the number of times it had carried out “intrusive surveillance”, which can include covertly filming a person’s house, or bugging their property or car.

As a specialist in tax law goes on to state:

Adam Craggs, a partner and tax specialist at law firm RPC, said: “It is not immediately apparent why such communications data would be useful to HMRC for the purpose of tax investigations. Why does HMRC require details of the nature of web sites visited, which may be perfectly legal but potentially embarrassing, such as dating sites?”

To be honest, I think that’s the least of it.  Embarrassment, I mean.  Whilst we can all agree that measures and procedures must be in place to protect us from the really bad guys in society – the paedophiles, terrorists, fraudsters and assorted expense-accounted MPs – it gets a little harder when we begin to wonder if exactly the same measures as the above-mentioned might instead be used to interfere with the development of small and medium-sized businesses.

Especially in an Internet world where barriers to entry are really rather low.

Spying on the enemy has always been sold to the public at large as necessary to defend freedom and democracy – but it is surely of far greater utility when the big-business-and-government nexus of revolving doors decides its interests need protecting over that of approaching political and commercial upstarts.

Just think what a government department which had cosy relationships with massive corporations, which frequently agreed massive tax deals behind closed doors and which was accustomed to steering clear of public disagreement with transnational bodies of all kinds, might be able to engineer with such commonplace activities and instincts as the Independent reports.  It is, after all, one small step from “intrusive surveillance” to “active interference in the internal workings of a company”.

How easy would it therefore be to go beyond watching and waiting for tax infractions to proactively sabotaging new ideas and giving existing players the economic and logistical breathing spaces they needed in order to regroup and, as a result, maintain the status quo so sought after by politicians and business leaders alike.

A police state, that is – only without the police.

Not a politically repressive regime.

Rather, an economically repressive regime.

So is this what we’ve now arrived at?  Something cloaked in democracy but smelling as rank as any one-dictator republic?

Something perhaps as bad as anything 20th century Communism was able to dream up?


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Oct 282012
 
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Three references I’d ask you to read before I proceed with this post.  First, I posted a piece on confusing sex and power earlier today.  It’s led me to further thoughts – none of which are happy ones.

Second, I just tweeted thus:

I honestly do not know why British institutions are turning out so rotten. As a kid, I was led to believe in them. Why? And to what purpose?

Finally, this piece, which Dave Semple just sent my way, on the history behind the BBC‘s culture of child abuse – a culture which formed and perpetuated itself way before Mr Jimmy Savile came on the scene.

It’s a terrifying article, this last one, describing as it does the casual attitude at the time, in that post-war period, of what bordered on a kind of disposable hatred to young persons of both sexes.  It will sadden you greatly, if you manage to find the time to read it.  This is not a case of a raft of a country’s institutions deteriorating suddenly and explosively: this is, rather, a continuity of malignant spirit which burrowed its way – like the jokey letters down a stick of rock – into the very psyche and shared behaviours of a whole nation.

*

Two things that come to mind.  The first is whether what has happened in the post-war period isn’t indicative of a wider sequence of abuse.  Abusers are known to occupy two existences: their all-too-often public and shameful one of criminal and their all-too-private and shameful one of victim.  Yes.  The abusers have been abused.

The English were, after all, famous for saying: “Children should be seen and not heard.”  How easily this describes a voyeur’s controlling perspective: the right to fuck around with someone’s head and not be reported.

Just imagine if we expand the remit of this phrase to a broader series of sexual practices.

So this abuse which the abusers – of which I am sure many more will appear – have so clearly suffered … to what, then, can we attribute its existence?  Well.  I’m beginning to wonder if this isn’t going to be the result of a much greater and national trauma than that silly, giggly and unfathomably traditional English inability to quite know what to do about sex.

I’m beginning to wonder if what is clearly becoming a sick and widespread aggression against defenceless individuals in secretive care homes, public institutions and perhaps even many private households too, hidden for decades from the full view of the public’s shared consciousness, isn’t in part some kind of reaction by that generation which fought in the Second World War and suffered its privations.  If sexual abuse – abuse of power, abuse of position, abuse of reputation, abuse of recognition – is going to be as widespread as it now looks will shortly be the case, can there be any other explanation than this?  A whole nation – abused by violent injustice, random death and cruel loss – fighting, turning in on and finally devouring its own.

A tremendous source of pain which was never fully understood, appreciated, talked about or dealt with by a society with an infinitely stiff upper lip and capacity to drink tea and talk about the weather, even as its deepest fears scythed through its emotional and mental wellbeing.

I don’t know.  I’m no sociologist.  Though the above probably demonstrates I’m quite good at psycho-babble theorising.

All I can say is that the implications for a wider society, for a wider body politic, for our wider institutions … well, they really couldn’t be more profound: if government ministers, political aides and people at the very top of public and private institutions knew about these kinds of things, if they stood by as they happened or even participated, if they sullied the deep realities of institutional probity and if they were capable – at the same time – of sustaining a hollow visage of honesty, frankness and sincerity to the outside world, what else – in all truth – were they capable of hiding from the rest of us?

For that is the biggest question still to be unravelled.  He who possesses a secret of another can demand an absolute loyalty – and he who can demand an absolute loyalty can build a terrifying power.  Just imagine the situation if this was not only unidirectional but bidirectional.  Our society, riddled by guilty makers and shakers – each knowing something the other on an allegedly opposing side would not wish the public to comprehend.

Our two-party system, thus riddled and perverted, effectively becomes a one-party state.

And that, maybe, is what’s really happening here: just as the Berlin Wall and the wider Soviet structures came tumbling down overnight through their own savage incoherences – examples of puff-pastry politics if there ever was such a thing – so now what we are witnessing in British society is a reflection, an absolutely accurate mirror image, of the lies the Communists lived.  The consequences: rapid deterioration and awful collapse as long-empty structures fall irrevocably in on themselves.

We all grew up in the shadow of oppression.  For so many years we fought it.  And as we have already noted tonight, the oppressed may learn all too well how to oppress.

The abusers need to be tracked down.

But we mustn’t forget the abuse that made them so.

It’s time we understood that the secrets which bind the powerful to each other – of which the sexual variety is just one pitiful class – need to be blown apart for the good of our body politic, democracy and social intercourse.

It’s only then that we can even begin to recover a sense that our institutions can be believed in; only then that we can even begin to understand what has actually happened to this corrupting Britain.

It’s not just the poor and utterly bewildered young men, women and children who’ve been totally betrayed by their abusing forefathers.  It’s possibly the whole nation which now needs the truth.

After all, such a bitter pill can be no more difficult to swallow than the indignity of always being seen and never heard.


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Oct 122012
 
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That’s what the BBC used to say.  I might even a hazard a guess that it’s what Britain as a country used to say.

But there’s a tradition out there – or perhaps I should say behind the scenes – whereby what we say and do on our drives and front gardens, and in full view of our next-door neighbours, is quite different to what we do and say when hidden away behind closed doors.

A story from the Guardian this evening on the Jimmy Savile scandal – which now threatens to engulf not only the aforementioned BBC but the government itself – reminds me of such a contradiction.  Thus – domino-like – our most hallowed institutions fall: some of our MPs; some of our ministers; some of our governments; some of our best-selling newspapers; some people in our public service broadcasting corporation; some of our police forces; some people in our security services … as well as far too much of that innocence and moral superiority we used to believe our birthright – in particular, as that incorruptible island off a terribly foreign and wicked continent.

So as a nation we were careful to speak peace unto nations – even as we looked down our moral noses at their inability to really get democracy.

Just look at us now.  From the Guardian piece linked to above:

Liz Dux, a partner at Russell Jones & Walker in London and an expert in personal injury and child abuse cases, revealed on Friday that she was acting for a number of woman who want to sue the BBC and Stoke Mandeville hospital on the grounds of vicarious liability. With 340 lines of inquiry, the threat of legal action is expected to spread to other institutions where Savile made official charity visits.

Dux said it could also reach the government: “The government is not immune in civil litigation. It would absolutely be no different to sue the government.”

Health ministers and civil servants are hastily trying to establish the management structures at the hospital between 1959, when the one-time Victorian prison became part of the NHS under the Mental Health Act of that year, and 2001, when the government no longer had direct responsibility for its running.

In fact, you’d have thought at such a stage that health ministers and civil servants would be more focussed on hastily trying to establish where and when the alleged abusive acts took place than in looking to work out how to minimise their masters’ responsibilities.  But maybe that’s exactly part of the problem of corporate structures in general.

More on this in a minute.

*

Some, of course, I’m sure, are looking to take advantage of the revelations to beat the BBC more generally into a corner.  It does beg the question why those best-selling newspapers which were clearly hacking into celebrities’ phones and computers over the past two decades didn’t choose to reveal any of Savile’s alleged abuse earlier.  Quite the opposite in fact: he was always praised highly for his charity work.

But the lesson I’d mainly care to draw is how very inefficient pyramidal structures are proving to be in almost all areas of human activity: from Rupert Murdoch’s charismatic leadership where awful things were to happen without him being told a single thing to financial-sector institutions which tumbled simultaneously to the ground as risky investments overtook billions of dollars of alleged assets.  No wonder those politicians of ours who model themselves on such similar ways of doing are finding it so difficult to lead us out of the wilderness thus created.

What’s really going wrong is all this hierarchy.

Take note, if you don’t believe me, of the following litany of recent crimes – alleged or otherwise:

  1. Ninety-six football fans dying in a stadium and spending decades suffering at the hands of injustice
  2. MPs stealing from the taxpayer via their expenses’ claims
  3. Banking systems collapsing around us whilst those responsible escape punishment almost without exception
  4. Police receiving bribes in exchange for information
  5. Police offering bribes in exchange for information
  6. Newspaper employees destroying people’s right to privacy
  7. Unreported sexual abuse spreading throughout corporate structures and under the noses of government authorities
  8. Revolving doors sending ministers and MPs into private industry and private industry into government
  9. Privatisation by the back door of huge swathes of the public sector taking place in full view of an aghast public

And we could go on, couldn’t we? Yes, we could.

So what ties all the above together then?  Well, I’d argue it was that compartmentalisation of responsibilities which allows individual culpability to be diluted in a multitude of shared acts and lines of command.  That corporate mindset which says we must limit ourselves to our immediate circle of tasks and processes and not question anything else which takes place above us.

From banking to government to sex abuse to the media, pyramidal institutions are killing our society, our morality and our entire body politic.

How much more damage will we let them inflict on us – these throwbacks to medieval times – before we finally accept enough is enough?  Before we properly look to organise ourselves in more efficient, and more characteristically, 21st century ways?  Before we understand there are far better ways to run corporate structures than this heavy-handed – and rankly inefficient – positioning of silver-tongued salespeople atop all these unstable relationships?

*

“Nation shall speak peace unto nation.”  Not just a BBC motto.  A British way of thinking.

And I agree, it’s the best way; it’s one of the prime goals we should aim to achieve.

But before a nation can speak peace unto another in all honesty, it must first know how to speak the truth to itself.

And quite clearly, right now, in the United Kingdom of David Cameron, the truth is evermore beyond our hapless reach.  For once, I don’t blame him.  For once, it’s not all his fault.  For once, it’s a whole culture – an almost bacterial culture of evil growth – which finds itself under the microscope of terrible indignation.

But where we can choose to rightly blame him is in his growing incapacity to identify the gravity and pattern of our situation; the reasons why.  To paraphrase a recent slogan, we really can’t go on like this.

The process we need to follow?  Accept, first, the awfulness of our current position.  Accept the immoral inefficiency of our structures.  Accept the need to change how we do things across the whole of society and business.

And accept the need to build from an absolute sense of truth – because only from truth will reconciliation ever follow.


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Sep 302012
 
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Lane Kenworthy has a beautifully detailed thesis at his place today.  Feeding off a study recently published – which seems to argue, if I have understood rightly, that innovation “spillover” allows allegedly less innovative countries such as those which follow generally European models of welfare and government spending, in particular the Nordic countries, to cream off the benefits of technological development that cutthroat capitalism (read the US here) provides on behalf of the rest of the world – Kenworthy provides a fascinatingly partial rebuttal of the aforementioned argument: fascinating precisely and because of its partial nature.

Essentially, the intellectual crime we’re accused of having committed is that whilst we criticise from our social-democratic pulpits the immorality of massive income inequality which you do find in the US, even so we’re happy to take advantage of the progress which that society’s income structure supposedly enables.

Lane takes this argument apart rather convincingly.  This, for example:

[...] According to Acemoglu et al’s logic, incentives for innovation in the U.S. were weakest in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1960 the top 1%’s share of pretax income had been falling steadily for several decades and had nearly reached its low point. Government spending, meanwhile, had been rising steadily and was close to its peak level. Yet there was plenty of innovation in the 1960s and 1970s, including notable advances in computers, medical technology, and others.

And this:

[...] the Nordic countries, with their low income inequality and generous safety nets, currently are among the world’s most innovative countries. The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index has consistently ranked them close to the United States in innovation. The most recent report, for 2012-13, rates Sweden as the world’s most innovative nation, followed by Finland. The U.S. ranks sixth. The 2012 WIPO-Insead Global Innovation Index ranks Sweden second and the United States tenth. Whether or not this lasts, it suggests reason to doubt that modest inequality and generous cushions are significant obstacles to innovation.

Now if you’re happy to accept that the only workable socioeconomic model left us – after the fall of Communism, the banking crises which have assailed us since 2008 and the resulting societal distress as unemployment hits record levels in countries across the world (not to mention the End of Dialectic History in general as it might be conceived) – is some form of capitalism or other, as per, for example, Ed Miliband’s “responsible capitalism” meme, then Kenworthy’s conclusion to this piece will put you in a very happy place:

We may get a test of this moderate-to-high inequality with generous cushions scenario at some point. I suspect this is where America is heading, albeit slowly. Interestingly, the Nordic countries, where the top 1%’s income share has been trending upward (see figure 10 here), might end up there first.

That is to say, the “worst” excesses of cutthroat capitalism will acquire a generous cushion (see Obamacare) just as the “best” examples of entrepreneurial welfare capitalism will acquire the extreme and so called one percent income inequalities of the former.

Is this the destiny of those who would save capitalism from itself?  To allow, even perhaps ensure, that the one percent keep their places at the high table?  Is this the beginnings of the contract with the devil which Blair, maybe necessarily, agreed on in the Nineties – and which Ed Miliband, in Britain, has so far more or less resisted in the 21st century?

I wonder.

It is, nevertheless, whether or not with the implications as described above in Miliband’s case, a fascinating thesis from Kenworthy on convergent evolution – one which clearly deserves a wider reading this side of the Atlantic.


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Jun 072012
 
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Ed Miliband made some massive mistakes on identity in his speech yesterday.  Or was that geography?  This, for example (the bold is mine):

Of course, there are economic and political arguments advanced for Scottish separatism.
But even though they often don’t admit it, the logic of the nationalists’ case goes beyond politics and the economy.
It insists that the identification with one of our nations is diminished by the identity with our country a whole.
After all, they want to force people to choose.
To be Scottish or British.

Personally, I don’t see it.  The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, or just the United Kingdom if you will (yes, OK – some would even abbreviate this to Britain), is a political union of varying degrees of happiness which has muddled along as such unions might.  The British Isles on the other hand, and perhaps rather more controversially, is a geographical reality which also includes the Irish Republic.  If Mr Miliband is saying that a Scotland which chooses no longer to be a part of the political union that is the UK then misses out on the opportunity to claim its identity as both Scottish and British because it no longer pledges allegiance to London, we are clearly in the presence of a curious confusion between geography and politics which hardly helps clarify anything.

Perhaps, even more sadly though, it also reveals an unhappy understanding of the right London-based politicos reserve for themselves when defining the limits of identity itself.

Yet identity is not just a question of politics and history – those areas of knowledge which people who make and shake nations so delight in.

There is surely a third dimension which I would argue is just as important: that of place.  And place belongs to everyone, whether educated or not; whether powerful or humble.  Place was there before history and politics started; place will remain when we all have gone.

This is why Ed Miliband is wrong to conflate the UK with being British.  If he doesn’t understand the difference, he shouldn’t be talking about it.  If he does understand the difference, then he is obfuscating deliberately.

If the Scots so choose, they can be both British and Scottish and outside the United Kingdom.  It’s the lawyerly politicians who prefer not to see that politics and history and laws can be far more easily changed than the land which lies outside their codifications.

Miliband didn’t get it all wrong, though.  He is far more useful – though still revealingly inexact – in the following description of London’s role in all this antagonism:

There are some people who say that this English identity should be reflected in new institutions.
But I don’t detect a longing for more politicians.
For me, it’s not about an English Parliament or an English Assembly.
The English people don’t yearn for simplistic constitutional symmetry.
Our minds don’t work in spreadsheets, just like our streets don’t follow grids.
But there is a real argument here which does unite England, Scotland and Wales:
And that is about the centralisation of power in London.
This resentment is felt in many parts of England.
A sense that our politics is too distant.
Too detached.

Curious how he says our minds don’t work in spreadsheets when this generation of politicians works with nothing else; curious how he argues that politics is centralised in London to its detriment and in the same breath criticises constitutional symmetry for being simplistic.

He says we don’t want more politicians; he doesn’t say we might not want more of the politicians we’ve got.  He argues that our politics is too detached without admitting that the reality is actually that it’s far too attached to certain powerful and wealthy interests.

He says England doesn’t need new institutions; he refuses to recognise that the United Kingdom as a whole has corrupted the ones it already has.

Yes, Mr Miliband.  London is the problem.  You’re right about that.  But you’re wrong to assume that being together through continued inertia is necessarily the answer.  The answer for the kind of politician you represent lies in making the Union so attractive that no one would ever contemplate leaving.  The problem is that London-based politicians have – quite fatally of late – failed to achieve this essential feat.

No wonder some of us want to leave.  Not our land, which will always remain where it is.  Rather, our politics, which is manifestly unfit for purpose.  Even to the point that it doesn’t understand the difference between it and our geography.

For if the Scots end up leaving the Union, it’s not the land they’ll be shrugging off but the politics.

And if Ed Miliband wants to be taken seriously in this debate, and wants to seriously pursue a long-lasting solution, he really does need to properly remember this.


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May 182012
 
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Imagine the situation, if you will.

Marketing-geek 1: Looks like the PM’s losing it.  Rebellions left, right and centre.

Marketing-geek 2: Time for a wizard wheeze perhaps?

Marketing-geek 3: How about a leveraged buyout of the NHS?  Cripple it with overwhelming debt and then sell it to the private equity firms?  Do for NHS hospitals what KKR did for biscuits.

(Hands out photocopy of Wikipedia article.  Short pause whilst other two skim-read.)

Marketing-geek 2: That would be a wizard wheeze!  We could start with introducing NHS vouchers!

Marketing-geek 3: Excellent idea, my man.

Marketing-geek 1: But wait!  How could you convince anyone to go for an NHS voucher scheme at a time like this?  They’d all say it was privatisation by the back door.

Marketing-geek 3: Not necessarily, my dear Marketing-geek 1.  We could, for example, choose something as British as fish and chips to launch it.

Marketing-geek 2: Like, say Boots.

Marketing-geek 1: Uhhhh …

Marketing-geek 3: Exactly!  Remember that scene from “Brief Encounter”?


http://youtu.be/Il8B6E9FzSE

(Everyone then remembers the Boots Lending Library reference.)

Marketing-geek 3: So even if the rebelling left, right and centre do remember what’s behind a wizard marketing wheeze like this one, who’s going to be able to convince the public that something as British as Celia Johnson’s favourite library is anything like as wicked as a leveraged buyout of the entire British state?

Marketing-geek 2: What a wizard wheeze!

Marketing-geek 1: Hats off to you mate!

(Both scrape and bow before their colleague as befits the moment.)

Marketing-geek 3: Of course, the only problem we now have is to convince the PM to go on breakfast tele and – in the midst of total global economic meltdown – explain a silly plan to get practising parents, who he’s currently taking tax credits away from, to go to Boots in their droves in order to pick up hundred-quid parenting vouchers.

Marketing-geek 1: But if we can convince him, it’ll only be a matter of time before we will be able …

Marketing-geek 3: (cough) … he’ll be able …

Marketing-geek 1: (nods vigorously) … he’ll be able to extend the idea of vouchers to practically everything else the state does.

(Big smiles all round as the big realisation dawns.)

(The rest, as they say, was history.)

____________________

Footnote to this post: uncertain as I am to the true dynamics of the matter I allude to in this piece, it does occur to me to wonder whether some of this hadn’t already happened under Tony Blair’s reign.

What say you?


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May 082012
 
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Today, allegedly, the Coalition has been relaunched in a tractor factory.

Coincidentally, here’s a video which came my way this morning via a dear Spanish friend, on the subject of the quite unprofessional nature of, at the very least, some modern politicos.  It’s sung in Russian – but the message I think, unfortunately, is universal.

http://youtu.be/4CYqw4s6XF8

And, in case you didn’t capture my manifest lack of enthusiasm for politics this afternoon, here’s a sequence of images which more fully express my distress.

No.  You’re right.  The story it tells is far too complex for a poster – but my feelings, right now, after the miserable performance of Cameron and Clegg earlier on, are also far too complex for me to know how to express them any more succinctly.

This relaunch has been about as thought-through as recent government policy: symptomatic and representative of everything that the casually rich in easy power get up to.  If only the icebergs we can see on the political horizon were as inconsequential as the cursory presentations our alleged leaders gave a few hours ago.

We really are in trouble, aren’t we?


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Apr 302012
 
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In 1776, the United States declared independence from Britain.  The background can be summarised thus:

The American Revolution was the result of a series of social, political, and intellectual transformations in early American society and government, collectively referred to as the American Enlightenment. Americans rejected the oligarchies common in aristocratic Europe at the time, championing instead the development of republicanism based on the Enlightenment understanding of liberalism. Among the significant results of the revolution was the creation of a democratically-elected representative government responsible to the will of the people.

Now let’s fast forward a few hundred years to 2012: specifically to today, the 30th April.  Two stories which indicate that the British people themselves now find themselves under a similarly unrepresentative (and what’s more, unresponsive) oligarchy of a nest-feathering self-promoting and essentially inefficient nature.  Firstly, we have a political class in charge which is unable to properly protect our own national borders:

Heathrow approached “breaking” point last week, with passengers left so frustrated by delays that they resorted to storming past officials without showing their documents and slow handclapping staff in immigration halls.

The response of our political class’s representatives?  To prohibit the airport’s owner from distributing explanatory leaflets apologising for the delays.

Secondly, some time coming, we have this awful story:

About 100,000 ill and disabled people will lose their Employment and Support Allowance on 30 April 2012.

That’s the removal of several thousand pounds a year from individuals who surely deserve our solidarity as a token of goodwill – in order to allow them to remain as independent as we can sensibly manage.

Battles for independence in the 21st century?  It would seem laughable if it weren’t so bitterly disappointing: in reality, we cannot avoid coming to the conclusion that what the Americans understood in their 18th century enlightenment, we have chosen to so vigorously reject in our own rank and heartless idiocy.

The latter story a case of future misery as personal chaos awaits those who, in the main, have done their very best to deal with what life has thrown their way.

The former story?  A playing-with-fire by a government determined to shift the centres of wealth distribution even more in the direction of just one kind of capitalism.

So to my two final preoccupations:

  1. What’ll happen when the money and savings of those 100,000 ill and disabled people simply run out?  Where will they go?  What will they do?  Who, indeed, and with what authority, will remove them from our Olympic-ridden streets?
  2. What’ll happen when the government has allowed so much wealth to be leeched from our socioeconomic infrastructures that even an institution such as our Border Agency finds it difficult to resource the simple checking of people’s passports?

Yes.  Indeed.  Battles for independence.  Both without and within our system of government, on both civil servants and ordinary citizens, this Coalition has declared a war of attrition on absolutely everything that might pose a future threat to the oligarchy it represents.  It is symbolic and notable that the aforementioned war should affect not only the very weakest in society but also those whose daily role it is to defend our national integrity and security.

The march onwards and upwards of a very particular definition of globalisation has now reached the very heart of sovereign government and all that it stands for.

Capital’s victory is essentially complete.

Just as Great Britain, in other times, completely dominated the Americas.

Perhaps in that there is a lesson we should take onboard.

For it is now the Americas which has learnt to dominate us.


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Apr 132012
 
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Chatting with a person I follow on Twitter, I stumbled across the idea that Cameron is far more in favour of privilege than meritocratic aspiration.  This, surely, is something the Labour Party should vigorously take advantage of and exploit.  As an overarching narrative and theme of the sort I was asking for yesterday, it is easy to explain and – what’s more – actually fits with the facts.  My co-tweeter also suggested that Labour would need to demonstrate it wasn’t out to wreck the economy.  I replied that I felt an emphasis on privilege over properly channelled aspiration was manifest since the economic crises from 2008 onwards – and could arguably be pointed to as a principle driver of everything that had gone wrong.

He agreed with the analysis.

The alleged meritocracy of modern social democratic society simply doesn’t exist any more.  It probably didn’t exist before as it should have done – but at least we got a political lip-service paid that kind of couched exactly how far those prepared to abuse the system might dare to go.

In Cameron’s Britain, we now have a free-for-all.  Privilege is both might and right – whereas healthy aspiration is now bordering on being seen as an anti-establishment instinct.

If Labour is to create that counter-narrative which allows for easy conceptual rebuttal in the place of that woeful sequence of honourably professional but politically inadequate evidence-based counter-arguments we are currently suffering from, then it needs to link Cameron’s view of privilege’s “rightful” place in society with the disasters which have been visited upon us by those who have occupied such senior positions in the clear and unhappy absence of an alternative meritocracy.

Essentially, we are in the chaos which occupies us because those at the top got where they got through inefficient candidate selection procedures.  Not only were the wrong people chosen for the jobs in question but, quite possibly, no right people could have been chosen under any system.  A hierarchy which games the system in favour of its own standard of living is bound to take on an excess of nominal responsibilities in order to justify the millions of pounds in salaries and bonuses it demands in exchange.

This is what Labour now needs to address as it attempts to link privilege with the parlous economic state of our nations.  Not a message of class war but, rather, of simple inefficiency.

Privilege, then, even on its own terms, as objectively ineffective – as well as manifestly, utterly and morally unjust as per the left’s traditional perceptions.


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Apr 012012
 
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If you’ve been paying attention over the past year or so – or even just over the past week or so – you’ll realise British politics is about as bizarre and foolish as it can get.  It’s possible that for politically tribal reasons you will find resistible the idea that New Labour laid the foundations in its Intercept Modernisation Programme – but the fact that on April Fools’ Day this story on the so-called Communications Capabilities Development Programme is published everywhere shows how resistant to irony bureaucracy can become.  The plan – in a nutshell – is for all email, website and general Internet usage in the UK to be accessible in realtime to GCHQ, the government’s electromagnetic listening arm.

A bit of history, then, from Open Rights Group’s wiki on the subject:

In the original Coalition Agreement(12th May 2010), this statement appears on page 11:

“We will end the storage of internet and email records without good reason.”

And Nick Clegg reiterated this in a speech a week later(19th May 2010) when he said:

“We won’t hold your internet and email records when there is just no reason to do so.”

However, on 19th October 2010, hidden in the depths of the government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review was this statement:

“We will introduce a programme to preserve the ability of the security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies to obtain communication data and to intercept communications within the appropriate legal framework … We will put in place the necessary regulations and safeguards to ensure that our response to this technology challenge is compatible with the government’s approach to information storage and civil liberties.”

The revival of the IMP is being spearheaded by the Home Office, which in fact as early as July 2010, planned to revive IMP, as revealed in a largely unnoticed document.

One can only read this as a revival of the Intercept Modernisation Programme. This is despite staunch opposition to the programme by both the Lib Dems and the Tories while they weren’t in government, and their original Coalition Agreement(mentioned above).

GCHQ were revealed to be installing a system for collecting the data required by the IMP in 2009, and are continuing to install this programme despite the suspected opposition of the new coalition. Tories at the time opposed doing this on the sly. Baroness Neville-Jones wanted it to be done only if it was passed as law by Parliament. Baroness Neville-Jones is now the coalition’s security minister and she will have to stick to her guns if the public is to ever see such an important development debated by their elected representatives.

On the 27th October 2010, Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge Dr Julian Huppert asked the Prime Minister in Prime Minister’s Question Time:

“Can the Prime Minister reassure the House that the Government have no plans to revive Labour’s intercept modernisation programme, whether in name or in function, and that he remains fully committed to the pledge in the coalition agreement to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties and to roll back state intrusion?”

The Prime Minister had this to say:

The Prime Minister: “I would argue that we have made good progress on rolling back state intrusion in terms of getting rid of ID cards and in terms of the right to enter a person’s home. We are not considering a central Government database to store all communications information, and we shall be working with the Information Commissioner’s Office on anything we do in that area.”

Notice how he doesn’t say they won’t be extending the requirements for CSPs to retain communications data. Is this another hint that IMP will be adopted by the Coalition, just without the centralised database?

So what is the pattern since the Tory-led Coalition got into power?  First, it’s started by putting into place long-term strategies to both disempower and anger the following groups in society:

  • women
  • the unemployed
  • the disabled
  • the sick
  • those in need of legal support
  • those who live anywhere but Tory heartlands
  • the so-called squeezed middle
  • small businesses
  • evidence-based professionals such as doctors and lawyers
  • scientists
  • teachers
  • pensioners

Meanwhile, it’s kept onside the managing elites in:

  • higher education (eg the tuition fees hike)
  • corporations and those ideologically related to the Coalition itself, including those involved in health and education provision (eg the NHS bill, the free schools agenda, HMRC tax liabilities and so on)

And in general, it’s been sympathetic to the lifestyles and interests of:

  • the rich and wealthy (eg the recently announced 50p to 45p reduction in the top rate of income tax)

Now, after all the above, and building on New Labour security plans from as far back as 2006, it suddenly discovers (or suddenly reveals – not quite the same thing I think you’ll agree) that it needs a ferocious plan of thought control to defend us from … exactly what?

In years past, in Tony Blair’s time for example, we had the War Against Terrorism to conceptually deal with.  Even I gave him the benefit of the doubt whilst it still looked like the situation in Iraq was as he pitched it – though I did find evermore unhappy the company he was keeping.  But that War Against Terrorism, whilst always an ongoing matter of some preoccupation, can hardly be seen as the real justification for what is proposed now.

No.

On a day that David Cameron’s approval ratings go through the floor, the real enemy our state needs to be defended from is that long list I described above of those voters this government has chosen to disempower and anger.

And the real reason it needs to be defended is because whilst New Labour took ten years to reach the levels of hubris and disconnect from reality which led to its necessary downfall, the Coalition has managed to achieve all of this in less than twenty-four months.  In a blink of a political eye, the Coalition has committed the massive and always inevitable error of all governments past and future: identify completely the broader interests of the nation with the individual interests of each and every politician who forms a part of its inner circles.

Whilst seriously enough the voters and their families are losing in droves their trust in this Tory-led Coalition, far more dangerously for the wider population is the fact that the individuals at the top of the Coalition have lost all trust in the voters.

The announcement today that it’s time to potentially put the whole nation under continuous government surveillance is a blanket recognition that we as subjects cannot be trusted to run our own lives in collaboration and consonance with the state.

And I would agree.  It, the state that is, is right to be worried.  Essentially because the state itself, under this Tory-led Coalition, has converted itself into the nightmare New Labour was always accused of aiming to become.

Through Cameron it is now clear that Thatcher’s legacy of a land fit for the small shopkeeper has been finally destroyed.  This is not Thatcher’s doing that we see on our TV and computer screens but Blair’s very own twist on the elitist’s approach to micro-managing ordinary people’s lives.

Through Cameron we see Blair finally breaking away from his inspiration and revealing what another decade of New Labour would have meant.

Through Cameron, this government is in the process of breaking very sacred contracts.   And it knows on the inside far better than the rest of us on the out exactly what measures of control it is going to require.

Meanwhile, as we try and comprehend how matters got to such a point, all we can do is battle to remain sane in the face of such insanity.  There is no political beast more dangerous than he or she that is wounded – especially when they believe such attacks have happened and been effected not just through a rank betrayal from their own side of the House but also well before their longer sell-by date could normally have justified.

We would do well to remember this as we witness the April foolishness that is British politics today.

And as we bemoan the real unravelling of that complex travesty of misguided justice: that once-glorious Blairism of the Noughties.


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Mar 282012
 
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Whilst unions announce today the serious possibility that our education system will, by 2015, follow the NHS and Legal Aid down the financialisation and commercialisation routes of private self-enrichment on the part of our professional politicos and their business sponsors, it surely becomes evermore clearer – without a shadow of a doubt in fact – what the government is really up to.

They care not a jot about winning the next election; not a jot about currying favour with all the voters; not a jot about creating a society and set of nation states fit for all our peoples.  Only one thing motivates them: the establishment of an unshakeable regime whose reversal will become so unappealingly expensive that – no matter who gets into power at the next general election – the legacy of five long years of anti-socialist ambush will be maintained and sustained for several generations to come.

Perhaps forever.

Labour is falling into a trap, I have to say.  It is fighting a losing but honourable battle on so many simultaneous fronts of political shock and awe that it’s hardly surprising it is allowing itself to be ambushed in this way.  But it needs to come to its senses: the government has done enough for even the least politically scientific amongst us to be able to realise its true trajectory and destination.  British socialism has a long and efficient tradition – the NHS and Legal Aid being two of its major achievements.  Where efficiency is ignored and discarded outright by supposedly businesslike politicos, it’s clear they are not caring to be evidence-based professionals but, rather, aim to act out of prejudice.  And by acting out of prejudice we can conclude they are acting out of personal self-interest.

What’s so bad about all of this is not that these Tories at the top under Cameron’s rule have managed to hijack their own party – which they clearly have; nor that they have hijacked the democratic system as whole – which they did back in 2010 and will do so until 2015; nor, even, that they betray their business roots by doing what they want rather than what is empirically accurate – something which all of us can now surely see.  What’s so really bad about all of this is that we’re all falling into their trap: focussing on discrete policy battles instead of being brave enough to fashion and forge a counter-narrative.

The government say they are looking to reduce the inefficient state.  We should say they are looking to enrich and expand the inefficient private sector of bad business cronyism.  The government say they are looking to reduce the deficit.  We should say they are looking to transfer its impact from a strong nation to helpless individuals.  The government say they are looking to create an environment of opportunity and empowerment.  We should say they are looking to restrict opportunity and empowerment to the already wealthy.

As I said some months ago now, the bad capitalist blame game works as follows:

  1. When large corporations and the people who own them set themselves up in business, they limit their responsibility if everything goes belly-up to the very minimum they can manage to get away with;
  2. When everything goes belly-up, which it almost always does at least once in the history of such companies, the ones at the very top manage to hide behind Chinese walls that reduce their legal responsibility to a very minimum;
  3. When companies’ profits do not achieve expectations, the fault is first and foremost due to the costs of labour – the term “labour” being understood to mean those at the most humble levels in a company and not the (mainly) ever-so-red-blooded gentlemen at the top;
  4. If companies suffer excessively from declining profit margins, people at the top get paid enormous amounts of money to take immediate decisions to fire massive percentages of their workforces – even where such decisions show absolutely no degree of imagination or added value;
  5. If the wider economy falls completely apart, the taxpayer will be obliged to bail out the failing private sector but compelled to destroy the public;
  6. When the wider economy stops functioning in any meaningful way, the workers who lose their jobs will carry both the moral and economic can for not wanting to find new jobs – even where these new jobs don’t exist;
  7. When the economy finally recovers, the workers will have to continue to accept wage cuts for two reasons: firstly, automation might price them out of the market if they don’t watch their demands; secondly, only the rich work harder for more money – the poor, on the other hand, tend to slacken off their labour when not sufficiently terrified;

These are the things we need to be underlining; these are the things we need for our counter-narrative.

In fact, if truth be told, we need – also – to point out to our nation states and our peoples the degree to which a good socialism ruled our waves.  Only when we can shrug off the instincts to be stealthy about our achievements can we begin to generate a different way of opposition: socialism was always a heartfelt instinct of the British.  In the past we called it fair play.

Perhaps, then, we need to resurrect that idea and begin to call ourselves the Fair Play Party.  A Fair Play Party for a fair play society.

As British as you ever could get.

Whatever your nation.


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