Sep 062012

Interesting and perceptive paragraph, this one, from an interesting and perceptive article in the Guardian today (the bold is mine):

More and more voters, therefore, will be worrying about jobs, benefits, rents, and debt interest rates, not about the value of houses, pensions or shares. The neoliberal attempt to create mass capitalism has hit the buffers. Political parties that stand on what has been called “the centre ground” for the past three decades can afford to abandon it. If the left parties can develop a coherent economic alternative, they will find an increasingly receptive audience who, in the words of Franklin Roosevelt, have nothing to fear but fear itself.

That, in fact, is what has happened.  And so now I understand why it all went so awfully belly-up.  People like Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher maybe did after all believe in a capitalism of the masses – blinded as they were by their terrible convictions to the reality that capitalism, by its very essence, only ever feeds off the masses, even as it never properly or efficiently can all of them feed.

Capitalism requires hierarchy; capitalism requires owners and owned; capitalism requires both the downtrodden and those who do the treading.  It’s a chimera, that we can all get to the top.  For if we all got to the top, the armies that make up the capitalist battlefield would have no cannon fodder to throw at the enemy.

And that would never do.

If Blair is over, so are Thatcher and Cameron.

If Blair is over, so is that illusion of branded social democracy, of late and sentimental capitalism, that was the neoliberalism of little-people shareholdings.  A manifest piece of marketing in any case.

In hindsight, after all, it really does beggar belief.  Did we really – truly – believe them when they encouraged us to place our hard-won nest eggs precisely in those baskets they then proceeded to throw at the markets with the most violence, lack of foresight and absence of sensibility they could unprofessionally muster?

Save all your life to throw it away on an idea?  Is that what Blairism, Thatcherism and that tiny little tail of Cameronism has finally succeeded in delivering to the masses?

And they talk about the irrelevance of ideology to modern politics.

This isn’t the age of aspiration any more.

This is the age of survival.

We don’t need salesmen and women to lead us out of these darknesses – but survivalists who understand what’s it like not to know where the next poverty-engendering job will come from.  We need people and communities who understand that life isn’t about concentrating wealth but – instead –  about sharing it out as wide as possible.

Not spreading it thinly but spreading it broadly.

There’s a difference.

Wealth needs to revolve to benefit society.  Sitting on wealth and watching it grow coldly and uncreatively is the sickest act a rich civilisation can encourage its citizens to prize.

If Blair really is over, and Thatcher and Cameron too, let’s not let slip faint praise or murmur ashamedly to ourselves.  Rest in peace for a job well done?

THEY FAILED FOR CHRIST’S SAKE!  On their own terms, on ours, on behalf of generations to come; on behalf of generations who can now only look to the future with fear.  This, my dear friends, is what failure – unmitigated, unruly, unpredictable, uncontrollable – actually looks like.  Anything they now say will sound only of a vague and stupid puffery.  They’ll squabble amongst themselves, of course, as they discuss their awfully complex issues: disagreeing here, disagreeing there, “agendas ladies”, “points of order gentlemen”.  But in truth there is nothing they can do to charm us again with their stage-managed and effervescently careful whispers.

If only they were able to face up to the brutal reality: whilst the voters are too ignorant to properly understand what has happened, these very same voters are nevertheless obliged – duty-bound, in fact – to unknowingly suffer the consequences.

So it is that Blair and Thatcher and Cameron’s law and order, the Magna Carta itself, has broken up completely – right down the middle; a total disintegration of that formerly fair and just balance between doing and being done to.

Where Great Britain and Northern Ireland was once a land where the connection between rights and responsibilities ruled, now it’s becoming all too patently obvious that the truth we live is really quite another: too stupid to have the right to an opinion, we must even so swallow the medicine.

The real failure of neoliberalism – of Blair, Thatcher and Cameron?  It’s NOT the economy, stupids!  It’s utterly – and entirely – a morality play.

A broken-backed morality play for our time, that is.

A borked broken-backed morality play – if that sounds more in line with the register I’m using.

But I’m not looking to re-establish 19th century mores.


That’s not what I’m saying at all.

All I’m wondering, out loud, and with an ever-growing lack of spirit, is how it was possible for these two intelligent men and that one intelligent woman to contemplate creating a whole civilisation based on greed, something-for-nothing financial transactions and a survival of the fittest which even the basest creatures on our planet may choose to avoid.

If Blair, Thatcher and Cameron really are over, and we are now in the anteroom of another kinder and more humanly recognisable age, I can only proclaim: “Hallelujah!”

If they – and we – are not, I can only suggest you prepare your cardboard boxes, your tins of beans, your camping cutlery – and, perhaps, a prayer or two just in case.

For if it’s survival time, we’ll only really manage by sincerely and honestly pulling together as – maybe – never before.

Whilst if that’s not going to be on the agenda, and this tragically ugly and neoliberal Darwinian capitalism – which destroys so many lives, families, people and aspirations – is truly going to be all that’s left us … well, I really do not see a future peace for anyone to rest in.

Whatever standing history cares to assign them.

Whatever their official reputation may finally turn out to be.

Aug 222012

Those of you who regularly read these pages will know I’m not a fan of what I’ve termed Darwinian capitalism.  The idea that humans in their economic environments should aim to reproduce the conditions that make us most similar to the beasts that populate this earth – instead of amplifying the socialising aspects which differentiate us most from such tooth-and-claw dynamics – is not something that immediately attracts me.

But today, this morning, as I awoke from sleepy unconscious contemplation, and found myself making churros and croquetas for breakfast, I realised that sadly enough we don’t even have Darwinian capitalism.  This is not survival of the fittest but survival of the sneakiest.

The ground rules run as follows: we set up governing structures where the state pays for roads, schools, hospitals and other communications structures; for inspection and oversight systems and procedures; for the writing and implementation of laws; and for security services which help guarantee social order.  In exchange, we are obliged to contribute taxes to make it all work.  This includes future services such as pensions and health and social welfare support for the elderly, who always require more support than the young in society.

You then spend your whole life participating in such an unspoken social contract – only for an economic crisis like the one which currently assails us to pull the rug from under the feet of the poor and middle classes, and thus change the ground rules forever.

Only the ground rules haven’t been changed.  Rather, we were led to misunderstand them.  Life, the economy and everything isn’t structured to provide everyone with opportunities: life, the economy and everything is structured to allow the sneaky to win over the honest and open; to allow the cunning to beat the sharingly creative; to allow the foxily brazen to undermine the sincere; to allow the selfishly individual to overcome the gently social.

This isn’t even Darwinian capitalism.  The playing-field is mined – and battle only commences once we, the poor and middle classes, have struggled across its entire expanse.  The powerful, meanwhile, sit on the sidelines, appearing to spectate more than participate.  And when they do finally enjoin battle, it is with a society so sodden by the mud of unjustly opaque ground rules that the final result will never be in doubt.

If only we did have a real Darwinian capitalism.  In a world where brains can frequently beat brawn, it’s possible that those with considerable support needs might – even so – still win out.  But Darwin has nothing to do with the travesty of justice we are now witnessing.  Pensions which collapse in value; social security systems which are cut so tax rebates and exemptions can benefit grand corporate institutions; banking systems which continue to feed off and profit from the carrion their inefficient managements have converted our economies into … this is not the survival of the fittest; nor the evolution of the most intelligent; nor the development and progress of the species.  This is, rather, the institutionalisation of a casual corruption: so casual we are unable to properly see it for what it is.  A corruption of the virtues and tools of all that humanity is best at: a contamination of goodness and professionalism; of a desire to be efficient and honest; of an instinct to treat others as one might prefer to be treated oneself.

No wonder those who legally rob and steal from our societies – those who set up the rules and regulations with sufficient leeway to allow for their every whim – then fiercely proceed to criticise and condemn those who will inevitably remain far weaker than themselves.

The former know they’re evil in what they do – even if only at a subconscious level.

Meanwhile, the latter are only just beginning to realise the truth.

Perhaps too late to make any difference.

So that’s where we find ourselves: stupid wool-pulled-over-the-eyes broadly educated voting populaces who generally play by rules which the rich and powerful have designed to their own perfection.

Not in the intellectually coherent belief that a libertarian approach to life is simply better for humanity and its social health but, instead, out of a truly hubris-laden comprehension that their deep pockets deserve far more wealth than ours – and just because they say so.

Meanwhile we – who have allowed them to get exactly where they are – deserve everything which now makes our life a misery.

Not because we’re less fit.  Just because we’re not sneaky.

Simply because we’re unhappy to dish out the shit the rich and powerful have come to revel in.

Aug 172012

There’s a fascinating interview in the Guardian today with the screenwriter and director of the latest Bourne film.  This is the paragraph that really catches my eye on what the auteur in question really thinks on the subject of corporations (the bold is mine):

“It’s not good for landlords to not live in the neighbourhood. That’s the problem with corporations – there’s no one home. You have this shell that is unaccountable. And yet at the same time there is somebody that sits in a dispatch office and says: I know that truckload of products is defective but I have to meet my quota.’ That’s the moment when the human leakage sets in. I’m not sure we’re evolutionarily ready to have corporations; I’m not sure they’re a weapon we deserve.

This is an extraordinary take on the problems we’re all having with the figure of corporate bodies – whether, that is, we work in them, work under them, work despite them or work against them.

Is perhaps the problem here that 21st century corporate figures will become, shortly down the line, the next Darwinian level up from human beings themselves?  And are we currently suffering from the anteroom of that gear shift – where corporations are creating themselves on the backs of human beings, despite the latter’s congenital inability to be moral in moments of great temptation?

That is to say, it’s not corporate bodies which pose the greatest problems; it’s not even systemic abuse caused by environments which predispose us to doing evil.  Rather, it’s our own humanity which leads us to take an unjustifiable and inappropriate advantage of the grand power that corporations are in theory able to afford us.

The corporations aren’t blundering elephantine destroyers, after all.  Instead, it is ourselves who find we are not up to the challenges of working together with another species: a species which has come to replace us in all its organisational flair.

Maybe the best corporations are the ants of this century: equipped with a merciless ability to disregard all personal consequences alongside an organic capacity to learn from individual mistakes.

So will we end up being replaced by automated corporates which replace our sinful selves with algorithms and computed exchanges?  It’s a possibility, I’m sure.  But it would be a negation of what it is to be human. The right to make mistakes; the liberty to pick and choose.  This is what makes us what we have been.

Curious, then, how we all feared that a dehumanisation as mentioned above would finally come from the mid-20th century Communist states – only for corporate capitalism to demonstrate that it is far more suited to the task of gutting our most precious freedoms.

Evolution doesn’t always mean life gets better.

Certainly not for the species being replaced.

And anyone who tries to tell you that survival of the fittest is the way forward probably has a very good reason for doing so.

Very good, that is, in the sense of very bad.

Jun 162012

Alex provides the data, if data was still needed, about the IMF and the Greeks. All I am minded to remark is that whilst billions of euros have been withdrawn from Greece in the first half of the year by private investors, escape from the country’s miseries isn’t so easy for the workers who might wish to emigrate out of them.  Capital versus labour – it’s always the same story: freedom of movement for the former (with all the traumatic implications for ordinary people’s economies which such freedoms lead to); all kinds of practical barriers, including media prejudice in host countries, for the latter.

This is perhaps one excellent reason why Greeks should leave the euro but stay in the European Union.  Get that competitive edge back which Europe’s denied varying velocities lost – but hang on any which way you can to the right to work wherever you want.  Beat the capitalist investors at their own game perhaps?

Meanwhile, here’s another piece of evidence about how the world we live in is unfair: in this case, how the fall in trades union membership mirrors exactly the rise in wealth inequality (graph here).  Our intuition might have told us that trades unions battling against amorphous and various employer organisations would help, in an imperfect civilisation, to create less unfair societies – but this post goes much further than massage our prejudices.  This post confirms a reality with immediately understandable data.

From the Facebook page "Connect The Dots USA"

Finally, an image I published not long ago from a Facebook page I’m subscribed to called “Connect The Dots USA”.  It clearly indicates how difficult providing social and welfare services will become in the future, especially as the real levels of tax American corporations pay are so far below the nominal 35 percent.  Remember, these are the same bodies which use public roads, pollute public land, sell junk food to schoolchildren and sign overblown contracts for the provision of public health services – as well as make money out of publicly funded armaments and IT projects (so many of which curiously tend to run dramatically over budget).

All examples, in fact, of the ways they have chosen to take advantage of federal and state infrastructures which they no longer see the need to contribute to.

And I am sure – as well as fear – that the situation in the UK is becoming evermore analogous.

Of course, it goes without saying that those of us on the left have often been accused – perhaps accurately – of class envy.  This argument would have us believe that we don’t act out of a pragmatic understanding and acceptance of the world as it is.  Rather, we refuse to accept that life is unfair and that such injustices are a given for those who have the good or bad fortune to be born into this universe.

After fifty years on this planet – yes, I share my birthday with that literary-fest that is Bloomsday! –  I can’t argue with the partial truth of that assertion.  But where I do disagree with the Darwinian capitalists is in their implicit understanding that life – and the world in general – is only as unfair as it must be.

Today’s three examples give those of us who believe in social, economic and cultural justice the right to sustain the position that this world is an unnecessarily unfair world – and from that moment onwards, fight to eliminate any unfairness which escapes the necessary injustices of an often incomprehensible universe.

If those of us on the left are looking for a pragmatic way of channelling the manifest – and long-predicted collapse – of capitalism, we could do far worse than to argue that in that point which lies between an unfair and an unnecessarily unfair existence we can usefully pursue a popular and realistic revolution.

A popular and realistic revolution we could use to revalidate the latterday left.

Jun 142012

Yesterday, I wondered if democracy wasn’t too moral – too nit-picking – for its own good.  Today, via Twitter, Philip Blond argues that:

While A levels grades are rising UK now 23rd in the OECD for reading and writing – we are very poorly educated compared to our competitors

Poorly educated?  By what definition?  As nit-pickers who play their fearful tunes on the earthly Titanic of planetary disaster?

Three reasons, then, why Blond’s 140-character definition of where we’re at in education doesn’t convince me.  The first reason, as per George Takei’s Facebook page.

The second reason, which talks about how our traditional methods of defining learning success are totally inadequate to the job in hand – again, as per another Facebook-distributed image.

The third reason, via an Ipsos OTX opinion survey on being human-savvy versus being tech-savvy:

It may be a hi-tech digital world, but the heart still rules. Given the choice, 65% of us would rather be people-savvy than tech-savvy, a number that skews higher with women, 71% of whom value people-smarts over geek-smarts. Maybe that’s why so many tech marketers play to the heart, to connections between people, to romance and dreams.

Interestingly, however:

In emerging technology powers China and India, though, being tech-savvy trumps being people-savvy. […]

So to the question at the heart of this post: what is reading and writing good for anyway?  Before, as Norm points out, when endured, it guaranteed a certain long-term reward:

[…] I will hazard just one thing, and this without benefit of any familiarity with educational research or theory: some disciplines of learning do have to be imparted, because the very idea of real learning as pure spontaneity or pure fun is illusory.

Very true.  But if the purpose of life in the future is to make money at practically all costs, in order that we may help protect our offspring from the fearful dangers of a Darwinian capitalism (the state withering away as the welfare safety nets which protected us from the wolf at the door serve, instead, to unlock that selfsame door), that is to say, if financial survival rather than educated thought becomes the guiding light of our civilisation, what good will be the nit-picking skills reading and writing sustain when applied in that base and anti-intellectual world of modern cut-and-thrust – that world where professional executive-summary readers rule?

In fact, if survival does become the paradigm for our Western civilisation, who will have the time to want to read and write at all?

If being tech-savvy is the way forward for all our economies, aren’t we disestablishing the place of humanity even more than – to date – our socioeconomic policies have led us to allow?

And who says “if”?  Maybe survival is already our lot.

Maybe reading and writing have been the main cause of our downfall – ponderous skills which lead those who enjoy exerting them to miss the boat of an alleged tech-driven progress.

A word of caution, though, to leave you with: despite my reservations yesterday on the dangers of too much measured and time-consuming democratic morality, I might also be inclined to underline the contrary risks of quick-thinking.  Quick-thinking is the antithesis of many arts and traditions we are losing: publishing is just one; perhaps the one I am most familiar with.  Like a film truly worth its footage, a good book needs time to pass through the hands of its many creators.

Maybe the boat we are really missing is the boat of deep thought.

Or maybe, more sadly, reading and writing have had their day – and the years we now have ahead of us are simply times of inevitable crisis which form part of the cycle that is humanity on this globe.  The other day I read how some international organisation or other was indicating that we as a species were now in freefall towards a place of planetary no-return.  And I do wonder how it is we have managed to place ourselves so firmly at the centre of an ecosystem we supposedly should share with so many other creatures – creatures which have spent centuries suffering at our behest.

If our reading and writing – those activities which really do distinguish us from our fellow species – have passed their sell-by dates (that is to say, no longer serving the purpose they once fulfilled), and our planet rearranges matters so as to remove our existence from its face, surely life will go on as in such closed systems it always must.

Just not necessarily the life we imagined rather selfishly – even where literarily – for ourselves.

May 152012

I just posted on the subject of a complicating world.  In the back of my mind was the inability of democracy to keep up with such complexities.  So it is that I ask myself: social Darwinism versus game theory – where does our politics stand now?

A couple of definitions to start with, just so we know where we stand.  First, social Darwinism:

Social Darwinism is generally understood to use the concepts of struggle for existence and survival of the fittest to justify social policies which make no distinction between those able to support themselves and those unable to support themselves. Many such views stress competition between individuals in laissez-faire capitalism; but the ideology has also motivated ideas of eugenics, scientific racism, imperialism,[4] fascism, Nazism and struggle between national or racial groups.[5][6]

Second, game theory:

Game theory is the study of strategic decision making. More formally, it is “the study of mathematical models of conflict and cooperation between intelligent rational decision-makers.”[1] An alternative term suggested “as a more descriptive name for the discipline” is interactive decision theory.[2] Game theory is mainly used in economics, political science, and psychology, as well as logic and biology. The subject first addressed zero-sum games, such that one person’s gains exactly equal net losses of the other participant(s). Today, however, game theory applies to a wide range of class relations, and has developed into an umbrella term for the logical side of science, to include both human and non-humans, like computers. […]

And I did rather assume, for quite a while, that we were the children of the latter: of a game-theory century.  But as awful people do awful things to the majority of ordinary citizens round the globe, we forget all those longer-term lessons of such game theories, of finding a natural and constructive equilibrium in the logical hemisphere of human thought; and – instead – we scurry around and pay homage to those up-and-coming political leaders who can, once more, vanquish our evil wrongdoing opposition at a single and mighty stroke of the political sword.

In the end, a terrifying political expediency – not theirs but ours – returns us to the doldrums of social Darwinism and its unhappy latterday cousins.  Yes.  It’s we who are to blame: they, after all, enter into the Darwin-like dynamics of win or lose with a grand intentionality and coherence.  We cannot blame them for the crimes which, through omission or deliberation, we commit: it is our fault that our society is made up of a disagreeable mix of eugenics, scientific racism, imperialism, fascism and Nazism – as well as various kinds of essentially uncivic nationalisms; it is our fault that all of that is there; it is our fault that our civilisations, our politics and our socioeconomic orders are choosing stupid and unthinking pyramidal structures over intelligent and cogent theories of collaborative gaming.

Where does our politics stand then?  Well – frankly – where we might fall.

I think I am about as depressed about the future we offer up to our offspring as I have ever been in my life.  In the middle of an opportunity to choose brainpower and cooperation over violent impositional power, we are simply choosing to battle the latter with more of the same.

The cycle will never end.

We’re totally and utterly buggered.

Apr 072012

Amazon’s been in the news the past couple of days.  First, this story from the Guardian brought to our attention the fact that it allegedly paid no corporation tax on UK sales even though such sales generated billions of pounds.  It would appear, however, and this is something I shall focus on in this post, that the profit margins on the income generated are generally around 3.5 percent.

Compare that with Apple’s massive cash mountain of more than $80 billion and it does take the edge off some of the allegations.

But then, on the other hand, Amazon has always been known for aiming for market share above early profits: destroy the competition first has always been the promise; the benefits will surely come later.

Today, then, we have Tim Waterstone, of the British bookstore chain Waterstone’s, saying this kind of thing of his main competitor:

[…] No trader has ever been so successful in its concentration on consumer pricing – all this impervious, of course, to the broader considerations of the overall welfare of the industries in which it is operating. It’s all so simple. Make and build your brand on a reputation for absolutely rock-bottom pricing. Do this single-mindedly and ruthlessly. Even say it upfront, insultingly and aggressively, in your advertising – go, Mr Consumer, go to Harrods or wherever it is, inspect and admire the goods, then come home and buy them from us. Online. At a deep, deep discount. And fuck Harrods or whoever it is for their trouble. More fool them. And more fool Waterstones. Go and browse through all the books there, in Waterstones, or Daunt’s, or your lovely Topping stores, then put them back on the tables (fingered and soiled) and order those you want from us. Why pay more? Why worry about the consequences?

And I can sincerely feel for what Mr Waterstone expresses with such clarity.  Even as I am a pretty gung-ho Amazon consumer.  I began to use it when I lived in Spain and couldn’t get English-speaking books locally.  When I came back to Britain, continuing to use it was a natural progression – a progression someone who loved the Internet really couldn’t resist.

But, even so, I can see from the bitterness of the above passage what Amazon has done to a whole industry of honourable individuals.

There was no industry in the world more dependent on its different elements for its good functioning than the publishing industry.  And now people like Amazon, and Apple too, are integrating massively so that all potential for making a living lies entirely in the hands of single companies.

We no longer need editors; we no longer need typesetters; in an age of e-books we no longer need bookbinders; we no longer need printers; we no longer need designers; all we need are the individual creators prepared – probably unbeknownst to them – to sign away the future of all traditional diversity.  In the name of empowering the authors, we destroy the ways and wherefores of a profoundly rich and complex sector.


What I am more worried about, however, is that 3.5 percent profit margin.  Even if Amazon did pay corporation tax in Britain on the sales its Luxembourg arm is responsible for, on such a margin how much of what Amazon moves would actually  end up in the pockets of the interventionary state so beloved of democratic socialists?

So what’s happening here then?  What are the wider implications?  Essentially, in our latterday capitalism consumers have taken over from schoolchildren, teachers, parents, patients, doctors, nurses, police officers, social workers, council workers, councillors pensioners, MPs and a whole host of other interested parties.

Our economies no longer function for the benefit of wider societal needs and justifications.  Large companies like Amazon have realised, whether consciously or unconsciously, that, by dropping their prices to the lowest rock-bottom levels which Mr Waterstone talks about, they can not only guarantee their futures on the killing-fields of corporate engagement but also remove all need to hand over any cash to the state.  In fact, it will soon become unnecessary to avoid paying tax.  Corporations will generate enough profit to keep going but not too much to have to contribute to the public sector.

Perhaps, in their terrible wisdom, this is what the neoliberals have seen – and what the rest of us are refusing to recognise.  In such a way, the state will, indeed, run out of cash – not because capitalism finally fails but because, rather, human beings in the guise of any other role but that of consumer will die a long-drawn-out death akin to the dinosaurs of old.

The only transaction which will work in this brave new world will be that of business to consumer.  As long as your needs refer to consumer needs, you will benefit mightily from such a dynamic.

The problem is if you will ever be a worker for one of these businesses; or a person in need of medical support you can’t afford; or a child in need of a soup kitchen which doesn’t exist.  Then, of course, you will miss the Welfare State – a state which no longer exists because our economy only cares any more about consumers.

This may be part of how and why the Welfare State is all of a sudden being disembowelled.  Those who are organising it, whilst certainly looking to fill their own already deep pockets, may also see the dangers of the Amazon dynamic to their ability to control the heaving masses: if we don’t sort out some way of engineering support services in a world where 3.5 percent profit margins become the norm, the recent demonstrations across Europe and the US against the injustices of the current crisis in capitalism will be but a harbinger of much worse times to come for these ruling elites.

We on the left, for example, may see the destruction of the NHS as the worst betrayal of all that we have held most dear in a society where common interests used to structure how we distributed resources.  On the other hand, those on the right might actually be looking to salvage from what they see as the unstoppable juggernaut of their own unfortunate economic history a modicum of society-protecting humanity.  Even if this is simply to protect their interests as that ruling elite.

Do try and be charitable about this, folks – at least for a moment.  The situation is becoming so grave we really do need to think a little laterally.

There is, of course, an alternative – there always will be.  In this case, to understand the Amazon dynamic for what it is – and change society so that our economy doesn’t only serve and contemplate the interests of the customer.

“But the customer is king,” I hear you say.  Well, perhaps we have lived this cliché for far too long.  A society where the customer is king and the king reigns above and beyond the interests of everyone else is a society ripe for considerable upheaval.  And the consumer society – the society where the customer is the most important driver of almost everyone’s interests everywhere – is surely approaching such a moment.

It is time we rethought society profoundly.

The question is whether anyone’s capable of understanding that it’s actually there to be rethought.  Before it becomes too late to rethink it.

Apr 052012

A couple of quotes on Athenian democracy to start with.  First this one:

[…] Thucydides documents the example of Melos, a small island, neutral in the war, though originally founded by Spartans. The Melians were offered a choice to join the Athenians, or be conquered. Choosing to resist, their town was besieged and conquered; the males were put to death and the women sold into slavery (see Melian dialogue).

Which of course, as linked to above, leads us to the Melian dialogue itself:

The Athenians, in a frank and matter-of-fact manner, offer the Melians an ultimatum: surrender and pay tribute to Athens, or be destroyed.

The Melians argue that they are a neutral city and not an enemy, so Athens has no need to crush them. The Athenians counter that, if they accept the Melians’ neutrality and independence, they would look weak: people would think they spared Melos because they were not strong enough to conquer it.

The Melians argue that an invasion will alarm the other neutral Greek states, who will become hostile to Athens for fear of being invaded themselves. The Athenians counter that the Greek states on the mainland are unlikely to act this way. It is the more volatile island states and the subjects they have already conquered that are more likely to take up arms against Athens. In Thucydides’ account, the Melians stated, “If such hazards are taken by you to keep your empire and by your subjects to escape it, we who are still free would show ourselves great cowards and weaklings if we failed to face everything that comes rather than submit to slavery.”[5]

The Melians argue that it would be shameful and cowardly of them to submit without a fight. The Athenians counter that the debate is not about honour but about self-preservation.

The Melians argue that though the Athenians are far stronger, there is still a chance they could win. The Athenians counter that only the strong have a right to indulge in hope; the weak Melians are hopelessly outnumbered.

Another reason for the Melians’ refusal was their confidence in having help from the gods; however, the Athenians feel that the gods are on their side as well. Thucydides stated, “We trust that the gods will give us fortune as good as yours, because we are standing for what is right against what is wrong.”[6] The Athenians counter that gods and men alike respect strength over moral arguments; the strong do as they can and the weak suffer what they must.

The Melians insist that their Spartan kin will come to their defence. The Athenians argue that the Spartans have nothing to gain and a lot to lose by coming to the Melians’ aid – mere kinship will not motivate them.

The Athenians conclude the argument by saying there is no shame in submitting to a stronger enemy. The Melians do not change their minds and politely dismiss the envoys.

I am reminded of all the above in relation to two matters which should surely occupy us.  Firstly, how our government is currently behaving – about which I have already posted today; secondly, why it may be acting in such away.

I think the answer to the latter lies in the lessons of the Melian dialogue.  I stumbled across these lessons the other day at a talk given by Google’s Bill Patry.  For most of his talk, he seemed both amiable and sharp on the subject of copyright and its implications for our society.  But in response to a question taken from the floor at the end of the session, he gave the Melian dialogues as an example of the ways of the world.  Despite the fact that he seemed to describe himself as a political beast of Democrat-leanings, where government intervention in society’s functioning could often be seen as a positive, in reality it became apparent that at the heart of his thinking – perhaps more as an American than as an individual in his own right – was this unalloyed acceptance that might, by definition, is generally right.

And as corporate types seep into – and perhaps even invade – our democracies, fashioned and forged as they are on the transactional killing-fields of such ways of doing business, it is inevitable that a systemic change to how we perceive the extent to which democracy can go beyond the brutal Darwinism of other epochs will inevitably begin to inform our ways of seeing.

It would seem that no one, not even the American centrists Mr Patry may serve to represent, sees any longer any issue with accepting the lessons of the aforementioned philosophy: that the exercise of naked power is no longer a shameful exercise.

And as businesses across the world reserve the right to act accordingly, and as democracies become an extension of business practice, so might is right will become the mantra of modern democracy.

And the idea we could help support the weakest in society a mere blip on a now confused conceptual horizon.

Mar 272012

When they proposed taking away Legal Aid from those who’d grown up with every right to expect it, they didn’t suggest that multinationals should also do without their platoons of legal departments and brains.  Of course not.  For this is just one example of many recent examples where the gander’s sauce is used to well and truly cook the goose.  That is to say, we, the ordinary people, are the geese; those who like to prance around the world’s political and business stages being the ganders.

There are no level playing-fields for ordinary people any more.  You perhaps may argue I am being naive – but this is not exactly the case.  What has changed over the years, quite imperceptibly, is the shame that those at the top express in public about injustice.  No longer, it would seem.  Injustice is the tool only of polarised extremists.  The mainstream has other matters to preoccupy it.

The job of government is now the same as that of business: to entrench Darwinian inequalities and ensure it’s every man for himself (and, mark my words, it will most certainly be mostly men).  The poor no longer have their effective representatives: in any case, the model was pretty much corrupting itself already.  Representative democracy?  A rope bridge of uncertain quality too far.

Open source communities for a while have offered a possible alternative: an opportunity for disparate peoples to organise around common objectives with solid foundations and fundamentals.  An exchange of labour, self-interest, altruism and democracy all mixed up in one, sometimes, beautiful package.  This for example:

[…] We need a new form of capitalism for the 21st century—one dedicated to the promotion of greater well-being rather than the single-minded pursuit of growth and profits; one that doesn’t sacrifice the future for the near term; one with an appropriate regard for every stakeholder; and one that holds leaders accountable for all of the consequences of their actions. In other words, we need a capitalism that is profoundly principled, fundamentally patient, and socially accountable.

Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?  But it’s quite one matter to fashion and forge nice words.

Quite another to implement the devilish detail.

In the absence of proper democratic representation and accountability, in the absence of politicians paying any constant and accurate attention to their voters and charges, there was always the chance that self-organisation as touched on above might have provided the key.  But it seems, even here, the objective of government has been to make daily life so very very Darwinian that the slack our leisure time used to afford, in those better and boom-like times of a decade ago, has slowly but surely dissipated away – to such an extent that we may simply not have the energy to get out and act at the margins of their awful stranglehold on our society.

We are caught – rat-like – in a laboratory of their making; we are gradually losing access to levers of counterbalancing power; our rights, whilst still in theory within our gladsome reach, are becoming evermore difficult to exercise, as they remove all practical support and information and ability to fight sensibly back.

What has changed since the times of recent yore is that our governors and political class now shamelessly, quite publicly, care little for the needs and preoccupations of the vast majority in society.  The tragedy is that whilst New Labour was in power, those of us foolish enough to listen believed the warning signs would not be implemented: whilst an apparently left-leaning and cuddly kind of right-winger was still in charge, and able to comfort the weaker consciences amongst us, we thought that all those laws were a just-in-case of extreme circumstance; a just-in-case we would never really end up using.

Unfortunately, all that commercialisation of the state, that was stealthily enshrined in unnecessary and sometimes hardly exerted law, ended up conveniently sitting in the political wings – just waiting for men like Andrew Lansley, George Osborne and David Cameron himself.

And perhaps, in a surrogate kind of way, Tony Blair himself.

Perhaps Tony Blair now comforts himself by saying – as Thatcher, with New Labour, must have done in her time – that his legacy lives on as spores in the body politic of the Tory Party, under Cameron’s unhappy posse of malcontents.

Perhaps, in truth, we’ve been very naughty people.

Perhaps it is through the Gates of Hell we are only now really entering.

Perhaps, only now, do we find ourselves realising what it is like to survive instead of live in the West.

Perhaps it is time we looked elsewhere.

Jan 032012

This piece by Rob Marchant over at Labour Uncut – on why we must continue with our critically, and sometimes apparently internecine, political blogging – has many things going for it.  But I am inclined to take issue with the following argument:

LabourList and Labour Uncut, started more recently, have been doing a sterling job in taking back the internet agenda for Labour, but we still see much apparent discomfort in the comments sections. We fall into easy habits, talking of “loyalty” and “unity”, in order to try and keep party thinking aligned. It is easy to confuse “unhelpful comment” and “comment that I disagree with”. But all comment, in the end, is helpful. Robust debate is, on the contrary, an overwhelming positive, and it is precisely this Darwinism of ideas that can lead us all to arrive at a decent, defensible common view of where the party is at and where it needs to be. The wisdom, in the words of James Surowiecki, of crowds.

This was my response:

The Darwinism of Ideas is all well and good in theory. But I have two reservations: firstly, in terms of the intellectual debate that should be conducted, it closely mirrors in its dynamics precisely the kind of capitalism which is currently being imposed on us. And secondly, precisely because this capitalism – and its analogous debate – does not take place on a level killing-field, the ideas which will win out will proceed from those with the biggest clout (the biggest virtual networks, the largest number of real-world followers etc.) and not necessarily because the ideas themselves have intrinsic virtue – or are of intrinsic value to the Labour Party as a whole, and by extension those who might wish to vote for it in general elections. 

Less macho Darwinism, more humane communication I think might be the order of *my* day.

Crowdsourcing ideas is – of course – an undeniable positive of many modern virtual environments.  But we shouldn’t conflate “robust” with “trolling” – nor argue in a rank relativism that “all comment is helpful”: much of what Marchant describes that takes place on the Internet is clearly so unhelpful as to impede an effective crowdsourcing of absolutely any procedure or process.

The million eyes of interested participants that good crowdsourcing environments coordinate are of course grand pluses we should observe and learn from in the way that Marchant suggests.  But as in the politics he so clearly understands, the constitutional structure of the environment you are dealing with is key to ensuring those million eyes act with either intelligence or a wasteful energy.

And it does so happen that on the few occasions I have commented on the Labour Uncut website, comment moderation has always been in place.

Hardly an inspiring example of where the crowd is shown to be in the driving-seat.

So before we go down the lazy route of justifying the tool of Darwinism in the very hub of all our debate, let us be accurate about the systems we use to give precedent and priority to some choice thinkers over that crowd.

And if we are truly interested in giving the crowd its head of steam, let us be consequential and act in good faith when we create the environments in which such a crowd should be allowed to perform.

Dec 192011

I woke up thinking I should write about “un calor envolvente”.  The house I find myself in has underfloor heating.  15 degrees Celsius is all that is needed on the thermostat to keep the rooms lovely and warm.  The heat rises directly from underneath one rather than heating up cold air coming in the windows.  No grand convection currents here.

Just an embracing heat.

But I was drawn, like many others, to Sue’s blog “Diary of a Benefit Scrounger”.  In particular, this most recent post, which surely must break anyone’s heart:

I have severe crohn’s disease. Probably one of the most severe cases in the country.

I have had 7 major life saving operations to remove over 30 obstructions (blockages) from my bowel.

I take chemo-shots every two weeks that suppress my immune system, ensuring that I regularly have to fight infections. Exhaustion, pain and nausea plague every single day of my life.

I have osteoprosis and malnutrition.

I have had major seizures and a stroke.

Nonetheless, I have just heard from my own Disability Living Allowance application, that it has been rejected. Completely. I will receive no support at all from DLA. Despite claiming successfully in the past, despite only getting weaker and more frail and less able to live independently, my reconsideration was rejected.

Yesterday, coincidentally, I came across this passage in a book I have been meaning to read for ages but which has sat on my coffee table, glaring at me with barely self-contained fury – Andrew Marr’s “A History of Modern Britain”:

[…] Britain had had a system of voluntary hospitals, raising their own cash, which varied wildly in size, efficiency and cleanliness.  Later, it also had municipal hospitals, many growing out of the original workhouses.  Some of these, in go-ahead cities like London, Birmingham or Nottingham, were efficient, modern places whose beds were generally kept for the poor.  Others were squalid.  Money for the voluntary hospitals came from investments, gifts, charity events, payments and a hotchpotch of insurance schemes.  Today we think of ward closures and hospitals on the edge of bankruptcy as diseases of the NHS.  The pre-war system was much less certain and wards closed for lack of funds then too. […]

Now don’t you think, in these two pieces quoted above, the first from Sue, the second from Marr, we have both the result of Tory-led Coalition policy and a roadmap for where they want to go in the future? 

The Tory plan for the NHS is nothing more nor less than to roll back Britain’s history to the past Marr describes so succinctly in the paragraph I quote.  For as he goes on to explain:

[…] GPs depended on private fees, though most of them also took poor patients through some kind of health insurance scheme.  When not working from home or a surgery, they would often double up operating in municipal hospitals where, as non-specialists, they sometimes hacked away incompetently.  And the insurance system excluded many elderly people, housewives and children, who were therefore put off visiting the doctor at all, unless they were in the greatest pain or gravest danger. […]

The idea and concept is clear: re-engineer the nation’s mindset so that future generations focus on the need to gather together mountains of money to protect themselves from the vicissitudes of life.  The endurably and necessarily poor and infirm?  Let the philosophy of survival of the fittest deal with them.

Sue says she doesn’t want the world – she only wants to survive.  The truth of the matter is that the Tory-led Coalition barely cares for her to survive – as it wants the world entirely for itself.

Nov 082011

I don’t know if Patrick has coined this word, but if he has, congratulations on a felicitous discovery:

.@eiohel Precisely. The econopocalypse being used to cover/excuse the steam-rolling in of an extreme Tory state. Feels like class war to me.

It was in response to a short exchange we had on how Tory politicians cover their ears and just spout received wisdoms.

And the term is indeed appropriate.  For it involves a new kind of class warfare: a class warfare which denies its own existence.  Like referred pain, it claims to be elsewhere in its real location: we are here to save the economy from the excesses of a social democracy in the thrall of neo-liberalism.  And how?  By imposing even more neo-liberalism!

From the Legal Aid bill which aims to take immigration, clinical negligence, welfare benefits and other serious matters out of scope to an NHS bill designed to fill the pockets of corporate sponsors, this Tory-led government is using this “econopocalypse” of an excuse to (as Patrick so clearly points out) drive a painful wedge between Christian ethics on the one hand and the most extreme version of Darwinian capitalism you could contemplate on the other.

A class warfare which is ashamed of itself?  Or a class warfare which, for strategic reasons, hides its very deliberation and intentionality from sight?

The latter I think.

Don’t you?

Oct 012011

“The Godfather” has a powerful thesis: that organised crime functions like a corporation.  Two tweets which reached my Twitter stream this morning have made me wonder if the aforementioned thesis hasn’t led us to believe – perhaps even rightly understand – the contrary: that corporations function like organised crime.  The interference of ideas would be a fascinating osmosis: the hurried blurring of lines a damning, yet maybe also revealing, feature of the modern communications industry.

The two tweets in question as follows.  The first, on worker reward in corporate bodies:

The average CEO earns 300 times more than the average worker, despite the fact the average worker works 1040 hours more per year.

And the second, drawing a tendentious conclusion as to the real reason why giant multinationals want less regulation:

Corporations Want Less Regulations for the Same Reason That Criminals Want Less Police. #OccupyWallStreet #p2 #TaxtheRich

In reality, I am inclined to believe that within the circle of behaviours the above two tweets draw, the blurring of lines between organised crime and large corporate bodies is not altogether inappropriate.

And not because the people involved are, themselves, necessarily unhappy souls.  Simply, rather, because the systems they work under reward the behaviours we get.  As Chris convincingly points out:

1. It tends to be the ambitious and charming to rise to the top, but these are disproportionately psychopaths.
2. Bosses and politicians are selected for their irrational overconfidence. This means that, when they get power, they are likely to over-rate their own ability and so undertake dangerous policies such as takeovers.
3. “Yes men” tend to get promoted more than nay-sayers and “trouble-makers”. This can contribute to groupthink in boardrooms in which bad decisions are not sufficiently scrutinized.
4. Even if these selection effects were not to work, and bosses had “good values”, competitive pressures would compel them to act badly. As Marx wrote:
Capital is reckless of the health or length of life of the labourer…But looking at things as a whole, all this does not, indeed, depend on the good or ill will of the individual capitalist. Free competition brings out the inherent laws of capitalist production, in the shape of external coercive laws having power over every individual capitalist.

Not too far, after all, from those slavering Pavlovian reactions, eh?  So capitalism – that slippery and eternally reinventing non-system of a system – does, in actual fact, have that underlying structure to all its manifestations: it moulds the goodness out of usas it turns us all into conditional beings.

Jun 012011

I’m not an evidence-based blogger.  I write quite calmly – but under the surface I am always far too angry to know how to communicate effectively with those who count.

So.  Evidence-based blogging is not my forte.

But this open letter to the Coalition government, first published online in the Guardian yesterday evening, provides even someone as emotional as myself with sufficient proof to convince someone as logical as yourselves that something very wrong is taking place at the very highest levels of power in this country.

This is how the United Nations defines our inalienable rights to mental wellbeing:

Q: What is mental health?

A: Mental health is not just the absence of mental disorder. It is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.

In most countries, particularly low- and middle-income countries, mental health services are severely short of resources – both human and financial. Of the health care resources available, most are currently spent on the specialized treatment and care of the people with mental illness, and to a lesser extent on an integrated mental health system. Instead of providing care in large psychiatric hospitals, countries should integrate mental health into primary health care, provide mental health care in general hospitals and develop community-based mental health services.

Even less funding is available for mental health promotion, an umbrella term that covers a variety of strategies, all aimed at having a positive effect on mental health well-being in general. The encouragement of individual resources and skills, and improvements in the socio-economic environment are among the strategies used.

Mental health promotion requires multi-sectoral action, involving a number of government sectors and non-governmental or community-based organizations. The focus should be on promoting mental health throughout the lifespan to ensure a healthy start in life for children and to prevent mental disorders in adulthood and old age.

Whilst this is today’s reality in Britain, as per Liberal Conspiracy’s overview of the matter – and published today:

Regular readers will know my endless horror at the system of “assessment” in place to now determine whether or not someone is “Fit for Work”.

Run by ATOS, a private company charged with making impersonal decisions, the system uses a computerised, tick box questionnaire of just 15 questions that take no account of variable conditions, no account of consultant or GP based evidence and no account of pain or most symptoms.

In a recent survey, Mind found that an enormous 95% of respondents don’t think that they will be believed at assessment. Evidence abounds of mentally ill people being found “fit for work” simply because they manage to turn up at the assessment centre dressed and washed.

I have to say that my own experience of mental health assessment – a sad and traumatic moment in my life, conducted as it was under the alleged objectivity of GPs and consultants – left much to be desired.  But I was one of the very lucky ones.  I survived the diagnosis – and managed to put my life back together.  And this was under the previous system, where a supportive approach was supposed to be at the heart of the whole process.

Today’s Britain, however, seems aimed at making this almost impossible for the vast majority of sufferers. All part and parcel, in fact, of an attempt by those in charge to ensure that the poor and vulnerable in society will remain under the lock and key of a Darwinian capitalism at its very worst – and, it would seem, for evermore.

Coupled with the move to a free-market NHS, where presumably paperwork for patients at point-of-delivery will multiply a thousandfold, the strategy would appear to become clear: reduce the need to pay for care for those who are suffering severely by ensuring that form-filling and what we might term personal bureaucracy becomes a useful barrier to accessing such services (in my own particular case, for example, I only have to think of the mental pain I go through, even now, when I have to complete the forms to claim back my dental fees). 

Where in the world, I then ask myself, does a company propose winning over more potential customers by making it more difficult for the aforesaid individuals to use their products and services?  Unless, of course, the idea is to cherry-pick the profitable customers and, in true free-market style, absolutely forget about the rest.  You know.  Your granny, my auntie and the village idiot down the road.


I really fail to understand how even those who propose these changes are able to live with the daily burden of not squaring the obvious circles.  Most of them run large businesses – or are in contact with large businesses – whose main reason for existing is (supposedly) to satisfy the needs of external customers.

(Or, perhaps, not – as the case may be.) 

So would their shareholders sanction treating customers with such utter and despicable disrespect?  Would they approve of procedures and processes which were designed to make it easier for such companies to operate and more difficult for their customers to engage?

Maybe that’s what’s wrong with latterday capitalism.  The real customer of the vast majority of modern companies becomes the internal self-serving owners whose yearly dividends are far more important than any end-user’s experience.  And that is the model we are now imposing on our public services.

This is not Darwinian capitalism after all, not the survival of the fittest.  This is the survival of the incestuous.  The inbreeding of the hypocritical

And if you thought the public sector needed turning over, just wait until you experience the full force of the private at its most navel-gazing.

Mar 172011

A bit of a round-up post this evening – though all connected and all of a piece.  First, there’s the Big Society and that march on the 26th March (this tautological expression, clearly, an example of good omen-like vibes) which Philosophy Football are once more honouring with another of their products of dissenting capitalism.

Meanwhile, this evening, I found myself in Chester’s Northgate Arena eating a BLT and squinting at my smartphone whilst reading evermore horrified this wonderful deconstruction of extreme Tory conspiracy.  Paul is right to say what he does is sad, because it is a little nerdy in feel.  But what’s really sad about what he’s doing, as he tracks government doublespeak at all levels, is that he’s having to dedicate the kind of valuable time he must have to hand to picking away at a tapestry of lies (woven by people who could’ve chosen a different and far more Christian path), rather than spending it far more constructively on putting together a society of the good.

So let me quote just two sections from his post:

This well-developed plan is absolutely in keeping with the broader project.

First and foremost, it creates an economic environment in which businesses really can drive down terms and conditions of employment in any way they want – there will always be a reserve army of labour’ desperate enough to earn anything they can.

It also allows local authorities the opportunity to negotiate with the centre over what happens to the ‘savings’ accrued from welfare benefit reductions, with some of it remaining at the County Council as a ‘reward’ for battering the poor so effectively. In effect, what will be developed is an ‘inverted’ Social Impact Bond, where centre and local government share the proceeds of their attack on the very fundamentals of the welfare state.

This, then, is the Tory plan for ‘growth’ and ‘enterprise’. The consequences for working class individuals and families in the regions will be horrendous, and at aggregate level may lead to seismic shifts in the long-term economic geography of Britain.

It’s impossible to predict how it will all pan out, but one likely scenario is as follows:

a) Local authorities in the regions will see their budgets further slashed, with reduced business rates and consequent calculations on ‘spending power’ introduced to ‘replace’ real business rate income lost to richer areas in the South East.

b) Public services and infrastructure (you know, potholes and stuff) in and around the new enterprise zones will simply start to collapse. With education no longer ring-fenced against the cuts, schools will start to suffer badly.

c) A vicious circle of economic and social decline will begin in our regional towns and cities.

And as he goes on to suggest:

Some businesses will be attracted by the low rates and other advantages e.g. easy planning consents, but these will be low skill, low wage operations prepared to make best use of the new employment law relaxations, and new anti-union legislation as it appears.

Even where businesses with higher added value products and services invest in these areas, the investment will be around the lower/cheaper aspects of the overall business, with the real added value and higher wage jobs remaining in the South East.

If Paul is right – and I fear he jolly well may be – the plan is exactly thus: having spent the last decade building a British economic miracle on the backs of the sweatshops of the developing world, British politicians – and more precisely those particularly right-wing elements of this Coalition government – are proposing to bring the sweatshops home.  In a sense, immorality is lessened as we choose to contain our desires to export poor conditions abroad and admit we are prepared to sanction them at home.  But if the Tories think they can successfully create pockets of the Third World within a landscape of the Old, then they really should think again.  Expanding the number of people who do those jobs which add little value to productive processes is not going to benefit Britain long-term – instead, we will end up servicing the value-adding hubs which are already beginning to exist in places like India and China.

By hollowing out the educational drive to train up a whole nation, the Tories are admitting we are not up to the task of chasing the economic tails of the Asian tigers.

Or, put another way, under Tory misrule, we can expect only further self-enrichment by the already rich.

Yet, the rich should also fear this policy of contraction.  For money is only good when it is circulated intelligently – and by intelligently I mean to wealth-generating purpose.  We need an infrastructure of clever industries, both large and small, as well as an infrastructure of educated consumers, in order to make better futures for everyone in society.  The politician who does not understand this – and still has the opportunity to impose his or her limiting point of view – will fail everyone, voters rich and poor, of this I am sure.  And the rich who believe that the way forward – even for them – is to create silos of poverty which they can then take advantage of are foolish in the extreme.

Social cohesion, for myself as a democratic socialist, is the only humane way out of this mess.  But if I were not a democratic socialist, if I were a simple and moderately perspicacious dyed-in-the-wool capitalist, I would nevertheless fear quite dramatically the consequences of silo-politics on my purse; I would fear the restricting influence on the growth of my companies it would imply; and I would shudder at the implications of bringing poverty deliberately back into the equation.

For recreating sweatshops out of a society accustomed to the minimum wage is not the same as taking advantage of sweatshops in a society struggling to escape them.  The latter can be an example of moving forward and away from rank poverty – an apparently natural order of progress through distinct and discrete phases of economic development between nations.  Unseemly and unsightly, disagreeable even – but workable and negotiable all the same.  The former, however, can only serve to generate an awful welling-up of resentment as humankind’s instinct to believe in better is beaten violently back into the undergrowth of survivalist and Darwinian capitalism at its worstChoosing to make things worse than they currently are – something our government is now manifestly guilty of – is not the same as positing an economic infrastructure on cheap labour in far-off countries.

What is absolutely clear, then, is those far-off countries are now going to transmute into Northern shires – and the cheap labour we will find in our own towns and cities.  And meanwhile countries like India and China will discover that the transfer of technologies required to build our factories there have empowered their peoples to such an extent that sooner than we imagine we will become their source of cheap labour.

The Tories are not only evil but cowardly too.  They see no alternative to lying down – utterly prostrate – and thinking emptily of England.  They have no pride in their own nation and no idea how to enjoin battle with others we need to fight.

If I didn’t believe nationalism was not the way forward for our country, I would become a nationalist this evening.  In the meantime, I watch with great sadness as a political party with a historical importance in our body politic sets about dismantling everything that was once great about Britain.

Aug 122010

I just tweeted the following:

Coalition wants to destroy all potential opposition by not allowing communities of any kind to coalesce. #divideandrule #asoldasthehills

What exactly do I mean by this?  From council and housing trust policy to NHS cuts, from playground provision to school refurbishment programmes, there is an underlying strategy and subtext to all that is taking place: in the world of Coalition capitalism, the broadest community you can now hope for is no greater than your own immediate family.  Whilst some of us begin to wonder if the final goal isn’t to disassociate us all entirely from anything greater than an atomised self.

Back to Thatcher’s “There is no such thing as society” perhaps.

What is absolutely clear is that if it weren’t for the fact that we still nominally live in a democracy, edicts would already have been issued prohibiting the meeting-up of more than three people in any private or public space of public usage.  As it is, a de facto set of edicts is being put in place through the cuts that have been announced which aim to avoid the potential growth of power bases that might otherwise serve to oppose in a more organised manner future acts of quasi-dictatorial control.

If you don’t have a job and you don’t have the resources to travel, or you find yourself out of water in a new community your spanking new job mobility has forced you to discover, what is there you can do to organise the activities that effective political opposition require?

In a democracy, there are two ways to proceed before your true aims are rumbled.  The first is to attempt to continually butter the population up – this was Blair and New Labour’s approach for many years.  The second is to demoralise and divide all probable opposition prior to the event with acts such as Cameron’s Coalition are carrying out.  Better than demoralise and divide, however, is the strategy of cutting supply lines and taking apart little by little regions of common association.

This is also something that the Coalition will find it hard not to do.

The cuts that are being effected may have an ideological bent designed to socially engineer us back into the Darwinian dark ages of 19th century capitalism, and they may also perpetuate and deepen a recession we were on the point of emerging from, but, principally, their main purpose – if we are to accept my tentative thesis – is to lay the ground for a far more profound set of changes further down the line: changes which will end up being imposed on a thoroughly frightened and unhappy set of atomised and splintered individuals, looking to the support that democratic socialism promised them even as the tactics I have described serve to slowly but permanently disintegrate them from their fellow men and women – as well as lead them, once more, as so many sad times in the past, to believe that dog-eat-dog philosophies are humankind’s inevitable fate.