May 272013
 
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These are the three ideas which dominate the front page of the Daily Telegraph tomorrow.  You couldn’t make it up.  A case of fact fiercely outgunning fiction really.  Let me explain.

The Daily Telegraph front page

A short digression first – a digression the above reminds me of for reasons which shall shortly become self-evident.

My mother escaped Communist Yugoslavia in the early 1960s.  After a long period of readjustment, she came to love the country that accepted her.  She spent her early years in a small village near Witney and could only receive news from the family she left behind via blue airmailed letters which took weeks to arrive from her homeland.

She always suspected the slow and heavy hand of censorship.

The police state the Yugoslavs operated was real enough though.  I remember the rampant paranoia cousins of mine exhibited when we visited them during the summers of my youth.  My Croatian family had grown up on the wrong side of the political spectrum.  My grandfather apparently owed his life, on one occasion at least, to a friend who also happened to be in the Party – though the Party was never any friend of his.

Even in repressive regimes, human kindnesses were still able occasionally to shine through.

Back to the matters that occupy us tonight, however.  The three items you can see on the above front page would not have been out of place in my mother’s Communist Yugoslavia.  In their juxtapositioning, in their clever advantage-taking of the recent backdrop of cultural fracture, in the cunning story they weave, they are all beautifully cruel examples of propaganda discourse at its very finest.  No matter that reducing welfare will increase the pressure on the police and the armed forces; no matter that spying on neighbours will create more unreasonable suspicion and fear of difference; no matter that the defacing of national symbols is easily performed and most certainly does not deserve the careless oxygen of publicity … the principle goal is to get the message across that the country is under threat from unspokenly wicked but not intangible strangenesses.

In truth, tomorrow’s Daily Telegraph shows us only one thing: when the Berlin Wall fell, it was not the East Germans who found themselves liberated so much as the West (on a very long-burn fuse) which found itself contaminated.  No longer able to fight a common enemy which bound us together in joint enterprise, we thrashed about over the next twenty years looking for constancy and focus for our huge infrastructures of counter-surveillance.

No.  I’m not saying the threats aren’t now very real.

All I’m saying is there was no real industrial incentive to reduce their presence in time.

In fact, we could even argue that in some curious way the Berlin Wall hasn’t fallen at all: rather, it’s mutated and grown to include the rest of us in a dangerous embrace, an embrace which serves only to normalise the evil instincts – once turned outwards and now focussing inwards – that we had previously managed to contain so effectively elsewhere.

The Wall which was at one time a Petri Dish of a defence – and is now shattered unavoidably on the laboratory floors of recent history.


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Dec 192012
 
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An astonishing tweet flashed by me just now which suggested that Iain Duncan Smith is telling his activists the government plans to control how benefit recipients spend their money.  If this is true, and I have heard other stories recently of smartcards various which might be introduced to achieve exactly that, it certainly begs a sequence of very serious questions: first, and most importantly, how on earth a political party such as the Conservatives have become a group of morality-peddling nannies, capable of far outdoing anything New Labour was ever accused of having got up to.

And here I am, trying to understand these behaviours.  And you know what, I think I’ve worked out why it’s all happening.  The businesspeople-cum-politicians who have been ruling us for years, who see politics as an extension of effective business practice rather than – this being my understanding – a proactive mediation between the interests of free-market-loving consumers on the one hand and the monopolistic tendencies of corporate capitalism on the other, have – in some surreptitious, unconscious and/or subliminal way – decided it’s time not only to make it easier to be a corporation but also to make it more difficult to be a person.

It’s almost as if the psychology is working in the following way: after decades of constrictions, restrictions and legal governance imposed from up on high, of the power of the consumer as protected by the social-democratic states of yore, these businesspeople-cum-politicians are beginning to realise it’s now going to be possible to make people in the image of their blessedly oppressed companies of the past.

It’s almost as if they’re saying it’s your turn as a citizen, as an ordinary person, as a voter and end-user, as a consumer and worker, to feel as regulated, tracked, persecuted and chased as we, your grand providers, have experienced for so many years.

Whatever the reason, it’s true that the sliders are now being pushed in opposite directions: deregulation of corporate agencies, their lobbyists and their sponsored accompanies a simultaneous pattern of increasing regulation around flesh-and-blood figures.

We may wonder if under Coalition Britain it is now easier to be a corporation than a person.

But the question which surely should occupy us is why this is going to be the case.

And in my meandering, disbelieving and indirectly confused way, I finally think this is simply a matter of cruel and casual vengeance.

They do it because they can.

They do it because it’s time.

They do it because the history books have shown that people who have so very much to lose are going to wait until it’s too late in the foolish belief they might not lose it all.

These businesspeople-cum-politicians are right in one thing they say, mind: we are soft, too comfortable and dependent on a centralised authority.

But they are wrong when they argue this authority is the government.

In reality, we are soft, too comfortable and dependent on the companies these businesspeople-cum-politicians have made in their ever-so-autocratic images.

If we are indeed living in a state of sofa-sitting layabouts, it is only because our corporations have made us so: have made us evermore dependent on the logos, messages, narratives and products that make up their cocooning and loyalty-generating 21st century environments.  It is in our roles as consumers, end-users, readers and viewers that we have become hollowed out and empty.

As citizens, as voters, as democrats, however … well, I still believe there is a thirst for real engagement.  But that opportunity is slowly and severely being excised from our futures – even as we speak.  In this vengeance that is our leaders’, time for the rest of us is practically up.

Not the End of the World exactly – but the end of the world as we knew and genuinely loved it.

That’s what the Mayans were really predicting, you know.

The retaking and destruction of complex and thoughtful societies by idiots such as Cameron & Co.

Now that’s what should really terrify us, in my opinion.  That’s the really terrifying prospect now facing us.


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Nov 112012
 
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This is clearly what people in the trade call a hatchet job.  It’s written by two journalists: one, unfortunately, called David Rose; the other, rather more identifiably, called Bob Woffinden.  More background to this complex and unclear situation, with corresponding links, can be found at the moment over at Tom’s place.

The only thing I’d add to Tom’s piece, which I don’t think I found included, is this story which came my way via Ally Fogg’s Twitter feed this evening:

Can anyone confirm that the David Rose who wrote the hatchet job on Messham in the Mail today is same DR writing here? newstatesman.com/politics/2007/…

The link and story it directs us to, written indeed in 2007 by a certain David Rose, admits quite openly to the following introduction to a deeper world of editorial collusion:

My secret life began, as if scripted by P G Wodehouse, with an invitation to tea at the Ritz.

The call came at the end of the first week of May 1992. I was the Observer’s home affairs correspondent, and at the other end of the line was a man we shall call Tom Bourgeois, special assistant to “C”, Sir Colin McColl, the then chief of the Secret Intelligence Service. SIS (or MI6, as it is more widely known) was “reaching out” to selected members of the media, Bourgeois explained, and over lunch a few days earlier with McColl, my editor, Donald Trelford, had suggested that I was a reliable chap – not the sort, even years later, to betray a confidence by printing an MI6 man’s real name.

I suggest you read on to get a full flavour of what was about to happen – though I suppose even the most naive of us out here might already realise the essence of the game …

  1. that just over a week ago a man – who most are prepared to admit was seriously and sexually abused in his youth whilst under the care of the state – should speak up in public to the BBC‘s “Newsnight” programme, and then proceed to retract his accusations …
  2. that the “Newsnight” journalists should fail to properly check the story having previously dropped an investigation into Jimmy Savile’s activities in the same organisation …
  3. that another man who was pinpointed by some in the mainstream and social media as having been one of the abusers, Lord McAlpine, should then have to issue this statement, denying – before he had actually been officially named by anyone of repute – that he had done anything of which he could be reasonably accused …
  4. and then that two journalists, one of whom has the same name as a host of other selfless individuals sadly labouring under public suspicion through mere association, should proceed to destroy what little reputation the accuser apparently had in any case …

… well, it does seems all rather weird, to borrow a term going the rounds at the moment.

In fact, there’s far more weirdness in all of this from the establishment side of things than anything a clearly sad and suffering survivor of sexual abuse could ever promulgate.

Just to underline two finally salient points.  Firstly, as Tom reminds us in another piece he posted today:

The fact of the matter is it wasn’t the BBC that wrongly implicated Lord McAlpine in the child abuse scandal.

It was North Wales Police.

Abuse victim Steve Messham – and the widow of another victim – told Channel 4 News that they were shown a photo and wrongly given Lord McAlpine’s name by police when they were interviewed by them in the early 1990s.

Now I’m aware that the McAlpine family tree is fiendishly complicated but it’s an extraordinary mistake to make on the part of the police – which is why it’s even stranger that the harsh, critical light of opprobrium is being concentrated in the direction of the BBC (and on Steve Messham too) and not in the least bit on North Wales Police.

Further to this point, you can find more from a couple of days ago from the BBC itself here:

A victim of sexual abuse while he was a resident of a north Wales care home has apologised for making false allegations against a Conservative politician.

Steve Messham said police had shown him a picture of his abuser but incorrectly told him the man was Lord McAlpine.

Secondly, Lord McAlpine’s own carefully couched statement already linked to above had this revealing sentence in its very first paragraph (the bold is mine):

“Over the last several days it has become apparent to me that a number of ill-or uninformed commentators have been using blogs and other internet media outlets to accuse me of being the senior Conservative Party figure from the days of Margaret Thatcher’s leadership who is guilty of sexually abusing young residents of a children’s home in Wrexham, North Wales in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

In a document I am sure was so obviously parsed and approved by his lawyer, that he should choose to say “the senior Conservative Party figure [...] who is guilty of sexually abusing young residents” and not choose, for example, to say “who it is alleged was guilty of sexually abusing young residents” is surely revealing in itself.

Now I may be reading far more into this than is fair.  It may be true that – under Thatcher – we lived in a policed state and not a police state (more here).  But whilst the least shadow of a doubt remains, it is clear – at least to me – that something feels as wrong now as it did a decade ago during the lead-up to the Iraq War.

That furious pitter-patter of guilt-ridden establishment brogues was never louder or more worrying than today.

From banking to the BBC, from Murdoch to the police, from MPs’ expenses to democratic deficit, from the destruction of public services to the reconstruction of private-sector graft … well, little it now seems is out of the frame of our suspicions.

Little it now seems is too incredible.

Who can we turn to?  Who can we trust?  Who can help clear up this mess?  Who has the moral authority and right?

These are the questions our politicians need to answer.  These are the issues of the day.


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Oct 082012
 
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If anything has seemed – for an outsider like myself looking in – to have characterised this Coalition’s behaviour almost from the very first day, it’s a firmly casual instinct to break the sacred bond between all those rights and responsibilities we might consider to inhabit a moral sphere.

The latest example is well described in Chris Dillow’s piece today, as George Osborne’s strategy to emasculate working-people’s rights proceeds apace.  As I suggested a couple of posts ago, this process may be more out of a desire to give us an example than give us a kicking – but, even so, the results are clear to see.  (And in truth, this Tory-led Coalition may be rightly perceived as wanting to give us an example and a kicking.  But that, I guess, would lead us onto a completely different debate.)

Anyhow, Chris describes the Coalition’s latest wizard wheeze – to force workers to give up their rights in exchange for shares – as having the following implications:

Herein, however, lies a curious omission in Osborne’s speech.Although he talked of “new rights of ownership” he did not mention that ownership should entail control. As bank shareholders will tell you, ownership without control is just a way of ensuring you’ll be ripped off. Anyone would think Osborne wants workers to suffer a similar fate.

The mindset operating here seems bloody damn clear to me.  The fear from without that bound us together during World War II, and drove us on to extraordinary socialising changes in our civilisation, did indeed make our country run more efficiently.  The problem this government has, looking as it is to emulate Thatcher not Heath (or, indeed, Churchill not Chamberlain), is that there doesn’t seem to be a sufficiently cogent and convincing external threat to ready hand for the citizens of this country to line up in an orderly queue and follow Cameron & Co down the route they are (in a sense, literally) carving out.

No bloodless revolution here, after all.

So seeing the example of Thatcher – demon witch of left-wing mythology – and the fear she induced in those who opposed her, and remembering the effect that the fear of an invasion of our British Isles had on us, and what it did to an often historically disparate set of nation states and peoples, who wouldn’t think the solution to a time of very 21st-century crisis such as this – an “End of History” crisis without clear enmities to define our latterday direction – is to progressively remove all state-organised support networks in order to force people to act as if in wartime?

In fact, this is perhaps the first post-Orwellian state we’re experiencing here.  With terrorism generally beaten, with the Russians and their hold on Western civilisation’s energy supplies on the potential back-foot as fracking spreads across the globe, with the Arab states cowed and struggling with their own flowerings of democracy and even the Chinese involved in their own tentative stirrings … who the hell can we now blame for our ills?

Except, I suppose, our own body politic.

And what political leadership is ever going to admit to that?

Much easier to break that sacred bond between rights and responsibilities – and blame the workers for bringing this all upon ourselves.

Which, in a sense, perhaps, is what has really happened.  We have got soft; have believed that rights don’t need to be fought for; have allowed ourselves to trust a referred and professionalised parliamentary democracy as the solution to all our ills.

Time for us to correct our path?  Time to realise how post-Orwellian this has become?  Time to act as if in wartime back?

I wonder.

For that – don’t you see? – is exactly how the Tories themselves are acting.  Quite despite themselves … quite because of themselves … whatever the reason, they’re at war with the British people.

And there seems little, for the moment, we can do to remedy the situation.

But then that’s Blitzkrieg all round, isn’t it?  Shock and awe squared.


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Sep 302012
 
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In the face of a wider defeat of Communism, Soviet socialism initially decided to turn in on itself.  Is this now happening at the hands of Google and wider movements towards automation in the US?

I quote from the always excellent John Naughton, who quotes from himself here (the bold is mine):

At the ceremony in Mountain View, Google’s co-founder, Sergey Brin, announced the company’s intention to bring autonomous vehicles to the market in five years. In a pre-emptive attack on critics, he pointed out that autonomous vehicles would be significantly safer than human-controlled ones. That seems plausible to me: 40,000 people are killed every year in road accidents in the US and many, if not most, of those are caused by human error. “This has the power to change lives,” Brin said. “Too many people are underserved by the current transport system. They are blind, or too young to drive, or too old, or intoxicated.” He also argued that manual operation of cars was inefficient: autonomous vehicles could make better use of the road and reduce the size of car parks by fitting into smaller areas than humans could get them into.

Ignore the evangelism for a moment and think about what Google has achieved. Its engineers have demonstrated that with smart software and an array of sensors, a machine can perform a task of sophistication and complexity most of us assumed would always require the capabilities of humans. And that means our assumptions about what machines can and cannot do are urgently in need of updating.

This isn’t just about cars, by the way…

In the full Observer article which he’s extracted the above paragraphs from, he then goes on to describe how this rolling and encroaching process of automation might help explain how jobs are disappearing from the economies of the Western world, even as recession officially ends in some of those economies and companies start expanding again.

I’m inclined to see Google’s moves, however, in a longer-term and more political light: the American love affair with the car is an icon and driver (literally) of the broader American Dream.  The freedom to move and transport oneself anywhere, whenever one wishes and without recourse to timetables or other organisational restrictions, coupled with the always solidly low price of petrol over there, has fed into an underlying narrative of how all elements of society should be organised – or not, as the case may be.

Personally, I used to love driving.  I remember once driving, with the corresponding breaks of course, for seventeen hours from Gent in Belgium to Burgos in Spain.  In hindsight, though exhilarating it was foolishly so – and therefore became an experience I was never to repeat.  (And nowadays I wonder in all conscience, as I watch how cars work ant-like and in – from a distance – amazingly complex ways, how more people don’t get killed on the roads.)

Many other people have also done such things – and will, I think, continue to do them – precisely because our society, in a way, subconsciously, kind of approves: it’s your choice, it’s your decision, it’s your individual empowerment which figures far more significantly in our irrational mindsets than our civilisation’s saddening and resulting body count of dead road users.

Yet Google is looking for us to go down the route of saving lives first and foremost.  No stupid thrills, running a car too fast round that bend.  No crazy Saturday nights, showing off for the attendant boys and girls.  No real status symbol in being just one other passenger.  Not really your car, either – rather, the corporate Communism of 21st century Google-America!

Yes.  As Google claims, this has the power to change lives.  And as Naughton underlines, this is more than just a question of cars.

This is the End of History coming back to bite us in the backside.  As Communism/one-country socialism collapsed in its grandly political structures, and for a while there was little else we could do but argue the battle was dusted and done, even so it would appear that its instincts were continuing to work away at its evermore grand and commercial manifestations.

The monolithic state which hopes to re-engineer everyone in a one-best-way mindset, whilst disparaged and in the process of being dismantled by capitalist evangelicals almost everywhere, is suddenly reappearing in Google’s corporately admirable attempts: attempts where it looks to automate dangerous processes such as the freedom to kill people with cars out of the frame of everyday living.

The American Dream without the freedom to choose between life and death?  Whatever next my friend?

Which is why one final thought does now occur to me.

Will there ever come a time when – under Google-America’s 21st century one-best-way socialism – guns and their bearing will also become the preserve of automated systems?

And if so, whither the hallowed Constitution of the United States of America then?


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Oct 302011
 
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David continues to track the moral decline of the established church here:

The Church of England, alongside many other Christian denominations is part of the bourgeois elite and seeks to control spiritual life on behalf of those that have the power.
In its foundation document, the 39 Articles, the Church of England specifically rejects any political programme which seeks to redistribute wealth (see Article 38 “The Riches and Goods of Christians are not common as touching the right, title,  and possession of the same, as some Anabaptists do falsely boast…). No western Christian denomination, including the Methodist Church has ever challenged that position.
Bourgeois structures and theology completely smother our church and our faith. Our Bible colleges and Ministerial training programmes are all about ensuring that the radical message of Jesus is confined to personal salvation at best or New Age mysticism at worse. At the moment we have a license to be radical about “global warming” but that is conditional that it doesn’t really challenge the status quo and remains a legitimising way to stifle the economic aspirations of countries such as China and India..

As he quite properly concludes in a piece which deserves to be read in full:

We now have a whole generation of Christians who have never read “The Ragged Trousered Philantropists” or anything by Conrad Noel. Many active Christians today have only ever been taught or exposed to bourgeois theology.
That’s why we don’t understand where the Church of England  and other churches really stand on the  present crisis of capitalism. There they stand, with the rich and the powerful. At the end of the day they can do no other. We need to put our faith in Jesus and Scripture, not in the Church.

Meanwhile, over at the Independent today – and just to prove David right – it just gets worse for the Church of England, as this investigation now shows:

A highly critical report into the moral standards of bankers has been suppressed by St Paul’s Cathedral amid fears that it would inflame tensions over the Occupy London tent protest.

The report, based on a survey of 500 City workers who were asked whether they thought they were worth their lucrative salaries and bonuses, was due to be published last Thursday, the day that the Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s, Giles Fraser, resigned in protest at the church’s tough stance.

But publication of the report, by the St Paul’s Institute, has been delayed in an apparent acknowledgement that it would leave the impression that the cathedral was on the side of the protesters.

Finally, from the absolutely unhappy to the absolutely ridiculous: on a completely separate matter, but really not entirely, Chris describes how fiddling around with time changes is just one more way that the establishment seeks to subliminally oppress – that is to say, by making visible what it needs us to perceive and making invisible what it prefers us to ignore.  As he accurately points out:

The ideology that supports the power of the ruling class does not consist merely of explicit propositions. It also comprises silences and blind spots – things that are not seen or said.  The debate about whether to turn the clocks back or not illustrates this.

So it is that he continues to argue:

Working hours are not chosen for the convenience and safety of employees. They are instead a means whereby the capitalist asserts his power over workers, and whereby workers are dehumanized and turned into mere means of production.

Thus even children are exposed to unnecessary organisational changes at a societal level:

And the school day is imposed upon children in order to inculcate into them the discipline of capitalist work.

Sometimes it is just as important to track what is outside the frame – those blind spots Chris mentions – as it is to track what is made apparent.  That the Church of England has commissioned a report which would support the position young protesters had taken in relation to a key moral issue of the day – and that it then chooses not to publish it because its corporate sponsors might take offence … well, this is utterly unpardonable.

To add to the list in my previous post of institutions I could no longer believe in, must I really include the churches?  Does no one stand any more on the side of those who might believe in right and wrong?

Is this, then, the absolute end of all morality?

*

“The End of History and the Last Man”, published in 1992, described the supposed end of history in the face of a deservedly collapsing ideological puff pastry of a society which the old Soviet and Eastern European bloc countries represented.  I do wonder now, however, whether it was, in fact, not the point at which Communism gave up the ghost but – rather, far more importantly – that unperceived moment when all moral compasses lost their right to sit at the table of our civilisation.

To be honest, I don’t think it’s a banking deficit we’re suffering from – but, rather, a deficit of quite different proportions.  Whether business or religion or public broadcaster or government, no one really feels they have to do anything any more – except get away with it on the day.

Have we become so terribly immoral, then, that no organisation which manages relationships with corporate sponsors of one sort or another must feel it owes anything to anyone outside its own immediate circle?  

Is that what’s going on?  Is that what’s now running it all?

Not the End of History.  Not the End of Communism.  Not the End of the Cold War. 

Just the end of being good.

Anywhere and everywhere.

From now on.

And for all time.


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Oct 272011
 
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Paul has an interesting and apposite post on the difference between money lenders and money changers here.  This paragraph, in relation to the #occupylsx movement outside St Paul’s in London, catches my eye in particular:

The protest movement, I suggest, should steer clear of a campaign against the fundamentals of credit and debt as a way of making the world work.  As David Graeber has shown, such concepts may well be hardwired into human existence, and what we really should be campaigning for is some form of democratic control of banking institutions and the money supply rather than an end to the whole idea of banking itself.

In essence, what Paul is suggesting here is that the “fundamentals of credit and debt” are tools which may be abused – but, equally, can be rewired for the good of all.  This was the same argument I used yesterday in relation to Tim Worstall’s criticism of the Vatican’s supposed naivete in the matter of creating a new world government, when I said:

But surely this is giving up entirely on any chance of improvement.  Politics is but a tool.  It’s the politicians who are currently abusing it – perhaps with our connivance.  If we want to regain its utility, we need structures which tie politicians closer into the people they govern – which ensure the people they govern also become the governors.

We need enablers, not leaders; facilitators, not teachers.  We need to change how we use the tool – not disregard and dispatch it forthwith.

So I think I’m inclined to agree with Paul on this one – however much it may pain.  Credit and debt are tools we will continue to need – whatever society we engineer.

*

A warning, however.  I quoted from the beginning and end of Craig’s piece yesterday, but didn’t quote from the middle.  The middle said the following:

The economic system in which most of our readers live is little to do with capitalism. The value of goods traded is an insignificant fraction of the flow of funds around the world, much of which relates to either bets on the future values of goods, or bets on the consequences of the vectors of financial flows of which the bets themselves are a part.

The whole edifice is based not on a market for exchange of goods and concrete services, but on an astonishing matrix of state enforced legal instruments creating an extraordinary pile of paper money produced by states, but ultimately worth nothing real. This legal framework was designed to shift the great bulk of this wealth from people who actually work for a living to a small financial elite, most (but not all) of whom create little or nothing real.

If the state compelled everyone to play a pyramid scheme, then you could keep it going for decades. As the system started to reach inevitable collapse, the state moved in with bank bailouts and quantitive easing, both of which simply moved yet more money from ordinary people to the super-rich. In fact the last three years have seen the biggest transfer of resources from poor to rich in human history.

It cannot last, and whether it is Greece or Italy or Spain which is this week’s fashionable media focus is irrelevant. In making these vast levied and leveraged transfers of resources from poor to rich, states have exhausted the capacity of their people to actually pay them. That is true all over Europe, the UK and US. The currency crises are a tiny symptom of a very large impending crash.

Perhaps, then, this is not the end of banking as we loved it but rather – far more disturbingly – the end of the state as we knew it.

Have you thought of that?


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Oct 092011
 
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Cowardice is a sad – almost taboo – subject.  In other contexts, the idea of self-preservation doesn’t seem to be so unhappy.  In fact, in Western society during Fukuyama’s ever-so-grandly-announced “The End of History”, part of whose ideology may have helped crystallise for a modern generation the intellectual ground rules for the Iraq War, the Clash of Civilisations that was eventually engineered by interested parties on both sides seemed to posit one side which always valued the presence of life (Western civilisation, that is) against another which always valued the taking of life (radical Islam).

Even, that is, the taking of one’s own life.

In such a context, the instinct to self-preservation – for example, resisting the temptation always to acquire a suicide mentality of some kind or another – would be hailed as a distinct positive by ourselves in the West.  As 9/11 showed, all our procedures and processes depend heavily on the mass of people adhering – above all – to this philosophy of attaching oneself firmly to the side of life in the present.

You only have to look at the manifest madness of private transport and the car – that libertarian impulse and love affair with foolish “liberty” writ absolutely large – to understand how ingrained in our civilisation is our need for consistently sensible behaviours where, in the name of individual “freedom”, life and limb are unnecessarily exposed to inevitable and excessive risk.

Only when it becomes an impediment to the effective operation of a war or conflict – a war or conflict which political masters decide is worthy of public expenditure – will such an idea of “self-preservation” transmute into “cowardice”.

In Western eyes at least.

And that is when it becomes taboo.

So it is that I do wonder if it is precisely the thinking side of our brains which demonstrates and sustains the values of cowardice – that self-preservation which I find myself talking of today – and only the emotive side of our mental landscapes which is truly engaged with the ideals and the acting out of bravery.

Are we cowardly in thought, then – and only brave on impulse?  And if so, what does that say about the human impulses we really value?

We might, after all, be closer to radical Islam than we would ever like to admit.

If so, that would perhaps explain a lot.


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