Sunday, 28 December 2008

Down With Brown!

Ashamed though I am to admit it, I hate my country. I loathe what it has become. I no longer recognise it. The nation of my youth has vanished into the abyss, along with good manners and the right to internalise one's emotions rather than spilling them all over Trisha and Jeremy Kyle. For this, there are two institutions which are predominantly to blame: Thatcher's morally-bankrupt government and Blair/Brown's morally and financially-bankrupt government.

Writing in the DT today, Brown has the audacity to demand us to develop a bit of WWII-style camaraderie and battle through the recession. Brown's problem (well, one of his thousands of problems) is that he sees money in itself as a moral institution. That there's a divine spark in the free market mechanism. And those who have a lot of money deserve a bigger say. Those with the most have the 'right' to make political decisions. The bigger the income bracket the greater the odour of sanctity. Take away the money and you remove the individual's - well, individuality. This, of course, has been seen throughout history. But we're not living in the C13th. We're living in an age where education is seen as a given, rather than the province only of the very wealthy. We can communicate with others thousands of miles away in a mere nanosecond. Everyone can aspire to becoming the leaders of nations. So to revert to the position that money equals morality sends us straight back to the dark ages. And to compare our situation now with our nation's ideological battles against the invidious far-Right extremism of Nazi Germany is positively shameful.

Brown says Britain's the best country in the world. And he does live in the best country in the world: his own. What he says goes. He's absolutely intractable. He is in the habit of always getting his own way - no matter what means he employs to get it. He'll lie, he'll cheat, he'll use spin, he'll ignore censure and criticism and plain common sense: he is convinced that he's absolutely right. Morally right. The electorate is crushed beneath the sheer weight of his ego. The only spirit it can show is by removing him from office - permanently. But herein lies the rub. Ideally, if or since we have to be ruled at all, our leaders should be a projection of our own wishes and desires; what we think would be 'good' and 'right' for ourselves and, by implication, for others. But with Brown's government we have precisely the reverse of this golden rule. He thinks of what would be good and right for himself and inflicts it on the rest of us. He listens not to our wishes; only his own. In our best interests, of course.

Hence the huge bank bail-outs whilst at the same time talking about slashing benefits - as if benefit claimants caused a £1 trillion hole in the economy. The financial institutions are worth rescuing; the people are not. Job losses? Shame, that: the government'll give you £60 a week and fine you if you don't take whatever you're given - regardless of whether it's suitable for you or not. Mortgages? Don't even dare to hope of getting on the housing ladder. If you're £30 over your overdraft, the banks see you as a risk: they've judged your character and found you shifty and unreliable and immoral. The temples of money have become the new home of religion.

'I am confident that we can steer Britain safely into the future,' writes Brown. 'Today the issues may be different, more complex, more global. And yet the qualities we need to meet them the British people have demonstrated in abundance before.' What breath-taking optimism. The problem with Brown's rallying call is that Britishness has all but been eroded by 'community cohesion', 'political correctness', the EU, eradication of our collective history, mass immigration, huge unemployment and the recapitulation of rectitude as a pound sign. And, should a Labour government be returned at the next election, I am emigrating and shall not return. Like thousands of others who have fled 'Great' Britain over the past 11 years, this administration has been a nightmare in history, not a beacon of hope, presided over by those who care solely for their own interests and convictions.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Big Brother Wants To Watch You More

The man who wants to bring you loud libraries and was threatened with legal action by Shami Chakrabarti for base(less)ly insinuating she was, er, canoodling with Dave Davis is back! Andy Burnham,  handed the oxymoronic (or just 'moronic'?) title of 'Culture Secretary', now wants to introduce cinema-style internet age ratings. All very well and good, you say. Until you begin to wonder how the hell he can achieve it.

The ex-Fitz English grad who seems to have lost the ability to string together words to form what we call a 'sentence' since he came down (sample: "The real priorities I have got in my mind" and "the change of administration is a big moment. We have got a real opportunity to make common cause" - in today's DT) also sneakily mentioned that there would be an opportunity for those who believed their characters to have been defamed online to seek cheap legal redress.

While images of beheadings should certainly not be viewed, ISPs already offer decent parental controls to stop little darlings inadvertently stumbling on to smut. Police routinely trawl the web for paedophilia and terrorist activity; ISPs have rigid terms of use, in some cases too rigid (see Google's no-kids policy, for example) and will shut down sites and/or ban users which violate said terms. Burnham's plans are yet another - another - instance of State interference. He's implying that parents can't do a good enough job of watching their kids, so Big Brother will have to do it instead. But in the end, everyone will be watched: it's the only way to make the scheme work.

Indeed, the only way to enforce Burnham's proposals would be to use an ID card, fingerprint or iris scanner, or similar chipped device that proves the individual is of a suitable age to access certain websites that had been carefully vetted to meet government "standards" and contained no libellous material. (Does anyone else smell lucrative technological contracts in the offing?) The costs alone could be spectacularly prohibitive; yet again, the taxpayer would undoubtedly be required to pick up the bill for all these 'legally-required' add-ons. The government will know where you are and what you're looking at at all times. One wonders whether they'll sell the information to marketing firms in order to pay the salaries of all those in the new department set up to administrate this garbage.

Burnham's announcements come at a time when Labour is ready to sneak through Jacqui Smith's highly unpopular proposals to retain information of every website you've ever visited. Are they touting for public support for their snooping? One thing is clear: despite Burnham's claims to the contrary, this is an end to free speech, because free speech invariably entails saying things about certain people that they may not like to hear. Labour'll read your emails to make sure you haven't been nasty to or about anyone. And should defamation laws be applied to the Internet the highly enjoyable English pastime of being satirical about others - or merely taking the piss - comes under threat. The dearly beloved Daily Mash certainly would be for the high jump. And, of course, because the Internet is one of the few under-regulated entities left, and many laws don't apply to it, new clamp-downs on freedom of speech and expression will be whipped through Parliament as part of some (probably unrelated) Bill. 

In a country which has hidden proposed legislation to allow customs officers to demand to check your papers at any time just in case you're an Illegal in the draft 'Immigration and Citizenship Bill', mere criticism of the State and its methodology could, in future, be enough to get you shut down or investigated by the authorities. We can look forward to an endlessly-regurgitated diet of Z-list celebrities attempting to dance on ice and pre-fab girl groups miming to popular songs: that is what apparently comprises 'culture' these days. Meanwhile, no matter where you go, you won't be able to find peace, quiet, or privacy: whether you're in a library full of bawling troglodytes, or a smoke-free pub that Uses CCTV For Your Protection or taking a walk along heavily-surveilled streets or attempting to do a little light reading on the Net, Big Brother will be watching you. Go back to letter-writing, I say: the State hasn't stooped (yet) to opening your post.

Friday, 28 November 2008

B*gger Blears

I meant to rant about this a little while ago, but forgot; Hazel Blears doesn't want people to blog any more. Or, rather, she only wants properly-vetted, state-appointed people to write blogs; anyone else is deemed irresponsible. Blog away, I say, blog away; the more the merrier; and, if you can smear Ms Blears, so much the better.

"BECOMING a Police State???"

Following the arrest and 9 hour detention of Damian Green, the Telegraph commented that 

"A political row has broken out over the incident. Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary was not pre-warned about the arrest and the Government has categorically denied that the Prime Minister had any prior knowledge. Yet Mr Cameron, the Tory leader, Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London and the Speaker and Serjeant at Arms of the House of Commons have confirmed they were all informed.A political row has broken out over the incident. Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary was not pre-warned about the arrest and the Government has categorically denied that the Prime Minister had any prior knowledge. Yet Mr Cameron, the Tory leader, Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London and the Speaker and Serjeant at Arms of the House of Commons have confirmed they were all informed." 

A pretty bold statement, that: the Home Secretary was 'not prewarned'. Upon whose authority were these anti-terrorist officers acting, then? By whom had they been briefed; by whom had they been deployed? How is it that the Tories knew about the situation but the Home Secretary, who is directly responsible for anything terror/'national security' related, did not? Were these officers acting arbitrarily? Had they taken the law into their own hands, not only in holding Mr Green for nine hours without charge, but in breaking into Commons offices and ransacking them? By violating the sanctity of Parliament? Who is answerable?

Considering that much of Labour - sorry, NuLabour, an entirely  different beastie - policies during the late 90s arose from 'leaks' (usually, but not entirely, carefully orchestrated by Blair's PR machine), the swaggering bravado not only of Brown's government but his own party members and the BBCin this matter is  audacious on a breath-taking scale. Mr Green had every right to those figures. They were indeed politically sensitive: they demonstrated further that the Government's immigration policy is an absolute cock-up, and that citizens are being put at risk because permits to work have been given out to over 6500 people who've smuggled themselves into England illegally. If a minister can no longer demonstrate that the opposition is doing a bad job - if they are deliberately withholding such information from him under the banal cliches of 'national security' or 'intelligence' - then there is absolutely no need for a Parliamentary, or an electoral machine. If the Government's mismanagement is 'politically sensitive' and thus any exposure of it is deemed worthy of calling in the anti-terror squads, then to hell with democracy altogether. 

What we're living under is not Socialism; it is the creeping, insidious totalitarian nightmare of 1930s Germany which, as I recall, in one propaganda reel stated 'we want our citizens to enjoy great freedoms; freedoms decided upon and carefully regulated by the state.' If we consider that Brown has passed more laws during his brief (non-elected) time in office than any other PM in history, and that there's not a single instance of human behaviour that has not been legislated for in this country, the arrest of Mr Green should be considered a relatively normal occurrence; as normal as giving someone a police record for overfilling a bin by six inches, or arresting a pensioner who swore at a burglar, or introducing fingerprinting schemes at pub doors, or lobbying to take DNA from newborns and add it to a database.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Seriously Free Speech

This forum, dedicated to upholding freedom of speech, press, information and opposing corporate bullying, misinformation, disinformation and intellectual cleansing deserves a first look - and a second, and a third... Get on board today.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Anyone For A Little Political Demonstration?

I rather think it's time that we all went out and waved banners and demanded to actually be heard outside Parliament at the beginning of October (with lunch/fag breaks, of course; might as well do the thing properly). The Government's latest snoop bill is outrageous; see for further details. Of course, if you don't mind having your emails, phone, text and browsing history stored and data-mined, carry on regardless. Yet another nail in the coffin of liberty.

Instant Karma's Going To Get You (If We Don't Get You First)

Despite the sycophantic eulogising by journalists, with her Loathsomeness Polly Toynbee at the head of the column this week at the Labour Party Conference, Brown's speech was anything but special. It consisted mainly of 'we hate the Tories', 'we've done a really good job over the past ten years' (the proof of which assertion was conspicuously absent) and 'fairness-fairness-fairness'. Brown's obviously been brushing up on his advertising techniques; alliteration and repetition certainly do hammer home a message into the gullible electorates' heads, or perhaps he's been refreshing his memory on salient points from Bernays' "Propaganda". Then, like the admirable veteran but appalling Presidential candidate, John McCain, he wheeled in a woman; and the platitudes started rolling in.
Mr and Mrs Brown spent far too much time talking about their personal life. I, for one, could not give a damn. I don't care what kind of a husband he is. I have no interest in what he does in his spare time. He could be the most repugnant being on the planet and it would not matter: what matters is what he does and the kind of leader he is. What must concern us beyond all cost is whether any of his claims are true. Has he done a good job? Well, we're the most surveilled country in Western Europe and one of the most spied upon nations in the world. Our councils are allowed to wiretap our emails and phones under poorly-worded legislation. We have the highest level of child unhappiness, one of the highest levels of child poverty, and the highest number of abortions in Europe. Our railways, roads and airports are crumbling. Our cost of living is one of the most expensive in Europe. We were persuaded that living on credit was something to which we should aspire, rather than being careful. (Yes, yes, that idea started under Norman Lamont, but Brown was supposed to be the 'no more boom and bust' Chancellor.) ID cards for foreign nationals will cause ever greater discrimination. ID cards in themselves are both wicked and pernicious, a cash cow for the government who've sold off the contracts in part to IBM, the friendly company that developed Jew-tracking programs for the Third Reich. Drug addiction is on the increase; ditto binge-drinking. Violence is evermore rife and our teens - usually the black ones, who are hardly mentioned in the press, and the white ones who get pages and days of coverage - are dying. The government thinks it's a good idea to detain people without charge for a minimum of 42 days, thus completely suspending habeas corpus. We're in an illegal war in Iraq which is costing us - and them - a fortune in terms of life and equipment, and we got into this war through lies. A quarter of 11 year olds can't read: indeed, we'd rather engage with invisible enemies in Afghanistan than tackle real-life problem individuals at home. We treat our homeless like scum and our jobseekers as subhuman. We've come to equate moral virtue with an income bracket; the higher it is, the more pure the individual.
Now, our money's gone. And I can't help but think that our society's become very much like that of the 1750s. Back then, you'd had the South Sea Bubble which, when burst, represented a hell of a lot of financial ruin. You had a very unequally divided population, a great deal of violence and drunkenness, and mob rule; a despotic government and king who only listened to what the population had to say if they revolted (at which point he'd send the militia in, in any case), rampant promiscuity and sexualization, with accompanying diseases, rising food prices and poor relations with other nations. I think it was in one of Borges' stories that he says 'I think that I am growing old... one unmistakable sign is the fact that I find novelty neither interesting nor surprising, perhaps because I see nothing essentially new in it - it's little more than timid variations on what's already been.'
So no, Mr Brown, you're not doing a good job. Any good that's been done in the past has been eroded; now, we're returning to the kind of lawlessness that characterised the C18th in part due to your incessant meddling in the private and personal lives of each and every person in this country. When are you going to realise that your government was elected to office and that it is your job to listen to those who elected you? But no: we will be given, yet again, another weary soundbite, another shot of Mrs Brown showing her teeth and standing by her man. Using a woman to boost popularity is working all too well both here and in the States (would you really want Sarah Palin, whose knowledge of non-US geography, let alone foreign policy is decidedly shaky, with her finger on a nuclear trigger?) whilst day by day we swallow all this PR nonsense and ever-more meet criteria for a Failed State.

Aye, Aye, Aye: I feel like Carmen Miranda

Or maybe just Miranda, a prophetess of doom. I predicted that the financial institutions of the world would come tumbling unmerrily down and they are. Doesn't seem to be stopping McCain from turning our impending penury into a political sideshow, though, or this morning's announcement in the Washington Post: that a bill which contains a heck of a lot of fiscal issues, from lending money to the automative industry to saving up for the 2010 census, has also set aside: '$630 billion for Defense, Homeland Security and Military Construction/Veterans Affairs. Those measures devote $487.7 billion to defense, $39.98 billion for homeland security, and $72.9 billion for military base construction and veterans' health care.'
At the same time, Bush has managed to push through some very, very worrying pieces of legislation on to the statute books. The moratorium on oil drilling off US coasts has been allowed to expire - because of the threat of a presidential veto. Not only this, but US foreign policy, it seems, is not only running amok: it's being contracted out. Contractors are now permitted to interrogate suspects. Baghdad's lost its power (what power, we may ask?) to authorise what US troops can or can't do in Iraq. One can only surmise that if there's another slew of torture allegations, the US DoD will be able to bury them for years under 'investigations' (shorthand for 'go away and stop bothering us so that we can write a report at the last minute, three years from now, when everyones' forgotten about it'). Terrifying stuff. Not quite as terrifying for me, though, as the fact that Bush was trying to get Congress to agree a $14 billion cut in welfare, healthcare, education and cancer research - yet is now telling America that it, the taxpayer, has no option but to lend the top 1% richest in the country 50 times that amount.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Another brief note...

I really hate the phrase 'the deserving poor'. How smug. How self-righteous. How ludicrous to believe that moral virtue is attained through the possession of a tax code and that those without it are redundant creatures, who should take hand-outs and 'harsh but fair' advice for those who chase the mighty dollar.

Why Bother?

Monday, 21 July 2008

...A Brief Note On Stupidity

1) The Government says it's going to force people 'back to work' by getting them 'off the sick'
2) We're in a recession which could head into a full-blown depression.
Er, chaps, where are all these wonderful jobs going to come from?

Leave IB Claimants Alone

It is a worrying state of affairs that only those who work possess moral virtue and those who cannot are classed as 'scum', 'feckless' or 'idlers'. It is true that amongst those on IB - as there is amongst all levels of society - some fiddle the system. Such cases have been highlighted and many fraudulent claimants have been given a criminal record. But for those who genuinely cannot work, such labels are an affront and insult to dignity. Human beings cannot and should not be judged in terms of financial worth. A life is worthless, monetarily: it is infinitely more precious than the ignoble dollar. And those who suffer from humiliating, depressing illnesses such as CFS should not be penalised for the fact that they are unwell. How on earth can an individual who may find it impossible to get out of bed or walk unassisted participate in manual labour? Simply, they cannot.
Linking IB with JSA creates an ever-more invidious system whereby all of those claiming benefits (be they the incapacitated, the job-seeking or the shirkers) are lumped together in one amorphous mass. Consider this: if we had curbed our immigration policy, many manual jobs carried out by those who send their wages back to their home country could be carried out by those on JSA. The country is losing out twice: the £60.15 paid to those on JSA and the money paid out to migrant workers. Now multiply that by several hundred thousand and calculate the net loss.
The benefits system is so appallingly managed at present that all recipients are condemned for being in the ignominious position of being dependent on the State. Moreover, as several commentators have pointed out most articulately, the money paid out by the State is, since Thatcher removed the linkage of cost of living and inflation with benefits, pitifully small. What the country must understand, genuinely, is that those on the Dole are often fated to remain there because they simply cannot feed, clothe and educate themselves further. They have become the ‘underclass’, the ‘lumpenproletariat’: social lepers, despised and shunned, lacking in hope, required to live in poor conditions on poor diets. They cannot afford their ‘five-a-day’: a healthy diet is available only for the affluent, and socialism only for the rich.
‘Getting people back to work’ is all very well and good: and, indeed, it should be a priority for those who are Able to work. I wonder how this is going to work in the coming months, however, as the international financial crisis worsens and more and more people are forced to join the Dole queue. Are they going to be made to feel responsible for the economic situation? Labour’s claim seems as ill-judged as it is ill-timed. And penalising those suffering from debilitating condition merely exposes, once again, their absolute lack of concern for the well-being of a country ever-more burdened by authoritarian, ill-conceived legislation.

Sex Ed for 4 year olds? That's sex abuse, actually

Various woolly-minded Liberal types think it would be a good idea to teach 4 year olds about sex, using happy fuzzy pictures to teach our tiny darlings what a man looks like with an erection and impregnating his wife. Lovely. Am I the only one who can see the absolute disaster waiting to happen here?
Little children are not sexual beings. Apart from some basic curiosity as to why their nether regions differ, they don't think about sex. This is because they are pre-pubescent: neither their minds nor their bodies are ready for sex. And to show them sexual imagery, or to talk about intercourse, is tantamount to sex abuse, because they simply cannot comprehend what's going on.
As a solution to the fact that thousands of our young people get knocked up and need a convenient little pill to eradicate their 'mistake', this is perhaps the most stupid idea to date. There are many ways to prevent sexual activity/promiscuity amongst the young, the predominant one being that the Government could drop its cutesy, coy 'if you can't be good, be careful' approach. Or by removing sexual health clinics, which are not required to disclose any information to parents, from schools, thereby ceasing to collude with the little dears' bad behaviour. Or even - this is a wild thought! - arresting a few of them and throwing them in the slammer. It's against the law to be sexually active under the age of 16, after all. We're punished for absolutely everything else: why not this? Too, we could put a strict curb on the media and prevent it from 'presexualising evolving consumers' (making children grow up too quickly) so they can actually enjoy their childhood, without the pressure to look like Cameron Diaz and act like Kate Moss and, oh, God, emulate the vile Amy Winehouse. We could actually come out and whole-heartedly condemn little girls wearing lipstick and eyeshadow and FMBs and t-shirts emblazoned with the tasteful legend 'Pornstar'. But that would be too common-sensical for our modern age, wouldn't it?

Friday, 4 July 2008

So animal a human

It is argued that one of the fundamental divisions between the natural world and we who seek to control it is our ability to reason, to tell right from wrong. As Mark Twain said rightly: Man is the only animal that blushes - or needs to. But blushing would imply that the one embarrassed realised that they were in the wrong, morally culpable, etcetera; today's society simply doesn't. Indeed, it seems absolutely furious, outraged, when its bad behaviour is challenged. Retired servicemen are kicked to death because they ask louts on buses to refrain from swearing. Beware those playing ghastly music on their mobile phones or littering: you'll be stabbed. Many times. Knife crime is reaching epidemic proportions in this country: the government, and even Boris Johnson, of whom I'm very fond, thinks that an amnesty is the answer. It isn't. The answer is to instill in the young that rights only come with responsibility. That they're culpable for their actions. That respect begets respect. That life is not cheap: on the contrary, it is priceless, their lives included. Children are being allowed to run riot. They are simultaneously so hemmed in by the 'do-this-do-that' culture and kept too much at arms' length by adults, who are terrified of being accused of paedophilia or dismissed from their posts if they attempt to protect themselves from being assaulted. In other words, children are being prioritised above and beyond those who have experience of life and have learned moral lessons: adults. This bizarrely inverted relationship is hardly healthy. And, as the news breaks that yet another child has been stabbed, it is obvious that the balance must be restored.

Friday, 23 May 2008

The Tyranny of Poverty

It's funny, how many people will judge you negatively for being in a lower income bracket - or no income bracket at all. Financial worth has become synonymous with moral righteousness. Picture the man sleeping on the streets because he left his care home at the age of 16 and had nowhere to go, or lost everything including his shirt in the divorce; and how many people will step over him, or, like the majority response to those in wheelchairs, avoid making eye-contact with him. (I can never quite work out if this kind of avoidance arises from typical English embarrassment, or the fear that one might become contaminated by the less fortunate.) Or consider those who prop up the Dole queue every fortnight: those who creep furtively into the Jobcentre, aka the antechamber of hell, to be grilled about what steps they've taken to achieve moral rectitude: or those who never have the prospect of getting a job, ever, because they are either completely lacking in talents and abilities or have had an appalling education. They're practically subhuman in society's eyes. Moreover, they should be pitifully grateful for their meagre handouts, and swallow their pride when the government pries into every detail of their private lives.
As the credit crisis worsens into a Depression - come on, we all know it's coming: even George Soros says that we're suffering the worst economic situation since the 30s - the virtue of money is going to either increase out of all proportion or vanish into the ether. I'm hoping for the latter. Money technically doesn't exist: that little wad of notes you carry around only has meaning because you allow it to. And, once it becomes more and more difficult for you to be able to keep warm and clothe yourself and eat well, and the future turns into a vanishing point because the tyranny of money means that you exist from moment to moment, blinded by anxiety about where the next meal's coming from: think twice before you shun the beggar in the street. There but for the grace of God goes you.

IQ Tests for the working classes? Don't bother: they're all thick, claims academic.

Many were outraged this week when a leading academic stated that IQ and class are intimately linked: that possessing a low IQ predetermines your social grouping. And, to an extent, the man has a point. The majority of those in the working classes are part of this group because they, well, work: work in the sense of manual labour, be they painters or decorators or plumbers or builders or miners or chippies &c. &c. That is not to say that none of them possess exceptional intellects, and talents, and the ability to change entire societies through the power of written word or rhetoric. Two good examples are DH Lawrence and Margaret Thatcher. Cherie Blair, also. Laurie Lee. The list goes on. But they tend to be the exception, rather than the rule. The rule is, according to Aristotle, that each artisan possesses a specific talent (or what I suppose we would now call a 'vocational skill'); and therefore he is as much a master of that talent as a philosopher is master of mind. It should also be noted that the academic failed to point out that there are many amongst the upper classes who are intellectual voids: they are merely lucky enough to have been handed the key to the family fortune when they come of age. The middle and upper-middle classes seem to have got the best deal when the brains were handed out.

One of the key responses to this claim that intellect and class go hand in hand was that, most unfairly, people should be expected to 'know their place'. I don't see what is wrong in 'knowing one's place'. I'm not suggesting that we should return to some kind of pre-War utopia of Upstairs/Downstairs; but I feel that all this nonsense about 'equality' and 'diversity' has created such a sense of uncertainty for all social groups that no-one knows where they fit any longer. Not everyone is capable of greatness. Being told to 'live your dreams' is all very well and good, but I defy anyone with an IQ of 100 to become an astronaut, for example. It is a concrete fact that the lower the IQ, the smaller the life that one lives. One's life is confined predominantly to one's house,school, shops, family, pub, and holiday destination. As the IQ grows, so does the mind's potential to see beyond narrow geographical constraints and to look upon the infinite: the bigger picture, as it were. 

To encourage children to believe that they can do anything if they put their mind to it is clearly unfair. It would be a lot more useful to properly drill all children in the use of the three Rs, so that they have some prospect of doing well in the outside world, and to push those with true academic potential into higher education; to bring back proper apprenticeships and scrap noddy degrees in Soap Operas at third rate universities. Intelligence is becoming ever-more devalued under this Government; it is being employed only as a tool to make money, rather than being celebrated for its own sake.

Intelligence is not based upon a privileged upbringing: it is innate. Intellectual achievement, on the other hand, is certainly based upon a good system of education in which a child can realistically achieve its potential, without giving it goals and aspirations that it can never possibly reach, and leaving it miserable and discontented in adult life. Godwin famously remarked that discrimination on any grounds except for ability was intolerable: it is time for us to do away with so-called 'equality' and replace it with good, hard, common-sense.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Hybrids? There's no justification.

Last century, we talked ourselves out of having a reason to exist. Or, rather, we allowed sociobiologists to say that there was no purpose in our existence. Essentially, we are selfish beings, a biological travesty which rapes the earth, an earth that rejects us: all is hostile and alien, and we are fated to cling to life by our fingernails. Therefore, life is - due to the fact that it is no more than matter moved by electrical impulses - inherently worthless. Since we are predetermined to act in our own interests, we shouldn't bother caring for others: and therein lies the rot.
Today's Bill went through the Commons with a resounding majority of those who claim to be acting from conscience, rather than toeing the party line. Science says that we will be able to cure existent diseases, many of which are terrible for both the sufferer and their family, by combining human and animal matter. The religious position on this has largely been ignored: not only because we're the most secular country in the world after North Korea, but also due to the fact that all life has become so devalued that people just don't any the difference between human and animals. Man is not an animal, and I repeat: man is not an animal: he is separated from the animal kingdom because he feels compassion, because he is able to name himself and others, because he can articulate joy and sorrow, and because he possesses the capacity to destroy himself. This capacity is one which, if survival of the fittest is to be believed, the animal kingdom would never willingly subscribe to.
Since the human race became overly-driven by technology, mankind has speculated about its uncertain future. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein deftly articulated that which would happen if man played God; and I fear that we are about to reap the rewards of our unconscionable meddling into that which we do not understand. An eminent scientist today justified his support for the creation of hybrids by claiming that science has a 'hunch' that cures for supposedly incurable diseases may be found through tests upon this human-animal synthesis. A hunch is not enough. We need absolute certainty. Science would be better off investing its money in creating synthetic stem-cells. In the US, this process has nearly been achieved: why was it not advanced over the Pond?
The cynic in me feels that the new technology required to create hybrids will make some people a great, great deal of money, and the Government will benefit hugely from these investments. But it is not 'merely' the financial position - though Britain certainly prays at the temple of the god Mammon these days: it is that we are living in a vacuum, in which we cannot see anything beyond the small life that we live; that there is no life after death, no soul, that humans are solely organic creatures; that so many senseless murders are committed, and the victims are shown on prime-time television as 'entertainment'; that young men sit in brightly-lit rooms, laughing with each other, and play at death on their playstations; that we are fighting a war in which few in this country agree with... There is no end to the ravages that the human condition has suffered. And, over the past ten years, in which dignity has been abandoned for sensationalism, and we live in an ever-growing style over content world, it is perhaps unsurprising that hybrids should be permitted to exist; or that parents would deliberately create saviour siblings, whose only purpose in life is to act like a host to a parasite; or that we should be so ruthless when it comes to removing anything from our path that may inconvenience us - morals included.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Calm Down. It's Not As Bad As You Think.

So the Telegraph (the only rag worth reading, in my opinion: I skim the others, only in order to be able to argue with them) yesterday told us that due to the current economic situation, which can only get worse, has reduced families' disposable income to a mere £50 per week once they've paid off all their bills. I can only state that this is not a bad thing.
Britain has been in a state of discontent which has grown commensurately with its dependence on material goods. Keeping up with the Joneses has led to the desperate accumulation of all the latest technical appliances (you're nothing without your 34in widescreen HD TV) and an unhealthy reliance on grooming products and clothes: one's meant to think only about the outside shell, rather than the inner soul. People are unable to function, it seems, without being constantly bombarded by media of all kinds. This prevents individuals from thinking, from assessing the world around them and their place in it, and their relation to others: it creates selfishness, isolation, fear of mortality, greed and angst; it destroys families and family values.
I remember being most heartened by my class of French exchange students who stated categorically that they would never eat in front of the television, but only at the dining room table with their family. Coming together at the end of the day, they said, was the most important social ritual of all. Even when they went off to university, and were no longer under parental control, they still intended to eat their supper at the table. The very act of making a meal and sharing it with others is sacred.
During the Second World War, when people had to tighten their belts both literally and metaphorically, and every commodity was scarce, Britain experienced the kind of camaraderie that it has not experienced since. We do not need to place our reliance upon material things to pass the time or distract ourselves from our own thoughts. Far better that people come together and talk, sharing experiences, wisdom and insight; and the less cash they have for non-essentials, the better they will be in essence.

Anarchical? Moi?

Perhaps I am indeed, if one steps away from the given - and vilified - sense of anarchy which, to the money-lovers, signifies chaos: senseless, shapeless, formless and hell-bent on the destruction of all in its path. They question how anarchy can have a rule-book, for example, because it's supposed to have stepped away from the rules. Not so. Anarchical thinking is merely that which steps away from the party line; which agrees with the saying that To be Ruled Is Humiliating: To Vote For Your Ruler, Even More So. I must confess that I see absolutely no point in even casting my vote, these days: politics is merely an uncertain popularity contest, and the winner invariably has to sort out the messes made by the last victor. So that nothing, in effect, ever gets done: it's promises, promises promises, and people are treated as mere statistics in the game. They only have value, only lose their 'thing-ness' status, when their vote is being touted for; once their usefulness is over, they are pulled this way and that, subject to the whims of Empire-size egos and tyrannical market forces, until the next election comes around.

The difficulty is, due to the rigid matrix in which the globalised world has become fixed, is to find a valid alternative. What is going to cause true 'people-power' to emerge? How do we get away from statements like Michael Kinsley's, who asserted confidently that attacks on civilian targets should be weighed up dispassionately, solely in terms of the end result: 'a sensible policy [should] meet the test of cost benefit analysis' [of]' the amount of blood and misery that will be poured in, and the likelihood that democracy will emerge at the other end'? Whenever an individual's life, and the worth of his life, is subordinate to an idea - any idea, be it utopian or fundamentalist - apathy invariably sets in. It seems totally pointless to fight against those who would sacrifice anyone and anything to uphold the idea.

The big issue, though, is that no-one really seems to be entirely sure what the idea of democracy actually means (except those at the top, and they're keeping schtum). There seems to be an awful lot of woolly speculation, and various invasions (both corporate and military) occur all over the world in democracy's name: the basic premise seems to be that it somehow entails freedom. Highly unlikely, when the last two American administrations have laid claim to space, using it as a launching-pad for weapons which would ensure 'instant engagement anywhere in the world'. Star-wars, indeed. It seems to me that it is easier to leave democracy as a vague and undefined entity, or represented as a bright and shining idea, rather than to define it and thus risk having the existent systems toppled.

Over the past ten years I've seen England ravaged by those who claim to be increasing civil liberties and have taken the majority of them away. In fact, our society seems to be a perfect advertisement for removing the voting franchise at present extended to all adults. I hate the very notion of ID cards, human-animal hybrids, lesbians conceiving through IVF and leaving the father's name off the birth certificate, the Iraq war, the war in Afghanistan, the perpetuation of Orientalism, to name but a few things. So if one definition of anarchy is the desire to eradicate the status quo and return to a state in which individuals valued privacy, decency, honesty and a little dignity, please count me in.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Brain Drain: How TV Rots Your Brains

These days I either put the television on mute or close my eyes in order to prevent myself from being bombarded by the - dare I say devil-worshippers? Sorry - advertising execs' ideas of what constitutes worth. The only way that anyone can ever sell you something is if you have some level of financial security that lets you see things you want, and treat them as a need. Fiction as fact. In reality, we only really need six things to stay alive: food, water, light, heat, shelter and companionship. Anything else is a Cinderella story in a bottle, packet or jar.
But, forgetting all that for a moment, my main gripe is with the advertising world's new enthusiasm for popular music. Timeless classics that made your childhood meaningful, or that take you back to a memorable point in your life, or even a painful one, have been indelibly linked to various products. Try to disassociate them if you can. 'Bette Davis Eyes' now only belong on a hair-dye model. One of my favourite songs of all time, Queen's 'Don't Stop Me Now', is the new sound of Dairy Milk. In effect, what the advertising world is perpetrating is a form of brain-washing. Your memory of the first time you heard that song is gone. The song is perpetually linked to a consumer good.
The point of the advertising world is general is twofold. Firstly, it buys into the most cynical market-driven force of all. There is more than enough food to go around, but advertising exists to sell it to people who aren't actually crying out for it. (That which is given away to our poorer brethren is called 'aid' and causes a pernicious cycle of dependency, willingness to sabotage personal freedoms in return for it, and allows the donor to exploit them in order to gain more aid: a vicious circle.) The second is to prevent people from thinking. Advertising is based upon behavioural deterministic principles or, as I like to call it, 'dance, little man, dance'. It uses the most simple and compelling of images to hot-wire your brain into accepting, without question, the corporate message. You don't think about where, precisely, that chocolate bar came from: you need the fix, and to feel as though you're part of the fantasy. Ditto bread, and meat, and milk, and soap, and washing powder. Etcetera etcetera. And of course the greatest illusion of all is that, following the so-called 'green revolution', in purchasing certain products you're acting ethically. You're not. Free trade is a nightmare: it prioritises one farmer over twenty in countries that don't possess similar economic structures to the West's, thus making it much harder for the other farmers to survive: they have to be content to take the meanest wages. (See Starbucks, for example, and its policy on paying its African farmers the lowest possible rate.) So-called natural products are a similar nightmare. Consider a bottle of Original Source shampoo or bathfoam. The blurb states that it uses x quantity of lemons, or lavender, or rose petals: lovely for the skin. This is wholly unnecessary. Why does one 'need' 15 lemons in one's shower-gel? But, much more importantly, these 15 lemons per bottle constitute a huge usage of arable land. It therefore creates a shortage of land, drives up prices, increases the need for the use of diesel in order to transport the product, and starves the locals. It is a travesty on a par with biofuels. If one considers that one tank of ethanol constitutes food for a person for an entire year, one might start walking to the shops.
Advertising should be used solely to promote a product and should be subject to the most stringent censorship possible. At present, it is being used as an educational tool. In such a form, it is nothing more or less than propaganda.

Burma's Junta has a point, actually.

It's just a wretched shame that the people have to suffer so catastrophically.
But the reluctance of Burma's military authority to let in US and British aid is understandable. After sanctions were imposed against them, they must view with suspicion any attempt by the 'West' (a definition which seems to be restricted to Washington and London, and at a push Paris and Berlin when it's convenient) to enter their territory, for humanitarian purposes or otherwise. What's the betting that America would push to set up some kind of 'observation post' - a synonym for a military settlement - to oversee reconstruction efforts, or to monitor the country's health and welfare, or in case another such flooding were to occur? Does the Junta not fear that Burma may become yet another US military outpost, as so many other countries have in the past?
The problem these days is knowing your enemy: especially since a surge in globalisation has stratified language to the extent that democracy is only understood in terms of America (and increasingly Britain's) hegemonistic, top-down model, that there exists only one correct way in which to run a global economy, no matter if that method is failing, and that freedoms are increasingly being sacrificed for the 'common good'. It may be remarked that modern democracy is a terrifying context, until one considers the alternative; but too many nations have had to sacrifice their unique cultures, practices and forms of self-governance in order to toe the party line. Burma therefore finds itself in a Catch-22: to give itself away, or to watch its people die.

Thanks, Jean Jacques: Or Why We're All So Bloody Miserable

The destruction - or deconstruction - of the world in which we live can be rooted in post-Enlightenment scepticism and most properly laid at the door of Jean-Jacques Derrida, who, although he denied that he was attempting to set a philosophical imperative by making meaning redundant, has done more to internally shape and subvert nature and culture than any other thinker in the twentieth century (pace, Sartre). By dismissing metaphysics comprehensively from A to Z, it is difficult to work up any system of B(b)eing; there is no grounding to our perception of ourselves and the Other. Only that which is represented by clear, hard fact - universal natural laws - is intelligible.

Although deconstruction, a phrase of which Derrida did not approve, is largely self-defeating - in that deconstruction means deconstruction, so that meaning is arrived at by way of a via negativa - it is the uncomfortable bed-fellow of many ‘isms’: determinism, social behaviouralism, existentialism, nihilism. If there is no grounding to our internal being, it makes sense to look at the shell that houses it: the human body. If, like the response to German idealism in the 1930s, the internal voice is so subjective that it is impossible to develop a set of objective criteria to define it, it is perhaps more useful to note specific behavioural patterns and how they work socially and environmentally. If again this internal world is so subjective that it has no commonality with the Other, one is indeed isolated in a ‘world of wills’; and lack of communication between these various wills, signifying the greatest possible loneliness of - and therefore pointlessness of - the human condition makes one wonder ‘what the point could possibly be.’

One of the great topics of the post-Enlightenment world was theodicy: or how evil and God can exist at the same time. Though such a subject is hardly new - Augustine discussed it in his tractate On The Free Choice of the Will, and it was a hot topic with Plato et al - it was one that caused growing conflict throughout the years, as disasters afflicting humanity grew commensurately greater with discoveries about the natural world and means of communication opened up. Evolution outraged many by the suggestion that nature is inherently self-seeking, others, however, were content to accept the fact that bad things happen to good people: the world was made that way. ‘Nature red in tooth and claw’ has been widely accepted and spawned various unpleasant ideologies (sociobiology in particular) which state that humanity is inherently selfish and hostile; altruism is a way in which we boost our superiority complexes; goodness in se doesn’t exist. The total desecration of the nobility of life during the First World War, accompanied by its levelling of the social classes, precipitated atheism en masse: God was tried by a jury of His Creation and sentenced to non-existence. It is sobering to note that more people believe in the devil and malign forces, than forces for good.

Such disenchantment with the world and fear of the hostility all around us gave rise to ideas about the meaning of life and ways in which to contain it. Whether a Freudian narrative, which places sexuality at the centre of the individual’s universe, or behavioural determinism, which claims that man is pre-programmed by his environment alone (the ‘rat in the maze’ premise) is employed, it is safer to find ways in which nature can be tamed, rather than battling with the uncertain. Enter Propaganda, the brainchild of Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, which has often been called the PR blueprint: ways in which to manipulate the general populace without their knowing about it. This has been used to the utmost by politicians and marketing bodies alike. Bernays’ conjecture was that there was simply too much information in the world for any one person to be able to take in, so, rather like Plato’s Philosopher Kings, it was up to the wise powers-that-be to make only limited amounts of information available, in order not to overwhelm the people. Propaganda relies upon behavioural-determinism narratives in order to succeed: find the right combination of images, trusted phrases and sounds, and you can convince almost anyone that the slogan you’re broadcasting is absolutely correct. In 1929 Bernays was set a little task by the US tobacco industry: to encourage the female population of New York to smoke despite the fact that smoking was considered a vile and unfeminine habit for ‘nice’ women. Hundreds of New York City debutantes marched in the Easter Day Parade, defiantly smoking cigarettes. Bernays’ first campaign was entirely successful.

Modern marketing strategies, however, would be less successful than they are if it weren’t for the great mantra of ‘Science Says’: science, a blanket term for numerous forms of speculation about the universe and its systems, has replaced the Churches as the voice of authority. (What most people fail to realise, because one voice - genetics - speaks for all science is that there are many extraordinary things happening in the astro-physical sphere, for example; but that is another topic altogether.) Our super-secular world prides itself upon having removed religious language, symbolism and meaning from society, little realising that ‘science says’ has become just as powerful an authoritative voice in its own right, uttering edicts that legislate for every manifestation of human behaviour. The secondary mantra that follows ‘science says’, ‘clinically tested’, is taken upon trust, even though such trust is often misplaced. People are encouraged to obsess about their health and appearance, to make sure that they have their ‘5 a day’, look after their heart, be regularly screened for this disease and that, reduce or terminate their alcohol intake, and a thousand and one other things way beyond each individual science’s remit. ‘Science says’ rarely looks at the societal discontent that causes a growing dependence on alcohol, drugs, nicotine, sex and other addictions; it fails to notice that such anti-social behaviour arises because ‘science says’ leaves little hope for present or future. Obsession with the material body has overlooked that which fundamentally motivates it, what encourages it to thrive, aspire, to build relationships, and its constant search for that which is ‘other’, ‘meaningful’.

Deconstruction robbed history of its meaning: its predecessors and its offshoots also robbed people of personhood. Once upon a time, a heart was the fount of wisdom, and of love; the fount of the soul; something precious to be given and received. Now it is impossible to talk of the heart in such terms, unless you want to be described as ‘soft’ or ‘unscientific’, the latter being tantamount to a malediction (unless of course, you are celebrating Valentine’s Day, an extremely lucrative commercial occasion). But to rob us of being able to describe humanity in ‘soft’ terms has robbed us of our humanity; small wonder that the current generation is so ruthless about abortion, when an unborn child is referred to as either a ‘viable’ or ‘non-viable’ foetus: a mere mass of cells, of useless tissue. Many in the West see the images of unborn animals as more appealing than a child in the womb: some are even ‘morally’ outraged when abortion is referred to as ‘murder’.

Whilst it is possible to undo the entire human history of thought by approaching it subversively - that is, to subvert parts of the statement that deny the fundamental argument of any piece - it is not possible to undo it permanently, which could be a reason for humanity’s contemporary obsession with the fantastical: a form of mental exploration which has developed beyond the matter-form synthesis of the world as we know it today. It seems that the ‘rat in the maze’ has escaped the maze by abandoning the idea of the maze altogether: and in order to escape this matter-form world, has created a virtual one. Here, people can reign supreme. They can be a hero or a villain or an altogether more rounded person than the ‘Real World’ allows. This ‘Real World’ is a world in which one is rarely exposed to natural light, as one works under artificial light and goes home in the dark; one should suffer in a dull job with overwhelming financial commitments and no say in one’s own future. It is a world in which one should live for a mere three untrammelled weeks a year and an all-too-short weekend, retire on an inadequate pension and die unremembered and unsatisfied. This world has been represented as somehow virtuous.

Humanity is beginning to strike back. Freedoms are so shaky and the political climate at once so suppressive and uncertain, however, that it is easier to step into the realms of a controlled game than to indulge in a spot of free thinking. Such is the vice-like grip that the state has on the individual: consciousness is something to be regarded as a commodity, designed to create or maintain corporate infrastructures, and everyone, it is tacitly implied, is for sale (the mantra for achieving any decent job is ‘sell yourself). Anyone who steps outside the infrastructure is automatically penalised by society itself for wanting that which isn’t the norm. But we are all complicit in our own destruction. If we perceive ourselves as matter, shouldn’t we be treated as such? If we fail to challenge our government’s attempts to interfere and snoop into every part of our lives, do we not deserve to live in a police state? If we don’t take steps to increase our collective vocabulary and therefore our collective consciousness, the world of the imagination will be relegated to the advertising agencies and online virtual worlds, which again deny those essential freedoms for which we once fought so long and hard. It takes so little to step on to the uncertain path of hope. In the words of Robert F. Kennedy: “each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope... and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Equality Bites

The greatest failing of this Government (and there are too many to count) is that they took a successful form of government which was being unsuccessfully run, and pulled out every single lynch-pin that held it together: and it, like society, has plummeted into chaos; the chaos of 'equality'. Rather than acknowledging that their theory of social advancement has failed, they prefer to use those great liberal buzz-words: 'equality' within a 'transparent', 'accountable' 'society'.
 Liberalism, the 'great leveller', which claims that everyone is absolutely equal in every way, has had the effect of destroying individuality, muffling the voices of those who protest against being lumped in with everyone else. It isn't fair to put up someone with an average IQ against an Oxbridge student; so lean on Oxbridge and get them to lower their entrance requirements, thus bringing down the standard of education for the rest of us. Manners? Schmanners. Don't strangle your child's liberty or right to self-expression by daring to tell them off. In fact, your child is your equal and, under various bits of recent government legislation, in some ways your superior: they are in some ways akin to the nasty little Nazi beasts who could inform on their parents if they held a prepubescent grudge. White? Sorry: you don't fit the quota; the government needs to keep up it's 'equal opportunity' monitoring. If you dare to mention your discontent with such a system, you automatically are labelled a member of the BNP. Gay marriage? The Guardian lambasted Boris Johnson for disagreeing with this latest innovation; the liberal mafia, with their insistence on 'caring' and 'sharing' steam-roller over those who possess an opinion contrary to theirs. What they fail to realise is that many gay individuals don't want to be seen as the 'same' as heterosexuals - as indeed, they are not: there's a huge difference in sexual orientation, to start with... They will not recognise that there are many of us who were happy with the status quo prior to their explosion on the political scene; and though we would all wish to be treated fairly, 'equality' is the enemy of liberty. But they can get away with it by insisting that 'equality' is for our own good; and thus the Philosopher Kings gain an ever-greater stranglehold over the population, so that there is not a single act of human behaviour that has not been legislated for, and the only freedom that we possess is 24 hour supermarket shopping.
Aux armes, citoyens! Or we may find our numbers tattooed on our wrists yet.

Things That Irritate Me.

1) Queuing.
2) Oikishness.
3) Spitting.
4) American TV shows that purport to be set in England where everyone is apparently Cockney, owns a full set of Coronation china, and lives either in a hovel or a castle. We don't find it charming. Please stop.
5) Gordon Brown.
6) Gordon Brown's Cabinet. What a front bench! Gladstone Mark II, Anne Robinson on steroids and an ageing Harry Potter. If only Brown had Gladstone's ability to run a government.
7) Tax handouts for middle-income earners. How cynical. All of us are burdened by horrendous bills. 
8) Orientalism.
9) Neo-Conservatism.
10) Being told that if we eat too little/too much, drink too little/too much, sleep too little/too much, we are going to die. Horribly and painfully. After having spent too much NHS money (far better to be used for abortions and fat pay rises), for which we should feel guilty, of course.
11) Political correctness. The greatest bar to free speech that exists.
12) Democracy. Better known as Mob Rule. (demo+kritos)
13) Apathy.
14) Liberalism. It breeds terrorism. See Berman's Terror and Liberalism.
15) 'National security'. Sieg heil.

The Stupidity of Fame

So TMF, in all their wisdom, have decided to show Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica. Again. As if it weren't bad enough that the world was subjected to so much stupidity the first time... I am conscious that in commenting upon Jessica Simpson's undeniable imbecility I am merely adding to the many thousands of articles, soundbites and take-offs that have followed that 'lady' through her failing career. But there is something so compellingly awful about the calamitous passage of a peroxided, meagerly-talented harridan that one cannot help but to recapitulate some of her worst gaffes. She appreciates being compared to Imelda Marcos. She believes that dolphins and chickens arise from the same part of the animal kingdom. She has no idea how to spell 'lose'. And has never heard of bludgeoning or battering. Her favourite word is 'cute' (nauseating). She is a compulsive spender with the philanthropic (figure out how to spell that one, Jess: remember how much trouble you had with 'Massachusetts'?) sense of a City trader. It is sad, that in a world that has so much richness, so much with which we can be fascinated, that the faceless be-suited network moguls think it right and proper to bombard us with images of the untalented - and to try to make others emulate them. No job prospects? No problem: go on big brother. Can you sing one note in five in key? Fine: go on American Idol, or get chosen to join yet another apathetic girl group/boy band, whose idea of writing a song is to change a classic 70s number's time-signature and pass it off as their own. Make a fortune, believe that you are above having a social conscience and, if you're very lucky, they may give you your own TV show. 
Life is to be lived, not controlled, and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat -Ralph Ellison