Thursday, 30 April 2009

Swine Flu: The Great Pharma-Con

We're due a jolly bad flu pandemic, oh yes. It's been 50 years since the last one. Whether the H1N1 will indeed sweep the globe, mutating as it goes, and taking out vast swathes of the population remains to be seen; at present, its worst efforts seem to be confined to poor, beleaguered Mexico which has always been spectacularly unlucky when it comes to virii. Over the centuries, it's been near wiped out again and again by typhoid, smallpox, cholera, measles, and the clap. Add to that a near-non-existent health service and insufficient sanitation, and they're on a hiding to nowhere.
On this side of the Pond, however, we could do a LOT better. And the first thing to do is not to give the public an etiquette lesson in the form of 30 million leaflets telling us we're less likely to spread disease if we cover our mouths when we sneeze or buy up millions of useless facemasks, but to be honest about one of the biggest corporation cons of the past 5 years. Tamiflu.
Tamiflu doesn't work on H1N1. Over the past 10 years H1N1 has developed near-absolute resistance to Tamiflu. This resistance isn't confined to North America, as one virologist speculated hopefully a few years ago: it's Europe-wide as well. Despite clear evidence and even clearer articles by those in the know that have been floating around for the past year, the maker of Tamiflu, dear old Roche, on whose board the maestro of disaster capitalism Donald Rumsfeld sits, is using the Mexican outbreaks as ad opportunities and are continuing to peddle the redundant drugs even as I type.
Only Relenza and/or the 'flu jab have been demonstrated to work against this particular strain; the government in assuring us that we're well-prepared to withstand an epidemic is playing a very, very dangerous game with our lives. It is deliberately deceiving the public. We have NO way of knowing whether Tamiflu can have the slightest effect on a mutating H1N1 virus; stating therefore that we're 'safe' is barbaric.This goes even beyond the scope of illegal wars or heavy surveillance 'for our own good'; they're playing Russian roulette with our existence, and in this game no-one can win.

Friday, 24 April 2009

The Peasants' Revolt 2009

After reciting the winning formula 'this is a global recession' for over half an hour so that everyone would get the point, Darling announced the unbelievably petty, spiteful and manifesto-breaking pledge to tax the modestly well-off a phenomenal 50%, the highest rate of income tax in the developed world. And when I say 'modest', I mean modest. £150,000 by today's standards, especially given the prohibitive cost of living, is not a lot. It is not in any way comparable with JK Rowling or Rupert Murdoch's yearly take-home. Of course, they have teams of accountants ensuring that they get the best bang out of their buck; the average GP, however, has to suck up whatever the government has spewed.
The 'I don't have it so why should they?' crew are naturally delighted. NuLab has its finger right on the pulse of vindictive jealousy that riddles society like a cancer. The answer is simple: if you can do those jobs, you deserve the pay. I'm not talking about the dead-wood bureaucrats who have made the NHS a hell on earth to run, or the non-entities who work in 'diversity' or 'alcohol awareness', but the doctors who've worked incredibly hard to get a consultancy position or the lawyer who's finally commanding a decent salary after inserting two thousand years of legal theory into their cranium. If we are diagnosed with cancer, we want to go to a specialist who has a proven track record; if our spouse or business partner attempts to rook us for our life savings, we need a lawyer/barrister who can win the case. To do these jobs well requires a sterling intellect and a lot of experience. It should be rewarded.
But it is not only these professions that are being penalised; it is anyone with talent. Entrepreneurs start small, usually from a home office, and work their way up gradually. Why should their reward be a 50% tax bill? If they earn over £100k in a year anyway their current tax bill is 43 times higher than that of the lowest income bracket. What a reward! Productivity is seen as something shameful, sinful; and all this money goes to paying off NuLab's debt mountain. There's the little matter of debt interest amounting to 50 billion - more than the annual schools budget. And, of course, we mustn't forget the Client State.
I wonder when it became de rigeur for the State to make the rich be responsible for the poor. This latest tax hike states, without a doubt, that anyone who's modestly affluent is compelled - morally or otherwise - to pay for others not to work, to act as a parent to shirkers, to prop up all the ne'er-do-wells. Because somehow it's the 'right' thing for the rich to pay more tax. Rather than freely giving to charity out of altruism - and those in the new 50% bracket have already stated that their charitable donations will dry up in future - they're forced to pay through the nose for those who don't deserve charity.
Taxation - or money with menaces - is only ever successful when there is little or none of it. Lichtenstein has one of the most successful economies in the world with the happiest people and lowest level of STDs, drug and alcohol abuse, and depression. Their taxation rate is also the lowest in Europe. At present, I'm trying to get a novel published. Were it to do well, I wouldn't see the results: I'd be too busy paying for NuLab's excesses, its illegal wars and sex changes on demand on the NHS, its DNA databases and thinktanks designed to erase my freedom. (A good reason to emigrate.) I think we should resuscitate clause 61 of the Magna Carta: since the Philosopher Kings won't listen to reason, it's time for the peasants to revolt.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Demoralisation: The True Cost of Poverty

Frank Field's often represented as a sterling chap, one who has a bit of integrity, dontcha know and who, in following Blair's orders to 'think the unthinkable', addressed seriously the huge problem we have with welfare in this country. Blair's policy - and Field's response to it - is as stupid and misguided as any policy can be: you can't cure poverty by cutting off people's money. You can't 'cure' poverty full-stop. But you can alleviate it to a certain extent by fostering independence, which is precisely the opposite of NuLab's ambitions to control everyone and everything in every place at every time.
Firstly, it's important to realise that there's such a thing as the 'deserving poor', those who because of poor education, lack of training and the removal of, say, a manufacturing base (or pre-WWII a servant 'place') can't get jobs. They become demoralised through lack of prospects; the more depressed they get, the less likely they are to work - were there the jobs available in the first place, which there often aren't. The following 'big ideas' could provide opportunities for a proportion of the artisan classes to return or get into work:
1) ensuring that locals get first dibs at a job; ensuring that local jobs aren't passed out to immigrants because natives think they're too 'good' for it by removing benefits; providing on-the-job training for new starters rather than demanding experience that it would be impossible for them to obtain;
2) cutting overseas aid to India and China. In effect, we're handing them a hefty percentage of our GDP on a platter. A massive proportion of our manufacturing industry has been relocated to these countries, thus taking jobs away from Britain. Our miners and steel workers and ship builders are a fast-vanishing breed. Paying Indian and Chinese manufacturers to do the work we should be doing at home is an insult to our workforce;
3) offer substantially better business taxation rates to locate factories/manufacturing bases in the UK rather than overseas. Running a nation as a service economy is a hiding to nothing for, when the overseas manufacturing bases go bottom up, there's nothing left for us to provide a service for.
The 'deserving poor' get a pretty bad time of it. They've been badly educated in large classes which can't take the time to teach them properly and exposed to all kinds of experimental teaching methods. Small wonder that 25% of the population can't even write its own name. Many can't apply for jobs because they don't have any educational qualifications or the ones they do have aren't good enough. We need to buck up the education system seriously so that the vast majority of children are taught the 3Rs and little else until they've mastered them.
The amount on which the 'deserving poor' is supposed to live is scandalous. Beneath contempt. One simply cannot make ends meet on £60 a week. There is almost nothing one can do on £60 a week. Being given this little when one has no prospects of anything better fosters huge dependency and depression. A system of food stamps that would provide enough nutrients for a family would be a good start: if you have enough to eat (which most benefit claimants and the elderly alike don't, or have to live on the cheapest ready meals so impregnated with E numbers it's surprising they don't glow in the dark) you're a little less desperate. Soap and clothing ditto. Looking and feeling clean and presentable automatically changes you in the eyes of the world. If you smell of poverty and appear full of despair you become invisible. Society turns its back. You might as well not exist.
The poor will always be with us. There will always be those who are intellectually subnormal or retarded in some way. In the 'old' days, monasteries or parishes used to take them in and give them little jobs to do. Now they're put in over-priced facilities or into prisons after committing crimes. There will always be the undeserving poor: those who don't want to work; those who would rather turn to thieving, drug-running and scams. They've existed throughout history. What we don't want is for the deserving to turn into the undeserving poor because 'society' doesn't care if they're alive or dead: that they're damned if they try and damned if they don't.
These are the people who have been beaten through circumstance, poor aspirations, lack of opportunity, abysmal education, wretched housing, disjointed and fragmented upbringing and a Nanny State that doesn't care. To deal with our Welfare crisis, we need to deal with people, rather than statistics or stereotypes: because at present we've got an awful lot of people who have the potential to be very useful to themselves, society and the economy, but are all being treated and called 'scum'. We need to create the kind of Britain which permits free industry on home ground employing local people.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Self-sacrifice: Labour's Immigration Experiment

The government cleverly has managed over the past twelve years to make it so that there's no difference between state and society. I'd call that 'totalitarianism': they call it 'political correctness'. The price for going against their policies and diktats on immigration is to be shunned or arrested. In fact, the government moved pretty cannily on the Damien Green affair: they weighed up the risks and decided that to invite the outrage of the public by invading Parliament was less important than drawing attention to the content of the leaked documents.
Immigration on the vast scale encouraged by Labour has been an absolute nightmare. And it's not just a nightmare burden on health, education, housing, language, policing and resource services but on something fundamentally deeper, something one can even call 'primal'.
Blair et al have tried to sell globalisation as a 'good' thing. They claim that we can all 'learn' from each other and increase prosperity tenfold. The recent and ongoing financial crisis put paid to that lie, as has the rise of rabid extremism across our newly flat earth. Extremism is a knee-jerk response to flat-earthism, collectivism, corporate exploitation, illegal wars and corrupt, uncaring governments: it's a return to our origins. It's a return to the tribal instincts on which society were founded since humankind first conceived of 'I' and 'you' some 47,000 years ago.
The quickest illustration of how a society is formed is observing the way in which street gangs (and/or neofascist organisations) behave. Two or more individuals battle it out. Hangers-on from either side and fence-sitters support one or the other, deciding where their loyalties should lie. The clear winner develops a hierarchy in which brute physical strength, cunning, organisation and intellectual dexterity are prized; those who don't possess any of these skills become the faithful servants (or patsies). All pledge loyalty to the leader, respect to those high up in the ranks (to whose position they aspire), and would-be members are required to go through a rite of passage in order to 'belong'. Belonging is prized above all things; allegiance to the pack is something to fight for - to the death, if needs be. To gain supremacy, pitched battles are fought over turf between rival tribes. Tribes, nations, nation-states, religions: all have been formed in this way. Each tribe has some identifying series of marks or qualities that make them unique. They may come from the same place, speak in the same way, have the same appearance, follow the same belief system: whatever it may be, it is something that is peculiarly theirs. And, if there is an influx of outsiders into a particular area, they will stress their unity through stressing the importance of these symbols of nationhood and culture.
Because, you see, people aren't meant to be 'equal'. Evolution doesn't permit 'equality'. 'Equality' only exists in mathematics. Everyone's a supremacist at heart. I'm a white supremacist who believes in Chinese, and Native American, and Irish, and Angolan, and Indian, and Hawaiian, and Australian, and Malaysian supremacy. I think everyone's race is supreme, my own in particular, and I don't particularly want to trade it in for another's. And if you go around the global table you'll find most people think the same way: they're proud of their origins, proud of their country and think that they come from the best of all worlds. Attempts to make us a 'global family' speaking the 'same language' fail. Look at Esperanto - if you can even remember it.
Karl Popper wrote that a communist leadership likes to quickly, even lethally, turn absolutely every social institution upside down and inside out and remake it anew, reasoning that the pain that individuals feel is necessary in order to make a 'better' world: exactly what Blair did to make Britain 'his' through an utterly devious form of manipulative psychology. Beria would have been proud. Opening the floodgates to a seemingly endless deluge of outsiders - when historically we'd be gearing ourselves up for a good scrap with these invaders - and making them the honoured guests at our own expense has entirely disempowered anything that smacks of pre-NuLab Britain, anything associated with being British (or English, or Welsh, or Scottish, or Northern Irish). Our habits, our quirks, our beliefs, our temperaments, our mores, our doubts have been erased by instilling in people the feeling that they're not 'being good citizens'. We live in a culture of appeasement. And we know what happens when policies of appeasement are followed: 1939-1945.
Immigrants tend to be bewildered when they enter a new country: the way they behave afterwards is dependent entirely on governmental policy. And one of the greatest crimes NuLab's committed against 'Great' Britain is refusing to insist that immigrants speak the language. Thus foreign is good, British is bad: and, if you show any kind of patriotism or voice your discontent with the fact that your council tax is being spent on translating documents into 50+ different languages, you're labelled as a BNP supporter. An awful lot of politicians have been 'warning' about an increase in BNP support. Harriet Harman's one of these. She's someone who doesn't deserve to be listened to not because she's a hypocrite, but because she treats the general public like a 'mob' who will hang, to order, governmental scapegoats.
What creatures like Harman should have been 'warning' about is the effect of inserting millions of 3rd world inhabitants into a 1st world nation. Tribalism and hypertechnology, Eden and the Enlightenment are clashing furiously on every front; it is the battle of the alpha and omega, beginning and end (as Fukayama would have it) of history. The more the juggernaut of Fortress Europe rolls on dragging 'diversity' and 'global' policies with it, the greater the state of crisis we face. Man is an evolutionary creature of highs and lows striving ever-upwards, not for equality-driven flatlines. We live in the only country in the world that tries to make its 'native' people ashamed of their existence. If we do not act swiftly, we will be witness to a deadly struggle for supremacy between 'native' and 'immigrant', one that will destroy the tissue of our society and drag our country down for centuries.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Murdered: Ian Tomlinson Died of Abdominal Injuries

It has been confirmed that Ian Tomlinson, the man at first accused of being a G20 anarchist who recklessly taunted police, who was attacked from behind by a member of the riot squad who covered up his identifying badge before beating this passer-by whose hands were in his pockets, died not of a heart attack but of abdominal injuries.

This means clearly and unequivocally that he was beaten with such severity that he died of his wounds.

Ian Tomlinson was murdered by a member of the police. That individual, who is being questioned on suspicion of manslaughter, should be charged with murder. The evidence is unambiguous.

If Ian Tomlinson is treated with the same level of disrespect and lack of concern that Jean Charles de Menezes and his grieving family have been, another innocent man will have died at the hands of the police, on the orders of their superiors to use all 'due force' when dealing with so-called 'national security' incidents. It is a matter of absolute urgency that the usage of such corrupt tactics cannot, under any circumstances, be allowed to continue.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Guardians of Power

I've been pottering around Ebay over the last week as an hysterical displacement activity; I find that bidding on antique Toile de Jouy fabric and patchwork quilting squares soothes my tumultuous mind. Out of idle curiosity, I typed in 'gothic doors' and found some architectural delights that would have gladdened the heart of Mary Shelley and her ilk; had they been in my price range, I would probably have thrown caution to the wind and bought them. However, I told myself sternly to be sensible. Removing the sitting room window and existent front door would not meet with my neighbours' or landlady's approval. Then there would be the inevitable spiritual crisis - can I live with a decommissioned church door? Where do I put my mezuzah? (No helpful suggestions, please.) Would I have to ask a rabbi to "de-Catholick" the doors, or is their wood permeated eternally with motes of Christian holiness? Metaphysical considerations aside, some unhelpful sphincter from the council would be bound to bang thunderously on said doors and, clipboard and diversity pamphlet in hand, tell me to remove them. Should I refuse, I have no doubt they'd send for the boys in blue. Which idea fills me with dread.
Today's ConservativeHome warns against treating the police too harshly in light of Ian Tomlinson's tragic death. It cites the case of PC Mulhall who was accused of assaulting a woman only for it to transpire that she was in fact assaulting him. Indeed, in the Mulhall case, he was in the right and the drunken harpy twisting his unmentionables deserved precisely what she got. But the tactics of the police at the G20 summit and, indeed at Kingsnorth were very, very different from those of PC Mulhall. The way in which they were deployed suggests that they had been given tacit instructions to use certain levels of force and crowd control by their superiors.
'Kettling' demonstrators and passers-by alike (the latter of which were released only on the proviso that they gave their names, addresses and submitted to having a picture taken) is in itself an act of aggression which turns a relatively harmless situation into a potentially fatal one. It constitutes a complete violation of dignity; it resembles a form of prison-camp internment. Denying people water and lavatory facilities demeans them in the worst kind of way; it should not be allowed, and the questions that should have been asked as a matter of urgency at the time - are they allowed to do this? How and why are they allowed to do this? - were not. Boris Johnson and Paul Stevenson should have been in situ and available for comment regarding said 'kettling'. That they were not, and that there has been a negligible response from their respective offices suggests that they were complicit in ordering this police action.
There are many incidents involving G20 policing that just don't ring right. How was it that only two demonstrators, surrounded by riot police, smashed the windows of RBS, and that a photographer was already inside waiting for them? How was it that those peacefully occupying squats around the corner from the action, who had already had by their own account, that of passers-by and the police interacted with the Met and posed no conceivable risk, were suddenly raided on suspicion of terrorism? Why was a woman who dropped her sunglasses and bent to pick them up struck brutally in the face by an unidentifiable police officer? And why, if not as an act of premeditated violence, did the officer who struck Ian Tomlinson remove his identifying badge number?
These acts of agression, coupled with the arrest of a hundred potential demonstrators for actions as yet uncommitted (which plainly speaking means that they were arrested for thought crimes: they were not meditating murder, but dissent legitimately permitted in a so-called democratic society) and a plethora of accounts of heavy-handedness by PCs and WPCs nationwide, should paradoxically not lead us to condemn the Police Force out of hand. We may shout that we are living in a police state: but a police state is only ever created if the guardians themselves allot the police a disproportionate amount of power in order to enforce their, the guardians', will. And giving anyone too much power is to place too much temptation in their hands: no matter how good they may be, or how honourable, or decent, unless they are the very strongest of individuals the temptation will be there to see just how far they can go. With the law on their side, the police go all the way: they're not legally doing anything wrong. In my opinion (though many would disagree with me) power is synonymous with freedom; an unequal freedom that permits the few to control the many through the ever-present threat of physical violence, coercion and incarceration. The government, using the ubiquitous blanket of 'national security', has extended their remit beyond that which is permissible in a free society. And, of course, people rebel strenuously against the curtailing of their own freedom and act in what is now deemed 'anti-social' (which begs a serious question: how can one act anti-socially when there is no longer a society?), which then seems to justify the passing of ever-more stringent laws which hand more and more power to the police force.
The true culprits are the government. Plato's Republic was designed to be used as a societal blueprint, unlike 1984: and that is what we are living. A tiny minority, the Philosopher Kings who believe that they are inviolable and their thoughts and deeds sacrosant, who take responsibility for each and every creature under their auspices from the moment of birth til that of death, rule the nation; they use the military/police class to do their bidding in order to enforce their will; and everyone else, that is everyone who is not a Philosopher King or policeman, is expected to abide by their rules. They have no freedom because the Philosopher Kings do not see them as people, merely coarse entities who perform the tasks alloted to them and are punished if they do not do so. It is our duty to ourselves, to others and to the kind of society that we would like to live in and to pass on to future generations, in order that they might also live to snatch the reins of power from the unelected minority. The only response that should ever be given to the question of 'quid custodiet ipsos custodes?' is "Us".

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

These Are Not Great Days: These Are The Darkest Days Our Country Has Ever Lived

Despite the rush of schadenfreude to the head prompted by the despicable Derek Draper's fall from grace taking the Cromwellian Gordon Brown with him, I feel depressed. Terribly depressed. Depressed in a way that an entire school of nihilists would envy: I simply can't see any point in - well - anything. I can't see that any of us will be alive in ten years' time or, if we are, that our world will have been overrun by nations run on Islamic fundamentalist lines, or have become so totalitarian in response to Islamic fundamentalism that we will be tracked and tagged wherever we go, or that AIDS II will spread like wildfire (or perhaps bird flu: who knows?) and decimate human life; that man will develop ever-more sophisticated ways to spy on himself or destroy himself which will delight the disaster capitalists and neocons to everyone elses' expense; that every time I open my mouth I risk having my head bashed in by some upper-middle-class-hating prole, that positivism will anchor itself so firmly in the minds of the young that their imaginations will die, and all I have to look forward to is an impoverished senility in an old people's home, where I will be patronised, called by my first name without having invited such familiarity, and be drugged up to the eyeballs before dying alone. I've counted romantic relationships out of my equation - no-one can be bothered to get married these days but would rather commit to not committing and live together until they get sick of each other: not my bag; I've counted success out of my equation also, as no-one's interested in even reading what an aspiring writer/philosopher has to say these days, let alone representing them or publishing them. Because I've studied Theology and English Lit., I'm never going to get a decent salary; even if I were to find some job that remotely suited me, I'd be taxed through the nose, face a huge debt burden courtesy of this government for the rest of my life, and probably lose all my savings when another financial institution goes belly-up.
So, really, what is the point? I don't have freedom: society's an open prison. Usually we leave home to find independence; to break free of being watched constantly, questioned about our plans and whereabouts. Now the government's taken over the parental role, we can never leave home - unless we emigrate. I don't have prospects: the government's telling institutions to discriminate against people like me, because my background and education give me an unfair edge. There's nothing to look forward to. No wonder people drink until their livers burst.
Luckily, I'm not the only one. A report in the Telegraph today shows how the entire nation's dissolving in a morass of fear and anxiety; that the recession's going to last a lot longer than it should because of this all-pervasive sense of hopelessness and suspicion. In climates like these, people's Nietzschean drive kicks in: they start to look for a Messiah, a superhuman being to lead them out of the darkness. I only hope that we don't end up with another Hitler.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Education, Education, Education

Children today are (at least) two years behind their 1960s selves. Yet they're not becoming more stupid or inept; the fault lies in the quality of teaching and the broadening of the curriculum to the extent that every subject battles for supremacy and none is covered sufficiently.
The solution is clear. Revert to a 1950s-style grammar school education. Ensure before anything else that children can read and write their own name and add, multiply, divide and subtract without using a calculator. Restrict the pre-11 (and 11+) syllabus to English, mathematics, basic history, a smattering of science, a painting class and/or a woodwork/shop class or two a week and a good deal of healthy open-air play free of all those noisome Health & Safety regulations which deem it unsafe for children to even play with conkers or run in a playground. Teach them good manners, discipline and logic: how to argue from cause to effect, rather than dealing with the after-effects of lamentable decisions, such as to spend £1 trillion of taxpayer money, for the next two or three generations. Above all, keep technology out of the classroom and preferably out of schools altogether. Recent studies have demonstrated that exposing a four-year-old child's mind to IT can actually damage its ability to develop relationships and even moral centres. Young children simply don't need to be exposed to a barrage of podcasting, webchat and twittering: they're far better off interacting with one another. Insist on a school uniform that is as plain and unadorned as possible, ban political correctness and put the teachers in charge. Above all, ban sex education pre-11+. This government's 'if you can't be good, be careful' stance has done nothing to stop our children dabbling, often disastrously, in sexual experimentation. Allow them to be children: why presexualise them?
At the age of 11, children should be able to take 2 exams: one academic, one more hands-on and technical, which will demonstrate in what area their talents lie. Those academically gifted may go to grammar schools, try for scholarships at private schools or enter as fee-paying students if their parents are able. Those more technically-adept go on to polytechnics, the former state schools, from which they have the ability to a) leave at 14 and go on to apprenticeships b) learn other languages if they have the ability and desire to do so, to increase their job-market potential c) go on to skilled technical academies in which they can perfect their skills, develop new industries and teach and train others. For both groups, there is an opportunity for further academic/technical aptitude testing at the age of 14 so, if a child who, for example, has not performed well academically at his/her 11+, they may be 'streamed' into grammar/private school education and vice versa: children develop at different rates. The test at 14 will comprise English and Mathematics and every child must be able to read to a basic level, write clearly and demonstrate the ability to do standard sums: in other words, it must be able to go out in the world and be able to understand legal contracts and do its own household accounts.
After 14, those staying in education may carry on to 'O' Level - 5-6 subjects, with English and Mathematics a mandatory requirement and A-Level, if they so choose. University entrance must be dependent solely upon academic excellence and each student demonstrably possess the level of aptitude each institution requires. At 16, children may combine academic or technical study with Army training, either as a cadet, at military academies or in signing up post-education. Those with a long 'rap sheet' might be offered the option of wiping said sheet clean if they join the Armed Forces and learn discipline, comradeship and a trade. Around 25% of the population is expected to enter academic institutions and approximately 15-20% to technical institutions.
Just a few ideas off the top of my head about what a rounded education 'should' entail. Any thoughts/opinions, however radical, will be gratefully received!

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Ism-mania

Grandpa: Penny, why don’t you write a play about ism-mania?

Penny: Ism-mania?

Grandpa: Yeah, sure. You know – communism, fascism, voodooism. Everybody’s got an “ism” these days.

Penny: I thought it was an itch or something.

Grandpa: Well, it’s just as catching. When things go a little bad nowadays, you go out and get yourself an “ism,” and you’re in business.

Penny: I’ve got it. It might help Cynthia to have an “ism” in the monastery.

Grandpa: Yes, it might that. Only give her “Americanism.” Let her known something about Americans. John Paul Jones, Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, Washington, Jefferson, Monroe, Lincoln, Grant, Lee, Edison, Mark Twain… when things got tough with those boys, they didn’t run around looking for “isms.” Lincoln said “With malice toward none, with charity to all.” Nowadays they say “Think the way I do, or I’ll bomb the daylights out of you.”

(Frank Capra: You Can't Take It With You)


Frank Capra was an enlightened man. He is typically remembered for his misty-eyed nostalgia and his unshakable belief that people are essentially good at heart, despite an abundance of evidence to the contrary. I realise that I've fallen victim to the kind of ism-mania of which he speaks, namely in depicting Blair/Brown's form of government as 'socialism'. Many if not most socialists would see NuLab's goals as incompatible with socialism in that it embraces neoconservitivism (ism no.1), laissez faire capitalism rather than that which they're supposed to uphold: ordoliberalism (isms no.2 and 3), progressivism (ism no.4), revisionism (ism no.5) and neoliberalism (ism no.6) all of which are confusingly brought together under a banner of centrist social democracy rather than democratic socialism. (Social democracy is supposed to be a form of libertarian reform from below which shakes off authoritarian shackles; democratic socialism involves minimalist to severe measures of authoritarian state socialism, which could encompass the domestic policies of just about everyone from Harold Wilson to Stalin.) Confused? We should be: we're engulfed by a flood of such 'isms' on a daily basis, all of which seem to differ so infinitesimally as not to be worthy of remark or so radically that we can only assess them from a black/white stance. Our responses become diluted: we either protest against one element of what we see as authoritarian control, or anti-civil liberties, or gross exploitation, but leave the societal definitions and constructs up to the so-called 'experts'. Then, twenty years later, someone writes a book about what we've lived through. 'Ah, yes!' we say, shaking our heads in disbelief. 'That's exactly what it was like...'

All of which feeds rather nicely into the political blueprint first devised by our old friend Edward Bernays, who stated calmly in Propaganda that there was only so much that any man needed to know or to be told: you couldn't overload the poor creature, so it was in his best interest to filter his news and opinions for him and to gather them together under particular headings, so as to give him a nice sense of structure in his life. This 'run along now, the grown ups are talking' approach pervades politics and, by extension, all of society today. And it's impossible to talk about society and politics as separate entities: since politics has turned into a personality cult we're unable to have an abstract discussion about education, say, without mentioning what Labour's done to it; rather than coming up with what we think would be a better way in which to educate our children, we can only complain about what has gone wrong or suggest ways in which to fix the rot.

This leaves us no leverage. If you consider yourself a liberal but disagree with all of the Liberal Democrats' policies, there's nowhere for you to go. Ditto Conservatism and definitely ditto Labour. Even if you agree with three quarters of their policies but vehemently disagree with the other quarter, you're still expected to support the party. You're still expected to vote for them. Your feelings on the other issues don't matter: in agreeing to disagree (though your consent hasn't been sought) you're being 'democratic'. Gone are the days where you can heckle those fighting for political office and make them substantiate what they have to say. Today's politics are based upon presumption. Which is why I made the error, for example, of calling NuLab socialist. They're not. The countries of the Southern Cone before the Chicago Boys moved in were socialist; they had the greatest explosion in education, industrialisation, shared wealth and social mobility in human history. NuLab, in stating that everyone has been 'empowered' whilst simultaneously disempowering them by pulling the lynchpins out of all existing social institutions, dumbing down education and making the intelligentsia a laughing-stock, are working from a very different agenda: one that could almost be seen as akin to that of the great robber barons of the C13th, or indeed the East India Company in the C19th. Wage war on those who may oppose you, disenfranchise the unarmed, create great hubs of power, and convince people that there is no other way to exist so that they do not even dream of seeking a new political philosophy; they can only militate against elements of the existent system whilst the great machine rumbles on, unhindered.

To create the kind of world we can really bear to live in - not a Utopia, because that is one person dreaming on behalf of the many: a nightmare - we have to overcome all these new assumptions which are being cloaked as ancient wisdom and start from scratch. From the beginning. To ask all those big ethical questions which our populist politicians answer for us on the basis of presumed consent. Whether we agree with any of the tenets of the three major political parties, for example: and if we do not, why do we not? How do we put new tenets in their place without destroying people's lives in the process? I still have enough faith, like Capra, in the goodness of people that we can achieve some kind of decency in living, in a life where people choose what level of individuality they want to assume rather than being robbed of it altogether.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

My Point Exactly...

Over the past few days I've posted a few pieces about reason vs emotions and why academic achievement should be celebrated rather than reviled. The majority of responses have been positive, which is heartening: not because I need people to agree with me, for I do not, but because I am glad that there are so many like-minded others out there who can see that which is rotting Britain's core; to be alone entirely in one's beliefs is to render one helpless. On the other hand, one unrelenting critic has steered the course of the debate into the murky waters of personal invective and has condemned me for sentiments I have not voiced and in which I do not believe. And this seems to be what passes for normality in Britain these days: people's feelings are too precious to be meddled with, or they are assaulted deliberately by those wholly and utterly unrelated to them in any way, who will then go on to ascribe beliefs and opinions to them that simply don't exist.
The atrocious lapse in etiquette notwithstanding, what does it say about our culture that we presume to 'know' another without having met them? And to pass judgment upon them forthwith? Is such an approach to human relationships the result of socialist class-levelling, in which because people are similar in some aspects they are deemed the same in all aspects? Or is it something deeper: that our world has become so formidably style-over-content behaviourally-deterministic one-size-fits-all that many do not (or cannot) perceive any inherent differences between their fellow men and women and feel equipped to judge them on an Everyman (or, indeed to condemn them on an 'Other') basis?
We hear a lot of tripe these days about how we can curb binge drinking through ever more draconian state measures. Rather than looking at the causes of it, the government feels that it can deal with the effects. But perhaps the reason that both these phenomena has spiralled out of control is that the world has become too big, too militaristic, too frightening and our politicians too distant. In the absence of community and self-determination, people either seek to escape their misery at the lack of any hope for a meaningful future by annihilating themselves through alcohol. What else do they have to look forward to? Too, in the absence of theological ritual, the Friday night piss-up has become an event invested almost with sanctity; something in which the many can participate with the same intent. Knife crime and gang culture is also being 'targeted' by various state bodies. If they stopped to realise for one moment that many young people are entirely alienated from society through a spiralling culture of suspicion, breakdown in communication, authority, family relationships and the knowledge that whatever they say simply won't matter to the government, they would realise that gangs are in basic anthropological terms like families. A hierarchy is established through struggle; each member finds his or her allotted place following a process of initiation.
And perhaps those shunning that dirty old 'real' world in favour of the internet are working off those selfsame evolutionary impulses in forging a new society in which dominance is attained by those who shout the loudest and longest, since physical combat is impossible. One thing in both worlds remains unchanged, however: falsely ascribing ideas and beliefs to others in order to castigate them is universally unacceptable. A lie is a lie is a lie.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Intellectual Snobbery or Justified Elitism?

Possessing the mandatory Stiff Upper Lip, and following my own advice, I smile serenely when reading some of the comments made about my most recent article, Grow Up Grownups: in it, I advocated a return to using reason rather than emotion when making decisions and to being less 'precious' about having one's feelings hurt. Otherwise, I argued, people become embroiled in complex situations without having any real reason to do so, support causes without knowing anything about them and judge harshly those against whom they have an emotionally-fuelled grudge in general, rather than rightfully targeting the guilty few. What I found most interesting, though, was that I was charged with intellectual snobbery and advised to take a trip into what some call the 'real' world.
I've been in and out of this 'real' world for years, and have worked in numerous places with numerous kinds of people. Some I've liked, others I haven't: such is life. I've always been interested in others' stories; for although I can't learn a great quantity of new facts from many of those I've met, I can certainly learn how their responses to situations differ, and how their experiences have shaped them, of what they want out of life and what matters to them. I also tend to retreat into an academic world because it is the only place in which I feel at home; in which I can use my intellect to the full, develop new theories about the world with likeminded others, and am not obliged to try to think like the 'man on the street'. What intrigues me most is the idea that my world is any less 'real' or valid than the one in which my critics dwell. In my humble opinion, being advised to live in a 'world' in which struggle, strife, discord, discontent, humiliation, failure, high taxes, low wages, ill health, Nanny state and dishonest government are all accepted as the status quo - are almost seen as a grim badge of honour (the sage utterances of 'well, life's hard, isn't it? But there's nothing we can do about it, so we might as well make do' strike no chord with me; I won't subscribe to such fatalism) is to condemn me to misery. A life lived in the quest for the Beautiful, however, one which seeks to learn the mysteries of time and space, the numinous, the inner workings of the human psyche and the origins of everything is to be applauded.
Which is something we don't do in the UK. Intellectuals and academics are viewed with suspicion. A good background and education are seen as excuses for discrimination. Society has dumbed down, the Spin Doctors attempt only to appeal to the middle and backwards slope of the bell curve, and those who think rather than do are ostracised. Which leaves little to aspire to - except, of course, becoming a footballler, X Factor or Big Brother winner, or a footballer's wife.
Socialism has always viewed intellectuals with fear and loathing, because they can swiftly and lethally expose its shortcomings. In socialism's exaggerated form, Communism, it tends to stick the intellectuals on pig farms or their bones down mineshafts and satisfy the lowest common denominators' lust to destroy anything that is different or smacks of superiority. Under NuLab, 50% of the population have been shoehorned into higher education, whether they possess the requisite nous or not: all in the attempt to downgrade university degrees and remove them of their 'special' status.
Such an approach runs sharply contra to evolutionary theory. To make a mockery of higher levels of intelligence which contribute to society's betterment, its potential and its happiness is to destroy future generations' innovations in thought and progress. Our legacy will be their existence: the way in which their world is worked out relies upon what we do today. To dumb down now places ever greater obstacles in the way of personal freedom and individuality. There's nothing to strive for. Moving up to the middle classes through intellectual achievement and endeavour becomes a logistical nightmare as they are, arguably, the class which is most penalised. A culture which celebrates the ignorant, the animalistic at the expense of evolution (and God's) most precious gift, that one single facet that separates us from the rest of the natural world, reason, is a dying culture.
So I, for one, will continue on in my merry way; unashamedly academic to the hilt, and I hope to die in a library surrounded by exquisite examples of erudition. There are many ways to live: and to strive for excellence is, after all, the core purpose of human nature.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Grow Up, Grownups

I'm interested to know how many people out there can still reason for themselves, rather than be driven by their 'feelings'. A lot of people have been arrested over the last twelve years because of 'feelings': because someone may be doing or saying or wearing something that might cause upset or hurt. This includes arresting a man wearing a 'Bollocks to Blair' t-shirt, an elderly campaigner because he heckled Jack Straw, and a be-placarded doomsayer being removed from his Westminster beat because his 'end of the world is nigh' message might offend someone. Ditto telling the truth about the 'global' financial crisis: the Conservatives were given a sharp slap on the wrist for stating that the collapse of banks and markets would have unpleasant implications for families on the grounds that it might cause people 'concern'.
All of which means a) people are doing our thinking for us because b) we're not motivated by reason, but emotion. Marching for Gaza when one doesn't know the name of the Fatah PM - or of Hamas, for that matter, let alone what the conflict is about - is an action born purely out of emotion. Lining the streets to say 'goodbye' to Jade Goody, a woman characterised by her foul mouth, complete lack of breeding, feral habits, bigotry, racism and extraordinary stupidity, she who was booed roundly when she exited the Big Bruvver house, is illogical. What are people celebrating? The fact that they've been so adeptedly manipulated by the media that they've elevated a guttersnipe to sainthood? Or that in twelve years social inversion has been achieved to the extent that Goody is viewed with the same misty-eyed nostalgia as Princess Diana? The same goes for MPs' expenses: that sense of outrage, the 'snout in the trough' knee-jerk response. Abusing one's expenses a la Mr and Mrs J. Smith, Hoon, McNulty et al is clearly reprehensible. But MPs receive an expenses entitlement because they work long hours running the country, representing millions of people and - in many cases, the Labour Front Bench notwithstanding - trying to act in the best interests of both the many and the few. It's a devilishly hard and often unrewarding job. The 'it's not fair' whine from an envious populace is a purely emotional one. What they're saying is that they don't get extra money for the jobs they do, so why should MPs? Simple. Invite the populace to run the damn' country and see what happens: 99% of people simply aren't anywhere near up to it, and a proportion of that 99% would be hard-pressed to run a bloody bath (though they might be able to whip up a bloodbath to order during the 'summer of rage'). People aren't equal in terms of intellect or capability. Labour's social engineering has pushed the myth that they are; that all jobs require the same level of intelligence and capability. Rubbish. Poppycock. All this has achieved is unnecessary hatred for those who receive higher salaries, a hatred that persists regardless of whether someone is - forgive the pun - doing a sterling job or not.
'But these MPS have ruined the country', I hear you say. Yes, indeed, some of them have: through the mechanism of 'democracy' to which everyone kowtows reverently. There's another bit of Blairite nonsense: socialist democracy, the idea that everyone's point of view counts. It doesn't, particularly to Labour. And they were voted in, after all. Twice. Whilst people are rubbing the wounds of mega-taxation, ruined education, binge-drinking, knife crime, terrorist plots, dirty hospitals, illegal wars, bad transport infrastructures, ruinous train fares, ID cards, data losses, 24/7 surveillance, control orders, the removal of habeas corpus, out-of-control immigration and further financial meltdown, all of which are occurring in the too-big, too-impersonal and too frightening mesh of globalisation, they've overlooked the erosion of one of the inherent attributes of humanity: reason. Without it, one is a mere infant. We need to stop being so precious about our 'feelings' and toughen up.
Life is to be lived, not controlled, and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat -Ralph Ellison