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Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Titanic 2 - the ConDem-Nation

The hundredth anniversary of two major twentieth century events are a warning to us about the dangerous reverse of reforms that our grandmothers and grandfathers fought for.

On April 12 1912, the Titanic sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.  The exposure of the values  and the class system that prevented social mobility of Victorian/Edwardian Britain were, in my mind, a much more important factor in the aftermath rather  than the “unsinkable sinking.”  If there was a message from any God, it must have been that the vilification and creation of a “subspecies” of the poor meant that some lives were more valuable than others.  The disgusting statistics of Third Class dead and stories of people being kept away from the lifeboats because of the Third Class status exposed the truth of “our betters.”  Even the bodies taken on board ships following the disaster were treated differently – third Class passengers buried at sea, and first class passengers embalmed and brought home for burial.
Pic by Gwen Penner

The Edwardian golden sunlit afternoon was one of extreme iniquity, and one of corporate control of national politics.  Corporations with the help of nation states competed for resources and markets, the British empire was rivalled by Germany and the US, and some were predicting war between the three great powers.

 Some people think that with this sinking, came the beginning of the end of the class system in the United Kingdom.  The anniversary of the beginning of World War 1, the Great War, the War to end all wars, in two years time, shows that this patently did not happen as young men were sent to the front to die in their thousands while those who ordered them over the top, did so from Chateaux or from Stately homes – and did so for their profits and dividends.  Although the classes were equally cast into the black abyss of grief, the fact remained that the war did not benefit the majority of families who lost their young men.

pic by  Gwen Penner

The Titanic and World War 1 were deeply politicising.  Victorian philanthropy was seen to be lacking. “Our betters” were revealed as people who thought of their working classes as something almost sub-human. 

 The very visible class barriers needed to come down.   The Titanic disaster exposed the lack of empathy the upper classes suffered from.  The great war was the murderous conclusion of – millions died as capitalist machine gun fodder – sacrifices for the Dollar, Mark or Pound.

After the Great War, prejudice and inequality deepened.  Women were asked to give up their places of work for the returning soldiers.  Women had up until the war and irrespective of class been seen as second class citizens.  They were expected to become wives and mothers and working opportunities were as limited as much of their lives.  Emmeline Pankhurst had started to agitate for women’s suffrage in 1903, and after a massive campaign and the confidence that women had after taking over men’s work during the war, this goal was achieved, but equality is still to be had.

It was during this period that people fought back.  The new party of the Working Class began to grow momentum.   Liberalism, that great compromise and capitulation that drove working conditions down, was destroyed and in a thirty year period, our welfare state – a state that ensured the weakest and poorest of society were given a real chance, was born.  The new society meant that wealth was more evenly re-distributed.  It was by far, imperfect, but working class people were given access to education, medical care, a real say in society, cheap transport and better wages.  These led to a society in which small businesses burgeoned.  The birth of a society that redistributed a larger proportion of its wealth led directly to the boom years of the sixties and the never before or again experienced equalities of the seventies. 

We had socialised housing, socialised medicine, socialised education all the way through to degree level, we had socialised postal services and energy and travel and water.  We took these things for granted, at least those of us who lived in that more equitable Britain. 

Of course, protections of the weakest and laws against exploitation and socialised utilities meant less profits for the rich corporations, shareholders and directors.  The reversal of the reforms of society started with Thatcher.  The “common Sense” Tories told the baby-boomers that British Rail and Gas and Telecom would be much more efficient if they were ran by the private sector.  Those same baby-boomers who bought shares from Sid, now ask why our utilities are so expensive.  Those same Tories are now directors and shareholders, in power, and determined to drain increasing profits from privatised utilities into offshore accounts, trust funds and Cameron’s dinner guests companies.

New Labour for the most part, put the brakes on the Tory reinvention of rigid class demarcation, but did nothing to reverse the attacks on workers’ pensions, the NHS and pay and conditions, but the new power given to the Tories by the Liberals is rapidly creating a society in which “deserving poor and undeserving poor” is becoming accepted language.  The term “underclass” was introduced into the UK political language by the proto-type neo-liberals of Thatcher’s Government and the destruction of council housing meant that the new term, “sink estate,” gave the poor the physical space – the equivalent of the Victorian and early twentieth century ghetto.

Attacks on Health and Education are slowly squeezing profits from working people and the poor.  Attacks on pensions and pensionable age are meaning that people in the future are going to be dying of old age at their desks, in front of their classes or building houses for the protected so called squeezed middle (which, regardless of the term, are certainly NOT the middle earners in our society – it is illuminating as to what our political class are exposed to when they feel earners of £150,000 are a “squeezed middle.”)

These attacks take time to seep into society – slow enough for people not to notice what they have lost straight away.  In ten years time, what extra bills from your GP will you accept as normal?  The health insurance bill will be like any other bill in England, now the Tory and Liberal Democrat Government have managed to privatise the NHS.

Oil and energy profits are rising exponentially as oil producing country after country is invaded by imperialist powers who are driven by their democracies that have been subverted by rich lobbyists.  Poor people still die in foreign lands – forced by the economics of the billionaires to fight each other rather than embrace and share.

What will be the new, dystopian, neo-Victorian Titanic?  What will be the wakeup call? Our old, unable to afford to pay for the millionaires dividends from the energy companies, dying in freezing houses, or on the streets, homeless after a lifetime of service to our economy?  Our women and families forced into deepening poverty?  Children with rickets? Our disabled forced to work for their welfare payments in supermarkets of fast food outlets?  Or as England sees the dying days of universally free health service, will patients lined up in order of who has the best insurance be the new third class trapped below the waterline?

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Slactivism, Bono, White Tee-shirts Che/Christ and Kony...

You know the type. Trendy man bag slung over his shoulder. Beaming smile, scrubbed face. Advocates growing own vegetables, but doesn't yet, and won't touch a Kit-Kat because "Nestle kill babies." And recently has been bubbling about a really cool video showing the terrible things this guy in Uganda is doing to children. And is calling for US military intervention in Uganda in order to help the Ugandan Government to get this man Kony. Until recently I didn't fully understand the danger suggested by the term "slactivism." Slactivism is dangerous, and reactionary and at it's worst can justify imperialist adventures and oppression.

  What is slactivism? 

Slactivism seems to be a term meaning someone who jumps from cause to cause- each cause being, to the slactivist, as worthy as the next, the slactivist giving little thought to the cause beyond, "it looks worthy." The term could, at its least dangerous, be given to people who loosely link causes together and change focus regularly. Each cause is, at least on the surface, one that can be supported by activists, each cause bringing with it a new meme or a new trendy logo and visuals. The more links on the internet, and the more trendy Youtube videos attached or witty banners etc, the more attractive the cause will be to the slactivist. But its seeming worthiness is its inherent danger as imperialist Governments and oil companies take advantage of the slactivist's lack of focus and critical thinking.

  White teeshirts and tax evasion

 Back in 2005, we were told that clicking our fingers would "Make Poverty History." Bob Geldof, a proven tax dodger, said that sharing some money and wearing a white teeshirt would force Governments to drop the 2/3's World Debt. Of course this altruism does not extend to the poor in his own adopted home - welfare projects and education and health benefit lightly from his taxes as he has found out how to hide money in properties purchased abroad. Bono and his pompous band are the same - Ireland is in huge crises - poverty in his own country is increasing hugely, but to him, his tax millions are better in his own offshore accounts. Slactivist after slactivist clicked fingers, pounded the streets of Edinburgh, listened to Annie Lennox and wore out white shirts. Geldof and Bono ensured that protests that had been organised months in advance of the G8 that year, were able to be labelled "bad protests" - and at one point, the Scottish Government had been able to capitalise on the de-politicisation of the protests by the rock gods and a smiling Blair and Brown and were going to shut down a pre-planned non-Bono/Geldof initiative.

Make Poverty History Pants...
 Poverty, to the Bono and Geldof encouraged slactivist, would disappear if we paraded around Edinburgh in white, sang along with Annie Lennox and clicked our fingers. Polite cheering on Bush Blair et al would induce massive change; pull the 2/3 world from poverty and not really have any effect on us other than be out of pocket on a white rubber wrist band and a sore arm from waving a placard sponsored by the Daily Mail. Geldof and Bono are two characters who are stranger than strange - both from rock bands that in some way de-politicised music in the pretence of politicising it (the subject of another article methinks) and both very much friends with those they were asking to make change - ie Blair, Brown and Bush et al. The point here is that poverty was not made history, and in fact the continuance and depoliticizing of the message to the G8 that year actually allowed the powers that be to make more protections of the system that ultimately failed in 2008 and created even more poverty. Tax dodgers Geldof and Bono at the very least, are guilty of the worst slactivism in history.

  Personality disorder

 A slactivist has three massively detrimental personality disorders - these disorders can have a huge negative impact on real issues. One, a sense of righteousness; two, a laziness and three short-termism. They have an ideological deficit- they see only black and white in all situations and have no "hook" - no ideological or principled measure of how right a cause is - no in depth analysis or critical thinking. The slactivist will label him/herself with something that will sound liberal, yet in some way make the pretence of challenging the status quo. The most recent "slactivist" I have been talking to has labelled herself, an anti-imperialist, atheist red capitalist. I told her she was not an activist then -she was supporting the inequalities that the present economic system needs. As the capitulation of the Lib Dems in venture capitalist driven Tory policy after policy has shown in the UK, compromise with capitalism drives the living conditions and wealth of the working class and poor downwards. Millionaires and billionaires are benefiting more and more through Liberals democrats compromising between the wishes of the very rich (about 2% of the population) and the wishes of the rest of us. Poverty in the UK is being dressed up as necessary cuts. If you are working class, all you see around you are people struggling with heating bills, electricity, food and rent or mortgages. The rich are rubbing their hands in glee as the capitulation of the slactivist Liberal Democrats allows them to increase their incomes exponentially at the cost of the rest of us.

  Christ like Che

 Occupy and UK/USUncut, are fast fading from view, Julian Assange is slowly being forgotten and Anon masks will be last weeks thing in the coming weeks - slactivists are moving on to the next big thing. Iran nor Palestine aren't trendy enough (they have too many of those Arab looking people) - and the Tory wrecking of the world renowned and admired UK NHS is a bit boring, but this Kony guy has a name like Sony and the video created by these IC (JC?) people is like far out man. It has everything. Disfigured children, raped women fantastic visuals, a rocking sound track and a charismatic leader holding guns in the Jungle - almost Che/Jesus-like, but without unfortunate reference to that old fashioned socialism/sharing stuff. Recently a friend has been punting the Kony 2012 cause in a local group, organised through Facebook. This slactivist has no qualms in supporting "No Attack on Iran," though this has fallen in "trendiness" and the media blackout of the Iran crises and lack of slick video has ensured he would rather focus on a cause that is extremely dodgy. He can't seem to see that calling for US troops to help a repressive African regime is in any way similar to what he is rejecting for Iran. There are the resources out there to aid critical analysis, if only the slactivist would go beyond the charismatic leadership of IC and well produced videos. Resources that not always come from the old fashioned, cynical left (this resource is a good one - but will not convince the slactivist as, 'didn't socialism become as bad as Hitler in the era of Stalin and stuff..?' ) But even the mainstream British media has become more than cynical about this "movement." Other useful links: HERE and HERE

 Of course, the Invisible Children crowd and slactivists who don't like to be wrong are on the attack, saying this cynicism is going to allow Kony off the hook (which he definitely shouldn't be), but what they are calling for - ie. US intervention supporting a despotic regime that uses child soldiers openly is way short of what Uganda deserves. It was way short of what Afghanistan and Iraq deserved - the peoples of those two countries were butchered and continue to be because of US strategic interest (as most will accept, the involvement of the US in Afghanistan and Iraq has helped destroy these countries rather than help to build). What is the common denominator in these countries? The discovery of and supply of oil to the US. The profit bottom line. The fact is, Kony disappeared from view and out of Uganda six years ago. My slactivist friends don't seem to be able to recognise that supporting the Ugandan government is supporting a government that is oppressive and actually uses child soldiers. Supporting military intervention and the Ugandan government is going to pit child soldier against child soldier. Amnesty International recognize this and have asked the USA to stay out of this regional conflict.

Do no harm

 The first principle of a Doctor is, "Do no harm." The USA decision to be the "healers" of the world should be treated with the cynicism it deserves - because the ill patients it seems to try to cure are harmed beyond healing in the coming generations - and the healing will not really take place until these exploited lands run out of oil - nor are strategically important by way of geography. Kony is something that the US government and big Oil loves ie. a bad person who may take years to find, but in the meantime they can slowly build bases within Uganda and prop up the Government that is every bit as bad as the dreadful Kony. Some of us have put the two and two of "get Osama" and the militarisation of Afghanistan together and made the 4 of the decimation within that poverty stricken country. The US has no qualms in propping up despotic Governments to pipe oil across continents to ensure profits increase and in doing so, many thousands of innocent people have lost their lives, livelihoods, children and parents. Slactivists should stop propping up the despotic US military machine and perhaps tighten up their critical thinking.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Please help us save the NHS...

This is a wonderful gadget created by "Labour Left" and on Dr √Čoin Clarke's web page.  Please go to it and use it to email Jo Swinson and all of the other Lib Dem MP's (whose very own party voted against this bill at their conference - hopefully these Liberals will uphold democracy in the way they blether on about.  Hopefully their shouting about democracy is more than hot gas.  to send a tweet, click HERE  

The text of the email is reproduced below if you prefer to copy and paste to the MP's, whose email addresses I have reproduced here, separated by commas and in three sections for Hotmail/yahoo/google/gmail emailers - 

Dear            ,

As you know, the passage of this NHS Bill is nearing its completion. The bill was not in either governing party's manifesto, and it goes against the PM's pledge to have no top down re-organisation of the NHS.

According to YouGov, only 14% of voters want this Bill to succeed and 66% of medical professionals think the bill will make the NHS worse. Despite the Information Commissioner and Information Tribunal ordering Andrew Lansley to publish the NHS Transition Risk Register, he has so far refused. To top it all off, more than 170,000+ voters have signed the 'Drop the Bill' petition. Specifically, the allowance contained within the bill that up to 49% of NHS bed space and theatre time can be utilised by the private sector is nothing short of terrifying. These are some of the very many reasons I am begging one small favour of you.

Please vote in an ethical manner on the 13/03/12; do the right thing, whatever you deem that to be. It is my firm belief that if you are motivated to do what is right, then Lansley's botched bill will be dropped.

Yours faithfully

If you want to email one at a time - 

Sarah Teather MP teathers@parliament.uk
David Ward MP david@davidward.org.uk
Simon Wright MP office@simonwright.org.uk
Stephen Williams MP stephenwilliamsmp@parliament.uk
Steve Webb MP steve@stevewebb.org.uk
Vince Cable MP cablev@parliament.uk
Thomas Brake MP braket@parliament.uk
Malcolm Bruce MP info@malcolmbruce.org.uk
Paul Burstow MP burstowp@parliament.uk
Tim Farron MP tim@timfarron.co.uk
Adrian Sanders MP Sandersa@parliament.uk
Mark Williams MP williamsmf@parliament.uk
Charles Kennedy MP kennedyc@parliament.uk
Stephen Gilbert MP stephen@stephengilbert.org.uk
John Hemming MP hemmingj@parliament.uk
Jenny Willott MP willottj@parliament.uk
Alistair Carmichael MP carmichaela@parliament.uk