A Well Deserved Dressing Down for Absolutely Everybody. Including You.

Yes, and me.

You-finger
This is all your fault.

  I’m angry.  I’ve tried to calm down using music, booze and venting at a mirror but I can’t. Instead I’ve written a comprehensive telling off for everybody including you.  In the interested of making this readable in a timely manner I’ve limited myself to two sentences and no swearing, which was a hell of a challenge.  Read this and feel bad, you deserve to.

  Brexit voters:

  The Poor.

  I understand you’ve been messed around and despised by successive governments for decades now but which part of you decided ‘I know, I’ll mash my nose in to a fine paste with a heavy meat tenderiser to spite my face?’ The knee jerk reactionary part, that’s which, you damned fools.

  The Woman Who Said That She Voted to Leave the EU Because She ‘Didn’t See the Point in her Daughter Learning French’ Because, In Her Words, ‘She’s Never Going to Go There.’

  Merely repeating what you said is dressing down enough you utter, utter cretin.

  Cynical Appropriators of World War 2.

  Seventy year old conflicts from a time when the shape of world politics was absolutely unrecognisable are completely irrelevant and when you bring up either World War to argue about Brexit you, by implication, suggest that I dishonoured the memory of my grandfather’s distinguished service in the Navy fighting the Nazis by voting to remain.  How dare you.

  Blustering Morons.

  Being concerned about immigration may not always be racist but it is the sort of curtain twitching xenophobia I had hoped we’d left in the twentieth century.  Add to that the fact that we will need to take part in the common market in order to survive, which will also guarantee free movement of labour and so make no difference to immigration, and I hope you feel like the idiot you are.

  Remain Voters:

  Young People.

  The tiny number of you who voted overwhelmingly wanted to remain, the ones who didn’t bother deserve the hell they’re bringing down upon themselves.  And well done for failing to organise all those rallies before the vote when they might have actually made a difference.

  All Other Remain Voters, Including Me and, Probably, You.

  Where was your passion before the results were announced?  You failed to convince anyone because you didn’t even bother to try or, if you did, you failed to say anything remotely inspiring or interesting, idiot.

  Tories:

  David Cameron.

  Hey, you necro-porciphiliac, how’s that plan to unite the Tories by getting the European question answered once and for all doing?  Keep your shiny cheeks shut on the back benches, you abject failure.

  Boris Johnson.

  Hope you’re happy you jowly, mop headed, Beano character, look what you did.  Also you owe the country enough money to build a new hospital every month and I’m sorely tempted to try to find a way to take you to court to get it, liar.

  Theresa May.

  You’ve failed to show even the slightest concern for the failure of the remain campaign, the campaign of which you were a part, and as a result of your failure you’ve risen to the top by virtue of everyone else sinking down.  What a shameful, pointless Prime Ministership you’ve managed to grasp.

  Labour:

  Corbyn.

  Good man you may be but your complete inability to do anything but yell in to an echo chamber has destroyed all hope of anything ever getting any better.  I want a competent version of you in charge of the Labour party so that it can win elections, to most people a ‘movement’ is something you flush down the toilet.

  The Parliamentary Labour Party.

  He’s been fighting for this for forty years, his supporters are absolutely passionate and full throated and you’re bringing nothing to the table.  The fact that you thought a mass resignation could work just demonstrates how completely out of touch you are.

  Momentum.

  Your tepid and simpering response to the disgusting, misogynistic, homophobic abuse I’ve seen some of you hurl at people online is repulsive and you should all be ashamed, saying ‘but they’re mean to us too’ is a pathetic excuse used to do nothing. Also you’re doing it wrong, a cult of personality is supposed to form around a person with an actual personality.

  The Press:

  The BBC.

  ‘Balance’ doesn’t mean inviting one pro-brexit economist on for every pro-remain economist any more than it means getting climate change deniers on to argue with other people who are actually correct.  I’m not sure what the point of reporting news actually is if facts, established actual facts, are ignored because the government of the day don’t like them.

  The Murdoch Papers.

  Three decades of howling about immigrants and whinging about the EU has got you what you wanted, well done, you’ve destroyed even the illusion of democracy in order to serve Darth Murdoch.  You might be the worst people in this, you bunch of race baiting filth.

  UKIP and Other Racists:

  Nigel Farage.

  You said ‘not a bullet was fired’ in order to achieve a ‘revolution,’ forgetting Jo Cox’s murder which was absolutely the result of your mendacious campaign clearing a path for the sort of racism you’ve always pretended to disavow.  Now you’ve vanished because you already know how terrible the storm that’s coming is going to be, well done Wormtongue.

  Every other racist.

  Slope off and rot in your hovels, dogs.  In the 21st Century the only excuse for actual, full blown racism is genuine cranial trauma, otherwise you’re the sort of simpering coward who fears anything they don’t expect.

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The Cuckoo Nest Plot.

This man is an arsehole.
Lucifer. Not as interesting looking as many Devil Worshipers hoped.

Boris Johnson is not standing for the leadership of the Conservative party.  This, to many people, is a bit confusing.  If you are a leave voter and reading this then, firstly, you made a stupid choice at the ballot last week and you should feel awful about it, secondly you’re probably wondering why the mop headed traitor you trusted didn’t do what he said he would do and actually see this catastrophe through.  If you’re a remain voter you’re probably laughing at the Tory in fighting and don’t care about the details.  Trust me though, this is one of the most astonishing stories to emerge from this whole mess. In place of Boris Johnson is a man who has engineered one of the most breathtakingly brutal political plots since the fall of the Byzantine Empire.  Reading about it, finding out just how duplicitous and destructive this fish lipped narcissist’s schemes were, I am a little stunned.  Boris Johnson is an irresponsible, lying turd but Michael Gove may actually be the devil.

For those with no interest in the breeding practises of birds (so most of you); some breeds of cuckoos raise their young by laying their eggs in other bird’s nests.  Birds, not being the brightest of beings, often don’t quite notice that their clutch has changed so dramatically and proceed to nurture the things, then the cuckoo chick destroys all the other eggs before they hatch and reaps the rewards of being an only child for a while until it leaves its surrogate parents forever.  This ‘Cuckoo nest plot’ has the perfect name.

Gove must have been planning to stab Johnson, his friend of twenty years, in the back before the campaigns got underway.  He may even have planned it from the moment Cameron declared there would be a referendum, so calculating were his actions.  The Gods alone know where the seed of his evil began but they started to sprout during a dinner party at Boris Johnson’s house.  It is well known that before the referendum Johnson was vocally in favour of the European Union but, during a dinner party with his old friend Gove, he was convinced to cross the divide and campaign to leave.  Don’t get me wrong; Johnson made a calculated political manoeuvre and gambled the future of the country for his own selfish ends but Gove was his enabler.  This in no way absolves Johnson of guilt, of course.  Gove, in contrast, has always been a Eurosceptic, men of his lack-of-calibre tend to be.  This is his one saving grace; the consistency of his callousness.

So, armed with the backing of another cabinet minister and a vacuum at the head of the leave campaign to fill, Johnson stunned Cameron and the country to announce he would be campaigning for Brexit.  Well we all know how that turned out.

The second step in Johnson’s myopic master plan was to win the Conservative leadership contest.  His plan was simple; he would use his position as leader of the leave campaign to unite both the remainers and the Eurosceptic wing of his party and take a fresh, revitalised Tory bloc in to the next election.  The problem was that he won, and now the old guard loathed him with a seething, unexpected passion.  It wouldn’t matter though, he would still have enough support unless there was some unforeseen problem, he and Gove had enough allies between them to easily secure the future of the party and Gove had never had any pretentions to leadership.  He had said as much, repeatedly and at a loud volume.

There was, however, the problem of Brexit to contend with, he would have to spell out a clear, coherent vision for that swiftly in order to seize the initiative in a now freewheeling conservative party.  Cameron had gone and the entire country was languishing, all he had to do was make sure everyone knew he had a plan.  He penned an article for the Telegraph and had Gove check over it.  It was perfect for Gove; an obscene abrogation of absolutely every promise and hint their campaign had made, so he finessed it to make sure it came across as even more bewildered and useless than it already was.  It was a fantasy list of unachievable hopes that nobody in the European Union could ever accept.  No free movement of labour but access to the single market.  If he had carried those pledges in to Brussels he would have been laughed out of Belgium, and rightly so.

After that he was done, but it was possible he didn’t know it.  Gove and his wife continued their blitz against his hopes.  To tee it up his wife, Ms Vine, ‘accidentally’ sent an email to a member of the public which was supposed to go to her husband.  This public spirited, anonymous individual who almost certainly doesn’t exist and is a journalist, leaked it to sky news.  It painted a picture of an indecisive government in waiting and a Gove rightly troubled by the goings on in camp Boris, extolling in him the need for ‘SPECIFIC assurances from Boris OTHERWISE you cannot guarantee your support.’

By now Johnson’s bid was looking less like a smooth transition and more like a blundering mess.  If the party couldn’t get this right at a time like this then the government could fall, haemorrhaging Tory voters to UKIP and Labour and costing them their tiny majority.  Never mind the chaos in the Labour party, half of the country now loathed them.

It was time to act and Johnson was becoming increasingly frantic.  First he met with Andrea Leadsom to try to convince her to withdraw her leadership bid and, by all accounts, succeeded.  She would throw her support behind him in the coming contest and it could well be enough to secure his leadership.  He sent out invitations to his launch event, best to make it official and quickly.

The morning after the Conservative party summer ball (because of course Tories have one of those) Gove struck.  He had told as many people as he could, presumably, all sorts of horror stories about the dithering and meandering of Boris the botch, the overgrown schoolboy who would burn the country down if he could be king of the ashes.  By the time the sun reached its zenith the work was done, no longer was Johnson a brief spark of the old order of the conservative party, he was a babbling schoolboy blundering from one position to another.

It was enough.  Gove was Johnson’s closest political ally and friend of twenty years, who wouldn’t believe that his concerns were genuine?  It was self-evident that the next leader of the Tories had to be a Brexiter and if not Johnson it would have to be Gove.

So the next day we were treated to one of the most flagrant assaults in the rear with a bladed weapon since Caesar.  Gove announced his candidacy and, by all accounts, told Theresa May in advance and said nothing to Johnson.  By mid-morning Johnson’s support was all but gone to Gove, his ‘dream team’ partner had taken up arms against him and he had a press conference organised for that afternoon.  Surveying the devastation around him he stepped up to the podium, mop hair ruffled and looking as dumbstruck and distraught as he had the morning his great ‘victory’ in the referendum was announced, and he told the stunned crowd that he would not be standing in the leadership contest.

Now I understand if, after that, you might feel a flicker of emotion for the shell of Johnson’s career.  It’s human to want to pity a man subject to such a colossal betrayal, but never forget: the man has probably destroyed the country in order to fulfil his sad little ego trip.  As for Gove?  Well, it looks like some things are beyond the pale even for a party that tends to celebrate a well-executed scheme no matter how evil.  Gove is trailing badly, yesterday’s man, losing support from MPs who see his actions, as they would repugnantly put it, as ‘not cricket.’  The good news is that we won’t see a Gove or Johnson Prime Ministership, the bad news is that we are likely instead to get a woman who campaigned to stay and has always, throughout her entire political career, been a Eurosceptic.

This is a time of lies in our political circles.  A time of grinning through causes they don’t believe in to position themselves better for the future.  Corbyn wanted to leave but campaigned to stay, Johnson wanted to stay but campaigned to leave, May wanted to leave but campaigned to stay and not a single member of our political establishment has managed to tell a single truth from the beginning of this free-wheeling disaster.  A plague on all their houses, and remember that Gove is the most callous of all.

Letting Slip the Dogs of War.

SyrianFlagBurningHonestReportingFlickr  It was inevitable. It’s been inevitable since the eleventh of September, 2001. It’s been inevitable since the soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It’s been inevitable since the British Empire carved up the region and empowered a dozen petty despots to rule over oil rich land. It may even have been inevitable since the Ottoman Empire collapsed under its own weight. We’re going to bomb Syria and it’s going to escalate horribly.

  Isil/IS/Daesh are a problem. There’s no negotiated settlement to reach with them, they can’t be reasoned with because they believe they are ushering in the apocalypse and, importantly, they believe that’s a good thing to do. Their King, who I will not dignify with the title of Caliph, is a racist, a rapist and a murderer who has used their fanaticism to carve himself a kingdom and now we’re going to bomb it.

  So how did it come to this? Well, we’re talking about a region of the world which has arguably birthed all of the world’s most successful religions that sits on top of an enormous volume of oil but very little fertile land outside of Egypt. It’s not hard to see how that could be a powder keg, in fact it’s hard to see how it could not be. These are, however, very broad strokes. A potted, simplified history will follow.

  Daesh grew out of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), AQI declared an “Islamic State” in Iraq and changed its name to Islamic State in Iraq (ISI) because they have no imagination because fascists tend not to. They were no longer getting along with Al Qaeda because ISI were brutally persecuting and murdering Shia Muslims. Why were they persecuting Shia Muslims? They say it’s because they’re infidels but really it’s for the same reason all fascist states start persecuting minorities; a shared enemy is a uniting force. It is an effective, awful way to bind people together.

  Of course they didn’t stop there. They did terrible things to Christians, to Jews, to Yazidis, to Druze, to gay people, to anyone who didn’t fit in to their narrow, misogynistic, fascist cult. It wasn’t enough, they underestimated the war weariness of the West so they started to attack targets at home. The Paris attacks were the most notable, though there have been other, smaller atrocities.

  So how can I argue against bombing them? How can I, I hear some of you ask, condemn military action against them?

  The short answer is that I’m not. They have to be stopped. I’m not against action against Daesh, I’m against this action against Daesh. It’s another open ended mess of meaningless, mission creep drivel. Time and again in the ten hour House of Commons debate we saw MP’s stand and warn us against assuming that we were about to repeat the mistakes of the past. They didn’t really seem to tell us in what way it would be different this time.

  This whole thing is probably closest to Libya. Not Iraq so much, though the rumbling war there was an unmitigated disaster by any sane measure. In Libya we sent the bombs down to help a revolution in progress and saw a vile regime replaced by a thousand warring militias and an utterly failed state, a post apocalyptic, Mad Max wasteland nightmare brewing the worst kinds of violence, a chaos of pain and misery.

  The Prime Minister claims there are 70,000 ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels with whom we can work to build a post-Assad Syria. This claim rightly raised more than a few guffaws. The idea that any kind of remotely accurate data could be extracted from the Syrian maelstrom is laughable at best, I suspect this one is on a par with the ‘42 minutes’ claim made by Blair before Iraq.

  So what am I trying to say? Honestly I’m conflicted. I don’t want to see a war over there but that’s not really an option because it’s already happening. Britain does share some of the responsibility for the mess Syria is in, the sense of responsibility doesn’t come from some vestigial colonial urge. Daesh are awful and they absolutely will not stop until they are made to stop and the longer they’re left there the worse it will get both for the people living under their rule and us in the West. Doing nothing could never be an option for any nation in Britain’s position, no matter what form of government or culture or faith.

  I suppose, at heart, I feel you cannot fight half a war. We have to speak with Russia to make something workable. We have to help the Kurds find a future. We have to work with Iran. We cannot allow Assad to reestablish control now that the people of Syria have comprehensively rejected his rule. We need a broad coalition, a workable solution and achievable goals. We need to know what we’re getting in to and how to get out of it. We’re not really doing any of those things.

  So I’m against airstrikes because bombs alone won’t bring us peace. They won’t lift the spectre of international terrorism from the world. They won’t kill only the bad people, no matter how accurate they are and how much the political leaders might wish it. They can’t emancipate women or rebuild the temple of Bel. They can’t teach a child that a martyr’s shroud is unbecoming. All a bomb can do is explode.

Rise and Fall.

article-2147680-06AB8833000005DC-93_468x286  
  I’ve been trying to come up with a way to explain just how much trouble the world is in. It’s difficult, to be honest, even dealing with the mathematics of the economic woes is near impossible. It’s nothing to do with the vast scale of the numbers, which are terrifying, it’s to do with the wealth gap.

  About 80 people own half the world’s wealth now… this is a false start. That sounds ridiculous but 80 isn’t a small number as such. Then again, when you realise there are seven billion people on the planet so 80 people own as much as three and a half billion people then… nope. I’ll start again.

  The odds are that if you add together the wealth of everyone you’ve ever met and everyone you ever will meet you will not have as much money as one of these people. No, that doesn’t work either, that sounds like envy when it’s just an attempt to explain the difficulty.

  The wealth of Bill Gates alone could build 35 Burj Khalifas. It could fund two Manhattan Projects today. He could pay for all of the Apollo moon landings again, twice. This still doesn’t work. Also Bill Gates has at least signed up to leave half his wealth to charity after his death. Probably tax free as well because these things are.

  The problem here is one of scale. You, most likely, are thinking of what these people own as a very, very large wage but it isn’t; it’s insane. They can do literally anything and get away with it. They have more money than you could possibly understand.

  It’s like trying to explain the sun to a candle flame.

  And despite this, despite all this, they are growing richer. Does that infuriate you? It should. It should make you sick with the vile scale of the relentless avarice.

  Does this sound like the politics of envy? I don’t care. I don’t want what they have, I don’t want yachts and football teams and massive charity foundations that effectively function as tax breaks, I just want enough to get by and have a good time now and then. Maybe a little more, enough not to have to toil for someone else. I don’t have that.

  Economists argue that wealth can’t be measured like that, that it’s created from some mystical spring hidden in the financial sector. To a degree, bizarrely, this is true, but most of the bounty of that spring is slurped up by entitled filth before it ever reaches you. Or anyone you know.

  In Greece the Syriza party were elected to put a stop to the awful austerity bludgeoning the country has been taking. They made some headway, angry though they were, and when they were instructed to take yet more painful measures by the troika they went to the polls and held a referendum about whether or not to accept them. They chose not to and, as a result, their masters in the political parties who answer to the banks and the funds that answer to the banks and the European central bank that answers to the bloody banks, forced them to accept it anyway.

  So it was that in Athens, in the birthplace of direct democracy, after an exercise in direct democracy specifically rejecting the fresh avalanche of fiscal agony, the citizens were overridden by the bankers. The excuse, as it has been for some time, is that there is no more money. The scum at the top of the pile keep getting richer.

  Now in the UK we have a new Labour party leader. He’s okay, kind of left wing, certainly more left wing than the limp, meandering shadows who’ve run the party after Blair. Kind of left wing. He believes in free markets but he want to renationalise the currently bloody awful railways and institute a kind of direct quantitative easing, effectively printing money to pay for infrastructure projects. He wants to raise taxes for the very wealthy, close tax loopholes and stop the social cleansing of our largest cities. Sounds reasonable to me, more reasonable than pouring money in to a black hole of a financial sector at any rate. The establishment…

  The Establishment. It’s an old word and I’d almost forgotten about it. They’re still there, surprise surprise, and they’re still in charge. Let me give you some examples of just how berzerk they have become since Corbyn’s election.

  The Express, one of our many, many right wing newspapers, printed a story about a member of his family being a somewhat odious sort. By all accounts he was horrific to those in his employ and was dragged before the courts for breaching labour laws on more than one occasion. Newsworthy? Nope, it wasn’t him and there is no suggestion that he colluded in this behaviour in any way. I’m sure he didn’t anyway, unless he has a time machine, because this relative was his great great grandfather. His great great grandfather.

  Other newspapers have made a lot of noise about his lack of a tie, as if not wearing a tie is something that actually matters. “He probably should,” you’re thinking, “if only to protect himself from press attacks like that.” Why? Why should he? Do you wear a tie to work? Statistically; you do not. You almost certainly don’t if you’re a woman. Why should he have to wear a stupid, irritating, gendered item of clothing? I find them distracting, I find it hard to think with one of those bloody things wrapped around my neck. He does wear one in the commons now. I don’t think he should.

  Others have made a huge fuss about him not singing the national anthem during a remembrance service, just like many other attendees. If you’re a UK citizen quick; sing the national anthem! All of it! Now! DON’T GOOGLE THE LYRICS, THAT’S CHEATING. And do it with someone else in the room. Feel a stirring of national pride? No? At best you don’t care and at most you’re a little embarrassed, aren’t you? You didn’t even sing it you liar. What arch patriots these papers are, what lovers of our gracious queen, when less than a week earlier they had gleefully published a picture of her performing a nazi salute while she was an infant.

  Finally (for the purposes of this article if not actually finally, the Establishment really went ballistic at him) a general in the British army said that there would possibly be a coup if Corbyn were elected as Prime Minister. A coup. This man is suggesting, by the law of the land, treason. Can you picture a general saying that about a conservative party leader? No? Of course you can’t, it wouldn’t happen. If he did he would be arrested for it, much as he should be now, but the Establishment had already spent so much time painting him as an illegitimate lefty terrorist that everyone almost laughed it off.

  This is not democracy. Corbyn is going to lose. He’s going to lose badly. He hasn’t put forward any policies which are particularly leftish, he’s been quiet and softly spoken, he’s quite likeable when you see him talking in an interview though he clearly doesn’t like the press (who can blame him?). He’s not going to lose because he’s worse than the other Labour leadership candidates, they were awful, he’s not going to lose because people, when they actually think about it, particularly disagree with his policies, he’s not going to lose because he doesn’t wear a tie, he’s going to lose because the Establishment, the right wing filth who run this country, have already moved heaven and earth to make him unelectable.

  Now, personally, he’s not left wing enough for me. He believes in wage culture and he thinks that a nation state is not an inherently destructive force and a state monopoly on violence is acceptable and a thousand and one other things I disagree with. However I will, probably, vote for the Labour party at the next election because the alternative is the bloody Tories under, most likely, George Osborne. And they’ll lose. They’ll lose hard. Because even the right of their own party have bought in to the narrative that he cannot win. Because an electorate crying out for a more human, less weirdly slick, more relatable politician is nudged gently towards UKIP by the Murdoch papers and their thuggish friends. Because an electorate rapidly falling out of love with austerity is told a thousand things about the man who says to stop it but none of them are about policy. Because he tries to change, a little bit, the consensus that a tiny, brazenly wealthy elite is somehow good for everybody. Because for all the illusion of an egalitarian world we live at the bottom, we are the cattle corralled by people so rich they are effectively a different species, we live in a pen and they squeeze it ever smaller, growing fat off the sound of our pain.

  This means the world is in trouble.  Deep trouble.  The money is utterly entrenched and owned by unaccountable people who can, and will, do anything, anything, to keep it that way.  I genuinely fear for the future.

  I badly, badly hope I’m wrong.

A Brave New World.

burning bank note++It is time to start planning what happens after capitalism. I know that probably sounds like something a fifteen year old with only a vague grasp of politics might say but, honestly, it’s time. There’s a lot going on in the world and all of it points to an end to market growth and without market growth a capitalist system can’t continue. We can’t invest power in wealth, we can’t carry on pretending that it’ll all balance out in the end; from now on global GDP is going to be close to stagnant forever.
++Do I still sound like a fifteen year old? Probably. But there are good, sane reasons to think that capitalism is breathing its last right now. It seems indomitable only because it has to, because part of its power is in seeming insurmountable and sensible, but I intend to put before you a short, hopefully not boring, thesis on why precisely it is ending.

++  1: There is no new industry to find.

++What’s left? The internet should have been, by the logic of capitalism, a huge boost to global markets and, for a while, it was. I’m not talking about the frenzy that led to the dotcom crash of the 90’s, that was an anomaly (of the sort that ruined lives, the kind capitalism is good at producing), I’m talking about the build up to right now. Amazon, one of the largest internet companies, regularly posts almost zero profit. The 90’s and early 2000’s were an absolute orgy of profit for almost everyone as the world grew closer together as a result of the growth of the internet and cheap mobile telephones but people have those now, there’s nothing left.
++Of course, now that there’s nothing left, there are derivatives, a cunning but ultimately ridiculous way to trade anything whatsoever. Derivatives, though, are a colossal gamble.

++Well there’s renewable energy, which could be huge, but the forces arrayed against it are vast and it won’t be massively profitable.  It’ll be good for the planet, of course, but when has capitalism ever cared about that?

++  2: The workforce is tapped out.

++The middle of the century, after World War 2, saw a huge growth in productivity around the world. At first it was due to the introduction of women to the workplace, then the end of empire, then the emergence of trading blocs, the collapse of the soviet union… there are no untapped reserves of humanity left to fling into the maw of the beast. We’re all workers now.

++Growth and productivity seem to be increasing but that’s happening at the cost of longer hours and an ever more distant retirement age. What population is left for capitalism to gobble up? The women of Saudi Arabia? The population of North Korea? They would be better off, undoubtedly, but they would be pitiful drops in the ocean when talking about global capitalism. There is simply nobody left to turn to, no mass of humanity left to take up the mantle of profit.

++  3: Malaise.

++Is there anyone left who believes in capitalism as an ideology? Aside from the very wealthy few, I mean? Most people don’t think about it, and they gravitate towards the status quo because capitalism has spent the last few centuries projecting an image of stability and power that seemed unstoppable. Political parties are beginning to shift leftwards across the world, not just in Europe, it is slow but it is happening. The right simply cannot build up passion in its ideology outside of the sort of blood-and-soil nationalism most right thinking people reject utterly.

++  4: Corruption.

++Endemic in India, Russia and China and steadily growing; corruption is everywhere. The wealthiest are riding roughshod over law because there is absolutely no consequence for it and in a global system the corruption is global. The oligarchs of Russia have their tendrils in London, the monarchs of Saudi Arabia own around 3% of the United States of America’s economy, China owns the world and its political class gets rocked with scandal much more often than is healthy. This is fertile breeding ground for revolution, aside from being simply immoral.

++  5: China is boned.

++Boooooooned. Sorry but it’s true, we’ve all been worrying about Greece when a full third of the world is about to go belly up. We’re bloody doomed.

++  6: This is how Empires end.

++That is to say; Empires of ideology. Alexander built an empire around his own cult of personality, and it could never survive his death. The Romans built an Empire on an ideology of national superiority, when that proved corrupt and impossible to maintain it withered and became an empire of faith. The Empire of faith dwindled with corruption, the faith was used to build an empire of feudal rule based on subservience rather than national borders, almost an acceptance of corruption in itself. Capitalism, to its credit, freed humanity from the shackles of Lords and Kings and built an empire based on trade. But trade is ephemeral, exchange of goods cannot be a philosophy. Corruption grows and now around fifty people own the same amount of wealth as the poorest half of all of humanity. The idea of trickle-down economics is laughably hollow, an unfulfilled promise preached only by a few of the ultra rich so out of touch with the real world that they may well still believe it.

++In London, on sale, to buy, is a vacuum cleaner plated in gold. It has diamonds embedded in the handle. It is, of course, ridiculous. There is, however, a market for them. There are people who have money beyond need or reason who will buy this device despite the fact that they themselves will never use it. They have maids, who are paid a pitiful shred of the worth of their work who will come in to their homes and grasp the handle and feel the diamonds pressing against their palm. The wealthy owner will likely never see it after they have bought it, and food bank use is still growing.

++The GDP of the world will not grow, now. Now wealth is finite. It may fluctuate, it may dip and it may bubble up, but by and large it will be stagnant. Now is the time capitalism eats itself, that the very wealthy will have everything and the poor will have literally nothing. There has never been greater inequality in the world and the world is going to become a harder place in which to survive.

++The stage is set for revolution but it need not be bloody. Violence can be avoided if the owners of all simply lay down their arms and accept that more money than anyone could spend in ten lifetimes need not be owned by a single person. They won’t though. They just won’t. They’ve been brought up in a culture of capitalism and that culture has taught them that ownership is everything and losing a thing is a blow to themselves. They talk casually about how much they are ‘worth,’ as if human life is measured in lucre.

++I’m not sure what the future holds but I am slowly becoming convinced that there is a great deal of violence brewing.  It will make the summer riots of 2011 look like a stroll in a park. I am worried about it, we’re all going to be poor and we’re all going to be angry.

 

This piece edited to correct the date of the summer riots, thanks to @RooftopJemble via Twitter.

A Potted Socio-Political History of 20th Century Britain.

20th-century-britain-timeline-07This year marks a century since the official beginning of World War 1 so it seems reasonable to look back and try to make sense of the swirling maelstrom of the 20th century.  At least that’s what I’m telling myself after trying to write about the event and carrying on much further than I set out to.  History is a complex field, strewn with inconsistencies, shifts and confusion but the last hundred or so years arguably saw more upheaval, more fundamental and absolute change for the average British citizen than any other. For most of the preceding aeons of human existence it makes sense to talk about what rulers were doing and only occasionally demands an investigation into the lives of the small folk; they would farm as they always had, then later they would toil in factories. In the 20th century the bubble of privilege finally burst and education, technology and their sheer numbers made the masses rise to prominence in the UK. It was quiet, it was bloodless and it was, without question, a revolution.

1900-1950, Death Enthroned.

Queen Victoria died in 1901. She was very, very old, she had reigned through massive cultural upheaval, she was beloved by her subjects and the biggest Empire the world has ever seen was hers. Somehow, through all this, peace had been the order of the day. Barring the occasional scrappy little war and colonial rebellion Europe had seen an unprecedented period of bloodlessness. The dam was about to burst.
The first half of Britain’s 20th century history is a war story. For that matter the first half of Europe’s 20th century is a war story. The recently unified Germany began to stir, a childish, petulant Kaiser wanted his name writ large across the Earth and pushed the complex and insane house of cards the crowned heads of Europe had built into chaos. Germany needed to show its strength, still the only true measure of worth in the corridors of power. The people of Russia had enough of the depredations of absolute monarchy and toppled the Czar in favour of a more benign dictatorship and the British Empire lumbered into action.
For half a decade vast armies pounded at each other. Millions died. The war reached a peak of frenzy and men and women perished in droves doing their duty to their monarchs. A peace was signed, Germany was crippled and to the victors went the spoils.
The League of Nations was formed to stop it ever happening again but no real authority was ever invested in it and the whole thing was essentially a waste of time. There was a resentment growing about the old monarchies, a distrust of the politics of personality and a great many people felt that the Soviets were the way of the future. For thirty years there was a tense ceasefire while Germany festered and power ebbed away from royalty across the continent. Ideology became paramount, no more would people stand to beg for change from hereditary inbreds but they would seize it and force it upon the world. People had looked at the horrors of the Great War and seen the futility of dying for the squabbles of the kings, they now understood that their power came from the obedience of the masses.
Not in Germany, though. In Germany democracy had failed them and roving gangs of communists would fight with roving gangs of fascists. Through a combination of cynical political manoeuvring and charisma the Nazis rose. From the morass of a failed state Hitler rose to power and the world bled again. The atrocities committed during that second explosion of violence seem impossible now. As does the scale of it all. At the outbreak of war the German army had three million personnel, more than double the number America has now.
The war ended and Germany was occupied, seemingly indefinitely, as the celebrations of the allies collapsed into distrust and political manoeuvring. Britain celebrated amidst the rubble, but when the smoke from the bombs cleared and the sheen of victory ebbed away the cost turned out to be almost too much to bear; the Empire was gone, the economy was in tatters, the prime minister who had led them to victory was an ageing drunk unsuited to peacetime.

The 1950s, A Scrap Over A Canal.

Another war began, defining the 1950’s as the era of deep Cold War. Comrade Stalin, the highwayman who became the most powerful man on the planet for what seemed like forever, passed away did not precipitate the long hoped for collapse of the USSR. Suspicion and fear ruled all, the Empire crumbled to a few scattered outposts and the country was a bankrupt mound of rubble. The Soviets prove just as willing to take part in atomic brinkmanship as the Americans. Veterans of the bloodbath of the last half century do great things in Britain; they build a welfare state, a National Health service, they demand the rights they are due. A new political consensus takes hold; capitalism with government intervention.
All is far from settled. The public are rebuilding, still proud of their role in defeating fascism, but the youth culture of the time is one of violence. Mods and Rockers battle it out even as memories of falling bombs and blackouts haunt their sleep. Churchill was kicked out of office and the Empire is a desiccated shell… unfortunately his successor hasn’t quite noticed.
In 1956 General Nasser of Egypt nationalised the Suez canal, taking it out of western control. A group of representatives in dark suits with villainous moustaches gathered together and found a way to use this as an excuse to occupy the country. Britain, France and Israel moved their armies in and handily defeated the unprepared, poorly armed and poorly trained soldiers of the Egyptian army. Almost as soon as the sand had settled in the wake of the tanks the United Nations and the united States told Britain, France and Israel to get the hell out of there. Faced with sanctions and international isolation the three nations withdrew in ignominy.
It doesn’t sound like much, does it? It sounds like an embarrassing incident from a time when the world was far happier to shed blood for money. What it doesn’t sound like is the death of the shrivelled remnant of British Imperial policy. It was though, and the country knew it. For centuries the nation had been at the heart of the world, a superpower like no other, and now its time was done. For the first time in living memory it began to look inwards, to reflect on what identity it had beyond wars of conquest. What was it supposed to do now? What was Britain without the British Empire?

The 1960s, It’s Hip to be Hip.

A number of things happened in the early ’60s which changed the world utterly, though nobody could have known quite how. Telephones, televisions, vinyl, the birth control pill and the washing machine (no, really, imagine a world without them, where it takes an entire day to wash clothes by hand, and you’ll realise that including washing machines on that list is no joke) all became affordable, widespread and ubiquitous. The world shrank as the first transatlantic television broadcast played the Beatles live to America and the generation with no memory of Nazi bombs grew to adulthood. Men’s hair grew longer, women’s skirts shrank, the youth of the day held hands in joy over the death of the old world. So how did that happen? What social force had birthed the Hippies, such a totally, bizarrely new force in the world?
The youth had been brought up on war stories. They had been told by their parents, the fighting generation, about the evils of the Nazis. They had been told that they defeated bullies, that the bullies ruled with violence, that they only respected strength and that they used racism to justify their horrors. At the same time they had been taught about the communists, about the iron curtain across the sea behind which people were reduced to a statistic and managed like cattle, where those with different ideas were worked to death in Gulags, where military parades went on for hours and always the nuclear stockpile grew. They looked across the ocean at America and saw McCarthyism in full swing and racist segregationist laws forcing black people to sit at the back of buses.
The conviction grew, and hardened, and became a creed: love is the most important thing in the world.
Since the very earliest Christians this idea had not been so earnestly preached. The hippies wanted a world where violence did not exist, where kindness was paramount and where one nation could not make war on another just because it felt like it. They were political but they did not tie themselves to old ideas of politics for the most part, a sort of liberal socialism was enormously popular where before socialism and soviet communism had often been indistinguishable. And nobody could argue against it. It would have taken a rare kind of fool to stand on a soap box and denounce love.
A thousand and one new ideas sprung up. A new wave of feminism was born from the creed of love, communes were established, music flourished, living artists became household names, new ideas were embraced as old ideas fell apart. Not all the ideas were good ones, not all of them lasted, but it was an age of experimentation and failure wasn’t going to stop the new way of thinking. If you think you owe the hippies nothing you are wrong, they unquestionably changed the world, and it was unquestionably for the better. There was opposition to it all, of course, but for the most part it crumbled before the power of the flower.
Britain was hip, riding high on a tide of cultural power owned by its youth. For a while it was glorious, for a while it was building an empire of music and freedom, for a while the masses floated on a cloud of hope.

The Early 1970s, The Long and Winding Road.

Politicians couldn’t keep up. They just couldn’t. Britain was run by a clique of posh old boys from the same half dozen schools with the same half dozen recessive genes, they were far too far removed from the reality of daily life that social change for them happened far more slowly than for anyone else. Trust in politics collapsed and, with it, so did the economy. Even the hippie movement, so full of life and hope, became staid and unimaginative as progress stalled. Adding to the grey tedium of predictable progressive rock slouching its way on to the charts were waves of strikes (some necessary, others less so) and a feeble coalition government with no clear or new ideas (sound hauntingly familiar yet?).
The cultural landscape became as bleak and depressing as the lingering brick dust of the blitz. Everyone had simply run out of steam, going through the motions as the strikes cut the supply of electricity down to three days a week in parts of the country. People were getting restless.

The Late 1970s, Never Mind the Bollocks.

People get Punk wrong, I think. There is an idea that it was somehow a reaction to a tired hippie subculture that somehow should have given in but it was more nuanced than that. Punk came about far more as a reaction to the failures of those in charge and the ineffectual tactics of those trying to elicit change.
Strikes didn’t work any more, the endless, hours long philosophical debates were reaching ever more arcane ground and solving nothing at all. Everywhere there was someone telling you what to do; a public official here, a union leader there, your boss, your MP, a somehow still existing aristocracy, a lecturer, a teacher, an endless parade. It’s no wonder they decided to openly and angrily tell them all they could stuff it up their arse.
The voters rushed to the other extreme. They had seen the chaos that the hippie movement had birthed and decided, perhaps, that it wasn’t for them any more. They floundered in uncertainty and found technology beginning to replace their jobs so they looked for someone who could restore the nation to a time before all the mess. They knew, though, it their heart of hearts, that the past was gone. Nobody could restore the Empire, Britain could not and should not be expansionist again. It was an impossible position, looking for something old and something new, something strong and something stable. And in she walked, with booming voice and hair of flame, Margaret Thatcher.

The Early 1980s, No Such Thing As Society.

They were smug, eccentric, opinionated, awful in every way, but they knew what they wanted and the left was too busy tearing itself apart. The left was strong, in terms of numbers, but too many factions vying for power made it arguably unelectable. In their thousands, in their millions, the public turned away from the self indulgent civil wars of the labour party.
It’s a tough period to write about, really. I was born in this era and I can, just, remember the hatred Thatcher engendered. I don’t remember anyone loving her, not truly, her supporters seemed more frightened of returning to the chaos of what had gone before than in her terrifying ideology. I make no bones about being biased against her regime, almost all the worthwhile pop culture of my childhood was a left wing attack on her. I’ve heard feminists argue that she wasn’t “really” a woman (sorry, but she self identified as female, even she had the right to her gender) so great was the rage she drew out. I find it very, very difficult to pay her any kind of compliment so, from this point on, take this history with an even greater pinch of salt.
Thatcher swiftly lost popularity and almost only served one term as prime minister. She was flagging desperately low in the polls for a while, weak and useless and, for a time, was regarded as something of a lame duck. She had broken the back of the trade union movement but the life of the average British citizen was not measurably improving. Then Argentina invaded the Falklands.
Her refusal of international help to expel the fascist regime from sovereign British soil and the subsequent British victory saw an upsurge in patriotism and support for the government that catapulted her back in to office. Memories of standing alone against Hitler were not quite extinguished, a flicker of the old Imperial pride blazed for an instant as the SAS took their bayonets and charged an Argentinian bunker (no, really, this did happen). For a time Thatcher was something old and something new again, a woman who could restore glory to Britain while leading it into the new golden age.

The Late 1980s, The Lady’s Not For Turning.

Their power was absolute now, though Labour were beginning to sort themselves out. The GDP of Britain was growing more quickly than anyone could have dreamed after industry after industry was privatised. Laissez-faire was the order of the day, the government should not interfere with the brightest and best specimens of humanity, the ones best suited and positioned to grasp the immense wealth on offer. A few sex scandals began to rock the conservatives but nothing to really worry about.
Meanwhile Neil Kinnock grew to prominence in the Labour party and began to purge it of elements too radical for the electorate to swallow. Gone was Militant, and the communists, and the Spartacists. The left would face the threat of Thatcher unified or it would wither to nothing.
The streets told a different story. I can remember, in amongst the nuclear paranoia, fear of the IRA, homophobia and violence of my school life, the scale of the homeless population. Poor areas were terrifying in a way it’s hard to describe to those who don’t remember them. Riots were brutal, the nation got angrier and angrier as I grew up and those splinter groups of the left agitated from outside the political system. In response to the growing discontent in the country Thatcher’s regime moved, if it were possible, to the right. In came the poll tax. In came the end.

The 1990s. Things Can Only Get Better.

The decade opened with bigger and more violent riots than this country had seen for as long as anyone can remember. The idea that a fixed rate of tax rather than the sliding scale we have now would be somehow fairer beggars belief. It had no popular support, no sensible method of implementation, no logic beyond ideology. People had had enough, they had watched the rich grow from being merely wealthy to being disgustingly bloated on their own avarice while unemployment had steadily grown. The government, by this point, had become a myriad of tiny viscous cults of personality hell bent on protecting the established order and Labour had finally moulded itself into something approaching a functioning political party.
The tax was about to be introduced but Militant Tendency had been agitating against it. 200,000 people descended on London to show their discontent, they did not plan a peaceful protest.
For hours it went on. Luxury sports cars were torched, police were hospitalised, Parliament Square was full of angry, angry people ready to lynch any politician they could lay their hands on. The government, hoping for screams of outrage from the population at large, was clearly terrified by the lack of noticeable condemnation. The Poll Tax was quietly dropped and Mrs. Thatcher was brutally, unceremoniously removed from office.
John Major cut a pathetic figure, his weedy voice, weird turn of phrase and unbelievably thick spectacles notwithstanding. Kinnock was not much better, mind you, waiting patiently in the wings and holding on to the idea that his victory was somehow assured. People weren’t ready for Labour yet, they weren’t quite ready to step away from Tory dominion and take a chance at something new. Thatcher had been the longest serving British prime minister ever, ‘conservative’ and ‘government’ had become synonymous.
Meanwhile youth culture had mostly given up on politics and changing the world. They looked at the government, at the legions of trade unionists and anarchists who had fought against them, at John bloody Major and threw up their hand in despair. They found the drug which made them feel great, music that said nothing but drove away all thought bar the dance, and went to rave away their spare time rather than make the effort to change the world.
Oh, okay, I sound like an old man, but this was my generation. There were a few who still talked politics, still agitated for change, but the driving force behind youth philosophy was to have a good time rather than make the world better. They were tired, tired of being told the world would be better and that they had to fight for that. Fifty years had passed since the German bombs rained down, the people of Britain had earned the right to have a break from the constant struggle, pop a pill and rave ’til dawn.
Finally, finally, the Tories fell from power. Scandal after scandal, sleaze after sleaze and an entire Jeffrey Archer put paid to them. John Smith looked upon decrepit remains of the Tories, looked at his New Model Labour party, looked at the opinion polls on the eve of a general election, smiled to himself and died of a massive heart attack.

The End of the 20th Century, the Birth of a New Millennium.

If you’re old enough to read this you know the rest. You know that Blair took over from Smith, pleased everyone for a bit and them pissed them all off. You know about 9/11 and 7/7 and the coalition and Clegg’s treachery and the expenses scandal and Plebgate.
But where are all the subcultures? Where is the new mass movement that wants to change the world? Where are the debates and reaction? The morass of chaos from which new ideas are formed? How has the world changed so immeasurably, so totally, and stalled? Where is change going to come from?
Isn’t it obvious?
It’s here. It’s on the internet. The whole world is a public forum now. Youth culture doesn’t need to wear a specific type of clothing to stave off the isolation and find like minded people, they can if they like but often they’ll just look at Facebook profiles. There’s a lot of debate about whether this is a good thing or a bad thing without anybody pointing out that it’s neither, just a new thing. The new subcultures are the message boards of 4chan and the Bronies, as laughable to us now as the hippies were when they burst in to the world. Maybe they’ll change the world and stick around forever like the hippies, maybe they’ll go the way of the New Romantics, who knows? I’ll stay a Goth, and I’ll look forward to finding out.

A Rising Tide of Bastards.

fireflagThe European elections are over and now everybody has to sit back and as how on earth did it come to this? How did UKIP, of all parties, come first in the European elections in the UK? How did Labour only just scrape in ahead of the Tories four years in to this disastrous coalition? How did so many millions of people look at a ballot paper with UKIP on it and decide to put an ‘x’ next to them? A party of dim witted racist, homophobic xenophobic reactionary bigots led by the sort of bloviating fuckwit you’d edge away from in a pub has done better than every other party. It’s no use, is it? No use complaining about it, time to examine why.

1: Nobody has a clue what the EU is for.
Go on, tell me what the EU does. Don’t be pejorative, don’t say something pithy that doesn’t actually answer the question, I want to hear details about the common agricultural policy or the working time directive without you having to look it up. I already know a bit, because I make it my business to try to understand how I’m governed, but the odds are you have no clue what I’m talking about (and if you do you are a staggering rarity). There are no news crews covering meetings of the European parliament, nobody ever reports new pieces of legislation that aren’t in some way ill judged. The EU has a big, big problem; it’s boring. It’s so boring, in fact, that it becomes dreary to talk about it and the words ‘bureaucrats in Brussels’ are about as exciting as it gets. The only time anyone in any media ever talks about it is when it’s done something stupid or something’s gone wrong so the overwhelming opinion of it is negative. People here in the UK hate the EU but can’t really tell you anything about it. Personally I think it’s got problems but I’d far rather see it fixed than see it destroyed, if I’m going to have to submit to being governed it doesn’t really matter where from as long as I have a say.

2: Recession.
The left does badly in recession, the right makes hay while the sun shines. It’s always been this way; Thatcher, Hitler, McCarthy, Pinochet, these are just some of the right winger who have risen to power in times of financial crisis (and before anyone harps on about Godwin’s law I have to point out that I’m not actually likening Farage to Hitler. Much), When people are growing worse off for reasons they can’t actually see they turn to the right and look for a scapegoat, when they’re being pressed by something or someone they can identify they turn to the left (broadly, there are, of course, exceptions). The EU makes a great scapegoat for the recession and financial slump, bankers simply aren’t getting blamed any more even though it’s their fault.

3: The bay at Boston.
The right in the UK have been in something of a malaise for a while now and it doesn’t look likely to stop at any point soon. Cameron didn’t manage to secure a parliamentary majority after the last election despite going up against Gordon Brown and the old, reactionary policies are dying a death. There are still people out there, however, who think that gay people shouldn’t have equal rights and that foreigners are not to be trusted (amongst other old right wing bugbears) and this has led to a fertile breeding ground for a fourth party. UKIP are the Tea Party of UK politics and I don’t think most politicians here have realised this. They are a grass roots movement full of nutters with a vast number of differing opinions and a taste for shaking up the status quo. None of this would be a problem if it wasn’t for the fact that they want to return to an old, dead status quo that died for damned good reasons.

4: Farage.
Let’s be honest; Farage is a charismatic figure. I hate him, I find him and his policies repellent and his manner irritating in the extreme but he has broad appeal because he is a ‘man of the people.’ I have no doubt whatsoever that he enjoys a pint, a smoke and would probably be quite fun at a party (if I wasn’t busy nicking his coat and filling the pockets with ice cream which I’m sure, to be honest, is the least I would do at a party with Nigel). Seeing Miliband conspicuously eat a bacon sandwich or Osborne conspicuously eat a hamburger is pitiful and sad, frankly. You don’t need to be a man of the people to govern effectively and the tired charade of mainstream politicians trying to appear more ‘normal’ (as if there is such a thing) is never going to work when they’re going up against him. They should not be afraid to appear to be clever.

5: Useless, awful, laughable, terrible incompetence.
The two main parties (I would say ‘three’ but I think it’s a bit mean to get the LibDem’s hopes up) have absolutely no appeal to anybody any more. The Tories are by turns incompetent, clueless, out of ideas, grey faced empty vessels and labour are just the same. Policy is almost indistinguishable apart from a couple of headline grabbing bits and bobs and neither side seems willing or eager to capitalise on the rampant gaffs of UKIP. Make no mistake, UKIP are racist, they are homophobic, they are almost certainly corrupt, they are hypocritical, they are liars, they are xenophobes stuck in the early twentieth century and they should be an electoral blip but the sheer, vital emptiness of the two main parties is enough to drive people away. The Tories need to define themselves in a post Thatcher era and Labour need to do or say something. ANYTHING. Right now they’re getting their arses handed to them.

6: Rays of hope.

Not every cloud has a silver lining but this one does. ‘At least we’re not France’ is, unfortunately, not good enough and I am deeply worried about the rise of Front Nationale across the channel but that’s a story for another time. The rays of hope are limited but they’re certainly worth mentioning.

  • With turnout of around 34% and UKIP securing around 27% of votes cast only about 9% of the electorate actually voted for them.

  • The BNP have no seats any more.

  • The LibDems have reaped some of what they have sown.

  • The Greens did rather well in terms of vote share across the UK (though this did not translate in to seats, even in the PR system).

  • Many voters, according to canvassers, wanted to send the main parties a message, they have certainly done that.

  • The Tories came in third place in a national poll for the first time in their entire history.

  • UKIP can’t actually get the UK to leave the EU without getting seats in parliament.

All we have to do now is put up with seeing Farage’s face all over the place for ages. Much as we have for the last month or so. I was going to write a bit about the press and how they’ve given huge, disproportionate coverage to UKIP and Farage but it was so massive and overwhelming that I would have ended up typing a stream of swearwords with the occasional UKIP member’s name thrown in there as well.