15 Feb 2011

Old Post: F**k The Coalition

The following was posted originally on my old LiveJournal here on the 22nd of November 2010, it has been edited for spelling, grammar, and spacing, but the original hasn't, I've also tried to clarify a few points in square brackets. I'm also reposting this here because, if I can remember my password, I'm probably going to only use my LJ for fangirling over mainstream rock/emo bands. And I really doubt you're interested in my thoughts on Hayley Williams's latest hair colour (not that I've ever posted about that, it's just nice to have the option to).

"The phrase which makes the title of this post has turned into a catchphrase of sorts on twitter (alongside "Hooray #not"), seeing as I've had good call to say it at least 4 times today (well, yesterday as of alone. Admittedly it was over 3 things which I used it, but I think I need to explain WHY I need to say this in more detail. Or just write it repeatedly going by the rather disorganized nature of my thought process and the fact that, to be frank, I am PISSED right now. 

There were various things which made me angry, although most of my anger is still directed at tuition fees rising (I'm a twin and there's no way my parents can afford £18,000 a year [am now aware that this might not work that way, still irritated at the fees rise], plus living costs, so I'd need to work; which, in this day and age, is easier said than done, and I'm not the most emotionally competent of people (I may or may not have mentioned this before, but according to an internet test my EIQ is probably in the 50's [for self-actualization, the site claimed its tests had been scientifically tested, and it was presumably set so that 100 was the average], so yeah)) and, in my opinion, more importantly are the revelations in this article in the Guardian/Observer concerning the response to the Millibank protests (which, incidentally, I mostly agree with, but that guy who threw the fire extinguisher off the roof was a plonker, like Paul O'Grady said, he should have used it to smash a few more windows/doors [this was a joke, this was also, I think, before Edward Woolard handed himself in, I definitely don’t agree with his sentence]).

Apparently the police are planning on working with defence firms to 'militarise' their response to stuff like this, disregarding the fact that they're privatising yet another thing, there is something mildly disturbing about this, especially when you realise what they're working with the defence firms for: "armoured vehicles, body scanners and better surveillance equipment". Basically they want to be better able to observe us/keep an eye on us and at the rate we're going it'll probably turn out that George Orwell was only off by 30 years in 1984 in my opinion. Then again, I may be being alarmist, and he was behind with the technology too, seeing as I don't think that the Party in 1984 had 'unmanned spy drones' to get intelligence on demonstrations, which is what the Tories are planning on using (I seriously wish I was exaggerating here).

They're also planning to counter "threats of civil disobedience from 'political extremists'", which is a rather vague term (for starters define 'civil disobedience', I have a horrible feeling that the Government's definition is one that dictates that anything less tame than the protests by the 'peaceful majority' of students counts, not to mention the definition of 'Political Extremists', which I have a hunch to be more Socialist Worker's Party than EDL , if only due to the former, in my opinion, having far more sympathetic aims and being left-wing [yeah, not sue where I stand on the SWP now, and I’m not even sure that my statement concerning the EDL is accurate]), and "monitoring “extreme leftwing activity”", which is another vague term, does it mean the activity of people who are extreme leftists (like the non-media definition of anarchist, according to my interpretation of the term [not sure what I mean here, probably the same definition by which I consider myself an anarcho-syndicalist or Libertarian Socialist]) or extremist activity from leftists (like the media definition of anarchist [people who smash things up/actually do anything outside of march from A to B]), not to mention that it's only focused on left-wing activity, which actually does make sense as the right-wingers are probably pretty chuffed with the Coalition government,. And we're supposed to think that the Tories aren't being ideological, yeah [though they’re actually being more factional and authoritarian here, the stuff they’re pulling off is ideological though].

Honestly, I'm 14, so I can't vote, but if I was 18 I probably would have voted Tory in the election (admittedly they always get in where I live, but this is still an incredibly embarrassing fact), or probably Lib Dem, so yes, I would have voted in the coalition. But it is worth bearing in mind that all I've experienced is Nu Labour and the press was largely supportive of them [the Tories, not Nu Labour, also I think I still thought of the Grauniad as a paper for ‘posh’ people (ironic for someone who used to read the Mail, I know)], and back then I believed pretty much every opinion voiced there (including <shudder> the Daily Mail). This was because, if I'm being honest, all of those changes were happening to 'Benefit Scrounging Scum' who were, to me at the time, pretty much that [scrounging scum].

I can't even relate to the person I was a few months ago politically apart from the disagreeing with banker's bonuses. Really, I wish I was kidding. So basically seeing this stuff going on (especially since I think the Tories criticised Labour for using too much surveillance) made me feel betrayed. And it isn't just this, I've now realised that the stereotyped portrayal of people on benefits as 'Benefit Scrounging Scum' is just plain wrong, and for the life of me I can't help but wonder why the state lets these lies continue for any reason other than this stereotype suiting their ideological aims, of course they probably don't care. Heck, I can't even get my head round the logic behind some of the coalition's policies (like the whole 'forcing long-term unemployed to work below minimum wage in the private sector' to make less people claim JSA thing), so yeah: F**K The Coalition.
The quotes are from the Guardian/Observer article I linked to at the start, with the emphasis mine."

Also, I really need to start saying the stuff I said would be my catchphrase more...

13 Feb 2011

On Austerity and Shock

I've been reading The Shock Doctrine The Rise of Disaster Capitalism by Naomi Klein recently (over a period of a few weeks; it's a large book and I mainly read it at school due to my mother's derision of anything political (something I'll go into detail about, or not, in a later post)), and was immediately struck by the resemblance of the "economic shock therapy", and the related/congruent shocks of crisis and enforcement, described with in to what the Tories are doing to this country, especially where it is "democratic" governments doing the 'shocking'.

From what I can gather, "Economic shock therapy" is the ideologically driven wholesale privatisation and stripping down of the state accompanied by the reduction of restrictions on Big Business, and it usually provides those at the top with a lot of money. Said economic shock therapy is normally done quickly (like "a short sharp shock"), due to/during a crisis (or 'disaster', hence the subtitle of the book), be it real or imagines and can be accompanied by a "shock of enforcement" of sorts, usually a massive jump towards authoritarianism towards those who speak out against the Government... or in short there are 3 main shocks: The initial shock of crisis (be it real or imagined), followed by economic shock therapy, with the "planned misery" (to use, I think,  Orlando Letelier's term) being enforced with a further shock, with this last shock being in some cases literal.

There are numerous similarities within this pattern to what this government is doing now; first there's the 'crisis' and 'shock' of the deficit which, which is apparently far larger than the Tories realised before taking office (I'm unsure whether I agree with the assertation that there's no money left, although leading credit agencies did threaten to ruin the UK's Perfect AAA rating, and urge a more ambitious plan to cut the borrowing back in June 2010 (something similar, I think, to what's happened to Canada in the past... with said claims being baseless, but with this knowledge coming too late to do anything against the measures taken)).

The various cuts and privatisation or marketisation (functional at least) of the NHS (at least, there's probably more services that are privatised or are functionally becoming that way)  the Government is making also share strong similarities with "economic shock therapy", coming rather quickly, being what is referred to as "voodoo politics" (behind closed doors and expressly not what the Government was voted in for (well, the tories did promise to make cuts, but not to the scale and they weren't really elected (not to mention all the lies both parties in the coalition (and other governments before hand) made in the run up to the election)), and being accompanied by what George Monbiot has described as the heist of the century; allowing businesses to pay no tax on their foreign branches, cutting corporate tax and  allowing businesses to claim back expenses on the foreign branches that they aren't paying tax for. Not to mention the non-taxing of banker's bonuses (which are worth a *lot*), and there are more. And the Tories claim people on benefits are the scroungers. Numerous charities have also warned of the dangers of the Government's cuts, which seem to be rather similar to the "planned misery" of other economic shock therapy programmes.

This brings me to my final point; the 'shock of enforcement'. The government is not fully authoritarian (yet), but the usage of 'kettling' during protests (especially to peaceful, and relatively young (not entirely 'children', but I think the ages of those protesting did lean towards the young side (after all, we're the ones who are losing our futures)) protestors, as seen on Day X (24th November 2010) and Day X3 (9th December 2010),although happily averted on DayX 2 (30th November)) and the, admittedly isolated, usage of CS spray on protestors for UK uncut, who were protesting against tax avoidance, and the cuts, arguing that, if big business paid its taxes, the cuts would be largely unnecessary (when one man (the lovely Sir Phil Green, owner of Arcadia, who is an advisor to the Government on the cuts (well, he's the "efficiency adviser")) has dodged more in tax in one year than my mum'd earn in 100000 years I can say that this is probably not far off, although the tax reforms mentioned before will probably make this less of the status quo) in particular stick out. The discussion of banning protests and the introduction of water cannons (and the police being praised for their restraint in not shooting protestors who surrounded a car carrying the Duchess of York and Prince Charles to the Royal Variety Performance) also raise issues for the fture.

All in all, I'd say that the government's austerity measures are economic shock therapy but less so; perhaps just a jolt from one of those 'shocking pens' or those games which give you electric shocks if you get the answer wrong, rather than a full on ECT shock, but still not very nice nonetheless.

This said, this blog post was written before many of the cuts hit in full and the 'March for the Alternative' on the 26th March (and the Royal Wedding), and the government's handling of those events may very well change my view.

7 Feb 2011

On the EDL

"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."-Article 19 of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This quote pretty much sums up my whole mentality towards freedom of expression. 

There are people who hold views which, to be frank, are reprehensible, the infamous twit wearethebritish being just one example (of many, he was literally the first person I came up with (it was going to be the EDL, but I'm inclined to believe at least some of the membership believe the line that it is against radical Islamism), not even necessarily the best example (maybe crutchbender would have been better...))), however I believe that they have the right to mouth off whatever views they may have, and protest (peacefully) to that effect (I think the pressure of being out in public tends to deter people from not doing so (largely due to accountability/social norms; hence why the police tend to be rather violent), and that any law against protesting is probably more to do with governments being scared of people realising that there's an alternative to what's going on, which is another reason why freedom of expression and thought is important). I believe this regardless of their views, although I do believe that anyone who spouts bile about how people who don't adhere to a certain thing should be killed also should have an eye kept on them (largely because the other rights are also pretty damn important).

Discriminatory and fascistic views are reprehensible, but banning them -in my opinion- isn't the answer, even from a non-moral standpoint; banning people from expressing such views only breeds resentment, it won't stop people having them and may very well result in racists/sexists/homophobes/islamophobes/any other type of discriminator I may have missed claiming the moral high horse. Considering what we're dealing with, this is probably not a good thing. Furthermore, whilst the Right to freedom of Expression is a right, being listened to is rather less so*. This said, I don't necessarily think that ignoring them is the best policy, since I think that quite often people listen to them simply because it seems like the speaker is on their side when no one else is. I'm technically just re-saying what has already been said of this subject, but demonising the EDL and the like, whilst it does make us feel oh so very morally superior and may be justified, will do nothing but enforce the (mistaken) belief that groups like the EDL are the only ones who are sticking up for them (the 'chav' stereotype, as pointed out by Lisa Ansell, and the nose-look-downery that results not helping here (this also being pointed out by Lisa)). This is also why the (popular, mainstream) media has such a right-wing bias, and the despite such politics not being good for humanity (this being in my opinion, and I'm not arguing that the right-wing media needs to be banned), and especially the sort of people who said media is aimed at; they manage to keep up a plausible pretence of supporting the working-class, whilst the mainstream left has the image of being a bunch of detached posh people (or 'Guardian readers' as it were (and I speak as a Guardian reader), and the far left are just 'anarchists' (media definition, basically people who want to ruin this fine country). Just like how 'we' (as in lefties, and I'm making another gross generalisation here) demonise the working-class as 'chavs' and thugs, thus alienating them from both the mainstream political discourse (which focuses entirely one the 'squeezed middle' class of Daily Mail readers (and there's another generalisation)) and left-wing politics (to paraphrase the Wikipedia page for fascism, liberalism is bourgeoisie (or, at least is seen that way), and (not paraphrasing the Wikipedia) socialism (and, as mentioned before, anarchism) is treated pretty badly by the popular media) so along comes the EDL claiming to stand for the working class against the Islamist threat (and indeed I think that a sizable chunk of the people who clicked 'like' on the page for them believe this) and of course people follow them. Then the EDL is demonised, which results in an almost reflexive response of defence and further alienation, especially when you consider that the EDL is basically just spouting off what the right-wing press says in response to immigration, results. The crux of the issue is not the beliefs of the far-right, but the social attitudes and structures which lead to people joining up with the far-right (and quite possibly religious extremism (right down to the demonization, although please note that this is pure conjecture here)), and, more critically, the belief that no one is sticking up for the white working-class. 

Marginalisation, division, and demonization don't help anybody, except maybe those who want us divided. Countering fascism is very good, but going on about how all members of the far-right are scum is not the best way to go about it, consider how the press (and the right) treats us and bear this in mind. Mass tarring of people with the same metaphorical brush may make us (again a generalisation) feel good (and, admittedly, is convenient), but it won't get us anywhere.

I sincerely hope the preceding post makes sense, Lissy.

tl;dr: Yes, racists are bad, no we shouldn't take away their rights. Yes the EDL are not good, but the reasons behind its low-grade popularity are what we should be targeting, not the members. So we should probably stop trolling them (I'm including myself in this) and focus on targeting the factors which (indirectly) caused  its formation. And this has probably been said in a better way before.

*note: I'd like to take this opportunity to say that, apart from suspected spam-bots (and even then, with spam followers, I have a mini argument with myself), I've decided that I don't actually believe in blocking (not that I've really had anyone worth blocking (I've only interacted with wearethebritish, and he blocked me (presumably on the basis of me being a teenage girl and my opinions therefore not counting), and bodderick), so I might very well change my mind on this) even if they're idiot and/or insult you (although I do tend to get rather indignant when I'm told that I'm stupid, trolls be warned.).