Standing up for masculinity.

Purely by broaching this subject, I will possibly be named as a member of the alt-right, called a fascist, a misogynist and will have effigies burned in safe spaces on liberal colleges across the world. For what? Standing up for men? But, just in case you didn’t know, I am fiercely on the left, surely you remember, the place that used to mean fighting for economic inequality, workers rights and looking out for everyone regardless of; ethnicity, religion or gender. This was a time when we looked out at the world and challenged the injustices we found, rather than channelling our self interest and narcissism, based on melanin levels and genitalia. Maybe I’m nuts, which there is a pretty good chance of, but I am starting to worry about this increasing attack on gender, more precisely masculinity. This agenda is driven by a comparatively small but powerful group, usually found in ‘grievance studies‘ classes along with their guru’s pretending to be bone-fide academic professors, setting the agenda for puritanical social policy and morality. These groups are hugely ideological and their main goal is to smash the patriarchy. Which if you follow their logic, is perpetuated by all men, which therefore…….yep, you’ve guessed it, leads to smashing all men.

These very people who proport to be for equality, really want to emasculate the world. This goal has been addressed in a manner of ways. Firstly, there has been a total rejection of all values of the ‘enlightenment’ among this cult. This in effect is the denial of science, reason and objectivity, which has been replaced with postmodernism, this by and large is cultural relativity. This allows the group to deny biological gender differences of any sort, whilst supporting the idea that gender is a social construct. In my mind, this puts them firmly in the same bracket as ‘flat earthers’, as we’ll see later.

Lots of our physiological, psychological and anatomical traits are admittedly on a continuum of sorts. However, taking an average there is no doubt men and women are different, contrary to the views of blue haired identarians. Just in case any science deniers are reading this, I’ll pick just three points and I’ll throw in some scientific papers to back them up. For anyone who knows anything about anatomy, physiology or psychology, I’m sure you will concur that the notion of having to justify that we are indeed different would be hilarious, if only it wasn’t so outlandish.

weight lifter

So, without engaging in too deep of an academic search, this first paper looked at the differences of power production and energy capacities of elite level cross country skiers, from the European journal of applied physiology. This paper showed that the men displayed 87, 97 and 103% higher output of power production and 51, 65 and 71% of greater peak VO2 max than women. In a nutshell power output and endurance is greater in male athlete’s. Moving on, the second paper, and yes there is a slight sports theme, from the journal of sport health science; explains why men see differently to that of women. What this paper suggests is that men outperform women in spatial mental rotation and navigation tasks, While women tend to excel with object location or recognition, as well as verbal memory tasks. What do you know, we are different!

The last paper published in frontiers in neuroendocrinology called ‘The Genetics of Sex Differences in Brain and Behaviour‘, stated that it was hoped the understanding of biological sex differences could help to improve healthcare for both men and women. This paper concluded that although the brains of men and women are highly similar, they also have unique differences that affect biochemical processes, which may contribute to the susceptibility of particular diseases and contribute to specific behaviours. So to round this off here is a quick summary of other differences; men see differently to women, they have good depth perception and distance vision, while women have better night and visual memory. Men are larger, stronger and boys mature later than girls, and so on and so forth. So, now that I’ve wasted a two paragraphs confirming the obvious, that men and women indeed differ in countless ways, let us discuss what is being done to subvert masculinity and why.

Currently it appears en vogue to bring kids up gender neutral? Many of the ideas are based on the ‘blank slate theory‘ inferring that gender is socially constructed. A theory that seems to struggle to gain credence when it bumps into pesky old science, as identified in the previous paragraphs. To confirm the ‘difference theory’ further, there is a raft of research concluding that toy preference is innate. That on the whole girls are inclined to gravitate towards toys such as dolls, while boys are attracted to mechanically interesting toys like cars and trucks. Moreover, these preferences are shown as early as 9 months old, considerably earlier than the emergence of gender awareness at about 18 months. Sadly despite some overwhelming robust science, the ‘choose your own gender’ clan have blindly marched on, claiming men’s and women’s brains are the same.

This is simply refuted in a meta analysis of 126 studies that found men have larger total brain volumes. They display more white matter from the anterior to posterior aspect of the brain, while women have more of these connections running between the left and right hemispheres. My suspicion is, the ‘gender neutral brigade’ is split into two groups; one group which is probably well meaning, but horribly misguided. Meanwhile, the other is completely ideological and is very conscious as to what it’s supporting. Which appears to be engaging in some sort of eugenics type of operation, only this time they’re using social conditioning. The idea behind all this is to bring kids up with no gender labels, until they can choose, which is thought to be approximately four or five. So how about, we go the whole way and not tell them what species they are either, let them choose that too. That would be exciting, with so many animals to choose from.

So where does this anti-science, hoodoo come from. For that information we need to delve back to postmodernism, where practically everything is deemed socially constructed. In the modern era, we can look at the likes of Judith Butler and feminism, for an example of how this has been utilised. To clarify, Butler is an advocate for Gender Feminism, who believes that gender is a social construct and all distinctions between men and women are socially and culturally constructed, therefore, biology plays no role. This thought process, opens the door to beliefs that gender equality can be achieved by quotas, or by teaching men to be less dominating of women, it will solve all our problems. It basically boils the discussion down to ‘nature vs nurture’, and for feminists everything is nurture. Scientist will concede that cultural conditioning has a role, but biologically we are a dimorphic species.

All in all as this attack on masculinity persists, the feminist goal is to ‘smash the patriarchy’, so what better way, than to socially condition masculinity out of boys. Leaving this aside for now, another way that boys have been marginalised whether intentionally or not, is education. I suspect the majority of people in whatever roles in education they hold, have pretty good intentions. But it only seems recently, certainly in the NZ that they are just picking up on the failings of boys at school. Currently 60% of university students are women, and rising. In UK primary schools only 15% of teachers are men. While boys in the US are four times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD and 80% of high school dropouts are boys. It was known as far back as 1997 in the US that girls were outperforming boys in every subject. Despite this, most current education systems still primarily cater for girls, even though it is undeniable that boys learn differently to girls;

  • Boys show more areas dedicated in the brain to spatial mechanical strengths, girls focus on verbal emotive-processing
  • Girls are generally hard wired to be less impulsive, allowing them to sit still, focus, reading and writing at an earlier age than boys
  • Boys brains are hardwired to be single task focused, where girls tend to be hardwired for multitasking. Transitions are generally difficult due to lateralisation of the brain of boys, compared to a typical female cross-communication of brain hemispheres.
  • Less oxytocin in boys brains leads to more aggression and playful rough-housing, while girls have an easier time with impulse control.
  • Boys also learn better through movement, therefore, they find it harder to sit and listen to a story.

Despite this evidence, many schools around the anglosphere still educate kids in a classroom centric and test based learning environment, that is contrary to the way boys learn.

nepali kids

Another among the many tactics used in an effort to control men, is the use of the term ‘rape culture’. In reality, the people who commit these heinous crimes are a tiny minority of all men. Society doesn’t normalise these criminals and celebrate them, we rightly lock them up. Feminism has this nasty habit of accusing all men for; rape, domestic abuse, the gender pay gap and for the perpetuation of the patriarchy. This is achieved by using a theories such as ‘structural violence’, which asserts that if one woman is abused, in some way all members of the group, in this case women are. Using this logic, therefore, the entire male population are oppressors and all women are the oppressed.

It’s this kind of lunacy, that leads to ‘Good Lad‘ workshops, teaching boys about the perceived scale of sexual harassment and violence aimed at female students, and how they must stand up for women’s rights. This is an ideology that is being allowed in schools, that implies all young men are potential perpetrators and abusers, while overlooking the physical and sexual abuse boys and young men encounter. In actuality men are almost twice as likely to be a victim of violent crime than women. Although, it appears that because the attackers are often men, it doesn’t even register with feminists. In this scary world ‘toxic masculinity‘ is apparently everywhere. As a reaction to this, traits such as rough and tumble play, competition and stoicism are now treated with extreme suspicion and often discouraged.

Further attacks on masculinity have arose over the years, one of these revolves around International Men’s Day. Incidentally this year, it’s on November 19th 2018. In the UK in 2015 a Labour MP Jess Philips laughed at the suggestion that MP’s should be allowed to debate a range of men’s issues such as; domestic violence, suicide and premature mortality rates. She even had the audacity to suggest that “every day was International Men’s Day”, despite the obvious seriousness of these matters. Father’s Day has also been subject to attack in recent times. Last year in Australia Dr Red Ruby Scarlet (that truly is her real name), put forward that Father’s Day should be renamed “Special Person’s Day”. She defended her position, suggesting that there was much Australian research that informs international research to substantiate her proposal (none of which was forthcoming). An interesting article in 2015 (from the US) challenged the feminist view of dads and men in general, with a few points;

  1. The myth of “Deadbeat Dads”, most Dads support their kids financially. The vast majority of fathers support their children, while most of the ones who don’t, fall under the poverty line. In 2011, 25% of custodial mother’s did not receive any child support payments, whereas, 32% of custodial father’s did not receive payments from mothers.
  2. Dads are more likely to refuse child support payments from the other parent and are less likely to alienate the other parent. 27.5% of dads and 22.9% of mums had no legal child support by choice. Just 12.7% of dads didn’t want their children to have contact with the other parent, as opposed to 21% of mothers.
  3. Dads would rather spend more time with their kids than receive gifts from them. When parents were asked what they really wanted for mother/father’s day, only 35% of dads chose a gift, as opposed to 52% of mother’s.
  4. Dad’s do their fair share of housework. Women generally work less hours of paid labour. With this in mind a fair division of labour would be, an equal amount of time in all forms of work combined; paid work, housework and childcare. When this is calculated men spend on average 54.2 hours per week working, with women working 52.7 hours a week.

What is also blatantly obvious is, that children lose out without a father around.

  • 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes – 5 times the average.
  • 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes – 32 times the average.
  • 85% of children who show behavioural problems come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average.
  • 80% of rapist with anger problems come from fatherless homes – 14 times the average.
  • 71% of high school dropouts come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average.

What seems abundantly clear is children need their fathers. Now, I’ll state my case as to why society needs men. In New Zealand women now make up 17% of builders, which has doubled over 15 years, great I hope they enjoy the trade. But pretty much throughout the rest of history, it has been men that have made most of the physical world. Moreover, it is men that do and have done the vast majority of the dangerous and dirty jobs throughout the existence of human kind. Miners, oil rig workers, loggers, refuse collectors, sewage workers, power line installers among many others are predominantly staffed by men. Jobs that are performed mainly by men, allow us to enjoy the life we are accustomed to, while keeping society ticking along.

In contrast, feminists often bemoan the lack of female CEO’s in the world, blaming all men for this perceived travesty, as if we are one homogenous tribe. The people who call the shots at the upper end of society, have as little in common with normal men, than an upper/middle class feminist such as Meryl Streep has with working class women. Feminist’s can deride men all they wish, but millions upon millions have given their lives in wars and conflicts all over world. I’m sure some identarians will claim that they don’t believe in war, as if in some way this negates the millions who have died. Nobody likes war, but for example, if the UK/US and the USSR had allowed Hitler his wishes, life would have been very brutal across much of the globe. Yes, I am acutely aware, regrettably many woman have died in wars too, but men are often drafted and have perished in their millions in varying corners of the Earth. So if there is a patriarchy tell me, why is society set up so men die in their droves?

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Even men dying in war and conflict has been overshadowed at times, most notably by Hillary Clinton in 1998. It’s a fascinating comment considering she has barely encountered a war she hasn’t favoured. One of the sure fire ways to get abuse from identarians and certainly feminists is by merely mentioning ‘men’s issues’. But it is not a zero sum game, that is assuming feminists really are after equality. Both should be able  to co-exist, but they can’t, because for feminists it’s often about control and power. I’m certainly not about to apologise for being a bloke or for voicing pressing issues that are particular to men, so here goes;

Despite obvious issues that men report, any moves to highlight these problems are quickly pounced upon to be silenced. The screening of the film the ‘Red Pill‘ which follows a former feminist’s gradual questioning of her movement and a look into the ‘men’s rights’ movement, was treated like a Nazi propaganda movie. While all over the western world, particularly in places such as Canada and Australia men’s rights talks regularly receive feminist and SJW protests. Critics of men’s rights groups describe them as misogynists, fascists and alt-right. In truth the people who attend these meetings are from all over the political spectrum, but each one worries about the future of men and boys. The problem these groups face is, most of the mainstream media are on the side of the identarian feminists.

Feminists claim to be the underdogs and activists, but they control many aspects of life, while most social laws are distinctly two tiered in favour of women, such as ‘child custody’ laws. This juggernaut ensures that many of the very serious issues as mentioned previously gets lost under a barrage of slurs and ad hominem attacks. It is often surmised that feminism holds the key to men’s problems. This is disingenuous, dark and dangerous, on the part of feminism. We do not need feminism to fix the problems men and boys face. Also I’m pretty sure we would disagree regarding what these problems are. Throughout this article, I hope you’ve noticed the distinction I’ve made, I have never implicated women as a whole and I’m under no illusion that good mums are essential to the wellbeing of boys. But they need awesome dads and all men can strive to be brilliant role models and be there to help each other out. I’ve already witnessed the death of two good male friends to suicide. I do not want to hear any more of my friends passing in this way again during my lifetime. What is needed is help in the areas where it is desperately required, primarily in health and education, so my section of the population can flourish. If the male half are healthy, society as a whole will reap the benefits.

 

 

 

 

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The illiberal left, libertarians and neoliberals have one thing in common; self interest.

Recently, I’ve been reading and watching about identity politics. Possibly too much at times, in a desperate attempt to grasp the ideology of Social Justice Warriors. This produced several side effects, namely a plethora of highlight videos on YouTube from the right of the political spectrum, often right (US) libertarians. On viewing a multitude of films from both the left and right, I noticed a common denominator, that of self-interest. This self-regard is largely underpinned by a variety of drivers; money, freedom, liberty, power, diversity and societal control. What traits of political and moral selfishness you display, all depends on where you pitch your political tent. It’s easy to critique these video clips from our own echo chambers and muse, what’s wrong with liberty? Or, I can’t see how diversity is such a bad thing. On the surface this may appear true, but on digging deeper, I felt there was much to uncover.

As a libertarian socialist, the failings of the right are more intuitive and obvious to me, so this is where we’ll start. Neoliberalism is a particular aspect of the right that has appeared in the mainstream political consciousness since about 1979, due to the rise of Margaret Thatcher in the UK and later Reagan in the US.  Although globally, an experiment utilising these values occurred a few years earlier in Chile, following a coup in 1973, led by Augusto Pinochet. Renowned academic David Harvey, surmises that neoliberalism is a political project perpetuated by the corporate capitalist class, initially designed to stop the power of labour in the late 60’s early 70’s. For this group the motivation has consistently revolved around money, control and power. While for most of us the impacts have been negatively felt across the globe. We have all witnessed this, with the demise of our health service, our collapsing education systems, countless wars and the destruction of our ecosystem.

Neoliberalism’s omnipresence  is now ingrained into our society. We are told that competition is a natural human response, while freedom is found in the buying and selling of commodities. We are hypnotised into believing inequality is virtuous and is, therefore, a reward for working so hard. The rich persuade themselves and others that their wealth is acquired by merit, conveniently forgetting the advantages of education, societal networks and family wealth. Neoliberalism is undoubtedly a self serving racket; smashing unions, tax reductions, rising rents, privatisation and deregulation. But on the other side of the great divide, the majority of us have more insecure jobs, poorer public services, higher rents and we pay more, often for a diminished product. All the while a very small group of rich parasites have made vast sums of money at the expense of us all.

Neoliberalism could be fairly classified as systemic self interest, but it is nearer to a virus, as it invades and devours the human spirit. Money for the rich is maximised through a sympathetic system, encouraging maximum profits and preserved for example, via limited tax payments.  This cash is utilised to change policies to obtain further power in an effort to wrestle more control, to acquire ever more riches. Lobbyists paid by banking, fossil fuel companies or tobacco firms bombard politicians to vote for bills in their favour, while the minions get to vote every few years, that often has little to no effect. Routinely politicians are easily persuaded to side with the corporate world. All across the western world they generally enjoy the same education and societal advantages as the corporate community. It could also be argued that many share the same personality traits too, such as sociopathy. In a study published in 2014, it concluded that CEO’s possessed more sociopaths per population than any other job.

It is theorised that many leading politicians also share these sociopathic traits, which include; a lack of remorse and empathy, a sense of grandiosity, superficial charm, manipulative behaviour and a refusal to take responsibility for one’s actions, among others. Apart from the obvious ones such as; Hitler, Stalin, Trump, Nixon, LBJ and say Churchill, we could also make very strong cases for both Clinton’s, Tony Blair, Trudeau, Dick Cheney, Obama, Henry Kissinger, George W Bush and Thatcher as sociopaths without too many problems. It is, therefore, not surprising that a marriage between the political and corporate elite is often an easy fit, due to their end goals, namely power and prestige. The neoliberal motivation is blatant and obvious yet often goes unchallenged, as it is all encompassing. It is ideological in a sense, but the game is about power and control of the upper echelons of society. They, however, are not the only section of the right who believe in self interest, but for quite differing reasons, this next bunch are called libertarians.

Libertarianism is an ideology that is mainly peculiar to the United States, but not wholly. According to the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, here are the key concepts:

  1. Individualism
  2. Individual rights
  3. Spontaneous order
  4. Rule of Law
  5. Limited government
  6. Free Markets
  7. The virtue of production
  8. Natural harmony of interest
  9. Peace

The motto that can be seen regularly associated with Libertarians is ‘don’t tread on me’. This is known as ‘Gadsden’ flag and goes back to 1775. The flag was adopted by the Tea Party movement in 2009. Libertarians claim the meaning is pacifistic by nature, suggesting they won’t bite unless stepped on, meaning of course their rights. The institution that is generally thought of as invasive and the most likely to infringe on these rights is the government. In fact in the minds of many libertarians, government can only threaten freedom. This lines up with one of the main beliefs of libertarians, which is the idea that ‘small government’ works best. Conceivably this could mean practically any government entity, dependent on who you talk to, could be privatised and that a pay as you go system for services required would ensue. From a social perspective, libertarians and libertarian socialists often find some common ground, such as; the legalisation of drugs, prostitution and a purely defensive military unless attacked.

libertarian bs

Ideas between the factions rapidly diverge when discussing the libertarian view of economics and how this relates to people. This ideology believes that the dubiously named ‘free market’ is guided and at times corrected by the ‘invisible hand‘. This is based on an idea from Adam Smith, implying that if we leave the markets alone, the correct outcome will be achieved, as if by magic. If that isn’t weird enough libertarians apply this theory to humans, stating that if we are left alone to satisfy our own needs, society will ultimately fall in to place. This is number 3 on the previous list and is called ‘spontaneous order‘. The idea is almost childlike in its naiveté, if an individual is driven by self interest as promoted by this ideology, these actions may come into conflict with what is good for society. As much as this is vehemently denied by libertarians, what is proposed is no more than a ‘dog eat dog’ philosophy with a few loose ethics wrapped around it, to offer a veneer of respectability.

It doesn’t take too much of an imagination to realise that in a free market system, the disparity between rich and poor would grow dramatically. Further to this the power imbalance between the haves and have nots would widen ever more. With no substantial government to intervene, the poorer end of society would live short brutal lives. On the other side of the tracks the rich in contrast would have the power to make the rules up to suit themselves, even more so than now. The oft mentioned libertarian ‘pin up’ girl is Ayn Rand, who preached a ruthless individualistic narrative, implied that the importance of personal rights and profit grossly outweigh the collective good. These ideas do not account for any interaction we may have as human beings, or the fact that as a species we tend to co-operate with each other. A problem to consider is, if one person is meeting their personal needs, it may have a direct affect on somebody else’s liberties and freedom. This is just basic causality, as none of us live in silo’s, we all have to interact at some point. Rarely do you hear a libertarian addressing this conundrum. I’ve always considered the libertarian ideology as politics of an 8 year old. I still conclude that as an ideology it just doesn’t stand up to much scrutiny and appears to be at odds with human nature.

To highlight libertarians self-serving and anti evidence mentality I will use two examples; the first one will be their aversion to tax and secondly their attachment to guns. A regularly used mantra heard from libertarians is “tax is theft”. Firstly, there is a fundamental problem with this statement, if we have no taxes, then we have no government and even libertarians belief in some ruling body, albeit a skeletal version. However, it’s worth noting that no modern society has ever survived without a government and this ruling body of course would need funding. Primarily because government’s are required to provide goods and services, therefore, tax is necessary to pay for this. The libertarian problem with taxes is entirely ideological, they disapprove purely because taxes are not voluntary and that a certain amount of coercion is required from the government. Libertarians believe nothing should be forced, so using this logic the government is wrong to collect taxes. Libertarians advocate for a voluntary exchange, where people are free to make their own choices with their lives. This is impractical, naïve and utopic by nature. A pay as you go system for services is a ridiculous notion. The general idea of being ‘free’ to do what you want without any civic responsibilities, has all the hallmarks of a teenager who hasn’t discovered the word accountability. We’ll finish with libertarianism on the weird American notion of the ‘right to bear arms’.

The 2nd amendment is something libertarians doggedly cling to. They will challenge anyone, along with the National Rifle Association (NRA) who attempts to tighten gun regulations. Their reasoning proposes that people have a right to arm themselves to make themselves safer, but this just isn’t supported by evidence. The data suggests that people who carry firearms are more likely to be shot, furthermore, it increases the risks of death for those around them. Libertarians also posit that gun restrictions wouldn’t work, this is contrary to much of the evidence, a good example being Australia. Over two decades ago Australia banned rapid fire guns, this was implemented just months after the mass shooting in Port Arthur by Martin Bryant. Bryant killed 35 people and wounded another 23 in Tasmania with 2 semi-automatic weapons. The effect of Australia’s crackdown on guns has been nothing short of incredible. In 18 years leading to 1996, the nation witnessed 13 fatal mass shootings (4 or more killings at one time) with 104 fatalities. Since 1996, however, there has been one fatal mass shooting in Australia, which took place in May 2018. What’s also important to note is that within the first 7 years of this legislation, firearm homicide rates dropped by 42%, and firearm suicide rates by 57%. Maybe these types of measures could have prevented the shooting at Sandy Hook, where 27 children and adults were murdered in 2012. Or the massacre by Dylann Roof in Charleston, S.C, where 9 people were killed in a church, June 2015. Even more recently, 59 people may not have been shot dead in Las Vegas in October 2017, with the tightening of regulations.

We are informed of these types of incidents in the news so often it almost seems commonplace, but this is something we should never get accustomed to. Here lies a good example concerning the problems with libertarianism, the very place where ideology clashes with reality. It would appear that libertarians are happy to forgo the lives of fellow citizens in order to keep the guns that they don’t really need. I would also strongly suggest that the victims of this type of crime have had their rights, freedom and civil liberties trampled upon much more so than libertarian gun advocates. These issues seem to be conveniently forgotten, as apparently the personal rights of a libertarian are more important than anything else despite the outcome, thus proving this ideology is not compatible with a functioning society. It’s also important to mention that the political right’s attachment to guns is not just a libertarian phenomenon. This strange love affair is also witnessed within the ranks of the authoritarian, religious right too.

Gun nuts
Former Republican Sen. Greg Brophy and his gun loving family.

With the right dealt with, next we’ll tackle the left, or more specifically Social Justice Warriors or more politely, adherents of identity politics. I generally like to call this group the illiberal left or identarians. Although, I would strongly suggest that they have no place on the left, as their self interest is the antithesis of what the left is all about. To recap, we’ve covered how the neoliberals are motivated by money and power, how the libertarians are driven by blind ideology, so the question is, what drives the SJW’s. I suggest that the SJW’s have more in common regarding outcomes as the neoliberals, which is power and control. While their motivation, is more ideologically driven similarly to libertarians. Identarians view the world based on a perceived power struggle between oppressed groups and systemic power. Often a supporter of identity politics will ensure they are a part of an oppressed group such as; women, people of colour, LGTB’s, disabled people and other marginalised groups. Many of these groups can be witnessed fighting among themselves regarding the legitimacy of their oppression, or even challenged individually if someone is perceived to have infringed upon the ever changing rules. Its believers claim they are a movement of diversity, but this status is only reserved for certain groups who pass the oppression test. Everybody else outside of the zone of marginalisation, is rendered mute and have no voice regardless of academic prowess or any expertise one may possess.

This ideology borrows heavily from postmodernism, valuing “lived experience” over empirical evidence. Therefore, the quality of information takes a back seat to the perception and feelings of the receiver, while all logic or reason is disregarded. Vast numbers of identarians are only oppressed by association and have not encountered any direct oppression. They will claim that oppression is systemic, so by purely belonging to a perceived ‘out group’ it allows them access to victimhood. Whether an individual has been on the receiving end of any kind of abuse is considered irrelevant and the enquirer is promptly accused of victim blaming. In fact the definition of oppression has become so broad and the bar set so low, that almost anybody could meet the criteria (unless of course you’re white and male). Identity politics possesses a myopic view of the world, one based on genitalia and skin pigmentation. Class rarely gets a mention as many identarians are economically privileged and middle class. It is through this distorted lens that Munroe Bergdorf, a trans-woman and part-time model stated, “a white homeless man can still be privileged”. You see it’s about equality, but only a certain type of equality, and it promotes diversity, but not alas diversity of thought.

Smash_Patriarchy_Detroit_Feminist_2014_Protest

SJW’s use the manipulation of language and the setting of moral boundaries in order to control society. Identarians do not possess the money and ability to influence the ruling elite through lobbying as neoliberals do. Therefore, they have to be creative in the way they exert their control. What they have constructed, is a victim narrative, whereby the ‘minorities’ are the victims and the ‘majority’ are the oppressors. This is used to attract help from the authorities and to obtain greater influence in the public sphere. The outcomes of this can be seen by the rise of ‘safe spaces’ on university campuses, or by making ‘wolf whistling‘ a criminal offence in Nottinghamshire, for example. Identarians are exceptionally puritanical, regulating who is and isn’t allowed to speak on campus, often no-platforming anyone who may be considered ‘problematic’. Opinions are blurted out freely from these groups and conflated with facts in this cesspool of ‘ideas’, while unwelcome, incoming words, are considered violence. All this is a desperate attempt to control the narrative and the terms of acceptable dialogue.

Often labels such as; racist, misogynist, fascist and transphobic are yelled to silence dissenters at the first sign of any challenging speech. We are regaled with stories about the gender wage gap, patriarchy, toxic masculinity and white privilege to maintain the story of oppression. This is not about changing the world for the betterment of society, this is pseudo-politics of the narcissist, designed to benefit and empower the individual. Identity politics is not just confined to academia either, pro-Israel lobbies regularly use anti-Semitism as a weapon to stifle debate or indeed discredit anybody who may be deemed ‘problematic’. The term has been manipulated over the years and is now so malleable that it can be deployed on anybody, regardless of the individual’s moral and academic integrity. So my summary of identarians is this; they are a collection of self-obsessed, self-involved, narcissists, who for them the personal really is the political and nothing else matters. Their goal is to attain social control and re-build society in their image.

All three of these ideologies are bathed in self interest, but for contrasting reasons. Neoliberals manipulate society from the top down, appealing to politician’s self interest via lobbyists. The idea is to control what the government does or does not interfere with for the benefit of their corporations and bank balance, the Koch brothers are a prime example (although they possess libertarian traits). Any collateral damage to people or the environment is inconsequential as long as their best interests are served. Libertarians on the other hand, are driven predominantly by ideology, such as, stating the markets should be allowed to regulate themselves and government should play a minor role in our affairs. There is, however, a conflict between how libertarian’s see the market and the real world, plus there is no evidence to support their view. Libertarian ‘theory’ also infers that corporation’s have no more power than the individual, for example banker to customer. Given the 2008 crash this notion becomes increasingly difficult to believe. Another suggestion is, we are ‘free to choose’, but what we choose is largely dependent upon what resources we were born with or have at our disposal. If corporations were allowed unbridled freedom, the planet and inhabitants would be destroyed by the people with the most power. It’s also telling that there is no country on the planet that is run in a libertarian fashion.

Finally, the illiberal left or SJW’s, this group cannot achieve top down control, therefore, the goal is to control what is acceptable in society. The objective is to strangle and hijack society through the regulation of speech, how we behave or even what we think. This is imposed through a particular worldview, where individuals are coerced into fighting structural enemies such as the mystical patriarchy. Whilst all human interaction is only acceptable through this narrow viewpoint. One such example of control, is terming the previously mentioned ‘wolf whistling‘ as a hate crime. This suggests that 3rd wave feminists instinctively know what is good for women and that they are somehow unable to defend themselves. Clearly some men need to grow up regarding their behaviour, but it is arrogant for SJW’s to suggest that they speak for all women. Identity politics is a set of puritanical beliefs enforced upon society purely for the good of their group.

As suggested earlier people are motivated in a variety ways and self-interest is a common factor observed right across the political spectrum. It is noticeable that the neoliberals control government, industry, the military and the global arena. This could be considered the most important type of power and in many ways it is. But there is another system to control and that is one of society. Here, identarians using postmodernism as their guide, are now starting to control and re-configure societal norms. Our behaviour, language, feelings and thoughts are now being scrutinised and punished through a specific ideological prism, often outside of the law. It’s a society where rules will not governed by logic, reason or science, but emotion, ‘lived experience‘ and subjectivity. The neoliberal ruling elite are relatively happy for radical societal change to occur as this keeps the proletariat divided, confused and aggressive towards each other. While any societal change from the illiberal left will have little or no affect on them. Unfortunately, for many of us, we are being affected or more precisely infected by this twisted world view. Identarians are desperate to dismantle society, while constructing a dystopian, puritanical, 1984 type thought prison in its place. This all started in academic institutions, but without doubt it’s coming to a home or workplace near you. Soon!!!

In defence of free speech, before it’s too late.

In a world of polarised politics and widely differing moral opinions, free speech is taking a battering and yet it is essential for democracy. On a daily basis you can witness on social media, people shutting down debate with words such as misogynist and racist, as soon as discourse veers from their comfort zone. Both sides left and right claim that there political opposites are constantly abusing free speech. ‘Black Life Matters’ supporters upset the right, but no more than how Milo Yiannopoulos continuously offends the left. So, where do we start when discussing this thorny subject of free speech and free expression? We could start as far back as Socrates, but I guess the Magna Carta is as good a place as any. This was a ‘charter of liberties’ signed in Runneymede, England in 1215, reluctantly by King John (more accurately he used his royal seal). King John succumbed to this document primarily to stave off a rebellion from the country’s powerful barons, following a spate of unsuccessful foreign policies and heavy tax demands.

The Magna Carta was effectively the first written constitution in European history, but it primarily only benefitted the elites at the time. Two further acts; the ‘Petition of Right‘ (1628) referring to clause 39 of the Magna Carta, which states; “no free man shall be…imprisoned or dispossessed, except by the lawful judgement of his peers” and clause 40, the ‘Habeas Corpus Act‘ (1679), “to no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay rights or justice” had huge implications on future legal systems in both UK and the US. As far as other legal documents go the ‘Bill of Rights‘ (UK, 1689), the ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man‘ (France, 1789) and the ‘First Amendment of the US bill of rights‘ (US, 1791), were all influenced by the Magna Carta. These were attempts to secure freedom of speech and expression under the umbrella of human rights.

In a speech given at the University of Toronto in 2006, Christopher Hitchens debating in favour of freedom of speech, paraphrased three great thinkers to summarise the concept. John Milton, John Stuart Mill and Thomas Paine collectively suggesting that; “it’s not the right of the speaker to be heard, it is the right of everyone in the audience to listen and to hear. And every time you silence somebody, you make yourself a prisoner of your own action, because you deny yourself the right to hear something”. Economist, philosopher and socialist revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg surmised that freedom of speech is meaningless unless it means the freedom of a person’s view who thinks differently”. Noam Chomsky, renowned linguistic Professor and distinguished Libertarian Socialist declared; “Goebbels was in favour of free speech he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re in favour of free speech, then you are in favour of free speech precisely for views you despise”.

So why is free speech so precious? Freedom of expression for which free speech is a part of is a fundamental human right. Our ability to express an opinion and to speak freely is essential for any society to move forward. It is imperative that in a free society we have an open exchange of ideas and that these opinions are tested and challenged. The most effective way to defeat bad ideas is by the promotion of good ones, utilising ethics and reason, rather than bans and censorship. The other important element, is the ability to listen and to hear other people’s perspectives. The only way we can test our assumptions and ideas is through discourse with people offering a differing view. Furthermore, the weight of public opinion should not be used to decide what may or may not be heard.

Many ideas in the past have been ridiculed initially, only to be proved correct; Galileo Galilei championed heliocentrism while Darwin promoted the theory of evolution. John Stuart Mill wrote in ‘On Liberty‘; “If all of mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind”. The philosopher Karl Popper talked about testing your ideas through “conjecture and refutation“. An individual offers a notion about the nature of reality and this is then tested against reality. This process allows the world to falsify the mistaken ones. The “conjecture” part of this process is the use of free speech. These opinions are offered not knowing if they are correct. It is only by witnessing which ideas withstand being refuted do we attain knowledge.

So given the perceived importance, why is freedom of speech being attacked and eroded? Well contrary to popular belief this isn’t purely a SJW endeavour, the right also use free speech as a political football. Although to be fair to the illiberal left, they do seem to have got the suppression of speech part down to an art form and that’s not a compliment. Free speech on both sides appears to be defined as speech they agree with. Moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt portrayed perceptions of free speech in the graphic seen below.

free hate speech

Recently the left have used an array of puritanical actions such as; disinviting speakers, censoring artwork and disciplining wrongdoers of arbitrarily constructed cultural appropriation rules. This behaviour has been justified by suggesting it’s done to make other speakers feel safe. I would propose that by other they mean speakers they agree with. As mentioned, the right play games too; there was an incident when a student secretly filmed Professor Olga Perez Stable Cox referring to Donald Trump in class as a white supremacist. This video was propelled across the internet where she received death threats. The group responsible for this, the Orange Coast County Republicans stated that removing commentary like ‘hers’ was necessary to ensure the college’s commitment to “diversity, equity and inclusivity”. If this narrative sounds eerily familiar, it will be because it is the same language often used by the illiberal left. Studies in the US suggest that Republican students are just as likely to agree with the restriction of campus speech that is offensive or upsetting to certain groups, as the Democrats. Which brings us full circle to Haidt’s representation above. As an aside, however, it is twice as likely for Republican’s to support book bans.

Countless speakers who have had differing ideas to illiberal left orthodoxy have been regularly disinvited from an array of places in the English speaking world, such as; Ben Shapiro, Germaine Greer, Kate Smurthwaite, Milo Yiannopoulos, Steve Bannon, Christina Hoff Sommers, Dave Rubin and Nigel Farage. Browsing the database for disinvited speakers on FIRE’s website (Foundation of Individual Rights in Education), I thought it would be interesting to work out which side of the political fence censors speakers the most. I was unsurprised to find that since the beginning of 2017 the left had disapproved of speakers leading to what the UK call no-platforming on 19 occasions, while the right spat their dummy out just 5 times. The main issues for the left were race, gender and sexual orientation. While on the right, it was primarily sexual orientation and Chelsea Manning for criminal misconduct. It would make sense at this point to investigate why this is happening particularly on campus and what are the implications.

It would appear that over the last few years there has been a campaign to sanitise college campuses in an endeavour to make them clean from words, ideas and subjects that may offend or cause discomfort. This has altered the way professors teach, content is often shrouded in trigger warnings. Plus any one of us could be easily accused of a microaggression, such as using phrases that appear to be innocuous like, “I believe the most qualified person should get the job”. All this sounds distinctly Orwellian, but Jonathan Haidt a moral psychologist, suggests this is primarily about emotional wellbeing and the protection of students from emotional harm. It is a move to turn a college campus into a ‘safe space’ and they will punish anyone who gets in the way. The problem, he suggests is, it ill equips students for the real world, which often requires intellectual engagement with people one may well disagree with. It is also thought that this culture of censorship and the punishment of speakers could lead students to thinking patterns that could conceivably be described in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) terms as pathological. Thinking styles including; black and white thinking, catastrophising, fortune telling, overgeneralising and mental filtering. Haidt claims that all this further contributes to anxiety and depression. So where did these ideas come from, how did this illiberal attitude to free speech evolve and where is it going?

cotton wool kid

Haidt calls this punitive lack of tolerance “vindictive protectiveness”, he states that Baby Boomers and Generation Xers had more of a free range childhood, spending a greater time looking after themselves. This style of parenting became less popular in the 80’s and 90’s, as parents became more fearful. In turn, this gave rise to the ‘helicopter parent‘ or the ‘cotton wool mum’, who started to micromanage their kids every waking moment. This was despite evidence proving that incidences of abduction, robbery, assault and homicide remained relatively stable throughout the English speaking world. What has changed over this time is an increase in varying media outlets and the attention that is drawn to such cases. It is thought that this cultivates the feeling that there is more crime than is actually occurring. Contrary to this, unsupervised play which previous generations experienced while growing up declined from the early 90’s. This type of play allowed kids to explore the world, while making their own friends and at times enemies. They learnt how to get in and out of trouble, to test their limits and negotiate with other kids, all without being overlooked by their parents. These valuable times, that most of us just refer to as being a kid, provided a vital testing ground for survival in the real world.

A study by University College London found that children who had more unsupervised time were more sociable and more active. It is believed that the decline in unsupervised play has been matched by a decrease in empathy and a rise in narcissism. This is considered hardly surprising in an environment where children have little chance to play socially. It is argued that schools cannot replace this time, as this environment is more authoritarian and non democratic, meaning that it is not conducive to learning skills such as co-operation. On top of this, these kids are also growing up in an age of increased political polarisation. Think of what happened recently in the US election or Brexit. This isn’t helped by social media, which doesn’t often provide the conduit for robust debate. Interactions on this medium usually consist of allies providing an echo chamber or an enemy to yell at or a dissenter to discredit. Civil discourse on these platforms are a rare thing to behold. With all this in mind it isn’t surprising that when young adults arrive on campus they seem to require more protection, while being hostile to people with ideological and philosophical differences.

Relatively recently phrases such as, “words are violence”, “invalidating my existence” or “my truth” particularly on college campuses have entered our vernacular. These comments are what is collectively called ‘concept creep‘ and are generally used to shut down debate. To expand on this, here are a couple of real examples of concept creep; a mother leaves her son in the car while she pops into a store and is charged with contributing to his delinquency, or a statue of a man in his underpants causes emotional trauma. The question we should be asking is, how the hell did we get here and who is reinforcing these concepts? Professor of psychology Nick Haslam argues that terms like abuse, bullying, trauma, mental disorders and addiction have all expanded their meanings (horizontal creep). Additionally the threshold of behaviour qualifying for one of these terms has been steadily lowered (vertical creep).  It is declared that these changes reflect an increased sensitivity to harm. Lisa Feldman Barrett a psychologist from Northeastern University has endeavoured to defend the words=violence equation. Her hypothesis is, if words can cause stress (which they can), and if prolonged stress can cause physical harm (and it can), then it seems that certain types of speech can be a form of violence”. This suggests, ‘A’ causes ‘B’, ‘B’ causes ‘C’, and therefore ‘A’ causes ‘C’. With this in mind, insert the phrase “gossiping about a rival” and try again, yes it can cause stress, but that doesn’t turn it into violence.

George-Orwell-Quotes-3

An English Professor at New York University, Ulrich Baer, justifies shutting down speech of speakers some students might not like, by saying, “When those views invalidate the humanity of some people, they restrict speech as a public good”. One could argue that rejecting an idea that has been proposed would be more than sufficient to maintain an individual’s humanity. So how are words violence? Violence is a physical act, if someone punches me in the face, I can feel a physical force. That’s not the same as being berated by a combination of words, no matter how forceful. It is suggested that much of this has roots in 1960’s postmodernist philosophy that was studied extensively in the 80’s and 90’s. In this case we can refer to Lyotard’s idea of mini-narratives over meta-narratives. Which in short, argues that personal experiences are more important than empirical evidence.

Using a similar phrase from a previous paragraph, which we hear in debates, “who is anyone to deny my truth and what I feel”. Alarm bells should be ringing at “my truth”, it’s either truth or opinion, there is no such thing as “my truth”, that is as erroneous as “alternative facts”. But according to some academics and their students, there appears no such thing as one truth. It is posited that this is no more than a construct of the Euro-west and is a myth. These postmodern ideas are in stark contrast to science and the Enlightenment, that they despise and that I am rather attached to. The Enlightenment period stressed the value of; reason, logic, criticism and freedom of thought, as opposed to dogma, blind faith and superstition. Worryingly we seem, particularly in academia to be regressing away from logic, reason and science.

Given all this, it’s not surprising that students, with minimal life experience, who have been overprotected at home, exposed to questionable ideas such as postmodernism, while engaging in self-indulgent, narcissistic identity politics would be so afraid of free speech and open debate. It would be foolish, however, to think an attack on free speech exists purely within academic institutions. We have seen more and more laws in varying countries clamping down on so called ‘hate speech’. Hate speech is a difficult one to pin down, mainly because, who sets the parameters of what ‘hate speech’ actually is. In the US most freedoms of expression are protected by the 1st Amendment and this largely includes hate speech.

There are times when hate speech falls into a current 1st Amendment exception, such as; a particular racist may speak to incite imminent violence on a particular group or may be interpreted as immediate threat to do harm. But generally it works quite well, however, some countries have specific hate speech laws. Lets take the UK as an example. So what is defined as a hate crime? Well, according to the Crown Prosecution Service a hate crime can be; “verbal abuse, intimidation, harassment, threats, assault and bullying, as well as damage to property”. They go on to say, “any offense that is perceived by the victim, or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice, based on a person of disability or perceived disability; race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; or sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; or a person who is transgender or is perceived to be transgender”. There seems to be a lot of perceptions here and a distinct lack of facts, which indicates a hate crime could be pretty much anything, both real or imagined.

One problem with this is, the CPS draws parallels between online abuse and actions taking place in person. This is another example of ‘concept creep’ and fails to acknowledge the differences between an angry tweet and someone shouting at you in the street, or physical abuse. Alison Saunders (Director of Public Prosecutions, CPS) talks about countering extreme views. The problem is, who decides what constitutes as an extreme view. Obviously according to the CPS it appears it’s the ‘receiver’ of said abuse. Furthermore, the offense only has to be perceived by the victim, or somebody else for that matter, no actual evidence is required. This suggests a pretty low threshold for pinning the tag of hate crime onto someone because they have conflicting views. Most sane minded people would agree that hatred of people because of skin colour or genitalia is abhorrent. But policing hatred often ends up in censorship and the problem doesn’t actually go away. In contrast, there are hundreds of examples of civilians defending victims of abuse in public and shaming racists. Tackling hatred in the public domain is a better way of dealing with despicable ideas, but this can only occur in a society where free and open debate is allowed.

Sadly, I only foresee the strangulation of free speech increasing. This trend chiefly started in academia and has now seeped into the workplace and everyday interactions. Not only this, but in several colleges the illiberal left have been involved in episodes of violence. One such incident took place at Middlebury College Vermont 2017, when students were intent on closing down a lecture given by conservative speaker Charles Murray. When Murray approached the podium he was shouted down by protesters reciting a pre-prepared script who then proceeded to turn their backs. They chanted until the event was moved to a private venue, but this too was disrupted. This physical incident that irrupted caused the injury of a liberal speaker who was there in opposition to Charles Murray, but was shielding him from the attack. What’s important to recognise is, in a piece published in the New York Times, the authors tested Charles Murray’s alleged offensive content by sending the material anonymously to 70 university professors to rate it. The scale was from 1 to 9, 1 being liberal, 9 conservative, while 5 denoting middle of the road. From the 57 academics who replied, the mean score was 5.05, indicating the material from Murray was ‘middle of the road’. Two other similar studies were performed, neither suggesting that what Charles Murray was proposing was either offensive or hugely conservative. The article also concluded that some of these protesters had never even read any of his work.

In the same year people were punched and beaten by masked protesters from the illiberal left during a Milo Yiannopoulos speech at UC Berkley. Astoundingly these actions were supported in certain quarters. An Op Ed written after the event by one of the students stated “asking people to maintain peaceful dialogue, with those who legitimately do not think their lives matter is a violent act”. This is suggesting that they are justified in punching people and pepper spraying them, even if all they did was voice some words. This is where the “words are violence” phrase becomes dangerous, because it is utilised to justify countering words with a violent action and then passing it off as self-defence. Unsurprisingly this violence from the illiberal left, led to counter violence and the cycle surely will continue. Below is some video footage from the Middlebury debacle.

The group who seem the keenest on stifling free speech are what is termed iGen (short for internet generation). These are students born after 1994 according to social psychologist Jean Twenge. Twenge found that iGen had higher rates of anxiety, depression, loneliness and suicide. Although Twenge offers that much of this is due to smart phones, social media and changing social interactions, Jonathan Haidt adds that some of this may well be a lack of resilience. He advises that students are now arriving at college with a distinct inability to cope with; offensive ideas, insensitive professors, and maybe rude racist and sexist peers. Previous generations often learned to deal with such challenges, without having to reconstruct society to accommodate their world views. These obstacles prepared individuals for success and the rigors of life outside the gates of academia.

A poll in the US of 3000 students confirmed that they generally agreed with the idea of free speech and allowing a variety of viewpoints. This is, until these other ideas start to infringe on their values, then they are more likely to support policies to limit speech. Putting it bluntly, they don’t support free speech at all. Also in the same poll 37% thought it was OK to shout down opposing speakers, while 10% stated it was acceptable to use violence to prevent someone from speaking. In an effort to understand which people are against free speech, a further poll was published by the New York Times. When asked what they thought was more important ‘free speech’ or ‘inclusion and diversity’, the results were 53% to 46% in favour of ‘inclusion and diversity’. Additionally men and women were asked who was in favour of ‘freedom of speech,’ 61% of men said yes compared to just 36% of women. Given that 60% of the student population are now women, all this doesn’t bode well for the fate of free speech. It must be stressed that ‘freedom of speech’ is the ultimate radical idea. It is the notion that individuals should try to settle their differences through debate and discussion, using evidence and persuasion rather than coercive power. At this current moment free speech is in mortal danger, just when it is needed more than ever.

Utilitarian Socialism: a need for pragmatic politics.

Once upon a time the left was known for fighting for things outside of their own self interest. It generally didn’t matter the location of the battle or who the injustice was enacted upon. The left always appeared keen to do their bit. This morality continued for decades and still continues amongst pockets of people. Enter 2018, where the ‘pretend left’ have expanded their politics no further than their melanin levels and genitals. In reality, the left is a confusing wide range of groups all claiming to having some theoretical link to an egalitarian ideology. These tribes span from the Democrats in the US, a distinctly corporate led party tenuously claiming to be for the people, through to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour who continues the fight to keep Labour for the people and away from Blairite neoliberals. Of course we also have specific Socialist, Communist and Marxist groups among others to round it off.

What is worrying is not the array of groups per se, although, some of them are about as left as Reagan or Thatcher, no the problem is; what are the foremost issues for the left today and why. For some, primarily on the right of the political aisle, identity politics is considered the issue and the hallmark of someone with left leaning views. This is also conveniently utilised by right wing media, such as Fox News to repeatedly discredit the left and it must be said, with good effect. Yet for many lefties, myself included, this political arena is deeply flawed, divisive and exclusionary. It is contradictory in as much as it argues vehemently against stereotyping certain groups, yet identarians will consider certain groups, for example ‘all white males’ to be privileged. Which in itself is a huge generalisation, completely disregarding; socioeconomic, educational and environmental factors while drawing these deeply suspect conclusions.

Many on the left still consider class and socioeconomic factors created by capitalism as their main focus. This is a structural problem, starting with governments and corporations who engage in some kind of reciprocal power sharing pact. Particularly following the crash of the Berlin Wall capitalism has been sold to the masses as the only viable game in town. Further to this, anything outside of this narrative is considered not only to be crazy, but a danger to society. The current abuse and anti-Semitic allegations aimed at Jeremy Corbyn is a recent example of identity politics being used as weapon to protect the corporatist status quo. We are all systematically conditioned to be producers and consumers, with most people not even being able to envision a world outside of endless malls, Starbucks and Amazon.

The magicians wielding their power; Zuckerberg, Bezos, Gates, Musk, Buffett, Murdoch, the Koch’s and co work with the world’s most powerful politicians to ensure the earth runs exactly to their specifications. To highlight this, the US in 2015 spent $2 billion on lobbying the government. Many of the biggest corporations have upwards of 100 lobbyist working to secure their interests. What has been proven in varying studies is that any issues that poorer people care about, are less lightly to be reflected in positive policy change, whereas the opposite is true of rich people. To summarise we have government of the rich, by the rich, for the rich.

Business Leaders Gather For B20 Summit In Sydney
Rupert Murdoch, propagandist in chief

It is indicated that although using money to influence policy is clearly helpful, one of the key factors is socialisation. People in government typically have much more in common with CEO’s, bankers, top lawyers rather than working class people. Consider the amount of MP’s who attended Eton, proportional to the general population. There have been 19 Prime Ministers who have darkened the doors of Eton including David Cameron, other recent notable MP’s being Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Zac Goldsmith. Further establishment luminaries from Eton include; Alex Wilmot-Sitwell former CEO of USB investment bank, Martin Taylor former CEO of Barclays Bank, Charles Moore former Editor with the Daily Telegraph and Nathanial Rothschild financier.

These people tend to operate in very similar circles, therefore, it’s not entirely surprising that they are more inclined to look after one another than someone from a council estate in Middlesbrough. It’s worth noting that only 7% of children in the UK attend private schools and just a fraction of these are lucky or rich enough to go to Eton. Despite this 71% of senior judges, 62% of armed forces officers, 44% of the Sunday Times ‘Rich List’, 43% of newspaper columnist and 33% MP’s attended private schools. A similar trend transpires when investigating Oxbridge. Although only 1% of the population attend Oxbridge, former graduates make up 75% of Judges, 59% of the cabinet and 47% of newspaper columnists. The US has a similar theme; George W Bush, John Kerry, George H W Bush, Steve Mnuchin (US Treasury Secretary) and Robert Kagan (influential neoconservative writer) all attended the secret ‘Skull and Bones Society’ at Yale University. This concentration of wealth and power among a few well connected people is of no surprise and has been going on for decades.

So what’s my point? Put simply I propose our most pressing dilemma is a concentration of wealth. We have a class system that seeks to retain power by coercing government and manipulating people into thinking that this current system is the optimal way to run society. In contrast to this there is a section of society who claim to be on the left, who are convinced that the biggest issues we face revolve around gender, sex and race, not economic inequality. These groups are generally fickle, they often fragment, are repeatedly looking inwards while claiming to be oppressed or more oppressed than other competing groups. This search for victimhood is routinely performed in the name of self interest. Feminists may claim women are oppressed, but what if they’re white or straight, remember there is always someone who is more oppressed than you.

This approach helps nobody, certainly not the “greatest number” as required by utilitarian’s. For identarians, recipients of oppression are settled upon by gender and race, even if the perceived oppression is by group association only. Whilst the working class single parent who is struggling to pay rent and feed the kids doesn’t get a look in, as they don’t tick the required boxes for any compassion. This divides society, by producing a group pecking order of victims and of therefore, perceived importance. This has the effect of putting people off fighting for these causes. For example, only 7% of Brits identify as feminists and yet two thirds agree with gender equality.

I suspect the initial goal of these activists was well intentioned, fighting to gain recognition for marginalised groups. In recent years, however, identity politics has shifted away from inclusion to exclusion. For example; you can’t talk about abortion because you’re a man, regardless of any possible expertise you may possess. Outgroups are voiceless, and if they still want to support an in-group, they are given the title of ally, but must remain mute. Luckily (cue sarcasm), identarians are concerned with burning hot topics such as cultural appropriation, mansplaining and manspreading. While in the process of this deep deliberation, people all over the world are being severely oppressed and many killed. In Yale the identarian mafia in one of America’s most privileged universities were apoplectic with rage a couple of years back, over Halloween costumes and the advice of what one should wear. Resident Professor and acclaimed academic Nikolas Christakis among many communications suggested, “if you are offended by a costume look away or talk to them about it”. What ensued was nothing short of the actions of a cult.

Watching episodes such as this over something that is frankly trivial, it isn’t surprising that groups such as these do not gain much widespread support. It also serves to discourage people engaging with the left, as you hear comments such as ‘loony lefty’. What we should be striving for are things that binds us together not what blinds us from the biggest issues. This is why I suggest looking towards a utilitarian way of conducting our politics, more pragmatism and less emotion. This may well help us deal with our many issues. Jeremy Bentham, the 18th century British philosopher offered the “greatest happiness” principle suggesting “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right or wrong”. So with this in mind, we could compare how many potential people identity politics would help as a net value. Then we might compare this to how many people would benefit if we made a concerted, cohesive decision to tackle the system of neoliberalism (unbridled capitalism) and the people who gain mercilessly from the efforts of others. I’m relatively sure that under this ‘Jeremy Bentham test’ the latter would win a unanimous decision.

One stark problem we have with identarians is they are commonly unconcerned with economic difficulties, as many of them don’t have any. Identity politics has fast become a middle class pursuit that allows participants to appear virtuous while not rocking the economic boat from which they have benefitted from. Identarians often argue that utilitarian philosophy neglects minority groups, but in this case economic inequality affects all groups, regardless of; religion, race and gender. Are some people worse off than others? Of course. But why make things better for a few, when we can challenge a system that currently causes misery for many? Now we need to conclude why neoliberalism and the economic inequality it causes is indeed our biggest problem.

Some background, in 2017 Oxfam stated that 8 men had more wealth than the poorest half of society, that’s 3.8 billion people. On top of this, more than 3 billion people currently live on less than $2.50 a day. All the while Jeff Bezos who pays wages too low to live on, makes (not earns) $230,000 (US) per minute. He has amassed a fortune worth approximately $150 billion, selling us shit we don’t need, while destroying many small businesses along the way. If at this point you fail to see an issue with this, you are part of the problem and have bought into neoliberalism, hook, line and sinker. I’m sure billionaires and their sycophants will vehemently defend that these people work exceptionally hard for their wealth. This may be true, but doesn’t a janitor (cleaner), a nurse or a builder not work hard? To put this in perspective, Jeff Bezos using $ per minute rate accrues $13,800,000 (US) per hour, whereby a janitor in the US EARNS on average $10 per hour. With this hard work theory in mind it would mean Jeff Bezos works 138,000 times harder than a janitor. Now even taking into account that Bezos has arguably more responsibility, I would offer that it is not 138,000 times more.

Admittedly this veers towards the extreme end of the scale regarding differences, but what is patently obvious is this is a ludicrous way to organise society. There have been a plethora of studies concluding that people at the top have often enjoyed excellent education, consistent support (parental or otherwise), are often middle to upper middle class and have a safe environment in which to live and learn in. However, one of the most important factors on top of all this is luck. In several studies conducted in this area they concluded that the most successful are also the luckiest. In effort to tie this together, take Bill Gates; he came from a upper class background, had access to computers when only 0.01% of his generation had this privilege, while his mother had social connections with the Chairman of IBM. Is it just me or is that some sort of luck. The lesson is, don’t be fooled by people who tell you they attained their perceived success through their own hard work, because nobody succeeds (whatever that means) alone.

So, from a utilitarian perspective I think I should outline why economic inequality is one of our biggest issues. Sticking with our ‘greatest happiness’ theory, economic inequality has huge negative affects on the economic stability, social mobility, education, crime, health and social cohesion. It’s important to mention that it’s not just absolute poverty that causes these detrimental effects but primarily economic inequality. So lets elaborate on this, economically unequal countries have stronger links to economic instability, financial crisis, debt and inflation. One such reasons for this is what’s called rent seeking. This is when people at the top of the income spectrum use their position to increase their personal gains beyond the amount needed to sustain their employment. Which as mentioned earlier is used to influence political debate. Secondly social mobility, it is well established that countries with high economic inequality have lower levels of social mobility. Furthermore, children of highly paid people are more likely to be highly paid themselves, while children of poorly paid people are likely to be lower earners. It is thought that the principle mechanism regarding social mobility is education. Research has found a correlation between low maths and reading scores and the inequality between countries. In other words, countries who are more equal attain better maths and reading scores than their unequal counterparts.

social mobility

There are well established links between economic inequality and both property and violent crime. Rates of crime are higher in countries that are more unequal, even when accounting for other determinants of crime, such as low employment and low income. It is suggested that economic inequality influences the way we think, act and relate to each other. Health also suffers in an unequal society; life expectancy, infant mortality, mental illness and obesity are all improved in more equal societies. The most plausible explanation for the disparity in outcome is ‘status anxiety’. It is thought that this occurs as inequality places society in a socio-economic hierarchy that fosters status competition, leading to stress, poor health and other negative outcomes. Rounding this off we have social cohesion.

Income inequality alters the way we interact and engage with society. This manifests in a decline in altruism, lower social and civic participation and reduced levels of voter turnout. One underpinning issue surrounding these problems is lower levels of trust in more unequal societies. It is thought that economic disparities increases the social distance between you and other members of the population, enhancing the belief that they are different to you. This can lead to a lack of trust, reduced future relationships and a more fragile society. A weakening of societal bonds and trust is fertile ground for violent crime. These mechanisms can also have an affect on how people view themselves and others. A study in the US found that people who lived in less equal states of the US were less likely to be compassionate, agreeable, cooperative, altruistic or trusting. This concludes my case as to why we need to reduce economic inequality. It’s my belief that this one aspect affects millions of people in a variety of ways, whilst reducing society’s potential, and therefore, the quality of life for most people.

So what’s the answer? That’s quite simple, it’s power. Nothing can change if you don’t attain power, regardless where you may be in the world. To achieve power for the people you need a concern that appeals to the majority of people. This will inevitably involve the left winning back the disenfranchised working class. The very same group who most centre left parties around the world gave up on, in exchange for middle class voters in the 90’s early 2000’s. Many of whom received an earful of liberal platitudes, from people such as Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, while losing their jobs and self-respect. White men are told by middle class academics and politicians that they are the gold medal winners in privilege, while many struggle to find work that pays enough to feed their family and pay the bills. At the same time the very same band of identarians now ponder on such important issues of the day such as bathrooms for our varying gendered or non-gendered citizens. When you place these types of issues side by side, it really isn’t surprising why the working class walked away from Labour and the Democrats.

Organising a political agenda by race, sex, gender and religion is not going to provide much work or bring people together, however hard you try. On the flip side, most people along the way suffer from the fallout of economic inequality. Not only this, but the people who perpetuate this system are often behind other large global threats, such as wars and climate change. I will conclude by stating utilitarian thinking is not easy and can be counterintuitive. Moral psychologist and philosopher Joshua Greene offers that utilitarian morality requires you to override your emotional instincts. This may require “giving up on your convictions to do what’s best generally”. Greene states we can do this as we have 2 systems of thinking; one of automatic processes, intuitions and emotions, the other of deep thinking, logic and rationality. I could guess that most people would agree that where politics is concerned many people resort to an emotion led way of thinking, and often nothing gets resolved. I propose that we have to move away from our particular, safe, moral tribes and like Bentham, reason what is actually the best result for the most amount of people.

 

 

 

 

Climate change: The denial is strong in this one.

Climate change is the most important issue we face as a species. This is not an article on the validity of the science, as this is settled. Having said that, I am aware that science evolves with further evidence, but right now there is a consensus. Below is the now famous pie chart courtesy of James Powell, who searched 13,950 peer reviewed articles and identified which of these rejected the theory that humans have caused global warming. He outlined that to be classified as a rejection the article must state explicitly that global warming was false, or to provide an alternative reason regarding observed climate change. As illustrated only 0.17% of scientists reviewed refuted the theory that climate change was caused by humans. This line of enquiry continued with the work of Naomi Oreskes who conducted a similar study between 1993 and 2003, using 928 abstracts, finding no opposition to anthropogenic climate change.                                                                                                                                                                                                                               stacks_image_733 Just on the off chance we have climate change deniers in our midst, who are statistically challenged, here is a lovely colourful piccie presenting 4 easy to digest facts, by NASA no less. You could even print it out and stick it on your fridge.                                                         26_ipcc_2_538px Good. Now we have the preliminaries out the way, we can get on to the real point of this piece. Climate change denial is as persistent as ever before. It is heavily funded by the fossil fuel industry, while being ideologically driven by politicians and professional mouthpieces who stand to gain from their advocacy. This campaign has been purposefully designed not necessarily to change people’s opinion, but to muddy the waters and to introduce an element of doubt. The epicentre of climate change denial is undoubtedly the US. Each year millions of dollars are spent lobbying the government and constructing huge nationwide misinformation campaigns. After all, the main protagonists stand to lose substantially if they are defeated in this battle of (mis)information. Therefore, it is of no surprise that roughly only  50% of American adults believe global warming is due to human activity. One of the most startling observations is that the nation’s who produce the highest levels per capita of carbon dioxide, are among the least concerned about the negative effects of climate change. This group is headed by not surprisingly; the US, closely followed by Australia, then Canada and Russia. Many of the nations who worry the most are some of the world’s most minimal polluters; Burkino Faso, Uganda and Peru to name a few. It also cannot be stressed enough that the people who are most at risk from the symptoms of climate change reside in some of the poorest nations on earth. Notably, the UK lies somewhere in the middle regarding polluters, however, they are also one of the least perturbed nations in world in relation to climate change. What is glaringly obvious is many of the most apathetic countries in the world regarding this catastrophe are English speaking. This includes the US, Australia, Canada and the UK, whilst in a further study it was discovered that only 53% of New Zealanders believed that humans are causing climate change. This result is frustratingly similar to the US figure of 50%, begging the question; what is it with English speaking countries, that make the inhabitants so susceptible to climate change denial propaganda?                                              derrick doom Let’s start in the belly of the beast, the fossil fuel corporations. A body called the Economic Intelligence Unit estimated that even if the temperature is held at a 2 °C increase, investors are still set to lose $4.2tn US. If the rise is by 5 °C, which is where we are currently heading, this could push losses to $7tn US. As you may have gathered this is not an unsubstantial amount of cash, even for this industry. Furthermore, the fossil fuel world has known about the effects of their product for decades. It is reported that Exxon Mobile produced climate change papers from 1977-2014 and approximately 80% of their research agreed with the scientific community, stating climate change was caused by humans. This information always firmly remained within the corporation boundaries, in contrast to this public statements aimed at a wider audience conveyed doubt about the validity of climate change. Exxon Mobile were not alone, Shell also released information regarding the probable catastrophic risks back in 1991. This was made into a half-hour film created for public viewing, in addition an earlier written report from 1986 also highlighted potential problems. The data presented on the 1991 film regarding potential sea level rises and temperatures were exceptionally accurate. Shell, however, ignored this and continued to invest billions in tar sand operations knowing that this was incompatible with their own stats from 1998. Although Shell was acutely aware of the impacts of fossil fuel extraction, they proceeded to lobby extensively against climate action. It’s patently clear that Shell among others are happy to secure a profit at the expense of the planet and of course the people who inhabit it. But to ensure this continues the industry requires an extensive propaganda and lobbying system that has their tentacles at all levels of power.

So lets investigate who the runners and riders are in the world of lobbying against climate action. If we are looking for the funders of think tanks and lobbying groups, it would be foolish to proceed any further without introducing the Koch brothers. For those who are unaware, Charles and David Koch control Koch Industries, which is the second largest privately owned company in the US. This business was started by their father Fred, who developed a new cracking method for the refinement of heavy crude oil into gasoline. The Koch’s are involved in asphalt, fertilisers, petroleum, plastic and natural gas production to name a few environmentally unfriendly endeavours. Their annual revenue was upwards of $100bn in 2015 and they stand to gain the most from the Keystone XL pipeline. With substantial skin in the game, the pair are massive political funders with $100,393,292 going to 84 climate denying groups since 1997. They have been successful by using lobbying groups to block, delay or subvert any bill that has been pro environment, including the ‘greenhouse gas emissions legislation’, proposed by Clinton and Bush Jr. This all fits into place when you consider Koch Industries are the 14th worst air polluter in the US. In 2011 Koch Industries was Inducted to the Corporate Hall of Shame, this was achieved by spending $50 million on funding for climate change denial, while also influencing the Supreme Court’s decision allowing unlimited corporate dollars to flood in to federal elections. The Koch boys joined five other notable corporate scumbags in to the hall; ExxonMobile, Monsanto, Blackwater, Halliburton and Chevron, wow they must have been so proud. The Koch’s have also over the years funded Governors and bribed companies all over the globe. Unsurprisingly the jewel in their crown for misinformation is the contribution they’ve made obfuscating and confusing the general public around climate change. Here’s how.

So who are these organisations that the Koch’s lavishly fund? One of the main recipients of this cash is the Cato Institute, this is a Libertarian think tank based in Washington DC. Initially Cato’s interests were focused on public advocacy, media exposure and societal influence. The Cato Institute state that they are “promoting American public policy based on individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peaceful international relations”. In contrast Greenpeace describes the Cato Institute as a “Koch Industries climate denial front group”. Between the years 1997 to 2015 the Cato Institute received just short of $9m (US) from the Koch’s. One of their senior fellow’s happens to be Patrick Michaels, who publishes the purposely ambiguously titled ‘World Climate Report’. This is an ongoing journal of climate science denial. Michaels’s work over the years has been funded by several body’s with polluter interests such as; the Western Fuels Association. The Cato Institute’s primary objective appears not necessarily to outright deny climate change but to baffle the public into a state of apathy and inertia. Here’s the Cato Institute official statement;

“Global warming is indeed real, and human activity has been a contributor since 1975. But global warming is also a very complicated and difficult issue that can provoke very unwise policy in response to political pressure. Although there are many different legislative proposals for substantial reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, there is no operational or tested suite of technologies that can accomplish the goals of such legislation. Fortunately, and contrary to much of the rhetoric surrounding climate change, there is ample time to develop such technologies, which will require substantial capital investment by individuals.”

Tellingly, however, Cato’s advice to congress was to pass no legislation restricting emissions of carbon dioxide. The Cato Institute are one of many think tank’s the Koch’s finance. Next, the conspicuously named American’s for Prosperity is another climate change refuting organisation funded and founded by the Koch’s. Between 2005-2015 the foundation received $6.2m from the dynamic duo. American’s for Prosperity are committed to distorting climate science which they describe as an “encroachment of the government”. The AFP  is also a Libertarian group advocating for smaller government and free markets. They have been known to bolster it’s perceived supporters by using varying ‘events’. One such incident was the “$1.84 gas” where consumers who received gasoline discounts, were asked to provide their names and email addresses on a petition form. These events often proclaim to be raising awareness of “failed energy policies and high gasoline prices”, but participants are never informed about AFP’s connection to the oil industry or to the Koch’s. To get an idea of the kind idiocy involved with these groups, Peggy Venable AFP state director for Texas stated “carbon dioxide is not a pollutant, on the contrary it makes crops and forests grow faster. We exhale carbon dioxide”. The AFP doesn’t often engage in the science of climate change and there’s probably a good reason for that. They are more inclined to employ confusion, such as, claiming the Environmental Protection Agency and the legislation being considered by Congress as based on “global warming alarmism”. These tactics are designed to cause chaos without offering any specific details. They are also inclined to infer suggestions that any strategies to fight climate change would be massively costly without having much impact against the background of natural variation. All this is proclaimed without a shred of evidence.  There are many other methods the AFP use to foster scepticism among the general populous, based around potential costs of reducing emissions. Conveniently omitted in their reports are the catastrophic potential costs of climate change itself. The AFP also like to encourage apathy by suggesting other big nations will do nothing about the issue. Although it is true other countries have been slow in acting, the US especially under Trump are definitely out on their own regarding denial.

The Heartland Institute, provide different tactics but the same ultimate goal, that is to increase the population of climate sceptics while causing bewilderment among the masses. Over the years The Heartland Institute having been generously funded by ExxonMobile and the Koch’s. They claim erroneously to stand up for “sound science”, while spreading propaganda about climate science and even attacking scientists involved with research. Heartland President Joseph Bast, once claimed “the most prominent advocates of global warming aren’t scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen”. Predictability this was blurted out without any evidence or rationale, just hyperbole and bluster. To round off this review of anti-climate change think tanks, if that isn’t an oxymoron we have the Heritage Foundation. The Heritage Foundation seems to specialise in stirring the pot. A report from the Heritage Foundation stated “the only consensus over the threat of climate change that seems to exist these days is that there is no consensus”. Climate change contrarians have conveniently been announced as the ‘the worlds best scientists” by the foundation. While the Koch’s and ExxonMobil have graciously added over $5m to their coffers since 1997. Apart from a selection of ‘think tanks’ there are a range of politicians, contrarian scientists and talking heads who are often in the pockets of the fossil fuel industry. These useful idiots and science mercenaries are crucial for the delivery of the gospel of climate science denial.

Up first S. Fred Singer, a climate change denying, scientist for hire, once a cold war physicist and environmental scientist, from the University of Virginia. Singer left academia in 1990 to set up the Science and Environmental Policy Project. This ‘think tank’ had such noble goals such as debunking the science of; ozone depletion, climate change, tobacco and other health threats. Amazingly Singer has received funding from such moral luminaries as Philip Morris (tobacco), Monsanto (seed and pesticide evil empire) and Texaco (fossil fuels). One of his pieces of work, if that’s what you want to call it, was entitled, “Climate Change Reconsidered”. This ‘Orwellian’ inspired piece suggested that a warmer world would be safer and healthier for humans and wildlife alike. This narrative astoundingly wasn’t a view shared by much of the science community as it was dismissed out of hand and labelled as fabricated nonsense. The next charlatan is Steve Milloy a proclaimed environmental science expert by Fox News, he spectacularly fails to possess any scientific credentials whatsoever. Milloy has suggested that ailments linked to tobacco products, pesticides in environmental ailments and fossil fuels in climate change as “junk science”. Of course like Singer, Milloy has received payments from prominent agrichemical, fossil fuel and tobacco corporations to whistle their tune to all who will listen, such as Fox News. This leads me neatly to my final example of talking heads for hire and propaganda merchants, notably Rupert Murdoch. Of course Murdoch would have to make an entrance wherever there was any anti-truth rhetoric abound. Fox News has willingly offered itself up as the conduit for anti-science misinformation. This corporation is a strange, dark parallel universe where no rational, thinking human exists, especially with regards to science. The laws of physics are abandoned for a narrative aimed at supporting the super-rich and corporations at all costs. The greenhouse effect is considered a myth, while climate change is no more than a hoax concocted by the government in conjunction with those ‘crazy’ scientists.

So what are the rules of engagement for these deniers? How have they managed to get a large portion of the western world so confused about climate change? Firstly they managed to re-frame the problem and we all fell for it. They succeeded in convincing the vast majority of people to cease calling the problem “global warming” and to adopt a more cuddly term namely “climate change”, for which most of us (including me) are guilty of using. In an article a few years back published in the Guardian, the piece suggested that there are 5 stages to climate change denial. These are designed to perplex the general public by re-framing the issues, thereby, coercing them to re-evaluate their stance, despite the clear scientific evidence in support of climate change

  1. If in doubt, deny everything.

Denial is often a natural reaction in times of difficulty, in this case it is performed for example, by disputing the accuracy of records, such as surface temperature data. This approach has been reinforced over the years by decidedly dodgy research. In 1990 Christy and Spencer’s study displayed lower atmospheric temperatures using satellite instruments. On first glance their work appeared to show that the atmosphere was not warming. On further investigation it was discovered that this research contained several biases that added an artificial cooling trend. Once this was corrected it was noted that lower atmospheric levels were rising at the same rate as surface levels. Another falsity from deniers is that global warming ceased 15 years ago. The author David Rose amateurishly focused on atmospheric temperature which only accounts for 2% of warming from the planet. This disregards 98% of global warming, 90% of which is absorbed by the oceans thus raising their temperature. When we take all this information into account climate change indeed seems to be accelerating, as most scientific models predict.

2.  It’s not us, honest.

This tack was promoted by John Christy and Roy Spencer, who on the back of their research, disputed the accuracy of global climate models. Spencer bullishly concluded; “we deny that most [current climate change] is human-caused, and that it is a threat to future generations that must be addressed by the global community”. Their study compared 73 climate models to satellite temperature measurements, this showed that the models predicted more warming than had been observed. The issue regarding this study was what they chose to compare, which was the temperature of the middle troposphere in the tropics (TMT). The problem with this is satellite measurements of the TMT are uncertain and results from varying scientific groups have been erratic. Another issue is the stratosphere the layer above the troposphere is cooling, which is expected due to an increase in the greenhouse effect. It is known that the stratosphere cooling bleeds into the troposphere leading to a cool bias and affecting data. It is not certain whether the disparity between the models and the TMT data can be linked to poor models or errors in measurements. Either way this was a deeply flawed study and certainly doesn’t substantiated the suggestion that humans have no role in climate change.

2b.  Consensus Denial.

It appears de rigueur from deniers to attack the consensus of human made climate change. Primarily, a paper written by Cook et al. (2013), found just over 4000 papers equating to 97.1% endorsing human caused global warming. Andrew de Montford from Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper The Australian, illegally obtained private discussion material from the Skeptical Science forum and then quoted them out of context, to suggest the study was a public relations exercise. Presenting stolen information out of context runs the risk of purposefully misinterpreting the facts. I think it’s worth highlighting that despite his BSc in Chemistry from St Andrew’s, de Montford could not be described as a scientist, particularly not regarding climate science. Despite his obvious lack of expertise or credentials de Montford has successfully accrued plenty of appearances on mainstream media talking about climate change.

3.  Deny it’s a problem.

The denial of a problem is usually supported by cherry picked data. Bjorn Lomberg has talked about how droughts have not worsened in the US, according to the IPCC, while failing to mention that they predict droughts will intensify over the century. He also suggested that increased CO2 fertilisation will increase wheat crop yields. This may be true when other factors are held constant, such as in a greenhouse, however, when more CO2 is added to the climate this leads to climate change. The outcome of which is more extreme weather, resulting in a rising amount of; heatwaves, bush fires and floods. Those conditions are clearly not conducive to plant growth.

Matt Ridley is a businessman and chairman of a failed bank (Northern Rock), he is a climate science contrarian, libertarian and very rich toff who publishes in mainstream media outlets. He has cunningly employed fake optimism in an effort to cloud the minds of the curious. Promoting ideas such as, the planet has become ‘greener‘ over the last few decades. He uses these nuggets of information to somehow explain climate change away. In contrast to this faux rosy outlook, it is suggested that this ‘planet is greener’ trend will not continue if we keep relying on fossil fuel. Ridley uses what appears to be a typical tactic, find something that is vaguely positive and project it out without scientific backing to support a particular narrative.

4.  Deny we can solve it.

It is often stated that renewable energy is too expensive, when in reality it is actually cheaper than coal. That’s before you even consider the climate damage costs through carbon emissions. In fact solar energy is also cheaper than coal when you factor in the real costs.

5.  It’s all over, there’s nothing we can do.

Some contrarians have arrived at this stage, suggesting that it’s too late to do anything about our predicament. This stance is a self-fulfilling prophecy, if we wait any longer there will be catastrophic climate change.

global warming pic

This brings us to the inner sanctum of the climate change conundrum, the US government headed by Captain Tantastic himself Donald Trump. By positioning themselves outside of the Paris Climate Accord, the US is officially a rogue state, a position that no other nation has adopted. This should come as no surprise as the US continue to isolate themselves on the world stage under the stewardship of Trump. What Trump truly believes regarding climate change like many issues is difficult to ascertain. As usual his aides are exceptionally evasive on this matter, what we do know about the Trump presidency is, all things are subject to change within a matter of seconds. If we look at Trump’s actions, for example, dropping climate change from a list of global threats on the National Security Strategy, does seem to indicate that he is in alignment with climate change deniers. The US isn’t the only country to be in denial, one of Theresa May’s first acts on becoming the Prime Minister of the UK was to dismantle the Department of Energy and Climate Change. May’s insistence to push fracking through at a time when we should moving away from fossil fuel isn’t exactly encouraging either. It is also estimated that between 2017-2020 renewable energy investment in the UK will be reduced by 95%. Deniers generally in the US often state that climate change is a government conspiracy. If indeed climate change is a conspiracy, wouldn’t we expect governments to be pretending to do something to alleviate climate change? Instead most are still happy to work with fossil fuel companies in Canada, USA, UK and Australia.

why-global-warming-is-a-hoax-is-a-completely-idiotic-idea_50291621382d7_w1500

Another point is, if the global elites are fabricating climate change as suggested, what exactly do they gain by all of this. The reality is the manifestations of climate change will reshape life dramatically for the inhabitants of this planet, undoubtedly for the worse. Sea levels will rise and acidification will increase, this will not only affect the species, but what people can eat. Freshwater will be more in demand and there will be an increase in desertification. In many places crops will not be able to grow. Degraded air, water and a build up of insects is likely to increase the likelihood of diseases. Nation’s security will be under strain as people will fight over scarce resources, while climate change refugees will also increase the burden on governments. None of this sounds particularly pleasant, so why would the governments make this up? If this is a hoax firstly deniers need to prove this, as all we seem to hear from outlets such Breitbart or Fox News is a belief narrative without any accompanying facts. Secondly why? Most government’s in the west are intrinsically tied to corporations and are largely neoliberal, therefore, I’m not sure continuing to lie about a climate change hoax is going to help consumer confidence, it make no sense. It seems more likely to me that many western government’s are stagnating regarding climate change action so huge corporations can continue to suck the planet dry in the name of profit and at the expense of the one planet we have. In effect you have climate changes deniers who are paid by varying ‘think tanks’ to spout the ‘gospel of denial’. They are supported by followers, often people who are angry at the status quo, have no idea how science works or just hate what the other side believes in. These are the useful idiots who make enough noise to re-empower the paid corporate denial mercenaries to continue preaching the sermon. This confusion about climate change disempowers movements who are fighting against climate change inaction and thus allows governments to continue supporting the fossil fuel industry.

climate change deniers

In summary, this is by far my longest blog, one that has taken an inordinate amount of time to complete, it is also probably the most important one for me to date. I think it’s exceptionally pertinent due to what is at stake, namely our planet. I felt I needed to delve into the reasons for the changing views on climate change particularly in the west. We have witnessed a marked shift from a position of agreement regarding anthropogenic climate change, to a state of confusion, scepticism and even denial. This journey, not surprisingly, led me to money, power and a vested interest. What is evident is this is a carefully organised, lavishly funded disinformation campaign in aid of incredibly wealthy fossil fuel companies and exceptionally rich individuals. The goal is to continue making vast sums of money at the expense of the planet’s environment for example via fracking and eventually the people will suffer, starting with the poorest. This crusade in my opinion is driven by greedy psychopaths with regards to the CEO’s and world leaders, but more importantly is guided by an ideology, that of neoliberalism. Neoliberalism particularly at this end stage is not conducive to supporting life on this planet. Ultimately we need radical societal change; economically, philosophically, psychologically and morally. We should endeavour to create a community that veers away from destructive self interest, towards one that promotes sustainability, not just for the planet, but for the good of our species.

 

 

 

 

 

The subjectivity of identity politics.

For a while now I’ve written about identity politics from varying angles. This has been an attempt to make sense of where it came from, why it’s used and the negative effects it has on forming a coherent rational left to challenge neoliberalism. We’ve heard about the Oxbridge colleges who no-platform speakers, one in particular was regarding abortion, as both debaters happened to be men. We’ve also witnessed the use of identity politics in an attempt to axe current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and clear away his supporters with baseless anti-Semitic allegations. Identity politics have been utilised to convict a online vlogger and comedian for teaching his girlfriend’s dog to perform a Nazi salute. While in Scotland, identarians got their wish, when a man was jailed for 70 days for ‘creepily’ staring at a woman in a pharmacy, through a window. All these shenanigans neatly distract us (me included) from trying to change society in a meaningful way such as dismantling neoliberalism and severely reducing economic inequality. Unfortunately, it is apparent that subscribers to identity politics appear keener to engage in issues that are good for themselves and their specific groups or allies. This is disappointing as the left for decades was known to fight for the best possible outcomes for all. Examples of this are; the UK miners strike in the 80’s, nuclear disarmament, better pay and conditions for nurses or, the ongoing plight of the Palestinians. These are all tangible entities, things we can measure, thereby, concluding that something needs to be done. Now we have entered the world of subjectivity, which has steadily been used to change things such as the law, what we can think and even how we live our lives.

A subjective view is not inherently harmful, on the contrary in my working world of health, subjective and objective information is used to obtain an overall picture of someone’s health status. In this context subjectivity is vital, as these insights can be used to fill in the blanks that objective methods such as blood tests or taking blood pressure may miss. Broadly speaking in this setting subjective information cannot hurt anyone else, it will only be used to improve the chance of an accurate diagnosis, for example. Granted, the information from the patient needs to be analysed for its usefulness, but it has no potential external harm. Counter to this, if subjective information which is saturated with emotion is used to change national laws, university rules and for example workplace guidelines, we have a problem. It’s argued by Lukianoff and Haidt, that identity politics on campuses are primarily driven by emotion and their own wellbeing. Certain student groups are shielded from words and ideas, while retreating to their safe spaces if they feel uncomfortable. ‘Oppressed’ students are protected by an increasing army of legislators who punish anyone who tries to argue against this orthodoxy. The result is that identarians have successfully created an atmosphere of fear, where speaking up is a risky business. By using powerful weapons such as; the suggestion that words are violence, creating safe spaces, using trigger warnings and accusing someone of a microaggression, SJW’s have built a formidable arsenal to censure any conflicting views.

campus

This need for control is driven by the notion of ‘emotional reasoning‘, this is not a concept necessarily adept at describing how things are, moreover, how they feel. The problem is, subjectivity is not always a reliable guide as it is shrouded in emotion and can cause individuals to lash out at innocent people. Scarily it’s this emotional reasoning that tends to be the order of the day on campuses and at some places of work. A common example would be if an identarian states that they are offended, this doesn’t simply imply subjectively, but rather someone has been offensive and that in some way this is objective. This is the typical tactic of turning an emotion or an opinion into a fact, purely because they assert that’s how it is. Often these very minor transgressions against identarians frequently result in some form of punishment such as a formal apology or even a loss of job. The accuser then adds an extra layer of protection, by using the ‘victim blaming‘ card if challenged. Often this means the accuser is spared from any scrutiny regardless of how bogus or ridiculous their claim may be. For a subscriber of identity politics attached to a recognised oppressed group, the use of the phrase “I’m offended” is akin to a ‘royal flush’, therefore, unbeatable. Colleges in the US and the UK in the last 5 years have lowered the bar of unacceptable speech, while broadening the definition of sexual harassment, to include entries such as ‘unwelcome verbal contact‘. Often no guidelines are used to help any unsuspecting speaker, just pure subjectivity and fluid definitions all designed to trip people up. This is exceptionally dangerous particularly if we as a society have any designs on protecting ‘freedom of speech’.

Over the last week I’ve embarked on a couple of what I would loosely term as conversations with supporters of identity politics. In the first interaction, it was suggested by this individual that an opinion can be wrong. My first thoughts were, who adjudicates this? Isn’t that subjective? So I’ll attempt to clarify this just in case you are as mystified as I am. Firstly, it would be tempting to suggest that facts are states of affairs, these are occurrences that are out in the world regardless of what people may think of them. In contrast, opinions are beliefs about states of affairs. To expand on this, with the help of several sources the descriptions below appear to be the best summary of facts and opinions that I could find.

  • A statement of opinion is one whose content is either subjective or else not well supported by the available evidence.
  • A fact is a statement that has objective content and is well supported by the available evidence.

This suggests that opinions can be wrong, but only if they encounter suitable objective evidence, however, they cannot be wrong if they are merely countered with another opinion. As Social Justice Warriors tend operate using mainly feelings and subjectivity, it is rare to come across anything remotely objective. In my second brush with identity politics, it was inferred that a white, cis-gendered, hetero-sexual boy from a poor, drug riddled, Salford council estate is privileged. It’s important to realise that many SJW’s come from middle class backgrounds and are relatively comfortable economically. To perform this intellectual feat the SJW is required to perform mental gymnastics with a high degree of difficulty and blind ignorance, to completely dismiss the role that class plays. In fact I would state that class/economic inequality is the biggest factor when addressing inequality. It clearly must be a calculated decision not to acknowledge economic inequality. Any recognition would challenge the right of the SJW to the title of the most oppressed group and a potential place in the victimhood ‘hall of fame’. Despite the fact that the neoliberal doctrine has affected more people than any other issue, the SJW world cannot allow this type of inequality any credence.

Now for some fun facts, firstly it’s known that boys from poorer areas seriously underachieve at school. Only 24% of poorer white boys will attain 5 good GCSE’s which is half as likely as the average student in the UK. Of those boys just 9% will go on to university. However, given that 60% of kids in Salford live in poverty these statistics hardly come as a shock. Let’s look at life expectancy, the difference between a male living in a poor area and female from an affluent part of the UK for example can differ by as much as 11.3 years. The unemployment rate in Salford is 9.6% compared to the national average of 7.7%. Salford is also 7th in the UK for murderous crimes, notorious for gangs, drugs and regularly ranked towards the top for general crime. It is clear that the chances of a boy from Salford living a normal life would be substantially less than a middle class, black girl from say Buckinghamshire. This isn’t a slight on minorities, it is more to point out that people are purposefully ignoring the main issues we have to face in society. As outlined before, this SJW trick is achieved by finding an issue that is personal to the individual, from which emotions and feelings are used to push a particular narrative. Feelings in everyday life are useful, but not for making decisions that will affect a large amount of people, many of whom will possibly not agree with you.

What’s also worrying about the followers of identity politics are their thinking styles. In Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) certain thinking styles are thought unhelpful. CBT is a psychological technique that was pioneered in the 60’s by Aaron Beck at the University of Pennsylvania. The idea of this is to minimise distorted thinking. This fits well with education as it fosters good critical thinking skills and is useful in a learning environment. Of course this would be the case if only critical thinking was still valued in university. Alas ’emotional reasoning’ holds sway on most campuses and is readily witnessed in debates. What plays out in many a lecture hall is people demanding above all not to be offended. Here we see accusations being made that are increasingly innocuous. As previously mentioned the trick is to link the emotions of the offended to one’s group identity, et voila, you strike social justice gold. The ultimate goal is to silence debate, thereby, preventing any scrutiny of their belief system regardless of how devoid of facts it may be. This victimhood offers power; where rules can be changed, professors controlled and societal norms trashed. Or as we see on US campuses where ‘due process’ is bypassed and the burden of proof lowered in favour of the accuser, as in sexual assault cases. This increases the chances of an innocent person (often male) being convicted by up to 33%. This system is similar to what the Cambridge University Students’ Union Women’s Campaign have requested on campus. Dutifully most universities have capitulated to the demands of the SJW’s for fear of being investigating for among other things a lack of diversity and inclusivity. In a nutshell, throughout the western world the tail is now wagging the dog.

In lecture halls course material often contains ‘trigger warnings’ alerting students to practically anything that may evoke an uncomfortable response. How novels no matter how challenging can single headedly trigger strong reactions such as PTSD is beyond me. All the scientific evidence suggests, the more you avoid something the less chance there is of building resilience for life. Each time you trigger the Amygdala and the ‘fight or flight’ pathway you strengthen those neural pathways. Imagine if there were trigger warnings everywhere and the people around you were acting feared for example a trip to Mosside or South Auckland, the chances are increased that you will acquire that fear too. Students can even be excused from triggers if they complain to college authorities, for which the professors have no control over. One of these distorted thinking styles from CBT is magnifying; otherwise known as exaggerating. Suddenly in the world of identity politics there are no grey areas, most debates end in overblown statements and labels such as; racist, sexist, misogynist or transphobic, which are blurted out in an effort to subdue debate. A further method to control speech and thought are accusations of a microaggression. This is where an unconscious choice of the user is deemed by the recipient to have the same effect as conscious, intended discrimination. This may sound straight out 1984, but this is another tool in the SJW silencing toolkit. Professors have been fired from their posts for spurious microaggressions, accusations or a perceived insensitive communication. Virtually anything can be construed as a microaggression, all that’s required is for the recipient to feel hurt or offended and as if by magic there is a full on discrimination allegation at their disposal.

Nik Christakis
Nicholas Christakis and wife Ericka both lecturers at Yale were verbally abused by students over offense taken regarding Halloween costumes. Ericka quit her job, Nicholas stepped down from the post at Silliman College.

Delving back into the CBT playbook of pathological thinking, identarians regularly indulge in catastrophising. This is the art of turning commonplace negative events into monsters and thinking it will be unbearable. This is what leads the SJW to demand ‘trigger warning’ and ‘safe spaces’. Next on the hit list is mental filtering, this is the picking out of negative details, then solely focusing on this aspect, so the whole situation becomes negative. This technique nurtures demonization, as seen in no platforming in the UK or disinvitations in the US. Invitees are required to be so pure in the minds of the identarians and subscribe 100% to their world view. If a speaker is disliked in any way, regardless of other good work they may have done, it will likely see them disinvited from campuses. Evidence of this is, prominent feminist Germaine Greer who holds competing ideas regarding transgender people and rape. This has resulted in 3rd wave feminists trying to erase all of her pioneering work, while turning her into a figure of hate. Finally, this brings me to my final ‘unhelpful’ thinking style that is readily witnessed in the world of identity politics, this being black and white thinking. This flawed thinking style can be commonly observed on the internet. If you happen to disagree with an identarian in any shape or form then you are a bigot and apparently in need of education. Laughably, this statement is riddled with irony. A bigot is someone who is intolerant to opposing ideas. It is not a person who has opposing views, as SJW’s would like you to believe. The revulsion SJW’s seem to display regarding anything that questions the illiberal left’s world view is astounding, and the perpetrator will be eradicated from academia and/or public life if possible. Further evidence of this is their judgment of any media tool that may be used to obtain information or news. If you post something that does not conform with the approved SJW reading list (Guardian, Huffington Post, Salon etc) the information will be discounted without ever being read.

This aversion to any opposing views, media or physical groups who are considered “problematic” is creating a generation of citizens who possess no resilience to what life may throw at them. This creation of a ‘trigger free’ bubble complete with illiberal left ‘happy thoughts’ being piped into it 24 hours a day is not only damaging to society, but is exacerbating this self indulgent brand of politics. The protection bubble may temporarily deflect nasty words or conflicting ideas through the process of blocking someone. While identarians may also feel that they can ensure their ‘safety’ by facilitating non-believers to lose their jobs or sustain a suspension from university for an innocuous differing view. Sooner or later, however, we are going to notice that all this coddling of the illiberal left will inevitable lead to poor managers, workers and leaders, due to a complete absence of compromise, negotiation skills and mutual respect that is required to flourish in society. Many of this cult have developed ‘unhelpful thinking styles‘ as highlighted. The problem is, identity politics cultivates and encourages these pathological thinking styles which will most certainly lead to a variety of mental health conditions. One area of concern is narcissism, this condition has benefitted from significant research developments over the last 10 years. According to Dr Jean Twenge (psychology), narcissism has increased in women recently more than in men, although men are still leading the way. What is worrisome, when tested for traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) a more severe, clinical form of narcissism, 3% of over 65’s had experienced these traits while 10% of people in their 20’s had experienced some traits. None of this bodes well for a cohesive society, where we hope to listen and build on a variety of views to improve our world.

To allow illiberals to continue setting the terms of debate in universities, the workplace’ and wider society without any pushback or scrutiny is perilous. This ideology is shared by a tiny, but admittedly vocal group of people, who are using their personal opinions and subjective views to remodel society. One example is; 3rd wave feminists pressuring sporting bodies to ban women such as ‘grid girls’ at the motor racing or ‘walk on girls‘ at the darts. This campaign occurred solely because it was deemed that these jobs objectified women in the opinion of this group. This decision was made by a comparatively small group of people, even though the women involved enjoyed their jobs and that this action would put them out of employment. Nobody appeared to consult with the people most affected in this case, namely the women who did this work. Instead a subjective, emotional, puritanical decision was made, supposedly for the good of all woman. Like many SJW disputes, this centred around personal emotions and not for some moral crusade in the name of all women. No facts, critical thinking or research will have been conducted to draw any conclusions. Only feelings and flimsy ideas such as intersectional theory are required to influence our laws, rules and guidelines. I’m not sure about you, but I like my decisions to be made in a more objective, democratic and robust fashion. This is why there is a dire need for an audible counter narrative in an effort to challenge this perceived moral high-ground.

 

 

Identity politics; divisive, dangerous and narcissistic.

Outside of climate change economic inequality is the biggest problem we face in the west. It’s tentacles are far reaching and it cares little about what sex or race you are. If you are poor, then you are poor and the effects are devastating. If we on the left do not have economic inequality on the forefront of our minds then we have failed. At which point we will have drifted towards other less desirable parts of the political spectrum. With all this in mind, since the 90’s the left have occupied a corner of politics known as identity politics, spearheaded by the likes of Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and now Justin Trudeau. None of these leaders in question have ever particularly identified with the left, however, they speak the “language of the liberal” as the renowned journalist Chris Hedges would say. Following the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, capitalism was declared the economic ideological winner and all political flavours jumped on board. In both the US and the UK, banking regulations were relaxed or dismantled with even more fervour, such as the Glass-Steagall Act in 1999.  Meanwhile, so called left(ish) parties abandoned the ‘working class‘ and conveniently jumped on the social justice bandwagon.

The governments of US, the UK and NZ in the 90’s all continued a largely neoliberal doctrine from an economic perspective. Ushered in was relentless privatisation, low taxes for the rich, weakened unions, while encouraging consumerism and individualism. These ‘third way‘ exponents such as Blair supported social justice; feminism, anti-racism and gay rights, all of course on the condition they didn’t interfere with unbridled capitalism. Democracy gave way, as we were transformed into consumers and producers, with more emphasis on the former. Many people in the middle classes were offered a lifestyle that was hugely attractive, coupled with a seemingly socially liberal society, this proved to be a heady cocktail for many. Behind the warm, fluffy policies of social justice, economic inequality continued to widen in most western countries, albeit at a reduced rate. In contrast, the working class located in traditional industrial areas and smaller more isolated enclaves of the UK did not witness the benefits of this centrist ideology. Globalisation and consumerism were here to stay, but for the impoverished communities of the north or the midlands to name a couple, this provided no solace.

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Derelict factory in Birmingham.

In the early 2000’s migrants particularly from Eastern Europe arrived, many to forgotten areas of the UK. People within these communities started to feel threatened at a very basic level, particularly for their livelihoods. It’s not surprising that a large proportion of citizens from these affected areas switched their political allegiance to UKIP and Nigel Farage. After all, they were offered an end to globalisation and a much tighter immigration stance. This political narrative although deeply flawed, offered a glimmer of hope for people who had gained nothing from New Labour, and even less from Tory directed austerity. Looking back, it doesn’t require too much of an imagination to draw parallels between the plight of the post-industrial areas in the UK, and the ‘rust belt’ states such as Ohio. It would be flippant even ignorant to suggest that millions of people on both sides of the Atlantic are inherently racist. In each of these countries, it is the people who reside in these industrial areas who have endured misery for decades under neoliberalism. They have witnessed their jobs disappear, houses foreclosed and whole businesses shipped overseas. It should have come as no shock to anyone that both communities opted for change, real or imagined. Not surprisingly, hope can be exceptionally seductive when you sense you have nothing left to lose. Consequently, the US went on to vote for Donald Trump, while the disenfranchised in the UK opted for Brexit. This was a deafening protest vote that many on the right of the Labour Party and the corporate Democrats still refuse to acknowledge New Labour, the Democrats and even to a certain extent Helen Clark’s Labour (NZ) used social justice, which was associated with political correctness and later identity politics as a convenient distraction. They had no intention of reforming the economic status quo and risk alienating their newly acquired middle class voters. Incidentally this present view of social justice was not always the accepted orthodoxy. Back in the 70’s the left supported universal human rights and inclusion. Although, they still championed minorities and disadvantaged groups. This predominant orthodoxy, edged towards group blindness. The twist is, modern day identity politics has now shifted 180º from inclusion to exclusion. This has seen varying groups withdraw into their own ideological corners and become ever more entrenched. The way that these factions function it is clear that much of their behaviour and communication borrows heavily from postmodernism. Objective information, facts and reason, take a backseat to emotion and subjective experiences. This renders the whole movement of identity politics as inherently anti-science and exclusionary. In summary, it is accepted that the quality of information being conveyed is of less value than the perception of a person who belongs to a particular group. This is regardless of the group member’s experience or knowledge on a particular matter. By virtue of being a member solely due to a particular skin colour or their arrangement of genitals for example, allows them the title of expert.

The logical conclusion for identity politics as it becomes ever more powerful, is to divide and play for higher stakes at the ‘oppression Olympics’. At this juncture, a battle for the most oppressed and least privileged group ensues, often pitting former allies against one another. Take for example the acronym LGBTQ, this has ranged from the rather easier to remember LGB to LGBTQQIAAP, as groups compete over which order the representative letter should go. In all honesty this last attempt at a suitable acronym reminds me of a railway station in North Wales, as it doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. But I digress. With astounding regularity identity politics has a knack of miring itself in continual bouts of outrage. The permanently offended can fuel their ire in imaginative ways, such as; voicing their collective outrage because somebody wore a sombrero on a night out while drinking tequila. Guess what? He wasn’t even Mexican. How dare he!!! Forgive me, but while considering the major issues we face today this feels a tad trivial, to say the least. Having said this, dismissing identity politics out of hand would be foolish. After all, this genre of politics has been routinely weaponised in order to destroy peoples careers, such as the #metoo kangaroo court. It also has this uncanny knack of turning something relatively innocuous into a full blown catastrophe by appealing to the sensitivities of a particular group. None of the accusations or bouts of fury have to be substantiated, the lie just needs to be told enough times and be supported by the right people, often opposing politicians, celebrities and the press. Both Bernie Sanders in the US and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK have been on the receiving end of concerted attacks by their opponents. The most recent assault on Corbyn was the assertion that his Labour Party and thereby himself by association are anti-Semitic. This allegation of course was devoid of anything resembling facts. In truth, Labour has no more anti-Semitism than what is found within the general population and significantly less than the right wing parties. However, in the true spirit of postmodernism, we shouldn’t allow facts to get in the way of a good ‘witch burning’. It’s worth noting that this recent political extravaganza was impeccably timed as the whole saga unfolded just before the local elections. This ruse was no more than a vain attempt to weaken Mr Corbyn’s popularity and consequently his grip on the leadership.

Herein lies the problem, nobody in their right mind is suggesting that people should be treated poorly due to race, gender and sexual identity. Sadly, the reality is identity politics in it’s current form is used more as a political landmine, rather than a movement for everyone to rally behind. It fragments vast swathes of the population, as many feel excluded, silenced and often blamed by the so called ‘oppressed’ for something that may have happened centuries ago, such as colonialism. Or suggesting that men who are not prepared to acknowledge their ‘toxic masculinity‘ hate women. It does nothing to address our major issues such as; climate change or economic inequality. In contrast it seems to do no more than designate the burden of the world’s ills on to other supposedly less oppressed groups. In many cases the word privileged appears to be laid at the feet of white men. This rings hollow when you consider that most people at the poorer end of society in the UK happen to be white. Therefore, a bloke living in a flat on Falinge Estate in Rochdale, UK with no prospects of work and isn’t likely to feel enormously privileged. Often identity politics manifests as no more than one big, smug, virtue signalling festival. All this, so the pious can appear windswept and interesting posting on Instagram or Twitter while at some supposedly ‘world changing’ rally.

It’s important to acknowledge, that the carnage caused across the western world due to the ideology of neoliberalism, a system that benefits the few, doesn’t discriminate against race, gender, age, religion or sexual orientation. The people who comprise of the ruling elite do not base their decisions on identity, we are all simply commodities to be bought and sold. Therefore, if a more efficient or cost effective way is identified which does not include you, too bad. Appealing as a member or an ally of an oppressed group will not save you in the long run, only changes to the economic system and the wider society can offer hope.

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Falinge Estate, Rochdale.

Identity politics increasingly reveals itself as a sport for the middle class. Where relatively privileged, well educated, often younger people pontificate on the trials and tribulations of mansplaining or cultural appropriation. Meanwhile the amount of homeless people increases at an alarming rate and child poverty continues to be a major issue. Equally upsetting, all over the western world, particularly in my home country of New Zealand, young men are killing themselves with staggering regularity. Tellingly, however, with all this in mind, the two groups that identarians never support are the working class and men. Identity politics is viewed from a narrow perspective of the world, often through the eyes of a particular group that the activist happens to belongs to. There is no holistic outlook on issues or a wider perspective, as all that is surveyed is performed through the filter of race, gender and sexuality. Identity politics truly is politics for the narcissist as the participants are wholly unaware of anything that resides externally to their ‘bubble of woe’. It is a puritanical belief system that requires it’s adherents to devote to it 100%, in the quest for that social justice nirvana, victimhood. If any infidels stray away from the SJW path they are often discredited, possibly silenced or worse still no-platformed in the case of potential university guest speakers. Freedom of speech is routinely under siege on campuses, any utterances that are construed as remotely challenging are often referred to as ‘violence’ and promptly reported to the education authorities. The entire cult is built on fables such as ‘toxic masculinity’, ‘manspreading’ or ‘white privilege’. This isn’t a movement that has any serious designs on changing things for the betterment of all. I am not convinced that these social justice ‘superheroes’ would want to tackle all racism. Nor would they be interested in opposing the entire spectrum of domestic abuse or even all sexual abuse issues, including prison atrocities. The illiberal left are only sympathetic to chosen groups, which is why woman in Muslim countries are rarely supported by western feminists, despite facing serious oppression. In a frantic effort to be unique each group cloaks itself in its own language, hierarchy and special rules that change on an hourly basis. Below is a visual representation from Jonathan Haidt regarding hate speech and free speech, an area identarians are always desperate to control.

free hate speech

I’m sure by writing on this topic some will suggest I’m racist, sexist and homophobic, while cashing in on my white privilege. Of course this is to be expected as I do not subscribe or follow the rules of the cult. My problem is with the vehicle that is used by many to fight for their groups, what it does to society and the divisions it causes. It is a belief system akin to a religion, that screams for diversity, but silences diversity of thought. The whole strategy of the illiberal left is to discredit dissenters and shut down debate. Primarily because they have nothing to offer in terms of a cognisant argument. When prominent anti-racist activist Munroe Bergdorf bizarrely claimed that ‘you can be homeless and still have white privilege’, it exemplifies a departure from reality. The fact that identity politics on the left has overshadowed the fight for economic equality is a monumental travesty. As very well documented economic inequality is associated with increased crime, poor health outcomes, less social mobility, failing education and the destruction of social cohesion. Working to level the economic playing field would start to galvanise society as it’s within many people’s interest to do so. In contrast, identity politics serves to disenfranchise and alienate certain sections of the population who do not subscribe to their beliefs. The merits of intersectionality are not on the forefront of people’s minds when they’re struggling to pay the rent, while out of work in an area that is economically depressed, rundown and dangerous. What most of us can agree on, is the amount of people that benefit from this system of economic control is tiny, while the numbers that suffer from it are enormous. With this in mind, it makes perfect sense to utilise an issue that generates a large amount of interest, where the benefits would transcend gender, race and sexuality rather than embark on a journey of group victimhood. I will finish by strongly suggesting identity politics has no place on the left, more importantly it could very well destroy any opposition to neoliberalism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Homelessness; why are we failing as a society?

Last month I walked down Victoria Street West and Queen Street, one of the main drags heading towards the Britomart in Auckland on a Friday night. It had the usual array of students, tourists and young revellers out sampling what the downtown area has to offer. The vast majority of these people seemed generally oblivious to another section of our society. In fact their behaviour towards them was symbolic of how this group are often treated, which is ignored. The population I refer to is the homeless. During my walk I passed approximately 20 homeless people, mostly men and about half with some form of rough sleeping arrangement. It is disheartening, as you can’t give money to everyone and in reality the money feels relatively symbolic in its paucity. The real problem is, we live in a system that encourages massive inequality and a ‘winner takes all’ mentality. So my point is this; while we still have people who live in these perilous conditions, as relatively well off people step over or dodge around without even looking at them, we have no right to call ourselves a first world nation. This does not only apply to New Zealand but all over the so called advanced nations in the western world.

Homelessness is exceptionally difficult to quantify in the UK as there are varying definitions, such as, statutory homelessness, this is deemed when an individual has satisfied a criteria set by the government. At which point the local council has an obligation to provide housing related support. There is also non-statutory homelessness, where a person does lack a home, but does not qualify as suffering statutory homelessness, for these people there is a lesser obligation required from the council. Also there is hidden homelessness, which are people who do not show up on official figures for example, due to finding a temporary solution with friends or family. Finally the group that we generally relate to as homeless and the group I witnessed during my walk in town, rough sleepers. This is the group I will focus on for many of the statistics. It is estimated in the UK that 4,751 people sleep rough each night, this figure has almost doubled in 5 years.  In New Zealand in 2014 it was thought that 147 people were sleeping rough within a 3km radius of the Sky Tower in downtown Auckland, this was a 116% increase from 2013. But in June 2016 Auckland City Mission announced that the total had topped 200 and was steadily getting worse. It is clear to me that society needs to change dramatically for the prevalence of homelessness to decrease. This has to be spearheaded by a society that does not accept a system that treats the rich like royalty and the poor like crap. We need to start with education designed to tackle people’s misconceptions about the homeless.

Observing people on the street can give us a sharp reminder of reality, that many of us are only a couple of paycheques from the same predicament and this can evoke fear. On the contrary if you are a rich right winger and consider that everything is associated to personal choice, then in you’re own mind you are off the hook. This kind of thinking prevails as you believe that the homeless are on the street through no fault but their own, therefore, compassion is not required. So lets investigate what people think of the homeless. In a study by Shelter Scotland in response to the statement; “most homeless people have just been unlucky in their lives”, 48% agreed, 28% disagreed, while 22% neither agreed or disagreed. A further statement suggested; “most homeless people could find somewhere to live if they really tried”, for this one 45% agreed while 33% disagreed. The article concluded that the public could hold a view of sympathy for example the first statement, while retaining a judgmental view as noted in statement two. Certain groups were found more likely to be critical of the homeless, this included men where 51% agreed with the second statement as opposed to 41% of women. Furthermore, people with lower education were found to be less compassionate. Regarding the response to the second statement 33% of higher education participants agreed with this statement, in contrast 58% of people with no qualifications. Finally it was surmised that people with an authoritarian outlook socially or politically were more disparaging regarding their views towards the homeless. These social and political views were attained by asking about their attitudes towards areas such as; the law, freedom of expression, discipline and tradition. A simple conclusion drawn could be, don’t expect a thick, authoritarian, male to throw some money into a hat of a homeless person on the other side of the street.

It could be argued that our attitude towards homeless people is a product of our misconceptions, due to either a lack of knowledge or a narrative often perpetuated by the media. The first area that many people don’t appear to understand, are the causes of homelessness. The two general groups of factors at play here are individual and structural. It’s the interplay between these two that tend to cause problems.

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The mass of bubbles above indicates the individual factors in red and the structural factors in orange. What is immediately evident is that this is a complex process and each individual will have their own unique mix of factors. People often state the main reason for their loss of accommodation is due to friends or family being no longer able to provide support or a breakdown of a relationship. The Salvation Army suggests that this particular justification accounts for around 43% of all homelessness. It is noted, however, that this could be their final destination after a long chain of events. This is in stark contrast with public opinion which suggests the main reason for homelessness is drug or alcohol addiction. In truth this particular factor is a long way down the list and only accounts for 10% of people who are homeless. Importantly, it is the interplay between a series of individual and structural contributors that drives this process. An example of the interconnection between the two main groups could be; individual issues could arise from structural disadvantages such as poverty or poor education. Or personal issues such as the family could be put under pressure through structural issues, such as a lack of a job, leading to poverty. What is important to be aware of is homelessness is a complex mix of events that has led someone to this predicament and it is never just one thing.

If we look at system driven factors of both nation’s predominantly in the 80’s, massive changes occurred, as there was a shift from social democratic ideas to neoliberalism. The switch in ideology was presented in the form of business friendly policies, whilst being incredibly punitive to people struggling to get by. This practice continues unabated today, although many people in NZ hope to see some changes with the new Labour government. However, from 2016’s figures New Zealand spent less than the OECD average (21%) for public social spending at 19.7% of GDP, while the UK spent 21.5% of GDP. Both these figures are substantially lower than the countries considered with the best social provisions in place; primarily the Scandinavian countries, plus France, Belgium, Germany and Austria. Over the last three decades the UK and NZ have made it incredibly difficult to obtain assistance for those in need. There is often an array of hoops to jump through and a growing number of sanctions or punishments imposed if these tasks are not achieved. It’s quite clear that both countries are becoming more unforgiving by the minute. Another system driven dilemma is securing a home, either to buy or rent, it is not an easy proposition. In many nations in the west, house prices are astronomical, making purchasing unobtainable for many. In this current housing climate the only people benefiting from this are the rich. Without a shadow of a doubt the rentier class is back with a vengeance. From 1991 to 2013 private renting in New Zealand increased from 60% to 83%. This is thought to be due to a huge decrease in state housing stock, as many state houses were sold to community housing providers. In the UK Margaret Thatcher led the great ‘right to buy‘ scandal selling many of the countries council houses at well under market prices, while offering guaranteed 100% mortgages. This strategy was used again by Cameron from 2012. These recent sales have been snapped up by profiteers who buy-to-let, thus reducing the numbers of affordable homes for people that really need them.

So what is the impact of homelessness? Firstly the individual; looking at UK figures, the feeling of homelessness, furthermore, the isolation, increases the chances of physical (56%) and mental health problems (72%). The plight of being without a home suggests you are more likely to take drugs, with 26% being users, compared to 8% of the general population. It is noted that the longer you are in this predicament, the more difficult it is to get on your feet. It is offered that this is mainly because the problem becomes increasingly complex over time, involving multiple services such as health and criminal justice systems. The impacts are also felt on the community. It is suggested that a person who is homeless has; a 77% chance of sleeping rough, 53% chance of an involvement in street drinking, 32% of begging and a 10% chance of becoming involved in prostitution. All this affects society and the tax payer. Immediate and long term cost of homelessness is substantial. Using a strategy that prevents homelessness, while helping people quickly, will keep costs down for society, benefit the community and would undoubtedly help the individual who finds themselves in this terrible situation.

impact of homelessness

Over three decades of neoliberalism championing business at all cost, while looking at narrow parameters such as GDP, inflation and government debt, has relegated the needs of people to a distant last place. The current Tory government in the UK under either Cameron or May has been punctuated by austerity, an ideologically driven doctrine, purely designed to benefit the rich. While New Zealand under National until recently embarked on a similar adventure, ruthlessly underfunding health and education. Benefits for workers and the poor have become increasingly scarce, while difficult to attain, in contrast the rich have relished tax cuts, as GST in NZ has increased, which is effectively a regressive tax. These constant handouts for the rich on top of their already considerable advantage has produced a narrative that suggests what they have is achieved by merit. This despite their often superior education, previous inheritance, social connections and of course luck, which is the main requirement. This narrative pushed from every conceivable angle has given rise to uncompassionate MP’s, councillors, business leaders and punitive members of the public. In recent times fining homeless people seems to be gaining traction in many places in the UK; Exeter, Nottinghamshire and Hackney have all been guilty of this abhorrent, cruel behaviour and it appears to be on the rise. Of course that seems fair, lets penalise the most vulnerable group we can find, that sounds like a great idea. All the while we’ll let off the billionaires from paying tax, because after all they’ve got good accountants, that sounds like a plan. In New Zealand property investor and former politician Sir Bob Jones stated beggars were “fat Māori’s” and a “bloody disgrace to the human race”. This outburst from an uncompassionate, vile, excuse for a human being wouldn’t normally be a problem, if it wasn’t for 72% of a 40,000 person survey declaring begging should be outlawed in NZ.

This accepted orthodoxy of neoliberalism spans the entire spectrum of politics. A few individuals can see through the embedded selfishness of capitalism particularly in the UK under Corbyn. Sadly New Zealand doesn’t seem quite as ready for radical change. Our present PM although a huge relief from the dreary Bill English and National is more Helen Clark than Jeremy Corbyn. Unless we turn away from neoliberalism and it’s love affair with individualism, brutal competition and free market voodoo, in favour of our fellow human beings, change will be minimal. On huge issues like this I tend to look towards ‘utilitarianism’ in particularly Jeremy Bentham. Like all philosophies utilitarianism is not without it’s issues, however, Bentham stated, “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong“. Maybe we can start to aim for this by encouraging compassion, empathy and an ability to look outside of our own world, while realising that blame has no positive outcome for anyone.

 

 

 

 

 

Jeremy Corbyn; is this Britain’s most dangerous man?

I know looks are deceiving, but judging by the pressure exerted by some Parliamentary Labour Party members, the right wing and any other opportunists it would appear Jeremy Corbyn is enemy number one. Mr Corbyn has made it quite clear that if he became Prime Minister of the UK he would oversee some huge changes, that would have a profound effect on it’s citizens. This is terrifying for the status quo who view their positions at the upper end of society as a right never to challenged. So after a brief respite following the 2017 election the charade to unseat Corbyn continues, this time under the guise of anti-Semitism, again. The current catalyst for outrage centres around a mural that was painted by an American artist 6 years ago on the wall of a London house. It depicts a group of crusty, white, old presumably businessmen around a monopoly board. The board is held up by seemingly slave like humans, with an illuminati symbol behind. Despite the artists protestations, this has been labelled as anti-Semitic by the establishment, suggesting that this is a anti-Semitic trope. The artist insisted that this was anti-corporatist and has nothing to do with Jewish people, but obviously individuals who had nothing to with the artistic process clearly know best. Enter Corbyn. mear one.png

On hearing that the mural was going to be destroyed Corbyn replied to the artist Mear One; “Why?, You are in good company. Rockefeller destroyed Diego Viera’s because it includes a picture of Lenin”. Apparently this exchange confirmed to all and sundry that Jeremy Corbyn knew this was anti-Semitic and secondly he supported it. All I can imagine is, it’s like a Black Sabbath song, if you play it backwards, it suddenly means something completely different. Even if I stand on my head, while squinting out of one eye, I still can’t detect where the contents of this exchange with Mear One supports either, the supposed anti-Semitic theme or the mural itself. Yet this has been utilised by Blairites, Tories, the propaganda industry and all the other members of the ruling cabal to weaken a pesky lefty in the form of Jeremy Corbyn. What they conveniently and purposefully fail to acknowledge is Jeremy Corbyn has consistently fought against all forms of racism spanning over 40 years. It’s of public record that between 1990 and 2015, Mr Corbyn has stood up for British Jews and against anti-Semitism 10 times.

So what’s the problem? Well, if we look at Jeremy Corbyn’s political stance over his 35 years in parliament we may get an insight into the psyche of his detractors. Corbyn was strongly opposed to apartheid, a supporter of Nelson Mandela and was arrested outside the South African embassy 1984 for protesting. In contrast the PM at the time Thatcher was reluctant to outwardly oppose apartheid, nor was she seen to overtly support it, but she did undoubtedly receive support from the regime during the cold war. Jeremy was also an opponent of Augusto Pinochet in Chile, who ran a brutal regime while implementing diabolical neoliberal policies. It must be noted that Pinochet was a close friend and ally of Margaret Thatcher. In the 80’s Jeremy sided with the miners again against Thatcher and his own party line. When it comes to military intervention Jeremy Corbyn has been on the right side of history every time. He campaigned or voted against military action in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, each one culminating in nothing less than a humanitarian catastrophe. Corbyn has been equally tenacious fighting the ravages of neoliberalism. He disagreed with the Private Finance Initiative, where the taxpayer will eventually pay £300bn for assets that are worth £54.7bn. He firmly believes in public ownership of the railways. Not only has privatisation failed to reduce ticket costs, but the British public now pay £4bn a year in subsidies. Finally austerity, Corbyn is still vehemently fighting against austerity while reorienting the Labour Party as the anti-austerity alternative. It’s no secret that this disastrous experiment is nothing more than right-wing ideological wet dream and has even been discredited by the IMF, not known as the most socialist of organisations. Debt has increased since the advent of austerity from £1trn to £1.7trn, while real wages have fallen, funding for services have been dramatically reduced, plus over 1 million people are reliant on food banks.

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In our naiveté we may think Jeremy is just the right person for Prime Minister, he seems to be someone who is a character of principle who get’s it right both home and abroad. A man that even before he entered parliament was apart of a group of marchers who opposed the National Front marchers in 1977. Unlike many who accuse people of racism, Jeremy Corbyn has consistently been a man of action. Unfortunately that is precisely the issue, he actively opposes needless wars, discrimination, corporate greed, while supporting everyday people. He is though, in the eyes of the establishment supporting the ‘wrong’ side and that will just never do. The West are currently spoiling for a war with Russia. While this posturing has been going on for a while, with NATO putting more and more bases near the Russian border, recently the tempo has increased. The latest nerve agent attack has also been used to pillory Corbyn, even though there is a distinct lack of evidence confirming who the perpetrators were. This hasn’t stopped the Labour ‘moderates’ using this as a way to cause division, while the Tories also have gleefully joined in with their condemnation of the Labour leader. Jeremy Corbyn didn’t jump on the “Russia did it” bandwagon and rightly suggested to exercise caution pending the outcome of the investigation. Unfortunately this sensible view does not adhere to the narrative Theresa May and her fellow Western warmongers are desperately trying to set. Alas there is still no evidence that a former spy of no consequence was killed by the Russian government. This alleged killing of a former double agent by Russia has caused apparent anger and yet the millions killed by the West in the 21st century barely seems to register on the outrage scale. Regardless of any facts Western governments continue playing their juvenile games expelling varying diplomats and people in the West are dutifully expected to dance to this merry tune. So why this recent push on Corbyn?

The obvious answer is, the longer he is around and the more people get to know him, his popularity appears to increase. A more specific reason also lies in Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, with their determination to create a fairer Britain all round. This includes going after tax evaders and avoiders while devising a tax system that won’t persecute working people. They are keen on implementing a type of ‘quantitative easing’ that will be used to improve infrastructure, fund ailing public services and return the railways to public control. All of these ideas will squeeze the private sector of which have made a lot of money while provided often very little in return. It’s not surprising the establishment want him buried under the patio. Plotting against him has been a recurrent theme for the last two years and their methods have been varied. Firstly, generally Jeremy Corbyn receives a massive amount of criticism, often based on very little truth, but this bombardment comes from all across the media spectrum (including the Guardian, which is relatively centrist nowadays). Apart from the media, we’ve witnessed a couple of anti-Semitism accusations, links with Russia, connections to a Czech spy during the cold war, accusations of being an IRA sympathiser and a supporter of Hamas. The last two accusations could be file under ‘D’ for dialogue. What he was trying to do was promote peace without picking sides or forcing an unsubstantiated narrative, how quaint. Finally Corbyn has received varying assaults on his leadership, including the inept coup attempt in 2016 when Owen Smith became the hapless fall-guy and Corbyn supporters in response joined Labour in their droves.

The question must be asked, despite all this pressure why does he still stand almost Zen like among the chaos. The truth is, these allegations, smears and attacks on his integrity are based on zero evidence. This often repeated tactic usually consists of a small inconsequential moment that the media latches onto, such as engaging with the IRA to foster dialogue between the factions. This is turned on it’s head and presented in a way to ignite faux outrage with Corbyn’s enemies, while placing doubt in the mind of those still siting on the fence. This story is consistently supported by Corbyn’s detractors in parliament for example Labour’s right/centre and of course the Tories. Make no mistake Corbyn’s political demise would be a triumph for the ruling elite who inhabit both sides of the house. Currently opposing them are a small group of principled Labour MP’s and a large amount of Corbyn supporters who believe a better life for the many is possible. So in summary, it’s OK to support a moral human being who has been on the correct side of history for 40 years. It makes sense to endorse someone who understands the complexities of the world and is not so quick to pick sides. Finally it’s courageous to back a man who is strong enough to continue fighting the status quo. We need to sustain our loyalty to a man who is somewhat an anomaly in the murky world of politics, a rare gem and a figure of integrity.

 

 

The meritocracy illusion.

Here in the west we are led to believe that if we work hard, obtain a good education and put our mind to it we can achieve anything. This my friends is a blatant lie. It’s the kind of tale that encourages us to be introspective during moments of difficulty or even failure. We trawl through our lives looking for where we may have gone wrong; “possibly I should have worked harder at school. If only I’d have put more overtime in I might have got promoted” and so on. Today, however, I can reveal the secret to success, drum roll please…………………………the answer is luck. People who are unsuccessful tend to internalise their misfortune, rather than looking at other aspects such as; environmental issues, poor education, inadequate parenting or simply bad luck. On the other hand successful people commonly surmise that they have single-handedly earned everything that is bestowed upon them. I’m here to tell you the idea of a “self made man”, for want of a better phrase is bogus. Nobody gains any kind of success, economic or otherwise completely on their own, ever.

Throughout much of the world it is frequently the case that a disadvantaged child will be a disadvantaged adult. Kids with wealthier parents tend to go to the best schools, chiefly because houses in better catchment areas are estimated to be 42% more expensive. Richer kids also have access to nutritious food, opportunities to engage in ‘high culture’ and often have a suitably quiet place to study. All this leads to poor bright students being overtaken by less intelligent wealthy kids in the first few years of schooling. While only 10% of children from the lower end of society make it to university, attendance of kids with parents from a professional or managerial background is 80%. Furthermore a child from private school is 55 times more likely to attend Oxbridge than a pupil in a state school receiving free school meals. Social mobility is indeed rare in the west, however, there is a marked increase in opportunity with more equal societies such as Scandinavia. Sadly in terms of income distribution the US and the UK are two of the most unequal nations on earth, which is reflected by the woeful social mobility observed in both countries. I must firstly qualify the graph below; this was originally taken from the Equality Trust website and has been doctored to highlight the differences between the UK/US and the Scandinavian countries in terms of social mobility. The original graph displayed other countries to the right, indicating even less social mobility namely; Peru, Brazil, Chile and Argentina.

soc mob

At this point, I’m hoping you are starting to conclude that social mobility for the more disadvantaged portion of society is generally unattainable. Success for the rich, however, is much more likely, due to a myriad of factors as previously outlined. It’s not too much of an exaggeration to suggest the dice are severely loaded in favour of the people who already hold a significant advantage. So, what about luck you may ask. Well in 2015 the Harvard Business Review investigated the traits required to be a successful CEO. Firstly the studies suggested that the positive effect of a CEO aptly named the ‘CEO effect’ varied from 2% to 22% depending on the industry. To arrive at this notion a 26 year study in Sweden measured inductive reasoning, verbal comprehension, spatial ability, and technical comprehension to measure key qualities required for a CEO position. Unsurprisingly CEO’s scored highly, but no more so than doctors, lawyers or engineers. These findings indicated that their innate skills in no way justifies the extraordinary pay these people often command. As an example a Swedish CEO would receive a 1200% pay premium over an average worker. Another reason that success of an actual CEO is thought to be based on luck, is that CEO’s on obtaining the position quite often will have to gamble picking long term strategies which may or may not work. These actions undoubtedly will have a profound effect on a CEO’s longevity and perceived success. This guesswork is a product of not possessing a crystal ball and with no means of looking into the future anymore than us mere mortals. If however, their guesswork pays off this is then calculated as part of the ‘CEO effect’ and is obviously claimed by the CEO as a completely calculated manoeuvre. A study by Markus Fitza from Texas A & M university in contrast to the Swedish study, concluded that the ‘CEO effect’ that is described as outcomes related to skill is likely to be around 4-5%, the rest is pure chance. This is despite what your boss may have you believe through company correspondence.

To push my luck hypothesis further, in a recent study from the University of Catania, Sicily, scientists created a computer model of a 1000 people. Some were given more intelligence, talent and money, than the average worker while others less. During a 40 year period a few of these people experienced “lucky events”, opportunities to boost their career in a way that could be exploited with their natural talent or intelligence. After a 40 year simulation the characteristics of the richest people were analysed. Although it was agreed that successful people did indeed possess some level of talent or intelligence, those who achieved the greatest success were invariably the luckiest. It was concluded by the authors that “maximum success never coincides with maximum talent and vice-versa”.

One of many attributes that is considered when examining success and how this is acquired is overconfidence. Results from one study indicated that overconfidence was often interpreted by others as competence. This in turn results in these self-assured bosses getting paid much more than they are actually worth. Not only that but these types of people are generally more likely to be promoted, exacerbating their overconfidence, leading to a positive feedback cycle. In other words higher status people will often display these types of characteristics. As most bosses tend to employ like minded individuals, it is not inconceivable to suggest a whole layer of management at the same firm could indeed possess similar traits.

John Thain
Former CEO of Merrill Lynch investment bank and chief narcissist, John Thain.

This behaviour is reinforced by the “just world” bias, which convinces us to believe that the rich and powerful deserve their attained positions in the world. This idea was confirmed in a study which noted that when a student heard that a fellow student had won a random prize, positive characteristics were linked to the winning student. Conversely people are equally misguided the other way and attach negative characteristics to victims. Additionally a paper from UC Berkley concluded that narcissistic CEO’s are paid more than non-narcissistic CEO’s. Following on from UC Berkley’s study, further enquiries could well invite you to consider what are the general personality types of people who obtain vast monetary riches. This is hard to measure, but what we do know from studies by Paul Piff is the rich are generally meaner. Piff found that lower class individuals are more “generous, charitable, trusting and helpful”. The rich donate less to charity as a share of their income than the middle class, furthermore their decisions are predominantly based on the economic climate and self interest unlike the middle class. During laboratory experiments Piff discovered the wealthy are more likely to take valued goods, lie, cheat and generally behave badly, which is widely more tolerated if you are rich. This type of conduct is all relatively easy to explain with a help of a friend, who states, “in a society that values wealth, those with wealth are worshipped as well”, Karl Marx, 1844. 

With this in mind let us highlight someone who embodies capitalism to the nth degree; lets take Bill Gates. To begin with Bill Gates had an upper class background, allowing him to attend a school giving him access to computers. In this day and age this may sound absurd, but at this time only 0.01% of his generation had this kind of computer availability. With these facilities Gates could obtain extra programming practice, which according to Matthew Sayed who advocates in his book ‘Bounce’ that 10,000 hours of practice is essential for mastery, was a huge advantage for Gates. It didn’t harm matters either that Bill Gates’s mother had social connections with the Chairman of IBM, this networking enabled him to gain a contract from what was at the time the largest PC company in the world. Luck was a consistent factor for Gates during the process of obtaining the contract from IBM. Initially Gates was approached by IBM regarding the development of an operating system, but as he had never built an OS he referred the request on to a programmer called Gary Kildall. However, Kildall’s talks with IBM broke down and IBM returned to Gates. At which point Gates bought another OS cheaply from Seattle Computer Products with the secret backing of IBM. It is certain that if SCP had known about IBM’s backing of Gates the price for the QDOS operating system would have soared. Gates with Microsoft proceeded to tweak the system and re-named it DOS (disc operating system). He was also successful in negotiating a licensing agreement that allowed him to keep the DOS program, this eventually became the cornerstone of the Microsoft business. Now, nobody is suggesting Bill Gates isn’t intelligent or talented but without a substantial amount of luck Gates would never have had this amount of success or wealth and maybe we would never of heard of him.

So next time you hear the rich or their apologists suggesting that the elite do it all by themselves and are completely worth every penny they earn, maybe you could do some critical thinking and decide whether those remarks hold any water. It is undeniably true the rich require a whole gamut of skills and characteristics to be monetarily successful; self absorption, narcissism, overconfidence, intelligence, selfishness, some talent and of course lots of luck. But the story of meritocracy that needs to be perpetuated primarily by the ruling elite to maintain the status quo is a very tall one. Although, as right wing voters show there are plenty of useful idiots who will lap this misinformation up and will dutifully do the bidding for their rich masters when required. The age old story that suggests the best people available will naturally rise to the top and that their ascent is driven purely by merit would be laughable if it wasn’t so derisory. An example of this fallacy is displayed on a daily basis in the form of Boris Johnson. A man who displays such a paucity of interpersonal skills, he should never be allowed within 1000 miles of public office, but still he lingers. This meritocracy fable is espoused by politicians and repeated endlessly by the media who are essentially from the same societal tribe. Gloomily this narrative has one purpose, which is to keep the proletariat in their place, while trying to tap in to our subservient nature and lack of self belief. So while we collectively fail to muster the confidence to challenge the myth of class, capitalism and societal standing the establishment will continue to talentlessly rule as they see fit.