Are SJW’s the left’s kryptonite: Is this the end for Socialism?

This has been an incredibly odd week. The kind of week you re-evaluate what you believe in both morally and politically. A period in time that has consisted of numerous running battles with radical feminist, whilst finding myself at times uncomfortably agreeing with the so called alt-right guru Milo Yiannopoulos. Admittedly he’s big on rhetoric, but there is more than an element of truth when he voices severe reservations about Social Justice Warriors and in particular radical feminists. Where we agree, is I believe all voices should be heard and you test your theories against opposing ideas to see how they stack up. Preventing certain speakers or comedians to attend university because a specific section of the campus doesn’t agree, curbing words, actions (such as clapping), banning particular books or even topics of conversation is authoritarian and veering ever closer to fascism.

chris rock
Chris Rock among others refuse to play colleges due to the numerous restrictions on the contents of the performers acts.

As a libertarian socialist, I find this sort of social control abhorrent. Unfortunately it has a large number of subscribers, who spend copious amounts of time in echo chambers generally found in ‘so called’ liberal colleges working on for example a ‘gender studies’ degree, without any discernible experience in life. I fear that Social Justice Warriors, the illiberal left or the alt-left as they could be called are the biggest threat to a unified left that we seriously need to challenge neoliberalism. I suspect it is one of the major reasons the Labour Party lost swathes of working class voters in the 90’s and 2000’s, as the ‘pretend’ left under Blair and Clinton in the US, moved away from fighting the rich and became part of the establishment. They suddenly readjusted their focus and embarked on a war using identity politics as their main weapon against the scourge of free thought. Race, gender and sexuality were suddenly the topics of this culture war as politicians gave up fighting for economic equality. As if by magic the scope of acceptable debate was diminished and the use of a set of authorised words to describe someone became more important than the homeless, unjust wars and the environment. All the while during these periods of distraction the rich rejoiced at the prospect of victory on the war of economic theory, as the left pitifully moved full circle in a social sense and landed on the right.

I need to take deep breaths, although I don’t require a safe space as yet. So what sparked my rant you may ask. In a nutshell men’s health, more specifically the funding for the research of men’s health. It was an article that came out of New Zealand suggesting that men receive a tiny amount of gender specific health funding when compared to women. To put this in perspective, according to the article for every dollar 6 cents goes to male medical research and funding. It concluded by stating the Professor bringing this to light was also keen on establishing a centre for men’s health at the University of Otago. This post was published innocently on Wake up NZ’s Facebook page only to spark a mini internet earthquake. This outburst was initiated by women who were incensed that we would even have the audacity to suggest that men should have funding for medical research too. What was more disconcerting was the mental gymnastics these activists were performing to justify keeping their 94 cents out of the dollar. In fact one of the aggrieved even suggested they were entitled to more funding as men’s health issues were their own doing. The lack of facts to support their rage were clearly apparent, instead we were treated to an array of anecdotal ‘evidence’, coupled with accusations of misogyny and ever more anger. This despite the fact I kindly supplied article upon article in support of my position. Silly me, what was I thinking, I should know it’s not the value of what you say, but who’s saying it, welcome to the world of identity politics. Stupidly, I thought I was helping out but this injection of facts just added more fuel to the fire. For a group who are blisteringly quick to reprimand anybody who supposedly ‘victim blames’, a few of these women even had the gall to reprimand men for their predicament. Insinuating that men somehow didn’t deserve the funding as they seldom go to the GP when they should. Even for radical feminists this felt like it was scraping the barrel and suspiciously Orwellian in nature. This relentless radical offensive was performed without any obvious knowledge of health and research, just driven by pure emotion and blind ideology.

With all this vitriol being spewed out by a group of angry young women, it’s worth considering a few facts about men’s health. Firstly, New Zealand has one of the worst suicide epidemics in the world, with the ratio being 3 men to 1 woman. Furthermore, between the ages of 50 and 75 the number of deaths are 30% higher for men than for women. This disparity of funding isn’t just peculiar to New Zealand either, in Australia where men are 60% more likely to die of cancer than women, since 2003 men have received 4 times less funding for health research. Inexplicably breast cancer received $60 million more than prostate cancer, while ovarian cancer attracted $64 million more than testicular cancer. This despite men living on average 4 1/2 years less than women. Although nobody in the right mind is suggesting that they are against women’s health being adequately funded, equally, I would challenge anyone to suggest that the current status quo makes any sense. Even the World Health Organisation stated that the recognition of the men’s health gap must be included in the global health equity agenda. The article suggested that out of 67 identified risk factors, 60 were responsible for more male than female deaths and the top 10 risk factors were all more common in men. With the mounting evidence you would of thought the radical feminists may have re-evaluated their stance. Sadly statistics, facts and a solid case did not seem to interfere at all with their entrenched ideology. In fact if anything they appeared more inclined to dig their heels in further. This was generally displayed in a myriad of accusations equating to misogyny, mansplaining their oppression and something to do with smashing the patriarchy. The response was visceral and reactionary, as if reciting a mantra from some spiritual book. Which made me think, what do 3rd wave/radical feminists really want?

The premise that modern feminists seeks equality is laughable. This current incarnation is driven by a belief system that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny and displays many traits of a cult. The doctrine generally answers nuanced and at times complex issues with blanket explanations. Firstly, the gender wage gap, this is a misnomer, it is poorly calculated by taking the mean or median of each gender’s wage and then divide one by the other. A gender wage gap in my view is comparing like for like jobs while taking into account the experience levels plus a multitude of other factors. Once you do this, the gap shrinks from the much publicised Obama endorsed 79cent on the dollar to a more modest 1.6cents.

I am not in any way suggesting there are no issues regarding women in the workplace, on the contrary men tend to occupy the top spots, but it is thought unlikely that this has to do with any form of systemic oppression. Once studies accounts for; hours worked, career paths and starting a family can all contribute to a differing take home pay or career success.

Secondly, the patriarchy, this is defined as a society where men hold power and women do not, it’s the bedrock that holds radical feminism together. Well, currently in the New Zealand the Prime Minister is a women and 7 out of the 20 inner cabinet members are indeed women. In the UK my place of birth the Prime Minister is indeed a women, contrary to popular belief. There are also many women in the upper echelons of academia and in business, admittedly these ratios could be higher. However, the reasons for this are considered to be a multi-dimensional conundrum, quite similar to the ‘gender pay gap’ and not necessarily down to a convenient single entity such as the patriarchy.

Business Leaders Gather For B20 Summit In Sydney
Rupert Murdoch – The archetypal cantankerous, white, old man.

Indeed crusty, old, white, rich, men are inclined to dominate at the elite end of society, but their determination to hold on to power isn’t just about discriminating against women, it’s about excluding anybody who is not like them. From gender to race all the way through to class and academic upbringing, they will rule you out purely because you are not in the club and it’s well documented likes attract likes. As a patriarchal example, if men were the top of the tree so to speak, why do we send them to die on the battlefield through the draft system? If they are so superior why do we reduce their numbers through indiscriminate murder? It doesn’t seem like the most intelligent strategy I’ve ever encountered. Although, what we do know is many of the future ruling elite don’t go to war, while the poor kids tend to fill up the infantry front line and are used as canon fodder. You only have to look at George W Bush, Bill Clinton and Dick Cheney as examples, who were all more than happy to send others to die, but they were quick to make a run for it when they got their papers a few decades earlier.  Anyway back to patriarchy, so why do we make sure women and children get off a sinking boat or out of a burning building first if we are the masters of the universe? The idea of an all pervasive patriarchy sounds way too simplistic for me, in a world that is infinitely complicated. Most contests of power are quite often in line with class war, not a gender struggle, but dividing us by race, gender or religion keeps us fractured and the rich in charge.

Another myth we have doing the rounds currently is ‘rape culture’. This is not to devalue the fact that rape is horrific, obviously all efforts should be done to prevent this type of crime and sexual abuse at all costs. I’ll make it very clear rape is not accepted and it certainly isn’t the norm anywhere I have ever been to. We do not celebrate this as something that’s part of our culture and we rightly lock these people away. But the figures need to explored, in the US figures of 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 tend to be used as the ratio of woman who suffer from sexual abuse or sexual assault on college campuses. These statistics are then used to bolster the idea of a ‘rape culture’. Again this bold claim does nothing to adequately tackle the serious crimes of rape and sexual abuse. Critique’s of these papers suggest that the above figures tend to result from poorly thought out studies, such as self-selecting survey’s. It’s not surprising that people who have been on the receiving end of such dreadful abuse are more likely to respond to these surveys, while others may well decline to take part. In one particular study survey’s were sent to nearly 800,000 people and only 19% replied, this poor response rate and methodology doesn’t help the credibility of the data collected. Furthermore, the terms of sexual assault have been broadened, to include such incidents as, “rubbing up against another person in a sexual way at a party”. Contrary to the stats above the Bureau of Justice Statistics in the US reported that 1 in 53 women will be raped or sexually assaulted while at college. This is not in any way a foolish attempt to belittle the victims of such a despicable crime, as this has no place in our society, but the question is, why the disparity? Nobody is suggesting the BJS stats are perfect, that’s just not possible with these types of issues, however, 25% in one survey and 1.89% in a federal study is a serious indicator that something just doesn’t add up. Tellingly America’s largest and most influential anti-sexual-violence organization RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) disagrees with the term ‘rape culture’ concluding that rape is a conscious decision made by an individual to commit a violent crime and that these people are a small minority within a community. Unsurprisingly these suggestions by professionals in this field appears a more sane and thought-out summary when making sense of this heinous crime.

So why do we have these if not bogus then highly suspicious stories projected by radical feminists that simplify certain issues and constantly encourage women who are primarily college age, relatively affluent and supposedly intelligent to be permanent victims. These ‘radical’ feminists seem to want to be life-time participants in the oppression Olympics, when many of these activists are some of the most protected and ‘privileged’ women in the world. With all the travesties throughout the globe their targets of rage are rather lukewarm to say the least, highlighting issues of mansplaining, manspreading and microaggression, while their ‘sisters’ in places like Saudi Arabia have to fight tooth and nail for every basic right. It’s no secret that Muslim women face potential traumas such as genital mutilation, forced marriage and honour violence, however, many western feminist are conspicuous by their absence when it comes to supporting these issues. Alas it appears this is not about equality, it’s more likely to be about control. They behave like spoilt teenage girls who want their own way, putting their collective hands over their ears so they don’t have to hear any contradictory voices for fear of invalidating their experiences. Feminism in this form should be redundant, as it’s built on the assumption that women are systemically worse off than men. Life is not often fair or simple for that mater, whether people like this or not, we are unique and we want different things. Some aspects of life men undoubtedly have the upper hand, although on other issues mainly health and education outcomes women have it better. For instance women tend to live longer than men, young boys are more fragile physically and psychologically than girls, therefore, males are more susceptible to diseases, these are just a couple of examples to suggest that it’s not all one way. Unfortunately to many of the ‘radicals’ including the ones online it seems they espouse the view that if it’s against women it’s oppression, but if it’s against men it’s just life. Finally all this fighting for equality has actually seen a decline in happiness and life satisfaction. As gender equality has gradually levelled, so has the disparity between the two sexes happiness scores, woman are now as equally miserable as men, but I’m sure it has all been worth it.

So how do SJW’s affect the left or more to the point socialism? One of the problems is in the US Social Justice Warriors get termed annoyingly as leftist. I suspect this is primarily due to an absence of a strong left that focuses on economic factors and over 20 years of the so-called left fighting in the arena of identity politics. Although thankfully in recent times Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn have successfully managed push the topic of economic inequality back into the public sphere. The one area the US right have been successful with is coining the mystical term ‘Cultural Marxist’ for these activists. The tale regarding ‘Cultural Marxism’ is that their plan is to slowly, but stealthily dilute and subvert Christian, white western culture, this apparently would open sovereign nations to be ruled by a one world corporate body. I would strongly argue that a globalized business model and multiple trade agreements has beaten them to it.  Anyway, this bizarre theory goes back to a fringe idea by Jewish German academics and is widely known as the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory from the early 20th century. This moniker is something that has been used by anyone from anti-feminists to the Daily Mail and also the man I mentioned earlier Milo, all to discredit the left. This is where life is nuanced, I think radical feminism and SJW’s are exceptionally problematic for the left, however, I find the idea of Cultural Marxism totally ludicrous. The reason the attachment of this label is to the detriment of the left is the clever link of the name Marx with a group that appears intolerant, easily offended, against free speech and authoritarian. This plays straight into the hands of the right; when working class people see privileged young activists behaving like entitled 14 year olds while much of the western world is struggling with homelessness, economic inequality and disappearing incomes, they’ll think “the left sucks”? We on the contrary should be the ultimate form of democracy, listening to varying points of view, with representation at every level of society, including the workplace and the commons. In recent times there now seems to be an emergence of some form of cultural libertarianism, which encourages critical thinking, rigorous research and lively debate coming from across the political spectrum. This is in response to radical feminism and SJW’s who endeavour to shut down debate, polarise opinion, while setting the terms and conditions of any prospective dialogue. The Factual Feminist Professor Christina Hoff Sommers states, she is an equity feminist which aims for the moral, legal, and social equality of the sexes. Surely that should be the goal for all us or is it just about winning at all costs? I am constantly frustrated as we are continuously pushed into resolving our social ills within a narrow corridor of acceptable discourse primarily created by sheltered SJW’s. So I shall excuse myself from this authoritative table of Social Justice Warriors, as this lefty vehemently refuses to play your ludicrous games.

 

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From Brexit to feminism: Why are complex issues distilled to a binary decision?

Everyday we are posed with challenging dilemmas such as; do you agree with trident, as a man are you a feminist, do you support Brexit, amongst many others. Admittedly some decisions are easier to make than others, but often we are given two choices to a multi-faceted issue. Quite often there is a consensus of opinion that drives debate. The problem that arises is if you are not fully on board with the sway of public opinion, then you are cast to the margins as there appears no room for nuanced debate anymore. Many of these opinions are formed by strong social justice bodies, government departments and corporate lobbyist. The major issues are not the topics per se, but the fact that the answers are required in absolute terms (yes/no), when morality rarely works in such a way. As individuals our complex thoughts and feelings, which have been developed over time from our genetics, environment, education, personal experiences, family background and so forth are clumsily distilled into a binary decision. More often than not this an over simplification, it often doesn’t work to the benefit of society and is deeply dissatisfying.

As a lefty there will be aspects of a socialists worldview that resonate with me more than others. In my opinion to critically think your way through each issue as it arises is healthy, as opposed to taking the entire medicine given with no questions asked. Sadly in a world that has become increasingly polarised, nuance has been replaced by a blind belief. That’s not to say I’m a centrist and I pick and chose from both political buffet’s, nothing of the sort, but within my left (more than) leaning ideas there are an array of complex and sometimes contradictory thoughts, that with compelling evidence may be subject to change. If we stop asking questions regarding our own ideas, then who are we to challenge people with differing views. We could quite easily then find ourselves on the road to following a belief system rather than something that is anchored in research and moral rigour. If after an internal inquiry our political ideas are incongruent with our core moral beliefs then I suggest we are in trouble.

So lets look at an extremely emotive and controversial topic for a variety of reasons and that is feminism. There are some subjects that I think maybe I possibly shouldn’t write about on this blog, however, I am equally happy to be provoked and to provoke. Firstly I will begin by suggesting feminism is used by politicians as a political football, in as much as they support the rights of women, who support them. Not hugely unconditional, but nevertheless,  for example lets take Hillary Clinton…………as far away as humanly possible hopefully. In all seriousness, Hillary has used feminism and feminists to the nth degree. She has been more than happy for her wealthy backers and showbiz celebrities to project her as this beacon of feminism, all the while supporting military campaigns in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria. kdzzwea7ezcrk9yhbfzlThese incidentally are countries where many women and children have been murdered and obliterated by years of bombing. Which begs the question; how down with the sisters is she really? Another disturbingly memorable moment occurred in New York during her failed Presidential bid, when fellow war-hawk and ex Secretary of State Madeleine Albright threatened a rally crowd yelling “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other”. Which is interesting as I don’t remember her helping out Serbian women whilst they were being bombed back to another millennia. I guess like I alluded to earlier, life isn’t straight forward. Maybe you can be a feminist whilst condoning mass murder of thousand of civilians in Kosovo, many of whom were women. Although that distinctly sounds like Orwellian doublethink to me.

Quite possibly the question some might want answering is; am I a feminist? I would have to answer with a wry smile on my face and declare that it’s not that simple. However, do I believe women and men should get paid equally for the same job requiring the same experience and skills, without question. To complicate matters, do I believe there is systemic wage gap as suggested by Obama, Trudeau and any other relatively liberal leader? Well yes and no, evidence suggest it exists but not at 79 cents a dollar as Obama hinted, it’s more like 1.6%. The reason is most studies crudely take the mean pay of women and divide it by the mean pay of men. This elementary arithmetic does little to explore a true gender pay gap. For example if a male police sergeant with 15 years experience gets paid more than his female colleague of equal experience, then that is an issue and needs to be corrected.  Most of the studies unfortunately do not compare ‘apples with apples’ and instead fall back on the use of means or medians for their methodology. At this point in people’s minds I may be considered by some who are reading this as a misogynist for not buying into the gender wage gap theory, but as I did concede earlier life can be particularly challenging. Obviously I wouldn’t suggest such a controversial opinion without a chance for you to read the data. The study I refer to has been described as American in an attempt to delegitimise it, however, this study utilised data from 33 different countries. To add a further layer of complexity to this debate in an attempt to dispel binary thinking, it is without doubt that there is a problem with gender and employment in as much as there is a dearth of women at the top end of the employment chain. Men dominate in high paid roles and boardroom position, which is why the crude version of the ‘gender pay gap’ looks more like a chasm. The term gender pay gap is actually a misnomer, the actual problem is getting women into the upper echelons of the employment chain, for those who wish to do so. It’s the politicians who peddle catchy slpay gap crapogans such as ’79 cents on the dollar’ for women to rally around and often get angry at men who question it. When the reality is there is a difficulty getting to the top, where you will find the very politicians and corporate leaders trumpeting ‘the gender pay gap’. The good news is there is an excellent reason for companies to increase the amount of women employed at the top end; corporations and organisations alike gain substantially. Greater gender diversity is associated with an innovative work culture and from a bottom line perspective, woman in the boardroom are linked to a 15% profitability. Reading further down the previously mentioned article it also suggests how to recruit, develop, promote, reward and retain women in the workplace. I hope I’ve started to demonstrate that life is much more than ‘either or’. We don’t have to accept the entire stack of an ideology if we don’t agree with what is being presented, we can pick and choose, especially if there is compelling evidence on the contrary.

Unfortunately it would appear that in the 21st century if you are not in the club 100% then without question you are banished from the village and cast as one of life’s Dr Evils. This ensures that no dissenting voice or indeed debate is heard in the confines of the tribe. This cultivates a cosy echo chamber of which can be found within all political parties, social justice groups, religious groups and race orientated organisations. Sadly the echo chamber insulates you from uncomfortable opinions, opposing theories, straight forward general enquiry and even truths. Within this bubble the belief system strengthens and positions harden as they are rarely allowed to be challenged from the out group. One such environment that is a regular feature in liberal colleges and used by the likes of feminists are ‘safe spaces’. Contrary to being a helpful environment, it’s suggested that these safe spaces shut women away from public life and back to the kitchen, so to speak. Suggesting women are incapable of looking after themselves or their emotions is frankly ludicrous. This whole problem of ideological retreats is disturbing, in so far as; how do we know what we are opposing if we are not prepared to listen to the respective points of view. On many occasions we have already decided what our opponents are espousing before we’ve really listened. To listen doesn’t mean you have to agree, at times it can strengthen your current position in a healthy way, by analysing your views through discussion. In fact recently it appears if we don’t hear what we expect, quite often we create a ‘strawman’ to justify our attack, this style of engagement is a regular occurrence on social media.Brexit Direction Sign It would appear as there is no direct physical threat on social media, we feel less need to negotiate with our foes, thus we often adopt polarised views. This is nothing more evident of this than Brexit, where our opposing views are entrenched, our detractors are vilified and finally dehumanised with nicknames such as ‘remoaner’. Personally, I haven’t got a side, because it is my view that this was a neoliberal construct to further unpick the last remaining fabric of society. However, each side proclaims that the rival faction is stupid, uneducated and easily led by media, without them even listening to one another. For example ‘brexiteers’ are often described as racist, although I suspect it’s highly unlikely that nearly half the voting nation is racist or/and xenophobic. Unfortunately we now inhabit a world of black and white thinking rather than shades of grey, where all people who voted to leave will be lumped together along with UKIP and Britain First supporters in a nice neat parcel with a bow on it. This is regardless of any individual underlying reasons that may have contributed to their decision making processes and this of course works on both sides of the Brexit divide. The pro-Brexit clan are as equally dismissive as the pro-Europe contingent and this behaviour pushes the two parties back into their respective corners.

So, do we have to agree with every view we come in contact with? Of course not, we are not obligated to shift from our initial ideas one inch. Equally we don’t have to subscribe to the full set of ideas that make up, feminism, the Labour Party, socialism, libertarianism, religion, immigration, Brexit or any other stance or ideology. It doesn’t have to be a meal deal, we can look at the information presented and choose what we want to consume. Maybe watch Fox News, for Kiwis read Mike Hosking’s column or Brits browse the Daily Mail at some point and rather than dismissing it, look at it with a critical eye from what you are witnessing there and then, not what your pre-conceived ideas are telling you. You may draw the same conclusions, but at least you will do this consciously rather than using a preordained script. Sometimes I look at areas such as the idea of the ‘patriarchy’, which I think is heavily fraught with problems and very emotive for varying reasons. But when I look at much of the stuff involved in my decision making regarding ‘patriarchy’ I often side with the right leaning media. This for me as lefty who reads Bakunin and the like is equally annoying and perplexing, but then after all life is complicated.

 

How the rich and powerful fool us all: The games the ruling elite play.

So we enter another round of scandals regarding the rich and almost by design it’s been given the delightful rather fluffy name of the Paradise Papers. Don’t worry for those who are apathetic or have the attention span of an amoeba, I am relatively confident in a couple of months this will have been forgotten just like many scandals before. Overnight we will have our attention redirected back onto immigrants, Brexit, or the poor supposedly stealing the ‘wealth of a nation’, surreptitiously performed by the great conjurers of the ruling elite. Or better still, the powers that be will hope we have drifted off into a reality TV induced hypnotic state with the possible aid of Captain Vacuity himself aka Simon Cowell. The individuals who direct these propaganda initiatives are some of the very same people who are implicated in this recent ‘incredible disappearing money trick’. From the usual suspects including; Facebook, Apple and Nike to monarchs such as Queen Elizabeth II are all entwined in this mass money stashing exercise we’ve witnessed recently. bonoIrritants such as Bono who have the gall to ‘bang on’ about helping the poor and the oppressed, evidently has an alternative set of rules when it concerns his own cash. Paying tax that helps to fund hospitals, schools, infrastructure and so on is clearly OK when it is somebody else’s money, primarily us minions. However, Bono and many like him consider themselves far too special for such inconveniences as paying tax. The array of characters implicated this time consist of; monarchy, politicians, CEO’s, sports people, entertainers, lobbyists, property speculators and governments, all with one thing in common, money. I would wager they would all bellow out the same mantra like a church choir if cornered, “but it’s legal”. For many people outside the world of private jets, multiple homes, private islands and more cars than you could count, there is such a thing as morality, which many of us observe. Unfortunately this concept holds little or no currency among the reasonably small cabal that rule over many of us. For them the only question is; “can I get away with it and if so, how”? So, how do they get away with it and more specifically, why do we let them? As people we are divided globally by; language, culture, geography and politics to name a few examples. Within our respective nations we are separated further dependent on a whole raft of variables; political affiliation, religion, gender, race, age, geography, economic class and many more. Some of these factors are natural such as race and age, meaning they are unchanging, but these too can cause rifts dependent on people’s viewpoints. Other areas of dispute, however, can be completely contrived such as which football team you support. Even this still divides people across not only nations, but cities and often not in a trivial way. The point is, as a species we are split along thousands of social-cultural and political fault lines which is to the great benefit of neoliberal ruling elite. Some of these divisions are allowed to run their course with little interference from the powers that be, such as wars that don’t directly affect the nation; in fact instability to a region could be helpful, for trade or resources for instance. Other areas are directly manipulated by the government, corporations and media including social media to create a myriad of distractions or false targets of anger. It is ultimately the construction of division between sections of the community that is the primary objective. This fragmentation, or the equally damaging apathy of the people ultimately fends off any coherent opposition to the regime. So lets pick up on a couple of these distraction techniques, starting with everyone’s favourite talking point in the UK ‘Brexit’.

Brexit effectively has nothing to do with the vast majority of people. That’s not to say the effects good, bad or indifferent will not have a bearing on your life, of course they will. To put it bluntly the decision to host a referendum was not taken in the best interests of the people, whether you are pro-EU or not, it was never about you. The two sides only argument within the government was how best to produce a right-wing, neoliberal paradise, that was good for them and their corporate masters. Although, neither side particularly cared about the population, they still had to convince them to vote their way, hence the litany of lies on both sides. To you lefties out there, I do realise there was such a concept as ‘Lexit’, but you were inconsequential regarding your impact and it actually served the ‘juntas’ purpose by engineering yet another split. Even now supporters still have pet names for their opposing tribes, such as ‘remoaner’, while the pro-EU supporters will often try to attain the moral high ground, while hurling the word racist or xenophobe around. This gets to the crux of the ruling elites tactics, Brexit was a masterstroke, because it didn’t abide by any of the usual left-right paradigm. What occurred was a further fissure had been carved into the fabric of society. Although this may not have been predicted by the establishment at the time, this was certainly seized upon and used to keep us fragmented, therefore, allowing the continuation of the rule of the self-interest. Another favourite with the establishment that keeps us squabbling is immigration. This  ‘hot-potato’ was neatly included into proceedings during the referendum run-up. Remember Nigel Farage’s poster of Syrian refugees being turned away at the Croatian border?

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This was a deeply conscious attempt to frighten ill informed members of the population, while confirming the fears of the xenophobic and racist sectors of the nation. The primary objective of right-wing media (which is the majority in the UK) is to confuse and anger certain segments of society, while conflating EU or non-EU migrants with refugees and asylum seekers. They amplify certain news stories, such as Muslim sex offenders, while purposefully reducing the volume on all other sex offending. Although, when you dig a little deeper, you realise that the reality is unsurprisingly vastly more nuanced. In fact figures from Greater Manchester Police indicated that 95% of sex offenders were white, which is not to say there isn’t a problem within certain sectors of the Muslim community regarding this issue. It is just worth acknowledging, however, that the answer to many of these problems is not a binary solution. The kind of moral reporting required involves critical thinking and a modicum of ethical concern, however, this is clearly not in the interest of the elite. What we are generally left with after several rounds of hyperbole is a great big bowl of hate and vitriol. This is kept simmering by using repeated biased rhetoric from news outlets such as the Daily Mail, owned by tax dodging Lord Rothmere. This ship of hate is steered impeccably by Paul Dacre the editor of this overtly, right wing, xenophobic rag, who’s mission is to spread fear and racism as far around the globe as humanly possible. The Daily Mail will purposefully focus on aspects of migration to suit Dacre and his boss’s warped worldview. As an example the Mail have printed twice the percentage of articles about the criminality of migrants than any other newspaper. Furthermore, they’ve also publish double the amount or stories regarding economic pull factors being the motivation for migrants. The Daily Mail is exceptionally adept at cherry picking information to fit Dacre’s political position, which it would appear is a little right of Hitler. The Daily Mail continues to delight their readers (of which my Dad is one) with pithy little cartoons, all in the wonderful style of hate filled islamophobia see below for details.

mac

You may feel I am unduly picking on the Daily Mail and you’d be right. Primarily because it’s propaganda from the likes of the ‘Fail’, The Sun and The Daily Express that contribute to social division. I also feel it would be naïve to believe that this is not an intentional plan to frighten their readers primarily in ‘middle England’, while stoking the fires of social disunity, thus maintaining the elitist view of social order. Unfortunately xenophobia, racism and an acute lack of compassion are not far from New Zealand either, in fact it masquerades across the ‘ditch’ daily as the Australian government. Recently Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has attempted to broker a deal with Australian Premier Malcom Turnbull to take 150 asylum seekers from the ‘hell hole’ of Manus Island detention centre. So far Turnbull has declined the offer, suggesting in line with that bastion of racial equality Pauline Hanson, that NZ will be just be another route asylum seekers will take to gain entry into Australia. Since 2013 Australia has held the draconian stance that no refugees arriving by boat will set foot on Australia. Instead they have been detained on the islands of Nauru and Manus (although Manus is currently being closed down) in appalling conditions, which the Australian government has refused to take responsibility for. Poor mental health on the islands is rife, with detainees displaying PTSD, severe anxiety and depression. The regime has been cruel, unlawful and deeply punitive. Physical abuse, verbal abuse and theft by locals has been commonplace. Accounts of sexual abuse and rape of female asylum seekers have been reported to the UN. All the while neither the local police or the Australian government have been held accountable. The UN have concluded that the actions of the Australian government are cruel, inhumane and degrading, but so far no action has been taken. It is important to note that over 60% of the detainees have either been given refugee status or will be, which is not an easy criteria to meet and are, therefore, protected by international law. Despite this, one of the phrases used by both the US and Australian governments to deflect such accusations of cruelty is to describe the people seeking asylum as ‘illegal’. This in my opinion is entirely designed to illicit a desirable response from their political supporters and backers, while justifying their actions to detractors. It is agreed that migrants arriving at a country without documents may well be irregular, undocumented or unauthorised, but they are not illegal. As they have not committed a crime they cannot be deemed illegal, however, this term is deliberately used to dehumanise people and serves to bolster the feelings of fear among the host citizens. It is this fear, combined with xenophobia and racism that I have noticed in several comments sections of New Zealand news sources. What is staggering is many of the comments are identical to ones I’ve read on UK news sites regarding asylum seekers in Europe, such as; “they’re all rapists”, “they don’t look like kids”, “where are their wives” and so on. It’s the same rhetoric that is dispatched around the world by both the state and the mainstream media who effectively have the same goal, which is to remain in control. Eventually this right wing driven narrative or to put it more bluntly propaganda insidiously morphs opinion into ‘fact’. Although immigration is probably the biggest weapon the establishment use to maintain a societal fissure, another particular favourite of the ruling elite is the poor and more specifically recipients of benefits.

The old ‘it’s not us, it’s them’ trick, is the classic game the rich and powerful play to keep the riff-raff in check. As we have found all the way through, their ‘cunning plan’ is amplified and conveyed spectacularly by the very wealthy press barons, as it serves their purpose. Both my major countries of interest the UK and NZ have spent millions on ‘benefits fraud campaigns’. While programmes such as Benefits Street helps to stigmatise the poor and vulnerable.

The reality is, in the UK the amount lost to benefit fraud is roughly £1.3bn per year. This sounds a lot until you realise that unclaimed benefits amounts to £16bn and overpayments due to error totalled £1.4bn. This is of course not an effort to condone benefit fraud, but a little perspective is required, certainly when we consider tax evaders and avoiders. The HMRC in the UK has conservatively estimated that £30bn has been lost to schools, hospitals and so on, due to evaders and avoiders, however, Tax Research UK estimates the sum is much nearer to £120bn. This brings us full circle to the Paradise Papers and the unique rules by which the rich live by. If the Queen can’t even be bothered to pay taxes for her own country, I think we have to conclude that society is well and truly broken. Not only is the monetary difference between rich and poor crime staggering, but the disparity of how the two crimes are viewed is equally perplexing. Approximately 720 people work in the ‘affluent’ and ‘high net worth’ units tracking down 500,000 of the UK’s wealthiest and the not unsubstantial sum of £120bn per year. While on the other side of the ‘tracks’ so to speak over 4000 staff are e20800012_1284535645001974_795256583853000263_nmployed to investigate benefit fraud, which loses roughly £1.2bn per year. This glaringly obvious contrast in the number of officers assigned to each area indicates to me that the powers that be are not remotely interested in chasing down tax criminals and that this pretence of addressing it is nothing more than ‘window dressing’. New Zealand doesn’t escape the charge of targeting the poor markedly more than the rich either. The figures show a similar story in the southern hemisphere, whilst benefit fraud swindles $30.6 million from the tax coffers, tax fraud wrestles $1.24billion from the government’s grasp. Hopefully with the recent arrival of Prime Minister Ardern, this diabolical trend of socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor will end.

The reason for the asymmetrical treatment regarding the have and have nots shouldn’t be hard to attain. One group has no power, an acute dearth of money and an absence of collective social cohesion. The other by contrast has an abundance of money in which they use to create the imbalance of power. It’s not inconsequential that many politicians also have business investments to protect, the two components effectively feed each other and are often one in the same. The poor have nothing to offer the ruling elite, while the rich have battalions of lobbyist offering ‘incentives’ if only the regime of the day tips the scales further in favour of the rich. What we have here is a story of division, our ‘glorious leaders’ utilising power, manipulating people to achieve personal gain and to climb ever further on the ladder of power. A fragmented disjointed populous is crucial for the smooth running of a plutocracy. Many people are not even aware this is occurring and they certainly don’t think it is being done on a conscious level, by government. Let me assure everyone this behaviour is completely intentional and is an exceptionally well engineered con trick. We can only defeat the scourge that is neoliberalism headed by the plutocracy if people collectivise, this however, will require a rapid mutual awakening.

Turn left, turn left, TURN LEFT!!! Hey New Zealand where have all the Socialists gone?

New Zealand has an election on the 23rd September. Currently it’s fair to say, I have nobody particularly inspiring to vote for. Economically it would appear whichever way it goes; a right coalition or a left coalition, neoliberal policies will still persist the following morning. That’s not to say there are no differences, but they are to be found in funding certain programmes or the nuances of the said programmes rather than a re-structuring of a failed economic system. So far during the run up to the election, the ‘NZ left’ have had an interesting time of it. Firstly Labour unveiled Jacinda Adhern as their new leader, which initially caused euphoria among progressives. jacindaThis was known unimaginatively by the press as ‘Jacindamania’, which has only slightly started to wane over the last few weeks, primarily because her mention of the dreaded ‘T’ word, that is taxes. Then Metiria Turei, the joint leader of the Greens fell on her sword, after admitting she lied to authorities, therefore, claiming more benefits than she was entitled to. Ms Turei in her defence stated her actions were nothing more than trying to “survive as a solo mum”. The point of this was to initiate a debate regarding the most vulnerable sections of society and the major problems regarding welfare. Instead Turei’s admission became a starting pistol for intense abuse by right wing factions, both National and ACT desperately portrayed Ms Turei as nothing more than cheat and a criminal. This would be laughable, if it wasn’t so tragic. This very National government has consistently allowed corporations to dodge tax and create an environment that provides socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor. The tactic of using the poor as an object of aggression, for having the temerity to survive, while the rich get ever richer, is seen all over the neoliberal world and is used to perfection in an effort to keep societies divided.

I came to live in New Zealand from England in 2011, having visited here on our honeymoon in 2010. The longer I spent here, the more I realised that the people are essentially egalitarian, however, this communal spirit stops with a government that is ideologically neoliberal. The differences in NZ from life in most parts of the UK are palpable and hugely welcome. Fruit from your trees gets shared out at work, fish is handed over the fence if somebody has had a good day on the water and people are generally happy to give you hand if you get stuck. Quite often your labour can be used instead of money, for something you may need. For example my last batch of fire-wood was paid for by helping my friends to chop and split wood for the day. Although to most people in the UK this may seem odd as products are bought with that stuff they call money, here it’s pretty normal to exchange goods for your labour. At first I thought maybe this was because I live in provincial New Zealand, therefore as the saying goes ‘if we all get along, we go along’. However, after living in Auckland which is bigger, more frantic and less personal it is still my opinion that even Auckland is a much friendlier place than the average English city. After a few years here I have concluded that this friendly Kiwi attitude permeates pretty much all over the country. So imagine my surprise whilst getting to grips with NZ politics, when I noticed there were no prominent left leaning parties, a problem that still persists today. This blind devotion to neoliberalism hasn’t always been the case, but it’s a doctrine that was borrowed off the US and the UK in the 80’s. The effect of this was to push all acceptable politics to the right and to marginalise the left.

Like most countries in the Anglo-American world Social Democratic parties swung wildly to the right following free-market capitalism being the adopted orthodoxy. It’s not difficult to find examples of this lurch to the right from supposed peoples parties; Bill Clinton took the Democrats to victory in 1993, likewise Tony BlairMSC_2014_Blair_Mueller_MSC2014_(cropped) swept to the top job with Labour in 1997. Both leaders were similar with their liberal rhetoric and easy charm. At the heart of their success, however, was an adherence to a market economy, which managed to sway the support of the corporations and the media. Both Clinton and Blair accomplished the task of achieving relative longevity by balancing neoliberal economic policies, while offering social justice concessions. With this heady cocktail of ideas, often known as the 3rd way, both were able to successfully lure the electorate. Clinton brought in the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 while Blair was instrumental in introducing a minimum wage in the UK. These types of policies softened the blow of deregulation of the financial sector and masked the damage that would occur in years to come. One of Bill Clinton’s most destructive actions was to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act which was initially designed to separate commercial and investment banking, this act had been in place since 1933 following the depression in the US. It’s fair to acknowledge that a lack of these types of safety mechanisms among others were a reason the global financial crisis was allowed to reach the devastating conclusion it did. Meanwhile under Blair’s watch university tuition fees were ushered in and privatisation by stealth for the health service increased. The UK and US are not alone regarding their acceptance of a neoliberal doctrine. New Zealand has it’s own tale to tell, which could very well shed some light on the original question “where’s the left”.

New Zealand had always been considered a social democratic state prior to the mid 80’s. From the 1930’s onwards the state owned many assets including Post, Railways, Inter-Island ferries, electricity generation, major public construction works, public housing, hospitals, mining and broadcasting to name a few. The government looked after their citizens and unemployment was quite often below 1%. By the early 80’s people were becoming tired of the National Prime Minister Rob Muldoon from a personal perspective. While many businesses in Auckland were becoming frustrated by a tightly controlled economy. To the surprise of many, Muldoon called a snap election in June 1984, this proved to be his undoing as his opponent David Lange was victorious by a landslide, leading the 4th Labour government. On the night of the election results and following celebrations, David Lange was saddled with the news that the previous government had accrued huge amounts of debts and NZ dollar was massively over-valued. douglasThe newly crowned Finance Minister Roger Douglas who was heavily influenced by the neoliberal ideology of Milton Friedman seized on this New Zealand financial crisis. Douglas had already written a book outlining a radical change to the NZ economy, which was considered ridiculous by most people in the political world. But what Douglas and the rest of the Troika (Richard Prebble and David Caygill) would do next, however, was classic ‘shock doctrine’ as described in Naomi Klein’s wonderful book. This ‘shock therapy’ as used in Chile, Russia, Argentina, US and UK, was to utilise a disaster such as a coup (Chile) or a financial crisis (US and UK) to usher in ideologically driven capitalism. This method, still used today, is consistently in the form of massive deregulation and the privatisation of state assets. These proposed economic changes were heavily supported by the NZ Treasury and the Business Round Table, an exceptionally right-wing think-tank. Within a short period of time New Zealand was transformed from one of the most regulated countries economically to one of the least.

The Labour government proceeded  to sell off national assets worth $2.5 billion at bargain basement prices, while slashing top tier tax from 66% to a paltry 33%. Company taxes were reduced in a similar fashion, at the same time a new regressive Good and Services Tax (similar to UK VAT) was introduced. The Labour regime limited the right to strike, as real wages declined by 10%. Furthermore unemployment climbed from 8.5% to 16.2%. To counter any excessive payments regarding high unemployment the government reduced benefits and abolished payments for under 18’s. As neoliberalism took a hold in NZ, it was common practice to reduce unemployment payments if the gap between declining average wages and the dole became too close. In classic ‘disaster capitalism’ style, Roger Douglas declared that reforms had to be done as quickly as possible, to avoid any form of resistance to them. He even tried towards the end of his tenure to introduce a flat tax, which was a bridge too far for Lange. Following Labour’s resounding defeat in 1990, the country was now in the hands of National, where there would be no let up on the neoliberal doctrine. While in the 80’s NZ had Rogernomics, the 90’s resulted in Ruthanasia. images.duckduckgo.comRuth Richardson was now the Finance Minister and was prepared to put free-market capitalism on steroids. It was their goal to privatise anything that wasn’t nailed down, including health, education, while reducing unemployment, sickness and welfare benefits. Active campaigns using adverts and TV programmes were used to demonise welfare recipients such as benefit cheats, unfortunately the same amount of effort was not expended on tax evaders/avoiders. Like their traditional opponents the National government were happy to maintain high levels of unemployment purposely to keep wages low and therefore, inflation low. Any collective in the form of unions which opposed these draconian reforms were systematically dismantled, with the Employments Contract Act. This intentionally individualised the employment relationship and pitted employee versus employee, this also had the dramatic effect of lowering wages. Although Ruth Richardson was gone by 1993, the National government continued until 1999. By then the die was cast, most people didn’t know any better than capitalism and consumption. The incoming Labour government led by Helen Clark managed to put the breaks on runaway capitalism, but by then individualism and consumerism were ingrained on a national psyche that once stood for egalitarian values.

So I guess the question is, why socialism, why go left? The answer is simple, unbridled capitalism does not have the answers to our very serious problems, both nationally and globally. If you are uncomfortable with socialism. then fine call it something else. The important thing is we need to move away from a massively individualistic society to a collective one. Jeremy Bentham stated “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong”. Not only is that a moral statement, but a practical one when we think that we live in a finite world and what we do has direct consequences on someone or something else. To live a life as if we are in isolation is foolish and irresponsible. To emphasise this point, the worlds 8 richest people have more wealth than the poorest 50%, while 1 in 9 people will go to bed hungry. How does this make sense? Gandhi famously said;

“The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”

So lets get to our pressing problems and why New Zealand needs to turn left. First up homelessness, a report by Yale University concluded that New Zealand has the highest homeless rates in the OECD. More than 40,000 people live on the streets or in emergency housing or substandard shelters, this equates to almost 1% of the population. While there is one person living rough or in sub-standard accommodation, in my opinion we have failed as a society. This is clearly a difficult problem to solve; there is indeed the physical aspect of having enough accommodation, psychological problems, such as people feeling disenfranchised with society and many other complex contributing factors. But the answer is not how many houses to build, or how we increase mental health provision. The answer is the government needs to find the political will to actually complete these projects regardless of any barriers that may exist. Government’s seem to find money to fund war or bank bailouts, but somehow the cupboard is bare when it comes to the most vulnerable in society. This is quite simply an ideological decision to allow certain sections of society to suffer.

New Zealand has some highest suicide rates in the world. NZ youth suicide has twice the prevalence of Australia and five times that of the UK. Although the reasons are multi-faceted, economic inequality is a huge factor with regards to mental health problems. Feelings of worthlessness and status anxiety increases, while trust decreases. The very fabric of society disintegrates, at a time when many people would benefit from a supportive network. Inequality also has a huge effect on child poverty, in 1982 child poverty was 14%, now it sits around 28%. All the while the incomes of the top 10% compared to the lower 10% have increased from 5 times to 10 times greater. The examples I have mentioned highlighting where NZ falls down have one thing in common, ‘people’. If the wealth of the rich compared to the poor widens, yet many health and social indicators show NZ is severely lacking, this indicates to me that the system has failed and the government has no inclination or desire to change course. One last thought on this; New Zealand’s richest two men (Richard Chandler and Graeme Hart) have more wealth than 30% of the poorest people. That in itself is sickening.

On to my last reason for NZ to turn left. The most important issue we face on this planet is climate change. The National government have signed up to the Paris accord, however, this according to renowned climate scientist James Hansen doesn’t go far enough to avoid temperatures elevating by 2 degrees. Climate scientists warn that this rise would have dramatic affects; one in which seas will rise by more than 5 metres over the coming centuries, and one in which droughts, floods and extreme heatwaves will ravage many parts of the world. Currently National seem to be randomly tossing figures around without any concerted plan. For example the government have stated that it will aim for a 2030 target of 30% below 2005 emission levels, which actually is equivalent to cutting emissions to 11% below 1990 levels. Their rhetoric is meaningless as are their actions, but this shouldn’t be surprising as it’s a party wedded to big business, including the fossil fuel industry.

During this election cycle, National have ran an exceptionally negative campaign towards Labour and the Greens. This has been a two pronged attack; ridiculing Labour by stating their proposals are not affordable, while scaring the public into believing they’ll be paying masses of tax to pay for services. One of the stand-out moments was Steven Joyce the current Finance Minister, claiming there was a $11.7bn hole in Labour’s budget. steven joyceThis was of course total rubbish, but it didn’t matter, it had the desired effect. In the right-wing world there is no requirement to tell the truth only the result matters. These tactics were designed to make Labour seem indecisive regarding taxes, at the same time slowing the Jacinda effect. My thoughts are Jacinda Adhern should have been bold the moment she took office, stating; these are the problems, this is what we’ll do, this is why we’ll do it and here’s how we’ll pay. Obviously the only way they could pay is through taxes. Bizarrely, New Zealand, appears to be tax phobic, which would indicate that the people are heavily taxed. This couldn’t be further from the truth, tax is a little less than most OECD countries and is a lot less progressive than it once was (top tax rate was 66%). Tax is obviously spent on services such as health, education, police, prisons and welfare. Therefore, what we pay on tax is directly linked to what sort of services we want in New Zealand. Tax is no more than the pooling of our resources to make the nation better. Scandinavia is well known for their high taxes, but have an excellent standard of living, often topping rankings in; education, low crime, good health outcomes and excellent social cohesion. Tax isn’t the only solution to problems in New Zealand or anywhere else for that matter, but it does offer a means to improve services and reduce inequality.

So why do I keep harping on about inequality? It’s quite simple, inequality is directly connected with; increased crime rates, poorer health outcomes, less social mobility, substandard education, a decrease in social cohesion and a less stable economy. The ruling elite will continue to divide society, convincing the middle class to blame the poor, while the poor blame the immigrants. All the while the rich will get tax cuts or avoid tax completely. Rather than looking at the most marginalised and the vulnerable in society we should be looking towards the ruling elite to locate where the problem lies. As I stated at the top of this piece, the choices for the election are not particularly stark, but I still hope for a change of government and maybe a step in the right direction.

 

Election time: Will Britain vote for more zombie capitalism?

Despite Jeremy Corbyn’s courageous fightback in the lead up to this election and a slim chance of victory, I suspect by the morning of June 9th the population of the UK will have walked bewilderingly into 5 more years of Tory rule. A further half-decade of class warfare in which the 1% will continue to beat the peasants into submission with their bonus cheques. We can expect more cuts to public services, further privatisaton of the NHS and ever widening inequality. Never fear, we will be saved by Theresa May as she has declared they will form a ‘strong and stable’ government. The question must be asked, for whom? Surely not the growing amount people who are now forced to use foodbanks just to get by. Certainly not the sick and disabled who have seen their benefits slashed, along with the unemployed. Theresa May I suspect won’t be fighting for larger families either, as families with more than 2 children saw their child tax credit payments reduced. It’s suddenly occurred to me, there is a theme, the most vulnerable in society are getting hit the hardest. This is not ‘strong and stable’, these are actions of a bully, who tend to recruit bigger more powerful accomplices to support them, such as big business and banking. This is exactly what the Tories have done, by consistently reducing corporation tax from 28% in 2010 to the current rate of 19%. The new government also vowed not to regulate the banking system, as the rest of the country recovered from the aftermath of the financial crash in 2008. This was repaid in kind and by 2010 the banking/finance sector funded over half of the Tory Party contributions. All the while the real people have been neglected, sections of society have been cast adrift through Tory reforms, commonly known as “cuts to services”. Although the term ‘austerity’ rarely gets mentioned in 2017, make no mistake it is still alive and well in the UK.

With all this mind, the question must be asked; why do people vote against their own interests? As a personal example I look at my Dad, an intelligent working class man from Manchester who votes Conservative and avidly reads the Daily Mail. What is going on with him and others like him? Of course there are probably a whole range of theories; aspirations, snobbery, family background, newspapers read, self interest and so on. Indeed when I apply these possible reasons to my Dad’s case, some of that fits. He was from a comfortable middle class family in Cheshire, he went to a grammar school, first job was at a stock brokers, he had shares he obtained from the BT sell-off while he worked there, he reads the Daily Fail, has a high intellect and yet worked as a mechanics assistant for decades. At this point it would be relatively easy to make rash judgements, however, I think there is more to this conundrum.

Many people have tried to look at why we make certain political decisions, from varying angles. Jonathan Haidt a Professor of Psychology at New York University suggests that we have six moral channels.

  1. care/harm
  2. fairness/cheating
  3. liberty/oppression
  4. loyalty/betrayal
  5. authority/subversion
  6. sanctity/degradation

Haidt’s study was tested all over the world and led him to a startling observation. Left-wingers or liberals in US parlance have a propensity to use mainly two channels; care/harm and fairness/cheating. While right-wingers (conservatives) tend to use all 6 channels fairly equally, as noted below. Although the chart is a US study and from the older ‘5 channel model’, the results have been almost identical throughout the western world.

6 channels

Haidt describes this disparity as eating the same item but using different taste buds. The result would be as if we’d experienced the same food exceptionally differently. Haidt continues, stating that right-wingers have a broader palate than lefties and suggests this may be why we of the left struggle to forge connections with voters. It’s possible this may explain why right wingers appeal to a larger audience. This is not in any way to suggest for example the Tories are morally correct, just that it may appeal to more people.

I have certain reservations with Jonathan Haidt’s work and this is most probably due to my bias as a socialist. Primarily he seems to assume that all six channels hold the same moral currency. When you look at another model called ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of needs’ some of Haidt’s channels are not on the same levels of the triangle. Maslow suggests you must fill one level before you move up and that life experiences can  impede progress.

2000px-Maslow's_Hierarchy_of_Needs.svg

If you look above many issues regarding the leftist channels of care/harm and fairness/cheating can be associated with needs on the bottom two levels. While it could be argued although quite fluid, the other 4 channels could be linked to the middle to upper levels of the chart. With my warped anarcho-syndicalist viewpoint, I would offer that with this in mind the left puts more emphasis morally on getting everybody to the basic levels of Maslow’s hierarchy and beyond. As Jeremy would say “nobody gets left behind”.

All this is well and good, but it doesn’t detract from the fact many people will be voting for Theresa May and against their own interests. Maybe we need to dig a little deeper to uncover a wee bit more. There have been a reasonably large amount of studies looking at brain differences using MRI’s, with interesting discoveries. It has been observed that the amygdala an almond shaped structure deep in the brain is generally enlarged in people who identify as conservatives. This is curious as the amygdala is a structure that is more active during states of fear and anxiety. On the flip side ‘lefties’ have more gray matter, in particular at the anterior cingulate cortex, this area helps people cope with complexity.

amyg

The nature versus nurture aspect of this has not been determined, but this finding possibly sheds some light on two politically very different specimens. Most societies are divided into a party that wants change such as Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and one that is afraid of change Theresa May’s Conservatives. The leftist party is generally more intellectual and the right-wing party is more anti-intellectual. Right-wing parties put more emphasis on national defence, which magnifies our perception of threat, whether of foreign aggressors, immigrants, terrorists, or invading ideologies like Communism. So with all this in mind it is probably a good time to descend back to earth and decide where all this fits in to the current election cycle.

In recent weeks it has been noticeable that the Theresa May has presented herself as the protector of the UK following the attacks in London and Manchester. Remember this claim doesn’t have to be backed up by truth after all she is appealing to peoples emotions via fear. On the contrary you could present a strong (and stable) argument that Theresa May’s actions as both Home Secretary and the Prime Minister have made the UK more vulnerable. Saudi arms deals and 20,000 police being cut certainly wouldn’t strengthen the security of the nation. Simultaneously the right wing media have been on the attack accusing Corbyn of being a member of anything from the IRA to Take That. The goal of this media blitz is to manufacture a sense of danger, while presenting Corbyn as the incompetent and deceitful traitor. For this magic trick to work as you may have noticed, no truth is required, as long as it hits home at the voters receptive amygdala, mission accomplished. See exhibit A.

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I’m sure you are aware when you are conversing with one of these zombies, rarely do they tell you why you should vote Conservative. In fact they tend to parrot the same bite size intellect free headlines as displayed above, whilst slagging off Jeremy Corbyn. This is why the Conservative Party can serve up a half baked manifesto with no costings and no real detail, because it doesn’t matter, this is not aimed at the critical thinker. It’s directed at someone who is scared of everything, who hates change and who picks “strong and stable” over “calm and logical”. Hopefully I will be proved wrong tonight by the nation and Jeremy gets elected. If so the party is at my place, although you’ll have to provide your own airfares to New Zealand. Sadly, however, I feel we may have to start culling the zombies. Lock and load, stay safe out there.

 

 

Brexit: The Great British con-job.

The world currently has some major problems; climate change with no strategies in sight, multiple devastating wars all over the planet, the rise of far-right parties across Europe, a recently elected narcissist in the US and increased tension between NATO and Russia. Focusing in on the UK’s issues; the NHS is in free-fall, inequality with all its associated problems is increasing exponentially, while the government adds to the woes of the populace, by spending less and privatising more. The ruling elite are a collection of people who are devoid of compassion and care little of the 99%. Remarkably people still state that they would rather vote for them in the 2020 election. How is this so? What magical strategy have these master tacticians conjured up? The simple answer is, ‘divide and conquer’, a method that has been serving tyrants well, all over the globe for thousands of years. More specifically, one of the ways the Tories have achieved this is through the EU referendum. Brexit as it is known is quite literally the scam of the decade and more importantly for the ruling elite it has worked to perfection.

Never has a country been so divided, not just regarding the EU but on every conceivable level; racially, geographically, financially and nationally (attempts at Scottish independence proves this) to name a few issues. The EU disagreements and deep division began months before the 23rd June 2016 and continues unabated to this day. I claim to be no expert on Brexit itself, in fact the whole process bores the pants off me, because I view it as an intentional distraction, clouding much bigger issues as previously mentioned. It’s fair to say, however, that it is presently the most talked about and emotive political subject in the UK. Each time I post a Brexit linked article on my Facebook page there is always much greater interest than anything else I could post. When discussing the EU referendum on varying pages I visit, political discussions quickly deteriorate between opposing factions. Rational debate between ‘Brexiteers’ and ‘Remainers’ could be at best considered illusive. There appears very little middle ground and every step of this painstaking process to leave the EU sparks less debate, but more anger and vitriol .

As a political junkie, my ambivalence towards Brexit is rooted in my belief that the main purpose of this charade, is to splinter the nation even further. The concept is cunning in as much as the battle-lines between the two camps regarding Brexit are not drawn simply between left and right on the political spectrum. The fissures already evident in society can be complicated further with this added contrived layer of complexity we call Brexit. The population can be divided in a myriad of ways such as; north/south, rich/poor, non-migrant/migrant, Labour/Tory/Lib Dem/UKIP, England/Scotland/ NI/Wales, remain/leave and so on. These varying groups can be manipulated for example by using referendums, inflammatory government policy or media propaganda to disrupt social cohesion. One of the prime levers used leading up to Brexit was immigration. Although the EU referendum wasn’t directly related to non-EU immigration, parties such as UKIP and to an extent the Tories, used the subject of immigration to evoke fear of a country being over-run. They repeatedly suggested that immigration was a primary reason for decreased public services, notably the NHS and an increase in crime. These scare tactics weren’t grounded in facts, nor were they required to be, their job was purely to scaremonger.

farrage

One of the upsides for the government regarding Brexit has been the lack of cohesion within the Labour Party. I hardly think right-wing think tanks would have thought the EU referendum would have such a calamitous effect on the main opposition, but sadly that has indeed been the case. Since Jeremy Corbyn’s overwhelming original leadership election in September 2015, right-wing elements in the Labour party have been desperate to make Jeremy Corbyn’s tenure a tricky one. Labour always describe themselves as a ‘broad church’, but I would offer that they behave more like a ‘dysfunctional family’, such as the Simpsons. There are sections of the party that are simply poles apart, for example, the left largely embraces democratic socialist ideas, while supporters on the other side of the party comically called ‘moderates‘ subscribe to a centre/right ideology. It was this political path also known as the ‘third way’ which Tony Blair and New Labour adhered to. Between them there is no common ground as such, hence the friction. We then added Brexit into the mix and this now gave the ‘moderates’ another stick to beat Jeremy Corbyn with.

Shortly after the EU referendum result there was a spate of tightly choreographed mass resignations of Shadow Cabinet members, this was jokingly named in left-wing circles the ‘chicken coup’. The reasons provided for these grandiose displays of displeasure generally revolved around accusations of a poor performance by Jeremy Corbyn in his role of persuading Labour supporters to vote remain. This, however, holds little water as 63% Labour party voters decided to tick remain at the ballot box.

lr-by-party

Regardless of the truth, the right wing of the party continued their assault on the elected leader Jeremy Corbyn. What transpired following this debacle was a protracted leadership contest, with the eventual challenger being little known sacrificial lamb Owen Smith. Despite a whole manner of dirty tricks leading up to the day of the vote, Jeremy Corbyn prevailed again by a huge margin. But in no way has this deterred the Blairites as they continue to ignore the members who largely support Corbyn in pursuit of a Labour leader who is willing to support neoliberalism and austerity.

Recently the Labour leader has declared his support for article 50, which will eventually start the Brexit process. Jeremy Corbyn’s decision is generally borne out of respect for democracy following the narrow vote to leave the EU in June 2016. This unsurprisingly has triggered more resignations and consternation within the party, followed by further calls by many ‘moderates’ for him to step down. It is clear to me that not only have the Tories and it’s many politically attached media outlets used Brexit to divide the country, Labour have used it in an attempt to depose of a socialist Labour leader. It would be deemed inconceivable for many of the MP’s to actually have to work with Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader. This is a man who is diametrically opposed to the Blairite corporatist way of doing things and looks towards a fairer Britain, not a Westminster driven country club for the privileged.

So how did Brexit affect the Conservatives? Well, after David Cameron resigned, they quickly installed Theresa May and life pretty much carried on as before. The fascinating thing was prior to the referendum, it was reported that the party was split and in a shambolic state. However, post Brexit they patched up their differences quickly and continued to destroy the country without missing a beat. borisTheresa May who was ‘a Remainer’ ended up as Prime Minister, while Boris Johnson who was one of the lead proponents of the leave campaign was given the role of Foreign Secretary. The present cabinet is now a mix of ‘Remainers’ and ‘Brexiteers’, so the suggestions of division within their ranks in hindsight seems rather exaggerated. In my opinion their disagreements were short lived because they all believe in one thing; unbridled capitalism aka neoliberalism. Their EU referendum argument would simply be; how could they best create a neoliberal paradise, in Europe or out of Europe? This is the glue that always binds the Conservatives together; a government by the 1% for the 1% and nothing gets in the way of the establishment juggernaut.

The damage Brexit has caused, particularly for the Labour Party will not disappear anytime soon. It is a powerful tool the ‘Blairites’ can use to rock the boat. Just as many from the ‘moderate’ side of the party have played the antisemitic card on several occasions in an attempt to weaken the current leadership. My view about Brexit is simple, in or out of the EU, which now appears out, the left need to push for an agenda that; cares for the most vulnerable, decreases inequality, changes our interventionist foreign policy and endeavours to look after our planet. I can confidently state that these 4 things wouldn’t have been achieved in the near future whether the UK was a member of the EU or not. This is why Brexit holds very little interest for me, Article 50 does not contain a blueprint of how to tackle our biggest issues. All we are doing is squabbling amongst ourselves and wasting time. I appreciate Labour is not in power, which obviously limits what the party can do. This period, therefore, offers 3 more years for the left to get a clear, simple coherent message across, because we cannot afford anymore neoliberalism anywhere on this planet.

This is a recent quote from Jeremy Corbyn referring to a UK outside of the EU.

“I say to everyone, unite around the important issues of jobs, security, economy, rights, justice, those issues, and we will frame that relationship with Europe in the future outside the EU.”

What the hell happened? And the next President of the US is………

For the last few days I have been trying to collect my thoughts regarding the prospect of Donald Trump inhabiting the oval office as the President of the United States in January. For those who follow western politics, this should not have come as much of a surprise, especially if one reflects on Brexit. For the people in the US to vote a clueless, misogynistic, racist, climate change denying, narcissistic bucket of puke, things must have been pretty bad.

Sadly the conditions were perfect and the writing had been on the wall for some time, democracy in the US has failed, more specifically neoliberalism. Whichever flavour of the establishment you chose you ended up with same crappy taste in your mouth. You were left with the unsatisfying feeling that nothing tangible was going to change for the average citizen. Regardless of the tribe, Republican or Democrat, the game would be rigged for life’s winners to continue reaping the benefits, while the peasants suffered year upon year. Some social justice crumbs were thrown off the table during the Democratic Party years, while military spending usually escalated during times of Republican rule, but mostly things stayed on track. The rich got much richer, whilst the poor were completely disregarded. This continues unabated today, inequality is wider than ever and the rich with an army of lobbyist at their disposal makes sure that it stays this way. The vulnerable in society are at the mercy of an unforgiving machine, whilst the working and middle classes have no sway on policies at all. They are given an illusion of democracy in the form of a vote, in between times they do not matter. The rich have used their money to influence government, hence after 40 years of neoliberalism what exists is a plutocracy, an establishment consisting of CEO’s and government facilitators.

Following the financial disaster 2008 Obama was swept to power on a wave of hope and excitement. Eight years later he has achieved next to nothing; a watered down healthcare plan, partial military de-escalation in some regions and a dubious Noble peace prize. On the other side of the ledger; wars have escalated all over the world, nothing discernible has happened regarding climate change and inequality has sky rocketed. People in working class areas and the poorer end of society watched bankers go unpunished despite destroying the economy, while their jobs disappeared overseas, for others pay and benefits diminished out of sight. While all this occurred the neoliberals of varying shades stood by and watched this unfold. People started to get angry, very angry.

This wasn’t the type of anger that is often expressed in mass marches, with hordes of brightly dressed people with face paint, music, placards and whistles, that you often see when liberals are disgruntled. It was a fury that was most probably directed at the TV while watching the news after steelwork or reading the paper. This was the rage of people who worked in car plants, farms, steel mills for 30-40 years, who were witnessing nothing but unemployment and destruction in their hometowns. The enraged were often but not exclusively white, working class, they were seething and desperate. You didn’t hear about them in the polls particularly, but in states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin their numbers escalated. No political party or politician could meet their needs or understand their plight, then along came Donald Trump.

If you are a liberal, before this event you may have been relatively happy with the status quo, college educated, maybe living in a diverse community, you will probably have no idea why people were drawn to Trump. You might have watched Rachel Maddow on MSNBC and concluded that the world isn’t great, but it’s not too bad and that ‘steady as she goes’ is just what the country needs. For manyHillary Clinton in the liberal world Hillary Clinton was  deemed ‘a safe pair of hands’, if not too spectacular. Sure many liberals would like to withdraw from war, reduce racism, close the gender pay gap among other things on their wish list, but on the whole Hillary didn’t seems too divisive. From the opposite perspective Hillary represented everything the ‘forgotten’ were fighting against; steeped in governmental bureaucracy, massively rich, totally embedded within Wall St and the ruling elite. For them she was the very symbol of the demise and ultimately the collapse of US democracy. Sadly for Hillary Rodham Clinton she proved in boxing parlance to be ‘tailor made’ for Donald Trump.

I’ve heard people dismiss the near 50% of voters in the US as racist, xenophobic, misogynistic and homophobic. While this may be true of the man himself, judging by the debates and media reports, this doesn’t necessarily directly translate to the bulk of his supporters. There is no denying his rhetoric towards Mexicans and Muslims would delight the racists within the movement. Likewise his crass comments regarding women, the disabled and the LGBT community may comfort the odd dinosaur who hasn’t quite made it into the 21st century. This doesn’t mean the millions of people who voted for him are bigoted. Trump managed to harness all that anger among his believers and direct it towards practically anyone who was different to them. Minorities as in most parts of Europe currently, were used as scapegoats, to the converted, this sounded like a plausible reason as to why the wheels had fallen off. He used the slogan ‘Make America Great Again’, it was vague and empty, but it tapped into some feelings of nostalgia and a yearning for an America that probably never existed. His debating skills were akin to a bully in the schoolyard, but this didn’t matter. Policies were never mentioned, only baseless boasts and insults aimed at Hillary Clinton. The problem is, it worked, people were so lost and desperate they hung on to every bombastic word that came out of his intensely narcissistic mouth.

During the aftermath over this last week we have heard a lot of opinion from liberal hacks, there was one who declared it’s a white thing and that ‘they’ had nothing to be angry about because other people have it worse. While Amanda Marcotte stated in her article that the male white anger was used as a weapon to maintain their superiority and therefore wasn’t valid. These articles and others like it are dangerous, primarily because they serve to further divide the people by race or gender. They continue to ignore the underlying issue, which is a systemic failure of neoliberalism. Instead they approach this global problem of a broken economic and social entity through myopic ‘single issue’ lenses. In a way they are no different to Trump supporters as they are only interested or angered by issues that are important to themselves.

There is no doubt that this will be a tremendously difficult time for all minorities, as the lunatic has taken over the asylum. This will encourage fellow sociopaths to act out their wildest racist, misogynistic, homophobic dreams. We must be aware, however, even though incidences of hate crimes have increased since the election, these people have always been there, they are the minority, but they will feel temporarily empowered. We need to fight against this kind of abhorrent bigotry, it has no place in a civilized society, these people however should not be confused with the millions of delusional but not so dangerous voters who we need to strike up a dialogue with. All sides need to find what binds us together rather than what tears us apart. Most people want safe societies, great education for everybody, clean warm dry living conditions, jobs that pay fair wages, affordable good quality transportation to get us there, excellent health services and many others. These are not race issues, gender requirements or LGBT only problems, these are basic needs that everyone should have access to. If we look towards what we have in common rather than what our differences are, we may create a better society.

 

 

The illusion of democracy.

The western phenomenon of neoliberalism that has been exported globally, whilst exploiting vulnerable people throughout the world, still sits tightly, in a rather smug way throughout the UK and US. Right off the bat, I must reject that either of these countries have a functioning democracy. This is not inherently an Anglo-American issue, but comparisons between these two nations are glaringly obvious.

The word democracy appears in the late 16th century: from French démocratie, via late Latin from Greek dēmokratia, from dēmos ‘the people’ + -kratia ‘power, rule’.

To be fair, I guess at no point was it determined which ‘people’ would possess the ‘power’. So yes, it is technically people power, however, these people are a tiny minority, who hold tightly to the reins of control, whilst deluding the masses into thinking they have any say in the political arena. Forty years of unfettered capitalism and individualism has destroyed any valid social cohesive opposition able to mount a serious attack on the status quo. Capitalberlin-wallism declared an ideological victory following the fall of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall, with no valid opposing thoughts to challenge it waiting in the wings. Now any serious debate outside this narrow corridor of an acceptable political narrative is brutally derided before it ever gains traction. Supporters of an alternative to neoliberalism (unfettered capitalism as seen in the UK and US) are pilloried by the mainstream media and laughed at by the establishment who gain exponentially from the current system. Our choices over the last 4 decades have been unbridled capitalism with strong conservative societal morals or unbridled capitalism with an occasional shy nod to social justice. With this lack of choice political despair has increased; leading to voter apathy and poor voter turnouts on both sides of the Atlantic.

On either shore of the ‘pond’ we are offered an illusion of democracy, in the form of political parties. The two main parties in the US and the UK have moved ceaselessly to the right over these 40 years, admittedly the US has veered much further than the UK, but the trends are similar for both. Neoliberalism has now become the only accepted game in town and anything outside of this is considered crazy, at least by the ruling elite.

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum….”
Noam Chomsky, The Common Good

However, this hasn’t always been the case. Following World War II, the UK adopted a Social Democratic model, in an attempt to rebuild the depleted economy and the decimated infrastructure following the war. Primarily Clement Attlee and Nye Bevin were responsible for creating the National Health Service. nye-bevanAttlee also nationalised the railways, coal mining, gas, electricity, canals, the Bank of England and finally the steel in 1951. This particular economic model known as Keynesian was readily accepted until the mid 1970’s. Across the Atlantic the US employed a similar system under Franklyn D Roosevelt. This package was known as the ‘new deal’ this started in 1933 as a response to the great depression. Some of its content included; the social security act, banking reforms (primarily the Glass-Steagall act), maximum work hours and huge public spending on infrastructure creating 8.5 million jobs. However, after economic stagnation this system eventually gave way to neoliberalism in the late 70’s. This ideology went into overdrive following the arrival of Ronald Reagan in the US and Margaret Thatcher in UK. Most of the safeguards regarding job security, in terms of both ‘real wages‘ and workers rights have now been stripped away. Most assets including power, water, airlines and any industry whatsoever has been commodified, with maybe air the exception so far. Neoliberalism ripped the heart out of society and never gave it back.

Since the late 70’s we have had decades of unbridled capitalism, an increasing erosion of our civil liberties due to concocted wars, massive inequality driven by corporate greed, all cemented with government collusion, such as low to non-existent corporate taxes. We have a world that is ailing, our home globally speaking is on the ropes because big businesses coerce governments to abandon the people all to secure increased power. This is not a democracy, we end up succumbing to whatever the ruling elite decide, whether we know this or not. We only have to examine the derailment of the Bernie Sanders campaign and his attempt to launch a serious systemic challenge in the US, to realise the system doesn’t work for the people. In the UK, Jeremy Corbyn is facing massive resistance, not from the grassroots members who he resonates with, but MP’s on the centre-right of the party who still dream of those halcyon, Blairite, neoliberal-lite days. The attacks on Mr Corbyn are numerous, personal and devoid of evidence. All of the mainstream media, including the so-called left media such as the Guardian are persistently running stories on his inability to lead. Although, the recent leadership coup had been planned for months, which was obviously designed to disrupt the efficiency of the shadow cabinet and more importantly undermine Corbyn. All this is designed to distract us from what is really important. Jeremy Corbyn has some logical, straight forward, common sense ideas and the establishment do not want these to gain any traction with the populace. Jeremy Corbyn offers real change from the usual ‘lesser of two evils’ election day dilemma and the ruling elite will endeavour to destroy this credible option at all costs.

A functioning democracy that works for all of society in the US and the UK is currently a myth. The US had their glimmer of hope, but this was quickly extinguished and the majority of Bernie supporters were brought back into line behind Hillary Clinton. For the UK, the dream is not over, but the fight will be long and bloody. images-duckduckgo-comThe establishment have the power, the money, the MP’s on both sides and the media to spread their propaganda. Our power will be found with the people, but in all honesty we don’t have them yet either. People consistently vote against their best interest; economically, health wise and on education to name a few issues. The media have maintained their grip of the people by creating fear. The rich will always vote Tory, as they belong to the 1%, it’s highly unlikely they will ever vote against their own interests. However, the middle classes are coerced to take out their frustrations on the poor, lambasting so called ‘benefit scroungers’. While the poor are convinced via rags such as the Express and the Sun to direct their anger towards the immigrants who are supposedly taking their jobs.

This cunning sleight of hand misplaces our collective angst away from the real culprits; the CEO’s, bankers and the government. As they usher in the next round of tax reductions for the rich and cuts to services that has had catastrophic effects towards the other end of society. Austerity is just another tactic of capitalism that has decimated lives, while making the 0.1% of society obscenely rich. We need to recognise that neoliberalism is the problem. It is protected vehemently by the few and promoted vociferously by the media billionaires. If such a pretense wasn’t guarded so closely the game would have been over long ago and the people would have revolted. It is our job, therefore, to explain to whoever will listen, that there is another way, that this path attempts to look after everybody in society and this is called Socialism.

Here’s the great Noam Chomsky’s with his views on democracy and capitalism.

Jeremy Corbyn: The man with a plan

Jeremy Corbyn has navigated through another tumultuous few weeks, fending off the usual unsubstantiated accusations about him and his supporters. Plus a plethora of dirty tricks from the evil twins of the National Executive Committee and the Parliamentary Labour Party, in an attempt to subvert democracy.mr whippy Meanwhile Owen Smith the Labour leadership rival, over this period has trawled the UK’s ice cream hot-spots trying to convince anyone who would listen to him how radical he is by adopting many of his opponents ideas. Smith has largely sounded muddled and inconsistent during many of the debates. This incoherence is primarily due to him adopting a political stance on the left that is unfamiliar. Among all this mayhem Mr Corbyn has responded to his detractor’s cries of ambiguity regarding his proposed rejuvenation of society and presented a plan in the form of a 10 point vision. This much needed and ambitious goal is set to transform the UK from an ailing, highly unequal country to a more compassionate society, where nobody gets left behind.

Corbyn’s 10 pledges

  1. Full employment and an economy that works for all: based around a £500bn public investment via the planned national investment bank.
  2. A secure homes guarantee: building 1m new homes in five years, at least half of them council homes. Also rent controls and secure tenancies.
  3. Security at work: includes stronger employment rights, an end to zero hours contracts and mandatory collective bargaining for companies with 250 or more employees.
  4. Securing NHS and social care: end health service privatisation and bring services into a “secure, publicly-provided NHS”.
  5. A national education service: featuring universal public childcare, the “progressive restoration” of free education, and quality apprenticeships.
  6. Action to secure our environment: includes keeping to Paris climate agreement, and moving to a “low-carbon economy” and green industries, in part via national investment bank.
  7. Put the public back into our economy and services: such as re-nationalising railways and bringing private bus, leisure and sports facilities back into local government control.
  8. Cut income and wealth inequality: make a progressive tax system so highest earners are “fairly taxed”, shrink the gap between the highest and lowest paid.
  9. Action to secure an equal society: including action to combat violence against women, as well as discrimination based on race, sexuality or disability, and defend the Human Rights Act.
  10. Peace and justice at the heart of foreign policy: aims to put conflict resolution and human rights “at the heart of foreign policy”.

To any Socialist, these are just common sense ideas, they prioritise developing a society as a whole, rather than swelling the ruling elite’s tax avoiding bank balance that’s hidden in places such as Bermuda. On the flip-side, right wingers will be treating this benign list with hostility, disdain and as a virtual deceleration of an ideological war. carlton clubThe neoliberals will interpret this as preposterous, unacceptable, government meddling and it may cause rich, middle aged men sat in their supposed places of importance such as ‘The Carlton Club‘ to choke on their brandy. So comrades, the first thing you may well be asked by any self-respecting neoliberal (if there is such a species) from either a blue or red persuasion is; how does Jeremy Corbyn pay for all this? To appreciate the answer to this question, opponents will have to put their right-wing ideology aside for one moment and try to think holistically. They will first need to discover that they are not the only people in world that matter, while understanding at the same time contrary to what Thatcher declared, society really does exist. This no doubt will be a bridge too far for the most entrenched of Conservatives. However, for the vast majority of people these ideas may appear wonderful in theory, but unattainable in practice. This is partly because we have had years of the Conservatives and more broadly neoliberals in the form of ‘New Labour’ setting the economic terms of debate. Disastrous policies such as austerity, which largely consisted of; being soft on taxes for the rich, cutting back on public services, paying subsidies for private contractors and stagnating wage increases for the peasants. This has not only failed to reduce the country’s debt, but it has increased the debt from roughly 65% of GDP in October 2010 to approximately 85% of GDP as measured in January 2016.

uk-debt-since-95

Solutions

One controversial economic proposal that has been suggested from the Corbyn camp is peoples quantitative easing (PQE), this is described as a new national investment bank. The general premise is, rather than printing money to bail out the banks, PQE would be used to boost spending on infrastructure and public spending. It is surmised that this cash injection via PQE, would boost inflation, which would have the effect of reducing the real burden of our accumulated debt. It is thought that this idea could work but it would have to be used sensibly and needs to be carefully managed.

With the potential problems of PQE in mind, lets see if we can uncover money in a safer way. I have 4 more simple suggestions.

Non-renewal of Trident

I am aware that this has recently been voted through the house, however, it is the most ridiculous waste of money I can think of. This £205bn relic of the cold war just makes no sense. It works on the logic that the Prime Minister has to be prepared to launch a catastrophic retaliatory strike on a sovereign nation that has already launched its missiles towards the UK. So we solve the imminent deaths of 100,000’s to millions of our own people with the outright slaughter of 100,000’s to millions of other innocent people in a foreign land. Great idea! Hey, I’ve got a radical idea how about we use diplomacy, while not destroying people’s homes in far away places. This philosophy of diplomacy works very nicely with Jeremy’s points 9 & 10. Simple, maximum amount saved £205bn.

Tax recovery

Richard Murphy published a report regarding the amount of revenue lost due to tax avoidance, evasion and late payments. It is estimated that £119.4bn was lost over 2013/14, a similar figure was reported in 2010. Murphy breaks down lost revenue into three categories;

  • Tax debt non-collection – tax that is not paid by a person or a company who knows that they owe it, but who doesn’t pay, or delays payment.
  • Tax avoidance – tax that is lost when a person claims to arranges their affairs to minimise tax within the law in the UK, or in other countries.
  • Tax evasion – tax lost when a person or company deliberately and unlawfully fails to declare income that they know is taxable or claims expenses that are not allowed.

The main area of tax revenue loss was through evasion, £82.1bn failed to reach the system through these varying methods;

  • Tax evasion in the shadow economy. The shadow economy represents economic activities that are not recorded or declared to avoid government regulation or taxation.
  • Tax lost as a result of other criminal or fraudulent activity in the UK economy.
  • Capital Gains Tax and Inheritance Tax and offshore tax evasion.
  • Tax evasion on investment and rental income.

In the document Murphy outlines a number of ways to combat tax evasion and avoidance. The two obvious ones would be; to introduce an anti-avoidance rule in to UK tax law, and secondly an introduction of country by country reporting by multinational corporations. These types of strategies are heavily dependent on the government committing to a crack down on tax evasion and avoidance, rather than paying lip service to it. Sadly the lines between corporate and state interests are becoming increasingly more difficult to distinguish. Lobbying groups are ever more persuasive on behalf of their corporate clients, while employees move freely between the two sectors.

However, the fact remains that there is a large chunk of change out there, that could make a huge difference in the public sphere. I believe a Corbyn government would make it their duty to seize as much of this lost revenue, which would go a long way to rejuvenating the nation. Maximum amount saved – £120bn per year

Robin Hood Tax or the Financial Transactions Tax (FTT)

A Financial Transaction Tax is my third suggestion in an effort to obtain funds for Jeremy’s 10 point plan. This proposed tax is a tiny percentage 0.05% that would be placed on financial transactions such as; stocks, bonds, foreign currency and derivatives. These taxes are easy to implement and difficult to avoid, they have also been well tested in other countries. It has been estimated that a tax of this nature could raise up to £250bn globally per year, £20bn in the UK alone. The tax would be imposed at the riskier end of financial services, which would make absolute moral sense. The financial crash in 2008 was largely due to bankers gambling with other people’s money, so it should be their turn to pay back in to society. It is the most profitable industry on earth, yet it caused pain and misery for millions. It’s time they helped clean up this mess. Total savings £20bn per year.

Raising Income Tax top rate to 50%

This usually initiates groans from many people, however, we need to explain to the populace that this top rate would only be paid on anything earned above the £150,000 a year threshold. As you could imagine this doesn’t affect the majority of workers in any way. It it estimated that 300,000 people would be subjected to this rate of tax, which could if collected properly raise up to £6bn per year. Now, this proposal would receive lots of criticism from the right, who will state that it would initiate some form of mass exodus from the business community. The reality is, under Thatcher for the first 9 years the top tax rate was 60%. The hyperbole that would be heard from the neoliberal MP’s, the media billionaires and the rest of the ruling elite, would be borne out of nothing but greed, self-interest and narcissism. Total savings £6bn per year.

So, looking at the scores on the doors using these 4 ideas, we could raise £146bn per year, plus the £205bn Trident would cost over its lifetime. This is a good start towards that £500bn, which I’m sure isn’t intended to be raised in one year. What also needs to be taken into account is the huge sums of money that have been wasted paying subsidies for the failed privatisation of education, health, railways and benefits. Nationalising these services would save money, rather than financialising every aspect of government expenditure all to benefit the few. People want responsible government who care about everybody in the nation. Leadership that acts as the buffer between corporations and the masses. Not a government who exploit the public; whether that’s in the workplace with zero hour contracts, using our taxes to bail out failed corporate ventures or forcing our unemployed to work for free with the threat of loss of benefits constantly looming. This government passes all its draconian policies by instigating fear in our minds. From supposed terrorists on every street corner to immigrants taking our jobs and lazy benefit scroungers tanking the economy. There’s always another target to focus on except the real perpetrators. The masses need to recognise the enemy before we can all fight them effectively.

 

May the force be with you.

Disaster capitalism strikes back! Theresa May has been catapulted into number 10 Downing Street, following the aftermath of Brexit. This calamitous few weeks have enabled the Tory government to shift even further to the right, with a more calculated unempathic Prime Minister than the previous one. At least David Cameron pretended (rather unconvincingly) to care at times. Theresa May I would expect, will not even waste her time with such trivialities. I expect her to continue to spout, baseless, soulless rhetoric as displayed in her opening address. Both are economically on the same wavelength, however, May is more socially conservative than Cameron, with a particular dislike for immigrants, human rights and any form of social welfare.

It never ceases to amaze me how the neoliberals grasp every opportunity to push their ideology more radically following any kind of political or social breakdown. This is what Naomi Klein quite rightly describes in her book ‘The Shock Doctrine’ as disaster capitalism. The list of incidences whereby the right have used catastrophic events to their advantage is practically endless. These methods can be as diverse as; financial pressure, a manufactured political shift or as we’ve seen for over a decade in the Middle East, threats of military action. Activating events which facilitate the implementation of neoliberalism can be anything from a financial collapse, a coup (military or political) or a full blown military campaign.

The recent debacle known as Brexit and it’s fallout only served to send the country into disarray including the two main political party’s. I would go as far as to say the EU referendum was a sham and served to distract the voters from the real issues whilst splintering any remaining solidarity left amongst the working people of Britain. The masses are clearly unhappy but are currently deeply divided on how to display this. Some have moved over to the left, supporting Jeremy Corbyn’s politics of hope, whilst others have been brainwashed by political elements such as UKIP. This so called political party have spouted ceaseless anti-immigration rhetoric whilst promising to return Britain to the good old days, whenever they were. Looking generally at the right wing’s role in all this, the whole thing felt like a ruse the moment Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farrage ran like bulls in Pamplona once the withdrawal was assured. What followed was an array of confusing statements about how long it would take to leave the EU and how it would affect the UK. In fact most comments drifting from the right indicated that not much would change following this so-called momentous decision. Which kind of left me thinking, why? What is clear, is that all the Tories believe in strong neoliberal principles, to the detriment of working people. What they didn’t agree on with regards to Brexit and the EU, was how to best construct a extreme capitalist superstate in the UK. It is therefore, no surprise whatsoever that the Conservatives have managed to pull themselves together much quicker than the deeply divided Labour Party. What binds them together (neoliberalism) is much stronger than any lingering remains of repulsive forces left over from Brexit.

This cohesion theory of mine has been played out by the appointment of Boris Johnson as foreign secretary. Even though Theresa May was supposedly in the remain camp she duly became Prime Minister and Boris Johnson who allegedly was in the opposing corner, picked up the post of a senior minister. At this point those on the left should meditate a little on The Who’s awesome rock anthem, ‘We won’t get fooled again’. I strongly suggest this, because we cannot afford to be continually duped by right wing ideologists, who regularly protect their fellow establishment cronies to the detriment of us peasants. Those of us who lean towards socialism, in football parlance have been ‘played off the park’. We need to ditch our naiveté and fight our way back into this, before it’s too late. This is why we need to support Jeremy Corbyn with every ounce of our being, because if the Corbyn flame gets snuffed out, we will remain in the political dark for quite some time.

So let us appraise our anti-immigration, anti-benefits, anti- human rights, pro war leader, to get an idea of what she has in store for the nation. The Conservatives’ have ridiculed the Labour Party recently, stating that they have had 2 female PM’s to Labour’s none. However, I always prefer quality over quantity and Theresa May would appear to be Thatcher 2.0. It only requires a brief look at her voting record to realise that her initial speech (see video below) was either a set of blatant lies or she is suffering from cognitive dissonance. In this section I will review the obvious problems that will impact the country the most. I’m sure many of you out there could suggest a plethora of issues that are close to your heart, but here I will highlight some of the most glaring problematic topics.

Let us start with human rights, here is an example of Theresa May’s hypocrisy. In April 2016, May stated that she would urge Britain to leave the European Convention on Human Rights, despite at the time purporting to be a ‘Remain’ campaigner for the EU referendum. This made no sense as it is a necessity to be a member of the ECHR to be eligible to remain in the EU. What is clear, is most of the Tory Party agree that the ECHR should be replaced by some sort of watered down ‘British bill of rights’. By withdrawing from this 68 year old commitment to the ECHR, this would damage the UK’s international standing, as it is described as an important pillar of foreign policy. It can also be argued that there has to be another body outside of the government to rule on what in fact constitutes as a human right and when they are considered to be breached. Theresa May has consistently opposed laws to promote equality and human rights. In defence of her position May stated in April 2016 “The ECHR can bind the hands of parliament, adds nothing to our prosperity, makes us less secure by preventing the deportation of dangerous foreign nationals – and does nothing to change the attitudes of governments like Russia’s when it comes to human rights”. This blanket statement, however, would appear to be skipping over what the ECHR provides for us little people. For a quick summary of why the ECHR is so important, here is Patrick Stewart to explain in this wonderful skit.

Regarding foreign policy it is abundantly obvious by perusing her voting record that the UK’s leader has been consistently pro-war, a case in point being the Iraq War, which she supported. May has also always voted for the replacement of Trident; this is an obsolete relic of the cold war era at an estimated cost of £205 billion. At a time when UK public services have been decimated by austerity, MP’s have recently overwhelmingly voted in favour of renewing Trident. May’s unwavering support of nuclear weapons under the guise of a deterrent and other military interventions gives us a clear indication that she would not be shy of using and escalating military force to solve our foreign policy problems. I am sure this stance goes a long way to reassure the US, preserving the US/UK ‘special relationship’. Recently May acknowledged that she would be willing to authorise a nuclear strike capable of killing a 100,000 people or more, which never struck me as the most sensible of strategies. I always thought that a retaliatory nuclear strike, hence, matching the death of possibly millions of people, with the murder of few more million human beings was outright lunacy. These points outlined make the prospect of a President Clinton and a Prime Minister Theresa May UK/US alliance, given their penchant for war a deeply disturbing prospect. It appears both premiers would be happy to send young, often poor people to die to support a failed foreign policy. An ideology that has nothing remotely to do with peace, but would conveniently line the pockets of the shareholders who have a significant stake in the companies involved with the arms industry. Recently Theresa May sent a message that she is more than comfortable denying any responsibility for the catastrophic US led western foreign policy by scrapping the ‘Minister for Syrian Refugees’. This at a time when western nations should be coordinating efforts to ensure the safety and humane treatment of refugees fleeing from an impossible situation, that US led foreign policy has helped to create.

For those who have kept an eye on Theresa May’s shenanigans this deletion of the Syrian refugees minister shouldn’t come as much of a shock. As Home Secretary, Theresa May made it crystal clear that she took an unashamedly anti-immigration stance. This is exemplified in both her voting record and her actions whilst in this post. In 2015 Theresa May addressed the Tory faithful stating that immigration threatened Britain’s cohesion. While in 2012 May as Home Secretary proposed that migrant workers from outside the EU who wish to settle in the UK must earn at least £35,000, this is in contrast to the average wage in the UK which sits at around £26,500, after a series of hiccups, this policy is set to be in place by 2016. The new Prime Minister also pushed through a series of blocks, making it much harder for foreign-born students to settle in the UK on graduating from their respective courses. Her main reason at the time was simple; in her view “the net economic and fiscal benefits are close to zero”. Interesting enough she offered a similar reason for leaving the ECHR, when she stated “ECHR can bind the hands of parliament, adds nothing to our prosperity”. As previously mentioned May’s voting record reinforces her convictions; voting for a stricter asylum system and stronger enforcement of immigration rules.

Returning to the home front, Empress Theresa has repeatedly voted to reduce housing benefits. According to her record, she voted against raising welfare benefits whilst voting for a reduction of spending on the said benefits. May has been opposed to increasing benefits for the sick or people with disabilities and against public spending to increase jobs for young people. David+Cameron+Theresa+May+State+Visit+President+X5YTpU5G37mlTheresa May clearly believes in a ‘everyone for themselves’ type of society, that purports going out and getting a job, but at the same time not supporting any schemes that may promote employment. It would seem that the new PM has no interest at all in helping the most vulnerable in society gain ascendency. However, on the flip side, she has always tried to help her establishment buddies out, voting against tax rises on people who earn £150,000 and above, whilst voting to oppose a tax on bankers bonuses. Ms May has voted consistently against a mansion tax, as I presume this would upset her and her peers, who would be deeply affected. At the same time she has repeatedly stomped on workers rights by voting for more regulation on trade union activity. It is obvious that what Theresa May advocates looking at her record; this is a widening of inequality, by quashing benefits of any sort, while taking any remaining workers rights that currently exist. Counter to this she is delighted for the rich and therefore herself to pay less tax. It is in no doubt that when a decision needs to be made, we can be assured that Theresa May will always vote in favour of the 1% and her own interests. Theresa May’s crowning glory (note the sarcasm) was the proposal of the, Investigatory Power Bill, or otherwise known as the ‘snoopers charter’. This intrusive set of new laws have passed through the House of Commons and is now heading on to the House of Lords to be voted upon. The Investigatory Powers Bill is a new law that will give the UK police and security agencies massive powers to collect, analyse and look at our private communications and internet use. Here are some of the worrying bits;

  • Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will be forced to create a record of the websites you visit and the apps you use and can keep this data for a year. This information can be analysed without a warrant. The police only need to get internal sign off to look at this data. Government departments, like the Department of Work and Pensions, can look at this data too.
  • Your communications can be easily obtained by the security services. Tapping undersea fibre-optic cables, GCHQ can record and keep all passing internet traffic for several days, and metadata for six months.
  • The police and intelligence agencies can hack into your phone or computer. You don’t have to be suspected of a crime for this to happen.
  • The security services can easily access any public or private database – whether it’s held by DVLA or Tesco. They have admitted that the vast majority of this data will be about people who are not suspected of any crimes.

All this will be pushed through under the guise of national security, but this is a gross erosion of our civil liberties. The bill is expected to pass through both houses by the end of 2016, at which point, ‘Big Sister’ will be watching you!

With regards to real problems such as climate change; Theresa May hasn’t been shy about showing her disdain for it, within a week of her tenure in number 10 she scrapped the Department for Energy and Climate Change. While adding insult to injury for environmentalists, Andrea Leadsom the lady who had no idea about climate change was given the post of Environment Secretary. The PM has consistently voted against climate change prevention measures and tighter regulation on fracking, whilst also being in favour of the sale of state owned forests. Her blatant dismissal regarding the importance of climate change is severely worrying, as she seems quite prepared to support big business at the expense of our planet. Her ideology is simply incompatible with the severity of the problem and the tough measures we are going to have to employ particularly against the fossil fuel industry. It is now imperative to limit the damage that has already been estimated to occur due to international governing bodies repeated laxidasicle responses to the crisis. On this issue alone I would declare her unfit for office, as she is contributing amongst other inept leaders to put the planet in severe danger.

So there you have it. While the Tories celebrate that she is indeed a woman, the UK need to be reminded that she is a human rights denying, elitist, war mongering, unempathic, narcissistic, despicable, global danger. Oh, but it’s OK didn’t I tell you…..she’s a woman.