Antifa: friend or foe?

I’ll nail my colours to the mast right from the start. I am primarily a Libertarian/ Democratic Socialist, mainly in tune with the works of Rosa Luxemburg and Mikhail Bakunin. I certainly agree with a more civil path to implement change. You could say a peaceful revolution, and no that isn’t an oxymoron. I strongly suggest that we must have direct democracy on every conceivable level. The class struggle and the fight against suffocating economic inequality is vitally important.

We need a message and a reason to bring people together, such as the quest to end neoliberalism and grotesque inequality. For me this makes sense, as someone who also has a strong utilitarian streak, this would have a positive affect on the most amount of people, regardless of their identity. This is why I reject identity politics, because it fragments society and counters discrimination with more discrimination. So the question is, does Antifa who claim to fight fascism, represent me, the majority of the left and the working class?

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The simple answer is no. Violence rarely solves anything and cannot create a stable platform for long term democracy. On both sides of the political spectrum, something that has been created on the back of hostility generally requires strong arm tactics to maintain it. This has been witnessed in the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, Chile, Argentina and Palestine. If your starting point is violence it can only escalate in a desperate attempt to keep control.

So who are Antifa? This is essentially a difficult question to answer, because it is generally used as an umbrella term. Plus they are a fairly secretive bunch. On the whole Antifa have claimed the moral high-ground and yet they attack people who offer no physical threat to them, only a difference of opinion. When I looked on the Portland Oregon Antifa group, called Rose City Antifa, I saw a malleable use of language and an abundance of double standards. Even by their own admission, fascism is difficult to define. So let me help them out, because it surely must be difficult to fight something you can’t define. Here’s Merriam Webster’s crack at it;

Definition of Fascism

  1. Often capitalised: a political theory, movement, or regime (such as that of Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralised autocratic government, headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation and forcible suppression of opposition.
  2. A tendency or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control early instances of army fascism and brutality – J.W Aldridge

In contrast, Antifa’s FAQ’s page makes exceptionally opaque reading regarding a definition of fascism. It is wordy and yet doesn’t actually say a great deal. The term fascism has been broadened to the point of being a meaningless catch all term. In effect fascism seems to be, whatever they decide it to be. If you ignore their ideology and focus on their actions you could be forgiven for thinking they are describing themselves. The “FAQ’s” section is littered with hypocrisy and inaccuracies, which are clearly used to justify their warped existence.

As an example, they claim that fascists are hostile towards Enlightenment values, which is hard to argue against, however, many of the issues Antifa fight for are antithetical to these very values they claim to defend. The Philly Antifa group offer that they defend Trans rights, which is fine, but much of the trans argument is not based on the values of the Enlightenment, such as; science, logic and objectivity. In fact the very nature of self identification is subjective and not grounded in any scientific rigour, such as the notion that sex and gender is on a spectrum. These ideas share more common ground with Postmodernism, which incidentally strongly opposes the Enlightenment.

There is no argument that Mussolini was a fascist, so too was Pinochet, General Videla could also claim the mantle of a full blooded fascist. A man who headed the Junta in Argentina, who among other generals oversaw the disappearance of 30,000 people between 1976 and 1983. But these are not the sort of characters Antifa are targeting. In contrast Antifa’s victims fail to occupy the same lofty and frightening fascist credentials of the men mentioned above.

Their recent assault on photojournalist and Quillette Editor Andy Ngo would seem to support the suggestion that this is less about halting fascism and more about preventing any dissenting voices to emerge. Without doubt Ngo has been a vociferous critic of Antifa, but quite clearly posed no physical threat to them whatsoever. For his troubles, he received punches to the face, had his equipment stolen and a milkshake thrown on him (which seems to be the trendy tactic of identarians these days). In the end, this cowardice attack landed Ngo in the emergency room with head injuries.

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On the Rose City Antifa website, these ‘moral guardians’ claim to do battle against xenophobia, racism and homophobia and yet Andy Ngo is a gay, Vietnamese man. It would appear Mr Ngo is the wrong kind of homosexual son of immigrants. Strongly inferring Antifa’s moral claims are flimsy at best and more likely blatant lies in an effort to legitimise their violent actions. I fail to be convinced that Antifa possess any principled convictions, only a childish desperation to get their own way, like a petulant child.

Antifa is claimed by the right wing media to be made up of Marxists, Communists, Stalinists and any other ‘ist’ they can possibly think of on Fox News. This is all done generally without any knowledge of what Marx even wrote about. This group I would hazard a guess, would be happy to be connected with such ideologies, feeling it would add some form of credence to their misguided cause. Both sides appear content with these convenient labels and so the idea of Antifa being on the far-left has stuck. However, when we dig a little into a couple of Antifa’s webpages, the idea of a proletarian Antifa carrying the fight to fascists and the bourgeois doesn’t ring true.

On the Philly Antifa site, their front page suggests they “are in direct conflict with Racism, Homophobia, Sexism, Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, Transphobia, and all the over flavours of Fascism”. Firstly, if you direct you gaze back to the definition of fascism, most of these issues, although distasteful, uncivil, and surely scary if on the receiving end of such bigotry, they are not directly connected to fascism. Secondly, on any of the Antifa sites I’ve browsed their is no mention of fighting for the working class, securing workers control and abolishing capitalism. This is an important point, as this crucially was Marx’s main thrust.

Marx’s primary work (unsurprisingly called Capital) consisted of critiquing capitalism to the nth degree. However, confusingly for a supposed leftist group there is no sign of a counter narrative calling for a push against capitalism on their sites. Undoubtedly, according to the content of their websites this appears to stir little interest among the ranks of Antifa. In fact their main objectives could be considered centrist/3rd way goals, as championed by Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and Justin Trudeau in Canada. Obviously these areas that they mention as their core issues, are unsavoury and it would be great if we could live in a world where discrimination of any sort wasn’t a factor, but equally these views don’t constitute fascism.

JT
Trudeau virtue signalling

Third way politics headed by people like Tony Blair presented identity politics as a way to combat societal views considered unacceptable in his idea of a utopian world, while deflecting the populous away from the fact he was a neoliberal disciple. Democrats and Labour Parties around the world suddenly found themselves with a new enemy to rally against, primarily anyone who didn’t think the same way as them. Meanwhile, the likes of Blair and Clinton continued to de-regulate the financial sector with little resistance. This neoliberal blueprint has since been handed down to successive Prime Minister’s and President’s. During this time, the disenfranchised working class have been labelled public enemy number one, for not subserviently going along with this masterplan.

It seems apparent that Antifa has more in common with the corporatist status quo, than they would care to admit. Incidentally, they only seem to have resurfaced since the arrival of Donald Trump. This is significant because many workings of the government have changed little since Obama’s departure. For example the US has continued with their usual aggressive foreign policy. Of course, Trump is a narcissistic, sexist, bigoted idiot, who has no moral integrity, uttering anything so that he can maintain power. Therefore, Antifa are more concerned with this loud mouthed political puppet, rather than the government machinery that continues to perpetuate massive inequality, climate change inaction and continuous bombings of sovereign nations.

I have a very strong suspicion that the Antifa are comprised of middle class, relatively well educated, financially comfortable, identarians and are the attack dogs of the liberal elite. This political class have recently been rejected by the working class, in the form of Brexit and the election of Trump. With many people voting against both Hilary Clinton and the chance to remain in the EU. This maligned group are now labelled as a conduit for hate, therefore, a seemingly appropriate target for these masked thugs. Cunningly, conflicting or opposing worldviews have been rebranded as hate, providing a justification for such violence.

This slide from a differing point of view, to suddenly branding an opinion as hate is known as concept creep, where definitions broaden and behaviour that is less extreme is suddenly considered dangerous, such as ‘problematic’ opinions. It’s this very idea that supports the notion that “words are violence“, leading to punishment, which includes no platforming, censorship or violence. This is then passed off as a valid response and classified as a form of self-defence.

Far from being defenders of the free world Antifa are authoritarian and these self-proclaimed arbiters of morality, silence all murmurings of dissent in any way they see fit. This includes the shutting down of free speech, peacefully or otherwise. On the Rose City website this group admits that it is no fan of free speech, describing it as “not applicable”. They would also prefer the state to take a back seat when tackling far-right views or fascism, so that these vigilantes can directly confront transgressors. This is worrying as Antifa clearly have no idea what fascism is, making fighting it I would imagine, pretty tough going.

Equally disturbing, is the leeway mainstream media grant this group, playing down or at times openly supporting their actions. This should be seen as a red flag, signalling that this is not an anarchic left wing group, but a violent wing of the liberal elite, emboldened by selective mainstream journalism. The media regularly seem very keen to report that Antifa has a long storied history, all in an attempt to add a shred of legitimacy or decency to their questionable cause. This again is an effort to silence detractors, implying that if you are against Antifa you must be in support of fascists. Joe Rogan recently described them as middle class, privileged kids doing cos-play. I think they are slightly more dangerous than that, primarily because they hunt in packs, pick easy victims and make up the rules as they go along.

Does Antifa speak or act for me as a self proclaimed member of the left? Absolutely not. Do they support and protect the working class, the traditional core of the left? Not even in the slightest. They are defending the capitalist status quo, under the pretence of activism. Antifa are bourgeois, middle class, privileged thugs and bullies. They are more outraged by regrettable but relatively isolated incidents of racism or sexism than a system that has created a despicable level of inequality. This political ideology of neoliberalism is strongly connected to poor health, rising crime rates, sub-par education, a planet that is collapsing from over consumption and a precession of never ending wars.

Antifa has a myopic moral perspective, protecting dubious theories such as intersectionalism. They preach an authoritarian, puritanical, doctrine that has a religious quality to it, demanding full obedience at all times. As a group they fail on every conceivable level to protect and support the working class, the homeless and the powerless. All the while, endeavouring to do everything within their power to control how we act, what we say and how we think.

 

 

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Equity versus equality; why it really isn’t so simple.

Equity and equality are often terms that are confused or melded together, but are they the same? Lets start with equality, the goal is to make sure everyone has the same things to be successful. It’s premise is to seek fairness, but in many cases this intervention can be implemented on the false assumption that people start off on a equal footing. In contrast equity attempts to understand what is needed so people can prosper. Good, is that’s it, problem solved? Unfortunately not, to expand, equity demands justice and fairness in all situations good or bad. Therefore, the onus is on treating people differently but fairly as individual circumstances dictate. In effect this is about providing the resources for the person to achieve their maximum potential.

As equality focuses on treating everyone equally, an individual is afforded the same rights and responsibilities, regardless of any personal differences. The whole tenet of equality is to prevent discrimination on the basis of; sex, race, caste, nationality, disability age and so on. This is to ensure everybody gets equal treatment in society, which is considered paramount in a democratic society, particularly in the eyes of the law. One huge problem that jumps out, while equality is simple to measure, meaning simply the same, equity is much trickier as it relates to fairness. This steers us into the choppy waters of subjectivity, as clearly not everybody agrees on what’s fair.

A debate around this often rages between left/right and the many points in between. Now we’ve defined both equity and equality and some potential issues, the problems do not stop there. Many political tribes from centrists to libertarians, talk about providing equality of opportunity, as opposed to equality of outcome. The argument often runs on the lines of; the state must treat individuals unequally in order to enforce equality of outcome and this is considered unfair in many circles.

People on the left often campaign for equal outcomes, for example the use of all-women shortlists by the Labour Party (UK) in an attempt to attain 50/50 men and women MP’s. This hasn’t exactly been a success, between 1997 and 2016 out of the 170 candidates selected from all-women shortlist, just 49% have manage to reach the house of commons. During this time the number of female Labour MP’s have fallen from 101 to 99. With all this in mind, I’m going to argue for a huge dose of nuance. I will propose that the optimal route depends entirely on what society is trying achieve. Some issues should favour equity, while others would more likely benefit from equality.

As soon as you begin to do an internet search on equity and equality millions of results based predominantly around gender and race are vomited onto the screen. For this piece I’m going to attempt to stay away from this region the best I can, primarily because I’ve written enough in that area recently. In this piece I want to chiefly explore socio-economic inequality and how it could be best addressed. I will use ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’ to slightly crudely suggest that the lower we sit on pyramid regarding needs, the more we require our focus to be on equity. However, as we work our way up through the levels, utilising equality may prove to be more beneficial. For those of you who are not familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy, check out the diagram below.

8 stage maslows

For this exploration, I have decided to use the more updated 8 stage format. Initially this was a 5 stage theory, the new hierarchy was adopted in 1970. Maslow’s original intentions was for this to be a form of motivational theory, but I’m primarily going to utilise this as a depiction of how these needs are organised and where other factors such as personal responsibility may fit in.

Firstly, you will have most likely recognised that the pyramid is split between 4 ‘deficiency needs’ (D-needs) and 4 ‘growth needs’ (G-needs). D-needs arise primarily through deprivation, according to Maslow this motivates the person to fulfil these needs if they are unmet. For example the longer someone goes without food, the hungrier they will become. Note that to progress up the pyramid, one must in general meet the requirements of one level before moving to the next.

Towards the upper reaches of the pyramid are G-needs, in comparison these are not a deficit of anything as such, but more a desire to grow as a human being. As explained with the D-needs, an individual must work their way through the levels, eventually reaching the top level of transcendence. Progression through the ranks is rather like a game of snakes and ladders, moving up during the good times, but slipping back during difficult experiences such as; a loss of job or a divorce. It is also worth pointing out that most behaviour is multi-motivated, meaning an individual is simultaneously motivated by more than one basic need.

If we observe these needs in relation to a capitalist system in which we live in, some people will struggle to gain access to the very basic needs (dwelling in what I call Maslow’s cellar), while others will inhabit the ‘penthouse of  transcendence’. Following the advent of neoliberalism in the late 70’s (UK) and the early 80’s (NZ, US, Aus and Can) many entities that were once considered universal are now in the hands of private corporations and are often more expensive, such as healthcare in the US. Furthermore, some people will have the resources, connections, luck and perseverance to move up through the levels, while others may have varying struggles that make life more difficult to acquire even the most rudimentary of needs.

It makes moral and economic sense to ensure that everybody has their basic physiological needs met, whether this is via their own volition, through assistance in some way or a combination of the two. These physiological needs would include; food, water, shelter and warmth. Looking at this in terms of the equity/equality conundrum, some people for a myriad of reasons often require more help than others.

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Maslow proposed that the first tier contains the most important set of needs and are essential for the human body to function at an optimal level. I look at it as the foundations of human flourishing. If we have empathy for our fellow human beings, if we want to create conditions so people can thrive, therefore, contribute to society, equity at this level should be a simple decision. Vital requirements such as; food, water and shelter should be provided to those in need, not to everybody. This can be justified by stating that not everyone in society are dealt the same hand and many people do not need this level of support.

Moving one rung up we encounter ‘safety needs‘, described as; protection from the elements, security, the provision of healthcare, stability, freedom from fear and a functioning legal system. Even at this second stage, we start to approach what could be considered grey areas for some people, who would offer that some of these factors are chiefly the responsibility of the individual.

It seems perfectly logical that each human being is seen equally under the eyes of the law, which is of course is equality. Furthermore, all people should have access to adequate legal representation when required, such as legal aid if required. This is an obvious example of equity, by providing what is needed an individual can adequately partake in society. Here we have an example of equity in an effort to promote equality.

Another area is healthcare, in the US in particular the quality of healthcare is based on your insurance plan. In other words your social status, employment situation or your bank balance decides upon the care you receive. Surely, in a humane society suitable health provision is a basic human right and the best healthcare available should be afforded to all human beings.

This for me is non-negotiable, it is difficult for a society to claim civility while employing a multi tier health system. This highlights a glaring problem with capitalism, if “all people are considered equal”, as is claimed in most western societies, then care shouldn’t be based on economic status, overwise we are contradicting the initial statement. The original statement should, therefore, be amended to read, “all social status is proportional to the wealth of the individual”.

If we take the stairs to the next floor we arrive at the level of ‘love and belongingness’ needs. This refers to emotional needs such as family, friends and intimacy. It is proposed that the need for interpersonal relationships motivates our behaviour. This is where we learn about trust, intimacy, love and being part of a group. These needs are particularly strong in childhood, as we require a stable platform to flourish as an adult. Emotional and psychological needs in childhood are often protected by law to enforce a certain level of acceptable care, broadly speaking we could call this equality. However, kids are unique and have differing requirements for them to develop. This could be given as an example of equity.

The 4th floor is the last of the deficiency needs and where ‘esteem’ hangs out. Maslow classified these needs into two categories.

  1. Esteem for oneself, such as dignity, mastery, achievement and independence
  2. The desire for reputation or respect from others, such as status and prestige.

Exploring what equitable processes could be put in place to facilitate these needs, much of it points to education. Creating a system that fosters critical thinking, that recognises individual talents and abilities, that delivers excellent education, will help children to meet the deficiency needs as laid out above. Having a good start in life, with excellent education for all is one of the best ways to achieve equality or simply a fair shot at life. In this case, equity is undoubtedly the tool required to achieve this, such as putting more resources into struggling schools. This is especially poignant when considering that only 7% of the UK attend fee paying schools and yet 39% of those in position of power are privately educated. This is an example of entrenched elitism and something to be challenged.

As we leave deficiency needs (D-needs) and enter the territory of growth needs (G-needs) it becomes increasingly more difficult to find examples of when equity is valid, while providing ample justification for any actions. Many growth needs that people fight for are less of an economic or basic necessity or even a need as such, but could be more easily categorised as a want. These ‘needs’ are often found in the realm of identity politics and are much more politically driven, even though the actual requirements are less pressing. However, because these matters are pushed by often the educated, middle classes and not the powerless in our society, their demands often garner more attention. One of the blunt tools to gain equity is “positive discrimination” or to use the more cuddly term “affirmative action”.

female control

This is the domain where educated, relatively comfortable, middle class, centrists who proclaim to be progressives demand a 50:50 ratio in every occupation. Correction, equal representation in only the top professions including MP’s, CEO’s and worthwhile careers, such as within the upper echelons of education. Unsurprisingly, there seems little clamour to protest for equality for work on oil rigs, the front line of the military and many shitty, dangerous jobs men fill on a daily basis. We are led to believe that this discrepancy is simply due to discrimination, rather than average sex differences in career preferences and life goals. There is also very little coverage about the many professions women dominate. Here are some examples:

  • Medical and health service mangers
  • Vets
  • Psychologists
  • Teachers
  • Medical scientists
  • Financial specialists
  • Accountants/auditors
  • Veterinarians
  • HR managers

It’s also worth acknowledging that in universities approximately 60% of students who achieve degrees are women. Women can obtain female only scholarships into STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) in an effort to address the supposed discrimination within this field. Shockingly at the University of Oxford, an extra 15 minutes was added to computer science and maths exams, as it was thought that time pressure may adversely affect female candidates. This for me highlights when positive discrimination and the quest for equity goes too far. This is effectively social engineering, surely we would live in a freer society if people were allowed to make their own decisions regarding their lives, rather than being cajoled into a profession purely to satisfy some political dogma.

Much of this positive discrimination crosses the line, shifting from needs; food, shelter, education and health, to wants; a better job, status, prestige and more money. How in any way does this type of campaign, supported by relatively privileged people, positively affect the majority of working class, poor and the homeless? These are campaigns designed by the middle class, for the middle class and are no more than self serving ventures. Often these comparatively trivial concerns are heavily supported by politicians and the mainstream media in an effort to secure middle class voters, at the expense of the hapless working class.

I am all for using equity as a tool to combat an incongruence of human rights. Nobody should go without adequate food, shelter, heat, education, health care, protection by the law and even a means of earning money, or we must consider that we have failed as a first world society to support all of it’s members. Equally we should not be duped into providing a further leg up for the bourgeois, educated, manipulative, middle classes who convince us that their requirements are of far greater importance than anybody else’s.

So where does personal responsibility fit in, you may ask. Many on the right suggest personal responsibility encompasses practically every choice we make. I would argue that the choices available are greatly reduced if your basic needs, primarily the bottom four blocks of Maslow’s hierarchy are not met. In contrast, an individual like Bill Gates for example went to a school where he could gain programming experience, at a time when less than 0.01% of his generation had access to computers. Further to this, he also had a mother with social connections to the chairman of IBM. These types of advantages experienced by the rich obviously provide a greater range of choices than the average person. Examples such as Bill Gates only serves to question the validity of the “personal responsibility” hypothesis within this context.

Bill Gates

It is relatively well documented that rich kids will likely go on to be a rich adult. It fact, a child’s basic earnings can be based off a percentile of their parents earnings. Additionally, people who are more affluent are more likely to marry and kids who have a stable two parent family tend to go on to having more fruitful lives. This information adds weight to the argument that if we decrease economic inequality, society as a whole will benefit.

Equity and equality both have their place, but if we want to provide everyone with an opportunity to thrive, equity is necessary to ensure that all people have their basic needs met, contributing to good foundations for life. Less inequality can increase trust and societal participation, decrease health problems, reduce crime, increase social mobility, improve education levels and even stabilise the economy. So, the question is, why wouldn’t we do what we can to raise all boats, starting with the very people who have run aground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“How the left was won”. The planned demise of a working class movement.

The left as it was known before the 80’s is withering away. Of course there are pockets of resistance, the much maligned Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters being a prime example. There are certain politicians who do show signs of leftist principles based on the pursuance of economic equality, who then feel the need to balance it up, succumbing to the pressure of identity politics. This is principally because many of the identarian left also make up the rank and file of Bernie Sanders (US), Jeremy Corbyn (UK) and Jacinda Ardern’s (NZ) supporters. To ignore them would be committing political suicide, in a world where winning is paramount to implementing any sort of change within the ‘democratic system’.

This erosion of the economic left has occurred from many directions, also inside and outside of the leftist citadel. In the mid to late 70’s Keynesian social democratic policies were running out of steam and so entered Thatcher in 1979, with an individualistic ideology known as neoliberalism. This is a brutal system of capitalism that had been waiting in the wings for the day Keynesian economics eventually spluttered and finally collapsed. Thatcher began an unveiled attack on the working class, that still persists today, as she laid to waste any remaining industries, selling them off at an alarming rate, for the rich and middle classes to benefit from.

Thatcher

Thatcher made no attempt to hide her disdain for any semblance of a community, as the UK miners can testify. The UK and also New Zealand a little later from 1984 entered a rabid world of competition and consumption, where more was better and if you didn’t make it, you only had yourself to blame. Sadly today, this attitude is considered the societal norm across much of the world, where people fight for whatever metaphorical scraps are left on the table. Neoliberalism for many is the only political system they have ever known. With this in mind it’s not surprising the left with a more collectivist, compassionate perspective struggles to gain traction among the wolves of capitalism.

It makes sense that right wing policies from the Conservatives, Republican’s and National would attempt to manipulate the working class to gain more profit for their mates, but these attacks also occurred from inside “camp lefty”. Bill Clinton and Tony Blair made it clear that they were switching targets in the 90’s, coveting the middle class vote. While the relaxing of financial restrictions, such as Glass Steagall in the US echoed these sentiments. In the UK, Brown and Blair allowed the banks ever more leeway, contributing to the financial crash of 2008.

To appease their newly found middle class and professional class voters, these disciples of the “third way” focused on social justice concessions. This fight for rights for minorities was music to middle class ears, who had little money worries, just everyday dilemmas such as; where to go on holiday that year, or whether to build a summer house or install a new kitchen. Meanwhile, industry after industry was decimated and areas such as the North, the Midlands and South Wales, became one huge call centre, up until these jobs were inevitably shipped off shore, leading to even more unemployment

call centre

Now in the UK, the gig economy (bullshit jobs to you and me) account for 4.7 million workers, doubling in just three years. These jobs possess sparse workers rights, no paid holidays, little security and often requires employees to take on two jobs to cover the bills. This is not a basis for a secure society, but the disparity between the haves and have nots can be witnessed in voting habits. Starting with Blair and Clinton, these traditional working class parties gave up on the very people they were supposed to represent, in search of a less grimy class of voter. This societal neglect has since been returned with interest by the working class, in the form of Brexit and the election of Trump.

The middle class and lefty elite’s reactions on both sides of the pond, was the blame the very people who been shafted for decades, calling them xenophobic, racist or just plain dumb. I’m sure victim blaming is a massive taboo among the identarian left, but alas, maybe they are just the wrong kind of victim. In centrist, middle class land, the gender wage gap (which is a dubious statistic at best) and the crusade to get an even 50% of men and women in all high powered jobs, seems to be on the forefront of the identarian mind. Often they are people who come from comfortable backgrounds, have attended university, possess very little life experiences, but insist on taking the moral high ground, but chiefly only on issues that directly concern them.

Maybe, just maybe there isn’t enough women who want to be CEO’s in top corporations to make up the 50% quota, or even MP’s or engineers for that matter. Lets be honest, who would blame them, CEO’s are often “Alpha Male”, narcissists, who put their life and family on hold, working 80 hours a week for the sake of financial success, both theirs and the company’s. Plus, I have never seen identarians protesting to make up 50% of oil rig workers or other dangerous jobs. It also becomes eerily silent when highlighting areas women dominate, such as education (60% are of university graduates are women), new graduate medical students, psychology and publishing.

I am using this as an example to show the disconnect regarding the priorities of middle class, bourgeois, educated, professionals and the working class. Who’s main preoccupations are centred around feeding the kids, paying the bills, debts and getting decent work. If we look at “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs“, many working class people are desperately trying to get out of “Maslow’s Cellar”. While the champagne identarian socialists are focused on growth needs, self-actualisation and trying get into the penthouse. To the centrist middle classes (who often classify themselves as left), the working class are an eyesore, an inconvenience and an enemy of civility. Personally, I would describe them as being crapped on from a great height, repeatedly for 4 decades and who are increasingly desperate for change.

8 stage maslows

The problem is, the working class have little representation. Most unions are toothless and throughout the western world working class MP’s are as rare as “rocking horse shit”. In the 1920’s 70% of Labour MP’s in the UK came from working class backgrounds. Since the 1980’s this has plummeted to today’s figure of just 8%. The powerless clearly lack any representation from people who can actually enact change. We are now awash with career MP’s, who are more interested in keeping their positions, with little experience outside of the political bubble. This is significant, in a recent study it was shown that working class MP’s have much more interest in welfare policies than careerists. In contrast these professional politicians are much more likely to adopt policies for political or strategic reasons in order to win over swing voters and ultimately elections.

None of this is set to change, as the working class will continue to be marginalised, silenced and underrepresented. In all likelihood this group will continue to avoid traditional left leaning parties such as Labour and its ilk. Despite Jeremy Corbyn’s hard work in this area, many people from the working class still consider Labour and the Democrats, as not representative of their values and concerns. The legacies of both Clinton and Blair are of course huge reasons for their warranted mistrust. I will conclude by suggesting that this has been a purposeful act by the right wing, the centrists, the media and the identarian left in order to quash working class concerns, while elevating their own self-serving agendas.

 

 

The failure of dialogue and the rise of political polarisation.

Question, how long does it take for a discussion on Facebook to turn into a childish name calling competition? Minutes, seconds, instantaneously? If you are on the left of Genghis Khan you are labelled a far left, snowflake, commie bastard and if you are considered to be on the right of Leon Trotsky you are considered an alt right, fascist, Nazi pig. There are absolutely no shades of grey in this equation. The overriding mentality suggests you are either with us or against us and if you are the latter, you don’t deserve an opinion because you are a worthless piece shit. At which point ends any faint hope of an adult conversation.

This is played out everyday on social media, in parliament, college campuses and the workplace. You have to devour the entire menu from either the rabid fascists or the commie bastards, overwise you must be a troll and therefore, should be hung in the main square at noon. Only the team you favour is entitled to free speech and not everyone is allowed a platform or even a viewpoint. Looking at the state of political discourse, this polarisation is intensifying and doing democracy (what’s left of it) no good whatsoever. Below is a protest against Warren Farrell’s appearance at the University of Toronto in 2012, the event was discussing men’s issues, such as suicide. Apparently this wasn’t acceptable to the intersectional puritans.

Most people don’t agree with everything a political party serves up, but often we choose one which aligns with our beliefs, ideals and morals the best we can. This is quickly becoming “out of fashion” as a puritanical political ideology is starting to take over throughout the west. If for example, you show reservations regarding the effectiveness of modern day capitalism in certain quarters, you are suddenly lectured about how the Soviet Union and China was a failed experiment, killing millions of people, while probably being accused of supporting gulags and mass murder. In contrast, if one displays any mild dissent for example, on college campuses towards identity politics, you are immediately branded a misogynistic, racist, knuckle-dragging Neanderthal, who probably voted Brexit and is Nigel Farage’s favourite real ale drinking buddy.

My examples hopefully sound absurd, but this absurdity is only matched by the lack of sane dialogue and nuance as witnessed in most political arenas. This ideological segregation leaps out at me, primarily because I don’t tick all the boxes of the self-ascribed modern day lefty. I am unashamedly an economic lefty, I believe economic inequality and poverty caused by runaway capitalism is primarily our biggest issue. It affects crime, social cohesion, health provision, education, the environment and foreign policy (aka constant war). Conversely, I view the identarian ‘left’ with it’s rigid all or nothing doctrine and it’s attempt to regulate societal acceptability as deeply disturbing.

Both sides of the political aisle, predictably, doggedly stick to their assigned media echo chambers. In the US, Fox News is the word of God (or indeed Rupert Murdoch), while on the left MSNBC is often the liberals choice of propaganda, ceaselessly proclaiming yet another rehashed Russian/Trump accusation. In the UK political allegiance is chiefly grounded in Newspaper outlets; the Daily Mail, the Telegraph and the Sun tend to cover the varying classes of Brexit voting, apartheid supporting, right wing, sabre rattlers. While the Independent and the Guardian cater for the permanently outraged, woke middle class, remain voting, snowflakes, who are convinced they are the most enlightened human beings ever to have walked the earth. Negligent posting of any form of media outside of your scope of bigotry is punishable by death, or at the very least an accusation of being a despicable troll, rather than an independent thinker.

Newsflash, just because you may read articles outside of your political realm at times, does not mean you are going to wake up one day the very antithesis of the person who went to bed that night. It is perfectly OK to challenge yourself with speakers and commentators you may not ordinarily agree with (in my case someone like Jordan Peterson). It is good to test what we believe, weighing up the information at hand, refining our ideas and sometimes, lo and behold changing them. This is indeed how we grow, develop or even strengthen our long held ideals. Picking a side and blindly sticking with it regardless of any changes that may have radically taken place within that group, such as Blair’s Labour years, is ludicrous.

As a society we seem to know less and less about our political opposites, yet we have ever stronger opinions about them. We often call for resignations, impeachments and no platforming, not necessarily in relation to what they stand for, but a caricature of what they represent. In the US the Democrats have spent over two years trying to build a case against Donald Trump regarding Russian interference in the 2016 elections. The allegations are baseless, but it appears easier than trying to work out why millions of working class white folks voted for him, without referring to them as racist and xenophobic.

MSNBC - Election Coverage - Season 2016
Rachel Maddow, MSNBC host and fulltime Russiagate conspiracy theorist.

The same can be said for Brexit, rather than acknowledging that millions of people particularly outside of the South East, have not benefitted from a system that has been at one with Europe for decades. It’s clearly more satisfying and simplistic to vomit ad hominem’s from a great moral height on the minions down below. Otherwise Remainer’s would have to recognise that neoliberalism either in or out of Europe has not helped the working class and no amount of name calling or shaming is going to change that. Unfortunately this working class disenfranchisement has resulted in support for Semi-Gods (yes that’s what I said) such as Donald Trump and Nigel Farage. When society refuses to listen to its largely ignored, powerless members of the community, they may not protest like bourgeois, middle class know it all’s complete with face paint, but they will try to force change through the ballot box.

I would like to leave this piece with a message of hope, but I desperately fail to see one. Social media will make it increasingly easier for people to display more antagonism towards each other, typing the next line frantically before they have even read the previous reply. Papers sell more and people will watch more if we are perpetually at odds with each other. There will certainly be no solace found within the purveyors of propaganda, who stoke the daily fires of hate, purposefully spewing vitriolic hyperbole and division.

Finally political parties will do whatever is necessary to win and if it benefits society, it will be more luck than judgement. Billionaires will continue to influence big business, economic decisions, as well as national and international policy. In the other class hemisphere, the identarian left will endeavour to redefine societal norms, deciding what we can say, write and think. So as along as the two factions never meet in the middle, government will be delighted and the populous ever more divided.

We were lefties once and proud; the identarian hijacking of the left.

As the days go by, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to declare myself as someone from the left. Although deep down I know this is where my politics and morals lie. This is a not a change of heart on my part, but a concerted effort by the mainstream media and right wing politics to redefine what being on the left actually means. I am one of those ever increasing number of people who are bewildered, confused and lost politically. The left has moved from trying to reduce socio-economic factors, towards a type of politics deeply focused on race, gender and sexuality. This can be witnessed all over the anglosphere; Australia, Canada, US, UK and New Zealand.

It is important to note that within these listed countries, radical changes to the political/economic status quo is completely off the table and has been replaced with politics of the self. This appears to enthuse millenials for the most part, who according to Dr Jean Twenge show traits of elevated narcissism. These concerns which are also studied at many universities, are largely known as “grievance studies” and sit within the realm of identity politics. Does that mean people from shall we say, the economic left are opposed to combatting issues of discrimination? Of course not. But, I and many like me would prefer all people do well, regardless of genitalia configuration or melanin levels. Currently, if we do not subscribe to identarian extremism we are lazily considered racist, sexist and anything else with ‘ist’ on the end.

Economic lefties generally suggest that most of society’s issues have their roots in embedded neoliberalism. This hypothesis can be measured, it’s objective and largely based on logic. It is this preference to objectivity over subjectivity that gives this point of view legitimacy. Using economic inequality as a major cause of concern will bind large groups of people together, with a common goal. To affirm this, many studies have been performed linking this specific problem to poorer health outcomes, decreased educational standards, an increase in crime rates and a decline of social mobility. Plus, neoliberalism with it’s dedication to eternal growth is systematically destroying the planet, as a miniscule cabal become ever richer.

BG

In contrast, rarely do you see placards held by the identarian left messages protesting climate change, economic inequality, absolute poverty or permanent wars around the world. In days gone by, the left was often thought of as one big umbrella, fighting for a better life, unifying as many people as possible. The bulk of its supporters were from the working class, who generally did much of the hard graft for little pay. Along with the unions it was the aim of the left to increase living standards across the board. It was irrelevant what your background was, all were welcome in the fight against the ruling elite. It was a message that was inclusive and appealed to many people, pulling people together. In contrast, identity politics seeks to prise society apart, ranking groups on perceived oppression, based on a criteria we can do very little about. This proportioning of the blame is clearly not a strategy that is going to galvanise people to foster positive societal change.

The left regularly placed extra emphasis on minority groups, mainly because they were at an increased risk of being disenfranchised. But this isn’t nearly enough in this new political dawn. As decades of people attending “grievance studies” classes have been told, they are oppressed and the white, cis, man is unreconcilably privileged. This treatment of so called oppressors bears a striking resemblance to original sin, albeit without any chance of redemption. This perceived dynamic, disregards any influences from economic status, education, actual direct acts of oppression or other periods of individual agency. On the contrary the group that you are identified with reflects all that there is to know about you. All this seems to lead towards a path of internalised hatred and a lifetime of guilt for the alleged oppressor.

There are many reasons why the left are almost universally linked with identity politics and the thousands of SJW crazies seen on YouTube. Firstly in the US where much of this occurs, there is no economic alternative plan. The politics of both parties are generally neoliberal, the only differences are chiefly tax levels and the Democratic Party embrace of identity politics and false narratives such as the gender pay gap. These alleged systemic issues are often based on shaky studies and poor stats, but are conveniently used to push a divisive acceptable discourse, thus serving the purpose of government.

virtue signallers anononymous
Nancy Pelosi leading virtue signallers anonymous

We have to consider that the people pushing for this identarian mandate are on the whole empowered, middle class ‘educated’, relatively economically comfortable women, who have reasonable connections and a developed network to have their voices heard. The poor and the homeless have none of the above and are reliant on advocates to have their voices heard. It therefore, is of no surprise who obtains more airplay and what agenda is purported as the most pressing issue. After all, over 70% of the homeless are men, but their sex alone is enough to have them labelled as privileged. This is a ludicrous state of affairs, when you consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the homeless fail to have their very basic concerns met, yet overblown issues about gender pay equality and the push for more female CEO’s appears to be more important.

Marginalised segments of society such as ex-forces personal who find themselves on the streets have very little in the way of support. It’s a group that find no compassion from many, in particular identarians, who view these men as the epitome of ‘toxic masculinity’, the scourge of humanity and a source of the world’s problems. Many of these men suffer from PTSD, die prematurely or have severe psychosocial issues, but absurdly defining all 700,000 gender identities is considered more essential. The majority of this silent population come from working class backgrounds with very little opportunities, hence why they join the military, often at a young age. Any claims of SJW’s being wholly compassionate is a sick joke, similarly to the right who only support the rich, identarians only advocate for people who are a reflection of themselves.

Ex army

For the right wing, linking identarians with the left is a stroke of genius. It rolls all of their enemies into one big ball, making it easier to digest. Identarians, Marxists, Democratic Socialists, Libertarian Socialists and the like are lumped into one big mass and labelled ‘Cultural Marxists‘ by people such as Jordan Peterson. This is all done without any in depth of knowledge about Marx, but it allows the right to direct their vitriol in one direction, rather than having to deal with trivialities such as nuance. Countless websites, blogposts, YouTube videos have all helped to demonise anyone to the left of Genghis Khan. Interestingly with the left identarians penchant for narrow, puritanical rule making and their obvious opposition to free speech, I’m not sure if Genghis would more likely find a soul mate within this group, rather than an adversary.

The mainstream media certainly gains from a brand of politics that is split along identity lines rather than economic issues. Just six corporations own the vast majority of media outlets in the US, while the UK and NZ witness similar monopolies. It is certain that the global corporate behemoths complete with power hungry billionaires do not want the ‘great unwashed’ to critically think about any alternative economic and political systems that may lead to their demise. It is in their interests to perpetuate an acceptable narrative, thus quelling any dissent the populous may have regarding the current system. This fragmentation of a coherent opposition to neoliberalism allows this political and economic zombie to continue down the road of self destruction.

Turning against unbridled capitalism should be our most immediate common goal. The current system is one that only benefits a minority. While those who have not gained but still support it clearly lack the imagination to realise something better for themselves. Now that identarians have accepted the moniker of the ‘left’ or even ‘far left’, provided by their foes on the right, maybe the word ‘left’ is devoid of any meaning. In contrast, our unifying ideas need to be clear and full of substance. A dramatic change in our political and economic ethos is the only way to enrich the most people, allowing them to flourish and contribute to society in a meaningful and sustainable way. What we name ourselves is largely irrelevant, but as always it’s open to discussion.

 

 

 

May I present Jeremy Corbyn: The best Prime Minister the UK will never have.

There is no doubt that there are enough dark forces conspiring together, purely with the sole purpose of ensuring Jeremy Corbyn never sets foot in number 10 Downing Street. On a seemingly daily basis mainstream media, opposition MP’s, members of his own party, the middle class ‘remain brigade’ and of course many billionaires are all queuing up for a pop at Mr Corbyn. There is no way in hell that the pompous British establishment will allow a socialist, albeit a very mild democratic one to take the reins of a nation that is a mainstay of neoliberal ideology.

Just a brief glance at Corbyn’s vision for the country prior to the last election, it is clear that these proposals are less guided by GDP and more focused on the growth for all people. This is a hugely refreshing approach, but one that generally does not sit well within the ruling elite. Nor to the many indoctrinated by Thatcher and later Blair, this is tantamount to sacrilege and worthy of a prolonged stay in the Tower of London, without an en suite bathroom.

Corbyn has dared to challenge the deeply imbedded neoliberal mafia, who stash their cash in far flung corners of the globe. Offering very little in the way of tax, but plenty in the way of advice on how the country should be managed and indeed who should do it (Richard Branson for example). Jeremy has even had the audacity to suggest that people making billions by exploiting workers from the UK (Jeff Bezos) should pay tax (how dare he).

It has been made clear that Labour under Corbyn would have a fairer tax system, while endeavouring to close loopholes for evaders and avoiders. Critics often question whether this is even possible, but I can virtually guarantee you that this is not a critique on the practical applications of such a proposal. More likely, this is an effort to put doubt in peoples minds, as they continue to protect a system that works for the 1%. Unbridled, runaway capitalism in many quarters is being held up for scrutiny and it has been found wanting.

There’s is nothing that mainstream media love more than an anti-Corbyn story. If there isn’t one around do not fear, a so called journalist will always be on hand to make one up. Going as far back as 2016, it was found that over half the news articles written about Mr Corbyn have been critical or antagonistic in tone, this compares to two thirds of editorial and opinion pieces. Meanwhile, he has been linked to Hamas, the IRA, Iran, Hezbollah and Arsenal Football Club, with no evidence at all to back up these lofty claims (maybe a little on the last one).

Over the last few years varying publications have called him a traitor for such treasonous acts as; not bowing deeply enough at a remembrance service, claims of being associated to a Czech spy and of course inciting terrorism. There is also the matter of repeated and baseless allegations that Corbyn is anti-Semitic. Ultimately the Daily Telegraph of all rags accused the Labour Party of being racist.

media bollocks
Mainstream media’s campaign of lies

It is common knowledge that the Labour party is deeply divided between Corbyn’s anti-austerity driven supporters and the remnants of New Labour, who nowadays appear old, crusty and frankly bitter. This group on the centre/right of the Labour Party are desperate to regain control, which is highlighted by the constant manufactured crises, generally followed by a leadership bid. It can be argued that by incessantly sabotaging Corbyn, they clearly have much more in common with the Tories than the current Labour leadership.

Their method of choice to dislodge Corbyn has centred around numerous, tedious anti-Semitic assertions, manufactured purely to force a change at the top. Any actions or words spoken by Corbyn and his close allies are manipulated, repackaged and used against them with relative success. An example of this was Jackie Walker who is of black, Jewish heritage, being hounded out of Momentum on trumped up charges of anti-Semitism, to the delight of the Blairite faction.

The truth of the matter is, there is no evidence to suggest Labour harbours any more anti-Semitic views than any other party, or even society as a whole. The question routinely posed by ‘moderates’ on the centre/right of the party goes like this; “don’t you think Labour has a problem with ant-Semitism”? Firstly, don’t be fooled by this seemingly benign line of enquiry. This is a rhetorical trap, a game that ‘moderates’ seem to revel in. If your reply is no, you will be savaged for suggesting that the Labour Party is entirely free of anti-Semitic bigots. If you reply in the affirmative, this will be taken as an admission of guilt and that their narrative is indeed correct. The whole point of this is to tarnish Jeremy Corbyn’s image and reputation, therefore, hastening the Blairite faction to call for yet another leadership election, on the basis that he is unfit to stand in opposition. This is not some form of elevated morality the centre/right faction of the party possess, more it’s an opportunity to retake control of the party.

We shouldn’t be surprised that this group is exceptionally adept at playing politics. After all, Blair’s hollow revolution was entirely based on spin, false data, lies and an affinity for using identity politics as a tool of control. Corbyn’s opposition found within his own parliamentary members are not the only centrist/ moderate group he is up against. The largely middle class, bourgeois ‘Remainers’ are also baying for his blood. This particular sect has huge support in the South East particularly in London, who are seemingly more concerned with cheap goods and holidays, than the growing economic inequality. ‘Remainers’ often chime in that many jobs are dependent on the EU and although this may contain an element of truth, in the North of England where I’m originally from, it is home to 10 out of 12 English cities most in decline.

This much maligned geographic group have also witnessed a drop in real wages, which are still less than they were 10 years ago. It is completely understandable why many folk in the north don’t have the same warm and fuzzy feelings towards the EU that many individuals in the capital have. Regardless of these valid grievances voiced by people north of the ‘Watford Gap’, ‘Remainers’ appear to have developed a certain piousness, which manifests in feelings of moral superiority.

Numerous areas in the north, the midlands and South Wales in particular, have witnessed whole industries decimated and communities carved up like a Sunday roast, all occurring during this now celebrated time in the EU. Surely people in these regions can at least be forgiven for voicing concerns, that the current state of affairs hasn’t worked out all that well for them. Therefore, when you have nothing to lose, voting for something like Brexit carries little risk and any kind of change can appear better than nothing.

Dyson ceramic
Dyson ceramics factory, Sheffield.

The stark differences between both groups as displayed during the Brexit vote, are never more obvious than when examining class. In social categories  AB and C1 (high, middle management to professionals) both men and women voted in favour of remaining in the EU, conclusively so for women. In categories DE and C2 (skilled/ semi-skilled and manual occupations, plus the unemployed) the vote was in favour of Brexit, particularly among men. Despite all this, rather than trying to understand the plight of the working class, they have simply been dismissed as; stupid, poorly informed, gullible and racist.

The truth of the matter is only 34% of leave voters cited immigration as their primary concern for choosing Brexit. Many people who voted to leave are more concerned about low wages, a lack of decent jobs, education and affordable housing. This is just another example of the working class being marginalised, ignored and told to get back in their place. To make things worse these genuine worries are exploited by cretins such as Nigel Farage, in an effort to bolster his self serving populist crusade.

I have no doubt that Jeremy Corbyn is acutely aware that he has to connect with the working class, who have been neglected during four decades of neoliberalism to achieve electoral victory. However, as we’ve observed in the US, populism is seductive and a hard spell to break. Further to this, Corbyn is swimming against a tide of media hostility, whose billionaire bosses would stand to be on the losing end following a Corbyn victory.

To compound all this, he still has to continuously grapple with a section of the party who have very little in common with his principles and consciously make life substantially difficult at every given opportunity. As mentioned earlier this segment of the Parliamentary Labour Party have more of a shared worldview with middle class ‘Remainers’, who on the whole prefer their politics to be of the neoliberal variety, with a large helping of identity politics on the side.

Corbyn is merely trying to challenge the status quo, in doing so, he has unearthed a multitude of enemies.  As a collective, these groups will be exceptionally difficult to defeat, hence my pessimistic title. Jeremy Corbyn should be a unitary figure, but after 40 years of unbridled capitalism and self-interest, Corbyn on the contrary polarises public opinion more than ever. Aside from the US, the UK is one of greatest examples of ingrained neoliberalism.

People have grown accustomed to being a consumer first and a member of the community a distant second. Society is ranked by what material goods are acquired and even the most civic minded citizen can be easily caught up in this mindless, self destructive drive to buy more and more shit to fill our relatively meaningless lives. These my friends, are the issues that constitute the miles of crap Jeremy Corbyn has to wade through in order to affect change for the better and sadly I don’t fancy his chances. Of course, I’m more than willing to be proved wrong.

 

 

 

 

New Zealand: The myth of an egalitarian paradise.

The photo above is my local beach in Northland, New Zealand and is typical of the natural beauty that surrounds me. I love the crazy town I live in and the people for the most part are exceptionally friendly. As a relatively new citizen, I also have no intention of moving back to the UK, as long my arse points down. The summers are long and are relatively hot, while the winters are mild but wet, all this contributes to our wonderful environment. However, despite all you may have heard about New Zealand, it is not an egalitarian society and hasn’t been so for close to four decades.

Prior to arriving in New Zealand more than eight years ago, I was under the illusion that Aotearoa (New Zealand) was largely a fair place. This idea may have arisen from stories told by visiting Brits, suggesting that New Zealand was akin to the UK in the 1950’s. Although 1950’s Britain certainly wasn’t a socialist paradise, it did boast less disparities between rich and poor than what is observed today. Up until the late 1970’s most elected governments in the UK were largely social democratic by nature despite the colour of rosette worn. Economics followed a Keynesian prescription stretching all the way through to the 70’s. On the other side of the world, New Zealand also possessed an egalitarian streak, but this all came to a crashing halt upon the arrival of neoliberalism in the mid 80’s.

In 1984 the Labour party was swept to power following a growing dissatisfaction with the Prime Minister at the time Robert Muldoon. Muldoon’s government like many before, ran a tightly controlled economy, an extensive welfare state, plus widespread state ownership in many sectors. But two major events occurred in New Zealand leaving the door ajar for new economic ideas. Firstly, New Zealand lost a key trading partner when the UK joined the EU and secondly a series of oil crises in the 70’s sent the Kiwi economy spiralling into recession. In 15 years New Zealand slipped from the 6th wealthiest country in the world to 19th. No amount of controls on prices, wages, rents and interest rates could save the economy. However, what was to replace it proved to have huge societal repercussions.

Douglas and Lange
Roger Douglas and David Lange

The fledgling Labour government headed by the likeable David Lange, who became the acceptable face of the party, was intent on ushering some major changes. Leading this economic charge was Finance Minster Roger Douglas, who would later go on to form the ACT Party, a US libertarian style free market party. Using an economic ideology later known as ‘Rogernomics‘, Douglas almost instantly scrapped the majority of financial controls, while deregulating the markets and removing or relaxing foreign investment regulations. Meanwhile, tax was slashed for high earners, while a regressive ‘goods and service tax’ was introduced, hitting low and middle income earners particularly hard. Douglas even tried to implement a flat tax, but this proved to be a bridge too far.

Like Thatcher in the UK, the NZ government embarked on a massive sell off of any government assets not nailed down, either fully or partially. Energy companies, the main airport, three banks and Tower Insurance, among others were all flogged off. All this continued unabated in the 90’s when National took over control. During this period the national rail network was sold off to financiers, quickly ran into the ground and eventually bought back by the government during Helen Clark’s tenure. Public services were purposefully starved of cash, thus affecting the most vulnerable in society. As an example, by the end of the 1990’s practically all psychiatric hospitals were closed, with these responsibilities left to private companies. Also in the 1990’s university tuition fees rose by 1000% and continues to skyrocket. Fees are now the 4th highest among first world countries.

The most startling aspect of these ‘reforms’ was the terrifying pace it was all carried out with. Roger Douglas once wrote, “it is uncertainty not speed that endangers the success of structural reform programs”. He continued, proclaiming, “speed is an essential ingredient in keeping uncertainty to the lowest possible level”. Douglas wasn’t remotely worried about uncertainty for everyday people who faced increased job insecurity or unemployment, but rather the fear of scaring potential investors away. This manufacturing and subsequent exploitation of a crisis is what Naomi Klein refers to in her book ‘The Shock Doctrine‘ as disaster capitalism. In the US, however, New Zealand was held up as the ‘gold standard’ of free market capitalism.

Far from being a success, between 1985 and 1992 the economy contracted by 1%, while other OECD countries increased by an average of 20%. One in six Kiwis were said to be living below the breadline by 1992 as poverty soared. Unemployment increased to a high of 20% by the mid 1990’s, but this was all part of the government’s plan to keep inflation low. As wages decreased, so did benefits, while the criteria to obtain assistance became ever more stringent. When a recovery did finally occur it was achieved primarily through insecure and part-time jobs, as witnessed all over the ‘anglosphere’. Unsurprisingly New Zealand saw most of the gains going to the wealthiest, as income inequality increased at a rapid rate.UnemploymentPostWar

After nearly 35 years of neoliberalism, New Zealand’s citizens appear to have a warped sense of political reality. This has resulted in the Overton window veering sharply to the right. Now, any hint of social democratic policies are viewed with deep suspicion. Many New Zealanders hypnotised by decades of a right wing narrative from both the press and successive governments, claim that the state is over-generous to less fortunate citizens. Business leaders are constantly proclaiming that NZ is overregulated and hostile towards corporations. On the contrary, all evidence indicates the opposite, as NZ has topped the World Bank’s “ease of doing business” report three times since 2005. Furthermore, Forbes has ranked New Zealand in the top three “best countries to do business with” each year since 2010.

In certain quarters New Zealand is regularly labelled a ‘nanny state’, without of course any shred of evidence. Neoliberals have always contested that a developed welfare state discourages enterprise and hard work. Accusations such as this initially arose during the Labour government’s tenure between 1999 and 2008 led by Helen Clark. Although Clark’s interventions did manage to apply the brakes to runaway capitalism, unfortunately, it fell well short of reversing the damage caused by neoliberal policies in the 80’s & 90’s. Counter to baseless right wing claims, since 2001 the government’s social spending as a percentage of GDP has been woefully short of the OECD average. Sadly using this metric, NZ has less in common with Sweden, Finland, France and Denmark, while appearing more in line with US social policies.

Like many countries in the ‘anglosphere’ there are a plethora of myths circulating around beneficiaries allegedly cheating the system and ripping off tax payers. Or fables of numerous families turning their home into baby making factories for the sake of a few dollars. After a fairly minimal period of time investigating this, it quickly becomes apparent that most of the information is anecdotal, with a few genuine cases being blown out of proportion to fit a particular ideology. The National government led by John Key which came to power in 2008 were wedded to these myths. This was confirmed by policy, in 2012 single parents who wanted to keep their benefits were forced to start looking for work as soon as the child reached 5, this was decreased dramatically from 18. Two years later the government promised to slash welfare recipients by 25%.

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Sir Bob Jones

In New Zealand after 30 years plus of policies aimed at fostering individualism, a third of the country’s children now live in poverty, while more and more people have resorted to sleeping in their cars as rent becomes impossible to afford. Meanwhile, attitudes in many corners of the nation have hardened. Sir Bob Jones leading business figure and all round heartless bastard, proclaimed beggars were “fat Maoris” and a “bloody disgrace”. In support of this ideology out of forty thousands Kiwi’s poled, 72% believed begging should be outlawed. Ideas such as this were exemplified by the National government crackdown on welfare fraud allegedly costing the country $30 million. This is chump change when you consider tax evasion costs the nation 33 times more, however, you are 10 times more likely to be prosecuted for benefit fraud, whose ranks are generally made up of the poor and powerless.

Prior to Jacinda Ardern becoming Prime Minister, in a quest to attain budget surpluses public services were decimated. In particular, between 2010 and 2015 the health budget was slashed by $1.7 billion. The Department of Conservation was mercilessly defunded and support for education was cut at all levels. John Key’s government also steadily eroded workers rights, while the wealth gap widened more quickly than any country in the developed world. This was aided by tax cuts for the wealthy and a rise in ‘goods and services tax’, primarily targeting the poor. Even within the last few months, a proposal for a diluted capital gains tax was voted down in parliament, highlighting that power remains in the hands of a few well connected individuals.

The evidence seems to indicate that New Zealand is a nation that has left it’s egalitarian roots far behind and yet is determined to maintain the façade of an equal society. In a way, it could be argued that the political direction over the last 30 years or so doesn’t match up with the general nature of the vast majority of New Zealanders. There appears to be a kind of societal schizophrenia at play. The vast majority of New Zealanders are often civic minded, fair people, who will generally help you out if you need a hand. In contrast the political parties that have often been elected over the last 4 decades have encouraged individualism, a free market orthodoxy and the idea of profit over people. All the while erroneously convincing the citizens of New Zealand that they still have equality of opportunity.

Many people in New Zealand don’t even remember a time before neoliberalism and therefore, are unlikely or unwilling to imagine another way of being. We regularly observe the nation’s successes measured by GDP, we celebrate gross opulence by publishing varying rich lists and are coerced into thinking wealth directly equates to success. We are repeatedly told that the present economic system is the only viable way to prosper. But who is specifically gaining out of all this and who are the people trying to convince us that we already have the optimal economic/political system?

Predominantly, it’s the financial winners who are the ones selling us this capitalist lie and who coincidentally have the greatest opportunity to influence policy. But is unbridled capitalism the pinnacle of humanity and more importantly does economic inequality even matter to most New Zealanders? If the honest answer is no, then the left have failed and we have an obligation to create a narrative that encourages people to consider a more compassionate and fairer way of organising society. A story is required, one that may even appeal to the most self centred of right wing bigots, or maybe not. New Zealand has lived under a neoliberal system for decades, but that doesn’t necessarily prove anything in terms of its effectiveness. A new narrative would require us to explain how economic inequality negatively affects everyone including the rich.

The world and in particular the environment is incompatible with neoliberalism. Infinite growth on a finite planet simply cannot and will not work. Closer to home, New Zealand has some shocking suicide figures particularly for a first world country. We also have third world health issues such as rheumatic fever, which is heavily linked to socio-economic factors and an embarrassingly ever expanding homeless community. Supporters of capitalism would predictably suggest many of these problems are due primarily to personal responsibility, however, you can only play the hand you’re dealt with. For many people life is like trying to play a game of Monopoly with one dice and a tenth of the starting cash, while being expected to compete with everyone else.

The economic and political pathway New Zealand has taken for decades, also feels incongruent with the largely collectivist society I witness on a daily basis in Northland. It’s a place where work meetings often involve a shared lunch, where people bring in what they can afford. On many occasions colleagues will fetch in fruit and veggies from their garden into work, with a sign simply saying “eat me”. It’s a community that often trades skills to get jobs done, rather than paying in cash. I live in a region where I obtained my stash of firewood for the winter by helping a friend split his supply. That’s the New Zealand I know and love. So it’s time our politics and economic system reflects our innate compassionate and collectivist ideals. This is something through experience I know Kiwis are more than capable of doing.

Note: Since writing this article, it would only be fair to acknowledge the government’s wellbeing budget. This should be viewed as a valiant attempt on the road to addressing 9 years of societal neglect under John Key. Of course, this is not perfect and has detractors on both sides of the political aisle. However, it must be recognized that the government is restricted, as they are required to deliver this within the existing neoliberal framework. Proposals such as the wellbeing budget are deeply heartening and tentatively suggests New Zealand could be on course for a systematic erosion of this toxic, destructive ideology.

 

 

 

More than words: The identarian left and the manipulation of language.

If you’ve ever read 1984 you will have encountered many slogans used in the book such as; ignorance is strength” or “freedom is slavery”To people observing from the outside these phrases appear simply as contradictory. However, anyone having the misfortune of living with this type of indoctrination day in day out may view them as reminders or part of a spell designed to seep into your sub-conscious, influencing your actions. Social Justice Warriors use words in a similar way primarily to manipulate or create a powerful narrative, here’s a selection you my have heard; “words are violence”, “safe space”, “hate speech”, “invalidating my existence”, “woke”, “problematic”, “my truth”, “creepy”, “microagression”, “toxic masculinity” and “white privilege”.  

Both sides of the political fence routinely use these methods, but for the identarian left it is essential and a major tool of control. This political faction doesn’t revel in the luxury of money and the option of lobbying like the oligarchs of the right or the corporate left. Therefore, social control is imperative in order to implement their ideology. If a group can control the boundaries of acceptable language, this will in turn guide which thoughts are considered acceptable and which are not. In summary the identarian left is very much adept at mind control. More importantly this group ascribe themselves as the morality police, pushing an intolerant and puritanical worldview, based on total subjectivity.

This movement is a belief system that has a religious feel to it. Their churches are college ‘grievance studies’ departments. What is created is a sacred area holding ultimate power over the moral direction of both the academic institution and students alike. Social Justice preachers stand in the pulpit at the church of intersectionality, while delivering their sermons from the gospel of Jean Francois Lyotard or even Michel Foucault. In truth, what we witness are poorly educated professors, who are graduates of these departments, rising through the ‘ranks of the woke’ while regurgitating a particular set of beliefs.

These gatekeepers of ‘special knowledge’ are held in high regard by often impressionable, young women, who are drawn to this area of study. This can be viewed as a process of confirmation for these disciples, who have convinced themselves that they are victims of a harsh and cruel world, one which should revolve around their every whim. In this sense college operates as no more than a very expensive echo chamber. A place to peddle subjectivity, unfounded beliefs, and an anti-scientific doctrine with no space for critical thinking. Questionable ideas such as Derrida’s deconstructionism, Foucault’s musings on power and Lyotard’s criticism of empirical evidence, have chipped away at any notion of truth, thus the age of ‘lived experience’ is upon us as the gold standard of all knowledge.

Like all powerful groups, what is required to recruit believers and to dupe outsiders is a believable story. As with all good tales, it has to evoke emotion, reality is not necessary but it is essential to resonate with its target audience. Language embedded within this narrative sets the tone regarding what is considered civilised and indeed permitted within society. What is also crucial is an amplifier, in order to reach as many people as possible with their message. For this they have a willing ally in the form of mainstream media and their billionaire owners, who are keen to use this as distraction to divert attention from the real issues notably neoliberalism. So what is the story that has captivated, mainstream media, government departments, grievance studies students and even Hollywood?

75th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Show

Like many tales it’s simple, or more accurately life has been simplified for the simple minded. Our multi-faceted, complex, highly evolved distinctive features that make us unique, have been whittled down to things we can do nothing about. Our special blend of good, bad and indifferent, abilities and traits formed from a combination of nature and nurture are suddenly reduced to melanin levels and genital configurations. Individual assets, experiences or any contributions to the world in this subjective supposed utopia account for nothing, nada, zip.

If you are a white, heterosexual and male (like me), you are a sinner and there is nothing you can do to secure forgiveness. No amount of saving lives as a healthcare professional or educating our kids or even pulling people from a burning building, as a firefighter can shed the mantle of privilege placed upon your shoulders. You are riddled with “toxic masculinity” and considered a piece of shit by the high moral priestesses of grievance studies academia and you better just live with it.

To keep the moral sinner on their toes, identarians like many tribes have created their own language, designed to detect, socially isolate and destroy non-believers, often purposely annihilating their careers. This parlance is also used to excuse identarians from any undesirable actions they may perform, while creating mechanisms to silence dissent. One such method is akin to playing god and principally centres around victimhood, a strategy used extensively by intersectionalists. By announcing certain groups as oppressed based on skin colour or genitalia, regardless of whether they have actually experienced oppression, allows them to decide who is good and who is bad. Ironically identarians use all the tools of stigmatisation to achieve this; othering, labelling and stereotyping. But all in a good cause right?

Identarians have created the word “woke” suggesting that they are somehow the enlightened ones. This of course is not supported by any evidence, but rather we are told it is “their truth”, thus immune from any form of critique. Furthermore, by occupying the role of victim it is considered that vitriol and hatred can be administered outwardly without complaint. In a recent article, academic James Lindsay offered that “identarians repeatedly claim the final word, as people who have lived oppression (real or imagined) cannot be questioned or overruled, and their proclaimed truths are, therefore, considered final”. This logic (or lack of), produces another linguistic web, rendering any form of disagreement impossible. However, if dissention does occur, this subsequently provides further proof for identarians regarding the potency of privilege and oppression.

The Social Justice establishment has created and implemented widely accepted word play guarding them against criticism and to admonish them from any irrational, violent and frankly thuggish behaviour. One of these linguistic Orwellian snares is the use of the term “microaggressions“. Being called out, verbally flogged, doxed, no-platformed and socially ex-communicated for an overt disagreement with the identarian rhetoric is clearly not enough . Society in their opinion, should now be persecuted for unintentional transgressions against the church of Social Justice. This poses two severe problems; one is the complete reliance on subjectivity, thereby the same alleged microaggression may illicit a very different response dependent on the recipient. Secondly like most of postmodernism, microaggressions completely disregard the nature of intent, while focusing on emotions and feelings of the individual involved.

As identarians see oppression everywhere, an example of a microaggression could be questions such as, “where are you from”? Apparently this line of ‘interrogation’ insinuates that the person being asked is not from around here. Clearly in the world of SJW’s, this question has less to do with natural human inquisitiveness and more about perceived malicious undertones. This form of control extends beyond what the general public are permitted to say, focusing on the implications of what might be said. In effect, this is an attack on a individual’s thoughts not on the words uttered per se. Taking this a step further, behaviour such as this clearly opens the door for an Orwellian style thought police. Even more disturbing than monitoring conscious thought, identarians are attempting to adopt the role of judge, jury and executioner of unconscious thought.

To protect this bizarre idea, SJW’s employ yet another ‘booby trap’, thus curtailing any disagreement regarding alleged microaggressions. This is achieved by accusing the micro-aggressor of ‘victim blaming’. And so the game of oppression roulette continues. The intended outcome is to silence all open, inquiring dialogue, making society subservient to the wishes of the Social Justice thought constabulary. This link contains an example of suggested microaggressions and the alleged message it sends. It was published by the UCLA ‘grievance studies’ faculty. It’s fair to say that documents like this highlight how untethered from reality these people really are.

In Social Justice land any hostile language, conflicting words or aforementioned microaggressions are not just considered insulting, but are viewed as violent, contributing to trauma. The phrase “words are violence” is worryingly being accepted in society as a universal truth. This is yet another Social Justice mechanism of coercion, that has gained traction, allowing the church of Social Justice to “strike great vengeance and furious anger” on unsuspecting sinners. This reasoning proposed by psychologist and emotional researcher Lisa Feldman Barrett goes something like this; chronic stress can cause physical damage, no argument there. However, she continues proclaiming, “if words can cause stress and prolonged stress can cause physical harm, words can cause physical harm”. This logic suggest A causes B, B causes C, therefore A causes C. With this in mind her conclusion should be, words cause physical harm, not violence.

This “words are violence” strategy achieves a couple of things; firstly by ‘believing’ this allows identarians to lay claim to reprisals on the basis of self defence. Which is exactly what has occurred in numerous US colleges, a direct physical response to a verbal disagreement. Examples of this were played out at Evergreen State College, Middlebury College and UCLA Berkley. Secondly, the use of a disproportionate and aggressive response to a contrary opinion will likely convince many people to keep their views to themselves in public, effectively closing down free speech.

berkley riots

This silencing of free speech is a classic identarian tactic. Professor of English at New York University Ulrich Baer defended identarians, proclaiming in an article written in the New York Times, “when those views invalidate the humanity of some people, they restrict speech as a public good”. In this piece Baer is proclaiming that speech can invalidate the humanity of entire groups of people, when all the listener has to do is reject the idea and humanity remains whole once again. If somebody punched me in the face, I would undoubtedly label this as an act of violence. In contrast, as uncomfortable as being lambasted may be, they are and always will be words for which do no direct physical harm. The recipient may feel, upset, hurt and some words may have a lasting psychological effect, but it is still does not equate to violence. My suspicion is this conflation is intentional, allowing in the mind of an identarian an opportunity to respond in an heavy handed manner.

The ultimate game-plan for the identarian left is to prevent anyone opposing their puritanical version of morality. The jewel in the crown for identarians is the development of the concept “hate speech” and furthermore declaring themselves as moral arbiters. This restriction of free speech may have, at one time been used to curtail bigotry and bullying, now it is primarily used to stifle any hint of opposition. Identarians invariably weaponize these regulations to shut down disagreeable speakers, destroy careers and at times justify violence. Even the laws around hate crime in places such as the UK are so vague and malleable that it effectively allows anything to be viewed as such. The Crime Prosecution Service in the UK defines a hate crime as;

“any offense that is perceived by the victim, or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person of disability or perceived disability; race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; or someone who is transgender or is perceived to be transgender”.

What ideas of hate crime and indeed hate speech suffer from is “concept creep“. It is argued that notions such as; bullying, trauma, mental disorders, addiction and prejudice, now encompasses a much wider range of phenomena. In effect what is observed is an expansion of meaning, reflecting an ever increasing sensitivity to harm. Nick Haslam Professor of Psychology at Melbourne University proposes that the broadening of terms used to explain events is known as horizontal creep. Whereby, the behaviour qualifying an incident as abuse has become over time less extreme, this is referred to as vertical creep. In no way is this to condone any form of abuse, but to acknowledge that the boundaries have become elastic, vague and potentially unhelpful.

As an example we’ll use bullying, the meaning has expanded into; online behaviour, workplace conduct and forms of social exclusion that doesn’t actually target the victim with hurtful actions. Being excluded from a group of friends in this sense can now be described as bullying. Behaviour that was considered less extreme than once typical acts of bullying, now lie within these new boundaries. Haslam calls this vertical creep, stating that this behaviour does not need to be intentional or repeated, nor is it required to occur in the context of a power imbalance.

Descriptions of trauma are also detaching themselves from any form of objectivity, as the recipient is now sole determiner of the meaning, thus providing further evidence of moral relativism. Trauma now encompasses a multitude of events from distress following wartime experiences, through to childbirth, sexual harassment and even a relationship breakup. Here’s a definition from the US Government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration;

“Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being”.

My issue is certainly not to contest that these events can be difficult and contribute to mental health distress, but rather there is a distinct lack of a spectrum or a rational to refer to. Here postmodernism rears it’s ugly head yet again. All trauma from the most mild all the way to life shattering events are now considered on an equal footing, as severity is now decided upon by the recipient. Through this lens, objectivity is seen as archaic and subjectivity holds sway. With all this in mind; a traumatic event does not need to be a discrete moment, it has no requirement to be a threat to life or limb and does not need to manifest to the extent where it would cause marked distress on almost everyone. Neither does this event have to be outside normal experience or cause significant distress within the traumatised person, who merely has to register it as “harmful”. This type of postmodern “word salad” renders any definition of trauma as pointless and begins to strip words of any remaining substance.

Within this piece, I’ve attempted to uncover the linguistic rules and games that most of us are required or forced to play by. They are created to trap, cajole, manipulate, silence, shame and mould society into complying with the moral fundamentalist minority. Here stands a group of people possessing a myopic viewpoint, with limited life experiences and no tolerance for diversity of thought or indeed freedom of speech. To counter this, these puritans only hold power if we indulge them in their stupid, infantile activities and enter into this charade. This is why it is vital to fight for free speech, resisting any invitation to tread into a murky world, whereby words hold very little meaning, while emotion and subjectivity conquers all.

Are the Koch’s and Bill Gates really that different? Oligopoly, the ultimate game of power and control.

I’m sure many people would contest that comparing the Koch brothers who deal in fossils fuels with Bill Gates who provides vaccines in Africa a bit of a stretch. However, I’m going to suggest that they have much more in common than we’d like to admit. If we observe their methods and ultimately what is achieved, there are some striking similarities. Sure, conservatives like the DeVos’s and the Koch’s morally conduct their affairs differently to Zuckerberg or Gates, but are they really so distinct? You could sensibly propose that Bill Gates’s life is more virtuous than the Koch’s. This indeed is a compelling argument. But is it true? When we consider the two groups; right wing neoliberal oligarchs and philanthrocapitalists (also oligarchs), apart from obscene amounts of money, both sects share their unquestionable desire for power and control.

I will offer that power and control are intrinsically linked. Some semblance of control over your own group, rival factions or even the general populace is required to gain power. That said, to control certainly on an external level, requires some exertion of power, either through elections, coercion or even physical force. The extent and methods required depends on your resources and who you intend to control to obtain power or conversely who you will overpower to wrestle control. At this stage it would be sensible to lay out what these seemingly opposing tribes, both morally and politically have in common and of course how they differ. To finish I will argue that the overall goals of oligarchs regardless of their flavour are strikingly similar.

By the very existence of their extreme wealth, I think it’s safe to assume that all oligarch’s share a strong, deep conviction towards the ‘free market’. Each side fully subscribes to the idea of utilising their wealth to shape the world, often at the expense of democratic processes. Unsurprisingly, many would argue that the Koch’s and Bill Gates share nothing in common, concluding that one wants to continue extracting fossil fuels at the expense of the planet, while the other tries to save lives.

But, if the outcome is all that matters rather than the process, surely we must ask ourselves hard questions regarding the importance of democracy. This dilemma arises due to billionaires not being democratically elected and yet able to use considerable influence to effect major changes, good, bad or indifferent. It has been offered by philosophers and social psychologists alike that huge wealth generates social distance or “ethical independence”. Put simply the rich have no need to cooperate or partake in democracy to get what they require.

Neoliberal leaders often fit into the more recognisable guise of bombastic, power hungry CEO’s, trampling on all that resembles competition. There’s no doubt that these individuals exist, see Jeff Bezos for details. Worse still, the system justifies their behaviour by spinning yarns of ‘homo economicus’, ‘trickle down’ economics and picturing them as ‘job creators’. However, in our midst are those who present as an arguably more agreeable face of power and control. They appear on Ted Talks, are promoted by the mainstream media and portrayed as modern day saviours. These are the neoliberal ‘left’ or philanthrocapitalists and their influence on society is as pervasive as the Koch brothers. Carefully crafted characters such as Gates and Zuckerberg are considered to be oracles of the 21st century. They mould our world from a position of exclusivity that is only experienced by a handful of people and yet we so easily defer to their perceived wisdom.

FAvH
Friedrich Hayek

Historically speaking, the stage that allowed these actors on both sides to perform so freely is neoliberalism. This was first conceived by among others, Friedrich Hayek and Ludwig von Mises in the late 1930’s, but failed to gain much traction in the west. This all changed when Keynesian economics started to falter in the mid 1970’s. When the time arose, the objective for Thatcher (UK), Reagan (US) and Roger Douglas in New Zealand was to change the moral and political record. A collective society based on human capital, full employment and relative equality was abruptly abandoned, for competition, individualism and the idea that wealth is virtuous. Out of the rubble of a dismantled social democratic society, rose a small number of individuals who were uniquely positioned to capitalise on increased privatisation, laxed trade regulations and an ever financialised world.

This accumulation of capital is rarely reinvested in society and the people within it, but used to create a system that accrues ever more wealth, power and influence. The elite are in a position to apply pressure at the governmental level for maximum effect, with some tactics being cruder than others. Neoliberalism provides the means that ensures money is sucked out from underneath the mattresses of the poor to the heavily guarded vaults of the rich. These mechanisms are the ‘nucleotides’ of the neoliberal DNA; international trade agreements, decreased market regulations, low taxation, privatisation and reduced government spending are just a few examples.

For decades this ideology of neoliberalism has been supported by the likes of International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. These institutions have been instrumental in forcing desperate sovereign nations to adopt strict austerity measures to reduce debt, by offering an all strings attached bailout package, as witnessed in Greece. In effect these loans had nothing to do with Greece’s economic problem. These were purely constructed to pay off their debts to French and German banks. It has since been recorded less than 10% of the cash borrowed was actually used to reform the economy and to help the Greek people.

As if the world’s oligarchs don’t have enough systemic advantages, many invest heavily in ‘think tanks’ and varying institutions solely to persuade government’s to tip the scales further in their favour. One such right wing funding source are the previously mentioned Koch brothers. Charles and David Koch are co-owners of Koch Industries the largest privately owned energy company in the US. The Koch’s favourite past-time is trying to discredit climate change science and policy solutions. In this arena they have spent a massive $127 million funding 92 organisations between 1997 and 2017. The Koch’s claim to be Libertarians, supporting; drastically lower corporate and personal taxes, minimal public services and a massive reduction in regulations.

Koch brothers

Their undeniable self interest doesn’t stop at muddying the waters regarding climate change. The Koch’s fund a group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), aimed at making it more difficult to prosecute corporations for violations of environmental and financial law. It’s important to realise that the Koch’s do not do all this in isolation, rallying 100’s of wealthy conservative families in an effort to preserve and promote their privileged way of life. Groups such as Americans for Prosperity are a huge and rich organisation, designed to battle against the Democrats, supporting ultra conservative Republicans, espousing ideological policies, while blocking anything in Congress that may oppose the Koch’s best interests.

They are the masters of organising ‘astroturf’ groups. These are alleged grassroot citizen organisations or coalitions. Groups such as ‘Americans for Prosperity’, the ‘Heartland Institute’ and the ’60 plus association’ support entities such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute and their fight for free speech. Which of course is nothing of the sort, it is a mere cover up for anti-science rhetoric, supported by 47 groups all affiliated to the Koch’s. Further to this, the Koch’s spend millions each election cycle and helped fund the Tea Party, spending upwards of $45 million. The Koch’s also donate millions each year to candidates that suit their ideology, this includes past presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Interestingly, despite spending roughly $900 million during the 2016 election cycle, the Koch’s have already declared that they will not be funding Trump next time around.

In contrast to the Brothers Grim, power and control can also be acquired through more insidious mechanisms such as philanthrocapitalism. Many of these characters involved in this practice are labelled by the right wing media as lefties. This theory seriously suggests that these rich, well connected, privileged people who attended top universities, while using capitalism to rake in huge profits support politics of the left. Just to clarify the Democrats and the left are not synonymous with each other. Politics in the US like much of the west provides nothing more than varying shades of neoliberalism. For the CEO class such as Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Richard Branson, the question is, how can philanthropy be used to reinforce a flawed political and economic system such as capitalism.

Supposedly charitable acts, as seen by Bill Gates are conceptualised using market based solutions, looking at costs and benefits. It’s fair to say that philanthrocapitalism is no more than the social justice arm of a destructive global free market. Gates has certainly taken advantage of his huge giving-power to influence global health policies, including the World Health Organisation, where he is their top donor. The Gates Foundation has spent over $1 billion on policy and advocacy, even investing in training programs for journalists at major media organisations. Further to this, the foundation has heavily funded research which has later gone on to be published in scientific journals. These types of activities must be seen as a threat to global democratic decision making. The Gates Foundation also sits on the board of H8, a self appointed group of 8 health related organisations, who have been instrumental in setting up the health agenda for the G8, a group of self important, self selected nations.

Bill Gates
Bill Gates

Both the pretend left and right wing oligarchs, share another mission, that is to pay as little tax as humanly possible. The Koch’s do this rather bluntly by using ‘astroturf’ groups and lobbyists to coerce the government into lowering tax levels and provide tax breaks. The ‘smarmy’ army to ‘their’ left in contrast use charm offensives. In 2015 Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, to much fanfare, proclaimed that they would donate 99% of their shares in Facebook (valued at the time at $45 billion) to the “mission” of “advancing human potential and promoting equality”. Which all sounds very nice, I’m sure you’ll agree. Here’s the catch, Zuckerberg did not set up a charitable foundation which would have automatically held a non-profit status. Instead of this Zuckerberg established limited liability company (LLC). The mainstream media unsurprisingly failed to mention this, instead they continued to gush over this blockbusting moment of perceived altruism.

Unlike a charitable foundation a LLC  allows someone to make investments in a for-profit company, while also permitting the owner to make political donations. Within this framework Zuckerberg is free to lobby for changes within the law and can do whatever he desires with his money. You may ask, “what’s the problem, it’s his money’? Indeed, but is this really the actions of a charity? Zuckerberg can also cunningly use this method to avoid tax. This can be achieved by donating the appreciated shares to charity, which would generate a deduction at fair market value of the stock without triggering any tax. Clever huh?

In a nutshell this means Zuckerberg has made a ridiculous amount of money, for which he is unlikely ever to pay tax on. As a society, do we really want people like Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates deciding the direction of our societal needs? All governments have flaws, but at least there are checks and balances deciding where the money is required, with more than one person making the call. These oligarchs could have quite easily aided society by paying tax just like everybody else, but of course this does not afford them the power or control that they feel they deserve.

So, what have we learnt apart from, don’t trust rich people? Well, we know billionaires span the entire (neoliberal) political spectrum from; George Soros to Sheldon Adelson, from the Koch’s to Michael Bloomberg and from Tom Steyer to Robert Mercer. Many of whom remain hidden like puppeteers, but some use public recognition to their advantage, such as Gates and Zuckerberg. We really shouldn’t be remotely surprised that billionaires manipulate governments and society to benefit themselves in some way. I am aware that much of this article is US centric, however, this is not something that is unique to the States. Similar patterns of oligarchic control can be witnessed all over the world, but particularly within the ‘anglosphere’.

All acceptable politics and political parties within the west are shoehorned into a narrow corridor of neoliberalism, with only minor differences separating them. Parties and the politicians from which they belong are criticised and held to intense scrutiny, but rarely is this kind of ferocious attention applied to the primary problem. This being a political/economic system that is thoroughly in chaos, held together by outdated concepts, some questionable politicians and billionaires who desperately fight to maintain the status quo. It’s the same system that assures the elite of ever increasing bank balances, thus securing more power and control over our ailing planet

Lets be honest, this is not a system for you, me or billions of others like us. In many ways capitalism is no different to feudalism, both possess hierarchies, each system serves the chosen few and neither has any interest in the rest of society. I suspect it’s about time we constructed something anew, outside of this tired and repetitive dynamic. How about we construct a society that works for everybody, oh and we need to do this quickly because the world’s a bit screwed up. No pressure!                                                                                                                                                                                                    

The identarian attack on science: Postmodernism strikes back.

By its very nature Social Justice and in particular the activism that permeates throughout the movement is antithetical to science. These departments who cultivate such ideas are deridingly, but arguably fairly described as “grievance studies”, they underpin Social Justice and are heavily influenced by postmodernism. This philosophy is deeply critical of meta-narratives such as science, suggesting that subjective opinion has more value than empirical evidence. It is useful to view the onslaught on science via the social justice movement as a postmodern assault. Primarily, because numerous theories surrounding identity politics originate from postmodernism, examples being; intersectional feminism and critical race theory.

It is reasonable to imply that postmodernism perceives science as another tool for social control. Postmodern guru Jean-François Lyotard postulated that there was an “interlinkage between the kind of language called science and the kind called ethics and politics”. Lyotard used this idea to reject science’s claim to any objectivity, by coupling the knowledge science produces to politics and thereby power. This can be condensed into two postmodern critical statements against science;

  1. Science is unable to produce any objective or truthful statements about the physical reality, therefore, cannot lay any claim to universal applicability.
  2. Scientific enquiry is not a value or interest free pursuit of truth that is independent of local culture constraints, rather it is inspired by hidden ideological motivations.

The question must be asked; why is the social justice movement, using postmodernism as an blunt instrument, to pursue science so vigorously? Heather Heying, former evolutionary biology Professor at Evergreen College and wife of Bret Weinstein, simply explains that science seeks truth and truth isn’t always convenient for this movement. This siege on science manifests in two primary ways; firstly there is an external attack on the credibility of science, followed by a secondary insidious infiltration of science via feminist/social justice ‘researchers’.

heather heying
Heather Heying

The predictable first battle for identarians began in the arena of the social sciences. Given that the social sciences investigate areas of complexity such as human interaction and society, it would make perfect sense that this would be postmodernism’s first port of call. Science searches for objective truths, but this is decidedly more difficult given the unpredictability of humans. Nevertheless, the Scientific Method should still form the cornerstone of any social science. To complicate matters, social sciences often have to perform a balancing act between objective truths and interpretation. The more objectivity a research paper entails, the more trustworthy it will be considered. In contrast, if an over reliance on subjectivity is evident, this could inevitably lead to an increase in confirmation bias, with a very real danger of producing erroneous results and the potential to be harmful to society.

The erosion of social sciences due to a concerted postmodern tide started roughly in the mid 20th century. This was characterised by a shift on the see-saw from objectivity to subjective experiences. This change in approach ushered in the concept of multiple realities. In contrast, objectivity increasingly took a ‘back seat’ leading to social sciences being at odds with objective natural sciences. Postmodernism at one stage was only a small part of the social sciences and was primarily utilized as a differing lens in which to interpret the world from, such as from a feminist standpoint. In recent times postmodernism has been catapulted into the forefront, becoming one of the predominant methods in which to view society. This change has spawned whole departments deeply attached to a singular and myopic philosophy.

Postmodernism and by association identarian beliefs are detached from reality. In colleges around the western world Social Justice is purported to be a distinct academic field, presenting with a set of established truths. It could be argued that Social Justice is little more than postmodern speculation anchored by en vogue ‘theories’ such as Intersectionality. Worryingly, these ideas are being touted as a set of universal beliefs accounting for the entirety of the human experience. With this postmodern input Social Sciences appear increasingly interested in tearing down current ideas and objective truths, rather than understanding them. It is an ideology drowning in subjectivity, divorced from the Scientific Method and marooned on self absorbed intellectual islands.

Most of the blame must go to the teaching staff, who are exploiting their students in an effort to propel their own agendas. Many Social Science students will leave college without any firm grasp of the Scientific Method. Students are taught that ‘lived experience‘ is truth, whilst encouraging them to discover what is referred to as “my truth”, which to you and me is commonly known as an opinion. In these hotbeds of wild ideas, good grades are attained by mirroring back to the educator their favoured ideology, without any requirement to critically think. Students indoctrinated in “right think” are generally ill prepared for the outside world, as their entire education is chiefly formed from a particular perspective.

Rather than considering certain ideas such as “Intersectionality” and “White Privilege” as opinions they are purported to be objective truths. Once in contact with the real world, students find that these beliefs can be met with strong opinions that run counter to the 21st century teachings of Social Science. This lack of preparedness is played out on Social Media everyday, as these identarian disciples are ill equipped to debate in a logical manner. Suddenly they discover that people are dismantling their firmly held beliefs, that were obtained in a safe college echo chamber. This for them will feel like personal abuse, these exchanges often culminate in ad hominem attacks in return, such as “Nazi”, “Alt-Right” and “Misogynist”. None of this partisan anger helps to encourage dialogue or an exploration for “the truth”, but in fairness exponents of “grievance studies” are clearly not interested in objectivity or discourse.

For now, we will make our departure from the Social Sciences and look at how the Social Justice movement has attempted to make inroads into the Natural Sciences. Increasingly, the attack on the Natural Sciences has been performed from the inside, rather like a virus attacking the host cell. As Heather Heying stated, identarians are compelled to attack science, purely because it is in conflict with their own belief system. SJW’s including feminist lobbies have spent decades trying to increase the amount of women taking part in STEM. Not only that, but it would appear that there has been a concerted effort from the identarians to change the way science is conducted and moreover the value in which we place upon it.

Once you delve into the murky waters of postmodernism you will discover that many ideas or theories appear to lose value. In this universe you can pick and choose your ‘truths’ as you see fit. An area that ‘gender feminists’ fight to the death on is, the concept of gender being a social construct. This is despite mountains of evidence on the contrary, which I have discussed in depth in previous ramblings. In an attempt to strengthen the feminist claim, ‘feminist scientists’ have tried, with some success to add scientific weight to their ideology. The paper that I will highlight is Daphna Joel’s article published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America. This in summary asserts that the differences between men and women’s brains are negligible.

Daphna joel
Daphna Joel

I’ll start, by stating that this paper was taken on face value by the New York Times, The New Scientist and most liberal media outlets. Joel was even invited to talk at TEDx Jaffa. You’ll be pleased to know that this paper has since been thoroughly reviewed by her peers. To begin, let’s make it clear what Joel claims in this paper.

  • Brains of individual males and females show very little internal consistency in their combination of “male-typical” and “female-typical” features.
  • Overlap between male and females in the distribution of anatomical traits in specific brain regions is so large, that it calls into question the very idea of gender differences in brain structure.

Firstly, let us keep these findings in perspective, the study only suggests that the structure of the brain is “mosaic”, nothing pertaining to functional differences between men and women. In response to these claims Giudice et al starts off by drawing attention to the questionable methodology. Giudice states that the paper employs an unduly strict criteria for “internal consistency” (brain differences) but a lax criteria for “substantial variability” (brain similarities).

To demonstrate Giudice offers an example using a fictional male, who we’ll call Bob. Bob is tested on a number of sex typical preferences for leisure activities, these are; boxing, construction, golf, scrapbooking, using cosmetics and playing video games. He has no interest in scrapbooking and cosmetics, but is passionate about boxing, construction and golf, however, Bob also does not care for playing video games. Using Joel’s guidelines Bob’s profile would be classed as “substantially variable”, therefore, offered as evidence to display Bob’s brain as a “mosaic” of male-typical and female-typical features.

With regards to the second claim in Joel’s paper, it was noted that the original study did not test how well varying brain features predict a participants sex. Giudice did complete the testing using Joel’s original data, finding that an individual’s sex was predicted through brain features between 69-77% of the time. Furthermore, the multivariate overlap of male and female features based on Joel’s data was a moderate 42% on average, which was considered not high enough to invalidate the idea of overall brain structure differences. Another study by Chekroud et al conducted a multivariate analysis of structural MRI’s for 1566 participants, concluding that “whole brain patterns in brain morphology (structure) can reliably discriminate sex”.

At this juncture it would be fair to mention that despite Joel’s heavily publicised paper, discrepancies between male and female brain morphologies have been comprehensively demonstrated and published in a 2014 meta study. This list is long, so I will leave the finer details of the study here. The point I’m trying to make is Joel’s paper was founded on ‘cherry picked’ data and more than questionable research methods. Not only did it receive a pass from the media, but it was championed by them and declared as a breakthrough in science. It has been thoroughly demonstrated, although contentious in ‘gender feminist’ circles, that biological sex differences do exist. These findings could be used in a positive way to improve health and public policy. Regrettably, politics and ingrained ideology repeatedly obstruct useful science.

When we look at a research paper, it’s important that we note any biases from either the individual or any associated professional ties the author may have. Joel announced that she had no conflicts of interest in her 2015 paper, however, this declaration considering her area of study, appears a little disingenuous. Daphna Joel is heavily influenced by feminism and observing science through this lens. For example she regularly discusses the prospect of feminist neuroscience. Further to this, contrary to having no vested interest, Joel is a member of ‘The neurogenderings network‘. This group states;

“Neurogenderings Network is a transdisciplinary network of neurofeminist scholars, who aim to critically examine neuroscientific knowledge and to develop differentiated approaches for a more gender adequate neuroscientific research. Feminist neuroscientists generally seek to elaborate the relation between gender and the brain beyond biological determinism, but still engaging with materiality of the brain”.

Clearly (cue sarcasm) Daphna Joel and colleagues had no pre-conceived agenda while conducting their studies or critiquing the current body of knowledge. Once recognised, her affiliations begin to shed light on to why it appears she commenced her research with the conclusion and worked backwards. For me, one of the tell tale signs was her uncharacteristically (for a scientist) bold claims. The headline in the New York Times read, “Can we finally stop talking about ‘male and ‘female’ brains”? The answer I suspect is, probably not. These are not the words of an objective scientist diligently following the evidence. The general point of science is, you start with a hypothesis and proceed to disprove this idea, not manipulate the study to bolster a closely held belief.

Recently, medicine has also been on the receiving end of criticism. It has often been accused of being a hegemonic structure of power, while no more valid than Reiki or Homeopathy, implying that all therapeutic methods are equally valid. A postmodern paper by Holmes et al argued that evidence based medicine (EBM) was an example of “microfascism” and proved that health sciences are colonised by a specific research paradigm, which in turn prevents alternative forms of knowledge to surface. In this paper their central criticism is the legitimacy of randomised controlled trials (RCT’s), which are internationally accepted as the highest level of evidence. Alternative forms of ‘knowing’ that the authors allude to, generally manifest in an area called ‘Complementary and Alternative Medicine’ (CAM).

Many enthusiasts of CAM are openly anti-science, they claim that the Scientific Method misses the point of CAM and doesn’t account for cultural diversity. Another claim is that scientific testing is only one of the many ways of knowing and is not necessarily the best. Contrary to this assertion, clinical effectiveness is a falsifiable hypothesis applicable to all interventions. In other words, it simply aims to ascertain whether a particular treatment works or not.

Alternative research methods have their uses, concentrating on anthropological and sociological aspects using for example; intuition or somatic perception. These ideas may well help us understand patients’ beliefs about health, illness and the body, but they cannot inform us which treatment is the most effective for a given condition. The most conclusive evidence available proves that a modality such as ‘spiritual healing’ works as a placebo response. A placebo response essentially is fine and can be powerful, however, all treatments conventional or unconventional possess some form of a placebo affect. It is surely logical to suggest that having a treatment that possesses a physiological effect would be more beneficial than relying solely on a placebo. Forgive me if I appear to be stating the obvious here.

Science is continually under attack and closely regulated by identarians, but they rarely claim that targeted studies are poorly conceived or that the results are questionable. The objections are mainly concerned with the subject matter studied or the identity of the people performing the research. One such contentious area is the ‘Greater Male Variability Hypothesis’. In simple terms, this suggests that more men occupy the outer reaches of intellect on either end of a distribution ‘bell curve’ than women. Darwin observed these traits in many species throughout the animal kingdom, with reasonably consistent evidence being reported in species as diverse as; wasps, orangutans and humans. As a basic observation, there are significant differences in the number of men compared to women in; Nobel laureates, music composers and chess champions, but on the flip side, men make up the majority of homeless people, suicide victims and prison inmates.

Theodore Hill, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Georgia Tech University sought to discover why this variability occurs. His paper was written with Sergei Tabachnikoff, Professor of Mathematics at Penn State University and was due to be published early 2018 in the Mathematical Intelligencer.  Margaret Wikler, the editor, was untroubled by this potential controversial topic and proceeded to give it her blessing. However, almost immediately after posting a preprint on their website, the duo encountered the Women in Mathematics group (WIM), who warned them that this paper could be damaging to aspiring young women. All efforts by Professor Hill to discuss the content with WIM were ignored.

Following this, the National Science Foundation (NSF) requested that the authors removed any acknowledgement of funding from NSF. This was prompted by two Professors at Penn State University claiming that the paper was “promoting pseudoscientific ideas detrimental to the advancement of women in science”. Later on the same day editor-in-chief of Mathematical Intelligencer Marjorie Senechal withdrew her acceptance of the paper after being challenged by “several colleagues” stating that this paper would provoke “strong reactions”. She clarified that the research had received no scientific objections, but her decision was based on the response the article may elicit.

The U-turn was performed by the journal following a complaint by a senior professor of mathematics at the University of Chicago, Amie Wilkinson. After some back and forth with Senechal, Wilkinson recruited her father, a famous psychometrician and statistician to add academic weight to her disapproval. Long after the Mathematical Intelligencer rescinded the paper, Wilkinson continued to trash the journal and the editor-in-chief through social media. Due to mounting pressure co-author Sergei Tabachnikoff withdrew his name from the research paper, in order to protect his job.

WilkinsonIASWynne2019
Amie Wilkinson

Professor Hill eventually had the paper published via the New York Journal of Mathematics (NYJM), only for it to vanish from the online journal three days later. As it turns out, one of the editorial board members was Benson Farb, who is married to, yep Amie Wilkinson. It transpired that Editor-in Chief Mark Steinberger was effectively blackmailed into pulling the paper by half of the journal’s board led by Farb. Not satisfied, Professor Wilkinson continued her moral crusade, directing her vitriol at the NYJM and the editorial board, threatening to ‘unfriend’ them on Facebook if they did not sever ties with editor Igor Rivin. All this appears more like the insane actions of an angst ridden teenager, rather than a senior professor and yet it worked.

This isn’t the first or I suspect the last time that scientists have been professionally attacked for researching subject matters that identitarian’s consider ‘out of bounds‘. A published study at Brown University concluded that the “exceptionally rapid growth in cases of transgenderism among children and teens is very likely the result of a ‘social contagion'”. This outraged transgender activists, who attempted to discredit the author and the methodology, without really scientifically critiquing it. The article was subsequently pulled by Brown, with many academics since accusing the university of caving in to this group. Ensuring certain potentially uncomfortable areas of study are off limits and the fact identarians are monitoring the boundaries of acceptable academic inquiry is severely disturbing. If you would like to make your own mind up about the paper, feel free to click the link for the original article.

This directs me to my final area of discussion, which I acknowledge is at the more extreme end of science denial. The incident occurred at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. A young student there declared “science is a product of western modernity and should be scratched off”. She continued suggesting science needed to start again through an African perspective, which would include witchcraft.

It could be argued that this assault goes beyond colonialism, as these people seek to tear down universalism. It is true that the majority of scientists during the Enlightenment were white middle class men, but the knowledge that was uncovered goes far beyond identity. Mathematical equations and scientific principles are universal, theories only persist if the results hold, regardless of the place or person doing the testing. This desire to decolonise science is to dismiss all intellectual or social advances that have gone before. A relationship to truth, universal relevance, or intellectual worth are now considered secondary to the identity of the author, with the most oppressed carrying the greatest weight of opinion. Sadly, this movement is supported by lecturers in varying departments throughout the academy. No doubt, we are in the midst of a huge shift towards relativism, which ultimately will stifle any intellectual or scientific advances.

I am sure I will get a reasonable amount of pushback on this article, primarily because I will have been seen to ‘pick on’ the left, while giving the right some sort of critical immunity. Firstly, I will make the point that I have been deeply scathing of the right’s anti-science credentials in previous articles, principally with regards to climate change. We know that the right are just as wilfully blind when the science doesn’t match their ideology as much as this portion of the left are. Specific areas of science denial for the right include; climate change and the anti-vax campaign. However, it’s worth mentioning that this offensive on science by groups who proclaim to be on the left is seldom mentioned. I’m relatively sure that this is a comparatively small group who oppose science, but the problem, nevertheless, still persists.

It is duly noted that the right tend to become increasingly concerned when any scientific developments interfere with the rich making ever more money. This often results in aggressive lobbying, for example, the fossil fuel industry convincing democratically elected officials to follow the money, while turning a blind eye. The left in contrast get ‘hot under the collar’ when their pre-conceived societal ideologies are challenged by ‘inconvenient data’. Make no mistake science is facing a two pronged attack, with both sides more than willing to denounce empirical evidence to protect their ‘truths’. This erosion of the Scientific Method is a regressive measure, destined to transport society to pre-modern times, which effectively helps nobody.