Saturday, December 17, 2005

Western Fascism and Totalitarianism.

Picture taken: Summer Soltice at Avebury, 21 June 2005, 5:09 am

Stalin and Hitler would applaud Bush and Blair.

Fascism and Totalitarianism have found new faces in the guise of western democracy.

Today much of what we see going on is treated prescriptively, or reactive/pre emptive description (spin) is used to describe events and actions that would necessarily be regarded as brutal, wrong, inhumane and criminal.

How different is the behaviour of working people in England and the USA today from Russian peasants drinking Vodka to drown their misery, frustration, anguish and despair?

We have become unused to reflective, critical, personal appraisal (of world events, if not of ourselves in a post modern negative way all too often) and accustomed to a descriptive, media driven view of the world, increasingly through television. Opinion rather than our own research, deductive reasoning, intuition and feelings dominate our worldviews, after all, more people die on the roads, or through poverty and disease, than have died through terrorism and yet we are told that terrorism is the great threat of our time.

The brute forces of dictatorship, epitomised by Stalin and Hitler, have given way to cunning, political rhetoric, spin, corporate and personal greed, manipulation and deception.

We are forgetting that words describing events, feelings and things, are not the things themselves. There is an old expression that ‘actions speak louder than words’, in the world in which we are now living, this is no longer the case.

We are increasingly a watched society. Whilst CCTV and speed cameras may have some impact on criminal activity, their watchful eyes are on each one of us and rather than tune them out or ignore them, we would do better to increase our awareness and examine their implications and impact on the more general populace. It has already been said that Identity Cards would have little impact on the very activities they were ostensibly designed to combat or prevent. How is it, then, that people in the UK seem to be putting up so little resistance to them and, indeed, seem ready to pay quite a large sum of money for something virtually useless for which they use the ready and facile argument, ‘If you are not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear’?

Many of us have said, and keep saying, that it is liberty and freedom themselves, which are at risk, but it has become that argument which is treated as facile, even puerile, and trivial.

The view of the world promoted by Bush and Blair is that of the benign farmer locking the chickens in the roost to protect them from predators. What is apparent to many of us is that there is little use in so doing if the canniest fox of all is locked right in with the chickens.

Let’s look at an example that bears examination. The BBC has a (recent) traditional role as an independent provider of radio and television entertainment and news. The BBC World Service is respected the world over for it’s unbiased coverage. The BBC provides that coverage through a licensing system payable by each television (in the past, radio as well) owner. The BBC has become a beleaguered institution, where it was once affectionately known as ‘Auntie’, it is now largely seen as a somewhat overblown and out of touch great aunt, a sort of Hinge and Bracket parody of itself. In recent times the BBC’s charter (1) is looking increasingly fragile and whilst most people might, perhaps, applaud the ending of the license fee, the alternative is seldom considered or examined. All other television channels are financed through advertising, businesses pay to promote their products during breaks in and between programmes. On the surface this may seem a rather effect less and convenient way to cover the costs of programme making. However, those businesses are driven by the need to make a profit and they will not pay to advertise on just any channel. They want a return, and will exert their muscle to ensure best delivery.

Interestingly, whilst the BBC license fee is under threat, and people resent having to pay it, satellite television is on the increase at a cost far higher annually (pay per view) than the BBC fee.

Under the guise of giving people what they want (choice?), ‘independent’ television (that is - paid by advertising) is promoting consumerism to such a degree that, for example, every school child knows the stigmatisation of not wearing the right product. We must, therefore, ask ourselves if that is the world we want or whether dear old ‘Auntie’ might not have a valuable place after all and some constraints laid on those cunning and foxy, so called, ‘independent’ channels? Or we might even question the role of television in our lives. Today it is assumed that every household has a television in the UK, and indeed there are few exceptions. In promoting a descriptive view of the world television has no equal, are we then, in this discussion, living with the consequences of that, and are we prepared to accept them?

The consumer society.

We are consuming our world at a frightening rate. Our natural resources of Gas, Oil and Coal, are nearly exhausted, we may have a few decades yet, but that is all. The pre-eminent consumer nation in the world is also the nation most resistant to any action to curb the rate at which we are consuming our planet. The government of the USA resists every attempt to address the problems that we are already facing as our natural resources decline and the effects our levels of consumption impose on the world, Global warming and ozone depletion, the destruction of natural flora and fauna and so on.

Few can doubt the motivation behind the recent invasion of Iraq was driven by greed for the oil resources that Iraq holds, for there is a power behind the government of both the UK and the USA. That power lies in massive corporations who make unimaginable profits, and wield unimaginable power through wealth. Indeed, it is clear that not only do they exert their power to influence our governments, the people appointed to power have many direct and indirect vested interests in those companies.

The effect of corporate greed on the world is so immense that it is impossible to grasp the enormity of it. Multi national corporations involved in Pharmaceuticals, Gas and Oil, soft drinks, dairy and food production, and massive supermarket chains are quite literally decimating not just the natural world but entire peoples and nations in their pursuit of profit and ever greater market dominance.

It is this greed that fuels today’s totalitarianism and fascism. It is this world of corporate predators that lies behind every decision facing us today in the world.

The way for identity cards has long been paved through what are called ‘loyalty cards’ promoted by companies hungry for our custom, who in return gain access to our spending habits, logged, monitored and targeted back at us, the consumers.

Entire national economies are now controlled by ‘Corporate Consumer Companies’. Nations succeed or fail by the dictates of the ‘Free Market Economy’, ‘Globalisation’ and ‘World Trade’.

Our governments are complicit in this and we each know, though it is hard to admit, that we ourselves are a part of this massive global problem. The most common feeling is that it is all too big, too much, for us to even begin to imagine what we can do. That may well be true, but at the very least we might begin to examine the problem, re-engage our critical faculties, maybe switch the television off for brief periods of reflection. At the very least allow ourselves to draw breath and re-engage with ourselves in a way that television, the media, consumption and the daily round of ever increasingly alienated job performance do not allow.

Whilst we may not be able to do anything about all ‘that’ yet, we might begin by reclaiming ourselves and learning to think again.

(1) The BBC is established by Royal Charter, and has been so from the very early days of its existence. The first Charter ran from 1 January 1927 to 31 December 1936, and we are now approaching the end of the eighth Charter. The fixed length of the Charter allows the Secretary of State an opportunity, every ten years or so, to look carefully at the BBC’s role, functions and structure.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Condoleezza Rice confirms the use of rendition.

Picture taken: 30 August 2004, 8:47 pm

Today, Condoleezza Rice, The US secretary of state, confirmed the use of 'rendition': transporting suspects to countries where they can be questioned outside the protection of US law.

In the same statement she said, '... the US would use "every lawful weapon to defeat these terrorists".

We once again enter the world of political hypocrisy that is the vernacular of politics today.

The war against terror (and remind me which war that is exactly?) seems to abound in the rhetoric of fear and dogmatic assertion without burdening itself with any necessity of proof.

But worse, far worse, are the kinds of statements made by Ms Rice today.

To deliberately transport someone to a somewhere that is outside the protection of the law is de facto unlawful.

You cannot pursue terrorism unlawfully without yourself being a terrorist. You cannot prosecute an illegal war, such as the Iraq war, without being a terrorist.

Of course this kind of political hypocrisy has become so normal as to render it almost beyond the questioning of ordinary people like you and me, but question it we must.

Blair and Bush and Rice stand before committees and groups and speak with all the self assured confidence of religious fanatics, unless we question them and challenge them then fascism is a present reality in the name of democracy.

If rendition is unlawful, then how can Ms. Rice expect us to believe that those being treated in this way are not being tortured? Of course we can't and we should not.

She also said rendition had been practiced for decades and was "not unique to United States or to the current administration". Bad practice, no matter how widespread and widely used, does not good practice make, and just because my neighbour is a thief, a liar or despot is no reason for me to become one.

Saturday, December 03, 2005


Picture taken 9 Nov 2005 5:22pm.

The notion that the world only functions through co-operation is not often discussed. In these days of increasing polarity of wealth and resources and the culture of individual and corporate greed and indeed the 'cult' of self, I think it is time to take stock and remember, we exist only through co-operation. I do not know where the idea of the 'self made man' came from, but it is a myth whose demise is long overdue. Anyone who declares themselves 'self made', is a selfish, blind and ungrateful creature at best.

We each build our lives on the ingenuity, the labour, the deft hands and hearts of those who have brought about the world in which we live. We daily, moment by moment, employ the products of the labour of others. We all too easily take for granted the plates, knives and forks, carpets, keyboards, the houses we live in, the tarmac we drive on, the clothes on our backs. The list is too vast to comprehend of things we rely on from the hands of others. We assume the technology of today will continue, we assume, and indeed presume on, tomorrow, on the trust of labours past and present.

As John Donne said, 'All mankind is of one author, and is one volume... No man is an island, entire of itself.'

It doesn't matter, in this argument, who the author may be, it matters profoundly only that no island exists but it is entirely surrounded by sea. We live in the context of our times, not separate from it but completely dependent upon it.

This world, my world, your world, exists through co-operation. Every one is my neighbour, whose life and labour joggles elbows with my own.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Self denial is not a virtue.

Picture taken 2 Dec 2005 11:18am.

Self denial may be the greatest religious virtue, it is certainly the most pointless, being personally and socially toxic. But then so is being self centred, selfish and egotistical, so it was an enormous pleasure to read this eloquent, sensitive, riveting Blog by Besprent. I cannot remember the last time I came across so sensitive a use of language and personal expression. This quality of self expression draws the reader in and leaves one feeling invigorated and refreshed.

On the same day I happily browsed into Besprents' world I also came across this Blog by Richard Eng. I am a cynical person and my first thoughts were, 'Here we go, I wonder what he's on?' A few posts in and I thought, 'This is a beautiful mind'. I am impressed that Richard should post his Blog under such a title, clearly he is aware and confident enough to know who he is and post accordingly needing none of the convoluted and pointless affirming folderol so many of us (self) indulge in.

I am grateful to them both in my first week of Blogging, I have found them an inspiration and a delight.