Thursday, 19 January 2012

The Iron Lady should not be reviewed by English People

That is pretty much it. It should not be reviewed by English people, or Scottish people, or Irish or Welsh people, anyone from this general area. Why do you ask? Because our knowledge of the history makes for a skewed watching without really being able to pay attention to whether or not it is a good movie. I have read about 10 different reviews since it became known to the world, nine of them were English people who were making cases about how it wasn't accurate or romanticizing Thatcher or how they expected it to be worse than it was. But then i read a review by Moviebob on the Escapist and it put things in much better context.

You see as English people Thatcher is an extremely divisive character, if anything about her comes about, its going to summon up are horde of contempt, or, and i really hope this is the extreme minority, unfrequented love (To a stupid degree, i mean i give props to Atlee and Roosevelt but these guys seem to want to fuck her brains out, which is morbid considering she is still alive.) Anyway, my point being is that for us there is a lot of context, a lot of our history revolved around her. It means that when we watch a film like this we might just forget that not everyone knows this.

The reason Moviebob's was so insightful was because he was not brought up on this history, and so when there are all these snapshots of her various moments in life, to him, its just a weird greatest hits without any information, a strange story of a poor old women being bothered by all these scruffy men, he can tell, and he knows well that there are important moments around her life. But a film like this needs to educate as it goes along, and this goes for the safest of safe routes without really contextualizing anything. This makes it to the non-English viewer rather bland and confusing, which isn't a way to do a historic biopic.

I think this is the same problem with people watching their own history, we can be so blinded from living in it we can't see the woods from the trees. Probably not the right analogy but the fact that we are blinded by our proximity from having a relatively objective opinion on this being a good film on story structure and cinematography alone means we should avoid it and listen to some internationals as to whether or not its a good film.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

OccupyLSX, Dan Hodges and our Lovely movement:

This post became too long, so i'm doing series on the Left and modern politics, for now i will restrict this just to demographics.

Today there is a clear and problematic divide between the Parliamentary Left Wing movement, and the activist Left Wing movement, and it is seriously hindering the whole process of getting our views out there. In part because it means we lack a forceful direction, more because it means that many middle ground lefties, between the radicals and moderates, which is still a lot of people, and the people who might be actually campaigning if they didn't feel so exempt and depressed by it all. The Left movement hinges far more on having a ground swell of activists ready to commit to work, and if we don't fix this, then there are just the career activists who few people relate too, and the people who write sneering blogs on the other side, Dan Hodges, i am looking at you.

So firstly, a bit of demographics and psychology of politics. So first things first, i am sure you are all aware that the way you perceive the world, is not the way everyone does, maybe you studied Plato, maybe you were talking with someone who just failed to get where you were coming from, the point is that people perceive the world in radically different ways and the way human beings as a whole have perceived the world has changed massively throughout history. In the stone ages a tree was green, brown and course, when i look at a tree i know these things, i also know that it is composed of billions of tiny cells that have millions of chemical reactions going on inside of them and that all of this is really just a consequence of atomic vibration stated by an explosion that occurred trillions of years ago, this means little to my day to day activities but it means that i know there is far more going on in the world than what my senses tell me, and to consequently value hardened research to reach my conclusions rather than personal experience (to brutally simplify.) So anyway, George Lakoff, in his little handbook "Don't think of an elephant" suggested that the contradictory ideas that make up our political standpoints are in fact defined by an overarching look on the world, the left tend to see the Human interaction as something that is maximized by cooperative and caring interaction, whereas the right tends to see Human interaction as one of dominance and self interest, the only thing to do is to look after yourself and your family (Gene's and all that). This view is taken in varying degrees, and among people it is usually contradictory, still the reason you will never get a political candidate get 90% of the vote, or even 60% is that there are usually people very hardened into one state of mind or the other, enough to consider themselves of one clear side anyway.

So firstly the center ground is a minority group, not the majority, just the one place where people are likely to shift allegiances. Lets break an imaginary country down then into three camps, the cooperation camp, the freedom camp and the Not sure camp, about 40% would say they are cooperative, 40% would say they are all about freedom and about 20% would be truly undecided, though there are of course people who are not 100% loyal to the first two camps and and might be tempted to opt in for the Not sure (Heard of the radical centrists anyone?). There are of course all sorts of mitigating factors, faith in politics or certain parties, nationality, race, the list is very long. But what is important to see is that there are clear ways of looking on the world, and so without ever listening to the debates or Parliamentary speeches most people with have a certain disposition to a certain political movement.

But right now we are in a real problem, there is a massive gulf between those on the Far Left and those on the Center left (Damn i hate saying far, radical or extreme) and this is knocking out a lot of people who solidly agree with left wing ideas but do not fit into either increasingly isolated camp. I feel a lot like this at times, i get bored when i hear talk about bringing about industrial revolutions and crushing capitalism because it just sounds so old, uninformed and narrow minded (not that we don't need to do this) but i get viscerally angry when i read something on Labour Uncut whinging about how the Labour party has gone all naive and left wing, or how social democracy is no longer affordable (How is it that we have more stuff but are unable to pay for what we had?). I don't think capitalism is Humanities final point of evolution, there is a lot we have to fix, but making lots of random jumps off into the darkness are not often the best ways of finding a better way, not to mention it will probably kill a lot of people in the process. But i digress.

This is a real problem because it means both the day to day social issues that activists get involved in are isolated from potential core members and the Parliamentary left (Centrists) don't have boots on the ground, meaning they have to cow tow more to easy populist ideas rather than meeting the genuine ideals of a Left wing party. This is why we need to reconcile, and it requires a great deal of effort from all sides, which i'll talk about later.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Syria, America's original sin.

1947 is the moment original sin was committed by America on the middle east, it was the first real time they actively moved to change the political dynamics in the region in their favor, with disturbing relation to the neoconservatives ambitions today. This was the moment the American government set out to bring Democracy to Syria, and of course in the process create an ally to America to contain the Soviets in the process. Oil also had a role to play in this game too.

In 1947 there was an election due, the American government warned many people in authority not to intimidate voters, oil companies made some drafts to vote (billboard pictures telling people to vote etc). This isn't either high minded or stupid of them, as much as we like to mock the American establishment for stupidity, it has been for a long time known in the field of IR or Political Science that Democracy has all sorts of international benefits for the West. This was a disaster, warning did nothing to stop intimidation, money was used to buy votes, in general it looked very much like a 19th century British election, full of corruption and intimidation, quite a few people also died over it.

What came next was the true moment of sin though. It was decided that the elites in the country were too powerful, and so to introduce a proper democracy into Syria there would be a need to create a powerful leader who would willingly create and enforce a democratic process in  the country. This led to the backing of a military leader general Za'im who promised to throw out all the corrupt influences on the political system and work towards creating an independent Democracy. The moment he got into power i am sure you can guess what happened, he went back on his promises, began a horrific campaign of intimidation and political consolidation. Eventually he was shot to bits by his lieutenants and it began a decades long series of coups, counter revolutions and general chaos that eventually led to the rise of the Baath party.

All of this is traceable back to the American action team that went in to create a dictatorship in this country, for democracy or not, their bad calculations lead to many people dead, something they are responsible even today for doing. I am not sure what is the best course of action for Syria today, but it is not a situation America can rightfully dust its hands of, whatever their means, be it economic sanctions, stern words, food and medical aid for those killed in the uprising, it needs to be done, because this isn't just Syrians being true to their nature, it is a result of American hubris in thinking they can so easily reshape the world in their image and if they want to not be ostracised by the international community for decades after they fall from grace, then they should start making reparations now while they still have the power to do something.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Palestine, Israel and Racism

If you want proof of Israel's institutional racism towards the Palestinians I would think you need look no further than this article. I am not going to go into the overwhelmingly complex and depressing saga that is the Gaza situation to day, but any country that is willing to trade over 1000 prisoners for a single private is a country that is not fearing its national security from that area.

Hitler once said that a single German life was worth 1,000,000,000 Russian lives, what we see is that arrogant assumption put into hard reality in this whole affair. Also, no i am not saying this deal shouldn't be done, just that it is telling of the country we are dealing with in a way that shatters a lot of Right wing myths of Israel feeling constantly under siege.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Battlestar Galactica: Build a fucking embassy

Just a small note here, i am in the process of watching a shit tonne of old sci fi stuff right now, well old might not be the right word, sci fi that was on sky when i was a teenager is a better description. Anyway, the whole program annoys me from start to finish in a love hate sort of way, i find myself frequently shouting out in anger at the stupidity and arrogance of all parties involved.

My biggest issue from the very first episode, to the beginning of the third season is that almost all the issues of this war could have been resolved by totally nice means.

*Spoiler Alert*

So first things first, Cylons spend all the series basically going on about how brutal and evil Humanity is and that if they do not destroy humanity they will be destroyed, even though the first episode basically involves the humans downsizing their fleet and you know, the Cylons try to commit genocide on Humans, something the Humans have never apparently tried on the Cylons.

In season 3, the Cylons have occupied a new human colony, New Caprica, and when an exasperated Baltar begs them to leave the Cylon head goes into this long diatribe at how you would nurse this injury and many years down the line seek vengeance. This is by the way after Cylon's occupy and oppress the humans for half a year, but what annoyed me is that there is just "We leave, we occupy or you die." mentality to just about every issue in this series. Still i hold firm that just about every issue could have just been dealt with by, you know, an embassy? A place where Cylons could go to Humans with stuff like "We would like to spread the word of our one god, and it would be like Super Cool if we could build a missionary's or something in your colony to peacefully convert people?" to which a Human diplomat would probably respond. "Well i am not too fond of intruding on our practices, but we are a fully functioning modern democracy that allows all ranges of opinions to be heard, so sure."

Its the same bloody problem at every turn, the whole show turns into basically one massive statement about how lying and being dishonest is bad because they keep on doing just that, and it winds up hurting whoever does it. I hope that's the big metaphor rather than all this god crap, because it would be a lot more grounded in the reality of the show in that case.

Why doesn't Labour learn its lessons?

I am a card carrying labour member, in every election i have put down their name in the electoral ballot, still, as time goes on i find myself worn down by the self destructive attitude the party seems to condemn itself too. People argue about a shift to the Left like that's a bad thing in the party, they suppress anyone within the party who says such a move might be for the best, i wouldn't mind that if they weren't such dicks about it like Dan Hodges. Still, there is something that annoys me more, this political class, have so deluded themselves that at best they are making themselves redundant, and at worst slowly committing suicide.

So firstly a bit of family history here, my Gran-dad was born into a family of Sheffield Coal miners, conservatives, my great Gran-dad was in fact a stone mason, still he entered a comprehensive and from there went into Oxford. I am not sure at which precise time it was, but i believe at some point during or soon after University he became a Fabian, an intellectual wing of parliamentary socialists affiliated with the Labour party who date back as far as the 1890's, if not more (My history on the subject is somewhat lax sadly.). Since then he helped Labour at every single election, through the bitter 1980's he would go out to the hard end estates with my mum and aunt and would canvass for Labour, in 1997 his house was a base of operations for the local canvassing operations that my whole family involved themselves in. In 2004 the Iraq war went down against mass protest, my Grandfather resigned from the Labour party though kept on as a Fabian, he hasn't canvassed for them since, though he is getting quite old so in part it is down to that, but my family do not really canvass either, a tiny bit last election, but it was really just to help me with it.

The next story took place about 3 days ago, it was freshers fair and i was standing in the freezing rain at the Essex Freshers fair, i was in a tartan black and white shirt as has become the trend around Essex as i had misjudged the weather and consequently soaked myself. Now i am sure i do not need to say that my politics are quite to the left of where Labour is now, but i am responsible enough to hold some of their opinions and not distort the message too much, we arn't directly affiliated so its also fine to be a bit more radical. Still, you have no idea how hard it is to get people to sign up to Labour on what is being offered, the Grass roots are drying up, you know how much membership has declined in the last few decades, i mean its across all parties but we started with a larger base and derive more of a need from them. People are turned off by Ed Miliband, they are turned off by soppy politics with no backbone, they crave some actual left wing policy's, half of the people signed up, and most of the Councillor's and helpers the CLP sent from Headquarters were so obviously there sustained primarily by either familial attachments, historical respect for Labour or righteous fury at the conservatives.

You can't win an election like this, Labour Heads say that the party voters vote for moderate candidates, but that's because firstly you bombard them with messages of (if you don't we will loose) but more because ideological left wingers migrated from the party en mass. The ones left are pragmatic lefties which while important for some rationalizing of policy, cannot win an election by themselves, let alone have a meaningful administration of reform.

Still what made things very sad for me, was Miliband's response to university fees, £6,000? If the saying "The difference between Democrats and republicans is that Democrats 'care' about the people they hurt" rings all the more true here. Trust me, the students do remember, because they tell me every day, and i personally am done defending their record. Its not enough to deny anything a Lefty could want and then belittle us for being politically unreasonable.

The thing is though, is that you need us, you didn't loose the election in 2010 because there was a mass migration to the Tories, sure there were some, over immigration and the Iraq war to Tories and Liberal Democrats respectively. But the majority lost were just Labour voters who didn't go out to vote, because they didn't see you doing anything for them. How do you even expect to fight the next election when you keep hitting the membership base so hard, sure there are centrists who will go out, and small groups of reluctant left wingers, but ultimately your stuck with a small team because why the fuck should they work to get a center right party in? Just because the masquerade as left wingers who are bowing to the needs of the day?

This is not to berate the Labour party, this is me pleading for them to get their act together and look out for the interests of the people they are supposed to represent, this doesn't mean going back to the 70's, it just means actually putting the Socialist bottom line of equality by Economic, Political and Social matters at the front of our policy decisions, not just in word but in white paper.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Britain's World Status:

A real problem in Britain today is definitely how we view ourselves, on one hand we view ourselves as the pragmatic defenders of liberty, the ones who helped see of the Nazi's then quietly began to dismantle our empire as the Americans took over. In the modern sense we tend to be very negative about our own chances to become something better, we think we suck at making and doing everything, we think we have a terrible government system and that we are all lazy and useless, thing is all of this is totally contrived and wrong, yet i think it explains a lot about our society today.

The first part is fairly obvious, it makes quite a few people a lot more racist than need be and makes it very hard to apologies for unanswered crimes against many cultures, i mean i do think the Empire did have some good qualities for the time, they tended to export liberal ideas about equality before the law and strong private property laws that were initially well received in places like India where people were used to having there property spontaneously taken by local dignitaries. But at the same time there is the stuff like the tens of millions starved to death in India to keep up the price of certain exports, or the whole half the population dying out in Ireland due to no aid relief that the country has never recovered from (8 million to 3 million in the space of about 5 years, and you wonder why republicans are a tad sensitive about you taking the piss out of there accent.) Also, it builds an idolized idea about the state of our society back when, which gives more unneeded fire for conservative rhetoric.

Still the second is the one that most irks me day in day out. The idea that we can't make anything firstly makes me annoyed because it tends to be blamed on the Unions, who granted played there part wiggling the growth figures but were ultimately a small part of the problem, secondly it makes me annoyed because it tends to come from a position of no idea about how we relate to other countries, so here is some British econ history done very briefly, and some stuff about free trade. All stats are rough estimates.

So firstly, in 1948 Britain was actually looking like it was going to be the golden boy of Europe in terms of growth figures, its industry was back on track, its debts kept under control from post war inflation and austerity measures imposed by the Atlee government, the NHS provided the grounds for a healthy workforce and generally things were going relatively smoothly, until conservatives got in. Now its not that conservatives are bad with economics (though its a part) but due to a trade union system that had little central control and very militant grass roots there were a lot of pointless, and disruptive union actions, it was also very political as it was felt that England had modernized and the old class privilege had eroded, they were now citizens not servants. A larger part of the problem was that there was a government in that had no scope for what to do with the half finished plan the Labour party had set out with, they were aversion to fights with the Unions, so Unions often got their way, but worst of all, was that they had no idea what to do with the nationalized industries, let alone the rest of the economy. This is the big issue because what was needed at the time was a serious industrial plan to bring the economy upwards faster, Germany did this by managing the unions, keeping wages low but with a social security safety net while giving incentives to small business's, the Netherlands nationalized their finance and used it to pump money into the other services and France nationalized industry to pump government investment into it.

This was the key problem, for while the Netherlands, Germany and France all soured in growth throughout the 50's and on wards, the British and the Irish were the only ones to not meet their growth targets (Ireland because they initially focused on creating a land owning small farmer ideal for its people and failed). This is a systemic issue with our country, we tend not to directly invest in our industry at all, Ted Heath bought shares in company's, Labour nationalized services but didn't do much else to them. This was alright while there was little inter country trading but when the barriers went down we did suffer, we didn't need to suffer in the way Thatcher led us to, but the system did need resolving, it still does, and it revolves around actually working with the Unions and founding a proper plan for investment into our industries.

Secondly is about free trade, now a lot of people tend to think China has us horrifically outprices, and if you think of it in terms of wages then you would probably be right, you can't really compare 25p an hour to £6.40 that is i think roughly our minimum wage. But in industry wages only account for about 5% of the total cost of running a secondary industry. The main money is in the 100 million or so to set up a factory, the millions in getting the machinery and buying the stock afterwards, the cost for line workers is tiny so even a big gap is ultimately a small part of the issue, this is why we loose business but the Germans still have a lot of it. This brings me back to my point about planning and investment, it isn't hard to beat wage competition if we invest in our industries, and by that i mean the government collects tax money and directly invests it in infrastructure and the companies themselves, get them better machinery and they will be able to stay ahead of the Chinese undercutting them.

Of course, we may not even want that with our many other business ventures in the services and high tech fields.

What i am trying to point out is that England isn't in some deep seated decline, nor is it hopelessly doomed to be devoured by the Asian giants, our problems are real and achievable and they don't exist in the over-romanticized lessaiz faire system we had before the 20th century.