Thursday, 29 December 2011

How Not To Use Politics - A Tale of Christmas Jealousy

I felt good during Christmas Eve, when I would normally feel depressed. I made myself a tasty meal and watched The Sound of Music.

And I had a fun time on Christmas Day… I went to a friend’s house and spent the day with nice women…

It wasn’t until I sat down to write the next day that the fish hit the fan. 

Like this
First, I wasn’t even aware that there were troubling feelings lurking around. I just sat down to write.
I must have looked at the broken keys on my keyboard, which always triggers painful emotions. And this made me wish I had a new laptop…

At this point, the feelings started pouring over (not that I was aware of it then). Fresh in my mind was the memory of the nice presents the women exchanged the day before, and the modern gadgets they had.

But it wasn’t about presents or gadgets; these are only “symbols” for something else: a life that is lived. These women were living lives… they have jobs, a home, friends, adventures. They live.
And I don’t have any of these, you see. So my mind associates these “lack” with “not living”.

Shortly after I started exploring these feelings, I found myself landing square into the field of politics. And this is where things get interesting.

I know politics; a lot. I know far more than I let out. This means that I could have easily “made myself feel better” by using politics. Here’s how:

* The women at the Christmas party had x, y and z
* I felt bad about not having x, y and z
* I use political arguments to undermine x, y and z, which has the effect of a) putting those women down and conversely b) pulling myself up.

So to take a completely random example: the old chestnut of “vegetarianism”. Someone has a nice, cushy job that allows them to have a nice, middle class living. I feel bad about not having a nice, cushy job and therefore not having a nice, middle class living.
I could easily pick at their choice of being a “vegetarian” and undermine their nice, cushy job and their nice, middle class life. How?
I could point out how hypocritical it is to care about the exploitation of animals and not the exploitation of humans. I mean, can you name one job in this global economy that does not result in the exploitation of someone? Exactly. I am knowledgeable enough to spot how any job contributes to the emiseration of people.
So I could easily argue: if “dropping out” of meat consumption is supposedly a good thing for animals because it boycotts the meat production industry… then why isn’t “dropping out” of the wage economy a good thing as well? After all, unemployed people do not, by definition, contribute their labour to the growth of an industry that will exploit people and the environment. Unemployed people do not contribute to capitalist production.
When seen under this light, unemployment is a very ethical choice indeed. If everyone was unemployed, we would soon see the capitalist system collapse.


Please feel free to point out where I’m wrong.

But that’s not the point. The point is I shouldn’t be using political arguments to put someone down in order to pull myself up. As my friend says, “that’s not on”.

The problem is not “vegetarianism” or “the economy” or “unemployment”. The problem is not that some people have nice, cushy, middle class jobs.

The real problem is that I felt depressed and that I don’t want to feel depressed. What other people do or don’t do, have or don’t have should not impact on my wellbeing. I should not get depressed because other people have better lives.

If my problem is that I feel like I’m not living, then I should either start feeling like I am living or start living.
Putting other people’s lives down is not going to bring me up. That is just a way for me to not deal with my pain. It’s just an “excuse”.

And if I don’t deal with my pain, if I don’t address my feelings of not living, then these feelings won’t go away.

This does not mean that I can’t question vegetarianism, or the economy, or unemployment, or the middle class. Of course I can. But I shouldn’t do it because I am suffering from jealousy, or anxiety, or insecurity, or anger. I should do it because I believe in what's right

It's not easy to separate the two, and granted I've only just begun. 

If you find yourself using politics in a similar way, know that you are not alone. I have a sneaking suspicion that we all do it, more often than we realise. 

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

On Consumer Choice... and the Lack of it

“British are more powerful shoppers than ever before, at work they are becoming less independent”.

He describes how the number of choices in a McGonnagal’s menu has gone from a few items in 1984 to some 49 or so dishes today.

But, he argues, the other side of this picture is worker’s loss of autonomy. In other words, today’s workers have less and less choice over what they do.

Aditya is missing a key piece of this puzzle, and without it the picture doesn’t make much sense: : why would the increase of menu options in a McGonnagal’s relate to the decrease in agency for workers?

What Aditya is missing is that this increase in consumer “choice” goes hand in hand with decrease in consumer “choice”. Yes, you read that right.

It is true that McGonnagal’s menu now has a bazillion choices, but the important question is: who many alternatives are there to McGonnagal’s?

I wasn’t in Britain in the 80s but I’m pretty sure that back then there were far more independently owned restaurants, cafes and “chippies”. Keep in mind that one single independently owned business is a “one of a kind”, while yet another McGonnagal’s is another example of the same thing.

If we were to mathematically compute “choice”, then each independent business would count as “one”, while McGonnagal’s as a whole brand would count as “one” as well. McGonnagal’s may have thousands of restaurants, but they all sell exactly the same thing. 

But forget about computing “choice”. The fact that I was having the same meal as Aditya while living in a different continent approximately 9 thousand miles away tells us all we need to know about the presence of “choice”.

The political meaning of “choice” isn’t “how many combinations of McGonnagal’s ingredients are there in the menu” but rather “how many alternatives are there to McGonnagal’s”.(And if you wanna get really political, the question is actually "who owns these businesses").

Incidentally, for a lot of poor people, the answer is increasingly “none”. There aren’t many places in town for the poor to go to relieve their hunger. Ok, I’m exaggerating: there’s always Burger Ming.

Speaking of which, yesterday I passed a coffee shop that is no more. It was open last month, though.
And in entirely unrelated news, another “Costa” has opened its doors, this one next to the Students’ Union. How nice. Now young people can pay their fees while learning the skills they will need for future employment… of barista, that is.

Aditya is right of course when he speaks about the loss of autonomy for workers. People have less and less “choice” or (“voice”) over what they have to do in their workplaces.

But how does that relate to McGonnagal’s menu choices?

Simple. Whereas before you had a McGonnagal’s, and a coffee shop, and a Chinese restaurant, and a chip shop, and a bakery, now you have… just a McGonnagal’s. Oh, and a PlanetsBucks, of course.

And what do those two have in common? They are humongous, global brands with thousands of venues.  

It’s easy to understand why the larger a company is, the less power workers have over what they do.

For instance, if you work for a small Chinese restaurant and you want to change a recipe, all you have to do is talk to the cook and/or owner.

If you work for a McGonnagal’s and you want to change a recipe… well… you can’t. Those decisions are taken thousands of miles away, somewhere in the US, by someone so up the food chain that you would never have access to them.

And it’s not like you could just change a recipe and get away with it. Because brands like McGonnagal’s require that every product is the same everywhere. They call it “brand consistency” and it matters, for some reason, that everywhere in the whole planet people are tasting exactly the same burger as everyone else.

Brands like McGonnagal’s and PlanetsBucks get larger at the expense of smaller businesses; that’s why their menus grow. This can only mean that people are working for them instead of opening their own shops.

And the larger these brands get, the more hierarchical and “top down” workplaces get.

The same story repeats itself on every aspect of the economy, so you can apply the same idea to your area of choice. For example, the number of magazines at the supermarket rack hides the fact that they are all owned by a few companies.

* I know that according to “journalistic” standards I should refer to him by his surname, “Chakrabortty”, but “Aditya” is such a nice name!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

On Women Having to be More Like "Men" to be Seen

By now you have probably run across Kira Cochrane’s most excellent article on CiF about her months-long research on the absence of women in British public life. I wrote a summary for Women’s Views on News if you don’t have time for the 3400-odd word long original piece (yes, it was a tough summary and I’m bragging about it).

The response from the Feminist World has been positive; Cochrane’s statistics have left us asking “how come???”. The answer is “deregulation of the economy”, of course, but I’ve covered that many times already.

Bidisha has written about Cochrane’s piece and about BBC’s Todayprogramme in particular. The “excuse” given by the editor Ceri Thomas for the huge disparity between male and female voices (2:1 at the best of times) is that:

“They are difficult jobs but the skillset that you need to work on the Today programme and the hide that you need, the thickness of that, is something else. It's an incredibly difficult place to work”.

Thomas’ argument picked my interest, because it’s given way too often to explain away “why there aren’t more women”. And it's nonsense.

Thomas is missing the forest for the trees. Because things work precisely backwards from the way he’s thinking them.

If an environment does not have an equal proportion of men and women, then it’s the environment’s fault. Not women’s.

If an environment is too “tough”, too “demanding”, too “difficult”, too “sensitive to female cooties”, then that environment should change. The onus for change is on the sexist environment, not on women to become “tougher”, to wash off their “female cooties”, in short, to be more like men. 

But the problem is not that women are not like men, but rather that society is built under the template “men”. That is not the fault of women.

Women have been told since day one of patriarchy, that the problem is that they are not enough “like men”. (At this point, you are encouraged to remember the song “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?”, and keep it playing in the background of your mind). “Oh, if only you women were more like men, then you would fit perfectly in this society we have designed for men”, quoteth Patriarchus.

Well, no. This has never worked and it will never work. And its only purpose is to divide women into “those who can pull off being like men” and those who can’t. And because only a few women will be able to at any given time*, those women rise and are used to shame the rest of us for not succeeding at being more like “men”.   

In short: if the “Today” programme is “too difficult” for women, then they should make it easier. And if that doesn’t work in bringing more women on board, they should try something else. Until there’s equal representation.

Alternatively they could just use quotas, but Thomas doesn’t appear keen on that.

Oh, and I won’t leave without saying this: working for the BBC, for the “Today” programme DIFFICULT??? HA! This is one of the clearest examples of the overblown sense of importance of the “managerial class” I’ve seen in a while. Your job is “too difficult”??? Where do you work? In the ER wing of a hospital? In a war zone? A rape crisis centre?

Always be wary of upper middle class people trying to make their work appear “difficult”. It’s nothing but an attempt to justify their position in the social hierarchy. You and I know that the most difficult jobs in this world are the worst paid. 

 * In order to understand this you have to remember that for patriarchy to work, men and women must be clearly differentiated. So if a lot of women became "more like men" and, for example, grew a thicker skin, then the characteristic "having a tick skin" will stop being exclusively male. And Patriarchus would define its opposite, "having a thin skin" as the male and desirable characteristic and shame women for, you guessed it, "being different to men".

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

On the Matter of This Nov30 Strike...

Here it is; in just a few hours, the biggest strike in living memory will be taking place in Britain. Well, a big enough strike anyway.

And I have nothing but pain and disconnected thoughts in my head.

First and foremost, yes, I am indeed very glad to see Unions getting their act together and finally taking industrial action.

And yet, I feel that familiar frustration with the nature of the strike and the kind of unions involved in it. I experienced the same feeling during the last “anti cuts” demonstration organised by the Unions a while ago.

That frustration watches them and asks… “Really? After all that’s going through only public sector workers go on strike and over the matter of pensions? Really?

It has a general feel of… middle class England wanting to better their lot. You know, that portion of Britain you see on the media, the only portion that seems to matter. They drink expensive fair-trade lattes, read the Grauniad, are ubiquitously white, and only “see” the misery of those at the bottom of society twice, three, four times removed. By which point the truth has been bleached and sanitised so much that they mistake making better consumer choices with saving the world.

I fully realise that these feelings are just that: feelings, not an accurate depiction of reality. And I know that the better conditions public sector workers have, the better the working conditions will be for all workers. That the better pensions they have, the better pensions everyone will have. And I’m also aware of the fact that Thatcher has made “general strikes” almost impossible, unless they are over pensions.

But still… pensions? Really? Did everyone miss the riots?

I am entirely convinced that “middle class England” simply has no idea how bad things are for the poorest members of society. And I literally mean NO EFFING CLUE.

They don’t understand the desperation, or the urgency for that matter.

They have the luxury of thinking about their “pensions” because their position in society is, relatively speaking, so “good” that they can physically think about the future and plan ahead.

They cannot imagine how it feels to not be able to even think about next month, next week even, because the future can only mean more of the present, which is unbearably painful. They can’t imagine what it’s like to be stuck in a cycle of “nothing ever gets better”, of “nothing to look forward to”, of “more of the same crap day after day”.

They are not, in short, “numb” to the future. They have the luxury of thinking about pensions.

Then there’s the Occupy movement, which, by its very nature, is born out of desperation, out of frustration of seeing no other “tactic” work. Occupiers go and stay there; not because they hope to achieve something, but because they literally can’t stand to carry on like this. They share one certainty only: things have to change.

People are so politically exhausted that they deal with their desperation by turning it into action. Nothing is in the world works anymore, so they go and do something that doesn’t work either. And they keep on doing it. Because at least while the Occupation is taking place, “something” is working; even if it’s just a small general assembly, to try to keep functioning something that could be swept away at any minute.

The Occupy movement feels like the politics and the actions of the hopeless. “Work without hope”, as a WWII poet once wrote.

The strike, the Occupy movement and the riots. From the most privileged workers, who “do the right thing” and “keep Britain running”, to the most desperate amongst us, who are literally told “they do are not part of society”.  
From public sector workers striking to keep things as they used to be, to the Occupy movement demanding an end to the “1% and the 99%”, to the riots, the most literal manifestation of “wealth redistribution” there could be.

You know what I would like to see? More strikes; for longer periods of time; over many more issues. Public sector workers should leave the workplace and stay out. Or occupy it and not work.

It is not enough to strike over pensions. Public sector workers, as the most privileged members of the work force, need to show solidarity to everyone else. I don’t know how; but they need to find a way to do it. Enough of trying to fix a broken system, or forcing the bad to not get so much worse; we need to start moving towards building an alternative.

Perhaps public sector workers could organise sit-ins with unemployed people? That could be rather fun. And I am pretty sure it would build solidarity like nothing else.

In a few hours most of us will be either striking or joining demos. Remember this: 2.5 million workers will, according to David Cameron, “draw Britain to a halt”.
Presumably the 2.6 million workers who are unemployed merely provide the desperation that keeps the cogs in the machine compliant and obedient?

As for me, I won’t be striking, since I don’t have a job. Instead, I’ll be doing by first ever “subbing” session for Women’s Views onNews. Voluntary work I hope one day will turn into paid employment.
Because I’m desperate. And I only know one this: things have to change.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Wanted: An Alternative to Debate

Ok, I admit it: I’ve only been half-heartedly following the “Occupy” movement. And I’m not sure why.

When you are a political activist, you spend your whole life dealing with the question at the back of your mind… “if things are so bad… why aren’t people on the streets?”. Then, like the proverbial three buses arriving at the same time, all of a sudden there are people on the streets. On the actual streets; occupying them; refusing to go anywhere.
And I fail to muster more interest than the average politically minded person.

Part of the reason for my lack of interest in the occupations has to do with the absence of… well… politics. There are no grand theories to explain the present, no plans on how to change things for the future… Everyone is rightfully and mightily pissed off, but when it comes to the “whys” and the “hows” people get so anxious they can’t take a step forward. A simple debate on producing a list of “demands” turns into “well, should we or shouldn’t we?”. And the conclusion to that is… “we need to have a debate over this”.

Ah, yes. “Talking” will surely provide the answer. “Talking” is, however, the only answer being provided. And I would be more excited about the prospect of “debating” within the Occupy movement if I hadn’t seen its effects within the feminist movement way too many times.

This trend takes place throughout the political spectrum, actually; I’m just focusing on feminism because it’s what I know best. Whenever you see a feminist in the mainstream media, and she’s asked about the “solution” to any problem that could be filed under “regulating industries”, aka: “telling corporations to do as we want, not as they want”, said feminist’s reply will invariably be… “I think we need to have a national debate over this”.

“This” could be pr0n, lapdancing, maternity leave, sexualisation in the media, etc. Feminism’s answer to it all is “let’s have a big debate”.

I’m beginning to fear that calls to “debate” are actually an attempt to “disengage” from the situation, to not deal with the issue at hand. Because to arrive at an actual plan of action would mean upsetting someone who disagrees, leaving someone out.

True, the “we are the 99%” surely joins everyone under the same collective grief. But when it comes to deciding what to do with that “99%”, everyone freezes.

This scares me for several reasons. First, because “life must go on”, and if “occupiers” don’t spring into action, the momentum of the status quo will sweep over them.

Madrid was one of the first cities to become “occupied”. It was so early on, in fact, that nobody thinks of it as part of the “Occupy” movement. Never mind the fact that the very word “occupy” was used, since the word “ocupa” in Spanish describes “squatter”, and the tactics were the same, ie: tents, kitchen, pharmacy and, you guessed it, “public debates”.

That was summer. 15th of May, to be precise.

Today, the Conservative party has won a “landslide victory”in Spain. Something tells me this is not what the “occupiers” at Puerta del Sol wanted, seeing as how they rejected “all political parties”.

What are the plans of the conservatives to deal with the economic crisis and reduce unemployment? If your answer contains the words “austerity” and “deficit reduction” give yourself 1000 points. The very same “policies” that the Tory government has been ruthlessly forcing through since they rose to power… achieving precisely no reduction of unemployment or bettering of the “economic crisis”. As my dad said about the elected president: “he also wants to fail, he doesn’t want to be left out”.

What happened to the occupiers? I don’t know. What came out of their debates? I can’t remember. And I say this having listened to actual members of the Puerta del Sol occupation during Marxism in July.

Now, political debates are lots of fun. But eventually a decision must be agreed on and actions must be taken. The alternative is no alternative at all; that is, if we fail to change course, course doesn’t change. We get the same politicians, with the same policies favouring the same people.  

But there’s something else lurking under the surface… and that’s a general sense of “frozenness” throughout the whole of society. People are emotionally and ideologically exhausted. Nobody can come up with an alternative, and nobody is enthusiastic about the future. It’s a sense of “bleh”, followed by “what’s on the telly”.

I am by no means the first to point this out. Mark Fisher does so in his book “Capitalist Realism”, for instance. There’s a collective “apathy”, fear of moving in any direction, and the result of that is paralysis.

And I’m scared because I don’t just see it all around me, showing up also within the Occupy movement. I’m scared because I feel it in my bones. I struggle with this feeling of “frozenness” every day. I notice other people struggling as well. We want to move, but we don’t know how, or where to.

We are petrified, literally scared stiff. And because we can’t do much else, we talk.

I’m afraid I don’t know what the answer is. But I do know that it isn’t more “talking”. Something must be agreed upon and put into action. Quickly. Before the momentum of the status quo squashes us with “more of the same”.

It’s getting to the point when anything, yes, “anything”, would be preferable to “more of the same”. If only to save our minds and hearts from paralysing ennui.   

Friday, 18 November 2011

Fem 11 – The Personal - Coming clean with our feelings

This is an account of my own personal feelings at the Fem 11 conference last Saturday. My feelings aren’t “wrong” or “right”, they just are. I’m not holding Fem 11 accountable in any way for what I felt. I just want to share my experience.

I went to Fem 11 with three feminist friends. Me-from-two-years-ago couldn’t be more surprised if she heard this.
This helped with feelings of loneliness, social anxiety and general awkwardness which, I’m happy to report, remained at minimum levels.

I was excited to see so many feminists when we got together for the first session of the day at the Friends Meeting House. And I was even more excited when I saw Sandi Toksvig standing up to speak. *OMG, SANDI TOKSVIG!!!*

Sandi spoke about the differences between the “Right” brain and the “Left” brain, and how this correlates to men thinking with the “right” and women thinking with the “left”. In essence, men and women think differently, and the “male” style of thinking is linear, based on a logical succession of things. Or something like that.

This made me think along the lines I had already been thinking in for the past few weeks. I had been wondering lately whether the “scientific” mode of thinking is somewhat based on the type of thinking that corresponds to the more “autistic” part of the spectrum.

And this was followed by a conversation with a woman who was slightly autistic herself. She told me how she needs to know exactly what is required, in a detailed, logical sequential order.

As the day went on and I heard from other women, a thought began to form in my head. A slightly upsetting thought.

Other women kept talking about how “inspiring” someone’s words have been. And all I kept thinking was… “where are the arguments, the ideas, the facts, the theory, the economy”.

Sandi had said that men are the “thinkers” and women are the “doers”. And the penny dropped.

OH F*CK. I think like a man.

This explains why I am getting nowhere within the feminist movement. While other women want to discuss how they feel empowered by doing this or that, or how someone has “privilege” of some kind or other, I want to discuss the very real fact that THE ECONOMY DETERMINS EVERYTHING.

And nobody listens.

While other feminists want to organise campaigns and conferences, I stop and think “yes, but what exactly do you want to talk about? What are the ideas behind it? How radical is it when we are working for a solution within patriarchal capitalism…”

I want to discuss philosophy… feminists want to talk about how we organise and “do”.

This brought me, understandably, down. It triggered the old and well known feeling of being an “outsider”, ie: “I’m too feminist for the left and to lefty for feminism”. Great.

Oh No, I'm Ugly!

Then there was the fact that I was, after all, in a room with one thousand women. Most of whom were young. And pretty. And white, and blond. And dressed in pretty, feminine dresses and wearing pretty, feminine shoes.
Oh, look at that, the girl sat next to me is about ten, she’s wearing a skirt and eating a salad.

Yes, something had to give. It wasn’t long before a small but loud monster inside me started wailing…


I tried to remind myself that this was a feminist conference and that focusing on prettiness was totally missing the point. Which was a huge mistake, because monsters don’t understand logic or reason.

So off my monster went, quietly wailing inside me “I bet it’s easier to be a feminist when you are white, blond, pretty and feminine and normal and you all probably have boyfriends and I hate you”.

Luckily I was with friends, so I had other people to interact with, which stops you from even hearing your monsters. And that helps a lot.

Oh, Man! When Me?

Last but not least was the now familiar feeling of “omg, I could totally ran a workshop, why am I not giving a workshop, I know so much, I want to give a workshop, I’m ready, why am I not giving a workshop…” Which, in its loudest, angriest form, says “I AM SO MUCH BETTER THAN *HER*, I KNOW SO MUCH MORE, WHY AM I NOT GIVING A WORKSHOP, EVERYONE SUCKS”.

I know this feeling, I am good at spotting it when it shows up. And I’m getting better at dealing with it. Soon I’ll feel confident enough to give workshops and talks. Watch out world!
Feelings within the Feminist Community

Ok, if you have made it to this point (thank you!), I want to say a few words on why the hell I’m bothering talking about my feelings and stuff.

I believe there is a lot of pain in the feminist community. This is entirely understandable! We live in a woman-hating world; we are women. We are bound to feel hurt.

But here’s the thing: we never talk about it. And the thing about pain is, when it goes unacknowledged, it finds another way through.

So at Fem 11, I noticed a lot of anger from the participants. A few of them actually shouted from the audience during the talks. And a few of the questions were dripping in anger and maybe even hate.

And I know this is not “common” because during Marxism it practically never happened. Keep in mind that Marxism brings together the same number of people, and for 5 days at that. And yet I never saw anyone shout at the chair person, or at a member of the audience who can’t stop rumbling (and believe me, there’s an awful lot of rumbling during Marxism).

And I understand anger and hate; really I do. I have just talked about my own!

Instead, it would be far more productive if we started by talking about it.

For example: “I am angry when I see a sexualised ad. It makes me really angry. I feel silenced and insulted; my personal boundaries have been violated. And I’m so pissed off.”

I know we do this, but we tend to shift the focus on to why it’s wrong. We go from “I feel angry” to “advertising makes money off titillating men, and men want to see women being objectified…”.

And that’s good too, and it has its place. But it may be worth spending a few moments on how something makes us feel as women.

Then, we have to stop and spend a few moments thinking on how something makes us feel as “us”.

For example: “I know that for me, Mary Tracy, seeing pretty feminine blond women makes me upset because it triggers my insecurities and feelings of being too ugly, too brown and unfeminine, and all in all unworthy of being loved”.

See? Coming clean with our feelings might not be easy, but it always helps.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Answer to Online Abuse - Compassion

As you have probably heard by now, this past week has seen an outpour of writing by women who are sick and tired of experiencing online abuse. I wrote a small summary for WVoN, and Cath has gathered all the links on her blog.

I have given this matter a lot of thought these past days, trying to find a way to either share my experience or ignore the issue altogether.

I had to fight a few “demons” on the way. “Outsider Syndrome” came out in full gear, and I was left feeling, once again, like the “odd feminist out”.

Because, you see… Well… there really is no other way to say this, but…

I have never experienced online abuse.

So when I read Ray’s words, saying
“the internet is a society where being (perceived as) female and writing about feminism invariably leads to responses on the theme of *nasty abuse*”

I was left feeling… well… “different”.

For I am on the internet, and have been blogging for 3-4 years now. I am universally perceived as female and I write about feminism. But…

I have never experienced online abuse.

Faced with this reality, my demons (aka “Outsider Syndrome”) began screaming with rage, and expressing irrational, incorrect, and downright silly ideas:
OMG, how can they say that all feminists experience abuse? I haven’t! What is she trying to say? That I’m not a feminist? Or perhaps it’s because, oh, I don’t know, NOBODY HAS EVER HEARD OF ME! NOBODY READS WHAT I WRITE. And so nobody even bothers sending me abuse.”

And when I say silly, I mean it. For a split second my demon went on:
You know what? They should be downright grateful they are getting abuse! At least it shows someone is reading what they write. How would they like it if nobody took any notice of them? HUH? ‘Cuz that’s what happens to me! You know what, I wish I was getting…

Yeah, my demons are silly. They are made up of an emotional response to a painful situation. It’s complicated, but you can read about how they work in Havi’s blog.

So I had to calm them down before I could think clearly about what is going on. And I have a couple of theories.

  • Is it possible that I haven’t experienced any abuse online because I’m just not that popular? After all, if nobody reads what you write, then nobody can get angry at you.

  • Or is it possible that what I write about is not all that “feminist”? Or controversial? I have been keeping a low profile on the feminist front, mainly because I’ve been bored of it. But then again, I have written a post titled “Feminism: it’s all been co-opted”. And “The meaning of sexualisation”. So yes, I do write feminist-y things.

  • This is the most interesting and exciting one of all. Is it possible that the language I’m using to write is somehow not “triggering” to those people who are most likely to spout abuse at women/feminist writers?
Oh, if only this last one was true. If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that I’ve been trying to come up with a different language to use when discussing politics for a while now. A language that is less confrontational, which seeks to explain things rather than “force” one’s argument onto someone else. Based in dialogue rather than fight.

The answer is likely to include all of the above, along with things like “sheer luck”. But it’s the last one that provides the gate to “the alternative”.

I believe that the people sending abuse to women are in a lot of pain. It has been said before, I’m not breaking any new ground here. But it’s important to remember.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been in a lot of pain myself. Perhaps it’s because the Universe decided I should be extra sensitive to it. But the fact is that I can see the suffering that many men are under. For it appears to be mostly men who are “triggered” by feminist words.

Sometimes this knowledge scares me, for I have no idea where on Earth it comes from. Compassion, I suppose. It is a difficult thing to have compassion for the oppressed and for the oppressor. But fortunately, compassion is unlimited.

So if this is true, and a different “language” helps to not trigger abuse, then my suggestion to women/feminist writers would be… compassion.
Yes, I know it’s difficult. It’s only taken me 4 years to get here, and I’ve only just started. But it seems to be the only thing that works, judging by the success of other writers.

Not to mention that Buddhists would not have it as one of their core practices if it didn’t work in some way.

Notice that I use the word “trigger” to mean “what makes abusers angry”. I do this for a reason. When we are in pain, a few words can trigger an emotional response much like the one I had when I read Ray’s post.

In my case, her reference to “all feminists getting abuse” triggered by Outsider Syndrome, along with my “Popularity Deficiency Affliction”. My emotional response (or demon) said “Omg I’m different to all of them! And I’m unpopular as Hell!”.

And it drove me so angry and sad that I was within meters of saying not-so-nice things at Ray (in my head). Things like “Oh, you should be grateful you get abuse, you popular feminist; I bet you sleep in a bed of roses and bath in Champagne”.

Because the demons responsible for this kind of response are very silly. (And in my case, also funny).

These demons only come out when we are in pain. So when you see abuse, this is in all likelihood the words of someone’s demon raging in their heads and driving them to type horrible things.

I hope this makes some sense. What I’m trying to say is this: “people say horrible things when they are in pain”. And it helps if we remind ourselves that the horrible things are an expression of someone’s pain, and have nothing to do with us.

Just like in my case, the reactions from my demons had absolutely nothing to do with Ray, who is an amazing feminist doing a fantastic job. My rational, not-in-pain self has nothing but positive things to say about her.

I give my own experience as example because I think it will help. Because it shows how the “hurling abuse at someone on the internet” gene is present in all of us. Because we are all human, we all have pain, and we can all be triggered at any point by anyone.

And that’s why the answer to abuse is likely to be compassion.

Note 1: I want to make it extra clear that I do not have a single negative feeling towards Ray. I really think she's great. And I don't hold her responsible in any way for how I felt, because that would be stoopid. I believe she said the right thing, and my own personal demons have nothing to do her.
Note 2: For more about compassion and Buddhism, Pema Chodron's cds are a good place to start.
Note 3: I want to make it absolutely clear that having compassion for online abusers does not, in any way, condone their violent behaviour. Nor does it mean we should stop talking about what we need to talk about, ie: feminism. It just means that we can both a) put a stop to escalating abuse and b) we can use less triggering language. Though as my example shows, it will be pretty impossible to eliminate all triggering language, for anything at all can provide a trigger. Just think of it as sanding off some rough edges so that our words are not unncessesarily spiky.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Housing Benefit as Business Subsidy

Cross posted at Liberal Conspiracy. YAY ME!

Last Thursday night I had the unenviable experience of watching “The Future State of Welfare Reform”, with John Humphrys.

If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favour: don’t. Watch Tory propaganda instead; the two are barely indistinguishable.

I want to use a small point made during the programme to make my own point on a topic I know too well: housing benefit, and the Tory plan to push poor people out of London.

Humphrys and his production crew managed to find one of those “Daily Male” benefit cases that tick all the boxes. An Ecuadorian family, all of them with brown skin, living in a big-ish flat in Islington, apparently unable to utter a single word of English.

The father and sole earner of the family was a cleaner. His wages wouldn’t have been enough to pay the rent for such a “palace”, so, as a person on “low income”, he is entitled to housing benefit to help him bridge the gap between what his employers feel like paying him and what he actually needs to live.

Mr Humphrys asked the man “whether he feels the state should subsidise his flat”. Or something like that.

Mr Humphrys, being, of course, well educated and doing a job that is reserved for those who are as well educated as him or more, got it wrong. Very wrong indeed.

The state isn’t subsidising Mr Housing Benefit Recipient; the state is actually subsidising Mr Cleaning Company Who Employs Mr Housing Benefit Recipient because he cannot cough up the wages that his employee would need to live on.

This point is hardly ever made by the Left, and I can’t understand why. This is an unashamed transfer of public funds into private landlord’s and private companies pocket’s.

It is up to employers to pay enough for employees to live, that is what wages are all about. If employers don’t feel generous enough, then employees need to go somewhere else. Low wages, no employees. At least that’s what would happen in a functioning “free market”. Instead, the state steps in and gives Mr Housing Benefit Recipient enough money to pay his rent.

Notice that neither him nor his family get to “enjoy” this wealth, for having a roof above their heads is non negotiable; it is a pre requisite for any worker to go and do their jobs.

The ones who do enjoy “extra” wealth are the private companies who get away with paying, essentially, below subsistence wages, safe in the comfort that the state will step in and fill in the gap so that their workers can make do.

If private companies were to pay living wages, it would make their profits sink. See? Housing benefit neatly translates into private profit.

This is the reason why the Welfare State doesn’t “work”. Benefits are supposed to be there to provide workers with a safety net; they were never meant to compensate for low wages simply because employers cannot be bothered to pay more.

But don’t expect Humphrys to tell you that. I suspect he’s too educated.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Crisis within the Crisis

I have been soaking in some self-helf-y-ness. This doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on politics, far from it. I was ranting earlier in the shower about how my generation won’t be able to say “I’ve worked hard” because, hello, there are no jobs; and how that constitutes “externalising the costs” and passing them to the workers.

So yes, politics is still there, but I need to focus on helping myself at the moment. Because I need the strength to find an income and a roof above my head and let’s face it: I can’t wait until the economy recovers, or the Tories are no longer in power, or worse, “The Revolution Cometh”. I need to sort out my life now.

You know how I’m always going on about “coming up with a different way to do politics”? Well, this is it. I mean, this is the moment when I’ll find out this “different way”. Because I need it now, and I can’t wait for it any longer.

Don’t ask me how that would work, because I have absolutely no idea.
I’m guessing it will involve this:
* A different language, one that is less confrontational and less “angry”.
* More compassion, patience, caring.
* Acknowledging the pain and troubles of the world without ending up paralyzed and unable to move. (Ahem.)
* Solving the conflict of “The personal is political” and “the political is personal”.

So I’m going to start experimenting here on the blog. Sometimes there will be politics… sometimes there will be personal stuff. And hopefully, something will change, either in me or the world or both. 

Earlier on today, a woman in a much better place than me was starting her Sunday having tea and cake.

At this very moment, I am also having tea and cake. Well… pie.

It’s important for me to remember that even though I am going through the toughest time of my life, I and she don’t live in different worlds. Even if sometimes it feels that way.

Yes, things are unbelievably hard right now. But one day I hope to enjoy a similar level of safety and comfort as she has. And it’s important to remind myself that her reality is within my reach, because it’s within the same planet.

Also, it appears to be a yoga practice. So I’m doing it, even if I don’t understand its benefit fully.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Added bonus: "The Problem with Favouring Women"

Continuing on the fine tradition of writing after getting angry at something someone said on Newsnight… I ended up writing a guest postfor The F Word.

That’s right! I have published something on The F Word. I have only been trying to do it for 5 years… YAY ME!

The point I was trying to make was that since women are socialised to be the carers in society, any attack on the jobs that provide the “care” will constitute an attack on women. And an attack on what we could even call “women’s values”. Not because women are intrinsically more caring than men, but because patriarchy has decided that they are, and socialised them accordingly. Throughout the world, “caring” is seen as something women do, more often than not, for free. So any attack on the “caring” jobs will be an attack on women’s labour and women’s values.

And that is how you explain the Tories’ cuts as “ideologically motivated”. They are driven by the assumption that caring is expendable, certain in the belief that if caring is needed, women will step up to do it, for free. Women’s work is therefore devalued and made invisible.

This is just a template to understand the cuts; it is not enough to explain them. For instance, police services are being cut as well, and these are not “caring” jobs, and neither are they more popular with women than men. So this “template” has its limitations; but I believe it’s useful anyway.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

A Magical Door to Beat the Corporation-Gods

So here I was, reading “Castle in the Air” (“An exotically magical sequel to Howl’s Moving Castle”) when I came up with this handy analogy for how corporations work. And why we can’t beat them in their own game.

Imagine you work in a country where the wages are highest, say The US. But you also live in a place where taxes are lowest, like the Cayman Islands. While at the same time you are domiciled in the country with the best welfare state, so you get lots of quality stuff for free, like Sweden. Yet, when you do your shopping, you go to the country with the weakest currency, like Vietnam.

It’s easy to see how you’d be pretty minted. You’d be earning lots of dollars (cheers, US), you’d give up none of them (cheers, Cayman Islands), you’d get education, healthcare, safety net and the like for free (cheers, Sweden), and you will be spending peanuts on life essentials (cheers, Vietnam).

Unfortunately you, and I, and the vast majority of people in this world, can’t do that. On account that we are a single human entity and cannot live in more than one place at the same time. Most of us have to live where we work, which means that wherever we are we end up spending as much as we earn just to live.

Corporations, on the other hand, are not single human entities. They are human “creations” and they are allowed to “live” in as many places as they like. Notice my use of the word “allowed”; at any given time we could stop “allowing” them to do anything we didn’t want them to.

So corporations make their products where wages are the lowest (Vietnam), then come to rich countries, where they can sell those products at tens of times the amount the cost to produce (US), while at the same time they are domiciled in the Cayman Islands and pay no taxes.

I believe this means that they delay the well known “Marxist crisis”. (Though I could be wrong).

We have created these entities which are larger than us. In a different epoch, we would have justifiable called them “Gods”. This is probably the first time in history when colossally powerful entities have been brought to life, by humans, without at least the pretence of acting for the benefit of all.

In order to compete fairly with corporations, we would need a magical castle like Howl’s. A door with access to different worlds, and different places within the same world, would mean that we would have at the very least the same rights as a corporation.

Without Howl’s door, however, we become mere pawns in the chess game played by the Gods that these corporations have become.

And the reason why I will be one of the best political writers out there is because I can hold simultaneously in my head the world of politics and the universe of fantasy.

Note: Do read the books if you haven't. And watch the movie "Howl's Moving Castle". Really, you won't regret it.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Mock Their Ignorance

Did you hear what happened today in “Mock The Week”? Me neither. But I have twitter, so I don’t have to know.

Apparently they made some sexist jokes. I know, knock me over with a feather.

At any rate, feminists on twitter called them out on their crap, and a “twitter-debate” followed. I caught this much:

Mock The Week: “we're just saying that gender does not matter to us when we book a comedian”

Ellie Cumbo: “It should matter. You are failing to cater to the experiences of over half your audience”

Mock The Week: “are we? We've millions of female viewers who keep watching”

Let’s put aside the, frankly, unjustifiable claim that “gender does not matter when we book a comedian”. So, how do comedians audition? Behind a screen and with a voice distorting machine thingy?
If gender really didn’t matter, there would be more female comedians. End of.
Speaking of which, why doesn’t Shappi Khorsandi have her own programme already?

What I want to focus is on their defence “argument” that “we have female viewers who keep watching”.

It turns out, for those who may not be aware of it (like me, 10 minutes ago), that “Mock the Week” is produced by an independent company and is then broadcasted on BBC 2.

Allow me to make a huge mental leap here and conclude that the show is, effectively, bought by the BBC. With taxpayer’s money.
Now the BBC is a “public service broadcaster”, supported by the public. Which means that it’s there to serve the public. And the public should have the ultimate say into what goes on.

So if the public is saying “oi! Sexism!”, what should the BBC do? That’s right: it should respect the will of the public and do as the public says. At least that is what should happen if we truly lived in a “democracy”.

See, I talk endlessly about the “free market” and nobody listens because it’s not a “hip and cool” topic. Unfortunately, though, it’s precisely what underpins most of our problems with mass culture.

So despite the fact that MTW is, effectively, financed by the public, Mr MTW Twitterer has the nerve of coming out and defending its sexist actions under “well, customers buy our product”.

No. It doesn’t work that way. Because the BBC is a public service paid by the public.

For a similar example, imagine what would happen if we all complained about sexism in the NHS and Mr NHS representative came out and said “well, customers keep coming”. We would probably laugh in his face. The NHS is a public service paid by the public. Which means that the public gets to decide what happens with it. NOT THE “CUSTOMER”.

*sigh* I really don’t know how to make this clearer.
Public service: paid by the taxpayer because we all agree that it’s a public good. And because we pay for it, we decide what happens with it.
Private service: paid by “customers”. What happens with it is somewhat decided by whether customers buy a certain product or not. If they don’t, the company loses.


Now there will be people who try to apply a “private service” or “free market” mentality to MTW and try and defend the show on the grounds that “female viewers keep on coming”.

Here’s the thing: the public not always knows what is best for themselves.

Does that sound paternalistic? Perhaps. Unfortunately, under the current political system, the choices are either “free market” or “estate paternalism”.

The NHS is supported by the public, and it’s the public who (ideally) has the ultimate say. However, not everyone’s opinion will carry the same weight. For example, it doesn’t matter if most members of the public smoke: the NHS’s approach is to treat smoking as a silent killer. That’s because there are doctors and specialists who know better than “the public” what is best for “the public”.

And we are all cool with that. Because, ultimately, we can’t all be doctors. And so we trust doctors to know what’s best for us.

Similarly, there is one group of people who are experts in what constitutes sexism. They may not be regular consultants for the BBC, but they should be. Can you guess who they are?

That’s right: feminists. It matters little whether most women “don’t notice” the sexism in MTW. Because if they did, they would be feminists. And they would be calling it out, like we do.

Most women may or may not be “feminists”, but that shouldn’t be here or there. When it comes to noticing sexism, feminists are experts. And if we say “oi! Sexism!”, it’s because it’s there.

And it shouldn’t be.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

New NHS Bill - Who will be responsible for the NHS?

I have just made it my goal to explain one aspect of the new NHS Bill and give it some political context. Why? Heaven knows.

This is what I’ve learnt. At the moment, and in accordance to the “2006 National Health Service Bill”, the Secretary of State for Health has the “duty to provide” health services for people.

Yet this new NHS Bill making the rounds removes this “duty” from the Secretary of State for Health. They are no longer “legally and constitutionally responsible” for providing these services.

So who will be responsible for providing these services? “Clinical commissioning groups”.

You may be wondering, “does it matter who is responsible for providing these services so long as the services are provided?”. I’m glad you asked.

It matters because it has to do with “accountability” and “responsibility”.

Under this new bill the “duty to provide” will be passed on to unaccountable “clinical commissioning groups”. What does “unaccountable” mean? It means that we don’t vote them in, and, correspondingly, we can’t vote them out. That’s the trouble with taking roles away from elected officials and passing them on to unelected groups.

And as for “responsibility”. Try to take your mind back to the boarding school you never attended, and picture an authority figure towering before you after you have done something naughty and booming “who’s responsible for this?”.

If this new bill becomes law, nobody will be ultimately responsible. The people in charge will be “clinical commissioning groups”. Not people who can be held responsible for their actions and brought to a court of law if need be.

Do you know who these groups are? Me neither.
Granted, you may not even know who the Secretary of State for Health is. But at the end of the day, Mr Andrew Lansley had to be voted in by the citizens of this country before he was given this “duty”. And we know his name. He is a real person, alive and everything. Ultimately, the ball stops at his feet.

This whole situation reminds me of this documentary I saw a few months ago. These female hotel cleaners in London were trying to get their wages raised to the London living allowance.

But they were caught in the middle of this “lack of accountability” dance. The workers would go to the hotel and say “raise our wages”, only to be sent back with the excuse that “the hotel doesn’t manage your wages, it hires an agency”. Then they would go to the agency and say “raise our wages”, only to be sent back with the excuse that “the hotel doesn’t give us enough money to raise our wages, nothing we can do, go to the hotel”. Three years on, and they keep dancing.

This is what the “lack of accountability” dance looks like. You may have found yourself caught in it more than once. We often experience it as “the failure to get anything done because nobody seems to be responsible for it”. So, for instance, you call a phone number and ask for something to be done only to be told that “we don’t deal with this issue, you have to call somewhere else”. After they gracefully give you this other number, and you call it, you find almost the exact same response from the person at the end of the line “we don’t deal with this issue, you have to call somewhere else”. At its most ludicrous, the second “somewhere else” may in fact turn out to be the first place you called, which instantly sends you into a spiral of rage, confusion and hopeless frustration.

And this is what corporatism does: it dilutes responsibility to the point that nobody can trace it any longer, and nobody is found responsible for anything. Above all “Nobody” is responsible. Which means the ball never stops at the feet of a real, breathing human being.

This also means that when things go wrong, they go very very wrong indeed. If I can direct your attention to the Grand financial crisis of 2008… Who caused the crisis? The banks, of course. But “who”? Well, “nobody”. Of course, when it came to paying for the damage, “Nobody” was nowhere to be found, and the taxpayer had to foot the bill. Also, when it came to taking responsibility for the damage, “Nobody” did not make an appearance. And nobody else did either. The Government couldn’t be held responsible because the Government has very little responsibility over banks.

For yet another example you can look at the Oil Spill in the Golf of Mexico.

Now, the Grand financial crisis of 2008 was bad enough. But can you imagine what could happen if some shady “clinical commissioning group” messed up somewhere? What would we do? We would understandably rise in anger and point our finger at the government. We would ask the Secretary of State for Health to take responsibility for what happened under their watch... And then we would see the Secretary of State shrug their shoulders and say something akin to “we don’t deal with this issue, you have to call somewhere else”.

That is what happens when you remove accountability. The ball no longer stops at a person we all know because we elected them. Instead, some group or other is in charge of things, which means that when things go wrong and we confront this amorphous, inhuman entity, the response we get comes from its PR department is something like “measures will be taken to avoid similar outcomes”.

Yet when it comes to matters of Health, “similar outcomes” could be personal tragedies.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

The Meaning of Politics

I wonder why keep going back to politics. Surely if the ultimate goal was finding “truth”, I could choose other fields to go about it?
Nicer fields, more popular, more “people friendly”… more compatible with earning a living and actually living a life. More “womanly”. Like history of art, or literature. Or even philosophy.

I have a complex about not being more “womanly”. And my obsession with politics doesn’t help. When I say to people that I want to be a writer, they inevitably ask me “what do you want to write?”. And at that moment I know that I would have a much easier life if the answer was “well, I want to write about nature and surrealism” or “postcolonial history” or “romance in Victorian England”.

But no. What I want to write is politics. And to make matters worse, my answer never takes the form of “well… *whispers demurely* politics”. Oh, no! What I say is “Politics!”, with a strong emphasis on the “P”.

It’s not that I’m not interested in other fields. I’m passionate about philosophy, and I really enjoy Fantasy. That’s all well and good, but when I go back and read something like this, clear, to the point, and aimed unapologetically towards changing the world, I get a feeling of “THIS! THIS! Say no more!”.

Other fields are… you know… interesting. And you can read about them for ages. It’s all very instructive; you do expand your mind and your consciousness and as a result you can better appreciate the world around you. This, I believe, may be the reason why we humans have this compulsion to learn, to understand: because it allows us to experience more of the world. It’s like opening new eyes and seeing something for the first time, even though you may have seen it many times before. Now that you understand how trees grow in forests, you don’t see those trees you passed everyday in the same way. They are now richer, fuller.

Yes, learning is fascinating. I could easily spend my life doing it.

But politics? Politics puts “humans” at the centre. And I mean “humans” with an “s”. Politics has a very clear goal “we live better”. I’m not speaking Tarzanian here. Politics is the language we use to say to God, the Universe, those in Power, ourselves, that “we” are going to “live better”. No apologies.

As fun and enriching as learning is, politics is not learning for learning’s sake. It wants to change things, and unlike other fields, it measures its “usefulness” by how much it cares about people, and how much it improves their lives. It is the practice of medicine on society.

It has a strong moral component: it says “this is wrong”. And it’s not interested so much in finding “absolutes”. Politics says “this is wrong because it’s bad for people, see?”. What guides us is a moral compass we are more interested in using than finding and defining.

Too often politics is about saying what we all feel and know, but no one has the guts to spell out loud. As such politics is intrinsically “honest”. It is the direct articulation of our wants and needs in a social level. It is the demand for our wants and needs to be recognised and met.

And that takes guts. It’s one thing to say “I need this”; quite another to say “we need this”. And another still to say “we need this and you better give it to us”.

As for why I keep going back to politics? I have been blessed and cursed by a childish ingenuity and hopeless outspokenness to point to the Emperor and denounce his absence of garments.

And that’s why politics has chosen me as one of its many writers.  

Note: Re: this whole post. Don't ask. It was midnight, I suddenly get the urge to start writing and this is what comes out. 'Cuz, ya'know: I'm a writer.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

"Rule Britannia"

Today I went to a festival in my city, where I was greeted by a small choir singing “Rule Britannia”. The chorus is catchy, I'll admit it. However, all I kept hearing was “Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves. Britons never ever ever shall be sane”. I am not joking, that is exactly what I could make out. I had to ask my boyfriend, who promptly filled me in on what the lyrics actually said. “Britons never ever ever shall be slaves”.

It’s interesting to note that the choir was singing this song here in Wales.
Wales; a country whose history, for what I have gathered, consists of the pillaging and plundering by England.

It is even more interesting to note that yesterday, for the first time, I found myself saying out loud that I believe the British have been colonised by the American Empire, much like the rest of the World, only with far less opposition by its citizens.

And I stand by my words. Britain is a proud country, used to rule the world after being an Empire for centuries. It seems easier for British citizens to carry on believing that they (more or less) still rule the world. They seem content with the fact that everyone else speaks English, just like them.

They don’t question, for instance, why is it that there’s a McGonnagal’s, a Burger Minging and a PlanetsBucks in every British High Street. Every effing British High Street. Would the British react differently if the forsaken fast food establishment were called, say, “Don Alonso’s”?
I saw an ad on the telly some time ago for this “New British Drama!”. Except that it seems to take place in America, everyone has an American accent, the look and feel of the images is indistinguishable from an American Drama and, wait for it, there’s an American flag waving at the end of the ad.
I could go on all day.

Let me say this loud and clear:

Britain is not America. And the ruling empire is the American Empire, not the British Empire.

Britain is not pulling the strings, America is. See Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya.

As a foreigner, I notice how every culture in the world is being superseded by the Great American Culture.

I have felt for the culture of every country I’ve lived in, its personality, charm and unique qualities trodden upon by a big, unstoppable Monster nobody is supposed to acknowledge or question.
I feel for British culture as well.

But of course, British culture is not the only victim of the American Empire.

There's also the British Welfare State. A source of national pride and a strong example of “doing it right” which American activists themselves have relied on to prove to their governments that “there is a better way to do things”. That British Welfare State is being decimated by policies and laws that have a distinct Neoliberal appearance.

Put it bluntly, the welfare state is being killed by the American economic system that rules the world.

Put it more bluntly still, in a few more years, the British economy will be indistinguishable from the American one.

This is simply a continuation of the American Empire exercising its influence over Britain. And it’s only a taste of what the rest of the world has been dealing with since the beginning of the American Empire.

Yet you don’t hear right wing groups like the EDL crying about defending “British Values” while opposing American ones.


I was just listening to this very song on ITube. The video consisted of a long series of paintings showcasing the might of the British Empire. The last one? “Side by side Britannia”, an image of Uncle Sam and Britannia herself, their arms locked, smiling at each other.

Perhaps the artist forgot to add a speech bubble: Uncle Sam whispering to Britannia "Do as I say or else".