Saturday, 30 April 2011

The Lies We Believed In – Part One: “Peaceful Protest Was Allowed”

Remember when “we”, that is, us dissidents from the left and protesters in general, were discussing the most effective way to protest against the rise in tuition fees or cuts to public spending? Remember how everyone was polarized between “peaceful demonstration, people, PEACEFUL!!!” and “peaceful demonstration got us nowhere with the Iraq War, we have to take some action!”? I even wrote about this “division”, heavily encouraged by the media.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a meeting with a feminist group and a guy (like, male) argued with me that “we (that is, Britons) do not need to resort to violence like the Egyptians because we are more advanced”. If I had been Egyptian, he would have got a good telling off. The whole “more advanced than though” has been “the” number one argument used by empires (*cof* Britain *cof*) to bulldozer through the whole planet. But I digress.

So, this guy claimed that “we don’t need violence” to change things. And during the student protests last year and last March, the whole “peaceful yes, violent no” dealio was brought up again.

Here’s the thing: we were told, repeatedly, like, over and over again that “peaceful protesting was ok”, that the “police” was “cool” with “peaceful”. That “peaceful” was allowed. The media went to great lengths to show us who the “peaceful” were and who the “naughty” ones were, so that we could cheer for the first and boo on the latter.

Peaceful was ok. It was allowed. It was “good”. It was “legal”.

That was then. This is now.

Not only are people being arrested for “protesting peacefully” but they are being arrested “in case they happen to consider protesting peacefully”. Here's a video showing the arrest of Charlie Veitch for "there being reasonable grounds to suspect that (he) had conspired with others to cause public nuisance* in relation to the Royal Wedding". Oh, and "in suspicion of aggravated tresspass for Fortman & Mason". 

You can't arrest somebody because you suspect they may be thinking of expressing their views in a way that is not in "nice". The right to freedom of expression doesn't come with a small print that says "this right shall not apply when there's a royal wedding going on and you happen to disagree with it and risk ruining the atmosphere". But when the people in charge of enforcing the “law” act “illegally” there is no easy way to stop them.

This is a horrific way of reminding us what the “law” is and what it isn’t. It is not some vague “code of conduct” designed to keep us all “getting along”. It is designed to protect one group, the rich and powerful, from the consequences that their actions have on another group, mainly “the people”. It is not “neutral”. It is not something we “all” have to live by, irrespective of who we are. There’s “us” and there’s “them”. And “they” can break and make the law, whereas we have to obey not only the “law” but whatever argument they use to keep us doing what they want. If the argument is in the “law”, good. If it’s something the police officers have to come up on the spot, like “pre-emptive arrest”, even if it is against the bloody law, then that’s ok too. Because it still serves its purpose: to keep the people from causing "trouble".

We need to remember who’s got the guns and who doesn’t. The reason why people in this country forget is because the guns are usually aimed at other people in other countries. They forget because they have deluded themselves that their “rules” are the “right and proper ones” because, well, that’s the prerogative of Empires.

This country is not more advanced. Rather, its population is much more submissive. 

* Public nuisance. Bloody public nuisance. How do you call a million people descending in London, plus security, plus journalists, plus goodness knows what else, all in the name of two kids getting wed? Bollox to this argument! If I dared to charge against Anna Sommers for causing "public nuisance" with their window pr0n, I would have been laughed at! It turns out that "public nuisance" only counts when "they" say so. Much like censorship, actually. 

Friday, 29 April 2011

The Royal Wedding PR Angles

Have you heard of this Royal Wedding thing that took place today? I sincerely hope you did, and cheered according to expectations.

When those dissidents from a, shall we say, “leftists” persuasion dared to question any aspect of this event, they were greeted with cries of “Geez, Louise, can’t you just calm down and enjoy it?”. So, it’s not just directed at feminists, then. Goes to show how the accusation of “killjoy” is directed at anyone who dares to question anything. Good to know.

But it wasn’t me killing the joy, nor any other dissident, of any persuasion. You know what I really, really hated about this wedding? It wasn’t the royals themselves. Pompous, privileged and utterly clueless, just as they have always been. It wasn’t even “monarchy” itself that had me grinding my teeth. No.

It was those bloody journalists with no minds of their own, gleefully towing the “PR angle” line. Why think for yourself when you can just repeat the accepted “speech template”?

This is what journalists kept going on about, just to hammer down the point in case somebody has escaped the mind programming.

* Princess!!! You too can be a princess!!! It’s a FAIRY TALE COME TRUE!!! DISNEY!!! Every little girl wants to be a princess!!! Every woman wants to marry a prince!!! *squeal!!!*

Now, THAT is seriously pathetic. It is not “journalism” by any stretch of the definition. It is not even “commentary”. It’s propaganda, of the pettiest, lowest kind. Watching grown up men and women presenting an event like this as a “fairy tale!!!”, exclamation marks and glittery dust included, is terribly disheartening. It’s infantilising, it’s meaningless, and it has very loud rings of another “fairy tale” that took place nearly 30 years ago and ended quite tragically. Are these people NOT PAYING ATTENTION??? Bet they all have worthy Oxbridge degrees to their names.

* She’s incredibly normal! He’s incredibly normal! She’s middle class!!! And a businesswoman! They are both just like normal people!!! They are JUST LIKE US!!!

Well, that is downright insulting. You cannot have “royalty” and “fairy tales” coupled with “normalcy”. Either they are just like us or they are not. And no, actually, they are not like us.

This kind of “PR angle” comes straight from the US. It is exactly how American presidential candidates are presented. It is not a British thing to see those above (like, well above) as “just like them”. This country doesn’t have a history of holding “meritocratic values”. It has a history of accepting that those on the top are more worthy than the “peasants”, and no amount of “American Inspired PR” is going to change that.  

And honestly, people, all this “American Style Squealing” is just degrading. It reminds us who is in charge and who sets the “stories” through which people see reality. And no, it’s not “Britain”.

* The crowds are calmed and quiet. CALM AND QUIET!!! VERY CALM AND VERY QUIET!!! (unlike other crowds we have seen lately and which should go unmentioned)

Sad, sad attempt at cooling down the anxieties of the elites who got a taste of what “crowds” of “pleasants” can do when they are pissed off. Unlike the naughty protesters, these crowds were calm and quiet. Carry on.

It is important to notice here that the organizers of this event made sure that the only voices from the people heard today were those of the “CALM AND QUIET” tone. Dissidents have been “pre-emptively arrested”. FB accounts have been closed. Squats raided. For more on this, check Polly's take at Cath's blog.

Because suspending people’s basic human rights for a few hours is well worth it to have a CALM AND QUIET celebration.

As for the celebration? Nothing like the Royal Wedding between the Prince of Holland and an Argentinean peasant. Now, that was a beautiful ceremony. They even surprised the bride by playing a famous “tango” (that’s Argentinean music). She was so moved, she had to wipe tears of her eyes throughout the ceremony. And at one point the Queen of Holland blew a kiss to the couple. 

And this one? Silly dresses, silly hats, not a single flower in the abbey and not a word or a photo about all the members of the other royal families in Europe. 
The Royal Wedding wasn't only objectionable from a "socialist" perspective. It was mediocre according to the standards of "Royal Weddings" that have been set by royal families and journalists who take their jobs a bit more seriously. And put some flowers along the aisle, for Chrissake!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Where Have All The Radicals Gone?

Radio podcast from "The F Word", courtesy of the Feminist Media Collective.

WARNING: Andrea Dworkin's talk is extremely triggering. You can always skip that part. 

I'll always be a radical feminist. It's how my political awareness begun, and it's the most useful template I have found to analyze the world in a radical and structural way. You can come to understand why everything is the way it is just by sticking to radical feminist theory. We need to bring it back. Watered down "empowerment" "choice" individualistic, liberal politics won't get us anywhere.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

My Experience with Meditation: From Needing To Starting

I had been trying to meditate for quite some time. I’ve long suspected that I really needed it.

Let me see… it must have been some time after I graduated, and after I had started questioning “The Myth of Science”. Somewhere along the way, starting from political awareness and arriving to spiritual awareness, I must have come across the idea of meditation. It must have had something to do with the whole “clear your mind” thing.

So yes, I have known for quite some time that I needed it badly. After discussing with a friend how my attempts at meditating have resulted in utter failure, he reassured me that that was the surest sign that I needed it. But all of this is boring, let’s get to the part when I talk about meditation.

So, one day, I sat down on the bed and tried to clear my mind. It didn’t work. I kept falling from drowsiness. So I tried again, and the same thing happened. Drowsiness; desire to go to sleep. I looked up sleepiness during meditation, and I learned that it was normal, but no mention on how to prevent it.

Time went by and I accidentally stumbled unto Havi’s blog. Havi is a yoga teacher, and she uses a technique called “Shiva Nata”. After reading over and over how good this practise was for bringing “epiphanies”, I decided to give yoga a try. I found some videos.

One was mental. I tried it with my boyfriend, but neither of us could bend so much or stand so still. The other was more normal, more “beginner friendly”. And it had a section on meditation.

The presenter gave this bit of advice, which made all the difference: Sit straight. The spine must be straight, in order for you to channel something or other and root it on the ground. Anyway, he said not to slump and sit straight. So I did.

He also explained how you should breath during meditation: deeply and slowly. After a while, he said that you breathing should, naturally and without any action on your part, become quieter. And mine did, kinda.

It must have been in the middle of this guided meditation when I felt something. Nothing great, nothing life-changing. In fact, I had forgotten about it until just now. The presenter was asking us to imagine the chakras, and when he got to the one in the head, I felt something. Good.

I then went on to keep up with his yoga positions, and eventually gave it up in favour of doing just meditation. I suspect I should be doing both, really, and I'm sure I'll return to yoga when things calm down. But now, I'm in the middle of a process, and I have no idea where it's taking me. 

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Review of “Stop Pimping Our Kids”

Penises!!! (because men, like, have them; note: they look just as silly on tv as they do in real life). Sex, sexity, sex. Endless repetition of scenes showing a bunch of mums walking defiantly into Primark wearing menacing t-shirts only to be kicked out by security guys who have learned their lesson from the UKUncut protests. Diamante on the bum. Inappropriate clothing! Padded bras for 7 year olds. They refused to be interviewed. Communication! Sex is sex is sex. Just stop buying from them!

Sorry, that was too close a depiction of what the programme consisted of. 
I’m going to focus on the two things that caught my attention about the program.
The first was the “tactic” employed by the producers of walking straight into Primark and demanding they are listened to, which resulted in the whole crew being pushed back out. This caught my attention because it reminded me too much of the tactics employed by UK Uncut. They have been doing pretty much the same thing and getting the same response. Now, do we spot a problem here? Why yes, of course. UK Uncut is a political campaign run by activists. Channel 4 is bloody channel 4. With millions of viewers and god-knows-how-much money at their disposal, couldn’t they think of anything more useful to do? Marching into a store is impressive, but not very effective. What would UK Uncut do if it had Channel 4’s platform and resources at their disposal? Probably not leaving it at “marching into stores”.

The other thing that made me think was the lack of anything that made anyone think; I could easily write a book on the subject! Here’s what bothers me: changing the sexualisation of kids should be the easiest thing to do on the menu. It is worrying that we can’t even achieve that.

The reason why crap is being sold to kids is because of the lack of regulation of companies’ behaviour. Without going into a full lecture on “regulation and the need for it”, I want to emphasize this: throughout history, societies have tried to protect children from the worst consequences of allowing companies to do as they please. The “watershed” for tv is an example, the “ratings” on movies, another. The reason: children do not know what’s best for them. Without the “knowing” they cannot exercise “free choice” and without “free choice” there is not “free market”. So we can’t allow companies to sell anything they want to children, because they will be selling them 100% sugar crunch with flavoured sugar on top. There are regulations, and they are there for a reason. This is why it is, or it should be, relatively easy to walk to parliament and demand that a law is passed to ban companies from manufacturing sexualised products to minors. This is effective.
And yet, it seems nobody is even considering the option. The reason is clear to me: for a few decades now, “de-regulation” has been rampant on every industry imaginable, from food manufacturing, to pharmaceuticals, to banks. Nobody wants to regulate because the propaganda has brainwashed everyone to believe that “letting companies sell and letting people choose not to buy” is infinitely better than “not letting companies sell bad things”. I repeat the word again: propaganda. There is no evidence that this works, and indeed, there’s plenty of evidence that it doesn’t. And it is a desperate sign of our times that we can’t even stop companies from selling things that are bad for kids. Instead we are letting “kids choose not to buy” or rather, we are letting their parents choose.

People focus on “letting the parents choose” because companies know that this approach doesn’t stop them doing what they want. Parents have limited freedom over what to buy for their kids when companies have unlimited freedom to brainwash them. Nobody is suggesting sexualised material is banned outright because that is the only thing that ultimately works.  

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

A Somewhat Important Announcement

[Cennant Mawr, the Glen, Llanberis, Wales] (LOC)
That path leads to my cottage in the woods

I apologize if the content of this blog has been a bit, shall we say, on the “dense” and “boring” side. I’m experimenting with writing in different ways so that a) I get to write something, b) people read what I write and c) they understand what the Hell I’m talking about. 

Here’s what I’m trying to do with this blog. And yes, I realize I have so far done a pretty poor job at it. I’m working on it!
What I want is to help all activists, dissidents and politically minded people including myself live better, happier lives and do a better work in changing the world. That’s it, really, in a nutshell. And from what I can see, nobody is doing this, and it’s in desperate need of being done.
I’m not sure how this process takes place, actually, but it seems to be that you must give others what you want for yourself. They say that the best way to learn is to teach, which makes precisely zero sense. Teachers teach what they know, writers write what they want to read, musicians compose the music they like to hear, etc. For some reason, it works. And that’s what matters.

Me, I have been involved in politics for about *stops to count* almost five years now. There are many things I know and many more I don’t. But what I do have, and what I want to get more of so that I can pass it on, is this “sovereignty”, this feeling of confidence in your beliefs, your ideas, your values; your politics. And once you reach this point, you don’t struggle any more, with yourself or with other people. You don’t “care” what anyone else thinks, but in a good way. It doesn’t mean being stubborn and pigheaded. It’s about setting boundaries and reclaiming your space. Reclaiming your right to think that you are right.
I’m not actually there yet myself, but I know I will arrive to that place eventually. And believe me when I tell you that this is the best place to be when you want to have your radical ideas in peace. It’s about having radical politics and living with them. And being happy. Yes, saying to the world “I want you to change and get better and I want to be happy while we work together to make this happen”.

So please bear with me. My dream is big, my task ahead humongous, my knowledge limited and my talent scarce. 

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Refusing To Engage With The Right's Accusation of "Narrow-mindedness"

Yesterday Ms Penny published a long and most inspiring list of books and essays that would interest radical thinkers. I was on it like a shot, and I’ve already explored some of the essays available online. Like many commenters I dutifully “added” to the list those whom I thought would interest other people. Then I read what the other commenters said and noticed these nincompoops claiming that “we” (presumably Ms Penny and all those on the Left) should keep our minds open and “read those people whom we disagree with” because we are bound to learn more from them. I exclaimed, inside my head, a very loud, distinctive “poppycock!”.

First things first. The man being recommended as worthy of being read was Milton Friedman. Now, this is not some obscure author of books, promoter of a particular idea that was his and his only, intermeshed in an ocean of ideas as potentially valid as his. This was a man who was directly involved in international economic policy. This is a man who singlehandedly influenced the fate of the global economy, and all the economies in it. If there is a man out there whose “ideas” came to be implemented in the real world, next in line to Machiavelli, was this Friedman chap.
Why does this matter? Simple: I don’t need to read his words in order to know what he thought; I just have to look at the world around me. Because his words came to alter the aspect of the world, by the very act of living in the world I have been made aware of what he had to say already. We can say that we are exposed to his “politics” by osmosis, and we receive them whether we like them or not. This is important: we have no choice but to be exposed to the rubbish thinking of the Right.
Now compare that to Marx, if we can make such a comparison without feeling nauseous. The only way to know what Marx thought is to go and *gasp!* read his words. Because Marx ideas haven’t been implemented in the real world, at least not in this country, there is no way to know by “existing”. The proof, if anyone needed it, is in the pudding: go to the street and mention how people’s “free” choices affect what is being sold and everyone will nod approvingly. Mention instead “historic materialism”, “means of production”, “rate of exploitation” or “commodity fetishism” and people will be looking at you as if you came from planet “Discourse”. Indeed, the very fact that understanding Marx is so difficult, while reading Friedman isn’t, is enough proof that one is completely unknown while the other is practically second nature.

We may not have even bothered with this explanation of why we should not engage as much with authors we “agree” or “disagree” with. And the reason lies in turn in the very reason why the Right challenges us to do so: because it is a bullying trick. This is why it is important to understand it. So we can keep an eye on it when it shows up and ignore it with a fiery passion.
Let’s start slowly, since reaching the conclusion that some people are bullies is not nice. The argument of this commenter is that in order to be “well read” and “unbiased”, in short, in order to be absolutely sure that we are right we must listen to the people we disagree with. (You may have spotted the reason why this innocent-looking “advice” is doomed to failure, since the people telling us to “look at the Right before you can think of yourself as being right” are the very people on the Right who will never think of us as being “right”, whether we have read their ideas or not. In short, they will accuse us of being “narrow minded” or “biased” or whatever bollox they want, the ultimate fact is that they think we are wrong and want us to shut up.)
First, we can ask, “who are the people who never, not once, have the decency of listening to the people they disagree with?”. And the answer, in this discussion, is obvious: those on the Right. Rightwingers never, ever, listen to those people they disagree with. I am yet to hear of someone who read Marx and found it to be flawed in favour or pure “free market” doctrine. Let’s be clear here: they are accusing us of being “narrow minded” for not reading their stuff, but they themselves never read our stuff. They are the first ones to not do what they preach. Why do they hold us to different standards? This leads us to the reason why this is a bullying trick and why it is so effective.
It is effective because people on the Left are goody-two-shoes, who generally believe (blindingly, I might add) in “science”, in “being objective and unbiased”, in “facts and evidence”, in “logic”, and in a general “free market” approach to ideas of “let’s let the best political idea win”. The Right on the other hand doesn’t believe in any of that. It believes in one thing and one thing only: that it is right because it wants to. End of story. If you accuse a person on the Right of not listening to the alternative arguments, of not paying attention to “facts”, of forgetting “logic” in the blender with the fair-trade bananas*, that person will shrug, or shout at your face, but they will not give two damns. Let me repeat for clarity: people on the Right don’t care about objectivity, evidence, or logic. That’s it. And it’s very easy to prove. In the words of Michael Parenti, I can prove to you that capitalism doesn’t work in one line: most of the world is capitalist and most of the world is poor. Anyone who is so deluded as to believe that “capitalism is working” is deluded enough to not consider the state of the world around them as proof enough of the fallacy of that statement. What more proof can we give them to change their minds when the world they live in hasn’t done so? I’m stressing this to show the difference between the discourse of the Left and the Right, and why we can’t either listen to their bullying nor use it against them. If they say “we are being biased, and narrow-minded and we are “not considering other people’s views”, there is no point in arguing back with evidence or logic. There is no point, in short, with engaging with that accusation. By the same token we can’t say to the Right that they are being biased and narrow-minded because they won’t care. If the Right thought that they could convince the world of its rightness by the sheer weight of their arguments, they wouldn’t spend billions on weapons.
This accusation of “narrow-mindedness” amounts to bullying because it is designed to keep us self-doubting and self-censoring, ashamed of not reaching the very standards we believe in. It is effective because we have set those standards ourselves, we believe in them. And we want to be right, we want to think that our arguments are well founded. This “bullying” is effective because it uses our “scientific” standards and hits us where it hurts: our insecurities. By its very nature, the Left seeks to distance itself from the real narrow-mindedness of the Right. That is why we pay close attention to any signs of “irrationality”, or unfounded claims. There’s also the fact that the Left is not ruling the world, which always keeps us second-guessing ourselves. All of this plays into our insecurity and distracts us from our real task at hand.
And our task is to change the world before is too late. Our task is not to argue asininely yet again on why capitalism doesn’t work with someone on the internet who is “wrong” and doesn’t get it. There is such a thing as constructive debate, but that ain’t it. This kind of “debate” leads us nowhere and it drains our energy. We are not here to convince those who don’t want to be convinced.
It is important to remember that we are the ones who set the standards of objectivity and evidence for our movement. We should be the ones questioning each other with such standards, not allowing those on the Right to use them against us. 

* Look, when you read a line as funny as that you cannot help but adding it to anything you write. Hat tip to Kate for sharing her creative humour with the world!

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Thinking On The Right

There is an aspect of the current “cuts” dealio that people have not considered. By people I mean those opposing the cuts, not those pushing for them. In essence, it’s this: they are getting rid of those jobs that “lefties” could do with a clear conscience. Or this: “they are eliminating those jobs for which having “leftists” ideas wasn’t an obstacle". Because of this: “what they want is for everyone to have “Right” values, because those are the only kind you can have while doing your job”. In other words:
“Most jobs require people to display “Rightist” values, and those jobs which people with “Leftist” values could do are being eliminated. The net result will be that if you want a job, you will have to think like the “Right”".
This isn’t so much a plan of their actions, but a template to understand the cuts from a different angle. If you are a teacher, you can be a “Lefty” and think of your job as socially necessary, and the result from your job as contributing to the social good. Similarly if you are a nurse or a librarian. Even a lecturer, to some extent. However, if you are working for a private corporation, you will have to adopt “Rightist” values in order to do your job. 
This is exactly what those on the "Right" want. Talk about the cuts being "politically motivated". 
Personal Example. I was working in a coffee shop, from one of the “big corporations”. I probably won’t need to say that I was the only one with Leftist politics there. Truth be told, I’m usually the person most to the Left in miles and miles around. But it was astonishing the degree to which everyone else managed to justify their work as a “good thing”, and the actions taken by the company as right and proper. There as this one girl, the one closest to the Left from everyone else. She was young, just like most of the people working there. Whenever I questioned the actions of the company, or those of the manager, she would reply “if you had a business, you would do the same thing”. The clue is in the question. I don’t have a business, and I don’t do the same thing.
Even though this girl was slightly to the Left, when it came to our workplace, she adopted “pro-business” values. And the Left cannot be Left if it embodies pro-business values.