Brexit Litigation in the Court, and Brexit Litigation in the Court of Public Opinion

Every person has the capacity to act intelligently, to consider calmly and to do what is right, so long as they are equipped with the proper tools. The problem is that instead of comprehensive and investigatory news built on facts and a neutral eye, they have been fed shocking and angry tabloid headlines that pander to their basic animalistic predilections for protectionism and tribalism. Instead of being immersed in a culture of intellectualism and willingness to accept progressive change that might benefit them, despite it being alien and overwhelming, they are swaddled by the Kardashians and information within traditional parameters of what seems logical based on outdated notions that were only relevant to a world that has since changed. Instead of having had fostered for them a culture of involvement in civic duty and public discourse, and having responsibility for their society, they are removed and taught only to focus on what they can materially gain. They are bred on a culture of lethargy and apathy toward matters of Government based on ideas that nothing changes and the institutions of state do not represent them, that they are something distinct from the people themselves, when in reality, removing this perception would remove this problem, since the people would realise they can be as involved as they like and they do form an important part of their society.

So, when suddenly a matter of extreme constitutional importance, a matter that affects the future of global geo-political relations, that affects humanity’s culture and the next steps that we take, is thrust upon them, they react as only they could be expected to, having been bottle fed on nonsense and lies and having had their knee-jerk, archaic instincts pandered to. The people have been bred in a culture that wilfully allows them to retreat to comfort and ignorance.

When David Cameron announced that the people would have a direct say over Britain’s membership of the EU, he was not affected by an unusual desire to empower the British people. He was affected by panic over losing power with the rise of UKIP and right wing populism generally. He was affected by fear of the oncoming shift in the political status-quo that he could see on the horizon. He was scared that neoliberalism and globalisation would soon be undermined by the will of the people. And instead of combatting populism, which is an erroneous, knee-jerk and uninformed solution to undeniable problems surrounding immigration specifically, and globalisation generally, as well as the lack of democracy in global institutions, he pandered to it. He chose the tactic of the East German Soviet government, to attempt to appease the people with the illusion of control, hoping that they would then shut up and sit down. But, as in East Germany, it only meant that they grasped the opportunity and rode the wave until it crashed down around their superiors. Because deep down the people know that they want control over their destinies. They simply have not been equipped with the right tools to exercise it with the requisite foresight and understanding.

The people voted to leave, and they expected to leave. They did not expect that their decision would be reviewed by the High Court in the first instance, and now the Supreme Court on appeal. And so we find the first example of the disparity between the law, and the law as reported by the media and by manipulative campaigns. The referendum took place pursuant to the European Union Referendum Act 2015, which the High Court reiterated does not confer a statutory power (as does no other piece of legislation) to give notice of withdrawal from the EU under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union. This is not what the people thought. The literature disseminated by the Government of the day told them that their say was final. The decision was reported by the media as one that would be final.

The media, especially the British tabloids, instead of telling the people the true state of the law and the true position of the referendum – never mind giving them a true account of the specificities and complexities of either side of the argument – pandered to their flag-boners and to illusive, chimerical notions of abstract control and tribalism, which in any real sense no longer exist. In doing so, once the decision of the High Court had been handed down, the Daily Mail, the Express and the Sun et al. had set the tone to be able wantonly and without consequence or shame to brand the judges as traitors to their country and usurpers of democracy. The irony is that in actual fact the journalists, owners and editors of these papers are the true traitors to their country and to their countrymen, and their publications actively and maliciously undermine the proper exercise of democracy.

The judges in the High Court, far from deciding on the merits or demerits of Brexit, were deciding on the proper, lawful process according to the British constitution by which it should be brought about. That is, they were deciding whether the Government could ‘trigger’ Article 50 unilaterally using the Queen’s prerogative or whether Parliament is required to vote on the matter. The second irony, then, is that in condemning the judges for deciding that Parliament needs to vote, the papers were impliedly supporting the use of a monarch’s undemocratic executive power and rejecting parliamentary sovereignty, which is the very thing that was being voted for in voting to leave the EU.

The Brexit litigation was reported as if the judges were deciding on Brexit. The legal issues were not communicated properly to the people. You have been lied to from the very start of this referendum by the institutions who owe you a duty to equip you with ample and correct informational tools to be able to form a constructive and responsible part of this society.

The tabloids’ treatment of the Brexit litigation goes far beyond issues of shoddy journalism. It strikes at the very heart of our political and legal structures. The law is given legitimacy through consent. We all impliedly, by not revolting, consent to the legal structures in place and the laws that mediate our social relations. This is important because without consent a legal and political system is not legitimate and it then has one of two recourses. One, it breaks up at the behest of the people and a new system is formed. Two, and far more likely, those responsible for its continuation and who benefit from that continuation use coercion to keep it in place. Behind every law and every institution of state is the inference of force. That is what gives a Government made up of thousands of people power over millions of people. And this is fine, since for the most part we all impliedly agree that the legal system, the constitution and the political framework work in our favour and that their use of force will be legitimate because it will only be used in the event of someone or something breaching the social contract, and that it will be used for the good of the majority.

Therefore, when we get to a state of affairs in which an unrestrained media can demonise members of the most evolved judiciary on the planet and undermine their very position as arbiters of the law and checks on Government power by deliberately mis-communicating that law and said judiciary’s actions, we risk a breakdown in the social contract and the consent by which we are all governed.

Rest assured, the judiciary is exercising its constitutional duty. It is deliberating on the law and on the law alone. It is not deciding whether Brexit should happen. At the very worst it is deciding whether Parliament should decide whether Brexit should happen. And Parliament is made up of MPs who are your representatives, who you elected. Do not take my word for it though, read the summary of the case in the High Court. Before you take a position on the basis of the propagation of massive media corporations, think to yourself firstly, why are they shouting so loudly? It is always the case that those who shout loudest are either the weakest or the most scared. The media is both, because the people are the ones with ultimate power; all you have to do is equip yourself.

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You Can’t be Trusted with Democracy

Pure, direct democracy is an unfeasible and unattainable aim.

 

The people have proved they simply cannot be trusted with it.

 

Like a big fat baby gurgling lumpy phlegm they throw the right across the room like a rattle in a fit of tantrum, not realising that the vote actually means something, that the rattle is made of titanium and can crack the wall.

 

Of course, the people could be trusted with direct democracy if they were properly informed. Perhaps they could make educated and tempered decisions en masse; perhaps national conversations would be possible without resorting to slogans and clumsy statistics recited into oblivion until the breath that gives utterance to them forms a giant swirling vortex and all forms of intelligence and knowledge are sucked down into it and we forget what thinking even is. Perhaps we could have a population all on the same page as to the best path for humanity to take.

 

But who has the time to get properly informed, to gain a comprehensive and explorative understanding of any given issue, let alone all of them? You do not have the time. And nor should you be expected to make the time. The majority of us were not put on this earth to contemplate philosophical, ideological or pragmatic ramifications of policy. We elect representatives because they do have the time; it is literally their job to be properly informed, to cut behind the media’s bullshit, behind misinformation and misunderstanding; to gain a broad and overarching view.

 

People want to enjoy their lives. They want to finish work and be allowed to zone out, to relish in their leisure time. They do not and, if the system was well, would not, be obligated to be as informed on matters of complex policy as politicians are so as to become de facto captains of our collective ship.

 

Of course, it could be that we enact ample media regulation, for instance, or campaign regulation, so that the people are well enough informed (because those informing them are prohibited under pain of penalty from misinforming them) so that they are theoretically capable of making the decisions required of them in a pure democracy – their personal prejudices notwithstanding (or made irrelevant through enlightenment).

 

The print media in the UK, for instance, is – you may be surprised to know (or not, having seen the bottom feeding content of the tabloids) – entirely self-regulating. It has established Independent Press Standards Commission of its own volition. The only sanction if a consumer complaint is deemed valid? That the paper publish the PCC’s finding, and/or a fine.

 

But of course, regulation of the media is a slippery slope. Even when proposals seem wholly for good, one must always question the loopholes they may give rise to for the regulators and the regulators’ influencers, and the motivations of those drawing up the laws. Perhaps statutory regulation would give rise to a maelstrom of complications.

 

So then, media regulation is without doubt a dire necessity. The abhorrent, despicable, retrograde, embarrassing, childish, stupid front-page reactions to the High Court Brexit litigation by the Daily Mail et al shows this. And so too is campaign regulation a necessity. The abomination of the £350 million lie, and how it went unchallenged until recently when a complaint was made to the Crown Prosecution Service under the Representation of the People Act 1983 (now it is too late) proves this. Although both are necessary, neither can be as comprehensive as each of us in our personal inclinations would perhaps wish them to be. Since thereafter bias has the potential to follow.

 

One may say the internet means that a universe of information has been opened up to us. We can draw one story from Breitbart, another from the Guardian, and yet another from Buzzfeed and we can be ensured that we are chewing on all sides of the fat. But unfortunately that just does not happen. The people cannot be trusted. They plop themselves in their echo chambers and scream and delight in hearing their intonations crash back to them a million times louder.

 

We must entrust policy and major decisions to representatives. But this comes with the crucial caveat that those representatives be accountable more so than they are now. To us. As it is meant to be. We decide the ideology we want our species to represent and we ensure that the policies of our governments are dictated within the boundaries of said ideology through the use and utilisation of proper laws, checks, balances and regulation.

 

Our representatives cannot, as a prerequisite, be allowed to be influenced by self-interested lobbyists or bloated financial or corporate interests.

 

MPs expenses, lobbying transparency and limitation, backroom trade deals like TTIP, MPs’ employment before and after Parliament, and campaign funding are all particular flashpoints of the battle over this dearth of regulation. But there are many others, all in need of tightening and reforming as part of a bolstering of the girders of our great political and legal system.

 

A representative democracy – as would a pure democracy – also necessitates fostering a culture of intellectualism. It means bridging the gap between the academy and the builder, between scholars and scaffolders; thinks tanks and warehouse workers. I call bullshit on the claim that the British people are tired of experts. What the British people are tired of is condescension. What people everywhere are tired of is condescension. And if 2016 has taught us anything, it is that condescension breeds populism, which rises like the perennial serpent to bite us all in the ass.

 

So no, the people cannot be trusted with pure, direct democracy.

 

But this is not to despair. This is not to render you an impotent observer watching in conscious paralysis as your betters carve up your beating cadaver. For a representative democracy comes with a crucial benefit. It means that you may holler and scream in favour of the cause you promote through whatever medium you choose in the hope people flock to you and the government hears, and when they do, you are absolved of the responsibility of making it work. It is up to them. They are your representatives; they must represent your interests.

 

So, if you reject being detached from democracy like this, then there are routes in to the fray for those so inclined. You need not run for Parliament.

 

You could write, for instance. Write and disseminate your views.

 

That is how policy should and usually is made. First the people stir; then the intellectuals write about the opinions and examine them, validate them if they are deserved of validation; then the active sea change occurs within the ranks of the population and opinion shifts and then, finally, the politicians enact the people’s will if it is sensible and has passed through the various filters and, fundamentally, they are pressured enough.

 

Take gay marriage for instance. The LGBTQ community owes no debt of gratitude to Cameron’s government for legalising it. Nor are any of the companies now cynically promoting LGBTQ rights as if they did all along deserved of congratulation. All they did was rubberstamp something the people had already decided amongst themselves. That is one of the government’s jobs. They are the final filter, the final legitimating force – legitimate themselves only because we trust that they will act as such.

 

Life is about balance. Populism belies that balance. Populism is a reaction to a detached political class and to gross inequality. But, though understandable – we are human after all – it is the wrong reaction. What is required is considered, informed, unified pressure on our representatives. This itself is dependent on a reformed system, which we can only achieve through revolution. A system built so that checks and balances are better placed. We cannot rid ourselves of representatives; they are what ensure our civilization.

 

Representative democracy also comes with a duty, because no checks and no balances are without corners around which psychopathic politicians can peer to find the boundless freedom of corruption beyond. This duty is eternal vigilance. It was said that every generation must have its revolution. This is the price we pay.

 

The necessity for representative democracy, as oppose to populism or direct rule by the many, is that if done properly, it makes ignorant reactionism impossible. Because policy is dictated by ideology arrived at by the process above mentioned, rather than ideology being an unfortunate concomitant of policies arrived at as knee jerk reactions by the majority, it means that a solid foundation is built from which to construct policy and sensible, informed decisions in response to contemporary issues.

 

Plato, after all, said that “Dictatorship naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery out of the most extreme liberty”. Looking at the blonde-haired demagogue who got so popular so recently, and the state of discourse on our Emerald Isle after a vote, essentially, for isolationism, I would be inclined to agree with him.

 

Balance must be restored through understanding and being informed. Not despite being human, but exactly because we are human – the most intelligent and adaptable species we know of.

 

I urge you to get involved in one aspect or another, whether activism or contribution to the intellectual ether. And if you do not want to, then that is exactly why you cannot be trusted with direct democracy, and that is fine.

 

The Corporation Makes Babes of Us All

A corporation is a business entity with a separate legal personality – it is a person in the eyes of the law. Fundamentally it is a mechanism through which to do business more efficiently and on a bigger scale. A corporation is effectively an individual; it can enter into contracts, sue and be sued, and cause massive ecological disasters, mistreat workers to the point that they commit suicide, or cook their books so that thousands lose their jobs… and get away with it – you know, just like me and you.

 

The East India Company, established in 1600, made famous by that film about a roller coaster with that dude who chased Johnny Depp and everyone was wearing wigs, is probably the earliest and most famous example of a vast, transnational corporation. The difference between corporations like the East India Company, and corporations since the late 18th century, is that originally they were established by Royal Charter or legislation. They were intrinsically linked to the Government and established namely to bring revenue home to the Crown.

 

Since the late 18th century, though, corporations have effectively created themselves. They simply register. They are completely private entities with no links to Government (wink wink). They are born to make profit for private individuals – pure business machines; giant neon glowing instruments in the Capitalist experiment.

 

As the 18th century turned into the 1900s and planes and methods of transport more effective than griffins and centaurs – or whatever olden-day people drove – got invented, as infrastructure developed so it became easier to cart things up and down the country, as telephones and TVs got invented, as the borders of nation states got more porous, as capitalism took hold and foreigners went from scary aliens to potential bottom lines, as email got invented and the stock market matured – as all that happened throughout the 20th century – so too did the corporation grow from an embryonic sprog into an incorrigible robber baron and now, as hair sprouted on its nuts, into a finely tuned, streamlined, toned bro with an MsC in Business.

 

Now the logos and motifs of corporations are as ubiquitous in our society as pictures of Kim Jon Un defeating Cthulhu in North Korea. We couldn’t imagine our lives without corporations – they are a part of our culture. They have reputations; notwithstanding their legal personalities, they have personalities. Corporations are important characters in the pointless, endless soaps of our lives.

 

We could not live without corporations now. Not in the way we are accustomed to – able to order a TV wider than a Chevrolet and thinner than a baby’s finger for a pittance at 2AM and have it delivered the next day to our door, and fitted for us, because we “realllyyyyyy neededddddd one dudeeeee”. This kind of indulgence is only made possible by huge, strident corporations with more money than Essex has STIs, more influence than Michael Buble in a room full of horny mums called Debbie, and more all-access passes to the VIP parts of the world than Chris Hemsworth has all-access passes to your vagina.

 

This evolution of corporations into entities with power equal, or superior, to that of Governments, comprised of more employees than some countries have soldiers in their armies, means that corporations themselves have had to change internally. Keeping control of that many resources and that many people and ensuring that each part of the business syncs up across oceans and over borders means that corporations have had to develop a method of ensuring uniformity – that all their disparate parts are working towards the same goal.

 

But the leaders of the corporation can’t keep its members in line with party policy like Stalin would have, they can’t lock them in gulags or purge them because, you know, employment law and human rights and democracy. Also let’s chill because after all it’s only a business trying to make money, and the people working for it probably all have degrees and egos and think they’re pretty important and impressive and useful and that their opinions on the War in Iraq after two glasses of middle-of-the-range white wine are well insightful.

 

So rose corporate culture – a culture within a culture. It is usually prescribed from on high, by some modern Moses in a bland head office in Atlanta, in the form of synergic, enterprising, dynamic diktats. They’ll implore the employees to live things like: ‘Working Together’, ‘Giving our Best to Clients’, ‘Being Socially Responsible’, ‘Remaining Collegiate’, ‘Working Fun’, ‘Working Smart’, ‘Taking-Over-the-World-with-a-Smile’, ‘Trying-To-Fit-as-Many-Ethnics-into-the-Promotional-Material-as-Possible’. Every single corporation has basically the same slogans, just worded differently – because seriously, to make them vague enough as to be digestible in a sentence and be aptly noncommittal, but specific enough to actually nearly mean anything whatsoever, there really isn’t much elasticity in what is considered good.

 

Corporate culture has reduced every self-important John packed sweatily into the 8:40 to St Pancras, every severe Jane forming part of the mass of rats teeming up train station steps, every worried Jeff marching hurriedly around with a Pret sandwich to an important meeting with Amy from accounts, to nothing more than a fatuous, gurgling child being managed by the paternal hand of their omniscient corporation. With so many cells making up the body of the corporation, something is needed to make sure they’re flowing through its veins in the right direction and getting that sweet, sweet paper to where it needs to be.

 

In order that the corporation’s nucleus can be sure each one of its floating, bobbing atoms is definitely moving in tandem with its objectives and living its culture, training days are laid down to show how to live the company’s values, appraisals are vacantly filled in while scarfing down a depressing Sainsbury’s meal deal and away days are attended with super-fantastical-fun-mega-awesome-wicked-you-guys-I-totally-don’t-feel-suicidal activities to act out the corporation’s values and culture.

 

Corporate culture imposed from on high by maniacally grinning HR grunts, splashed over otherwise desolate off-white walls in garish, headache-inducing primary coloured-posters, and written out in faux-approachable, condescending lingo that some marketing dick thought would be soft and cuddly enough as to prevent revolt makes children of men, reduces women to babies and turns back the clock on enlightenment, the grand philosophising discoveries of the ancients, the revolutions that forged democracy, that insatiable, insuppressible, uncontainable, ebullient, infinite roaring wolf of the human spirit that lifted us from caves to the highest mountains, from mud huts to towering, shimmering, celestial golden towers. Corporate culture, corporate values, the corporate ethos for its workers makes babes of us all.

 

A corporation exists to make money. That is all it exists to do. Certainly it provides a good or a service to the people of the planet but, honestly, by the time a business has reached size enough to be a publicly traded corporation, any thought of bettering mankind through the provision of whatever it sells is lost. By that point, all that matters is share prices and the bottom line. If you even for a second flicker on the idea that the PR fuckhead delivering some regurgitated shit on your TV about [insert corporation here] “going in a new direction: one that will provide a better, faster, more efficient [insert product here] for the consumer, while making the world a better place” is talking anything other than complete spunk then you, sir, are clinically a moron.

 

So then, the idea that the anonymous, vapid vapours of late zombie-capitalism in their brutalist head office in Atlanta think that handing down their corporate culture blather and their list of seven values for a brighter work space is anything other than absurdly abhorrent, is incomprehensible. The idea that a neurotically optimistic grin-in-a-suit with oddly sexy silver-fox hair thinks that his employees – who, lets not forget, are otherwise intelligent, accomplished people – will be seduced by this asinine, saccharine nothing; that they will live those values, ‘be a team player’, love the corporation like the teat of their own mother, is repugnant. Yet that is what these wobbly motifs seem to expect.

 

Not only is the corporate propaganda infantilising because of the way it is written: smiley emojis after every word in that email from Janet in HR, stupid multi-coloured fonts, at least ten words misspelt, and the world’s supply of exclamation marks because your invite to the Rennaysance Evening is so exciting!!!!! – but so too is it infantilising because it is deliberately obfuscating bluster and fluff. Instead of a pay rise or actual walls instead of tacky cardboard and fabric dividers, or a computer system that works, or interest in your opinions, or control over the days that you – a grown-ass man – can take as holiday, or freedom when you’re off sick instead of Brian from the Gestapo questioning you in the quiet room, or autonomy and creative flexibility over your work – instead of that – you get platitudes and placating drivel. Like your mum when you really wanted a matchbox car in Asda and instead of buying it she’d just smile so wide her cheeks detached and floated away and effected effete jubilant optimism in the hope that fake joyousness would anaesthetise you from your actual woes and prove contagious so you shut up and took the superficial satisfaction rather than the thing you actually wanted.

 

This is not to mention the fact that the corporation’s smiley, chummy, lovely, care bear, fluorescent, marshmallow-infused vomit is entirely insincere. Its culture and having it rammed down our throats that the corporation is one big family is insincere. The last I heard, nanna can’t make you redundant. So rather than trying to deny that you are only a part of the great big cuddle family until you’re no longer of any use and that the CEO is still beholden to profit and loss accounts and the money men telling him they need to cut costs, let’s just accept it as one of the vagaries of business and instead of trying to muffle it and swaddle the coarseness of business so it is smoothed and the evils of capitalism muted, lets have a corporate culture that engages in actual investment rather than superficial, shallow show tunes that try to convince you you’re in the gang and we’ve all got each other’s backs, yo.

 

Really the problem with corporate culture is the lack of control. When vast, globe-straddling institutions run the world, there is no choice but to work for them. And when we do, we become powerless, patronised, condescended-to little kittens batting a ball of wool about and thinking we’re hunting mice when really we’re being placated and pacified and blinded to the sanitised reality of our lives: that we are no longer providers, no longer virile, vicious hunters, but children paid a cheque by an invisible hand to tap keyboards in some vain, divided aspect of ‘labour’ so that money gets made for far off shareholders. And so that we feel like anything we do matters, like upwards of 8 hours a day, 5 days a week are not a waste, like we can be gratified in the corporation, we are sold platitudes and sweet-nothings in place of any democratic say, in place of any autonomy, in place of any bargaining power or anything that may imbue us once more with the mature power of sentience which is rightly ours.

 

We all want control. We need not be control freaks, but we all want to be masters of our destiny, the arbiters of our fates. That’s why Gwinn who hogs the photocopier gets in 20 minutes early every day and martyrs himself every evening doing busy work so he doesn’t go home when you go home, and tuts air between clenched teeth if Patricia is five minutes over her allotted lunch break One. More. God. Damn. Time. Gwinn doesn’t matter really. He doesn’t matter to his line manager, he doesn’t matter to the CEO. He is entirely expendable and nothing he does is consequential in the slightest. But Gwinn still forwards every email inviting the office to the picnic in the park, he still goes to every drinks mixer and tries really hard to blag about ‘the game last night’ with Anthony – who’s apparently friends with a guy who plays golf with the CEO – he still talks about the direction of the corporation and watches the share price every day as if his stupid, pathetic opinion means anything. And he does this because he is trying to effect the hollow symptoms of control. He is trying to fool himself into the conviction that he has any ounce of control over his life, over his work, over anything – that he chose to dedicate his life to the corporation. That it is not all some puppet show and all he is necessary for is to clock in and punch his keys every day and shut up and eat his cheese sandwich because to admit that to himself would only open up the void – the abyss within which lurk gutting truths and fish with bulbous eyes that whisper “you are meaningless, you control nothing, you are an expendable accessory, you have nothing that 20 other people don’t have, the corporation has you by the neck tie” endlessly into the infinite ether.

 

The thing is, HR busybodies so happy it’s like they double fisted 12 xanax and 15 valium and washed it down with a red bull-heroin milkshake before railing lines are a necessary evil. So too is the propaganda. At least, when an organisation is of that size and comprised of so many disparate constituent parts, it is hard to think of another way to filter down the company’s end game to all the little hamsters so they know vaguely the direction their work is meant to be going in and why they’re even doing what they do.

 

So then, it is a result of the globalisation of capitalism – the rippling, veiny, steroid-gains of enterprises of all structures so that they come to mimic the corporation in feeling, of the vigorous pace of business and the massive scale of production, of the huge wealth of wealth of modern society, that reduces all those workers who fever away for the machine into tiny little molecules and each of us truly not people, but workers and consumers. And workers and consumers need to be controlled so that their efforts are expended productively for the generation of profit.

 

It is an inevitable side effect of the top down governance of corporations, and indeed of our world – this detached, distant, globalised world – that real interaction gets replaced with instant messaging and emojis, real informed democracy gets replaced with endless, inconsequential petitions and a vote for a far-off identikit politician who’s either a bit more or less left or right than the other one, and real contribution to industry, real enterprise within an organisation, real job satisfaction, real training and real investment gets replaced with serious sounding appeals to your entrepreneurialism ejaculated onto a blue steel poster, and with empty HR conduits of “just a little something from Ted, the CEO, guyssss!”, and with unilaterally imposed contracts – “Yeah it’s two days less holiday, but look! Cycle to work scheme!”

 

Everything in the world is connected. Every idea is connected to every other idea and everything affects everything else. Corporate culture, therefore, and everything it depends on and replaces and all its attendances are but one microcosmic example battleground upon which we can argue the kind of capitalism we want. Just like the debate over taxing mega-wealthy individuals and mega, super-rich businesses. It may seemingly stifle explosive growth, since the ‘job providers’ are being impinged and the businesses might all run away from the horrible HMRC (although certain studies have cast doubt on this prediction), or we may have a capitalism in which growth is more moderate, but more sustainable, and it does what it is supposed to do – benefits the infrastructure of the country in which it takes place.

 

Likewise, one may say that a corporation simply needs to do a job, to provide a good or a service and to make money, to keep the economy moving, to keep development and never ending financial progress on track and therefore it should not concern itself with creating a habitable environment for its employees – this will serve only to be fruitless since workers all have homes anyway, and will only limit the entity’s potential. Or, one may say that investing in brighter office spaces, providing pay rises at least in line with inflation, and bonus schemes for good performance at every level, delegating autonomy and control over holiday allowance to the individual concerned, trusting that sick days are sick days because this is work and we are adults, not children at school, making sure that reviews are localised to within teams, and the same with social events – since there is no point trying to get 1,000 people from different offices to have a good time together – providing facilities and amenities so that adults feel valued and like they matter – one may say that all this – although it may divert monies away from risky investments and expansionary targets and board members’ pockets, is a worthy trade off for a workforce that is satisfied that they are actual adult humans, and therefore a society that is satisfied, and therefore a world more at peace with itself.

 

This is the part a corporation can play in the world. That all the corporations and partnerships and alternative business structures can. Because the question has to be asked – what is a corporation’s duty? Surely, when like behemoth, mythical beasts that squat strident casting their shadows over seas with one giant, all-encompassing webbed foot in Asia and the other in America, chewing nonchalantly on hay stalks and burping, sending great green gas clouds into the air, corporations owe some kind of duty beyond that of a mere private enterprise entirely separate from Government that functions within society instead of defining it.

 

It’s not bullshit to try and get more stuff either. The Hawthorne Studies showed that greater localisation of decision making, greater autonomy given to workers, greater involvement can trump even money as an incentive to work harder.

 

Or, you know, we could continue being nothing but frantic little suits scuttling to the train station sweaty and broken because we might be five minutes late otherwise and that would reflect badly in our mid-year review. We could continue to give the majority of our lives over to something that gives nothing in the form of self-actualisation back. We could continue using the concomitant of millions of years of evolution that have brought us to our feet only to be kicked to our knees and infantilised and made babes by corporations. The choice is up to all of us.

In support of Jeremy Corbyn

“Of course you know that ambition and avarice are held to be, as indeed they are, a disgrace? … [T]he forwardness to take office, instead of waiting to be compelled, has been deemed dishonourable. Now the worst part of the punishment [punishment being the third of three inducements to rule, the first two being money and honour] is that he who refuses to rule is liable to be ruled by one who is worse than himself.” Socrates said that, in Plato’s ‘The Republic’, but in Greek originally, obviously. Stupid, innit, bringing ancient Greek political philosophy into a debate about Corbyn. But it isn’t, really. I mean, our entire democratic system is borne of ancient Greek politicial philosophy. The word itself is Greek. So it’s weird, then, that our political thinking and analysis and punditry has become so detached from ancient political wisdom. There is no reason that a vast majority of the truisms of old can’t hold true now. I mean, now we wear lenseless, thick-rimmed glasses and beanies that look like deflated ball-sacks instead of togas, and we carry iPads with Pokemons on them rather than tablets with inscriptions, but really nothing’s changed – not to us, not to our humanity. And it is our humanity, after all, with which politics should concern itself.

 

That quote of Plato’s was what came into my mind when I saw Angela Eagle’s desperate, cynical, grasping, fickle, stupid attempt to become head of the coup currently floundering in the Labour party. That eighties gay-club pink Union Jack scrawled over by the lady’s pretty signature recalls Ed’s Labour’s cynical and mis-judged pink battle bus – a futile attempt to court the female vote. You’ll remember, of course, that Corbyn was a dark horse when he was first nominated to stand in the Labour leadership election of 2015 after Ed’s resignation. He came out of nowhere, he didn’t really put forward a campaign to stand, and he had expressed no desire previously to stand (and not in a Govian the-lady-doth-protest-too-much way – he just had expressed no desire). But he was nominated and then he was elected by the party members. More members elected Corbs than Tories and the Liberal Democrats have combined members in total. Truly, he was an unwilling leader chosen by the people.

 

“And the fear of [punishment], as I conceive, induces the good to take office, not because they would, but because they cannot help – not under the idea that they are going to have any benefit or enjoyment themselves, but as a necessity, and because they are not able to commit the task of ruling to anyone who is better than themselves, or indeed as good.” (That’s Plato again, by the way.)

 

And ever since taking the podium, Jez has faced slander and malice at the hands of the right-wing press, the Blair-leaning Labour MP’s, the Tories and basically anyone who fears the rhetoric of egalitarianism and change that comes out of the mouth of this scruffy, beige-jacketed socialist. Cameron famously shouted in his plum-mouthed tones that Jeremy should “put on a proper suit [and] do up [his] tie”. I get it, I do. I love nothing better than a good suit, and I think the British should keep up their image abroad as suited, top-hatted gentlemen swinging umbrellas and controlling the world’s finances – always silently superior. But I see something in that uneven face, that silver shock of hair, that train conductor’s hat, that sports jacket and that starkly tieless un-ironed shirt. I see something I didn’t see in Cameron’s middle-management cufflinks and his lighthouse forehead. I see something I do not see in Angela’s identikit campaign. I see truth. I see someone who’s too bothered with principles and ideology and with believing the words he says, with wanting to effect something progressive for this country, to bother with his public image. I see someone unwilling to engage in PR and spin, unwilling to play the shallow, nonsensical, irrelevant, bullshit games of Westminster – who actually gives a shit about people with Northern accents or black skin or vaginas that used to be dicks, or wheels where legs used to be.

 

You know that feeling after you eat a Maccy D’s? You know the one. When you’ve gorged yourself on a Big Mac and you’re full for ten minutes, tops, but when the initial sensation of an object having descended your trachea fades, you’re left with the feeling that you haven’t really consumed anything. Your organs don’t feel rejuvenated like after food with any actual nutritional value, you don’t feel warmed or fed; you just feel like you inhaled some synthetic food-like product; some plastic-based, cardboard-flavoured trash that really is nothing – it looks colourful and like food should look, but inside it’s hollow ash and empty calories. Well that’s the feeling I had looking at Eagle’s campaign when she unveiled it. She wrote an article for the Guardian to coincide with it and oh-my-fucking-God it was a whole mess of nothing. It contained such insightful, sparkling, intelligent, ideological, meaningful tidbits as these:

 

“It is our duty to ensure that the new prime minister, Theresa May, faces a credible and forensic opposition, and to offer a bright future for our damaged economy and fractured society.”

 

“I’m no Blairite, Brownite or Corbynista. What I am is my own woman”.

 

“But if we are to succeed, we need to concentrate on the politics of hope, not on grievance and blame. That’s the only way we can deliver on our principles of equality, social justice and social mobility.”

 

She’s said… nothing, really, has she? Nothing that hasn’t already been spouted by others of her ilk, anyway. Corbyn is unelectable. That’s basically what she said. Oh and remember – she’s her own woman. Phew. I was worried she wasn’t. She did make the recycled point that MPs who were elected by 8,000,000 constituents are trying to get rid of Corbyn, and therefore, arguably, they have more of a democratic mandate than Corbyn does, elected as he was by a paltry couple hundred-thousand members. But this point is rather easily quashed. You know how much it cost to be a Labour party member? Three quid. All 8,000,000 of those constituents, if they agreed with the MPs to whom they have given a mandate, can register as members and get rid of the old man before you can say “worker’s revolution”. Now they can register as members of the Unite union for 50p a week. They can become members for £25. But they didn’t, and they don’t. Which suggests one of two things. Either they are ambivalent towards Corbyn or they actively like him. And if they just don’t have 25 quid going spare… Well, then, we need Corbyn now more than ever.

 

To be honest, I am not even sure, personally, that I want Corbyn in power. I have no horse in the race, truly. I’m a white, middle-class, straight, mentally balanced male from the south of England with two law degrees. The dude isn’t looking after me. I don’t need looking after. Whatever system we have ever had so far has done that pretty well for people like me. But I am damn sure I want him in opposition, because I care about Britain and its people. I want him, shadowed by his massive grass roots support and Momentum – a united political movement the likes of which people of my generation have never seen – across the dispatch box from the Tories, bearing down upon them, snarling at them that we will not take neoliberalism and globalisation if it means our infrastructure, our rights, our livelihoods get destroyed.

 

Perhaps he may be misguided. I wasn’t alive during the seventies. I didn’t see the mining unions hold the country to ransom; I didn’t see bin bags piled high in the street; I didn’t see ‘Communist’ Russia, so I don’t have any of that to refer to. But I tell you what I have seen: I have seen a Department of Work and Pensions responsible for indirect manslaughter because the private profiteers to whom it contracts out care more about cutting costs that ensuring Johnny Disabled can eat. I have seen food banks proliferate in my great country – a country I deem to be the best in the world, which should be able to engineer a state that ensures the poorest in society are looked after if the private sector fails them. I saw banks get bailed out by the government while the people get poorer on zero-hour contracts. I saw financial criminals given a slap on the wrist in the papers and a bonus by their bosses for ruining this country and bringing its main industry – the City – to the precipice. I’ve seen the systematic selling off of our industries and our infrastructure and the gradual privatisation of public services we rely on. I see an electoral system plagued by billionaire donor money and corrupt media moguls. And I do not want to see it any longer. Those policies are not sound economics, they are not long-term ideas to generate sustainable growth and prosperity – they are the last belches of a country sick of itself, that has run out of steam like a bankrupt Aristocrat selling all the old paintings of his descendants. It can’t last. I want to see some nationalisation, some investment in the public sector and some regulation of the private sector, an end to the illusory, fallacious rhetoric of defecit economics.

 

I would like to see the private train system, an effective monopoly, taken back in to public hands so it can no longer raise ticket prices year on year beyond inflation while gutting the service it offers with no accountability besides a complaints procedure. I would like to see our head of state at least lead the world in a conversation about nuclear disarmament. I know, you may think his view on Trident is wildly dangerous, but remember it is still Labour policy to renew it. At least we would have a leader willing to discuss the issue. And when it comes to Trident, I always like to think of something Carl Sagan said – the concept of nuclear deterrents and mutually assured destruction is like having two people standing waist deep in petrol, one holding three matches, the other five. I would like to see our NHS not only protected, but improved, built upon and thriving. And I would like to see an end to the rape of our lands through fracking, and a new dawn for renewable energy. All this is to say nothing of the valuing of the poor and the workers and their rights.

 

And you know what? Maybe it won’t work as well as idealists and socialists hope. But that doesn’t matter. Not in the long run. It seems our politics is always preoccupied with the idea of the “final solution” when it comes to progress. That we need policies in place and a governing ideology that can stand forever, always working. There isn’t one. There are merely solutions to situations that present themselves. I applaud Thatcher for breaking the grip of the Unions in the eighties and taking our country into an era of economic prosperity. The only problem was that she did it not only for the purpose of ending the union tyranny, but because she was clinging vehemently to the ideology of neoliberalism. The neoliberal philosophy that informed her actions became scripture, and still is – unable to be altered or argued against. There is no flexibility and it has meant that we are where we are now – stuck with an economic policy that seeks to whore our country out to the highest bidder and which fetishises and idolises individualism to the point of isolation and which is, when you get down to it, nothing but numbers circulating on trading-floor screens, and waiters and waitresses. Really, we should place flexibility and freedom upon the pedestals of our regard. Remember what Churchill said of democracy after all: that it is the worst system we currently have, apart from all the others. Flexibility informed always by overarching goals: those of progress, of satisfaction and high living standards, of cohesion and competition, of liberty and work and intellectual evolution.

 

The fear mongering is unwarranted. I voted ‘in’ in the referendum, but I buy in to no fear mongering. The FTSE 100 – arguably as good a gauge of how things are going as a Twitter poll, being as it is an externalisation of the fears and prejudices of detached, money-hungry investors rather than a measure of the actual productivity of the companies themselves – is doing okay. As is the pound. We will be fine. Likewise, we will be fine if Corbyn gets elected. And, on top of that, perhaps we’ll have a country informed more by ideas of egalitarianism, a country less divisive and divided and more prosperous, run for its citizens rather than CEO coffers, and a society more collusive in its capitalism. I support Corbyn, because he is the solution to the issues that blight us right now.

 

 

 

Pulling out is effective 73-96% of the time, so how effective could it be for Britain?

The concentric circles of society go outwards, more or less, as follows: the individual at the centre, who then hopefully forms part of a family (not necessarily nuclear), the cornerstone of society, multiple of which come together to form first the tribe, then later the city or region or province, which collectivise under one administration in the nation state and, after the nation state, the intra-national super-state – a cohesive collection of individual countries under one administration. Eventually, it seems logical to conclude, the one world government follows, notwithstanding the logistical practicality of such an undertaking.

 

Since 1973, we in Britain have been wrestling with the transition from independent nation state to being part of a collection of countries that together increasingly form something with some of the trappings of the intra-national super-state. And now, 43 years after our tried accession into the EU, we the British people are being given the say on whether or not we remain a part of this intra-national bureaucratic-commercial collective, or whether we pull out and hope there are no nasty consequences 9 months down the line.

 

For something that represents such a fundamental turning point, not only in the British trajectory, but in that of the world – for if we reject political globalisation in this manner, what does it mean for everyone else? – the debate has been thoroughly mediocre.

 

‘Britain stronger in Europe’ say on their website that “almost half of everything we sell to the rest of the world we sell to Europe – and we get an average of £24 billion of investment in Britain per year from Europe”. In retort ‘Get Britain out’, on their website, state firmly in rebuttal that “less than 5% of UK businesses trade directly with the EU” and that “EU Regulations cost the UK economy a staggering £33.3 billion per year”. The IN campaign note that the Confederation of British Industry estimates that “3 million jobs in Britain are linked to trade with the rest of Europe” while the Outies say these jobs aren’t reliant on EU membership and “not 1 job is at risk from Brexit”. And back and forth and back forth it goes ad infinitum.

 

So how can the suits at either side of this tug of war both be so assured of facts in direct contradiction to each other? Well, it’s because either side uses different figures from different sources using different methods of arriving at their figures. Each side will quote the CBI, for instance, until it doesn’t suit them, in which case they’ll ignore what the CBI says and go with another source. Both the Office of National Statistics and the Treasury publish figures for the same things, and both of them differ.

 

The debate is mediocre at best, and insulting at worst. When the opposing campaigners trot out their tired slogans on leaflets and website front pages – “Protect out heritage, control our borders, believe in Britain” versus the admittedly less catchy “The government believes that voting to remain in the European Union is the best decision for the UK” – they are banking on you looking no further. They are banking on you taking their and only their numerical milk and honey or dark numerical water of the River Styx, depending on the strategy.

 

The integrationists and isolationists are just as grasping when it comes to celebrity endorsements. In October 2015 the Innies opened their campaign by wheeling out June Sarpong, some TV head with an adorable gap in her front teeth but who has no qualifications to be waxing lyrical about the EU aside from chatting inane shite on Loose Women. Similarly, Nigel Farage was delighted when national treasure Michael Cain came out in favour of coming out. Yeah, he’s really good at telling you how many people know his name in a cockney accent but what relevance is it what he thinks?

 

For every figure on one side, there is a different figure on the other. For every claim a counter-claim. And why? Because neither side knows what’ll happen. There is no truth in this debate, there is no right and there is no wrong. Neither side can tell you what money we’ll lose and what we’ll win, who’ll get fired and who won’t, which countries will desert us and which won’t should we leave or not leave. All we can know for certain is the amount of money the EU costs us and how much it makes us right now.

 

But even that we don’t really know. For instance, ‘Full Fact’ state that our membership of the EU isn’t “nearly £20 billion” a year as ‘Vote Leave’ like to regurgitate. This is because we get a £5 billion rebate immediately on our payment, as well as £4 billion being spent by the EU on British farmers and poorer regions in the UK, and upwards of £1 billion to the private sector for things like research grants. And this needs to be added to the money we get back in trade, investments and jobs, for which it’s “far harder to be sure about how much comes back in benefits”.

 

The House of Common Library has said in a briefing paper of February 2016 “there is no definitive study of the economic impact of the UK’s EU membership or the costs and benefits of withdrawal. Many of the costs and benefits are subjective or intangible and a host of assumptions must be made to reach an estimate. If the UK were to remain in a reformed EU, assumptions would need to be made about what the reforms might be. Any estimate of the effects of withdrawal will be highly sensitive to such assumptions.” So don’t listen to that bellend at your dinner party when he pipes up with a figure he’s learned by rote from either some liberal think piece or the lungs of Farage, because he doesn’t have a clue. He’s regurgitating what seems plausible to reinforce an opinion he probably held anyway but was insecure about because he had no factual way of validating or justifying it.

 

The underwhelming nature of the debate is compounded by the fact that all parties involved are trying their hardest to reduce a quandary of major constitutional and politico-philosophical significance down to paltry numbers and un-nourishing sound bites.

 

Gideon has said that leaving the EU will effectively leave every British household £4,300 per year worse off. But do you really think it would? Do you really think leaving the EU will mean you have £4,300 less coming into your bank account? Inversely similarly, Leave.EU say we would be £933 better off if we left. Again, do you think you’ll see a grand more pop up on your statement each year once we leave? Do you think these figures that get tossed around mean anything? They don’t. Each side is trying to tell the future and the fact is they can’t. The only purpose these figures serve is for people to quote in an effort to sound like they’ve put some thought into the question of Brexit.

 

But ‘Brexit question-mark’ is a question far more meaningful than ghostly numbers. And the majority of people know this, really. The basic impetus for leaving seems to be lust for sovereignty lost. UKIP and the right promise control of our borders, an end to “open door” immigration – the benefits and costs of which are hotly debated, as is whether or not leaving the EU will do anything to it. They also promise that no more will 75% of our laws be made in Brussels. It should be noted that this statistic is another illusory number that is by no means true. Business for Britain created a “definitive” study in which they found that “EU rules account for 65% of UK law” (I guess they don’t realise that there is no such thing as UK law). While they do admit that “not every EU regulation will impact Britain[,] such as rules on olive and tobacco growing”, the number is still misleading. Some measures take into account legislation with only a passing reference to the EU. However, a large chunk – anywhere between 15% and 50% – of laws around the UK have Brussels’ fingerprints on them, but the majority of those laws are regulations that you never even notice anyway, or they are Directives that force our government to create legislation, such as the Employment Rights Act 1996, which codifies a minimum period of maternity leave and notice, and the Employment Relations Act 1999, which covers things like collective bargaining: legislation that wholly protects you, the worker.

 

But the right’s appeal to sovereignty is muddied and confused. We are the descendants of warring barbarians and proud Saxons; the British are brawlers, imperialists. We are the sons and daughters of an Empire over which the sun never set. We are the saviours of Europe – the scrappy, innovative fighters. We are the moneymen of the world, the bankers and shopkeepers and the stoic council estate tenants. It is hard to reconcile such a proud heritage and such a powerful personality with horror stories of a Britain now the cowed Bulldog under the shadow of the mighty Alsatian’s dripping fangs.

 

If you define individual sovereignty as pertaining to your self-determination, your power over your reality, with the minimum of interference from third parties, then leaving the EU won’t grant you the individual sovereignty you think it will. It is Theresa May seeking greater powers to watch your social media activity and your phone calls through her Draft Investigatory Powers Bill. It is the Tories cutting disability benefits, not only robbing the wheelchair-bound of their right to self-determination through a lack of means, but so too, perhaps, the right to any meaningful life at all. As for national sovereignty – the independence and self-determination of the nation as a whole, not subject to “Brussels’ bureaucrats” – this vision is out-dated. It forgets one thing – the world has changed. Sovereignty is not sovereignty in the way it used to be. Not being part of a political trading bloc does not automatically render Britain an independent, sovereign nation again. In this age of globalisation, one cannot equate sovereignty with isolationism. In the age of lobbying and massive multinational corporate interests, of Facebook getting away with paying £4,327 in corporation tax and Google striking a ‘deal’ and paying £130 million settlement to HMRC, the concept of self-governance is wobbly.

 

Meanwhile, those on the left of an outward persuasion charge the EU with being an undemocratic institution run by unelected bureaucrats. It is a charge hard to deny. According to Europa.eu, it is the European Commission (composed of 28 nominated commissioners) that proposes and enforces legislation “in the general interest of the EU”. Albeit, said legislation has to be passed by the European Parliament, which is composed of directly elected MEPs, but they can only vote “yes” or “no” or to “amend” legislation. The Council of the European Union is the second chamber of the European Parliament, made up of ministers sent from the member states depending on the area of policy who we haven’t elected to act in such a capacity (but… y’know… we didn’t elect the House of Lords either). As well, the Council of Europe – I guess the guy in charge of naming things took a day off when it came to those two bodies – is made up of heads of state of each member state and decides the EU’s overall policy and direction, and negotiates on difficult and sensitive areas of EU policy.

 

So the EU might be relatively undemocratic, but it would be hard to have an international organisation, governing aspects of the lives of around 508 million people, be entirely democratic. Thus far, the EU acts in the best interests of its population. The problem comes, one supposes, when it begins not to, since if there is one solid lesson history has taught us, it is that we can never ever rely on the openness, truthfulness and perennial honesty of those governing us.

 

At home, if the machinations of Parliament become far too audaciously mendacious and corrupt for us merely to stand on the sidelines watching them on the BBC, we can take to the streets. Although 60 million people is a lot, they can still unite within the bounds of one nation state rather effectively against their Government should the need arise. The suffragette movement shows this, as do the Police Strikes of 1918-1919. Can we guarantee that we can retain such self-representation and self-determination through direct action on such a grand scale as that spanning 28 countries? Well, the current massive protests against the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership are putting that issue to the test.

 

The furore surrounding the utter bastardry that is TTIP is something that should figure into your Brexit calculations. Although it is ostensibly an EU-driven trade agreement, leaving the EU doesn’t guarantee its stymying. In fact, it might speed it up. Yannis Varoufakis, the unfortunate but immensely qualified and immensely intelligent economist and previous Greek Finance Minister said in an interview with Owen Jones that it is only as a collusive, entire whole united across the countries of Europe that we can stop TTIP. Add to this that it was Cameron’s government that actually demanded one of the most controversial and destructive aspects of TTIP – the inclusion of investor-state arbitration dispute clauses in trade agreements. These basically give private corporations the power to sue countries if they find their local laws – laws that are there for the protection of the people – to get in the way of their profit margins. This isn’t some far off nightmare, it’s already happening – look to Australia, Canada and Argentina.

 

The reality of the EU referendum is that where it matters, it is largely meaningless. Neoliberalism is still our serenading song, the same multi-national corporations hold the power, the same bankers rip us off, the same Governments trade the will of the people for the will of the financial sector and the same lands get fracked. Really, reformation of our institutions of power is what’s needed, not deciding whether they break apart or not.

 

If you want to cease our immigration obligations under the Schengen agreement and bring all legislative power back to Parliament and the parties in control, and you don’t want undemocratic, out of sight, multi-national institutions making decisions that could affect your small business, then I suggest you vote out. But if you want to be sure your Easyjet flight to Benidorm will stay cheap and passport control simple, and you want to ensure Vodafone don’t up their charges when you’re in Crete, and you reject isolationism, then I suggest you vote to stay in. At the end of the day, the choice is yours, but remember, the result of this referendum is piss in the wind without anything to follow it.

The volunteers of Calais

In Calais, at the ass end of our sceptred isle, not a hop-skip over the channel from the White Cliffs of Dover, in the centre of Western Europe, is a floodplain upon which the huddled masses of North Africa and the Middle East have coalesced, and which has come to resemble a foreign country.

 

It is a vast expanse of sodden, soaking, gloopy, swampy land bristling with tents and shacks and caravans packed together like one of Brazil’s best favelas. Downtrodden men in torn jackets and ripped jeans from Eritrea, Syria, Iraq and a muddle of other countries slosh up and down the crude dirt paths, their sandaled feet mud-soaked. It is a pseudo-civilisation painted in graffiti: desperate English implorations to Cameron, quotations from the bottom of the Statue of Liberty, indiscernible Arabic, and a much-publicised picture of Steve Jobs in his iconic turtle neck, a bag of possessions flung over his shoulder. Within this microcosm of a foreign nation is an embryonic infrastructure: worried looking men and boys leaning on MDF counters, chickens rotating lazily on rotisserie spits behind them; smiling, kind looking women peering out from behind curtains further into the family section of the camp; fires burning in empty oil drums and hooded guys with smiles and rubbing hands huddled round damp planks that crackle and bubble black within; kids running out of the doorway of ‘Jungle Books’ – the library – with indomitable optimism in their eyes; and the plywood crucifix of the church standing erect, resolute over the tent points and the corrugated plastic roofs.

 

And although the people seem optimistic, insisting you needn’t pay for the tea they just made you, singing for you, sharing what pitiful shit they have; above, an oppressive grey lid of a sky bears down and a foreboding grey tsunami of clouds rolls by, and on the outskirts the silently flashing blue lights of riot vans are perennial. It is the people only that turn such a desolate wasteland, such a place of desperation and disgust, into something hopeful.

 

But enough has been written of the Jungle and its inhabitants, enough has been made of the poverty and enough journalistic voyeurism has been had.

 

A 10-minute drive from the camp is the warehouse of the charity, ‘Help Refugees’. It is a bustling bastion of solution and a testament to humanity within the drab, Soviet block housing of Calais and the endless roads speckled by lonely booze warehouses.

 

You walk in through the open double gates, and immediately the taste of a frenetic, joyful, furtive energy bombards one’s senses. Vans are backed up to the open mouth of the warehouse; high-vis guys and girls toss boxes out of them and trot them into the depths of the building, rotating round like a shimmering centipede, back and forth. A group of people stand off to the side sucking on roll ups and laughing and some girls run across the vista to the skip with a couple of black bin bags in their hands. There is purpose and meaning and drive in the air, but tinged with something you too rarely feel back in the City – friendliness, acceptance and collectivism.

 

To the right of the gates is a ramshackle MDF hut held together with nails and masking tape and topped with tarpaulin, and from within it a friendly looking hippie greets you. “Hey maaan; you guys new?” he asks; his tone pleasant, light and full of friendship. You say you are, and he gives you some forms to fill in. The hippies do bureaucracy apparently.

 

Once you’ve filled in your forms, the dude palms you off to someone else in an orange high-vis. There’s a hierarchy, you see: orange is a boss, yellow is a grunt.

 

She leads you into the cavernous warehouse. Past the vans ticking over are cages full to the brim with duvets and pillows and bed sheets – a few guys are sorting through them, removing whatever is stained or torn or generally useless. To the left is the break area, a couple tables where lunch is served, and beyond that the food: piles of tins and bags of beans and granola bars. But straight through forward is where prime time is. Below a cardboard sign demanding you wear a high-vis before going in (again, hippies do health and safety, apparently) is the entrance to a yawning chamber sectioned up by lines of massive metal shelving stacked with clothes and tents and sleeping bags and roll-mats and, down the far end, boxes of toothpaste and shower gel and shampoo and bandages and disinfectant.

 

The place is an ant colony: people stand over tables measuring the width of jeans and throwing them in the appropriate boxes, someone finds a pair of lacy women’s underwear in the pile and stuffs it in the charity shop crate; cages and trolleys are wheeled noisily up and down the corridors with bags of goods being taken to wherever they need to go; music blares from the speakers as a couple of guys throw bin bags full of clothes to the top of an Everest pile and, over in the corner, shoes get duct-taped together before being put in one of many size-labelled bins. “Mind your backs” is the echo and “where does this go?” the mantra.

 

At lunch a girl with a voice far too booming for her petite frame calls through the reverberating warehouse and a queue is formed as rice and beans and cabbage and coffee is dolled out into waiting bowls and mugs held aloft. People sit about, mill around, eating and chatting and discussing politics or TV or their plans.

 

The place is a maelstrom of diversity. Some of them are there for the weekend, professionals in PR jobs or the banking sector who felt it no skin off their nose to help out for a few days. Some are pure, unadulterated, unfiltered hippies with unwashed hair and who actually, thoroughly believe there should be no borders – because economics and the path of national development and international relations and resource disparity and cultural diversity can all be washed away with a hashtag. Some of them are just principled people who feel a connection to humanity and want to help, solely because they want to. Some were like me, there out of a mixture of curiosity and a feeling that our Governments are fucking up a long term plan and in the short term, were it not for the heroes that are those volunteers, those people in the camp, in disgusting limbo, would be fucked.

 

You see, whatever your politics – unless you’re a white-pride, Britain First troglodyte – you cannot deny that it is impossible to fault the people sacrificing their time and their jobs and, at least for the foreseeable future, their lives, to try and improve, at least fractionally, the situations of the desperate and the weary and the beaten.

 

When I sat in the local bar in the evening getting wasted, which was heaving with volunteers, I felt something I hadn’t expected to feel: an overwhelming sense of pride. To look around and hear so many British voices, as well as those of a multitude of other countries, and to know my compatriots had seen the undefended and come to defend them. To hear the passion and the urgency in their voices and to see them in the knowledge they were there to do a job, that they weren’t proving a point; they were there to try and dredge humans out of the shit and they were fucking well going to do it.

 

There is a dire situation in Calais. It is bearing witness to the fallout of man’s arrogance, it is suffering under the strain of human consequence, and the refugees there have felt the full force of governmental haymakers. But within it all, bursting through the gloom, there are the volunteers, and they are heroes with an utterly impressive organisation, and they need to be recognised.

Our war

We are at war.

After ten hours of rushed and harried debate, in which John Bercow was forced to hold his piss and wound up MPs were caught swearing at each other, our tired and exhausted, and no doubt impatient and frustrated politicians were forced to make a decision as to whether to commit young men, young British men, to fight and possibly die in a war on their behalf. They say you shouldn’t drive if you’re tired, which you probably would be after ten hours of non-stop debate, but taking a decision to start a war is fine I suppose.

Hilary Benn was hailed as a pro-bombing firebrand for his speech in which he proudly proclaimed: “Now is the time for us to fight this evil”. Oh it’s brilliant, it’s electrifying, it’s invigorating; memories of Churchill, of Empire, of British bulldoggian strength and beaches and landing grounds are flooding back, and in the fog of war I am filled with pride by his rhetoric. Yes! Yes! Send in the troops, drop the bombs, destroy the enemy, for we are Britain and WE are at war once more.

WE are at war.

Time was, long ago, when our leaders would march before our soldiers into battle. When we were at war, WE truly were at war. Now, though, a politician with a plum in his mouth can proselytise and proliferate and declare his dissertation, spittle flecks flying from his foam-frothed lips as he works himself up into a war-hungry frenzy, so passionate is he about the truth of his position. So ardent is he that security and justice will prevail on England’s lands, that he is willing to make the ultimate sacrifice; he is willing to commit your sons to war.

Truly, it should be a point of order that MPs be disallowed from semantic untruths. Instead of saying that it is time for us to fight this evil, they should be obliged to announce the truth: “It is time for us to send men to fight a war because we reckon it might help a bit.” When Cameron says we are at war, he should be obliged to say: “Young men are overseas this Christmas, away from their families, at war, while you and I are back at home in front of the hearth, safe and sound, because that’s what I wanted.”

Now, you may say that it is a matter of national security, and those men signed up to the military, while the politicians, and we, did not.

But is it really a matter of national security? Certainly there is an issue of national security – we face a dangerous and barbarous threat. But is the decision to drop bombs on Syria a matter of national security? For one, all it takes is one man with a bomb vest to slip through. All it takes is one radical with an AK47. That is how this war is fought. There are no battalions or nations or uniforms. It is a just-about-organised collective of mentals. Like 50,000 Columbine shooters. Are bombing runs really going to solve the issue? You cannot catch every nut.

But suppose you can; suppose you can destroy every single member of ISIS and not even a handful survive and none of them manage to slip through to Europe. They’re all dead. Meanwhile, the West has just lain waste to another middle-Eastern country and left a power vacuum. Have we not learnt our lessons? It is a point so over-hammered that I’m not going to make it, but you get where I’m going.

Anyway, if this really is a matter of national security, if our country is at threat like it was against Nazi Germany – and no, I don’t consider myself hyperbolic in making that comparison. If Hilary can do it in his pro-war speech, I think I should be able to use it, to see if it stands up. Because truth is, it fucking doesn’t. This isn’t a war of equals, two armies against each other. This is the West being poked by a stupid, ravenous, barbarous gang of lunatics. Nevertheless, if you, a civilian, a normal person with an iPad who likes going to the pub and wonders about the Autumn statement and has got a bit podgy living off the fat of the cosy 21st century, are truly for bombing because it is a matter of national security, then I implore you, before making your mind up, to ask yourself, are we so at risk that, as in the Second World War, there is an impetus for you to sign up to fight and defend, because the homeland is going to be irreversibly threatened imminently?

No?

Not so keen anymore?

Think there might be other options?

Think we need to debate a bit more?

That’s because you’re a fucking hypocrite. You want to send men abroad to die because you feel a bit scared. And every person who sincerely and truthfully asks themselves that question and arrives at the same answer is too.

For if we were truly under threat, if your home was likely to be destroyed, your family killed; you would fight. At least one hopes you would. But, as we all know when we look inside ourselves, those things aren’t the case, so you have no need to fight. At the very least you’d think you’d have to make some sacrifices for war. Our grandparents had to go through rationing and blackouts and join the land army. What do you have to do? Be a bit worried at the news? Nope, this is not our war, we have to do nothing for it. WE are not at war and you are insulting and cowardly to suggest otherwise. In fact, since it is so in vogue at the moment, I would even go so far as to say it is appropriation on your part to say that WE’RE at war. You’re appropriating those soldiers’ experiences.

But you’re right, they are the army, that’s their job, not yours; you have no duty to go fight. The politicians on the other hand, what duty do they have? We take it as read that they don’t need to go to war with the men they have decided need to. But to what extent should that be true? Is it not a point of morality and honour that they should? Would it not make our war-mongering slightly less mongery? Decisions would certainly be taken with a bit more consideration wouldn’t they? It’s the same logic as applies to the argument for putting MPs on Osborne’s ‘living wage’. It strikes me as slightly surprising that we don’t find it at least a bit abhorrent that we are truly happy for our MPs not to have to face the consequences of their actions in the same ways we do. We allow them to dictate our fates, while theirs remain untouched.

Fear won yesterday. And now our pilots, and probably soon our soldiers – If Hague’s comments are anything to go by – are fighting our Government’s war, dropping bombs made my private arms manufacturers, firing privately made and sold Brimstone missiles, piloting privately made planes. Because war is good for the private arms manufacturers’ business, a business they were trying to flog just a couple months ago at their London fair. And their weapons, sold to politicians who will probably go and work for them, by lobbyists, are being thrown at an area of the world that so happens to be immensely oil rich. All of this is not to mention the power that can come from control of that region.

If this was about national security and justice and the preservation of Britain and its people, then why do the DWP allow suicides as a result of their policies to continue? Why are the poor and the hungry and the homeless allowed to continue as they are, dying and suffering? Because all that money we’re throwing at that war can be spent on other things you know. But austerity doesn’t apply to war.

Inevitably, you must ask yourselves, is the Government declaring this war in our interests? Really? Truly? Or do you think there might be other motivations? Because if so, is it really our war?