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.

Advertisements

How the privatisation of the prison system undermines everything prisons are meant to accomplish

It is an oft-cited maxim that one should judge a man by how he treats his inferiors.

 

Expanding the premise out, supposing that criminals are the inferiors of society – simply by dint of not having acted in a manner conducive to the public good – then one may say that a country can be judged by how it treats its prisoners. The humane and rehabilitative treatment of prisoners is a reflection of the state of our society. Not only is it beneficial for the prisoners themselves and for the public wallet that we adopt a primarily rehabilitative approach towards incarceration, based on understanding rather than prejudice, but the manner of thinking required for such a prison system is applicable to all areas of policy and reflects a progressive attitude toward running our society.

 

It may be slightly jarring, perhaps, to think in such a way – criminals have had their chance, they did something repugnant to society and they are being punished for it, they are the last people worthy of kind treatment, which is not hard to sympathise with. But apparently it is not a viewpoint shared by David Cameron. Our Prime Minister has decided to beam his shiny forehead of benevolence upon the incarcerated, it seems.

 

In February of this year he outlined a series of prison reforms to the Policy Exchange, which after Grayling’s book banning, seem veritably humanitarian. Broadly, his reforms are encompassed in the following:

 

  • Greater operational and financial autonomy for prison governors; they will be given a budget and complete control over how to spend it. As well, they can opt out of national contracts and choose their own suppliers, and they can set their own regimes.
  • Developing better metrics to track the performance of prisons, including reoffending rates per prison, employment outcomes, accommodation outcomes and educational progress. A Prison League Table will also be introduced.
  • The construction of 9 new prisons, 5 within the current Parliament, as well as changes to prison education, such as allowing governors to bring in new providers and getting graduates in to teach prisoners. In addition, renewed efforts in tackling mental illness and drug addiction in prisons.

 

As well, the great reformer is introducing ‘ban the box’ to the civil service – moving the part of job applications where one has to put one’s previous convictions to a later stage in the process when the applicant has a chance to defend themselves – and greater measures for tracking prisoners after being released, so that they may be released earlier.

 

All of these reforms seem positively liberal. They are a far cry from the barbarous stupidity of Grayling’s tenure, and from the brutality of other parts of the anatomy of Cameron’s government – his Hunt, for example.

 

Before we look at what Cameron and puppy dog panting, cheeky little red-cheeked Gove are seeking to do, it is beneficial to look at the grounding philosophy behind our prison system and work out what we want achieved. It is beneficial always to look at the base reasons for a thing, the base philosophy behind an idea, because then one can contextualise all arguments revolving around it, and better delineate truth from lies and intelligent arguments from misleading ones.

 

So, there are five reasons for punishment: deterrence, incapacitation, rehabilitation, retribution and restitution. Prison covers all but ‘restitution’, which is usually achieved through the payment of money.

 

Thus far in our societal development, we seem to have had a preoccupation with ‘retribution’. We are animals, after all, prone to our primeval lusts, and influenced by Old Testament yearnings to seek revenge for wrongs done to us, stirred up by moronic tabloid block-font headlines deeming criminals A DISGRACE and persuading us to be outraged that a criminal doesn’t get what we may deem to be their ‘comeuppance’.

 

It was seen quite clearly – this animalistic desire for vengeance over understanding – in the tabloid media’s treatment of the recent Supreme Court decision changing the doctrine of joint enterprise, where two people can be convicted of murder even though one person did not ‘pull the trigger’. Previously, the test to convict the ‘innocent’ person was one to establish foreseeability of a murder being committed, whereas the Supreme Court has changed it to the much less lax test of intention on the part of the ‘innocent’ person that murder will be committed, with foreseeability being an indicator of such intention, as oppose to the test itself. The Mirror, as you would expect, decided to treat such a nuanced area of law with the delicacy necessary, by declaring on their front page that those convicted under the original doctrine were ‘GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER’. This, of course, is not true. For one, those convicted under the previous law will either be re-tried or have their sentences reduced to reflect a conviction for manslaughter. They won’t just be set free. Secondly, the original test was a broad and indiscriminate net that did not serve its purpose. It is sensible to have a rule that reflects the difference in hopes for rehabilitation between the convicted, and to do that, we need to look at the minutiae of an event.

 

This penchant for outrage and insistence that anyone in any way involved with criminality be thrown to the dogs belies people’s humanity. There are any number of circumstances in which someone could be involved in a murder and not be inherently criminal. Retribution should not trump rehabilitation.

 

Deterrence is linked to retribution in that it is usually achieved in the same way: by making the conditions of prisoners uncomfortable to unbearable. Whereas with retribution this is mostly for shits and giggles, with deterrence it is in the hope that others will hear of the tribulations of criminals and be put off the same criminality.

 

Then there is incapacitation, a reason of simple pragmatism; we must remove the individual from society since they pose too much of a risk.

 

Finally, rehabilitation. Now, of course, some people are beyond rehabilitation; people like Charlie Bronson: the gleefully thuggish, round-headed mad man with a handlebar moustache and Natural Born Killers sunglasses who seems never to want to leave prison. Also, of course, unrepentant killers and rapists and general professional dickheads. We are not concerned with them, though. We are concerned with people capable of being rehabilitated, and when it comes to those people, rehabilitation should be the fundamental goal of our prison system. We must put aside petty primitive retribution and think unaffected and intelligently.

 

David, being a politician, cannot, of course, speak in such blunt terms; he has a populace to pander to. Indeed, he did so at the beginning of his speech, making sure to preface his reforms with this: “Some people – including, of course, rapists, murderers, child abusers, gang leaders – belong in prisons.” Let’s touch on the most repugnant of those criminals – child abusers, or pedophiles.

 

Is it not better to foster a society in which prevention is preferred above retributive notions of locking the bastards up and throwing away the key? This involves society viewing their inferiors, those repugnant criminals, as people with problems that can be understood and therefore tackled, rather than as detritus to discard. In Germany there is a programme called ‘Dunkelfeld’ to which pedophiles can report themselves and thereafter receive treatment to become safe to society. They cannot be cured, because contemporary science views pedophilia now as a sexual predilection rather than a mental imbalance. But they can be treated.

 

When we react to crime in this manner, and try to understand and treat its causes, rather than deal harshly with its potential effects, we can try and move to a place where the actual commission of child abuse is reduced because those with such tendencies feel more confident in coming forward to seek treatment before they act on their desires. And there is no lack of people so inclined – in the UK, a very diluted charitable version of Dunkelfeld – ‘Stop it Now!’ – missed 5,000 calls each month because of lack of funding.

 

When it comes to gang leaders, gangs and gang members, a different set of problems are posed. There is a correlation in city centres between areas with the highest youth unemployment and the highest levels of gang activity. It does not take much of a stretch to imagine that from this correlation, causation can be inferred. Where a job provides empowerment, independence, control of one’s destiny and an income, when jobs are scarce and opportunities are nil, a gang – or any gang-related crime: knives, drugs or theft – is a way of achieving this. After all, you never see polo shirt-clad, Jack Wills-tracksuited young ragamuffins from Cambridge rolling down the cobble-stone paths of their delightful little town 10 men deep blasting Skepta from their new i-Phones.

 

Well, you do, but those guys are soft twats playing at ironic cultural appropriation rather than gangbangers.

 

We live in a society in which respect is, by and large, dependent upon one’s success in the job market, and which looks upon those without jobs or in menial jobs with disdain. So, in that culture, when there is an employment vaccuum for whatever reason – the rise of more knowledge-based employment, a sick economy, government policies – it is not surprising that young people would seek respect and power through illegal means.

 

And with Greg Clarke having announced cuts to local government services of 6.7% – services young people in deprived areas would rely on – (following five years of austerity already) as well as an ability for local governments to raise taxes by 2% without a referendum – again, something that disadvantages poor communities, since that 2% won’t translate to an increase in public service funding in the way it will for more affluent areas, as well as youth unemployment – although going down – having been at its highest between 2010 and 2012 since 1992, coupled with constant news of massive tax breaks for mega-rich corporations like Amazon and Google, and after the recession, the bankers getting away with their devastating crimes, is it any wonder that people may turn from a society that seems not to value them, and instead turn to crime to take what they can?

 

Prison reform can only go so far in improving these people’s chances. Policy on the outside must be such that the opportunities for people to fall into crimes of desperation are stifled as much as possible.

 

This is not to absolve criminals of responsibility – those who commit heinous crimes hurt their victims badly, and, honestly? If a pedophile abused my son or daughter, I’d take their head. But we must separate policy from individual prejudice and understand that crime is not to be taken as a solitary act. It is the concomitant of a vast number of factors, all of which have to be addressed in order to build the kind of society I’m sure we all want to live in.

 

Nevertheless, depending on their involvement, personal inclinations, remorse and any other of the myriad mitigating circumstances, criminals should be incarcerated, if at the very least only to be incapacitated. And when they are, what will Cameron’s prisons do to and for them?

Dave is giving more powers to prison governors to have ultimate authority over their budgets and the ability to opt out of national contracts and choose their own suppliers – this assumes, I suppose, that such contracts will be open to the private sector. 6 prisons this year will be changed to be run as such. As well, Dave announced the building of 9 completely new prisons. Now, to give this news some context, it helps to turn to a speech he made in September 2015. In it he said that it would aid his goals of devolution of public services to “invite bids for new prisons from those charities and others who wish to work with specific types of offender.” Even though he makes them seem unimportant, I would suppose that it is those ‘others’ who will be making the majority of bids.

 

It is not without precedent, seeing as there are 14 privately run prisons in England and Wales, all overseen by the trifecta of Serco, G4S and Sodexo. You might recognise G4S as the same company that fucked up the Olympics by not being able to supply the manpower it said it could, so having to be subsidised by the government in having the army sent in to cover its ass. And you might remember all of these companies as the ones that run some of the UK’s immigration removal centres; the same immigration removal centres at which there are routinely accusations of abuse, sexual abuse, poor healthcare and hunger strikes.

 

It also helps to note that Dave’s speech comes three years after Reform – the right wing think tank – released ‘the Case for Private Prisons’ report in 2013, in which they suggested that private prisons have lower reoffending rates and are more cost-effective than publicly run prisons. Reform recommended removing any limitations on private companies to run prisons. Of course, value for money is more easily achieved when a company pays its staff 40% less than staff in state run prisons. As well, the privately run prisons we have now are purpose built, less crowded and don’t hold the most high-risk prisoners. When these facts are taken with the claims, in fact, private prisons are not performing markedly better.

 

And when Wolds prison – a G4S venture – was forcibly wrenched back into public hands in 2012 because of prisoners’ illegal drug use and overall idleness, it’s hard to believe Reform’s claims. But, guess what, chums? As you may have come to expect, three of Reform’s ‘corporate partners’ are… no go on, guess…   Okay, I’ll tell you:

 

G4S, Sodexo and Serco.

 

As well, the think tank is inextricably linked to the Conservative party.

 

Suddenly it starts to look as though what first appeared to be intelligent, liberal, progressive reforms to the prison system are just measures to facilitate the never ending pursuit of the doctrinal and unrelenting privatisation of every single instrument of state we have to offer, like the government has gone mad, decided it doesn’t need material things any more (man) and wants to sell it all before running off into the forest to smoke hash and make love to squirrels. There are, of course, some little flourishes like ‘ban the box’ thrown in.

 

You may question whether it is intelligent to have a service such as that of prisons, run privately. Whether it is the best way to achieve the rehabilitation of prisoners and the broad, overarching social aims we want. Private companies seek to make a profit, obviously. And private companies in charge of prisons rely on prisoners to fill those prisons in order to make a profit. Whereas a state run prison would simply be shut down or repurposed were the crime rate to be drastically diminished, private companies running private prisons face a big loss if that is the case. It is not in their interests that prisons achieve the goals we want them to achieve. Companies like G4S and Serco feast off the decay of society, they are there to provide services that are only necessary if the collective good of the people isn’t being achieved as completely as it could be.

 

This is to say nothing of the fact that, despite what Reform claim, private prisons are worse than publicly run prisons. The Ministry of Justice itself has reported that private prisons do worse in terms of the number of assaults and escapes and in rehabilitating prisoners. And this is despite the fact that it is believed private prisons significantly under report the amount of attacks in private prisons.

 

Privately run prisons are not conducive to the goals of real, permanent rehabilitation of prisoners, nor are they conducive to viewing prisons as what they are – a last resort, the tail of the beast, only to be used if society faces too much of a danger from the criminal and, when they are used, to be used as rehabilitative or safe places of incapacitation. Prisons are not a profitable venture to be capitalised on.

 

The privatisation of prisons and the resultant failure of the system when it comes to prisoners may not be at the top of the list of your concerns. But they are a good example of this government’s self-imposed mandate to privatise and they serve as a warning of what may happen to public services you value more highly.

 

It is an oft-cited maxim that a man should be judged by how he treats his inferiors. And, perhaps, that a country should be judged by how it treats its prisoners. Well, if that is the case, and we treat our prisoners like cash cows, how can we expect to be judged? More importantly, how does that mean that we can expect to be treated?

Freedom of repression

Its just too good to be true. Journalists massacred in Paris by evil looking bandana’d thugs with AKs. Its the stuff of airport trash novels. And whom did they shoot? Why, the bloodshed occurred in the buildings of a satirical magazine, apparently, because said magazine depicted Mohammed (offensively). Two birds with one stone. On the one hand, our Governments can justify an ever tightening grip on our civil liberties in the name of prevention of terrorism. All the while, on the other hand, they can carry it out in the name of free speech – bastions of Western democracy, paragons of virtue and torches of democratic freedom burning bright as the flag of ISIS seeks to cast shadows over us.

The tragedy even came with a hashtag: ‘Je Suis Charlie’; because, deep down, we are all Charlie Hebdo – a satirical magazine – just warm and safe, not riddled with bullets and dripping blood, not dead satirists, not having felt the brunt of some pissed off crazies. Actually… are we really Charlie Hebdo? The internet has given birth to many creations, among which bullshit solidarity has to be the most repugnant. And that is no mean feat in a medium chock full of people’s repulsive mental-slurry. The bullshit solidarity, of course, is compounded by the lack thereof in relation to the Boko Haram attacks in Baga, Nigeria.

But bullshit solidarity is not confined to the internet and, in fact, a bunch of well-meaning but ultimately futile and inconsequential sweet nothings whispered in nobodies ear through computer screens by insulated, sedentary turds is not a problem when compared with the bullshit solidarity of the Establishment. Quick as bullets, three days after the attack, Cameron, Merkel, Hollande and all self-propagandising Western leaders from Europe and beyond were pictured, arms linked like in some sort of grass-roots movement, marching aimlessly in the name of Hebdo. Leaders marching with their people – what better expression of solidarity and what better message for leaders to send to an increasingly disenchanted electorate than that to say: “we are one, we are unified, together”? Except, they weren’t marching with their people. Pictures from above now show a safety zone inhabited by security men between the pitiful back-lines of dignitaries and the actual people of France.

Your leaders won’t even march with you. The march in Paris, for them, was nothing but a PR stunt to create propaganda to blast onto monopolistically owned and politically influenced front-pages across the board and get your heart-rates pumping and your patriotic juices a-flowing. Your leaders don’t give a fuck about a life lost, or 12, or 17, or 100, or 2,000. With big, bold, black letters adorning every newspaper from the Times to the Metro showing crowds waving flags and politicians in the ruck, the propaganda has worked. We are united as one, all past-discrepancies forgotten in the haze of the terror threat. We have an ideological enemy – extremism (or, among the darker shades of Establishment thought – Islam) and we are united under an ideological principle – freedom of speech.

And with the sound of gunfire still echoing in our ears we stand united with our leaders, ready to give unto them anything. As the skeletal fingers of fear tighten around our necks we plead, gasping, that anything may be done in its name so long as it lets go. Its all so… ‘done’. Even the hashtag: ‘Je Suis Charlie’ resonates back to the immortal words of the universally adored JFK in his perpetual struggle against the evil of Communism: ‘Ich Bin Ein Berliner’. Since, just as then, we are at war with an ideological enemy and we know in our hearts – at least, we are told – that we have right on our side.

And so, anything must be legitimated in the fight against this threat. Just as after 9/11, the Bush administration passed the Patriot Act infringing American’s freedoms in a way never before seen and affording authoritarian power to the law enforcement agencies. Just as after 7/7 Blair’s New Labour government gave the police greater and more far-reaching powers through control orders and attempted to pass a 90-day without trial detention period through Parliament. Just as after the burning down of the Reichstag building in 1933 Hitler was able to pass the executive order granting himself dictatorial power, now our leaders are using Hebdo as a justification in the same vein.

Hollande is considering a French-Patriot Act, George Osbourne has given £100,000 to MI5 with the promise that they will get ‘whatever they want’, Cameron has outlined plans to ban Whatsapp (among other messaging platforms un-snoopable by security agencies), borders are tightening, 100,000 French troops are on the ground on French soil and warnings are given daily of impending terror attacks. Already the machine is gearing up to harvest our freedoms in the name of national security. And all the while naive young well-meaners pine for a freedom of speech they suspect is being taken from them by nuts with guns and bandanas.

Your freedom isn’t under threat from terrorism. Your freedom is under threat from the Governments that take it from you in the name of terrorism. The very same Governments that are terrorists. We stand united under our banner of self-righteousness and self-pity as innocent Westerners guilty of nothing but democracy and free-speech. All the while we have implicitly allowed the rampant drone bombings of the countries in which these fanatics gestate. We have stood idly by and allowed our leaders, unaccountably, to wage a war we have no interest in waging. We have been guilty of the marginalisation and disenfranchisement of the otherwise well-meaning Muslim populations in our own countries – helped in no small part by a Government eager, at all times, for an identifiable scapegoat. We are not guiltless. We are feeling the wrath of a beast we have been implicit in creating. ISIS would not exist were it not for Camp Bucca – a US run prison in Iraq.

And it is just too good to be true for our leaders.

There will be another terrorist attack, there will be many more, and they will be more hard hitting. And our leaders will welcome them with open arms. Since the more bloodshed, the more apparent chaos on the streets, the more we feel frightened and defenceless, the more we will cry, scream and plead for the guns and jack-boots of our Government. The more we will nod enthusiastically when a vital element of our freedom is curtailed. We will wait with baited breath for the next measure in the interests of national security. And one day, we will awaken to a nightmare, to a world we thought we knew but that shifted, oh so quietly, in front of our eyes, until it became a desolate land devoid of freedom, of emotion, of individuality and devoid of expression.

Bullshit

This is odd for me, this is my second post on my blog in three days. I usually post very infrequently but I just can’t keep my mouth shut (or my fingers from punching keyboard keys) over the torrent of bullshit that has recently flooded the British political landscape faster than a pyroclastic flow vomiting from the gaping mouth of a violently explosive volcano.  This week has been wonderful for British politics. Wonderful in the sense of being highly entertaining for someone who takes a keen interest in politics but is so disillusioned with the status-quo that they couldn’t care less what happens.

During the process of this political furore a number of beautiful things have happened, three to be exact, that highlight the extent of politicians’ bullshit. This week the intolerably chirpy Nigel Farage and his nauseatingly tacky yellow and purple covered UKIP bandwagon have rolled through Rochester & Strood on a wave of political alienation and suppressed racism. Mark Reckless, a man with more forehead than sense, has taken off his blue rosette to slip into something more comfortable – the poundshop-looking rosette of the anti-Europeans.

Well, while all this was going on, Labour, always the nose-picking spotty kid in the corner of the playground, have been in some trouble. One of their MPs, an Emily Thornberry, tweeted a picture of a house adorned in the flag of St. George with a white van parked on the drive. She tweeted it without comment. Now, for those of you who don’t understand the nuance of the situation, the English flag and, more importantly, its overuse, is associated with the working class, and more importantly, with an ignorant working class. In tweeting this picture Ms. Thornberry has done the cyber equivalent of snorting derisively in the faces of the proles. “Hah!” she sniggered implicitly, “look at this house and its silly poor people”. Anyway, she’s now resigned after it was reported that Ed Miliband was pissed as hell. The bit that I find absurdly wonderful is that while being interviewed, Ed was asked by a reporter – “what do you feel when you see a white van?” His response? Did he say “I feel nothing, absolutely nothing, when I see a white van because… its a fucking white van and you’re a silly little interviewer asking silly little questions now why don’t you quiz me on things I’m meant to know and do things about like, say, what we’re gonna do about climate change or overpopulation or sustainability?” No, he didn’t answer like that. Instead, Mr. Miliband with the pained and slightly gawky expression of a posh school prefect, said “I feel respect”.

“I feel respect.”

What an absurd, absolutely ludicrously, incomprehensibly, mind-boggilingly ridiculous thing to say. With the wide eyes of a small boy whose headmaster has just asked, “what were you doing behind the bike shed with that magazine and your flies undone”, Ed, with the muffled consonants of someone who has cotton balls stuffed in their mouth, said, with feigned and affected sincerity, that he feels respect when he sees a white van. This kind of whole and complete bullshit just sums up the flaky, disingenuous nature of our gasping politicians as they grapple around in blind panic like desperate little whores doing anything to get their head in our collective car windows. It shows how spectacularly they hold having a view point, or some ideals, or an opinion, in contempt. They will literally let noise fall aggressively and viciously out of their mouths.

Ed and his band of squirming, indecisive nitwits were not the only ones to feel fallout from the UKIP nuke. The right wing, namely the tories, is in disarray because, well, they’ve been out right-winged. This is nothing new. But of note to me was what one of Cameron’s cronies said was the solution to this insurgence. He said that the tories, to compete, would have to strengthen their stance on immigration.

This, you tory twonks, is not the reaction to be had. Perhaps in terms of winning an election, in clinging on to power and influence for power and influence’s sake, perhaps in terms of winning a competition and having to be willing to bite the other guy’s proverbial ear off; perhaps in those terms this is a good strategy. However, in terms of the purpose of politicians as being to espouse ideals and viewpoints in the best interests of the people and to achieve things to further humanity by sticking to ideas and policies because they seem to be the best solution, or even to change policies because another seems better; this tory reaction is a deliberately awful strategy. It is political pandering of the worst kind.

Whether we like it or not we live in a global society, politically, economically and morally, and we owe duties to one another – that is the legacy of dead empires and the burden of globalisation. To even contemplate a policy change with such ramifications as one concerned with migration is grossly irresponsible and entirely cruel.

However, the most poignant and, perhaps, appropriate piece of bullshit that has dripped from the gaping end of this week is Mr. Farage’s reaction to our quickly-aging chancellor’s defeat in the ECJ. Mr. George Osborne was rejected sternly and in no uncertain terms by the Advocate General of the ECJ when he implored our European judicial overlords to un-impose a cap on city-boy bonuses. The cap isn’t really a cap of any effect in the first place, bonuses are capped at 100% of salary going up to 200% with shareholder approval. However with salaries uncapped, bonuses are, theoretically, limitless.

And what was multi-chinned Nigel’s reaction to this development? He said that he hoped people would see, now, that we (Britain) never ever win in Europe. He smiled his face-creasing smile, his toad eyes all alight, and hoped people would see that he’s been right the whole time and this defeat would show people our place in Europe (presumably, in his eyes, that of the cajoled and timid maid who stands back from the banquet table while the real countries discuss things). This is the most insidious example of bullshit yet. If what Mr. Farage made you think resembled anything like the implications he hoped then, I’m afraid, you’re an idiot. The event and his statement showed us two things. Firstly, that the EU and it’s various instruments are still, for the time being, slightly less infected by the virus of City money, City greed and City motivations than Westminster. Our European overlords, at least, still retain some sense of sense, some fairness in their decisions and that, for all else, is a good thing and a factor we as people should not ignore when contemplating our place in the union. Secondly, rather than agreeing with the ECJ decision because it obviously reeks fairness and aims at reducing inequality (even if its only a drip of piss on a forest fire), Nigel chose to point out that we never win in Europe. Like that spoilt fat kid on sports day Farage sobbed, proverbial snot on his sleeve, whinging and crying that “ITS NOT FAIR! WE NEVER WIN!”

Nigel, the tweed-jacket wearing, beer drinking, cigarette smoking, blunt man of the people chose not to represent the proles he claims to, at least in rhetoric, by endorsing the ECJ decision. No, he implicitly condemned it. Mr. Farage showed himself as what he is; he is a City-boy, he is Cameron, he is Ed, he is Westminster.