Monday 21 November 2016

It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.

Writing a blog like this you must always ask yourself the question, have I something that is worth saying or am I just adding my paltry two penn'orth in the delusion that what I say and think actually matters. With that in mind I strive for originality and one device that I turn to  is to make reference to a quote from someone better qualified than myself or to make an amusing link to a song which bears a similar message. With the title of this post, quoting Macbeth, I am obviously going for gold and trust that you are already ahead of me in imagining that Shakespeare wrote this pithy line with Trump in mind. The sound and fury bit is plucked from the Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow speech spoken by Macbeth himself:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

I was reminded of this when following up an interesting item in the Independent, How did Obama explain Trump's win to his daughters? where I read the following:

How did he speak with his two daughters about the election results, about the post-election reports of racial incidents? “What I say to them is that people are complicated,” Obama told me. “Societies and cultures are really complicated. . . . This is not mathematics; this is biology and chemistry. These are living organisms, and it’s messy. And your job as a citizen and as a decent human being is to constantly affirm and lift up and fight for treating people with kindness and respect and understanding. And you should anticipate that at any given moment there’s going to be flare-ups of bigotry that you may have to confront, or may be inside you and you have to vanquish. And it doesn’t stop. . . . You don’t get into a fetal position about it. You don’t start worrying about apocalypse. You say, O.K., where are the places where I can push to keep it moving forward.”

The Independent article was in turn a nugget taken out of a far more impressive piece in the New Yorker Magazine: Obama reckons with a Trump presidency by the editor, David Remnick. Check out the link; it is a well written read.

I know that Obama's words may not on the surface seem to chime with Macbeth but the similarity for me is in the quiet acceptance that all is underpinned by time. Perhaps the most impressive is the acknowledgement that you have to contend with your own bigotry as well as that of others. As I said, read the full New Yorker article and perhaps you too will see the common sanguinity of Obama and Macbeth.

Hyper Normalisation

In that New Yorker article Obama also spoke about the acceptance of untruths during campaigning and how just a few short years ago such distortions would not have been accepted.  He also speaks of the role of social media and how an truth (his example was of global warming) has no more prominence than an untruth. There is no quick fix for this but somehow we have to work out how to separate fiction from fact.

It was then quite apt that I chanced upon a film by Adam Curtis, HyperNormalisation on the BBC iPlayer. Here is the link: HyperNormalisation, a film to be found on the BBC website. I apologise to those who are unable to view media content on the BBC but I urge you to seek out this film as it plots the early years of several government's misinforming their citizens and their complicity in manufacturing fiction as fact following the withdrawal of US troops  from the Lebanon in the face of the new weapon, suicide bombing. It is a point of view that is well worth considering and it does echo Obama in that New Yorker piece. (going back to the climate debate):

That marked a decisive change from previous political eras, he maintained. “Ideally, in a democracy, everybody would agree that climate change is the consequence of man-made behavior, because that’s what ninety-nine per cent of scientists tell us,” he said. “And then we would have a debate about how to fix it. That’s how, in the seventies, eighties, and nineties, you had Republicans supporting the Clean Air Act and you had a market-based fix for acid rain rather than a command-and-control approach. So you’d argue about means, but there was a baseline of facts that we could all work off of. And now we just don’t have that.”

The HyperNormalisation film claims that a regard for evidence and truth was ditched in the area of foreign policy following the bombing of the US barracks in Beirut in 1983. Many now believe that there are governments that have extended such disinformation into other areas of governance, most notably in their handling of refugees, migrant workers, treatment of the impoverished and their complicity in the rise of unrestricted capitalism. The use of outright lies in both the Brexit and US presidential elections indicate that this trend is accelerating.

Unfortunately there are many who vote after hearing the tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. 

Thursday 10 November 2016

Nuit Blanche ............... A sleepless night

For those of you suffering from a sleepless night ............. you know .......... when that nightmare keeps returning and continues to colour your mood through the waking day .............. I offer you this as a healing balm. Nuit Blanche by Eberhard Weber:

I apologise to those who just don't like this sort of stuff.

Who better to comment than the Marx Brothers

Wise words from a wise man
The pain is now transatlantic and amplified by thoughts that other people in other lands may prove to be susceptible to this distortion of truth that masquerades as political wisdom. We fear the domino effect. At the very least the fallout will effect every continent, the double hit of Brexit and Trumpism leading to the downward spiral of protectionism both in the importation of goods and people. It is the callous exploitation of our basest fears that wrankles the most. The EU Leave campaign scapegoating the foreigner, the self same trick then rolled out in the US to get a self confessed misogynist liar to the White House. We stand on the brink of indecency as the far right take note that if you keep scratching at  the sore of xenophobia you will gain electoral success.

................ and then this prescient wisdom from Karl

The underlying problem is the freedom of capital which moves manufacturing and service delivery to locations where pay rates are at there lowest. Without a matching freedom of labour everybody suffers except those who we define as capitalists. In the American context I refer you once again to the articles of Josef Stiglitz at the Roosevelt Institute (Roosevelt Institute Link) . If we credit our politicians with even a scrap of intelligence then their baying calls to blame immigration for the ills of unemployment and poverty is a cynical distortion of reality espoused for their own self interest or the protection of the wealth of those who fund them (why they do this is perfectly described by J.K. Galbraith - see here in the previous BelperStuff blog post). On the other hand, if Trump, May, Farage, Johnson, Le Pen, Frauke Petry and sadly many, many others, if they genuinely believe what they are preaching then their reason has been irretrievably corrupted by an innate xenophobia which, when it is directed at specific peoples is nothing short of racism. Whatever the motivation the manipulation of facts to the point of outright lying to the electorate fundamentally undermines the legitimacy of  their tenure in Downing Street or the White House. If we have to add the Élysée Palace and/or the Reichstag to that list then we will indeed have returned to a world reminiscent of the 1930's.

So what is to be done?

Those opposed to this abhorrent crew and their message of racism and hatred have to find a way of moving the debate into the realm of fact ............ not fiction. The scapegoating of immigration must be challenged and any temptation by a left leaning political party to adopt a watered down yet still repressive control of immigration in the hope that by so doing they gain an advantage at the ballot box has to be resisted. Only the truth will suffice. If you want to dig deeper into this then I can suggest nothing better than this article from the Global Civil Society 2004 Yearbook. This references, amongst many other sources and ideas, this quote from Marx, " if free movement of capital is allowed, so free movement of labour should be".

A conversation with my wife as we drove home from a Labour branch meeting the other evening really set me thinking. She reminded me of the meeting we attended at the Labour Conference in Liverpool this year, to be specific, the meeting of Christians on the Left where the references in the bible to acceptance and love of the foreigner chimed perfectly with my own belief in open borders. I contrasted the open hearted and unconditional love I witnessed at that meeting with an interview on the BBC last night with a representative of the Evangelical Movement in America who without any qualms was able to defend the fact that 4 out of 5 white evangelicals voted for Trump. (see this article in Christianity Today). They are self styled as "born again" but I fear that many in the world will suffer because of the inherent born again racism of christian fundamentalists in the US. We have to find a way to counter these extremists who cleave to those who preach hate such as Trump. We just have to find a way of reaching their minds. If only we could call a meeting between the US Evangelicals and the Liverpool Christians on the Left, Now that would be a debate worth watching.


We also have to be prepared for the unthinkable. The running mate of Trump, Mike Pence, will now become the Vice-President in two months time. Mike Pence is a creationist see this youtube video of Pence speaking against the theory of evolution. He is but one step upon the grassy knoll of becoming the President (not something I would wish for I hasten to add). The fear is that even as a Vice-President he will be given a range of responsibilities by a President who will not want to be bothered by details. That he might be given the freedom to enforce a change in school curriculums that will embed the idea in young impressionable minds across the entire US that our world is a mere 4,000 or perhaps 7,000 years old is chilling. Who knows what Trump promised to Pence to get him to agree to be his running mate ................ and who know what the pair of them have had to promise to deliver to enlist the support of a variety of organisations, not least the global warming denying element of capitalism that wants to stifle any debate about the environment ( but that's a topic for another blogpost).   

The wonderful wall, the 11 million expulsions, borders closed to muslims and the imposition of 45% trade tariffs and what else? Exclusion, expulsion, embargoes and protectionism have proved to be persuasive arguments in both the EU Referendum and US Presidential campaign ................ a far cry from the Christians on the Left and Marxist philosophy that mankind should be borderless. 

Remember, if you want to avoid that sleepless night:

Love banishes fear