“Fury” over plans to house refugees

Whitstable Gazette 16/07/2015

Whitstable Gazette 16/07/2015

Front page of the Whitstable Gazette last week: “Fury over plans to house refugees”.

Pardon? Did I hear that right? There’s an unused building in Whitstable; there’s  some homeless, traumatised children – that’s the meaning of the term “unaccompanied minor” – and somebody is “furious” about it; someone objects?

What has become of us, that we treat young people seeking refuge this way? The victims of wars that our political and economic elites started in order to fill their own pockets. Orphans, driven from their homes by conditions which we helped to create.

We don’t even know who these children are. We don’t know their stories or where they are from. We don’t know how they came to make these extraordinary journeys, in flimsy vessels, across a hostile sea, risking their lives to be here.

We don’t know which countries they come from, but it’s a fair bet that the majority will be from North Africa and the Middle East, where our pilots are active again, skimming the skies over Syria and Iraq, unleashing their weapons of fury at some newly-defined targets.

That’s right: “fury”. There is nothing in any of our imaginations as furious as a rocket attack, or as lonely and bereft as a child who has lost his home.

You want to know who Isis are, or how come they are so well armed, so well trained, so well equipped?

The bulk of them are the remnants of Saddam’s army. They used be known as Al Qaeda in Iraq. There had been no Al Qaeda in Iraq until we invaded their lands.

They were supplemented by fighters from Libya, who we armed and trained in order to get rid of Gaddafi and subsequently directed at our next chosen enemy, Assad.

Their philosophy is the salafist doctrine of Saudi Arabia, the most corrupt and venal nation on Earth, a nation built on nepotism and greed, who we support and arm.

Thus it is that our own actions return to us in the form of these homeless children seeking asylum.

If we really want to stop migrants coming into this country, then let’s stop the wars that drive them here.

More on Syria: https://christopherjamesstone.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/which-side-is-our-mp-on-over-syria

***************************************

The Whitstable Gazette.
The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.
Send letters to:
The Editor, 5-8 Boorman Way, Estuary View Business Park, Whitstable, Kent CT5 3SE,
fax 01227 762415
email kentishgazette@thekmgroup.co.uk
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Party politics

Let’s have a revolution for fun

(New Statesman & Society 29th July 1994)

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(Photograph by Dave Hendley)

Awake. awake O sleeper of the land of shadows, wake!  expand!

I am in you, and you in me, mutual in love divine:

Fibres of love from man to man thro’ Albion’s pleasant land.

William Blake: Jerusalem.

 

There is a place where Contrarieties are equally true

William Blake: Milton.

 

AS I’M writing this the first of many mountain-sized chunks of rock will be plunging headlong into the thick, gaseous stew of Jupiter’s swirling mass, sending a huge plume of matter and radiation into the Solar System. Everyone I know is talking about it. It may be the most important cosmic event of the last 2,000 years. My friend Joe, an Astrologer, tells me that the resulting explosions will release what he calls “Jovian forces” into the Solar System, by which he means peace, justice and natural goodness. Consciousness will change, he tells me. And he quotes the song from Hair to prove it: “When the Moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars, then peace will guide the planets, and love will steer the stars.” According to Joe this is pretty much the configuration as the cataclysm erupts.

What has this to do with politics? Everything.

The point is, Joe, who has never felt the need to express himself politically before, will be on the March and Rally against the Criminal Justice Bill on the 24th of July. As will assorted Pagans, Witches, Druids, Tarot-readers, Buddhists, Celtic tribes and English posses, travellers, ravers, dossers, space-cowboys, self-proclaimed gurus, pranksters, visionaries, poets, as well as the usual assortment of lefties, anarchists and professional protesters. A measure of Joe’s previous political involvement is a conversation we once had about a particular field that was threatened by a new by-pass. Joe wanted to stop the road. I suggested I could help him. “No thanks,” he said. “I’ll meditate in the field and create an invisible psychic barrier.” Joe has also been known to proclaim himself immortal.

Justice, peace and natural goodness. However you put it, whatever the rhetoric that leads up to it, whatever the structures of thought, justice, peace and natural goodness is what we all want and what we all need. And anyone who states these things as his or her principles, and acts upon them, is one of us. Simple.

To me this is the essence of the new politics. Here’s an analogy. It’s as if we’ve reached a cross-roads in human evolution, or in political life. There are a number of choices open to us, some of them exceedingly dangerous. It’s fairly pointless standing round debating how we all got here. What we need to do is work out where we go next. The world is full of rhetoric. Political, spiritual, scientific rhetoric. The first thing we have to admit is that we really don’t know all that much. It’s fundamental that there are people around us we can trust. Anyone can adopt a stance. What matters is the intention behind the words.

Joe is not a nutter, by the way – the usual description for anyone whose belief-structures are different than ours – he is perfectly sane, chases women, drinks beer, watches the Soaps like the rest of us. These are his beliefs, that’s all, just as Marxism is a belief, or the idea that we are all simply accidental lumps of matter running round like headless chickens with no other purpose than to reproduce and then die. Belief is one of the things that defines us as human beings.

Marxism is a belief, I said. Of course the Marxists would deny that. Marx himself, humanitarian though he was, was also deeply enamoured of the mythology of 19th century materialist science, and the idea that, one day, all things would be reduced to simple, non-contradictory laws. This in itself is a faith. In the 20th century science itself took us into areas where apparent contradictions exist concurrently. Is light formed of waves or particles? Depending on your point of view it can appear as either one or the other. In fact it is both at the same time. Are human beings distinguished by consciousness or production, asks Marx? And he answers the question: by production, by work. And from this first step the socialist movements that followed him proceed relentlessly along a line that takes us into work, work and more work. Cultural expression is an irrelevance and can be ignored. Joy, celebration, pleasure are the gaseous by-products of the digestive processes of labour: consciousness as fart.

– But does Marx really know that production is the distinguishing factor of human existence? Is work the only thing? –

My profoundest political revelation (is revelation the revolution of the mind?) came not during a strike, or at a committee meeting to discuss the future of socialism: it came at a rave. The event was held deep in the Sussex countryside, nestled high in the soft folds of a chalk escarpment, hidden away in a little bowl of land like a natural amphitheatre. We took our drugs and danced to the pulsing beat. I took my shoes off at one point to feel the cool grasses tickling my feet. The summer breezes bustled about my limbs, warm and relaxing, and tiny shivers ran up my spine. This was heaven, the perfect union of body and mind, of earth and air, of personal expression and communion with others. Some months later I went back to visit the place. There was no sign that anything had ever happened there.

– So what is work? –

The labour that the DIY crew put into the event was real enough. Planning it, shifting gear, clearing up afterwards. And the joyous expression of dance certainly cost a lot of energy. But what did we make on that occasion? Nothing but love.

But afterwards I knew, with an understanding that went deeper than the rational, that the land was truly mine, all of the land, all mine and all everyone else’s at the same time; that the land contained ecstasy, beauty, sensuality, love, and that the pulsing heart beat of the music was rippling through her body like a shiver and that she was being awakened by it. Take it or leave it: it is my belief.

 

OF COURSE Karl Marx’s theories are based in part upon his observations of the British Working Class during a crucial period of political and economic change. Frederick Engels actually owned a factory in Manchester and his Condition Of The English Working Class is a seminal work of 19th century social observation. But what is the most abiding contribution that the British Working Class have made to the state of Britain and to the world as a whole? Trade Unionism? To some degree, though we have seen how self seeking the leadership can be, and how fragile and inept the structures of economic dissent. The National Health Service? Perhaps, though the drug companies seem to do a lot better out of it than the rest of us. The Labour Party? At one time maybe, though the current fraternisation with the City of London – Champagne Socialism – makes you question where their loyalties really lie. Or is it something else? Isn’t there another thing that working class history has given us, not just the British people, but the world as a whole?

– I’ll tell you what it is: it is football. –

Of all the things formulated in the golden age of British Imperialism, when Britain was the world economic power, and the engineers of Birmingham and the cotton workers of Manchester were producing goods that would help reshape the world, the only thing that has lasted is football. And what working class community does not play football these days? And what is football but a strange ritual performance involving 22 men and a ball, surrounded by taboos and fetishes, on which the whole world’s hopes and fears are pinned, like an icon, like a religion? What is it but cultural expression?

Who is to say really what the earliest human beings were thinking when producing the first artefacts? Did they sing as they did so? Did they perform magical acts? When the first animal was brought down by the first arrow, did it feel like sport? And did they dance around the fire afterwards with the sheer joy of being alive?

Joy and labour are not separable things. Cultural expression and means of production are from the same source. Humanity is not a machine wedded to work but a living, breathing act of consciousness, expressive of joy. The world is a better place than we imagine.

The new politics arises precisely out of this awareness. People don’t go on demos these days, they celebrate. They don’t protest, they party. 23rd July, Hailli Sellasi’s birthday: the Kent Freedom to Party, Travel and Protest Campaign held a “Picnic against the Criminal Justice Bill” on Folkestone Pleasure Beach, including a March to Lobby Michael Howard’s surgery. Like so many of the events taking place in this current period it was characterised by a genuine party atmosphere. Dancing, drums, good natured banter, chants that owed more to their rhythmical qualities than to their content, whistles, war-whoops, a lot of noise: what you might call, in old fashioned terms “good vibes”.

 

THE main point was that people were enjoying it. It was fun. In a sense even the word “politics” is misleading. A substantial segment of the current movement would not see their actions in political terms at all. For them it is a spiritual commitment, to the Earth, our Mother. Theirs is an expression of love, of sorrow at the pain and joy at the beauty of our world. And their fundamental understanding is not that they are facing the blind structures of Capitalism, but manifest evil. There are black magicians out there, in control, behind the scenes, people who understand perfectly well the energy systems of the Earth and who are channelling dark energy to destroy her. For both sides materialism is a front, a myth that the rest of us have bought, Capitalist and Communist alike, and through which the secret societies manipulate our very thoughts.

Someone told me a wonderful story. Apparently George Bush is a member of a secret society called the Skull and Bones Club. George Bush’s father actually stole the skull of Geronimo, and even now acolytes drink from it in memory of the defeat of this celebrated nomad. But as part of the admission ceremony you have to lie naked in a black coffin with your genitals tied up with ribbon while you recite your sexual experiences to the assembled audience. Picture it: George Bush, future President of the United States of America, one day to become the world’s most powerful man, with the entire might of the US war-machine at his disposal, lying naked in a coffin with his genitals tied. Maybe this explains as well as anything the motives behind the Gulf War. I don’t care if the story is true or not. I’m only glad that someone told it to me.

And maybe there are Black Magician’s channelling negative energy into the Earth, who can tell? Better to be safe than sorry. And it’s in anticipation of this that the exponents of the new politics – the eco-warriors and pagan travellers of Little Solsbury Hill and Twyford Down – perform their own magic rituals. May 1st on Solsbury Hill, the Donga Tribe built a “Wicker-digger” from sticks, set fire to it, and leapt through the flames. July 2nd, Twyford Down: balls of wool (unfortunately some of them acrylic) were cast around the crowd to create a web of unity and to remind us of the sheep that have for centuries shaped the landscape.

– Gobbledegook, you say? Who cares? Fun, frolic and celebration in the sunshine, I say. –

But it goes further than this too. If through ritual magic we can free the human spirit, then it is more than mad frolics: it is essential to the progress of consciousness on this planet. Magic empowers, prayer diminishes. In magic you depend on yourself. In prayer you depend on the good will and intervention of a higher authority. The practice of magic is the psychological anticipation of a world of self-determination. The practice of prayer is the psychological reflection of this world of disempowerment. Again I cite the Donga Tribe. On July 2nd many of the women of the tribe were bare-breasted, and there was something absolutely extraordinary in this. Not the sight of breasts – we see these on beaches the world over, lying inert, soaking up the sun – but whole women, straight-backed and proud in a mixed crowd of generally clothed people, staring the world in the eye. I must admit it made me shy, like a little boy not knowing where to look. I caught one woman’s eye. She smiled at me and her eyes gave off little electric sparkles like a static charge, and I knew she knew exactly how I was feeling. The new politics is new because it is innovative and arresting and because it challenges all the assumptions we make about ourselves and others. It is more than politics, it is love.

– These women have no need of legislation or the censorship of Political Correctness. They prove themselves stronger than men in everything they do. –

I said the new politics isn’t really about politics. Actually it’s not even new. There’s a history there. It’s a culmination. The roots go back to the 60s (doesn’t everything?) and many of the elder statesmen of the current movement are happy to recite their 60s credentials. And if anyone doubts the historical relevance (resonance) of that decade, they only have to meet people too old or too emotionally restricted to have enjoyed those heady days when they were upon us. Prior to the 60s people may have had sex before marriage, but then they ran guiltily to the nearest registry office once the tests proved positive, and had to live through years of unhappy marriage as a consequence. Prior to the 60s people did not grow their hair, or come out openly as homosexuals, or experiment with lifestyles or drugs or political and communal options. They stayed within limits. And all of the emotional and sexual freedoms that we now cherish (loving friendships, partnership not ownership) have their roots in the sexual revolution that those years brought. Revolution is not too big a word. The world was changed as a consequence.

– Revolution, you see, is not necessarily about overthrowing governments. It can also describe abiding social and cultural change. –

One of the great qualities of that era was that politics was fun. It was full of scams and taunts and it mixed its metaphors no end. The Yippies tried to levitate the Whitehouse as a protest against the Vietnam war, and put up a pig for President. Oz magazine was irreverent and spooky and packed with wild graphics. Slogans were off the wall and witty with a sometimes strange resonance. One I remember came from the 68 Paris revolution. “Under the cobbles, the beach” it said. What does that mean? Partly, that beneath these civilised structures lies a simpler reality. But you can imagine some tripped-out revolutionary picking out a cobble to chuck at the lines of riot police, and finding the bedding sand beneath. “Wow, man: the beach!”

– The trouble with the 60s, though, is that they came to an end. –

As yet there was no distinction between the search for personal and political emancipation. The two things went hand-in-hand. Timothy Leary wrote a book called “The Politics of Ecstasy.” And there you have it: in a nutshell. Later the movement divided into what Tom Wolfe called the Me Generation and The New Left (Radical Chic). And it is this division we have lived with ever since. The New Left became ever more relentlessly Marxist and materialist until they were indistinguishable from the old left. The Me Generation – what became known as the New Age – turned to crystals, aromatherapy, Buddhist chants, and began to scorn politics altogether, as beneath them. Both approaches were flawed.

The movement fragmented. All you had left was lifestyles. Me: I’m into motorbikes and black leather and a girl with a tattoo on the pillion. Me: I’m into Transcendental Meditation and free love and I think I’ll open a carpet emporium. Me: I’m into Karl Marx and the revolution, and that cushy job as a sociology lecturer at the nearest red-brick university. Me: I’ve taken so many drugs I get lost in my own toilet. Me: I just give up.

But one thing held: the festivals. Glastonbury, the Windsor Free Festival, The People’s Free Festival, Stonehenge until ’85, as well as countless Albion Fayres, small gatherings the length and breadth of the British Isles. Punk came along, a new urban rebellious spirit, and rejected the hippies as Boring Old Farts. But even they joined in the end. Travelling became a lifestyle, moving from festival to festival during the summer months, scraping a degree of self-sufficiency and a suntan from these sterile Islands. Travellers were and still are the heart of the movement, whether as Hendrix-inspired psychedelic gypsies, or as politically motivated Mutant hordes, or as Crusties with a drug-habit: they kept the thing going.

Travellers have always had a political agenda, whether they know it or not. But it’s a negative agenda: rejection. The travelling lifestyle says simply: “Fuck your low paid jobs, your miserable, low-grade housing, your rooted, sedentary lifestyle, your Ping-Pong politics of deception, your wars, your poverty, your loneliness, your despair. I’m gonna get a bus and watch the sunset from a hilltop whether you like it or not.” Like the official propaganda on drugs, it just says no. I spoke to travellers on a wooded site somewhere in the South of England. I asked them why they travelled. “What’s the choice?” said one of the girls. “A crummy bedsit.”

Other things happened in the intervening years, of course. There was the Anti-Nazi League in the 70s, Peace Camps in the 80s, The Miner’s Strike of 84-85, the Poll-Tax Protests that brought down Thatcher. They all served to keep the rebellious spirit alive. But they were still all essentially negative. No to this, and no to that. The synergistic moment – to me – comes when rave meets the festivals and all heaven is let loose. All of a sudden the answer is yes. Yes, yes, yes, emphatically yes!

 

RAVE was and is about as non-political as you can get. If anything it was welded to the ideals of Thatcherism. Early Acid House party organisers made big bucks running illegal pay-parties in fields and warehouses. The so-called second summer of love in 88 was one long hedonistic binge. But it was joyful. It was spiritual. And it was positive.

What was first class about it is that these people really knew how to throw a party. The music was good: no more crap amateur bands trudging through pedestrian versions of ancient songs. New, interesting, vibrant sounds fresh out of the USA, a sampled amalgam of deep soul R’n’B and sparkling Salsa. The equipment was good: a 10k solid wall of sound to unfurl your intestines, rather than the Woolworth’s stereo with one blown speaker I remember. The effects were good: swirls of fractal images, smoke machines and lasers, rather than a single, naked red bulb and a Hendrix album cover. And the drugs were good too, of course: warm, heart-swelling MDMA, enough to make you fall in love forever… or until the next party, that is. No violence. No sexual rivalry. No meat-market. Just human beings, dancing and having fun.

– People say drugs are bad for you. But so’s living in a drab council estate with no money and no prospects. So are motorways. So is breathing their noxious fumes. –

The pay-parties became licensed Raves and entry fees went through the roof, and more and more people were excluded, until someone came up with the bright idea of doing it themselves. Only to discover that people had been doing it themselves for decades. Rave met the festivals. The party had just begun.

I often think of these events as like the Ghost Dance, the last ecstatic-despairing expression of the Native American Peoples before they gave in and crawled back to the miserable culture-crushing welfare-drudgery of the Reservations.

 

FROM the late-1880s to the mid-1890s the Indians danced. They danced and danced and danced. Danced to ecstasy, to drive the white man from the spacious plains, to bring back the buffalo, to shake off despair. In my romantic moments I imagine that the sounds of their footsteps have resonated ever since, to emerge in this great party spirit that unites us now: new tribalism, new communion, new consciousness. The Party party: political spirituality. Action Yoga, as a friend of mine puts it: emancipation of the self through collective action.

The only way to properly define the new politics is to compare it to the old politics. Politics was, and always will be, a dull affair. Committee meetings, endless wrangles, pompous, meaningless speeches, being forced to work with people you don’t like, and certainly don’t trust. Committees for this and committees for that. The EC of the GC. Strings of incomprehensible letters: EEC, RCP, TCP, DDT. And of course there’s always a certain person that loves all of this, who can tell you who was who on what committee in what year; eats, sleeps, dreams and dies by committee, and who scorns anyone who can’t hack it. Talking shops, talks about talks, and then talks to discuss the outcome of talks. In the end you give up. Anyway, what’s the point, nothing ever changes? A vote for Labour is a vote for yet another potential criminal to get his hands on the purse-strings. Can you really believe that the Labour Party, the Liberal Party, or any other Party will ever do anything, even if they have all the good will in the world? Do you really expect the super-rich to give away power because a Labour Prime Minister goes to them, cap-in-hand, to beg a few crumbs? Isn’t it far more likely that he’ll keep the crumbs for himself, or find a cushy little pay off for himself in Brussels even if he never gets to be Prime Minister? Democracy is about empowering someone else and then praying that they don’t turn out to be too corrupt.

The new politics is about self-empowerment. It’s about tribes not structures. What’s a tribe? A tribe is a network of friends who’ve gone through the same things as you. That way you know you can trust them. It’s intuitive, not legislative. People are “sound” because you sense they are, not because they show you a set of white teeth and say all the right things. More than at any time in my life I truly feel that I’m surrounded by my brothers and sisters.

That was the atmosphere on the March and Rally on the 24th. A mobile sea of humanity, all brothers and sisters, all beautiful. Someone shouted to a scowling police officer, “Smile, it doesn’t cost anything,” which merely deepened the scowl. I asked the officer what he thought when the guy had said that. “Same as I’m thinking now about you: go away!” But generally even the police were OK. Some sporadic violence, most of it more symbolic than real. A couple of hundred people attempted to force the gates of Downing Street, and actually managed to make the foundations creak. I saw only one arrest, someone who fell down on the wrong side of the gates and who was summarily punished by the quivering riot police as a consequence. Aside from that, just one long, happy party. I overheard someone on the tube. “You’re never too old to have a happy childhood,”he said.

The new politics is about change, it’s about freedom, it’s about liberty. “Freedom to travel, party and protest,” as my mate Tim has it. But freedom from want too, from oppression, from ridiculous waste. The CJB has united us through it’s ineptitude, it’s stupidity and it’s vicious petty-mindedness. But it shows simply and clearly the prejudices and hang-ups of it’s authors, and clarifies – for the first time for many people – that the government can be as out-of-control as any of us. If the government can’t govern wisely, why do we allow them to govern us at all? It leads us to question the very foundations of government itself.

I don’t mind saying it: we’re moving into a New Age. Either that or we’re all Party Lemmings dancing off the edge of the world. But at least we’ll die happy.

The new politics is about revolution. All that refers to is the cycle of change, the turning of the great wheel. This can be Buddhist or Taoist or anything you like. Either we change things or we’re finished. And there’s no time left for debates or factions or Royal Commissions on the state of the environment on nice fat salaries: jobs for the boys. Cars stop or we all stop. Society changes or there’ll be no society.

But it’s optimistic though. There’s a new spirit about, a new consensus. The road-protesters have shown us a way, ancient though it is, and with unity with the railway workers it could become an unstoppable force. The solution is non-violent direct action. Refuse to believe in the structures of madness any more. Just say no. And then afterwards, with your friends at the party, you can shout yes, yes, yes and dance till you drop!

As DH Lawrence put it in a poem titled A Sane Revolution:

    If you make a revolution, make it for fun,

            don’t do it in ghastly seriousness,

            don’t do it in deadly earnest,

            do it for fun…

 

            Don’t do it, anyhow, for international Labour.

            Labour is the one thing a man has too much of.

            Let’s abolish labour, let’s have done with labouring!

            Work can be fun, and men can enjoy it; then it’s not labour.

            Let’s have it so! Let’s make a revolution for fun!

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Is this the world we want to leave our children?

scan0002-001I’ve just spent the day with my beautiful granddaughter Bella. “Bella” means “beautiful” in Italian.

I had a dream about her a few weeks ago. In the dream I was coming down the stairs in a very crowded place.

Bella was at the bottom of the stairs, a long way away, but when she spotted me, despite the crowds and the noise, she recognised me immediately and laughed and clapped her hands.

It seems like the greatest of privileges to me to have a relationship of trust with a child.

The greatest privilege, and the greatest responsibility too. It is the responsibility to help create a better world. I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels this way.

The question has to be, is the world we are making good for all children, or only good for our own?

I remember seeing Tony Blair in a Newsnight interview a few months ago.

They had been discussing his extraordinary accumulation of wealth since he stepped down as Prime Minister.

When questioned he gave one of his characteristic shrugs and said he was securing his children’s future.

The implication was, that we would do the same.

But isn’t this the problem? This is a primitive view of the world. Even tribal peoples don’t think like this.

Most people see that the future of their children depends on the future of other people’s children too.

Children everywhere deserve a decent life: and that includes swimming baths and ice cream, holidays and adventure, as well as clean water, a good education, a good diet and a secure roof over their heads.

The problem is with people who accumulate vast fortunes at the expense of the rest of humankind.

The wealth of the eighty richest people on the planet is the same as the entire wealth of the lowest fifty percent.

Think about that for a while. It is actually insane. Is this the world we want to leave our children?

As Gandhi once put it: “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”

From The Whitstable Gazette.
The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.
Send letters to:
The Editor, 5-8 Boorman Way, Estuary View Business Park, Whitstable, Kent CT5 3SE,
fax 01227 762415
email kentishgazette@thekmgroup.co.uk
Posted in economics, politics, The Whitstable Gazette | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

It’s offensive how banks try to play with our emotions

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Have you noticed how the banks have been trying to humanise themselves through their adverts recently?

I first noticed it with the Nationwide advert which was aired in the run-up to Father’s Day. It’s a real tearjerker.

I won’t go into the details as I’m sure you will have seen it. Suffice it to say that the storyline involves an old scarf which gets lost on the bus, and which a Nationwide employee finds and returns: all set to a simple piano tune and a querulous voice singing deeply emotional words.

I don’t know about you, but I find it offensive the way it attempts to play on my emotions in order to sell me financial services.

Of course the Nationwide isn’t really a bank. It’s a building society, but it still pays its Chairman, Mr Graham Beale, over £2 ½ million a year.

After that I started noticing all the other adverts too: the Halifax, with its “you’re our kind of person” advert; Barclays, with its jaunty “today I’ll buy my little boy a treat” song; or Santander with its call for us to keep doing whatever it is we’re doing.

It’s all very nice, and it shows how deeply these banks must care for us, that they have paid so much attention to our concerns.

As if. It’s a classic psychopath’s trick. Banks don’t have emotions. They are institutions dedicated to maximising their own profits, by whatever means they can: whatever they can get away with, which has included outright fraud in the past.

Take HSBC as an example. It is busy changing its name at the moment. It stopped being “the world’s local bank” a while back, having been caught laundering Mexican drug money by American prosecutors in 2012.

If you or I were caught laundering drug money we would be in Jail. Not so the banks or their employees, it seems. They can do what they like until they get caught, after which they confess, pay a fine, and then get back to the business of finding new ways of siphoning off our money for themselves.

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Banning drugs drives users to gangsters

scan0001A while ago I noted that Julian Brazier really knows next to nothing about drugs, but feels compelled to comment on them anyway.

In his latest our MP has welcomed the Bill proposed in the Queen’s Speech that promises to impose a ban on legal highs.

This, of course, is a contradiction in terms because once substances are banned, they are no longer legal.

The absurdity of the legislation is highlighted by the fact that in order to ban substances that have a psychoactive effect, the law also has to include exemptions, such as cigarettes, coffee and alcohol, all of which are psychoactive.

We know that cigarettes and alcohol are amongst the biggest killers on the planet. In his assessment of the relative dangers of various drugs, both legal and illegal, Professor David Nutt, one of the country’s foremost experts on the subject, placed alcohol at the very top of the list.

I’ve made the point before that the only reason that legal highs exist is because natural highs are illegal. Once legal highs are made illegal, people will turn to the natural highs again.

Banning substances won’t stop people taking them. By making drugs illegal we simply drive the trade into the hands of gangsters, lessening the quality and increasing the dangers of adulteration and overdose.

You also increase the risk of people coming into contact with more dangerous drugs. Gangsters do not distinguish between addictive and non-addictive drugs. Once a drug is illegal it will be the same suppliers selling both.

The least dangerous drugs on Professor Nutt’s list are the psychedelics. These include LSD and magic mushrooms. Anyone who has ever taken these drugs knows that they can have a profoundly beneficial effect on the human heart, opening us up to the awareness that all life is one.

They are particularly good at relieving the anxiety of death, and may be the key to a permanent cure for depression.

One interesting side effect is that they teach us to question the imposed restrictions that society places on our ability to think and act freely.

People who take psychedelics almost invariably become rebels.

I wonder if this is the real reason for making them illegal?

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The austerity fairy story

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In my last column I referred to austerity as “fake”. You may have wondered what I meant.

I’m not the only person to have understood this. Prior to the election Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winning economist, wrote an article in the Guardian calling austerity “a delusion”. Other people have described it as “a con” or as “a myth”.

Two thirds of economists surveyed by the Centre for Macroeconomics disagreed with the statement that Government policies since 2010 had a “positive effect” on the economy.

Even the Treasury’s own forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility, estimated that austerity slowed down growth in the first two years of the last parliament.

The argument for austerity is that in order to bring down the deficit the government needs to cut public spending.

The problem with this is that cutting public spending in a time of recession actually harms the economy. People are made poorer, thus they spend less, thus demand is decreased, thus output is slowed and the deficit increases.

This is glaringly obvious when you stop and think about it. The puzzle is that, for all its absurdity, the austerity fairy-story seems to have taken hold in the public mind.

In fact the only real outcome is that it has made the poor poorer and the rich richer.

Real wages for the majority of the population have declined in the last five years while the top 1,000 people have seen their income doubled.

London has become a playground for billionaires while ordinary people are being cleansed from the capital.

There are millions of people on in-work benefits, which gives the lie to the notion that the government is “making work pay”.

Who are the beneficiaries of state-handouts to the chronically underpaid? Is it the employee, who can no longer afford to live without benefits, or is it the multi-national corporation, whose wage-bill is being supplemented by the taxpayer?

The Tories won the election with 24.4% of the eligible vote.

I wonder how long it will be before people wake up and realise that we’ve been made suckers in a vast, elaborate con-trick?

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Paying price for peddling fake austerity

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For a longer version of this article please go to: https://christopherjamesstone.wordpress.com/2015/05/10/political-parties-make-even-honest-men-liars/

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Political parties make even honest men liars

Clement Atlee: not like Ed Miliband

It’s a few days now since the election and a lot of us are still trying to process the results.

I went down the Labour Club on the night, as I often do. I was sat next to one of the tellers who had manned the polling station at St. Andrew’s Church on Grimshill Road. He said he’d never seen an election like it. People were lined up down the street, waiting to vote.

“It was like South Africa,” he said.

How were we to know that the majority of people queuing up in their eagerness to put their cross on the ballot paper were planning to vote Tory?

One of things I’ve been doing in the last few days is fielding the bitterness of Labour Party supporters blaming the SNP for their loss.

This is what one of my friends wrote on his status update on Facebook:

“Let all who voted Tory and Scot Nats… May you all rot in hell.”

Never mind the slight grammatical clumsiness: it’s an extraordinary statement. The people of Scotland voted against the Tories. It was England that turned overwhelmingly blue.

The fact that the vast majority of the Scottish people rejected the Labour Party as well as the Tory Party should have given them some pause to reflect. Why have ex-Labour voters deserted the party in droves? Why has the membership of the SNP surged in the last few months (as has membership of the Green Party)? What is it that these parties are doing right that the Labour Party is doing wrong?

People who belong to political parties have long memories when it comes to the crimes of others, and very short memories when it comes to their own serial misdemeanours.

So Labour Party supporters are keen to tell you of a time, many years ago, when the SNP voted with the Tories. They are less keen to remember the time when the Labour Party welcomed a Tory into its midst and made him our Prime Minister.

Political parties make even honest men liars…

A demonstration of political inclusion

One of the things that I’ve noticed over the years is that political parties are essentially machines for getting themselves re-elected. And almost invariably, when it comes to the crunch, they will ditch all principles, all values, and all beliefs in order to get into office.

They will always tell you that you need power in order to put principles into action. That is true. But you need principles for that power to mean anything at all.

What’s the point of the Labour Party if it is only going to institute Tory policies?

The Labour Party manifesto was pro-austerity. Yes, it was a less onerous form of austerity than the Tories were promising, but it was austerity nonetheless. Given the choice between austerity-lite and austerity-ugly, the British people chose the latter.

They had bought into the oft repeated lie that austerity is necessary to bring down the deficit, and that public spending is the problem. Thus the Tory Party’s promise to tighten the belts of welfare recipients and immigrants was appealing to them. It’s a classic form of scapegoating. And the Labour Party’s promise to spend a little bit more, and to stretch out the austerity programme for a few more years, just didn’t cut the mustard.

Never mind that Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winning economist, amongst others, has pointed out that deficits in times of recession are a GOOD thing.

The only way to get out of a recession is to spend.

The National economy is not like an individual’s earnings, and Britain isn’t like Greece.

The Tory Party and the national media perpetrated a lie, and the Labour Party went along with it.

The tribalism of party politics

Politics is not a sport

Another thing I’ve noticed in my years observing the Labour Party is that Labour activists only really come into their own when they are in opposition. They are a fine bunch of people, and I love them. Fierce, uncompromising, empathic, with a deep, abiding hatred of injustice, nevertheless they go very quiet when the Labour Party is in power. They don’t want to rock the boat.

The Labour Party is basically a vessel for containing protest. Labour supporters spend most of their lives waiting for the next Labour government to arrive, and when that government fails to deliver, all they are left with is excuses.

The problem lies in the nature of political parties themselves. Your loyalty is to the Party, not to the politics it represents. It’s a kind of tribalism, not unlike the tribalism of football teams. I was born a Villa supporter and I will stay one till I die.

The difference between football teams and political parties is that football doesn’t really impact on the lives of people outside the footballing world, whereas politics effects us all.

The Aston Villa team in 1945 were a different set of lads than the ones playing today, but they were still playing the same game.

The Labour Party team of 2015, on the other hand, are playing a different game altogether than the people who shared their name and their colours back in 1945.

There’s nothing even remotely similar between Clement Atlee and Ed Miliband. Clement Atlee was a modest, unassuming, even a boring man, but he stood for something.

The Labour Party of 1945 took over in a time of crisis. It inherited a massive debt from the war. The country’s infrastructure was in ruins, and tens of thousands of soldiers were returning to civilian life and in need of jobs.

Did it impose austerity?

No. It spent. It increased the deficit. It nationalised the rail industry, the coal industry, the steel industry. It built homes. It created the National Health Service. It promised a better life, and it was true to its promises. We had more than 30 years of growth and prosperity.

Now look at the Labour Party. What pygmies they are in comparison.

There’s no vision left. All they have to promise is that they aren’t  quite as bad as the Tories.

And when we don’t vote for them, they blame the SNP.

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The Killing Fields then and now

scan0003The Killing Fields was on TV recently. Maybe you remember it. It’s about a journalist and his translator during the time of the Khmer Rouge take over in Cambodia in the 1970s. It came out in 1984, won eight BAFTAs and three Oscars and starred Sam Waterson and Haing S. Ngor.

The movie hasn’t aged a bit. It worth watching both for its depiction of the extremes of war, and of the deep personal relationship between the two men.

It also shows you the violence of the Khmer State in the years after the war.

What struck me while watching the film, however, wasn’t so much its historical resonance, as that it reflected something that is happening right now.

I’m talking about the Islamic State.

The Khmer Rouge were utterly insane. After taking power they engaged in a process of social engineering in which the urban population was forced into the countryside to work the land, and tens of thousands of intellectuals, educated people, and professionals were murdered.

Theirs was a peculiar, fundamentalist, barbaric strain of communism. Not unlike the Islamic State, which practices a peculiar, fundamentalist, barbaric strain of Islam.

The Khmer Rouge no longer exist, of course. No one is being murdered for being bourgeois in Cambodia any more. People are, however, being murdered in Syria and Iraq for being Christian, Shiite, Yazidi, Kurdish, foreign or a member of the Syrian Armed Forces.

So the question you have to ask is this: what is it that links these two organisations? Is there something uniquely murderous about Cambodians and Arabs? Or is there something else which might account for this psychotic behaviour?

And the answer to this is, yes. Both Cambodia and Iraq suffered extensive bombing by the Americans in order to “bring democracy”. Both nations were traumatised by the awesome violence of the American State.

The Khmer Rouge reign was ended by a Vietnamese invasion in 1979. The Vietnamese, too, were communists, but of a more sane variety.

Likewise we should stop interfering in the Middle East, and allow the people of that region to put their own house in order.

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Save Whitstable Crown Post Office

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Julian Brazier, our Conservative Party election candidate, has intervened in the Post Office debate by stressing the “urgency of getting the mobile building alternative in place before the Gladstone Road site closes.”

I can’t see anyone in Whitstable arguing with this.

Where some of us might disagree, however, is in the status of the service that will be housed in the new, temporary space. Mr Brazier is on record as saying that “in principle” he has “no problem with the Post Office moving to another store as part of a franchise.”

I’d just like to remind readers that, had the Post Office’s plans come to fruition and the branch been moved into Budgens Invicta as a franchise before that store closed down permanently, we wouldn’t now be talking about a temporary Post Office: we’d be talking about no Post Office at all.

Surely that underlines the dangers of the franchise model for Post Office services in our town.

We also have to be very wary of statements coming out of Post Office HQ.

According to its website, the company has a specific target regarding Crown Post Offices of “turning around the current losses to achieve break-even by March 2015.” They plan to do this by “increasing revenue, improving customer experience and controlling costs.”

In the case of some Post Office branches “controlling costs” means closing them “temporarily” for periods of up to seven years.

If you don’t believe me, look up the Yorkshire Times, Monday 2nd March 2015.

According to that paper “some 38 branches across the region have been shut for longer than 12 months with the average closure lasting more than three years and three months.” The longest has been in the village of Coxwold, its branch having been closed “temporarily” since February 2008.

In Whitstable, Post Office Ltd has known about the impending redevelopment of the Gladstone Road site since 2010, and yet they still haven’t got round to organising a couple of portacabins in the carpark, for which there is already planning permission.

It’s not exactly rocket-science, is it? I hope this is not a sign of things to come.

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