Something lovely this way comes

The rise of populism is certainly disturbing to those of us on the political left or, as populists like to call us, ‘liberals’. A pejorative word imported from the United States, implying a kind of wobbly and infinitely movable moral centre. Apparently liberals are the human equivalent of cushions, bearing the imprint of the last thing to sit on them.

Populism is not harmless. In fact, it has rapidly become synonymous with the so-called ‘alt-right’, althought I prefer to call them neo-Nazis. Suggesting this to people on the right usually meets with howls of derision, accusations of innate woolliness, or much worse.

Public life is currently alight with talk of ‘post-truth’ politics. Apparently, it is fine to tell naked lies in public provided this wins elections, garners extra support and serves to batter opponents into the dirt.

Linked to this is the far right’s widespread loathing of experts. Lacking intellectual clout themselves most neo-cons seem unable to refute even the most glaring scientific truths on the basis of knowledge or reason, so they revert to name-calling, irrational outbursts or physical violence. Sometimes all three. Either that, or they prefer to couch their views in obscure online tracts.

Scrub the surface of these and you will quickly discover utter nonsense: the gibberings of the unhinged or very stupid. We should not be surprised that the neo-con version of intellectual debate is generally indefensible. ‘It’s okay to hurt people if it serves the greater good of a few elites’. And naturally, the people pushing these ideas either belong to such groups, or they would like to. Brutal aspiration is the downfall of the many for the pleasure of the few.

The far right’s dislike of reason is extremely counterintuitive, given Donald Trump’s love of social media. ‘Trump’s unholy tool’, wrote an Irish friend. I agree, but it would be very hard to create such a platform without expertise or access to a huge collective repository of knowledge. It seems that populists do not practice what they preach. Either that, or they are aggressively disingenuous. In other words, they do not believe their own lies.

It is tempting to stray into speculation at this point. In fact, I plan to do so. Post-truth politics, a visceral disrespect for socially progressive actions and an irrational hatred of human knowledge can be seen as the early death throes of an old, and very stubborn, order. One that will die with the acidic Mr Trump and his misguided hordes of stunned looked disciples. Of course, it will not disappear completely, but shall shrink back into the shadows from which it emerged, waving its ugly tentacles.

We are entering a new era of human endeavour. One which will eventually take us to the stars. I will not list the technologies involved in this, though that is not completely beyond me. I would rather write that coupled to this, we could rapidly see a huge backlash from those of us who value positive human attributes. What are these? Love, compassion, healthy communities, common ground, empathy … the list is very long, because the story of what it means to be human is similarly lengthy. Good for us!

I hint at a second Renaissance. Technological advances are not the whole of humanity, and we should remember that these can be coupled with leaps forward in the Arts. I hear the sound of hooves – can you? Something lovely this way comes.


Goodbye Maggie Thatcher

Thatcher cartoonThe British media and half the planet can’t shut up about Margaret Thatcher’s death. I suppose that somewhere in Meeja Land there’s a balanced debate going on about her life and deeds; and at least there seems to be general agreement that you either loved or hated ‘that woman’.

During the 80s I was one of the UK’s four million young unemployed, stuck in a rural backwater with no transport (the Tories removed our local bus service), few qualifications and slim chance of escape. For a number of years my life was extremely unprivileged. I lived with my parents, had virtually no money and experienced the kind of aching grief in the pit of my stomach and the back of my throat which the long-term unemployed understand only too well.

A few people were sympathetic – but many of them resented me. Why? If you dropped someone in the middle of a desert would you resent their lack of water?

I may have been on the back foot in those days, but I wasn’t stupid. The Conservative government was entirely transparent to me: attack the unions, destroy local industries, axe jobs and public services and pretend that this would somehow lead to ‘growth’. If the Thatcher years were characterised by economic growth, it follows that cemeteries are places of birth and physical renewal.

It is possible for ‘growth’ to occur in some regions and be completely absent in others, and in those days we often discussed the very obvious north/south divide. Or at least, it was graphically obvious if you lived outside London and the rather smugly named ‘home counties’. After all, my home was in the Midlands and I learned with horror that during the 80s it was one of the poorest parts of Western Europe, economically on a par with Sardinia.

It is perfectly possible for virtual money to be shuffled around between profiteers, and for this to never ‘trickle down’ into the pockets of ordinary people. On the other hand, inter-generational poverty, ignorance and social deprivation trickle down all too easily, to the point where it can take decades to reverse those trends. Very sadly, decades is all we have in this world and these things curtail that time even more.

The mantras of the Thatcher years were deliberately simplistic. Simple ideas for simple people. ‘The recession is bottoming out,’ – it wasn’t. ‘There is no alternative’ – there always is. ‘There is no such thing as society.’ Perhaps not if you’re a sociopath with a single idea and you’re incapable of empathy.

I could say a lot more about those times, but a few things come back to me. I knew, even then, that in years hence the Tories would try to reinvent Margaret Thatcher as a great leader. Bullies and tyrants love to rewrite history to suit themselves. Thatcher and her entire cabinet of monsters were brutish, unimaginative and callously devoid of sense.

Personally I’m not pleased that she is dead; I simply regret that someone like that could ever gain political power in the first place. But most of all – something often said during the 80s – I’m sad that I live in a country where people would support such an appalling regime. Mrs Thatcher was but the murky reflection of all that is mean spirited, insular and self-serving in British society. She is most certainly dead; but political ideologies have a way of haunting us – even if there is scant evidence that they actually work!

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but so is foresight. During what turned out to be Mrs Thatcher’s final years I had a growing feeling that we would soon be rid of her. Especially when the comedian, David Allen, read out a satirical poem about her, suggesting Atilla the Hen had more to fear from her friends than her enemies.

He was right! From that, and from many bitter years of friendless seclusion, I learned that tyrants and bullies ultimately have even fewer friends. They may well have people who fear and respect them, but that is little comfort in a world where human affection should be the most valued thing of all.

The neoliberal free market policies which Thatcher preached are her true legacy, and they have turned England nasty. People whom many would consider to inhabit the lower rungs of society are too busy resenting each other to turn the tables on David Cameron’s amoral coalition of liars and halfwits. Real communities have nearly vanished, to be replaced with self-serving individualism. We could do so much better than this, and one day we will.

Fight the coalition’s cuts!

Here in the UK our Coalition Government has published their controversial Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR), which I’ve had the dubious pleasure of reading.

Never in the history of UK democracy have so few written so much blinkered bollocks for the benefit of so many. David Cameron and his condom-headed cohorts are trying to brainwash us into thinking that the round of cuts announced in the review is ‘fair’. Apparently, ‘We’re all in this together.’ His ideas are ‘radical’. I beg to differ!

Thinking people everywhere will resist the coalition’s cuts every step of the way. There are few liberals in government at the moment – but plenty of crypto fascists and power grubbing careerists with their faces deep in the trough of iniquity.

You might wonder what place an entry like this has on Boho Musings, but conservatism is largely the enemy of creativity. For example, the Spending Review is intent on cutting arts projects all over the country.

To add some figures to this vituperative rant, the Arts Council of England will make cuts of about £350 million over the next four years. This is an outline figure, but it will cripple creativity, while stifling  intellectual and cultural growth for decades to come.

These days everything is run by accountants, and while I think it’s sensible to factor money into important projects, I see these cuts as retrograde. They are designed to hurt the very people whom we should be encouraging during the global recession.

This short piece can’t begin to discuss on the sheer scale of the CSR without losing its focus. In any case, few people would want to read about it here, but unlike Nick (not-really-a-Liberal) Clegg, I have examined my conscience and found a sickening void at the heart of Government. It’s between his ears.


Unkind cuts: Why we should protest

I never intended to use this blog as a political soapbox, but I can’t help writing about the things I see happening around me, and after all, what use is a socialist who ignores social issues?

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Here in the UK, our coalition Government has been aptly christened the ‘ConDems’ by the media, and those bright enough to see them coming from miles away.

They have only been in power for a few months, but already the coalition has set in motion negative events which will resonate throughout British society for decades to come.

This is a government without scruples, with no feeling for natural justice and without a clue. We are witnessing the wholesale destruction of our welfare state; and what is there to replace it? Nothing!

The ConDems argue that an abstract idea called the ‘Big Society’ will plug any gaps left by the ‘deletion’ of local services. They call this ‘localism’ – I call it a tragedy.

I don’t use that word lightly. It is both a tragedy and a travesty, because genuine public life is coming to an end in England, and it’s happening now. Every socially useful institution I can think of is being axed, and those services which remain are being castrated.

But that’s not the real tragedy – what churns my spirit is that there is nothing tangible to replace the essential public services we are losing. There is a very human side to this. The ConDems can’t understand that if you remove a day centre for the elderly from a community, some lonely old person completely loses contact with the outside world.

This is a Government which promised to protect the vulnerable. They lied, and they will go on twisting the truth because that is the nature of neo-cons: they actually believe their own delusions.

The ConDems are unable to grasp that our world is in fact a concrete reality, where the withdrawal of services can mean isolation, poverty and a premature grave.

I’m not exaggerating either: the slashing of state benefits and local services will mean homelessness for many – lives stripped of meaning and joy. This is as nakedly evil as walking up to a complete stranger in the street and throwing acid in their face.

During a so-called ’emergency’ Budget called earlier this year, the ConDems pledged to cut welfare spending by £11 billion. Recently, Chancellor George Osborne vowed to cull another £4 billion from the same purse.

I live in a neighbourhood which can ill afford such reductions. There is genuine poverty and social exclusion here, and it grieves me to know that innocent people will suffer as a direct result of this entirely unnecessary act of social vandalism.

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I am already seeing more people out on the street – begging has long been a problem, but it’s actually getting worse. Hardly surprising when so many people are being cast aside by this cold, uncaring and worthless Government. And they haven’t even started yet.

It is utterly shocking that so-called liberals have allowed themselves to be hypnotised by the promise of power; and frankly insane that the British public appears not to understand what is happening on the ground.

I know that given the global financial crisis we are facing, some cuts in public spending were inevitable. I also know what Bertrand Russell once said, “All movements go too far”, though it seems this one has wasted no time in weaving its misguided wickedness.

The answer is to organise! The ConDems must be opposed at every line end. This is not a plea for New Labour to return, but it is an appeal to everyone reading this to do something about it. We should all ensure that we are in a union, write to our MPs and – where practical – attend demonstrations. I would not rule out civil disobedience if it comes to that.

October 20 will see Osborne the Fool announce even more public spending cuts, and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) is organising a mass protest in London the day before his spending review.

A further public protest is planned for March 2011. Please attend if possible, and let your voice be heard. What we do not defend, we stand to lose forever.

There is no localism or ‘Big Society’, unless you see these poorly defined ideas as a neo-con ruse to hide the fact that our government is keen to avoid direct decision making in these times of economic strife.

The ConDems’ spending cuts are a smokescreen for patching up the dreadful mistakes of modern capitalism, and there can be no excuse for this attack on ordinary people. Governments are supposed to serve people, not destroy their lives with pseudo philosophical nonsense.

Make no mistake, the poor will suffer and rich people will not. This is a lesson which we must learn today, because these changes will affect YOU.

Tomorrow will probably be too little, and much too late.


The Big Society swindle

I have to do a lot of reading and writing these days… and far too many advanced Google searches. This is, I’m told, to feed that old oxymoron ‘business intelligence’. Mostly it’s because of David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ with its focus on ‘localism’.

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Cameron’s idea is to decentralise power back to local authorities, and even further down to community groups. To do this, he’s steadily dismantling old local government structures. ‘Quangos are bad’, and many of these are going too.

I have a life-long interest in politics, though I now see it as a crude and rather primitive beast. After all, it isn’t about what’s good or reasonable – only what people believe is good or reasonable. These are two different things. The fact that people don’t know the difference, and are prepared to argue to the death about it, explains why we have such complex political structures. We are highly evolved apes, and we like to squabble over our bananas.

The Big Society apparently supports mutualism: for example, housing co-ops, community banks, workers co-operatives and the like. Cameron says it’s about smaller, less intrusive government. Sounds okay… until you look more closely.

We are in the middle of a global economic crisis, and perhaps we should ask ourselves, ‘Would these ideas be touted if things were different?’ The state will always try to save itself, even if this means sacrificing its own citizens on the altar. What’s the welfare of a few million people, compared to the wellbeing of a few bloated, corn-fed state brigands?

Statist governments want to distance themselves from responsibility, devolving this to local authorities. Then when things inevitably go wrong, because there’s no money being pumped through the economy to deliver essential services, local government can take the blame. We can take the blame too for not doing enough. And David Cameron can walk away with an oily smile and an extra quiff in his hair.

Don’t get me wrong. I love co-ops, and I love the idea of local activism. But if the ConDems are serious about it, why don’t they go the whole hog and abolish themselves too? Could it be because they have imported state controlled libertarianism from America? Or is it because they are simply power hungry?

I believe so. The Big Society is a Big Brand Name, and it really means, ‘You are free to do exactly as you are told’. We are free because our governments have granted us permission. How nice of them… Who put those bastards in charge anyway? Ah yes… it was us. It always comes back to that, doesn’t it?

The real Big Society wouldn’t have a brand name. We would indeed form co-operative groups for the good of us all, and we would be in charge of our own lives. The state would have nothing to do with this process. Who needs to be granted permission to be free? Why do so many people fail to connect? Because that’s how modern capitalism works.

As long as we see ourselves as alone – and treat each other this way – struggling through the world towards some foggy, unreachable goal, we will remain powerless. Do not be divided. Unite, unite, unite!