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Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Brexit and racism

'Its Okay to be a racist again' At least that’s the impression the world seems to have all of a sudden.
It’s a worrying trend, towards hate, isolationism and xenophobia that has been brewing all year on both sides of the pond. The rise of Trump as a political force in the zeitgeist of American politics, married with the media led foaming at the mouth among the Brexit supporters makes for a terrifying political atmosphere.
This is not to say all Brexit supporters are racists, any more than all Trump supporters are gun toting rednecks. Indeed a great many are not, they are concerned people who follow a political ethos that aligns with Trump or that of Brexit. Intelligent considered people who probably hate been associated with the racists, and have reasons of political philosophy for their views. The sovereignty of parliament, a dislike of undemocratic bureaucracy, the perception of a corrupt status quo, and dislike of overbearing regulations.
 The problem is, however, that a fair proportion ( notice I do not say a majority) of those who have pinned their flag to these causes are xenophobic, racist, often homophobic, sexist and of the far right of the political spectrum. People whose views have long been marginalised as no longer relevant in wider society, considered abhorrent and on the decline, and happily consigned to a less enlightened age which we have all grown past in the latter decades of the 20th and early 21st centuries.   
The large problem is that with the success of Brexit, the rise of Trump in America, the groundswell of anti-immigration rhetoric, it has become acceptable in the eyes of a significant portion of the population of both the UK and America to be openly racist.
"It's okay to be racist again." is not a made-up slogan. It's not satire, or something I am saying to make an impact. They are words been spoken by seemingly normal people with seemingly normal views. It’s a phase used on Facebook to defend indefensible comments. It’s a phase hear on talk radio stations. Used by 'some' Trump supporters, and 'some' Brexit supporters, but more worryingly it's an ethos that has been growing.
In the week since the Brexit vote incidents of racial harassment have been growing in the UK. The anti-imigration message put across by the like of the Daily Mail. The same Daily mail who reported a few days afterwards that
'Police on hate crime alert over post-Brexit vote 'racist incidents''
The same article quotes Boris Johnson saying he was "appalled" by reports of an increase in crimes of racism and xenophobia over the weekend. (since the vote)
This is the daily mail which has bene publishing head lines like the below for years. 

The daily mail has history here, it has been stirring up anti-immigration feelings for a long time as this headline from 1938 shows  ( link to Huffington post article contained)

Yes, the Mail has history here, so do other UK papers. As does Fox news in the states.

But this is not the worrying factor, we should not be worried about a rise in racism because there has not been one. No one wakes up one morning and decided to become a racist. There is no rise in racism, it is instead a rise in open racism. A rise in the willingness, or at least the perception of a willingness, of society to accept racism as a legitimate view. A belief that it's okay to express racist views and even this is not the worrying factor.
The worrying factor is that the racists have won some political battles.
Trump rallies in the US, reminiscent of Nazi rallies in the 30's
The Brexit vote. ( and yes I can here those who voted Leave growling at me here, but for a moment I ask them to consider this, there was only 2% in the final result. A mere 2%, so merely 4% of leave votes would have needed to vote based on racist right wing opinions to swing the result. Is it so hard to believe that 4% of Leave votes did so because of racist opinions, that the like of Britain First had no influence on the result..? I put it to you that it would be nieve to believe that.)
So the worrying factor is that those with racist views have seen their views lead to mainstream political victories. Not a council seat in the northeast. Not even a seat in the European parliament. But an actual mainstream political victory, which if only in their minds legitimises their views and makes them feel that yes, "It's okay to be a racist."
That, far more than the leave victory, scares the hell out of me...

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Referendums, Brexit, and we the people...

Image result for eu

Why do we have a parliament?
Why not just put everything to a referendum?
Let the people decide like they did with the EU?

This may seem like a strange set of questions to ask, but someone, somewhere, is asking them right now.

Here's the thing, I dislike politicians, as a rule, I often disagree with decisions of parliament, I hate the way political parties work and the enforcement of the three line whip that colours so much of our democracy. I hate the cronyism and buying of influence by political donations. I hate first past the post, the constituency system, the lack of a truly reprehensive parliament made up by proportional representation. Yes, there is a lot I dislike about the current political system.

But I hate referendums a damn sight more.

We elect a government for a reason. We all stand in line and cast our votes and send them off to that big building in the middle of London for a reason. We proxy our democratic rights for a reason.

And it's this.
We are stupid.  

Not stupid because we do this, but stupid in that we, the collection of individuals who make up the population, do not have the will, the time, or indeed the desire to look at issues completely in all there detail and from all sides and reach a decision based upon this. Yet in a referendum, this is exactly what we should do. Should been the operative word.

That is what we normally send our politicians to parliament for. To cover the details of the questions before them and came up with the best plan. We may disagree with the plans they come up with. They may be tinged by party bias or the political philosophies of right and left. But they still have to understand the issue or at least have access to all the facts and the ability to comprehend them.
Which is not to say the general public can't, simply that it doesn't, won't and in many cases is unable to. Not everyone has a degree in politics or economics for that matter. More importantly, not everyone is intellectually suited to the task at hand, or even interested. Which is why we elect politicians, on the vagaries of political stand points. To represent us in parliament and make the decisions we can't.  Just as we get a brick layer to build our extension or a doctor to stitch up the cut on our face, or transplant our hearts. 

And then we have referendums, where the decision lays in the hand of the rest of us. Many of whom frankly are not educated in the fine point of international systems and politics.

I personally have studied politics philosophy and economics for 5 years, and I do not pretend to be able to predict all the outcomes of the Brexit vote. Though I did at least have some knowledge going into the polling booth to cast my vote.
Many others did not.

While I don't give undue credence to some of the stories that have come out since the vote, I personally know people who voted out to 'stub one in the eye of David Cameron' and because ' they did not think out would win so it didn't matter, just a protest vote...'
I have listened to local radio and seen video interviews with the vox pop in Barnsley where the vote was over 75% in favour of leaving, and the prevalent reasons giving for voting to leave are often nothing to do with the EU. The refugee crisis in southern Europe is a result of the Gulf war, and a long chain of mistakes and problems the Gulf war caused.
The infamous 350million a week we pay into the EU may sound like a huge amount of money, but how many of the voters understand what happens to that money, how much we get back directly, how much we get back indirectly, how that outgoing is small in comparison to the GDP gains involved…

Sunderland, one of the first regions to report, voted out by large degrees, a city who's largest employer is the NISSAN plant who's existence is a result of our membership of the EU, who's existence is now under treat along with thousands of jobs by the time you look at the knock on effect the closing of the NISSAN plant could have on other employers and the local economy.

Cornwall voted out, yet the county gets 60 million a year form the EU that they now want from other sources.

Wales one of the largest beneficiaries of EU money in the UK voted out.

Why would these three of many example vote for the political equivalent of lemmings and cliffs?

Simply because the voters do not understand all the issues, they get clip notes from both the Leave and the remain campaigns, much is decided by media influence, and it comes down in many ways to who runs the better campaign for hearts and minds.

I voted remain; my political views lean that way, but this is not sour grapes. My problem is not that I was on the losing side of a popularity contest where the voters don't fully understand the issues involved. Its that we have the popularity contest at all.

If I do not understand all the connotations involved, with my knowledge of politics, years of study, and taking an interest in the subject. How can we expect the average voter to do so.

We elect a parliament to make the decisions for us, we chose whom we believe will be the best proxies for our views. And then we should let them get on with it.

That way we can blame them is it all goes wrong, not ourselves … 

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Passing Place shorts

As part of an ongoing series on my facebook page I have been making these small excerpts of the forthcoming passing place, I intend to do one for each chapter, just because there fun and make for nice teasers. I'll probably not get all 20 odd chapters done in the end, but we will see. For now, enjoy them for what there are, a Glimpse through the doors of the strangest bar in the multiverse...

 The great pack, the pack of all packs gathered, and he did speak to them of his dream.

“We must seek out this golden child, this creature called the new spring, and we must rend the flesh from its bones, suck deep upon its marrow, that we shall sleep once more in our winter, go forth with tooth and claw, go forth with the guile and cunning, go forth with the fury of the howl, seek him, find him and devour" .......

.....he answered her in that same monotone tombstone cold voice.
"I am the reaper of souls, the bringer of Discordia, the death incarnate of this world. I have ridden upon a pale steed across the four corners, for time uncounted. I am the bringer of endings and despair to all. With you I would break that cycle, with you I would bring life rather than death, if but once upon this world.”

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