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All in the Mind Power Dynamics

Does the Trendy UK Left Support British Workers?

Or does it just think we need better mental healthcare

I've long admired Ken Loach, a radical film producer who rose to fame with his 1965 classic, Cathy Come Home, about the homelessness of a young couple. Anyone who challenged the establishment had my support. More recently he has fallen into line with the infantile left. His latest movie, I Daniel Blake, succeeds in portraying an alternate reality that suits the agenda of radical social engineers. Oh the irony for Ken Loach himself directed a film called Hidden Agenda about the British government's role in sponsoring Northern Irish terrorism.

Before I continue, let me just stress life is tough in an undeniably unfair society. The film's plot is not completely implausible, though often a little far-fetched such as the scene where Katie prises open a tin of baked beans and proceeds to eat its contents with her bare fingers. In 2016 obsesity and diabetes are by far the biggest killers in deprived neighbourhoods. Both protagonists come across as eminently worthy and conscientious victims of an unjust system. The narrative the wishful thinking left would like us to believe is that our cruel Tory government has made devastating cuts to our welfare state and millions are now suffering the consequences. Yet a close look at the actual raw data reveals a very different picture. Spending on social welfare has only declined as a percentage of GDP because of a lower unemployment rate and a growing economy. The current and previous governments have found devious ways to hide the full scale of youth unemployment by first enticing more young adults into further education and second through zero-hours contracts. Meanwhile at the bottom end of the earnings scale, the EU's beloved freedom of movement has hugely increased the pool of low and semi-skilled workers who now dominate many sectors that only 20 years ago would have employed mainly local labour. Yet to the gullible left, immigrants are heroes doing jobs we don't want to do and selflessly keeping our NHS alive.

Whichever way you slice it, welfare spending in the UK as a whole remains one of the highest in the world. Only Scandinavia, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Australia and New Zealand offer comparable levels of universal welfare for single-parents, the long-term unemployed, sick, emotionally disturbed or disabled. See Welfare spending: how Britain outstrips Europe for an international comparison. Indeed as a rule most of our European neighbours offer better state pensions, but apply much stricter rules for other kinds of benefits. Italy only spends more because until recently it offered state employees early retirement with very generous pensions. My former neighbour in Italy, now unemployed after caring for her late mother for many years, is entitled to no benefits at all and is living below the breadline begging friends and neighbours for food. Nonetheless, as I hope to expand on in a future post, the long term trend remains firmly towards greater provision of state or corporate welfare, as robotics displaces traditional manual and clerical jobs. On the one hand we have an economy and a social lifestyle that rely on high levels of consumption, while on the other fewer and fewer working age adults earn enough to pay their fair share of the UK's astronomical 790 billion public expenditure. That's right local, regional or national governments spend around £12,000 per resident, which means on average each worker has to pay £23,000 in direct or indirect tax. If you only earn £20,000 a year (and many earn even less), you'll actually get more back from the government in tax credits and only pay sales tax on groceries, fuel, booze etc. The state accounts for a whopping 48.5% of the UK economy and has hardly shrunk at all since Gordon Brown's 2008/9 spending spree.

Don't get me wrong, our tax money could be targeted much better at those who genuinely need our help. If someone falls ill after decades of honest hard work, they deserve our help, even if they never managed to contribute very much to the exchequer due to low earnings. Likewise if a man abandons a young mother with two little children, we can hardly blame the mother or her children for life's cruel twists and turns. Without welfare and tax credits, millions of Britons would literally starve and many do end up going to food banks, when their benefits run out or are delayed as their personal circumstances change. When the welfare state acquired its modern form in the late 1940s, most people looked on both idleness and single parenthood as social ills to be avoided at all costs. Ernest Bevin did not envisage that welfare dependency would become a way of life, but would act as a safety net. The Channel 4 documentary Benefits Britain 1949 showed the stark contrast to the very basic expectations, humility and social deference of the 1940s and social reality in 21st century. There has never been an era of welfare utopia when anyone unable to earn a decent living could expect the benevolent state to support a lavish lifestyle, but by the early 2000s millions of low-paid workers began to notice their neighbours on welfare could afford more luxuries than they could. The minimum living standard now included an annual foreign holiday, a mobile phone, designer clothes and ideally a car. Brand fetishism has long been much more prevalent among the so-called chav classes, characterised as underclasses with low educational attainment, but high material expectations obsessed with designer labels and status symbols. In the real world many fall on hard times because they splashed out on consumer items only to discover they could no longer afford more essential items such as food, heating or rent. Once you sign up to a mobile phone contract, you're legally bound to pay £30 to £50 a month. A night out on the town does not come cheap either especially after you factor in the taxi ride home, probably enough to feed one person for a week. One way or another the country's growing benefits classes managed to acquire most of these desirable items. Yet some categories fared much better than others. How could an unemployed single parent with three children live more comfortably than a hardworking couple on little more than the minimum wage? Why should a divorced working man have to pay market rates for a substandard flat within commuting distance of London, while another man, diagnosed with a spurious mental health disorder, gets a better flat for free? It seems hard work, honesty and personal responsibility no longer pay. Social welfare only works when everyone abides by the same rules of fairness, social and, dare I say, environmental responsibility, e.g. waiting to be in a stable relationship with secure employment before starting a family.

Whenever the contentious subject of EU migrant labour enters the debate, infantile leftists often lend credence to the popular perception that young Britons would rather live off benefits than do all those hard low-paid jobs that Poles, Bulgarians, Romanians and other Eastern Europeans do. The pro-EU left often complain that business could not function without a steady stream of semi-skilled workers from the EU's expanding tentacles. Do they seriously think Eastern Europeans would be as keen on working in the UK if they could earn just as much on welfare at home? Are they genetically superior to working class Britons? New Labour had thirteen years to tackle a culture of low intellectual and vocational aspiration among the country's underclasses, and they opted to let the banks boost retail spending through easy loans and to let recruitment agencies bring in millions of new workers to do all the jobs that British workers would have done only a decade earlier. Of course, the economy grew, as did debt, and retailers, farming, manufacturing, food processing and catering could all rely on a mobile, expendable and mainly non-unionised workforce that bosses could fire at the drop of a hat. The Guardian-reading left will grudgingly admit many employers exploit migrant labour, but dare not either support sensible immigration controls to protect local workers or agree radical reform of the welfare state.

Even in the best of times, reforming Britain's welfare habit was never going to be easy. Frank Field MP tried in the early Blair years to promote workfare, but it yielded very lacklustre results before the government abandoned the project. A growing number of citizens now claim to have special needs, i.e. believe to be afflicted by a mental or physical condition that impairs their chances in the workplace. The steady expansion of the concepts of disability and mental illness have blurred many traditional boundaries, often to the detriment of those whose health is so poor that could not work under any circumstances. Britain's welfare system has spectacularly failed to distinguish the needy from those who just want a free ride and feel unable to compete in today's abstract world of work. For the faux left the likes of Josie Cunningham do not exist. They represent little more than tabloid sensationalism. Yet Ms Cunningham admitted to using emotional blackmail to get the NHS to spend £6000 on cosmetic breast enhancement surgery, because she allegedly suffered from depression due to her previous lack of endowment in that department. Neither would Guardian readers dwell on the case of the young welfare-dependent Welsh woman whose fast food habit led to her reach a hefty weight of 63 stones ( 400kg) in 2012. The NHS spent over £100,000 on rehabilitation. This many be extreme case, but it's by no means rare. If you visit any deprived area outside London, Bristol, Edinburgh and few other trendy metropolitan hubs, obesity and diabetes are by far the biggest killers. Yet it doesn't chime with the narrative of food bank Britain we read in the pages of the Independent or Guardian. Tragically despite an abundance of healthy food in the shops, malnutrition blights many deprived neighbourhoods because people are accustomed to the wrong kind of foods or prefer fast food to freshly cooked meals. I've personally visited a neighbourhood supermarket in Govan, Glasgow, that did not stock any fresh fruit and veg due to lack of demand.

It's hardly a secret that rents in London are sky-high. Landlords make a fortune renting out overvalued substandard properties to social tenants entitled to housing benefits. So why should local councils spend £2000 a month for a 2 bedroom flat in a suburb of Greater London when they could spend a fraction of that for the same accommodation elsewhere in the country? With a population now surpassing 9 million, London boroughs have by necessity had to devise creative means to rehouse social tenants. Yet between 2012 and 2015 just 50,000 had been moved and most to other areas of South East England. No doubt this disrupted many social circles and extended families, but the left dare not mention the two elephants in the room: immigration and a higher fertility rate within the Muslim community, both placing local services under enormous strain. Ken Loach just had to pick an unusually English Londoner, Katie, to be forced to move to Newcastle upon Tyne of all places, something many affluent Guardian readers must consider the ultimate punishment. New Labour was well aware of these demographic and migratory trends as early as 2000 and yet did nothing to address housing shortages. The film reinforces typical metropolitan London prejucides and depicts modern London as much more culturally English than I experienced it as a private tenant in both Brent and Lambeth.

Back in the real world the Northeast of England not only voted to leave the EU, but survey after survey has shown that ordinary working class people would rather have meaningful and stable jobs than welfare handouts. Translated into English, that means they'd rather their government protect labour markets and provide good vocational training to ensure local youngsters can gain secure employment. Yet the out-of-touch metro elite, is busy trying to defend the EU's unsustainable Freedom of Movement, which basically deprives Eastern and Southern Europe of its most productive young adults while driving down wages everywhere. Rather than praise brave Portuguese and Bulgarian nurses in the NHS, working class people wonder why their children did not get a chance to take up nursing. That's no disrespect to the Portuguese or Bulgarian nurses who must also wonder why we can't train our own nurses.

The left's bete noire, often personified as Hilter himself, is Ian Duncan Smith, allegedly guilty of hiring a French company, ATOS, to carry out work capability assessments. Purportedly as many as 100,000 have died shortly after having their incapacity benefit withdrawn, at least according to my twitter stream. The figures are very hard to substantiate, but a few tragic high profile cases do prove the inherent unfairness of a system that promotes despair and life of dependence on remote entities. I wonder how millions of Southern Europeans coped with greater welfare cuts. It seems Southern Europeans are much more concerned with punitive taxes inflicted on small businesses, at least judging from newspaper reports of suicide cases. My Italian father in law relied almost entirely on the proceeds of his apartments to fund his personal care for ten long years as his health declined. Until recently extended families would care for the needy within their community, but these days families are often dysfunctional, estranged or unable to help. The harsh reality is despite all the hype about the transition to universal credits, welfare spending, excluding pensions and housing, remains almost unchanged at £114 billion. Has anyone suggested to Mr Loach that welfare dependence is a bigger blight on our social fabric than the trials and tribulations of those failed by an unsustainable system. Does our Ken not realise that his heroic working classes do not want charity, they want empowerment.

Ken Loach received a £100,000 grant from the European Union to champion welfarism. This is the same European Union that has imposed stringent cutbacks on social spending in Southern Europe. It's hard to justify the injustices its chief characters suffered, but it assumes the supremacy of the nanny state while completely ignoring the growing sense of powerlessness of Britain's urban and rural poor. To regain power, we must take an active role in the functioning of our society. The enemies of the descendants of the underclasses are not cruel Tory governments tinkering with welfare provision, but global corporations who expect the state to subsidise their customers.

Corbyn's Parallel Universe

In Jeremy Corbyn's parallel universe native Britons don't want jobs, but better mental healthcare, more spending on the NHS and more nurses and doctors from other countries. If you are not an enlightened Guardian-reading professional, Corbyn and Co. really only care about you if you can claim some special victim status. It doesn't matter if you're a woman, black, Muslim, Eastern European, gay, transgender or have a mental health issue, as long as you can be pigeon-holed into a convenient subcategory of humanity that deserves special treatment, he wants your vote. These disparate and overlapping identity groups are supposed to unite in their opposition to evil capitalists. Has Mr Corbyn not noticed he's merely pushing a rose-tinted version of the corporate brave new world of atomised consumers? The grim reality the left seems incapable of admitting is global corporations love welfare and mass migration. That's why Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and George Soros all back Hillary Clinton for President of the United States and wanted Britain to stay in the EU. They may not like Corbyn's antiwar stances, which is why they won't let his party win outright, but Corbyn may suit their long-term social engineering agenda more than you may think.

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Computing Power Dynamics

Am I Left or Am I Right?

Once again we return to the superseded left vs right spectrum or is it good vs bad, collectivism vs individualism, state control vs private enterprise, equality vs meritocracy or ecological responsibility vs economic growth? Few real world issues can be simplified on a one-dimensional scale.

Some would now describe some of my opinions as embarrassingly rightwing, an epithet often applied to outmoded ideas. What would I have thought 30 to 40 years ago if I had realised that later in life I would ascribe to fiercely reactionary views on topics as diverse as transgender rights or immigration. Back then I supported sexual freedom between consenting adults and recognised the benefits of cultural exchanges and sustainable migration. I always defended immigrants from the irrational prejudices of angry natives who considered themselves superior to their neighbours recently arrived from far-flung former British colonies. I've consistently argued against imperialism, especially that of my own country and its most powerful allies. So what's changed? Have I suddenly become a gay-bashing xenophobe, intolerant of any divergence from the mainstream British culture of some mythical golden era? Not quite. In truth my core values haven't changed at all. Society has. Since my adolescent activism in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the neo-Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party and my brief flirting with the Revolutionary Communist Party, now regrouped as Spiked Online, I may have lost confidence in the ability of a command economy to deliver a socialist utopia. Nonetheless I have steadfastly opposed all military, economic and social policies that I believe will disempower commoners, destabilise functioning societies or strengthen the power-hungry elites who run the military-industrial complex. In essence I've advocated environmentalism, anti-militarism, decentralisation and mixed economy social democracy, a practical recognition that only private enterprise is versatile enough to develop the kind of technological innovations we will need in the coming century, but left to its own devices capitalism will always tend towards oligopolies. While I've fluctuated from periods of techno-pessimism to cautious techno-optimism, I've only recently grasped the true relationship between rapid advances in informatics and biotechnology on the one hand and an unprecedented rate of societal change on the other. I had mistakenly anticipated that a global economic meltdown would have reversed the seemingly unstoppable process of economic and cultural globalisation and with it the growing dominance of mass consumer fetishism. Alas I have to report global cultural homogenisation shows no signs of abating any time soon, but is fast leading us into unchartered territory.

For the life of me I cannot recall any debates back in the 70s and 80s on gay marriage or using limited public resources to allow single parents or gay couples to procreate without an opposite-sex partner through state-subsidised fertility treatment, initially only available for married couples unable to conceive for medical reasons. Before the turn of the millennium the idea that a child is best raised with a loving mother and father was uncontroversial. For most of us it was just the received wisdom of thousands of years of human civilisation. Of course, it's not always possible for children to grow up with their biological parents. They may not have had a steady relationship at the time of conception, the father may have died at war or at work or the mother may have met an early death through an incurable disease. In some dysfunctional families the children may well have been better off if the abusive parent left, but surely we should investigate the socio-economic circumstances that may engender such troublesome behaviour. However, until recently we always tried through our extended family and local community to recreate as far as possible the ideal of a mother and father team. My mother spent the first three years of her life in an orphanage before my grandmother, working as a chambermaid, married my step grandfather to form a viable family. When things go wrong, as they inevitably do in life, how should society intervene to give everyone the best chance in life? In just 40 years we have moved from debating sexual freedom to redefining not just marriage but the whole concept of families, who when deprived of their biological foundations become little more than temporary guardians monitored by the state. We've transitioned from trying to understand why people may have sexual urges towards others of the same sex to laying the foundations of a brave new world in which procreation is outsourced to fertility clinics.

Do any of these concerns suddenly make me a rabid rightwinger? Certainly not by 1980s standards. I do not want the state interfering unduly with people's private lives, but believe we should respect natural procreation and biological distinctions.

Nothing disgusts me more than the classic ex-pat mentality, the idea that you can live in a country with a different culture to your own, but expect the locals to adapt to your ways rather than making an effort to learn their language and respect their customs. In some countries British ex-pats form parallel communities and see locals as mere servants. To some extent the British are lucky for many are eager to learn or practice their English with native speakers. You can visit some Spanish resorts and barely hear any Spanish or Catalan. Until recently I would have dismissed such cultural arrogance as a byproduct of Anglo-American imperialism and may have felt at least in part guilty. Yet today ordinary citizens of nearly all affluent countries feel increasingly alienated by the fast pace of social and cultural change. It doesn't matter if you're Swedish, English, Spanish, French, German, Italian or North American, your community and cultural landscape are being socially engineered out of all recognition.

Shortly after the Soviet Union collapsed, Francis Fukuyama wrote the End of History and the Last Man. Western Liberal Democracy had triumphed and the American Dream of personal freedom, entrepreneurialism and civic pride would gradually spread around a peaceful global community of free and independent nations. Yet history has not stood still. The core conservative values of most North Americans and Europeans now appear rather outdated as the liberal elites promote an increasingly illiberal agenda under the false pretexts of multiculturalism, social justice and economic growth. The more they talk about equality, the greater the educational and monetary divide between the new upper classes and the dumbed down masses. The more they talk about diversity, the more cultural homogenisation and migratory flows suppress centuries of gradual cultural evolution, diversification and exchange. The more they talk about social justice, the more they create new categories of people unable to fend for themselves and completely dependent on state handouts. Indeed Mr Fukuyama's historical stasis lasted little more than a decade. Back in the 1990s it seemed the European Union and North America would gradually converge on the kind of liberal social democracy I could live with and we only had to contend with environmental challenges and regional conflicts that we viewed as hangovers from an intolerant past. However, the emerging transnational elites did not seem content just to make our existing nation states work better in the interests of their citizens, they wanted to replace nation states, the very bedrock of liberal democracy, with regional superstates that would eventually merge into a one world government. This is not some wild conspiracy theory either, mainstream social scientists now openly advocate a borderless world (See the Nation State is an Outdated Concept ). Their only concern is how to sell their postmodern vision of a homogenised world run by enlightened technocrats to the underclasses, still inconveniently attached to their traditional ways.

Parallel Visions of the Future

In the back of my mind I've long had three dystopian visions of our future. One is an Orwellian future of absolute state control. Orwell certainly learned much from his experiences in the poverty-stricken European cities of the 1930s, the Spanish Civil War and working in the BBC's war propaganda department during the 4 short years of the Anglo-Soviet Agreement. Orwell saw how the Soviet system merely empowered a new ruling class and perhaps by 1948 had concluded that the Western World would soon emulate the Soviet model. Yet his dystopia lacked sophistication and relied on rather conspicuous means of social surveillance. Aldous Huxley's 1931 Brave New World seemed for many years little more than a far-fetched sci-fi dystopia that the forces of democracy and liberalism would avert long before the necessary technology became available. Aldous Huxley's techno-optimism would be blunted by another world war, the 1970s oil crisis and apparent limits to technological progress. My third dystopian scenario would involve no hidden agendas or conspiracies, merely systemic breakdown as technology fails to meet growing demand. James Howard Kunstler is probably one of the most outspoken technopessimists on the planet. He's written extensively on the myopic idiocy of suburbia (Geography of Nowhere) and the coming energy crisis (The Long Emergency). Others such as Richard Heinberg, author of the Party's Over and exponent of the peak oil theory, are a little more upbeat as long as we transition to renewable energy, cut consumption and stabilise our population. However, their dire predictions of economic collapse have yet to materialise. The global economy may be built on debt, but the Chinese, Indian, Brazilian and Nigerian economies have continued to grow as have the number of cars, refrigerators and mobile phones. Our enlightened elites may talk about the dangers of climate change, but they are going literally full steam ahead with their global economic growth plans. We may not see it quite that way in the formerly affluent West, but Nigeria's largest city Lagos is now a sprawling metropolis with over ten million inhabitants and multilane superhighways while India now has nearly as many smartphones as it has inhabitants.

Infantile Left and Paranoid Right

Before the Internet age had begun in earnest, environmental depredation and techno-totalitarianism presented only challenges that transcended traditional political divides. Environmentalism, to me, meant a concern for the long-term sustainability and wellbeing of our society, rather than short-term economic growth. Likewise concern about techno-totalitarianism appealed to traditional liberal values of free speech and individual freedom. I first became aware of political correctness in the early 1990s. Honestly, it just seemed a joke. I really could not see anything wrong with saying chairperson rather than chairman, and never approved of disparaging ethnic markers. Little did I know that hackneyed politically correct speech would soon usher in an age of Orwellian language police and a new concept of hate speech that could suppress viewpoints that would have been mainstream only a couple of decades ago. Today feminists such as Germaine Greer are silenced for expressing honest opinions about transsexuals.

The 1990s may have been a relatively tranquil era for Western Europeans and North Americans, but peace was a short-lived illusion. Civil wars continued to rage in the former Yugoslavia and more catastrophically in the Congo, Rwanda, Somalia and much of Central Asia. Under Boris Yeltsin former KGB apparatchiks made billions by taking over former state enterprises, while millions of ordinary Russians starved or froze to death. As bad as the Soviet Union may have been, since the famines of the 1930s and the devastating death toll of the Second World War, the state had tried to provide all citizens with food, shelter and heating. Only the allure of mass consumerism and greater trade with the outside world prevented Russians from voting their former communist masters back into power. Vladimir Putin seemed the natural successor to an increasingly unpopular and alcoholic Boris Yeltsin. As Russia regained confidence and Putin cracked down on the worst abuses of the country's gangster oligarchs, many of whom left Russia for the US, UK or Israel, Western leaders would wine and dine him for Russia remained a mere shadow of its former self, while NATO had expanded as far as the Baltic States with US military bases in neighbouring Uzbekistan and Mongolia. However, Russia today has turned its back on top-down state control and ironically is more closely aligned with the kind of conservative mentality of strong families, patriotism and minimalistic government common in 1950s USA, while the United States is moving in the opposite direction towards more state and/or corporate control. In 2014 the Russian State account for just 35% of its GDP compared to 48% in the UK, 56% in France and 41% in the US.

Many on the left, or notional left to be more precise, failed to understand the true purpose of New Labour. We criticised it for being too neoliberal and not radical enough. Neoliberal had come to refer to a strand of free market capitalism that wanted to dismantle the welfare state and empower global corporations. At least that was how it seemed in the Thatcher years. To the left, neoliberalism was rightwing and only liberal in terms of the freedom it afforded big business. However, the role of government never really shrank, not even under Margaret Thatcher's premiership. Welfare and social services continued to grow throughout the 1980s. Inefficient nationalised industries such as steel, coal and car manufacturing were privatised as were later telecoms, railways, electricity and water suppliers, but this masked the growth of transnational organisations responsible for managing every aspect of our lives. Contractors such as Serco, G4S, Capita and Veolia began to run public services as diverse as prisons, refuse collection and accounting. A growing proportion of workers did not make anything or provide any essential services, they just micromanaged a hypercomplex system. More startling has been the growth of the third sector and a vast maze of awareness raising pressure groups and charities who fill a void left by the demise of traditional family and community support structures to cope with permanent social insecurity. Neoliberalism has not led to a new era of individual freedom and small-scale private enterprise, but rather to a steady transfer of power away from traditional nation states, who may intervene to defend local small businesses, to global corporations. Today most small businesses are effectively freelance service providers or skilled workers whose contracts with big business can be terminated at short notice.

However, on lifestyle issues the neoliberal intelligentsia seem perfectly aligned with the trendy left. I only became active on Twitter in 2014, but one of my earliest followers was one Andy Woodfield, who heads up the diversity team of Price Waterhouse Cooper. His tweets are uncomprimisingly positive about all aspects of globalisation and social engineering. I think the PwC language police are in the process of phasing out the adjective ungood as it might trigger the occasional critical thought. Why would an audit firm such as PwC, founded to help large corporations avoid tax, be so concerned with promoting the misnamed Equality and Diversity agenda? Shouldn't PwC just focus on its core business of accounting? Besides how can they afford such plush and spacious offices in some of the world's most expensive cities? I used to walk past their shiny office building sandwiched between the Houses of Parliament, City Hall and Ernst and Young's London HQ. The truth is tax consultancy is only a small part of their operations. Their true role is the creation of a new world order that serves the long-term interests of their corporate clients. They're in the change management business, overseeing the suppression of traditional cultures and their replacement with a global culture of socially engineered psychoanalysed individuals. Big business has now coopted the language of the old anti-establishment left. They claim to want a fairer, greener, more egalitarian, more inclusive and simply nicer world. Monsanto wants to tackle hunger through biotechnology. Starbucks wants to help African coffee growers through its fairtrade brands. Facebook wants to combat racism, misogyny and homophobia by monitoring social network posts, while HSBC helps young people set up small businesses. Happy consumers can help by choosing brands that reflect ethical responsibility and positive change. Indeed in the mindset of the metropolitan elite, the only bad guys are those who want to limit the freedom of our benevolent global corporations, such as Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump or Bashar Al-Assad. These are the Orwellian Emmanuel Goldsteins of our era, people every progressive person should hate.

Most on the left have long ceased to oppose global corporatocracy. They still rant and rave against greedy energy companies and CEOs, but their main gripe these days is that corporations do not pay enough tax. Translated into English this means the do-gooder left worries that some branches of the global mafia do not sufficiently subsidise local branches of the global mafia. As it happens it's not in the interests of global retailers such as Amazon for Europeans or North Americans to be so poor that we can't afford to buy their goods online any more. They are perfectly cognisant of the fact that the next wave of automation will render most jobs in manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, food processing and even catering obsolete. Big business needs big government not only to subsidise its customers, but also regulate their behaviour through education, social services, psychiatry and policing. The tamed masses need do be given the illusion of democratic control. Whenever a local government reaches a new social engineering milestone, the progressive classes give themselves a pat on the back as if a grassroots movement has just achieved a breakthrough. Likewise whenever a new technology enables a new service or consumer experience, big business can present itself as a force for social progress. Manufacturers no longer need us as workers, only as loyal consumers and marketers. We should have seen it coming. Right through the first decade of the millennium I marvelled as manufacturers continued to outsource production and lay off workers, while retailers expanded. How can we have an economy in which people only sell products and services, but don't make anything? I wondered. In a traditional capitalist economy my observation would be perfectly correct. The retail economy relies on wealth ultimately generated by the productive economy, which is increasingly in the hands of global corporations. So why should the likes of Amazon pay more taxes to subsidise consumption in the UK if its real wealth comes from all over the world? Why should it not subsidise Kenyans or Peruvians? Why should it not support social engineering to encourage more people to flock to regions where consumer culture already reigns supreme?

The real political divide is no longer between left and right. It's between conformists and anti-conformists, globalists and nativists, establishment cheerleaders and anti-authoritarians. If you trust the new coalition between statists and corporatists, your rhetoric may sound progressive but you are unmistakably conformist. I, on the other hand, remain a free thinker and support whatever policies seem to redress the balance of power away from unaccountable elites to people like you and me and more important lead to the kind of sustainable society that can best safeguard the future of our descendants.

Categories
All in the Mind Power Dynamics

On the Brink of War

As we stand on the brink of World War Three over Russian involvement in the Syrian quagmire, our mainstream media feeds us with a steady diet of disinformation about the true causes of death and destruction in the Middle East while entertaining us with juicy stories of sexual misconduct of US presidential candidates. In one of the most controversial elections in recent American history, US voters face a choice between a flamboyant billionaire entrepreneur and a puppet of billionaire bankers and autocratic oil sheiks.

Sometimes in life you have to choose the lesser of two evils, make a pragmatic choice to prevent an outcome that could literally kill tens of millions and enslave billions. As the saying goes: better the devil you know than the devil you don't. The trouble is which candidate is more likely to lead us to unchartered territory? I've probably spent much of my adult life opposing the military adventurism of the world's strongest superpower, the United States of America, as well as the wasteful mass consumerism that its leading big businesses promote worldwide. In other ways, I was glad to see the demise of despotic Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the temporary triumph of the liberal values of intellectual freedom and personal liberty. It's hard to reconcile the apparent fairness of collectivism with the freedom of individualism, i.e. the right to keep the government out of your private life, a kind of personal or familial right of self-determination. A minimalist state simply ensures free people can conduct business in a peaceful and respectful way, namely it enforces property rights and outlaws obvious evils such as murder and theft. In practice Adam Smith's concept of a laissez-faire free market has never existed. Capitalism, as Marx correctly observed, tends towards oligopolies. Nonetheless, in theory at least during the Cold War years of my youth, Western countries allowed individuals, families and small communities greater freedom to do their own thing, provided they did not infringe the rights and privacy of others. If you want to live in a vegan naturist hippy commune, that's fine as long as you respect your neighbours' wishes not to hear your loud music or see you frolicking around your front garden stark naked. If you want to roam the countryside on your motorbike, that's also fine as long as you respect other people's privacy and lifestyle choices. A prosperous country with plenty of open space and resources can more easily afford to grant its people greater personal freedom and that includes freedom of religious and philosophical expression. My ideal world would maximise social justice, individual freedom and environmental responsibility. But only a fool would pretend that pursuing one goal, such as social justice, does not have trade-offs.

Some may wonder what the world would be like today if the Soviet Union had won the great battle of ideologies over Western Capitalism, as we called it. In truth it could not have won, because its inflexible command economy and coercive state administration stifled the kind of competitive technological innovation that spearheaded the micro-computer revolution and led to previously unimaginable levels of industrial automation and efficiency. Whatever its comparative advantages, the Soviet Union simply failed to deliver the goods. Mysteriously the Communist Party of China remained firmly in control as it embraced one of the most virulent forms of free market capitalism that has enriched a growing class of billionaire entrepreneurs reliant on a massive oversupply of obedient loyal workers accustomed to very low wages. Since the late 1980s, China has retained its status as one of the USA's most favoured trading partners. Big business positively loves the Chinese model with fewer inconvenient environmental regulations, but a much more compliant workforce. All the big North American and European players from Microsoft, Apple, Monsanto, VW, General Motors to Siemens have a big presence in China.

I've long remained largely agnostic about most US presidential elections. Both Democrat and Republican administrations have pursued the same meddlesome foreign policies. The Clinton Administration continued to enforce a no-fly zone over Iraq and impose sanctions that cost as many as a million lives during the 1990s and pursued disastrous interventions in the Balkans under the pretext of humanitarianism. I seriously doubt if Al Gore had won the 2000 Presidential Election, that hawks in the State Department would not have driven the US to invade and occupy Afghanistan and Iraq. Any disagreements between mainstream Democrats and Republicans were strategic, not substantive. In the event both Tony Blair and Hillary Clinton supported the invasion of Iraq. Then 6 years later when Hillary became Secretary of State, she oversaw the destabilisation of Libya and Syria by arming and funding rebel militias to unseat stable, but admittedly, autocratic regimes, with whom the West used to do business. The 1993–2000 Clinton administration successfully sold the concept of humanitarian bombing as part of a new era of global harmony, in which transnational corporations and supranational organisations would come together to build a better future. We need only look at their marketing campaigns. Barrack Obama simply campaigned on the need for change, without specifying just what such change might involve. Eight years later Hillary Clinton has seemingly recycled a slogan for the EU Referendum “Stronger Togetherâ€. In hindsight I suspect historians will rate Barrack Obama as ineffectual half-hearted president who let lobbyists make all his key policy decisions. He had to placate the strong strand of conservative opinion in his country while promoting a radical agenda of socio-cultural change that clearly suited other lobbies.

The first thing that caught my attention on my first visit to the States in 1994 was the country's unabashed nationalism. Patriot is not a boo word in America. Everyone claims to be a patriot and flies the Stars and Stripes with pride unconcerned about its possible association with a global empire. To an outsider the USA may be a hegemonic commercial and military superpower intent on projecting its influence on all other countries and cultures. To others it may be the ultimate bastion of freedom. Yet ordinary Americans, who often take great pride in their hyphenated heritage from other continents, seem pretty unconcerned about the rest of the world. The further you venture away from cosmopolitan metropolises, the more you become aware of the quaint traditionalism of many rural Americans. Do they want to bomb Syria to the stone age to impose a new regime that will allow multinational businesses unfettered access to new markets and spread the kind of consumer fetishism and narcissism that many religious Americans have learned to despise? The short answer is no, but they can be persuaded to support military action against the enemies of freedom, not least because many Americans are the descendants of those who fled autocratic regimes. These are the Americans who hesitated to support their government's entanglement in the European wars of the first half of the 20th century, but seemed to happy to support a vast expansion of the military industrial complex to defeat the Soviet Union. Most conservative Americans support policies they believe will keep the government out of their lives, except to maintain essential infrastructure such as roads and schools. Yet it saddens me to report that the great American Dream of personal freedom and civic responsibility is dying and fast yielding to a new culture of rampant corporatism that works in tandem with big government to bring the entire global populace under its yoke.

As I watch hardly any mainstream TV, Donald Trump meant very little to me until late 2015. He comes across as an arrogant showman entrepreneur, often appealing to the lowest common denominator. Clearly his rhetoric talks to vast swathes of American public opinion that have lost faith in the mainstream liberal media, but lacks depth and panders to numerous lobbies and entrenched American prejudices. I instinctively distrust anyone who promises miracles without explaining how they intend to bring them about. In American English the adjective liberal denotes what we might call leftwing or even socialist on this side of the big pond. American liberals may theoretically support sexual freedom, especially if it promotes non-traditional family structures, but they also advocate greater government intervention and social regulation to pursue their goal of social justice and build a new society liberated from anachronistic prejudices and social attitudes. Invariably American liberals support higher levels of immigration. The USA is genuinely a country built on migration, but also on ethnic cleansing, partial genocide, slavery and unsustainable levels of consumption. If Making America Great Again means returning to the 1950s heyday of Middle Class prosperity, stable families and gas-guzzling automotive freedom, resembling the innocent hedonism portrayed in Happy Days, then millions of Americans will be very disappointed whoever wins the presidential election. Those times ain't coming back folks, but one of Trump's slogans does strike a chord, “Americanism not Globalismâ€.

In the early noughties alternative media widely reported Donald Rumsfeld's Project for a New American Century. As we progress into the latter half of this century's second decade, the balance of global power has shifted away from the United States to China, India, Russia and a new emerging global world order. The 20th century saw the demise of the British and French empires and the rise of North American commercial and cultural power. Despite fluctuating commodity prices, every year the USA's share of the global GDP has declined. While it accounted 27% of the world economy in 1950, by 2020 the USA will have just 14% of the global GDP despite a fast-growing population. While the top 5 to 10% have grown richer, the great middle class has been squeezed. Tens of millions of US citizens depends either on social welfare or on low pay, as traditional manufacturing jobs have fled abroad. While once America seemed to have an unlimited capacity to share its natural treasures with new waves of immigrants, it now relies on imported resources to sustain growing demand that has to sustain more people. Yet the country's liberal elites do not care about defending the interests of working class Americans. They did not benefit from the three trillion dollars squandered on nation building in Iraq, except by delaying an inevitable transition away from fossil fuels to more renewable sources of energy and greater efficiency. They certainly will not benefit from the destabilisation of the Middle East and the never-ending flow of economic migrants and refugees desperate to experience the American Dream, only to be engulfed in a 21st century welfare ghetto.

Were I a US citizen, my conscience would probably tell me to vote for the Green candidate Jill Stein. While she opposes US military adventurism and overconsumption, like her European partners, she favours relaxed immigration and panders to the vacuous agenda-setting politics of social justice (which basically means more social workers and greater social surveillance). I sincerely hope she takes more votes from idealistic Sanders supporters who might otherwise support Hillary Clinton.

George W Bush did not represent the true American conservative tradition. He may have pandered to this constituency by delaying social engineering milestones such as not allowing embryonic stem cells or gay marriage (both were just a matter of time), but he oversaw record immigration levels while recklessly attempting to impose neoliberalism on the Middle East. Ever since the 2008 banking meltdown the US economy has been powered largely by a mix Keynsian quantitive easing and the creative accounting of its high-tech multinationals, whose operations are now global and thus not affected with the parochial concerns of unemployed blue collar workers.

Meanwhile Hillary Clinton's handlers, such as banking billionaire George Soros, are much more concerned with neutralising strong nation states. The new bogeyman is Russia's Vladimir Putin. The same media that sold us wars in various Central Asian and Middle East countries have found their new Hitler, who some conservative leaders are accused of appeasing. If you believe the CNN, the Guardian or countless books bemoaning a resurgent nationalist Russia, then Putin is set not only march into the Baltic States and Eastern Ukraine, but to conquer the Middle East via an alliance with Iran. Except Russia has no need of privileged access to their resources. It already has vast territory and natural resources as well as a highly educated citizenry and very low population density. Corruption may well be rife in Russia, but it is hardly absent from North America or Western Europe. If you're concerned about grotesque human rights abuses, such as murdering gays or stoning adulterous women, look no further than Middle East or the Islamic parts of Africa and Asia. Why should American workers support their government's obsession with deposing the secular regime in Syria by funding terrorists and potentially triggering a nuclear conflagration with a regional superpower, Russia, that does not threaten the security of American citizens ?

Which presidential candidate is most likely to lead the US to an all-out war with Putin? None other than George Soros' s puppet. Whatever his faults, Donald Trump would be more likely to strike a deal with Russia to protect the US from the very real threats of Islamic fundamentalism and China's growing economic dominance. Whoever wins, the era of American exceptionalism is over. The global elites support Clinton, but I doubt they have the best interests of ordinary American people at heart.