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Power Dynamics

New Labour’s Legacy

Results from recent regional and local elections should bring a few cheers to those, like me, who have long distrusted New Labour. While the letters in Tony Blair nearly form an anagram for Tory Plan B (if we replace i with p), David Cameron certainly follows in the deceptive footsteps of our Tone, as the gutter press once affectionately referred to the current prime minister. In Scotland the SNP has done surprisingly well, but thanks to last minute scaremongering by the terrible twins of the Scottish tabloid press, the Daily Record and Scottish Sun (both fervently anti-independence and ultra-Blairite) and possibly a wee bit of election rigging here and there, New Labour have just one fewer MSPs than the minority SNP administration. In Wales Plaid Cymru have made impressive gains outside their traditional heartland, but once again New Labour has hung on with the prospect of a coalition with the LibDems. So basically despite New Labour getting just 27% of the vote nationally, it's business as usual for the Blairite agenda. However, one thing is certain New Labour's lead actor is moving on to pastures new as a keynote speaker on the US conference circuit. More important New Labour under Gordon Gold-dumping Brown may well not win the next election, paving the way for Mr Cameron's entry into the world of international theatrics.

To understand New Labour's legacy we need not look so much at the legislation they did pass, some mildly positive such as devolution for Scotland and Wales or the introduction of the minimum wage and some negative such as greater surveillance of private citizens, but at their role in enabling the underlying socio-economic and governmental trends that have transformed our society. All these trends trace their roots to changes that took place long before Tony Blair had even become leader of the Labour Party, the unrestrained consumerism of the late 1980s, which in turn had been a reaction to the pessimistic realism of the late 70s and early 80s. The early Thatcher government preached "back to the basics†at school, better housekeeping with large reductions in social welfare spending, privatisation and high interest rates forcing thousands of traditional manufacturers into liquidation. For a few short years some on the left saw this as a sign of the final collapse of British capitalism. Gone were the days of jobs for life handed down from father to son, tight-knit communities built around single industrial activities like car manufacturing or coal mining. We saw the birth of a new service-oriented economy centred around the naked accumulation of capital and the shameless promotion of a consumerist lifestyle. Of course, the welfare state of the 60s and 70s did not disappear, it simply adapted to a new era and to meet new challenges. Indeed after the initial Thatcherite shock therapy, the Tory establishment began to sing a more reconciliatory tune. Despite the worst fears of some pundits state education and the beloved National Health Service survived the Thatcher and Major years albeit with a steady drift towards private provision, but few doubted where the Tories' true allegiances lay.

So what are the greatest achievements of Tony Blair's junta:

  • Transfer of interest rate varying powers from a nominally elected Chancellor of the Exchequer to a bunch of unaccountable bankers at the Bank of England. How anyone could spin this as mildly progressive is beyond me, yet Blairites and Brownites alike frequently cite this as the foundation stone of the period of unprecedented consumer growth that followed.
  • Introduction of tuition fees for higher education, while simultaneously encouraging corporate and state entities to require degrees from everyone from hairdressers to environmental safety officers (read refuse disposal workers) and promoting absurd Mickey Mouse degrees.
  • Selling half of the UK gold reserveswhen the yellow metal was at an inflation-adjusted historic low, leading to a temporary boost for the US dollar,weakening the Euro and losing over £2 billion in 5 years .
  • Deregulating TV advertising and allowing the merger of major commercial networks.
  • Granting planning permission to large supermarkets to open more and large superstores, further eroding the dwindling market share of independent family-run stores.
  • Deregulating gambling and booze.
  • Deliberately subverting EU attempts to regulate adult pornography, gambling and violent video gaming, both multi-billion pound industries linked to UK businesses though often officially based abroad.
  • Regulating the culturally ingrained habits of millions of private citizens such as smoking.
  • Increasing surveillance of private citizens.
  • Overseeing a huge rise in the prescription of psychoactive drugs for mood disorders, while co-financing the promotion of new personality disorders.

Austere back-to-basics Thatcherism transitioned seamlessly to Cool Britannia Blairism, a non-entity as Anthony Blair himself has no real convictions other than his career, through the medium of MTV-style culture. Millions had been conditioned to associate homophobic, Tory-voting, church-going besuited businessmen with the old guard, and thus positively welcomed the new guard of casually dressed supercool metrosexual advertising execs. People see these products of the nouveau riche as somehow progressive, reminiscent of rebelliously philanthropic movie stars re-enacting the cultural revolution of the late 60s and early 70s. If there is any remnant correlation between conservative values and tastes and class, then we'll find much more old-fashioned mores among the provincial working classes and lower echelons of the traditional managerial classes, than among the emerging globalised ruling elite, stretching from Glibraltar-based gambling tycoons to CEOs of funky new media companies. The money is in fun culture, not in what we tend, disparagingly, to call Victorian values. Apparently it is easier to manipulate the masses if they are lulled into a false sense of joy and diverted from critical analysis of the doctrinal system. For some progress is measured in terms of the effective presentation of abstract rights and outlawing outmoded nasty habits and pursuits. So if progress means gay marriage, smoke-free pubs and an end to fox hunting, you'll be superficially pleased with New Labour's record. Instead we have dysfunctional family units with kids increasingly isolated, over five million adults on psychoactive drugs with side effects far worse than cigarettes and nearly one billion animals slain every year to meet our voracious demand. In this context New Labour's progressive achievements are very minor indeed and pale in comparison to their services to the US-centred corporate and military establishment, especially their friends at GSK, Tesco, BA Systems and KPMG to name but a few.

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All in the Mind Power Dynamics

Scientific Orthodoxy and Scientific Fact

Open letter to George Monbiot

I just read your recent piece (3 May 2007) on Alexander Cockburn's anthropogenic climate change scepticism and his reliance on one scientist. Let me first state that broadly speaking I'm with you on this one. Irrespective of our exact scientific interpretation, it seems obvious that the exponential rise in humanity's overall impact on our planet's delicate environment (consumption and population) has had some effect whose full impact only future generations will experience.

However, your approach equating climate change deniers with 9/11 truthers worries me for several reasons. The only thing the two groups really have in common is that they challenge the received wisdom as popularised by the mainstream liberal media such as the Independent and the BBC. However, let us be in no doubt the former group enjoys large backing from corporate lobbies and pitifully little support from grass roots activists, while the latter group receives only limited funding from a few isolated entrepreneurs, but much more support from a large grassroots movement including many relatives of those murdered in the 9/11 attacks. Indeed it cannot escape my attention that in another recent piece (Guardian, 6 February 2007) on the purported insanity of 9/11 truthers you favourably quoted a Counterpunch investigation to explain how intense heat caused by burning aircraft fuel could have distributed evenly along 400m long piles causing the towers to collapse vertically from the bottom rather than bend and topple at the point of collision. Indeed please just consider the long list of those who doubt the official conspiracy theory (in which Osama Bin Laden ordered 19 mainly Saudi Arabian hijackers to kamikaze passenger jets into strategic buildings of US military and financial power) includes not only David Ray Griffin, who has extensively dissected the official 9/11 report and answered just about every scientific point you have attempted to make, but also Richard Heinberg, author of the Party's Over, Democrat representative Cynthia McKinney, Michael Meacher and Andreas von Bülow, former State Secretary in the German Ministry of Defence. History teaches us that the establishment has never had a monopoly on empirical truth, but your reply to Cockburn's article focuses not on scientific analysis of substantive facts, but on suspect concepts such as “peer-reviewed†research or a scientific consensus. Peer review merely means that research has been reviewed by someone else in a position of trust employed by corporate or state institutions. Peer-reviewed research has been used to support the safety of genetically modified organisms with terminator genes, deny the side effects of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or claim that new behavioural categories such as ADHD have genetic or polygenic roots (cf. Jay Joseph, the Missing Gene). The overall bias of peer-reviewed research tends to reflect the vested interests and bias of its funders. Currently, biotech and pharmaceutical multinationals represent a huge lobby perfectly prepared to spend billions in funding research and public relations to sustain whatever scientific thesis suits their interests. Pitifully little research money is channelled into investigating the psychosocial causes of childhood behavioural problems or the dangers of genetically modified crops, so dissident researchers are soon lampooned as mavericks or even as conspiracy theorists, whose work has not been peer-reviewed. If you go against the grain in today's world of intermeshed corporate, state and non-governmental entities, your work simply does not get peer-reviewed, little more than an establishment rubber stamp.

Second, we should take a quick look at Alexander Cockburn's motivations. Honestly, I think he's an old-timer who sees progress in terms of extending to millions of the world's poor the same prosperity we take for granted. As a brand of commercialised libertarianism has accompanied this steady rise in material living standards, some mistakenly see progress as evolution towards society in the most enlightened middle-class enclaves of the US and Western Europe. Consider the cultural microcosm of the aspiring intellectual elite who congregate in the Starbucks where I sit at the heart of a larger Borders store. Most would almost definitely consider themselves progressives, yet all are indulging in a form of politically correct consumerism, reassured their coffee, or at least some of it, is fair trade and very aware of most of the issues you raise in your regular Guardian columns. Indeed your books are often on prominent display alongside those of Naomi Klein. They have, if you like, been peer-reviewed or rather vetted as safe for public consumption unlikely to rock any boats.

Science does matter and it is surely too important to leave to a technocratic elite in bed with a historically deceitful corporate establishment.

By all means, polemicise against climate change deniers, but please do so based on science and do not suggest that only an elite in the pay of big business and big government have a monopoly over scientific analysis. Despite all the rhetoric we hear from very mainstream political and business leaders, I do not see any abatement in orthodox economists' addiction to continuous material growth. The government are forging ahead with plans to expand airports and provide more gambling opportunities with an economy based on abstract financial, marketing and personal services nobody really needs. The same ruling elite who preach a "don't worry, be happy and trust us" philosophy, also invest millions in belittling, subverting and as a last resort criminalising dissident intellectuals. Just because some popular conspiracy theories are plainly wacky, does not mean all unorthodox perspectives should be tarnished with the same brush or are even conspiracy theories at all. Let us not forget in the run up to the invasion of Iraq, Tony Blair described the "war for oil" slur as a mere conspiracy theory circulating on the Internet. On 9/11 it is the establishment, not their naysayers, who entertain the public with a grotesque conspiracy theory defying the laws of physics. The establishment can no longer deny the reality of climate change, because you cannot lie very long about medium-term weather forecasts and the human impact on the environment is undeniable to all but the most hardened followers of Frank Füredi's Spiked Online sect (who incidentally agree with you on 9/11, but never mind). As for motivation, while it may seem superficially plausible that US imperialism in the Middle East may have induced a bunch of extremists to perpetrate atrocities against the civilian American population and some have hypothesised that US has been drawn into a war that it cannot win, copious evidence, which you have yourself quoted, shows that US plans to conquer the world's largest source of cheap and easy fossil fuels in the Middle East and Central Asia predates the first (Persian) Gulf War at a time when the US oil imports accounted for less 50% of domestic consumption. Their actions are entirely consistent both with their high-consumption economic model and with the peak oil scenario (which the likes of Alexander Cockburn and Greg Palast also deny). History is replete with examples of governments instigating and perpetrating atrocities against sections of their citizenry to engender a climate of war and hiding this reality from their own population. Without such levels of government deceit the huge crimes against humanity such as Nazi Holocaust or the largely forgotten forced famines in Belgian Congo, Ukraine or British occupied Bengal in 1943-44 would not have happened.

If we accept that Bush and Blair are not motivated by high humanitarian ideals such as spreading democracy and women's rights, defeating tyrants or ridding the world of weapons of mass destruction, then we have to weigh the merits of two explanations for their behaviour: the systematic pursuit of power or inherent contradictions of our current model of development. I submit that the driving force behind the current wave of imperialist conflict is ultimately the latter but inevitably engenders the former with increased levels of ferocity as supply fails to meet the growing demand for limited resources on a finite planet.

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All in the Mind Power Dynamics

Is the Crime Rate Falling or Rising

One well-designed Website, www.anxietyculture.com seemed worthy of a link exchange request as it was publicised in the forum of another site I respect Medialens. It claims to offer an antidote to the mainstream media with a special focus on the left's favourite bête noire The Daily Mail. I particularly liked the article on 'Team spirit Means Mob Mentality', but took issue with the site's general dislike for the work ethic, while agreeing wholeheartedly that probably way over half of jobs in the UK serve no meaningful purpose other than entangling everyone in a huge web of endless corporate promotion, deception and bureaucracy. The site peddles a simplistic line placing huge optimism in the future evolution of humanity given recent cultural developments, with only overwork holding people back from realising their full creative potential. Judging from the polished bespoke Flash design, I'd assume that a good deal of work has gone into the site's presentation. It offers myriad excuses for trendy student types and layabouts to justify their lifestyle and falls into the dangerous trap of extolling the virtues of economic model centred around consumption and entertainment. That's right hundreds of thousands of UK residents work hard in offices, advertising agencies, shopping malls, bars, nightclubs and casinos so much of the remaining population can indulge in materialistic dreams that are both unsustainable and unattainable to all but a lucky few.

Among the myths that the reactionary press allegedly perpetrates is the relentless rise in domestic violence and anti-social behaviour. Quoting the British Crime Survey (BCS) Anxiety Culture claims not only is crime at an all time low and any statistical increases can be attributed to greater reporting and changing definitions, but accuses the BBC and Daily Mail of scaremongering. The same logic is applied to the overhyped obesity epidemic and again there is a good deal of common sense in the site 's observations. Britons ate on average more calories three decades ago and many otherwise healthy people have lived into their 80s and 90s despite being clinically overweight or obese based on the simplified body mass index. However, in both cases just because the corporate and state media simplify and misstate the causes of evident issues that people experience in their everyday lives does not mean these problems do not exist. All power elites have their own agendas. Certainly the spectre of pervasive antisocial behaviour and rampant crime can serve to justify new Draconian legislation expanding surveillance in one of the most heavily monitored countries in the world.

However, the trouble with crime statistics lies in the definition of crime. If crime means petty theft, then the installation of surveillance technology, the transition to electronic transactions for all but the smallest purchases and, dare I say, a relatively buoyant economy, albeit unsustainable with a widening rich-poor gap, have led to a marked reduction. Very few people in this country carry more than £50 in hard cash and if their car is worth more than a few hundred quid it probably has an alarm. Indeed people spend more and more of their time at home, watching TV and surfing the net. Look through the windows of houses and flats in working class areas and you'll see gigantic home cinemas in almost every living room. Increasingly each member of a household has a personalised media delivery system in their bedroom, leading to a further disintegration of family life. At least in the 70s and 80s when families would tend to watch prime-time TV together in the living room each member would benefit from the others' insights and collective viewing would also limit certain indulgences, especially graphic scenes of murder and rape.

The corporate and state elites consider crime any acts that endanger their grip on power and may destabilise the delicate social order that keeps the masses loyal to the system and easily manageable. Drunk youths rampaging down high streets scaring the living daylights out of any passers-by suit the elite agenda just fine. First their behaviour boosts not only the multi-billion pound booze business, but is also excellent for the booming CCTV surveillance industry and justifies incessant calls from mainstream politicians for more police on the beat. More important it lets the system keep tabs on young hooligans, so after their Saturday night brawls they can safely return to grease the wheels of a corrupt corporate machine. If the same youths had spent their weekend reading Joel Bakan's The Corporation or attending an antiwar demo, they might not act as obediently when asked to enforce new diktats (conveniently labelled as best practice guidelines). The real troublemakers the establishment worries about are not yobs of any social class, serving a useful purpose both as scapegoats and as bullies they can later disown, but conscientious independent thinkers, the kind of people who get labelled mavericks, mad professors, extremists and just plain crazies.

An act is only considered criminal in law if powerful forces have not only put it on the statute books but are actually willing to enforce it. If we redefined crime as 'harming, robbing or unduly exploiting others' and 'infringing on the basic human rights of others', then megabuck corporations that dominate the City of London would be in the dock alongside the politicians who let them move trillions of pounds, dollars and Euros across the globe to boost their bottom line with little regard to the immense human consequences. Indeed in the UK the kind of lobbying that led to the trial in absentia of former Italian PM Bettino Craxi and arrest of his successor Silvio Berlusconi is perfectly legal. Whether the state is minimally concerned about the harm caused by toxic effluents produced by industry essential to our high consumption lifestyle depends largely on its analysis of the effects pollution has on social and economic stability. The establishment wish both to command the loyalty of its subjects through its public image of benevolence and needs workers and consumers to be healthy enough to participate in their business model. In recent decades the establishment in much of Western Europe and North America has been able to clean up its act on industrial pollution by outsourcing most of the really dirty jobs to low wage economies.

Whether you believe the BCS or the (in my humble opinion) more realistic picture painted in Francis Gilbert's Yob Nation, a true measure of social cohesion cannot be based on abstract crime statistics, but on people's selfishness or rather their propensity towards psychopathy. I don't care if my neighbour downloads gigabytes of copyrighted music, fails to pay her taxes or smokes an illicit substance as long as this behaviour does not affect my basic dignity. Some would have us believe as a result of such transgressions musicians would stop recording new albums because peer-to-peer file sharing has put them out of business, the state would fail to provide basic social services because nobody pays taxes or we'd be plagued with rampant cannabis-induced psychosis. In the real world record companies and pop stars make billions out of a select group of high profile acts, tax evasion by ordinary citizens accounts for a minuscule percentage of potential government income and psychosis induced by other perfectly legal drugs such as alcohol is a much greater problem than the latest potent strains of cannabis. What concerns me is whether my neighbour respects my personal dignity and participates as a conscientious member of the local community. If people distrust their neighbours, indeed are encouraged by the scaremongering media to regard any deviant behaviour with suspicion, then they owe allegiance only to themselves, possibly their immediate family, and remote entities such as their employer, musical or cinematographic idols, favourite sports team, nation, special interest sect, religion or even a supranational organisation, but not to their geographic community. Increasingly people feel they have less in common with their neighbours than they do with distant cyberbuddies, so it's no wonder that we care less about the welfare of other members of our community. Despite the oft-repeated rhetoric of mainstream politicians a combination of economic and cultural trends have led to the steady corrosion not just of traditional extended families, but communities. Much of the media attention given to domestic violence, antisocial behaviour and paedophilia serve not only to spread fear and distrust, but more importantly to assert the role of a vast state and corporate control structure, comprising police, social workers, psychiatric nurses and increasingly non-governmental organisations such as abnormal personality (aka mental health) charities. Recent initiatives such as parenting lessons for begetters of antisocial children and the extension of the definition of domestic assault to include verbal abuse fit wonderfully into this pattern. Children growing up in the late 1990s and early 21st century lack the respect that previous generations had for their primary caregivers, learning early on of their parents' fallibility, e.g. Mummy why are you smoking? Don't you know it's bad for you? or Daddy, you can't send me to bed at nine o'clock, that's child abuse!

A fairer measure would be the extent of social and personal injustice. With such a pervasive network of CCTV cameras it comes as little surprise that many forms of visible theft and disorderly behaviour have shown a steady decline since the early 1990s. Criminals have simply become smarter turning to credit card identity theft, loan extortion rackets for the heavily indebted and supplying technically illegal recreational mind drugs such as ecstasy, often tacitly tolerated by the establishment. Fear of reprimand has certainly changed the way husbands and parents behave. Rather than expressing their true feelings they will often act out scenes they have witnessed in movies and TV soap operas, resorting to antidepressants and other drugs to cope with their inability to assert their role at home, or simply distancing themselves from the family. So statistical reductions in the perception of crime as reported by the government-sponsored BCS do not necessarily mean greater social tranquillity and reciprocal trust, but merely reflect the effectiveness of the government's chosen means of controlling the populace. As the establishment only cares about maintaining its tight grip over the plebs, it favours measures that boost profitability and surveillance, while atomising and marginalising the population at large and destroying traditional allegiances to local communities and faith groupings. Moral criminality is inherent in a society like ours that worships consumerism encouraging long-term debt, is hooked on soaps, violence-packed movies and with large proportions of the youth regularly playing first-person shooter games and indulging in binge drinking and gambling.

Recent legal changes have effectively outlawed traditional safety valves for pent-up anxiety such as having a ciggy and shouting at your spouse, while making it easier to get inebriated 24/7 and then blow a fortune on a night at the casino, whose extortionate operations would have been illegal only two years ago. The big criminals have been given free reign, able either to bankroll lobbies or circumvent new surveillance technology, while the little criminals are treated like naughty kids and sent to the head teacher to take their medication.

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All in the Mind Power Dynamics

May the Thought Police be with you!

Over the last week the mainstream media in the UK have focused on two moral issues. The first concerned the televised racial slurs of a working class Londoner raised in a Bermondsey council estate who made her name on Channel Four's Big Brother against a multi-millionaire Bollywood diva. The second drew our attention to the unwillingness of the Catholic and other religious adoption agencies to place children with same sex couples. Campaigns against discrimination on grounds of race or sexual orientation have traditionally been the preserve of the Left, who like to think of themselves as bastions of free thought forever battling ingrained establishment biases. Fast-forward to 2007 and the banning of all speech officially interpreted as racist or homophobic has become the establishment line. Were it not for heroic equal rights campaigners, so we are led to believe, women would still be working 16 hours a day scrubbing floors and satisfying the libido of their menfolk with no say whatsoever in the democratic process, dark-hued people would still be slaves or mere subjects of colonial rule and people with unauthorised sexual orientations treated as psychiatric patients. Sadly, the harsh reality on the ground differs from this fairytale image of progress over the last sixty years of unbridled consumerist expansion. Back on planet Earth hundreds of millions of mostly dark-hued people are condemned to lives of extreme economic deprivation, evicted from their ancestral lands, forced to migrate to large conurbations and sucked in to the periphery of a global economic monster that controls the population's food and energy supply and affords local units of governance little alternative but to collaborate. In the high-consumption world, relatively few women will spend hour upon hour on their knees scrubbing floors, hand-washing clothes and cooking for their extended family single-handed. Most benefit from modern technology and expect their partners to help, but unlike their recent forebears, have to hold down a second job in an office or retail outlet to fulfil themselves both materially and professionally. More and more women are prone to a whole host of emotional hang-ups as they fail to live up to media-imposed expectations and thus lack self-worth. As for the expansion of democracy to the fairer sex, we can only dwell on the state of a political system that views electors as targets of viral marketing campaigns, who need to be constantly persuaded and reassured of the establishment's good intentions and of the inherent dangers posed by any alternatives that may appear on the horizon, effectively disenfranchising anyone without access the levers of mediocracy.

The last tenet of the apparent progress we have witnessed over the last two decades is the legalisation of homosexuality and now the extension and enshrinement of gay rights. One might argue that you can only legalise something that has been banned. The same establishment that imposed Victorian values of chastity and sex only within wedlock later reversed prohibition of erotic behaviour between consenting individuals. As late as the 1960s the establishment considered homosexuality a psychiatric illness, the WHO even had a code for it and it was listed in the first two editions of the infamous Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association. Twenty years later the latest revision of DSM-IV lists over 400 personality disorders applicable to a growing proportion of the population. So now it's okay if you have a compulsive sexual attraction to a member of the same sex. Indeed you should celebrate your diversity and insist on your right to marry, sue your employers over any alleged discrimination and even raise children that are not your own. Yet if you're a bit of geek with obsessional special interests and nonconformist socialisation patterns, you need psychiatric intervention just in case you offend mainstream society. All that's changed is the definition of which behaviours are acceptable and which are not, yet there is pitifilly little evidence that the tendency to lead a homosexual lifestyle is any more a product of one's genes than a tendency to develop a mad professor personality type, the expression of both behavioural traits is highly dependent on cultural factors. Consider, if you will, the tragic case of Alan Turing, a socially withdrawn cryptographer and pioneering computer scientist who formalised the concept of the algorithm and computation with the Turing machine and later helped war-time British intelligence services at Bletchley Park crack the Nazi code. Back then they celebrated his geekishness, a positive virtue, but referred him to a psychiatrist to treat his delusional erotic attraction to men, which eventually led to his suicide. Today, the former trait, deemed dysfunctional in any team-working environment, would be psychiatrised and the latter celebrated. So much for progress.

Why should those of us who genuinely champion the rights of the downtrodden and abhor authoritarianism in all its guises have more sympathy for Jane Goody and Catholic Bishops than for a Bollywood actress and trendy enforcers of political correctness? I'm not suggesting that any of the parties involved are free of proverbal skeletons in their cupboards, but it is clear which side the establishment is on. The same newspapers and politicians who lied to us over the real reasons for the invasion and occupation of Iraq and let predatory entrepreneurs spread the contagion of online gambling and open new legalised casinos, consider progress to be letting children be raised by same-sex couples and gagging working class expressions of inferiority by labelling it uneducated racism.

Indeed I'd go one step further, even if you believe that some same sex couples are better parents than some dysfunctional heterosexual couples (which is undoubtedly the case considering the proliferation of psychological stressors that contaminate meaningful relations between men and women in a highly competitive society), we should still support the Catholic Church's right to refer gay couples to other adoption agencies, because to do otherwise would impose the same logic and mores on everyone. An adoption agency cannot succeed without a fair balance between worthy foster parents and parentless children yearning to share the most treasured gift of any balanced childhood, a loving family with a fair balance of the roles traditionally assigned to the mother and father figures. If social services cannot place children via conservative adoption agencies due to a lack of eligible mixed gender foster parents, they can simply switch to gay-friendly adoption agencies. Likewise gay couples can simply approach an agency they know would be sympathetic to their status. Most adoption agencies consider multiple factors including the couple's emotional and economic well-being. Few children in care would benefit from being shunted from one dysfunctional household to another with enormous potential for abuse. Given the establishment's preoccupation with paedophilia, they are required to screen all candidates' police records for any hint of sexual offences (including mere cautions for briefly viewing images of underage children in sexually explicit poses) and would also be privy to confidential information about past psychiatric diagnoses. So it would, according to current best practice, be perfectly within their powers to rule somebody out as a potential foster parent because of a childhood diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome or ADHD as the parent would purportedly lack the requisite empathy or attention span to act in a responsible and loving way. However, the proposition that mixed gender parenting is always preferable is not just the opinion of one extreme fundamentalist sect, it's the experience of thousands of years of human civilisation and enshrined in cultures and religions spanning the globe. It's not two outdated Catholic Bishops against the modern forward-thinking majority, it's a bunch of New Labour intellectuals, many of whom supported all of Tony Blair's recent wars and endorse their party's wholesale capitulation to neoliberal corporatism, against the majority of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Africans, South Americans, Indians and Chinese.

If a victim of persecution and/or economic deprivation were subjected to xenophobic abuse in a land to which inescapable circumstances compelled them to migrate, there'd be little doubt about the identity of the abuser and victim. But deep down racial abuse is just an expression of malcontent. "What are you doing on my patch?", "Why don't you become like the rest of us and assimilate?" and what about "People with your colour of skin tend to come from countries I consider uncivilised, so please accept your lowly status!"?. Jane Goody may be a minor millionaire now, but unlike Shilpa Shetty she grew up in a normal working class neighbourhood, constantly exposed to myriad forms of bullying, from which she probably learned her latent xenophobia, only to seize the opportunity to make it big on the telly. To be honest, I'd never heard of either celebrity before the media-created controversy. Millions of Indians are subjected day in day out to prejudice based on class, caste and their country's growing rich-poor gap. Yet like their British counterparts, they have been mesmerised by a virtual reality of televisual deities. To offend Shilpa, even in an ill-considered temper tantrum, is to insult the dignity if the entire Indian nation, a sad indictment of global reality. Global media tycoons can have tens of thousands on the streets protesting the language used by one person against another.

C4 ratings received a major boosting, but in any sane world we would all simply switch off and start thinking with our own brains. What is even more disturbing is the way the media exploits these constructed controversies to clamp down on critical thinking, while recruiting a motley collection of Guardian-reading gate-keepers to lower the public's guard to the incipient authoritarianism. If the neological social construct of homophobia is deemed a problem that must be addressed by more media awareness, education campaigns and psychoanalysis of those who hold views considered homophobic, then how long will be before any digression from orthodox thinking is considered the legitimate subject of psychiatric intervention. Worried? You should be. When the establishment realises it has lost the argument, despite billions squandered on propaganda, on the invasion of Iraq, they denigrate the opposition by likening their most prominent spokespeople with their new demons. Thus to oppose the US invasion of Afghanistan is to support the Taliban's interpretation of Islamic law. To expose the true horrors of Israel's military actions over the last 40 years is to stand side by side with a bunch of Ayatollah-worshipping, wife-beating Islamic fascists. Debate is in practice confined to the technicalities of the implementation of an agenda over which we no control. If they, the establishment, say that all loners caught downloading child pornography should be imprisoned, while the entrepreneurs who run multi-billion pound gaming and porn sites should be given free reign, then so be it. It is a triumph of propaganda that few see the conspicuous contradiction, whereby the purveyors of sexual perversion and emotional distress walk free, while their victims may easily fall into a legal nightmare by overstepping ever-shifting moral boundaries.

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Power Dynamics

Blair’s Big Brother Binge

Blair's Big Brother Binge

If you thought genuine concerns over security and welfare motivated the deceptively named bills in Tony Blair's final Queen's speech, in all likelihood you believed him when he reassured us of his noble aims to rid the world of the genocidal threat presented by Slobodan Milosevic, Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. With one dead, another at large and the third awaiting his fate in death row, Blair's speech writers have had to find some new daemons to justify even more surveillance of our everyday lives. A double whammy of new anti-terrorism legislation and a revised Mental Health Act empowering the authorities to detain emotionally disturbed citizens before they commit a heinous crime. On cue the corporate and state media highlight the case of a paranoid schizophrenic allegedly failed by mental health services and let loose only to brutally murder an innocent cyclist. The only conclusions the establishment media lets us draw is that we must pour even more funds into the burgeoning mental health sector to ensure vulnerable individuals diagnosed with psychiatric disorders take their medication and are kept well out of harm's way through 24/7 surveillance. One need merely join the dots by comparing this with recent legislation purportedly crafted to defend young children from the spectre of Internet paedophiles, but conveniently enabling the police to enter any dwelling to confiscate computer equipment. Do we seriously believe that the same government that deregulates gambling, allows 24 hour boozing and praises entrepreneurs responsible for a culture of mindless hedonism would only use these newly acquired powers against a handful of psychopathic killers and child molesters? The UK already has the world's highest density of CCTV cameras (bar a few densely populated city states), the highest psychiatric disorder diagnosis rate in Europe and the highest spending on mental health services (12.5% of total health expenditure in 2002 compared to 5% in Italy and France and 10% in Germany).

The psychiatric model absolves individuals with personality disorders of responsibility for their antisocial, self-harming, obsessive, abusive, murderous or otherwise dysfunctional actions, turning misfits into victims suffering from neurological diseases rather than citizens responsible for their actions. Rather we should empower people to get meaningful jobs to fend for themselves, but if they commit a crime, they should bear the consequences. Simultaneously we hear calls for universal screening of all children for all personality disorders, allegedly to help the undiagnosed victims or keep tabs on future criminals. By focussing narrowly on genetic markers that may make people more susceptible to the expression of psychotic symptoms, they completely ignore the social context, e.g. over 50% of Londoners diagnosed with schizoid disorders have a history of drug abuse, including the widely publicised psychopathic murderer. Someone who has endured years of illegal drug abuse, followed by years of psychoactive drugs and confinement is extremely vulnerable to violent mood swings, putting a lie to the myth that lack of medication caused a murder. It would be more accurate to say that failure to offset the combined effects of legal and illegal drugs and a background of emotional abuse in a consumerist society obsessed with virtual violence triggered a killing spree. Sadly the potential for this kind of behaviour is much more prevalent than we might like to think. numerous wars soldiers, especially in times of economic hardship, social upheaval and forced abstinence, have abused their new-found power by raping and pillaging the indigenous population. Yet the same soldiers back home in more prosperous times might seem exemplary fathers and members of their communities. Besides within just one month in England alone we have witnessed two cases of fathers on SSRIs murder two or more members of their family, yet in neither case did the media highlight medication as the cause.

The real agenda is to set a precedent for preventive detention, empowering the authorities to lock up emotionally unstable citizens considered at high risk of committing murder. If this power were only used sparingly against a handful of individuals there might seem little to worry about, but recent experience with the implementation of anti-terrorism legislation would suggest otherwise. Most murders in the UK are committed either as a result of domestic disputes or by the hitmen of self-confident gangsters. To even be sure of saving a single human life a year we would need to detain thousands of citizens. Current estimates show as many 500,000 with schizoid disorders (just under 1%), a similar number for bipolar disorder (1%), Autistic Spectrum Disorders (1%), OCD (1% again) and some estimates of the controversial ADHD label as high as 3-4%. If we begin to enter the hilly territory of manic depression, now shamelessly promoted by celebrities, then well over 10% of the population could be claimed to suffer from psychiatric problems likely to require medication and/or monitoring just in case they harm themselves. All could now be at risk of arrest, all to save one or two individuals killed by madmen on the loose. Most amusing of all, Camilla Cavendish reported in the Times of London (They're getting away with murder 23/11/2006) that "... between 55 and 63 people are killed every year by people who have recently been in contact with mental health services. At about 10 per cent of the total murder count, dare I say this is quite a lot?". Sadly that is very close to the percentage of the general population who've been in touch with mental health services in the last year.

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All in the Mind Power Dynamics

The Misery Industry

In the run-up to New labour's historic 1997 electoral victory, thespian extraordinaire Tony Blair launched his rallying soundbite "education, education, education". Any brief exposure to modern teaching techniques as they have continued to evolve since would reveal the necessity to revise that slogan to "edutainment, edutainment, edutainment" .

Outside the bustling edutainment sector with semi-privatised unis offering students free I-pods and advertising the prospects of vibrant night life and casual sexual encounters, the biggest boom sector under New Labour calls itself the entertainment industry. The figures are quite staggering, but hard to quantify. The components of the entertainment sector span multiple traditional categories such as alcoholic beverages, electronic media (movies and games), retail, catering, gambling, sports and leisure, covering anything from a ten-pin bowling alley to a nighclub, a TV broadcaster to an electronics retailer, a Laser Quest virtual shooting centre to theatres now frequented only by the more educated chattering classes. According to Prospects, the official guide to post-graduate employment ( Prospects: Sport and leisure ), 13.5% of the UK work force are employed in the leisure industry accounting for 10% of the economy, excluding the mass media, an additional 0.6%, and entertainment-oriented retail sales. Now just consider that much of the remaining population work in other branches of the non-essential service sector, whether in administration, finance or advertising.

British students have long had a reputation for drinking, but I seem to recall back in the 1980s not many could afford indulge in nights out on the town more than once a week unless they had another source of income. Social life would revolve around the student bar and many would spend most evenings in swatting over their course work. Fast forward to the 21st century and student life has morphed into a non-stop partying session. Every lunchtime by the entrance of an image-obsessed Leeds Metropolitan University students earn a little extra cash to promote local night clubs, often performing stunts reminiscent of yesteryear's protesters. Even among teaching staff Curtis White's Middle Mind, the deluge of junk information that overwhelms what little remains of our independent imagination, dominates discourse. Hollywood movies, game consoles, commercial Websites, moronic TV, multi-millionnaire celebrities, consumer goods and the occasional pub crawl, interpolated only by the news agenda set by large corporations. Not surprisingly the aforementioned edutainmental establishment offers a BA Hospitality Business with Club & Casino Management . It's probably only a matter of time before they add Brothel Management to their repertoire. Welcome to Air Strip One anno 2006, where spending countless hours immersed in realistic simulations of death and destruction is apparently considered normal, indeed so normal that anyone who dares to question the morality of this pervasive pursuit awaits social exclusion, except in the safe confines of like-minded non-gamers. So they want to censor violent content from Youtube, but have they considered pulling all first-person shooter games from stores frequented by millions of young chiidren, often strategically located at kid height? No, it seems the only depravity they want to censor is that disseminated by ordinary folk, while respected corporate and state institutions fill our minds daily with the most abject technicolour vileness.

Regulating the Poor and Deregulating the Rich

If one trend were to summarise the Blair agenda, it is this. Give big business carte blanche to hook millions on their mind-altering pursuits and carcinogenic products, while imposing ever-greater restrictions on the freedom of private citizens, for their own benefit naturally.

Tobacco shares are probably not a very good buy just now as smoking has just been banned in all public buildings in Scotland and this ban looks set to extend to England next year. Revenue in public houses may decline at least in the short term in some deprived areas, but all is not bleak on the entertainment front. Apparently GSK and Aventis stand to profit enormously from the growing rate of prescription for their anti-depressants, if you're an investor follow my advice, sell tobacco shares and buy pharmaceuticals. Other opportunities loom on the horizon with considerable growth in the gambling sector, which will in turn fuel sales of both alcoholic beverages, party drugs and antidepressants. Prospects look good for the burgeoning debt relief and cash conversion business.

It may seem odd to some that the same government responsible for restricting the freedom to smoke in the name of public health, has extended pub opening hours, deregulated gambling, let the NHS dispense ever growing numbers of SSRI's (Prozac-like antidepressants) and Ritalin and oversee an explosion in the use of ecstasy in discos, night clubs and raves.

Evidence linking smoking to lung cancer and heart disease is quite compelling, but clearly it is not the only factor determining good health and longevity. Indeed some of the countries with the highest smoking rates such as Japan, Spain, France and Greece also have some of the highest life expectancies. May this have something to do with diet and lifestyle? So if you smoke 20 a day and eat junk food, it's kicking the latter habit that will statistically contribute more to lengthening your lifespan.

The whole point is it's none of the government's business to dictate such lifestyle choices, as long as citizens are well informed, are not under social or commercial pressure to adopt high risk habits and are protected against predatory and deceptive business practices.

However, the prevailing trend is to deregulate big business letting it make new inroads into the addiction sector, leading in years to come to a growing incidence of psychological problems. The same government that highlights the dangers of smoking, despite still getting huge revenues from the sale of tobacco, cohorts with its corporate friends in downplaying the adverse effects of of gambling, SSRIs, carginogenic food additives (i.e. aspartame contained in most deceptively labelled sugarfree or "no added sugar" drinks) and violent video games, all multibillion pound industries and an integral part of many young people's lives.

Consider the aspartame controversy and bear with me before you see the parallels with the tobacco controversy of the mid 20th century and its wider implications for manufacturing and controlling pleasure. There are broadly speaking three perspectives on the dangers of this pervasive sweetener. The industry has long claimed its safety is backed by research and may only pose a risk for minority groups such as phenylketonuriacs (PKU sufferers). Many aware of the alleged dangers, but regular consumers of products containing the substance, simply view it as a potential risk that may only affect them at extraordinarily high levels of consumption. They see millions consuming aspartame-containing products with no immediate side effects and even minor one benefit, aspartame does not rot your teeth as much as sugar (but other ingredients in fizzy drinks still do). Third a small minority avoid all foods likely to contain the substance because copiuous research suggests that the substance is a carcinogen even at normal levels of consumption (e.g. 3-4 aspartame-sweetened drinks and a packet of aspartame-sweetened chewing gum a day). Now if the third group were just a bunch of ill-informed conspiracy-theorists and aspartame were truly safe, you'd expect the industry to proudly and unashamedly advertise the fact. Coke Zero would be rebranded Coke Extra, now with aspartame instead of tooth-rotting sugar, Tookthkind Ribena (which incidentally still contributes to tooth decay even without added sugar) would inform parents in large print Now with added aspartame for your child's benefit. Instead we are entertained with misleading labels such as sugarfree (i.e. always contains aspartame) and no added sugar (probably contains aspartame), while the corporate health media do a little aspartame promotion by simply warning of the dangers of excessive sugar consumption, usually without distinguishing different forms of sugar (glucose, sucrose, lactose and fructose) or the fact that our body needs some sugar, a fact testified by the presence of lactose in maternal milk and fructose-containing berries in the paleolithic diet of our forebears (though later we acquired a much a sweeter tooth). Now cast your mind back to the 1940s when copious evidence available then not only linked tobacco with lung cancer and cardiovascular diseases, but proved its addictiveness. It took the tobacco industry 50 years to admit the health hazards of their lucrative products. Of course, in the meantime not all regular smokers dropped dead instantly and, ironically, mean life expectancy continued to rise. Many lived into their 70s, 80s or 90s despite their tobacco vice, while others who died early of lung cancer or heart failure had their illnesses attributed to other causes. Indeed smoking among the working classes only gained its quasi-universality in the aftermath of the 1914-18 Great War with millions returning from the trenches as nicotine addicts. Now what if, as some research would suggest, aspartame at normal rates of consumption is as carcinogenic as smoking 20 cigarettes a day? If that turns out to be the case, industry and government standards authorities would have misled the next generation by getting them hooked young with their sugarfree diet-conscious drinks, specifically targeted at kids. Since the introduction of aspartame into the food supply in the mid 1980s the incidence of diabetes and childhood obesity has skyrocketed and, ironically, per capita sugar consumption has declined. Yes the biggest rise in longevity occurred in the 1960s and 70s when over half the adult population smoked and almost everyone took sugar with their tea or coffee, but most had at least one square meal a day served at home on the dining room table rather than microwaved and consumed on the sofa before a 40" plasma screen. If aspartame has no other side effects, it makes otherwise boring food much sweeter and yummier, acting alongside MSG (monosodium glutamate) as a major appetite enhancer and encouraging a predilection for hyper-sweetened foods. If you're worried about sugared tea or coffee rotting your teeth, simply get used to taking these beverages unsweetened! If your waistline concerns you, why not just cut down on cakes and dairy products. But in a society that buys into the myth of a free lunch, we believe we can indulge without consequences and technology will always come to the rescue.

What's wrong with having fun?

Ask a stupid question and you'll get a stupid answer. We all aspire to enjoying life, but a better question would be: Why do we need such high doses of frivolous amusement to stay emotionally afloat?. If commercialised leisure centres, home cinemas and a never-ending drone of fast-beat dance music in stores and bars made us so happy, why are so many of prone to depression? Now imagine looking forward to a quiet walk in the park with a half hour break to read an enthralling novel only to find a bunch of twenty-somethings holding a daytime rave completely oblivious to your desire for tranquility? It soon becomes clear that the ecstatic joy of the few leads to the misery of the many, either because they cannot emulate the sexually appealing and self-confident charm of successful revellers or because they feel undermined or threatened by their mindless hedonism. How many of us have been to discos, nightclubs or on pub crawls, only to return with a huge hole in our bank balance and hangover, in the vane hope that the disinhibition and stupor that booze and loud music invoke will revolutionise our social life, help us meet a dream partner or at least lead to a desperate one night stand? If you thought everyone else out there was having a whale of a time in the brave new world of post-industrial pleasure, think again. Most are at home glued to the TV, bidding on ebay, immersed in a virtual word of fantasy battles or maybe amusing themselves with titbits from www.youtube.com. We are presented with a dazzling spectacle, whose primary purpose is to distract us from leading fruitful and rewarding lives, the only source of long term happiness for those of us unlucky enough not to win the lottery. Once distracted, our animalistic behaviour can be monitored and and our lives more pervasively controlled. For if adults can be mesmerised into behaving like spoilt children on steroids, some will inevitably overstep the mark and require 24/7 surveillance, enabling the corporate and state establishment to clamp down on its real enemies, sober critical thinkers.

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All in the Mind Power Dynamics

Two add Two equals Five because Four is a Racist Number

Racism, or more correctly in most cases xenophobia, is matter of ethics. It seems fair to conclude that racism has no place in any caring society because nobody benefits from being victims of prejudice based on arbitrary ethnic distinctions. In the real world prejudice is a natural by-product of extreme variations in wealth, rampant materialism, heightened social competition and growing duplicity (namely the contrast between our anti-racist rhetoric and selfish behaviour). I doubt the Hotel Ritz has a specific policy to bar natives of Mozambique, but few Mozambicans could afford to stay there just one night if they saved up for a whole year. It's a club that cunningly excludes anyone who can't pay, but is probably surprisingly tolerant of any billionaires with genetic traits that may otherwise be subject to prejudice.

By comparison environmental sustainability is a matter of scientific inquiry. Naturally as our appraisal of the facts is imperfect, we may reach different conclusions. Supposing someone stated that "Britain's long term carrying capacity probably ranges between 20 and 40 million, because blacks are ill-adapted to our culture". The conclusion may be correct, but is not supported by the premise. The stated rationale is of course inconsequential to the matter at hand, makes an extreme generalisation, assumes the superiority of our culture and is as such patently racist. The country's carrying capacity is an equation of total human impact (population times per capita consumption), available resources and efficiency. As available resources can be temporarily boosted by plundering resources from other regions and the sustainability of new technology is open to debate about its side effects, different interpretations of the same empirical data may lead to different conclusions, but ideally not biased by emotions.

Now let's suppose I called a plumber to investigate a leak with water dripping down slowing through a tiny crack in the bathroom ceiling after a week of subzero temperatures. I may feel better if he informed that by simply filling the crack I could stop the leak. If, however, the leak came from a burst pipe and as soon as I turned on a tap downstairs water would come gushing down flooding the whole house, I should like to know. It may cost me £200 to employ the plumber to replace the burst pipe now, but that's still cheaper than several thousand pounds to repair any damage that may result from a flood. So an honest and dependable assessment would be in my best interests, however much I hate rip-off plumbers.

In the recent debate in the UK media over immigration and the fact the kingdom's population has just topped sixty million, liberal pundits have accused proponents of tougher immigration controls of racism, while the gutter press has highlighted the criminality of some sections of the immigrant community. So by this logic whether or not this archipelago can support a population of 60 million and continue to run such a huge trade deficit in food, raw materials and manufactured goods boils down to mere taste. Liberals are supposed to be supercool and tolerant of all things groovy, so we just need more immigrants enriching our diversified multicultural melting pot, while reactionaries selfishly hate all newcomers. Some are at least consistent in slamming the green movement altogether. Spiked Online, formerly LM Mag, has long advocated material and demographic growth as the only means to progress. In a 2005 Channel Four series on the immigration debate, one of Spiked Online's regular columnists, Kenan Malik, showed picturesque scenes of vast expanses of rural East Anglia to substantiate the claim that Britain could support millions more human beings. Viewers were not asked to consider how many hectares of farmland, woodland, raw material extraction (mining, oil drilling etc.), industrial estates and how many cubic metres of potable water each resident needs. The UK can only survive with its current population and level of consumption because we import most of what we consume and export a good deal of the pollution generated by our lifestyle. This is only feasible if other regions produce huge surpluses and are willing to buy services from us. The harsh reality is that the island's medium term prosperity is tied inextricably to global trade and, more specifically, international finance. Should the US economy collapse and with it leading multinationals responsible directly or indirectly for hundreds of thousands of the country's best paid jobs resulting in a crash of the housing market and mass unemployment, how could we afford to source the relatively cheap imports we now take for granted? Spanish tomatoes seem a better deal because fossil fuels make it relatively inexpensive to ship tonnes of refrigerated fruit and veg thousands of miles and store them for several months. With fossil fuel prices destined to rise as the energy returned on energy invested (EROEI) decreases, we may soon have to relocalise our economy, using up every acre of available farmland. If predictions of dwindling per capita energy resources owing to the recently named phenomenon of peak oil prove unfounded and we have a bright future with nuclear energy and/or abiotic oil, then these assumptions had better be based on hard science rather than wishful thinking. However, wars of conquest in the Middle East and the behaviour of the world's superpowers (US and China) reveal growing competition over access to vital energy resources. The sum of two and two is easy to verify. Claiming it were five, would in effect redefine the meaning of five unless we were to conclude that 2+2 = 2+3. Likewise, the arguments of many neo-liberal apologists for global hegemony do not differ much. A scientifically flawed statement is wrong whatever the ethical rationale. They appeal to our emotional empathy with the plight of the poor to support the introduction of more cheap labour into a country with an artificially inflated economy.

"Britain's carrying capacity is much bigger than the current population because to suggest otherwise would be racist".

Again the premise does not substantiate the claim. If we are genuinely motivated by altruism, we might consider how best to help people in the regions of greatest emigration. However, even a cursory analysis of migratory flows would reveal a very different picture than just a continuous stream of new immigrants to wealthy countries. As cheap labour flows into the country, chiefly to help big business, more and more well-to-do native Brits buy property abroad, so Spanish, Cypriot and Bulgarian coastal resorts are filling up with ex-pats as Poles and Lithuanians flock to London, leaving whole communities in Eastern Europe deprived of their younger population and acting effectively as a brain drain. As a result the economies of many Eastern European communities begin to depend on income earned abroad leading natives to abandon agriculture and seek employment with export-oriented businesses reliant on global trade, locking them into a global system dependent on cheap fuel and technology controlled by a handful of transnational corporations.

Rather than foster a climate of reciprocal respect and tolerance, these trends further disempower local communities and generate growing distrust towards outsiders. Ironically the ruling elites play a shrewd game of sewing the seeds of xenophobia by shipping cheap labour to regions with higher incomes and suppressing dissent within native working classes through the imposition of political correctness. Fifteen years ago in the grim years of Thatcher's rule, many unemployed blamed the government or big business for their plight, but fast forward to 2006 and many unemployed are persuaded they have a mental illness or lack key skills that many new migrants have.

In all fairness it is xenophobic to demand more than the average global living standard. So if the world can only support 650 millions personal motor vehicles, we'd better raise our person-to-car ratio to 10:1 rather than the current 2:1. If current technology and energy resources can only supply each global citizen with 1600 kg of oil per year (based on 2001 figures), then the UK should cut its 4000 kg per capita to 40% of its present level, indeed to reduce our dependence of fossil fuels we'd need even greater reductions, unless we seriously believe that all 6.5 billion global citizens can sustainably consume as much as Western Europeans do.

Revised statement: "The UK's high-consumption lifestyle is xenophobic because it affords us with a bigger slice of the global cake than our proportion of the global population warrants".

Now that begins to make sense. Of course one could state "The UK can support a much greater population because genetically modified food, nuclear energy and outsourcing of all industry to Mars will significantly boost our planet's carrying capacity" which would make sense if the rationale were scientifically feasible. Likewise one could assert that "2 + 2 = 5 if the value of the number two increments by one after the plus sign". It's the same fuzzy logic.

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Power Dynamics

Globalitis: Why Economic Migration is not always Good News

This Wednesday's Independent (UK edition, 26/07/06) ran a front page story spilling over to page two under the heading "Outstanding: Official Verdict on school that shows the success of immigration". It featured a fabulous inner London primary school with twenty six pupils and twenty six languages, all apparently excelling academically and growing up bilingual in a dynamic multicultural setting of tolerance and mutual understanding. With pictures of such charming and talented children, how could anyone fail to realise the huge benefits of immigration, wondered the opinionated journalists? The article did not consider the metropolis's looming water, refuse management and housing crises, nor the fact that few Londoners are directly involved in the harvesting or production of the products they consume. On the same day the editorial page bemoaned the adverse effects on the developing world of a probable collapse of talks on global free trade. The conclusions the Independent wants us to reach are:

  1. immigration is always good and environmentally sustainable;
  2. free trade benefits the poor.

The two are, of course, inextricably linked because contrary to popular mythology it is largely economics that drives both immigration and political repression. People move to more prosperous regions to improve their professional and financial prospects within the prevailing economic reality. As the ruling classes can only maintain a semblance of democracy when they can successfully lure the masses with a share of their wealth, relative economic deprivation with extremes of wealth and poverty provides a ripe climate for state repression of unwanted or vulnerable sections of populace. In the absence of immigration controls any global model of development with extreme variations in earning potential, career opportunities for the university educated, provision of key social services and relative security will lead to massive flows of human beings from the least desirable regions towards lands with greener pastures. In theory this should have a balancing effect, but many argue that new immigration drives economic growth, e.g. A person migrating from a low consumption region to high consumption region would tend to increase aggregate global consumption. In a world comprising largely self-sufficient regions most migration will tend to flow within each region without new wars of conquest and colonisation. Current migration is fuelled largely by the dynamics of a global trading system that has its roots in 18th and 19th century colonial mercantilism. However, in the long term the world is bound by the same laws of thermodynamics or limits to growth. Historically such movements have tended to occur much more gradually and with a much smaller human population. Never has the UK been so dependent on global trade and what is left of the country's manufacturing and farming sectors are predominantly outside the South East of England. The capital's economy revolves around banking, media, advertising, property, education and administration as well as a booming catering and leisure industry to accommodate the desires of service workers. We could simplify these categories into finance and propaganda. Everything is imported, even much of the city's water arrives from France in plastic bottles. Why should China continue to ship its wares to London? What services does it get in exchange? Londoners design a few adverts and Chinese workers deliver the goods! So in what kind of world do we move talented young people from one country which still has much more fertile land per capita than the UK to one of Europe's most overcrowded conurbations? If we believe the Independent, the UK has a chronic skills shortage and an ageing population requiring affordable carers. Might this be because cultural trends here induce natives to opt for media studies, business administration, psychology and graphic design at uni rather than acquire hard skills such as plumbing, mechanical engineering, etc.? As for the elderly, why can we not take care of our own within the family? We all know the answer, because family units have broken down and many potential carers are too busy earning a living in the service sector to serve their creators.

If immigrants from the Indian Subcontinent and Middle East had affected British culture, one might naively have expected a resurgence in close-knit extended family values. Instead the native population has witnessed a rapid rise in the proportion of single-parent households. The cultural impact of the post-WW2 immigrant communities has mainly manifested itself in culinary contributions and music, but as a rule the more a community has assimilated into mainstream English, Scottish or Welsh society, the more its youth has been immersed in fun culture. It should hardly surprise us that so many programmers hail from the UK's Asian communities that shielded them to some extent from cultural decadence so they could acquire the core logical mathematical skills they need to excel in domains that many other British kids find dly uncool. What about catering staff? Well you'd think home-grown students would want to earn a few pennies? In sector after sector we've witnessed the outsourcing of jobs and, especially in the South East of England, the importation of new cheaper human resources, while millions of natives are either unemployed or on incapacity benefits as a result of spuriously defined mental health problems. When will we realise that we need cleaners, cooks, bus drivers, plumbers, electricians, bricklayers, farm labourers much more than It consultants or marketing executives. We might need programmers and sociologists, but not more professionals who push an essentially corporate agenda.

Cultural Imperialism

Sustainable immigration can benefit the host nation in innumerable ways enriching local culture and bringing in new skill sets. This works well in a climate of mutual respect and a relative equality of opportunities for all. Countries as diverse as Australia, Brazil and Canada have literally been built by successive waves of immigrants, but sooner or later we encounter the environmental equivalent of the law of diminishing returns. Most societies have one dominant culture to which other subcultures must adapt.

Curiously, immigrant communities in the UK since the end of World War Two have by and large brought with them traditional extended family values and hailed from close-knit communities. Many liberals see it as their mission to convert stalwart ethnic minorities to the new mantra of sexual liberation, women's rights, smaller family units and the commercial fun culture that tends to accompany these trends. Don't get me wrong a healthy society includes all its citizens in the decision-making process and does not discriminate against people for exhibiting natural non-abusive variants of human sexuality, but it is debatable whether recent trends have actually empowered women or have just created new categories of human beings. Why should one society have it right and another wrong? Surely customs and ethics evolve gradually as a result of generations of experience. One may view rights in individualised terms, e.g. gay rights, or one may view a society as a cohesive entity, e.g. Considering how the rights of one category affect the rights of another. More communal societies tend to take a holistic approach rather than affording abstract rights to minorities.

While the immigrant communities have contributed to cuisine and music, they have abjectly failed to stem the tide towards hedonism and dysfunctional family units. As greater integration leads minorities to assimilate the dominant culture, the net effect of migration is the erosion of the cultural heritage of migrants. However, for many observers the new dominant culture shares few traits with traditional English customs and values. The Welsh and Scots have long had a stronger sense of identity, but everywhere local culture is dumbed down to supporting the national football team, boozing and frequenting the same set of chain stores. Tesco, Weatherspoons, B&Q, Next, Game, William Hill and The Sun reflect dominant culture more accurately than tea and scones, a Sunday roast with beef and Yorkshire pudding, corner grocery stores, morris dancing, cricket, golf or quaint garden parties with cucumber sandwiches. With few exceptions what remains of native island culture has been commercialised or consigned to occasional appearances in annual festitivities. The same is happening to more recent cultural imports. Oddly as some Londoners grumble about the English language proficiency of some Poles, one by-product of the recent wave of Eastern European immigration to England will be to consolidate the dominant role of the English language within European commerce.

Supply and Demand

If we conclude that immigration is environmentally unsustainable and socially destabilising, we can act either on the supply or demand side. I find it totally selfish to advocate immigration controls in order to preserve our standard of living, for our wealth has been gained by plundering resources elsewhere. Hundreds of thousands of Poles did not descend on the UK because they like the climate or appreciate any aspects of traditional island culture, but because a booming London-centred service sector, totally subservient to transnational corps, took advantage of one of Europe's most cost-efficient labour markets, all eager to learn English. If immigration served to provide a safe haven for the victims of state repression and extreme poverty, then the UK Government should open the floodgates to hundreds of millions of Chinese, Indians and Africans, but few could afford the plane ticket. More important much deprivation abroad is a direct result of the UK and US's economic and military policies and the export of an unsustainable economic model of continuous material growth.

Immigration controls act solely on the supply side. As long as the demand is there, prospective immigrants will claim a denial of human rights if they cannot move to meet this demand and take their slice of seemingly large prosperity cake. I'd favour what we might term as demand-side environmental re stabilisation by powering down booming economies in high-consumption areas and creating more demand for jobs in regions of net emigration. This can only be made to work if each region produces as much as is practically possible locally. As fossil fuels become scarcer and dearer, we will need to re localise our economies. The alternative may well be internecine warfare as the delicate harmony among ethnic communities falls apart. I certainly don't want to see more Draconian legislation or the resurgence of racism, but if we fail to tackle very real problems we might end up with an even more authoritarian regime manipulating conflicts of short-term interests within rival sections of the poor.

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All in the Mind Power Dynamics

Managing Public Opinion

The Strange Case of Twelve Islamophobic Cartoons

Over the last week the publication of a cartoon portraying the prophet Mohamed as a terrorist has dominated the Western European media sparking a phoney debate about freedom of expression from the very people who misled us about the recent invasion of Iraq. On one side we have the ultra-PC brigade preaching the virtues of tolerance and feigning sympathy with the Islamic community. On the other we have a motley crew of Guardian-reading libertarians, a few even prepared to support the publication of the offending cartoon, others just defending the theoretical right to do so. While it may be reasonably argued that propaganda and disinformation can have murderous consequences, static cartoons hardly constitute the main causes of ethno-religious intolerance. Long before the appearance of this sketch Fox News, Sky News, the BBC and CNN had through slightly more subtle means persuaded millions that we face a growing terrorist threat from Islamic extremists. The Danish cartoon, assuming its author hailed from that land, merely caricatured mainstream US and UK propaganda, daring to portray graphically what journalists had refrained from stating explicitly.

As rights cannot exist without responsibilities, freedom of expression cannot thrive without a culture of mutual respect devoid of intimidation and emotional blackmail. It is quite possible to challenge orthodoxy on any subject in a cool, calm and collected way. If we believe either moral or scientific right is on our side, then surely any position is intellectually admissible. Whether sexual orientation is genetically determined is a matter of science. Whether some sexual orientations may be deemed immoral are matters of ethics that tend to evolve gradually and belong to a set of shared values. The trouble is sometimes scientific truth can alter our ethical worldview and our moral outlook can prejudice our interpretation of science. If it could be proven that genes more common in one ethnic group were responsible for antisocial behaviour, racists could cite science to justify discrimination, while others may seize on such data to redefine antisocial behaviour.

Sadly we don't live in a hypothetical Voltairean debating society where all personal perspectives are afforded equal opportunities of expression. Never has so much psychosocial power been vested in so few media organisations, controlled inevitably by a handful of corporate and state entities. They have the power to set the agenda, swing moods and whip up fear, almost unparalleled in history. One can give a totally misleading account of a situation simply by omitting or circumventing a few key facts, e.g. journalists may discuss the Iraqi election results without considering how much, if any, control the winning candidates will have over their country's resources. Broadcasters may also suggest the culpability of a whole ethno-religious group simply by showing scenes of jubilation in the aftermath of a brutal terrorist attack. Pundits may set the limits of permissible debate by misrepresenting unacceptable views and defining them as extremist, fundamentalist, dangerous or hateful.

Thus we are faced with a false debate. Should we support the publication of undeniably offensive picture and denounce Islamic fundamentalists burning the embassies of Scandinavian countries or should we join the chorus of media pundits urging further restrictions on free speech to protect our tolerant multiracial society? British politicians and newspapers can then be portrayed as beacons of common sense and moderation by their refusal to bow to either concocted extreme.

Intellectual freedom has never been the same as abstract freedom of expression. All viable societies have some form of social etiquette. A Finn would do well to cover himself appropriately when bathing at a public pool on holiday in Egypt. Likewise an Egyptian tourist should not complain if confronted with mixed gender nudity in a Finnish sauna. When in Rome... The Danish cartoon may incite little more than a chuckle from a reader sympathetic with the official UK/US line. Most are exposed to countless hours of gore, soft porn and slapstick comedy on TV, most of which is either fallacious or deeply prejudiced. Few British teenagers have seen the offending images, but millions have been exposed to countless hours of gratuitous interactive violence and a constant diet of self-righteous pro-war propaganda. Many may believe US and UK troops represent a force for progress in the Middle East, but prefer not to reconcile their rulers' military strategy with hard economic facts. Overt expressions of hatred usually backfire. They convince nobody, but those who have already been thoroughly brainwashed through years of insidious conditioning. Suppose I wanted to spoil the reputation of a colleague. Merely engaging in childish pranks that others could easily discover would only work in a climate of contempt for the targeted person. A more rational, and dare I say, common approach would be to discretely spread rumours or set a bait for your rival to rise to, while pretending all along to be his friend.

A widespread misconception is that power elites hate specific subsets of the population, whether ethnic groups, religions, classes, genders or followers of alternative lifestyles. In truth their sole concern is the maintenance of power and the stability of the infrastructure that keeps it in place. Historically ruling classes have engendered loyalty through nationalism and religion, affording privileges to sections of the working class whose affiliation suits their medium-term needs best. While many in the armed forces may have been conditioned to believe they are fighting for God, Queen and Country, the real elite owes no allegiance to an omnipresent deity or the citizens of their land and only rely on heads of states as temporary figureheads often representing long-superseded notional entities whose emotive importance lives on in the collective psyche. The emergence of supranationalism, often called globalisation, has changed the rules. While millions of ordinary British citizens perished in the industrial revolution and conquest of new lands, they were nonetheless afforded privileged status over rival ethnicities. As the British population grew rapidly, their rulers could offer them plenty of new terrain to exploit and tap resources from the colonies. Subgroups with an incomplete allegiance to the great imperial project, such as the Irish, were often disadvantaged, but the ruling class merely exploited their subjects as vanguard forces in a long-term project of global domination.

So why should the elite care if we subscribe to traditional Islamic values or the liberal values of 1970s Western Europe? Do they mind if we worship pop idols or Mohamed or if we believe homosexuality is a positively cool genetic trait or a deviant behaviour? The truth is they don't care, but are quite happy to manipulate our strongly held views on these subjects to destabilise society and frighten us into accepting yet more control over our lives. The same forces that have consistently destabilised the Middle East to secure control of oil there, also manipulate our attitude to Islam, by promoting migration and pendantic political correctness, and simultaneously incite anti-Western feeling in much of Islamic world. The dark forces of the military-industrial complex that would dearly like to seize control of Iranian oil and gas reserves before China gets its greedy hands on too much of it must be rejoicing at scenes of enraged Middle Easterners burning the embassies of Scandinavian countries. First it deflects attention from the true centres of imperial power and second it focuses attention on a peripheral issue of purely emotional significance. Would you rather your neighbour make the odd rude joke about your lifestyle or greet you politely every day while plotting to have you evicted, made redundant and tortured?

People throughout the Islamic world have every right to boycott Western good to express their anger about Western imperialism, but why target Danish, Norwegian and French goods? Why not target US and UK banks?

This whole debacle is above all a media event. The original series of a dozen cartoons appeared in September 2005, but the story only exploded onto the international scene in January 2006. Surely some Muslims living in Denmark would have been alerted to its existence, but apparently initial reactions were muted. Just as Jack Straw can claim the moral high ground by voicing his disapproval of the cartoons, other pundits can join the chorus condemning flag-burning Islamic fundamentalists, with apparently nobody caring who controls resources in their countries. Presumably it's okay for London's Metropolitan Police to shoot dead a Brazilian electrician suspected of being an Islamic terrorist. It's fine to detain without evidence British citizens suspected of sympathising with alleged terrorists. It's also perfectly normal to spend hours every day immersed in a virtual world of gun battles. But if one breaks absurd rules of political correctness, whether defined as Islamophobia or homophobia, then one can only expect instant police action and mass demonstrations orchestrated by media barons.

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Power Dynamics

Multiculturalism would be a good idea

To paraphrase Gandhi "Multiculturalism would be a good idea".

Cultural diversity is a wonderful idea and as a speaker of 5 languages with bilingual kids, as someone who's been the sole white guy in a provincial Zambian town, the sole non-Indian in a suburban Delhi apartment block, steered clear of gringos during a trek across Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile and Argentina and spoke Italian habitually for over 8 years in Italy, I might understand real multiculturalism better than most.

But I'm equally aware many would disagree. They hate cultural diversity, are instinctively intolerant of backward peoples who wish to retain their time-honoured customs, vernaculars, religions, worldviews and mores. Why do the French still insist on speaking French or the Brits still talk in feet and inches, don't they know we've all gone decimal now?. Many in the chattering classes who bleat about diversity and equality (ever heard of diversity training for the police?) are often the same people who'd like to ban smacking in the home and intervene abroad to change sexual customs. For them ethnic diversity means choosing between an Indian and Italian restaurant or between Reggae and Salsa music.

They think we should all boogey to the same international beat, shop at the same Walmart or Tescos, buy the same DVD movies, video games, watch the same set of TV programmes, attend the same business management courses, adapt to the same form of groupthink conformism and even use the same operating system with the same Office package or go on the same package tour holidays, drive the same cars, in short aspire to the same lifestyle. Parents who don't embrace mass-marketed Anglo-American world culture in favour of alternative or more traditional values are often blamed if their kids are bullied at school.

The globalist agenda is antithetical to the very notion of cultural diversity. By multiculturalism they do not mean a patchwork of diverse cultural groups living harmoniously side by side, but a new world order in which a global supranationalism supplants all other mini-nationalisms. The new mores hardly represent a potpourri of Bangladeshi, Kenyan, Chinese and Bolivian culture with an admixture of French and Russian, they reflect a new culture promoted a planet-wide leviathan steamrollering traditional values everywhere.

Yeah, why not immerse yourself in US junk culture at Disneyland Paris? Why not give Iraqi police officers sexual diversity training? Why not teach Iranians the wonders of business-friendly liberal democracy?

As the Joe Strummer of the late 1970s punk group, The Clash, sang, in one of his more thoughtful phases, "I'll salute the New Wave and I hope nobody escapes