Power Dynamics

Unmasking the True Enemies of the Liberal Enlightenment

Have you had to much think?

The liberal enlightenment rests on three core tenets:

  • Social cohesion enabling peaceful coexistence of all communities and relative equality of opportunity.
  • Participatory democracy to resolve common disputes that arise in any complex society reliant on advanced technology
  • Intellectual freedom to facilitate the free exchange of ideas letting ordinary people speak truth to power

I could also add a fine balance between personal freedom and collective responsibility. Indeed free speech itself needs legal protection to ensure rational debate and prevent a descent into authoritarianism. Just consider the recent debate at Kings College London between objectivist Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute and Youtube commentator Carl Benjamin, better known online as Sargon of Akkad. In a liberal democracy one may agree, disagree and even vehemently disagree with their expressed opinions. One may also discount their analysis as uninformed or even potentially dangerous, if we acted on their conclusions. That is the purpose of rational debate within a democratic system that respects the will of an informed and politically aware electorate. So a bunch of upper middle class students associated with Antifa (which in the UK is usually known as Hope not Hate or is that Hate not Hope?) decided not to engage in rational debate, but to disrupt the discussion and moronically chant empty anti-fascist slogans. The irony is that neither speaker advocated an extreme concentration power in the state, the curtailment of basic civil liberties or discrimination along ethnic or racial lines. However, even if they did, I'd rather defeat their ideas in a peaceful debate than censor their views altogether. Intellectual freedom does not include the right to silence others or to resort to insensitive and gratuitous insults.

Banning Social Conservatives

This set the stage for two seemingly unrelated sets of events over the last week. First three social conservatives critical of Islam and uncontrolled mass migration were banned from entering the United Kingdom under schedule 7 of the 2000 Antiterrorism Act. The pretext is that their views may trigger acts of violence against Muslims, such as last year's Finsbury Mosque attack by a lone van driver with a history of drug addiction and mental illness. Canadian journalist Lauren Southern and American author Brittany Pettibone are best known as Youtube polemicists. Ms Pettibone's boyfriend, Martin Sellner, is a leading light in the Austrian Identitarian movement, which campaigns for the preservation of European culture. None have advocated violence or even the deportation of law-abiding immigrants in their own own countries. But whether one agrees with their views is neither here nor there, at stake is whether such views may be openly debated and, if not, which other political perspectives may soon be off-limits. They did not seek to settle in the UK, claim benefits, seek employment or break any normal laws, but their musings did fall foul of the Orwellian concept of hate speech. The London Metropolitan Police has helpfully clarified what this ill-defined offence means to them:

A hate crime is when someone commits a crime against you because of your disability, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, religion, or any other perceived difference. It doesn't always include physical violence. Someone using offensive language towards you or harassing you because of who you are, or who they think you are, is also a crime. The same goes for someone posting abusive or offensive messages about you online. If it happens to you, you might be tempted to shrug it off.

In other words, they punish perceived intention rather than actual acts. Thus my musings on the mental health agenda could be deemed hate crimes as may offend psychiatric patients. If we interpret the above definition literally, we cannot voice any opinions about the physical or intellectual capabilities of other human beings for fear of hurting someone's feelings. May I suggest that some people are morbidly obese in part because of lifestyle choices and not only because of genetic susceptibility. When will we start arresting people for claiming that obesity may be a preventable condition? Clearly rational debate is not possible if we resort to gratuitous offence, but there must be a platform for debates on all ideas, however absurd or hateful they may seem. If my neighbour were morbidly obese, I would avoid directly attributing to her any direct blame for her condition, whose causes might be a complex interplay between environmental stressors, social alienation, peer pressure and biology. However, it would be irrational not to objectively investigate the causes of a medical condition that not only shortens lifespans, but also limits personal independence.


Just as news broke about the full extent of the Telford grooming gang scandal and the way criminal investigations were hampered by political correctness and corruption, the BBC turned its attention to the poisoning of former Russian spy, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, with the notorious nerve agent, Novichok originally developed by the USSR in the 1970s. The government were quick to blame Vladimir Putin's Russian administration directly for this attack. Yes the same government that is happy not just to sell arms to the world's third or fourth largest military spender, Saudi Arabia, but also rolls out the red carpet to its leaders, is more concerned about alleged human rights abuses in Russia while clamping down on free speech in the UK. Saudi Arabia is currently engaged in a murderous bombing campaign in Northern Yemen and has facilitated the arming and funding of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The Saudi regime is not just responsible for the poisoning a few rogue agents around the world, but has directly aided and abetted unspeakable crimes against humanity and funded virulent strands of Islamic fundamentalism. It truly defies belief that British Foreign Secretary should voice concerns about gay rights in Russia, where homosexuality is legal between consenting adults, while selling arms to a regime that jails people for engaging in homosexual acts.

What we may best call the globalist British mafia, deeply entrenched in the intelligence services, state media, the civil service and naturally in government, unleashed a propaganda offensive, effectively accusing anyone who disputed their version of events of, wait for it, conspiracy theorism. If Sergei Skripal posed such a danger to Vladimir Putin, why would they wait until just before the Russian presidential elections and World Cup to score a massive own goal ? Why would they use a nerve agent like Novichok clearly associated with the former USSR that can kill indiscriminately. Why could they not resort to more conventional means such as setting a honey trap for their former spy and getting his mistress to poison his food? If Putin is in any way responsible for this dastardly act, we can only conclude that he may not be so cunning after all. Besides in the era of instant online communication, Russia can much more effectively extend its influence via Russia Today than by crude attempts to kill long-forgotten exiled traitors. Why would they carry out an act that would empower the UK and other Western governments to censor the Russian antidote to BBC and CNN disinformation? We might entertain the possibility that rogue elements within the Russian state or mercenaries acting on behalf of Russian oligarchs with a grudge against Putin carried out the attack, but it occurred just ten miles from UK's premier chemical weapons research facility in Porton Down. The mainstream media has stressed how the Novichok nerve agent could only have come from Russia, but fail to mention that one of the leading Soviet-era chemical weapons factories was in Uzbekistan, to which US and UK military personnel have gained access since the breakup of the USSR.

There are many good reasons to question the judgment of Jeremy Corbyn, but as leader of the opposition he was almost alone in expressing doubts about the UK establishment's drive to blame the Russia state, in order to impose tougher sanctions and deploy limited military resources to combat a perceived threat from a vast and sparsely populated landmass with extensive natural resources and little motivation to invade the British Isles. Mr Corbyn didn't even challenge the official narrative, he just asked for conclusive proof before we risk escalating hostilities with Russia and potentially triggering World War Three. Naturally most MPs recycled mainstream Western propaganda about the Syrian civil war levelling the blame at Assad and Putin, rather than at the head chopping militias who the US, UK and Saudi Arabia armed and funded. Not surprisingly the most vehement warmongering came from the usual suspects. Most notably, the author of the infamous 2003 Iraq Dossier, Alastair Campbell, used his column of the New European to advocate an alliance with the rest of the EU against Russia. Interestingly the New European, distributed free in some areas, appeals mainly to the kind of left-leaning young adults who protested againt Alastair Campbell's wars in early 2000s.

Connecting the Dots

How can we connect student campaigns against free speech, silencing Zionist advocates of laissez-faire capitalism, the banning of vocal social conservatives deemed far right from the UK and now the silencing or vilification of anyone who doubts the official narrative about the Salisbury nerve agent incident? It's obvious they are all attacks on intellectual freedom.

How can the UK state fail to protect vulnerable adolescent girls (some as young as 11) from culturally divergent grooming gangs, allow continued unbalanced migration, arm and fund Islamic fundamentalist militias in the Middle East and with a straight face claim it wishes to defend British citizens ? True patriots do not uncritically support their ruling elites, we stand up for the best interests of our families, neighbours, communities and wider society. If our ruling elites consistently pursue policies that threaten the freedom, safety, and security of our communities, we must stand up to tyranny.

Once again, we see an odd alliance of allegedly rightwing social conservatives and avowedly leftwing veteran antiwar campaigners question the official narrative on unfolding events. We need not read the Guardian to learn that the use of nerve agents is a barbaric contravention of human rights or that internecine conflict in Syria is an unspeakable human tragedy. But we must judge news outlets by their recent track record on apportioning blame for these events on the official enemies of our ruling cabal. If we analyse BBC coverage of events in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and most recently Syria through a critical lens, we discover numerous claims made over the years which turned out to be either grotesque exaggerations (e.g. allegations that Serb Security Forces were responsible for the death of 100,000 Kosovar Albanians in 1999) to outright lies and staged events such as the notorious 2013 documentary Saving Syria's Children.

I believe the real Jeremy Corbyn is a latter-day idealist, whose passionate defence of radical democratic socialism ironically serves the interests of dark actors with close ties to the world's leading banking cartels and corporations. These power-hungry elites are quite happy for naive students to silence perceived enemies of social justice, for governments to pursue foreign policies that endanger their own people and to oversee unprecedented rates of destabilising demographic and cultural change and for international bodies to introduce Chinese-style media censorship to combat the spectre of unofficial fake news.

We live in dangerous times. Sooner or later as centre of political power continues to move away from North America and Western Europe to East Asia allied with resource-rich Russia, the BBC's disinformation will become public knowledge and its reputation will lie in tatters. The decline of Britain as world power began long before it joined the EU, but with a buffoonish Foreign Secretary and a mumbling Prime Minister, the UK has become a laughing stock. Sadly given events elsewhere in Europe, it is not alone.

All in the Mind Power Dynamics

Guilt by Association

Screaming at a computer

Recently British author Douglas Murray took part in a video chat with the renowned YouTube sensation and self-proclaimed libertarian philosopher Stefan Molyneux. While critical of Radical Islam and mass migration, Douglas Murray has been careful to steer a middle ground. Initially he came across to me as a Blairite, not least because he's associate director of the Henry Jackson Society, a neoconservative think tank that has counted Labour MPs such as Ben Bradshaw and Jim Murphy in its ranks. I wonder how they reconcile their differences over the EU. As a supporter of the 2003 Iraq War, Douglas Murray has earned himself plenty of airtime on the BBC. I suspect his recent congenial conversation with Stefan Molyneux will soon catapult Mr Murray to the outer reaches of the cybersphere, seldom to be seen or heard again on mainstream TV or other approved channels of official news.

Stefan Molyneux openly believes that not only do genetic variations between racial groups affect our intelligence, but such differences are significant and irreconcilable. I don't have time to do justice to this debate because the subject both fascinates and disturbs me as I'm a little uncomfortable with some of the conclusions of leading social biologists like Charles Murray or Nobel Laureate and co-discoverer of DNA James Watson. Not surprisingly, Mr Molyneux has attracted a large following from what we might fairly call racists and I pick my words carefully. In my mind a racist is not someone who is simply proud of their racial lineage or prefers to mingle with others of the same ethnic background, for most Africans, Chinese and Indians would fall into that category. A true racist believes that their perceived intellectual superiority grants them special rights over other racial groups. Apartheid South Africa before 1994 and Zimbabwe as Rhodesia under Ian Smith before 1980 are classic examples of openly racist states that survived into the late 20th century. Their rulers often cited IQ test results to justify excluding most black citizens from the levers of power. Perversely the self-proclaimed liberal intelligentsia now accuses the native working classes of ignorance whenever they fail to endorse their preferred policy options. Ever so subtly both the BBC and Guardian have blamed a lack of education for the unexpected outcomes of the last US Presidential Election or last year's EU referendum. We read terms such as low-information voters, which is a codeword for low-IQ voters unable to interpret conflicting sources of information.

On Wednesday I awoke to the news that Donald Trump had retweeted three videos originally sent by Jayda Fransen, of Britain First, whose main focus is on the rapid Islamisation of parts of urban Britain and the suppression white British identity. Paradoxically the group's leaders often cite Winston Churchill's forthright warmongering against Nazi Germany in the mid 1930s to justify their stance against Islamic supremacism. To be honest, despite living in London for many years with a short period in Leeds, I've only ever seen Britain First online. Jayda Fransen only came to my attention in a series of videos about the town of my high school years, Luton. As far as I know Britain First is a splinter group from the much larger English Defence League, which attracted many football supporters of different backgrounds. Today in Luton the real divide is over allegiance to Islam, not race or ethnic background. The EDL, UKIP and now its splinter organisation, For Britain are all very supportive of Israel and have many members of African, Asian or mixed racial heritage. The Glaswegian anti-Islam activist Shazia Hobbs, of half Pakistani descent, comes to mind. More notably Breitbart columnist, former UKIP leadership candidate and author of No-Go Zones is one Raheem Kassam, who grew up as a Muslim. The main thread that unites these disparate groups is their aversion to Islamic expansionism and their uncritical support for the Jewish State of Israel. Many naive leftists, and I include my younger self in this category, believe in a simplistic black and white world of affluent white imperialists and poor oppressed dark-skinned people. It seemed to make sense in the 19th century, when most wealth was concentrated in Europe and North America and Western governments treated their colonial subjects as second class citizens. Now the same multinationals that once supported British, American, French, Dutch or German imperialism have shifted their support to globalisation. They are not interested in spreading the cultural heritage of the countries that nurtured technological innovation or in granting their working classes any special privileges. They only need an elite of engineers, scientists and managers trained in psychology and neurolinguistic programming to keep their industrial operations afloat. Everyone else is expendable, useful mainly as consumers who earn crumbs from menial jobs that can be automated or from their obedience to an interlocking network of welfare providers.

However, the marginalisation of the native white working class has not succeeded in silencing dissent, merely in disrupting rational debate about how we should deal with an unprecedented rate of cultural change or even if such changes are desirable or a price worth paying for short-term economic growth. So Brendan O'Neill hit the nail on the head in his recent blog post on the Britain First Retweeting Scandal. This fringe organisation is indeed a monster of the establishment's own making. Our soi-disant liberal opinion-leaders have demonised a large cross section of ordinary decent British citizens, who through no fault of their own happen to descend from a long line of Northwest Europeans who settled in these isles, for the crime of wishing to protect what's left of their cultural heritage in a world of permanent uncertainty. I think a narrow focus on Islam is misplaced or rather its growth and the ensuing culture clash are symptoms rather than causes of a greater malaise. Would radical Islam pose such a threat if our rulers had not destabilised the Middle East and had not allowed the creation of parallel communities in towns and cities which until recently were boringly monocultural with only a trickle of immigrants who had little choice but to assimilate? Can we not at least discuss the causes of the expansion of radical Islam ? Is it fair for working class Europeans to accommodate more Muslim migrants because of the latter group's much higher birth rate? Ironically the very mention of demographics and environmental sustainability annoys both the Christian Right and Islamic fundamentalists, for both believe in large families despite a dramatic drop in infant mortality. The population of Africa and the Middle East is not rising so fast because women are having more babies, but because more babies survive thanks to modern medicine and better sanitation. Subsistence farming can no longer sustain such large populations, leading to a massive oversupply of migrant labourers and beggars in the burgeoning metropolises of the developing world. In such an environment it is easy to see the appeal of radical universalist ideologies that promise welfare for all in exchange for doctrinal subservience. This explains the seemingly odd alliance between the Marxist Left and Radical Islam. They both ultimately lead to an extreme concentration power in state or corporate institutions. What is the point of feminism or the empowerment of women, if all but the most privileged citizens, of either gender, have to submit to the will of higher authorities governing every aspect of human behaviour? I would hope we could have an honest debate on this subject without resorting to unnecessary shaming through guilt by association or pointless virtue-signalling.

Douglas Murray discusses the concept of guilt by association with American philospher and neuroscientist Sam Harris.

Power Dynamics

Did social media and pressure groups sway the UK election?

Social media

The outcome of the UK June 2017 General Election has taken most psephologists by surprise. Though many sensed a marked movement towards Labour over the last 3 weeks that would deprive the Tories of a large majority, few expected Labour to gain as much as 40.3% of the popular vote. That is 15% greater than Labour's lowest poll ratings and their highest share since 2001 on a lower turnout. Indeed Labour obtained their largest national vote in absolute terms since Tony Blair's famous 1997 victory with the full blessing of the Murdoch Press and widespread support in Middle England, though we have to admit despite a disastrous campaign the Tories still attracted more votes, 42.4% or 13.6 million as smaller parties were squeezed. Demographics have changed since then as many metropolitan areas are now dominated by young professionals, students and a motley assortment of diverse ethnic communities and welfare dependents with special requirements, while the traditional working classes have largely retreated to the outer suburbs and market towns.

Only two years ago most pundits predicted a hung parliament. Yet a much more moderate Labour Party under Ed Miliband failed to capture the public's imagination and the Tories won a surprise majority on just 36.7% of the vote. Following last year's EU Referendum the Conservative government under Theresa May hoped to capitalise on the unexpected outcome to leave the continental superstate. As the the government pumped more money into the economy to offset market instability, the Conservatives soared in the polls to the heady heights of 45 to 48% as former UKIP voters switched to the Tories. I suspect many potential new working class Tory voters either abstained or switched their vote to Labour to send the government a clear message. Media coverage of the Conservative Manifesto and its proposals for a dementia tax (i.e. using the value of a patient's property to pay for care) didn't help. Throughout the campaign Theresa May appeared wooden with robotic soundbites about a strong and stable government, rarely engaging with the public except in staged events usually in remote rural backwaters and empty factories. Could Ms May have been set up to lose in order to derail Brexit? Who advised her to call a general election, whose outcome has weakened her country as it negotiates a new relationship with the EU? The post-election shenanigans and the likelihood of another general election in the not-to-distant future can only harm the UK's reputation and its ability to meddle in foreign affairs. I have no answers to these questions, but as some have accused the Americans and Russians of interfering in foreign elections, it is at least conceivable that well-funded pro-EU pressure groups might have dabbled in some underhand tactics to engineer a hung parliament, in the full knowledge that Corbyn's could never realistically fulfill his public spending promises.

The Youth Vote swung it

Superficial analysis of electoral swings would show the former UKIP vote went evenly to the Labour and the Tories. Does that mean, as some have suggested, people have changed their minds on Brexit and, more important, the need to stabilise migratory flows ? Few polls before yesterday would suggest so. Millions of traditional Labour supporters voted to leave the EU. Migration, border security and inter-ethnic integration remain major public concerns, especially in the wake of two vile Islamist terror attacks. Jeremy Corbyn struck a chord with millions of voters when he blamed UK intervention in the Middle East for the growth of radical Islamism. Ed Miliband would never have dared to make such a comparison, only a half-hearted apology for New Labour's support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

What happened is quite simple: many older voters stayed at home and younger more idealistic voters turned out in greater numbers. The turnout among 18–24 year olds has risen from 52% in 2010, to 58% in 2015 and to 72% this year, higher than the average turnout of 68%.

Social media played a major role in persuading young people to cast their votes. Shortly before the election 1 million young people registered to vote following a high-profile online campaign. A number of prominent campaigning organisations such as 38 Degrees, Avaaz, the and run awareness raising drives on issues that appeal mainly to young adults or to vulnerable individuals with special identities. I've sympathised with some of these causes myself, many of which seem innocent enough. However, many heavily promoted causes have strong ideological agendas that may not seem immediately obvious to the uninitiated. Labour not only promised to drop tuition fees (originally introduced under New Labour in 1998), they promised to increase spending in virtually every area of social intervention from mental health care to refugee resettlement. While New Labour still paid lip service to the concept of earning your own living through hard work and lifelong learning, they expanded social welfare allegedly to tackle poverty and promote community integration, both laudable aims at least on paper. In education successive governments have failed an entire generation of poorly motivated school leavers with limited literacy and numeracy and often few practical skills that will help them gain employment in many essential trades. Labour gave up and instead facilitated the immigration of better motivated young workers from Eastern Europe and elsewhere. Fast forward 14 years, and these new workers are now deemed essential not just in catering, farming, food processing, building and plumbing, but in our wonderful National Health Service. Not surprisingly Left Labour has billed itself as the only party capable of saving the NHS from Tory privatisation, a process that started ironically under New Labour.

Don't get me wrong, part of me really wanted Corbyn to win. At last we had a major party that not only opposed military adventurism, but had vowed to stop arms sales to despotic regimes like Saudi Arabia. Some would argue arms sales provide jobs and boost the economy, while I've long argued there are much more important things in life than short-term economic growth. However, Labour has no plans to balance either migratory flows or the budget deficit, only promises to deal with rogue employers of cheap imported labour and to tax the rich more heavily, which would only cause them to dodge more taxes and very likely persuade many of our best engineers and surgeons to accept more lucrative job offers in Australia, the Middle East or USA. A Labour government, however well-intentioned, would have been just as captive to global corporations as a Tory government. It would have no other source of income. The UK is a net importer of most essential resources and can only sustain its current standard of living by selling its services and brainpower abroad.

Debt and Artificial Intelligence Time Bombs

The general election debates focused mainly on how we should spend our wealth, not on how we can create more real wealth or repay our mounting national debt. Indeed the pro-immigration parties (Labour, LibDems, SNP and Greens) continued to peddle the myth that population growth boosts per capita living standards rather than overburden our existing infrastructure and thus drive up demand for more housing, roads, sewage treatment plants, power stations, hospitals and imported resources. None addressed the biggest existential issue that will affect young people entering the work force over the next 30–40 years: automation of most repetitive manual and clerical jobs that require neither advanced analytical skills or a high degree of authentic emotional intelligence. Even many high skill jobs such as heart surgeons or dentists will soon give way to AI-enhanced robots, with humans acting more as consultants than operatives. The long and short of it is if you have a practical IQ below around 110, you'll be relatively useless to most wealth-creating businesses. Whether you like or not, non-productive public services may support wealth creation, but they don't actually create the real material wealth we need to sustain our way of life. Creating more jobs in social services merely pays people to monitor other people. If you just want to boost consumer demand, you could pay people to do nothing as long as they are well behaved. This long-term trend towards greater welfare dependence rather than less may be another key factor behind Corbyn's surprise win. Many young people simply do not see themselves earning enough to fund their lifestyle without a helping hand from someone unless they are blessed with a rich parents or an extraordinarily creative talent. The paradigm shift away from free market capitalism to a new form of technocratic corporatism has begun with support from surprising quarters such as the CEOs of major tech giants and well-funded NGOs.

Derailing Brexit

To some leaving the European Union was about restoring the sovereignty of the United Kingdom. Yet the small island state has long depended not only on global trade, but on tight integration with the US and European economies. Tory Brexiters never really cared that much about controlling migratory flows to protect native workers or safeguard our shared cultural heritage in a fast-changing and unstable world. With a minority government reliant on the votes of Northern Ireland's DUP (Democratic Unionist Party, formely led by Ian Paisley), the weakened Prime Minister will be forced to make major concessions in her Brexit negotiations. It now seems almost certain that the UK will stay in the European Single Market, potentially with some exemptions on the misnamed Freedom of Movement, which given dwindling demand for semi-skilled workers will soon become untenable without harmonising both welfare provision and salary levels across countries with very different economic realities. If it were possible to join a Community of European Nations cooperating on join environmental and security concerns, I'd sign up tomorrow. What we needed to defend was the concept of compact nation states with control over the levers of economic and social power, so each country can not only respond to the culturally sensitive concerns of their citizens, but also experiment and innovate in different ways. Nation states are the only way to preserve both cultural diversity and the kind of liberal social democratic values that have engendered the most successful and peaceful societies ever. What most voters did not want were deregulated labour markets and rapidly changing communities, especially not the kind of ethnic cleansing that blights many of our inner cities. I don't see any of the major parties addressing these long-term issues and also suspect the remnants of UKIP will struggle to regain any electoral relevance in their current guise. Their policies may have made some sense 30 years ago, but are unfit to address the challenges of the 21st century.

Silver Lining

Scottish Independence was always a pipe dream. Scotland's economy and people are inextricably bound to the rest of the UK. The only hope the SNP ever had was to reinvest the massive proceeds of North Sea oil into new high tech industries. Alas oil prices have plummeted and new oil fields lie 1000s of metres below sea level, making extraction a very resource-intensive process with a low EROEI rate. The SNP's other strategy, Independence within the EU, has backfired because people know Europe as a whole is struggling to deal with unprecedented migratory flows from poorer countries . The idea that Scotland could soon emulate the wealthier regions of the EU is as fanciful as imagining we could become a new Switzerland or Norway (both outwith the EU) with such a high rate of welfare dependence and a failing education system. Scotland was thus the only part of the UK where the Tories made significant gains in this election. While the SNP pitched themselves on the anti-austerity left, Scottish Labour managed to recover and gain a few seats and a healthy 27.1% of the popular vote (SNP 36.9%, Tories 28.6% and LibDems 6.8%). Scotland often bucks UK-wide trends. If England shifts right, Scotland appears to veer left. This time the opposite happened and given the rapid demographic transformation of urban England, it should surprise nobody.

Power Dynamics War Crimes

Another Day, Another Attack

British and Saudi Royals

How the British Foreign Policy Elite favoured its short-term commercial interests over the long-term security and wellbeing of its citizens.

Just in case you haven't read the news. Seven people were killed and 48 others injured in a van and knife attack on London Bridge and Borough Market, in which three suspects were shot dead by police. The perpetrators chanted This is for Allah. This comes just 12 days after an attack at the Manchester Arena with 22 fatalities and dozens more casualties.

When will we finally admit it? We can only enjoy the relative freedom to walk the streets of our cities in safety unperturbed by random terrorist attacks or oppressive policing, if first we manage our social environment sensibly and second we all share values of common decency and mutual respect. The fiction we prefer to believe is, despite many teething troubles, we are somehow all embarking on a new era of universal peace and love, breaking down barriers that once divided us and opening our hearts and minds to humanity's wonderful diversity. I agree cultural diversity may often be an asset because there's more than one way to interpret the world around us or organise complex human societies. The reality is too many of us are competing in a global rat race to acquire a bigger slice of the wealth created by a handful of global corporations to further our own subculture (whether it's postmodern narcissism or Islamic fundamentalism), genetic lineage or just satisfy our whims and fancies. In short, we may preach one-world love, but we practice selfish indulgence, which naturally lets others, smarter or more influential than we are, manipulate our desires and prey on our weaknesses.

Many wishful thinkers (a hackneyed epithet, I know) simply want to have their cake and eat it. They want to benefit from the wonders of dynamic, vibrant and fluid multicultural societies (which are really converging on a consumer monoculture) and a growing economy with plenty of technological innovation, yet complain when a few misfits spoil their party with acts of the vilest hatred imaginable. Whatever crimes our rulers may have committed, one can hardly blame carefree youngsters enjoying a pop concert, performed incidentally by an artist who has supported pro-refugee charities, or late night revellers in one of Europe's most ethnically diverse cities. The attackers did not care if you read the Guardian or Daily Telegraph, if you support open borders, if you oppose the Syrian government, if you hate Vladimir Putin, if you favoured gay marriage, marched against the Iraq War or dutifully displayed refugees welcome signs. To indoctinated Jihadis, you are all just infidels and will suffer the same fate as Orthodox Christians in Syria and Egypt. These attacks have grown in intensity over the last five years with hundreds of deaths every month and tens of thousands forced to flee their homes.

Let us face the ugly truth. Islamic fundamentalism is by any measure one of the most illiberal, intolerant and regressive ideologies that has ever cursed our planet. Its respect for human life and real cultural diversity is comparable in every way to Naziism. Yet today's self-declared anti-fascists, who in Britain organise under the banner of Hope Not Hate, prefer to march against fringe Little Englanders, UKIP or anyone else who supports stronger immigration controls, wishes to preserve traditional English, Welsh or Scottish culture or just uphold the kind of liberal values we had adopted by the 1960s and 70s in the face of Islamic fundamentalism and state-enforced suppression of intellectual freedom. If Hope Not Hate and antifa really wanted to combat totalitarianism, they would march against Islamic extremism rather than appease it.

Establishment Complicity

Our government's reaction to these attacks has always been the same: to restrict everyone's freedom and privacy. It took Prime Minister Theresa May just 12 hours to announce higher levels of Internet surveillance. So we all have to have our social media and private electronic correspondence monitored just in case we express sympathy for proscribed organisations or even for political causes opposed to our rulers' vision of globalisation. I honestly do not buy the theory that Western governments want to impose Islam on Europeans and North Americans. If Islamic fundamentalism colonises the West, as Francophone Algerian writer, Boualem Sansal, foretells in his recent apocalyptic novel 2084: The End of the World, it could in my view only occur due to a systemic collapse of Western civilisation, which continues to spread in the form of mass consumerism and rapid technological innovation in most of the world. If Saudi Arabia represents a threat, it does so with weaponry we sold them and with the proceeds of our addiction to its abundant cheap oil, which just happens to lie under their sand. If there were easy alternatives to fossil fuels, our energy companies would have adopted them decades ago. Indeed Norway and Japan have already converted most of their cars to hybrid or all-electric engines, but that transition will only partially relieve our dependence on petrochemicals. The Middle East quagmire and the emergence of radical Islam or Wahhabism is a direct consequence of decades of US, UK, Israeli and to a lesser extent French foreign policy in the region.

Naturally the affluent elites can always buy greater seclusion from the masses and the kind of internecine urban warfare that inevitably follows the breakdown of social stability, especially in locales with divergent ethnocultural communities. The last adjective implies a difference in ethnic background and/or in cultural identity. One's ethnicity is largely transmitted through one's parents and upbringing, while one's cultural identity, such as religious affiliation or adopted lifestyle, tends to be much more fluid.

Deliberate Destabilisation

There are two ethical justifications for military interventions abroad. One is to defend your own country against foreign aggression. The other, known as humanitarian intervention, is to prevent mass murder or obscene human rights abuses. For most of our history, our rulers have presented these rationales as defence of the fatherland and spreading our superior civilisation. Thus the British Empire saw its role as civilising primitive tribes and backward societies. Yet these pretexts have a very bad track record as the outcome of one allegedly defensive war can soon justify another war, whose rationale depends on a selective interpretation of objective reality. While we can certainly cite examples where the bad guys, i.e. the side with the most repressive or murderous regime, lost (e.g. the defeat of Nazi Germany), there are countless others where the winning military power is so dominant from a cultural and technological standpoint that it can rewrite history to fit the narrative it wishes its new citizens to believe. Europeans did not conquer the Americas and Australasia in order to liberate the native peoples of those continents, but to expand their mercantile empires and colonise new resource-rich land.

As Britain transitioned from a colonial power to a modern European state, its foreign policy elite had to find a new role as mere vassals of a larger US-centred corporate empire. Yet the UK continued to exert considerable influence in the post-colonial era. The Foreign Office and secret services had acquired a good deal of expertise in forging strategic alliances with ethnic or religious factions with a grievance against their new governing authorities. This was especially easy in the many artificial states created by post-colonial planners or in the case of Iraq, hastily drawn on a map as the victors of WW1 carved up the former Ottoman Empire. The Foreign Office's has for the last 60 odd years endeavoured to make the world safe for big business and thereby to capitalise on Britain's post-imperial influence on one hand, while destabilising any regional powers that threatened the supremacy of global corporations. In a complex world, this is no easy task especially when you're competing with rival powers such as Russia, China or India or even settling scores with allies like France (e.g. UK support for the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front to embarrass France over its previous support for the deposed Hutu-led Rwandan government).

Since the late 1990s the Blair, Brown, Cameron and now May administrations have presided over two policy areas that favour Britain's commercial and geopolitical interests over the security of its own people.

  1. Interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria have not only destabilised those countries, they have unleashed a large migratory wave from a region with a high birthrate and serious environmental challenges. If humanitarian intervention had been successful, we might expect the migratory tide to ebb.
  2. Relaxed immigration controls from the Muslim countries with easier family reunions. Official immigration restrictions may have seemed rather strict and even unfair on a personal level (the liberal media loves to cite examples of Australian or US citizens whose work visas have expired despite being married to UK nationals), but in practice a well-organised army of migration lawyers manage to circumvent most restrictions, so the UK's Muslim population has continued to grow both through new immigration and a high fertility rate. Vast swathes of London, Birmingham, Manchester, Bradford, Luton and many other towns and cities across the country now have Muslim majorities who live as parallel communities. The so-called liberal media has tried its level best to downplay the scale of creeping ethnic cleansing, but I've experienced its reality first hand. Many state schools in these voluntarily segregated districts have no non-Muslim pupils at all. Worse still, Islamic schools, often funded with Saudi money, have proliferated in our larger cities. For all the talk of multicultural harmony and integration, communities have grown apart as the traditional settled communities vote with their feet and move to outlying suburbs and satellite towns. Yet to many globalists, even to mention this problem is tantamount to racism.

However, the complicity of our ruling elites goes much deeper. British secret services have long colluded with Islamic extremists to destabilise unfriendly regimes. Mark Curtis, author of Secret Affairs: Britain's Collusion with Radical Islam, has detailed how the Manchester suicide bomber, Salman Abedi, and his father were members of a Libyan dissident group, covertly supported by the UK to assassinate Qadafi in 1996 . This is a very funny way of combatting religious extremism and fostering social harmony in a tolerant multicultural world. Many now yearn for the days when London cafés only served eggs, bacon and chips with a cup of tea, but at least you could identify common criminals.

All in the Mind

Addict Nation

There has always been a thin dividing line between legal and illegal or between therapeutic and recreational drugs. We tend to call bad psychostimulants "drugs" and good officially sanctioned mind-altering pills "medication". While the former are distributed by underworld dealers, praying on our psychological weaknesses and the cool factor, and the latter are aggressively pushed by pharmaceutical multinationals.

Much has been made of the health benefits of recent anti-smoking measures introduced across Europe and North America. Back in the 1960s many smokers wouldn't think twice about lighting up on buses, in cinemas or in the office. A visit to Russia may give you glimpses of our recent past. But back then, pubs closed at 10:30 in much of the UK, teenage binge drinking involved just the occasional student escapade, only 5 to 10% of adults were on prescription medication and despite the buzz around the swinging 60s addiction to hard drugs remained a largely marginal phenomenon. Fast forward 40 years and over 30% of adults and 15% of children are on prescription medication in the UK, including 4 million SSRI addicts, binge drinking regularly blights our streets, offices and homes, over 1 million adults consume crack and millions of aspiring slimmers fill their trolleys with jumbo-packs of Diet Coke, a concoction of addictive caffeine and aspartame. And addiction is not just limited to chemicals. Millions of us are addicted to TV, the Internet, video games, shopping and, more disastrously from a financial view, to gambling. Rather than combat any of these prevalent addictions, except occasional lip service paid to the bogus war on drugs or rhetoric about taking the right medication or partaking only in responsible gambling, the government and its friends in big business urge us to indulge more. Mood-altering drugs are now subsidised by our beloved National Health Service and handed out like sweeties. And unless you've been secluded in a remote Hebridean crofthouse for the last 12 years, you cannot have failed to notice the burgeoning entertainment business with 24/7 pubs, dance halls and casinos appearing even in minor provincial towns and frequented by the nation's vibrant youth the length and breadth of the country. All made easier by laws introduced by our wonderfully progressive government. That's right, the same government that has banished smokers outdoors and spent millions urging us to get nicotine patches from our local GP, is quite happy for our youngsters to drink themselves insane and get high on ecstasy in one of the friendly dancing establishments run by pioneering entrepreneurs in cahoots with the government. The boom spanning from the mid 1990s to 2008 saw the expansion of four related sectors:

  • financial
  • retail
  • bio-medical and pharmaceutical
  • media and entertainment (often indistinguishable)

In the same period domestic manufacturing of essential items continued to migrate elsewhere. Even call centres, once a saviour for unemployment blackspots, were either outsourced or downscaled as technical support migrated to the Web. Where once school leavers would follow in their father's footsteps or learn a new trade they would pursue for much of their working lives, they now flock to colleges and universities with high aspirations of professional success in the tertiary sector, especially in media, entertainment and finance, only to find themselves changing careers every few years leading to immense insecurity. If you aspire to be a good plumber and work hard without unfair competition, you can succeed and become an essential pillar of your local community. By contrast if you aspire to fame and fortune, you will more likely than not be let down, possibly accepting a few low-paid roles in the advertising industry before discovering you lack certain physical attributes. Despite all the rhetoric to the contrary and all the bogus awareness-raising campaigns, those of not endowed with attractive bodies with a natural gift for smarm and well versed in the art of neurolinguistic programming are at a serious disadvantage. Suddenly being uncool has become a significant handicap warranting a mental health diagnosis. Unable to join in a culture of rampant hedonism? All-night ecstasy-fuelled parties not your scene? Not finely attuned to the latest celebrity gossip? Unable to bear piped techno sound? Then you probably suffer from chronic cultural discordance syndrome and need help. So basically if you're not a recreational addict, we'll help you cope with the stress of alienation from a society hell-bent on fun at all costs by getting you hooked on prescription medication. Ever wondered why people start taking tranquilisers to cope with anxiety, develop obsessive phobias or succumb to eating disorders? More often than not, it's because they feel estranged from an increasingly competitive society. We compete not just in terms of material possessions, physical prowess and performance in culturally valuable skills, but also socially. How many hearts and minds can we win to support our social career. Recently the media have highlighted a number of teenage suicides resulting from cybernetic and real-world bullying, exam stress and a sense of worthlessness. In each case school mates expressed their sorrow through diverse media and emphasised how popular the deceased was. “We don't understand why X took her life. She was such a popular girl. We didn't realise she suffered from depressionâ€. Indeed the next line is implied “Why didn't she seek the (pharmaceutical) help she neededâ€. Not once have I read “X freaked us out. She just didn't fit in. Only the cool deserve a place on this planet†or “We picked on this easy target because she such a loser. Don't blame us for driving her to suicide. We are only reacting to media pressureâ€.

Medicalising Uncoolness

A preoccupation with soft skills implies anyone with a relatively low popularity ranking somehow deserves all their misfortunes and the only way forward is to modify one's behaviour to please the popular cool dudes in one's peer group. Thus if one genuinely can't stand rap music and all the cool dudes in one's peer group like this genre, one has to morph one's tastes or rather desensitise one's aural discernment. We could call this cultural adaptation. One needs to mimic the behaviours and hone the skills that are valued within a given social group, often to the detriment of valuable skills and perfectly functional behaviours that other group members disfavour. Not surprisingly many of us either require some form of medical or therapeutic intervention to keep up with the cooler trendsetting dudes in our neighbourhood and circle of acquaintances. Uncoolness has now become a disease.

All in the Mind

Why do people get depressed?

With so much media attention, you'd seriously think depression awareness raising charities would want to answer this very simple question. As the purported biological disease model of depression has now become almost an act of faith, debate now seems to revolve mainly around the relative merits of different forms of treatment. Whether it's medication or intensive psychotherapy, any talk of treatment implies a medical condition comparable with cancer, Alzheimers or broken limbs.


By now it should be clear that higher material living standards do not necessarily lead to healthier or more balanced emotions. We possess more powerful, versatile and efficient electronic gadgets, more cars and can afford more holidays abroad than ever before. Yet this material abundance does not translate into greater happiness. The infamous Germanwings copilot, Andreas Lubitz, had a wealthy family who could afford to pay for expensive flying lessons. By any accounts he enjoyed a privileged jetsetting lifestyle and, if reports are correct, was not averse to performance-boosting and mood-altering medication. Countless multimillionaire celebrities have publicised their depressive episodes. Indeed depression seems largely a concern in opulent consumer cultures and the very concept of melancholy is practically unknown to pre-agrarian societies such as the Amazonian Pirarã people.

Human Emotions

Human emotions are certainly complex, but why would we have evolved to have clearly distressing and dysfunctional mood swings that make it hard for us to address any of the more immediate problems in our life? If your house is on fire along with all your worldly possessions, what should you do? Contemplate the market value of your endangered possessions? Spend the next 60 minutes negotiating with your home insurance company? Laze around watching Youtube videos about how to rebuild your life after a catastrophe? Actually none of the above, the most rational course of action would be to quickly find the safest way out of the building and if possible help anyone else at home to join you. If you fail to act fast in such situations, you may very well die and be forever unable to help anyone else dear to you. Ironically the kind of emotions people experience in the face of death differ markedly from the self-centred feelings of inferiority and introspection that prevail in melancholy. When faced with a life-threatening crisis, all considerations about your relative social standing, your body image, your love life or lack thereof or your financial woes fade into insignificance. If you are penniless, homeless and starving, the relative merits of the latest and greatest gadgets or the number of social media friends you may have, are of little concern, but you will be probably be very glad to have a square meal and a roof over your head.

Most of all people strive for two things in life: A sense of purpose and affection, i.e. we need to have clear idea of what we aim to achieve in life and to feel wanted or rather emotionally rewarded for our efforts. In the simple pre-agrarian societies that prevailed in most of humanity's two hundred thousand year odd history, our sense of purpose was the survival of ourselves and our immediate community while our sense of love came from the close bonds we had with our community. As long as we did our bit to help in the collective struggle for survival, we would be rewarded with love and affection. As many died young from diseases and injuries that can now be easily treated, the mere fact of survival gave us cause for optimism and gratitude to mother nature and our community. Diverse cultures throughout the world value health more than material possessions.

The lottery of life has always been tough. It is clearly unfair that some of us are blessed with better, stronger or more appealing physiques than others and are thus better equipped to attract the best mating partners. However, humanity would never have evolved to its current level of technological excellence if we had not been able to harness different skill-sets. Carrying heavy building materials undoubtedly requires much muscle-power, but several thousand years ago someone took a break from the tiring task of lugging stones and logs around to devise a new more efficient technique for transporting heaving goods. At first heavy slabs of stones were rolled on logs and later logs were cut into wheels on rudimentary carts. We still needed muscle-power to load and unload carts, but mechanical engineers and craftsmen had enabled us to carry more with less effort. Even primitive societies began to value brains as well as brawn, wisdom and experience as well as youthful energy. That explains why many primitive societies cherish their elders, although they may no longer be able to help hands-on with hunting, building and food preparation, their experience and wisdom is invaluable especially in small close-knit communities.

As societies became more and more complex with greater levels of specialisation, trade and competition, more people failed to lead productive lives as their potential skills had been outsourced or devalued by techno-economic progress. Greater opportunities for some always mean fewer opportunities for others. Current socio-economic trends clearly favour flexible and highly mobile labour markets with a rapid turnaround in human resources and skill-sets. These far-reaching changes affect every aspect of our lives from job security to intimate relationships. In our brave new world, the only certainty is perpetual uncertainty, which in turn makes more and more of us dependent on remote organisations just to stay afloat.

Drugs and Psychiatry

While I do not rule out that some genuine neurological conditions may make some of us more susceptible to melancholic thoughts, the primary cause of depression in modern society is a sense of helplessness, i.e. an inability to help oneself overcome a temporary setback, exacerbated by the breakdown of traditional extended family and community networks. Any purported treatment plan that fails to identify the root causes of so much emotional distress is doomed to failure as in any other cases of misdiagnosis. If you have a broken leg, pain killers may help you temporarily cope with unpleasant sensations, but may have long-term side-effects if taken for prolonged periods of time without addressing the root causes of your suffering. Likewise, no rational dentist would treat tooth decay with ibuprofen alone. In an ideal world we would avoid breaking limbs or exposing our teeth to decay, both of which depend on external or environmental factors. However, at least caries and bone fractures are easily identifiable medical conditions. Depression, on the other hand, is a state of mind induced in an incredibly complex organ with an estimated 100 billion neurons.

The over-prescription of anti-depressants is merely a symptom of a more fundamental problem, a shift away from the psycho-social model of emotional distress to a strictly biological model of mental health patients. The former model recognises biological differences that may make some of us more susceptible to mood swings (not least of which is gender), but rather than concentrating on natural phenomena we cannot easily change, it focuses on how the rest of society can help these people become more productive citizens able to help themselves and feel wanted by helping others. The latter approach, currently in vogue, treats individuals as psychiatric subjects and psycho-social stimuli as mere external triggers of underlying conditions. This turns the depressed into victim groups who require more treatment, and thus greater dependence on others, both of which are very likely to exacerbate their sense of helplessness and under-achievement. If a condition is considered a life-long illness caused by an underlying neurological syndrome, then there is much stronger case for lifelong medication.

Many claim that anti-depressants helped them out of the depths of misery or that they would be unable to function without them. Both claims dodge the more important issues of causation. First if you are on psychoactive medication, you cannot easily just go cold turkey without suffering severe withdrawal symptoms, because your brain has already adjusted to your regular chemical stimuli. Second, there is much stronger case for mild anti-depressants for short-term use if the underlying psycho-social causes are addressed, but in these cases we cannot easily identify whether Selective Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors such as Prozac are more effective than placebos or natural remedies such as St John's Wort. The evidence would suggest outcomes are much better for those with better emotional support from friends and family and more rewarding careers who only need temporary treatment. Unfortunately that leaves millions of marginalised individuals who struggle to realise their self-worth through meaningful work (sense of purpose) or relationships (sense of belonging).

Power Dynamics

Does Scottish Independence really matter?

As a half-Scot and half-Englishman, I never really identified as either. I grew up to believe in Britain as my father owed his career in the army and later British Aerospace to the archipelago's imperial legacy. Whenever my English mother would inadvertently confuse England with Britain, my brother would correct her. I'd support Scotland in football and in the Commonwealth Games, but Great Britain at the Olympics. Scotland remained the land of clan battles, legends, inventors, Hogmanay, Highland Games, Whisky, Billy Connolly and Sean Connery, a quaint region of post-imperial Britain. There had long been two Scotlands. Here I mean not so much the age-old Highlands / Lowlands feud, but the contrast between scientific enlightenment, embodied by David Hume, Thomas Carlyle and James Watt and later industrial decline, portrayed so brilliantly in Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting and fictional TV character Rab Nesbit. Scotland's best and brightest tended to emigrate, while the social ills of alcohol abuse, bad diet and some of the worst poverty levels in Europe blighted those who remained. Until this very day the UK armed forces draw a disproportionate number of recruits from Scotland. The country's strategic military importance greatly outweighs its relative proportion of the UK population. Then came the first oil shock of the early 70s and the prospect of black gold in Scottish coastal waters. Although by that time 300 miles south of the border in Southern England, my Scottish friends and relatives seemed determined to get their fair share of the coming oil bonanza to bring new life to the old country. Yet after the 1979 referendum on devolution failed to attract enough votes (a simple majority voted yes, but many more failed to vote), Scotland, alongside Northern England and South Wales, faired very badly as manufacturing industries moved abroad. Ironically, the Thatcherite revolution was not so much about Great Britishness, that was just rhetoric reinforced by her role in the recapture of the Falkland Islands, but about opening up markets and transitioning to a new service-based economy. A large strand of Scottish public opinion has until recently been conservative with a small c upholding national traditions, but also adhering to a strong Calvinist belief in prudence, self-discipline and restraint. Sadly, junk culture with its beguiling forms of multimedia entertainment has taken the country's most underprivileged classes by storm. Not surprisingly Scotland would later become the electronic gaming hub of Europe, while other industries, including the short-lived Silicon Glen, outsourced production elsewhere. Despite a brief industrial revival in the early 1990s, under New Labour, Scotland transitioned, like its southern neighbour, to a post-industrial economy. IBM, Lexmark, Hoover and many others moved away for good, as global retail outlets spread mushroom-like across the urban landscape.

UK as an anachronism

As Glaswegian comedian, Frankie Boyle, points out, rather than invest the proceeds of North Oil in education, infrastructure and next generation engineering, the Westminster government chose to subsidise mass unemployment and later disguise it through the redefinition of disablement . All of a sudden you could be disabled not because you were crippled, blind or deaf (though modern technology can empower even the severest cases of physical disability), but because you had succumbed to drugs, booze and all the psychological traumas so common in people deprived of a true purpose in life and forced to while away their days as mere welfare dependents. While many blame Thatcher for single-handedly destroying the Scottish soul, its policies were dictated solely by the needs of multinational corporations who owed little allegiance to ordinary British people of any national persuasion, except as consumers. Indeed rather than balance the books, Thatcher's government squandered oil proceeds on short-term priorities such as expanding welfare by letting industry move abroad and cutting taxes for the rich. Yet after 18 years of Tory rule, New Labour continued in the same vein, but rebranded as a progressive internationally minded venture. The boundaries between public and private institutions continued to blur, as bureaucracy expanded, but also outsourced services to private bidders. Former public sector organisations, like British Rail and British Steel, had been sold off and were now run by unaccountable multinationals. Power was slowly but surely slipping away from the Westminster Parliament to boardrooms and remote transnational institutions. Many on the left had initially opposed the EU, but now the new left saw it as a force for social progress, despite enforcing privatisation and fiscal restraint on all European countries. Successive treaties agreed under Conservative and Labour governments handed powers to the EU Commission. Most disturbingly New Labour supported corporate globalisation in the guise of free trade and open borders at all costs. Rather than negotiate to protect the interests of British workers, British-born lobbyists campaigned for opening up European markets to cheap goods from the Far East, thus destroying small manufacturers in much of Southern Europe, unable to compete with heightened competition. Protectionism, once supported by the labour movement, became a bad word. Only global institutions could bring about change, but the multi-billion dollar lobbying industry, with its various branches in PR, mass media and charities, can easily subvert any grassroots movements.

Rebranding Scotland as a Euroregion

However, in one important area the Scottish experience of recent social changes differs greatly from the Southern English experience. Scotland remains largely peopled by Scots. Indeed, outside a few districts of Glasgow and Edinburgh, the largest ethnic minority are the English. While the Scottish population has risen from just a wee bit over 5 million in 2001 to around 5.3 million in 2011, it has plenty of empty houses and unused land. By contrast England alone has gained over 4 million new residents in the same period with vast swathes of inner cities and market towns transformed out of all recognition. Migration has increased rapidly worldwide, more people move in all directions than ever before. As recently as the 1970s annual migration flows would see 30–50,000 people move either way, since 2001 we've seen more than a ten fold increase in migration numbers, e,g 650,000 moving to the UK (mainly England) and 450,000 moving away). Most of us on the left saw Commonwealth immigration as part of a post-colonial settlement and welcomed our new neighbours. However, in the age of cheap air travel and growing migratory pressures from the rest of the world, mass immigration can lead to social upheaval uprooting formerly cohesive communities and replacing national identities with vague and volatile regional identities. I know from my own line of work in software development, labour market instability and regular relocation has become the new norm. When young English people complain about competition from the new wave of industrious Eastern European immigrants, some politicians suggest they take advantage of open borders and migrate themselves (It seems odd to hear nothing but Polish, Portuguese, Bengali and Arabic in London, only to feel swamped by British ex-pats in Spain). Of course, many Brits do, but usually either wealthy pensioners or highly skilled professionals and business-people. If you need a plumber in Warsaw, do not expect to meet a keen Essex lad filling a gap in the handyman market, though you might meet one on an extended pub crawl. The Scottish social fabric has simply changed much less dramatically than in England. Scotland is much more Scottish than England is English in much the same way as Austria has always seemed to me much more German than Germany, which these days is surprisingly cosmopolitan.. Indeed English is spoken more widely and more eloquently in Glasgow and Edinburgh than in London, Birmingham or Manchester. In many ways Scotland reminds me much more of the Britain I once knew than modern metropolitan England.

All five main Scottish parties (SNP, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens and Conservatives) support open borders with the rest of the EU, although Scottish public opinion seems just as sceptical of the EU and the purported benefits of mass immigration as down south. More intriguingly, at least four of the main parties pander Scotland's recent conversion to the culture of welfare entitlement rather than self-reliance and social solidarity. The SNP would have us believe unshackled from Westminster's chains, optimistic oil revenues will reverse the current government's alleged cutbacks (in fact they have continued to increase public spending and made only modest changes to welfare provision, at least compared with EU countries like Greece, Portugal or Ireland). Labour, by contrast, reassure their electorate that the UK will continue to subsidise Scotland, presumably with funny money earned at the city of the London. Few Scottish people seem aware of the sheer duplicity of the career left. Ken Livingston has long claimed that London subsidises the rest of the UK, especially outlying regions such as Scotland. While Ken hopes City profits will fund more growth in London (whose population and economy eclipse Scotland's), the SNP places its hopes on massive oil profits.

Countries as disparate as Greece, Portugal, Finland and Estonia are powerless to go against the global flow, an unstoppable juggernaut of rapid technological change and social progress albeit with plenty of teething problems. Their economic policies are dictated largely outside their borders. Their local management teams can lower corporation taxes or pioneer new retraining programmes, but only within tight budgetary constraints. They spend much of their legislative time harmonising local laws and customs with new global or European standards. Would Scotland be any different ?

Aye, but with no illusions

Let me just set the record straight, I'm voting yes for two reasons. First because unlike globalists, I actually believe in self-determination. Ideally, I'd like to see some sort of loose federation of the British Isles. Let us not forget that over 90% of imports into Scotland travel via England. If the global economy implodes, we will need to be on very good terms with our immediate neighbours. Second, I'm curious to see how things will pan out. I'd love to see Trident nuclear submarines sail back to the USA. A rump UK would have diminished status on the world stage less able to help the US in its global policing operations.

However, I vote yes so with no illusions. Of course, a currency union would make Scotland subservient to the Bank of England, and without a large increase in oil revenues the SNP's grandiose public spending plans remain uncosted. Raising income tax will just encourage the rich to emigrate, while lowering corporation tax to attract inward investment will prompt other countries to do the same thus boosting corporate profits. Scottish education has a long way to go before it can compete with Eastern Europe and Eastern Asia. To revive manufacturing, the government would not only have to invest billions in new infrastructure and training, it would have to impose trade restrictions or drastically boost competitiveness and productivity.

The only way a nominally independent Scotland could succeed would be for global crude oil prices to rise enough to make new North Atlantic oil fields more profitable, but in such a scenario global demand may also shrink. To tap wind and wave energy to any meaningful degree, someone would have to invest billions and wait decades before reaping the benefits of such monumental endeavours.

However, I suspect life after the breakup of the UK will not be plain sailing. Global events will eclipse the rebranding of Scotland. The Euro-zone may well collapse and the EU may disintegrate into looser regional trading partnerships along the lines of EFTA, while the Chinese economic bubble may well burst, unable to access cheap resources to fuel further growth. How would a Scottish government behave without economic growth? Would it relocalise the Scottish economy and choose the post–1991 Cuban model of self-sufficiency? Would it seek closer ties with its Scandinavian and British Isles neighbours? Would it be forced to abandon welfarism in favour of the Calvinist tradition of hard work? How would Scottish voters react if a future bankrupt Scotland had to impose austerity on a Greek scale just to accept another loan from the EU? Greece too has enormous resources as does Sweden and Denmark. But none are able to stop the global steamroller.

Do the establishment really care?

40 years ago an independent Scotland seemed almost unthinkable. If the SNP could muster 20-30% of the vote, pundits would just write it off as a protest vote. Back then the Scottish intelligentsia, alongside the Unionist movement and Glasgow Rangers fans, were passionately pro-British. But the British ruling class has long joined the borderless global elite, more concerned with property prices in the south of France than the Scottish fishing industry. The only English politicians who can claim any genuine commitment to an ongoing social union with Scotland would also oppose handing more power to big business and transnational organisations. Yet I suspect they are merely shedding crocodile tears. Where will they station Trident ? Will they still help the US bomb the enemy du jour in the Middle East ? Who cares. Rupert Murdoch has already decided that his neoliberal globalist project can work fine in the SNP's Euro-region. Most disturbingly, the SNP have already agreed in principle to the new TTIP ( Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), claiming only they will exempt the NHS from free-trade rules. If the likes of Rupert Murdoch have their way and lobby a future Scottish government as successfully as they have in other countries, Scotland could well end up as an outpost of corporate America, with as much independence as North Carolina. The Scottish Sun, which supported the 2003 US/UK occupation of Iraq, seems set to support Scottish independence or a good location for Rupert's new private golf course. If some of the latest polls are right and a majority now support the Yes campaign,the Scottish Sun may well have played key role. Tommy Sheridan's dream of socialist beacon of enlightenment may well give way to a puppet government at the mercy of big business.

All in the Mind Power Dynamics

The Trouble with the NHS

How disease-mongering turns patients into customers

The closest thing modern Britain has to a unifying state religion is universal admiration of the beloved National Health Service or NHS for short, although its remit has expanded considerably since its early days when it aimed to provide essential healthcare to all irrespective of income. As a proportion of national wealth NHS spending has risen from 3.5% in 1960 to over 9% now, that's over 18% of government spending. The fastest rise occurred in the frenetic spending spree of the early years of the new millennium, indeed as recently as 2000 it accounted for just 5% of a smaller GDP, see UK Public Spending . And yet perversely many attribute the failings of the NHS to cutbacks rather than misplaced priorities, crippling bureaucracy and an obsession with targets. As a result of the pervasice tickbox culture millions of older and vulnerable patients are given immune-system-suppressing flu vaccines whether or not they want them or address any of the real medical issues a patient may have, while many real life-threatening diseases are either misdiagnosed or go undetected. It must seem ironic that elderly patients are left in death pathways, while younger NHS customers receive cosmetic surgery such as breast enhancements to combat the perceived curses of low self-esteem and depression. The growing number of clinically obese adults may be entitled to expensive gastric bands because their addiction to high-fat foods is allegedly beyond their self-control, while old people die in freezing homes because their neighbours could not be bothered to check. We have the technology to keep people technically alive in a semi-vegetative state until they are brain dead and to appease any perceived physiological inadequacy. Gender realignment treatment used to be a rather extreme measure, eligible for public funding only in rare cases of genuine hermaphroditism. Nonetheless, as surgical techniques improved many, clearly unhappy with their anatomical gender, opted for private sex change surgery. One Iraqi-born millionaire even underwent two gender reassignment operations, and many others have suffered from greater emotional turmoil because of dissatisfaction with the outcome of their life-changing surgery than they ever had when they felt trapped in the wrong body. Yet despite widespread public scepticism of its effectiveness, this invasive surgery is now available on the NHS and to suggest otherwise is now deemed transphobic, a term coined on the back of homophobic. Another growth sector is the murky domain of mental health. According a Nuffield Trust report, mental disorders cost the English NHS £12 billion in 2010, more than double the total spend on cancer. A longer term but welcome trend since mid 20th century has been longer life expectancy and a greater survival rate from diseases that would until recently have been irredeemably terminal, so one way or another health spending has risen in most wealthy countries.

The last European elections even saw the emergence of a new party, the National Health Action Party (NHA), which fielded candidates only in the London region. It has a very active campaigning team both online and among London-based NHS staff. They not only oppose privatisation, but also all cutbacks in NHS spending. This stance appeals to a large cross-section of left-leaning public opinion. However, their simplistic analysis has one small flaw. Government spending on healthcare has increased dramatically since 2001 and has continued to grow even under Conservative and Liberal Democrat alliance. The figures are publicly available. In real terms UK healthcare spending doubled from 2000 to 2010 and has continued to grow very modestly since, currently some £130 billion or 18% of public expenditure or 9.1% of GDP. To be honest this is largely in line with healthcare spending in countries with comparable living standards. But mileage or rather value for money varies. The USA has the highest level of healthcare spending in the world, but yet many much poorer countries have a higher life expectancy. Most notably Cuba and the US have the same mean life expectancy, but in US dollar terms US healthcare spending is astronomically higher. In the US an estimated 100,000 people die every year of inappropriate prescription medication, competing with Unintentional Injuries and Alzheimer's disease for the fifth most common cause of death.

Clearly if we expect our health service not only to cope with the challenges of an ageing population, but also to meet growing demand for lifestyle medicine (cosmetic or performance-enhancing treatment), we must be prepared to pay for it. The recent rise in lifestyle medicine, especially cosmetic surgery, has transformed beauty and wellbeing from gifts of nature into commodities. As a result fairly average imperfections, from misaligned noses and teeth, undersized breasts, balding hair, erectile dysfunction, once considered just unfortunate facts of life, are now treated as major causes of depression and prime targets for medical intervention.

That means we need to decide as a society which categories of healthcare we should socialise and which categories are best left to personal discretion (or in my humble opinion actively discouraged as they destroy social cohesion by emphasising the power of money to transform one's body beyond essential medical need). Certainly if someone endures a tragic accident or succumbs to a debilitating disease, it seems very unfair for their prognosis to depend on their bank balance or ability to pay into a generous health insurance scheme. Socialised healthcare means if you fall victim to injuries or illness beyond your reasonable control, then society as a whole will pick up the bill. However, by redefining physiological imperfections and emotional distress as illnesses, the multibillion pound medicalisation business has significantly boosted healthcare costs. As these costs spiral out of control, we risk throwing the proverbial baby away with the bath water. We all need essential medical care at times in our life. If we are generally healthy, this may mean just regular checkups with the odd vaccination (another controversial topic) and for women a short stay in hospital to give birth. Natural human diversity means we are not all blessed with perfect bodies or physical performance potential.

However, socialised medicine also requires social cohesion and solidarity among the different groups within society. While we delegate responsibility to medical professionals, at all times they must serve our needs, not those of disease-mongering pharmaceutical multinationals or invasive state apparatuses. We should not become mere customers or guinea pigs for medical experiments, but be empowered patients, who just want an honest diagnosis and impartial evaluation of medical options. If we expect others to subsidise our healthcare, then we have a responsibility to look after ourselves as best we can. If I decide to engage in a high risk activity for my own pleasure, it seems reasonable that I take out additional insurance. Why should others foot the bill for expensive restorative surgery, if some daredevil motorcyclist decides to jump over 10 double decker buses ? The point is as medical technology evolves, we must clearly define genuine medical needs, otherwise we will just sleepwalk into the collapse of the National Health Service as we knew it and healthcare will be just a profit-making business. Indeed this is already happening albeit underwritten by taxpayers and banks. As Professor Allyson Pollock reminds us "Virgin landed a £630 million contract for community mental healthcare, with no previous experience, while RBS, Serco and Carillion, to name but a few, are raking in billions in taxpayer funds for leasing out and part-operating PFI hospitals, community clinics and GP surgeries. A private company now runs an NHS hospital. US private medical companies are now involved in the privatisation process, such as HCA and United Health. HCA is in a joint venture with University College Hospital London, where it provides cancer treatment, but only for those who can pay. Both New Labour and the current Conservative/Lib-Dem coalition have turned the NHS into a front for a rapacious biomedical business.

All in the Mind Power Dynamics

Dictatorship by Consent

Apparently, if we believe many opinion leaders, we fought most recent wars to spread freedom and democracy. Allegedly people across the world admire us because of our deep-rooted civic political culture. Never mind any inconvenient conflicts between personal freedom and true democracy, but what do the international ruling elites and their faithful cheerleaders actually mean by this Hellenic word for people power ?

Do they really want an open debate about issues that affect our daily lives? Are there really prepared to explain the inevitable dilemmas that arise from conflicting popular demands? Do they really understand the enormous sense of alienation and psychological inferiority that mass consumerism and an obsession with presentation and body image has created in so many of us? Given the choice, everyone would want higher wages, better working conditions, more leisure time, more green fields, cleaner water, better transport infrastructure, more affordable heating, larger houses, better healthcare, longer lives, more holidays, more fun, more friends and a higher social status. It hardly matters if we cannot have all these wonderful traits at once. However, if the mainstream media can set the agenda, stage-manage debates and isolate inconvenient critics, they can keep alive the illusion of democracy and free speech.

If we did as big business wants, we'd all halve our salaries, double our work load and triple our spending. If numbers don't add up, we can always ask banks or central government to create more money out of thin air, such is the logic of the debt-fuelled consumption-driven economy. Yet the more we are indebted and the more we rely on international trade, the more we transfer our theoretical sovereignty to unaccountable global entities. It often seems we can only debate how to boost the economy, how to attract more inward investment, how to accommodate more international commuters, how to deal with cross-border crime or how to combat terrorism. We do not debate whether any of these measures are necessary, i.e. do we really need to grow our economy?

As mainstream national political institutions become powerless in the face of tentacular transnational remote organisations, political debate is limited either to trivial parochial matters or is reduced to simple negative campaigning, blaming rivals for the collateral damage of policies that would have been implemented anyway. The recent Labour party political video, devised by the US media guru behind Barrack Obama's electoral victory (David Axelrod), may fool a few young angry voters, who'd like to blame a few convenient scapegoats for their misfortunes, but it is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. It perpetuates the myth that in the early 21st century any difference remains between the mainstream parties on any subject of importance. The video focuses on a few safe and simplistic issues, tuition fees, rising heating costs and bedroom tax. It then blames the old guard of British aristocracy. Just because modern CEOs wear jeans, listen to rock music and no longer have posh Etonian accents, does not make their huge financial superiority any less grotesque. Indeed the gap between rich and poor had been steadily rising for over 30 years. According to the top 10% earned just 7.1 times more than the bottom 10% in 1995, by 2008 this ratio had risen to 10.1 times.

It doesn't take long to disentangle any of these claims and see how Labour offers little alternative to the two other orthodox parties. Take, for example, the much-maligned bedroom tax. It is only an issue because housing has become unaffordable without huge government subsidies. Housing benefit effectively subsidises landlords, so why should hardworking low to middle income tax-payers in areas with lower property prices subsidise special categories of people entitled to housing benefit in wealthier areas? New Labour have become the biggest defender of spiralling housing benefits introduced by Thatcher after her government sold off council houses. Moreover, thanks to a rising population, largely driven by immigration, demand for social housing has never been higher, and thus needs to be rationed. Do New Labour plan to build millions more homes and where ? Will they admit the rather obvious environmental costs of more urban sprawl in Europe's most densely populated region? I doubt it. Indeed their stance against bedroom tax is just an exercise in political point scoring. In 13 years in government they abysmally failed to increase the tax burden on international oligarchs, multinational corporations and banks, as they relied on their presence in the UK to artificially boost the economy.

Not only did New Labour introduce tuition fees in 1997 and increased them to £3000 later in 2006, they promoted a huge expansion in higher education that turned universities into businesses competing not just for corporate sponsorship, but in the lucrative international student market. As a result degrees are not only devalued, but reflect the needs of big business rather than of wider society. With so many other spending obligations and financial constraints, no government can now afford to return to the old grant system, where most students from poorer backgrounds received fully subsidised education, but until the 1980s only 15 to 20% went to university. Yet today only a minority of the nearly 50% of 18 to 21 year olds who now attend university attain degrees of any practical worth with social sciences, law, business administration and creative arts among the most popular subjects. Biology is now dominated by the needs of the burgeoning pharmaceutical, biotech, assisted fertilisation and private healthcare (cosmetic surgery) sectors. Only a fraction of medicine-related degrees produce new doctors, most prepare students for life as a pharmaceutical representative, fertility clinic lab technician or psychiatric nurse. Such professions are in greater demand as a growing proportion of the population is on prescription medication, opts to bypass nature through fertility treatment or succumbs to emotional disturbances that we have relabelled as mental health issues.

Most of us shudder at the thought of opening our electricity or gas bills, largely because back in the 1990s they were, by European standards, incredibly low because most gas still came from the North Sea. Now most gas is imported and energy demand has grown. Logically we need to either increase energy production, with all its potential environmental consequences, import more or consume less. Token gestures like unplugging your TV set at night will make little difference. By offering short-term subsidies for heating, New Labour would promote inefficiency and fail to provide a long term solution, i.e. adapting to a low consumption economy, ensuring people can live healthy lives with less waste. If you naively believe they would just tax a few fat cat energy firm bosses, just consider the real reasons behind the 2003 occupation of Iraq.

In reality although some debate still takes place even on contentious issues such as mass immigration, the hands of local, regional and national governments are tied. All they can do is present a narrow set of options and hope big business will work magic to bridge the growing gap between social and environment sustainability and economic expedience. If people really exercised democratic control, you can bet the ruling elite would change strategy, as they often do. Instead every few years we are just given the opportunity to vote for another set of middle managers. Sometime we elect mavericks, who may rant and rave in parliamentary talking shops, but all along big decisions affecting people's jobs, community, housing, transport etc. are decided in remote boardrooms and think tanks.

Power Dynamics

What’s going on in Ukraine?

All of sudden the world's media turns its attention to the transition of power in one of Europe's most mysterious regions extending from Eastern Poland, Slovakia,Moldova and Romania in the West, Belarus to the north and the Russian Federation to the East.

While the mainstream media in the West lay the blame for the Ukrainian crisis clearly with Viktor Yanukovych's deposed Russophile government and its refusal to sign an association agreement with the EU, others note the role played by the US-based National Endowment for Democracy and myriad NGOs in funding and supporting the opposition Euro-Maidan movement, named after Kiev's eponymous central square. The uprising followed a script familiar to observers of other apparent insurgencies in places as disparate as Syria and Venezuela and come sjust 10 years after the much trumpeted Orange Revolution. The young appear to embrace organisations and policies favoured by an international coalition, while the incumbent administrations are invariably depicted in uncomplimentary anti-democratic terms. It must seem rather odd the National Endowment for Democracy support Islamic fundamentalists in Syria against Assad's current secular government, opponents of economic redistribution and social justice in Venezuela (which remains one of the most unequal countries on the planet) and now xenophobes in Ukraine. However, a little perspective is in order. Ukraine remains of the poorest regions in Europe. At $7600 its 2012 GDP per capita is not only much lower than that in neighbouring Poland ($21,000), but also than Russia's at $17,000.

Since the Kievan Rus fell to the Duchies of Poland and Lithuania around 1400, the Ukraine has only existed as a notional ethnolinguistic region. Although it briefly enjoyed independence in 1920, it has only existed in its current borders since 1954 and as independent state since 1991. For most of its history Western and Central Ukraine formed part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. With the demise of Poland and expansion of Russia, Prussia and Austria in the 19th century, the Ruthenian region was annexed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, while the remainder was incorporated into the Russian Empire. After the First World War, Lviv rejoined Poland as Lwow, while Ruthenia formed the easternmost region of the newly created Czechoslovakia. The remainder of the region became the Ukrainian SSR. Known as Russia's bread basket, the region experienced one of the worst famines of the 20th century known as Holodomor, largely due to forced collectivisation, bad economic management and its inability to deal with extreme weather events. Many Ukrainians blamed the Moscow-based Bolshevik leadership and this played a major role in the subsequent collaboration of Ukrainian nationalists with occupying Nazis and their post-WW2 insurgency against Stalinist expansionism.

The 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact allowed the Soviet Union to claim Eastern Poland and temporarily expand Ukrainian territory. After its short-lived, but turbulent Nazi occupation from 1941 - 44, Ukraine became a major beneficiary of the Soviet Union's western terroritial gains. It now incorporated Eastern Galicia, east of the Curzon Line, Slovak Ruthenia and parts of Romania. Millions of Poles were forced to move to Poland's new Western Territories. Before the war, Ukrainians accounted for just over a third of the population in Poland's Eastern provinces. Ethnic cleansing began with the infamous Nazi Einsatzgruppen, responsible for rounding up and massacring Jews and and continued with attacks on remaining Poles and other ethnic minorities by the anti-communist Ukrainian Insurgent Army from 1944 to 1952.

Despite these tumultuous events, the Soviet era saw greater integration with the Russian Federation, with many Russians moving to the Ukraine and Ukrainians to Russia proper, in keeping with a general policy of ethnic mingling among the peoples of the USSR. Although Ukrainian enjoyed official recognition, Russian became the dominant language of education and administration. Since the fall of the former Soviet Union, Russian has lost considerable international prestige. Indeed Ukrainian is now the sole official language as a strong statement of cultural independence.

The hastily improvised coalition that has taken power in Kiev seeks, rather unsurprisingly, to join the European Union and, by consequence, NATO. This will very likely force the Ukrainian government to adopt otherwise unpopular economic convergence policies and allow Western European businesses to expand their retail and banking empires, with higher property and retail prices. Inevitably younger Ukrainians will migrate west, exacerbating a brain drain and demographic imbalance in Ukraine, and competing with other Eastern and Southern Europeans in a very precarious job market in wealthier EU countries. This place even greater downward pressure on wages at the bottom end of the salary scale.


  1. Kiev is the customary English transliteration of the Russian name for the city, Киев, while some authors prefer Kyiv based on the Ukrainian variant, Київ . While I sympathise with this approach, why do we still refer to the Flemish city of Brugge by its French name of Bruges or insist on translating the names of so many other European cities from Naples to Copenhagen?