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Power Dynamics War Crimes

Do the Elites understand protest votes?

I wish I could rally behind one of the major or minor parties in Theresa May's Snap General Election. To be honest, I have only ever voted as a protest, to show that the citizenry is somehow politically aware, but unhappy with our rulers' mischievous actions and plans. The alternative is to spoil your ballot paper or simply abstain altogether. In reality it doesn't seem to matter which party or coalition wins a majority of seats. We get more of the same. All elected politicians can do is negotiate with the real power brokers in banking cartels, corporate boardrooms and transnational organisations and promise their voters a bigger slice of the global pie. However, thanks to automation, globalisation of trade and extreme labour mobility, large multinationals can hold national governments to ransom.

So who if anyone will I vote for in this election? To vote Conservative, as sensible as some of their rhetoric may superficially sound, would only empower their corporate backers, who are currently devising strategies to leave the European Union, but to keep us in an amorphous World Union, because they've probably realised the EU is failing as a regional brand of global convergence. The Conservative Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, is more interested in pursuing US and Israeli foreign policy in the Middle East and spreading disinformation about Syria, Russia and Iran than he is in defending British jobs except for a few thousand employed in manufacturing fighter jets for the Saudi Air Force. I had briefly and very naively hoped that Boris would steer the UK away from its irresponsible support for mendacious military adventurism, alas his oratory skills have thus far only served the interests of the same neocon cabal that welcomed the USA's escalation of military confrontation with its foes. The Tories can only play the national unity card because the main opposition parties show little or no allegiance to the cultural identity and long-term economic interests of the settled population. The Brexit means Brexit mantra has become a charade and merely an excuse to prepare Britain for a new global role in wake of the EU's inevitable collapse as it fails to deal with record youth unemployment, a migrant crisis, mass migration from North Africa and Middle East and culture clashes between native peoples and growing Islamic communities.

Rhetoric and Special Interests

Never before have the interests of the professional elites differed so much from those of the huddled masses. Until recently the affluent professional and business classes actually needed the working classes as we called the bulk of the population reliant on hard graft and mediocre wages. The 1950s, 60s and 70s saw a rapid improvement in the living standards and technical expertise of ordinary working people. The 80s and 90s saw many former blue collar workers transition to the new information economy, but then the seemingly unstoppable pace of technological and social transformation led to the outsourcing or automation of new jobs. The working class had become expendable. Meanwhile the professional classes fell in love with globalisation. It meant not just more affordable travel and holiday villas, but inexpensive nannies and plumbers as well as more attractive bar staff. Just as some upper-middle class Britons did well in the country's colonies before the 1950s, taking advantage of their perceived academic superiority and their ability to exploit the gullibility of locals, today's professional classes love cosmopolitan diversity as long as they can afford to protect themselves from its worst excesses and need not compete at the bottom end of wage scale. To succeed in today's dynamic job market you need some distinctive talents that set you apart from your competitors. Otherwise for all your efforts and perseverance your job can easily be outsourced or automated. Would you rather buy coffee from an impersonal vending machine that gets the job done or from a grumpy old man with little charisma? Just as low-end jobs have become more insecure than ever, our establishment politicians want to deregulate the labour market even more. Have they learned nothing from the EU Referendum? 52% of voters did not support leaving the EU superstate because we hate the French, dislike Italian food or mean any harm to the good people of Poland, Bulgaria or Portugal. No, we voted leave mainly to protect jobs for our people rather than letting big business turn the country into a rich man's playground interspersed with ghettoes of new migrant workers and workless native underclasses. However, it is important to understand that the belittling and deskilling of the working classes is not just a European phenomenon. Just as Welsh steelworkers can lose out to cheap Chinese imports, Chinese steelworkers will sooner or later yield to robotisation. Simply leaving the EU will not rebalance the labour market especially as successive governments have failed to invest in training key professional categories such as medical staff.

How does this unfolding global reality stack up with the rhetoric of the most prominent political parties here in the UK? Oddly Theresa May's support for tougher immigration controls, leaving the EU (a prerequisite for the former pledge), selective state education and common sense economics resonate with much of the English middle classes. Corbyn may score a few points on military adventurism (if given airtime in the mainstream media) and the NHS, but few would trust Labour on economic competence. Without a strong economy, the government would have to cut public services even more as millions of Greeks, Italians and Spaniards have learned in recent years.

Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons

Modern sociologists no longer split people into working, middle and upper classes. Instead they prefer A, B, C1, C2, D and E. A-grade individuals form an elite of high-earning top professionals probably less than 4% of the population. They're the kind of people who can easily afford to buy a property of an exclusive area of London and may have a holiday home abroad. E-graders are effectively the workless underclasses trapped in a vicious cycle of welfare dependency, low attainment and emotional insecurity. They form around 8% of British citizens. D-graders are unskilled or semiskilled workers, i.e. the kind of people most affected by outsourcing and migrant labour, but who also depend on in-work benefits. This larger group, currently around 15% of adults, could easily join E-graders if they fail to learn the more intellectually demanding skills of the information age. C1 and C2-graders may think of themselves as middle class, but are usually struggling to make ends meet. They may be better educated and better paid than D-graders, but often only a few pay cheques from bankruptcy and homelessness. Together this grouping accounts for half the population. That leaves only group B, approx. 20–25% of the population, a motley crew of intermediate managers, administrators and mediocre professionals, the kind of people who are doing alright and more likely to welcome recent socio-economic changes.

Traditionally Labour did very well groups E, D and C2 and well enough in C1 to win elections, while the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats did best in the top three grades. Whatever your tribal loyalties may be or whatever you may think of Britain's foreign policies, the basic question most of ask is "to what extent will a party's likely policies benefit my family and my community?" Labour advocates higher spending on social welfare, but looser immigration controls and hence greater labour market competition. Thus if you're stuck in group E, Labour may still seem the most attractive option. You will be the first to lose out from planned and future cuts of welfare provision and may not like the prospect of low-paid non-jobs. However, this group is also statistically the least likely to vote at all and the most likely to switch to anti-establishment candidates, especially those who can appeal to identity politics. Unfortunately, as Labour is seen as weak on extreme labour mobility, Labour have lost most traditional working class voters in groups D, C2 and C1, except those ideologically committed to socialism (very few these days) or whose ethnographic-cultural identity leads them to favour continued high levels of net migration. Under Tony Blair and later Gordon Brown and to a lesser extent under Ed Miliband, Labour could still rely on a large chunk of the wishful thinking middle classes, the kind of people who want a fairer society built on strong economic foundations. However, the Blairite roadshow has now migrated to Liberal Democrats (who once opposed a Blairite war) and pro-EU faction of the Tory Party. After a disastrous performance in the 2015 General Election, I suspect the Liberal Democrats will be the main beneficiaries of remoaner opposition to Brexit among the affluent classes disaffected with Corbyn's Labour and with an apparently Little Britain Tory Party. Indeed arch remoaners (fervent supporters of the European Union and globalisation in general) see both rightwing Tories and leftwing Labour as anachronisms from the 1980s, yet have little to offer ordinary working people except the opportunity to compete in a global labour market that an elite of robotics engineers are busy automating.

Last but not least we have the idiot fringe, best represented by the Green Party. This group seriously believes all our social and environmental problems are caused by greedy tax-evading multinationals and climate-change-denying xenophobes and non-Muslim homophobes. All we need to do is adopt immature green technologies, litter our countryside with wind turbines and solar panels, build more cycle ways and replace social welfare with the basic income. In short let's turn the whole country into a giant university campus open to all and sundry. Greens tend to think everyone else is just like them, pseudo-intellectual virtue-signalling do-gooders reliant on corporate or state largesse. It all sounds very nice until you dwell on the logistics of powering a modern hospital or importing all the resources we need for our homes, household appliances and transport system. With a fraction of our current population, we might adapt to greater self-sufficiency, but with the Greens' opposition to any meaningful border controls, their policies are bound to end in economic collapse and social unrest. At heart I support green policies, as in favouring great self-sufficiency of regions, lower consumption and stable sustainable population levels. But the Greens clearly support greater dependence on global organisation and less personal and community autonomy.

The Scottish Dimension

Before 2007 for decades Scotland had been a Labour-controlled fiefdom. Not only was corruption rife, but the party let lobby groups use Scotland as a social engineering playground, encountering opposition mainly from entrenched conservative forces within the Churches. Labour policies oversaw a continued brain drain of Scotland's best and brightest to better-paid jobs down south and turned this one proud country into a subsidy junkie, while North Oil profits flowed to multinationals and Central Government. For all their waffle about devolution, Labour and the Conservatives before them made Scotland even more dependent on the United Kingdom. The two biggest employers here in Fife are the council (20% of the workforce) and the Ministry of Defence as well as Rosyth Dockyards (now run by Babcock International) and Raytheon, both reliant on contracts either from the UK's armed forces or its military partners, principally the United States. It should come as little surprise that the SNP could capitalise on decades of arrogant subjugation and hand power back to the people of Scotland. Alas once in office the SNP behaved just like New Labour with a few grandiose infrastructure projects such as the new Queensferry Road Bridge, but even more social engineering. Their biggest failure has been in education, the one area of government intervention that can help bright children from deprived backgrounds aspire to more intellectually demanding and thus usually higher-paid jobs. Scotland's poor have faired worse than their English and Welsh cousins. They continued the previous administration's plans to merge high schools into mega-comprehensives with larger catchment areas, while surreptitiously introducing the Orwellian Named Person Act, treating all parents as potential child abusers.

Current and Future Dangers

The real divide is no longer between left and right or capitalist versus socialist, but simply between elitists vs populists. While populists may often appeal to nostalgia and offer simplistic solutions to complex problems (e.g. leave the EU, stop all Islamic migration or arrest all bankers), they do at least respond to grassroots feelings, however misplaced. Populists are unlikely to advocate lower wages or cuts in essential public services. They are also keen to support the lifestyle aspirations of their core voters, so populists tend to be sceptical of many green policies which may involve lifestyle changes such as cycling to work rather than driving. Elitists, on the other hand, believe they know what's best not just for themselves but for ordinary working and non-working people. Hence elitists will tend to support the often counter-intuitive conclusions of academic studies and reports commissioned by NGOs with a vested interest in promoting rapid cultural and economic change. Populist concerns tend to rely on the lived experiences of ordinary people. If you've just spent 3 hours waiting in a local accident and emergency department with chronic pain surrounded by patients and medical staff from other ethnic backgrounds, you might conclude that mass migration is putting the health service under strain. By contrast an elitist would blame any delays on underfunding or an ageing population, while noting the dedication of migrant medical staff. If a populist then suggests that more local lads and lasses should be trained as doctors and nurses, a typical elitist will merely shrug his shoulders and claim local youngsters simply don't want these jobs and are too busy playing on their game consoles. Elitists are basically alphas and betas, who prefer foreign gammas over native deltas and epsilons because they know the jobs deltas and epsilons used to do will soon be fully automated. Angry natives, especially from lower classes, are a massive people management issue. I suspect the real ruling classes, a small subset of alphas, are divided on this issue. They either plan to turn most of us into little more than docile consumers rewarded for our subservience while only a quarter of working age adults have paid employment, or they have more sinister plans. Either way the hallmark of elitists is their intellectual dishonesty. By pretending to help designated victim groups, whether single parents or refugees, they merely empower their own class of people denying everyone else of any economic or personal autonomy. Their policies inevitably lead to greater surveillance and monitoring of all, but a lucky few who can buy exclusivity and privacy.

It may come as a surprise to those who have read some of my other recent blog posts, but the party global elitists fear most is probably Corbyn's Labour, not because its policies are viable, which they are not, but because its leader challenges the lies and deception of the American and British foreign policy elites. Once Corbyn is swept away in the aftermath of a near certain slump in Labour's parliamentary presence (with just 25% of the popular vote Labour could lose 50 or more seats), we could witness a realignment of the elitists that brought both Blair and Cameron to office. If they see Labour as a lost cause, expect a few globalist Tories to jump ship and join a new alliance centred around Liberal Democrats, who may gain as many as 30–40 seats. In much of the Scottish Central Belt, Labour are the only party that can deny the SNP of another landslide leading to another fake Independence Referendum, but this time with the full support of the globalist establishment. In an uncertain world, the main losers of a post-UK British Isles would be ordinary working people, the gammas, deltas and epsilons the elitists no longer need. However, if Labour can hold on to a respectable presence by mitigating its losses in England and possibly regaining a few seats in Scotland owing to growing disaffection with the SNP), we may scupper the elitist gamble to silence all viable opposition to its plans.

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All in the Mind Computing Power Dynamics War Crimes

Mainstream Fake News Kills

Protest against Media lIes

On the Brink of World War Three Over Misappropriated Chemical Attacks.

Call me old-fashioned, but facts do actually matter even if they're inconvenient and do not fit with your preferred narrative. Your enemy may be bad, but your enemy's enemy may be even worse. That said, disinformation and emotive propaganda should concern us most when they come from the world's best funded media operations. Yet many choose not to learn the lessons of verifiable recent history and instead prefer to give our leading state and corporate broadcasters the benefit of the doubt. After all, who would like to be accused of swallowing Putin's propaganda?

However, now Russia Today plays a similar role in the West to the good old BBC World Service behind the Iron Curtain. Millions of citizens of Warsaw Pact countries turned to Western media outlets to learn the truth about their own ruling elites. Now more and more Westerners are turning to alternative news sources when they grow suspicious of a tiresomely predictable diet of agenda promotion and strategically timed media events that serve only to promote more war and greater erosion of national self-determination and democracy.

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I have long ceased to watch conventional TV news, but I do monitor a wide range of online news. I no longer visit the BBC News site to find out what's going on in the world (though I doubt they'd lie about incontrovertible events such as natural disasters or the weather ), but to analyse how it presents breaking news stories. The BBC is one of a select group of global media organisations who can actually set the agenda. If the BBC reports something, it becomes news. An Italian journalist once explained to me that Italy's state broadcaster, RAI, just recycles BBC and CNN reports, hastily translated and adapted for an Italian audience. BBC reporters can add all the caveats they like to save their proverbial bacon should a claim prove unsubstantiated, but as soon as the BBC highlights an atrocity and attributes it to the enemy of the day, it has already served its propaganda purpose. Truth seekers can easily be dismissed as conspiracy nuts or Putin acolytes, but believe me the truth does matter. If only 1% of BBC news coverage were not just inaccurate or misleading, but mendacious, it would be a scandal. Authoritarian regimes have always used similar tactics. They do not normally have to resort to outright lies, they just embellish cherry-picked snippets of the truth to suit their narrative. Outright mendacity is an act of desperation, especially when alternative and more credible versions of events are available from rival sources.

I don't have either time or resources to go into great detail about the recent chemical discharge in rebel-held Idlib, Syria. That lethal sarin or chlorine gas may have killed as many as 70 civilians in a war zone controlled by fanatical Islamic militias remains the only certainty. It's perfectly possible that the Syrian government could have killed people by bombing rebel ammunition dumps. They US and its allies have long attributed all regretful civilian victims of their bombing missions to the common Islamic militia practice of hiding weapons and fighters in densely populated areas especially near schools and hospitals. As wrong as I believe recent US military interventions may have been, I do not believe they deliberately targeted innocent civilians, but merely considered them a price worth paying for a larger strategic prize, that should be avoided to win the battle over hearts and minds once they've asserted their control. If they wanted just to kill as many people as possible, imposing a complete trade embargo would be much more effective as few Middle East countries are self-sufficient in food. Indeed Syria, which still has thousands of square kilometres of fertile land, may be an exception in this regard. The country has managed to survive despite sanctions and foreign-funded militias. Before Tuesday's attack, the Syrian Army was winning the ground war against Al Nusra and ISIS. US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, had even suggested that the people of Syria could determine the future role of President Bashar Al Assad, the latest apparent reincarnation of Hitler. The surest way President Assad could guarantee his downfall would be to commit a heinous war crime against innocent civilians before the world's media. He must be surely well aware that the White Helmets will rush to the scene of any atrocity to transmit footage of civilian casualties to global media outlets keen to pounce on any excuse to derail the strategic victory of a Russian / Syrian / Iranian alliance against head-chopping Islamic militias. I this find it extremely hard to believe that a besieged leader of a small country in touch with the global media would authorise his own downfall, unless he were some kind of double agent prepared to commit mad and reckless acts that would end not only his own career, but reduce his country to a set of statelets controlled by illiberal fundamentalists and policed by foreign armies.

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https://www.youtube.com/embed/tymDe83PFMQ

Conformists and Anticonformists

The emerging political landscape is even more confusing. When newly inaugurated President Trump tried to impose a temporary travel ban on globetrotters from seven mainly Muslim countries, the trendy left and Hollywood celebrities protested against this vile act of racism, although travel to the USA is a privilege, not a fundamental human right. When the same President bows to pressure from the Deep State and performs a 180º U-Turn on reconciliation with Russia over their joint efforts to combat ISIS and other Islamic extremists, the liberal media and Hollywood luvvies suddenly applaud the President's courageous actions. The masses of uninformed Americans who get their news from the mainstream media have swallowed their propaganda. Liberals support airstrikes because Assad and Putin are Hitleresque rightwing demagogues. Trump-supporting rednecks support airstrikes because we have to support our armed forces against our enemies. Opponents of more airstrikes are inevitably those of us who instinctively distrust the establishment media. We thus have the spectacle of alt-right former Trump supporters clashing with black block anarchists at a protest against air strikes. Hang on a moment. Both groups believe more military adventurism will only trigger more internecine violence and engender more hatred and religious fundamentalism. Both groups loathe global corporations and superstates. Both groups oppose more surveillance and restrictions of basic civil liberties. So faced with a choice between opposing the world's most powerful military machine and a bunch of European nationalists, the infamous black block decide the latter are the bigger problem despite their demographic demise and the emergence of China and India as the dominant centres of power in the 21st century.

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All in the Mind Power Dynamics

On the Brink of War

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
All in the Mind Computing Power Dynamics

Universal Welfare vs Individual Freedom

Cybernetic servant

Would global corporations bankroll a universal welfare system without seeking to control our lives?

Imagine a society that not only provided all your existential needs, but also gave you wide-ranging lifestyle freedoms and did not compel you to hold down a mundane job just to afford the necessities of life. This usually means clean water, food and shelter, but nowadays we could probably add a few more goods and services to our list of bare essentials. In Western Europe a minimum viable standard of living would include a cooker, fridge, washing machine, a shower with hot and cold running water, heating and last but not least telecommunications devices to enable everyone to stay in touch and enjoy 24/7 access to the world's media. In the not too distant past many ordinary Western Europeans had to make do without all the latest mod cons just so we could afford the basics, like food. If you couldn't afford a washing machine, you could always take your dirty clothes to a laundrette. If you couldn't afford a television set, you could always listen to an inexpensive radio or read a book borrowed from the library. If you could not afford to buy or rent a place of your own, your employer might provide temporary digs. Indeed the whole concept of a universal right to a minimum standard of living via state welfare is relatively recent. Until the early 20th century the church would have provided emergency accommodation for the respectful needy, but by and large the destitute only had two escape routes. They could find casual work at the going rate or, in the case of attractive young women, seek an affable husband. In either case the underlings had to show deference to the hand that would feed them. The only way to free oneself from the tyranny of bosses or financially dominant spouses was, and I suggest still is, to have the means to feed oneself. A smallholder may own just a few fields, work long hours to raise livestock and tend crops, but at least he's his own boss and, in a country that respects personal freedom, may lead his life as he chooses provided he respect the privacy and freedom of his neighbours and adheres to common etiquette of decency and courtesy when engaging with the wider community. I use the third person male pronoun here because historically women from humble backgrounds would aspire to motherhood rather than self-sufficiency without a husband. Nonetheless, most smallholdings were family concerns. Husbands and wives worked as a team and although men tended to work longer hours outdoors and do more of the heavy lifting, few could doubt the pivotal role that women played in raising the next generation.

For most of human history, unless you inherited considerable wealth, your only route to greater personal freedom was through hard work and dedication. All most people expected of their state was to safeguard their acquired rights and protect them against raiders who may seize the fruits of their labour. Before the industrial revolution the greatest liberation for most peasants was to unshackle themselves from the burdens of slavery or sharecropping and to cease being in debt to a feudal master. However, with the advent of capitalism and the growth of a working class wholly dependent on their employers, the downtrodden embraced the appeal of collectivism. If technological progress demanded extreme specialisation, growing interdependence and massive infrastructure that only large organisations could conceivably provide, then our future freedom logically depends on our ability to control the levers of power for our collective good. Most early workers' struggles focussed on bread and butter issues of survival, primarily working conditions and wages. Workers demanded the right to withdraw their labour and called on their governments to enforce minimum health and safety standards. Nobody denied that everyone had a duty to pull their weight and contribute to wider society by working to the best of their ability. Few anticipated that the underclasses of the future would not be 8 year old boys sent down coal mines or 13 year old girls working as chambermaids, but workless welfare claimants trapped in a cycle of psychological dependence on external authorities who may regulate every aspect their lives. While workers may always withdraw their labour to reassert their rights, welfare dependents are at the mercy of their benefactors.

Extended Childhood

Traditionally two main groups of commoners were exempted from the onus of work: the very young and the very old. While children have to mature physically and mentally and learn some core skills before their induction into the adult world, the elderly have earned their keep through a life of dedication to their family and community. Even in primitive societies young children play and the old relax and share their wisdom. As the industrial age progressed, businesses began to rely more on technical and intellectual skills and a less on sheer muscle power. Capitalist countries expanded mandatory schooling not just to appease demands for greater social justice, but to equip industry with a literate workforce better able to meet the challenges of greater technical complexity, which even in relatively low-skill jobs involved reading and understanding detailed instructions. Not until 1921 did the UK implement the Fisher Act raising the compulsory school age to 14. It took another 52 years for the school leaving age to rise to 16. Today over 90% of British teenagers remain in education or training at least until the age of 18, while those advancing to further education, has risen from around 10% in 1970 to 45% today. While the needs of business have changed, the UK has a massive undersupply of engineers and technicians and an oversupply of graduates in people management, marketing, psychology, law and humanities in general. Yet employers still complain about graduates with poor writing or number-crunching skills. Not surprisingly we've seen a fair amount of grade inflation and degrees from all but the best universities have been greatly devalued. As a result most graduates do not pursue their desired career. Not everyone can be a sports journalist or an equality and diversity training officer. Long gone are the days of secure permanent jobs where one could progress from an apprenticeship and work one's way through the ranks to attain well-remunerated senior role. Now many university graduates find themselves in a similar position to that of schools leavers only 30 years ago. They have to try their hands at a series of uninspiring low-paid jobs before they find an opening in a role vaguely related to their degree. Many may have to retrain in something more practical, such as nursing or plumbing, once they become aware of the limited commercial value of their sociology degree. Only a small minority of graduates, and it's hard to quantify just how few, have acquired the kind of scientific excellence we will need in the coming artificial intelligence revolution. We now employ more people to manage other people or to create ephemeral media campaigns than to develop and produce the technology we will need to survive and overcome environmental constraints on human development in the coming century. Today we have more persuaders than doers or more talkers than walkers.

The future of work

Much of Britain's manufacturing base has migrated abroad since the 1970s. Today's factories are more automated and mainly assemble or just repackage components made elsewhere. Owing to rapid technological innovation, product lines tend to have short lifespans and production facilities are regularly retooled along with their workforce, who are now viewed as expendable free agents. This helps explain the rise of agency workers and employers' preference for itinerant workers without local roots. As soon as advances in robotics can automate operations in a cost-effective manner, management can lay off most human workers. Driverless vehicles are already a reality. We merely need to perfect artificial intelligence to ensure their reliability in challenging and unpredictable traffic conditions. The writing is on the wall for long distance truck drivers and for millions of other skilled workers, whose monotonous occupations follow a programmable set of routines and respond to a predictable range of environmental stimuli. I suspect in the not too distant future smart vacuum cleaners will be versatile enough to climb stairs and automatically adapt to different floor types, reach into nooks and crannies and potentially call another robot to move furniture. In all likelihood most robots will not resemble human beings at all, but will be polymorphic with a multitude of attachments and tools for different tasks. Unlike human beings they will be easily serviceable and reprogrammable. Even the world's oldest freelance profession, often not so euphemistically categorised as sex work, now faces competition from lifelike erotic dolls.

However, the main stumbling block to the adoption of robotics is not the theoretical feasibility of artificial intelligence and nanotechnology, but the collapse of our underlying industrial infrastructure due to our gross mismanagement of finite resources and our inability to develop safe renewable energy able to meet our growing demands. We have probably already passed peak oil and over the coming 50 years we're likely to hit a peak human population of 10 billion. If we factor in the threats of climate change, clean water shortages in the areas of fastest population growth and insatiable demand for cars and other consumer goods in the developing world, we clearly face unprecedented environmental challenges that can only be addressed by taming human behaviour or significantly boosting industrial efficiency. Short of colonising other planets, the alternative may well be a world war over control of mission-critical resources.

Work and Society

Many think of work as drudgery we endure to earn a living. We would rather relax or pursue hobbies that inspire us. Few of us would enjoy getting down on our hands and knees to scrub the kitchen floor or crawling through narrow underground tunnels to mine coal. Yet during the early industrial revolutions millions of working class women and men had to endure these conditions just to fend for themselves and their children. When millions lost their jobs in the great depression of 1930s, the fledgling welfare state offered little consolation. Without work millions felt completely unfulfilled and would go to extraordinary lengths to relieve themselves of the shame and stigma associated with joblessness. The Jarrow March of 1936, ironically as the economy was picking up again in Britain, exemplified social attitudes of the era. Workers did not expect luxuries or endless charity, they just demanded a chance to earn a living to restore their dignity. The post-war boom of the 1950s and 1960s was built largely on a skilled working class whose earnings and leisure time rose as technological advances began to favour intellect and proficiency and over muscle-power and perseverance. It was a short-lived age of full employment, stable families and a narrowing social divide, unfortunately reliant on state subsidies and trade barriers to protect workers from unfair competition and unregulated market forces. Big business soon realised it could no longer boost its profits and expand markets in such a protectionist environment, holding it often at the mercy of militant trade unions. By the early 1970s UK industry had become both outdated and notoriously inefficient compared to their German, Japanese or Korean competitors. As the pendulum swung from protected markets and state-subsidised industries to free market economics, much of British manufacturing moved abroad. While some former manufacturing workers moved to the growing service sector, many were left behind. While material living standards have continued to grow, since the 1980s we've seen a widening gap not just in terms of wealth, but in education and personal attainment. The emergence of the trendy professional classes as the mainstay of our economic and cultural activity may well be but a harbinger of things to come. By 2012 over 60% of workers were tax-negative, i.e. received more benefits and direct services than they paid in tax. If we take into account indirect services consumed, the situation is even more unequal and this disparity is growing. By 2014 the top 25% of earners paid 75% of income tax and the 1% alone paid over a quarter. The only way of closing the income gap is to close the education gap, not in terms of nominal qualifications or years of formal schooling, but in terms of ensuring a much larger proportion of the population acquire the kind of intellectual and social skills we will need in the cybernetic age.

Today the descendants of the old Labour movement not only champion welfare rights, but assume a great many working age adults will never be gainfully employed owing to mental or physical disabilities, concepts which are now much more loosely and widely understood than in the recent past. In the future most work will be either intellectual or social, requiring us to focus our creative and emotional skills and effort on endeavours that serve the wider social good rather just satisfy personal desires. An ideal job is one that you both enjoy and can help others. Your material or financial reward for your effort is a direct measure of its utility to the current socio-economic system. If you possess a rare talent the reward for your creative endeavours may be substantial. Thus an elite of sportspeople and entertainers can earn a fortune simply due to the inertia of market forces. While Premier League footballers may have to train regularly and exert themselves for 90 minutes on the pitch before chanting fans, a hospital cleaner will typically exert much more effort for a fraction of the income. Yet people's lives may depend on clean hospitals, but not on the outcome of a soccer match. Your salary is mainly of a function of your expendability. To what extent is your role mission-critical to your employer? If your employer is a major football club earning tens of millions of pounds in advertising revenue, broadcasting rights and ticket sales, their main concern is your ability to help win games and keep their investors and customers happy. While millions can play football, only a few hundred in the whole wide world possess the kind of rare talent that can make or break a sports entertainment business and a handful can command eye-watering sums, such as the record £89 million Manchester United paid for French international, Paul Pogba. That figure could employ around 4700 hospital cleaners on the national living wage and is a staggering 280 thousand times greater than the mean GDP per capita of Paul Pogba's parental homeland of Guinea. A hospital cleaner can be replaced literally at the drop of a hat, while a world-leading football striker cannot. Gone are the days when hospital cleaners could go on strike for more pay. These services are now predominantly outsourced to agencies. Back in the 1960s and 70s public institutions saw it as their duty not only to provide public services, but also to employ local workers who might get a much worse deal in the private sector. These days a hospital does not employ cleaners, it has a contract with an agency, which in turn procures the best human or technical resources for the job at hand. I recall working in the BBC's plush open plan offices in London's White City. At 7pm every weekday evening when most staff had left, a team of mainly Portuguese speaking cleaners would mop up the mess left by higher-paid BBC staffers. I know this because on one occasion their supervisor had to impart bilingual instructions to accommodate an agency worker from Ghana, who didn't speak Portuguese, but this was in the heart of English speaking world. Yet the same BBC struggles to admit the impact of globalisation on lower-skilled native workers (most of whom deserted the capital decades ago and could not afford to return). Currently machine-assisted human cleaners are still more cost-effective than robots, but as robots become smarter and more versatile human workers will focus more on supervisory and engineering roles. That leaves very little for those of us who do not possess exceptional analytical, creative or people management skills.

Most of us are what social researchers might call semi-skilled, i.e. we've acquired many practical skills through hands-on experience, but lack outstanding talents that set us apart from the crowd. In the recent past some semi-skilled labourers, without formal qualifications in their line of expertise, honed their skills to such an extent as to become invaluable to their employers or clientele, but with outsourcing and automation we've lost much of that traditional skills base for good. Many semi-skilled workers may well have much more experience than a someone who has been formerly trained, but their skills can be easily learned not just by millions of other workers, but by machines. Millions of us enjoy cooking from fresh ingredients, but it's often much more cost-effective just to buy a ready-made meal. Once we rely supermarkets to supply food, it makes little difference if a machine prepares an elaborate recipe from fresh ingredients or we do it ourselves from separately purchased ingredients. In many practical instances ready-made meals are both cheaper and healthier as otherwise you'd have to buy much larger quantities of the source ingredients, which may well go off before you have a chance to eat them. Fast food outlets have already automated most aspects of food preparation. In the near future human chefs will be a luxury available only to the affluent professional classes, but with more leisure time many will still prefer to engage in a little culinary therapy.

More disturbingly the two dominant narratives of public debate on economics and employment could both prove wrong. Global optimists keep reminding us how our growing economies, reliant on extreme labour mobility, can provide new opportunities for all, while identitarian populists from Donald Trump in the USA to Marine Le Pen in France pretend manufacturing jobs can somehow be repatriated. In reality outsourcing menial tasks to low-wage workers is just a stop-gap solution until robotics becomes more competitive. However, if big business no longer needs semi-skilled labour and only requires a select group of engineers, creatives, managers and entertainers, who is going to buy their products?

Universal Welfare

The answer, so the wishful thinking trendy left tell us, is a universal basic income. I fully appreciate its appeal and take on board the argument that by guaranteeing everyone a basic income we remove not just the stigma associated with joblessness and the humiliation of holding down low-paid non-jobs (burger flippers, shelf stackers or call centre operatives), but we also greatly reduce the immense administrative costs of our current welfare system. Essentially the government would just give everyone a basic income that guarantees a minimum standard of living. If you want more you can undertake paid employment or may be inspired to volunteer in the ever-expanding third sector (charities, campaign groups, NGOs etc.), a great CV-booster when you do decide to get a real job. If you just want to take it easy, you can still survive on your basic income with no questions asked. It would also prevent people from claiming disability status due to some perceived relative handicap, which is really just a natural variation in the human condition or the result of acquired behaviour. However, short of a global revolution bringing all multinationals into public ownership and guaranteeing full transparency and accountability of all organisations responsible for our wellbeing, I think we need to take into account human nature. The strongest basic income evangelists insist it would allow people to unleash their creative minds without fear of losing their salary. Such idealists imagine the world as an extended high-tech hippie commune cum university campus. Were we all sandal-wearing bicycling vegans taking time off to write a book on the history of Mesopotamian basket weaving the basic income would be a great idea. Alas deprived of any motivation to focus one's creative efforts on something useful, most adults will succumb to a blend of junk culture and social gaming, no longer competing on skills, but on personality and worthiness. Our aim in life will no longer be to provide for our family through hard work, but merely to ensure we can gain the same emotional privileges. This helps explain the rise of social justice warriors with a bloated sense of entitlement. The great struggles against real injustice of the past (against slavery, imperialism, starvation wages, misogyny, racism etc.) will descend into a farce as most citizens will become mere beneficiaries of corporate welfare enjoying an extended childhood and just like children, their freedom will be at the mercy of their guardians, the technocratic and managerial elites. If the masses remain blissfully unaware of the activities of the regulating classes, they will be lulled into a false sense of security and treated like children, i.e. rewarded for good compliant behaviour and penalised for antisocial behaviour. Until the late 20th century most societies relied on the labour of the underclasses. Without ordinary workers, crops would not be harvested, houses would not be built, machinery would not be maintained, food would not be processed and distributed, infrastructure would crumble and people would starve. If the underclasses cannot produce a surplus of food, housing and tools, the ruling classes cannot accumulate the wealth they need to maintain their power and privilege through a network of administrators and security forces. In theory the working classes could hold their rulers to ransom. If their rulers failed to allocate enough resources, the underclasses could either rise up and overthrow their masters or switch allegiance to a rival faction or neighbouring fiefdom, especially if they possessed superior technology. Parents care for their children not only through strong emotional bonds, but also because of their future role as purveyors of the family's wealth for they would soon become workers and parents themselves. By contrast in the age of robotics, the workless underclasses will be mere consumers whose only duty will be to conform to social norms. We may well retain the illusion of democratic control via online elections for the most affable middle managers, but effectively we will be beholden to a technocratic upper caste responsible for programming and administering our cyberservants. Over recent decades we've seen a steady transfer of responsibilities from viable two-parent families to a maze of service providers. If something goes wrong, we tend to blame external agencies whether they are suppliers, manufacturers, safety regulators, doctors, nurses, social workers or teachers, because we have learned to accept that many aspects of our lives are out of our direct control. We have internalised the notion that one has to have special training to perform any task not deemed safe for laypeople. We have lost touch with mother nature to such an extent we are unable to accept its limitations. As robots evolve to undertake forever more complex tasks, we can expect the range of safe jobs to narrow to all but a few closely monitored human activities performed in controlled environments, such as eating, drinking, exercising, relaxing, playing or making love. For years officialdom has tended to discourage the old do-it-yourself attitude, while encouraging people to seek specialists. This may be preparing us psychologically for a future when robots replace technicians, decorators, builders, cleaners, nurses, police officers and other social surveillance officers. However, if only the gifted intelligentsia have any understanding of the inner workings of our high-tech world, how will the rest of us hold them to account? The people of the future could well split into distinctive castes along the lines the dumbed-down Eloi and Morlocks in H.G. Well's Time Machine. Slowly but surely we seem to be sleepwalking towards a Huxleyan future of human beings genetically engineered to assume different roles in a chain of command that only members of alpha caste understand.

Visions of the Future

The current rapid pace of technological and economic progress could lead in two apparently divergent but equally dystopian directions. One the one hand technology fails to meet the insatiable demands of a growing number of consumers either through limits to growth, such as peak oil or climate change, or through cataclysmic technical failures such as nuclear power plant explosions, or indeed a combination of both. Such a scenario may kill hundreds of millions of people, but may also forestall a cybergenetic dystopia of complete submission to technology out of the control of ordinary global denizens. On the one hand technology may evolve so fast to control the excesses of human behaviour and thus render both itself and humanity compatible with our planetary life support system. In other words technology will determine our living standards and, indeed, our procreative potential. Arguably it already does. Only last week the London Telegraph reported that Motherless babies are now possible as scientists create live offspring without a female egg. As always the neoliberal press presents the next step in human genetic engineering as a great advance enabling more couples, such as gay dads, to conceive. The next logical step is an artificial womb, whose development is no longer mere science fiction (See Men redundant? Now we don't need women either ). No doubt artificial uteruses will liberate women from the pain and responsibility of pregnancy, but soon biological genders may become obsolete binary categories that belong to a past age of primitive dependence on messy and inconvenient organic procreation. The affluent cyber-managerial classes will inevitably be able to afford better fertility treatment leading all too predictably to the emergence of a super-race, meaning the underclasses will simply lack the intellect to outsmart their rulers, whether humanoid or not.

The Alternative to Basic Income

If you thought the basic income sounds too good to be true, you're probably right. That's what a majority of shrewd Swiss voters concluded earlier this year. They understood that unless you contribute to the functioning of society, you cannot expect to have any meaningful say in the way it's run. You may well have the illusion of democratic control, but it will more like children choosing which flavour of ice-cream they want or which games they want to play during their birthday party. If they misbehave their true masters will drug them or confine them to their bedrooms. If their life support system fails, all they can do is follow instructions to wait for cybernetic technicians to repair the faults. However, a Huxleyan dystopia is not an inevitability if we wake up to its very real likelihood early enough and ensure all working age adults are directly involved in developing and regulating human-friendly technology. In other words robots should serve us and not vice versa and bioengineering should only ever assist natural human beings as we've evolved over eons. This means preparing the next generation for a high skill future where everyone will have a part to play in the development of our engineered environment. We must be fully aware of the consequences of new technology as the toys of today may become the prison wardens of our near future.

Categories
Power Dynamics

7 Reasons why you should vote #Remain

  1. You love French wine, German beer, Dutch cheese, Italian recipes, Spanish beaches, Austrian ski resorts, Czech castles, Swedish furniture, Finnish saunas and, did I forget, Belgian chocolate. Beethoven, Debussy, Chopin, Verdi and Mozart may also be music to your ears. Modern philosophy would not be complete without Voltaire, Descartes, Hegel, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Plato and Aristotle? Just think of the all wonderful art galleries and museums of Paris, Vienna, Barcelona, Prague, Cracow, Florence, Athens and Talinn? Surely, if we left Europe, we'd have to make do with boring British culture, abysmal weather, traffic jams and ageing second-rate rock stars. It hardly matters that all this splendid culture predates the European Union or that rapid cultural and demographic changes are sweeping aside much of Europe's wonderful cultural heritage. Surely the Italians will not let us eat pizza if we vote to leave the EU and the Belgians will refuse to sell us chocolate.
  2. You do not want to be on the wrong side of history. As the remain side are going to win anyway, how could you conceivably admit to supporting a motley crew of UKIPers, failed Tory politicians, Labour mavericks from the 1970s and George Galloway? The EU may be flawed in so many ways. It may be corrupt and on the verge of signing the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, but never mind young progressive people don't care about old-fashioned nation states, they look to the future of a United Europe stretching from Ireland all the way to Ukraine and Turkey.
  3. You do not wish to be associated with racists or with politicians who make incomprehensible Hilter analogies. That's right anyone opposed to the abolition of nation states must be solely motivated by a desire to deny other human beings of their rightful share of corporate profits. It hardly matters that most of the world is not in the European Union, but that may change soon.
  4. You do not want to appear mentally unstable, liable to believe all those wild conspiracy theories about big corporate lobbies and NGOs colluding with corrupt Eurocrats to undermine national democracies. All sane people know the squeaky clean European Parliament is run by young progressives who want to make Europe a safer and greener place for all and sundry.
  5. You do not believe all this anti-immigration nonsense and close your ears and eyes whenever some crackpot fruitcake tells you that current migratory flows are unsustainable and bound to end in social unrest. The fault must lie with those ignorant native working classes brainwashed by the Daily Mail and evil extremists like UKIP and Pegida. We need more BBC documentaries on the wonders of multiculturism and the evils of nationalism. Down with primitive native Europeans!
  6. The English are simply too stupid. Unlike the more open-minded Scots and Welsh, too many English voters opt for the Tories or UKIP. We cannot trust them to make rational decisions. They need guidance from enlightened European politicians.
  7. You wish to reassert your unswerving faith in the globalist establishment, represented by Barrack Obama, Hilary Clinton, Francois Hollande, Angela Merkel, Tony Blair and Christine Lagarde. Their economic, military, security and migration policies have been such huge successes, have they not?
Categories
All in the Mind Power Dynamics

Infantile Leftwing Globalism

Save the bees! Save the Trees! Save the refugess!

You might naively imagine the main focus of the Green Party is to promote environmental sustainability, while the Labour Party seeks to defend the rights of ordinary working people in their country. Yet increasingly both serve the interests of global corporations, just as much as their nominally centre-right counterparts in misnamed conservative, liberal or separatist parties.

Today no mainstream political force, and that includes the Greens, can implement the wishes of their activists. They may make a few eloquent speeches on subjects that can inspire strategic audiences and give us a semblance of democratic debate, but the only campaigns that ever succeed are those that win the backing of key corporate players via their myriad NGOs and lobby groups. The conservatives pretended to champion family values and curb unsustainable net migration. In reality they were unable to stem migratory flows, while failing to help stay-at-home mums (yes incredibly many intelligent women choose to take time off work to look after their children). Likewise New Labour had 13 years to tackle falling standards in state schools and a burgeoning housing crisis.

Radical environmentalism seeks to build an alternative model of development focused on a long-term sustainability rather than short-term profits or whimsical consumer desires. Likewise the Labour Movement was founded to empower workers, favouring long-term social wellbeing over short-term commercial gains. I sympathise with both green and red politics. I certainly do not want either a grotesquely unequal society or an environmental collapse.

Yet if history can teach us anything it is to be very careful what you wish for. As the green movement gained momentum in the 1980s, eco-sceptics claimed ecologists wanted a return to a pre-industrial era of horse-drawn carts, peat fires and peasants toiling 12 hours a day just to grow enough to feed their community. Some would argue that the Greens have never opposed technology, only bad technology. The trouble is without evil polluting technologies such as coal-fired steam engines or monstrous chemical processing plants our modern world could never have evolved. The industrial revolution initially saw a huge rise in infant mortality as young boys were sent down coal mines. It later produced the material wealth needed to invest in more efficient and human-friendly technology. By the mid 19th century child labour and slavery had become anachronisms in the eyes of capitalists, superseded by technological developments that capitalist competition had spawned. Capitalism was both a financial oppressor and a technological liberator, that the later Soviet Union could only mimic by enforcing an authoritarian form of state capitalism. Herein lies the first glaring dilemma for self-proclaimed anti-capitalists.

Back in the real world capitalism has long given way to corporatism, a marriage of major enterprises and state institutions. Left to its own devices laissez-faire capitalism would have died in the early 20th century. Indeed it would never have expanded as fast as it did without the help of state-funded armies, navies and airforces. Free trade, as we know it, has largely been won by gunboat diplomacy and later as its tentacles spread far and wide by financial coercion.

The greatest advances in workers' rights occurred in the first half of the 20th century, admittedly interrupted by world wars and national dictatorships. Capitalists had little choice because they needed highly skilled workers both to design, operate and manage their machinery and to buy their goods. In many ways the outcome of the second world war made the western world safe for a new era of mass consumerism. As mean living standards and productivity rose governments could offer more generous welfare and provide an illusion of democracy as conservative and social democratic managerial teams vied to win the favour of a docile public.

Endless Growth

However, corporate capitalism relies on continuous economic growth. The physical possibility of infinite growth on a finite planet depends on our definition of growth. It may simply mean greater circulation of capital, as happens during periods of high inflation, but most of us understand it to mean higher material living standards and thus higher aggregate consumption. We are currently on a trajectory to have a peak population of ten billion human beings. The problem is they will likely expect a Western European standard of living meaning the number of motor vehicles is set to grow from 1 to 5 billion over the next 50 years. They may well be electric cars, but they will still require billions of tons of steel, aluminium, potassium and plastics to manufacture as well as thousands of square of miles of asphalt and an exponential rise in energy demands. While many talk of a transition to public transport, walking and bicycling in urban areas, for the time being at least alternatives to cars only appeal in congested cities. When left to market forces, people will choose convenience and prestige over environmental friendliness or fitness. Our obsession with appearance and body image means many prefer to drive several miles to a gym than make a fool of themselves cycling or jogging along busy roads earning the ire of impatient motorists. Many wishful thinking Western eco-activist's are rather surprised when new immigrants to their country choose to drive short distances when they could easily walk, cycle or catch a bus. That's because they did not move to a richer country to promote environmental sustainability, but rather to enjoy a higher material living standard, or as we once said, live the American dream. Herein lies the second great dilemma of today's bien-pensant green left. Mass migration is driven, indeed actively encouraged, primarily by the same corporate system that ecologists claim to oppose or do they?

Impotence

In the UK Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party, Nicola Sturgeon's Scottish National Party and Natalie Bennett's Green Party are powerless to challenge the hegemony of the multinational corporations that shape every aspect of our professional and consumer lives, for they all agree to transfer any scrutiny of our true masters to a supranational entity, the European Union. The SNP may well run the Scottish Parliament, but dare not limit the power of the corporations that run Scotland's consumer economy. In 2016 the likes of Tesco, Walmart, SkyTV, Raytheon, BP, Shell or GSK hold greater sway over public policy than the Westminster talking shop. Indeed the SNP are so keen on ensuring that big business pay their taxes that they promised lower corporation tax to boost inward investment. As a nominally autonomous country within the European Union, they would be powerless to pursue independent economic policies. They could merely liaise as a minor player with the European Union, itself beholden to the other organisations such as WTO, IMF and the upcoming Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. How could any party that enjoys the editorial support of Murdoch-owned newspaper, the Scottish Sun, be anti-establishment anyway. The SNP only oppose the old guard of British aristocracy.

Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party seems to have greater anti-establishment credentials. Indeed the corporate media has been quick to denounce Labour's new leadership as dangerous extremists, naive pacifists or apologists for terrorists and Nazi-sympathising Israel bashers. The whole polemic about Ken Livingstone's Hitler comments is a case in point. You'd seriously think he had denied the Nazi holocaust or advocated the annihilation of Israel. In actual fact he had merely alluded to the 1933 Haavara Agreement between Zionists and the newly elected National Socialist regime, which incidentally still had important commercial ties the United State and Britain. We had the spectre of a Labour MP patronisingly shouting “Have you read Mein Kampf†at a former colleague.. This manufactured controversy over alleged antisemitism had two effects: to discredit the main opposition party and to restrict intellectual freedom. The other details were lost on a general public accustomed to a simplified Hollywoodesque portrayal of recent European history.

In 1981 before Argentinian General Gualtieri intervened to boost Margaret Thatcher's popularity, a much more radical Labour Party under Michael Foot won 41% of the vote in local elections compared to just 38% for the ruling Tories. In similar elections Jeremy Corbyn's party could barely muster 31% within England. Short of a miracle, Labour are extremely unlikely to win the next general election. If they oust Corbyn, then many Labour members would leave probably to join the Greens. With Corbyn, they can only hope to appeal to the core Labour vote in areas of high welfare dependency and/or Muslim populations as well as trendy professional elites. The party has lost much of its traditional working class vote. First in power it did little to protect British workers against unfair global competition and encouraged the migration of a new generation of immigrants from Eastern Europe to fill short-term vacancies in the country's volatile, but booming, labour market dominated by agency staff. Left-leaning opinion leaders and even government ministers would dismiss low-skill British workers as lazy and unmotivated, while failing abysmally to reform the welfare system to make work pay. Indeed Gordon Brown's flagship working family tax credits merely subsidised the kind of low-paid jobs to which new immigrants were attracted. Of course, nothing has changed under David Cameron's tenure either. Net migration has continued to hover around the 300,000 a year mark and more and more young people are employed under zero-hour contracts. While inflation-adjusted spending on the NHS has actually risen, a growing population is clearly putting it under enormous strain. Yet Labour and Conservative spokespeople always like to remind the descendants of the great British working class that we could not run the NHS without immigrants, a sly way of telling native Brits that they either too stupid or too well paid.

Ironically many in the Labour movement would agree with my critique of trendy champagne socialists, infantile eco-warriors and no-borders activists, the kind of people who think can they simultaneously cut industrial pollution, fight climate change, save endangered species, protect natural woodland and greenbelt, build more houses and allow million more economic migrants to enjoy a 1980s British standard of living. Many middle-of-the-road Labour activists from the 1970s and 80s just wanted Britain to be a peace-loving country that protected the interests of its own people without expropriating the resources of other countries or interfering in their affairs, except to deal with environmental catastrophes or to avert genocide. A humble country that would lead only by example. However, our economy has become so unbalanced and dependent on imports of goods and export of services as to make any government captive to the diktat of major multinationals.

In purely ecological terms the UK is a global parasite. It extracts much more from the rest of the world than it gives back. It has effectively become a large shopping mall complete with airports, a motorway network, millions of offices and matchbox houses. If you are worried about the destruction of the Amazonian rain forest, endangered species in Borneo, peace in the Middle East or carbon emissions globally, then buying imported goods at Tesco or taking a cheap Ryanair flight to sunny Spain will not help. Indeed our consumer habits outsource environmental destruction to the rest of the world.

Hands Tied

If Corbyn and Bennett really wanted to overthrow capitalism, they would not call for more economic growth or advocate corporate welfarism. They would oppose unaccountable and wasteful corporations and transfer their business operations to cooperatives respondent to the needs of local communities rather than short-term profits or longer-term commercial expansion. We would bring our consumption in line with our essential needs (e.g. we could eat a lot less and still live healthier lives), rather than short-term consumer fetishes. Most important a genuine workers' party would ensure all families have a stake in our real economy, i.e. at least one member who contributes through meaningful and rewarding work. If we outsource manual labour or let next generation automation displace workers in all but the most intellectually demanding roles altogether, we will have a nation of expendable consumer slaves.

The Greens may well oppose fracking and building on greenbelt, yet their leadership fully support the causes of fracking and habitat destruction. Capitalists do not lobby governments to allow hydraulic fracturing because they want to contaminate drinking water or destroy our countryside, but because they believe for the time being fracking is the most cost-effective way to produce the extra energy we need to power our growing economy and satisfy the consumer demands of the country's growing population.

Many Greens I've debated with live in a parallel universe, in which highly skilled and ecologically aware immigrants help us address an acute labour shortage and compensate for a shrinking and ageing population. This may be true in a few remote Devon villages, but the UK's population has grown from 58 million in 1997 to well over 65 million now. While youngsters born and bred in the UK struggle to find permanent jobs, agencies import ready-trained nurses and careworkers to look after the disabled and elderly.

What's Wrong With Old People?

If there is one demographic group the infantile left loathes more than any other it's the native British elderly, the kind of people who distrust the European Union, disapprove of gay marriage and may, heaven forbid, not be too happy about the displacement of indigenous communities with transient communities of international commuters. Yet an ageing population is hardly sign of failure, but a cause for celebration and an immense opportunity for a younger generation unable to compete with robots, but perfectly able to care for their elderly relatives and neighbours rather than twiddle their thumbs in marketing agencies or sell spurious legal services. If the UK had had zero-net migration since 1997, i.e. a sustainable balance of immigration and emigration, our population would only have declined only slightly today and we'd have smaller class sizes, much less congestion and a much smaller housing crisis. Indeed the fertility rate has risen from a low of 1.6 in the mid 1980s to 2.0 today (partly due to higher birth rates among some recent immigrants). By contrast countries like Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Germany and Poland have fertility rates between 1.3 to 1.5. Singaporean women have on average just 1 child. People in these countries have merely adapted to the reality that our survival does not depend on having an excess of children. Raising a child to become a successful adult with good career prospects now requires massive investment in time and money. That why millions of European and Japanese couples simply opt out of parenthood.

Advances in robotics and artificial intelligence will soon displace most most manual and many clerical jobs. Banks are busy closing branches, driverless vehicles are already a reality and manufacturing workers will be replaced by a handful of programmers and technicians. However, the elderly and disabled will still prefer human care-workers ideally with a similar cultural background. Would it really matter if over several generations the population halved through entirely peaceful and non-coercive means? Not at all, it would merely bring our numbers back to the population we had in the 1960s and it would certainly make it much easier to address the challenges of rising material expectations, resource depletion on a finite planet and the inevitability of greater automation. A true environmentalist would aspire to attain an equilibrium with a steady state economy and stable population, but we are not going to run out people any time soon.

Useful Idiots

If the Greens and Left Labour pose such a great threat to global corporations, why do they get so much airtime on TV and so great prominence in social media. People are not being arrested for expressing opposition to austerity cuts or staging refugees welcome demos, but rather for expressing socially conservative opinions critical of globalisation. This is because our real masters are not the old national aristocracies, but global corporations who positively loathe nation states. Both the European and North American elites are planing a new borderless playground for a new technocratic upper class. The main wheelers and dealers are not populist politicians eager to placate the concerns of a conservative electorate, but large banks, transnational enterprises and increasingly NGOs and charities. While the infantile left may rant and rave about our wonderful NHS and the evils of TTIP, trendy business consultancies are busy new ways to expand the market reach of their corporate healthcare clients and rebrand TTIP to placate European politicians. When professional services networks such as Price Waterhouse and Cooper, Ernst and Young, Deloitte or KPMG talk of global governance or localisation, what they really mean is the transfer of decision-making away from national institutions to large corporations. Increasingly national parliaments debate merely how and when to phase in policies decided elsewhere. Cultural convergence is seen as a historical inevitability that merely has to be managed. In this context the mass migration of people from the Middle East and North Africa may lead to a temporary culture clash. but the long term aim to displace all autochthonous cultures with a global superculture. Civil unrest, decreased social solidarity and the spectre of terrorism all provide excellent pretexts for more surveillance and greater centralisation of powers in supranational bodies. Not surprisingly, the Eurocrats always respond to economic, environmental and human crises with calls for more Europe, by which they mean greater powers for unaccountable institutions intent to undermining the will of ordinary Europeans.

Yet across the European continent the growing divide is no longer between the lifestyle left and the economic right, but between those of us who care about the identity and thus sustainability of our cultural heritage and those who wish to supplant all traditional cultures with a brave new world order, to which all but the enlightened elite have to conform. They are quite happy to use green activists and even trade unionists to push through policies that will both destroy our environment and undermine workers' rights. The real xenophobes are not those who defend their own cultural traditions, but those who cheerlead ethnic cleansing on an unprecedented scale.

The imbecile left will never thwart global corporatism, but will merely claim credit for policies emanating from corporate think tanks such as global taxation of corporations or their new favourite, the basic income, which will inevitably be a form a global social welfare subsidised by global corporations to the workless underclasses in exchange for their acquiescence.

It often helps to observe critically what is really happening rather than formulate a convenient worldview based on personal prejudices, peer pressure or official reports. Some will tell you the green lobby is harming ordinary working class motorists through their obsession with global warming and carbon emissions. Back in the real world green politicians support policies that increase carbon emissions by actively supporting the migration of people from poorer to richer countries and recycling propaganda about how a larger population boosts our wonderful retail economy. We thus witness a manufactured debate between small businesses, often keen on easier road transport and lower taxes, and globalist greens, usually keen on tigher regulation of private transport. Larger companies always find it easier to comply with new environmental regulations introduced to please green lobbies. All the while massive out-of-town superstores with huge carparks are sprouting up everywhere. They may have a few token cycle racks and sell fair-trade bananas, bu their bottom line depends on more eager consumers buying their imported merchandise. In power and in opposition, the greens have been disaster for our environment.

Categories
Power Dynamics

In Defence of Red Ken

Ken Livingstone, former Mayor of London and Labour MP, is back in the news for having allegedly misinterpreted a politically sensitive chapter of the 20th century. John Mann MP, an avid supporter of all recent US-led wars in the Middle East and Central Asia, accused Mr Livingstone of rewriting history by suggesting Hitler's National Socialist Party supported Zionism. Yet the historical record is clear on the broad collaboration between Zionists and Nazis in the early and mid 1930s. On many other subjects, Red Ken has had a rather liberal interpretation of reality, bending it to suit his left-leaning globalist agenda. While Red Ken has embraced the capital city's ethnic diversity, he has had to appease two rival constituencies, which I will for sake of simplicity call Global Zionists and Islamic Fundamentalists. A greater challenge was reconciling the imperialist and theocratic views of these influential factions with broader social justice, anti-war and environmentalist ideals. Indeed I would argue a narrow obsession with Nazi Germany and the Palestinian/Israeli conflicts blinds us to a much deeper understanding of the far-reaching socio-environmental changes that have occurred over the last sixty years. The United States arms not only Israel, but has a very special relationship with Saudi Arabia too.

Global Zionists are not merely concerned with Israel or even with the Jewish community at large, but with geopolitics subservient to a US / Israeli axis of power. Part and parcel of this worldview is the continued need for proactive military interventions in many strategic regions of the world to superimpose governments friendly to their global vision. Other variants of Zionism merely advocate a Jewish homeland living in peace with its Arab neighbours. I don't know why these complex issues should concern British politicians. One of the main justifications for the establishment of the State of Israel, the 1947 expulsion of half a million Palestinian Arabs and continued Jewish migration to Israel is of course the memory of the Nazi Holocaust of European Jews. The basic narrative that Western media has promoted since the end of the Second World War is that the defeated Nazi regime represented an absolute evil and thus all world powers should collaborate to thwart the reemergence of National Socialism, whenever recalcitrant nationalism raises its anachronistic head. Every single recent military intervention has been justified in these crude anti-fascist terms. Hilary Benn's December 2015 speech on British participation in the bombing of Syria is a classic case in point, evoking the glories of the infamous Churchill / Stalin / Roosevelt pact against Nazi Germany (conveniently forgetting the Molotov pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany only 3 years earlier and widescale Anglo-American economic cooperation with Nazi Germany before and during WW2) and thus placing extreme faith in one's own ruling class to spread peace and democracy rather than sow the seeds of more discontent. All recent wars share one common thread. They enjoy the support of global Zionists, including those who pose on the humanitarian left, while Islamists usually oppose US / Israeli machinations and often disagree with orthodox interpretations of the murky events that accompanied World War Two. Here I emphasise usually because the US, UK and Israel have often supported Muslim fundamentalists such as the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria, and most notoriously the autocratic Wahhabist Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

While Ken Livingstone has usually opposed recent US-led interventions, in 1998 he supported NATO's bombing of the former Yugoslavia because the alleged victims of Serb ethnic cleansing were Muslim Albanian Kosovars. In truth, the Serb minority had been shrinking for decades and in the aftermath of the NATO-imposed truce, Orthodox Christian Serbs were forced to either leave Kosovo altogether or retreat to a few tiny enclaves. Moreover, only a naive fool would deny the disproportionate influence that the Zionist and Islamist lobbies hold over British, European and North American political discourse. Had Ken Livingstone chosen to downplay Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's role in the 1918-21 genocide of Armenians, I suspect few mainstream politicians or media pundits would have cared.

Far be it from me to leap to the defence of Ken Livingstone on anything, not least on his support for the anti-democratic European Union and unbalanced mass migration. I recall welcoming his radical policies of the early 80s when, as leader of the then Greater London Council, he slashed public transport fares in a large city with notorious traffic congestion. The GLC's Fare's Fair policy led to a 10% decline in car usage in 1982 and let's not forget with a much lower population than today of around 6.3 million (now 8.5 million and growing). This policy was famously overruled by the Tory-dominated House of Lords before the GLC was abolished altogether. Ken Livingstone is basically a Euro-Communist. He passionately believes greater globalisation and interdependence can unleash the forces of progress towards a more peaceful, prosperous and equitable future. Yet as Mayor, he oversaw a widening gap between rich and poor, spiralling property prices and a growing legion of international commuters with few roots in the city alongside a rising Muslim population, who now constitute his party's most loyal voters.

May I suggest Global Zionism and Islamic Fundamentalism are two sides of the same coin. They both seek to impose their dogma on a largely borderless world. They both support mass migration, the displacement of native peoples and the undermining of traditional nation states with a few notable exceptions such as Israel that may continue to select its immigrants on strict ethno-religious grounds. More important they both need each other to spread fear, destabilise traditional social structures and to impose draconian surveillance that liberal Westerners would customarily oppose. More disturbingly, the trendy left regularly turns a blind eye to overtly misogynist practices within Europe's growing Muslim communities.

Britain needs a common sense party standing up for ordinary people born and bred in this country, most of whom are neither Jewish nor Muslim, advocating both social justice, environmental responsibility and long-term socio-economic stability. We once called it the Labour Party. It has now become little more than a pressure group of naive no-borders campaigners, illiberal social engineers and warmongering Blairites posing as anti-fascists. We need an alternative to rampant corporatism and over-reliance on free trade and banking. Moreover, we need a political movement focussed on empowering ordinary people by letting us develop the high-tech skills we will need tomorrow rather than being a mere outlet for Chinese robots.

Categories
Computing

Why are there so many recruiters?

I don't know about you, but 90% or more of my linkedin contact requests come from recruiters. I don't accept them all. Am I the kind of talented high-flyer you would want to headhunt? Probably not, in person I'm rather shy and certainly not management material. I suppose I just know a few esoteric programming tricks and have a good understanding of data and information architecture. What's more, apart from a few modules taken as part of an Open University degree, I'm entirely self-taught. With all these young whizkids graduating in IT-related degrees in a country obsessed with electronic gadgets multimedia wizardry, you'd think I'd have plenty of competition from young twenty-somethings. Despite high youth unemployment and free access to tutorials on just about any programming framework that takes your fancy, relatively few youngsters get beyond writing a few lines of Javascript. Unfortunately the tech industry does not need mediocre code monkeys who can churn out repetitive procedural scripts, for that task can be fully automated. In the software industry you do not judge someone's productivity by the amount of code they write or even by the number of hours they work, but how well their application performs. To produce lean and mean applications, you need to get your head around various programming algorithms and design patterns. Yes, it really does matter if you pass a variable by reference or by value or if you clumsily copy and paste variants of some old procedural routine rather than encapsulate it in a neat reusable function.

A good developer never stops learning new techniques to write better, more expressive, more maintainable and more efficient code, rather than clever tricks to automate monotonous tasks. That means good hands-on developers are nearly always geeks, as we have to dedicate much of our time to learning new languages and cutting-edge techniques We can learn some things by social osmosis, but only if we understand core concepts that relate to direct experience. Indeed if a subject does not actively interest us, that's what most of us do. We rely on other people's expertise, but know enough about the subject to avoid getting ripped off. In some academic fields a specialist in someone who has researched a subject extensively, but in most hard sciences specialists are people with active hands-on experience. Unless you have written and tested applications with complex and irregular business logic, you wouldn't be able to appreciate what application developers do. They just sit in front of screens writing quirky symbols with a few English-like key words. Concepts such as design patterns mean little if you have just learned how to do a simple loop. Now suppose you need to hire a new developer, for sake of argument, let's just assume you need a good NodeJS specialist. Who could possibly judge if a candidate knows their stuff? They may have an excellent CV, good qualifications and some good references, but in today's fast-changing world, these mean very little. Millions have worked directly or indirectly for major media multinationals. If you say you worked on the BBC news Website, which bit did you do? Did you just design a prototype for a new button or test a new interactive widget on different browsers? Does your recruiter really understand what skills are required?

Recruiter
Hello, Neil. It's Ryan Adams here. Look we've got a Drupal gig on at Arty Farty New Age Media over in Soho. They need a hard-core backend guy like yourself for a couple of weeks. Would £400 a day tempt you?
Me
Well, actually I'm very busy at moment (trying to fix someone else's awful code), but might be available in a couple of weeks (just in case my contract is cut short).
Recruiter
They really need someone to start straight away. This is for a massive media campaign of a leading household brand.
Me
What happened to the previous developer?
Recruiter
Oh, he had issues, some of kind of personality clash, I think. How about £450 a day?
Me
If we continue this conversation, my contract here will be terminated. Let me get back to undoing the mess the last developer here created.
Recruiter
Is your boss looking for any new developers?

One way or another for every real hands-on developer out there there's at least one recruiter, one project manager, 1 business analyst, a marketing wonk and an accountant (because many IT professionals are contractors with their own limited companies). For some jobs in London's frenetic media sector, I've been contacted by five or more recruiters from different agencies for the same job. "Do you have experience with Solr, the Zend framework, Git and IPTV?" enquires a 22 year old IT graduate. These are really just buzzwords, which mean little until more details are revealed. In most cases they just need an experienced developer who happens to have a used the required programming language in the context of a specific framework and has worked in small teams with agile methodology. Requiring a good understanding of business processes is a good way to weed out self-taught novice programmers or inexperienced IT graduates.

For over 20 years the UK education system has produced millions of graduates who can, figuratively speaking, talk the talk, and not so many who can walk the walk. Although our way of life relies on complex technology, few have more than a cursory overview of its inner workings, but millions are employed in managing the complex human interactions between business owners, government agencies and mission-critical human resources. If all recruiters went on strike tomorrow, no essential services would be disrupted. Life would carry on as usual, except slowly lead developers would have to spend a little more time hunting new talent and would probably choose other geeks just like themselves. That is precisely the scenario, that upper management would prefer to avoid. They do not want a new category of indispensable engineers who can hold their business to ransom. They do not want technical experts to see the whole picture or even gain credit for the fruits of their labour. Meeting business requirements often means just accepting you're a cog in a much bigger machine and cannot work out of sync with all the other cogs, chains, pulleys and lubricating fluids.

Categories
All in the Mind Power Dynamics

Creepy Agendas

2015 11 03  olice

Do Corbyn and Cameron agree on Policing the human mind?

Did anyone notice that we now have a shadow minister for mental health? Until recently we just had ministers for health concerned with the provision of medical services and social welfare. Indeed Labour's new allegedly anti-establishment leader chose to use his limited time at Prime Minister's Questions to address the perceived shortage of mental health services in the NHS. If you substitute the word psychiatry for mental health, you will soon understand where I'm coming from. Let's be under no illusions, when awareness-raising lobbyists talk of mental health (theoretically a positive term as we all aspire to good health in all aspects of our lives), they mean psychiatry, the notion that any deviation from some arbitrary definition of sanity merits medical treatment, intrusive monitoring and potentially hospitalisation. Indeed Mr Corbyn specifically bemoaned the lack of hospital beds for mental health patients, when in reality NHS spending on so-called mental health services has continued to rise year on year, with direct state intervention supplemented by a growing third sector. The problem is increased spending fails to meet spiralling demand, so the real question is why do so many people fail to cope emotionally?

Jeremy Corbyn comes across as extremely sincere. I shared many of his views 30 years ago and still agree with his consistent opposition to neo-imperialist faux-humanitarian wars. I rejoiced as Labour activists voted against the careerist heirs to Tony Blair and endorsed a rebel MP. Should Jeremy Corbyn wear a neatly ironed tailored suit or sing a national anthem that hails from Great Britain's colonial past? Should he acquire a modish sense of humour or feign interest in popular spectator sports? Personally, I like his apparent authenticity and prefer people to be themselves rather than try to emulate media personalities, which leads me back to the creepy mental health agenda.

This subject seems to find its way into speeches and stage-managed debates in all mainstream political parties from the Liberal Democrats to the Tories, from New Labour to the SNP, now the governing party in Scotland. Concern about mental health services is always billed as progressive and caring, yet few question the underlying authoritarian roots of the latest attempt to rebrand psychiatry.

Define Irrationality!

Many human behaviours seem irrational and some are either evil or simply self-destructive. In antiquity, long before modern medicine and social welfare, dysfunctional behaviour would be rewarded only with social exclusion and procreational failure. By definition functional behaviour serves the best interests of oneself and one's immediate family and community, while dysfunctional behaviour may satisfy temporary desires, but destroys livelihoods. However, who may define insanity and gain the right to intervene in the lives of those who exhibit signs of madness? The answer to this question goes to the very heart of our concept of personal freedom and collective responsibility. If I want to run around naked in my back garden, do I not have the freedom to do so? Some would consider this an obscene act of madness and others a harmless and perfectly natural pastime on a sunny afternoon. The apparent insanity of such an act depends very much on its social acceptability. Not all actions are entirely logical. Many serve functions other than mere physical survival. We need to nurture not only our body, but also our soul and social bonds. We gain pleasure not just from essential life-sustaining deeds such as breathing, drinking, eating and keeping fit, but from our relentless quest for greater connectedness with the outside world and above all with other human beings. We live not just for the sake of life itself, but to play, learn, communicate, explore and experience. Over the millennia we have developed an almost endless variety of rituals and pursuits to fulfil our emotional or spiritual needs. Sometimes such adventurous creativity led us to discover new techniques and thus allow our species to colonise new habitats and dedicate more time to leisure and learning than mundane survival tasks. However, we have always grappled with two competing impulses. On the one hand we may seek greater social approval and integration, a tendency we call conformism. On the other, we have a natural drive to learn new tricks and engage in new experiences. We may call this latter inquisitive impulse, non-conformism, or when expressed as a rebellion against orthodoxy, as anti-conformism.

Is Society Insane?

As a rule illogical, non-productive and/or dysfunctional behaviours are fine as long they meet social approval. In modern Britain, all sorts of very antisocial destructive antics are justified as mere drunken larks. Many seemingly irrational deeds are not just socially acceptable, but are actively promoted by advertising and social media. Obsessive gambling, intensive video-gaming and all night drug-addled raves are now fairly mainstream, advertised in digital media and glorified by celebrities. Such activities carry mere warnings, yet have the power to blind us to reality or prevent us from leading productive lives. We have become obsessed with fame and publicity. If rock stars can lead lavish lifestyles high on heroin or crack cocaine, why should I not emulate them?

By contrast many harmless non-conformist acts are simply judged mad, or in modern parlance, mental health issues. If you have just re-mortgaged your house to bet on a horse who may not win, that may be slightly unwise, but just the kind of wild things people do these days. However, if you are fixated with media lies and refuse to believe hijacked jet planes could cause the collapse of New York's famous Twin Towers in 2001, many will consider you a conspiracy theorist. It doesn't matter that historically governments have repeatedly lied to their people. If you doubt your mainstream media today, you are probably afflicted by some sort of paranoid delusion.

Shifting Goalposts

Mental ill-health criteria depend not so much on illogical dysfunctional behaviour, but on people management and social integration. If someone deviates from societal norms and behaves in a challenging way that affects social order, it is much easier for myriad social workers and psychologists to view the problem as a neurological disorder rather than a wider societal problem. While we all like to pretend we care about each other, all too often we seize on some of other people's most superficial imperfections to justify exclusion and discriminatory treatment. More investment in the mental health sector inevitably leads more people to be diagnosed with spurious personality disorders. Once labelled, a person begins to view life's challenges mainly in terms of their new psychiatric identity rather than as a complex set of psychological reactions to a divisive social rat race. The more we diagnose people with one mental health condition or another, the more we need to invest in treatment for such conditions. Worse still such conditions are increasingly seen as natural genetic variations that have always existed.

The powerful pro-psychiatry lobby has meanwhile coopted the language of the radical left. People diagnosed with personality disorders are now seen as victims of stigma against their labels, rather than victims of psychiatry and of a wider society unwilling to understand why they behave as they do. They claim to defend the rights of the vulnerable, yet absolve the society that caused their emotional problems.

By equating physical health with mental health, we reduce complex human thoughts and feelings to mere physiological organs that respond to medical treatment. Some people do have genuine neurological deficits or brain damage. Our brains are amazingly versatile and adaptive. Some have coped incredibly well even after losing half their brain. These conditions are rightly the realm of neurologists, but most sufferers of depression, OCD, anorexia or psychosis do not have any discernible neurological defects that predate their first exposure to psychoactive drugs and a very large proportion of those who suffered psychosis had been regular users of recreational drugs, even of allegedly soft drugs like cannabis.

Awareness raisers will endlessly recycle the statistic that 1 in 4 adults will suffer a mental health issue. In Jeremy Corbyn's words this means everyone has a close friend or relative who has experienced a mental health crisis (which we used to call a nervous breakdown). The corollary is we need to invest in public healthcare and welfare to help such people. In other words we need more psychiatrists, social workers and welfare dependence rather than more tolerant and accommodating workplaces and less insane social competition. If someone finds it hard to meet and keep friends, is it necessarily their fault? Do we only act if social exclusion can be attributed to racism, sexism or homophobia? Why the hell do we all have to act cool and feign interest in shallow junk culture just to be popular among our peers? Why do we measure ourselves against movie stars, rather just look after our natural bodies? Can we not just be ourselves?

Lastly where do we draw the line between normality and mental ill-health, between sadness and depression or between audacity and insanity? These lines have been steadily blurring for over 20 years to encompass a widening cross-section of society. By normalising mental health labels, we're walking down a slippery slope to a Brave New World, in which everyone is classified by their neurological traits and all aspects of our lives are monitored for the greater social good.

The only irony is the media has already begun to explain away Corbyn's views on foreign affairs, wars and monarchy in condescending psychiatric terms. Yet expanding the surveillance state has been as much part of the elite agenda as waging destabilising wars in the Middle East. Corbyn will have little impact on any policies that are effectively devolved to NATO, the EU or global banks, but on mental health he is at one with Cameron.

Categories
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.