September 18, 2011 § Leave a comment
Narrated by Tony Benn, with music by Brian Eno. The clip ends with a call to join the Antiwar Mass Assembly in Trafalgar Square on 8 October: http://www.antiwarassembly.org
September 6, 2011 § Leave a comment
by Brenda Heard
The images have become commonplace. Pick-up trucks laden with rocket launchers and machine guns. Dusty men with their rifles, poised as so many Rambo’s. Billows of smoke that linger after the bomber has flown on to its next target. These are the images of contemporary conflict. Differences of socio-political opinion are settled by bloody confrontation.
True, violent conflict is as old as mankind itself. True, self-defence is a necessity, even a responsibility. But the business of war has become the norm rather than the exception. The significance of this development lies not merely in the multitude of violent and unnecessary deaths—but more so in our readily viewing this reality with a novel brand of bold nonchalance.
In business-speak for international arms dealing, DSEi—Defence & Security Equipment International—boasts that its biennial exhibition ‘provides a time-effective opportunity to meet the whole defence and security supply chain’. DSEi further promises that this year’s event will exceed attendance figures from 2009: 25,170 attendees; 1280 exhibitors; 98 countries; 70 official delegations; 27 national pavilions. Just have a look at its slick website offering ‘infinite opportunities’ to those who would jump on the weapons carousel.
The DSEi exhibit organiser, Clarion Events, offers a patronising disclaimer:
While we would all wish to see a world in which no nation has any need of equipment for defence or peacekeeping, it is not the world we live in now.
August 13, 2011 § Leave a comment
Author Hari Kunzru writes on the British riots in an excellent piece for The Guardian‘s Comment is free:
In a society that has abandoned or devalued most forms of mutual assistance in favour of a solipsistic entrepreneurialism, it’s hardly surprising that, faced with the end of the good times, people help themselves. Fear and greed are our ruling passions. That’s true of the kids smashing shop windows to steal trainers. It’s also true of the MPs fiddling their expenses, the police officers taking backhanders, the journalists breaking into phones. Why wouldn’t they? Why wouldn’t any of us? The example has been set by our new masters, the one per cent for whom and by whom we’re governed. The ability of powerful actors in the financial markets to socialise risk while privatising profit appears, to the financial peasantry, indistinguishable from organised crime. No reason for the rest of us to stand on ceremony.
One may object to this rhetoric (bankers = looters) on the grounds that markets have social utility, or that bankers don’t beat up shopkeepers (they don’t have to) and sometimes give to charity. One may also feel that any attempt to understand the rioters’ motivations risks shading into justification. The strongest objection to any argument based on social conditions is the oft-made one about individual responsibility: whatever the prevailing economic or social situation, not everyone chooses to behave in a particular way, whether that’s insider trading or knocking over Evans Cycles. However, it’s hard not to think we’ve made a culture in which the strong and swift are encouraged to feel they bear no responsibility towards the halt and lame. Now, as the wheels fall off the global financial system, fear and greed are free to roam unchecked, without bothering to mask their faces.
August 12, 2011 § 4 Comments
John Pilger’s 2000 documentary on the effects of economic sanctions on Iraq remains an important testament to the pre-Iraq war history of international crimes against the Iraqi people.
Following footage of George H.W. Bush’s convincing announcement that “You, the people of Iraq, are not our enemy. We do not seek your destruction,” Pilger narrates from Iraq:
What happens when modern civilized life is taken away? Imagine all the things we take for granted are suddenly not available, or severely limited: clean water, fresh food, soap, paper, pencils, books, light bulbs, life-saving drugs. Telephone calls to the outside world are extremely difficult, computers no longer work, when you fall ill you must sell your furniture to buy medicine, when you have a tooth out there’s no anesthetic. No country will trade with yours, and your money is almost worthless. Soon your children become beggars. It’s as if the world has condemned your whole society to a slow death, and all because of a dispute between governments over which you have no control. That’s what has happened here in Iraq, where almost 10 years of extraordinary isolation, imposed by the U.N. and enforced by America and Britain, have killed more people than the two atomic bombs dropped on Japan, including half a million young children.”
August 10, 2011 § Leave a comment
Nina Power, senior lecturer in philosophy at Roehampton University, writes in The Guardian:
Those condemning the events of the past couple of nights in north London and elsewhere would do well to take a step back and consider the bigger picture: a country in which the richest 10% are now 100 times better off than the poorest, where consumerism predicated on personal debt has been pushed for years as the solution to a faltering economy, and where, according to the OECD, social mobility is worse than any other developed country.
As Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett point out in The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, phenomena usually described as “social problems” (crime, ill-health, imprisonment rates, mental illness) are far more common in unequal societies than ones with better economic distribution and less gap between the richest and the poorest. Decades of individualism, competition and state-encouraged selfishness – combined with a systematic crushing of unions and the ever-increasing criminalisation of dissent – have made Britain one of the most unequal countries in the developed world.
August 10, 2011 § Leave a comment
Who would have known that Nick Clegg was such a prophet? Long before he joined the Tories in a governing coalition he had predicted that ill-conceived austerity measures could lead people to riot. But if he was so certain, woudln’t that suggest that he triggered the riots by furnishing the circumstances under which he predicted they would happen?
August 3, 2011 § 3 Comments
This is a very revealing documentary, a must see.
Jacques Peretti talks to everyone from Hugh Grant to Rupert Murdoch insiders to find out how celebrities, cops and politicians cosied up with, and then turned against, Murdoch.
June 25, 2011 § 15 Comments
Following is an extract from Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut in which he describes the scenes of ‘obscene brutality’ he witnessed as a prisoner of war in Dresden which inspired his classic novel Slaughterhouse-Five.
May 8, 2011 § 1 Comment
Tony Judt’s Ill Fares The Land: A Treatise On Our Present Discontents is an elegantly crafted elegy for the postwar consensus and a concise and erudite statement by a towering public intellectual of political wisdom accumulated over a lifetime of achivement. Its intended audience is ‘youths on both sides of Atlantic,’ who are too leery of civic engagement because of their disillusionment with politics and suspicion of government. Judt aims to invigorate their interest with challenging ideas and a practical project for political transformation. He offers no utopia, but an alternative that is ‘better than anything else to hand.’ He makes a case for social democracy, a form of government that can play an enhanced role without threatening liberties.
Judt begins with a diagnosis of the present malaise, a condition JK Galbraith described as ‘private wealth and public squalor.’ Judt finds something ‘profoundly wrong’ with an age which has made ‘a virtue out of the pursuit of material self-interest.’ Like Oscar Wilde’s cynics, he laments, ‘we know what things cost but have no idea of what they are worth.’ With ‘growth’ as the only index of progress, politicians have been able to claim success even as inequality has reached grotesque proportions. The decline began with Reagan and Thatcher’s assault on the welfare state, but has proceeded apace both in Britain and the US under successive Democratic and Labour governments. The result is a society marked by extreme inequality and broken communities. Judt draws on the work of Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, authors of The Spirit Level, to show a correlation between the extreme inequality of the American and British society and its adverse consequences on health, crime, and social mobility.