This is an audio version of a blog post I published a couple of days ago. It went down well, so I thought I’d try it in audio form. It’s shorter than usual, and just features me – no interviews this time (but more of those coming soon).
Friday’s Olympics opening ceremony was spectacular enough to tame the most cynical among us. From a technical perspective, the forging of the Olympic rings in a mock-up of Industrial Revolution Britain was simply incredible. But director Danny Boyle’s real triumph was in reminding a deeply unpatriotic nation that the British do have things to be proud of – and he focused on all the right things.
The ability to laugh at yourselves is a national asset, and the British are probably the world experts; so much so, that we tend to forget our national achievements. A reminder that this small island lit the spark that created a global industrial revolution – which is still underway – was timely. And that talent wasn’t a one-off. The 1940s creation of the computer by Alan Turing and the web in the 1990s by Tim Berners-Lee show a degree of consistency.
But it may have puzzled many viewers around the world to see an entire segment dedicated to our universal healthcare system. Our grandparents returned from the second world war only to vote out the hero Churchill and replace his government with the most left-wing one in British history, whose greatest achievement was the creation in 1948 of the NHS, along with a welfare state. The soldiers were no doubt grateful for Churchill’s war leadership, but their battle had been against a right-wing ideology, Fascism, which had attacked trade unions and workers’ rights. Having won that war, they returned home and expected Socialist ideas to triumph in Britain – and for a few years, they did.
So when a handful of online morons attacked the ceremony as “leftie”, they were kind-of right. Britain’s history is undeniably leftie in many aspects. It may have upset right-wing morons that the British celebrate the NHS as a national triumph, but the simple fact is: we do. Chief among morons on the night was right-wing Tory MP Aidan Burley:
The most leftie opening ceremony I have ever seen – more than Beijing,the capital of a communist state! Welfare tribute next?
Thank God the athletes have arrived! Now we can move on from leftie multi-cultural crap. Bring back red arrows, Shakespeare and the Stones!
And of course, finished off with the essential back-pedal:
Seems my tweet has been misunderstood. I was talking about the way it was handled in the show, not multiculturalism itself.
For those who haven’t heard of him before, Burley’s previous claim to fame was organising a Nazi-themed stag night. His tweets are so beautifully laden with ignorance and hatred; I can only send Mr Burley my heartfelt thanks for such excellent material. Besides the fact that he still seems to think China is a communist country (which decade is he living in?), a couple of points stand out:
He clearly loathes the celebration of Britain’s socialised healthcare system, as shown by “Welfare tribute next?” – but yes, why not a tribute to British welfare? Let’s remember for a moment that pre-war Britain, the world’s most powerful nation, had widespread malnutrition and preventable diseases, while post-war Britain, virtually bankrupt, managed to put shoes on children’s feet and food in stomachs far more widely than ever before in its history. We need to remember that lesson when morons today spin the “we can’t afford it” line. We can afford whatever we have the will to provide. Our national wealth is huge – the fact that much of it is siphoned away by a small, global elite is merely a new hurdle to overcome.
But of most interest to me were the comments about multiculturalism. The ceremony’s soundtrack was a reminder that per capita, Britain is probably the most prolific creator of new music in the world. This was not always so – look at Britain’s musical history pre-1960, and you’ll find our country ranking pretty much nowhere in the creation of popular music. Unlike the gradual development of science that led to the industrial revolution, Britain’s rise as a global music hub has been meteoric. This is what really pisses off the closet-racist little-Englanders like Burley. Because our musical supremacy is the side-effect of something uniquely British: our openness to the world, and our transformation into a multi-racial country over the course of the past century.
It no doubt brought a tear to many eyes that one of the moments commemorated in the ceremony was the arrival in 1948 of the Empire Windrush, a ship carrying black immigrants from the West Indies, and representing the birth of Britain’s modern black community (although not its first). Many more followed, and then came Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, West Africans, Europeans and others. It should never be forgotten that these immigrants were met, initially, with a wall of hostility. Yet Britain (and London especially) has integrated immigrants into our culture – and our culture into theirs – like no other modern nation. And this is why Burley was so upset; not because the opening ceremony was unrepresentative of modern Britain, but because it represented us so well.
London is the world’s music hub because it’s the place where Europeans, Indians, Jamaicans, West Africans, Arabs and many others can meet, mingle and create. Last night’s ceremony was headlined by Dizzee Rascal, a grime MC from London. Dizzee Rascal (Dylan Mills) is half-Ghanaian, half-Nigerian; a blend that is a product of Britain’s imperial history, and more likely to be found in London than in Lagos or Accra. Grime is a British derivative of Hip Hop, with a big dose of Jamaican, British and other influences. The British rap style owes as much to Jamaica and London as it does to US hip hop, and has been honed by generations of London MCs (rappers) involved in the reggae, jungle, drum & bass, garage, grime, and dubstep music scenes.
So to summarise, we have a Ghanaian/Nigerian Londoner who excels in a London-invented musical style with roots in West Africa, Jamaica, Britain and other parts of the old British Empire. What could possibly be more British?
I felt proud on Friday night: I was proud of my great city (and its musical excellence), and many achievements of this country. But I was also proud of Ghana and Nigeria for their beautiful musical heritages. I was proud of the New Yorkers who created rap, which spread and evolved around the globe. I was proud of Jamaica, a small island with a loud voice. I was especially proud of generations of young Londoners who have ignored the hateful racists in British society, and combined their love of music in ever more intricate and sophisticated ways. I was proud of my grandfather and millions of others who fought fascists at home and abroad, and helped lay the foundation for modern Britain. Nothing we saw on Friday could have been achieved by Britain alone, without a global exchange between many cultures over many centuries. On that basis, “national pride” is meaningless. Why confine your pride to an arbitrary geographic area? Even the young Rolling Stones, mentioned in Aidan Burley’s moronic tweets, were merely creating a 1960s British adaptation of a black American art form, Rock & Roll.
Danny Boyle created a genuine celebration of what it really means to be British in the 21st Century. Most viewers loved what they saw; but some (including the unpleasant Mr Burley) are clearly uncomfortable with the reality of modern Britain, and would like to somehow reverse what has happened to this country. Mr Burley, this is our Britain, and we’re proud of it. Feel free to stay and enjoy the party.
I’ve blogged previously on some of the moronic theories surrounding Afrocentric thinking; this image, liberated from Facebook, illustrates one of my favourites.
Like many nonsensical ideas, this is based on a grain of truth: some European artists did paint Jesus as white, and often blond with blue eyes. There are two main reasons for this, the first being simple ignorance; the second being that the Vatican, on a relentless mission to persecute Jews, tried to hide the awkward fact that their Messiah (if he had indeed existed) was a Middle Eastern Jew.
From the Afrocentric perspective, the inaccurate depiction of Jesus as a northern European could only mean one thing: yet another white conspiracy to steal the true history of the black man.
The top two pictures seem to based on a moronic misreading of Revelation 1:14-15:
14 The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.
So the designers of this image have decided that “hair white like wool” means Jesus sported an afro (they’ve obviously never seen a lamb) and “feet like bronze glowing in a furnace” means he had dark skin (they’ve obviously never seen molten bronze either).
This leaves the map, which is deliberately misleading. The continent of Africa is shown, with an inset showing the Middle East (which isn’t in Africa, although it is adjacent to Egypt).
This is about as nonsensical as conspiracy theories come, and incredibly easy to pick apart. So why do people believe it? This theory results from the collision of two strong and conflicting memes. The African diaspora has experienced incredibly brutal treatment from white society, but also received Christianity from whites. The impulse to separate the two is natural. Perhaps it would be more intellectually honest to reject Christianity altogether; many have of course done so. Some have adopted Islam (though this comes with the problem that it, like Christianity, originates outside Africa). Others have tried to adopt African animist beliefs, but this is fraught with difficulty. Animist belief varies widely from place to place in Africa, and has only been documented in recent centuries. Of course, adoption of Atheism may resolve much of this conflict, but is a step too far for Afrocentrics raised in strongly Christian homes.
Unfortunately, the teaching of myth as history is strong in the Afrocentric tradition, and it perpetuates rather than resolves the problems faced by the black diaspora in Europe and America. Teaching black children to adopt evidence-free dogma, rather than scientific reasoning, relegates them to the educational second ranks in Western society. Teaching a child to question, to look for evidence, and to keep an open mind, is essential to success in a modern, rational society.
The saddest thing of all is that, rather than celebrate the true strengths of African civilisation, which are unique, the Afrocentrics try to impose Western measures of success on Africa, and end up looking foolish in the process. The painting of Jesus (essentially a Roman invention) as a black man is a great example of this.
My recent post, I Never Left The Left, The Left Left Me has had a lot more hits and generated more discussion than I’d expected. John Brissenden left a thoughtful, fairly lengthy comment that I wrote a very lengthy response to; I thought it would be useful to share John’s and my reply as a new post, and invite further comments. This subject (the loss of civil libertarianism on the left) has been on my mind for a long time, and I wrote the original post to begin the process of defining what I think the left should become (or alternatively, what should replace the left). Myself and John appear to agree on many/most things – this is written in the spirit of friendly debate… so if you feel like commenting please keep it friendly!
Moronwatch, I write this as a fan, so you know, more in sorrow than in anger and all that, but I’m struggling to see anything here beyond the anguish of someone on the hyphenated Left.
The gist of your post seems, from the title onwards, to be hankering after some non-existent Golden Age of the Left, and therefore inherently conservative. Anyone on the Left (a usage I personally hate, incidentally: can’t we just call ourselves socialists?) must, by definition, want to see a fundamental shift in existing relations of power. Yet, in your criticisms, as I read them, of positive discrimination and of “political correctness” – and I assume you’re familiar with Richard Herring’s take on all of that – you seem to be arguing for the maintenance of those existing power relations which suit you.
I don’t know your ethnicity, but I’m guessing from your comments that, like me, you are a white male.
The freedom of speech which you claim is under attack from the left is a privilege. And it is a privilege which you would not enjoy to the same extent were you a woman, or for that matter, a person of colour. I remember an occasion when you and I, trapped within patriarchy as we are, went to defend a woman on Twitter who had been attacked as being “fat” by some corpulent Moron. So I know you know what I’m talking about, and I further assume that you are aware of the horrific abuse that women who express opinions no more controversial than yours or mine face when they express those opinions online. You will also be familiar with the fact that people who happen to possess a vagina are subjected daily to ridicule, abuse, unwanted and often disgusting sexual advances, quote apart from more severe forms of abuse and discrimination.
So the freedom to make jokes about rape has to be considered in that context. And, as far as I am aware, no one prevented Richard Herring or anyone else from making such jokes. The simple fact is that they’ve had their freedom of speech. And others have the same freedom to call them out on it, as long as the power relations I have described persist.
Now, if you were to say that there is a tension between a class analysis and what has become known as identity politics, I’d agree with you. As Tom Waits says, human beings are just monkeys with guns and money. We’re all just trying to work our way through this mess. But that is not the same as saying that those who are working, through their daily lives, to confront and change a bewilderingly-complex system of inequitable power relations have suddenly “left” you. As long as those power relations persist, you and I don’t get to make that judgement unless we’ve decided that current power relations are just fine the way they are. And I don’t think you have decided that.
Thanks for the contribution.
I don’t think I’m remembering a Golden Age. The left I grew up in was frustrating and often even reactionary for a number of reasons. There were the so-called “Communists”, who were so right-wing that many of them joined the SDP when it broke away from Labour, leading to a big collapse in CP membership long before the Berlin Wall fell. There were the trade unionist Old Labourites, who were working class and for social equality, but often socially conservative. There were the pro-terrorism groups of the far left. And so on…
Yet, Labour and the broader left in general had two features that seem to be largely missing today: namely, a deep belief in civil liberties, and close contact with Britain’s urban, working and poor people. As I was getting tired of activism for various reasons (post-miners’ strike), smart suits and posh accents were suddenly becoming the standard Labour look. There was a very abrupt change in style, a decade before Blairism. If you want to look for a Labour era to be proud of, look to Roy Jenkins’ social reforms in the late-60s, dealing with the death penalty (abolished), abortion (legal), gambling (legal), homosexuality (legal), etc. – that, and the Attlee government reforms of the 1940s, are the two moment in recent history for the British left to be proud of.
I voted Labour till 2001. The Iraq War and secret support for rendition and torture, meant that many senior Labour figures were/are war criminals or guilty of crimes against humanity. Not just Blair, but Brown, Straw, David Miliband, Reid… many of these people’s supporters are still at the top of the party. Is the harbouring of people who may be guilty of such crimes not enough to convince you that Labour is a dead force for progressivism? The only senior Labourites to resign were Robin Cook and (belatedly) Clare Perry. There have been a number of “last straws” for me: the Iraq War; the introduction of detention without trial and the attempt to extend it to 42 days; support for the human rights abuses known as the war on terror; continuation of immensely draconian drug policies; turning a blind eye to a rise in police brutality and their impunity; ASBOs; increase in prison population; the draconian “extreme porn” possession law; the failure to invest in what working people need most: housing and transport… the list could go on for a long time.
When the Tories came to power, Ken Clarke, to his great credit, tried to deal with the failed policy of locking people up in prison. When a Tory Home Secretary is more progressive than any of his Labour predecessors, hasn’t Labour died as a progressive force?
The conservatism extends to the grassroots. In my first podcast I spoke to well-paid, intelligent, trade unionised, working-class women whose jobs are under attack by Labourites (and also Greens), because they take their clothes off for a living. Some on the left are trying to push prostitution underground, from its current, semi-legal status. The moral agenda once pushed by the Tory blue-hair brigade is now mainstream left-wing orthodoxy. Bare flesh is a menace to society! Does that sound progressive to you? The tragic thing is, that the sexual revolutions that have happened since the 1960s have made Britain a safer place for women than ever before. The “objectification” brigade, far from protecting women, are trying to turn the clock back, putting sexuality back in its secret box (where abuse can take place, unseen by the outside world). The new morality agenda of the left is nothing to do with protecting women from abuse, and everything to do with middle-class people intellectualising their bigoted dislike of working class women who use their bodies to earn money.
A genuinely progressive government today would examine the following issues: Decriminalising drug possession; Regulating drug supplies; Legalising and regulating prostitution fully; Replace the IPCC with a genuinely independent body to hold the police to account; Roll back detention without trial; Roll back ASBOs; reduce prison populations; invest in housing and transport…
As for political correctness: yes, I’m a white (Jewish) male. However, as I’ve blogged previously, I’ve spent much of the past few decades as a minority among black communities. I can attest that there’s a racist minority in sections of Britain’s black communities; unfortunately, today’s left is made up of white, middle-class people who have no direct experience of urban life (beyond Notting Hill or Hoxton, anyway). Not only are they blissfully unaware that racism cuts both ways, but they even excuse black racism as somehow “our fault”. It doesn’t seem to dawn on many of the Oxbridge PC-left, who have little experience of black British society, that black people can be every bit as conservative or bigoted as anyone else. I’ve witnessed black-British racism (usually of the casual type) against West Africans, whites, mixed-race people, Asians and Somalis. The white, middle class left is either unaware of these issues, or afraid to comment; it is left to brave outspoken commentators like Darcus Howe to respond.
I tend not to use the word Socialist much, because in the 150 years or so of Socialism, the word has been appropriated by a huge diversity of people and movements, many of them authoritarian. Since (I believe) liberty has become detached from socialism, I prefer the term Social Libertarian, to demonstrate that the two sides are inseparable. Authoritarianism is THE great danger of the present day, and to me, authoritarians are the enemy of progress, regardless of whether they call themselves socialists or conservatives.
My grandfather’s generation of poor, 1930s East End Jews, saw similar when fascism arose in the East End. None of the main parties (including Labour) took the fascist threat seriously, and many Jews turned to the Communist Party as the only anti-fascist force. Now again today, fascism and police brutality are on the rise, and no mainstream political force seems to understand what’s going on – indeed, they are pandering to the anti-immigration sentiment. I have sympathy for many of the young people who find the BNP or EDL attractive – the far-right, unlike today’s left, knows how to speak the language of today’s urban youth.
It’s time for the rise of a new progressive movement with balls – and I don’t care if that sounds sexist.
Richard Herring is a favourite comedian of mine. He enjoys causing controversy (as, in my opinion, all good comedians should), and is funny with it. He recently caused a stir on Twitter by writing the following in his regular Metro column:
At one gig, a woman was loudly and unamusingly commentating on everything that happened. I said to her: ‘You’re a bit talkative, aren’t you? You’re loquacious. It’s annoying. You’re the one woman in the world where a man would put Rohypnol in your drink and then leave you in the pub.’
Funny? I’d say so, as heckle put-downs go. The people it offended were not my usual targets; they were some of the better known (along with many less well known) voices of the British left. Not only was the joke attacked, but the very right to refer to rape within comedy itself was questioned. I joined in the discussion, defending Herring’s right to free speech (the quality of the joke itself is down to personal taste). To me, there’s only one question that may affect his right to joke about rape: did his comment, in any way, put women in more danger of being sexually assaulted? I would say not.
The tendency for the left to attack free speech in this way has grown hugely since my flirtations with left-wing activism in the 1980s. How did it become so humourless, censorious and (from the perspective of someone who used to feel at home on the left) downright embarrassing?
It’s pretty normal, in my Twitter encounters, for right-wingers to label me a commie or some other meaningless “leftie”-type label. It’s certainly true, as should be clear to regular readers, that my political roots are on the left, and in many ways my views still remain there. MoronWatch arrived on Twitter expecting to find a wealth of deeply stupid right-wingers, and I haven’t been disappointed in that. In my observation, the IQ of the right is undoubtedly below that of the left – and research backs that up. But on some occasions when I tangle with left-wingers, I’m left surprised and disappointed with the lack of thoughtfulness and intelligence that I’d once have associated with them.
The left began from a powerful intellectual base: the progressive philosophers and activists of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The progressives analyzed and understood Capitalism better than its defenders did – after all, if you benefit from the status quo, there’s no need to understand the system’s strength or its flaws; you defend it without requiring intellect. Furthermore, and (I think) even more importantly, the left developed the modern foundation of individual liberty that underlies so much political thinking today.
Yes, you read correctly: the early left was the standard-bearer for political and individual freedoms. This will confuse many morons-of-the-right, because that’s not the story they’ve been told. The Cold War entailed the telling of a simple story by the US propaganda machine: The Free World vs. The Evil Communists. The loss of the Russian Revolution to Stalinism added weight to the claims that capitalism=freedom and communism=repression. But it wasn’t nearly that simple, then or ever. The first person to call himself a Libertarian wasn’t some tax-hating rich guy, but a 19th century French Anarchist Communist called Joseph Déjacque. The Russian Revolution, destroyed in practise by Stalin and then in memory by Cold War American propaganda was an explosion of freedom in one of the world’s most authoritarian countries. Among many other acts, the revolution legalised homosexuality, with leaders declaring “homosexual relationships and heterosexual relationships are treated exactly the same by the law” – decades before the “Land of the Free” got around to doing the same thing. And even during the Cold War, while the US could boast of better freedom of speech at home than in the Soviet Union (although the differences were exaggerated), it was simultaneously responsible for a massive, global attack on democracy and free speech (one strand of which came back to haunt the US on September 11 2001).
By the post-war period, the left had split into three broad sections: the social democratic, moderate strand that had gained power in western Europe, the authoritarianism of the Soviet Union and its communist supporters, and a libertarian strand led by the Russian revolutionary, Leon Trotsky. Perhaps the Trotskyists were ready to build a global, libertarian left, but Trotsky was murdered in 1940 by an agent of Stalin, and his fledgling movement fragmented into multiple, feuding splinter groups, brilliantly satirised in The Life of Brian. When the Soviet Union collapsed, so did the remnants of Communist parties worldwide. The formerly social democratic parties embraced “the market” (in other words, the rights of corporations were enshrined above the rights of individuals) and simultaneously became more authoritarian.
What remained of the old left had become conservative, authoritarian, unintelligent and dogmatic and, as I mentioned above, downright embarrassing. In place of free debate, political correctness now rules various subjects unacceptable for discussion, and you can expect lefties to shout you down if you try to talk about (or joke about) Forbidden Subjects. The British left has lost its working-class roots; its commentators are primarily middle-class professionals with no links to urban youth. It’s of no surprise then that the left had no more idea than the right as to why young people rioted last year.
To make up for the lack of non-white faces, the left has spent the past three decades fast-tracking black people into key roles; the result has been that some of the leading black political figures of the left have been incompetent and often self-serving. Their appointment makes the left look more mixed, but leaves it as far removed from racial minorities as ever. The left’s painfully PC views on race have suppressed, rather than enhanced discussion on so many important issues.
Examples of the moronic left-wing attitudes and ideas I frequently encounter include:
- Karl Marx is no longer a progressive thinker of his day, but a deity whose every word is sacred. In a recent debate about sex-worker rights, I was told that Marx didn’t support them. So therefore it’s not left-wing to support them (what could be more conservative than freezing your ideology in the mid-19th century?)
- The market is always evil (neatly mirroring the right-wing morons who think the market is always right).
- Every problem in black communities is caused by racism or is a legacy of the slave trade or colonialism (this pleases afrocentric thinkers, but does nothing to understand or fix real-life problems).
- Only white people can be racist, because if non-whites people are racist, it’s not their fault – we made them do it by being evil to them. Note the colonial attitude here: apparently black and Asian people are simple creatures who learned everything from us.
- While women can (of course) hold opinions on everything, female issues are the preserve of female discussion only (I was recently told by an apparently liberal person that I couldn’t judge whether a woman was a feminist or not – presumably because I’m male, although the person refused to clarify).
The left no longer values science as it once did – indeed, its loudest spokespeople appear to overwhelmingly consist of non-science graduates. The irrational hatred of genetically-modified organisms (because they are made by evil corporations) is one example. Never mind that GMOs have the potential to lift millions of people out of starvation; the fact that they were created for profit makes them evil. The PC-left castigates modern society for its environmental destruction and wars, but often idolises primitive “tribal” societies as being “wiser custodians of the planet”. In reality, many primitive societies destroyed their own environments (and sometimes themselves); and violence is probably lower today than at any point in human history. Idolising an imaginary golden past is the definition of conservative, not progressive; today’s left is often deeply conservative.
While attacks on sexual freedom used to come from the right, now they largely come from the left, using the intellectually-vacant excuse of “objectification” – effectively meaningless, but giving so-called liberals a cover to attack the baring of flesh, just as right-wing religious types used to do.
Although I have some nostalgia for the old left, it seems best to put it out of its misery now. Authoritarianism is on the rise, and I see no more sign that the left is deeply opposed to this than I do on the right. A new Social Libertarianism is needed, resting on twin pillars: social justice and individual freedom. Social justice isn’t just a “nice to have”, and neither is liberty; I’m convinced that neither can possibly exist without the other, and that both are vital to prevent a coming economic and social collapse resulting from today’s corporatocracy. The dangers to our freedom today come from an intertwined dual menace: corporations and the militarised state. Like fairness and freedom, corporate profiteering and the police state go hand in hand. The enemies of freedom were once largely found on the right; now they exist across the entire political spectrum. The new political battle-lines are drawn; those who attack a man’s right to involve controversial subjects in humour are the enemies of free speech, however “progressive” or “liberal” they may appear on the surface.
Denver, Colorado. Yesterday, yet another unknown white American opened fire on some of his fellow citizens, apparently at random. He attended a premier of the latest Batman movie, threw a smoke grenade, and strolled around shooting (apparently) complete strangers. This story is so familiar, as is the aftermath: arguments over gun control, heated discussions over why people do this, sick jokes. But who can blame the jokers? We’ve been round this loop so many times before – what else is there to say?
This – and I mean people opening fire on random strangers with no apparent political target or goal – is overwhelmingly an American phenomenon. I found a list of notable school shootings on Wikipedia and crunched some numbers (I realise that this one wasn’t a school shooting, but I wanted a quick global comparison of such events, and this was the first reliable-looking resource I found).
Here’s a breakdown of the above list:
- USA (current pop: 312m) : 118
- Canada (pop:34m): 11
- Europe (pop: 738m): 22
- South America, Asia and Australia (pop: 4572m): 13
- Africa isn’t mentioned: although it’s a continent where many horrors have occurred over the past century, kids walking into school with guns and spraying their classmates with bullets may not be among them.
A European like myself may start by smugly noting just how much more prevalent such events are in North America. But this is to miss a wider point. It seems that the “white world” has a random violence problem; factoring in the one incident in Australia, only 7.5% of these incidents happened in Asia or South America, regions comprising well over half of the world’s population (this ignores that two of the “Asian” incidents took place in Israel, which is effectively a European colony too – I didn’t check whether these Israeli incidents were “classic” school shootings, or the result of the Israel/Palestine land struggle).
It is Europe, and its diaspora, that has claimed the moral authority to dominate, invade, bully, occupy, bomb and manipulate the rest of the world’s populations for the past 500 years or so. The collapse of the European empires didn’t end this behaviour, but merely shifted the centre of the Empire from London, Paris and Berlin to Washington DC. Indeed, America has been relentless in pursuing the same claims that Europe had once made: Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Lebanon, Libya, Iran – these (and their resources) were all territories jealously claimed by European powers before the new American Empire came into being.
This article isn’t about analysing why events like yesterday’s in Denver happen – I’m sure even as I write, thousands of blog posts have been published on that subject. I’m merely pointing out what should be obvious: not only does the “Western World” (aka white world) not have the moral authority for its endless wars and occupations; it lacks any moral authority at all. Most of the huge slaughters in the past few centuries have been carried out by Europeans or their descendents; and even those few that weren’t – the Cambodian killing fields or the Rwandan genocide – have Whitey’s fingerprints all over them (America’s secret Cambodian war led directly to the Killing Fields, and The French, Belgians and the Vatican were squarely in the frame for Rwanda).
This shooting is a reminder of something that most of the world is never allowed to forget: the violence that is so much more implicit in European cultures than almost any other (an excellent book, Dark Continent, looks in more depth at this truth). Westerners have deep trouble understanding or believing this, despite the endless wealth of evidence surrounding us. Even today, far-right agitators attempt to persuade us that it is the Muslim world, not us, that is the threat to world peace; a precursor to persuading morons that yet more white violence, just one last push against Iran, or Venezuela perhaps, is the answer to the problems facing the planet.
It’s time for Whitey to get some self-knowledge. When the European diaspora ends its eternal blood lust, the world will take a huge step towards civilisation. While America is incapable of stopping crazy, gun-wielding morons from shooting up schools, McDonald’s or cinemas, how can it possibly justify having military bases (undeclared occupations) in over 150 countries?
Europe has always been the world’s most divided and war-torn continent (the past 60 years of relative peace have helped us forget this inconvenient truth). In the 20th century, we decided to finally finish the job by tearing ourselves (and much of the outside world) to pieces in the two biggest wars ever seen. Although the Americans tend to overestimate US involvement in the European part of World War II, it’s undeniable that we owe America a huge debt of gratitude; firstly for joining the war in 1942, but perhaps even more significantly for the huge bail-out Europe received afterwards – better known as the Marshall Plan. Yes it’s true, the USA itself reaped huge rewards by holding Western Europe away from the Soviet Union; the bail-out kept America in the game as a global superpower – and after 1990, THE global superpower. But to deny US generosity would be wrong: to put it in American terms: they saved our asses.
The bail-out had far more than financial consequences. It allowed Europe to escape a spiral of poverty and bankruptcy, and implement a continent-wide social democracy, providing freedom, prosperity and a generous safety net to all Western Europeans. With universal healthcare, our life expectancies rocketed, and Europe’s workers became healthier and more productive, yielding economic gains. Generous welfare safety nets enabled people to take more risks, and thus encouraged entrepreneurialism. Social mobility rocketed.
Meanwhile across the Atlantic, America was heading in the opposite direction. The military-corporate war machine didn’t want to be closed down, and found an excuse to turn the short-term war into a permanent one: the “Red Threat”. So long as Americans could be kept ignorant and afraid (a condition which requires endless warfare), the corporations and military could endlessly undermine freedom and democracy, and grab power away from the people. To their own surprise, the US corporatocracy won the Cold War; this wasn’t the plan. Without war, the American people would demand a smaller military and greater freedom. New “threats” needed to be found (and, as we know, they were). As George Orwell wrote in his classic Nineteen Eighty-Four:
The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous (full quote)
In WWII, American troops arrived in Europe to discover that they were better fed and taller than Europeans: now that has reversed. Europeans are now more likely to progress through the social hierarchies than Americans. The American Dream is still alive and well… but in Europe, not America.
Sooner or later, as Eisenhower warned in 1961, the power of the military-industrial complex would come to outweigh elected government, at which point democracy will be under mortal threat. That time may have now arrived. The 2000 Presidential election was clearly rigged by corporations working hand-in-hand with the Republican Party in Florida. The 2003 Iraq War was fought with the money and lives of ordinary Americans, for clear corporate objectives. In the 2010 Citizens United case, the US Supreme Court decided that free speech entailed allowing corporations to spend as much as they liked to influence election outcomes – effectively abandoning the principle of “one man one vote”. Money has always played a huge role in US elections; now it is the only thing that matters. The corporate aristocracy warned of by Thomas Jefferson in 1816 now truly holds the power in America.
Chief among those corporate aristocrats are the Koch Brothers. They are chiefly responsible for turning the Tea Party movement into a force which in turn drove out right-of-centre conservatism from the Republican Party, and transformed the party into a nakedly pro-corporate force. The brothers lobby heavily for their oil, gas and chemical interests, and spend big to ensure that right-wing Republicans who support their aims will win elections. From a British perspective, the activities of the Kochs are simply staggering: our democracy may have flaws, but buying elections in this brazen way would be, quite simple, illegal.
The US could easily improve its democracy by borrowing from Europe’s older and and more democratic systems: restrict lobbying and bar politicians from accepting donations from vested interests; restrict political advertising to political parties only; impose spending caps as well as donation caps; adopt voting systems that allow new parties to enter the arena; take easily-rigged electronic voting systems out of corporate hands; make registering to vote as easy as possible; extend democracy into the corporate boardroom. But while corporations can own US politicians, and buy elections, none of these things will happen.
In the shorter term, individuals can target the Kochs by boycotting their products. Shoq Value (@Shoq on Twitter) breaks down the Koch products and brands that Americans should avoid.
Koch products also reach us in Europe via their company Georgia Pacific EMEA, which provides a handy brand list on their website. European believers in freedom and democracy can ensure that they and their friends and families avoid the Koch brands listed below. OK; it ain’t the Marshall Plan, but it’s a start. America once saved our asses from fascist rule – let’s return the favour.
- DEMAK UP
- Lotus and Lotus Professional
- nouvelle soft
- Thirst Pockets