How should we talk about immigrants?

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Language is a powerful tool, not least because of how subliminal it can be. The societal gaps that exist between peoples is reflected in our use of language, often so subconsciously that it can be difficult to notice the rifts we create with our words. For example, there are many terms to describe immigrants (and before we go any further, I want to emphasize that this article refers to certain colloquial uses of these words rather than their dictionary definitions). There is the term refugee, used to describe somebody escaping violence or persecution. There is economic migrant, used to describe those who have immigrated for work. And then there is expat, typically used to describe migrants from developed countries.

But in a world that is increasingly anti-immigration, perhaps the best term to use when speaking about somebody who happens to have been born in another country is simply the blanket-term “immigrant”. For all three of the other terms — refugee, migrant, and expat — are used to reflect the disparity between those who are considered superior immigrants and those who are not. This language not only harms those who might be considered lesser immigrants but also hurts those who fall into the less-vilified expat category.

Firstly, yes, the term “refugee” has a specific definition that makes those who fall into this category distinct from other groups of immigrants. The fact that there are different policies regarding refugees should leave the word out of this debate. However, “refugee” has often been used by the Left to describe any immigrant coming from a developing country. While this may be done with good intentions, in order to help as many people as possible, the political backlash to this terminology misuse has allowed the situation for true refugees to worsen due to increasing hostility towards them by the general public and governing parties.

Take the Mediterranean immigration crisis: liberal news sources and politicians tended to refer
to the situation as the “refugee” crisis. And obviously, many thousands who came across the sea were refugees. But a substantial number, potentially/probably the majority, were not. By claiming the crisis was one of refugees rather than immigrants, liberals allowed conservative politicians and news sources to (rightly) point out the fact that a large percentage of those coming were economic migrants. From the political scorecard standpoint, this allowed the Right to portray the Left as naive and ill-suited for leadership because it had allowed so many supposed migrants into Europe, no questions asked.

While liberals used the term “refugee” to subliminally convey sympathy for the immigrants, conservative governments and parties capitalized on our subconscious use of language in their own way. The Right wanted to call the crisis one of migrants rather than refugees in order to turn as many people away as possible. In the UK, as in nearly all EU countries, immigration has been drastically cut since the Conservatives took office in 2010. David Cameron and other politicians across Europe had promised fewer non-EU immigrants, and would face electoral backlash if they allowed those coming via the Mediterranean to come to their countries. By calling them migrants rather than refugees, governments were somewhat released from their responsibility of helping the refugees. As it can be quite difficult to prove a person’s right to refugee status, there is a high chance of an asylum-seeker’s claim being denied in the best of times. When a native population is hostile towards foreigners, governments have even less incentive to grant asylum-seekers their refugee status (though perhaps this is too jaded a take — after all, 80% of Syrian applications for asylum were accepted, with 52% of overall applications approved).

** If you are curious as to the legal requirements of EU countries in regards to refugees, please scroll to the bottom for a brief description.

For a concrete example of conservative rhetoric, between April 2015 and June 2016, UKIP only used the term “refugee” either when they were discussing the treatment of Christians in the Middle East, or when saying that other European countries (and not the UK) should be responsible for the refugees. But when the crisis was referenced in any way to the UK, the term migrant was always used. On multiple occasions, party leader Nigel Farage stated that the EU was ruled by a naive and liberal elite that insisted on calling migrants “refugees”. Considering the outcome of Farage’s Brexit and the strong role anti-immigration played in the decision, these statements clearly struck a chord with the British public.

In short, by calling everyone a refugee, the Left potentially caused hard to actual refugees because it allowed the Right to say that the immigrants coming were mostly migrants who were scamming the system in order to get a free pass into the EU. Unsurprisingly, this only furthered anti-immigrant sentiments in Europe, which were already high after years of portraying migrants as people who come to steal jobs, steal welfare, and potentially even commit terrorist acts. In a poll taken by Ifop in October 2015, the majority of citizens in France, Italy, The Netherlands, the UK, and Denmark all said their countries already had too many immigrants and that they did not want refugees to come.

Given these high anti-immigrant numbers, this article does not argue that a simple language change would have significantly diminished the anti-refugee sentiments amongst the European population. What is does argue is that both liberals and conservatives used language to incite certain emotions amongst the electorate, with the Right using its chosen term more effectively. The Left needs to learn from this mistake and apply the term “refugee” only in cases when it is warranted. Had the Left used the term “immigrant”, the Right would not have been able to co-opt the narrative in the way that it did.

This language debate reaches far beyond the Mediterranean crisis. Again, migrant is the term, often used negatively, to describe those who have come for economic purposes. To British readers, how often did you hear the term “European migrant” during the lead-up to the Brexit vote? When you did, how often did you think of a Pole or Romanian rather than a German or Dane? I’m going to go ahead and assume your brain never pictured a Western European. Why? Because Germans, French, Swedes, etc, along with Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders, and Americans are all supposedly expats. Except…they are migrants too.

In terms of policy impact, expats are no different than migrants. By using the term “expat”, we not only reinforce the idea that rich, white economic migrants are somehow different from poor migrants, but we also reinforce the idea that if we were to try and move abroad we are somehow different than immigrants from developing countries, and that we will not be impacted by the strict immigration policies Western countries have imposed.

For a personal example, I was an immigrant in the United Kingdom and was forced to leave the home I had made for myself because of strict-and-getting-stricter immigration laws. But while my life has been greatly (and negatively) impacted by the laws surrounding immigration, I can appreciate that I was a privileged immigrant, being a native English-speaking white person. In the entire time I was there, I was on the receiving end of just one anti-immigrant rant (though it was an impressive one, I will give the man that).

In the weeks leading up to my return to the US, and in the six months since, I have lamented situation to countless people on both sides of the Atlantic. Almost always comes the same response: shock that I had to leave the UK and an assumption that all I need to do is apply for a new visa and I will be allowed to go back. This reaction is partially due to the fact that few people realize just how difficult it is to immigrate, but it also very much occurs because few think of expats as migrants. But they are and the law agrees. It is one aspect of the immigration situation where the privilege between “welcome” and “unwelcome” immigrants does not exist — policies are no different for those considered expats and those considered migrants. Nor should they be.

Another take on the term “expat” is reflected in what a white, British woman who currently lives in the US told me recently — she considers herself an expat because she plans to move back to the UK at some point. But here’s the thing: many immigrants of all types expect to return to their origin country eventually. Refugees often want to return when it is safe, migrants may find that they miss their family too much, students tend to want to go home at the end of their studies, etc. A Pakistani friend of mine, for example, has lived in London for two years and plans on returning to Karachi in another two. Now, raise your hand if you think anybody would call her an expat.

Westerners who call themselves expats merely show their privilege when doing so. My Pakistani friend laughed out loud when I asked her if she believed that society considered her one. This is not to use anecdotes as evidence, but merely to hone in the point that short-term residency is not the main criteria for the colloquial usage of “expat”.
In order for immigrants of any type to be treated more humanely, citizens of rich, white countries need to realize that they would be migrants if they ever tried to move abroad. I have lost track of the number of times I have talked with Americans about my situation, incited their sympathies and outrage, only to have them turn around and discuss moving to Canada in order to escape Trump. You guys. You can’t move to Canada. They have immigration policies! What were we just talking about?? Or recently, The Times ran an article that said up to a quarter of working-age Brits would move abroad after Brexit in order to find work. This article was widely shared amongst the Remain crowd on Twitter and Facebook. But after Brexit, the UK will probably lose the EU’s freedom of movement. So please, explain how this supposed 25% will get past the strict immigration policies that nearly all Western countries, including the UK, have enacted in recent years. The short answer is: they won’t because they can’t.

Language matters. My master’s degree was focused nearly entirely on immigration. In order to avoid any unconscious images swirling in my professors’ heads regarding who was being discussed, I almost always used the term “immigrant” (unless “refugee” was absolutely warranted). I do my best to never say the terms “migrant” or “expat”, and am careful about when I use “refugee”. Not that I do not slip up. Language is deeply engrained in our subconscious and it takes concentration and dedication to change how we talk. But I try my best, because immigrants need to stick together. We are all targets of these policies. All of our lives can be destroyed. The true fight regarding immigration is to ensure that immigrants of all types are treated like human beings. We do not need the additional battle of tackling condescending terminology ascribed to different groups of immigrants. And so it might seem like a small detail in the battle for immigrant rights, but we need to re-examine our usage of various terms. Please stop calling people expats. Please be careful when you use the term refugee. We are all immigrants.

** A basic breakdown of the complicated legal requirement of EU countries towards refugees is this: the Dublin Regulation states that the country a refugee initially arrives in is the country they must make their asylum claim in. However, the EU recognized that Italy and Greece — the two countries which received nearly 100% of all refugees during the crisis — could not handle the burden, especially considering that they were two of the countries worst affected by the recent economic crisis. In response, the majority of interior ministers from the EU member states voted to relocate a small percentage of the refugees to other countries. This was met with significant backlash, with nearly 60% of EU citizens against the agreement. It took nearly two years to complete the relocation process, and far fewer refugees than originally agreed upon were moved.

                                    

By Laura Lundahl

You can read more Ungagged Writing here or hear a range of left views on our podcast

Antisemitism in the UK

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Antisemitism in the UK

Many minorities are said to be ‘the new Jews’ because of the hate and bigotry they face. But this can sometimes ignore how Jews are still ‘the new Jews’. Antisemitism has become a serious problem in the UK since 2008. This article will attempt to analyse the reasons why.

 

The rise in antisemitism cannot be separated from the consequences of the 2008 crisis, which legitimized every form of racism and bigotry in British society, and the all-out assault on minorities since 2016. The weak, unstable and short-lived governments which imposed austerity also introduced and strengthened punitive anti-immigrant policies. Xenophobia and racism surged even more in 2016 following Brexit and the US election. While Brexit cannot purely be explained by racism, the referendum outcome legitimised existing anti-immigrant policies, stoking extreme nationalism and myths of going ‘forward to the past’. A common sentiment was ‘we voted for you to go home’.

 

2018 saw a ‘scandal’ involving the deportation of thousands of people who came to the UK in the 1950s and 1960s from the Commonwealth and held British passports – or had the ‘right to remain’ – a ‘right’ which means nothing for those chewed up and spat out by the UK state. The Home Office even produced a ‘guide to Jamaica’ for long-term residents who had not been there in decades, advising deportees to ‘adopt a Jamaican accent’. Disability hate crimes have soared in the years following 2008, due to marginalization and lack of support, social stigma and years of tabloid and state rhetoric about ‘scroungers’. With the housing crisis, soaring homelessness and extortionate rental costs, lack of job security and ability to save, the ripping out of the social safety net and the terrifying speed of climate change, we are all looking at a ‘cancelled future’.

 

Antisemites too are increasingly organised, confident and empowered.

 

The Community Security Trust, which monitors and records antisemitic incidents, recorded its worst ever number in 2017 at 1,382 (see p.4 of link), beating 2016 and 2015, which were both also ‘the highest on record’. Most of these incidents involve verbal harassment and abuse in the street, but also include property damage and violence. The recorded number for January to June 2018 is down on 2017, making it ‘only’ the second worst year ever, with around a hundred incidents recorded every month. A 2013 EU report showed 21% of Jews in the UK suffered harassment in the last 12 months (p. 6). Most hate crimes in the UK go unreported, suggesting the true incidence is far higher. The CST reported 145 violent assaults in 2017 (p.6) – with charges brought in less than a tenth of cases.

 

It is impossible to believe the incessant claims of antisemites to ‘just be criticizing Israel’, when one considers that antisemitism has returned with such viciousness as a political force when Jews are more critical of Israel than ever. Even the Board of Deputies of British Jews, notorious for being a conservative and slow-moving body, was among those criticizing Netanyahu’s new law enshrining religious discrimination into the constitution. This would have been unthinkable twelve years ago, when they organized poorly attended demos supporting Israeli stances. The Movement for Reform Judaism have criticised Israel’s prohibition on non-orthodox and secular marriages and ban on women praying at the Wall, and have taken part in protests against religious discrimination. Groups such as Jewdas are vocal in criticizing Israel’s policies against the Palestinians. Any view of Jews as ‘zionists’ unable to handle criticism of Israel has no basis in reality.

 

As the pro-Corbyn left enjoy pointing out, antisemitism exists in all political parties. Examples include Tory MP Aidan Burley who dressed up as an SS officer at a dinner party, and members of a Conservative Association at Oxford University singing Nazi songs and making ‘gas chamber jokes’. Lib Dems who have made antisemitic statements include Jenny Tonge and David Ward. David Icke was a Green Party spokesman in the 1990s; other ex-members have included Tony Gosling and the Holocaust denier Nick Kollerstrom. UKIP has shed its previous attempts at respectability politics to embrace the extreme right. Yet Labour under Corbyn has been hit by more accusations of enabling and covering up antisemitism than any other party. Corbyn supporters, with some justification, ask why he is being singled out for this criticism. Many, but not all internal critics of Corbyn have views substantially to the right of the leadership, and suspicion has arisen that these accusations are part of a ‘Blairite coup’.

 

Corbyn is not entirely responsible for how this situation has developed. His widespread popularity has ensured people on the fringes of anti-capitalist scenes, often attracted to conspiratorial views, have drifted into supporting or joining Labour. Any popular left-wing leader in the UK would have attracted the support of antisemites and would have struggled to tackle this problem, let alone one with Corbyn’s long history of questionable acquaintances. The organized far left in Britain has suffered defeat after defeat, and is largely invisible outside student activism and the public sector. When a popular leader finally achieves mainstream success with something resembling ideas they’ve devoted their lives to, some people see the mildest criticism as ‘sabotage’. This is exacerbated by the authoritarian, cult-like atmosphere common on the left, with party leaders using ‘democratic centralism’ to stay in power forever. The exposure of previous ‘scandals’ such as the ‘Comrade Delta’ rape case, was met with outrage and desperate attempts at a cover-up, with the SWP holding a ‘trial’ by themselves rather than facing exposure in the ‘bourgeois courts’. Now the stakes are higher, with the possibility of real political power for the first time in decades and the chance to ‘make the left great again’.

 

The nearest parallel to leftist antisemitism is probably leftist transphobia and ‘trans-exclusionary radical feminism’ (TERF ideology). TERFs use feminist language combined with conspiratorial rhetoric about a ‘trans lobby’ controlling the medical establishment and media. They claim ‘women and girls’, especially lesbians, are oppressed by ‘privileged’ trans women who ‘force their way into women’s spaces’ such as bathrooms. TERFs say they are ‘gender critical’, often proclaiming a ‘socialist’ or ‘Marxist’ ideology, and have won support among trade unionists, anarchists and the extra-parliamentary left, despite the well-documented links of TERF groups to the US far right. The furious denials from ‘moderate, reasonable’ people with ‘good politics’ that TERF arguments are based on bigotry, and their demands trans people take part in dishonest ‘debates’, should be familiar to anyone who has experienced antisemitism.

 

Leftists sometimes assume ‘fascist’ ideas are ‘far right’ economically, and socialists cannot be bigoted by definition. But most modern European antisemitism views Jews as powerful, rich, and evil. These beliefs can coexist with opposition to capitalism, believing there should be more money for the poor, investment in the health service, and so on; you can oppose and campaign against injustice while believing ‘the Jews did it’. There are only around 200,000 Jews in the UK, meaning many people have never met one, making stereotypes hard to challenge. Slogans associated with ‘the left’ are routinely employed by neo-Nazis, with banned terrorist group National Action vandalising a Jewish memorial in 2015 with slogans such as ‘1%’ and ‘bankers’. The NSDAP itself produced pamphlets encouraging a vote for Hitler to ‘bring down the system’ so the working class could take control.

 

Conspiracy theories are often seen as harmless and fun, and have gained mainstream popularity through being packaged as entertainment. However, they are an insidious way of spreading hate, fake history and pseudoscience. Conspiracy theories about the Rothschilds and the Illuminati proliferate on social media, often spread by professionals like David Icke, who has promoted the Tsarist-era forgery the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. As described in Norman Cohn’s book ‘Warrant for Genocide’, the Protocols purports to show a Jewish conspiracy and helped provide Hitler and the NSDAP with a justification for the Holocaust. Icke has worked with celebrities such as Russell Brand and hosted debates with the Canary editor Kerry Anne Mendoza, performed at music festivals around the world and been given sympathetic interviews on popular internet news outlets. Antisemitic conspiracy theorists deliberately present an image of themselves as being harmless cranks, thus avoiding serious opposition.

 

Discussions of antisemitism in the UK often overlook English nationalist mythology regarding World War II and the British Empire. English nationalism centres around WWII, Churchill and ‘Britain standing alone’ against ‘the Germans’, which often ‘stand in’ for modern-day Germany and the EU. This attitude trivialises the Holocaust and contrasts with state and media glorification of the British Empire and refusal to acknowledge the UK’s crimes, including against Jews. These include the infamous ‘blood libel’ myth of Jews drinking children’s blood, originating with the death of William of Norwich in 1144, and the ‘Edict of Expulsion’ by Edward I in 1290. This WWII obsession goes with a myth that the UK is more ‘generous’ towards immigrants, ‘less racist’ and ‘less antisemitic’ than other countries. The English nationalist attitude to Germany can be summed up in the phrase ‘two world wars and one world cup’, and Germans in the UK themselves face xenophobia.

 

As the last generation of Holocaust survivors and WWII veterans die out, post-Nazi social taboos about open antisemitism have lessened. In the world of ‘alternative facts’ online, deniers can easily portray the Holocaust as a myth. The UK’s failure to face up to its past, its glorification of the war, and the impression given by popular culture that the UK went to war to protect Jews against Hitler, fuels accusations that Jews are distorting and exaggerating the Holocaust, perhaps even starting it themselves. The SWP once did a ‘Sean Spicer’ on the Holocaust, mentioning every group to be killed except Jews. Jews are accused of ignoring Hitler’s other victims and those of other genocides, although it is not ‘Jews’ doing this, but nationalist British politicians. Holocaust memorial events organised by Jews, while being religious commemorations, emphasise non-Jews killed by the Nazis, other genocides in history and the importance placed in Judaism on resisting hate.

International developments also influence conditions in the UK. The 2008 crisis and the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ since the outbreak of war in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East have acted as a catalyst for the extreme right across Europe. Many far-right parties are now in coalition governments. Hungarian and Polish neo-Nazis are active in the UK and leading figures from Hungary’s Jobbik such as Gabor Vona have spoken at events in London. Hungary and Poland are examples of authoritarian right-wing governments who discriminate against Jews and promote antisemitic campaigns on social media, and politicians from Ukraine and Romania have also made bigoted remarks. The Polish government made a law forbidding criticism of the country’s war record or stating Poles participated in the Holocaust, and Hungary has passed ‘Stop Soros’ laws preventing citizens from helping refugees, with George Soros depicted in a stereotypical Jewish way. Recently, Soros was blamed by the Telegraph for a ‘plot to stop Brexit’.

 

Mainstream and far-left groups in Europe have also embraced anti-migrant, islamophobic and antisemitic sentiments; this often comes with pro-Assad stances on Syria and the idea Syrian rebels are all ‘jihadis funded by Saudi Arabia and Israel’. Iran’s Press-TV has promoted Holocaust denial and ideas of a Jewish conspiracy as it uses Israeli state racism as a cudgel to attack Jews; Corbyn has been criticised for his repeated appearances on the channel. Russian disinformation campaigns to support Assad and Western ‘populist’ candidates have been covered in depth and do not need to be mentioned in detail here, but RT is popular and has employed antisemitic conspiracy theorists such as Tony Gosling. But Putin’s opponents sometimes play into such tropes by exaggerating Russian influence and ascribing dissent in British society to ‘foreign money’ and a ‘Russian conspiracy’ to undermine our society and values. The Economist’s depiction of Putin as an octopus tightening its grip around the world is an example of how these ideas are unthinkingly repeated.

 

The election of Donald Trump in 2016 provided a beacon and an inspiration for the extreme right. It’s hard to see accusations of bigotry as a ‘nuclear bomb’, when the president of the world’s most powerful country, and the UK’s most important ally, tweets racist things every day and rants about ‘shithole countries’. Trump has rarely (!) been openly antisemitic, despite using antisemitic dog-whistles in his campaign, and the Trump administration includes Jews such as Stephen Miller and Jared Kushner. But in 2017, neo-Nazis marched in Charlottesville chanting ‘Jews will not replace us’, killed one anti-fascist protester and threatened worshippers at a synagogue, while Trump criticised anti-fascists and talked about ‘right and wrong on many, many sides’. Trump has made the unacceptable acceptable even for his leftist opponents, none of whom are immune to prejudice. His constant incitements to hatred, instantly visible on social media, create a ‘hostile environment’ for every minority and embolden fascists and white supremacists worldwide.

Antisemitism in the UK is now an extremely serious social problem. It has been enabled by both the far right and left, as well as sections of the media and political establishment. Inaction on the left and a willingness to ignore and cover for antisemitic discourse has resulted in its widespread acceptance, as a resurgent far right takes power across Europe. Rather than concerning prosecco-sipping socialites earning more than 70k a year, antisemitism kills and hurts vulnerable people. In this it resembles transphobia, also dismissed as something only ‘millennials’ with ‘first world problems’ care about.

 

Many Jewish people have now lost all faith in the organised left and view socialist movements with mistrust. The left must not just cry about being ‘smeared’ and close ranks around their political leaders, but do something. They can start by challenging hate from ‘comrades’, examining their own behaviour, listening to people and believing their experiences, instead of saying, ‘Well actually, it’s about Israel,’ while ignoring naked antisemitism. If they really want to ‘condemn all forms of racism’, they must drive out bigotry and hate from their own ranks. Until then they are just another set of lying politicians.

 

By Rachael Horwitz

 

 

You can read more Ungagged writing here, or listen to more left views from the collective on our podcast

Privilege is…

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Chuck Hamilton

In his 1999 show Bigger and Blacker, Chris Rock explained white privilege this way: “There ain’t a white man in this room that would change places with me. None of you. None of you would change places with me, and I’m rich! That’s how good it is to be white.”

There’s a line from the Bruce Hornsby song The Way It Is that describes perfectly the interplay, internal if not verbal, between the privileged and the un- and underprivileged. “Man in the silk suit hurries by; as he catches the poor old lady’s eyes, just for fun he says, ‘Get a job’.”

Privilege is Israeli Jews sitting on a hillside in lounge chairs and couches to spectate over the bombing of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Ghetto and cheering each explosion.

Privilege is serving the greed of the few to the detriment of the needs of the many.

Privilege is the white liberal who, in the words of Dr. King, “…is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers the absence of tension to the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season’”.

Privilege is white liberals and older Afro-Americans who say the same things to the Movement for Black Lives and their allies about their civil disobedience in the response to massive and growing police brutality and murders by police.

Privilege is Madelaine Albright telling us that there is a special place in hell for women who don’t support each other in reference to Hillary Clinton in 2016 when she herself supported Edmund Muskie in the 1972 Democratic primaries, the same in which Shirley Chisholm and Patsy Mink were also running. Of course, those two contenders were Afro-American and Japanese-American, respectively, so perhaps for Albright they don’t count.

Privilege is Gloria Steinem and others like her campaigning to shame sex workers in order to cover up the fact that their brand of feminism is mostly for affluent white women.

Privilege is Noam Chomsky condemning the antifascist movement known as antifa in language that validates their equation with Nazi thugs by Trump, aka Agent Orange.

Privilege is when someone uses phrases like “look at the big picture”, ‘be a team player”, and “accept things the way they are” to bully, manipulate, and shame you into belaying or putting aside your own needs in deference to their desires.

Privilege is when lesser mortals clear the streets of Windsor and Maidenhead of their homeless to make everything pretty for a royal wedding.

Privilege is waxing eloquent about global overpopulation and how people need to have fewer children shortly after the birth of your third child in a country where the poor on benefits are penalized for the same thing.

Privilege is when an all-male panel pontificates on women’s issues, whether they happen to be U.S. Congressmen or Scottish champagne socialists.

Privilege is the often patronizing and paternalistic manner with which the middle class treats the working and pauper classes.

In truth, what we today call the middle class is nothing other than an upper working class that is desperate to distinguish itself from the lower working class and to maintain that distinction by any means necessary. Oblivious to the fact that being a house slave makes them no more free and no less exploited than the others in the fields, they carry out almost by instinct the will of their masters of the 1% and their overseers of the 10%.

Privilege is when Yanks, Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, Canucks, and other white westerners travel to or live in foreign countries belonging to brown people and treat their hosts as lesser beings, committing social incest in their golden ghettoes. Of course, this same principle operates in their own countries between classes and even in those afore-mentioned non-white majority countries.

When I with the Navy at Clark Air Base in the Philippines, there was this lower enlisted guy in our unit who often had to do escort duty with local, uncleared contractors, meeting them at the gate to the compound and then sitting watching them work all day. Often he would spend the time reading, pretty sure none of the workers were equivalent to the Vietcong.

After about a week, the Air Force security police at the gate began wanding the work crew for weapons. At first, they began to refuse, until our enlisted guy told the guards to do him first, to show it was okay. In fact, he did so for the next few days until the guards got tired of or too embarrassed about subjecting one of their own to the same treatment inflicted on the locals.

In many ways, the middle class, the upper working class rather, is the biggest obstacle to the general welfare of the working, or lower working, and pauper classes. Mostly because those in it go along to get along. Its members don’t even think of being afraid of rocking the boat because doing anything that might alter their fortunes is beyond conception. So they assuage their consciences with thoughts of the rewards for their complacency and their complicity. And continue to do so even when that course will bite themselves in their own arse.

Something antagonist Lindsey McDonald said to protagonist Angel in the episode “Underneath” paints a good picture of this: “Every day you sit in your big chair behind your big desk, and you sign your big checks, and you learn a little more how to accept the world for the way it is. Well, here’s the rub: good people don’t do that. Good people don’t accept the world the way it is. They fight it.”

So stand up. Fight. Be the change you wish to see in the world. Live as if the world is as it should be to show it how it can be, and remember that the smallest act of kindness can be the greatest gift in the world.

Fight in ways against which there is no defense but which do no harm. Be the darkness that illuminate. Be the silence that resonates. Be the stillness that agitates.

I am a Terran, a citizen of Earth. The whole world is my home, and all its people my brothers, sisters, and cousins, regardless of synthetic or organic origin. Like our distant cousins on other planets across space and throughout time, we are all children of the universe

Judge Tories on their Record

Reading Time: 6 minutes
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Victoria Pearson

Theresa May is in hiding, too scared to appear in public, refusing televised debates, public appearances or questions from the electorate, asking that we judge her on the Tories record instead. So let’s have a look at that.

May has been PM for nine months, and during that time she has consistently insisted she is a strong, safe pair of hands. The reality does not match up to May’s fantasy, however, as during her time as PM we have seen absolute chaos.

Under May we have seen zero hour contracts rise by one fifth, putting nearly 900,000 people in positions of insecure working hours, but struggle, because they are in employment, to qualify for any help from the state. This has pushed almost a third of the UK population below the poverty line.
Obviously people not having money in their pocket has knock on effects to our economy. We aren’t spending, because we’ve nothing to spend. Businesses are collapsing, so more people are going into insecure work, and round and round we go. Add that to the instability in the markets in the US due to Trump, and Sterling tanking due to Brexit, and we’ve all the ingredients for a global financial crash before Christmas. So go far, so stable, I guess?
The knock on effects, unfortunately, don’t just stop at destabilising our economy. We have seen a massive rise in foodbank usage, with Trussell Trust reporting a million people being forced to feed their families donated food this Christmas. Period poverty has soared in the UK, with girls being forced to skip school due to inadequate sanitary protection and women risking infection using tissue paper, socks and old rags because they can’t afford pads or tampons. Health visitors are also reporting parents struggling to afford nappies, leading to babies being changed less frequently and ending up with serious health complications through infected nappy rash.
Rather than helping desperately struggling families, Theresa May – who promised a society that works for all just a few months ago – has capped tax credits claims to just two children. This will save virtually no money, due to the administration – but will see families already struggling become even poorer. The cap not only means that a mother will be forced to fill in a form stating that her third or subsequent child was the result of non-consensual sex if she needs the extra £13- £20 per week, but also that she will have to name that child on the form, and prove she was raped. This move is not just heartless, it shows wilful disregard for advice from women’s charities and the low reporting and conviction of sex crimes.

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The child cap doesn’t just attack rape victims though – it also places yet another barrier on parents trying to escape violent or abusive relationships. Someone with three or more children who are already claiming tax credits can continue to claim, but if their circumstances change, they must submit a new claim, and will only receive support for their first two children. That means that parents who already have more than two children are effectively trapped in their current relationship, unless they can afford to make up the shortfall. If you are in an abusive, controlling relationship with more than two children, you now have to be able to find very well paying work before you can get your children out of a dangerous situation. If nothing else, trapping children in abusive households is a mental health time bomb.
The Tories like to see themselves as strong on the economy and good for business, so while our economy is crashing down around our ears, and they have tripled the national debt to £1920billion despite promising to wipe it out, the Tories have lowered corporation tax again, making us by far the lowest corporation tax in the G7. Having borrowed more than any government in the last 70 years, and reduced corporation tax to a trickle, there is now no money to spend. Still the Tories have decided we have £370million available to refurbish Buckingham Palace, £200million for Johnson’s garden bridge vanity project, and suggested that we spend tens of millions from our foreign aid budget on a Royal Yacht.

Jake Berry, the Tory MP who is leading the campaign for the yacht said

“But here in Britain – the fifth largest economy in the world – we feel it [a royal yacht] is something that we can’t afford. I feel that is a national disgrace.”

Personally, I think it is a national disgrace that, in the fifth largest economy in the world, we have an NHS that is so underfunded that doctors were forced to leave a two year old with suspected meningitis in A&E on two plastic chairs for 5 hours because there were no beds. I think it’s a national disgrace that paediatric surgeons have been forced to cancel babies heart operations because there are no paediatric intensive care beds available in the country. I think it’s a national disgrace that people are being discharged from hospital because there are no beds and dying in the hospital car park. I think it’s disgrace that people in severe mental health crisis are calling up hospitals for help with suicidal thoughts only to be told there are no beds, try again next week if you are still alive. I think it’s a national disgrace that over Christmas The Red Cross described the chaos in NHS as a “humanitarian crisis”.
But the Tories have never cared about the NHS, many of their parliamentary party have argued for an insurance style system in the UK. The Tories have always prided themselves on law and order though. After seven years of a Conservative Prime Minister we should have a strong, well functioning justice system.
Instead we have a prison system in absolute crisis, with overcrowded conditions and inexperienced staff, radicalisation and drug issues worse than they have ever been. We saw five major incidents in six months, culminating in Birmingham prison seeing the worst prison riot since Strangeways 25 years ago. The Tories will argue that this is due to factors they can’t control, but the fact is they have repeatedly ignored pleas from front line staff for mobile scrambling equipment to stop the use of drones bringing drugs, weapons and mobile phones into jails, they’ve sacked the majority of experienced officers to replace them with cheaper, inexperienced staff who don’t know how to deal with the problems, and cut funding for mental health programs and drug rehabilitation in prisons. Things are at such crisis point, prison officers are threatening industrial action, a catastrophic blow for the prison system.
The justice system has been further undermined by Liz Truss’ refusal to back the Article 50 judges when certain ‘news’papers branded them “Enemies of the People”. Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd said;

“I can understand how the pressures were on in November, but she has taken a position that is constitutionally, absolutely wrong.”

It is was Truss’s duty, as lord chancellor, to defend the judges, he said.
One of the most senior judges in the UK agreed.

“The Lord Chancellor has a particular duty to speak up in those circumstances”, Lord Neuberger said.

Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd has since butted heads with Truss again, saying she had misrepresented changes to the law surrounding victims of sexual violence giving evidence in court. Lord Thomas said her department had “misunderstood the thing completely”, forcing him to write to all judges to correct the mistake.

“It was a complete failure to understand the impracticalities of any of this. And that is very troubling,” he told an inquiry by a House of Lords committee.

Despite this breathtaking incompetence, Downing Street not only backed Truss, but insisted her misrepresentation of events was in fact correct, with their spokesman insisting the Prime Minister had full confidence in Ms Truss – and that he believed the legal profession had full confidence in her.
The Tories aren’t just failings on the economy, NHS, and law and order though. Schools have been hit with the biggest cuts in 20 years. 99% of schools have had their funding cut, by an average of £103,754 in primaries and £470,433 in secondaries.

Schools have been asked to find an extra £3billion in funding, and many are writing to already squeezed parents to beg for help – by fighting Tory cuts and by funding everyday necessities like pens and paper. One deputy head in a well off area, who wished to remain anonymous, told Ungagged exclusively that she hasn’t seen a crisis like this since Thatcher’s day.

“Its heartbreaking to see.” She said “there are children coming to school hungry, and I’m having to ask their parents for money. We don’t have adequate books, pens or paper, let alone computers or enrichment equipment. These children are being failed and there is nothing teachers can do about it.”

Helen Ingham, head of Ivydale primary in Nunhead, south London, told parents in a newsletter that the school faced a 14% cut in its budget by 2019-20.

“To put this in context, that is 30% of what we spend on teachers each year or 65% of what we spend on TAs.” She said,  “Since staff costs make up 70% of our budget a reduction in funding of this magnitude leaves us with impossible choices which will inevitably impact on your children’s education.”

Despite protecting school budgets being in the Tories manifesto, the Tories firmly have their head in the sand, with their only “solution” to the crisis bring to propose new grammar schools, which of course disproportionately advantage wealthier children and draw scarce resources from where they are needed.
The Tories ask you to let their record speak for itself, and hope you’ll just focus on their shambolic brexit and ignore all the real problems in the country. I say I’ve looked at your record, Mrs May, and I’m appalled. The Tories have failed on health, social care, education, welfare, the economy, the justice system, and inequality. Everything that we can be proud of has been neglected, sold off or run into the ground. If May really wants us to judge her on her record, I can only assume she is unaware of it – or is hoping we are.

GE17: The Brexit Distraction

Reading Time: 3 minutes
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Victoria Pearson

And so Theresa May has made yet another u-turn, calling a snap general election just 7 weeks from now, despite promising not to just 4 weeks ago.
There has been much speculation over the timing of her announcement, with many saying she has chosen this moment because she is ahead in the polls, and believes she could win. On the surface, this would seem like a reasonable explanation, however, a closer look quickly makes this narrative collapse.
Just hours after the announcement, the CPS told Channel 4 news that they are considering pressing charges against more than 30 individuals regarding election fraud. The allegations were passed on by the Electoral Commission, after they fined the Tories £70k, and, if proven, may result in criminal charges and even jail time.

Any investigation would have triggered a wave of by-elections which could have seen May’s already slim majority drastically reduced. The CPS has said a snap election will not halt their investigation, but May has today refused to say, when pushed by Denis Skinner MP during PMQs, whether MPs currently standing are implicated in the fraud scandal. So much for her assertion that the electorate have a right to know what they are voting for, her reasons for denying Scotland an Independence referendum just a few short weeks ago.
May has found it nigh on impossible to control the dissent from her back benches, facing constant back-biting for being unelected – even by her own party – despite criticising Brown for not calling a GE as soon as he took over leadership of the Labour party. As she loses control over her own party in regards to her hard Brexit, the income based child cap that sees rape victims forced to name and shame their children as being the result of non-consensual sex for a pittance (as low as £13 per week, depending on circumstances) and traps vulnerable parents and their children in abusive homes. Her own party forced her into u-turns on NI contributions, leaving a budget black hole she has yet to bridge. It seems increasingly likely May had to jump into a snap GE, or be pushed out of the leadership.
The Tories are doing their best to present a strong and confident face to the electorate, but less than 24 hours after the GE was announced, the wheels already came off the their campaign. Despite crowing about Labour being weak and the SNP being a single issue party, May has refused to debate the other party leaders on TV. If Corbyn is so weak and the SNP are so ineffectual, why wouldn’t a strong, confident PM want to debate them? It’d be the ideal opportunity for May to showcase her Debating skills, which will ultimately underpin what kind of deal a post-brexit UK will achieve. If May is too afraid to debate party leaders she has spent months disparaging as weak and incapable, what does that say about her leadership? Or her ability to debate with and persuade all 27 member states of the EU?
It says she knows she is weak on schools, housing, poverty, inequality. It shows she is not up to the task of doing the day job. During May’s time in office we have seen the income based child cap come into force, seen £30 per week taken from disabled peoples pockets, zero hours contracts rise by 1/5th, doctors cancelling babies heart operations because there are no recovery beds in the whole country, they’ve even started stealing people’s wheelchairs. May knows that all of these points, every single Tory failing, would be brought to light and scrutinised. She knows her only chance of forming a government is to keep the conversation firmly centred on brexit. She is hoping that by keeping the campaign as short as possible, all of her many, many failures will be kicked under the carpet.
May is clearly hoping that holding a general election at such short notice will allow her to avoid scrutiny. The Conservatives even said they won’t participate in the televised debates because “The choice at this election is already clear.” It’s clear to me the Tories think they are entitled to your vote. That they can mercilessly crush the poor and vulnerable as long as they keep brexit red, white and blue. They think that will be enough to get them a majority. Maybe they are right. But I don’t think the electorate are that stupid, or that apathetic.
Screeching “Brexit means Brexit” and having tantrums because the opposition are opposing you, and our legal and political safeguards are keeping you in check is just not good enough, Mrs May.

We deserve a government that will respect our laws and look after the vulnerable. That’s the day job. Trying to dangle Brexit like a shiny bauble to distract from the appalling human rights record of the Tories is not going to work.
We’ve never had a PM with such breathtaking arrogance. We’ve never had a PM show such open disregard for the poor, the sick, and the vulnerable. We have a chance to pull back from the brink. We can end the Mayhem now. Let’s make June the end of May.

 

 

The Tories Go Full Fash

Reading Time: 6 minutes
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Victoria Pearson

Since Theresa May’s undemocratic coronation, she has tried to style herself as a centrist – with worker’s rights and equality at heart. During the party conference, however, it has become clear she either doesn’t care that that mask is slipping or – more likely – she thinks the entire British electorate is as thick as puppy shit.
May talks about taking the centre ground while leaning so far to the right that she is in severe danger of falling off the edge. Those that voted Brexit are quick enough to tell us that they didn’t do it because they are racist – but apparently the cabinet didn’t get that memo, since May has announced a host of policy plans that would make Farage say “Now steady on…”
From the suggestion that we have companies list their “foreign” workers, to the new Tory pledge that we will have no doctors come to work here from abroad after 2025, it’s quite clear that the Brexit vote has emboldened the nasty party to pick up the racist rhetoric that surrounded the campaign and run with it as far as they can. Never mind that our economy would collapse without Migrant workers – we’d apparently rather see the UK crash and burn than encounter someone with a different culture to our own.

Never mind that the NHS is currently lying on the floor, bleeding out, desperately trying to resuscitate itself while Jeremy Hunt pisses on it from a great height and Branson rubs his hands in glee and works out his projected profit margin, we’re going to make all NHS staff so demoralised they’ll all quit and move elsewhere anyway. Hunt seems to think we’ll be able to stop British born doctors leaving for a country where they are valued and respected, but, short of building a wall, it’s difficult to see how. Only please don’t say that too loudly – Theresa May is about 2 drinks away from suggesting it herself.
They already came for the disabled when they cut ESA. They came for the poor when they cut universal credit. Now they are coming for immigrants. You’ll probably be next, unless you happen to be in the top 1% of uk earners. If you are, well lucky you! You’ll be getting a tax break.
We’ve let them cut sure start, libraries, local council budgets, housing benefit, nursery placements, adult literacy programs, and fire fighters. We’ve let them expand the cruel and counterproductive badger cull. We’ve let May organise Brexit talks in secret, giving us no voice in exactly what brexit will look like, with no intention of any kind of public consultation. We’ve sat here and listened while she talks about repealing the fox hunting ban, and describes ideological austerity as “living within our means”. She has done all of this in our name, secure in the knowledge that she can do just exactly as she likes for the next four years, more if the weighted constituency reshuffle goes ahead. After all, all she need do is make a couple of pitifully weak jokes in PMQS and her BBC lapdog will slather over her shoes and hump her leg, yipping “you really showed Corbyn there” whilst they desperately try to kick Tory election fraud under the carpet.
Probably the most frightening thing to come out of the Tory party conference so far has been May’s utterly barking plan to repeal sections of the human rights act. Universal human rights are just that – universal. They are not May’s to grant or take away, they are ours. We’ve already fought for them, and we won. Who is she to try and take them from us?
The Tories have spoken about how our troops should be exempt from those pesky human rights violations trials, their argument being that vexatious claims are sometimes made, and those cost money. To which I say so fucking what? On that basis we should scrap all court cases of any kind, because vexatious claims are sometimes made. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the point of a trial to get the evidence heard and the facts established? We are at war, on more than one front, and we already have shockingly high levels of sexual assault in our armed forces. Do we really want to rip up the rulebook entirely, and give our boys the right to torture and rape with impunity? We have rules of engagement for a reason, and if we want to continue styling ourselves as the moral arbiters of the world, we have to hold ourselves to the highest possible standards.
The thing that has always made me proud to come from the UK is our freedom and our tolerance. Britain has always been – despite the rose tinted nostalgia glasses you can pick up at the Torykip conference – a melting pot. We are a beautiful mixture of vikings, Romans, Asians, celts, Africans and Europeans. We are all races and all colours, coming together and finding common ground side by side, enriched by our diversity. We may not dress the same, or eat the same things or have the same faith, but we all wait in line at the post office, we all tut but don’t make a scene, We all talk only about the weather. We’re all just neighbours, wherever we come from. We live and let live.
We are a pirate culture, we travel the world and we bring home new foods, new languages, and new people. And we do not stand for this kind of division. 80 years ago the Jews stood side by side with the Irish dockers and the communists and the socialists and the local working class people in Cable Street and we told Moseley’s filth in no uncertain terms that they shall not pass. we will not have fascism in our streets and we certainly will not tolerate it in our government either.
People talk about sleepwalking into fascism. We’ve gone beyond that now. We have a government who, even if every charge of election fraud is thrown out, still only achieved 24% Of the vote, led by a woman who wasn’t even elected by her own party and they are talking openly about making lists of foreigners, giving soldiers permission to violate human rights in combat situations – to strip human beings of basic, fundamental human rights, their very personhood. They are talking openly about making universal human rights removable – effectively telling you that the rights you already have can be taken away.
The Tories have used brexit as an excuse to go full fash. They think that if they points the finger at migrants enough the electorate will just forget about Cameron’s £10million plane, and Sam Cam’s 35k a year stylist and the massive pay rises for MPs and the £6million a year House Of commons bar bill and the fact that actually, it isn’t migrants that have put the NHS under pressure, it’s massive cuts and unworkable contracts and chronic neglect. It isn’t migrants that stopping your kid getting on the housing list, it’s Tories not building any social housing. Your wages aren’t low because of Migrant workers – they are low because the Tories have kept the minimum wage low, the Tories have allowed corporations and individuals to squirrel away wealth in tax havens instead of paying you what you’re worth, the Tories aren’t investing in your community.
While they continue to live a champagne lifestyle, people are relying on food banks. In one of the richest countries in the world, we are told we can’t afford care for our elderly, emergency services, healthcare, housing, social services, prison officers or pensions. The Tories genuinely expect us to believe that that is all the fault of migrants. That’s how stupid they think we are.
I refuse to believe that the majority of British people are racist, xenophobic knuckle daggers who will believe whatever they are told by their Tory overlords. I refuse to believe the majority of people listen to murdochs hate rags spewing their bile about migrants as if the 2008 banking crash and subsequent chronic mismanagement of our economy never happened and actually buy into that. I think better of us than that. I’m sure even the people who voted to leave the EU didn’t want our human rights taken away, foreign citizens monitored and our NHS closed to international health professionals. But that’s happening in our name. The Tories think that’s who we are. That’s how low they regard us.
The Conservatives have allegedly rigged the election, then taken us out of the EU by accident, now they are very deliberately stripping our rights as quickly as they can strip our kingdom’s assets, stirring up hatred for Immigrants while segregating children by wealth and giving poor children the choice between a life of fruit picking or a chance to be cannon fodder in the next unwinnable, illegal war, and they do it brazenly, without shame, in our name.
I wish I could see a happy ending to all of this, but with both Trump and Le Pen gaining ground and May kicking off the vile kitten heels to strap on the jackboots instead, the future is looking a lot like the past we swear every November we will never forget.
2016 has taken some unpredictable swerves, but I never thought I’d end up being nostalgic for Hameron. To the people who voted to “take control” Because The EU is, air quote “undemocratic” I need to ask: is this what you had in mind? Really? This isn’t control, it’s Mayhem. It’s fascism. It’s not us. I want my democracy back.

Three

Reading Time: 1 minute

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Argh, it’s the first Saturday in December! time for a mad dash round the shops, overheating in the queue and freezing outside, longing to get home and put the kettle on.

Spare a thought today for one who can’t go home for a cuppa in the warm. Being homeless at any time is no fun, but when the frosts have started and the nights are long and bitter, it can be deadly.

While you’re rushing around doing your shopping, consider adding a hat, scarf, gloves and thermal socks to your list, to donate to your local homeless shelter. They are expecting their busiest Christmas yet. For around a fiver from the pound shop, you could save a life.

You can find details of your local homeless shelter here or here.

 

 

Image by Debra Torrance 

Written by Victoria Pearson 

Trump

Reading Time: 14 minutes
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Amber Heathers
This article first appeared on Amber’s personal blog

Oh for crying out loud. I mean really. Come on 2016, are you actually for real? Adults dressing as clowns then dashing about high street; every decent celebrity dying, talks of tea & jam fueling Britain’s economy, Brexit, Theresa May as Prime Minister, Nigel Farage & Bob Geldof sailing across the Thames while firing insults at one another; Boris Johnson as foreign secretary; and now President ruddy Trump.

What on earth is this? Have I smoked something I shouldn’t have and fallen into the most hilariously terrifying dream? Surely this is all made up, right? Please say it is.

The last time I genuinely felt happy about an election outcome was probably 2008. I was 18-years old. Just a naive university student with trivial understanding of how the world worked. Our local student bar opened its doors all night long. Alcohol was served from 7pm to 7am to celebrate US election night. As the hours passed, Barack Obama moved closer to securing the White House.

The atmosphere overall was one of optimism. Left-wingers and right-wingers came together, cheering on history as it unfolded before our eyes. In our collective naivety, the students of Aberystwyth university spent that evening celebrating joyously as we watched an event we were convinced would end racism within the United States (oh how innocent we were).

Like our American neighbors across the pond that night, the crowded bar in that small Welsh university town believed real change was approaching. The dream of progression felt so attainable you could practically smell it.

At the time, it seemed like an overly jolly night on the tiles with a few too many ciders and a merry atmosphere to boot. Today, the very memory of that evening makes me want to curl up into a ball and weep until the world ends.

In the years since, elections and votes in general have ranged from disappointing to downright terrifying. Alright, so some rather great laws have passed in that time (the legalization of Gay marriage being one example), yet despite the small pockets of positivity, disappointment has overwhelmed the happier times. The UK’s coalition government of 2010, the Conservative win of 2015, Scotland failing to secure Independence, and the European referendum of last June to name a few. All a series of shitty moments, gradually leading up to the shittiest moment of all; Donald J Trump securing the White House.

No matter how I choose to look at the world since waking up last Wednesday and seeing that surreal headline sprawled across my iPad, I can’t bring myself to perceive it in a positive light. Some have told me to calm down, to just “wait and see”, to hope that all my fears are nothing more than the gloomy pessimism of a left-winger’s mind, yet I’m failing to achieve this.

One of the most powerful and influential countries on the planet has just put a misogynistic, racist bully in charge of their highest office. Here’s a man who boasts of grabbing women by the genitals, has been accused of rape, called all Mexicans rapists, labelled all Muslims terrorists, insulted the grieving mother of a dead soldier, mocked people with disabilities, flirted with the idea of firing nuclear weapons and has acted like an all round shitty human from start to finish. How the hell is it even remotely possible to look at the decision made by the American people on November 8th and think everything will be ok? Seriously, please tell me, because right now, I’m riddled with fear.

There’s no way to deny it, the western world has been slipping further to the right for quite some time
now. Racist headlines, xenophobic rhetoric becoming a part of mainstream thinking, far-right parties evolving into major contenders in the elections of many European countries, consensus hatred and apathy toward refugees fleeing countries bombed by our own governments, Brexit, and so on and so forth.

Maybe the West has always been right-wing. Maybe my assumption that most living within this corner of the globe were progressive was nothing more than the bi-product of a young, naive mind. Maybe the dream of living in a world where bigotry diminishes one year at a time was wishful thinking.

In the passing days since Mr Trump won the 2016 election, there’s been the usual mutterings of blame and theories as to why this happened in the first place. Few seemed to predict the outcome of Tuesday night. There was even a moment on Fox News where the presenters uttered in disbelief that Clinton may well not become the 45th president. The world scratched their heads in disbelief when the reality of what was happening began to sink in.

Now there’s finger pointing and attempts to find conclusions in how and why this vile life form managed to secure a job as leader of the free world. As usual, most the ideas and accusations fired have hints of truth to them, yet don’t explain the full story and are more often than not far too simplistic.

One argument is that Trump raced toward victory because of the immensely flawed electoral college system. Indeed, this is part of the reason, as Clinton did actually win the popular vote. She led by 200,000 votes after all. Most of Clinton’s voting base were based in denser populated city states, meaning that despite the higher number of overall votes in her favor, Trump still managed to secure a comfortable victory.

This explains part of the reason, yet we must also take into account the fact that Clinton running for the Democrat party also contributed to the fact that we now have a clueless plank set to move into the White House. Clinton, unlike Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential election, didn’t have a big enough movement behind her. Obama had a boat load of activists and volunteers, followed by unimaginable support from political groups and movements all across America. Clinton simply didn’t have that kind of backing during this election to carry her to a safe victory.

Because the problem is, Clinton just isn’t that popular candidate. As a matter of fact. She’s pretty despised by an awful lot of people. Democrats included.

Clinton has had a history of dishonesty regarding LGBTQIA+ rights, her stance toward the Trans Pacific Partnership, and has even been caught on camera explaining to bankers that politicians should have a separate “public” and “personal” persona.

The Clintons are a family known far too often for bending and breaking the rules; taking in millions of dollars in speaking fees & charitable donations from questionable sources, using her private email server while acting as secretary of state, and suspiciously generating nearly $100,000 after investing just $1,000 within a ten month period.

Her support of the Iraq war, her key role in the decision to overthrow Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi (destabilising the region and paving way for ISIS), and her neverending appetite for foreign intervention has also contributed to her lack of popularity.

While millions swooned over the idea of Barack Obama in 2008, Hillary Clinton received nowhere near as much support as a result of her pro-war, pro-establishment, questionable nature.

This means that even though voting turnout for republicans last week weren’t all that much different to the 2008 and 2012 figures for John McCain and Mitt Romney, Trump still managed to secure enough overall states to become the 45th President of the United States. I’m not saying anyone else
would have done a better job (including Bernie Sanders, as many are saying), however the fact that Hillary Clinton was running most certainly didn’t help when it came to the numbers.

These aren’t the only reasons of course, and they aren’t the only speculations put forth since Tuesday night. Another one bandied about is the belief that Trump won the presidency because of the nation’s disappointment in the Obama years. A lot of people went into the 2008 election convinced that Barack Obama would bring about a totemic level of change to the American political and social landscape. Although he did indeed manage to achieve some great feats during his 8-years in power (Obama Care, legalization of gay marriage, to name but two), Congress went out of their way to block as many of his attempts at progressive change as they could.

The neverending pushback from Congress left many disappointed, let down by their own expectations of America’s 44th President. As a result, the American people looked upon the Democratic Party of the last 8-years – a party which Clinton was apart of – with disappointed eyes. In November 2008, they were seen as the party who would deliver a brighter future. Today, seeing as less than expected has changed, less enthusiasm and support is held toward them.

Another argument put forth – one which I’ve heard far too often over the past week – is that the liberal left are solely to blame for Trump’s victory.

This is not only a claim made by the right, but also by the left themselves as well.

The idea goes like this; the way those on the left have treated those on the right has inevitably pushed them so far to the extreme that they ended up silently protesting by voting for a xenophobic bully who brags about assaulting women and hasn’t the slightest clue on how to run a country.

Now look, I’ll be honest and admit I think there are problems in the ways the left communicate with those who don’t agree ideologically, much in the same way as I think there are problems with the ways in which those on the right treat those who don’t agree with them.

Yes, the left need to adopt new ways of understanding and listening to others before labeling them racists or whatever (just like how I think the right need to stop automatically labeling people on the left as “sensitive”), but come on now.

Do people genuinely think the left have insulted right wingers so much (kinda ironic, considering how often I hear anti-liberal folk talk about how easily offended the left supposedly are) that they felt as though they had no other choice than to run to the voting booth and elect a hate-filled bully into high office? Really? So because liberals and the left in general came across as accusing and easily-offended in their eyes, that forced them to go ahead and vote for someone as rotten as Trump?

The liberal left do need to begin addressing the ways in which they speak to the right – ways which may well assist in polarising opponents in some respects – yet you can’t blame liberals for Trump getting into power. Instead of screaming “they made me do it!”, how about we accept that Trump is in the White House because people voted for him in there on their own accord.

Enough with all this “triggered people made Trump voters vote for him!” or “they silenced the right-wingers into choosing a racist because they called them all racist in the first place!” Maybe I’m exaggerating, but that sounds a bit like a member of the Klu Klux Klan saying “I only joined because my classmates kept calling me racist!!”.

I’ve always been a believer in the idea that you can’t change a mindset by insulting someone – that you have to do it through empathy and civil discussion – and I will admit that the left have been guilty of not going about the right way of doing this at times; myself included in that criticism. But saying they are solely culpable for Trump because they didn’t educate or empathise with enough people is bouncing the blame over.

Tump voters put Trump in the White House, not the people who voted otherwise.

Now is the perfect opportunity for those of us who play ball on the same ideological field to begin assessing and evaluating how we interact with those who disagree with us. It’s time to find new ways of communicating views to the world and understanding those whose mindsets differ.

Because I can appreciate that at times progressives have been guilty of labelling others as racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic/etc when it isn’t necessary, and I can appreciate that we’ve failed to explain why people like Trump are not out to make the world a better place for anyone other than themselves.

Yet while I can appreciate that the left have failed to publicize their worldview efficiently enough in several respects, the fact so many are beginning to adopt the notion that liberals are screaming “bigot!” at any given opportunity is starting to make me slightly concerned that many may start to use this as a means of silencing those questioning and calling out language suppressing and enforcing dangerous stereotypes.

I’m growing troubled over the possibility of people using the whole “you’re being over sensitive” rhetoric to justify calling all Muslims terrorists, trans people via their birth genders, poor people scroungers, black people thugs, gay people perverts, refugees parasites and so on.

Calling all Muslims terrorists contributes to a mindset which results in innocent men and women getting stopped at airports, beaten up on the streets and in some cases murdered by paranoid folk. Referring to trans women as men and trans men as women results in gender variant individuals getting battered by insecure folk, restricted from public spaces and made to endure crippling gender dysphoria (for the record, gender dysphoria is a tad different to getting a tad miffed. Hence why trans people go through the social & physical agonies of changing their genders in the first place). Calling the unemployed scroungers amplifies a hatred toward them which forces governments into cutting their benefits and making them more unfavourable within the eyes of employers/authorities/society in general. Labelling black people as thugs encourages distrust, makes them appear more guilty and is what results in more black folk getting arrested/shot/imprisoned/murdered on a daily basis. Referring to gay people as perverts makes for more beatings, distrust, alienation and disgust. Calling immigrants parasites strips them of their humanity, resulting in homelessness, antipathy and abandoned by nations whose governments were responsible for blowing their homes to smithereens in the first place.

The language we use and the ideas we share contribute to the suffering and oppression many minorities endure. I’m not talking about hurt feelings here, I’m talking about lives that are ruined because of attitudes and ideas spread throughout our culture.

There’s a considerable difference between offending and oppressing. When talking about racism or sexism or homophobia etc, we aren’t talking about about making a comment which ruffles the feathers of some touchy soul (though why anyone would want to specifically offend another without consequence sounds like the yearnings of a prick if you ask me. But that’s neither here nor there). When referring to oppression, we are talking about a series of actions/mindsets/language which persecutes or undermines an entire group of individuals on a social and institutional level.

Despite there being a clear difference between offending someone on an isolated level and oppressing an entire group, since Wednesday’s election, I’m beginning to see the whole “generation snowflake” and “you’re all just triggered babies” rhetoric get bandied about far more frequently than usual.

Racism, sexism, homophobia and prejudice in general are issues we all need to discuss and question; regardless of our ideological stance. Sure, some have indeed been quick to label others as bigots without giving much time or thought to the people they are accusing, and sure, I genuinely don’t think this achieves anything worthwhile. Yet if we someday reach a point where people start to assume by default that those who are victim to oppression or hatred are just “offended” or “sensitive”, then there may well be problems.

What if the “overly-offended” claim gets used to gag any discussion regarding oppression or prejudice? Could our society become so accustomed to this belief that we could eventually see a day where attempts at combatting bigotry are consensually perceived as whiny children yearning to be nannied from cradle to grave?

Or maybe my concern is irrational. Maybe I’m overreacting. Maybe I’m assuming the worst right now because of how I’m hearing all this talk about how the rise of Trump is apparently thanks to a liberal culture who silences and shames those who disagree with such ideologies.

I presume some are using the whole “liberals did it!” claim because they are getting “liberalism” jumbled up with “neoliberalism”.

Being “liberal” usually means supporting progressive political ideas and liberties. “Neoliberalism” on the other hand, is the economic model which transfers control of economic factors to the private sector. Neoliberals want a free market where everything related to capital is privately owned, leaving the state to focus instead on regulating those said markets, creating social fairness within them and internalising external effects.

Sounds dandy when you put like that, however in recent decades, the free market has grown into a destructive, heartless monster. A monster which exploits the poor, drains the natural resources of our lands, cripples social mobility, amplifies class inequality, benefits only a fortunate few (e.g. anyone who’s rich), and makes life increasingly difficult for those who don’t prosper from such a system.

Hillary Clinton is seen by many as a walking embodiment of the modern neoliberal market. The fact she’s top buds with a whole tirade of millionaires who’ve essentially being buying her out for the entirty of her political career meant that voting for her was essentially seen as a vote for the economic system which crashed the world economy back in 2008.

Despite Trump also being a part of the capitalist system so many despise and have suffered from, his “every-man” way of speaking, plus his habit of saying whatever springs to mind separated him in the eyes of many from the stuffy political elite who caused financial Armageddon 8-years prior.

The hatred and distrust brought on by politicians puppeteered by the neoliberal elites of our land are what is seen as the cause of Trump’s election. Yet somewhere along the way, it was decided that progressives were also to blame.

(Having said all of this however, liberals in America are often ideologically married to neoliberalism, plus the leader of the Democratic Party was a neoliberal. So I can see why the two are usually viewed in unison by so many).

People are blaming are blaming the liberals for this mess. People are also claiming that the reason America now has a clown in charge of the world’s largest military fleet is not just down to progressives shouting right-wingers all the way to the extreme, but more to do with the filter bubble brought on by news outlets and social network.

While those on the left saw nothing but articles focusing on how vile a buffoon of a bigot Trump is, right-wingers were subjected to articles focusing on how much of a war loving establishment puppet Clinton is.

The liberal left saw no way of Trump winning, whereas the right were certain Trump was the better of two evils.

An echo chamber erected from the digital coding of Facebook and Twitter, silencing both sides from one another. No one knew what the other was thinking, meaning neither side could prevent or deter the outcome.

Who knows if any of these claims are right, or if any of them explain the bulk of why we now live in a world where that twat from The Apprentice is essentially one of the most powerful men on this rock.

All I know right now is that I’m terrified. I’m terrified because I’m beginning to see just how right-wing the world around me is. Every few months, something happens which genuinely makes me recoil in horror as I realize just how anti-progressive this globe genuinely is.

Once upon a time, I believed the nations of the world grew gradually more progressive in their attitudes. I honestly thought bigotry was slowly being eroded from our lands. That as the years came and went, we’d all become more loving and tolerant toward each other. My stupid, infantile mind assumed that time would strengthen civil rights in ways never before seen. As of today, however, I realise I couldn’t be further from the truth.

The world of today is a cold, mean place.

Our governments invade and destroy entire nations, only for our citizens to mock and despise the very victims we create through such actions.

Western governments chizzle away at civils rights.

Newspapers openly fabricate racist headlines for the masses to lap up alongside their morning cereal.

UK/US troops are sent out to Middle Eastern countries year after year to engage in meaningless conflicts.

There’s no such thing as good guys or bad guys anymore. Just hatred, blame, lies, bullying and distrust. Everything feels well and truly screwed.

Since Tuesday night, however, there have been many in America who’ve stood up and declared that Trump is not their President. They’ve taken to the streets to protest the horror of what’s happened. To which the Trump supporters have reacted against by moaning about how they should all just “chill out and go home. Gosh, what babies. He won, you lost. Shut up and respect democracy!”

These protesters are protesting not because they are “whiny little children”, but because these are the people who are going to suffer greatly under a Trump administration, because they aren’t fortunate enough to ride out four whole years of this nightmare without suffering the consequences of an extreme right-wing government, and because they ARE respecting democracy by exercising their right to protest.

And for those who say “no he’s in, he’ll probably calm down”. Yea, maybe he will, I mean I doubt it, but whatever, I’ll admit there’s a slim possibility that a lot of the awfulness was nothing more than a boatload of bravado. However I do indeed recall a time when people said the same thing about him getting elected as the leader of the Republican party.

Everyone assumed he only said all that crazy racist twaddle because it would boost his publicity. “When he’s running for the top job”, they all said “he’ll try and appear to a wider audience, so he’ll tone it down”.

Except he didn’t. He was just as awful as he was prior to winning the leadership bid. So forgive me for being skeptical on that claim.

What I think will happen is Trump will have such trivial knowledge when it comes to running high office, he’ll let everyone around him run the show instead. He’ll let vice President Mike Pence – a man who signed one of the worse abortion laws in country, signed a bill which made it perfectly fine for businesses to discriminate against LGBTQIA customers and illegally tried to cut off federal aid to refugees living in Indiana – and Stephen Bannon – a anti gay, anti Semite, white supremacist who owns a far right news outlet – run the show.

While Trump may fail to bring about all the horrors he promised on his campaign trail, the thought of Pence and Bannon taking control is what’s keeping me awake at night right now.

I’d love to keep an open mind, and oh how I’d love to be proven wrong right now. I’d do anything to be made a fool of right now, to see Trump go on and steer America in a direction of true greatness. Of course I don’t want minorities to suffer at the hands of a clueless bully and his far-right gang of homophobes and racists. I dream of a day where all these fears of mine are exposed as nothing more than the paranoid nightmares of a foolish liberal.

For the time being, however, I’ll remain fearful. Fearful for those who now have to endure four years of Trump, who have to go to bed each night wondering how long their medicare will last, how long it will be until their rights are stripped from them, how long it will be before they lose everything because of the outcome of last week’s election.

All we can do now is try to learn from what’s happened. Listen to what those who voted this fool in have to say, find out why so many have turned to far-right rhetoric in a bid to bring about change, and figure out a way of sorting out the mess which seems to be scattered all around us.

 

 

Rise Up and Abandon the Creeping Meatball

Reading Time: 3 minutes
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Chuck Hamilton

 

Remember what Jean Shepherd said about creeping meatballism being the passive acquiescence of people who surrender to the demands of the consumer culture and collaborate in their own manipulation? In the Great Satan back in the 1960s, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and three of their friends founded the counterculture-oriented Youth International Party whose slogan was “Rise up and abandon the creeping meatball”. It’s in the yippie spirit, in fact, that I’m now referring to America as the Great Satan, certainly not out of any respect for that chicken-fucker Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who coined the term. Uncle Sam may be the more common nickname, but in that guise America is the uncle comes to your bedroom at your parents’ house at night with its trousers unzipped.

I remember a story I heard on the radio (remember those), on National Public Radio, I think, about a couple who had this pet chimpanzee, a female they’d named Jane. There came a point when they couldn’t care for her anymore, and thinking she should be with her own kind, they gave her over to the local zoo. The first time they came to visit her, she became extremely excited, especially when they gave her a bunch of treats. They came again and did the same, failing to notice the agitation from the other chimps. When they returned the third time, Jane wouldn’t come near them, and had clearly been beaten. Asking the zookeeper what happened, he explained that they should have brought enough for all of the group.

There’s a quote going around falsely attributed to Jody Foster that was actually a computer-generated meme. Maybe machines are not as stupid as we thought. The quote goes, “Attacking the rich is not envy; it is self-defense. The hoarding of wealth is the cause of poverty. The rich aren’t just indifferent to poverty: they create it and maintain it.” That’s the end of the so-called quote, but if it had continued, the computer would’ve added that they maintain it through the power of the political state and informal means of social control such as the creation of patriotism and making the poor ashamed of the poverty inflicted upon them in order to maintain the wealth of the few, as if it is somehow their fault rather than the wankers and cunts who have thrust it upon them.

Another meme I’ve seen in relation to the suffering visited upon Greece by the European Union which should make one have second thoughts about that body, that just because Brexiters were so obnoxiously bigoted does not mean the EU is a good thing anymore than Donald Trump makes Hillary Clinton a good thing or Donald Cameron and Theresa May make Tony Blair a good thing. This meme, describing the chain of events leading to the crash of 2007 and the ongoing Great Recession, quite accurately describes austerity.

It goes like this: Rich people cause economic crisis. Rich people demand bail out from state for causing the crisis. Rich people do better than ever before. Rich people demand austerity, which is a fancy word for cutting services for the non-rich, to pay for bailing out rich people. Rich people blame poor people for the crisis they themselves have created, and become angry that poor people think they deserve better, calling for more sacrifice…sacrifice from the poor, that is.

So, the answer to the age-old question of why is there so much poverty in the world, as answered by a computer no less, is that there is poverty because there is wealth. Wealth is, in fact, is the sole cause of poverty. Without a greedy few amassing hoards of resources out of the reach of the rest of humanity, there would be more than enough for all. The needs of the many should outweigh the greed of the avaricious few.

Much is made of the divide between the basement dwellers who supported Bernie Sanders and the deplorables who support Donald Trump. The truth is that both sets of us are driven by the same underlying motivation; less and less available for the many as the few, the 1%, hoard more and more to themselves. Like the grassroots of the Occupy movement vis-à-vis the rank-and-file of the Tea Party movement in its early days. The differences are superficial and ephemeral, just like the illusory divide between grassroots supporters of Brexit and grassroots opposers of Brexit. The more we buy into this division which is as artificial as any national border, the more we collaborate in our own manipulation and allow the meatball to creep on until it rolls over us like a boulder. We can’t abandon the creeping meatball unless we first rise up and demand what all of us deserve, a cooperative commonwealth of the many, by the many, and for the many, even the then formerly wealthy whose hoards have been more fairly distributed.

The Silencing of the Lambs: William Blake, Elite Child Abuse and New Jerusalem

Reading Time: 3 minutes
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Steve McAuliffe

 

 

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Everything that is good and pure and noble, all the great music, art, and poetry will, in time, by necessity, be subverted and perverted by the self-serving so-called elites. For they see us merely as units to be exploited and kept in perpetual darkness.
However, from time to time a great voice emerges to point out the brutality of the faceless men who steer the monolithic ship of state, and when this happens the dangerous message must be negated; or if too powerful and resonant a message, as William Blake’s undoubtedly was, then the intention must be reversed.
Thus does the poem Jerusalem (which was actually Blake’s preface to the poem Milton) become a patriotic hymn for fat privileged Tories in their elite Oxbridge drinking clubs, who without any discernible irony belt out the lines:

“And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?”

The irony being of course, these sons of stolen privilege are drawn from the very bloodlines that profited from those same dark satanic mills. And so the intention of Blake’s poem is purposefully corrupted by the lineal descendants of those who put our ancestors to work firing the furnaces of their pitiless industry. This is the reversal of intention. In short, it’s a fucking con-job.
Blake’s vision of the attainment of Jerusalem, was set to music a century later, and soon after it was relaunched as a patriotic hymn; an alternative national anthem: re-packaged, re-booted and re-branded. And once this nifty cultural enclosure act was complete, mythical Albion was relaunched as Albion plc.
It is the State’s compulsion to twist and diminish, to reverse and perverse anything true and anything pure, that partly explains the perversities committed against children that are only now coming to light. For these people associate Power, in its ‘purest’ form, with the corruption of any organic truth or purity. Eventually, the physical corruption of children becomes a natural extension of their self-serving perversity, perhaps even the ultimate prize.
Blake himself was enraged by the State’s wanton abuse of children; the child to him was a Holy Lamb; and he recognised that the church and state whose moral duty it was to protect these children were in fact the oppressors and exploiters of the holy lamb.

“Is this a holy thing to see,
In a rich and fruitful land,
Babes reduc’d to misery”

William Blake calls attention to society’s abuse of children in a number of different ways, showing how society corrupts and exploits the purity of their innocence and ‘divine imagination’.
Blake believed that every unspoilt child has within them an inherent incorruptibility, an incorruptibility that renders them superior to the adult. For adults, if not exploiters themselves, have, at the very least been successfully corrupted and propagandised by a heartless and self-serving establishment. At best they are blind:

“In every cry of every Man,
In every Infants cry of fear,
In every voice: in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear”

Society ensures that from the earliest age our sovereignty – of which we are made woefully ignorant – is traded away; our divine imagination is shackled (by the mind-forged manacles); and our innocence defiled. The Holy Lambs among us are sacrificed for the pleasure of vengeful and sadistic would-be-gods.
This is nothing less than the defiling and desecration of Jerusalem itself, which for Blake was never a physical place, but always and forever, a state of mind: a mind free of imposed restraints and corrupted ideologies.
Jerusalem then is a return to the innocence of the Holy Lamb: a dreamscape of our own imaginings; in Blake’s own words:

‘Imagination is a glimpse of the divine’

So is mythical, mystical Jerusalem within our grasp now, in spite of the mass propaganda that we are bombarded with day in and day out?
Well maybe what we are seeing now is the mass throwing off of mind-forged manacles, as more and more sickening revelations of the perversities of the pitiless state are being unveiled on an almost daily basis.
Finally, it seems, the illusion is being exposed for the decaying sordid reality it is. People are waking up en masse. And maybe out of this awakening Blake’s Jerusalem beckons.
In reaction to the ongoing terrible revelations of institutionalised child abuse it seems we are finally standing up as one, determined to protect the purity of the lamb against these dark and previously all powerful forces. And in doing so we are reclaiming our own birth-rights. We are, perhaps, rebuilding a true promised land, albeit it upon the powdered bones of those would-be-gods, they who no longer hold dominion over our divine imaginations.