Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Notes on Manchester Attacks

I don't mean to disappoint you but I don't really have alot to say on the Manchester attacks because I would just be repeating myself, and you would find that boring. Nonetheless, I somewhat feel compelled to write something on this bloodbath, so I will really try not to seem like I am repeating myself or recycle talking points I have used in response to past tragedies.

I feel sorrow for those whose lives were taken, those who were maimed and injured, and those who are looking for their loved ones among the missing, and sadly those feeling the pain and loss of losing a loved one. I cannot even begin to imagine what those poor people are going through right now. We musn't forget that on the recieving end of these atrocities, every time, are living and breathing human beings and wrecked families. I have nothing but complete and unconditional solidarity with the city of Manchester, and my fellow compatriots who have been affected by this tragedy.

 The Burj Khalifa in Dubai in solidarity with Manchester

My emotions are surging full of rage at the evil commited by the depraved savages responsible for this heartless murder of innocents. This wasn't an attack on the powerful. It was not aimed at Presidents or Prime ministers. It wasn't even directed at armies or police forces. It was aimed at ordinary people. It targeted children, harmless, powerless, innocent children. Religious fascists don't bomb children going to an Arian Grande pop concert because they have a grievance over this or that imperialist crime on "Muslim lands". They do so because they are wicked, lawless, evil and motivated by an ideology that is based on sadism, hatred, dehumanisation, cruelty and absolutism. An ideology that not only denies, but negates any sense of morality, humanity, civilisation and virtue.

As shocking as this is, it should not be surprising. The moral universe of a Jihadist has no issues with decimating children in cold blood. For example massacaring children in a school in Peshawar, Pakistan or firing a bullet (though failed to kill) into Malala Yousufzai's head because she demanded an education. I can go on and give you inummerable examples of these kinds of atrocities in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine, Nigeria etc. They will not hesistate to murder 'their' own children. What made you think they would not be doing the exact same thing to ours? The life of a child has no value to these nihilists.

Saffie Rose Rousse, one of the named victims. 
She was 8 years old. Just 8 years old!
My heart is breaking.
A beautiful little girl decimated by bloody ugly monsters

We cannot prevent every terrorist attack. No matter how sophisticated the national security system, no matter how hard the intelligence service works, even if we turned our society into a totalitarian police state (which I would be strongly against), we still wouldn't prevent every attack. Some attacks are just going to fall through the cracks.

What we can control is our reaction. React we must, but the issue is in what type of reaction we will give. Just as Malcolm X said the racist will never be his teacher, we also must not allow theocratic fascists to be the teachers of free and civilised peoples. We must firmly state that we will not give in to the logic of terror.

We must resist that niggling temptation to sink into the politics of fear and the politics of suspicion, because once we go down that road we will end up in the desolate state of the authoritarian police state to whom we will surrender our hard won liberties to in the hope that they can gurantee us permanent security. Once we arrive at this sordid destination, then we will neither have security or liberty. All we will have is a society paralysed by fear, polarised communities, a broken social fabric and a state with a great amount of power that it will inevitably abuse and use arbitrarily.

How not to respond to terrorism 101

Unfortunately, the usual suspects have, as usual, exploited this tragedy to spread their tendentious agenda. While the people of Manchester stand united, give free taxi rides, donate blood, open their doors to strangers and make general messages of love and solidarity - the people we should really be talking about. Others call for a "final solution" and stir up racial and sectarian hatred.

This is language of fascism and effectively an incitement to genocide. She should face serious moral accountability and really ought to retract this disgusting statement. Part of our reaction must include not allowing this kind of toxic anti-Muslim demagoguery to be pervasive.

Now, we are right to be angry, to be filled with rage, even, to be filled with hate. Often in our public discourse hate is often seen as a bad thing - for good reason most of the time- and how we should focus on love - again often for good reason. But I would say that in order to know what you love, you must know what you hate (and the vice versa applies too) and there is justification in this instance for hate, at least for me, because it is directed at those who deserve it and based on a desire for justice, not directed to those who are innocent or based on revenge or a desire to persecute and demonise others.

I hate the fact that twenty two of our fellow citizens - many of them children- were murdered, I hate the savage who did it, I hate those who will apologise for it, and I hate the filthy, murderous ideology that underpins such barbarism. I want to destroy that ideology and the groups that fight under its banner. Not only destroy it, but obliterate it, extinguish it, and systematically and absolutely disgrace and discredit it. Compromise with this kind of absolutism is unthinkable and not possible. There is nothing to negotiate, I seek its complete destruction. Jihadism and its various terror surrogates must be opposed, resisted and fought wherever they are, and the resistance should only be criticised when it falters or waivers in its opposition to these reactionary forces.

What we have to realise is there is no quick solution to this problem. We cannot ignore it or explain it away with silly turgid masochistic talking points or benign but ultimately hollow statements of 'all we need is love'. Nor can we pretend that we can simply bomb, shoot, torture, legalise and "close our borders" our way out of this. What is required is a very strong and resilient political, social and ideological struggle against this form of Islamic absolutism, alongside those resisting it on the frontlines in other countries, aswell as our own (this has nothing with the 'clash of civilisations' bullshit or Eurabia alarmism), based on international solidarity above all else. But it must be rooted in a different kind of politics.

We need a politics that is unapologetic in defending what these nihilists are out to destroy; the joys of life and our 'infidel liberties'. A politics that seeks to unite people from different communities towards a common goal. A politics that neither rushes to blame the other, nor attempts to explain away evil through moral relativism or victim blaming. A politics that sees the moral outrage in terror, but also understands the need to analyse the political and social context in which terror thrives. A politics that takes religion and ideology seriously but doesn't engage in collective blame, nor calls for the persecution or authoritarian measures against the other. A politics that acknowledges that there are many stupid and immoral ways of engaging in this struggle, that are rooted in chauvanism, hatred and irrational demonology, but understands that there is no principled or intelligent way of being against this struggle. A politics that will call on all of our principles, all of our intelligence and all of our solidarity and internationalism.

In short, a very difficult politics, but a principled and intelligent one.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Notes on Westminister Attack

Tragedy strikes Europe.

Yesterday afternoon, on the anniversary of the Brussels attacks from last year, London was on the end of a terrorist assault. According to the BBC, Three people have died and at least 40 have been injured after an attacker drove a car along a pavement in Westminster, stabbed a policeman and was shot dead by police in the grounds of Parliament.

The dead police officer - who was unarmed as the attacker charged over and stabbed him - is known as PC Keith Palmer, aged 48, a husband and a father. His former colleague in the Royal Artillery and Conservative MP James Cleverly, paid tribute to him by describing him as a "lovely man".

Another victim has been named as 43 year old, mother of two and Spanish language teacher, Aysha Frade. Aysha was mowed down by a the grey Hyundai 4x4 as she walked over Westminster Bridge to collect her two daughters, aged 8 and 11.

The third victim was American tourist Kurt Cochran, who was on the final day holiday with his wife celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary when he was killed.

At least 40 people are known to have been injured. Among them twelve Britons, four South Koreans, three French youngsters on a school trip, two Romanians, two Greeks, one German, one Polish national, one Irish citizen, one American citizen, one Chinese and one Italian.

This attack was an act of Islamist terrorism, ISIS recently claimed responsibility, praising the attacker - a British born jihadist named Khalid Masood- as a "soldier of the Islamic state". However, it remains to be seen whether the attack was directed by ISIS , or inspired by them. It seems more likely that it was the latter, not the former.

As usual, after every one of these tragedies, we subject ourselves to the same rituals we always go through. It really is tiring and immensely frustrating to see one side act as if there is no problem, or if they do they severely simplify and misdiagnose the problem, while the other side will exploit what is a legitimate issue in order to spread bigotry, hatred and unneccessary, irrational fear.

I write this first and foremost as a human being, who has a sense of empathy, compassion and solidarity with my fellow creatures. In the aftermath of every terrorist attack, All of my thoughts and condolences are with the victims and their families, before anything else. They are the ones whose lives have been taken from them, unable to ever embrace their parents, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, children and friends again.

Just imagine being the children of Aysha Frade, eagerly waiting for their mother at school, looking forward to going home to spend time with the family, only to realise that someone had taken her life. Imagine being the wife of PC Palmer, who everyday says goodbye to her husband as he goes off to work always expecting he will return home from his shift safely, but this time, on this day, he doesn't.

Nothing is worse than that and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

 Many have described yesterday's assault as an "attack on democracy", or as Theresa May put it, "a shot against our values of ‘democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law". True, this Jihadist  scumbag and his ideological ilk do hate these values and their universality because it is in direct opposition to everything they stand for: one set of values sets the conditions for human flourishing, happiness and emancipation, while the other set can only bring death, misery and enslavement.

However, let us have some perspective. No individual, no matter how well armed they are, no matter how determined, no matter how committed he is to his cause, can overthrow democracy or enslave a free people. These hard won rights and liberties that previous generations have struggled for are too robust, too vigarous, too steeped in the consciousness of all generations, to be overthrown by a twisted zealot with a weaponised vehicle, a knife, and a perverse belief in a reward of 72 virgins in a celestial orgy for killing 'the kuffar'.

The only way the terrorist would have any impact on democracy and freedom is if we give him an enourmous helping hand. It will be our response as a society to this act of barbarity that will decide whether democracy is under attack or not.

You can rest assured vile bigots and Muslimaphobic chauvanists who desire to stigmatise and demonise an entire community, are talking this attack up as an act of war, the latest blow by an Islamic army slowly, stealthily conquering Europe. These merchants of racism from the far-right have no other purpose but to spread irrational fear and hatred. They claimed Britain was "cowed" by the crime and London was "shut down" and under "lockdown" as a result of the attack. This is of course a total falsehood, London carried on as normal and people were not cowed and went about their business as usual. All these people desire is the power to subjugate and stigmatise muslims, and they seek to undermine the idea that peoples of different faiths can coexist with each other and build a society.

Meanwhile those often labelled "the regressive left" will indulge themselves in a toxic mix of victim blaming, masochism and a self hatred before the blood of the victims is even allowed to dry, desperately peddling 'grievance' and 'root cause' narratives of how 'we' brought this horror on ourselves; of how these are the deserved punishements for our numerous crimes and iniquities; of why we somehow triggered this poor guy to slam a car into a pedestrians and slit a man's throat.

I have said it before and I will say it again: do not give me this crap that jihadist atrocities are a response (or shall we say 'blowback') to western imperialism.  ISIS are not anti-imperialists, or some strange Islamic version of liberation theology. They are pro-imperialism, they seek to revive a lost empire: their imagined caliphate. This is what their Islamic state project is all about, imposing a purritanical, theocratic fascist empire, first in the muslim world, then across the whole world. Obviously, this project is so utopian and so irrational that it could never be fully established, but let us be clear on their intentions and the character of their ideology.

In response to these two pathologies, we cannot surrender ourselves to the culture of fear and the politics of suspicion because it will potentially lead to us down the barren road of petty authoritarianism, the security state and foul assaults on the liberties which supposedly needed to be defended from the Islamist threat.

While it is understandable and proper that we focus on the tragic nature of this attack and the challenges around other potential attack it provokes. Let us not forget the bravery, heroism and humanity that was on display in the midst of such savagery and the international solidarity and sympathy. We may have seen the worst of humanity, but we also saw the best of it.

Our response to yesterday's assault should be to demand more freedom and democracy, not less. It should be to never allow hatred and fear to colonise our hearts. It should be to remember the victims, their memory and humanise them, as opposed to the manner the terrorist dehumanised them. Ultimately, it is to do everything within our power to make sure that while this bloody, savage act may have succeeded in impacting awfully on scores of innocent people, it will have no impact on our values, our political life, our daily lives, and our sense of security.

This, of course, on its own won't solve the challenges the global threat we all face from the Jihadist internationale, but it is neccessary step to even begin dealing with the challenge. We must resist terrorism not complete it.


Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Beware of Linda Sarsour

'Brooklyn hijabi' and alleged feminist Linda Sarsour was a co-organiser and leader of the notorious Women's March on Saturday, described as one of the biggest protests in American history.

She recieved alot of criticism afterwards which was described as "Islamophobic" or "right wing" across many media sites that reported on it.

I will concede that some of the blowback she experienced on social media was unpleasant and indeed motivated by bigotry and racism. I condemn this obviously and view it as tragic, as it diverts attention from very legitimate criticisms of her hypocrisy and faux-feminism.

However, the reason she is on the end of legitimate criticism is not because she is Muslim. It's because she is an apologist for oppressive Islamist fundamentalism and an identity politics poser, which many media sites failed to mention. There is an immense, and rather sick irony for someone who minimizes the oppression of her 'fellow Muslim sisters' to lead a Women's March to defend the gains of feminism against Donald Trump.

You don't believe me? Well, let us look at some of her previous tweets.

Her basic message is "Don't worry! Women being barred from driving isn't a big deal because they get 10 weeks of paid maternity leave, while women in America don't have the benefit of paid maternity leave".

The hardships of women in Saudi Arabia goes far beyond them not being allowed to drive. It's to do with a state, a legal system and even a culture that doesn't treat them as human beings of equal worth. That views motherhood and domestic surbordination as the only thing that is worthy of a woman. So yeah, it's not a coincedence that Saudi women are compensated with a sort of generous maternity leave.

In this tweet she attempts to downplay the issue of forced veiling in Saudi Arabia. Of course, veiling is not THE issue for Saudi women, but it certainly is AN issue. The issue is the fundamental right of women to choose what they wish to wear, not for the nanny state acting in the name of Allah ordering women what to wear. As a "feminist" how does she fail to see this very simple principle?

This is a such a doltish and dishonest tweet. She appeals to women in high positions in the Muslim world (all of them women of privilege by the way, to use a word butchered by her and her ilk) as though it somehow alliveates the conditions of the average Muslim woman.

The same moronic logic is used by those who say because Barack Obama was president of the United States therefore America is "post-racial". I know she doesn't accept this logic in regards to race relations in America- in fact she poses as a defender of black lives and black bodies to gain ebonic points- but she will use this logic in regards to gender relations in Muslim majority countries.

Never mind honor violence; never mind the injustices rape victims are subjected to by shariah courts; never mind all the discrimination and repression of women. But, of course, women in high places, therefore "what's this whole sexism issue Islamophobes bang on about?"

"Shariah law is reasonable". Really? Does she not realise that in countries that adopt shariah apostates and homosexuals are executed; women alleged to have committed adultery are stoned to death; women who could not gather the testimony of four "pious" witnessess neccessary for a rape conviction are at risk of being stoned to death and religious minorities are repressed. Of course, all that matters to Linda is interest free loans. The experiences of those who have to endure the injustice of actual existing shariah is barely a concern to her.

Romanticism for shariah is an easy position to hold when you don't live under it and have to experience its full consequences.

If her Shariah apologism wasn't bad enough for you. You then have self-proclaimed Liberal personalities and celebraties defending her as a symbol of decency, tolerance and compassion, against her critics. Who by definition are 'haters', 'trolls and 'bigots'. A lame and abject hashtag #IMarchWithLinda was started to express their solidarity.

When was the last time Naomi Klein said anything intelligent?

Further praise and support came from New York State Senator Gustavo Rivera condemned “online trolls” attacking Sarsour.

NY Daily News columnist Shaun King described Sarsour as "one of the most effective, skilled, passionate organisers in the world". At least the white ally showed up.

Even Bernie participated in this orgy of adulation. I like Bernie and I wished he was the Presidential candidate instead of Hilary Clinton. But he is plain wrong on this one. As demonstrated previously, Linda is not a progressive. I am pretty sure they are tweeting their support for Linda out of ignorance of Linda's less than progressive stances on Saudi Arabia and shariah- or at least I hope so. So I will not condemn Bernie and the others too harshly.

From their point of view they see a poor hijabi activist, who superficially agrees with their progressive program, getting a hard time from 'bigots' and 'haters' with their 'gendered Islamophobia', naturally they spring to the defence of the percieved victim. Still, they ought to know better.

I, however, cannot respect the SPLC's (an organisation I have respect for) tweet of solidarity with Linda. Not after they unfairly put secular liberal Muslim Maajid Nawaz and liberal ex Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali on their nonsensical Islamophobe watch list (hit list more like).

I have problems with both Ayaan Hirisi Ali and Maajid Nawaz and don't agree with everything they say. But I would definetly have them over the charlatan Linda Sarsour. Any day of the week, it's not even a contest. Those two are far more deserving of the SPLC's support than this merchant in victim politics. It's saddening to see the SPLC regress like this.

Linda Sarsour is the product of this primitive and solipsistic identity politics that has permeated American politics for the past couple of decades. It has allowed her, with her pseudo radical bluster, to impose herself as the representative of American Muslim women (especially young ones) and for mainstream liberals to take her seriously.

What is most worrying was not Linda herself, necessarily, but the uncritical praise and support she recieved from squishy progressives.

It is worrying because it gives credence to this toxic, quasi-orientalist idea that in order to be seen as an 'authentic' Muslim and an ally of progressives, liberals and radicals, you have to be a faux-militant, Malcolm X wannabe, rabble rousing 'unapologetic' hijabi.

If you deviate slightly from this construction - like a Muslim woman who has the daring idea of not wearing the hijab and is a consistent advocate of human rights- then mainstream progressives and Hollywood liberals will not take you seriously, or even notice you, since you are not 'Muslim' enough for them.

Linda does not represent Palestinian women or Arab women or Muslim women, nor should she be regarded as such. She is a poser; a showboat run amock, dying for the camera. And worse, someone who attempts to minimize the oppression of women and the marginalised in Muslim majority countries. Pointing out her hypocrisy is not 'right wing', 'Islamophobic' or 'fake news', its actually being consistently progressive.

I don't take her seriously and I hope, comrades, you don't either.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

The American Crisis

 "These are the times that try men's souls"- Thomas Paine

The election of Donald Trump to the Oval Office is a disaster for America. It is a huge victory for the most vulgar and reactionary political and cultural forces domestically in America. Internationally speaking it's a victory for nativism, identity politics, authoritarianism and bigotry. 

Reactionaries all around the world from Putin in Russia to Marine Le Pen in France and even Islamic Jihadists have praised the election of Trump. This is a defeat for the republic, its constitution and its cherished ideals.

Like most people I believed Hilary would win. I thought Trump was well and truly finished with the Access Hollywood revelations and even the last minute FBI probe into Clinton's emails would not be enough to save him. How wrong I was. 

The mainstream media and most political commentators and pollsters were wrong too. Few people, if they are honest, saw this coming. 

It seemed too ridiculous that at the helm of the most powerful country - and arguably empire- in the world would be that guy from The Apprentice.

Nonetheless, it is amusing to see on social media and in the political commentary people playing the blame game and blaming their pet scapegoats for the election of Trump. 

Hilary supporters will blame Berniebros, Wikileaks, James Comey, Russia and third party voters for sabotaging her campaign. Conservatives claim Barack Obama and his policies enabled Trump. People on the cultural left are blaming white people and their 'unbearable whiteness'. Those who would call themselves 'anti-regressive left' liberals blame 'the left' for driving voters to Trump because of their promulgation of political correctness, identity politics and even 'anti-white racism'. 

At this point searching for the scapegoat is pointless, especially when all that  it motivates is scoring points with adversaries on Twitter. If we wish to understand the precarious position we are currently in then we need to understand the political and economic forces that enabled the Trump phenomenon.

 There are two main narratives used to explain the election of Trump. Some think it was a revolt by the downtrodden against elites by an economically insecure working class who are victims of globalisation.

Some Liberals having none of it and feel it was a 'whitelash'; the expression of angry white people fueled by racist rage, reacting in opposition to liberal, multi-cultural, cosmopolitan America as represented by the presidency of Barack Obama.

It is true that 58% of whites voted for Trump, while 88% of African Americans backed Clinton. Trump was supported by 53% of men, Clinton by 54% of women. Similarly 55% of over-45s voted Trump, while 55% of 18-29 year-olds chose Clinton. Three-quarters of those educated to postgraduate level supported Clinton; barely a third backed Trump. 81% of white evangelicals voted Trump, and just 16% backed Clinton.

Superficially, this may support the 'whitelash' thesis since the majority of whites voted for Trump. But in reality, it is more complex than that.

The majority of white voters may have supported Trump, but he gained only 1% more white support than did Mitt Romney in 2012. On the other hand, 29% of Hispanics voted for Trump, an 8% rise from 2012.
This isn't to say racism and white nativism has nothing to do with the reasoning of those who supported Trump. Trump's isolationist rhetoric and his views on Muslims and immigration do appeal to a white nativist tradition that has a long history in America. An example being the Know Nothing party of the 19th century who rallied against Chinese and Irish Catholic immigration because they perceived it as a threat to the White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant identity that was dominant in America.

 In addition, it is known that White nationalist movements and groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the alt-right endorsed Trump and were certainly elated when he won. Moreover, there has been reports of hate crimes and racial abuse occurring against minorities. 

Some have turned out to be false, but this still a worrying development that ought to be condemned. So yes, it has something to do with race. Not nothing and not everything, but something.

On class,  53% of those earning less than $30,000 voted Clinton, while only 41% voted for Trump. This does weaken the claim that Trump’s success was rooted in working class hatred of the Washington establishment. But what the figures show is that among the poorest sections of American society, who traditionally overwhelmingly vote Democrat, there was a huge 16% swing towards Trump as compared to 2012 when they voted for Obama.

This shift reveals the most striking difference between Trump and Clinton voters. More than 75% of Trump supporters feel financially worse off today than in 2012, 72% of Clinton supporters feel better off. 

When asked about whether life for the next generation would be better, 59% of Clinton supporters thought it would better, 63% of Trump supporters thought it would be worse.

Ultimately, both narratives of white nativism and economic insecurity have some truth to them. The problem is both sides fall into the trap of mono-casual explanations. 

Different people can cast the same vote for different reasons and multiple factors can work at the same time. 

Those who have suffered the effects of de-industrialisation and 'outsourcing' who have been left behind by globalisation and are experiencing economic instability may have voted for Trump because they naively believe he will bring back American manufacturing jobs and economic security. 

Others who are more economically comfortable and possess a racist worldview may have voted for Trump because they were turned on by his anti-immigration and anti-Muslim rhetoric. 

The two are not purely distinct and mutually exclusive. They can also interact, as people are more susceptible to fall into angry, parochial nativism when they feel increasingly economically insecure.

The fact is there is mass disillusionment and disenfranchisement among the working class and some sections of the middle class with both the mainstream political parties - Republicans and Democrats. 

Congress' approval rating is at an all time low. An exit poll from last Tuesday suggested that 72% of voters thought that "the economy is rigged to the advantage of the rich and powerful", 61% felt that "traditional parties and politicians don’t care about people like [them]", 68% agree that "traditional parties and politicians don’t care about people like [them]" and three-quarters believed that "America needs a strong leader to take the country back from the rich and powerful".

Trump is no representative of the oppressed or a 'man of the people'. 

His economic policy will invariably benefit the the rich and powerful, not the working class, as well as almost wreck the US economy. 

His authoritarianism will unfairly and/or unconstitutionally target Muslims, Hispanics and others. Trump will arguably be the most unpredictable president in American history. It will be horrible but what form the horror will take is yet to be revealed.
I fear much of the political and media elite will draw the wrong lesson from this election. During the campaign and now after the election some were wondering, explicitly, if this animal called democracy is all that it is cracked up to be, and that it may be democracy itself that is the problem.

Take for instance Andrew Sullivan's much lauded essay for New York Magazine, entitled "America has never been so ripe for tyranny". His argument is essentially that Trump is what happens when ordinary people are given too much say in the political realm or in his own words "democracies become tyrannies when they become too democratic".

 According to him the American system is supposed to 'cool and restrain temporary populist passions', but in recent years democracy has become too 'direct', meaning that people’s 'untrammeled emotions' can now shape political discourse. 

His solution to the right wing populism of Trump is for the rebuilding of the 'elitist sorting mechanism' that allowed American politics to remain kind of distant from the urges of the masses.
Elsewhere, in a new book called 'Against Democracy', Jason Brennan, a political philosopher at Georgetown University argues for an epistocracy. This is an 'aristocracy of the wise', who should bare the responsibility of deciding political matters for those of us who are of 'low information'- a cute technocratic euphemism for stupid.

The lesson I take from the election of Trump is not that there is too much democracy in America, as Sullivan and his anti-democratic cheerleaders would assert.  It is that there isn't enough democracy in America, either in its institutions or in terms of holding representatives accountable. 

Habitually voting for the lesser of the two evils like a thoughtless drone isn't all there is to democracy - it’s about substance, debate and the people having control over the future political direction of their societies.

 Over the past few decades, democracy in its very real sense has withered away and has been replaced by technocracy and the rise of expert cliques playing a significant role in shaping public life.

 This is why Hilary was a bad candidate to run against Trump since she perfectly represented the corrupt, liberal technocrat more interested in representing corporate power than the American people.
"Where do we go from here?", you may ask.

No simple answer will suffice, but I can offer a few suggestions.

Firstly, we need stop being so obsessed with Trump and his odious personality and start addressing the issues that lead many voters to support him and the political forces that enabled him. 

It is true that many of Trump's policies are immoral and repellent and many of his supporters, following the example of their 'daddy', hold obnoxious views about women and ethnic minorities. 

It is also true that hardcore white nationalists supported Trump, which is very worrying. But this should not blind us to the fact that many others voted for Trump for very different motivations – because he seems to be the only one that speaks to their grievances and expresses their frustrations and pure rage with mainstream politics and the elites.

However, engaging with the concerns of Trump voters does not equal pandering to their prejudices or embracing anti-immigration and anti-Muslim rhetoric. 

On the contrary, the vile ideas of Trump and his acolytes have to be unapologetically refuted.

 No one is arguing for abandoning liberal principles, but mindlessly calling Trump voters racist, ignorant, white trash and nothing else is counterproductive and achieves nothing because you forbid yourself the chance of potentially changing at least some of their minds.

Secondly, we need to revitalise popular and socially progressive movements through which to resist the poisonous and corrupting effect of money in American politics, to make the system more democratically accountable and through which to link liberal ideas on individual liberty, progressive economic arguments, accepting immigrants and a belief in social solidarity that will ultimately challenge the status quo and will make America, in the words of Martin Luther King, live up to true meaning of its creed. 

In other words, an alternative has to be offered that challenges the status quo but is not the reactionary authoritarianism of Trump.

It has to be an alternative that also challenges Trumpism but is not the restrictive elitism of Sullivan and co.

It has to be rooted in radical, progressive and democratic values. It must be able to capture the imagination of the American people and show them that a better, more positive vision of American society is possible and they have the power to realise it.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Eritrea: The Forgotten Refugee Problem

If you have been following the refugee crisis in the media you will have almost certainly heard of the terrible situation of the Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi refugees risking their lives in order to escape the vicious conflict in the Middle East. However, many people do not know much about the Eritreans also undertaking this risky journey eventhough they are the fourth largest nationality of people represented among the refugees arriving on European shores. Moreover, there are nearly 92,000 Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers in Sudan and 100,000 in Ethiopia living in squalid refugee camps.

The main reason Eritreans are fleeing from their own country in such great numbers is because of their dictatorial government which is extremely oppressive. So oppressive that the country itself is commonly referred to as ‘The North Korea of Africa’. This is not a sensationalist comparison, there is truth to it.

The country, located on the horn of Africa is a one party state, ruled by the dictator Isaias Afwerki- leader of PFDJ party- ever since Eritrea got its independence from Ethiopia in 1993. There are no elections. There are severe restrictions on freedom of speech. Thousands of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners being held in arbitrary detention, often subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman and immensely degrading punishments. The 2015 Freedom House report has ranked Eritrea among the twelve 'Worst of the Worst' countries in the world (along side North Korea, Syria and Saudi Arabia) in terms respect for political and civil rights.

Furthermore, it is arguably the most censored country in the world as President Isaias Afewerki succeded in his campaign to crush the independent and free press. All media in Eritrea is owned by the state which makes it the only African country to have no privately owned news media and is among the worst jailer of journalists in Africa, with at least 23 behind bars-none of whom has been tried in court or even charged with a crime. Internet freedom barely exists, as according to Freedom House: "Eritrea has one of the lowest rates of internet access—1 percent—and mobile phone use—5.6 percent—in the world due to high costs and government restrictions. The government requires all internet service providers to use state-controlled internet infrastructure, and almost all connections remain dial-up and extremely slow."

Then there is the complusory national service program cited by many of those fleeing as the reason why they left Eritrea. The Eritrean state has justified the mass mobilization with the need for national development, instill discipline and work ethic to the younger generation, to foster a common sense of national identity and prepare the nation for future conflict with Ethiopia. It is meant to last for eighteen months. In reality the duration is indefinite and conscripts are often used for forced labour. Unsurprisingly, the Eritrean government have said that these allegations are "totally unfounded" and believes there is a conspiracy to "undermine the political, economic, and social progress the country is making."

The response to this crisis by Western governments has been dreadful, because its focus is on the symptoms; not the cause. The energy and resources are so concerntrated on human traffickers, and even the refugees themselves that we are blind to the root causes of this crisis. EU policy has been to essentially bribe non-EU states, like Sudan, Ethiopia and even Eritrea, huge amounts of money to act as Europe’s immigration police; in effect, relocating Europe’s borders to beyond Europe. Since, there is no monitoring schemes or transparency these funds will likely disappear without trace into the pockets of corrupt regimes.

EU leaders want to push the problem outside of Europe and pretend that it’s not there. This is not a serious moral approach. This is a plain refusal to acknowldge the reality of a very difficult problem, once again turning to financial incentives as simple solutions.

Last year the British government announced a new policy towards Eritrean asylum-seekers, claiming  conscription is no longer automatic grounds for granting asylum because Eritrea had allegedly "ended the practice of indefinite military service." However, as Human Rights Watch has pointed out, it is wholly based on a discredited Danish Immigration Service report. It claimed that the human rights situation in Eritrea had improved and no harm would be inflicted on Eritreans who returned back home, so long as they "signed a letter of apology".

There is simply no credible evidence of the softening of the Eritrean government. This shows that the UK government is more interested in keeping out asylum seekers in order to try to meets its restrictive immigration targets and appease rising anti-immigrant sentiment within the UK. The search for the quick fix continues, while the will to confront the root cause is lacking.

If we are serious about reducing the flow of refugees from Eritrea then we need to somehow use our political, diplomatic and financial influence to bring about change in Asmara. Until the principal cause is dealt with, then people will continue to risk their lives. Pressure has to be applied to the Eritrean dictatorship to end the inhumane, indefinite national service. Only this way will the root of the problem be addressed.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Leaving the EU Will Not Address The Real Issues

So there we have it, The United Kingdom will leave the European Union. I was a little surprised when I heard the result this morning, as I really believes that although the result would be close that Remain would clinch it.
Eventhough it wasn't the result I wanted, I'm not submitting to shoddy scaremongering some Remainers are peddling (at least not yet). Western civilisation won't collapse as a result of the UK leaving the EU and The Third World War will not ignite. There undoubtedly will be political and economic turbulence now that David Cameron will resign as Prime Minister and the pound has hit a 30 year low. However, the UK won't be facing the apocalypse anytime soon.

Despite my disagreement with their position, I empathise with why many of my fellow citizens would wish to be rid of the European Union. Its lack of democracy and accountability, its inefficiency, its inability to provide a coherent response to crises and the broader resentment over discussions on immigration.

What disappointed me about the campaign was how these underlying issues behind the hostility towards the EU were barely addressed. The Remain campaign, recognizing that it little to say on these issues without embarrassing itself, has largely avoided these issues, focusing its energy almost entirely on economic arguments. Leave campaigners have been equally opportunistic in the way they have addressed questions of democracy and immigration by manipulating them to obscure the issues and play into nostalgic, pseudo-emancipatory, nationalist rhetoric.

Moreover, for all the economic and cultural beneftis of the European Union, whenever a the EU has faced a major crisis like the Eurozone crisis and the migrant crisis. It has handled it badly by failing to have a coherent response and the 'response' has usually made the situation worse not better. And because it lacks the democratic mandate and a proper sense of democratic legitimacy for such decisions, it can't deal with these crises properly.

With all this to consider, I understand why many people voted to leave and be rid of  the EU. Simply generalizing them as deluded little Englanders or knuckle dragging racists will get us nowhere and will not solve the issues, instead it will make the political climate more toxic than it already is.

While the EU is a fundamentally undemocratic institution, leaving the EU would not, in itself, bridge the democratic deficit. There exists today a much more profound disenchantment with mainstream political institutions, on a national, as well as at a European level, which has led to an upsurge in support for ultra-nationalist and populist parties throughout Europe.

The Brexit result may restore a greater degree of sovereignty, but it will not address the deeper anger at the political establishment and even at the idea of politics. In conflating resentment about lack of democracy with restraints on national sovereignty, Leave campaigners obscure the real problems. The dangers of such conflation can be seen most clearly in the debate about immigration. Leave campaigners argue that outside the EU, Britain would have control of its borders, and so be able to ease people’s fear about immigrantion. As Boris Johnson suggested, "You can only spike the guns of the extremists and the people who are genuinely anti-immigrant"..."if you take back control."

Boris is simply wrong. Britain has been unable to reduce the flow of immigration in areas where it has complete control. Migration to Britain from outside the EU was higher last year than EU migration. EU net migration currently stands at 184,000 compared to 188,000 from outside the EU.

The Tory government made it a promise in their 2010 election manifesto to reduce migration to the ‘tens of thousands’, and being unable to limit EU migrants, they strived particularly hard to reduce non-EU migration numbers, including adopting the ‘points-based system’ favoured by critics of high immigration. Its continued failure to reduce numbers is telling, showing that unless the government wishes to weaken the British economy, its ability to control migration is limited. Promising to limit immigration and failing to do so will, only exacerbate people's resentment and contempt including increase hostility to immigration.

While immigration may be the most potent symbol, to some, of an increasingly globalised world out of control, and of ordinary people having little say in the policies that affect their lives, it is not the reason for the grievances and hardships many people experience.

Britain has experienced a series of economic and social changes over the past few decades which have decimated working class communities such as the decline of manufacturing industry, the crumbling of the welfare state, the coming of austerity, the growth of inequality -combined with political shifts, such as the erosion of trade union power and the transformation of social democratic parties, to create a sense of rage among sections of the electorate.

Immigration and open borders has played almost no role in fostering these specific changes. However, it is the lens through which many perceive these changes and is among the top issues that concerns voters when polled, largely because of the way that immigration has been framed by politicians of all shades over the past half century.

At the same time, politicians nowadays often express a certain kind of Liberal disdain for the masses whom many regard as provincial, racist, and incapable of adopting a rational view of immigration. Former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown’s description during the 2010 election campaign of pensioner Gillian Duffy as ‘a bigoted woman’ because of her worries about European migrants from Eastern European captured the contempt of elite politicians for the little people’s immigration concerns. This toxic mix of fear and contempt has helped both to stigmatize migrants and to create popular hostility towards the liberal elite for ignoring peoples concerns on immigration policy.

Certainly, the Leave camp have promoted obnoxious arguments about immigration throughout the campaign, from Michael Gove’s warnings about marauding Turks to Nigel Farage’s absurd  ‘Breaking Point’ poster. But supporters of the EU also bare some responsibility creating an anti-immigration climate. For instance, Prime Minister David Cameron who led a campaign against ‘benefit tourists’, despite the government’s own Migration Advisory Committee insisting that there is "little evidence to support the so-called welfare magnet hypothesis as a migration driver across EU countries".

Leave supporters, have not addressed issues of democracy and immigration, but exploited them in an opportunistic, and often in reactionary fashion. In simplifying the problem of democracy to the bureaucratic structures of the EU, they have ignored the shifts in politics and the economy that have left large sections of the electorate (mainly working class people) feeling politically voiceless, and which will not be addressed simply by leaving the EU. In having this narrow, primitive and divisive notion of democracy and promoting strict border controls as the key expression of national  sovereignty, they have utterly obscured the problem. Unfortunately, for the working class people who voted for Leave they have swapped one useless and distant elite for another one who will fare no better at addressing their concerns and worries.

Now that the result is Britain will officially leave the European Union, I believe it is unlikely that the popular disaffection with mainstream political institutions, or the sense of being politically voiceless among large sections of voters, is likely to be eased anytime soon. And it will not be eased until we directly address the reasons for their anger and disaffection.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

The Young Turks commit a howler on Brexit debate

The Young Turks do it once again! They demonstrate their lack of cross referencing and very simple fact checking leading to an embarrassing situation for an online media outlet that has an alleged intrest in journalistic intergrity and "giving viewers the facts".

They commit a big mistake in their video title and description. They say in the title "Will Britain exit the Euro (Eurozone)". That is not the question being asked for British citizens at the referendum, the question being asked is should Britain leave the European Union not the single currency of which it it not a part of.

For those of that don't know, the European Union is a political and economic union of 28 member states that have agreed on certain things like a common market, common regulation, relaxed border controls, free trade, agriculture policy etc.

The Eurozone is a currency union (of which Britain is not a part of) of 17 European Union member states that have adopted the Euro as their common currency and sole legal tender. Monetary policy of the zone is the responsibility of the European Central Bank (ECB) which is governed by a president and a board of the heads of national central banks.

In all seriousness, if they made this atrocious mistake at a professional media outlet they would be suspended and not even be considered serious by anybody. This is something a very simple google search would rectify. It is stuff like this that demonstrates why The Young Turks should not be taken seriously as a media outlet especially by younger generations who are their target audience because this can easily lead to misinformation, confusion and even ignorance of the politics of foreign nation.

The irony of this is in their video they implicitly condemn ignorant Americans who don't care to know or care about European politics, yet in a way they are reflecting this carelessness and ignorance through their mistake which they still have not corrected a day after the video was released.

This is not the first time something like this has happened, nor will it be the last.

I don't think they're aware Sam. LOL.