Posts Tagged ‘Radicalism’

Back to University |The 21st Century Renaissance?| Modern Day Coup d’etat

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I’m often told how I should be appreciative of my freedoms and liberties, my forefathers supposedly fought for a world where we could live in relative harmony and peaceful coexistence regardless of our thoughts and opinions. And in some respects, I am. I recognise that the privileges I possess aren’t necessarily afforded to a large section of the population. The Banned Books Festival – that was held in many libraries a couple of weeks ago – should be a celebration of that, it was good chance for most us of ‘Millenialls’ to reflect towards a time when freedom of expression was simply just a dream. But what happens, when the cherished values of liberty and tolerance are under siege without you even knowing it? What happens when our freedoms are being stealthily eroded because of “convenience” and luxuries? This is a future that I’m beginning to envisage and I’m not sure whether I should feel scared, helpless or both.

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Are there any recently published novels which could be banned in the near future?

I’ve spoken many times about the lack of freedom of speech and the relationship between liberty, extremist politics and political correctness. But I feel as if this problem is expanding beyond people like Trump and issues like Brexit. This is not just about “having enough of the experts” or “fake news”, its about destroying the creative space that helps to heal divisions and build compromises. Instead, we are entering a digital world, where information is not delivered, but shoved in your face with a ferocity that doesn’t allow the mind to rest, reflect or rationalise. The public’s reactions have always been the supreme force in a political sphere, but it seems that our social institutions are now more concerned with gathering the mood of that nation as opposed to the genuine needs of it. Social media has a large part to play for this, but I feel as if we need to take responsibility as a society for this dangerous path. Difficult questions are often asked of us and we have failed to restrain ourselves from choosing the simple answer.

Interestingly, this pattern is not new. Authors, writers and poets have possessed the same fears as we do now, only 50 years ago. As part of National Libraries Week, I feel it is only fair that we touch upon some of the authors have provoked and inspired us, despite writing in such dangerous conditions.

One novelist – Ray Bradbury, highlighted themes of paranoia and freedom in his book: Fahrenheit 451. It wasn’t perceived as a ground breaking piece of creative writing at the same time, although it has now been revered as an important piece of prophetic fiction. It was not radical in what it proposed, but extreme in the vision that it had outlined. Bradbury created a world where the reading and possession of fictional books were forbidden throughout America. Only technical and statistical books were allowed to be read, and even then there were special restrictions. The book has been coined for envisioning a world where books were banned, but I perceive it as a novel demonstrating the end of ‘humanities’ and the censorship of creative writing itself.

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This novel was published during a tumultuous time for American geopolitics, the Cold War was at its peak and both Soviet and Anglo-American forces were consistently demonstrating their military might, either through the testing of Nuclear Weapons as the US did in Nevada 1953, or when China shelled Taiwan just a year later. A sense of fear and panic had infected the American people and this contributed to a fundamental altering of American society. Because of the paranoia during daily life, American institutions protected themselves against ideologies that were deemed to be sympathetic to the ‘communist cause’ or principles that undermined American solidarity. A common method was for educational bodies to censor material that was classed as harmful, the State of Georgia created its first literature censorship board in early 1953. It proved to be a very active and busy commission – (despite lacking a clear definition of was defined as ‘obscene’) given that it by April 1960, distributors had agreed to pull more than 119 publications from sale to avoid such actions or lawsuits from the commission.

Although it is clear that it must have been very challenging and proactive for Bradbury to publish such a controversial book during this period, what really interested me were the different coping mechanisms that American citizens used to deal with the paranoia and narrowing of american culture. This is most evident during an airing in 1953 of the once popular sitcom I Love Lucy, which garned a viewership of 71%, higher than the 67% of President Eisenhower’s inauguration which was televised the following day. Of course it must remembered this is during an era where there was no Internet, Cable TV, video games or smartphones; to attract such a percentage may have been unprecedented but it wouldn’t be an absolute shock given the limited means for entertainment. However, the fact that it surpassed the inauguration of the higher position in political office is a surprise. Perhaps one could argue that the escapism and distraction that a popular sitcom could offer is seen by many as being more worthy than engaging in political affairs, no matter if the event is actually there to build national solidarity. Bradbury touches upon these new cultural processes – as I will discuss later -, but it is worth mentioning that these cultural changes are not to dissimilar to the way that celebrity culture of the 21st century has replaced the concern and awareness of present day domestic civil affairs.

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How have sitcoms managed to maintain their positions on Prime Time TV?

Most dystopian novels today resort to an Orwellian conception of society, where the government has a firm and rigid control over all institutions and enforces this hold on society through a methodology of fear and punishment. Fahrenheit 451 represents an earlier trend for sci-fi authors to represent a totalitarian system that is enforced by the people themselves as opposed to the government directly. Huxley was a chief architect of this idea, which was expressed in his novel Brave New World (another a banned book). These sort of books conceive of a notion where pleasure can be used as a form of tyranny, especially when human emotions can constrain people to think or act in a particular way.

One particular excerpt highlights this theme when a character (Beatty) explains the reason for the prohibition of books and the purpose this serves for the human spirit.

Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other; then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, to judge themselves against. So! A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind. Who knows who might be the target of the well?read man? Me?

The ‘book’ is conceived as a weapon that only emphasizes the divisive elements of human nature; arguably people are naturally paranoid towards each other as part of the tribal element of ourselves. So although this ‘Race towards the top’, that is so often spoken about today – is considered to be a natural contributor towards societal inequality, Beatty claims this can be reversed if can just remove the objects and resources that encourage the competition between ourselves. Although the character argues that is a progressive measure because it creates a sense of unity and solidarity, it is ultimately regressive because it is creates a nation of people that are ignorant to their true reality. Judgment is an essential part of human evolution and innovation, although it is often used in an unfairly discriminatory fashion, it can protect us from making fundamentally bad decisions either as an individual or as a society. It is the reason why we have elections, why football clubs buy and sell certain players or why listen to different genres of music. These choices help to establish any sense of democracy that exists in the world, but by choosing to ban books or libraries as method of censoring judgment, we simply eliminate our freedom.

Currently, social media and the internet provides us with a dopamine-esque hit to keep us satisfied with our current lives, but in Fahrenheit 451 an important use is made of the Household TV parlour and the influence it plays on keeping the characters occupied and distracted.

Maybe the books can get us half out of the cave. They just might stop us from making the same damn insane mistakes! I don’t hear those idiot bastards in your parlour talking about it.

God, Millie, don’t you see? An hour a day, two hours, with these books, and maybe…”

The telephone rang. Mildred snatched the phone.

“Ann!” She laughed. “Yes, the White Clown’s on tonight!”

Considering how important the ‘sitcom’ was as a staple of American entertainment during Ray Bradbury’s age, its quite radical for him to make such a mockery of the system itself. But the satire does have some interesting comparisons about our culture today. People do have the tendency to seclude themselves on the internet as a sort of bubble to protect themselves from the harsh realities of the world. But increasingly, we are witnessing stagnating levels of literacy in children and their overall intellect because of the dependency on technology to facilitate our mental process;

The converter attachment, which had cost them one hundred dollars, automatically supplied her name whenever the announcer addressed his anonymous audience, leaving a blank where the proper syllables could be filled in.

A special spot? wavex? scrambler also caused his televised image, in the area immediately about his lips, to mouth the vowels and consonants beautifully.

The way in which the Fahrenheit 451’s TV parlour integrates personal identity with entertainment, is eerily reminiscent of how Facebook, Google and other social media companies utilise information to personalise advertisement as well as to push and pull certain political/social material that is deemed inappropriate for particular audiences. The TV Parlour’s advanced grasp of phonetics and linguistics is also prophetic in the way in which technology now operates as a teacher and guide to support children in their comprehension of literacy further reinforcing our reliance on technology.

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An image from the 1966 movie adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 (Depicting the Tv Parlour). Has anything really changed?

The novel also emphasises that the idiocy of society operates so well because it provides an opportunity for citizens to feel as if they are intelligent.

Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs or the names of state capitals or how much corn Iowa grew last year. Cram them full of non? combustible data, chock them so damned full of ‘facts’ they feel stuffed, but absolutely `brilliant’ with information. Then they’ll feel they’re thinking, they’ll get a
sense of motion without moving. And they’ll be happy, because facts of that sort don’t change. Don’t give them any slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy..

Objective information for these citizens is manner of security, the process of problem solving as well as creating innovative solutions is dangerous to these people because it encourages their minds to wander in unknown waters. The methodology of challenging oneself to think critically and to place yourself to think ‘out of the box’ threatens their sense of identity; subjects like philosophy and sociology are greatly concerned with the fluid nature of ethics, principles and values. If these issues are not a concrete element of a persons life it could provide a fleeting nature to their moral code. In some respects this corresponds to a modern day perspective which asserts that liberalism is too open, thus allowing extremist ideas to be tolerated. It’s easy to imagine a world where the fear of liberalism can exacerbate in to a full-scale authoritarian attitude to culture and recreational activities.

The entire novel isn’t just doom and gloom, it does highlight some interesting ways in which we perceive books and the lessons that could be offered for the future. A character in the novel stresses the subtle importance of reading that people could easily

“The same infinite detail and awareness could be projected through the radios and televisors, but are not. No, no, it’s not books at all you’re looking for! Take it where you can find it, in old phonograph records, old motion pictures, and in old friends; look for it in nature and look for it in yourself. Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.”

This shows that reading a book in and of itself is not the answer to a more intelligent society. It is the patterns, arguments and languages that formulate the beauty of a book. Knowledge can be gained anywhere in any format, but books force people to develop a level of patience to understand the meaning behind the words and the way in which they are organised. To simply believe that novels could themselves could raise the intellect of a nation is to reinforce the myth that facts are essential to the educational upbringing of any child. It reminds me of how people often claim that learning History is only about remembering the dates and times of when important people behaved in important events, but this ignores the “why” of how certain situations arise and the different patterns that could affect the probability of these events occurring. The emphasis on memory in school exams if often used as a criticism of the current UK national curriculum, and it is interesting to see a similar concern voiced in a novel from 70 years ago.

In one section of the novel, a character attempts to get around the prohibition of books by reading a novel and attempting remember all the chapters inside of it, instead of withholding the book permanently in one’s possession. This is not simply about preserving the knowledge within the book but about developing a sense of personal responsibility.

Remember, Caesar, thou art mortal.’ Most of us can’t rush around, talking to everyone, know all the cities of the world, we haven’t time, money or that
many friends. The things you’re looking for, Montag, are in the world, but the only way the average chap will ever see ninety-nine per cent of them is in a book. Don’t ask for guarantees. And don’t look to be saved in any one thing, person, machine, or library. Do your own bit of saving, and if you drown, at least die knowing you were headed for shore.

As the quote implies, one can not simply rest on an assumption that your information will be given to you in a fair and accurate manner. Bradbury was commenting on his own period, but he inadvertently prophesied a future era where we would also need to be responsible for ourselves. During the 1950s Print Media operated in fast and hectic urbanized environments, nothing much has changed in comparison today’s society. The rush for information has led to journalists and news agencies providing simplistic information that is often vulnerable to manipulation and propaganda, the rise of social media has only increased the likelihood for this to happen. Therefore one must take it upon themselves to research for their own knowledge and understanding and not to simply rely upon other people. Although, people have other responsibilities and it may be difficult to achieve a higher level of understanding that we often expect of ourselves, we should at least make the attempt. If we fail, than perhaps another person could adopt a similar approach but in an improved way, which at least will not leave our actions in vain.

It might be clear now to understand how Bradbury’s novel was deemed radical enough to be banned in some literary educational circles in the United States; it advocates a culture that can think independently and critically. It also protests against the superficial nature of digital entertainment that so often distracts us from the truth. I think it’s also important to touch upon a running theme throughout the book which is the decline of intellectualism and the erosion of academia. It is often said that a key symptom of the totalitarian system is the censure and removal of intellectual discussion and debate, this was witnessed during the Nazi era and the Chinese Revolution of 1949, with the closing of universities, banning of books and the execution of intellectuals. Fahrenheit 451 alludes to a similar sort of action

” The old man admitted to being a retired English professor who had been thrown out upon the world forty years ago when the last liberal arts college shut for lack of students and patronage.”

But what I found particularly interesting was that towards the end of the novel, the government issues a televised program to seize a suspected (but not convicted) criminal.

“Police suggest entire population in the Elm Terrace area do as follows: Everyone in every house in every street open a front or rear door or look from the windows. The fugitive cannot escape if everyone in the next minute looks from his house. Ready! “

It is often said that the first step of a totalitarian state is the use of paramilitary forces or to encourage the public to engage activities that would often be reserved for law enforcement agencies. Despite the claims by many that we live in a fascistic society, the missing elements are those paramilitary forces that wreaked so much havoc in the early twentieth century, however it could be argued we are indeed moving in that direction. There has been resurgence of militant far-right and far-left groups that occasionally clashed during protest marches and demonstrations but dangerously, we have seen them congregate online and harass members on social media for displaying opinions contrary to their own. They operate with a sort of mob mentality by barraging online users with death threats and comments to incite violence. Twitter, Facebook and Google have implemented measures to clamp down on hate speech, but this has only endangered free speech and forced those hate groups to operate unnoticed in darker parts of the web. It is well known, that governments across the world use a divide-and-conquer approach to weaken the unity and solidarity of the people, so it would not be a surprise if the government were to take a lackadaisical approach to these extremist groups in order for them to flourish and cause discontent within society. The quote above from the book might seem like a far-fetched future reality but it captures the way in which a government can mobilize its citizens for unsavory purposes.

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Different era, same mob?

If Libraries week and Banned book Week is to commemorate the material that challenges us, develops us and creates us, then Fahrenheit 451 is a good example of a book that can be provocative yet educational. During one of my recent university seminars, we discussed the Italian Renaissance and it’s impact upon society, it revitalized the cultural world of the Italian city states by discussing and teaching the importance of the classical ideas from the Roman and Greek Era. I feel that if we are to protect the intellectual world of the Anglo-sphere we need not to glorify our past – as the populists often tempt us towards – but to remember, cherish and protect the freedoms we currently possess, as our ancestors did not have the luck or entitlement to operate in such radical circles.

The British national newspapers today speak of Russian officials and members of the EU conspiring to create Brexit for private financial gain. This portrayal of a secret Russian lobby working to undermine our political system has been an ongoing theme for the past couple of years despite recent investigations proving otherwise – the Cambridge Analytica Brexit Scandal revealed a close connection between Cambridge Analytica and the United States Department, not the Kremlin. But recently I have become increasingly convinced, that a separate undermining of democracy is taking place, not necessarily by Brexiteers but by Remainers as well. The Italian political sitution is particularly disturbing for anybody who has respect for the political process in a “civilised” nation.

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Can populist governments make their citizens prosperous?

To be brief, following the newly announced right-wing coalition of the Five Star Movement and Lega, the Italian President Sergio Materrella prevented the legitimate appointment of FSM Paolo Savona as the Finance Minister. His reasoning was based on a notion that the political intentions of the new Finance Minister would jeopardise the market relationship between Italy and the Euro, which could lead to severe Italian economic decline. After much public/political pressure, a compromise was reached between the new Italian government and the President, but in my opinion the political ramifications may be devastating. The President’s actions demonstrate that the Italian constitution or perhaps all the constitutions of Europe are dependent on external economic affairs. As the historian and political commentator David Runciman said last week “In Italy, the Markets are sovereign”, if it is the markets sovereignty that is being rejected by the European people then why is the Italian President so willing to prop them up. Furthermore, it should not matter how Eurosceptic the Italian parties may be, they have earned their democratic right to hold office and to follow through their political programme. Much has been made regarding the xenophobic profile of the Lega and the FSM and perhaps the accusations are justified, but this does not mean you can ignore the strong mandate(60% combined vote) that they received in the general elections this year. To uphold the civil liberties of the Italian people, one must also respect the constitutional liberties of the Italian politicians, for representative democracy is only true gateway for progressive politics. We have all witnessed the tyranny of our dictators throughout history, from Stalin’s shady manourevering of political figures to the uprisings and coups that led to the Spanish Civil War; no one wants a return to an era where our political representatives are dismissed because of power and privilige.

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Should the Italian President be impeached for violating the nation’s constitution?

The Act of Brexit was considered to be radical political decision, but the movements by the political parties to suppress Brexit is an undemocratic act with levels of regression that must be considered to be also politically radical. It was announced earlier today, that a Scottish Judge has rejected the call from a cross-party group to examine whether the European Court of Human Right can legally cancel Brexit. As the Judge mentioned, the very idea that a British parliamentary group is appealing to a European body to overrule a British decision is not only troubling for lawmakers, but it begs the question…at what level is democracy exercised? Which probably triggers the other underlying question, why is democracy so isolated within our political system? I was not in favour of Brexit, purely because I supported a movement for a Reformed progressive EU with some British contribution, but I was aware of its shortcomings; particularly its implementation of austerity throughout Europe and its excessively bureaucratic/undemocratic nature. But it now appears as if our own representatives are adhering to the Great European Project with little consideration for what Brexit could mean to this country. I had hoped that Brexit would be an opportunity to reshape our “unwritten” constitution in to something a little more beneficial to the country, perhaps a reformed relationship with the Single Market and Customs Union(that would reshape level and type of immigration we enforce) or perhaps a tweaking to some of the trade regulations for the coastal communities. But I realise this is a utopia that our government never aimed to enforce, instead our ministers are more concerned with ensuring that we are still tied in to the most corrupted parts of the European Union without having a voice in the European Parliament. Brexit (in my opinion) was never going to be an exciting prospect, but it did not have to be the failure it is turning in to. With a government that is more concerned with prosperity for its privileged elite, it is leaving its subjects dejected and without a truly democratic system through which to voice their frustrations.

When we think of the essential services that the public rely and depend upon such as the health sector, firefighting service, education system police industry and the transport network, they are all perceived to be integral forces that support the safety and welfare of the British people. Regardless of the emergency, whether it is a protest, a national disaster or an act of homicide, all the victims, perpetrators and bystanders involved are entitled to an equal and fair treatment from the emergency services.

However it seems as if we are in the midst of making fundamental changes to one of our essential services. A new privatised police force called MylocalBobby will be rolling out their services across the nation after the “successful” trial period in three London boroughs (Kensington, Mayfair and Belgravia). Customers will simply have to pay roughly £200 per month and this will enable the client to hire a “police officer” who has the ability to make citizen arrests, investigate thefts and other matters of anti-social behaviour. I can understand how some may regard this as credible alternative to the corrupt and bureaucratic state police force, but I can only see this as the marketisation of the police and the encroaching two-tier system between the rich and the poor and their access to police.

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MyLocalBobby – Could this be the future of British Policing?

A privatised police not only challenges the notion about equal access to emergency services, but it also raises questions about the principles regarding equality before the law; a concept that is meant to underpin our British constitution. If our police officers are enforcing the law based on a quality of service that you may or may not be able to pay for, then we will not have “equality before the law” but “wealth before the law”.

I also think that politically and historically these changes can be perceived as regressive step back to a more lawless, uncivilised and unstable period in history. When a public police force was created in 1829 it was under a backdrop of violent riots over political reform and rising crime in a densely populated London. It was initiated under the principle of fairness, equality and apolitical behaviour. The architect of the police – Robert Peel – stated that “The police seek and preserve public favor, not by catering to public opinion, but by constantly demonstrating…friendship to all members of society without regard to their race or social standing“. But this is being overturned by an emerging private police force that is being supported by an idea of exclusivity, as the chair of the police federation has claimed ” “Policing is not a consumer or lifestyle issue. Nor should it be the exclusive domain of the wealthy. When Sir Robert Peel introduced the first full-time, professional and centrally-organised police force in the 1820s, that was not what he had in mind.”

However, with deep financial cuts to the police service and a clear loss of police officers, the resort to a privatised police force is becoming more attractive to the Establishment and the wealthy in society. One must take considerable caution at this growing trend, as history has proven how the lack of an organised public police force can cause chaos. The Peterloo Massacre occurred during a political demonstration in 1819 when the local magistrates ordered the military to arrest a radical orator and to disperse the crowd, but due to the intensity of the moment, the undisciplined nature of those armed forces and the confusion around the situation, 15 civilians were killed and many were injured. This was one of the defining events which motivated Prime Minister Robert Peel to create Metropolitan police force in 1829.

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Peterloo Massacre – Is this something we could witness in the future?

Now, I am not suggesting a diminished police force will result in a standing army willing to hack at anyone who causes disruption, but there are growing reports that local authorities are relying upon a militarised security force instead of standard police officers on patrol. We are told that they are there to prevent terror attacks, but with a growing unstable political climate and a society that is gaining the confidence to openly demonstrate against controversial measures, the potential for dangerous and violent confrontations is growing by the year. Our right to protest and to resist is seen as a fundamental right in British society but without the necessary measures and tools to ensure that demonstrations are carried out peacefully, we are thus denied the protection of a potentially rational police force and offered the unpredictability of a militarised one.

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Is this the path to a new standard of policing in Britain?

The police are designed for the public safety of all citizens and our historic right to protest, but if our government is weakening the the police’s ability to enforce those principles then it runs the risk of leaving us deprived of an essential emergency service.

The Origins of St Patrick’s Day

National holidays have been occurring for centuries, they’re not unusual to the general public but to me they’ve often seemed like a strange phenomenon. The mystery lies often with the connotations that are ignored, forgotten or lost within the distractions of the celebratory glitz and glamour. Take St Patrick’s day for example, the day is often used to commemorate Irish solidarity, heritage and culture; but what I have always wondered, is which elements of Irish heritage are being celebrated? Are we here to remember all the divisive parts of Irish culture as well as its solidarity? St Patrick is supposed to celebrate the achievements of the Christian Priest himself and his life as a missionary to missionary to Ireland as well. This therefore illustrates Ireland’s christian history and withdraws the Irish people from their mythological roots. But this distinction is often ignored during the celebrations, with the fantastical Leprechauns paraded around Christian symbols and buildings like the Irish churches and the cross. One could argue that the introduction of the leprechaun and other fairies from Irish folklore is simply about commemorating the universality and the depth of Irish nationalism, and this is understandable given the divisive nature of the Irish past. But surely this only seeks to detach St Patrick’s day from its true religious origins? If we want to understand and enjoy the entirety of Irish history, then perhaps there is a need to reinvent our demonstration of Irish pride. I have often spoken about the fluid nature of national identity, but when it comes to the commemoration of historical figures we should attempt to be as accurate as possible so that we do not blur legacy of our forefathers.

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Is this really what St Patrick’s day is about?

Brexit Troubles

With St Georges day also approaching, the British national identity maybe on its own path of reinvention. With discussions around the Irish Border heating up, there is a growing talk of a border being formed in the Irish Sea essentially allowing Northern Ireland to retain its access to the single and customs market in conjunction with the Irish Republic. Some Brexiteers and Remainers see this as a path to the eventual break up of United Kingdom which I think would be a radical shake up of our national unity.

The Tory MP and prominent Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, has criticised the warning that creating a Hard Irish border to separate South and Northern Ireland could reignite the Troubles. He claims that simply making that historical link is an encouragement of violence. Whilst I agree that it is premature to believe that Ireland would simply revert back to its violent and chaotic past, I do believe there needs to be some acknowledgement that creating such split on the Irish land has psychological consequences for the Irish people. It reinforces the image of Ireland being in constant civil strife and it could undermines the relatively healthy relationship that both regions of Ireland have shared recently. Many young adults in Southern and Northern Ireland have little to no recollection of the Troubles and influences it has had on Irish development, this has enabled them to live a harmonious live with their Irish neighbours. But history has often demonstrated how quickly peace and cooperation can descend in to division and conflict, thus we should never underestimate mankind’s ability to be regressive and self-destructive.

On the other hand, a border in the Irish Sea could seriously challenge the framework of the United Kingdom, given how attractive Northern Ireland may be to those seeking to maintain their link with the European Union. Furthermore with the growing regional disunity within the United Kingdom – as seen by the EU referendum – the creation of a hard border may persuade other British regions to secede themselves from the central government. Either way, some sort of border needs to be erected in or around the United Kingdom, the economical operations of our nation requires it. Whether this will transform our national identity remains to be seen, but this radical step towards greater independence has raised questions of allegiance and sovereignty, which must be addressed.

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Has the Alternative Media become as manipulative as the Mainstream News Outlets?

As someone who has grown to be quite disgusted with the corporate and elitist nature of mainstream media outlets (MSM), I have found myself drawn to sources of alternative news. It wasn’t simply because they discussed subversive and thought-provoking topics, it was also because they exposed the blatant lies that MSM outlets espouse on a daily basis. It became refreshing to learn about subjects on politics, history and the economy that the MSM wouldn’t even dare to mention. It wasn’t necessarily the “sensationalist” conspiracy theories about Lizards that I was attracted to; as it was enlightening stories about international banking cartels, deeply suspicious foreign policies and the stealthy attacks on our democracy that drew me in. And one of the great things about the Alternative Media was that they operated outside of the LeftvsRight paradigm whereas the MSM are persistent in their divisive propaganda and bias to serve their establishment agenda.

But this once thriving community of alternative opinions and well researched journalism has transformed into a toxic environment that is full of hate, a lot of virtue-signalling and full of “headline-grabbing” material. Intelligent and rational discussions on immigration have descended into xenophobic and racist ramblings, important questions regarding security at Mass homicides has turned into ludicrous discussions about ‘dummies’ and ‘fake blood’. Some of these news outlets have even become gradually reluctant to discuss the financial and political scandals that occur at the very highest echelons of the elite society. These Media outlets such as Infowars, Milo Yiannopoulos and  Paul Joseph Watson’s YouTube channels are a blatant example of this, as they often tap in to the negativity of a situation and bring out the darkness out of it without offering any clear solutions. It is unclear how this transformation of the alternative media has come about, I think it is too simplistic to blame this entirely on Brexit and Trump. Perhaps this is closer to our human desire to be controversial and to change ourselves into enemies rather than to be reasonable allies. History has shown a tendency for society to fabricate the truth in order to gain attention and popularity, back in Seventeenth century England a newspaper called Mercurius Bellicus tried to improve their readership by reporting on the execution of Charles I in 1648, a year before his actual death. This was done to stoke interest and create controversy at time when the transmission of information was slow and people were desperate to for any sort of new on civil unrest. The modern era still offers some credible alternative news outlets that provide well researched and open minded conversations. The activist/writer David Icke and the Journalist – Richie Allen seem to offer balanced and insightful debate that does not rely upon the ‘cult of the personality’, I don’t always agree with their viewpoints but they always use critical thinking as an essential element of their reporting. Unfortunately both of these outlets have suffered from demonetisation on YouTube and have even faced smear campaigns based on unfounded hate crimes. 

The demise of the Alternative Media presents a bad path for the future of radicalism. The writer Asbjørn Wahl has recently claimed, that to solve our current social crises “any party of the left will need to have more radical alternatives, visions and solutions – very different from the political centre or the right“. How are we meant to deliver a true radical programme for the people, if our ‘alternative’ media have resorted to the same regressive and divisive rhetoric that is characteristic of Mainstream media outlets like The Daily Mail or the Daily Mirror? Being confrontational is something which should be encouraged for journalists, academics and politicians alike, as it allows us to challenge the status quo instead of being afraid to touch upon difficult topics. However this does not legitimatise the Alt-right(or the Alt-Left) to falsify information and to make the style of your reporting more important than the substance. If we have lost our grip on making Radicalism an ideology of integrity,  then it is down to us to ensure that our alternative, unorthodox and independent media does not fall down the dangerous path of the Mainstream Media.

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Can an historian be objective whilst also being politically active?

My previous blog posts have often mentioned the need for people to accept more political and social responsibility if they are to genuinely subvert a system that oppresses us. But more specifically, it is the idea of academic responsibility that needs greater evaluation. In the wake of a series of political “rebellions” (Brexit and Trump) in which the ‘expert’ was no longer to be trusted and that all sovereign power should be naturally diverted to the people, it is important to provide some brief clarity as to how this has come about. Much has been made about our political culture operating in a post-truth world but I see it only as a post-trust world where evidence and facts are either withheld, suppressed or falsified. In my opinion, this means the obligation for clarity and truth rests on the professionals who have the ability to inform the wider public about the knowledge they currently hold. Unfortunately it is these same academics who are have been accused of dictating their knowledge in a manner that can appear arrogant, self-righteous and elitist. It is no wonder that professors and universities are seen as tools of the establishment rather than tools of the people. The assault on intellectual behaviour does not stem from a resentment of an academic work ethic but from a belief that academica has withdrawn itself from the ‘working man or woman’.  Secondly, with the ongoing reports of universities clamping down on freedom of speech only emphasises the greater obligation for academics to give a better representation of academic life. My experiences with universities have mostly been positive, it was only 2 months ago that I had a good conversation with a university lecturer at Goldsmiths about the need for academics to expand their intellectual reach. We are starting to see this in video games and television shows, but much more work is required.

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Is our Judicicary accountable to the people? Could we even regard them as academics?

There was an inspiring story in the news last week about an historian called Mark Curtis who is digitally publishing hundreds of declassified documents regarding the government’s shadowy international dealings from the mid 20th century onwards. These documents are already available for the nation to access but unfortunately the public are widely ignorant of this. Curtis is not doing anything groundbreaking. But by making the public more aware of this country’s history,  he is arming the people with weapons of information to attack the establishment. Whether, people will be receptive to Curtis’s efforts is a different matter entirely. (the media will certainly stifle any attempts for people to unite against injustice) But in an era where censorship is beginning to override political liberty we need to convince citizens that universities and academic insitutions can be our allies not our enemies.

Following on from my previous post, I have a new blog which will be dedicated to poetry and possibly creative writing. It will aim to subtly reflect my political and philosophical thoughts as well as matters on history, radicalism and current affairs.

NEW POEM AND BLOG -> https://onemanwolfpackdot.wordpress.com/2017/10/01/cistus-in-flames/

sovereigntyWith the decision of the Scottish Parliament to approve another independence referendum, the formal decision of Theresa May to official invoke article 50 and the nationalist tone of the general election; Questions surrounding sovereignty and the ‘recovery of power’ are fully in play. The rise of populism throughout the world and the increase around nationalist feeling has made Scotland particularly interesting in their growing interest towards leaving the United Kingdom.

Scotland’s recent change in political mood has been born out of a supposed fear that Scotland will be “dragged” out of the EU despite the country wishing to remain inside the European Union (as was evident in last year’s referendum).  But what I find intriguing is how Scotland wishes to leave an union based on the principles of sovereignty but at the same time wishes to remain inside a European Institution that requires member states to pool their sovereignty.

I have seen instances of this in other regions of the world, where a country has ceded from its host nation, only to join another a larger union that requires some pooling of sovereignty. Western Sahara or Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) became an unofficial independent region since 1975 when Spain retired its administrative power over the region following an uprising by the native West Saharan People (Polisario Front/ Sahrawi people). In 1979, the UN granted SADR the right to self determination and independence. There has been an ongoing conflict between Morocco and the West Saharan people for control within the region, with several protests and demonstrations resulting in fatalities. With this struggle for independence and sovereignty, it may be seen as a surprise as to why the Western Sahara are happy to join the African Union(African Union), an institution that advocates African states giving away their sovereignty. It may be said, that this was done for diplomatic reasons since the AU has historically recognised SADR. But recently, several countries are considering withdrawing their recognition of SADR, and over half of the member states within the AU may call for the expulsion of SADR from the Union. Why would Western Sahara want to join a Union that seeks to undermine the status and the integrity of its government?

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Who has legitimate sovereignty over Western Sahara?

I believe that some comparisons can be made here with Scotland. EU law has specifically outlined the difficulty with which Scotland will face if it attempts to rejoin the EU after leaving the United Kingdom The conditions of admission……..shall be the subject of an agreement between the Member States and the applicant State…….This agreement shall be submitted for ratification by all the contracting States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements’. This agreement will not be easy to conduct if the negotiations between Theresa May and European Union are anything to go by. The rhetoric from some senior European/Scottish officials have expressed the struggle that Scotland may face in attempting to rejoin the EU, MSP Adam Tomkins said ”

For all its moaning about Brexit, it knows fine well an independent Scotland would not simply step into the European Union. Not only would it join the back of the queue, but we now learn it may have to adopt the euro and tackle an eye-watering deficit.

“It’s time for the nationalists to be honest about Brexit and stop using it as a tool to agitate for separation“.

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What are the true intentions for the SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon; surrounding Brexit and Scottish independence?

I find it particularly interesting how Tomkins claims that the Scottish government are using the European Union to further their own nationalist agenda. One could argue that Western Sahara/Polisario are attempting to a similar path, in that their attempt to join the AU is less about supporting African unity and prosperity and more about strengthening their cause for self-determination. Is this a matter of political dishonesty? Or is it just a necessary feature of modern politics? What sort of an impression does this give to the African and European Unions’ idea of continental unity if membership is seen as a political tool to gain independence?

Although Western Sahara are in the midst of a violent conflict with Morocco, Scotland and Western Sahara both harbour criticisms about joining a corrupt institution. African Political Scientists, Okumu and Makinda have remarked on the scale of fraud and misconduct in the African Union “personal greed; the internalization of bad habits; weak government structures.; poor remuneration of civil servants. These facts have generated corruption from the local governance authorities, through the state to the African Union”. Interestingly similar comments have been made about the European Union and its ability to prevent the growth of corruption, political scientist Warner has actually claimed that the European Union has supported the rise of wrongdoing and misconduct. “Across the EU, corruption has been found to have occurred not just in the ‘old economy’ sectors but in new and supposedly competitive sectors such as telecommunications, with politicians getting kickbacks for steering contracts or making favourable arrangements for firms”. Is it a possibility that the prospect of economic growth may be more significant than the idea of sovereignty. Both Scotland and Morocco have expressed an interest in joining smaller regional financial organisations; Scotland are currently considering joining EEA whilst changing their relationship with the WTO. Morocco are following a similar path by joining the (ECOWAS) Economic Community of West African States as well as being a part of  the Arab Maghreb Union. Now both Scotland and Morocco both adopt a strong patriotic tone with their politics, with the idea of national sovereignty being paramount. But does their relationship with these small political regional organisations suggest a changing nature around our idea of sovereignty?

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Are our perceptions of sovereignty changing?

As Political Scientist Dr Nat O’Connor discusses

Part of the explanation for the British vote to exit the EU is a reaction to the uncertainty and fast pace of change brought about by globalisation. The calls to ‘take back control’ and for the UK to be fully sovereign are a rhetorical expression of this malaise.

Yet, how many countries are truly sovereign in this idealistic way?

Once the government of any territory wants to interact—even in a purely transactional way—with other jurisdictions, there must be some level of co-operation, if not compromise, which represents pooled sovereignty. “

From my perspective, this entire argument over sovereignty rests on the notion over a paternalist state versus the right of the individual. It could be argued that a paternalist state is allowed to seek financial agreements if it supports economic growth for its citizens despite the lack of transparency or approval with its subjects. The ‘right of the individual’ argument will often stress however that the citizen has the right to be informed over every decision and that “the people” should be part of the ‘negotiation process’. The complexities surrounding these notions of sovereignty is about the definition of “the people”. Many prominent Brexit Campaigners have cited the 52% of those who voted to leave the European Union as an accurate representation of “the people”. What happens to other 48%? Are their political voices to be ignored because the result of the referendum went against their wishes by 2 percent? These questions have led me to believe that political representation is central to our differing notions of sovereignty. But it also alludes to some conflicting ideas that some British political parties have about sovereignty. Nicola Sturgeon often makes the argument that the SNP are the party to spearhead Scotland towards independence, using her electoral gain of 50 seats from the 2015 general election as a democratic mandate for home rule. However if we take a look at the figures from that election, one could argue that SNP are not wholly representative of the Scottish electorate. They may have claimed 56 of the possible 59 seats in Scotland, but they only claimed 1/2 of the possible votes from Scottish electorate, how can a party promote the values representation and sovereignty for the people when it benefits from a disproportionate and a flawed system such as First Past The Post?

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Can the First Past the Post System claim to accurately reflect the voice of the UK electorate? If it does not, then are the British electorate truly sovereign?

I do wonder however whether it is possible that the SNP could  prosper the idea of an alternative left wing movement that transcends the traditional idea of sovereignty. As we have seen, both Morocco and Scotland believe that their political and economic responsibility reaches beyond their national boundaries. Furthermore, the SNP have claimed that the employment rights of Scottish citizens are so enshrined within the European legislation,  that it actually makes the EU a stronger guarantor of worker rights than the current Conservative government of the UK. Interestingly, whilst there have been criticisms of the Conservative government spending disproportionately on defense at the expense of education, health and welfare departments, a similar sentiment has been echoed in much of North Africa including Morocco. Tunisian politician Riad Ben Fadhel has stated that  “[There has been an] unusual level of expenditure on arms, instead of social budgets, with austerity still being widely implemented across the Arab world…with Moroccan and Saudi Arabian governments receiving military assistance from the US…”, but Fadhel also states that to combat this militarist agenda, north African states should attempt in “building a united left-wing political coalition in the post-Arab spring political environment.” Fadhel speaks in a similar rhetoric to many SNP voters in that he does not wish to ignore the national identities of countries such as Morocco and Tunisia but to remind us about the social responsibility we have to those who are vulnerable regardless of their citizenship.

These principles may not be entirely new as it has been argued that institutions like the EU were founded on a social democratic promise to protect ‘ordinary’ European citizens. But with the rise of left wing politicians such Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders as well as the growing leftist movement DIEM25, there seems to be developing political trend outside of the establishment to unify and transform global politics. I am not sure whether this will have the same impact as the populist right due to the facet seem to espouse and support the governments neo-liberal handling of brexit furthermore the mainstream media outlets tend to offer more coverage to right-wing administrations such as the American Trump presidency over of British left wing movements such Jeremy Corbyn’s Momentum.

Of course historically, the SNP have always celebrated their ability to pool sovereignty with the government of England  the union with England and Wales. The Act of Union which was signed in 1707 was in seen as a great opportunity for the Scottish middle classes to rise up the social ladder and enjoy financial benefits of a prosperous British Empire. An English traveller to Scotland by the name of Daniel wrote in 1726 that “the Union opened the door to the Scots in our American colonies and the Glasgow merchants took up the opportunity”. I could be argued that this mentality of Scottish nationalism is still inherent today, with many Scottish citizens claiming they enjoy the benefits of the UK’s economic reach across the world. Would it then be radical political step for Scotland to detach itself from the Union which could thus threaten the national identity of Scotland progressing as a state.

 

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Can a cross border movement based on the idea of democracy beat a populist narrative based on the traditional idea of sovereignty?

 

It is clear then that sovereignty is not a black-and-white issue like it has been portrayed in the national media. Our perception of power and where it resides can often be contradictory and fleeting. But is dominates our political conversation to the extent that certain contextual issues such as military intervention, party politics, austerity can often be forgotten. It thus important that our voices and opinions on these issues are accurately represented by our politicians and the media. We often hear how the support for national sovereignty is reflected in the far-right support for populist parties, but perhaps we should look beyond these claims to the idea that something more powerful can transcend the traditional ideas of sovereignty.

Is this an accurate portal of Trumpean future? How did we reach a stage where socio-economic equality has become a secondary priority to nationalism? I understand that the recent western anti-establishment movement seemed initially to fight for the “people” or the ordinary worker. However, I feel that those people have become deliberately detached from this initial message and have taken arms against the rise of the ‘SJW’. This isn’t particularly directed at the populist Alternative Right, but more about the source for this divisive atmosphere that has captured today’s political culture. What happened to discussions of ‘equality of opportunity’, what happened to idea of taking on the Big Banks and Wall street? Whilst there was a movement that was mobilised around social mobility, this has gradually been replaced by a rhetoric that justifies the inflated wealth of the elite.

This is particularly reflected in Trump’s decision to repeal the Dodd-Frank Act (the piece of legislation that regulated the Banks after the 2008 financial crisis). In his own words ‘We expect to be cutting a lot out of Dodd-Frank, because frankly I have so many people, friends of mine, that have nice businesses and they can’t borrow money … They just can’t get any money because the banks just won’t let them borrow because of the rules and regulations in Dodd-Frank. So we’ll be talking about that in terms of the banking industry,’. Does this sound like a man who is using radical measures to fight the establishment? It is clear that a vast section of Trump supporters have adopted a blissful ignorance to the fact that Trump is a product of a broken system. A system that seeks to protect the lucky winners of the banking and finance industry, whilst the losers – primarily those middle income earners whose mortgages were  devalued by the banking crisis, that Trump is meant to appeal to – are left a heavy financial burden to fix the economy.

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Which one will you be?

One could also argue that here in Britain, any discussion of the economic consequences of Brexit have been minimal with immigration concerns remaining dominant. But there is emerging evidence that certain MPs who backed Brexit, were not doing so to restore ‘power to the people’. Earlier last week, brexiteer Kwasi Kwarteng spoke to RT and was reluctant to criticise the sanction scheme for British welfare, but seemed quick to defend the ‘bail-out’ of the banks based on the reasoning that ‘if the banking sector fails, everything fails’. This wilful negligence to acknowledge the contribution of the working classes to the economy is indicative of the way the conservative party are ensuring that Brexit works for the establishment. The big question here is, how we the public respond to this manipulation of public opinion.

Jeremy Corbyn has warned us about the dangers of Britain becoming an off-sure tax haven for the rich. “Theresa May has dangled the threat of turning Britain into a bargain basement tax haven….Far from taking back control, that would mean an assault on our public services, our standard of living and our quality of life.” As Disraeli said back in the 19th century, this would create a two nation England, where the corporations would reap the benefits of less financial red tape and the losers will suffer from a poorly funded public services.

Brexit and Trump were meant to deliver an eagerly awaited revolution that could potentially transform the relationship between ‘people’ and authority. Instead of focusing on ensuring that that revolution is realised, the populace in both America and the US have become distracted by the May’s and Trumps ill-thought immigration strategy. This is not to say that immigration is not an important discussion, but I believe it is being used as a smokescreen so that the ‘establishment’ can realign themselves on the right side of these populist results. It is our responsibility to make sure that we hold these outcomes to account and not to be distracted by sensationalist headlines.