“Racism allows employers to organise migrant labour in particular ways and reinforces the systematic creation of minority disadvantage but it also offers the white working class an obvious way of making sense of their own disadvantage.”
Note who acts and who gets blamed.
I haven’t posted much for a long time, I blame my PhD studies (although we all know it’s because I’m rather lazy). And I apologise in advance for the incoherent ramble that is about to unfold.
Usually I keep myself relatively detached from British politics. Not for a lack of interest, if anything I’m fascinated by politics and my studies focus on political debates. Often I feel unable to participate properly. One reason is that I am not a British citizen, another is my perpetual cynicism towards politics of all types. That said in the Labour leadership elections I found something that I could participate in. And I did. I voted Corbyn and I’m overjoyed at his victory, and saddened at the dissent in the Labour party as a consequence.
The way I see it, Corbyn’s victory and the backlash from it is part of a wider ideological battle taking place in Britain. It’s one that takes place in the way we talk about political issues. The Conservative party at the moment has the monopoly on what one might call ”reasonableness”, which is why David Cameron is able to make claims such as Corbyn is a threat to the national security. One reason the Tories have this power is because much of Labour has handed it over by their shift to the right since the days of Tony Blair. Rather than challenge the Tories on their claims the (New) Labour tends to run along the same lines.
For example, the trade union roots of Labour is not something to be apologetic about. What is the point of a party founded to represent the interest of the workers if they disaffiliate with organisations that represent the interest of the workers? The Tories know this. When Labour treats such an absurd Tory accusation as legitimate, they have already lost the battle without so much as firing a shot. Labour shouldn’t be ashamed of their trade union roots, they should wave that flag with pride. Having conceded to the criticism, how is Labour to challenge the Tory claims that they are the ones who represent the working people?
This wider ideological battle takes place to steer the eye away from what does cost the country’s economy. It is not abusers of the welfare systems, nor is it the foreigners coming in, nor is it the trade unions causing strikes. A simple look at the Home Office statistics will show how financial crime, such as fraud, is rampant in comparion to other crimes. There are plenty of news items about large companies involved in tax dodging and other financial loophole abuse. But the politicians do not want to talk about this.
I voted for Jeremy Corbyn because it represents a battle against the Conservative party owning the language of reasonableness, and other politicians steering from topics which would expose the areas where the real financial cost is. The Tories know this, which is why they are so hostile towards Corbyn. Same applies for the Blairite wing of the Labour party.
Tory policies do not have reasonableness, so why allow them to label it so? Shakespeare was wrong: A rose by any other name does not smell as sweet. As long as things say ’reasonable’ on the tin the content is tolerated.
It’s seeing rubbish like this in contemporary politics that reinforces my belief that politicians are only out for themselves. Hopefully Jeremy Corbyn isn’t one of those, but I’m willing to find out. I doubt we’ll ever know if the smear campaigns and the smoke screens are allowed to continue.
A quick rant about the Look Up poem. While it makes a telling point, it’s one sided. Technology is only as good as you make it. We are not slaves to it, and our need for the physical aspect of socialising will not be strangled by a smartphone. A smile is worth more than a like, and everyone knows this. We’re perfectly capable of looking up from the phone and acknowledge people. The issue, at most, is this childish idea that indifference is trendy. Smartphones and technology can be a blessing – it’s how I talk to my family who live far away, it’s how I keep in touch with my best friend who lives across the planet.
Technology doesn’t need to restrict us, it can also help us share our best and worst moments with our loved ones when they cannot be physically present.
Remember the message, but remember that it’s not all of it.
I’ve been reading what is arguably one of the greatest novels ever written when I came across this:
“While imprisoned in the shed Pierre had learned not with his intellect but with his whole being, by life itself, that man is created for happiness, that happiness is within him, in the satisfaction of simple human needs, and that all unhappiness arises not from privation but from superfluity. And now during these last three weeks of the march he had learned still another new, consolatory truth – that nothing in this world is terrible. He had learned that as there is no condition in which man can be happy and entirely free, so there is no condition in which he need be unhappy and lack freedom. He learned that suffering and freedom have their limits and that those limits are very near together.”
This is a short excerpt from my favourite novel, ‘Baudolino’ (chapter 26), where the protagonist meets a strange Christian tribe while travelling East – each character on a joint quest in search of their own catharsis. It is an example of Umberto Eco’s wittily crafted dialogue:
… Boron, on the contrary was impressed by this wisdom, and he began asking the old man a series of questions.
“Which number is greater, that of the living or of the dead?”
“The dead are greater, but they can no longer be counted. So those you can see are more than those you cannot see.”
“Which is stronger, death or life?”
“Life, because when it rises, the sun has luminous and splendid rays, and when it sets, it seems weaker.”
“Which is more, earth or sea?”
“Earth, because the sea rests on the bed of earth.”
“Which came first, night or day?”
“Night. Everything that is born is formed in the darkness of the womb and is only later brought into the light.”
“Which is the better side, left or right?”
“Right. Indeed, the sun rises on the right and follows its orbit in the heavens to the left, and a woman suckles her babe first with the right breast.”
“Which is the most fierce of animals?” the Poet asked then.
“Ask yourself. You, too, are a wild beast, you have with you other beasts, and in your lust for power you want to deprive all other beasts of life.”
Then the Poet said: “But if all were like you, the sea would never be sailed, the earth would never be tilled, the great kingdoms would not be born to carry order and greatness into the base disorder of earthly things.”
The old man replied: “Each of these things is surely fortunate, but it is built on the misfortune of others, and that we do not desire.”
From the album “Road Salt One” by Pain Of Salvation:
“I wanted to be changed by the road.
I so wanted to change the road.
But somehow we both resisted change.
Somehow we were both too strong.
And yet we both winded away, unsure of where we head.
And it’s like we’re both confused as to who is who.
As if, late in the night, you can’t tell the runner from the road – the walker from the walked.
Maybe I am just the road, dreaming that I walk.”
So. There is this one clip on YouTube where George Carlin talks about pride and nationhood, and it’s one of my all time favourite gems of his. He makes a very telling point about some of the eyebrow-raising aspects of humanity.
I do, however, disagree with him on one particular point. While I think it’s somewhat absurd to be proud of one’s nationality (patriotism and nationalism – what’s the difference really?) I do not think it is a genetic accident. Nationhood, like many other human notions, need to be built and maintained through our communication and behaviour. It’s not something that will pop out by itself – people have fought, believed and argued for nationhood – nor would it continue to exist without the affirmation it needs to survive.
For example, the association of language with a nation-state. There is often the assumption that the two go along together, so much so that the concept of a ‘dialect’ helps to maintain the ideology of a nation-state and innate nationhood. Why does Spain have so numerous official languages, yet the various ways of speaking in Italian were demoted to dialects in favour of a general standardised Italian? Was there perhaps a political need to create a united Italian peninsula, the first of its kind since Justinian dynasty’s brief reconquest of Rome? Not until the 1800’s the German-speaking people were considered peoples.
“It has become customary for cultural analysts to treat objects, such as flags, as if they were texts. The process can be reversed, so that the text appears as a flag.” – A telling point. It may be that Carlin fell victim to his own object of displeasure. It just may be that he was advocating nationhood in the most subtle, banal, of ways.
(Much of my understanding on the social construction of nationhood is based on Billig’s Banal Nationalism, from which the above quote can be found on page 173.)