Friday, September 26, 2003

Wibble While You Work

One of the joys (and simultaneous curses) of working for yourself is that there are no bosses leaning over your shoulder while you are idling around Blogoland rather than earning. It was during one such foray yesterday that I came across the old quote from Martin Niemoeller:

When Hitler attacked the Jews I was not a Jew, therefore I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the Catholics, I was not a Catholic, and therefore, I was not concerned. And when Hitler attacked the unions and industrialists, I was not a member of the unions and I was not concerned. Then, Hitler attacked me and the Protestant church -- and there was nobody left to be concerned.

It instantly transported me back over twenty years to the time I last heard it. I was working for a (then) large, well known chemicals and textile company. It was the early eighties, Thatcherism had got into its stride and unemployment was rising fast. The factory had seen many departments close down and others restructured with lots of redundancies.

Our union rep was an enthusiastic young politico who fancied himself as something of an orator. Passionate in defending his members, he was desperate to get us out on strike in defence of the latest department facing the axe. In a key meeting he made his final plea for solidarity by invoking the good pastor's stirring words.

"When they closed down the Dyeing Division," he thundered, "I didn't work there, therefore I was not concerned. And when they closed down the Nylon Plant, I didn't work there, and therefore I was not concerned. And when they closed down the Development Unit, I didn't work there either, so I was not concerned. And then they tried to close the Research Lab..."

He paused for effect, but for a fraction too long, because some old wag shouted out, "Because nobody ever fucking worked there, the lazy bastards, they deserved everything they got."

The meeting dissolved into laughter and the strike never happened.

If this was a proper leftie morality tale, it would finish with the old wag losing his job a few months down the line, but I don't know if that happened or not because mine went not long after.

And since it was such a shit job it was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Couldn't Give a Shit Victory Revisited.

The CGAS victory quote led to some comments on the Kid's blog, which set me thinking - an occurance that occasionally happens despite all indications to the contrary.

Dumjon ranted about policians' utter degeneracy, concluding thus:

In fact, I'd say that if we as citizens have any duties it is exactly this one: we should do everything possible to marginalise these people in our society. If we wish to keep civilisation moving ahead then we need to have the courage and the conviction to ensure that those who have rejected its centeral tenets are excluded from it as quickly as possible.

While Anthony C gave the political classes' stock answer:

you could argue that we operate an inclusive political system and that anyone can get involved - you don't like what's on offer; then put up or shut up. If people really don't like what the main parties are offering they can either start their own party or - more realistically - get themselves involved in one of the existing parties and try to change it from within. I tend to feel there's a lot of truth in the maxim that we get the politicians we deserve.

Both views are quite common, although Dumjon's visceral hatred is rarely matched in the world outside the Libertarian circles I assume he frequents, and both views let politicians off the hook.

First, let us look at the pious, "well, you can always get involved in politics yourself, you know. " The first point here is, who wants to? As Dumjon points out, the political animal is not as other beings. Other men and women have real lives to lead, livings to earn, relationships to foster, families to be with and a host of other interesting things to do that don't involve sitting around dull back rooms arguing the toss about the public finance initiative. So why, if people find that the politicians are representing them in a manner that alienates rather than includes, should the response be, "Well, if you think you can do any better, you can always try it yourself. Otherwise, keep quiet." This attitude leaves millions of people with no option but to join the Couldn't Give a Shits, when really they are None of the Aboves. Unrepresented, unheard, ignored. And worst of all, labelled as apathetic.

More wibbling on this subject tomorrow. Maybe.

Monday, September 22, 2003

A Pound of Flesh

Iraq for sale.

Shameless Excuse to Recycle Old Joke 2

There has been a spat between the Kid and the Labour Guy. I have to say I'm with the Kid on this one, not only because he was nice to me the other day. Robin Cook was indeed disloyal to his wife, and for Tom to go on about smut and sexual obsession rather misses the point. Which is, how the hell did Robin Cook ever get two women to f**** him in the first place?

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Thanks to the Kid Cuthbertson for making me his quote of the day yesterday. If you are passing by, Kid, I can't get the comments to work on your new blog. Not an altogether bad thing as it helps me concentrate on this one rather than infest yours.

Update: got it to go at last. It's a tantric comment box.

Tom Utley comments in the Telegraph about the Couldn't Give a Shit's victory.

The rest of the press, predictably, concentrates on the also rans.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Big Win for the Couldn't Give a Shit Party

The Couldn't Give a Shit Party won a dramatic victory in the Brent East by-election yesterday, securing 64% of the vote. While not hitting the heights of some of their other victories in the past, notably the Leeds by-election of 1999, where they secured around 80% of the vote, this is still a remarkable result. With so much at stake for the also rans of Labour, Lib Dem and Conservatives, pundits might have expected a lower turnout for the Couldn't Give a Shits. Iraq, the Hutton Enquiry and the claims of the Lib Dems of being the "official" opposition were all factors that should have squeezed the Couldn't Give a Shit vote, but their support has once again held solid.

A spokesman for the Couldn't Give a Shits said, "This result must surely signal a change in British Politics. It is scandalous that our party, which secured such a massive majority here, and had, it must be remembered, the biggest share of the vote (41%) in the last general election, is still unrepresented in Parliament. The British people are speaking with a remarkably clear voice, but the vested interests of those in power are just not listening."

Critics of the Couldn't Give a Shits point out that under current voting conditions, it is impossible to tell who are the true supporters of the Couldn't Give a Shits and who are supporters of the much more politically significant None of the Above Party, some of whose supporters are pushing for voting to be made compulsory provided a generic None of the Above candidate is allowed to stand. This is unlikely to happen, as it suits all the established parties to confuse the two groups.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People

Send for Gerald Kaufman.

After keeping creepy Kaufman under the duvet for many a long year, whose idea was it to make a bad situation worse by letting him loose on the media?

On Channel 4 News last night he gave a masterly display of political wretchedness, calling for everyone at the Beeb, bar, maybe the tea lady, to resign, blaming them for Kelly's death, while consistently refusing to admit the Government had done anything wrong. He even used the mad tactic of saying, "You invited me here to talk about the BBC..." and talking about "presenting evidence to you," as if he were granting us all the gift of his treasured secrets.

Someone should tell him we've all seen the same evidence and it is looking like the kid Cuthbertson's wish that the Government and the Beeb should both lose will turn out to be the final outcome. So what could possibly be gained by Kaufman spouting merrily away as if the public spectacle of Hutton is not unfolding under our very noses? At least Gilligan has had the, belated, good sense to admit his mistakes and apologise.

Kaufman is the culture, media and sport Select Committee chairman, I wonder what Blair makes of his barmy intervention and his early day motion calling on Dyke to resign? Maybe Blair put him up to it. After all, he can always say, oh that's just Gerald, you know what he's like. Nothing to do with me, mate. He might think that, but I couldn't possibly comment.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

Pro and Anti Blindspots

Harry made a point in his 9/11 piece that re-thinking is difficult for large parts of the Left. Sadly this is true, and thinking without the "re" is a bit of a struggle for some of them. The Stop the War bunch fit firmly in this tradition of the non thinking Left. They are the direct descendants - in many cases the same people - of those whose response to the intellectual vigour of Thatcherism was restricted to "Thatcher, Thatcher, Thatcher, out, out, out!" Good at organising marches, sorry mobilising the masses, and making snappy placards, but not much between the ears when it comes to anything more demanding than crude sloganeering.

Which is a shame, because this chronic inability to forward anything like a convincing opposition to the war in Iraq beyond a heartfelt contention that war is nasty has left a dangerous void. And this makes a convincing, sceptical analysis of the present phony peace a rarity.

All of which makes it difficult for your average wibbler like me. If you look at the early posts in this blog you'll see some, okay a lot, of that war is nasty stuff along with anti Bush rants and anguished who do you support in a war with no good guys? Too much confusion, and I still can't get no relief.

What I can say with certainty is that this conflict has thrown up unlikely alliances between old political foes and given us some absurd ideas, chief of which is that Bush and the Neo Cons are engaged in the advancement of liberty and freedom worldwide. Some parts of the pro-war Left don't go as far as that, saying that whatever the motivation, Bush & co have done a good thing and deserve our support. Well, maybe.

Part of the problem the anti war Left has had with articulating its position is the same as that faced by the man in the old Irish (and none pc, of course) joke. "How do I get to Dublin?" "Oh well, sorr, I wouldn't be starting from here."

It is galling to be on the receiving end of pious lectures on the liberation of oppressed people, of being reminded of brutality, murder and chemical weapons atrocities when you are part of a small minority who actually gave a shit about it all before last Christmas. If the US and the UK governments had one millionth of the concern for Saddam's victims that they profess to have, maybe his power base would never have become so solid, maybe Uday's arsenal wouldn't have been so well stocked. It's equally galling to have the history of protest against the policies towards Saddam airbrushed out of all consideration, as if it is sordid to mention such things at a time like this. Sordid too, to mention oil and those rebuilding contracts waiting to be signed for Bush's friends behind the scenes. Sordid to mention the lack of WMDs and the lies and exaggerations that persuaded us to go to war in the first place.

Sordid, too, to mention the tame, recently unexiled Iraqi placemen on the governing council who have little credibility with the people. Sordid to note that people are dying every day still, that law and order is non existent. Sordid to mention the cluster bombs and depleted Uranium. Sordid to note that although Iraq had nothing to do with Al Qaida before the war, it certainly has now. Sordid to note that the world is probably a more dangerous place than it was before

Sordid to speculate that it is not going to get better for a long time. That maybe it never will. That in the long run the US may tire and leave it the UN too sort out.

To my mind, these are the pro war Left's blind spots, just as dangerous as the anti war Left's own.

Friday, September 12, 2003

A salutory lesson for the theorists.
Apologies to Andy Duncan, I somehow managed to delete his last comment.
Norman Geras, Crooked Timber and the mighty Harry's Place all have fine contributions on 9/11 and the aftermath, most taking Roger Burbach's article in the Grauniad as starting point. What with Meacher, the self proclaimed best daily newspaper on the world wide web is treading a Wildean path at the moment.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

The Wibbler

Thanks to Andy Duncan of Samizdata for his concern over my moral and political wellbeing in his comment on my What it Means to be Left Now post. I've not had such compassion for my sad, abject soul since a nun tried to convert me to Roman Catholicism. There's a curious echo of her, "Good works are not enough, you must let God into your heart," in Andy's call to cross over to the light side.

But even better than that, he has given me a new subtitle for the blog. From now on I am proud to be a wibbler. And in answer to Andy's points, I will wibble anew soon.
A time to reflect on that terrible day two years ago.

I got a call from my wife to put the TV on and I watched the pictures over and over, feeling numb. Some idiot who I was watching it with said something like, "I know it sounds bad, but it's about time the yanks found out what it's like," and I felt sick. I should have hit him.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

It's mostly death dealing today:
in Israel, in Gaza and in London, while in Cancun , as they brace themselves for Seattle revisited, the rich nations decide their strategies to keep the poor nations where they are. Sorry, KickAAs, it ain't gonna happen.

Meanwhile Blogger is bolloxed again. I'd shift this blog if anyone but me read it.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Final thoughts on Harry's challenge

What it means to be Left Now

And there's the thing.

If you take a tour around the high minded leftie blogs, you may well conclude that to be Left these days is the same as it always was, and the defining characteristic is a detestation of anybody else who professes to share your political leanings. It was ever thus, the most ferocious attacks, the deepest philosophising, has always been directed to the same side of the fence. The endless variations of Marxist-Leninist-Trotskyist-Socialist-Communist of yesteryear now manifests itself without the mad labels, but with none of the invective lost. Thus, the Anti War Left is contemptuous of the Pro-War Left and vice versa. The Green/anti-Globalisation wing is scorned by everyone else, Chomsky is hated and revered in equal measure.

In the Blogosphere, the Right has a clear and unswerving agenda. They know their enemy. They may have their differences, the Libertarians and the Free Marketeers, the One Nation Tories and their radical bretheren, but you have only got to mention regulation, terrorism, Israel, the unions or asylum seekers and they speak as One.

Now look at those topics again. What is the Left's position on those subjects? Hm?

Go around, look at the blogs, note the passion and intellectual rigour which the Left uses up fighting itself.

Harry, the answer to your question is that to be Left means realising the world is not as it should be and then despising others who broadly share your view.

Friday, September 05, 2003

Why I'm still left, and why anyone who thinks this government is should wake up.

They do exist, you know. There are people out there who think Blair is "leftie", amazing as that may seem to the rest of you with brains.
More on Harry's challenge.

Why I'm Still Left

Like Blairista says, what inspired you then is probably a big factor in the now. And it is certainly true that the world is still wrong. It's wrong that some individuals have more wealth than some countries. It's wrong that the 500 wealthiest people in the world have more money between them than the bottom 45%. It's wrong that the rich countries of the world arrange things so that the poor cannot compete, through trade barriers, subsidies, import taxes and the like. It's wrong that 24,000 die every day through lack of food. It's wrong that millions don't have access to clean water.

It's wrong that companies, through lobbying and patronage hold immense power over how the world should conduct its affairs. It is wrong that the poor of the world barely have a voice. It's wrong that every step forward for the poor and the weak and the powerless has had to be wrested from the forces of Conservatism. It is wrong that the affairs of the many should be arranged as if the only thing that matters is the profit generated for the few.

So far, so Marxist. But what does this actually mean in an era when Marx is dead?

This is where the uncomfortable truths come in. Private enterprise is efficient. Private enterprise creates wealth, some of which filters down to those who need it most. Private enterprise is not, per se, wrong. In fact, it is preferable to the alternative. You'll find no tears shed over the death of Communism here.

You'll find nothing else tonight, either.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Over egged  or sexed up?
Well, nothing yet from the Hutton Inquiry has made me change my original thoughts, hysterical as they were.