Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Christian fundamentalism as education in the American South

In the state of Texas, the Republican Party has outlined in an official manifesto its objection to the teaching of critical thinking skills to students in schools. This, in its own words, is because free and inquisitive thinking has the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs". 

We then turn to Louisiana, where public funds have been used for a Christian creationist curricula that teaches children, in the vain of financial felon and astronomically moronic creationist Kent Hovind, that the existence of the Loch Ness Monster refutes the scientific legitimacy of Darwinian biological evolution. 

The satire-eclipsing stupidity and absurdity of religious fundamentalism knows no bounds. But more seriously, indoctrinating and depriving children of the basic scientific and creative education they deserve is abusive and dangerous to what should be criminal proportions. 

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Bailouts and a modest sum

In the political discourse of Greece, where a coalition government has been formed essentially as a one party state to enforce further brutal austerity and neoliberal privatisation measures as dictated by the IMF, the term "bailout" is used synonymously with "austerity". Greece's politicians referred to as "pro-bailout" are accordingly those in favour of the IMF-dictated austerity measures. The bailout funds of course do not aid the Greek people themselves; they are injected into its banking system to ensure its buoyancy within the financial crisis it played a major role in creating through its irresponsible overlending and malpractices in general, as applies on an international level. Compared to the government of Iceland, which nationalised its banks, and jailed and reclaimed the profits of the select groupings of white-collar criminals from its corporations and investment banking systems instead (sparing it from recession), the Greek government with IMF diktat is determined to force the cost of the bailing out its banking system upon its people, manifesting in the unspeakable socioeconomic austerity which Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras rightfully describes as "barbaric".

The identifiable synonymy of the bailouts of banking systems and the ideological austerity inflicted onto society to pay for its financial cost, is therefore something that is very much worth incorporating into a more universal lexicon of opposition to said ideological austerity. (The austerity itself obviously not applied to corporations and banking systems). The effects of the austerity ideology's barbarism in Britain is quite similar to those in Greece. Teachers are having to bring food into schools to feed children who have gone without breakfasts due to their parents being unable to afford to feed them because of the government's cuts to welfare and tax credits, for example. The authorities within Britain's healthcare system are 'rationing' funding for urgent surgeries and medicines for patients, thereby forcing people to suffer with medical conditions for prolonged periods of time only because their afflictions happen to not be terminal or immediate existential crises. Those are a recent sample of the barbarism's consequences. The hungry child and the suffering patient: they pay for the at least £850 billion cost the bailout of the UK's banking establishments in 2008. The bailout barbarism is something that should be opposed completely.

Monday, 18 June 2012

David Cameron and his Saudi friends

In response to the death of heir to the House of Saud, Prince Naif bin Abd Al Aziz Al, Prime Minister David Cameron issued the following statement“It is with great sadness that I heard today of the death of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Naif bin Abd Al Aziz Al Saud of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. My thoughts are with the Kingdom and its people at this time. I had the pleasure of meeting Crown Prince Naif in January and was struck by the leadership and dedication with which he served his country for so many years.” 

Issuing condolences on the death of a national political figure is one thing (even Kim Jung-Il received them). But expressing personal "pleasure" and "admiration" for one is another entirely. This is a matter of concern when we consider the following facts about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the practices directly decreed by the ruling the theocracy that Cameron is so delighted to fraternise with:

  • Saudi Arabia regularly carries out the execution of its subjects. Capital crimes include apostasy and idolatry (religious thoughtcrimes), homosexuality, adultery and fornication (consensual sexual relations between individuals), sedition (a term generally referring to any political dissent), and witchcraft and sorcery. Execution methods employed for these "crimes" include beheadings, crucifixions, and stonings. 
  • Saudi authorities also regularly engage in non-lethal responses to such felonies, including floggings and amputations of limbs.
  • Saudi Arabia is notorious for its misogynistic treatment of women, virtually amounting to their apartheid and slavery within fundamentalist social roles. Girls are forced into marriage as young as ten; domestic violence and rape, often used to punish any female disobedience, are technically illegal, but often unreported, ignored or used to judicially punish the women victims themselves (for being raped by men, some Saudi women have been executed or tortured for adultery). In the 2006 Qatif rape case, an eighteen year old girl was sentenced to 800 lashes and ten years imprisonment for being gang-raped by a group of men (only being acquitted by King Abdullah due to international outcry, who still ordered the "discretionary" punishment of the rape victim involved). Perhaps David Cameron's advice to them would be to "calm down dear."
  • Most hypocritically relevant to Cameron is King Abdullah's supply of weaponry, including that manufactured by British arms manufacturing and dealing company BAE Systems, to the security forces of Bahrain, used in efforts of mass killing and torture to crush the Arab Spring pro-democracy movement in that country. King Abdullah and Hamad of Bahrain are determined to form a political union between the two kingdoms, in contempt of the significant opposition of the Bahraini people. 
David Cameron is just as keen to rhetorically portray himself as a world leader vapidly supporting the notions of "democracy" and "human rights", as he is to act in his skills as a PR man to defend the Saudi regime's authoritarian brutality and religious totalitarianism, when its geopolitical position pertains to the interests of multinational corporations. It's clear that the domination of the House of Saud is to Cameron what Generals Pinochet, Suharto and Franco, and Saddam Hussein and apartheid South Africa, were to Margaret Thatcher.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The austerity drone

Paul Krugman, in light of promoting the release of his new book End this Depression Now!, has been campaigning with particular media exposure in an immensely refreshing  and lucid manner against the establishment consensus of austerity. He has appeared in a number interviews in which he has quite hilariously destroyed assorted careerists and voodoo economists. In context of the U.S. presidential race in November, he adequately describes the manner and narratives of austerity-pushing political leaders and intelligentsia: "They issue apocalyptic warnings about the dangers of government debt and, in the name of deficit reduction, demand savage cuts in programs that protect the middle class and the poor. But then they propose squandering all the money thereby saved — and much, much more — on tax cuts for the rich."

I offered by own summarisation of the austerity doctrine (which has proven quite popular among Comment is Free readers): "The austerity drone is a construction to simultaneously justify ideological Social Darwinism and neoliberal privatisation and social stratification. It is abjectly inhuman and economically illiterate." With my mind evidently having some subconscious focus on new American war methods, you will clearly notice the "drone" typo. I naturally corrected myself as a notation shortly thereafter; @nextwavefutures however contacted to say that "I liked 'austerity drone', typo or not. Unmanned, destroys the wrong targets, high collateral damage. Worked for me."

Perhaps austerity drone would be a good phrase to popularise?

Sunday, 10 June 2012

The normality of ableist Social Darwinism

I'll get straight to the point: in Britain there exists of culture of mass hatred and scapegoating against disabled people. Which frankly, any reasonable person would think to have been confined as existing within the fascist states of the 1940s. It is clear violation of international law, and should be far more a scandal than it currently is. To a degree I despair of the fact that so many will comply with it; or even agree with it. Granted, people with physical and mental disabilities are not euthanised en masse by the UK state. They are at least not directly killed. But they certainly are, in my opinion, by a proxy which is slightly more than coincidental. And it is probably quietly smug about its consequences.

At least 1,100 people have killed themselves as a consequence of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government's cuts to welfare. That will have undoubtedly included disabled people denied Disability Living Allowance (DLA); many of them by "fitness for work" assessments by the corporation Atos, condemned as pseudoscientific, damaging and abusive by the British Medical Association (whose objections are surely to be as respected and acknowledged as much as they on healthcare privatisation). The primary motive of these policies are of course to save money: £2.24 billion a year will be saved by withdrawing DLA from 500,000 disabled people (including the severely disabled, and maimed veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars). This is when, for example, the cost of tax evasion and avoidance schemes by corporations and grouping wealthy individuals is £95 billion per year. According to Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Ian Duncan Smith, too many concerned and angry disabled people are "festering" social liabilities, needing to be "cleansed" from the benefit system.

This enthusiastic and institutionalised priority to victimise the disabled, the vulnerable and their carers, under the deceptive and disingenuous auspices of the austerity doctrine, perfectly illustrate the use of constructed economics narratives to alleviate ideological means.

The perpetually bleated justification by David Cameron and his government ministers, is of course, that there is no alternative to such policies; or some other modified equivalent to Margaret Thatcher's favourite phrase. TINA itself was not coined by Thatcher however; she herself adopted it from 19th century theorist Herbert Spencer, who uncoincidentally invented the ideological philosophy of Social Darwinism, and the phrase "survival of the fittest". In this application of Dickensian values, the strife of the dying and handicapped receives not much sympathy from the Social Darwinist state.

Social Darwinism is one of the primary characteristics of the mentality of fascism: or the "authoritarian personality" as defined by Theodor Adorno (and his colleagues) in 1950. As described by Kellner, one of the main motives of the fascist pathology is 'Destruction and Cynicism', marked "Generalised hostility [and] vilification of the human." The Cameron government's treatment of the disabled and vulnerable, is not necessarily fascist in intention, but easily identifiable in its language and nature. Identifying the state-enforced bullying and financial manipulation of those who cannot defend themselves as one of the imperative conditions for the worst society and culture imaginable is something far beyond hyperbole.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

A message to striking Québécois students

Students in the Canadian province Quebec are engaged in prolonged efforts of civil disobedience and direct action against the Quebec government's planned increase in tuition fees, and the Harper government's plans for austerity cuts to education as a whole. I encourage all to contribute their messages of solidarity to the Solidarity with Quebec students on strike Tumblr. My own is the following:

As soon as education is run for the purposes of profiteering, its meaning of purpose and principle becomes intrinsically devalued. Rather than being the publicly accessed priority  to alleviate the talents, merits and intellects of all individuals in society as it should be, it merely serves to ensure collectivist neoliberal control via the methods of debt and wage slavery. The Quebec student movement is in many ascepts the western hemisphere’s parallel to the efforts for universal education seen in Chile. I am keen on a slogan of the latter movement: “If they won’t let us dream, we won’t let them sleep.” In a broader sense, the defence of education from corporate profiteering and commercialization is a stand for basic human dignity and justice from hegemonic agendas a whole. The movement in Quebec serves as an example to the rest of the developed world on how to respond to them effectively.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Dr. Obama or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

In his essay Reflections on Gandhi, George Orwell gives mention to E.M. Forster's A Passage to India, an enlightening refutation of orientalist racism within British society during imperialist rule in India. His critiques of both are fairly quaintly collectivized in this quotation : "Although no doubt he was shrewd enough in detecting dishonesty, he seems wherever possible to have believed that other people were acting in good faith and had a better nature through which they could be approached."

This appears to be an Orwellianism of particular subtlety; but consistent in its condemnation of intellectual inconsistency.

This apparent suspension of disbelief, to believe in the act of constant good faith, appears to be applied by many on the political "left" to the U.S. presidency of Barack Obama. Or at least one of the factions of apologetics of certain actions. This is the least worst of them. The worst are contemptible. 

Imagine hypothetically, if you will, that the office of the presidency was still occupied by George W. Bush. Or if an alternative scenario, Senator John McCain instead had been elected to the presidency in 2008.  Imagine if a President McCain had a "kill lists" for targets of unmanned drone strikes. Imagine if those drone strikes ordered by President McCain, as a continuation of the Bush/Cheney administration neoconservative foreign policy, were an accentuation that claimed the lives of over two thousand civilians in the span of two to three years. Imagine if the McCain administration permitted, including of U.S. citizens, indefinite detention in military prisons without trial or due process, and wiretapping of communications without a permit. Imagine if the McCain administration contributed to the Middle Eastern supply of arms to crush Bahrain's pro-democracy movement. Imagine if the Obama administration went to draconian efforts to suppress the transparency of whistleblowers such as Bradley Manning and Wikileaks.  And also imagine if a McCain government sent federal troops to to invade and prosecute farmers of marijuana who provide the plant for medicinal reasons (despite promising the complete opposite in his presidential campaign).

The same liberals who ignore, or at worst even try to condone or justify these actions by the Obama administration, would scream from the rooftops with outrage if a Republican administration was pursuing the same kind of policy with a character of such arrogant and cerebral nature. They prefer to squeal "You can't fight in here, this is the war room!" instead, with militarism undifferentiated from that seen under Bush/Cheney neoconservatism, or in Full Metal Jacket. Those in Chicago protesting as part of Occupy NATO, who were threatened with noxious gasses and noise torture by the police forces, should be commended from having the intellect to respond in the contrary manner. 

We point example to President Lyndon B. Johnson, who upon attaining power following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, undoubtedly achieved many great things domestically. For one, his leadership permeated efforts to outlaw racial segregation in the United States. It also stood for the equality of women, the rights of workers, protection of the environment, and the the alleviation of millions from poverty. But Johnson was not spared from the left's condemnation when he pursued foreign accentuation of neocolonialist atrocities in Vietnam, and forced thousands of young men into being drafted to die for them. 

Similarly, President Barack Obama is a fairly likable figure. He is charismatic. Many of us could even relate to him. It can certainly be argued that he is the lesser of two evils when compared to automated austerity-pushing corporatist Republican Mitt Romney. Obama can be given kudos for his quasi-efforts to improve America's atrocious market-driven healthcare system (though it is far from the efficiency and social mobility that would be achieved under universal healthcare).  He can be regarded for unapologetically defending the rights of women and LGBT rights, even in the face of opposition from right-wing Christian theocrats. But put simply enough, any such progressive achievements or stances should not exempt the Obama administration's militarism and police state authoritarianism from accountability.