Thursday, 16 October 2014

Misogynist terrorism

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai was shot in the face by morally and intellectually primitive thugs from the Taliban because she dared speak in favour of the cause of equality for women and girls. The gangsters from ISIL and their African allies Boko Haram employ rape, torture and sexual slavery against those who dare to stray from the ideology of women's subordination in their occupied territories.

The so-called "Gamergate" fiasco, for the most part, has only occupied my attention as a farcical and pathetic exercise in feeble-minded cultural backwardness: a backlash against diversity and political insight contradicting it daring to be present in the general hobby and industry of video gaming. But these indignant temper tantrums have mutated into a much uglier exercise in intimidation and bigotry. Women are being threatened with bombings, mass shootings, rape and murder for merely exerting their right to freedom of expression by defending the presence of persons and opinions within this one realm of society's commerce and artistry. This thus reflects a misogynist terrorist ideology beholden to a seemingly limitless extent of violence; a sickness that it revels in. It is no exaggeration to refer to it as such, given that it and its apologists engage in virulent ideological misogyny comparable to that of the worst Islamic terrorist groups.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Lord Freud and the rhetoric of disability hate

The odious remarks of welfare reform minister Lord Freud, who implied that disabled people were "not worth" the minimum wage and should be paid below it when employed, have justifiably incited public and political outrage. But there is nothing new in terms of the sentiments of Freud's remarks. They are merely a reflection, or a consistent continuation, of the prejudiced, discriminatory hate-driven attitudes towards people with disabilities, chronic illnesses and mental health conditions that are ubiquitous and normalised within our society and political and media discourse, in which the scapegoating of disabled people in receipt of state benefits as "shrikers" and "scroungers" who are emblematic of the "something for nothing culture" is viewed as fair game. Such is the depth of the hate in this venal propaganda that comparisons to dehumanisation of disabled people in Nazi Germany cannot be cited as a superficial example of Godwin's law, but rather a legitimate historical comparison.

Labour have sought to make political capital from the backlash of Lord Freud's remarks. But it was Labour, during the Blair and Brown administrations, who brought Freud into government in the first place. Their neo-Thatcherite New Labour ideology is responsible for facilitating his influence. It was Labour, following Lord Freud's advice, who introduced private sector contracting into assessment for incapacity benefits, which led to the creation of Employment Support Allowance and a Work Capability Assessment administered by the profit-driven Atos Healthcare, which began to strip severely disabled and chronically sick people, including terminal cancer patients, of their welfare benefits, in total contempt of the medical evidence and facts about their conditions. Under Lord Freud's guidance, Labour introduced a regime of benefit sanctioning blackmailing the same incapacitated people with financial deprivation, even destitution, if they failed to pursue or partake in employment (including unpaid workfare) after being deemed "fit for work" by this non-medical and pseudoscientific assessment system.

Despite the destructive nature of this regime, which could easily be described as a grave human rights violation as defined by international law, it has been vastly expanded and accelerated under David Cameron's government since 2010, with Lord Freud staying put in the Department of Work and Pensions led by Iain Duncan Smith. As well as innumerable mental health crises, there have since been dozens of anecdotal cases of deaths directly caused by the sanctioning and stripping of severely disabled people's benefits by the system designed by Lord Freud. There are potentially hundreds if not thousands of deaths it is responsible for. The technical term for murder by government is democide.

Under the Cameron government, Lord Freud's next contribution to society has been the bedroom tax (or under-occupancy penalty), a policy that financially sanctions social housing tenants (invariably people on low incomes) for rooms that are deemed to be "spare", and which hundreds of thousands of disabled people (including disabled children) have been effected by, including for "spare" rooms meant for overnight carers or storage of mobility and medical equipment. Many also have homes with special adaptions for their impairments. Despite the chronic housing shortage that makes downsizing into a new property impossible for most, the only relief for the disabled people impacted are discretionary payments from local authorities which are themselves rationed, so frequently unavailable to them. Many have gone without food and heating to pay the bedroom tax and face the threat of being evicted into homelessness by bailiffs when unable to pay. Lord Freud, country mansion resident, is unrepentant.

As well as remorselessly and enthusiastically imposing Lord Freud's brutal sanctioning and assessment system and bedroom tax, it is the same Cameron government (Tory, but aided and abetted by the moral non-entity Liberal Democrats) that has inflicted a wholesale assault on disabled people including: below inflation freezes to benefit increases, the replacement of Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payments that have new claimant terms resulting in real term benefit cuts for thousands, cuts to social care and mobility support, the closure of Remploy services providing employment opportunities, cuts to council tax support creating a new poll tax additionally diminishing impoverished disabled people's incomes, as well as a general pandering to the aforementioned media propaganda which has, likely beyond a reasonable doubt, contributed to a statistical influx in disability hate crimes being reported to police forces across the country.

Thus one vacuous remark from Lord Freud regarding disabled people in paid employment incites indignation, yet the reaction to these state-sanctioned human rights abuses against disabled people seems tame in comparison. The dehumanisation of this "life unworthy of life" and the resulting injury and death is evidently viewed as morally legitimate by our political and media establishment.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Rotherham, child abuse, racism and cover-ups

The political and media establishment must not be allowed to twist a matter of establishment corruption into one of race and immigration. The Rotherham child abuse case, in which hundreds of children were raped, sexually enslaved and tortured on a mass scale, is emblematic of a society that blames the victims of abuse and turns a blind eye to it to suit its own vested interests. A society in which the children victim to this institutionalised neglect and maltreatment are viewed as collateral damage in the establishment's self-serving damage control cover-up agenda.

Granted, it is possible "political correctness", or facetious concerns about "race relations", were used a tool with which to conveniently ignore the abuse of children in Rotherham. The authorities (council, police and social services) also opted for the victim blaming standpoint that the girls being abused were "promiscuous" and from "troubled" families; that they only had themselves to blame. These bureaucrats were opportunistic liars and abettors of the child abusers.

The Jimmy Savile and Cyril Smith cases are no different in practice; the difference in both being that the perpetrators of the child abuse were white men in positions of authority and influence, with both men abusing this power in order to cover-up their rape and paedophilia; with dozens in positions of power and authority acting in their favour. Government, council, medical and social services authorities were institutionally, ubiquitously and deliberately complicit to Savile and Smith's abuse of hundreds of children. Public relations and financial interests were priority to these criminal obstructors of justice and accomplices to child abusers. Rotherham, Rochdale and Jimmy Savile are certainly not isolated cases. The active covering up of the abuse of children on a mass scale by the establishment, especially social care authorities, is a phenomenon that has and continues to ruin the lives of thousands of children in the UK. It is an atrocity that must be revealed.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

John Whiteside "Jack" Parsons (1914-1952)

October 2, 2014 marks the one hundredth birthday of one of the most revolutionary and ingenious scientists of the 20th century; yet his public profile can be described as modest, if not negligible at worst. There are many scientists from modern history whose legacies and identities are imprinted in the public consciousness. Among them are Albert Einstein in physics, Alan Turing in computing, Tim-Berners Lee in information technology, and Marie Curie in chemistry. John Whiteside Parsons, who is usually referred to as Jack Parsons, was easily on par with these greats in both terms of his genius and his contributions in his own field: rocketry. Wernher von Braun, the Operation Paperclip recruit responsible for Apollo 11's Saturn V, is said to have credited Parsons as being more important than himself to the American space program.

Parsons is notable, if not notorious, as being the cultural spectacle of being both a rocket scientist and an occultist follower of Aleister Crowley's Thelema belief system. I began researching Parsons for this very reason (with credit to John Carter, George Pendle, Robert Anton Wilson and Susan Pile): the concept of a pioneering rocket engineer and prophetic advocate for human space travel being commitedly involved in neopaganism is an immediately fascinating idea within itself. At face value his story sounds like a cross-over between The Big Bang Theory and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The more I have learned about Parsons through acquiring as much biographical information about him as possible, however, transcends this novelty. I came to appreciate not only a scientist who provided both the practical and visionary means for present day rocket-based space travel and research, and that in the Space Race before it, but also a political, religious and philosophical thinker of immense moral principle, creativity, and cultural foresight.

Parsons was one of the main scientists responsible for the foundation of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, which is today as a primary subdivision of NASA controlling space exploration missions such as the Mars rover program. Beside his contemporaries he spearheaded its establishment as part of the original Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory Rocket Research Group at the California Institute of Technology (GACLIT) in the 1930s. Much like Issac Newton, Parsons was a prodigal autodidact. He began constructing rockets with his friend Edward Forman at the age of 16, resulting in the primordial basis of his groundbreaking inventions at Caltech. Jack was the child of privilege, but the loss of the family fortune during the Depression meant that he could not afford to attain a university degree (even though tuition fees at American universities were then a few hundred bucks, in contrast to the many thousands of today).

Unabated, Parsons and Forman basically walked into Caltech one day and approached the great aerodynamicist Theodore von Karman, who referred them to his PhD student Frank Malina (who was the first director of JPL and built one of the first rockets used for non-military means). Parsons, Forman and Malina formed the GALCIT Group at Caltech, which was known as "The Suicide Squad" for its usually explosive rocket experiments and subject to mockery from the Caltech establishment.  

Their idealism was pragmatically reliant upon the military-industrial complex during World War II: the U.S. government and military providing subsidy for their development of Jet-Assisted Takeoff units that were vital to the Allied war effort against fascism. But it was these funds that led to Parsons' invention of the first solid-fuel rocket units that were the technological blueprint for the realization of space travel (via Apollo and the Space Shuttle) that Parsons' first envisioned in his teenage days, along with liquid-fuel formulations which were just as vital to the same technologies; both remaining intrinsic to (albeit more limited) space science in the modern age.

Parsons' career, however, was stifled by his personal and political life. As a Thelemite and individualist (the two are interchangeable) who advocated for racial equality, feminism and sexual liberation in 1930s-40s and then Cold War America, he was prey to the bigotry and McCarthyism that the scientific establishment was beholden to. In this context, Parsons can be compared to William S. Burroughs (also born in 1914) as a precipitating elder statesman of 20th century counterculture. Because of this he was forced to resort to work far beneath his abilities, including pyrotechnic and chemical engineering contracting which stockpiled the materials that tragically ignited the explosion that killed him at age 37. 

Another reason Parsons fell upon this misfortune is that he was made broke by L. Ron Hubbard, a one-time friend and occult associate who participated in his Babalon Working (which aimed to conjure Thelema's Sophia-like goddess of freethought and individual liberation into our mortal plain). Hubbard swindled him of his money through a fraudulent investment scheme, and used appropriation of both Parsons' funds and philosophical ideas to found Dianetics and Scientology, which are among the most destructive and extensive con tricks in modern history. It is an intellectual and cultural disgrace that an unscrupulous and venomous huckster like Hubbard could have a reputation so expansive in comparison to Parsons, the former being among most successful snakeoil salesmen of the modern age and the latter one of the most under-appreciated actual scientists.

Like George Orwell, there is a sparse amount of images and video of Parsons, and no recordings of his voice. Yet according to his contemporaries, he was an orator with the skill to induce strong emotions in his religious followers. One can imagine Parsons, if he had lived, as a countercultural and scientific public speaker similar to Richard Feynman and Alan Watts with an extensive Californian-accented charisma to very effectively relay his ideas. In other words, L. Ron without the snakeoil.

When we see the footage of the Moon landings (where a crater is named after Parsons), or spot the International Space Station above our orbit in the sky, we can appreciate that these are feats of human accomplishment that Jack Parsons was integral to the achievement of, and which were originally relegated to the supposedly impossible words of his mystical and sci-fi enthusiasms. For posterity, we should hope that he is recognized as one of the giants of 20th century scientific achievement.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Umbrella Revolution

This blog frequently receives page visits from China. Given that it frequently discusses political dissent and protest movements, including the Tienanmen square incident, it somewhat surprises me that it could be accessible on the mainland. Thus I hope that those Chinese readers can receive this direct message to them.

I hope that you will support the movement for universal suffrage and democratic self-determination in Hong Kong. Hong Kongers have the fundamental human right to be free from the hegemony and diktat of Beijing and the Communist Party. This does not mean that your country, its culture and people are held in contempt: the corruption and inequality imposed upon you by your ruthlessly elitist and repressive political order impacts the entirety of China. The socialism that the Communist Party claims to stand for is contradicted by the vast iniquity and ubiquitous corruption and economic exploitation it sanctions, which is no different to the economic and social injustice being revolted against in the West. I hope that Hong Kong will inspire you to stand up for human rights in China just the same.