Slightly ashamed that I haven't written anything for this blog for some
six months, but the current state of UK politics is so depressing that I
don't feel obliged to offer much else in the way of excuse. Anyway,
here's a small philological contribution just to keep it rolling.
In a thoughtful essay on the openDemocracy website Professor Cas Mudde recently analysed the prospects for a return to social democracy in Europe. He was not optimistic, expressing a view that "(Real) social democracy is not just unknown to several generations of voters, but it is contradictory to their individualist or ethnicized worldview", a case for which he offered several strong arguments.
I commented on his essay to say that a major part of the problem was the refusal of the rump of New Labour to even utter the words "social democracy". Here's an extract from my comment:
"I believe a crucial first step is purely semantic: getting people to even use the words &…
A fake bomb detector: Photograph: City of London Police/PA
"Modern society, which up to 1968 went from success to success and
was persuaded that it was loved, has since then had to renounce these
dreams; it prefers to be feared. It knows full well that 'its innocent
air will no longer return.' A thousand conspiracies in favor of the established order
tangle and clash almost everywhere, with the overlapping of networks and
secret questions or actions always pushed harder; and the process of
rapid integration is pushed into each branch of the economy, politics
The degree of intermingling in surveillance, disinformation
and special activities continually grows in all areas of social life.
The general conspiracy has become so dense that it is almost out in the
open, each of its branches starts to hinder or trouble the others,
because all these professional conspirators are spying on each other
without exactly knowing why, or encounter each other by c…
I haven't given up posting to this blog but recently have been active elsewhere - two pieces published on openDemocracy. I will be continuing to post stuff here though and I've also created Kindle (MOBI) and PDF format books of all my blog posts up to June 2013, for anyone who prefers to read them all in one lump. Download them for free by clicking the cover picture.
Here are the links to my two oD pieces, the first of which is a revised version of my last post here:
With the current outbreak of indignation over tax evasion by multinational corporations, we're finally coming face-to-face with the biggest problem of our times: one more important than the financial crisis, than terrorism or sexual abuse, more immediately important even than global warming. What's at stake is the continued existence of the state as we've known it for the last several centuries, without whose powers none of those other problems are soluble (despite any fairy tales that libertarians and Tea Party whackos may tell you). Without revenues there can be no state, a fact that's perfectly understood by those Republican billionaires whose purchased congressmen are currently preventing the USA from being governed.
The recent visit of Google's CEO Eric Schmidt to London rubbed the point in. Explaining that "if you change the tax laws, we'll obey them", he treated UK PM David Cameron with the amused air of a cheeky schoolboy talking to a nagging…
I just watched Mel Gibson's 2006 movie Apocalypto on television. It's pretty remarkable coming from such a proselytising Christian, because its message to me appeared to be pure Nietzsche - innocent and virtuous pagans destroyed by not one but two evil organised religions, the Mayan blood cult and Spanish Christianity. Early in the movie its hero meets the remnants of another forest tribe who just escaped a massacre, and his father uses them as a lesson: "Fear. Deep rotting fear. They were infected by it. Did you see? Fear is a sickness. It will crawl into the soul of anyone who engages it. It has tainted your peace already. I did not raise you to see you live with fear. Strike it from your heart. Do not bring it into our village." The purple prose may be straight out of Edgar Rice Burroughs, but the content is quite profound. The infectious and debilitating nature of Fear has been well known to those who deal in Power for millenia, from Mongol conquerors and robber…
Compulsory optimism is an important feature of many social systems: in the Catholic church it's the "Hope" in Faith, Hope and Charity; in the army it's called "morale"; in the nation-state it's called patriotism. Its opposites are not mere intellectual pessimism but "despair" (a Deadly Sin), "defeatism" (a shooting offence under both Hitler and Stalin) and in more recent times "negativity". All of these formulations serve the same purpose, which is to quench criticism of the status quo. Until fairly recently however it hasn't been too prominent a feature of liberal democracies, precisely because a democracy must always remain open to critics. To be sure conservatives will often deploy terms like "moaning minny" as a straw-man when combating leftwing critics, but it's always remained a rhetorical device without any material sanction attached. That's why I was so fascinated by an excellent Short Cuts co…