Radical Atheism #01: The Church of the Friendly Apes

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Radical Atheism, the exciting new non-religion I’ve just made up, is the belief that a) there probably isn’t a god, an afterlife, or anything beyond the material, and b) that this has radical implications for the way we live and societies are organised.

Atheism implies an acceptance of the scientific understanding of the world, and how it, humanity, everything alive and everything full stop came about. Obviously, a lot of people can now tell you the basics of evolution, and they know that the universe wasn’t made in seven days four thousand years ago in some celestial Craig David video. But it’s clear from the way we continue to act that we haven’t really comprehended any of that at all.

Many religious accounts told people they were made by an all-seeing deity, and that life on earth was an extended afterlife-entrance exam. In secular society, not all that much has changed. Less people believe god made them and that heaven’s waiting for them than ever before, and life is now seen as a lovely theme park for their personal enjoyment rather than a test. But the idea that the individual is colossally important remains – arguably, it’s now even more prevalent, and not reined in by the moral compulsion to be compassionate that characterised religion at its best.

Mainstream atheism is shallow and individualistic. Often, it’s used as a sort of moral-philosophical Get Out Of Jail Free card: you’ve decided there’s no god, there’s no heaven, so you don’t have to worry about big ethical questions anymore. All that matters now is you – your life, your family, your career prospects. You’ve been issued your guilt-free hyper-individualism license by the universe, and can happily get on with buying things you don’t need and helping consume the planet to extinction. Continue reading “Radical Atheism #01: The Church of the Friendly Apes”

Love Is No Big Truth (Kings of Convenience)

Mop-headed Norwegians Kings of Convenience make pretty indie-pop with whispery vocal harmonies and folky guitars. For some reason, it’s never quite as shit or soporific as it should be. They might sing like they wouldn’t say boo to a goose, but the sprightly groove of 2003’s ‘Love Is No Big Truth’ belies a pleasingly cynical assault on Western-standard fairytale romance clichés – operative vocal hook: “driven by our genes/we are simple selfish beings”.

Political Short Termism: The (Second) Biggest Loser of GE2015

Conservative Party activists wear face masks of Scottish National party leader Nicola Sturgeon during a stunt outside the Houses of Parliament, in central London

One (very) last thing to say about the election, before a lengthy moratorium on posts about party politics. Here’s a rubbish intervention in more mundane matters, having essentially said secede from Westminster’s jurisdiction and start self-sustaining hippy communes the other day.

Really, second only to the vast majority of the population, political short-termism was the biggest loser of the 2015 General Election – most notably in relation to Clegg’s dalliance with the Tories, and the Labour Party’s embrace of New Labour.

In 2010, Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems threw aside most of their principles for a shot at power with the Tories.

They knew that minority partners in coalition governments tend to be smashed the next time an election comes around.They knew that five years in Downing Street with David Cameron was very likely to alienate three core components of the Lib Dem vote – rural progressives who’ve traditionally voted Liberal to keep the Tories out, students who supported their tuition fees stance, and directionless anti-establishment voters who used them as a protest vote.

And they really should’ve known that the Tories would do their utmost to destroy them. Chris Huhne, ex-Lib Dem MP, Coalition minister and jailbird, recently said he first realised Cameron was planning to annihilate his party when, during the Alternative Vote referendum campaign in 2011, the Tories personally attacked Clegg for going back on his tuition fees pledge, something they insisted he do as part of the coalition agreement.

On May the 7th, the Lib Dems were predictably massacred. They went from having 57 MPs in Parliament to having eight. It remains to be seen whether they can recover. Continue reading “Political Short Termism: The (Second) Biggest Loser of GE2015”

GE2015: A quick word on New New Labour and ‘Miliband was too left-wing’

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An inspiring choice of rich white people

After Labour’s unexpectedly drastic loss in last week’s general election, the party is now trundling into the first phases of the process that will decide who follows Ed Miliband as leader.

Its now-considerable right-of-centre contingent has quickly gathered behind the idea that the Tories won because Ed Miliband was too left-wing – sentiments expressed in vague, euphemistic language about ‘aspirational voters’ and ‘embracing business’.

With right-wing candidates unsurprisingly monopolising the leadership contest – since the early 1990s, being more right-wing than the bulk of Labour members and most of its voters has been a prerequisite for getting on the party’s frontbench, after all – it seems inevitable that the party will shift right under whoever wins.

In fact, party deputy chairman Jon Trickett has produced figures showing Labour won more votes from middle-class ‘aspirationals’ this time than it did in 2010. It was its working-class vote that declined, continuing a trend traceable back to 1997. Continue reading “GE2015: A quick word on New New Labour and ‘Miliband was too left-wing’”

GE2015 and Beyond: Anarch-ish

Super Mario's sister joins anti-government protests outside Downing Street
Super Mario’s sister joins anti-government protests outside Downing Street

This week, the liberal papers are full of chipper editorials all called something like ‘reasons to be cheerful’ that try and pick some positives out of Thursday’s electoral cataclysm. But there aren’t any.

Yes, Nick Clegg’s gone. Nigel Farage didn’t get in. Esther McVey, Danny Alexander, Douglas Alexander, Jim Murphy and Mark Reckless all lost. Caroline Lucas kept her seat. Aside from Katy Clark, the one really regrettable casualty of the SNP surge, Labour’s few remaining left-wingers were re-elected, often with increased support.

And the Tories might have a parliamentary majority, but it’s one of the smallest in history. Bigger leads have dwindled to nothing in the past, as MPs died or stood down. Rebellious Tory backbenchers could make Cameron’s life a misery, as they did to John Major in the early ‘90s.

But that’s all pitiful up against the tsunami of human misery a Tory majority government will go on to unleash – “five more years of pure evil”, as Ken Livingstone aptly put it.

Continue reading “GE2015 and Beyond: Anarch-ish”

GE2015: Three Hours Past Midnight – Watching The Telly Watch The Election

As everyone knows by now, the pre-election polls were disastrously wrong, and the actual outcome on the night was crushingly terrible. The Tory vote didn’t fall, which looked inevitable beforehand. It rose. And the Labour vote didn’t recover, even to the piddling extent that was widely predicted beforehand. It fell. The polls said no party would win a majority, the result being another hung parliament, and another coalition government of one kind or other.

If you’ve always harboured a Luddite suspicion of ‘polls’ and hated the all-prevailing political obsession with them, last night might have been very satisfying if the real-world implications weren’t catastrophic, socially, economically, morally and ecologically.

By about 3am, it was clear that the Tories were doing far better than expected, and Labour were doing far worse. The Lib Dems were being annihilated. The SNP were clearly on course to win the vast majority of seats in Scotland.

The end result was a Conservative majority government. Unfathomably, we’re now faced with a worse situation than the one we found ourselves in 2010 – more of the same nation-plundering, majority-disdaining austerity agenda, but this time shorn of the erratic, smidgen of moral conscience that the Lib Dems brought to the table. Continue reading “GE2015: Three Hours Past Midnight – Watching The Telly Watch The Election”

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband Rules Out A Labour Government, But That Might Not Be Too Bad After All

Ed Miliband Spring Conference in Birmingham

We’ve run out of time to talk about the election, thankfully, and this’ll likely be the last post until it’s all over. We’re quite pleased, because thinking and writing about our risible excuse for a representative democracy all day is wearing in the extreme, particularly when there’s starvation, drowning immigrants, earthquake-ravaged Nepal and oodles of other harrowing human misery all going on at the same time.

With about a week to go, it looks like neither of the two main parties will win enough seats to form a majority government. The Tory vote will drop, but they’ll probably still be left as the largest party. Labour will do better than they did in 2010, but not by much. They’ll be annihilated by the SNP in Scotland, who could win 40-odd seats. The Lib Dems will lose a lot. UKIP will win a substantial wedge of total votes cast, but not many seats, thanks to First Past the Post. For the same reason, the ‘Green surge’ will come to nothing at a parliamentary level, although thankfully it seems Caroline Lucas will hang on to Brighton.

It looks very unlikely that the Coalition will be able to continue – even together, the Tories and the Liberals won’t be left with enough seats for a majority. The Tory-UKIP-DUP doomsday scenario almost definitely won’t come to pass either, mercifully.

We’ve spent about a month exerting the titanic political influence we wield over our three readers to try and bring about a minority Labour government, propped up and pulled leftwards by an anti-austerity bloc made up of the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens. It turns out some sort of Labour-SNP deal is one of only two feasible scenarios that’ll produce a workable government, unless things change substantially over the next week. The other is a Labour-Tory unity coalition. Continue reading “General Election 2015: Ed Miliband Rules Out A Labour Government, But That Might Not Be Too Bad After All”