Neck-ache nation: what elite sport, elite politics, and elite worship says about us

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If you like substance and things that matter, it’s not been a very good few months to be alive. Feudal-revivalist royal birthday celebrations. The eye-bulging jingoism of Euro 2016. An abyssal new low for establishment post-truth politics with the EU referendum. False-start leadership elections, grubby will-they-won’t-they political coups. And then the Olympics, where grotesque, mind-mangling amounts of money and resources get blown on a hyper-nationalist willy-waving competition.

But at very least, in its abundance of rubbishness, the summer has left us with some fairly big clues as to what’s gone wrong. We are, after all, hurtling towards a point-of-no-return ecological tipping point, having done more environmental damage in 150 years than any other species has managed in three billion – all to build a civilisation where the richest 10% own half the wealth, use 60% of the resources, and 20,000 people starve to death every day.

Why is the world so cataclysmically shit? I think the summer we’re having points towards one big contributing factor. In fact, all the recent events listed above, the Queen, the football, and so on, are arguably symptomatic of the same underlying phenomenon – a giant, normalised, and, as such, near-universally ignored problem afflicting civilisation as-is. Continue reading “Neck-ache nation: what elite sport, elite politics, and elite worship says about us”

Neil Faulkner at Bristol Momentum

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It took about six months, but last week I finally got to a Momentum meeting.

Momentum’s a left-wing campaign group – the boisterous, PLP-spooking successor to the grassroots uprising that made Jeremy Corbyn Labour leader, and about the most promising vehicle for non-sectarian radical politics currently out there.

It’s far from perfect. Already, there are things I don’t like about it. I think (even as a Corbyn supporter) there’s a danger it could become a bit too pro-Corbyn – fawningly pro-Corbyn, to the extent that it risks degenerating into some sort of Church of St Jeremy personality cult.

And I hate that it’s followed Corbyn and the unions into the politics-as-usual obsession with economic growth (a subject I’ve written about extensively elsewhere). Western economies are grotesquely oversized. Providing the consumption-crazed Western lifestyle to the West has ravaged the ecosystem to the point of near-collapse – and we’d need four planets to provide that lifestyle to everyone alive. Continue reading “Neil Faulkner at Bristol Momentum”

What is economics, what is capitalism

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Economics is supposed to be the study of how limited resources can be used to meet unlimited needs. We’re well on the way to shredding the ecosystem with our frenzied excess, so we need it to be that more than ever.    

But modern economics isn’t that at all. For a lot of people, that definition doesn’t have anything to do with the E-word as they understand it.

The way economics is presented to us, you’d think it was all about money, banks or business – and those things are definitely hugely important to the type of economics that we’re stuck with at moment. But it would be equally possible to have economics that didn’t involve any of those things.

The reason that suggestion strikes most ordinary modern people as insane is because, in the mainstream, the E-word has been reduced to unsubtle cheerleading for an incredibly specific, biased and ethically dubious way of conducting human affairs. Economics has basically become the study and practice of capitalism. And so, if you’re looking to explain modern economics, that’s where you need to start. Continue reading “What is economics, what is capitalism”

Economics for Non-Sociopaths: An introduction

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This is the first post in a new series about economics. Economics is earth-shatteringly important. And yet most people know practically nothing about it. This has had several unfortunate consequences over the years – perhaps most notably, the commanding heights of the modern economy being given over to a lawless cabal of white-collar sociopaths, who are currently in the process of sacrificing what little remains of civilised society in order to make themselves richer and more powerful.

I did 17 years in full time education, including a history degree at what’s supposedly one of the best universities in the world, and came away knowing almost nothing about economics. I emerged, blinking, into the harsh light of adulthood without ever having had a single lesson on the subject, and without a basic understanding of interest, inflation, where money comes from, and a whole host of other colossally important bits and pieces about the way the world works. Continue reading “Economics for Non-Sociopaths: An introduction”

Radical Atheism and Human Suffering

kevin-carter-vulture Further to last month’s introductory bit on Radical Atheism, the rubbish new secular belief system we recently made up – a post on Radical Atheism and human suffering.

There’s probably not a god. Life has no big, grand, capitalise-able ‘Meaning’. It’s just physics and biology. Humans are just sacks of chemical reactions. But there’s still right and wrong. And it’s intimately linked to our millennia-spanning pedigree as social animals.

It’s bad to hurt others. It’s good to help others. And it’s bad not to help others when you can help others. Without those basic moral precepts, humanity wouldn’t have survived anywhere near this long. For prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies, hyper-individualism wasn’t an option. You helped each other out, played fairly, shared the spoils equally. Or you died. For 90% of human history, nearly two hundred thousand years, that’s how we lived – millions of years if you count the earlier hominids we evolved from. And it was that social, co-operative lifestyle that the species uniquely adapted to suit. It fundamentally shaped what we are, and what humans need to life emotionally healthy, fulfilling lives.

Radical Atheism is about taking that basic morality – and the implications of atheism more generally – to radical conclusions. If it’s got a central, overriding belief, it’s this: that in an incalculably vast, godless, meaningless universe, the only thing left that really matters is human suffering. Continue reading “Radical Atheism and Human Suffering”

Osborne, Budget ‘Responsibility’ and the Hall of Mirrors Society

Prime Minister David Cameron Visits Manchester

George Osborne has announced his intention to make budget deficits illegal. The government is going to ban itself from spending more than it receives in taxes. Its ultimate aim is a permanent budget surplus – government always spending less than it brings in each year, and therefore turning a profit.

If you’ve done A Level politics, you’ll appreciate how transparently meaningless and PR-motivated a measure that is. No parliament can pass a law that a future parliament can’t change or reverse. So, in essence, what the Tories are doing is making it a legal requirement to do something they’re ideologically committed to doing anyway – by passing a law that can be immediately repealed by the first government that wants to get rid of it.

And if, unlike George Osborne, you’ve studied A Level economics, you’ll appreciate how earth-shatteringly stupid the fixation with balancing budgets is in the first place. Continue reading “Osborne, Budget ‘Responsibility’ and the Hall of Mirrors Society”

Bem Bulletin #5: March 2015 – Budget 2015, Richard III and Bring Back Clarkson

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THIS MONTH: Vote Defensively (But Voting Isn’t Enough)

Observations on The People’s Strictly (featuring Michael Sheen)

The Capitalist Anti-Capitalism of Yanis Varoufakis


On the menu today:

  1. Budget 2015
  2. Del Boy Shapps
  3. Richard III
  4. Bring Back Clarkson
  5. Russell Brand and Aditya Chakrabortty

Continue reading “Bem Bulletin #5: March 2015 – Budget 2015, Richard III and Bring Back Clarkson”