Mindfulness for far-left miserablists

samadhibuddhabernie

As you’ve probably noticed, the world is phenomenally bad at the moment. The future’s not looking especially rosy for civilisation.

Then again, that’s been the case for a long time – and the fact that liberal metropolitans are wigging out so spectacularly over the (admittedly rubbish) news re the American Presidency shows just how detached people are from looming ecological disaster, immense, inexpressible suffering in developing countries, et cetera, et cetera, et cereta. But I digress.

Strange/stressful/horrible are these times in which we live. And, in order to 1) survive the mental ordeal of living through them, and 2) be as effective as we can be when it comes to trying to make them better, we have to take care of ourselves. Continue reading “Mindfulness for far-left miserablists”

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

elitism collage.jpg

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”

Bem Bulletin #6: Ken, Kuenssberg, and climate catastrophe

Laura-Kuenssberg-anti-Corbyn

A few years back I used to put out something I called the Bem Bulletin. Essentially, it was a collection of shorter bits about current goings on I’d write in gaps between rambling pseudo-intellectual essay type things. Now, with full-time work meaning those gaps are getting longer and longer, I decided it was a good time to resurrect the concept – and this one’s largely about last month’s local and mayoral elections and media bias, with a dash of me-standard ecological doom.

This month:

  1. Electoralism blues – Labour and the local elections
  2. Flak attack #1: that Ken Livingstone anti-Semitism thing
  3. Flak attack #2: Kuenssberg/sexism
  4. We should probably just shut the BBC down and be done with it
  5. Obligatory reminder of impending eco-doom

Continue reading “Bem Bulletin #6: Ken, Kuenssberg, and climate catastrophe”

Why I bother (a very merry Radically Atheist Christmas)

christmas-lights31
For a teetotal halfway-to-vegetarian rejecter of all things consumerist, I actually quite like Christmas

On a good day, my strange lifestyle is a semi-successful attempt to boycott the worst bits of ecocidal consumer capitalism. And at this time of year, more people than usual ask me why I bother.

That’s probably because more people than usual notice it. Normally very much off the radar as far as most people I know are concerned, at Christmas the whole political extremist thing surfaces in polite society like a hippy-communist submarine – “how’s the Christmas shopping going?” “I don’t do any”, et cetera.

So. Why am I so cynical/miserable/judgemental/extreme/anti-fun/generally intent on making life more difficult for myself than it needs to be? Continue reading “Why I bother (a very merry Radically Atheist Christmas)”

What is economics, what is capitalism

Economics-and-Management

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”

London and the end of the world

London is the biggest city in England, by far. It’s the country’s commercial hub, administrative centre, cultural powerhouse, priciest 610 square miles of real estate and an eight million-person fuck you to everyone who says that different cultures and ethnicities can’t peacefully coexist. And it’s the ultimate symbol of the self-destructive insanity of our way of life.

To some extent, it’s true of all modern cities. But London represents the modern city at its most extreme – most unequal and elite-dominated, most wasteful and polluting, most insular and unaccountably powerful. It’s a planet-choking over-concentration of entitled, self-fixated, consumption-crazed hyper-individualists living life as if the world’s some sort of consequence-free playpen built for their own personal enjoyment – plus thousands of less fortunate Londoners living in abject poverty, and millions struggling and just about managing to keep their heads above it. It’s also world capital of neoliberalism, and the values system that’s a) destroying, and b) crushing any attempt to save the environment.

Never making much of an effort to hide my borderline Partridgesque London-phobia, I try and avoid going as much as possible. Recently, though, I couldn’t get out of it, and spent a weekend wandering around the capital being walloped by the wrongness of the place. Continue reading “London and the end of the world”

Pretentious Ecological Doomsday Statement

climate change

2015, so far at least, has been a year characterised by me getting repeatedly distracted from banging on about the thing I need to be banging on about, which is the environment.

First there was the general election. And then there was Corbyn’s unexpected but delightful transition from pariah-status fringe parliamentarian to Labour leadership frontrunner. I sunk hours into writing about both.

Now Corbyn’s won, I can already feel myself being sucked in again – instinctively reaching for the keyboard to defend him with every new ludicrous slur or piece of borderline-criminal media impartiality. I’m at risk of becoming the political equivalent of one of those overcompensating macho boyfriends who hospitalises anyone who looks at their girlfriend a bit funny. Continue reading “Pretentious Ecological Doomsday Statement”

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”

We’re All Stupid: (Not) Watching The Leader’s Debate

tv debate

After whole minutes of thought, The Bemolution decided not to watch last night’s seven-way leadership debate, and took in a 1997 episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer about hyenas possessing people while simultaneously watching Twitter watch the debate instead.

To lazily quote an old blog post rather than have to think of a different way of saying the same thing, the debates are an “awful development, further chiselling down what should be a vast, complex, citizenry-engaging discussion about how societies are run into a rubbish squabble over who gets the top job. They’re a stunningly shallow American export we never should’ve touched, and need scrapping immediately”.

We did actually watch the first thirty seconds while fiddling with the DVD player. The announcer burbled some codswallop about Salford. There were some sub-Apprentice/Spooks stop-start swooping camerawork over the Mancunian skyline, set to plasticated techno that sounded like it came from about 2001. Presenter Julie Etchingham said something about the ‘big iss-oos’ facing the country. Clegg looked terrified, Nicola Sturgeon looked stilted, Miliband looked calm, Leanne Wood gave a nice happy smile and looked delighted to be there, and David Cameron did a face that made him look like Michael Howard. All of which are the kind of profound, substantive judgements the debates encourage you to make. No-one ever really offered a satisfactory explanation for why the Irish parties weren’t invited. Then the DVD kicked in.

After two hours of watching 140-character opinions dribble out from the #leadersdebate hashtag, we’d gleaned many an insight into the woeful state of twenty-first century public discourse, including 1.) that a lot of people labour under the misapprehension that you can calculate the definitive winner of something as subjective and un-scientific as a debate, 2.) that a lot of people were just going to declare victory for the person they already liked the most going into it and 3.) that according to numerous self-appointed arbiters of truth – more numerous than those calling it for any other leader, anyway – the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon was the most impressive. Continue reading “We’re All Stupid: (Not) Watching The Leader’s Debate”

Doing It For The Kids: The Environment, The Future, and Whether They Have One

Melting polar ice caps
Melting polar ice caps

Modern mummies and daddies pedestal their progeny to an almost nauseating degree – but without radical change, there won’t be much of a world left for them to inherit.

We’re living in a society where people obsessively dote on their children. Contrary to what practically everyone seems to think, that’s not a good thing. It’s not the doting itself that’s the problem, of course – that’s natural. It’s the extent of it, and what that means for everyone else in the world.

Dismayingly often, modern parenting boils down to prioritising your own little brood over everyone else’s little brood, if not the rest of the species. “You-and-your-family” politics was re-established with a vengeance back in the 1980s, but it’s been hammered ever deeper into the popular consciousness by every government since. It’s pure Thatcherism – really just the cuddlier-sounding flip-side of “there’s no such thing as society”. Strip away the frilly language and you’re left with the “fuck you, buddy” individualism of countries where any notion of social responsibility beyond your own four walls has been decisively smashed. Let the other poor saps’ kids drown – we’ll put little Billy through private school so he’ll come out ultra-competitive/emotionally stunted enough to make it big in market society, while doing his bit to perpetuate horrific social inequality.

Of course, it’s quite a lot to ask of parents to think of other people’s children when they’re proving so spectacularly bad at thinking of their own. They keep popping out sprogs left, right and centre – but most pay startlingly little attention to the world they’re bringing the poor things into. Continue reading “Doing It For The Kids: The Environment, The Future, and Whether They Have One”