An Oxmas Carol

oxford snow.jpg

A long addendum to the post about Oxbridge. A few days after finishing it, I ended up in Oxford – partly through sickening hypocrisy, partly because I wanted to visit one of my oldest and closest friends who studies there.

It was interesting for two reasons: one, because it reaffirmed everything I remembered about Oxbridge. And two, because it was a rare chance to commune with someone with a very similar worldview to mine.

Oxford is different to Cambridge. It’s noisier and busier, and there’s a lot more of it. It’s a city. Cambridge is just a glorified town.

But the universities are near-identical. They’re both made up of thirty-odd self-contained ‘colleges’, fabulously rich and bafflingly archaic. And they both serve the same mainly white, wealthy, South-Eastern demographic. Continue reading “An Oxmas Carol”

Oxbridge should be got rid of

cambridge elitism

Every now and then, the media will fuss about Oxbridge. Usually it’s in response to some new set of figures that show it’s (still) excruciatingly privileged.

Everyone will broadly agree that’s bad, there’ll be a flurry of public outrage for about ten minutes, you’ll see a bit of back-and-forth in the broadsheet opinion pages, then the issue will vanish. Nothing will change. Continue reading “Oxbridge should be got rid of”

Why Trump won (and why Farage won, and why people like them will keep winning)


A million hacks are taking to a million laptops to write about Trump – but the take-away message is simple.

Trump won by tapping into the broiling, misguided but ultimately understandable anger felt by poor white America. In a sense, it’s the same story that brought about Brexit.

Neoliberalism rigs society in favour of the wealthiest. Inequality balloons. Industry dies, and life gets hard for working-class people.

They get angry. They look for someone or something to blame. Poorly educated, and with worldviews shaped by the scandalously impartial corporate press, they don’t blame those most responsible: the banks, the media, the Right, and the captains of corporate capitalism.

Instead, they blame the most vulnerable people in society – women, black people, Muslims, gay and transgender people, disabled people, all of whom have suffered under centuries of structural injustice – and the liberal end of a managerial, stage-managed political elite. Continue reading “Why Trump won (and why Farage won, and why people like them will keep winning)”

Let’s not repair parliament


The Palace of Westminster needs £4bn in repairs, and will probably get them. It’s another reminder of the thoroughgoing rubbishness of the case for austerity.

For years, the message beamed down from Whitehall has been that past governments spent too much. The country was in too much debt, and, as a result, there had to be massive cuts in public spending.

In fact, austerity has always been about the neoliberal power elite restructuring society in its own interest. The cuts overwhelmingly fell on services ordinary people depended on – and that rich people could make a lot of money out of if they were privatised.

The much-banged-on-about ‘deficit’, the gap between what government spends and what it brings in in taxes, is about £69bn. That sounds like a lot of money. But between 2009 and 2015, the wealth of the richest thousand families in Britain rose by 112% to £547bn. ONS figures from 2014 put the UK’s total private wealth at £11.1trn – and estimated the richest 10% of households owned about half of that. The same year, Bank of England economists estimated UK corporations were sitting on £500bn that they were refusing to invest. Continue reading “Let’s not repair parliament”

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”

You Can’t Win: Charlotte Church and The Logical Gymnastics of the Sociopath Right

russell brand anti austerity
Russell Brand at Saturday’s demo

Those text-on-picture memes that clog up the internet and mean nobody has to think of anything themselves any more are generally very annoying, but a few manage to be quite good. One currently doing the rounds quotes dead Canadian economist J.K. Galbraith: “the modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy – the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness”.

After last Saturday’s End Austerity Now demo in London, the Right did an excellent job of proving Galbraith’s observation still applies. Taking to their computers in droves, irate right-wingers condemned any and everyone who took part in the event – but saved particular disdain for Charlotte Church and other celebrity leftists who turned up.

In doing so, they demonstrated their usual logical flexibility when it comes to attacking egalitarians. If you’re poor and you complain about a politics scandalously tilted in favour of the richest, you’re jealous – engaging in divisive class warfare, being anti-enterprise, threatening Britain’s future prosperity. If you’re rich, and you do the same, you’re a hypocritical champagne socialist – the implication being that you can only complain about capitalism if you’re poor. Except you can’t, because then you’re engaging in divisive class warfare, being anti-enterprise, and threatening Britain’s future prosperity. Continue reading “You Can’t Win: Charlotte Church and The Logical Gymnastics of the Sociopath Right”

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”