Atrocity in Manchester – the world stops. The same or worse elsewhere in the world – we barely notice, let alone care

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The more I write these things, the more I realise that I’ve only got about four basic articles in me. I just put out variations on the same core arguments again and again – consumer capitalism is destroying the environment, left-wingers have abandoned the global poor, the political establishment is impervious to radical change, and so on. This one is always the most controversial.

The Manchester Arena attack was sickening. Violence against civilians is always wrong. Hurt the innocent, and you’ve immediately lost the argument. Whatever your cause, you’ve irrevocably damaged it.

Killing children is on another level. It’s hard, if not impossible, to try and put the gravity of it into words, so I won’t try.

After Manchester, 22 people are dead, many of them teenagers. The youngest was eight. Hundreds of people will be dealing with the psychological scars for the rest of their lives – the friends and family of the dead, the injured, bystanders, first responders, and many others.

But around in the world, millions of people are in the same position, if not a much worse one. Continue reading “Atrocity in Manchester – the world stops. The same or worse elsewhere in the world – we barely notice, let alone care”

We’re probably all doomed – but that doesn’t mean give up and go home

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If we don’t get rid of it, capitalism is going to destroy society. It’s a system geared around delivering ever-increasing profits to big business, and enriching the sociopathic corporate elite that runs the economy. To do that, it needs constant economic growth. To fuel that growth, it needs fossil fuels and never-ending consumerism – and in one mad, 150-year binge after 200,000 years of relative human sobriety, it’s brought the ecosystem that supports us to the brink of catastrophic breakdown.

But we’re not doing anything about it. That’s despite melting icecaps, acidifying oceans, soaring temperatures, the loss of half the planet’s wildlife in the past forty years, and the loss of a third of its farmable land in the last thirty. Continue reading “We’re probably all doomed – but that doesn’t mean give up and go home”

Someone asked me what I thought of the Owen Jones thing so I wrote them this

Might as well post it here too

(written in response to: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/01/corbyn-staying-not-good-enough)

I’d seen the fuss about this but hadn’t read it before now — largely because I think Owen Jones has been saying the same thing over and over again for about six months.

Now I have, and it’s basically what he always says. Labour’s heading for calamitous defeat, Corbyn’s got to get his act together, otherwise he’s got to go.

I think he’s right that Labour will lose the election. Then again, I’ve thought that since 2015. Regardless of who was in charge.

In my view, Jones always massively underestimates the level of bias and hostility Corbyn or anyone radical faces in the media. The way he tells it, it’s a challenge for Corbyn to get his message out, but, if he and his team were clever enough, they’d have a fair shot. I think the slickest media operation in human history can’t help you when you’ve got an agenda that far outside the neoliberal consensus. Continue reading “Someone asked me what I thought of the Owen Jones thing so I wrote them this”

The Corbyn movement is obsessed with an election it can’t win

Next election-ism is the biggest threat to radical Labour

The charge most often thrown the Corbynistas’ way is that they don’t want to win elections. They’re supposedly fixated on ideological purity at the expense of getting into government.

But go to a Momentum event or a New Model Labour Party meeting, and you’ll find the opposite is true. Corbyn supporters are obsessed with winning in 2020, on the whole — to an extent that’s setting themselves, and socialism’s best chance in decades, up for a massive, quite possibly catastrophic fall.

The Westminster-Whitehall establishment is radicalism-proof. That was the case pre-Corbyn. That’s still the case now. Our electoral system pivots around affluent, individualistic, quintessentially neoliberal middle-class voters living in a few strategically important swing seats. The opinion-shaping machinery of the corporate mass media strictly enforces a neoliberal default worldview and seeks and destroys anything that opposes it. And what that means in practice is that it’s now staggeringly unlikely that anyone or anything worth voting for will a General Election in the foreseeable future. Even bland old Ed Miliband’s chances were crushed over five years of sustained belittlement, misrepresentation and ritual humiliation. Continue reading “The Corbyn movement is obsessed with an election it can’t win”

2016 was terrible – but not for the reasons you think

For billions of human beings, Brexit, Trump and dead celebrities are the least of their worries

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That viral Sgt Pepper’s 2016 picture that’s since had to be updated about twelve times

A year that started with the death of David Bowie and ended with Donald Trump as President Elect was never going to go down well. The ‘curse of 2016’ narrative surfaced early. Famous faces were kicking the bucket by the busload. Fascist-looking right-wing populism was on the rise. By now, as people look back on Trump, Brexit and a frankly surreal procession of celebrity deaths, talk of that ‘curse’ has hardened into a more blunt and straight to the point social media catchphrase — ‘fuck 2016’.

What it proves, more than anything, is our catastrophic insularity — our short-sightedness, our fixation with the trivial, and our profound detachment from suffering elsewhere in the world. Is it a shame some talented people have died? Yes. Is it terrible that far-right rhetoric is winning elections. Yes. Continue reading “2016 was terrible – but not for the reasons you think”

Mindfulness for far-left miserablists

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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

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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”

How the Beeb marked May Day

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Theresa May is now Prime Minister, and the coverage was predictably nauseating. Bereft of internet a few days into life at new digs, I sat and watched it on News 24.

Neutrality means offering as broad a range of viewpoints as possible, and not favouring any of them. The BBC always claims it’s neutral, but that’s not what it does at all. Instead, for decades, it’s consistently done something very different: portray anyone or anything conforming to the neoliberal-authoritarian post-Thatcherite consensus in a favourable light (being mildly critical at very best, fawningly biased at worst), and relentlessly undermine anyone who deviates from it. Being pro-establishment and anti-dissident, after all, is basically the default setting of British public life. Continue reading “How the Beeb marked May Day”

Is there a progressive case for Remaining in the EU? Yes or yes, says Momentum

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The other day, I was in Bristol, mostly to see Mephistophelean magic man Derren Brown and eat curry until I passed out –  but I did, semi-reluctantly, drop in on a Momentum event about the Europe referendum.

Broadly, I hate the EU. Whatever the intention was when it was first established, today’s it’s about the neoliberal zombification of a continent, via financialisation, privatisation, and permanent austerity. I think it’s so utterly riddled with corporate corruption and contempt for democracy that it should be shut down, and that a fair few of the dead-eyed goons that run it should be thrown in jail for crucifying Greece in the name of the banks.

You’d be forgiven, then, for thinking that made me an obvious Leave voter – but I’ve been just about won round by the line of argument some have dubbed Brexiters for Remain. In a nutshell: the EU is terrible, we need to leave – but not now, when its few benefits protect us from the most despicably right-wing government in our history, and Leave politics is dominated by turbo-Thatcherite racists. Continue reading “Is there a progressive case for Remaining in the EU? Yes or yes, says Momentum”

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”