An Oxmas Carol

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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

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In the ‘40s, Orwell had a column in Tribune called ‘As I Please’. He used it to write about whatever the hell he liked. This is my vulgar, flippant twenty-first century version – not that I’m a patch on Orwell.

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”

Robin DiAngelo – ‘White Fragility’

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Robin DiAngelo

This week’s self-woke-ification got off to a magnificent start with me reading an article on race by a white person.

Robin DiAngelo’s ‘White Fragility’ tries to explain why it’s so difficult to talk to white people about racism.

She argues that socialisation renders us racially illiterate. We’re taught to see racism as a binary phenomenon – that you’re either racist, or you’re not racist.

We think that if you’re consciously, morally against racism, it’s impossible for you to be racist.

In other words, our understanding of race and racism is laughably shallow and individualistic. Continue reading “Robin DiAngelo – ‘White Fragility’”

Brexit: Clive Lewis vs Ellie O’Jones

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Agitpod is a fortnightly podcast by Owen Jones and Ellie Mae O’Hagan

Agitpod is always annoying, but the Clive Lewis one put me off my cheese and salad baguette.

I listen to it despite the nauseating chummy banter because it’s a useful insight into the wobbly end of the Corbyn coalition — the panicky, one-foot-in-the-mainstream types who verged on calling for him to go last summer.

Jones and O’Hagan are probably decent people, but I don’t trust them. For years, I’ve watched them and journos like them mock the suggestion that working at the liberal end of the corporate press compromises them politically — only for them to prove themselves embarrassingly susceptible to media groupthink about Corbyn just at the point when the project needed loyal intellectual outriders the most.

But for once, the most frustrating thing about an Agitpod episode wasn’t them. Continue reading “Brexit: Clive Lewis vs Ellie O’Jones”

Explaining Venezuela – Alejandro Velasco on The Dig

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Venezuela’s gone south, and finding nuanced explanations why is hard.

The media’s obviously unsubtly propagandising in favour of elite Western interests – painting Maduro as a savage dictator, and cheerleading a coup-prone, US-funded opposition movement led by embittered members of the pre-Chavez Establishment.

Many leftists, on the other hand, are rushing to blame the deepening crisis on bad old-fashioned American imperialism – echoing arguments made by the Maduro government itself. Continue reading “Explaining Venezuela – Alejandro Velasco on The Dig”

We only care when Westerners die

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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 “We only care when Westerners die”

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”