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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Why the natives are revolting

Only those wishing to see Britain destroyed could have wished for the events now playing out in the country in which I spent my first fifty years -
Take back control” was the slogan of those wanting out of Europe – instead of which everything seems to be spiralling out of control. Owen Jones is the author of a book The Establishment – and how they get away with it which excoriated the British power structure and has given us perhaps the pithiest view of the past week’s events - 
- The Brexiteers have no plan; they began backtracking on their promises within hours, which may well produce a firestorm of fury in the coming months;
- the Prime Minister is resigning (and the Leader of the Opposition has massively lost a vote of confidence from his parliamentary colleagues) 
- the economy faces turmoil, as do jobs and people’s living standards
- The country is more bitterly divided (and in so many different ways) than it has been for generations; Scotland is on course to leave and precipitate the break-up of the country, and who can blame them; xenophobia and racism have been given renewed legitimacy; the Northern Ireland peace process is under threat.
- The hard right of the Tory Party is on the cusp of power; 
- and the EUfearful of its future survivalis preparing to offer punitive terms to Britain.
 We may well be at the beginning of the biggest calamity to befall this country since the end of the war.

This A-Z of Brexit was apparently written the day after the vote to leave and is a rather longer and emotional commentary….
The Current Moment is an interesting collective blog which draws attention today to the blow which the referendum seems to have struck to progressives’ beliefs in democracy -  
every self-described leftist – even those who openly recognised the EU’s undemocratic nature and brutal record in southern Europe – supported Remain.
Fundamentally, leftists doubted their capacity to lead the British public towards a progressive Brexit. Instead, they warned, Boris Johnson would sweep to power and dismantle what was left of social democracy – apparently with popular consent.
They backed continued EU membership to maintain policies and institutions that they feared the population would not support in a fully democratic system. Lacking any real belief in the EU, the left was unable to offer a positive vision of EU membership and fell back on elite-led scare tactics.
The issues of democracy and self-determination were given up to the political right, as was leadership on both sides of the debate, allowing conservatives to define the debate over the future. Ducking the issue of principle in the name of strategic nous, the vote was lost anyway, creating the outcome the left had feared all along: Brexit, led by the right. 
After the vote, this defeatist orientation of the left has resulted in a social media spasm of vitriol directed against the old, the poor and the uneducated. 

This piece on “Why elections are bad for democracy” seems to catch the mood well - although the book from which it is excerpted is part of a much older argument about representative democracy.......

But it is perhaps Glenn Greenwald’s “Intercept” column which gives the most sustained analysis of the reasons for the profound rejection of the political class we have been seeing in recent years His argument basically is that......
a sizable portion of the establishment liberal commentariat in the West has completely lost the ability to engage with any sort of dissent from its orthodoxies or even understand those who disagree. They are capable of nothing beyond adopting the smuggest, most self-satisfied posture, then spouting clichés to dismiss their critics as ignorant, benighted bigots.
Like the people of the West who bomb Muslim countries and then express confusion that anyone wants to attack them back, the most simple-minded of these establishment media liberals are constantly enraged that the people they endlessly malign as ignorant haters refuse to vest them with the respect and credibility to which they are naturally entitled. 

 The referendum, of course, only seemed to be about Europe - in reality it was probably more about identity and fear of "the other"...what Europeans actually make of the referendum and its result is of little interest to the English electorate.....but, for what it's worth, the inestimable Eurozine site offers some feedback

The newspapers and journalists who are the subject of Glenn Greenwald’s vitriol do, of course, contain exceptions – John Harris and Gary Younge being the two who try to keep the reputation of The Guardian intact.  Younge’s “long read” today packs eloquence and insight ……
Lying has consequences that last far longer than individual acts of deception: it ruins the liar’s ability to convince people when it really matters. The source of the mistrust between the establishment and the country isn’t difficult to fathom.
Next week the Chilcot inquiry will publish its findings into the Iraq war. After Iraq, we faced an economic crisis that few experts saw coming until it was too late. Then followed austerity; now the experts said this was precisely the wrong response to the crisis, but it happened anyway. 
When leaders choose the facts that suit them, ignore the facts that don’t and, in the absence of suitable facts, simply make things up, people don’t stop believing in facts – they stop believing in leaders. They do so not because they are over-emotional, under-educated, bigoted or hard-headed, but because trust has been eroded to such a point that the message has been so tainted by the messenger as to render it worthless…………..
 It may seem a minor matter in the wake of this referendum to say that our political parties are failing in their historic mission, but we would not have arrived here were they not doing so.
 The party set up by trade unions to represent the interests of workers in parliament no longer commands the allegiance of those people. True, almost two-thirds of Labour voters did vote remain – but an overwhelming number of the working-class, the poor, and the left-behind put their faith in leave.
Meanwhile, the party of capital and nation has presided over a painful blow to the City and the Union.
 Neither party is fit for purpose………….

I generally have no time for Twitter - but feel that this blow-by-blow analysis by one of the Economist analysts says it all 

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