New England, St. John’s College and the War of 1812

New England, St. John’s College and the War of 1812.

-A great read from Fort Left.

A surfing leviathan

The Internet: a virtual wild west of our own creation.

Since its ‘invention’ by Sir Tim Berners-Lee our lives have been captured, transfixed and enslaved by a leviathan which straddles the globe. It’s power is unprecedented; dictators have been toppled by a Twitter frenzy, and millions raised for worthy causes.

We have unleashed a monster we can’t control- an ungovernable land to which our lives are being increasingly drawn. We buy food and necessities online, we talk to friends half-way around the globe and cut our wrists in honour of a glorified school boy from Canada.

We can argue all day whether the Internet has a democratic effect, but we can agree that it serves to break down barriers, laws, rules. Now for the moment, those barriers are displeasing to our liberal sensitivities: corrupt and unfair laws of brutal regimes.

But are we really so naive to think that its destructive attention won’t be turned on laws generated by a democratically elected parliament? Is it really so unlikely a scenario that in a country burdened by political apathy and a distaste for the career machinations of a corrupt political class, that the Internet couldn’t be a catalyst for mob rule?

The Internet is a vehicle for corporate dominance of our lives; never have companies extended their reach so far into our very existence, and with each day we inch closer to a Charlie Brooker dystopia.

21st century wiz-kids like Jimmy Wales point to the Poundland-education offered by websites like Wikipedia, but in reality it takes real skill to extract information from the online storm. News comes faster, it’s true. Reaction to the news comes quicker also; knee jerk reactions are the order of the day.

Information is no longer controlled by governments, but we’d be fools not to believe it’s controlled by someone. We think governments are the fiends of society, but in most cases they protect us from much worse people. The 21st century philosophy rejects conventional authority, but replaces it with much more sinister, corporate power.

The Internet is essentially evil, but there’s no turning the clock back now. We have to live with our mistakes. The Internet needs strong governance to make it safe to use, but not by any national government. Something stronger than that, with more of a global mandate. The UN springs to mind (at last something for them to do).

Of course I’m aware of my dreadful hypocrisy in writing this via the World Wide Web, but what’s the alternative? These thoughts would be caged until a newspaper saw fit to hire me: and ask yourself, would this be such a bad thing?

The EU, Clegg, Farage: what are they good for?

I wasn’t disappointed with the Farage/Clegg debate; it gave me a chance to seriously mull the EU issue myself.

Let me start by saying this: Nigel Farage is a ridiculous man who lies to the British people everyday. It’s part of his job as leader of UKIP, a party whose base must consist primarily of drunken infants.

He likes to present himself as a beer-drinking country chap, a real Brit who finds himself appalled at the ghastly red tape imposed by Brussels. You see, this anti-establishment, ‘wild-cannon’ image suits him much better than the image of a London stockbroker who went to public school and rubbed shoulders very closely with ‘establishment’ figures. People who describe him a ‘likeable personality’ are being led up the garden path.

Nick Clegg is a man slandered by history; he saw a chance for his small, idealistic party to grasp real power for the first time in almost a century. He took that chance and became a figure of public ridicule, labelled as a Tory poodle by socialists who wish he had done more to restrict the Conservatives. But I’d rather we had slightly neo-liberal policies that a political system governed by dogmatic, tantrum throwing leaders. It’s one of the blessed things that sets us apart from our American cousins.

I didn’t watch all of the first debate, but the second was fairly interesting. Clegg was seen to be shouty and insecure, especially in the first half, but I think he calmed down towards the end. Farage clearly won over immigration and the burden it puts on our infrastructure. With regards to the amount of legislation and bureaucracy in Brussels, the winner was more unclear, although you’d expect Farage to take a lead there.

Farage railed against the competition for jobs between white working class Brits and EU immigrants. He complained that EU immigration is a good deal for the rich and wealthy, claiming that they gained submissive and grateful ‘servants’. A good cord to strike with his core supporters. Clegg couldn’t reply on national television in the way he should have: Farage can easily count himself a member of the rich and powerful, and white working class people are losing to jobs to Bulgarians because they think menial jobs beneath them.

Clegg stressed the need to maintain our ‘economic clout’ in the world; Farage said that we could trade with India, China and other emerging and/or Commonwealth countries instead, and that we needn’t be bound to an outdated, protectionist institution like the EU Customs Union.

Interesting how neither even contested the legitimacy of using ‘free trade’ as a by-word for prosperity and growth. Time was when the British left were horrified of the EU and its potential for enforcing the capitalist agenda over the wishes of trade unions and working people, but we gave up that distaste for the prospect of a left-wing agenda in Brussels. We couldn’t win an election at home, so we subscribed to a distant beaurocracy in the hope it would implement socialist. Michael Foot put it wonderfully:

“We can disagree about whether the EU has been a socialist or capitalist influence, but it is undeniable that it wields that influence without asking the people.”

The British left-wing needs to ‘grow a pair’ generally, but on this particular issue we have particularly let ourselves down. We have left Euro-scepticism to be hijacked by right-wing nutters who want to blame it for every social ill.

I personally believe that Britain can have a future in the EU; but as Clegg said, you need to commit before you can enact change.

  • Political Union must be scaled back to the common-market.
  • That common market must ensure only an absence of border tariffs, and must not include any other obligations or restrictions on worker’s rights.
  • The Euro should be destroyed as an institution.
  • An EU central bank should be formed, to provide unconditional loans to member states in times of severe financial crisis, with very low interest rates.
  • Each member state should pay into that central bank with a lump sum each year, according to that country’s GDP.
  • The central bank should provide loans to Green Energy initiatives throughout the EU.
  • The Tobin Tax should be implemented at a set level throughout the EU; this new tax should help member states pay the annual fee.
  • The European parliament should gain more members, elected from smaller constituencies, to provide a more direct democracy.
  • The European Commission should be made answerable to the European Parliament in all things.

These demands are in line with the two main challenges facing Western civilisation in the 21st century: extremes of wealth and poverty, and climate change.

A Europe-wide Tobin Tax would decrease the likelihood of mass financial migration to the US; banks would find it harder to withdraw from the whole of Europe than from a single country. The Tobin Tax would equip governments with more power to deal with social ills, as well as reducing economic inequality.

An EU central bank would be uniquely placed to provide Green Energy with the initial boost it needs to grow.

I’m sorry if you feel this was a bit long and tedious, but it’s important I say what I feel.