Saturday, 28 December 2013

No More Heroes

My more enthusiastic friends tell me that 2014 will be an exciting year politically. Scotland shall have its referendum, and the outcome could alter the international map. Should Scotland-since residency is the single requirement for participation I refrain from using ‘the Scottish’-answer in the negative to Mr Salmond’s proposal the Prime Minister’s promise of a revised devolutionary settlement means that the United Kingdom will change whatever the outcome. As there seems as yet no new appetite, at least in Westminster, for English representation out with Parliament it appears that the component parts of the Kingdom (England, Wales, Northern Ireland, London and the Overseas Territories) are condemned to a constitutional fudge in which no-one has quite the same relationship to the centre as anyone else. In this writer’s mind this situation is vaguely reminiscent of the doomed Austro-Hungarian Empire during the last years of the dual monarchy. The image is ominous if nothing else.

The Euro elections are another event which I should be excited about, apparently. The May vote will test the resolve of the dissidents who switched to UKIP at the last English council elections: will they actually be mad enough to vote for UKIP in a half-way important election? A strong showing could encourage more defections-there is a wide spread belief that madness dissipates if the mad are in large enough numbers-which would have consequences for the Conservatives in 2015 as UKIP tends to fish in the same pool as the Tories in terms of voter base.

Of course, 2014 will prove to be the last full year of the Coalition prior to the General Election, and so the propaganda war which precedes any election will become more intense as all sides attempt to dirty everyone else. Exiting stuff, then. Yet I remain utterly unenthused. I cannot help feel that this is because our political class long ago gave up being anything other than cheerleaders for the Corporatist Consensus which has been in place since the collapse of the USSR. They have become various shades of the same ideology: in all but name the UK, and much of the rest of the Western world, has become a single party state.

Case in point: in a speech on capitalism in 2012 Ed Miliband declared that ‘we as a Labour Party are determined to be champions of the consumer’. The Leader of the Left in this country has bought (no pun intended) in completely to the Corporatist Consensus that consumption is the ultimate good. This is an ideological position which is so ingrained within British culture in the second decade of the third millennium that even the Leader of the Left has become a ‘champion’ for capitalistic consumption. If anyone was uncertain about the existence of this consensus then they merely have to turn on their TV at Christmas: advertisements regularly portray consumption as a form of ‘retail therapy’, and the purchase of products as a method of ensuring familial harmony. As such capitalism and consumption stands in for family values while those parents unable or unwilling to buy are opposed to this socially adhesive force: greed is good hence those who cannot participate in the orgy of capitalistic consumption are bad.

The continual prattling about the ‘squeezed middle’ by our political class is tied to the concept of the good consumer. The middle class are, in capitalistic terms, moral as they can consume quite safely while the ‘crushed bottom’-who, evidently, are not worth talking about-cannot both be good capitalists and heat their homes. However, changing economic circumstances mean that the ‘squeezed middle’ can no longer buy quite the same level of products. They are, then, placed in a perilous moral situation and so, heroically, Mr Miliband rides to their rescue as their champion. Note that the Leader of the Left is not the champion of the poor, or even the people, but specifically the consumer. In the eyes of the Labour Leader the only problem with the system is the fact that some of those who once loyal capitalists are being placed in the situation in which they can no longer demonstrate that loyalty through ‘retail therapy’.

The Leader of the Left is why I am deeply pessimistic about the year to come. His presence within the Labour Party personifies the fact that there is no ideological alternative within the UK, or, as far as I am aware, in the West, to the corporate-capitalistic consensus. While a Labour government will tinker around the edges of the current system, they have become only a different faction within our one party state. Until an alternative appears I shall remain pessimistic.                      

Monday, 23 December 2013

Inside the Kingdom

Prime Minister David Cameron with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia

 The United Kingdom is at present allies with one of the most repressive, tyrannous regime in the Middle East. As a nation we do not lift a finger to aid the oppressed majority who routinely face harassment, torture and even execution at the hands of the state apparatus. Indeed, our government appears to feel it the duty of our nation to give millions in aid to this tyranny rather that condemn the rank abuses which occur. This tyranny is, of course, Saudi Arabia.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an apartheid state. Within the Kingdom women are very much second class citizens. Women are forbidden from travelling, conducting official business or undergoing certain medical procedures without the consent of their male guardian (usually the husband or father). Despite the Saudi team at the 2012 Olympics women are still severely restricted in their conduct in sports, clothing (the dress code is strictly enforced) and labour. State officials appear to be caught in a state of inertia over the issue of endemic domestic abuse and law enforcement are unwilling to investigate or prosecute any case which may come to light.

The Kingdom could be condemned merely on gender equality, but the treatment of religious, sexual and political minorities is as abhorrent. All religions bar Islam are banned in the Kingdom and the Saudi government systematically discriminates against the minority Islamic denominations, especially the Shia and Ismailis. Homosexuality is illegal and homosexuals are regularly harassed, beaten, arrested, tortured and killed. Human rights groups are banned from the Kingdom and political freedom, the right to assemble and freedom of speech are almost non-existent. Economic rights are also severely curtailed for many groups: apart from the repressive labour laws for women the nine million or so migrant workers are also subjugated to abuses. The Kafala or sponsorship visa regulations mean that employers have absolute control over the economic conditions of migrant workers: the condition of the 1.5 million domestic workers is especially desperate with many living in slave-like conditions with long work hours and restrictions on movement.

The human rights situation is appalling. Saudi Arabia is a tyrannical state, in which life for those not born into the family of Saud life is dismal, oppressive and defined by poor economic, social and political conditions. Even for those who are native born heterosexual males with little political motivation life can still be horrendous as the justice system reflects the policies of the repressive government-Saudi judges can and do sentence children to death (eight in 2012) and torture and harassment is common when dealing with the Saudi police.

What, then, is to be done? Personally I feel that it is unacceptable for the UK to continue to not only remain silent on the abuses of the Saudi state but to explicitly back Saudi Arabia with military aid and diplomatic cover. The UK does this merely because of a mistaken belief in the FCO that the Saudis are our friends: while the Saudis remain implacably opposed to Iran and Assad, the FCO cannot be unaware that the Saud family personally promotes Wahabism, an ideology which inspired, among others, the 9/11 hijackers. The Saudis may be the enemy of our enemies but, despite the old adage, this does not make them our friends.

However, even if the FCO and the security services have secret information which shows that we have no greater friend that Saudi Arabia (something I doubt), we should still disown this tyrannous regime. Their human rights record means that they must count as one of the most vile and sinister regimes in existence, and by supporting the Saudis Britain has become complicate in one of the most systematic and ingrained violations of a people by their own government since the fall of apartheid South Africa. As a nation we must first halt all aid to this despotic regime and desist from counting them among our allies. We should also initiate a boycott of their political, cultural and sporting events and call on the rest of Europe to fallow us in this regard. The Government should also seek to encourage businesses to boycott Saudi Arabia while lobbying the international community to take action and immediately granting asylum to those being oppressed by the system in place. Only then can the United Kingdom ensure a clean conscious in regards to our Saudi policy. We must demonstrate to the oppressed of Saudi Arabia that they are not forgotten and they do not stand alone.                     

Saturday, 21 December 2013

The First Foray onto the Blogosphere

What to write? How to introduce myself? How to introduce the blog? I am full of trepidation as I make this first foray into the blogosphere: what if no-one reads my musings? Is this a mere vanity project? Do I care?

What is The Red Gazette? In essence it is inspired by the newspapermen of the Enlightenment. During this era many newspapers came into existence to push a particular viewpoint and then would go out of existence some months or years later as the originator of the newspaper either lost interest or financial backing. I believe that in this Digital Age the blog has taken the place of these original Enlightenment newspapers and this is what I intent The Red Gazette to be: a modern equivalent to the Enlightenment opinion piece.

No small feat, then. The Red Gazette is intended to be a platform for my (and the occasional guest) musings on current (and historic) events. Hopefully what follows in the coming weeks and months will interest someone. Hopefully someone will read what I write.