0401. on differing opinions, the Superficial Socialist podcast, & feminism

Regardless of your political inclinations, everyone should download and listen to The Superficial Socialist podcast, in which two millenials relay in universal and understandable terms the modern movements of the political left, discussing culture, politics and the media in society. The episodes are generally short and snappy, and if you’re feeling particularly uncharitable you can play at 2.2x speed on your chosen podcast app, for a listening time of less than ten minutes. (2.2x is the fastest speed that I find I can still safely consume most — but certainly not all — podcasts). As you can guess, they speak from the point of view of the left, and sound with low tones and knowing condescension like two middle-class white champagne socialists, but that need not affect the points they make, and in fact lends a much-needed perspective.

As noted by the mainstream media recently, there are consumer-friendly algorithms on social media to the point where if you click like on some articles and not on others, in no time at all you are only being shown the perspective that you agree with. Juana Summers, a political editor for CNN politics, said that social media is in effect an enormous marketplace for ideas, where every idea will come up against every other one, and the truth will be found for the betterment of society. But this has not been happening. For all the fuss about censorship on Twitter, my recommended feed is now almost entirely one-sidedly right-wing. Make a habit of buying the opposite newspaper one day, or subscribing to a dissident mailing list. I do not mean to infer the argument that the left is wrong; the right is wrong; the truth is somewhere in-between, but, for example, if you consider yourself right wing, you must understand and explore that which you disagree with, otherwise you’re just as bad as a group of 65 year-olds reading exclusively Marxist economics and barking about the Virgin Fields.

Anyway, the new episode is an exploration of pop culture and feminism, with the question Can a pop star ever truly be a feminist? I had to take it down to 1.2x speed for this one. About halfway through, Marxine seemed to define a feminist as a woman being a woman, which I think holds some credence. A woman who, though society may have moulded her in some way in the same way that society moulds any man, does what she wills in the purest way. A female, feminist artist, for example, is not necessarily her who takes up the banner and cause of feminism in its crudest definitions, but simply she who rises above such influence and drama to create the art that she wants to. This necessarily involves a stark realism, and is not a value judgement at all. This does not define feminism as a good social movement, but instead implies that a feminist — or egalitarian — society is one in which a woman can will. If a female, feminist artist created, in all honesty, a terrible piece of work, judgement could only be upon her, and it would still be an expression of a woman’s right to create. This is in contrast to the commonplace phenomenon of viewing a certain movement as progress — and therefore good — then being forced to justify its worst outcomes [the second part of that article], because of the umbrella term.

The conversation then drifts to familiar territory; misdirected fawning, negative energy and disdain for modern consumerism, the latter of which is of course an important topic, if a bit tired.

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XXXVI. on the Sino-British trade deal

The deal has been announced, a £40bn deal concerning exports, imports, £40bn, steel, nuclear power plants, worth £40bn. It is rumoured to be worth £40bn. The trade deal signed between Britain and China — between David Cameron and Xi Jinping — has just been announced, and it is given the value of forty billion pounds. Immediately, there are two obvious and ignorant questions posed to the P.M. for making this deal: 1) They are the bad guys, what about their human rights? 2) What about British industry?

1; their human rights record is atrocious; indentured servitude, widespread abuse, life is cheap, infamous working conditions. Mr. Cameron‘s own answer is valid — that you can have a trade deal while continuing a frank discussion about human rights — but truly, and perhaps callously, it is irrelevant. The question implies that we not only have a responsibility to improve their human rights that includes sacrificing our own country’s wealth, but also that their human rights problems are a black hole which cannot be fixed through friendship. Take Russia, for example; after the Cold War, with connectivity, the emerging market, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, their human rights have improved drastically. Now, most would argue that there is still room for improvement, but they are on the right track. The same will happen with China.

2; the understanding that economics is not a zero sum game goes some way to argue against this, but the main problem is our (ever increasing) minimum wage. Jeremy Corbyn made a fuss about this. British industry has been an impossibility for decades, now, even before Labour‘s insane push to try to prop the mining industry up. The bottom line is that industry will move forward, and if the law literally disallows the people of this country to compete with international labour costs, then unskilled industry will move forward without us.

XXXIII. on Donald Trump — II.

And the political climate has shifted, and the prevailing (if you read the news) belief that Donald Trump would gradually fade away — or sell out his narrative, or crumble to pressure, or be shunned by scandal — has been replaced by a widespread confusion.

As the summer of Donald Trump came to its end — and the prospect of a springtime for Trump no longer seemed like a gag — the quest to explain the billionaire’s runaway clown car went into overdrive.

Now, Frank Rich spends a lot of his NY Mag article chastising the man himself, or just making light of the individual as a politician, but he does concede that regardless of your perspective, Trump is doing something quite remarkable. If you can make your way through the snark, he makes a good point. / I am really starting to believe that Trump is here to stay. He became serious to me when he signed the pledge not to run independently if he didn’t make the Republican candidate. He could do a lot of good, I think. And even if he can’t radically change much policy (which, judging by the current president, is impossible — presidents are pretty much dictators now) he will show that he can stop the cronyism — even just for a little while. And that means something.

He is, as many say, making a mockery of the entire political process with his bull-in-a-china-shop antics. But the mockery in this case may be overdue, highly warranted, and ultimately a spur to reform rather than [a] crime against civic order.

XXXI. on Black Lives Matter, & class divide

I’ve not posted for a while, so as a gentle return to it I think I’ll talk about something sensationalist, factually murky, & violently controversial. If you’ve read this blog (there’s a possibility) you might have guessed that I’m not into the whole divisive rhetoric that is prevalent in politics nowadays, & has been for fifty years. A good contemporary example is the BLACK LIVES MATTER movement—a reaction to a recent string of white policeman-related fatalities amongst America’s black community.

As an Englishman, & one from the Midlands, I have run into similar sorts of divisiveness before, but in England it is much more to do with class than race. (Though much of the media here denies that social mobility is possible in this society, so the two are very comparable.) All it leads to is misunderstanding and anger on both sides. One party (the proponents of such a movement) are furious that the other side would even question their truth, how could they be so bigoted? how could you not wish to further equality? The other party (those against or indifferent) are furious for their values being misrepresented, for the unnecessary backlash, how could they think this? how could they react like this?

Black Lives Matter is painted as a positive force; an awareness movement attempting to force society to change in a direction which, if realised, would lead to equality. The reality, of course, is that it is as divisive as any other such movement; branding oneself as the Other, inventing challenge where none exists, and ignoring all other aspects of society which led to the situation America allegedly faces.

I don’t want to get into the facts or fictions behind the individual cases that B.L.M. bases its premises on; I’m making the argument that as a movement, from the outset, it does more harm than good.

And while much of the media would have you think otherwise, luckily, the American people agree with me. That includes the African-American population. Turns out they prefer the slogan ALL LIVES MATTER.

So, proponents of this movement, please stop and reconsider your position, because divisive rhetoric goes nowhere good.

XXVI. on the outcome of the General Election, & my birthday

The General Election came and went, & so did most peoples’ interest in politics as a whole. / As a country we have achieved a majority “conservative” government. It’s mostly to do with our strange—possibly unjust and outdated—FPTP system, but regardless, the voters of our country have found each other agreeing enough to create a majority government; and a majority conservative government at that. / It is a shocker to a lot of Labour voters (and Labour ministers; Red Ed perhaps most of all), & probably a shocker to many Conservative voters as well, who—listening at all to the B.B.C. or most media outlets over the past few months—believed it to swing heavily in Labour‘s favour. I did, for one. In fact I believed that progressivism—read socialism, in most cases—would rule one more, —and we would have a few years of terror and waste and indecency and failure and corruption and extortion—that is, until 2020 when things would even out to a Conservative government again. But no! We the People trusted Cameron enough to give him another shot. / It’s my birthday on Thursday; I’ll be 24. My plans for the Big Day: I think I’m going to go to the cinema and get an early night.