Friday, 3 February 2012

Sending the Prince to defend the colonies.

Perhaps not. Really, title, you sound like you've come straight out of the Guardian or something.

But really, I can see their point. The Falklands are of course closer to Argentina than they are to us by a large meaning, and of course proximity is a legitimate reason to own something. Especially when they have decent oil and mineral deposits. I can also see their point, when we, a former colonial power, start calling a country which emerged from a colonial possession colonialist.

It really is turning into a bit of  a diplomatic mess for the UK government. Many people don't support our possession of the islands, and to be honest, I don't either really. It's probably a needless expense for us to maintain them, but as far as I'm aware, there hasn't been any huge movement on the part of the Falklanders to switch to Argentina. Like most things, its a pretty confused situation.

Especially so when a brand-spanking battleship is moved to the Falkland islands as part of a routine fleet rotation. And then Prince William is announced to be moving to the Falklands as part of a normal rotation. Eyebrows and fists are probably being raised in Argentina, especially as we're in a worse position than we were in the '70's and they are more importantly are in a better position.

But how about this. As both nations are still observing treaties and still have diplomatic ties, the movement of a royal, a diplomatically important figure on a prearranged military rota is probably not a provocation, as any sort of military intervention of the Argentines would then mean a pretty strong response. It seems to me more like a strategic raising of the stakes, if these things were intentional, to deter Argentina.

Anorexia: are you sure about that?

Anorexia is a well known condition. That's a very misleading statement, as it may be the case that it is widely and severely misunderstood. Anorexia of course, is an eating disorder characterised by an all consuming fear of gaining weight, and a desire to control the intake of food into the body. It is often coupled with severe body image problems, and cognitive biases (changes to the logical process of the brain) that sustain the body image problem in the face of logic. Sufferers often starve themselves to the point of hospitalization, and long term damage can be done to the body because of the of the reduction of tissues around major bodily organs.

It is as such a pretty serious condition, wouldn't you say? Having no definitive cause is that agreed upon, the treatment of effects of the condition are foremost; usually this consists of managed eating plans and dietary supplements. Some medication has been found to be effective but few are widely used. Treatment of the root cause of the disorder, with CBT and Family Therapy have been found to be effective, but it is unlikely that there is any definitive cure for the condition, no magic drug or practice that can lead to recovery. Reading around, I've also learnt that the independent stage of recovery, or the part when the sufferer is not in a strict planned process of treatment is the hardest for them to manage.

Reading around, I came across the phenomenon of "thinspiration". This seems like a desperate manifestation of rebellious attitudes to therapy, often with encouragement of anorexic behaviour, even encouragement to the point of death. Looking at the justifications gives a real sense of the condition; they characterise thin as being more pure, and associate food and consumption with corruption and impurity. Closely borrowing from religious traditions, much of it seems akin to religious fasting. This idea is irrational enough; without the religious justification, it is simply an empty ideal rooted in the inherent problems in the sufferers minds. The whole thing seems like a defence mechanism.

This is one of those things, like religious extremism, that doesn't have a rational base. I was going to write a blog on how "thinspiration" can be attacked, but I realised that this is pointless because like religious extremism it is rooted in an illogical premise used to justify real world problems. Then I came across something worse than "thinspiration", which is an attempt to justify anorexia as a "lifestyle choice". In a veritable rage reading the article, I began typically foaming at the mouth and thrashing wildly. This sort of thing is not what anorexia sufferers need! Talking to a recovering anorexic person, its not what he needs.

I then thought about all of these magazines and fashion houses idolizing size zero people, and made a big mistake, accusing them of it all, thinking "all those poor girls, pressured into wanting to be thin". Note that I said girls here, not boys; medically, although it affects girls more than boys, there is no medical reason for this. Then I read Laurie Penny's article, in which she explains how she suffered from anorexia despite having little influence from celebrity culture. It is true; like all nervous disorders, (e.g. OCD) it is thought by some to come from a desire for control, and how likely is it that such a deep-seated disorder of such a scale can be brought on by magazines and the media? This sits well with me, but I would absolutely welcome any other theories on the cause of anorexia.

Anorexia in the media is usually what models suffer from, what ballet dancers suffer from, a middle-class western phenomena associated with modern-culture and the like. From my cursory knowledge of it, it absolutely is not, and the faster we can get rid of these assumptions the better.

Friday, 16 December 2011

We need Jobs.

A friend of mine on Facebook recently said in response to Cameron's claim that Britain should use Christian values. that we need jobs, not social engineering. Avoiding the ideological quicksand that this is, it seems a pretty legitimate statement. Instead of tinkering with the social order, we need to create jobs through investment.

This is a pretty Labour-ite criticism, and I've got no problem with it. Of course everyone needs jobs. Of course everyone is a bit annoyed at Cameron's increasingly ideological politics, and heavy handed approach, and I'm sure many would relish the chance to get a swipe at him. I mean, when an Eton-educated, Oxbridge graduate starts ranting about Christianity as a solution to the problems seen in society today, it's easy to see how the irreligious working majority of said society could see him as edging into political cloud-cuckoo land.

But does the word Jobs remind you of anyone? The recently deceased alternative technology magnate; Steve Jobs? The sheer amount of publicity surrounding his death made me think of the other thing that the economy requires for success; the confidence of investors in industry. Steve Jobs made a huge impact on the technology industry, and perhaps the world through his innovation in that field and when he died, we paid testimony to this by uploading messages to others and the world about what happened.

His company increased the confidence of its investors no end, and I don't think there was time when Jobs was at the helm that Apple didn't keep on growing into the technology market. As an individual, Jobs had built up so much of a pubic persona that when he died he did not just fill a column of some financial magazine, he had almost unanimous recognition. This reveals something about the human nature; we trust faces more than things in some cases.

So why do we need Steve Jobs back?

To restore confidence in corporations as a body, which generally seem incapable of shaking off their corrupt and evil image. To restore the idea that companies can actually benefit society. Which is of course what we need when world economies are struggling, and companies are failing to create the optimism that Apple did during its rise.

However, Apple's innovations have not been totally without criticism. Just see my previous blog, for how Apple's innovations could actually be aiding The System's domination of our lives. More importantly, the optimism Apple created could act as the smokescreen for a lack of real change; in other words, a lack of invention in our economies, and a continuation of the recycling of old ideas.

After I wrote the main body of this blog, I read an article by Mary Dejevsky criticising many of the things Jobs was reknowned for, such as his management style and general personality.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

So, Somalia has a Tourist ministry and "Fifteen Million Merits".

Somalia is one of those generally reviled nations. It's the nation that well, never was. It was aborted mid-gestation, either by the USA, or the Islamists, depending on who you believe. The reality is much more complex, with rival tribal factions and religious divisions made worse by extremely serious geographical problems which the Western media fails to appreciate. Somalia has become something of a pariah state, whose behaviour is so erratic that the west believes it is totally lawless and without government.

However, application of government is not the same as having a government. Somalia has one, set up presumably by the UN, with a president and everything. The fact that it cannot apply itself means our mockery in the west is somewhat misplaced, as we should do everything we can to encourage this government to fight for total control over Somalia. However, the inclusion of a tourist minister seems a bit far fetched. Even he said in an interview for the Economist (Which can be found here.) that "“I'm sure tourists would leave Somalia alive and I'm hopeful they wouldn't be kidnapped". But still, for a country like Somalia, tourism must seem like a good way to increase development; people pay you to stay in your country and look at your beautiful things. And it does have the attraction of being relatively unknown, and stunning beaches. Take a look at these pictures: Beautiful world pictures blog.

Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror may be imperfectly executed, and it may not be what everyone wants to hear, but it definitely makes you think. He intended it to be a modern revival of the Twilight Zone style of standalone dramas in short series, built more to disturb than to impress. However, "Fifteen Million Merits", made me think of  a BBC news story about encouraging innovation through a more technologically aware alternative education which was comprised of Ipads and such.

A rather superficial comparison you may say; well I shall sharply retort that the comparison lies in the rationalisation seen in both. What we see in "Fifteen Million Merits", is  world where truth no longer exists, and people have literally become parts of a machine, the purpose of which is unknown. In the BBC article, in the same way, children were being treated as future economic units, which to a conspiracy theorists' brain is a step along the road to the world of the program.

The reason for the new scheme, which was taking place in New York, was that education was no longer fulfilling industry's needs, and that Western education was falling behind in global terms. This is obviously reminiscent of the countless articles published by media outlets talking about the global downturn, and how everything is going to turn apocalyptic if we go back into negative growth. Which it probably will, if the current system prevails. The "if" should really be "when", because the whole idea of this blog is, what will the current system do to sustain itself if recession continues.

My use of system is horrifically abstract and anti-establishment, but what I mean is the general consumer-financial complex; If no new markets or sources can be found, will they look to create greater efficiency internally? The same paradox exists from an environmental point of view; the system cannot practicably be stopped, yet it will eventually run out of resources. The European empires in Africa, pulled out, if you believe metropolitan historians, when the home nations could no longer see the benefit in keeping the colonies, and more resources were required at home in order to make themselves more efficient.

Will the global plutocracy begin to turn away from the peripheral expanding economies if problems at their home become too great? What sort of life will that bring to those who live in the developed world? Will our precious modern liberty and freedom be challenged through subversive consumer media such as smartphones and The Cloud? Already, Twitter has become renowned for forcing apologies by peer pressure; although apologies are politically worthless, they do satisfy the masses.

Is it the case that the things we have come to rely on for our freedom will actually bind us more closely to their wishes?

All this from a TV show? I do believe that makes it the best sort of TV show.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Oh BBC, why no coverage?

In recent nights, the coverage of the Arab Spring on the BBC has dropped off considerably. It seems reasonable, people don't want to watch the same news every night, its in a far away part of the world, and we're hosting the Olympics next year!

They seem to forget it is one of the most profound political uprisings that has occurred in last few decades. They seem to forget, that these uprisings are affecting an area of the world that is probably the most unstable.
They also forget that the uprisings are against in many cases brutal dictators, and support democracy.
They also forget that multinational oil companies are buying their way back in to these countries.
They also forget that the UN has been trying to get democracy into those regions for decades.

So why, on the verge of a military rebellion against Assad's regime in Syria, is the BBC concentrating more on petty politics and not on a huge monumental shift in world politics? The benefits that the overthrow of the Middle East's many dictators and totalitarian leaders would bring are immense, but obviously not as important as who is to blame for Britain's struggling economy, and the fact that we are having a heatwave at the moment.

Now I may be being a little facetious here, as the BBC has to cater for everyone, not just amateur teenage political bloggers like me, but surely they have to cover the biggest stories as well? I still can't believe football results are shown on news slots. I understand the economic importance of football. Really. But I just don't see how it can be given even one eighth of the time that the struggle against oppression is given.

It kind of shows some of society's problems doesn't it? Too busy trying to find out which team won instead of how close your fellow humans are to achieving liberation. Too busy trying to find out which club has gone bankrupt instead of trying to find out why so many people are oppressed and live in poverty, while those who oppressed them live in luxury.

Maybe if most people took a look around them,  really questioned what goes on at the top, and really think about doing something to make it better, then maybe, change for the better wouldn't seem so unreachable.

However this is puritanical. To ask everyone to become political vigilantes is unrealistic. Everyone needs some down-time; including me. Frivolity is good, like all good things, in small doses. Take comedians; especially British comedians. They gush forth on political subjects, our political classes being so ridiculous, with the "what what, tally ho", or "fairy tales are politically incorrect". I can't think though, of any comedian, who has made a positive contribution at all.

Perhaps they are a negative influence on society. Perhaps state funded comedians satirising Ahmedinejad to the Iranian people would keep the Iranian theocracy in power for another couple of hundred years. Catharsis is a powerful tool.

It's not fair, for anyone.

Today, the inhabitants of the Dale Farm traveler’s halting site in Essex, UK, will be evicted. This is an extremely controversial move by the government, and one that has even been discussed and commented on by the UN. I have strong opinions on travelers’ rights, but I will try to remain as impartial as possible while examining the situation.
There are two parts to the site, a smaller area that they own and had planning permission to live on. The other, larger part they own, but have never had planning permission on. While they have been there for a long time, Basildon Council has decided to evict them on the grounds that their land is actually part of Greenbelt land, and that they have far exceeded the initial planning permission that was originally granted.
I would like to say that there seems to be no reason why the Council has left this eviction for so long, as the number of travelers has been steadily increasing for a long time. It seems wrong to do it now, when there are so many gathered there and have become so established, and it must be traumatic having to move at an arbitrary date, with the possibility of not finding anywhere else to go, especially with children.
However, I would like to state some inconsistencies in their argument for staying there. Firstly, the use of the term traveler is technically wrong, as many of them have been there for years; this is not travelling. Also, they claim that it is their way of life, and cultural right to live as they do. True, they are of strongly Irish descent, but no other minority in the country has a right to avoid planning permission, which is essentially what this is about (rather than racial discrimination; I’m sure councils would evict people of English descent who did the same). While I could accept minor allowances on sites of little importance, we live in a densely populated country for the most part, and so small infringements can cause problems larger than the problem would first suggest.
I will not go any further on this, as I recognise my information may not be correct, and I apologise for any offence caused by my opinions; but let me say this. The description of the eviction as ethnic cleansing is wrong. Here is a definition of ethnic cleansing: “a purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas”. It seems a little extreme to use the same word you would use to describe the holocaust to describe a forced eviction.

Friday, 9 September 2011

The Stick; or throwing Carrots to the crowd.

In the wake of the 2011 Tottenham riots, social media exploded as subliminal fears of anarchy erupted in the populace, myself included. I remember staying up late into the night watching twitter and the BBC news website for updates. After about 1:00 am, little happened, but many social commentators then gushed forth on the subject. The debate on the cause and cure, and indeed what actually happened, is still going on, but it is becoming increasingly irrelevant, as David Cameron is trying to become the nation's moral crusader.

You see, things aren't going too well for old Davey Camrun. The economy is flatlining, and his chancellor has no ideas where to produce growth from. The health service reform he is pushing through the commons has been successfully demonised, rightly or wrongly, and his ministers have had to make several U-turns in critical policy decisions. So what better than a moral imperative to distract the electorate?

No one could argue with the idea that the riots were bad, and showed that something was wrong with the youth of the country, whether it was their fault or not. This fits in brilliantly with Cameron's "Broken Britain", and the success of the e-petition to remove rioters benefits gave him some concrete support for punitive policies against lawbreakers. Now on paper this sounds fine, but in reality, it is quite questionable. Whether you agree with the idea of the policy in a social framework or not, it sets a dangerous trend, as the concept is very populist.

Populism may seen great at the time, and I can understand right-wing people's wish to see things done firmly. However, you have to ask yourself, is this really going to help? It often wins elections, but rarely solves problems. The facts are, removing benefits may be more likely to increase crime and violent crime than reduce  it.

Even more worrying is Cameron's recent idea to cut the benefits of people whose children play truant from school, as it moves further down the road of satisfying the electorate while not actually solving any problems; benefit cheats pull all sorts of tricks to get their money, and this is likely to push more dependants into illegal methods which furthers the culture of illegality seen in some deprived areas. From an economic perspective point of view the amount of money gained from not paying benefits to the parents of truant children is going to be minuscule, compared to the national debt, which is the real problem that this country faces.

Beware the Stick, as it may be a disguised Carrot for you.

Other possible Carrots in Disguise:

  • The idea that the army should have been deployed on the streets,
  • Reintroducing hard labour in Prisons,
  • Scrapping inner city outreach groups as they are a waste of money,
  • Binning most sorts of benefits, 
  • Saying that the country is Broken.
That last one is a pet hate for me. For me, if you say something like that, then you are broken too. I'm all for personal responsibility, if it starts in the individual and not in government ministers, who usually just use it as a way to get votes.