Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category
The second of George Monbiot’s essays on Scotland.
In yesterday’s post Alba an Aigh or Scotland the Brave, I closed it by saying, “Since preparing this post, I see that George Monbiot has published a second essay on the subject of the Scottish referendum. I’m pondering republishing that second essay next Monday.”
Upon further reflection, it struck me that Mr. Monbiot’s second essay was better appreciated being republished in this place the following day; i.e. today.
Thus with no further ado, here it is.
England the Brave
September 9, 2014
The rest of the UK doesn’t need to be rescued by Scottish votes: independence could inspire transformation everywhere.
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 9th September 2014
Of all the bad arguments urging the Scots to vote no – and there are plenty – perhaps the worst is the demand that Scotland should remain in the Union to save England from itself. Responses to last week’s column suggest that this wretched, snivelling, apron-strings argument has some traction among people who claim to belong to the left.
Consider what it entails: it asks a nation of 5.3 million to forgo independence to exempt a nation of 53 million from having to fight its own battles. In return for this self-denial, the five million must remain yoked to the dismal politics of cowardice and triangulation which have caused the problems from which we ask them to save us.
“A UK without Scotland would be much less likely to elect any government of a progressive hue”, the former Labour minister Brian Wilson claimed in the Guardian last week(1). We must combine against the “forces of privilege and reaction” (as he lines up with the Conservatives, UKIP, the LibDems, the banks, the corporations, almost all the rightwing columnists in Britain and every UK newspaper except the Sunday Herald) – in the cause of “solidarity”.
There’s another New Labour weasel word to add to its dreary lexicon (other examples include reform, which now means privatisation, and partnership, which means selling out to big business). Once solidarity meant making common cause with the exploited, the underpaid, the excluded. Now, to these cyborgs in suits, it means keeping faith with the banks, the corporate press, cuts, a tollbooth economy and market fundamentalism.
Here, to Wilson and his fellow flinchers, is what solidarity meant while they were in office. It meant voting for the Iraq war, for Trident, for identity cards, for 3,500 new criminal offences(2), including the criminalisation of most forms of peaceful protest(3). It meant being drafted in as political mercenaries to impose on the English policies to which the Scots were not subject, such as university top-up fees and foundation hospitals(4,5). It meant supporting every destructive and injust proposition advanced by their leaders: the brood parasites who hatched in the Labour nest then flicked its dearest principles over the edge. It’s no surprise that the more the Scots see of their former Labour ministers, the more inclined they are to vote for independence.
So now Better Together has brought in Gordon Brown, scattering bribes in a desperate, last-ditch effort at containment. They must hope the Scots have forgotten that he boasted of setting “the lowest rate in the history of British corporation tax, the lowest rate of any major country in Europe and the lowest rate of any major industrialised country anywhere”(6). That he pledged to the City of London “in budget after budget I want us to do even more to encourage the risk takers”(7). That, after 13 years of Labour government, the UK had higher levels of inequality than after 18 years of Tory government(8). That his government colluded in kidnapping and torture(9). That he helped cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands through his support for the illegal war on Iraq.
He roams through Scotland, still badged with blood, promising what he never delivered when he had the chance, this man who helped unravel the social safety net his predecessors wove; who marketised and dismembered public services; who enriched the wealthy and shafted the poor; who pledged money for Trident but failed to reverse the loss of social housing(10); whose private finance initiative planted a series of timebombs now exploding throughout the NHS and other public services(11); who greased and wheedled and slavered his way into the company of bankers and oligarchs while trampling over the working people he was elected to represent. This is the progressive Prester John who will ride to the rescue of the No campaign?
Where, in Scotland’s Labour party, are the Keir Hardies and Jimmy Reids of our time? Where is the vision, the inspiration, the hope? The shuffling, spineless little men with whom these titans have been replaced offer nothing but fear. Through fear they seek to shove Scotland back into its box, as its people rebel against the dreary, closed future mapped out for them – and the rest of us – by the three main Westminster parties.
Sure, if Scotland becomes independent, all else being equal, Labour would lose 41 seats at Westminster and Tory majorities would become more likely(12). But all else need not be equal. Scottish independence can galvanise progressive movements across the rest of the United Kingdom. We’ll watch as the Scots engage in the transformative process of writing a constitution. We’ll see that a nation of these islands can live and – I hope – flourish with a fully elected legislature (no House of Lords), with a fair electoral system (proportional representation), and with a parliament in which only representatives of that nation can vote (no cross-border mercenaries).
Already, the myth of political apathy has been scotched by the tumultuous movement north of the border. As soon as something is worth voting for, people will queue into the night to add their names to the register(13). The low turn-outs in Westminster elections reflect not an absence of interest but an absence of hope.
If Scotland becomes independent, it will be despite the efforts of almost the entire UK establishment. It will be because social media has defeated the corporate media. It will be a victory for citizens over the Westminster machine, for shoes over helicopters. It will show that a sufficiently inspiring idea can cut through bribes and blackmail, through threats and fearmongering. That hope, marginalised at first, can spread across a nation, defying all attempts to suppress it. That you can be hated by the Daily Mail and still have a chance of winning.
If Labour has any political nous, any remaining flicker of courage, it will understand what this moment means. Instead of suppressing the forces of hope and inspiration, it would mobilise them. It would, for example, pledge, in its manifesto, a referendum on drafting a written constitution for the rest of the United Kingdom.
It would understand that hope is the most dangerous of all political reagents. That it can transform what appears to be a fixed polity, a fixed outcome, into something entirely different. That it can summon up passion and purpose we never knew we possessed. If Scotland becomes independent, England – if only the potential were recognised – could also be transformed.
By this day next week, we shall know the outcome.
My hope for a ‘yes’ vote for Scottish Independence.
“Alba an Aigh” is Scottish Gaelic for the Scottish patriotic song, Scotland the Brave. It was one of several songs considered an unofficial national anthem of Scotland.
Before the main purpose of today’s post, I want to republish three comments to a recent post from Patrice Ayme, Free Scotland From Thieves.
First Alex Jones, he of The Liberated Way, commented:
I hope that “yes” is the outcome in the Scottish vote. I believe Scotland is part of a trend away from globalism and centralism to a new devolved form of localism.
To which I added:
Delighted to agree with Alex and for exactly the reasons he offers. All around the globe we are seeing countless examples of the failure, to put it mildly, of BIG GOVERNMENT.
Just as much in my new home country as it was in my old one.
On Sunday evening, neighbours Janell and Larry threw a short-notice BBQ. Thirty minutes after Larry’s phone call, we walked across our fields to their place, to join three other neighbours. It was a wonderful evening and the majority of the talk was about local issues: when is it going to rain, we are all short of hay, that sort of stuff.
Towards the end, there was a general rant about the state of the world. I hesitated, aware of my ‘new boy’ status, and then quietly remarked that Jean and I were overwhelmed by the friendship and cooperation of all those living nearby. And went on to add that the contrast between how our community worked and how the American government failed to work was stark.
Everyone signalled by grunts, words and body language their agreement.
Bon chance, New Scotland.
Patrice then offered:
Dear Paul: 100% agree. The strength of the USA is that the average state is 6 million people. The state of Massachusetts has excellent results on the PISA tests, in stark distinction with most of Euramerica. That’s entirely due to localism.
In my more or less native Bay Area, governance is extremely local, and there is the secret of Silicon Valley: most deals are made with handshakes, or people who argue with each other, while knowing they will have to keep on living with each other. Silicon Valley exists, because it’s 3,000 miles from Washington and New York.
They signaled with grunts and body language because of these low PISA tests, but, right now in the Bay Area, the PISA rising movement is engaged (having a 4 year old, I am in the middle of it).
Bonne Chance Scotland, indeed. Independence (from London’s plutocracy) ought to be easy as pie for Scotland.
BTW, the “City” is technically a plutocracy: voting there depends upon the money…
So it’s already clear where I stand!
As is the stance from The Automatic Earth Please Scotland, Blow Up The EU. Or try The London School of Economics: The ‘domino effect’ from Scotland’s referendum is increasing demands for independence in Italian regions. Then The Daily Telegraph weighs in with Britain faces storm as giant global investors awaken to break-up dangers. All great fun!
However, the most eloquent and powerful argument read in recent days comes from George Monbiot in his essay Someone Else’s Story. It is republished here with Mr. Monbiot’s kind permission.
Someone Else’s Story
September 2, 2014
Scots voting no to independence would be an astonishing act of self-harm
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 3rd September 2014
Imagine that the question was posed the other way round. An independent nation is asked to decide whether to surrender its sovereignty to a larger union. It would be allowed a measure of autonomy, but key aspects of its governance would be handed to another nation. It would be used as a military base by the dominant power and yoked to an economy over which it had no control.
It would have to be bloody desperate. Only a nation in which the institutions of governance had collapsed, which had been ruined economically, which was threatened by invasion or civil war or famine might contemplate this drastic step. Most nations faced even with such catastrophes choose to retain their independence – in fact will fight to preserve it – rather than surrender to a dominant foreign power.
So what would you say about a country that sacrificed its sovereignty without collapse or compulsion? That had no obvious enemies, a basically sound economy and a broadly functional democracy, and chose to swap it for remote governance by the hereditary elite of another nation, beholden to a corrupt financial centre?(1)
What would you say about a country that exchanged an economy based on enterprise and distribution for one based on speculation and rent?(2) That chose obeisance to a government which spies on its own citizens, uses the planet as its dustbin, governs on behalf of a transnational elite which owes loyalty to no nation, cedes public services to corporations, forces terminally ill people to work(3) and can’t be trusted with a box of fireworks, let alone a fleet of nuclear submarines? You would conclude that it had lost its senses.
So what’s the difference? How is the argument altered by the fact that Scotland is considering whether to gain independence, rather than whether to lose it? It’s not. Those who would vote no – now, a new poll suggests, a rapidly diminishing majority(4) – could be suffering from system justification.
System justification is defined as the “process by which existing social arrangements are legitimised, even at the expense of personal and group interest”(5). It consists of a desire to defend the status quo, regardless of its impacts. It has been demonstrated in a large body of experimental work, which has produced the following surprising results.
System justification becomes stronger when social and economic inequality is more extreme. This is because people try to rationalise their disadvantage by seeking legitimate reasons for their position(6). In some cases disadvantaged people are more likely than the privileged to support the status quo. One study found that US citizens on low incomes were more likely than those on high incomes to believe that economic inequality is legitimate and necessary(7).
It explains why women in experimental studies pay themselves less than men, why people in low status jobs believe their work is worth less than those in high status jobs, even when they’re performing the same task, and why people accept domination by another group(8). It might help to explain why so many people in Scotland are inclined to vote no.
The fears the no campaigners have worked so hard to stoke are – by comparison to what the Scots are being asked to lose – mere shadows. As Adam Ramsay points out in his treatise Forty-Two Reasons to Support Scottish Independence, there are plenty of nations smaller than Scotland which possess their own currencies and thrive(9). Most of the world’s prosperous nations are small: there are no inherent disadvantages to downsizing(10).
Remaining in the UK carries as much risk and uncertainty as leaving. England’s housing bubble could blow at any time. We might leave the EU. Some of the most determined no campaigners would take us out: witness Ukip’s intention to stage a “pro-Union rally” in Glasgow on September 12(11). The Union in question, of course, is the UK, not Europe. This reminds us of a crashing contradiction in the politics of such groups: if our membership of the EU represents an appalling and intolerable loss of sovereignty, why is the far greater loss Scotland is being asked to accept deemed tolerable and necessary?
The Scots are told they will have no control over their own currency if they leave the UK. But they have none today. The monetary policy committee is based in London and bows to the banks. The pound’s strength, which damages the manufacturing Scotland seeks to promote, reflects the interests of the City(12).
To vote no is to choose to live under a political system that sustains one of the rich world’s highest levels of inequality and deprivation. This is a system in which all major parties are complicit, which offers no obvious exit from a model that privileges neoliberal economics over other aspirations(13). It treats the natural world, civic life, equality, public health and effective public services as dispensable luxuries, and the freedom of the rich to exploit the poor as non-negotiable.
Its lack of a codified constitution permits numberless abuses of power. It has failed to reform the House of Lords, royal prerogative, campaign finance(14) and first-past-the-post voting (another triumph for the no brigade). It is dominated by a media owned by tax exiles, who, instructing their editors from their distant chateaux, play the patriotism card at every opportunity. The concerns of swing voters in marginal constituencies outweigh those of the majority; the concerns of corporations with no lasting stake in the country outweigh everything. Broken, corrupt, dysfunctional, retentive: you want to be part of this?
Independence, as more Scots are beginning to see, offers people an opportunity to rewrite the political rules. To create a written constitution, the very process of which is engaging and transformative. To build an economy of benefit to everyone. To promote cohesion, social justice, the defence of the living planet and an end to wars of choice(15).
To deny this to yourself, to remain subject to the whims of a distant and uncaring elite, to succumb to the bleak, deferential negativity of the no campaign; to accept other people’s myths in place of your own story: that would be an astonishing act of self-repudiation and self-harm. Consider yourselves independent and work backwards from there, then ask why you would sacrifice that freedom.
5. John T. Jost and Mahzarin R. Banaji, 1994. The role of stereotyping in system-justification and the production of false consciousness. British Journal of Social Psychology, 33, 1–27.
6. John T. Jost, Mahzarin R. Banaji and Brian A. Nosek, 2004. A Decade of System Justification Theory: Accumulated Evidence of Conscious and Unconscious Bolstering of the Status Quo . Political Psychology, Vol. 25, No. 6, 2004. http://www.psych.nyu.edu/jost/Jost,%20Banaji,%20&%20Nosek%20%282004%29%20A%20Decade%20of%20System%20Justificati.pdf
7. John T. Jost et al, 2003. Social inequality and the reduction of ideological dissonance on behalf of the system: evidence of enhanced system justification among the disadvantaged. European Journal of Social Psychology, 33, 13–36.
8. John T. Jost, Mahzarin R. Banaji and Brian A. Nosek, 2004, see above.
12. See also, on these questions, the Common Weal report by the Jimmy Reid Foundation: http://reidfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/The-Common-Weal.pdf
15. There’s more on all this at http://commonwealth-publishing.com/?p=255
Since preparing this post, I see that George Monbiot has published a second essay on the subject of the Scottish referendum. I’m pondering republishing that second essay next Monday.
Please be aware of the threat to the original concept of the Internet.
As received from WordPress at 14:30 PDT today; September 9th, 2014.
(Even if you are not a ‘blogger’, please read the following and sign by using the link right at the end of the post.)
Join Us in the Fight For Net Neutrality
“Net Neutrality” is the simple but powerful principle that cable and broadband providers must treat all internet traffic equally. Whether you’re loading a blog post on WordPress.com, streaming House of Cards on Netflix, or browsing handcrafted tea cozies on Etsy, your internet provider can’t degrade your connection speed, block sites, or charge a toll based on the content that you’re viewing.
Net neutrality has defined the internet since its inception, and it’s hard to argue with the results: the internet is the most powerful engine of economic growth and free expression in history. Most importantly, the open internet is characterized by companies, products, and ideas that survive or fail depending on their own merit — not on whether they have preferred deals in place with a broadband service provider. Unfortunately, the principle of net neutrality, and the open internet that we know and love, is under attack.
Net Neutrality under attack
The Federal Communications Commission has proposed rules that would, for the first time, expressly allow internet providers — like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T — to charge internet companies like Automattic, Netflix or Etsy for access to their subscribers. This means there could be “fast lanes” for companies who are able to pay providers for preferred internet access, while everyone else gets stuck in the “slow lane”…which means applications won’t perform as quickly, webpages will load slowly, and of course, buffering. A slow “still loading” spinner will be an unfortunate, but common sight on the new, closed internet that the big providers want.
Unsurprisingly, the large telecom companies who stand to benefit from the FCC’s proposed rules fully support their passage. They have nearly unlimited funds and hundreds of lobbyists in Washington to promote these harmful new rules.
But what they don’t have is you.
What can we do to fight back?
Automattic strongly supports a free and open internet. After all, WordPress.com, and the WordPress open source project are living examples of what is possible on an unthrottled internet, open for creation, collaboration, and expression. Over the last few months, we’ve joined 150 major tech companies in sending a letter to Washington in support of net neutrality, and met with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to urge him to preserve the internet we’ve always known.
Now it’s your turn.
Automattic, along with many other companies and digital rights organizations, is proud to participate in the Internet Slowdown on September 10. For this day of action, we’ve built a “Fight for Net Neutrality” plugin that you can enable now on your WordPress.com blog to show support for this important cause.
You can turn the plugin on by going to your Dashboard, Settings → Fight for Net Neutrality.
When you enable the plugin, we’ll replace a few of the posts on your site with a “Still Loading” spinner…to show what life will be like on an internet that features dreaded slow lanes.
The plugin will also display a banner that shows your support for Net Neutrality, and links to battleforthenet.com, where visitors to your site can sign a letter to the FCC about this important issue.
Please take a few minutes to enable the Fight for Net Neutrality on your site today, and visit battleforthenet.com to send a message to Washington that net neutrality must be preserved. Together we can make a difference, and we hope you’ll join us in this important battle for the open internet!
Note: When I turned on the plugin and ran the preview for this new post, it made it very confusing in my opinion. Thus as much as I support the campaign, and have signed accordingly, I have turned off the plugin for the time being.
So please all readers and followers of Learning from Dogs go to the BattleForTheNet website and sign to indicate your support for this important campaign.
Oh, and please click Like if you support the campaign. Thank you very much.
A powerful essay from George Monbiot.
I do so because in a world where much of the media is ‘bought’, and do understand that I use the term loosely, solid and trustworthy correspondents are to be applauded and, in turn, their views shared. Mr. Monbiot is a classic example of someone who adheres to a truthful perspective. I am more than grateful for the blanket permission given to me by GM for the republication of his essays.
Deviant and Proud
August 5, 2014
Do you feel left out? Perhaps it’s because you refuse to succumb to the competition, envy and fear neoliberalism breeds.
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 6th August 2014
To be at peace with a troubled world: this is not a reasonable aim. It can be achieved only through a disavowal of what surrounds you. To be at peace with yourself within a troubled world: that, by contrast, is an honourable aspiration. This column is for those who feel at odds with life. It calls on you not to be ashamed.
I was prompted to write it by a remarkable book, just published in English, by a Belgian professor of psychoanalysis, Paul Verhaeghe (1). What About Me?: The Struggle for Identity in a Market-Based Society is one of those books that, by making connections between apparently distinct phenomena, permits sudden new insights into what is happening to us and why.
We are social animals, Verhaeghe argues, and our identity is shaped by the norms and values we absorb from other people. Every society defines and shapes its own normality – and its own abnormality – according to dominant narratives, and seeks either to make people comply or to exclude them if they don’t.
Today the dominant narrative is that of market fundamentalism, widely known in Europe as neoliberalism. The story it tells is that the market can resolve almost all social, economic and political problems. The less the state regulates and taxes us, the better off we will be. Public services should be privatised, public spending should be cut and business should be freed from social control. In countries such as the UK and the US, this story has shaped our norms and values for around 35 years: since Thatcher and Reagan came to power (2). It’s rapidly colonising the rest of the world.
Verhaeghe points out that neoliberalism draws on the ancient Greek idea that our ethics are innate (and governed by a state of nature it calls the market) and on the Christian idea that humankind is inherently selfish and acquisitive. Rather than seeking to suppress these characteristics, neoliberalism celebrates them: it claims that unrestricted competition, driven by self-interest, leads to innovation and economic growth, enhancing the welfare of all.
At the heart of this story is the notion of merit. Untrammelled competition rewards people who have talent, who work hard and who innovate. It breaks down hierarchies and creates a world of opportunity and mobility. The reality is rather different. Even at the beginning of the process, when markets are first deregulated, we do not start with equal opportunities. Some people are a long way down the track before the starting gun is fired. This is how the Russian oligarchs managed to acquire such wealth when the Soviet Union broke up. They weren’t, on the whole, the most talented, hard-working or innovative people, but those with the fewest scruples, the most thugs and the best contacts, often in the KGB.
Even when outcomes are based on talent and hard work, they don’t stay that way for long. Once the first generation of liberated entrepreneurs has made its money, the initial meritocracy is replaced by a new elite, which insulates its children from competition by inheritance and the best education money can buy. Where market fundamentalism has been most fiercely applied – in countries like the US and UK – social mobility has greatly declined (3).
If neoliberalism were anything other than a self-serving con, whose gurus and think tanks were financed from the beginning by some of the richest people on earth (the American tycoons Coors, Olin, Scaife, Pew and others) (4), its apostles would have demanded, as a precondition for a society based on merit, that no one should start life with the unfair advantage of inherited wealth or economically-determined education. But they never believed in their own doctrine. Enterprise, as a result, quickly gave way to rent.
All this is ignored, and success or failure in the market economy are ascribed solely to the efforts of the individual. The rich are the new righteous, the poor are the new deviants, who have failed both economically and morally, and are now classified as social parasites.
The market was meant to emancipate us, offering autonomy and freedom. Instead it has delivered atomisation and loneliness. The workplace has been overwhelmed by a mad, Kafka-esque infrastructure of assessments, monitoring, measuring, surveillance and audits, centrally directed and rigidly planned, whose purpose is to reward the winners and punish the losers. It destroys autonomy, enterprise, innovation and loyalty and breeds frustration, envy and fear. Through a magnificent paradox, it has led to the revival of a grand old Soviet tradition, known in Russian as tufta. It means the falsification of statistics to meet the diktats of unaccountable power.
The same forces afflict those who can’t find work. They must now contend, alongside the other humiliations of unemployment, with a whole new level of snooping and monitoring. All this, Verhaeghe points out, is fundamental to the neoliberal model, which everywhere insists on comparison, evaluation and quantification. We find ourselves technically free but powerless. Whether in work or out of work, we must live by the same rules or perish. All the major political parties promote them, so we have no political power either. In the name of autonomy and freedom we have ended up controlled by a grinding, faceless bureaucracy.
These shifts have been accompanied, Verhaeghe writes, by a spectacular rise in certain psychiatric conditions: self-harm, eating disorders, depression and personality disorders. Of the personality disorders, the most common are performance anxiety and social phobia; both of which reflect a fear of other people, who are perceived as both evaluators and competitors, the only roles for society that market fundamentalism admits. Depression and loneliness plague us. The infantilising diktats of the workplace destroy our self-respect. Those who end up at the bottom of the pile are assailed by guilt and shame. The self-attribution fallacy cuts both ways (5): just as we congratulate ourselves for our successes,we blame ourselves for our failures, even if we had little to do with it.
So if you don’t fit in; if you feel at odds with the world; if your identity is troubled and frayed; if you feel lost and ashamed, it could be because you have retained the human values you were supposed to have discarded. You are a deviant. Be proud.
1. Paul Verhaeghe, 2014. What About Me?: The struggle for identity in a market-based society. Scribe. Brunswick, Australia and London.
What powerful observations; what common-sense written by Paul Verhaeghe, and beautifully reported by Mr. Monbiot in an incredible essay.
You have probably guessed where I stand! ;-)
This had me laughing out loud!
Now before reading on, please allow me a moment to explain that the following does cast aspersions over the current president of the United States of America. I don’t have the right to vote in any form of US election so am very happy to let all of American politics flow over the top of my head. Thus this is published simply because it gave me so much fun when reading it and I wanted to share the fun with you. Very grateful to neighbour Larry for sending it to me.
A MESSAGE FROM THE QUEEN
To the citizens of the United States of America from Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
In light of your failure in recent years to nominate competent candidates for the esteemed position of President of the USA and thereby a continuing failure properly to govern yourselves, as the Head of State of the United Kingdom I do hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence; effective immediately. (You should look up ‘revocation’ in the Oxford English Dictionary.)
As your new Sovereign, I, Queen Elizabeth II, will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except North Dakota, which I have never liked).
The United Kingdom’s current Prime Minister, David Cameron, will now appoint a Governor for America without the need for further elections.
The United States Congress and the Senate are disbanded with immediate effect. My Government is preparing a questionnaire, to be circulated next year, to determine whether any of you noticed the change.
To aid in your transition to a British Crown dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:
- The letter ‘U’ will be reinstated in words such as ‘colour,’ ‘favour,’ ‘labour’ and ‘neighbour.’ Likewise, you will learn to spell ‘doughnut’ without skipping half the letters, and the suffix ‘-ize’ will be replaced by the suffix ‘-ise.’ Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (look up ‘vocabulary’).
- Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as ”like’ and ‘you know’ is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as U.S. English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take into account the reinstated letter ‘u” and the elimination of ‘-ize.’
- July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.
- You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you’re not quite ready to be independent. Guns should only be used for shooting grouse. If you can’t sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist, then you’re not ready to shoot grouse.
- Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. Although a permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.
All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left side with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.
- The former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (which you have been calling gasoline) of roughly $10/US gallon. Get used to it.
- You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.
- The cold, tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. South African beer is also acceptable, as they are pound-for-pound the greatest sporting nation on earth and it can only be due to the beer. They are also part of the British Commonwealth (see what it did for them). American brands will be referred to as Near-Frozen Gnat’s Urine, so that all varieties may be sold without risk of further confusion.
- Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English characters. Watching Andie Macdowell attempt English dialect in Four Weddings and a Funeral was an experience akin to having one’s ears removed with a cheese grater.
- You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of proper football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies).
- Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.
- You must tell us who killed JFK. It’s been driving us mad.
- An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty’s Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).
- Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 p.m. with proper cups, with saucers, and never mugs, with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; plus strawberries (with cream) when in season.
God Save the Queen!
As a Brit living happily here in Southern Oregon, all I can add to this statement from Her Majesty is don’t mention the Scottish referendum in just a few weeks time!
Now I think I better run for cover!
Certainly dogs couldn’t be any worse!
I am referring to politicians; but you probably guessed that.
Just my way of a lead-in to a wonderful item seen recently over on ABC Eye Witness News.
DOG ELECTED MAYOR IN CORMORANT, MINNESOTA
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
CORMORANT, Minnesota (WLS) — Duke, a 7-year-old dog, was elected mayor of Cormorant, Minnesota.
“He won by a landslide,” Tricia Maloney said of the Great Pyrenees. “He’s used to coming to the pub and getting some burgers and some fries or something.”
The 12 people who live in Cormorant all paid $1 to vote.
“Poor Richard Sherbrook that owns the Cormorant store, he didn’t even have half as many votes as Duke did,” Maloney said.
The farm dog is all bark, no bite. His term lasts one year.
A quick web search found a longer version of the news item over on the CBS News website:
Duke The Dog Sworn In As Mayor Of Cormorant, Minn.
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Every dog has his day and Saturday is it for Duke the dog.
Duke was elected mayor of the northwestern Minnesota community of Cormorant, and he was sworn in Saturday. Organizer Tammy Odegaard says Duke got gussied up Friday night, his second trip to the groomer since his election.
“He spends a lot of time at the dairy farm next door,” Odegaard said, who notes she’s now a member of Duke’s staff. “So, twice in, like, seven days for him is, like, it’s never happened. So I’m sure he’s wondering what’s going on with just that.”
His first grooming took five hours and came after the majority of the town’s 12 voters backed him in the balloting. The town pulled out all the stops for the 10 a.m. ceremony during Cormorant’s annual fair.
“We’ll have him put his little paw on the bible, going to have him have the little oath,” Odegaard said. “Of course, he’s not going to repeat it. It would be awesome if he would bark, but who knows? He’s a country dog, so he’s not used to performing on cue.”
During the two-minute inauguration ceremony, Steve Sorenson, chairman of Cormorant Township, greeted Duke and set forth his duties.
“You are about to em-bark upon a great time of service, tremendous personal and professional growth,” Sorenson said. “If you accept this challenge and these responsibilities, please bark or pant.”
“I think that qualifies,” Sorenson said.
As for the mayor’s salary, a pet food store is donating a year’s supply of kibble to reward him for his service.
The village of Cormorant is located in northwestern Minnesota, near Pelican Rapids.
Duke is a seven-year-old, big, white, shaggy Great Pyrenees that loves to roll around in the dirt. Odegaard would not say if that activity qualifies Duke for a career in politics.
“You said it, not me,” Odegaard laughed.
That inauguration ceremony was captured on video; see below. Warning, the first seven minutes are a little slow! But it is worth watching, trust me!
Funny how things happen.
Yesterday evening we had close friend Don Reeve staying with us. To put this into context, it was Don and his wife, Suzann, who in 2007 invited me to spend Christmas with them at their Winter home down in San Carlos, Mexico. That, in turn, led me to meeting Jean, Suzann’s best friend, and look where that got me! :-)
(Can’t resist adding that Jean and I were born in London, some 23 miles from each other!)
Thus you can understand the pleasure it was for Jean and me again to see Don; albeit for a brief overnight stay.
What was an extra, unanticipated pleasure was meeting a young, rescue dog that Don had adopted in recent weeks. Her name is Margarita and she was found and rescued by Suzann from the streets in San Carlos. What was so glorious was to see the love and hope for a better future that flowed between Don and the sweet, young Margarita. It resonated so perfectly well with Suzan’s post published here on Monday: Rescued dogs are life-savers.
By the time I sat down at my desk yesterday, I was conscious of a) not having a clue as to what to write, and b) inspired by the sense of hope that dogs offer us humans. Serendipitously, the theme of hope led me to a post written by Jennifer Broudy de Hernandez over on her Transition Times blog. It was called Warriors for the Planet and was the most beautiful essay.
I’m delighted to reblog that here with Jennifer’s approval.
Warriors for the Planet
Another summer, another war. I wonder how many summers there have been in the last 5,000 years when human beings were not occupied with killing each other?
Correction: not “human beings,” “men.”
Let’s be frank: even though there may be women in the armed forces of many countries now, war still remains a masculine activity and preoccupation. The women who serve as soldiers must adhere to the masculine warrior code and become honorary “bros,” for whom the worst insult is still be called a “girl” or a “pussy.”
I have been reading Anne Baring’s magisterial book The Dream of the Cosmos, in which she gives a detailed account of the shift, around the time of Gilgamesh, from the ancient, goddess- and nature-worshipping “lunar cultures” to the contemporary era of solar, monotheistic, warrior-worshipping cultures.
In her elaboration of this shift, I read the tragedy of our time, enacted over and over again all over the planet, and not just by humans against humans, but also by humans against the other living beings with whom we share our world. I quote at length from Baring’s remarkable book:
“The archetype of the solar hero as warrior still exerts immense unconscious influence on the modern male psyche, in the battlefield of politics as well as that of corporate business and even the world of science and academia: the primary aim of the male is to achieve, to win and, if necessary, to defeat other males. The ideal of the warrior has become an unconscious part of every man’s identity from the time he is a small child.
“With the mythic theme of the cosmic battle between good and evil and the indoctrination of the warrior went the focus on war and territorial conquest. War has been endemic throughout the 4000 years of the solar era. The glorification of war and conquest and the exaltation of the warrior is a major theme of the solar era—still with us today in George W. Bush’s words in 2005: ‘We will accept no outcome except victory.’ This call to victory echoes down the centuries, ensuring that hecatombs of young warriors were sacrificed to the god of war, countless millions led into captivity and slavery, countless women raped and widows left destitute. It has sanctioned an ethos that strives for victory at no matter what cost in human lives and even today glorifies war and admires the warrior leader. This archaic model of tribal dominance and conquest has inflicted untold suffering on humanity and now threatens our very survival as a species.
“The cosmic battle between light and darkness was increasingly projected into the world and a fascination with territorial conquest gripped the imagination and led to the creation of vast empires. It is as if the heroic human ego, identified with the solar hero, had to seek out new territories to conquer, had to embody the myth in a literal sense and as it did so, channel the primitive territorial drives of the psyche into a Dionysian orgy of unbridled conquest, slaughter and destruction. We hear very little about the suffering generated by these conquests: the weeping widows, the mothers who lost sons, the orphaned children and the crops and patterns of sowing and harvesting devastated and disrupted by the foraging armies passing over them, the exquisite works of art pillaged and looted….The long chronicle of conquest and human sacrifice, of exultation in power and the subjugation of enemies might truly be named the dark shadow of the solar age” (118;124).
Like Baring, I see our time as a critical era in the long history of homo sapiens on the planet. There is still hope that enough of us will be able to detach ourselves from the pressures and busyness of our lives—will become conscious of what is happening to the planet and human civilization writ large—will understand that there are other ways to relate to each other and to the Earth, ways that will seem increasingly possible and obvious once we focus on them and begin to put our energies into manifesting our visions of a creative, collaborative, respectful mode of being.
Baring ends her disturbing chapter on the ascendancy of the solar warrior culture with a hopeful quote from The Passion of the Western Mind by Richard Tarnas, from which she springs into her own positive vision of the potential of our time.
“’We stand at the threshold of a revelation of the nature of reality that could shatter our most established beliefs about ourselves and the world. The very constriction we are experiencing is part of the dynamic of our imminent release. For the deepest passion of the Western mind has been to reunite with the ground of its being. The driving impulse of the West’s masculine consciousness has been its quest not only to realize itself, to forge its own autonomy, but also, finally, to recover its connection with the whole, to come to terms with the great feminine principle in life; to differentiate itself from but then rediscover and reunite with the feminine, with the mystery of life, of nature, of soul. And that reunion can now occur on a new and profoundly different level from that of the primordial unconscious unity, for the long evolution of human consciousness has prepared it to be capable at last of embracing the ground and matrix of its own being freely and consciously.’
“As this deep soul-impulse gathers momentum, the ‘marriage’ of the re-emerging lunar consciousness with the dominant solar one is beginning to change our perception of reality. This gives us hope for the future. If we can recover the values intrinsic to the ancient participatory way of knowing without losing the priceless evolutionary attainment of a strong and focused ego, together with all the discoveries we have made and the skills we have developed, we could heal both the fissure in our soul and our raped and vandalized planet” (130-131).
My heart aches for the suffering of the innocent civilians trapped in the crossfire in Gaza this summer, and for the grieving families of the passenger plane heinously shot down by warriors who were either poorly trained or just plain evil.
I am heartsick when I think about the holocaust that is overtaking living beings on every quadrant of our planet as humans continue to ravage the forests and seas, to melt the poles with our greenhouse gases, and to poison the aquifers and soil with our chemicals.
This is where the solar cultures, with their “great” warrior kings, have led us. And yet, as Baring says, they have also presided over the most amazing advances in science and technology that humans have ever known in our long history on the planet.
We don’t need or want to go back to the simple innocence of ancient lunar societies. We don’t have to bomb ourselves back into the Stone Age.
What we need is to go forward, wisely and joyously, into a new phase of consciousness, in which the masculine warrior spirit is used for protection and stewardship rather than destruction, and the Earth is honored as the Mother of all that she is.
Never let anyone tell you it can’t be done. It is already happening.
May I tempt you to go back and re-read that penultimate paragraph. A sentence that I cannot resist emphasising:
What we need is to go forward, wisely and joyously, into a new phase of consciousness, in which the masculine warrior spirit is used for protection and stewardship rather than destruction, and the Earth is honored as the Mother of all that she is.
The power of hope!