The Seperation of Powers

Inherent within our liberal democracies, the separation of powers doctrine is designed to ensure that no one branch of government can come to dominate the others. In simple terms, the executive cannot interpret law, the legislator cannot not enforce it, and the judiciary cannot (shouldn’t) create it. Reminding ourselves of this important doctrine could act as the basis for improving our democracies and re=empowring citizens.

This principle, widely recognised in the modern period, serves as a foundation for our political systems even today. The likes of Montesquieu, John Locke, and Rousseau pioneered the modern approach but the idea that the power of the government goes as far back as the Greeks. Herodotus, for example, noted distinctions between institutions as much as between factions within the Greek City-States,  and in the famous Constitutional Debate three Persian nobles debate the merits of government and the extent of its power. Inherent within Herodotus’ ideological scope is also the idea that political power should be limited.

Among ancient writers Polybius perhaps stands out from the rest. He famously argues that what made the Romans superior to the Greeks was their ability to harness Monarchy, Oligarchy and Democracy within one system. This was the Republic, or Res Publica to the Romans. By doing so the Romans were able to harness the benefits that each of these systems created whilst simultaneously mitigating the negative aspects of each system. Scholars to this day doubt that the system Polybius describes  ever existed and functioned as he would have us believe, but the staying power of this idea

had profound effect on later thinkers and leaders who founded our modern democracies. The Founding Fathers of the United States were particularly influenced and aimed to balance the powers of each branch of the government against one another and with the powers of the states. Indeed, among the Founding Fathers there was a fierce debate as to the balance of these powers and interests.

Some, like Thomas Jefferson fought tooth and nail to ensure that the Federal Government was not too strong, and advocated that Congress be the most important institution of the Republic. Others, like Alexander Hamilton, wanted a more centralized state lead by a strong executive represented by the President. Of course, over the centuries the balance of these powers has waxed and waned depending on the circumstance. This is true of the United States, and it is true elsewhere.

Important to understand within this concept of the separation of powers is the idea, or perhaps the recognition that power tends to accumulate and consolidate towards a single institution. This simple tenet led some political theorists in the early 20th century to turn towards fascism as the natural conclusion.

Robert Michels argued that within democratic structures there always exists an ‘Iron Law of Oligarchy’ progressively moving the democratic structures towards an oligarchical one that serves the interests of the few.

Karl Schmidt also thought that democracy created the conditions for fascism because each constitutional crisis lead to a consolidation of more powers within a single institution in order to resolve that crisis. This idea remains prevalent still today among those who believe that governments are concentrating too much power and leaving citizens feeling alienated from the political process, in turn feeding radical reactions on both sides of the political spectrum.

The separation of powers is the cornerstone of our modern liberal democracies. As our economies and societies become increasingly complex governments are struggling to maintain pace. This is turn places strains on the political system forcing governments to operate more efficiently. Unfortunately for citizens, this can mean a reduction in liberties and freedoms for the sake of efficiency. The consolidation of powers by an institution, or a group of institutions is often justified on this basis.

The democratic deficits that modern democracies are facing will not be solved by political powers who seek to “reform” institutions and make government processes more bureaucratic and obscurer for citizens.

Going back to the fundamentals of our democracies should act as the roadmap for governments and citizens alike. Personal freedom and legitimate means for citizens to control their lives outside of mere economic choices will lessen the democratic deficit and lead to less extremism on both sides of the political spectrum.

The Last Straw

Do you really need that straw? Save the turtles. Fuck the turtles, save yourself.

If you need a straw to drink you’re a child, because only children need straws. What are straws for? Apart from using them as makeshift snorkels in the bath (fuck you, we’ve all done that), straws are for drinking. But we have already invented a thing to drink – it’s called a cup you idiot.

Why has humanity engineered a device to drink out of a device that has already been engineered to be drunk from. By this logic we’ll need chairs, for our chairs, and beds for our beds. Ridiculous. So, save the planet, sure, but also save your own sanctity and sanity.

Only children need straws, and this is because their small little brains can’t get their mind around the concept of drinking from a cup. With straws we are only encouraging children to remain children = forever. We do that enough in other areas of life, and in my opinion, we don’t need to extend to the drinking sphere. The biggest insult is when one drinks alcohol from a straw. Don’t give me some tripe that straws are more efficient to drink alcohol. Wrong! Just drink more alcohol. Why have one cocktail, when you can have two?

With that said, the only benefit for the existence of straws is the strawpedo. When positioned correctly the strawpedo allows one to skull an entire vessel in 3 seconds. Straws are also known for getting you drunk faster. This is the only acceptable use of straws. All other uses of straws are redundant, a waste of time, or behaviour suitable only for children.

 

It’s time to end the tyranny of the straw. Let’s save some turtles, those fuckers are so cute. But let’s also save the people from the crippling infantilism that drinking from a straw brings. For fucks sake, just use the things we have also designed to drink from.

 

Barefoot Banditary

If you dont wear barefeet you’re an asshole. There is nothing wrong with it. In fact, its what we were born with, why the fuck do you need to wear shoes all the time. Fuck that. Shoes should be like ice-cream – a sometimes food. We should  wear them when we need them, not as the stock standard. Who the fuck invented these things? They are useful for two things, and two things only: walking over hot coals, and not getting glass in your feet. Thats it. Name me any other reason, there are none. So fuck shoes.

And another thing, stop telling me I’m the weird one, you’re the weird one dickhead, because you think its normal to constantly cover up your feet. I mean, you didn’t see Frodo asking for shoes on his way to Mordor. All that dude got was some fucking magic bread and a free ride home thanks to a deux ex machina. Ghandi didn’t have shoes either and that dude was a boss. Jesus had half shoes, cause he wore sandals everywhere, but he still washed the feet of his disciples, so that’s one extra point for me.

That last point doesn’t make me some weird foot fetish person either. Feet are not sexual, I just think we need to loosen the toes more often. You know, just let it all hang out there. People get so self concious about this shit. Maybe we would all have better self-image and self-confidence, if we rocked out without our socks out. I mean, have you seen how hot it has been lately. With my feet in shoes at work it’s oppressive. The sweat and heat that comes off my feet at the end of day when I can finally take my slave shackles would make the lady Madonna weap.

Free the feet is what I say, and damn you all to hell if you think otherwise. All those out there that support my cause, go you, you my friend are winning at life. Except hippies – all you hippies can fuck off. I just want people to stop telling me what I should or shouldn’t be wearing on my feet, and I don’t think its eccentric to not wear something aux pieds. If anything it’s liberating and I wish more of us out there had the wherewithall to be free.

Robotic Angels of Death

The robots are coming and there is no hope for you. The automation of the workplace is set to accelerate even faster in the years to come as the world rests at the brink of a fourth industrial revolution. But, AI isn’t just coming for your job, they are also an existential threat.

As it is 6% of jobs will be lost to AI by 2021. One estimate notes a risk of up to 47% of all jobs being lost to AI.[1] This is a threat to our current social model, a model that is based on people holding jobs and creating growth. Governments recognize this. So, what are doing about it?

From the perspective of assessing the greatest danger. Nothing. If anything, they are currently exacerbating it. The greatest threat to mankind is itself. Humans have shown a consistent tendency for self-destruction. The world wars in the first half of the twenieth century are case in point. When it comes to the integration of AI to warfare, governments have given themselves free reign which everyday people are blissfully unaware of, or otherwise cynically acceptive of.

The European Commissions’ recent response to the threat of AI came in April with the release of a Communication on Artificial Intelligence. A Communication is a document that sets out how the European Commission is considering a given topic and has a basic soft-law effect. Conspicuously absent is the topic of AI and warfare.

The topics they choose to focus on are (i) the effect AI will have on the workplace, (ii) how to boost funding of AI technologies in Europe, and (iii) the ethics of AI. This last topic is perhaps with most interesting because even as the EU would like to consider the ethics of AI they do not want to discuss the use of AI in warfare.

Governments are deafeningly silent on the issue of AI being integrated into weapons systems and this should give a cause for concern.

It has often been remarked that it is expenditure in warfare that has advanced technology the most. According to this idea, technology initially developed to kill others is later found to have a conventional use that creates benefit for people. Nuclear energy is a good example of this. Beginning in 1942, the Manhattan Project’s goal was to develop a nuclear weapon before the Nazi’s as means to swiftly end the war with Germany. As it turns out this goal was not quite achieved, since the end product was used to end the war with Japan. Nowadays, 510 nuclear reactors around the world provide us with some of the most efficient and ‘clean’ sources of energy. But let’s not forget 226,000 people died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki thanks to this.

Recently, Google employees forced the company to deny renewing a contract with the US Department of Defense to build an AI system. Many lamented the fact that one of the world’s largest technology giants turned down an opportunity to help the US government advance its military capabilities. Others thought this act by the employees was commendable. What it demonstrates though is that the military is looking to use AI in their weapons systems.

It would be cynical or naive to think the military was not already looking at way to use AI systems with their weapons. Having a computer system aim a gun at someone is immensly more effecient than a human counterpart. Movies like The Terminator, and The Matrix and all to comfortably close to reality these days, when they were once thought a distant fantasy.

Our ability to engineer new technologies and realities for ourselves will never cease to amaze me, and for the negativity of this article, there is a part of me that also thinks everything will just work out. Maybe we are reaching the singlularity. Honestly, if AI is going to take over the world because it transcends human control and locks us all in the Matrix. I probably be down with that, I’d just want it to be cool; like I’d want to be able to have the powers that Neo does. Alas, I digress.

AI is coming for you, and it ain’t just for your job. Ultimately it will have many conventional uses that will make our lives as consumers better. But it will be used by the military to rain down death and destruction on us as humans. So run an hide, and for god sakes stop using social media so much.

[1] https://www.iotforall.com/impact-of-artificial-intelligence-job-losses/

The Social Contract

The 4th of July gives us time to reflect on the age-old question, do people have the right to self-determination? Many have opposed this idea, and continue to do so even today. But liberal thinkers such as Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau give us cause to think that perhaps we do. Indeed, Locke, Rousseau and other such contemporary thinkers were influential for the American founding fathers when they drafted the American Declaration of Independence in 1776. A reading of Locke in particular suggests that there is in fact a right for all peoples to be able to self-determine their government which entails the right to secede from a pre-established order.

From as far back as Plato and Aristotle, humankind has continually asked how to organise itself. For Aristotle, this question was fundamental to human existence – hence he defined humans as ‘political animals’ and so, according to Aristotle, it is within our nature as humans to organise ourselves into political communities. Writing much later but in constant reference to Plato and Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau also attempted to answer these same questions by using a philosophical construct known as the social contract. This has been a radically persuasive argument ever since, and the foundation for much of our modern political discourse.

The State of Nature

The social contract describes how humans move from the state of nature to form the political community. The state of nature is outside the political community. Hobbes illustrates this as “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” It’s a state of war against all, where humans have absolute license to do as they wish. The expression ‘nothing is forbidden, everything is permitted’ would aptly describe the state of nature to Hobbes. Everyone in the state of nature is equal.

Locke’s state of nature is different. Whereas Hobbes thinks it is a state of war against all, Locke thinks that because all are equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in their “life, health, liberty, or possessions”. For Locke, it is a law of nature that calls for the preservation of one’s “life, liberty health or goods” and when someone violates this natural law then there is a natural right in the state of nature to execute the law of nature and seek retribution, like for like. By violating the law of nature even in the state of nature the offender declares themself outside the bounds of reason and common equity,

Equality

Liberal thinkers all believe that humans are equal. This is an important departure from Plato and Aristotle who both agreed (but particularly the latter) that some are intended for slavery and others for freedom. Hobbes writes in chapter 13 of Leviathan that “nature hath made men so equal, in the faculties of body”. We also have an equal desire to attain the same things, which due to scarcity they cannot all enjoy. This creates conflict; and from conflict war. As equals all power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one has more power than another.

Freedom and Liberty in the State of Nature

In the state of nature, humankind is free to the greatest possible extent. Liberty in this sense is “the absence of external impediments […] to do what he would” (Leviathan, Chapter 14). It is a natural law that humans are free to do as their reasons determines because in the state of nature there is no one to stop us from doing so.

Locke describes the state of nature as follows: “the perfect freedom to order their actins and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature without asking leave or depending on the will of any other man”. In the state of nature, humankind is isolated from each other – a real Robinson Crusoe (as Rousseau put it), looking on the other in hostility. Locke adds though that the state of nature has some constraints. One is not free to dispose of their body (i.e. to commit suicide). The state of nature has a law of nature that governs it and obliges everyone (The Second Treatise of Government, Chapter 2).

Leaving the State of Nature

The state of nature is governed by certain rules of nature. The first law of nature for Hobbes is that humans naturally seek peace. The second, “that a man be willing, when others are so too, as far-forth as for peace and defence of himself he shall think it necessary […] and to be contented with so much liberty against other men, as he would all ow other men against himself. In this way, Hobbes is saying that reaching a state of peace requires reciprocity from all parties.

Leaving the state of nature is to set aside certain rights for the sake of peace. Agreeing to seek peace equally between parties is the initial contract. Importantly, it is a voluntary act. One cannot be compelled by force to give up their rights. Rousseau notes (On the Social Contract, Book I, chapter 3) that “force is a physical power [without] moral effect. To yield to force is an act of necessity, not of will…let us then that force does not create right.”

And so for the sake of peace humankind agrees one among another equally that they shall lay down their rights to pursue war. This forms the basis of the social contract. As Rousseau (On the Social Contract Book I chapter 6) formulates it:

“These clauses, properly understood, may be reduced to one – the total alienation of each associate, together with all his rights to the whole community, for, in the first place, as each gives himself absolutely, the conditions are the same for all; and, this being so, no one has any interest in making them burdensome to others”

Creating the Political Community

Hobbes say that the end or purpose of the political community is the preservation of the self and to exit the state of nature. It cannot be a state where the individuals would be worse off than if they had stayed in the state of nature, otherwise the parties would not agree to leave the state of nature. As noted above, the conditions of the contract are to apply universally and to not favour one over another, and I only give up only so much of my power as I would have another have over me.

In the state of nature, we each are executors of the law of nature. But since none of us are omnipotent, and all of us have a subjective reality one of the most important aspects of the social contract is that disputes between parties should be adjudicated by a third party who can apply the collectively agreed upon laws. Thus, by entering the political community, we give up our right to seek retribution when another violate the law of nature.

This alienation of one’s rights to the other parties in the form of the political community creates political power. Political power is the “right of making laws with penalties of death, and consequently all less penalties, for the regulating and preserving of property, and of employing the force of the community in the execution of the laws, and in the defence of the commonwealth from foreign injury and all this only for the public good” (The Second Treatise of Government, Chapter 1).

Hobbes writes that “covenants, without the sword, are but words, and of no strength to secure a man at all.” This is an important distinction between Hobbes and other liberal thinkers because Hobbes believes that humankind is naturally vicious (in the sense that they will always tend towards vice if left alone) and therefore, for the sake of peace, the community needs a superior being, a Leviathan, to enforce the peace in the community. Hobbes observed, as Aristotle had before him, that some animals such as ants and bees live in societies without a coercive power. The difference between these animals however is that humans are, firstly, in constant competition for honour and dignity and thus, inversely, envious and hateful towards others, and secondly, the common good is identical to private good whereas for humans, the two are distinct from one another.

The political community therefore is for the sake of preserving the life, liberty, property and health of its members. Each of the members agrees to give up some of the liberty in order to live in peace with one another. Investing the community with political power arises from the transference of that natural right to seek retribution on those who violate the law of nature. The aggregation of this right is in turn executed by the community on those who seek to harm it, whether these be foreign powers, or members of the community who act outside of the laws of nature.

The Right to Self-Determination

From the above account it follows that individual have the right to self-determine their choice of government. This can be done peacefully, qua ritualistically, via free and fair elections, or they may do so violently, by overthrowing the government if the government is deemed to have acted in violation of the natural law.

It is notable that, all but Hobbes agreed that democracy was the best form of government for this reason. The fact that one voluntarily gives up their rights in order to join the political community suggests that one is free to also retract the transference of those rights and thereby return to the state of nature.

It remains to be seen then, if once agreed, a social contract can be dissolved. On this point, Locke and Rousseau are silent. Hobbes’ answer is as outlined above. That once transferred is cannot be given back and the sovereign has the right to enforce the peace of the commonwealth. Locke and Rousseau, who were both more liberal in their beliefs do not account for situations when a group of a society wishes to secede from a commonwealth.

The American Experiment

With that said we do know that the founding father of the United States were heavily influenced by the likes of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau. The founding fathers used language directly taken from Locke’s Second Treatise of Government to justify their secession from England. It is no mistake that the opening phrase of the American Declaration of Independence reads as if Locke had written it himself,

“we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The founding fathers then go to list of the grievances against King George and reason why they were to wage war against him. It is perhaps the most famous case for the self-determination of a group of people. The Founding Fathers clearly saw that the social contract had been violated by King George, just as the English Parliament had in 1649 when they cut the head off Charles I.

The power of American experiment on political discourse ever since cannot be understated enough. It has determined the course of history ever since its inception and helped to inspire other revolutions around the world at the time, and afterwards, most notably the French Revolution.

Modern Times

In the 21st century, despite its enduring influence, the social contract and the right to determination do not maintain the same ideological place it once had. This has been due in part to the rise of Communism beginning in the 19th century which offered an alternative to liberal principles. Since the American revolution we have seen the rise and fall of fascism and communism and growth of modern capitalism on the back of four industrial revolutions. This is a different world to the one of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau. But this shouldn’t mean that the power of their ideas should have any less relevance for us.

Reading List

(the links will take you to pdfs of the texts)

 

Aristotle, The Politics

Jean=Jacques Rousseau, On the Social Contract

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

John Locke, The Second Treatise of Government

Did Socrates Exist? – Yes you idiot

So, I recently had a prolonged argument with someone over, of all things, the existence of Socrates. This person claimed, in short, that there is no proof that Socrates existed. What follows herein outlines why we can be pretty sure that Socrates, the man, indeed existed.

Since none of us alive today actually met Socrates (he has been dead for 2400 years) then we require evidence for his existence. We don’t have photos, nor video, nor any paintings. What we must rely on are written accounts because that is the only source that we have. Such evidence exists in abundance.

The most famous, and most immediate texts one thinks of when one mentions Socrates are the dialogues of Plato. A series of texts written by the student of Socrates, during the fourth century B.C. following the death of his teacher and mentor. Plato ‘s dialogues cast Socrates as the main character and some of the most dramatic pieces of Greek literature out there. The Apology of Socrates is perhaps the most famous trial in history, while the Republic has been described as “the most important book ever written”. Did Socrates believe everything that Plato put in his mouth – probably not. But this does not equate to saying he didn’t exist. Plato likely drew many ideas and principles from his mentor and teacher and combined them with his own.

Another lesser known text is Xenophon’s Memorabilia. Xenophon is better known as an historian, particularly for trying to replicate Thucydides in the Hellenica anf for his infamous book the Anabasis. The Memorabilia on the other hand is a lesser known work  but like Plato, casts Socrates as the main character. Like Plato, the setting is a dramatic one, Socrates is in conversation with interlocators. The ideas of Socrates however, are more or less ‘rudimentary’ than as they appear in Plato. There are some similarities, but what the picture we get from Xenophon, was that Socrates might have been a very different sort of person than how Plato depicts him.

In addition, others of Socrates’ students published Socratic dialogues. We have, for example, fragments from Aeschines of Sphetus. The other texts of Socrates’ students are unfortunately lost to us, but we know of them from later writers who likely had access to them and who give us details of what was contained in those texts. All these texts were written in the fourth century, after the death of Socrates in 399 B.C. In the vast majority of cases, Socrates is the main character and the focus of the text. Taken together, historians can reconstruct a historical biography of Socrates’ life and personality with a certain degree of accuracy. As a result, we can be certain that the claim that Socrates, the man, existed is probably a true.

The best source, despite the above evidence, would be a contemporaneous piece of evidence to when Socrates was alive. Luckily, we have Aristophanes’ Clouds, which was staged in 423 B.C. and in which Socrates is the main character. Aristophanes lampoons Socrates for running a ‘thinkery’ (phrontizerion).

We also have the indirect evidence for Socrates that we can cross=reference with other sources. For example, Socrates in the Apology notes that he served the city well and was congratulated by his peers for his displays of heroism at the battle of Delium in 424 B.C. We can be fairly sure that Delium was an historical event because Thucydides (another contemporary of Socrates) describes the battle in his History of the Peloponnesian War (4.23). By cross=referencing events related to Socrates’ life, we further build up a clearer picture of Socrates’ life.

Just because he never wrote anything does not mean he didn’t exist!

Yet, Socrates never wrote any text himself. This however does not mean he did not exist, it just means he never wrote anything down. We learn from Plato that Socrates did not think that real knowledge could be transferred through books, but through the dialectical method, by which it was thought that one could reach the truth of a given topic through a series of questions and answers. Indeed, this idea casts some doubt as to the purpose of Plato’s dialogues and suggests the reason why Platonic doctrines in the dialogues are elaborated inconsistently. That aside, the fact that Socrates’ ideas are inconsistent, or that he never wrote anything himself, does not mean he never existed.

On the other hand, what is true is that the portrayal of Socrates is inconsistent from one text to another. This merely suggests that Plato and Xenophon use the caricature of Socrates differently to serve different purposes in their respective texts. One of the consistent images of Socrates, however, is that he was a particularly unattractive person. We often hear Socrates degrading himself in Plato’s dialogues, and Aristophanes in the Clouds depicts Socrates as ugly.

I am perfectly happy to sit down with anyone to discuss the ideas of Socrates and how he differs in his portrayal between Plato and Xenophon for example. Having to sit through a conversation with someone who thinks the person didn’t exist however is ludicrous and a waste of time. Socrates was a dude who lived in Athens 2400 years ago. He was a bit of dick according to the Athenians so they tried him and passed sentence against him. He committed suicide with hemlock, and he was probably one of the most important thinkers in Western history.

 

Here is a list of useful links that will take you to some of the books mentioned above so that you can see for yourself that Socrates mostly likely existed.

Plato

Xenophon, Memorabilia

Aristophanes, The Clouds

Aeschines of Sphetus

Thucydides

 

Faux-Feminists Undermining Women’s Issues

International Women’s Day was last week, and quite rightly many people were out in full voice about the importance of women’s rights. Important for me however is that we emphasise these issues as human issues that affect all people. We all have a stake in this.

But articles such as this one from Broadly underscore why people in droves are leaving the left and moving into not-giving-a-fucks-ville. The article entitled ‘100 Easy Ways to Make Women’s Lives More Bearable’ makes light of very serious issues that affect women gloablly, by entriely neglecting to mention them and instead choosing to focus on faux-feminist tidbits for middle-class westerners to enjoy in the echo-chamber.

And while one can spin some intersectional argument that sexism and racism is different in differnt contexts, but that all of these are due to white male supremacy over the world, the fact that in a list of 100 issues to make life bearable, none of these very real problems are given a mention suggests that faux-feminists are actually becoming a part of the problem rather than the solution. It’s time that this garbarge journalism ends, for the sake of humanity, and honeslty, for the sake of my sanity as well because I am sick of having to bang my head against the wall reading this rubbish.

I will leave readers to check out the article from Broadly by themselve. Below I’ll give a short list of the issues (with no particular level of preference given to any of them) that I think affecting women the most around the world.

  1. Female gential mutilation (FGM):  The WHO estimates (2016) that 200 million women living today in 30 countries have undergone the procedure which involves the ritual cutting or removal of some or all of the external female genitalia. This is a very serious issue that leaders around the world and international organisations should be paying more attention to on international women’s day, but did not get a mention in the aforementioned article.
  2. Honour killings: also known as ‘shame’ killings whereby the member of a family (most commonly a women) is the victim of a homicide due to the perpetrators’ belief that the victim has brought shame or dishonor upon the family. According tothe WHO, an estimated 5000 women are murdered each year as a result of this cultural practice. Again, another issue that should be higher on any decent human beings list which is conspiciously absent from this one.
  3. Working conditions in the textiles industry in developing nations such as India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. In Bangladesh the garment industry is the principal export earner (Bajaj, 1999). Meanwhile in India three cities have emerged as key nodes of the textile industry in India accounting for nearly 60% of garment exports from Inida. Importantly, major foreign brands such as H&M, GAP, Next, Marks and Spencersm Nike, Addidas and Puma increasingly source their garments from these nodes (Ganguly, 2013) which in many cases pay starvation wages to their workers while forcing them to work long hours in squalid conditions.
  4. Access to education: accordint to UNESCO 31 million girls in the world do not attend primary school of which 17 million are never expected to attend. Two-thirds of the 774 million illiterate people in the world are female. There are a plethora of reasons why this is a far more important issue than anything on the 100 things cited by Broadly.
    • Educated women are less likely to die in childbirth: If all mothers completed primary education, maternal deaths would be reduced by two-thirds, saving 98,000 lives
    • In sub-Saharan Africa, if all women completed primary education, maternal deaths would be reduced by 70%, saving almost 50,000 lives.
    • If all women had a primary education, there would be 15% fewer child deaths.
    • If all women had a secondary education, child deaths would be cut in half, saving 3 million lives.
    • If all women had a primary education, 1.7 million children would be saved from stunting from malnutrition.
    • If all women had a secondary education, 12 million children would be saved from stunting from malnutrition
    • Girls with higher levels of education are less likely to have children at an early age. 10% fewer girls would become pregnant under 17 years in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia if they all had a primary education
    • Almost 60% fewer girls would become pregnant under 17 years in sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia if they all had a secondary education.
    • In sub-Saharan Africa, women with no education have 6.7 births, on average. The figure falls to 5.8 for those with primary education and more than halves, to 3.9, for those with secondary education.
    • Girls with higher levels of education are less likely to get married at an early age
    • If all girls had a primary education, there would be 14% fewer child marriages. If all girls had a secondary education, there would be two-thirds fewer child marriages
    • In Pakistan, women with a primary education earn 51% what men earn. With a secondary education, they earn 70% what men earn. In Jordan, women with a primary education earn 53% what men earn. With a secondary education, they earn 67% what men earn
    • In Brazil, only 37% of women with less than primary education are in work. This rises to 50% if they have a primary education, and 60% with a secondary education

You could implement every single thing on Broadly’s list and the world would still be a fucked up place. If the world could rectify any of the problems I have outlined above the world would immediately be a better place for not only women, but everyone.

These faux-feminists are nefarious in the subtle ways in which they smuggly hold the moral highground while offering out victimhood tidbits for their audiences. This is not to say that everything is rosy and good in the developed world, but its disgusting to me that not one of these issues is raised on a list of “100 Easy Ways to Make Women’s Lives More Bearable”.

As the left collapses around the world we can only point the finger at people like this, because these people don’t actually care about others – they care first and foremost about themselves and making sure they are safe and secure. These are the sorts of people that voted for Hillary Clinton, and trash on politicians who want to actually do good in the world. People like this make right-wingers’ jobs easier because moderates and swing-voters read rubbish like,

“30. It’s General Leia, not princess. The Doctor has a companion, not an assistant. It’s Doctor Bartlett, not Mrs Madame First Lady”

People are sick of this shit. Fuck off, because your making the work of others who are trying to makes women’s lives better globally more difficult. Without publuc support, international aid drops off, which we recently saw when Trump pulled funding from the UN in December. Had a decent leader been in place they would not have allowed this situation to arise. You could remark, well Trump is a man after all. Yeah, but so is Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron and you don’t see them cutting funding for women’s programs. Trump is a man, but he is also a sack of shit (that is to say, Trump is a man, and a sack of shit ≠ Trump is a sack of shit because he is man).

My conclusions from this is that these faux-feminists who enjoy their cheap clothing, comprehensive education, rule of law, and sane cultural practices need to “check their privilage”. Next time you see someone construct a list of the 100 things we could do to make the world better for women, if you don’t see issues such as the ones I outlined above, ignore what that person has to say because they don’t actually care about others.

 

**disclaimer: while I may lambast the author of the article, I fully admit that on a day to day basis I do very little towards the advancement of humanity. With that said, I don’t manufacture bullshit lists on INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY in order to generate clicks for advertising revenue from companies that support the industries that are destorying the planet**

European Colonial Mindsets

I experienced some first-class racism this week that has finally led me to the conclusion that Europeans[1] might actually have an inability to reflect objectively on their behaviour. It was the fact that these people didn’t even realise they were being racist that really got under my skin. For the record dickheads, New Zealanders are not monkeys, we don’t look like monkeys, nor do we even act like monkeys.

But yay Europe because collectively they are the largest givers of humanitarian aid in the world. Not only that, Europe is a beacon of hope for oppressed peoples around the globe because the EU is a steadfast promoter of democracy and human rights. The importance Europe attributes to this is recognised by the various Directorate-Generals in the European Commission. For example, the EU budget of the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) amounts to approximately €1 billion per year.[2] Sounds great. And this is just the budget for ECHO. There are a whole host of other DGs within the European Commission that involve themselves in ‘international development’.

But can we just be honest with ourselves, and drop this charade so the EU can just roll the various programs into one department and rename it DG NCOL – the Directorate-General for Neo-Colonialism. A name fitting for an institution that has so successfully propagated colonialism in the 21st century.

It’s not because you decide to drop a cement truck of cash into humanitarian aid that you can just elide over your colonial history. Has Europe really shed the shackles of white man’s burden? The tactics might have changed, but the fundamental ideology remains – people from outside of Europe are uncivilised. And in areas we once considered our play things, to divide up and artificially create borders, these are now areas where we can dump cash in exchange for forcing through reforms so that the society looks more European in structure all while we tell ourselves that we are good people. The colonial mindset is still strong, and Europe is a continent of smug, racist, hypocrites.

So, my lunchtime experience of open racism which occurs every time I mention the All Blacks, is just the tip of the iceberg of a far greater problem within the European political establishment. You think you are so much better than the rest of the world, but you seem to forget it was you who gave birth to facism and communism, two regimes that killed tens of millions of people. It is you who committed genocide in continents around the world for hundreds of years. The European Union is about sharing responsibility and coming together to tackle problems that individual states would otherwise be unable to do themselves. You have only managed to spread your colonial bias among one another.

Its time Europe wakes up to the fact that it is not the solution, it’s the problem. Your claim to be the greatest giver of aid pales in comparison to the budgets Member States direct towards military spending. In 2016, European NATO countries spend €202 billion on military expenditures.[3] But hey, we really support migrants and refugees! Look how nice we treat them as we drop bombs and the agents of death over their countries.

But what would I know, I’m just a kid with a European exterior who comes from an island of monkeys.

[1] I use the term Europeans because it was in Brussels, the unofficial de facto capital of the European Union where people from all 28 member states live and work. It also means I don’t single out any particular nationality – Europe shares a collective burden.

[2] http://ec.europa.eu/echo/funding-evaluations/funding-humanitarian-aid_en

https://euaidexplorer.ec.europa.eu/AidOverview.do

[3] NATO COMMUNIQUE PR/CP(2016)116. p. 4.

Same Old Politics

In June of last year I wrote on this blog that I think Trump would win the election. Talk about calling it! But since his election people have been parroting that same line that he is shaping up to be the worst president in US history. Many comparisons are made to presidents in recent history, most notably, George Bush Jr. The truth is that this line of thinking is erroneous and stupid.

I think we often wonder what it was like to live in the past. It gives us a nice sense of nostalgia, the same sort of childish nostalgia we feel when we think back to our childhoods. One of my favourite authors, Leon Trotsky, wrote in the opening pages of his autobiography that this kind of nostalgia was mostly bullshit – for most children, childhood is an oppressive impoverishing experience. We benefit in the West from high living standards and so we can feel complacent about the realities of the world around us. So, when we think of politics in the past we should be mindful that there has never been a time when politics was seemingly ‘better’ than it is today.

We face many problems in contemporary society. The list of problems is long, and the solutions to them complicated. People want to be involved and lament that things were never this bad. They are right in the sense that, for example, the environment is turning to shit and society is doing little to fix that. But let’s not kid ourselves thinking that the outcome would be any different if we lived in another era of human history – afterall it was our predecessors who put us in this predicament. Politics is messy, it has always been messy, and it always will be messy. If you think politicians are bad now, they were just as bad before – at least we are not stabbing our politicians to death in the forum.

It might seem like our politicians are lacking a certain moral compass. When did they ever have one? George Bush invaded a country, killing thousands or civilians based on faulty, if not false, evidence. This is grotesquely more disgusting than Trump sending an incomprehensible mean tweet. All this talk of better times only means that shit politicians of the past look better than they really were.

Everyone needs a large dose of cynicism washed down with a tall glass of reality. Politicians are shit, and they always have been – stop pretending they were ever in any way good.

Let’s put some things into perspective. Last week the glorious leader emperor Trump declared via Twitter that transgender people would no longer be able to serve in the US army. That is to say, he banned 0.03% of the population from working in an institution whose goal is to kill and murder people. Now, I don’t agree with the policy at all, transgender people should be able to bear arms and kill as indiscriminately as their cis-gendered counterparts. Since the beginning of the US-led war in Iraq an estimated 500,000 people have been killed. Not all of these deaths were by Americans, but even so, trans people should be able to get in on the fun.

Let me be clear, I’m being facetious to make a point. People, including Trump, are concerning themselves with such minute problems that no one is even stopping to question and address issues that will affect everyone. So yeah, fuck Trump and his shitty policy, but fuck you all for thinking that its even okay to work for an organisation that specialises in art of death.

Here, ladies and gentlemen. is where we come to the heart of the matter. Unlike many among the elite I actually think society, in general, is very political. People want to have a say. The problem is that we are told repeatedly that they things that matter to us are not negotiable. It’s a President’s decision (with Congress) to go to war, not the people’s – except that it’s the people who bear the greatest brunt of its consequences.

So stop thinking we are living in a time of politics unlike any other. It has always been shit, and in many cases a lot worse. Trump tweets pale in comparison to the actions of other American presidents like James Buchanen or Andrew Johnson who were pro-slavery. Even FDR, one of the greatest American presidents, set up internment camps for American citizens of Japanese birth. The list of horrible politicians is far longer than the list of ‘good’ ones, and even the good ones weren’t even that good. Trump is a piece of shit, but maybe he will be so incompetent that nothing catastrphic will happen under his watch. Time will tell I guess.

The Capitalist Appropriation of Feminism

For the past 20 years or so feminism appears to have had two main goals. The first is for equal pay for the same work. The second is for more women to be in positions of power. A third stated aim to decrease the violence and sexual harassment is a third goal that shall not be examined here. The stated aim of feminism is for the advocacy of women on the basis of the equality of the sexes. Over the course of western history, women have been placed in an inferior position socially and economically to men. This has left them at a disadvantage. Feminists advocate therefore for more equality of the sexes in social and economic relations.

The underlying premise of feminism would seem to be that a more gender-equal society would be a more just society. If this is case, feminism in its current form will never result in situation in which society is meaningfully more just despite the equality of the sexes without changing the underlying economic system. The current capitalist economic system that pervades every part of our contemporary life means there will always be exploitation. Contemporary feminists’ aims to place more women in positions of power in political and corporate life means just trading the person holding the whip from a man to a woman.

The oppression and exploitation of women is a symptom of a much larger system of social and economic exploitation – Capitalism. One could treat the symptoms without ever curing the underlying disease. So while feminists fight for women to be on the same level as men in the workplace, at the end of the day, all groups, men, women, black, white, Asian, disabled and able bodied, gay, trans, and straight, all of us live in a system where we struggle to meet out an existence working for a cheque of exchange value at the end of the week or month, with which we can then spend on consumer goods we don’t even need to fill the gaping hole in ourselves where community and a sense of worth once existed. How’s that for a victim complex. We are all victims of a capitalist system.

We could consider also the historical example. Prior to WWII participation in the capitalist work place by women was very low. It was only at the outset of the war, when the men were shipped off to protect their local bourgeoisie from the overseas fascists that women were socially compelled to join the capitalist workplace, joining their male counterparts in the system of wage slavery. Before this they were one stepped removed from the alienating process of capitalist production. This is not to say this is good, or that they did not feel the effects. It just seems ironic that when we fast forward to today it is feminism clamouring to take an equal part in this exploitative system. Fundamentally, and I am probably wrong, but this is bad for both men and women in the long run. Equal pay in an unjust system is not the problem here, it’s the very premise of working in a system of wage slavery which is.

Feminism relies heavily upon Marxism for its theoretical basis. Where Marxists claim it’s the bourgeoisie who oppress workers, feminists claim it is the patriarchy that oppress women and is responsible for many of the world’s injustices. The lazy socialist within me sees the feminist claim not as accurate as the traditional Marxist one. Patriarchy theory isn’t about individuals, it’s about classes, groups. Men and women. Two classes organised into a hierarchy according to sex, with the male group above the female group. Men assumed to be deserving of more control, agency, political power, freedom, and deference than women, as a group. The traditional Marxist on the other hand claims, more accurately I believe, that the world is ordered according to classes and groups, those who own the means of production and those who don’t, it just so happens that those at the top are men. Underlying this structure is the material historicism which claims that change is effected by the conflict between these two classes. Replacing the bourgeoisie with women, I believe, will do nothing to solve the world’s ills.

Lilliane Bettencourt for example is the 11th richest person in the world and the world’s richest women. Thus, it is her who is responsible in large part for the exploitation of workers who mine the minerals used in L’Oréal’s products, and the disgusting animal testing that takes place, all so other women can buy products to make themselves feel beautiful. Gina Rinehart is another immensely wealthy billionaire women who commands immense power. Her lobbying in Australian politics has contributed to slashing of state budgets to help the most vulnerable, all the while receiving huge tax breaks. That isn’t the patriarchy doing this, is just capitalist exploitation.

The issue that troubles me the most is the social discourse surrounding Hillary Clinton. Clinton is using the language of feminism to make herself appear both, as a political outsider and progressive. This is a similar strategy used by Obama in 2008 when he used his rhetoric of change on the face of an African-American as his platform, equating himself by some measure, with the black civil rights in years gone. Neither of Clinton’s claims could be further from the truth. She quite literally spent eight years sleeping in the White House, the epicentre of politics in the United States. Afterwards she was a senator and then the secretary of state. By what definition does she mean she is an outsider? She claims she is an outsider because she is a female. Power like profit holds no qualms with who wields it and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This is not a claim that Hillary is a dictator or anything to that effect. My point is that Clinton cannot claim some moral exclusion on the basis she is a female.

Nor, has she demonstrated she is a progressive. Progressives have overwhelmingly voted for Sanders in the primaries who is running on a platform of free college, free healthcare, and regulation of rampant Wall Street capitalism. Clinton’s idea of progressive is tinkering around the edges. She does not want to touch Wall Street in any way. Recently she felt the political winds change and has come out in support of Sanders’ $15 minimum wage, where formally she supported just $12. She is still against a single payer healthcare system.

By using feminist rhetoric Clinton poses a threat to those who actually want systematic change to happen. She is not a candidate of change. She is through and through a candidate of the status quo. However, Clinton is a symptom of larger forces at work, an example of the existing capitalist order absorbing into its ranks dissidents in order to deliver little change and maintain its own power structure. While Clinton might occupy the halls of political power Hollywood is busy at work commercialising feminism, demonstrated best by the latest Ghostbusters film. It is not the four female leads that make that film terrible – it’s the terrible story, narrative structure, and film techniques which make it horrible. Sony, recognising how bad this film is, chose instead to market the film through the mass media as a feminist crusade. Profits don’t care about gender, and corporations like Song only care about their bottom line. Now that Hollywood has managed to commercialise feminism it means other companies will follow suit. Capitalism has begun to turn dissidence against itself, hijacking it to make a profit, and appropriating feminism into the current capitalist model rendering it inert. Together, the commercialisation of feminism, and the appropriation of feminist rhetoric into the halls of power marks a dangerous new mechanism by which the bourgeoisie can manipulate public opinion against their own self-interest.

Instead of pay disparity, what feminists should really fight for, in my opinion, is for all workers, including themselves, to control the means of production directly. This means creating more horizontal corporate structures of command in the workplace. This, would mean they would be on a more equal footing economically not just with their male counterparts, but with all of their peers, regardless of gender, working together to resolving issues. Politically, this also needs to happen. Having a women in the White House will do nothing to help the women’s cause, or alleviate any of the underlying problems faced by society. More horizontal power structures would also mean greater inclusion of marginalised groups, such as women, in the political decision making process.

I understand that people have different causes that they choose to support. Some people choose to advocate for the environment, some for animal rights, and some others for a more just and equal society. We all have different means of doing so. Some people have chosen gender equality to be theirs. I just feel for many out there, and this is just an opinion, they are fighting for a cause that fundamentally will not create the change they hope it will and is being turned against you. A greater and more corrosive evils exists out there in society that needs to be addressed.

With all that said, Hillary is the better of the bad candidates… #imwithher

Some sources I read but have no bearing whatsoever:

A feminist’s take on what’s wrong with feminism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falsifiability

https://www.solidarity-us.org/node/4390

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/julia-sharpelevine/why-hillary-clinton-is-in_b_9720154.html

Hillary Clinton and the Feminism of Exclusion

https://www.versobooks.com/books/2121-false-choices

Marx, the Communist Manifesto,