Monday, February 14, 2011
For the lionshare of the last 30 years or so there has been a systematic suspicion of leaders, especially when they take a stance with regard to what they think is right to do in the interest of the public. politicians in the modern age have found hard to lead there countries as their policies before even put forward in legislation are seriously questioned and torn apart. in this age the politician that captured the imaginations of the public articulating a future just little bit better than the present state of affairs would find himself mocked constantly by commentators and ignored by the public.
Politics has always been the ideal realm of the pragmatist however the greatest changes in politics have been instigated by idealist prepared to see things in simplistic moral terms. politicians hardly ever take con the public especially when such course of action is required. Barack Obama presidency serves up plenty of examples of why politics in this age of paranoia with regard to those in power, is comically ineffective. when Barack Obama proposed reform to healthcare to the public,a section of which who dont think he is qualified to be president based on his fake birth certificate, the response of ihis opposition party and the public was one of unmitigated paranoia. Republicans were shouting from the rooftops about 'death panels' where government officials will make life and death decisions by committee and a confused but numerous mob holding posters of a joker-faced Obama shouting at the top of their lungs of Obama's credentials as the next Hitler.
Obama was forced to compromise on many of the key tenets of his original proposal in order to pass the bill in congress with nobody, including his own party, satisfied. This paranoia comes from many sources however in analyzing this phenomena two factors stand out, firstly, the lack of a clear definition over what is the end of politics, which has always been damaging to politics, and secondly, the corrupt acts of politicians in the first place. The lack of a clear of definition of what politics is leads to key question over the legitimacy of the politician's powerful position with regards to fate of the citizen and the nation. inequalities in the wider society do not help such matters as many of the politicians in the modern age emanate from privileged or middle class backgrounds, a clear example being those who hold the most powerful position in British politics are all publically educated, some of which came into office as millionaires.
With this knowledge, commentators in the media and members of the public at large are subject to the logic how can a politician be serving my interests if my interests are not his? This is why calls of elitism, many of them justified, is prevalent in the culture political criticism, ever questioning the efficacy of politicians, placing a critical eye on issues that never seem to attenuate or disappear with the political process at the centre many criticisms of what's in the way of change. The lack of defintion of what politics is in an age where very few hold onto the ideologies of the past (or at least without a razor sharp critical eye) which shaped definitions of politics, the meaning and the telos of politics has come to become irrelevant with it despite this being very important.
However, what Politicians cannot argue is that the skepticism shown by the media and the wider public towards them is not justified. The paranoia of media commentators and the public with regard to Politicans has come in a age when the folly of politicians makes good for front page headlines , uber-critical documentaries, dramas and comedies readily consumed by the public with both actors becoming distrustful of politicians. This is exacerbated by the enormous democratization of information once controlled by the state now open for scrutiny by a public looking for mistakes and contradictions between the facts and political narrative. The widely perceived cosy relationship between politicians and other centers of power, particularly members of the financial world is supported by well researched exposes of political corruption via the allocation of campaigns funds for political favors and the actions of politicians and members of the financial world during the (still ongoing) financial crisis.
The expenses scandal in Britain is the ultimate example of politicians vindicating the well earned distrust of the public as politicians help deepen the already well anchored belief that politician are nothing but well dressed 'crooks and thieves'. The fallout of the expenses continues as members of parliament have come under investigation, some facing time in prison. The social contract between the public and politicians has never been weaker as politicians have very few answers to the concerns of the public and if they do they have to earn the trust of an public unwilling to give it. In sum, the politics of paranoia will not weaken but get stronger in an age where politicians have no hiding place with their faults clear for all to see, analyzed by commentators with more avenues for attack than ever and a public defined by their distrust for anyone in authority.
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Pro democracy supporters in liberation square in Cairo are celebrating the departure of Mubarak, Egypt's leader for the last three decades with an 'doctorate in stubbornness'. on the 9th of february, Mubarak frustrated and angered many more as he proved the recurring truism (especially on these pages) that nationalism is the last retreat for the politicians fresh out of ideas with his speech which was expected to be his announcement of his resignation. However, the following day Mubarak left his post as president of egypt devolving all his powers to his vice president, former ally and former head of the secret police, Omar Suleiman.
While the departure of Hosni Mubarak is cause for celebration, a closer appraisal of the situation in Egypt may prove a cause for concern. Suleiman has already cited concerns over the possibility of a coup, if this is so, the military is the only player organized and admired by the average Egyptians to pull it off. However, it can be argued that such fears are unnecessary as Suleiman, a man with a strong military past, appears to be the army's main candidate if the military was ever to back a political candidate in any democratic Egyptian election in the future.
He was tipped by many to be the successor to the Mubarak regime following the post-Nasser trend of Egyptian presidents with strong military backgrounds due to his close relationship with Mubarak , which, surprisingly, has not hurt him as much as expected. The military, throughout the events of the last few weeks seemed to be waiting to see how this would play out before they made their move, purposely not attacking the pro-democracy protesters , though not intervening when the the protesters were attacked by pro-Mubarak forces briefly returning Egypt to a state of nature with both sides retreating to the biblical weaponry of stones and hopeful aim.
The military remains the most powerful and well financed institution in Egypt with just under a half a million members and maintains favor with the Egyptian public. If there's to a renegotiation of the social contract military has a very powerful bargaining position in its drafting. The Pro-democracy protestors must get a seat at the bargaining table if there is to be a complete revolution and not cosmetic changes to be slowly stripped away through the use trojan horse legislation. In sum, Egypt transformation not valid and functioning democracy is only at it's early stages and the success of it relies on the pro-democratic movement to make it's self, as it has for the last few weeks, a force to be reckoned with as the struggle for democracy has only begun.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
"Dont complain about your boss, be your own boss"
(Nick Clegg, quoted in The Guardian, 10/02/11)
Nick was quoted in the Guardian using the same type of logic you would find in the speeches of a conservative republican rally which goes to show who really won in the deal to form the coalition Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Since the deal in may 2010 was made the Lib Dems have withstood a barrage of criticism, the first of which is the undemocratic position the Lib Dems found themselves due to the election results having to between the conservatives and the Labour Party. Political commentators in the media were talking of the Lib Dems being 'kingmakers' while there was one choice they might have benefitted more from than the deal they actually , let the conservatives become a minority government which would ensured another election.
However the deal the Liberals and the Conservatives did agree to had commentators immediately questioning it as the Lib Dems managed to secure a handful of jobs in government, the one of note belonging to Lib Dems' party leader Nick Clegg as deputy prime minister. The jobs filled by the Lib Dems were largely departments jobs or jobs where the Lib Dems would have to publicly defend the unpopular policies of the conservatives such as Nick Clegg as deputy prime minister openly having to defend conservative spending cuts in the Commons while David Cameron was away due to foreign commitments or Vince Cable as Business secretary having to defend conservatives favorable standing with regards to the business community. It was not tool long before commentators were making jokes about the Lib Dems once being the 'kingmakers' now were merely 'teamakers'.
Now the 'teamaker' quip seems to be holding as a political fact as the Lib Dems have ensured the passage of conservative policies and due to the positions held, mostly those that wield responsibility than power, have to defend them. During the Student Protest of late 2010, the Lib Dems were the aim of much of the criticism posed by the students as many of them cited their vote for the Lib Dems and their anger over the public betrayal by the Liberal democrats of their 13 years stance on abolishing tuition fees.
The Lib Dems, save a party wide change in position, face a long time in the political wilderness with student base unable to trust them and older voters outright rebelling against front-benchers public defense of conservative trademark policies, the Lib Dems look set to lose heavily in the next local elections. However, if voters vote strategically, the Lib Dems can gain seats as the Lib Dems will have more reason to question and vote against the proposed policies of the Conservatives. However this is a very unlikely occurrence as the Conservatives are seen as being accomplices in the Conservatives sure and steady program of cuts. In sum, unless the Lib Dems can hold the Conservatives to some form of account in their unpopular cuts program the Lib Dems face political future on the back-burner of British politics.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
David Cameron's speech regarding multiculturalism addresses the concern over the lack of common identity among British citizens with respect to values. Cameron targets the flaws of multiculturalism in relation to the overt focus on the toleration of the cultural and personal identity of individuals belonging to minority groups to the detriment of national identity and thus national 'belonging'. however in his attempt to point out the flaws of multiculturalism, Cameron exposes the flaws in his own argument.
Cameron's focus on certain groups values trumping those of the nation fails to understand that other cultural values may be held deeper than those of the host nation and thus multiculturalism serves as a method in which can recognize these values and also establish commitments to the value of the wider community. this will never be achieved by the use of 'muscular liberalism' advocated by cameron which substitutes the complicated but steady toleration of others associated with multiculturalism with the onset of programs to foster a version of national egoism where one must assume the values and the common identity provided by the nation at the expense of personal identity.
With toleration being a key tenet of liberalism the advocation of Cameron brand of 'muscular liberalism' may in terms of policy appear to be bullying by the state with regard to certain group of citizens to accept values they do not naturally hold yet pose no threat to the state. Cameron's mention of individuals having to learn the language, while a valid point will also in terms of policy result in political bullying which might link to the immigration debate, the most divisive debate in British political discourse.Cameron's argument merely represents the nationalist arguments of 'social cohesion' through 'common identity' fostered through the recognition of common values such human rights freedom and democracy but what cameron does not recognize that the values of the state are meaningless if the personal identities of citizens are not in turn deemed with the same esteem.
While all citizens benefit from the high esteem in which human rights, freedom and democracy are held in British political culture, the expense for recognition of minority groups seems to be a abandonment of already existing loyalties, a sacrifice many are not prepared to make for the sake of 'social cohesion'. conversely, cameron attacking such deeply held loyalties only serves to intensify the individuals bond with his or hers personal identity, feeling there identity to be under threat with the state enforcing it's own form of identity without any mediation.
What seems to be missing is not certain groups of citizens willing negation or lack of recognition of the cornerstones of British political culture, but the state's attitude towards the personal identity of citizens, particularly if the state perceives certain identities to pose a threat to the political community as a whole. The solution, or at least a start, is the mediation of British identity with individuals already-existing identities through dialogue that escape the 'tit for tat' clashes between the political parties. This process has never really taken place in Britain despite various discussions about it taking course with the need for it to happen has not until the september 11 and 7/7 attacks been deemed as necessary.
However, the 'like it or lump it' rhetoric (with regard to british identity and values) espoused by conservative commentators and politicians serves as no substitute for reasoned dialogue between relevant groups on the fate the multicultural patchwork of Britain. in sum, David Cameron speech did make some valid points with respect to recognition and representation of minority groups but his solution for the flaws of multiculturalism exacerbate, and may even worsen the problems as personal identities are not akin to political identities due to political identities socially constructed nature.
Monday, February 7, 2011
Wikileaks, founded by Julian Assange, has for the last two years provided plenty of headlines and embarrassing as well as tragic videos (see previous blog) and documents, revealing the true nature and opinions of key players and events in international politics.While it can argued that this serves as a good on the behalf of the global public with leaders and state officials held to account with new facts, but does it help states craft a better stable world with the needed sphere of the informal where state officials can freely express their opinion under constant threat?
The informal meeting between state leaders and other state officials has been the basis of discussion for war and peace for the majority of the modern age where leaders were to undertake decision outside the formal arena of state summits and conferences.The informal sphere in politics is important as formal settings negotiations lines are clearly drawn across state interests and the negotiation becomes a competition over who can concede the least to the other. in Informal discussion, politicians can grasp the subjective preferences of his opposite number in a setting where leaders are not under pressure, overly-conscious of the prospect leaks and fearful of making concessions that would be deemed unpopular to the wider public.
The democratization of information through expanding the means in which to access it should be seen as a good but the consequences of this good means that leaders, in the glare of the public, cannot effectively broker deals . The secrecy of negotiations or talks between state officials facilitates rather hinder discussion as leaders are held to account by different mechanisms, some by the popular will, some by the politburo. secrecy can buy a leader time to reason secretly with his fellow negotiators and plan for problems ahead rather than have one's intentions splattered all over the front pages before anything is agreed.
Wikileaks relies on the information of others as Wikileaks is essentially a publishing tool for whistleblowers but what wikileaks cannot do, because of its main function as a facilitator, is disseminate motive. In sum Wikileaks does open the informal sphere this can have a negative effect on the state of current affairs as the lack of secrecy means planning on the behalf state leaders and officials could lead to more global instability which can consequences for all, that being, citizens.
For the past two years Wikileaks has been constant thorn in the side of states revealing sensitive information regarding various states foreign policy from secret videos depicting cold blooded murder of innocents to embarrassing documents revealing the dichotomy between what is said and what is thought by state leaders and other key players in foreign policy. If Wikileaks has done anything, it has made the job of state leaders, and more directly the job of the diplomat, more torturous than it would be it if it didnt exist. Wikileaks has exceeded where 'old media' has largely failed, it has actually posed a challenge by making it difficult for those in power to create narratives in order to frame debate.
In the past, states had a iron grip over the flow of information the citizens would be exposed to, this would be useful in war time as the control of media sources, coupled with patriotic nature of the public at large, would ensure very few leaks and very few embarrassing revelations regarding state policy. However after world war two and more remarkably during the vietnam war, this control of the flow of information in relation to state policy dramatically weakened with famous leaks exposing the systematic violence of american troops and the long term trajectory of state policy in regional centers, making pariahs, and later heroes, of Daniel Ellsberg and Seymour Hersh.
Vietnam was the first war where the state could not control the flow of information regarding the public and the wider world as state policy was not only a question of politics but of culture. this context ensured that the vietnam war was the first war where citizens across the globe protested the actions of states in war as media reports and visuals of american troops and the vietnamese bloodied and deceased reaching the mass audience shattered illusions associated with World War Two of the 'good war', bringing home the bloody nature of war. this can explain the trend through the preceding years of the increase in the lack of trust of state in regards to foreign and domestic policy confirmed by numerous scandals, the watergate scandal being most prominent.
through the 80's and 90's, changes in how information is received and thus how it is accessed within two decades democratized the dissemination of information forever with release of the personal computer and the discovery of the internet for mass consumption. Now in our current age those in power have watch every utterance of opinion on state policy as the reverence once given to state officials no longer exist as the politics of future in which politicians proposed a picture of what society could be as the modern politician is much more practical, and as a by-product, that more untrustworthy. Wikileaks , represents the spirit that still resides from vietnam in relation to states and their foreign policy.
The narratives offered by state officials, with the onset of 'transparency' programs offered by governments via the internet, can be countered with facts and figures that reveals it as false. Misconceptions of the public regarding the state of international politics can be corrected by a simple click of a mouse, the information revealed can lead to movements that advocate change in the current state of affairs, in short, Wikileaks offer the citizen, on a global scale, the means in which to hold power to account.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Politics can and does suck because politics is quite simply about power which makes inevitable the realization of Christopher hill's observation of international politics (this applies to national politics, may be even more so) being a marketplace, full of players of ranging significance, where 'power is the main currency in which these player deal'. assuming this outlook on international politics is true, this can explain all politics as those lacking in currency of politics in the postmodern global economy (workers, trade unions, students, the middle class, particularly the lower middle class, small business owners) are subject to those who have a high currency (Bankers, Industrialists, Multinational corporations).
In this context conflict is inevitable as a broad based movement, forged in solidarity (excuse my marx!) becomes the only weapon of those with no political currency.History is abound with instances of people who are of the category of the former forced to forge a movement in order to affect change realizing the only object that can gain attention of those in power is power its self. this problematic undercuts many of conflicts in postmodern politics as power in politics may be manicured through the rhetoric of some of the great liberal philosophers, the actions of politicians with respect to their fellow citizens seem to match the thesis posited by Hill.
This can explain the crisis taking place in the middle east as citizens in those countries have abided to a social contract unfavorable to the will of the citizen in the interests of power. if this is true then there are many other venues of political conflict as the global financial crisis still remains a issue despite reports of recovery. The Tunisian and Egyptian riots were inspired not entirely by the authoritarian rule of their leaders but the the inflated food prices in the global market.The marketplace , in light of the social contract leaving no place for political legitimacy via popular will, dictatorships can only remain viable if it averts not only political but economic crisis as fluctuations in GDP in this political process on many occasions is more destabilizing than those in the political arena.
In this situation the legitimacy of the rulers lies not so much on his or hers appeal but on his performance as leader, the truism observing that 'with great power come great responsibility' has never been so real for the modern dictator. politics sucks because if power is its main currency it constantly escapes its meaning or the telos (purpose, end) and thus makes it hard to define in the process. this can be reflected by the widespread disenchantment with politics with politicians taking the same positions on many key issues on the political agenda and much similarity between politicians on those that dont.
The reaction of leaders to the political apathy in many states, regardless of politico-cultural custom falls somewhere between leaders either trying to present themselves as 'one of us' when none of 'us' could care less if they were, or present themselves using techniques long mastered by celebrities and public relations consultants, often to achieve 'one of us' status. However this is ridiculous as the public can see right through such attempts to 'connect' providing much material for the satirist, and much consternation for the political commentator which an idea of how politics should be.Another ploy used by political leaders, and probably the most embarrassing of them all, is the nationalist 'were all in this together' call for unity especially used in economic crises. read any speech from any political leader, particularly those in west, and the 'were all in this together' line of reasoning becomes explicit. this line has had gainful employment by Prime Minister David Cameron and the arch rhetorician of national telos of his generation, Barack Obama.
However for reasons stated earlier in this piece such rhetoric appears to many as what it is 'the last retreat of a politician who has run out of ideas'. if this is true then the 'brain drain' runs deep in the political class of many states as a retreat to nationalism in globally interconnected age is not only silly, but socially as well as politically pernicious.Much can be made of a retreat of political leaders to nationalist sentiments as it provides a context , mainly in, especially in the British political discourse, the ridiculously touchy debate of the rate of migration of immigrants, where groups can openly advocate a cutdown (hard to do when a considerable number of immigrants to Britian are from EU countries), active deportation (improbable, and most importantly, impossible) or assimilation (pointless). David Cameron's regarding the assimilation of the muslim community to 'british values' was not only misguided and a downright political faux pas, but pointless as this 'call to unity' only 'unifies' his rapidly multiplying political opponents in light of his policies regarding government spending and the radical reform of the NHS. In sum, politics sucks because it has no meaning beyond the current and the retreat to spent ideas and identities only amplifies this state of affairs.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
What is obvious about David Cameron's speech in his articulation of the 'next age of government' is the apparent need for the modernization of government and greater transparency with the state loosening it long held grip on information with regards to citizens. Cameron's talk of the need of the state to devolve power to citizens which may be favored by many advocates of the freedom of information, but Cameron plans in realizing his ambitions of devolving power from state to citizens is a cause for concern for many. commentators in the media and the labour party see his grand ideas regarding the state of the power relationship between state and citizens are seen as cover for this ideological ambitions of rolling back the state with key services such as health and education are partially or wholly privatized. most of the fears held by political opponents of Cameron's ambitions have been confirmed with the recent release of the comprehensive spending review laden with cuts to government spending in various areas health education and defence. on speaking about accountability in his TED speech, Cameron talked of public services being held to account by the use of technology open to the citizens however a simple use of reason should reveal that while transparency can help keep the government to account, what the government can actually do to solve problems are hampered by the use of market forces to fund or run public services. what comprises the 'Big Society' articulated Cameron and his supporters is not so much the empowerment of the citizen but the continuing trend of governments ceding responsibilities in it's purview, mostly to the market and private individuals. with this process, the idea of service with regard to people who use them is replaced by, in the context of public services , an often pernicious market logic predicated on costs and efficiency where price takes precedence over need. this is not to argue against the use of market logic as the laws of the market are useful in allocating resources such as Barbie and Ken playhouses but not deciding who gets a triple bypass.In sum David Cameron articulation of the 'new age of government' is really the continuation of trend in which government cede power to market forces and private individuals thereby creating the contradiction of making this transparent to it's victims (majority of citizens) in reduce the accountability of the state to the citizen.
Friday, February 4, 2011
|pictures of conflict in Cairo|
The conflict in Egypt as well as Tunisia and states in the middle east in recent weeks represents a sign that a region synonymous with corrupt and unaccountable leaders may now enter a era where their leaders and the power they wield are held to account. This process taking place in the middle can be explained by looking at the social and political unrest in these states as a violent confrontation over the state of the social contract between those in power and those subject to it.The street-level violence taking place in Cairo between pro-democracy and pro-Mubarak supporters is not only a return to the state of nature where anarchy becomes a social norm, but necessary process of disagreement over the fate of the social contract as pro-democratic forces wish to have political freedoms practiced in the west and pro-Mubarak forces,some agreeing with pro democratic protesters of the need for Mubarak to end his 30 year reign but worry about the pace of his departure and those who outright support the regime and wish for it to continue. This Disagreement will lead to a resolution but maybe not to the liking of both parties as disagreement over the social contract regarding power and it's subject in the recent history of the middle east and beyond have proved that the resolution of the dispute of the social contract can can be worse than cause of the initial unrest. for example, the dictatorial rule of the shah drew a broad based movement determined to drive him out of power and renegotiate the terms of the social contract only to end up subject to theocratic rule decidedly more tyrannical than the shah's regime. the same instance can be found in the french revolution where the vacuum of absolute power that exists in the state of nature can produce unforeseen and unwanted outcomes for all involved. However the conflict though a complex and potentially dangerous situation for many parties inside and outside the state of Egypt is necessary as the rule of Mubarak, stable for three decades, was bound to crumble as it was not subject to popular will and therefore bound for a confrontation with those forces who desire a renewal or total
re-articulation of the social contract
re-articulation of the social contract
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Renowned Atheist Polemic Christopher Hitchens on the efficacy of the Afghanistan question....
While Chris Hitchens has a famous talent of chiding others for folly and false reasoning, Hitchens has given an audiovisual example of how sophistry is used for ends of power. the Afghanistan question will not be solved by US and it's coalition remaining in afghani lands as their presence in these lands are the source of the conflict. The occupation forces should take note of the Afghani people's well documented history of being inhospitable to the uninvited visitors proclaiming their good intention with acts that betray their rhetoric from the british empire onwards. The people 'who lose' in afghan people are afghans who have no interest in this war , that being afghans caught in crossfire between occupation forces and the Taliban. The Taliban will never lose this war as the Taliban have more power and influence in local and regional centers than the US backed central government led by President Hamid Karzai, dubbed as the 'Mayor of Kabul', referencing the limits to which Karzai's authority extends. The attempts to establish 'freedom and democracy' in a country that has been an effective battlefield for the last 30 years (maybe longer) is not only seriously irrational but pointless in a nation defined by war. to call afghanistan a nation is a gross misunderstanding afghanistan cultural patchwork as there many socio-cultural leanings which affect the body politic as the relationship between cultural factions in afghanistan are tense at best. The pointlessness of attempts to build an effective democratic state in afghanistan were punctuated by the sorry excuse of a election held in 2009. The election almost immediately attracted numerous reports of corruption with the current incumbent regaining power for a further five years.In sum, the politics of invasion and national politics in afghanistan can only produce and reproduce the current state of events, the only sense of 'responsibility' the occupying forces have to the afghani people is not ensuring afghanistan becomes a simulacrum of political norms found in the west. but a state free of occupation, western or otherwise.