Sunday, 24 July 2022

The Race to number 10

 




A fight to the finish, no doubt it will be a bruising contest. Whoever wins this race will come out the loser. Britain is ailing, and none of the arguments put forward by both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss makes much sense in the long run or stands on enough firm footing to win an election in two years. Britain can not afford a test of time because economically, it is bleeding and fast becoming the sick man of Europe.  

Britain is facing the prospect of reliving the nightmare of the 1970s, when inflation, interest rates, price rises and wages were chasing each other. Fifteen, twenty, or even thirty per cent rise in wages to accommodate price increases. All spiralling out of control. The strong trade unions at the time, trying to protect the standard of living of their members, were indirectly fanning the flames of inflation by asking for higher wages. Today, we have a limited labour supply thanks to Brexit policies of closed borders. The basics of supply and demand plus Social media help to embolden attitudes risking the appeal for higher pay. Then as today, the steep hike in energy cost was partly the reason for this nightmare.   

The two contenders have to deal with an array of problems they would face from day one. Prices in the UK have been rising at their fastest rate for forty years. Lorry drivers were first in the queue for wage increases. Then on Teachers, public sector workers, British Airways, Barristers, Nurses, and more. The central bank faces a balancing act with setting interest rates between applying too much pressure to deal with the prospect of high inflation. The politicians need to deal with the fallout. The cost of money, as well as the cost of all services, food and energy, are picking up. The signs that the country is heading for a recession. The cost of the living crisis must force an incumbent government into action.

Britain faces massive interest payments from debts dealing with the Pandemic. Cutting taxes to protect consumer income at this stage is another debtor finance policy the country can ill afford. Easing the pain in the short term will not make it go away. One of the priorities for the government is to deal with falling output, invest in technology in industry and infrastructure and build prospects for the future. To deal with problems of worker numbers, the taxpayers are declining, dependents on either side, the very young and the old are increasing. The incoming Prime Minister's priority is a need to orchestrate the recovery from the present economic shocks and cut taxes when the country can afford it.
  
On balance, the chances of the two contestants lie on a knife edge.   Whether Rishi is premiership material remains doubtful. He lacks the charisma and appeal; his knowledge and intellect don't make up for either, perhaps too honest for a politician. Besides, whether Britain is ready for a Brown face occupying number ten is a shot in the dark. Liz portrays herself as a giver by not raising taxes. A populist in the Johnsonian mould is more about style than content. Winning is all that matters; varnishing what matters and hitting all the right notes makes her the darling of the Party's right-wing. In a recent Gallup poll, she is placed way ahead of her opponent in popularity. So take your pick.


Sunday, 10 July 2022

The End of the Johnson Era

 



Finally, we see the back of Boris Johnson. His wish came true; he didn't want to be a one-term Prime Minister. He never was fit for Downing Street; he should've stuck to his columnist and magazine editorial jobs where he is at ease with words. His facility with words largely helped to get him through that famous glossy black door of number ten.  He ignored the anger of many of his MP's and the calls for him to resign by loyalists, he could have done so with dignity instead he leaves office in disgrace. 

When campaigning for the conservative party's leadership, he had a talent for expressing a lie that made it believable. He won that contest, and not long after, defying expectation, with the same approach, he won the premiership in a landslide election victory with the highest majority since Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. That gave him a mandate to "get Brexit done". He will go down in history as the person who got us out of Europe. 

Not telling the truth was a fixation that marked his term of office. His career as a correspondent, journalist and early political position was littered with untrue statements for the sake of just saying something instead of reporting the truth. Throughout that period, he got the sack from a stream of jobs. But the strangest thing was he always had people rallying towards him. Maybe his buffoonery or just a comic-like appearance with a Chirchellian delivery had a special appeal that pulled them in. After dinner, speaking awaits most probably at £100,000 a go.  

But things have changed since he won that massive majority, effectively creating a coalition of North and South of the country under the banner of levelling up. Jeremy Corbyn is no longer on the scene, Brexit has not gone to plan, and the economy is in dire straights, signifying the winning mandate has gone to shreds. That was realised early enough, so it was a matter to keep to it or concentrate on voter appeal and window dressing. Disagreement on geography spending became a simmering dispute between the Prime Minister and his then Chancellor. Hence, the direction of travel was lost, most probably at the gates of the Pandemic. Taking tough decisions was not the make-up of Boris Johnson. However, unfortunately, for replacement, we don't have much to go on. We don't have anyone with enough charisma to pull the country together. 

The end came after the revelation of a series of scandals, cutting corners with the truth, chaos, parties during lockdowns, breaking his own laws and getting fined by the police, and their cover-up led to the loss of trust by both the public and his MP's. He knew nothing for one minute, and then it turned out he knew quite a bit but had forgotten. Later his memory recovers, and he apologises. And to wrap it up, now is time "to move on"—a matter of drip-drip allegations and drip-drip denials. More than anything, supporting the scandalous behaviour of one of his senior ministers was one drip too many. Finally, Rishi Sunak, his Chancellor and Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, had enough and could no longer defend the indefensible, so they decided to resign. The former blames differences on economic policies, and the latter accuses the government of lacking integrity. Both together, losing trust in their leader, triggered the avalanche of resignations.

He has gone but not gone. He wants to stay on as caretaker Prime Minister despite the collapse of his authority and allies deserting him on all sides. That means his Presidency-like status goes on but lame until his successor is chosen despite the chorus of conservatives asking him to step down immediately. Aside from the good for the country was the good of the conservative party's reputation. To save what good is left of it. Unfortunately, however, no one in the wings to take over the party's leadership. No challenger, a serving minister or otherwise, had emerged to take over. So we are into an interregnum government of three months or so. Unless, of course, the system of choosing the next Prime Minister gets speeded up, which is likely. Many have put their hats in the ring, but at any other time, not one of the incumbents considered of material quality, let alone the premiership. But, we have to choose from what we have. Not much left in the barrel, though.

Tough decisions, to jump on one thing or another, you can not be all things to all men. But at such juxtaposition, the mind could play dirty and fuzzes the way forward; eventually, ambition for power overwhelms reason. And here we have good examples. Power corrupts, a flawed personality corrupts further and defending such a character carrying the lies forward as Nadhim Zahawi, Liz Truss and others that remained, in his inner circle, immediately put them on the spot. Moreover, the effect of supporting that same shady limelight would ruin their reputation, seriously undermining their political future. Zahawi, a 33-hour stay at number eleven, will go down in history as serving the shortest term in the role of Chancellor ever.   At last, he had the nerve to submit his resignation. But, alas, too late to save his political future. 

That support was against the backdrop of Johnson's loyalists quickly having read the script jumped ship, draining away at speed. 

So what is the road ahead for Britain? Whoever succeeds him or she will be greeted with a monstrous in-tray: the economy, Energy, Ukraine, Health, confusion over the Northern Ireland protocol and the overall Brexit disastrous after-effects.   The post Pandemic economic stall, worker shortage across all industries and raging war in Europe have caused Britain to have one of the lowest economic growth in the world. Are we going to see a rescue, or are we in it for the long term? A cycle of economic tensions, inflation and squeezes on household income will cause severe hardship for many.

Moreover, Britain has become unproductive as a nation, making it difficult and unaffordable to ease the pain. Welfare, ageing, health, investments and income will suffer as a consequence and will be an incredible challenge for any incoming Prime Minister. Who is up for the job is anybody's guess, but one thing is for sure, we won't see food becoming cheaper and zero interest rates will be a thing of the past.

My money is on Jeremy Hunt, the only candidate who never served in Johnson's government, but unfortunately, at the time of writing, he still has not declared to be standing for leadership. He is also a remainer, so hopefully, if he makes it, Britain will stand a good chance of getting back into Europe its rightful place. My next favourite is Rishi Sunak. I see him as the most competent person to tell it as it is. He is more conservative, advocating sound policies of spending only what you have. Tax cuts will be a dominant feature in the race; he is the man to consider how to go about that. Zahawi is a chameleon, if ever there was one. He did not jump ship in good time; his loyalty got the better of him, and he got soiled from the relationship with Johnson. Javid is focused and an excellent communicator, but his disciplinarian approach could be his downfall. Finally, Liz Truss is a latter-day Thatcherite well past her sell-by date. The present-day favourite, Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, has declared himself out of the race. It would be interesting to see whom he backs. His support could make a vast difference to his or her electoral fortune. There are others, but for now, I have discounted them as they also ran.  

Source: Oddschecker as at 10/07/2022

Britain needs a change in its culture of politics at the top table, and Downing Street needs to be more generous with the truth. 

Sunday, 22 May 2022

The Unborn and the The Living

"The people are the only legitimate fountain of power, and it is from them that the constitutional charter, under which the several branches of government hold their power, is derived. "

    - James Madison, 4th President of the United States.


More than anything, that quotation should go down as the ultimate definition of democracy. And more than anything, it is the people of the United States who are failing to honour this remarkable declaration. America today is in a downhill spiral on many fronts, most of all its democratic eminence on the world political stage. Its Constitution is not far behind in tracing that same path. The trajectory of the United States Constitution, designed to serve the people to uphold the Right of the individual and seek justice for all concerned, is failing. Those magic attributes are coming under constant strain as the political elite's institutional partisan approach to governance is continuously undermining its legitimacy. Aided and abated by a biased judiciary headed by a Republican-inspired supreme court. Strange as it may seem, as often happens in America, these combustible dynamics fall under the influences of the Evangelical movement. The Church is increasingly engrossed in right-wing politics, putting it ahead of its religious ideology.

As I see it, three issues are tearing American culture apart today. In that endeavour, I need to unpack my opening paragraph to outline what is proving most contentious, to show a widening gap in moral relativism in American society. Many believe the Anti-abortion movements are supported by the Constitution's fourteenth amendment, Gun control and vigilantism are shielded by the second amendment, but both are guided by the Supreme court deficiencies. With the Republican majority of the Justices on the bench, the present Judiciary is drenched in right-wing conservative bias, determined to undermine the values of precedence long rooted in the legal system. Such evidence of a failing system of political-cultural discrimination is increasingly seen as an ethical aberration by the rest of the world.


Abortion



There is Anti-Abortion, Pro-life, and the Right to Abortion. The first two are the same; it just depends on how angry you are. Anti-abortion, a populist term spearheaded by leading city governors and senators right-wing politicians, has become highly politicised. Pro-life is a term held together by right-wing legal processes and assumed moral justification. In recent times, having lost the fight against sex and sexuality, a geographical switch over has taken place from the Catholic majority Northern Bostonian states to the more conservative Southern Mississippian states, which are now more concerned with upholding moral rights. Even though millions of American Christians who, after a lifetime, spent considering their political affiliations in the context of their faith, are now considering their faith affiliations in the context of their politics.

In 1973 a landmark ruling took place in the case of Roe v Wade. An issue where the supreme court set out the benchmark of up to 24 weeks legal to carry out an abortion allowing planned parenthood and giving the Right to liberty. See my blog post here. However, in the recent case of Dobson v Jackson, the state of Mississippi has appealed to the supreme court to water down the ruling bringing the legal limit to 15 weeks, effectively weakening the precedence. In consideration, the majority of the nine Supreme court members have so far sympathised with that judgment, ready to review it. Their argument rests on the absence of explicitly expressed rights of abortion in the amendment. A recently leaked document shows U.S. Supreme Court may even overturn Roe v Wade, passing on rights of decisions to individual States. The result is a patchwork reading of the Constitution and a medley of interpretations. For example, justice Clarence Thomas, a Republican, asked the abortion rights counsel, "What constitutional right protects the right to abortion?". But when advocating to carry guns, he never asked where it says for the individual to carry a concealed handgun in the Constitution.


 

Briefly, the amendment states: "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property". If leaks are confirmed, the judge's ruling would automatically remove the individual's Right to freedom on a broad scale. Many see it contravening the Rights given under the Constitution and Human Rights recognised by International Courts of Justice to which the United States is a signatory. Such rolling back of precedence taken on a personal level rather than a consensus of opinions by experts in science, humanities, and legal professionals can undermine public trust and confidence in the Judiciary, if not the Supreme Court itself. 

Based on such prediction, some southern republican states have competed as to who would be the most pro-life state. Oklahoma has outlawed abortion outright, and Texas has both criminalised abortion even in cases of Rape and Incest. That includes self-induced and the morning after pill. Contraceptives are not on the table just yet but may soon be. Any party that helps in the process in any way would also be liable. Other states have outlined laws ready to trigger come June 2022 once the supreme court sets out its final ruling on the subject. They have also outlawed anyone who aborts in so-called sanctuary states, such as California, where the law is likely to remain more relaxed in sympathy with the old ruling. The law would go so far as to attempt to extradite a doctor engaged in abortion in an outlawing state but living in a foreign country.

Gun Control

The wild West is alive and well in America, where the Right to bear arms is a fundamental Right. Most states have virtually unrestricted rules for the concealed carrying of guns outside the home. The Right to bear arms at home or in public, concealed or otherwise, triggered or with safety catch on, are all subjects to each state to decide for itself.  Another handful of subjects polarising American society today. Centred on how to interpret the second amendment. In brief, it reads, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." In translation, it has taken on a patchwork and degrees of interpretations by individual states. Many states do not see the amendment confine itself to a military meaning but it translates into the public domain of Self-defence.  That of course can also encourage vigilantism which is what is happening more often across the country.   The overreach here is; in making every citizen a soldier and every soldier a citizen. If that 'soldier' outside or inside the home kills in self-defence the second or fourteenth amendment can see him right, and who can also find sympathy with his action in the supreme court. 


Keeping a registered pistol, shotgun, or automatic rifle (depending on the length of the barrel) with a safety pin is lawful and enough as a self-defence measure in some states. The Supreme Court ruled otherwise, meaning to keep the firearm loaded and unlocked for immediate self-defence. The judges ruled it is unconstitutional for a State to prohibit people from keeping and bearing arms "to deprive the United States of their rightful resource for maintaining the public security", conveniently dismissing the military meaning of the amendment. Recently the Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment right to bear arms is an individual right, not associated with the militia.

In the case of New York, where state law requires individuals to get a license to carry a concealed gun outside the home. Here is what Justice Kavanaugh (Republican) has to say: "On the standard of particular to them, [...], why isn't it good enough to say I live in a violent area and I want to be able to defend myself?" commenting on difficulties obtaining a gun license. Justice Samuel Alito (Republican) wondered how the New York law was not "consistent with the core right of self-defence." Surely immature questions: "keeping and bearing Arms" is not the same as hiding them on your person. Imagine a densely populated New York where most carry guns in public, making it easy to take the law into your own hands.


 
Incidentally, these judges setting out these guidelines contradict their earlier definition of the constitutional Rights expressed in earlier cases. The U.S. Supreme Court justices appointed by Republican presidents repeatedly assure the American public they respect precedent, do not decide crucial constitutional questions based on their own policy preferences, and are not legislating from the bench. However, a simple change in court personnel should not dramatically alter the rule of law. Unfortunately, time and again, that is proving hollow.  Mass shootings in recent weeks in Indiana, Georgia, Colorado and California have become routine; the public is almost immune to the news.

Controversy arose in two crucial cases, highlighting the absurdities of the mishmash of enacting independent State law and the political bias expressed by the Jury. The Arbery case is a racially charged shooting of an unarmed black young man out jogging in a quiet neighbourhood. An affluent area in Atlanta, Georgia,(Democrat), where recently there have been some robberies. He was followed by three white men and was shot dead on suspicion of committing a crime. Lawyers for Mr Arbery's family have called his death a "modern-day lynching". The men argue that they were defending themselves (self-defence), while trying to make a "citizen's arrest". Instead, they were found guilty of murder.


 
While in another case, a young white man was cleared of all charges relating to two Black men he shot and killed during unrest in Wisconsin (Republican). Armed with a military-style semi-automatic rifle, he roamed the streets, telling the police later that it was his job to keep the streets safe. He was found not guilty and set free. One of the charges brought against him was possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under 18. It was later dropped when his lawyers successfully argued state law allowed for someone under 18 to possess the firearm.

If the second amendment is not enough to free you, try the fourteenth. When you are finished with the amendments, your fortune is dependent on the bias of the Jury. Like members of the public, they can be orientated by the effect the current socially trending climate is having on society. They look at justice through the woke goggles of today, assessing their verdict on the life of the victim and the liberty of the living.


Conclusion

In between all this, the question of interpretation centred on the individual's Right and the atomisation of liberty. It boils down to the question of Rights and freedom of expressing those remains dependent on a State's political climate. The result is a pixilated understanding or a confused interpretation of the Constitution. Setting a cultural dividing line in a politically highly charged US of A, where, unfortunately, moderation can land you on the wrong side. Interpretation of the U.S. constitution is like the interpretation of the bible; it generates different opinions and interpretations. In politics, that line of misunderstanding gives rise to egregious dynamics toward divisiveness. Never before have I experienced the power and influence of words; that can not only divide a country and society but assume a cultural ideology. The Bill of Rights, enshrined within the Constitution, is not referred to as the Rights of Man. It is a point of reference, a defensive and an attacking tool. In both cases cited above, vigilantism is allowed to live well in the United States; the wild West was not much different. It is down to the Supreme Court, the principal body and source of decisions that lay the grass-roots of American society, but under a conservative trajectory, it suffers from myopia. Tragically, Republican chauvinism defines American justice, ensuring personal interest and public desires do not coincide, allowing the former to overlap the latter. But quashing long-rooted balanced precedence, the United States judiciary undermines its credibility. While saving the life of the unborn, the Supreme Court remains numb in saving the life of the living.










Sunday, 3 October 2021

Turmoil in the Arab World

 


The dislocated world of the Arab Middle East


Gamal Abdel Nasser, 1918-1970, Egyptian army officer, prime minister (1954–56), and then President (1956–70) of Egypt has a lot to answer for; the Arab – Israeli War of 1967 was his making.  Feeling emboldened having taken part in the downfall of King Farouq, the Pan-Arabism he advocated during the 1950s sought to redeem the grievances of the Palestinian people following the defeat of the Arab army during the 1948 war with Israel. The 1967 Six-day war saw the Arab army defeated yet again, the complete destruction of their air force. Entire squadrons of Egypt, Syria, and Jordan.  The War was over in twenty-four hours.  The five days following, was left for the Israeli army routing the combined enemy armies. On the one hand, it was a humiliating defeat to Arab governing authorities; on the other, it was an awakening of the Arab civil societies leading to a loss of confidence in their governments' legitimacy and ability to govern. More than anything, it was the Islamic awakening.  

Islamists sensed the prevailing uncertainties reading the political weakness took advantage of the moment to show that present authorities have lost their way.  After years of incubation of radicalism, they were out in force to prove Islam was the solution.  The belief is that Islam should guide social and political as well as personal life.  But more than an Islamic awakening, revolts, dissent, and civil agitation of many colours were on the horizon.  After the fall of the Iraqi Monarchy in 1958, the other regional Monarchs became protective, fearing they would soon become endangered species.  Since then, coup d’├ętat, revolutions and toppling of regimes had become part of the everyday lexicon in the Middle East.  All came down to power and control.

The evolution of Islamic ideology, the pressures on the Regimes 
and the consequent Civil unrest

 

Threats of this kind and more hostile are still perceptible throughout the Arab Middle East, as this essay will hopefully show.  That fear from mounting pressure is here, and fear of losing their grip on power and control is now.  Fear by Arab regimes is felt from the outside as it is from within.  That is a lot of anxiety to contain.  The fear is real whether king, Emir or President because their legitimacy with no exception stands on shallow grounds.  Islam and the activities of the Islamists groups represent the most severe threat of all.  

Ironically without a Caliphate for directions, Islam and independent interpretations of its ideology work to disunite the Arab Muslim world. In this case, as if to fear the United States was not enough, it is more of a question of who's Islam is any way they fear most. To negotiate this maze of thorn infested complexities for Autocrats and authoritarians while also looking behind is a mammoth task. They fear loosening the rein because they well know what partially triggered the uprising in Syria was not only the lifting of the martial law in effect since 1963 but the relaxation of political freedom.

Islamists, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and its Sunni offshoots and their Shia counterpart Hizbollah, aka the Party of God, are capable of dislodging the State's authority. Allowing them conducive conditions, such as openness to electoral Democracy, for instance, the movements can gain enough popularity to lead to state efficacy that can fundamentally alter the political landscape. 

However, turmoil can also appear in many other guises, despite an overall show of popular loyalty to the regimes. Since arbitrary repressive and putative measures over the ruled can only achieve veneer thin loyalty. Often enough in the Arab world, commitment to laws and policies are without virtue, verified by their procedural features as they unfold.

Moreover, all governments and their political institutions in all Arab Middle East lack democratic legitimacy-ruling without consent. Consequently,  the countries in the region fail to be nation-states since they all fall under either the King's Will or Autocratic regimes. Lacking the Democratic Right to rule is, therefore, a given. Hence, popular rule by obligation is a weakness. 

Here the Islamists, usually structured within the framework of welfare and education, as a state within a state and culturally embedded in a radical civilisation, can take advantage and are always ready to establish an Islamist State. 

Another weakness the Authoritarian regimes have is their Constitution. Without exception, all Arab countries adhere to Islam as the State religion and have enshrined the Sharia, God's Laws within its texts. The purists' definition of which can defy modern life. This, many would argue, can lead to hypocrisy by the authorities or, at best, contradictions to the laws of Islam, especially when implementing liberal laws. 

The Laws of the lands must explicitly serve religious ends. As for morality, Islam believes its teaching delivers from an exclusive standpoint. The rights to covenants of God's moral codes. Political Pluralism, Proselytising, Minority Rights, Women's Rights, Gay Rights, social justice and of course, Democracy are all a no-no.  As a social movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, for example, the goal was nothing less than the revival of Islam.  To reactivate the once flourishing spread of Islamic civilisation,  in this day and age against an increasing secular people, and to stem all currents that frustrate the incubation of illiberal radicalism.   These are the forces that Arab political administrations have to tackle.  

The Crime of free speech.  
Israeli made Pegasus Spyware is used to keep people in check.


The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and their many offshoots, Salafis (purists), Wahabism of Saudi Arabia, and those in Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Iraq, and Hezbollah in Lebanon, all share a common thread. Anti-colonial and anti-Israel. Also, not so much the means they choose that defines them but the nature of their end. From an Islamist individual to an Islamist State. They are patient, seizing the moment when ready.  

According to one of their spokesman, "government have the clock, but we have all the time".  They all provide some degree of welfare: health, education, employment etc., mainly funded by donations from private individuals; the counter-elite. Such freely extended help gave Islamists their prominent role in civil society. And politically, a rising status can oppose pressing regimes for political change to an already fragile political structure. 

What is occurring in the Arab world can be understood as revolutionary change and evolution of Islamism. Under authoritarian rule, they take cover from repressive measures by affiliating to other parties moderate Islamists, such as the Wasat party, or even Christian parties.  Such an arrangement provides them with a layer of protection from government crackdowns or international condemnation, avoiding being labelled as a terrorist organisation by the United States. 

In Lebanon, bearing in mind the current dire situation, people suffering shortages of all kinds, there has recently been a convoy of tankers carrying hundreds and thousands of litres of Iranian fuel across its borders. Hizbollah, supported by Shia Iran, wants to show the Lebanese people and the world that Iran, not Sunni Saudi Arabia, provides such relief. They are the good guys, and Hizbollah is hardly a terrorist organisation. 

Moderate Arab regimes faced with a social movement defined as above are faced with a problem of how to practice their Constitution. First, to contain the Islamists from growing too comfortable and damping down their politicising activities. 

Trying to achieve false neutrality, to leave people living by their conviction, is a loose attempt at separating State from religion. Smok and mirrors are what it is; pretending to preside over Democracy in the hope this would minimise criticism from European and American friends.  Jordan, or where there are democrats without Democracy, for instance, they rig the system, democratic rules are twisted by the king's order, making it harder for The Islamic Action Front (IAF) to gain seats in Parliament. Aware of the fact that Parliament and Democracy are both used as a means to an end of Islamising. This is not exclusive to Jordan, but Jordan will do.  

Equally worrying for regimes implementing rules is the absence of a Califate who can otherwise adjudicate a final authority on the Sharia. The judiciary uses the 'Path' not as a source but as the source for legislation. The Koran and the Hadith covering criminal, commercial and family laws are open to different interpretations. The final authority in countries such as Egypt, for instance, lies in the power of the President. Each head of State takes it on themselves to act as guardians of Islam and its definitions as they see it. Hence it comes down to who's Islam. These different interpretations stand in the way of unity among the Arab States.  Saudi Wahabist would not support Muslim Brotherhood.  Hamas is considered a terrorist organisation supported by Qatar and Turkey on the same side, but unlike Egypt and Jordan, it supports the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafis.  

How to spread benign liberalisation such as open nightclubs, access to alcohol drinking, unblocking immoral television programmes, or even allowing men to work in women beauty salons yet remain faithful to the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad is not an easy task.

Administering the Sharia law, the outcome will be the political will of the State and not the religious law of Islam. These hollow claims in the name of Islam by the ruling elites are not necessarily valid made only to legitimise their state control.  According to professor Abdullahi Ahmed An-Naim, "Sharia can only be freely observed by believers by its nature and purpose. Its principles lose their authority and value when enforced by the State." The scenario here, however, the Rulers are the State.  In the words of Louis XIV of France “l’etat c’est moi”.


Causes of widespread social and psychological strains and tensions

  

Problems for the regimes do not stop at the door of Islam. Governments in the Middle East of whatever hangtags are either Authoritarians or Autocracies. With their awareness of the quiet revolution, they acquire different values from their citizens to stay at the top above the law and unaccountable.  Either born into power or having developed political power by a coupe, but in any case, in the absence of popular consent, their legitimacy is wafer-thin. Countering their paranoia to a utopian social order includes oppression, muzzling descent, surveillance, and all manner of civil liberty restraints on the ordinary individual.  They dismiss the democratic fact that people are the ultimate seat of sovereignty. 

In contrast, the elite and tribal leaders kept at bay for support and favour within a symbiotic spiral of advantages. As a result, instead of serving the people to protect the interest of the regime and its cronies,  businessmen became wealthy by buying state assets undervalued or delivering services above value in return for kickbacks.  

However, Modernity and Democracy in an increasingly connected world coupled with rapid population growth change at their doorstep is hard to avoid. These countries that form the heart of this essay are struggling for economic advantages and civil liberties.  Unfortunately, both are not delivered. Those men and women educated with a degree need employment. Still, lack of appropriate investment and lack of innovation job scarcity prevails, and civic clampdown coming on top of all this the resulting discontent and disobedience is not far away. 

Prolonged parental dependency and unemployment are dangerous. They sow the seeds of dissent and frustration. Oil-rich states like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait ease the situation on themselves. These Rentier States can afford to buy obedience and unconditional loyalty. Their more outstanding capabilities enable them to employ those young people into their nationalised oil oriented industries or bring them into their already bloated civil government network. Those less well-off countries like Jordan and Egypt receive generous handouts from the United States and their richer cousins. From the former, thank you present for signing peace with Israel and the latter for containment of the Islamist movements or banning them altogether. 

Whether buying loyalty, or by a US veto, or due to some perversive state activities, or some electoral engineering, the so-called Arab Spring has failed even in Tunisia, where it all started. For now, the power of social media, the "Twitter revolution" that helped bring down Egypt's presidency, has inadvertently brought in the military, which effectively brought down a democratically elected government.  All that with the United States giving its wholehearted blessing despite its pledge to strengthen Democracy and promote peace worldwide.  

Still, there is a very tired and worn out saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely; if ever there was a time to requote this passage, it is now.  Alteration of power in the Middle East does not come easy, if at all. Democratic regime change backed by fraud-free elections is out of the question. Authoritarians and autocrats hate giving up power; their leadership more often becomes ancestral. Or, in Iraq's case, it remains in the hands of the majority since Arabs in Iraq, as elsewhere where governments are weak, people tend to define their identity in the form of religion before the country.  

Inevitably political identity leads to polarisations, and some regimes create the very crisis they wish to exploit.  They fuel these perceptions to drive a wedge between Shia and Sunni.  In such scenarios, regime change can only come about by revolution or assassination or a repeat of Tunisia and Egypt by the Social Media and graffiti or Iraq in 2003 by foreign invasion.  


An image directed at the head of Supreme Council of Armed Forces [SCAF], Muhammad Hussein Tantawy, criticising him for embracing Mubarak's policies and corruption. (Photo: Reuters – Asmaa Waguih)
Extensive use of Graffiti in Mohamed Mahmoud Street near Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt.

Regime change, if not a total reconstruction of the social order, is bound to come.  Top-down rampant corruption was the leading cause for a popular uprising or the so-called Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Iraq and Lebanon.  All facing severe economic problems such as poverty and unemployment.  Despite police brutality, the masses stood firm.  Unfortunately, those fighting for democratic transformation, which would bring freedom and rights, lacked the backing of institutional structure. They also differed as to what freedom meant.  The social media they used so effectively proved insufficient to sustain a lasting political change.  In the end, they failed to cooperate and settle their internal disputes.  They agreed on ousting a regime but could not decide on the State's future identity and share power.  However, people are still pursuing what modernity offers: bread, freedom, social justice, human dignity, and equality before the law.

Powerful forces such as Islamism, accumulation of social grievances, widespread social deprivation, and calls for freedom and liberalisation are pressurising all regimes in the Arab world to change. To help people consolidate a political identity or introduce a framework of political opposition and remove the sentiments of distrust.   Stalemate is not an option but must consider changes even to the entire social order.  Illiberal democratic rule marking out inflexible Arab exceptionalism needs to be revolutionised.  The globalised world is signalling change, and modernity offers much, so the Arabs can not drag their feet too long; accountability and nation-building are wanting. Internet's role as a space where collective dissent can be articulated is not going away. The problem they have to get over is their paranoia and lust for power, both of which in the liberal world is a challenging mix. Much of what is happening in the Arab world is revolutionary, the awakening of civil society amid civil activism.  This is a rare example of a revolutionary process playing out in real-time before it happens. Still, its process remains in doubt, but one thing for certain democratic cultures is indispensable for the evolution of democratic order to take hold.  




Sunday, 26 July 2020

Cancel Culture

Cancel Culture



"The past controls the present and future.  You can't control the past. Also, you can't control the way the past controls the present and future.  So, you can't control the present and future" - Simon Blackburn, Professor of Philosophy, University of Cambridge.

Modern states have impeachment; ancient Athens had ostracism; Social movement has a cancellation.   Free speech is under assault by the Twitter mob who see it as their legitimate right to shout down speakers of whom they disapprove.  Speaking one's mind, which may turn out contrary to a current fashionable group thinking of the day could lead to internet shaming. People finding themselves on the wrong side of the fence either be cancelled, ostracised or dehumanised.  The dark side has meant some people have committed suicide as a result of saying the wrong thing, on social media, or even between friends.  There is a danger brewing of growing hostilities towards opinion others don't agree with.  Attempts at silencing our most basic liberty to speak our mind; the most fundamental of freedom carries a penalty of disengaging the social-cultural bond of shared values.   Bullying for the hell of it by some marginalised group with their own agenda for a new orthodoxy. Actions are taken on the assumption that the atmosphere would be improved by throwing out a dislikeable character. A judgment hinged on expressing a different opinion - a new polarising attitude in society taking place, that is democratising cruelty.  Cancelled does not mean to cancel an appointment or a meeting but a human being.

In an attempt to put a bulwark against this wave of cultural antipathy by social warriors to silence people holding contrary opinions, Harpers Magazine put out a letter signed by more than hundred people from many walks of life in defence of tolerance and debate. Contained a message that makes it abundantly clear that "a new set of moral attitudes and political commitments that tend to weaken our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favour of ideological conformity" for the sake of damage control instances arising, where institutions, Advertising companies, publishers, university professors or individuals who are in the public eye increasingly afraid to be seen stepping out of line. The hasty and panicked decision by these institutions has meant "editors are fired for running controversial pieces. Books are withdrawn for alleged inauthenticity. Journalists are barred from writing on certain topics; professors are investigated for quoting works of literature in class; a researcher is fired for circulating a peer-reviewed academic study, and the heads of organisations are ousted for what are sometimes just clumsy mistakes". There is genuine concern that free speech is being stifled.  Those who signed the letter include white people, black people, gays, Muslims, Jewish and leaders of their communities from all walks of life.





Those accused of new moral orthodoxy argue that opinion and views by public figures should be held accountable for them.  Others believe such grandstanding approach shows an attitude of patronising superiority. The counter-argument being that cancel culture can be a way for the powerless to bring down the powerful. Surely group thinking that suppresses individual thought inducing conformity, by vilification of personality for expressing views incompatible with current opinions, pretends to be the new moral orthodoxy is wholly unacceptable in today's modern society.  Losing a job, a threat to career and friends staying away for fear what may render culture contamination is intolerable. 

Among those who dared to be signatories of the letter are well-known personalities.  JK Rowling, Dame Anna Nicholson,  Salman Rushdie, Naom Chomski are among other giants of the literary world that formed the rich list of celebrities most whom have Ivy League or other prestigious credentials.  For all the good work these people do, they are rubbished and cancelled for some remark or expressing a viewpoint.  They are vilified by the collective herd of intolerance coming from bigoted group think.  Attempt to force those with the intellectual mind to acquiesce to their way of thinking who see themselves as part of the new orthodoxy.  Instead of this tyrannical approach, such exercises of none elastic approaches, they do well to draw a balance between the significant changes of life to that accepted at any one time.  



One can also argue the use of social media has made it possible the power to take down people, a privilege hitherto reserved for the press media, now snatched away, passed on into the public domain. But, somehow, Liberalism and moral freedom have delimited and abused such powers. People are pilloried for criticising a way of thinking, expressing their own standpoints, by objectors who show a tyrannical approach to silence their opinion.   Ideological clusters policing the internet, ensuring that one must not step outside a red line.  A coercive application of censorship by those who assume the power to erase others. A shoal who would ensure one keeps to their way of thinking by attacking free speech and oppressing the individual right of expression into a group-think collective that does nothing more than to acquire a herd type social opinion.   

Of course, they have a moral right to express their views on whichever side they are on.  A time of a reset maybe? Advocating a corrective of what has gone before.  There is no problem with that, but the freedom of expression is a part of a healthy democratic society, they and everyone have the right to engage with that, being mindful not to express a bigoted or hateful opinion.  The application of reason is what is essential here, it should not go missing.    If one is offended, that should be the beginning of the discourse, not the end of it.  Ask why have I offended you and let us discuss it.  Cancellation is the end of discussion. In universities, considered crucibles of free expression, where lecturers find themselves out of favour and hounded out of their jobs as we have seen recently, run diametrically opposed to what universities are about.  Universities are for the application of reason and tolerance. The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away.

It is also important to remember that intolerance has a habit of swinging with the national mood.  An example of this is Winston Churchill.  Half a century ago following his death, the then Prime Minister Harold Wilson described him as "the greatest man any of us have known".The BBC reflecting the national mood documented the funeral procession along the same lines expressing similar sentiments.  The attitude today could hardly be more different.  He is seen today by the same organisation bearing responsibility for the death of 3 million people in the Bengal famine in 1943.  At an interview on Radio 4, no one came to his rescue afraid of the moral contamination.  Indeed with the Black lives matter theme at full swing, he is today held responsible for prioritising white lives over Asian lives" and "precipitator of terrible mass killings" so he should be knocked off his plinth.  Not many do realise, in those days almost everybody on the right as well as on the left was a racist. But, when judged by contemporary moral standards, only the Right stand accused.




Judging and Branding an individual by the present structure of the world for expressing an opinion in earlier times is a twist in the understanding of knowledge reading him or her back to front. Some are proud of the structures built they form the mental housing in which they live, whereas others believe they need dismantling and start fresh.  On August 22, 1862, The New York Tribune quoted Abraham Lincoln saying "If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would".   For generations of Americans Abraham Lincoln, known as the great emancipator, should he be cancelled?  Also rather doubtful if anyone wants to destroy Lord Nelson's column in Trafalgar Square for opposing the abolishing of slavery or indeed toppling the Pyramids of Egypt built by slave labour.  Like all balance sheets and the moral one is no exception, objections need to weigh up the two sides irrespective if one opinion runs against the grain of another. Let's face it, rules we have been conditioned to abide by have become our principles. With history, we start to work out what happened then bring in the morality and conclusions to it.  Instead, the warriors start with the point of view of now and re-reading the past in retrospective.

Morality is like a tide, forever changing.  Similarly, acceptance of opinions or moral judgments seems to migrate and mutate from one generation to another, at times expressing views on the right side of the line that could easily be interpreted in the years that follow as unacceptable and charged differently.  Any persons who happened to have merely agreed with that line of thinking, then, but twenty years later faced with the new orthodoxy will also be cancelled; finding oneself at the wrong end.  Moreover, anyone, say, in an old photo is seen with another who may have suffered a slip in moral judgment admissible at the time, can suffer morel contamination and similarly branded. Surely intellectual enquiries must be allowed to flourish.  Subjecting people to mob justice is an abuse of power by marginalised self-assured groups who assume newfound ability to change the world.  Instead, by such McCarthyite witch-hunt on social media, they would inevitably be inhibiting truth and imprisoning free speech.  After all, like someone said, "Because in the end, we all can be potentially cancellable – but you can't cancel my right to think."











Sunday, 19 July 2020

Mind the Gap



Mind The Gap

Battle-scarred Britain must look after its own to narrow the gap of inequality.

As the COVID-19 outbreak took hold, in no time it became a global pandemic in March 2020, governments all over the world imposed various forms of 'lockdown'. Comparisons and contrasts between the different experiences of quarantine and self-isolation highlighted on social media. Much of which was suggestive of the unevenness of the pandemic's consequences. Aside from the destructive effects, COVID-19 inflicted on people all over the world, here in the UK it has done more.  The result has put a spotlight on the dividing gap in the quality of life between the affluent areas and those deprived often sitting side by side. This adjacency goes to magnify further the inequality, particularly of income and wealth.  Despite the apparent fact that the virus does not discriminate between rich and poor, nevertheless, a disproportionate effect between the poor with least capabilities to protect themselves and those privileged fluent areas well protected from the devastating impact of this killer virus continue to exist. I will attempt to analyse reasons for such disparities, their long term effect and what the government can do to close the widening gap, to level up the economies and to create opportunities towards a fairer Britain.  

Even the altruistic spirit generated around the peak of Covid-19 infections seeing key workers carrying on with their duties in defiance to the dangers, they are exposing themselves. Also, the solidarities exhibited; an appreciative public daily clapping across the country grateful to the effort these people are putting in to save lives.  A touching moment that we may yet see more of the same in going forward.  Similar bonding occurred immediately post WWII, and government responses were no less affirmative. Significant steps are taken to restructure social institutions and moderate Capitalism to care for as many people as possible.

The measures taken by the government in alleviating the pain of the loss of income by individuals and companies alike are in a similar vein.  Those compensated by being furloughed and companies extended by up to 80% in grants for salaries paid as well as other protective measures are taken to insulate individuals against rent, eviction, rates and so forth.  Western governments alike endeavoured in efforts, that had to show that the liberal democratic system works and democracy can indeed fit in with Capitalism.

Unfortunately many especially the young and the angry youth disagree. The uncertainty and the security the government tries to establish has lost it, its popularity and trust.  It is a bitter cry caused long before the advent of Coronavirus, but dissatisfaction and rage have been brewing for some time.  The youth of today carry heavy baggage, their disadvantages are numerous; opportunities, housing, education, to name a few.  Those who fail to make the grade, to gain a foothold on any of those find it a hard struggle to break the chain of such an ongoing burden.  Especially those uneducated who miss out life's chances, because they remain unaware of grabbing seemingly opaque opportunities. Not realising that any one of them may likely be an open door.

Many factors can perpetuate this never-ending struggle to make ends meet.  Well paid manufacturing jobs that at one time paid just about enough to put bread on the table has gone replaced by services with low pay.  The uneducated and the unskilled have no chance to escape they end up in the life of crime, drugs and idleness or increasingly dependent on the state for a handout.  Especially those coming from broken homes can suffer the most.    Even the young university-educated savvy enough to grab life's opportunities find it hard to make ends meet when having to tackle the high cost of housing, especially in London. 


A scene in Tower Hamlet one of the most deprived areas of London.


On average, households in London spend 18% of their net income on meeting housing costs.  Job insecurity, coupled with most of the income earned going on rent, is a heavy load to carry.  Without occasional parents handouts, even on special occasions is seen as placing an unwarranted burden on their parents, and many of them do not have generous parents or rich enough to help.  For many, coming to terms with their lot is a hard act, realising they are on the poor side of a divided society can only fuel the anger and frustration.  Even though continued, almost full employment would have mitigated the effects of inequality or pulled in the divide. This situation fares even worse with Black and some Asian mainly Bangladeshi people who face prejudice and discrimination almost at all levels, whether institutionalised or systemic as they go through life.

After all, it was not long ago since the banks partly responsible for the global financial crisis in 2008 got billions while a pittance went to the homeowners and victims of the same banks' predatory lending practices. The angry crowd feels that financial help was misplaced; instead, it should have gone directly to homeowners affected not only would have helped them but would have helped the economy to perform a robust recovery from the depression of 2008/2009. For an added pain the system allowed in severe austerity restricting their income further.   The other side of the scale the investment bankers, at Wall Street and Main Street. Like the city of London executives, they built a wall of lawyers to shield them from blame, to ensure they are not held accountable for other people misfortune. The banks went on to abuse the UK legal system to foreclose on mortgages and evict people. It is no exaggeration to say that one of the reasons the youth are angry at governments for allowing such immoral Capitalism to corrupt democracy.  The rules are designed by those who stand to benefit from them.  They can take advantage of the poverty trap.  Also many of those young people who are antiauthority, they perceive the UK government to oversee the corporate welfare, to allow within the system enough critical features in terms of profits, taxes and the social limitations, to curtailing welfare on the poor.  The system so conceived mainly by the rich and powerful pressurising the government.    At all levels, such detachments by two sides of the socio-economic divide the outcome of which is increasing inequality and poverty can lead to social unrest and segregation.  Choice, for the poor, is not an option. Neither is it an option for Black and Asian people to avoid the chequerboard effect.

London City Skyline a couple of miles away from Aldwych High Street.


It is natural for many inhabitants in London, or those aware enough to recognise how private capital is sitting side by side with run-down public housing lived by in by those of low income.  The best example is the dividing line of the M40 makes between the two Kensingtons where the horrible events of the Grenfell Towers come to mind.  The blackened shell of which is visible from the immaculate Georgian terraces of Notting Hill and Holland Park. Mean household income across the borough of Kensington and Chelsea, was £116,000 a year, the highest in London. Yet research found the district was the capital's most polarised borough, with more than half of benefit recipients living in the most deprived quarter of neighbourhoods. In this borough, as well as Camden, Islington, Westminster and elsewhere, wealth and deprivation rubbing shoulder to shoulder.  Especially since on the lockdown and the spread of COVID the spotlight has shone a brighter light on the densely packed areas such as Brixton, Tower Hamlet etc. to realise that  Wealth is very unequally distributed between Londoners. Those in the bottom half of London's wealth distribution hold just 6.8% of the capital's total wealth, compared with those in the top 10%, who hold 42.5%.


To explore ways in which the quality of life, therefore is a priority for any government to tackle to make cities a "fairer" place to live and work. Central to that task, is tackling inequality, particularly of income and wealth.  Poor and rich people are increasingly living separated with an ever-widening gap in between, can threaten the social dynamics of cities.  London, in particular where segregation and clustering, primarily pinned by affordability, especially when social mobility is not out of free choice, is a growing problem.  The measure of the number of people in poverty is best made by those family whos children in need of free school meals (FSM). 

Every child born is a new generation.  Living in poverty concentration neighbourhoods is transmitted between generations. Neighbourhood poverty can be contagious, increases over time through to the residential mobility behaviour of households. This mainly caused by the misguided urban policy of demolishing houses in deprived areas only to replace them with housing for the middle class. A malicious attempt at desegregation which can only redistribute poverty to assign it to other areas. Such harmful forced social mobility made to reduce inequality can only add to it.  Instead, attempts must be made at reducing inequality by creating opportunities for people and to invest in education. To focus on both people and housing for an inclusive growth strategy.


The inequality of incomes in London is far greater than in the rest of England. When combined with housing costs are much higher than in other parts of England.  Seeing the present housing cost, it is no surprise that poverty is more prevalent in London than in any other part of the UK. In fact, based on the relative the low-income measure of poverty (after housing costs), 28% of Londoners (2.5 million people) are in poverty, compared with 22% in England overall. Inner London has poverty rates that are 10 percentage points higher than in many parts of the North of England.  Over half of Londoners living in single-parent families are living in poverty, four in ten children in London live in households in poverty, 25% of working-age adults in London are living in poverty.  Pensioners and the disabled make up the rest.



Housing is often the single most significant expense for any household and is a significant driver of poverty in London. It also plays a crucial role in the well being in having a secured sense of place. Many Londoners suffer from this shortfall of good quality housing. At the extreme end of the scale, are those living at the mercy of slumlords, living in a caravan or the 'Vanlifers'.  Their problem of homelessness also extends from rough sleeping to sofa surfing. On average, households in London spend 18% of their net income on meeting housing costs. This compares with 11% in the rest of England.  For those in poverty, they face housing costs that, on average, amount to 56% of their net income. As well as the challenge of affordability, Londoners also experience real issues with the nature of homes in London, such as the condition of properties, the security of tenancy and overcrowding. While the fall in the proportion of households below the Decent Homes Standard has been a little faster in London than the rest of England, there are still over half a million homes that fall short of what is considered decent. Another issue is overcrowding. Nearly one in four children (22%) in London live in overcrowded accommodation, twice the proportion in the rest of England (11%). The issue is most prevalent among those living in the social rented sector, where four in ten children (40%) live in overcrowded accommodation.

What this has meant is that there is a definite shift in housing redistribution, people moving out to outer suburbs or move to poor areas adding to the burden of overcrowding fueling further the effects of Socio-economic segregation.  Studies show rising inequality as a significant cause of increasing disconnection and argue that a high level of isolation can undermine the social stability of cities. The riots in Paris (2005), London (2011) and Stockholm (2013) cannot be seen separate from high concentrations of poverty in these cities, often in combination with high levels of ethnic segregation.

Those with low income have less of a choice where to live than those of high-income earners.  This demographic inequality began in the wake of the financial crisis in 2008 but gained momentum since then.  A dire need for affordable housing in London, so inflow and outflow of those serving the rich and affluent spend less on both time and cost of travel.  Such hard evidence puts pressure on the Greater London Authority to build more affordable housing more quickly. But, as the Grenfell disaster showed, London's housing crisis is one of quality as well as quantity.  This is not socialism but social care.

A time bomb in waiting. Rising inequality in incomes and wealth is a major concern because it also influences variation in other life domains such as education, health, life expectancy, or employment prospects. Inequality can harm the social stability of societies and reduce trust in governments and institutions. It could even put at risk democratic processes as lower-income groups become disengaged with politics. The Liberal viewpoint perhaps has come back to haunt us, manifested by so much anger we see around us.  It is difficult to see peaceful demonstration without it being peppered by violence directed at authority.  The risk of peaceful protests going of control is ever-present, where passion runs high mainly from anger and frustration. This was clearly demonstrated by the recent near-riots in support of Black Life Matters in London. The system that lets them express their anger is the very system that is failing them. 

Since 1991, partly due to globalisation, employment, and self-employment income inequality continue to rise but is fair to say, several factors have mitigated the effect of these changes on total income inequality. First, pre-COVID-19, the disparity between those with different employment statuses has fallen, primarily due to a fall in the number of unemployed, albeit mostly in low pay employment. Second, employment taxes have played a more significant role since 1991 in mitigating the increase in inequality of gross employment income than they did before 1991. Third, investment income has contributed less to total income inequality since 1991, mainly due to the decline in its importance as an income source. Finally, a rise in the relative incomes of pensioners and households with children under five – both groups that benefited from reforms to welfare benefits and tax credits during the 1990s and (especially) 2000s – has pulled inequality down. Overall, since 1991 these four factors have almost entirely offset the impact on income inequality of the inequality-increasing changes in the distribution of earnings and self-employment income.

Post Covid-19, however, the outlook, in the short term at least, is bleak. Future movements in net earnings inequality are, therefore, likely to become central to the trend in income inequality.  Now it is the turn of the rich more up to them along with the government to restart the economy and encourage recovery help to limit further scarring effect COVID is leaving behind.  Time to help these vulnerable groups of people across London and the country to break the link of poverty and deprivation. Above all, help to narrow the gap to make borrowing more accessible and help change the social infrastructure, for a chance to enjoy the sunlight of opportunity, so they start to chart their own destinies.   In compensation, the rich have to swallow a bitter pill of higher taxes to redistribute their wealth, but this time to desegregate narrowing the gap of social distancing.  Consider it payback for the protection and the service of those key low paid workers carrying on with their duties of saving lives, aware of the invisible enemy and in defiance to the dangers it poses.  For those spirited nurses' altruistic action, cleaners and all those kept the NHS, the backbone of healthcare, to open all hours, for them working from home was never an option. 

After all, for those at the top continue to enjoy the best health care, education and benefits of wealth, those one per cent, their fate is bound up by how the other ninety-nine per cent live.  The Price of Inequality need not be so high, time to create a more dynamic economy and fairer and more equal society. Social distancing may not always be the answer to salvation.  











Friday, 3 July 2020

A Time to Hope






The current controversy.

In the light of current political turmoil in the Middle East, the most attention grabber has been the speculation whether the policy of Israeli government towards its Palestinian population is about to take a turn of no return.  It is about to vote for the annexation of the West Bank, a clear sign it does not give a toss about international rules of conduct which deems such action illegal.  Nevertheless, what will emerge in the days to come is that annexation will indeed become a fact of life and objection to it would be a thing of the past.  Arab objections would be mere lip service as was the case when America moved its embassy to Jerusalem.  All of this means Israel confirms to the world that the UN-sponsored rule-based international order is defunct and meaningless.  Recognising Israel's power and influence in the world, which incidentally far exceeds its size, a new approach to peace negotiation is needed.

But annexation is nothing new.  Since 1967 Israel's Prime Ministers have countenanced the systemic spread of settlements over the West Bank.  The difference now is that Benjamin Netanyahu the present Prime Minister is overt in his unabashed arrogance, backed by unequivocal support from the American administration, is flouting international laws by advocating annexation.

Some would argue annexation spells an end to any hope for peace between the Palestinians and Israel in the future.  It could also mean the corraling of the Palestinian population into clusters of occupations attracting the attention and accusation of an Apartheid system.  Thirdly, an inescapable option; Israel to naturalise all those Palestinians fall under its wing. Such a course of action would be self-defeating in the long run as eventually, the Arab population can outvote an incumbent government.

If the last option becomes an inevitable choice, it would be the Palestinians the majority of whom are Muslim become Subjects of a Jewish state. Could be anathema for many Muslims.  But still, that would bring them into line with Christians living in the neighbouring Arab Muslim countries. Christians have been doing just that since the turn of the Twentieth Century.  Every Arab country, except for Syria, has its constitution enshrined by Islam. The proclamation is that Islam is the religion of the State.  Which means in cases where adjudication required the teaching of the Koran, and its interpretation would hold sway.  In Israel's case, despite what it says on the cover a 'Jewish State', it purports to lives by secular Liberal democracy.

Enough talk of annexation, apartheid, and occupation and let us rewind a little and use this occasion a turning point in establishing a new peace accord.



According to Jean-Paul Sartre, an eminent French Philosopher, his theory of existentialism is embedded in the idea that "existence precedes essence".  Only by existing and acting a certain way do we give meaning to our lives. The people of Palestine should carry this mantle of wise philosophical approach.  To widen their hope and broaden their vision towards a new future.

Recent history and blight of the Palestinian people

Since the Nakba of 1948 life has stood still for them.  The myth of winning world opinion to their cause by continued dependence on world charities has only entrenched many of them in continued misery, being there and meaningless.  The poignant belief that such manifestation of victimhood will bring back the past to its mythical glory is nothing less than political manipulation by those who stand to benefit.   Such a purposeful and imposed objectives for the continued blight of people allow the Palestinian leadership to enjoy perks and economic opulence.  So they ensure to remain in the political limelight for whatever other advantages that could bring. 

To structure world opinion by the Intfadas that followed the initial diaspora, or to scaffold world morality or sympathies with nothing to offer but impoverishment have clearly not worked.  Many living in Gaza today have remained uneducated firmly entrenched in myths and misery. A show that testifies to the absurdity of the human condition, their only escape route is their irrationality.  They continue to find a reason to hope in what impoverishes them. Still embroiled in that one ideological stance unknowingly grouped and used as a bargaining ploy- innocents in a desert of desolation—time to look for a new horizon.

But first, the world has to stop the widespread belief that siding with the Palestinians is a left-wing ideology.  The cause has to transgress beyond this almost single share of value.  Just as Black lives matter, share their values with white people, the discrimination they face pales into insignificance compared to daily atrocities, the Palestinian people undergo.  Establishing shared values in human life, civil and human rights with the world at large.  "I can't breath", is a scream for help but in Palestinian hands has always remained merely an echo in the hollow chambers of world opinion.  Nobody, not even the Arab world there to circle their wagons against injustice. The Palestinian people in Gaza and occupied lands have been drained of hope, the alternative to turn to the next phase. 


The Palestinian leadership.

The geriatric Palestinian leadership have been inept at dramatising the suffering and the existential threats of its people.  But, finding itself deep in troubled waters, and currently swimming against the tide, no harm to turn to a true cliche, it is never too late to attempt a reversal of fortune.  It is time to realise that Mahmoud Abbas and co. are facing a crisis.  The political situation is at a crossroad faced with difficult choices, divided when they are needed most.    The status quo thus far they have enjoyed can not be maintained.  Faced with a deteriorating situation to their leadership, coupled with an increasing loss of land since the Oslo agreement things need to come to ahead.  A change to a more active, energetic and innovative group is the only remaining hope for the Palestinian people to weave back their identity and their integrity.  In a world where scepticism has putrified their cause a thorough overhaul needed to claw back the expanse of their ideals.  A cohort of Palestinian intelligentsia is never far away talented enough to broaden this stagnant and myopic vision, world-renowned and influential. They can and are willing to offer their expertise for the purpose if only allowed a platform to engage and fit into the system.

Objectives

So, what to do to widen this narrow scope. A new perspective to go beyond a pixelated eye view of things to bring these concerns to the fore of world opinion.  Fighting for justice and fighting for peace needs new blood a new declaration of intentions.  A new war of ideology and civic nationalism required to redefine the meaning of life of the Palestinian people.  To disarm the hatred, mistrust and suspicions of all concerned.  To spring out firm beliefs in new ideas pulling the cause forward to new frontiers.  Coming in peace is the new slogan and for many in the Middle East a modern philosophy.  A new bargaining concept needed to carry the Palestinian people to the elusive peace they so dearly deserve. To stop rehashing views of old but to start lifting the veil of ambiguity and suspicion.  To behave as people, not as victims.  And lastly, strange as it may seem, to debunk Netanyahu and Gantz hawkish philosophies and appeal directly to the Israeli people whos life does matter. 

In liberal democratic states, more than ever before, the voice of the people that make the events governments follow.  Recent three appeals to the electorate in Israel is a case in point.  The hierarchy needed legitimacy and three elections in a row within a space of a few months is a prime example of electorate rule.  So make use of the system and start to make amends and not rash ideas of throwing people in the sea—a new beginning to create a new past for the future.

The Future

Anachronistic myths and propaganda are best left to history. 

Time and again, myths and propaganda inadvertently scored their own goal.  Threatening language have also left a disfiguring scar on world opinion.  Videos of atrocities across the social media showing grievances in all sorts of their ugly forms have proved self-defeating.  At best they grab attention for no more than ten or twenty seconds they share.  Olive branches and white doves no longer constitute chapters for peace.  World interest can only lie in the scope and sincerity of intentions. In all of this, it is worth to bear in mind justice lies on the side of the underdog, so here justice will prevail, but knowing how to grab it to serve ideals, is an art form. Mao Tse Tung Long March was a retreat but won him victory.  So, time to learn a new approach and time to latch on to the modern world. Ideas are starting points and what may be an unpleasant truth annexation could be a turning point, the first step to peace and a time to hope.