Losing our Memory?

Peter Verovšek, writing in Social Europe, in the article The Loss of European Memory has published a timely and telling narrative about the loss of memory and the angling away from the traditional European certainties of democratic rights and freedoms that a newly emergent political paradigm brings. A commitment to democracy, human rights and the rule of law was Europe’s answer to fascism. The loss of this European memory presents real dangers amid a resurgent populism. Verovšek‘s argument is essentially about the vacuum created by the emergence of new populist right, with their cries for ‘taking back control’, ensuring that ‘our white race … continues to exist’ and fighting ‘an invasion of foreigners’.  Memories of total war, and the deprivations wrought by a far right in full military mode have faded. This is the danger he argues. As a baby- boomer I have no personal knowledge of this damaging blanket of conflict too, but my existence has been fully shaped and tempered by the ’45’ generation, to whom European solidarity and inter-nation co-operation and human rights had been so important. The leaders of this generation deepened integration through the completion of the common market, the opening of intra-European borders with the Schengen agreement, the creation of the euro and the empowerment of the European Parliament. Anecdotally, there are plenty of millennials in the media who seem to intuitively feel this shift, but do not, as yet, declare their allegiance to Europe to be against the rise of Fascism. However, it…

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At the Cliff Edge – Part Three

Over Edge Part Three – the New Model (Economic) Army Addendum – 16th January 2019 Following the devastating defeat for the ‘May Brexit Plan’, the rejection of the futile scheme now means we have gone over the cliff. As the political consequences tumble from the Westminster table to the floor of the House, we will be left with a representative process itself unable to function, I suspect. It is this calamity that is undemocratic, not the cries from the right of the Tory Party that the previous questioning and seeking clarity has been claimed, in their eyes. From the wasted, vast public expenditure spent in pursuit of narrow, partisan political ideological aims, to the new understanding by the majority of the population around the consequences and the complexity of misunderstood and ineffective negotiation on our behalf – now is the time to abandon the sly scheming of the Bullingdon Club as national policy and to reaffirm our collaborative, humanitarian commitment to the European project. Or, at the very least to hold a new referendum to re-assert the will of the people, now a referendum of informed choice, to decide our fate collectively. Without either, I would argue, there is no hope of a new socio-economic plan, as detailed below, in our increasingly isolated, beleaguered island. ‘…we argue that the UK must now embrace change on a sufficient scale to achieve ‘escape velocity’ from an economy that delivers neither prosperity nor justice, to one that achieves both. We face a decade…

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To the Cliff Edge – Part Two

This article is being written in the run up to Christmas 2018, as the Brexit debacle continues to hold sway of both the media and national and local government. Our traditional time of festive merry making, generosity of spirit and forgiveness, secular or otherwise is becoming active again, but this year set against the publication of a report about our nation that should, if widely distributed, stop us in our tracks. On the 16th November 2018, Professor Philip Alston, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, published his ‘Statement on a Visit to the United Kingdom‘. This is a tautly argued, well evidenced report from an independent mind. It is not without much good tidings on the work of libraries, charities and some sections of government activity, for example. However, the body of the narrative presents a society, I would argue, being slowly squeezed into a pressure cooker of even deeper poverty, social discrimination and economic disenfranchisement. “For almost one in every two children to be poor in twenty-first century Britain is not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster, all rolled into one”. Fourteen million people in our country live in poverty, of those, some four million live fifty per cent below that disastrous level and possibly one and half million people live in abject destitution according to the Alston argument. ‘British compassion for those who are suffering has been replaced by a punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous approach apparently designed…

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As we hurtle towards the edge of the cliff…

‘This statement is all about party political management of the factions in the Tory party – the national interest is a very poor second. What an utter shambles‘…Chuka Umunna‏Verified account @ChukaUmunna Oct 15 In a sense, in the midst of a gargantuan flow of promises, policy revision and idealogical selfishness, then it doesn’t really matter what the statement mentioned above is all about. Umunna’s tweet is a metaphor for a wider socio-political discontent. History is the important context, or rather, a lack of it and a missing sensibility to previous disastrous political outcomes. Umunna’s opinion captures a general sweep of unease with both major parties – over Brexit, the political operational vacuum at the heart of Westminster because of it, and all the ancillary debates, gesture politics and posturing that diminishes compassionate, effective government. As I emerge from my period of grief over the Europe debacle, I look back in a deeply personal reflection across the current landscape. Post the ‘Referendum of Mis-information’ and having taken the family to Europe, France and Holland, to explore new places to live and new bases for our small  businesses, they have taken the opportunity to decline relocation as a solution to my European malaise. I remain deeply pessimistic about their future, and that of their children, as a result of a party political ‘manoeuvre’ of the deepest national and international significance, a word described in the dictionary as ‘…to move skilfully and carefully‘. In this case, history here may not be kind. In the here…

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Equaliteas – share, debate, celebrate – not too late

‘What does it mean to you to have the same democratic rights as everyone else? Join together with people from all over the country to celebrate 90 years since the Representation of the People Act 1928, which gave all men and women over 21 the equal right to vote. Invite your community to share, debate, and celebrate what equality means to you’. Source: https://equaliteas.org.uk/ Register on this UK Parliament web site to get your free promotional material and to support parliamentary democracy for all – and the Representation of the People Act in 1928. Events: 18th June to 2nd July, 2018. Why not have a tea party and talk about it, or discover an event already registered near you. See more here. Check out these events in the East of England, for example… Tea Together at Kings Lynn Library – ‘Celebrate the Great Women of Lynn and Norfolk this afternoon. We are launching our new Voicebox Cafes celebrating women’s right to vote & encouraging you to get involved in local democratic life. Discover some local suffragette stories & try some tasty cake! All welcome’. Tea Together Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library More than MUM!  South Street, Ipswich Kesgrave Tuesday Project – Kesgrave Still time to register and engage your community of interest in debate, delicious cakes and pots of hot tea! Democracy, community and the relevance of the democratic process across all communities.        

Antiuniversity Now 2018

‘Antiuniversity Now is a collaborative experiment to reimagine the 1968 Antiuniversity of London, in an ongoing programme of free and inclusive self-organised radical learning events. Antiuniversity Now challenges academic and class hierarchy through an open invitation to teach and learn any subject, in any form, anywhere’.   Now in its fourth year you can, between June 9th and June 15th 2018, join in a wide range of radical, activist educational opportunities, for free. We are glad to see the autodidact is not dead, and to discover proof that collective and supportive peer education is still abroad. (We know it’s not..Ed). We offer some of our favourite sessions for your delight below, but do discover more on the AN web pages here…www.antiuniversity.org DIY Radio: How to make radio shows and broadcast them for nothing Courtesy of 199 Radio, this event…’will focus on learning how to use some of these tools to create our own radio programmes (Audacity, Mixx, Radio Studio and others), and how to broadcast them on the internet using Facebook. At the same time we’ll be talking about our experience of independent broadcasting, the future of radio and other subjects dear to our hearts’. More detail and registration here. Peer to Peer Web Workshop:  A practical workshop for anyone interested in the p2p distributed web! The agorama server co-operative offer a one day practical workshop that provide the tools and instructions for creating your own self-hosted website and contributing to a decentralized p2p internet. The instructors will briefly explain…

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The Moral Matrix and 2017

Jonathan Haidt in this 2008 talk explores the constraints and tensions in the moral psychology of left and right. He uses the context of the American political system and discusses primary moral principles, which for us in the UK, can be seen as a proxy equating to Labour and Conservative ideologies. Given the tensions within the Labour Party at present, given the divisions created by the referendum on Europe last year, there is a merit in revisiting these earlier Haidt arguments, touching as he does on freedom, rights, power and dissent. You can see the full TED talk from Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist and Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business, below… Source: In the talk, leavened with an easy humour, it is easy to see identifiable Labour Party sterotypes, as well as those of the Tory persuasion. The left enjoy open-ness, change and commitment to the future well-being of others. Those of the right, in this model, cleave more strongly to notions of order, and acceptance of the suffering of some, to achieve their world vision. Haidt’s arguments about the five principal moral values that determine our political allegiance do bear subtler fruit after reflection. However, there is a more complex truth illustrated at play within and relevant to the UK Left, I would argue. There are certainly those of the left who are adherents of open-ness, change and collaborative development. The countervailing position, arguably, is reflected in the matter of the Labour…

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Film, art, reality and Ken Loach

  Embed from Getty Images  From Jarrow into the future, the never-ending march!   Spending time and resources on re-location, post referendum, has been an interesting, if difficult,  process over the summer. France has been a comfortable destination, both in terms of culture and prospective places to live. Now we have now widened our search, however, to scope projects in the cities of Rotterdam and Dublin. Both seem to offer a more supportive context for a refreshed approach to developing a social business project list, and a settled philosophical face to permanent membership of Europe. Progress reports of our search for a compassionate community in the EU, as they emerge… This has not been a brake, however, on engagement with the artistic and political culture of England. I saw two films riven with political angst and declarative for reform over this week. Below is a commentary on that viewing. Adam Curtis has delivered a provocative new film, HyperNormalisation, which seeks to show how the emergence of inward looking, technology driven, private banks and corporations have essentially subsumed the power of government, in the widest possible sense of a world with only a pretence of accountablity. The film tracks a development arc from the 1970’s onwards which shows the rise of ‘big data’ and it’s secret storage and manipulation, and how this, coupled to a capricious and opportunistic political class, had traded allegiances and money whilst dissolving their ability to solve societal problems. You can see this challenging and sometimes disturbing…

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And so to France…

In Europe recently looking at both projects and for places to live. When looking for information on business services, buildings and local opportunities, the distinctiveness of the Mairie and its conditioning power in small local communities, was a powerful example of how local democracy, decision making and regard for both history and civic presence can be created in one building, regardless of the size of the community. History is important in France. Travelling from the city of Arras towards the coast created an opportunity to stop for coffee and a short walk. Just off the main road was a plot of land, about the size of a generous community football field. In it stood over eleven thousand grave markers for French men and women. Individuals who had fallen during The Great War. Driving on, in a few minutes passing similar places dedicated to nearly forty thousand German souls, others for Indian nationals who died, and for Polish combatants too in another. A jumble of conflicts and immaculately kept memory, dotted across the landscape. In the village centres and small towns were memorials erected to British Generals, regiments and individual soldiers, all paid for by popular subscription. Concrete evidence that France, lying at the heart of the European idea, must be as mystified as I am about the English notion of ‘leaving Europe’, post-referendum. Having travelled across France many times in a lifetime, this journey was haunted by the spectre of betrayal. A notion that the lives expended in the creation…

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BHS – the Parliamentary Report

If you are in business, this BHS Parliamentary Report makes for a very depressing read. It combines a narrative of weak governance and the exercise of singular personal influence that is breathtaking. The Committee make some sweeping assertions, however, about the nature of ‘business’ in the UK, which to this reader, do not perhaps reflect the true state of a wider ‘moral’ commercial landscape extant in the presently configured UK. It gives little regard, I would argue, for the good work and innovative governance practice delivered by the social business market, the ethical investment marketplace and the community endeavour or social enterprise sectors. In the UK good practice abounds, but it was not prowling the corridors of BHS at the appropriate time nor, allegedly, had the fearless support of a company management team that were vigorous and rigorous in pursuit of  customer care, employee development and growth and tilted all energy towards a cohort of pensioners, upon whose expertise and life work in the company, these missed opportunities were nurtured through time. ‘We chose to investigate BHS because it encapsulated many of our ongoing concerns about the regulatory and cultural framework in which business operates, including the ethics of business behaviour, the governance of private companies, the balance between risk and reward, mergers and acquisitions practices, the governance and regulation of workplace pension schemes, and the sustainability of defined benefit pensions…’ Source: First Report of the Work and Pensions Committee and Fourth Report of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee…

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