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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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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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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Narrative of war – diminishing debate

Embed from Getty Images The desolation of war… Rowan Williams, lately Archbishop of Canterbury, recently saw an edited version of his 2015 Orwell Lecture published in The Guardian newspaper. (What Orwell can teach us about the language of terror and war). The Orwell Prize is dedicated to ‘…making political writing an art’. This was beautifully elucidated in the Williams speech, where the lack of depth and clarity in political discourse about war, he argues, is underscored by the ‘…double-talk, tautology, ambiguous cliché, self-righteous and doctrinaire pomposity and pseudo-scientific jargon‘ of contemporary rhetoric. It is hard, for example, to see the profound commitment and balanced, sincerely held thinking in the recent debates, of both sides, when they are characterised by saloon bar shouting or by a Bullingdon Club elitist mentality. Williams draws a faith based, comparative thread through his essay between the writings of George Orwell and Thomas Merton, as to be expected. We draw no focus on that aspect of the writing here. However, the Williams thesis about the quality of public discourse and the utility of language as a means of reinforcing and supporting power and political status is a telling one. Merton held, in an essay in 1967 War and the Crisis of Language, Williams tells us that ‘…the speech of military strategists and of politicians is characterised by a narcissistic finality. There can be no real reply to the careful and reasonable calculation of the balance of mass killing in a nuclear war, because everything is so…

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The European flow…

How many people are trying to enter Europe as a result of conflict, immigration or as refugees? The routes across land are complex and often hidden, the headlines often inflammatory, in terms of political motive or the demonisation of others. In the web page, detailed below, Lucify in Finland, attempt to show how, for example, the numbers of individuals reaching the shores of Britain are relatively small. Using United Nations data for monthly counts and with the aid of innovative web graphics, you can see how flows rapidly diminish in an east to west direction. The point, tellingly made, is that all Syrian refugees arriving in Europe to 2015 could stand shoulder to shoulder on 11 soccer pitches. Where are the ‘hordes’? You can find the original Lucify web page here – http://www.lucify.com/the-flow-towards-europe/