About OUFI

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London, United Kingdom
Welcome to my Blog. This Blog provides a platform for free expressions on issues of importance that appeal to the independent mind. Matters of political, moral and social concern, that may agree with or contravenes our free and well-intentioned thinking, have free reign on this blog. Friends and colleagues can express and respect different opinions on current or historical issues that at times may run counter to established worldview. “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.” - Voltaire

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Tyranny of Capitalism


“Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all.”- John Maynard Keynes

“Capitalism needs neither propaganda nor apostles. Its achievements speak for themselves. Capitalism delivers the goods.” -Ludwig von Mises.g

“If there were a nation of gods, it would govern itself democratically. A government so perfect is not suited to men.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract, 1762

This article will take on itself the difficult task to examine the ominous tempest currently sweeping across the Western world leaving a virulent social anger in its wake.  Class differentials marked by gaping divide of social interaction between the poor who are becoming poorer and the rich 1% who are experiencing a meteoric rise in wealth.  In the United States for instance "Including capital gains, the share of national income going to the richest 1% of Americans has doubled since 1980, from 10% to 20%, roughly where it was a century ago. Even more striking, the share going to the top 0.01%—some 16,000 families with an average income of $24m—has quadrupled, from just over 1% to almost 5%".  This phenomenon not confined to the US but similar trends also in Britain, Canada, China and India. Here, I examine some of the reasons for a one-sided concentration of income: a core reason for political dissatisfaction rapidly developed fault line in inequality especially striking since the 2008/9 recession, and point to those who are brave enough to recognise this paradigm shift how they aim to achieve a more egalitarian society.  This change together with globalisation has drawn to itself the current recoiling to national borders, rejection of foreign imported labour, and building real and metaphoric walls to secure people's cossetted and traditional grounding they perceive to exist still.

Class conflict is no stranger to this side of the world clearly recognisable by the ever present ‘Society of Orders’ that prevailed in Europe until the first two decades of the twentieth century.  There has been many uprisings, revolts and revolutions to mark such events and one notorious that struck at the heart of European Elite was 1848, a month of revolutions and industrialisation. The mere grievance was to get a decent wage for an honest day’s work. Though the revolts at the time did not achieve much, they later proved to be the spring well for social reforms in Bismarck’s Germany, Tsarist Russia and of course in Britain and France.   Throughout the 'Gilded Age' of the Second half of the 19th century through to the second half of the Twentieth, despite gallant efforts by governments to fiscal reforms, interwar society was marked by deep social fault lines: egalitarian notions were still in slumber. Social welfare was mostly inadequate falling far short in its care of the elderly, disadvantaged and those fought for King and country.  That was all to change post-1945.   It was time for the government to recognise and payback the individual a belief that government should advance the common good became widely accepted.  Civil and human rights were taking centre stage; forces were in evidence working on behalf of the people’s security allaying fears of vulnerability.  The individual and society have finally arrived and ever since education and entrepreneurial spirit and other redeeming forces slowly eroded ‘Socialism’ from being synonymous to class conflict on both sides of the Atlantic.   Billionaire George Soros addresses the pejorative use of the term by the conservative right by stating, "Speaking as a person who would be most hurt by this, I think my fellow hedge fund managers call this class warfare because they don't like to pay more taxes."

The recent experience of voting trends in the UK and the United States demonstrated a bottom-up awareness towards a need for organising political structure and an appeal to reform the economic scene.  A cautious tale of two halves is building up in a country famous for its interacting with its people and in the UK the welfare system instituted at the beginning of the second half of the last century is a prime testimony.  Need for a cautious realignment of the Reaganite and Thatcherite neo-liberal policies and to clip back the free for all notions of free markets and reinstitute a degree of state control.  In effect, it is for the government to re-establish its role as conscious observer and ethical policymaker acting on behalf of individuals kerbing greed and apply an alert moral view to competitive capitalism to reconcile with those who feel alienated.    To release the handcuffs that can inadvertently stifle the economy that has so often in the past brought economic unrests.

Theresa May was the first to recognise this discrepancy in her first speech after becoming Britain's Prime Minister emphasising Social Justice to be the principal theme of her one Nation Government.  Her ideas of a union were not only about the United Kingdom but to encapsulate “all of our citizens, every one of us, whoever we are and wherever we’re from.”  As a government “We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives.”  In her determined effort towards equality and sapping control from the Elite, she went on “we’ll listen not to the mighty but to you. When it comes to taxes, we’ll prioritise not the wealthy, but you […] Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for everyone of us.”

There is another side of the argument that says the wealthiest shoulder the most for moving the economy forward.  On BBC’s ‘Daily Politics’"The people who have shouldered the greatest responsibility to get the economy back on its feet are the wealthiest". Somehow I doubt whether John Maynard Keynes would have agreed see first quote above. Whether such perverse statements could ever reconcile with reality is hard to imagine but could be flippant rhetoric protecting a brittle carapace rather than admitting the obvious.  Moreover, Sir Philip Green BHS story belies this argument as do those allegedly dodging UK corporation tax such as Google, Starbucks, Amazon, etc.  For many of the hardworking population these cornucopias of riches, among this wailing and fury do not bode well and for blanketing over their responsibilities is an unacceptable face of Capitalism especially in the face of an emerging new society that demands transparency and calling out for fairness. It is worthwhile to realise Gallup World Poll data provide new evidence that all along the national income scale, life satisfaction rises with average earnings level and vice versa.

Indeed from all recent accounts, we need to realise we are in the throes of change, a paradigm shift of major proportions.  Unresolved Political dissonance is growing ever more incongruous; disparities is proving to be one of the biggest social, economic and political challenges of our time. The latest victories in the US, the Brexit vote in the UK shows the masses are increasingly vulnerable easily exploited by a subtle "the will to power" (Nietzsche), political entrepreneurs stirring up the emotions.  Visible signs of disenchantment against the establishment, the 'Gatekeepers' and the ruling elite is a continued theme on social media.  Populists are also filling the gap between the political right and left on emotional grounds.  Many struggling Europeans are angry for similar reasons outlined but increasingly see refuge in the rhetoric of racial and cultural nationalism passing for patriotism while the populist demagoguery does much for exciting the traditionalists fearful of demographic changes.

The tyranny of capitalism has undoubtedly left some people behind while many others feel marginalised.  Also, the government thus far has intentionally or otherwise misread or mishandled the appropriate tools in dealing with those underprivileged or creating enough opportunities for young and enthusiastic sections of our society to thrive.  The young forced against the bulwark of rising property prices and rising rents and the lowering of incentives for working long hours.  The chase for greater profits has circumscribed employment regulation and where Laws enacted they have failed to kerb avaricious companies in fencing off unethical capitalistic approaches. Poverty and those failed members of our society have grown in unprecedented numbers and due to convoluted council regulations has seen marked escalation in homelessness- the forgotten few.  A new breed has evolved from among those suffering such destitutions, and the many en mass supporters who have grown angry are voting against the establishment and balloting to reverse this chain of events.  The Elite and the establishment are held to blame for this divergence. An incoming tide of income disparity enough to suggest a polarising of society from the haves and the have not from the wealthy and the underprivileged- a class differential measured by a widening and an unacceptable concept of inequality.

An economic system that allows for Capitalism unchained, without government orchestration will only add weight to public resentment of "the politicians are all lying to us anyway," Compromise and empathy ought to be the imperative in the business of making money.  A dire need to prescribe to that ethos when evaluating the value of Profit since it is morally unjustifiable to accept that accumulation of wealth is an end itself.  However, I hasten to add; this piece is not meant to be a stain on the free market but creating wealth must also build opportunities, a change of mechanism, where possible in a joint effort with the government to deliver the change that people want. Capitalism needs to share in the wealth it creates, responsibility and the drive for prosperity also mean to give out a share to those with limited opportunities eliminating reasons for a possible backlash.   A free market must also be a means to spread opportunities, protect democracy and help to stem the tide of stagnation in people standard of living and allowing Capitalism to speak for itself by working for the whole country.

"Always recognise that human individuals are ends, and do not use them as means to your end." 
 Immanuel Kant

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Restructuring Lost Paradise

World War I cost the Allied forces 5.5 million deaths.  While the Central Powers one of which was the Ottoman Empire lost around 4.5 million war dead.  By 1917 a year before the end of the war The Russian Empire, thanks to the Lenin’s October Revolution, Communist takeover, the Emerging Soviet Union was counting its dead and its disintegration almost complete bar last minute nationalist insurgencies.  By 1918 Keiser Bill’s Germany had lost its colonies mainly to Britain and Japan.  Austria-Hungarian Empire severely dismembered both shrunk to micro-size in comparison to pre- 1914.  Finally the Turkish Empire partly for participating on the Central Powers side and partly for the Dardanelles debacle, a Campaign that severely damaged Allied pride. Post-1918, the Empire was pulled to pieces with much of its territories divided under mandatory systems between Britain and France.  That is when the infamous Sykes-Picot duo went to town as self-proclaimed cartographers with immense discursive powers for shaping the entire region.  Described at the time a “dictation of terms at the point of the Bayonet…”.  Similarly, the regional disparity of power means today we see, Iraq once again finds itself under the Turkish hammer while, this time, resting on the Iranian anvil.

Europe meanwhile was in turmoil drawing and redrawing dozens of boundaries in efforts to accommodate ethnic demands.  Nationalism was at fever pitch where the Wilsonian (Wilsonianism), ideas for self-determination and democratisation vying for centre stage.  The War may have ended but in the words of the French Foreign Minister Stéphen Pichon the war’s end meant only that “the era of difficulties begins.” 

For this post, we are concerned with, peace-making with the Ottoman Empire.  It began with Treaty of Sèvres, signed in 1920 between Ottoman Turkey and the Allied powers represented by Britain, France, the United States, Italy and Japan. They alone wrote treaties and expected the states of the defeated powers to sign them. At this time discursive powers efforts at peacemaking a discrepancy developed in determining the situation on the ground.  However, since Turkey’s new nationalist government hand had weakened while their ultimate wish was to join the International Community in restructuring and rebuilding their economies, the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed VI signed on 10 August 1920 giving way to its existing borders as stipulated in the agreement.

"In Anatolia, an emerging Turkish successor state under the direction of Mustafa Kemal (1881-1938) revealed the discrepancy between discursive and material power dramatically. The outcome in Anatolia required a second and quite a different treaty, the Treaty of Lausanne signed on 24 July 1923. This treaty sharply demarcated the power of the European empires. The new republic in Turkey proved interested not in rejecting the overall discursive structure of international relations, but joining it on terms agreeable to itself.” This treaty followed the Greece's defeat in the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922 resulted in a population exchange between Turkey and Greece in 1923, 1.2 million Greek Orthodox left Anatolia and 500,000 Muslims/Turks from Greece and the Balkans came to Turkey. By 1927, the Greek Orthodox population in Turkey was only 13,648.

Turkey's nationalism has probably never been stronger since the heady days of Kamal Attaturk.  Today, of course, it has an added ingredient, a dose of religion making it distinctively different to the secular state that came away from the remains of the Empire and dismemberment of its borders.   Erdoğan-style of Nationalism is rolling back history and reconstructing the Ottoman Empire – Lost Paradise.  Despite the Treaty of Lausanne, a Treaty that marked the birth of a new State, created by the struggle of its citizens rather than the gift of the Imperialists, has happily (without Mosul) lasted for over a century.   Unlike its counterpart, that devolved into another world war barely thirty years after. Between the two wars, Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, and Hungary tried to redraw their borders but met with catastrophe. Whereas, Kamal Ataturk, revolutionary founder of Turkey, resisted from doing the same wise enough to avoid apocalyptic end. However, as with the Treaty signed at Montreux on July 20th, 1936, when Turkey was suspecting a draining of British power was successful in gaining further sovereignty over its former territory.  

Now may be a new dawn means new chance and a new hope that can also mean new problems.   Hence the power game now, ideal opportunity for Erdoğan to resolve yesterday’s problems, seeing Iraq almost on its knees with its firepower diminished.    

Realising a divided sectarian army, Iraq has so far proved useless against so-called Islamic states. The latter made up of volunteer groups hardly ever experienced professional combat and untrained in warfare. Moreover, the Iraqi army would be unable to provide a bulwark against a professional; NATO supervised well-armed and highly trained Turkish armed forces.  Like the imperialist of old, refurbishing Mao Zedong, old proverb “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun: Concessions or War not much of choice.

It is worth questioning whether Turkey is conducting its foreign policies on an ad hoc basis because rather than its policies, actions and attitudes towards Iraq is piecemeal when it should be holistic, so the main actors need to know its real intentions.  What is the sum of all parts? Obviously, where Iraq is concerned, Turkey does not consider itself as an outside agent since it regularly infringes on Iraq's porous borders finding intermittent causes to justify these actions, illegal border crossings.    Compared to Israel's past misdemeanours crossing into Lebanon at will, Turkey's border violations are by far more dangerous and rather more ominous.  Iraq, like Lebanon, then and now, has no power at its disposal to deal with a hegemonic power, a Sunni thorn by its side.  Attempt to monopolise the business of regional politics Turkey eliminates any intrinsic reason for Shia Iran to participate in this delicate demarcation in identifying Iraq's borders. 

There are of course other than a political reason to suggest for Turkeys aggressive policies led by President Erdoğan.  Such systems are found in the internal framework more in evidence after the introduction of The Emergency Law System.  Erdoğan further solidifying hold on Turkish civil society and the Army for growing support is essential to his personal status.  Certainly, after the July botched coup attempt, he has to bring in the secularist army into the fold of his Islamist government but also has to rebuild the Army's reputation after seeing some of its generals subjected to the humiliation the following August, back to a respected institution under his influence.  He knows he could be walking a tightrope to keep the balance between the Army well known to hold on to Kemalist secular Turkish State.  With the civil, nationalist currents sweeping the country the military, powered by Ankara, the Army will be obliged to keep the momentum against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).  There is also Oil wealth to be had, and a critical and more valuable additional commodity is Land.  Aside for Turkey's burgeoning and highly successful industrial base Turkey's dependence on Tourism has so far proved fickle.  Food production is an asset forming commodity that is not volatile or dependent on international political mood but its greater demand internationally; it becomes a corollary to Turkey's political importance.       

It remains questionable whether Erdoğan’s long reach can be successful beyond his present borders. The recent incursions into Syria and Iraq anything to go by the boundaries are becoming blurred.  Additionally, with too many participants and superpowers hell bent to play their parts, flexing their firepower at will, the area is becoming too crowded where he fervently considers himself the dominant player.  Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s revisionist policies, attempts at sovereignty over the area to an irredentist claim on Mosul and part of Syria is nothing short of redrawing the boundaries. Not so much for getting rid of Assad or Shia government in Iraq, since by present a reckoning he is agreeable to both their patrons Iran or to cure an aggrieved fixation against the PKK but to change the terms of the Lausanne Peace Treaty. In that regard, not to chain ourselves to the present set of political confusion, when a pixelated perspective will do, but to see both foreign and domestic policy often fused to his benefit. In Turkey’s case, it is evident the geopolitical belligerency takes place for the benefit to build Ankara’s uncompromising self-image in support of an increasingly authoritarian regime.  Among the turmoil that surrounds it, strained Alliance between Turkey and NATO, growing rapprochement between Turkey and Russia, and its unique geographical endowment its stands poised to recover its lost Paradise.   

Monday, 24 October 2016


The years 1789 to 1794 was the epoch-making five years that were to form the turning point of the French Revolution.  The Third Estate went to build the Nation as a body of people who join to live under the common law.  From it sprang the Declaration Rights of Man that went on to underscore Liberté, égalité, fraternité.

It may surprise you despite the heading this post is not about religion although religion runs through it, I would rather rein in the argument to social conformity and Law of Secularism principally in France.  Hence to read this post against a background of recent controversy concerning the banning of wearing burkinis on a beach and its likely hood of causing nuisance and disturbance especially in the light of the last few terrorists’ attacks in that country.  The multi-folds of this argument support the consequent ban on the Bourkini and face cover along the following lines:

a) Blatant disregard for the law of the land
b) Provocative display of religious symbols.
C) Laïcité is not coercive or restrictive.

According to Wikipedia Laïcité, is the absence of religious involvement in government affairs, especially the prohibition of religious influence in the determination of state policies. According to Oxford Reference, Laïcité exists in varying forms depending on the level of influence of religion and religious beliefs stipulated by government guiding principles, politics, law, and public life. In some countries, such as France, there is a complete separation of religion from state affairs (a form of secularism known as Laïcité). Demonstrating, amongst other things, to limit if not issue an outright ban on the wearing of conspicuous religious symbols in public government institutions such as schools. It does not prevent or prohibit people's right to freedom of religion and belief. Secular states have two key features: 1) their legal and judicial processes are out of institutional religious control and 2) they constitutionally establish neither an official religion nor atheism. Laïcité is non-restrictive to freedom of thought and freedom of worship.  The absence of state religion and separation of state and religion some consider as a prerequisite to freedom of thought and drawing in minority interests.  Other countries that have adopted Laïcité or its hybrids are the United States, Turkey, Mexico and others including ironically for a Middle Eastern country, The Lebanon.

The stress is on égalité where the Equality of all is to establish a simple citizen on equal terms to all other citizens, devoid of ethnic, religious or other particularities.  Citizen, in the context of the French Revolution, is the key that abolishes patriarchal and hierarchical constructs of Society of Orders.

It is generally asserted that French secularism secures freedom of thought and freedom of religion. On the other hand, many would argue that Laïcité is coercive and is an infringement on the right of the individual.  It implies a subtle form of anti-clericalism and inhibits religious expressions.  Rather than promoting freedom of religion, it prevents the believer from observing his or her religion. Personally, I strongly refute this argument since effort for equality, France as embedded in its constitution constantly aware not to include religion in public and hence though a Catholic country the government as always distanced itself from Religious exhibitionism.  Conversely, the law is also active in the protection of minority rights and is supportive in funding of religious institutions irrespective of denomination.  It restricts government and institutions from any would be prejudice against any one's religion while it tries to minimize the chances of radicalisation.

French constitution seeks more of a universal acceptance of tradition just as much as the Gregorian calendar, for example, is accepted universally.  What it tries to prevent is stepping outside the universally accepted norm to distinctively making a statement.  Conversely, from religious neutrality perspective, the law works for the protection of minority rights.  It restricts government and institutions from any would be prejudice against any one's religion. It makes an effort to contain the radicalization of Islam, and the law acts as a deterrent by extending its reach to include an excessive show of religious emblems.  Laïcité can further be interpreted embodying restrictive religious aims not to allow a Divine authority to dominate the state and to extinguish any outward sign that can lead to that.

Hence, it is also a flawed argument to suggest that a Nun, in formal dress, should not be on a beach.  As far as the Catholic Church is concerned it stipulates a Nun must make her presence visible in everyday life, hence a Nun’s Habit, just as much as an Islamic Imam is identified by his mode of dress in public.  And, is irrespective whether or not a Nun is allowed on the Beach as in Nice, France. Contemporary culture often very secularized is increasingly sensitive to the language of signs and symbols to embellish with Bourkini; a symbol that bears clear witness they belong to a particular religion is interpreted as extremely provocative.  Culturally, many would invoke the idea being discreet with one's religion as a necessary part of being French.  The Islamic hijab, Sikh turban, (large) Christian crosses, and Jewish Stars of David and kippah should be banned from public schools. Such a ban came into effect in France in 2004.  Moreover despite many consider France a Christian country the law also banned the broadcasts of Catholic and Orthodox Christmas night liturgies.

For further validation to my argument, I need to highlight the objection from yet another perspective. The outward appearance of distinctive clothing bracketing a certain individual to a religious affiliation is a political statement.  It bears the psychic phenomena of self-distancing more engrossed with identity formation bordering on self-construction.  It tries to signify possible distinction between Equality of an individual in society as opposed to a difference of that individual.  Showing outward signs of failure to integrate into the broader community and failure on the part of the person to benefit from standard discourses of Enlightenment to ‘find themselves’, without prejudice to the universal norm.  To opt out to a concept of self-distancing while unconsciously allowing separation, delimitation, and spatial partition.

Religion in Democracy, the practice of which need not be contradictory to the term so long as the points hitherto considered, are acknowledged for this argument. In opposition, it is worth noting, generally, in Muslim countries Religion and the State were united in pursuit of Islamic righteousness. However, in porous social democracies, meaning and appropriating application of Laïcité is in flux. They also allow Laïcité to extend its reach to cover the constant changes and evolving system of values organizing the relationship between civil society and the state.   Laïcité is not asking to 'exit from religion' or to withdraw from the world held by one's religion and its creedal references but to give collective meaning to societies’ members.

Clause 4 of the ‘Rights of Man’ states: Liberty consists in being able to do whatever doesn’t harm another.  Thus, the exercise of each man’s natural rights has no limits other than those which guarantee to the other members of society the enjoyment of these same rights; those limits can only be determined by the law.

(Accepted by King Louis XVI of France)

Friday, 21 October 2016

Atomising Morality

Straight away I explain, this post will be about the importance of The Individual and Individual Rights over a common misconception that there is a universal moral code many who believe binds the order of society.  It will also take under its wings the vagaries of Morality some continue to resist their acceptance but preclude the different Ethical norm that calibrates our behaviour towards fellow human beings or to nature at large.   The notion of the Enlightenment that gained pace in the eighteenth century through the efforts of Philosophical giants such as chief editor, and contributor to the Encyclopédie Denise Diderot along with Jean le Rond d'Alembert and Voltaire who were its leading light.  The age of the Enlightenment was the key that unlocked the concept of Individual Rights released Man from the notion of Belief and into the secular world we know today.  To help get this post off the ground Atomising Morality is the same as saying Moral Relativism a subjectivist view where the truth or justification of moral judgments is not absolute, but relative to the moral standard of some person or group of individuals.

Moral diversity is entirely due to moral truth or justification, which is also relative to a culture or society. It is high time for a multiculturalist society that is presently seeing a transforming Europe inculcate the idea that all moral values had equal or relative validity. Realisation and acceptance of diversity of culture including those considered primitive were the eventual pointers in the second half of the twentieth century on the occasion of the United Nations debate about universal human rights. Not forgetting, of course, the relative feminist values and the sphere of medical concerns.  It is a fact there are in-depth and widespread moral disagreements across different societies, and these differences are much more significant than whatever agreements there may be. Moral judgment can differ as much as to say ‘Polygamy is morally wrong’ may be true relative to one society, but false relative to another.

My starting point in all of this is to go back the Classics when the sense of Virtue in the fourth century Athens, was identified to one's advantage to adapt at least Justice as a character trait.  The Cardinal Virtues Plato settled on were Prudence (Wisdom), Fortitude (Courage), Temperance (Discipline) and Justice.  The antonyms were Foolishness, Inconsistency, Wrath and Injustice.  All were considered universal and the option most likely to lead to flourishing existence.  The moral code that acts as the wellspring to individual morality is ‘Why be just?, and What is the right thing to do ?’ This ought to be the catalyst that translates differently to suit different cultures in how to arrange the ‘good’ listed earlier both in themselves and in their consequences.   

The continuous social reconstruction mainly in Northern Europe and Northern America has also caused the disintegration of religion which up until then was in some respects the binding force for a collective understanding of moral behaviour.  That said religious inferences blurs when traditions and conventions provide a truer condition that cultivated those seeds in what Kant calls "The Categorical Imperative" towards the "autonomous Will."

The end of World War II gave way to the birth of a New Europe, and it was the turn for the European governments to serve the wishes of the individual.  A new order and a new kind of society propagated and a new conception of Man was incubated ready to meet the ‘Golden Age’ laying out the premise of appropriate freedom.  “If what each of us shall do and become is without alternative, the notion of choice is illusory, and it is the opportunity to choose that the meaningfulness of the above questions depends on.”   It was time for a new war of ideas and social revolution, a tendency to reassert the primacy of the individual placing individual choice in the most direct and inescapable form. “To render myself passive in this world’ wrote Sartre in Being and Nothingness (1943) ‘is still to choose the person I am.’ 

The 1960s were a time of sweeping social and cultural change, affecting most areas of life. It was a time of unprecedented affluence when for the first time the mass of the population began to enjoy what had hitherto been luxuries: televisions, cars, foreign holidays, refrigerators, and washing machines. It was a time when youth became more assertive, challenging the authority of parents, teachers, and social conventions of every kind. The revolt had a political dimension, which found powerful expression in the student movement of the later 1960s, culminating in Paris in May 1968.  The old order seemed to be totally discredited, and a new age of freedom and democracy had dawned. But much more lasting in their effects were changes in ways of life and personal morality, symbolised by deliberately unconventional clothes and hairstyles, by the use of illegal drugs, and above all by a rejection of the accepted norms of sexual morality.  More generally, the prevailing ethos of individual freedom, informality, ‘doing your own thing’, and rejection of hierarchies of every kind presented the churches with a major challenge.  Breakdown of moral attributes meant increasing disbelief in church ordered moral guidance, and this on a general level may have caused the greater level of unchristian beliefs.  Changes of Morality were, therefore, becoming more concerned with individual behaviour. 

The common thread running through the ‘cultural revolution’ of the 1960s was the demand for greater personal freedom, and the consequent rejection of those moral codes, doctrinal systems, social conventions, and systems of authority which seemed to stand in the way. 

"This revolt had at least three dimensions, which could overlap, but equally could be totally independent of one another.  The desire to enjoy the benefits of affluence, in the form of more material goods, greater mobility, and more leisure; an egalitarian political radicalism, which challenged existing systems of authority and hierarchy; and a desire to experiment, to seek new experiences, and to liberate the senses, unconstrained by Puritan taboos. The drive to enjoy the fruits of affluence most often led to religious indifference." Hugh McLeod (1997), ‘Fragmentation’ in Religion.'

Atomic individuality is associated with modern social contract theory.  Under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher neo-Liberalism was to emphasise that point where at times the concept bordered on ethical subjectivism.  The individual is becoming conditioned by new values of freedom and the values he adopts measured by initiatives of each person.  The sum of which has been more good than bad and that shows in the entrepreneurial spirit generated over the last decade and more to say nothing of keeping the government on their toes.  That goes hand in hand with motivation, inventiveness and innovation that had it remained in the cloisters of Classic morality would have made man’s achievements impossible.  

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Dump Trump!

The word Phenomena has an interesting concept.  Rummaging through the pages of Oxford English Dictionary, (OED, I find Phenomena to mean  "A thing which appears, or which is perceived or observed. A particular (kind of) fact, occurrence, or change as perceived through the senses or known intellectually; esp. a fact or occurrence, the cause or explanation of which is in question."  This definition prompts much of the subject of this post; indeed the support for the Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump is a Phenomenon based on imagination, perceiving, ultimately the essence of that support is in question.  So the post will be about ‘phenomenology’ the study of the theory of this particular phenomenon.  I found out later the question, in this case, is not Trump as some people may believe but the changing American Society and the ‘question’ is embedded in refusal to change.   Any one of his ilk will do. 

American Society or to be exact White American Society gripped with fear.  The Republican Party that has always stood for Law and Order, holding steadfastly to conservatism and traditionalist American principles has done its job far too well.  It now finds itself being rejected by the non-white majority, mainly voting for the Democratic Party more amenable to societal changes, which will now be the dominating voice in the American political arena.  Moreover, Trump has become the new ‘aisle’ that has traditionally divided the Senate but with a difference where Republicans find itself sub-divided as it has done before.  “There were no longer two parties in the senate—there were three, and the two of these counted as Republican becoming more bitter against each other than against the common enemy across the aisle.” C. G. Bowers, (1918).

Trump is a demagogue espousing the fanciful cause of the people who are against most of those that are different.  Hence he has attacked all those that do not agree with him or critical of policies.  His oratory has alienated Women, Muslims, Hispanics, Gays & Lesbians, African Americans, Catholics, accusing the media of ganging up on him and believing the election rigged against him.  To the point that in 19th October Las Vegas, during the last face to face debate, he demeaned the principles of Democracy totally averse to accept the verdict of the US Presidential Election on November 8th, 2016.  

He is also an authoritarian which makes his popularity is even more puzzling.  As a student of History, I inevitably turn to History for an explanation of this phenomenon, and in particular, I turn to Germany of 1933.  At the time one of the most sophisticated and intellectual societies in the world turned freely, blindly and irrationally to an overwhelming support of a demagogue. Lead by a Socialist Nationalist leader who aroused enough pride and nationalist passion of the German Nation to drive them to ruin eventually. What attracted them, having survived the Great War of 1918 and the Hyperinflation that followed, was fear of uncertainty and the unknown and fear of change.  Unconsciously perceiving a belief in a leadership no more that praying without theological consideration or driving while not giving a second’s thought how the engine works.

Likewise, and by all accounts, Trump is a political agitator who appeals to the passions and prejudices of the mob to obtain power or further his interests.  His rhetoric further defines him as an unprincipled or factious popular orator who carries much of the cause for a dividing American society.  An atavistic and a throwback to a political party formed in the United States in 1892 to represent the interests of the entire population embracing populist advocacy to public control and holding free institutions to account. 

Hence we go forward to find out why White America is gripped with fear and flirting with Authoritarianism and is attracted to extreme and bizarre views. What is more absurd is that his popularity is across social and demographic divide – income, education and religiosity which usually any one of them can define a Republican candidate. Research has shown those who fear change and a desire for protection from change possess a “psychological profile…that is characterised by a desire for order and a fear of outsiders.” McWilliams Hence they seek an authoritarian figure for protection.  The correlation in the support for Trump points in that direction and primarily citing immigration for playing a significant part in unbalancing the status-quo.  What is happening though is that same group is driving a wedge in American Society.  It is also polarising the GOP voters between these who hold orthodox views from those who are extremists.  Research also “predicted a looming and dramatic transformation of American politics.” (Hetherington and Weiler).  A development if need be to challenge threats with force, forming barricades against outsiders totally beyond the grain of traditional American welcome and belies the notion of America as a nation of immigrants.

Whether to propagate his vision to potential voters of such extreme views can upend American politics is hard to predict. One thing for sure that there is a section of the population that exist, admittedly not enough to seat Trump as the President of the United States and commander in chief of the United States Armed Forces, but the scars of intrinsic and indoctrinated ideologies he leaves behind would be difficult to heal.   They will be to Hillary Clinton and those who follow to repair the damage left behind.  What is worse is that what happens in America soon distils into Europe when already in Britain, France, and Germany where multiculturalism had supposedly taken roots, are crying foul of immigrants.  The idea that a Presidential nominee could come out with “We’re going to be so vigilant we’re going to be so careful, we’re going to be so tough and so mean and so nasty” is akin to Fascism.  With French Nationalist leader such as Marie Le Pain in France nearer home also stoking the fires, prophesizing on similar lines, we need to turn to the defunct Weimar Republic for instruction on how not to do it.  Dump Trump!

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Is Iraq Cracking up?

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi on a televised broadcast on Monday morning 17th October 2106 declared the start of the liberation of Mosul, north of Iraq, which since June 2014 has been under the control of ISIL following their audacious and lightning invasion of the city of approximately 1.5 million people. "The hour of victory has come; the operation to liberate Mosul has started. God willing, we will meet in Mosul to celebrate the liberation and your Salvation from Daesh so we can live together once again, all religions united and together," Hope and optimism expressed to the suffering people of Iraq, many of whom will experience vicarious pleasure to hear such noble words.  Two years in the making; this operation, spearheaded by Iraqi forces, Peshmerga militia ground troops backed by no less than American, French and British Airforce. Beside such staggering military firepower, there is also a conglomeration of units from 60 countries to drive out the dreaded evil ISIL hopefully to bring the end of a continuous cycle of violence that has plagued Iraq for so long.

Peace cannot come quickly enough to this beleaguered country made up of 35 million people, a heterogeneous population that has endured so much strife and suffering.  Indeed, there has never been so much death and destruction since the American invasion in 2003 as there has been in Iraq’s turbulent 100-year history when it was inorganically constructed back in 1923. The hope, of course, is directed to that end but unfortunately, achieving peace in Iraq political lexicon, as experience has shown, can never be so linear.  The big question will be the sustainability of peace and whether the people of Iraq can ever find common ground for religious tolerance a rudder towards cohesiveness and political harmony.   Aside from existing squabbles and corrupt government ISIL would have left a legacy of upheavals: military, security, social, economic and political, the government of Iraq need to surmount.  Along the way neighbouring Turkey from the North and Iran from the East have also built up militias to safeguard their respective political ideologies ready to use force.   Belligerent agents aside, the government of Iraq need to come to terms with a kaleidoscope of interested groups, led mainly by narcissistic personalities that have come together from amongst the violence of the last decade and more. They support populist religious, political and tribal leaders, between them, can splinter any intentions of peace efforts.   Indeed individualism can have a nasty meaning in Iraq, likely to scupper any peace initiative that may fall short of their personal ideological or financial interests. Time and again this has become emblematic of regional politics that has so often proven the stumbling block for peace in Iraq as much as it is an elusive commodity in the rest of the Middle East.

For analytical purposes, it would be interesting take a close look at the interested parties aside from Sunni Turkey and Shia Iran acting as backup principle patrons.  There are a plethora of interested militias: separate Shia Militia backed and financed by Baghdad government without legal hold over them, The Nineveh Guard, Iranian-backed Militia, Kurds Militia; KRG, PKK, Turkey backed Sunni Militia, Syria back Militia who all hold Mosul vital to their interest.  Some are also there to safeguard their influence along the Turkish and Syrian borders.  With so many parties involved with overlapping interests, the picture becomes confusing where the parties concerned could easily stumble into renewed round of violence. Additionally, in the presence of proverbial Arab emotions running high, coupled with a lack of unbiased arbiter or peacemaker makes the situation highly combustible. With so much at stake high-level negotiation is vital; there is bound to be a morsel of understanding to lighten the opacity of dissonance. 

If all else fails, let democracy decide how this jigsaw fits and put religious extremism to the test.  As in Europe: Scotland, Britain and elsewhere, let the people take a decision in a referendum whether they want the country to be divided on religious grounds and should this division is on the Sunni and Shia conflicting ideologies.  If indeed the result is a YES for a division, as would be expected, finally to prompt the next question the desire whether each side to affiliate with Turkey and Iran respectively.  There remain the Kurdish issue that needs resolving.  Although the majority are of Sunni Faith their nationalist ideology is far from Turkish interest but for a landlocked region, though geographically endowed with oil and beautiful landscape, it's hard to see how they can prize nationalism and semi-autonomy at least without concessions to its neighbours.

The alternative as it stands today; Iraq is rich in resources but almost a failed state. Where more or less the government is there by name only, anarchy rules and where the law applies to the highest bidder.   Since where there is prevalent ubiquitous belief in superstition and jealousy that carry ominous significance, the country can re-establish a starting point. As India before it with Mumbai and Chennai, to throw the Colonial name ‘Iraq’ into the dustbin of history and change it into something that might yet hold a bright and promising future for its people.  However, from a realistic point of view, given circumstances and factors involved, the kinetic challenges we see today will dwarf in comparison to Bismarckian Realpolitik essential to sort out the quagmire we call Iraq that yet to follow the road signs to real peace. To my knowledge, though, political pragmatism and Democracy never killed anybody.

Therefore it is Time for the Iraqi nation to be at peace with itself - Inshallah.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

How far are we from a civil war in France?

How far are we from a civil war in France?  

Another attack and another massacre to hit French soil last week, Nice, which must make France as number one target for ISIS at present in Europe.  This time, a white truck drove across The Promenade des Anglais at the height of celebration of Bastille Day and peak season at the French summer resort.  The result was a massacre in which at last 84 people, including several children, died. The evening started when people gathered to watch the fireworks display on France's national day that ended in a massacre. The driver, was later identified as Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a 31-year-old French-Tunisian resident in Nice, was subsequently shot dead inside the vehicle.

President François Hollande’s, declaration immediately after the Nice massacre: “This is undoubtedly a terrorist attack; the whole of France is under the threat of an Islamic terrorist attack”. A statement such as this coming from a lame duck president can only feed the right wing element in France towards division and antagonism, fuel the Rightist party over the precipitous to racial confrontations. Additionally, these statements will be attempts to re-introducing religion and religious identification into secular societies making them more sympathetic to Islamic institutions.  I believe there is the truth that most young Muslims are not Muslim they are as secular in fact as their white schoolmates. “But because it is convenient for governments and administrators to classify them as Muslim, they often become so out of resentment.” Tony Judt.

"We are going to reinforce our actions in Syria and Iraq," the president said after the Nice attack. Such rhetoric is mere to shore up his failing presidency. Also, surely Syria and Iraq by now must be the wrong target when he should be looking nearer home.  On the other hand looking inwards might increase the dissonance and destroy the likely hood of reconciliation between a dividing and dislocating minority of 4.7 million Muslims or 7.5 percent of the population. 

With France facing a possible but imminent danger I can only assume that another two or three such atrocities would finally tip the balance to outright confrontation. 

A position had been reached to question how long is that fuse making it fair to ask How far are we from a civil war in France?  

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Divorce is easy, a settlement not so!

If you thought as is widely known there are no shifting tectonic plates under the British Isles, you would be wrong.  On the early hours of Friday 24th of June 2016, the ground shifted with cataclysmic proportions.  How far the destructive waves of the resulting tsunami pans out only time can tell.  British people or to be precise 52% of those who took part in the Referendum voted to exit from the European Union.  After 45 years of marriage albeit rocky at times, Britain is now seeking a divorce from a union that has served it so well.  A wound is self-inflicted and unnecessary. To some extent the British government has to apply this instruction but that is the easy bit.  To settle the differences with the EU will be harder; sailing through uncharted waters with no radar.  There are no precedents and no arbitrary institutions to mediate between the grieving parties. To add to the woes, the new Prime Minister, who would follow Mr. Cameron in October, has to trigger Article 50: a formal notice to leave.  He will have foreign relations to grapple with and seismic economic issues as well as the need to calm the inevitable internal strife within the county and turmoil in his or her party.

Referendums are utterly useless and inherently undemocratic.  In the words of Margaret Thatcher, it is a “device of dictators and demagogues”.  In this day of Social Media, people are being bombarded with headlines and soundbites; many would hardly have an opinion to consider or formulate let alone discuss a substantial subject.  Neither a tool for deciding on a complex issue.  One of the  Founding Fathers was a leader of American independence from Great Britain and the second President of the United States John Adams called it “tyranny of the majority,”

So how did we come to this and what now, Britain?  However, since the British public has voted to Exit, this article will challenge such a decision and consider the ramifications on British Economic and socio-political formations.

After a gruelling campaign by the Leave, a side called Brexiteers and the Remain camp both giving wild promises and economic gloom and doom and engaging in scaremongering the British people voted 52% to Leave and 48% to Remain in the European Union. Both sides used alarmist language bordering on the mythical if not downright lies.  The Brexiteer leadership promised to “take back control” including Sovereignty and restrict the flow of immigrants pledging to save £350billion to reinvest in the NHS rather than net outflow contribution to the EU.  The remain claimed every family will be worse off by  £4000 if Britain leaves.   Also, many other claims that are hard to say or predict but mainly based on misuse of statistics.  The important thing is that the electorate has made a decision and what we now have to consider is whether that decision is legally binding on the British Government and what are the likely consequences for Britain, Europe and indeed for the rest of the world.  Also to note The Three Musketeers, Boris Johson, Michael Gove and Nigel Farage leaders of the Brexit campaign had not even considered ‘the afters strategies’; how to tackle the exiting aftermath.

No doubt the fallout will be tremendous but as in all these things, one has to gather the remnants, limit the damages and go forward the best way possible.  The internal political implications are immense and judging by the pacifying nature contributed from the politicians of all colours the priority is uniting the country once more. The starting question, however, is whether the Referendum is binding on the government.  The simple answer is a decisive NO, but merely advisory.  Moreover, its principle and verdict although democratic its substance leave reason to doubt.  Whether the acceptance of this Will ground on moral or constitutional judgment is far from clear at this stage.  Indeed, there is doubt whether the Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty has ever been ratified therefore invoking it remains baseless.  Grounded on vague assumptions on how a country can leave the EU as in the happy moment of entry; exit then was not seriously contemplated.  Complications may also arise when warding off other members from a possible Leaving contagion in efforts to protect the Union.   It is also important,  in the turmoil of inevitable haggling over interpretation, of terms or inferences members needed to guard away from adversarial stances.

What could it mean for Britain? Tom Short of the Guardian Newspaper, rightly point to; “Sterling, Scotland, the Irish border, the Gibraltar border, the frontier at Calais, the need to continue compliance with all EU regulations for a free market. The re-issuing of passports, Brits abroad, EU citizens in Britain, the mountain of legislation to be torn up and rewritten” no doubt there will be much more to add in the days and weeks ahead.  Faced with 62% of the electorate who did not vote to leave leaving 38% who did is not a mandate to exit the EU.  By many expert accounts the Exit poll more than suggests a populist motion of censure with the establishment, with David Cameron as Prime Minister, and for the older generation, embroidered more by nostalgia than hard facts.  Whether there is a legal mechanism to renounce the referendum must be left to the lawyers and QC’s to arbitrate over.
Economically the victory by the Exit camp may be pyrrhic and the costs to the unity of the United Kingdom that has withstood wars and upheavals of many kinds since its inception in The Act of Union 1707 is likely to disintegrate.  Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland First Minister, has already advocated a possible “new referendum on the table” further adding that that “Holyrood could try to block the UK's exit from the EU.”  The Northern Ireland question seems to have woken up from its slumber where we may surprisingly have unfinished business.  The fear will be the Republicans wanting to renew their cause re advocating old grievances that could draw us all back to the violent late 1960’s and 1970’s the height of religious conflicts.  There is also the proverbial Gibraltar question, its relation with Spain and its economy’s dependence worker flow from Spanish mainland; vital to the well being of the locals who voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU.  Within 24 hours of the exit vote, Spain has requested joint running of Gibralter’s affairs.

The enormity of the costs of economic consequences can not be underestimated. Britain, as a highly industrialised nation imports over 60% of its food it is very sensitive to a sterling drop in value.  Aside from holidays abroad becoming more expensive this can easily result in the rise of food costs which will inevitably put pressure on high street consumer prices.  Such volatility may indeed lead to market instability exerting pressure on wages and inflation.  The Exit action will also have a sour relationship with EU 550 million consumer-rich none tariff single market.  Its leadership will be free to exercise their protectionist policies make it difficult for foreign owned producing plants to base their manufacturing in the UK. The probable scenario will see Head offices and factories and jobs uprooted which will, at least in the short term have an inexorable pressure on property prices as I see it.  Although the Stock Market has somewhat stabilised from its ills of last Black Friday, June 2nd, it nevertheless emphasis is weighted on the negativity that the international community associated with the Exit vote.

Immigration became another self-realising prophecy despite there is not enough substance to justify it but used as an alarmist argument.  Some sections of the public took this as licentious rants for racial abuse.   Lord Mandelson, who says “they [Voting Public], were exploited by the Leave campaign's relentless focus on immigration.” Also, Krishnan Guru-Murthy of Channel 4, asked Farage leader of the Ukip party"How many of those people in the poster made it to Britain? None." Found no response.  Other than political divisiveness this marked an escalation of ‘white man’ to ‘come out of the closet’.  Such deep scars need healing which will undoubtedly prove more troublesome to plaster over than mere differences of opinion.

Considerations to the above must highlight the importance to review this costly vote or indeed since there is so much doubt on its legal entity enough to reconsider.  If it is not binding, Parliament must revoke it or from the perspective of percentage figures I have quoted above not to ratify it.  Indeed invalidate reasons to invoke Article 50 as well. To see the vote for what it is; anti-establishment, populist derived more from demagoguery that logic or rational argument and above all from gut feeling rather than common sense. It is imperative over all parties, Whitehall, Berlin, and Paris to calm down, if not negate the vote to delay the process of intent on article 50 and to renegotiate with the European Union.  If reform needs to go to the roots of the Brussels to redefine their relationship to reach new agreements then so be it.  Europe is for Europeans.  Inevitably this will mean compromise and linear duality taking under its wings zero sum directives as with all negotiations.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

We are in Control!

This article concentrates on one theme - Sovereignty

“The poor quality of debate on a topic as complex as EU membership carries the risk that this crucial vote is decided not on the basis of the best available information and analysis but on gut feeling and short-term mood swings. This is no way to decide upon fundamental issues of democracy and sovereignty for years to come” Brexit, the Politics of a bad idea.

Edmund Burke, one of my most revered conservative British statesman, in his sentimental observation to the French Revolution in 1790 said that British constitution is made up of layer upon layer over the centuries.  He added, “British Constitution is far from being a political convenience[…]it was the fruit of tradition”.  Since then although many objections raised against the appointed House of Lords to curb its powers, its ‘constitutional’ structure has remained.  Parliament has remained supreme for both Houses represent and provide the anchorage of British Democracy as well as Britain’s administration of its juridical structure. 

The Brexit camp argues in their EU referendum campaign that Britain has lost its sovereignty, and even its democracy.  Boris Johnson, the ex-mayor of London, says that “EU membership is incompatible with parliamentary sovereignty.” Staying out means to take back control of a so-called inexorable and iron grid Brussels’ bureaucracy.  When signing the entry into Europe in 1973 Edward Heath, the then Britains Conservative Prime Miniter assured the public there is “no question of any erosion of national sovereignty”, and that Parliament can at any time confirm this by holding a referendum.  However, we need to bear in mind that a country can be wholly sovereign but hardly has any influence.  With some measure and as will all negotiation, it is a zero sum game because overall it is very difficult to distinguish between local rules and parliamentary laws on some lesser important matters.  For example alliances such as NATO membership creates an obligation to go to war if another member country attacked. 

It is wrong to argue, as some do, unelected bureaucrats impose that EU law in the European Commission. “In fact, although the Commission proposes draft legislation, it is adopted by the Council of Ministers, consisting of elected national governments, and the elected European Parliament.” Members of The House of Lords are unelected, and so are judges who form part of our laws setting precedents.   The EU, maybe supranational, but elections (including European ones) fought on national issues. In fact, voters can throw out the elected leadership at any time if they were to exercise their EU voting rights more often.  What at times may seem undemocratic is when those elected members shift alliances by compromises but that is part of procedures of shifting alliances under a coalition government structure, the British find unusual. There is no question of taking back control. 

It is not longer a question of autonomy and without it, Britain can never be free.  The control we have is through our appointed representative.  They have no power that the directives instilled in them by our national government.  The Brexit camp wrongly believes that ultimate power rests in Brussels.  It is important to note, however, that Britain today manufactures only 14% of its GDP most of which owned by foreign companies.  These include goods from heavy industry to food, clothing, cars, etc.  Britain also depends heavily on food producing countries for most of it food imports. Also, since it can not print its money as this also is done privately owned international banks, one can not blame Brussels for the contents of our sausages or the type of Bananas we can import.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Let the Past Speak for Britain's Future...

Let the Past Speak for Britain's Future

This article concentrates on one theme: Economics

It was in 1973 Britain finally gained entry into the Common Market giving the EU its old name.  Edward Heath, the British Conservative Prime Minister, had steered British entry into the EEC in 1973.  Support for joining was by emboldened when 67 percent of the electorate voted yes to continued membership in the referendum of June 1975. With President Charles DeGaule, out of the way, France finally acceded to Britain’s entry.  At that point Britain was experiencing rising labour costs, strikes and an overvalued currency before the oil crisis that came in October following the Arab–Israeli War or Yum Kippur war.  With most of the Western Europe recording record figures Britain’s economy, by contrast, was in the preceding eight to ten years experienced a corresponding deterioration in the balance of payments and the outlook was anything but bleak.  It was a time when earnings rose by 9 percent and productivity by only 1 per cent. Never in Britain's history has so large a gap recorded between wages and productivity.   “By the conventional accounting, this leaves us [Britain] with real first-line reserves of a mere £88 million (as against liabilities of over £4.000 million).” In spite of further efforts to reduce inflation, the pound continued to lose value, reaching a record low against the dollar in June 1976.  Germany and America by way of the IMF financed Britain to the tune of £3.9Billion. 

The economic instability was so bad this is how Dennis Healey, the Chancellor of the Exchequer expressed the mood of the people “I wouldn’t have your job for a million pounds, why on earth do you want to be Chancellor of the Exchequer at a time like this?”.  This extract from his budget speech of 12 November 1974, “...existing price controls squeeze them [private companies] much harder than anyone ever intended, almost to strangulation in some cases”. He went on  "we could all be set for a great slump on the size of the 30s and an international trade war which would sweep away the framework of international cooperation.” The fear was that Britain’s postwar modernity – embodied in technological advance, economic growth, consumerism and individualism – appeared in doubt.   Britain’s national economy had staggered from crisis to crisis for most of the post-war decades.  This situation finally culminated in the Winter of Discontent’ of 1978/79; major trade unions undertook a series of angry, concerted strikes against their ‘own’ government: rubbish went uncollected, the dead were left unburied.

This community spirit, led by Germany saved Britain from defaulting on its loans received a ‘Bailout’.  Since joining the European club whether, by agreement, negotiation or downright arguing, Britain’s economic health turned for the better and had access to a tariff-free market.  Since joining the EU, Britain’s relative economic performance has improved; GDP per capita has grown faster than France, Germany and Italy since 1973. Some people will rightly argue that all this improvement not solely credited to the EU but at the same time, it needs to be noted British entry has not damaged British growth. Some also believe, in this global age, it is just as easy to trade with Australia as it is to trade with France.  Aside from this dubious observation, The Dominions such as Australia, New Zealand, and Canada have since 1966 joined up in trading agreements independently with other countries.  Many of them are members of The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) some Economist goes so far as to describe it a trade “one of the most ambitious free trade agreements ever signed.” Currently, 44% of our exports go to the EU, and 48% of foreign direct investment into Britain comes from the EU.  EU exports to Britain per member remains small to the point of insignificance if special privileges requested.  As a highly industrialised nation Britain imports most of its food locally, almost at its doorstep; Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy and France non-dollar countries that can otherwise drain its dollar reserves.  This radical transformation has all the signposts for the way ahead into the future.  Additionally, ‘collective’ spirit and integration are key to resuscitate the Community’s role as a possible bulwark against financial disorder.  Will all that disappear with a Brexit? Clearly not. But it will be adversely affected. This is from an Ernst & Young survey of foreign direct investors (the companies that build factories and offices here) last year:

With 72% of investors citing access to the European single market as important to the UK’s attractiveness, the referendum has the potential to change perceptions of the UK dramatically, posing a major risk to FDI. Our survey indicates that 31% of investors will either freeze or reduce investment until the outcome is known.

Voting IN is security for the generations to come. Yes, Britain is stronger in Europe.  

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Britain is stronger in Europe

This article concentrates on one theme - Immigration.

In Britain, as in the United States, we see British Democracy is tending to turn inwards.  With its increasing national problems such as the widening of economic disparities, it is abandoning its international interests.  Britain along with the global trend is in the middle of its worst economic stretch since the 1930’s.  The populists are decrying that such harms caused by others such as immigration, therefore, placing their ills on racial and cultural reasons. Hence, history shows with such broad backlash and worries in the background a shift to the right normally takes place. Today we see most of the Europeans going in that direction with France leading the way. Nigel Farage,leader of the UK Independence Party, in fermenting fear, is capitalising on this as much as possible in the hope that it draws him away from the cold and into mainstream politics.

During the interwar period of 1918 to 1939 financial crisis led to political polarisation and fragmentation but this time, even the austerity measures that Greece is experiencing has not steered the Greeks away from Europe.  The same for Britain, where according to Ipsos, a pollster, 49% those likely to vote for Brexit cite immigration and not so much anti-Europe or economic frustration.  What is developing is not so much as kin culture but socio-political culture laced with an Anti-drive verging on hatred.  The Brutal murder last week of Jo Cox, British Member of Parliament, is one ugly symptom.

Brexit victory, based on fear of immigrants, I am afraid will result in a divided society.  A society that will have an inexorable interest in its own cultural and religious awareness growing intolerant and extreme while advocating individual rights. This split in direction is often, enshrined in socio-culture and religion and where prejudice will reign supreme. Anti-immigration, as key to blame for subverting British democracy, will be a nationalist vote, and at best it will be right of centre.  Additionally, this broader view of racial anxiety conceivably caused by less educated 'white' competing with immigrants for jobs.  For Brexiteers to vote out citing immigration as their primary reason, immigrants will find an echo in Mr Trump's proposal to bar Muslims because some might be terrorists.

Nationalism can be an ideological danger, especially when lurking behind its primary objective of political action that can easily transcend to unrestrained power.  A glance at the political developments of right-wing nationalist parties in the last century should be enough to set alarm bells and ought to be underlined as sinister intentions.

Farag's contribution to the Immigration problem is one blunt tool policy, more suitable to cavemen, and has no place at the table of a modern multi-cultural society.    Fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance of different beliefs historically are some of the pillars of British Constitution. An attitude of ‘Right or wrong, this is my country’ will create a dangerous precedent in British Politics.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Is Marxism a failed Philosophy?

This is a short reply I gave to a friend recently.

Is Marxism a failed philosophy? An interesting question to which I hope I can lend some justice.

Let's examine the fallout since its Hegelian Dialectical conceptualisation of Thesis, Antithesis, and Synthesis that fundamentally embodied the framework within a perceived economic structure. Indeed, from this vantage point, one immediately sees that the Marxist temple has been deserted and now stands barren of its would-be pretenders.

Marxism, as reinforced by The Bolsheviks and Lenin, are both dead. Stalinism is dead. Sovietization is dead. Both, as adopted by Vietnam, and exemplified by the killing fields of Cambodia and The Khmer Rouge are dead. Maoism is dead. Contemporary china'mism' is today masked communism, where Capitalism at its incipiency killed off all traces of the Proletariat and where Class and The Bourgeoisie are both still alive and well. Lastly North Korea, a fossilised communist state, where Totalitarianism owes its system to a hodgepodge of Fhurerism - Allegiance to ONE.

According to Friedrich von Hayek rightly in my opinion Central command economy, embodied in Marxist Philosophy, for its final Thesis breeds control which leads to domination, Despotism, and Totalitarianism. According to Hanna Ahrendt totalitarian and socialist inspired regimes can also result in Right Wing Fascism as in Mussolini's Italy and Hitler's Nazism- both embryonically rooted in Socialism. The interwar years between 1918 and 1945 all such coloured ideologies including all forms of Marxist philosophy were tried out and rejected only to see the triumph of Capitalism eventually reconfirmed following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1992 which then ensured Marxist philosophy's final capitulation in the reunification of Germany.

So yes, Marxism in all it's mimesis and given hybrid paradigms are dead and buried deep enough to ensure against its resurrection.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

ISIS: The Invisible Enemy

ISIS: The Invisible Enemy

“To empathise with those most different from one’s own moral culture, without necessarily sympathising. This is our call to comprehend. If we can only grasp why otherwise normal humans would want to die killing masses of other humans who have harmed no one, we might ourselves better avoid killing and being killed.”

Scott Atran, Senior Research Fellow at Oxford University in England

Like with any other totalitarian movements we need History to lend us a hand not only to understand ISIS but help us define it.  Many ideas have been put forward addressing this particular phenomenon in many columns; this blog is no exception.  This part will look at its broad socio-political argument, likely causes and ideological sustainability within it's perceptual religious and political lenses.  I try to establish how terror and destruction are natural, indeed vital, state activity and its lifeline. Significant in that aim the horrendous historical mistakes that were to cause a turning point, with consequences unforeseen at the time, fundamentally changed Middle East History if not the world.

The shedding of the Ottoman yolk at the turn of the twentieth century was within reach, and the Saudi and Wahhabi Nationalist dream for the independence of Muslim Arabia was a promise yet to realise. However, like many dreams and hopes they are likely to become nightmares.   The final emancipation when it arrived came packaged with Christian ribbons: inside the infidel’s sphere of influence.  Iraq placed under British Mandate in contradiction to US President Wilson’s January 1918, 14 points peace settlement of self-determination which promised, “nationalities which are now under Turkish rule […] unmolested opportunity of autonomous development”. Despite American objections British forces occupied Baghdad and Jerusalem proclaimed that they came as liberators, promising Sharif Hussein of Mecca and his son Faisal, an Arab State, an Independence and Freedom cloaked in Statehood and Sovereignty.  Alas like many other assurances given to the Arabs, these promises wrung hollow.  To add insult to injuries the realisation of 1916 Sykes-Picot agreements, The Balfour Declaration dated 2 November 1917 in which the British gave what was not theirs to give, was another insult to an already grievous harm.  Here is what US secretary of state Edward Lansing wrote in a memorandum of 9 May 1919 that: “… It may be years before these suppressed peoples can throw off the yoke, but as sure as day follows night, the time will come when they will make the effort.”  In the event, the San Remo Resolution of April 25, 1920, was fatally flawed.  The name ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as ISIL, or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) is a clear marker to the aggressive intentions.  To be sure this is more than a stirring political dissatisfaction but more of a cultural revolt rooted in a historical context.

Far too many grievous harms and great travesties of justice the Muslim Arabs and their ‘religious islands’ have had to endure through the centuries. In all likelihood would carry deep scars going forward but sadly emboldened by the gratification of revenge in its quest of National regeneration. The hurt post-WWI was enough to unite for the first time the Shia-Sunni divide.  Battles raged against British mandatory rule with their collaborators including Nuri al-Said and his brother-in-law Jafar al-Askari that had earlier placed Faisal, a discarded material, on the throne of Iraq.  An agreement was finally reached and ratified on October 3, 1932, when the League of Nations voted unanimously to admit the Kingdom of Iraq to membership.  The reluctance to do so says Susan Pedersen in her paper, the community “feared that the primary victims of independence might be some segments of the Iraqi population itself.”

According to Al-Jazeera and other publications “As the man in charge of the so-called reconstruction effort in post-Saddam Iraq, [Paul] Bremer ordered the disbanding of the Iraqi army and banned members of the Ba'ath Party from holding public office. These measures, critics say, were directly responsible for Iraq's descent into chaos.” Indeed confusion and humiliation for taking away a traditional Sunni government control to pass on to Shia authorities that were not used in instruments of government let alone parliamentary democracy. With Iran’s Shia vengeful standpoint this was the ideal scenario for widening its sphere of influence on political as well as on religious grounds. Sectarianism was a fundamental determinant that has so far destroyed thousands of lives and still on-going ten to twelve years later. This turnaround significantly lent a hand in creating radical Sunni Islamist political and terrorist groups.

One needs to define the movement objectively free from emotional encumbrances and subjective prejudices. It is vital to go beyond the ad-lib of ISIS challenge but to understand what it is that ISIS is challenging.  We can then value its cause and evaluate its weakness, by association, its ‘under-belly’.  For some, the very name has now become synonymous with beheading, murder and terrorism – evil. The spread of their interpretation of Islam has also subjected its opponents in multi-dimensional psychological warfare that have so far met with outdated and hitherto, ineffective one dimensional and defensive weaponry.    Treating the Islamic State as merely a form of terrorism or violent extremism masks the menace. For sure will make no headway to counterbalance what has so far clearly unbalanced, western strategy in their single dimension hit back. Daily on the lips of every man woman and child ISIS must be the most written and spoken four letter word and ‘Islam’ as the corollary.  ‘ISIS’ has come to rival ‘America.'

ISIS idealist intent options are to create a globe-spanning jihadi archipelago that will eventually unite to destroy the present world and create a new-old world of universal justice and peace under the Prophet’s banner.  To that end it adheres to an extreme interpretation of Sunni Islam and seeks, through jihad (holy war), to establish an Islamic state ruled by a caliph (a religious leader) and the strict interpretation of Sharia (Islamic law). Originating in 2004 as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), ISIS became so brutal that even al-Qaeda disowned it in 2014. Particularly brutal were its beheadings of Western hostages, which it broadcast on the Internet, and its massacres and forced conversions of Christians and Yazidis in northern Iraq.  By autumn 2014 it was well entrenched; led by an Iraqi ex-army personnel Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, it had 30,000 fighters, including 8,000 foreigners from Chechnya and Europe, and was the world's best-funded militant group, with $2 billion in cash and assets.  It was believed to receive financial support from individuals in some Arab Gulf states and had become self-financing through the cash and bullion it looted from banks in conquered towns and gas and oilfield revenues. The leadership took full advantage of the civil war in Syria and the schismatic turmoil raging in Iraq. In April 2013, al-Baghdadi merged his forces in Iraq and Syria to create the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS, or ISIL).

To Setting up a state with a name ‘Islamic’ is a shrewd political move and to cap it with a Caliphate is also a political movement as a religious synonym to a cult figure; an incumbent on all followers of Islam to follow.   Despite the fact that Muslim scholars and movements from across the Sunni Islamic spectrum have rejected the caliphate, but without a central body for Islam, they can only throw an element of little doubt that can dangerously ignite further sectarianism, breakaways and dissensions each aided by terror as a weapon in favour to rhetoric or discourse.  Farid Senzai says "The Baghdadi caliphate is rejected by most mainstream Islamists because they feel it damages their cause to establish an Islamic system through peaceful means," Such mild and unqualified condemnation desperately lacks conviction.  As I see it, there is a definite build-up of forces of attraction through empathy propagated by common religious beliefs often this is translated in ' terrorist cells'.  They hope this fanatic “blood and soil” revolutionary ideology would sweep away decadent and discredited western ideals, borders, and institutions to replace them with a new baseline of Arab Koranic and disciplined cohesive society.  For some especially the young and impressionable it is seen steeped in excitement energy and novelty generating renewal and reborn pride.  It remains; the cornerstone of this proliferation is terror enshrined with repressive and regressive apparatus of religion.

To understand ISIS religious cleansing is to look at historical models and briefly at National Socialists – Hitler’s Nazi party, in Germany, during the inter-war period.  Ethnic cleaning fuelled by an ideology of racial superiority impacted by racial cleansing.  Immediately after Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in January 1933, his vague totalitarian ideas were set in motion. Europe and America did not see his macabre coming for the bigger enemy at the time was Communism where Fascism was lesser of two evils.  As today with ISIS, the world completely underestimated the challenges the ‘Caliphate’ doctrines were about to unleash on the world stage.  ISIS ideology was also similar to an ideology that, one way or another was responsible for a war that caused nearly 60 million.  We must also remember nearing the end of 1932 the Nazi party enjoyed massive electoral support not necessarily brought about by coercion and intimidation and fear.

It is very likely that supporters of ISIS at every level do not need to know what their leadership is thinking; they merely have to imagine it.  What it was they came to understand what the Koran was saying was embedded solely on a hermeneutic interpretation that was given by their so-called theologians as their version of the truth.  Truth as they saw it.  The followers’ limitations ventured no room for knowledge, to decipher the Islamic scriptures but to merely believe the word of their God on their terms. In other words, to do the atrocities on the idea what the decision makers would want them to do rather than from a universally acknowledged Koranic directives.  Which also means murder by any means or at any time is justified by their Islam.  Most probably they are conscious of their expected execration by the world but to a large extent by those who would not understand the ‘cleansing’ motive or the Koranic significance of such actions.  At the same time, the community’s attempts at indoctrination were multidimensional giving plenty of thought as raw material for constructing social attitude and its enlivening effects to penetrate deep into the psyche of the likes of Jihadi John and his ilk – The Enemy Within!

Despite the fact that ISIS has come to polarise Islamic society nevertheless for many Muslims, irrespective of the intensity colouring their religious belief, bombing the Islamic state can never be a sideshow.   The swathe of territory conquered at unscrupulous speed is nothing short of emulating the lightning spread of Islam in the Eighth century. The current air strikes serve ISIS’ cause in their relentless propaganda to win the 'lost' hearts to their Faith." - The Sympathisers.  Little does the West realise, for some Islamists, they are also bombing Islam’s ancestral heritage. It does not need number-crunchers to figure out how much mayhem 0.25 percent or less of 1.5Billion of potential suicide bombers can cause.   Despite many Muslims denials that ISIS is un-Islamic; at a stroke, ISIS would re-authenticates for many its substance by reciting the Koran.  Hence, to counteract this imbalance, there is a need therefore to diffusing or dilute its ideological character.  It needs to implode by an enemy within unseen and unobtrusive to dislodge the dangerous myths embedded in their beliefs that substantiate the pillars of their Islam.    The orthodox Islamic world needs to defend itself from the “un-Islamic”.  Not only from those radicalised but also who are harder to detect, those who sympathise and carry grudges – The Invisible Enemy.

To preserve the Enlightenment that has so far reached its fringes, Islam, therefore, needs to be ready, willing and have the capacity to expunge from its backyard the intoxication that has infiltrated its beliefs and values. Every effort must be taken to counter these ‘on-a-roll’ of loose cannons from causing further damage to an old established orthodoxy of Faith.  Islam needs to find one cohesive voice, a central agency brave and responsible enough to de-legitimise, de-authenticate even to
de-Islamise the movement to drain it to impotence in outlook and ideology.  The setting up of an ecumenical council to ensure explicitly ordered social and political hierarchies bounded by law. There is every chance this will demoralise the faithful, more importantly, prevent armed splinter groups from causing further harm; dissuading them from continued use of religion as carapace to avenge grievances and to murder.  To initiate major social change, advocate prioritisation of reform over the slanders of proselytism, homosexuality or woman's infidelity.  The esoterics needs to establish a template with final infallible authority on the interpretation of the scriptures.  The old structure may be one-sided and unbalanced and is nearly in ruins but what matters for this moment, not to despair, but to rebuild.