Posts Tagged ‘david cameron’

Hey so I had an actual kinda serious thought about how David Cameron supposedly stuck his dick in a dead pig’s mouth.

I know, it’s not exactly the stuff of serious thought. But I’ve not been that into most of the jokes everyone’s been making about it.

It’s not that it isn’t funny that a major newspaper published a story about how the Prime Minister once put his cock inside the head of a pig as part of some kind of initiation procedure. Obviously that’s hilarious. It’s so obvious that I don’t really need the entire internet to keep telling me how funny it is.

The #baeofpigs hashtag is a stroke of genius (especially in contrast to the laziness of #piggate), but the gags seem to mostly consist of people re-explaining to each other why it’s funny that our hamfaced leader has been outed as a literal pigfucker. And that’s absolutely worth revisiting as often as you want to. I’m honestly not trying to buzzkill anyone else’s joy. I just started wondering what’s next before most people had finished having fun.

So anyway this actual serious thought I had.

Satire has always played a vital role in any society where political power is concentrated in the hands of a few dictators and despots, whether they’re democratically elected or not. Ultimately tyrants can only hold sway if their claim to authority is on some level taken seriously – even if you’re a brutal oppressor, you’ll need some kind of military force if you intend to keep a whole country in check, and they’ve got to have a good reason to consider you worth following. A system has to be maintained where you are adequately feared or respected – either by a sufficient chunk of the general populace to keep voting for you, or so that your advisers and generals don’t decide that your shiny hat would fit them better.

The most restrictive and authoritarian regimes have tended to have the least tolerance and harshest reactions to any kind of mockery or ridicule directed at those at the top. This may simply be because, when someone has the ability to make anyone who hurts their feelings disappear, they’ll use that ability – but it may also be because people with that kind of power understand how tenuous their grasp on it might turn out to be, if actual satire is ever allowed to take hold.

Satire punctures the aura of awe and mystique surrounding the distant stony figures who glare down at us from their jewelled thrones. It allows us to laugh at authority, to see the frail human hiding in everyone who ever tried to persuade a nation to see them as something akin to a god.

And as such, in the Western world in the 21st century, it’s basically redundant.

Or rather, there’s a surplus of ridicule and mockery already in place, intrinsic to society, directed at anyone who dares stick their neck above the surface to make themselves noticeable or remarkable even for a moment. Anyone with a shred of online awareness surely knows that everyone is satirising and laughing at everything all the time these days.

David Cameron never had any aura of awe and mystique around him. People have been taking the piss out of him internationally for years. He’s never been protected from criticism by any hushed reverence around a noble office that deserves respect and veneration. Some people haved talked as if this might be a resigning matter for him, but that would require it to change the esteem in which we hold him. But, these days, there’s nothing there to puncture.

There are people who vote Tory and support David Cameron and his ideas, and have developed a tribal allegiance with the filthy farmyard delinquent, and who might have gone off him somewhat as a direct result of these allegations. There are also people who didn’t like him before, and who are making plenty of hay out of this story, and good on them.

But I don’t think anyone was holding back their show of disrespect, until a news story about ritual bestiality suddenly broke the ice, gave everyone permission to point and laugh, and let forth an outpouring of no-longer-restrained ridicule.

For most people, David Cameron is not much more or less a figure of fun than before we found out that he once face-fucked a pig. His ability to command power will, I suspect, be little shaken. Most of the people who previously respected him will continue to do so, for the same reasons as they always did. The people who didn’t respect him before and hold him in even more contempt now, will continue to concern him as little as ever.

Sadly, for all our fun, I don’t think David Cameron is any less dangerous a tyrant than before.

#baeofpigs #neverforget

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Here’s another of those things where I read something that bugs me and I want to write about, I make a note of it, I completely forget to take down any citation or contextual link or reminder of where it came from, weeks pass, and then I find it again and can’t remember what the hell it was about but I might as well blog about it because I’m here now anyway. People love those, right?

This was the quote I had opinions on:

Anarchists: your utopia will never happen. People are too crap.

I’m still dithering on what label best suits my half-baked collection of political ideas. “Libertarian socialist” I’m pretty comfortable with; “anarchist” I have a lot of sympathies with, but I’m not sure. I’ve read enough about it, though, to pick up some obvious objections to a claim like this.

It’s something anarchists respond to quite a lot, the idea that people’s inherently crap nature is an absolute limit on how lovely and free of authoritarian ruthlessness the world can ever be. (Sometimes it’s couched in more fancy philosophical jargon, but “people are crap” is something everyone can understand.) And it doesn’t take more than a cursory look at the history of human behaviour to see where this claim is coming from. From genocide to that dick on your bus who plays his music too loud, human crapness abounds.

But if this crapness is hindering our positive development as a society, we have to ask: who, exactly, is crap?

Is it you? Or is it those other people, the ones you can pick out and identify as being especially crap? Or is it just everyone?

Are other people so crap that you need to control their lives?

Or are you so crap that you need someone else to control yours?

But for the sake of argument, let’s go with this premise for a while. Yeah, people do kinda suck, in ways that really inconvenience the rest of us. (Or, y’know, in ways that leave innocent millions dead and dying.) So maybe it makes sense to rein in that inherent suckitude, by giving some extra power and authority to the best of us – those with the most wisdom and foresight, the kindest and strongest hearts – so that they can counteract our collective crapness, with their sensible diplomacy and intelligent, benevolent leadership.

That sounds like it’ll make things much nicer.

Either that, or it’ll put George W. Bush1 in charge of everything.

People of Britain, we’re all crap, we could never get by on our own, we’d cock up any attempt at society we tried to put together… so let’s put David Cameron in charge. He’ll delegate the Work and Pensions bit to Iain Duncan Smith. And the hospitals to Jeremy Hunt. And the schools to Gove. Hurrah, we’re saved!

Oh wait.

Anarchy isn’t about abandoning all the rules and letting everyone run amuck and make it all up as they go, totally ad hoc, and just trusting in humanity’s better instincts. Well, probably it is for some people who wave the black flag, but that’s not how it’s seen by those serious enough about this philosophy to have written essays on it. It’s about organising ourselves in ways that don’t allow humanity’s worse instincts to take over and start institutionally harming and destroying us.

Trying to inspire and nurture the best in us should be an obvious course anyway, and some people have decided that this is best achieved by abandoning all hierarchical authority, so that nobody is in a position to abuse it, or to be abused by it, or to use it to gather ever more authority to themselves and start a cycle of tyranny, or to start infringing others’ rights and justifying it as part of their remit to defend the “greater good”, and so on. Perhaps that form of organisation is, inevitably, one that does more harm than good.

I mean, if people are crap, why do you want to keep giving them so much power over you?

If we’re too crap for anarchy, but the best makeshift solution we can come up with is putting a ruling class in charge of everything, then I’m not sure I want to live on this planet any more.

1I use Bush instead of Obama as an example of executive power gone horribly wrong, because I suspect my audience is still largely left-leaning, and so the memory of Dubya with the nuclear launch codes will invoke a more visceral reaction of horror and disgust. It’s still true that Obama’s worse in most of the ways that allegedly matter to his supporters.

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So the Tories are cutting benefits for the poorest people struggling hardest to support the most modest lifestyles, yadda yadda tax breaks to billionaires, you know the score.

And one of the ideas Chancellor George Osborne has often used while attempting to rationalise policies which take more money away from low-income households than the richest, is that of “making work pay”.

The terrifying bogeyman he and other Tories like to conjure is that of the feckless scrounger, probably with a Northern accent, who lounges comfortably at home with their curtains drawn all day, living the high life on benefits which your taxes paid for, and who – because of the current, unjust welfare system – has no incentive to go out and work, when they can live just as cushy a life at home on benefits.

Now, leave aside for a moment that, statistically speaking, this character is so close to fictional as to make almost no difference to any of our country’s financial troubles; ignore briefly how laughable is the idea, to thousands of people who simply can’t find work, including many with disabilities or who’ve been forced into mandatory unpaid labour, that life on benefits is the “easy” choice; disregard, for the time being, the extent to which countless legitimately struggling individuals and families are cruelly stigmatised and marginalised by such characterisations as those favoured by the Conservative party.

Even without fighting any of those points, Osborne’s premise is wrong.

The Tory plan for welfare reform depends on people being bullied into doing a job, any job, no matter how low-paying or degrading, because there is no bearable alternative. They want to make life sufficiently uncomfortable, for those people they think aren’t trying hard enough, that they’ll all just jolly well try harder. Their worst nightmare is that people without savings or property or investments might somehow be comfortable in their lives, and not feel compelled by fear of starvation or homelessness to desperately look for work.

I hope my biased and provocative use of language is making it clear how I feel about this attitude. I really do.

Because aside from being heartless, it’s simply an incorrect view of humanity.

There’s this crazy wacky idea that some crazy wacky socialists seem keen on, called the guaranteed livable income. The basic proposition is to drastically simplify whatever system the country currently has in place to carefully and cautiously redistribute wealth, offering the most basic safety net it can to those who need it while making damn sure no scroungers come along and get a penny more than they deserve… and instead just give everyone enough money to live on.

No means testing. No penalties for not following the DWP’s instruction. You just all get enough money to live on. Guaranteed.

I told you it was crazy. No doubt the obvious problems and holes in this plan, and the many reasons we’re not already doing it, are clamouring to escape your furious fingers and make themselves heard in the nearest available comments section already. But it may astound you to know that the various economists and activists who’ve been investigating and exploring and testing out this idea for some decades have probably already considered many of the objections that sprung to your mind within around fifteen seconds. Whether or not they ultimately stand up, I’m not sure, but don’t be too quick to pat yourself on the back for utterly annihilating this whole worldview simply by having the blinding insight that giving money to people costs money.

Because, like I said, the Tories were wrong. A guaranteed livable income is about as far as you could possibly exaggerate their nightmare scenario. They’d have you believe that, in such a situation, the zombie feckless scrounger virus would spread inexorably across the land. Nobody would bother doing any work when they could just slob around picking up even more free money than they get now, with no risk of approbation or penalty. Without the threat of poverty to spur people into productivity, there’d be nobody actually making the money to hand out, and the whole system would collapse.

I wouldn’t put it past them to put it in similarly apocalyptic terms, too. But it’s a conclusion that depends on a cynical and inaccurate view of humanity. (The rest of humanity, anyway. Dave and George and the rest of that crowd could live comfortably without having to work another day in their lives, and would surely claim to do what they do out of a sense of duty and service, rather than being in it for the money. They just can’t imagine a similar altruism or public-spiritedness in anybody else.)

Only an unjustified contempt for other people can be the basis for thinking that they need to be threatened and browbeaten and punished into doing useful work; the relatively little amount of data that’s been allowed to exist indicates exactly the opposite.

I say “allowed to exist”, because it’s not hard to imagine the interest that governments might have in perpetuating the idea that a power structure needs to be maintained in society. In the case of the particular experiment with a guaranteed income described in that article, in Manitoba in the 1970s, the government withheld the data after the programme was scrapped, and wouldn’t let anyone gather further evidence which might have vindicated it.

What is known, though, from the data available, is that the Conservative nightmare singularly failed to come true. People didn’t just sit at home mooching off the state when there was free money to be had. In general, they kept working their jobs. There are reasons why people work beyond earning money to avoid poverty, after all. It can be rewarding, a way to socialise with people whose company one enjoys on projects one finds worthwhile. Particularly if you have the freedom to leave a work environment you don’t enjoy, and take the time to find someplace more suitable, without having to panic over paying the rent in the meantime.

And with that extra freedom, and without the stress and worry of paycheck-to-paycheck living, people were healthier. The resulting decrease in hospital visits, if similarly expanded over the whole of Canada, would save billions of dollars. And the only people who did drop out of work to live an easier life on free government money were new mothers – who spent more time with their babies – and teenagers – who graduated high school in improved numbers and had the chance to find jobs they might actually enjoy, and feel productive in, rather than whatever came along first which would allow them to pay the bills.

It’s a crazy idea. And the idea that something this crazy might actually work thrills me like little else. This right here is the shit I read about which gets me excited for a more awesome world and makes me want to share it with everyone in rambling blog posts with overly hurried endings because it’s late and I want to finish up and get it posted before I go to bed.

It might be a pipe dream. But I don’t think it has to be. And either way, it’s preferable to whatever heinous visions occupy the minds of our politicians as they sleep.

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– It’s nice when the crazies come right out and demand a dictatorial theocracy, with themselves at the top. At least you know where you stand, once they abandon all pretense of things like fairness, justice, compassion.

– We know he was good at maths, cryptography, and being hounded to suicide for his sexuality, but Alan Turing also knew a thing or two about tigers.

– Amidst all this fuss about the hugely unpopular NHS reforms being pushed through by the Tories, it’s worth taking a moment to remember some of the other things David Cameron is wrong about.

Some drivers say that this sign is “too complicated”.

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– The Prime Minister recently made a visit to an NHS Hospital. Judging by the ensuing reports, it seems to have been an entirely self-serving publicity exercise, in which patients had to be inconvenienced and staff threatened with disciplinary action in order to keep things running smoothly for Mr Cameron. It might have done more to “bolster support for his NHS reform” if any significant body of NHS workers were actually in favour of it.

– And while we’re on the subject of dangerous government authoritarianism, the Serious and Organised Crime Agency appear to have taken down a website and replaced it with a legally illiterate series of threats. They were going after content infringement, but in a way that misleads the public and seems like it shouldn’t merit being grouped in with SOCA’s usual remit of investigating terrorism, people trafficking, gun running, and the like.

– If “homophobic” isn’t the right word to mean “displaying prejudice against homosexual people”, fine, use another one. Just let them get married already.

Occupy! Rapists! There, doesn’t that make the protestors seem scary and dangerous? They’re something to do with rapists!

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Here, have a slightly adapted form of a brief rant I just had on Twitter.

@unfortunatalie reported David Cameron as saying: “No human rights concerns will get in the way of bringing these people to justice.” (By “these people”, he means those who have been rioting, looting, and vandalising bits of London this past week.)

Did he really say that? I’ve already got a headache, otherwise I’d bang it on something.

I’ll try an analogy. Claiming to cherish free speech is only meaningful if you defend it most strongly for speech you find vile and hateful. As Greta Christina points out, any free speech law:

wasn’t written to protect our right to say that puppies are cute and apple pie is delicious.

Similarly, we don’t venerate human rights solely for the sake of lovely old ladies doing some knitting. They’re to protect suspected criminals too. It’s so we don’t behave inhumanly to those we believe have wronged us, and who we might be tempted to see as less than human.

So if Cameron’s really promising not to let human rights stand in the way of justice, I reject any claim he might make to care a jot for either humans or rights.

Right. Ill-informed and idealistic social tirade ACCOMPLISHED. Time for a cup of tea.

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So. The election happened. If you’re still catching up, here are some results.

Yeah, I don’t have a whole lot of analysis right now. Just a few scattered thoughts on individual points:

– Electoral reform needs to happen. This graphic here shows as clearly as anything I’ve seen the disparity between the way the popular vote went and the corresponding representation in parliament. It’s pretty much bullshit. The Conservatives got well under twice as many votes as the Lib Dems, but more than five times as many seats. It’s even less fair on the Greens.

The Lib Dems are obviously behind the idea of completely reforming the system. I’m not sure what the other parties have been saying about it most recently, but I think the issue is a lot more prominent now, and the momentum for reform won’t just fade away easily. There’s just no way a First Past The Post system can be relied on to provide a single-party government when there are more than two parties playing a substantial role. Without one lot being the outright winner, it’s going to come down to some kind of coalition system. Heading down the Proportional Representation route to make that work more fairly sounds a much better option from here than trying to devolve into a more straight-forwardly binary system like the US has.

– The BNP got 563,743 votes (or more – looks like one constituency is still to report), but didn’t win a single seat. That’s about 1.9% of the total count, so in a PR system, they would have got something like 12 seats in parliament. Sadly, if you’re going to argue for reform that gives the Lib Dems a fairer score based on the votes they got, you kinda have to support significant national representation for the BNP as well.

It’s not ideal, and I won’t pretend I wasn’t pleased to hear they’d lost everywhere this time. But they were voted for in a general election by half a million constituents. The fact that the British National Party are disgraceful wastes of organic material isn’t a good enough basis for disenfranchising the many people who tried to vote them into power, if democracy is what you’re interested in accomplishing.

The best response to the BNP isn’t to try and shut them up. The answer to bad speech is more speech. Have you seen Nick Griffin talk? They’ll sink themselves quite happy if they’re given the chance. I have enough faith in this country that people like him won’t get any significant political hold – and if they do, it’s not my place to decide that I know what’s best and try to override democracy and shut them down, and it’s not yours either.

– The hashtag #dontdoitnick is currently trending on Twitter, referring to the possibility that Nick Clegg might make an agreement to work with David Cameron to form some sort of joint government system together in ways I haven’t got my head around yet. Some people are saying it’s a chance for the Lib Dems to exert more political power than ever, and they should seize this chance to prove themselves in the political arena and keep the Tories honest; others are saying that accepting such a deal would be selling out unforgivably and promising never to vote Lib Dem again if it happens.

I really don’t know about this one, except that the “never voting Lib Dem again” thing seems petulant and childish. It seems that a coalition would gain the Lib Dems some substantial political clout, and I don’t know to what extent it would require them to capitulate to any of the Conservatives’ more odious policy ideas.

There’s one parallel that I was trying to decide if it made any sense, which needs a bit of backstory elaboration. Physicist Brian Cox recently signed a deal with The Sun to write a science column for them. The Sun aren’t traditionally seen as being a great outlet for competent or serious science news, and he’s been criticised for taking this position, I think primarily for wasting his time, on the grounds that readers of The Sun don’t care about actual science information and he’d be better off finding a better way of getting through to a more receptive audience elsewhere.

Dr Petra has been among those defending his decision, and I think she’s right. An opportunity to provide good science information from a passionate and qualified science communicator is not to be sniffed at, even if the audience might not be already attuned to the message. I trust him not to let the quality of his information slip just because he’s not talking to what might be his usual nerdy crowd, and I can’t see anything wrong with trying to nurture an appreciation of genuine science among Sun readers.

Anyway, it occurred to me to wonder whether this might not be in some way similar to Nick Clegg making some compromises to form a government with the Conservatives. It might not be an ideal platform for the Lib Dems to make their point, but perhaps they should take what they can get, and keep pushing their policies and ideas as best they can, even in the presence of what might not traditionally seem like a receptive audience.

If you’re not convinced by the analogy, me neither. But if you want to explain why it’s vitally important, either for the security of this country or the integrity of the Liberal Democrat party, that Nick Clegg either does or doesn’t make a deal with Cameron, feel free to give it a shot. Short words only, please. I’m increasingly feeling out of my depth here.

– Miche made a good point here about tactical voting, essentially describing a non-contrived scenario where voting with a more cunning strategy than “pick your favourite” can be honest, practical, and democratic. I admit it’s not a clear-cut, all-or-nothing point, and I’ve stopped way short of actually condemning any tactical voters for this reason.

There’s something else which might undermine my point on this – or at least, it would be nice to think so. My opposition to tactical voting is partly based on the idea that it obscures the true levels of party support: if most of the Lib Dem voters are voting Labour, say, it will never be clear how many Lib Dem supporters there really are, and how well they could do if they all decided to actually vote for their preferred candidate. But what if this fact wasn’t obscured?

Especially in the internet age, measuring overall political opinion might not be that hard, and making your Lib Dem sympathies clear even while voting Labour may become possible, perhaps even to the extent that much of my problem with tactical voting is nullified. If tactics are only employed by the supporters of a party genuinely in the minority, with no hope of victory, and if everyone were keeping track of the “who we’d vote for if we thought they had a chance” factor so it’s always clear when they’re not just a minority without a chance any more, that might be a useful way around much of the problem.

It’s not a very developed thought. Maybe I’ll work on it some more later.

– Finally, I stand by my and everyone’s right to give their vote to whoever they think deserves it, and call utter bullshit on anyone claiming, for instance, that Lib Dem supporters handed the election to the Tories, or are responsible for the unspeakable horrors of chaos and uncertainty as we sort out this hung parliament business. Everyone voting for who they want to win is called democracy, and if the entire system collapses because some democracy happened, then we need a new system.

Tomorrow I hope to bash something out about the idea of earning the privilege to vote, rather than expecting the right. And then maybe I’ll be able to talk about something else again. Remember when this blog used to be about attacking religion and pseudoscience? What happened to that?

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