Jubilee and all That 109


Have been lecturing abroad a lot lately and have frequently had to explain that, when I call myself a republican and a liberal, I mean something very close to the opposite of what those terms currently mean in U.S. English.

I have never been a monarchist at any point in the 40 plus years I have had political consciousness. The notion of hereditary rule always struck me as absurd. But I have nothing against the Queen personally, and on meeting her have found her quite likeable, even when conversing on the tricky subject of why I don’t accept “Honours”. As I have said before, if I had been born into a life of such privilege, I would probably be a much more horrible person than she. We are all to a degree intellectually and socially trapped by our circumstance of birth and social milieu. Few break out of it entirely and a minority of those that do are actuated by admirable motives.

Nor am I completely immune from either patriotism or nostalgia, not the respect that attaches to the old, particularly when they are “battling on”. So I have no doubt that I witnessed some of the televised celebrations with more of a lump in my throat than the large majority of readers of this blog.

But an excellent antidote was the BBC’s panning to the VIP box during yesterday’s Jubilee concert, particularly before the Queen was there to distract. I felt completely removed from those people in the VIP box, as though they were an alien race. Always haughty, often bored and disengaged, occasionally condescending to be amused, and from time to time self-consciously “joining in” obviously for the benefit of the cameras rather than personal enjoyment. Myriads of sleek or puffy aristocrats and politicians, they were completely other from the people who in some strange way they are supposed to represent.

From Thatcher through Blair to Cameron, the gap between rich and poor has accelerated in this country as never since the early industrial revolution. Just one indicator – boardroom income increases are outpacing worker income by around 10% every year, consistently.

I do not doubt a majority of the country felt nothing but patriotic pride at the celebrations. Patriotism is the great and indispensable instrument of social control. But as for me, in this small corner of Ramsgate, I was wondering where you buy a decent guillotine.


109 thoughts on “Jubilee and all That

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  • Mark Golding - Children of Iraq

    Thanks for the information Komodo and Mary clearly pointing to government complicity in Sri-Lankan war-crimes. Deportation of Tamils seeking political asylum in Britain is as relevant today as it was in the early 80’s when Sinhala state terrorism guaranteed certain death or torture. Tamils were forced by torture to declare LTTE membership and then murdered.
    .
    The Tamil community in Britain in 2009 was about 200,000 according to a revised estimate by HRW. Many Tamils live in North Finchley and have integrated well into British society. Many of these are families of Tamil students from London Uni. who have gained important positions in British industry, notably in computer programming; Tamils generally are somewhat astute in mathematics.
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    Young Sri-Lankan Tamils in Britain raised funds to help family, friends and charities after the 2004 tsunami.
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    Tamils in Britain are active lobbying members of Parliament, educating friends and family, participating in events, or generating coverage in the media to expose the genocide of Tamils. An aim is to build the political power and will required to end the conflict and build a permanent sustainable peace in the island.
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    Even though the Government of Sri Lanka claims it has won the civil war after 30 years, the ethnic conflict is still not resolved. The brutal end to civil war in 2009/10 has claimed more than 150,000 Tamil lives.
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    It is important that the perpetrators are held responsible for committing and continuing to commit crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.

  • Mary

    Thanks for the info Mark and Komodo.
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    This is about Fox in Dec 2010.
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    Liam Fox cancels Sri Lanka trip amid claim in cables of Colombo’s war crimes complicity
    Labour accuses government of ‘chaotic’ approach to diplomacy after defence secretary abandons private visit
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/dec/16/liam-fox-sri-lanka-cables
    .
    A builder who did a job for me at the end of last year went to Sri Lanka to get married. I asked him what he thought about the atrocities that had taken place. He knew nothing of them or about the war. Their honeymoon was in the Maldives yet the wife had been made redundant from her IT job at the local college and he was struggling to find work. Madness.

  • Komodo

    Thanks, Clark.
    The Guardian leads on Tamil deportees today….inside the print edition there is a 24-page colour supplement on the business opportunities in Sri Lanka. YCMIU.

  • Brian Mac Namara

    Please do us all a favour and keep this family and it’s institution at home in England ! We Canadians are not beholden to England and do not need our Country treated as a branch office.

  • Clark

    Remember commenter Ben Franklin, whose avatar is a tattoo of a dagger? It’s a “Gonzo” dagger, so presumably he’s a fan of Hunter S Thompson.

  • evgueni

    We are a self-selected minority here I think. Almost none of my friends and colleagues seem to be interested in political reform or monetary reform, or care particularly deeply about foreign injustices committed in our name. When I speak of these things, it is very evidently unfamiliar territory to them. Extrapolating from this, I think most people in the country don’t care enough about the monarchy to feel strongly in favour or against. If there were a referendum on abolishing it, the majority would vote against abolishing – because people are naturally conservative when they do not feel sufficiently well informed.
    .
    An interesting title, hard to come by. I tried finding it on Amazon, they won’t even list it:
    http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/ralph+nader/gregory+a-+fossedal/direct+democracy/6708824/

  • evgueni

    Ah, the title of the book is not in the link, it is “What if the People ran the country?” by Ralph Nader and Gregory Fossedal.

  • KingofWelshNoir

    Clark
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    ‘KingofWelshNoir, superb rant!’
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    Hey, thanks! I wrote it while drunk and woke up this morning worrying I might been a bit too bellicose! Sorry if I was.
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    Anyway, it seems it wasn’t just me, Yahoo is reporting a backlash against what Stephen Fry described as the most
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    ‘mind-numbingly tedious programme in its history’.
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    But of course, it was worse than that 🙂

  • Komodo

    “If most of these countries are ‘republics’ why are they ‘members’ of the ‘commonwealth’ and listed as possessions of the British Monarchy on this website?”
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    It’s called having your cake, selling it down the river and eating it, Mary.

  • luke

    I did not watch one second of the various events.Really enjoyed the Alex Jones show at infowars.com and his bilderberg meeting bullhorning and his erudite comments on real world events.

  • Clark

    Evgueni, we are self selected here, of course. But I think that many people would care if only they realised. At the heart of this is latent racism. Our media presents foreign policy like this: “These foreigners, with their primitive religious prejudices, constantly fight and kill each other. Occasionally this affects us, and so we are forced to take military action. Sometimes it gets so bad that even though it doesn’t affect us, we have to intervene on humanitarian grounds”.
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    But… Almost everyone has a specialist interest, and in that area they are far more likely to have discovered the inaccuracy of the media.
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    I’m not convinced that the distortions of the media are entirely or even mainly deliberate propaganda. If a belief or attitude is widespread it is unsurprising to find it being broadcast by the media, because the workforce of the media is drawn from the general population.
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    Working people just don’t have the time or energy to scour the media sources, corporate and/or independent, to build a more accurate picture of world news. It’s not that your friends are not interested; they probably don’t believe you and consider your opinions eccentric. Why should they think otherwise? You’re a lone voice, vastly overwhelmed by a media consensus which is very comforting because it confirms popular prejudices. It tells them that they need take no action, which is just as well because by the time they’ve earned their living they have little enough time or energy left for themselves and their families.

  • Jay

    Bollox Clark these fuckwits who care little for the rainforests to the needy through to justice for the ridiciulous need to get there face out the wine glass and find some altruism. If not the birds will get em..

  • Clark

    Jay, so you reckon it’s “them versus us” eh? Have you not encountered the human tendency to believe one’s own lies, to construct a false world model that justifies one’s own actions? I’ve found that to be normal human behaviour. I therefore assume that it operates within the mass media as well as outside it.
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    Some propaganda, particularly “Public Relations”, is expensive. Presumably, companies wouldn’t waste money on it if it didn’t work. If propaganda works on the public at large, it is unreasonable to assume that it is ineffective on the workforce of the media.

  • Clark

    Jay, think of it like this. Imagine that you work in a busy newsroom; you’re under a lot of pressure to get the stories out fast. In front of you you have two stories from, say, Syria. One of them is in close agreement with what the media has been saying already; it’s all Assad’s fault, and only Assad’s supporters are killing people. The other contradicts the prevailing mainstream narrative in some way. Neither can be confirmed by independent sources.
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    If you push the first story, you are covered, because if it turns out to be wrong, you can claim that all the other news agencies made the same mistake as you. But what if you push the second story? You’re going out on a limb. If it’s proven right, you might get a boost to your reputation. But of it is proven wrong, or if it’s never proven one way or the other, but the mainstream consensus prevails anyway, you’ve isolated yourself and laid yourself open to “supporting a brutal dictator” – and your media experience will tell you just how you’ll be treated for that; you’ll be treated like George Galloway.
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    You can’t push both stories. There’s only going to be four minutes allocated to Syria on tonight’s show.
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    Remember, it’s your professional reputation, your family’s income and financial security that’s on the line. Do you think that such decisions are made without any unconscious input? Don’t you expect news workers to prefer pushing stories they feel safe about?

  • evgueni

    Clark,
    sorry I don’t have time to engage properly, but a quick observation – in the case of my friends and family they really are disinterested rather than otherwise persuaded. These lofty discussions about rights and wrongs are not very relevant to the business of everyday living – making ends meet, raising children, keeping up with the Joneses. I think this is not surprising – we all come from a long line of ancestors who prioritised family life.
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    There are indications from research in the US (referenced by Chomsky) that the public attitudes on many issues of foreign and domestic policy oppose radically the propaganda that is pushed by the mainstream media, seemingly in spite of it. I agree by the way that the propaganda is largely not a conscious effort but rather systemic, as proposed by Chomsky / Herman. The outcomes are dictated by the business model. I think the most damaging effect of the propaganda is not that the majority are persuaded to believe the lies, but that they are dissuaded from questioning them actively, convinced that those who question are a minority and that is is futile to question. In an important sense, it IS futile to question – what can most of us do about it? Even for those lucky enough to be living in a marginal constituency (i.e. their vote counts), the system is about negative choices anyway (pick the least bad option). Few are able to take direct action. I think it is not irrational to care little about things that are outside of our control. I think that is what I am seeing around me – a rational unwillingness to hold strong opinions on matters perceived to be of little consequence to everyday life.

  • Clark

    Evgueni, ah! So the main function of propaganda is not to promote a viewpoint, but rather to marginalise and discourage opposition to that viewpoint, and this works in conjunction with voting systems that set a threshold beneath which change will not occur. That could be a useful structural understanding.

  • Komodo

    “..– we all come from a long line of ancestors who prioritised family life.”
    Peripherally to this interesting discussion, I note that whenever our leaders want to foist something really nasty on us, they invoke “the family”, “the hard-working family”, and nowadays “the hard-pressed family”. As propaganda, this one is ubiquitous. Someone pushing the conversion of the country into superfarms was doing it this morning. If you disagree with benefiting “the family”, you probably torture kittens….

  • Clark

    But Komodo, I only ever torture Muslim kittens, and I keep it quiet and usually get someone else to do the actual torture; that’s OK isn’t it?

  • evgueni

    Clark, yes. Two faces of the same coin – promote favoured viewpoints, marginalise opposing ones. Favoured “news” on the front page, uncomfortable truths on page 94. Favoured viewpoint summarised in the headline and the first paragraph, the facts and alternative viewpoints skimmed over towards the end of the article..
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    Just to add to my testimony earlier – between my job, my young kids and my family engagements I struggle to find time to read anything, even keep up with this blog. But I am interested in politics, what of people who have other priorities when it comes to their leisure time!
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    My personal view is that we should discuss not the latest manifestations of the same old problems here, but solutions. We will then find that although we and the ‘ignorant’ majority do not agree on what the most urgent problems are, the solutions favoured by most are the same. What is the solution to corruption in domestic politics at all levels, and to unjust foreign policy – more democracy. Just to clarify, by more democracy I mean in addition to the usual proposals for electoral reform also democratisation of the mainstream news media.

  • Clark

    Evgueni, I’m the opposite; I started spending lots of time on this blog when I got very isolated; here is where I started discovering the extent of distortion and propaganda. Politics is something I’d rather leave untouched; I’d much rather be out setting up sound and lighting systems for theatre, gigs and parties. But having learned what I have, there is no going back.
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    Utterly selfishly, it’s the propaganda that spurs me on. Injustice is ever present, but I take the lies of the corporate media personally, they’re deceiving me, and it makes me angry. Shallow, I know, but at least I’m aware of that human shortcoming in myself.

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