Sunday, August 28, 2011

The only people who are going to try Abdelbaset al-Megrahi are the Libyan people themselves.

   They seek him here, they seek him there.  The hunt for the man convicted of murdering 270 people in Pan Am 103 in 1988 Britain's, Abdelbaset al Megrahi, continues.  He's not at his mansion in Tripoli, though neighbours claim he was there untll very recently - scotching one of the more fanciful rumours about the Lockerbie Bomber: that he's already dead and that a body double has been sitting in at Gaddafi's rallies.  But what to do when they find him?   There are reports that Libya's new government is reluctant to extradict him because he is a member of Gaddafi's clan.  American politicians and commentators are calling for his capture - dead or alive. It shouldn't be too difficult to locate a dying man in a wheel-chair in a war zone.  But when he is apprehended - the only people with the right to try him again are the people of Libya. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

If society is broken, who broke it?

  If society is broken, who exactly broke it?  If there is a moral vacuum in society who sucked the air out of it?  If people are out for themselves, who has set the bench-mark of selfishness?   Iain Duncan Smith says on Today that "we all need to put our house in order".  But who exactly is fixing the roof?  MPs made huge sums of money out of abusing abusing their expenses, and the vast majority got away with it.  The bankers who wrecked the economy out of greed and short termism, have been rewarded with huge sums of public money.  The sections of the press that crow loudest about the need for law and order and respect for authority turn out to have been engaging in illegality on an industrial scale.  If it is time to "make life hell" for the hoodies, as the government is promising,  when is fire and brimstone going to land on the City of London, the Houses of Parliament,   the offices of Wapping?

   Remove benefits from young rioters, say petitioners.  But when are the politicians going to give back the tens of thousands in capital gains they made out of flipping second homes?  What about removing the bonuses bankers have been awarding themselves without any moral or financial justification?  Why is it that the only person who has been punished in the News International phone hacking affair been the comedian who threw a pie in the face of Rupert Murdoch?  

  These aren't mere debating points.  Society breaks from the top down.  You cannot punish those below while those at the top are exonerated.   You cannot lecture people on their responsibilities when those at the top show none at all.    
If the response to these disturbances is purely to crack down on the dispossessed, single mothers, benefit claimants then there will only be more violence. Governments govern only by consent of the governed.  Or else we have Leviathan.

    Mindless violence is never totally mindless.  Many of the rioters do have a moral universe, do have a sense of justice, and feel that middle class society has lost it.  Look at the unemployment rates in the constituencies that were set ablaze.  Almost half of young black men in some inner city boroughs are unemployed.  They are locked out of the consumer society which taunts them from billboards and MTV.  The roots of this problem are blindingly obvious.  

 And no - that doesn't make it right to riot.      

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Riots always happen under the Tories.

  'Nothing excuses violence/it's all about the cuts'.  'Parents are to blame/society is to blame' The riots are the legacy of the Labour years/ riots always happen under the Tories'.  It's time we moved on from this sterile party political exchange.   Of course violence is inexcusable and has to be tackled by a robust policing, but that doesn't mean you can detach the riots form social circumstances in which they arise - in particular the lack of jobs and opportunities available to young males in inner cities.  We all share responsibility for social unrest by the dispossessed, but it would be ludicrous to ignore the role played by poor parentlng in breeding a generation of nihilistic young people who destroy their own neighbourhod.  Urban unrest has no party affiliation, and rather than scoring points, the politicians need to demonstrate that they are capable of rising above their own narrow interests

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Financial crisis: too few consumers

   On Friday morning Google offered me one of their irresistible targeted ads when I punched 'financial crisis' into the search box. “The year 2008 marked the last of God's warnings to mankind” announced the blurb for a book called Gods Final Witness, “and the beginning of a countdown to the final three and one half years of man's rule that will end on May 27, 2012”. This was only marginally less apocalyptic than the commentary on the financial pages.

  GFC2, it's being called – Great Financial Crisis 2. The recovery was illusory. Politicians are all fools. You can't trust no one no more. Grab a bag of gold and a shotgun and head for the hills. Financial panics are not supposed to happen in August – they do now. The Dow Jones lost an entire year's earnings in one day on Thursday. Some called for David Cameron, George Osborne and Nick Clegg cut short their summer holidays. Though how that would have halted the panic wasn't clear.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Things can only get better.

  Britain is under attack from within by gangs of feral youth who are torching their own neighbourhoods.  America is being crushed by a debt mountain of its own making.   Spain and Italy are sinking beneath the waves; Greece is on fire; Norway recovering from mass murder. The Arab Spring has been drowned in Syrian blood. In Scotland, teenage mothers are smoking themselves to death; students are being advised to sell their kidneys; house prices are collapsing. Has there ever been a summer of woe like this one? Give us a break guys!

And yes, I know that it sounds simple-minded to be looking on the bright side when there's so much misery around. Hasn't the Prime Minister just make a bit of a fool of himself with his attempts to promote a happiness index? Along with his top adviser, Steve Hilton, who suggested that cloud-bursting technology could be used to make the weather better. No – no one can tell us to be happy, especially when some of us are never happier than when miserable.  However, we can – with an effort of will – take stock of our situation and realise that things aren't half as bad as they seem. 

   The riots have been disturbing and frightening for many people, and three young men have died in tragic circumstances after being mown down by a car.  But let's get that in perspective.  Under the circumstances, it is astonishing that there weren't far more fatalities.  I'm not trying to diminish the tragic loss of life in Birmingham, but in the same week there were hundreds of people killed in road traffic accidents.  We criticise the police, rightly, for standing idly by.  But did we really want a bloodbath, plastic bullets, broken heads?  Some of those who are calling for a crack down by police should remember the appalling race riots that disfigured our cities in the 1980s.  I for one would rather live in a society where the police erred on the side of restraint than became like an army of occupation.