Nelson Mandela on Globalisation

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In the light of the secret negotiations which are taking place to create a TransPacific Partnership (TPP) and the TransAtlantic Free Trade Agreement (US-EU FTA, TAFTA), it is salutary to read Nelson Mandela’s assessment of globalisation, both as it has developed, and as it should have been created.  His speech printed below was made on receiving the Freedom Award From the National Civil Rights Museum in November 2000

Speech on receiving the Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum, November 2000

http://db.nelsonmandela.org/speeches/pub_view.asp?pg=item&ItemID=NMS919&txtstr=22%20November


To stand here tonight as the recipient of the Freedom Award presented by the National Civil Rights Museum humbles and inspires us.What is regarded as having been achieved by me in the struggle for freedom and human rights is in fact the result of the collective efforts of hundreds and thousands of colleagues and comrades in the leadership of organisations I have worked in and with.It is, even more importantly, the result of the sacrifices, resolve and courage of millions and millions of so-called ordinary men, women and youth most of whom shall never even achieve a mention in the annals of history. One cannot but be humble for being singled out to be honoured for such a collective achievement.For a South African to be honoured here tonight in this place and by this body inspires as it reminds us again of the indivisibility of human freedom. Where the freedom and rights of people in one part of the world are violated we are all demeaned and diminished as human beings. Our freedom cannot be complete while others in the world are not free. Your award inspires us to continue the struggle for freedom and human rights. It reminds that the long walk to freedom is not yet over.Those of us who lived through most of the twentieth century can tell what high hopes for universal freedom were entertained in that century. The world fought two great wars that promised to end all wars and to end tyranny. The process of decolonisation, ending European dominance over the entire planet, got underway. World bodies were established to ensure a free and equitable world.The progress humankind achieved in the field of science and technology outstripped the accumulative achievements of all preceding generations. We were able to utilise the resources of nature and to produce far in excess of what was required to feed, clothe, shelter and care for the entire population of the world.

Yet we closed that century and entered the new millennium with the largest part of the human population still far from enjoying those fruits of freedom of which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights speaks. Tyranny, oppression and abuse of human rights still rule in too many parts of the world for us to relent in the struggle for freedom.

Even in parts of the world where political freedom has been attained or where it has applied for long, the material fruits of a decent living have not always or universally accompanied that freedom.

The single most demeaning feature of our modern world is the persistence of massive poverty. The majority of the world’s population languishes in conditions of abject poverty and deprivation. This is in spite of the fact that we have the capacity to take care of all the world’s people. This is in spite of the opulence and privilege in which large sectors of the world live.

The divide between the rich and the poor, those who have plenty and those who suffer penury, is even widening in our contemporary world. And nothing threatens our collective freedom more than the persistence of this divide. None of us can sleep comfortably while our brother or sister goes hungry, cold, unsheltered, ignorant and ill.

We often talk about the globalisation of our world, referring to our world as a global village. Too often those descriptions refer solely to the free movement of goods and capital across the traditional barriers of national boundaries. Not often enough do we emphasise the globalisation of responsibility. In this world where modern information and communications technology has put all of us in easy reach of one another, we do again share the responsibility for being the proverbial keeper of our brother or sister.

Where globalisation means, as it so often does, that the rich and powerful now have new means to further enrich and empower themselves at the cost of the poorer and weaker, we have a responsibility to protest in the name of universal freedom. Globalisation opens up the marvellous opportunities for human beings across the globe to share with one another, and to share with greater equity in the advances of science, technology and industries. To allow it to have the opposite effect is to threaten freedom in the longer term.

The right of a person to vote freely in democratic elections, to express him or herself without hindrance, to gather and associate as one wishes, to move freely in one’s land – these are precious freedoms that lift the human spirit and give expression to our God-given rights.

We must, however, at the same time as we cherish them remain constantly aware that those freedoms get devalued if they are for too long devoid of that dignity that comes with a decent quality of living.

That is the challenge to the freedom fighters of the twenty first century – the alleviation and eradication of poverty. Abject poverty is demeaning, is an assault on the dignity of those that suffer it. In the end it demeans us all. It makes the freedom of all of us less meaningful.

I thank you for this great honour. I wish you well in your work. May this century indeed be the one in which we achieve universal freedom and the universal enjoyment of those rights our glorious charters speak of.

I thank you.

Hat-tip Prue Plumridge and Occupy London for an inspiring reminder of the politics of Nelson Mandela 1918-2013.

Why should we be very concerned about the current US/EU Free Trade Agreement?

Cameron and Co demonstrate the Art of Disaster Politics

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Naomi Klein’s book ‘Disaster Capitalism – Shock doctrine’ describes how a ‘disaster’ is utilized, perpetuated and even manufactured, to get policy change or to reframe events – changes which would not be possible unless the population was in a shocked state, too devastated, distracted or worried to object.   The most obvious and current example is how the global banking crisis has been rewritten as Labour ‘overspending’ – which has, in turn, been used to justify dismantling the welfare state and privatizing the NHS/public services… the long-term ambition of the 0.003% since 1945.

“The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.  That is easy.  All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peace-makers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.  It works the same in any country” – Hermann Goering

The tragic death of Lee Rigby in Woolwich has provided just such a disaster and perfect opportunity….

In the words of Jo Moore, special adviser to Stephen Byers, and product of the Peter Mandelson school of spin doctors:

It was ‘’a good day to bury bad news’.

Before the twin towers had even collapsed Jo Moore was already suggesting to the head of communications in the department of transport, local government and the regions that they should use the atrocity in America to overshadow damaging announcements they had been wanting to release quietly. 

Doubtless, Tory spin meister Lynton Crosby and minions, had similar thoughts about how best to use the Woolwich atrocity to reverse Cameron’s fortunes after an appalling and farcical few weeks… the Tory backbenchers’ ‘EU referendum’ amendment to the Queen’s speech, the opposition to ‘gay marriage’, and the (in no way farcical) criticism and warnings from the IMF over Osborne’s economic strategy.

The result was that the killing was framed as a national emergency requiring Cameron to be recalled, poste haste from Paris.  Ludicrously, Cobra was convened and we were subjected to Cameron’s impersonation of Churchill:

‘… this country will be absolutely resolute in its stand against violent extremism and terror. We will never give in to terror – or terrorism – in any of its forms.’

This despite even the wildest of reports acknowledging that this was probably a ‘lone wolf’ attack by a few clearly dysfunctional individuals.  To put this in some sort of context, there have been 152 fatal stabbings of teenagers in London between 2005 and 2013.

Former Cobra staff officer, David Livingstone writes in the Guardian:

The UK government did not convene Cobra for single attacks during the mainland IRA campaign of the 1980s and 1990s. Convening Cobra (which is a decision made by ministers rather than civil servants or the emergency services)….

The Woolwich murder did not merit the Cobra treatment.

Steve Bell’s Guardian cartoon says it all… Cameron reflated with hot air and faux sentiment.

But whilst it clearly provided a good distraction away from the woes of Cameron/Osborne, and exciting copy for the MSM, we learn that there have been at least 140 hate crimes against Muslim people, or their Mosques, since Lee Rigby’s death.  Some of which must be ascribed to the ‘war on terror’ hype.

In David Livingstone’s opinion – ‘The government’s reaction ensured international recognition for the perpetrators and makes copycat attacks more likely.’ 

… the wrong signals are being sent; first, to the public, who might become increasingly frightened rather than reassured, and, secondly, to the plethora of wrongdoers in society who want to make their respective points at the highest levels possible. The two criminals this week probably achieved political level recognition of their crime well beyond their expectation.

Further evidence of the disingenuousness of Cameron’s expressed concerns for this ‘terror’ attack, was that it did not extend to his abandoning his week’s holiday in sunny Ibiza.

However, the next stage of the ‘disaster politics’ is now unfolding.

The death of poor Lee Rigby is being utilized to justify the Home Secretary’s plans to tighten up controls on the internet and extend banning of radical groups preaching hate.

The Blairite former Home secretaries, Reid and Johnson, have jumped in to add their voices in support (presumably to ‘force’ Ed Miliband’s hand) .. and Nick Clegg is being pressurized to remove his veto on the ‘snooper’s bill’.

Meanwhile, David Cameron is rushing out a new terror task force ‘to crack down on extremism in the wake of the horrific murder of Drummer Lee Rigby’….  Unless, of course, it is David Cameron rushing to try and pre-empt any proposal that leadership contender Theresa May might make?

Doubtless, there are other ramifications and manipulations in the pipeline that I cannot even begin to imagine.  As Chris Dillow writes:

Many groups have an incentive to exaggerate the significance of terrorism, and to reframe insane violence as “terrorism.” For the police, such attacks give them a chance to further inflate their sense of self-importance and to seize more powers. And politicians can use the image of grave danger and an evil foe to appear Churchillian.

It offends every sense of decency that this horrific crime should be cynically utilised to mask the IMFs dire report of the economy; the internal divisions of the tory party; and to facilitate the passage of more draconian, authoritarian legislation.

However, it is beyond irresponsible that through such political manoeuvres, a criminal incident has been whipped up to the benefit of violent extremists from both racist groups (EDL/BNP) and Muslim fanatics.  It is truly ‘disaster politics’ for their victims.

http://www.citizensreportuk.org/reports/teenage-murder-london.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/24/woolwich-murder-merit-cobra-treatment?INTCMP=SRCH

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cartoon/2013/may/23/woolwich-attack-david-cameron-cartoon

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/may/26/theresa-may-measures-combat-terrorism

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2013/may/26/david-cameron-anti-terror-task-force

http://stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com/stumbling_and_mumbling/2013/05/on-terrorist-probabilities.html

On Fascism and Facts – UKIP – The Strategic Adversary?

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Fascism – the Strategic Adversary?

From Prue Plumridge

‘The strategic adversary is fascism … the fascism in us all, in our heads and in our everyday behaviour.  The fascism that causes us to love power, to desire the very thing that dominates and exploits us.’

Michel Foucault.

Alex Andreou wrote in the New Statesman’ ‘The danger with extremism is that, when filtered through eyes and minds of reasonable people, it appears ridiculous. The reasonable assumption is that others will view it through the same filter and find it equally ridiculous. But, while The Reasonable laugh, support for extremist views creeps up. Because what The Reasonable fail to notice is that fear and insecurity have a way of robbing others of reason.  Instead, if you find yourself nodding in agreement with a couple of items on Ukip’s long list of empty promises, remember all the other things you will also be signing up for. They represent a particularly insidious brand of extremist; Bigotry Light, if you will – all the hatred of normal bigotry, but none of the calories.’

In the days prior to the local elections there was a lot of media attention given to UKIP aiming at discrediting their ideas and policies. If I am cynical I imagine this attack originating in the corridors of power in the Conservative party and right wing media in an attempt to woo back wavering supporters.  In the aftermath there are those who are saying  that the subsequent swing towards UKIP in the elections is simply a protest vote against the coalition or, in these difficult times, as support for its policies on immigration and the EU which have become the whipping boys for all the country’s ailments.  However, we would do well to look beyond UKIP’s rhetoric and dreams of  a return to a glorious past, a time of empire, Judeo-Christian values and so called Britishness.  Behind the fluffy and ill-thought out policies presented by Farage and his party hides something much more unpleasant which senior UKIP members take great pains to try and deny.

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It is time that the public woke up to the problem of right wing extremism which is lurking underneath that very reasonableness.  I imagine that in pre-war Germany Hitler’s economic promises seemed very reasonable to a people who had been crushed by the harsh terms of the Treaty of Versailles after the first world war, and those who were willing to turn a blind idea to some of his crazy ideas about the Jews and Roma peoples, the disabled and mentally sick and the creation of a pure Aryan race.

Apart from the fact that the party opposes gay marriage because apparently it undermines the rights of Churches and Faiths (but obviously not the rights of gay people to be treated equally) various candidates have soiled the UKIP copybook with a variety of extreme and nasty comments:  women should resign from their jobs if they want to have a baby;  women of child bearing age should not be employed because maternity rights are too draconian; there should be compulsory abortion when a foetus has been detected with Downs Syndrome or Spina Bifida; the unemployed should not be allowed to vote; physical exercise in schools can prevent homosexuality; Dr Julia Gasper was reported as saying in the Daily Mail that there were links between homosexuality and paedophilia;  Winston McKenzie (the Culture spokesperson) likened adoption by same sex couples as child abuse; Kim Gandy, a former UKIP activist, joked on Facebook that elderly people should be euthanised when  they became a burden; Maggie Chapman said ‘muslims have sex with camels’ and that pakis go home for Christmas and spread Christmas cheer with her ‘egg-nog for nig nogs.’  And let’s not forget that nazi salute!

What is even more disturbing is that the Party is a member of the Europe Freedom and Democracy group which has links to far right parties.  Nigel Farage is co-president of the group along with  Francesco Speroni a member of the Lega Nord in Italy who described the multiple murderer Anders Breivik as someone whose ‘ideas are in defence of western civilisation.  It matters not that sometimes the party has distanced itself from such comments. What matters is that there are such people  within the party who have expressed such disgusting views at all within what seems to be becoming more than just the fringe ‘clowns and fruitcakes’ party described by David Cameron and Ken Clark.

It is shocking that following the local elections it seems that some people in their voting choices have moved even more to the right than the Conservatives. I ask myself whether they are aware of some of the extreme opinions that have been expressed by members of the party or indeed do they actually  know what UKIP stands for (apart from their views on immigration and the EU)?    They might be surprised.  Just a brief look shows an ill thought out political agenda which has little substance and seems more like something jotted down on the back of a fag packet whilst in the pub.   Even one of their own MEPs  has suggested  that it might be better to buy a set of ‘off the shelf’ policies to fill the manifesto vacuum.

How about their proposals for: 

  • A flat tax rate of 25% which would give a 14% tax cut to the wealthiest whilst costing the treasury billions
  • An increase of 40% in defence spending including the purchase of new aircraft carriers, fighter jets and nuclear missiles.
  • A prison building programme (to house a rising population of criminals) which again would cost billions (and the scrapping of the Human Rights Act.)

And where, in this age of austerity, is this money to be magicked up from – well apparently it will all be paid for when we leave the EU freeing up £8-9 billion but which, in actual fact, would barely cover half the proposed defence spending let alone fund the Party’s other crazy spending ideas.

And speaking of the EU, UKIP’s promise to exit the EU holds great attraction for those who ask the question ‘what did the Union ever do for us?’   So much rubbish has been spouted about bendy bananas, curved cucumbers and chunky carrots that we fail to see the wider picture. Apart from a wide ranging programme which includes regional economic funding,  employment, public health, health and safety, equal opportunities and environmental legislation, over 50% of trade worth £450bn a year is done in Europe and 3.5 million jobs are reliant on the EU.  Over 100,000 businesses  export to the EU, 94,000 of which are SME’s .  Over 80% believe that the market delivers significant benefits to them.  A recent poll of British businesses showed that 90% of them favour continued membership.   The UK has also benefited substantially from 45 free trade agreements with countries outside Europe which have been negotiated by the EU and if we were to exit the UK would have to renegotiate on a country by country basis.  Over 50% of companies investing in the UK cite EU membership as a reason.  Of course the EU is not perfect and reform must come if it is to have a future but UKIP harks back to a glorious Great Britain existing still in some other time warp ready to be re-invented, without even considering the effects of such an exit on our economy.   On a more personal note Farage might well rejoice at what the Union has done for him since he openly boasts that he has claimed £2million in expenses whilst bemoaning the amount of tax-payers money going to the EU.

The party is sceptical about climate change, rejects scientific opinion on the issue and is inconsistent in its pronouncements.  It opposes efforts to combat climate change, supports coal fired and nuclear energy along with shale gas extraction and fracking whilst opposing wind power and other renewables. Its intention will be to scrap all subsidies for renewable energy and cancel all wind farm developments.  And yet, despite stressing the need for clean technology in coal fired power stations, it opposes the EU’s directive to close polluting coal fired stations claiming that ‘it won’t make a scrap of difference to global emissions of greenhouse gases’.  As a party they have the worst attendance, voting and work performance of any political party across the EU according to figures for the last three years to July 2012.  And despite lots of fine words and support for legislation against fishing discards,  when it came to it Nigel Farage did not vote and the rest of the UKIP MEPs abstained.  To end on a wacky note they also want to ban the showing of Al Gores ‘An Inconvenient Truth in schools.  It seems that if they don’t believe in it then no-one else should hear about it and make up their own minds.

In education UKIP intend to bring back grammar schools and operate a voucher system which parents can spend in the state or private sector whilst in the NHS it  plans to franchise out key services including hospitals and GP surgeries to companies and charities and create a voucher system to allow people to opt out of the NHS system entirely.  It is also proposing to reduce employment rights, bring public expenditure down to 1997 levels by making cuts of £77 billion with a loss of 2 million jobs, scrap employers’ NI with the revenue to be recouped from Corporation Tax, VAT or reduced welfare.  All of these policies can be seen as creating more division, reducing the safety net and further impoverishing some of the most vulnerable in society.

And yet more worryingly with their views on immigration (whilst refuting  the charges of closet racism) they have nonetheless tapped into a reservoir of hate which appeals to some people’s fears about an uncertain future.

They ignore the valuable contribution made to the UK economy by immigrants and the fact that they are less likely to claim benefits than those who were born here.   UKIP intend to end the active promotion of the doctrine of multi-culturalism which it claims has divided society and has also spoken of forced repatriation or assimilation – a policy which shadows that of the far right BNP.  The idea that there is something that might be defined as a homogenous British culture is misleading – our culture has over centuries been an amalgam of influences from the  Romans, Danes, Angles and Saxons, and Normans, to India and modern Europe more recently.  It is not static but a fluid affair not to be defined by a bundle of old fashioned stereotypes which figures bulldogs, Winston Churchill,  god, queen and country. Our ability to live together and respect each other has come a long way in the last few decades and whilst there is still much to do the idea that we can impose something defined as British culture or values is a mistaken one.

Some may say that these are reasonable policies and we may laugh on the other hand, as Alex Andreou says, at the open expression of such extreme ideas and put them aside as simply unwise.

But we should not forget Martin Luther King’s words ‘our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter’.  Fascism will creep up on us and when we least expect it, when our defences are down,  it will pounce upon us with disastrous consequences.

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