A friend is a friend
I have a fine friend, a hard working, working class, classless in attitude family man who lives in Devon. He’s a skilled craftsman, the kind with an unshakeable pride in his work that motivates him to work long hours to get the job done, not well, but to perfection. We met years ago when he wrote to me in admiration of my writing and sense of humour. Then to my surprise and apprehension he made me godfather to his young son. He has a young daughter too, and a pretty wife, and an easy going manner.
He’s what we call a devoted father. He’s one of those friends you can rely on. He’s so reliable I know if I ever got in trouble with the law and jailed he’d be the one friend guaranteed to visit me. Regularly. (I trust he’s reading this.)
A smart guy
My Devon friend is a smart guy. From time to time he sends me questions about Scotland’s economy and its politics, knowing where he lives the news he gets through the agencies of the right-wing power holders is about as reliable as a multi-national conglomerate promising to pay its taxes in full. He feels Scotland has a right to self-determination. For that, I like him all the more.
Mentioning he’s English has no bearing on the friendship, other than he opened my eyes to the Roman history of Exeter, and its leafy lane beauty, that and he lives so far away meetings are contained to e-mails, twitter, and infrequent phone calls. Indeed, he was my first Titter follower, an event I missed, unaware the communication vehicle had ‘followers’. But our friendship is not distant. We keep in touch. And I watch the progress of my godson with great pleasure though I have little or nothing to do with his development. I am that strange thing a young boy can’t quite fathom, a kindly soul far, far away who sends gifts from time to time.
I regard my Devon friend as a good person. Like us all he has a few weaknesses, failings, nothing serious, nothing to cause a man to deny you knew him. Only one weakness stands out. In the last election he voted Ukip.
I did my best to dissuade him but he’s a democrat and feels compelled to exercise his vote. Before he made the leap across the political midden he called me worried about his ‘only choice.’ “We feel just as remote from Westminster as the Scots” he averred. “The other party candidates are all crap down here”, he argued. “I don’t have a choice. The patronising Tories are loathed, and Labour is more Tory than anything. The Lib-Dems are a bunch of idiots, but the Ukip guy is saying things I think too.” It is clear he needed a Bernie Sanders in his constituency.
England’s Tea Party
In part, Ukip supporters – to my observation predominantly lower-middle class, working class, less educated – are reacting to the perception, largely accurate, that they have simply been left by the wayside. No matter how hard they work, no matter what they do to better their circumstances nothing improves, and a lot gets worse. They might manage a new cooker this month, and a better pre-owned car next month, but essentially they feel trapped. I see the same happening to my two talented daughters, neither of whom can afford the deposit for their first home. The social ladder was pulled away from them and thousands more like them twenty years ago. It’s all very depressing.
In many ways, Ukip supporters mirror the American Tea Party, for like Ukip it’s corporate financed, deviously kept afloat to voice the will of the power elite. The Tea party is made up of disenfranchised poor folks mainly from the east coast of America. Among a welter of bizarre beliefs, they feel government over-taxes them. This is true, but they are deflected from the knowledge governments allow global companies to avoid paying taxes, often billions of pounds annually.
They joined a party kept afloat by donations from neo-con big business, the reclusive Koch brothers being one of the largest investors, people who also fund phony ‘think tanks’ where pseudo intellectuals begin with the conclusion they want implemented and work backwards to add the rationale.
Crap in, crap out
Armed with the nonsense of democracy hating institutions Tea Party and Ukip alike feel they have all the facts they need to prove socialists are out to ruin their country, and things will get a lot better if only they can kick the Latinos out, ban immigration, kettle blacks, and spend more money on weapons to make America great again. We might condemn them for their purblind intolerance but we really should listen to them. They have genuine grievances, which, back in dear old Blighty the Tory party are happy to encourage, and Labour nod in agreement, votes at stake.
We live in critical and dangerous times. Neoliberalism is still the supreme politico-economic doctrine, while our domestic lives and the societies we live in continue to deteriorate as public investment and social programs and services are scaled down further so that the rich can get richer.
Authoritarianism is on the rise
Here, the Tory party plead with Scotland to sty in the Union and remain a valued member of Westminster, only to marginalise Scottish MPs, and stop them voting on union matters. We can see Golden Dawn in the unionist reaction to a narrow win over Scotland’s democracy, greeted with Nazi salutes. We can see it in the rich and powerful such as Murdoch and Rowling going out of their way to influence democratic rights negatively. We can see it in Greece, in France, and in power in Spain. We believe Europe is ripe for the emergence of a proto-fascist regime. No wonder so many want out of the European Union. The tragedy is, we have it in Britain already.
For these and other reasons, the next General election, and indeed, the 2016 US presidential election is key for the future of the country and the world at large. The USA has a demagogue in Trump to contend with, and although the beer swilling leader of Ukip, Farage, is largely discredited, his abhorrent policies have been adopted by all the other parties, craven in their lust to keep votes. Both men enjoy the support of almost exclusively white voters. Both men propound divisive politics. Both men attract virulent supporters, and now, thankfully, just as vehement opponents.
Our last chance
In fact, this may be the United Kingdom and the United States last chance to elect a leader who can change the course of domestic and foreign policy. To my view it all looks hardly likely, hence the only vote in Scotland is for the only Scottish party, the SNP. In Scotland, thanks to the SNP, and its sympathetic administration responds with constructive measures. We have largely avoided the attacks on organised labour and the poor, but each day brings greater difficulties to sustain protection as Westminster twists the economic ties. And Tory or Labour led council are determined to undermine our elected government and restore pretenders to the throne.
We live in dangerous times. Neo-liberalism is still the supreme politico-economic doctrine, while our domestic lives and the societies we live in continue to deteriorate as public investment and social programmes and services reduced to negligible levels.
We can see it in the rich and powerful such as Murdoch and Rowling going out of their way to influence democratic rights negatively. We can see it in Greece, in France, and in the right-wing administration of Spain. We believe Europe is ripe for the emergence of a proto-fascist regime. No wonder so many want out of the European Union. The tragedy is, we have it in Britain already.
For these and other reasons, the next General election, (and the 2016 US presidential election) is key for the future of Scotland, England, Wales, an Northern Ireland, and the world at large.
The USA has to contend with the demagogue in Trump, and although the beer swilling leader of Ukip, Farage, misses only the preposterous Donald hair style, he does share the unassailable ego and the casual racism, and an unerring ability to tap into the darker side of human nature. Ukip’s policies have been adopted by all the British parties, craven in their lust to keep votes, with the honourable exception of the Greens, and the SNP.
However, if you lived in England you will see entire areas that are given over to Indian and Pakistani families and shops. Try and imagine a China Town or a Korea Town in every town. These areas are a result of England’s imperialism when countries they invaded were given British passports so people ‘felt proud to be British’. But like all colonialists the British were unwilling to improve the nations materially that they governed. Many of the inhabitants looking for a better life immigrated to Britain because they were told it is ‘the greatest nation on earth.’ Once here they saw themselves as ‘British.’
It’s that perceived ‘loss of English heritage’ together with an in-born suspicion of non-whites that so spooks our English cousins. Ukip stokes up fears of ‘foreigners’ taking ‘British’ jobs, living on welfare, and causing social problems. That said, the places I’ve visited are always the poorest, run down areas. They were districts with poor housing conditions and services before ethnic groups settle there. Why would any English of ambition want to live there? Why not call on the government to invest in those areas?
Ethnic groups make the best of it, in the same way as Mexicans assume the menial jobs in California, the ones Americans think beneath them, or too arduous to take on.
A good man laid low
England has Jeremy Corbyn who lacks the dynamism and radicalism of his erstwhile copy in the States, Bernie Sanders. Neither seem electable given the forces marshalled against them. In fact, this may be the United Kingdom and the United States last chance to elect a leader who can change the course of domestic and foreign policy. To my view it all looks hardly likely, hence the only vote in Scotland is for the only Scottish party, SNP, the one party that isn’t full-on neo-liberal.
The 19th century reactionary opponent of Scotland’s Enlightenment, Joseph de Maistre, criticized the Roman phrase, “man is a wolf to man,” observing that it is unfair to wolves, who do not kill for pleasure. The United Kingdom is riven with political parties who can base their policies on the dictum: life is tough, let dog eat dog, let the strongest survive.
They wish to withdraw from Europe, reinstate the Cold War, bomb the hell out of the Middle East and North Africa, fork out trillions to renew weapons of annihilation, and withdraw to Little Piddlington-on-Sea to fish and sail barges up their alimentary canals.
Einstein said if we have nuclear war the few survivors will fight another using stone axes.
It’s only human, stupid!
We humans are a stupid and blood-thirsty lot, but like my good Devon friend we have a humane side that should be nurtured. Despite his temporary loss to a faction I would not want to lose his friendship. In any event, his son might decide to avenge the insult to his father’s memory, Mafia style!
Destructive and suicidal capacities of human nature are balanced by others. Scottish Enlightenment figures as David Hume and Adam Smith, and the anarchist activist-thinker Peter Kropotkin, were absolutely correct in regarding sympathy and mutual aid as core properties of human nature.
We’ll soon find out which characteristics are in the ascendant.