Victimhood

Leading on from my last post. Something that I find underpins the mentality of many on the left end of the political spectrum at present is perceived/actual victim hood. What do I mean? it has become propitious to be able to demonstrate that you are oppressed in the political arena. To signify effectively that you are a victim has the effect of shutting down your opposition, stigmatising them and giving you a wide berth to demand reparations for your cause.

Whether you have a case or not can be unimportant, what matters is not the truth, only that you can manipulate popular opinion to kowtow to you. The simple question I ask is who isn’t a victim? I could make the case to you that I grew up in a town that used to hold a thriving mill industry in its heyday. It has since fallen to disrepair over the changing tides of commerce. As a result my hometown is on the less wealthy end of the spectrum in comparison to the most affluent in Britain and this has resulted in a sub-standard education comparatively. Consequently, my prospects are diminished. Had I happened to have been born in say Islington in London I would likely have received a better, more challenging education.

Of course, this entire mentality serves to take away from the accountability of the individual. In that scenario, I have taken no responsibility for how I can act to better my circumstances, I’ve simply pointed to an inequality in the system, blamed my problems on that and then allowed it to feed into the idea that the system is against me and I cannot rise above my station. It’s a vicious, myopic cycle. How true is my scenario? I received a good education, that I squandered by playing video games, had I spent just a third of the time reading rather than playing games I would likely have gone to a top UK university and would now be in the position to offer a skill set to society that is in limited supply. What happens when someone else can point to greater victimhood? I’m sure there would be people in India who point to my scenario and take the view that my own town became enriched through the colonial exploitation of India by the British and they are in fact the victims, I am merely a beneficiary of their ancestor’s sorrow.

My question to those that are allegedly oppressed in the west is the following… The West in general is more affluent than most regions of the world, it is imperfect and yet more balanced than probably any place in the world and you want us to believe that Western society specifically keeps you down and that you honestly have not had the tools, the freedom to be able to excel if you so much as had the will or put in the effort to do so?

There are people born with severe disabilities who rise above their awful circumstances and make a life that stands out ahead of many people more fortunate. They presumably realised that wallowing in self-pity and telling yourself that life is stacked against you leads nowhere other than to misery and a lack of fulfilment. Tell me if you went away now from this moment and made sure that every day you spent just 3 hours engaging in an activity that you know could benefit you, help you to grow or develop your career. That if you did that every day for a year, you wouldn’t reap the rewards further down the line? How much of your circumstances are really unchangeable? How much of it is down to external factors? What can you do to help yourself rise above it?

So much about life is mentality and victimhood is the safe one. It allows you to choose to put in no effort to better yourself because you can point the finger of blame on society.

In politics, we see people that are the top 1 percent, who are studying in top American Universities, who are decrying their perceived oppression on University campuses in the form of a lack of safe spaces away from differing opinions. If you can demonstrate that you are a victim, you gain power by being able to exert manipulation over policy makers to make up for the injustice. This results in free speech being curtailed and an atmosphere upon which different ideas are restricted. The result is you are worse off intellectually, because your mind isn’t forced to stand its’ arguments up to scrutiny. In its political variant faux victimhood represents a unique challenge for the intellectual future of western universities and in my opinion signals a civilisation in decline.

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The anti capitalists

What is at the root of the anti-capitalist mindset? If we reduce complex arguments down to their basic origin what do we get? I was at one stage, when I was a young buck with what I thought was an anti-authoritarian attitude, a raging communist. Hard to believe isn’t it? Not uncommon though, I know Peter and Christopher Hitchens early on in their lives were very left wing and gradually made the move rightwards. Not to attempt to put myself in the same ball park as those two intellectually, that wasn’t the intention.

What is it though that underpins the communist mindset. Speaking for myself, I think it was looking at the world, seeing the gigantic inequality between the wealthiest and the poorest and rejecting it. It came, out of a desire to do good. I blamed the capitalist system, decided that the only way to solve it was to take from the wealthy and spread the wealth and to do so I required the state to step in on the individual and forcibly re-adjust wealth. Additionally, I think it came from a victim mentality mixed in with jealousy. I would see wealthy people who I deemed not to be worthy of the wealth, who had either inherited it or had no discernible skills greater than my own and I’d ask why that wasn’t me.

When I lay it all out there like this, it speaks for itself in terms of its moral and theoretical shortcomings. I wanted to rip the system apart, I was anti-authoritarian, until you consider that my solution in the aftermath was to rebuild the system in my own image. To do that it would require totalitarianism. This is point one of my issue with the anti-capitalists, you are dictators in waiting, with no regard or respect for the individuality of different people, or the value of plurality of opinion. Communism degrades individual value, it places the collective in the ascendancy, because in order to achieve a utopian future we all must be the same. There is no room for anyone who thinks or acts differently.

This is the worst part of the communist mindset for me, the utopian ideal and what it seeks. To build a utopia in which everyone lives equally and happily, it follows on that the requirement is the re-adjustment of humanity. Hatred, that emotion that makes us human, is undesirable and needs to be overcome. Any speech relating to hatred is then banned. It is a mindset that derives from negativity. When communists look at humanity they see a problem that needs to be fixed so that everyone can coexist in happiness. The end goal is to remove all negatives, negatives as judged solely by the enforcers, and create hordes of people that think, feel and act the same. Communism is anti-diversity and anti-humanity.

When it comes to everybody as equal, the average office worker like me and Lionel Messi are equal, because we are both human and therefore entitled to be on an equal footing. Except Lionel Messi has skill as a footballer rivalled by one other person in the world in a sea of 7 billion. At the game of football, he is superior to me, to you and to the overwhelming majority of people that inhabit the world. He has a skill that separates him from the rest of humanity and so he is rewarded through wealth, because he is able to offer that skill to the highest bidder. In all walks of life there are people who are better or worse than we are at any given task. No individual is ever the same and yet we have an ideology that seeks to confine, to box all individuality and coerce it to serve the group. The effect of this is to remove the motive which drives individuals to better themselves and produce something of value. If I was to sit and labour for hours and hours on a piece of land to create wheat and then the state decided to requisition all my surplus wheat to give to workers in the city at no benefit to me, what would motivate me to produce anything more than what is enough for myself and my family? Hence starvation and famine in the Soviet Union.

When you sit and ponder on what competition means in life, however big or small, it pervades humanity and it wasn’t imposed on us by some spectral elite class of people pulling the masses by a string. It is intrinsic.

Politics and infallibility.

The earth is constantly hurtling through space and time, never in the same position twice as it moves through the universe, in my basic understanding of science, from a Brian Cox documentary about space. This could be wrong. A new piece of information may be discovered in years to come that says differently. Science and truth are often works in progress. I heard Jordan Peterson say recently that it is better not to look at our perception of the truth as an absolute and look at it as a tool with which we try to understand the world as best we can in the here and now.

This coincides with the idea of infallibility in politics, espoused by many across the political spectrum. Currently, based on all the information I have assimilated into my brain and evaluated I would say my political compass lies somewhere slightly right of centre and significantly on the side of liberty as opposed to authoritarianism. I acknowledge that there are probably billions of scenarios and pieces of information that I haven’t come across that could either render my arguments redundant or strengthen them, but based on my understanding of the world and the current economic and political climate, freer market economics and the strengthening of individual liberties over state power, appeals to me more than opposing arguments.

Therefore, I welcome free speech and debate. There are people who have led entirely different lives to me, who look at information in different ways or hold knowledge on topics that I have yet to come across. By debating and swapping ideas and arguments people can test their beliefs and see if they stand up to scrutiny. What I see a lot of however, is partisan tribalism. Which is understandable, I know in the past I have often had trouble when I have held passionately to a belief and been challenged strongly. It would make me angry and I would struggle with coming to terms with the idea that my experiences and knowledge might not be a representation of the wider truth.

This tribalism tends to manifest itself along party lines and we see people who assess some information, make up their mind on what feels right to them politically and then plant their feet in the sand and stay there until their dying day. I personally, if we have an interest in honesty and progress, don’t see that this is helpful if the wider goal of society is the truth and in politics, if the wider goal is the improvement of the situations of as many people as possible at the smallest cost. Which I acknowledge it probably isn’t for a fair few politicians.

Returning to my original scenario of the earth and its movements. If the Earth is never in the same place twice, the earth is never the same twice. It is in a perpetual state of change, much like the societies we have built on earth. There is not a single civilisation on the planet that has remained the same. People are born, die, progress and regress. Individuals make an infinite number of choices that on a collective level influences how a society transforms. Civilisations grow and die, based on an almost incomprehensible, multitude of converging individual action on top of environmental and other factors I haven’t considered or thought of.

Then along comes politics and economics and a resolute, unflinching mindset. Economic opinion usually fractures along two lines, those that favour freedom of the markets and those that favour state regulation or outright control. There are of course many people who favour a mixture of the two, but there are also those that are adamant that in all political situations, heightened government regulation or investment in the economy at a state level will always be the correct path. The opposite is also present, there are people who believe in all situations there should be total freedom of choice for individuals in the market place. The questions I pose are as follows: How, given that every waking day brings a unique societal challenge to the door of the government, can anyone claim to have absolutist answers to the economic and political problems that we face? How can anyone who has experienced a tiny fraction of all the experiences of the collective species make the claim to informed decision making? How is someone like Richard Dawkins so sure that something as complex as Brexit can be reduced to the simple statement that the remain side are correct and everyone who voted differently is ill informed. Considering that he cannot predict millions of events and actions on an individual level that will organically contribute to whether Brexit is a success or a failure?

Surely the only way forward is to be flexible as a politician and act upon all the information available about a situation at the current time to decide policy, rather than hold resolutely to ideology and try and enforce that ideology onto circumstances. And surely the way forward is not to be so resolute in your thinking that you cannot ask yourself if there is a possibility you may not be infallible.dawkins_2142765b

Thoughts on the NHS march

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So today I attended my first ever political protest. Oddly enough it was in aid of a topic that I admit I am woefully uneducated on. The national health service in the UK. You might think that admission to be somewhat odd, given that the NHS is probably only behind immigration, in the list of things that the British public are most passionate about in the political arena. For whatever reason, healthcare has always fallen by the wayside when it comes to my reading and research. I don’t want to give off the impression that I am so in the dark that I don’t have a broad understanding of the system in place in the UK as compared to somewhere such as the US. It’s just always been one of those topics that I have wanted to delve deeper into and never have.

Nonetheless a friend of mine deeply passionate about the state of our healthcare system, which many consider to be under incredible strain, invited me along and so I joined him. Given recent protests around the globe of a left-wing persuasion, I admit to being slightly apprehensive about the atmosphere and the political motivations of those attending. I had images of the Trump protests in which, what we think were anarchists, rampaged around putting bins through Starbucks’ windows. Perhaps in reflection to consider that a possibility was a bit knee jerk. The entire event was conducted in an orderly, peaceful fashion. There were evidently some very passionate people present, entirely focused on the issue at hand. My impression was of health care workers from around the country frustrated and embittered by the cuts to their departments, wanting to utilise their right to peaceful protest to voice their concerns.

Of course, there were groups present who seemed to be hogging onto the issue to showcase their wider political points. Groups bearing communist flags, but they were in a minority. Some of the speeches dished out on stage at the initial meeting point of Tavistock Square, did try to mould different political issues together, but none of it was done in an aggressive manner. The groups that protested did so, in my experience, peacefully. That is a healthy thing for our democracy. It is a reminder that the people have at their disposal, methods that they can employ to push issues into the forefront and make the politicians of Westminster take notice. In a time when the gap between politicians and people is seemingly quite wide, it is necessary for the people to give reminders to the nations’ decision makers who it is that allows them their power.

Finally, today was a reminder for me of the old quote credited to Pericles.

“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.”

In Britain there exists an aura of apathy with some individuals when it comes to the topic of politics. Given the times we are living in, which are seeing momentous changes around the globe, I think it is of the greatest necessity for the governed to take an active interest in politics to protect the freedoms and rights we have. Rights that were hard fought for in the face of tyranny.  I loathe the idea of our freedoms being slowly and insidiously eroded by authoritarian political parties whilst the people are too apathetic to give a damn, because before we know it, it will be too late.

 

 

 

 

 

Media Dishonesty

I’m surprised it has taken me so long to see the egregious nature with which some main stream media outlets currently operate.  I think my first inklings came when I started to listen heavily to Sam Harris’ waking up podcast. He often expressed opinions on Islam that I knew to be controversial, but nonetheless I believed them to be worthy of discussion and not intimated from a position of hatred or bigotry. In Comparison to some commentators on the topic he is quite grounded and yet this has not stopped him being smeared with the charge of racism, islamophobia and bigotry.

In steps Trump, his entire campaign for office and his subsequent first few months as President of the United States. It has been a constant barrage of negativity, not just from the more unhinged and radical elements of society, but from prominent media outlets. If there is anyone who purports to have a critical mind reading this and disagrees that the media have savaged Trump, sometimes legitimately, but often over petty, inconsequential things please comment and let me hear what you have to say. I feel as though it has been a deluge from the moment he was sworn in of anything that they can possibly get their hands on to try and undermine his presidency, however miniscule. One of the examples that comes to mind is the inauguration pictures of his crowd being smaller than Obama’s comparatively.

And I wouldn’t even identify as a Trump supporter. I’m not even American. There are some things I think he will do that will benefit the US and some things that I disagree with. His curbs to banking regulations for instance. But I cannot help but feel frustrated by what I see as patently dishonest reporting. I want reporting to be balanced and of quality standard, not half hearted, shallow and clearly spun articles that promote a particular narrative. I want journalists to have integrity and to put partisan feelings aside to give the public a view that isn’t a myopic snapshot of any given issue.

I do not and will never advocate the curbing of press freedoms. That is a slippery slope that leads to tyranny and I hope Trump does not attempt to limit liberty. What I do advocate is that we, the people, speak out and use our speech freedoms to highlight the injustices and deficiencies of the press. Take the Pewdiepie saga, anyone who takes the time to look into that story will likely come to the conclusion that context was entirely ignored. It is concerning that a reputable news organisation, like the Wall Street Journal, would sink to the depths of construing the words a person uses, in such a way as to paint them as racist. it is nothing short of character assassination in my opinion. Sargon of Akkad’s video on this was particularly thorough.

Up next was Milo Yiannopolous, a controversial figure, seemingly on the doorstep of superstardom after bagging a book deal from Simon & Schuster and then making an appearance on Bill Maher’s show. Conveniently video footage surfaces, that has been on the internet for quite some time, of him appearing to be at the very least flippant with, if not dismissive of his own sexual abuse experiences. Subsequently, Milo loses his job with Breitbart, his book deal and his next public appearance as a speaker, despite his statement, that sought to clarify his previous comments.

Whatever your opinion on Milo’s comments, it strikes as convenient to me that as he is on the brink of an even wider audience, footage of comments, that passed seemingly without reproach at the time, surfaces and serves to sink his successes. It makes me wonder if those behind it truly care about the topic of child sexual abuse, or whether they sat on it for the opportune moment with which to use it for political gain. This is something I think is the medias’ duty to analyse, but yet again, I feel like the full picture has not been portrayed and we’ve been served up a twisted snapshot of the truth.

Is it any wonder that trust in the press has sank to new depths?

The West: Values and Confidence.

‘The multi-culturalists are, as Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. said, “very often ethnocentric separatists who see little in the Western heritage other than Western crimes. Their mood is one of divesting Americans of the sinful European inheritance and seeking redemptive infusions of non-Western cultures.’ – pg 305 The clash of Civilizations, Samuel P. Huntington.

Those that see the West only through the eyes of negativity and guilt invariably seek to undermine the values that they associate with its imperialist past. Free speech, individualism, democracy and human rights. Ideas that have uniquely found footing in Western civilization as products of its rich, deep history, are tainted in the eyes of those determined only to see the atrocities of Western civilization, as its representation and legacy, and apply them like a blanket over its entire mass.

The answer either knowingly, or subconsciously is to flood the region with people from a diverse range of cultures, to atone for the sins of the region. The problem with that, as so deftly expressed by Schlesinger, is that incoming cultures are then held up on an immutable pedestal of virtuousness. Western culture is openly denigrated in what should be acknowledged as the antithesis of diversity, rather than real diversity where every culture is appreciated for its positives and attacked for its negatives equally.

The danger posed by those that adhere to this vein of thought is that over time, Western values will be eroded until what made the West a unique place on Earth surrounded by other unique regions, will be lost, or altered so much that it cannot be reclaimed. The positive products of the region, intellectual, architectural and artistic will be cast in with the darkness and thrown into the garbage heap, because of a myopic, nihilistic outlook, that seeks to indiscriminately and ignorantly paint the West solely with the brush of guilt and tear it down as a failure. As opposed to acknowledging the positives that can be drawn from society and moving forward with them into a new age.

If the West is to preserve its unique identity as the balance of power shifts away from the region in the years to come, its peoples need to regain confidence in the ideals and values that make the region what it is and stop seeing it solely through the prism of imperialism. Jocko Willink once said in his podcast. “You need to understand the darkness to appreciate the light.” The former imperialist powers should take a long, hard look at the fruits of their greed, learn from it and then combine that learning with all of the positive things that spawned from the Western lands. That is progressive and that is the way forward.

Islam and the future of tolerance – A review.

‘Liberals imagine that jihadists and islamists are acting as anyone else would given a similar history of unhappy encounters with the West. And they totally discount the role that religious beliefs play in inspiring a group like the Islamic State – to the point where it would be impossible for a jihadist to prove he was doing anything for religious reasons. Apparently it’s not enough for an educated person with economic opportunities to devote himself to the most extreme and austere version of Islam, to articulate his religious reasons for doing so ad nauseam, and even to go as far as to confess his certainty about martyrdom on video before blowing himself up in a crowd. Such demonstrations of religious fanaticism are somehow considered rhetorically insufficient to prove that he really believed what he said he believed.’ – Sam Harris page 47-48

I think that one paragraph sums up my frustrations with the debate on Islamic terrorism. Imagine if you went back in time to see the Knights Templar not give an inch in battle, driven by their religiously inspired, fervent belief in martyrdom. The conclusion you draw from this is that this was at root a frustration garnered from hundreds of years of eastern foreign policy in the form of Jihad and the knights’ reaction has nothing to do with religion. Surely you’d have to be at least dishonest in that scenario to discount the role of religious conviction? And yet as Harris demonstrates, this has almost become a mainstream political opinion amongst so called liberals. Harris continues –

‘The belief that a life of eternal pleasure awaits martyrs after death explains why certain people can honestly chant “we love death more than the infidels love life.” They truly believe in martyrdom – as evidenced by the fact that they regularly sacrifice their lives, or watch their children do so, without a qualm. As we have been having this conversation there was an especially horrific attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan, where members of the Taliban murdered 145 people, 132 of them children. Here’s an except from an online conversation with a Taliban supporter in the aftermath of the massacre – Human life only has value among you worldly materialist thinkers. Death is not the end of life. It is the beginning of existence in a world much more beautiful than this. Paradise is for those pure of hearts. All children have pure hearts. They have not sinned yet… They have not been corrupted by their kafir parents. We did not end their lives. We gave them new ones in paradise, where they will be loved more than you can imagine. They will be rewarded for their martyrdom.”

I think that speaks for itself. You would have to make the claim that the Taliban supporter is lying, in order to undermine the idea that extreme religious conviction plays some part in the terror debate and I personally think the weight of evidence rests against you if you do.

But anyway that’s not even the debate that people should be having, the debate should be how do you deal with the tide of Islamist and jihadi groups around the globe? Maajid Nawaz argues that Islamism, the political belief of fundamentalism and the spreading of Islamic law and customs across all nations, must be defeated at grass roots levels within the Muslim community. They estimate that Islamist groups make up between 15 and 25% of the world’s 1.6 billion strong Muslim population. He sees The Obama administrations refusal to name Islamism as being at the root of groups like IS as a failure. He believes that naming the problem instead of avoiding it, gives Muslims a choice to either ‘reclaim our religion and its narrative, or allow thugs and demagogues to speak in its name and impose it on others. Calling it extremism is too relative and vague and sidesteps the responsibility to counter its scriptural justification.’ He means scriptural justification here in the sense that one may interpret many things from the Qu’ran and ahadith and one of those readings is the skewed beliefs of Islamic State. He also mentions however that another essential thing that needs to happen is for there to be an acknowledgement that there are many different interpretations possible, each to the person who reads the scripture. Essentially if the Muslim community can get to the stage where the interpretations are personal to the person and there is no right answer, this is the first step on the way to pluralism and secularism.

I’ve done rather a hatchet job here of what is a short, at 128 pages, yet valuable conversation in which the intricacies and problems of the debate are analysed in such greater depth. Despite its small length, it is definitely a worthy addition to the field and a good discussion between two respectful men, one a liberal Muslim, the other a liberal atheist. The more this is talked about and the less it is approached with apprehension and shame the better for our society.

A Regressive Society?

The land of the free, the land of the West. Famed for being the home of democracy and tolerance. A place where people of opposing views can discuss ideas openly without fear. No matter how repugnant those views might be to the masses, it’s ok because that’s what free speech is designed for, to protect minority voices from the tyranny of the majority. What happens if a neo-nazi wants to walk around preaching hate? He can do and what society will do in response is debate him and take his ideas down with logic and facts. We do this because we have confidence in our ideas, our values and our ability to articulate them.

Except we’re in 2017, where white supremacist Richard Spencer was punched by someone for the crime of holding repugnant views… and many people celebrated it. What does it say about our society when that is the reaction? It tells me that our society doesn’t trust its population to be able to think critically about the ideas on display and reject them. it tells me the education system hasn’t produced enough people who understand and respect our regions’morals and values. It tells me the person who punched him has no self confidence in his own ideas and his ability to project them and it tells me that society in general is moving further away from liberty and into the arms of authoritarianism.

But because it’s a left wing variant of authoritarianism as opposed to a right wing one, that’s ok right? No it is not, because any move towards authoritarianism leads to a uniformity of ideas and in turn societal regression. To expand the mind you must take on a plethora of ideas and be able to understand them, weigh them up and reject/accept them. What we are saying by banning certain forms of speech, as stated previously in this piece, is that society doesn’t trust people to hear views that are potentially dangerous and reject them. This surely then lends credence to these ideas. Essentially you’re admitting that the states answer to these ideas isn’t strong enough to defeat it in open discourse. By banning or pushing certain forms of speech underground, you give them power in a way that runs contrary to your aims.

Further to this, the times in recent history when the extreme variant of left wing politics got a foothold in Russia, China and Cambodia we saw death tolls and a disregard for human life that should shock anyone with a moral compass. Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were just as bad, if not worse, than Hitler for sheer numbers of deaths caused and yet strangely the far left is almost romanticised in the West in 2017.  We should be doing everything we can if we truly hold up the ideals of diversity, the rights of the individual and freedom, to ensure that neither left or right wing variants of authoritarianism take hold within our society and lead it back down the path to oppression. The centre ground needs to find itself, its identity and its confidence and find the arguments and solutions that will defeat the SJWs and the alt-right in open discourse. Until then, we’ll continue along a polarised political path of increasing extremes.

We need to put faith in free speech as the core value of our culture, because it is a natural bulwark against a regressive society and a beacon of true progression.