Posts Tagged ‘social justice’

Europe is Kaput

November 17, 2015
Yanis Varoufakis Royal Festival Hall 00

Royal Festival Hall slowly filling up

Yanis Varoufakis Royal Festival Hall 01

introduction by Royal Festival Hall creative director

Yanis Varoufakis Royal Festival Hall 02

Srecko Horvat with Yanis Varoukis and Slavoj Zizek

Yanis Varoufakis Royal Festival Hall 04

surprise fourth guest …

Yanis Varoufakis Royal Festival Hall 05

Julian Assange

A discussion between former Greek finance minister and professor of economics Yanis Varoufakis and philosopher Slavoj Zizek at Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank in London.  Moderated by  philosopher Srecko Horvat. A surprise fourth member, Julian Assange half way through the discussion (such the magic of modern communications).

A discussion overshadowed by the terrorist attacks by ISIS Friday night in Paris.

Yanis Varoufakis was due attend a conference in Paris on Plan B for Europe. This had to be cancelled.

Why one minute silence at 1100 GMT? Why the French colours on buildings across the world?

France was criticised for closing its borders.

No one knew what was happening. It would have been remiss of France had the borders not been sealed.

We need to be wary of a backlash. We must not allow the creation of a repressive state, controlling and monitoring its citizens.

Soviet union ok it just happened to have a democratic deficit.

The same could be said of EU, ok but just happens to have a democratic deficit.

In the UK, democracy was something that grew organically. The barons challenged the King and we had Magna Carta. The merchants challenged the aristocrats. The industrialists the merchants. The proletariat the ruling class. The banks challenge the industrialists. The role of the state to act as a moderator, to stop one group exploiting another.

EU lacks democratic accountability, it is corrupt, autocratic, it takes away national sovereignty.

Proud nations, with a long history, their sovereignty has vanished into a black hole.

The foundation of the EU, iron and steel and coal federation, a cartel to benefit these industries. An administration to help it run. Agriculture added. Fixed exchange rates enabled price fixing. Fluctuating exchange rates led to the creation of the euro.  Prices could again be fixed. The bureaucrats who run the EU have contempt for democracy.

Th European Parliament a gravy train, nothing to do with democracy or accountability.

Technology allows us to communicate, as never before, and yet we are less well informed as never before. Oligarchs distort and filter the information we receive, they do so to further their own interests.

We have to be better at using technology, to network.

Is it possible to make the EU democratic? Probably not, but if we do not believe it to be possible and try, then it never will be democratic.

The ECB (European Central Bank) could write out a cheque for everyone living in poverty. Exact opposite of policies pursued by economic illiterate George Osborne who is cutting money to the poor.

Meetings of the European Finance Minsters could be live streamed over the internet.  Meetings would then be held in secret, where the real business would be discussed. Make a criminal offence. Eventually they would be caught.

Several trillion dollars siting idle. Put that money to work, invest in green infrastructure, would create jobs and benefit everyone.

We must criticise Islam. We should ignore those whose knee-jerk reaction is to scream Islamaphobia.

A Palestine singer sang of honour killings. He was booed in the US for doing so.

Human rights transcends culture and religion. That women have always been bastardised, part of culture, does not make it acceptable.

US, Europe and Russia must come together and cooperate in the fight against ISIS.

Saudi Arabia an exporter of terror.

Two competing ideologies, Islam and the Death Stars of Silicon Valley (high tech companies).

Apple is relocating factories from China to US. US factories will not employ people, they will employ robots. Robots do not spend money in the economy.

We could and should create a Basic Income.

We cannot have people who have never even visited a company, owning that company or a part of that company, speculative investment. We have to have alternative corporate ownership.

One possibility is open co-ops as postulated by Michel Bauwens. Those who work there have a stake, as do those who are effected, and the open co-op would contribute to the global commons.

An example, though not an open co-op, would be Infinity Foods, a worker-owned cooperative in North Laine in Brighton. They contribute to the local community by granting pensioners a 10% discount.

The opposite end of the spectrum, classic Death Star, facebook, information is captured from users, and goes to fill the coffers of facebook.

A Citizen Assembly, no politicians or parties (examples would be in Iceland and The People’s Assembly in England) drawing up a constitution, how they wish to shape the EU.

TTIP (linking North America and Europe), and its equivalent linking North America with Pacific Rim countries, has a geo-political dimension, it is as much about the countries it excludes (Brazil, China, Russia) as to the countries it includes. It has little to do with trade, it is about handing control to global corporations, it is being negotiated in secret. It must be opposed.

Russia and Putin are understandably paranoid. The West, contrary to agreement reached bewteen Ronald Reagan and Mikhail  Gorbachev, has expanded up to the borders of Russia.

If we do not like Putin, we should work with democrats in Russia.

The surveillance state is like God, all knowing. We can pretend it does not exist, but if we accept it exists, what impact on our behaviour?

As Paul Mason details in PostCapitalism, capitalism is dying. What comes next?

TTIP, tax-avoiding global corporations, marauding high-tech death stars, the rich guarded by private militias, mass unemployment, precarious employment competing with robots in sweatshop factories, serfs working for death star apps, intrusive mass surveillance, monitoring, logging, controlling our every thought, movement and social interactions?

A brutal Caliphate controlled by ISIS?

Or a networked, sharing, collaborative society, where wealth is evenly distributed?

On leaving, everyone asked to have their own internal minute of silence for all the victims of violence across the world.

Books for sale in the foyer by Foyles, The Global Minotaur by Yanis Varoufakis and several books by the other contributor panellists.

Sadly no book signing, the event overran by 45 minutes and the Royal Festival Hall had to be evacuated by eleven o’clock.

A very special thanks to Cristina Savini Soler who unable to attend kindly gave me her ticket.

Sleeping rough on the streets

June 3, 2015
Lincoln homeless sleeping rough in abandoned shop doorways

Lincoln homeless sleeping rough in abandoned shop doorways

In Lincoln, Aldershot, Hackney, there are people sleeping rough on the streets. They are found in shop doorways. The same can be found in every town centre. Like food banks, it is a sign of the times, a measure of the failure of austerity and the evil policies pursued by the Tory government, who in the last five years have enabled the rich to double their wealth.

Hackney has decided to tackle the problem. By housing the homeless, for which they have a statutory responsibility to house?

Er no, they are are going to fine the homeless £1000 or an on-the-spot £100 fine.

These are the people at the bottom of the heap, they are penniless. How are they going to pay a £100 fine let alone a £1000 fine?

If they they do not pay, what then? Throw them in prison. At least they then wil be fed and housed.

It will be cheaper to house them rather than throw them in prison.

Is it now to be a criminal offence for being homeless?

Tweedledee v Tweedledum, can anyone tell the difference? A Labour-controlled council doing the Tory’s dirty work.

Hackney Council’s new Public Space Protection Orders  will give police and council officers the power to ban “anti-social” activities such as sleeping rough or begging. Those who breach an order could be issued with a £100 fixed penalty notice or a fine of £1,000.

As homeless charities have pointed out, this will criminalise the homeless who are already vulnerable. It is absurd to impose a fine of £1,000 on somebody who is already homeless and struggling. People should not be punished for the “crime” of not having a roof over their head – there is nothing inherently “anti social” or criminal about rough sleeping. Criminalising rough sleeping privileges the appearance of Hackney and the convenience of customers over the damage caused to the vulnerable and homeless.

Kay Zell Huxley, a duty manager at a pub in the area was reported to have admitted that the “vagrants hanging around” do “respect the businesses and the pubs and are generally well behaved.” It is completely unjustifiable to criminalise these people simply because they “may be intimidating for people outside.” We should not privilege the convenience and desire of customers to have a good night out without having to see any homeless people over the lives and rights of those who are homeless and vulnerable.

We already know that homeless people are amongst the most vulnerable in our society and are already victims of exceptionally high levels of violence, crime and victimisation which is often committed by the general public and largely goes unreported. Researchers at the London School of Economics confirmed this in a study commissioned by Crisis as far back as  2004 and the rate of homelessness has only increased since then.  We should not allow measures which will make the lives of those with nowhere else to go even harder than they already are.

We have seen public pressure stop similar measures when they were proposed by Oxford City Council. Let’s make sure we also stop this in Hackney and everywhere else it is proposed – we must force councils and policy makers to deal with the lack of affordable housing and rising levels of homelessness in London as a whole, rather than allow them to get away with shifting the “problem” into another borough.

Being homeless in Hackney is now defined as a anti-social activity. What of the Rachman landlords who evict people and make them homeless?

There has been no consultation by Hackney prior to bringing in these Draconian measures.

Please  sign this petition.

Let’s make sure that Hackney Council doesn’t make rough sleeping harder than it already is!

How many of those on the streets are there because of the Bedroom tax, benefit sanctions?

Income inequality in the UK

June 26, 2014

The UK is one of the most unequal countries in the developed world. The gap between pay at the top and bottom is huge. Living standards for everyone – apart from those at the very top – remain squeezed. But it does not have to be.

Sheffield reporter threatened with arrest under anti-terrorism laws

June 25, 2014

Alex Evans ordered by police not to film pensioners’ Freedom Ride protest against cuts to free travel at city train station.

Sheffield Star editor James Mitchinson said what happened to the reporter was absolutely unacceptable and the paper would be seeking an explanation

Sheffield Star editor James Mitchinson said what happened to the reporter was absolutely unacceptable and the paper would be seeking an explanation

A reporter was threatened with arrest under anti-terrorism laws and forced to erase potentially important video evidence after filming a protest in Sheffield.

The editor of the Sheffield Star has demanded an explanation as to why his reporter, Alex Evans, was warned off filming a protest against cuts to free travel provision for pensioners and disabled people by British transport police officers on Monday.

Evans claims he was ordered to erase footage he’d recorded on his phone because he did not have permission to film on private property inside Sheffield station. When he initially resisted the request and continued to film, he says he was told he could be arrested under terror laws.

Shortly after he stopped filming, British transport police officers handcuffing and bundling away two men. The arrested men, aged 64 and 65, were taking part in the Freedom Ride, a long-running protest against cuts to free travel provision in South Yorkshire.

Evans claims he was ordered to erase footage he’d recorded on his phone because he did not have permission to film on private property inside Sheffield station. When he initially resisted the request and continued to film, he says he was told he could be arrested under terror laws.

James Mitchinson, editor of the Star, said on Tuesday: “What happened to our reporter Alex Evans yesterday was absolutely unacceptable and we will be seeking a full explanation of why he was treated in such a heavy-handed, threatening manner. To cite anti-terror laws is clearly nonsense. We have a right to report the news, and the Star will always fight for that right. Our readers expect nothing less.

“But this case illustrates just how difficult it can be to report the news, on the spot when, increasingly, authorities are seeking to ‘manage’ it.

“We’re well aware that Sheffield Station is, like all stations, technically private property, and ordinarily we’d need to seek permission to film there. But this wasn’t a PR stunt, it was an extraordinary event that couldn’t have been predicted and it was very much in the public interest that people were made aware of what was going on. As the local paper and website that’s our job, and it’s a job that people expect us to do.”

Evans claims British transport police told him the officer who asked him to delete his footage was part of Northern Rail’s rail response team. Northern Rail said it was trying to establish who made the request.

Though the reporter was prevented from filming the scuffles, members of the public managed to capture the arrests on their own phones.

The “rough” manner of the arrests have been criticised by organisers of the Freedom Ride demonstrations, which involve large groups of protesters all attempting to board the same train without buying a ticket.

Jen Dunstan, of Sheffield Disabled People Against the Cuts, told the Star: “Dozens of elderly and disabled people have been left with bruising. Some have cuts where their skin has broken from being pushed and shoved.

“A placid and calm gentleman was roughly manhandled. I am angry and shocked. The police are meant to protect elderly people.”

Northern Rail said in a statement: “Members of the media must have written permission from the train operator which manages the station before undertaking any filming on station property. Under no circumstances are Northern Rail employees to be filmed without prior agreement from the Northern Rail press office.”

A spokesman for British Transport Police said: “We were called upon to assist rail staff dealing with issues relating to an ongoing protest.

“As a result two people were arrested – on suspicion of travel fraud and obstructing a police officer – and the investigation into these alleged offences is ongoing.

“A number of separate incidents arising from these arrests, and involving police, have been brought to our attention. We are in the process of fully investigating these and will speak to all those involved.”

George Arthur, aged 64, and Tony Nuttall, 65, have been charged with failure to pay and obstructing police.

Reposted from The Guardian.

I have had the same problem, been threatened with arrest for taking photos on a station, though terrorism legislation was not invoked.

Cant and hypocrisy of Bristol and Sheffield Cathedrals

January 6, 2012
Bristol Cathedral - Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us

Bristol Cathedral - Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us

The key issue is a theological one … what do we stand for as a Cathedral. Economic justice is the Number One issue in the Bible. — Giles Fraser, former Canon Chancellor St Paul’s Cathedral

One reason many do not like the church in particular and Christianity in general is the appalling cant and hypocrisy. Do as we preach, not as we do.

A religion of the poor and oppressed hijacked by Emperor Constantine to become the official state religion of a military empire. Overnight the oppressed became the oppressors. Religion turned into what it had always been, a tool to control the masses, not a means of liberation and salvation for the masses.

St Paul’s learned the hard way when Occupy London Stock Exchange turned up on their doorstep and St Paul’s decided to close for a week on bogus health and safety grounds. Having learnt the lesson the hard way, the clergy of St Paul’s are now working closely with the camp, having been forced to re-examine the core values of Christianity.

Lessons that have yet to be learnt by the administration at either Bristol Cathedral or Sheffield Cathedral. Both located amidst pockets of acute deprivation.

The Deans of both Cathedrals say they want their grounds back, that it is public space, are threatening eviction.

Are those in occupation not the public? Are they not engaging in wide discourse with the wider public? Have they not shown willingness to engage with the clergy of both cathedrals?

If there is a problem, then why are the clergy not talking to resolve it?

Why is Bristol Cathedral working in lockstep with the local council to mount an eviction? Since when has a local council represented local people, let alone acted for local people?

Sheffield Cathedral, a place for all people, unless you happen to be living in a tent as a protester, then pick up your tent and depart.

It is even claimed the camps are not making a difference. Jeremy Paxman made a similar crass comment on Newsnight two nights ago in his dumb preamble prior to an excellent interview with Giles Fraser, former Canon Chancellor at St Paul’s, when he said nothing has been achieved as it has not changed capitalism.

Nothing has changed?

Would Giles Fraser have been on Newsnight two nights ago? Would David Cameron yesterday have been saying action has to be taken against corporate tax dodgers? Would the issues raised by UK Uncut have been on Newsnight last night?

The entire political landscape has changed. The only reasons these issues of social justice and tax avoidance are being raised at all is thanks to St Paul’s in-the-Camp and the numerous camps across the country including Occupy Bristol and Occupy Sheffield and UK Uncut targeting tax dodgers like Sir Philip Green and Vodafone.

As Giles Fraser said two nights ago on Newsnight, minor issues of inconvenience in the greater realm of things are far less important than the issues being raised, issues which go to the core of Christianity and why churches like St Paul’s and our great cathedrals were built.

Giles Fraser was preceded by an odious woman from the Church of England General Synod, lacking in grace and lacking any understanding of the message of Jesus. People like her give all Christians a bad name.

College Green update
Sheffield Cathedral Media Release: Occupy Sheffield 5 January 2012
Occupy the New year!
The Occupation Continues

The 19:57 from Euston

November 4, 2011

Flash mob on a train.

Recounted in Aleph, Paulo Coelho tells of being on the Eurostar train to London. Strange he thinks, I have never seen a flower seller on this train before when he spots a man witha dozen red roses. The man then asks for volunteers. Paulo Coelho volunteers but he is not chosen, but he hangs around to see what happens.

On arrival the man asks each volunteer to hand a red rose to a girl he points out. He then asks her to marry him.

Paulo Coelho arranges something similar at the end of a journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway but that would be telling.