Posts filed under ‘Thoughts’

After The Plague

Here’s the little I know about The Black Death in the 14th Century – it changed everything. After it had killed 30-50% of the population of Europe, the Peasants decided that life could not resume as it was before. So they revolted. Later, the Renaissance blossomed in a surge of creativity. I’m sure historians can elucidate on my ignorance.

It’s very likely that we will have the same experience: Deaths, revolution and creativity. After the Virus has died out, the Establishment will try to reinstate social and economic life as it was before. It may be broken, but it’s all they know. But we, the peasants, will want to see a drastic change. Life will have to be different.

Given that we were already under serious threat from climate disruption, and our environment was being degraded at an alarming rate, this change would have been forced on us in the very near future. But the virus is a really smart virus. It came along just in time to force us to stop, and take account of where we are going and how we live.

The loss of species, the degradation of animals and their environment is the background to this virus being able to jump from bats to pangolins and into humans. If we don’t want to replay this Viral lockdown scenario in another few years, it’s time now to think about the future.

Remember that Pharaoh had to contend with 7 plagues. We have so far had 5: HIV, Ebola, Sars, Mers and Covid-19. Do we really want to have to endure another 2? There are 5000 viruses available in the world. The odds are against us not having another outbreak. Look at Bill Gates’ Ted Talk warning in 2015. He predicted all this, as did others. We were not ready for it but can we ever really be ready for an invisible and smart killer ?

If I was Keir Starmer I would put together a virtual group of eminent experts and scientists who could begin to track for him the social, psychological, economic, technical and scientific changes that are already happening to us and which will continue to evolve through this plague year. When it all ends that should give him the information he needs to craft a new policy for Labour, one that chimes with the peasants. It will have to be green, it will have to reduce inequality, and it will have to bring more joy and satisfaction into our lives.

WH Auden’s line “We must love one another or die” was prescient. He later renounced it, but history has proven him a prophet. If we don’t care for each other and create a society that has compassion and concern for all of us, then we are likely to perish from the earth. And Gaia will just breathe a sigh of relief and say Good Riddance.

March 31, 2020 at 9:22 am Leave a comment

The Crisis Years: 1914/1939/2016

In the last 100 years, Britain has faced 3 existential crises. The first was 1914 at the start of the 1st world war, the second 1939 at the beginning of the 2nd and the latest one – Brexit- is not even a war at all (but has the potential to turn into one- a civil war). Each of these crises shows a persistent pattern to British decision making, and it’s worth remembering what they are.

In 1914 when the 1st WW started, Britain had only 4 months’ supply of acetone. Acetone is needed to make cordite, which is a missile propellant, and without a supply the war would have been over in 6 months. None could be bought because the Germans had monopolised the supply. The government turned to a chemistry lecturer in Manchester named Dr Chaim Weizmann who had synthesized acetone from grain in 1912 and asked him if could create it on an industrial scale. He did it in a matter of weeks and factories were quickly set up. Because of this Britain managed to fight the war but only won because the Americans finally joined in.

In WW2 we had a different fiasco. Then the government tried to appease Hitler by making deals with him and did not prepare for war. Hitler had been re-arming for six years and was ready to fight. He had even bought airplanes from the British. How could they have thought they could appease this dictator, who was gobbling up Europe one country at a time? That so-called ‘warmonger’ Churchill was right all along that we would have to confront Hitler at some time and the sooner the better. In the end Britain won the war again but only because America joined.

2016 will go down in history as the year of Brexit, when a prosperous country, without an obvious enemy, decided to voluntarily make itself poorer, weaker and less stable. In that year we decided to cut ourselves loose from our largest trading partners and instead seek to be saved once again by America. But this America is not the same as the one who selflessly aided us in 1914 and 1939. This America won’t care what happens to us if we decide to cut our own throats. In fact, there will be people there (and in the rest of the world) who will find British decline quite an amusing spectacle.

Both Wars showed a woeful lack of planning and insight into the nature of the crisis. Both wars could have easily been lost. Plucky Britain was lucky Britain. But maybe it’s not three times lucky. Our history tells us that we are not very good at planning and management in a crisis. Do we really want to break our own legs? And for what?

August 12, 2019 at 9:07 am Leave a comment

Brexit – a typical British mess

There is something radically ramshackle about the politics of England whenever an existential threat arises. The government of the day appears to be both unprepared for the threat and in need of outside help to avert disaster.

On a recent Question Time Gina Miller called the government’s actions on Brexit ‘shambolic’. This word I believe applies to every existential crisis that this country has lived through in the past 100 years. For example, look at the preparations for WW1 and WW2. When war started in 1914, the War Office had only 4 months supply of Acetone, which was essential for coating the heads of missiles. They used to buy it from Germany and for some reason that source was no longer available. Now there was none to be had. Unless something could be done, the war would be lost in 6 months.

The government asked a senior lecturer in biochemistry at the University of Manchester named Dr. Chaim Weizmann to try to develop a synthesised version of Acetone. He soon invented a fermentation process that came to be called “the Weizmann Process.” This enabled Britain to fight the war, which was eventually decided by the US adding their men and materiel to the fight.

WW 2 had a different but similar situation. The government of the day was so anxious to avoid a war that it both appeased Hitler and made no preparation for a possible conflict, leaving the country without planes, tanks, guns and bombs to fight against a Germany that had been re-arming itself for 6 years. Churchill spent his wilderness years trying to convince the government that Hitler was a real threat and that appeasement would not work. In the end the US again had to step into the conflict to give the Allies a decisive victory. Both of these potential disasters were averted by the US stepping in, something which will not happen this time. .

The current existential crisis, which at least is not a war, is the question of Brexit. Once again, the government is totally unprepared for the event, and doesn’t seem to understand the nature of the threat. In this crisis the USA will not step in to help, because it has actually increased the threat by starting a new trade war as the aggressor.

This trade war should make it very obvious where the country is heading via Brexit. It is obvious that Trump only respects power, and what we are doing with Brexit is voluntarily reducing our power. The hard-line Brexiteers may believe that going it alone in the world will increase our power and prosperity, but this looks increasingly like an illusion. Leaving the EU will make us weaker economically and in the eyes of the world, including Donald Trump’s. This means we are deliberately making ourselves weaker and poorer. Hard to believe that a country would do this to itself, but then why didn’t anyone stockpile acetone and who thought you could appease Hitler? There is a terrible pattern repeating itself here. Mrs May rushed to Washington when Trump was elected to solidify the special relationship and lay the ground for a great trade deal with the US. We now see how much that is worth. He said America First not the special relationship first.

Let’s do a ‘what if’ moment. What if the US trade war started before the referendum was called. Who, other than hard-line Tory and Ukip Eurosceptics, would have seen the sense of breaking away from our largest trading partners in the midst of economic turmoil. It’s time to wake up. It’s not too late. The country needs to vote again, now that it is becoming clear what an unholy mess Brexit is going to be.

June 30, 2018 at 1:53 pm 1 comment

A New You Resolution from Cleo

My daughter Cleo posted two messages this week that I thought were very good. One was a kind of New Year resolution, or maybe it should be called a New You resolution because it’s about Cleo’s new feeling of the joy of being, and the potential of what life can become. It’s a mission statement for herself, a prayer for the love that she has for herself and for the world.

The second is a Christmas message, much more poetic and touching than the Queen’s. You could say this the Goddess’ Christmas message. It is touching and beautiful. It is based on a Christian view, but if goes beyond that as it overflows with love for life, and enters you with the truth of her feeling.

 

December 30, 2017 at 11:20 pm Leave a comment

Is Labour in Danger of Becoming the New Nasty Party? An Open Letter To Jeremy Corbyn

Dear Jeremy

I was pleased that you came out with such a strong statement on sexual abuse and harassment. It was long overdue. But there is another form of harassment – in fact there are three kinds of harassment – that you have not stood up forcefully against. Allowed to continue, this abuse and harassment will turn your party into a nasty party, and you will not get elected as PM.

But before I list them, let me say that I would like to see you become the next PM. I admire the vision enshrined in your manifesto, which is so attractive, clear and understandable. A government that sets out to achieve even a few of those aspirations would be welcome, since change in our society is sorely needed. I watched your annual conference and found it full of positive spirit and energy. This is because you have given people hope after so many years of fear and anxiety.

But there are problems in your party that you need to deal with now. There is a level of vitriol and abuse emanating from the left wing of the Party which if it is allowed to go unchecked will become a hindrance to your aims, and will create the image of a nasty party which will stop you getting elected.

I base my opinion on a number of incidents from the past year. One is the problems is Anti-Semitism, which has not been dealt with adequately. The second is abuse directed at some of your own women MPs by other Labour members and the third is abuse directed at Tory candidates by Labour supporters. Each one of these shows a clear pattern of unpleasant and uncalled for harassment, which is harmful to your cause, and will repel a great number of voters.

The Anti-Semitism problem was poorly addressed by the Chakrabarti report although at conference the party did adopt a new standard to judge Anti-Semitism. This was a positive move, but the missing ingredient was your failure during your speech to take a strong personal stand against Anti-Semitism, and this showed a lack of leadership. To see real leadership in action, look at the response of the US Air Force Academy leader after five black cadets had “Nigger Go Home” scrawled on their doors.

http://www.npr.org/2017/09/30/554698359/air-force-academy-leader-addresses-racist-writing

He told the perpetrators of these hate crimes to go home if they were not able to accept diversity. Not suspension or a dressing down – just get out. Simple and effective. Instead, the Labour conference once more had a messy fringe event in which Jews again felt unwelcome, where some people called for Jews to be expelled from the party, and another speaker declared that Holocaust denial was a legitimate area of debate. Can you imagine the uproar that would ensue if at a Labour event people called for Muslims to be expelled from the party or that denial of slavery was deemed a suitable subject for debate?

Anti-Semitism in the Labour party is not like neo-Nazi right wing race hatred. It is political Anti-Semitism, which emanates from the Israeli-Palestine conflict. The righteous anger that many of your members feel about Israel  can easily morph into an anti-Jewish stance. This is a danger to society as a whole, since anti-semitism is like the canary in the coal mine, it is a precursor to a darker, larger and more pervasive set of hatreds. The only solution to anti-semitism is to fight it decisively and stop it in its tracks.

The second area where there is a toxic atmosphere is the relationship between the wings of your party. In 2016 a number of Labour women MPs wrote you complaining about the abuse levelled at women MPs. Their letter said: “Rape threats, death threats, smashed cars and bricks through windows are disgusting and totally unacceptable in any situation.This is acknowledged by all factions yet the simple words of condemnation offered in response are inadequate. We expect swift and tangible action against those who commit such acts. “

Harassment of Labour MPs, whether female or male, by fellow Labour members is dangerous and divisive. If you want a unified party, you must stop attacks like this.

The third area of concern is electioneering. At the recent general election, a Tory councillor running to be an MP suffered the following abuse from Labour supporters:
She was spat on many times and was abused verbally on the street, called a nazi, scum, and a whore. Her posters were defaced with similar epithets and her campaign headquarters vandalised. Lies about her voting record were published in Labour election literature and had to be withdrawn after breaking electoral law. Canvassers were threatened to the extent that police had to be called out. A canvasser’s car was spray fainted with vile abuse. Momentum members congregated outside the candidates’ home to intimidate her and her family. Voters were afraid to put posters in their windows for fear of retaliation.

These three kinds of harassment in your party are your Achilles Heel. They will cause you to go lame just at the time when you will need all your strength to continue the struggle. You have given people a new sense of hope, and now you must give them a feeling of protection, and by protection I mean security, an essential requirement of a successful state. You need to convince voters that you will fight terrorism, will reduce levels of crime, and create a society that does not live in fear. If your supporters engage in divisive acts of harassment which make people feel a mixture of fear and wariness, you will not succeed. The voters will not trust you; they will be scared.

In the short term this kind of intimidation may win seats, but its success will inevitably lead to an escalation of these kinds of tactics which will become self-defeating. Don’t allow shock troops to flourish. If you allow your party to become the new nasty party you will not be able to unite the country in the way you desire. There are people who will be attracted to this kind of nasty politics, but are they the people you want to attract?

Your aim is to support the many, not the few. But in order to get power, and to have the chance to really support the many, you have to convince them to support you. As long as you do not crack down on all forms of harassment, and show true strong leadership, you will not convince enough of the many to vote for you, even if they are attracted to your ideas.

Kind Regards

Mark Forstater

November 9, 2017 at 12:25 pm Leave a comment

How to Combat Terrorism

Three terrorist incidents in a short time has brought out Mrs. May’s  hardline approach : root out Islamic terrorism in the UK . I believe that imams and mosques that are encouraging young Islamic men and women to fight for Isis or to create terror on our streets should be rooted out. But this can’t be the only approach. To put more of a spotlight of media and police pressure on the Islamic community  will only create more inter-communal tensions and may alienate even more of the Islamic young .

To create policy based on fear and anger will only create more fear and anger and will lead to increasing hate attacks on the Islamic community.

What is is needed is a policy that has some hope for the future, and Corbyn has been giving us a vision of that hope in his recent appearances.  If we can create a more equal society, a fairer one and a more caring one, we can then live in a better relationship with our neighbours. If we can create better education, with more skills leading to better paid jobs, then more people can feel a part of this country and not alienated by it .

A society like this would be a great attraction for young Muslims to join and women in particular would appreciate that this kind of open society is one that is better for their children than one that is shut off from the modern world.

It is up to Corbyn to present the voters with his vision of a better society and his belief that a better society would be one in which terrorism would be rooted out not just by outside pressure but by the success of the society that we all share.

June 5, 2017 at 3:54 pm Leave a comment

James Baldwin Quotes

James Baldwin has been almost forgotten by the mainstream media but he was a brilliant and troubled American writer. Being black and gay, the son of a poor preacher, Baldwin had more than enough tsuris in his time. He wrote about the pain that he lived through with a fierce and truthful style.

During this Brexit upheaval, which is showing us examples of racism and hatred, and demonstrating the result of alienation and deprivation, I think some of his quotes are timely:

I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.

Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.

Anyone who has ever struggled with poverty knows how extremely expensive it is to be poor.

The most dangerous man is the one who has nothing to lose.

People who treat other people as less than human must not be surprised when the bread they have cast on the waters comes floating back to them, poisoned.

Hatred, which could destroy so much, never failed to destroy the man who hated, and this was an immutable law.

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.

The world is before you and you need not take it or leave it as it was when you came in.  

I’ve always believed that you can think positive just as well as you can think negative.

Those who say it can’t be done are usually interrupted by others doing it.

Pessimists are the people who have no hope for themselves or for others. Pessimists are also people who think the human race is beneath their notice, that they’re better than other human beings.

No one can possibly know what is about to happen: it is happening, each time, for the first time, for the only time. 

There is never time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment; the time is always now.

 

 

 

July 2, 2016 at 5:56 pm Leave a comment

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