Posts Tagged ‘freedom

02
Feb
11

A Bit More on Egypt

That last post was a little short, so I thought I might do a Q&A style post to give the basics of my and (in general) the Marxist position.

 

Firstly, there’s the question of revolution. This is a popular uprising, but no one is waving red flags, calling for the redistribution of land, and the adoption of the Communist system of government. Why do Marxists (and the rest of the left) support what’s going on in Egypt?

Well, perhaps it’s best encapsulated in the official statement of the Socialist Party USA on the events in Tunisia, stating “The International Commission of the Socialist Party USA salutes the people of Tunisia in this important step toward liberation.”. While it’s a comment about Tunisia, not Egypt, (you can read the full statement here) the key word is “Step”. While an overnight revolution in which the state, private property, and the class system are destroyed would be great, any step in the right direction isn’t something to be dismissed. The Egyptian public are taking their destinies into their own hands and actively obliterating a regime that has oppressed them for the past three decades.

 

Secondly, there’s the issue of what happens after the uprisings have been completed. After Mubarak, what then?

We’re hoping that the Egyptian public will not let this opportunity for democracy (as much as democracy as anyone can have with Capitalism alongside it) be stolen by another dictator (as Stalin did with the Russian revolution) or have it sabotaged by outside forces (as the US has done on numerous occasions in South and Central America). We hope that Egyptian people will realize that dictators are not the only form of oppression, and take the battle to the evils of neo-colonialism, Capitalism, classism, globalization, and exploitation.

 

Thirdly, there’s the issue of revolution not simply in politics but also in culture and social structure. What should we be looking for?

These revolts have demonstrated just how much power the public wields when united. Hopefully, an aftereffect of the events in Egypt will create an even stronger sense of community and public duty. In addition, the end of the regime’s power may also bring about an end to the state-censorship of media and the arts, allowing for a greater, more free dialogue in politics, music and the arts, and social issues.

 

In short, I join with the Socialist Party in saluting the Egyptian people’s struggle and hope for their continued success.

 

Viva la revolucion.

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18
Jan
11

What’s It Going To Take?

At my college, I’ve been trying to get a number of products (made by immoral companies or through unethical means) boycotted, both by the campus and by the students. It hasn’t been going so great.

My fellow students are more than willing, when I come knocking at their doors, to sign my petitions, but overwhelmingly that’s as far as they’ll go. More often than not they sign without even asking what I’m trying to do or tell me that they need time to think it over (which has been just a euphemism for “go annoy someone else”). It’s not that I’m ungrateful for having as many signatures as I do, but the real issue here is getting my peers to make a conscious change to the way they live their lives- to make an ethical statement. In all honesty I’d rather have them not sign at all than sign without actually joining the boycotts.

But that’s a bit off topic- here’s the real problem.

I don’t think the moral lines could be more clearly drawn in such a situation. We have companies that have killed for profit, selling their products here on campus, and in the stores and markets across the world. These two companies make junk food, their products are easy to substitute or give up entirely. I and my fellow activists merely ask that our peers stop spending their money to these unethical corporations.

And yet we’ve had almost no response.

It’s not an issue of necessity, where our peers are forced to buy certain products. It’s not an issue of availability- there are plenty of perfectly good (or at least, less harmful) substitutes to the boycott products. It’s not an issue of trust- we don’t want donations. The issue is that my peers just don’t care!

And here seems to be the problem- people don’t care much either way if the beverage they’re drinking came from a sweatshop in Colombia, or if the chocolate they’re eating was harvested by ten year-old slave-laborers in Central America. Perhaps it was best said in the film Hotel Rwanda, when one of the characters comments “…When people turn on their TVs and see this footage, they’ll say, ‘Oh my God, that’s horrible,’ and then they’ll go back to eating their dinners.”. Other than a shallow, fleeting expression of shock or sadness or horror, no one seems to be moved to action.

Perhaps it’s that my peers (and Westerners in general) simply don’t expect anything from the third world other than disease, poverty, starvation, war, and genocide. Just a couple days ago, I saw this advertisement for the New York Food Bank (linked here)- in it, one of the spokespersons states “hunger happens in the third world- not in New York City”. Granted, the statement was made to make a point about the very real presence of hunger in New York, but it bugged me nonetheless. I appreciate them dealing with the issue of hunger in New York, but are they saying it’s acceptable elsewhere? I want to think it was just a poor choice of words on their part, but this kind of mentality does indeed exist. It’s a kind of unconscious racism- the idea that these places always have been miserable and always will be. The idea that there’s no hope. Again, Hotel Rwanda hits the nail on the head when a UN colonel says to the protagonist “You’re black. You’re not even a nigger. You’re an African.”. Perhaps the reason we can’t get people to care is because they just don’t believe the oppressed peoples of the world are capable of ever living in better conditions.

Or maybe that’s not the case. Maybe it’s that people are just distracted by other things. We’re bombarded every waking moment with messages telling us to lose weight or to gain weight or to lighten our skin or to darken our skin or to get a better clothes or a house or a better car and better insurance to protect those things. Perhaps it’s easy to lose track or get our priorities confused, and we start valuing a specific brand of soda over the lives of farmers in India.

Or maybe it’s that people just won’t care unless they themselves are the ones being oppressed and exploited. Maybe we’re so selfish and self-centered that the only motivation we’ll ever have to make the world a better place is when we’re the ones bruised, bloody, and starving. Maybe that’s the only wake-up call I and peers will ever really respond to- a lashing from the sweatshop overseer for falling asleep at our station, or the jab of a soldier’s bayonet for having been born the wrong race. Is this how things are going to be? The people who can help don’t care, and the people need help aren’t able?

At this point in the post, I’d usually throw out some kind of appeal or call to action, but I just don’t know what to say. What is it going to take to wake the world up? What’s it going to take to spur people into action? The movies, the poetry, the charity, the music- it helps for a while and briefly seizes our attention, but we soon get bored and forget. The powerful stay powerful, the powerless stay powerless. The rich get richer and the poor get left further behind. Again, what do we- what do I need to do?

25
Apr
10

Continued BNP Fascism

Linked here is a BBC article describing the BNP’s (British Nationalist Party) continued campaign against immigration. Like most Fascist and nationalist organizations, the BNP is attempting to gain public support through the vilification of a certain group (in this case, immigrants) and the propagation and proliferation of lies about how this group will upset the status quo (a popular BNP claim is that immigrants will somehow destroy British identity and culture). Now it would be remiss of us to immediately discount every theory a Capitalist or Fascist organization brings forward, so let us examine some of the positions held by the BNP.

Major BNP Positions (as stated in the BBC’s “At-a-glance: BNP general election manifesto):

Economics:

Cut public spending on immigration, asylum, EU membership and foreign aid, which the BNP claim accounts for more than £40bn.

Perhaps the only understandable point the BNP has here is its reluctance to be part of the EU. If group doesn’t feel that it is being adequately represented, there’s no reason it should be forced to participate. It’s there, however, that understanding ends. For an immensely wealthy and powerful first world country to wish to cut spending on immigration, asylum, and foreign to less fortunate countries is twisted and unjust- especially considering that many of these countries were once brutally colonized by the British.

Crime and Immigration:

Halt immigration – in particular from Muslim countries – and deport illegal immigrants. Allow legally settled and law-abiding minorities to remain but review citizenship grants awarded since 1997.

Again we have the issues of discrimination and bigotry. The BNP would have an end to immigration despite the fact that many of the countries immigrants originate from were once conquered, colonized, and exploited for centuries. The fact that immigrants are now streaming into the UK in search of better lives isn’t merely a natural phenomena, it’s poetic justice.

Deport foreigners convicted of crimes in Britain, regardless of immigration status, ban the burka and building of mosques. Deport radical Islamist preachers.

It is perhaps here that the Fascist reality of the BNP is most evident. Regulating a specific religion or community (in this case, Islam and the immigrant/Muslim community) Fascists attempt to maintain the traditional social order and status quot.

Review the Police and Criminal Evidence Act to remove unnecessary bureaucracy from police duties.

While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to remove unnecessary bureaucracy, keeping the BNP’s other political stances in mind, one can’t but help be suspicious of this proposal. Fascist and authoritarian regimes can only remain in power with an extensive police force- there’s a fine line between removing bureaucracy and removing accountability.


Social Aspects:

“British concepts” of civility and courteousness to be taught in schools, along with British history and English, Irish, Scots and Welsh culture and tradition.

Ah, what counts as a “British concept”? Do naturalized immigrants influence at all what counts as a cultural concept? Would this be the contemporary concept, or an earlier one? Should it even be the government’s role civility and courteousness?

Free university education to students who have completed community service.

This actually doesn’t sound like such a bad idea- depending on what the BNP defines as “community service”. Are we talking about a month of picking up litter from the sides of roads or years of backbreaking labor poor and proletariat youth will have to undergo as a result of being unable to afford university? Either way, considering the BNP’s other policies, it probably isn’t worth it.


Healthcare:

Cut waiting times and service difficulties by relieving immigration burden upon the NHS.

Last time I checked, a sick Anglo-Saxon’s life isn’t any more valuable than a sick Central Asian’s. The Hippocratic oath doesn’t have limits on race and nationality.


Politics:

Bill of Rights guaranteeing basic civil liberties, repeal 1998 Human Rights Act and withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.

Considering the attitudes of the BNP, you probably shouldn’t look forward to their concept of “basic civil liberties”.

Other Aspects:

Ensure National Lottery funding spent on projects enhancing British culture. Introduce formal bank holidays marking patron saints days of all UK nations.

Again, since culture is always in a state of flux, proposals that the government should be responsible for instituting a set, state culture seems dictatorial. As far as banks go, I’m sure the workers wouldn’t mind the days off but why should those days mark some saints? What’s that saying about non-Christian religions in Britain?

Please note that in the interests of space, I have not published every position held by the BNP. I do seriously recommend that you study their full list of proposals and positions or even visit their website. Know your enemy.