Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Some good resources for the #EURef

We are all going to be asked to make a serious decision about the UK soon. The UK’s EU referendum, at the moment considered to possibly happen in 2017, may result in the UK leaving the EU.

I'd like to share some of the resources I use as I saw someone ask on social media about good stuff to read. This isn't all non-biased but I do try to read around as much as possible

Full disclosure : I’m opposed to us leaving the EU at the moment and will probably remain that way, however happy to listen to the arguments from both sides.

Here are some of the resources I find helpful

Open Europe – self-described as “non-partisan” – do seem Eurosceptic in outlook however

Campaign for European Reform – Want to say in the EU but recognise it needs reform


I’ll post further about the EU referendum as we go through the campaign and will tag each post EURef

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Sublimation, Pygmalion, Banana Man - whatever is happening to Jeremy Corbyn?

The sublimation of Corbyn and McDonnell is absolutely fascinating. Political students must be agog.

Over many weeks we were told that the great thing about Corbyn was his straight-talking and his ability to connect with people.

However, akin to Bananaman, an amazing transformation is currently occurring.

After a terrible first week where he appeared to think he could do and say as he wished, a moulding of a new man is happening before our eyes. I understand today Jeremy Corbyn will talk about "hard working families" today in his speech. Yesterday John McDonnell told us they would sign up to reduce the deficit. What is happening? Perhaps advisers behind the scenes are coaching them? Perhaps the return of Tom Baldwin means they do consider the need for spin-doctors?

Could it be that the issue in modern politics is not the people involved, but the process? Surely not!

But when are the supporters going to notice? Is it true that "it's not what you do it's the way that you do it"? Time will tell.


Monday, 14 September 2015

Jeremy Corbyn, or The Pigeon Amongst The Cats

My timeline is alight with political comment! No, not my Twitter timeline, which, as it is dominated by politicos and journalists, is generally alight with political comment 24/7.

No, my Facebook timeline. Full of people who rarely, if ever, have anything to say about politics. Who is the person that has suddenly inspired them? None other than Jeremy Corbyn, who just won the Labour leadership contest.

They like him because he gives straight answers to straight questions. I can't fault them there, he does, and often with a bit of wit and charm. However, the answers he gives may be straight, but they also seem to not be thought through. Pulling out of NATO, extending Right to Buy to private ownership, it's all a bit glib and easy to help make his policy offer coherent. Coherent, but wrong.

Truth is he seems like a nice guy but with absolutely no idea how to run anything apart from a pressure group. He has some disastrous policies that didn't receive any scrutiny by a bunch of people who wanted to project their socialist ideals onto him and which projection he was quite happy to accept.

This is the danger of projection in politics - if you don't examine your new political hero from the other side, you may be in danger of thinking him a socialist saviour, and not just a well-meaning guy with a good line in socialist rhetoric. Before electing a leader, think what the other side will say about them, and if that will cut through to a wider electorate (who just elected a majority Tory government), rather than getting carried away like politics is just some hobby designed to make you feel good.

Also, if one does give "straight" answers - i.e. glib answers that sound sensible if you don't argue them through and seem like what the questioner wants to hear - you can and will get ripped apart by people who are paid to do so. So, smarter people triangulate and argue their case and get accused of "not answering the question" - it's a bit of a Hobson's choice but this is the game we play in at the moment. One man is not going to change that, and it's certainly not going to be Jeremy Corbyn.
A lot of very naïve left-wing people seem to think Corbyn will set the cat amongst the pigeons but I really believe it's going to be the other way around, Corbyn is a very naïve pigeon amongst a lot of cats. I hope he doesn't get hurt, though I do hope he stands down, for everyone's sake, most of all his.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Does atheism have to annihilate philosophy? Sartre, Nietzsche and Kant might disagree.

I recently read this interesting piece by Tom Chivers on BuzzFeed - asking atheists how they find meaning in life

Declaration of interest - I'm an annoying agnostic, not able to make up my mind one way or the other.

I was very dissatisfied with a number of the answers from his interviews. I was also struck by the strength of my feeling about this! It's interesting that I feel so strongly about other people's worldview. So I thought worth examining.

It's quite hard to disagree with people finding meaning in other people close to them but I was left feeling a bit unsatisfied.  Whereupon I got to thinking, hang on, there are some very famous philosophical atheists, atheist philosophers*, what have you, who didn't leave the meaning of life at "oh there isn't any point, that's the point."

We can at least examine our experience - for instance Sartre's painful interaction within the world and the experience of ennui, or perhaps a need to escape the same. Kant's inversion of existence, or understanding that the world needs to resolve itself into our perception, rather than the opposite. And as for Nietzsche - well I guess it can be argued he doesn't believe in anything, but I'd probably rather have that as a coherent body of thought then "I just like people, really".  The latter seems to me, like a bit of a cop out.

These answers trouble me, like they've missed the point. But it's tough, and probably not fair of me to criticise, cos I'm not really sure what the point is myself - I admit I don't like thinking about the meaning of life much, as within the confines of a busy life, there's not much time for philosophical contemplation and I mentally file it for some mythical time when I'll have more time to think about it. Perhaps that's what these people do too.

And it's pretty tough to be asked what the meaning of life is and be able to respond in a paragraph - I'd find it impossible to be honest. I don't understand why you would respond unless I guess, you wanted to prove it is possible to have as simple an answer to life as "It Is God's Will" without having the God bit.

But I guess, that doesn't work for me either. Back to my atheist philosophers then........

P.S. Kant not generally thought of as an atheist, however did question the nature of belief quite considerably so I feel able to lump him in with the other two.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Intersectionalism? I'd rather listen to Nicki Minaj

If you've actually read this blog rather than relating to the title only, then I'll just say now I do think there is a point to intersectionality - it's just an absolutely terrible word!

Although this does make me sound like the kind of men who disagree with the word feminism though not the concept, I do think the word intersectionalism (or intersectionality)  is terrible, it sounds technical and off-putting.

What's much better is what Nicki Minaj has been saying recently. Suzanne Moore summed up what I think in an article at the weekend - (tho I'm rather disappointed the URL contains the word catfight, I'm sure that's nothing to do with Suzanne)

Kanye West once said that Beyoncé should have beaten Taylor Swift to a VMA. I happen to agree with  him - Taylor Swift was much more boring than she is now at the time, and arguably upped her game after the incident.

Then Nicki Minaj made the accurate observation that you can easily get nominated for a VMA award if you include a bunch of thin women in your video. Her own song Anaconda has indeed been everywhere and yet has not been recognised, whereas the frankly poor Bad Blood by Swift, was.

Which is again true - and thinking about it there is a very important point here - that being a Woman of Colour within the music industry is harder than being a white woman, which in turn is harder than being a white man.

This is the concept at the bottom of intersectionality and articulated so much better by Nicki Minaj - who returned recently to calling out Miley Cyrus for "tone policing" - than by the word itself.

I've read many  blogs and definitions of intersectionality, but to be honest nothing has brought it home to me as much as Kanye West and Nicki Minaj.