EU sticks it to UK

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our Mission Statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

24 February 2018

It is of existential importance to the European Union that the secession of the United Kingdom should fail.

If Britain leaves the EU and remains economically viable standing on its own two feet, then other disgruntled members among the 27 remaining EU states – Hungary and Poland, perhaps, even austerity-battered Greece – might follow suit and the whole megalomaniac enterprise intended to lead to a United States of Europe could collapse like a set of dominos – just as the Soviet Union did after 1989. There is no iron law which states that political entities will last forever. Quite the contrary, as history teaches us.

This is why the EU is desperate that Britain should fail to make a go of it and, eventually, sooner or later, see the errors of its ways, come back into the fold and allow the whole bang shooting match to lurch on as before.

In a referendum on 23 June 2016, the British people voted by 51.9 % to 48.1 % to leave the EU.

Since then the EU has wasted no opportunity to thwart this democratic decision. As the recent German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble once memorably said, “elections change nothing”.

The EU strategy since the election has been three-fold:

  1. Use of the stick. This is the primary weapon in the EU arsenal. They have bent over backwards to make the secession negotiations between the UK and the EU as difficult as possible. Threatening Britain with economic collapse, Brussels has insisted that any economic deal must be on the EU’s terms. The EU will lay down the conditions and the UK can take it or leave it. No question of a genuine negotiation on an amicable basis with give-and-take on both sides. If the UK wants continued economic relations with the EU after Brexit it will have to be on terms set unilaterally by Brussels.  Those conditions, as the EU has repeatedly stressed, must involve continued acceptance of the rules of the EU’s single market and customs union under the supervision of the European Court of Justice together with continued contributions to the EU budget but no say in decisions taken by the EU authorities – the European Council, the European Commission or the European Parliament. This is what, in negotiations, is called a “non-negotiable demand”. It is presented to the other party in the full knowledge that they cannot accept it. Since the single market and the customs union constitute the EU’s core, Britain would be bound by all its current EU obligations but would have no say in future EU decision-taking. By definition its position would be worse than at present: all the responsibilities but no share of the power. Far from leaving the EU, the position for which a majority of UK voters opted, to all intents and purposes the UK would remain within the core EU structures but no longer as a member but rather as a vassal state. Moreover, it would still be subject to EU court decisions while having no UK judges in the EU court to represent it.

We had a good example of this hardline approach yesterday, as reported by both the BBC and the Guardian.

Speaking on the occasion of an informal meeting of EU heads of state and government, Mr Donald Tusk, the current Polish President of the EU Council, appeared to reject outright the British preference for a unique custom-built special relationship between the UK and the EU, taking into account the interests of both parties as sovereign bodies.

Mr Tusk is quoted as saying that media reports suggested that a “have your cake and eat it” approach was still alive in the UK. “If these reports are correct, I am afraid that the UK position today is based on pure illusion,” he is quoted as saying. He is said to have ruled out any notion that the UK will be allowed to “cherry-pick” aspects of its future relationship with the EU or that it will be able to join the single market “à la carte” .

The UK government is currently thought to want to exit from the current customs union with the EU – but to mirror EU rules in some industries in an attempt to achieve “frictionless trade”. A senior UK minister, Jeremy Hunt, is quoted as saying that the regulations covering some UK sectors could be aligned with those that apply to their European counterparts. “But it will be on a voluntary basis. We will, as a sovereign power, have the right to choose to diverge.” In other sectors regulations might diverge from those in the EU in order to give the UK a competitive advantage in the international marketplace.

2. Use of the carrot. Hardly a week goes by without one senior EU figure or another suggesting to the UK government that it should ignore the democratically expressed wishes of the British people and turn a blind eye to the referendum. The patter is always the same and is always accompanied by an ingratiating smile: “If you were to decide, after all, to stay in the EU, we would, of course, welcome you back in with open arms.”

3. However, just in case the carrot-and-stick approach is not sufficiently effective to achieve their objectives, they are conspiring day-in-day out with a fifth column of UK Brexit opponents across the party political divide and throughout the media establishment to sway public opinion against leaving the EU by stoking fears that to leave the EU would inevitably provoke an economic Armageddon. Remember, these guys can foretell the future. Like Nostradamus, they “know” what is going to happen. They must be the first people in history with such “knowledge”. As we have often said to self-styled prophets, why don’t they hightail it to a betting shop and do themselves some good?

Antigone1984:

Oh dear. It has not turned out as it was supposed to, neither for those opposed to Brexit or for the Brexiteers.

For those opposed to Brexit, particularly the cosmopolitan metropolitan elite, who had generally assumed that, after 43 years of EU membership, the country would vote to press ahead on the road to a United States of Europe, the referendum result was a catastrophe with which they are still struggling to come to terms.

Those in favour of Brexit were naturally chuffed by the result. However, many of them naively expected an easy ride from the EU when it came to developing an economic modus vivendi post-Brexit. After all, they thought, rightly in our view, that it was in the interests of both parties to negotiate a mutually beneficial divorce – a win-win deal – given that both sides benefit enormously from their mutual economic and financial relations. This position is put most optimistically in the polemic, “Why vote leave”, a very readable summary of the arguments for Brexit written by UK MEP Daniel Hannan and published before the referendum in 2016 by Head Zeus. After all, Britain has traded successfully with the Continent since King Offa of Mercia signed the first recorded commercial treaty in English history with the Emperor Charlemagne in 796. Why stop now?

However, this optimism has been comprehensively dashed by the hardline approach adopted by the EU in the aftermath of the referendum.

At this stage, it is not possible to predict the outcome. A watered-down version of Brexit may be adopted which will satisfy neither Remainers nor Brexiteers. Moreover, even if Britain does leave the EU, it will still presumably be eligible to re-apply for membership if life outside becomes intolerable. Besides, it is also quite possible that the UK’s Conservative Government, which does not have an overall majority in Parliament without support from outside its own party, will be unable to persuade MPs to adopt the legislation needed for Brexit to take place at all: a minority of Conservative MPs are opposed to Brexit and these could join forces with the increasingly popular Labour Party to outvote the government. The Labour Party has been ambivalent towards Brexit so far but it appears to be moving in the direction of supporting continued membership of the EU. If Brexit does not get through Parliament, a general election is inevitable – a general election which the Labour Party is currently in pole position to win. Since getting into power is the main objective of a political party, it is more than likely that the Labour Party will, in any case, put expediency before principle and oppose Brexit in Parliament – if only on the grounds that this is the swiftest way for it to get into power.

Kicking off with this post, we propose to publish further occasional posts on the Brexit saga.

For a fuller background to Brexit, readers can check out four of our earlier posts:

  1. Our magnum opus stating a case for Brexit: Contra Unionem Europaeam
  2. The result of the UK referendum on Brexit, which took place on 23 June 2016: The peasants have revolted
  3. A short resumé of our case for Brexit, being a summary of the 10 key arguments: Why the UK does not need the EU crutch
  4. An in-depth analysis of immigration, which plays a major role on the Brexit stage: Immigration

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Posted in Economics, Europe, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Politics, UK | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Disraeli

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our Mission Statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

23 February 2018

“There is no act of treachery, or meanness, of which a political party is not capable; for in politics there is no honour.”

Quotation from the novel Vivian Grey by Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), who was Prime Minister of Britain in 1868 and 1874-80

Antigone1984:

The novel was published in 1826 and 1827. That was then and this is now… Mais plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

For our take on the current situation as regards political parties, check out our post “Partitocracy v. Democracy” below.

—–

 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)D
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

——-

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Butchery of the Innocents

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our Mission Statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

22 February 2018

A bill has been tabled in the Icelandic Parliament that would ban circumcision for non-medical reasons, according to a report on the BBC on 20 February 2018. If enacted, the bill would make Iceland the first European country to ban the practice.

The move has provoked a strong reaction from religious groups. Jewish and Muslim leaders have condemned the bill as an attack on religious freedom.

Claiming that the practice violates the rights of the child, the bill would impose a six-year prison term for cutting off a baby boy’s prepuce without medical justification.

Tabling the bill earlier this month, MP Silja Dögg Gunnarsdóttir of the Progressive Party, said: “Everyone has the right to believe in what they want, but the rights of children come above the right to believe”.

The bill – which has yet to have its first reading in the Icelandic parliament and then be considered by a parliamentary committee – maintains that circumcision “involves permanent intervention in a child’s body that can cause severe pain”.

If adopted by parliament, the legislation would complement a law passed in 2005 banning female genital mutilation.

However, the Nordic Jewish Communities condemned the ban on “the most central rite” in their faith. Jewish campaign group Milah UK said that comparison with female genital mutilation was unwarranted, claiming that male circumcision involved “no recognized long-term negative impact on the child”.

According to the BBC, The Bishop of Reykjavik, Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir said: “The danger that arises, if this bill becomes law, is that Judaism and Islam will become criminalized religions. We must avoid all such forms of extremism.”

However, Michelle Roberts, a BBC health editor, says that circumcision is not entirely risk-free, the main risks being bleeding and infection. However, doctors may recommend circumcision if the boy has phimosis (an unusually tight foreskin) or suffers from balanitis (inflammation of the glans – the top part – of the penis).

While Iceland would be the first European country to ban non-medical circumcision, the practice is becoming more controversial and has been contested in court in Germany and the UK. In 2013 the Council of Europe recommended that countries take steps to ensure that good medical and sanitary practices are followed when circumcision is performed.

Antigone1984:

We last addressed this subject on 6 October 2012 in our post circumcision .

As we said then, ”Circumcision is a barbaric ritual involving the forcible mutilation of the natural body of a defenceless baby that is not of an age to give its assent to the aggression. The assent of the parents is irrelevant. It is the rights of the child that are at stake. The excision of a normal foreskin has no medical justification. Circumcision purely as a religious rite is, therefore, in our view, unconditionally wrong.”

And, regardless of the long-term effect, what about the pain suffered by the baby as part of its body is cut off? Is that OK?

In its report, the BBC refers to circumcision as “surgery”.

This is highly misleading. Surgery is a term that refers to corporal incision (cuts made in skin or flesh) for medical purposes.

That is why the Council of Europe is wrong, in our view, to recommend that countries take steps to ensure that good medical and sanitary practices are followed when circumcision is performed. Circumcision for non-medical purposes is a non-medical procedure. It is illogical to recommend “good medical and sanitary practices” for a procedure that is non-medical. The Council of Europe, to which the European Court of Human Rights, the Continent’s supreme human rights tribunal,  is attached, should be calling for a blanket ban on this barbarous practice.

Doctors who carry out circumcisions should also examine their consciences. Since the time of Hippocrates of Kos, the Greek physician traditionally regarded as the  father of Western medicine, who died around 380 BC,  medical practitioners have been assumed to be bound by the Hippocratic Oath, which commits them to use their skills solely for the purpose of improving a patient’s health.

Let us call a spade a spade. Incision for non-medical purposes is not surgery but butchery. In the case of children, it is the butchery of the innocents.

However, this is one of the few occasions on which we are able to make a positive suggestion that might be able, in this area, to reconcile the conflicting demands of religion and medicine.

Long-standing cultural practices are usually of mega importance to those who practise them. The upset that the prohibition of circumcision would cause to many Jews and Muslims should not be downplayed.

Our suggestion, therefore, is that the actual act of circumcision be replaced by a ritual symbolic procedure conserving the spiritual objectives for which circumcision is currently prescribed.

There are precedents. For example – unless this practice has been discontinued unbeknownst to us –  when Roman Catholics take communion, they do not actually eat the blood and flesh of Christ. Instead, they eat a white wheaten wafer (simbolising the body of Christ) and drink a potion of wine (symbolising the blood of Christ).

 —–

 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

——-

 

 

Posted in COUNTRIES/INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS, Europe, Finland, Health, Iceland, Israel, Justice, Politics, Religion, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, UK, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In praise of speaking out

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our Mission Statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

21 February 2018

 

“It’s the hinge that squeaks that gets the grease”

Malcolm X (1925-1965), US political radical.

 

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You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

——-

 

 

Posted in Politics, Revolution, UK, USA | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

ANTIGONE1984 SPRINGS TO LIFE AGAIN

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our Mission Statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

20 February 2018

Antigone1984 is aiming to relaunch. This attempt may or not be successful. We shall have to wait and see. However, in order to avoid any misunderstanding, we want to re-emphasize a number of points ( a fuller picture of our aims and beliefs is contained in our Mission Statement above):

 

  1. This is a committed left-wing (in US English, “liberal”) blog.
  2. It is intended, therefore, to promote an exclusively left-wing viewpoint. Antigone1984 is not a journal of record aimed at presenting a balance of left-wing and right-wing views. It is a polemical tract intended to promote the left. We leave it to conventional commentators, of which there are legions, to root for the right.
  3. Within the spectrum of left-wing opinion, the blog has three unconditional standpoints.

 

      It supports:

 

  1. human rights (first and foremost being the right to life and hence repudiation in all circumstances of the death penalty and, more broadly, war).
  2. political, economic and cultural cooperation instead of competition. A natural corollary is our outright opposition to the market economy: we are unreservedly anti-capitalist.
  3. universal participative democracy (as opposed to so-called “representative” democracy, whereby the fate of human beings is stealthily micro-managed by tight-knit hierarchically-organised political parties composed of elites of principle-free self-seeking opportunists [check out our article below on “Partitocracy v. Democracy” for further information].

 

With the above in mind, we have a favour to ask of internauts who happen upon the blog. If you disagree with the three standpoints mentioned above, then please switch off immediately: this blog is not for you. The blog is aimed at readers who are already committed left-wingers as well as at those who still have an open mind on the principles we have sketched out above.

Finally, we would ask readers to have some patience with us till we get back into our stride. We published the blog almost daily for around five years (from 2011 to 2015). Then in July 2015 the Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tspras, leader of the previously vociferous left-wing Syriza Party, took only a week flatly to disregard the results of a national referendum rejecting the imposition of economic austerity by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. At that point Antigone1984 threw in the towel. The postwar history of Europe is littered with erstwhile left-wing parties who have sold out comprehensively to the right. Tsipras set a new standard: never has a leftwing party on this Continent sold out so quickly and so comprehensively to the forces of reaction. In such bleak circumstances, what was the point, we thought, of continuing. The blog sputtered into lethargic decline and largely ceased publication.

That was then, however, and now is now. After Winter cometh the Spring…the green shoots of hope push once again through the damp soil… LA LUTTE CONTINUE!

—–

 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

——-

 

 

Posted in Economics, Europe, Greece, Military, Politics, USA | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Protection money: Don Corleone

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

29 April 2017

Potus is sitting in the Oval Office, complaining of his workload and wondering what to do. He has an idea. He is surprised at this as he is not really an ideas man. He addresses his gopher.

The Donald (DT) : Get me the phone!

Gopher (G): Sir, you already have it in your hand.

DT: So I have, so I have. Smart of you to spot it. I had my hand behind my head – the hand with the phone in it – so naturally I didn’t know I was holding it.

G: Can I be of any further assistance, Mr President?

DT: Yes, tell me why I wanted the phone?

G: Perhaps to speak to a President, I mean a President who is not you.

DT: Yes, Yes, that’s a good idea. But which President?

G: Well, there’s the Chinese President and the Japanese President and the President of Mexico and there’s that nice President Putin who seems put out at the moment for some reason…

DT: People get upset at just about everything nowadays. Perhaps it’s because we have just bombed his towel-head friend…that Basher chap or whatever he’s called. These foreigners all have foreign names. How can any one remember who they are? Why don’t they just have straightforward names like anyone else? Donald, for instance? This world would be a better place if more people were called Donald. Doncha think?

G: Sure do, Mr President. Sure do.

DT: Isn’t there any other President I could ring. I always ring the same people. I need to inject some variety into my life. It’s so boring always making small talk with the same Presidents.

G: Well, Mr President, there are about 150 Presidents in the world that you could ring. There’s the President of Iran, for instance, or the President of France, or the President of Kazakhstan….or you could maybe try the President of our allies in South Korea?

DT: Yes, that’s it. I knew there was some President I wanted to talk to. I have a deal I want to make with those South Koreans. Here’s the goddam phone! Get me the President of South Korea!

G: Yessir!

Gopher is on the phone for five minutes. Reports back crestfallen.

G: Unfortunately, Mr President, President Park Geun-hye of South Korea is under house arrest. She’s been impeached.

DT: What do you mean, she’s under house arrest? What’s she doing under house arrest at a time like this? Doesn’t she know there’s a war on? Or at least there soon will be if I have anything to do with it. This is ridiculous. She’s let me down. What am I going to do?

G: Perhaps ring the Vice-President of South Korea?

DT: Great idea! Get me the Vice-President!

Gopher is on the phone for five minutes. DT chews a banana. Gopher returns.

G: Here he is, Sir. It’s Mr Kim, the acting Vice-President of South Korea.

DT picks up the phone.

DT: Hi, Jim! What’s the weather like in Tokyo these days?

Kim: Mumble mumble mumble.

DT: Sounds like the line is not too good. It doesn’t matter, anyway. You don’t need to speak. You just need to listen. OK, compadre?

Kim: Mumble mumble mumble.

DT: Jim, you may not know this yet, but last night I installed some Thud missile launchers in your country right up against the North Korean border. OK? Yes, I know it’s OK. You don’t need to answer. Well, now you’re real safe, coz those Thuds can shoot your northern relative’s missiles right out of the sky – that’s if they haven’t exploded on take-off as they usually do. But I’m real sorry that we had to base them on a golf course. That’s the worst part of this whole mission. I mean I know about golf courses. I’m very particular about them. In fact, we have one at a nice place called Mar-a-Lago down in Florida. Fancy a round, by the way? Naturally, special rates for you, my Chink friend.

Mr Kim: Mumble mumble mumble.

DT: I take that to be a yes. I’ll get the Vice-President Mr Pence to arrange it. He doesn’t have much to do. In fact, that’s actually his job, they tell, me – doing nothing. It’s a funny old place this White House, takes some gettin’ used to. Now back to business. I’ll be straight with you, Jim. I like you personally, although I’ve never seen you and maybe never will – except at Mar-a-Lago, of course. Well, Jim, I’m going to cut you a deal that you won’t be able to refuse. I am going to charge you only one billion US dollars – remember, by the way, US dollars, not some worthless foreign bucks – for the privilege of our basing our Thud missiles in your backyard. Jim, you are a very lucky man. I have done many deals in my life but you have got the best price that I have ever given to a Chinese Vice-President. Congratulations!

Gopher intervenes gingerly.

G: Excuse me, Mr President, but with the greatest respect I think you’re talking to the South Korean Vice-President.

DT: Is that so? Well, I’m not at all surprised. Those Orientals are all just asking to get mixed up. They speak different lingos and yet they look all the same. Anyway, I don’t think Jim’ll mind. I’ve been getting on real well with him. We’ve just clinched a great deal! He was so grateful for our Thuds. In fact, I’m thinking of sending him some more. The price will probably go up in the meantime, of course. But then that’s business and those Japs sure know about business. After all, we taught them all about it after we bombed the living daylights out of them in one of those wars.

DT turns back to the phone.

DT: Hi Jim, sorry to keep you waiting. My assistant here was suggesting that I had called you the Chinese Vice-President. Well, maybe I did, maybe I didn’t, who knows? But it doesn’t really matter in any case what I call you. The important thing is that you know who you are. And I am sure you do. A deal-maker like you, Jim, sure knows who he is. In any case, I don’t need to tell you that Korea used to be a part of China. You’re Japanese and you know that already. Or was Korea a part of Japan?

Silence from Mr Kim. Not even a mumble.

DT: That guy’s not answering. Fix him back up for me.

Gopher is on the phone for five minutes. Potus eats another banana. Gopher returns, ashen-faced.

G: Mr President, I have bad news for you. Mr Kim, he’s dead. He’s just dropped dead of a heart attack!

DT: No problem. Stuff happens, as they say. At least he wasn’t impeached like the other guy. Get me another banana. I can’t say it bothers me too much, to be honest. I didn’t even know the guy, although I have to say he was a pleasure to do business with. Now you go and get the protocol guys to fax over pronto to wherever my friend Jim came from a contract confirming  the deal I made with him. Jim may have passed away but the business lives on.

DT cogitates:….All the same, come to think of it, it’s a darn pity our friend Jim’s no longer around to benefit from his plan to take out a lifetime subscription to the golf club at Mar-a-Lago….But wait a minute, here’s a thought. Couldn’t we fix him up with preposterous membership – and charge him pro rata? Could be a cool deal for the club. He’d be paying his dues for ever!

Gopher: Yessir! You’re on the money there, for sure. Sounds like another of your light-bulb moments!…A lot of people might agree with you that this a preposterous idea, but I’m wondering, with due respect, whether you might perhaps have been thinking of posthumous rather than preposterous?

DT: Could be, could be. One word is as good as another as far as I am concerned. In any case, I always tell people, “listen to what I’m thinking, not what I’m  saying.”

Gopher: That seems very sound advice, Sir. And now, if you don’t mind, I’ll be getting along to have that contract faxed out lickety-split.

DT: Right then! That’s enough bananas for tonight…I must go and see Melania now. We’ve got a dinner date upcoming. Don’t disturb me again unless it’s really necessary. And tell folks not to worry whatever happens. I’ve got my finger on the button.

DT and gopher exit by separate doors from the Oval Office.

It is a starlit night in Washington DC…and once again there is Peace on Earth to all Men of Good Will.

A grateful nation sinks into a deep slumber.

But which nation?

Antigone1984:

Readers might usefully check out our blog of 25 April 2017 Lost at sea for the background to this blog.

Otherwise, we are grateful to an article in the Financial Times (FT) of 29/30 April 2017: “US demands on S Korea prompt backlash”.

According to the FT, the Donald informed South Korea that “it would be appropriate if they paid” for Thaad (which we have called “Thud” in our skit above, since presumably at some point in the action something or other will come down to earth with a thud).

According to Wikipedia, “Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD is a United States Army anti-ballistic missile system which is designed to shoot down short, medium, and intermediate range ballistic missiles in their terminal phase using a hit-to-kill approach.”

According to the FT, the Donald also reiterated the administration’s intention to renegotiate or terminate the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

Moon Jae-in, candidate for the opposition Democratic Party in the Soouth Korean presidential election scheduled for 9 May 2017, is not happy. His sp0kesman said: “We should think about whether [US demands in respect] of South Korea’s unilaterally shouldering the cost [of the Thaad deployment] and of scrapping the Korea-US FTA without close bilateral consultation are in line with the two countries’ alliance.

Antigone1984: very polite the South Koreans are, as you can see. They certainly know how to defuse tension.

However, the problems don’t end there.

According to the FT, the Donald’s comments are only the latests to spark alarm in South Korea. “Officials expressed private shock this week when Mr Trump phoned Beijing and Tokyo but not Seoul ahead of an anticipated provocation by North Korea.”

Park Hui-rak, a professor at Kookmin University in Seoul, said: “The current situation is very serious. South Korea is facing a situation where the country has become marginalised by its neighbours and excluded from dialogue on North Korea.”

It seems, not implausibly, that the installation of the Thaad base in South Korea has also sparked a reaction in China, which (according to the FT) has targeted South Korean conglomerates, such as Hyundai and Lotte, with retaliatory punitive measures. “Beijing fears that the base’s radar could be used to spy on its own military developments,” according to the FT.

Antigone1984: Beijing’s fears are justified. They will undoubtedly be used for that purpose. One feels even more sorry for the 50 million South Koreans. It is as if they were citizens of Monaco or San Marino. They now realise that they just don’t count. They are not important enough. Antigone1984 would draw another crucial lesson (which we may develop in a later blog): steer clear of alliances and stay on good terms, so far as possible, with all the world. Nobody is going to nuke Switzerland. By contrast, regardless of the fact that Estonia (population 1.5 million) is a member of NATO, the USA is not going to go to its assistance against Russia if New York or Chicago is likely to be nuked in retaliation. Get real, f0lks!

—–

 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

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The Last of England

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

28 April 2017

“England is no more. That is why this is a good time to celebrate it, mourn it, sing elegies for it. This is not the place to analyse why, or when, the disappearance happened. World wars, tarmacadamed road, the influence of the Unites States of America, their music and their foods, the growth of commerce, and the growth of belief in growth; large numbers of immigrants from former colonies; shame at having possessed the colonies, regret at their loss, or a mingling of the two emotions – all these no doubt contributed to what we all know. We stand in what appears to be remote meadow land, and hear not the song bird, but the distant roar of motor traffic. We attend cathedral worship, and hear, not the words which have echoed in those stones since the reign of the first Elizabeth, but alien, jarring words, injurious to faith as well as repellent to the ear. We are of a generation that has never seen an old market town unmarred by thoughtless town planning, intrusive road signs, tactless functional building, and aggressive emendations to the doors and window frames of buildings which have stood since the the time of George III. We have watched those characters familiar in fact as well as in nursery rhyme – the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker – replaced by out-of-town shopping malls, and supermarkets. We have seen corn exchanges turned into mosques and old parsonages made into the second homes of hedge-fund managers.The England of our grandparents, then, is no more. And, what is more, the Union [of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland] is unlikely to survive….”

This is the editor’s preface to an anthology of poems entitled “England” edited by A. N. Wilson and published in 2008 by Eland Publishing Ltd.

The publisher’s blurb on the back cover says:

This collection delights in the power of an English ideal, in well constructed metre and memorable line, helping to create a legendary past of honesty, energy and innocence. Whether recited in the secrecy of the bath, or babbling [“babbled” surely?] with wild emotion over a windswept picnic, a noisy bar or in a hushed tearoom, here is a sourcebook for passion, a song book for the patriot. Armed with Byron, Blake, Brooke, Belloc and Browning, we are given access to the glorious English empire of the mind.”

The tone of the collection can be surmised from the following poem, one of the most famous in the English language, written by William Blake (1757-1827).

Jerusalem

And did those feet in ancient time

Walk upon England’s mountains green?

And was the holy Lamb of God

On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

 

And did the Countenance Divine

Shine forth upon our clouded hills?

And was Jerusalem builded here

Among these dark Satanic Mills?

 

Bring me my Bow of burning gold!

Bring me my Arrows of desire!

Bring me my Spear! O clouds, unfold!

Bring me my Chariot of fire!

 

I will not cease from Mental Fight,

Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand,

Till we have built Jerusalem

In England’s green and pleasant land.

 

Antigone1984:

The writer of the above lament for a supposedly lost Golden Age in England, A. N. (Andrew Norman) Wilson (b. 1950), is a prolific novelist, biographer, reviewer and writer on historical and religious subjects. A former literary editor of the conservative Spectator magazine, he was educated at Rugby public (ie private) school and New (ie not new) College, Oxford (founded in 1379). The Oxford Companion to English Literature (1995 revised edition) lauds him as follows: “As a reviewer, he achieved a reputation as an acerbic and provocatively conservative critic and became an often-quoted example of ‘fogeydom’ because of his espousal of traditional values and his High Church sympathies.”

The idea that life was better in the past and that things have been going to the dogs ever since what we might call the Garden of Eden is a view commonplace in many cultures and particularly among older people as the hopes of their youth are dashed with the passing of time.

Progressives, on the other hand, accuse retrophiliacs of seeing the past through rose-coloured spectacles. As Horace said in his Ars Poetica (lines 173-174), the senior citizen tends to be “difficilis, querulus, laudator temporis acti se puero, castigator censorque minorum” (“awkward, querulous, a cheer-leader for the good old days when he was a boy, and quick to correct and criticize the young”).

Others, with whom we agree, believe that the past is a curate’s egg – some parts good, some parts bad.

Politically, we at Antigone1984 are committed socialists – unabashed utopians, if you like – aiming for a brave new world of justice and equality. Culturally, however, we have a certain hankering for some of the traditions, habits and rituals of the past.

On the one hand, for instance, medical advances have immeasurably improved people’s health. On the other hand, the global consecration of market-based neoliberalism as the sole economic model has led to the homogenisation of cultural diversity, the extinction of solidarity with the casualisation (“uberisation”) of employment, and the destruction of traditional communities. In this respect Antigone1984 is at one with A.N. Wilson.

The conflict between the supposedly ideal past and a degraded present is addressed in the seminal 1961 essay “The Long Revolution” by the Cambridge literary critic Raymond Williams (1921-1988).

In this book Williams takes aim at fellow Cambridge don F.R. (Frank Raymond) Leavis (1895-1978) – a titan of the Cambridge English Faculty – because of his nostalgia for a supposed organic community of the past based on a widely shared stable set of beliefs and values – the only soil, according to Leavis, in which culture could flourish.

According to Williams, the notion of the organic community is “a surrender to a characteristically industrialist, or urban, nostalgia – a late version of mediaevalism, with its attachments to an ‘adjusted’ feudal society. If there is one thing certain about the ‘organic community’, it is that it has always [been] gone. Its period, in the contemporary myth, is the rural eighteenth century; but for Goldsmith, in “The Deserted Village” (1770), it had gone; for Crabbe, in “The Village” (1783), it had gone; for Cobbett, in 1820, it had gone since his boyhood (that is to say, it existed when Goldsmith and Crabbe were writing); for Sturt it was there until late in the nineteenth century; for myself…it was there – or the aspect quoted, the inherited skills of work, the slow traditional talk, the continuity of work and leisure – in the 1930s.”

However, Williams went on the warn that “it is foolish and dangerous to exclude from the so-called organic society the penury, petty tyranny, the disease and mortality, the ignorance and frustrated intelligence which were also among its ingredients.”

He concludes by accusing Leavis of “continued allegiance to an outline of history which tends to suggest that ‘what is commonly described as Progress’ is almost wholly decline.”

The attack on Leavis was pursued by leftwing academic Perry Anderson in his famous 1968 article “Components of the National Culture” (New Left Review No 50, July/August).

Slating Leavis’s “enormous nostalgia for the ‘organic community’ of the past”, Anderson says that “the illusory nature of this notion – its mythic character – has often been criticized…correctly….Leavis’s epistemology was necessarily accompanied by a philosophy of history. The organic community of the past, when there was no distinction between popular and sophisticated culture, died with the Augustan age; Bunyan was among its last witnesses. Thereafter history for Leavis traced a gradual decline. The industrial revolution finally swamped the old rural culture…With the twentieth century…the inexorable tide of industrialism began to invade the very precincts of humane culture itself. Leavis saw the new media of communication – newspapers, magazines, radio, cinema and television – as the menacing apogee of commercialism and industrial civilization. They threatened to obliterate every civilized standard, on which the existence of culture depended, in a new barbarism.

What would Leavis have made of the internet? One need hardly ask. He must be turning in his grave.

A. N. Wilson and F. R. Leavis are not alone in their lamentation at the loss of innocence.

Antigone1984 has unearthed a yellowing cutting of an article by Alan Brien in the New Statesman of 14 August 1970:

Historically, the English countryside has been continually on the verge of being ruined for ever. Almost a century ago, Henry James said our rural landscape was ‘Cockneyfied’ – there wasn’t a view without a bench, donated by an Alderman, from which to view it. E. M. Forster claimed that no one who did not remember the pre-war scenery could have any conception of how wild, untamed and exciting it still was. Today, we are told that Pan still piped and Artemis skinny-dipped, Romany jogged his caravan keeping a wary eye open for Mr Toad, as late as 1939. To think the natural world has declined since our youth seems an inevitable, emotional by-product of late middle-age. But the destruction of the green lungs which keep us breathing is not just a subjective illusion. The real cruelty is now, perhaps always was, in the towns where bureaucrats and businessmen sign away our rights in our own land. To hear someone like Bernard Levin say that so far as he is concerned, the entire countryside could be cemented over, gives me the sort of pain I once felt at the idea of an impaled dragonfly.”

Only today 28 April 2017 vicar Giles Fraser complains in the Guardian newspaper at the increasing obsolescence of the idea of “community”:

It used to refer to the social togetherness contained within a particular area. Its key stations were the pub, the church, and the shops. In the general hubbub of such places, a magical chemistry of mutual attachment would soften the hard shells of our defensive individualism and bind otherwise very different people in a sense of common enterprise. And when people get to know each other like this they tend to look out for each other, including the most vulnerable among them. That’s probably why the church likes community: historically, it has easily been the most effective delivery mechanism for organized goodness and social care.

But in many places the very existence of community is under threat. My parish in south London is a case in point. On the Elephant and Castle edge of this parish is one of the largest property developments under way in the capital. It’s an attractive place for developers as it is a run-down area, some of it with a zone 1 [central London] postcode. Which is why the skyline is full of cranes and the cafes full of men in hi-vis jackets.”

For the most part, it seems, the new flats in the parish are being bought by foreign investors as juicy investments to park their spare cash for the nonce. Few seem actually to actually live in them. “Increasingly, my parishioners live in China,” says Mr Fraser. Local residents, many of whom have spent their lives in the parish, are being forced to move out: unlike wealthy foreign investors, their incomes are not high enough to buy flats in central London.

It’s little wonder that people have a problem with globalisation. Street by street, areas like mine are being hollowed out by capitalism…I fear that capitalism is turning my parish into a ghost town…Wealthy liberal metropolitan types who are unaffected by this sort of change are puzzled that people are turning to the far right to find answers to the evisceration of their communities. But the centre ground of politics has nothing to offer by way of resistance to the huge global forces and capital flows that are turning places like this into some soulless pile of stratospherically expensive steel and glass.”

On a more positive note, at least so far as the rural scene is concerned, optimists might like to check out a recent edition of Country Life (12 April 2017) with a keynote article by Clive Aslet entitled “The Great Village Renaissance”. Aslet predicts that broadband (when it works), the trend towards home-working, the introduction of home deliveries, the increasing awfulness of commuting and, not least, a feisty spirit of cooperation among residents are bringing about a rural renaissance – and thwarting threats from unwanted development. According to the magazine, “Villageyness is a quality that the British aspire to, even when living in the immense global city that is London… None of this is to infer that there is no hardship, isolation or unemployment in rural communities, but many villages are rediscovering the do-it-yourself spirit and making life work.

Finally, there is the joker in the pack – Brexit. Optimists would argue that, once Britain has escaped from the Procrustean bed of homogenizing Euro-regulation, as an independent nation once again in control of its own affairs, it will be in a position to resurrect past glories, recover its age-old customs and recreate the myth-laden Golden Age – now so wistfully remembered – prior to the European Communities Act of 1972, when national sovereignty was wantonly jettisoned in exchange for a mess of potage – and huge dollops of waffle – at the EU canteen in Brussels.

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 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

  1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
  2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
  3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
  4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
  5. Ladder  (21 June 2012)
  6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
  7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
  8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

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