2017: A year of corporate handouts and rising elitism

 

Donald Trump Inauguration
President Trump’s Inauguration. (Sourced from Wikipedia and labelled for reuse)

What can be said about 2017? While an improvement from its predecessor, it was often one of underhanded, back-room dealings at the top that benefited a few people as opposed to the many. Of course, it all started with Donald Trump’s inauguration in January, which contrary to what he would have you believe, wasn’t so massive in terms of crowd size. Running his presidency like a full-on businessman, staff including strategist Steve Bannon and press secretary Sean Spicer would leave the White House over the course of the year.

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Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un (Sourced from Wikimedia Commons and labelled for reuse)

Inflated egos in both North Korea and North America rippled outwards throughout 2017; Kim Jong-Un continued to test rockets, including some that could reach the western coast, making its neighbours understandably nervous and leaving others to wonder whether conflict was on the horizon. Despite a trading of childish insults back and forth between the two leaders, Trump and Jong-Un didn’t end up trading their words for missiles. In the US, emboldened by the President seemingly turning a blind eye to their actions, neo-Nazi groups began to come out of their closets, violently clashing with groups like Antifa in the process. It came to a head in Charlottesville in August where a Unite the Right rally saw one person die and thirty-nine others injured. So long as Trump refuses to condemn the return of these vile far-right individuals, their abuse will only continue.

Saffiyah Khan 2017
Saffiyah Khan standing up to an EDL member in April 2017 (Sourced from The Guardian)

The #MeToo Campaign exploded across Hollywood and many big names from Harvey Weinstein to Kevin Spacey were implicated in sexual assault. The sheer size of the movement which quickly spread across twitter and other social media networks drew plenty of attention to how big the problem of harassment and sexual abuse is worldwide. In fact, the year itself was a strong one for women; Saudi Arabia moved to allow women to drive for the first time in its history, and women in the United States formed the biggest march in US history to take on the President and his woman-abusing ways. This was followed up by a march for science in which hundreds of professionals moved to condemn Trump’s denial of science and proven facts. Personally, I feel the viral picture above of Saffiyah Khan standing up to the racist English Defence League tells the story of women in 2017 better than I can; nearly 100 years after they were first given the right to vote, women are making their voices heard on higher, more widespread levels and it’s easily the most positive story of the year.

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Peshmerga soldiers at the Battle of Mosul (Sourced from Wikipedia and labelled for reuse)

Despite terror attacks around the world, the worst of which being in the Middle East, ISIS lost a vast amount of territory in 2017 as military offensives worked to push them back. As far as physical presence goes, it’s hard to see the group lasting much longer, but their ideology may endure longer yet, particularly through their indoctrination methods. Despite this however, bombs continue to fall on the Middle East, with America making use of a MOAB for the first time; the praising of the use of weapons by the US media certainly didn’t help here. The impact of dropping so many bombs on the regions needs to be considered, particularly with regards to creating more terrorists.

Washington Redskins National Anthem Kneeling
Members of the Washington Redskins kneel for the US National Anthem (Sourced from Wikipedia and labelled for reuse)

Sports and politics collided in the US as Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players triggered a wave of peaceful protests against police brutality and the treatment of minorities throughout the country; it was a brave yet simple act that would continue throughout the year as others spoke out against their treatment while also exposing the monopolistic and neglectful behavior of the NFL itself. Of course, Trump and his rabid supporters moved to attack and abuse the players, brainwashed by nationalism into believing that they were disrespecting flag and country. What they seemed to forget through all this is the right to protest that lies in the first amendment.

French Election 2017
French voters celebrate outside the Louvre (Sourced from Wikimedia commons and labelled for reuse)

In spite of successful surges in 2016, the EU managed to stand strong for the time being as France and the Netherlands defeated far-right nationalism in their respective elections. Geert Wilders was beaten by Mark Rutters who will maintain his seat for another five years. In France, the French Front Leader Marine Le Pen, a big fan of Donald Trump, lost out to Emmanuel Macron, who has pledged to bring several ambitious reforms and possibly reach higher in the leadership of Europe. On the other hand, the Catalan Independence vote triggered further instability within Spain; both the EU and the United Nations chose not to recognise the vote as legitimate. Outside of these events however, 2017 was also notable for the first millennial coming to power; Sebastian Kurz, 31 is leaning to the right side of the political spectrum with one of his policies dictating that refugees who come to Austria will not receive benefits until they have lived in the country for five years. Future leaders who come to power in the future should be scrutinised and held to account.

Jeremy Corbyn 2017
Jeremy Corbyn addresses the Labour party at the launch of their election campaign. (Sourced from Wikimedia Commons and labelled for reuse)

Over in the UK, things really haven’t moved forward since last year’s debacle; Theresa May’s early UK election aiming to “crush the saboteurs” turned into a mess as voters were swayed to Jeremy Corbyn, forcing the originally unelected PM to bribe Ireland’s DUP 1.5 billion pounds to cling on to power. Further scandals would continue infest the Conservative party throughout the year. First development secretary Priti Patel left the cabinet for her plans to secretly send funds to the Israeli army, then deputy Prime Minister Damien Green crashed out after pornography was found on his computer, and Boris Johnson bungled a UK prisoner release in Iran. Bafflingly enough, David Davies and Jeremy Hunt are still in their jobs, despite their own negligence regarding Brexit and the NHS. The current UK government seems weaker than ever and some are looking at the prospect of yet another vote next year, one which the Labour party could take and come to power. Have they done anything positive this year? They did at least move to tackle the endless plastics flooding our oceans in the Budget this year, but they could have done so much more.

Grenfell Tower Fire
Firefighters tackle the blaze at Grenfell Tower (Sourced from Wikimedia Commons and labelled for reuse)

Around halfway through the year a fire erupted at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, London killing 71 people, injuring 74 and depriving 223 of a home. The disaster exposed incompetency in public safety on part of the Labour ran council, poor effort in financial relief from the current government and the ever-widening gap and subsequent neglect between the UK’s rich and poor. Currently the inquiry is ongoing, and details can be found online; who is to blame for this comes down to several factors; there were no sufficient sprinkler systems in place, nor was there enough funding given to make the building safer. I remember driving near the site and seeing its burnt remains jutting out among the other towers; it’s practically a monument to the horrendous and shameful way the poor have been treated in the UK and even now, many of those who did escape the fire still haven’t received their full compensation. Making sure it never happens again is only a starting point, the rift between rich and poor must also be tackled.

Brexit passport
Image sourced from pixabay, labelled for reuse

Moving to the highest level of governance, the backwards Brexit stupidity continued in the UK as gross nationalism and poor preparation took priority over careful thought and fair dealing. Without a single benefit to its name, the negotiations hobbled on and eventually news broke out that chief negotiator David Davies hadn’t carried out a single study into the economic impact of Brexit over the year the con took place. His laziness spoke volumes of the true attitudes towards Brexit; one where the abusive rich will be high and dry as they impose the oncoming economic chaos onto everyone in the lower classes. The madness only got worse with the announcement of blue passports; a ridiculous campaign in The Sun brought about the decision which could cost the taxpayer five hundred million pounds. Staying true to last year’s explosion of fake news and denial, an aide of Theresa May quickly denounced this figure; what’s more damning about the move is how it panders to the bigoted individuals in the UK while completely ignoring other problems like homelessness, healthcare and education. Clearly the magic money tree is well at work here…

Rohingya Persecution
Protests calling for the support of the Rohingya people in Myanmar (Sourced from Wikipedia and labelled for reuse)

On the humanitarian front, the worst crises came through Yemen and the Rohingya Genocide. After three years of endless attacks, famine and suffering have swept through Yemen and the sales of the arms trade have only made it worse. Further down the line, a genocide swept through Myanmar as ethnic cleansing masquerading as a crackdown on insurgency took hold, causing half a million Rohingya refugees to flee to Bangladesh. While Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel peace prize was not revoked, her downfall in the eyes of the international community was cemented with her complicity and failure to stop the suffering and treat the Rohingya people with dignity. On the other side of the coin Robert Mugabe was ousted in Zimbabwe with a military coup, ending a near four-decade period of economic failure through hyper-inflation. Many locals celebrated the move, praying for more prosperous times for their country. On the nature front, Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua were plunged into chaos when Storm Nate struck, but this also caused an outpouring of support with some Americans heading there on their accord to help those stuck without electricity.

Following on from last year’s Panama Papers, the Paradise papers shed further light on the abuse and hoarding of unequal wealth around the world. In fact, 2017 was also a big year for the top 500 richest people as they saw their wealth increase by a gigantic one trillion dollars at the expense of billions beneath them who lost out on stagnating wages, increasing homelessness and privatisation of public services as they continue to gain more power and influence over others. The same holds true for privatisation of services that belong in public hands; Virgin, through a rather callous lawsuit against the UK’s NHS, has acquired one billion pounds worth of healthcare contacts in this year alone.

Trump UN Speech
Trump delivers a speech at the United Nations (Sourced from Wikipedia and labelled for reuse)

In his continuing mission to take America backwards, President Trump received his first major victories; he withdrew America from the Paris Climate Accord (The only nation on Earth to do so), scraped through a watered-down travel ban from the Middle East region and towards the end of the year he pushed through a tax cut that will make the rich even richer. He went on to cop his biggest controversy for recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Bullying and emergency voting ensued at the UN as the US demanded the names of those who voted against their decision and vetoed any action against them. The reckless decision created an explosion of violence between Palestine and Israel. But Trump also received his first major defeat, losing Alabama to Democrat Doug Jones, something which could spell further difficulties in the mid-term elections next year.

Net Neutrality Protest
New York City protesters look to stop the repeal of Net Neutrality (Sourced from Flickr user Backbone Campaign and labelled for reuse)

To close out the year, another shock hit the United States as the net neutrality repeal was passed, ready to segregate internet users into paid groups. From there, Ajit Pai, the head of the Federal Communications Commission pranced about both on and off the internet, happy that he and his friends in corporate telecasters were about to get a lot richer by charging citizens for access to specific sites. This brings difficulties in a few ways; not only are consumers being ripped off for what should be an inclusive service, but the flow of information can also be manipulated. If any information and websites holding governments and organisations to account could be locked behind a paywall, then the public would be constantly misinformed through a form of corporate intrusion to ensure their continued dominance.

2017 was ultimately a year of people at the top pressing down on those beneath them; with the negative results of 2016 still in the mind, this isn’t surprising and the ways the elite took advantage of last year’s events manifested themselves in the twelve months that followed. There was pushback in some areas but there is still work to be done. One thing I saw felt quite indicative; on the way back through Brussels Airport earlier this year I saw the security barrier manned entirely by G4S employees, followed up by a billboard for Exxon Mobil, a company who has been given the go-ahead to drastically up their plastic production; considering the talk of giving G4S plans to arrest in the UK and Rex Tillerson’s questionable views on climate change, this is perhaps an indication of the power corporations and those at the top may soon hold. We should watch this carefully in the year to come.

(Images used for the purposes of review and criticism under fair use)

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World Youth Alliance Emerging Leaders Conference 2017: A Reflection

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From November 26th to 29th 2017, I participated in the World Youth Alliance’s Emerging Leaders Conference in Brussels, Belgium. The theme: “Human Dignity in the refugee crisis” was the main anchor point and a central value for the organisation. Starting off slow on Saturday the 25th with a quick dose of exploring, I quickly mixed in with the other 69 attendees.

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The city of Brussels grew on me over time; I was staying over at a part of the city called “Botanique” and while that portion was relatively modern, the best aspects came through the more classical architecture that really hammered home the history behind the city. The royal palace, towering cathedrals and large statues are all monuments to the Belgian Monarchy which stretches back to 1831. Placing these older-fashioned buildings against the backdrop of the Christmas season was a brilliant match, with the work union buildings lighting up to the Grand Place in the centre of Brussels. Because of the closely-knit nature of the city, you could walk just about anywhere without having to use the transport services too much.

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Then there was the EU Parliament building itself; a massive complex that serves the beating heart of Europe; in terms of scale it was even bigger than the United Nations in New York, with a strong assortment of conference rooms, a media centre as well as a full public exhibition with a detailed timeline and history of the union. It brings a ton of context as to how the EU came to be from the end of World War Two in 1945 to end of the Cold War in 1991. This felt especially poignant to me as a British citizen; the last image on the extended timeline was in May 2016 with the Brexit vote (or what I would call a con). It put into perspective just how much we’re about to lose by leaving the European Union, from support and funding for various projects, to trade with our neighbours and connect with fellow Europeans across the continent. The EU isn’t perfect; no organisation ever is, but the benefits of membership far outweigh the drawbacks, most notably the promotion of common values that aim to carry across all member states.

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This same forward-looking mindset carried over into the panels which were all very engaging and informative, whether it was UK researcher Surindar Dhesi or Swedish MEP Lars Adaktusson. They have some genuinely smart and pragmatic individuals working at the EU who have a strong resolve to understand and address these very issues. The fact that some individuals want to smear them as enemies and obstructionists of the UK is extremely shameful. On the second day of the event, I made my own speech to the group on an idea called Responsibility to Integrate (R2I), a means to improve refugee integration and promote more tolerant societies. Despite it being my first time delivering a more extended speech of over ten minutes, I felt it went very well with a balanced pacing and tone of voice that allowed me to get across my points succinctly. This continued over into the final evening in which I read out part of the WYA’s declaration after a lovely meal at a Grill Restaurant.

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I haven’t been the most optimistic about the UK’s future with regards to Brexit, but to see so many inspiring and passionate young people all coming together to share their stories and perspectives felt incredibly uplifting. We hailed from very different countries including Croatia, Spain, Italy, Portugal, China, Algeria, Poland, Lithuania and Estonia among many others. The event was a fantastic time and it wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of the organisers; but most all though, each and every person who attended formed a real sense of companionship by the end of the three days. While it went by quickly, I would definitely do it again and want to wish everyone all the best for the future. I hope that we can all contribute in our own ways to solving the world’s problems.

Boris Johnson and the £350 Million: Positions, pandering and relations between politicians and media

Boris Johnson Mayor
(Image sourced from Google: Labelled for reuse)

Boris Johnson; what a character… That’s probably the simplest way to describe the UK’s current Foreign Secretary. For many years he’s been in the spotlight, his time as the mayor of London being one example, though recently this has often been for the wrong reasons; last year he was one of the spearheads behind the leave campaign and while he wasn’t quite as vitriolic as Nigel Farage, Johnson still gained infamy for his use of a bright red bus with the slogan: “We send £350 Million a week to the EU; let’s spend that money instead on the NHS”. Of course, we know that this trick worked and Boris hoped this would propel him towards a leadership position, which instead went to Theresa May. Dishonesty and its openness have drastically increased in the UK since last year’s referendum; a willingness to twist facts and get the result you want, in turn gaining a higher ability to impose your personal interests on everyone else.

Vote Leave Bus
(Image credited to ITV.com)

Recently, to the dismay of many, the “£350 Million” claim emerged again. Johnson took on his duties, visiting Donald Trump in New York only to then shirk them by repeating a lie using a newspaper as a bulwark for his endless schemes to become the leader of the Conservatives. His face was plastered on the front page with the headline: “I’ll secure the £350 Million for the NHS” followed by a 4000-word article outlining his plan for Brexit and telling people to believe in Britain, another empty phrase to pander to the nationalists and the ignorant. If the lie managed to trick common Britons into voting for Brexit last year, why not do it again to make it look like he’s standing up for Britain as a country? The UK Statistics Authority expressed their disappointment at the repeated use of the figure and James O’Brien, a popular political commentator might have said it best: “As Foreign Secretary, Johnson’s latest lie is an abuse of one of the Great Offices of State. That would’ve been a very serious matter once”. Some have called for Johnson’s resignation or sacking; I can’t help but feel the same.

Boris Johnson Headlines

Johnson’s veering off to the side to write a self-promoting article speaks volumes of how the press plays a significant role in political procedure. The papers hold UK politicians to account but often they’re known to throw their support behind a specific party in the election; the Daily Telegraph in Boris Johnson’s case is no different. Media ownership by rich moguls is a big problem in the UK and this facilitates a medium where a pompous self-interest takes centre stage. Since Johnson repeated the false £350 million claim, the Telegraph has followed up with further articles showing fellow politician Michael Gove throwing his support into the mix; they spread the slogan without questioning it, common people read and move towards believing them; with such a massive disconnect with politics in the UK, this is how it usually goes. In return, many politicians find themselves working for newspapers, the most recent of which being George Osborne becoming the editor of the Evening Standard and Nick Clegg joining the i Paper as a columnist.

FCO UK
(Image credited to LinkedIn.com)

Nowadays I find myself in a somewhat similar position; writing this blog and expressing my individual opinions with a journalism degree under my belt while pursuing a planned career in international affairs, particularly through the UK’s Civil Service. I’m of the opinion that you check your biases at the door when working for this sector; what would happen if I suddenly leaked some information to the press or wrote an article bigging myself up while working to undermine my superiors? I’d probably be sacked immediately, no questions asked. This comes back to my previous post on leadership where a lack of accountability has allowed the higher-ups to get away with breaking the rules set out by democratic institutions. In my opinion, the rules and ethical conduct of country branches should travel all the way to the top, ensuring accountability is maintained and that neglect of position and responsibility is cut down. As for Boris Johnson, he’s likely to keep his job, despite the frustration from commentators, with Theresa May apparently working to rein him in so as not to look to wobbly. Where he goes from here is anyone’s guess, but he’s sure to be discredited further if continues to spread falsehoods.

(Images used for the purposes of review and criticism under fair use)

Britain’s NHS: A devious plan for privatization

NHS Hand-in: Department of Health

Britain’s National Health Service; good healthcare for all. Proposed in 1948 by then health secretary Aneurin Bevan, it has been the envy of many nations, many of whom are forced to pay gargantuan fees just to ensure their own wellbeing. Ever since the Tories came to a majority in 2015, the problem of underfunding has intensified; as 2017 has kicked off, the full scale of the crisis has exploded onto the scene. Hospital beds are filled to burst, waiting times are higher than they have ever been and the Red Cross, a humanitarian organisation usually dedicated to lending assistance overseas has been drafted in to help. It’s the lowest point the service has faced in decades and is the result of deliberate mishandling for the purpose of eliminating free healthcare in the UK altogether.

Consequences of the government’s abuse have so far been disastrous; 66 out of 152 health trusts across the UK have declared major alerts, meaning that they are under extreme pressure and cannot deliver comprehensive emergency care. Operations on cancer and other serious illnesses are being cancelled due to overfilled schedules and some doctors are choosing to leave because of sheer pressure placed on them and their colleagues. According to a post by Evolve Politics, this kind of exploitation stretches all the way back to 1992 when the Conservatives dreamed up the idea of saddling public services with expensive leases from the private sector; they were then forced to pay back debt on ridiculous interest rates over thirty or even fifty years. Under the guise of friendly modernisation, private finance initiatives, which cost an estimated £3,700 every minute, have been slowly eroding the funds dedicated to the NHS and its ability to serve the public effectively. Sure, the hospital buildings we see may look modern and capable of handling modern medical needs, but they’ve been built on the promise that they will one day be sold off for private use, removed from the hands of NHS trusts across the country.

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With a struggling public sector comes far greater pressures on the workers within it. Jeremy Hunt, having done an abysmal job as health secretary is set to earn millions through the sale of his private business, earning 722 times that of the ordinary NHS worker; he claims that only a small number of hospitals are having problems but there is countless evidence to counter that. Eyewitness accounts from hospitals have been grim to say the least, with patients being turned away and staff members feeling unsafe in their own jobs. It all comes down to the contract he forced on NHS staff last year, one which drastically demotivates current staff and any who wish to train and join. Drive out the junior doctors, make them less inclined to join the NHS and the service will grow understaffed; then the knock-on effect on hospitals means more waiting times and fewer GPs to see patients. The same also goes for the countless EU citizens who are delivering their time and skills to the country’s healthcare system. This causes a frustration among citizens who are then manipulated into believing that the system isn’t working, make them believe that and you have a set of people who become willing to trust in private care. The cost will be a hard pill to swallow, but if it’s better than the free version then people are more likely to pay up.

The connections to private healthcare are nothing new, third parties such as Benefit Fraud have uncovered seventy different connections between MPs and private health companies. The deal goes as follows; MPs work towards dismantling our NHS and the private health corporations deliver donations to the political parties to help them fuel their propaganda machine (and possibly pop a few pennies in individual MP’s pockets as well). Corporations bank on elections being won and the slow process of gutting public services continues unabated. With control of healthcare in their hands, they would be free to set prices on treatment, medication and even things as miniscule as plasters and personal items. The list includes the likes of David Cameron, Ian Duncan Smith, Liam Fox, David Davies, William Hague, Phillip Hammond, Amber Rudd, George Osborne and even Nick Clegg. It speaks volumes of a rotten greed at the heart of our political system.

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Without a doubt, the NHS is suffering right now and instead of addressing the problem, our government is pointing fingers and denying any accountability, all the while working on their plan to deconstruct one of most comprehensive universal healthcare services in the world. “It isn’t us or underfunding” they cry: “It’s the foreigners, elderly and working class scroungers bleeding the NHS dry”. It’s horrendous how this deflection from the cuts destroying our healthcare system is working, it will have faced an insane £40 billion worth of cuts by 2020 and some NHS staff don’t believe the service will last the next winter. But amidst the crisis, there is a strong pushback going on; as Aneurin Bevan put it: “The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with the faith to fight for it”. Countless protestors and NHS employees are standing up to the government’s lies, particularly groups such as UniteTheUnion and KeepOurNHSPublic. Surprisingly even the Mirror newspaper is targeting May, Hunt and other abuses of the NHS; all being told, you simply cannot put a price on health and privatising the NHS can only lead to further exploitation by corporate power.

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(Images sourced from Google: Labelled for reuse)

2016: A year of nastiness unchained

 

2016 was a difficult year in many ways, there was much in the way of bitterness and little in the way of understanding; what went wrong over the past 365 days could almost be considered a chain reaction of sorts; there was something radical about this year, a point where numerous systems and sensibilities were suddenly thrown out the window in a blind rage. This is something I’ll try to consider and reflect on here, however difficult it may be from a purely UK perspective.

Was it any surprise that the same year white swimmer Brock Turner got a lenient sentence for sexual assault was the one in which a misogynistic, lying billionaire cheated his way to being President? The year itself seemed very backwards in general; Brock Turner’s judge was recently cleared of any misconduct while police brutality remained a serious problem in the United States. The Zika virus broke out at the start of the year in Latin America, India and Africa, prompting several relief efforts. Brussels and Istanbul both suffered horrific terror attacks at the hands of ISIS, delivering further prominence for far-right groups across Europe. President Duterte of the Philippines took a dark turn as he launched a violent war on drugs throughout the islands and Venezuela continued to plummet with rapid inflation ravaging citizens, most of whom can now barely afford food, water and other essentials. The internet saw a rise in fake news as it spread rapidly through Facebook and other sources, casting further doubts and requiring further checks and tensions began to flare between America and China as Donald Trump began to forge his own awkward rulebook as a millionaire president. Rising from the ashes of TTIP, CETA, a trade agreement which would put more power in the hands of corporations has made progress in the EU and Canada, a blemish on an otherwise welcoming and tolerant nation who have taken in over 38,000 Syrian refugees as of December, this year.

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Image credited to Huffington Post UK

When talking about the Western world however, most eyes point to the UK and the United States who both took grossly misguided steps that may well end up destroying the values of openness, acceptability and freedom. The picture above explains better than words what happened to both nations in 2016; two lying conmen, masquerading as anti-establishment standing in a gold-plated lift with smug grins on their faces over how they managed to trick two of the most powerful western nations into voting against their own interests. They really did bring change this year; specifically, they made things worse and both times, events that should have derailed the two conmen had little to no effect. In the UK, MP Jo Cox was murdered by a far right terrorist chanting “death to traitors, freedom for Britain” while in the US, Trump could get away with making vulgar remarks about women and walking free from his criticism of a disabled reporter and countless ethnic minorities. It was blindingly clear that the two cons were disastrous. Britain has been hurled to the back of the queue on the world stage and into a period of uncertainty without any plan or a deal that would leave us better off and the United States has an incredibly misguided and potentially dangerous presidency coming in January 2017. On both sides of the world, the two big votes were fraught with infighting, vitriolic exchanges across social media and many instances that whipped some (not all) people into frenzies of anger and resentment. This often happens with any election but 2016 felt so unhinged and furious in the West that the structure of politics, left and right, looked set to come crashing down; not for reasons of progress but for more efficient division and manipulation of the masses to go down a specific path.

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Image credited to Flickr user David B. Young. Labelled for reuse

It all came unravelling rather quickly on both sides of the pond; Nigel Farage has never been in the political arena for anyone other than himself; right from the get-go, his act in appearing to support the common man deluded thousands into believing his lies and frankly we should have expected this. The UK public elected him as an MEP where instead of collaborating, all he ever did was run his mouth off about how much he hated the European Union while receiving a hefty salary for it. 2016 saw him become especially bold in his vile rhetoric, spearheading the propaganda of the leave campaign and coming to a head with an utterly shameful comparison of the Hope Not Hate group to extremism and a subsequent disrespect of Jo Cox’s husband Brendan (Who is still grieving along with his family after their loss). Even now Farage is continuing to be a thorn in progressive UK politics, proclaiming himself the bridge between us and Donald Trump and propping up on division and bigotry. Most recently he felt the need to insult the Archbishop of Canterbury and his message of peace and acceptance, as if a country where division isn’t commonplace won’t be acceptable for him.

This erosion and hacking of Britain’s democracy didn’t stop at the EU referendum; Theresa May’s government passed the snoopers charter into law, perhaps the most extensive surveillance laws in the world; no discussion, no debate, they were simply put through and will come into effect next year. All companies will be required to hold browsing data (Categorised by who, what, when and where) for thousands of people across the UK with public authorities having free rein to access devices. On top of this, the government can demand a backdoor into devices from companies to allow for even more intrusion; consider the notion of all MPs being exempt from the charter and you have an extremely suspicious law coming into effect. Then there was the successful bid for Sky by media mogul Rupert Murdoch; after his last attempt was derailed by the phone hacking scandal in 2011, NewsCorp will now take over the large British broadcaster for £11.2 billion, handing over even more control to corporate media. It doesn’t bode well for public perception (which for years has been manipulated by the tabloid press) and it certainly doesn’t bode well for journalism either as a greater control and agenda is enacted on the media. Some have stated that Sky News won’t turn into Fox News in the States, but it may be worth taking their future coverage with a grain of salt. What could happen next? According to an account in the book: Hack Attack by Nick Davis, Murdoch may wish to steamroll British regulator Ofcom, imposing a complete domination of the UK press without any barriers. That’s worth keeping an eye on.

Image credited to Chicago Tribune

In the United States, things weren’t looking much better; after another horrendous spike in racism and abuse, thoughts turned to President-Elect Donald Trump’s oncoming term. Once again, Trump’s lies quickly came to fruition as his cabinet was filled to burst with the richest millionaires ever seen in a presidential cabinet. Draining the swamp as promised? People will soon learn that what they voted for was a sham. Any hope of the terrible decision being derailed was again quashed, this time by the electoral college, who placed Trump into the White House by passing the 270-vote mark. There’s something baffling about this to me; the electoral college is made up of many educated men and women; surely, they could clearly see that Trump is both unqualified and unfit to lead and yet they put him through all the same. According to an article in The Daily Signal, electors are pledged to support the candidate voted in by the general public; could this be another sign of appeasement, a need to avoid infuriating the masses? Either way, Trump is headed for the Oval Office and his presidency may be a rocky one; lately he has been tossing around the serious topic of nuclear weapons like a game, possibly meaning to rearm America’s stocks rather than disarm; some ties to Russia have also been difficult to swallow.

Then came the 19th of December in which a final flurry of insults was hurled at everyone; Russian ambassador Andrei Karlov was assassinated in Turkey, a truck ploughed through a Christmas market in Berlin in another terror attack and Trump received his key to the White House all while Aleppo burned, the world failing to gain any more clarity on the Syrian battle lines. A chaotic close to a dreary year in world affairs and local politics.

Image sourced from Google: Labelled for reuse

Looking back at 2016, I feel that an explosion of anger and hatred was unleashed after being bottled up for years, something which the rich, powerful and the opportunists took advantage of to better achieve their goals of manipulation for personal gain. Yet despite all this, there were still some genuinely positive moments for the year. The Paris Climate Agreement, after being established a year ago, has been coming into its own. This was then followed up by Leonardo Dicaprio’s climate change film: “Before the Flood” which fired back at environmental sceptics. War criminals Jean-Pierre Bemba of the Congo, Radovan Karadžić of the Bosnian-Serb conflict, and Hissène Habré of Chad all faced justice at the hands of the International Criminal Court, Belgrade War Crimes Court and African Union court respectively. Austria rejected far-right nationalism in its presidential electionThe snoopers charter ran into trouble at the EU Courts who said general and indiscriminate retention of emails and electronic governments in illegal, ironically providing further evidence that the Brexit con was extremely short-sighted. The Rio Olympics went relatively well despite Brazil’s economic problems and the later impeachment of President Dilma Rouseff. Over 30,000 Muslims in Hampshire protested the disgusting ideologies of ISIS and students turned out in droves in London to protest tuition fees on November 19th, continuing the pushback against rip-off education costs. Dakota’s controversial oil pipeline hit a major wall as communities of indigenous Americans and their supporters showed the power of protest. The final camp of terrorist group Boko Haram was captured by the Nigerian army, leaving them on the run and Israel’s crimes against Palestine were subjected to a pushback by the UN. A vaccine for the Ebola virus, VSV-EBOV was proven to be effective with a 70-100% success rate. Finally, China has announced that it will aim to completely ban the ivory trade by the end of 2017. As angry as we can get, it’s very reassuring to know that our ingenuity can win out in many cases.

Looking ahead to 2017, what kind of progress can be made? Can we manage to learn from the massive uptake of xenophobia and division? Or will some nations, especially the West, descend into further nastiness? It may well come down to common people, who can’t be blamed for 2016’s missteps as they were horribly misled by the people above them, to make the biggest action against changes that will negatively impact them in the future, not to mention challenge racism, bigotry and those who would cause further damage and division. To close, I think this alternative Christmas message from Brendan Cox suits best; it’s something that everyone should watch and consider as we go into the new year.

(Images in the public domain used for the purposes of review and criticism)

Sources

Brock Turner released from jail after serving only three months of his sexual assault sentence: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/brock-turner-released-three-months-sexual-assault-stanford-rape-case-a7222051.html

Brock Turner sexual assault trial Judge Aaron Persky cleared of misconduct: https://mic.com/articles/162780/brock-turner-sexual-assault-trial-judge-aaron-persky-cleared-of-misconduct#.DAAnZPWDI

Zika outbreak: What you need to know: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-35370848

Brussels to Istanbul: Two airports, two bloody attacks: http://edition.cnn.com/2016/06/29/europe/turkey-istanbul-airport-brussels-similarities-elbagir/

Philippines: Death toll in Duterte’s war on drugs: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/interactive/2016/08/philippines-death-toll-duterte-war-drugs-160825115400719.html

Venezuela on the brink: a journey through a country in crisis: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/11/venezuela-on-the-brink-a-journey-through-a-country-in-crisis

2016 Lie of the Year: Fake news: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2016/dec/13/2016-lie-year-fake-news/

WHAT IS CETA?: http://www.waronwant.org/what-ceta

Jo Cox murder suspect tells court his name is ‘death to traitors, freedom for Britain’: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/jun/18/thomas-mair-charged-with-of-mp-jo-cox

Trump recorded having extremely lewd conversation about women in 2005: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-recorded-having-extremely-lewd-conversation-about-women-in-2005/2016/10/07/3b9ce776-8cb4-11e6-bf8a-3d26847eeed4_story.html?utm_term=.e4b1a8a3b281

Donald Trump aide Wilbur Ross: ‘Use Brexit to steal UK trade’: http://www.lbc.co.uk/news/world/donald-trump-aide-wilbur-ross-use-brexit-to-s/

Trump fan goes on rant on Delta flight, yells obscenities at Hillary supporters: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/man-calls-passengers-hillary-b-es-trump-rant-article-1.2889096

Nigel Farage launches scathing attack on Ukip’s ‘low-grade people’: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/dec/09/nigel-farage-scathing-attack-ukip-low-grade-people

Nigel Farage insults Herman van Rompuy, calls EU President a “DAMP RAG”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bypLwI5AQvY&index=22&list=WL

Nigel Farage refuses to apologise for ‘Breaking Point’ poster in final pitch to voters: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-poster-nigel-farage-eu-referendum-live-latest-vote-leave-remain-a7095236.html

Nigel Farage faces threat of legal action over Hope Not Hate accusation: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/dec/20/nigel-farage-accuses-jo-cox-widower-brendan-cox-of-supporting-extremism

Nigel Farage hits out at Archbishop of Canterbury over Christmas message: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/nigel-farage-archbishop-of-canterbury-negative-christmas-message-a7495186.html

What is the IP Bill and how will it affect you?: http://www.wired.co.uk/article/ip-bill-law-details-passed

UK’s new Snoopers’ Charter just passed an encryption backdoor law by the backdoor: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2016/11/30/investigatory_powers_act_backdoors/

Politicians will escape intrusive spy powers of the Snooper’s Charter: http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/politicians-will-escape-intrusive-spy-powers-snoopers-charter-1594320

Sky reaches agreement for 21st Century Fox takeover offer for £11.7bn: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/sky-21st-century-fox-sale-takeover-agreement-reached-rupert-murdoch-a7477011.html

Why we use electoral college, not popular vote: http://dailysignal.com/2016/11/07/why-the-founders-created-the-electoral-college/

Donald Trump declares ‘Let it be a nuclear arms race’ with Russia: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/12/22/donald-trump-vladimir-putn-signal-renewal-nuclear-arms-race/

The Russian ambassador’s assassination was no work of art: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/22/assassination-russian-ambassador-turkey-9-11-art

Berlin terror attack: Horrifying dashcam video shows truck speeding into Christmas market: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/12/22/berlin-terror-attack-tunisian-suspect-anis-amri-investigated/

Donald Trump Completes Final Lap, Electoral College, to White House: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/19/us/politics/electoral-college-vote.html?_r=0

The crisis in Aleppo: who’s fighting who and why: http://thenewdaily.com.au/news/world/2016/12/15/aleppo-crisis-war-syria-explained/

Simple Politics: https://www.facebook.com/simplepoliticsuk/posts/1437746876270138:0

Marrakech climate conference: world forging ahead on climate action: http://ec.europa.eu/clima/news/articles/news_2016111801_en

Austria just decisively rejected the far right’s presidential candidate: http://www.vox.com/world/2016/12/4/13833796/austria-presidential-election-2016-hofer-van-der-bellen

EU’s highest court delivers blow to UK snooper’s charter: https://www.theguardian.com/law/2016/dec/21/eus-highest-court-delivers-blow-to-uk-snoopers-charter

Brazil President Dilma Rousseff removed from office by Senate: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-37237513

More than 30,000 Muslims from across the world meet in the UK to reject Isis and Islamic extremism: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/more-than-30000-ahmadiyya-muslims-from-across-the-world-meet-in-the-uk-to-reject-isis-and-islamic-a7191306.html

Student march: Thousands protest education cuts in central London: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/student-march-thousands-protest-education-cuts-in-central-london-a3399941.html

UN Security Council urges end to Israeli settlements: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/12/passes-resolution-israeli-settlements-161223192709807.html

We finally have an effective Ebola vaccine. The war on the disease is about to change: http://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2016/12/22/14039628/rvsv-zebov-ebola-vaccine-trial-effective

China Bans Its Ivory Trade, Moving Against Elephant Poaching: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/30/world/asia/china-ivory-ban-elephants.html

Alternative Christmas Message 2016: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/alternative-christmas-message

President-Elect Donald Trump: How, why and what comes next for the United States

November 9th 2016 will be a long remembered day for the world, the moment that American politics lost its mind; the point where millions voted for an unqualified, racist bigoted man to be the leader of the free world. Defying all the polls and the media putting him down (“Brexit times ten” as some are calling it), Donald Trump has won the White House and is set to be inaugurated in January 2017. Hillary Clinton was far from an ideal candidate but at least she held some notions of not regressing, most notably a push towards combating climate change through supporting renewable energy projects and companies.

Why did Trump win? What was it that convinced millions that he had their best interests in mind? Really it was a collection of factors and components, some of which were hardly down to Trump himself. First of all the media attention was concentrated on him beyond reasonable doubt; from beginning to end, Trump’s face was plastered across every TV station and every front page, his unethical behavior being under constant viewing; according to the New York Times, Trump received two billion dollars worth of free media. The likes of Tim Cruz and Jeb Bush had no chance of gaining the Republican nomination when the media wasn’t interested in them. In the eyes of the media Trump was a source for an endless string of stories sure to get some attention and clicks but right from the get-go, the election proved to be very one sided, especially during the nomination process.

bernie-sanders-image

The second strike hit when Bernie Sanders lost the democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton, despite his selfless policies and wishes to create a brighter future for everyone. If Bernie Sanders had been the nominee, it’s very possible that he could have bested Trump while also delivering a case for positive change. Sanders seemed very genuine and much like Jeremy Corbyn in the United Kingdom, he struck a chord with young people. But according to the media, his campaign did not exist and it was confined to “invisible primary” status; with barely a blemish against Sanders’ name, the 2016 election could have been a landslide in a far more desirable way. On the whole, socialism isn’t a preferable concept in the United States and considering Hillary Clinton’s position in the centre, rather than the left, the odds ended up being stacked against Sanders. In the midst of this selection and the road campaigning, Brexit took place and I feel this is partially responsible for Trump’s win; it gave him momentum to know that the English had “taken their country back” (Though leavers still have no idea who or what they were taking it back from…), not to mention the always hateful Nigel Farage coming over to the States to voice his support.

donald-and-hilary

Lastly when the two chosen candidates were entering the campaign trail, Trump saw fit to endlessly bash his opponent, crafting a carefully built message in the process to indoctrinate Americans, especially aspects of the working and middle class white crowd. The overall sentiment I feel was as follows: “Whatever I say or do, that’s nothing compared to what Hillary has done and will do if she becomes president”. Taking cues from white privilege, nationalism and exploiting anxieties, Donald Trump, as a businessman was able to craft a message that drilled itself into the minds of millions; it went so deep that Hillary’s words were to ring hollow, despite her victories in the primary debates. People eventually disregarded or worse gave in to Trump’s filthy words because they were so helplessly brainwashed by them; the “grab em by the p*ssy” tapes could and should have been the end of his campaign but instead they only rallied more unsavory individuals around him who had been sitting in silence until now.

This “whitelash” and sense of entitlement against the establishment was evident across America. A perspective was taken on by the masses; if a media outlet is supporting Clinton then they were automatically assumed to be bribed or part of the corrupt establishment. The more the media pushed against Trump, the more people vowed to go against it, proclaiming that they were taking control; even when they were being truthful, people chose to disregard it; some became so hell bent on mistrusting anything remotely close to the mainstream that viewed Trump with a reverence unheard of in any election. Combine this with a massive complacency on Hillary’s part and you begin to see why Trump claimed the Oval Office this year.

marine-le-pen-image

If a nationalist can obtain the most powerful position in the world, then there is absolutely no doubt that other far right parties will be spurred more than ever to spread their toxic perspectives. Most recently French far right leader Marine Le Penn celebrated Trump’s victory, proclaiming that their new world was being constructed. What kind of world could this be? One where the far right triumphs all over Europe, seceding from union into isolationism and selfishness? It’s a scary prospect indeed.

donald-and-melania-trump

But all of this fear could be completely unfounded; Trump could get into the Oval Office next year and suddenly do a 180 on much of his hateful rhetoric, or perhaps his drastic policies may need scaling back and thus reduce the damage they might do. Was his campaign all lip service to get him into the most powerful office in the world? Already he has stated that he will not completely scrap Obamacare as he initially promised and will not throw Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran out the window either. Despite his many failures as a businessman though, Trump certainly knows how to get people on his side because of a sly charisma that Clinton just didn’t have; his speeches were uninhibited and vulgar compared to every other candidate in recent memory. This in turn weaponised the populous against his opponent, creating a group that would follow him religiously. This comes back to a point I made in a previous post; “if you are an American who for years “if you are an American citizen who for years has listened to politicians sound sophisticated while accomplishing nothing, you might just be primed for something that is everything they are not”. It’s this kind of approach that has fuelled the rise of post-truth politics and in turn it’s created a nasty collection of borderline evangelicals in the political space.

donald-trump-protest-march

When you consider the perspective of some Trump fans, the word “deplorables” doesn’t seem too far-fetched when you look at it in the aftermath of the election; this is a group of individuals who vowed to riot if Trump didn’t win but are now attacking minorities when he has. A fight is beginning in America, one to push back against the racism that holds the country in a tight grip; just like Brexit there have been many horrendous incidents with Twitter users such as Shaun King have been working to document incidents of racism and abuse. As I look back on all the coverage of the negative rhetoric that swept through America it’s hard not to be fearful, especially for those across the pond. The one positive thing I can say about Trump is that his focus on putting the US first may cause them to turn away from the world stage; only then will they be able to look themselves in the mirror and understand the fundamental problems that have infected their nation for years. All that can be done now is waiting until Trump’s eventual inauguration in January; that is if his upcoming time in court doesn’t throw him off the rails…

Sources

  • Why Wall Street loves Hilary: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/11/why-wall-street-loves-hillary-112782
  • Is Hillary Clinton’s ambitious solar energy goal for the US workable?: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jul/28/is-hillary-clintons-ambitious-solar-energy-goal-for-the-us-workable
  • $2 Billion worth of free media for Donald Trump: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/16/upshot/measuring-donald-trumps-mammoth-advantage-in-free-media.html?_r=0
  • ‘Mr. Brexit’ Nigel Farage Speaks at Donald Trump Rally in Jackson, MS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oj4K9fr_WgY
  • How Donald Trump made hate intersectional: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2016/11/how-trump-made-hate-intersectional.html
  • Trump recorded having extremely lewd conversation about women in 2005: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-recorded-having-extremely-lewd-conversation-about-women-in-2005/2016/10/07/3b9ce776-8cb4-11e6-bf8a-3d26847eeed4_story.html
  • America and Britain Are Being Hit by the Same ‘Whitelash’: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/america-and-britain-are-being-hit-by-the-same-whitelash
  • Marine Le Pen: Donald Trump has shown how we can ‘build a new world’: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/11/13/marine-le-pen-donald-trump-has-shown-how-we-can-build-a-new-world/

  • After campaigning against Obamacare, Donald Trump wants to keep two major provisions: https://mic.com/articles/159253/after-campaigning-against-obamacare-donald-trump-wants-to-keep-two-major-provisions?utm_source=policymicFB&utm_medium=main&utm_campaign=social#.8Jg9YJsyo
  • Trump Just Announced He Will Not Cancel Obama’s Iran Peace Deal: http://occupydemocrats.com/2016/11/12/trump-just-announced-will-not-cancel-obamas-iran-peace-deal/

  • In Context: Hillary Clinton and the ‘basket of deplorables’: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2016/sep/11/context-hillary-clinton-basket-deplorables/

  • Shaun King’s Twitter profile: https://twitter.com/ShaunKing
  • BEFORE TAKING THE WHITE HOUSE, TRUMP DUE IN COURT OVER FRAUD: http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2016/11/donald-trump-university-lawsuit

(All images sourced from Google, labelled for reuse)

 

 

Hard Brexit: The UK’s farewell to acceptance and accountability

Hard Brexit is the latest big topic on the mind of UK parliament and to put it bluntly; things are not looking good. The crashing of the pound is just the first of many major downturns faced by the country. In a previous post I claimed that the will of the voters should be respected, but now I see the real impact of the shoddy vote coming to light. I ask you this: why should the people’s vote be respected when they were conned into going down that route? Since the newly reshuffled (and unelected) Tory government came to power, a series of hits have been railing against the UK’s reputation for diversity and inclusiveness, hinting at a more sinister plan, a downward spiral bound to create further division on the basis of gross nationalism while handing even more power to those at the top. Theresa May gave her first major speech at a Conservative party conference and it revealed some damning motives for an unelected government. The big slogan this time was “A country that works for everyone” but there is countless evidence to the contrary. I believe there’s a reason why UKIP isn’t getting nearly as much coverage as they used to; the Tories have practically become them in the aftermath of the Brexit con, recently personified by the Tory statement: “There is no more money for the NHS”.

Some of the more glaring choices made by the Brexit government include…

map-of-uk-grammar-schools
Grammar Schools across England shown in red
  1. A further set of grammar schools, along with a second attempt to get into them at age 14 or 15

In the United Kingdom, Grammar Schools are held as a higher level of secondary education; when schoolchildren across the country are close to leaving primary school, they take the 11+, an exam to test their learning abilities. To get into grammar school this exam must be passed. Some would argue that they give the UK’s pupils a chance to flex their academic ability on the right level, but Theresa May’s plan is flawed because it holds grammar schools up as the be-all-end-all of the UK education system. Speaking from experience, I can say that a school doesn’t necessarily have to be private, an academy or a grammar school to be the best. The secondary school I went to from 2006 to 2013 had none of those distinctions but because of the brilliant way it was managed and ran, it ranked at the top of the Buckinghamshire country many times. More grammar schools can only bring more division to children through their education, the notion that if you fail to reach grammar school both times then you’re simply written off. What will they do next? Make it a requirement for university?

uk-military-parade

  1. The UK’s military set to become exempt from the European Convention on Human Rights

What exactly does the European Convention on Human Rights do for us? How does it affect our military and its deployment overseas? For starters it prevents abuses of human rights and gives a right to liberty and security. The current government believes that lawyers in the European Union exploit the convention and use it to make unfair accusations but I have to disagree. Any kind of legislation that works to prevent wrong doing and uphold citizen rights including the prohibition of torture, slavery and hard labour needs to be placed across our military to ensure their own accountability. Now that they’re becoming exempt from it, will there be fewer obstacles in the way to commit atrocities wherever they are deployed? It would be even more worrying if this same trend eventually carried through to our own home affairs.

brexit-school-letter

  1. The requirement of all schools to list the nationality and place of birth of all children who aren’t British

Towards the end of September, most if not all schools across the UK sent out a letter to parents by order of the Brexit government. On it the school asked for the nationality and birth place of foreign schoolchildren while also stating that if their child was British they did not have to fill it in. This is what the UK has come to; we’re going to be marking and monitoring schoolchildren who aren’t from this country. Why? Is this down to some unknown purpose that may or may not impact their prospects? Whatever the reason for it may be, it’s a disgusting decision that throws away the UK’s power to welcome and accept people regardless of their background. This leads into the fourth point which may well continue to impact children in adult life.

  1. The requirement of all major firms to list any workers and employees who are not British nationals

In a second horrible move to repulse and deter people from coming to the UK, firms will be required to list each and every worker who is not from this country. Again, it’s a shocking decision that would treat foreigners as second class citizens, making them feel unwelcome and therefore allowing anti-foreigner sentiment to fester even more than it already has. How will those who contribute their great skills and expertise to the UK feel when their names are being marked on a list? They’ll want to go elsewhere; it’s a horribly misguided attitude in every way that once again highlights that nasty nationalism that is sweeping through the nation. Luckily though, this decision was recently set back by protests and negative feedback from other nations.

In addition to these four strikes, there was also the incredibly frustrating news of fracking being pressed onto a Lancashire community by the Tories despite numerous community efforts to prevent it. It’s a characteristic of a government with a disregard for local democracy and it may be telling of the plans they have for the future.

The EU referendum itself quickly devolved into a debate on immigration crafted by conmen and the impacts of this are beginning to creep in; plans for Hard Brexit are representative of the right wing stance that has crept into modern politics. As I’ve gotten into my masters in international politics, there have been some incredibly deep discussions about various topics. A fellow student from Poland noted that in the West, free speech is offered, but only up to a point; the far right has been fairly suppressed over the years, mainly because people don’t want their controversial and sometimes racist viewpoints to be spread. But now with so much sentiment building against refugees and foreigners as a whole, the facets of right wing politics have burst explosively onto the scene and in turn, xenophobic tendencies have risen to wild levels of prominence. Would the better option have been to allow these viewpoints to come out and allow common people to reject them on their own? It’s a question that now hangs over the entire referendum and its aftermath for me.

I feel that the more subtle aspects of Theresa May’s motives tie in with keeping the Conservatives in power, a manipulation of the masses to ensure their continued seat in power. The new direction on immigration and the tracking of foreigners panders to the racists and xenophobes who voted leave and their vote is secured for the next election. It was also announced that foreign economists will no longer be able to give analysis or advice on the UK’s economic situation in the aftermath of Brexit. Why? Because they’re not British nationals; it’s a move to suppress and censor anyone who could discredit the government’s procedures and call them ineffective after leaving the European Union. The same also goes for Scotland who is now considering a second independence referendum, having been relegated to a side note in the Brexit discussions. Add to this the media spin from a majority of mainstream outlets stating that May has the UK’s best interests in mind (Especially with her recent private meeting with Rupert Murdoch) and you have a means to dupe the public into voting for the Tories again and again.

Ultimately it is Theresa May’s line: “If you believe you are a citizen of the world, you are a citizen of nowhere” that speaks volumes of what the UK’s political system has come to; a trinity of awful representatives that would seek to shift Britain away from the world stage and turn in on itself. In addition, the set of abysmal UK tabloids; most notably the Daily Mail and Express cosy up to the corruption like nothing else, saying that any who would criticise the Brexit con should shut up, literally. With the Hard Brexit plans bearing down on the UK, there is now little to stop the elite from imposing a full dominance over the country through division and because of this, I’m a little worried about the future. The only reprieves to the horrendous policies currently sweeping the nation is a set of strong protests from foreign workers and a successful challenge in parliament to the Hard Brexit terms, a call for more close scrutiny and public debate. In time this may somewhat diminish what the Tories are enforcing, but one thing remains clear to me; Brexit (At least from the offset) has brought far more regression than positive benefits to the UK.

Sources

  • Theresa May signals that the UK is heading for hard Brexit: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/uk/2016/10/theresa-may-signals-uk-heading-hard-brexit
  • No extra money for NHS, Theresa May tells health chief: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/oct/14/no-extra-money-for-nhs-theresa-may-tells-health-chief
  • Theresa May’s grammar schools plan slammed as ‘backward step’ by Sir Michael Wilshaw: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/education/theresa-mays-grammar-schools-plan-slammed-as-backward-step-by-sir-michael-wilshaw-a3340886.html
  • Human rights no more? UK to exempt troops from European Convention to stop ‘annoying’ claims: https://www.rt.com/uk/361516-human-rights-convention-troops/
  • Firms must list foreign workers: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/firms-must-list-foreign-workers-gw20ndp5x
  • Theresa May’s speech sparks Twitter backlash over ‘citizen of the world’ remark: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/theresa-may-sparks-twitter-backlash-over-citizen-of-the-world-remark-in-conservative-party-a3361701.html
  • Daily Mail And Express Brexit Front Pages Call For ‘Unpatriotic’ Remainers To Be Quiet: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/daily-mail-express-brexit_uk_57fdfd14e4b08e08b93d2ad3
  • Britain’s youngest MP slams Theresa May over the rise of fascism, in her most searing attack yet: http://www.thecanary.co/2016/10/10/britains-youngest-mp-slams-theresa-may-rise-fascism-searing-attack/
  • Theresa May in ‘U-turn’ over pre-article 50 Brexit debate in parliament: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/oct/12/theresa-may-accepts-need-for-brexit-debate-in-parliament

(Images sourced from Google: Labelled for reuse)

(School letter image sourced with the permission of Benefit Fraud via its Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BenefitFraudVSCorporateFraud/)

Black or White? The glaring issue in the discussion of world issues

 

As with any point in history, the world has some issues to grapple with, but in 2016 in particular I’ve noticed an especially ugly trend that’s creeping about; black or white. There is hardly any room for a middle ground to satisfy both sides, no room for a happy medium in-between; it must be one extreme or another; keep it simple and the people will remain riled up and they too eventually become susceptible to easy influence.

Military use is a prime suspect in when choosing one extreme over another and when looking back at the strategies in the Middle East, it’s all too easy to point fingers. Bush’s military strategy for Iraq and the War on Terror was hackneyed, charging in with reckless abandon. Applying military intervention without careful thought led to the Iraq War and in turn the deaths of thousands of people. The trend has continued somewhat with the constant airstrikes and drone attacks sent by President Obama to the Middle East and of course Trump, paying no regard to the damage and civilian casualties caused, said he would “bomb the sh*t out of ISIS” thus amplifying and furthering the issue of terrorist radicalisation. Looking at the awful comments below the video supporting his wretched morals leaves me shocked at the lengths people sink to.

trump

Now Trump is going to the other extreme; the possibility that America won’t help out its NATO allies at all. He said that the financial contributions from the likes of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania would be reviewed; in other words, if they aren’t paying enough, then they don’t deserve America’s help, according to his statements. It’s an unbelievably selfish and self-centered move from the Republican candidate whose focus is entirely geared towards putting himself first while also driving a wedge between Americans and anyone who isn’t from their country. Cutting off bonds to other countries can only lead to more conflict and a greater leaning towards a gross nationalism that is sweeping through politics today.

Division is a trend that has never burned more strongly in the modern western world and with this the notion of a careful approach is quickly tossed aside; we already had the infighting in the UK over the EU Referendum. The anti-immigrant rhetoric was an incredibly toxic aspect of the campaigns; all too often I’ve seen countless comments that categorise the influx of refugees as the importing of terrorists with no thought paid to the victims fleeing conflict (Many of which we in the West created).

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Simply put, it’s indoctrination on both sides as resentment against immigrants is free to run wild in the West and this treatment reflects outwards on the people; recently in France, a demeaning Burkini ban came into play and a restaurant refused to serve Muslims because in the eyes of the chef: “All Muslims are terrorists”. This theme of paranoia runs rampant in today’s world to the point that individuals grow so narrow-minded in their attitudes. The same trend of indoctrination is occurring in the States; a video in which Trump supporters literally attempt to cover up a protester with a “No racism, no hate” sign at the Republican National Convention emerged earlier this year. This is the attitude posed in the 2016 election; you’re either with Trump or you’re against him and if you’re against racism (Judging by the attitudes of those in at the convention) then that automatically makes you an enemy of the campaign. There’s not a single person in that video that stops and thinks about an alternative perspective or questions their precious little idol. It’s a sure sign that fear is winning out when individuals view world affairs with such simplistic abandon.

This kind of extreme leaning also applies to race relations in the United States; to Trump and many Republicans, there is no consideration that maybe not all Muslims are terrorists. Yet again generalisation and stigmatisation sweeps in; either the entire religion is guilty or not at all; there is no middle ground there. No discussion, no debate, just the common people being led blind by a man who preys on fear and emotion, simplifying everything in the process. Blind labelling has given ridiculous ideas further traction, most notably the possibility databases for American Muslims and Syrian refugees, segregating groups off to be constantly monitored. It will undoubtedly fuel further bouts of racism and discrimination; that sends a message that these people are to be treated with suspicion.

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And now most recently we’ve had the announcement of a wall, yes a wall, to keep refugees and migrants from coming to the UK from Calais; no doubt a direct result of the Brexit vote several months to appease the selfish racists of the country who fell for the fear-mongering leave campaign. No thought there, not a single consultation of how we could create a balance between taking in refugees while also securing our borders from illegal immigration. If this announcement proves anything, it’s that irrational decisions are slowly becoming the new norm in today’s world. To those who made this horrendous decision I ask what kind of benefit this will bring? I see it doing three main things; adding momentum to Trump’s vile campaign in the United States, add another tool for terrorists to use in their propaganda and create even more sentiment against foreigners.

This flawed perspective on world issues is creating divides and allowing the views of the ignorant and inconsiderate to be pushed to the forefront. There needs to be a better understanding promoted in the world, an attitude that emphasises a middle ground when dealing with difficult issues we all face from the simple civilians to the highest government officials.

Sources

  • “Trump would “bomb the sh*it out of ISIS”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWejiXvd-P8

(Images sourced from Google: Labelled for reuse)

Questionable Media: The Jeremy Corbyn Smear Campaign

It’s been a while since I last critiqued the media as a whole; this time I’m looking at the grossly biased coverage of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK alongside the desperate (and somewhat laughable) attempts to toss him out of the political races. We’ll start off with a bit of background.

Owen Smith and Jeremy Corbyn Policy Differences
Image by CloakedTruth via their Facebook page

There’s something which perplexes me about the dislike for Corbyn from common citizens; how can people mistrust and dismiss someone who voted against the Iraq War, against air strikes in Iraq and has taken an active role in standing up to the crippling austerity in this country? The right and left are certainly no strangers to clashing but there are some (without naming names) who appear in such denial of what Corbyn could bring to the UK, especially if he were to be elected into office. He promises real positive change and thousands of people have joined Labour as a result, turning up to his rallies and believing in his convictions. Yet despite all this progress, there are those who would seek to undermine all of it, who blame him for Labour’s failures in the Brexit vote (despite evidence to the contrary). It can be argued that ever since Jeremy Corbyn took up leadership after Ed Miliband’s resignation, there have been those out to start their own little coup and it’s been pretty detrimental to his efforts. As far as I’m concerned, Owen Smith and the labour rebels come off as power hungry individuals who are also willing to throw away the socialist focus on the UK as a whole that Corbyn has slowly been putting together. If anything he’s the best leader they could ask for in my book, the kind of candidate who can repair the damage done by Blair and Brown many years ago.

Refused Labour Application
Image by Benefit Fraud via their Facebook page

Once again it’s all about the media, particularly the mainstream; they perpetuate that message that Corbyn is not to be trusted; they do this by refusing to show footage of the massive rallies and painting him as a shifty individual. When big media outlets are owned by higher corporations and individuals, you know there’s going to be problems with dictating the overall message and this is something which has dogged the UK industries for years. Then of course there was TrainGate, a rather ridiculous incident which saw Corbyn’s team, Richard Branson and Virgin trains arguing back and forth over whether Jeremy sat on the floor of a busy train to score political points. The media then proceeded to pile on top of that with some attempting to validate Branson’s points. Rarely in these cases was there a balanced viewpoint and lost amidst all this arguing was the Conservative go-ahead to scrap the Human Rights Act in the UK, quite a convenient distraction there… Even now the suppression continues as the Labour rebels slyly ban members from voting because of hints dropped of their possible allegiance towards Corbyn. Tearing up the norms of democracy for their own personal gain? I certainly wouldn’t trust them to run the Labour party, let alone the whole country.

Jeremy Corbyn Not me they fear
Image by Benefit Fraud via their Facebook page

It’s painfully obvious that the people at the top want Corbyn gone because he’s the biggest threat to their lofty positions for a long time. A similar thing may have occurred with Bernie Sanders in the United States as well; very much like Corbyn his policies and desire to bring positive change drew a strong fan-fare from young people but the media gave him no attention, instead focusing all their attention on the Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump. In that sense, the foreign media has not only had a field day but a field year as Trump in particular has provided a near endless stream of mainstream news to rack up the views and comment numbers. According to a Harvard study in June this year, the media outright ignored Sander’s campaign which severely hurt it in the long run because in the eyes of the news, he didn’t exist in the presidential race. However with Corbyn, the media has gone a step further, slamming him and policies with reckless abandon. Why? Because Jeremy Corbyn in power wouldn’t bode well for the elites who wish to maintain their positions high above the rest of us. As a fourth estate, the media itself can have a massive effect on the political race and this has been proven time and time again.

The incidents surrounding Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith have been for lack of a better word: messy and the biased media coverage isn’t helping in the slightest. My advice? Take the mainstream with a grain of salt and consider who owns them; do try to find some third parties to broaden your views a bit. As for the Labour leadership, who’s going to win? Well that will be up to the public to decide, that is if they don’t have their votes taken away completely by a party rebellion (And the media that supports it) that seems hell bent on permanently halting a very genuine politician; something which feels exceptionally rare in this modern political age.

(Images used with the permission of CloakedTruth and Benefit Fraud via their respective Facebook pages. Cover image sourced from Google Images: Labelled for reuse)

Sources

  • Jeremy Corbyn speech on austerity: http://labourlist.org/2016/07/we-have-demolished-the-case-for-austerity-corbyns-speech-at-leadership-launch/
  • “EU Referendum: Jeremy Corbyn blamed for Labour Brexit as allies defend him”: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/jeremy-corbyn-blamed-for-brexit-by-labour-mps-in-eu-referendum_uk_576c6cfee4b0232d331da41b
  • Jeremy Corbyn Milton Keynes Rally: http://www.miltonkeynes.co.uk/news/thousands-attend-milton-keynes-rally-with-labour-leader-jeremy-corbyn-1-7526763
  • “Jeremy Corbyn angered by train seat row questions”:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-37173048
  • “Human Rights Act will be scrapped, government confirms”: http://www.theweek.co.uk/63635/human-rights-act-will-be-scrapped-government-confirms
  • Jeremy Corbyn accuses Labour officials of suspending party members without explanation: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/aug/28/corbyn-accuses-labour-officials-of-suspending-party-members-without-explanation
  • Harvard Study Confirms Bernie Sanders Was Right: Media Blackout Badly Hurt Campaign: http://reverbpress.com/features/bernie-sanders-was-right-media-blackout-badly-hurt-campaign-harvard-study-confirms/
  • “The Labour Leadership election plunges deeper into chaos, as 100,000 ballots go missing”: http://www.thecanary.co/2016/09/02/labour-leadership-election-plunges-chaos-100000-ballots-go-missing-tweets/

The aftermath of Brexit: Anger, disappointment, and grudging acceptance

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On the 24th of June 2016 I woke up, opened my phone and was met with a sight I really didn’t want to see; the fact that my country had voted to leave the European Union. I watched, shocked, as Nigel Farage strutted about with a smug grin on his face and Boris Johnson (after leaving his house to a chorus of boos) proclaimed that young people would have a prosperous future, all the while knowing that his campaign will strip away so many opportunities from them. I tuned into the live broadcasts before voicing my disappointment online, as many often do.

The social media outlets were ablaze with all kinds of people lamenting the loss of the UK’s membership, calling it an enormous step backwards in every way. Of course I agreed with all of them; as mentioned in my last post, the leave campaign was heavily based on the rhetoric of immigration. Time after time they hammered out that immigration was responsible for our problems and as with any message if you repeat it enough the people will start believing it; that’s exactly what happened as leave won with 51.9% of the vote. As I prepared to get on with the rest of the day, a sense of unease hung over my mind; would the racists and xenophobes have a field day? How can we possibly accept Boris Johnson as top billing for Prime Minister this October? Just how far can Farage and UKIP climb now that they’ve regained footing?

A significant anger gripped me and I certainly wasn’t the only one; less than twenty four hours after the referendum results were revealed, furious voters gathered outside the Houses of Parliament demanding a second vote. There was even a petition for it that will actually be discussed by our government at some point. These efforts have been met with differing responses from the opposite side, some laughing and gloating at their feeble attempts to fight against a democratic vote. This stark divide between remain and leave has been toxic from the very beginning; I can say without a doubt that if remain had won this vote, the leave voters would have had the exact same reaction, just with more accusations of the voting being rigged against them. And you know what? We would have laughed and jeered at the opposite side as well if they had lost; this is the dark side of democracy, giving us free speech but also splitting us into opposing camps every time a choice comes along. It’s almost a kind of psychological warfare as the two sides throw everything at each other verbally rather than violently, though in this case one disgusting terrorist chose to take it a step further by murdering MP Jo Cox the week before the polls opened, which Farage proceeded to callously toss aside after it was revealed his side had been successful.

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From a political perspective, the EU referendum was suicide for David Cameron (who I imagine wanted to appease tensions within his conservative party by offering the vote); he resigned shortly after losing the vote and will most likely be replaced by someone even worse. But looking at the referendum generally reveals how divided the United Kingdom really is; on one side you have relatively considerate people who think outside of their own country and on the other you have borderline racists who demand the UK belongs exclusively to Brits. There was hardly any room to stand in the middle and those who did were either unsure which way to turn or found themselves drowned out by the hard-line statements that were all over the campaigns. It proves that the UK is grossly divided and the rampancy of inequality cannot be underestimated. The working class were genuinely angry at those who stand above them and wanted to stick it to “the establishment” by voting leave, having already been swayed by the leave campaign’s promises. For the rest of us, it’s easy to cry foul; to misunderstand their struggles and dismiss them as uneducated. But their opinions are still very strong, so much so that they got their wish, outnumbering the opposite side. Then there’s the elderly, a vast majority of which were highly focused on leaving; with the vote result being the way it is, more than ever I feel it is highly unethical to allow this group to decide the future when they will reap very little from it. This disconnect to unity and the divide between classes and generations is one of the biggest problems my country is facing right now and it’s an incredibly difficult problem to solve, no matter where you sit in British society.

In a sense, I’m still extremely disappointed in the direction we chose to go; particularly the fact that the elderly had free rein to choose how the future of young people would be played out. The pound may be in freefall and industries may be taking blows but to me the result goes deeper than that; it feels like we’ve thrown away so much in one fell swoop, rejecting the values of unity that bound us and the other twenty seven member states together. One of the saddest things for me is that a fair few of my friends from Europe are beginning to question their place in the country, which is starting to feel more than a little unwelcoming because of what we chose. On top of all that, the misinformation posed by the leave campaign is beginning to unravel with Farage openly admitting that the £350 million to the EU was a mistake.

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But ultimately, this isn’t worth losing our heads over; taking a step back and contemplating things now that the noise has died down brings out a more considered kind of viewpoint. In the words of the illusive man; “We move on, humanity will persevere; we are nothing if not resilient”. Brexit may mean dark and uncertain things for the United Kingdom, but there are still ways to ensure it doesn’t sink completely; democracy is not without its advantages and now that the shouting and relentless campaigning has finally come to an end, we can get on with things again. The people have had their say and that should be respected at the very least.

(All images sourced from Google: Labelled for reuse)