Friday, 12 March 2010



Is the liberal left dead? Well, it would certainly seem to be reading this article by Johann Hari in an essay that could be summarised as: I've been spitting the dummy out for almost a decade when it comes to the West's treatment of the Palestinians. Now it's time really spit the dummy out. I'm sure that the leaders will agree with me this time.

Which is all nonsense of course. By all means, write about the suffering of the Palestinians. It's a good cause. But please, let's not pretend that any leaders in the West actually care in the least bit or will do anything at all whatsoever to change things. I also love the high moral tone when saying that the Palestinians use 'unacceptable' measures targeting civilians. So they've been brutalised, shot at and herded into camps. But we comfy Western liberals must never resist the temptation to patronise them for being unsporting in fighting back. Also loved the sheer kitsch of 'It may make you see the ghost of your murderer even in your victims: Adolf Hitler in a Gazan child'. Uhm, no, that's obvious bullshit. Young men with guns in the Israeli army do to Gazans pretty much what young men with guns in the British army did to Northern Irish Catholics and young American men with guns did to Iraqis: treat them savagely. Maybe I'm detecting a pattern here, but it's not a pattern that liberal hawks are comfortable with.

I regard myself as liberal if that means being sceptical of the free market fanatics, statism and ideological fanaticism (either religious or secular). Yet I find that these are the very things modern liberalism is most tolerant of.

Liberalism seems to have turned into a branch of the self-help industry. I just wonder when they'll start saying 'it would be good if we found a cure for cancer'.


Interesting all this news about dangerous dogs. One whacky view I have for a Brit is that I'm entirely in support of handgun ownership. Yet most Brit politicians take the view that people aren't responsible enough to have guns.

Meanwhile savage dogs walk around with impunity. The message being that a carnivorous quadruped in a fur coat is credited with more powers of discretion as to who deserves a bit of GBH than an average Brit is?

Given our leaders, this may not seem totally ridiculous (at least there are no dogs calling for Georgian NATO membership) but in terms of rights and the state I've long found it interesting.


The 'news' has been churning out Tory propaganda. Modern Britain is such a fabulous country because even the children of African immigrants can feel at home in a party aimed at brutalising the poor, slashing cultural projects, helping the rich pay less tax and spilling blood for American hegemony. Horay for Britain!

Of course, te Graun has long been closer to Cameron than Brown and their coverage of the Tories today really shows how desperately they need a Tory win. This is yet more evidence of the failure of liberalism.


The greatest tragedy to befall Haiti was that it wasn't run by a tyrant who killed and tortured thousands of people to impose neo-liberal reforms on the nation. After all, 'alternative Chile' where the Chileans weren't saved from their own irresponsibility by General Pinochet would be just like Hawaii, or worse. 80% of the population would have starved to death and the remainder would be living in straw huts.

You might ask how anyone could know that, but Conservatives just do know exactly what 'alternative Chile' would be like. Just look at the CIF commenter of the year pulling the rug from under Naomi Klein's feet.

Given that the very point of neo-liberalism is the 'thin edge of the wedge' 'the government starts by being nice then massacres people' arguments, I wouldn't have thought Pinochet would be such an enduring poster-boy for neo-liberals. Yet one cannot underestimate the appeal of a podgy uniformed generalissimo to the tax-bore mind.


Came across another Protestant Latino with a vaguely liberationist theology. Could it be the case that Protestantism will become a force for third-worldism against neo-liberalism? We'll see.


I think he was initially employed as a token Tory, but neo-liberal crassness has moved so quickly in the past few years that Simon Jenkins is now to the left of Te Graun's centre. And his recent article is essential reading.


  1. It appears that cif is imploding from within.

    It started out well, but got corrupted by the articles on identity politics, gender identity, whatever.
    Articles on Israel/Palestine, articles on religion are also pretty crazy.

    If you think about it, articles on these above subjects possible constitute 75% of cif's output.

    An article by Bidisha yesterday is a case in point.

    Pity really. Many people are leaving cif, annoyed by their stupidity of long debates on 'identity' and the self centeredness of many articles and their writrs.

    Karl Naylor, for example, left and does a great job on his Eastern European watch, which is now back up.

    I would like to devote more time to my own blog as well, and also in the Russia/East European interest community, but I'm a bit busy now. I have just started an Open University course and if things go ok, that should occupy the next few years of my life. And I hope to revolve this around some challenging and productive employment, of which there is not much to be found in the western isles.

  2. Thanks for your comment NK

    I didn’t know who ‘Bidisha’ was, but goodness... looking at some of her articles I wish I didn’t. It sums up why I regard myself as Social Democrat rather than ‘left wing’.

    Still, whilst it may seem like shite the CiF board may just want something to get lots of comments. For instance I noticed she wrote attacking Harry Potter which got a few comments and one attacking criticism of Palin as sexist and just wanted to bury my head in my hands (which I would have done if I weren’t a knuckle dragging male who’s too primitive and repressed to make such gestures ;-) which obviously got lots of comments.

    I’d say that social democracy can generally do without identity politics. But then it gets more complex. Just look at George Galloway? I’m far from being a fan of his actual hard-left politics, but am pleased that someone has the cojones to actually tell the neo-cons what the majority of Brits actually think of them. However, were it not for the Muslim vote he probably wouldn’t have even his small soap box in our ‘free’ country.

    Was just reading another Guardian article about some young Muslims who’d been arrested for participating in a demonstration. Very commendable journalism, but tucked into the middle of the paper whereas the front page news was about Lady Gaga’s latest video. To me this isn’t an arbitrary point. For me Lady Gaga sums up all that’s worst about pop ‘culture’ in that it’s a blend of fast-cut hypnotism and titillation rather than any kind of ‘art’. I’m not especially a puritan in terms of art and am generally against censorship, but what seems to me most odious about the music industry is that it is literally based on hypnotism rather than any intrinsic merit. This leaves people restless, fidgety and aggressive.

    Which brings me back to the Muslim youths. I don’t know much about their protest, its aims or tactics. But good on them for actually doing something when most Brits of their age would probably be astounded at the idea of going outside and doing something for someone else. Most young Brits would probably lack the attention span to discuss the Gaza situation or anything else.

    Good luck on your open university course. You mentioned it in your blog I think. Did you opt for the sciences?

  3. Bidisha, Julie Bindel, Barbara Ellen, Beatrix Campbell, the Guardian gives refuge to radical feminists and makes itself look stupid.

    Liberals, leftist, rightists, whatever. I think these are all a hangover from the French revolution. I will be voting for the Liberal Democrats this year, because I believe we need a decent electoral system. Where I live they will not win, but it will be a protest vote. Politically I would describe myself as somewhat conservative having crossed over from a mad leftwinger (a process that normally takes several decades, but after 2-3 years of reading cif that process has been vastly acclerated!). I have no cares for the Conservative party though, they are just a gang of self serving ex public schoolboys, the gatekeepers of privilege. Real conservatives are those who see individual responsibility and moral conscience and respect of others as being important. Something the Tory party don't have. I am thinking more of a European style Christian Democracy style Conservatism, where they are interested in all of society rather than just offering tax breaks to their chums in high finance.

    This Lady Gaga video was so so. I had never even heard of her until a few weeks ago. THe modern music industry is course concerned about maximising profits rather than actually producing any discernible talent. The Guardian is full of hypocrisies, crusades tirelessly on climate change, but has a globe trotting travel section, advising people to go to New York for cocktail bars handbag shops and other examples of conspicuous consumption.

    I hope to be studying the sciences, but it is so incredibly basic at the moment it is not taking much time. However there is a lot of near pointless fillers involved, things like emailing your tutor your 'learning journal', pointless exercises etc. These are all under the guise of 'study skills' really, rather than much hard science.

    Plus I am busy as hell in my spare time. As a historian, have you read Misha Glenny's history of the Balkans, if that is of interest to you? I am reading it now. And I am also reading Applebaum's Gulag history. Both of these books are from the local library, but I will have to renew them as I am still going through them. Still self studying Russian, talking to my Russian friend on Skype-- we are reading extracts of Vasili Grossmann's Life and Fate together in Russian. And I am reading that book whole in the English translation- it is nearly as long as War and Peace. Finally I am sort of making half hearted attempts to learn Polish, mostly using materials found online. Hope to pick that up as it is a Slavic language like Russian and contains many similarities. I've had an awful cold this weekend (man flu more like), so have done almost nothing of the above.

    All the while I am trying to look at my life situation and balance hopefully getting decent (intellectually challenging) employment and whether I will be able to support myself on whatever pittance I get paid or if I'll have to stay living with parents. Almost certainly I will have to leave the island. If I don't earn enough to live independantly, then my Dad lives on the south coast of England. I've already lived with him before, it is not too bad, but not the most ideal situation.

    From my own tentative explorations of the labour market, it seems many employers want as low skilled, low educated and compliant workers as possible, any sparks of individuality or intellectual talent are frowned upon. The whole job finding process is hellish, especially the job centres, which exist solely in getting low skilled/uneducated people into any rubbish job whatesoever. I think this country really has 'gone to the dogs' but not in the Daily Mail way.

  4. @NK

    I’m not certain about the Lib Dems; they seemed to move to the right with Clegg, and they supported Georgia in 2008. Still, they are the least crazy of the major parties. I heard that the German conservative coalition is falling apart due to strife between the Christian Democrats and the free marketers. I’m just surprised it took so long.

    Would agree that Te Graun is very hypocritical and bizarrely middle class.

    I should probably look into getting Skype myself; I’d like to try and learn some French and Spanish, though I found Russian a very difficult language to speak.

    Also agree about employers; I tend to oscillate between seeing conspiracy theories as entertainment and actually wondering if there is something in them. There certainly seems to be a war waged against individuality.

    Furthermore, I find it bemusing when the radio/news/ papers report that heads of Tesco/ other bean counting corporation make statements about how awful their young employees are.

    I’m the first to criticize my generation for its apathy and immaturity, but really, since when did running a supermarket give someone the moral authority to make such announcements? Given that a lot of their coffee and chocolate will probable involve slave labour, I find it quite stunning how easily they leap onto their high horses.

    As for left/right, I don’t know where I am because whilst I regard myself as a liberal, only the far left seems willing to actually stand up to neo-con shitheads. CF, my earlier comments about Galloway; sure I don’t like his pro-Stalin/pro-Saddam soundbytes but it isn’t the Labour Party/Lib Dems/ Graun columnists who really sock it to the neo-cons. It wasn't Johann Hari leading an aid convoy. The decline of liberalism will possibly be the topic of my next tlonist post; have you read Borges’s story?

  5. I have no knowledge of Tlon or Borges. A quick check of wikipedia tells informs me a bit about him.

    So this Tlon is a fictional world or something, like a kind of utopia? At the very least a metaphor?

    Maybe one day I will read it, I am a bit busy right now.

  6. @NK
    (and anyone else)
    The complete story is here (though the anthology it appears in, Fictions, is essential to buy to read, reread, rereread):