It’s been one of those weeks where so many things have come to light that I simply do not know where to begin writing first. I sit there and think, which of the various things that I have been listening to or reading about have actually annoyed me to the point of actually writing about. I have realised that I am just generally annoyed.
When I thought about it more, I concluded that the underlying theme of these various stories is a complete and utter contempt by bourgeois governments (that lay claim to being utterly democratic) of the vast majority of people that they govern. Whether they govern competently or not, whether there is anything resembling a democratic mandate or not; it is the utter contempt in which they hold the majority of the population that has really gotten my goat.
I also realised that this is not only confined to governments, it is a view shared by the leadership of religious authorities, by arms of the state (police, armies, etc.) and even by the heads of sporting associations. This contempt is a reflection of the fact that those in power think/know that when push comes to shove, they know who they serve and it is not the vast majority of people; it is a tiny elite hiding behind the word “democracy” while actually not even slightly being accountable to that majority. It is the abuse of power by those that have it wielded against those that view themselves as powerless. Having just spoken to my postman about my frustration, he agreed and said “this is a long term problem, what can you and I do about it”?
Some of it is actually ironically and accidentally funny. So, in a week where a purported attempted takeover of Birmingham’s schools by so-called Muslim fundamentalists is met by a cry for the teaching of “British Values” of democracy by the education secretary Michael Gove, we see the purchase of water cannons for use against protestors in London and the agreement that they will be used by British police; note this refers to the mainland as they have been used in Northern Ireland for quite some time. The irony it burns.
“We want to create and enforce a clear and rigorous expectation on all schools to promote the fundamental British values of democracy, rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs,” department officials explain (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27784747).”
One needs to ask how important democracy is in Britain when they are prepared to use water cannons against their own population. It is not only the water cannons, the actions of the police against anti-Fracking protestors have been atrocious; so what, is democracy fine as long as we do not try to stop the actions of politicians in modern society? So what about individual liberty and mutual respect?
Under a government whose view of housing policy is the creation of a housing bubble (which has even gotten the IMF a bit worried), refusal to regulate private rentals and protect tenants, the attempt to sell off what little social housing remains and, of course, the social cleansing of inner London due to reduction of amount of housing benefits given to those whose income is insufficient to pay rents (which has not been alleviated by their squeeze on wages and the undermining of conditions of work), and the fantasy that private housing will simply be built and will be accessible for those on lower income, we now are being treated to a policy of spikes being put outside buildings in London to keep the homeless from lying on spaces hitting the news.
These anti-homeless spikes were not only put outside of posh new housing in Southwark, South London; these spikes were put up in front of some Tesco supermarkets and Vue Cinemas, after all, we do not want the great unwashed to actually have a place to sit or lie down … some more of those British values, I guess. This was so grotesque that the posh mayor of London, Boris Johnson, actually had something to say about it; in context, Boris has complete and utter contempt for anyone not of the ruling class, so this must be considered rather gauche even for him.
Pickets were planned, there was even some direct action of pouring concrete over some of the spikes. Some of the spikes were removed just as pickets were planned to start (like those below at Tesco); but these are all over the place …
So, it looks like a win, and it is a win … but it is the complete contempt of the great unwashed which was behind all this … was it a question of going too far or with too much arrogance? Was it because they believed all the ideological trash about the poor leeching off the fat of the land or because they thought that everyone bought into it?
On the Church and State
Two stories in the last few weeks simply made me both physically ill and absolutely furious. These relate to Ireland, stories that are historical but yield truths beyond the fact that they are historical. In the first story, the bodies of 800 children from a mothers and “orphans” home in Galway have been found in a septic pit; most of these children died of malnutrition and illness under the care of the church. This is one of those stories which everyone who lived near these homes knew about, but only spoke in whispers, no one spoke openly about it; the treatment of children in these so-called care homes was known. They sat alongside “non-orphaned” children in schools … these children, who given the manner of their birth treated them as lesser by teachers, by nuns, by the church and the state. The state could not even be bothered to inspect these homes leaving the Church in complete control. And when these children died, their “caretakers” couldn’t be bothered to even give these children a “Christian” burial. This was not one place, it was not an outlier amongst good care for these children; it was a general problem.
“Unmarried mothers incarcerated until they signed over their babies, healthy children sold to be adopted by wealthy Americans and disabled infants, who had no sale value, abandoned in “Dying Rooms”, and their bodies dumped by the brides of Christ in a septic tank.
This was a nationwide industry founded on human suffering. In a country utterly corrupted by its own twisted version of Catholicism and run by a complicit elite, young women who “fell pregnant” were condemned. They had sinned and were left to the mercy of perverts and brutes. Their children were a tainted commodity to be sold or discarded at the whim of people considered “religious” (http://www.irishexaminer.com/archives/2014/0606/ireland/mother-and-baby-scandal-hidden-in-plain-sight-271157.html).”
In the second story, it was found that children in orphanages were used for medical experimentation. Essentially 2000 children of unmarried mothers were treated with Diphtheria inoculations in care homes and orphanages without consent being asked of these mothers as part of a drug trial for Burroughs Wellcome between 1930 and 1936 before being released for general use. Who cares about these children or what their “slutty” mothers have to say about anything?!
“The fact that no record of these trials can be found in the files relating to the Department of Local Government and Public Health, the Municipal Health Reports relating to Cork and Dublin, or the Wellcome Archives in London, suggests that vaccine trials would not have been acceptable to government, municipal authorities, or the general public (http://www.irishcentral.com/news/Religious-orders-allowed-over-2000-Irish-children-to-be-used-in-medical-experiments.html).”
While all of the coverage of these stories will be concentrated upon these poor children, the underlying causes will probably never be mentioned. Why? Because those underlying causes relate to the reproductive rights of women and this is what is not going to be examined in any of the inquests or enquiry’s which will now be conducted. Inability to access birth control and control over our own reproduction is what leads to this situation. The denigration and objectification of the children caused by normal human interaction; yes, people have unwanted pregnancies will not be addressed.
Safe and legal abortion is still inaccessible in Ireland; this is due to the power of the Catholic Church over the political and personal lives of women. It derives from the strength of patriarchal ideology. It comes about due to the collusion of church and state not only in the fact that the state left these poor children in the hands of a Church obsessed with controlling women’s bodies leading to a fetishism of foetuses, but not a lick of concern about the results of their policies, the illegitimate children.
So while many, if not all, religions claim to be moral arbiters, and even worse, they claim to be the sole moral arbiters arguing that morality must derive from religion, we can ask what do you mean by morality?! We also need to ask if the so-called morality of these religions is actually the same morality that the rest of us hold and if not why do they still exert the social control irrespective of the disgust so many of us feel when we read these stories?
Before Americans get too smug, please do not forget the Pill trials on Puerto Rican Women (and their forced sterilisation). Let us never forget the forced sterilisation of Native American women (leading to genocide), forced sterilisation of Latinas, Asians, Black, poor women and disabled women. We can never forget the Tuskegee syphilis experiment on Black men in Alabama.
Eugenics in the form of sterilisation abuse in the US was practiced under control or permission granted by a secular state and codified in law and it is not something that is specific to the US either (go and look at the link). No government or religion’s hands are clean; the secondary status of women is woven into the fabric of the world’s dominant religions.
While we can say that these are history and relate to the past, I wish I could say that these stories only relate to the past in so many places. In some instances, it is the power of a patriarchal religion, in others it is state sanctioned, sometimes, the two collude together. Patriarchy still wields control in many forms. The lack of respect for and the objectification of women can be seen all over the world: from the rapes and murders of Dalit girls in Uttar Pradesh, to honour killings, to the use of rape as an arsenal of war throughout the world, to the lack of control over our reproductive rights and coerced sterilisation.
In the US, the Church working under the Catholic Benefits Association has managed to prevent its employees from receiving birth control as part of its health benefits package. Yes, they won the appeal. So, while the US loves claiming the separation of church and state proudly in its constitution, the power of the Church and refusal laws “of conscience” are not only being used to prevent access to birth control. The church owns hospitals and in those hospitals, birth control, abortion and voluntary sterilisation are proscribed . Guess what, that is not only the case in the US, it is also the case in Italy where refusal laws mean that women accessing abortion becomes harder and harder as 70% of OB/GYNs and 50% of anaesthetists have registered as objectors, in Portugal 80% of gynaecologists refuse to perform legal abortions (see, http://globaldoctorsforchoice.org/wp-content/uploads/GDC_White-paper-on-CO-in-reproductive-health_ENG.pdf, p. 15).
And if you think that forced or coerced sterilisation has disappeared from the US, let me remind you of the sterilisation of women prisoners in California in the period of 2006-2010; yes, in this century and even with laws forbidding the practice.
“According to the prisoners’ rights advocacy group Justice Now, people in California women’s prisons have been illegally sterilized, nearly four decades after sterilization abuse guidelines were implemented at the state and the federal level. Justice Now’s investigations revealed that between 2006 and 2010 at least 116 people in two California prisons were sterilized as a form of birth control via tubal ligation during labor and delivery. At least a couple dozen more prisoners—predominantly Black, Latina, and indigent women and transgender people—reported being sterilized by hysterectomy and oophorectomy under highly questionable and abusive circumstances. Reports include patients being falsely diagnosed with cervical cancer and later finding out from medical records that the cancer never existed, undergoing sterilization surgery without their knowledge, being asked to sign consent forms while under sedation, being denied less-invasive, often more appropriate treatment options that would not take away their ability to have children, and being denied second medical opinions and proper follow-up care. Later research from the Center for Investigative Reporting found that nearly 250 prison tubal ligations occurred since 1997 (http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/06/12/eugenicists-never-retreat-just-regroup-sterilization-reproductive-oppression-prisons/).”
Lots of Circuses, but where is the Bread?
Many people know the term “Bread and Circuses” as coming from the ancient Roman’s provision of wheat to people along with expensive spectacles to win the support of the population (or to actually provide spectacles to distract them from their misery and to get them to support a government that did little for them). Extremely useful in that it provided the populace with food, at the same time offering them the spectacle, to ensure the support of the plebs for governments that knew that starving them could bring some serious difficulties in maintaining control of the system.
“[…] Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses (Juvenal, Satire 10.77–81).”
What is becoming a common practice in the days of privation of the majority due to austerity (in the advanced capitalist world) or to general mal-functioning of governments which trumpet the wonders of capitalism (everywhere else) is the provision of the spectacle with absolutely no attention to provision of bread or even more so the reduction of incomes by which people need to purchase food, clothing, heating, water and have access to decent housing.
Two of the main spectacles these days can be found in the World Cup and the Olympics. In all cases, the places that win these events promise that they will bring long-lasting positive changes and benefits to the majority of the population, especially the poorest and most deprived, in the places in which they are located. Invariably, massive amounts of money are poured into building the arenas for the spectacles. This is the case whether “austerity” (read that as immiserisation) is being forced down the throats of the populace or whether the populace has been and is currently living in misery and poverty and is in desperate need of basic things like housing, schools, health care, food, sanitation, running water, electricity and employment.
While everyone in Brazil supposedly loves football (and it is a country that loves its football), the issue of priorities of governments which supposedly have the money to waste in a short-term spectacle but cannot provide for the basic needs of the population even in an emergent capitalist economy. Somewhere along the line, the demonstration that Brazil has “arrived” on the international stage as a powerhouse (demonstrated by having both the World Cup and the Olympics) actually seems to be of more concern to Brazilian politicians (even those claiming to a leftist persuasion) than whether the poor actually have housing, food, sanitation, water, and the possibility of a future beyond continued impoverisation. In Brazil, this has included “pacification” measures for certain favelas; confirmed police brutality, worries about gentrification and rising housing prices as these favelas are “pacified”, security for tourists prioritised over the needs of residents, it leads a rather cynical part of me wonders if these “pacified” favelas will be open to tourists during the current World Cup and the future Olympics?
There have been protests of workers, the poor, they are not confined to the left; strikes have broken out on public transport, airport workers have gone out; the teachers have even gone on strike. Protestors are protesting against $11 billion that has been spent for getting the cities involved ready for the World Cup, they are protesting against corruption, police violence, the desperate need for social investment in housing, education, health care, sanitation, access to clean water … these problems will not disappear after the football tourists and Olympic visitors have left. While listening to the news waiting for the spectacle to begin, there was an interview on the BBC that was beautiful in its cynicism. It was argued that once the spectacle begins, the protests, the strikes, the misery of the people would all be laid aside for the spectacle.
I am certain that Dilma Rousseff really hopes so given that she was booed at the opening match between Brasil and Croatia in São Paulo and that the police used tear gas and rubber bullets against protestors at a metro station 8 km away before kick-off time.
I want to end tonight’s rant with a bit of humour … which clearly demonstrates that I have a rather sick sense of humour. One may wonder why a picture of “red” Ed Miliband posing with a copy of The Sun’s World Cup Pride freebie issue may actually provoke a furore. The answer is not particularly complicated.
In fact, it goes back to the Hillsborough Disaster where 96 Liverpool football fans were killed. What ensued after this tragedy was an official cover-up, the vilification of the victims of the disaster, and a, shall we say, more than problematic inquest into the deaths. A new inquest has been called after being fought for so hard and long by the people of Liverpool. There was also the horrific libellous reporting of The Sun which argued that the deaths were a result of drunkenness and that people were stealing from the dead and dying which led to a complete and utter boycott of the Sun in Liverpool.
So, a picture of “Red Ed” Miliband, leader of the Labour Party, posing while holding a copy of freebie piece has not been well received (as an understatement).
Apologies notwithstanding, there are a lot of people not particularly happy with Mr. Miliband. A Labour Local Chancillor, Martin Cummings, has resigned from the Labour party following the picture’s publication. Surely, Miliband, could not have possibly missed a campaign going back 25 years around the death of 96 people, it is impossible that he could not have heard of the campaign against The Sun in Liverpool (you cannot get a copy of the wretched paper there), heck, how could he have missed the news discussing Liverpudlians putting signs up telling their post-person (known as Postie) not to leave the freebie World Cup issue of The Sun in their mailboxes and the fact that Posties refused to deliver in in several places?
Hell, surely he could have spoken to Andy Burnham, his Shadow Secretary of State for Health before posing with a copy of The Sun. I am wondering if his PR team was sleeping on the job … you simply cannot make this stuff up! The word is contempt!
Methinks that returning their contempt is only fair and demonstrations, political actions, direct action and all forms of campaigns (including holding them accountable at the ballot box) are only fair play! So have at it people …