January 29, 2010
Eee, it takes me back. I remember a soggy Hyde Park back in 2003; a carnival of hippies, socialists and proto-middle-class students all railing against the mooted invasion of Iraq. I remember chanting, “No blood for oil! Leave Iraqi soil!”, and other variations on a theme, catching my breath only when the Palestinian brigade launched into a chorus of ‘Hitler was right!’. It was all dreadfully earnest and well-meaning, and I think perhaps one of the few times this millenium when people genuinely thought government might listen to them.
Of course, we were wrong, and today Tony Blair will once again reaffirm that he still thinks he did the right thing. On this I can’t really blame him; if I was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, I’d probably develop a blik such that I did the right thing, too.
However, there’s an issue I’d like to raise – partly to bait Stalinists, but also because it’s something I’ve yet to see brought up at any point during the climate change debate. It centres on control of oil reserves.
Iraq’s proven oil reserves stand at 112 billion barrels. That’s 35.5 billion tonnes of potential CO2 emissions, right there. Now, whoever controls those reserves controls where they go and what’s done with them. Obviously, both Saddam and our valiant Western forces were both interested in flogging them off, but consider an alternate possibility: putting them beyond use.
Far more efficient than convincing people to reduce emissions is to remove the possibility of them producing those emissions in the first place. I’m surprised that destroying fossil fuel reserves isn’t on the Green agenda at all; it would completely eliminate the possibility of dangerous climate change while forcing the world to shift to utilising zero-carbon technologies.
I’m not entirely clear how one could destroy oil reserves without burning them; perhaps by dropping a low-yield nuclear device into an oilwell to irradiate its contents and render them unsafe to use. However it’s done, in order to do it one needs to control those reserves, and this brings us back to the subject at hand: to be serious about combatting climate change, the Greens also need to be serious about acquiring control over the causes of CO2 emissions. Given that they’re already willing to trample on individual freedoms to pursue their agenda (see: every right-wing rant about eco-fascists, everywhere), it would appear to be a logical extension of their platform to advocate war on oil-producing nations.
Even though the protest at Hyde Park failed, the influence of the Green movement over British politics, as limited as it is, is significantly more than it ever had over Saddam. Therefore, its interests were better served by British control over Iraq. I can’t therefore see why the Greens opposed the Iraq War, unless they’re willing to concede that their platform is incoherent.
January 20, 2010
The Guardian often makes me angry, but never more so than when it talks about my second love, philosophy. And now one of their CiF twats have posted an article about how Heidegger was so beastly that all his books should be put on the shelf alongside Mein Kampf.
It’s clear that the author has not read Being & Time, otherwise he’d realise the ridiculousness of comparing an extended essay on ontology to Mein Kampf. One would hope that before writing an article demanding the recategorisation of a philosopher one would’ve at least read his work, and understand the relationship it bears to his mentor Husserl, and as part of an evolution of philosophical ideas leading back to Kant.
To give a brief explanation of at least the first part of B&T:
Following Kant, Heidegger argues that the way in which we encounter the world is partly determined by ourselves, so it’s impossible to encounter the world objectively. Rather, we encounter the world through a matrix of our own projects, seeing objects not as simply objects but rather how they stand in relationship to our goals.
It is easy to see how it could be possible to interpret Heidegger, following this, as claiming that we can only see other people as means to ends, but this would be to ignore the context of this part of his work.
He’s talking about hammers.
The whole point of Being & Time is that it’s a work of philosophy that pays regard to relationship an individual has with their own existence, meaning that other people are not actually under discussion. It’s not a political book – indeed, it can’t be a political book, as politics is something you do once you know in what relationship you stand to the world. Claiming that Being & Time is a work that inevitably leads to Nazism is equivalent to claiming that praying inevitably leads to crusades. Certainly one could argue for a relationship, but banning praying because of crusades seems a little silly – although, of course, some people want to do that. I call them Nazis.
January 18, 2010
I don’t have anything against this creed in particular – indeed some of my best friends are libertarians. However, it would be a wonderful thing if they’d finally accept what they have in common with the communists who infested the UK’s intellectual seen for much of the last century, which is that they have no understanding of the way in which the world actually works.
This leads them to – again, like the reds of old – condemn the shortcomings of democracy in no uncertain terms. There’s of course nothing wrong with stating that you’re not a fan of democracy, but when you’re the leader of a party seeking election within that democracy, it would rather sit at odds with your stated goals.
Of course, dealing with all those other people (with their dratted wrong opinions) is a painful thing to do, when the rightness of your cause is so apparent. It’s also much more difficult when your opponents now have a quote that they can put on leaflets saying that you’re opposed to democracy. Which, I can guarantee, they will.
I suspect that libertarianism isn’t compatible with democracy; not in the sense that a democratic state could never implement libertarian policies, but rather that libertarians themselves as a group are incompatible with the sorts of actions one has to take to get elected. Given that one could interpret libertarianism as the entirely understandable drive to not have anyone else interfere in your life, and that getting elected requires you to take into account the interests and opinions of your electorate, this latter requirement rather implies that the libertarian seeking election is going to have to allow other peoples’ opinions to partly determine their choices – which they’re opposed to having happen.
I look forward to the day when libertarians start considering armed insurrection against a democratic state, which will be justified by the state already using violence against them by limiting their chances of influencing it. Then we really will have come full circle.
January 14, 2010
My younger self would have found much to recommend about the proposals put forward for a public vote by Power 2010 following their ‘deliberative poll’; and indeed my marginally wiser current self still sees much to recommend in ideas like fixed-term parliaments. However, one of these options – currently, the second most popular one – has created a disagreement between now-me and past-me. A younger me found being able to vote for ‘None of the above’ a rather liberating idea; it allowed one to express one’s dissatisfaction with the political process in a very real and demonstrable way, without having to spoil one’s ballot. I felt the UK’s political system to be staid, incapable of change and to be clearly ineffective of bringing about the sort of Britain I wanted to see.
Now that I’m older and have actually worked in politics, I begin to see where my younger self was being self-involved to the point of stupidity – and, indeed, why having this option on the ballot paper would be naught but an exercise in passive-aggressive intellectual masturbation.
Past-me had no clear ideas about what change he wanted to see, beyond perhaps a greener and fairer economy. But those ideas themselves are unclear: how exactly do you achieve them? What sort of policy changes do you need to bring in to make the UK ‘greener and fairer’? Who wins? Who loses out? And, moreover, how does voting for ‘None of the above’ tell politicians that these are the changes I want to see?
Even BNP voters, despicable as they are, at least have a clear idea of what change they want. Say this proposal is brought in for the next election, and 25% of the voting electorate opt for ‘None of the above’. What does this achieve beyond giving rise to a repetition of the now-hackneyed promises of the political class to ‘reconnect with the electorate’? It certainly doesn’t tell politicians that, say, you have concerns about Europe (UKIP), you have concerns about civil liberties & effective representation (Lib Dems), or that you have concerns about the environment (Greens). It’s merely an angry undirected shout about a system you have no confidence in, but don’t care enough about to overturn. It’s a sop to an electorate whose lives are comfortable enough that they don’t have the impetus to fight for proper change.
I’d like to say to my younger self (I’m sure we’ve all had this conversation in our heads before) that if I really think our political system is incapable of change and that the country desperately needs radical solutions, then don’t tick a box labelled ‘None of the above’, go out and fucking revolt. If you really believe none of the parties represent you, then I expect to see barricades in the street. Anything else is cowardice.