Wednesday, May 2, 2018

9 Reasons Why I am Voting Yes in the Referendum

1 - Ireland is a civilised country in all areas except one: our abortion laws. Check out the map here. Ireland’s abortion laws put it in the same category as bastions of human rights like Somalia, Afghanistan, the Congo and Papua New Guinea. Saudi Arabian women have more abortion rights than Irish women. It really is that bad. It is long past time to rectify this wrong and to end our national shame.

2 - The Irish Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists is in favour of repealing the 8th Amendment, as is the Irish Midwife’s Association. The professional view these doctors and midwives is that they cannot do their jobs properly thanks to the 8th amendment. They have to deal every day with the terrible consequences of this badly thought out constitutional amendment. Are we really so sure that we know better than they do what is needed? What argument can we make that we know better? Let’s see.

3 - According to the Irish constitution a fully grown woman has an “equal right to life” with an embryo. The text reads: “The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.” This is a straightforward obscenity. The right to life of a fully grown woman clearly vastly exceeds that of an embryo and to say otherwise, as the Irish constitution currently does, is outrageous. It is not just an insult to Irish women – as an Irish man I am insulted to have something this stupid in my constitution.

4 - The 8th Amendment is an outright lie. It is easy to see that Irish people do not actually believe that mothers and unborn children have an “equal right to life” – we showed this when voted overwhelmingly to give women the explicit right to travel abroad for pregnancy terminations. We might as well have put in our constitution: “We don’t really mind if you have an abortion as long as you go to England – just don’t do it on holy Irish soil”. The national hypocrisy is stunning. The fact that we enshrine in our constitution the right of women to travel to have abortions demonstrates that we do not actually think that an unborn child has an “equal right to life” as the mother. This is why the 8th Amendment is an outright lie.

5 - If you put lies in your constitution it is not just symbolic. It has bad real-world consequences. In the Y case a pregnant rape victim was denied an abortion in Ireland. She was a foreign national so she could not do what many Irish women do in that situation (i.e. go to England). After the woman went on hunger strike an Irish court ordered her to be force fed. Another proud day for Ireland courtesy of the 8th amendment.

In 2010 an Irish woman was denied an abortion despite being diagnosed with fatal foetal syndrome. The cruelty and inhumanity of this simply beggars belief. Imagine a law that COERCES women with fatal foetal abnormalities to continue pregnancy and undergo child birth against their will? After being abandoned by her own country this woman had to go to England of course. At least she was able to do so.

If Savita Halappanavar had been granted an abortion when she requested it she would be alive now, but due to our abortion laws she was denied it and that is why she is dead now.

If you put dumb shit in your constitution then this is the kind of thing that happens.

The 8th has inflicted unnecessary suffering on countless women in Ireland. It is barbaric. It degrades us as a people. It is a cancer in our constitution and it needs to be removed. By voting to remove the amendment we can in a small way apologise to the women who have suffered and take steps to ensure that appalling events like these do not happen again. One thing is for sure: if we disgrace ourselves and vote No then appalling events like these WILL happen again. Knowing this, how can anyone is good conscience vote No?

6 - Now, it may be that after the X case (Remember that? The attorney general slapped a travel injunction on a pregnant fourteen year old rape victim in regard to travelling to England for an abortion. Another disgrace for our nation thanks to this sham provision in our constitution) a judge eventually interpreted the 8th amendment to in this instance privilege the life of the mother over that of the unborn. But this “interpretation” contradicts the plain meaning of the text, which explicitly says that their right to life is “equal” and therefore that one should not be privileged over the other. There is a good reason why the judge, when dealing with the concrete reality of the X case, had to interpret the text to mean something that it does not say: the text of the 8th amendment is ABSURD – it is so obviously absurd that no reasonable person can take what it actually says seriously, so it therefore needs to be ignored (i.e. “interpreted” to mean something that it does not actually say). Well, are we really going to leave this absurdity in our Constitution? Why not just take the stupid thing out, since its symbolism is grotesque and its real-world consequences even worse?

7- Our favoured means of ignoring the cruelty of the 8th amendment involves hopping on a Ryanair flight to London. Time to end this national farce. How ironic and humiliating that we Irish rely on Britain, our old colonial master, to solve for us the problem that we don’t have the courage and maturity to face for ourselves. Now we have the opportunity to show at least a modicum of courage and maturity and begin dealing with the problem ourselves. I really hope that we don’t make a holy show of ourselves and vote No.

8 - Do the No people ever pause to think how nasty and squalid their campaign has been? Think for a moment what it is like for women who have suffered late term miscarriages being forced to look at those No posters day after day, week after week, month after month. Does this ever cross the minds of the No people? Do they even care? They have lost the argument. They have no argument so their campaign relies almost entirely on what is really a form of emotional bullying.

While we’re at it, many foreigners like to use Ireland as a poster-boy for their social agenda and fund these campaigns – are we not a bit tired of Ireland being used as a pawn in somebody else’s culture war? They don’t have to deal with the consequences. We do.

9 - The decrepit Catholic hierarchy is telling you to vote No. These are the same people who tell you that it’s a mortal sin to wear a condom. We all ignore them about contraception so why should we pay any attention to them about this? After the child abuse scandals what authority do they have to lecture the rest of us about morality? They will never face the problems, heartaches and complexities that other people face in regard to this. They will never have to go through pregnancy and birth. They will never struggle with fertility problems. They will never have a miscarriage.  They will never have to be a parent to a child. They will never have to decide whether to have a termination or not. Are these (supposedly) celibate men really the people to be lecturing the rest of us about this? They are entitled to their opinion, of course; and the rest of us are entitled to ignore it.

It’s really very simple: we need to delete this poisonous amendment from our Constitution.

We can do it now.

Or we can wait another few years and do it then.

Do you really want to go through all this again?

We might as well just do it now.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Why we should welcome Corbyn’s Victory

Progressives think long term. Establishments never change anything unless they are compelled to by the general population. If the current generation of young people are exposed now to a critique of right-wing propaganda and capitalist myths,  then in ten or twenty years time the Tories and the corporate media will implement much of the current progressive agenda on our behalf – just as Cameron recently legalised same-sex marriage on our behalf. We do not care which wing of the establishment implements the reforms so long as they are eventually implemented. Improvements in social justice take time and it is a long hard struggle, but progress occurs when the general population understands how they are being manipulated and exploited by the elites.

Since the financial crash the establishment in Europe has been lying to its population about the need for “austerity”. The main social democratic parties in Europe lost their credibility when they bought into that lie. The public senses they are being lied to when they are told that there is “no money” for social services, welfare, wage increases or public investment. When the banks needed countless billions to be bailed out the money miraculously appeared out of nowhere.  People saw that and they remember it. There was simply no question of there being “no money” for the plutocrats when they needed a bail out. The central banks of all the most developed countries have been creating trillions of dollars, yen, sterling and euros out of thin air over the last few years and giving it to banks in the form of “quantitative easing”. The wealth of the richest few percent has increased dramatically – no shortage of money for them. But when it comes to essential social services we are told that there is “no money”. People are not stupid enough to believe this any more. That’s why they are increasingly voting for anti-establishment politicians. If the establishment insists on sticking with its lie that “austerity” is necessary because there is supposedly “no money” then this phenomenon is going to keep getting worse.

For all of these reasons the election of Corbyn is a good thing, regardless of whether or not he ever becomes prime minister. Watch the establishment and corporate media howl about what a disaster this is. Listen to them blame the people for losing their minds. Hear them try to spread fear and loathing. The establishment cannot understand how people could be so detached from reality. The people will be sorry they have done this! But who is really detached from reality here, the establishment or the people?

In fact, wiser members of the establishment understand the problem and know what needs to be done. Here is Philp Stephens, sober commentator for the Financial Times: “Those puzzled by the rise of Jeremy Corbyn should recall what did not happen after the crash of 2008. The global economic crisis might have recast liberal capitalism. Instead, the financial elites got off more or less scot-free and the political establishment instead prescribed indefinite austerity for the masses. It is scarcely surprising that populists of right and left are now rewriting the rules of politics. Blame the bankers ... The brand of unbridled capitalism that hands all the gains of open markets and economic integration to the top 1 per cent, while piling austerity and insecurity on to the rest, is politically unsustainable.

Here is Paul Krugman, chief economics commentator of the world’s most important newspaper and Nobel prize winning economist: “The Corbyn upset isn’t about a sudden left turn on the part of Labour supporters. It’s mainly about the strange, sad moral and intellectual collapse of Labour moderates.

Here is rightwing investment commentator Anatole Kaletsky explaining why the basic theory behind Corbynomics is a good idea: “Corbyn is right to maintain that the Bank could create more money out of thin air and channel it into the economy more effectively and equitably than it has through its misguided policy of what might be called conventional Quantitative Easing (QE) ... A weekly income boost of £20 for every citizen, or £80 for a typical family, would have worked very quickly to stimulate economic activity or inflation—more so than indirect distribution of money through bond markets and wealth effects. That, incidentally, was one of the few points of agreement between Milton Friedman and John Maynard Keynes in their analysis of economic depressions. Both argued persuasively that universal distributions of “free” paper money was a sure-fire weapon against depression, with the sole difference that Friedman proposed dropping money from helicopters, while Keynes was more Puritanical, suggesting money could be buried in disused coal-mines so that people would have to do hard work to dig it up. 

Here is moderate German economist Wolfgang Munchau in the Financial Times advocating that the European Central Bank adopt a version of Corbynomics:  he muses about “a helicopter money drop — the one monetary policy yet untried. If the ECB gave every citizen in the eurozone a cheque for €5,000, it would have expanded its balance sheet by about €1.5tn. If that does not take care of the inflation problem, send another cheque.

And here is Martin Wolf, chief economics commentator of the Financial Times, arguing that more equal wealth distribution increases productivity: “Europeans are aware that the economies of the highly redistributive Scandinavian countries have outperformed the less redistributive countries in the south. Moreover, these high-tax countries are also not suffering fiscal crises. Again, anybody who understands a little about development knows that the far more equal east Asian countries – notably, Japan and South Korea – vastly outperformed the far less equal countries of Latin America after the second world war. The Asians invested far more successfully in education and, in this and other ways, brought the population inside their dynamic modern economies. Less inequality is likely to make economies work better by increasing the ability of the entire population to participate in a productive way”

So ignore the scaremongering drivel being churned out by most of the corporate media and learn to love Corbynomics - it's the future folks!

Monday, May 18, 2015


1. Marriage Equality works fine in the countries and places where it is already legal. It is legal in Canada, the UK, New Zealand, France, Spain, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Brazil, most US states and elsewhere - and legalising it has not led to the collapse of civilisation in any of these places. If it is legalised in Ireland it will work just fine here as well. 

2. The Right to Marry is A Basic Human Right In years to come marriage equality will be as normal and uncontroversial as votes for women or racial equality or the abolition of slavery - a basic human right. Do we only support the human rights campaigns and victories of the past, but then hypocritically vote to deny people human rights in our own time? Or do we have the moral courage and wisdom to really stand up and promote human rights today in our own society? Voting Yes is a small way to apologise to gays for thousands of years of discrimination, bullying and persecution. Think how devastated, disappointed and hurt most of the gay people you know will be if there is a No vote - voting Yes really is the humane and decent thing to do. 

If there is a Yes vote then Ireland will go down in history as the first country in the world to vote Yes for marriage equality in a national referendum - it will be something to be proud of. If we vote No it will be shameful and in the future it will be looked back upon as a humiliating moment in Irish history.

3. A Yes vote will be good for Irish society and for the Irish economy. We should want our country to be a vibrant, open, diverse and welcoming place. Dynamic centres of innovation and creativity like London, San Francisco and Silicon Valley are invariably open and diverse - and therefore they are welcoming to people of all sexual orientations. Ireland needs to aspire to be in this category. A No vote would be a step towards making Ireland a meaner, static more narrow-minded place. It would not be good for either our society or our economy. 

4. A No vote would actually be a disaster for the Catholic Church If there is a No vote I predict that a new generation of young Irish people will turn against the Catholic Church with renewed bitterness and venom. A No vote might look like a short term tactical victory for Catholicism but it would actually be a strategic catastrophe. This may seem counter-intuitive but it is in fact true. It would be far better to find ways to promote the nuclear family and other forms of social traditionalism within a framework that permits same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriages are going to be less than 1% of civil marriages and 0% of Catholic marriages - this is not actually a big deal.

(A peculiar corollary of this: if you hate the Catholic Church more than you love gay members of your family, or more than you love your gay friends, then I think you should vote No this Friday for strategic reasons). 

5. Voting No is a Terrible Way to Try to Defend the Family Many potential No voters are not bigots - they are justifiably concerned about the future of the family. But attempting to promote the traditional nuclear family by denying rights to gays or anyone else is no longer realistic or feasible - it is counterproductive. There are ways to make life easier and better for traditional nuclear families that do not entail denying rights to others - ways that genuine conservatives and genuine liberals can both agree with: tax breaks and child benefits for young parents and families, better and cheaper childcare, secure jobs for parents and families, policies that make it easier for young families to buy houses or to have secure accommodation. These are positive ways to defend the family that do not involve oppressing or marginalising anyone. One of the great strengths of Irish society is our strong family life - there is a pro-family agenda that all Irish people can all get behind. Doing this does not require discriminating against any group of Irish citizens. 

6. Denying Rights to Gays is not a Good way to Sock it to the Government. There is a theory that Ireland's elites are using the issue of same-sex marriage to detract attention from other more important issues such as poverty, wealth inequality and water charges. I actually think there is considerable merit to this theory but I still think this is one vote where we should not vote No just to stick it to the government - we need to keep our nerve and vote on the substantive issue. If you want to stick it to the government then vote No to the ridiculous referendum about the Presidential age, and vote against the government in the next general election. But don't punish homosexuals for the sins of our government. A Yes vote will NOT be a victory for the government - it will be a victory for the decency and good sense of the Irish people. 

7. Daniel O'Donnell is Voting Yes. If it's good enough for Wee Daniel then it's good enough for me. Would Daniel be supporting a Yes vote if this was a bad idea? I don't think so! Trust Daniel - and let's do the right thing this Friday. 

Look, many genuinely nice people are conflicted about his vote. If you really can't bring yourself to vote Yes then consider abstaining - please don't vote No. Best of all would be to do the good thing, the right thing and - yes - the heroic thing, because progress happens when ordinary people act together in small ways to conquer injustice and to make the world a kinder, better, gentler, more loving place. That is true heroism. Vote Yes. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

The UK Election - Some Initial Thoughts

  • If Labour had got in with SNP backing and with less seats than the Tories it would have been a shambolic and weak government, so in some ways it's really just as well that they didn't get in.  
  • If the Tories have a wafer-thin majority and have to deal with the EU, followed by an in-out referendum on Europe, then that is going to be fun, fun, fun for Cameron and co. There is a large element in Germany and France who think: "If you want to go then off with you and don't let the door smash you in the face on the way out - then Frankfurt or Paris can become the new London for financial services. So who cares?" In fact, this will be such a massive headache for Cameron I would not be surprised if he finds some excuse not to go ahead with it - but backtracking on the referendum will just give him a headache of another kind.
  • If Labour can find a way to make David Miliband their leader they should be able to trounce the Tories in the next election. Here is a simple fact of life for Labour : if they want to get elected they need a leader who appeals to a broad spectrum of English voters, including Lib Dem types and "soft-Tories".

  • I can't see how the Lib Dems can ever really recover. They no longer have any purpose except to keep the Tories in power. The argument that they have been "restraining the Tories" is a joke - they have been enabling the Tories.
  •  It will be interesting to see how life in London affects the new cadre of SNP MPs. Scottish Independence could morph into one of these things that always nearly happens but never actually happens, like Quebec separating from Canada. 

  • A good few people in England voted Tory because they did not like the idea of the SNP holding the balance of power with Labour in government. But I wouldn't blame Scotland for the situation - the current wave of Scottish nationalism is largely a reaction to Thatcherism - since then whenever the Tories have had power they have chosen to misuse it in ways that seriously damaged the union - so if anyone is to be blamed it is them.  

  • Obviously this election result is a bad thing for the general population of the UK in the short term since it will enable to Tories to continue their war on the general population, with special focus on the weakest members of society - a war carried out on behalf of ultra-wealthy plutocrats, big finance and a right-wing press owned by foreign billionaires.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Philosophy of Coffee-Tasting - An Event in Dublin

Interested in Coffee and Philosophy? Check out this event.

A talk by Prof. David Berman, TCD, in which he looks at the history, psychology and politics of coffee-tasting, beginning with the conceptual confusions around the key concept of taste, and how the taste of the experts has favoured certain tastes, in both the so-called First Wave and present Third Wave of Coffee,  e.g. the acidic, as against the bitter.  This is illustrated, in a hands-on way, by samples of two different coffees.  Berman then goes on to argue that just as an appreciation of coffee can be enhanced by philosophy (in the large sense), so philosophy itself can be helped by drawing on the critical study of coffee tasting.  This is then followed by discussion, accompanied by a third and rarely sampled coffee.

Time: Sunday, 10 May 2015, 10:30-12:00
Location: Gurman’s Tea and Coffee World
Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre
Fee: 15 euros, which includes 3 cups of coffee
Limited places.  To pre-register, contact:

Monday, February 16, 2015

Some further Thoughts on the Current Condition of Europe

1 - The increasingly popular  “euro-sceptic” parties across Europe are primarily anti-immigration parties. Anti-immigration sentiment is being exacerbated by stagnating living standards and by job insecurity (or unemployment) among the ordinary population – this in turn is being caused by the deflationary austerity policies being pursued by the ECB and by the governments. The main solution is to end austerity by getting the ECB to create more money and by increasing government expenditure - just as they have been doing in the USA and Japan. The European authorities need to do this, otherwise people will vote more and more for anti-establishment parties on the far left and the far right. By far the most important thing to do is address the root cause of the problem: deflationary austerity.

2 - Greece cannot back down in the upcoming negotiations with Europe. If they do, the main political party opposing austerity in Greece would be "Golden Dawn", the Nazis, who are now the third largest political party in Greece. If Syriza backs down there could well be a Nazi government in Greece next time around, or over the coming years. Europeans tend to vote for Fascists when deflationary austerity is imposed on them causing massive unemployment and reduced welfare, as the example of Nazi Germany in the 1930s indicates.

3 - Greece should not leave the euro and there is no mechanism for forcefully ejecting them from the euro. But what if the ECB abrogates its legal obligation to ensure the smooth functioning of the Greek monetary system? And what if the rest of Europe persists with imposing collective punishment on the Greek population? The Greeks need to plan a response now.

4 - One approach would be for the Greek government to issue vouchers that can be used to purchase food, electricity and other necessities off the government. These vouchers could be used as part of welfare payments, pension payments and the wages of government employees. Greece is a sovereign state. If it wants to issue vouchers then that is perfectly legal. The vouchers could be backed by future tax receipts. The extent and scope of the vouchers could gradually be increased. Why, they could even start calling these vouchers “drachmas” if they wanted to! Then they would effectively have a parallel currency over which they have full control, in addition to the euro.

5 - They could also consider full nationalisation of the Greek banking system - then the banks would be democratically accountable to Greek people, via the democratically elected government of the Greek people in Athens. They could consider nationalising other parts of the economy as well. The government could also start defaulting on debt payments.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Fight for Greece! Fight for Europe!

Don't let Greece go - let the goddess of joy, daughter of Elysium, unite us with our sisters and brothers!

If we let Greece go the euro will start to unravel, then the EU. There are epochs in European history when pan-European organisations are vital for the preservation of our various local cultures. Now is one of those epochs. Such transnational European organisations are the norm throughout history - the Roman Empire, the Delian League, the Catholic Church, the Holy Roman Empire, the Hanseatic League, the Confederation of the Rhine, the Habsburg Empire, Napoleonic Europe. Anyone who doesn't see this does not understand Europe. Keep Greece in the euro and protect our common heritage from the anti-European barbarians!

If we lose Greece it will be a terrible mistake. The city-states of Ancient Greece are where the European story started.  Classicism, Medievalism, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and Romanticism were NOT national phenomena - historically these were all European phenomena that synthesised with local cultures and nationalities in a variety of different ways. The era of the exclusively sovereign nation-state was a recent short-lived period that ended in total catastrophe for Europe. Let Europe return to its traditional roots. Fight for Greece and fight for Europe!

If we lose Greece then Europe will fracture -  we will be powerless to resist the on-going invasion of our lands by bourgeois capitalist barbarians and their global corporations. Our precious towns and villages will be completely overrun with bland homogenised plastic logos, junk food chains and other vulgarities - and the glory of Europe will be extinguished forever. Is that what you want for your children?

Do you want to have to queue up at a foreign embassy for a visa every time you holiday in Greece? Get real Europe! If we are this myopic we might as well be done with it and just hand over the Greek Islands to Putin or Turkey or whoever else might want them. Then we can all sing along with Byron:

The isles of Greece! the isles of Greece
Where burning Sappho loved and sung, 
Where grew the arts of war and peace,
Where Delos rose, and Phoebus sprung! 
Eternal summer gilds them yet,
But all, except their sun, is set.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Complexities of Satire - Are you Punching Up or Punching Down?

If you engage in satire you should always ask yourself: am I mocking the powerful or am I mocking the weak? Am I punching up or punching down? If you are laughing at those who are weaker than you then that means you are a contemptible coward; if you are laughing at those more powerful than you then that is more admirable. Mocking your own group is also generally fine. So context is everything. Where you are standing is everything.

With this in mind let's consider some examples:

(1) a physically non-handicapped person mocking a physically handicapped person is punching down and that is contemptible cowardice. Similarly, a mentally normal person mocking a mentally handicapped person is punching down and is also a coward.

(2) rich people mocking poor people is contemptible, but poor people mocking the wealthy and the privileged is not. Mocking unemployed people is wrong, mocking bankers is fine.

(3) mocking powerful politicians, tyrants, dictators and other such authorities is generally fine. Mocking their victims is not. Mocking bigoted journalists who serve the powerful is fine.

(4) Historically the English had power over the Irish, so an English person mocking the Irish was punching down, but Irish people mocking the English was punching up - this no longer really applies any more, but it did in the past.

(5) homosexuals have traditionally been a bullied and marginalised minority, so a heterosexual mocking homosexuals is as a rule punching down, but a homosexual mocking heterosexuals is punching up.

(6) White people have oppressed black people and black people mostly have less power and wealth than white people, so as a rule a white person mocking black people is most definitely punching down. But a black person mocking white people is punching up.

(7) men have mostly had more power than women so men making cruel jokes about women is as a rule punching down, whereas women mocking men is punching up.

(8) Within Ireland travellers are a marginalised minority, so a non-traveller Irish person mocking Irish travellers is most certainly punching down. Travellers poking fun at non-travellers is punching up.

(9) within Ireland the Catholic Church traditionally had excessive power and they abused that power, so mocking the priests and the Catholic Church was punching up - if you were a Catholic Irish person. But what about British people mocking the backward, superstitious, impoverished Catholic Irish? Well, that's where it got a little more complicated didn't it? As a rule, that was punching down even when the substance of the criticism was correct. But this is where things start to get a bit difficult - a British person might just have wanted to help Irish people who were resisting the dominance of the Catholic Church, so they mocked Irish priests and the mockery was well-intentioned. But because they were British it was different than when an Irish person mocked Irish priests. The British person more than likely just ended up strengthening anti-Irish stereotypes in Britain, helping people who wanted to do down the Irish. In that situation, the British person needed to thread carefully.


(10) and now we come to the issue of the day. In Europe Muslims are a marginalised minority, relatively poor and mostly excluded from positions of power. Anti-Muslim bigotry is widespread. Anti-Arab racism is common, So a non-Muslim European mocking Muslims and Islam is generally punching down. A Muslim mocking Islam is fine - it's brave. But a non-Muslim European doing it in the context of the current position of Muslims within Europe - that is a lot more problematic. It's legal, and no one should be forced not to do it, but it's still punching down. Yes, people need to accept such mockery as part of a free society - but it is still punching down.

The complexity of the Muslim problem is this: within many Muslim communities religious leaders are oppressing women, homosexuals and others. So for Muslims to mock their own religious leaders is punching up. But for a Westerner to mock Muslims and Islam is mostly punching down. If a Westerner really feels the need to mock here then the mockery should be focused specifically on powerful and corrupt Muslim authorities - Saudi sheiks, Imams and so on. But in general, for a Westerner there are probably more effective and worthy targets for his mockery, such as the Western leaders who keep on invading and occupying Muslim countries.

Some might say that Islam is a religion, so mocking Muslims is not like mocking someone's sex, race, sexual orientation or nationality. But for nearly all Muslims, Islam as an inherited identity. You may not like that fact that it is an inherited identity, but the reality is that at the moment that is what it is. So mocking someone for being a Muslim is actually not that different from mocking their race or their nationality.

(12) Satire is complex and problematic. For example, not all white male heterosexuals have power - a lot of them are poor with no employment or no decent employment. They have no stable role in society. So mocking them is not really that brave either. In general, satirise powerful living individuals and satirise groups with authority - but beyond that, be careful about mocking broad groups.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Why I support the creation of an Islamic Caliphate in the Middle East

1 - The Greater Middle East should attempt to recreate most of the Islamic Caliphate that existed between the 8th and 12th centuries, the Golden Age of Islam when the Muslim Middle East was the centre of world civilisation and culture.

2 - This new Islamic Caliphate would at a minimum create a contemporary version of the Ottoman Empire, which stretched across most of the Middle East and provided hundreds of years of relative stability in the region - a situation that was preferable to the current fragmentation and chaos.

3 - This new Middle Eastern Union (MEU) would be more effectively able to defend the interests of the region and its inhabitants - it would not be at the mercy of external powers such as Russia, the U.S., Europe and China. After the Ottoman Empire collapsed subsequent to WWI, Europe deliberately fragmented the Middle Eastern region so that the West could control and dominate it. The only effective response for Middle Easterners is to reverse this fragmentation.

4 - The MEU would be similar in organisational structure and scope to the European Union - based on cooperation and not overly dominated by any one state. The EU's capital is in Brussels, not Paris, London, Berlin or Rome. Similarly, the capital of the MEU would not be in Cairo, Riyadh, Teheran or Istanbul, but rather somewhere like Amman in Jordan - this would symbolise the fact that the MEU cannot be dominated by any of the major regional states - neither Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran or Turkey is on its own powerful enough to control the Middle East.

5 - Extremism and fundamentalism are responses to weakness and humiliation - if the Middle East could regain its strength, stability and pride through an MEU, it would be able to develop on its own terms and provide better lives for the people who live there. The result would over time be less extremism and fundamentalism. If the region was more prosperous and stable then there would be less reason for people to emigrate from it to other regions.

6 - You wouldn't know it from the hysterical media coverage, but even over the last decades much of the Middle East has actually been modernising rapidly beneath the surface - life-expectancy has increased, literacy has increased, female literacy has increased, high fertility rates have declined and gleaming hyper-modern cities have sprung up out of nowhere in places like Doha and Dubai. Much of the current extremism and religious fundamentalism is a hysterical, desperate and ultimately futile response to this underlying fact of modernisation. If population increase continues to decline, then the number of angry young men with nothing to do will also decline, and that will also reduce violent extremism.

7 - Given the proliferation of education and communication technologies all over the Middle East, there is every reason to think this process of modernisation will continue, especially if an MEU can be created. But the modernisation will take place on terms decided by the people who live in the region – it will not and cannot be imposed externally.

8 - A Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza would be a member of the MEU. The MEU would recognise the state of Israel in return for Israeli recognition of a Palestinian State. Israel would then have full diplomatic relations with the MEU, and even eventually become an associate member, perhaps even becoming a full member over time.

9 - The West should give up any fantasies it has about controlling and dominating the Middle East. The West does not have the power to do this, as was demonstrated in the fiasco of the recent Iraq War. If the West stopped invading and militarily occupying Muslim countries then tensions between the West and Islam would decrease. The principal reason many Muslims resent the West is that the West keeps invading and occupying their countries.

10 - I am not arguing that the above is necessarily going to happen – just that it should happen and could happen.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Seven Predictions about the Future

It is, of course, not possible to predict the future with much accuracy, but that should not stop people giving it a go for fun. Overall, I am really optimistic about the next hundred years – possibly because I don’t see much point in being pessimistic. So here are my seven predictions for trends that will dominate the coming decades:

(1)     The global population will stop growing and then start falling. This will happen quicker than people expect and it will be a good thing. (a) It will make the world more stable because there will be fewer angry young men with nothing to do. (b) It will reduce pollution and end the threat of global environmental catastrophe. (c) It will facilitate the rewilding of large areas of the globe. (d) It will facilitate more aesthetic architecture and landscaping. Declining population (along with more technological progress) will not actually damage living standards – it will increase them. (Also: women will continue to have more and more control over their own lives and men will continue to whine about it).

(2)     Technology (the information revolution, machines, robots) will mean fewer and fewer stable middle-class private sector jobs. The private sector model of stable employment will collapse. For societal stability a Basic Income will eventually be required, as well as a Right to Work. Essentially, anyone who wants to work will have a right to a public job, in return for which they will receive extra income above the Basic Income. If people want to work for themselves outside the public system then they can also do so, and they will still receive the Basic Income. The Basic Income will be an unconditional right for each and every citizen whether they work or not. These ideas seem outrageous and unworkable now – but once they are implemented they will work fine and they will seem as natural as the air we breathe. Humankind will be liberated from the scourge of wage-slavery, just as it previously liberated itself from chattel-slavery and serfdom.

(3)     The relative power of the West will continue to decline and this will cause chaos but in the end it will be a good thing, allowing non-Western regions to take more control over their own destinies. The EU model of transnational co-operation will be copied by regions such as Latin America, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. This will allow these four regions to defend their interests against other regions and also against the mega-states of China, the USA and India. As the developing world becomes wealthier there will be less emigration and immigration. People will tend to stay where they are.

(4)     There will be another financial crisis, even bigger than the last one. Public rage at this will give rise to a new phenomenon of anarcho-terrorism against the financial system – there will be targeted assassinations of CEOs of investment banks and mutual funds, plus bombings of global financial centres. All this will eventually lead to a final overthrow of the current financial system – the sector will come under democratic-public control and\or ownership.

(5)     As noted above, and contrary to what everyone now expects, emigration and population movements will decline and people will tend to stay where they are born – this will lead to more localism and to strong native communities – people will take more and more pride in their local food, land, buildings, wildlife, environment, communities, religions, families, heritage and traditions. They will increasingly make their own food, clothes and furniture.

(6)     In parallel with this there will be a handful of global cities that will be multiethnic, youthful, dynamic centres of innovation, connected with each other, autonomous, increasingly detached from their localised hinterlands. In these global cities new forms of voluntary institutions will develop to gradually replace the profit-maximising corporation – these new institutions will evolve in unexpected ways from cooperatives, universities, charities, social networks, clubs, online communities, political parties, associations, unions, and so on.

(7)     Despite all the progress, people will continue worrying, and being miserable and they will continue to think that the world is about to end at any moment, and that they live in the worst time in human history, even though for most people it will be the best time in human history to be alive.