I’m usually one of these leftists that thoroughly support a good protest. I’m that person we all joke about that used to vote Lib Dem as an ‘unrealistic’ alternative. Didn’t it go something like, ‘we all vote Lib Dem knowing that they won’t get into power’, or was it, ‘the Lib Dems won’t get into power so I vote for them’… I forget now, besides it’s unimportant.

The important bit was that, as a socialist sympathiser (who appreciates Hayek and disagrees with Keynes), I find myself agreeing with more and more unrealistic ideals. To be quite frank, I think I suffer from continuous bouts of anti-ism. Even in coming to terms with this facet of my impersonality, I may well be anti-anti-istic.

Rarely do I feel like agreeing with something, especially from the so-called ‘right’ side of politics, which is why I have great pains from agreeing with those who are calling for an end to to the anti-capitalist protests. Predictably then, let me tell you why these people are right, but importantly for my psyche, they’re right for the wrong reasons.

I won’t go on, so here it is. These idiotic protesters feel that they are protesting towards capitalists who represent capitalism. Well they’re not. They’re just putting tents up and getting on the news. Capitalism is not represented by anyone, and policy changes do not change capitalism either.

Therefore, it has to be said that this protest is not political and it is not affective. The reality is, that like me, these anti capitalists are vain individuals who want to stick it to the man. They want to say no, and that’s pretty much it. If there’s more to it, then where’s the alternative being offered and who is the target audience. If you’ve ever heard of communism you’ll realise that the alternative is worse and the target audience is the proletariat, not the frickin’ bourgeois!

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Communism has such a bad reputation. Probably because of all the killings and dreadful standards of living… Oops.

Well modern communist/marxist thinkers are fully aware that communism failed and would fail again. This quick joke from Slavoj Zizek is something that shows how modern marxists think about reform today. No more does anyone serious hark back to revolution and system-wide change.

Oh, the philosopher inside me rages against the weathered shores of capitalism. Where does it all stop?!

Ultimately capitalism is failing. The evidence is everywhere. Not only do we now witness profitable business going bankrupt or not being able to secure credit in time to purchase goods, but we see the decline in morale of the workforce. Juvenile delinquents, dissident students, out of work parents – where are the answers?

You can feel it, I am sure. You feel that somehow and inexplicably, things used to be better because in a very real way, things are getting worse. Well, let me show you how people are beginning to opt-out of politics, boycott society and throw away (or up on) the system.

Wanton destruction or profound rejection?

Its so painfully obvious when you open your eyes, I mean you can’t see the forest for the trees. Capitalism is experiencing yet another hiccup in a life-cycle comparable to one massive flu. The problem has always been that the cure is worse than the disease. Communism failed, it would fail again too. Anarchism never really took off, and Fascism sort of fizzled out, only to simmer away annoyingly in the background.

If the banks weren’t evidence enough, here’s the rest. Unemployment and a veritable boycotting of society-at-large is creating a melting pot, apparently placed upon these plastic benches at my local park. The people who did this are not just stupid, but also profound. This is because their actions are the result of dissatisfaction. It is the inaudible rumble from a proletariat class that will be heard through the cost of petty repair bills. Where disenchantment rises beyond acceptable levels you will not experience revolution, but riot. (Not dissimilar to Bristol this year)

When you don’t want a product because it doesn’t work or is owned by a company with questionable ethics, you boycott that product. When you notice society is in decline and the government talk more about excuses than results, what should you do? Boycott society? Well for some of us, this has already begun.

If I don’t know which piece of cake I’m going to get, I’m more likely to cut fairly than if I do.

The world, as a cake, is very unevenly cut – look at it.

Global GDP Cake

History suggests that uneven distribution of capital is sought for. In International Relations we talk about the balance of power or rising powers. It’s almost every day that someone quakes because soon China will regain it’s world number one position after a 500 year slumber. So it seems self evident that uneven distribution is sought for by the powerful, and fought against by the weak.

In day-to-day life it’s the same. Most of us are individualistic. We have been trained this way by society because, short of a first-date, your dinner is not bought for you. To survive you must look after yourself (and your children) above others. If you had to cut the cake into four pieces, and you knew you were going to get first pick, you would cut yourself a massive slice, and then leave three small pieces behind. Life doesn’t work like that though. You didn’t choose your slice, nor did anyone else, nor any supernatural force (as if you are a chosen special-case, or doomed soul).

Picture this impossible situation: you have not been born – you don’t know where you will be born, who your parents will be, how much money you’ll have, or what your life chances will be. Indeed your conception of the world is covered by a ‘veil of ignorance‘. Now, all of a sudden, you have the power to decide for everyone how wealth will be distributed. How much do you give to who? Equal amounts to all so that luck doesn’t play a role? – or perhaps gamble? lots to some and far less to the rest; you might be rich, you might be destitute. I can tell you the result of this actual research: most of us choose a fair distribution.

The Lottery of Life

You can apply this conception (a little more realistically) again by swapping wealth for talents / disabilities. You do not know if you will be born into a wheelchair or as Usain Bolt. You can also do this with race, creed, height, hair colour, everything.

What’s the implication? Well basically, next-to-nobody would choose this global or national situation we are ‘in’, yet plenty of people get in the way of development goals globally or look poorly upon taxation domestically. (p.s. I don’t mean we should give to charity, in fact please do not give to charities. This creates a horrible cycle. I condone properly administered redistributive taxation as a form of compensation to the people with small slices).

This conceptual situation combines two ideas from John Rawls – one of the most influential philosophers of the 20th Century. He calls this the ‘veil of ignorance’ and the ‘original position‘. As you can see, the ‘veil of ignorance’ is not knowing where you will be born or what the situation is; and the ‘original position’ shows that your situation from birth is unfairly determinate to the rest of your life – something no-one would choose. Talents and fortunes fall like manna from above, as do you, so there’s no telling how good or bad your life will be.

Today I ought to be redefined. I ought to be a graduate with a first class degree in Politics and International Relations. Perhaps the most surprising yet simultaneously obvious fact about this is that: I have not been redefined. Bare with me because I’m about to get philosophical a little (a lot) boastful and somewhat emotional.

Charles Taylor (my latest favourite philosopher) talks a lot about identification as a basis for belief. In short his message is this: your mind does not exist in the same way as your heart or liver does, however your mind is quite inexorably your own. What does this say? Well, that you define the objects in your life, as opposed to them defining you. I am not changed as a person due to my hard work, perseverance and intelligence. I am not defined by my CD rack, car, preference of blue over pink, or exceptional distaste for belief. I am defined by my own perception of myself.

What does a fat exhaust define?

I therefore happily admit that although I know a lot about Politics (Philosophy, Governance, Surveys, Statistics) and International Relations (History, Life, Human Rights, Decision making, Diplomacy, Propaganda, Fear, Security, Units, Actors, Belligerents, Strategies, Theories [the list keeps going so I’ll stop]) I am far from defined by this knowledge – in fact, I define this knowledge.

However, when I stare into Jesse’s eyes, and when my beautiful, young, vivacious wife steps through the door after a long day at work, I begin to realise that I am being redefined all the time. It has been my relationship to my family that has pushed me to these dramatic heights. I begin disagreeing with Charles Taylor at this point, because he limits himself to the person. Of course my heart and liver are my own and yet are objects that I define. They cannot be compared to my mind, which can redefine my environment at the hint of a revelation. However Taylor hasn’t grasped something that I know today, that I should have known yesterday, and that I’ll celebrate forever:

My family are in my head, they are the reason I remember to breathe, they nudge me as I slide into the horizon, unhindered by vanity and identification. I am me, I am Jesse, I am Kathleen. This isn’t love, this is life. This is what Ayn Rand called ‘shared values’. If you want this, you have to just let go of everything and take what’s left in your hands as softly, but firmly as possible. You don’t buy it, believe it or achieve it, you define it.

Happy Slaves

At first I wanted to entitle this blog: Our Oppressed Planet – but I decided against it because, for me, it is too abstracted from the reality of what we are. Ultimately, as you may have guessed, we are people. We ought to remember our organic selvesmore, as far too often (and I do this myself) we imagine ourselves as machines. Just as a petty example, if a member of my family asks for a favour, I factor in the particular physical impediments towards me achieving this goal or not long before I consider whether I want to do it or not. Did I forget myself? Was I beyond consideration in comparison of the group need? We all do it sometimes, and as such to some degree, we all become slaves for brief periods where we choose to serve a higher purpose – be it the group or whatever.

My favourite picture of Marx

I am perfectly happy to admit that I am also a slave to money – but all the time. I seek it everywhere and always, I honour those who have it, I work for those who give it, and as such I sell myself for it. Prostitutes and (classically considered) slaves do the same thing, the difference is living standards and moral norms. How else do you explain so-called ‘high-class whores’? I would compare 19th century coal mining to slavery too. The fact is, yes we have choices, but we cannot choose our choices, and as such we are constantly faced with the proposition to labour for cash or starve to death.

Death is the last choice we can make. For obvious reasons we cannot make a choice after this – so why do some of us choose it? Surely it does not solve our predicament, rather it makes things worse. Of course I am not referring to suicide through depression, (although I’m sure a larger argument could cover this base too) but martyrdom. Perhaps the most famous martyr is Jesus of Nazareth (AKA the Christian Son of God). He died in the belief that his death would bring about a bigger change. The infamy created by such an avertable personal catastrophe would live on for a time and give his cause a little more credibility. He was right and the strategy worked like a charm.

Shouldn’t we hope that all atheists die alone.

The act of mourning seems entirely preventable and so removing this pain should keep well with the rationals amongst us. Surely we can find a way not to be missed so much?

No one misses him.

If we do not believe in some form of after-life, then to my mind we should want to make as little impact on the world as possible. Of course I do not mean throughout our lives, but towards the end at least we should attempt to make enemies of our loved ones and show them that really they will not miss us all that much. Otherwise the worst outcome of mourning is a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ esque’ death tryst, or perhaps a less extreme version, where those left behind never get over the loss.

The reason I don’t hold this challenge out to ‘believers’ is that they must to some extent believe in martyrdom as a worthy cause. As well as the obvious idolisation of the dead. A very pointless ritualistic enthusiasm for harking back to those whom are apparently better than ourselves. Reminds me of fascism…

Ironically of course it is precisely those of us who die for a cause that can rationalise death easiest (however irrationally). In fact in a very genuine way suicide bombers are worshipped and celebrated.

I guess the moral to the story is that the best atheist following this advice will go on some sort of non community embraced rampage. To make the point: no-one really misses Fritzl or the many people that go mental with high powered rifles in the US.

Thoughts?