FBPE – The history of a movement

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After the victory of the Leave-camp in the Brexit referendum in June 2016 and the defeat of Hillary Clinton in the presidential elections in America a few months later, many people feared that far-right parties might take over power in several EU-countries after the elections that were scheduled for 2017. Continue reading “FBPE – The history of a movement”

The threat posed by foreign interference in elections is serious, urgent, and international


By Bartosz Lech

For most, elections mean listening to or watching an election campaign, selecting the candidate on election day and waiting for the results in the evening. When thinking of foreign interference in electoral processes, some imagine spy stories from war films, others picture scenes straight out of The Matrix.

This depends however on your date of birth, or whether you spent your childhood playing with plastic toy soldiers or on Commodore home computers. The truth, as is often the case, lies somewhere in between. Before you put a cross next to a candidate’s name, an entire technical and legal electoral machine has been at work, and electoral manipulations are less spectacular than their Hollywood depictions usually suggest. Which is not to say that such manipulations can be easily prevented.

Recent US Senate investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential election, won by Donald Trump, and recent months of “infodemic” propaganda around Covid-19 should leave no doubt that the matter is serious, urgent, and international — and in need of European involvement.

Ahead of last year’s European Parliament elections, media and civil society organisations warned against outside influence on the outcome. The concerns were credible enough for many EU countries to bolster their cybersecurity measures. French President Emmanuel Macron went so far as to evoke the establishment of a European election security agency while Jean-Claude Juncker, then president of the European Commission, raised the issue in his annual SOTEU (State of the European Union) speech.

It therefore comes as a disappointment that the issue has largely been addressed in the context of fake news or personal data protection. The Commission, otherwise known for producing extensive documents, devoted just a few pages to the topic. Tech giants, on the other hand, admitted that there was a problem. Facebook even opened a (arguably token) ‘situation room’ for the European parliamentary campaign.

But voter disinformation is nothing new – it has been around as long as elections have existed. But reports from electoral integrity monitors leave no doubt that our systems are unprepared for contemporary challenges. They leak like sieves, and lawmaking often fails to keep up with the geopolitics of technology necessary to patch up the holes. According to the US-based IFES organisation, as a consequence of the “Covid infodemic”, state actors like Russia, “will seek to amplify false narratives already circulating among domestic audiences” in democratic processes in the EU.

Yet fake news and its influence on narratives, discourse, and public debate are not the only problem. According to recent figures, over the last decade China and Russia have spent more than 300 million US dollars on interfering in the democratic processes. These countries have transferred funds on over 100 separate occasions across 33 countries to professional spreaders of political disinformation. In the US, for example, special prosecutor Robert Mueller confirmed that the Kremlin had infiltrated the Republican party long before Trump took office through organisations promoting private possession of firearms. According to reports, these financial attacks “have accelerated aggressively from two or three per year before 2014 to 15 to 30 in each year since 2016”. Cryptocurrencies add another layer of obfuscation to these activities.

Undeniably, the nature of contemporary electoral affairs may not fit neatly into the standard division of prerogatives held by the European Commission, the Parliament and the Council. But just because the problem is a complicated one does not mean that we should abandon hope that our local, regional or national elections continue to meet the credibility criterion. In a study to be published shortly, 70 per cent of the election commissions in EU member states say that the integrity of voting is at stake because of misinformation or fake news. Moreover, their own confidence in adequately responding to misinformation is far from being satisfactory.

With these types of threats there is a growing tendency and desire to hyper-control and restrict the victim instead of the source of danger. It’s a convenient answer for the familiar rogues operating in the democratic world. According to The Economist’s Democracy Index, as many as 16 EU member states are considered to be flawed democracies. Although the European Union globally ranks highly against democratic benchmarks, one should not seek consolation in the fact that things are worse elsewhere. Four EU member states have seen a “democratic backslide” since last February, according to the University of Gothenburg’s V-Dem Institute’s investigation of democratic regression during the pandemic. The same goes for Poland, my home country and a major target for some of the Union’s most intense external disinformation. US state elections earlier this year in Georgia and Wisconsin only corroborate this negative global trend.

For radical advocates of maintaining EU members states’ national sovereignty at all costs regardless of threats to democratic processes, this debate is unacceptable from the word go. I have no illusions: this will ultimately play in favour of negligence. But just because the EU has no treaty-enshrined competences in some areas does not mean that it has no competence in them at all.

Since 2000, the European Union has been a key global actor in election observation missions, providing it with a wealth of technical capacity and a methodological toolkit to assess elections for democratic standards. Although observation missions mostly focus on developing countries, the principles underpinning the assessment and the monitoring tools are exactly the same as in more developed countries. The only material difference is the political landscape, illustrating the particular complexity of elections as a political, social and technical undertaking. In the United States the Carter Center, an organisation which had always abstained from getting involved in elections in its own country while observing elections abroad, has changed its position and activities are now in preparation ahead of the US presidential election in November.

But above all, democratic elections must always work in two aspects simultaneously, and a deficiency in one must be compensated in the other.

The first is technical: the procedures, the law, the software, the printing of ballots or civil registry systems and such like. The second is public confidence that even if something fails on the technical front, their vote will nevertheless still be accurately counted. This requires elections free from disinformation, public manipulation, and spin from extremist corners to ensure a level playing field. In the words of the UN Human Rights Committee, the right to free elections and freedom of expression are inalienable.

Finally, electoral disinformation campaigns against EU member states and the Covid-19 pandemic have something in common.

Just like with an illness, you wish to get rid of electoral manipulation while keeping the patient alive. The difference, however, is that in a democratic election the patient must remain conscious and preserve their freedom of expression. It is good that the EU has expertise in such a narrow yet important area as electoral observation. Now it only needs to be channeled inwards. There simply is no more time to reinvent the wheel.

This article was written by Bartosz Lech
Elections & Human Rights Consultant
On Twitter: @barteklech
It was originally published at https://emerging-europe.com/voices/the-threat-posed-by-foreign-interference-in-elections-is-serious-urgent-and-international/


4 Tips to Ensure Your Absentee Ballot Arrives on Time

The top reason absentee ballots are rejected is that they arrive too late.

By Kat Cary

Vote by mail

Can I tell you a secret? It’s quite easy to vote overseas nowadays. I was active duty military for over a decade, and I have voted more times overseas than I have under them. It’s gotten so much easier over the years, and I’d like to share some tips on voting from overseas, and ensuring your absentee ballot arrives on time.

1. Request your ballot now to beat the autumn rush

First things first, register and request your ballot at Vote from Abroad. I recommend using your mobile device, as long as you have a pen and piece of paper handy, you can take a photo of your signature and get it done in one sitting. It takes about the same amount of time as reading this article. Make sure to check submission rules, primary and general election deadlines for your state or territory to identify the best voting option for you.

2. Request your ballot to be delivered to you by email

I recommend requesting ballot delivery by email (if your state allows) — you can even leave two email addresses to ensure you receive your ballot — I have received both an early sample ballot, and my election ballot by email for the last 4 years and I have never had an issue with it. Election officials are required to send out ballots 45 days before the day of the general election. Primaries, special, and run-off elections generally arrive 30 days prior to the election date. Requesting a ballot via email ensures you will receive your blank ballot with the maximum time to return it within the required timeframe.

3. Fill out your ballot within 3 days of receiving it

It’s so important to turn in your completed absentee ballot as soon as possible. My voting state emails sample ballots, so I am ready to fill in my ballot as it arrives, but you can also access a sample ballot via Ballotpedia.

Concerned you haven’t received your blank ballot in time? You can fill out a ‘back-up ballot’, officially called a Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot (FWAB) by following the instructions.

4. Return your ballot electronically if your state allows it

There are currently 29 states that accept voted ballots by email, fax, or online upload. This eliminates a lot of hassle of relying on the postal services, paying for expensive courier fees, or using the services at your local US embassy, but there are a few things to keep in mind for submitting a ballot electronically:

  • If you are using an online upload, please make sure your connection is secure to maintain anonymity.

No matter what method you choose to vote from abroad, you should receive a confirmation email that your ballot has been received and counted. I love receiving that email. I consider it a personalized ‘I Voted’ sticker. Voting from overseas is really rewarding. Staying involved in the democratic process while living overseas has given me greater perspective in these troubled times. I find it very empowering when I make my voice heard by taking part in the democratic process.

Kat Cary is a Florida voter living in Edinburgh, Scotland.

A version of this article was originally published in the London Economic and by Vote From Abroad on Medium.

Bulgaria: EU’s ignored rule of law crisis

By Dr. Radosveta Vassileva

Do you know that there are currently mass protests in Bulgaria against the third government of Prime Minister Boyko Borissov as well as against General Prosecutor Ivan Geshev? Protests erupted spontaneously on 9 July 2020 after the Prosecutor’s Office raided Bulgaria’s Presidency based on obscure charges against the President’s advisors. President Rumen Radev is the only critic of Borissov who has a high position in the State and the Presidency is the last institution which has not been fully captured.

For experts following the decline of Bulgaria’s rule of law, these protests are no surprise. Since first coming to power in 2009, Boyko Borissov embarked on an assault against the rule of law comparable to Viktor Orbàn’s in Hungary. Similarly to him, Borissov is an esteemed member of the European People’s Party (EPP), but there is a catch — unlike Orbàn who overtly engages in anti-EU rhetoric, Borissov praises the EU only to use this as a license to undermine EU values away from the spotlight. He may be an autocrat, but so long as he brings votes for the EPP at the European Parliament, he is safe.


Solidifying autocracy and poverty

Borissov’s biography may hold the key to understanding Bulgaria’s current affairs. He served as the personal bodyguard of Bulgaria’s communist dictator Todor Zhivkov who he calls “one of his two great universities in life”. WikiLeaks links Borissov to drug smuggling and organized crime. Borissov’s rise to power followed the typical autocratic trajectory described in literature — he was elected by “disgruntled citizens” because he promised radical change. Instead, he pursued a policy of solidifying autocracy and deepening poverty.

Under Borissov’s rule, corruption and racketeering by public institutions became the norm — Bulgaria is persistently ranked as the most corrupt EU member by reputable indices such as the Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International and the World Bank Governance Indicators. The country is permanently shaken by corruption scandals — from leaked recordings evidencing how the executive harasses judges and meddles into courts’ functioning, through compromising pictures of Borissov’s sleeping with exorbitant amounts of cash in his nightstand, to the news that Borissov is being investigated for money-laundering in Spain.

Unsurprisingly, Borissov’s economic model promotes poverty — Foreign Direct Investment plummeted because investors fear expropriation, Bulgaria has the lowest median earnings in the EU, etc. There is ample evidence that Borissov’s government even manipulates the macroeconomic data, including GDP statistics, it sends EU institutions to deceive them about the true state of the economy. Many people emigrated  because they do not see their future at home — there are more Bulgarians working abroad than in Bulgaria.

On the legislative end, Borissov’s GERB party committed itself to carrying a crackdown on human rights and liberties. Moreover, it took steps to increase the already excessive powers of the Prosecutor’s Office and to ensure the capture of courts, so that critics and opponents could be harassed and silenced. Bulgaria has a poor track recording before the European Court of Human Rights — it has already lost 628 cases (contrast with the Czech Republic which ratified the European Convention on Human Rights at the same time as Bulgaria and has a similar population: it has lost 190 cases). In fact, Bulgaria has even lost a case on violating the “right to life” because of a violent police operation personally led by Boyko Borissov in his capacity of Secretary of Bulgaria’s Ministry of Interior.


EU’s complicity

It is no secret that accession to the EU is primarily a political process, but in the case of Romania and Bulgaria, the EU Commission explicitly recognized that they did not fulfill the accession criteria. That is why, it subjected both countries to the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism (CVM), which was supposed to bring both countries back on track in the areas of rule of law and the fight against corruption. In the case of Bulgaria, the mechanism failed.

The more Borissov undermined EU values, the more progress the EU Commission recognized. First, many experts concur that the biggest threat to the rule of law in Bulgaria is the excessive, uncontrollable powers of the Prosecutor’s Office which has not been reformed since communist times and which is used by the executive as a weapon against those raising a voice against the status quo. The Council of Europe and the Venice Commission have called for a reform to no avail for a decade, but the EU Commission was never truly troubled dismissing the abuses as a political issue and even praising the Prosecutor’s Office for increasing its own powers. The EU Commission turned a blind eye to the harassment of judges, including the President of the Supreme Court of Cassation, and a dubious reform, which made sure the Supreme Judicial Council, the body appointing and promoting all magistrates and monitoring their ethical values, remained a puppet in the hands of the executive. A series of controversial reforms in the country’s penal codes undermining human rights as well as the creation of extraordinary tribunals in all but name were also checked as progress.

Considering, however, that Bulgaria is the biggest recipient of EU funds when one factors in GDP, the sad conclusion is that EU institutions not only support the solidification of autocracy but also finance it.


A parallel reality

While thousands of people are on the streets, the EPP, in the face of Manfred Weber, has expressed its firm support for Borissov, including his “fight against corruption”, even though for many Bulgarians Borissov is the symbol of corruption and a proponent of rule of law decay. The EU Commission has preferred to keep silent. Borissov himself coined the conspiracy theory that all those protesting were enemies of Bulgaria’s EU future.

The latter could not be further from the truth. Citizens are on the streets because corruption has taken its toll on our country. People of all ages and political beliefs — both right-wingers and left-wingers — demand a state governed by the rule of law. Is this too much to ask for? It is difficult to imagine Bulgaria’s EU future with Borissov in it for the rule of law and democracy are values at the foundation of the EU project by which Borissov does not abide.

In Memoriam Jackie Harrison-Knapp (1952-2020)

On the 17th of May Jackie Harrison-Knapp, who used the twitter handle @SwearalotFbpe, died. Many people in the UK liked and respected her, for she was a brilliant campaigner and a very kind lady. Her death is a tragic loss for our #FBPE-movement and for all remainers in the UK as well.

Her daughter Sally granted permission to publish the thread, that she posted on Twitter on the day of the funeral of her mother, on our blog. I’d like to thank her for this gesture and wish her and other relatives of Jackie strength and courage with this tragic loss.
_______________________________________________

What a day today has been. Saying goodbye to my beloved mum, my best friend, my anchor in this world. I wanted to share a poem that I sent to my mum a week before she passed away. I’m so glad she got to read it, although she knew how much I loved her anyway.


Never Enough

Sometimes I know the words to say to give thanks for all you’ve done, but then they fly up and away as quickly as they come.
How could I possibly thank you enough, the one who makes me whole, the one to whom I owe my life, the forming of my soul?

The one who tucked me in at night, the one who stopped my crying,
the one who was the expert at picking up when I was lying.
The one who saw me off to school and spent sad days alone,
yet magically produced a smile as soon as I came home.

The one who makes such sacrifices to always put me first,
who lets me test my broken wings, in spite of how it hurts.
Who paints the world a rainbow when it’s filled with broken dreams, who explains it all so clearly when nothing is what it seems.

Are there really any words for this? I find this question tough.
Anything I want to say just doesn’t seem enough.
What way is there to thanks you for your heart, your sweat, your tears, For ten thousand things you’ve done over oh so many years.

For changing with me as I changed, accepting all my flaws,
Not loving ’cause you had to, but loving just because.
For never giving up on me when your wits were at its end,
For always being proud of me, for being my best friend.

And so I come to realise, the only way to say,
The only thank you that’s enough is clear in just one way.
Look at me before you see what I’ve become,
Do you see yourself in me, the job that you have done?

All your hopes and all your dreams, the strength that no-one sees,
A transfer over many years, your best was passed to me.
Thank you for the gifts you give, for everything you do,
but thank you, Mum, most of all for making dreams come true.

Night bless Ma, love you.

Bernie Sanders is a Genius: Here’s Why

Kat C.  Published by Kat Cary @kat_cary

 

I knew that this was coming, but the timing seemed off.  About an hour before the campaign livestream, news broke that Senator Bernie Sanders was suspending his bid for the Democrat nomination. As I listened to the broadcast – tuning out from time-to-time as Bernie went through his greatest hits – something grabbed my attention. If you were to guess who he would quote, who would it be?  If you are like me and thought it would be Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., give yourself a half-point because he quoted two individuals. The senator from Vermont reserved his initial quote for Nelson Mandela, and the words hit me like a punch in the gut, “It always seems impossible until it is done.” 

Bernie expanded on the quote, laying down the gauntlet while shooting for the stars in his signature no-nonsense fashion.  Four significant issues lay at the heart of his campaign:  economic justice, social justice, racial justice, and environmental justice for all who live in the US. He stressed how important it is to believe that fairness and equality are our birthrights as human beings. It is when the will of the people is so loud that it can no longer be ignored by those who hold power, change occurs.

And just as I began to do the greatest-hits-tune-out again, he said something that gave me hope. Sanders explained that he is remaining on the ballot for the remainder of the 2020 Democrat primary process, stressing his goal:  not to win the nomination, but to collect delegates.  His assurance that Our Revolution is not over suddenly became more apparent.

Nelson Mandela

Why does this matter?

Sanders clearly stated that former Vice President Joe Biden would be the Democratic nominee for 2020, so why cast your ballot for Bernie in the 26 state and territorial primaries between now and the Democratic National Convention (DNC)?

There are close to 1,500 undecided delegates.  Sanders already has over 900, and here is why that matters:  The number of delegates each candidate has collected decides the future of the party.

If you are like me and support the Unity Reform Commission that was born out of Bernie’s 2016 success, and delivered a blue wave in 2018, the choice is clear.  A vote for Bernie and vote for our future.

As I look deeper into the individual rules each state and territory have for 2020, I will provide more detail on each race, and any significant changes regarding the DNC.  I will continue to advocate voting for Bernie Sanders in the primary – while wholeheartedly supporting Joe Biden in his 2020 Presidential campaign.

Martib Luther King

Bernie ended his broadcast by stating that the movement isn’t over and that our struggle continues. Perhaps the words of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr are more appropriate during this time in history: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Perhaps it can be summed up simply by saying, “Not me, Us.”

Sources:

The Green Papers, 2020. United States General Election 2020. https://www.thegreenpapers.com/ [Accessed 9 April 2020].

DNC, 2017. Report of the Unity Reform Commission. https://democrats.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/URC_Report_FINAL.pdf [Accessed 9 April 2020].

NYT, 2020. Presidential Primary Election Calendar. [Online] Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/us/elections/2020-presidential-election-calendar.html [Accessed 9 April 2020].

Previously published at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/bernie-sanders-genius-heres-why-kat-cary

Coronavirus and human rights: Not just violated by mishandling of information.

                                            by: Tyler Cary
        Global Environmental Politics and Society MSc Student
                                   University of Edinburgh

            As I write this, my partner is in bed with the symptoms of the common cold, but is it coronavirus? This is a question which I would like answered, as we have two children, and there is no doubt that everyone in our home has been exposed to an unknown disease, cold or coronavirus. Coronavirus has become an issue to the point that it is now included in predictive text, for those of us with the resources to afford those devices. The school that our children attend is considering halting classes. Our family is privileged enough to have access to affordable and easily accessed healthcare if an emergency arises, but this is not the case for many. The question is, how did this become a pandemic and how have human rights been violated.

The shortest answer to both questions is that the Chinese government has, and continues to actively suppress the spread of information about coronavirus or COVID-19. This has led to a lack of information along with misinformation about the disease, and in extreme cases, there were racially motivated violent attacks against people of Chinese—or any ethnicity that resembles—descent. US President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping have been caught minimalizing, falsifying, and suppressing information about coronavirus. The suppression of relevant information and spreading of misinformation about coronavirus by these—and other—government officials is where the human rights violations begin.

            The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 3 states “everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person”. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), General Comment 14 states that everyone has the right to “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health,” access to timely and relevant health information, requires national governments to actively control epidemics and prevents governments “from censoring, withholding or intentionally misrepresenting health-related information”. The constitution of the World Health Organization (WHO) also enshrines these rights to life, health, and information. This is a very brief and incomplete list of the international human rights laws and agreements relevant to the spread of coronavirus.

January 30, 2020, the WHO declared a global health emergency for coronavirus, which has now spread to every continent except for Antarctica. The global mortality (death) rate is currently at around 3.4%, which is significantly higher than the originally predicted 2% by health professionals. It is not currently possible to tell how widespread the disease would be if the Chinese government had not made efforts to suppress the spread of information about coronavirus. The lack of information would have been a human rights violation if the disease had not spread beyond Chinese borders, but it has now become a global threat which has claimed more than 3,000 lives and infected more than 90,000 people.

The loss of life is not the only problem impacting the world as global markets are feeling the impact, with initial estimates predicting that the spread of coronavirus would cause the largest stock market decline since the global financial collapse in 2008. The 2008 financial collapse caused a global food crisis, which spurned food riots and violent conflicts in the world’s poorest and most vulnerable nations. Human rights violations and violent conflict go hand-in-hand. The consequences of the mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak has the potential to cuase widespread global problems, which may cause human rights violations that go far beyond the threat to health and life caused by the virus alone.

            The Chinese government has not scaled back its efforts to suppress the spread of information about coronavirus. The have actually created new laws which make it illegal to spread “negative” information about coronavirus, and only information which promotes the doctrine of the government or creates a positive image is legal. By doing this, China has only managed to create further human rights violations as it is not possible for anyone outside of the government to spread any information about coronavirus that can be viewed as “negative”. Instead of protecting its citizens and the lives of the global population, the Chinese government has decided to turn its back on the obligations in the ICESCR that it voluntarily agreed to. It will most likely be decades before the total cost of coronavirus and its mishandling can be calculated, if it ever can be calculated.

            So far, the spread of coronavirus has remained a problem of the wealthiest nations with the most advanced healthcare. African nations are just beginning to report cases of coronavirus. The low number of African cases is confusing some health experts because of the number of African nations that do a lot of business with China, but the number of reported cases and countries affected is growing. Globally, nations are cancelling events, closing schools, and moving the premiere dates of blockbuster movies to allow for the gathering of large groups without fear of transmission.

The need for timely, accurate, and relevant health information whenever there is the possibility that a disease is new should be obvious. Without accurate information spread to the public and health professionals, there appears to be little chance of preventing the spread of any new disease. Global news has covered little else than the spread of coronavirus, and more than 80 restrictions for travel to China and other nations with the highest infection rates are in place. The need for timely information is clear to protect the rights of everyone. Without a fast and immediate response to any new disease, the potential for human rights violations goes far beyond the human cost of the illness alone.

Tyler Cary

(Edit: Some links show updated information since this was written)

 

 

Brexit Futures – Let’s Change the Game

Brexit will unravel of its own contradictions.  I believe this will be sooner rather than later.  Brexit’s implosion will come from either what I call external socio-economic, political, environmental shocks or “internal combustion”, due to the underlying inherent instability of the Tory party and the self-destructive nature of Brexit, which has already claimed two Prime Ministers and cost £66 000 000 000 in waste.

In this paper I outline a range of strategies that the grassroots and the central remain movements may pursue in the interim in order to seriously alter the dynamics of “Brexit addiction”.  This will prepare us for whenever we are needed to change the current stasis of our politics.  The document has two parts.  Firstly, a projection forward on our current state based on probabilities and a little bit of projection on the unknown unknowns.  Secondly, a series of pro-active actions that we must take together in order to be agile and prepared for a rocky ride into an uncertain future informed by the near certainty that Brexit will fail nearly everyone it has seduced.

Short-term Brexit futures

We are already seeing and will undoubtedly see a veritable tsunami of Brexit consequences in the next 11 months. For example:

  • Continuing business exits and relocation decisions. As I write, Axminster Carpets have gone to the wall citing Brexit as a major factor.  BMW have indicated no new investment in the Mini, an hors oeuvre from the automobile industry following the UK’s descent into an impoverished 3rd  We await decisions from pharmaceutical companies regarding Britain’s importance for drug registrations, agriculture and many other sectors that will either be severely disadvantaged by Brexit or those that have the wherewithal to reposition their centre of gravity.  Ryanair have already done this in a pro-active move that others will inevitably follow now that it has been confirmed that full customs checks will be a feature of Brexit Britain.
  • Key promises broken. We have already had the soft hint dropped that the Government will continue its policy on austerity with plans to cut public services by 5%, despite Theresa May’s claim that we were out of austerity.
  • Dominic Cummings is about to take Occam’s Razor to Central Government. This will undoubtedly unsettle career civil servants, who are now asked to be accountable to a single political master rather than acting impartially.  This fundamental change to the psychological contract will have consequences for retention, morale and performance.  This is also a change in the democratic “contract” between the people and Parliament.
  • Dr Andrew Sentance is an eminent economist amongst many who have predicted that a recession remains a possibility in the short term.  It is certainly evident on the high streets in terms of restricted money supply for all but essentials.  Some lifestyle retail outlets on high streets are reporting reductions in turnover of up to 50% since 2019 with a number having gone to the wall.
  • Public services at breaking point. The NHS has already declared itself as having significant problems delivering services and we will see further cuts in local Government services as Johnson’s Government attempts to talk up the building of bridges to Ireland etc. whilst squeezing the public purse to pay for the sunny uplands of Brexit.
  • Today we hear that Old Age Pensioners will in effect have to wipe their own ar..es in care homes as Priti Patel demonises care workers, fruit pickers and people in service jobs as “low skilled” and not welcome in the country.
  • Food shortages, especially fresh fruit and vegetables, due to chaos and delays in border checks. Michael Gove recently confirmed that border checks would be a part of Brexit despite the Government denying it on many previous occasions
  • The same issues will apply to the supply of medicines to our NHS. This will selectively affect vulnerable people on complex cocktails of drugs and those with “orphan” conditions and using unlicensed medicines.  It is not scaremongering to suggest that a number of unnecessary deaths will occur from Brexit.
  • Resurgence of “hardy perennial” Brexit problems e.g. Ireland, Gibraltar, immigration, fish, US food standards, Trump vs EU etc. At the time of writing, it appears that Johnson is willing to throw the fisherman under a trawler in order to strike more important deals on financial services.  All of these problems are what academics call “wicked problems” in so far that they are inherently complex, volatile, connected and ambiguous in nature.  They have so far been put on a “Brexit carousel” in the withdrawal agreement negotiations.  For example, as soon as Ireland shows itself to be inherently difficult, Johnson’s government advisers simply gaslight the situation with another item from the carousel e.g. fish.  The fish and chlorinated chickens are about to come home to roost.  It is really just a question as to when this happens and at what levels of concentration that will influence a change in public opinion about Brexit.

Mid-term Brexit futures

I have taken as the working assumption that Johnson’s Government are incrementally lulling or even numbing the population into surrender via “Brexit apathy” towards the acceptance of no-deal Brexit, using sweeteners such as bridges, HS2 and other distractions.  The latest euphemism in the mix is so so-called “Australian deal”.  This, of course, is “No Deal with Vegemite”.  The public at large have so far been fooled by these catchy slogans, but it remains uncertain as to how much longer this will prevail.  Mitigating factors could be real changes in the everyday life / feelings of optimism that Johnson has peddled alongside the emergence of a credible opposition.  The Government PR machine are also attempting to deflect public attention by replacing Brexit apathy with headline-grabbing projects as HS2, bridges over troubled water and buses.  The public are thrown “bone of contentions” to occupy their minds, while Johnson and Co focus on “rich pieces of meat”, which the public will not notice.

In the mid-term, and assuming the overall direction of travel is towards No Deal on 31.12.20 we may then see the catastrophic failure of the UK plc.  Some vital signs or gamechangers may include:

  • A further drop in the pound of anything between 5 and 15% with impact on prices and a probable self-imposed deep recession comparable or even greater than that of 2008.
  • Gridlock on Britain’s main arteries to the ports with contagion in surrounding villages and impact on working parents whose children will not be able to reach school.
  • The use of toilet roll as currency. The UK is the biggest importer of toilet roll despite what people might think.  No shit, Sherlock.  It turns out that we also export most of our waste, having spoken with Veolia on the matter of landfill and recycling.
  • Chicken drumsticks being traded in alleyways – at the time of writing food retailers have again warned of food shortages under a Brexit deal. No deal will simply exacerbate the problem and, as we have seen with people dialling 999 when Kentucky Fried Chicken ran out, the contagion that this produces itself contributes to further panic.
  • Parents having to ask their children to share Pampers.
  • Pension losses for UK people living in the EU and consequent squeezes on the triple lock for UK pensioners
  • Real food shortages beyond levels considered inconvenient.
  • Significant delays at borders for travellers.
  • Carpet bagging by health insurance companies charging for private health replacements for EHIC as we move out of the EU frying pan, into Trump’s fire.

and so on …

It will be the seemingly trivial things that will act as culture carriers through The Sun / Express / Mail etc.  However much they bleat about the causes of the above being the “evil EU”, experience is reality for the stereotypical Brexiteer (if that exists) and they will likely not seek answers but look for the easiest person / people to blame.  We need to ensure that this is Johnson and the Tories / Brexit party.

At this point, the UK may become brutal or ugly for a while, but there will be nothing like the “hate of the people” to change Government policy on Brexit.  Given the actual numbers of leave voters that have come out to Remain marches and on “Brexit Day” 31.01.20, the notion of widespread civil unrest is vastly exaggerated by the Government as a device to silence Remainers.  We are also lucky in so far as much of the “angry demographic” are of an age where they are unable or unwilling to “take back control” of their country by violent means.

Depending on when this happens, a number of scenarios are feasible.  All would lead to a humiliating defeat of the Government and the bursting of the “Brexit fantasy bubble”.  It will however no longer be as simple as sending an apology e-mail and a request to rejoin.  Rejoining will at the very least require a purging of the “culture carriers” of the former regime and a levelling down of the hubris and bullshit that has characterised the “English Revolution”.

This will be a very bumpy ride, but I predict we will end up as a Better Britain in a Better Europe for a Better World.  Populism’s promises will lay in tatters alongside the key protagonists that pimped them out to a pliable population.

Since the purpose of this paper is to discuss how the Remain movement can remain agile and prepare for events to unfold, I have decided not to outline further scenarios.

I have heard views about whether Remain should do nothing and just wait for the politics to take their destructive course.  There are two existential risks associated with this:

  1. The Remain movement will fragment further and the “learned helplessness” of the nation will lead us to accept Brexit in any form. We will become the passive agents of Brexit.  Many Remainers are above 50 years old and have said that they may no longer care enough to campaign in ten years’ time.  All that we have built will be destroyed.
  2. Doing nothing will be read as assent by the Government. They will use it to build their argument that Britain wants Brexit and it will actually assist them in further negotiations with the EU.

What can the remain movement do about this?

Short-Term – until 31.12.20

Hold them to account

Without operating on an “I told you so” basis, Remainers need to operate a “Brexit Watch” approach, dispassionately pointing out the gap between promises and realities as they emerge, both online and in everyday life.  In Kent, we have borrowed an approach from local leisure centres which often have a “You said, We did” approach to respond to customer feedback.  We have modified the approach to a simple comparison that anyone can understand:

“You (Boris Johnson) promised x.  You did y.”

See the examples below from our “We are still here … We are Everywhere” campaign which runs daily as the broken promises occur.

Screenshot 2020-01-20 at 21.27.21

Screenshot 2020-02-11 at 07.30.41Difficult conversations

We continue to need to change minds about Brexit.  We must do this on a 1 : 1 basis, along the lines that I have personally done through thousands of hours of café culture “Brexorcisms”.  We must also operate via continuing street stalls and events where we reach out to Leave voters, albeit with a softer focus, drawing in leave voters and asking them “how’s it going” using a more Socratic style over a campaigning voice.

“The argument for Brexit has changed.  Once it would be the easiest thing in human history and would create an earthly paradise.  That argument has looked ever more dubious for some time.  Now Brexit must happen despite all the horrors that it brings because … the will of the people … betrayal of democracy …  Brexit is going to be less horrible than World War Two according to Ann Widdecombe. There is a hard core of Leavers who will not admit they are wrong and we should point out their 180 degree changes of argument.” 

Don Adamson, Mid Kent activist

We must also work on a one : many basis with communities.  For example:

  • Organising “coming together” gatherings in “village hall” settings, dealing with emerging Brexit themes on a just in time basis using non-directive, non-partisan expert facilitation. Whilst some Remainers may see the idea of coming together as an inherently weak strategy, we must continue to break outside the bubble.  Like it or not, our “customers” are outside of our cosy environment.  We will not change minds by clicking the “like” button on our Facebook posts.
  • Panel style sessions in the “People’s Question Time” format, with local representatives from both sides of our “divided Britain”, once again expertly facilitated.
  • We must “take back control” of national media. This is outside the scope of this document but again, we must not be pompous about the need to get our voice heard in what some would say are “low culture” media.  Brexit was won by the publishers of such media.

Successful mindset change requires skill, patience and time.  In many cases Remain has operated from a “push” basis, hoping to change someone’s mind in a short street interaction by campaigning and handing out leaflets that proselytise the benefits of something that leave voters don’t actually want.  Effective change at the beliefs level requires more of a “pull” basis, using strategies from across the entire spectrum of intervention styles:

coaching

We therefore need a cadre of change agents in the Remain movement who are skilled in the art of having these “difficult conversations”.  Training in “Defence against the dark Brexit arts” can be arranged on request to develop this capability and capacity within the movement.

Maintain a low level, non-threatening presence.  We have a national project that quite literally keeps the flag flying by gently pointing out that “we are still here”.  It is called “We are Everywhere”.  Sadly it is hosted on Facebook and needs a national engine to really mainstream the project.

The real reason for Brexit is that rich tax dodgers will benefit rather than those who voted for it.  We should keep making that point.  What was going to be Singapore on Thames now looks more like Venice on Thames.   A once great trading metropolis parading former glories for the tourists.

Don Adamson

Addressing Parliamentary Paralysis

Letter writing campaigns are still relevant, especially as Brexit promises evaporate.  In Kent we have activists who have joined Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems and Greens with the specific remit of writing to their MP, calling for improved representation of our interests and seeking action on the shortfalls to the Brexit promises.

Specific campaign sectors

There is a longer list of specific campaign goals that we can pursue in 2020 e.g. EU citizens’ rights.  In doing so, it is vitally important that we do them in the context of the whole UK.  Too many times, the Remain movement has formed silos with the best of intentions, only to be ignored by the rest of the UK.  For example, instead of three or five million, we must recognise that we are 66 million.  See our Requiem for Brexit as an example of an “all for one, one for all” approach.

Mid-Term – 2021

If the Brex-shit hits the fan, Remainers will need to be seen as community of leaders to maintain calm and bring people towards the realisation that it is Brexit and Johnson’s Government that has led to the breakdown of the UK.  This will call upon the development of a cadre of leaders within the movement who are skilled in the art and discipline of leading teams, communication skills, high level influence and persuasion and who possess a degree of personal resilience.

Remain need to make themselves “match fit” for 2021 by dealing with the long tail of Organisation Development issues around Strategy, Structure, Leadership and Collaboration tactics that lie at the heart of our two defeats.  I have detailed this separately below as it is essentially an internal affair rather that outward facing activity.  It is nonetheless overdue for attention and vitally important.

The above will be in addition to some of the items mentioned under short term strategy.

Improving Remain’s fitness and agility

As well as what we can do in terms of outward facing activity, this is the first moment since 2016 that Remain will have had time to take stock, learn and improve its organisation so that it is match fit.  I work in the area of Organisation Development (OD) and Remain has a suite of chronic “organisational illnesses” at many levels of the so-called OD matrix.  Thematically they boil down to four areas:

  • Strategy
  • Structure
  • Leadership
  • Collaboration tactics

OD MatrixThe following analogy illustrates the structural problems within the Remain movement:

Imagine the Remain movement as a garden.  The garden contains many plants (the grassroots sic) and overcrowding is an issue.  The Head Gardener is the centre (The so-called Millbank collective and other national groups).  The Head Gardener is responsible for grouping plants with similar needs and function together, sometimes culling plants that are not needed due to duplication or at least asking them to co-locate psychologically, temporally or geographically, share nutrients (resources).  In some cases, plants that need grouping together (e.g. all street campaigning groups) are in the wrong places in the garden (tulips in the herb garden and so on).  The Head Gardener has the opportunity of applying fertiliser (money, support and so on), gently helping similar plants grow together and training or weeding when required.

However, instead of acting as Head Gardner, the centre has on occasion tried to grow itself into a giant sunflower, to drown out individual plants (grassroots) and so on.  This is not the role of a true leader of a voluntary movement.  As a result of literally “letting a thousand flowers bloom”, there is competition, duplication and wasted resources horizontally between Remain groups and enmity between the grass roots and central groups who don’t always understand each other’s roles.  The result is that Remain spend quite a bit of their time fighting each other rather than fighting the cause.  This is behavioural waste.  Whatever we think of leave voters, their organisation was simple and communicated its aims well.  If it is true that Remainer are more intelligent that makes them harder to gain cohesion, more akin to herding cats.  It requires higher level leadership skills.

The key “symptoms” of the underlying malaises with the movement from the analogy may be summarised:

  • Fragmented grass roots activity due to a plethora of leaders, some self-appointed in the verticals and horizontals. Whilst it would be a mistake to have a single lone leader, consideration should be given to the drawing up of a national organisation chart with leaders appointed on the basis of thematic horizontal strategies e.g. street activity, visual arts, press and media, social media and so on.
  • Grass roots fiefdoms and silos mean that we have “initiative constipation”. At best this means that campaigns requiring higher visibility get swamped.  At worst, competition wipes out worthy local strategies due to political behaviours by some of the less capable leaders.
  • Remain started life on Facebook and continues to confuse this as a collaboration platform when it is a social media platform. E-mail is still the most reliable means of reaching everyone and the central Remain movement would do well to move to a more professional comms medium.
  • In some cases, Remain groups are still at the forming stage of team development (Form, Storm, Norm, Perform) with consequences for getting things done effectively. For example, I suggested a talent audit within grassroots remain group in 2017 but was ignored in favour of “just getting on with it”.  Busy-ness means that important things are outweighed by the urgent things.  We no longer have this excuse for not getting Remain match fit.

The good news is that after 3.5 years, we do know more about who’s who, who can do what, who is good and so on in Remain.  However, to manage the transformation, some work needs to be done on the organisational issues.  I am willing to assist further if needed.

A reformed Remain movement would be characterised by some vital signs of progress:

  • Clear campaign themes emerging from the centre. For example :

“Next month our main focus will be x.  You can contribute by doing y.  Here are some resources to help you.  Coming up, in two months … in 3 etc. “

This would enable grassroots groups to plan whilst still allowing them to customise to local geographic circumstances.

  • A clear map of the movement so that people can identify with relevant leaders. More a constellation of nodes than an organogram, but nonetheless with some identified leaders for the many different themes that we wish to, all pursue, and which will provide clarity for those who wish to follow.
  • A clear central point for the centre to coalesce around. The most obvious point of central co-ordination is The European Movement with its long history beyond the project-based organisations that have sprung up.
  • An opt in e-mail account to integrate the efforts of all Remain activists, whether lone wolves or part of local groups. This would reduce our reliance on the inefficiencies of social media, although that could still be part of our local presence and we do need to maintain our grip on social media, although this is outside the scope of this paper.
  • Much better representation in national print, radio and TV media. We must hold our noses and penetrate the media that leave voters read.  This requires significant skill and could be the subject of a further paper.

Peter Cook MBA, MRSC C.Chem, NLP Master, FCIPD

For Mid Kent For EU

With contributions by Irina Fridman, Clem Rutter and Don Adamson

About the author

Peter Cook is a business and organisation consultant with 12 books to his name, acclaimed by people such as Professor Charles Handy, Tom Peters, having won a prize for his work on Leadership from Sir Richard Branson.  Peter wrote a book called “Let’s Talk About BREX .. it”, using popular psychology to turn the tables on Nigel Farage et al.  He is leader of Rage Against The Brexit Machine, having wrote three albums of anti-Brexit protest songs and got one of them to Number One on the Amazon chart.  “Brexorcist in Chief” for Mid Kent 4 EU, he gained two black eyes for daring to ask difficult questions of angry leave voters and arrested by Essex Police for driving a Mini Cooper with the words “B*llocks to Brexit” and stood a stuffed cat in the 2019 General Election.  For 3.5 years he has acted to dispel the illusions of Brexit.  A skilled marketer and press / media expert, he now seeks to turn back the pyrrhic victory of Johnson, assisted by a weak opposition on all sides.  Whilst he is too old for Brexit to matter personally, he continues to work on the wicked problem of Brexit for future generations.

Screenshot 2020-02-17 at 11.49.50

 

 

Keeping your account safe on Twitter – some reflections

Since the General Election, there has been a steady stream of pro-EU and #FBPE accounts who have had long Twitter restrictions or lost their accounts. It is perhaps a good idea to take a moment to reflect on what might be causing this, and, importantly, what we can do to protect ourselves from having this happen to us. Lost and suspended accounts are lost to the campaign, not just the owner, and getting suspended is not a badge of honour in any way at all.

It is my opinion that much of the reporting that is behind this happened during the General Election, and it may have come from the far left as well as the far right. Twitter may be simply catching up with a backlog, but it is clear it is still happening, and it is probably the far right that are now mostly responsible. This means it is organised and widespread.

So what practical things can we do to make it less likely this will happen to us? In writing this I am not defending or judging the Twitter rules, they are what they are, it is their site and they make the rules.

So first point, Twitter reporting and disciplining works on the “No Smoke Without Fire” principle. The more a tweet or tweeter is reported, the more likely they are to have action taken against them. The only defence against this is to NOT BREAK THE RULES AT ALL.

Most people probably think that they obey the rules pretty much, or that there are far worse things than their offerings that Twitter should be paying attention to, but here are a few things that pro-EU accounts do without thinking about too much, which will get tweets pulled if they are reported.


1. “Play the person not the ball” . First rule of survival, don’t call people names or insult them. This is different from criticising them,  “you are an idiot” as against ” Your suggestion that Boris Johnson is truthful is idiotic because (insert evidence) “. The second is fine, the first breaks the rules. Calling Blue-tick accounts abusive names in replies to them will almost always get you an immediate restriction of some kind. Best to kick a wall instead.

2. Incite pile-ons. Twitter take this pretty seriously. This involves going and finding all your friends and asking them to attack another tweeter.     Publicly summoning a group of people to report an account also fits this, but in cases of abuse that seriously need reporting Twitter may be less harsh. However, it is always better to summon help in     behind the scenes groups. Though it is best not to ask people to pile on to people in most circumstances anyway. Asking people to defend someone counts as this too. If the same five or so accounts commonly hunt as a pack in threads with arguments in them, this does not look good either.

3. Misleading people over elections and voting. Saw a few pro-EU accounts in a jokey way suggesting that Leavers voted for both the Brexit party and the Tories in the election, all I know that did it got 12 hour bans. It was right that they should do so, it is giving someone misinformation about voting and breaks the rules.

As a footnote to this, if you try to use humour or jokes in tweets, always read it back  “without understanding” the joke, and if it looks bad, don’t tweet it. Irony doesn’t work well on Twitter, especially from not-well-known accounts. I have lost count of the times I have read something as a straight tweet, when it was intended to be funny.

4. Swearing a lot. We are all swearing a lot more, but I have noticed that if a tweet with swear word is reported, chances are, if enough report it, it will be pulled. Safest thing to do is to try to avoid using strong swear words in tweets.

5a. Spamming, especially by tagging a lot of random people into a tweet. This is a contentious one, but it is important. Making the substance of a tweet into a list of twitter handles without much substance to the tweet itself, is spam. There are always times when we want to attract the attention of someone, famous or not, and we add their handle to a tweet, but a tweet which consists of “Good morning all” followed by a list of users, is spam. If it is reported, you will be sanctioned. I will even tell you why this is,     it games the algorithms, and Twitter hates that. One way that you can notify people without filling the tweet with names is to attach a picture image to the tweet, and notify 10 people on the picture. That is permitted and also doesn’t fill the character space up with the names.    
    
5b. Spamming with petitions, crowdfunders or notifications of events. Again, something well-meaning and enthusiastic tweeters do, is find all the big threads and add a post to each with a notification of something of this kind. Sadly this is also spam. If you are someone who does this, be careful how often you do it.

 

Of course Twitter rules are largely common sense, and I expect that few people have read right through all of them, what I have picked out above are the things I see most often from pro-EU accounts. Awareness of all of these will help keep your account safe if it is singled out for attack.

Just to stress as a last point, this is not a comparative thing, there is no defence of “but my tweets are not as bad as the nasty fascist ones”. I see streams of people saying this every time an incident occurs. What matters to twitter is how much you are upsetting people or how many you upset, and unless they know otherwise, bots and trolls reporting posts are “people” too. The more the merrier. The more times something is reported, the more likely it is to get looked at closely and possibly removed. Similarly, Twitter do not actively police the site, they are reactive, so they look at tweets that are reported to them, not at everything.

Again, if someone is trying to get your account taken down, they will search back in time. Recently I looked for an old tweet of mine to quote tweet into a thread, and was surprised to see it had been removed. It had been pinned to my account in the past for months and had had hundreds of retweets, all of them over a year previously, but it had gone. So if my warnings here make you want to go back and selectively edit your back-history, do go a long way back.

This does work in reverse too, if you find a nasty account and want to report it, get a big group of people to help, the more that report it, the more likely it is to be removed. Remember, that they will do the same back to us, keep that in mind when you tweet. However, do not find your big group of people to help you by appealing on open twitter for people to report someone or something, because that is, as stated above, piling onto someone!

Another point to remember is that important, well known, famous people, politicians and organisations have social media teams.  They search for mentions of the people or groups they are paid to look after, and if you attack these accounts, your attack will be reported.  

So, go well, go safely and keep yourself around to take part, by taking some elementary precautions. They won’t always save you against a really strong attack, but they will help.

This article was written by @Fish_in_a_hat

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson described Africa as a “blot” and said that it would be better if it was colonised again. He wrote that “The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge anymore”. Now you know what they mean by new deals!

Throughout my commentary of the past three years, I often used the ‘leveraging new markets’ phrase. Immigration was merely the fish bait to secure the plebeian vote. In truth it’s been all about money/power/expansion. Which echo from the past is no good to anyone without a knowledge of history and resultant basic deductive faculties.

The world-scale, aggressive capitalists see the monetization of you, me and poor countries as fair quarry. To that end, the Tories have been systematically breaking down society since Margaret Thatcher, who claimed there was no such thing. What she meant was that there shouldn’t be a collectively responsible society. Every dog for themselves. She was a soft fascist. The ideology has now come of age.

Her ghost has been roaming for decades, waiting for a second wind. The Tories in charge today are her diabolical offspring. The last thing stood in their way was the EU, holding democratic and moral principles aloft.

This is the day of the bastards when old, accepted norms have been hacked, shattered and bought into by just enough of the herd (as the overlords see us) to mount their attack. The current global climate was perfect for our own ruling elite. In fact, they’ve been squarely at the roots of the world’s present unravelling ie Cambridge Analytica and players like those of the Leave campaign and hard, parliamentary brexiteers co-working with the likes of Steve Bannon and funded by Putin and the Mercers in the US.

This IS their 2nd Empire wet dream. To jump, no holds barred on the expansionist big boys’ (world oligarchy) gravy train in order to steal whatever’s loose or weak, i.e. us without our EU rights, i.e. Africa’s geological riches and to hell with the little people and climate change!

This IS nothing less than fascism reborn and yes children, we, the former Great Britain are the bad guys.

Our PM elect (meaning he probably will be) in all his depravity, narcissism, pathological lying, misogyny, contempt for everything deemed beneath his Eton-bred oligarchic mentality, obscene pomposity and greed, provides a perfect thermometer reading of the UK’s fever-pitch descent.

Marianne Velvart

Here you are - illustratie

 

The Worth of Wealth, like Time

…. is relative. You strive, you drive, you amass, you quench a need. Addicted to pleasure and bought glory, you crave more, you feel powerful, you’re flying….till it peaks.
Now you age, you decline, you fret, you sweat to oversee the great vaults of treasure and the outcrops of all your territories. The days contract, the thrills lace through with diminishing returns.

CosmicMoneyMummy-MVYou stage a last-ditch stand to save your crumbling estate, soon to be passed to others… ….like Madonna pitching a final bid at greatness. The performance is lamentable. The hubris is painfully public.

We look on with ill-disguised pity. Embarrassing. Like faded sirens or Michael Jackson trying to curtail Time and change. Like the British Empire in tatters beating a path to the oligarchic trough, rubbing snouts with big balls swine.
Rare birds like Bill Gates, humanitarians and philanthropists aren’t included in the analogy.  But you are Mr Mogg, Trump, Johnson, Murdoch and all the Jeremy Unts.
The artistic license excusing the arguable coarseness of this meditation is mine to own. Aspiring to something raw yet beautiful, I shoulder my wages  as you must carry your greed.
Now you’re old, you’re cold, you’re loaded but outmoded and you can’t take it with you anyway.  It seems you weren’t the source of abundance for if that was so it would still be thus. The straits of entropy are purely mechanical but the starry cosmos is aesthetically, esoterically immeasurable. Reductionism works as schematic but acts as a poor man’s philosophy.
Old Mr Mogg, Mr Hog and all the Jeremy Unts, the time has come for you to be shanty-town poor.  It’s a conservative estimate but hey, near as damn it in your projected future.
You sit slumped amongst your mountain of trophies that’ll be here when you’re gone. Every last silver spoon, each monogrammed cufflink. every ashtray will still be here when you’re dust. All you’ve left is the karma you earned from the people you’ve crushed along the way.
Was it worth it?

This contribution to our blog was written by @MarianneVelvart

 

Linkse indoctrinatie in het onderwijs bestaat alleen tussen de oren van populisten

Behalve dat dit praktijken uit heel donkere tijden zijn, zoals de Chinese Culturele Revolutie en de tijd van senator McCarthy in de VS, die in een democratische rechtsstaat en parlementaire democratie als de onze niet thuishoren en zeker niet vanuit de partij die de grootste is in de eerbiedwaardige Eerste Kamer der Staten-Generaal, is het ook opmerkelijk trouwens dat we al dik 17 jaar om de oren geslagen worden met het aan Voltaire toegeschreven veel gebruikte citaat “Ik ben het niet eens met wat je zegt, maar ik zal het recht om het te zeggen tot de dood toe verdedigen”. Kennelijk gaat op rechts het recht van vrije meningsuiting niet verder dan “Ik vind dat jij moet kunnen zeggen wat ik vind”. Ik heb nog nooit grotere flauwekul in mijn leven gehoord als ‘linkse indoctrinatie in het onderwijs’. Alsof kinderen en jongeren zich ook maar iets aantrekken van wat ouders of docenten zeggen.

Ik heb tot mijn 23e in het onderwijs rondgelopen en ben daarna 9 jaar personeelsfunctionaris in het onderwijs geweest. De meest gangbare partijen waren CDA en VVD of klein-rechts, ChristenUnie en SGP; die vallen vast onder “uiterst linkse” partijen. In sollicitatiegesprekken mag je niet vragen naar politieke voorkeur en dat gebeurde ook nooit en politieke voorkeur is géén, ik herhaal, géén reden voor ontslag. Op mijn Hogeschool ging elk College ongeveer over het heil van de vrije markt en privatisering en hoe P&O de bedrijfsvoering ‘rendabeler’ kon maken. Tot de standaarduitrusting van mijn HBO personeel en arbeid hoorde de Samsonite. Als er al indoctrinatie in het onderwijs plaatsvindt, dan is die eerder rechts dan links.

Niet alleen is een klopjacht op docenten on-Nederlands, maar ook intimiderend en ronduit bedreigend vanuit boven ons gestelde politici die zich niet eens met inhoud van onderwijs en opstelling van de school als werkgever hebben te bemoeien. Dat is aan schoolbestuur, zo is dat al sinds 1917 in Nederland geregeld. Als Forum voor Democratie dit doorzet gaat ze vanzelf -en terecht- in aanvaring komen met onze stijl Orthodox-Gereformeerde broeders die Forum stemmen, en laten die nu goed zijn voor ongeveer 1 van de 13 senaatszetels. Orthodox Gereformeerden vinden namelijk -volkomen terecht- dat de overheid met zijn tengels van hún onderwijs hoort af te blijven.

Tot slot, ik ben van mening dat de heren en dames die lid zijn van Forum, als ze dat nog niet gedaan hebben, hun partijleider maar eens moeten aanspreken op zijn speech op de IJzerwake, zijn gesprekken met de heer LePen en Jared Taylor en de heer Hiddema op zijn naar mijn bescheiden mening op zijn minst empatieloze uitspraken over de NSB en de weduwe Rost van Tonningen in diverse publicaties. Dat is geen “demonisering”, maar een kwestie van politieke hygiëne.

Als Nederlands staatsburger met directe familieleden die omgekomen zijn in WO II heb ik grote problemen met die uitspraken. De NSB was geen “boerenbelangenbehartigersorganisatie”. Mijn grootvader, een kleine Achterhoekse boer, die 5 jaar onderduikers op de boerderij had en wiens buurman ‘fout’ was, draait zich om in zijn graf. Daarover zwijgen zou lekker gemakkelijk zijn, maar het zou als verraad voelen naar mijn moeder die haar broer door verraad van twee NSB-ers en haar broertje en haar zus als gevolg van ziekte, verzwakt door de oorlog, verloor. Mijn moeder werd slechts 68 en het verlies van haar broer, broertje en zus op jonge leeftijd en een oorlogstrauma speelden daar denk ik een niet onbelangrijke rol in.

Mijn grootmoeder overleed op 59 jarige leeftijd en het verlies van 3 van haar 6 kinderen speelde daar een grote rol in. Ik word fysiek onpasselijk van politici die leuteren over ‘vroeger toen we nog exotische oorden veroverden’. Ik denk aan mijn oom die, na een oorlog die hem een zus en twee broers kostte, via Kamp Amersfoort naar Indonesië werd gestuurd. Het Kamp waar zijn broer 3 jaar ervoor ongetwijfeld kennis maakte met ‘De Rozentuin’ en een paar weken zat voor hij gedeporteerd werd naar Duitsland en daar om het leven kwam. Die oom offerde voor dit land 3 jaar van zijn leven op als dienstplichtig militair in toenmalig Nederlands-Indië. Die oom kwam als door een Godswonder als enige overlevende van zijn peleton uit het oerwoud. Die oom kreeg te horen onderweg naar Bali, dat hij ‘de laatste kogel voor zichzelf moest bewaren’. Hij moest als 19 jarige maten van hem, die even oud waren, ‘kisten’ en begraven. Hij vond ze vaak in het oerwoud met de afgesneden geslachtsdelen in de mond gepropt.

En dan hoor ik jochies van het niveau Sid Lukassen leuteren over ‘eindstrijd’. Dit soort jochies heeft geen flauw benul wat oorlog inhoudt. Ik een klein beetje dankzij een moeder en vader met de nodige oorlogsbalast. Mijn vader van 92 wordt nog wel eens gillend wakker omdat hij de bommen op Bocholt of Emmerich weer ziet vallen of de geallieerde bommenwerpers weer over hoort vliegen naar het Ruhrgebied, terwijl luchtalarm uit vier richtingen staat te janken en het luchtafweergeschut rond de boerderij staat te bulderen. Of hij droomt van die keer dat hij beschoten werd door een Engels jachtvliegtuig omdat hij, zo dicht bij de grens, voor een Duitser werd aangezien. Of hij droomt van de hevige gevechten om zijn geboortedorp in maart 1945. Dit soort politici moeten ook mij vertegenwoordigen.

Ik kijk naar de brief van de oorlogsgravenstichting en ik probeer me al dagen voor te stellen hoe iemand die op de IJzerwake speechte, bij de Dam een krans legt, of hoe iemand van een partij die een meldpunt tegen “linkse indoctrinatie” instelt een herdenkingsspeech bij de Dokwerker moet houden. Het mag bekend zijn dat daar linkse, merendeels communistische stakers herdacht worden.

Wilco Veldhorst

 

 

You’re so vain

                              This text was written by Pilar Gomez

I Bet You Think This Blog is About You

A chaotic week closes and where are we? A group of MPs have finally released themselves from the straight-jacket of hardening ideology in their respective parties, which has paralysed both the party of government and HM opposition. The parties are so busy circling each other, leaders snarling and growling with their packs baying for a showdown that the business of running the country has been essentially put to one side whilst the Cold War of damaging brexit versus damaging brexit continues at their behest.

The faces of the TIG MPs display a sense of liberation and joy that they can finally consider answers to questions put to them without having to reference the big book of Red or Blue Designated Answers which has weighed on their shoulders for 2 years.

It has been good to behold this sudden discovery of independent thought and I truly hope this is the very early start of something solid and real, a change in the way politicians think about and formulate policy in the interests of the country 1st, 2nd and 3rd without being bound to this juvenile idea of “if you aren’t with us you are against us”.

But we have to be practical. All of that is for later as currently, we are still obstructed from this desirable end by the lack of process to make that happen quickly. In the meantime, we have a more pressing matter and here is a message to Conservative and Labour MPs and their fervent enablers assuming they are rational thinkers. You are all so vain I bet you think this blog is about you and your parties. Hear this. It really isn’t.

It’s not about party, it’s not about binary choices, it’s not about them and you. It’s about Us, our lives our families, our businesses, our jobs, our rights. You failed to listen. In October we came to London from across the UK and the EU27 to tell you why we opposed Brexit and how we want to have a final say. We will come to London again, even more of us this time and we will tell you again.

We are not really that concerned with your parties or your careers in the main, that’s on you to win our respect and trust so we lend you our vote. But here is a huge hint to you all. If you ignore the prospect of the damage that any kind of Brexit presents to the UK (don’t take my word for it, most experts and business and even the government’s own assessment are all agreed on this), it’s not going to go well for your seats. Still, it’s not about you.

It’s about our EU27 friends and family who have been treated like dirt for the last three years. Some parliamentarians have disrespected them in the most obnoxious way and have carried on ignoring the fact that their status is diminished by Brexit overnight.

It is about our friends and family who live in the EU27 who have been facing insecurity and anxiety as their status too is reduced, most having been completely disenfranchised.

It’s about our children and grandchildren. You are enabling those who have themselves benefited personally from freedom of movement and the other benefits of EU membership and citizenship to pull up the ladder behind them and deny those opportunities to future generations.

It’s about our small business community who were able to access the single market and expand and create growth but now will be faced with new barriers to trade which will probably make them uncompetitive.

It’s about the communities who will suffer as large employers move all or some of their operations to the EU27 in order to protect themselves, their shareholders and investors and their bottom line as you erect barriers between them and the biggest trading bloc in the world. The knock on effect of this will be felt in the wider business community which serves the bigger companies. It won’t happen overnight, it will be a slow drawn out decline. The ERG dreams of turning us into a tax haven on the edge of Europe may benefit a few but it won’t add much to our regions except for the further widening of inequality which of course has been a massive factor in getting us to where we are. Incidentally our standards and protections will be the first casualties of the scrabble for trade deals. Your constituents won’t thank you for that either.

It’s about all of us who feel Brexit as a personal assault on the fabric of our identities as we are stripped of an EU citizenship that many of us had no idea just how much we valued but took for granted. We won’t make that mistake again.

It’s about our shame as we hear the experiences of migrants in our communities subjected to a feeling of alienation within their neighbourhoods or workplaces or even the hostility of strangers towards them for daring to speak a foreign language on the train. There are many considering their position, others have already left to another place where they feel more welcome.

It’s about our friends and families on the island of Ireland who are very worried and furious at the lunacy of Westminster and its effect on their business but more importantly the Good Friday Agreement. The uncertainty is toxic, the peace is still young and make no mistake there are elements lurking waiting to take advantage of a hard border in order to further their own agendas and nefarious activities.

So when we are giving you a hard time, when we demand to know the answers to our extremely fair questions like why are you pressing on with Brexit when it is not in the interests of the country, when we tell you our concerns because we are going to lose jobs or split families, its not about you or your party. It’s about us, the people you swear to represent in the best way you can. It’s time for you to find your courage just like the TIG and do the right thing for us and the country and end this brexit shambles. If you cannot revoke article 50 then please find a way to give us the baton and we will decide for you in a final say. We have the courage even if you don’t because it’s about us.

@redalphababe

march 20th October 2019

 

One Night in February

DSC07131

This poem was written by Marianne Velvart

 

I had a dream that Christmas was here again

Squeezed itself back

Through a sash window in the shortest month

Caught me with guard down

With the family round, hungry and expectant

And me in tacitly panicked, ad-lib mode

Acting unflustered, dutiful.

I evoke the dream in present tense

Not that Time exists beyond a linear mental construct

But waste none now because the family’s here

I cannot afford my penchant for analysis

Whilst there are mouths to be fed.

In the absence of Goose, a chicken will do for the table

And even as I spin and weave motherly magic

Time gains upon me in the race

Stuns me a sudden severance between feet and ground.

How did it happen? How did I get here, am I here at all?

I trace the origins of the reverie

To the recent past when

Time warped, turned back in on itself

Followed curved space, blurred then deceptively resolved

Returned me to the spot all too soon

And lucidly dreaming, I likened it to life

Asking ‘will it be just like this at the end?’

A series of blinks and the ride, over

The last scene arriving way too fast

Staged in a room without tinsel dressing

My hands curled around strings of floating recalls

Weaken their grip and glide

Away through the skylight

Of this life

This plane

This shortest interlude

In the vastest scape

Where in the end love’s all that matters

Caught only in dreams

Till there.

 

 

 

 

Talking to strangers

                           This article was written by Luni Vermeulen

I’ve always had a fervent affinity for other cultures. The vibrant variety of people, food, colours, themes, languages and noises incites an enigmatic curiosity in me. The more foreign and unknown, the more intrigued I become. This is one of the reasons I love travelling. It is also one of the reasons I love talking to strangers. Anytime. Anywhere. Sometimes these encounters with strangers are lengthy, at other times it’s a brief chat. I find these impromptu interactions mysteriously invigorating.

Every so often these chance meetings take place in the queue of the ATM or with the cashier ringing up my groceries. At other times, it’s an unexpected encounter with a Rastafarian on the beach, a sociable petrol attendant or a heartbroken waiter. Occasionally a mere polite smile shared with a stranger lead to a thought-provoking experience; a scintillating brush of wisdom.

A few years ago, on a visit to Bahrain, I noticed, what ignorant Westerners stereotypically would describe as a quintessential middle-aged, Middle Eastern couple in a hotel’s coffee shop. In a hotel mostly frequented by Western visitors, the couple, dressed in black from head to toe, caught my attention. The man was dressed in a suit and the woman in a black hijab, long black dress and long black overcoat. Since I have an incurable passion for the Middle East, its history, its culture, its food and in particular, its friendly people, I decided to get up from my table and walk over to them. I greeted them, introduced myself and asked if I could take a photo with them. (Here I have to mention that I am not at all part of the selfie generation, but at the moment in time, I simply spontaneously posed my request to them). The man initially eyed me suspiciously, probably wondering what my intentions were and continued to voice this scepticism. Yet, after a few niceties were exchanged, he warmed up and enthusiastically joined the conversation. The woman was from the get go incredibly gregarious and approachable and insisted that I join them at their table.

Another stranger took two photos of the three of us, one with my camera and one with theirs. It turned out that the couple was from Saudi Arabia and visited Manama (the capital of Bahrain), for their daughter’s graduation. It was apparent how proud they were of their daughter. We discussed the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, political relations, family, and the idiosyncrasies of our respective countries’ people.

What stood me by was how similar we are despite our differences. Here was a couple from another part of the world, from a different culture, another religion, and dressing differently from me. Yet, I could relate to them. I could see the same pride and delight when they talked about their daughter that I see in my own parents’ eyes. I felt their kindness and concern about myself travelling alone in the Middle East, much like my own family and friends. I could see a normal middle-aged couple, living a normal middle class life. I experienced the hospitality that I am used to in my own country.

I walked away from this conversation with a heart-warming feeling, realising that my encounter with them was the highlight of my day. Those beautiful moments of shared humanity with them was a soul-stirring gift. We were not created to be small islands in this world. We were built for amity and companionship. If we never speak to strangers, we miss out on the unexpected pleasures and enrichments they may offer; we miss out on beautiful interruptions.

luni - groot

 

Through the void

                     This story was written by Marianne Velvart

!cid_f88d53cba2784e398a47ffbcfcf31181@vostro

STAGE 2

ATTENTION LADIES AND GENTLEMEN AND CONGRATULATIONS! You have begun de-construction prior to boarding this flight and have successfully passed Stage 1! You have stepped into pools smooth as glass and have emerged like Lalique, vulnerable, transparent, valuable and clean.

Those pools – mirror sheets now stained with your preconceptions – have been obliterated. You are chaste – an open doorway and free to reassess all things, though still susceptible to new infections. Alas the human condition (at the current developmental level) is terminal.

As yet you have no characteristics except those of early infancy but you do possess the full complement of predispositions that mark the chemical and spiritual (some assert with vigour) basis of an individual.

Thus endowed, you’re both judge and jury, self-contained and at liberty to form autonomous notions. The only precluded freedom is that of not choosing a stand. While fence sitters seldom take their position to be a posture, it is still a stance.

May I hereby wish you an exhilarating passage and as soon as you’ve signed the disclaimer, you’ll be set to advance your minds proportional to capacity.

!!POINTS OF ESSENTIAL INFORMATION!!

Our guests are invited to note the ‘tongue in cheek’ overtones of their inflight experience!

A sense of humour is not compulsory but advisable.

As a further cautionary note, in the presence of absolute ideas and ideals, all passengers are best assured of their inferiority. For if such absolutes exist then they are abstract to the cognitive abstractions of man as perceived to be a learned ape.

We are delighted to offer a running plot throughout this potted quest. The level on which passengers are ready to receive, are at their own discression, as with life.

The entertainment on board is of the ‘more challenging kind’ then has been offered by the popular trash culture of the 20th and early 21st centuries. The forthcoming drama, like life, shall neither be easy nor comfortable. Ascension never is. Man’s moral hypocrisy is arguably the most promising springboard of all. We aim to please.

Please relax and enjoy the ride!


STAGE 3

WARNING!!!!!

From this point of the voyage, all uncritically swallowed dogma of former conditioning must be treated as contraband.

Sneakily summoning the old, comfy go-to of formerly received constructs is a common ploy after conversion. Those who have drifted backwards in this way must now turn out their pockets and endure a wide open mind.

From this juncture only blockheads are excused from the fast track to free thought. Any late applicants for this exemption must now evacuate by parachute while the others get accustomed to fresh altitudes.

 

STAGE 4

Good evening voyagers.

I trust that we have all relaxed sufficiently to be amenable to the notion of humans’ intertwined fates with each other and the earth.

If you slant your glance across the length of the shuttle and down to its transparent tip, you will see the home globe from the point of the equator, 10 Longitude and 40 Latitude otherwise known as the 10/40 window on earth.

80% of the world’s poorest live here, from Africa to Japan threading aridly through to India.

Please do not be alarmed as the automatic straps clamp tightly on to hold you in place.

INTRODUCING THE REVOLUTIONARY VICARIOUS SIMULATOR UNIT!!!!

For the duration of a mercifully trimmed nanosecond, you will be exposed to the combined suffering of the poor of your earth condensed into and experienced in the self-maimed body of a Calcuttan beggar child.

…………………..can you hear the silence unspooling?

Our craft is receding from the home sphere. All resurgent circular reasoning, clutching at justifications, religious or academic dogma swallowed, regurgitated, masticated, modified to fit materialist or consumerist rhetoric shall be now diffused. Herewith, your cooperation is both helpful and imperative.

As a final exacting measure, we must ask passengers to examine themselves for any vestiges of the former fantasy culture and its corresponding conceits.

As attested by humanity’s historical treatment of one another we are now entering the yawning chasm which is our moral credibility as a species.

PLEASE HOLD TIGHT IN CASE OF TURBULENCE!!!

We are about to score the surface of a new dimension –

ENTERING ACCELERATED ENTROPY ZONE!!!!

At this quadrant of the cosmos, your old currency (blanket metaphor for all your perceived virtue) means diddly squat – PLEASE TRY NOT TO PANIC!


STAGE 5

Good evening and greetings, my fellow pilgrims of the deepest depths. Try to ignore the temporary pitch blackness aimed to stimulate a sense of synchronicity. For every five-sensory distraction exposes us to gravitational suction. Thus the information explosion of the digital age simultaneously endows and removes us from ourselves in the existential raw or pure form of being.

You must appreciate that we had to take you out of a welter everyday concerns and habitual viewpoints. The stars still twinkle at large but the shuttle picks its path through the ‘off’ blinks on a tough love trajectory in the dark which is conducive to inner sight.

Growth spurts in humans have a tendency to occur at times of challenging extremities.

Breathe.

What do you find when you’re alone with yourself? Scary, isn’t it?

The acknowledgement thereof is enough for now.

You have now left behind the sentimental notion that your race is a predisposed paragon, subject to lapses only when outside forces manipulate. So much for X earth years of secular deterministic psychology and the spurious nature/nurture argument that extracts the role of choice and soul.

At the very least you have accepted that logically, the moral neutrality of the universe’ is itself subjection and that on this, you indeed could be wrong.

You have comprehended that the idea of ‘abstract therefore non-existent’ is also theoretical therefore equally non-existent or refutable.

………Can you hear the silence unspooling and feel the universe expanding in your mind?


STAGE 6

Ladies and gents, you’ll be relieved to observe that the lights have come on.

We shall hereby commence the concluding phase.

Please put on your headsets located above your crowns and prepare (as if near death) for the ultimate lateral twist.

The final jolt may make prior assumptions about the nature of life into a crude guesswork.

Get ready for the natural conclusion to all staunchly materialistic evolutionary theory.

If the cosmos is dead so are we and all we do and think.

Conversely, we are unimaginably complex, transitional forms. Exceeding our compositional nucleotides, just as Nano-scale symmetry is hidden in solid matter so the devil is in the detail so to speak.

Tribes tend to think they’re superior to all the rest. Every damn fool thinks he has a handle on truth but a culture is dignified or defiled through its treatment of each other and the earth.

A moral harmonic rings the universe of which we’re observant, interacting, interwoven threads, nodes and notes.

You have arrived back home and we apologise for the lack of definitive solutions. Collectively, we have a long way to go.

Thank you for the privilege of your company

Your captain and fellow bankrupt (yet fizzing with potential and an uncanny verve)

May the ‘life force’ be with you,

Signing out, M.V.

 

 

 

 

Des hommes de Paix est né un projet de Paix qui nous a donné une des plus belles unions humaines: EUROPA

   foto bij artikel van loux

Article écrit par @Loux111

En 1993, j’imaginais l’Europe. Aujourd’hui j’ai 47 ans, je vois cette EUROPA dans toute sa splendeur. Je la vois dans sa puissance dans sa position dans le monde face aux autres grandes puissances. Je la vois à travers des actions concrètes pour protéger l’environnement, la sécurité alimentaire, l’emploi, nos intérêts politiques et économiques, UNE SEULE VOIX face à un monde en plein changement et en pleine polarisation. Mais l’Europe n’est pas que ça, l’Europe c’est aussi:

1- La paix, non pas seulement la paix comme absence de guerre, mais bien comme état positif résultant d’une volonté de dialogue et de destins partagés.

2- La libre circulation des hommes et des marchandises. Le droit d’étudier et de travailler où on le souhaite; cette liberté de choix était inimaginable il y a une génération à peine.

De cette libre-circulation est née:

3- ERASMUS, le programme d’échange qui propulse nos enfants dans une mécanique culturelle unique d’échange entre les universités, les grandes écoles européennes et des établissements d’enseignement à travers le monde entier, un des programmes les plus réussi de cette Europe et qui nous est envié par le monde entier.

4- L’Europe est le plus grand succès de paix et de démocratie au monde après les deux guerres mondiales.

Je m’arrête ici, mais les avantages sont tellement nombreux et évidents qu’ils sont considérés comme des acquis.

Le deal européen, c’est une meilleure école, plus de travail, meilleur savoir, le dialogue, le pragmatisme et ce sont toutes des choses que les nationalistes évitent, donc, il est plus que jamais temps de rester vigilants de faire entendre sa VOIX.

Enfin, voici quelques liens:

1. Agence européenne de l’environnementhttps://www.eea.europa.eu/fr/themes

2. Agence européenne pour l’emploi: http://ec.europa.eu/eures

3- https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus- plus/resources/programme-guide_en

The Bungalow. A Brexit Allegory.

This story was written by Pilar Gomez          

I will tell you a little story. I was offered an excellent deal once on a cute little bungalow with high ceilings and a polished carved wooden door. It sat on the edge of a pretty village. The sizeable plot it sat in was populated with fruit trees and grapevines and the rose bushes by the door released their scent as we did the viewing. It was a very appealing property, with permission to extend the existing dwelling further.

We really liked the look of it as the seller weaved ideas for us and wooed us with his magic words. It had so many possibilities. We could give up our jobs and build a little business in the grounds. Perhaps a guesthouse. The inside had evidence of damp in the walls after being empty for a few years, but with a little work it looked manageable.

The price was fair for the promises the bungalow represented, so we had a long talk as a family and decided to buy it and we felt happy as we looked with pleasure at the windows glinting in the sunshine of a brighter future.

We did our due diligence, we hired a lawyer and ordered a survey and we went on with our lives looking forward to the day when we could make our plans for the little bungalow in the sunshine.

All was not well though. It turns out when the paperwork was examined, and the searches were done that the house had been built without any qualified person signing it off. In fact, part of the property did not even have the planning permissions it was advertised with. Nobody had ever checked to see if it had been built to the required standard. The ceiling was full of asbestos, the ground riddled with rat holes. We had no idea if it was a money pit or an accident waiting to happen. On closer inspection still, the damp was rising, we could see light through the roof and the windows rattled in the wind. The property was worth only half of the asking price.

The people who had wanted us to buy the bungalow tried to gloss over the problems. They told us everything would work out just fine. When we carried on voicing our doubts, they told us we had agreed to the purchase and there was no getting out of it. When we still looked unhappy, they threatened us with unpleasant consequences and the ire of the vendors if we tried to overturn our own decision. There was to be no re think or second chance to consider the consequences of our purchase, they said. To do so would be overturning the will of the family, they said.

We argued for months. What should we do, what was a fair compromise? Which deal was the best risk moving in as it was and take our chances with the leaky roof or borrow some extra money to do the work? Should we rent another house whilst the remedial works were completed. What if it took years? Our family was split, we even took it out on our neighbours and blamed them for making us unhappy in our current house in the first place, though actually none of us could really remember what it was about our home we disliked now we came to think of it. Of course, our friends couldn’t understand why we were being mean to them and feeling very hurt, they drifted away from our lives. The shifty people who tried to sell us the house looked on at the chaos smiling. Pretty soon they would reap the benefits to their bank balance of their lies and our bad decision.

But one day in the midst of a shouting match, we realised we couldn’t go on and that what we thought we were buying didn’t exist, it was a dream, a mirage, an impossibility. We might, after a lot of time and elbow grease and money be able to make the bungalow a habitable home for us in the end, but as we looked at our existing house with it’s comforting fireplace and beautiful bay windows, it’s interesting neighbours and its proximity to the heart of a beautiful town and all its delights, we realised the price we would have to pay was far, far too high.

We realised that with a little tweaking and renewing we could make more out of exactly where we were without having to pay any removal fees. It was so simple, we could just change our minds.

To be sure we wrote out the pros and cons and risks, our existing house versus the bungalow. Then we carefully absorbed those points and discussed them calmly, fact checked and read experts advice and then had a family vote. The will of the family had changed. We patched up our rows with the neighbours. We told the shifty salespeople we were staying put, we didn’t want the substandard bungalow anymore and we would be building a brighter better future exactly where we had belonged all along.

foto bij artikel van pilar

The house that the Union Jack built

This article was written by Marianne Velvart

Heard it with my own ears. Ken Clark just now on radio4 said: “By sad coincidence, the opposition is being led by hard line brexiteer left wing neo nazis”.
Whoa!!
Zero punches pulled.
If only he’d have been as straight about the dirty nature of the ref, the monkey trap of a blind yes/no and the illegal spending by Leave, the coverups, the rushed, illegal triggering of A50 by May etc., he’d have been commendable. But no.
He was weak against the presenter who threw the ‘people have spoken’ drivel at him (that’s what he’s paid for) and talked bombastically over Mr Clark. The veteran Conservative MP was indeed pee weak about the question of real far right Nazi John ‘I’m comfortable about a no deal outcome’ Redwood’s insistence that the forcast of turmoil is nonsense.
Ken Clark, battling the aggressive presenter who sounded like Marr to me (though actually I don’t know who it was) said that he respects Mr. Redwood but believes he’s wrong. With that one sentence he affirmed my previous resolve to never trust a Tory any more than a hard line brexiteer on the left who is using Remainer’s votes to sell us a never ending porridge pot in place of the reality.
The lies have it! The house that the Union Jack built is falling down, falling down….time to usher alternative lyrics to old songs.

afbeelding marianne's 2e artikel

Social Darwinism

                       This article was written by Marianne Velvart

It is a massive lie that the ‘story’ can be all about us ie UK or America first! Every ill in the world is due to this selfsame error as it ever was. Thanks to our politicians we’ve rubbed dirt into the weeping sore of the earth. We unleashed a monster. Well done us. Ever the kids are burdened by their parents’ actions. A certain book confirms that ‘their sins are visited on the children’. The ancients often knew what they were talking about and what we’re about to learn. We neglect old wisdom at our peril.

Going to the root, it always starts with ideology. Belief tangles with morality, like it or not. Even a morally neutral, mechanical universe or materialist standpoint is morally redolent. By virtue of cutting right and wrong out of the argument, we get a kind of anarchy and a toxic notion that everything’s permissible. This is the very door to mayhem. The absence of something becomes the presence of something else. Nature abhors a void and Socrates called us to ‘know ourselves’ for good reason. For if we do not, someone nasty may just take advantage of it!

Shakespeare wrote ‘there’s more in heaven and earth Horatio than dreamt of in your philosophy. Broadening our minds should begin with understanding how the geopolitical world is rigged. If we cannot see the physical context what hope have we of higher thought? How well advised will our votes be in a so called democracy? What are we bringing to the party? If we can’t see the operative mechanics, we’re as disposable as the Darwinian carnivores that are today’s powers ‘that be’ think we are.

Everything turns on ideological shifts. Precedents abound of key philosophical/political manifestos which have influenced worldwide movements. Their power is a tzunami when it hits. Nietzsche’s ‘Will to Power’ is a case in point, though he was a relatively minor player who, by the way went mad in later life but I digress. He basically thought we’re nothing but competitive units. Everyone trying to be top dog or winds up being eaten by one. We are living in an age where political tacticians are conducting a high-stakes experiment in Social Darwinism. I don’t know about you but I’m going nowhere without a fight!

 

afbeelding bij marianne's artikel

Pour les amoureux de l’Europe, une année 2019 pleine d’espoir !

Article écrit par Ezereal

Bonne Année à tous chers Européens !

2019 a bien commencé avec nos amis londoniens qui ont transformé le London Eye en immense message anti-Brexit, le maire Sadhiq Khan a ainsi rappelé que Londres a voté majoritairement pour rester en Europe et restera toujours Européenne dans l’âme !

Une année qui commence avec plein d’espoirs avec notamment un Brexit qui n’a cessé de déraper : Le gouvernement de Theresa May et les Tories sont incapables de l’organiser correctement, le peuple s’est majoritairement retourné contre le Brexit après avoir compris à quel point sortir de l’UE est un immense coût financier et mène à des fermetures d’usines, à l’appauvrissement du peuple et à la perte de souveraineté d’un pays qui n’aura plus le loisir de commercer comme il l’entend car trop petit pour poser ses conditions, un pays qui va vers une privatisation du NHS (système de santé britannique). Mais les Britanniques se battent pour un second référendum qui annulerait le Brexit et on va tout faire pour les y aider, après avoir été arnaqués et trompés en 2016 ils méritent un autre vote !

Tout n’a peut-être pas été rose avec la montée des partis populistes mais globalement ils ne mènent pas la danse : même ceux en Italie ont dû céder face aux réalités économiques, renonçant à plusieurs de leurs promesses populistes et ne critiquant plus Bruxelles..exactement comme en Grèce ! Quand on vend des mensonges on perd obligatoirement des électeurs une fois au pouvoir ! Et pire encore : l’économie italienne est retournée dans la crise et le chômage a augmenté de nouveau.

C’est pourquoi au final les extrêmes sont un vote inutile : ils n’ont aucune solution et ne font rien de bon, ils empirent même les choses !

Aux Elections Européennes 2019 il faudra informer le peuple de cette défaillance des partis populistes et leur montrer que seule des alternatives responsables, pro-européennes, sauront faire baisser le chômage et améliorer leur vie.

Il n’y a pas d’autres réponses que l’Europe et l’Union Européenne pour réussir !

 

 

 

 

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