Tag Archives: class war

Gizza job?

New figures just released show that if you were born in the UK in the last 25 years, you had better hope that you have incredible talents.

The jobless total for 16 to 24-year-olds hit a record of 1.02 million in the quarter and female unemployment was at its highest for 23 years.

To make anything of yourself in these challenging times the ability to sing or kick a football well should stand you in good stead.  Failing that, try to ensure you were born rich.  Britain has never really, despite some chatter about a meritocracy and a classless society, been very comfortable with allowing all and sundry to have access to the upper echelons.  Far too American a concept, although even there that now seems to be falling by the wayside.

The real tragedy behind the numbers is, of course, the wasted potential of so many lives and the detrimental effect on Britain’s economy for years to come.  This poverty of ambition, coupled with the more tangible effects of financial poverty, is going to be the Conservatives’ real legacy for the country unless their austerity programme is derailed – and soon.

Again, we can’t say we weren’t warned.

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Egyptians are in the street looking for a brighter day

No government fights fascism to destroy it. When the bourgeoisie sees that power is slipping out of its hands, it brings up fascism to hold onto their privileges

Buenaventura Durruti

With these words ringing in our ears, it is hardly surprising that a number of governments, ours included, usually so gung-ho about exporting democracy to other parts of the world – particularly the Middle Eastern bits – seem to be remaining tight-lipped about the uprisings in Egypt.

Of course, as Justin McKeating notes, America and Britain have a many different reasons not to be pushing Egyptian President Mubarak out of the door too swiftly, at least not until they have safely recovered the keys to the filing cupboards (you just know there are paper records somewhere…) containing details of all the War on Terror detainees renditioned to the country to be tortured on our behalf.

And via Truth, Reason & Liberty we learn that even if the Western leaders wanted to share in the glow of their very own Berlin Wall moment, they have the restlessness of the international markets to consider first:

A one-dollar, one-day increase in a barrel of oil takes $12 million out of the U.S. economy.  If tensions in the Mideast cause oil prices to rise by $5 for even just three months, over $5 billion dollars will leave the U.S. economy. Obviously, this is not a strategy for creating new jobs

– Jason S. Grumet, president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington research group, quoted in the New York Times

Difficult to ignore the not-so-veiled threat to workers in America contained in the last line.

So, while it is tempting to get carried away by the romance of soldiers and protesters embracing, hard-headed realism is required.  As the regime rounds up journalists and seeks to prevent pictures being taken of Tahrir Square, as more protesters are shot, it is essential that we stand in solidarity with the people of Egypt as they struggle to make their society more as they wish it to be.  Even if they get their wish and see Mubarak removed, what follows may be far from the envisaged democracy, as vested interests seek to protect their privileges.

Then, maybe it is also time for us to stop the bar-room and blog grandstanding and learn from Egypt’s example, where people are out on the streets, trying to change their realities in any way they can.  As I sit typing in Japan’s safe commercial paradise, a country that one of my students describes as ‘slowly sinking’, unwilling to wake up to the problems it faces, I can only wish for some of what is in the water in Cairo to be transported to Tokyo and London, to help us avoid complacency, however unlikely that appears.

Egyptians are in the street looking for a brighter day.  Are we content to sit and watch it on TV, or can we be persuaded to join them?

Photograph from 3 quarks daily, via the mortal bathMore photographs of the demonstration at the Boston Globe

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Walk like an Egyptian

Events in Egypt are by turns shocking – as stories of live bullets and gas used against protestors emerge – yet encouraging, if this quote is anything to go by:

[The US has] been lulled by a pro-stability narrative that has been spun out by Mr Mubarak and other Arab autocrats. Unfortunately for Cairo and Washington, the street is saying the game is up

– former CIA director Emile Nakhleh, writing in the Financial Times,

quoted by Naked Capitalism

The message is clear: lose the streets and lose the geo-political game.  No wonder the British police are now using tougher methods against peaceful protesters.

And no, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to post this video pass by:


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Toffs v toughs

Here we go again, round 342 in the continuing national sport to see if England will ever be able to lose its hidebound sense of class and move on from 18th century notions of who’s in and who’s out.  Reading the story of the posh (or ‘rah’) takeover of Newcastle University from the weekend’s Sunday Times, you could sense that some of the exchanges quoted were as likely to fan the flames of class war as a clumsily thrown can of petrol:

‘Is that a can of cake?’ a boy asks his friend’s girlfriend. ‘No, vodka and cake, do you want some?’

Ha, ha, ha – or ‘haw, haw, haw’, as the ST has it – aren’t the posh kids hilarious?  Yet the paper solemnly records the darker side to this braying sense of entitlement:

It’s a club you can only belong to if you’ve been to a school with manicured lawns, toured exotic lands with a backpack, partied your way through university, and are going to get a job through an ever-extending network of people just like you

Now, given that the Sunday Times is pretty much the house journal for those who prefer their kids to be educated around manicured lawns, it seems a little unlikely that they would be up for this kind of rah-baiting.  Especially given that they are the main cheerleaders for another group of privileged university friends…

There was also an interview with Trevor Phillips in the same paper, in which he sets out a future where the Equality and Human Rights Commission introduces measures to combat this age-old problem:

The most blaring and substantial thing that best predicts disadvantage is class and place: who your parents were, what they did and where you grew up

He mentions some things that seem to make sense:

All internships should be competitive. You shouldn’t have people waltzing into development opportunities, chances to learn the ropes, courtesy of the fact that the parent knows somebody

And now, the Sunday Times methods become clear.  This is a rallying cry for the posh, which you would imagine probably sounds like a hunting horn, putting them on alert them to any potential reduction of privileges, no matter how unlikely to happen.  Even if Phillips did have in mind to tackle this situation head on and the Government were prepared to alienate the few middle class voters who don’t already hate them, clever, ambitious people will always find a way around any government-imposed obstacle.  It will take a more reasoned response than allowing a few working class kids to intern at Vogue to suddenly turn this country into an egalitarian paradise, more’s the pity.

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