Tag Archives: politics

Alan Moore and Athenian anarchism

As always, Alan Moore provides plenty of value for money in this interview at New Statesman. I’m pulling out this particular chunk primarily because it’s a nice way to remind myself I’m not the only person who thinks like this… though I’m sure there are plenty of folk who’d happily tell me that sharing my politics with a perpetually stoned post-modern pseudo-occultist and writer of comics isn’t anything to be proud of.

But you know what? Fuck those people. Take it away, Mister Moore:

I take this seriously, I don’t like to vote because I don’t believe in the democratic process, and I don’t believe that it is democracy. Democracy as I understand it is demos – the people shall rule. It doesn’t say anything about the elective representatives shall rule. I think in Dodgem Logic there was an option that got put forward that I would find preferable, which was the Athenian way.

Yes, you get summoned –

Yes, it’s by lottery, if there is a decision of national importance to be made, a jury or a parliament will be decided by lottery. They will hear both sides of the argument, they will vote, the jury will be dissolved. So there’s no way you can vote for extra privileges for MPs because you won’t be one. It’s more in your interests to vote for what is in the general interest of the broad population that you will be returning to.

So, I’m not saying that it’s a flawless idea but its maybe one of the ideas that we should start thinking about, because I really think that this is pretence of democracy at best.

Yeah, and a handful of marginal constituencies get to hold the balance of power.

Yeah, that’s it, also back when I was working with the Green Party in local politics back in the 80s, there was the idea of proportional representation, which would have meant that if the Green Party had got one per cent of the vote they’d would have had one per cent of the MPs.

And yes, if the British National Party, or the National Front as it was then, would have got one per cent of the vote you might have ended up with a National Front MP, but I could’ve gone along with that. That sounded like it would at least been fairer

But this AV thing is nothing to do with proportional representation [we spoke before the referendum]. It’s another way of organising the deck chairs on the Titanic. We do need something a lot more drastic than that. Yes, we need some alternative to our current system, that wasn’t it.

So, no, I don’t vote, I believe in direct political action. I mean, some friends of mine from Wales, where I bought a ruined farm about 15 years ago, one of them had gone over to Romania and seen the volunteer orphanage that was trying to help out people that they’d rescued from the state orphanages, which were horrifying, stuff that you wouldn’t want in your head.

And this guy who was an ex-Welsh rugby player with a face like someone had tried to put a fire out on it with a shovel, everything that you’d expect of a great, big former rugby hero. He was over there on business, he saw this going on, and he couldn’t live with not doing anything.

So he came home and got a bunch of liver-damaged, unemployable drunks from Wales to go out there with a couple of lorries and materials that he’d guilt-tripped business colleagues into donating, and they built an orphanage and a hospice within two weeks with electricity and water.

What I’m saying here is, if you look at the world and there’s something that you can’t live with or there’s something that you don’t agree with, don’t vote for someone who tells you that they’re going to put that right, because they’re not. They are trying to get you to vote for them, they will tell you anything in order to get you to vote for them.

The underlined passage is my own emphasis, and the main reason I wanted to reblog this here. Whenever I get into a discussion of anarchist models for democracy (and no, that’s not an oxymoron, as Moore demonstrates above), it’s always the most staunch defenders of democracy-as-she-is-played who tell me that the danger of letting everyone and anyone play the game is that you might get people with really dodgy views – views contrary to democracy itself, in fact – having a say in the political process.

To which I often say “yeah, so what?”

It’s not a response that wins me many new friends, thanks to the spurious logic trail that goes “Person X believes people with fascist viewpoints have as much right to have their voice heard as anyone else, therefore Person X tacitly supports fascism”. I do not support or even condone fascism, but I’m aware of the dichotomy in leftist politics that enshrines freedom of speech at the same time as trying to exclude opposing ideologies from the conversation. The intent is pure, but I think it’s actually counterproductive.

“But Paul, if you let the fascists speak, they’ll bamboozle stupid people into believing their poisonous lies!” Possibly so, yeah, but by silencing them you’re not just acting counter to your own espoused ideologies, but also giving them the additional persuasion-ammo of suppression (“come hear the truth that They don’t want you to hear!”).

Certainly in the contemporary UK political scene, fascist rhetoric is almost entirely based on this sense of exclusion-from-process, and it feeds on that vague sense of one’s privilege being eroded that gets stoked by tabloid media playing to the peanut gallery (“OMG so many brown people on benefits OMG the white working class male is a victim of reverse racism OMG!”). When it comes to fascism, I’m a strong believer in the old adage about “giving ’em enough rope”; give a fascist the publicity he so craves, and he very quickly makes it plain that he’s in favour of things that the vast majority of people are actively repulsed by. Drive them underground, however, and they can manage their in-clique channels with greater fidelity. All politicians lie, but fascism requires the greatest level of deceit applied to the greatest percentage of the population; if you force them to communicate off the public radar, you forego the chance to publicly scrutinise – and critique – those communications.

Few things corrode untruth as quickly as wide exposure; I suspect a BNP MP in Westminster would be the worst possible advert for the party. Currently, for the vast majority of floating voter types, the BNP are a vague threat that lurks in Northern towns and the London boroughs that you don’t go shopping in, and as such are of little concern in anything other than the abstract – you know, “it could never happen here!”. Well, it could – and if it does, how will you recognise it when you see it? Indeed, if you’ve not been exposed to the sort of rhetoric used by fascist ideologues, you might find yourself falling for it while piously believing yourself to be a modern and progressive type of person. (UKIP, anyone?)

I think my problem with the counterargument is that it’s enshrined in a passionate commitment to protecting representative democracy, but it demonstrates a lack of faith in representative democracy’s ability to produce a fair government that actually represents the people in the way to which it pays perpetual lip service. Or, to put it another way: if you can’t trust representative democracy to improve people’s lives to such a degree that the majority of them will vote in ways that expand and advance that central conceptual remit, then there’s a pretty serious flaw in the system, and you’re admitting such by saying that not every voter can be trusted to vote correctly. “You’re free to elect the people who you feel best represent your views… um, but you mustn’t listen to those people.” See what I mean?

At this point someone usually points out that Hitler was legitimately elected in Germany, which is very true. It’s also a massive simplification of a very complex and turbulent period in German politics – not to mention the politics of the rest of the world – and conveniently overlooks the fact that the democratic process in Germany at the time had become fatally discredited in the eyes of much of its electorate. And yes, that’s exactly the same reason the duplicity of people like the BNP gets traction in the UK at the moment; as such, the rational response is not to pillory the fascists and fuel their persecution complexes, but to make the system more open, more accountable, more transparent. Fascism – and right-wing politics in general, if we’re going to talk in terms of that old binary – thrives on secrecy, on whispered reports of unverifiable injustices and shadowy conspiracies. Make it obvious that the lies are lies, and the lies lose their power. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and so on.

This is also why I have a very ambivalent relationship to legislating against hate speech, because that legislation is a tacit admission of hate speech’s power, amplifying its effect among those who already feel disenfranchised; the best solution to hate speech is true speech. And if anything, as much as the constant battle to [x]-101 people about issues that should really be canonical in an enlightened society is exhausting and tedious in the extreme, I think the anyone-can-say-anything scrum of the internet shows us that it works, albeit very slowly. Outsourcing that advocacy to representatives is tempting for exactly that reason – there are countless nicer things to be doing, after all – but by concentrating that power of advocacy in a limited number of hands, you’re assembling the scaffold of hierarchy along which authoritarianism will creep and grow.

If we’re too lazy to work for a better world, we have no one to blame but ourselves as that better world slips out of sight.

Which is why I am an anarchist.

Friday Photo Blogging: stupid bloody England

I have the same love/hate relationship with the country I live in as I have with Velcro City itself. On a day like today, with clear blues skies and a gentle breeze, I’m pleased to be sat here calmly, typing to the sound of traffic and birdsong with a long weekend approaching me; how could one find fault with England this afternoon?

Well, sometimes the bad things are literally too big to ignore:
Beneath the skin of every 'patriot' lies a fascist

Vermin and shysters; the BNP, only with better tailors and their mouths stuffed with plums. British-grown plums, of course. Wankers.

“Why worry about them,” people tell me. “No one takes them seriously.” Well, plenty of people take these seriously:

Broad and factually unfounded statements! Buy stuff! Hate difference! There's always someone to blame!

Graaaaaaaarrrrrgggghh.

Sorry, just needed to vent; it’s a common response to having left the building during the daytime. We now return you to our scheduled programmes.


Album of the week

One for the serious metal-heads this week: Daath are supposedly into Kabballah (the Hebrew mystical malarkey, rather than the wackadoo cult based upon it from which Madonna buys blessed mineral water) and all sorts of other stuff, but exactly how that affects their music I have no idea. Suffice to say that their new album The Concealers is that rarest of birds – a consistently powerful and heavy modern metal album with no filler and no gimmick-of-the-day. Go ahead, give your neck a workout.

Writing about books

The This is Not a Game review is half-written, as I managed to bash out one and a half thousand words on the train to London on Wednesday night. This is progress, not to mention the worst part of the process completed; now I just need to edit it up, supplement with quotes and digressions, polish and send. So, that’s an afternoon of the coming weekend taken care of…

Futurismic

Hey hey hey – it’s the first of May! Which is something to celebrate even if you disregard revitalised pagan festivals and political holidays spawned by a dying metanarrative, because it means there’s new fiction at Futurismic. This month I got to publish someone who lives little more than a stone’s throw away from me by comparison to our Stateside contributors; Stephen Gaskell’s “Under an Arctic Sky” is a geopolitical action-escape story done right, and you should go read it before leaving a comment to say what you thought of it. G’waaaaan.

PS Publishing

So, as most of you who’ll be interested will already know, I was up in the Big Smoke on Wednesday night, watching Ian R MacLeod take the 2009 Arthur C Clarke Award for Song of Time, a book published by PS Publishing, for whom I am contractor-publicist. It was quite a moment, and even more so for Pete and Nicky (and Ian, obviously) than myself. It’s a very prestigious title for a small press like PS to accrue, and for it to happen in the company’s tenth year of business seems fitting, somehow.

I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to work with people who care deeply about what they do. Seeing Pete’s face as the winner was read out has pretty much made my month. 🙂

Freelance

Work, work, work… there’s been a lot of catch-up this week as I recover from the setbacks of the beginning of April, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, I think. My server is up and running, and I’ve pretty much sussed the essential basics of running the thing, so now I can start using it properly as both a hosting and development environment. Some minor projects and tasks have been cleared off; some larger ones have mutated (mostly for the better), and a few more are looming on the horizon like braking supertankers. LIVING THE DREAM, YO.

[high-grade-geekery]I’ve finally abandoned all hope of learning to do anything with Drupal before the next ice age happens (if even that soon), and am defecting my loyalties to MODx, as recommended by good buddy Adam at Mallmus Media. In a nutshell, MODx looks to be a CMS that does everything all the others can do, but actually makes it possible for you to find all of the relevant options in one place without referring to a degree in database architectural philosophy that you don’t have. Plus it has a moderately revolutionary approach to theming and templates that fits much better with my personal design methodologies for larger projects… or, in other words, it makes more intuitive sense to me than the others I’ve tried before, and I think I’m going to enjoy development jobs much more as a result. Yay![/high-grade-geekery]

Aeroplane Attack

People tell us that our first gig went pretty well, despite some sound issues. The problem in a nutshell: the girl running the sound desk has never encountered a band who request that they not bother mic’ing up the amplifiers and simply run the kick, snare and vocals through the PA. End result: we didn’t sound quite right, but we still put in a decent showing and had a lot of fun. In case you were wondering how we sound, well, here’s a video recorded on a mobile phone. Horrible sound quality, but you’ll get an idea of where we’re coming from (and how loud we play); the tune is called “Song for Joseph”.

See? We don’t use the Vulcan bomber as our logo for nothing. 🙂

The next show is Monday 11th, and the sound guy will be someone we know a little better, so those debut issues should be sorted. We’re really looking forward to it; if you’re in the area, come along. I have tickets, if you’d like to buy one at the super-cheap advance rate of £2…

Books and magazines seen

No time for sourcing images today, but there’s a fresh hardback copy of China Mieville‘s The City & The City sat on my sofa alongside a trade paperback of Sean Williams‘ latest Astropolis novel, The Grand Conjunction.

A more unusual score comes in the form of How to Build Your Own Spaceship, a pop-sci book by Piers Bizony about “the science of personal space travel”, which the publisher was nice enough to send me after I emailed them about it[1]. Nice Jetsons vibe to the cover art:

How to Build Your Own Spaceship by Piers BizonyLovely. Now all I need is the time to read it…

Coda

Well, there you have it – it’s been a busy few weeks, but then I always say that, don’t I? But hey, the weekend’s here, and that’s got to be a good thing. I think I’ll wrap this up, finish the Futurismic free fiction round-up and spend a few well-earned hours sat on my arse with my nose in a book… I hope you find something nice to do as well. Laters!


[ 1 – And many thanks to the man DT for the tip-off on that one, too. ]

Congratulations, America.

Yeah, even if you didn’t end up with the president you wanted. You deserve congratulations for experiencing the first national election that was truly a global event – not just as spectacle, but from the aspect of influence. The first one that wasn’t just under your control.

The whole world voted for this one – with its eyes. And the world will vote for all the elections in the future, big and small. We’re next, here in the UK. And while I’m no great fan of parliamentary democracy, I can’t help but believe that this degree of scrutiny and passion can only make it better.

Welcome to the future. It’s going to be tough (because the future always is – this ain’t no pulp novel, kids), but a change is as good as a rest, as the saying goes.

Double-plus ungood

It’s a sad state of affairs when we need a Canadian ex-pat science fiction writer to say the things that our own press will do little more than tip-toe around:

To my friends, I say this: your Labour Party has taken my biometrics and will force me to carry the papers my grandparents destroyed when they fled the Soviet Union. In living memory, my family has been chased from its home by governments whose policies and justification the Labour Party has aped. Your Labour Party has made me afraid in Britain, and has made me seriously reconsider my settlement here. I am the father of a British citizen and the husband of a British citizen. I pay my tax. I am a natural-born citizen of the Commonwealth. The Labour Party ought not to treat me — nor any other migrant — in a way that violates our fundamental liberties. The Labour Party is unmaking Britain, turning it into the surveillance society that Britain’s foremost prophet of doom, George Orwell, warned against. Labour admits that we migrants are only the first step, and that every indignity that they visit upon us will be visited upon you, too. If you want to live and thrive in a free country, you must defend us too: we must all hang together, or we will surely hang separately.

Maybe it’s just because I’ve been reading a lot of German 20th Century history recently, but this stuff is scaring the crap out of me too. Insert boiling-a-frog metaphor here.


[ 1 – Actually, I can’t think of anyone better to say it. And yes, I know others have said similar things – within sf and without – but few have Doctorow’s audience. Kudos to the man. ]