Sunday 1 October 2023

Five Most Popular Posts in September

It's a new month, so time for a look back and what did the business in September.

1. Exposing Russell Brand
2. A Note on Tory Carelessness
3. Making the Counter-Revolution Permanent
4. A Display of Utter Poltroonery
5. Exiting Work

No prizes for guessing that Russell Brand came out on top this month, for all the wrong reasons. That said, I'm mindful of the nice things I've said about him in the past so a post reflecting on that will have to be written at some point. Archives are always there and will come and bite you from time to time. The rest of the most popular are the usual politics fare. It seems yonks ago that Gillian Keegan was caught on a hot mic venting frustrations for not getting the praise she felt was her due. Bbut what it condensed, indeed what the whole crumbling concrete issue typifies is the exhausted and hapless character of the Tories as they limp toward electoral oblivion. Coming in third was Keir Starmer's removal of Lisa Nandy and Rosena Allin-Khan from the shadow cabinet. For the time being, Nandy is prepared to swallow her pride and go along with the demotion. Allin-Khan, however, she could prove to be tricksy where party management is concerned. This came after what might have been the most pathetic display from Starmer so far - a refusal to commit to dealing with the crumbling schools fiasco. And bringing up the rear was a look at the declining saliency of work for Britons, as outlined by the world values survey. There are reasons for the powers that be to be angsty about it.

I have a couple worth a second chance. The first is last Sunday's discussion of Jurgen Habermas's most famous book. The other? It's a toughie, but as we're in party conference season and this time next Sunday we'll ne looking forward to Labour conference (if that's the right phrase), there's this offering that suggests the left should see Starmer's authoritarianism as less a personal characteristic and more a structural property of his very bourgeois politics. The problem isn't his personality and preferences.

What can we look forward to next month? I expect that this list will be full of reflections on Starmer and Starmerism, as that is this site's bread and butter these days according to the internet-travelling public. As ever, if you haven't already don't forget to follow the free weekly (mostly) newsletter, and if you like what I do (and you're not skint), you can help support the blog. Following me on Twitter and Facebook are cost-free ways of showing your backing for this corner of the internet.


Blissex said...

«Russell Brand came out on top this month, for all the wrong reasons. That said, I'm mindful of the nice things I've said about him in the past so a post reflecting on that will have to be written at some point. Archives are always there and will come and bite you from time to time.»

That's why prudent middle class people including academics never put in danger their careers by saying anything controversial, not even the current "conventional wisdom", because the party line can change with time. sometimes just a series of anonymous allegations can turn someone into an unperson. It is much safer to only ever discuss the weather.

Sean Dearg said...

Does uncovering bad behaviour mean that everything a person has ever said or done becomes anathema? Its a tricky one because, for example, most would not want to remember or reference anything Jimmy Saville said. Although bizarrely the BBC are launching a TV series about him with Steve Coogan playing the lead. Brave...or foolish.

Returning to the theme, are we not all to varying extents a mix of good and bad, and don't our opinions, and behaviours, change over time? I'm not excusing or condemning because it isn't for me to judge (as a widely read book says) but, that said, I judge all the time. I turn the radio off when certain people start talking - the list would be long and is getting longer. This suggests a level of intolerance and judgement. So, should I indulge this, or should I force myself to listen to people I vehemently disagree with, or just plain loathe?

Turning off the radio/tv, or changing channels, is it a small act of defiance, a refusal to hear anything that doesn't fit my world view, or is it me protecting my emotional and mental health?

I briefly subscribed to Brand's YT channel a while back, when he was being provocative about voting and mainly attacking the establishment and right wingers. He then veered off down some odd avenues into a swamp of fetid nonsense which Covid and the lockdown seemed to ferment in a lot of men of a certain age. Neil Oliver went from history presenter to nutjob, and Lozza Fox from thespian to ranting mansplaining resenting gammonite angry attention seeker.

Some on the left have taken a turn in a different direction. Quite a few have hitched their wagon to Putin, reasoning that because the West had been provoking Russia with Nato expansion, that justifies and condones the invasion of Ukraine (rather than explains it). Similarly, I have read blogs that suggest China is the best hope for mankind. Perhaps there really was something in the vaccines which affected everyone's minds?

Blissex said...

«I have read blogs that suggest China is the best hope for mankind»

That is pretty obvious: a leading country with a history of rather modest and slow expansionism, with a large mass of well educated people, with a highly proactive government.

An aggressively racist and colonialist and oligarchic country like the USA has given humanity Edison, Ford, Feynman, the yankee industrial system, humans walking (probably again) on the Moon, nuclear power (even if that's contended with the USSR), spacecraft that send back photos of Saturn's moons and of Neptune and Pluto, Google Earth, TCP/IP, ...

A much bigger, more populous, more civilized country like China-mainland (and Korea, and China-Taiwan, etc.) can greatly surpass those contributions, and for non continental powers, that is any country that needs to be vassals to a greater power, a PRC suzerainty is probably going to be a better deal than an USA one.

And that's why the USA are trying to recreate the Cold War containment, splitting the global markets again into a bigger and richer USA sphere of influence (the "first world") and a smaller and poorer chinese sphere of influence (the "second world").

Note: for Europe chinese suzerainty is not an option, and because of history the only option for quite a while yet is being USA vassals, and try to extract a good vassalage deal.

Note: two of the great tragedies of humankind is that all the many extraordinary people who surely are among the billions of Africa and India are largely unable to develop themselves and emerge because of the backwardness of their contexts, an enormous waste of human potential, and it will take a long time before that's fixed. At least for China that's already fixed.

Sean Dearg said...

Well, knock me down with a feather, I suggest something and somebody leaps in to confirm it. Thanks Blissex.

The point about a Chinese hegemony is not whether it is better or worse than an American one. Both are out to look after themselves, so how it affects their hegemonees is going to be entirely dependent on the needs of the hegemoniser. Being subordinate to the needs and preferences of someone else is rarely an entirely positive experience, and a circumstance most would prefer to avoid. That is the point. Otherwise it smacks of arguing which slave owner it was best to belong to, rather than advocating to abolish slavery.

All the achievements you mention were dependent on the ability to harness natural resources, particularly energy, and the US was particularly rich in those. First and foremost, in fossil fuels, which have enabled the development of technology, industry and agriculture, and vastly accelerated the exploitation and wasteful use of all other resources. Will the Chinese be able to address the inevitable degrowth that the loss of a cheap, accessible, dense, flexible and abundant energy source will force? Probably better than the Americans, but it is still likely to be a disspiriting, destructive and dangerous process for most.

The challenge for the rest of the century is not so much lifting the large numbers in Africa and elsewhere out of extreme poverty, but in preventing their plunge into absolute destitution, and the catastrophic collapse of societies across the globe as inexorable economic decline bites and climate chaos accelerates. Sorry to be a downer...