Ten years is a long time, and it passes in a heartbeat.
When Sam invited me to join the Scrogues a decade ago, it was to be the ‘libertarian’ to counterbalance what he saw as a quite left-wing team of writers and scholars who were coming together to think deep thoughts about the world we wanted.
Recent anti-Donald protests are hugely important, although maybe not for the reason you think.
I keep wanting to write an article on how similar Donald is to the Big Men of Africa, and I keep losing the will to live whenever I start … After all, the South African Truth Commission final report is a public document. If you want to know how this ends, go read it.
However, don’t think that he’s starting a new fascist state. This is about ties of blood.
If you look to Zimbabwe, Kenya, Nigeria … any of the places ruled by Big Men … they work with what they have to create a support base. The best way to do that is tribalism. Create an in-group derived from your own tribe. Then bind that tribe to you. And you do that through violence.
The in-group must be told they are superior to the out-group. Change the law to subject the out-group to brutal discrimination and suppression. Ensure that there is real violence.
To those who have, more shall be given. Cities get more investment. From those who have little, more shall be taken. Small towns are finding that they are excluded from the excitement happening everywhere else and little investment goes their way.
The idea of capitalism – that goods should bear market prices, that justly acquired property is yours, and exchange between willing participants be free of encumbrances – is everywhere under threat.
There is, however, little policy difference between the extreme-left and extreme-right populist response. Both demand a remarkably statist approach to government, and both are perpetually outraged by “elites.” For each, elites appears to mean liberal educated people, rather than the wealthiest 1%.
What is most noticeable is how this wave of populism – from Brexit, to Donald Trump, to Italy and France – has united the working and capital class against liberal, educated middle class folks.
There is one difference between them, though: the extreme-right are hardcore bigots. Continue reading →
In 2008, I wrote a research paper looking at the impact of globalisation on South Africa’s recently opened (post-Apartheid) economy, as well as the likely trends for the future.
The textiles industry, which had been a massive employer for South Africa, had been crippled. In 2008, from my report:
“Over the past ten years, labour unions started to take hold of the environment which led to a lot of fragmentation in the industry,” says Noel Paulson, Edcon’s Group Quality Executive. “A lot of the factories found that dealing with labour issues for the manufacturing process was very time-consuming and costly. Continue reading →
Inequality is rendered stark where astonishing fortunes are made by individuals who then bend their lives, from that point on, to avoid paying tax. This is possible, not because of the nature of capitalism, but because governments have permitted it to happen.
I’m not going to waste your time. This is what we need to do about it.
“Without a global tax on capital or some similar policy,” he warned, “there is a substantial risk that the top centile’s share of global wealth will continue to grow indefinitely – and this should worry everyone.” Continue reading →
On 1 September 1859, telegraph operators across Europe and North America watched in horror as their equipment began to spark and behave erratically. Some disconnected their equipment from their power supplies and discovered they could still transmit.
Cables arced. Sparks flew. Operators fled as their offices caught fire.
What became known as the Carrington Event was the result of a solar eruption as a magnetic field containing a plasma mass equivalent to Mount Everest was flung out from the sun towards Earth. Continue reading →
Turning every unemployed person into a doctor is neither possible nor desirable. But if you do the math, that seems to be where England is heading.
We’ve been here before…
It’s a few months since I wrote about my despair following the Brexit referendum and, as I feared, the walls are coming up. It’s not like Europe has much experience with forcing foreigners and minorities to be physically labelled and publicly humiliated.
A further idea is to replace all foreign employees with locals. They’re starting with the NHS — the country’s ubiquitous universal health service — which currently employs about 1.2 million people, of whom 55,000 are EU citizens (30,000 of whom are doctors). Continue reading →
‘Everything I know about the world has changed. Things are going to get very dark and very ugly. There will be fear and suspicion and it will not end.’
I remember where I was on 11 September 2001. I remember how it felt. I remember what I thought.
There were a group of us gathered in the boardroom at Deloitte in Cape Town. It was the first meeting of the newly-established board that would govern the non-profit organisation I ran, Business Beat.
I remember ANC member of parliament Ben Turok emphatically telling me that I shouldn’t ‘dabble’, but should take things seriously. It was an odd, and oddly uninformed, rebuke considering that even by that date, I’d spent eight years working in South Africa’s townships to help undo the economic damage caused by Apartheid.
A secretary interrupted and had a brief, nervous conversation with our chair. He immediately, softly, said, ‘An airplane has just flown into the World Trade Centre in New York. I think we should cancel today’s meeting.’ Continue reading →
If you truly believe in your ideals, do not – under any circumstances – vote for an idealist.
Jeremy Corbyn looks left
Political opinion has never been homogenous. As society has become wealthier and stratified into more extreme levels of that wealth, political ideals have fragmented.
The discontent sweeping the world’s ossified polities – the rise of Podemos in Spain, Syriza in Greece, the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East, ISIS – is a scream of fury at not being heard. But the way in which this is being expressed is in a demand for ideological purity.
“We are who we are because of who we love,” said my wife, “and it will always be so.”
We were discussing life, and its transience, off of two years in which far too many of those close to us have stopped.
There are a few people who I met via my Livejournal blog, now more than 15 years ago, who became online friends. One of those people happens to have been Sam, who introduced me into a small group that went on to start Scholars and Rogues. The Rogues are similarly part of the fabric of my friendships. Continue reading →
When Yanis Varoufakis left academia to take up his position as Greece’s finance minister after the far-left electoral victory which brought Syriza to power, he said words to the effect that – if things didn’t work out – he could always go back to university.
“I mean, I really don’t want to be in this office … I will go back to my book about Europe, which is half-finished. It’s very difficult to find an ending when I am still in this job.”
I took away from that soundbite that he, akin with many of his ivory-tower colleagues, is unsuited for the real world and would abandon the consequences of his actions as soon as he got bored.
Let’s be quite clear where that takes you: Apartheid South Africa.
75% of Israel’s population is of Jewish descent; a little over 6 million people. But the overall population of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories is 14 million.
In a unified state, without any prospect for Palestinian independence, Jewish Israelis are instantly a minority group. Netanyahu has to ensure that Jewish Israelis continue to “rule” and so, just as importantly to his manifesto, is that Jewish Israelis must have more rights to protect them from that majority. Continue reading →
Karl Marx was a brilliant diagnostician. His analysis of the way in which unregulated capitalism can drive inequality was incisive, especially considering the lack of data available to him to prove his point. His solution, on the other hand, was appallingly destructive.
That seems to happen fairly often. People notice a social or economic problem, assess and diagnose its cause with astonishing aplomb, and then suggest a solution of startling naiveté based on cartoonish assumptions about the way people behave.
“Father, tell me a story?” asks Isaiah, moments before an alien craft smashes into the jungle near his isolated Nigerian village. Inside is the shattered body of a man.
With his orbital city hiding in the rubble of a devastating war, Samara falls 35,000km to escape from the space-based prison of Tartarus. Struggling to heal, and hunted by a brutal warlord in a ruthless land, Samara searches for a way home to the woman he loves.
And, in the darkness, waits the simmering fury at the heart of Tartarus.
I read a very good argument as to why we do need elite publishers and celebrity writers.
Publishers, like Hachette, serve to keep ebook prices high; $10 or more per book. Self-publishers aim low; 99c to $2.99 with another cluster at about $4.50. Continue reading →
In an alternative universe Jeremy Paxman, not David Frost, interviewed Richard Nixon in 1977.
David Frost became an extremely successful comedian. His tours with Monty Python are celebrated to this day. Jeremy Paxman was newly-arrived in the US from Beirut where his explosive interview style had led to tension within the BBC.
His now infamous interrogation, in 1976, of Étienne Saqr of the Gardiens des Cèdres, whose militia massacred hundreds in Karantina in East Beirut, included 20 minutes of Paxman demanding, “Are you a genocidal maniac?” while Saqr threatened him with a machine gun. Continue reading →