A week in news

This week, people in Britain were concerned about the European Football Tournament; the economic instabilities and associated political instabilities in Greece but also elsewhere such as Egypt; the ‘Tax’ scandal of Comedian Jimmy Carr and to a lesser extent, the G20 summit addressing the environmental future of the world. The current political zeitgeist always will seem more important than the long term view, such is the nature of elected governments who seek a next term. There was an interesting set of revelations about Members of Parliament who were addressing their own mental health experiences, which brought a public discussion of the subject.

It is often said that human beings are not very good rational animals due to their disporportionate attention to the status quo over their continuation and long term circumstances. I find it disturbing. The international issues concerning the G20 are perhaps not as easily made relevant to the public because of how abstract the climate issues would seem to be. That said, Britain is continually experiencing unprecedented rainfall which has associated issues of flooding.I really wish I could say that the G20 summit in Rio took my attention and that I’d have something profound to say about it, but my lack of knowledge about it and the lack of exposure of news that I’ve had says enough. Instead, I’ll take this post to address the issue of taxation.

When it was announced that various famous people were involved in a scheme where their income was invested into a fund (which apparently supported emerging musical artists) to the effect of alleviating their tax obligations, it brought a media furore towards mainly one person: the comedian Jimmy Carr. While 3/4 of Take That were involved with the same scheme, there was no sense of hypocrisy or anger towards them, the notable thing about Carr is that much of his humour reflected an authentic disdain for the Con-Dem coalition. Carr’s humour in the ’10 O’Clock Live’ show had an appeal to a disenchanted young adult audience. Many people are part of the economic situation, where upward social mobility is a quaint myth and aspiration has a horrible taste to utter. Being the vocal piece for an audience is a very special thing. Carr’s jokes often involve hinting at, or explicitly addressing very horrible things, but often in a self-conscious way knowing that a mature audience will be disgusted by this, and in this way establishes a collusion with an audience that creates a comic moment (it’s funnier hearing it than describing it). The essence of the criticism lies on the fact that ‘banker bonuses’ and ‘tax havens’ were the subject of his jokes, and being part of a tax reducing scheme (although legal) shows a level of hypocrisy that not only undermines his reputation, but also the jokes originally said.

I’m a fan of Jimmy Carr’s bitter acerbic humour, not least because I’m a bitter acerbic person. It’s one thing to kick a public figure when they are down, or even when they are up, like ridiculing Footballer Rooney’s victory goal by pointing out that he has had hair surgery; but its another thing to kill a joke that once had potency. It is often complained about that there is a certain tired cynicism about a lack of sincerity about public figures and politics, things like this are the essence of such a worry. I cannot help but become cynical when a comedian points out a great unfairness while participating in similar. Carr has apologised and seems sincere about it, his reputation will probably recover, but the great jokes on tax havens and the priviledged rich are the greater victim. The comedic power of criticism is undermined.


Civil disorder in London

The ancient Athenians were well aware of the notion of civil disorder. I’m often one not to comment on social issues (normally because I feel some things are too soon to make decent judgments about) but this issue has befallen my doorstep, and I don’t mean that in only a figurative manner. It’s very scary in London right now. Where I am living in SW London, things are an attempt at ‘business as usual’, but the smell of smoke getting into my home, and the smell of burning that resides in the streets is menacing.

My first thoughts are with my family, and my friends in London. My second thoughts are about gathering as much intel as possible. This gets in the way of the job I’m currently working (as it’s based in the City, and involves travelling through Clapham), and I am also worried about the implications of this event. This is a terrible event going on, and I just hope that it doesn’t get worse. From my observations, there have been a variety of opinions on this issue:

  • The police are simply not present in certain areas (Croydon, for instance)
  • The reaction to the police activity is not enough (ie. they want more forceful measures against the looters – tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons)
  • There is a growing acceptance that a military intervention is justified – this is acknowledged by the Met Police and Home Office as (at present) not a viable option
  • Some facebook friends and twitter users take the consensus that VIGILANTE counter-violence is legitimate against looters.
  • There is a distinct sense of disgust at the mob mentality, some of the videos shown show the complete lack of sympathy on part of these looters
  • Some people are apologetic about their disgust, as they afraid to say many of the looters they have seen are predominantly black and minority ethnic groups in the areas they have seen, many of them are afraid to say that they want the police to be hard on these people. This kind of apology reflects the potential sea change in the political consensus, namely, to right-wing issues of how police are held back by administrative tasks and ‘political correctness’ instead of upholding public order,]
  • Similar to the above notion, this is seen as ‘chav’ mentality, and an oppurtunity to demean the perceived working class archetype. The notion of a chav is spurious anyway, but that’s another topic. Working class scapegoating doesn’t necessarily explain the violence in Ealing.
  • This is seen as a reaction to the overly strong austerity measures of the UK government. This is what you expect from youth unemployment and the lack of oppurtunities and social mobility.

My view is this: reactionary vigilante counter-violence is just as bad as the looting. The police will not acknowledge a difference between targeted deliberated aggressive violence against looters from the public, and the looters themselves. Morally speaking, they are both as as both bad: two wrongs don’t make a right. The implications of this event will be worse than what is going on right now, and right now: it’s really bad. Demonising so-called ‘chavs’ doesn’t really do anything, and this aggrivates social tensions between communities. Perhaps the most telling thing about this event is that these looters acted to appease their consumerist fantasies: items such as televisions, clothes and jewelery are aspirational. This is material aspiration’s sick conclusion. In addition, this event is opportunism, the looters should not be seen as the ‘other’, they are everyday people who join in the oppurtunity for a free lunch, or television as it happens. They say in liberal discourses that security is not worth the coin of liberty. Liberty is not worth the price of a pair of trainers from JD sports; voiding security is not worth a ‘free’ iPhone.


Retweeted news (Trifigura)

We at Noumenal Realm normally have a policy not to talk about current affairs especially while it is immediately happening. According to various twitter sources, most notably journalist Charlie Brooker @charltonbrooker; The Guardian, one of the UK’s few independent newspapers, has been barred from reporting a certain story or any parliamentary deciion about such an injunction.

I thought this story was abhorrent, considering the importance of the freedom of the press. On an ‘unrelated note’, why don’t you check out this information on wikipedia; why not take a look at the section ‘Waste Dumping in Cote d’Ivoire’; and not that the legal firm putting forward the injunction to the Guardian has this particular organisation as a client.