Monthly Archives: April 2014

What I want from my Labour Party:

Declaration that all newly privatised companies will be returned to public ownership without compensation, effectively preventing new privatization and forcing public discussion on the issue.

A law preventing any ex politician from being employed by any company which has benefited from legislation they enacted, effectively removing a huge part of the “retirement fund” practice of politics.

And end to the ban on sympathy strikes.

A functional tax system in which people pay based on what they earn rather than what’s left after they pretend all their money is in Ireland.

A law forcing newspapers’ apologies and retractions to take up the same page space as the initial lies.

A ban on political donations worth more than £5000.
Full cross party investigations and reports into equality, social mobility, democracy and economic democracy.

A vitriolic public campaign against Lord Rothermore and the Murdoch family as people who “hate Britain” an the grounds that they refuse to legally domicile here and also hate Britain.

A cap on rents in London.

Investigation into the possibility of turning the big six energy companies into customer owned partnerships.

Worker’s representation in all companies employing more than 2000 people.

An English devolution bill.

More bank holidays.

A long term plan to reduce the working week to twenty hours.

Declaration that they will not make any working, dependant or disabled people living in poverty poorer through any changes in the law.

Lets Play… You Decide!!!

Last week I filmed a Lets Play with Lewis Dunn. A “Lets Play” is when one or more persons plays a game. They put a video of it onto the internet for people to view and listen to the hilarious and enlightening things they say. Or in our case to laugh at my ineptitude with motion controls:

The filming of that particular game is now over. But fortunately I have two of humanity’s greatest medieval life simulators and I want to share them with you.

Just to qualify, I am crap at filming things and do not know how to edit footage, as my abandoned YouTube channel suggests:

So I will not be filming my Lets Play. What I will be doing is making diary entries as if I am an actual character, reporting my journey through the wonderful medieval world of murder, poverty, political intrigue and more murder. Lets Play entries will be here, on my blog. I will also be giving key choices over to you, my dear beloved readers. Choose by commenting on the article or on Facebook. You can even text me if you’re super keen. I’ll follow the popular mood. Or if you would prefer another method you can suggest it and I’ll follow it if it seems popular.

The first choice I have to offer you is which game. I can either play Crusader Kings II, a real-world dynasty simulator, starting any time from 1066 (or earlier if I buy DLC), and taking place anywhere in Europe, North Africa, the Middle East or the Indian subcontinent. I can be a count, a duke, a king, possibly an emperor, or a doge, or even the female equivalent. The really fun bit is that if I die, I get to become my own child (if I have one) and hope that I inherit my father’s/mother’s/self’s fiefdom. I also get to choose the personality and religion of the person I start off with, so I could be a French duchess who is a lustful, food-loving Buddhist. Of course, being a Buddhist duchess in medieval France would be insanely hard, but also hopefully insanely fun. I could be a historical character otherwise if you want me to be lame. I choose my own objectives, and the game ends when my family dies out, or in 1453, whichever comes first.

The other game is Mount and Blade: Warband. This is an “action” game set in the fictional land of Calradia. I start out as a nobody and can choose my own back-story. Then I can trade, take part in tournaments, gather a group of followers, attack local farmers, try to become a vassal, and maybe even become King or Queen. Although getting out of extreme poverty is very difficult. This game is insanely hard. It’s also made by approximately two people, and as a result horses may run into walls and I will never be able to hit anyone with an arrow. I choose my own objectives, but can also get quests from characters in the game, and there is no way to win or lose the game, just like in real life.

So which should I play? You decide.

Everything is Awful

The title is a Lego Movie reference. I’m not going to be talking about the Lego Movie. I’m a terrible person.

I have been reading Marxist literature, as well as literature written by Marx. So much of what I have been reading is symbolic of the issues that I have with my degree as a whole.

What are the implications of Marxist analysis? If the state, and all social phenomena are moments of class antagonism then what? What does this mean for monetary policy or the race relations act or any number of never-introduced alternative policies? What is class antagonism? If class antagonism occurs wherever there is a struggle or use of power then we seem to have simply introduced a new phrase to describe something else and no new information. The danger in contemporary Marxist analysis is that we loose sight of what we are looking for and become obsessed with characterisations and categories instead. It is meaningless to describe the state as either autonomous or as a moment in class antagonism if these descriptions cannot be brought to bear on any political facts.

Perhaps I am being unfair because in my time and my work reading I have not found any facts in most of the politics or philosophy or economics reading that I do, but this suggests a deeper malaise. Academics in politics and economics departments are not interested in facts. That’s why everything we’re given to read is ultimately so boring – because it doesn’t have anything to do with anything real.

Of course the ideas, categories and descriptions are in some sense real. They exist in the minds of professors and to a lesser extent in those of students. And they are based on things that are observable or at least deducible. But my problem with so much of my degree – and I think this is a problem that people who do almost any humanities or arts subjects experience – is that I don’t feel like any of the reading or writing or discussions or lectures has done anything to make me understand my subject.

I’m supposed to be a politics student. I’m supposed to know what has happened and what is happening and why. But I feel lost. I am made to engage with an academic community which is uninterested (really lets be honest about this) in the subjects it teaches.

I’m supposed to be studying politics. I’m supposed to be studying what happens and how. But instead all I get are ideas and frameworks. Everyone is trying to invent grand theories of everything. “Here’s what the state is” “These are the different kinds of economies” “This is how to measure development”. But that is useless. The grand sweep doesn’t tell us anything. Tell us about policy and things. Tell us what Tony Blair said to Alistair Campbell the day before he went into Iraq. Tell us what the minimum wage has actually done to the British economy. I want facts. I want answers. I want science. And where there are no facts I want people to be honest.

The biggest problem is because I know so little, because all I’ve studied is my degree, I have no idea of even where to begin in coming up with some alternative approach. I know that I want to be marked on the essays that I write rather than on the essays that module conveners want me to write. I know that I want things that are disprovable by empirical analysis to be discredited. The problem is that facts are never enough. They need to be explained and put in context and analysed. But the analysis always comes first and then the facts are forgotten about. And you can analyse your way to any conclusion if you don’t have the facts.

Sociologists discovered that after the Second World War soldiers who were from the town had much greater levels of psychological distress than those from the country. They explained this in terms of the pressures of city life and the lack of support for those from cities. Only, those facts given to sociologists were wrong. The soldiers from farms experienced higher levels of psychological distress. And the sociologists explained that in terms of the isolation of country life etc etc.

This is exactly my point. University just seems to train us to reproduce viewpoints. But we don’t know the truth. It’s almost as bad as the world of news. We have no idea what actual reality is like. Everything is distorted through the lens of human perspective. And we all bring preconceptions to our analyses. Even where we accept new evidence and allow it to change our world view, what we judge as important or right is entirely subjective.

I suppose my argument is not just about university or newspapers or sociology but about everything. Life is so confusing and disorienting and ultimately even the most intelligent, most well informed human being will only know the tiniest fraction of what is knowable. And the vast majority of truth is probably ultimately unknowable. But I want a better degree. I want a better understanding. And I want to be done with Marx and the Marxists.

I lied. Go see the Lego Movie. It is awesome.

It’s a simple process:

1. Private school paid for by parents.
2. Friends with grammar school kids, whose parents could afford high local house prices.
3. Private tutoring paid for by parents.
4. Gap year paid for through bar work. And parents.
5. Top university recognises brilliant grades and life experience.
6. Fees, rent, food paid for by parents.
7. Internship. Paid. By parents.
8. Specialist training institute recognises great references from internship.
9. Contact from private/grammar school recognises wealth of experience. Get onto fast track for new job.
10. Small flat in London paid for by parents.
11. Higher paid job.
12. Sell flat at hight of boom.
13. Higher paid job.
14. Buy fancy house during recession.
15. Become member of renumeration board. Raise pay for executives.
16. Become executive in recognition of brilliant work on renumeration board.
17. Become senior Conservative/New Labour politician.
18. I am a self-made man.
19. The tax system is perfectly fair.
20. The tax system is too fair.
21. You’re all jealous.
22. If you read the newspapers my friends own, then you would know that all the problems of this country are because of poor people.
23. Capitalism is meritocratic.
24. I’m not right wing. Some of my best friends are women.
25. Become member of house of Lords.
26. I’m only right wing to stop UKIP.
27. I’m not against immigration. I’m against providing education to the children of immigrants.
28. If you compare my life condition now to how it was when I was a child then actually I was raised in poverty.
29. I wrote a hilarious column in Times2 about me not listening to my wife.
30. My problem as Prime Minister was that I cared too much about hard working folk at the bottom rung of the ladder.