Saturday, 12 January 2013

Austerity and “The Big Society Freeze”

2nd October - This year so far there has been mild weather and no big flu pandemic, yet still Woman dies in ambulance at Morriston Hospital A&E queue

The main problem last year in the UK was flooding, “austerity” was often cited as a problem - local councils cutting back on dredging rivers, especially. Prime Minister David Cameron used this as a photo opportunity - being seen walking in boots vthrough the water.

The current big international story is the Ebola outbreak in Africa - let's hope for another mild Winter and that Ebola can be controlled here and overseas alike.

“ Every year, mortality rises by 19% in the winter months in England. This amounts to an average of 27,000 “excess” winter deaths (EWDs); 90.8% of which last year were in the over 65 age group.

The majority of these deaths occur among older people, especially women, and those with underlying health problems. However, they are not people who would have otherwise died at that time. Most deaths are due to cardiac disease, strokes and respiratory problems, not hypothermia. The Marmot Review Team also found there was a greater risk of death in colder housing than in the warmest housing, estimating that 21.5% of all excess winter deaths could be attributed to cold homes. ”
Source: Ripped-off Britons

Introduction

I'm afraid this piece is very anglocentric but it is, I believe, a credible piece of moral philosophy. The writing is thoroughly hyperlinked but non-British readers who wish to pursue it may find the following wikipedia entries useful in understanding it:
Universal Credit
Child Benefit
Fuel poverty in the United Kingdom
Eton College

What may happen in this blog is that actual academic philosophy may become somewhat separated from the practical application of it. It is very hard to say at this juncture as no real schema yet exists. Posts are frequently updated and may well become separated from their own content into sub-posts and so forth.

Social Context of “The Big Freeze” - “The Big Society Freeze”

The image above depicts a google search for cold warnings on bbc news .

N.B. In this piece I am not arguing anything at all about Syria just pointing out a contradiction in the Etonion UK government's attitude to it's own subjects and those of Syria. I think the situation in Syria is awful and inhumane but I don't want to get into the politics of that here.

I found that search result quite poignant because at the moment William Hague [wikipedia] is making much fuss about the Situation in Syria, saying that all options are open on Syria , including military assistance. This contradiction had occurred to me before and coincidentally while searching on articles on deaths due to cold in the UK, which I want to discuss the Syrian conflict came up.

I want to discuss this contradiction in the context of current Etonion “austerity”, policy, it's discourse, hypocrisy and moral failings.

The UK has just been hit by widespread floods and is about to be hit by calamitous prolonged cold and snow:

Prepare for impact: Government issues severe weather warning as Big Freeze heads our way [Daily Mirror]
UK facing snow threat amid freeze [BBC News]

All this at a time when Rising energy bills [are] causing fuel poverty deaths [BBC News] and Pensioners have just taken a significant Budget 2011: Winter fuel payment blow for pensioners. [BBC News]

We also have to focus on the relatively dire and chaotic state the National Health Service [NHS] is in due to Etonion austerity and privitisation - I predict that our NHS is going to be stretched to breaking point this Winter and that unfortunately many will die unnecessarily. Many others will suffer unduly in hospital, including overworked staff.

I haven't yet focused an the NHS r“reforms” (sic) in this blog but I have been reading about them for some time.

There is also growing demand for food banks in breadline Britain [BBC NEWS]. When you factor in prolonged cold and the costs of prescriptions for cold related illnesses you have to wonder how food banks and “ordinary working families” (“strivers” in the latest Etonion rhetoric) will cope.

As with the NHS it won't just be the end-users of food banks who suffer - greater demand means smaller portions - but also the volunteers. The once-vaunted Etonion ideology (mythology) of “The Big Society” has been long forgotten and the situation we are in now contradicts that phantom completely.

Of course, some good neighbours will look after each other, when they can afford to, but that has always been the case from time immemorial and austerity does nothing for that - making people poorer actually runs against the idea of “The big Society” because poor people have less power to help one another.

What the future holds

The worst of the Etonion reforms have yet to bite. Benefits will only be increasing by 1% not at the rate of inflation. Winter fuel payments will not increase at all. This 1% increase is also true of public sector pay: Poorest households will be hit hardest by benefit changes, Whitehall admits [Guardian] . This article is one of the best I have read on this topic. It's so easy to forget that “austerity” is not just all about the sick, disabled and unemployed but “we're all in this together” unless we're very rich. In my other, more (too?) academic piece on this topic The Discourse of austerity I've argued that even if you think tax breaks and austerity work in your favour you may be deceiving yourself.

Working people will be paying enhanced state pension credits but will not see the dividends until they retire. Under the Energy Bill we will all be paying for nuclear and wind power but will not see the (hypothetical) dividends until these resources are completed. Elderly people will be paying for resources they may never live to see. Does it really make sense to charge a shivering ninety nine year old for an nuclear power station? You might as well tax them for the afterlife.

If you are a “striver” you can “strive” less effectively if your parent, child or partner is sick.

As well as representing a real cut in living standards for millions of people universal credit may well bring additional problems. Do you prioritise heating and food over rent when you're penniless? Who can be so hardhearted as not to turn the heating up for their freezing children?

Austerity will drive people into the hands of high interest lenders who will use universal credit as security on their loans. I can image a cycle where the desperate borrow from their housing benefit (universal credit) then borrow from high rate lenders, then borrow from universal credit to repay the loans and gradually get into an enormous debt cycle that can lead to them becoming homeless.

There are many vulnerable people in society being exploited by false friends or outright criminals. Even though they will receive less money, they will have more money in their hands that can be taken off them once universal credit is introduced. This will also cause more homelessness and more problems for landlords, councils and housing associations. Homelessness itself makes suicide more likely, and significantly lowers life expectancy in general.

Lack of financial education costs UK £3.4 billion a year
Direct payment could undermine universal credit

In addition the are doubts that the IT systems are properly in place for for universal credit - Universal credit plan 'is a disaster in the making', says minister just months ahead of launch [Ripped-off Britons]

According to Iain Duncan Smith    Child-related benefits may be 'capped' at two children [BBC News] - given the foregoing I hope that all reasonable people can see the cruelty of this, some workers will have planned their families during better times, to punish their children with poverty during recession is nothing less than child abuse , as defined as willful neglect. This will, in some cases have a knock-on effect for social services and law enforcement. Some children may end up in care. all this costs society as well as those involved.

Not only the parent of a child is responsible for a child's well-being but the responsibility falls on the whole of society. Those that make policies in which it is impossible for the vulnerable to live are responsible for the harm that those policies inflict upon them.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Children And Families (DCF) define child maltreatment as any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child.[2] Child abuse can occur in a child's home, or in the organizations, schools or communities the child interacts with. There are four major categories of child abuse: neglect, physical abuse, psychological or emotional abuse, and sexual abuse. Source, wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_abuse

Here I am using the term "child abuse in the same way you might use the term “institutionally racist”

Taken as a whole I think austerity abuses many of those it comes into contact with - I understand austerity as making vast sections of society suffer disproportionately so that the rich and powerful can get richer and more powerful. There may be some ideology that it's for the good of the nation “trickle down economics” but I think it's mostly driven by greed and a blind belief in superiority and entitlement.

Doctors dismayed as public health committee is scrapped [Guardian] - can this be the type of sequence of events that caused the Etonions to scrap this body they promised before the election? That their austerity project and its inevitable consequences are not compatible with public health?

Conclusion

It doesn't matter if you drop scud missiles upon your people, like Assad of Syria, does his own people but to make policies that rob them of their dignity and lead directly to death, displacement or harm is no different. An act is the same as an omission to act in terms of moral philosophy.

I contend that there is a blatant contradiction between the Etonions “concern” for the Syrian people when they don't even know how to treat their own people properly. I believe their disastrous policies will be laid bare by this oncoming weather and that many people are going to suffer horribly.
17 hospitals with unsafe staffing, says Care Quality Commission

I hope I am wrong about the consequences of the weather that is coming but I am pointing here to the adversity that confronts society as it braces itself for the oncoming storm. Whatever happens others may be feeling anxious about the weather and austerity, either in isolation or taken as a whole.

As I said in my last post on the discourse of austerity , austerity sets up a monte carlo situation - repeat (reiterate) this big freeze scenario enough times and sooner or later a situation will arise where you or your loved ones will come to harm the Etonions are gambling with the lives of others recklessly.

Of course, Assad is far worse a beast than the Etonions, I'm not asserting that they are morally equivalent, this is just a philosophical “attack” upon them. I am pointing out that their policies do harm to their people - will displace and kill them unnecessarily, that is all.

Additional links:
Fuel poverty 'spiraling', warns lobby group [BBC News]
Benefit cuts condemned by head of Church of England charity [Guardian]
Cold homes cost NHS more than a billion, Age UK study says [BBC News]
Poll Tax II: the coalition plans even bigger cuts to Council Tax Benefit
Former Bank of England rate setter blasts "nasty" Government for targeting ordinary working people

14/1/13 - more links

A lot of scandalous reports today (relevant to this topic) but Cameron is pulling another kansas city shuffle and making sure it's Europe that's in the news. Here are the relevant stories that didn't make the national news:

UK Government's benefit changes are a 'social atrocity'
Welfare reform hitting lone parents says Poverty Alliance [BBC News]
How should we measure fuel poverty?
Patients waiting up to two hours as ambulances queue outside hospitals

Monte Carlo Austerity - 16/01/13

The Monte Carlo nature of austerity is perfectly illustrated by the fact that 37% pf UK households have insufficient funds to cope with an emergency:
Hard times for more UK households, ONS report shows [BBC News] . Also the fact that the NHS is in deep trouble and that redundancies are coming thick and fast.

table showing multiple redundancies

Table showing publicly announced redundancies in the past few days
Thanks to Dr √Čoin Clarke for collating the numbers (he's not affiliated with this blog)

Yet more new reports of problems in the NHS found today:
Anger over queues of ambulances outside hospitals
Surge in A&E delays at "understaffed" Croydon University Hospital

Monday, 31 December 2012

The discourse of austerity

Disclaimers (Introduction)

I haven't really much of a background in semantics and linguistic philosophy and haven't really started my planned reading on the topic so this post is “premature” but these are notes and are frequently updated so I hope you will forgive or attempt to correct, via contact, any errors I make.

My knowledge of games theory is likewise limited. The search term yields all sorts of possibilities but I'm not even going to pretend to read or to be able to understand them. I picked the prisoner's dilemma partly as a starting point because it's all I've read about games theory in the past (until recently) and it seemed to fit.

The question I am asking is: even if you profit from the policies of the Etonions, do you not choose to put the interests of your “exceptional state”, the UK, before your own short-term selfish interests. Mathematics might indicate that you are acting counter to your own long-term interests and those of your loved ones if you choose the Etonions over “the exceptional state”, the UK.

Also, please note I am employing the Frankfurt School Odysseus and the Sirens metaphor, not out of any classical Marxist sentiment but using it as a critical attack upon our current political zeitgeist, which I refer to as “Etonionism” - because that's where a lot of them, and David Cameron in particular, went to school.

The Odyssey and Etonionism

Recall the story of the Odyssey, which, in brief, is as follows. After ten years of warfare the Greeks defeat the Trojans and return home. Odysseus and his men set sail for Ithaca, where Odysseus rules as king. They encounter various perils on the return voyage, many of them in mythological form. For example, the Cyclops Polyphemus traps and eats several of Odysseus's men. Employing the cunning for which he is renowned, Odysseus, the man of many devices, manages to blind Polyphemus and escape with most of his crew. Polyphemus prays to his father, the god Poseidon, asking that Odysseus return home alone, only after a long delay and many troubles, to find sorrows in his home. Poseidon grants his prayer, thereby becoming Odysseus's enemy and the cause of his long journey home. After further adventures, including the passage by the Sirens and sailing between Scylla and Charybdis, adventures in which his entire crew is killed, Odysseus is shipwrecked on the island of the goddess Calypso, who keeps him as her lover for eight years. All the while his wife Penelope, who is under intense romantic siege from the suitors who have taken over her home, faithfully waits for Odysseus to return. Eventually, Calypso releases Odysseus, who sets sail for Ithaca. Six weeks later he returns in disguise, reunites with his son Telemachus, and the two of them slaughter the suitors. So, after going off to war twenty years earlier, Odysseus has finally returned home to resume his rightful role as king of Ithaca.

Horkheimer and Adorno claim that Odysseus is "a prototype of the bourgeois individual" (43). Ancient Greek kings are certainly not members of the bourgeoisie as Marx conceived of them, so how can Odysseus be a prototype for them? What does he have in common with them? What unites the two is Odysseus's cunning, his most famous trait. Like the bourgeoisie of the capitalist world, Odysseus employs instrumental reason to advance his self-interest. This enables him to survive the mythological terrors of the ancient world. He sacrifices all else that he might desire and value, even his crew, all of whom die on the way back to Ithaca. And so he escapes the mythological world of his voyage. Yet what does he return to? An enlightened world of freedom and autonomy? No, he returns to his kingdom, resuming his place as ruler of his people. His odyssey is thus a voyage in which — to express a complicated matter in a simple formula — Odysseus oppressed resumes his place as Odysseus the oppressor.
Source: Odysseus and the Siren Call of Reason: The Frankfurt School Critique of Enlightenment

Adorno and Horkheimer choose to focus on Odysseus' encounter with the Sirens, mythical evil creatures whose songs lure unwary sailors to their deaths.

Odysseus' employs his reason to deal with the problem - he has his crew's ears stopped up so they are deaf to the calls. He himself is tethered to the mast so he can enjoy their song passively without acting upon it.

Although we all experience the economy in various direct ways on a daily basis - our diets for example, it is something of a phantom in that few of us understand it. It is another phantom which resides somewhere beside or within the wider phantom of the exceptional state. Like the Sirens of myth, or nature, it is something that must be mastered by reason. Luckily for us we have those Etonions Osborne and Cameron at the helm of our ship.

I think the message from our great leaders (sic) is that we are the oarsmen, we must have our ears stopped, by austerity, so that they can employ their reason to overcome the deficit, while they suffer nothing, get richer and continue to enjoy the Siren's call - the Siren here being luxuries like holidays, nice cars, nice clothes, multiple expensive homes. It's as if Eton itself has become “the exceptional state” and the rest of us are dragging them down somehow.

It's my view that “the austerity project” and power in general offer us continual choices - to collaborate or defect - do we accept hostile (working) conditions and arbitrary decisions from “up top” at the risk of sanction (unemployment, poverty and its natural consequences) or “defect”. How I employ my ego depends partly upon my power and self-knowledge - a person in a ghostly nexus of power relations, I should know my limits, or at least not wail at adverse consequences I inflict upon myself. However, to question the adversity inflicted in general is legitimate, especially as I believe it goes against the interests of us all.

The austerity project sets up a kind of semi-random but adversely skewed Monte Carlo version of the Prisoners' Dilemma , i.e. some of those “ordinary working families” who “collaborate” will become unemployed pariahs anyway.

The advert - scroungers versus “ordinary working families”

This image was recently used by the Etonions to justify social security cuts - let's “decontruct” it a little, thanks to Dr √Čoin Clarke and others we know it's a composite of cheap clip art. We don't know if that's even a real family, if they're British - we know nothing of the guy on the sofa either. Does this mean the Tories collectively do not know an “ordinary working family” that votes Conservative or are they too lazy to find one, or are they afraid of becoming hostage to the Monte Carlo fate that austerity brings? Might any Conservative voting family fall victim to their own Monte Carlo austerity? i.e., that their “ordinary working family” might fall into disrepair.

1,470 more job losses brings a the total workers axed in 2 days to over 5,970

Also, the image tells us that desperate Etonions are resorting to “divide and conquer” tactics. They want to set communities against each other - those paying taxes resenting those who don't and find themselves sick or unemployed.

With Etonions it's always a case of Kansas city shuffle - “you can't have a 'Kansas City Shuffle' without a body” and in this case it's some guy on a sofa, living on £50 a week and laughing all the way to the food bank.

In reality such sofa dwelling individuals do exist, though it's doubtful they exist in great numbers, and you have to wonder what underlying mental health or social conditions would make a person choose this awful lifestyle - of no aspirations, no love and no self-esteem. Perhaps they are entitled to other benefits ATOS has denied them or they themselves are evading, because they lack even the will to get themselves diagnosed.

Most job-seekers are very active - I've seen people dressed for interviews just to sign on for their benefits - after a while perhaps some individuals treat successive failures to acquire a decent job as “their choice” rather than admit that society has no productive use for them?

It's a given sociological fact that repeated rejection and long-term unemployment cause depression and the attempts of repeated governments to create work schemes have been largely inept and self-defeating.

These schemes are all devised by for-profit rationalists who want to bludgeon circles into the square holes allotted to them in order to make money - if you imagine the Little Big Man scene where an utterly blind-to-himself General Custer insists, despite all protestations, that someone is a “mule skinner” then you're in the right kind of ball-park - “This man has spent years with mules, isn't that correct?”

At this point it's relevant to dwell much further on some of the issues as to who the Etonions benefit reforms target: it turns out it's “ordinary working families”. Others have done a much better job than I in contradicting this blatant scam. These include but are not limited to:

The Tories' shameful new ad campaign against “the scroungers”

Polly Toynbee has also done a fine job Tax credit cut will hit hardest those the Tories love to praise – working families

10/01/13 In the interests of diversity I'm offering a link opposing view to my own also: The Tories have a moral mission – and David Cameron should say so

In Don't call folk scroungers Conservative MP Douglas Carswell explains why he's voting to cut benefits - he argues that unemployment is a choice bought about by flaws in the system, basically denies there aren't enough jobs and that almost all unemployment is involuntary. towing the party line while trying to appear reasonable, it's just more propaganda. His avatar reminds me of a young Heinrich Himmler, which isn't really relevant, I'm just saying.

The austerity project is touted as rational but for the average person to collaborate with it is utterly irrational based on a principle of endless reiteration of the Monte Carlo austerity scenario - the chances that they or their loved ones become sick, bankrupt, unemployed or consider entering higher education increase with each repetition of the austerity model.

These redundancies in recent days make a mockery of the divisive Etonion “shirkers” versus “strivers” juxtaposition.

Let's say an “ordinary working family” manage to escape the everyday pitfalls of falling into unemployment, bankruptcy, injury or education that can afflict us all at any time. What of the lucky ones?

The Great Leader speaks

His address isn't too easy to embed but the link is here: David Cameron's New Year Message

In this address Cameron makes the basic claim that cutting welfare is good for the country and harkens to the spook of the economy to justify his hatchet job.

So, we owe it to the younger generation to pull the rug from beneath their feet? Read this sobering report Child poverty facts and figures and it seems that child poverty costs the UK an estimates £25 billion a year.

Even a psychopath accountant might shiver at the child costs, not to mention the human suffering, but the Etonions plan to scrap Winter fuel payments for old age pensioners entirely too, despite the obvious costs - Cold homes cost NHS more than a billion, Age UK study says - if you're a Grandparent looking after a sick or absent child's children imagine the tornado this represents.

Further, these costs will have to be borne by a National Health Service which also finds itself under concerted attack from the Etonions and is increasingly become two-tier. The people who can't afford to heat their homes won't be able to afford private health care so their care will have a disproportion effect on the lower tier which will affect all members of that group.

If I said that whistling on a Tuesday was illegal and that fines would be levied retrospectively you'd say I was crazy, not just the crime itself but you can't fine people retrospectively for performing legal acts. According to Ian Duncan Smith you can.

Child-related benefits may be 'capped' at two children - so, tough luck for you if you planned your family carefully, paid your taxes and some unforeseen disaster wipes you out, your children only get a third their proper share.

This is really just a preliminary draft and despite the date stamp was written in haste over eight or so hours. I wanted to get this finished before New Year. Any corrections would be gratefully received. Happy New Year.

Conclusion

This country is being run by mathematically illiterate psychopaths who know the price of everything but the value of nothing. They believe that Eton specifically and the private schools in general constitute “the exceptional state” - Eton is a state within a state and unfortunately they seem to have landed on the UK at random.

Or, is that Etonionism is particularly English disease?

Come to think of it, don't the sirens represent ordinary emotions like care? Our great leaders being impervious to the call of love and community?

Addendum: It was mostly state school pupils who trounced the world in the Paralympics and Olympics. So how did the Etonions inherit a failing school system?

This blog Mind In Flux has an excellent comparison of Nazi and Etonion attempts to set communities against each other.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Preface, power, war and torture

Empires and Bodies

On the wrong side of the tracks, there lies a derelict tenement surrounded by a mish-mash of shacks, therein slaves serve scavenger kings who supplicate the building in return for a greater share of its trash.

Thus has it ever been.

The monolith itself of consists of petty palaces, discordiently oscillating, each racked by certainty, vying for supremacy over the meth lab which lies at the epicentre - the twisted lllogic of the structure demands perpetual war and the sacrifice of minions in hordes.

The meth lab continually burns like a immortal pheonix forever reborn - a beacon that illuminates fantastic truth.

Relax, this isn't a conspiracy theory.

In A Tradition of Torture Chomsky considers the position of the U.S., somehow claiming to exceptional, and he writes, 'Among empires exceptionalism is probably close to universal. France was hailing its "civilising mission" while the French Minister of War called for “exterminating the indigenous population” of Algeria.‘

Side effects are more difficult to measure — including the extent to which strikes breed more enemies of the United States — but could be more consequential if the campaign continues for 10 more years.

“We are looking at something that is potentially indefinite,” Pillar said. “We have to pay particular attention, maybe more than we collectively have so far, to the longer-term pros and cons to the methods we use.”

Obama administration officials at times have sought to trigger debate over how long the nation might employ the kill lists. But officials said the discussions became dead ends.

Source: Washington Post - Plan for hunting terrorists signals U.S. intends to keep adding names to kill lists.

It's my assumption that empires, with borders or not, need each other to shore up their internal power structures and to make (personality) profit from the supply of war and other materials. That is what the prose-poem above above aims at expressing. The ideal U.S. kill list is the mirror image of the ideal al-Qaeda database, and beyond, and the ideal al-Qaeda kill might be found in Time, wikipedia, Who's Who and beyond.

The ideal kill should be “target rich” which to my mind strongly implies a perverse symbiotic relationship between the U.S. and al-Qaeda, much as happened less explicitly with the Soviet Union. There the war was cold, ideological and fought out technologically, with brinkmanship and in proxy wars.

In A Tradition of Torture, Chomsky writes about ‘an order coming from up the chain of command to establish a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda. “Waterboarding”, among other measures of torture, finally elicited the “evidence” from a detainee that was used to help justify the Bush-Cheney invasion of Iraq the next year.’

Currently in the UK there is much controversy over the release of Abu Qatada into a sort of “civil half-life” which the average British subject would consider a gross invasion of their personal liberties. This will cost Britain about £100,000 a week according to estimates.

In a sense Qatada has “won”: even though this victory is at a high cost to his personal freedoms - I have heard of electronic tags referred to “the modern day ball and chain” - Qatada has succeeded in using aspects of the “liberal system”, it's essential claim that it is “exceptional”, against the very system itself.

Abu Qatada bbc profile & wikipedia profile: Abu Qatada

Discourse is determined by those with power - returning to Chomsky's point about torture at Guantanamo, the discourse around Qatada hasn't really reflected on the notion that torture may have been used as a rationale to invade Iraq and has certainly has been used by Britain's ally America and its various proxies. This is not being debated in the context of a discourse that centres on Qatada and torture in Jordan.

British politicians want Jordan to change its legal system, not for the benefit of Jordanians in general, who do not figure in the discourse, but for the benefit of Britain which has found itself wrapped up in a contradiction.

Likewise, around the discourse I have heard nothing about alleged British collusion in torture .

[Torture] made the guilty man the herald of his condemnation. he was given the task, in a sense, of proclaiming it and attesting to the truth of what he was charged with. . . M. Foucault Discipline and Punish pg. 43

Reflecting on the relation between the condemned man and the exceptional state, as was played out at Guantanamo, the condemned can be understood to be a tool of the exceptional state. The detainee tortured at Guantanmo was the herald of the crimes of an opposing “exceptional society”, Iraq, and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Added 16/12/12: Recently the UK government has agreed to pay £2.2m to Sami al-Saadi, a Libyan dissident who alleges the British secret service MI6 were involved in his rendition to Gadaffi's Libya where he was imprisoned and tortured. You can read the story UK pays £2.2m to settle Libyan rendition claim

Another Libyan is making similar claims about British collusion in torture, during the Blair era when Britain was courting the oil rich Libya despite the fact that it doesn't share the values which make Britain an “exceptional state”.

This raises further questions about “duty ethics” - those with duties to the exceptional state must sometimes act in ways that contradict the ethical codes it espouses - a privilege it denies its ordinary subjects and for which they will be sanctioned if apprehended.

UK Government collusion in torture by proxy raised again 10/1/13:
Torture claim redactions 'show dangers of secret courts'

I am currently working on a sort of Sartrean model of consciousness, mixed with Foucault's analysis of power relations. Without going into too much detail right here and now, I am arguing that the exceptional state rewards human beings with property, prestige and power according to its interests, and likewise punishes them in a similar manner.

A prison is an “anti-palace”, a concrete reflection of the greater palace of the exceptional state.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Commonalities of modernity and regime ancien (Foucault)

This piece is based on an incomplete reading of M. Foucault's Discipline & Punish Penguin 1991: [D&P] hereafter. This represents an attempt to apply Michel Foucault's ideas about power relations to a contemporary setting.

This paper goes far beyond my reading so far and the original text. It is a theory of the subject, based around a Sartrean model.

Computers are conspicuous by their absence in Orwell's 1984 and likewise Foucault's D&P but I wish to think about search engines in relation to the individual encountering power.

These study notes meander all over the place, for actual atudents of Foucault other study notes will be more appropriate. In this blog there's a attempted philosophical "shotgun wedding" between Foucault and Sartre's existentialism. A reference to a news story about an alleged incident at a prison and the idea of a homeless person as the inverted figure of Kate Middleton - as events unfolded contemporary to this text.

a missing page

This post ran away from me to an extent as the Jimmy Saville scandal, that “tsunami of filth”, broke into the news and was temporarily abandoned. I will try to include some ramifications of this scandal into the post but this will not be the best place to research that scandal either.

Satre's “The Look”, and Power

‘In Sartre's account of the look (which is again, in his text, a first person narrative), the visual relation is reversed. One enters the real or imagined perceptual field of another, and becomes oneself "present to the eyes without distance" (BN,330), like an object. In Sartre's famous example, he is peeping through a keyhole, wholly and pre-reflectively engrossed in this act. When he hears footsteps and realizes he has been seen, the object of his own attention becomes the Other's look for which he is the scene. He finds himself the shameful object of the Other's attention. And in thus becoming an object for the Other, he grasps the Other as a subject, a freedom (BN,322ff). That is, rather than apprehend the Other-as-subject through an attribution of subjectivity, one encounters and knows the Other in oneself as an attribution by the Other -- not through the attribution's content, but through its enactment."’ The Sartrean Account of the Look as a Theory of Dialogue

The Being-For-Itself, in my view, confronts power in a similar way to the individual engrossed and apprehended in the illicit act of spying through a keyhole. Except power has no one tangible body whose transcendence I can transcend, it's so multifarious that it's practically metaphysical in nature, like some great hulking deity.

Power is proud to be apprehended in the act of “spying though a keyhole”, makes of virtue of its spying, it is the duty of all who serve the exceptional empire to be ever vigilant against its enemies, the enemies of its people.

N.B. This post is published somewhat zealously, I must read that paper properly in the future. I have other background reading, specifically, Derrida The Ends of Man and R.L. Martin Matrix and Line: Derrida and the possibilities of a post-modern social theory .

Foucault argues that all crimes are crimes against the person of the sovereign and those who obey the sovereign's laws. In the present that means that all crimes are assaults upon the “meta-personage” of the exceptional empire, treason and terrorism being the worst. An Islamist militant is probably the highest type of criminal in the present.

At the beginning of D&P, pg 23, Foucault sets out four rules for writing a "history of the present":
1) To regard punishment as a complex social function.
2) Analyse punitive methods as methods of expressing power - regard punishment as a political tactic.
3) Look for a common matrix behind the humanisation of the penal system and knowledge of man - process of "epistemologico-juridicial" formation.
4) To attempt to discover if the insertion of "the soul" into the punitive process and science is the product of power over the body.

This is the philosophical position I am trying to "map", move from, and explore thereby.

Little fails

Obviously, being homeless is hard enough but being vulnerable and having public humiliation heaped upon you just makes the situation worse. It will act as a trigger for those who want to bully this already bullied, unwell and powerless person.

In Medieval times people would be put into the stocks and it strikes me that modernity can, at times, be equally barbaric.

Stocks are devices used in the medieval and colonial American times as a form of physical punishment involving public humiliation. The stocks partially immobilized its victims and they were often exposed in a public place such as the site of a market to the scorn of those who passed by. Since the purpose of putting offenders in the stocks was to expose them to ridicule and mockery, passers-by were encouraged to throw mud, rotten eggs, moldy fruit and vegetables, smelly fish, offal, and excrement (both animal and human) at those being punished. wikipedia: stocks

This person is not physically restrained but they are restrained by their dependence on various prescribed medications, including some for gastronomic disorders. This history of gastronomic disorder and an earlier bowel operation were not raised in court by their Legal Aid solicitor, or, if they were, weren't reported by the local paper in its fairly disproportionate coverage of the court case.

An individual in the stocks was at the mercy of the elements for several days, a homeless person, such as this, has to find shelter and toilet facilities where they can over a period of months, if not years.

the body is also involved in a political field; power relations have an immediate hold upon it; they invest it, mark it, train it, torture it, force it to carry out tasks, to perform ceremonies, to emit signs. This political investment of the body is bound up, in accordance with complex reciprocal relations, with its economic use; it is largely as a force of production that the body is invested with relations of power and domination; but, on the other hand, its constitution as labour power is possible only if it is caught up in a system of subjugation. . .[D&P] pg25-26

The "stocks", both Medieval and modern, represent a public display of power in extremis. Power requires subjects that are powerless to express itself, I would contend.

This subjugation is not only obtained by the instruments of violence or ideology; it may be calculated, organised technically thought out, it may be subtle, make use of neither weapons nor of terror and yet remain of a physical order. . . this technology is diffuse, rarely formulated in continuous, systematic discourse; it is often made up of bits and pieces: it implements a disparate set of tools and methods. In spite of the coherence of its results, it is generally no more than a multiform instrumentation. Moreover it cannot be localised in a particular type of institution or state apparatus. [D&P pg26]

Foucault argues that in the darkest regions of the political field the condemned man represents the symmetrical inverted figure of the king [D&P pg29]. I would contend that this homeless individual represents the symmetrical inverted figure of, say, arbitrarily, Kate Middleton - with her designer clothes, perfect teeth, fad diets, luxury homes, public good works and ideal husband.

From what I can gather, this person seeks refuge in the communal areas of high rise flats, glass palaces, and is banned from them, being chastised by the residents. This situation borne out of necessity, illness and social exclusion seems to be self-perpetuating with a momentum of its own that dances simultaneously with and outside of the individual I am here writing of.

Foucault cites Vico ‘This old jurisprudence had “an entire poetics” ’ - the tower blocks of which I have written and not the most salubrious of palaces and their residents are not what society regards as its “highest types” yet they transmit the values of the exceptional empire despite its general disregard for them.

the "body politic" as a set of material elements and techniques that serve as weapons, relays, communication routes, and supports for the power and knowledge relations that invest human bodies and subjugate them by turning them into objects of knowledge.[D&P pg28]

This could be interpreted in Sartrean way, in that the being-for-itself (the Self, “I”), in general, but in particular in the case the being-as-"condemned" arises out of all sorts of interactions with all sorts "Others" in a myriad of power relations.

This object of knowledge, the person, a.k.a. "the condemned" is perceived and acted upon on a variety of levels - the magistrate, police officer, legal aid, policeman, prosecutor, bureaucracy, "public opinion", warders, traffic wardens, traffic lights, traffic cones, parking meters and CCTV cameras and peers are all presented with the choice to interpret and affirm or deny their position in this nexus of power, except in such cases of they being inanimate objects, i.e., traffic cones. Traffic cones, etc., are the "droppings" of power, expressions of an often irrational vortex formed by conscious agents.

Out of the sum of these interactions, throughout the life of any person they will be confronted by a vast, infinitely subtle at times, "matrix" of power relations, which is a form of intentionality. The being-for-itself (being-as-condemned) is then born as an result - a "soul".

The being-as-condemned can at once be the being-as-condemner - Foucault argues this is often the case. If we are told enough that we deserve punishment, when confronted by the Being-of-Others, as power, we may come to believe it.

The "soul" must be an object of knowledge for itself - though caught in this swirling vortex of condemnation the transparency with which "the soul" can present itself to itself and others must be open to some doubt.

The condemned represents the ultimate failure to produce and behave and the consequences of being in that situation to all participants in the network of power, including the condemned themselves and those studying them.

[Torture] must mark the victim, it is intended, either by the scar it leaves on the body, or by the spectacle that accompanies it, to brand the victim with infamy; even if its function is to "purge" the crime, torture does not reconcile; it traces around or, rather, on the very body of the condemned man signs that must not be effaced; in any case, men will remember public execution, the pillory, torture and pain duly observed. And, from the point of the law that imposes it, public torture and execution must be spectacular, it must be seen by almost all as its triumph. D&P pg34

In modernity the brand is defined by the bureaucratic instance of the criminal record which limits life chances but this is not necessarily the beginning or even the end of this branding process.

Consider the person in my previous example, they have been branded by attention from the newspaper and humiliated in court. Outside of the paper event, they are not much different to a traffic cone that has been carried as a drunk's irrational trophy and ended up meaningless in a cul de sac from which it cannot escape, There in that cul de sac it is empty of all power.

12/2/13 At this point there could be a place to analyse the “substantiality” of Kate Middleton's power, which is bizarre, to say the least. She has enough power to make blogs vanish (if only temporarily), have magazines raided and editors fired from afar but yet she doesn't have the power to sunbathe topless even in a “private” place.

Here's a link discussing this issue: The world's most talked about woman has immense power but no real authority

Epic fails

All falls are relative, some people can only fall so far, when they are little more than the living waiting for death. Other falls, needs must, be more spectacular.

Consider the case of prison nurse Karen Cosford and her co-defendants. The BBC News website is not, like the local paper, "Tomorrow's birdcage carpet", it is eternal, and "above it all" are the search engines.

The search engines are the epitome of power not controlled and never really possessed, Karen Cosford seems to be undergoing a period of serious duress. (Now serving three years in prison (edit)

karen cosford google search reults

The homeless individual and the prison nurse alike are experiencing power expressed through their peers as much as their forebears did in the stocks: being on the throwing or receiving end of rotten tomatoes and excrement - their falls being relative to the distance it takes to hit rock bottom.

The internet is arguably the ultimate representation of power exercised and never really possessed - an open prison built out of text and irrational links - a place where all sorts of facts and pseudo facts are bandied about by and on behalf of various "souls" - conscious beings engaging in rituals of power.

A place where free speech can potentially make you your own accuser if you say the wrong things, insult the wrong or right people, those with power and money

This piece has taken some time and events have taken a new turn in recent days, with the publication of images of Kate Middleton sunbathing topless. This new social phenomena ought to be confronted in my earlier, somewhat arbitrary, assertion that the homeless person represents a mirror image of Kate Middleton.

Kate Middleton has been "scarred" by the paparazzi in the sense that it's a "big deal", to some, that the probable future Queen should be photographed topless: kate middleton topless

As of 19.9.12 an injunction has been won and damages leveled against the original print publisher, who have had their offices raided today by the French police.

The google picture search index shows pictures "crawled" by robots just two days ago - one of those sites is missing completely - perhaps removed by the host or its creator and another has replaced images with one that doesn't show nipples.

N.B. The above paragraph is “historical” and reflects delays caused by “Saville-gate”, etc.

There is no "outcry" over the bare-chested William - the entire focus of it all seems to be a few centimetres of Kate Middleton's flesh.

What this tells us is that at some point in time this part of a woman's flesh has been marked out and sanctioned, by some arbitrary action of power. Yet, I seem to recall, hazily, a British royal in Africa among numerous topless African women and there was no scandal.

Google image search is part of a vast machine of physical matter but nobody sees its whole "soul" - its source code, it's "top secret" - there's no supreme surveyor at google - no unique panoptic vantage point from which all the condemned - the social networking, confessors and accusers - can be surveyed, it's the utter expression of power exercised, experienced and not possessed.

Even the ideal prison will have its own language of signs, tattoos and taps on pipes - a barter system of bits on strings fabricated of bed linen as the internet has its bits and bytes and shadow currency with which you can buy almost anything.

One lawsuit has sent those publishing of those few royal centimeters of Kate Middleton's body, running, yet, transcending it all, is google's cache, which has yet to catch up, violates copyrights, publishes libels and doesn't get litigated against. Google is “panoptic” in nature a sort of stateless exceptional empire where no conscious agent is sovereign.

Kate middleton is the inverted figure of the homeless: when troubled she gets a free holiday to some tropical island, her body is sacred and offices get litigated against and raided. she doesn't have to freeze and cower, everything is “sorted”.

Since I first, second or third draft of this text the former Editor of the Irish Daily Star, Michael O'Kane, has resigned: .

“Saville-gate and the submen” (really epic fails)

She had receded into shadow, and lay there, a large, dark, shapeless package. But the vision of her lingered in his eyes. He clasped his hands across his stomach, and stared at the ceiling. Blanchard was snoring gently: the patients had begun to talk among themselves, in twos and threes: the train rumbled on. She was poor and ill, she was lying on her back in a cattle-truck, she had to be dressed and undressed like a doll. And she was beautiful. As beautiful as a film star. Beside him lay all that humiliated beauty, that slim, pure tarnished body. She was beautiful. She sang in music halls, she had looked at him through her eyelashes, and she had wanted to make his acquaintance: he felt as though he had been lifted onto his two feet. Sartre The Reprieve Penguin classics p.208

Now, you think, how all these vulnerable, troubled or impressionable children, were abused by the “great and the good”, just bodies in cattle trucks. Has the Queen is yet to admit her failure in giving Saville the O.B.E? Maybe like the NKVD the Queen never makes mistakes?

We live in a society where those at top have everything and the “docile bodies” have nothing. Where children with nothing can be confronted by the deity of absolute power in all its forms. This is reality of the UK as I perceive it right now.

To say that “modern” (sic) society has transcended the Medieval in my opinion is laughable.

Those at the top have everything, the power, through lawyers, to inflict serious financial damage, even prison, over their critics. Money is power over the body, nothing has really changed that much. twits and webmasters have the ability to accuse the powerful of crimes or highlight the testimony of others but only at the risk of litigation.

Things have changed in that only a modicum of tech savvy can get round anything but the truly powerless are mostly incapable of accessing that knowledge or using it for redress.

The almighty eye of the other is jealous guarding its privilege of spying on enemies of its subjects through keyholes, declaring it an exclusive virtue and also of the definition of what an enemy consists of.

To wrongly accuse someone of being a paedophile with malice or forethought is a heinous act but from the media I get the impression that we live in a world where power and money can get you anything, it seems, and conversely, the lack of, all it can get you is abused.

Mostly from “Savillegate” I get the impression that what has been forgotten is the victims themselves. We haven't heard of any big financial payouts for their young lives being ruined, the only people who have been compensated are those involved in the secondary, and much lesser BBC scandal, arising from the real scandal that is “Savillegate”.

Just two days ago now The Independent published Big rise in children missing from care homes.

What is clear is that their has been a long-standing cover-up and willful blindness around “Savillegate” - I'm writing philosophy here and I'm simply not interested in individuals but the systems themselves - what is clear is that the victims where the most vulnerable and the criminals more powerful.

Power abused so blatantly illustrates power in extremis and gives us an insight into power in general, even at its most benevolent power possess the same systems as power blatantly abused.

Although there are commonalities between “modernity” and what has gone before there are a lot of divergences in the expression of power.