Why Brexit Was an Anguished Cry For Community

In this powerful, insightful interview Owen Jones speaks to actor Martin Sheen about Working Class Britain.

He describes how you cannot underestimate the power of the “take back control” message. You are talking about communities that have lost all sense of control in terms of de-industrialisation, globalisation and abandonment from central government.

However this is  little to do with EU membership but needs to be tackled at a domestic level; measures such as co-operatives, credit unions and community governance which can alleviate many of the stresses and anxieties communities face in 2016.

This is a wonderful interview and well worth a watch in full.

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When The Truth Becomes Boring

“The People of this country.. have had enough of experts”

The stunning words of Conservative MP and poster boy of the Vote Leave campaign Michael Gove when pressed on why organizations and governments were bashing his promises of a prosperous Post-Brexit Britain. His comment, while dramatic was certainly not surprising. The entire mantra of the Leave Campaign was not about facts or data but about us, about you, the “decent” “hardworking” “ordinary” people taking back control from the big boy fat cats who have trodden and left you in the dirt.

The anger at the ruling class, once whipped into frenzy by Boris and Co was directed with pinpoint precision at the E.U “Turkey is joining the EU”, “£350M to Brussels every week”. These questionable soundbites gave vent for anger, flooded the discourse and resonated with people in a way explaining the benefits of Free Movement of Goods, EU subsidies and net benefit of migration never could. It was the first piece of concrete evidence that ‘just trust your gut’ politics has made it mainstream in the UK.

Historically, since the era of the enlightenment, we as humans have developed and relied upon safeguards to provide reference point by which we can somewhat objectively agree on what is true and accurate. These include schools, science, legal systems, the media etc.
And while not perfect or always correct, this truth-producing infrastructure provides solid ground from which public discourse and debate can flow from.

Yet, there is substantial evidence to suggest – exemplified by both the U.S general election & Brexit – that we are shifting to a kind of politics in which feelings and emotions trump facts and truth.

Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel-prizewinning psychologist and author of a bestselling book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow”, says we have a natural tendency to steer clear of facts that would force our brains to work harder. People will not want to investigate questionable sweeping statements or assertions if it requires lengthy contemplation and concentration to comprehend a complex issue.

Tyranny of the Anecdote

This poses a potentially deadly threat to societal cohesion. How can we solve society’s problems if we have no common truth-providing infrastructure from which to agree on?
For example, dealing with the problems of delays and overcrowding in the NHS. There has been debate over whether immigration or a severe lack of government funding is the primary reason for its misgivings. How do we know what the root cause of the problem is? Do we look at a report by the National Care Commission or listen to a story from our grandmother that she couldn’t get a GP appointment living in an area of high immigration?

There is growing number of pundits and politicians telling us to choose the latter. This is what American comedian, Stephen Colbert describes as believing things that “feel right” or things that “should be true”.

Donald Trump is the epitome of this, notoriously describing Climate Change as a hoax created by the Chinese. And it’s impossible to rebut this ridiculous argument when his followers either don’t care about the facts or believe in a conspiracy that the science is manufactured to serve the elites.

The Economist notes:

‘“A lot of people are saying…” is one of Donald Trump’s favourite phrases and questioning the provenance, rather than accuracy, of anything that goes against him (“They would say that, wouldn’t they?”). And when the distance between what feels true and what the facts say grows too great, it can always be bridged with a handy conspiracy theory.’

#SocialMedia
And social media has become the bread to the conspiracy butter. While having many upsides and benefits, it has enabled people of like-mindedness to filter out news and media which does not align with their personal and political beliefs. One can follow news that never challenges but only reinforces their ideas about the world and tailors a narrative of events to suit its audience. Thus, once established the online community can be far more potent and important to people than their geographical one.

The priority of democratic nations therefore, must be in developing our institutions to cope and be trusted by all in the Internet age. Having a well informed public is unequivocally a common good and the issue must be treated with the sincerity it deserves.

Until now, politics, media and truth producing infrastructure have had to adapt to the structures of Facebook, Twitter and other online platforms. Often being tangled in a malaise of memes and cat videos. Perhaps having a separation between the “social” and the “news” media would be an appropriate place to start?
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Why Words Matter: Turkey vs. Europe

In this panel discussion Author & social commentator Elif Shafak talks about the degrading and increasingly hostile relationship between Turkey & Europe. In doing so she compares the rising nationalism in Europe to the rising Islamism in Turkey.

This is an excellent overview of Shafak’s views on cosmopolitanism and extremism. Believing that extremism flourishes when identities are concentrated to a mono form. Be it “you are a muslim” or “you are British”, Shafak argues that cosmopolitanism and and having a multitude of identities combats the rise of “us vs. them” mentalities.

Why Religions & Dictators Hate being Made Fun Of

“Question something enough and you’ll begin to doubt it”

Humour and satire are incredibly powerful mediums for exposing the powerful. One only has to look from President Erdogan of Turkey demanding the arrest of a German comedian for a sketch, Kim Jong Un banning satire in North Korea or religious police attacking free thinkers for “blasphemy” across the globe, satire is the weapon of the powerless against the powerful.

In a light hearted way it asks people to question assumptions and dogma in their society. The BBC’s “Monty Python & The Holy Grail” was a beautiful illustration of how simply by humanising religious figures and stories one can examine religion from a different angle and question the authority of Church in society.

In this piece Bassem Youssef discusses his experience in Egypt as a comedian discussing the triple assault on comedy: Social Media Judgement, Religion, And Fascist Regimes.

The Difference Between Gratification & Happiness: We’ve Known Since 341 BC

Epicureanism is said to be a philosophy of pleasure seeking.

Not in a capitalist sense of “treating oneself” by purchasing instant high in disregard of long term low, Be it through Sugar, alcohol or drugs. Climax is said to be an unsustainable and long term potentially destructive means of pleasure seeking. Real happiness is a state of being in which free expression, feelings of achievement and contribution can lead to the highest form of pleasure – fulfilment.

This short clip explains some of Epicurus’s finding on the importance of friendship. And also provides some interesting nuances to the notion that money and products can provide pleasure.

The Necessity Of New Ideas

The clock is ticking. Welfare economics has eroded in the West as Multinational Companies have taken full advantage of globalisation and far surpassed the wealth of many democratic States. Conflict & economic insecurity have fuelled the largest mass migration crisis in history. But the question, is this simply the natural consequence of our global economic system?

Why do we look at issues of war/economy/migration/climate change in isolation? Could it be that they are all connected to, and symptomatic of, the larger neoliberal global order?

Do we have to describe Countries as either “developing” or “developed” – Why are we all  on the same path to becoming urban concrete jungles of Starbucks & skyscrapers?

Is there perhaps a different path we can walk to eliminate poverty without selling our environment and democracy to private industry?

These are some interesting and important questions the world desperately needs some answers to. This video provides some provocative stoking for the fire.

If You Could Get Back One Moment, What Would It Be?

If there was one moment in your life you could get back.. What would it be?

In this beautiful video, Isolate Productions take to Dublin’s coast to approach people of different ages, nationalities and experiences and ask a simple question. This is an emotionally powerful and philosophically provocative clip which has has a lesson for everyone about life.