• Family

    • Liberal Conspiracy
  • Comrades

    • Andy Worthington
    • Angela Saini
    • Bartholomew’s notes
    • Bleeding Heart Show
    • Bloggerheads
    • Blood & Treasure
    • Campaign against Honour Killings
    • Cath Elliott
    • Chicken Yoghurt
    • Daily Mail Watch
    • Dave Hill
    • Dr. Mitu Khurana
    • Europhobia
    • Faith in Society
    • Feminism for non-lefties
    • Feministing
    • Gender Bytes
    • Harry’s Place
    • IKWRO
    • MediaWatchWatch
    • Ministry of Truth
    • Natalie Bennett
    • New Statesman blogs
    • Operation Black Vote
    • Our Kingdom
    • Robert Sharp
    • Rupa Huq
    • Shiraz Socialist
    • Shuggy’s Blog
    • Stumbling and Mumbling
    • Ta-Nehisi Coates
    • The F Word
    • Though Cowards Flinch
    • Tory Troll
    • UK Polling Report
  • In-laws

    • Aaron Heath
    • Douglas Clark's saloon
    • Earwicga
    • Get There Steppin’
    • Incurable Hippie
    • Neha Viswanathan
    • Power of Choice
    • Rita Banerji
    • Sarah
    • Sepia Mutiny
    • Sonia Faleiro
    • Southall Black Sisters
    • The Langar Hall
    • Turban Head

  • Corrupt British soldiers?


    by Kulvinder
    17th November, 2007 at 2:08 am    

    Having been a fan of Ghaith Abdul-Ahad’s writing for a while I try to read whatever articles he posts. His latest piece in the Guardian is astonishing:

    To reach Basra airport, the last remaining British base in Iraq, you have to pass through a series of Iraqi and British checkpoints. I took an official taxi, one that is permitted to drive into the airport. At a British checkpoint, a young soldier with sandy hair and a dirty flak jacket stuck his head through the window and said: “Badges.”

    The driver handed over his ID badge and I gave him my passport. He handed the passport back and kept the driver’s badge. “Money,” he said to the driver.

    “Me no money,” the driver said in broken English, forcing a big smile on to his face. “Money, moneeeyyy,” said the soldier. He pointed at the driver’s shirt pocket. “Me no money … me badge please,” the driver said, laughing.

    “You give money, I give you badge,” said the soldier. “Camera, camera,” said driver, pointing at the nearby British watchtower. “Money, money,” repeated the soldier.

    The driver handed the soldier a 5,000 Iraqi dinar note, worth around £1.50.

    The soldier tucked it in his pocket and said: “No, I want that.” He pointed at a red 25,000 note in the driver’s hand. The driver insisted, “No.” After a bit of haggling, he was handed the badge.

    “Fuck you, British,” the driver said as he sped off. “Isn’t it enough that I am paying at every Iraqi checkpoint? They all want money. My fare is 15,000 and by the time I pay everyone I am left with 5,000, and now you British. Fuck you. You don’t even have a moustache on your face and you want money.”

    I have no reason to suspect he lied about what happened, and for all I know some bizarre administration fee is haggled and charged to anyone entering the British base, but taken at face value some of the soldiers have become little more than another layer of petty corrupt ‘officialdom’.


                  Post to del.icio.us


    Filed in: Middle East






    78 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. High School Online

      High School Online…

      I couldn’t understand some parts of this article, but it sounds interesting…




    1. Don — on 17th November, 2007 at 2:14 am  

      Yeah, I’d agree with ‘astonishing’.

    2. Kulvinder — on 17th November, 2007 at 2:49 am  

      Well at the very least you’d think they or their officers would realise its a short step from asking and accepting bribes from taxi drivers to asking and accepting bribes from people smuggling bombs into their own base.

      Its not even a matter of professionalism just self preservation.

    3. Rumbold — on 17th November, 2007 at 11:50 am  

      If this is true and widespread then it is disgraceful. Let us hope it is combined to one or two bad apples.

    4. Sid — on 17th November, 2007 at 11:53 am  

      I doubt it.

    5. Rumbold — on 17th November, 2007 at 11:55 am  

      Sorry, I meant confined to one or two soldiers.

    6. Bert Preast — on 17th November, 2007 at 12:30 pm  

      Sounds like a load of cods. What would a British soldier want with Iraqi Dinars? Fritter them away larging it in the Basra discos impressing the local birds? Or is he saving them to change into sterling when he gets home?

    7. El Cid — on 17th November, 2007 at 12:44 pm  

      i doubt it too. you got to question the credibility too.
      still, this is funny:
      “You don’t even have a moustache on your face and you want money.”
      Ha ha. That’s made my day.
      I’ve been trying to grow a tache this month to raise awareness for prostate cancer. Frankly it didn’t suit me — somewhere between Edwardian master, porn star, Franco, and Louisiana traffic cop. The missus didn’t like it either — read between the lines — so I had to shave it off yesterday.
      But in Basra, I’d have respecka man!

    8. Dave S — on 17th November, 2007 at 3:43 pm  

      Accusations of “corruption” seem to pale into insignificance when you take into account what these people do for a living.

      Being paid a wage to kill strangers to order (however supposedly “noble” the cause is) - that should practically be the definition of “corruption”.

      Same for the Police - utterly, utterly corrupt!

      Being paid a wage to enforce laws that you often don’t even agree with - I know, because I have spoken to plenty of you about exactly this, and not one of you could even give an answer that did anything other than wash your hands of the question.

      Soliders and Police - your jobs are living manifestations of corruption!

      You have a price (aka. your wage) which conveniently allows you to unquestioningly discard your own responsibility under “it’s only a job” mentality, while you spend your time repressing, killing and generally fucking up innocent people’s lives because some gobshite of a politician tells you to so.

      Stop being such fucking sheep and THINK FOR YOURSELVES!

      I mean really, how do you sleep at night?

    9. sonia — on 17th November, 2007 at 4:02 pm  

      yeah, Dave S makes the good point. i cant see that after all has been done in iraq, the soldier charging a poll tax is the worst thing. of course its rubbish from the taxi driver’s perspective, but as if the oil profits being taken out of the country isn’t? and what role did the soldiers have to play in the control of resources - never mind oil.

      why does it mean the ‘soldier’ is corrupt? the whole damn thing is ‘corrupt’ as far as i can see. and if people don’t have a problem with the ‘whole damn thing’ then i fail to see why a toll-ticket is such a big deal.

      after helping to steal an entire country’s health, wealth, this is what we focus on? and why blame it on the soldier if we aren’t blaming the soldiers for everything else - the soldiers were probably following orders - again.

    10. sonia — on 17th November, 2007 at 4:06 pm  

      and yeah, Bert’s also got a good point, i don’t see that iraqi dinars are such a big deal to an individual soldier, either british operations out there are simply running out of money because whatever, and this is some way of shoring up costs ( which is still unlikely sounding to me) or the soldier thinks he needs money for when he gets back to the UK and the State ignores him. and again, the exchange rate wouldn’t be doing him much good either, perhaps they need to come over here and do a bit of jiggery-pokery.

      bad apples indeed - what a funny idea. really the thing that annoy me most, is that people are happy to sit here, support wars, and have absolutely NO F***king idea of what its like for the soldiers, that’s right, the soldiers. Shitty job, shitty life, what the hell can you/we expect!!

    11. sonia — on 17th November, 2007 at 4:08 pm  

      it is absolutely typical of senior-middle management attitude - send the boys out there, and then act surprised when the ‘boys’ aren’t behaving themselves all too well. its a BLOODY war, you should go out there and experience it before complaining about “bad apples”. does anyone here have any idea what its like to be a killing machine?

    12. Bert Preast — on 17th November, 2007 at 4:15 pm  

      Um, it’s bollocks. Thought I’d pointed that out?

    13. Sid — on 17th November, 2007 at 4:20 pm  

      How come we never hear mention of the bad apples at the top of the food chain who took everyone for a ride? Now we blame some sad British squaddie for fucking around with taxi drivers but the real bad apples are earning £250,000/hour in speaking tours in US universities.

    14. Bert Preast — on 17th November, 2007 at 4:26 pm  

      I’ll try again then. This story - it’s bollocks.

      A soldier can’t spend Iraqi money inside Iraq. Iraqi money cannot be changed outside Iraq. And if the journo was visiting the base, why didn’t he bring the matter up with the soldier’s commander? Which unit is the soldier from? You’d sort of expect a Guardian correspondent to be rather interested in this sort of thing, no?

      The debate should be on why the Guardian prints such rubbish.

    15. Clairwil — on 17th November, 2007 at 4:31 pm  

      If the story is true and I have my doubts for the reasons outlined at 14, I suspect it’s some idiot chucking his weight about rather than evidence of widespread corruption.

    16. Roger — on 17th November, 2007 at 7:23 pm  

      As British soldiers in Iraq have been guilty of looting assault and torture, soliciting bribes is a mere peccadillo.

    17. Boyo — on 18th November, 2007 at 9:34 am  

      I spent time with the British army in Kosovo and Sierra Leone. I have nothing but respect and admiration for them, however we should not kid ourselves they’re lilly white. I read the article and it didn’t surprise me, just depressed me - I thought it was symbolic of the lies that had led us there and the corrosive effect of this that must percolate through every aspect of our involvement.

      As someone who now works in govt. led by NuLabour I see a similar corrosion there and it is only a matter of time until our “great” civil service is awash with claims of corruption - symptomatic of leaders who are stealthily privatising this public institution while placing ever-greater expectations upon it.

      No kidding: NuLabour really is the bastard child of Thatcher.

    18. Bert Preast — on 18th November, 2007 at 2:45 pm  

      Boyo - Fair points about the decline of the services, and as General Dannatt himself was stating morale and fitness is in decline in yesterday’s Telegraph:

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/11/18/nforces118.xml

      Add that to the recruiting crisis and I’m not going to deny there are some bad apples in there. We’ve already seen the last couple of years soldiers in the UK selling off live ammunition, so we know the corruption is there - when the rewards are there also.

      But in the case above there is no reward for the soldier, he gets a couple of quid in money that’s entirely useless to him - and as nobody stags on the gate alone he’d need to share the money with several others. Why didn’t the journalist get the soldier’s unit and comments from his officers? It’d have been a front page scoop if he’d bothered to get anything whatsoever to back it up. But he didn’t. Because he’s making it up.

    19. Random Guy — on 19th November, 2007 at 8:59 am  

      I am glad that there is an article focusing on the reality on the ground rather than the airy-fairy views the media and politicos like us to have. Yet again showing us the scale and extent of the UK and US-led fuck up they call the War on Terror, it beggars belief that Iraq was once one of the most advanced economies in the Middle East. Plenty of fuel here for further terrorism as well. Bravo Mr. Blair/Bush.

      I am not convinced that there are no uses a British soldier cannot put dinar to. Spending the money on prostitutes could be a possibility. I understand the need for people here to say this is all a lie, and maybe it is (and maybe the US is not in Iraq for the oil), but if British soldiers have already been involved in far worse in Iraq, why should anyone be surprised?

    20. Bert Preast — on 19th November, 2007 at 9:06 am  

      Prostitutes? You have absolutely no idea, do you?

    21. El Cid — on 19th November, 2007 at 9:24 am  

      Don’t let it get you down Bert.
      Some of the morons on this thread are not representative of the wider population. It’s an unpopular war but any blame lies further up the food chain.
      On the whole our boys are doing very well in uniquely difficult circumstances. Disowning them is the coward’s way out.
      Even if the story is true — and I doubt it is — The Guardian should have tried to get a reaction from the British Army before publishing, as it’s a serious allegation and bullshit sometimes sticks.

    22. Roger — on 19th November, 2007 at 12:25 pm  

      “But in the case above there is no reward for the soldier, he gets a couple of quid in money that’s entirely useless to him - and as nobody stags on the gate alone he’d need to share the money with several others. ”
      It’s no use to him; it is useful to the driver. One function of demanding bribes is to show that people have the power to demand bribes.

    23. Bert Preast — on 19th November, 2007 at 12:33 pm  

      oh ffs

    24. Random Guy — on 19th November, 2007 at 12:53 pm  

      No Bert @ 21, You’re right, I don’t have any idea. I was suggesting a possibility, rather than speculating that this was what was happening. Hopefully not.

    25. pounce — on 19th November, 2007 at 3:41 pm  

      While I have to say that my initial impression is this story is a load of cods wallop. (As are most of the allegations levied against the British military Fact and not fiction)
      I have to ask the question why this incident wasn’t reported to the authorities.
      The British Military have a chain of command which is open to communications with the public. Be it Basra, London or even the Falklands.
      I accept that the driver may not wish to have communicated with the Military. But that didn’t stop him talking to;
      a) A village elder.
      b) A Mullah
      c) A policeman.
      Instead he remains silent and speaks about it to the media.
      The British Army does not and will not stand for any attempt of illegal behaviour which will prejudice the work of the UK in the public eye.

      But Kulvinder I take umbridge at this statement of yours;
      “I have no reason to suspect he lied about what happened, and for all I know some bizarre administration fee is haggled and charged to anyone entering the British base, but taken at face value some of the soldiers have become little more than another layer of petty corrupt ‘officialdom’.”

      Utter bollocks. I have brown hair, brown eyes and brown skin Aka a paki, a wog and I have not only worn a British army uniform since 1980 I have never experienced or heard of British soldiers asking for kickbacks. It just isn’t worth their while. Military law is something the non military world know nothing about. Let me tell you having been charged twice in my time (Once for being at the bottom of a set of stairs instead of at the top on an LSL,(Transport ship) and another for refusing to salute an officer at the main gate whilst on guard duty (You don’t salute officers at the main gate on a heightened alert state) ) That British soldiers would really have to think three times before they started robbing the natives. I’m not saying it didn’t transpire but I find it hard to believe it did. Castigating the British Army as crooked is just as bad as saying all Muslims are terrorists.

      P.S
      On that note how many people here have worn a British helmet? Try shoving your head through a car window even better try showing your hair while wearing a helmet it doesn’t happen.

    26. Boyo — on 19th November, 2007 at 5:27 pm  

      Pounce. That helmet things a good point. I’m STILL not saying that it didn’t happen, but - “award winning” or not - there are an awful lot of self-styled “journalists” these days who would think the NCTJ was something to do with carparks… and at the end of the day who’s to say he didn’t make it up?

    27. Sunny — on 19th November, 2007 at 5:35 pm  

      Being paid a wage to enforce laws that you often don’t even agree with - I know, because I have spoken to plenty of you about exactly this, and not one of you could even give an answer that did anything other than wash your hands of the question.

      Dave S - this is a bizarre assertion. Are you arguing the police should not exist? I think they should, I firmly believe in people being forced to adhere to the rule of law (or jail). Of course, the line then lies on what the rule of law is… where I prefer more liberty than we have now. But that doesn’t mean the police / army is unnecessary.

    28. Kulvinder — on 20th November, 2007 at 1:54 am  

      Utter bollocks.

      The amusing diatribe aside you didn’t actually say why.

    29. Kulvinder — on 20th November, 2007 at 1:58 am  

      nb i didn’t ‘castigate the British Army as crooked’

    30. pounce — on 20th November, 2007 at 10:28 am  

      Kulvinder wrote;
      “The amusing diatribe aside you didn’t actually say why.”

      Oh please. I commented on how people always presume the military are guilty of anything and everything simply because they are the military.
      But hey I can explain why if you didn’t get the gist of my last.
      A) Guard duty isn’t the solitary detail as depicted by comic books and film. It usually entails a minimum of 8 of that one will be Guard commander he in turn is under the auspices of a SNCO who in turn reports to an officer who in turn will report to a ops room.
      B) In countries where English isn’t the native language a local policeman is usually attached to the detail
      C) Cameras are used more and more in which record encounters at static chokepoints
      D) Soldiers are not only taught the ‘law of armed conflict’ on a regular basis but they have to take a test on it.

      I accepted that the taxis driver may have been speaking the truth, but as I have shown above the chain of complicity would have to be huge in which to garner a few dinars from a poor native population. Add the fact that there are people who would report such indiscretions the risks of stealing off the locals gets larger by the minute.

      From my own observations the military is an easy target because it doesn’t defend itself on the media like it can in real life.

      As I mentioned before;
      “Utter Bollocks”

    31. Kulvinder — on 20th November, 2007 at 1:37 pm  

      Oh please. I commented on how people always presume the military are guilty of anything and everything simply because they are the military.

      You did?!

      Thank you for the clarification.

    32. Roger — on 20th November, 2007 at 4:04 pm  

      I am an ex-soldier. As I said, considering the other things that British soldiers have done in Iraq soliciting bribes is fairly trivial. In my previous post something went amiss: it should have read; “It’s no use to him; it is useful to the driver. One function of demanding bribes is to show that people have the power to demand bribes- to humiliate the other person.”
      Finally, it isn’t a taxi driver who reported this but an award-winning journalist reporting what he witnessed.

    33. justforfun — on 20th November, 2007 at 4:42 pm  

      I’m not an ex- soldier , but I have bribed soldiers*. And I know that the universal currency for bribery is either $$$ or cigarettes or sex (but the beard always seemed to put them off!!) and to a certain extend hard liquor for the officer class to smooth things along, or a combination of all of these.

      - so Bert spots a flaw striaght away - it would not have been dinars. Perhaps Ghaith Abdul-Ahad is sparing us our blushes. What sex act did he have to perform? I think we should be told.

      If corruption exists on this route, then a greater bribe will have been paid already ( I took an official taxi, one that is permitted to drive into the airport ) to get the permission. Next trip Ghaith Abdul-Ahad , if he is being serious, could look into this aspect more, as the scalp will be higher up the chain of command.

      Let stir the pot some more and say the greater bribery & corruption comes when you want to ship large amounts of commercial goods through UN controlled areas.

      Justforfun

      *not British BTW

    34. Rumbold — on 20th November, 2007 at 4:49 pm  

      I doubt that anybody would accept bribes in dollars now Justforfun.

    35. Dave S — on 21st November, 2007 at 8:18 pm  

      Sunny @ 27:

      Dave S - this is a bizarre assertion. Are you arguing the police should not exist? I think they should, I firmly believe in people being forced to adhere to the rule of law (or jail). Of course, the line then lies on what the rule of law is… where I prefer more liberty than we have now. But that doesn’t mean the police / army is unnecessary.

      Of course I’m saying that the Police (and military) should not exist - I’m an anarchist, FFS!!

      We can talk this one through if you don’t know the reasons?

      But to be honest, I’m surprised you could have attended Climate Camp and still come away with a good impression of the Police.

      Did you actually talk to any of them?

      Did you feel they were there to facilitate a peaceful, legitimate protest? Did you not think the helicopter overhead almost constantly was over-the-top? Did you get illegally detained and shoved around by utterly anonymous (no badge, no number, no nothing) riot cops? I know people who got hospitalised by them (including a man in his late 50s who received a broken hip and is still using crutches because of what they did to him), for simply standing somewhere. No warnings - they knocked him flying into a concrete kerb, and for what!?!

      The cops are the most dangerous criminal faction around! They are a threat to us all, and our lives would be a lot safer and happier if they did not exist.

    36. justforfun — on 23rd November, 2007 at 4:39 pm  

      Rumbold @ 34

      Obviously I’m out of touch :-)

      http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/economics/article2903375.ece

      Justforfun

    37. Dave S — on 23rd November, 2007 at 5:01 pm  

      As Sunny posted on my Facebook wall:

      I’m not convinced by your anti-police arguments mate! Ever tried living in a third worl country like India? Once you live in a country where the law doesn’t mean much, people start craving it. :)

      I thought I’d reply here as well, since really would rather have politics conversations on Pickled Politics than on Facebook!

      So, I said:

      Sunny, the reason a society without police doesn’t make sense to you is because you’re only thinking about it from our current reference point - from within a largely capitalist society with tremendous imbalances of wealth. Where a few people have everything, and many times more have nothing.

      The reason we “need” police at the moment is to protect the minority “Haves” from the majority “Have Nots”.

      What I am talking about is not just getting rid of the police, but getting rid of the circumstances and conditions that even create the imbalances and inequalities in the first place. Not making everybody materially “rich” (that’s impossible), but creating a world based on fairness, personal liberty and most importantly: economic liberty.

      This can never be created while there exist authorities who’s job it is to prevent the masses of the “Have Nots” from rising up against the minority “Haves” and redistributing resources among themselves based on necessity, not greed.

      Resources are running out, and we are going to have to scale down our expectations about the amount of “stuff” we can each own. There is an already approaching paradigm shift in this area that we can’t avoid, so what I favour is to go one step further than that, to recognise some rather obvious (yet apparently “radical”) truths.

      Such as: Owning more possessions will never make you truly happy.

      Why do people want so much stuff? There are plenty of more “primitive” societies around the world where the people don’t rampantly consume everything around them. But advertisers spend millions working out how to massage people’s desire for property, and this artificial stimulation creates the “wants” we experience in our society.

      But for the “Have Nots”, those implanted wants can’t be fulfilled, so some resort to stealing from the “Haves”.

      Change society’s perceptions about the meaning of “wealth” (make it about personal and collective fulfilment) and we won’t need cops.

    38. Don — on 23rd November, 2007 at 5:40 pm  

      Interesting idea, Dave.

      Thing is, we’re having our works do in Newcastle on the Friday before Christmas, so could you hold off until after that? I’m not sure how effective that analysis would be in persuading some toxically pissed heed-the-baal to refrain from mayhem.

    39. Dave S — on 25th November, 2007 at 8:29 pm  

      Don, you’ve kinda missed my point, so I’m going to elaborate again, from a different perspective.

      At the moment, you “need” the cops there on your work’s Christmas bash, because without them there to deal with pissed up nutters, some degree of mayhem could break loose.

      Now, in the type of society I am in favour of - and let’s be frank, it is rather idealistic, but I don’t see the point in aiming for anything less - these circumstances simply would not occur.

      For starters, you would not “work” as such, since there would actually be a lot less “work” that needed doing! Think about the purpose of (say) 90% of jobs out there, and ask “does this job really need to happen?”

      Most jobs are pointless, because most work actually doesn’t serve any purpose other than to make someone some money.

      So first up, let’s all work a lot less! Sure, we’ll have less money, and less “stuff”, but what we will have is time for one another, in which to create communities, and - increasingly more importantly - a better chance at sustainable living.

      Since most work is pointless, and also industry uses up a huge chunk of fuel and resources, we need to abolish work (as we know it) in order to live sustainably anyway.

      So, your “work” wouldn’t exist quite in the same way as it does now, and neither would you have such a limited amount of free time in which to enjoy yourself with your friends.

      My point is: this crazy society we live in creates it’s own problems.

      We can apply sticking plasters (such as the police) to these problems, in order to squash them somewhat by fighting against them.

      Or, we could apply a more holistic approach, to go beyond trying to simply “fight against” some problem, and instead take a long hard look at the circumstances that allow it to come into existence in the first place.

      The only thing stopping us creating this “idealistic” society is people who think it’s too idealistic, and that we can’t change the world around us.

      But we really can! All we need to do is believe it is possible, and want it enough that we refuse to take “no” for an answer.

      This is why I am against politicians and corporations - because it is in their interests and their interests ALONE to try and keep everything exactly as it already is.

      (I could say more, but I’ll leave it at that for now.)

    40. Rumbold — on 25th November, 2007 at 8:58 pm  

      Dave S:

      “Now, in the type of society I am in favour of - and let’s be frank, it is rather idealistic, but I don’t see the point in aiming for anything less - these circumstances simply would not occur.”

      Though I find your ideas alluring, I am sometimes not sure if you have fully thought them through. You complain about the very existance of the police, but then freely admit that they are needed at the moment. I too would like to live in a society where there was no need for a police force, but until that time we still need a police force. As for aiming for a perfect society, there is nothing wrong with that, but you have to recognise that until this sort of society is realised then the police and army will still be needed.

      “For starters, you would not “work” as such, since there would actually be a lot less “work” that needed doing! Think about the purpose of (say) 90% of jobs out there, and ask “does this job really need to happen?”

      Most jobs are pointless, because most work actually doesn’t serve any purpose other than to make someone some money.”

      These are jobs created by a free market, so they are a product of supply and demand. I do agree with you that most jobs are pointless in the sense that they add little or nothing to society (and in many cases actively dtract from it).

      “So first up, let’s all work a lot less! Sure, we’ll have less money, and less “stuff”, but what we will have is time for one another, in which to create communities, and - increasingly more importantly - a better chance at sustainable living.”

      I am all for less stuff, but how would these communities be organised? Would veerything be decided by a unanimous vote (otherwise it would be the tyranny of the majority)?

      “We can apply sticking plasters (such as the police) to these problems, in order to squash them somewhat by fighting against them.

      Or, we could apply a more holistic approach, to go beyond trying to simply “fight against” some problem, and instead take a long hard look at the circumstances that allow it to come into existence in the first place.”

      I would argue that a ‘carrot and stick’ approach is better. As Don pointed out, there arejust some people you cannot reason with.

      “I could say more, but I’ll leave it at that for now.”

      A comparably monosyllic post (heh).

      What one book do you think best sums up your philosophy? Though you have always explained your views admirably, I would like to do a bit more reading on it. What would you recommend?

    41. Dave S — on 25th November, 2007 at 9:37 pm  

      Hey Rumbold - I increasingly enjoy our encounters! Although you often throw me a few spanners to think about, I like bouncing ideas off people with rather different points of view. I’m always glad when you reply to stuff I post! :-)

      So… greetings aside…

      You are correct that there are some people who just can’t be reasoned with - but think it through a little more. In a society where we had a lot more time for other people, there would be a lot more time to find ways of coping with these people.

      Their families, for example - with less work to do, families would have more time to really look after each other - to put quality time into sorting their problems out. Even when it comes to people with serious mental issues, less work (as we know it now) would mean more time to help people deal with things, so everyone would be better equipped to deal with their own and other people’s problems.

      Fix the cause rather than bandage the symptom - action rather than reaction. Let’s help people (and I mean *really* help them) and thus prevent them becoming a problem in the first place.

      I personally do not believe the police should exist at the moment. Our society will probably need to “collapse” in some way before we can rebuild it, and so their existence prolongs it. The transitional phase is not going to be an easy one, but that’s why it’s important for people to practise elements of a new society within the existing one. Everything about the current system is designed to prevent this as a possibility - which of course it would be, because the current system has checks and balances put in place to ensure it’s as hard as possible to alter it.

      When it comes to the crunch (which I suspect will ultimately be because of resource depletion), the police will (and indeed, already are) used to crush any sort of alternatives which go against the orders of those “in charge”.

      You can’t reform something that doesn’t want to be reformed - just kick it until it breaks, and then get on with building a better alternative.

      I sense I’m rambling again, and as ever, my thoughts do come quick and fast and I don’t always stop to arrange them into the best possible order! However, books…

      I can’t recommend any one book that sums up my take on things, and I’m quite glad about that in many ways. The whole point of anarchy is that there is no option but to think for yourself - that’s the lesson to be learned: stop looking to other people to tell you the answers, and THINK!! (Hence why I am often wrong, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!)

      There are many books I like substantial sections of. Probably the best one I can recommend, in terms of inspiration for the creation of a different type of society, is “How To Be Free” by Tom Hodkinson. While it’s hardly an anarchist classic (it only came out last year), it arrives quite close to the type of world I wish to help build.

      Another book I enjoyed immensely recently is “Anarchy After Leftism” by Bob Black. The only thing that’s bad about this book is that it’s written as a polemic against Murray Bookchin, so if you aren’t familiar with Bookchin (I’m only partly familiar with his work - I know his basic ideas, but not the details) it can seem to go on about him a bit too much.

      Perhaps save that one for another day, but it does give a good analysis of the problems created by anarchism being too much of a leftist thing.

      (The same author wrote another essay called “Anarchism and Other Impediments to Anarchy”… that’s also worth a read, and is much shorter than the book.)

      I don’t know if I’m a “post-left anarchist” or not… and to be honest, I’ve stopped trying to work it out! I just do what I think needs to be done at the time, and that’s that. But many of the ideas from post-left anarchists such as Bob Black really push my buttons.

      Go with “How To Be Free” for now - it’s not perfect, but it’s certainly an enjoyable and inspiring read. In fact, if anything, because it stays away from hardcore theory and argument, and concentrates on inspiring the reader, it in many ways accomplishes more.

      I’ll have a think and see what else I can point you in the direction of… but as with all things anarchist (or human, perhaps), nobody other than me can tell you what I really think!

      Cheers,
      Dave

    42. Dave S — on 25th November, 2007 at 9:40 pm  

      Sorry, just to clarify, when I said…

      “and thus prevent them becoming a problem in the first place.”

      … I didn’t mean “prevent” in the forceful sense of the word. I meant let’s help them to help themselves and those around them, so that they don’t become a serious problem in the first place.

    43. sonia — on 25th November, 2007 at 10:01 pm  

      i think dave s brings up many good points and they shouldn’t be ignored.

      without going into any detail about society, to me, its all about how we think. if we are all scared and paranoid and anti-everyone, and think there are so many criminals out there, and say our youth are criminals, and board ourselves in, never smile at anyone we meet on the street, live our competitive lives scrabbling around for scarce resources, out to get everyone else before we get done, well then what can we expect.

      we will have to find ourselves doing a lot of policing. we live in a world of self-fulfilling prophecies anyway.

      we need to be more understanding of ourselves, our psychology. how groups. me i think groups can be very “dangerous” in the way they co-opt individuals into so many things as individuals we would never accept/or think of doing.

      dave s -

      I can’t recommend any one book that sums up my take on things, and I’m quite glad about that in many ways. The whole point of anarchy is that there is no option but to think for yourself - that’s the lesson to be learned: stop looking to other people to tell you the answers, and THINK!! (Hence why I am often wrong, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!)

      touche. the other big problem i have is that too many people seem to think there is an ‘answer’ already formed out there, and its about who you ‘follow’ rather than having to use your own brain cells. clearly there no simple ‘answers’- and someone in charge, or someone to appoint who can tell ‘em to us. ( and we just tick a lil box next to their name)

      nope, the problems have not even been sufficiently formulated in my opinion, too many of us dont even know the scale of the problem, so why do we think we can find - especially among our political parties - ‘answers’ in the form of “policies”.

    44. sonia — on 25th November, 2007 at 10:15 pm  

      in case it wasnt clear, i meant to say, if we were going to go around being all paranoid, then of course we have to do a lot of policing..


      rumbold, i would be interested to hear more about this ‘free” market you say created all these jobs. do you feel it was 100% free? and how are you understanding free?

      that no “regulation” was involved along the way - at all? no ‘strong institutions”? that not even the “state” or the Queen - granting a monopoly to the East India company perhaps had “something” to do with the trade? ( which presumably had something to do with the jobs?) and finally - guns? no involvement of guns/navy warships anywhere along the way?

      ( of course, it might have something to do with your understanding/conventional use of the term ‘regulation’.)

      so perhaps i should rephrase my question and say, all those things i mentioned above, do you think they have no “connection”, no implication at all, to the ‘free market’ you mention?

      I am interested because i do feel that you are a very thoughtful person, and i think we share a lot in terms of our desire for individual freedom and liberty. i am certainly in favour of a free “market” ( or rather free world, as i dont see markets existing in some sort of ‘vacuum’. as i have said elsewhere on my blog)

      however let us stick to the market term - I feel that the “market” we point to today is not really ‘free’ - certainly not from a variety of strong institutions “meddling” and trying to get things to go the way they want it to go. seems to me we only look to the ‘State’ as the meddling institution, which is still, in theory at least, accountable to the public. There are of course, other ‘meddlers’, which are not accountable to the public, which claim to be in favour of ‘not meddling’ in a funny way, by getting people to agree with them - i.e. conform to their policy agenda, in a variety of ways - one of them being ( seems to me) getting national governments to “say” they are self-hating institutions, who ask people to elect them so they can dimish their own power, allegedly, and not ‘interfere’ at all. ( very believable)

      anyway - so is free- to you = NOT state regulation, but perhaps involves some non-state ‘not-so-invisible’ arm twisting e.g. by the World Bank, or perhaps the WTO)

      for me, arm-twisting, by State or no State, is still not exactly ‘free’ - and certainly not for individuals. as an individual, i have no way to influence the WTo for example, i am not even a stakeholder. They are not even really thinking about individuals really are they, just groups of ‘nations’. so i don’t really come into the picture. and if i went into national govt, and thereby became the representative to the WTO, my interaction will depend very much on which nation i come from, and the status of that nation in the world hierarchy of nations. Not very free by my reckoning, very state heavy and state-dependent, the way i see it.

      so again overall, back to the trouble that the ‘market is not just a ‘market’ - it clearly involves institutions. and are these ‘free’ institutions? are they democratic? Corporations - for example - certainly aren’t.

      Could we be said to be ‘free’ to interact with those we want to interact and trade with?I would say most definitely not. So perhaps Rumbold you understand something different when you think of the ‘free market’. perhaps you mean ‘free-er’ than something else. I don’t know..?

    45. Don — on 25th November, 2007 at 10:40 pm  

      ‘Our society will probably need to “collapse” in some way before we can rebuild it, and so their existence prolongs it.’

      Ever seen a collapsed society, Dave?

      And in this reduced and re-moulded society will flourish …you? Or Morgoth.

      Six and two threes.

    46. Dave S — on 26th November, 2007 at 10:52 am  

      Don’t shoot the messenger, Don!

      The regime of this society (capitalism) is constantly teetering on the verge of collapse, and the rate that collapse approaches is accelerating as more people scramble to consume even more of the world’s dwindling resources. We are living beyond our means, on borrowed resources - and there is absolutely no way it can last forever.

      Forget the latest gadgets, cars (let alone SUVs) and foreign holidays - if we aren’t careful and pretty lucky, within our lifetimes the main questions facing us (even in the rich West) are going to be “how can we feed everyone?”, and “how can we make sure there’s enough drinking water to go around?”. I am absolutely not joking or exaggerating here.

      Sooner or later (and I suspect sooner), this society is going to collapse whether I want it to or not. To be honest, it makes no difference to me if you choose not to acknowledge this - you’re just another person among millions with their head in the sand.

      But believe it or not, I don’t actually want a collapse. Sure, that’s where we’re heading at the moment, but it doesn’t have to be that way. To avoid a crash, we need to take action NOW, while there is still time to act.

      I am loosely involved in the Transition Towns movement, which is acting now to work out as many of the possible changes we are going to have to make, and take small steps towards them now, rather than have to make a giant leap with no preparation to avoid disaster.

      Transition Towns is about choosing our destiny, rather than having it flung on us at the last minute. We can do this, because we know roughly where we’re going to have to go. The main thing we don’t know is how long we’ve got to get there, but other than that, we can get on with sorting the problem NOW.

      You clearly don’t understand anarchy / anarchism if you think I am interested in taking power for myself, or my “group” or whatever. (Though Transition Towns is not an anarchist campaign - just a grass-roots one.)

      In this reduced and re-moulded society will flourish… nobody, more than anybody else… and thus bizarrely, for the first time ever, everybody gets to flourish on an equal footing with each other.

      So what’s it to be Don? To be honest, I’m afraid it’s people who refuse to acknowledge the issue who are opting for societal collapse by default - because you’re too afraid to take meaningful action now.

      I don’t want a collapsed society, but it’s coming anyway. Still, we can fall slowly and carefully over a period of a decade or so, or we can implode suddenly and unexpectedly.

      Sorry for the wake-up call.

    47. Rumbold — on 26th November, 2007 at 7:27 pm  

      Dave S:

      “Hey Rumbold - I increasingly enjoy our encounters! Although you often throw me a few spanners to think about, I like bouncing ideas off people with rather different points of view. I’m always glad when you reply to stuff I post!”

      Ditto. Imagine just debating with people who agreed with you. How ghastly.

      “Their families, for example - with less work to do, families would have more time to really look after each other - to put quality time into sorting their problems out. Even when it comes to people with serious mental issues, less work (as we know it now) would mean more time to help people deal with things, so everyone would be better equipped to deal with their own and other people’s problems.”

      Some families’ problems are caused by a lack of time, especially in those families where a parent or parents work late and so spend very little quality time with their children. However, there are also a fair few families, especially those claiming benefits, to whom quality time should not be a issue, yet they have some of the biggest problems. Less work would beenfit some families, while more work would benefit others. Perhaps that is the happy medium of your idea.

      “Fix the cause rather than bandage the symptom - action rather than reaction. Let’s help people (and I mean *really* help them) and thus prevent them becoming a problem in the first place.”

      But unless you fix everything then a bandage will always be needed at some point.

      “I personally do not believe the police should exist at the moment. Our society will probably need to “collapse” in some way before we can rebuild it, and so their existence prolongs it. The transitional phase is not going to be an easy one, but that’s why it’s important for people to practise elements of a new society within the existing one. Everything about the current system is designed to prevent this as a possibility - which of course it would be, because the current system has checks and balances put in place to ensure it’s as hard as possible to alter it … You can’t reform something that doesn’t want to be reformed - just kick it until it breaks, and then get on with building a better alternative.”

      I am all for working for a better society, but I agree with Don; a collapsed society is not pretty. Your argument here seems to smack too much of the ‘end justifies the means’ theory. Maybe the collapse of society as we know it would be worth it in the end, but since we do not actually know it for sure, then it is such a horrific thing to make happen merely in the hope of better times too come.

      “I can’t recommend any one book that sums up my take on things, and I’m quite glad about that in many ways. The whole point of anarchy is that there is no option but to think for yourself - that’s the lesson to be learned: stop looking to other people to tell you the answers, and THINK!! (Hence why I am often wrong, but I wouldn’t have it any other way!).”

      But one of the ways in which we think for ourselves is by reading others’ thoughts. In this way we come to have a deeper understanding of various issues, even if we do not change our mind at all.

      “Go with “How To Be Free” for now - it’s not perfect, but it’s certainly an enjoyable and inspiring read. In fact, if anything, because it stays away from hardcore theory and argument, and concentrates on inspiring the reader, it in many ways accomplishes more.”

      Thank you for the recommendation (of sorts).

    48. Rumbold — on 26th November, 2007 at 7:45 pm  

      Sonia:

      “Rumbold, i would be interested to hear more about this ‘free” market you say created all these jobs. do you feel it was 100% free? and how are you understanding free?

      that no “regulation” was involved along the way - at all? no ’strong institutions”? that not even the “state” or the Queen - granting a monopoly to the East India company perhaps had “something” to do with the trade? ( which presumably had something to do with the jobs?) and finally - guns? no involvement of guns/navy warships anywhere along the way?”

      Well, we do not have a free market at the moment and never have done. I support a free market, with only light planning and environmental regulation. I would happily abolish 95% of regulation, as most of it is just a giant bureaucratic job creation scheme anyway (for officials, lawyers, accountants and consultants). States prospered with a combination of the free market, regulation and military might (the East India Company was formed in order to take advantage of rich pickings in the East and break the hold of the Portuguese- nothing to do with jobs).

      “I am interested because i do feel that you are a very thoughtful person, and i think we share a lot in terms of our desire for individual freedom and liberty. i am certainly in favour of a free “market” ( or rather free world, as i dont see markets existing in some sort of ‘vacuum’. as i have said elsewhere on my blog)

      However let us stick to the market term - I feel that the “market” we point to today is not really ‘free’ - certainly not from a variety of strong institutions “meddling” and trying to get things to go the way they want it to go. seems to me we only look to the ‘State’ as the meddling institution, which is still, in theory at least, accountable to the public.”

      I agree with you on that point. There are certainly aspects of the free market in existance, but the state chooses to meddle so much in everybody’s affairs that it can hardly be labelled an unfettered free market.

      “There are of course, other ‘meddlers’, which are not accountable to the public, which claim to be in favour of ‘not meddling’ in a funny way, by getting people to agree with them - i.e. conform to their policy agenda, in a variety of ways - one of them being ( seems to me) getting national governments to “say” they are self-hating institutions, who ask people to elect them so they can dimish their own power, allegedly, and not ‘interfere’ at all. ( very believable).”

      I share your cynicism in this regard to a certain extent, as all parties talk about reducing red tape but then fail to do so (apart from the blessed Mrs. T). Accountability to the public is always a complex issue, because how do you decide if someone is accountable? By the fact that they are elected? Or that they are accountable to someone who is elected? Or that they are a firm and will go broke if the public does not buy their produce?

      “Anyway - so is free- to you = NOT state regulation, but perhaps involves some non-state ‘not-so-invisible’ arm twisting e.g. by the World Bank, or perhaps the WTO).”

      I regard bodies like the WTO, World Bank and IMF as merely extensions of the state. I do not believe that most non-state institutions and groups distort the free market, because at the end of the day such a system is driven by supply and demand.

      “Ao again overall, back to the trouble that the ‘market is not just a ‘market’ - it clearly involves institutions. and are these ‘free’ institutions? are they democratic? Corporations - for example - certainly aren’t.”

      Coporations are not democractic in the sense of the electoral term, but they are democratic since if the people stop buying their goods then they will fall. One person cannot change the fate of a corporation, but multiple people can.

      “Could we be said to be ‘free’ to interact with those we want to interact and trade with?I would say most definitely not. So perhaps Rumbold you understand something different when you think of the ‘free market’. perhaps you mean ‘free-er’ than something else. I don’t know..?”

      Yes, ‘free-er market’ does sound a bit more plausible.

    49. Sunny — on 27th November, 2007 at 1:19 am  

      Sorry Dave S, but I don’t buy those points.

      Their families, for example - with less work to do, families would have more time to really look after each other - to put quality time into sorting their problems out. Even when it comes to people with serious mental issues, less work (as we know it now) would mean more time to help people deal with things, so everyone would be better equipped to deal with their own and other people’s problems.

      Forget that! I’d rather work than spend more time with my family! Jeez, have you tried spending time with my family?

      So I’d spend time with friends say… but then we’d need to do something… which means we’ll want some services in return for spending money (watching a film, bowling, going to a restaurant, having a picnic in the park) which means people have to work.

      The problem here isn’t that people work, but rather that there isn’t enough of a balance - which adds to the stress. Why the hell is not working some sort of a utopia? I find that working is intellectually rewarding and I enjoy it. It drives me and keeps me thinking and planning. Otherwise I’d waste my time.

      I’m sorry but I find the whole non-working utopia a non-starter. Hence, trying to pretend the police isn’t needed is also a non-starter because every community of people will have evil/nasty people who will try and take advantage of others.

      You could try resolving law and order by localky based bodies (like village panchayats as they have in India) but that system soon becomes corrupt and nepotistic, as it is in India, and unaccountable. The only way forward is a specific, professional law and order body.

      You haven’t convinced me I’m afraid.

    50. Bert Preast — on 27th November, 2007 at 2:10 am  

      Don’t doubt I’d enjoy working too, if it consisted of airing my much respected opinions in an air conditioned office and wowing the ladies with the latest in face fuzz. But not everyone is that talented, nor that fortunate - for many the idea of keeping work to a minimum is most attractive.

      Sadly for Dave S and his idealism, were law and order to break down the practical way folk such as I could keep work to a minimum is to visit the anarchists every time they harvest and pillage the shit out of them. But what can you do?

    51. Dave S — on 27th November, 2007 at 1:53 pm  

      Sunny… spoken like someone who has never done a hard days graft in a menial job in his entire life!

      Nowadays, I usually enjoy work. A lot of the time my work is creative, interesting and rewarding. That’s not what I’m seeking to abolish, and indeed, it would be stupid to try to forcibly abolish something from people who are enjoying it!

      But what I’m talking about is employment, or wage slavery. How many factory workers really enjoy their jobs? How many cleaners? How many supermarket workers? Don’t you think they could find more rewarding, more enjoyable things to do with their lives?

      Is it just that some people (like you or I) are “born creative”, and that some are not? Our vocation in life is to write and imagine - theirs is to slot two pieces of metal together and affix screws 2000 times a day?

      Pull the other one! We, my friend, are very lucky, and had we been born every bit the same, but to another set of parents, that might not have been the case.

      The reason you and I enjoy many aspects of our “work” is because really, it’s something we’d probably do anyway. (I know I would - in fact, I often do work for free when I can afford it, because I find it more enjoyable that way.)

      In this case, what we’re doing isn’t so much “work” but much more “play”, if you think about it. In fact, quite a few people have.

      As for needing to do stuff with your friends - are you seriously telling me that a creative person such as yourself can’t come up with ways to have immense fun with one’s friends, without spending any money at all? If so, I find that rather sad!

      “Boredom” is a figment of your imagination who’s purpose is to tell you to be more imaginative - ooh the irony!

      Finally, as Bertrand Russell so wisely said: “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.”

      No great thinker or inventor or artist has EVER, in the history of time, spent their entire time doing things non-stop. We need “wasted” (idle) time in order to let our minds wander, and to come up with new thoughts and realisations.

      Cast off your modern, productivist-obsessive, NuLabour approved, puritan work ethic, and recognise that time spent doing absolutely fuck all (not watching TV, not surfing the net, but doing absolutely didly squat) is one of the most valuable contributions you can possibly make to your own creative process.

      There is no such thing as wasted time, if you know how to waste it well.

      Again, fixing these aspects of society really wouldn’t be that hard (given the absence of authorities who seek to make it impossible for us to do so)… and I’m sure would go a long way to removing many of the circumstances which make the police “necessary”.

      Of course the police are “necessary” in a completely insane society - so let’s fix the insanity.

      Finally, to Bert:

      Why would “the anarchists” harvest? We’d take just what we needed for today or tomorrow, and then act on our needs again in a couple of days time - the same as our ancestors did for millions of years.

      There’d be nothing to pillage, and why would you bother anyway? Just help yourself to whatever you need.

      This is why money / capital is the problem - because it allows the creation of a temporary store of wealth. Get rid of that, making it impossible to become “rich” (accumulate more wealth / food than you can actually make use of) and the problem would simply not exist.

      Why would you steal food in a society where everybody shared and supported each other, and where it would be unthinkable to allow a stranger to go hungry?

      I don’t even need to go that far back into history to find examples of societies (not even anarchist ones) where this was the case - it was the way of things in medieval Europe.

      At least, it was that way before we became ill with a terminal illness called the Puritan (or Victorian) “work ethic”.

      Of course, I’m a complete loony, so don’t listen to me!

    52. sonia — on 27th November, 2007 at 2:02 pm  

      brilliant points agin dave.

      yes sunny you are self-employed aren’t you, its completetely different talking about employment in the traditional sense which is effectively wage slavery. not too many people have managed to make the leap to self-employment and work they actually enjoy.

    53. Bert Preast — on 27th November, 2007 at 2:03 pm  

      You’re saying that in medieval Europe no one was allowed to starve and people just worked a little here and there when they felt like it? Have I got that right?

    54. Dave S — on 27th November, 2007 at 2:33 pm  

      Bert: Yep, got it.

      Though you won’t find it in the mainstream history books, with their obsession with monarchs and battles.

      The bibliography at the back of How To Be Free is a good starting point.

      Though of course, if you don’t actually want to be truly free, no amount of hints on how to get there will be of assistance. Many people do find the prospect of true freedom quite scary - because we have been so far removed from it that our minds can have trouble taking it on board.

      I’m not even sure I’m completely ready for it, yet.

    55. Bert Preast — on 27th November, 2007 at 2:40 pm  

      Medieval freedom :D

      I’ve been free, you know. You could do it too, tomorrow if you fancy it and feel ready. All you need is a sailing boat, steal one if you can’t buy one then voila! Give me liberty or give me death etc.

    56. Dave S — on 27th November, 2007 at 3:11 pm  

      Bert: I trust you know about the Enclosure? Our common land was stolen from us, and with it most of our freedom (from the state, from having to take employment).

      See also: This Land Is Ours

      Of course, far be it for me to suggest that strong land rights for all would be an ideal solution to peak oil, peak gas, climate change, crime and so on!

      No, we’re all much happier living in our little segregated boxes under corporatedom, with our shiny gadgets and hundreds of TV channels at our disposal. We don’t even have to get to know our neighbours any more!

    57. Bert Preast — on 27th November, 2007 at 3:35 pm  

      Dave, I’m an ex-anarchist myself. I’d now describe myself as a frustrated libertarian, frustrated in that I want more freedom but lack the faith in my fellow man to use it wisely. Just as happened in Medieval times, the strong will use the weak to do the jobs the strong don’t much fancy. Then the strong will become fearful that other local strongmen are getting stronger than they are, and force the weak to work harder and faster in order to attract more of the strong to themselves and assure their survival. It’s rubbish.

    58. Don — on 27th November, 2007 at 3:38 pm  

      Dave,

      Your describing Cockaign, not any reality that ever existed.

      Besides, what population do you imagine your idyll could sustain? And where are the others going?

    59. Dave S — on 27th November, 2007 at 3:59 pm  

      Bert: Fair enough, so what do you think we should be doing about things? Or is your frustration also from giving up and no longer having the energy to try? (I know that feeling well, but I’m a persistent bastard!)

      Don: I’m not saying the peasants had an idyllic existence, but despite working for Lords, they still had a much greater level of freedom (even economic freedom) than we do now. The clever trick of the current time is that we are at once both peasants and lords, and thus too worried about losing our “position” to challenge the prevailing system. It has beaten our community spirit out of us, and replaced it from birth with dog-eat-dogma.

      The question of sustainable population is both inevitable and irrelevant.

      Inevitable in that it is one we are going to have to face pretty soon anyway, regardless of what anybody wants.

      Irrelevant, because when you look at how many rich folk there are compared to how many poor folk in the world, you will see that orders of magnitude more poor people live on far less resources than the rich. Therefore, sheer population numbers alone are not as much of a factor as the amount of resources used by each individual.

      I believe that the world can sustain a very high number of humans (higher than now), if only we ensure resources are fairly distributed. On average, we would all (even us comparatively well off folks) be a lot happier, and have a greater degree of freedom in such a situation.

    60. Bert Preast — on 27th November, 2007 at 4:12 pm  

      Dave: There’s nothing we can do about things. Part of human nature is greed and a desire for security, and you can’t just extract them from people. You have to work with the raw materials available, dreaming about what you could do if your raw material were perfect will get nowhere.

    61. Dave S — on 27th November, 2007 at 4:35 pm  

      Bert: So we’re going to just lie here and be victims, without even trying to do anything about it? To be honest, that’s every bit as ludicrous an idea as whatever garbage I may have spouted today!

      My faith in other people regularly gets tested, but I believe we are as much a product of our environment as we are a product of our natural instincts.

      Although we are basically just animals, we differ in that we have the ability and the means to defy our instincts, and use abstract thought to make the kinds of decisions that non self-aware animals cannot.

      To me, that means we don’t have to lie down and be victims of our own “human nature”, because there is an opportunity to change ourselves and thus change our society. We start by changing ourselves and our approach to everyday life - since really, that is the only thing we can actually be sure of changing. But change is infectious!

      I don’t believe in “perfection” - there is no such thing. I believe in working with what we have available, and not placing arbitrary limits on that simply because something appears to be impossible.

      It is not impossible - just difficult. Seizing our dreams with an unstoppable desire to make them real is the first step to getting there.

    62. Bert Preast — on 27th November, 2007 at 4:46 pm  

      Trouble is I don’t feel much like a victim. I have a flat, a car and no less than two white vans. Frankly I’m in heaven.

      And as someone you consider to be a living manifestation of corruption and a fucking sheep, forgive me if I lack the confidence that your plans are going to improve my lot.

    63. Rumbold — on 27th November, 2007 at 4:52 pm  

      Dave S:

      “Why would you steal food in a society where everybody shared and supported each other, and where it would be unthinkable to allow a stranger to go hungry?

      I don’t even need to go that far back into history to find examples of societies (not even anarchist ones) where this was the case - it was the way of things in medieval Europe.

      I’m not saying the peasants had an idyllic existence, but despite working for Lords, they still had a much greater level of freedom (even economic freedom) than we do now.”

      Not really. Medieval life for the average peasant was extremly harsh. Most peasants were little more than serfs, who were not allowed to leave without their lord’s permission. They had to give a percentage of their tilling to their lord, plus a percentage to the church. Often their land would be ravaged by raiders or armies, and they would have soldiers billeted on them.

      If the weather was good, and there was an average amount of war, they could expect to harvest just enough to feed their family and pay their taxes, occasionally making a bit more money. If the harvest failed, as it sometimes did, they would starve. If soldiers stole their harvest, they would starve. If they were too sick to work, they would starve.

      The life of a medieval peasant only really improved as a result of the Black Death. This killed off large numbers of the workforce, ensuring that the surviving peasants could demand more money and rights from their superiors, who had to agree. This drop in population, combined with the Dutch ships which carried grain from the kingdom of Poland-Lithuania, made life better for peasants in Western Europe.

      With regards enclosure, this was of course a terrible blow against Saxon liberty by our Norman overlords and oppressors. However, Saxon England was hardly some idyllic paradise for peasants. There were still raids, wars, famines, taxes and oppresive lords pre- William the Usurper.

    64. Dave S — on 27th November, 2007 at 5:12 pm  

      Bert: Not my plans - really, not my plans!! Massive changes are coming anyway, whether you want it or not, there is absolutely no way you are going to be able to hide from it unless you pop your clogs before it gets here. Even then, what about everybody you know and care about?

      If only it was as simple as pretending nothing is happening, and just carrying on as ever… perhaps even with the strange albeit warm and fuzzy idea at the back of our minds that eventually, everybody will be able to live just as we do.

      But THAT is the fictional reality!

      Our world is about to change beyond anything we have ever seen.

      I am not interested in whatever you think you have now, or whatever you think you’d like to be able to keep doing. That is not going to happen for much longer. Lap it up while it lasts, I guess - but the more you lap it up, the shorter it will last.

      I am interested in what we are going to do to survive this - particularly how we are going to do it without turning ourselves into a nightmarish police state, or causing millions of people to die in the process.

      Rumbold: So we learn from the mistakes made before, as we design the type of world we would like to live in (bearing in mind that the longer we procrastinate about it, the less resources we will have at our disposal with which to create it).

      Here some of those mistakes:

      1. Not sticking together, but being tricked into fearing our neighbours by those who would seek to divide and rule us. There are infinitely more of us serfs than our rulers, and we can get rid of the rulers at any time we want to, if enough of us stick together and demand it.

      2. Living beyond our means, in terms of amount of resources each of us is using. Whatever we think we have now, it is not going to last. This change is inevitable, so we need to plan how we are going to deal with it and take radical steps now to get there without crashing - not just pretend it’s not happening.

      3. Trusting any politicians. Nuff said.

      There are undoubtedly more.

      I don’t believe an idyllic existence has happened, and that’s not really what I’m arguing for. But we can learn a lot from the things that have gone before, and cherry pick the bits that did work.

      Bert will understand when it becomes personally applicable to him and his. The question is: will there be enough time left to do anything meaningful about it?

      Sorry, but it’s nearly 2008 and the writing is on the wall, so ignore it at your peril! Our current way of life is coming to an abrupt end, within our lifetimes. Let’s make something positive come of that.

    65. Bert Preast — on 27th November, 2007 at 5:24 pm  

      It may surprise you to know that I do understand. The climate is going to undergo some drastic and rather unpleasant changes in the next 20 years, I’d say - it’s started already. Many people will have to migrate, and many will starve. I also understand that there’s nothing we can do now - too late. The powers talk of reducing pollution which is ridiculous. We could all stop polluting tomorrow and return to your plan of subsistence farming, and the only difference will be even more people will die. Still, you won’t have to see it or hear about it so maybe could sleep better.

      There’s also nuclear proliferation, and at the current rate it’s hard to hope that we’re not going to see some form of nuclear war in the next 20 years. Bummer. Your return to subsistence farming might sort that one - but you’ve a decade to convince 7 billion people. Good luck with that. Even then, do you trust them? Wouldn’t you need a global police force to ensure that people everywhere were dutifully concentrating on organic vegetables rather than uranium enrichment?

      I took the fucking sheep living manifestation of corruption route myself, as a result of which I think I can consider myself an accomplished soldier and sailor. So whatever happens me and mine while not comfortable will likely survive. Best of British to you and yours, you don’t sound to me like someone much cut out for anarchy. :D

    66. Rumbold — on 27th November, 2007 at 5:40 pm  

      Dave S:

      “So we learn from the mistakes made before, as we design the type of world we would like to live in (bearing in mind that the longer we procrastinate about it, the less resources we will have at our disposal with which to create it).”

      Who gets to design it though?

      “But we can learn a lot from the things that have gone before, and cherry pick the bits that did work.”

      Cherry-picking from history is always dangerous, as it fails to take into account that these things worked because of all the other factors around them at the time. Thus, what worked in 1st century Gaul might not work in 21st century Sunderland.

    67. Dave S — on 27th November, 2007 at 5:55 pm  

      Bert: Actually, I’m slightly more concerned about resource depletion than climate change. The two do go hand in hand, but I’m glad to find you aren’t in denial about it (your apparent “I’m all right Jack” thing with the flat and the vans gave that impression).

      Honestly, I do think we’re probably quite likely fucked. I intend to survive - not at the expense of other people, but in co-operation with them.

      Still, I also know how to sail, and how to fight (both empty handed and with weapons). I am a much better fighter than I am a sailor though - it’s been a while! I would prefer never to have to make use of what I know in combat - I would hate to seriously injure anybody, even a complete stranger.

      I really hate fighting, but I spent a lot of time (and pain) learning how to do it anyway.

      Of course, any idiot can point a gun and pull the trigger - though I do have the advantage of invisible weapons.

      For your information, I have coped just fine in (admittedly temporary) anarchist spaces, and see no reason why much of what I learned there won’t apply in a wider context.

      Each to their own. Good luck!

    68. Dave S — on 27th November, 2007 at 5:57 pm  

      Rumbold:

      Who gets to design it though?

      Nobody in particular - and thus everybody does.

      Personally, I’ve had enough of waiting to make my move, so am preparing to make it within the next 3 or so years.

    69. Bert Preast — on 27th November, 2007 at 6:25 pm  

      “Of course, any idiot can point a gun and pull the trigger - though I do have the advantage of invisible weapons.”

      If that’s the extent of your soldiering knowledge you’re going to get your arse handed to you. Hard to imagine how your sailing knowledge could be worse?

      What move are you planning?

    70. Don — on 27th November, 2007 at 6:29 pm  

      Dave,

      You seem like a nice, principled guy, but then that is the defining characteristic of utopian idealists. Which makes their inevitable grisly ends all the more regretable.

      And because you are such a nice guy I’m going to forego the umbrage I generally take at being repeatedly characterised as a brain-washed materialistic gadget-happy sheep with its head in the sand and my last drops of humanity dribbling into the barren ground of capitalistic conformity. That ain’t the case.

      But I do have a few issues, some of them general, which I’d like to raise.

      First, you have a very feeble grasp of medieval history. I followed your link to This Land is Ours and, you’re right. It’s not ‘mainstream’ history. It’s piffle. And if you think ‘mainstream’ history is obsessed with battles and kings then I seriously doubt you have studied it at any significant level.

      Second, you have an even feebler grasp of the realities of living off the land.

      ‘Why would “the anarchists” harvest? We’d take just what we needed for today or tomorrow, and then act on our needs again in a couple of days time’

      You would not make it through the first winter. Really.
      Bert has explained in simple terms how that would pan out at the first shortage. Or before.

      Third, you have a tendency to glide over objections and arguments with uplifting platitudes that sound like Pollyanna on Prozac.

      ‘But we really can! All we need to do is believe it is possible, and want it enough that we refuse to take “no” for an answer.’

      ‘Seizing our dreams with an unstoppable desire to make them real is the first step to getting there.’

      ‘The only thing stopping us creating this “idealistic” society is people who think it’s too idealistic…’

      Etc.

      Fourth, you make assertions without a fragment of evidence, apparently based on what you would like to be true.

      ‘I believe that the world can sustain a very high number of humans (higher than now), if only we ensure resources are fairly distributed.’

      Fairly distributed by whom? This anarchist society is going to ensure enough cooking-oil in Cologne, enough grain in Ghana, enough legumes in Luton? How? Just general good will is going to make it happen?

      ‘Think about the purpose of (say) 90% of jobs out there, and ask ‘does this job really need to happen?’

      Though about it. Mostly yes. Health, transport, food production, sewage, water, manufacture (we can do without video-game machines, but can we do without steel?) education, fire-fighters. Think it through, Dave, and back up these throw-away lines with actual considered proposals.

      Fifth, you tend to be a shade patronising. Most of us are familiar with the basics of human impact on the environment and are as concerned as we feel we need to be. This is not amazing news you are bringing us, some of us just don’t find your proposed solutions to be practical. Phrases like ‘Owning more possessions will never make you truly happy.’ tend to raise my hackles, but that’s probably more me than you.

      Sixth, you are too sanguine, for my liking, about the human cost of this glorious transition. Although you say that ‘I don’t want a collapsed society, but it’s coming anyway’, I do detect a certain anticipation, even eagerness, for the day when the great leap backwards can begin.

      Having said that, I’m all in favour of the transition towns, the sustainable energy and the desired reduction of material desires.

      But as an agends to follow, so far I’m giving it D+, and the + is because I think your heart’s in the right place (except for the bit where you skip over the inevitable famine, plague and chaos which The Plan inescapably requires.)

    71. Dave S — on 27th November, 2007 at 9:34 pm  

      OK, fair enough, points accepted, both of you.

      But my question still remains: What are we going to do about things? That’s really all I’m interested in.

      Do you have any ideas? Let’s hear them!

    72. Dave S — on 27th November, 2007 at 9:38 pm  

      Sorry, that “do you have any ideas” wasn’t meant to come across as if you didn’t have any ideas… I’m just interested to know what people with different views on things reckon about what would be the best course of action to take at this moment in time. (I’m talking about resource depletion, climate change, politicians lying to us and not offering any actual solutions and so on…)

    73. Bert Preast — on 27th November, 2007 at 11:09 pm  

      Enjoy it while it lasts.

      Hardly a solution to the problems, I’m well aware. But the problems are advanced enough that there’s no way you’re going to get humanity working together in the time that’s left. So what’s the point in mooching about looking worried?

    74. Don — on 27th November, 2007 at 11:13 pm  

      Personally, I’m stocking up on canned goods and shot-gun shells.

      When they run out, me and my kin will get by on critters and strangers.

    75. Sunny — on 27th November, 2007 at 11:27 pm  

      But my question still remains: What are we going to do about things? That’s really all I’m interested in.

      Dave, in addition to agreeing with everything Don said above, to answer this point: what we can have are incremental changes towards a better society.

      You abhor materialism and consumerism for example. But without that you wouldn’t be using a cheap conputer and conversing with people all over the web. You wouldn’t have access to good music from radio stations etc.

      I prefer evolution rather thnan revolution, simply because most revolutionaries in the end turn out to be power-hungry nuts who don’t mind killing a few million people to achieve their aims.

    76. Sunny — on 27th November, 2007 at 11:30 pm  

      Incidentally, changes like getting people to ride more bikes (France, Netherlands), having a good standard of living etc, and investing in green technology - that all leads to a more sustainable world anyway.

      You fetishise the older generations, but we had more income inequality then, we had no law that applied equally, and those in power structures flouted it without any problems.

      So actually, things are better, not worse. Of course environmental degradation is a HUGE problem. Battery farming is a huge problem. But incremental changes can change that. We now have more respect for animal life, and laws to ensure that, then any other point in history.

    77. justforfun — on 28th November, 2007 at 10:40 am  

      Dave & Don - did not know there were so many bunker builders on this site - we need to compare notes :-) .

      http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/1475

      Rumbold asked for a progressive solution - and in comment 34 I gave one. Katy gave a response - however I think it is all to do with education in self reliance, in terms of being content and happy by being social and active and not by the possesions we own. Now that will require a whole new generation to be educated that way and that will cost money - money for a much highter teacher/pupil ratio - say 1 to 5, and then a money to pay for all the training and activities that will have to be tried before each child finds their place and activity that will sustain them through life. The effort and change of mindset will be like a the Nasa Moonshot Programme but 10 fold.

      We were only just discussing our ‘Gifted and Talented’ policy at our school the otherday- and what to do with the megre budget. Now there are all sorts of Government targets etc, but we came to an enlightened consensus - our job at the school will be to spend the dosh giving all children access to as wide a range of activities we can afford, hopeing that they will find their talent - perhaps we are niave romantics. However I certainly trust the teachers involved to really try and give each child a chance to find the thing they are talented at, as all children have a talent for something. It would be easy to identify the talented children in conventional subjects (but then have all the arguements with parents of children not on the list, who feel we have not assessed their child correctly) so we are not going down this route athough it would appear to be the Government line.

      Anyway that is my small contribution.

      Justforfun

    Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

    Pickled Politics © Copyright 2005 - 2010. All rights reserved. Terms and conditions.
    With the help of PHP and Wordpress.