Posts Tagged ‘Jaynelinney’

Vox Political: American Kids Sneering at the Homeless with Selfies

November 13, 2014

Mike has another piece worth reading on the latest trend amongst the fatuous and affluent in America. This is taking ‘selfies’, pictures of yourself with the destitute, and then laughing and jeering at them. The article’s entitled An import we DON’T need: homeless ‘selfies’, and begins

There a new fashion craze sweeping America’s rich, bored and – let’s face it – stupid kids, and it’s one that is sure to hit these shores at any time.

It involves – as the Addicting Info website puts it – “finding a homeless person and snapping an oh so outrageous selfie to post on Tumblr or Instagram. Then other youngsters come along to laugh and heap scorn on the mostly sleeping, ragged, destitute stranger”.

Oh how clever. How witty. How socially conscious.

The trouble is, as the site rightly pegs it, “the kids are reflecting the value our society places on homeless people. All it takes is a person to become dirty, smelly, and unkempt – and they become detritus, vermin – of no more note or merit than a rat or a pigeon”.

Given IDS’ own contempt for the poor and desperate, he wonders how long it will be before IDS’ teenage children or even IDS himself appears in one.

In fact, this kind of stupid exploitation of the poor for cruel laughs has been going on for a decade or more. I’d say it began with a set of videos called Bumfights. This was made by a rich, White kid, who would find vagrants and then make them perform degrading stunts and acts for trivial amounts of money. It was called Bumfights, because he’d get them to fight each other, in return for which he’d buy them a burger. In one case, he got one poor unfortunate to pull out a tooth with a pair of pliers. The video was heavily condemned, but it does seem to reflect the attitude of the vain, pointless and materialistic young, attitudes that have been fostered by decades of Neo-Liberal, Thatcherite propaganda.

Mike’s absolutely right in that sociologists have noted that we are less generous as a society towards the poor and unemployed. Jaynelinney in her blog has pointed to similar academic studies showing that people are more intolerant towards the disabled, and that abuse and violence towards them has risen in line with these attitudes.

It’s Yuppie values, the sneering attitude of the type of people Harry Enfield sent up with the character Loadsamoney. And there were and are people exactly like it. I can remember working briefly – for all of three days – for an independent financial consultancy in Clifton here in Bristol. Right in the middle of an exam to test our knowledge of insurance practice and law, the member of staff invigilating looked out the window to laugh at the sad state of a tramp in the park outside. ‘Too bad you can’t see it,’ he said.

This crew really did have the complete, yuppie attitude. I left on the third day there. Later on I found out through a friend that they’d been closed down by the two financial regulatory authorities, FIMBRA and LAUTRO. I was spectacularly unsurprised.

Unfortunately, although that company went, their attitudes remained and spread to the rest of the industry, and are now poisoning our society and our attitudes to the very poorest and most vulnerable.

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Poverty Journalism and the Media Patronisation of the Poor

March 9, 2014

Thackeray Snob Cover

W.M. Thacheray’s The Book of Snobs (Alan Sutton 1989)

I’ve just reblogged Jaynelinney’s article criticising the media’s use of the poor as a kind of zoo, who can be patronised on camera by visits from ostensibly well-meaning celebrities and TV producers, expressing concerns about their plight. Her piece was inspired by the article, to which she links, in ‘Independent Voices’ in the Indie, about how the middle classes have been regularly traipsing into slums and working class poverty to see how the ‘other half’ live for almost 200 years now. That article mentions, amongst others, Henry Mayhew, the author of London Labour and the London Poor, and George Orwell’s classic, The Road to Wigan Pier, as well as more recent works by Polly Toynbee. Orwell comes in for something of a bashing as he undertook his journey to the heart of industrial darkness as a journo in search of a subject, not as a social campaigner. The book that followed annoyed a member of the National Unemployed Union so much, that he wrote his own book, tracing the journey in reverse, so that he travelled from the depressed areas to the leafy suburbs of Epsom. For the writer of the Independent article, what we need are fewer middle class writers patronising the working class, and more working class writers casting acerbic, jaundiced prose and writing at the Middle and Upper classes and their lives of wealth and luxury.

Thackeray and Snobs, Ancient and Modern

This would, actually, be an interesting experiment, and could produce something really radical. In the hands of a good writer, it could produce something like Thackeray’s The Book of Snobs, but with added social bite. Thackeray was, of course, solidly middle class, and certainly didn’t deny it. The book is subtitled ‘By One of Themselves’. It was originally published by Punch, when it was still slightly subversive, more like Private Eye today than the eminently respectable, establishment organ it later became. Each chapter describes a particular class of snob, who were defined as ‘someone who meanly admires mean things’. Reading it I was struck by how modern it still sounds, despite having first seen print in 1846-7. For example, Thackeray’s chapter on ‘University Snobs’ has this to say about the ‘Philosophical Snob’.

The Philosophical Snob of the 1840s and Their Modern University Descendants

Then there were Philosophical Snobs, who used to ape statesmen at the spouting-clubs, and who believed as a fact that Government always had an eye on the University for the selection of orators for the House of Commons. There were audacious young free-thinkers, who adored nobody or nothing, except perhaps Robespierre and the Koran, and panted for the day when the pale name of priest should shrink and dwindle away before the indignation of an enlightened world.

If you think of the earnest young people, who discovered radical politics at university, or who joined the Student Union and the various political associations with a view to starting a career in politics, or simply read Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Uni before joining the staff of an MP on graduation as a researcher, then Thackeray’s description above actually isn’t that different from what goes on today. Robespierre, of course, was the leader of the dreaded Committee for Public Safety, responsible for killing hundreds of thousands during the French Revolution in the name of republicanism, democracy and Deism, so you can easily see a parallel there between the snobs earnestly reading his works, and some of the radicals in the 1960s, who joined the various Communist parties and loudly hailed Mao’s Little Red Book. As for the free-thinkers, who used to toast the day when the last king would be strangled in the bowels of the last priest, that reminds me of the various atheist and secularist societies that sprang up on campuses a few years ago, all talking earnestly about the threat of religion to science and quoting Richard Dawkins and Lewis Wolpert.

the Upper Classes at Uni, and the Perils of their Lower Class Imitators

But it is the poor university students who try to copy their far wealthier social superiors, about whom Thackeray is most scathing. He states:

But the worst of all University Snobs are those unfortunates who go to rack and ruin from their desire to ape their betters. Smith becomes acquainted with great people at college, and is ashamed of his father the tradesman. Jones has fine acquaintances, and lives after their fashion like a gay free-hearted fellow as he is, and ruins his father, and robs his sister’s portion, and cripples his younger brother’s outset in life, for the pleasure of entertaining my lord, and riding by the side of Sir John And though it may be very good fun for Robinson to fuddle himself at home as he does at College, and to be brought home by the policeman he has just been trying to knock down-think what fun for the poor old soul his mother!-the half-pay captain’s widow, who has been pinching herself all her life long, in order that that jolly young fellow might have a university education.

Unfortunately, little also seems to have changed here in the last nearly 170 year since Thackeray wrote that. I did some voluntary work a few weeks ago for M Shed here in Bristol. Many of the other volunteers were also university students and graduates, who were hoping to find a career in museum work. Discussing the country’s problems, one older lady stated very forcefully that the problem was that none of the country’s leaders now came from the working class. Just about everyone agreed with her on this point. One of the university students made the point very many have also made, about politicians coming directly from Oxford, where they studied PPE, and haven’t done a proper day’s work in their lives. The girl told us that one of her friends, who was ‘a little bit posh’, had gone to Oxford and been shocked at how dominated it was by the aristocracy. And have I heard of students, who have managed to irritate their fellows by copying the manners of Oxford upper crust.

Domination of Society by the Upper Classes, regardless of Merit

As for the chapter ‘What Snobs Admire’, where Thackeray describes the life and career of a fictional snob, Lord Buckram, who goes and gets flogged at Eton, studies at Oxford, and then marries well on graduation to a rich heiress, before taking his place among the gilded youth. Thackeray could be describing modern snobbery in all its pomp today, especially, but not exclusively, amongst the cabinet:

Suppose he is a young nobleman of a literary turn, and that he published poems ever so foolish and feeble; the Snobs would purchase thousands of his volumes: the publishers (who refused my Passion-Flowers, and my grand Epic at any price) would give him his own. Suppose he is a nobleman of a jovial turn, and has a fancy for wrenching off knockers, frequenting gin-shops, and half murdering policemen: the public will sympathize good-naturedly with his amusements, and say he is a hearty, honest fellow. Suppose he is fond of play and the turf, and has a fancy to be a blackleg, and occasionally condescends to pluck a pigeon at cards; the public will pardon him, and many honest people will court him, as they would court a housebreaker if he happened to be a Lord. Suppose he is an idiot; yet, by the glorious constitution, he is good enough to govern us. Suppose he is an honest, high-minded gentleman; so much the better for himself. But he may be an ass, and yet respected; or a ruffian, and yet be exceeding popular; or a rogue, and yet excuses will be found for him. Snow sill still worship him. Male snobs will do him honour, and females look kindly on him, however hideous he may be.

Snobbishness Revived, and Britain Going Back to 19th century

This just about describes the social privileges and the expectations of immediate public deference of the entire Tory front bench. All this was, of course, supposed to have been done away in the ‘white heat’ of the ’60s, when, along with the development of new technology, and new classlessness was supposed to have swept through the nation. Well, that may have been the case then, but things have since gone backwards. There are now fewer Labour MPs, who come from a working class background, than there were before the ’60s. Hugh Massingberd, in one of his essays in the Times in the 1980s, celebrated the revival of the fortunes of the aristocracy and the country house under Maggie Thatcher as ‘a new social restoration’. The Libertarians have emerged from out of the Union of Conservative Students to preach Von Hayek and Von Mises’ revival of classical economics, with all its faults, with the exception that in general the 19th century economists approved of trade unions. Well, the new classlessness of the 1960s has thoroughly died down, and the Coalition is leading us forward into the 19th century.

ATOS and the Nazi Murder of the Mentally Ill

February 18, 2014

atos-final

So many people now are struggling to support themselves after Atos has thrown them off invalidity benefit, that many see it as an organised attack on the very lives of the disabled themselves. If you read the comments to the Void’s posts about Atos, or those on Vox Political, you find the same thing said again and again: ‘I don’t think there will be any more people in a few years time, because Atos and the government will have killed us all off’. Some of the disabled people in the unemployment course I’ve been on have also said the same thing. People may phrase it differently, but the sentiment remains exactly the same: a feeling that the government is deliberately murdering the disabled as part of their welfare reforms.

The Nazi Euthanasia Order

The Nazi regime had a deliberately policy of murdering the mentally ill in its infamous ‘Euthanasia Order’. It was a secret decree passed by Hitler himself, and back dated to the 1st September 1939. It was implemented by Hitler’s personal doctor, Karl Brandt, and the Chief of the Fuehrer’s Chancellery, Philipp Bouhler. The major figure in the carrying out of this mass murder was Bouhler’s deputy, Oberdienstleiter Victor Brack. Brack was head of the Central Office, which handled, amongst other things, the requests for the ‘euthanasia’ of the incurably ill. Brack’s colleague in this was a Dr Hefelmann.

Brandt, Bouhler and their staff recruited a small group of doctors, who were in favour of euthanasia. These were then given membership of the Fuhrer’s Chancellery and granted promises of immunity from prosecution for their actions through Hitler’s secret decree.

The Reich Working Group for Asylums and Hospitals

The group and its intentions were strictly secret. They operated under the innocuous cover name of ‘Reich Working Group for Asylums and Hospitals’. Their real job was to select the programme’s victims. Under the Reich Health Leader, the former SS doctor Leonhardt Conti, and his subordinate Dr Linden, the head of Asylums and Nursing Homes in the health division of the Reich Ministry of the Interior, questionnaires were sent out, ostensibly for the registration of the sick in the Third Reich’s asylums.

The SS and the Gassing of the Disabled

The regime also set up a cover organisation from the SS transport fleet, The Welfare Transport Company for Invalids Ltd. Their duty was to remove the programme’s victims from their normal asylums to the institutions where they would be murdered. The main institutions for this were Hadamar in Hesse, Hartheim near Linz Grafeneck in Wurttemberg and Sonnestein in Saxony, where chemists from the Institute of Criminal Technology from the Reich Criminal Police Office tried out gassing them with carbon monoxide. The operation was financed through another cover company set up by the Fuehrer’s Chancellery, the Welfare Foundation for the Benefit of Asylums. Only about fifty people knew all the details about the programme. The directors of the asylums from which the victims were taken were only told that they had been transferred for special observation and treatment. The only Reich minister, who was directly informed by Hitler about the secret authorisation of the doctors was the head of administration in the Fuehrer’s Chancellery, Hans Lammers.

Opposition from Roman Catholic Churchmen

The euthanasia programme had to be abandoned in 1941 following opposition from the public, the legal system and the administration. The main opponent of the programme was the Cardinal Archbishop of Muenster, Count Clemens Galen. Galen was fiercely critical of Nazi racism, and had published a critique of The Myth of the Twentieth Century, by the Nazi ideologue Alfred Rosenberg, in 1934. He publicly attacked the programme in a sermon. Regarding it as a crime, he informed the civil police. His condemnation of the programme was so effective, that it enraged Hitler and Goebbels had to advise the Fuehrer against ordering the Count’s arrest. Nevertheless, the programme had resulted in the medical murder of 70,000 people, by no means all of whom were ‘incurably insane’.

ATOS Not Physically Killing Disabled Like Nazis

However horrendous ATOS are – and they are deeply amoral and horrendous – they are clearly unlike the Nazi euthanasia programme. They do not have the ill and disabled taken away by a state operated private company and murdered in a secret institution, as was done under the Third Reich. The person assessed remains free. All that is done is that their benefits are removed. And at least in theory the most disabled individuals, who cannot work are still supported through benefits.

38,000 A Year Killed by ATOS’ and DWP’s Denial of their Benefits

Nevertheless, ATOS’ administration of the assessments has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths. ATOS have been set secret targets by the DWP to have a specific percentage of claimants thrown off benefits, a quota system that has been implemented across the system to cover people on Jobseeker’s Allowance. The number of people, who have died after their assessment by ATOS remains unknown. Ian Duncan Smith simply refuses to release the figures. Jaynelinney on her blog has estimated that it may be as high as 38,000 per year.

ATOS, DWP, Ian Duncan Smith and Esther McVie Refuse to Take Responsibility for Deaths Caused by Benefit Reforms

This indicates that the government is well aware of the number of deaths that have resulted, and are too ashamed or afraid of the public to release the true statistics. And while the system is not set up for the organised, physical mass murder of the unemployed, the government’s welfare policies are aimed at the removal of large numbers of them from government support, fully aware that for many this will result in their death. As they are not physically murdered, however, the government, the civil servants and ATOS employees and executives involved in the policies do not see themselves as responsible and so do not care.

This is disgusting and unacceptable. Although they have not physically killed anyone, the government’s benefit reforms have nevertheless resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Britain’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens. In this sense ATOS, the DWP under Ian Duncan Smith, the Disabilities Minister Esther McVie, and David Cameron and George Osborne are certainly responsible, and all the more so because they know it is happening and have done nothing to change the policy.

It needs to stop. And stop now.

Let’s hope the protests against ATOS tomorrow help turn public opinion even further against the administration and its lethal policies.

Dr Arnold Hutschnecker on the Psychology of the Tyrant

February 13, 2014

Alex de Jonge begins the last chapter of his biography of Stalin by discussing Dr Arnold Hutschnecker’s ideas about the psychology of the drive to power. Hutschnecker was at one time Nixon’s psychiatrist, and so presumably some of these insights came from his observation of Tricky Dicky’s own warped psyche.

According to de Jonge, Hutschnecker believed that the drive to power came from

‘a painful sense of one’s own insignificance, a fear of death and the wish to have others die. It is associated with a low sexual drive and an inability to love. ‘It moves on the wings of aggression to overcome inferiority … Those whose power to love and consequently create has been broken will choose war in order to experience an intoxicating sense of power or excitement.”

Now some of this is obviously true of Stalin. De Jonge points out in the book that Stalin had very strong feelings of inferiority due to his short stature, and his physical deformities. Two of the toes on one of his feet were fused, he had a withered arm and his face was pockmarked due to smallpox. He also had a bitter hatred of intellectuals, possibly dating from the time the Georgian Marxist Zhordania refused to allow him into his revolutionary group because he didn’t have the depth of understanding of Marxist theory he required. De Jonge also states that his attitude to the West was a mixture of the traditional Russian sense of inferiority at the West’s achievements mixed with a sense of spiritual superiority. This inferiority complex resulted in the Stalinist regime’s extreme xenophobia and nationalism, which saw millions of returning Soviet emigres, prisoners of war and troops from Europe after the Second World War imprisoned in the gulags or shot as potential traitors or otherwise culturally contaminated by anti-Soviet elements. It also resulted in the Soviet Union, not content with the brilliant achievements of its own citizens throughout their history, also appropriating those of the West, so that everything from the steam engine to the radio was held up as the invention of a Russian. Not that Stalin’s Russia was the only totalitarian state to do this. Mussolini’s Italy, one of whose leading scientists, Marconi, really had pioneered radio, also made the same extravagant claims. One of these was that Shakespeare was really Italian.

Stalin also recognised that he lacked the ability to love, especially after the death of his first wife. While he may not have feared death in his youth or middle age, when he was young kinto on the streets of Tiflis and gangster-cum-revolutionary holding up banks and repeatedly being exiled and escaping from Siberia, he certainly was terrified of it at the end of his life. He had the cypresses cut down on his summer estate of Kuntsevo because he found them too gloomy. Possibly some memory of his earlier Christian faith, and what he had learned at the seminary in Georgia came back to haunt him, and he began to fear that his victims would find justice against him in the hereafter. And he certainly did not lack the desire to have others die in their millions.

The description also reminds me of that of another public figure, much closer to home: Ian Duncan Smith, the head of the DWP.

Ian Duncan Smith pic

The man clearly suffers from a massive sense of his own inferiority. How otherwise can you explain his bizarre fantasies and lies, in which he has claimed, amongst other things, to have a degree from an Italian university that doesn’t grant them. He has furthermore declared that the introduction of Universal Credit and his other reforms are an advance as great as the abolition of slavery, as well as his highly dubious claim to have been an officer in the British army. And he does seem to have turned to a military career to give him the power and excitement that he lacked as a civilian.

As for the hardship and suffering his reforms in the DWP have caused, these certainly point to a large cruel and sadistic streak in his character. And while I’ve no doubt that he has a desire to cause anyone’s death, as shown in his refusal to release the figures for the number of people who’ve died after being thrown off their benefits by Atos, this is exactly what his reforms have done. You can find a list of names over at Stilloak’s blog. Some bloggers, such as Jaynelinney, have suggested that the figure may be as high as 38,000 per year.

The final chapter of de Jonge’s book also begins with a quote from Marx to Engels about the Paris Commune in 1871. This was the uprising by the citizen’s of Paris in which they tried to establish the city as an independent, revolutionary municipality after France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. It was brutally suppressed by the French monarchy. Marx said

‘We think of terror as the reign of those who inspire terror; on the contrary it is the reign of people who are themselves terrified. Terror consists of useless cruelties perpetrated by frightened people in order to reassure themselves.’

This statement not only describes the paranoid psychology of Stalin himself, but also that of the millions of Soviet citizens, who collaborated with his regime in spying on and denouncing their friends, family and neighbours as saboteurs, agents of Trotsky and the Western, imperial and capitalist powers, or for having an ‘anti-party’ conception of Marxism.

It also describes the psychology of IDS and his servants within the DWP. These are, after all, also demoralised, with those on the lowest ranks of the hierarchy forced to take out advances in their salaries just to ends meet till the end of the month. It also describes the atmosphere of backstabbing and suspicion that also pervades the DWP, and the way its employees take out their own fears, resentment and frustration on those unfortunates, who come to them for unemployment benefit.

Stalin was a monster, who terrorised and murdered millions. Ian Duncan Smith is a petty bureaucrat, but one whose reforms are killing people in their tens of thousands. They are at opposite ends of the political spectrum, but the psychology, the feelings of inferiority and the need to persecute, are exactly the same.

The angry Yorkshireman over at Another Angry Voice has posted a recent article showing the Stalinist assumptions behind IDS workfare schemes, and used Conservative arguments to demonstrate how anyone, who sincerely stands for the principles of the Right, should reject it. He also has this picture showing Smith as Stalin. This seems particularly appropriate considering the similarities between their psychologies.

IDS Stalin

And the Angry Yorkshireman’s question is all too valid. To see his article, ‘Why do Right-Wing People support Workfare’, go to http://anotherangryvoice.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/why-right-wing-support-workfare.html

Jaynelinney on McVey’s Non-Reply to Letters about the Disability Living Allowance

July 20, 2013

It seems that the government’s reluctance to provide the public with information about its welfare policy is certainly not confined to Atos. Eight weeks ago Jaynelinney and others sent a letter to Esther McVey querying her use of statistics to justify the closure of the Disability Living Allowance. After eight weeks they have finally received a reply, which completely fail to answer their questions. Their piece on it can be read here: http://jaynelinney.wordpress.com/2013/06/28/what-do-you-think-about-the-reply-to-esther-mcveys/s

The open letter to McVey challenging her statistics can be read here:

http://jaynelinney.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/dear-esther-mcvey-your-facts-arent-true/

What comes across from this is the government’s complete contempt for the public, and its high-handed refusal to justify its action to the people, who will suffer from them the most.