Andrew Copson, Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association, asks why the British response to the recent riots has been so authoritarian, when the opposite approach has been proven to work better:
Equally sparse as full consideration of the causes of the violence has been any serious attempt to ask how we should treat those who participated in it. Many are deeply unsympathetic characters that it is easy to want removed from sight, but if we want to prevent future problems we need to be guided by reason, not rage. Norway effectively abolished incarceration as a punishment and reconceived prisons instead as rehabilitation centres built on principles of human rights, and rates of reoffending are a third of the UK’s. Again, it can be an example to us.
Most people in Britain are not lawless rioters, and the crowds who turned out on cleanups are probably more representative of the majority. But we have clearly allowed significant alienation to develop in our society and it is in all our interests to address the causes of it. We need reason and a rigorous scientific approach to diagnose the immediate and underlying causes of violence. We need the courage to be rational and not vengeful in eliminating those causes: inequality, poor urban environments, underemployment. We need empathy and humanity to deal with those people who are the symptom of our problems in a way that will rehabilitate rather than further victimise them. A society that will brutalise and neglect, then discipline and punish those that it has made brutish and negligent is not one in which any person can live happily and safely for long.
Britain however has deeply authoritarian attitudes built into its social fabric, the extent of which has shocked me in the post-riots desperation to condemn first and ask questions never. Copson’s argument is completely logical and sound, yet the British public is disproportionately happy with disproportionately harsh sentencing. Cameron knows it, is taking advantage of it, and indeed it’s hardly surprising that he should, as Naomi Klein points out:
But the people committing night-time robbery sure as hell know that their elites have been committing daytime robbery. Saqueos are contagious. The Tories are right when they say the rioting is not about the cuts. But it has a great deal to do with what those cuts represent: being cut off. Locked away in a ballooning underclass with the few escape routes previously offered – a union job, a good affordable education – being rapidly sealed off. The cuts are a message. They are saying to whole sectors of society: you are stuck where you are, much like the migrants and refugees we turn away at our increasingly fortressed borders.
Cameron’s response to the riots is to make this locking-out literal: evictions from public housing, threats to cut off communication tools and outrageous jail terms (five months to a woman for receiving a stolen pair of shorts). The message is once again being sent: disappear, and do it quietly.
There is a desperate need to change our attitudes to those who have been economically neglected, but as John Pilger points out, that narrative simply isn’t on the table:
As MPs lined up to bay their class bigotry and hypocrisy in parliament, barely a handful spoke this truth. Not one of the heirs to Edmund Burke’s 18th-century rants against “mob rule” by a “swinish multitude” referred to previous rebellions in Brixton, Tottenham and Toxteth in the 1980s, when Lord Scarman reported that “complex political, social and economic factors” had caused a “disposition towards violent protest” and recommended urgent remedial action. Instead, Labour and Liberal bravehearts called for water cannon and everything draconian. Among them was the Labour MP Hazel Blears. Remember her notorious expenses? None made the obvious connection between the greatest inequality since records began, a police force that routinely abuses a section of the population and kills with impunity, and a permanent state of colonial warfare with an arms trade to match: the apogee of violence.
We haven’t quite become a Tea Party nation, but our attitudes have similarly been shaped by the right wing media over the last generation to believe overwhelmingly that these people are somehow different – ‘feral’ some have said. We don’t need to look at any political, social or economic factors – this, we’re told, is down to a different type of human being – one not like the rest of us. Of course this dehumanisation suits both the tabloid press and right wing politicians (by which I include New Labour), but until we’re prepared to challenge this entirely false narrative as a nation, and reject a judicial paradigm which is clearly failing, this problem isn’t going to go away; it’ll get much worse.
I’ve heard this bleated incessantly over the last few days from the usual zealots. Left Hemispheres offers an interesting insight:
Breivik, while having political targets, is still a religious terrorist. The bomb was placed to target the secular government. The children were horrifically targeted to either send a message to their secular, left-leaning parents or eradicate their “bloodline.” He did this to send a message to those he held responsible for allowing Muslims into his country and Europe at large. He wants to establish a Nationalist Theocracy with Christians supplanting every level. Americans are more familiar with the term “Dominionism.” Let’s be clear: that worldview/theology is the same thing.
For the Christians that automatically claim “well that is not ‘true’ Christianity” I have some news for you. I know that his is not reflective of (most of) what you believe to be Christ’s teachings (thankfully for the rest of us), but at this point the confluence of the teachings of Christ and the actions of many of his “followers” is irrelevant. Also, whether or not you agree with their theology is irrelevant. They would just as quickly dismiss yours. It is all too easy to dismiss him/them as “not true Christians,” and they you. That is called a “No True Scotsman” fallacy.
Read the whole article. Quite unnerving but no less brilliant because of it.
Responsibility for the growth of fascist forces lies with the policies of the entire bourgeoisie. Within this, however, the role of the social democratic and petty-bourgeois ex-left parties—who ultimately become the fascists’ target—is particularly pernicious. As the social democrats dismantled the welfare state, cut wages and deregulated the job market, the petty-bourgeois ex-left and the union bureaucracy suppressed all opposition in the working class. As a result, the rhetoric of protest was ceded to the extreme right.
Norway is no exception in this respect. In his first short (2000-2001) term in office, Jens Stoltenberg oriented to the New Labour of Prime Minister Tony Blair in Britain, radically cut back the welfare state and privatized key public services. In 2005, he drew his inspiration from Obama and returned to power with the slogan “Jens, we can.” Since then, he has ruled through a social democratic-Green coalition with the Socialist Left Party and the right-wing Farmers Party.
This government has deliberately stirred up anti-foreigner sentiments. For example, in January this year, the Russian-born writer Maria Amelie was demonstratively deported, even though she has lived in Norway for nine years and a broad movement for her defence had been formed. Despite considerable domestic opposition Norway has also participated in the war in Afghanistan and bombing raids on Libya.
These events in Oslo are a warning to the working class throughout Europe. This political soil, poisoned by anti-Islamism and imperialist war, has now produced its first toxic fruit. A great danger is brewing, and the ingredients for a murderous fascist movement are emerging.
The ultra-right forces are still small, however. The main danger arises from the continued subordination of the working class to social democracy, the trade unions and their defenders among the ex-lefts. It is the resulting paralysis of the working class that creates the conditions for the growth of the fascists’ political influence.
To draw the lessons of the massacre in Oslo is to break with the social democrats, the trade unions and their fake-left defenders and establish new, democratic and popular organizations of working class struggle and build a new revolutionary leadership. Workers must cut the ground from beneath the right-wing demagogues by taking up the fight against welfare cuts, unemployment and wage reductions on the basis of a socialist programme.
(via +Tony Collins on Google+)
You teabaggers don’t believe Glenn Beck would stop so despicably low? Here you go (only 45 seconds in):
What a despicable cunt of a man. Oh and when he says ‘who does a camp for kids that’s all about politics’…let me just point out his teabagger friends do.
The impression has no doubt been given that the whole Trafigura/Carter-Ruck affair has centred around the dumping of toxic waste in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. But identical waste was shipped to Norway that year too:
Oil-trader Trafigura is under police investigation in Norway, accused of illegal import of waste. The waste was brought to Norway on the Probo Emu in 2006, and is identical to the waste that Trafigura shipped to the Ivory Coast on the Probo Koala.
The Norwegian police have been investigating Trafigura for more than a year and a half, but so far nobody in the company has been willing to give statement or answer questions from the Norwegian police.
– We are surprised, and have the impression that Trafigura is not interested in assisting in the investigation, says Hans Tore Høviskeland, head of prosecution in Økokrim.
It’s not just allegations of the illegal import of identical waste. Because of a ‘blunder’ by Trafigura’s subcontractor Vest Tank, similar waste from on-shore caustic washing exploded, with severe consequences:
Trafigura, the British oil trading giant which agreed to pay £30m to the victims of one of Africa’s worst pollution disasters, has failed to co-operate with an investigation into an explosion in a Norwegian fjord involving waste from one of its ships, The Independent can reveal.
Hundreds of residents of the Norwegian village of Slovag fell ill in May 2007 when a huge tank holding waste from low-quality oil processed on behalf of Trafigura caught fire and exploded, leading to one of the worst pollution incidents in Norway’s history as a cloud of sulphurous smoke rose over the surrounding area.
A prosecution of three individuals linked to Vest Tank, the Norwegian company which ran the processing operation on Norway’s west coast, is due to begin in November and will hear evidence of how Trafigura sent six shipments totalling 150,000 tonnes of cheap and dirty coker gasoline to Slovag in 2006 and 2007.
The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) report that Trafigura have so far refused to answer why they chose to perform caustic washing in Sløvåg, when it’s illegal in the EU (which Norway is not a member state of). They also have refused to answer why the Probo Emu failed to apply for import permits for the earlier waste, and failed to notify Norwegian environmental authorities of its arrival.
So before you start believing their backtracking from the legal mess they’re responsible for in the UK, with their super injunctions, crude attacks on parliament and the freedom of speech, consider where their responsibility for both disasters lay. The Norwegian authorities claim Vest Tank didn’t even have the correct permits to carry out caustic washing and waste processing, which Vest Tank deny - it’s all remarkably similar to the situation in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, where Trafigura have also denied any responsibility for their subcontractor there dumping the identically toxic waste in populated areas. Solomon Ugburogbu’s company Tommy didn’t even have the facilities for treating the toxic waste which ended up dumped instead.
In both instances Trafigura bought extremely cheap, low grade refinery gasoline at a profit, and turned this coker naptha as cheaply as they could through a process called caustic washing, into a petrol which wasn’t even legal to sell in the EU, in order to sell it on to Africa (where it was legal) at a further profit. The toxic waste resulting from the earlier caustic washing at sea ended up dumped in Abidjan; in the case of Sløvåg it appears to have been illegally imported, although caustic washing was done on land there as well. Trafigura knew when they tried to offload the waste which ended up in Abidjan in Amsterdam, how expensive it would be to treat the sludge legally, yet its final destination was Tommy. In Sløvåg the sludge blew up, even though Trafigura knew of the dangers of storing it for more than a few days. Deaths in Abidjan and serious health problems in Norway – Trafigura at the centre of it, making huge profits. Pierre Lorinet, the oil trading firm’s CFO said:
“We decided that our best course of action at the time was to get the [initial, super-] injunction, because we didn’t want more inaccurate reporting on things which are very clearly wrong effectively. It is a heavy-handed approach, absolutely. With hindsight, could it have been done differently? Possibly. The injunction was never intended to gag parliament or attack free speech.”
They never wanted to gag parliament or attack free speech, just wanted to stop ‘inaccurate reporting’? Given the mountain of evidence underpinning said reporting, make your own mind up, and make sure you read the Minton Report. The Basel Convention bans the export of toxic waste to developing countries – it’s no wonder Trafigura have stopped at nothing to suppress even a mention of it.