Friday, November 12, 2010

UK Students trash British Conservatives' HQ ... the children's crusade

Students have finally had enough. Fees were introduced in 1998 and we hardly heard a squeak; they were bumped up to over £3,000 in 2006 and no one revolted. But today students smashed their way into the Tory party campaign HQ in a show of anger against a political elite they believe have abandoned them. Patrick Smith - Guardian
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I am quite sure that the student protests in London are as significant as the recent student protests in France,  perhaps more so, and they represent what may quickly become a Europe-wide trend.

Up till now the children of the credit bubble have had little to rebel against, all the things that the 1968 generation fought for, especially sexual freedom, this generation have had in abundance. While they enjoyed their freedom or became bored with it they became proficient with computers, cell phone messaging and social nets, all valuable skills for potential agitators. Now as politicians like David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy are attacking their futures, their education and even their future pensions, they have something more challenging than "Grand Theft Auto" to test their skills against.  And perhaps they will be able to do something that the students of 1968 couldn't do in those times of prosperity and full employment, make common cause with working people and the older generations.

Now the battle is not just about personal freedom and imperialist wars as it was back them, it is about health, education and welfare: the basics.

I'm astounded at how oblivious Cameron and Sarkozy are to the danger they are running.

Regular readers of this blog know that one of my favorite hobby horses is criticizing the blockheadedness of post Cold War politicians who seem to have totally lost their fear of popular wrath.

Those who are cheerfully going about the work of dismantling the welfare state seem blissfully unaware that the welfare state was created by men as, or even more conservative then themselves, (Bismark, for example) in order to avoid revolutionary social movements which would destabilize and jeopardize the entire economic system and society itself. This was a strategy that was so eminently successful that it practically has destroyed revolutionary praxis. 

In my opinion dismantling the welfare state at this time is similar to a person who has successfully survived an operation for lung cancer and endured the ensuing chemotherapy and then, finding himself now in  remission, decides that it is ok for him to go back to smoking, the very thing that caused his cancer in the first place: idiotic.

It occurs to me that this tunnel vision, expressed in the obsession of  placating the financial markets,which  ignores popular anger, is the result of the rise and predominance of the FIRE (finance, insurance, real estate) economy and the diminishing influence of manufacturing and agriculture.

The financial sector works with platonic mathematical models: money in the abstract moves with the speed of light. Fortunes that buy admiration, sex and luxury are made by simply tapping the key of a computer in a cubicle or on a trading floor.  All very clean and a bit autistic.

Reality, unfortunately, in as much as it touches living organisms, is never that clean and neat.

Thus farmers and manufacturers understand how the world of living creatures works better than financiers do.

They understand better, because both farmers and manufacturers exploit living creatures for profit and, leaving ethical question aside, to do this they need to have what farmers call "stock sense": an understanding of the animal off of which they make their living.

Take pigs for example.

A pig lives on death row from the day he is born.

Few animals are as reviled as the pig, the very word "pig" is an insult... and yet, perhaps no other animal on earth is eaten with such relish as the pig. Thus there is money to be made in raising pigs

Very few of those who live off of pigs like them personally, however pig raisers make sure that their pigs get plenty to eat, clean water to drink and clean air to breathe and they make sure that their charges excrement is removed at timely intervals... They also provide them with free veterinary care. The farmers don't do this for love of the pig or from the goodness of their hearts, but simply because if pigs aren't treated like this, they wont get fat soon enough or their flesh pass health inspection after they are slaughtered.

Pigs are not alone.

The short time that chickens pass among the living is also accompanied by a careful attention to their health and diet, as commodity chickens are terribly vulnerable to contagious diseases: plagues that can wipe out a farmer's investment in only a few days or sometimes hours.

Dairy cows have a bit better time of it than most food producers, live longer lives and often get special treatment, as it has been shown that not only clean food and air and lack of stress improves the quantity and quality of the milk they produce, even playing classical music for the cows helps increase milk production. To get the most and the best milk from a cow a farmer will even play Mozart for her.

So, if not properly cared for hens don't lay, pigs don't get fat and cows don't give milk.

In short, farmers know that to make decent a profit from their animals they must treat them carefully and that signs such as wet noses, shiny fur, neat feathers, bright eyes and a good appetite and the quantity and quality of their droppings, all must be watched closely if a good business is to be made from them.

In manufacture everything we have said about pigs, chickens and cows goes in spades for people too.

Manufacturers know as much about the human beings  they exploit as farmers know about pigs, chickens and cows and for much the same reasons: their livelihood depends on getting as much work, both in quantity and quality that they can with the smallest cash outlay possible. 

As an example of how the techniques of animal husbandry can be advantageously applied to humans, soccer became the British working class passion par exellence, because 19th century factory owners encouraged their workers to play football in order to keep them healthy and productive in the miserable conditions of the industrial revolution.

Exploiting human animals is a dicey business however.

We are talking about a very bad monkey here, one who can sabotage a factory, go slow, work to rule, go on strike: an animal that to be most profitable requires much training and re-training and much "motivation".

Like farming, manufacture is a messy, hands-on affair, filled with the sort of intangible things that sentient beings produce that are difficult to quantify in  numbers. This makes farming and manufacture unattractive for most Masters of Business Administration.

People don't feel right spending all those years at Harvard or Stanford, just to have to get a recalcitrant assembly line up and running or to stand up to their knees in manure in the middle of a freezing night holding a lantern for a vet himself up to his elbows performing a breech delivery on a struggling milch cow.

To leave the farm, to leave the factory floor and then move to a quiet office to follow numbers that flit across a screen, and while doing it make millions of dollars more than ever would be possible in either the factory or on the farm is a no-brainer.

Managing filthy pigs or cantankerous people with grease on their hands is not an attractive career choice for a good student today. Pigs are a drag.  So are people.

Truly though, I can't imagine Walt Whitman celebrating these masters of the universe.

A curious thing: if nobody ate pigs or eggs or chickens or drank milk, there would be no cows, pigs or chickens: nobody keeps them for pets. That's the way things work.

Here is an example: right up until the 1970s Spain used to be filled with donkeys, an emblematic animal, Sancho Panza rode one, they had a million uses... now there are hardly any donkeys left... The modern world doesn't need donkeys and donkeys can't do anything about it.

In many developed countries it appears that what goes for donkeys goes for human beings too. Their messy needs and wants get in the way of the beautiful numbers. Let us then move all the messy things far away and leave ourselves to contemplate our  exquisite numbers as they shimmer and dance on the screen and fill our bank accounts.

And so in love are they with their platonic models and their markets, that they blithely assume that those whose lives they disrupt and futures they jeopardize will simply oblige them by just shriveling up and blowing away.

But, unlike donkeys, human beings, before they disappear, can do much nastier things than just bray and kick. That is what I think is beginning to happen in the streets of London and Paris. DS


Anonymous said...

I think thats only the old imperial/anglozone strategy of keeping the people stupid. Now they're doing very obviously.

Even in germany with the old system of free universities the quality of tuition never came close to what the eastern europeans had, and anglos with degrees appeared seriously retarded.

Only a small, hand-picked educated elite is deemed necessary - thats the centuries old thinking to put the funds into military invasions of the colonies.

bailey said...

Yes, the protests.

Max Keiser identifies it as the battle btwn the 'savers' vs the 'speculators'.

The 'savers' are those that want to work, save, have a holiday, this sort of thing.

The bankers want to speculate, keep interest rates at zero, better to get money for free, bet, make tons of money, but when they lose, which they must, they want someone else to suffer, preferably the 'savers.

The gov't bails out the banks, imposing austerity measures on the savers, hence the protests.

Keiser thinks once our 'artificially low' price for food and gas becomes less so for the americans, like when the greenback is no longer the reserve currency, prices will skyrocket, and then, americans will protest.

I have my doubts, we're so docile, just look at the body scanner thingy....but things are interesting, indeed....

S. Robinson said...

The sexual freedom bit early on is hyperbole, at least on the ground in America in the 80s and 90s. I am well past kid age, but please don't minimize the backlash against the late 60s and 70s in the US. Many of the stories I've heard about the late sixties sound like hogwash when set against the realities of the late millennium.

It's not to say there weren't some gains made on many fronts from the late 60s, but as HS Thompson said himself, that was when the water hit the cliff, and it has been all downhill since then.

The destruction of unions and stagnant wages since the eighties is not something to be proud of. I have often thought the States will be a better place when the boomers are all just a memory.

I don't know if that is entirely true, but I can't seem to help think it. What was the phrase? Don't trust anyone over thirty?

The substantive portion of your article was worthwhile, though. Having been raised in a blue collar environment myself I was raised with a distaste for people unwilling to get their hands dirty.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

Thanks Bailey for the the tip on Max Keiser.

S. Robinson,
I think the gains in personal freedom of the 60s are real and important, but quite uncomfortable for white, heterosexual males, among which I count myself, but hey, what the heck, we had a good run, didn't we?