My views on...
This page has not been reviewed for a while!
Here's the bit where you get to hear me rant on about sundry random subjects and is intended to provocative... I would probably regard myself as a pragmatic radical (or should that be a radical pragmatist?).
Check back regularly as this page is constantly changing...
Education should be about challenging the mind, rather than learning. We should be 'educated' to question what we are told. Ivan Illich provides a good critique.
Early music, within which I include music from the medieval era up to early Mozart, is good. Tallis ('Tallice'?) is the best composer and is very naughty. Music from the classical and romantic eras is generally dull, samey and contains insufficient false relations. Whereas most modern classical music is unnecessary. Non-classical modern music (call it 'pop' or 'rock' if you prefer) is often excellent, especially if it is grungy, negative or acid-jazzy.
The passing of the Data Protection Act (1998) and the Human Rights Act are two of the few really good things the Labour government has done, although further action is needed. People should have a specific right of privacy and specified rights. There should be equality of opportunity and rights both under the law and in practice. A bill of rights (giving no specific 'extra' rights to any particular group in society) should be established and a (non-neurotic) rights culture fostered.
Recent changes to overhaul sex laws along modern lines on the bedrocks of equality, consent and privacy are welcome, as are changes to employment legislation. There should be an equal age of consent. The issue of gay adoption I do not believe to be necessarily an issue of gay rights, but of the rights of the child; I feel that more research needs to be done on the psychological needs of the child if growing up in a same-sex parents family; although such an arrangement is of course preferable to care under Social Services if the family is a loving one. Lastly, while I am yet to be convinced by arguments for gay 'marriage' as such, I welcome new civil partnerships on the basis of establishing legal recognition and associated property and other rights associated with this.
Sexuality is rarely static. In theory a majority of people might probably be bisexual, in practice probably not. The term 'queer' is better than 'gay'. People can't choose their sexuality. Being gay seems bad luck and is not fair. Personally, I'd rather be straight. Girls are OK, I guess, though a few are great :) Individuals should not be pigeonholed and should not have assumptions made about them. People should be encouraged to be open about their sexuality. People should be sexually liberal and liberated.
Most drugs should be legalised, especially those at the lower end of the harm spectrum, although I have no personal experience of them. Drugs laws should primarily be based on the basis of freedom and the bedrock of rights against responsibilties to others. Drink and driving laws are too lax; alcohol is, however, perfectly acceptable (personally don't touch the stuff for various reasons).
Cycling is healthy, fast in towns, should be done assertively but sensibly. Cycling promotes good feelings and wakes you up in the morning. Cycling should be done responsibly - stopping at red lights, not using pavements, etc. Cyclists who ride irresponsibly hurt their own cause.
The country should make efforts to reduce car use dramatically. Driving standards in this country are far too low, and drivers should be prosecuted/fined for offences such as stopping or parking in cycle lanes, yellow lines, speeding or driving aggressively. I recognise that people in many areas have no choice, and it is the role of government to enable choice and to provide a better planning system to reduce the need to travel. At times, cars are needed for tasks like moving house or moving large objects, travelling on Christmas Day, use by those with impaired mobility, etc. Cars are wasteful of space; indeed 10 bikes can be parked in the space of one car. Serious investment is needed to provide alternatives to those who currently have no alternative. People should reclaim the streets; indeed streets should be places for people not conduits for traffic.
Student Unions should be representative of their membership, although Campaigning towards progressive social change is legitimate (since democracy should be active) so long as this is not a dominant or alienating activity. Student Unions should be strong in provision of services. Student Unions should not be run exclusively by left-wingers or political hacks; a pragmatic balance is needed. Student Unions should not faff about politicing. Student Unions need more continuity and the lack of this is the reason for their ineffectiveness. Student Unions, not University administrations, should be the regulators of student societies. The 1994 Education Act contains both good and bad points and is not a holy grail.
The term 'Development' needs to be recast to refer to its actual meaning.
The term Post-Capitalism should be invented.
Socialism and communism are out of date and should be replaced by Green Communitarianism. We should move from Capitalism to Post-Capitalism. Developing countries should be free to pursue their own kind of development rather than the West's interpretation of 'development'. America should stay well away from interence in other countries' affairs.
International development is seen by western governments (and their supporting corporations) as export-led development, whereas development in its true sense is furtherance of the aims of a country's citizens.
Countries should be free to pursue development in the way they choose and have a right to ask developed countries for assistance, the latter of whom have a moral duty to assist their wishes.
Cambridge University is a great institution. It is poorly managed. It should not silence critics, but listen to them instead. The University should use private finance only rarely and with great care. Student rents are too high and must remain comparable to other institutions - this need not result in subsidy, however. The University should be more willing to employ younger people with fresh ideas.
The Labour Party
Labour is run by an executive President rather than according to the principles of democracy. The Labour party is consequently shallow has few morals left. Labour are little better than the Tories. The Labour party tries to please everyone and consequently pleases no-one. Labour's policy on Transport is good but is not being backed by sufficient action or is sufficiently radical. The Labour party should stop dealing with private firms and with people instead.
Tories are generally too bigoted and stuffy. The Tories do not care about the environment or social good. Opposition to the repeal of Section 28 is inexcusable, because it was based on a lie. Margaret Thatcher damaged the country and world irreparably.
Utter drivel and devoid of content. No wonder the world is in such a mess.
Err, I think you mean 'The President of the USA'.
Nestlé is evil and should be shut down. Their promotion of baby milks in developing countries is simply unacceptable and denying their practices is even more despicable.
Websites should not be flashy. The same common mistakes are often made by people when constructing websites. People should write in XHTML. Websites should be useful and help to effect genuine change.
Change is generally good, because things are usually not up to scratch. In the context of institutional management, change is good where it is innovative, where it reduces bureaucracy and where it introduces more modern working practices in the most fair sense possible.
Hierarchy is good, except in political terms, in which case more flatness is better. It represents order. Computing-wise, XML is clean and excellent in this regard.
People should spend more time getting themselves organised. Archival as a principle is important, because we can and should learn from what happened before.
Windows is much better than it used to be and is generally very stable and usable. UNIX is good too, but takes too long to learn. Ideologically speaking, Microsoft is relatively bad. Microsoft behaves unacceptably monopolistically.
Netscape vs IE
Yawn; rather too old an argument to interest me. Use whatever browser you like, as long as it supports web standards. Don't use Netscape 4, the worst browser available.
Park and ride
Park and ride can help bring changes towards environmentally-sound transportation. Park and ride should be environmentally-based, not economically, although the latter is a valid application (though should be promoted as such). An equivalent number of car parking spaces should be removed from within town centres as are increased by park and ride.
People can believe in what they want, but they shouldn't try to make me believe in their stuff. Religion is the cause of too many wars. I don't believe there is a God. The principles of many of the world's religions are generally sound. If I was religious, I would probably be Buddhist. Sprituality in the broader sense is my own faith. I find great solace and peace in well-sung music and quiet services of the Chapels and Cathedrals of this country.
Christmas really is not my thing. Christmas has become nothing but an excuse for consumerism, which is wrong. However, good music is sung at Christmas.
My political affiliation and outlook is green ("greens are neither left, nor right, but ahead"), i.e. a sort of mush of radicalism, socialism, communitarianism, 'personal' liberalism, post-consumerism, and environmentalism. Effectively it means people and planet first, profit lower down the line. Some people like to call me a woolly liberal, which I think sums things up rather nicely really.
Proper green politics (in the wider sense) lies somewhere between capitalism and socialism - it's not a 'pure' position as such, but takes the best bits of both while adding notions of environment and community into the mix. Some might call this post-capitalism, if such a word has been invented yet. This is a far cry, however, from the 'third-way' nonsense espoused by Blair et al.
Connected to international trade is the notion of 'globalisation', or rather trade globalisation and deregulation. Environmental justice must not be allowed to be overrulled by narrow definitions of 'free trade' which takes financial outcome as the only axis which matters.
Globalisation of human rights in cultures where this is wanted, for instance, is a perfectly valid aim.
The anti-globalisation movement, such as it exists, needs to root out the trouble-making minority within it and return to its peacable roots whence it came.
There is obviously a need for international trade in the interests of developing countries, where this is a route they wish to take.
However, too much of today's talk of globalisation is in the clear interests of western multinationals, amidst the talk of enabling development, which is manifestly rarely the result.
There is an urgent need for regulation of international trade to protect the environment. An equivalent body to the WTO would go a long way towards this.
War and peace
The US, assisted by 'compliant' and similarly short-sighted governments such as the UK's, must desist from engaging in international wars in the name of 'terrorism' where the actual terrorism is an economic terrorism by the West. The causes of terrorism are completely ignored in the rush patriarchically to invade, attack and foist upon other countries the political schemes which the US and the west want, in their companies' interests - the oil and arms sectors being prime examples.
Instead, the route to peace is though unselfish development assistance in the manner which other countries wish to see, rather than that which the west wants to force upon them. This cannot be achieved in the short term.
The grey political parties
People are disenfranchised with traditional 'politics' these days because, frankly, people's views seem not to count any longer. Many issues, particular those around environment and genuine issues of community are ignored or given lip-service and brushed aside.
I dislike getting into party-political issues because it is so devoid of actual content. Nonetheless, my feelings are that (a) Labour is almost as bad as the Tories; although they have done a few positive things such as the Human Rights Act, in general their collusion with business at the expense of civil society is unacceptable. The Tories, meanwhile have no grounds to criticise anyone after their 20 year rule of tyranny and damage to the country.
Regulation as a concept within a market society unjustly has a bad repution. Regulation (and much more of it than at present) is necessary because it acts as a safety bed for those nearer towards the margins of society and also takes account of issues such as proper respect for the environment that the market seems incapable of addressing.
I agree with George Monbiot when he says that "Regulation, like taxation, is unfashionable because those whose freedom it threatens are well-represented in public life, while those whose freedom it enhances are heard less often".
Voluntary regulation is almost always ineffective and a blatant get-out clause.
Small is beautiful
Wherever possible, I prefer to support small shops against larger equivalents. The former tend to work to a human scale, working in the interests of the communities of which they are a part. Supermarkets are a classic example of this - see below.
Many who know me will be aware of my dislike of supermarkets, which is something of a bugbear. Like George Monbiot who has consistently given a robust critique of supermarks through a large number of articles, supermarkets fall foul in so many areas:
- They reduce jobs: claims of '200 new jobs being created', etc., are complete rubbish, on perfectly logical grounds if you think about it: there's only a certain demand for food per member of the population. Gains made by supermarkets are losses from other, predominantly smaller, businesses who are naturally less economically efficient (because they are smaller) but which are more community-orientated.
- Lobbying: supermarkets partake in all manner of lobbying, especially with regards to transport and the environment. The example of Tesco's lobbying against out-of-town supermarket car taxes is a classic example.
- Power: they wield extortionate power over producers. Rarely is this put into good effect, like the need vastly to increase organic output in this country.
- Accessibility: supermarkets, when (as often) out-of-town, are not accessible locally, so those without cars cannot access them. The corollary is also an increase in traffic.
Democracy should be the opportunity for involvement in decision-making by all, on an equal basis, not simply by having a vote once every five years.
A human rights-based legal framework is a good way to reconcile the needs of all citizens, whereby rights and responsibilities are balanced.
ID cards would be unacceptable on privacy grounds alone. The government wishes to centralise its data for questionable means, and crackdowns on legitimate political dissent will be even more common than now.
Everyone should have a right to a certain environmental 'space', i.e. set of resources, whose amount and size is the same globally. Were consumption on the scale of the US (and the west in general) to be emulated in developing countries, there would be insufficient resources in time. Instead, the unsustainable consumption levels of the west must be brought down, while the under-consumption of the developing world should be brought up, such that the two meet at a middle point.
I do believe that climate change is an issue, but there needs to be less green fanatacism and outrageous claims. Moves towards a fossil-fuel-free economy have many other benefits, which should not be ignored in the battle to get companies and governments to agree to emissions reductions.
The hypocrisy and double-standards of the US is staggering. Insistance that the developing world accept greenhouse gas reductions on the same level as the US is utterly ridiculous and unfair. Instead, notions of environmental justice and environmental space are the way forward here, but of course, they would harm the business interests of the US.
Reclaiming the streets
See above for my thoughts on transport. However, I think the 'Reclaim the streets'-type movement needs to be drawn out from the 'anti-globalisation' movement, even though the issues are, of course, inextricably linked; however there is a need to connect ordinary people with issues which presentation of 'anti-globalisation' is unfortunately failing to do.
The presence of a citizens' basic income scheme whereby people become less reliant on formal employment, would go a long way to developing the charitable and not-for-profit sector in this country, although such a scheme needs further research.
I believe many people wish to be involved in charitable activities but are prevented from doing so because of the time taken for, drudgery of, and energy required for, traditional employment.
Taxation, particularly at the local level, is acceptable and necessary, and should be equitable. Taxation in the UK is probably too low; certainly company taxation should be increased, with less whinging from companies about this.
Taxation needs to move towards taxation on resources rather than employment. A new economy based on skills is environmentally and socially more sustainable.
I am not particularly concerned whether there are any health issues with GM foods; if there were they probably would have shown up by now. However, I oppose this technology on environmental and particularly developmental grounds.
Farmers are being locked into buying non-reusable seed (i.e. must purchase it again each year) from what now amounts to around 4 global multinational companies. Such lock-in is unacceptable.
People should have the right to die when they want. In the case of assisted suicide, this should be allowed under carefully regulated conditions following extensive debate.
Not acceptable in a civilised society. Notably the US persists.
More people suffer from (proper) depression than is generally realised; greater awareness is needed. Depression will become more common as people are given ever less freedom.
It is not for the developed world to push for policies to limit popultation growth. The problem is use of resources in the developed world, not population per se, given present inequalities.
Can't stand the damn things. I've been egged on for 5 years to get one. It always seems that those who try most to pursuade me that I should get one are those who always have their phone switched off.
People should be clear that economic terrorism is just as bad as 'terrorism' (it is simply more subtle) and should recognise hypocrisy.
The use of the term 'terrorism' in the simplistic sense in which it is currently referred to indicates a severe lack of intelligence on the part of those using it.
The media is far too corporatist and bias is employed with subtlety.
The American nation is generally far too right-wing; the media is a major cause of this. The general belief, created by the media, within the US that the country is financially generous to other countries is not borne out by the facts, and ignores mitigating factors such as tied aid.
Most people have been dulled into being too apathetic.
There is a conspiracy, if not many. Surely this is obvious?
Pro-Europe, Anti-Euro. European co-operation is good insofar as it may benefit socially progressive aims, but the Euro is bad as it is a project being run in the interests of Big Business.
The right to protest
The right to protest must not be eroded.
Yes, he's brill.