Rudd’s package stimulates the dead…

29 05 2009

As it turns out Rudd’s immense package didn’t just stimulate the economy of thousands of ordinary Australia’s, no, Rudd took it one step further and stimulated the dead.  It is reported that the corpses responded by lying their, and taking it like a corpse.

Some have theorised that the dead, excited by the intense stimulation will rise from their crypts, in a Hollywood zombie flick sort of way, to take over shopping centres and boutique stores in their quest to increase consumption for the good of Australia.  God bless ‘em.

The Australian government has admitted that cash hand-outs aimed at stimulating the economy have been sent to thousands of people who are dead.

The money was part of a multi-billion dollar package under which every tax-payer was entitled to a payment of up to A$900 ($700, £440).

About A$14m of the money went to dead people, ministers said, and A$25m to Australians living overseas.

Local media have dubbed the deceased recipients “the grateful dead”.

Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner said that the money would still help Australia’s economy.





At Issue

28 05 2009

Browsing the interwebs a few days ago, I found an article that discussed a situation in Cambodia where a whole community is being evicted because it is claimed they are squatting on the property of the French government.  My reason for posting it and the relevant text is that in my mind, it highlights the three tiers of disagreement between Anarchists.  It’s also interesting as looking at the problem from the confines of orthodox statist reason, the only argument that can be legitimately made against the action is that it is an abuse of human rights or that it is ‘just wrong’.  It is, of course, yet the problem is that any solution to the situation is limited by the positive law of governments.  It is clear, in my own eyes, that given an Anarchist society such a situation would never come to fruition and would find itself peacefully resolved immediately.

Now the Lycee Rene Descartes wants to expand.

And along with its landlord, the French embassy, it has asked the local authorities to clear Limsreang’s building so that it can be used for the school.

The lycee insists that the building belonged to the school before the Khmer Rouge arrived in 1975; now it is merely taking back its rightful property.

The residents, however, say they were ordered to live behind the lycee after Vietnamese-backed forces ousted Pol Pot’s government in 1979.

When peace returned to Cambodia in the 1990s, so did the Lycee Rene Descartes. At first the school co-existed with the residents, but an expanding demand inspired the lycee to seek the removal of the community

At first the school co-existed with the residents, but an expanding demand inspired the lycee to seek the removal of the community.

“This site belonging to the embassy must go back to the school,” says Pierre Olivieri, the co-ordinator of a parents’ committee pressing for the move.

“We’re the only French school in the world with a squat – even nations at war like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan don’t have that.

“It’s not good for the image of France or Cambodia.”

The residents resent being labelled as “squatters”, and they were unwilling to leave for the compensation on offer – a few thousand dollars and a plot of undeveloped land on a reclaimed lake on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

Limsreang says that City Hall made a series of threats to evict his community – and said it would give them nothing if they did not accept the terms.

Optimistic future predictions aside, this real-world situation can be used as a test to draw out the differences between influences and theory for Anarchists.  This test comes in three tiers; Government, Corporate, Individual.

Government

If we approach the scenario as it is, we come to understand the key problem being government.  Regardless of persuasion, each Anarchist will universally recognise that a state cannot own property.  To take the statist position that governments can own property, we essentially fall to the impasse that befalls the Cambodians right now.  Strictly speaking, this is the Anarchist argument; the French government cannot legitimately claim a right to property, and eviction by force of its current occupants is wrong.

Of course there exists a principle that if I walk into your house, punch you in the face and kick you out, that house can never be mine and should be returned to you when I am no longer around.  This is in spite of the fact that your being removed from your own home breaks any chain of possession or ownership.  However this does not apply to the current scenario, except for the consideration that the state is the one doing the forceful taking of property.

Corporate

The second tier involves a slightly different scenario:

Suppose the group performing the eviction with the help of the Cambodian government is a multinational corporation and the building currently owned is not a school but a factory.  The corporation wish to expand their factory into land which is occupied by squatters, who like in the real-world scenario, had been living in the place for up to 40 years.

Here we begin to see a divergence within people’s theory.  Some individuals will resolutely jump-ship and take the side of the corporation, arguing that the ‘squatters’ are, in fact, trespassing and nothing can justify their presence as the property was owned by the corporation before the take over by the Khmer Rouge.  It doesn’t matter that 40 years have passed.  They’re simply required to move out as the corporation has an unquestionable right to remove them from the area, as their occupation of the building was precipitated by the force used by the Cambodian government of a previous time to force out its occupants.

Whereas another group might argue from a different perspective, that the choice by the corporation to leave constitutes abandonment, for some property rights theorists, and the occupation by the people who have worked together to build a community constitutes ‘homesteading’.  Or words to that effect.  The problem is here that the principle mentioned above, invariably, seems to be in support of the corporation.

The same people may then start questioning whether the corporation has any right to property in the same way taking up the Anarchist label, in part, depends upon the individual’s willingness to question whether the government can actually own property.  So the same question may be applied to the corporation, along with the same tests, such as coercion/exploitation, origin and even public good.  Those people may than take note that the corporation, under current legal systems, is an entity created by the state, which directly seeks its benefit in some capacity.  Such an assertion bleeds over into the origin of property, and how the corporation actually comes to claim ownership to what it does, questioning how you can legitimately own something when your ability to acquire those goods comes through coercion, even if that coercion is outsourced to a hierarchy maintained by violence.  There is no better evidence of this then the hypothetical corporation’s employment of the Cambodian state and its thugs to evict people living in their homes.  Lastly, public good may be appealed to as it certainly stands to reason what turning out a community from the homes they have occupied for the last 40 years to expand a factory has significantly less benefit than leaving them there.

In such a case the principle referred to above may be said to apply not to the corporation, but to the people being evicted.  As there are hundreds of cases of this very same scenario going on world-wide, irrespective of whether the people being evicted are Chinese, or Americans or whether the company doing the evicting is a manufacturing company or real estate developers looking to build condos, given Anarchism, we could see their homes protected.

Either way, this scenario begins to separate out the participants in such a debate.

Individual

Let us change the scenario a third time:

Consider a situation where it’s an individual who ‘owns’ the land, and not a corporation or government.  This owner owns an apartment block and wishes to expand it.  Before the Khmer Rouge, he also owned the area now inhabited by the community, but left during the trouble.  The Khmer Rouge came in, ordered the people to stay in their area where they now live and the Khmer Rouge left, leaving behind the people.  Our individual returns, and takes direct control of the land not occupied by the people and, a few decades later, wishes to force them out.

Here we see a wide divergence in ideals with people pledging allegiance to either party based on a variety of arguments and theory.  Some take the side of the the new inhabitants, others take the side the of the individual who owns the land.  However, all arguments and subsequent solutions come back to the question of limits.  Where do you place the limit in regards to property?  The one giving the answer has a number of possibilities ranging from no limits, to express abandonment, or mutualist occupancy and use as a definition of abandonment or even limit it all and deny property, or even your views on rent may come into play. Whatever your take, here the debate gets messy and is where the most conflict lies.

Personally, I would argue that property is useful in that it serves as a bulwark against the state and other statists.  However, I counter argue that there needs to be a limit, as it is ridiculous to believe that there exists a theoretical possibly that one man may own the world or even a particular resource with which to hold all to ransom.  For this reason I favour occupancy and use to define abandonment, but then a question arises as to whether this conflicts with the principle stated earlier.  Rather than place a limit on the principle, or abandon it all together, perhaps it is more accurate to point out that there are vitiating circumstances where the principle cannot apply; such as in the above case.  If the individual is turning out a community, and looking to the state in order to enforce his claim, can we safely respect his claim to any sort of ownership under occupancy and use with respect to principle?  I’m inclined to say we don’t.

What, I believe, these scenarios show, is that there is more to being an Anarchist than being anti-state.  Although it is certainly a key element, it leads to new ideas and new levels of thinking that require you to confront the fact that coercion, aggression are perpetuate amongst institutions that maintain their power in a hierarchy where they seperate themselves and their allies off from the rest, in order to live parasitically at their expense.  How we define property rights may very well provide a bulwark against the state and external oppressors, or it may be an instrumental tool in perpetuating oppression.





Cold Turkey, a short review.

25 05 2009

It was Thursday.

Detective Cold Turkey knew this because he had read it in his horoscope yesterday.  Say what you like about astrologers but they know what the day is.  They even know what the day is going to be, which was more than Cold Turkey could usually say for himself.

He felt hung over.  His body felt like it had lost an arms race with a major superpower.  This was far from ideal but at least it went some way to explaining the terrible pain in his head.  Heck, it was even a partial explanation for the rope and the blindfold.

There was still, however, one mystery that had not, as yet, become clear.

Even as the thin mists of consciousness enveloped his feeble mind and started to kick-start reality, Cold Turkey knew it was going to be a bad day.  He knew this not because of his horoscope but because he was hanging upside down, some distance from the floor, in ever increasing agony.

Good days do not start like this.

Admittedly Cold Turkey had been having a ‘bad lifespan’ but this really took the biscuit.

This was almost as bad as the Unfortunate Misunderstanding with the Broccoli, except that there were fewer victims this time and he was immobilised with rope rather than used copies of Gardeners World. It was altogether too much for a Thursday Morning.  He couldn’t even remember where he left Wednesday evening, let alone anything important like: where is the aspirin? And, what didn’t I do last night?

Cold’s stomach started suggesting that it might be about to take matters into his own hands and begin examining the evidence from the previous evening.

Things clearly couldn’t go on like this, so Cold decided on a firm course of action.  He struggled lamely against his bindings and went “mmpmmh”.

It was at this point in the proceedings that Cold Turkey heard something interesting and enlightening.

Cold Turkey could list many noises he didn’t like to hear whilst hung over. “Ah, he is awake, let’s teach him a lesson he won’t forget in a hurry” wasn’t one of them, but he was none the happier to hear it anyway.

He left the familiar and unhappy torture of his hangover and entered the slightly less familiar world of searing pain.

And to think this had all started only last Friday.

Cold knew it had been a Friday because he had read it in his horoscope.

And so begins he tale of Cold Turkey and the Case of the Missing Crime by Samuel Morris, a comical, surreal and  seemingly absurdist tale set in none other than the English city of Stoke-on-Trent, and focusing on the misadventures of the former superhero turned private detective, Cold Turkey as he fights to save the city from the evil Captain Rightwing.

The novel itself is something akin to what you would expect of a comic book’s debauched liaison with a DvD containing a season of the Mighty Boosh; a series of non sequiters, private in-jokes and witty observations folded neatly around a bizarre story-line of lycra wearing super-heroes, some bad, some good, most useless.

As you probably have guessed, the novel itself is described by its author as ‘anarchistic’ who, as legend has it, is himself an Anarchist of some description.  Although the novel is far from a didactic piece, but there are moments of clarity where the reader is slapped in the face with a mildly camouflaged anti-state moral, often amidst moments of chaos or calamity to illustrate the point.

Whether it’s a description of the banking system as one that is easier to break into the cavernous halls of the vault than it is to break out, or the mere image of a ‘regiment of freelance superheros’ atop a police van (with the police logo ‘Lice’ formerly written upon the side) converted into a boat for the purpose of beginning the battle against against the evil-doers to cries of “Up the revolution!” and “Bacon sarnies for the people!” –there are many reason to read Cold Turkey.

Samuel Morris, truly has his own unique style.  It’s his witty turn of phrase that makes the book a great read, and if you have a quirky, off-beat sense of humour, Cold Turkey will certainly appeal.

Now we come to the shameless plug, where I urge you to buy the novel and support Samuel is his David-and-Goliath struggle against some equally shameless publishing giants who have refused to publish the book.

So, Samuel has decided to publish independently.

Cold Turkey may be purchased through Amazon, directly through the publisher Melrose Books, or through any small bookshop with the ISBN;

ISBN-10: 1906561303
ISBN-13: 978-1906561307

Help keep Samuel Morris in a healthy supply of biscuits so that he may continue writing.





Newspaper Anaesthesia

24 05 2009

I don’t usually know what to expect from the local newspapers.  The general consensus among everyone seems to be that they are not worth the read, particularly due to their bias, lack of understanding and that naughty little habit of standing up to demand from the powers that be some new element of a fascist police state.  Yet, even with this in mind, I persisted in performing the same ritual as thousands of other South Australian’s on a Sunday morning and cracked open the Sunday Mail.

Somewhere between the articles concerning truancy, which made the front page, calls for the police to saturate Hindley street and a badly written editorial towards the end that lamented the rise of video games with a sort of ‘back-in-my-day’ feel (written by someone who could not have been more than 20).

The two pieces devoted to truancy alone completely missed the point.  I have high standards, I admit, but the grasp of the fundamental issue by each article’s author was non-existent.  I like a little more from my newspapers than the logic behind, ‘kids missing school is bad, we need the strong arm of the law to deal with it, or create some statutory mechanism to punish truants by making it more difficult to get a license’.  Of course this all sounds well and good, with the obvious fact that it’s completely wrong.  The reason for most truancy, is that the current formulation of ‘school’, is a prison.  Where else in the world must a person be forced to spend their time in a place where the routine is dictated to them from on high, where they must ask permission to do so much as piss and where guards with dogs and guns patrol the perimeter.  Perhaps it can simply be said that so many kids of high school age are truants because they don’t want to be there.  Even the teachers, many of whom are intelligent, bright people and actually give a damn about these kids, often don’t want to be at school and must not only put up with a similar domination by the powers that be, but are themselves forced to run their classes like a concentration camp.  In many cases, that fact that many kids don’t want to be there impacts negatively on the kids that do, leading to all the bullying problems, and even, the problems our society is facing in regards to teen drinking.

But, the argument goes, that education is a right and the kids are missing out on the prospects for better employment or higher education and so on and so forth.  The problem here arises where a right is something that an individual may or may not choose to exercise.  A child not attending school isn’t the violation of that right, so long as the opportunity is there.  As for the whole ‘jeopardising’ the child’s prospects, it is in my experience and the experience of others who I talked to that kids who do not want to be in school, generally aren’t looking to be a astro-physicist, let alone want to spend another 3 years of their lives in university.

As for younger children, primary schooling becomes more a case of baby-sitting.  Experts will often say this time of a child’s life is critical and that they need schooling and so on.  But in the end primary school achieves nothing.  Children from the ages of 5-9 are taught to colour inside the lines and make pretty creations out of paper, card and so on.  The thing about primary school is that it’s about socialising with others and learning the basics of reading, writing and math.  Unfortunately, it’s not like kids miss much when they don’t attend.

There also leaves something to be desired when a writer demands that statutory offences be applied to truants; it stands to reason that if you want to help them avoid a life of crime, it doesn’t help to introduce them to the criminal justice system for ‘wagging’ school at 12.

After truancy, came a massive article discussing the need for more police on Hindley street to curb the violence or whatever.   Now, it’s been said before and it needs to be said again, Hindley street is the only street in Adelaide with real character; there are people there from all walks of life come to frolic and on occasion, vomit.  The street has its nay-sayers that love to point out all that bad that is frequent there, but as in the words of comedian Dylan Moran, ‘so is everything else, including sex, coffee and conversation.’  Still, the nay-sayers go on and, in their mind, the only solution to the decadence of Hindley street is to saturate the place with police in a manner truly reminiscent of Singapore.  Unfortunately, the downside to this isn’t mentioned; that if there isn’t stuff going on to arrest people for and there a whole bunch of paid, bored police, saturating Hindley street, stuff gets created… once again, reminiscent of Singapore.  Just without the bribes.

While it may be better of me to avoid bringing attention to the small editorial towards back of the ‘news’ section of the paper, I’m going to do so anyway.  On principle.  The piece, as I said earlier, is the poorly written opinion of someone in their 20′s getting a head start on the nostalgia that plagues the elderly, conservative mindset — the kind of people that propose national service as a solution to all the country’s problems.  Basically, ‘video games are bad’ is the battle cry and the author laments the decline in plastic lego blocks and Barbie dolls, even though I suppose the author is ‘concerned’ about global warming and a reduction in lego blocks and Barbie dolls might does the planets ecology a little good, what with all that oil be used to create little plastic blocks and unrealistic representations of woman-hood.  There was also included a comment made by a researcher at Adelaide university claiming that video games do not stimulate the imagination; and he would be right save for the existence of entire genres of games designed, specifically, to stimulate the player’s imagination such as RPG’s, Simulations (Sims2 and Life, for example, as well as the entire Sid Meier portfolio) and even those dastardly strategy games.  Don’t even get me started on how playing video games has lead many people into programming or anohter area of the IT industry, where they have to be creative problems solvers.

So we come to our conclusion and my justification for spending 935 or so words ranting about the quality of material in a newspaper.  My reason is because these are the people who have control over what is discussed over coffee at breakfast tables and in cafes, but more importantly, the scope of that conversation.  It is all too often portrayed that the only solution to our problems lies in the hands of the state, to be paid for by sacrificing what liberty we have for greater restrictions — a process which will only end moments before we realise we have hung ourselves from the rafters with the red tape we demanded.








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