I still dream of a (more) united humanity

I still harbour a dream of humanity one day transcending arbitrary geographical barriers and working as one. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could forget our differences and came closer. That way, we could better organise ourselves: we could coordinate who gets what resources on a worldwide scale more easily. as Marx put it, ”from each according to ability, to each according to need.” I don’t mean getting too close: human diversity, and the uniqueness of each culture, must be cherished. Nor do I mean establishing a single world state, whose political structure and civil service, as I wrote here, would have to be so big and complex that it would be unmanageable. I just want humanity to take a more cooperative, less adversarial stance; to start seeing ourselves in terms of a species rather as members of distinct nation states. The world should be a place where everyone can contribute and has a voice irrespective of where you come from. Is that such a naive dream?

To me, the EU is working towards that goal. It’s about building a single framework we can all live under. Of course, outists do not share that goal: they seek a disunited, deregulated system where those who have are allowed to lord it over those who have not. Instead of cooperation and compromise, they value greed and selfishness. Vote out, and this country becomes their playground. We’d become an irrelevant little island off north-west europe, where xenophobia is normalised, the welfare state is torn to shreds and the most extreme, perverse form of capitalism is allowed to dominate. I hope with all my heart that that does not happen.

six reasons to remain

I desperately hope anyone considering voting Out in the EU referendum watches this video by owen Jones. Called ”six reasons to remain”, it eloquently explains what is at stake, and why it is so vital that we don’t succumb to outist lies and xenophobia.

Top Gear still has petrol in it’s tank

Top Gear is not dead. To be honest allowing it to die was never going to be an option for the BBC: it is, after all, one of their biggest shows and greatest worldwide exports. What we saw last night was not the flop I feared and was half expecting. As my dad said in his comment to yesterday’s entry, ”Chris Evans shouted too much, and did a poor Jeremy Clarkson impression, but apart from that the programme was OK. I did get a vague hint that they intend to sell the programme in the USA :)” I think dad hit it on the head: yes, there were spots of imitation; Evans often used Clarkson’s famous catch phrases, such as ”some say” when introducing the stig. But they were careful not to let it go too far or to let it slip into repetition or parody. They kept the essential formula the same but didn’t try to pretend nothing had changed. I thought Chris Evans acquitted himself well, binging in his own style but with a few nods to what went before. As David Sillito puts it here, ”The reinvention of Top Gear in 2002 by Clarkson probably owes something to the atmosphere and irreverent energy of a show like Evans’s TFI Friday.” Bringing in the presenter of the show which the new-look Top Gear was probably largely based upon was a good idea. Evans still has the energy to carry it off. As for Matt Leblanc, I’m not entirely sure why he was there, other than, as Dad says, to appeal to the american audience. What does Joey from friends have to do with cars? Then again, I saw sparks of promise in him last night – maybe he’ll come into his own in future shows.

Top gear, then, is far from dead. It clearly has a life beyond it’s original presenters. What we saw last night was, I felt, promising and encouraging. The question now is, where do they go with it, and can they keep it up?

can Chris Evans really square up to Jeremy Clarkson?

Top Gear is back tonight. To be honest, Sunday evenings have not felt quite like sunday evenings without my weekly dose of car-related anarchism. Only, it won’t really be Top Gear, will it? I can’t help thinking that a large part of what made Top Gear Top Gear was it’s presenters, and without that slightly juvenile, slightly blokey, slightly fascist chemistry between Clarkson, Hammond and May, it won’t be the same show. They can get new presenters, and no doubt they will try to recapture the feeling which made the show so popular, but inevitably it will be an imitation, and we’ll all know it. No doubt Chris Evans et al will do their best; perhaps, conscious of the potential criticisms, they’ll ”take the show in a new direction” and ”make it their own”, but we’ll all know we are watching a show which should have been allowed to die. They are stepping into other people’s shoes, trying to make other people’s glory their own.

I have been wrong about such things before, of course. The show tonight could rule. But can Chris Evans really square up to Jeremy Clarkson? You could say he can’t win: if they try to do something too similar to the previous show, people will accuse them of imitation; but if they try to take the show in a new direction it would just feel too different to the show we all love. Either way, people will turn off. Perhaps the bbc should have just let Top Gear pass into history. Then again, I could be wrong and we could find ourselves watching something even better than it was before. It boils down to the question of how integral the original presenters personalities were to the success of the program. The radio times notes that Clarkson, Hammond and May now have a show going out concurrently on Amazon Prime. Which will be better received? We’ll just have to wait to tonight to find out.

Ballot cast!

My postal vote arrived this morning, and I’m very happy to report that I just put it back in the post box, having signed it, sealed it, and put a cross in the box marked ‘Remain in the European Union’.

Austerity policies do more harm than good, IMF study concludes

I think I’ll flag this Guardian article up today. ”A strong warning that austerity policies can do more harm than good has been delivered by economists from the International Monetary Fund, in a critique of the neoliberal doctrine that has dominated economics for the past three decades.” Although part of me wants to cry ”I could have told them that!” it’s good to have what we on the left have long suspected officially recognised by an independent body. ‘ ”The benefits in terms of increased growth seem fairly difficult to establish when looking at a broad group of countries,” they said. ”The costs in terms of increased inequality are prominent.” ‘ Although the right are so wedded to their greed-based philosophy that I can hear their cries of ‘bias!’ and ‘leftist propaganda!’ already, a report by a body like the IMF is hard to argue with. This dispels the old lie that greed somehow benefits all, and exposes the truth once and for all that neoliberalism boils down to selfishness.

Communication works 2016 review

I just finished the first draft of my write-up of yesterday’s event for school. I think I might as well pop it on here too:

Communication Works 2016 was a great success. Around thirty exhibitors came to the annual conference at Charlton Park Academy, displaying the latest in communication equipment and technology. The special guest this year was Lee Ridley, aka Lost Voice Guy, a comic who performs using his Lightwriter. Ridley gave an opening address and then stayed throughout the day. He is fast becoming an ambassador for communication aid users, having been on Radio Four and increasingly appearing on television. Speaking personally as a communication aid user, having him there and getting to meet him felt quite an honour. This afternoon I watched a video of his opening speech, having arrived too late to watch it yesterday: His address was a thorough and well-informed discussion of his life as a communication aid user, how he got his first VOCA, the efforts he has to go to to communicate how he wants, and peoples’ reactions to him as a comic with cerebral palsy.

There were also several seminars throughout the day. One was about making a video, to be played on inset days, where students could tell teachers what they liked and did not like about school, and how to improve things from their point of view. Another seminar was by Paul Richards. Richards runs Stay up Late, a charity which enables people with disabilities – particularly learning difficulties – to have fuller social lives by ‘buddying’ them with able-bodied volunteers. Too often, he noticed, disabled people were being taken home early from shows, clubs and music venues because their personal assistant’s shift ended. I know from personal experience that this has caused many nights out to be cut short. Stay up Late introduces people with disabilities to volunteers who are prepared to stay out longer, even into the early hours, so that people with disabilities can enjoy the type of social lives everyone else has.

Another highlight was [insert name] who helped people visualise what was being said by drawing pictorial representations of it on large sheets of paper. She was constantly adding to her pictures throughout the day, creating images which were both expressive, fascinating an quite amusing. It was like a constant commentary in image form. The way that she was able to keep up with everything going on in the hall, translating it into such stunning imagery, was truly remarkable.

Communication Works 2016 was, then, a triumph. I think all who attended would have found it richly rewarding. It was good to see everyone discussing communication, something so essential to life yet something so often overlooked and taken for granted. This event brought the subject into focus, bringing together a diverse community of people, and getting them talking.

Communication works 2016

I was just chatting to Lost Voice Guy himself, Lee Ridley. Today is the annual Communication Works convention at school, and he was there to open it.

Unfortunately I missed his opening speech, but I had a brief chat to him after. It was great to meet a living legend of the disability community and a great ambassador for VOCA users. Anyway, having just popped home for swig of coffee and bite to eat (and, indeed, to blog) it will soon be time for me to get back to school. Expect a full review/write up on here soon.

Historians urge Britain to vote ‘in’

I just have another Guardian piece to link to today. According to this article, over 300 prominent historians have signed a letter urging Britain to vote to stay in the EU, and warn that we risk becoming irrelevant in the world if we vote to leave. Needless to say, I wholeheartedly agree. We would have cut ourselves off from the world, and told it that the small-minded little people of this island are content to withdraw into their selves and no longer want to play on the world stage. The historians write: ”On 23 June, we face a choice: to cast ourselves adrift, condemning ourselves to irrelevance and Europe to division and weakness; or to reaffirm our commitment to the EU and stiffen the cohesion of our continent in a dangerous world.” I just hope that we heed their wisdom.

legalised larceny.

I think I better flag this excellent Guardian piece up today. By Aditya Chakrabortty, it explains that tory ‘austerity’ is essentially about flogging off everything the public owns. The tories want to put everything into private hands: every school, swimming pool and post office. Chakrabortty writes ”Privatisation is the multibillionpound centrepiece of Osborne’s austerity – yet it rarely gets a mention from either politicians or press.”

[quote=”Chakraborly”]Austerity is far bigger than that: it is a project irreversibly to transfer wealth from the poorest to the richest. It’s doing the job very nicely: while the typical British worker is still earning less after inflation than he or she was before the banking crash, the number of UK-based billionaires has nearly quadrupled since 2009. Even while he slashes benefits, Osborne is deep into a programme to hand over much of what is still owned by the British public to the wealthiest.[/quote]

Thus, far from being an economic necessity, austerity is entirely ideologically driven. These people believe poor people deserve to be poor, and that rich people have a natural right to lord it over everyone else. Thus government should do nothing to level the playing field, but instead slash high-rate tax and reduce the welfare state. It’s a sickeningly selfish worldview based on greed and arrogance. In public hands, things are run for the good of all; in private hands, things are run for profit. They say, of course, competition pushes up standards, but that is bull: competition means you cut corners to minimize costs. Publicly owned assets can be centrally, democratically planned with some kind of strategy in mind, whereas in private hands the only motive is profit. The result is everything gets worse, and we all suffer while those who own the assets get richer.