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OK,  you are still here. Good stuff. This post is about religion and our attitudes to it and how you can dislike Islamic dress codes for women without being a fascist.

First let’s get some things straight. I am an atheist. I deeply believe that all religious belief is misguided and false. I understand the psychological reasons for such beliefs, their sociological, anthropological and political meaning. This does not make them true in my view. I also view most expressions of religious beliefs,  especially as regards dress and diet, as personal preferences, not otherwordly imperatives.

However, I am not Richard Dawkins and I will not try and convince you of the error of your ways (not in this post anyway). What I want to do here is to discuss the burkini ban.

I think French cities that banned the burkini have not expressed well their desire to protect the values of the Republic. A ban was not a very good idea, plus it was sloppily defended in court.

Yet I dislike the burkini and similar rules that affect women. Why do I dislike them?

I believe that things like dress codes and acceptance of religious based preferences are leaking out of the religious domain into general culture creating an environment of self censorship that threatens the secular basis of western society.

Let me try and explain this. In our effort not to offend and accommodate other’s preferences we refrain from doing certain things. This is only normal in polite society. When I have friends who do not eat pork, I will serve something else. When I am dining with vegans I will keep the chicken nuggets safe in the freezer.

Should I also advise my daughters to dress discreetly in the tube so as not to ‘offend’? Should I encourage my supermarket to stock only halal meat to ease complexity in supply chains? 

Of course not, you will say. This is silly scaremongering by the right wing tabloids. No one is going to force us to eat halal chickens or avoid miniskirts in the tube. Alright, I agree.

But the idea of the burkini still makes me uncomfortable. Why do women wear it? OK,  anyone can wear whatever they want on the beach.  Sure. But why this? Is it an expression of religious belief? An outward expression of religion is contrary to the constitution in France. As such the burkini is like the burka or massive crosses on the chest and would be banned in public places.

If it is not an expression of belief why do women chose to wear it? Is it to be modest? What does that mean? Does it mean not to excite the men? In that case it is a form of self censorship that is demeaning for women.

Should pretty girls dress modestly so that lonely young boys do not get impure thoughts and need a change of sheets in the morning?  We do not give a damn what the boys do or think, is the answer.

But giving a coating of religion to the self censorship makes such capitulation somehow defensible? I think not.

I think a healthy secular modern society needs to confront preferences even when they come dressed up as religion. The burkini ban may be a rough way to start a discussion, but it’s a start.

@iGlinavos

@iGlinavos makes #Brexit news

If there is one thing you can say about Brexit is that it has kept us busy.

Here is a summary of my “media engagement” as the University likes to call it, since Britain voted for “glorious independence”.

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I wrote a piece for The Conversation on the consequences of Brexit on the TTIP negotiations that you can access here.

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I appeared on ΣΚΑΙ radio, invited by Nikos Andritsos to speak about the consequences of the Brexit vote. You can listen to the audio (in Greek) here.

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An interview I gave on the future of EU trade negotiations appeared on German Focus magazine. Read here (in German).

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Finally, Raconteur magazine ran a piece on Brexit based in large part to an interview I had with them. See here for the full article.

@iGlinavos

 

How Brexit became Brelimbo

There have been plentiful analyses on why navigating Brexit will be a nightmare, the latest one is a great piece on Vanity Fair. Brexit is such a spectacular own goal that even discussing its “merits” is an exercise in futility that prevented Remainers actually explaining what a stupid idea this is to the people stupid enough not to undestand it straight away. Yet, here we are in the post-referendum era trying to make sense of it all.

The con artists who pulled off this feat of populist self destruction and are now in power are finding things a tad difficult. They have no idea what they are doing, had no plan, have no plans and most crucially seem unable to rise to the task of organising what they convinced 17 million “natives” to vote for. 

The Times is telling us now that May is considering pushing back the invocation of Art.50 to the latter half of 2017 with the excuse that there are elections in France and Germany. The real reason is we are told administrative inability to commence the Brexit horsetrading.

I think this is a carefully constructed diversion by May to catch the opposition sleeping with a snap election. I have explained already that the reasons for an early general election are compelling. There is no way May can put off Brexit that long if she actually wants to do it. 

It has been suggested that indefinitely delaying Brexit may be a way to actually remain, but I don’t think this is a great idea. Holding on to invoking Art.50 past January 17 leaves Britain in perpetual Brelimbo. Not a state the economy or the political class can survive for long.

@iGlinavos 

Revealed: May’s secret plan for a spring election

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Got sick of the uncertainty that has plagued the economy, society, our lives since the infamous Leave vote on the Brexit referendum on the 23rd of June?

Fear no more. I have looked into my crystal ball and here is a point for point explanation of what will happen from now on.

  1. The brand new Brexit government will finalise its ‘plan’ for Brexit by the end of the year. The negotiating lines and aims will be revealed with much fanfare in January when the government will formally notify the EU of its intention to leave the Union under Art. 50. This will be done as an exercise of the Royal Prerogative without a vote in Parliament (the Court hearing a case on this is likely to consider a vote is necessary at the point of actual exit, not at the point of asking for it).

What will the Brexit plan consist of?

“The government will give effect to the democratically expressed will of the people to leave the European Union as expressed in the referendum on 23rd June 2016.

The government will negotiate a deal with the EU that protects British interests, the economy and the rights of citizens.

The government will make Brexit a success by opening up a new chapter in British history, expanding its relations with the world as an independent power”.

Applause all around. What this means is that the UK will no longer be an EU member state in January 2019. Also, this means that the ‘good of the nation’ and the ‘interests’ are left undefined. The government will seek a soft-Brexit and remain part of the internal market. It will not insist on an end to free-movement of people. It will say that the mandate of the referendum was to leave the EU, on which it has delivered. Everything else is determined in the national interest, and immigration does not trump economic considerations.

You doubt that this will happen? The City has boycotted a hard Brexit, and for all the talk of industrial plans, equality, state-directed-development, digging up Mitterand and making him Chancellor etc etc, Britain does not do what the City does not want. Also (and this is important) there is no factual basis to the immigration obsession. EU migration has been a net benefit to the UK economy and as regards stress on the ‘social fabric’, those areas most in favour of Remain were the places where most migrants live. May is clever to play the hard-as-nails defender of the natives, but can tell the difference between what is actually beneficial to the country and the ‘concerns’ of old ladies in the Midlands who once saw a brown person.

How will May pull off a soft-Brexit? How can she declare success in delivering what the right has been after for 30 years and slay the immigration dragon at the same time? For this see point 2.

  1. Fresh from the ‘success’ of delivering on the public demand of Brexit, May will call an early election for the spring of 2017. She will do this for the following reasons: The country in its majority either wants Brexit of some form, or has made its peace with it. The Tories will not split and the anti-Brexit forces may boost a bit the LibDems, but not in a way that makes any real difference. The important thing is the implosion of Labour. Labour is dead and there will never be a better chance for the Tories to clean up than an early election as soon as possible in 2017. And May is the only one who can technically call an early election (see here for details).

May will win big time (see here for latest polls). She will use this win as a mandate for a soft-Brexit and in the new cabinet she will do away with the Brexit band of fools of Boris-Fox-Davis. She has nothing to fear from the far-right, as UKIP has in all effect disbanded and it will not emerge from its farcical leader elections as a living political force. I repeat: May will clean up.

You don’t think this is plausible? Come back and read this next summer and if things did not play out according to my text, I will smash my crystal ball on YouTube.

Is there anything the remaining Remainers amongst us should or could do about it?

Propping up the Labour corpse with Corbyn in charge is not an option, nor would it do anything to change the above anyway. Propping up the Labour corpse with anyone else in charge is equally pointless. Voting Green sounds nice and cuddly, but in the post-Brexit era the Greens seem to be going all Varoufakis; ditto pointless to support them.

We should do whatever we can to transform the LibDems into a single-issue party dedicated to being the European voice in the UK while we go through the divorce interlude. A party to protect the rights of migrants in the UK and to oppose the Thatcherite Armageddon planned by May.

A shitty menu of options I agree, but one has to play the hand one is dealt.

crystal ball

@iGlinavos