Behold the birth of the British Reich

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It has become commonplace to moan about how much the EU Referendum has changed politics in the  UK and Europe. There is also a fair bit of despair.

This post will not make you feel any better.

The referendum has changed things permanently. Politics and life in Britain will not be the same for anyone, regardless for whether they supported Leave or Remain.

Before you Google yourself way, hear me out.

The Brexit vote has woken up something nasty in British society, that was hidden under a facade of political correctness. Racism, violence, anger are now mainstream. From UKIP’s nazi style posters to daily headlines demonising foreigners, we have graduated to vilification of the judiciary for daring to have Parliament involved in defining what “Brexit is Brexit” means.

People on social media feel obliged to call out the Jewish judges who are also gay who are also pro-EU, who want to frustrate the will of the people as interpreted exclusively by the Brexiteer priesthood of Theresa May.

Is this a rerun of the 1930s as parody, or simply a re-run? Do we need to prepare for life under a British Reich?

My message here is simple. Nothing will satisfy Leavers or reverse this descent into undemocratic populism. If a hard Brexit indeed happens (by exiting for example without an agreement) the narrative that  will develop  will blame the  evil EU for the consequences. If we brand the judges enemies of the people, after just a couple of months, for asking what Leave supposedly asked for (Parliamentary supremacy), how far will be from pogroms in post Brexit dystopia?

Anything less than a hard Brexit will lead to a permanent rear guard action by UKIP and fascist Tories who have been denied their chance at utopia. The point I am making here is that no matter how his plays out, things will not normalise.

Where does this leave Remainers? I accept  the mantle of an enemy of the people. I will be in good company.

Am I exaggerating? Theresa May and the  Lord Chancellor are yet to condemn the attack on the judiciary. The government has made clear its intention to appeal the decision on Article 50 however. Taking back control indeed.

The question I am asking myself is whether to stay and fight for the country I knew, or leave.

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@iGlinavos

 

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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

The return of violence

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On 16 June 2016 Labour MP Jo Cox was brutally murdered outside her constituency surgery. A week before her birthday this well-loved woman with a young family was killed by a man in broad daylight.

I am shocked as well as the rest of the nation, and the world.

While the police has not made official announcements, there is a lot of speculation in the media that the attacker shouted “Britain First” during the attack. It seems that the attack was premeditated and sustained. It appears the attacker had far-right sympathies, if not actual connections.

Everyone is writing about this at the moment, so why am I joining in? I am writing this because I have a simple point to make.

Brexiteers are morally responsible for this crime.

They may not have ordered the attack. The attacker may not be one of them. They will certainly not benefit from it. Yet I blame them.

Should the Cox atrocity become a stick to beat Leavers with? Yes it should. Isn’t that unfair? No it isn’t.

A healthy political climate is a dynamic thing. Polarisation and anger, hatred and tension breed monsters. Monsters commit violence on the innocent. The murderer of Jo Cox is such a monster.

The EU referendum started as an intra-Tory battle and has turned out to be a fight for the moral heart of the nation. Let us remember of few things about the leadership of Leave.

  • They are enemies of human rights

Hard core Tories and the fascists of UKIP have been campaigning against human rights, your rights, for years. Human rights are not about evil Muslim hate clerics who cannot be deported. They are about YOUR life, your rights. Sadly one realises that they are threatened always too late. You do not want to be the hapless crab that cooks as the temperature increases slowly. The erosion of human rights will take away those of migrants and foreigners first. Then it will take yours.

  • They are enemies of the working class

The Tories who support Leave are the hard right elements of the party who care about their business buddies and personal interests. If you are an average Joe, they don’t care about you, never have never will. Nigel Farage is a posh fascist who plays funny to win over working class people he would not spit on, never mind share a beer with. Boris is even worse.

  • They are enemies of democracy

Hard core policies have failed at the ballot box time and time again. Yet they now achieve the aura of a movement, of momentum, of a majority through the trick of the referendum. This is not democracy, this is a coup.

I apologise to my friends and neighbours who support Leave. I know they are not racists and bigots. If they were, I would not be able (or allowed) to live amongst them. Yet the leadership of Leave are racists and bigots. The Labour elements in them are just deluded fantasists, the few that have joined Leave.

Let us return to the Cox atrocity and why I think it can be attributed to the poisoned political climate emanating from Leave.

If a Muslim man, in a bout of moronic fanaticism kills a couple of defenseless commuters shouting Allahu Akbar, would we think that he is a psychopath acting on his own? While he may well be a psychopath acting on his own, we will call him a jihadist and go bomb ISIS in retaliation (and we should).

If an English white man in a bout of moronic fanaticism kills a woman on the street shouting Britain First, would we think that he is a psychopath acting on his own? Yes, and he will be. Yet we do not want to blame the neo-nazi, fascist, rotten hatred-peddling ideology that informed his thinking. We will avoid at all costs to make the connection between such hatred and the angry anti-everything nationalism of Leave.

Is this the right thing to do?

Should you base your decision on the 23rd on the murder of Jo Cox?

I think you should.

Hands in blood

@iGlinavos

The railway to nowhere

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The Channel Tunnel remains closed for the 4th consecutive week, as migrants from the Jungle refuse to remove their encampment from the railway lines.

French police distributed leaflets urging people to move on, arguing that France loves them, and asking them to fight together British demands for borders to remain closed.

The financial impact for both countries is severe, with businesses suing both state authorities and Eurotunnel for its inability to perform its contractual obligations. Eurotunnel itself is suing both governments. In the meantime tonnes of perishables are rotting away in railway platforms all over the north of France.

What?

Exactly! Wouldn’t you be horrified if you turned on BBC Breakfast and listened to this? You would probably think the French have gone mad, and they are unable or unwilling to control basic aspects of security in their territory. You wouldn’t know which is worse, the inability, or the unwillingness.

Yet, this farcical situation is what Greece has allowed to developed in the border crossing of Idomeni, on the border with Macedonia. This village is the main railway crossing to the north. Tracks go from Greece through the Balkans to Europe via this route. Alternate railway crossings via Bulgaria necessitate a significant detour and cost an alleged extra 6000 Euros per wagon for freighters to reach Austria.

The Greek railways (state-owned) are suffering massive losses due to the line closure that has been going on and off for months, and has been continuously blocked for the last 3 weeks. Freighters are planning to sue the railway company, and the government. Many have diverted cargo through non Greek ports.

What is the problem you may ask? The problem is that refugees and migrants stranded in Idomeni, waiting for the borders to open, have camped on the railway line to put pressure on the Greek and Macedonian authorities to open the border.

What has the Greek government’s response been? To ask them politely to move. Leaflets have been distributed (there and in the port of Pireaus) asking people to move on, stressing the good will and brotherly love of the Greek authorities. The police has largely been absent from the chaotic camp in Idomeni, which is run by charities and NGOs with minimal help (or even the presence) of the Greek state.

Why don’t the Greeks do anything about this you ask? The answer is revealed in the statement of Mr Mouzalas (minister for migration) yesterday in Parliament. Residents of the camp are intentionally left in dire conditions, “so that their desperation leads to positive outcomes for us (Greece)”. Yes, this is what he said. People are left to suffer, in the cold, in the mud, with children catching deadly diseases so that they are convinced by their own suffering to move on. Move on to what? To the ‘reception centers’ where conditions are hardly better (but where is at least food). Mouzalas added that “order will come to chaos”, on its own apparently. Very philosophical for a Parliamentary session.

I described in a previous post why Greece might be sliding towards a Failed State. Syriza and their partners ANEL are doing a good job getting her there.

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@iGlinavos

Refugee Crisis: A radical proposal

Greece faces an unprecedented migration/refugee crisis. UNHCR reports that more than 100.000 people have arrived in Greece since the start of 2016 alone. With borders closing upstream (Macedonia, Serbia, Austria, Hungary etc) it is not possible for these people to move on.

Turkey is clearly failing (intentionally or not) to live up to its commitments to stem the migrant/refugee flow. The main contributor to the crisis, the Syrian conflict does not seem to be abating. If anything, it is turning into a regional war, and a focal point of international competition reminiscent of cold-war proxy conflicts.

I had suggested in the summer that Greece should treat the refugee emergency in the same way it would treat an earthquake and mobilise emergency response to house and care for those arriving over the summer. Things have become so much worse since the summer, even such response will not do any more.

It is important to understand one thing, Greece is alone in this. Europe should help, other states should agree to take on significantly higher numbers of refugees. Turkey should do something, other than bomb the Kurds. A lot of things should and could happen but they won’t. What is happening is that Greece will have another million people stranded there over the course of the year. I guess, this will stop when the conflict areas empty of non-combatants, but we are a few million away from that yet.

What can happen is that Europe pays for Greece to care for the people stranded there, while everyone else talks and talks pretending to work towards a lasting solution, or the war in Syria burns itself out. No one likes this? No one does. It is happening, it will happen. Greece being recalcitrant will lead to all these people being stuck there without the funding to care for them. Hear that Mr Tsipras?

If people are to stay in Greece for the medium to long term, where are they going to stay?

Here comes the radical part of this proposal.

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They can come stay in my home. I come from Epirus, Ioannina in fact. My grandfather is from Meropi (Robates) in the Pogoni region bordering Albania.

The Region of Epirus, located in the northwest of Greece. The total area of the region is 9.203 square kilometers, of which 14% is agriculture land, 52% is covered by grassland, 26% is forest and 3% represents the surface waters, while built up areas and other uses account for the remainder of the land. The 74% of the region, is mountainous areas.

According to the census of 2001 Epirus has a population of 353.820 inhabitants, which represents the 3,3% of the total population of Greece. The population density is 38-inhabitants/ square km, which corresponds to less than a half of the average population density in Greece.

The region of Pogoni has a population of 9000 (2011 census) and a surface of 740km².

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We have been complaining for decades about the depopulation of our villages along the border. Of houses falling down, of infrastructure staying unused. The area is full of villages with houses and no people. With fields and no farmers. People used to live there. They lived there for centuries. They could live there again, rebuild the villages with European funds (blood money if you want to call it that).

What about the people who own the land? The government could lease it from them, it could even expropriate it as a measure of last resort. Indeed the government has already expropriated a lot of it as many up there cannot pay the property taxes. Would we give people’s summer houses over the migrants? Well, yes. Would we create Muslim villages in our border towns and villages? Yes.

Any right-winger nationalist itching to call me a traitor can go ahead, and I hope when their own children flee a war someday they get the same treatment Greece is dishing out to refugees at the moment.

My family was evacuated by the British to Corfu during the civil war. They could have let my grandmother get killed.

Our towns rehoused refugees after the Balkan Wars ended in 1923, they could have refused them. The Greeks from Turkey who fled after the end of the war were as alien to the local population in Epirus as the current refugees are. Do not hide behind nationalist myths of fraternity based on religion and language. They did not recognize each other as kin.

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You don’t like giving over our empty villages to the refugees? Where would you like them to go? Walk up and down the motorways till they all die? What will people do up there you ask? They will live in safety, farm the land. It is a better existence than walking to Calais or Berlin and better than being killed by Assad or Daesh. In any case, they will not be imprisoned there, they can leave if they want, but Greece will have done its duty, will have offered them an alternative to a life on the road or death at the hands of the jihadists. I do not make a distinction between migrants and refugees here. They are both fleeing terrible fates.

Come on, lets face reality and start suggesting things. The above is a suggestion, bad one perhaps, but it is a suggestion. If my kids were fleeing a war I would like someone to suggest something like this. Or perhaps us living in London or Paris do not expect to survive the next war.

Ok, I do not currently live in the areas I recommend are given over, but I will give up my summer house and inheritance entitlements if need be. What would you give?

@iGlinavos

People animals and sex

It has been a while now that commentators have expressed concern that the wave of immigration passing through Greece will be stuck in Greece. After the cascade of border closures from Austria all the way down to Macedonia (FYROM for the nationalist readers of this blog), the inevitable has come to pass. While Syrians and a select other nationalities are allowed to pass on, everyone else (considered a migrant and not a refugee) is stuck on the Greek side of the border.

After the collected groups of people reacted to their predicament by blocking the railway line linking Greece to the Balkans, the government took action to remove them and offer some ‘progress’ on this issue.

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What did they do? They pilled everyone into buses and dropped them in Athens in one of the disused (Olympic legacy anyone?) Olympic stadiums. Here is what the international press said about this ‘solution’.

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Al Jazeera reported that hundreds of asylum seekers lined up to receive food outside a former Olympic Taekwondo centre – now a makeshift camp for refugees and migrants – while dozens of heavily armed Greek riot police watched.

You may think that these are young men, looking for work, so they can take a bit of rough sleeping? The Guardian told us the story of Amina:

is eight years old and running a fever. In her thinly padded pink anorak, hood pulled up over her curls and pallid face, she watches listlessly from the couch as her parents listen carefully to the doctor’s instructions over her medication.

In another place, in another city, at another time, perhaps, this sick child would be taken home to be tucked up in bed with hot drinks. But Amina has no home any more and tonight her bed is a grey donated blanket on the concrete floor of the tae kwon do stadium in Athens. Once this building was the pride of Greece’s 2004 Olympics; this weekend it is a squalid, cold place full of desperate people.

Yesterday (15.12.15) the people were informed that they will participate in a novel type of Immigrant Olympics and move to a different ex-Olympic venue, this time in Hellinikon (site of the old Athens Airport). Today (16.12.15) everyone was told to await evacuation and relief teams (volunteers) were told not to prepare provisions. Alas, no one had bothered to arrange transportation and those who made it to the new site found the venue closed and unavailable, as teams are trying to clean it from debris collected during the years of ‘use’ after the Olympics.

What sort of government is this you may ask, which brings hundreds of people into its capital city and leaves them stranded to fend for themselves? It is a government represented by this guy, Panos Kammenos, the Minister of Defense.

kamThe government, beyond ignoring border safety, internal security and basic human rights is actually doing something progressive. Civil partnerships for gay couples are getting debated in parliament. Well done to Syriza for bringing this to Parliament and passing the first committee hearing (You see, I am not always negative!).

The aforementioned Mr Kammenos takes a different view however. He is against it, and his MPs are voting against the proposal. Asked by a friendly (oh so friendly) journalist yesterday on national TV whether he is homo-phobic, Mr Kammenos offered this gem:

“Καλά, ο Ομπάμα μπορεί και να τους παντρεύει αν θέλει. Και στη Γερμανία έχουν αποφασίσει να κάνουν οίκο ανοχής για κτηνοβάτες, θέλει ο άλλος να πηγαίνει με σκύλο με γάτα, με καμήλα, με καμηλοπάρδαλη. Επειδή λοιπόν το κάνουν στη Γερμανία, θα θέλω εγώ να παντρεύεται ο άλλος καμήλα;”.

[my translation] “Ok, Mr Obama can marry who he wants. And in Germany they have decided to open brothels for bestiality, if one wants to sleep with dogs, cats, camels, giraffes. Because they are doing it in Germany, would I want someone to marry a camel?”

You have to appreciate the parallel. While the government of Syriza is treating refugees and immigrants like animals, a minister is teaching us about the options for animal sex in other Member States.

Splendid. Given the choice between Mr Kammenos and a camel, I know which I would choose.

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@iGlinavos