Category Archives: Economics – Economie

Be careful for what you wish for, Your Grace.

Handsome Harry has a problem: he hates belonging to the most privileged people in the world and says no Windsors currently wants to be king so now let’s have a quick look at the terrible fate that awaits him and his kin.

Being the monarch is a tough job, but someone has to do it, even if reluctantly. In a magazine interview, Prince Harry has suggested that none of the royal family actually wants the throne.

‘Tough job.” There are a lot of tough jobs out there: teaching, working in A&E, driving a bus, collecting bins, cleaning the streets and being a King apparently. Although, I highly doubt those jobs pay over £3 million every month like being a King does. I can’t speak for other professions, but as a teacher, I can expect a good £1.400/month if I take on some responsibilities in addition to my teaching. And that’s a good salary!

Yes the “tough job” Harry is describing currently pays about £40 million/year and, unlike the rest of the good working people of England in their tough job, the Windsors are in line for a raise of £2.8 million/year which adds to a 57% pay rise since 2012. So let’s admit the £40M stand, that’s £3.3 million/month. For the rest of the tough jobs, it’s bleak I am afraid but let’s try to empathise with the fate of the royal family.

Let’s not forget that the Windors’ tough job comes with free accommodation in the centre of London and a myriad of palaces paid off and maintained by the taxpayers. Weddings needn’t be paid for, nor need your birthdays or any other major life events for that matter. You are provided with hundreds of personal servant as well as bodyguards who parade at great expense everyday, a plethora of carriages – some in pure gold and a fleet of cars so large that even your crown has its own.

The question then begs: why? Why do they get to be given so much? What does the tough job involve to come with such perks, money and yet be such a drag?

“We are involved in modernising the British monarchy. We are not doing this for ourselves but for the greater good of the people,” he said.

My, that modernisation must be a heck of a job, whatever that means in actual fact. Marrying “commoners”, perhaps? That’s modern, ain’t it? No, that’s just because all your parents and grand-parents are cousins and you desperately need to avoid the fate of the Habsburgs or yet another inbreeding-related endemic like hemophilia and mental health issues that came after Queen Victoria and King Christian IX decided they wanted the whole of Europe’s rulers to be their grand-children.

So is it having a beard and playing football with kids in Africa – between two safaris, a hunting trip and some strip snooker in Las Vegas? Charity doesn’t pay (ask Doctors Without Borders), hunting is archaic, and the playing naked and drunk in Vegas is only seen as ‘modern’ by penniless chavs on their quite unenjoyable stag night.

Maybe I am being mistaken on what he means by modernising the monarchy but I don’t see why it justifies a rent-free life at Kensington or Buckingham Palace in addition to the 3.3 millions pounds you get every single month.

“Is there any one of the royal family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so, but we will carry out our duties at the right time.”

First, his father begs to differ.

Second, “we will carry our duties”, yes you will! That’s we pay you for so if we say “Dance monkey!”, you dance and you don’t get upset because comes to think about it, you have no other purpose whatsoever. Your tough job is not a job, it’s birth right that some people in a far past and who are as much related to you as to me gave themselves after they actually served a purpose. Their life was Games of Throne without the dragons. Whereas yours is a apology of privilege-born blasé laziness. Your academic degrees were given to you, your record in the army is anything but grand and the only reason why you can afford to do so much charity work is because your nan is the Queen so she gets paid £3.3 million/month.

Now, if you really do resent the “tough job” to the extent of going public with it, then remove yourself from the line of succession, give up your privileges, give the money back and live a normal life. But do not publicly go to tell the rest of us who struggle to meet ends and must go by in the shittiest jobs that you don’t want to be something you will be if and when your father, brother, nephew and niece were to die.

Be careful for what you wish for, Your Grace: do not lead your people to actually ponder a world where you don’t exist and where you have no use, for you will be surprised of how extremely livable life is without tending and pandering to the most outrageously over-privileged people the Earth has ever accommodated.

Your tough job…I’ll do it! Let’s swap. Not for a day but forever. I’ll give the 10-, 12-, 15-hour working days, the screaming kids, the insulting parents, the down-looking management and the pay squeeze and you give me the free money, the palaces, the never-ending holidays, the cooks, the fitness trainers, the countless servants and I will do the “tough job”. For that money, for that comfort in life, I will sit on that throne and smile until my teeth come off and the best dentist that ever that was gives me new ones…for free.

As an atheist, I will even graciously bow and blow smoke up the Archbishop of Canterbury’s arse if asked. I’ll do anything so my future can look as worry-free, secured and bright as yours looks everyday. I will do your tough job, Your Highness. Anything, so the only three things I can worry about is: my hair falling, the colour of my ties and who I am dating that doesn’t draw too much of my nan’s wrath.

And, my Lord, I think you’ll find millions of people would do your tough job if they could considering the life it comes with. I am not saying we would forever like it but for £3.3 million/month, I’ll do it for a couple of years then, once I am rich beyond my dreams, I’ll pass it on to the next volunteer and so on and so forth.

Maybe that’s it, maybe that’s modern monarchy.

 

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En bref: Rien de smart…

L’usine d’Hambach qui fabrique la Smart a décidé de passer à la semaine de 39 heures mais payée 37 heures. Mes questions ne sont pas sur le fait que le patronat va faire travailler les employés et cadres pendant deux heures gratuitement mais sur comment ils vont rendre ces deux heures productives, puisque c’est l’intention avouée.

Tout d’abord, les commandes sont en diminution constante. Dire aux clients (potentiels) que le personnel va travailler plus pour rien ne va les faire se ruer sur la Smart. A moins qu’ils fassent pareil avec le prix de la voiture neuve : Une Smart de 10 000 € pour 5 000 €.

Et encore ! Elles sont encore plus laides que les premières voitures coréennes qui nous ont été vendues il y a 10 ans et, ma belle-sœur en avait une, effroyablement peu fiables. La sienne a passé la moitié de sa vie au garage et lui a coûté en tout quatre fois le prix d’achat en réparations diverses.

Maintenant, il y a la question des heures que le personnel va devoir faire en sachant très bien qu’il n’est pas payé. Ils s’attendent à quoi à la direction ? Une sorte de miracle altruiste de leurs employés?

Je suis professionnel sur le bout des ongles dans mon boulot, quelqu’il soit, mais je sais aussi que deux heures dans la semaine travaillées sans salaire ne seront et resteront que des heures de présence, même pour moi.

Ce sont deux heures à ranger et nettoyer mon bureau tous les jours, passer plus de temps sur chaque coup de téléphone, quelques minutes de plus à chaque pose, m’assurer que mes vêtements de sécurité soient bien, très bien, vraiment très bien mis ! (Revérifions une fois encore pour être sûr…) Prendre toujours le temps de faire un brouillon d’email avant de l’envoyer, des pauses toilettes plus longues, une double voir triple vérification de tout ce que je fais, une marche moins rapide dans les couloirs entre deux salles, deux taches ou deux collègue, compter les trombones pour vérifier les stocks…Tous ces trucs débiles ou cet administratif de second catégorie qu’on laisse trainer parce que ce n’est pas la première des premières des priorités.

Parce que deux heures par semaine, c’est donc 120 minutes, donc 24 minutes par jour à travailler sans être payé. 24 minutes ? 12 le matin et 12 l’après-midi, c’est facile de ne rien foutre, surtout quand on sait qu’on n’a rien à y perdre, c’est déjà fait.

Plus de précipitation, plus de « perte de temps », il y en a plus mais surtout fini les heures supplémentaires. C’est 39 heures et pas 39 heures et 1 minute. Car on sait très bien que quand la loi ou les accords d’entreprise tablent sur 35 heures, la grande majorité des français en font bien plus. Surtout les cadres. Mais il y avait un côté donnant-donnant des deux parties avec un certain encouragement à travailler plus ou gagner plus : là, le lien est brisé, on travaille plus pour gagner moins.

Il y a aussi la question de l’emploi et de sa qualité : les gens vont partir dès qu’ils en auront l’occasion. Les experts, les qualifiés, les gens qui savent ce qu’ils font et ce qu’ils valent vont partir parce qu’ils savent qu’ils trouveront mieux ailleurs. Il restera à Hambach les démotivés et mécontents qui trouveront toujours une excuse pour dire qu’ils sont obligés de rester.

C’est bien comme conclusion d’entretien de fin d’année, non ? « Vos objectifs pour l’année prochaine : Franchement, je suis là parce que je suis obligé de rester. »  Et quant aux futurs employés, les plus qualifiés n’accepteront pas ce genre de contrat donc il faudra se contenter à nouveau du vivier le moins qualifié qui, lui seul, acceptera de venir travailler mais qui partira aussi à la première chance.

Donc bonne chance à Hambach ! Avec un personnel démotivé et de moins en moins qualifié, c’est la recette parfaite pour une productivité accrue…

20 years down the drain

I have been a Europhile for the past 20 years.

When I was 11, I decided that I was not a Frenchman born in Versailles rather a European born in France.

I have believed in Europe. I have loved Europe. I have fought for Europe. I have defended and argued in favour of Europe. In 2005, I shouted, cried and ranted so much in favour of a Yes vote to the French ratification of the European Constitution that it seemed I had taken the weight of a continent on my shoulder.

I have believed in Europe for I have been convinced that we indeed had finally put our fratricidal past behind us. That we have learnt from it. That we have learnt to stop pointing fingers at each other, constantly trying to get pay back and to avenge something that was done to us before.

I have believed in Europe because we were ready to try and work together so we can truly help each other and find new ways, new solutions, new beginnings.

I have believed in Europe because I have had the conviction that after our centuries-long enterprise of bleeding and burning the whole world to its knee, we had matured, changed our ways and now have had to show the world that our past selves were wrong and we can indeed live together in solidarity and peace. Because at the end of the day, we are all brothers and sisters, and only dysfunctional families are ready to disown and let their kin die alone.

I have believed that these dark times were behind us.

Why? Because that’s what I was taught Europe was for.

Ever since I was born, I have listened to teachers, politicians, philosophers, journalists, writers, my mother telling me about the mission Europe has: to defend democracy against its enemies, whatever their shape or disguise, to protect its citizens against the peril of misery, humiliation, famine, economical decadence for our past had shown all too well whither such plights always lead.

I have argued for the past 20 years that Europe is humanity’s one chance to show that the world is not the unforgiving, ruthless jungle the neo-capitalists like to portray to justify their murderous greed. I have argued that being together and talking about problems, rather than bringing each other down to brutal and silent submission with weapons or bank account closures, is the proof that we are actually naturally inclined to working together, to helping each other.

For the past 20 years, I have fought for a Europe that would finally put the people in charge of their fate above politics and money. A place where the everyday man, woman and child will not have to suffer from the bad decisions that were made from above, without or against their consent because everything will be in their hands.

I have had a dream of a Europe where we, the people, could genuinely decide our fate in a truly democratic system. A system that would value, respect and listen to the opinion of the citizens it relies on in order to ensure the life they live is the life they actually choose.

For 20 years, I have replied to its critics by saying that yes, it is not perfect, but we are working on it and that everything that is being done is for the good of the European people. I have said time and again that at the end of day, the European Union is and will be true to what it preaches: a transparent democracy dedicated to us, to our better life and better future. A genuine democracy that will only serve the genuine interest of the people.

Today, it’s 20 years down the drain.

Today, I am shattered, angry, disappointed and ashamed.

Today, I can’t believe I bought into all these fancy concepts politicians had been throwing around to get us on board a project that, eventually and again!, turned out to only serve the rich and powerful.

Today, I cannot believe I fell for it. I feel like such a fool.

Today, Europe has proven to be ruled by money. Again. It’s nothing new. And I have been used, abused, deceived and mislead.

Today, in the name of democracy and the better future, the people of Greece, a democracy itself, will see €50bn worth of “valuable” public assets taken away from them and from their democratically elected politicians forever. They will never see them again because investors are refusing to embrace the monster they are themselves feeding, they are refusing the first rule of capitalism as defined by their beloved Adam Smith: you have to take risks and tough beans if you fail.

Today, the democratically-based European Union has made the decision to turn a blind eye and to forsake its fundamentals and ideals of democracy, citizenship, freedom, sovereignty, equality, solidarity to give way to the Eurozone and its unelected and unaccountable, financial ilk: the Eurogroup and the ECB, seconded by the almighty IFM, where Washington holds 16% of the vote when 85% are needed to reach an agreement.

Today, the European Union has made the conscious decision to disregard the voice of the Greeks, to betray all of its citizens and prove its enemies right by what it calls the Monetary Snake destroy a hard-earned democratic sovereignty.

The European Union is now nothing less that the League of Nations Wilson had created after WWI to ensure “peace and prosperity” in Europe but which silently oversaw Germany being sacrificed on the shrine of peace because it was in fact dominated by France and all the other winners of said war and they all had a bone to pick with the evil Germans.

It did not matter that Germany was a young and fragile democracy, like Greece, which, like Greece again, had become the complete opposite of the autocratic regime it was before the war. It was not enough. We needed more to soother our grievance and the League of Nations gladly let Germany suffer to oblivion in the hands of its creditors. All because everyone seemed to agree that they were at the time the biggest threat to our peace and prosperity.

Like Greece today with its bailout, the puny democratic power was forced to accept every single humiliating, undermining and dangerous clauses of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. This treaty would legalise further humiliation and would force the country’s economy to its knees as it faced having to literally pay back all the damaged it had caused.

I remember reading about the rise of Hitler and the fall of Weimar when I was 15. I remember reading about the invasion and occupation of the Rhur by the French in 1922 that triggered the spiralling downfall. A unilateral and unstopped decision made on the basis that Paris was not getting the money Berlin was supposed to pay back on time.  I remember reading about the endless vicious circle of the young German republic’s economy, its hands tied in the back by this peace-preaching League of Nation led by vengeful winners.

In history lessons, we are repeated again and again that all these measures to ensure Germany would rightly pay for what it has “alone” caused was one of the main cause of WWII as it pushed Hitler to be democratically elected in 1933. In the name of peace, the League – like the EU today – never lifted a finger, on the contrary, it became the accomplice.

I have believed in Europe because I have thought we had understood this. And we had, for a moment. After WWII, all countries, including Greece, agreed that the stupid war reparations and the finger-pointing at one people and blaming it above all others were creating nothing but ever-growing antagonism, hatred and resentment. It was making us ever weaker. We needed to work together so we cancelled the debt. We had matured. I thought…

 

However, today it’s Versailles and the occupation of the Rhur again. The people of Greece are facing with exit and misery or endless misery in the hands of the people they were taught and told to trust.  In the 1920s, the League of Nations just watched as we pushed Germany down the drain and now, in the 2010s, the European Union just spectates as we push Greece down the drain.

The banks want their money back after eight years of bad investments they gladly jumped on and austerity they happily championed, all without results they swore would show. Regardless of all the hurt they have been doing to Greece since 2008, no matter that Greece is now enduring a situation akin to the US before Roosevelt decided to make the State intervene, they are now going to get what they want and dismantle the State even more. End of.

How? By using the one bit of Europe that has never been touched by democracy yet: the Euro and its institutions. These have been called to openly overrule Greece’s democratic regime, like we did with Germany in 1922 as the banks are getting ready to open the tilt and take whatever they think ought to be theirs whether the Greeks agree or not.

When it comes to greed and destructive capitalism, history has taught us nothing. Once again, we have set countries against each other, people each other, North v South in a flourish of damaging, uneducated stereotypes feeding endless xenophobia for throwing their people against their people is the best way economics has found to hide the fact that we actually have nothing to say on the matter.

20 years.

Until weeks ago, I was still arguing that we were truly looking for a solution that would benefit the people above all but now that “we have a deal”, I don’t believe it anymore. Until weeks ago, I was still arguing against the people who were saying that our leaders were not interested in working for the great and good of everyone, rather just for themselves. But today, I am not sure especially when I see the ones shouting victory in the name of the union.

Wolfgang Schäuble, for instance, is righteously standing there telling us that it’s all about saving the union, it’s about fairness and doing the right thing, it’s about the sake of the other millions of us but then it turns out that the tax heaven-based private company which will be handling the Greek public assets and managing the burning sales is chaired by him.

To me, this man’s commitment into ensuring Greece pays every single cent given with interests is actually driven by his desire to get a piece of the cake. The biggest one, in that. And no one is lifting a finger! The fate of millions of people, from new-born babies to ageing grandmothers is resting in his sole hands, despite the Greeks refusal and I hear “Bravo!”.

Junker, as the Prime Minister of Luxembourg, spent years resisting, fighting and lobbying against clearer, better defined, more integrated European tax laws that would put an end to his country playing with the system and remaining a tax-heaven and now he’s standing there on his plinth of hypocrisy telling us that the Greeks are only reaping what they sowed by not playing by the rules. And no one is lifting a finger!

And our leaders. They have been calling us to vote during European elections because it is “our future”. We have been told that our voice matters and will make a difference. Yes, that’s until money is involved and suddenly there are superseding considerations we cannot possibly understand so our voice is irrelevant. Is that their idea of democracy? You serve the people unless you get scared, ignore us, serve the markets alone, screw it up but because we did vote for you, it’s actually our fault so we pay the prize for generations to come.

I have come to understand they are calling us to vote just to be able to lecture Russia or China from their high horse when shit hits the fan. “At least, I am here by the will of the power…I don’t care for it says but I am better than you.”

20 years that I have been defending a fraud, the building of a union that clearly puts its cherished, richest few before the livelihood of millions of its citizens because they have convinced themselves and trapped themselves in an economic understanding where they have reduced the States to irrelevance so these very few are now the only, untouchable, precious key to our well-being.

Today, however, it’s not time for me to argue for the destruction of the union.

I am now a Euro-sceptic because I trust what is accountable to the people, which the Euro institutions are not. There are the enemy of social-democracy.

I am not however a Europe-sceptic. I still want to believe in the dream because I am socialist. Call me utopist, drag me in the dirt, frankly do your worst if it makes you happy.

If democracy cannot express illusions and crazy hopes; if it cannot contain narratives of emotion and ideals, it dies. – Paul Mason

The time has come to make the union accountable to what it has been preaching: democracy, solidarity, equality, peace and well-being of its people above all else.

It is time to change properties: to fight against the Euro and for the European Union.

This is why we built the European Union

Warsaw, 1945.

I long hesitated on which city to choose and what to show: the burning pile of bodies of 1945 Dresden, the children walking in the streets of Berlin, the lone standing churches of Rotterdam, Cologne or Arras, the omnipresence of Death during the Siege of Lenigrad, the scale of destruction at Stanligrad but I decided to go for Poland for it had become, during the war, the pit of human-made horror.

This picture is why we built the European Union.

We built the European Union so we could create a place where countries were so dependent on us each that we would never be able to settle our differences by scores of death and destruction anymore.

We built the European Union on the bodies of 60 million people so that after millennia of fratricidal wars, we could finally accept that we were different yet the same. Before the EU, our autocratic regimes then nationalism and fascism had made us believe that our differences meant we would never get along and the only we had to find a solution a problem that seemed unsolvable was to take arms, mobilise men as young as 14 and throw them with ever-greater force on the top of each other for generals and leaders to see who had suffered the least damage and could therefore claim victory.

We built the European Union so we could, for the very first time in the history of humanity, find a truly civilised alternative to death as a referee to our differences of opinion, belief, ideology, form of political regime, culture, language and ruling dynasty. One will say that European countries are still using the old men-world methods outside. It’s true and I am the first one to be ashamed of it but it has also showed the world that it was possible to think and do differently and ever since it has been created, countries all over the world have decided to more or less give it a go from South American countries to the Far-East

We built European Union on the idea that by being together, we would always be stronger, individually and collectively, than by constantly trying to overcome our neighbour’s perceived power. Like a V-sign to the English-world’s 19th century conception of the laws of Nature, competition against the other powerful and destruction of the mild are not the only way forward anymore. Even in the midst of the worst economic crisis we have ever known, the European Union as an entity is still the richest, economically most powerful and geographically best-integrated and most tolerant place in the world. The erstwhile ridiculed idea of solidarity as a power has made its way for the great and the good.

Now, yes, it is not perfect. Yes, it is riddled witg forces  trying to use and abuse it for their own purpose. Yes, it has to live with the cancer of racism, intolerance and accept in its very core forces that want, and maybe will, eventually destroy it but, in that aspect, it is no different than any other democracy. These forces were, are and will always be there whether we work as one or alone within our own little, supposedly opaque and foreign-proof borders. So we may as well work as one to resist them.

Yes, it’s difficult everyday but no one said it would be easy. At the end of this memorial day, let’s remember that the European Union has managed to rethink how we deal with each other: with diplomacy, negotiation and talking. It has brought 27 countries nursing hundreds of different languages, dialects, cultures and sensibilities together in a way that has never been done before and it is getting them to finally talk to solve problems. The European Union has forced countries to accept and promote differences, cultures and languages in and out of their borders. Before the EU, these countries and regions only saw one thing in each of its neighbour and dissidence: a threat. So every single one of them only saw one possibility when it came to dealing with it: wars and destruction. Wars to get what you thought was yours, wars to protect what you believed was yours.

Yes, talking and talking and talking takes more time than getting a gun out and killing the person you are arguing with in order to win the argument. Yes, talks and talks and talks are less flashy, exciting and newsworthy than a “good old bloody war” when it comes to printing newspapers that need to attract readers. Some good old scattered bodies, dead babies in the arms of crying, blood-covered mothers is so much fancier but that’s why we built the European Union, so would never have to deal with it anymore, on our land to begin with, and maybe eventually the world.

Yes, it seems to be getting nowhere in Ukraine but it does. Believe me, as an historian, it would have taken barely a month for the WWIII to happen if we had kept our old ways of dealing with things. With all the Western Europe and all its allies up in arms against Russia and all its allies, with countries in Eastern Europe bullied into taking side and turned into an Orwellian battlefield. All because a handful of Russian separatists were more comfortable with a docile, Russia-friendly Ukraine and believe life is only worth living under the umbrella of Moscow.

The European Union has allowed someone like me to have never seen Death reaping, to have never been forced to take a gun and kill a complete stranger because I was told to and in my mind, it was him or me. It has sheltered generations of people from the trauma of killing another human being, of having to hide from oblivion and see their entire life reduced to dust. It has taught us that fighting is not the solution as it does not solve problems in the long-term, rather creating resentment and the nationalistic dream of revenge. It has taught us that laying a punch will not make your opponent admit defeat forever, just long enough make you believe you won until he thinks he has become stronger enough to lay the punch back.

On this day, when we remember that more than 20 million people from the USSR have been slaughtered to free Europe, that more than 10 million German, French, Polish, Dutch, Belgian, Danish, Czech, Russian, Ukrainian, Italian, Greek Jews, Muslims, Christians, Socialists, Communists, gypsies, gays and lesbians, young and old, men and women, healthy and disabled people were imprisoned, enslaved, starved, tortured, used as lab rats and systematically killed because they supposedly were not fitting a race, an ideology, a vision of nationalism…On this day, we shall never forget that this is why we build the European Union. So it never happens again!

It is now your mission as well as mine to protect the EU, to believe in it, to remember its true purpose.

It is essential we resist the voices of the destructive forces I mentioned earlier. These forces democracy has to tolerate and live with, the ones that could destroy it from the inside. The ones telling you that Europe is the enemy truly working against you. They are the ones who want to make you believe that the scores are already settled. They are the ones who are calling the EU a dictatorship whilst conveniently forgetting to mention to the rest of the country when the next European elections are or encourage people to vote. They are the ones loving the “political stability” of China and whose constant scaremongering has told us that the uncertainty of elections is bad for the economy*. They are the ones who are trying to discourage you from voting by saying that it is irrelevant. They are doing this because they either have a lot to lose if you were to vote or their nostalgia of a glorious past is blinding them into the reality of the lives our ancestors actually lived and they think the EU is responsible for all modern evil.

The European Union was and is being built, expanded and kept up by democracies which have not created a continent-size dictatorship but put in a place a parliament where only politicians elected by their people are sitting. No one is where they are because they were chosen by an oligarchy.

We are not China where people do not have a say on the future of their country and therefore their own. If austerity happens in China, it will indeed by forced upon them by the system they have not chosen but if austerity is “forced on us” by Brussels, it is only because people vote massively for the right-wing, conservative People’s Party who has been championing all the austerity measures that are making our lives difficult and inequality worse all across the continent. You want things to change? You think they are betraying the true purpose of the EU? As I said, it’s a democracy: change happens if you vote for change.

 

I don’t agree with everything it does but I do believe in Europe because I will never forget why we have been building it, because I believe in democracy, because I believe in working together regardless of our differences, because I am ready to accept these differences, because I believe in its ability to  be a force for good; for peace and forward thinking. And mostly because it has made me a first-class citizen by making me responsible for its future, as well as my future by giving me the right to vote after crashing to pieces the fascism it has given birth to almost a century ago.

* “According to the International Monetary Fund, which said uncertainty surrounding the election would undermine growth forecasts”  – The Guardian: IMF forecast blows hole in George Osborne’s deficit reduction plan.

Internet neutrality or the fight to avoid an economic, Orwellian dystopia.

L’autre côté de l’Atlantique est en émoi…ain’t it, though?

Back from holidays and already I am being told emotions are running high on the other side of the Atlantic prior to the upcoming decision regarding Internet neutrality. It’s an issue we don’t have…yet, in Europe for things are done differently. That was my understanding of the problem when I encountered it the first time on YouTube and my first reflex: we don’t have it here, sweet old Europe.

From what I have been hearing and reading, the Internet providers want to be able to decide what content should be completely and utterly available and what should be limited in speed, space and what should be put behind a toll to be accessible. Some people say it is to protect children because obviously the “only thing that will be blocked” is anything paedophilia, and limited is extreme porn.

Tempting but why don’t we have the same here then? And why are major Internet websites up in arms? Why are Youtubers campaigning? Why are Tumblr, Yahoo, Google et al trying to convince us that it will be a very bad decision? Are they all really defending paedophilia and extreme porn? Reductive I feel, but of course it is the first argument raised, shouted and thrown at the face of every opponent by these Internet providers.

From what I have been reading more carefully, and the reason why we don’t have the debate here, is the nature of these very providers. In Europe, if you want to access the Internet, you call an telecommunication company like Orange (formerly France Telecom), T-mobile, Free, BT or Talk Talk. They are companies dealing with telecommunications. Some of them like Sky are also television and media companies and some of them will belong to bigger media companies (like Bouygues Telecome who owns TF1 and produces films) but they are few and far between. In the US, however, if you want the Internet, you will go and ask Time Warner for instance. I thought I misunderstood when I heard an American Youtuber mentioning his Internet provider so I asked a friend of mine living over there. She confirmed that it is quite the normality for a big film corporation to also be an Internet provider.

What she also explained was that, behind the wishful thinking of blocking nasty content, they are very annoyed with the rise of Internet-based media like Youtube or Netfix used by the younger generation and spreading fast to more and more users, therefore diverting their potential customers away from traditional TV and cinema where these companies do most of their business. The problem is that the bridges between the entertainment industry and the media industry were built before they could do it themselves, this via the Internet. It went too far too quickly for them, they did not foresee this and they are trying to do some damage control by gaining access to the what they think is the source of their problem: the Internet, the land where media and entertainment merge with the word “free”, in all it meanings.

If the law passes, Time Warner would be able to put some kind of speed toll on Youtube or Netfix, whilst making their own content (films, shows they produce) very easy to watch, free and high speed. They can easily make their customers request and pay for some completely neutral content to be unblocked on their account. Anything can be off limits if it doesn’t serve the purpose of the company, which is to make profits above all. I know I sound like a communist but the general assemblies where ever-growing results must be announced in front of shareholders are not the place to talk about the weather and what the company can selflessly do to save the poor children of Africa…It’s all about the money and how to make more.

Now, I don’t know what it means for us Europeans. In the UK, I know what it means, yes. If the law passes, two weeks later, it is rushed through Westminster.

The question raised in the US by every opponent is of course to know to what extent their life will be made impossible and one-sided by these companies seeking control of the Internet. It’s not just about movies or downloading porn, it’s about accessing information, being able to express yourself freely and have normal access to the everyday things we have been accustomed to do. What if the next CEO of Time Warner is a homophobic, sexist, Republican? Will Time Warner allow its customers to access anything LGBT-related in any way, shape or form? Will people like me be able to write about feminists issue without being blocked at the last minute by their Internet provider and told they are breaking the rules thus cannot upload anything? Will left-wing newspapers be forced to censor themselves in order to avoid being blocked by their provider? Will people be able to access articles, information that criticises Time Warner? Will people be able to access neutral, genuine, varied information about their town, city, countries, the world or will it be filtered through the cable?

“You cannot access these articles that say the war in Iraq has been killing more than 500,000 people because we don’t agree with it and we think you should not as well.”

What if one these companies decide to create a banking branch? A supermarket branch? Will their customers using Internet banking with another bank be able to access their accounts without the whole thing taking hours? Will people be able to shop on the Internet to a different (cheaper, better or whatever supermarket) without having to restart four times before the speed is so slow that it fails everytime they try to save their cart?

There is a genuine worry, the practical and ethical worries. What I don’t understand is that within the arguments used by the opponents of this law, no one ever mentions the double standard. I know American are very bashful and sometimes it feels like they would not even criticise their country on the day of being unlawfully executed but is everyone that blind?

The US are parading the whole world pointing its finger, naming and shaming every country where the government is restricting access to the Internet for whatever reason. This is “anti-democratic”, it’s “authoritarian”, it’s “1984 again”, it’s “betraying their population” and first and foremost, it’s ridiculous because it is inapplicable. When the Chinese government blocks access to Google , when Iran cracks down on social media used by the young dissidents, when Russia blocks some content, the US are up in arms denouncing dictatorships and brandishing its fist in the defence of all oppressed. However, when private companies are openly trying to reduce access to the Internet, it’s fine, it’s a fair democratic process. They even have endless arguments to defend every bit of it.

Is it because I am getting older and am becoming more aware or are they really getting completely insane?

My mother always says that some people are always quick to spot the lash in someone’s eye but cannot see the beam in their own. That is not beam the US have anymore but a fully-grown redwood tree.

It’s the double standards that drive me up the wall, like the childless Pope saying that not having children is selfish. When politics is involved, it’s a shame! When economics is involved, it’s perfectly acceptable. The message the US are sending to the world is that, if you want to control access to the Internet, do not do it as a government. It’s 1984! It is an attack on democracy and Washington, which will ipso facto be  your enemy.

If you wish to control the Internet access to millions, its content, its message, be a private company, abuse the democratic system, make yourself a saviour or even just justify it through the economics. Say it’s about money. Say it’s about survival, that jobs are at stake and it’s only fair game in the capitalistic jungle. Washington will grant you its time and efforts.

I am not anti-capitalist, I’m pro alternatives.

I am not anti-capitalist. The same that I am not anti-communist. There are good and bad things on both theories. I am anti-definite solutions.

I am anti-black-or-white vision of the world, where two poles have to fight against each other to win over the other because as someone born in the early 1980s, I have been have living through this very situation and what we have been witnessing since is the radicalisation of each poles and the disappearance of alternatives.

I am against what I called “anglo-saxon capitalism” as much as I was against the “Stalinist communism”. I am against that type of extreme, objectivist capitalism that claimed to have been leading the Western World against the Eastern Block, that has created “World organisations” to serve its purposes (like the IMF or the World Bank), the one that has always disregarded and ridiculed the Third World as disposable resources, the one that claimed victory over the USSR in 1991, the one that saw the fall of the USSR as a confirmation of its own perfection, the one that has radicalised to such an extent that it has declared itself inseparable from the idea of democracy, that it doesn’t understand why the world still hasn’t fully embraced its objectivist vision and has declared all its critics as socialist terrorists.

The problem I have with this neo-classical capitalism is that it’s as corrupted and deceiving as the idea of communism and socialism promoted by the USSR. We are today, the “Western countries” – it’s quite revealing that we actually never stopped calling ourselves like this – we are in the same dysfunctional situation the USSR was 20 to 30 years before it collapsed, with a system that profits only a fraction of its elite and an increasingly policing and prohibiting State at the mercy of that very elite, a State that has forsaken its citizens it began to see as potential threats to the survival of its own establishment. The only difference is that this capitalism is giving us the illusion of choiceless plenty whereas that communism led to choiceless empty.

My problem with this type of capitalism is that it has declared its world domination, effective from 1991 to infinity so it should be applied to every aspect of everyone’s life across the world regardless of culture differences.

You will find out that the main actors of “anglo-saxon capitalism” shrug away the idea of culture difference, they are as intolerant and violent towards this idea as the Nazis were. It’s a chick thing…culture…nobody actually got time for that French philosophers crap. How European to be talking about culture instead of focusing on real issues, isn’t it?!

Culture is a major part of the problem because, although it is made to move and evolve, although it can change, discard bad aspects of itself and take the good ones of another culture, it takes time. It works on a time scale that has become foreign to the capitalism championed by the English-speaking world.

Everything is culture and the resistance that frustrates London, Washington and Canberra, the resistance they like to drag in the dirt, ridicule and humiliate is nothing but people looking at the alternatives, trying things out, leaving the negative on the side and embracing the positive of everything, anglo-saxon capitalism included. We hear sometimes the English economic establishment saying that it is childish from people to pick and choose when the economy is concerned, we either take or leave it, we either are on their sides or not. The world is a playground for the bullies. “You’re either with us or against us”. What a choice!

The issue today in the world is that London and Washington understand and define globalisation as “Do exactly what we do. Live like we live. Work like we work. Love like we love. Eat like we eat. And everything will perfect”. This is not globalisation, this is standardisation.

Globalisation has always existed. The movement of men, goods and economy have always been a human activity. To say that it is new is a mistake, goods have always been exchanged throughout the world despite languages and cultural differences, we always traded with our friends and foes, economic actors have always been moving around, especially in a world of constant war.

What is new is the standardisation, the idea that we all have to do, to be, to think the same and the model we are told we have to follow is the American way of life. This is the will for the whole of mankind to be fashioned to the WASP model and unfortunately, people are not ready to just do it. What we do, and what the Americans and British find very frustrating, is take what we like from the WASP way of life but refuse to embrace what we dislike. It’s not childish, it’s not condemnable, it’s not to be ridiculed, this is normal cultural behaviour. Forcing a culture on another one is the best to antagonise everyone.

The anglo-saxon capitalism has been mainly defined by Adam Smith and British or American philosophers. The neo-classical capitalists are saying that we should go back to the “birth of capitalism”, to capitalism in its genuine form. What they willfully ignore is that capitalism existed before, Adam Smith just defined it, he put some rules on it. The same way some people said that we needed to rationalise Nature. Evolution did not start with Darwin, he just explained it then we went from there. At the time of Adam Smith, there was also a need  to rationalise a normal human behaviour of making money and trading.

What we overlook is the fact that he defined it in catholic Scotland and protestant England, in the mid-1700s where people were desperately pushing the case for industrialisation. This was a world strongly dominated by single-minded ideas and censorship, a world where slavery and colonialism were considered normal, even a force for good, a world where Europe, divided and fratricidal, was ruled by absolute monarchs chosen by God with the right of life and death over anyone and everyone, and a wider world of which we knew almost nothing about. He put some ideas in his definition of capitalism that would be pleasing enough at the time so he was not imprisoned, exiled or censored and ideas that were current 300 years ago.

The same fashion the laws of Nature have been written by men to suit their understanding and justify their dominance, capitalism have been defined by the British and the Americans who have made it evolve into a diktat everyone should follow because they won over their natural enemies, socialism and communism. These laws of Nature and laws of capitalism are extremely restrictive and definite because they had to serve a purpose at the time and had to be as unnegotiable as a religious dogma.

Thankfully, we have moved on from these so-called laws of Nature which were supposed to support the fact that the white man is the acme of evolution and that everything is nature is about fight for power and domination. We have sorted the good and the bad, we have understood that these laws were in fact bad reading of Nature made to justify our crimes, intolerance and present the powerful’s march to greater power as the way things are supposed to be, therefore fighting against it would be “naturally unlawful”.

Science has brought enough proof and evidence to show the complexity of Nature, a complexity we are still discovering and that makes writing ‘its laws’ virtually impossible. We could have stopped at Darwin and the ones who have badly interpreted some of its rushed work to understand nature and evolution, or Linnaeus to explain the human race but we did not. We scientifically looked for alternatives in the face of the atrocities committed in the name of their theory.

We have discovered that unlike what neo-classical capitalism is saying, not everything in Nature is about being the most powerful, that there is no such thing as the “jungle law” or “the rule of the most powerful” in Nature. Lions don’t kill everything, destroy and pillage everything in the savannah. There are rather endless expressions and mechanisms of solidarity between species, races and kinds because everything is about balance to ensure its own survival.

Only fire is eating until it dies. An apparent domination but Nature grows back after. Humans are fire. A fire who, in 18th and 19th century industrialist Britain, looked and defined an economy theory that would justify slavery, colonialism and the destruction of its own environment and today this theory is as obscurantist and deaf as it can be.

The failure of communism does not mean the victory of its strictly opposite vision. It means we should look at something else now, something less extreme, more including. Marx’s vision was just as aggressive and narrow-minded as the ideology he was trying to counter. It was: let’s see what capitalism do and let’s do the exact opposite. Its failure should have been a wake-up call for this type of capitalism.

It’s time we look at alternatives now. Not to capitalism as such because I believe it is inherent to human nature. We have to look at alternatives within capitalism, in the face of all the atrocities and suffering brought by the very narrow-minded, fossilised, aggressive, domineering and over-bearing anglo-saxon version of capitalism. We need cool heads to be able to see objectively what is good and bad in that vision of capitalism that is ruling the world, putting entire countries to their knees, sealing the fate of millions of innocent people for the profit of the very few, and reducing democratically elected heads of state and parliaments to irrelevance.

The fact that a single judge far away in the US forced into default Argentina, an entire, democratic country with 42 millions inhabitants, to the profit of American hedge funds without a flinch for the Western countries, the IMF or the World Bank shows how destructive this type of capitalism is. It’s 42 millions people facing unemployment, poverty, insecurity, for the profit of a hundred or so rich Americans. Baffling.