Is This Progress? This Is Progress.

What Is Kaputall?

Oxford defines Kaput as "broken and useless; no longer working or effective" - similar to our unbalanced economic system. This is a page dedicated to the intersection of capitalism and social, political, and environmental problems.

Friday, 24 June 2016

When Populism Prevails

It is no secret that the European Union has faced serious existential challenges in the past decade. The rise of euroscepticism has been significant, particularly in the most industrialised member countries. Despite the sentiment that the EU isn't perfect, the UK referendum on leaving the union, otherwise known as Brexit, was seen largely as a pipe dream even weeks ago. The victory for Leave, by a narrow margin of course, was unexpected to say the least. I spent hours last night being astonished with the results as they came in. It is, most importantly, the manifestation of a populist neoliberal movement that is reshaping the values of ordinary Europeans - one that might very well have a similar impact in the United States in November.

The rise of euroscepticism, which is defined as a political movement that opposes the mechanisms of the European Union or the more general scope of the European Project, has been sharp of late. Economic and social crises (Syrian refugees, Greek markets, etc) have had a massive political impact. In the past election cycle the European Parliament as well as national assemblies have seen rapid growth in right-wing populist parties, generally groups with very nationalist rhetoric. This is the case in both advanced EU counrties like France and in smaller, newer member states like Hungary.

There are two thrusts behind the Brexit movement. The first is related to economic sovereignty. As austerity has come to damage the UK increasingly with higher unemployment, the European Union has been regarded as a foreign mechanism that ties the hands of London. The second is straightforward xenophobia in the face of increasing immigration both to and within the European Union. Naturally, the former argument was less of a concern during the campaign as the focus, largely, was the discourse that immigrants were taking away jobs and services from British nationals.

While I oppose the very nature of the European Union myself, it is not on the grounds by which Leave campaign based their case. I see the EU as a system designed to promote the free movement of goods and labour in the interest of advancing neoliberal capitalism at the expense of the social-democratic model. In fact, this system works so well that European companies are extremely competitive both domestically and in foreign markets. This is at the expense of European governments and citizens who are increasingly taking on the tax burdens of corporate entities, hence the massive austerity programmes.

Much like in America, there is a hollowing out of the once-stable progressive centrist movements. Extreme left-wing and right-wing organisations have become ever the more popular of late, not limited to the United Kingdom Independence Party, which essentially spearheaded last night's victory.

The future of the European Union and the United Kingdom hang in the balance at present. There is no precedent for leaving the EU and of course the UK is not the only nation dealing with massive euroscepticism. The next few months will be trying times as all parties involved try to forge new trajectories.

Monday, 13 June 2016

In Service of Hatred

In the early hours of Sunday the deadliest mass shooting in American history unfolded. Amred with an AR-15 rifle, Omar Mateen opened fire on hundreds in Orlando's gay nightclub, Pulse. With over fifty dead and another fifty wounded, this marks an unprecedented level of gun violence. However, I aim in this post to address the coverage of the event meant to reinforce Islamophobia in America.

A very thin expression of solidarity with LGBTQ Americans has been mentioned repeatedly in mainstream media - as though it is a given. It is clear that this expression of mourning is more about co-opting the story in service of hatred toward Muslims, even in the case where the shooter was an American-born secular Muslim. In particular, he should be characterised by his disaffectation and his anger problems more than by religious affiliation (based on the information provided by his coworkers and family).

I remember after the Bataclan Theatre attacks. We knew the name of every victim. We knew their life stories, dreams, and favourite colours. If I may make a prediction - we won't get this with Orlando. We have already forgotten the victims, less than 48 hours later. It's about the perpetrator, ISIS, and religious zeal. Never mind that treatment of LGBTQ people in America has been (and absolutely unequivocally continues to be) deeply rooted in homophobia and transphobia, whether around washroom politics, legal marriage, adoption, access to housing, employment equality, etc. Don't forget it was a white male who was stopped on the way to Pride in LA on Saturday with an arsenal of automatic weapons. The violence committed against queer people in America is pervasive, and it's beyond dishonest to insinuate that it is only outsiders that hold these values.

I remember after Sandy Hook it was considered by conservatives ''an insult to the victims' families'' to talk about a ban on AR-15 assault rifles. We are now seeing precisely this debate occurring on CNN, Fox, and MSNBC. If so, I can only conclude that this has something to do with the fact that it is easier to talk about our gun problems than it is to address pervasive homophobia, especially when doing so would take away our collective capacity to shame Islam for it.

Many have published articles saying it is an either/or proposition: that it can't be that Christians are intolerant of queer people and the Muslims just get a free pass. It should not be about attempting to say that some people's hate is justified; rather we need to acknowledge that western society is also entrenched in histories of oppression and that we do no good to slough off the hatred. Let's stop pretending that we don't have very real contemporary issues related to race, gender, class, or sexuality. It's only a matter of time before we go back to oppressing and marginalising, though it's less sensational if it isn't so violent.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Silence/Outrage

Perhaps this is a decidedly unsurprising development, but I still believe it is worthwhile to point out the lack of serious media coverage related to the potential threats to the upcoming UEFA European Championship. Given that France has been on high alert, it is uncharacteristic that the media coverage has been virtually non-existent, save for the important fact that the alleged terrorist doesn't look the part.

On Sunday, a French citizen was arrested while attempting to re-enter the EU from Ukraine. In his vehicle he had an astounding arsenal - grenade launchers, automatic weapons, and C4. His targets: religious buildings, stadia, offices. The unnamed French citizen is associated with right-wing and ultranationalist groups, according to some sources. Again, this form of terrorism is very much the ideological nemesis of Islamic fundamentalism and is, in large part, the dominant grassroots political movement in Europe.

These groups oppose the acceptance and integration minorities (generally Muslims) and have been responsible for widespread hate crimes, massive violent demonstrations, and the closure of several national borders in the wake of the Syrian crisis. We can now add terrorism to the list of manifestations.

Media reaction has been nearly silent: the views for this YouTube video (which is the most popular) about the arrests has less than 1200 views. The National spoke about it for less than 90 seconds last night. Even French President Fran├žois Hollande's response was muted (and is difficult to find clips of online). And the event failed to register on Facebook or Twitters trends.

I'm not overwhelmingly intrigued by ''what if'' history, but it's a worthwhile social experiment to consider the headlines, social media presence, and political reaction if the alleged terrorist were to have represented the manifestation of our fears. If this isn't clear evidence of Islamophobia then I am frankly not sure what is.