The Changing Face of Power

America has a new image, a woman staring down almost impossibly armored riot police in Baton Rouge.

Powerful as this image is in the contemporary setting in which it was taken, what’s more revealing is what it reveals about the changes in our society over time. Let’s imagine this scene playing out at different times.

In the middle ages, protesting against authority would have been viewed as treason. Likely outcome: burned at the stake.

In 1800 in Baton Rouge, an act of defiance like this would have been dealt with as a slave discipline issue. Likely outcome: suspended upside down and whipped until unconscious.

In 1900 this would have been seen as an afront to authority and a black person interfering with white folks business (use of a public road). Likely outcome: brutally dragged off and locked away by a sham court process.

In 1960 this would have been seen as an act of civil disobedience. Likely outcome: arrested and violently dragged off. Probably charged and released unless they could pin something significant on her.

2016? Quietly arrested and a symbol of the protest movement.

Across all time periods if she was armed and prepared to fight? Likely outcome: killed on the spot by the authorities.

Guns don’t make you strong. In fact, the more civilized the society, the less relevant guns become for resolving conflicts. Now, they are a hindrance. Bring a gun, and you undermine your moral position.

Story Inspiration: Where could this end up? Owning a gun becomes proof of antisocial tendencies? Politicians being asked if they owned guns just as currently they get challenged on whether they ever smoked dope?

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How are the Cops like an Abusive Spouse?

Wow, read this for some perspective on the current problems with the U.S. police. This author describes U.S. cops (who happened to be presenting to schoolchildren) as saying the same things that abusive spouses do. If we stop you and kill you, it’s your fault…

…go figure.

Writing Inspiration: If the police keep heading down this line,  what would our society look like? Any infraction could have unintended consequences. The Black Lives Matter want equality when being stopped by the police, one form of equality is that everyone gets treated the way they do when stopped!

Confusabrexit

I read an article in the newspaper about the next British P.M. It mentioned that she was a remain supporter but was determined that once in office she would invoke Article 50 and leave the E.U. I was planning a blog that suggested that, just because you brought a lemon, you didn’t always have to live with it. Anyway, I went searching for the link to the article and instead found this.

Seems that I have been letting economics dominate my thinking. Personally I hate that NZ food standards are defined in Australia. I hate it with a vengeance because I believe that consumers aren’t being given the information to make good informed choices about their food, particularly where it comes from and the conditions of labour under which it is produced. I mean, what the hell does ‘sourced from local and imported ingredients’ mean?
Imagine that lack of control across every aspect of my country –  I’d be as angry as a snake. Now I start to better understand some of the Brexit arguments.

What do I believe is right, mmmm, it’s not the decision but how it is executed. Good luck, new British P.M.

Who’s got the Power?

Sometimes there’s an image that sums up a conflict. In one moment it frames the conflict revealing a truth that is hard to ignore. The burned girl running from napalm in Vietnam, revealed the brutal and unforgiving impact of modern weapons released onto a rural society. The man standing alone in front of a column of tanks in Tienanmen Square, demonstrated the massive imbalance of power between the protesters and the Chinese government.

America has a new image, a woman staring down almost impossibly armored riot police in Baton Rouge.

The serene, proud and defiant figure that forced the police to come out from their lines and arrest her. What is happening here is on her terms. She holds the power in this photo. The police in their riot gear look over-equipped and all the weaker for it. A couple of normal police officers arresting her would not have had the same impact. It would have seemed too ordinary. What’s happened here is that she has demonstrated the police force’s total overreaction of the police to a people’s plea to be safe. It’s almost as if they are at war with their own people and she’s called it out.

The thing about these iconic photos is that they stay with us forever. They are timeless but for those that remember the event, the image will bring us right back to these times. And who knows when and how this will end. I hope that these events lead to meaningful change, that people with darker skin are safer from the overreaction of a highly strung police force. That the police return to the role that they should play, from enforcer to protector. That people stop dying needlessly. That people can stop living in fear of the people that are supposed to protect them. That this image represent a turning point.

African Americans have come a long way in gaining their civil rights. They can vote, get an education, becomes doctors, lawyers or movie stars. They can lead armies. One of their number can even rise to the highest office in the land. It seems ironic that the last bastion of rights they have to fight for is for their lives to be treated equally to those of white people.

What it Says on the Tin

The Dallas shootings are wrong. In my opinion, there is nothing that justifies them. But they have happened and that means someone has decided that they are justified enough to take matters into their own hands. That someone has now been identified as someone carrying a lot of anger. Someone who also had access to firearms. In short, motivation (in their own mind) and means.

The result is an all to familiar mass killing via assault rifle.

There are many, many social issues underlying what is going on in the States at the moment. All this stuff would work out over time and in a civilized manner except only in the United States do they add guns to the mix.

The U.S. is only one of three countries that has a constitution that enshrines the right to bear arms. The other two are Mexico and Guatemala. Only the United States doesn’t have limitations over the right included in its constitution. Guns for just about everybody.

The historical story behind the second amendment is that it was enshrined after the American Revolution as one of the lessons learned after fighting the English, they only had a chance because they had guns. The justification is that arms are a requirement for a well organized and effective militia. This includes the argument to deter or oppose oppression.

Well, I can’t speak on behalf of others by if you have a mass outrage at a string of injustices, then it doesn’t stretch belief that some would view that as a form of oppression and chances are, that’s what happened in this case. It doesn’t make it right. It makes it tragic that events gave the motivation and the constitution enshrined the means. The tragedy in Dallas is in no way justified but it is the second amendment in action.

If you you can’t stop fear or anger or hate, at least stop escalating it with guns. It’s a democracy, you have other ways to let your citizens solve problems.

It’s not my country but, from a distance, it’s tragic to watch as these events repeat themselves. Tragic and needless.

23 June 2016 – The Day Things Changed Forever

23 June 2016 will be remembered as the day that the field of politics changed forever. It will be the last time that a politician calls the constituency’s bluff on a divisive issue using the blunt instrument of a referendum. I wonder if the overall number of referenda actually decline following the events of the past few days.

Personally, I believe that the jury is still out on whether anything else meaningful changes as a result of 23 June.

Brexit: The Vote that Never Was?

This is the the third post on the Brexit. I gave a two visions of the future in my previous posts. Here, I give a third.

My third prediction is that the UK never leaves the EU. You see the issue is that someone has to invoke Article 50 to initiate the leaving process and it may well be that there is never anyone who is both (a) in the position to do this and (b) willing to do it.

It won’t be invoked before October, David Cameron’s taken care of that. With 75% of MPs keen for the UK to stay in the EU, there’s a good possibility that no one willing to take the step gets put in the position to do it.

In the news it seems that this is exactly what may be happening with Conservatives working to keep Boris (the key leaver) from gaining the Prime Ministership. Also, it seems there’s a lot of anger and regret and calls for a second referendum.

If no one invokes Article 50, then it comes down to a general election and once that happens, and especially if EU membership is a major part of the campaign, then is the mandate of the Brexit vote could be invalidated.

I would hope this is the path that gets followed and that representative democracy wins out of populist ‘winner takes all’ referenda driven direct democracy. Representative democracy does seem to have the edge in that it’s a bit harder to feed professional politicians a few loose facts and buzzwords to swing their vote.

Of all things, I never expected to cheerleader for the institution of professional politicians. I must admit that it’s taken a long time and a very serious event to understand the benefit they provide but I appreciate what they bring.

It doesn’t mean I trust professional politicians. I just trust them more than a raw mob of votes sucked in by a few buzzwords and unsubstantiated facts via the media.

Long Term Projects

Another post about Brexit. This will become a study in international politics and relationships for many years to come. In my last post, I mentioned that the Europeans have all the power at the negotiating table. If they use it wisely and well, this will likely be something easily overcome, even if it takes a few years.

Statements that “deserters will face the consequences” are not a good indication of level-headedness. If European leaders want the UK permanently gone despite almost 50% (and likely growing as more of the younger generation get the vote) support for being in Europe, then punitive measures are a great way to go about it.

The other countries that are struggling with some of the policies will notice this and it will affect how they feel about the whole project.

The current emotion and the noises from Europe before the referendum demonstrated how much the European leaders wanted the UK to remain in the union indicating how important they believed the UK was to the overall project for a united Europe. If that’s their goal then they need to think long term and punitive measures are almost always a response to short term thinking. If the EU is really an important and long term project, then bloody treat it like one and if you have a few grumpy old men who look like they are going to lash out because they didn’t feel like they were listened to, make sure they aren’t making decisions that affects it’s future. You can’t rule a community through fear.

Last post, I gave a prediction about what Europe would probably look like. Here’s what’s more likely to happen if it starts to head down a punitive line.

Alternative Map of Europe in 2022

A Strange Path to Independence

The Brexit result was a surprise to everyone, even those who wanted it.

Now the fallout begins and the most surprising thing isn’t the fear and ignorance leading up the the vote, its the extent to which it persists past the vote. For the UK leaders behind the exit vote, there’s a surreal concept that they can exit from the EU in some special way. Exit through negotiation without invoking Article 50. Perhaps this attitude explains how they managed to win the vote – the view that the UK is somehow special and can order world affairs to their liking. This issue is that they aren’t alone at the negotiating table, the Europeans will have their own views.

And, on those views, some of them are just as disturbing and ignorant as those of the British. The out means out with no special treatment to ‘deter others’. The words ‘deserters’ being used showing how emotional it has gotten on the European side of the fence.

Both sides need to take stock and realize the Europeans have the upper hand in this. There’s a lot in their favour. Would the average voter in the UK have voted leave if they’d known Scotland would hold a second referendum or that Northern Ireland would have started using the same language? Personally the UK they were voting for ceased to exist decades ago. They were voting for some ideal that they will never see.

The advantage that the Europeans hold is the younger Brits. Those who don’t care about ‘The War’, those for whom ‘Empire’ is a foreign concept, and those who overwhelmingly voted to stay. When Europe negotiates, its those they should keep in mind because this could simply be a temporary set-back. Perhaps some navel gazing at how the EU operates is in order as it sounds like it may be pushing too far and too fast but in the end, I predict that as the younger generation matures and more of the youth today turns into voters, the UK will want back in. The European dream isn’t dead, it’s just having some growing pains.

The UK may have made the decision to leave but it is the Europeans who will decide how this all ends. Getting punitive will just slam the door and entrench this decision. I believe in a few short years there will likely be a majority in the UK who would want back in and will play more nicely with the EU too.

For those interested, here’s my prediction if the Europeans play for the long game…

The EU in 2016
A Map of the EU in 2016

The EU in 2018
A Map of the EU in 2018

The EU in 2020
A Map of the EU in 2020

The EU in 2022
A Map of the EU in 2022

All in all, a strange path to independence for Scotland and Northern Ireland.