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My thoughts on Brexit (Who rules Britain?)

 

The idea of Brexit bifurcates me—it tears me in two—as I’m internally torn between Leave and Remain.

I call London home. Even though I only lived there for two years, it was the best years of my life. The people I met there, both British subjects and European citizens, will remain friends with me for the rest of my life. I met my partner there, who, like me, is not a subject of the British crown, but rather, another foreigner who still considers London to be home, years after leaving.

One day in summer 2013, a gentleman came to my door, delivered a letter, and asked me to sign that I had received it. The letter was from the UK Border Agency and very explicitly stated that I was required to leave Britain, London, my home, before the end of the summer. This demand—with no recourse to appeal the decision—destroyed my life as I knew it, and required me to spend 6 months apart from my partner, as we dealt with the U.S. immigration process. It was traumatic, but Britain remains home to me.

From schizophrenic Denver, I am not able to keep up with the raging debate about Brexit, the dirty discourse designed to motivate one way or the other. I am exiled. With that perspective, and through my friends and family that remain in Britain, I have seen how bifurcating this idea has become. It tears us apart, both collectively and individually. We each have our private, practical, and theoretical interests that have been pitted against each other by the raising of the question: Leave or Remain?

The question, however, is simpler than the convoluted half-truths and terror-laden predictions provided by those campaigning on either side. The question is, who rules Britain? Should supreme power rest in the halls of the Palace of Westminster, or is the current situation, where the council and parliament in Brussels presides over Britain as a member of a larger union, preferable?

The Palace of Westminster is hardly perfect, that much is clear. Brussels, with whatever benefits and privileges it can bestow upon members, has also shown itself to be far from perfect. Thus, the answer becomes difficult… lemon difficult.

As a person who does not carry a British passport, I have no say in answering this seminal and purely political question. Worse yet, as a person who calls London home, and currently has the opportunity to make it home again through the European citizenship of my partner, my personal interests are served by one answer, while my political philosophy and theoretical interests are served by the polar opposite. There is no reconciliation to this double-life I lead.

In a week’s time, those privileged individuals who do carry a British passport will decide the question while I hum along at work, 4,500 miles away. Their answer will be the answer I must live with. This is the world that we live in; this is the world of nation-states, of citizenship, and of democracy.

Brussels would not ask the citizens of any of its member states this question; in fact, it campaigns to squash any nascent idea of leaving the union in all the member states that it takes hold. The question was raised—almost beneficently—by the Prime Minister who does not have a beneficent bone in his Oxbridge-educated body. This is democracy at its core.

I have an opinion on which way the British citizen should vote, but my opinion is as worthless as my President’s opinion on this matter. My advocacy is relegated to promoting the understanding of what it is the British citizen is voting for or against. They—you, perhaps—are voting on where you want the locus of your country’s sovereignty to be located: Brussels or Westminster?

Do not be fooled. A leave result would be a revolution, the same as the revolution that quietly occurred in 1973 upon British accession to the European Community. But, we live inside the system of nation-states and, thankfully for Britain, within a system of democracy. What the British citizens choose will be the right result: not for economic reasons, or racial reasons, or cultural preservation reasons. It will be the right result because those who own Britain—its citizens—will have chosen.

When the result comes in—no matter the answer, I will be happy and sad. My only hope is that those who have the privilege of deciding understand that you are deciding who rules you, which group of elitists, which cobbled together system of institutions holds the highest—sovereign—power over you.

I wait with bated breath for the result of what will likely be the most purely political decision a country will make at the ballot box in my lifetime.

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Pink Bubbles (final draft: short version)

To Americans,

An electric shock pulsed through my cold body. Hours later the heart announced life with a single resounding thud and slowly sped to a living rate. My eyes wrenched themselves open, tearing apart a crusty mucous scab that allowed no light. I awoke, cold and alone in a drab brown world. The dirt under my toes was wet with a soapy dampness and the sky above reflected shades of the same dirty fecal brown. Looking out across the horizon I saw a herd of sparkles moving across the sewage-land. When they came closer their shape and color revealed itself. Pink bubbles; transparent but tinted, infused with glitter so as to mimic a mirror ball. The spheres bounced off one another but never lost contact; they moved autonomously but the herd moved in a singular direction. Noises emanated from the bubbles, sounds of sick, sardonic laughter and a cacophony of voices. The caustic glittery pink bubbles began to surround me, the laughter ever growing. Then, from under the laughter I could hear a sentiment begin to amplify. “What are you?” “How dare you.” and “Why are you here?” slithered through forked tongues. Each question was spat at me, cloaked in acrid laughter. I began to see who resided inside these pink glittery bubbles. Mutated boys and girls, their faces beautifully human, smiling, happy, but their bodies made of scales and in place of legs and feet grew serpent tails. Each had the entirety of their happy life painted upon the pink walls. The stories were all the same and began, “happily ever after…” Each story was set on pretty pink plains with pretty pink people exploring pretty pink possibilities.

 

For seven days I studied the creatures inside the bubbles. On the seventh I slowly began to understand these inhabitants. My body shuddered as comprehension of the horror filled my mind. The children of the pink glittery bubble herd could not realize that the pretty pink plains they lived on were drab, foul and filthy. From inside their bubbles everything appeared pink and sparkled like a clean chrome fixture. None of the bubble-dwellers took the time to look behind the beautiful smiling faces of their neighbors. Personal happiness was all that mattered and a smiling beautiful face was the sole indicator of personal happiness. They had no idea of the scaly serpentine ugliness that existed in each neighboring bubble and even in their own. I couldn’t stand the sight of such ignorance, such shameless self-deception, so I ran. I ran until I found a cliff at the edge of the plain. Without a second thought I hurled myself off the cliff hoping the impact would knock the memories of such an awful place from my head. As my body was impaled by the rocks below, I awoke—comfortable, clean, and warm.

 

From my bed I looked around in euphoria. My entire room, the walls, ceiling, door, furniture, was all sparkling and pink. My story was written above my head and it began, “happily ever after…” Safe and happy again, I got out of my bed and slithered away to fulfill my pretty pink destiny.

PDSM

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Comments on job hunting

It has been more than two months now that I’ve been writing cover letters, refining my résumé, and sending in applications. After a number of phone interviews and proceeding to the in-person interview stage, I am still ‘unemployed’. However, even though I’ve met only a little success in this pursuit, I have experienced enough to have formulated some comments on job searching.

Firstly, it’s no joke that job hunting as a recent graduate is more than challenging. 

Second, here in America–or more precisely, Denver, CO–most of the jobs consist of either a) answering phones/customer support or b) work occurring in an isolated office where social interaction is contained to only your immediate colleagues. Typically this is data entry type stuff, but even a Research Associate position I interviewed for today (which I would very much enjoy getting) seemed to be mostly consisting of work done far behind closed doors.

Maybe I was spoiled on London life (or, perhaps, I really don’t know anything about London [work] life), but it seems to me that in London, most work has some aspect of interpersonal relations with ‘the public’. That is to say, getting out there to represent the firm, connecting with potential clients, attending social events, and demonstrating a professional presence in the Western motif are qualities that are not only desired, but required. Here in Denver, the aptitude to present oneself in and to the public is not necessary to fulfil the requirements of most positions. 

Here’s the rub. One of my core competencies is being able to socialise in an intriguing and adept manner. This makes me excellent in interviews–able to impress and captivate any middle aged, female HR specialist. Unfortunately, when interviewing for a role that consists mainly of being a carbon based, living answering machine, this characteristic is sorely irrelevant. However, it is no surprise, considering the individuating, isolating and wholly anti-social society that is America (Denver, CO) that the work conforms to the society in which is occurs. 

Seeing that I don’t _know_ anyone in this town, it’s difficult to find a job where maintaining and presenting a polished public image is an integral part of the position in question. Obviously, I would love to work for a PR firm, lobbyist, State or City government or anything that capitalises on my cultivated poise, but apparently I must pay my dues and work behind many closed doors–probably answering telephones–prior to being able to find a position that more suits my abilities. 

Sigh

 

Notable interviews: Promontory Financial Group, BMGI, Wells Fargo, Elavon (US Bank), and National Valuation Consultants.

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Personal Priorities

There is the polis and there is the oikos. The fundamental question of every person’s life is which one takes precedent. After nearly a decade of choosing the former, I am exchanging polis for oikos.

Family (however you interpret that concept) out ranks the State.

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Hegemony

In Egypt, the Revolution has, for the time being, had the constitutive element of the State–the violence–acting directly in its most Schmittian interest. However, this is not because of a co-opting of the state’s powers by the revolution through typical Western democracy [much more like Greek democracy, aka mob-rule] but rather because the levers of the state of Egypt are heavily leveraged into the international-state system, which is run by the US/West. We can see images that look like 1970s–Vietnam era–American imagery (modified for a domestic audience, naturally) here: https://twitter.com/Beltrew/status/354012405010927616/photo/1 and we know that the bullets and tear gas fired here: http://rt.com/news/egypt-milllions-protest-morsi-458/ (they both are of course the same place and time) are american made and paid for [with implications deriving from this relation as well]. Meanwhile, a completely different display occurs in Tahrir. The Apaches fly over being painted by green lasers and the party continues. 

In this instance, we can see how the hegemony of the West/America/International-State system/International financialised capital/ownership can be actuated, with material instrumentality, in order to produce a stable ends by any means–so far as it protects the status quo [and including any marginal concessions it must concede to return to status quo stability]. 

Much as Poulantzas argues concerning the PIIGS with ‘authoritarian statism’ (SPS), the Egyptians are being manipulated to serve the interests of the status quo by the Westphalian state Marx worked under. Poulantzas does a remarkable job of incorporating into his orthodox-Marxism Leninist-Imperialism and Gramscian-Hegemony, while formulating his own, highly sophisticated, view of the current state system under capitalism circa 1970s. All of this was done by pointing at where it was leading under the state-capitalist system of international financialised capital. 

The current reactions to hegemonic reordering, done through the dual system of state power and economic/international financialised capital, which materialises under the current state-capitalist international system, by the PIIGS in their instance and the Egyptians in theirs are attenuated by the historic relation of the participants of politics to the State’s arm of violence. In the Greek case there is less resistance to the reorderings and, simultaneously, those reorderings do not require violence. That is to say, the Greek state, because of its position in relation to the international system (inside the “core” but a periphery of that same core within a smaller system–the EU/euro), gets by with economic changes that rarely, demonstrably change the current political setup as it concerns personalities. [The rule-demonstrating exception to this is found in Nov. 2011 in Greece and Italy.] However, in Egypt, a nation that is influenced by so much American aid to their military, which has branched into the Egyptian ‘civil-society’ and into capitalist relations with the people as well, and with ideational influences from a specific era of American/core domination, the status quo is maintained through the violent end of the state-capitalist system, circa 1970s.

The hegemony preserves its status quo by rendering its services bespoke. Each country receives its own form of bail-out/bail-in/liberation/SAP/aid/FDI/etc while that great liberal construct–Leviathan–praises the equality of its purely technical prescriptions–enforced by pure geopolitical power. 

Lucky for the moral consciences of the bourgeoisie (however it is manifest in the currently occurring system), the poor saps that require the blunt form of power to return stability to the status quo–Egyptians, are brown [and “muslim” to boot].

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Random ramblings on the shambolic European project

It hit me today.

It should have been clear that enclosing a large geographic and diverse space–Europe–and infusing the institution of authority within that space–European Union–with a singular ideology–neo-liberalism–would produce the same outcomes that spreading neo-liberal across the globe in the last 30-40 years has produced.

[I could go on about Prebisch, Wallerstein, dependency theory and world systems theory… but this is a blog, not an academic paper! So, I’ll save it.]

Especially considering that the ideology behind both is essentially the same, it is mystifying that the leaders of the EU (its advocate-promoters as well) seem so shocked that a core-periphery dynamic has appeared within their more perfect Union.

What other form of socio-political-economic order could ever manifest itself in a system built upon neo-liberalism? Socialist paradise? Yeah. Keep up the collective fantasy.

[Are we all German now, or do some of us still have brains?]

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Snowden, NSA, and the concept of legality

As the usual suspects defend the recently leaked programmes of surveillance–brought to us by the Department of Defense–as legal, one must contemplate what this concept of legality truly constitues. It requires little skill to apologetically assert that the government is within its rights to collect data on various and sundry people in order to protect its citizens from the lurking, amorphous threat that is terrorism because such activities are not expressly prohibited within the law. But, the US Constitution notwithstanding, why is it seemingly assumed that what is legal is unchangeable? 

There is an underlying hopelessness demonstrated by both parties to this discussion. Whether the broad wiretapping is legal or illegal seems to have hidden the fact that the concept of legality includes the ability to amend the law by those who are elected to represent the people. That is to say, if Congress were to truly desire to make such activities illegal, it would be quite easy for it to draft and pass a law stating as much. It is sadly common to see the law as a sort of God given, engraved in stone, set of rules that can only be interpreted–one way or the other. 

The despondent nature of those who defend the leaks, leakers, and abhor the programmes is illustrated when they attempt to battle the government by means of positing a different interpretation of the law than the government’s, which it currently uses to justify its actions. Why not eschew the thoroughly discredited paradigm of contesting with divergent interpretations and, instead, call for our representatives to explicitly outlaw such governmental activity? 

The law is not an inviolable natural code sent to us from on high. The law was written by humans and it can be changed by humans. 

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