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It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.
No es cierto que la gente deje de perseguir sueños porque se hacen viejos, se hacen viejos, ya que deje de perseguir sus sueños.
Over the last few weeks the British Press have renewed bribery allegations against former Vice President of FIFA, Jack Warner.
In response Mr Warner has lambasted his accusers for their “foolishness.” Stating, “I have no interest in joining in the foolishness that is now passing as news on Qatar and Jack Warner.”
As the UK Guardian points out, over the years Warner has been a regular victim of “foolishness”. In 2010 it was “BBC foolishness,” and in 2012 local footballers with allegations against him in hand were advised, “This foolishness must stop.”
Later in the year Warner described as “Damn foolishness” rumours of an FBI investigation into his affairs. While in response to questions on his political future he replied that the question itself “is foolishness.”
Clearly, and perhaps more than most, Mr Warner is preyed on by foolishness. But what is this thing called “foolishness” and why does it attack some more than others?
Professor of English Literature, Vicki Janick in her book ‘Fools and Jesters in Literature, Art and History’ points out that, “defining foolishness is notoriously difficult, almost an illustration of itself.”
Even with Janick’s caution the foolish anthropologist cannot help their curiosity; so a good place to start might be with the word “fool” itself. “Fool” has many different synonyms: buffoon, clown, jester, joker, harlequin, ardent enthusiast, trickster, idiot, devil, “playin the ass” and more.
The meaning of many of these terms, in general, can overlap. For example in the 21st century we might define jesters as witty jokers, buffoons as thoughtless clowns, clowns as circus performers, and tricksters as persons who play the ass. This suggests a common, cross-cultural idea of what a fool is and does might be possible.
Writing in the late 1920s about his studies amongst Native American tribes the anthropologist Julian Steward agreed and provided a less-than-perfect way to get at a universal definition of a fool with his “four comic themes of universal occurrence.” These were, 1) Ridicule of the sacred, 2) Ridicule of foreigners or strangers, 3) Themes of Sex and Obscenity, and 4) Burlesque of physical or psychological harm, tragedy, illness or need.
In thinking about foolishness the first theme is most relevant. Some might think the sacred is only concerned with the sphere of religion, but the sacred covers more than that. In all cultures and societies many other things aside from religion are held to be sacred. Think power, social status, traditions, money, property, and political membership as examples.
The thing about sacredness is that anything or one societies hold in high regard can and is likely at some point to be subject to scrutiny. Most especially in demands by those without access to such sacred things or by those officially sanctioned by the society to carry out oversight roles like lawyers and journalists.
This reality has a direct link to the role of court jester from European medieval times where it was the job of the professional fool not just to entertain the court but also to be the one who reminded leaders about the hubris of power.
Of course in medieval times this was best achieved with the King laughing with you. Should the King end up the butt of the joke, and endure ridicule, the court jester was often imprisoned, exiled or worse killed.
From this it might be said the fool, and by extension foolishness itself, emerged in a political context as a check on power and also through laughter a way to relieve some of its pressures
Now no-one is saying Warner is the King of T&T but it is interesting to note that just as Kings got rid of fools whose words revealed uncomfortable truths behind their power, Warner has been accused of a similar impulse with journalists’ careers whose allegations suggest truths about his power.
Whether you’re Lasana Liburd, Peter Jennings, Asha Javeed or someone new, in the Warner world it might be said yesterday’s fool is today’s journalist. Seen in this historical and anecdotal light Warner’s experience of foolishness then becomes an interesting anthropological object.
1) “Foolishness” is a way to dismiss as folly any interests about how one achieved and maintains power; and 2) Dismissing evidence-based allegations as folly suggests ones’ own power is beyond scrutiny or discussion.
Or put another way, to be a self-identified and consistent victim of press foolishness is much like a being a King at the head of his court. You don’t need to answer to anyone because you believe yourself sacred.
Dr Dylan Kerrigan is an anthropologist at UWI, St Augustine
Britain faces unprecedented challenges: a financial system still too big to fail or jail; austerity causing unnecessary hardship to those already at the bottom of a massively unequal society; climate change flooding people’s homes; and a democratic system that seems pretty irrelevant to any of these problems. To begin to tackle these challenges the country needs not just a change of government but a transformative change in direction.
That demands a Labour or Labour-led administration. But if Labour plays the next election safe, hoping to win on the basis of Tory unpopularity, it will not have earned a mandate for such change. It must take into the election a vision of a much more equal and sustainable society and the support of a wider movement if these formidable challenges are to be met.
As members of the progressive community that recognise the need for Labour to play a leading role after 2015 we would urge the party to adopt an approach to its manifesto that is based on the following principles:
Accountability of all powerful institutions, whether the state or market, to all stakeholders.
Devolution of state institutions, by giving away power and resources to our nations, regions, cities, localities and, where possible, directly to the people.
Prevention of the causes of our social, environmental, physical and mental health problems, which requires a holistic and long-term approach to governance.
Co-production of public services by workers, users and citizens, to make them more responsive and efficient.
Empowerment of everybody, so they are equipped with the resources (time, money, support) to enable them to play a full role as active citizens.
National government has a continuing strategic role to play but the days of politicians doing things “to people” are over. The era of building the capacity and platforms for people to “do things for themselves, together” is now upon us.
Working in this way, with others, Labour can help act to fundamentally disrupt power relations and reframe the debate to make a good society both feasible and desirable. It is time people had the power.
Neal Lawson Compass, Rob Philpot Progress, Patrick Diamond Policy Network, Anna Coote Nef, Andrew Harrop Fabian Society, David ClarkShifting Grounds, Mark Ferguson Labour List, Tim Roache Class, Maurice Glassman, Ruth Lister Compass, Robin Murray LSE, Anthony Barnett Opendemocracy, David Marquand Mansfield College, Oxford, Charles Secrett ACT! Alliance, Marcus Roberts Fabian Society, Cat Hobbs Director, We Own It, David Robinson Changing London, Colin Hines Convenor, Green New Deal Group, Professor Victor AndersonGlobal Sustainability Institute
Across the board in public and private sectors, and all Governments past and present it’s pretty much agreed that corruption on some level is endemic to our institutions and areas of economic activity. That is not to say everyone is corrupt, but rather to acknowledge a socio-cultural reality whose origins are historical.
In their carnival presentation entitled ‘Miss Miles – Mas Corruption’, Tony Hall, Peter Minshall, their creative team, and masqueraders, offered us a refreshing portrayal of who – under such a reality – we might become.
International, cross-cultural research notes whistle-blowers reveal larger amounts of fraud than all regulatory authorities, police agencies, and Governments put together. They also reveal more fraud than compliance officers and professional corporate auditors whose sole job is to uncover such malfeasance.
Understood in this light whistle-blowing has an essential social and political function in battling abuses of power. This is not to say whistle-blowing is a simple choice. It is not. For all the veneration and admiration of Gene Miles’ integrity and moral courage today we cannot forget she was socially outcast at the time and died young and a pauper.
For all their good intentions then whistle-blowers are often vilified as troublemakers or crazed. And suffer reprisals that can extend for the rest of their lives.
A short opinion piece lamenting Ms Miles death in 1972 made a similar point: “What happened to Gene Miles as a human being in this society is something we cannot dismiss as being her own fault. Her fault was believing that if she shouted from the rooftops about things she thought wrong, the society would put them right. She was wrong. Gene Miles was broken, ostracised and even laughed at.”
If the dominant do not want to threaten or use visible forms of power like violence to oppress and repress those speaking truth to power they choose suppression instead.
Suppression is non-violent and a hidden form of power designed to curtail a person’s behaviour. The most effective way suppression of whistle-blowers is achieved is with words and rhetoric. What anthropologists call “speech acts” and others might term verbal assaults are deployed to degrade the character and life of the whistle-blower. That whistle-blowers often suffer degradation rituals suggests they are a threat to power and/or the wider culture itself.
Positive personal attitudes toward whistle-blowing are also suppressed within each of us by the wider culture. Look at the punishment recent famous whistle-blowers have faced. The US Government or its agencies like the NSA, the CIA, and the FBI can all lie; but the only persons who end up in jail are whistle-blowers like Thomas Drake, Barrett Brown and John Kiriakou who revealed their lying. Behind such punishment is a threat intended for everyone.
The evidence that whistle-blowers suffer negative consequences in a wide variety of circumstances and countries is massive and prohibitive. The literature stresses that those that decide to blow the whistle can suffer a long list of consequences, including: loss of employment, financial difficulties, divorce, marital strain, family conflicts, stress-related heath problems, general anxiety, jail, torture, and even murder.
Another obstacle to whistle-blowing is that companies and senior staff, often in collaboration with their compliance officers provide great rewards for not blowing the whistle. This reveals a central characteristic about whistle-blowing today: the benefits of being corrupt – the monies, contacts and positions gained – is greater than the rewards for doing the right thing and fighting for justice. In other words climbing the economic and social ladder is an accepted ethic of modern society, no matter the consequences.
A final cultural point about whistle-blowing is for all talk of truth and justice, whistle-blowing breaks social codes of collegiality and organisational loyalty, because snitching, grassing, or “sellin” someone out, are in general culturally frowned upon.
The whistle-blower then is a cultural contradiction. They are someone who captures the public imagination as virtuous while at the same time being someone outcast for breaking certain socio-cultural conventions such as being disloyal or standing up to power.
If dissent and whistle-blowing – essential checks on power – are actively discouraged, suppressed and penalised by the wider culture of business and Government not just locally but internationally where does this leave those seeking justice and fairness?
Legislative change and protections are of course very important. That said, for anyone seeking to emulate Ms Miles it’s clear more than courage is required. If you whistle-blow today, and arguably many should, the lesson is now – whether inside or outside your organisation – you must do so cautiously and intelligently. Starting with maybe not revealing your identity.
The scourge of gun violence is a disease that now affects every aspect of American life. Each day on average, 35 people in this country are murdered with guns, another 50 kill themselves with guns and 200 more are shot but survive.
That’s 100,000 people a year hit by gunfire in America. Now I assume that after 70 people were shot in a movie theatre and then just a few months later, 20 first graders were murdered with an assault rifle in an elementary school , the absurd gun laws in this country would change but nothing has happened.
The gun lobby in America - led by the NRA - has bullied this nation’s politicians into cowardly supine silence. Even when 20 young children are blown away in their classrooms.
This is a shameful situation that has frankly made me very angry. So angry in fact that some people have criticised me for being too loud, opinionated and even rude when debating the issue of guns but I make no apology for that.
As Sir Winston Churchill said: ‘If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.’
My point is simple: more guns doesn’t mean less crime as the NRA repeatedly says. It means more gun violence, death and profits for the gun manufacturers. And to those who claim my gun control campaigning has been “anti-American”, the reverse is true. I am so pro-American that I want more of you to stay alive.
But I’ve made my point. I’ve given it a tremendous whack. Now it’s down to you. It’s your country; these are your gun laws. And the senseless slaughter will only end when enough Americans stand together and cry: Enough!
I look forward to that day.