I’ve kept seeing things on how apparently in the crimes committed by the US government in the last...
Unlike Winston, she had grasped the inner meaning of the Party’s sexual puritanism. It was not merely that the sex instinct created a world of its own which was outside the Party’s control and which therefore had to be destroyed if possible. What was more important was that sexual privation induced hysteria, which was desirable because it could be transformed into war-fever and leader-worship. The way she put it was: “When you make love you’re using up energy; and afterwards you feel happy and don’t give a damn for anything. They can’t bear you to feel like that. They want you to be bursting with energy all the time. All this marching up and down and cheering and waving flags is simply sex gone sour. If you’re happy inside yourself, why should you get excited about Big Brother and the Three-Year Plans and the Two Minutes Hate and all the rest of their bloody rot?
That was very true, he thought. There was a direct intimate connection between chastity and political orthodoxy. For how could the fear, the hatred, and the lunatic credulity which the Party needed in its members be kept at the right pitch, except by bottling down some powerful instinct and using it as a driving force? The sex impulse was dangerous to the Party, and the Party had turned it to account. They had played a similar trick with the instinct of parenthood. The family could not actually be abolished, and, indeed, people were encouraged to be fond of their children, in almost the old-fashioned way. The children, on the other hand, were systematically turned against their parents and taught to spy on them and report their deviations. The family had become in effect an extension of the Thought Police. It was a device by means of which everyone could be surrounded night and day by informers who knew him intimately.
When you consider the latest Snowden revelations about Yahoo and NSA/GCHQ recording people’s sexy webcam moments its crazy how spot on Orwell was
It is clear that something terrible is happening across the face of Britain. We are seeing the return of absolute poverty, which has not existed in this country since the Victorian age, more than a century ago. Absolute poverty is when people do not have the money to pay for even their most basic needs. The evidence of that is all around us. There are at least 345 food banks and, according to the Trussell Trust, emergency food aid was given to 350,000 households for at least three days in the last year. The Red Cross is setting up centres to help the destitute, just as it does in developing countries. A study that was published two months ago shows that even in prosperous areas of the country, such as London, more than a quarter of the population is living in poverty. This point is really scary: according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, for the first time, the number of people in working families who are living in poverty, at 6.7 million, is greater than the number of people in workless and retired families who are living in poverty, at 6.3 million.
The Department for Work and Pensions published new data two months ago—it was pretty reluctant to do this, and one can see why—showing that the use of sanctions, which means depriving people of all their benefits for several weeks at a time, had increased by 126% since 2010 and, most strikingly of all, that 120 disabled people who had been receiving jobseeker’s allowance had been given a three-year fixed duration sanction in the previous year. Figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government—these are the last that I will quote, although there are many more that I could quote—show that there are now more than 2,000 families who have been placed in emergency bed-and-breakfast accommodation after losing their homes. The 5% rise in the overall homelessness figures last year included nearly 9,000 families with children, which is the equivalent of one family losing their home every 15 minutes.
What are the causes of the emergence of absolute poverty? The biggest cause is the huge rise in sanctioning: depriving someone of all their benefit entitlement for a month in the first instance, for three months in the second instance and, on a third infringement, for three years!
It might not quite be the apocalypse but in the movies that’s how it starts: Smog drifts over the city.
It tastes acrid and unfamiliar. The smell is nasty. It fills your nose and mouth. It makes you uncomfortable. Your eyes start to irritate. If you’re indoors, you close the windows and turn on the fan. If you’re outdoors your mind turns to wanting to get indoors immediately. You look up again.
The smog is thicker, denser now. The sun has become a bright moon behind an intense smokescreen. From Newtown and the Queen’s Park Savannah you no longer see the skyline of either downtown Port of Spain nor the Laventille hillside. The smog has become a rolling cloud. It rolls in and covers everything.
Now this description might seem a little bit over the top. Yet for many in POS it is the exact situation that occurred this week.
It is a wake up call. What was once seen maybe as a “risk” – something with the potential to become a problem – is now a problem. Problems are distinct to risks because they are already damaging us. The La Basse is a problem growing by a 2011 estimate of 840 tons of rubbish a day. That’s 1100 trucks per day!
Maybe someone might offer a counter-argument that it isn’t the La Basse that is the problem but rather a certain type of person who sets fires in a garbage dump, which is the problem. Most would counter by suggesting it’s more significant to look at the issue of how and why humans produce so much garbage and waste rather than to blame people for burning it.
Rubbish in most societies has the ability to become overlooked. Many suggest this is because our modern consumer-capitalism way of life produces so much garbage, so constantly, and so casually that we tune out from it.
This invisibility is partly because many of us are encouraged to think: we make rubbish, but somebody else comes and takes it away.
For anthropologist Robin Nagle, the act of creating rubbish is a very intimate thing. Apart from when we are a sleep there is little time in the day when we do not produce some form of litter. The tissue to blow your nose, the packaging to eat or drink something, the tidying up your room or desk, these daily gestures produce material. They leave debris.
Nagle says this has created cognitive problems amongst large populations. We produce debris constantly yet somehow the consequences of such constant production have been “invisiblised”. Another cognitive problem is the perpetuation of an unsustainable economic system whose central premise, aside from accumulating wealth over all other considerations, is to produce more and more waste.
Many of us might not see ourselves culpable in this unsustainable madness. But the reality more accurately is that almost all of us consent everyday of our lives to this unsustainable way of life.
This is of course “false consciousness”. We make trash and it’s consequences become invisible. Yet it’s not invisible. It’s in a landfill or blowing around our streets or floating in our rivers and seas.
Hopefully news the Beetham landfill is to be closed is true. The landfill itself isn’t lined so polluted run-off leaks into the groundwater and goes directly into the Caroni Swamp with all the damage that does to the ecosystem there. But after it’s closed then what? No one should have to live near landfills and toxic (apocalyptic) smog.
In a refreshing and brutally honest commencement address at the UWI in 2010, the late Angela Cropper offered remarks about Caribbean culture. She broke down the culture into various aspects and challenged the students to prove her diagnosis wrong – of which she said she would be most happy.
She spoke of Caribbean culture as composing many different cultural parts. So there is a culture of materialism, of individualism, of violence, of civic complacency, of corruption, of nihilism, and one part she called a culture of half-arsed-ness.
Cropper described this half-arsed-ness as, “the Caribbean tendency to do only as little as would get us by; to go for cosmetic rather than fundamental changes…No doubt we have indulged in this tokenism because this is very easy to do.”
To borrow her thunder, we need to stop with the half-arsed-ness. It won’t be easy but we need to fundamentally transform the ways we think about trash and what each of us produces daily. Our future is at risk and it’s a problem we need to fix here and now.
There are many stories to be told about the genesis of our Carnival. One story in particular broadens the traditional origin myths. Through anecdotal and archaeological evidence, it suggests a tradition of masking reaching beyond the classic tale of European arrival and its role in the spreading of Carnival to islands where, after Emancipation, in an act of social resistance, Afro-Trinidadians appropriated it.
A good place to start the story is where I first heard it 15 years ago with local historian and anthropologist John Cupid. For Cupid there was “a tradition of celebration” on our islands long before the French arrived, and before that, long before the Spanish came too. A “tradition of celebration going back to the Warrahoon.”
As many might know, the Warrahoon were and are a group of Amerindians from the Orinoco delta who, the archaeological record states, were here in the 500-year period before European arrival. They were also involved in the Trinidad Carnival of 1848 documented by Charles Day, who, when discussing the initial period of Carnival after the beginning of French immigration, recorded his observations of a “Warrahoon masquerade” played by “half-Indian peons and Africans” on the streets of Port-of-Spain that appeared well-established.
According to Cupid, this was not surprising. “There were always celebrations on the island. Where we are here, on these hills and high valleys of Lopinot, there were people…long before the Catholics came, there were celebrations on the island of Kairi (Trinidad).” He went on to say the Warrahoons’ animal masquerade involved a headdress made of animal skin, painted face, and animal skin worn on the shoulders and ankles. And that the Capuchin monks who arrived in the late 1600s as missionaries to Trinidad “observed these celebrations.”
Is there evidence to back up his story? Historical anecdote and oral histories do describe the Warrahoon playing an animal mas and painting their faces with roucou berries and red ochre. Also, Cupid’s version of events makes sense. It does not erase the presence of the Amerindian population, its culture and genetics on the island, which we know existed in plain sight into the early 19th century. Nor does it erase their cultural influence and how a tradition of celebration may have existed here long before Europeans began their colonial conquest of the Caribbean.
This is an easy observation to support because anthropologists and historians have demonstrated the world over the long-established, cross-cultural human capacity for celebration. Celebration does not suddenly appear with colonial immigration. For example, we know as far back as 525 BCE that the Greek historian Herodotus wrote of the spring solstice celebrations he witnessed in North Africa. He mentioned Egypt, where celebrations were held to mark the opening of their crop season and honour the fertility of both the earth and women.
He wrote, “The Egyptians were the first people in the world to hold general festive assemblies, and religious processions and parades, and the Greeks learnt from the Egyptians.” Support for Cupid’s suggestion that a tradition of celebration has long existed on the island can also be found in the diaries of Bartolomé de las Casas (one of the first European settlers to the Caribbean) who recorded seeing Carnival-like behaviour.
In terms of archaeological evidence, it is agreed that roucou berries and vegetable substances like cashew nuts were being used as facial and body decoration at the time of Spanish arrival in the region. This idea then, of festival and celebration on our islands before the arrival of Europeans, is not a huge leap.
That “Wild Indian” masquerades—a mixture of Warrahoon and North American Indian influences—are also a recorded sight throughout the 19th and 20th centuries at Carnival time and are still seen on the outskirts of today’s bikini-and-beads Carnival is further evidence of an Amerindian strand and connection.
Anthropologically all of this is important because it suggests the dominant and simplistic European origin myths about our Carnival are incomplete. Cupid’s story does a similar thing to later narratives of Africanisms that surround Trinidad Carnival in the 19th century.
And lastly, the story also supports ideas of cultural mixture and process in understanding our society, opening the way to including other cultural influences in the story of our Carnival such as East Indian, Chinese, and American, over the more simplistic, familiar and traditional European and/or African origin myths that most often dominate.
Carnival in Trinidad is a cultural object. Its evolution from the early 1800s to today reflects our social history. For example, during the 1980s, state involvement in Carnival increased as attempts were made to expand the economic potential of the festival. Trinidad Carnival was mobilised as a global brand and industry plugged into the global movements and forms of capital accumulation. Think “production” in China and “entertainment” out of the all-inclusive Las Vegas handbook.
At the same time, there also developed the marketing of “cultural tourism” with its “authenticity versus change” narrative. This helped to mask the question of who would now become the labour force supporting the new service culture of the festival.
The business model changed from populist art form in the lead-up to Independence and into the late 1970s, from those of the likes of Bailey, Saldenah, McWilliams and many others, to a more salacious and eroticised pretty mas commodity form (bikini-and-beads masquerade portrayals) by the late 1980s.
The economics of pretty mas reflect the libido of Euro-American capitalism—profit, mass production, luxury, sex appeal, service oriented. The high art aesthetic that led some commentators to describe mid-20th century Trinidad Carnival as a “theatre of the streets” diffused into various layers of local cultural production with each becoming commodities for the “desiring machine.”
From the mid-1980s, band fees and the cost of individual participation grew. As commodification of the festival increased, exclusivity (participation based on the ability to pay) overcame ideals of inclusivity (participation rooted in Carnival as a national commons accessible to all).
The timing of the shift correlates roughly to the upsurge in local petrol and natural gas revenues, and T&T’s insertion into global flows of capital and the cultural politics of neoliberalism from the 1970s to 1990s. These politics included: the upward redistribution of wealth, the marketisation of social life, and the cultural belief in individualism as the main indicator of personal success or failure.
The shift is also an example of what anthropologists call “accumulation by dispossession”— turning things once communal into things private and for profit. Some of those whom the late Rex Nettleford called “the people from below,” and whom he considered the legitimate authors and participants of Carnival drama as a populist art form, were displaced and became Carnival’s low-paid, service-oriented labour force.
Viewed through class and race, the late 20th and early 21st century pretty mas Trinidad Carnival might be described as a “gated community.” An analogy for this is Carnival Monday morning. The street parade begins at 11 am but the staff – the bar and food personnel, crowd control, security, roadies, and other staff - all start gathering for 9 am.
In 2012, a large “all-inclusive” Carnival band of around 3,000 masqueraders employed around 300-400 staff a day. These staff members, depending on their rank and role, got paid between $250-$400 each day to service and work for masqueraders who pay between $3,500-$7,000 for this mas. (Disclosure: yes, I play pretty mas each year.) Seen in such a light, the socio-economic changes in Carnival over the last 30 to 40 years describe a more general process of inequality and economic difference making in post-Independence Trinidad, in particular, the exclusion of low-income groups from other communal spaces, including politics, employment, nationhood, particular urban areas, security, and social mobility.
Such social boundaries to Carnival are by no means new. They were there from the beginning. According to Errol Hill, when the British arrived after 1797, the early European Carnival festivities found here echoed the earliest recorded private costume balls or French planter fêtes, mainly attended by the Spanish and those of mixed European and African descent, with the enslaved excluded.
Just like today, at those events the various costumes demonstrated signs of multicultural mixture, particularly French, Spanish and North African. Of course, the enslaved were never guests at these balls or those after the arrival of the British. Yet this did not mean they were completely removed from events. At the colonial Carnival celebrations of the elites, at their grand plantation balls, some were needed for housework including drinks service, musical entertainment, and food preparation.
So one story Trinidad Carnival tells us is that any post-Independence promises and inclusive national rhetoric about its development as central to a new nation’s growth weren’t as liberating as they might have been. As larger global processes became embedded in the mas, costume production was outsourced to China, while jumpin up with an all-inclusive wristband became an all-exclusive activity, reflecting similar class-based changes our society has undergone more generally.
Addiction is a mental illness around which there is a great deal of confusion, which is hugely exacerbated by the laws that criminalise drug addicts.
If drugs are illegal people who use drugs are criminals. We have set our moral compass on this erroneous premise, and we have strayed so far off course that the landscape we now inhabit provides us with no solutions and greatly increases the problem.
This is an important moment in history; we know that prohibition does not work. We know that the people who devise drug laws are out of touch and have no idea how to reach a solution. Do they even have the inclination? The fact is their methods are so gallingly ineffective that it is difficult not to deduce that they are deliberately creating the worst imaginable circumstances to maximise the harm caused by substance misuse.
People are going to use drugs; no self-respecting drug addict is even remotely deterred by prohibition. What prohibition achieves is an unregulated, criminal-controlled, sprawling, global mob-economy, where drug users, their families and society at large are all exposed to the worst conceivable version of this regrettably unavoidable problem.
“The profound error made by those who have announced the ‘death of liberalism’ is to confuse ideological representation accompanying the implementation of neoliberal policies with the practical normativity that specifically characterises neoliberalism. As a result, the relative discredit surrounding the ideology of laissez-faire today in no way prevents neoliberalism from prevailing more than ever as a normative system possessed of a certain efficiency - that is, the capacity to direct from within the actual practice of governments, enterprises and, in addition to them, millions of people who are not necessarily conscious of the fact. For this is the crux of the matter: how is it that, despite the utterly catastrophic consequences in which neoliberal policies have resulted, they are increasingly operative, to the extent of pushing states and societies into ever graver political crises and social regression? How is it that such policies have been developed and radicalised for more than thirty years without encountering sufficient resistance to check them?
The answer is not, and cannot be, confined to the ‘negative’ aspects of neoliberal policies - that is, the programmed destruction of regulations and institutions. Neoliberalism is not merely destructive of rules, institutions and rights. It is also productive of certain kinds of social relations, certain ways of living, certain subjectivities. In other words, at stake in neoliberalism is nothing more, nor less, than the form of our existence - the way in which we are led to conduct ourselves, to relate to others and to ourselves. Neoliberalism defines a certain existential norm in western societies and, far beyond them, in all those societies that follow them on the path of ‘modernity’. This norm enjoins everyone to live in a world of generalised competition; it calls upon wage-earning classes and populations to engage in economic struggle against one another; it aligns social relations with the model of the market; it promotes the justification of ever greater inequalities; it even transforms the individual, now called on to conceive and conduct him- or herself as an enterprise. For more than a third of a century, this existential norm has presided over public policy, governed global economic relations, transformed society, and reshaped subjectivity…
The thesis defended in this book is precisely that neoliberalism, far from being an ideology or an economic policy, is firstly and fundamentally a rationality, and as such tends to structure and organise not only the action of rulers, but also the conduct of the ruled. The principal characteristic of neoliberal rationality is the generalisation of competition as a behavioural norm of the enterprise as a model of subjectivation…
Neoliberalism is a rationality of contemporary capitalism, freed of its archive references and fully acknowledged as a historical construct and general norm of existence … Neoliberalism can be defined as the set of discourses, practices and apparatuses that determine a new mode of government of human beings in accordance with the universal principle of competition.”