Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Layer 350 . . . Mexico, Drugs, Revolution, Britain, Smashing the State, The Pope, Religion, SEN and Patience

It's real autumn - tomatoes continuing to ripen, chilli peppers, sunflower seeds harvesting, apples, pears and damsons from friends' trees, etc.


Someone on the radio said he'd learnt the secret of happiness from a food container: Stand Upright in a Cool Place.

Two challenges here. How to stand upright. Finding a cool place to make your stand.


Continuing with thoughts about Mexico and revolutionaries -

Mexico's modern revolutionaries
As Mexico marks its 1810 and 1910 uprisings, 2010's upheaval is likely to be about drugs, not politics


This week sees the 200th anniversary of Mexico's war of separation from Spain; in addition, 20 November marks the centennial of Mexico's landmark revolution, the first mass uprising of the underclass in the Americas. The coincidence of centennials has given breath to the hypothesis that Mexico explodes every 100 years in social upheaval, and some leftists are eagerly expecting renewed fireworks in 2010. Indeed, conditions are ripe for revolution here: 70% of Mexico's 103 million population teeter on and around the poverty line.

Revolutions don't happen unless the working class is angry. Electricity workers recently mounted a mass hunger strike (they lasted 90 days) in the main plaza of Mexico City to protest at the loss of their jobs to privatisation.

Today full-scale urban warfare rages on the streets of Juárez – over 1,800 citizens have been slain in the first eight months of the year in firefights between drug gangs and the Mexican military. Car bombs detonate on downtown streets and the mansions of the wealthy are looted and torched. Narco-commandos attack police stations and army barracks, carrying off artillery, and prisoners are broken out of jails much as they were by revolutionaries a century ago.

The Mexican military and the US North Command – for which Mexico is the southern security perimeter – have long expected the narco-gangs and leftist revolutionary bands to coalesce. But revolutionaries in their armchairs complain that revolutions must have ideologies and display class allegiances: this narco-insurrection seems to be all about barbaric killing and taking power, not the liberation of the working class.


The drugs issue is hotting up. Even The Economist is running major features on the arguments in favour of following Portugal and decriminalising drugs. Portugal now has one of the lowest levels of drug use in Europe, according to The Economist.


Meanwhile, back in Britain, it seems it's the government itself that wants to start a revolution:

Yes, the coalition wants to smash the state. That's good

The misery of cuts will grind the government down unless it boldly declares the ideology behind its spending plans


This is an ideological government with a plan for a smaller, less centralised and more liberal state. The left dreads the obvious fact that spending cuts are central to this plan – and they are. The left senses that the government is staging a cultural revolution against social democracy – and it is. The coalition does not want to make mild adjustments to the old order. It intends to smash it.

To say that cuts are being forced by necessity and nothing more, is to imply that when fatter times return ministers will reverse them. Nobody who knows the leaderships of this coalition believes that. Much of what the government must do to balance the books it would have wanted to do even if they were in balance.

The point of reducing spending is to change the state, not just spend less.

There's a kamikaze spirit in this government's soul. Ministers seem strangely pacified by the prospect of their possible political doom. New Labour feared unpopularity so much it became timid. This government has written unpopularity into the script. This has freed it to do things it would never have risked in fiscal peacetime. It is why change seems reckless and fast. The coalition feels a revolutionary duty to be brave. It should be proud of that.



Financial markets are still ruled by instant gratification

Two years after the collapse of Lehman Bros, it's hard to find much sign of the fundamental reforms we were promised


The crisis exposed the structural weaknesses of the bubble years and policymakers said what they always say at this point in the economic cycle: never again. Faced with evidence of the fragility of globalisation, they announced that the system required fundamental reform. At this juncture, it is appropriate to assess how they have been getting on.
The Demand for Immediate Gratification.

Andrew Haldane, Bank of England executive director for financial stability, said recently in Beijing that rapid gains in economic growth in the modern age were accounted for by patience: investing for tomorrow meant sacrifice today.
"Studies have shown that happy people save more and spend less," he argued. "Happy people also take longer to make decisions and expect a longer life. In short, they are patient. These patterns are connected and reinforcing."

But patience does not always triumph. When impatience takes control, we save less and borrow more. We take snap decisions, thinking little about long-term consequences. This sort of behaviour, as Haldane noted, reaches its apotheosis in the financial markets. "Most traders' brains harbour the impatience gene. Often they harbour little else."

So, it would be a real sign of progress if there was evidence that the gods of the financial markets were re-learning the virtue of patience, thus setting an example to mortals. The sad fact is nothing has changed. The business-as-usual mindset makes the case for reform even more compelling.

Simon Hattenstone's interview with Sinead O'Connor is well worth a read. It seems she's a total believer in God and Jesus, but hates the Pope, who arrives here tomorrow, and the whole of the Christian hierarchy of priests and bishops.


Sinead O'Connor: 'The Vatican is a nest of devils'

When she tore up the pope's picture as a protest against child abuse, people thought she was loopy. But Sinead O'Connor – former pop star, priest, newly married mother of four – won't say 'I told you so'

She says, apart from her children, her ordination is her greatest achievement. "I am proud that I did listen to that voice inside me rather than be intimidated by men telling me you can't be a priest. One ought to be more concerned in obeying what the Holy Spirit inspires you to feel rather than what a bunch of men in fucking dresses are telling you to do or not do."

I'm still trying to work out her position – she loves God, but despises Catholicism? She shakes her head. "No, what I think is wrong is that the people running the show are misrepresenting what Catholicism actually is ... what I'm talking about is the highest echelons of the Vatican't as I call it."

"The way they've behaved just in the last 20 years, over this issue of sexual abuse, shows they don't give a shit. They feel untouchable. And to me it seems they don't believe in God at all. Because if you did believe you couldn't stand in front of that spirit covering up and moving priests and doctoring reports to psychiatrists and not telling them there was a suspicion of abuse, you just couldn't do that."

"OK, the abusive priests have been dealt with and that's very important, but now what has to be dealt with is the criminality of the cover-up." She says it has to go to the very top – after all in 2001, Pope Benedict, as Cardinal Ratzinger, issued an updated edict instructing the world's bishops to silence all abuse allegations or risk being thrown out of the church. "The Vatican is a nest of devils and a haven for criminals. It's evil, the very top of the toppermost is evil."

O'Connor is clear what has to happen – those responsible have to go. "And when all the those guys stand down we should take back the church for us." Would she like to see a democratically elected pope? "Do we need a fucking pope? Why do we need a pope? Christ doesn't need a representative. Ten years from now the church will be nothing resembling what it has been."


Also on the subject of the Pope and religion:

The pope's priestly model: a rabid, self-harming tyrant

The Catholic priesthood needs radical reform. Yet Benedict looks to a cleric who banned dancing and whipped himself nightly


What has the pope done about the crisis? What he hasn't done is to initiate reforms based on inquiries into the culture of the total clerical crisis. His solution to the complex problems of clericalism is to ask seminarians and priests to emulate a French priest called Jean Vianney, who died 150 years ago.

Last year Benedict was on the verge of proclaiming Vianney as the patron saint of parish priests, the model for a purer, healthier, irreproachable priesthood. In a scolding letter to the Irish clergy earlier this year, the pope asserted that following the life of Vianney would redeem Ireland's disgraced, abusing clergy. At every opportunity he has promoted Vianney as exemplary.

The promotion of Vianney seems to me the most backward-looking of this pope's initiatives, which include bringing back the Latin mass, routinely denouncing homosexuality, and declaring the ordination of women a great sin.

What is the holy father thinking of, promoting this self-harming, narrow-minded tyrant as a solution to the problems of paedophile priests? Even by a mild interpretation, we should infer that priests must turn parishes into spiritual ghettoes where all secular influences are banned. Masochistic displacement activity, the punishing of the flesh, is proposed as a substitute for personal maturity and integrity.
In other words - spiritual intelligence.


Special Educational Needs in the press today, and on the 'Today' programme this morning:


'Special' education comes in many different guises

Some school students need extra support to liberate them from the constraints with which their world tries to strap them down

Young people in our schools, particularly challenging inner-city schools, do need special educational provision to liberate them from the constraints with which their world attempts to strap them down.

Schools have a duty to provide these young people with the tools to enable them to break free from these constraints, to drive up self esteem, aspiration and expectation, and to take their rightful place at the table of learning.

Schools and teachers cannot do this alone. It is a multi-agency agenda of skilled professionals working alongside the most committed, hardworking, diligent and skilful teachers that can create this climate of success.

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