The big idea: why relationships are the key to existence

“Too often we foolishly measure success in terms of a single actor’s fortunes. This is both short-sighted and irrational. It misunderstands the true nature of reality, and is ultimately self-defeating.” Carlo Rovelli provides a compellingly argued explanation of the way in which interactions shape our world and, in the end, determine our reality.
www.theguardian.com

The warning signs are there for everyone else to see

“For a party that prides itself on the economy, the Tories have a shocking record of running it. Our economy has the slowest growth in the G7. We have got greater regional inequality than almost any other developed nation. Food banks now do the job of Government in providing for families—families that are more often than not in work.

Government could start solving this crisis by providing solutions, like closing tax-avoidance loopholes or creating a windfall tax for energy companies. But instead, we get endless bills paying lip service to a manufactured culture war. The priority isn’t the economy. It seems to be things like protecting freedom of speech, and yet the Tories are the ones who banned schools in England from using sources that are not overtly pro-capitalist. They are cracking down on freedom of assembly and protest. They are privatising Channel 4, when the Culture Secretary didn’t even know that Channel 4 receives no public money, so the argument is not financial. And as the Member for Rhondda touched upon earlier on, when we consider, that the Culture Secretary was a key focus of a Channel 4 documentary once about the influence that Christian fundamentalism has on UK politics, it becomes even more concerning that this decision is political and it’s personal. It is not professional.

But most terrifying of all, however, is that the Government literally wants to get rid of the Human Rights Act. And that begs the question: for whom do they think rights have gone too far? Do you know how scary it is to sit at home and wonder if it is you—is it your rights that are up for grabs? We have witnessed Windrush. Our economic strategy is to open our doors to the rest of the world when we need their hard work and then chuck them out 50 years later without a word’s notice. We tell our own citizens that their safety cannot be guaranteed in Rwanda, but we are perfectly happy to ship asylum seekers, people fleeing war and persecution, over to Rwanda as though they are cattle to be dealt with by someone else and despite knowing that this plan costs more than it will ever save.

This is just little England elites drunk on the memory of a British empire that no longer exists. We have the lowest pensions in Europe and the lowest sick pay. We pretend minimum wage is a living wage when it is not. We miss our own economic targets time and time again. We are happy to break international law. We are turning into a country where words hold no value.

And over the last 12 years, I fear we have been sleepwalking closer and closer to the F word. And I know everyone is scared to say it for fear of sounding over the top or being accused of going too far, but I say this with all sincerity. When I say the F word, I am talking about fascism—fascism wrapped in red, white and blue. And you may mock and you may disagree, but fascism does not come in with intentional evil plans or the introduction of leather jackboots. It doesn’t happen like that. It happens subtly. It happens when we see the Governments making decisions based on self-preservation, based on cronyism, based on anything that will keep them in power, we see the concentration of power whilst avoiding any of the scrutiny or responsibility that comes with that power. It arrives under the guise of respectability and pride, that will then be refused to anyone who is deemed different. It arrives through the othering of people, the normalisation of human cruelty. Now I don’t know how far down that road we are. Time will tell, but the things we do in the name of economic growth—the warning signs are there for everyone else to see, whether they admit it or not.”
Mhairi Black

Twitter buyout puts Mastodon into spotlight

“Mastodon is used to publish 500-character messages with pictures, polls, videos and so on to an audience of followers, and, in turn, to follow interesting people and receive their posts in a chronological home feed. Unlike Twitter, there is no central Mastodon website – you sign up to a provider that will host your account, similarly to signing up for Outlook or Gmail, and then you can follow and interact with people using different providers. Anyone can become such a provider as Mastodon is free and open-source. It has no ads, respects your privacy, and allows people/communities to self-govern.” Eugen Rochko preempted the planned aquisition of Twitter by a mere 6 years.
joinmastodon.org

Geflüchtete aus der Ukraine und Syrien: Unterschiedlich willkommen in Deutschland?

“Auch dieses Foto ist ein aktuelles Bild aus einem Krieg, den Putin gerade führt. Aber es wurde nicht in der Ukraine aufgenommen, sondern in Idlib in Syrien. Ein Krieg, den wir gerade zu vergessen scheinen, obwohl auch von dort zehntausende nach Deutschland geflohen sind aus Angst vor den Bomben Putins. Und, so groß die Hilfsbereitschaft für ukrainische Kriegsgeflohene gerade ist, so schwer macht es Deutschland den Geflüchteten aus Syrien, in diesem Land anzukommen. Die Menschenwürde ist unteilbar, sagt das Grundgesetz, und doch machen wir Unterschiede.”
Georg Restle

They are ‘civilised’ and ‘look like us’: the racist coverage of Ukraine

“What all these petty, superficial differences – from owning cars and clothes to having Netflix and Instagram accounts – add up to is not real human solidarity for an oppressed people. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s tribalism. These comments point to a pernicious racism that permeates today’s war coverage and seeps into its fabric like a stain that won’t go away.” Moustafa Bayoumi asks that we offer help and solidarity to innocent people who need protection, irrespective of geographical proximity or skin color.
www.theguardian.com

Die beste Instanz

“Wir führen diese Debatte über Rassismus auf einer total primitiven Ebene. Es handelt sich um ein Menschenrecht. Schutz vor Diskriminierung ist ein Menschenrecht.”
Natasha A. Kelly

“Ich würde mir wünschen, dass wir wegkommen davon diese Ereignisse, wie sie jetzt auch im WDR passiert sind, immer als Einzelfälle zu diskutieren. Und es ist ja heute immer wieder aufgekommen, daß es sich um strukturelle Probleme handelt, die nach ’45 nicht einfach aufgehört haben. Und ich glaube es gibt ‘ne Situation, in der man sich in Deutschland sehr, sehr stark wünscht, daß nach ’45 ein besseres Deutschland entstanden ist [sic]. Aber der Wunsch alleine erzeugt noch nicht die Realität. Und da brauchen strukturelle Probleme strukturelle Lösungen.”
Max Czollek

Gemeinsam mit ihren Gästen formuliert Enissa Amani eine bemerkenswerte Antwort auf die vom WDR am 09.11.2020 erstmalig ausgestrahlte Sendung “Die letzte Instanz“, deren Umgang mit dem Thema Rassismus bestenfalls als naiv zu bezeichnen ist.

Nine lessons

“Too much of our political debate just insults people’s intelligence and just suggests that every facet of Brexit you don’t like is purely a feature of only the Prime Minister’s version of it, rather than intrinsic to leaving.” Sir Ivan Rogers advocates the need for serious substance to replace plausible bullshit.
news.liverpool.ac.uk

Die AAA-Bürger

“So wie Alibaba und Amazon wissen, wofür sich ihre Nutzer interessieren und was sie als Nächstes kaufen könnten, will der chinesische Staat aus den Datenspuren seiner Bürger ableiten, wie sie sich in der Vergangenheit verhalten haben und in der Zukunft verhalten könnten und sie nach einem Punktesystem entsprechend bewerten. Wer zum Beispiel über das Internet gesunde Babynahrung bestellt, soll Pluspunkte erhalten. Wer sich hingegen Pornos ansieht oder zu viel Zeit mit Computerspielen verbringt, muss mit Abzügen rechnen.” Da trifft es sich gut, daß Felix Lee nichts zu verbergen hat und ein solcher Umgang mit Nutzerdaten überhaupt nur in China in Erwägung gezogen wird…
www.zeit.de

With thanks to Michael August

Zur Hölle mit den Reichen

“Das System ist zutiefst krank. Es ist unmoralisch und unanständig. Die Wut darauf wächst. Sie sucht sich nur die falschen Ziele. Der Hass der Betrogenen gilt eher dem Kriegs- als dem Steuerflüchtling. Unser Planet ist ein Paradies für Arschlöcher.” Jacob Augstein bringt es auf den Punkt.
www.spiegel.de

Motor der Ungleichheit

“Das vielleicht spektakulärste Beispiel dafür ist der Google-Mutterkonzern Alphabet. 2003, weniger als ein Jahr vor dem Börsengang, übertrug ‘Google USA’ seine Suchmaschinen- und Werbetechnologie an ‘Google Holdings’, eine in Irland eingetragene Tochter. Dank des irischen Steuerrechts kann das Unternehmen seine Gewinne mit einen Zwischenstopp auf den Bermudas versteuern. 15,5 Milliarden Dollar waren das bei Google im Jahr 2015, der Steuersatz für Unternehmen auf der Inselgruppe: null Prozent.” Gabriel Zucman fordert ein Finanzregister als effektive Waffe gegen die Intransparenz der Weltfinanzen.
www.sueddeutsche.de

End these offshore games or our democracy will die

“These are the fixes, but a real solution is ultimately political. We must accept that Big Finance and runaway inequality are incompatible with either a functioning democracy or a sustainable economy.” Aditya Chakrabortty sees a rotting core at the heart of our democracies.
www.theguardian.com

Terrorists don’t scare city cyclists. We already have to deal with cars.

“If there’s one group of road users virtually immune to being cowed by a lowly act of terrorism involving a motor vehicle, it’s cyclists. We’re reminded every day—through rolled-down car windows, on too-narrow roads, via social media—that we “share” the roads with people who actively hate us and that our interests (including safety) come behind theirs. Every one of us knows what it’s like to stare death in the grille. Daily riders have all had drivers aim their cars at us as if they were about to plow us down, whether because of run-of-the-mill inattention or out-and-out road rage. This reality is priced into our decision to ride.” Eben Weiss alias Bike Snob NYC offers the urban cyclist’s perspective on the latest terrorist threat.
www.washingtonpost.com

You are the product

“What this means is that even more than it is in the advertising business, Facebook is in the surveillance business. Facebook, in fact, is the biggest surveillance-based enterprise in the history of mankind. It knows far, far more about you than the most intrusive government has ever known about its citizens. It’s amazing that people haven’t really understood this about the company. I’ve spent time thinking about Facebook, and the thing I keep coming back to is that its users don’t realise what it is the company does. What Facebook does is watch you, and then use what it knows about you and your behaviour to sell ads. I’m not sure there has ever been a more complete disconnect between what a company says it does—‘connect’, ‘build communities’—and the commercial reality. Note that the company’s knowledge about its users isn’t used merely to target ads but to shape the flow of news to them. Since there is so much content posted on the site, the algorithms used to filter and direct that content are the thing that determines what you see: people think their news feed is largely to do with their friends and interests, and it sort of is, with the crucial proviso that it is their friends and interests as mediated by the commercial interests of Facebook. Your eyes are directed towards the place where they are most valuable for Facebook.” John Lanchester does not know what will happen should this $450 billion penny ever drop.
www.lrb.co.uk

Teaching humility in an age of arrogance

“Everything from the ads we read to the political news in our Facebook feed is tailored to our preferences. That’s incredibly useful for buying shoes and finding good restaurants. It is easier than ever to get and share information, but the information we get often reflects ourselves as much as it does anything else. Less noticed is that this has an effect not only on how we regard others, but on how we regard ourselves.” Michael Patrick Lynch suggests we take greater care to balance humility and conviction.
www.chronicle.com

Don’t feel sorry for refugees — believe in them

“We take in so few refugees worldwide. We resettle less than .1 percent. That .1 percent benefits us more than them. It dumbfounds me how the word refugee is consided something to be dirty, something to be ashamed of. They have nothing to be ashamed of. We have seen advances in every aspect of our lives except our humanity. There are 65.3 million people who have been forced out of their homes because of war. The largest number in history. We are the ones who should be ashamed.”
Luma Mufleh

Katz-und-Maus-Spiel der Polizei mit dem Rechtsstaat

“Es ist schlicht und ergreifend nicht wahr, dass die Kritik an Hamburgs Polizeiführung nur von einer ‘militanten linken Szene’ komme, wie Innensenator Grote Glauben machen will. Dass es letztere gibt und dass sie extrem gewaltbereit ist, bezweifelt niemand. Doch wenn Grote sagt, es gebe zwar viele, die auch friedlich campen wollten, aber ‘wir können sie nicht von potenziellen Gewalttätern trennen’, dann ist dies schlicht und ergreifend ein Offenbarungseid. Denn genau das ist nun einmal Aufgabe der Polizei. Man stelle sich vor, die Polizei würde mit ähnlicher Begründung Bundesligaspiele verbieten, weil sich im Stadion auch Gewalttäter aufhalten.” Andrej Reisin formuliert seine Kritik an der Vorgehensweise der Polizei vor und während des G20-Gipfels in Hamburg.
www.daserste.de

Why are people so angry? Blame modernity

“The modern world’s cherished ideas of liberty, equality and prosperity are more popular than ever before. The problem is that it is difficult for the vast majority of the human population to realise them.” Pankaj Mishra appearing on yesterday’s BBC Newsnight programme.

The swedish kings of cyberwar

“Among the many questions posed by Scandinavia’s embrace of mass surveillance is one that has lingered at the margins throughout the Snowden debate: Are advanced democracies any different than their authoritarian counterparts in seeking to gain broad access into the private lives of citizens?” Hugh Eakin shines a light on the underreported activities of Sweden’s FRA in spying on people everywhere.
www.nybooks.com

With thanks to Michael August