12 Aug 2011

What a summer: Norway, East Africa, Riots and financial collapse

Oh dear what a summer. It is hard to keep up with so much shocking and depressing news.... 

Norway. I was in Norway for a family celebration just after the awful events there - it was very moving to attend the memorial's following the horrific acts. Over 30,000 people in Bergen and four or more times that in Oslo plus many vigils in towns across the country.

Photos: Bergen- three photos of the vigil and march taken during my recent stay there
I cannot put words to the horror of it all - but I also cannot not express anger at some of the news reporting. Before the smoke even cleared the finger was being pointed at Al-Qaeda or one of its offshoots. Fox News were particularly bad - while The Sun called it Norway's 9/11 and name-checked Al-Qaeda. Even when the Norwegian press revealed that the killer was an 'ethnic Norwegian' pundits quickly raised the prospect of a brainwashed convert to Islam.

Since then Breivik is being painted as 'insane' or 'sick' - interestingly when jihadists commit an outrage there isn't usually such a rush to let their ideology off the hook. I don't believe we can dismiss his actions as those of a 'lone crazy' - there is too much at stake. In a time of economic crisis such ideas are dangerous.

East Africa famine. Oh my and what terrible times there - it was great to read in the local press of folks raising money to try and ease some of the suffering - go to Farmers Market tomorrow in Stroud for their stall. We must not forget that this famine was far from unavoidable. Of course it is debatable as to whether the drought was caused by human activity but that aside, the impact of western foreign policy certainly has played a big part. That region is rich with resources like gold, platinum and oil yet there is all this suffering. Developing nations have been forced to adopt neoliberal policies, opening up their markets to western multinationals while banning subsidies for their own producers.

SchNEWS write: "A trite solution to the 'African problem' would be to spend the money currently devoted to bombing the region on aid (UK has offered £52 million to relieve famine while the bombing of Libya has cost at least £200 million). Yet this view reinforces the idea that Africa is dependent on the west and ignores the root cause of the majority of the region's troubles. Western countries have spent decades propping up dictators, imposing free market 'reforms', bombing rebels, bribing officials and flogging military equipment. The aim of these policies wasn't to support rebuilding a continent ravaged by colonial powers and proxy wars, but merely to protect and further western 'interests' whether they be preferential access to resources, securing lucrative defence and infrastructure contracts, promoting stability (predictability) or holding back development. If these rich countries simply stopped enforcing foreign policy goals on Africa, the continent may stand a chance of healing itself. The west is just as instrumental in the oppression of ordinary Africans as it was in the days of colonies and empires, just in a less overtly racist manner."

UK Riots. The charity I work for has an office in Barton Street. It was shocking to hear there were riots there and indeed across the nation. Words again fail. As Monbiot tweeted it is too early to try and force meaning out of them - agree - although as this Independent article notes - care costs. There are no easy answers. What are the underlying causes of this terrifying breakdown in law and order? Cameron in 2006, as opposition leader, spoke about the need to adopt a new approach to integrating a marginalised underclass into normal society. He talked of the sort of low-level antisocial behaviour that escalated so horrifically this week and argued that "we'll never get the answers right unless we understand what's gone wrong". Yet now the PM seems more interested in draconian gimmicks than understanding what went wrong.

On a different tack there have been many comments on politicians 'vandalism' - perhaps not quite the same thing! See Nick Clegg's history of vandalism here and Camerons' here - plus comedy writer's letter to Cameron's parents here.

Financial collapse. The US outlook is worse than 3 months ago and that was bad - are these the throes of death or an unbearable burden of debt - while Europe seems to lurch daily from one crisis to the next with today French banks - last month I blogged on Michael Moore's film about capitalism and the threat to the Euro - well you can see Stroud's Molly Scott Cato's views here and here on what needs to be done.

Hope! But I can't leave blog readers with all that - I've just read an inspiring article in the latest Permaculture magazine about Polly Higgins who is creating laws to save the earth. See her website here.


Anonymous said...

You should have been here 1939-1945...

things have never been better, if only we would recognise it.

Pit Stop said...

"better" is a relative term.

I note you do not use the word "good".

Anonymous said...

"The system is an utter mess, particularly since almost every country in the world is now seeking to manipulate its currency downwards in order to make exports cheaper and imports dearer. This is clearly not possible."

Andy said...

Courts are handing down prison sentences to convicted rioters that are on average 25% longer than normal, according to an exclusive Guardian analysis of 1,000 riot-related cases dealt with so far by magistrates.

The majority of people who have appeared in court live in poor neighbourhoods, with 41% of suspects living in one of the top 10% of most deprived places in the country. The data also shows that 66% of neighbourhoods where the accused live got poorer between 2007 and 2010.