europe, society, UK Politics, World Politics

Politics isn’t about what you favour, but instead about what you don’t

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It has been a long time since I have heard predominantly good things being spoken of a politician, the current political landscape, or their policies. Perhaps some of the moments which last sparked jubilation in the political sphere were when Barack Obama was elected as the first black US President, when Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was last seen conversing naturally with a group of – actually interested – schoolchildren, or when German Chancellor Angela Merkel stood in front of Syrian refugees with open arms.

But it seems that right now, political contentment is at a low. The tone of debate around the world has degraded in recent months, and many of our politicians and their policies seem to revolve around counteracting some form of societal evil. Every day we are instructed that immigrants, nuclear power stations, or even Donald Trump will be the reason for the world’s end. Energised by multiple failings from both above and below, a wide range of voters, activists, and ordinaries have come to believe that politics is not working, a pessimistic and tiresome mindset which is fuelling politics of bitterness.

This advent has helped to kick-start fiery anti-establishment groups, seeing a rise in politics which focuses on resenting specific parts of society, creating a dangerous political culture. This engagement with ‘blame; policy is rapidly increasing, and is having a somewhat devastating side-effect. Whilst many citizens are, of course, uniting in opposition against what they deem to be most threatening to themselves and society, many are detrimentally turning hurtfully against certain social groups, in some cases minimising minorities and bolstering fear.

A handful of recent events serve to prove this. Only last week, the shooting of British MP Jo Cox showed that a sad minority believes in an act as shameful as killing an elected official. In recent days, Italy’s main anti-establishment party has made huge gains, Italy not the only country to see such a rise. Worldwide, the refugee crisis – the biggest movement of people since The Second World War – has provoked mixed sentiment, including a large pool of anti-immigrant protesters, and in many areas, even xenophobic and racist feelings. And a couple of months ago, the Panama Papers revelations exposed large-scale wrongdoing across global governments, fuelling anti-establishment feeling all the more.

It is no wonder that citizens across the world are bored with such endless, fruitless rhetoric. Fear and hatred are fast coming to define politics as citizens see no other remedy to their ailing governments and communities. Wrongdoing within government, a selfish hostility to an influx of immigrants, and resentment towards our MPs are each playing a part in tearing up society. Politics now revolves around marginalisation – not celebration of the good qualities which enhance our nation.

So, who is at fault for the culture of torment and blame which is reconstructing our political culture? Many would argue that society itself is causing the problem. The rise in barbaric terrorist acts shows that much of the gusto for wreaking havoc comes from the people. But it does indeed look like the Establishment has a monumental part to play. In many cases, electorates around the world have turned dead set on voting for manifestos which show pent up discontent with their current rulers. Recent corruption in relation to financial wrongdoing and offshore accounts, the polarisation of our political parties – fostering such intense left and right wings – and the rise of such casually outspoken leaders such as Donald Trump and Nigel Farage are each contributing to a new politics stubbornness. In the same way as many of our politicians, scores of voters now flippantly find anyone to blame for the worst of societal calamities. The success of anti-immigration ideals and anti-establishment policy emphasises that such an ethos is becoming increasingly – and somewhat worryingly – commonplace.

Hatred and blame are becoming international epidemics, diseasing our politics. On the social media stage, and even on our streets, jibes aimed at specific minorities are growing worryingly normal. The demonisation of a select few is creating an all too casual class of resentment amongst both voters and our leaders – incumbent and prospective. When, indeed, will an air of acceptance, teamwork and common good return to the fore of society’s mind? Without definite steps towards a strong emphasis on co-operation and interdependence, Britain will grow alien to the world in the same way that many deem outsiders as alien to Britain.

If anything, at least our democracy is functioning properly. A healthy democracy must have channels for opposition, but the scale of dissent is becoming too huge. As governments struggle to deal with new political, social and economic challenges, a blaring national forum is playing out. Our principles of free speech and the ability to challenge are evidently strongly in place. But out nation’s obsession with opposition, and the willingness of albeit very few to marginalise set individuals may soon have the adverse effect. The sudden influx of political discontent and the deeply rooted challenges that many pose to the status quo could see the destruction of our democracy.

Perhaps I am, in some ways, no better than the few who continue to rage, exaggerating the pessimism which seems to surround Britain’s politics. Whilst opposition is a fundamentally good thing for politics, the movements in which a select few citizens are involved are turning the act of standing up to certain policies into a license for hatred and resentment. If our politicians and citizens are adamant to blame an failing establishment and lax leaders, perhaps it is indeed our representatives who are wrong, and it is those who continue to fuel such a dirty discussion. Maybe when Britain starts to re-energise its public services, a blame on migrants will diminish, and our discussion will become cleaner. Maybe when our government proves to be truly in touch and right on the level of the people, anti-establishment and its needless addiction to blame will fade away. And maybe when leaders who believe in the acceptance of racial slurs and scaremongering step down from the podium, society will start to rebuild its bridges.

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human rights, UK Politics, World Politics

The Tories’ Saudi arms trade is killing innocent civilians

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With a regular dosage of stories on the destructive consequences of Western interventions in the Middle East recently, it seems that civilian deaths have become something normal. A plethora of extremist groups has taken global governments of late by storm, provoking drastic defence measures involving all the superpowers. Dangerously dispersed power amongst tyrannical factions like Islamic State and al-Qaeda has emphasised the strong need for protecting the global community. But the airstrikes and artillery supported and, in some cases, provided by states like the United Kingdom, is having a detrimental effect on innocent civilians.

Since Saudi Arabia’s recent intervention in the tempestuous Yemeni civil war between rebel and president forces, the United Kingdom has rabidly supported its destructive defence policy. David Cameron’s conservative-led government has been pivotal in building Saudi military strength, rather controversially. Whilst the marginalising and weakening of barbaric terrorists is essential, coining the UK’s operations wholly as ‘efforts’ would be a huge overstatement.

Whilst the Saudi defence tactics supported by the UK have had successes, their impact has fostered desolation, death and detriment on a vast scale. Our terrorist methodology is becoming similar to that of medieval times. It was reported in April that a cumulative $6bn has been spent on UK arms production for Saudi Arabian use since the Saudis’ entry into the conflict.  David Cameron has scandalously authorised the provision of astronomical quantities of weaponry produced by UK companies for Saudi Arabian use. It is our government which is in control of the Yemeni people’s fate, and it is our leaders who are choosing not to provide constructive humanitarian aid.

Until very recently, the damaging civilian impact of Britain’s violent strategy has been less reported. Whilst combatting extremism to an extent, civilisations are becoming obliterated, children have been displaced, and essential services have ceased to function. Easy come, easy go. Towns and villages are coming to a standstill, and vital support organisations’ hospitals are failing to cope. David Cameron, alongside an army of MPs, is the pioneer of a crusade massacring millions at the expense of erasing only a handful of brutes. It was estimated a few months ago by the World Health Organisation that around 6,400 civilians with no militant motivation have been killed by western weaponry. Further to this, around 2.5m people have had their livelihoods stripped of them, bearing no possessions nor a roof over their head. Médecins Sans Frontières have had countless facilities reduced to rubble. Instead of bringing political stability, the Tory administration are nurturing a mammoth humanitarian crisis across Yemen. How can our leaders stand by such brutality, which is damaging communities?

Akin to the actions of Tony Blair in regard to the pain of the Iraqi conflict, Cameron is in danger of committing atrocious war crimes. Many Westminster MPs have already condemned the government-supported attacks. This comes alongside criticism from organisations like the United Nations and pressure groups Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Our nation is defying vital human rights convention. Many innocents are having their livelihoods instantaneously stolen from them. Such criticism should be setting the alarm bells ringing. If Russia were collaborating with Saudi Arabia, orchestrating attacks such as those that the UK support, there would be international outcry. The Tories’ reprehensible hand in the arms trade is thus the source of great hypocrisy and deceit.

Once again, the moral case has been outdone by the political and economic cases. The prospect of large sums of money from the Saudis is the true power supply of such careless warfare, as one British government inquiry termed it. Our government has proven that it is morally and politically weak. With growing pressure from US Secretary of State John Kerry, David Cameron and his Atlantic allies have chosen to play into the hands of just a few businesses rather than tread the moral high ground of stamping out such demoralising attacks. Large profits have triumphed over more attentive soft power, destroying the chances for dialogue and collective humanitarian action.

Perhaps in a couple of years, when the flame of the harmful Yemeni conflict dies, will a viable solution to the civil war be found. Hunger, poverty and ill health are continuing to prevail throughout the nation, thanks to British bombs. The United Nations is only 40% towards sourcing the $703m needed for reconstructing the Syrian nation, and it looks like the West would be reluctant to help after recent events.

We have to be hard on extremism, but it is clear that the United Kingdom’s interventions are just too much. The civilian loss is huge. Communities will never be the same. Detriment of this type has been felt before in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan, alongside a great deal of other regions. Where will be next? If our answer to extremism is blood and bombs, the world will fail to increase in political sustainability? Through the United Kingdom’s current methods for defeating such tyranny, terrorism will grow more commonplace, and our international relations will become more brittle. The Yemeni people need humanitarian support, and it is time that our approach focused on teamwork, peace, and sustainability.

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American Politics, World Politics

The White House should be sweating over the FBI’s liberty abuse

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Over recent months, a worrying increase in organised crimes and devastating shootouts all over the United States has shocked citizens worldwide. As politicians and security officials have become hard pressed for security legislation, a balance of civil liberties and state protection has proven seemingly hard to weigh out.

The past few weeks’ events involving the formidable FBI and tech giant Apple have accentuated this conundrum all the more. No one advocates for such catastrophic terrorist attacks, but ensuring privacy when monitoring criminal suspects is vital. There is no denying that this form of criminal investigation can be valuable when enforcing the law. Serious organised crimes and terrorist atrocities are more frequent than ever, and monitoring the movements of suspect individuals is paramount for the protection of a nation’s citizens.

But there is something gravely worrying about such robust precautions. The guaranteed right to privacy of many civilians is at threat. Apple’s resilience towards the FBI’s coercive demands, however, is reassuring news for many liberals. The company’s decision not to aid US agencies in the recovery of personal data on a suspect’s phone has highlighted the need for clamping down on the state’s data monopoly.

Last week, however, with third-party support, the FBI succeeded in breaking through what used to be Apple’s impenetrable wall of security. The highest criminal investigations agency in the world had defied the passcode of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook’s iPhone. George Orwell must be turning in his grave. The FBI’s hacking has proven that the US government – and, evidently, many other global governments – can summon the personal details of any citizen, exposing vast details of their private life. Needless to say, technology use is widespread today. The possibility of those either wrongly or correctly accused of criminal activities having their right to privacy taken away from them is worrying likely. Apple dominates a large section of the worldwide technology market, meaning that the number of individuals who could be at threat from such stringent surveillance measures is considerably large. In the wrong hands, these capabilities could prove to be detrimental. Within myriad governments, the unwarranted tracking of citizens may now become more normal.

The United States isn’t the only nation that must be brought into focus when it comes to the liberties versus security debate. Rigorous monitoring has caused discontent across the world. The information provided by whistle-blowers like Edwards Snowden is pivotal, and shows the large extent to which the US government already spies on its citizens. Other national governments the world over have succeeded in using data monitoring as a source of crime deterrence. China’s strict internet monitoring, the United Kingdom’s ‘snoopers charter’ and the arrest of a Facebook executive in Brazil highlight the rigid surveillance measures which have emerged internationally. Individual liberties are fast becoming unduly curbed. Just because many other states’ governments have succeeded in such wide-scaled monitoring does not mean that the United States can operate a similar system which is free of controversial agenda.

Surely it is time that the White House took definitive action, standing up for its traditionally libertarian principles. There is a large potential for such invasive powers to be used wrongly, and for innocent citizens’ privacy to be crushed. In Obama’s last-minute legislative rush, he and his left-wing democrats should spend the last few months of administration over the protection individual freedoms. Attitudes towards civil liberty and national security could, of course, rapidly change under Presidents Clinton, Trump or Cruz. News that President Obama has failed to either condemn or support the probing actions of the FBI shows up his indecisiveness in relation to the matter. In order to protect his nation’s people, the US President must lucidly proclaim his stance, taking radical action.

Ron Wyden, Senator for Oregon, is just one of the high-profile politicians whom have condemned the controversial actions of the FBI. It seems that, despite the fact that there are plausible arguments for such monitoring in our growingly insecure society, the livelihoods and safety of citizens are at risk. The right to privacy is one which is becoming eroded, and one that is in danger of being forgotten. Unless global governments strike the correct balance, citizens may soon have their individuality and privileges taken from them.

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