MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the tag “politicians”

Winter bunkum

Winter is coming. Finally, after having almost completed half of the three-month calender period of the winter season, meteorologists are predicting freezing temperatures, harsh storms and heavy snowfall.

Simon was happy about it, contrary to most people who were bracing for a disaster as presented by local media.

Simon loved the snow. He saw it as an opportunity for games, where he could ditch school and build snowmen and snow angels from the heavenly flakes that seem to levitate like feathers in the air.

But he was unaware of the trouble the snow caused. How it made life difficult for the poorer castes who lacked the infrastructure to face the adverse conditions. Or how it made access around cities almost impossible, with the snow becoming ice that was too difficult to break to clear the way.

To Simon, all the talk about challenges and difficulties, and the state’s targets and aims, and all such political talk were bunkum. He saw it as simply performative speech-making, insincere rhetoric that only served to spread unnecessary panic among the people. If only, listeners could actually think for themselves, read more, gain a pluralism of information and be critical of everything they hear.

If people could form a viewpoint of their own, perhaps, Simon thought, they could learn to enjoy the snow more.

A World of Shock

disaster_capitalismYou know that old woman who shoved you while hurrying to get off the bus this morning? She was running to get to the hospital, as her husband suffered a heart attack while she was at the market. And remember that young man getting sunburnt on the side of the pavement where he was rooted, who even offered his blessing when you stopped to hand him some change? Two hours later, his cousin dropped by in a fancy car, picked him up and went to the beach.

Things are not always what they seem. Nor can we even imagine what the reality is truly like. In a world marred by constant talk of crisis, sensationalist media reports, and the looming pessimism of disasters – be they natural, financial, political or even moral – we live in a constant state of instability and shock. We are fighting nervous breakdowns by pretending we’re OK, by keeping on moving, by refusing to even consider what would happen if we stopped and breathed it all in.

People all around us seem so different, even though we share common ground. Nonetheless, all we mostly see – or chose to acknowledge – is the extent to which we vary from each other. And this usually always means that “the others” are most often luckier, more privileged, and “have it easy”. Or even that those who have managed to travel beyond the continent, somehow have returned deeming themselves over and above their compatriots, as if now they are somehow better than everyone else, as if they no longer belong to this world. There are people like that. Who managed to rise up from the slums into a life of riches, and all of a sudden, they have become too important to deal with “petty commoners”, or even “locals”. Those who rise from their ashes remembering their past and helping others survive it too are, unfortunately, a rarity in this world.

In one of the most enthralling, shocking, riveting, and illuminating books of modern times, Naomi Klein describes exactly this. How we live in a world of shock. How certain capitalists pursue a “Shock Doctrine” in order to impose Milton Friedman’s Chicago School model of deregulation, privatization, and cut of public spending. It reveals our world as it truly is, one run by capitalism that has no interest for its human impact. She dubs this “Disaster Capitalism”, because it concerns big private companies profiting at the expense of the poorer and lower down on the social scale, whenever disaster (in any form) strikes. It is the implementation of a shock and awe policy. Simply considering the world we live in today – this constant state of “crisis” – it is not hard to see that certain international institutions (the International Monetary Fund, for example) are doing exactly this – demanding that their terms be implemented if money is to be disbursed; terms that include drastic spending cuts, VAT increases, privatisations, cuts in the public sector, no matter what that may mean to the levels of unemployment, poverty and a break in the social chasm. According to this powerful book, the only thing that shines some optimism among us, is the fact that memory is the strongest shock absorber of all, and the only one capable of providing resistance to the repeating of such events.

No matter what you read, or if you don’t read at all, Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” is an eye-opening book that everyone – every politician who is not an idiot, every citizen who wants to make a difference, every person who refuses to be a lemming – should read. You will never view the world in the same way ever again.

Going in for the news, staying for the gossip

Big-NewsEvery good journalist knows that for a story to be newsworthy it should be interesting, unusual, with an element of novelty and proximity, and above all worth reading. New York Sun editor John B. Bogart best summed this up in one phrase: “When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news.”

But every media professional knows that for a story to be newsworthy it simply needs to gain the attention of the audience, and…sell. That is why tabloids and gossip magazines tend to have a wider reach than the more “serious” press. Because people after all are more interested in gossip – in the lives of others – and “light” social news, than what goes on around them.

The “real” news is not whether Parliament passed a bill on a tax measure, or whether a civil war broke out in the Middle East; it is rather whether a known celebrity has given birth, or whether an actor got married. As such, the birth of the royal baby on 22 July gained an unprecedented extensive coverage globally, overshadowing the fact that a 6R earthquake in China killed 94 people, or that the conflict in Syria was fueled when rebels seized a northern town in the Aleppo province. Instead of that, millions of people gathered in endless crowds to stand for hours outside a hospital, when news of the birth would come from the palace, and viewers from around the world tuned in to watch the 24 hour coverage of what was dubbed as “news”, but in essence was nothing more than gossip – people of all sorts, simply stating their opinion on camera. The Private Eye was perhaps most satirical (and realistic) about this, stating what was obvious – that a woman had a baby.

But people are interested in news such as this for the mere reason that it involves people who are prominent, celebrities; people who are believed to live a life of luxury and glamour, carefree, and comfortable, getting to do exactly what they want without thinking twice about it. It’s as if these people are part of a different world unbeknown to the common masses that read these gossip columns.

People love to talk about each other. Isn’t that the reason why everyone logs onto social media sites? It’s not to read about the meeting of ministers that took place this afternoon. No. It’s to see who’s dating who, and to get up-to-date with all the latest “hot” pieces of “news”.  It’s what fascinates people. And it is certainly much more fast-paced and ‘enjoyable’ than the usual stalemate and repetition of politics.

It’s the sensationalized stories that sell, the ones that reach out to the humane and curious nature of mankind, the ones that offer a variation to the troubled lives of the masses, and the ones that say something different. Perhaps that is a message the people’s representatives should receive loud and clear (if they care about public life that is, and are not idiots) – that in essence they are not even newsworthy any more.

Welcome to the Middle Ages, 2013

Need-HopeSo, what seems to be the biggest problem during this past decade?

Is it famine?

Is it poverty?

Or is it politicians?

Is it empty promises that lead to nothing? Austerity policies pushing for more cuts, lower wages, and a soaring unemployment that simply cannot be controlled?

It’s all of the above. It’s the bad handling of policies by a group of people whose only concern was to take care of their own lives. And now, leaders from all over the world are gathering every so often, in one bustling city or another, in order to, as they proclaim “find ways to combat” youth unemployment, or the recession, or the financial crisis in general.

What no one admits though is that we live in a 21st century, that all the more looks like the Middle Ages. In order to survive, you have to already have money. You have to have a financial capital behind you so that you can go out and look for a job, and afford to take on two, three, even five internships at minimal (or even absent) pay, before landing a full-time job.

You have to have the professional experience and skills for permanent employment simply in order to get an unpaid traineeship.

And what’s worse: everyone expects you to be grateful for it. For simply offering you the experience. Or simply because you have a job – no matter how badly paid that is, how many hours you work, how exploited you are.

We live in an era were only the wealthy survive. The middle class does not exist. And the lower ranks are ignored.

We live in a society where in the midst of an economic crisis and in a state on the verge of default, bankers and civil servants have the audacity to demand bonuses and higher wages, when the private sector employees are sacked without even compensation.

And then, the very people whose debauchery and later recipe of austerity led to this very situation, are the ones who declare that unemployment will be reversed if the same policies continue, with a few structural reforms for good measure. Reforms that further lower people’s living standards.

People ruling, or rather, the ruling elite, live in their own gilded towers, in a bubble. They fail to understand the concerns of the “ordinary folk”. They fail to walk in their shoes, because they have elevated themselves so far up that they have lost touch with it all. And if a politician has no contact with his/her “polis”, the people who elected him/her, then s/he loses all credibility. And all you have out there is just another selfish “official” only aspiring for more (personal) power.

Post Navigation