Thursday, May 07, 2009

John Gray Talk: Beware Fascism

I went along to see the political philosopher John Gray give a talk yesterday at the Watershed. It was a very illuminating talk with lots of interesting points. His main point is that regardless we admit it or not, many of us have an idea of political 'progress' as a cumulative thing. What he means is that science and technology are cumulative - as in, once we solve one issue or problem, we can build new knowledge and technology on the back of that. As our knowledge about the world gets greater and the technology we can develop also grows. For example, as our ability to understand micro-technology grows we have been able to progress that knowledge further and further so we can each have a personal PC that is many times more powerful than the one NASA used to send people to the moon in the 60s.

Gray says we all tend to fall into the trap of applying the same ideals to political progress. There these is a big narrative to history; be it religious or secular - that we think history has a direction. So once universal suffrage is gained, that's democracy sorted and we can progress to exporting it (e.g. Iraq). Those (like the Neocons) who aims for impossible gains (spreading democracy via the gun) always end up sacrificing other people's lives on their alter of progress. He suggests this is foolish, that while the progress made is a good thing (he cited women's rights, ending slavery etc as good things we should protect) that when the sit hits the fan these can(and do) get reversed very quickly.

In his 2003 book 'Al Queda and What it Means to Be Modern' he does predict the economic collapse. In the talk he pointed out that tens of thousands of practising economists failed to. What does that say about the system? It says reverses can and do happen and the happen fast. Prior to this fall he suggests the hubris was that we thought we could control risk. We could not. He now predicts that we are in the first stages of a longer collapse and that reverses will happen - that groups of humans will blame other groups of humans and turn on each other. He also predicts the return of the racist right as part of this.

Looking at the predicted gains of the BNP, even the Evening Post's acquiesce to casual racism against travellers, it seems his predictions are coming to pass. Gray suggests things like resisting ID cards are worthy because while the government may claim benign reasons for it, almost all knowledge and technology can be used for ill, and as reveres happen fast, we should not empower the state with this data.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Down with politicians!

Saturday 20 June, 11 am - 6 pm
Ruskin College, Walton Street, Oxford

We cordially invite YOU to visit the 1st ever OXFORD WORKING CLASS BOOKFAIR! There will be books, talks, workshops, short films and more books and magazines . . .

We plan to recover/reclaim some of the hidden history of Oxford, with its gallery of rogues, rebels and revolutionaries, to touch upon some topics of contemporary relevance to the man & woman on the street today, provide quality entertainment, discuss the big issues past and present & hopefully have a real good time to boot! - All in a relaxed and warm atmosphere!

The range of local groups invited includes; political groups, Trade Unions, community groups, campaign groups, booksellers and history societies. If you would like to have a stall email us at the address above!

The event will include a commemoration of the hundredth anniversary of the 1909 RUSKIN COLLEGE STUDENT STRIKE, a pioneering student uprising for independent working class education, that saw students breakaway to form a radical education and self-help networks based on an alternative progressive view of what education could be. They argued that it wasn't enough for the working class to have limited extended access to higer education, but rather that they needed a fundamentally different kind of education, curriculum & pedagogy to meet their needs and the needs of the class. They were involved in the PLEBS LEAGUE (a grassroots education iniative) and set up an anti-capitalist education network of CENTRAL LABOUR COLLEGES, many of the leaders of the student uprising were miners and trade unionists who went on to be authors of THE MINERS NEXT STEP, a classic text of rank & file trade unionism and syndicalism.

Along the way, we will learn the story of the RED SHIRTS, a group set up at Ruskin College to sabotage the attempts of Oswald Mosely's fascist BLACK SHIRTS to get a base in 1930s Oxford & consider how we fight against fascism & racism today. There will also be sessions on culture, trade union & labour history, feminism/women's liberation, ecology & climate, war & empire etc. More information about speakers, events and other happenings planned will appear on our page shortly - watch this space! Sponsors include the local I.W.W and trade unionists.