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May 27, 2009

Actually, Churchill understood the virtues of European cooperation

Actually, Churchill understood the virtues of European cooperation

Churchill’s speech to Zurich University, 1946:

Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honored to-day by being received in your ancient university and by the address which had been given to me on your behalf and which I greatly value.

I wish to speak to you to-day about the tragedy of Europe. This noble continent, comprising on the whole the fairest and the most cultivated regions of the earth, enjoying a temperate and equable climate, is the home of all the great parent races of the western world. It is the fountain of Christian faith and Christian ethics. It is the origin of most of the culture, the arts, philosophy and science both of ancient and modern time. If Europe were once united in the sharing of its common inheritance, there would be no limit to the happiness, to the prosperity and the glory which its three or four million people would enjoy. Yet it is from Europe that have sprung that series of frightful nationalistic quarrels, originated by the Teutonic nations in their rise to power, which we have seen in this twentieth century and even in our own lifetime, wreck the peace and mar the prospects of all mankind.

And what is the plight to which Europe has been reduced? Some of the smaller States have indeed made a good recovery, but over wide areas a vast quivering mass of tormented, hungry, care-worn and bewildered human beings gape at the ruins of their cities and their homes, and scan the dark horizons for the approach of some new peril, tyranny or terror. Among the victors there is a babel of voices; among the vanquished the sullen silence of despair. That is all that Europeans, grouped in so many ancient states and nations, that is all that the Germanic races have got by tearing each other to pieces and spreading havoc far and wide. Indeed but for the fact that the great Republic across the Atlantic Ocean has at length realized that the ruin or enslavement of Europe would involve their own fate as well, and has stretched out hands of succor and of guidance, but for that the Dark Ages would have returned in all their cruelty and squalor. Gentlemen, they may still return.

Yet all the while there is a remedy which, if it were generally and spontaneously adopted by the great majority of people in many lands, would as if by a miracle transform the whole scene, and would in a few years make all Europe, or the greater part of it, as free and as happy as Switzerland is to-day. What is this sovereign remedy? It is to re-create the European Family, or as much of it as we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe.

In this way only will hundreds of millions of toilers be able to regain the simple joys and hopes which make life worth living. The process is simple. All that is needed is the resolve of hundreds of millions of men and women to do right instead of wrong and to gain as their reward blessing instead of cursing.

Much work, Ladies and Gentlemen, has been done upon this task by the exertions of the Pan-European Union which owes so much to Count Coudenhove-Kalergi and which commanded the services of the famous French patriot and statesman Aristide Briand.

[…]

And why should there not be a European group which could give a sense of enlarged patriotism and common citizenship to the distracted peoples of this turbulent and mighty continent? And why should it not take its rightful place with other great groupings and help to shape the onward destinies of men? In order that this should be accomplished there must be an act of faith in which millions of families speaking many languages must consciously take part.

[…]

I am now going to say something that will astonish you. The first step in the re-creation of the European Family must be a partnership between France and Germany. In this way only can France recover the moral and cultural leadership of Europe. There can be no revival of Europe without a spiritually great France and a spiritually great Germany. The structure of the United States of Europe, if well and truly built, will be such as to make the material strength of a single state less important. Small nations will count as much as large ones and gain their honor by their contribution to the common cause. The ancient states and principalities of Germany, freely joined together for mutual convenience in a federal system, might take their individual places among the United States of Europe. I shall not try to make a detailed programme for hundreds of millions of people who want to be happy and free, prosperous and safe, who wish to enjoy the four freedoms of which the great President Roosevelt spoke, and live in accordance with the principles embodied in the Atlantic Charter. If this is their wish, if this is the wish of the Europeans in so many lands, they have only to say so, and means can certainly be found, and machinery erected, to carry that wish to full fruition.

But I must give you a warning. Time may be short. At present there is a breathing-space. The cannons have ceased firing. The fighting has stopped; but the dangers have not stopped. If we are to form the United States of Europe, or whatever name it may take, we must begin now.

In these present days we dwell strangely and precariously under the shield, and I will even say protection, of the atomic bomb. The atomic bomb is still only in the hands of a state and nation which we know will never use it except in the cause of right and freedom. But it may well be that in a few years this awful agency of destruction will be widespread and the catastrophe following from its use by several warring nations will not only bring to an end all that we call civilization, but may possibly desintegrate the globe itself.

I must now sum up the propositions which are before you. Our constant aim must be to build and fortify the strength of the United Nations Organization. Under and within that world concept we must re-create the European Family in a regional structure called, it may be, the United States of Europe. And the first practical step would be to form a Council of Europe. If at first all the States of Europe are not willing or able to join the Union, we must nevertheless proceed to assemble and combine those who will and those who can. The salvation of the common people of every race and of every land from war or servitude must be established on solid foundations and must be guarded by the readiness of all men and women to die rather than submit to tyranny. In all this urgent work, France and Germany must take the lead together. Great Britain, the British Commonwealth of Nations, mighty America and I trust Soviet Russia-for then indeed all would be well-must be the friends and sponsors of the new Europe and must champion its right to live and shine.

Therefore I say to you:

Let Europe arise!

Churchill was better than this

'Churchill was better than this'

I would say they’ve skewed his words, but they’ve actually airbrushed them from history. How can they use this great man in their concieted and short-sighted campaign to remove the UK from one of the most remarkable examples of international cooperation in the world?

‘Family Values’

May 27, 2009
Picture-perfect 2.4 children, white, middle class vs. game consoles, iPods (and Homosexuals and Feminists too, no doubt)

Picture-perfect 2.4 children, white, middle class vs. game consoles, iPods (and Homosexuals and Feminists too, no doubt)

The family is the holy cow of modern British politics. Politicans from all parties fall over themselves to fawn over how this cherished institution is in need of protection, bolstering and celebration. The family is a simple – and of course ‘common sense’  – template for ending the ubitiqous and decidedly Twenty-First Century problems such as knife crime, binge drinking, vice and gambling.

I came across this article which makes what is, in my opinion, a very good point. It lead to me wonder about why the Right enforces such a prescrptive ‘family’ on the rest of society? We are used to hearing accusations of the ‘Left’ seeking to destroy this all-healing institution by giving families* who need it most – usually single parent households – tax breaks or other benefits. *(And yes, they are families despite not conforming to the Right’s false prescriptions.)

Family breakdown is due to government giving benefits to poorer single-income households? Find me a family which has seperated due to the apparent ‘inscentive’ of government cash!

And if the Right’s fake families (just 7% fulfil their ideal! See Independent article) will only stick together simply for government tax breaks, then what kind of a family are they? I’d much rather live in a loving family, regardless of its make up than in a household in which the parents are only together for the Tory’s planned married couple’s tax allowance.

Do not miss my point here – I’m not attacking two-parent households, I’m attacking the condecending, paternalistic and warped attitudes of people like Ian Duncan-Smith who thinks pushing single-parent households into poverty will somehow alleviate social problems he himself says come from family breakdown.

Conservatives need to wake up and see that despite many contemparty problems in society – which I will not deny the existance of – the solution is not painting a almost hysterically utopian vision of the past and placing the blame on the rise of totally legitimate, loving – but shock! – different families which most children the UK today live in.

Social ills pre-date any family breakdown

Binge drinking pre-dates any 'family breakdown'

Neither should the family be used as a weapon against gay couples or as a means to demonise single mothers or mothers who wish to work. Civil unions, or even marriage between gay people doesn’t threaten the family. Divorce does. Even then, children can find solace in other, less conventional family ties – between their parents, despite their seperation, and other family members they may live with or be cared by, such as grandparents or step-parents.

We would never demean families with just one parent through death, so why the stigma of seperation by choice from the Tories?

Marriage is important to many, many people, but government should support all families – especially those who need it most, rather than being self-congratuatory, which is the tone many on the Right seem to take. Holier than thou will not solve anything and neither will helping those who do not require such financial help while forcing lone parents to work rather than bring their children up property.

Families don’t stick together for cash – it’s about love, the very point Carol Sarler makes, which makes her picture of the modern British family so much more believable.

Dis-amour

May 26, 2009

The relics of the Cold War are brought back to the fore by a pariah state
No, that isn't Girls Aloud on re-entry

North Korea detonates its second nuclear bomb, 20 times larger than its previous test, raising the prospect of a rebel state moving ever-closer to full nuclear capability. Though the DPRK army is way off ever having a weapon as spectacularly powerful (and beautiful) as that of the ICBM in the picture above,  it raises the terrifying prospect of a country gaining nuclear weaponry while it is still legally at war with its immediate neighbour, whose sprawling capital city of 24.5m people is just twenty-five miles from the highly militarised demarcation line.

North Korea must be stopped. But why do countries seek nuclear weapons? And can they ever be justified?

Nuclear weapons are a symbol of national sovereignty, a force that certifies a country’s monopoly of power over its citizens in defiance of any attempt by a foreign power to impinge on it. ‘Rouge states’ such as North Korea, and allegedly Iran, seek these weapons as safe-guards – a way of ensuring no other country dares to launch a bold regime change and to prevent them ‘going the way of Iraq’.

In a post-Cold War world where the balance of terror has been replaced by economic interdependence, nuclear weapons have never looked more out of place.

The general assumption about who is deserves to be in the ‘Nuclear Club’ revolves around responsible governance. Currently comprised of the USA, UK, France, Russia, China, Pakistan, India, Pakistan and (the biggest open secret in the world) Israel there is clearly no correlation between being ‘in the club’ and adhering to democratic, liberal norms and international conventions. This begs the question as to why NK and Iran shouldn’t also be allowed to pursue these aims – especially when nuclear proliferation treaties have been disregarded by the international community at large?

My perception is that people regard – whether correctly or not – that the current ‘legitimate’ countries with nuclear weapons will not use them due to their stability (Pakistan?) and regard for international conventions (USA? Israel?).

This begs several questions – if states will not use their nuclear weapons, are they necessary? Should we (the UK) spend billions on upgrading our nuclear submarines if we are not going to use them?

Realistically, there is no country currently posing a nuclear threat to our fellow citizens. The success of liberalism is demonstrated by the fact that countries today generally don’t go to war with each other – civil war and both international and domestic terrorism has replaced state conflict as the primary threats to global security. Nuclear weapons cannot combat these issues.

Further to this is the moral aspect of nuclear weaponry.

It is not right that citizens be held hostage by states. It is a war crime to attack civilians directly in times of war; nobody wishes to return to fire-bombing of entire cities vis-a-vis Dresden or Tokyo in WWII or blitzes on British cities in the same era. By their, the magnitude of nuclear weapon achieve the same results with a single bomb. How can weapons with such little regard for human life be tolerated in this day and age? Their massive destructive force also makes any war with such weapons simply unwinnable in the conventional sense. Annihilation of, conceivably, entire countries and regions means nothing is salvageable from such wreckage, rendering war useless except to decimate entire peoples.

Nuclear tactics are at best crude, with deterrence the main reason they are kept. The logic behind deterrance is sickening – if you nuke us we’ll nuke you. I find that George Kennan sums up the humane position any person who accepts the value of human-life and universal worth of all people would take.

Let us suppose there were to be a nuclear attack of some sort on this country and millions of people were killed and injured. Let us further suppose that we had the ability to retaliate against the urban centers of the country that had attacked us. Would you do that? I wouldn’t … I have no sympathy with the man who demands an eye for an eye in a nuclear attack.

Certaintly, a world without nuclear weapons is an ideal we ought to strive for. North Korea must be dealt with and under no circumstances should they be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. Despite my objections to all counties with nuclear weapons, North Korea is certainly a special case.

We must not fall into the rut of fatalism prevalent in the inter-war period, and repeated throughout history since.

The Locarno Treaties were an early attempt at disarmament. Aristide Briand sings his famous speech - "No more blood, no more cannon, no more machine-guns! ... Let our countries sacrifice their amour-propre for the sake of the peace of the world"

Barack Obama has the right idea but leaders must take the initiative and offer concrete, and if need be unilateral concessions just like Gorbachev offered at the Reykjavik meeting with Regan – promising massive reductions – if not total disarmament of – nuclear weapons. One of histories great chances at nuclear disarmament sadly never transpired due to American reluctance.

Let this be clear, however, I’m not calling for total military disarmament, I’m calling for our defence budget to be better apportioned. When your nations own generals make comments such as this, one has to wonder why we really need nuclear arms.

UPDATE: North Korea threatens military action, abandons truce..

Electoral reform

May 26, 2009

It’s not because Labour have abused their overinflated number of seats for 11 years and want to minimise their impending humiliation at the next election or anything.

Mission

May 25, 2009
tags:

Mission statement:

A place for thoughts, a take on current affairs and anything that catches my eye – from architecture, to current affairs and politics.