Category Archives: Politics

Political issues

A View from the Streets of London: Syria

Should we go to war with Assad? Or should we stay out of Syria?

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This WorldBytes production interviews people on the streets of London, to see what we the people have to say about military intervention in the sovereign state.

As the western hemisphere prepares to go to war with Assad, we at Worldbytes think the views of us, the citizens of this nation, ought to be taken into consideration. FInd out what the people we met in London had to say about military intervention in Syria.

About WorldBytes

If you live in London, please consider volunteering or donating to Worldbytes, the charity behind this production. Worldbytes provide free vocational training in producing media to anyone. Find out more, and watch the rest of their clips by heading to the website.

In response to Brendan O’Neil – The Royal Birth

Note: This is a response to an article written by Brendan O’Neil, Editor of spiked. Often I’ll write out a lengthy and researched reply but never recieve a reply from the author. Rather then let the discussion be lost as it so often is, I’m hoping this new feature will help bring them to a wider audience.

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.

Kate’s baby and the myth of the monarchist masses
by Brendan O’Niel

My Response…

You make a fair point Brendan, it is wrong of those who oppose the broad coverage of this event to look down upon those who do enjoy it. Arrogance is a terrible thing, regardless of if you are right or not. Another criticism you could make is that by writing about the royal birth these critics are increasing media coverage of the topic, and thereby directly attributing to what they supposedly despise. Both sides are playing to their readership. The birth is a hot topic, equally if you venerate or vindicate the royal family.

But by claiming that you know what “true” Republicanism means you are committing the same fallacy as those who you claim are “public-allergic republicans”. Namely, that you know better than those who should dare to mock the royal birth. A lot of these persons however are lower working class themselves. Your image of those who support the royal family and those who don’t is grossly inaccurate. Likewise, those who oppose the broad coverage of the royal birth have an equal right to share their reasons to why they oppose it, as those who follow it should be able to without obstruction. As you rightly stated, true republicanism is about what the people have to say. By standing up for one side, you ultimately do not stand for all people.

You also make the case that the royal family are nothing but celebrities, describing Kate as a “posh” Kim Kardashian. I must contend this notion. Queen Elizabeth II is a “constitutional monarch” meaning that she acts as head of state within the boundaries of a constitution. The royal family therefore have powers still enshrined in law, and are obligated to perform certain civic duties. If people enjoy them as celebrities, then they ought not to take any money from The Crown Estate and rescind these official duties. They should find ways to earn an income through the means that celebrities do, and not depend on profits from land passed down since the 11th century, land their ancestors claimed by supposed divine right.

These issues are increasingly important and unjustifiable in this age of austerity. If the average Joe has to incur cuts to the welfare estate, then so ought to the royal family, who increased their expenditure for three years in a row now. The royal’s use around £35 million of public money a year, profits from The Crown estate. This is excluding security services, which would put this total a lot higher. For instance, in 2012 The British government spent a grand total of $52 million on property upkeep, communication, security and travel expenses for The Queen.

This seems ludicrous when we consider that the cost of the controversial “Health Tourism” issue was estimated at only £30 million a year. What do you think brings more benefit to society; financing the royal family, or providing healthcare to those who need it? The government waged a successful war against providing free medical care to Non-EU citizens, an issue that is arguably incredibly important to tourism. Yet that same government argues the monarchy are necessary to tourism, hence we mustn’t stop funding them? What an utterly ridiculous and hypocritical contention.

The important question here is do we need an official constitutional monarchy? Honestly, probably not. Do I think people ought to be follow the lives of people that interest them? Of course, I’m not here to tell people what they can and cannot do with their free time. But this is under the condition that the royal family should be treated like normal celebrities and therefore normal citizens. They should not expect any special treatment from the government in the terms of financial assistance, and should rescind their official civic duties, titles, whilst operate using only their own income that is not from The Crown Estate.

WorldBytes: The Home of Citizen TV

Please take a look at these films I am very proud to have taken part in for WorldBytes as a Volunteer

The Wide Angle: Eco films & Emotionalism

Movie chat has rarely captured what’s at stake so effectively as this bar room banter. In a discussion on three well known apocalyptic eco-films, An Inconvenient truth, The Day after Tomorrow and Age of Stupid, a trio of guest experts take us beyond the usual finger pointing at doom-mongers. A palette of emotions: fear; loss and regret, are used to shortcut politics and convince us to change our behaviour or be seen as morally circumspect. Worse still, we learn, these films portray us as unable to deal with problems altogether. This is environmental determinism summed up; what matters to ecologists is what the climate or science will make us do, not what we decide we want to do about our future. Our options to think big, take control and develop what we need to manage climate change should we want to, are closed down. Given their hysterical claims of looming catastrophe, planetary extinction and ice ages it’s revealing that all we are advised to do is change a light bulb. Treating us like children consigned to the ‘naughty step’, as a scourge on the planet and ultimately ‘stupid’, these films are profoundly anti-human. While these films resemble ‘the rant you’d get from an eco-warrior in a pub’ we’re told, they nonetheless represent ‘the full download of prevailing perceptions’. These films are worth discussing because they represent a political culture that needs to be challenged if we are serious about reclaiming the idea of destiny as something we should control.

 

Alternative lectures: What is Humanism? (Part 1)

Professor of Sociology Frank Furedi answers the question ‘What is Humanism?’ in this short lecture filmed in the WORLDbytes studio. Whilst humanist ideas have been around for a long time, he observes, they have never been more weakly affirmed than at present. In ancient as well as renaissance times thinkers struggled with questions around what forces determine our destiny and began to formulate ideas that human beings themselves, rather than God or nature had a responsibility for making the world. Humanism, we learn, begins to flourish in renaissance Italy and finds more mature expression in the 17th and 18th centuries. Modern determinisms such as 19th century economic determinism or today’s eco-determinism, biological determinism or psychological determinism are all really evasions or excuses that diminish our own sense of taking responsibility for what happens. A Humanist outlook should equip us with an orientation towards reason, problem-solving and a healthy scepticism towards determinisms (or the fates) in the present day. Professor Furedi doesn’t overcomplicate the issue or use mystifying jargon in this refreshing and enlightening lecture.

Common Misconceptions in Society

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It’s not exactly news that people have blatant misconceptions about the workings of society. I was reading a New Statesman article highlighting the fallacies in the public’s beliefs on political issues. It was really quite harrowing to see the common misperceptions in our society. As Bobby Duffy and Hetan Shah report;

On average, we think 24% of the population are Muslims – when the real figure is around 5%; we think 31% are immigrants – when the official figure is 13%; and we think 36% are aged 65+ – when in fact only 16% are.

People grossly overestimate the amount that is spent on foreign aid: a quarter of us think it is one of the 2-3 things government spends the most money on, when it is actually only around 1% of expenditure.

The biggest single error in our survey is on the scale of benefit fraud: people think that out of every £100 spend on benefits, £24 is claimed fraudulently, when the best government estimate is that it’s actually only around 70p.”

I have some further examples to add to this superb analysis. Tax avoidance and evasion costs the taxpayer almost £120 billion a year. We collectively spend over £60 billion a year waging war in distant lands. The British government spends almost £2 billion on intelligence agencies, that spy on us and the world in its entirety.

The much disputed Health Tourism issue however, only costs the taxpayer £30 million a year. The cost of granting amnesty to all undocumented immigrants would cost us £4 billion. And the despised benefit fraudsters cost us just over £1 billion a year, as mentioned, only 70p of every £100 spent on benefits.

70p – is this what the Cameron government is waging a political war against? Is this what concerns us more than the suffering of our fellow human beings?

We spend billions trying to kill and oppress. We spend billions trying to catch and deport these supposed criminals. It is estimated that it would cost £12 billion pounds to deport all undocumented workers, three times as much as granting them amnesty. Not to mention the huge benefit it provides for them and the British economy. You tell me, what would you rather spent our taxes on – creating meaningful and lasting change in this world? Or trying to oppress and silence these already marginalised groups in society?

As David North, head of SEP in America puts it:

We have at our disposal material resources of which our revolutionary ancestors could hardly even dream. Were it not for the social and political obstacles that stand in the way of its realization, the eradication of poverty, … throughout the world, would be merely a technical problem which the existing level of science and industry is fully capable of solving.

And yet, nowadays, we are offered justifications and rationalizations for the existence of poverty and even squalor that would have embarrassed and offended thinking people 200 years ago. In our present society, people are conditioned to walk down a city street and take no notice of the ubiquitous scenes of human distress and social misery.”

These misconceptions and double standards are so prevalent that we think nothing of them. For instance, on April 15th, Martin Richard, an 8-Year-Old boy was brutally killed in the Boston Bombing attack. People all over the world wept for the child, and sent their condolences to his family. Shortly after, the assailants of this horrific attack felt the full force of US justice.

Last month on June 9th, a 10 year old boy was killed in a US drone strike in Yemen. The US refuse to even accept that they’ve murdered the child. Estimates suggest that nearly a thousand civilians have been killed in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia over the past decade. Just some more “collateral damage” in our supposed war on terror.

Where are these peoples justice? Where is the equality in this world? The use of verified fact is severely lacking in the publics understanding of issues. We need to educate ourselves and then others to these facts in order to reveal an inalienable truth that is so lacking in contemporary politics. That’s the only manner in which we can quell these fallacies in the public’s beliefs, because our government seems hell bent on further dividing our society over menial issues.

The ShortReport – Snowden Update

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Announcement: I’ve almost hit 1000 unique visitors guys, woohoo! To celebrate, I’m launching a new feature called The Short Report! The idea is I give you a quick breakdown on what’s happening on a particular issue, linking to articles as I go. This way you can read a short summary if you’re pressed for time,  or read further in depth analysis and commentary by following the links provided. I’m going to try and keep them around 300-600 words. Please let me know any suggestions/criticisms. 

NSA Prism illustration

Just a quick update for you all on the Snowden and mass surveillance scandal – a couple of weeks ago I wrote about the Five Eyes, a network of major western powers who work in tandem to spy on peoples private communications. Some of these countries are now “complaining” about the NSA’s programs. Edward Snowden has revealed further details about Australia’s links to secret US Spying program,  identifying a number of operations such as one dubbed “ThinThread”.

Mr Snowden also said that the “Five Eyes” partnership is organised so that authorities in each country can “insulate their political leaders from the backlash” when it became public “how grievously they’re violating global privacy”.

Rather unsurprisingly, Cuba’s Raul Castro has criticized the U.S and backs allies on Snowden’s bid for asylum, accusing the United States of employing a “philosophy of domination.

These actions demonstrate we live in a world in which the powerful feel they can violate international law, violate the national sovereignty of other states and trample on the rights of citizens.

The U.S. responded to these Latin American countries with hostility, suggesting they will use trade sanctions to “to send a very clear message that we won’t put up with this kind of behaviour.”

The US claims that these countries have undermined “the importance of trust.”

Snowden has also revealed how the GCHQ in Britain Soaks up mass Internet data. The Tempora system is the signal intelligence community’s first “full-take Internet buffer,” according to the whistle blower.

It snarfs everything, in a rolling buffer to allow retroactive investigation without missing a single bit…if it routes through the UK, we get it.

He also accused Germany’s federal intelligence agency, the BND of working with the NSA to collect signals intelligence.

Further leaks from Snowden have revealed Brazil has been victim of cyber espionage by the NSA. Brazil has asked US to explain this internet surveillance, saying they received the reports from Snowden “with deep concern.

Brazil appears on the charts of the American agency (National Security Agency, or NSA) as a prime target for the espionage of phone calls and other data, alongside nations like China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan.

If that has happened, these companies broke Brazilian law and acted against our Constitution, which safeguards the right to privacy.

It seems that US attempts to block Edward Snowden are ‘bolstering’ case for asylum, and in fact giving the whistle blower stronger allies. Evo Morales stated that the forced plane-grounding debacle will never be forgotten in South America.

The issue however, is one of a lack of safety for Snowden if sent back to the US. For instance, a lack of transparency means tainted justice for Bradley Manning, and many fear a similar fate for Snowden if he is extradited. Daniel Ellsberg, who was charged under the espionage act in 1971, suggested Snowden was right to run, for:

He would almost certainly be confined in total isolation, even longer than the more than eight months Manning suffered during his three years of imprisonment before his trial began.

One lesson of the Pentagon Papers and Snowden’s leaks is simple: secrecy corrupts, just as power corrupts.

After two years of preparation the US-EU free trade talks are beginning amid this spying row. However, more leaked information is showing that the key European players in these discussions are just as guilty as the US when it comes to unlawful surveillance.

In the meantime, things are still getting worse in the US. In Secret, a court vastly broadened the powers of the N.S.A. — judges have expanded the use in terrorism cases of a legal principle known as the “special needs” doctrine, and carved out an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of a warrant for searches and seizures, officials have said.

The Problem with Capitalism

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(Note to reader: This is a reworking of an interesting post on reddit by user noamsky. At first I was just going to repost, but decided to fix errors, improve the wording and also introduced more established economic arguments and terms, to make it read more like an essay. For more reading on the topic, I would suggest you start with the links provided, as they give more substantial data and evidence to back these claims. However, I do necessarily agree with what is argued. This is merely a exercise to practice my subbing skills.)

We often hear, and are often told that free commerce is the undeniable only means to achieve prosperity for all.

I however reject this claim, for Capitalism as it stands has two major problems – Wealth Condensation and Economic Inequalities.

The problem of wealth condensation occurs when you have a finite amount of resources and they’re all privately owned. The most wealthy of those agents begin to benefit from some natural advantages that arise out of this disproportionate allocation of wealth.  At its most basic, we might argue this to be some form of “economies of scale”. Some of you who have studied economics or business in the past, may have some inkling as to what this term means. A very broad definition states that those with greater means of production, can benefit from reduced cost with increased levels of output.

How does this concept tie in with wealth condensation? Those with this larger portion of wealth have much more freedom than those without; that includes freedom to make money. Simply put, the losers and winners in a free market are decided largely by circumstance. When everything has a monetary value, those with more income are automatically able to access greater range of opportunities than those with no accrued wealth. Since having a large income or vast reserves of wealth increases opportunities to compound this wealth, the process is a type of positive feedback loop, or a condensation of wealth at the very top of the hierarchy. Hence, wealth continues to concentrate into fewer hands, whilst income inequalities are exacerbated in the process. This too can be considered a positive feedback loop. As wealth disparities accrue, the working class becomes increasingly desperate, ever more at the mercy of the modern day rich elite and their accompanying class of bourgeois. This is because their very survival depends on the oft touted trickle down of wealth from the very top of this pyramid.

As we have economies of scale for a business or institution, the concept also applies to the individual agent. For instance, suppose you have enough money to make a deposit on a house, and thereby procure a mortgage. This reduces your monthly expenses, and you begin to receive some of your mortgage payments as equity in your home. However, if one is unable to produce this initial down payment, the only other available option is to rent a property. The renter incurs a greater loss than the owner. This is due to the opportunity cost of the equity lost aggregated with the increased cost of rent compared to mortgage. Such persons are at the mercy of the landlord.

We can apply this same analogy to many real life situations for a majority of people in this world. If you have a high income or similarly, inherited wealth, you would be more inclined to pay for your child’s education. This is so that they can better devote their energies to study. Hence, there is greater chance these children will perform well in school, and land a well paying, respectable job. This is supported by evidence. For instance, recent studies have shown providing direct income support to poor families can dramatically increase academic performance.

However, if there is a lack of financial assistance and one comes from a poor household, parents would be inclined to tell the student to work as opposed to go to school. They may also ask the child themselves to help with financing their own education, or they may be forced to take out substantial loans. If they choose the latter, they must toil even harder on completion to repay the borrowed sum, with interest of course. However, what we have seen recently is many graduates are being forced into low skilled labour, such as serving tables at restaurants. This is because there is nothing more productive for society that they could be doing.  This all pertains to the issue at hand –  the only manner in which anything gets done under capitalism, is if someone up the hierarchy stands to benefit.

The women that manufactured the clothes you are most probably wearing right now lives and works as a modern day slave. Trapped in low wages, poor working conditions and gruelling hours, prospects for a better life are slim at best. In many places, such workers are paid far less than $50 a month.  The $20 billion industry only raised salaries after 1,100 people died in a collapse of a factory building earlier this year. This is the natural coercion of market forces at work – such persons are no longer slaves by name, only in horrific action. For many centuries the oppressed blacks and creole fought the colonies of France, England and US for their freedom. They inevitably succeeded with the Haitian revolution of Toussaint Louverture, and the subsequent abolishment of the Atlantic slave trade. However, it seems as if these imperialist empires were ultimately victorious in the war against liberty and equality. For once the English realised they could pay a free Indian a penny to do the work of a colonist slave, a new kind of economic slavery was born. Whilst in 2012 Gross World Product per capita was approximately $12,400, it is estimated that 1.3 billion people globally still live on less than $1 a day. This is not freedom. This is nothing but exploitation rooted in prior exploitation, and justified by those who grossly profit from such systematic abuse.

A great majority of us in this world are forced to sell our time, energies, and services for barely enough to scrape by. Whilst the person who employs these labourers, consumes the majority of the real output produced by them. This isn’t like a consensual relationship between two equal partners. Low skilled workers are often forced into such occupations, and now increasingly also young persons in the developed world. If you want to use a parallel, it’s like being forced into prostitution.

Saying all this however, it is possible for people to escape this poverty trap. Or at least, it appears that many have become self made bourgeois themselves. How can one climb up this hierarchy if born into poverty?

They may work for wages to earn capital for investment. However, even through this process someone up the hierarchy has greatly profited from the workers efforts. It is fundamentally impossible for one labourer to move up in the economic food chain without further enriching a very wealthy individual already ahead of him. Now suppose the worker acquires the appropriate investment, and now attempts to become a entrepreneur. He may be inclined to abuse his workers in a similar manner as he was himself exploited, and profit in a similar vain as his former owner. However, further up the food chain, others benefit from his enterprise. Such as for instance, manufacturers or suppliers, or even the government of his nation in the form of tax revenue or political donations.

They might also choose to take out a loan from a financial institution such as a bank to begin their enterprise, who also benefits from the interest paid on this loan. Whether you succeed or fail at your business endeavours, you are by virtue expected to pay the bank more money than you were given. Hence, the agent cannot create wealth for themselves without necessarily paying a portion of it up the ladder. Thus, social mobility for a few of the many poor entails further enrichment of the few wealthy. This means a smaller proportion remaining for the rest of the impoverished. The growth of inequality is absolutely inevitable. This issue can become so compounded, it forces intervention, or as we have seen throughout history, even up to the present day, violent and bloody revolution. It is theorized that the most dramatic and deciding factor of an uprising is hunger.

Returning to our previous example, pertaining to the landlord and the tenant – what happens when you mix the necessity of property ownership into this problem? What does a man do who is born into this society with nothing? He needs access to land in order to provide for himself. He must do this so he can grow either grow food or other products (producing raw goods), building or making things to sell (manufacturing), or having a space to perform some artisan trade or task (services). However, what happens when that land has already had ownership claimed for many generations? How does the worker acquire this land when it is disproportionately owned by the wealthy?

Hence, the poor in this world face a momentous struggle in becoming wealthy. Increasingly the young in both developing and developed countries are poor, having had the means to acquiring wealth taken from them by the established older generations. For the assets of this country and the world in its entirety, are firmly in the hands of these persons, whom acquired their prosperity and then kicked out the ladder from beneath them. They began privatizing everything, and launched crusades of propaganda and disinformation to justify these measures.

For instance, the US asserts free markets are necessary to growth. However. the countries GDP stood at almost $16 trillion in 2012. It has the amassed the most wealth out of all the nations in this world, and so can by and large influence market forces as it see’s fit.  Hence, any free trade will likely result in the US coming out on top. That’s how the coercive power of money works. If you have a lot and other people don’t, but they desperately need it to survive, grow, and thrive, then they are going to be in a position where they are willing to work for much less. This is simply because they lack other options. Once again, this is not a consensual agreement.

Returning to this idea of economies of scale and efficiency of production. The issue is largely one of advantages in production – or a lack of advantage. For a nation like the US only stands to benefit from trade, whilst emerging economies can do nothing but be exploited, in a similar manner to the individual worker. With the huge improvements in ferrying and transportation, the modern day bourgeois can cheaply pay to transport goods across the world, and continue this systematic abuse of the worlds poor. They are able to perpetually profit by forcing these proletariat to compete the for work, often at slave wages. This willingness then deflates the value of their efforts, whilst the real value of their labour remains the same. The disparity between this nominal value, and the real value is in turn exploited and consumed by the wealthy elite.

It is this use of economic exploitation that inevitably traps entire nations in poverty. Workers in places like Cambodia or Bangladesh can protest their low income and ask better for better working conditions, as they have and continue to do so, But then said workers are harassed by the state for doing so. International behemoths like Nike run sweatshops where they make huge markups on products produced. When factories collapse and hundreds die, they simply wash their hands of the blood implying it is the moral obligation of factory owners to care for workers safety. They say this as if the supply chain isn’t one in the same, a continuous process that Nike grossly benefits from. The factory owner, who may have been a worker themselves at some point, is caught in the middle in this particular example. Major corporations and banks, posting staggering profits, are the ones who ultimately have all of the slack in this distorted system of distribution. That’s the only node in the chain where anybody has true freedom to do as they choose, and live sinfully wealthy lives, whilst stomping their boots in the faces of the slaves that made them so rich. They do all of this whilst boldly declaring that they are improving the quality of those slave’s lives, because the slave voluntarily chooses to enter the employment and work for whatever impossibly small rate market forces have decided upon.

Hence, the cycle of poverty continues, and economic inequalities are exacerbated. Only time will tell what will happen to the wealthy elite and those trapped in poverty. Only we can break this cycle of oppression. How this can be done however, is still a hotly debated topic. Perhaps something for another blog post, although there are some idea’s that seem promising. For instance, Meghnad Desai, a member of the UK’s House of Lords and a Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics, stated in an article last week that:

With global aid totalling roughly $130 billon, each of the 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty (less than $1 per day) worldwide would receive $100 in cash [with direct aid].

Some countries have already experimented with such programs, and India is preparing to begin providing cash transfers to its 300 million poor citizens. In other words, a global cash-transfer scheme could be very effective, and would be feasible if donor countries pooled their aid budgets.

So perhaps direct transfers of cash to the poorest in the world, can help mitigate the effects of increasing income and wealth disparities. How and if we could do this however, remains to be seen. This idea remains somewhat unpopular with the majority of nations and the general public.

The end of the 6 week summer holiday…

 

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 ‘Tis a sad day my friends, a sad day indeed. For that wonderful joyous time we have all come to know as the hallowed 6 week summer holiday, will be coming to a rather unfortunate end for children across the country. Well, perhaps not entirely, but a new piece of legislation passed last week by Michael Gove, Education Secretary, gives schools the precedent to set their own length of holidays over the summer months. He has also allowed schools to increase mandatory time spent at school to up to 4.30pm.

So what does this mean for future students? Well at first, what really caught my attention was the abolishing of summer holidays as we have come to know and love them. I suppose a strong sense of nostalgia instinctively made me despise the notion. “How dare they take these poor children’s unalienable right to do shit all for 6 weeks?” I vexed. “How could they take that precious jewel of childhood from their unsuspecting, probably sticky, little hands?” I cried in a burst of unbridled rage, and proceeded to throw my half eaten jam donut at the television screen.

Alas, perhaps I may have over reacted in hindsight.

Looking back objectively of course, was it really necessary for me to have a 6 week break? Is it necessary to have this privilege enshrined in yet another menial law? Perhaps not, but I cannot help but feel future children up and down this country are being robbed of something as sacred as their long and lustrous summer holiday. I’m sure many teachers are just as annoyed by the passing legislation. I would suspect that for quite a few of these educators, the promise of long holidays and short working hours may have enticed them into a career in education in the first place.

But all these reasons are beside’s the point, for they all pertain to some nostalgic ideal. That is, because something has been this way for all this time, it cannot possibly be wrong. Many people argued against the abolishment of the slave trade out of a similar feeling. But I concede this may be an unwarranted comparison. The moral implications of slavery I would argue far outweigh that of the case at hand. What are the more reasonable reasons to reinstate the sacred 6 week summer holiday? Or likewise, what are the reasons we ought to allow schools to set their own timetables?

Firstly we must contend this notion that teachers and students alike are lazy and inept. Darren Preece, deputy head at Swindon Village Primary School,  said that the idea that teachers spend six weeks sunning themselves was ludicrous. But he concedes, that:

With such a crammed curriculum, I can understand why the working day may need to be longer.

Yet Mr Preece argues this new legislation could cause more harm than good, suggesting that shorter holidays will lead to greater absences during normal term time. He also argues that teachers spend a great deal of time preparing during these summer weeks for the new academic year.(1)

If there was less time in the summer to prepare, that won’t go down well with teachers.

Gemma Bowes reports for The Guardian, that travel industry experts have been dismayed by the Gove’s announcement.

Malcolm Bell, head of Visit Cornwall, said: “If the government wants to hurt hard-working, striving families, this is the best way, as holidays in the UK and overseas would become far more expensive in peak periods.”

However, does it not make sense that every school ought to be able to teach their students how they see fit? I think stifling a school’s ability to cater to the needs of students, parents and teachers alike is a very bad thing for everyone. Yes, while I feel the holidays are important to a child’s development, it is not for me to forcibly impose my beliefs of child rearing, education nor how to run a school upon anyone else.

“It is heads and teachers who know their parents and pupils best, not local authorities. So it is right that all schools are free to set their own term dates in the interests of parents and pupils,” a spokesman for the Department for Education said. (2)

Hence, I can only argue the merit for my case, and hope others adopt this manner of thinking. I am a firm believer in deregulation in such cases, for we cannot impose such a strict set of binding rules when it comes to raising and educating children, who come in such marvellous variety. I think what is good about this legislation, is that it provides schools with greater power to tailor their education to their students and teachers needs. But I sincerely hope that they use these new powers within reason, for all work and no play, makes Jack a very dull boy indeed.

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The change is due to take place from September 2015, affecting the 70% of state primary schools and 30% of state secondaries still under local authority control. To find out if you or your children will be affected, contact your school or the Department for Education for more information.

 

references:

(1) http://www.thisisgloucestershire.co.uk/Teachers-unhappy-Michael-Gove-s-plans-shrink/story-18754750-detail/story.html#ixzz2YBAJ1h7A

(2) http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2013/jul/01/michael-gove-school-summer-holiday

 

 

Edward Snowden and The Five Eyes

Have you ever heard of the “Five Eyes”?

More formally known by the acronym the UKUSA Agreement, The Five Eyes Alliance was first signed in March 1946 by the United Kingdom and the United States. The alliance was later extended to encompass the three Commonwealth realms of Canada, Australia and New Zealand. According to Wikipedia, the dragnet system of data interception has been abused for many years after the Cold War. While project ECHELON, also known as SIGINT has been around for many years, these recent revelations have resurfaced past controversial uses of the program.

Intelligence monitoring of citizens, and their communications, in the area covered by the AUSCANNZUKUS security agreement has caused concern. British journalist Duncan Campbelland New Zealand journalist Nicky Hager asserted in the 1990s that the United States was exploiting ECHELON traffic for industrial espionage.

An article in the US newspaper Baltimore Sun reported in 1995 that European aerospace company Airbus lost a $6 billion contract with Saudi Arabia in 1994 after the US National Security Agency reported that Airbus officials had been bribing Saudi officials to secure the contract.

In 2001, the Temporary Committee on the ECHELON Interception System recommended to the European Parliament that citizens of member states routinely use cryptography in their communications to protect their privacy, because economic espionage with ECHELON has been conducted by the US intelligence agencies.

The agreement of between the Five Eyes was established for the purpose of sharing intelligence, especially signals intelligence.  Recently there has been a very public leak of evidence suggesting that this system has been systematically abused in order to gain access into private citizen’s information. Such collation of data would be considered unlawful if it were not conducted through intermediately bodies such as the NSA for the GHCQ, and then shared with those in the alliance.

By May last year 300 analysts from GCHQ, and 250 from the NSA, had been assigned to sift through the flood of data. The Americans were given guidelines for its use, but were told in legal briefings by GCHQ lawyers: “We have a light oversight regime compared with the US”. When it came to judging the necessity and proportionality of what they were allowed to look for, would-be American users were told it was ‘your call’.

The GCHQ, the British equivalent of the NSA, has been accused of “ominous” spying that goes far beyond the NSA’s data retention program. IT expert Constanze Kurz stated in an interview with German news outlet DW, that it was “surprising to see the extent to which these agencies were able to operate without legal intervention.

The British as well as the Americans have rules for this groundless monitoring – namely that part of the communication has to take place outside of the US or Great Britain. By cooperating, the American and British agencies can now exchange the data mutually. And that amounts to a large percentage of global communication. With the British, we’re talking about over… [20 million gigabytes]… The number of people who are involved there is enormous and actually no longer in acceptable relationship to a democracy.

Through this system of collaboration, the two spy agencies are able to share information on innocent citizens within a supposedly “legal” framework. The GCHQ has had access to the US internet monitoring programme PRISM since at least June 2010. In return for this privilege  it allows the NSA to view the millions of gigabytes of information it collects travelling across the transatlantic cables, collated through it’s eerily similar “Tempora” electronic surveillance program.

The slow trickle of leaks has kept the story very much in the public domain, yet there are increasing efforts to split public opinion over the issue. The common thread of argument used against the leaks is that Snowden is a traitor. This is an irrelevant point – what is important however is that this system of surveillance operates largely in secret and with impunity. Snowden has become increasingly subject to unnecessary and unwarranted attacks on his character. Snowden is no “traitor”, and equally he is no “hero”. He has performed a valuable service to society, and should be commended for his efforts. But as he expressed himself from the very beginning, this should not be about whether we ought to vilify or venerate the ex CIA employee.

But the fact of the matter is, the US is being humiliated in this very public hunt for Snowden, according to commentator Simon Tisdall writing for the CNN.

Every country has its own experience of U.S. bullying. In Britain, the case of Pentagon hacker Gary McKinnon, accused by the U.S. of the “biggest military computer hack of all time”, became a cause celebre.

In the end even Britain’s sycophantic Cameron government was obliged, by force of public opinion, to throw out the U.S. extradition demand.

Extra-judicial assassination, drones, killer robots, extraordinary rendition, black ops, wet ops, psy-ops, silly ops… The world is a bit tired of all this American posturing, grandstanding, and self-serving banditry.

Regardless of what we think of Snowden, and whether he is a traitor or whistleblower, lets recap on what’s been leaked so far:

    1. The publication of Snowden’s leaks began with a top secret order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) sent to Verizon on behalf of the NSA, demanding the cell phone records of all of Verizon Business Network Services’ American customers for the three month period ending in July.
    2. Another secret document published by the Guardian revealed the NSA’s own rules for when it makes broad exceptions to its foreign vs. U.S. persons distinction, accessing Americans’ data and holding onto it indefinitely.
    3. Another leaked slide deck revealed a software tool called Boundless Informant, which the NSA appears to use for tracking the origin of data it collects. While Iran, Pakistan and Jordan appeared to be the most surveilled countries according to the map, it also pointed to significant data collection from the United States.
    4. A leaked executive order from President Obama shows the administration asked intelligence agencies to draw up a list of potential offensive cyber attack targets around the world.
    5. Documents leaked to the Guardian revealed a five-year-old British intelligence scheme to tap transatlantic fibre optic cables to gather data. Much of the data is shared with the NSA, which had assigned 250 analysts to sift through it as of May of last year.
    6. Another GCHQ project revealed to the Guardian through leaked documents intercepted the communications of delegates to the G20 summit of world leaders in London in 2009.
    7. Snowden showed the Hong Kong newspaper the South China Morning Post documents that it said outlined extensive hacking of Chinese and Hong Kong targets by the NSA since 2009, with 61,000 targets globally and “hundreds” in China.
    8. The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald has said that Snowden provided him “thousands” of documents, of which “dozens” are newsworthy. And Snowden himself has said he’d like to expose his trove of leaks to the global media so that each country’s reporters can decide whether “U.S. network operations against their people should be published.”

(note: thanks to reddit user earlsweatscript for this condensed list)

I think that all these supposedly damaging secrets do not encumber the safety of US or British citizens, but largely impeach on the liberties of people worldwide. What makes spying on foreigners any more moral that spying on your own citizens? And our countries are already doing just this, as has clearly been shown by the leaked information.

We should be worried that these powers are being abused for other purposes. For instance, the US Department of Justice targeted the records of more than 20 phone lines of AP reporters and editors in secret in April and May in an attempt to discover the source of leaked information about a foiled bomb plot in Yemen. Clearly this would stifle future attempts at whistleblowing  especially if leakers are afraid of their own safety and anonymity

We should be worried, not about the supposed terrorist threat, but about our privacy and safety being compromised by our own governments. But there are powers that are ready to stand up to the US government over this grievance. And I’m not talking about countries like Russia. Putin’s statement on the issue was largely political and somewhat ironic, considering his long list of human rights abuses. But Latin American countries are not conceding, and defying the demands for Snowden’s extradition. European countries are joining them also in the fight for truth and justice. Germany and Iceland have expressed their concern over these recent revelations, and Venezuelan president said he would not cow to US threats. It is now suspected Snowden may seek asylum in one of these brave countries, according to a letter to the Ecuador published yesterday.

I understand and appreciate that for a lot of people, it’s hard to care about these kinds of injustices perpetuated by our governments  especially when they seemingly have no direct consequence on our daily lives. With growing inequality, unemployment and the like, people seem to have more pressing concerns than these invasions of our privacy. But it’s important we speak up and be heard, not just for our own sakes, but for our children, for our future, and most importantly, for Edward Snowden. If caught, he could face a life in prison or worse for blowing the whistle on these grave intrusions on internet freedom and privacy.

First they used threat of child porn to curb our internet freedom. Then they used the threat of piracy. Ultimately however it was terrorism that gave them the power to reach into our private lives without proper mandate. Let me be clear however – I am not afraid of being spied on, but I am worried. I am worried for the future of the internet, and the unprecedented freedom it has enjoyed to date.  I am worried about our liberty and ability to have private lives, to associate without government oversight. We must stand up, and make our voices heard if we ever expect to claw back our freedoms, and save the internet from the clutches of these sadistic totalitarian rulers.

 

 

Mass surveillance and the future of the Internet

We are the Guardians of our own privacy. The time for action is now.

In 2001 the US was infamously attacked in an organised strike against the Twin Towers in New York City.

This instigated a decade long war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and began the notorious “War on Terror” against loosely knit extremist group known as Al-Qaeda.

Twelve years later and now the internet, and our privacy is under a similar siege.

After the 9/11 bombings came the Patriot Act. I’m sure many of us have heard of this legislation being passed in the USA, and many of us have taken qualm with its legally binding mandate.

The act was turned into US law thanks to the extensive efforts of U.S. Congress and then-President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001. It was intended to “protect our homeland,” said Bush at the time to his fellow Americans.

“It’s important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary.

“Because we value the Constitution.”

What a load of utter bollocks.

And what a tremendously large heap of festering bullshit that has been uncovered in this last week. With the help of a one courageous Whistleblower Mr Snowden, “Who may or may not be a hero”, but still worthy of our praises nonetheless.

So while I am almost certain you have heard of the story, a brief reminder.

The Guardian leaked last week that the US government has been “mining” data from all over the world in an effort to catch “terrorists”. This has been going on for the last 7 years, and it is suspected many innocent American and international citizens have also been spied on.

More specifically they have been using “meta data”, which refers to the tell tale signs left by your internet and phone activity. They’re able to do this through the “Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act” passed in 1978, which gives the US government the power to issue secret warrants for specific items, granted there is reasonable suspicion.

The broader powers used to justify these new intrusions of privacy however, have apparently been derived from a 550-Word Section of PATRIOT Act, and Section 702 of the Fisa Amendments Act (FAA),  renewed for five years last December.

“Section 215 dramatically broadened the scope of that power. Now the government can seize…any tangible thing. In addition, 215 removed the limitation that it had to be a suspected spy or terrorist whose records were being sought. Now, anyone’s records can be sought.”

Information is collated from the likes of Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple, who are now facing a battle to maintain trust after leak of the PRISM program.

Indeed, it is a truly harrowing thought to know our privacy has been undermined in such a sweeping program of information collation and retention.

And we ought to be scared.

“The more we accept perpetual government and corporate surveillance as the norm, the more we change our actions and behaviour to fit that expectation — subtly but inexorably corrupting the liberal ideal that each person should be free to live life as they choose without fear of anyone else interfering with it.

“A citizenry that’s constantly on guard for secret, unaccountable surveillance is one that’s constantly being remade along the lines the state would prefer.”

The fact remains that the ability to spy on your citizens like this is a real and seriously dangerous power for any government to have. And if history has shown us anything,  it’s that we cannot trust our governments to do the right thing. They are motivated by self interest – whether that be gaining another term in office, lining their pockets, or maintaining sadistic control over the population.

Sceptics and government sympathisers might contend that I am “pretending as if we are half way to Nazi Germany”. Regardless of if this or is not the case – that’s not my point at all. Simply that if we are to allow this abuse of power to slide, then we are one step closer to realising that horrific reality.

It is my opinion that we should always strive for utopia, we should endeavour to end all injustice in the world. If you are happy with this abuse of power, then you my friend are hindering the progression of society. You are impeding moral progress.

I find it both deeply frightening and somewhat upsetting that we had known about this kind of systematic surveillance for years but done nothing to stop it. In fact, Google head Eric Schmitz warned us about PRISM months in advance. 

Former highly placed intelligence official William Binney foretold this turn of events as early as 2006. There has been growing concern around the world, just how extensive and intrusive this data retention project is.

And it’s getting worse.

Amid Data Controversy, NSA has put the finishing touches on its biggest data farm to date in Utah, costing the US taxpayer $1.2 billion dollars to build, and even more to maintain.

This begs the question, is it all worth it?

“Consider some hard facts. In 2001, the year when America suffered an unprecedented terrorist attack — by far the biggest in its history — roughly 3,000 people died from terrorism in the U.S.

Let’s put that in context. That same year in the United States:

  • 71,372 died of diabetes.
  • 29,573 were killed by guns.
  • 13,290 were killed in drunk driving accidents.”

The number don’t lie – it is irrational to give up this much of our freedoms to fight the supposed terrorist threat.

Should we be afraid of extremist factions in distant lands that are antagonized by our aggressive foreign policy? Or should we be afraid of a totalitarian government that spies on our every move?

But we people are waking up – the time for action is now.

Emerging internet giants such as Mozilla, Reddit, 4Chan have joined coalition of 86 Internet Freedom and Civil Liberty groups asking Congress to end NSA surveillance.

People all over the world are proclaiming this is unjust, this is unnecessary and we simply won’t stand for it. And despite the propaganda, the ingenious slight and hand and trickery used when it comes to convincing us otherwise, the masses will not stand for this invasion of privacy. A senator recently denounced Snowden’s release of documents as an “act of treason”. Yet ironically enough Chinese citizens have called for their government to protect the whistleblower from the US heavy hand against whistleblowers  and I sincerely hope the Chinese government heeds this demand.

The Obama administration has come under increasing pressure as this scandal permeates, and the damaging leaks continue. We have come to know a great deal about the seriously disturbing nature of the US government this last week.  And Information chiefs worldwide are sounding alarm. Recently US senator Dianne Feinstein ordered the NSA to review monitoring program. It is only a matter of time until we abolish this law and system of surveillance.

But what we mustn’t do is resign ourselves to pessimism, we must not capitulate to apathy in the face of adversity. Because if we do succumb to inaction when confronted by these disturbing truths then how are things ever going to get any better?

At the end of the 18th century in San Domingo, a 12 year struggle by a handful of slaves against the might of imperialist Spain, France and England lead to the eventual formation of the first black state outside of Africa in 1804. Three years later the Atlantic Slave trade was abolished. Within a generation slavery worldwide was by and large abolished.

Let me give you those same words that evoked courage in the black rebels of that time, the courage that ended 150 years of oppression, racism and slavery.

“If self interest alone prevails with nations and their masters, there in another power. Nature speaks in louder tones than philosophy or self-interest.

“Those Lightning’s announce the thunder. A courageous chief is only wanted. Where is he, that great man whom nature owes to her vexed, oppressed and tormented children?

“He will appear, doubt it not; he will come forth and raise the sacred standard of liberty.”

You are that courageous chief my friend –  but so am I – we all are in fact. For together we can instigate monumental change in the world, if we stand united, if only we believe we can.

So I implore you, please believe. Because we can’t do this alone, and it won’t be easy. Nothing ever worth doing is. The internet I believe is one of the greatest inventions of mankind. Don’t let it fall into the wrong hands.

-By Suhail Patel

 

The Syrian Conflict – the case against military intervention.

Damascus_by_night

Just another day in Damascus…

 
The situation in Syria…of course many of us claim to know, or have heard some of the many different views about the conflict.

Reporter Paul Danahar puts in like this, that “If you are not confused by what is going on there, then you do not understand it.”

From what I have read and heard, the Syrian Civil war started out as predominately an uprising against poverty, like most violent political revolution.

It started as a movement against dictatorship, oppression, and is often attributed to the Arab Spring  that saw the instatement of the Muslim Brotherhood in nations like Egypt, Libya and Bahrain.

But increasingly it seems the real reasons to why this revolution was started are being lost to the interests of outside influences.

Increasingly it has become a proxy war between UN member states, which can’t seem to agree on what to do about the situation.

And so the real reasons have been lost in the two years of fighting, the bickering between spectating nations, and Syria itself is slowly eroding away while the conflict continues.

The loosely grouped band of rebels, who are at best united against Assad, are all vying for potential control of the country, with some imposing Islamic law on the cities that have been captured.

It has become increasingly a sectarian conflict whose influence will eventually spill beyond the country’s borders.

Does this mean we ought to intervene?

In this modern world we have established a set of unalienable rights that it is often proclaimed we are all entitled to.

I find this interesting because, things like human rights, rules of engagement, international trade laws – all these systems have been created by human beings, for human beings, and the only authority they have comes from human beings and our willingness to adhere to these prevailing systems devised.

Part of what is so important to democracy, and what makes this system work is a right to sovereignty. And just as we apply this concept to the individual, so too must we apply this to a collective nation – and give them the freedom to govern themselves.

While we have a history of colonial rule and paternalism in this nation and the west at large, the UK is no longer an imperialist empire – or at least we claim to no longer be – and Syria is its own nation with its own government and ruling bodies.

However, Syria is not a democracy, and its ruling body is inherently a dictatorship. Does this does this mean we have a right to intervene? Ultimately we would want the same rights for Syrians, as we have for ourselves in this nation. Yet I am almost certain that most of us in the UK would not take to kindly to Syria intervening in our affairs, given similar circumstances.

It is not for us to impose democracy on a foreign nation, just as we cannot impose our own concepts of fairness, of justice on other people. The IMF and worldbank have frequently tried to apply concepts of free markets on developing nations, which caused widespread corruption and increasing inequality.

In this country we claim to believe in democracy, sovereignty; we are entitled to our freedom of speech. And so I put it to you dear reader, that we can persuade, we can coerce through nonviolent means, yet ultimately it is for the people of Syria to be the bearer’s of their own destiny, and it is up to the Syrians to devise their own code of law from which to govern their country.

Assad will fall regardless of western intervention, no dictatorship lasts forever, in fact no empire has been able to stand the test of time. All nations have inevitably been resigned to the same catastrophic fate. This is precisely because we are human, and fallible in this regard. Our knowledge is incomplete, our ability to analyse the long term affects of our actions is poor at best.

We simply can’t see into the future, hence no matter how much we might try to fathom the consequences of intervention, we are always likely to be wrong in our assumptions.

Even if we were to intervene militarily, would we really know what’s good for the people of Syria? Would we really know which faction is best to support, what would constitute the best outcome for the Syrians?

Yes, we can help the people of Syria, but that does not necessarily entail military intervention.

Some politicians, including Obama argue that it if the Syrian government is found to be using chemical weapons the West must militarily intervene further.

I think it is a ridiculous notion that chemical weapons are more deadly than other weapons used in warfare.

The fact remains, chemical weapons such as sarin gas are far less deadly than more typical means of warfare used by modern armies.

A British army bomb disposal expert in a 2007 Register piece said “Far from possessing any special deadliness, chemical warheads are less potent than ordinary conventional-explosive ones.

“If your aim is to kill and injure as many people as possible, you’d be a fool to use chemicals. And yet chemicals are rated as WMD, while ordinary explosives aren’t.”

I think we must be very weary of the chemical warfare argument for intervention, because it is remarkably similar to the WMD argument used to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

In regards to chemical warfare – while weapons such as Sarin Gas are banned internationally, and rightly so of course, we must ultimately aspire to live in a world where weapons in their entirety are deemed obsolete.

What makes a weapon powerful? What kills a person? Is it the bomb, the bullet, the rifle, or the person pulling the trigger?

If we were all categorically opposed to war, if we all chose not to fight, then all weapons would lose their ability to oppress, kill and destroy. If we chose the path of peace over war, if we simply did not capitulate to fear or paranoia, all these weapons would lose their power to kill and destroy.

We don’t need to intervene with our guns blazing. There is no omen on us to solve the Syrian conflict, a conflict we have helped exacerbate by choosing sides. What we must do is stop arming the world, what we ought to do is stop producing weapons to destroy and harm one another. If we took these steps – the most powerful nations in the world that is – if we were to set a precedent for peace – real peace mind you, then perhaps other nations might follow suit.

I find it utterly ridiculous and hypocritical for Obama to set a red line at chemical weapons, when his administration has laid waste to so many nations. The drone wars in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq all bear testament to how destructive his administration has been.

I accept that it is obviously quite difficult to watch what is happening in Syria and it may make us think “something must be done.”

But does this mean we are morally obliged to intervene?

Yet again this is a case of western paternalism and propaganda at work  While nations such as Saudi and Qatar have their own selfish sectarian reasons for intervening, it seems western powers are more concerned with their own safety, their own influence and perception in the international community, then the well being of the Syrian population.

Yet the case against intervention is very clear – whether it be economic or military, directly or through proxy, history has shown our meddling in the affairs of other nations has been largely detrimental to actually causing real tangible change.

For instance, the Iraq war and the infamous “War on Terror” is widely considered a failure, having caused a staggering amount of “collateral damage”, corruption, sectarian violence and anarchy. There is still a great deal of political unrest in the region, despite over a decade of “liberation”.

It was never the US’s job to liberate the people of Iraq.

This shows us that in reality, despite the plethora of conspiracy theories pertaining the US master plan in the region, around the world in fact; in actuality there is seemingly no clear direction to US foreign policy, and this also applies to intervention in Syria.

On the one hand we fight Al-Qaeda, and on the other we supply them with aid, we supply them with training and weaponry. It seems that these groups have their uses to the US military when they are unable to directly intervene.

The fact remains that the US has been helping the very extremists factions they are fighting in Iraq and elsewhere.

A week ago the US state department announced in an annual report that they were continuing to defeat Al-Qaeda and that the organization became less influential.

It seems the US is trying to foster this alliance of convenience.

Because our governments have their own political agendas in mind when deciding what course of action to take, we can’t rely on them to necessarily do the right thing.

Syria is in an important nation, an important ally to western enemies such as Iran, Hezbollah and more loosely Russia. It makes sense that the US would want to oust Assad, to weaken those who pose a threat to it’s unparalleled international influence.

In a meeting between EU member states, an embargo on arms for Syrian rebels was lifted. Britain and France are in favour of supplying weapons to their favoured rebel groups.

In terms of how this might affect the Syrian conflict, I think providing arms to selected groups would not necessarily overthrow the Assad regime.

While I understand and appreciate the desire to want to bring democracy and peace to the nation, so far arming rebels has done little but cause more difficulties for the people of Syria.

The long length of this uprising compared to the other Arab Spring revolutions can be directly attributed by external forces, funding of both sides from different invested groups.

The fact remains, it is an absurd notion thinking that creating more weapons, financing more destruction can bring peace. In fact it is quite the contrary, our meddling in affairs has exacerbated the situation in Syria. It has lain waste to the nation over the course of these last two years.

Bringing more arms into Syria will lead to further bloodshed, it will only bring more hardship for the people of Syria. We need to reach out to Assad and his allies, we need to reach out to all the rebel factions also. What we really need to do is put our ego’s aside, forget about our fears and insecurities and realise we don’t have the solution to this conflict.

Because the last two years have shown that to be honest, nobody does. And you can’t expect to extinguish this flame by lacing it with petrol and hoping for the best.

We can’t arm the rebels with sophisticated military technology and hope things will turn out okay, that democracy and peace will come to Syria. Because that simply hasn’t worked in the past, and only required further intervention to fix the problems we created.

The UN security council is comprised of 5 member states, that account for 77% of the worlds arms trade. Imagine for a second, if production of all these weapons were to suddenly cease.

Imagine if instead of sending more bombs to help destroy Assads forces, we built more hospitals to help the civilians harmed.
Imagine if instead of arming the rebels and taking sides, we provided unconditional asylum to people wishing to flee Syria.
Imagine if we sent carpenters, builders, teachers and doctors, instead of soldiers and other proponents of warfare.

This is the kind of intervention we need to be using. This is the kind of revolution be need to instigate in Syria, and the world in its entirety.

If both the US, Russia and other members of the UN security council collectively agreed to refuse to arm any side of the conflict, to refuse to take any side, at some point the fighting would have to come to an end.

Or we can continue to provide the Syrians with the means to kill one another, to destroy their own homes, till at some point they’d be reduced to carrying out warfare with sticks and stones, the dusty remnants of the once great city of Damascus.

Is that what we really want?

We need to arm people with not weapons, but knowledge, with empathy, with the power to change their own circumstances without the use of force, through democracy and peaceful protest.  We need to help the Syrian people stand united, and we must stand with them all, not one side or the other. Most importantly however, we must not help them kill one another, because this isn’t bringing an end to the fighting. It’s ruining lives, its destroying families and entire generations of Syrians have fallen victim to the destruction of this civil war.

The time for intervention is now – but we don’t need bullets nor bombs, what we need is peace and love. If there are two things we can be certain of; weapons murder, and politics kills. Only we can bring peace, collectively that is, if we stand united we can instigate the kind of categorical change we need to help the people of Syria out of the bloody conflict.

-By Suhail Patel