DANIEL COLE PHILIP HOPKINS themes editor
DALIA GEBRIAL ALICE JOHN
politics and economy editor
BEN FREW JAY SHAH perspectives editor
JOSH FUNNELL PRIYA SHAH culture editor
REBECCA MYERS OLAIDE AKINDELE warwick in the world editor
ANTONIA RASSOOL graphic designer
HEIDI PURNAMA business executive
ANTHONY PARASKEVAS head of marketing
JAKUB BRECKA CALUM OWEN finance executive
LOUISE MEWETT ADVERTISING ENQUIRIES firstname.lastname@example.org FRONT COVER IMAGES: FLICKR 63169691@N06 / CHANCEPROJECTS / K4CHII
CONTENTS From the founders
Neoliberalism and democracy: the divorce National unity governments: the good, the bad and the ugly The democratic process is unfolding before us POLITICS AND ECONOMICS
Food for thought: the case against food export restrictions From dawn to dusk: exploring Golden Dawn’s popularity in Greece Politics and nation in Britain: Thatcher, New Labour and London 2012
THE WARWICK GLOBALIST
13 15 17
The Olympic economic myth goes up in flames Saint Obama’s drones: the Call of Duty president and his ‘kill list’ The Tesco Empire Strikes Back CULTURE
Gangnam: Style or Substance? Gove’s cultural dyslexia More than two sides to the story in the Middle East WARWICK IN THE WORLD
COPYRIGHT © 2012
5 8 10
French students refuse to wave their white flag Food activism – a ‘perfect storm’ for social change?
19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33
IMAGES CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: FLICKR ARI; FLICKR SUGARMELONCOM; GETTY IMAGES
THE WARWICK GLOBALIST
FROM THE FOUNDERS
ÂŠ THAMES MENTETH PHOTOGRAPHY
As we hope you are aware, the Warwick Globalist is the latest chapter in a global network of magazines: Global21. Set up in 2005 at Yale University, this network now has chapters in over twenty countries on six continents and is set to grow even further in the years to come. As this is the inaugural edition of the Warwick Globalist, we have relied on the generosity and goodwill of many individuals and organisations to help us make this a success. On behalf of the editorial team, we would firstly like to thank everyone who has contributed an article to this magazine. Competition was very tough and whilst many great articles have not made it into the print version, we hope you will take the time to visit our website where you can find many other articles. Further to this, we would like to extend our appreciation to the editorial team itself. Despite being full time students, they have all given a huge amount of time to ensure that this magazine is the best it can be. A special mention must go to Heidi Purnama, our graphic designer, who has worked independently to create many of the great
graphics and layouts for the magazine. We would also like to thank our sponsors. We are very grateful to the Economics and Politics and International Studies departments, as well as Mary Cole at Skyline Whitespace, for all of their support. Finally, we would like to thank Natasha Clark and the Boar for their help and guidance. At the heart of the Warwick Globalist is the desire to challenge the received views in our society. Despite the complex nature of the world, many of the biggest global issues are reduced to simplified dichotomies. The theme of this issue, the Crisis of Democracy, seeks to question one of the more unhealthy of such dichotomies: the often-cited belief that the West possesses an ideal form of democracy that should be imposed on other nations. This theme comprises roughly a quarter of the articles in the magazine, though many of the other sections make reference to it. Readers, we thank you for taking the time to pick up this inaugural issue of the Warwick Globalist and we hope that it sparks your enthusiasm for the spring issue.
themes Editor’s Note Dalia Gebrial In most Western societies, democracy as the prevailing system has gone without critique for decades. In public political language, the term is embedded with utopian assumptions of freedom, progression and social justice – virtues that in reality are not guaranteed. This arguably disproportionate linguistic power with which the term is loaded makes it an incredibly effective political weapon; after all, a series of unpopular wars have been waged in its name. Indeed, the perceived self-evidence of a particularly ‘Western’ democracy as the pinnacle of progression and civilisation has arguably lead to a culture of mass apathy: because we have the ballot, political and social activism, or – dare I say it – revolution, are no longer considerations. So remains the case even when conditions seem to be crying out for it. This is particularly problematic when, as many of these articles contest, economic, social and political practices employed by nations labelled ‘democracies’ are often exposed as betrayals of the mother of democracy: equality. Why did Occupy demonstrators across the ‘democratic’ world, be they at Wall Street, St Paul’s or Warwick University, seem to identify so strongly with those in the Arab world protesting for something we supposedly already have? In other words, is what we are told is ‘democracy’ really what we’d like to think it is? As editor of this section, I intend to provide you with journalism that asks unusual questions, rather than argues established positions. This is what I believe successful student journalism is. Indeed, it is what a magazine produced by young people often living and hopefully thinking independently for the first time has to offer over one produced by professionals. Therefore, I hope you will enjoy the online and printed articles included in the Themes debut, and thank you for taking the time to give us a read.
Neoliberalism and Democracy: THE DIVORCE
As the global recession and Eurozone crisis continue to cause great upheaval, what does this mean for the relationship between capitalism and democracy? Could it be that an economic order that has stood for forty years is breaking down? How can politics respond? WRITER Will Tucker
From the end of the Second World War, it had been assumed that capitalism and democracy went hand in hand.The broadly Keynesian world economy worked through a series of discrete national units. The citizens of those states could vote for the direction of their economy, and they would therefore be sovereign. However, a group of thinkers in favour of globalisation and neoliberalism would soon change all that and disrupt the harmony and consent of this system for the worse. THE WARWICK GLOBALIST
themes Since the war, the Right had, for the most part, accepted the new consensus. It was a Republican President who ultimately broke it: Richard Nixon removed the dollar from the gold standard, faced with a balance of payments crisis and rising debts due to the Vietnam War. The key to Keynesian sustainability was the fixed exchange rates, which could only be changed by national governments (and rarely were, as devaluations were seen as an embarrassment). This system rewarded longterm investment and the impossibility of ‘quick gains’ kept the economy from overheating or being overburdened with risk.
The new order was named the Washington Consensus and had a distinctly international feel. Currencies would now ‘float’ against each other, allowing mass speculation on their comparative values. Fortunes awaited some, but overall instability grew. Markets, businesses and banks were dramatically deregulated – notably in 1987, the ‘Big Bang’ of deregulation allowed the City of London to become an almost entirely unregulated financial hub. The current trend for extreme stock market bets and complex financial packages began here, and the City soon became too big for government to control. Businesses expanded around the world as well, into vast, unaccountable transnational corporations (TNCs).
move where they please, then governments have to compete with each other to offer the most favourable conditions (low taxes and spending) for these institutions or face losing them, and with them their jobs and tax revenues. Democracy, it was assumed, would just continue, operating now within capitalism rather than outside of it. Colin Hay, in his excellent Why We Hate Politics published in 2007, provides evidence that these new ‘truths’ underpinning global policy are based on falsehoods. Statistically, not only is the impact and scale of globalisation greatly exaggerated, but neither is the ‘capital flight’ argument true: time and again TNCs have put up with high taxes and regulation in return for the comparative benefits they bring. For example, many TNCs have bases in social-democratic Denmark because they know their tax contributions are going towards a highly educated workforce, excellent infrastructure and communications. Neoliberalism, then, has often been used by governments of all persuasions to avoid blame for unpopular decisions. That democracy was impotent over the economy seemed not to matter in the good times. But if the advent of the Washington Consensus made capitalism and democracy an unhappy marriage, during the Eurozone crisis it hit the rocks. In 2011 the Greek state became insolvent and required a rescue from the ‘troika’ of the European Commission, IMF and European Central Bank. However, the troika placed some rather extraordinary demands on the Greeks. In order to receive the bailout money required to satisfy their creditors, the Greeks had to embark on an extreme version of austerity wherein they had to cut government spending dramatically and raise taxes sharply. The effects were horrendous. General strikes turned into running battles with police. Poverty skyrocketed and unemployment grew. All of this sucked the demand out of the Greek economy to the extent that rather than a recovery, the austerity made the problem worse.
The neoliberal argument went like this: as free markets and the instant movement of capital After a while, the Greek Prime Minister George mean that worldwide businesses and banks can Papandreou became unable to maintain a 6
majority for this terrible programme, so the Troika pressured him into resignation and replaced him with an unelected technocrat, Lucas Papademos, rather than holding an election. Astonishingly, in a battle between neoliberal financial institutions – all run at a regional or global level and with no democratic oversight – and democratic governments, the institutions seemed to have triumphed. That this happened not in a troubled third-world nation but in Greece, a European nation seen as the birthplace of democracy, was even more startling. When the Greeks did get to vote in May 2012, it produced
the medium of the government. Now, if even governments can be overruled by the markets, do we really live in real democracies any more? In some countries people have taken power back, such as in the nations of South America, who have long rejected the Washington Consensus and are beginning to thrive as a result. In Brazil, they are developing the world’s first social-democratic superpower. In Iceland, a popular democratic revolution rejected the idea that the people should pay for the bankers’ crisis and crafted a new constitution based on direct democracy. It is clear that the power of an unregulated global economy can no longer be tolerated.This crisis of democracy is based upon a conception of some problems being insurmountable and all parties having resigned themselves to this ‘reality’. As we have seen, it is a false reality. The fight to take back our economy is the same as the fight to take back our democracy. Governments must step up to the plate and control the market forces that are weaker than they claim. Otherwise, their selfimposed impotence will lead to further disillusionment and unrest. This crisis has shown that neoliberalism and democracy cannot live together. If we want democracy to triumph, there must be a divorce.
The fight to take back our economy is the same as the fight to take back our democracy. an unclear result and the Greeks were sent back to the polls to think again, like a child being disciplined. Finally, a pro-austerity coalition led by the centre-right New Democracy party won by a sliver. Things started to get even worse in Greece, but at least the bond markets were satisfied. This all matters because the idea of Western democracy, since the war, has been that voters are sovereign over economic matters, through
THE WARWICK GLOBALIST
NATIONAL UNITY GOVERNMENTS: THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY WRITER Alessandro Presa-Perez
Democracy is coming under increasing criticism as the economic crisis has unleashed dramatic effects that are undermining the credibility of politicians. The alternative of national unity governments, conceived as ‘coalitions of hope’, could well be the remedy that citizens are expecting Are you sometimes ready to kick your political leader out of office, but think his/her rival does not deserve better treatment? Do not worry, you are not experiencing a breakdown. In fact, you are very likely to share in widespread political disillusionment. Be it the USA’s Occupy Wall Street movement, the Arab Spring or Spain’s Indignados, citizens across the globe have raised their voices to express their growing discontent towards the policies of their respective governments and, whether explicitly or implicitly, towards a democratic system that no longer meets their expectations. The principle of democracy is that citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. That is the theory. However, in the name of tackling one of history’s worst crises, leaders in the Western world are implementing widely unpopular policies that suffocate a large number of citizens, both economically and democratically. Often these policies are not even included in the election program but improvised or 8
decided under external pressure (e.g. from the IMF or the EU) as a condition for being rescued financially. Growing social unrest creates a hostile environment for governments confronted with the dilemma of choosing between what is right for their party and what is right for the country. The first option implies that the government is not doing its job properly and will naturally eventually be kicked out, as was the case for Berlusconi in 2011. Surprisingly, the second does not necessarily provide better chances to stay in power, because the reforms that some countries such as Spain, Italy or Greece need cannot have immediate results. The reality is that this crisis has constrained political parties to such a degree that the right/left split hardly exists when it comes to economic policy. Particularly in Europe, austerity is the dominant policy employed to deal with the sovereign debt crisis regardless of which party is in power. For those angry voters who thought they might be luckier turning to the opposition, the ugly truth has hit them hard. Effective reforms are required, but how can they be implemented
themes when no party wants to take the necessary painful measures? That is where governments of national unity step in. Have you ever been in an ice cream shop not knowing which flavour to choose? If you ever came to the unpleasant situation of choosing between cookies and cream and macadamia nut ice creams, why would you only choose one flavour? The real question is: why can’t you have both when it comes to politics? Governments of national unity (GNU) are that double flavour that countries sometimes need. A GNU is a broad coalition government formed by the major political parties of a country.This form of government is often associated with extreme situations such as wars and other crises, which tend to reinforce the traditional interpretation that it is the last resource available when everything else has failed. But they should not be considered exclusively as a marriage of convenience, because overcoming fundamental ideological differences is an act of national responsibility. Indeed, sharing the burden of governing a country is a way to admit that no party knows the magic recipe that will instantly create jobs and reduce national deficit/debt. Rather than taking political advantage of a critical situation, major parties come together in favour of consensus politics. This effectively means that the time-
consuming battle between opposition and government is largely diminished in favour of resolving urgent issues, such as the Euro crisis. In light of this, integration of the main players should hopefully bring stability. Nonetheless, GNUs are not about combining the best of both sides, because ‘the best’ can only be expressed in relative terms depending on which side you stand. It is about creating a common political effort. Historically, GNUs have not been exclusive to war time. In the early 2000s, Germany, the country that is now leading the Eurozone, was stagnating. The implementation of the Agenda 2010 was the success of a coalition between the Social Democrats and the Greens with the support of conservatives. Some argue that these reforms are the cause of Germany’s outstanding economic performance in the middle of the Eurostorm. In Austria, major parties have occasionally formed coalitions to keep extremist parties out of government. These examples show that power can be shared, but only as a temporary fix when democracy falls short. The picture is not entirely rosy. GNUs may represent a severe breach in the pillars of democracy itself. The downside of this form of government is the union of major parties often results in the opposition being virtually eliminated, thus removing the checks and
balances of a traditional democratic system. Greece may have a unity government, but that does not mean that Greeks are happy with its decisions.Austerity measures undertaken by the GNU are rejected by a vast majority of the population, which arguably undermines its legitimacy due to a lack of public consent. The unwanted consequence is that the extreme-right party, Golden Dawn, is worryingly gaining popular support. Moreover, another problem arises here: power sharing is to a great extent utopic. It is unlikely that a political party would even consider sharing decision-making with its rivals. A recent example would be that of the US ‘super committee’, a joint Democrat and Republican attempt to deal with the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis. After months of negotiation and hair-pulling, both parties agreed that it had been a tremendous fiasco (not to say a waste of time). Now what? If a single party already finds it difficult to agree internally, expecting two rivals to come together and agree with each other sounds naively optimistic. Nevertheless, if deep and much-needed reforms are to be undertaken, GNUs can provide the necessary legitimacy that single-party or small-coalition governments may lack. Considering the little success of the existing singleparty led governments, giving it a try doesn’t seem so foolish these days. Believe it or not, union is strength. THE WARWICK GLOBALIST
THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS
IS UNFOLDING BEFORE US (EVEN IF IT IS NOT ALWAYS PRETTY)
The past few years have been politically turbulent across the globe, not least in the western world. The financial crisis and its consequences have resulted in a great deal of discontent amongst the people of Europe and the United States in particular. This has manifested itself in numerous ways: the British riots, the Occupy movement, austerity protests, even the emergence of the ‘Tea Party’ movement in the US. If these politically-charged events have revealed anything that can be applied globally, it’s this: a significant number of people are unhappy about some of the big issues affecting their lives, communities, and countries, and they are trying to do something about it. Sound like democracy in crisis? Perhaps not. Maybe we are witnessing the democratic process unfolding before our very own eyes. While precise definitions of democracy vary, a common phrase can be found in most: ‘government by the people’, that is, the government’s legitimacy should derive from the people. When people are unhappy with the current state of affairs, they have the right, or rather the duty, to voice their complaints and demand their attention. It is the single most important aspect of a democratic society. While it hasn’t always been peaceful, these recent events nonetheless show democracy in action, with greater scrutiny and attention being given to the issues at the core of these global developments. Take the Occupy movement which emerged in late 2011, and spread to over 95 cities across the globe. In response to a deepening financial crisis and inspired by events such as the Arab spring, people took to the streets to protest against socio-economic inequality, largely caused by a financial system appearing to benefit a minority and a political system heavily susceptible to corporate influence. Accountability, inequality and representation, all 10
WRITER Joel Crawley
Recent upheaval might suggest democracy as we know it in crisis, but we shouldn’t be so pessimistic. Occupy Wall Street and last summer’s riots highlighted the shortcomings of our current system, while ensuring that the culture of public scrutiny and debate, which democracy relies on, is stronger than ever
key democratic ideals, have since become the big issues of the day, and solving them has been the focus of much media attention since. There can be no doubt that the Occupy movement and its powerful imagery has played a huge role in forcing these issues into the spotlight.
Surely last year’s riots, characterised by an outburst of vandalism, looting and violence across some of Britain’s poorer areas, can be seen as a prime example of why democracy is in crisis? Well, there certainly could be a crisis of sorts, but not in democracy. The problem is more convincingly sourced in the current western financial and regulatory system, the injustices of Occupy’s value therefore extends beyond which and its consequences were both manifested merely highlighting our inherent democratic in the riots and underlined by Occupy. right to protest because it assertively raised core issues within the current democratic Even from such shocking and condemnable system that needed attention, in a manner that behaviour, numerous outcomes of democratic ensured that’s what they got. By arguing that value have emerged. In an attempt to these issues are systemic problems, and thus establish causation, investigations such as the instigating their thorough public discussion, Guardian’s fascinating ‘Reading the Riots’ the movement achieved a victory for the explored the mindset of those involved. The democratic process. We must look beyond the media response in particular has created a reductive notion that such a widespread and at platform for many young, poor individuals to times radical protest, through its very existence, express their discontent. Achieving a greater represents a crisis for democracy, and rather understanding of urban lower class grievances, interpret it as a manifestation of the problems of our the ignorance of which was no doubt a factor in current political and economic system, the flaws the occurrence of the riots in the first place, is of which can be recognized and therefore solved. certainly a step in the right direction towards a more effective democracy. For example, investigations into the causes of the animosity towards the police which so characterised the riots, brought many previously silent grievances to the forefront. Perceived abuse of power, namely unwarranted and disproportionate stop and search methods, was particularly frustrating for many. This highlighted the need for greater discussion surrounding police behaviour and accountability, another key element of any democratic society. This has certainly been taking place. Next month will see the first ever elections for Police Commissioners in the UK. Just recently, a phone app was released which allows people to log Flickr eddieicon
THE WARWICK GLOBALIST
themes their experiences with the police after being stopped, before uploading them to an online database – this sort of transparency of information, especially concerning the police, is absolutely vital in a democracy. It is not just happening in the UK. Police behaviour at protests across Europe and the United States has been greatly scrutinised, with misconduct recognized for the serious problem that it is. In New York, there were numerous high profile incidences involving police and protesters during the Occupy movement. In response, ordinary people have created ‘cop watch’ teams – filming police encounters in order to obtain evidence of misconduct, something traditionally rarely punished. Occupy, along with the riots, have contributed to the much needed re-evaluation of one of democracy’s most vital yet susceptible institutions. Though we won’t always admit it, we have yet to achieve a perfect democracy, and maybe we never will. Therefore it’s important to understand it not as a destination, but rather as a continuously evolving process.
Though we won’t always admit it, we have yet to achieve a perfect democracy, and maybe we never will. Therefore it’s important to understand it not as a destination, but rather as a continuously evolving process. Apparent crises such as the Occupy movement and the British riots represent this process in action. They have served to aid the crucial dialogue between those in power and the ‘ordinary’ people from whom their legitimacy derives. Furthermore, they have encouraged an on-going evaluation of our economic and political systems, as well as the institutions within them. Most importantly, these events have sparked great academic and media interest, rejuvenating the culture of scrutiny and debate in which democracy can truly thrive. Flickr shankbone
politics and economics Editor’s Note Ben Frew The institutions and structures that define our interaction with the global spheres of politics and economics have been placed under substantial stress in recent times. The aftermath of the global financial crisis has prompted many to reconsider the extent to which our modern day economic systems promote prosperity and efficiency. Has a relentless quest for growth and power left economics and politics devoid of meaningful purpose? It seems that in our blind submission to the dominant doctrine of free market economics, we have lost sight of the more important considerations of public policy. Critical analysis seemed to abandon the field of political economy around 30 years ago as the world converged on neoliberal ideas. However, in the current climate, more and more people seem to be asking whether such prescriptions are genuinely helping to improve lives, or in fact making them worse. In this section we try to focus on the changing landscape within politics and economics: questioning the current practice where appropriate and analysing the impact that such changes are having on our everyday lives. Shahbaz Baloch questions the current practice of international food export restrictions. Food, like any other commodity, is subject to the market forces of the global economy. He discusses whether the current global framework of food production and exchange truly serves us best. Michael Falero analyses the rise of the far-right in Greece. This rise has coincided with the wider European debt crisis, a crippling Greek recession and a growing resentment of intrusive regional institutions. Priya Rane focuses on the evolution of British national identity. She follows the progression of a Thatcherite concept of nationhood, and looks at how we locate ourselves in the world of 2012.
Image Chris Young / Oxfam
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
The case against food export restrictions WRITER Shahbaz Baloch
It seems that today, teaching a man to fish is no longer sufficient to feed him for a lifetime. Said man is unlikely to be able to live a total subsistence lifestyle and is instead, in some way, subject to the vast global political economic framework of food production, regulation, distribution, and consumption. This framework has in turn come to shape individual countries’ foreign and domestic policies as well as taken centre stage within a multitude of international organisations. Of all the constituents of the global political economy of food, none is more important than international trade (or so says Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the WTO). Given that many countries now rely heavily on imports to feed their populations, it is of paramount importance that they are able to do so without any distorting interference. Here, what I primarily mean by ‘distorting interference’ are policies adopted by foodexporting nations which deliberately restrict trade in key food stuffs to importing nations: export bans. THE WARWICK GLOBALIST
The consequences of such export bans can be harmful. In 2007, a number of countries including Russia, India and Argentina banned exports of grains due to poor harvests, on the pretext of ensuring domestic food security. This contributed towards record high food prices in 2008, which came to be known as the 2007/08 Food Price Crisis. At the same time, food riots erupted across the developing world, most of which were in net food importing developing countries (NFIDCs), and the state of food insecurity seemed at its most dire. In 2010, following large scale summer drought and wildfires, the Russian and Ukrainian governments acted to restrict exports of grain once again. These export bans contributed to the rising prices of food in import-reliant North Africa and other Middle Eastern states, which arguably catalysed the popular Arab uprisings. Though the appeal of export bans is obvious, the desired effects are difficult to achieve. In 2007 and 2010, the Russian government implemented export bans in order to insulate its domestic food market from rising international food prices. However, food prices actually rose alongside international prices by 20-30% according to Oxfam research. Russian farmers were unable to benefit from high world prices which would have otherwise encouraged them to produce more. Instead, the export ban ensured strong disincentives to increase production or 14
invest in agriculture in Russia with potentially long-term negative impacts on food production. The current status quo seems to favour increased trade between countries to ensure food security over and above policies to promote food independence (something which the international financial institutions, World Bank and the IMF included, are not likely to welcome). To this end a group of NFIDCs have spearheaded legislation within the WTO which would exempt them from any future export bans, but this is stuck within the monolith of the Doha trade negotiations and is unlikely to ever see the light of day. At the same time, the G20 has sponsored the Agricultural Markets Information System (AMIS) with the express intention of â€˜strengthen[ing] collaboration and dialogue among main [food] producing, exporting and importing countriesâ€™, in order to avoid the food price crises of the past by preventing the implementation of export bans. It is clear that something needs to be done to address the problems of food unavailability, especially in NFIDCs. But perhaps we need a fundamental rethink of where and how we get our food from. If current trends continue, then food markets will tighten, governments will face greater difficulties in securing food for their constituents, and we may all need to dust off our fishing rods.
politics and economics If you were to look at a financial newspaper or website from the last couple of years, the words CRISIS IN GREECE would appear with unnerving frequency. They include a slew of new vocabulary which, given enough time and repetition, readers soon become all too familiar with: sovereign debt, bond yields, troika, austerity. Yet the majority of this news treats Greece as a static recipient of emergency funds, moving only to slash away at its evermore-desperate public sector and working citizens. Save for a few, many articles ignore an ever-growing threat to Greece’s current existence from within the country itself – the far-right, ultranationalist Golden Dawn Party (GD). But for an EU country that was the birthplace of democracy, how can such an undemocratic and dangerous party become so popular? GD is a party that prides itself as being ‘for Greeks only’. Though its leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos and other important party members deny that the group is neoNazi but simply Greek nationalist, their party flag resembles a slightly-altered black swastika on a red backdrop. Many high-profile party members, including MPs, have indicated their ad-
miration of certain aspects of Hitler’s regime and seminal work, Mein Kampf. Since the elections in June 2012, the party has 18 seats in the Hellenic Parliament: polling from October indicates that, were elections held now, GD would gain 14 percent of the vote and become the third largest party. Besides being a political party, Golden Dawn’s activities in Greece include well-organised harassment and violence against immigrants and ethnic minorities. Often this violence occurs openly, with the beleaguered police forces of Athens and elsewhere either standing idly by, or, in some cases, actively colluding with the Party.
FROM DAWN TO DUSK Exploring Golden Dawn’s Popularity in Greece WRITER Michael Falero
Yet, as history teaches us, extremist parties like GD only thrive in times of distress or economic downturn. The recent combination of recession, high debt, and inability to borrow more money has caused Greece to request €240 billion in aid packages from the ‘troika’ — the IMF, European Central Bank, and European Commission. The catch is a radical cutting of government spending, as well as the selling of government assets. And in this extreme downsizing and breakdown of Greek government, GD has thrived.
THE WARWICK GLOBALIST
One of the main reasons GD has succeeded so much in such a short time is because it is a reliable institution. When Greek citizens need help with anything, especially dealing with issues of ‘troublesome’ immigrants, they call their local GD party headquarters for policing. GD appears happy to beat up and intimidate immigrants at a moment’s notice; the party’s line states that deportation of immigrants is necessary for Greek recovery and pride. Greece, compared to the EU, does have a greater percentage of immigrants due to its southernmost position within the EU, having easily-crossed borders, and extraordinarily ineffective immigration controls. Many of these illegal immigrants have been forced out of work, causing a perceived increase of ‘foreigners in the streets.’ And while immigration may be a problem, GD’s solution has been to resort to lethal or near-lethal violence. It seems that for some Greeks, this is an acceptable price to pay for a ‘Greece for Greeks’. Furthermore, GD represents a functioning institution that is undeniably Greek. Whereas many Greek citizens perceive the government in Athens to be run from Angela Merkel’s office in Berlin, GD is a homegrown institution that gets things done, though not always legally or nonviolently. A feeling of a lack of agency among the Greek people remains a threat to the current government of Antonis Samaras, who wishes to continue EU membership and the austerity plan. Golden Dawn provides not only order and services to Greeks, but a feeling that Greece is still an autonomous country. Golden Dawn isn’t going anywhere. The party continues growing in popularity, harassing immigrants at the behest of sympathetic citizens and providing food and basic services for only ‘pure Greeks’. Political experts forecast that Golden Dawn could one day gain a third of the Greek vote in elections, a proportion that would make it the governing party in Greece. And though that time may never come, one need only read the party’s motto to know what that future would look like: ‘Greece for the Greeks: Blood, Honour, Golden Dawn.’ 16
politics and economics
Politics and Nation in Britain Thatcher, New Labour and London 2012 WRITER Priya Rane
The year 2012 has been a truly British year. Or so they said. The Diamond Jubilee was a representation of a quintessential Britain: Union Jacks, monarchy, strawberries and the like. Later, the Olympics saw a renewed sense of vigour in British sentiment â€“ with a tangible sense of pride emanating from the immediate legacy of the Olympics, perhaps more indicative of a modern Britain.The newspapers gleamed: Britain as a nation was finally comfortable with herself. Does this indicate a departure from the modern phenomenon of apathy towards nationhood? The contradictions inherent in British nationality can be framed in the narrative of 2012: amongst the Union Jacks and celebration of
the city of London, the devolution question still looms large over British politics. Thatcherism provides an interesting angle of debate on the nationalist question, for it has been a nationalism in Britain defined by Thatcher that has prevailed since the 80s. Thatcherism redefined our national values, incorporating neo-liberal economics as a fundamental aspect of Britishness by combining it with a simple patriotic, as opposed to the traditional Disraeli paternalistic, view of One Nation Conservatism. National sentiment was continually employed as a tool of selling her neo-liberal policy. Hardworking Britons equated to aspirational Britons: there was no such thing as society. THE WARWICK GLOBALIST
politics and economics Thatcher’s enduring relevance, though, was ultimately confirmed by New Labour. Blair furthered Thatcher’s legacy – and it was perhaps more poignant under New Labour, given the ideological realignment of the Labour Party, signified by the removal of Clause Four. Blair, in confirming that Thatcher was ‘absolutely on the side of history’, had submitted to her ideas on the modern Britain nation. Consumerist politics and the politics of meritocracy were being sold as inherently British. The optimism that came out of the major events of 2012 can be seen as successes of a humbled nation in the current global economic climate – there was relief as well as surprise at how well the Olympics went amongst the supposed malaise of Britain. Events like the Olympics arguably displayed a nation that was more comfortable with her own identity, resulting in less apathy towards the idea of nationhood and a greater willingness to embrace it. Left and Right were united in their praise and did not hesitate to affirm the success of London 2012. Whether or not that was mere temporary respite to the national consciousness is another question. There is little sign of Thatcherite concepts of nationhood being abandoned. The Telegraph recently commissioned a series of articles called ‘Britain Unleashed’ in order to defend the ‘private enterprise, the absolute bedrock of a free society’ which has been ‘derided and mocked’. It is not just the right seeking to reaffirm such Thatcherite values, however. Ed Miliband’s controversial endorsement of One Nation politics caused a stir at the recent Labour conference in Manchester. His rhetoric exuded patriotism as he rallied for a united Britain. More to the point, just as Thatcher did in the 80s, Miliband sought to define ‘One Nation politics’ in his own terms, describing a centre-left vision. Nonetheless, it was a hammerblow for those hoping that the leadership of Ed Miliband would signal a departure from New Labour politics. Thatcherite ideas may continue to shape the nation as of yet.
perspectives Editor’s Note Josh Funnell Is Warwick merely a corporate degree factory that helps churn out a new managerial class destined to occupy top positions? Or is there a hidden population of conscientious objectors and activists, drowned out by the incessant noise of moneyed interests on campus? The Warwick Globalist’s Perspectives section is like a confession booth without anonymity, open to campus’s bravest writers. I aim to offer a unique platform to explore alternative visions for progressive change in our world. University is an intermission before the serious world of mortgage repayments limits our moral autonomy. During this unique time we should freely explore alternative philosophies and solutions to society’s problems. Instead I’m endlessly confronted by a sense of blind acceptance and credulity by many students, who operate with gleeful submissiveness to power in the pursuit of careerism and the ever-elusive ‘internship’. Student journalism should be more than an entry on a CV, but an opportunity to shape and prick the consciences of your fellow students. All too often there is fear (even in student journalism) of stepping beyond the invisible line of consensus – Perspectives offers an antidote to this. After starting off with 21 applicants for this section, we have whittled them down to just three. Daisy King kicks us off with an alternative economic analysis of the London Olympics, a perspective ignored due to the stupefying patriotism surrounding the event. Nathan Busby lays waste to the erroneous image of Barack Obama as the moral president, with a devastating assessment of his drone strikes in Pakistan and the UK’s complicity in the process. Finally, Priyanka Raval takes aim at my former employer Tesco and its influence over UK and Indian food markets with the collusion of government agencies.
The Olympic economic myth goes up in flames WRITER Daisy King
Daisy King explores the naked economic truth of the corporate London Olympics and challenges its long term sustainability
It seems like a lifetime ago that we wandered the temporarily cleaned streets of London, humming ‘Chariots of Fire’. It was an exceptional two weeks, in which our critical faculties were substituted by a collective patriotic enthusiasm. ‘Give them bread and circuses’ – an expensive distraction from real economic misery. Now London reverts back to the unfriendly hustle and bustle, and the cheerful haze of the Olympic flame seems extinguished… Or does it burn on? According to economists, we have the games to thank for a 1% growth in GDP this quarter, wiping out the 1.1% contraction over the previous nine months. Still, I’m left wondering what do we have to celebrate beyond 29 gold medals? With an underlying growth rate of only 0.3%, the lingering Olympic spirit is masking the reality of the situation: that our economy is failing. With the cost of the Games standing at roughly nine billion (triple the original figure), the UK should expect more than just ‘on the right track’. Forget claims that the Games were ‘£337 million under budget’; in reality, the total cost of a 27-day sports event was the equivalent of 10% of the UK’s annual education budget. If building schools is equivalent to paying the water bill, hosting the Olympics was like splashing out on a diamond-encrusted crystal skull. THE WARWICK GLOBALIST
In the prelude to the 2012 games, we were endlessly reminded how the UK would be reimbursed. If I had heard one more official blab reassuring how we’d ‘recover all the money via tourism’, then my Samsung (official Olympic partner) TV may have ended up out the window. With a total of 10.8 million ticket holders for the Games, it is undeniable tourism existed – even if many corporate seats were arrogantly abandoned, occupied only by oxygen. But thanks to Sebb Coe’s winning bid – which ritually offered corporate tax breaks, as is custom, to the IOC – the UK has witnessed corporate tourists, or ‘official Olympic Partners’, to swiftly depart with suitcases full of cash rightfully belonging to the Exchequer, aka us.
But what of the ‘inspired generation’, the ‘Olympic legacy’, hundreds of mini-Mo Farahs itching to get running? How can they? Whilst pledging to get children playing sport, consecutive Governments have encouraged local councils to sell playing facilities in order to raise revenues – hypocrisy at its best. Then we have the shameful deception by characters such as Tessa Jowell. Appearing on Newsnight, Jowell defended the Games against critic Will Self, who claimed giving Sebb Coe the Olympics was like ‘giving a drunk brewer the opportunity to run his own Oktoberfest.’ Jowell countered that the event would create ‘much-needed jobs’ and a ‘sustainable legacy’ of sports participation. The best evidence she could provide for jobs was Westfield Shopping Centre and a ‘retail training academy’, training people to buy and sell more things… sustainable indeed. And yet according to Monbiot, in 2002 her own department’s report concluded that ‘hosting mega events (like the Olympics!) is not an effective, value-for-money method of achieving sustained increase in mass participation.’
This puts to the sword the fairytale of an Olympic ‘Public-Private Partnership’ – the reality being, the public put up 98% of the funding, to the private sector’s meagre 2%. Yet like Hungry Hippos, the 2% freely creamed off the best commercial opportunities available tax-free, creating what Jules Boykoff of the University of Brighton called ‘a lopsided Public Private Partnership’, or to call a spade a spade, corporate Aside from studies by Moody’s and Goldman wealth extraction. Sachs, a collaboration between Demos and IPPR concluded: ‘There is no guaranteed beneficial So what’s left to be proud of? That we can all legacy from hosting an Olympic Games … and remember that time when ‘all eyes were on there is little evidence that past Games have London’ for the summer of 2012? How vain and delivered benefits to those people and places unoriginal when considering that 21 other cities most in need.’ This final study is all the more have hosted a summer games, each surpassing ironic when you consider the foreword was writthe last. From the vacant Birds Nest Stadium in ten by none other than Tessa Jowell herself. Beijing to the rotting infrastructure of Athens, the Olympics provoke nothing but a reminder Aside from the 65 medals, let’s assess of the lingering debts imposed upon the public. London 2012 as an investment. The UK took a London is no exception and in four short years gamble, and economically, it lost. If you remove will be pushed into the shadows of Rio’s feather- the flame-tinted glasses, London 2012 is revealed clad Samba dancers. as not all it should have been.
Image Daisy King
SAINT OBAMA’S DRONES: THE CALL OF DUTY PRESIDENT AND HIS “KILL LIST” WRITER Nathan Busby
Nathan Busby questions the holy portrayal of the Peace Prize President Barack Obama in light of his drone attacks in Pakistan, and investigates the possibility of UK complicity in war crimes
Last month the eyes of the world fixed upon the US, as Mitt and Barack fought for the world’s most powerful job. Most outside America breathed a collective sigh of relief as Obama emerged victorious, presumably believing the world was a safer place under him. But as these two jostled on the world stage, a case was heard in the UK’s high court that refutes Obama’s hopey changey soundbites. It demonstrates the sinister underbelly of his foreign policy and implies UK government complicity in war crimes. Noor Khan has issued formal legal proceedings against the UK Foreign Secretary, William Hague. Mr Khan’s father was killed in a drone strike in March of 2011 with 50 others whilst meeting to discuss a local dispute over a mine in Waziristan, Pakistan. Lawyers for Mr Khan allege that GCHQ – the British government’s intelligence gathering service – shared information regarding drone strike targets with the CIA. Consequently, they are now liable for murder under UK law. William Hague has refused to neither confirm nor deny that information is passed on to the CIA for drone strikes, despite several media outlets claiming to have compelling evidence. As John Pilger has said, ‘Sometimes silence is the greatest lie of all.’ After all, if the Foreign Office is innocent, then why the secrecy? If the reverse is true, then they are colluding in an illegal campaign that has claimed thousands of civilian lives. According to Reprieve – a joint study by Stanford and NYU – for every one ‘insurgent’/‘militant’/‘terrorist’ (whichever pejorative you prefer) killed by a drone, 49 innocent civilians are killed as ‘collateral damage’. It’s hardly surprising their report concludes that 74% of Pakistanis now consider the US an enemy. THE WARWICK GLOBALIST
perspectives These are not ‘accidents’, they are known consequences of years of drone bombings, thus invoking Einstein’s definition of insanity: ‘to conduct the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.’ Alternatively, are such drone attacks a disciplining mechanism, dished out by the White House in order to manufacture a compliant Pakistani population too fearful to sympathise with a resurgent Taliban? Hague’s obstinacy shows scant regard for international law, or for the lives of the 800,000 citizens of Waziristan who live with the daily threat of drone strikes, causing serious psychological trauma. Despite this, the standard line is endlessly regurgitated by the American military: ‘drones save lives’ and make the world a ‘safer place- by eliminating high-ranking Taliban and Al-Qaeda targets. But the Reprieve study shows this to be patently false, if we regard Pakistani lives to be of equal value to Anglo-Saxons, that is. Since Obama took office, there has been an average of 67 drone strikes per year. The report describes how the CIA relies upon less rigorous intelligence, using what they call ‘pattern of life’ analysis, or ‘disposition matrix’, i.e. groups of men who bear certain ‘defining characteristics’ associated with ‘terrorist activity’ are deemed ‘legitimate targets’ – even when their identities remain unknown. What ‘defining characteristics’ are associated with terrorist activity remains confidential, although we have reason to believe it is arbitrarily conjured up according to the needs of President Obama’s ‘kill list’. Obama’s counterterrorism advisor, Josh Brennan, made clear the ambiguity of procedure when he stated, ‘We have high confidence that they’re being
done for the right reasons,’ which translates to: we want to kill them, but won’t provide evidence of their guilt, or allow them to defend themselves. This is a divine right for the executive branch, a power that under Obama extends to the assassination of American citizens without due process. Obama has already authorised the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki and in the process killed his 16-year-old son – also an American citizen. Fawning liberals that credulously endorse Obama’s every word and action would do well to unbury their heads on this issue and face reality. So what drives the political demand for drones? General Atomics, who manufacture Reaper drones, have spent on average two million dollars annually on lobbying since 2008 – more than any other defence contractor. During this period, they’ve seen revenues from sales more than double to over half a billion dollars. Incidentally, another big customer is the British military, who own five Reaper drones and are in the process of purchasing five more. While such war profiteers boom, the populations of attacked nations seethe at the west, and people like Noor Khan lose innocent family members. Ask yourself, what right does William Hague, an elected official, have to neither confirm nor deny Britain’s involvement in Obama’s drone wars? War crimes provoke the need for a just response, but more fundamentally, these actions undermine the very security they profess to seek. If the US wishes to destabilise a nuclear power and guide the resentful population and a nuclear arsenal into the hands of radicals, then drones could not just be a threat to civilians in the Middle East, but to human survival itself.
In April 2011, I witnessed Bristol turn into a war zone. 9pm: The protesters’ frustrations at being ignored erupt and 160 officers fight violently against 300 protesters. Rioters subsequently ransack Tesco, clash violently with the police and throw petrol bombs. Such a dramatic melee may seem disproportionate in tranquil middle England. But we Bristolians are proud of our city’s identity. A sentiment captured by the cry of activists was, ‘Whose streets? Our streets!’ Gloucester Road in Bristol exudes a unique air of cultural exoticism. It is one of the longest stretches of independent shops in Europe – chain stores are endangered species here. Chains’ absences are matched only by the conspicuous presence of dreadlocked consumer hippies. It is a rare example of shopping in an idealised market economy: meat comes from your butcher, bread comes from your baker and a relationship exists between shopkeeper and customer. You know where your food originates from and you can acquire all manner of weird and wonderful merchandise unheard of in identikit British high streets. The co-mingling of these community ingredients is a recipe for the kind of anger unleashed last year. To feel your treasured local identity under threat by a corporate giant stirs a protective instinct within, that if tested too strongly can lead us to Molotov cocktails.
WRITER Priyanka Raval
Priyanka Raval juxtaposes the imposition of Tesco in Bristol with its emergence in her homeland of India, and demands a fight back against supermarket domination
THE WARWICK GLOBALIST
Governments know all too well of the devastation that supermarkets cause to local communities, and yet – along with the Competition Commission – turn a blind eye These aren’t the paranoid imaginings of a romanticised consumer paradise. Governments know all too well of the devastation that supermarkets cause to local communities, and yet – along with the Competition Commission – turn a blind eye. A government study in 1998, for example, found that supermarkets cause ‘the closure of town centre food retailers; increases in vacancy levels; and general decline in the quality of the environment of the centre.’ In 1997 alone, 12 thousand independent stores were closed out of the market – bad, considering that independents employ five times more people per unit of turnover than retail giants. Yet the planning system favours big business: local authorities are terrified of potential planning appeal costs if they reject supermarkets, and therefore democracy is effectively put on sale to the highest bidder. Ironically and depressingly, the same threat now faces my homeland in India. The Indian government are allowing Tesco, amongst others, to enter the country, provoking the same 24
instinctive resistance – protesters blocking trains, strikers crippling shops, shutting schools and effigies burned of enabling Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
As Sir Michael Arthur, British High Commissioner to India said, Tesco would be incongruous with India: ‘They don’t do mass retail, there’s no supermarket culture.’
Rajnath Singh, leader of the Opposition Party, said: ‘India is heading toward economic slavery.’ He warned that the entry of Tesco and Wal-Mart would flood India with imported goods, hurting the indigenous population by undercutting them out of the market. These predictable free market consequences have become their own economic clichés.
With their incredible convenience and ‘too-cheap-to-be-true’ products, Tesco is a tempting proposition and one hard to pragmatically overcome. But there are alternatives: fundamentally, government could follow their own research and regulate against supermarket oligopolies and provide local authorities with the power to fight undesirable planning proposals. The Competition Commission should get new teeth – instead of the false ones it currently wears – and cease unsustainable sympathy to already dominant retail chains (known as the ‘Tebbit Doctrine’ under Thatcher).
Tesco argues that it brings modernised production techniques to the antiquated agriculture sector. However, I say: Get over the ‘Messiah complex’ you seem to suffer, Tesco. Yes, problems need addressing, but I think you need a gentle reminder that you’re merely a supermarket, incapable of bringing about radical economic and political reforms in a country as vast and rapidly developing as India. Big business needs to stop pushing vulnerable countries into a Western mould.
Food is the most basic need of all, and even that, it seems, is beyond democracy. As one activist put it, ‘We’re dealing with people who know the price of everything and the value of fucking nothing.’ That said, we must put an end to Tesco’s tyranny!
culture Editor’s Note Rebecca Myers Antonio Gramsci, a political theorist, once said that the key to sustaining hegemony in a country was to recognise ‘the cultural fact, of cultural activity, of a cultural front as necessary alongside the merely economic and political ones.’ In the modern world, we often take issue with the politics through cultural activities, question politics with cultural facts, and fight our political fights on this cultural front. It is my opinion that the more global your perspective, the more powerful and significant culture is. For this inaugural issue of the Warwick Globalist, I have given writers almost free reign in their definitions of culture. Is it ‘the arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively’? Or is it ‘the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society’? And what is its significance beyond this? With all the freedom we have as the founding editorial board, I wanted our writers to reflect these diverse meanings of culture and have enough flexibility to reflect the extraordinary current events in the interrelationship between culture and politics today. There is no better time to talk about culture and its impact – no time when phenomena have been more earthshattering, outreach has been more global, and access has been easier. The current usage of internet enables ‘viral’ culture – the possibility for one cultural event to explode across the globe and affect more people than ever before. In this section, we have brought you the biggest of these phenomena, the most politicised of these cultural statements, and articles that I believe truly question the nature and impact of culture today. The globe is fighting its fights on a cultural battleground. I hope you’ll find that here at the Globalist, we’re on the front line.
Style or substance?
The biggest cultural phenomenon of the year may have Cameron and Boris boogeying in favour of world peace, but Jack Madigan questions what it really means when you take up those reins WRITER Jack Madigan
I can’t help but feel that I am slightly missing the point in writing a serious article about Gangnam Style. However, as addictively ludicrous as the video may seem, as ludicrously addictive as the song may be, it has been lent a strange legitimacy not just by the scale of its success, but its sheer insidious spread to the heart of global politics and culture. David Cameron and Boris Johnson apparently danced to it together at Dave’s countryside retreat, Chequers. Ai Weiwei, the world-renowned Chinese artist and dissident, has released his own parody. Amazingly, even the UN Secretary-General has chimed in on the debate, declaring that ‘in this era of instability and intolerance we need to promote better understanding through the power of music.’ But why did Gangnam Style erupt so stupendously, and what does this tell us about modern society? THE WARWICK GLOBALIST
culture The song, designed to be played in clubs, carries all the connotations of clubbing – alcohol, sex, material wealth, youthful freedom – in short, an adoption of the Western consumerist model for society. However, an analysis of the video shows a curious tension between undermining this shallow materialism, and supporting the culture it springs from. On the one hand, the song’s lyrics mock those from the immensely wealthy Gangnam district in Seoul, which packs 7% of the country’s GDP into 15 square miles, for their grossly decadent and ultimately meaningless lifestyle. But at the same time, the video is squirming with cameos that reflect the Americanization of Korean culture. The dancing child at the start featured on Korea’s Got Talent (a shiny global franchise), the ‘TV personalities’ who dance in the lift, and the two members of the boyband playing chess are all evidence of models that have been appropriated from the West, and that represent the manufactured, the fake and the commoditisation of culture. Even the figure of Psy himself presents a contradiction. His cacophonic, stupendous elevation to stardom, via the egalitarian system of the internet – where no advertising budgets are required as the popularity of a song can market itself – should be a true underdog tale. It should be an example of artistic freedom breaking the media monopoly that determines what will and will not be a hit. Yet his first chips in breaking America were made by celebrity retweets – Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Tom Cruise – all themselves tied into the system. Since then, Psy has been zipping round the biggest TV shows, and, most tellingly of all, there have apparently been meetings between Psy and Justin Bieber’s management. Like Psy, Bieber’s rise to superfame was caused almost solely by the internet, but ironically, his natural appeal was then pounced on and manufactured from the age of thirteen by a team of stylists and coaches knowledgable 26
in the art of ‘celebrity’. If this fate befalls Psy, there will be an even crueller irony. Gangnam Style, written about a group whose only concern is appearing wealthy and powerful, will have been used to make those involved as wealthy and powerful as possible. This contradiction seems typifying of modern culture – where acts originally intended to be subversive and critical are simply swallowed up by the mainstream, repackaged, and churned back out. Ai Weiwei’s video response, however, perhaps suggests a whole alternate meaning of Gangnam Style. As someone repressed, silenced, even imprisoned by the Chinese state machinery, Ai Weiwei’s video, as funny and bizarre as it seems, supports freedom simply through being so outrageous. In the video, he aims to attract attention to the main difference between democracy and autocracy – that in a democracy the powerful are not afraid to accept satire directed at them, and do not attempt to repress the self-expression of the people. The fact that Boris Johnson and David Cameron have publicly confessed to dancing it together at Chequers, a mansion heavy with history, can be seen to demonstrate levity. You certainly can’t ever imagine Margaret Thatcher telling the House of Commons that she enjoys doing the Macarena. However, it can also be taken as indicative of the trend in Western culture to try to reduce everything to the same trivial level. Images of a country torn apart by war may be followed by a celebrity wedding or an advert for aftershave. A politician is as likely to be questioned on the latest popculture trend as the impact of their policies. The UN Secretary-General may be right. Gangnam Style’s global appeal may be a force for world peace, but if that results in five billion bodies dancing to the same tune under the same neon lights holding the same drink, tuning into the same TV franchises to watch the same song performed with the same celebrity cameo, then maybe peace isn’t so desirable.
Gove’s cultural dyslexia
Michael Gove’s introduction of knowledge-based education is good news for our cultural heritage, but is it realistic? WRITER Daniel Mountain
‘Can anybody here read Greek?’ I was, unfortunately, asked this question during a recent seminar. Needless to say, my response was negative. It marked my first experience of what some have termed cultural illiteracy. The theory of cultural literacy is currently a fashionable topic in parliamentary circles. Since he became Minister for Education, it has become clear that one of the key influences upon Michael Gove is the belief, offered by American educator and academic E.D. Hirsch, Jr., that a drop in national literacy is directly linked to a drop in the amount of knowledge imparted upon the population by schools. It is generally seen as an axiomatic statement that literacy in the UK is falling, and many consider Waterstones’ escape unscathed from the London riots as proof of this. In an attempt to remedy the alleged decrease in British cultural literacy, Mr Gove is taking steps in line with his Hirschian beliefs to take the national curriculum’s focus away
from skills and on to knowledge. If you look at the History curriculum, you find that instead of ‘Year 7 – The Tudors; Year 8 – WW1’, the Year 7 classes are working on ‘developing an understanding of chronology’, and those in Year 8 are ‘developing skills to analyse historical artefacts’. A ‘Hirschian’ like Gove would argue that this shift in the focus of our education is at the expense of developing a strong cultural knowledge base, which ultimately harms us as a culture. But as inferior as I felt in that seminar, we must consider that the premise that one is able to form a ‘cultural canon’ has many flaws. It demands that we consider what exactly forms the basis of our culture, and then draw the line around this – an impossible task in an increasingly global society. It also demands that we consider which aspects of our culture are unnecessary or unimportant. In this sense, it can serve to limit or even devalue aspects of our culture. THE WARWICK GLOBALIST
themes culture In November, a draft of the National Curriculum was leaked. Shockingly, it weighed in at only 30 pages. It did, however, include the knowledge-based structure one would expect from Gove. For example, KS3 students are required to read one Shakespeare play and learn an ode from a sonnet, whilst KS4 students are expected to read a range of canonical texts. Gove has shown that he has a clear view of what is important in our cultural heritage and thus that he considers himself by no means one of the afflicted ‘culturally illiterate’.
It should be immediately obvious that culture is constantly shifting and evolving – its perpetually transient nature is where the beauty of culture lies
However, there is a gaping hole in his analysis: the 21st century. In talking to the BBC, Ian McNeilly of the National Association for the Teaching of English said that education reform should be ‘more than a matter of teaching our literary heritage’, asking: ‘Where is drama? Where is media? Where is the 21st century mentioned?’ I absolutely agree that writers such as Keats and Dickens are essential parts of the British literary canon, and that moments such as the world wars are key parts of the British historical canon. But I think Mr Gove is being altogether too, well, Conservative. It should be immediately obvious that culture is constantly shifting and evolving – its perpetually transient nature is where the beauty of culture lies. Hirsch himself even said: ‘[T]he canon changeth . . . it might change from month to month – faster at the edges, more slowly at the centre.’ If we ignore present culture (the whole of the 21st century, as in Gove’s case), then we not only deprive Britain’s youth of the brilliance of modern art and literature, but we also run the risk of alienating them from culture altogether. After all, when you were a child, would you rather have read Michael Morpurgo, or the Complete Works of Dickens? 28
PICTURE OF BOOKS HERE
More than two sides to the story in the Middle East Ellis Bolle discusses the danger of the Western media’s prescribed binaries in discussing the Israel/Palestine conflict WRITER Ellis Bolle
In 2003, Palestinian Solidarity activist Rachel Corrie was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza. Ever since her death, she has been glorified as a new heroine of Palestine. She has a ship named after her; graffiti in Gaza reads, ‘Rachel was a US citizen with Palestinian blood’; and even Hamas have aligned her with suicide-bomber ‘martyrs’. Indeed, the late Yasser Arafat pledged to name a street after her, and presented a portrait of a Keffiyeh-clad Rachel to her parents. If that’s not enough, actor Alan Rickman turned her story into aWest End play called ‘My Name is Rachel Corrie’.
in which the Western world perceives events in the Middle East, by perpetuating a simplified, blackand-white image of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Corrie’s journal entries, now published as a book, highlight what is nowadays the common way in which Western media presents events in the region. Her depiction of the helpless victims struggling against the militarised bullies can be easily woven into the familiar template of David versus Goliath, of the Western Imperialists oppressing a weak race – the narrative template often used by the West when talking The tragedy of her death has been glazed over about events in the Middle East. and sensationalised, not only by Palestinians, but by the Western media, who have painted Responsibility falls on the media outlets a distorted and narrow image of Corrie as the relating the information. Unfortunately, many embodiment of Western virtue, murdered by media companies such as the BBC have framed the reckless armed machine of the Israeli state. the conflict through the constant recycling of opposing iconic images. For example, how Her glorification captures everything that is familiar is the image of the imprisoned Gazans wrong with modern-day solidarity with Palestine. on one side of the fence, and the prison overseers, Moreover, it has serious implications for the way that is, the Israeli military, on the other side? THE WARWICK GLOBALIST
themes culture The recycling of these images consequently stresses the key binary concepts – of the occupiers and the occupied, the terrorists and the victims, the military aggressors and the weak civilians – through which we understand the conflict. What’s more, the media’s repetition of stock phrases has become a fixed vocabulary when talking about the conflict.‘Occupation’,‘terrorist’, ‘disputed territories’ and ‘blockades’ are all established, loaded terms which are used freely. In fact, the term ‘Israel-Palestine’ conflict is in itself problematic. It polarises not just the people and the land that fall under either the Israeli or Palestinian bracket, but also the wider public, forced to pick sides, as if this were a football match. The result of this is a highly motivated body of Western ‘away fans’, like Corrie, who are willing to go to extremes to support their side. When it comes to this very current and controversial conflict, this narrative of opposing forces, one weak and the other strong, proves unhelpful and extremely insensitive to the tensions and geopolitical complexities involved. Unfortunately, it seems that Corrie and many other solidarity campaigners have been won over by the images, the media partiality, and the idea that they are the heroes, 30
This narrative of opposing forces, one weak and the other strong, proves unhelpful and extremely insensitive to the tensions and geopolitical complexities involved. putting an end to a new struggle, independence, but as a threata 21st-century ‘apartheid’. ened tribe that must be protected from further harm by ‘human The problem is that Palestinian shields’ from the enlightened Solidarity has been spurred on west. Nine years after her death, by the West to become idealised how much has changed? and out of touch with political realities. Corrie’s assertion that The conflict is in need of a ‘the vast majority of Palestinians new discourse, a way in which right now, as far as I can tell, we can speak about it and not are engaging in Gandhian non- polarise sides. When we talk violent resistance’ is an about the region of Israelexample of this idealisation, and Palestine, we need to be aware led Times of London reviewer of the historical roots and the Clive Davis to write that ‘even past political tensions that the late Yasser Arafat might have have shaped current problems. blushed at that one.’ We need to be aware that this is not a space which can be It seems that supporting Pales- defined by a stable set of opposing tine is not the same as looking descriptions. There is not, as upon Palestinians as a people Corrie assumed, a Gandhi and an capable of governing their own Empire. No government here is lives, let alone running their free of fault, and, most imporown state. Activists, like Corrie, tantly, there is not a set group treat Palestinians not as a people of people who can be carelessly who simply need more political labelled as ‘the victims’.
warwick in the world Editor’s Note
FRENCH STUDENTS REFUSE TO WAVE THEIR WHITE FLAG
Antonia Rassool The Warwick in the World section is not just the place for Warwick students to reminisce about the great time they had on their year abroad. It is, however, the section where they can communicate how much they learnt about the culture, politics or economics of that country, and how it compares to being a student at Warwick. Having done a year abroad myself, I appreciate how eye-opening moving away from Warwick for a year can be, and how you can learn so much about a place that you just would not be able to pick up from a textbook. ‘French students refuse to wave their white flag’ demonstrates just this. It looks into how living in France allowed a Warwick student to explore how two countries so close to each other can be so different when it comes down to student politics. This is the section to prove how Warwick is not just the ‘bubble’ is it often described as, but a buzzing, diverse community of over 23,000 students representing over 120 countries. Our university is becoming increasingly internationally connected year by year. For example, few are aware that Warwick is the only European university to form an agreement to create a new Center for Urban Science and Progress in New York. These connections will no doubt increase our global reputation. In addition, right here on campus Warwick students are running their own initiatives, which form part of a global network. ‘Food Activism – a “perfect storm” for social change?’ urges us to get involved in some of the movements set up by Warwick students. Having access to all of these global opportunities right here on our very doorstep on the outskirts of Coventry, we have no excuse but to get involved.
WRITER Ellie Lewis
Image Sarah Smith
Thanks to the widespread student revolts of May 1968, an undeniably politicised image of the French student has been created. The protests and riots led by charismatic students such as Daniel Cohn-Bendit were at the heart of the largest general strike in history and brought the country to a standstill. But is this picture a modern reality? Are French students today more politically engaged than we are? If so, why? I was lucky enough to spend a year in Lyon, France’s second largest city, a buzzing centre for students hosting sixteen higher education institutions. During my time there, I witnessed the run-up to the recent election of current president François Hollande, and the experience stunned me. I left my apartment just before the results had been announced to meet a friend in the town centre. The results broke whilst I was on my bike and a wave of joyous shouts and honking horns followed me down the road. But this was nothing like what I saw in Place Bellecour. Hundreds of young Lyonnais massed in the main square to celebrate. Fireworks, music and dancing ensued. And this was just one of the many euphoric street parties which took place across France, lasting throughout the night until sunrise the next morning. There seemed to be so much relief that Sarkozy was out and Hollande was in. It was France’s ‘Obama beat Bush’ moment. Even Hollande’s slogan, ‘Le changement c’est maintenant’ (change is now), echoed Obama’s own taglines. THE WARWICK GLOBALIST
warwick in the world
What I found is that the French are not scared to talk politics. In fact, politics seemed to infuse everyday life, and even more so during the run-up to the election. When I descended for breakfast I would be greeted by a wonky Hollande poster in the kitchen. Two of my housemates would make fun of our third housemate who was a staunch supporter of the green party candidate Eva Joly (the homophones ‘Joly’ and ‘jolie’, meaning ‘pretty’, creating great opportunity for mockery). One evening an unashamedly childish post-it note was stuck to his door: ‘Eva Joly est moche’ (Eva Joly is ugly). Everyone I met seemed to have a political leaning. Politics is so important to the French that it could even impact their relationships. One friend, an avid supporter of Hollande’s Socialist party, spent a solid half hour contemplating breaking it off with the boy she had been dating, having discovered that he supported Sarkozy. Thinking back to the UK elections in May 2010, there was a considerable movement on campus to get students involved. Indeed, many students were getting involved, but the atmosphere trailed far behind the electric one I had felt in France. Although many students all over the UK, including Warwick, did and do get involved in British politics, one has to admit the probability of having a conversation about the manifestos of the Lib Dems and Conservatives over a drink at a party would have been relatively low. And this difference is supported by the national statistics. In this year’s primary round in France, a staggering 75 per cent of 18-24 year olds voted. This is in comparison to the 2010 general elections in the UK, which saw an embarrassing 44 per cent voter turnout in the same age group. So why is there such a great difference between the two countries? It is my belief that it is France’s
modern history that is mainly to thank for making its young people so entwined with politics. Helen Drake, lecturer in French and European studies at Loughborough University and author of Contemporary France, highlights in an article for the BBC the impact of France’s history on forming its particular political culture. ‘French politics is anchored to the past [and] is linked to the French Revolution of the late 1700s – that dramatic transformation in the French system from monarchy to republic.’ Drake explains that it is this constitution with ‘grand ideas of equality and fraternity’ which has led to French politics being so prominent to young people. Politics is in the air, following you ‘down to the street, to the cafés and to the rallies.’ Yet I believe this election was more than just a demonstration of young French political spirit. It is important to observe the particularity of 2012 and the years leading up to it in order to understand the youth reaction to the presidential elections. The declining economic situation, rising youth unemployment levels and a lack of opportunities for young French people, together with the widespread growing unpopularity of Sarkozy, are key in understanding French student voting. Drake states that in France, perhaps most importantly, there is a ‘willingness to be seen, to be counted and to make a noise.’ It is clear that French students are more than willing to make a noise – be it in May 1968 or on the election of their new president. By turning out in their masses and voting, they reaffirmed their desire for change. In Britain, we must do the same. The courageous efforts of the many British students who took to the streets of London in opposition to the crippling tuition fee rises showed that many students care. However, we must go further. We, too, must turn to the ballot boxes.
FOOD FOOD ACTIVISM A ‘PERFECT STORM’ FOR SOCIAL CHANGE? Global hunger is undoubtedly one of the most pressing problems facing humankind. According to a 2010 report by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), one in seven people go hungry every day and malnutrition is behind at least half of the yearly ten million child deaths. Meanwhile, the giants of global agro-capitalism continue to report record profits (the largest four corn producers amassed $20 billion in profits in 2010 alone), and globally, enough food is wasted to feed the world’s hungry six times over. Food experts, including the FAO, are increasingly of the opinion that the global food system is structurally flawed, prioritising the concentration of profit in the hands of the few rather than feeding the world. And this by no means the full story. The destructive irrationality of the food production system is a problem underlying many of the planet’s other urgent crises – that is, issues not only of humanitarian, but also environmental, economical, and animal welfare import.
WRITER Chris Maughan
Recent events in social change generally – and food activism specifically – suggest that this convergence of factors may be the ‘perfect storm’ that will shake the global food system to its foundations. It is, therefore, of no surprise that food production remains an important focus for many activists driven by the desire for widespread social and environmental change. It has long been known that the trick to effecting social change is to know where the system is weakest. In the case of capitalism the clue is in the title: if the capital stops circulating, capitalism ceases to function. In a recent article, permaculturist David Blume brought this view to bear on the effectiveness of food activism: ‘If you want to end transnational capitalism,’ he claimed, ‘then stop giving them your capital.’ Whether in terms of ‘growing your own’ or supporting community-owned agriculture, food activism entails a criticism and rejection of industrial and transnational food production.
THE WARWICK GLOBALIST
warwick in the world The point is not to say that altering the flow of global capital is easy – it isn’t. Identifying weaknesses may be straightforward, but identifying and supporting a range of effective ways to exploit those weaknesses is the challenge that faces us all. There are movements on a global scale, as well as continuing projects in the UK and even at the University of Warwick that are rising to this challenge.
Most importantly, it is an approach based on the interests of social and ecological necessity, not those of corporate profit. It must be recognised, however, that these initiatives have relevance that goes far beyond the Global South, where the majority of LVC’s members are based. Indeed, given the developed world’s influence on the global food market, it is of equal importance that it attains ‘critical mass’ on food sovereignty action and awareness, alongside those producers who are directly exploited in the Global South. Though the only official British member of LVC is the smallholder collective the Scottish Crofters Federation, there are many other organisations who share LVC’s vision of democratically determined and ecologically sustainable food production. Projects worth looking out for include Fordhall Farm in Shropshire, Britain’s first community owned farm; GrowHeathrow, a community occupying the proposed location of the third runway at Heathrow who have been employing strategies of sustainable and selfdetermined food production and often distribute their produce to the local community; and Cultivate, a thriving ‘community supported agriculture’ project in Oxford. And this is merely to scratch the surface of the UK’s emergent food activism scene.
Perhaps the biggest success story in global food activism is La Via Campesina (LVC), an organisation set up in 1993 famous for their advocacy of ‘food sovereignty’, a concept which the group has defined as ‘the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods.’ Representing around 200 million farmers across 70 countries, the group has a substantial body of evidence which supports their methods and proves that the models they promote help to ease a wealth of the problems arising in the global food system, for example productivity, biodiversity, and incidents of animal suffering, as well as rates of violent crime, obesity, drug abuse, and unemployment. As such, their methods promise a rational and ethical approach to food production. Most importantly, it is an approach based on the interests of social and ecological necessity, not The University of Warwick itself those of corporate profit. 34
is not short on grassroots food activism. GrowWarwick are a new initiative and the recipients of a grant to develop an ‘agroforestry’ project on campus. Warwick’s People and Planet have recently established a food co-op to explore more sustainable food procurement options for Warwick students. The Warwick University Allotment is now in its third year, producing organic food on campus for free distribution amongst its participants. The group received an £8000 grant from the NUS’s Student Eats project, and are currently undergoing significant development, looking set to substantially expand their production over the coming year. Despite enjoying a recent ground swell of support, these groups welcome the ongoing participation of the Warwick community. All projects mentioned in this article have an online presence through which further information about them can be found. Whilst there are indeed many exciting movements on the global food activism scene, they often remain isolated and fragmentary. It is our obligation as activists (aspiring or otherwise) to fill the gaps that remain between them.
Edition 1: The Crisis of Democracy