Thursday, June 21, 2012

Like the Soviet Union, but without the Socialism

Under the noses of its people, the Conservative government is carrying-out an ideological war on British society. In its scale, its righteous certainty, and callous lack of empathy, it ranks as one of the biggest hidden attempts at social engineering on a national scale seen in the Western world for decades.
The evidence is plain to see; you just have to look carefully at the headlines.

Since coming to power, under the charming and harmless-looking nose of David Cameron, the Prime Minister has given his ministers free rein to take their ideological battles to the departments they run, and further out to the nation.

The most notorious of these is the Education minister, Michael Gove. Just today the news leaked out of his plan to scrap GCSEs and return the secondary education system back to the O-levels/CSEs of thirty years ago. He claims that the current exams do not adequately provide the skills and standards necessary for today's situation. Well, it may well be said that the education system is not perfect; certainly it could be improved. But what he recommends is a system that formalises Social Darwinism.
For a start, it is misleading and disingenuous to compare education systems retrospectively, thirty years apart: the methods are different, and the old system was replaced because business people saw it as inadequate for  real life conditions. How would going back the previous discredited system be better? Not only that, but any return to "O" levels would mean they no longer correlate to the following A-levels - unless Gove recommends (and secretly plans on) changing the FE system as well. People who are adults now (who look the old "O" levels) say GCSEs are much easier than in their day: but logically any exam reviewed by a 40-year-old that is designed for a 16-year-old is going to be easier. It's easy to mock teenagers when you're an adult.

But those are small points compared to the main one: that this is another example (I'll mention others later) of how the Conservatives, with Gove as one of its most vociferous proponents, are content to "raise standards" by creating a system whereby those who are unlucky enough to fail these "rigorous" exams will be effectively cast out from social mobility - in other words ensuring that there will be a permanent and significant underclass, cut off from the more well-off and socially capable rest. But he hasn't though much about this.
There are already the student fees in place (some of the highest in the Western world), also meant to "raise standards", but also guaranteeing that there will continue to be an entire generation of graduates with tens of thousands of pounds in debt with little hope of getting a well-paid job, due to the swelling ranks of highly-educated unemployable young people. They will have to resort to the growing trend of unpaid "internships", unpaid "work experience", or if they're lucky, part-time work. This is the future that Mr Gove is helping to create: a generation of graduate slave labour.

Then there is the Chief Inspector of School, Michael Wilshaw, who seems to operate as Mr Gove's ideological witchfinder-general: psychologically terrorising the schools system by constantly undermining the way schools' performance is measured. For him, no longer is it acceptable to be a "satisfactory" school two years running - to him, this represents failure. He also threatened to impose on-the-spot inspections, but with that idea leaving some school heads and teachers literally living in fear every day they come to work, this idea has been quietly shelved. Teachers are supposed to be amongst our most valued people in society, but under the catch-all excuse of "raising standards", it is being used as a weapon of terror on the educational system: terrorising teachers and students alike, and leaving many of the teachers either on the edge of a nervous breakdown, quitting, and many prospective teachers discouraged to even think about it. Perhaps Mr Gove wants this to happen as well.
The Department of Education, therefore, is ran like a latter-day branch of the KGB; declaring war on education for the sake of education.

Then there's the Health minister, who is pushing through the biggest form of privatisation in the health sector yet seen. This is on the back of continual criticisms from the sector itself, and a radical dismembering of the NHS - the government institution most cherished by the British public. It is almost as though the government is taking a perverse form of pleasure of taking to pieces that which the people most respect about government. As the Conservatives are so ideologically-obsessed with the idea that government by definition cannot do things as well as the private sector, they are determined to even destroy the one thing that government still does well (and is most respected by the public), given the alternative. By purposely undermining government as an institution, it also as though the government deliberately is courting controversy and sees unpopularity as a badge of honour. This lack of empathy and twisted logic reeks of "Bolshevik"-style ideological psychopathy, turned on its head.

There is also the issue of welfare, pensions and investment.

Welfare has seen the sledgehammer of "reform" and cuts. The disabled, families and the "working poor" are all suffering due to the government's zeal for cutting back on the state's provision to the neediest in society. One of the most disturbing developments partly due to the cuts has been that some councils have been forced to relocate some families to other (less developed) parts of the country for financial reasons: in other words, forced deportations to "the regions", or effectively economic exile.

The government has also declared an unofficial war on public servants' pensions. Its main tactic, so it appears, is through the government's intransigence to provoke the various public servants unions into going on strike in order to discredit them in the court of public opinion. So once again, we see the government playing a reckless game of brinkmanship to test the resolve of the public sector as a whole. We already saw earlier this year this same tactic back-fire spectacularly with the tanker drivers' dispute, when the government caused a national panic even though there was no declared strike. But even then, the government blamed the (non-striking) tanker drivers.

The government's resistance to promoting growth in the economy through government investment also ensures that a growing trend in employment has become entrenched: a growing and significant number of long-term unemployed (to add to the many unemployable graduates and school-leavers); and a growing and significant number of part-time jobs to replace full-time employment. It used to be true that the Soviet Union had zero unemployment: this was because many people had "non-jobs" like opening doors. The government's lack of interest in unemployment is turning the UK into a variation on the USSR's state of affairs: the UK will become a country of part-time workers.

Furthermore, there is also the Ministry of Defence, whose role in the cuts is to oversee the down-sizing of the military by twenty per cent. This is not often in the news, so some may see this as a side-issue, but for the thousands of soldiers to lose their jobs and regiments due to be disbanded, it is a shocking state of affairs: all the more so as it comes from the same Conservative Party what was meant to be the vanguard of the military's interests. Ironic, then, that the one that wields the knife is the military's bosom buddy. As it happens, I am currently reading the biography of Stalin (which partially inspired me to write this article): he who ordered the execution of many of the military leaders who had been his staunchest allies in the Bolshevik's rise to power. The similarly-ruthless psychology of the Conservative Party hierarchy is not lost on me.

Last, but far from least, is Theresa May, the Home Secretary, who is keen on cuts and "reform" to the police. Like the military, the police are supposed to be a cause close to the heart of the Conservative Party; but also like the military, those closest to the Party are those most likely to feel the knife. The police are in open revolt over the massive cuts proposed, but the Home Secretary is unyielding in her desire to see through the "reforms". By law, police cannot strike - though perhaps, like with other public sector workers, the Conservatives would secretly wish that they could, just so that they could provoke them. All the better to discredit the enemies of "reform". The Home Secretary also wished to force on the police, in the same way that the Chief Inspector of Schools is ideologically supportive of the government, a reform-friendly bureaucrat. The police wouldn't stand for this further insult, however.

One further very recent change to immigration, at the suggestion of the Home Secretary, puts the UK almost in a league of its own compared to other Western democracies. British citizens married to non-EU citizens (which includes those Brits married to Americans, Canadians, Australians, Kiwis, South Africans, as well as all other non-English speaking countries in the world) may only live in the UK with their spouses if they earn more than £18,000 - increasing to above £22,000 if they have a child, increasing with the number of children they have. The average salary in the UK is around £27,000, give or take. If you earn minimum wage, your salary is more like £12,000. The figure of £18,000 is beyond what the majority of women, and people under thirty, typically earn in the UK. Around forty per cent of the UK working population earn less than £18,000 overall.
So that puts this immigration rule into perspective: the British government has now effectively offered some of its own citizens an awful choice. For those Brits married to non-EU foreigners and not on a "high" salary, they must either live in the UK apart from their spouse, or permanently live in exile. The Soviet Union created thousands of political exiles; the government now is creating thousands of financial exiles, simply because the government doesn't approve of who they marry.
So now the Conservative government has even declared war on the "wrong" type of love.

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