David Cameron goaded over The Smiths at Prime Minister's Questions

Discussion in 'General Discussion archive 2010 (read-only)' started by Sheridan Whiteside, Dec 8, 2010.

  1. Qvist

    Qvist Active Member

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    There was some breaking in required to get the food, if I remember correctly?

    Super markets are presumably not allowed to give away out of date food because of safety and health regulations. As annoying as these are, they are actually there to protect you and me, and are probably on the whole way preferable to just letting supermarkets do whatever they want.

    Is it very reasonable that supermarkets should either break the law, or have their premises broken into at considerable cost and inconvenience? Or maybe we should just scrap food and safety regulations? Idiots. If they want to cook vegan food for the needy, that's great. Just use your own money and buy the food. If you want to make sure you're using food that would otherwise have been thrown away, then buy products who expire on the same day. Who knows, if they stopped breaking and entering all the time, they might even persuade supermarkets to give them a big discount. Of course, it would lack that great, swashbuckling thrill that they're currently getting.
     
  2. not_me_not_I

    not_me_not_I New Member

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    I think these kinds of laws are well-intentioned, but the results have become a bit draconian.
    A similar example is expired pharmaceuticals in veterinary medicine. We are, by law, not allowed to give away any drugs that are expired. Most people who work in vet hospitals assume, and probably correctly (although I don't know that the experiments have been run) that the drugs may be less effective, but probably still work reasonably well for some time after the official expiration date. Put aside the law for a moment and think in ethical terms. It is very common for there to be a few clients each month who have no money at all - maybe they lost their job, maybe they are homeless, maybe they are on social security, whatever - but they have a sick pet with a problem that might very well be fixed by that drug that expired a few months ago. No one has gotten around to disposing of it properly and the manufacturer won't take it back, so it's sitting in a box labelled "expired meds." What is the ethical response? Tell the person that you can't help them, that they should take their pet home to continue to suffer and maybe die? Or break the law and give them free, maybe less effective but likely effective enough, medications that were going in the trash anyway, after telling them that the meds are expired and you can't guarantee the effectiveness? Should we cling to the law and increase suffering because some large pharmaceutical company needs to cover their ass?

    Obviously I have never seen expired medications dispensed to clients. That would be illegal.
     
  3. lnathan

    lnathan New Member

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    I think they may have to climb a fence, yes.

    Some of these kids are, as I said, as young as 15 - of course they are also in it for the thrill. They smash the windows of McDonalds beause of what it represents and because they have existed in Denmark since 1981 but didn't pay any tax there until april this year. No, it's not rational and reasonable, it's just a reaction against injustice.

    My main point was that they see themselves as activists and they listen to The Smiths.
     
  4. Qvist

    Qvist Active Member

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    That's laws. You can't make them so that they always lead to the optimal decision in every conceivable eventuality. It's just not possible.

    There is of course no easy answer to the question you pose. I suppose each must answer it to her- or himself, if they are in a position to do so. However, you're not considering burglary to get to the medicines.
     
  5. Qvist

    Qvist Active Member

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  6. Worm

    Worm Taste the diffidence

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    It has to take the form of vandalism. It has to take the form of law-breaking. The situation is not the same as it was 30 years ago. Power is entirely on the side of the market. The police and the government serve the corporations and other businesses. Anarchy is the only efficacious means of fighting back. Short-circuiting the system is the only alternative because the system is a dominant entity, a totality. No reforms in the system are possible. Cuts in services and education are only the beginning and apparently a few people have smartened up to this fact. Today Athens, Dublin, and London, tomorrow Washington, Paris, Brussels...

    I know you're shaking your head, but instead of assaulting my point (as I know you can, with many points I'm ready to concede) try to imagine other avenues of action citizens can take. Not in theory, i.e. "Form coalitions of voters and effect change in local and national governments, and then the international system"-- yes, yes, OK, we all know this-- but in practice, in the world as we know it in 2010. The fact that you regard the protesters and vandals as childish is telling: you know as well as I do that these are kids throwing a tantrum, committing petty crimes which will barely scratch the real power, a power which will in fact remain untouchable until it is wrecked from without or (likelier) from within.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2010
  7. Anaesthesine

    Anaesthesine Angel of Distemper

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    Wow, Christopher Lasch, that's a name I haven't heard in a long time.

    These are valid points, but things really depend on what kind of system the activists/protesters are working in, and what they're fighting for. There is no point in vandalism when there are other avenues through which to achieve your goals. Reasonable dialogue is always better than breaking and entering, and collective, constructive action (donations to feed the poor) is always preferable to breaking the law.

    However, there are times when collective, public action is necessary to right a great wrong, or achieve the goals of social justice. The suffragists who marched endlessly, who went on prison hunger strikes and chained themselves to the White House gates weren't narcissistic X-boxers, they were people who realized that there were insurmountable political and social forces working against them, and that they had to take matters into their own hands. There was no violence, but there was civil disobedience, mass protest and public spectacle. And it worked - it took 80 years, but it worked. Would women's suffrage have happened without all the drama? I'm not so sure. It seems like history could not have been written any other way, but I think it was the willingness to fight that turned the tide.

    The civil rights movement of the 1950s/'60s was won as much by civil disobedience and collective, public action as anything else. The tides of history are forced - they don't rise with the moon.

    That said, petty vandalism seldom wins hearts and minds, and actions like the WTO protests didn't really accomplish anything, either. The Bush era was a turning point: something like 15 million people worldwide, one of the largest global peace actions in history, and no one in power so much as batted an eyelash.
     
  8. Worm

    Worm Taste the diffidence

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    Tend to agree, for the most part, but I think there's a lot to be said for disrupting the wheels of commerce. I thought the shut-down of the Oxford Street Top Shop was wonderful. It would be like shutting down stores on Fifth Avenue, say. Shopping zones are totally dehumanized. To see actual human beings opening up these spaces is kind of a shock. I don't think the proper analogue is vandalism at all. It would be the equivalent of a band of Medieval peasants bursting in on Sunday mass to piss in the pews and chop up the crosses for firewood: a disruption of the symbolic order and consquently a weakening of its authority. The point isn't the act itself, which is usually a complete failure, but rather the way the act may show onlookers how power can be rocked back on its heels. The proverbial crack in the dam always starts off as a tiny one.
     
  9. lnathan

    lnathan New Member

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    All kids are narcissists. That's why I think the food project is so extraordiary. It's not petty vandalism. I see this in a Danish context, where most kids are spoiled brats who couldn't care less about the world outside their iPhones. These kids spend their free time on something which involves an act of unselfishness. There is a lot of work that goes into this as well, with running the kitchen, cooking and serving the food. And there is no violence involved. Seeing actions like these by such young people actually gives me some sort of hope for the future. If it was my 15-year-old kid doing this, I might tell them that stealing is essentially wrong, but I would think I had done something right somewhere.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2010
  10. Don't kid yourself--their main reason for doing this isn't altruism; they're doing it to buck the Establishment. If they really wanted to be altruistic without being narcissistic, they'd volunteer at a food bank or other program for the needy.
     
  11. lnathan

    lnathan New Member

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    That's right. Joining an already established program would remove an important element of what they are doing: acting against the system, against consumerism. They want to create something on their own. I think it's admirable.

    Also, "programs for the needy" does not exist in Denmark on the same scale as it does in the US.
     
  12. Consumerism, communism, religion, whatever--there's always a segment of the population, usually young, that's disaffected and will try to subvert the system. I used to think it was admirable, too, when I was young and invincible.

    Because the ruffians are providing for the needy.
     
  13. Qvist

    Qvist Active Member

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    Me neither, and it's a shame, because he deserves prophetic status. You can practically deduce the future existence of reality shows from his analysis. :)

    On identity politics and the personal being political, I understand very well your points. But for my part I have always been sceptical to that, because it has such obvious downsides. Sure, you can see as good that you can make a statement about who you are and what you believe in by wearing certain clothes, for example. But on the other hand, there are a lot of negative things connected to that. For instance, what if you don't actually want to define who you are by what you wear? Maybe you can't afford the right trousers. Maybe you just like orange cashmere. Maybe you just find a Duffle Coat comfortable. Maybe your job or some other commitment requires you to wear certain clothes. Maybe you just don't feel like walking around like a fucking pamphlet. It can be annoying, or even offensive, to have people make assumptions about you on the basis of what you're wearing.

    Also, it tends to reduce things to a few composite identities - essentially little more than a slightly refined form of stereotyping. You wear that, so your political opinions must be this and you listen to that music and eat that kind of food. And then it all starts working in the opposite direction: People walk into pre-set molds where beliefs and tastes tend to follow logically from a general lifestyle choice. I just find that oppressive. And to my mind, that is such a strong message in Morrissey's lyrics.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2010
  14. Qvist

    Qvist Active Member

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    No, because there are vastly fewer needy, and also because the government provides for them.
     
  15. Qvist

    Qvist Active Member

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    Oh, please, don't make me laugh. "Acting against the system"? Oh, you mean the one that currently makes Denmark one of the best 3-5 countries in the world to live in? Obviously that has to go, in favor of, er, something that isn't "consumerism".

    "Against consumerism", right. What does that actually mean, though? What is it that is being damaged when Jon and Gitte (15) smash in windows at a MacDonalds at five in the morning? Have you considered to what moronic level of oversimplification you have to reduce reality before that begins to make any kind of sense?
     
  16. Qvist

    Qvist Active Member

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    No they aren't. All kids are not narcissists. Kids are capable of genuine idealism, empathy and sense. To an amazing degree actually. My job frequently brings me into contact with NGOs and associations that are run by youngsters, and I have to say I often come away very impressed on all three counts.

    I think your "spoiled brats" anlaysis is spot on. I don't have much first-hand knowledge of Denmark, but I would presume it's not too different from the rest of Scandinavia, or possibly a little bit worse in this respect. I can't help but remember a documentary I once saw that compared elementary schools in the nordic countries - the one in Copenhagen being an "open office landscape" sort of thing full of snooty, insufferable übercool brats who went around high-fiving their teachers. I also think you are right that these kids are some of the best of the bunch - those who actually bother to care about something they can't buy at the mall.

    But surely this makes them another symptom rather than the antidote? I mean, if this is what you get from the best segment of the kids, those with the highest capacity to care and understand issues and formulate responses to it, what does that show? They go in for a mode of activism that is vaguely and instinctually opposed to a system they don't understand and have no alternative to, and that otherwise emphasises cheap thrills and tribal bonding. It is, in fact, a deeply selfish and very spoiled form of idealism, the kind that doesn't seem to care if it makes any difference or not because that's not the point. That makes me pessimistic for the future - the best kids should be capable of something better, and less selfish, than this.

    But enough. I don't know anything about these kids other than what you've told me.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2010
  17. Qvist

    Qvist Active Member

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    Absolutely. One cannot rule out specific methods and means as such (unless they are inherently reprehensible), their appropriateness depends on the situation.

    They didn'ty accomplish anything because they didn't offer anything. They offered no comprehensible analysis, no reasonable criticism, no even vaguely discernible alternative, literally no sense (anti-globalisation? What's next, anti-internet?), all of it packaged in organised violence and wholesale destruction. I wonder why that failed to convince people.
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2010
  18. Anaesthesine

    Anaesthesine Angel of Distemper

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    Fine points all, but personal politics wasn't a choice made by bored, disaffected bourgeois kids.

    The personal became political when AIDS was declared a "gay disease," when the Religious Right declared that Conservatism was god's political preference (and the Republicans became the official party of Christendom), and when "political elite" became shorthand for a good liberal arts education. The Reagan era politicized everything. In such a divisive atmosphere, the personal became political by fiat. As is painfully evident, America never recovered from that rift.

    Sure, it can be taken to silly extremes, but people didn't wake up one day and say "I think my band t-shirt is politically important," they woke up and said "Oh, I didn't realize that I wasn't invited to the party." So, eating organic food became a way to support environmental causes (which became an exclusively lefty cause, unfortunately), and Silence=Death t-shirts became a way to declare your disaffection from the official government line that AIDS either wasn't happening, or was god's way of saying "I told you so."

    Yes, it's childish and narcissistic, but in a highly polarized political state (like the one that exists today), everything becomes a signifier (remember when Obama didn't wear a flag pin on his lapel - oh my god, he hates America :rolleyes:).

    The Smiths came along at just such a moment in history, and were drawn into a highly-politicized music scene. They became a signifier for something rather nebulous, but highly charged. Sure, Morrissey stands for the opposite of stereotyping (he defied all conventions), but The Smiths were a rallying cry for a certain something that obviously meant different things to different people: A Rush and A Push And The Land is Ours...

    EDIT: let's not overlook the current "War on Christmas," where "Happy Holidays" is code for "I am a Heathen warrior who hates Freedom, Jesus, apple pie and America and wants everyone to be gay." The 21st century makes the end of the 20th century look like a golden era of love and cooperation. The personal isn't just political anymore, it's a declaration of war...
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2010
  19. Qvist

    Qvist Active Member

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    Your points are unassailable. Unfortunately. What to do.
     
  20. Anaesthesine

    Anaesthesine Angel of Distemper

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    I wish someone, anyone had a good answer.
     
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