Archive for June 19th, 2008

This Sceptical Isle

Did you ever get the impression that there’s an unspoken pact between fervent supporters of the European Union and its fiercest opponents? The term most commonly used by the fervent supporters is Pro-European, a term that conflates general support for the institutions with a solidarity with European people. The logical corollary to this is that not to support the institutions is to be anti-European. But since the European Union hasn’t established sufficient allegiance from its peoples, to refer to people as anti-European is inflammatory, since people can easily dismiss the logic used because they can see to what ends it is used: in the service of a particular conception of Europe that is coterminous with a particular set of European institutions.

To refer to people instead as ‘Eurosceptics’ is a magnificent means of marshalling support for European institutions without appearing to do so. It says, yes, these people haven’t been convinced yet, but there’s nothing wrong with scepticism: why, scepticism is a venerable philosophical tradition and we’re all Enlightened beings around here! By the same token, people who oppose the European Union on nationalistic grounds may willingly adopt the term for themselves on precisely the same grounds. As in, ‘It’s not that I want to establish Herrenvolk democracy in my own neck of the words and expel as many immigrants as I can, it’s just that I’m of a sceptical disposition on all these grands projets!’

Now, most people immediately and publicly identifiable as ‘Eurosceptics’ are nothing of the sort. They tend to have deeply held convictions that the European Union is evil, and they often wear underwear with prints of their national flag. But by referring to anyone critical of the direction taken by the European Union as occupying the ‘Eurosceptic’ camp, ‘Pro-Europeans’ are able to imply that to offer any trenchant criticism of the European Union is to be not the full Schilling, whilst simultaneously giving the outward appearance that they have unstinting respect for the critic’s powers of reasoning. In that way, the most fervent ‘Pro-Europeans’ need the looney ‘Eurosceptics’ (the reverse is also true, but less interesting) which is one of the reasons why they are popping up quite a lot in the ‘Pro-European’ media in recent days.

‘Illegal Human Beings’

(Translation) If the past century was one of the internationalization of Human Rights, the Directive approved yesterday by the Parliament of the European Union is a step backwards. We have always thought that there was only one category of person. With this Directive, the subcategory of illegal human being is established.

Miguel Ángel Gimeno in El Público on another nice Directive allowing detention of ‘illegal immigrants’ for up to 18 months.

As EUObserver noted, not everyone is happy:

Ecuadoran president Rafael Correa on Wednesday called the directive “shameful,” while his Latin American counterpart, Bolivian president Evo Morales, described the new laws as “draconian.”

“The directive is not a return directive, but a directive of shamefulness, it is truly a shame what Europe has done,” Mr Correa said.

Writing in the UK’s Guardian newspaper on Monday, Mr Morales described the directive as “hypocritical, draconian and undiplomatic.”

In an open letter to the European Parliament issued on Wednesday, the Bolivian attacked what he called “concentration camps” for detainees.

“How can we accept without reacting for [detainees] to be concentrated in camps our compatriots and Latin American brothers without documents, of which the great majority have been working and integrating for years?” he asked in the letter.

Although Ireland has opted out of this area of community law, the parliamentary groups of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael voted in favour of this revoltingly xenophobic measure. Quick, someone call the Irish Independent: our Yes-promoting politicians have wound up with some strange bedfellows!

Bedfellows

No doubt Mary-Lou McDonald, Joe Higgins and Patricia McKenna will be delighted to receive the congratulations of these strange bedfellows. Ireland is now proudly welcomed into the Eurosceptics club.

The loo-lahs have really gone and done it this time. By Voting No, Ireland aligned itself with right-wing xenophobes, writes Fionnan Sheahan in today’s Irish Independent. In a way, then, voting No is a bit like writing for the Irish Independent.

Nothing To Lose But Your Connectivity

The gulf between the Marlboro Man Fable and reality is one of the most combustible ingredients in today’s uprising. People’s economic experiences–stagnant wages, rising healthcare costs, decreasing retirement benefits–indict the fable in a far deeper way than even the best uprising leader could. However, as Doug says, the awakening has been slow in a white-collar world that matured during the go-go 1990s. The Marlboro Man Fable poses the toughest challenge to WashTech because it drills directly into white-collar workers’ psychology–specifically, their belief “that interests of employers and employees are the same,” as sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset found in his groundbreaking research on the subject.

Antiunionism is being sustained not solely by the Marlboro Man Fable but also by the Legend of Job Security–the second of the Fantastic Four. Shrewd corporate PR and workers’ career ambitions predispose white-collar employees to view the boss and the company as inherently benevolent. Many workers believe they don’t need a union because they think such benevolence will protect them from the outsourcing buzz saw. WashTech’s 2005 poll showed that about half of all tech workers do not believe outsourcing will affect their jobs–even though simultaneous polls of high-tech executives show that most are planning to radically accelerate outsourcing.

An interesting article in The Nation on the prospects for tech workers’ unions in the US. A reasonable alternative term for ‘shrewd corporate PR’ is brainwashing, by the way.

A comment on the image used to illustrate the article. It presents ‘white-collar’ workers in a classical clenched-fist revolutionary pose, clutching mice and monitors instead of, say, hammers and sickles. What strikes me about this is its sheer inappropriateness -which I suspect is deliberate on the part of the illustrator- to the idea of such workers organising. A lot of the impact of the old posters to which this image refers derives from the fact that you had a proletariat engaged primarily in tough physical labour. The muscularity of those images signified the physical power of the proletariat: an expression of a potential, through collective force and unity, to wrest ownership of the means of production. It isn’t just a question of pointing toward physical power, however – those images also present a definite space where this struggle is enacted. In the case of workers in industry where physical power is not required, and where your location is fundamentally irrelevant to completing the task at hand, it’s hard to foresee the production of compelling unifying images -representing workers in terms of their physical presence- which in turn would spur people into action.

Mes petits choux de Bruxelles

In the European Parliament yesterday Brian Crowley attacked the UK Independence Party for using the Irish tricolour as a tablecloth in a Brussels pub. Quite right too: what kind of deviant drinks in a pub with tablecloths? And then the leader of the Socialist group Martin Schultz, called for commissioner Charlie McCreevy to be removed from his post because of what he had said about the treaty. Barroso, according to the Irish Times, said ‘attacking the Irish commissioner is not the best way of fostering dialogue with our Irish friends’. Au contraire, in my case at least.


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