Where There Were No Doors

Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before - Joseph Campbell

Friday, May 13, 2005

Vote UKIP in 2009!

I'm positively seething at the timing of my conversion. Just a couple of weeks earlier and I would have had an opportunity to campaign... to get involved... to convince my fellow voters that a massive swing to UKIP was the only sensible vote. You see, I've just woken up to the fact that the UK needs to withdraw immediately from the European Union. Just get out completely. And although UKIP has some pretty dodgy policies all told, they were the only party to place that promise high upon their agenda.

I think there's no question that such a pull out would be totally against Britain's best interests. However, I'm speaking here as an Irishman and European, not a Briton. Frankly Britain has become a massive liability to the European project. And should the French vote Yes to the constitution (by no means guaranteed; more because the French want to bloody Chirac's nose than because they're anti-European), now that the Germans have just given it the go-ahead... and should the UK be the only obstacle then I can honestly see very serious questions about Britain's continued membership arising.

Here's the thing that the British don't seem to understand about Europe: most of the people in the other member states actually want it to work. Weird, huh? How you define "work" is, of course, open to interpretation and that's where the various disagreements between the other member states arise. With Britain though, there's a real sense that the whole nation is a sullen child been dragged along on a family excursion... a spoiler, absolutely determined to make it as unpleasant as possible for everyone involved.

I mean, pretty much everyone else has adopted the same currency. Now they're adopting a constitution... ummm... I hate to break it to you Britain, but they seem pretty clear about where they're going on this excursion. You're not a child any more. You do have a choice in this matter. So why the hell are you along for this ride? And if you don't want to be, then please stop sitting in the back seat whinging.

I have huge reservations about the European Union. But they are outweighed, I believe, by the potential benefits. And it seems to me that further European integration is vital. I believe that the best model for a sustainable Europe is one where nearly all power over social policy is devolved to local level, but that an overarching body (representative in some way of the people of Europe) be given the task of setting and implementing policy on certain issues. These would be issues where the allocation and distribution of resources needs to happen at a non-local level... defence, sustainability, environmental protection and the like.

I'm often asked for examples of these. And I'm often at a loss for words... not because I can't think of any, but because they are so numerous and so obvious that the question confuses me.

A community living at the source of a river aren't affected if they decide to use it as a sewer. But communities further downstream should reasonably be able to expect their neighbours not to piss in the river.

Or how about the fact that Mercedes have made some interesting developments in biofueled buses? Really efficient compact engines on lightweight but sturdy frames. Now just because the private car is set to disappear does not mean that communities can't run sustainable transport systems. The fuelstock land required for a decent bus network should not be beyond the means of most areas.

It seems to me that if a bunch of Germans (and perhaps a bunch of Italians and a bunch of Czechs as well) can make excellent and efficient sustainable buses, then they should do so. The European government would ensure that sufficient resources were sent to the nice people at Mercedes who - in turn - would provide us with buses. It's not rocket science.

Because so much needs to begin happening at a local level (all food production and preservation, all economic activity, most power generation, etc.) there will be a corresponding focus inwards by communities and a need to control almost everything at that level; but because so much still requires smooth and efficient cooperation between communities towards ends motivated by social need rather than consumer demand, so we require a non-partisan organisation to oversee things. The European Union is a long way from that now, and I'm not saying the transformation will be easy... but it's a damn sight better an idea than our current "wait and see" policy. And until someone comes up with something better, I'll keep plugging away at this one.

Anyways, it struck me as I was given a handful of change in a shop in the rural west of Ireland where my family live, that there's a subtle but very real process of Europeanisation occurring in the Euro Zone. Amongst the Irish coins in my hand was a German 1 euro coin and a Dutch 2 euro. The cultural influence of the single currency is still in its infancy but it has the potential to be huge.

(One of the funnier ironies of the British anti-Europe thing, by the way, is the idea that Europe seeks to deprive the UK of the right to have the Queen's Head on the currency. In fact, you can put whatever you want on the coins. Put the Queen's Arse on them for all anyone else cares! The point is just that your shops accept the Belgian coins and in return you can proudly buy stuff in Brussels with your queen's arse.)

Anyways, this process of Europeanisation is happening without you Britain. And one day it will reach a point where it's too late in practice for you to hop aboard. "Wonderful!" you say "we never wanted to be part of your silly club anyway." Which, y'know, is fine. But why waste everyone's time now?

If you don't want to be part of it, that's cool with everyone else, but why get in the way of European Unity?


Blogger L said...

"With Britain though, there's a real sense that the whole nation is a sullen child been dragged along on a family excursion... a spoiler, absolutely determined to make it as unpleasant as possible for everyone involved"

Well, at least Britain isn't a violently homicidal religious maniac with delusions of grandeur --like some other nations we could name :)

13/5/05 04:16  
Blogger Nosemonkey said...

Why get in the way? Have you ever spoken to any of that UKIP/Veritas lot? Christ... they have the same attitude as my Dad - who has been known to drive at exactly the speed limit in the fast lane of the motorway merely to prevent other people from going too fast. I don't understand it, but the spoiling of other people's fun seems to come naturally to them.

Anyway, how do I apply for Irish citizenship when Britain is finally given the boot?

Actually, no - you can't smoke in pubs there any more. Sod that for a laugh.

13/5/05 11:11  
Anonymous Davros said...

'Well, at least Britain isn't a violently homicidal religious maniac with delusions of grandeur --like some other nations we could name'

No, we're a predominantly secular violently homicidal maniac with delusions of grandeur - oh, I feel sooo much better... ;-)

13/5/05 11:20  
Blogger voyou said...

I'm always disappointed that there are so few people putting the ultra-left case for monetary union: "Scrap the pound, it'll be one less currency to abolish come the revolution."

13/5/05 11:37  
Anonymous Tango-Mango said...

While we're on the subject of UKIP-supporters, check out Hate Mail: Hate Mail.

I wonder if I should give getting an Irish passport a go? I should apparently qualify thanks to my paternal grandmother. She was in the Easter Rising you know... like every other vaguely Irish relative from that era.


13/5/05 16:42  
Blogger merrick said...

I agree entirely with your vision of a good EU. The problem is the the EU is largely a mechanism for ensuring that stuff doesn't happen, it's exactly what you're opposing.

You want things to be done at local level, but the EU is pushing for precisely the opposite.

Membership means competing ina pan-european market, it vastly increases the transportation of goods pointlessly.

As an example, in 1997 the UK imported 126 million litres of milk and exported 270 million litres. Almost entirely with EU countries.

This is milk for fuck's sake, it can't even be argued that it's to do with better brands or anything.

Centralising the economy means centralising production and distribution. It means centralising power, which means the voices of the richest get the attention.

So it is that we have the EU at crossed purposes with itself. On the one hand there's the social agenda - decent working hours, health care, human rights and civil liberties - and on the other hand it's the centralised corporate agenda pushing for porer working conditions, free market capitalism and no, ahem, 'barriers to trade'.

Which is why I find anyone being simply pro or anti EU especially strange. They have to be actively disagreeing with themselves.

I'm sure much of British euro-scepticism is another manifestation of the deep seated xenophobia of the British national character. This makes many people think that not to be pro-EU is xenophobic. It's not.

A centrlaised single-currency economy with a single set of interest rates has to take decisions on economic policy that benefit some of its people while hurting others.

In the UK in the 80s we saw how they fucked over the north to keep the southeast prosperous. Similalry, when it comes to a decision that either limits growth for France and Germany or fucks over the Portuguese and the Cypriots, which way d'you think they'll jump?

If, as we've said on our repsective blogs, concentrations of power are in themselves the big problem, it's not difficult to see that the greater the concentration of power the worse that problem will be.

A co-operative vision of Europe, decentralised where possible, not at war with each other, with common high standards of welfare, is great.

The EU has clearly delivered the lack of war. Without both sides being in the EU I don't see how the Good Friday agreement could've worked so well. Also, it allows minority cultures to actually thrive; like the Irish, Catalans and Basques can move freely across the borders of the countries that run their lands and fortify their cultural bonds and identity.

Most of the good progressive legislation enacted by the UK government in recent years has been to comply with EU laws.

But the EU is also a massive engine for economic centralisation, in finance and production and distribution. They're seriously talking about having one mega-farm in Poland that produces most of Europes pig meat.

How anyone can simply come on board to such an idea is beyond me.

With specific regard to the constitution, I've not been able to find anything (short of reading all 800 pages of the thing itself) that explains what it really means.

Everything I've seen saying yay or nay hasn't given me good reason to agree, it's just been 'we don't like foreigners and want the queen's head on the coins' or 'being against anything EU means you just don't like foreigners and want the queen's head on your coins'.

So I continue to reserve judgement. (Good links suggestions welcome).

14/5/05 12:15  
Anonymous David Duff said...

Thank you, Jim, for your, no doubt, well-meaning and friendly advice, but I am sure you will understand that as an Englishman, I think I can make up my own mind what is best for my own country. I am happy that Ireland has grown rich and fat on European subsidies, but you will understand that I'm less happy that my country, a net contributor to EU funds, has provided the 'readies'.

Ireland, of course, has been ruled by other people for centuries, so I can understand your enthusiasm for being bossed about by foreigners, but my country has not, and thus we are a little more circumspect about the prospect.

Anyway, thanks for the well-meant advice, we'll let you know. In the meantime, don't ring us, we'll ring you!

14/5/05 17:12  
Anonymous Tetsuo said...

UKIPs leaflet to my shitburg contained a typo and badly structured English.

14/5/05 19:23  
Anonymous David Duff said...

Tetsuo, commendably, takes UKIP to task for bad English. Unfortunately, he missed out the apostrophe in "UKIPs", and a comma preceeding "and". As a poor grammarian myself, I sympathise.

15/5/05 11:55  
Blogger Jim Bliss said...

Merrick, I understand your objections but I'm not really sure they're valid to be honest. You talk about the EU being a "massive engine for economic centralisation". Well yes, it is now. But the centralisation of power is an incredibly energy-intensive process.

In my view, the struggle over the next couple of decades will be to ensure that those parts of the EU which will be required if we wish to retain the good parts of modern civilisation actually survive. There's a real danger that the EU will fragment under the pressure of a fossil fuels shortage.

So Merrick, whilst I acknowledge the validity of your objections right now; the Europe of right now has a very limited shelf-life. It's Europe in 20 years that's important... and I genuinely feel that the closer our integration and centralisation right now, the less likely we'll be fighting with each other in 20 years.

But David, my piece wasn't actually about offering advice to Britain (despite using the conceit of a UKIP conversion to create an introductory joke). It was about presenting a particular vision of a sustainable Europe and pointing out that Britain has been "getting in the way" somewhat.

So I'm not sure what you mean about "being bossed about by foreigners" as I was quite clear that's not the kind of Europe I was envisioning. Did you even read what I wrote?

15/5/05 15:25  
Anonymous David Duff said...

Yes, Jim, I read very carefully what you wrote, but it is matching it up to the reality that I found difficult.

Still, at least you were partly right in this, "There's a real danger that the EU will fragment under the pressure of a fossil fuels shortage." Fuels won't have anything to do with it, but when the euro disintegrates, hopefully so will the whole European project.

15/5/05 16:26  
Blogger Jim Bliss said...

David, as a matter of interest (no pun intended) why and when do you think the euro will collapse?

15/5/05 16:35  
Anonymous David Duff said...

Alas, I cannot provide the exact quote, but apparently opinion amongst the city institutions concerned with currencies, has hardened to 60:40 against the euro lasting ten more years.

Its greatest flaw is the fact that it attempts to bind together several different, and still independant, nations; in other words, it lacks (thank God!) a single governing body and the treasury department that goes with it.

Not to forget, also, that there is very little trust in an organisation that set itself strict budgetry disciplines, and then breaks them when things get awkward.

Sorry, Jim, it's a busted flush!

15/5/05 16:54  
Blogger Jim Bliss said...

That "60:40" number sounds suspiciously plucked from the air. But even if true it doesn't actually concern me too much. I give the euro a bit longer than 10 years as it happens (I believe it'll become a reserve currency when the US economy tanks in a few years), but that it too may well disintegrate as economic activity becomes more and more localised.

You're well aware of my views by now David, so it surprises me that you would cite the ten-year predictions of economists as though I'd find them anything other than amusingly naive.

15/5/05 17:05  
Blogger dick said...

The part I really don't get is why you would want to vest any power at all in an organization that has been promising to show its books to prove that it has not wasted money and yet has not been able to even complete an audit. How can you put any trust in that kind of organization?

I am sure that the EU would do some very good things. However, I am also sure that unless and until they can prove that they have their own house in order, I would not trust them for an inch!!

16/5/05 00:54  
Anonymous Jacques Delors? said...

> I would not trust them for an inch!!

How about a centimetre?

16/5/05 21:53  

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