The last neoliberal frontier of social life

Recreational time particularly in a public park is personal and shouldn’t be defined or dictated by the state or held ransom by profiteering and commercial interests.

Fences have become topical these days from the mighty versions planned in the head of the president of the united states, to the barriers of asylum, the psychological, as well as physical barriers of  class, race, gender and commerce. The first thing we should think about in coming across a wall or barrier of any description is what is its purpose? For whose benefit?

The Radical Imagination Project tries to encourage folk to become involved in public life, because we believe it is the only hope we have for stopping the neoliberal project that has infiltrated every aspect of our private and public life. To a point which exposes just how lax our government has been that we now find ourselves subservient to possibly the worst and most dangerous western government administration in history.

The above may seem to many a bit OTT with what we want to discuss here. But on the contrary, we need to use local threats on our door steps as lessons of understanding the ways of how the world works and the bigger challenges we will inevitably face now and in the future. Particularly for the benefit of our young and also to reinvigorate our jaded spirits for the rest. If we fail to do this we are dooming our children to the consequences of one generational thinking.

We owe the present generation an opportunity to break with the tyranny and propaganda of an abusive system that processes them through an education ideology in order that they become good servants to that system. And now is attempting to destroy their innovative spirit through debt and even their basic right to the wider commons through commercialisation, particularly of green space. One of the last frontiers of the neoliberal project.

Our city parkland in our dear green place is also the last bastion of a fading communal spirit that is in need of revitalisation. A parklands benefits are based on the value to the whole community not on the cost to the administration as an excuse to privatise them. We have the right to roam and enjoy the quiet with our kids, our friends, our dogs, or our imagination.

When the parks are fully commercialised and turned over to the profiteers by our council, we will never get them back out. Because commerce is about expansion not conservation. There can be no “finding a balance” with aggressive commercial enterprises, who if need be, will criminalise, vilify and litigate against communities to protect “their” parkland developments and the profits gained from them. 

Think about it. What has been developing over the last few years in our parks is pretty much intolerable and the parasites (events managers) are only getting started. Bellahouston, Glasgow Green, Kelvingrove, Queens Park and more are now being described by administrators and asset managers as commercial entertainment venues. Ticketed for profits, not for normal use for people.

In protecting our parks for future generations we need to make sacrifices. We need to give up some ruckus pleasures for the common good. Even the young will need to start thinking about where their own children will play and how much it will cost in social impact and financial disadvantages if we continue to give in to promoters of entertainment, alcohol and junk food. Remember the young are not young forever and we can not leave this for our children to sort out.

Example: Since 2011 or so we have had a school built in Kelvingrove park (which is we need to remember is a commercial enterprise) a bandstand that has  been commandeered from social use to commercial use, two cafes and recently permission given to events agents by council administrators to invade, colonise and fence great swathes of our parkland throughout the summer. Mostly to sell alcohol and expensive events tickets.

Commercial creep doesn’t take long to establish itself. For instance in the introduction to Hillhead primary, on the school website, the head teacher finds it “very fortunate to be located next to Kelvingrove Park”. But the school is not located next to Kelvingrove park. The school is “in” Kelvingrove park. Our commons and common good fund assets are continuously eroded by these miss-interpretations of geography and public land use. Maybe a future head teacher, if things go on the way they are, will be explaining to the future parents, i.e. those attending the school at present why there is little free un-commercial space in the park for there kids to play.

Parks administration are not facilitating the use of these services, (parks) but dictating how they should be used. What they, wish to see in them. That is not their job, that is our job. Their job is to do what the “public” have asked them to do, not what business suggests. We employ public servants for their skills in first accounting to the public will and using their imagination in promoting ideas that are conducive to and may be of some social and cultural sustainable value.

What is happening in Glasgow’s parks is a microcosm of what is happening all over Scotland. Like the selling off of the shores of Loch Lomond to private investors. (Flamingo Land) According to the academic and land reformer, Jim Hunter, speaking about land sales in Scotland. “this equates to the most concentrated pattern of land ownership in the developed world”. What is the government doing about it? Nothing. As is Glasgow City Council in the privatisation of our commons and commercialisation of our parks.

But as has been said many times from these quarters. It is not the council or parliament or Westminster that is the problem in the inverted colonisation of public space. That’s just what most of these administrators do, make it easier for business to take over, because it makes it easier for them to make us believe that they are doing their job. It is not because we do not have the knowledge of the illegality of the sale of land and the commons, nor the experts who can testify to this, nor enough people complaining. We do. The problem is, for many reasons, is in the frustration of the public to do anything about it. We are still complaining. When we need to be organising. We are still pontificating. When we need to be educating.

There is a hard core of dedicated people in the background who have given up their time and energy and still do to to protecting our commons from investors, to keep our parks user friendly, open and autonomous, for the use of all. We can share in that knowledge and these connections to continue to build a sustainable vision for our parks.

Join us soon for a Parks and the Common Good exposition/workshop. Date, late August to be confirmed.

If you are interested, have something to say/share, want to help organise in any way, or just need some information. Email Bob at: info@inthecommongood.org

Useful links Parks/Commons
citystrolls.com  Search parks
commongoodwatch.wordpress.com
kelvingrovepark.com
radicalimagination.co.uk/commonweal.html

Glasgow Life – Dices in death

Arms fair what next

Our city administration has just hosted it’s first arms fair. At the protest against it, we meet our comrades, stalwarts of the movement for change and various groups representing those at the sharp end of the conflicts that the arms on offer at this event, massacre and maim.

Protest almost seems the pursuit only for students pensioners and those with time on their hands to spend in the library engrossed in books and newspapers and who have the capacity of building a critical perspective on these things. That is not to decry people who can do this, but to emphasise the importance of extending their knowledge to others in creating engagement for building a broader movement for change. Continue reading ‘Glasgow Life – Dices in death’ »

The Dark Ages

Jonathan Cook:Can anyone still doubt that access to a relatively free and open internet is rapidly coming to an end in the west? In China and other autocratic regimes, leaders have simply bent the internet to their will, censoring content that threatens their rule. But in the “democratic” west, it is being done differently. The state does not have to interfere directly – it outsources its dirty work to corporations.trigger more text

As soon as next month, the net could become the exclusive plaything of the biggest such corporations, determined to squeeze as much profit as possible out of bandwidth. Meanwhile, the tools to help us engage in critical thinking, dissent and social mobilisation will be taken away as “net neutrality” becomes a historical footnote, a teething phase, in the “maturing” of the internet.

In December the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) plans to repeal already compromised regulations that are in place to maintain a semblance of “net neutrality”. Its chairman, Ajit Pai, and the corporations that are internet service providers want to sweep away these rules, just like the banking sector got rid of financial regulations so it could inflate our economies into giant ponzi schemes.

That could serve as the final blow to the left and its ability to make its voice heard in the public square.

It was political leaders – aided by the corporate media – who paved the way to this with their fomenting of a self-serving moral panic about “fake news”. Fake news, they argued, appeared only online, not in the pages of the corporate media – the same media that sold us the myth of WMD in Iraq, and has so effectively preserved a single party system with two faces. The public, it seems, needs to be protected only from bloggers and websites.

The social media giants soon responded. It is becoming ever clearer that Facebook is interfering as a platform for the dissemination of information for progressive activists. It is already shutting down  accounts, and limiting their reach. These trends will only accelerate.

Google has changed its algorithms in ways that have ensured the search engine rankings of prominent leftwing sites are falling through the floor. It is becoming harder and harder to find alternative sources of news because they are being actively hidden from view.

Google stepped up that process this week by “deranking” RT and Sputnik, two Russian news sites that provide an important counterweight – even if one skewed in its pro-Russia agenda – to the anti-Russia propaganda spouted by western corporate media. The two sites will be as good as censored on the internet for the vast majority of users.

RT is far from a perfect source of news – no state or corporate media is – but it is a vital voice to have online. It has become a sanctuary for many seeking alternative, and often far more honest, critiques both of western domestic policy and of western interference in far-off lands. It has its own political agenda, of course, but, despite the assumption of many western liberals, it provides a far more accurate picture of the world than the western corporate media on a vast range of issues.

That is for good reason. Western corporate media is there to shore up prejudices that have been inculcated in western audiences over a lifetime – the chief one being that western states rightfully act as well-meaning, if occasionally bumbling, policemen trying to keep order among other, unruly or outright evil states around the globe.

The media and political class can easily tap into these prejudices to persuade us of all sorts of untruths that advance western interests. To take just one example – Iraq. We were told Saddam Hussein had ties to al-Qaeda (he didn’t and could not have had); that Iraq was armed with WMD (it wasn’t, as UN arms inspectors tried to tell us); and that the US and UK wanted to promote democracy in Iraq (but not before they had stolen its oil). There may have been opposition in the west to the invasion of Iraq, but little of it was driven by an appreciation that these elements of the official narrative were all easily verified as lies.

RT and other non-western news sources in English provide a different lens through which we can view such important events, perspectives unclouded by a western patrician agenda.

They and progressive sites are being gradually silenced and blacklisted, herding us back into the arms of the corporate propagandists. Few liberals have been prepared to raise their voices on behalf of RT, forgetting warnings from history, such as Martin Niemoller’s anti-Nazi poem “First they came for the socialists”.

The existing rules of “net neutrality” are already failing progressives and dissidents, as the developments I have outlined above make clear. But without them, things will get even worse. If the changes are approved next month, internet service providers (ISPs), the corporations that plug us into the internet, will also be able to decide what we should see and what will be out of reach.

Much of the debate has focused on the impact of ending the rules on online commercial ventures. That is why Amazon and porn sites like Pornhub have been leading the opposition. But that is overshadowing the more significant threat to progressive sites and already-embattled principles of free speech.

ISPs will be given a much freer hand to determine the content we can can get online. They will be able to slow down the access speeds of sites that are not profitable – which is true for activist sites, by definition. But they may also be empowered to impose Chinese-style censorship, either on their own initiative or under political pressure. The fact that this may be justified on commercial, not political, grounds will offer little succour.

Those committed to finding real news may be able to find workarounds. But this is little consolation. The vast majority of people will use the services they are provided with, and be oblivious to what is no longer available.

If it takes an age to access a website, they will simply click elsewhere. If a Google search shows them only corporately approved results, they will read what is on offer. If their Facebook feed declines to supply them with “non-profitable” or “fake” content, they will be none the wiser. But all of us who care about the future will be the poorer.

Source Znet