The current refugee crisis and the whole question of terrorism and economic migration bring politics of prejudice out in the open. People can now revel in these politics fuelled by social media. Pre-judgement, fordomming - to judge a person, religion, ethnic group or political leaning. With social media freeing expression for us all at an individual level, politics has not been so THEM and US across the whole west, since the 1930s in Germany.
The oldest prejudice in politics I could describe is actually not of race or religion but of class. Snobbery. In todays meritocracy is this not a thing of the past? Not one ioata is left behind in the past as this is the central core of Neo Liberal Conservative politics - that poorer people are worth less in society, that they are lazy, that they are state dependent. We see this very much on the front bench of the British Conservative government who play on the 'I've got on in life, I don't want to subsidise people who dont work as hard as me'. The deficit is blamed on those on benefits as a strain on societal resources, while the trillions cast at the broken banking system in the post anarchy 2008 are money well spent. Socialism for the rich.
We see in fact in the Conservative steered countries that more people are on welfare and in work, and often in-and-out of work be that seasonal or 'on cost avoidance, which amounts to a subsidy for those companies, particularly in retail and personal services, who can exploit this and gain cheap, disposable labour at the tax payers cost. Corporate welfare is the economic reality here, because without those supplementary benefits and intermittant unemployment support, there would be no large labour market for this type of part time, temporary work.
Why in Norway Ranting do I place this Republican-Neo Conservative position? Well it is coming this way, as the working contract law will now support a more flexible and thus disposable labour market.
The government for the moment though in Oslo, have more pressing and populist matters. Racism and xenophobia with the little extra twist of womens liberation against the dark forces of Islam as they would have us believe. Neo-liberals have of course created this middle east crisis between decades of support for ethnic cleansing of native people in Israel and the invasion of Iraq to secure the oil and in so doing, the middle east became a cauldron of terrorism and the perversion of religion to violence.
In the post Nazi period governance naturally reacted to supress racism and the persecution of both ethnic groups and the semi skilled working class. They kept a lid on racism, nationalism and economic fascism and there was a consensus amongst the educated ruling politicians to guide a war weary public across europe away from these evils. Enoch Powell and Le Pen had little if any air time on the media of the 1960s and 70s, while in Germany of course there was suppression of neo-nazism in an almost Gestapo like way.
Post Neo Liberal societies are now in a new malaise, worse than the end of state command economies of the late 70s. The economies in most countries which have persued neo liberal politics *or have used state money to build a private property bubble in a kind of Socialism for the Rich again, as in Spain, Ireland and Iceland) now do not create enough jobs for their young people, and have often more people in low qaulity jobs with lower income in a large minority withiin society. Also they have the post war baby boom now entering retirement age which poses a whole new set of issues for public health and private pension funds.
People are fast to blame and fast to be lead to be prejudiced. Ethnologists who study human behaviour and development of society in this, believe that xenophobia is very inbuilt from the times when humans lived in small tribes or extended family groups. It was very important then according to this theory, that individuals had a survival benefit in being able to recognise strangers and be wary of them. Even using the fight or flight response to either attack them or retreat. Evolution has a clock (and if you are a creationist moron, please give up trying to use your brain and donate your lifes earnings to the anti science church you follow now) that runs in tens of thousands of years and thousands of generations. It is very unlikely we have lost this xenophobia but also we have balancing sociability genes which have enabled us to extend our tribal existence into organised societies, with towns, cities, communications and eventually democracy.
Now we come to a dilema between these two instincts, or if you dont believe in this approach, then we have a hiatus between different sets of opinions and beliefs. We are in a period of THEM and US as never before. Liberals and Neo Conservatives. Racists and anti Racists, Sexists and Liberationists, Christians and Muslims. Much of the spread of hate, prejudice and diametric shit-slinging to use no finer a term, now finds outlet on Facebook and Twitter in particular, but also through more shadey forums and communication routes. Social media is though a skewed mirror on society. People who hate and have an axe to grind are more likely to five expression to their views than those who generally arent concerned say for example, about a society with a 5% muslim population in the west. The other side of the argument is that this in built xenophobia represents the silent majority in western societies, and the far right proport to reflect this. In reality there is a movement to on the one side appeast this petty racism while on the other to meet it head on.
The actual mechanisms of change though, away from both xeonphobia on the one hand, and extremism in Neo Nazi politics and Islam is for the most off line and involves people meeting each other, and the word and muscle of the law being used without the fear that it is discriminating. Personally I have had predominantly positive experiences with people of non western religion, and seen less bias and even sexism than in catholicism versus protestant lutherism. This is at a level of one to one. In christianity we can find examples today of extreme sexism and punative punishment, and we don't have to go long back in time to a period of moral puritanity based on a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible.
Political and cultural arguments and debate have also become more polarised in the West. We have the new breed of deniers and their web prescence with pseudo fact and quasi science / from the insidious holocost deniers, to the soon to be frivillous, oil funded climate change deniers. These are very good examples of so called net communities which gather support and often have greater numbers of supporters as Likes for example than the diametrically opposed groups. Also there is a large amount of web trolling, which once again tends to be from the more radical right wing than from the centre.
The issue here is that prejudice against groups of people has been used for many milenia to wage war, to hinder progress, to resiste positive change and most of all to facilitate transfer of economic benefits to minorities. We see this most of all across the world in the latter phenomenon where by capitalism is very organised via the Neo Conservative right politic to ensure that wealth can be accumulated and not distributed. We see this in the invasion of Iraq, with the Halliburton contracts signed before the first bombs fell on Bagdad, to the hipocritical mass movement of industry to socialist China.
Norway bucks the trend. The half/way in conservative gorvernment are bound by long lasting democratic socialist fiscal policy- a high tax society with high wages and an oil fund standing against the model of say Angola, where the vast majority of wealth is merely exported after a tiny minority of society take their corrupt cut of the proceeds to permit this export. Norway has a 'terrible' small farmer, socialist style agricultural policy which in fact costs the country less per capita than the EU's CAP or the USA's massive subsidies to the farming sector. Norway has high benefits relative to average income, yet excluding pensioners and those injured out of working life, has a lower percentage of people in reciept of benefits than most any other western country you want to consider. Norway has a higher educatied work force than many other countries per capita.
Yet there is a small voting majority who want change away from all these terrible things towards a politics of the individual where those who have 'done better' in society get to have a higher proportion of wealth generated in society. Generally speaking this is not the Norwegian way, and not really the Swedish or Finnish way either, but the politicians have two things to feed off in order to move politics away from this left of centre to the right of centre.
Firstly there is the direct attack and inherent dilema for liberals in the stream of immigrants. It is popular to stop islamic male immigrants from coming here, and the notion of helping them where they are as families, in tents, in the winter, is also popular versus taking say 100, 000 refugees over three years. We are likely to get that anyway, and the right are pleased for this in terms of the pressure on the rented market forcing prices up, while the new injection of inevitably cheap and naive labour to the market within five years. However today they can win the argument and communicate further or bend the law and international agreements to suit their PR agenda of being tough and appeasing xenophobia, while in fact not actually stemming the flow of migrants in any way different from the centre left.
Taking the second point we have the whole basis of Norwegian socialism / social democracy and leftist centre of gravity. The principle of ' your getting something I am not'. which stems back to the time when Norway was as poor as Portugal before oil was a notion. Then a minority of wealthy families and the bourgoise could extract large profits from society while offering basically poverty wages. Norwegians hate also 'snyltere' , those who get more than perhaps they deserve or indeed something for nothing. Some hate those walking invalids, some hate unemployed somalis, some hate electric car owners for the incentives they have had. Also in my own personal experience they include immigrants of all colours in this box, when they discover that they are no longer 'guest workers' but are here to stay, and get into the good things they have.
This leads of course to an economic snobbery which will inevitably spread to for example, public sector workers so demonised in the UK and USA. ' Why should I pay tax for someone else's benefit' will over time become the new mantra for those who feel they have done well for themselves, and this will follow securing your family some perks and outright priveledges such as jobs and ownership to the disadvantage of the less well off. As I have blogged on before, social democracy has created its own monster, the worst kind is to be found in new-public-management. Here we have well paid, over educated and highly personally political middle management who are frustrated with their high paid work forces and their inflation linked wage increases. They want more for less wages out of the work force so that they can shine and be seen to be effective in public management, or in the private sector so they can enjoy even higher wealth than they do today. It is more about ego that it is about actual money, but that ego is driven by snobbery and prejudice.
We are back to society and how it is lead, whether or not those leaders see a societal vision or a more individualist vision. Leaders seem to often lead with prejudice as the spearhead.