Tag Archives: democracy

Active Citizenship

A quick snap of the counter-march.

“Diversity not bigotry” – A quick snap of the counter-march.

I’ve been on quite a few protests and marches, but today was my first time with a counter march. It was also the first time the police have been on ‘my side’ of the protest!

Let’s back up a bit and explain. Today is Saint George’s day, so happy Saint George’s day everyone! There’s a group called the March for England which do marches on this day every year that masquerade as a show of love for Englishness but is actually so far right it’s bordering on fascism. They say they’re ”not a racist group” but their facebook page is full of racist and homophobic remarks.

Anyway, these loons were doing a march along the seafront in my home city, and let’s just say I’ll be very surprised if they come back in a hurry. My fellow Brightonians formed a counter-march at least three times as big as the original march – complete with a nomadic disco!  Honestly there was this guy with a fake afro and sparkly shades pulling along a boom box attached to a bicycle, with people dancing along beside him.

I must say this really is the way to protest. Some of the people on the counter march were getting pretty agro and started chanting things like ”racist scum” at the marchers, which I thought was creating a bit of a bad atmosphere so I quickly moved towards the disco crew. These guys were dancing and singing the lyrics to tracks like Tragedy and Dancing Queen at the top of their voices, while waving placards and blowing whistles. Wooo! Party our way to peace, people!

As I said, I did want to oppose the march because I really disagree with their views, but shouting abuse at people (even if I don’t like them) just isn’t my thing. I thought the singing and dancing approach was much more fun. Anyway singing appropriate lyrics (go on now go, walk out the door, just turn around now because you’re not welcome anymore! etc) is more intelligent than just screaming obscenities.

Specific tactics aside, the size and enthusiasm of the opposition made me really proud of my city.

A lot of people bash protests as trouble-making or pointless. To this I will say that firstly, the majority of protesters are peaceful and it’s only a few hooligans that get angry and give the whole movement a bad name. And secondly, I really don’t think it’s pointless. Yes, governments may not change policies over night, but how is the people showing their opinions pointless? I think it’s a vital element of any democracy. There’s more to democratic citizenship than voting every few years.

I’m really not sure why anyone thought Brighton is a good place for a march like this, it’s very left-wing. It has a green MP, it’s very multi-cultural and it has the biggest gay community in the UK.

Anyway, here’s a few more pictures for you to feast on. In case you didn’t realise, the guys with the English flags and a tonne of police crowded around them are on the March for England, and the people with pink hair, dreadlocks, smiles and tattoos are the opposing side, with me and my boyfriend, although we didn’t take any pictures of ourselves.


Loving the cat!

Loving the cat!

To me active citizenship means standing up and shouting about what you believe in. Usually metaphorically, but sometimes literally!

Have a lovely day everyone ~ 

The Consumption Engineer



Consumerism is a social and economic order that encourages the purchase of goods and services in ever-greater amounts.

- Definition from Wikipedia

Consumerism wouldn’t be a problem if we had an infinitely large planet with an infinite amount of natural resources. The catch is that this is pure fantasy and in reality our planet is a fixed size. It has a bountiful larder of resources, so large that in the past it seemed more like a Narnian wardrobe than a larder… But now there are so many people, consuming at such a rate that we are starting to hit the limits of our finite Earth.

At first consumerism may of been liberating and wonderful, I don’t know as I wasn’t alive, but now it is dangerous. This paradigm is stagnating sustainability efforts and speeding us along in a terrible direction. And there is evidence to suggest it isn’t even making us happier. The New Economics Foundation (nef) theorize that after our basic needs are met, it is non-material benefits that improve our life satisfaction.

In 2013 consumerism seems natural – a state of things that organically grew out of modernity. It seems to be intrinsically linked to capitalism, democracy and the contemporary.

Last week I watched Century of the Self and found to my surprise that this is not the case. Apparently consumerism, far from growing naturally out of capitalism, was almost single-handedly designed by one man. That man was named Edward Bernays.

The one and only                Mr. Bernays..

Bernays invented the industry of Public Relations in America in the 1920s. He had been working on propaganda during the Cold War, but decided that similar techniques could be used in peace time to improve the economy. Before this time, capitalism was well established but goods were still sold and advertised on the basis of need and function. Things that were solely for decoration were sold for their aesthetic attraction. But from this time on advertising would forget about function and focus on creating an emotional and ideological link between the item and the consumer. For example, a sofa wouldn’t be ‘comfortable and well-made’ anymore, it’d be ‘the key to a perfect family life’. Bernays used the theories of his famous uncle, Sigmund Freud along with other ideas on crowd psychology to ‘manipulate the masses’. The basic idea was that every person contains dangerous sexual and aggressive unconscious desires under a thin layer of conscious rationality. The crowd mentality was believed to be especially dangerous, as in a crowd people could somehow snap, let their dangerous desires free and get all crazy. Bernays decided that people were essentially more emotional than logical, so advertising would be more successful if it tapped into the unconscious desires of people rather than their intellect. He theorized that ‘the masses’ could be kept happy and docile with a steady flow of consumer goods that promised to make them popular, beautiful and successful. In this way there would never be a problem with over-production, the companies he worked for would get rich and the government could easily control its hordes of dangerous irrational subjects consumers.

It’s worth pointing out at this point that in contemporary psychology, Freud’s theories are very outdated. His ideas are interesting but deeply flawed, and he didn’t have much empirical evidence to back up his claims. And yet so much of our modern society is based on his work. Not just the economic model of consumerism, but also the assumption that people are irrational and need to be kept under control.  This is the justification for a democratic model that isn’t actually that democratic.

In the academic field of media studies, it’s now very unfashionable to talk of  ‘the masses’. It is thought that this is a patronizing and simplifying term. Instead it is understood that there is no ‘mass’, but rather just a lot of individuals.

It’s very easy to point fingers of blame at this point and demonize old Edward. On the one hand, there’s no way he could of known what social and environmental problems would be caused by his work further down the line. On the other hand, there was an interview with him as a very old man in Century of the Self and he didn’t seem at all remorseful of his actions – he seemed proud. Perhaps he didn’t realize the full implications, who knows. Freud isn’t to blame either really, as he didn’t for the most part even know what his nephew was doing.

Rather than playing the blame game, I can see a positive side to this story. If something as huge and over-arching as consumerism can be engineered by one man, what else can be achieved? This really blows the ‘one person can’t make a difference’ theory out of the water. Also I see the fact that our insatiable desire for more and more useless crap is not natural but intentionally engineered to be great news.
As Annie Leonard says, this system didn’t just happen, it was designed.

And we can design something too.