I am pleased to announce that beginning in September 2012, my subject area will be offering a Masters degree in Big Society Studies. In an attempt to 'roll up our sleeves' and demonstrate that 'we're all in this together', staff have been told they must provide teaching after hours and on weekends for this programme.
Big Society Studies is a distinctive and timely interdisciplinary degree programme that examines the entrenched dynamics of privilege and inequality in the context of British politics and prosaic political theory. The programme focuses on buzz words, spin, and empty rhetoric in relation to conservatism. You will learn not only how to think superficially about pressing social issues like poverty, crime, and migration, but also how noblesse oblige provides band-aid solutions to all of them while giving the market an opportunity to profit from human deprivation and misery. The programme is demanding--though you can always pay someone else to do the work-- but rewarding. It will give you the opportunity to develop your prejudices and the requisite sense of entitlement to prepare yourself for the rigors of collecting from a trust fund and engaging in tax avoidance.
Note that there are no alternatives.
A History of Scrounging
Drawing upon historical examples, this module shows how the scrounger has remained a persistent problem in environments where there are no means of forcing people to work. For the final assignment, you get to design your own modern workhouse and send it out for tender!
Non-evidence-based Public Policy
In this module, learn how to design macro-level policy initiatives using nothing more than cocktail napkins, a biro, and your own delusions of grandeur.
Those Were the Days!: Remembering How We Civilized the Savages
In this module we discuss English imperial history minus the piracy, racism, violence, genocide, and slavery. Please note that this module only meets once for about a half hour.
The Market is Always Right: An Introduction to Privatization
In this module you will be shown all of the evidence that clearly illustrates why the privatization of public goods and services is the worst option in any given situation. You will then learn how to ignore this evidence and press on anyway.
Efficiency Savings 101
In this module, you will develop the pathologies necessary to take real pleasure in reducing spending on vital social services. In addition, you will be provided with the skills to ensure that you maximize the impact on the poor, the elderly, children, and the disabled while finding room to provide corporations with tax cuts.
Harnessing the Power and Capability of Civil Society
In this module you will learn how to distinguish between legitimate civil society actors--like the Taxpayer's Alliance--- and bad civil society actors--like trade unions, student groups, and environmentalists. You will also become familiar with productive civil society activity--like travelling on a gap year to Thailand and spending a couple of days digging a well in some impoverished village followed by 51 weeks of partying across South East Asia--and dangerous civil society activity--like protesting against government spending cuts. Guest lectures will be provided by Saif Gaddafi and Lord Wei of Shoreditch.
Final Big Society Project
This module draws upon knowledge and skills developed over the course of the programme. You will be tasked with amplifying an existing social problem. You will then need to convince others that the deterioration in conditions was their fault, that they should pay to repair (your) damages, and that they should volunteer their time to fix them no matter how dangerously unqualified they may be to do so. You must then actively continue to undermine their efforts.
Is it for you?
The misplaced belief of this programme's students in their inherent superiority will only be outpaced by their absolute lack of empathy for others. If you are callous, arrogant, and occupy a privileged station due to wealth rather than ability, our programme will help you to achieve your goal of making life miserable for those less fortunate.
Blue blood, an inflated sense of self, and an odd thing for Margaret Thatcher.
Photo credit: I See Modern Britain
(Oh yeah, April Fools!)
With the Labour leadership election heating up, David Miliband is taking his campaign to sitting rooms across the UK. On his website, he has been encouraging his supporters to organize house meetings in order to:
And beyond the opportunity to connect with your friends and neighbors for a good old-fashion whinge session, there's the added bonus of receiving a phone call from Mr. Miliband himself--or one of his 'high profile' supporters--who one imagines will answer questions and/or shout slogans at you.
Now in fairness, this is actually a pretty good initiative, particularly as Mr. Miliband is attempting to re-brand himself as the grassroots candidate who wants to return to Labour's roots in community organization. And good on him for being prepared to take the time to seek out what party members have to say.
Where it all goes pear-shaped though is in the extensive documentation that is provided on how to actually organize a meeting. So You've Decided to Hold a House Meeting for David contains a host of gems that are sure to make any social occasion a real barn burner. These include 'decide on a venue', 'invite people', and the ever important '...prepare food and drink...no one can resist a delicious spread of food'.
But it gets better. Just in case you are completely socially inept--or are predisposed to blindly following anything written down in bullet-points--there is a chronological list of what one should be doing at any given moment in the lead up to, or during, the meeting. I found the 5.30pm entry particularly enlightening:
It's nice to know that the domestically challenged will still have a place in the Labour Party if Mr. Milliband becomes leader--do you wager that John Prescott is wheezing a sigh of relief?
As you can probably imagine, Mr. Miliband has been taking a fair amount of flack for the guide. A spokesperson has attempted to deflect away the unwanted attention by claiming that the document is clearly tongue in cheek. I dearly hope so, for the last thing that Labour needs in a new leader is the continuation of the stifling managerialism that defined the Blair-Brown era.
This weekend in the reading roundup:
Enjoy your weekend!
Photo credit: kevindooley
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Since I moved here, one of the things that I've noticed that the UK does really well is light-hearted eccentricity. And as an article by Toby Lichtig in today's Guardian outlines, what better opportunity for the gregarious eccentric than an election?
What strikes me as important here is what can eccentricity tell us about the political culture within which it becomes manifest? In North America, when one thinks of an eccentric, images of compounds, weapons caches, messianic pretensions, and hard-core paranoia come to mind. This is not to say that the UK does not have its own share of this type of eccentric. But more often British political eccentricity appears to be expressed in humorous and less confrontational ways. And Map Cap'n Tom seems to embody the best of that goofy self-deprecating spirit.
This weekend as a change of pace, we have a video roundup:
Have a good weekend!
After all of the heaviness of yesterday's post, a palette cleanser is definitely in order.
So here is something a bit lighter: film posters re-imagined with a minimalist sensibility. Above is Star Wars.
But, I think the most clever is for Pulp Fiction.
Anyhow, you can see more of these awesome designs here.
What's your favourite?
Image credits: Graphic Nothing
There's a very cool feature over at the New York Times where cultural theorists and practitioners examine the constellation formed by politics, economic crisis, and humor. There's some interesting food for thought, particularly with regard to role played by late night talk shows in constituting the zeitgeist of the American public.
At the same time, I am surprised that there was no discussion of whether comedy and humor have become increasingly polarized with regard to satirical targets and the ideological content of jokes. Similarly, it was interesting to note that the potential contributions of class, race and gender--both of performers and intended audiences-- to the dynamics underpinning humor were largely ignored.
Photo credit: JasonDGreat
On a wet and soggy day in the Northeast of England, here are some of the better reads I've come across this week:
Have a good weekend--and for those in Canada enjoy the civic holiday!
Photo credit: SanyamStudios
Over at GQ, there is a wonderfully disturbing slide show of the covers of intelligence briefings prepared by Donald Rumsfeld for the Whitehouse around the beginning of the second Iraq War. Given the school-boy aesthetic at play, my only question is whether these things came with crayons and some activities to keep George preoccupied during the grown-up talk?
Note: The maze is a personal remix of one found at kidsdomain.com