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Over-Education of the Masses - Good Thing or Bad Thing?

Which is a question Hosni Mubarak must have asked himself a lot lately. It is an issue which troubled the Victorian British businessmen who had to put up with all those tedious trades unions and Suffragettes after the lower orders were taught to read and write, and also all generations of businessmen since. Not to mention all the Popes who've had to suffer the humiliation of the Reformation since Gutenberg's bright idea freed a lot more ideas from the monastic scribes.
For the exploiter, there is always a fine line between educating the workforce enough, and educating them too much. And so far, each economic stage of history has managed with a largely under-educated workforce because each relied largely on brute force to build its pyramids, Hadrian's Walls, Great Western Railways and Hoover Dams. The people have always been taught enough to increase their profitability, not their intellect. Their education was not for their benefit, but their employers'.
But if advances of industrial technique were to make it necessary to educate a near-majority to a non-physical level of work, or if the majority were ever to acquire the same skills and technology as the exploiters, the game would be up.
That is what is happening now. The technology lag between the ruling elites and the masses has been eroded by the simple advance in technology which gave us the internet. And so the kinds of hierarchies and alienation we are used to are in now in real danger for the first time in history.
That is a good thing, and like every step from feudalism to democracy, brings socialism one step nearer. Hence the constant howls of warning by the Ignoranti, which go something like this:
There is no successful socialist government anywhere in the world that has not brought depravation and poverty on its people!
Which conveniently ignores the fact that only because of what was flatteringly condemned as 'socialism'  has British society advanced beyond sending children up chimneys.
Left to its own devices, the 'free' market would still send pregnant women down coal mines. If left to their own devices, without the inevitable attacks by paranoid reactionary countries and corporations, most attempts at socialism would have worked out fine - where the appropriate conditions prevailed, of course.
Socialism cannot be created overnight from either feudalism, tribalism, or any pre-industrial society with no educated working class. Until peasants become workers you can't have socialism.
Which is why every socialist applauds the Arab revolutions, even thought they are only calling for democracy. That's the necessary first step, so revolutionary socialists like Gigi Ibrahim may have to wait a while for their political ambitions to be fulfilled, but since the political compass is being recalibrated, and all revolutionary socialists are currently opening up all kinds of boxes to see what springs out, the ambitions of a month ago may look like small beer today.


The Terrorism Tangle

Moral Maze Time. Does Ghadaffi's crucial support for the ANC make him less of a monster or Nelson Mandela less of a hero? 
If you believed every accusation of terrorism, here was a terrorist leader providing support for a terrorist organisation which was fighting a terrorist state which Britain was supporting.
So who's the terrorist now? And who are its real backers?
Since the world is doing nothing to help the Libyan people, perhaps the people can do something. Ghadaffi's family owns houses in London. Squat them now.
If the bankers won't freeze their accounts, at least a few charity-mercenaries can reclaim something for the Libyan people. Big Society? You asked for it.


Carpetbagger Cameron

Cameron arrives in Egypt to pontificate on democracy. With a pack of arms dealers in the shadows.
His worry is that, left to their own devices, the Egyptian people will not only reject autocratic rule by a solitary fall-guy, but also reject autocratic rule by the gaggle of corporate crackpots who create and protect dictators in the first place.
I think the memories of the Egyptian people are longer than he realises, and their sacrifices much deeper and creative than he can ever understand.
Our involvement with dictators is extremely embarrassing. Even more so after Cameron's shameless carpetbagging trip yesterday. 'Building blocks of democracy' my arse. Slipping an early bung under the table more like. 'You scratch my back, know what I mean?' 
To Cameron, the basis of democracy is money, and plenty of it. The fact that money was also the basis of the dictatorship the Egyptian people have just overthrown seems to have escaped Cameron's Eton-brain. And makes him look ridiculous to all intelligent opinion, and brings Britain into disrepute. The Heroes of Tahrir Square must be gasping in disbelief and amusement at the sight of this appalling snurge lecturing them on freedom and its responsibilities.

Cameron's opportunism is truly shameless. Especially during the trials the Libyan people are now facing. But as one expat said last night:
'We all have families in Tripoli. And of course we don't want them to be hurt. But we would be proud if they were.'
How can any crackpot with scrambled egg on his hat think he can defeat such a spirit?
The choice for all newly empowered people is clear. Either to be led by the likes of David Cameron and Haliburton and BP into the same chaos Britain the rest of the Consumerist Paradise finds itself, or discover a new way, their way, based on mutal respect, co-operation and humanity. And no more warmongering billionaire dictators.
Meanwhile, the entire reactionary sect from Downing Street to the Tea Party has been the resolute enemy of the revolution. It has repeatedly tried to dampen the struggle for freedom by raising the constant spectre of global Jihad, which is dead. And by spewing the usual lies about the inevitable consequences of 'Mob Rule'.
They know that the new political consciousness is a threat to their natural deference to authority, and they hate it. They won't be protesting outside Downing Street this afternoon in support of Libyan martyrs because they believe that protest never works and always ends in violence, chaos and anarchy. There is no such thing as progress, and all humans are just brute beasts divided into hunter and hunted.
The revolution is proving all these superstitions wrong. And reactionaries everywhere are crapping themselves just as much as the Oil-Sheiks on their golden toilets.


Fuck You! - The Crystal Spirit

It's another birthday and I'm too old for comfort. And I'm nobody much, especially after the night I had last night. But I don't care because I've never felt bigger and brighter and bolder in all my life. Because that's the way the world seems to feel, and it makes me feel the same way.
For the first time I can remember, people are simply saying Fuck You (Anglo-Saxon is always best) at the tops of their voices to an entire regiment of steam-age dictators who have ruled through a combination of steam-age weapons and insanity for generations. Their weapons are now obsolete. - the tank is not the weapon of the Information Age. And the people are terribly sane. So sane they have run the figures on the amount of blood needed to win freedom, and the audit is favourable. The Workers Flag really is deepest red. And until recently, we never realised just how much the balance of the historic freedom Account, paid into regularly over the mellenia, was in credit. And so we want to draw out our Freedom, thank you very much. No more jam tomorrow. Jam Today. Or Fuck You, in other words. The Fuckocracy has arrived, and there is no negotiation, no pussyfooting forward with caution. The creaking diplomatic Ghost-train designed to scare children away from change, with its lurching moth-eaten bogeymen, always relied on generous suspension of disbelief to stay in business at all. We stopped being afraid of it about the same time we stopped believing in Santa Claus.
The Old Bastards
The Old Bastard Ghadaffi may still be able to pay his mercenaries to mortar the people while he hides in his bunker in Tripoli, but everywhere else the Old Bastards are out, and the people are in. And all Old Bastards from The Bank of America to Mik Il Jong will have to mend their ways, or go. Chaos and Rampaging Bloodlust and the rumble of tumbrils? Mob Rule as predicted by the vermin press and the liberal wankers? Not at all. 
The same weapons which provided the courage to ged rid of the Old Bastards will be just as effective in sorting out any New Bastards who fancy taking those freedoms away again. And without the obscene human cost of destroying the Old Bastards. Even clever New Bastards, who think that they can dominate by running companies called Facebook or Google. 
It's A Living
All over the middle east, nice Muslim girls, whose elder sisters could only dream of a profession as an accountant married to a richer accountant are now dreaming of careers as professional revolutionaries. As bloggers for freedom. To be a revolutionary is now a genuine profession, and one which many parents can now take genuine, unreserved pride in. I'm sure even Gigi Ibrahim's parents are pleased as punch (really) at their little girl's achievements. And so they should be. And the attraction is not merely the noble objective, or even the temporary fame, but the fact that the revolutionary, at whatever level, is simply more alive than the conformist, who is possibly not alive at all. People do want to love each other more than they want to hate each other, and through that simple mental revolution they are more alive than any money-chaser. As the greatest optimist of the C20th says, all you need is love:
'Men use up their lives in heart-breaking political struggles, or get themselves killed in civil wars, or tortured in the secret prisons of the Gestapo, not in order to establish some central-heated, air-conditioned, strip-lighted Paradise, but because they want a world in which human beings love one another instead of swindling and murdering one another. And they want that world as a first step. Where they go from there is not so certain, and the attempt to foresee it in detail merely confuses the issue.'
Bread and Roses
The choice will come soon enough between the air-conditioned, dead-end Consumerist paradise - and love. But the bond forged between those now changing the world will make that choice much easier and responsible.
Bless the heroes and martyrs of Tunisia and Egypt and Libya. Happy Birthday to You all, the living and murdered. My other birthday presents were nice, but your Crystal Spirit is the greatest possible gift, even if it was the most expensive. Happy Birthday to us all.
                                            '... the thing that I saw in your face
                                           No power can disinherit:
                                           No bomb that ever burst
                                           Shatters the crystal spirit.'    - George Orwell, 1942


Let 6,500 Members Bloom

Britain is to be subjected to a carnival of statistical idiocy for the next two months as the PR nerds make their case in a pointless referendum nobody wants. Whether to move to a form of proportional representation which Nick Clegg is proposing but thinks is garbage. Leaving aside the obvious 1984 doublethink, how is a system which encourages, even demands, more than one half-hearted vote supposed to nurture political awareness and participation? If you can't even choose one, why is not choosing two or three any more democratic? It's all bollox. A total PR exercise by the Libs to try and keep the memory of Gladstone and Lloyd-George from decaying completely to dust.
Apparently, AV is a good system if you want to vote against someone - you can vote for all the other candidates in order of preference. This is even better than I thought. It's a purely negative transaction. And the politics it creates will be the one which gives least offence, a gutless compromise with no conviction or purpose other than to get itself elected by default, not choice. And if that wasn't enough, The Motion Picture Academy now uses AV for Best Picture. Fantastic. Job done. While we're about it why not hand over the entire business to Simon Cowell and Max Clifford? Or am I behind the times?
I know all PR Nerds have to be mathematical whizzkids, they keep proving it by inventing ever more exotic and impenetrable Quantum explanations for why their form of PR will make everything better. And I would grant them their toy with pleasure, were it not for the planned cull that goes with it.
None of the PR boffins can explain how fewer MP's with bigger constituencies can deliver more representation per voter, not less. How 92% of MPs can deliver a 100% service. The cull has been bundled in with the PR bill, for some daft or toxic reason, but when did God or the laws of Nature say we have to have a this purge of MPs at all? The anti-democratic gutter press want fewer MPs, but not the average constituent trying to get an audience at their MP's surgery. Rather than fewer representatives in parliament and less representation per constituent, there should be ten times more MPs. 6,500 Members is a nice round figure, but negotiable. The object is to vastly broaden the range of people able to do the job. Being an MP should be a profession within the skills and sympathetic to the lifestyle of the average person. Not an ego-crazed scramble for status and domination, vulnerable to corruption and poisonous to family life.
In an age of mass information, there is no excuse for an elite which has to make up for the mass ignorance of a C19th workforce based on back-breaking and mind-numbing toil.
A quote from 1984 I've been dying to use for ages.
"From the proletarians nothing is to be feared. ...They could only become dangerous if the advances of industrial technique made it necessary to educate them more highly."               (my italics)
"The advances of industrial technique" have educated people more highly, whether by necessity or not, and in ways which are in direct conflict with the mentality required by the current political dogma. So more people are becoming part of the political process all the time. So surely the only sane way to accommodate this growing aspiration for power is to share it out, increase the membership of parliament and decrease the workload until the average, intelligent, concerned  adult could do the job. As well as putting MPs back on the beat, it will also have the result of fragmenting the traditional C19th Steam alliances into their modern constituent parts. More parties, more choice. No need for PR bunkum.
And on a bigger stage, people are taking power for themselves, if the old elites refuse to face reality. And not through any centrally designed cunning plan, but in response to the moment, the politics of improvisation and creativity. Jazz politics. But mostly by simply refusing to play ball. Mubarak was not ousted by the occupation of Tahrir Square, vital though that was, but by the fact that millions of Egyptians were no longer a working part of the society he ruled. They had left the boy who made up the rules playing by himself. And that is no power at all.


Nanny Emma

It's a shame that the government's latest bit of insanity was smothered by Thursday's Pledge Riot. The Nanny Emma scheme is a plan to create 'Working Families' by inflicting a regiment of badgering Gillian McKeiths upon unfortunate people who have not lived up to the ConDem standards, and will be the most invasive and least effective and most humiliating piece of social interference since the ravages of the Means Test. 
Its brainchild, the training entrepreneur Emma Harrison, is typically vague about her plans. The 'primary focus' will be:
'to start by helping 500 ‘never worked’ families into families that are working, paying their own ways and living great lives. This will be achieved by giving every troubled family the support they rightly deserve.'
How this will create any more jobs and help society is a total mystery. How much healthier and empowering was Jamie Oliver's pyramid cooking project, which  attracted mass sneers from the tories and their media backers.
Only when kids are treated like human beings, and provided with places to learn how to value life can poor diet ever really be a thing of the past. If an effective National Youth Service is ever founded, and kids learn to value interaction for its own sake, and value themselves as a result, then we can expect that generation to use food, and alcohol and drugs, responsibly. But at present, young people are demonised, and their only source of respect comes from their peers, and the only comfort many get is to eat and drink to excess. The result is the weekly binge and the problems that go with it. 
Our consumer culture is instilling mass self-loathing in every young person it can get its claws into. When (or if ) they grow up, we will have created a race of monsters.
This gimmick stinks.

The Censorship of the Press

Print is an inherently exclusive media. It has never been able to publish all the information it could. As such it has always been, objectively, a as much a means of censorship as distributing 'truth' or 'conventional wisdom'. And the reliance of newspapers on advertising mean that business has significant control over editorial policy. Which redefines conventional wisdom with every twist and turn of the property market (especially).
The advent of open-source journalism, from Assange to the 12 year old Masai boy uploading videos via his OX1, flows information around this traditional barrier like a river around a shopping trolley.
The new, global conventional wisdom is based on this access to the means of production, distribution and exchange, and has many implications, not least for the defunct concept of the nation state, a relic of the steam age, and one in dire need of re-evaluation. No wonder politicians are shaking in their shoes.

Assange Fatwha 999

Without Julian Assange, the US cable leaks would have been released un-cut. The White House needs him far more than he needs them. 
Together with his media partners, he is the only thing protecting the US from its own leakages. Which makes the ridiculous Fatwha against him all the more stupid and vindictive.
Those attacking him now should be very careful. When the revelations emerge which attack their political Bogeymen (the EEC, Walmart, Wall Street) they will have to perform a hand-brake turn of Essex delinquent proportions, and be revealed as stupid and vindictive too.


Jan Palach and Mohamed Bouazizi

It's all gone horribly wrong.
For three weeks the BBC has been telling us that as soon as Mubarak left, everyone in Egypt without a two-foot beard would be hung, and all women locked away in giant kitchen-nurseries.
Instead, we have this ridiculous state of affairs with the people telling the army and all its tanks what to do. And nobody dangling from lamposts or stoned to death. In fact, nothing to crow about at all.
Can we ever trust the media, or our governments, or even the Israeli foreign minister again? And if you can't trust the Israeli foreign minister, who can you trust? Ho-hum. Since we can't trust them, better get rid of them. Not a huge problem, any more.
A name strangely absent from the entire media storm is that of Jan Palach, who was the Mohamed Bouazizi of the 1968 Prague Spring. But his generation only had crackly BBC World Service radio broadcasts to shore up their aspirations and a Samizdat DIY publicity machine to organise their campaign. And so they were brutally suppressed by Russian tanks. A full two decades later, Palach's heirs eventually triumphed against a decrepit regime which the arms race, political sterility and Mikael Gorbachev had been gradually dismantling for years. Compared to them, the Heroes of Egypt were armed to the teeth by the internet. A weapon perfect for the battleground and almost useless to the enemy. And one able to do justice to the sacrifice of martyrs, unlike any other weapon of the masses in arms race of history. (except briefly, possibly, the Welsh longbow).
Even while it was helping re-write global foreign policy, social media such as Facebook were still being routinely sneered at by scaremongerers in the BBC and the gutter press - and governments and business. But then, the word 'social' means very little in those circles. She Who Must be Obeyed told them that society was a false god, and that was good enough for them. And the thought of anything cracking open that shell terrifies them.
The other name from another age not mentioned in the last month is TE Lawrence. Which is strange.


The Mother of all Revolutions

I don't know what odds Ladbroke's are offering on where the next revolution will happen, but if Egypt is any guide it will be a despotism with a conscript army. All countries are different, obviously. But mothers are all the same in not wanting their sons to shoot their cousins or neighbours. Syria and Algeria are good bets, but there are so many dictatorships relying on kids serving their compulsory 18 or 24 months that almost any could win.
Until the revolution hits a state with a cold, detached dedicated professional army, it shouldn't meet any serious resistance, by which time that state will be so isolated and ostracised that only the most deluded elite will think of clinging to power.
Perhaps a better bet would be on the number of revolutions by the end of 2011. If the futures market gets seriously interested in this casino, we might even see that rarest of creatures, CIA intervention in the name of progress, of a sort.


Baby Tahrir

When you can terrify all the major competing political orthodoxies you know you're doing something right.
The courage and spirituality of the Egyptian people has managed to scare all the obsolete, overblown, blood-soaked orthodoxies of the last 50 years, from the Pentagon to Tehran, from fundamentalist consumerism to fundamentalist Islam. It has released the code for change. People just have to install the update, and take control. This will concentrate the minds of dictators like a digital guillotine-blade waiting to drop.
Possibly the most radical achievement of the revolution has been to pull the rug from under radical religion as a method of resistance. Jihad will now only be for the most twisted fanatics. It has also shown that tanks are not the weapon of the Information Age. Something of a full hand of historical lessons.
These were 18 days which shook the world, and not a burned American or Israeli flag or 'God Is Great' to be found. Just pure unadulterated Humanity, expressing its true heroism, and experiencing true Strength through Joy - which has overturned a lot of dreary misanthropist assumptions and challenged a lot of conditioning. People just aren't supposed to be capable of this. They always need to be told what to do otherwise there's chaos. They're just children really, to be instructed through punishment and bribery.
Who can't fail to weep for such people? Where is their own self-respect that they could not identify with the hope and courage and spirituality of the Egyptian people? Why did they need the revolution to fail so badly? Because it threatened their identity by asserting that human beings are far nobler than anything they could imagine. Which reveals just what kind of mentality is required of our society.
The other problem for the bitter depressives who have been preaching doom and disaster from the start is the inevitable way this shared experience will have changed Egyptian society itself. No people who have fought such a battle with such courage and fellowship can emerge un-bonded to their comrades, of whatever political or religious faction. So Egypt today is a very different beast from that of even 2 weeks ago. Its people are more aware of the fact that they have far more in common with each other than divides them. It also has a Hero Class from the Defendants of Tahrir, who are now the embodiment of the people's ideals, and will be held accountable for their implementation. But the country is united by its experience, as very few other nations have been in times of radical change.
And this is just a beginning, and not just for Egypt. One of the first jokes from the new Egypt is that since Ben Ali of Tunisia and Mubarak both fled on Fridays, Muamar Ghadaffi is banning them. Just a joke. But some people in Libya will read it online and suddenly find themselves laughing at The Great Leader. From then on it is only a matter of time for him. A little butterfly joke beating its wings in Cairo could cause a hurricane in Libya. Possibly. But one thing is certain, all over the world, millions of babies born this year will be called Tahrir.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised - on BBC

Sadly, the live BBC's coverage of the revolution, from Tunisia on, has been an insult to all people trying to rid themselves of dictatorships. The total reliance on demeaning CCTV footage effectively uninvented TV journalism. This was pure radio. A triumph for the audiophiles, but a total distortion of the real story. Then there is the constant drip drip of defeatism and scaremongering.
Typical (blind) interview with a hero of the square last night would go like this:

BBC Deskjockey: 'You've been fighting for freedom now for over two weeks, you've been shot at by police, attacked by thugs with knives and whips, slept on concrete for days and days, and were told today by the army that your demand would be met tonight, and now Mubarak says he's staying. How does that make you FEEL? 
'Hero:'How the fuck do you think it makes me feel you stupid fucking idiot?'
Deskjockey: 'But shouldn't you all just now go home in case the Muslim Brotherhood takes over and plunges the world into the dark Ages?'
Hero: 'Who is this blithering idiot?'Deskjockey:'But you don't agree on anything, they're bound to win'.Hero: 'Yes we do, we're all agreed that we want democracy. It's called Solidarity. Once we have democracy, people can start disagreeing again and the ballot box will be the judge.
'Deskjockey: 'But it's chaos! A political vacuum! Will no one think of the oil prices! We're all doomed!'
Hero: Oi veh!
In one of the slimiest inversions of the truth in recent broadcasting history, solidarity has been constantly depicted as fragmentation, revolutionary order as chaos, and democracy as a danger.
Needless to say, other broadcasters have been no better, but I don't care about them. And at least they had cameras and crew on the ground, showing the faces of the people. The inexplicably distant and objectifying camera-work of the BBC from their hotel window  depicted a diagram of a mindless, inarticulate mob. We might just as well have been reading Churchill's reports of the Boer War. 
Skline. Talking Head. Voiceover. Studio Guest. And round and round again, with no footage from the events taking place. This is a grave distortion by omission, sending all kinds of negative messages.
And the insistence that the Muslim Brotherhood would inevitably destroy the world, plus the endless static shot of the vast organised crowd, made Tahrir Square look like the Kabba during the Hadj, at times. Was the BBC trying to say that the Revolution was a triumph for Al Qaida? Almost explicitly.
 Has journalism died at the BBC? It's difficult to see how the Mubarak dictatorship was not heartened by this travesty of reporting, which amounted to nothing more than the White House press office line. And if there are deaths this afternoon, some of the blood will be on the BBC's hands.

Contrast the BBC with the still-despised social media. The influence of social networks was critical, especially in moderating the revolution. Social media (of all kinds) subject the individual’s opinion to collective scrutiny, and nobody likes to look an idiot, so extreme or stupid ideas will tend to be informed or ridiculed away. So because the people feel they can collectively influence the tactics and direction of a revolution (as the shanty resistance movement in Nairobi found) they do not feel the need for a Great Leader, earthly or supernatural or a combination of the two. We could in fact be seeing the end of the era of hysterical political religious activism, and I’m sure the people of Iran are watching events closely.
The key thing is the sense of engagement and, for want of a better word, fraternalism. So however much the Nay Sayers may claim that social media had little measurable effect on the Iranian protests, this is to completely ignore the effect on the confidence and consciousness of the individual of being able to reach a community and not feel alone and completely powerless, or to use American cultural terminology, to be a ‘LOSER’. Power is a matter of perspective, as much as guns, which is why the world changed when we learned that the Sun did not orbit the Earth.
And the beauty is that a regime cannot win by simply turning off the Net. Firstly, they rely on it even more than the people, so in a strangling race, they will always be the first to croak. Secondly, switching off the net sends the direct message to the people that the state has played its last card and that they should instantly take to the streets. In chess terms it is a holding move, but one which sends a clear sign of weakness and leads to only one conclusion. And even then, everyone with a desktop printer now has a printing press, and they cannot all be smashed in the night. So as long as the supply of paper holds out, essential information can be distributed.
And all the while, people are getting more articulate and image literate by trial and error and peer review. Which bodes ill for the propagandists and advertising agencies of the future. 


'Dear Ahmed, don't shoot your Cousin.' love, Mum.

Mubarak Minor! You've let the Egyptian people down. You've let the army down. But most of all you've let yourself down, And out.
Hosni Mubarak has just finished giving the same speech to an expectant Egyptian nation that he gave two weeks ago, only even more sickeningly insulting and mawkish. The people, and the US government, were confidently expecting him to go, but he is staying on to further insult the people. The result is more Rage than ever, and tomorrow will see the biggest and angriest crowds so far. Either Mubarak has betrayed the army, who leaned on him this afternoon and assured the people that tonight would be the night, or the army has betrayed the people, which is much more serious.
But tomorrow's confrontation should not see the army firing on the crowd. Not because of the celebrated links between Egyptian and US generals, but because of the links between Egyptian army footsoldiers and the footsoldiers of the revolution. This is a conscript army. Many of the boys in tanks and troops carriers will have relatives and friends among the demonstrators. Many might well have mothers writing to them. 'Dear Ahmed, your cousin Abdul is in the square tomorrow, make sure you don't shoot him.'
Mubarak (and most of the western media) seem to have forgotten that conscript armies hardly ever attack their own people. They have also forgotten that a revolution is just a form of strike action. And that these are just some of the weapons available now for reducing dictatorships to ashes. Mubarak is clinging on through geriatric ignorance and cunning. But his days are numbered. The Egyptian people knew that all along, in the face of extreme Lily Livered Poltroonism from the western media. And they know that the quickest way to get back to their jobs and families is to get rid of Mubarak as soon as possible. So they have the strength of their belief, and joy in their destiny, and will win. What they do then is their privilege.