I first became aware of Owen Jones around the beginning of 2012, through twitter I believe. He was re-tweeted by some folk I was following, one thing lead to another, and now I not only follow him but I go so far as to read his articles in the Independent too. Crazy, how social media works. If I were to listen to, read or watch all Owen Jones’ articles, features and public appearances I don’t think I’d have the time to write this mini-eulogy. He appears to be somewhat of a workaholic; a champion of the working class, or a media whore, depending largely on your political standpoint.
Owen Jones is an activist, in the sense that he is a doer, a brilliantly thorny political probe whose family background has clearly moulded his own political views, describing himself as a “fourth generation socialist”. He looks like he should still be at school, but listen to him on Question Time or any other political debate, read his articles in the Independent or a number of respected journals and you will listen to a man who speaks with more common sense, decency, fairness and passion than any current serving politician. Owen Jones has socialist values, and is able to articulate them in a way that makes your neck ache through constant nods of agreement. That said, his articles in the Independent (from where these quotes are taken) get more public support when he deals with justice and fairness, compared to his more political pieces.
Owen Jones’ future may remain as an author (he is currently writing his second book about the British establishment) and social commentator. He may otherwise decide to take his political passion a step further; from being a former trade union lobbyist and parliamentary researcher for the Labour Party, to being a fully-fledged active member of parliament. Oh, we can but wish. If ever there was another Tony Benn in the making, Owen Jones is that man.
My top five Owen Jones quotes…
- But placing human suffering into hierarchies allows injustices to continue without scrutiny or challenge; and it distorts our understanding of the reality of conflicts. It undermines a universal, shared sense of humanity. It is, ultimately, a manifestation of prejudice. So no – to answer my Twitter detractors – I do not believe the unbearable horrors that take place on a daily basis mean the anguish of Boston is somehow irrelevant. But all of us have a responsibility to challenge our own prejudices, and to work on empathising with fellow humans who suffer in lands distant – in miles or culture – from our own. Failing to empathise with suffering allows us to tolerate it; and, in doing so, we become complicit in its existence.
Taken from ‘Our shameful hierarchy – some deaths matter more than others’ – 21 April, 2013
- The Holocaust should teach us that evil does not exist. An odd, perhaps ludicrously offensive statement. But to dismiss such atrocities as “evil” is to abdicate responsibility, to comfort ourselves by pretending somehow it was not human beings committing such sickening acts, but monsters who are nothing like us. Germany was one of the most advanced countries on earth at the time. Studies suggest that only about 1 per cent of humans are genuine psychopaths. Millions helped the organised slaughter of Jews – as well as Roma, disabled people, socialists, Slavs and so on – and they were thinking, feeling human beings capable of grief, love and fear, however distressing it may be to accept that fact.
The atrocity teaches us about what it means to be human. As a socialist, I am compelled to have an optimistic view of humanity, to believe we are not all motivated by greed, selfishness or hate. But what the Holocaust reveals is the almost infinite malleability of humanity: that we have the capacity to do wonderful things, and yet to perpetrate the most unimaginable horrors.
Taken from ‘What my generation can learn from the holocaust’ – 27 Jan, 2013
- Thieving from the poor while turning them against each other: any response but fury at what this government is doing is inexcusable. But it is not enough. This government – a government with a flimsy, pathetic excuse of a mandate – is intolerable, and it must be stopped in its tracks. No more silent simmering with rage. Demand the Labour leadership offer an opposition worthy of the name. Expose Tory lies at any and every opportunity. Give a platform to those battered by Tory savagery. Take to the streets. Strike, and support those who do. Learn from this country’s proud history of peaceful civil disobedience. Sounds too radical, too extreme, or too much like hard work? In the years to come, you will be asked what you did to stop this horror show. And if you need another incentive, picture again those baying Tories, jeering as they mugged the poor.
- Guantanamo was iconic of Bush’s brutality, and after his election Obama signed executive orders mandating its closure. The camp remains open for business, pledged to take new “high-value” detainees if captured. The same goes for Obama’s pledge to shut down CIA-run “black site prisons” in Afghanistan. At least 20 secret temporary prisons remain in place, with widespread allegations of ill-treatment. US involvement in a senseless, unwinnable war in the country – ruled by a weak, corrupt government that stole the 2009 presidential election with ballot stuffing, intimidation and fraud – continues.
Taken from ‘Getting rid of George W. Bush wasn’t enough. The US remains a bully’ – 23 Aug, 2012
- So yes, let’s safeguard soldiers’ welfare. Let’s do that by no longer sending them to fight unwinnable, unjust wars. Instead of simply sacking soldiers and throwing them on the scrapheap, let’s find secure, dignified alternative work. Let’s give the help needed to those struggling with mental distress. But let’s not allow soldiers to be used as political weapons to make the poor poorer by this disastrous government.
Taken from ‘The latest front in Operation Divide and Rule sees soldiers used to fight a political battle’ 3 March, 2013