Saturday, 16 July 2016

Now, here's the way I see it.

In the space of a few moments you can find out how many people have died as a result of acts of violence against civilian populations which fit the current description of Terrorism. Here’s a list of place names that have suffered the worst events so far in July:

Nice, Baghdad, Dhaka, Al-Haskeh, the Mausoleum of Sayid Mohammed bin Ali al-Hadi and Aleppo.

At least 560 people have been killed in these six events, the vast majority being civilians. All of these deaths will be the result of nation states taking actions which had foreseeable consequences. To suggest that “no-one could have predicted what would happen when x did y” is not usually factually correct. To suggest that the violence we see today around the globe is not the result of the activities of nation states such as the USA, Russia, Britain, China and France is to deny all the evidence that history provides us with. It is banal, mundane and obvious. That does not stop our rulers and their mouthpieces from denying that it is the case.

Violence on an industrial scale is now the norm. The First World War made it clear enough. The Second World War showed how the process could be refined and made more efficient and varied. The Nazi Blitzkrieg, the Allied Bombing Campaign, Bergen-Belsen, Auschwitz, Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  And the rest. The USA, Russia, Britain, China and France manufacture and sell weapons of remarkable complexity, sophistication and brutality. These weapons are being used each and every day to bring about the deaths of perfectly peaceful human beings. The situations in which they are used are the result of centuries of exploitation by a comparatively small, wealthy and powerful number of humans who are unconcerned by the steady deluge of murder.

In the 1950s, in his book The Future of Mankind, Karl Jaspers described how the USA and the West had to prevent the USSR from spreading its totalitarian regime across the globe. According to him, the resistance of totalitarianism was more important than the continued existence of the human race, since what good is being alive without freedom? Read today it seems naïve to suppose that the regimes of the West are any less totalitarian than that of the USSR. To suppose that totalitarianism must always take the form of Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia is to have a distinct lack of imagination. The tools of repression and coercion are many and varied. The West exports its more homicidal tendencies to the places that it needs to exploit to acquire the raw materials necessary for its continued survival. Augusto Pinochet, Manuel Noriega, Ferdinand Marcos, Saddam Hussein, Nicolae Ceausescu were, one supposes, staunch supporters of freedom. Unless you happened to be from the country they were ruling. Export repression, import liberty.

North Africa and the Middle East are where we can look today to see the results of this process. The effort to secure control over oil supplies and markets for weapons has not been entirely without incident. Whether these bumps in the road are intentional or not does not diminish the opportunities they present. Given the willingness of nations to send millions of people to their deaths in the 20th Century it would take a remarkable amount of optimism to suppose that this tendency has somehow vanished. To suppose that governments would actually try to take rational steps to end the relentless, grinding, pulverising hell of it all is to suppose that they would do something that was not in their best interests. It is worth bearing in mind that your best interests as a peaceful citizen do not entirely correspond to your government’s best interests (as if you imagined that this was not the case).

Is it entirely mad to suppose that events such as we have just seen in Nice are as necessary to the process as the atrocities in Baghdad, Syria, the Gaza Strip, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Yemen and all the rest? If the threat of violence was not felt as keenly as it is, would it be possible to continue the brutal exploitation of the rest of the world under the guise of protecting a country’s own population? At the height of the colonial period the domestic populations of the colonial powers would be either ignorant of the oppression and murder which was perpetrated by their country or sanguine about it due to ideologies of racial superiority. Now that ignorance is harder to maintain (although not that much harder) there needs to be another justification for a country’s actions, justifications such as acting in self-defence when attacked by an enemy nurtured and strengthened by the same country’s activities. And this is not a suggestion that vast conspiracies are at play behind the scenes; everything is there to see if you look.

Terrorism is not the result of some infernal immaculate conception. The terrorist attacks which have been the dominating narrative of the 21st Century so far are not without cause. The solutions so far have failed, demonstrably so. It is banal, mundane and obvious. When the next attack happens, wherever that happens to be, it is highly unlikely that the response will be anything that has not been tried so far. The certainty is that more people’s worlds will come to an end as the result an elite who are unaccountable, inaccessible and above the concerns of you and me. It is to be hoped that at some stage, before humanity succeeds in murdering itself entirely, this state of affairs will change.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Today we are emancipated from all narcissists

I finally got my copy of V. V. Barnett’s Partial Sketches: Picture Partial today. Really fascinating stuff. Big old thing, and second hand so the binding is on the way out, but there are some amazing things in it; preparatory sketches for Barnett’s main triumvirate, the Bristol Series and the UtUt Process from 1973 to 1976.

There’s a good amount of his jazz period as well, when he would address the page in the Japanese style whilst syncopating his strokes to live musicians such as Davis Huntington, Eric P Anders and Giles Pallas when they were in residence at the Down Stroke in Munich and the Penny Penny in Bremen. Unlike previous editions the quality of the pictures have been improved so that you can see the characteristic gouges and scrapes which V.V was renowned for.

Leafing through the numerous prints you can see why Barnett was called the Pollock of the Pencil when he was in his pomp. It is also clear that his flirtation with non-figurative art was brief and, from Barnett’s own notes, failed to satisfy his artistic aspirations. The collection ends with his famous sketches of the Norwich Warbler which proved to be his most enduring work and what he is best remembered for today. 

Monday, 8 February 2016

Candid chiropody photos available in L, XL and XXL

There’s a new economic Armageddon on its way apparently, this one to be caused by the mass selloff of buy to let houses, which will lead, along labyrinthine and occult pathways, to either more public service cuts and general misery or to a glorious revolution or nothing at all. There’s also word that there may be a snap general election on the way, which would be quite a thrill. Let’s see how many people vote Conservative despite all the terrible things they have done. I would imagine that a good number will still vote for them to fix everything and also to keep out the hordes of Johnny and Jane Foreigner who want to swamp Cambridge and make it smell of their spicy foreign cookery. Saint and Greavsie preserve us.

I, like many many people the world over, probably didn’t entirely understand why it all went to hell last time but have been made aware of two possible causes; that it was because the government had borrowed too much money to try and make the country a bit less shit or that “The Banks” did it by using money in new and indecipherable ways. That the national debt is higher now than it was under Labour and the country is still shit for millions of people (some of whom voted for the Tories) does not seem to invalidate the argument that it was Labour what done it, which goes to show how well the message has been sold.

Heather and I were in Liverpool on Saturday and whilst we were queuing for the cash machine at the top of Bold Street we listened to a very angry man tell his woes, at quite a high volume, to another guy who stood there patiently listening. He really was very angry indeed, the Job Centre were treating him like a fool and the old geezer in the flat above him was making a racket and would not stop for anyone. Neither he nor the man he was talking to looked well, they had the grey skin and stooped posture which you can only get if you have nothing to divert your attention from the daily grind of having no money and nothing to look forward to. It was a bloody awful picture he was painting but it did not stop two passing students stopping and filming him with their phones. Heather asked them “Are you going to post that online now? Because it would be bad if that happened to you, wouldn’t it?” They looked a bit sheepish and stopped filming. I would not put it past them to still make a spectacle of this misery.

Money has changed, or so I read yesterday in an article by Lisa Adkins called “What can Money Do?”. It used to measure the value of things and mediate the exchange of one resource with another. You’d do your work, get your wages and exchange it for something else. The money itself, for most people, wasn’t the important bit, it was what you could get with it that mattered. Now most people in the country no longer have this relationship with money, whether they realise it or not. You get your wages and the most pressing use for it is to service your debts. If you’ve not got any debts, well done, you are very clever, give yourself a pat on the back and prepare a sermon or two. For the rest of us there are not only bills to pay, food to buy so we can eat and clothes to buy so that we can keep our Sandy Balls and Cheddar Gorges hidden,  there are money men to pay off. That’s where the money gets made, not by making anything but by lending money and charging interest. I’ve often thought that I was in the wrong business, I thought that I should be in the A4 printer paper business since it has been ubiquitous for years but now I see the light and I was wrong. I should have been a loan shark, but a respectable one who just takes your stuff away and doesn’t break your knees. Or even better, doesn’t do anything to you, just keeps extracting the money for ever and ever because you can get a job which pays just enough to keep your nose above water. A successful parasite does not kill its host.

It could be said that there’s nothing about the above story that is especially hard to grasp, so it makes you wonder how so many people got into this position in the first place. I’ve met and had the pleasure of talking to people who put the blame squarely on the shoulders of people spending beyond their means and that if they weren’t such weak and flimsy creatures they would have never got themselves into this mess in the first place. People like that tend to have a pretty large blind spot when it comes to issues of control and trust. If the experts at the bank, people you expect to know about money, are saying to you “it’s ok, take out a loan, everything will be fine” then it is understandable that you would trust their judgement, they are a bank after all. And if a bank offers you a credit card there’s a good chance that you will think “it’s ok, they wouldn’t give me a credit card if it was a bad idea”. Then there’s the mortgage and the finance on the car and once you’ve got all this going, are you thriving? Have you been emancipated? No, you’ve signed away a portion of your life to some blokes in an office somewhere who do fuck all. Sorry, they sell you money and then do fuck all.

Kind of makes one feel a little vulnerable. Kind of makes a person want to find some reliable, trustworthy sort to fix everything and tell you it is alright. Who better than a selection of millionaire public school boys? Who better than a group of chinless wonders who know how the whole thing operates because daddy worked in the city and this knowledge is in their DNA? It’s not as if privileged rich arrogant white neo-liberals (or PRAWNs as I have just started calling them) have ever made life a force 10 shite gale before is it? And where’s the fun in not waking up in the middle of the night, covered in sweat and gripped by the fear that your maths has failed you and there won’t be enough money in the bank to pay all the direct debits this month? That’s what makes life worth living, that burst of adrenaline, your heart pounding in your chest, that scream rising in your throat. It’s better than bungee jumping into a pit of bears wearing a suit made of salmon. It’s a real thrill. Thinking back to that man near the cash machine I may have got it all wrong; he wasn’t angry at all, he was just super stoked because of all the far out wild times he has been having. He’s grey from all the adrenaline. He’s having a fucking riot.

Here's a picture of  bear. He doesn't care. Not one bit.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Miniature Golf Strip Tease Classes

It cannot come as a surprise to learn that there is pay inequality in the UK and that the problem is getting worse.  The gap between the rich and the rest is increasing and there seems to be no indication that this trend is going to stop. If you were a cynical sort then you would think there was something going on, especially when you consider the following:

  • Support for the unemployed and those who cannot work due to ill health or disability is being drastically slashed, thus making the prospect of unemployment a terrifying one.
  • A rise in zero hour contracts and below inflation pay rises makes work for the majority a less and less profitable proposition.
  • Personal debt increases due to low pay and the constant marketing onslaught which is the lifeblood of an economy based on the endless consumption of mass produced ephemera.

Those three factors alone would make it likely that people in precarious employment, who have amassed an amount of personal debt will accept any pay and conditions. If you have a workforce who is prepared to accept a substantial degradation of their situation as long as they can retain some kind of employment it should not be surprising when companies get away with what they can.

I’ve been incredibly lucky to get a job in the NHS and after 12 years I am in a position I would have not thought possible when I started. I put 75% of this good fortune down to the fact that I have white skin, a penis, straight teeth and good posture. I’ll lob middle class in there as well. Turning up more often than not turning up is worth another 10%, leaving me with about 15% that I can claim to be somehow down to my good judgement and competency.

There have been some shit jobs too and it was only because of working tax credits and housing benefits that I could afford to eat properly, pay my bills and buy shoes. I lived in Swansea at the time and you needed to make sure your shoes did not have holes in them from September to May because it would not stop raining and trench foot is not a good look. If I was in the same position under the current government I can imagine how life would be and it would not be pretty or very long. It isn’t hyperbole to say this either; you would need to have your head buried fairly deep to ignore the steadily rising tide of suicide. The Samaritans 2015 report, which contains data up to 2013, states that the male suicide rate is at its highest since 2001 with 19 per 100,000 men killing themselves. Given the intervening years I would be disinclined to suppose that this trend has changed substantially. Here’s a link to the report:

And the report from the Office for National Statistics is here:

The Prime Minister’s Questions session on the 27th of January saw our mighty leader David Cameron refer to the people living in abject misery in the camp in Calais, who have fled vicious and relentless violence in their own countries, as “a bunch of migrants.” This does not stand out as particularly unusual language for him, his party members and the sort of person who votes Conservative but it is disgusting all the same. Cameron seems to have a very particular view of anyone unfortunate enough not to be pleased with the general debasement of humanity and I don’t think it is entirely positive. Again, if you were a cynical sort you might suppose that he thinks you’re only really human if you’ve got a couple of million in the bank, drink the blood of virgins and sacrifice kittens to Cthulhu.

I had the good fortune to find myself sat at a table somewhere in the Midlands before Christmas. I learned that someone had a husband who wanted to be a Tory MP and wanted to bring back hanging. This wasn’t some retired Captain of Industry or Wing Commander, but a young man. Two things struck me as unusual:

A. That anyone would admit to being a Conservative.

B. That anyone would marry someone who admitted to being a Conservative.

The fact that he wanted to bring back hanging seemed to go without saying and did not really surprise me. I imagine that this reveals some deep seated prejudice I have against white middle class men who want to protect their privileged position and are happy to let the rest of the world burn. I really must work on that. The other thing that was surprising was that no one else around the table expressed any particular emotion either, if anything some seemed to think it a rather good idea. I’m not sure if the “it” they thought was a good idea was becoming a Tory MP or bringing back hanging or if they even separated the two.

On my way home I pondered the fact that back in Liverpool the chances of repeating this experience were extremely low. Does this mean that the people of Liverpool are somehow morally superior? I don’t think it does, you can hear some equally unpleasant notions being aired round this way. Rather, it shows just how thoroughly the Conservatives have shat on Liverpool over the years. This fact yields a glimmer of hope, but only a glimmer; if people really have to be covered in Tory shit, utterly immersed in the stuff, before they vote for someone else, surely that point will be passed in the next four years, unless by then they have convinced enough people that it could be worse, which is not impossible. If you demoralise and disenfranchise enough of the population, beat the will to resist out of them, then if any of them vote at all they will still be outnumbered by the minority of people you have favoured with your largesse. That’s how they won the last one, if not completely then certainly in part.

Some of the points raised in this essay are set to music in the following song by popular electro-rock beat combo Mashemon. Here’s a link to their song Great Job, which will be part of an EP to be released once I’ve done pulled my finger out and finished the last song. You’re welcome.

Monday, 31 August 2015

It’s fiction about stuff that is already there

Is it too soon yet? I might be about to put some kind of voodoo curse on things, but there’s a substantial amount of work being done. Mashemon work at that. I imagine you guessed. Whether you wanted it or not music is being made.

But why now? Why come out of hiding right now, at this stage in human history? The answer is simple; the world needs men like us to stand up, comb our hair, tighten our belts, sit down, scratch our balls and do some electro rock music. So that’s what you will be getting and by golly you’ll be thankful. When your grandchildren ask you what the most important event of the early twenty first century was you’ll be able to look them straight in their bionic eyes and without a moment’s hesitation you will be able to say to them:

“Mashemon did another record. Don’t know what they were going on about. Pass the (insert futuristic staple foodstuff). What time is it? I remember when cheese was a thing.”

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Thank you for remaining in your seat and not thinking.

What’s that? What’s that you say? Some kind of tooting coming from the basement? Strange men eating salad on the bowling green? Someone wants to touch you on the knee? You want someone to touch you on the knee? What?

You were abducted by aliens? They left you on a small island in the Pacific and you had to swim home? You can talk to sea urchins? Boom bang bang boom bang bang?

Pointy fingers and electric guitars? No, surely not, not that, no not that surely not that. No.


Friday, 26 April 2013

Assessing the Cyborg/Gibbon dichotomy in modern cuisine

I’ve been existing in a state of political confusion for what seems like an awfully long time. At some stage I think my brain just stopped being able to accept the bleak truth that democracy is dead and there’s bugger all I can do about it and decided, very much in keeping with the times, to take the executive decision to just pump out white noise whenever I tried to engage rationally with the issues of the day.

This resulted in my exasperated refrain of “I blame Thatcher”. It could be argued that I wasn’t wrong, but it really meant  “I don’t understand where it all went wrong but I know she was something to do with it.”
Since the old woman died a number of good things have happened: the media went monkey-cock crazy about all the stuff that THATCHER! did and how it was great and how it was awful and how very, very divisive she was and how you have to be respectful of old dead tyrants who supported mass murderers and sold bombs to dictators. It was good because it sent me down a hyperlink rabbit hole to finally find some decent information about why things are the way they are and how neoliberalism has screwed the vast majority of us brutally, roughly and without our consent in whichever hole we were least keen on getting screwed in, be it in the post-box or up the cat-flap.

This in no way equates to the sudden acquisition of valid opinions which would necessarily stand up to intense scrutiny, but I can at least begin to find out why there seems to be no social-democratic alternative available in mainstream politics and precisely why the concept of introducing the free market into all areas of state activity is so very, very wrong.

Most of us can see what the free market gets up to. Managers with beating sticks forcing Bangladeshi sweat shop workers to go into a building that promptly falls down. That’s what the free market does. It seeks to suck the money out of your pocket in any way it possibly can and concentrate that money at the pinnacle of an impossibly high pyramid, a pyramid built from the toil of all us grinning idiotic slaves. And they do it absolutely everywhere.

The NHS is being forced to contract out its services (not new that) and private healthcare companies are taking an ever larger piece of the pie. Where does the money come from? You, you dumb monkey. Where does it go? It goes up! All the way to the filthy rich geezers (there’s a high probability that it’ll be a geezer) sat on the board and to the shareholders. And we know what the filthy rich do; they sew pigs together and fire them at the moon. They put cows on roller skates and make them joust for biscuits. They make babies drink their own tears until they turn into fish. I have no idea what the filthy rich do and I never ever will.
Local government has to do the same. We are told that this outsourcing and contracting is more efficient and better value for money and the market knows best and that all the crashes, disasters, atrocities and fish babies are not the result of giving ever longer reigns to an unprincipled greed machine, but because poor people believed that they could have nice things if they borrowed some money and it would be fine and because poor people are all lay-abouts and scroungers and criminals and that what we really need to do is stop worrying about the people who actually made off with all the cash and find a way to make people’s lives which are currently really, really shit even shitter.

None of this will be news to anyone who is actually reading this, it’s not even news to me. What I was having trouble understanding was why there did not seem to be any political alternative to what we’ve ended up with. It’s easy enough to say that all politicians are the same but it is nice to be able to put your finger on how they are all the same. Turns out it is this belief in the free market as the answer to what ails us.

Funny how, now that I’m looking at it typed out, this is what I was thinking all along but had failed to organise into a coherent statement. What will be interesting in the years left to me before I am eaten by a weaponised koala paratrooper (I’ll tell you about it sometime) is finding out what it all means and whether we will ever throw off the shackles of the unethical and uncaring free market bastard army we currently find ourselves the victims and accomplices of.

Thanks for dying Thatcher. You’ve prompted me to replace my befuddled and impotent rage with a focussed, informed and erudite impotent rage. Suck my plums.