Missing the Point

‘What is it?’

The kid was holding a kind of fuzzy tube, big enough that he had to hold it in both hands. Well, Warren called him ‘kid,’ but he must be out of his teens by now. And he was wiry, muscled and taut. He was short though, a consequence of the food shortages he’d lived through his whole life. You could almost tell how old someone was by their height nowadays, the older ones, the ones who’d lived a while before the fall, were a damned sight taller.

‘I think I remember those,’ said Warren, searching his memory, ‘they were… they were a kind of machine. You spoke to it and it did what it was told. They were called Alex or Sally or… something.’

Warren frowned. He felt like he should be able to remember more than that, but it had been so long, and so difficult. It was like the important stuff had stayed with him, while the way things were had faded. It had been another world, and he had been so young.

‘So, what, it made stuff?’ the kid asked.

‘No, no, played music, I think.’

The kid frowned at it. He was called Akori, and he had been very young when the fall came. Young enough that he’d never been to a school, would never remember a working world.

A flash of anger sprang through Warren. He looked around at the house they’d found, huge and crumbling, tucked into the rolling hills. It was enormous, cream and gilt paint peeling everywhere inside, making the walls look strangely shaggy and unkempt. But here and there you could see glimpses of the opulence it used to be. The stately entrance hall, and the elegant, spiralling stairs. The anger grew, an old anger that Warren had almost forgotten, a furnace of unfettered rage.

‘I mean Jesus fucking Christ, kid, do you know what these fuckers did?’ Warren screamed, tearing the device from Akori’s shocked hands and flinging it at the decaying walls hard enough to leave a dent and send gouts of rotting paint tumbling into the air.

The kid was silent, shocked, unused to Warren ever making noise.

‘They fucking… they ate the world,’ said Warren, his teeth clenched. ‘They just took, and took, and took. And when they were told the world was dying they did everything they could, everything, to make sure nothing was done. They might have had to give something up, see? They had more than anyone could ever need in a thousand lifetimes and they would kill a man for even hinting that they could do without a sliver of it.’

Warren stood panting, his eyes burning with hate at everything around him. A chandelier was splayed on the floor in front of him, and he kicked at it.

‘Why didn’t anyone stop them?’ asked Akori, after a little while.

‘We fucking tried! We tried again, and again. People took to the streets, they screamed about it from the rooftops, by the end they were even blowing up bridges and killing people. Nothing fucking worked. You don’t understand the power of these people. The power of the rich. They had so much, so fucking much, that they could do anything.’

Warren saw the kid frown, not comprehending but clearly frightened by his display.

‘They told us,’ said Warren, ‘that it was foreigners’ fault. Or people with less than us. Or that we could fix it all if we just scrubbed out the trash we were throwing away so someone else could reuse it. They kept us distracted with arguments about who to trade with or who should be our neighbour. By the time the power went out they were starting to say it was just natural, that the bees were gone because it was just their time or some bullshit. Anything. They would make any effort, say anything, watch thousands die, millions, anything they could to make sure they didn’t have to do without even a fraction of what they had. It didn’t matter to them that they wouldn’t miss it, everything they saw was theirs and if it wasn’t theirs they didn’t give a shit about it. Fuck. We used to say they hated us, but that wasn’t true, we just didn’t mean a fucking thing to them.’

‘Well shit,’ said Akori, ‘no wonder this house is so smashed up, everyone came and got them in the end then?’

Warren looked confused for a moment, then realised what the kid meant. How could he explain it to him? How could you tell someone that a few pampered thieves had killed the world long before he had a chance to live in it? And the kid thought he was just talking about this house? That the specific people who lived here, in this building, were responsible for it all?

Warren threw his head back and laughed like he hadn’t laughed in years. He laughed until his stomach hurt and his eyes watered. He laughed until Akori gave up trying to understand, until Akori left and returned with a trickle of water and a couple of cats to eat.

‘Wind’s picking up,’ said Akori, turning the cats on a makeshift spit over a fire made from a rotting bedframe.

‘Yeah,’ said Warren, ‘but it won’t bring rain.’

‘Storm season isn’t for months, we’ll be back underground by then. What happened to them, in the end? asked Akori.

‘Who?’ said Warren.

‘The people. The people who ate the world.’

‘I dunno,’ said Warren, ‘there were a lot of them,but not as many as you’d think. I’m sure some of them suffered and others lived ‘til they were old and some might even be alive now. It doesn’t matter, really.  They never mattered, not as much as they thought they did. They had more than anyone could ever want or need. And now nobody will even remember their name.’

‘Murica. This is how you got here.

   America appears to be full of white people who used to believe there was no racism because they had never experienced it. Then it was pointed out to them that they hadn’t experienced it because they’re white, and that’s a privileged position in western society, at which point they said ‘that’s racist. How dare you accuse me of not knowing absolutely everything about everyone just because I’ve never looked into it or seen any reason to.’
  Their next step seemed obvious, the majority hewed close to Hilary Clinton because she seemed to be somehow outside the narrative, after all she’d worked for an outrageously successful black man for the better part of a decade and she was a woman, an oppressed group in every society on Earth. She wasn’t outside the narrative, though, because she still seemed to be part of the entitled clique of Wall Street enabling fans of the status quo.  People of colour were being murdered by police, government employees, all the damned time for absolutely no reason and she did not seem to demonstrate any real concern about it.
  Those who saw her as an unpalatable choice tried to stump for Bernie Sanders.  Were some of them simply misogynists?  Yes, of course, but there were other reasons to find her an imperfect choice.  Bernie, at least, seemed to want to shake things up, to do something about the massive problems facing the USA.  He cared about healthcare, about the vicious corruption unfettered American capitalism was falling into.  He cared that the poor were so vulnerable, that people of colour lived in a different, more dangerous America.  But then he lost the primary, and some of them just abandoned politics altogether, leaving it to the wolves, failing to recognise that, for all her faults, Trump was far, far worse.
  Some of the white people backed Donald Trump.  He rarely talked about race directly, but he did talk about immigration.  He lied through his teeth again, and again, and they ate it up because the story he told felt so good to believe.  ‘You don’t have to change,’ he said, ‘the problem is the Mexicans, coming over here, taking your jobs.  It’s not Wall Street, or the Estate Agents who sold you sub-prime mortgages, it’s the brown people.  I’ll build a wall and, because I’m a white man, will be able to force them to pay for it.’  Never mind his misogyny, or his probable incipient dementia, or his links to Nazis, he told them the story they wanted to believe, the path of least resistance.  And because their generation had been told their opinion mattered as much as objective truth they flocked to him.
  Some of the white people, though, some of them were even worse.  Raised on a diet of entitled, lingering prejudice they seig heiled their way to the alt-right.  adopting a terrible drawing of a frog as their symbol they began to hang out with the KKK and the American Nazi party.  They listened to Trump, and their acceptance of his frothing nonsense wasn’t a dull acceptance, but an understanding of the sly nods he gave to them.  Their diet of South Park and American military worship had led them to believe that nothing matters except force and they were going to take what the world owed them, put the people who weren’t like them in their place.  the Antifascist demonstrators who put a stop to their march for genocide fought back when the Nazis came, and the American right wing went into meltdown.  Some of the supposedly mainstream American right wingers began to suggest that Antifascists are worse than the KKK.  The KKK has publicly killed almost 4000 black people in its existence.
  So now the American right is fully on board with the American far right.  The pretense of egalitarianism is gone.  They sternly go on at the left to shut up about identity politics while they cancel DACA and ban transgender people from serving in the armed forces.  It’s the perfect time for the left to fight back.
  But there’s a void.  A gaping hole where the democrats should be.  Hillary Clinton’s supporters are still blaming the supporters of Bernie Sanders for their loss, as if the 2016 election is still ongoing.  They’re still blinding themselves to the fact America needs to change, needs to do away with unfettered capitalism and deal with its racism problem openly and frankly.  In the worst cases they’re trying to find common ground with the Republicans, a party which effectively no longer exists, a party which effectively is just the legislative branch of the Trump regime.  Bernie Sanders supporters are still yelling at the Hillary Clinton supporters, for more or less exactly the same reasons, instead of trying to find common ground or gently convince them that they need to look to the future rather than refight the struggles of the past.
  And behind it all, behind the long rallies with the speeches of sound and fury that signify nothing, behind the Twitter rows and the vast demonstrations, behind goose stepping Nazis and the shrieking Fox News hosts with the immaculate hair, behind the conspiracy theories, and the earnest pundits, and the floods, and the forest fires, just out of sight, the American police are drinking beer and the American rich are drinking champagne, not quite able to believe they’ve gotten away with it.

What Comes Next?

Antifa logo  I really don’t want to have to write about Trump, but right now I feel I have to.  There’s a pattern forming which nobody is talking about yet, and we need to be vigilant.

First the good news; it is now no longer a fair criticism to claim that the American people are apathetic about politics.  They are absolutely awake to the feckless fascist lurking in the White House and willing to kick up a hell of a fuss about it.

Here ends the good news.

The last week has been, it’s fair to say, monumental.  Trump entered office and managed to immediately infuriate most of the media and the CIA with a pair of insane, rambling speeches.  Even his inauguration speech sounded like one of his rallies, a screeching, self-congratulatory gout of grievance and verbal masturbation that those who don’t support him find repulsive.  The day after he became the most powerful man in the world there were marches against his bigotry and misogyny which obviously dwarfed the crowd watching him take the oath of office.  Trump, however, is such an insecure man-child that he could not allow this objective fact to settle in his mind, and sent his spokesman out to claim, on the basis of no evidence, that his supporters outnumbered the Women’s Marches and President Obama’s inauguration.

A lot of people have tried to read more into this.  They say that it was a deliberate distraction while the Republicans pushed through legislation to strip away several million American’s access to healthcare.

Come off it.

Trump is not a master of manipulation.  He’s a bully, a racist, a misogynist, a climate change denier, a fascist, and a hundred other disgusting things but he is, first, a showman.  He only knows how to interact with the world in that capacity.  He continues holding rallies because he’s good at it and he craves a cheering crowd, he signs grand, sweeping executive orders because it keeps the attention of the world on him, he lies all the time because in his mind he is the main character in a television show.  In his mind he is not lying, the show is wrong and must be rewritten.

By all accounts he voraciously consumes media (though not books).  He watches a quite unsettling amount of television and, I am sure from observing his account, is constantly glued to Twitter.  As he tried to settle into his office (and reintroduced the ‘global gag rule,’ which every Republican President has reintroduced and every Democrat has repealed) he would have seen the suggestions that he had used his insanity to try to distract the world.  I think he took this on board and, as reports leaked out about the chaos caused by his incompetence in government and a backlash grew at the fresh lie his press secretary had told claiming that he had won the popular vote (which, incidentally, he absolutely did not) he announced he was actually going to build a wall along the border between the US and Mexico.

And why wouldn’t he think that was a good idea?  It shows that he’s planning to keep his campaign promises.  It shows that his government is on track and decisive.  It always played well at the rallies.

It did not play well in the press.  It did not play well in the international press.  His promise to somehow make Mexico pay for it played extremely badly with the former President of Mexico (who posted these exact words in a Tweet: ‘We’re not going to pay for that fucking wall #fuckingwall) and it was, at its core, mental.  A bloody stupid policy from a bloody stupid man.

Steve Bannon, his neo-Nazi media advisor, probably thought it would play rather well with rather a lot of Americans.  He has spent decades living in a bubble of his very own, one comprised of bitter men who think they’re the master race.  He was probably surprised it didn’t go down well, and he blamed the mainstream media for its poor reception.  This is why they doubled down on their attack on the media, it’s not some Putin-esque power play, it’s panic.  We need to worry about Bannon though, Trump is a media obsessed man, his media advisor will be favoured in his court.

I’ll have to skip over rather a lot because so much dumb crap happened.  Trump has no idea how to govern, he’s only interested in looking like he knows how to govern.  And then he signed an executive order to ban immigration from Muslim majority countries.

America has never been a sectarian state before.  It is now.

Now there are protests at airports, there are people in the Republican party (very, very tentatively) suggesting it’s a bad idea, foreign governments are angry, a Daily Mail columnist agreed with Jeremy Corbyn that Trump should not be allowed in the country while this racist ban is in place.

Now, ignoring all the other crap, ignoring that the ban specifically targets Muslim majority countries where Trump does not have business interests and ignores Muslim majority countries where he does have business interests, ignoring that a five year old child was detained by police for hours on end at an American airport, ignoring that a court has ordered the executive order be suspended and Trump has carried on enforcing it anyway, ignoring the fury and the protests and the international condemnation (though not from my government, but that’s an infuriated rant for another day) this has been a disaster for Trump.

I know, I know, he treats the press like an enemy and he doesn’t seem to have even the briefest connection to the truth, but this will get to him.  There’s no way it can’t, an avalanche of infuriated condemnation is being launched at the USA from every corner of the earth and it will get to him.  Even if it doesn’t it will get to the Republicans, though whether they can find their spines or grow some values and actually do anything about it is another matter.  No matter what else happens he has almost certainly alienated everyone outside of his inner circle, and nobody can govern like that.

It’s the future I fear, though.  He has in the last few hours begun to make a great deal of noise about Daesh.  It sounds to me like the first, terrible rumble towards war.  And his will be a terrible war.  He will order airstrikes that butcher civilians, then deny it ever happened.  He will level cities.  Slaughter families with cruise missiles.  He will ignore human shields and kill ‘em all.

And then what?  What will he do when his army is bogged down in another middle eastern quagmire and someone with brown skin and a foreign accent opens fire and shouts allahu akhbar?  His knee will jerk, and he will crack down on Muslims even more.  ‘Gitmo times a thousand’ was one of his campaign promises, so there, on American soil, we will see the first internment camp.  Then he will try to follow through with his promise to deport millions of undocumented migrants.  The conditions will be terrible.  They will have to work for food.  Internment camps will become concentration camps, the step from concentration camp to death camp is barely visible.

This probably will not happen.  The world won’t allow it, the American public won’t wear it, he probably won’t last that long.  But I was sure he wouldn’t try to build a wall.  I was sure he wouldn’t be so stupid as to ban Muslims from traveling to America. I was certain he would never win.

Be afraid, America.  I was going to tell you that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing, but you’ve heard that and evil may triumph despite your efforts.  Instead of Burke I give you Bakunin:

‘Destroy or be destroyed, there is no middle way.  Let us then be the destroyers.’

This Seething Mess of a Year In Review.

  ‘Let’s be honest, 2016 has been shit’ – The beginning of the British Green Party’s New Year message.  No, really.

Let’s start with the obvious, unforeseen horror of David Bowie’s death.  This should have been a warning, really, if you’re inclined towards magical thinking.  The only upside to it was the outpouring of love and grief in Brixton which saw a sudden, unplanned street party and singalong that still honestly brings tears to my eyes when I see it.  But we should have known then that the transgressive, unifying force of love for the other that Bowie embodied was about to take the worst kicking of my lifetime.

bowie-tribute
RIP

 

I’ll try to avoid discussing other celebrity deaths in this piece, that’s not really what it’s about, but I would probably be remiss in not mentioning Alan Rickman, Terry Wogan,, Victoria Wood, Prince, Caroline Aherne, Gene Wilder, Pete Burns, AA Gill (who I disagreed with often and profoundly but still enjoyed), George Michael, Muhammed Ali, Leonard Cohen and a ridiculous list of others.  With every passing month there was another front page obituary which could not help but add to the sensation that the world we recognised was vanishing.

There were some moments of hope in 2016.  Not many, admittedly.  The Panama papers leaked, giving the world an insight into the rampant corruption we all sort-of knew was happening around the world.  The first solar powered aircraft to circumnavigate the world.  The USA and China ratified the Paris global climate agreement.  The first proven vaccine for the Ebola virus was developed.  The good stops here, though, and I’ve got to talk about the darkness.

Brexit came first.  It arguably isn’t as bad as the other big political story of 2016 but it’s still disastrous.  A lot of my friends, some younger than me, some relatively new to politics, felt repulsed and lost.  They felt, I think, that the world they believed they lived in was an illusion.  It’s interesting to me how much they all, bar one or two exceptions, leapt to the remain side of the Brexit debate.

Now I know that a lot of Brexit supporters roll their eyes at this phenomenon.  They write off all the Remain voters as a naïve, liberal, metropolitan elite and, actually, I think this is a mistake on their part.  The truth of it is that Remain voters are by and large involved with the world in a way Leave voters aren’t.  There is a generation of voters who now feel disenfranchised, betrayed and furious with their treatment and they have no love for an isolationist world they neither remember nor care about.  It’s been the habit of commentators to examine the Leave voters meticulously, I’d like to see some more attention paid to the fact that the people who are going to inherit the fallout of Brexit are never going to forgive those who stole the future from them.

Nevertheless; Leave won.  The campaigns they ran were a disgusting, racist, toxic nightmare and even when a neo-Nazi supporter murdered a left-wing Remain supporting MP in the street they shamelessly carried on with the empty rhetoric of nationalism and race baiting.  For forty years the repellent right wing newspapers of Britain had been screaming hysterically about the evils of the EU, nobody dared publically defend it and even Jeremy Corbyn, who ostensibly supported the remain campaign, said he was only ‘about 70% in favour’ of staying.  David Cameron, the other half of the Remain campaign leadership, brought out banker after banker to announce the dangers of leaving and how much it might damage their bonuses.

Does anyone really wonder why Remain lost?  And then the hate crimes began.  An undercurrent of disgusting blood-and-soil nationalism was implicit throughout the Leave campaign, so naturally the racists took the referendum as a victory for their fucknugget philosophy.  Suddenly Mr Farage is even more ever present in our media than he was before, constantly babbling crap about how those who do not support Brexit are treacherous scum, and the right wing press lap it up and repeat it.  We’ve seen judges attacked in print for rendering a judgement, in a democracy, that the press did not like.  We have a government so weak that they barely bother to mention that this is unacceptable.  We have the disgraced, possibly corrupt former defence secretary Liam Fox in a position of what looks like power.  We have Boris Johnson as foreign secretary.  We have Theresa May as a prime minister.  And the more they go on the more convinced I am that they have no idea what the hell they’re doing.

Enough.  I can only talk about Brexit for so long.  I have to talk about Trump now.

Urgh.

The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States of America should have come as more of a surprise than it did.  Not only were the polls trending heavily against him, he was a monstrously awful campaigner by the standards of a normal campaign.  I think we forget, in the rest of the world, just how abysmally racist America can be.  It’s a paranoid, insular place with some of the most appalling wealth disparity in the world and a terrifying tendency to glorify in its worst aspects.  Even more than Britain it refuses to look elsewhere for inspiration, when it seeks inspiration it looks only to its own past.  Now, finally, its rapacious worship of the dollar, its cult of celebrity and its bigotry has reached its culmination; a man who has praised internment camps, admitted to sexual assault and expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin.  If you are a left wing person still somehow under the impression that being enamoured of Putin is no bad thing then you need to read about Alexander Litvinenko, Boris Nemtsov and the invasion of Ukraine.

He will be a disaster and he can’t bring back the world the people who voted for him want.  It’s gone.  Yes he’s a dangerous fascist and he should be treated as the pariah he deserves to be but for the next four years he’s going to be POTUS.  Gods help us all.  So much has been said about him that I feel anything I add here might be redundant.

So what’s to be done in 2017?  It’s probably going to be worse than 2016, if only because Trump will actually take office and get to work dismantling the rights people in the USA have fought so hard for.  Nationalism is an empty, vile creed that wins because it is the creed of selfishness, it is Adam Smith’s vile maxim; ‘all for me, and nothing for anybody else.’  There’s more to it than that, obviously, but I have neither the space nor the inclination to go into it here.  It will have to suffice to say that internationalism represents the hope of humanity at this point, that closing the blinds and pretending that the world ends at the borders of your nation-state is not a healthy or good way to govern the world.  We’re going to need to fight for this, but we’re also going to need to examine our own failings.  The rate of homelessness has soared in the last few years, the use of food banks has become commonplace, a contempt for the poor has become the watchword of all of our political classes across the whole spectrum of ideology, and the poor are being seduced by the filth who will not help them but will use them as a stepping stone to power.

In the meantime, and more urgently, we will need to stand up against the casual cruelty of this blinkered, nostalgia-led fascism.  From Farage, to Trump, to Putin, to Le Pen, the hope of the world is under threat.  They are the past, shuddering through a final, convulsive last gasp, we’ll all have to be ready to resist them and repair the damage they do.

In Praise of Nero.

nero
According to almost all images of the man he did not have the most conventionally attractive chin.  Also sometimes a neckbeard.

It was Nero’s 1,979th birthday yesterday and I think it’s probably time to look at him again.  Among the general public he is generally regarded as a lunatic who burned Christians to death and fiddled while his city burned.  Among historians he is generally regarded as a slightly fey fop who was in far over his head and lost his mind when he began to understand the sheer scope of his power.

To my mind both of these views are insufficient.

Picture a man who knows himself to be a God.  He is not big headed or arrogant as such, he is a God.  He is a God, a descendent of Gods and he carries on the work of his ancestor Gods.  And yet, despite this knowledge of his own divinity, he is most fond of some of the most despised people in his dominion.

Nero loved acting, poetry and singing.  According to Seutonius ‘he often appeared in public in a dining-robe, with a handkerchief bound about his neck’ and he never wore the same garment twice.  He loved theatre above all, it was his abiding passion.  He was, let’s face it, a cravat wearing 19th century fop born a couple of millennia too early.

Which is why it is perhaps stunning that, in the early part of his reign, he was reasonably well regarded by the masses of the roman people.  Not the aristocracy, of course, they thought he was a disgrace.  And when he took to the stage to pursue his dream of being an actor the aristocracy regarded it as a dreadful, undignified scandal.  He performed his poetry to the public, he sang and played his lute for them, and though they had no option but to do so there’s no real evidence to suggest their applause weren’t genuine.

Then, before the horrors of his later life when ultimate power would consume him utterly, Rome burned.  Nobody knows the cause, though it was most probably arson and could very possibly have been arson by Christian terrorists.  Later it would be said that he cackled, that the scandalous lover of music watched Rome burn and did nothing but play his fiddle, but contemporary accounts tell a different story.

He opened his private estates to refugees.  He did his best to prevent looting.  He began a huge program of public works to rebuild and to employ the thousands upon thousands who had lost everything in nine days of inferno.

But his vision stretched further than that.

Nero was never a man to think small.  He saw an opportunity to remake the eternal city before him.  Instead of cramped alleys and impenetrable mazes there would be plazas, and statues, and wide avenues.  His would be a Rome of art and high culture, not stern and stoic functionality.  He would rebuild the empire to suit his vision, it would be an empire of staggering beauty and soaring art.  No longer would actors be viewed as the scum of the earth, no longer would poetry be the domain of the young and empty headed, Rome would reshape the world to be elegant, inspiring and majestic.

It didn’t work, of course.  The cost of such an operation would have been incomprehensibly massive.  The world turned, Nero began to resent his failures and from there on his reign is a cascade of increasing horror.  Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, being a good man is incompatible with being a God.

But imagine for a moment that it had worked.  Picture it; the civilisation that lies at the foundation of all of western culture turned primarily to the creation of beauty.  What could have come of that?  What sort of a world would we live in?  It may well have been worse, of course, but think of the possibilities of a world founded and grounded in the philosophy of the aesthete.

Nero failed, but his vision as he stood and gazed at the ashes of the greatest city in the world is one that would have swept me away.  I would have loved him for that romanticism, for that glory.  Perhaps loved him enough to follow him as he marched into hell.

Salve, Imperator.

  With thanks to LJ Trafford for drawing my attention to the Suetonius quote on Twitter and to Tom Holland for the excellent narrative biography of his life in his book ‘Dynasty.’

International Men’s Day

samaritansrightnumber     It’s International Men’s Day so, in that spirit, it’s time to talk about some men’s issues. Not the turgid crap MRA’s or Meninist twerps bang on about, which is always, *always*, the lack of availability of sex, but actual men’s issues. You know, the ones that the above groups never bother actually talking about.
    Depression, for instance. Suicide is the leading cause of death for men under the age of 45. We’re bad at opening up, at sharing our feelings with each other. There is a cultural problem, especially in Britain, with dealing with men’s mental health. Among other men we’re hard wired to feel embarrassed if anyone begins to speak about their difficulties. If there is a man in your life who’s having a hard time or who has been a bit withdrawn, try speaking to him. Ask if he’s okay. Ask what’s up. Discuss it over a coffee or a beer, encourage him to open up in a safe environment where he will not be judged.
    Secondly, and this is the one that’s probably easier to deal with, men are much more likely to die of preventable diseases than women. The reasons for this are, again, cultural. There is still a cultural pressure to ‘tough out’ illnesses or minor health complaints rather than attempt to go to a doctor. Men need to be much more willing to get health complaints dealt with because that strange lump or that recurring headache might develop into something much, much more serious. This is a hard barrier to break, mostly because it’s self inflicted, but it *can* be broken. If you have some niggling health issue that simply won’t go away then make a doctor’s appointment on Monday and be prepared to talk about it.
    Thirdly; violence. It doesn’t take a philosopher to figure out that violence is undesirable and should be avoided if at all possible. It also doesn’t take a demographer to figure out that men are more likely to be victims of it than women (though the figures are out there and they’re deeply depressing). I don’t need to say it but I will; don’t indulge in violence. Men are better than that.
    Finally, chauvinism. Chauvinism does not empower men, it never has. It unquestionably has worse social effects on women but it also reduces men to brutes who cannot control their urges. I, for one, reject the chauvinist view that I am a violent rapist in waiting. I, like all men, am more than capable of reason and sound judgement, of controlling my body. I am also capable of drawing a distinction between a woman who wishes to have a conversation and a woman who wants to sleep with me.
    There are men’s issues and they are both real and urgent. We have to remember what they are and not slide into an insipid, reductive view of masculinity. If there’s a man in your life that you appreciate then let him know, if you are a man then try to remember that privilege comes with both a cost and a responsibility. You owe your brothers the support and solidarity that seems so often to come so naturally to women, and you owe it to yourself to be the best man you can be.

The State of the Union.

The pound has dropped to, according to one Financial Times calculation, a 168 year low. The last time the pound was that low HMS Daedelus reported a sighting of a sea serpent and 5,000 people died of cholera in New York. Incidentally the British Empire was somewhere near its height, we could squeeze our colonies to plug the gaps in our economy. That is no longer an option that is open to us.

But what do the press make of this backlash, and by backlash I mean terrible things actually happening due to the stupid Brexit vote? Let’s have a quick look at who these measured moral guardians have decided to blame. I’ll start with the Daily Mail, it’s the obvious choice.

mail-filth
Yep.  Front page, all across the top.

What a surprise.  The first, last and only retreat of the brainless right when they’re proven wrong.  Let’s do this then, word by word.

First of all apparently I’m ‘damned’ and so is the MP representing my interest and all of my friends and anyone who agrees with me, which is slightly less than half of the people who actually voted in the referendum.  Well fine, it’s not even a swearword any more so who cares?

Secondly I’m ‘unpatriotic.’  I don’t feel an especially strong need to defend myself from this facile statement but I know some do.  Just remember; this sort of right wing filth consider themselves patriots so if you disagree with them you are, by their infantile logic, unpatriotic.  This absurd fantasy of inverted, self serving, megalomania is probably the best argument for retiring the meaningless word entirely.  Wilde said that ‘patriotism is the virtue of the vicious,’ which is a good line but I disagree, it’s the virtue of the meaningless, the platitude of the pointless, a rallying cry for those who know they have lost.  It, like faith, is exactly as worthy as the actions it inspires and absolutely no more.  Treat those who question your patriotism with the blistering contempt they deserve.

‘Bremoaners’… weak.  Weak, Daily Mail, I thought right wing papers were supposed to have a knack for puns?  ‘Bremoaners’ is just rubbish.

‘Their plot to subvert the will of the British people.’  All right, I think I have to explain something that most adults understand: when everything goes wrong and someone points it out it is not necessarily their fault.  Sometimes you have a terrible idea, the grown up thing to do is to own it and try to rectify your mistake.  And it’s only a plot if they do it in secret, nobody is being quiet about this nor are they hiding their intentions.  Grow up.  As for the idea that the way this is being handled is somehow ‘subverting the will of the British people’ I feel the need to remind you that there were two boxes on the ballot, one which said ‘leave the European Union’ and one which said ‘remain in the European Union.’  There was no mention of leaving the single market, no mention of free movement of labour, nothing about the human rights act… nothing.  The shape of Brexit is absolutely up for debate, why do you seem to be so worried?

Time to move on, I think.  Let’s see what the Express has to say.

express-front-page

That is a fairly unambiguous and sinister threat.  Are they suggesting banning discussion of the most important political issue in Britain today?  Are they suggesting leaving the EU with no plan whatsoever?  Let’s take a look inside to find out:

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Oh.

Nope, they’re talking about jailing their political opponents.  This is what political discourse in our press is nowadays.  This is disgusting.

Well let me show you something that I find important, Daily Express, this is my passport:

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Do you see it yet?  No?  Let me show you again:

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One more time, because you still won’t see it:

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You want to strip me of my citizenship.  That’s what this is about.  I am a European, the closest I ever felt to ‘patriotic’ was my pride in being a part of the project that put a stop to the constant apocalyptic wars across this continent.  You want to lock up people who disagree with you?  You want us all to shut up and let you do whatever you like you small minded cowards?  You have so little faith in your position that you want to imprison the ‘Bremoaners’?

Try it.  Come and try to take sixteen and a half million people away.  See what happens, you simpering xenophobic scum.

I dare you.

A Living Tradition.

bells
Morris bells, for most of my life the sound of summer.

  Tradition matters.  In a way I wish it didn’t, a world in which we could pick up and put down customs at the drop of a hat would certainly be a more harmonious one.  It would also be far more empty, a joyless trudge through time with no festivals, no holidays, and no town criers.  I like traditions, but they can be problematic; it is the nature of traditions that they are abandoned only rarely, because without continuity they are nothing.

  I want you, if you’re unfamiliar with British folk dancing traditions, to bear the above paragraph in mind when I tell you that some Morris sides still perform in blackface.

  I’ve been brought up in a family deeply involved in folk music in general and Morris dancing in particular.  My Dad started Pigsty Morris in 1987 and my Mum has been a clog dancer since 1976, my brother and sister enjoy ceilidhs and folk festivals and, though I have drifted away from it over the years, I still have a fondness for some of my childhood memories of the folk scene.  In the interests of full disclosure I should point out that Pigsty Morris have never performed in blackface.

  ‘Well?’ I hear you say, ‘when are you going to get to the point?’

  Fair enough.  There is a debate currently raging about the use of blackface amongst the Morris community.

  At first I could not comprehend why this was even in question.  It’s blackface.  A historical blot that I instinctively find uncomfortable at best.  What mad ideas have led Morris dancers to think they can get away with blackface when Al Jolson and the Black and White Minstrels have almost been deliberately erased from the cultural history of the western world?

  Well, actually, a few things.  None of them are good enough, nothing could be, but they might explain why the debate is raging instead of long over.  Also I should point out that I don’t believe anybody in the debate is deliberately racist, honestly, you’ve largely never met a more strident bunch of liberal lefties in your life.

  Firstly; like most things to do with Morris dancing, the actual reasons for it are a mystery.  It almost certainly doesn’t have roots in racism.  Some people say that blacking up began as a kind of crude disguise, a way to hide your identity from meddling priests or landlords.  I think it was more likely something to do with industry, miners meeting to practice at the end of a shift and adapting it to be part of their costume.  Maybe that’s all wishful thinking.  Maybe it has racist origins, maybe not, maybe there’s no real reason beyond a simple way to make your costume more striking and outlandish.

  Secondly; it’s a tradition.  It’s at least a couple of hundred years old, maybe more (people tend to write a lot of authoritative pieces dating the origins of Morris dancing, they have wildly different dates and are never backed up with any kind of solid evidence.  It’s a mystery, and I’m okay with that).  If you become, by dint of effort, the guardian of a tradition then it is your duty to defend it.  It’s a good thing to do, preserving traditions serves a useful purpose.

BUT

  Well… everything else really.  I used to quite like it when I was a child.  A white child.  I even used to like their dogged determination to ignore the changing times when I was a teenager.  I understand their trepidation, but Morris dancing is a living tradition, and life is change.

  I also understand why the people doing it might be so upset.  There is a tacit suggestion that they are racist in urging them to stop doing the thing they’re doing.  They think ‘I’m not a racist, I’m the person doing it, therefore it can’t be racist.’  There’s reason there, but there isn’t logic.

  Ladies and Gentlemen of the pro-blackface camp: you are wrong.  Right now I can just about understand that you’re trying to maintain a tradition and that’s very much a part of what you’re supposed to do.  But if you keep this up it will start to get dismal.  That instinctive urge you feel to keep blackface is the same urge that keeps bullfighting in Spain and dog restaurants in China.  I get it, I get why those traditions carry on, but I understand even more why they shouldn’t.  And please know that if you don’t stop, soon, the rest of the world will begin to notice and you will very publically be on the wrong side of history.

  So why not start a new tradition?  Why not wear masks?  You’re a creative bunch, I’m sure you could come up with something awesome.  Why not burn a few pots of shoe polish every year to commemorate the time you used to do that crazy thing?

  I’m sorry you’re losing a part of your performance, I’m sorry you feel that it lessens the importance or the art of Morris dancing (which it absolutely does not), but it’s time to put this one to bed.  Sic Transit Gloria Mundi.

  And, now that’s out of the way, it’s time to deal with the Morris Ring.

A Well Deserved Dressing Down for Absolutely Everybody. Including You.

Yes, and me.

You-finger
This is all your fault.

  I’m angry.  I’ve tried to calm down using music, booze and venting at a mirror but I can’t. Instead I’ve written a comprehensive telling off for everybody including you.  In the interested of making this readable in a timely manner I’ve limited myself to two sentences and no swearing, which was a hell of a challenge.  Read this and feel bad, you deserve to.

  Brexit voters:

  The Poor.

  I understand you’ve been messed around and despised by successive governments for decades now but which part of you decided ‘I know, I’ll mash my nose in to a fine paste with a heavy meat tenderiser to spite my face?’ The knee jerk reactionary part, that’s which, you damned fools.

  The Woman Who Said That She Voted to Leave the EU Because She ‘Didn’t See the Point in her Daughter Learning French’ Because, In Her Words, ‘She’s Never Going to Go There.’

  Merely repeating what you said is dressing down enough you utter, utter cretin.

  Cynical Appropriators of World War 2.

  Seventy year old conflicts from a time when the shape of world politics was absolutely unrecognisable are completely irrelevant and when you bring up either World War to argue about Brexit you, by implication, suggest that I dishonoured the memory of my grandfather’s distinguished service in the Navy fighting the Nazis by voting to remain.  How dare you.

  Blustering Morons.

  Being concerned about immigration may not always be racist but it is the sort of curtain twitching xenophobia I had hoped we’d left in the twentieth century.  Add to that the fact that we will need to take part in the common market in order to survive, which will also guarantee free movement of labour and so make no difference to immigration, and I hope you feel like the idiot you are.

  Remain Voters:

  Young People.

  The tiny number of you who voted overwhelmingly wanted to remain, the ones who didn’t bother deserve the hell they’re bringing down upon themselves.  And well done for failing to organise all those rallies before the vote when they might have actually made a difference.

  All Other Remain Voters, Including Me and, Probably, You.

  Where was your passion before the results were announced?  You failed to convince anyone because you didn’t even bother to try or, if you did, you failed to say anything remotely inspiring or interesting, idiot.

  Tories:

  David Cameron.

  Hey, you necro-porciphiliac, how’s that plan to unite the Tories by getting the European question answered once and for all doing?  Keep your shiny cheeks shut on the back benches, you abject failure.

  Boris Johnson.

  Hope you’re happy you jowly, mop headed, Beano character, look what you did.  Also you owe the country enough money to build a new hospital every month and I’m sorely tempted to try to find a way to take you to court to get it, liar.

  Theresa May.

  You’ve failed to show even the slightest concern for the failure of the remain campaign, the campaign of which you were a part, and as a result of your failure you’ve risen to the top by virtue of everyone else sinking down.  What a shameful, pointless Prime Ministership you’ve managed to grasp.

  Labour:

  Corbyn.

  Good man you may be but your complete inability to do anything but yell in to an echo chamber has destroyed all hope of anything ever getting any better.  I want a competent version of you in charge of the Labour party so that it can win elections, to most people a ‘movement’ is something you flush down the toilet.

  The Parliamentary Labour Party.

  He’s been fighting for this for forty years, his supporters are absolutely passionate and full throated and you’re bringing nothing to the table.  The fact that you thought a mass resignation could work just demonstrates how completely out of touch you are.

  Momentum.

  Your tepid and simpering response to the disgusting, misogynistic, homophobic abuse I’ve seen some of you hurl at people online is repulsive and you should all be ashamed, saying ‘but they’re mean to us too’ is a pathetic excuse used to do nothing. Also you’re doing it wrong, a cult of personality is supposed to form around a person with an actual personality.

  The Press:

  The BBC.

  ‘Balance’ doesn’t mean inviting one pro-brexit economist on for every pro-remain economist any more than it means getting climate change deniers on to argue with other people who are actually correct.  I’m not sure what the point of reporting news actually is if facts, established actual facts, are ignored because the government of the day don’t like them.

  The Murdoch Papers.

  Three decades of howling about immigrants and whinging about the EU has got you what you wanted, well done, you’ve destroyed even the illusion of democracy in order to serve Darth Murdoch.  You might be the worst people in this, you bunch of race baiting filth.

  UKIP and Other Racists:

  Nigel Farage.

  You said ‘not a bullet was fired’ in order to achieve a ‘revolution,’ forgetting Jo Cox’s murder which was absolutely the result of your mendacious campaign clearing a path for the sort of racism you’ve always pretended to disavow.  Now you’ve vanished because you already know how terrible the storm that’s coming is going to be, well done Wormtongue.

  Every other racist.

  Slope off and rot in your hovels, dogs.  In the 21st Century the only excuse for actual, full blown racism is genuine cranial trauma, otherwise you’re the sort of simpering coward who fears anything they don’t expect.

The Cuckoo Nest Plot.

This man is an arsehole.
Lucifer. Not as interesting looking as many Devil Worshipers hoped.

Boris Johnson is not standing for the leadership of the Conservative party.  This, to many people, is a bit confusing.  If you are a leave voter and reading this then, firstly, you made a stupid choice at the ballot last week and you should feel awful about it, secondly you’re probably wondering why the mop headed traitor you trusted didn’t do what he said he would do and actually see this catastrophe through.  If you’re a remain voter you’re probably laughing at the Tory in fighting and don’t care about the details.  Trust me though, this is one of the most astonishing stories to emerge from this whole mess. In place of Boris Johnson is a man who has engineered one of the most breathtakingly brutal political plots since the fall of the Byzantine Empire.  Reading about it, finding out just how duplicitous and destructive this fish lipped narcissist’s schemes were, I am a little stunned.  Boris Johnson is an irresponsible, lying turd but Michael Gove may actually be the devil.

For those with no interest in the breeding practises of birds (so most of you); some breeds of cuckoos raise their young by laying their eggs in other bird’s nests.  Birds, not being the brightest of beings, often don’t quite notice that their clutch has changed so dramatically and proceed to nurture the things, then the cuckoo chick destroys all the other eggs before they hatch and reaps the rewards of being an only child for a while until it leaves its surrogate parents forever.  This ‘Cuckoo nest plot’ has the perfect name.

Gove must have been planning to stab Johnson, his friend of twenty years, in the back before the campaigns got underway.  He may even have planned it from the moment Cameron declared there would be a referendum, so calculating were his actions.  The Gods alone know where the seed of his evil began but they started to sprout during a dinner party at Boris Johnson’s house.  It is well known that before the referendum Johnson was vocally in favour of the European Union but, during a dinner party with his old friend Gove, he was convinced to cross the divide and campaign to leave.  Don’t get me wrong; Johnson made a calculated political manoeuvre and gambled the future of the country for his own selfish ends but Gove was his enabler.  This in no way absolves Johnson of guilt, of course.  Gove, in contrast, has always been a Eurosceptic, men of his lack-of-calibre tend to be.  This is his one saving grace; the consistency of his callousness.

So, armed with the backing of another cabinet minister and a vacuum at the head of the leave campaign to fill, Johnson stunned Cameron and the country to announce he would be campaigning for Brexit.  Well we all know how that turned out.

The second step in Johnson’s myopic master plan was to win the Conservative leadership contest.  His plan was simple; he would use his position as leader of the leave campaign to unite both the remainers and the Eurosceptic wing of his party and take a fresh, revitalised Tory bloc in to the next election.  The problem was that he won, and now the old guard loathed him with a seething, unexpected passion.  It wouldn’t matter though, he would still have enough support unless there was some unforeseen problem, he and Gove had enough allies between them to easily secure the future of the party and Gove had never had any pretentions to leadership.  He had said as much, repeatedly and at a loud volume.

There was, however, the problem of Brexit to contend with, he would have to spell out a clear, coherent vision for that swiftly in order to seize the initiative in a now freewheeling conservative party.  Cameron had gone and the entire country was languishing, all he had to do was make sure everyone knew he had a plan.  He penned an article for the Telegraph and had Gove check over it.  It was perfect for Gove; an obscene abrogation of absolutely every promise and hint their campaign had made, so he finessed it to make sure it came across as even more bewildered and useless than it already was.  It was a fantasy list of unachievable hopes that nobody in the European Union could ever accept.  No free movement of labour but access to the single market.  If he had carried those pledges in to Brussels he would have been laughed out of Belgium, and rightly so.

After that he was done, but it was possible he didn’t know it.  Gove and his wife continued their blitz against his hopes.  To tee it up his wife, Ms Vine, ‘accidentally’ sent an email to a member of the public which was supposed to go to her husband.  This public spirited, anonymous individual who almost certainly doesn’t exist and is a journalist, leaked it to sky news.  It painted a picture of an indecisive government in waiting and a Gove rightly troubled by the goings on in camp Boris, extolling in him the need for ‘SPECIFIC assurances from Boris OTHERWISE you cannot guarantee your support.’

By now Johnson’s bid was looking less like a smooth transition and more like a blundering mess.  If the party couldn’t get this right at a time like this then the government could fall, haemorrhaging Tory voters to UKIP and Labour and costing them their tiny majority.  Never mind the chaos in the Labour party, half of the country now loathed them.

It was time to act and Johnson was becoming increasingly frantic.  First he met with Andrea Leadsom to try to convince her to withdraw her leadership bid and, by all accounts, succeeded.  She would throw her support behind him in the coming contest and it could well be enough to secure his leadership.  He sent out invitations to his launch event, best to make it official and quickly.

The morning after the Conservative party summer ball (because of course Tories have one of those) Gove struck.  He had told as many people as he could, presumably, all sorts of horror stories about the dithering and meandering of Boris the botch, the overgrown schoolboy who would burn the country down if he could be king of the ashes.  By the time the sun reached its zenith the work was done, no longer was Johnson a brief spark of the old order of the conservative party, he was a babbling schoolboy blundering from one position to another.

It was enough.  Gove was Johnson’s closest political ally and friend of twenty years, who wouldn’t believe that his concerns were genuine?  It was self-evident that the next leader of the Tories had to be a Brexiter and if not Johnson it would have to be Gove.

So the next day we were treated to one of the most flagrant assaults in the rear with a bladed weapon since Caesar.  Gove announced his candidacy and, by all accounts, told Theresa May in advance and said nothing to Johnson.  By mid-morning Johnson’s support was all but gone to Gove, his ‘dream team’ partner had taken up arms against him and he had a press conference organised for that afternoon.  Surveying the devastation around him he stepped up to the podium, mop hair ruffled and looking as dumbstruck and distraught as he had the morning his great ‘victory’ in the referendum was announced, and he told the stunned crowd that he would not be standing in the leadership contest.

Now I understand if, after that, you might feel a flicker of emotion for the shell of Johnson’s career.  It’s human to want to pity a man subject to such a colossal betrayal, but never forget: the man has probably destroyed the country in order to fulfil his sad little ego trip.  As for Gove?  Well, it looks like some things are beyond the pale even for a party that tends to celebrate a well-executed scheme no matter how evil.  Gove is trailing badly, yesterday’s man, losing support from MPs who see his actions, as they would repugnantly put it, as ‘not cricket.’  The good news is that we won’t see a Gove or Johnson Prime Ministership, the bad news is that we are likely instead to get a woman who campaigned to stay and has always, throughout her entire political career, been a Eurosceptic.

This is a time of lies in our political circles.  A time of grinning through causes they don’t believe in to position themselves better for the future.  Corbyn wanted to leave but campaigned to stay, Johnson wanted to stay but campaigned to leave, May wanted to leave but campaigned to stay and not a single member of our political establishment has managed to tell a single truth from the beginning of this free-wheeling disaster.  A plague on all their houses, and remember that Gove is the most callous of all.