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(and reintroduced the ‘global gag rule,’ which every Republican President has reintroduced and every Democrat has repealed) he would have seen the suggestions that he had used his insanity to try to distract the world.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.’

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Letting Slip the Dogs of War.

SyrianFlagBurningHonestReportingFlickr  It was inevitable. It’s been inevitable since the eleventh of September, 2001. It’s been inevitable since the soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It’s been inevitable since the British Empire carved up the region and empowered a dozen petty despots to rule over oil rich land. It may even have been inevitable since the Ottoman Empire collapsed under its own weight. We’re going to bomb Syria and it’s going to escalate horribly.

  Isil/IS/Daesh are a problem. There’s no negotiated settlement to reach with them, they can’t be reasoned with because they believe they are ushering in the apocalypse and, importantly, they believe that’s a good thing to do. Their King, who I will not dignify with the title of Caliph, is a racist, a rapist and a murderer who has used their fanaticism to carve himself a kingdom and now we’re going to bomb it.

  So how did it come to this? Well, we’re talking about a region of the world which has arguably birthed all of the world’s most successful religions that sits on top of an enormous volume of oil but very little fertile land outside of Egypt. It’s not hard to see how that could be a powder keg, in fact it’s hard to see how it could not be. These are, however, very broad strokes. A potted, simplified history will follow.

  Daesh grew out of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), AQI declared an “Islamic State” in Iraq and changed its name to Islamic State in Iraq (ISI) because they have no imagination because fascists tend not to. They were no longer getting along with Al Qaeda because ISI were brutally persecuting and murdering Shia Muslims. Why were they persecuting Shia Muslims? They say it’s because they’re infidels but really it’s for the same reason all fascist states start persecuting minorities; a shared enemy is a uniting force. It is an effective, awful way to bind people together.

  Of course they didn’t stop there. They did terrible things to Christians, to Jews, to Yazidis, to Druze, to gay people, to anyone who didn’t fit in to their narrow, misogynistic, fascist cult. It wasn’t enough, they underestimated the war weariness of the West so they started to attack targets at home. The Paris attacks were the most notable, though there have been other, smaller atrocities.

  So how can I argue against bombing them? How can I, I hear some of you ask, condemn military action against them?

  The short answer is that I’m not. They have to be stopped. I’m not against action against Daesh, I’m against this action against Daesh. It’s another open ended mess of meaningless, mission creep drivel. Time and again in the ten hour House of Commons debate we saw MP’s stand and warn us against assuming that we were about to repeat the mistakes of the past. They didn’t really seem to tell us in what way it would be different this time.

  This whole thing is probably closest to Libya. Not Iraq so much, though the rumbling war there was an unmitigated disaster by any sane measure. In Libya we sent the bombs down to help a revolution in progress and saw a vile regime replaced by a thousand warring militias and an utterly failed state, a post apocalyptic, Mad Max wasteland nightmare brewing the worst kinds of violence, a chaos of pain and misery.

  The Prime Minister claims there are 70,000 ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels with whom we can work to build a post-Assad Syria. This claim rightly raised more than a few guffaws. The idea that any kind of remotely accurate data could be extracted from the Syrian maelstrom is laughable at best, I suspect this one is on a par with the ‘42 minutes’ claim made by Blair before Iraq.

  So what am I trying to say? Honestly I’m conflicted. I don’t want to see a war over there but that’s not really an option because it’s already happening. Britain does share some of the responsibility for the mess Syria is in, the sense of responsibility doesn’t come from some vestigial colonial urge. Daesh are awful and they absolutely will not stop until they are made to stop and the longer they’re left there the worse it will get both for the people living under their rule and us in the West. Doing nothing could never be an option for any nation in Britain’s position, no matter what form of government or culture or faith.

  I suppose, at heart, I feel you cannot fight half a war. We have to speak with Russia to make something workable. We have to help the Kurds find a future. We have to work with Iran. We cannot allow Assad to reestablish control now that the people of Syria have comprehensively rejected his rule. We need a broad coalition, a workable solution and achievable goals. We need to know what we’re getting in to and how to get out of it. We’re not really doing any of those things.

  So I’m against airstrikes because bombs alone won’t bring us peace. They won’t lift the spectre of international terrorism from the world. They won’t kill only the bad people, no matter how accurate they are and how much the political leaders might wish it. They can’t emancipate women or rebuild the temple of Bel. They can’t teach a child that a martyr’s shroud is unbecoming. All a bomb can do is explode.

IS, Indoctrination and How to Leverage Hate.

eiffel tower peace It goes without saying that attacks in Paris on Friday were awful and brutal and the product of a disgusting perversion of faith. The attacks in Beirut too, of course, and their lack of equivalent coverage has been widely noted and discussed. The people who committed the acts were vile people and willing to do vile things. This entry is not about that, I have nothing to add that hasn’t been said by a thousand pundits in a thousand places. I don’t know how to defeat the ideology of IS or their physical forces. I will not refer to them as ‘ISIS,’ Isis is a loving mother goddess and I will not help them to obliterate even a portion of another religion. I don’t know how to bring peace to the middle east or end the endless war, there is no simple solution and its history, when it is written, will take up volumes upon volumes and barely scratch the surface. I don’t know how to change the culture of the various tribes, juntas, theocratic monarchies, warlords and fanatics often described under the umbrella of ‘radical Islam.’ I don’t know how to reconcile differences caused by decades of bloodshed or reconcile the modern world with Wahhabism or counter online IS propaganda. I despair of the armchair generals and insidious ‘us versus them’ attitude about Muslims pumped out by the venal right.

I do know, however, about how vulnerable a powerless and isolated young person can be in the west.

When you find yourself, for whatever reason, cut off from mainstream society there is still a powerful urge to find something to belong to. Personally I felt isolated mostly because I was bookish and quiet as a child. It was not a good way to make friends in a Bristol school in the 80’s and 90’s, I was the butt of many jokes and casual cruelties and it wore me down until it broke me. Though my social skills blossomed later and I came out of my shell as I entered adulthood I felt no real stake in the world for a long, long period of my life and as a result I resented it. All of it. I began to search for a philosophy, for a group to belong to, to find a tribe and a purpose.

As luck would have it I found Goth. I can’t honestly say why it speaks to me more than any other subculture but the sense of belonging while being simultaneously removed from mainstream society is undoubtedly a part of it. I made friends and had exciting adventures and wild times but before I got there I reveled, for a while, in a much more uncertain and cruel darkness. My isolation led to an extreme resentment against the world, I did many things I regret and I did them without conscience and it took me a long time, and intervention from people to whom I now believe I owe my life, to crawl back out of the nihilistic mire. Essentially I was an empty vessel, seeking something and never knowing what.

If I had been brought up in a different culture, one defined by the stories and history of Islam rather than secular, white England, I might easily have become a fanatic. If I had entered that period of my life and the people there with me had been radical preachers instead of relentlessly carousing, slightly messy and wonderful friends I would have turned out very differently. I can see it, when I close my eyes, a simple and horrible path to becoming a murderous zealot. I needed someone to listen to me, to help me get through the awkward years, to look out for me and to be there when I needed them. If they had been saying ‘make war on the decadent west and give your life for Allah’ in response to my search for meaning I would almost certainly take it on board. Fortunately they said things like ‘try snorting the salt, then drinking the tequila, then squeezing the lemon in your eye, whoever can do the most of those pays for the lot.’

Now I know there are as many ways to become brainwashed as there are brainwashed people. I know, also, that some of them are mentally unstable and some of them are vulnerable and a very few of them are pure, dyed in the wool psychopaths who just want to kill people. I know that, had my life been only ever so slightly different, I could have found myself one of them. It’s important to bear this in mind; can you say you’ve always understood the world and never felt in need of guidance? Can you say that you’ve never felt empty, like your life is freewheeling and without purpose? That’s the vulnerability they exploit most easily and most often, many of IS’s followers have fallen for the con, the man who enters their life and guides them gently in to the grave, broken down and rebuilt as joyless, tedious, death worshiping fascists.

It’s a hard walk back from there but it is not impossible. At the moment they are presented in the media as a cartoon villains with no nuance or subtlety, as inherently bad people with no depth and this is irresponsible in the extreme. Right now, in the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks, it is perhaps understandable to treat IS as somehow inhuman but it is a trend that is now long established. I’m not calling for reconciliation, or for kindness, or for turning the other cheek, I’m simply calling for understanding. Already they prey on the manufactured differences between east and west and in distancing ourselves from any attempt to comprehend them we give them better tools for their awful cause. They can point at us and say ‘the west does not know Islam, they do not care to know us.’ They can use their mystique to lure the lost.

IS are only human, the things they do are human, the way they become who they are is human, a good way to weaken them is to remember that.

Rise and Fall.

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  I’ve been trying to come up with a way to explain just how much trouble the world is in. It’s difficult, to be honest, even dealing with the mathematics of the economic woes is near impossible. It’s nothing to do with the vast scale of the numbers, which are terrifying, it’s to do with the wealth gap.

  About 80 people own half the world’s wealth now… this is a false start. That sounds ridiculous but 80 isn’t a small number as such. Then again, when you realise there are seven billion people on the planet so 80 people own as much as three and a half billion people then… nope. I’ll start again.

  The odds are that if you add together the wealth of everyone you’ve ever met and everyone you ever will meet you will not have as much money as one of these people. No, that doesn’t work either, that sounds like envy when it’s just an attempt to explain the difficulty.

  The wealth of Bill Gates alone could build 35 Burj Khalifas. It could fund two Manhattan Projects today. He could pay for all of the Apollo moon landings again, twice. This still doesn’t work. Also Bill Gates has at least signed up to leave half his wealth to charity after his death. Probably tax free as well because these things are.

  The problem here is one of scale. You, most likely, are thinking of what these people own as a very, very large wage but it isn’t; it’s insane. They can do literally anything and get away with it. They have more money than you could possibly understand.

  It’s like trying to explain the sun to a candle flame.

  And despite this, despite all this, they are growing richer. Does that infuriate you? It should. It should make you sick with the vile scale of the relentless avarice.

  Does this sound like the politics of envy? I don’t care. I don’t want what they have, I don’t want yachts and football teams and massive charity foundations that effectively function as tax breaks, I just want enough to get by and have a good time now and then. Maybe a little more, enough not to have to toil for someone else. I don’t have that.

  Economists argue that wealth can’t be measured like that, that it’s created from some mystical spring hidden in the financial sector. To a degree, bizarrely, this is true, but most of the bounty of that spring is slurped up by entitled filth before it ever reaches you. Or anyone you know.

  In Greece the Syriza party were elected to put a stop to the awful austerity bludgeoning the country has been taking. They made some headway, angry though they were, and when they were instructed to take yet more painful measures by the troika they went to the polls and held a referendum about whether or not to accept them. They chose not to and, as a result, their masters in the political parties who answer to the banks and the funds that answer to the banks and the European central bank that answers to the bloody banks, forced them to accept it anyway.

  So it was that in Athens, in the birthplace of direct democracy, after an exercise in direct democracy specifically rejecting the fresh avalanche of fiscal agony, the citizens were overridden by the bankers. The excuse, as it has been for some time, is that there is no more money. The scum at the top of the pile keep getting richer.

  Now in the UK we have a new Labour party leader. He’s okay, kind of left wing, certainly more left wing than the limp, meandering shadows who’ve run the party after Blair. Kind of left wing. He believes in free markets but he want to renationalise the currently bloody awful railways and institute a kind of direct quantitative easing, effectively printing money to pay for infrastructure projects. He wants to raise taxes for the very wealthy, close tax loopholes and stop the social cleansing of our largest cities. Sounds reasonable to me, more reasonable than pouring money in to a black hole of a financial sector at any rate. The establishment…

  The Establishment. It’s an old word and I’d almost forgotten about it. They’re still there, surprise surprise, and they’re still in charge. Let me give you some examples of just how berzerk they have become since Corbyn’s election.

  The Express, one of our many, many right wing newspapers, printed a story about a member of his family being a somewhat odious sort. By all accounts he was horrific to those in his employ and was dragged before the courts for breaching labour laws on more than one occasion. Newsworthy? Nope, it wasn’t him and there is no suggestion that he colluded in this behaviour in any way. I’m sure he didn’t anyway, unless he has a time machine, because this relative was his great great grandfather. His great great grandfather.

  Other newspapers have made a lot of noise about his lack of a tie, as if not wearing a tie is something that actually matters. “He probably should,” you’re thinking, “if only to protect himself from press attacks like that.” Why? Why should he? Do you wear a tie to work? Statistically; you do not. You almost certainly don’t if you’re a woman. Why should he have to wear a stupid, irritating, gendered item of clothing? I find them distracting, I find it hard to think with one of those bloody things wrapped around my neck. He does wear one in the commons now. I don’t think he should.

  Others have made a huge fuss about him not singing the national anthem during a remembrance service, just like many other attendees. If you’re a UK citizen quick; sing the national anthem! All of it! Now! DON’T GOOGLE THE LYRICS, THAT’S CHEATING. And do it with someone else in the room. Feel a stirring of national pride? No? At best you don’t care and at most you’re a little embarrassed, aren’t you? You didn’t even sing it you liar. What arch patriots these papers are, what lovers of our gracious queen, when less than a week earlier they had gleefully published a picture of her performing a nazi salute while she was an infant.

  Finally (for the purposes of this article if not actually finally, the Establishment really went ballistic at him) a general in the British army said that there would possibly be a coup if Corbyn were elected as Prime Minister. A coup. This man is suggesting, by the law of the land, treason. Can you picture a general saying that about a conservative party leader? No? Of course you can’t, it wouldn’t happen. If he did he would be arrested for it, much as he should be now, but the Establishment had already spent so much time painting him as an illegitimate lefty terrorist that everyone almost laughed it off.

  This is not democracy. Corbyn is going to lose. He’s going to lose badly. He hasn’t put forward any policies which are particularly leftish, he’s been quiet and softly spoken, he’s quite likeable when you see him talking in an interview though he clearly doesn’t like the press (who can blame him?). He’s not going to lose because he’s worse than the other Labour leadership candidates, they were awful, he’s not going to lose because people, when they actually think about it, particularly disagree with his policies, he’s not going to lose because he doesn’t wear a tie, he’s going to lose because the Establishment, the right wing filth who run this country, have already moved heaven and earth to make him unelectable.

  Now, personally, he’s not left wing enough for me. He believes in wage culture and he thinks that a nation state is not an inherently destructive force and a state monopoly on violence is acceptable and a thousand and one other things I disagree with. However I will, probably, vote for the Labour party at the next election because the alternative is the bloody Tories under, most likely, George Osborne. And they’ll lose. They’ll lose hard. Because even the right of their own party have bought in to the narrative that he cannot win. Because an electorate crying out for a more human, less weirdly slick, more relatable politician is nudged gently towards UKIP by the Murdoch papers and their thuggish friends. Because an electorate rapidly falling out of love with austerity is told a thousand things about the man who says to stop it but none of them are about policy. Because he tries to change, a little bit, the consensus that a tiny, brazenly wealthy elite is somehow good for everybody. Because for all the illusion of an egalitarian world we live at the bottom, we are the cattle corralled by people so rich they are effectively a different species, we live in a pen and they squeeze it ever smaller, growing fat off the sound of our pain.

  This means the world is in trouble.  Deep trouble.  The money is utterly entrenched and owned by unaccountable people who can, and will, do anything, anything, to keep it that way.  I genuinely fear for the future.

  I badly, badly hope I’m wrong.