Sunday, 10 May 2015

Comment posted on Conservative Facebook page, the Day after the Election 2015

Most people who voted Conservative don't know what they have actually voted for, rather they believe that a full 5 years might return Britain to that post war Thatcherite fire sale that so many aging middle classers benefited from first time around. Have you not noticed that there is no new emerging middle class? No fresh blood? The only new home owners today are those you financed with your own savings, or else allowed your kids to live at home until deep into their 30s rent free. Labour may not be blameless in respect of the economy, but have you forgotten that the real reason is that it was the conclusion of 20 + years of aggressive, irresponsible selling and manipulation in the banking industries, that like all modern countries, when it crashed it decapitated everyone. Do you really believe it would have been any different under any government in office at the time? We could just as easily be recycling that same accusation at the Conservatives right now. Are there 1000's of new jobs? Yes I suppose so, jobs though, not careers, transient, contract free, minimal wage or living wage jobs, jobs that are dull, un-inspiring, insecure and from companies who no longer have a human resource department because they outsource this - they prefer it because it means they are not contractually obliged to give people security or hand out pay offs if suddenly their business model no longer requires them. Do you know you have voted in TTIP, the covert transatlantic agreement that seeks to lower the standards in trade agreements, basically enabling deeper, less regulated trade with the US, who want to sell us high volumes of processed sugar rich foods without displaying it on the packaging. TTIP means that they will be able to sue governments who create policies that damage their profit margins, then consider that our Government is in talks in respect of outsourcing management of the NHS and water companies to these US companies, surely they have caught the scent of an opportunity on the wind.
If you are a Conservative voter who has voted enthusiastically because you have an income of £80,000 plus, are a home owner, have stocks and shares, run a business, may be about to inherit a large windfall and as well genuinely want to live in a less free, corporate lead society, then this is not directed at you, because you have voted for what suits you best, however, I am completely baffled by any of you, and there are many of you, who simply would have benefited so much more from a government with a social rather than capitalist agenda. I asked many people I know who did this and are technically, economically, socially just like me, why they voted Tory and none of their answers actually stand up at all. Rather, overwhelmingly their/your choices were influenced by a media that promoted the idea that we are over run with benefits cheats and job thieving immigrants. While their maybe some truth in some of that, the broader truth would be that if we lose a billion in tax to benefits claimants, the vast majority goes on pensions and towards families like ours where both parents work full time and yet we need additional income and tax breaks to live. In contrast there is 30 billion in tax missing through the wealthy and their tax avoidance efforts. Were it not for that, the 30 billion of cuts due now, would not even be necessary, indeed we could be building hospitals and employing more nurses.
The head line in the Daily Mail today proclaimed on its front page 'This was YOUR victory!' How does that make you feel? I mean, you must recognise that the Daily Mail is one of the most derided publications on the planet, whom no informed, engaged person - many Tories included, do not take seriously. The sane among us on both sides recognise it to be a newspaper fraught with paranoia and small world mentality, yet it has stepped forward to represent you this morning, it seems to think it has some claim over the reason you voted the way you did.

So the question might be, did you vote for the party best suited to your needs, as I did by carefully considering all the evidence, via many different sources and media conduits or did you just vote for what the Daily Mail told you to vote for?

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Atheism vs Creationism

Richard Dawkins enters an office space and seeks out the woman he is to engage in the most extraordinary of conversations with. They are introduced and there is some forced politeness.
The woman is Wendy Wright, a creationist, and as much a classic English gentleman as Dawkins is, he can’t really hide some of his contempt. He has openly criticised creationists saying he doesn’t care what they think, after all they know nothing.

Wendy has a striking presence, curiously attractive with enormous cow eyes, yet with an icy, sardonic tone, a cold defensive dismissive demeanour, she could be a controlling, subversive character from a sitcom – the one who always has her eye on some hidden prize only she sees. This is a woman clearly on the defensive who retorts throughout in a faux polite, faux chirpy, patronising tone, perhaps anticipating how this conversation will go and how it will scan on the Youtube channels its resting place will inevitably be.

Her approach for coming out of it well would be to remain calm, be seen to be in control, and not to allow herself to be provoked into an emotional outburst which would clearly damage her credibility, yet her sheer lack of credibility, is going to be obvious. She is up against a master of debate, she is up against the might of hundreds of years of education and research and Richard Dawkins is clearly the favourite by some distance. Wendy’s debating style is one of trying not to be intimidated, but for all her great personal training and no doubt prayers to God in preparation - that he might provide her with the tools to overcome - she seems on some level deeply intimidated.

There is no invitation for them to begin their debate in any comfort, she beckons Richard to a corner of the office where they will stand and talk for an hour, as if they were passing each other on the way to make coffee in the kitchenette nearby, but instead have a polite if brittle discussion about the validity of atheism verses the perceived insanity of creationism.

This was an entertaining conversation, a road crash of minds. Wendy is a phenomenally intelligent performer and I’ve not seen anyone counter Dawkins so articulately, even despite the fact that her entire creationist belief seems absolutely pointless, irrational and founded in some very odd forge of reality. Certainly in terms of her own collection of logic and the ground rules of creationism she absolutely knew her stuff, she knew a lot of what was outside of creationism also, which is oddly disturbing, you ask yourself how a woman of her knowledgeable depth would settle on such a fragile bundle of ideas. Even if creationism was the truth, there is just no good reason to believe it is the truth.

What I thought was apparent was that Wendy was a product of layers of experiences, for whatever reason she believes in a bizarre interpretation of history and never seemed likely to accept that raw evidence; actual fossils and dinosaur bones, would convince her of Darwinism / evolution. For her the Earth could not be proven to be older than 10000 years unless God himself came down, shook her by the shoulders and told her she was completely wrong – but even then, you could be forgiven for thinking, she would still be unable to adapt her beliefs.

What seems so familiar with this debate, with fundamentalists is that they CANNOT change their views, there is so much identity at stake that you have to wonder what of Wendy in this case, would be left if she did re-evaluate her belief, and we were able to witness her public self implosion, the tragic scene as her entire investment stock became worthless.  

By the end of a quick fire, leg aching back and forth, I was no more a creationist than I was before the conversation began, but it also struck me, that I still remain sceptical of Richard Dawkins, who is himself a fundamentalist -though he doesn’t see it. Such a suggestion is out of the remit of the world of logic he inhabits, much like it is for any other fundamentalist. Just as any other fundamentalist he believes he has the gravitas of evidence on his side, only this time the evidence is a newer, more modern kind of evidence that seems impervious and sound in cross examination.

I’ve come to like Richard Dawkins, he is just ever so slightly eccentric and reassuringly old fashioned; he would be an amazing grandparent for a certain kind of grandchild. He seems limitlessly polite, has an attractive twinkle in his eye, and is nobody’s fool. He is able to decapitate at will and is un-intimidated by the wide range of individuals he encounters, which includes every possible leader of any religion and also a collection of pop stars and celebrities. He is fast becoming the kind of popular speaker we’d all quite like to have at a dinner party, and he is quite in danger of becoming an accidental UK national treasure in much the same way as TV presenter Stephen Fry currently is.
Richard has that intoxicating combination of charismatic intelligence and yet -with a highly tuned self-effacing humility, which means he is accommodating, and rarely seen to be reactive no matter how cruel some of the accusations levelled at him are.

He is of course, the complete intellectual, the cream of the British education system, while he excels in the sciences, he clearly has other depths which seems to range from English Literature, Art History, Geography, Latin and a great deal more; you can’t get an education like that unless it is paid for. It makes people such as him appear effortlessly commanding – we relinquish power to such people way too easily; the educated elite are like those street magicians who can hypnotise you with some trick, while simultaneously lifting your wallet, watch and car keys, they delight and they rob you, and you won’t even know it.

But Richard’s big thing is that he is a blatant atheist and that his personal mission is to obliterate ignorance. He believes that all of existence will eventually be explained away by science and he is clearly frustrated at the refusal of others - namely those in the religious and spiritual communities, who simply will not accept that there is no God, mystery or magic left in the world.
When he talks of science he does so lovingly and softens noticeably,  he describes his own atheism as far from a miserable, gloomy and terrifying starkness; describing a Godless void as actually a very poetic and beautifully humble concept; one that he believes is somehow the saviour of humanity, were we all to share his views.

If we all did share his views, wouldn’t we live life far more respectfully? Would we not love and appreciate each other more knowing that this was all temporary?
In this brutal, harshness is a quality missing from the lives of those who may be holding out, waiting for life to start; perhaps when their own spiritual healing is completed. Those people to Richard are wasting an opportunity; it is a crime against this short time available to live it hoping for a better life, or if not a better life, an afterlife; where there is no pain and everyone will remain young, beautiful and free. There is urgency in his appeal; to stay asleep, to remain deluded is exactly what certain oppressive systems want of you - religion has been designed to shape apathy.

Wendy and Richard primarily debated evolution. Creationists of course don’t accept it since they feel that it was in fact God that created the Earth; it is important that the timescales line up, otherwise this rogue dissenting thread may go on to undo the entire tapestry of a fundamentalists ideology.
Wendy argues that even taking into account certain evidence, that in fact there is no cross evolutionary evidence; which she describes, as those missing fossils and bones that show the transformation from one kind of species to another; or more precisely a primate becoming a human being.
It is an interesting retort, one that Dawkins does seem to falter over. The expectation would be that he would then list a great many examples of such evidence, but curiously he offers only the same invitation to join him in a visit to a decent museum, where he feels he will find, and share an absolute truth Wendy will not be able to deny.

If you can suspend an allegiance to any one personality type, Wendy’s argument becomes more attractive as we learn that she could be fighting for an anti-fascist idealism; that we shouldn’t just accept another person’s interpretation of existence, even if the evidence was overwhelming and to ignore it, or not to value it, made you look positively deluded.

The truth is that no matter how much evidence is gathered and stands up under cross examination, there will always remain a significant ‘X’, namely that of context, which is to say; what is the context of this evidence, and how could we ever truly know the scope of that context?

Of course, it is not as if Wendy wouldn’t actually herself become a militant fascist if science was usurped in favour of her own dogma. The creationists would very much like it if it were their theism that was adopted in schools and taught on the curriculum. This would be a worrying, and let’s be honest, highly unlikely development; there is something intuitively right about leaving behind creationism, just as there is perhaps in not interpreting any religious text literally, and while some will stubbornly do this; the writing is on the wall. That is not coming from an especially aggressive tide of sinners - as much as it does from a kind of natural entropy; a phenomena that is dissolving certain fundamentalist arguments through actual, regular interaction with our world.

Can we really imagine a world being a great deal healthier, if we taught our children that the Earth was only 10000 years old and that human beings were planted fully formed straight into the Garden of Eden? Wouldn’t that surely promote a totalitarian double-speak when it came to creating technologies, medicines or studying history?
Would the study of history then become one that had to kick dinosaur bones under the rugs; would we have to ignore the messages engrained in the rocks or avoid certain plants if they somehow challenge the age of the planet?

Or would this double-speak mean that there would become a hypocritical atmosphere in which scientists could manipulate the values, yet have to deny the mathematical significance?

Wendy though I’m sure does not see a problem. Instead she would regard a creationist centred society as one that would become aligned with God; God and love would become more abundant. Any problems we have would be solved by God, those rug covered bones would be explained in a creationist belief system, folks would bake for each other again and children would be free in a non-predatory, non-consumer driven society.

It is just that despite everything, you can imagine problems further down the line. If, for example, the drinking water becomes poisoned and the prayers don’t have any effect, things may quickly devolve into sacrificial gestures; the prayers are not working, God must be angry - perhaps it is because the sins of the people are so accumulated, we must organise a cull.

Wendy’s articulate defensive of her belief is oddly inspiring and to my mind has value, Richard didn’t get away without any battle scars; she was a formidable opponent, and her bastardisation of what most of us would ordinarily call commonsense, was surprisingly coercive, albeit it that it was her, rather than her words that were impressive.
 I valued her attempts to tame the onslaught of arrogance found in science, but Creationism today is in a subdivision of religious ideology that just doesn’t work successfully in any of our world perspectives; it is a weak philosophy to argue, one feels that even God might suggest she drops the dead donkey.
We understand tidal waves and fires and plagues in a very different way to how we once did.
If these events are acts of a purposeful God then the conscious mind of today requires less ambiguous interpretations; the fables and drama of spiritual antiquity were relevant to uneducated sheep herders, but for today’s audience, one detached by some 2000 years from the birth of Christ and the era of miracles; we need more than a lightly nuanced phenomena, but something bold and undeniable; otherwise science seems to have explained any unusual events satisfactorily enough.

I guess this is the point; while in the grand scheme of things Creationism has as much a right to justify its beliefs, that it can accumulate evidence of its own which might be believable if you tried hard enough - in reality Science is easier - it is this explanation that travels further and with less resistance.

Evidence used to build cases from the past can seem entirely un-evident to us today; witch hunters justified drowning women based on a peculiar set of values which we of course regard as ignorant barbarism today.
Through the ages it has often been used as a vehicle to suit the needs of any one particular group of people, and evidence, no matter how tight it may seem, is vulnerable to perspective, manipulation and subterfuge. In 1991 a team of Americas best lawyers were drafted into refute the camera footage of the Rodney King graphic police beatings, as recorded by an unseen amateur camcorder witness. They argued that to an ‘untrained’ eye while the video appears to show un-necessary violence, that in fact all was not as it seemed. Using a particular approach, which involved casting doubt at every stage in the collective minds of the jury, not a single police officer was charged with the offenses one would expect them to considering the intensity of the footage. Even what is seen with the eyes is not a guarantee of certainty.
  
Evidence is synonymous with trust and yet historically those in positions of trust have regularly deceived the broader public either accidentally or purposefully.
We should remind ourselves that Richard Dawkins is peddling just another version of evidence, a supposedly, newer improved process for mounting cases that uses figures and chemicals to justify it, yet it remains only a particular point of view, a point of view that can date, be debunked or simply consigned to ignorance.

Importantly, in matters of science versus theology we should be aware that actually we cannot  know the meaning of any evidence until we are able to pull back from our existence , which presents certain conditions I cannot imagine would ever be possible. For example; we have preconceived ideas of the purpose of dogs, perhaps only because we are not dogs; we might rightly or wrongly make certain conclusions about their cognitive abilities or level of consciousness but only because we can view them from a certain distance, we observe them interacting with the planet and make notes.

To do the same for humans we would have to first of all, be able to do this to ourselves, objectify human beings whilst still being a human being in order to interface and pass the information over. It is what science currently attempts to do and why every scientific experiment operates in sterility, yet it is already operating in a highly toxic environment if it is humans using their 5 senses to interpret the data. We could only create the correct environment for study if it took place...without us actually doing it, or extracting human relevant data.

 This does not seem even conceptually possible, how does one view oneself in the context of our habitat, while not then interpreting the observations with a biased, habitat influenced human perspective? Even the observations of dogs is entirely flawed since they exist in our world, we would have to be a being, not human who did not live in a human world to be able to objectify and study human life.

Anything we learn about ourselves and the environment in which we live works only on an inward looking perspective. Science therefore is only really a set of rules that works within our human interpretation of existence, maths could be a meaningless drivel if the universe had ears and a brain and could technically follow your logic, but then, it doesn’t appear to have ears or a brain and even if it did we would be submitting this data to an already pre-configured to agree human flavoured interface.

Of course, I doubt this is how Wendy see’s her own particular cause, I would imagine despite her remarkable capacity to argue for creationism that ultimately Wendy is just keen to supplant a more credible description of our origins with her own. She is not on a mission to encourage freedom of expression; she is on a mission to install creationism as a solution to all mankind’s ills and to save us from an apocalyptic conclusion.

Meanwhile Dawkins is fixated on a rather old fashioned and un-nuanced interpretation of spirituality. The very mention of that word will bring out great criticism from him, not entirely without some basis since far and away for the largest amount of time it has been pre-occupied with an infantile image that God or Gods will be a old bearded man, who is supposed to be both loving and extraordinarily mean, that he allowed his only son to be tortured to death without intervening for the benefit of mankind. Religious faith requires us to believe in miracles much the same as we are supposed to believe in Father Christmas as children.

If that is what you grew up believing then at least, learn about it and question it and be open to other plausible interpretations. Dawkins has done this, it is just that these days he seems predominantly engaged with advocates of a version of belief that he himself grew out of. Of course he is going to be impressive when set against aging old Irish Catholics who are caught in a perpetual cycle revolving around conviction in the resurrection. The more scrutinising or cynical are not comfortable enough to accept that the Bible is an authoritative guide book to life and salvation, as much as it might be the ancient, well meaning propaganda of its time.

Those of us who have had to look outside of our family and institutional models, and who feel unable to accept a school doctrine or family lineage that connects us with Christianity, Catholicism, Creationism, Hindu, Islam, Judaism etc, do tend to agree that a literal account of Religion is flawed. The evidence for resurrections, for miracles can only work in a time where there is no forensic data, where hearsay is a legitimate form of transmission. To be a fundamentalist Christian would mean that you do have to ignore what your environment is telling you, you have to argue all of your points within the constraints of a biblical world view and all evidence you provide to the contrary cannot overcome the Christians trump card which always is...it must be true because God said it was.
You cannot construct an argument against an individual who might listen to your every point and yet ultimately draws the curtains shut by arguing that a) The bible is true because God wrote it and b) God is real because he wrote the bible.

What seems so lacking in this perspective is to entertain the idea thus – that a divine force did not influence the writing of the bible at all. If you could get a devout religious person to talk within that framework, to consider a world without a bible, then maybe, a chance you might be able to boil down all of that complexity into a much more believable simple recognition. That organised religion is a gathering of communities who occasionally try and do something to help others, or, perhaps an unattractive way of manipulating people to go to war with other human beings.

Just because that level of argument seems so brutally damaging to Religion however, does not mean that there is no place for Spirituality, yet Dawkins appears to lump all of this together, I think unjustifiably and to the detriment of his cause. There is no reason why Dawkins cannot be both a non-religious person and a scientist but also exist as a spiritual person - by this I mean recognising life as a journey and a journey that has mystery within in it, mysticism can still have a meaningful role in how we make that journey.

He is asked to describe his own consciousness; Wendy regards this as what makes up her soul. Richard describes everything physiologically, a complex neural network of potent images all essentially designed to give him functionality; he openly admits that he finds nature staggeringly beautiful, that poetry or an opera can make him cry, yet he only concedes or describes this as a kind of soul in order to have a meaningful dialogue with her, he himself does not regard this as the soul.
Wendy asks him if this means that he believes that people with severe mental issues are also complete humans to him, or does their compromised, ineffectual functioning render them useless in a mechanical, scientific landscape.
It is a good leading question, she hopes that this will demonstrate that empathy operates outside of a logical explanation for existence and if he thinks otherwise is he not pro eugenics? Which is the theory of breeding genetic faults out of society, sinisterly adopted by the Nazis and which consequently lost a great deal of social-scientific credibility.
Of course Richard does not think this; of course he had major reservations about the value of eugenics.

This is the area that science does not explain satisfactorily, that otherness to life, it seems pointless in a way for Dawkins to deny this ‘Soul’ for honestly, what harm does it do to describe it as such or to describe this unknown value as being a purposefulness?
It does not mean that you have to believe in God, the bible or an afterlife, the power of Reiki or aromatherapy rather, it just means you cannot conclude; that life is itself an evolution where it is impossible to predict where it might be going. It is only a minor shift of perspective, yet it seems self-harming to deny yourself it. You can still be an atheist, regard life as temporary, but to deny spirituality seems un-necessarily masochistic and narrows our options for explaining experiences.

Dawkins then must be describing himself as a robot. Are we Robots? Are we just machines marching around this sphere ingesting chemicals, enzymes, procuring hormones and responding to people and events in entirely calculated, pre-determined ways?
When we make love do we regard the intimacy as having no quality beyond that of pacifying chemically induced loneliness, or manufacturing clones of your own genes? Is love itself nothing more than a social construct, a physiological convenience or does there seem to be within the act of intimacy, respite from reality, an interface with something both primal and localised yet simultaneously immortal and universal?

We can of course agree that yes – it is possible that love, intimacy, empathy and relationships are all driven by chemicals and convenience, but does that also mean it is evidence of there being a lack of soul or spirituality?
We should agree not, and furthermore we should also easily see that what we might regard as evidence for a lack of soul is as much evidence for its existence, it just comes down you your interpretation of what you see.

What use is an argument that all life and the universe is without mystery and mysticism?
What really does it matter if science is somehow ever proven to be undeniably correct in its assumptions?

While Wendy’s creationist argument creaks along painfully complex and un-convincing, Dawkins is just rebranding religion in a sense, one he would deny and one he could not see because he is caught up in the perceived authenticity that science provides.

It is possible that science is not the final resting place when it comes to understanding and exploring the origins of life, the universe and existence fully. It is possible that science itself, when deeper knowledge is unlocked - will assume that old science feeling, much as we feel about those images of mediaeval limb amputations on gangrenous ships.

 It is hard to imagine, especially hard for someone like Richard Dawkins when he lives in such justification – everything he reads, everything he has been taught, every experiment he has been involved with only confirms his view point, all the measurements from a benchmark he consults align. Culturally we may have nothing more convincing than science to look to in replacement of God, culturally we may recognise that there is something unconvincing about religions, something deceitful, yet actually the truth remains that we cannot know, it makes far more sense to go forward science and spirituality as one rather than as enemies, is there not something far more well rounded about that?

Finally, we have very good reasons to be cautious about retiring our spirituality, for it seems that this is what message this scientific move contains within it.
Consider the leading industrialists of the late 19th and early 20th century who funded public schools for their workers, and hired education reformers like Elwood P Cubberly to design a public school system based on a Prussian method for churning out mediocre intellects, and ensure a docile workforce.
It was a cynical effort to control and manage the otherwise chaotic characteristics of human beings, in order that they could be harnessed to repetitive and dull tasks with less complaint or fear of revolution. Something of this chimes today.

We may actually find ourselves many years later somewhat mentally castrated by the consumerist society in which we are shackled, yet, in light of recent developments – where we hear once more evocations of revolution, primarily due to disparities in wealth and opportunity, we may not be shackled enough.
The events of this last decade have shown us such unfairness that it has shaken many sleepers awake once more and combined with the power of the internet, groups are mobilising, combining their best ideas, and governments, like the aristocracy during times of revolution are becoming concerned.

They are concerned that their established models may be about to be threatened, that the workers will revolt.
If I was one of those establishments, I might consider an approach from the past once more. I might look to hire a group of charismatic, seemingly authentic individuals to actively set about eliminating notions of spirituality, because those of us who value it, are natural revolutionists who will always ask questions and want more justice, more empathy and equality. What way would you do that more effectively than simply eradicating uncertainty and replacing it with methodology and answers, a seemingly passive system yet equally totalitarian should you attempt to question it.


This is not a call to spirituality though, more than it is a call to suspend your conviction in someone else’s idea, or to default to redacting some less popular idea and vilifying the instigators as we do. Conscious ambiguity is what we need and is ultimately the saving quality available to us in an impossible to explain world. The more we question and the more chaotically we live, the less compliant we are. 

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Bonkers

I tackled this not too long ago actually but just wanted a second pass. The reason for it being re-invigorated followed reading a posting about something to do with sound engineering. It was one of those list type vibes – in this case the authors’ choice 7 greatest music producers. He referred to one of them ‘Joe Meek’as ‘bonkers’ and subsequently received a reply from someone who appeared to be offended by the term, quoting that with 25% of the population likely to be suffering with some form of mental illness, is calling someone ‘bonkers’ really especially positive and could the author find a more suitable alternative description.
Speaking as one who themselves has lived alongside people with mental issues and arguably have some of my own, do such people actually give a flying fuck how you refer to them? I personally do not, if someone wants to call me bonkers and I’m sure some do, fine. If someone referred to my own father as bonkers because of his alcoholism and his mental demise and this was the only word that sprang to mind – that’s fine by me as well and I’m pretty sure by him also. Here’s why – if the said patient was ‘bonkers’ trust me, they have far bigger issues to worry about than your anxiety with how to address them.
I find the politically correct debate offensive more than the derogatory comments in all honesty because at the heart of all of this is the truth that PC, is nothing more than a commercial reality – it exists only to create this fictitious inclusive society while actually failing to address any practical concerns. Ultimately it suggests that people who suffer with any form of adversity lack the capacity to interpret the world for themselves, able to see through the comments or able to find peace independently using the cognitive skills all of us are born with bonkers or not.
In practice, PC is generally only of concern to people who do not have anything to be especially concerned about or who may have a very extreme internal world perspective that they believe others also hold. PC actually gets in the way of being able to judge people clearly for their world perspective, it has taught racists how to be civil or not get found out in public, I’d prefer that we gave everyone free reign to speak as they wish and that way we can weed out all the racists and horrible characters who desperately wish to use derogatory terms to describe downs syndrome kids as whatever they see fit, since we will know very easily how to manage them.
Hopefully, such behaviour – the need to say racist or unsavoury things is mainly a habit of youth anyway, when you don’t have the experience of a family member with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, or have fallen in love with a woman or man from a different culture. The best cure for distasteful thoughts is experience and even then you shouldn’t lose your sense of humour about it. My friend once told me how he wooed his black Dominican wife with a racist joke – ‘What’s the difference between a black man and a bicycle? – a bicycle doesn’t sing ‘Old Man River’ when you chain it up’
Whatever you particular view on this – by all accounts his now wife thought this was hilarious and a good time was had by all. I would say that in this case, my friend probably had a good measure of the situation and knew the joke had a better than good chance of going down well and could be taken in a certain spirit applicable to the relationship.
Political Correctness to me is not something I wish to be taught, I don’t want my behaviour modified to some universal standard, if I am offensive and inappropriate tell me – but only if you are actually, honestly offended.
That’s the other thing that irritates me about self designated PC wardens, is I don’t believe for a moment they themselves are at all offended, not really – they may assume an offended position but how much of this is real offense and how much is because they are told they should feel offended, how much is because they actually feel the sting of oppression, the likes of which submerses them with inconsolable anxiety about their place in the world? How much of this is just a really tedious way to make you feel bad and make themselves feel better?
If you’ve been around the block or lived a little you should know better than to worry about what others think of you or how they address you, I’m all for politeness – which is something perhaps PC is related to, but not for censoring an individual’s natural form of expression. Often people who use derogatory terms are using them in an ignorant but good natured way – unbound by the guilt of knowledge - they might throw words around simply not having any clue why their good friend would be offended by the word ‘Paki’ – I’m referring to a documentary I saw about to good friends who were part of a plumbing outfit and the white guy riffed all day long on the Indian guy as a ‘Rag head’ or ‘Paki’ yet his friend gave as good as he got, in which I found a certain affirmation about friendship, tolerance, good humour and not taking life too seriously.
In terms of unsavoury it was entirely so – even I winced, but since it was done in a certain kind of ignorant playfulness, it’s simply shouldn’t be interpreted any other way. Would it be worth modifying the behaviour in this example and perhaps ruin what was clearly a special bond and dare I say love that they had for each other?  
 When the author of the piece I read referred to Joe Meek as bonkers, every other word he used demonstrated that he clearly admired him, listing the man’s great achievements and mourning his suicide at 37 years old – I want this author to use the term bonkers because, being bonkers is entirely sensible to me when you’re trying to change the world, or inform or make some change people remember. To not be bonkers – but merely to have some miserable medically recognised condition somehow kills off that pioneering spirit and reduces us all to dysfunctional patients for whom laughter and joy never features.
I know that for people who are bonkers or might look or act different – be that because they are Bi-Polar, suffer depression, have Multiple Sclerosis or are marked out in some way from others, laughter, joy and a perspective on life that is their own still exists and they are able to celebrate it in their own unique way. Formalising conversation, removing expression and asking of people the impossible – that they should not give a second glance to freakish occurrences, is pointless and creates an uncomfortable experience. Do I want people referring to members of my family in derogatory terms? No of course not, I will be happy with them making the mistake a few times and then I’ll say ‘Hey, you know what, I don’t especially mind that word you use, but I just don’t like to hear it all day long, I would prefer...this.’
Even then only if I was genuinely offended – it might be that I’m simply not bothered enough, in which case I’ll say nothing at all.
Anyway, I find it odd that we might think ‘bonkers’ or ‘crazy’ or ‘psychopath’ as words that are not perfectly good ways to describe people in the midst of a mental breakdown or who happen to clearly have psychotic tendencies. These are words that are not medically approved, but bonkers, crazy, mad are words that existed long before the condition was understood. It does not mean they fail to describe the condition, it just means that someone has developed some additional words and they want you to use those instead.
You know, I’m not playing anyone else’s tune on my flute – why’s his any better than mine anyway?

The short version – be yourself and grow up, develop a creative interpretation of life and learn to accept that life is just a peculiarly, impossible experience one that is often cruel, where things die every day to feed some other thing, or sometimes the Earth rips open and swallows up entire towns of good people for no reason any of us will likely understand. Focus on the bigger picture, ignore or at least question all protocol, but spare me your good intentions.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Bob Crow Dies

Not the news I was expecting this morning, I can think of a number of other people that I should think were clearly on borrowed time, but not the Crow.  The man seemed full of life and vigour, fire in the belly and plenty to do.
A number of people won’t feel entirely unhappy about the news. He was an animal in terms of how he fought for the salaries and rights of his union members, controversial, definitely. His look and his manner was that of an EDL, BNP member – if I was muslin, black, gay or a feeble privately schooled politician, this would be the kind of man I would fear – big, bald white man who said ‘at the end of the day’ a great deal in the true fashion of your typical, Sun reading, menacing white van driving political philosopher.
Apparently the people of London all hated him because he was forever interfering with the operation of one of the city’s major public transport networks, actually I don’t think this is true, the people that hated him would be the bosses of those companies who made some sort of loss on the days their workforce couldn’t get in or were late; the politicians, mayors and millionaires who were either confounded by his lack of compromise or simply hated his Shadwell working class roots.
 It seems to me that there has been a media driven campaign to direct a lot of hatred at Bob, a character that it is easy to dislike with a little help, yet I think Londoners on some level recognise what he was doing, and had if not complete admiration, a begrudging respect.
He was one of those types whom you felt massively annoying and self-righteous to be around, permanently in an argumentative mood with a giant chip on his shoulder and hatred of all wealthy people. Hopefully the good London folk were able to see through this negative campaigning, all Bob really represented was one of the last genuinely powerful unions that could lock horns with the imposing and suffocating capitalist bullies and force them to debate and concede.
If when asked why it was a tube driver should be earning £40,000 a year while a nurse earns significantly less, his response was that he wished that the nurses, the firemen, the police, ambulance drivers and any public worker generally had a stronger union to represent them. When asked why it was that a man of his wealth should still be living in a council property when he could afford a more salubrious home, he said he liked where he lived, that it was his home. He refused to be shamed on such matters.
 His role, was always to do the best job he could for his union, other unions should have followed his lead.
In terms of if a tube driver was over paid – I don’t believe so myself and Bob clearly did not. Hard working people, in positions of great responsibility, do not get the recognition or salaries they deserve. The Underground employees only stand out because they actually have some degree of competitiveness in an environment that pays all its other public sector workers a phenomenally crap salary.
Bob Crow and his union have kept alive the hope that the working man deserves a good standard of living and if that means a few less bonuses for the Hedge Fund managers, then all the better. He has been a complete thorn in the side for those capitalists and conservatives who believe the future is Union-less, it does not take a genius to figure out why and what they would do if they could eliminate the stranglehold London Underground can exercise over the city’s economy.
The idea that such power could belong to one so coarse, truly bothers our political classes, it would seem that in their opinion only they should be allowed to wedge their foot against our necks and rinse us dry.
It has therefore been encouraged that Bob be seen as an enemy of the people, a man of self interest with lack of compassion for his brothers and sisters in other lines of public service, this deflects the real truth which is that of how the largest economical crises since the start of the 20th century came about via the greed and unlimited arseholeness of the financial sectors. This is the crime of our century and one that entirely highlighted the relationship between tax payers and those classes that flex power and influence policy. We learned that day that financial industries do not take any real risk, that it is the British taxpayer who guarantors all those mortgages and we learn that when the shit hits the fan, bankers get to retire on un-believably comfortable redundancy packages.
The abuse in this sector lead to people losing their jobs, becoming homeless and hopeless while the rich evacuated the UK for tax havens in Malta, or else looked to exploit the emerging Asian or South American economies.
Bob Crow regularly pointed this out and commented that it was not up to the working class to suffer austerity when the richest of its population hoarded so much wealth they could single handedly eliminate our debt.
I don’t think Bob was calling for that, I think he was really suggesting that if the theater of capitalism is to be played out, then let it be played on a level field, he may have been a shrewd leader who had to disregard the inconvenience he caused, but he was doing no more damage than his opposite numbers, actually he was just a fly in the ointment, or perhaps an annoying wasp causing havoc whenever the wealthy wanted to sit down and gorge themselves. He crawled across their jam scones and swam in their champagne, always the threat of an unpleasant sting hanging in the air.
For that I thank him.



Monday, 24 February 2014

DATA


The DATA command on my ZX Spectrum was an ominous concept. At the time I was happy in my attempts to get my name to print infinitely with a simple GOTO or the astonishingly powerful GOSUB routine, I even managed to do some graphic design, create a character and animate it, draw game levels, add sounds and some form of control. What I did was of course total crap, but that was probably because I never quite got the grasp of that DATA command. The difference between the commands I had been using and this one, was that DATA felt like it had more in common with maths than the raw English of ‘PRINT’, ‘DRAW’, ‘PLOT’, ‘IF’, ‘THEN’ and ‘BEEP’. The DATA command was a storage device and as such its power lay in accumulating nonsense that then could be elegantly manipulated to create the illusion of intelligence.
Apparently, DATA is about to transform all of mankind – for on the horizon is the rather tedious future of ‘LifeLogging’ – at its least consuming this will mean that your intelligent wristbands or communication devices will track your steps and give you a report of how many calories you burned that day, synching with your bathroom scales or website forum where you can either gloat or envy others.  The far more tedious prospect, one that has techies or gadget whores peeing themselves with excitement, is the new DATA gold rush that will be TOTAL Life Logging.
This it seems means recording your every movement and every waking second via a camera device with a memory card the size of Wales, which suggests we’re about to embark on some of the dullest holiday show and tells ever in the history of human beings. The beauty in such vast amounts of DATA they say, is when it is combined with a new kind of image search engine that will enable us to instantly recall the name of that lovely bottle of wine we had back in 1986 (or the equivalent of whatever the future 1986 will be) and I guess an endlessly useful bank of presets such as ‘Where did I leave my car keys’ or ‘How on Earth did I get home last night.’ will follow.
Whenever ‘lovely bottle of wine’ is mentioned, my bullshit detector springs into life, for this is the common aspirational pass phrase used to flog either very expensive things or else something particularly invasive, either way, I tend to think if someone actually uses this life log technology then chillin’ and drinking wine is probably not going to be the main experience you remember most.  
I rather regard this new development and the lustful manner in which it is being received as the main reason why I will one day be happy to die, for I have no place in such a world nor does the prospect of recording everything I say and do fill me with hope. I rather like the ambiguity of an analogue existence where one can alter the course of the future by manipulating the past to suit the present – if my every word can be cross referenced with actual film footage of me saying something that contradicts a view I’ve since developed, I’m destined to spend my life in agonising torture and having to replace the joyous freedom of spontaneity with  a hypercritical, high maintenance form of paranoia, where truth can only be verified after a Life Log image search. Gone will be the traditional method of relying on myself, I can predict a time where I’m just not as dependable as the search application. I’ve already lost the ability to store any general knowledge which I blame on Google and Wikipedia, once I used to attempt to use my brain to remember things; dates, spellings of words, names of my family and so forth, but I don’t tread that path enough these days and that part of my grey matter has become an overgrown dystopia with vaguely familiar buildings decaying under a setting sun. Google has become my memory and my ability to recount historical events.
The potential for abuse should life logging become a real thing is all too clear – the least offensive being that we will be entirely under the control of manufacturers who will have such a specific understanding of our needs and wants, they will literally be given digital levers that can be used to manipulate us to their every desire, in effect they will have digitised our souls and in turn can meddle with that information just as we do presently with genetics, only rather than fixing allergies or cancer tendency’s, it will be about drifting us towards McDonalds or guzzling fizzy drinks, buying shit music or taking out insurance policies for our house plants.
Quite honestly I regard even the mere idea of knowing that every second of my life has been captured as an anxiety filled head fuck, one that is fraught with complex existential issues and profound fears surrounding DATA loss or capture by someone who can cruise through my life watching my criminal activities or monitoring my preferences in pornography. It will raise questions about who the real me might be, for it won’t end at mere photographic snapshots and it is entirely predictable that in time these snap shots will take on a life of their own, eventually inhabiting the computer in a cyber real dimension, having a job, earning money and playing silly computer games on its virtual ipad in the evenings once its virtual kids are asleep.
We can regard this recording of life as the seed of a serious attempt for immortality, it won’t take long before various websites spring up offering virtual cryogenic chambers where by the recording of your life may one day be re-animated into a realistic cyborg version of your long dead self.
But what would you want to live for exactly? Especially if the future is as bleak and as self-obsessed as I can completely imagine it will be. If LifeLogging is as orgasmically successful as it appears the geeks expect it will be we are in for the most unimaginably isolated experience, a world in which there is no longer a need to connect or depend upon anyone else. Won’t our own lives and the constant reviewing of them become so completely time consuming that we won’t have time for anyone else, nor could anyone else be as interesting if all they are doing is reviewing their life logs?
Provided we can somehow tie this technology into porn sites, automated take away establishments, playstation gaming and various alternate realities and Facebook, there should never again be any real reason to deal with another human being ever.
We could instead simply inhabit DATA husks inside of which is a bed, an intravenous drip feed from various life supporting corporations and some fleshy looking interfaces we can attach to our genitals.
DATA should not be an attractive thing, I’d like us to stop fetishizing it with designer digital spectacles or a misguided allure for greater efficiency. In terms of my ZX Spectrum the DATA command was just a holding pen for babble, streams of unconnected words, that would make it seem that the computer might actually be talking to you, but it never was and it never will talk to you. Just because when you’re playing the hobbit and when prompted for an action you typed ‘Fuck Gandalf’ it replied ‘I can’t Fuck Gandalf’ doesn’t mean it was pondering the question, it was just assembling words from its DATA bank and creating the most likely effective response based on the nomenclature of your entry.

Computers are humourless, calculators – why must we degrade ourselves by so clearly desiring to want to assimilate with them so readily, exactly what is this Utopia we think they have to offer?

Friday, 7 February 2014

Poverty Porn Street


If the economy is booming, if the job market is richer in new job opportunities, if GDP is up and inflation is down, then why is there so much anger around when it comes to the discussion of money?
Channel 5 has just finished airing one of the most aggressive and bitter live chat shows I’ve ever seen where members of the cast of ‘Benefits Street’  Channel 4’s controversial documentary  about a road with some unemployed people living on it - have come near to blows while discussing the rights and wrongs of the benefits system.
Obviously scenes of overweight people enjoying a cup of tea or of a man clearly troubled and wracked by alcoholism is flaunting the lifestyle in the faces of good hard working folk and therefore must surely deserve the outrage that has followed since.
Kicking things off with an appallingly obnoxious ignorant and poisonous spew is the vile Katie Hopkins – she who was booted off of ‘The Apprentice’ and who has since made a career by being a total asshole. I’m not just being mean here for the sake of it, asshole is exactly what she is since her points were not just about favouring or arguing rationally for a dissolution of the benefits system – which she seems to believe, but much more a cynical act to promote her image as the world’s giantist tit – Katie has discovered that while she will never carve a living by being charming and coquettish, she can make a load of money by being a massive shit stirrer, therefore, regardless of whether she knows the statistics about benefits claimants, she holds firm to this most ugliest of stances – that basically anyone who might lean on the benefits system is a scrounger. Like a pantomime dame she has no sophisticated perspective, only a kind of ugly talent for winding people up. What I think is even worse is I think she sees no harm in it, it’s just her having her career – the kind of person that goes on the Apprentice has no sense of the world outside of business and his or her own tedious ideals of aspiration, to them karma or social conscience is hippy, left wing nonsense and no match for the really good shit everyone secretly wants if they just worked as ruthlessly as she does. Obviously Katie is immune to misfortune in much the same way as she is immune to compassion.
Edwina Currie makes an appearance, a disappointing one – I kind of liked her once, sort of understood what John Major might have seen in her, always thought she had a twinkle in her eye and she’s probably right mucky in the bedroom, a quality which I generally equate with worldly people. Yet here she was looking quite insane, the eye’s a bit more dotty and bonkers as if prolonged valium abuse had finally caught up with her. Rather than demonstrate any respect for members of the panel – particularly the young single mum who she attempted to portray as a wealthy, middle class grammer school attending charlatan parading as a champion for the poor, when in truth her background seemed to consist only of firemen, nurses, foster carers and dead grandparents  - Edwina obstinately reigned thoughtless, unprovoked blows on her, even inspite of the fact this young woman was deeply offended and seemed to be on the verge of tears, Edwina continued to lay into her in the manner she did,  like a typical cantankerous burned out, stroke afflicted tory, she spoke over everyone and kept repeating unhelpful things like ‘get a job, get a job, get a job.’ to people who kept trying to tell her that there are no jobs. This backed up by the statistic that there are over 2 million un-employed with about half that available in job vacancies.
She retorts that she cannot understand how it is that 1000 immigrants will come to the UK and find jobs in the first week they arrive – conclusive it is then. Except that this whole immigrant argument, the one used to define all unemployed British people as lazy, fussy sociopaths with a bloated sense of entitlement is out of whack. When immigrants come here to clean toilets for £6.50 an hour you have to bear in mind that this is 6 x their hourly rate back in Romania. If there was another country reachable by a fairly inexpensive flight away that offered un-employed British people 6 x UK minimum wage to go and pick strawberries for 3 months, I’m pretty confident they’d leave in their droves and happily clean the toilet block for the overtime too, I would.

It is not fair I think to question people’s desire to work if they turn down the opportunity to clean up shit, as if somehow this is the litmus test of all tests that determines a person’s sense of moral duty. We live in a country that flaunts its wealth, that fetishises  money and the perks it brings; the nice cars, the homes with the large farmhouse style kitchens, the covert bragging rights and the many ‘perfect’ domestic relationships that are oiled by it, we don’t live in a war zone or in Ethiopia where we are likely to starve if we do things more liberally.
If you’re a Brit growing up in this environment, of course you’re going to steer clear of the kinds of jobs that define you as an unsexy, shit smelling nobody, destined to get lost in an underground maze of ceramic tiled, urine soaked gloom. People coming from Romania don’t mind so much, but then life being what it is in Romania cleaning toilets is only as bad as say... being a filing clerk in a lawyers office, so let’s boot that aged old argument in to touch. This idea that you should do anything just to be working is dated – it has a better resonance in the 1940s when there was no choice for anyone and certain death hid around every corner and in every pot of reheated chicken stews. That time has gone, we’ve created a society of choices, a commercially very successful one and so a consequence of that is that people in such a system will tend to get a bit choosey. Removing choice now to suit the desires of a few miffed social climbers - is like seizing a heroin addicts baggie and forcing him into cold turkey knowing that such a shock to the system will likely kill him.
Besides, a growing number of people who cannot bring themselves to pick up a mop and a bag of lemon sanitizers are holding degrees or perhaps are trained to apply lime wash mortar to mediaeval buildings, they might have ambition for a particular line of work or be dedicated to their vocation.  It’s all very well for the old guard, old school values to bang on about how they struggled to get where they were in life by working as an intern and doing endless temp jobs before they got their break as a journalist, but there is a great world of difference between doing a job, knowing it will be a stepping stone to a better life and doing a miserable job that you know you’ll be stuck in forever if you take it.
 Good for you if you’re so charming, tenacious and assertive that no such thing will happen to you, sadly many people have only a large TV and an endless supply of fat and sugar to dream of because their low self esteem and meagre finances won’t allow them to achieve anything more.

Meanwhile, people like Edwina, Katie Hopkins, Julia Hartley-Brewer smugly yap on about their own great work ethic, the kind that has awarded them the pleasures in life we are all surely jealous of, and believe that we can and should do the same. To these people I say – you have no idea – you have grown up in at least an upper working class family, you don’t know and do not have the right to comment on the deeply complex ailments of what it is like to be generationally poor. They do not have any idea of the psychology involved, how the motivation can so easily leave you or how you have an innate ability to destroy your own good fortune. Being poor is a sophisticated set of problems, one that literally drains energy and self-respect from you. Those of you who enjoy your life of buying nice things and paying your way out of danger, this is a luxury the authentic poor never have, don’t feel so pleased with yourself that you manage to be so up beat all the time, it’s your money not the depth of your personality that gets you through.   

Besides when you consider the Benefits system, here are a few annoying facts to pour water on that otherwise self satisfied individual who simmers delightfully when perusing the front pages of the Daily Mail.
More than half of the benefits bill is made up of pensioners, incidentally with the greatest proportion of wealth we are likely to ever see for the next 100 years. These pensioners have enjoyed the very best that Britain had to offer them, mainly a free education, free health service and cheap housing. They have enjoyed the best financial market for saving, building businesses and in turn investing in the properties that they now rent out and use to line their retirement with.
Pensioners own the vast majority of wealth in the UK and unlike previous generations, have failed to pay it back into the country, choosing to hoard it rather than invest in the incoming younger generations.
This demographic has prospered and been central to the inflation of house prices, rents and the salaries of CEO’s, when you next complain about claimants receiving hundreds of pounds in housing benefit, you can thank many pensioners for much of that bill. Margaret Thatcher enabled them to buy up the council house stock that once provided less wealthy families with a home and a rent that was not vulnerable to the same scale of increases as the private housing market, now in the commercial vein, there is no limit to what they can charge, council houses have all but disappeared and the future are the private landlords Margaret Thatcher created.

Most claimed benefits are claimed by those in full time work already who need help with the bloated costs of childcare (now that all the communities and family networks have been fragmented) and the steep cost of rented accommodation and eye watering energy bills. Such people have a proud work ethic yet on paper they are either only marginally better off working that shit pit job for £6.50 an hour or actually worse off. This actually bodes quite nicely for the big businesses that have taken hold these last 30 years, for companies that annually turn billions of profit, they can maintain and increase their margins by being able to hire people as required for the least possible pay out and know that the government – tax payers such as you and I will subsidise it.

Benefit fraud costs Britain 1.5 billion a year which is a lot, but it forms just 1% of the overall cost of the benefits system, 99% of claimants are entitled to do so without reprieve . In contrast tax avoidance by the richest people in Britain costs us 30 billion, a figure which dwarfs the former.
While the least wealthy members of the UK have seen their benefits cut, who are now expected to jump through hoops for their £50.00 a week, move out of their home because it has a spare bedroom or else prove that they are a genuine paraplegic, at the other end of the scale this Conservative/Liberal government has given the wealthiest a tax break and any number of initiatives for them to push forward and make more money, including – I would argue, crippling the mobility of the population so the only jobs they can get are stacking shelves in Tesco whilst simultaneously flooding the market with cheap foreign labour.

More people than ever are using food banks to survive. Edwina Currie seemed to think that such establishments were far too accessible to people who would use it as an opportunity to get something for free – she was concerned that it would impact on businesses such as shops and supermarkets. In truth if you want to go to a food bank you have to achieve such a poor level of status before you’ll get authorisation that your children are going to school probably in the throes of malnutrition. When you do visit a food bank you are restricted to a small number of necessities and essentials, this was the most appalling of attitudes, here in the UK – supposedly one of the world’s wealthiest economies and we have some sanctimonious blue stocking opposing the policy on giving starving people free food.
Edwina has inadvertently given the game away and will be reprimanded for it by which ever cloaked grand wizard she must answer to.

You see the dice is very much loaded in favour of the already wealthy and well educated. Immigration, far from a topic about racial discrimination would be a more interesting and valid conversation were we to recognise that it benefits the richest members of society and not at all any indigenous population that traditionally handles the unskilled labour market.
Were it not for immigration we might find that the supply and demand of the labour force was equalised, that actually the lower classes of Britain would have greater power when it came to negotiating hourly rates. I said earlier how it was understandable that a number of Brits didn’t get out of bed for £6.50 an hour, this is because really in today’s economic climate it is not enough, it is so not enough. Off the top of my head I think that a figure of £12.00 an hour is more suitable – then you’ll be getting somewhere – then you’ll actually see a change in the attitudes of people and you’ll find that the hospital wards will be full of reasonably content British cleaners and support workers.
Meanwhile we are distracted by a debate that casts anyone who questions immigration as a filthy racist, the exploitation of cheap labour continues and is enjoyed mostly by...the well of.
Given the option of paying British white van man the standard hourly rate to get the boiler fixed in one of a portfolio of houses, or else hiring a Croatian who’ll do the same job for a third of the cost it is easy to predict the result.
The government loves immigration, secretly they do, the public face is one that is fraught but the effect on the British economy and the benefits they bring, keeping the wages low and the competition high is incredibly profitable.
In terms of who they are most profitable too, well that would be the pensioners once again, or perhaps a better description would be people of a certain age who have reaped the rewards of the economy when resources and a certain entrepreneurial buoyancy was widely available. These same people are the voters – politics today being what it is; little more than an exercise in winning the votes of the pensioners, is not likely to bring about the change that younger people want. In short, the issues of the young, the un-employed, the less well off and the plight of struggling young families will not be as much a priority as ensuring the long term comfort of old people who reliably trundle down to the polling stations to make an X in a box.

Our environment as it stands in 2014 – where the News fanfares terrific developments in terms of the economy – more jobs! Less imports! Inflation down! Etc, seems not to reflect the impression of the landscape I have, nor many people like me – those who generally do not fit into the idealistic Conservative model; the traditional family unit, the conscientious saver, the home owner and the stoical, science driven members of society.
The divide is becoming quite huge, almost to the point where H.G. Well’s Time Machine that climaxes in an allegory of how classes will ultimately be divided by the privileged, beautiful people living in paradise, and the ugly inhuman Morlocks who live in caves deep underground suddenly seems worth considering.
For it is happening. Those who have not managed to become wealthy since the dissolution of the Feudal system are regarded with suspicion; in fact they are derided and openly attacked like a new kind of media fuelled sport. A rise in the licensed proliferation of ‘poverty porn’ a term to describe the  lustful demonising of certain people- for people with a desire to point and drool with hate, finding no other reason for the unhappy emptiness in their lives – concluding that a source for this depression or fearfulness must be to do with all those benefits cheats, those scroungers and layabouts, petty criminals, fat people, coarse non-erudite individuals who might where sportswear too often or who smoke cigarettes and watch a lot of T.V.

An incredibly handy distraction while the rich and the present influential, milk and exploit further, extracting more, more and more from an exhausted populous, flapping them away with found evidence of xenophobia or threatening them that if they don’t stop complaining they risk having a documentary made about them.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Shitty Dads

It’s easy to feel guilty these days when it comes to parenting.
I’d like to assure you that if you feel you are a shitty father then you’re not alone.
Today my partner is seeing our daughters Nativity without me, I feel guilty, but not because I've not already seen it.
For some reason our school puts on three separate performances, I don’t remember this when I was a kid, just the one fumbling plot-less car crash where I played a crow…that’s right a crow. Now I’m pretty sure that there are no crows in the Nativity but all the same I was one and I got a few lines, but I was way down the list as far as playing any important characters, any more tenuous connection with the play than this and I’d be 4th ambient child passing outside the assembly hall window.
The reason I believe, for the trio of performances is to accommodate all the narcissistic parents who will have to see their child or risk going to hell out of shame since in the modern era this is a complete no, no. Not to show these days would be the equivalent of stubbing your cigarettes out on their ankles. After 20 years of various American movies featuring absent fathers or overworked scatty parents in general it’s become clear that this will result one day in the inevitable indulgent dialog with some boyfriend set on a dramatic sea front – or else turn them into crack whores; you have been warned.
I would suggest that non-appearance at the nativity has long been thought of as a bit un-supportive but back in my days of creeping the boards it seemed common enough, well, at least for me. I don’t especially remember caring too much or being offended – that’s the thing about kids, they’re not as sensitive and as needy as you might think. Likewise I have the same excitable childhood memories of Christmas day as my friends do I’m sure, despite the fact that in retrospect they must have been a bit grim, recently its occurred to me that I cannot recall any Christmas mornings where my dad was there – the year I got my first bike – around 1975 was unbelievably brilliant but I have only a dim memory of my comatose drunk possibly drugged father upstairs who I didn’t see I think until deep into January. I didn’t give a shite though, it was still Christmas and it still felt cuddly and mysterious.
Credit to my mother obviously, she made a big effort to make up for things, but the concept of Christmas was very simple to me – you get mountains of crap to open.
The reason my partner is at the Nativity play this morning is to show support, but I’m utterly confused. Had we not done this already? Just last week we sat with a 1 year old child dressed as an elf that stank of shit because he filled his pants just as we sat down. Did I not make the required amount of eye contact and bopped along with surprising enthusiasm to the various tunes that I recognised from her practice sessions at home? Did I not encourage her enough with my dopey smiles and jolly raising of eyebrows and mouthing the words at her via the portal that we created through the 8 deep crowd of first years who, it became clear early on, would be doing nothing but sitting and watching the older kids do all the interesting stuff?
I think I had.
My father would be battered shamelessly were he alive to witness my clearly superior selfless act of parenting, he’d be literally sifting about in his ashes somewhere off the cliffs in Bristol where I tossed him pine box and all, heaving him as one might a knackered washing machine into next doors garden – and I’ll be up on Christmas day too, not only this but I helped find the tree, decorated it with my daughter and she and I will go Christmas shopping together this coming weekend.
Pretty good… pretty, pretty good.
I refuse to see that Nativity play a second time, my partner was actually hoping to have a representative there for all three occasions – but I stuck my foot down in an outrageous act of disloyalty suggesting that we’d done our bit, besides the idea of the 3 performances was so other parents could get to see their kids, not so we could compare notes as to the various improvements our daughter 14th shepherd to the left made in subsequent shows.
Please try not to confuse me into believing the nativity should be anymore than just the single 30 minute sit-down, as traditionally this is the format in all the aforementioned US movies – you don’t have the sequence where the father, who after battling his way back from a business meeting in L.A. following a moment of clarity, then fends off transport failure and sleeps in bus shelters, finally to arrive in a New York suburb, dressed in rags and one shoe, only to learn that while he missed the opening show there were two more he could catch early next week do you?
What concerns me is that we fail to embrace the achievements this new generation of potentially shitty dads have worked for and instead impose ridiculous new demands that seem to include, not just the single nativity, but a seasons’ worth. Apparently while I consider this madness my other half informs me that she is not insane at all because (rattles off list of other more upstanding clans) have said they are going too – this is compounding evidence then that it is I who is being weird about it.
Where will this end? How confident and self-assured must our children be in order that they don’t end up living out of a storage locker and giving blow jobs for a vial of crack?
The sensation that I feel as a man of 40 shit years old is one of growing bewilderment that looking after children is fast becoming like inviting a tornado into your living room, the pace at which I like to move, the speed at which I can function and digest life is getting away from me. I want to be engaged with my kids and improve on my own fathers track record, but it’s a pretty thankless task and only seems to increase the rate at which various parties come around or the number of advent calendars that need opening of a morning.
I think we need to take command of the situation, we are not helping ourselves and not especially helping these kids or the planet, I mean do we really need children to be so confident anyway?
I think what we should actually work towards are less confident children, ones who don’t believe the world is especially interested in what they do, who might not be able to stand up in an auditorium and deliver a rousing speech, who perhaps do not believe that the world will magically continue to spin on its axis, showering them with opportunity and gifts without consequence.
I want more shy children, more troubled, retiring types who are sensitive and complex, who might develop the much needed, fast disappearing quality of empathy – I want children who read books and can't sing and dance especially well - children whose ambition might be to man the phones for the Samaritans because they want to help another human being and don’t think the only form of happiness is a giant house with open plan living / dining area opening up into a garden ‘room’.
The evidence should be clear enough of what happens if you binge buy for your kids or attempt not just to recreate your Christmas childhood memories but trump them exponentially year on year with evermore expensive and elaborate gifts, this can only lead to tantrums as tedium replaces surprise and massive guilt for yourself that the Lamborghini you bought them was in the wrong shade of pink.
So stop it, stand back from the child and instead just calm down – remember, they don’t really give a flying fuck if you occasionally miss that thing they were in or if their presents sit under the tree wrapped in  Amazon emblazoned cardboard packaging. It’s just your insecurity, we want to be loved so by these creatures we adore.