Mar 162013

Peter has just kindly pointed me in the direction of a film I should’ve stumbled across much sooner in my life.  It’s called “Odd Man Out”.  It’s directed by Carol Reed.  You can find out more about it here.

Now watch this clip below – and focus in particular on this saddening reflection.

“I am nothing.”  Not even charity.

Feel lonely?  It’s hardly surprising.  Making us feel lonely has become the weapon of choice of politicians in crisis.  And as the BBC reports on the awful implications of the Cyprus crisis:

The deal also involves a levy on bank deposits intended to ensure investors contribute to the bailout, the BBC’s Andrew Walker in Brussels reports.

People with less than 100,000 euros in Cypriot bank accounts will have to pay a one-time tax of 6.75%, while those with more will have to pay 9.9%. It is expected to raise 5.8bn euros in additional revenue.

A European Central Bank (ECB) official said the Cypriot authorities had already started to take action to ensure that the levy can be collected. Otherwise, there would be a likelihood of massive withdrawals to avoid it, our correspondent adds.

All of a sudden, people with savings become investors.  Amazing, isn’t it?  From bank deposit levies to bedroom taxes, our rapacious and single-minded political overlords are struggling – as we write, speak and exchange our saddest of thoughts – to hold things together with even a smidgen of coherence.  Whilst millions of children are thrust back into British poverty, billions of pounds in bonuses are distributed by failing British banks to their employees.

No wonder we all feel lonely.  “This cannot be right or just – or even efficient,” we think.  “There must be some other way forward.”

In 2003, when the Iraq War approached, I definitely felt I was the Odd Man Out.  It drove me spare; kind of drove me mad.  It took me a long time to recover.

But what I most fear today is that this same process, to a lesser degree, will now affect millions of thinking citizens.  When powerful owners of communication processes tell us over and over again that what we see and feel is wrong and misplaced, how else can it be?  How else can we react?  How else but to go into some kind of shell and begin to hide away from the reality they deny us?

The tactics they now use are to make us all feel we are odd men and women.  And although we perceive in our calmer moments of understanding that you cannot have a whole nation made of square pegs, they have managed to debilitate our comprehension of what’s going on to such an extent that nothing at all surprises us any more.

Nor do we protest very much – or, at least, that’s the way it seems to be going.  From initial despair to an overwhelmingly resigned misery, there are so many people out there who will begin to give up even on their lives.

They will, you must accept by now, be thinking about giving up on anything more than simple survival.

And so we take it slyly onboard.  And so we seamlessly absorb the implications.

Disabled people thrown out of their homes?  Unemployed people blamed for the consequences of government austerity?  The sick and elderly seen as a drain on our economy?  Privilege defined as the solution to a dysfunctional economy?  “Meh!  Meh!  Meh!  Meh!”

My advice?  Understand loneliness as a litmus test of injustice.  Externalise your fears; don’t blame yourself.  Remember your child and comprehend the unkindness of others.  And above all, face up to this undeniable fact: this Coalition government of ours is psychologically ruthless and without qualms of any sort.

Democracy provides us with no tools or processes to get rid of a government which – more than anything – uses psychological abuse to control, organise and impose its political impulses.  Physical violence would provoke a response from the courts.  But psychological violence at a state-engendered level is still not to be found in the rule books.

So then.  A revolution we need – the question is which.  You cannot abuse an abuser if you want to remain at all emotionally whole.  You cannot fight violence with violence and hope to remain aloof.  Where are we now?  What next for those finite perishable goods we call human beings?  Creatures whose lives are simply drifting down that 21st century gadget-ridden creek without a single bloody empowering paddle to their names.

And all this while, these politicians and business leaders whose crises I mention flailingly attack the entirely blameless citizens they still rule over.

In order to make such citizens feel entirely blameworthy.

In order to make them feel entirely odd.

Oct 282012

Three references I’d ask you to read before I proceed with this post.  First, I posted a piece on confusing sex and power earlier today.  It’s led me to further thoughts – none of which are happy ones.

Second, I just tweeted thus:

I honestly do not know why British institutions are turning out so rotten. As a kid, I was led to believe in them. Why? And to what purpose?

Finally, this piece, which Dave Semple just sent my way, on the history behind the BBC‘s culture of child abuse – a culture which formed and perpetuated itself way before Mr Jimmy Savile came on the scene.

It’s a terrifying article, this last one, describing as it does the casual attitude at the time, in that post-war period, of what bordered on a kind of disposable hatred to young persons of both sexes.  It will sadden you greatly, if you manage to find the time to read it.  This is not a case of a raft of a country’s institutions deteriorating suddenly and explosively: this is, rather, a continuity of malignant spirit which burrowed its way – like the jokey letters down a stick of rock – into the very psyche and shared behaviours of a whole nation.


Two things that come to mind.  The first is whether what has happened in the post-war period isn’t indicative of a wider sequence of abuse.  Abusers are known to occupy two existences: their all-too-often public and shameful one of criminal and their all-too-private and shameful one of victim.  Yes.  The abusers have been abused.

The English were, after all, famous for saying: “Children should be seen and not heard.”  How easily this describes a voyeur’s controlling perspective: the right to fuck around with someone’s head and not be reported.

Just imagine if we expand the remit of this phrase to a broader series of sexual practices.

So this abuse which the abusers – of which I am sure many more will appear – have so clearly suffered … to what, then, can we attribute its existence?  Well.  I’m beginning to wonder if this isn’t going to be the result of a much greater and national trauma than that silly, giggly and unfathomably traditional English inability to quite know what to do about sex.

I’m beginning to wonder if what is clearly becoming a sick and widespread aggression against defenceless individuals in secretive care homes, public institutions and perhaps even many private households too, hidden for decades from the full view of the public’s shared consciousness, isn’t in part some kind of reaction by that generation which fought in the Second World War and suffered its privations.  If sexual abuse – abuse of power, abuse of position, abuse of reputation, abuse of recognition – is going to be as widespread as it now looks will shortly be the case, can there be any other explanation than this?  A whole nation – abused by violent injustice, random death and cruel loss – fighting, turning in on and finally devouring its own.

A tremendous source of pain which was never fully understood, appreciated, talked about or dealt with by a society with an infinitely stiff upper lip and capacity to drink tea and talk about the weather, even as its deepest fears scythed through its emotional and mental wellbeing.

I don’t know.  I’m no sociologist.  Though the above probably demonstrates I’m quite good at psycho-babble theorising.

All I can say is that the implications for a wider society, for a wider body politic, for our wider institutions … well, they really couldn’t be more profound: if government ministers, political aides and people at the very top of public and private institutions knew about these kinds of things, if they stood by as they happened or even participated, if they sullied the deep realities of institutional probity and if they were capable – at the same time – of sustaining a hollow visage of honesty, frankness and sincerity to the outside world, what else – in all truth – were they capable of hiding from the rest of us?

For that is the biggest question still to be unravelled.  He who possesses a secret of another can demand an absolute loyalty – and he who can demand an absolute loyalty can build a terrifying power.  Just imagine the situation if this was not only unidirectional but bidirectional.  Our society, riddled by guilty makers and shakers – each knowing something the other on an allegedly opposing side would not wish the public to comprehend.

Our two-party system, thus riddled and perverted, effectively becomes a one-party state.

And that, maybe, is what’s really happening here: just as the Berlin Wall and the wider Soviet structures came tumbling down overnight through their own savage incoherences – examples of puff-pastry politics if there ever was such a thing – so now what we are witnessing in British society is a reflection, an absolutely accurate mirror image, of the lies the Communists lived.  The consequences: rapid deterioration and awful collapse as long-empty structures fall irrevocably in on themselves.

We all grew up in the shadow of oppression.  For so many years we fought it.  And as we have already noted tonight, the oppressed may learn all too well how to oppress.

The abusers need to be tracked down.

But we mustn’t forget the abuse that made them so.

It’s time we understood that the secrets which bind the powerful to each other – of which the sexual variety is just one pitiful class – need to be blown apart for the good of our body politic, democracy and social intercourse.

It’s only then that we can even begin to recover a sense that our institutions can be believed in; only then that we can even begin to understand what has actually happened to this corrupting Britain.

It’s not just the poor and utterly bewildered young men, women and children who’ve been totally betrayed by their abusing forefathers.  It’s possibly the whole nation which now needs the truth.

After all, such a bitter pill can be no more difficult to swallow than the indignity of always being seen and never heard.

Apr 302012

In 1776, the United States declared independence from Britain.  The background can be summarised thus:

The American Revolution was the result of a series of social, political, and intellectual transformations in early American society and government, collectively referred to as the American Enlightenment. Americans rejected the oligarchies common in aristocratic Europe at the time, championing instead the development of republicanism based on the Enlightenment understanding of liberalism. Among the significant results of the revolution was the creation of a democratically-elected representative government responsible to the will of the people.

Now let’s fast forward a few hundred years to 2012: specifically to today, the 30th April.  Two stories which indicate that the British people themselves now find themselves under a similarly unrepresentative (and what’s more, unresponsive) oligarchy of a nest-feathering self-promoting and essentially inefficient nature.  Firstly, we have a political class in charge which is unable to properly protect our own national borders:

Heathrow approached “breaking” point last week, with passengers left so frustrated by delays that they resorted to storming past officials without showing their documents and slow handclapping staff in immigration halls.

The response of our political class’s representatives?  To prohibit the airport’s owner from distributing explanatory leaflets apologising for the delays.

Secondly, some time coming, we have this awful story:

About 100,000 ill and disabled people will lose their Employment and Support Allowance on 30 April 2012.

That’s the removal of several thousand pounds a year from individuals who surely deserve our solidarity as a token of goodwill – in order to allow them to remain as independent as we can sensibly manage.

Battles for independence in the 21st century?  It would seem laughable if it weren’t so bitterly disappointing: in reality, we cannot avoid coming to the conclusion that what the Americans understood in their 18th century enlightenment, we have chosen to so vigorously reject in our own rank and heartless idiocy.

The latter story a case of future misery as personal chaos awaits those who, in the main, have done their very best to deal with what life has thrown their way.

The former story?  A playing-with-fire by a government determined to shift the centres of wealth distribution even more in the direction of just one kind of capitalism.

So to my two final preoccupations:

  1. What’ll happen when the money and savings of those 100,000 ill and disabled people simply run out?  Where will they go?  What will they do?  Who, indeed, and with what authority, will remove them from our Olympic-ridden streets?
  2. What’ll happen when the government has allowed so much wealth to be leeched from our socioeconomic infrastructures that even an institution such as our Border Agency finds it difficult to resource the simple checking of people’s passports?

Yes.  Indeed.  Battles for independence.  Both without and within our system of government, on both civil servants and ordinary citizens, this Coalition has declared a war of attrition on absolutely everything that might pose a future threat to the oligarchy it represents.  It is symbolic and notable that the aforementioned war should affect not only the very weakest in society but also those whose daily role it is to defend our national integrity and security.

The march onwards and upwards of a very particular definition of globalisation has now reached the very heart of sovereign government and all that it stands for.

Capital’s victory is essentially complete.

Just as Great Britain, in other times, completely dominated the Americas.

Perhaps in that there is a lesson we should take onboard.

For it is now the Americas which has learnt to dominate us.

Jul 112011

The latest revelations on the News International nightmare simply indicate that at the top of this media pyramid is a dictator in grave need of being toppled.  Either he actively institutionalised criminality – or, through neglect and under his watch, he allowed it to become institutionalised.

During Blair’s reign, it was Saddam who fell.  In Cameron’s, it could well be Murdoch.  But not because of the authorities, not because of the police, not because of the checks and balances of the state.

Rather, because of MPs like Tom Watson and Chris Bryant, of newspapers like the Guardian with the financial resources and morality to pursue the story – and the Fifth Estaters amongst us who use Twitter, Facebook and blogging tools, all of which have allowed us to provide the good traditional journalism that can still be found out there with the people’s wings it required to flourish.

As Anthony Painter recently tweeted:

The fatal misjudgment that News Corp has made is that it’s always had a parliamentary majority behind it. This time it hasn’t. #phonehacking

The corollary is complete.  News International was a de facto dictatorship, operating within the British body politic.  And no politician of real import in recent times has cared to even attempt to defeat this dictatorship.

Each generation needs its villains.  Blair had his opportunity to choose – and chose Iraq instead of Murdoch.  Cameron had his opportunity to choose – and chose the British people instead of Murdoch.  As I pointed out in August last year: 

In a democracy, there are two ways to proceed before your true aims are rumbled.  The first is to attempt to continually butter the population up – this was Blair and New Labour’s approach for many years.  The second is to demoralise and divide all probable opposition prior to the event with acts such as Cameron’s Coalition are carrying out.  Better than demoralise and divide, however, is the strategy of cutting supply lines and taking apart little by little regions of common association.

This is also something that the Coalition will find it hard not to do.

The cuts that are being effected may have an ideological bent designed to socially engineer us back into the Darwinian dark ages of 19th century capitalism, and they may also perpetuate and deepen a recession we were on the point of emerging from, but, principally, their main purpose – if we are to accept my tentative thesis – is to lay the ground for a far more profound set of changes further down the line: changes which will end up being imposed on a thoroughly frightened and unhappy set of atomised and splintered individuals, looking to the support that democratic socialism promised them even as the tactics I have described serve to slowly but permanently disintegrate them from their fellow men and women – as well as lead them, once more, as so many sad times in the past, to believe that dog-eat-dog philosophies are humankind’s inevitable fate.

And yet now the British people have chosen Murdoch – above all – as their target of choice.  Now the British people have settled on the dictatorship they truly wish to desert.

So where does that leave Cameron and his blessedly fashioned neo-conservative project – made, as it is, to the measure of Murdoch’s ideologies; and as foreign to our shores as anything of such evil intent could ever be?  Who will be left untarnished enough to be able to provide the moral and political support to such a futile and suddenly hollow device?

For this is the question that surely occurs to us all: if Rupert Murdoch’s empire is no longer fit and proper to run the British press and media, what does that say of David Cameron himself?

Jul 082011

Norman over at normblog has a long thoughtful chant today on not blogging.  Which made me realise there must be more to life than Rupert Murdoch’s dirty linen.

And there is.  This, for example:

Suicide rates have risen sharply across Europe since the banking crisis as people struggle to cope with debt, unemployment and public service cuts.

What’s more:

Britons fared worse than average, with an 8 per cent rise in suicides between 2007 and 2009 – a shock after almost a decade of annual declines, according to research in The Lancet.

One of the researchers responsible for the report had the following observations to make:

Dr David Stuckler, lead author and lecturer in sociology at the University of Cambridge, said the findings were “terribly frustrating”. “Human beings are the real tragedy of an economic crisis, so it is terribly frustrating that government leaders have not only failed to invest in programmes that protect people, but have actually done the opposite… This has been the pattern for three and a half decades but lessons have not been learnt,” he said.

Meanwhile, round about the time that News International’s scandal of corporate hubris was beginning ever-so-slowly to spiral out of control, our current government announced how it was going to open its arms to the super-rich and make life ever-so-easy for them to do their business in Britain.

I can’t argue with the principle of rewarding hard work.  I do argue with the practice of playing fast and incompetent loose with stratospheric politics.  And of the latter, I am sure there are a multitude of examples.

So from News International to Cameron’s Coalition government, I think the lesson is pretty clear, don’t you think? 

Look after your own above all … especially when you sit at the top of the pyramid.

It’s always going to be bad news when the newsmakers make the front pages.  Only now, in the light of what’s happening, I’m beginning to think it’s far worse when they manage to stay in the shadows. 

It doesn’t matter, either, whether we’re talking about journalists or, indeed, bankers.  Systemic abuse in pyramidal organisations is something which fashions cultures and creates long-term ingrained behaviours – behaviours which Mafia-like Chinese walls can only serve to make even more corrupt. 

When these individuals manage to stay in those shadows so very well-hidden from public view is when we don’t see what they’re really getting up to.  And that’s how things like this then get to take place.

As freecloud just tweeted:

@dominiccampbell I think its time to copy the Arab Spring and throw off some of the shackles here – unique opportunity . Then fix banks.

So perhaps that is exactly what we’re now beginning to deal with.  As we emerge from decades of merciless submission to Murdoch, this just may be the start of something history might one day call the British Spring.