Writings, photos, politics and rants... *Original content - may not be reproduced without my consent.*

Monday, 30 January 2017

Murder Free...

To truly understand a system, you need to be able to stand outside it.

That is damned difficult with capitalism – it is a system that pervades all aspects of our lives – and increasingly so – leading us all to stress, mental health problems, physical health problems, family problems, division, conflict and death.

Dramatic? Aye – living in today's world, fully engaged as a working class person, at any part of that class spectrum is a dramatic, unhealthy thing. But how to escape? With great difficulty as an individual in the UK/ the West/ the developed and developing world.

I’m going to start this blogpiece with a recipe. I'm asked – what does a vegan eat in a hurry? Well tonight, we were on a budget – well – no-one could be arsed doing the shopping – so we “made do” with what was in the cupboard. This is what I made.

Neil’s Dahl - serves two...

200 grams of red lentils
50 grams of split peas
800 ml of water (and a wee bit more if needed)
Teaspoon of turmeric
Teaspoon of savoury yeast extract
teaspoon salt

For the flat bread

Pizza dough recipe for breadmaker, substituting sugar with maple syrup and butter with olive oil
“Easy Garlic”


Use a breadmaker to make dough.  Or make dough by hand. Or buy a couple of ready made nan breads or other flatbreads.  

Measure 200 grams of red lentils and 50 grams of split peas.  If you only have lentils - 250 grams of lentils.

add 800 ml of water,

a teaspoon of turmeric, 

a teaspoon of yeast extract 

and a teaspoon of salt; 

simmer until the water is absorbed.  Add a bit more water if needed.

Roll out the dough quite thinly.

Fry cumin seeds and onions. 

Add the onions and some of the cumin seeds to the dahl

Fry the dough on both sides (almost dry) and add oil to the bread and some quick garlic.

Serve.. eat... feel stuffed.

Anyway, some have tried the “moneyless” thing as individuals or communities – but when it comes down to it, those who do, are still reliant on the system- its cast of off’s etc.

I’ve no answer to this – I don't have a solution for you to escape. I don't have a recipe for you to take yourself out of the system in which to survive you must consume – you must compete – you must offer yourself as a machine.

But I have taken myself out of aspect of the system – and in doing so, it has laid the system bare in front of me – easy to see; obvious in its workings, collusions and manipulations.

When I was younger, I was aware of Nestle and what it did. But being wrapped up in the system, I really couldn't see how avoiding a product or two could help make change. But, after reading about it in more detail, I stopped buying Nestle products – and I haven't bought them knowingly for at least half my life now (I’m 50). But this didn't take me outside a system. It just made me swap products. I killed and exploited through other chocolate bars and ice lollies. But not babies, I hope.

I was still being exploited by employers and manipulated by corporations.

To take yourself out of a system, truly, it has to be something you enjoy. I think those religious festivals in which you give things up – whether it be Ramadan, lent or whatever – originate in spiritual discovery. Ways to really appreciate what is going on around you – where things come from. What your bodily needs really are. Appreciation.

Giving something up must be something you will make excuses for. Something you will say, “But I need some pleasure in life,” or “its the whole system that needs changed...” when confronted about your exploitation of poor workers. Giving up Snickers when you can substitute that bar for something else is really not giving anything up. Go to the source. Give up the ingredients. Give up the culture around that 10am fag/e cigarette break. Really give something up.

And this is where my giving stuff up comes in.

I always experimented with myself. From physical stuff like testing freezing sea water swimming in midwinter, to parachuting (im petrified of heights), twice, to hill walking, to travelling though countries on my own etc...

But these experiments only effect me. They make no changes in the world I live in. So then I tried experiments where I gave stuff up – a year at a time. Alcohol – a great love of mine, went for a year. Then sugar. Then meat. Just for a year.

And these years were finite – I could look forward to the end of them – the drinking session that would bring the booze ban to an end. The dessert in a restaurant that signalled the end of the sugar famine and the leg of lamb that brought the meat free year to a full stop.

They were experiments with myself. Personal, and did nothing only give me something to start a conversation with – write a Facebook update or blog about. They changed nothing in the world only something in me.

Yet, during all of those years, I began to see something of the system. I began to see the resources used – billions of pounds; physical space and lives devoted to promoting those three products.

And then it happened. About five ears ago, I realised I could no longer justify something dying – its life prematurely ended – its only time conscious brought to a bloody, often painful, stressful – frightened – end for my palette. I saw the joy animals had in life – the same joy children and adult humans had. The love they had for their herd, family or children. And I couldn't eat them.

The thing is – I loved meat – the texture, taste and the amazing recipes you could create using different cuts and animals.

But I really couldn't justify in any way, eating them. And the evidence I saw all around me showed eating them wasn't that good for me either.

I saw row after row of shelves in supermarkets of tinned, packaged, dried, marinated dead bodies. All of these things, made to look distant from the reality of where they came from – sentient beings – clever, communicative, loving beings. Corporations wrapping up death, ecological disaster, murder as cultural and “cruelty free.” And we tell ourselves – we repeat their mantra -of “if it had a free, happy life, its ok to eat it.”

Anyway – I'm not writing this to persuade you to stop eating meat.

Alcohol and sugar – two other products that are pushed by corporations – products that are literally everywhere. Sugar in almost every processed piece of food. Alcohol on screens, on billboards and dressed up with cultural references to suit all. And it is an incapacitator and a killer. And Ive seen it incapacitate and kill – and see that continuously. And I loved it. I loved the image of it – and I loved the effect of it – and I loved the cultural links – drinking mojitos in Cuba; Whiskey/Whisky in the Celtic colonies; real ale from casks and real lager in Pilsner. And getting wrecked on hot afternoons, at gigs, or because the love of my life at that point and I were not getting on.

I remember discovering the craic, the beer with friends and thinking as a 17 year old “society has conspired to keep this great thing away from me.”

And the wine on a Friday; the beers on a Saturday; the BBQ, the wedding, the Christmas Glühwein…

The truth is, I didn't want to be manipulated by the Bernays of the alcohol business any longer. I didn't want to be doped; hungover, subdued any longer. I realised society had conspired to insert me into the culture of buying alcohol (and meat and sugar).

I’m meat, alcohol and mostly sugar free. I avoid them all. Further – I’m vegan as much as I can be – that is in my everyday life – but have been known to eat an After Eight or two if someone has bought them for me at Christmas. They are made by Nestle, by the way.

And the other night, we went for a meal in an Indian restaurant and by mistake the barman gave me a lager with alcohol – instead of the alcohol free version. Its lucky I am not an alcoholic. I was more than halfway down the pint before I realised – but when I did I finished it. The first alcohol in five years. It didn’t tempt me to go back on it.

I miss none of these things now. I crave none of them. I don't feel holier than thou – I’m guilty of many things in life I see others avoiding – but I feel better. I'm not better than anyone for giving these things up – just a slightly happier me. Healthier. Happier – less guilty and less part of the huge corporate machinery that processes us daily. Our shopping bills are much less without meat and wine (though not everyone in the house is meat or sugar free).

And I don't feel I made up – or took someone else’s - principles – I wasn't influenced by a pop idol or someone who guilted me into giving up things I enjoyed. No – I came to my own logical decisions based on he effects on the world and on me these products have. I wanted to have less of a “footprint” on the world – and a lot less dead animals and people on my conscience, I wanted to be healthier and I wanted to be manipulated, pulled, twisted ground up and spat out a lot less than I had been.

And standing on the outside of those huge, three corporative interests – untouchable by their promotions and spokes people and product placements and invidious poisoning of my food; I can see the full horror and how culture and lives are claimed by these monolithic manipulators who care not a fiddlers fuck about your well being – or the workers they exploit – or the animals they rare cheaply and slaughter.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Little Ungagged and the Massive Movement

I have had the pleasure and privilege of being part of a small, but growing media organisation in Scotland that is reaching out across the world.

Ungagged! Can be found HERE

Its also Available FREE on iTunes and Podbean

As someone once said, the tide goes out before a tsunami. The tide has been going out for many years now. The left have had few victories (and when I say the left, I mean those of us- the majority of the world, who understand that the ever expanding pursuit of profit is a recipe for the end of humanity).

I think the world is very different from the 60's-  in how we interact, how we access knowledge, how we are able to process that knowledge. The 1960's showed the first HOME response, in my opinion, to the globalisation if American Capitalism. It was only the beginning, really- the early days, of building global resistance and a future overwhelming network for change.

Change is happening. Social change- the kinds of change that effects us all across classes - change in legislative responses to gender, sexuality and race, are in revolution at last.

Economic and class revolution has not yet managed to snap its organisation into the new networks- but that is in its early days and is happening. The speed of the inclusion of equity in the new movements is beginning to gain some momentum.

Yesterday showed important things that many are missing.

One- political engagement has gone up, not down- how we measure that has to change. We know now that the mantra of "the poor and the working class have disengaged from politics," is false. They disengaged from the limited menu the establishment presented-that's all. Six people turning up for the latest "big" swp front meeting is no measure of the left. How many watch it on livestream, or how many people challenge their analysis is ONE new measure. How many people who don't join their front, but are talking about the issue on social media across groups and networks adds to that.

Two- there was no need for one big leader yesterday. Yesterday happened across networks. It included, but largely bypassed "branch meetings" and calls from the next big lefty "thing."

Three- yesterday was across class. Like stop the war in 2002 and G8 2005 in the UK, this global march united groups across the classes- but for something very clear- equity and equality. And against something very clear- against misogyny and the "alt-right/proto-Nazi's/Neo-fascists," and the programme of the extreme right of the establishment.

Four- the most obvious of the less obvious things people are missing is that the right are now pissing off the free press. Expect a HUGE fight and polarisation of journalists who will stop taking orders from Murdoch etc. Real journalism will again, like Watergate, come to the fore.

Unlike bringing the left together in 1968, yesterday was organised without the having to get past the physical fighting of the egotistic leadership's of factions (and unlike g8 2005, no Geldoff/Bono/Love Actually folk were able to hi-Jack it!)

Seattle 1999 was in my opinion, the kickstart of the new left organising across new networks and communications delivery systems. We've spent the last 20 years learning how to talk to each other across borders/ different experiences and political foundations using new platforms... Political Groups meeting virtually was unheard of until the late 90's -and has lost the suspicion it was viewed with as more and more people see it as a real life necessity and natural inclusion in their every day routine.

I don't think change happens in the way (and I don't mean this to patronise) 1917 happened in Russia. Not entirely anyway. Networks in those days were only physical. Networks came together via rail travel etc- slow change. And centrally organised. Networks nowadays are by far, digital, and NOT centrally controlled. If a small group begins to dictate in your network in a way you disapprove of, you walk- you create or join another one. Yesterday's march shows that. A digital call to march went out a few weeks ago- and spread across the world and was relayed by individuals in loose digital networks.

What I would say would be a huge failure would be us not learning from Stop The War Coalition, (and here in Scotland, Hope Over Fear) etc's failures. Call outs to demos -repeatedly- will put people off, especially as numbers drop off. What needs to happen now is for networks online and in the real, to plan real world work. Standing with strikers; Blocking corporations tearing down trees; blockading trident etc etc- and joining across these organisation's-talking to each other and coordinating. Expanding real networks, linking up on issues across networks etc, creates support, confidence and change.

And even more so- action in our workplaces that meets the right wing ideology head on and pushes it back into its dark corner.

Anyway- where Ungagged fits in to this is as an umbrella for networks and individuals who don't always agree (on the left), but whose networks can, occasionally link, collaborate and promote change.

Change comes through dialogue (and in the case of 1968, even physical fighting during organising!). We may not always agree- and see red when another lefty disagrees with us- but the bigger picture is the links we can make.

Keep talking, keep bickering, keep using your skills, digital, verbal, physical etc and let's be a small part of the change that will come!

Friday, 20 January 2017


“...This American carnage stops right here and stops right now… America First, America First...”

He stood shrivelled and wet, shivering on the cotton tufted bathroom mat gazing into the hole in the condensation he had wiped in the large, round mirror. The past few years had been kind to him in some ways, he thought. But not in his looks. Hard work had its rewards, yes, but the bruises and scars throbbed red and hot.

He bent forward, taking a closer look at the bags under his eyes; signs of ageing that took him by surprise. Three years and he had changed so much. Even when he was living on the old welfare system, he had not felt so physically laden. So battered and so damn old!

But, he thought, in those days he had no pride. He had no sense of achievement in signing for welfare. He had no pride in begging for menial work that he never got. And now he had debt, yes – but it was manageable debt. Debt that was creating wealth and jobs and investments. And he knew that that was making America great again.

He pulled the towel around himself and lifted his toiletry bag and opened the door.

“About fucking time you fat jerk!”

If looks could kill, Romanian Tanya had just cut him in half with a blunt pair of nail clippers while he, so, so tired, had no time to move while she hacked.

He smiled and moved past the queue to the dorm and his shared floor.

He pulled on his pants and his laundered shirt and sat on the edge of his low, thin bed to tie the laces of his shined leather shoes. Things only a few years ago he could not have afforded. But in those days, no debt company would allow him to live so far below zero. He knew this was temporary. Because the work he had secured – one of the new jobs the President’s closure of the corrupt Unions had secured (boy did everyone appreciate that one when they were able to stand on their own two feet!), was a job with a future. He was in contact everyday with people who could help his future. He was learning from them, banking knowledge, banking how to act when he became a middle manager and then a boss, because he knew that his hard graft would pay off and one day he would be driven from his huge house in a limousine. Opportunities.

That was everyone’s dream. But like the bloggers blogging across the internet, all hoping to be discovered as some great commentator or writer or poet, he realised there were more bloggers and poets than those interested in reading them. There were more people scrambling at the bottom than enough spaces at the top of the pyramid. More people than jobs of any value. But he wasn't on the streets and he wasn't Asian, black, or gay. Luckily the President was Scottish, and even though the Scottish in Scotland seemed not to like the guy, he seemed to like the Scots. And most of the white European race, except for, he supposed, Hispanics. Which was good for him with his Scottish name. He had one rung he couldn't fall off. There would always be a class below the good, wholesome American people.

“America Is Truly Great Again!” The special edition of the New York Times, printed for the new workers villages seemed to have one headline every day, or variations on the theme. “America The Great.” “America is Unbeatable!” “The People, not the Swamp, Rule America!”

He never read it for news. Because there rarely was anything new in it. It was mind chewing gum. A past-time. Something to keep him away from Fox News, because at least he could set this down and let his mind wander. He had a few minutes before the breakfast room was opened, and he savoured it. His working hours were long. This was time to relax and dream of future opportunities. Of the freedom that work and money and the laws passed to protect people like him would bring him in the future.

“Hey, Gil!”

He wanted to ignore the shrill, nasal voice.

“Gil! Wanna play a game?”

“Not really, Joe. Wanna relax.”

“Aw, come on, Gil, just one game.”

He knew he wouldn’t be allowed to relax. Joe would whine and shout. There was something not quite right about the guy. Back in the days when all of that tax money was wasted on kids being diagnosed as being on one spectrum or another, money would have been thrown at Joe, to accommodate his weirdness. But Gil knew that this way, Joe, like everyone who could lift a hand, could contribute to the world and earn his debt too. But he was weak...

He folded the newspaper and crossed the dorm to Joes bed. On it was a checker board. He knew he could beat Joe in a few minutes, but that that would be like playing football with a four year old to win, so he made it that Joe beat him. It took a long time. Joe was not strategic in any way, and Gil could have won a number of times, but he held back.

“Jeez Joe, you are a great checkers player!”

“Ya know, Gil, before we made America Great again, I didn't even have a checkers board? At least not my own. Our house had stuff, yeah, but it was all subsidised by the swamp. My mom had no pride. We do now!”

The “Making America Great Again” classes were paying off on Joe. He could barely read, but he could cite the propaganda word for word and it was present in most of his sentences.

In fact it was present in most sentences if you wanted to hold on to your job. And the great and the good, when they spoke through the TV’s and in the special editions of the magazines and newspapers he read, told everyone how their efforts were creating American jobs, walls, cars and wealth all of the time.

And he knew it was true, because he was a great example of it. Lifted from the projects, cleaned up, and given a place in the new world. New jobs, where there hadn't been jobs before.

And in the dorms there were many people like him, who were grateful. When that Philippine President had come over to share with their President how he had drained his country of drug addicts like him and the rest, no-one thought our President would be so brave as to enact it. Who needed new gun laws when the citizens could be empowered to clean up the streets!

Another brave step for our President to take. Of course the rest of the world cried and shouted, but what did they know? They were harbouring terrorists and drug addicts...

“You going for breakfast, Gil?”

“Aye, Joe. Lets go.”

He stood up, and straightened his pants, stretched and lifted his blue jacket – the jacket of his profession, and pulled it on.

They walked down the long dorm, past twisted, skeletal remains of people, who had the President to thank for the end of their addictions. All of them had seen friends gunned down, and rightfully so, because unlike them, their friends were just not strong enough to make America Great again.

The breakfast rarely changed. But he didn't mind. This was kinder than what had went before. Before, he didn't eat. Now, yes, he banked debt, which created new money, but he ate. One day his breakfasts would be more fruit and fresh stuff rather than the cardboard cereal and cheap maple syrup substitute. But the coffee wasn't too bad. Every new thing in the world, if it was an advance, had a sacrifice. And this new, fair system meant not only work for all, but permanent work for all, and opportunities until you die. And some; the weak; sacrificed themselves by not embracing the stronger America.

His latest opportunity was a bigger bed in perhaps a few months when one of the older, frailer workers died. He knew what he had done, the crime he had reported, had moved him further up the queue. He thought to himself, would I once have thought that cruel? He laughed. It was no crueller than the innovations from before America was great again. Things like the internet. That was a sham. Yes, it meant more communication, but at the sacrifice of our safety and our children's moral fibre. The car – another sham; those foreign car manufacturers over-charging for their foreign built dangerous crap. And certain freedoms… the freedom to travel Route 66… something he had always wanted to do… but not something he should do as a poor person. The bum he had been. Too dangerous. Highways – built without barriers – and suicidal and stoned liberals were sure to meet their end wandering across them. No longer, what with the new safety laws. And the new jobs, and the new arrangements to ensure we never missed a day. Well, we couldn't miss a payment, and that was only fair for the food and shelter they were providing for them. Those Gods and their tax dollars...

Joe noisily sucked the rice cereal through the milk but Gil didn't care. Joe didn't bother him. Some of the recently cured addicts did. Some of the ungrateful workers bothered him. The ones who talked about rebellion under their breath. The ones who would stab him if they knew he was pigeoning on them and their dangerous ideas. Why would they want to bring America to its knees again? American values should prevail… and America was surely becoming great again…

The men marched in and stood at the front of the brightly lit canteen. The room went silent and everything went still.

“José Garcia-Martinez step forward.”

Joe stopped slurping and looked at Gil. Gil smiled at him, comfortingly. He stood up and raised his hand.

“That's my old name. I’m an American now… I’m Joe...” he stuttered.

They raised their rifles. “Come forward!”

“I don't understand... I...”

He looked at Gil again. “It’s OK Joe. Do as they ask. It’s for the good.”

He thought, ‘Every new innovation has a sacrifice. And jobs for all mean Mexicans cant stay, regardless of how long they've been here. The Asians are going and the blacks and native Americans are back in their ghettos shouting about their oppression while they have no work. Some people are just lazy.’ 

At least there was one class below… impossible for him to fall into.

He looked around the room. This was testament to the new world the President had created. Clean. No drugs. Workers. Food. Opportunity. Always opportunity. He had created opportunity.

Joe wasn't lazy, but he was taking an American’s job. Gil had to tell them. ‘He’ll be happier on the other side of the wall anyway’, Gil thought, ‘fighting against the rebellion there. Its their war, not ours. Even though our President is being kind in sending their new Government money to keep the communists and terrorists at bay, I really think he should consider just building that wall higher and manning it with machine gun nests.

Yep, the new America is on its feet. Standing tall, making money, and we all prosper. We all have opportunity and worth.’

The men escorted a protesting Joe out of the canteen and everyone went back to their morning routine.

Gil looked at the time. It was his time. His bus would be here.

After a quick smoke outside, and a crowded bus journey to the hotel, he was there. Ready for his long shift.

He boarded the elevator to Penthouse 4, his station. On arrival he was met by the outgoing shift. They looked exhausted, battered, bloodied. They didn’t look near him as they passed him into the service elevator. Obviously the family were having an early start.

He took his place in the marbled, gilded hallway, standing, facing the entrance to the suite. This was the best part of his job. The standing, watching, learning how the Gods of America lived; how they conducted themselves. Because they were success personified. They were rich for the very reason they knew how to be. They knew things he didn't.

The young God’s played in their room; he could hear them, playing some sort of shooting game. And the Great God himself walked into the hall. Gil lowered his gaze. In this job, you were only part of the furniture. An unthinking object. An ungrateful scrounger, leeching off these hard working people.

He could tell the God was agitated. He was looking for something.


The kids played on.

“What is it honey?”

His beautiful Goddess called after him.

“I’ve left that book I was reading on the fucking plane...”

Gil knew his purpose was about to be fulfilled. He was about to earn his debt.

“Honey, ask someone to get you another copy! There are still book stores all over this city!”

The God came closer to Gil. This was it.

“Yea, I’ll do that...”

Gil felt the blow on the side of his jaw. This God worked out, unlike the one who had stayed in the suite for the previous week. All he had wanted to to was fuck Gil. This God needed to let off steam. And it was a privilege for Gil to allow him to use him to do that. A stress free God meant a better economy, a happier society and more jobs for the likes of Gil.

The next blow floored Gil, and he felt the stamp of the boot on his face. Like he would the next day after a clean up in the pharmacy; and the next day and the day after that…

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Les Propheties...

What would you do if you found out a lot of our news and a lot of the real and fake news you supposedly get, comes from the future? Or a lot of your political earthquakes are just tremors, because people from the future are involved, talking madmen and women down?

You wouldn't believe it, right? 

You see, its like this. Time travel for people is impossible – shifting people through time is never going to happen, unless people learn how to move at light speed and beyond.

But, time travel by sub-atomic particles happens all of the time. It has happened throughout the history of the universe. Particles disappearing from a reality, only to turn up in another or another time. And it was this discovery that eventually led us to influencing your world from the future. Every transaction your world makes being on your internet makes it easy. We painstakingly set up bank accounts in your time, hacking banks -and then set up websites, news sites, culture sites and even virtual shops, ordering goods and selling them – employing people in your time through virtual companies and eventually corporations.


Well. We wanted to influence the timeline. And have fun to be honest.

Let me introduce myself.

I live 350 years in your future. Imagine you speaking to someone from Shakespeare’s time. What would you say? How would you say it? Language is very different, but translatable.

Nostradamus, a man who could move his brain particles through time, warned you about many of the things that happened… but you didn't understand, because he could not translate his 1560’s french into twentieth and twenty-first century French. I have no such problem.

The world is very different, but as we are changing the timeline – we are cleaning up our world and trying to ensure the Great Disaster is minimised. Bit by bit, nature returns. Extinctions are halted. The only one we are not allowed to meddle with – and this is a Galaxy wide agreement – is the mass extinctions brought about in your century of… people.

The great thing about our time is, well, we don't actually have to be physically in your world to be there. We use drones to interact. These drones can be human form, some of them can be as small as flies; some of the best ones are birds, dogs, cat, cows all sorts. And people here visit through these drones to see what the world used to be like. With implants and uploads, we can feel as if we are there in person, talking to you. And we do often. And we all manipulate as much as we can without killing ourselves to try to minimise the effects of the Great Disaster.

We also look to our future. Moving into the future was much more difficult, especially as we found earth hadn't got much of a future. But we have changed that slightly. We’ve slowed down the death of terran humanity.

Why are we not on other planets?

We are. We are across the Galaxy. But some of us are still on Earth. Some call us fetishists, trying to hold on to an object; a dream of a golden past that never existed. Why move when you can be everywhere from where you are?

And they tell us we are probably placing the whole of the Galaxy at risk.

What would happen if the Great Disaster did not happen? Well, they say, people may not leave the solar system in search of a new life. Humanity would not seed the stars. So we wont avert. Just minimise.

Other humans, tall, small and manipulated by the planet surfaces and nature they have embraced across the galaxy, tell us we are odd. Odd to want to stay on a dying planet, not fit for purpose.

But oh, they’ve never felt the amazing feeling of driving a petrol car around cliff hugging roads, or bungee jumping into a fjord or standing in the middle of an explosion in an Iraqi town.  Or walking with a pride of lions, or a New York City Gang.

Thrill seekers, yes, but most of the time we are trying to find a solution to the death of the planet.

When you have spent a week or two submerged in the political life of the United States circa 2017-21, and then move outside and find a new patch of green that could not have existed before, or you receive a bite from a hitherto extinct bug, it is worthwhile. When we reanimate some mammals or crustaceans or more flying bugs, we will celebrate. Probably in a bar in twentieth century Dublin, or atop a Cuban Hotel, arranging a Marlin hunt with with Ernest Hemingway in 1960 (yes, we can go back that far… it was difficult, given the primitive nature of military computers, but we managed it. We are working on ways to get back to World War Two – the birth of some of the great early computers. But that is proving difficult).

Now, if you are reading this piece of writing, you wont believe it. You will, of course, think it is a piece of badly written Sci-Fi. It may be badly written, but it is not Sci-Fi.

And I have posted this on the day of the inauguration of the beginning of the end. And in doing so, I am changing the world, a tiny bit. Some of you will read this and think, “I wonder if this is true?”

Should I say something about the future in order to prove what is happening? How we are visiting you? How we control a huge corporation from the future? How we influence the tech you will be buying in the coming years?

I wont. Sorry. But I want to say one thing to you.

You, if you are reading this, may be the one person that changes the world from the disastrous road it is taking in your time.

In fact I know one of you can. How?

Well, that child you live with – be kind to her. Encourage her and praise her for her mistakes. Help her learn. Help her become the kindest leader the world has ever known. And maybe, the Great Disaster will be minimised and the fauna and flora of Old Earth will again flourish, 350 years into the future.

Though it is too late for most of you.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Who are the Working Class Scottish Independence Leaders?

Back in my early days as an Scottish Socialist Party activist, I had the pleasure to meet an extraordinary man, Professor Philip Hobsbaum.

Hobsbaum's part in the modern literary movements in the UK - and in particular Ireland and Scotland - was huge.

When I met him, I knew little of this. Jimmy the Fireman and I went to his house to speak to him, on request, about the state of the party after Tommy Sheridan had stood down from the Leadership of the SSP - standing aside for an election in which Colin Fox beat Alan McCombes to the coveted "Convenorship" (which became "Spokesperson").

Hobsbaum's wife met us at the door and led us to the book lined living room where he sat, like a regal Karl Marx, long grey beard and happy to see us.

We drank the beers offered and we tried to allay his fears that the SSP was sinking because of Sheridan's standing aside.  We were very careful NOT to tell him too much about what we had been told about the reasons..

During the conversation, Hobsbaum, who told us he was dying (he recently had his legs amputated), looked to Jimmy the Fireman and said,in his oddly posh, unplaceable accent, "politics needs people like you."

After our visit, Hobsbaum and I had email exchanges that I sometimes read through today - they are a valuable reminder of what we have lost both in Philip himself - and in working class politics.

Philip was concerned about the fact that with Sheridan gone, Fox was unknown, and was making no impact.  His emails came to me with titles such as "The Invisible Fox," "Fox Still Invisible," "The Invisible Man."  All of my emails are assurances that this will change and the SSP will rise again.  How wrong I was!

Also prominent in his emails were the many literary references and references to his times in Ireland (he describes how Gerry Fitt won West Belfast by using Unionist tactics against them) - but moreso he speaks about working class heroes and how,he felt that unfortunately, we still need them.  He said in one email, written one month before his death,

The SSP owes what little success ithas had largely to 'one big bro figure al la'  Tommy Sheridan.It has
discarded that asset in favour of The Invizble Fox [sic]. My guess is that it has suffered accordingly. The result at the last General Election shows this.
        It is a pity, and I agree with you, that parties have to depend on Big Brothers, but such a book as THE HERO by Lord Raglan will shows you that this trait, to follow a  leader, is deeply ingrained in human nature.

Had you heard, as I did in my youth, such great socialists as Aneurin Bevan and Mick McGahey you would understand more clearly what I mean.

One of my replies to Philip read,

"Philip - give the party
 time.  It is only 6 years old.  Respect has the danger of imploding
.  It is an organisation built on the reputation (rather shaky) of
 one man.Unless Galloway promotes the party rather than himself, Respect will dissolve. "

How naive was I (though right about Galloway)? 

I suppose at the time, I thought the SSP could pull itself forward without this Hero.  I had joined despite Sheridan - the voices I was attracted by were those of Rosie Kane (who Hobsbaum said was a great working class voice; but at the time, Rosie was ill and was absent from politics while she was getting better) and Richie Venton, a working class Northern Irish ex-Militant Tendency organiser - both whom I'd seen speak before the election in 2003 that had brought more working class voices - and in particular, women's voices, to the fore in the part and the Parliament.

So, I assured Prof Hobsbaum, the SSP would come back.  He said in later emails (he emailed me right up until a few days before his death) that he was holding on to his saved  election donation - yet he would still pay his membership, because he did not think the SSP would do well by stretching itself like it had in the recent General Election. And he awaited either the emergence of working class voices or the re-emergence of Sheridan as "Leader."

The left in Scotland, I feel,  has been taken over by quite a middle class "leadership,"(says the teacher married to the doctor!).  Moderate but stunt heavy, the left that the SSP was once made up of opt for placard waving and odd stunts inside and outside shops, rather than fighting on the streets to have real radical policies that address real problems highlighted and actually enacted. Tommy Sheridan,  though deeply flawed etc of course (a misogynist bully who wrecked a movement for his ego), along with a dedicated, clever, approchable, group around him managed to mobilise working class people outside of the sweep of the political intelligentsia and usual suspects on the left - and he did so again during the last months of the Scottish  Independence Referendum.  How?  Well, by knowing the difficulties working class families, mums, dads, children and communities suffer - BECAUSE THEY LIVED THERE.  The current radicals totally ditched that approach for protesting outside coffee shops they meet in.

Though today,  Mhairi Black SNP  MP, in some way  represents this strand of socialism -  she is someone who knows her community; she is tied to a political party that won't give her the freedom to do as Sheridan etc could do. She is not yet a player; and with the rounding off of the rough edges - Mhairi could be in danger of melting into the accepted norms of Scottish/British politics - when that is exactly what we don't need her to do.

To cut a long story short- we need to have people speaking about how the current political hegemony effects real working class families/low paid workers/people on benefits etc etc. And they need to be drawn from the places they are speaking to.  They need to be unafraid to stand with communities in their fights - for better services; for the homeless; against rising utility and food bills; school closures; bus route closures; job centre relocations; crime; community centre closures etc etc.  But they need to be helping communities they are from, come together and protest the causes of the local problems - the Tories and their syphoning off of tax money to the billionaires and those who crashed the economy. They need to have the experiences that Hobsbaum immediately recognised in Jimmy the Fireman, Mick McGahey, and even Sheridan (who, don't get me wrong, is no longer the uniting figure he promised to be right up until the truth about his character smashed into lives and tore hopes and peoples hard graft apart!)

We need voices -and issues that people can identify with. And we need them spoken by people in a way their communities can identify with. On the left at present, there are few people I know who can speak to the likes of my family; my wife's family or the parents of the children I teach in an area of deprivation in Glasgow.

Sheridan could- not through his shouty nonsense- but his turn of phrase. His experience of growing up in a working class house in a working class area with working class problems. His simplification of the problems-and the solutions- and he seemed at all times to be able enough to take on the Andrew Neil's and Labour Party Scottish Executive etc (because he was an educated working class person).

Where are those working class political representatives? In Rise? In the current batch of the SSP? In Labour? The SNP? The Greens?

I really do feel that our current batch of politicians and parties hamper, (every bit as much as the post industrial landscape and the smashing of the post war consensus), any working class woman or man with a bit of nous and talent, from rising through the ranks and taking on the poshos (on the left and right). And the left seem to create heroes, stunts, conferences that they cant see past, even though they really don't represent the schemes and the workplaces. 

And real working class, bright people, fall by the wayside.  Overlooked for the verbiage of a "radical."

The other day I met a couple I hadn't seen since the day of the referendum. They are still pro-Scottish Independence- but their conversation was peppered with blaming immigrants for the NHS crisis; and even though both are ex-Labour, they said they thought May was doing a good job after Cameron's destruction... They aren't fans of the SNP- and feel betrayed by New Labour; hate the Liberals and when I asked, they just dismissed Rise as "student lefties," and the SSP as a horse that had long bolted from the stables, and drowned in a lake, trying to put out the fire that was consuming it from head to toe.  She is a nurse, he is a Community Education worker, both working class, and living heavily mortgaged.

Now- will the new Yes campaign reach them (and more importantly, their Rangers supporting friends)?  How?  Through the Radical Independence Campaign?  I doubt they call themselves "Radical."  But they are working class - and the current left leaders in Scotland's Yes campaign seem to think the working class identify as "radical."  They don't.  Believe me. Will a New Hope over Fear emerge (Sheridan seems burnt out - and he, like all of the current crop of lefty leaders, pulls the ladder up after him when they climb onto their platforms)? 

Will Kezia speak to them? Sturgeon?  Will Mhairi Black be allowed to continue to harangue and insult the Tories as the inevitable secession happens?

Do any of these people speak to my friends?  They don't seem to think so.  And politically they seemed lost in a vacuum filled by the right wing press.

Years ago Sheridan did- when he stepped in to poindings/ the poll tax campaigns etc (they deserted him when the stuff appeared in the News of the World).

As for those in areas of deprivation in Glasgow- will a knock on the door by someone from the Radical Independence Campaign move them to register to vote and then vote Yes?

As for us "-activists-" are we going to wait for ideas and conferences (after conferences after conferences) from the leaders of the  left we are part of, who in the past twenty years (and especially the past two) have shown themselves to be tactically inept, to do things for us? Will we stand rabbit like, in their blazing conference lights awaiting instructions for when we should re-start our serious community politics after more stunts outside shops?

Looking back on my email exchanges with Philip Hobsbaum, I look naive when I tell him I don't believe in heroes.  I tell him I had enough of demagogues in Northern Ireland. I still feel that way, but after the Corbyn Show, I understand people sometimes need figureheads around which to rally.

Philip died on 28 June, 2005.  Two weeks before, after a lot of emails praising Sheridan's oratory skills and attractiveness to the working class, he wrote this:

"One of the more dangerous aspects of the Scottish Socialist Party's rise to prominence is the potential for a Sheridan personality cult. It's difficult to resist such adulation, especially when it's sincere, but it is absolutely vital for the future of the party that it secure more seats in the Scottish parliamentary election if only to raise to prominence other equally worthy individuals."

Philip was spared the gory details of his "hero" dragging the party through the gutter and the personality cults wrecking the left (and continues to do so).

But where do we go from here?  As the political left's hermetically sealed Vanguards rouse students and middle class "radicals," and they take to the stage, who is truly going to represent, and fight for, the millions of people working; fighting for survival; bringing up their families on Foodbank donations, low pay and diminishing welfare?  

More middle class jobs created for (well meaning) middle class radicals who will desert the class they "want to help" the day after their next election failure?


Sheridan hailed as successor to Bevan

By Alan Crawford, Political Correspondent
The Sunday Herald, 6 April 2003

Philip Hobsbaum, Professor Emeritus at Glasgow university, is to join the
Scottish Socialist Party after annointing Tommy Sheridan the 'true
successor' to Aneurin Bevan.

Bevan, the son of a Welsh miner, rose to become the Minister of Health
responsible for introducing the NHS in 1948 and is regarded as arguably the
most influential Labour Party figure of the post-war period.

'I think Sheridan's a visionary as Aneurin Bevan was and, yes, I think he's
probably Aneurin Bevan's true successor,' said Hobsbaum. 'I certainly don't
find anyone of that calibre in the official Labour Party, they're all very

Hobsbaum, whose informal writers' groups in London, Belfast and Glasgow
turned out the likes of Seamus Heaney, Bernard MacLaverty, James Kelman, Liz
Lochhead and Alasdair Gray, has torn up his Labour Party membership card
after 51 years in the party, saying he is 'disgusted' with its attitude to
student top-up fees, nurses' pay and the war in Iraq. Instead he is planning
to join the SSP.

'The Scottish Socialist Party is, of all the parties, the one nearest to my
own way of thinking and, as for Sheridan, I think he's utterly sincere. I
think he's a very vital politician. The others, quite apart from their
policies, are great yawns, aren't they?'

He added: 'I first joined the Labour Party as a student in 1952, so it was a
big wrench to leave. I left once or twice over nuclear weapons, but I really
think we've had six years and a whacking great majority and they've made a
fankle of things. I'm disgusted with them.'

Hobsbaum said it was 'extraordinary' that the Labour Party had retained its
name, despite 'changing its attitude and policy and everything'.

'I'm absolutely astonished at them,' he added. 'It's as though they're
frightened of something but I don't know what they're frightened of. They
could have done so much.'

Saturday, 7 January 2017


The sky is low and grey and wet today. I walk as fast as my middle aged legs will take me towards the warmth of the overcrowded train, meeting no-one’s eye from the moment I leave my warm, tidy flat.

Last night I watched TV as I do every night. It doesn't entertain me. I don't seek entertainment. I don't seek peace. I seek enough distraction there in that quiet, musical-less space, until that feeling I will shut down for the night, and begin the day again as soon as my body has had enough of Morpheus’ gift.

Sleep is a gift, something to take me away from the gift I share with the Nazi’s children on the documentary I watched. One accepted his father crimes – his father and mother both being cruel to him; distant; afraid of love. And both stealing and killing from the interned; those they had marked with a star and damned. The other, brought up in a loving Nazi’s home, unable to square the kind father with the man who had commanded executions and torture.

My own guilt is not so easy to either stand firm and say, “I did that. I am a horrible mass murderer;” nor is it easy to say, “I am generally a nice person – I fight the system I’m caught in...”

Because here I go again, pushing against the wind and rain, avoiding the rush hour tyres throwing puddles towards me; trying to focus only on the next part of my distracting routine; buy a newspaper and a black, ultra strong coffee from the vendor on the platform. The same smiling face, surprising me every day by asking me asking me if its my usual I'll be having – someone so young, hopeful and stuck in a routine and I know, satisfyingly, she won’t think of me until my soulless eyes gaze upwards towards her again tomorrow.

I’m earlier than usual. This is not good. This means a wait for the train that can only be filled by reading something from the paper at the side of the track, opening a newspaper and holding my coffee.

I slow my pace. Maybe if I walk slower and concentrate on surroundings; watch other wet drones head towards their places of work to earn their heat and distracting TV and packaged, microwaved, reconstituted food; perhaps that will distract me.

My glasses are covered in droplets, my peaked cap losing the battle with Scottish rain that defies gravity and falls in impossible angles. I want to be under the cover of the shelter at the train; I want the brief human contact to be over. I want my coffee and a paper to distract.

And the guilt washes over me. The deaths I have caused, the suffering, the total breakdown of humanity I have created and continue to create for my heat and soup.

I think of the children battling for their lives, the mothers who will cry blood over the bodies of their sons because of me. Because of what I do, every day, to buy stuff some other poor person has been forced to create in order to afford heat and cheap food.

Nuremberg was the height of humanity and logic after a war and after the liberation of the death camps – fair trials of those who were responsible for decisions that meant the extermination of millions of people. The world was able to work towards a cleansing because the Nazi’s - the murderers – were carefully tried; given time to realis their part in the machine of death they had created, alone in their cells or in the dock; and the guilty were sentenced - their sins purged, leaving only time to heal what they’d done.

Every day I make this journey, knowing that somewhere in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, and other theatres of war, death, annihilation people will die because of my alarm wakening me this morning. Because I have this routine, because I fill the silences with distraction and wont forgo my heat, food and peaked cap.

I arrive at the station, and cross the bridge to the centre platform. And I look up at the girl, and she says, “same as usual?” And I nod. She fills the coffee filter, twists it around, pulls the lever and sets the paper cup underneath the trickling brown liquid and turns and lifts The Guardian from her rack and hands it over to me. The same distracting, satisfying routine as I stand here, water dripping from my cap. I take off my glasses and wipe them with a serviette and she smiles.

She smiles at the mass murderer, the man who today will take the decision to carry on in the system and create death; blast communities into the stone age; tear children apart; vaporise mothers, brothers, sisters, old and young.

Her face changes and I realise I am crying. The routine has been broken and the wall has been breached, for a small time. My regret spills out for a moment, acknowledged by this girl.

“Are you OK?”

I look at her, and I go cold. I’ve slipped. She does know me. She looks at me as if her world has crumbled, embarrassed. This exchange has gone beyond the usual mumbled “Good morning,” and “Thanks.”

I stare, horrified, but out of control and I sob.

She looks from right to left. There is no queue. And everyone is facing the direction of the approaching train.

And I think, “What will I do?”
And I say, “What will I do?”

And she says, “What has happened?” Her action of capping the coffee cup with its lid, wrapping it in a serviette and moving it through the space between us is retarded, she is moving through a starch thickened atmosphere, created by my spasmodic sobs.

The train pulls in and eventually I reach for the coffee, delve into my pocket and thrust the fiver at her. I usually wait for change but I turn and make for the train.

The day goes as it usually does; I read the paper on the train - death, destruction, bad decisions of political people, singers screwing and footballers failing or not. I kill thousands through my work. I go home, picking up pizza on the walk to my house, and live the brightness of the One Show, find a documentary about Stone Henge, watch a chewing gum Netflix series I never remember the name of, get sleepy and barely make it to bed before I fall asleep.

My uniform is dry, and the morning outside is cold, icy, misty. My glasses steam up and I wipe them on my cuff.

The acrid taste of the exhaust of the rush hour traffic fills my asthmatic lungs. But I think, “at least it isn't phosphorous or the sharp metal rain of fragmentation or shrapnel. I know the difference between these words, as I should in the killing business.

I made sure this morning that I filled my cereal bowl a little more and had two glasses of orange juice – just to ensure my timings are right. I wont have to slow my usual pace.

How will she react? I need the coffee and I need the paper, otherwise, my head will be filled even further with the screaming, dying children than it usually is.

I can’t avoid her, I cant avoid the routine. But I’ll just keep it to my usual interaction; walk towards the kiosk, smile a “Good morning,” and she’ll give me my usual and I’ll board the train, keep my head down, buried in distraction and the day will eventually pass.

As I walk, I try to think about the man explaining the acoustics of Stone Henge, the ancient sounds that those people once must have thought were the amplified voices of the sky Gods. But my mind quickly flicks to the dirty faces of the refugees walking through the muddy fields, unwanted after the ordeal I have put them through. Hated by people across Europe for daring to leave the burning metal and forces that rip them apart.

And here I am walking to the place I make the decision every day to go to. A place where decisions are made to help create the perfect white hot metal storm to rip through their houses, churches, mosques, shops, schools, weddings…

I arrive at the station. I feel relief as it distracts; this problem I created yesterday, and my solution of ensuring there is less time to think at the kiosk. Less time to dwell.

I approach the kiosk. She looks down at me, I smile and say, “Good morning.”

And she doesn’t say the usual, automatic words. The meaningless exchange, the exchange we have every day that can be forgotten as soon as it has played out has been broken, as if someone has drawn a chisel across a record.

“How are you today?” She says, looking concerned.

I don't now what to say. I open my mouth, and I want to say, “A large black Americano with an extra shot and a Guardian, please,” but I cant.

Yesterday comes flooding back. My grief at that moment. The slip. The chink between the veil of pretence that all is normal opens. And I freeze. With my mouth open.

“Is everything OK?” She says.

I look from right to left. No one is looking. Everyone is ignoring the world around them; engaging in important distracting trolling on their phones; reading papers; watching the tracks; watching the time table.

She is looking at me kindly. 


I think, “What’s wrong is I kill thousands of people every day; men, women and children...”
I say, “What’s wrong is I kill thousands of people every day; men, women and children...”

Her brow furrows. “Are you OK?” She says again.

I say, “No. Im not. I take part in the butchering of families and communities. I buy my coffee and my Guardian from you and heat my house and buy my crap food with the proceeds of my murders.”

And I sob and walk away.
And the train arrives and I get on the train, crying. I have no distracting Guardian; no coffee to give me a distracting focus. I think of the lives I will end or destroy today.

I get off at my station and walk the short journey to my work and I clock in, and go to my machine and load it with wire, start it up and press the button that makes the ball bearings fall into the tray I inspect and pass on to the next guy…

There will never be a Nuremberg for me.