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

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Snobbery

I've reached the stage where I don't care about TV, fashion, film, music and many political and  cultural references, every bit as much as I couldn't give a frig about using my knife and fork correctly, years ago. I find those who do care about these things talk in  snobbery infested riddles in order to feel superior (being on the left, the references to left bibles and tracts is at times, over whelming. I read, absorb but never commit to a reference library section of my brain!).
{picture on a wall in an Irish restaurant. I do my very best to be this. And snobbishness goes both ways. Extremes of "authenticity" are present in all classes. Be who you are. And understand why others are who they are... None is more superior than the other.}

And yip, popular culture has its snobs. Every bit as much as high culture does, only with less power and more envy towards those on the ladder above them, kicking down. Equality should be our goal... Not the victory of one set of cultural cues over another. That is sometimes lost in the left. 

Its consciously excluding, and says more about those who do it to feel they are superior to those who don't get the reference. 

"The true snob never rests; there is always a higher goal to attain, and there are, by the same token, always more and more people to look down upon." - Russell Lynes.

I agree with Lynes here, but with the proviso, that those in working and middle class cultural reference hell (because it is a hell always feeling that you must put others down to retain your "superior position") really never get beyond their middle manager-esque, "I know about something you don't" position. And most certainly look like wankers to those outside the cultural bubble they have placed themselves within. They really are the "comic guy" character from the Simpsons, trapped in their own snobbery and ghettoised by their belief their knowledge of popular culture or 19th - early 20th century political tract libraries,  means the world of people around them laughing along at their witty references are truly laughing "along," and not "at," in almost disbelief. 

And their knowledge of a standard English, created for cultural genocide and for a common codified literature across Empire, squashes original thought, like Orwell's Newspeak. How many pedagogists truly understand that? 

I don't believe in any kind of artistic snobbery or musical snobbery. You know, to me, the sexiest and the most spiritual words ever uttered in rock and roll are wop babaloo balop bam boom. - Sinead O'connor... [I add to this, political, telly, film, language and fashion (which should be obvious enough to those who meet me!)] 

I deserted the world and sought solitude because I became tired of rendering courtesy to those multitudes who believe that humility is a sort of weakness, and mercy a kind of cowardice, and snobbery a form of strength. - Khalil Gibran.

I ain't going in to solitude... But just doing the best I can in the ways I've learned how to.

Though self isolation,  social distancing and engagement is difficult when avenues of communication and expression between people are cut off by a hierarchy of culture reference, criticism of speech, grammar and punctuation. 

(By the way, snobbery ISN'T criticising conspiracy theorist references, opinion and media. That's a different thing completely. That is shouting out the fact that peer assessed information, journalism, and data is infinitely superior to self interested liars, cheats, fame seekers and Nazis. Being anti nazi or pro science is NOT snobbery...) 

Am I being an inverted snob in stating this?

Well, I don't begrudge anyone what they enjoy. If people enjoy high art, cool. If people enjoy standard English, knock yourself out. But I can enjoy high cultural reference without discounting mass entertainment or cutting off informal communication.

Atsusnai. 

Youse Ken wit ahm getting at? 

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Where do I go to make a difference?

I wrote this on a twitter thread, as an exercise in trying to think... Vomiting stuff out and trying to see if that helps me come to some sort of conclusion. It is a process that this I suppose, begins. 

I want to help make a difference. 

For years, I saw that as helping lead local political activity through the then groundbreaking, SSP (from 2002-2015). 

I brought together over 1000 activists world wide back in the noughties to fight the spread of fascism in the new virtual 
world. 

We managed to dent the french Front National's election activity in the late noughties, & made headlines across the world. We organised a huge online strike (IBM Italy, that led to the resignation of its CEO); and we raised a lot of money for feminist left groups across the 
world, including RAWA in Afghanistan. 

I helped raise £20000 for Haiti by pulling together folk on the then emergent Twitter platform. 

I was the SSP social media and online coordinator during #indyref and brought hundreds of new members to that party during that time by creating 
a team who represented views across the party. 

I was one of four local Yes organisers working as a team to inform East Dunbartonshire about the myriad of ideas from across that movement. 

I was an organiser locally of the, Radical Independence Campaign and helped organise huge local meetings during &after the referendum from 2011-2018. 

Also locally, we organised minibuses to Faslane & brought musicians & performers to the peace camp, helping reinvigorate it as it reached 30+ years old. And we launched local campaigns that saved schools, bus services, housing etc. 

We also supported actions across Scotland via money, & activity. And recently, I brought together activists who launched a "who is Jo Swinson" campaign that helped oust one of the Tory/Lib Dem's most right wing Ministers (and recent leader of Lib Dems). 

I created @_Ungagged & did my best, alongside some amazing socialists, Anarchists, labourites, communists, Trotskyists, etc to give sensible left voices excluded from polite publication and platforms, a place to share ideas (& we still do). 

Please keep submitting material to Ungagged... It is still a great source for left thought.

Inequality keeps me awake at night. Tory bullying, murderous capitalism, neo imperialism & fascism that permeates our society makes my blood boil.

Have any of these things changed the world? I'm not sure. I feel they have helped change some material circumstances and helped some people in to activism.

But Im at a bit of a standstill.

I'm toying with joining @theSNP
but not sure if it's right for me, as I feel I'd get bogged down in debates with right wingers; conspiracy theorists and people some refer to as "da's" (a kinder label than gammon?). 

I loathe any kind of injustice, and that includes any pretence of democracy when people are playing imperfect systems to their advantage.

I would love to make a difference in Education outside the classroom, as I feel in Scotland, it needs a total redesign (tick boxes, snobbery, middle class assumptions and old fashioned elitism still runs rampant, though voices 
like, @wosdec keep me sane). 

But my inability to refrain from calling out stuff ensures I have no route through management 😂

Anyway, this is me sounding off. I suppose a reflection many are going through during this lockdown period. And one also brought on after my father's death a few weeks ago.

 I'm needing direction. I have ten years left in my working life. I know I need a new direction there. I find the left frustrating, stagnant, and full of conspiracy theory, spite and people who are only too willing to exploit ignorance for the short term gain of their sect rather than build activism and education. 

I want to avoid those draining, pointless debates.

Ideas welcome. Tweets to me re actions in solidarity with others, also welcome.

Solidarity. 

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Grief.

I wrote this on my Facebook page a week ago.

"I've struggled since February. I've felt like someone ill, hurt, and the thoughts, regrets, wheels in my head really don't stop. Ive struggled, tried, to get back "in the game."

I kind of feel foolish now, that I thought I'd be able to go back to some sort of normality a fortnight after dad died. 

The best way I can describe how it's been is like someone wounded trying to stand up, but continually falling to the ground as my legs give way once again.

But today, I've pushed myself up again. I've walked the dog, had breakfast, caught up with the news, washed dishes and I'm about to go out cycling.

I watched or read something in which Michael Rosen drew himself grieving the death of his son. He drew a smiling face... Because that is the face he presented to the world. Here's mine."

Imagine there's no bastards

I grew up in a very divided place. My high school, the "state" school (or protestant school), was not a place I liked to be. I was an A pupil most of the way through, until it mattered (the last year and a half or so), when literally battered, bruised, I gave up on studying and just wanted out of this place I never felt safe in.

The people who kicked, punched and threw me through windows summed up all I grew to hate. They had a way of wearing their school uniform that I made sure I did the opposite of (big knots in ties, big collared top shirt button open, metal tipped brogues, nazi badges, uvf badges - my tight knotted ties were turned around and made skinny, with the fat part tucked into my small collared shirt, top button resolutely closed, soft moccasins or black trainers, a hatred for all paramilitary and  no respect to the point of piss taking of any "protestant" marching, militaryish like organisations like the Orange Order ).

The year following High School and its failures, I went to the local Technical School. The English teacher, who was from across the border--someone foreign and from outside this place I was in that seemed to crush and drain - - was great--she really encouraged my writing, but I was in that kind of teenaged thing where I had no confidence and rejected any enthusiasm for any aspect of me, from adults. She still managed to squeeze A's out of me. 

It was a year of stretching my wings, of discovering the world, dying my hair, experimenting with clothes, drinking, and for the first time in years, not having that awful, physically painful stress that comes with having to turn up to a place where you are going to leave feeling mentally (and at times physically) tortured (a feeling that was to return in many a work place I ended up in). It was, when I look back, a time when I was free. 

One class I went to, in one of those temporary outdoor hut like things that became  permanent classrooms in Thatcher's draining of the things that mattered; was taken by a long haired bloke, who I know went on to work at an outdoor pursuits centre. I really can't remember what his class was. I do remember him being like no other teacher I had had. He was this happy, free, and interesting bloke who seemed to be enthusiastic about what he was teaching and I remember thinking to myself within the framework I had been squeezed into "should he be saying that?"

My classmates were a real mixture. Catholics and prods, and all of the teenaged uniforms were represented, from a ska loving bloke from near Newry, to Shill (that was his nick name- his name was David Topping), a wild guy from Lurgan who rather than being scared of, I got on with really well (he shared a dislike for the poseurs who had been rejected from the Grammar school to join us, and had the same rebellion going on in what he wore, dying his hair and his preference to be playing pool, drinking beer and shouting at the world). Shill died the following year, taking a heart attack while having his appendix removed. 18 years old. 

I remember a guy, who was really just a follower of the poseurs, trying to take the piss out of me. I remember thinking that I was never going to allow anyone to treat me in the way some of the fuckers treated me in the High  School. One of the classes I took was "Surveying." I remember being out on the local hockey club pitch, me and my mate, Thomas (Tam) Moore, and the eejit trying to take the piss in some way. I remember my eclectic dress sense, long overcoats, double breasted denim jacket, punk teeshirts, boxer boots, and my hair dyed burgundy, shaved up the sides, long, bushy, gel Spiked in places on top, was a target. Anyway, I remember summoning up bravado, walking up to this guy who was acting hard, and pushing the surveying pole I was holding into the grass between his feet and levered it up into his balls. I'm not sure what I said to him and his poseur leaders, but I never had any bother with him again. 

And although I had of course heard the song and loved it, and owned a copy (Lennon had died just two years before), I had never actually read the lyrics of the song before. And there they were on the hippys temporary classroom wall, defiantly challenging all around me in this place where religion burned people from their homes, tore people apart, ripped them from life and art was strangled. Reading those lyrics in full and understanding them felt like as much of a revolutionary act as breaking bullies and  sitting beside my best friend of that year, a Catholic. 

"Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too

Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You, you may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You, you may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you will join us
And the world will live as one"
Video HERE

Friday, 3 April 2020

Get Out the Choons

I'm on a Facebook group, where people post music videos, albums and playlists. Please, jump on board HERE.

This is my latest post... 

All Tomorrow's Parties... 

Back in the early eighties, I read, avidly, as if it was the most important thing in the world, the music press, which came in the form of newspaper like publications, giving it a precious gravity, before you read the words.

I had favourite songs, and some bands, and a huge big poster of Debbie Harry on my bedroom wall, wearing a tee-shirt that said, "Andy Warhol's Bad."

I didn't know anyone in my hometown who talked about music, art, or cultural things. I knew people who had favourite bands, and later in the eighties, I found other people who loved innovative music, art, and discussing pretentious, pseudo-intellectual, political, important stuff over litres of booze, and packets of fags, all night.

But, at that time in the early eighties, my guides were the writings of music critics who wrote dense, and absolutely crucial, reviews and views of music that is still important to me. Layers of cultural and political meaning far beyond the original intent were piled on to these pop songs; the semiology of a line, the use of a particular sound, wrapped up in the constructed image of the musicians, analysed, explained and exploded into black and white by writers vomiting their entire rainbow coloured  Collins dictionary on to the page.

And I learned about Warhol, The Factory, The Velvet Underground and that Banana cover, because indie bands, post punk bands, the alternative scene-- all had connections that led back to the stuttering, fey, manufactured Andy. And I loved everything about it.

Living in a Troubles locked down mid-Ulster town, where the most important thing in the world was to fit in, I couldn't. I didn't. I dressed, and acted, in the early to late eighties, at times, relatively outrageously. I had wild hair which I at times dyed, and shaved at the sides of my head and grew into a curly mass, and conditioned with Lenor fabric conditioner. And threw together clothes in combinations that probably reflected the madness within.

But the music of the "alternative scene," as it was known then, screamed, whined, barked, and weaved out of my tape deck and record player.

And The Velvet Underground albums were sought-after, in amazing Belfast record shops and ordered in my Library.

None of my friends "got" them, until eventually a few years later I fell in with other people on the edge. And we'd discuss them, and played them, Bowie, The Doors, Roxy Music, Japan, Joy Division, jazz music, JaMC, long overtures, and lots of sixties pop and psychedelia, into the wee small hours.

Pretentious, moi?

Enjoy.

(click HERE, not the pic) 



Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Cody and Neil... Covid Diaries... 4

On my parents wedding dding anniversary, nd on the lack of ventilators. Click HERE (Not on the picture)