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

Thursday, 18 February 2021

The Mournes, by Helen Waddell

Its my Birthday today. I'm missing Banbridge, The Mournes and friends and family. The Mournes are the mountain range I grew up near, and loved to escape to on bicycle, by car and by foot. 

Helen Waddell was an academic, playwright, poet and novelist who loved Banbridge and the Mournes too. She wrote this poem after the loss of a friend.

There are many people I'd love to be sitting by that winter fire, having a bit of craic. 

The Mournes {by Helen Waddell} 
------------------------------------------------
I shall not go to heaven when I die.
But if they let me be
I think I'll take a road I used to know
That goes by Slieve-na-garagh and the sea.
And all day breasting me the wind will blow,
And I'll hear nothing but the peewit's cry
And the sea talking in the caves below.
I think it will be winter when I die
(For no one from the North could die in spring)
And all the heather will be dead and grey,
And the bog-cotton will have blown away,
And there will be no yellow on the wind.
But I shall smell the peat,
And when it's almost dark I'll set my feet
Where a white track goes glimmering to the hills,
And see, far up, a light
--Would you think Heaven could be so small a thing
As a lit window on the hills at night?--
And come in stumbling from the gloom,
Half-blind, into a firelit room.
Turn, and see you,
And there abide.
If it were true,
And if I thought that they would let me be,
I almost wish it were tonight I died."

Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Culture War

Awful. Dahl really was a nasty wee posh man. Though of course, these views were held by many upper middle class people, and the aristocracy at the time. Other interviews really should be reexamined from our past. I remember people spouting this crap a lot on tv and in long inteviews i read. And these views permeate left and right. 

I once met a northern irish film producer at a party in Glasgow. She said about Northern Ireland at the time (late nineties), "lovely, warm, beautiful people with awful views." I welcomed this view... It helped me understand people I loved. I see this re many people all of the time. I think of what happened here re brexit and what happened on the states re Trump. 

I've met people from all over the world, wonderful, warm people, who have upheld awful, sectarian, shitty views on an 'other' that for some reason they pour unsubstantiated  bile and hate towards, yet have "a xxx friend" (for xxx insert black, jewish, muslim, gay, trans, catholic, protestant, Asian, woman, poor etc etc).

{Article HERE}

Culture wars is the new big THING the political class have siezed upon to crack open solidarity and to pull together groups of people into coalitions of hate, conspiracy and anger (the Scottish attempt seems to centre around Salmond and women haters like Craig Murray plus those who want to in varying degrees cancel Trans people from humanity). The recent most visceral realisation of this pulling together of splinter extremities being of course, the Trumpist horned man Qanon and nazi storming of the Capitol in Washington DC.

Culture wars at present, are massively important and really should be faced down. Boris and his ultra alt tory government have launched kultur wars and will be dog whistling all over the place... The latest one being their attack on Universities and their pretence that "cancel culture" (read "we aint allowed to spit words of hate at jews, blacks, trans or gay people). Their nonsense centring on an imaginary tunnel from Scotland to Northern Ireland is also part of this... Both a distraction from the utter shite bucket they have made of relations in Ireland re the border, and as a "look what the uk could afford... Independent Scotland couldnt (watch how this tunnel never materialises ' because of scottish nationalists, or another source attacking Brit Boris and his fiendishly cunning crew.' ).

Announcements and projects in a culture war really dont have to be factual... They just have to stir emotion and pull in bigotries into the orbit of the cult-warriors.

As soon as you see someone agreeing with this cult-war shit, eg, "there is a conspiracy to bring down this powerful man by women/lgbtiq+++groups /israel/muslims..." etc you've just heard a chihuahua wolf whistle. Culture wars, created by these people, are about pulling people with unsubstantiated views into bigger, alt right groupings. Brexit did it (and, for example, had idiots calling themselves 'lexiteers,' while voting for a massive right wing Brit-nationalist regime and policy). Trump did it. Craig Murray, Wings, Salmond, Cherry etc are doing it (some players may of course not realise they are being played).

Call this shit out. Conspiracy nowadays is no longer "the deep state, are infiltrating the unions," no. Nowadays someone spouting the words "deep state," are more likely to vote against working class interests because they have been convinced they are saving kids, the morality of the country, the left, unity, the union, women in toilets etc etc 

Sectarianism, antisemitism, anti Trans people, anti Black, islamophobia etc all exist left and right. If your ally is a nazi in your particular culture war, you have been Trumped.

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Earworm

As a lefty, I have some views that are seemingly against the lefty grain (and against the inevitable rightward political crawl of a society in which money is always power, and those in the upper classes control the output of the media media, albeit the Islington left, or the Etonian right).

One of these almost unpalatable views has me shunned by left and right alike (and some music lovers ). And yesterday, while teaching in our school "bubble," turned the we'ans against me, as I subjected them , periodically, to my earworm outloud (from beneath my mask). Though it did cause a conversation about what an earworm was , and I learned about the types of songs that get stuck in their heads (mostly computer game tunes).
Yesterday (and today), I had an earworm. An earworm few anticapitalists would dare admit, except me. And the we'ans in the bubble were subjected to it for the five hours they had in class with me. The effect of this earworm almost did to them, what a drunk guy on an overnight ferry to Liverpool from Belfast, did to us in the mid seventies.

My family were on route to Blackpool for a family holiday, and mum and dad had decided to bring us across on the ferry. We didnt have a berth, so we found seats in the bar, and tried to sleep while folk got drunk around us. One guy, all night, sang, "I - put - my Brutus jeans on, I pull my Brutus jeans on..."  He'd fall silent, we'd  all start to doze off and then, "I - put- my Brutus jeans on..." I remember we all laughed for a while, but people got fed up with him and groans and shouts of, "Shut up!" would come from every working class corner of that bar... Communal torture by earworm. 

The we'ans, were subjected to...

"Don't turn around, don't turn around again.
Don't turn around your gypsy heart.
Don't turn around, don't turn around again.
Don't turn around, and don't look back.
Come on now love, don't you look back."

A brilliant song on a superb album, in a string of great albums, from The Unforgettable Fire to Zooropa. 

Look. Bono isn't Morrissey, or Gary Glitter. So don't start.

" Whose gonna ride your wild horses... "

Anti- Capitaliste

I love reading right wing arguments, with left wing people. They say stuff like, "if you are socialist, how come you buy stuff," as if this is very clever. This happened to me once, in real life, (as opposed to stupifying social media) while eating a baguette and drinking a diet coke, outside a café beside the Cathédrale Saint Pierre, in Vannes. I wear it as a pyjama top nowadays, which at 1.37pm, shows how I am spending this Saturday. Anyway, these three guys sitting at another table thought it was profoundly funny that I was drinking a capitalist coke, and eating a baguette I hadn't grown the wheat for myself, processed the flour and baked the bread in a portable anti capitalist oven in my pocket, and was wearing a teeshirt I HAD BOUGHT that illustrated my disgust at a system that systematically creates poverty. Their mind was completely blown when I admitted I that I had, in fact bought the teeshirt and didnt have a portable loom and screen printing frame. They laughed and called me, "Capitaliste!" (they were french).
One of them had a Liverpool top on. I asked him if he played for Liverpool. He laughed. I proceeded to blame him for Liverpool FC's shitty form that year. "Why didn't you stop Chelsea beating you in the FA cup? You being a team member?" They didnt get it. The conversation ended with me shouting, "You let Chelsea walk all over you! You let two goals in! YOU" and them shouting "Capitaliste!" And everyone else enjoyed the sunny day in Vannes.

Saturday, 6 February 2021

Old men no longer...

I remember when Peter Sellers died. I was in Majorca with my family. We were sitting outside a cafe, and I read the news in a British newspaper, which probably meant, because British newspapers came to Mallorca a day late, I found out two days after he died. I remember being saddened by this. I had recently read "Being There." And had watched all of the Pink Panther movies. 
I was 14. Seller's age never really entered my head at the time. He was old to me. 

I'm not sure why this popped in my head... But when I looked up Wikipedia to confirm that this was in July 1980, I realised that I am now nine months older than he was when he died. 

That seems extraordinary. This man who had lived through WW2 and who had had this incredible career and odd, sad, wild life, died at 54. I look at photos of him and really dont think of him as younger than I am now. Come to think of it, the same goes with quite a few people who died younger than me. Jim Morrison, Elvis, Jimmy Hendrix... All seem older, for some reason.

Colbert Comfort

There is very little on British telly I watch nowadays. Even the news, which I find in its want to be "neutral Westminster centric British," is grating (with the exception of Channel Four). I find British comedy now either elitist, stupid or crass. And Scottish telly is as bad. 

{American telly is politically partisan, but the partisanship really is intelligence on one side and Quonservative (Qanon is a conspiracy theory many of Trump's cultists centre on that Fox et al are trying to pull an audience from )

During the recent horned beast of a Trump Show, I found CBS News, CNN International , MSNBC and other American outlets. And in particular, the The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. It ticks a lot of boxes. It is, stylish intelligent satire, gently funny and fun to watch. He likes his guests, and isn't competing with them. Unlike todays British chat shows, the comedy doesn't make you feel uncomfortable (unless you are a right wing, Fox News digesting, AK47, antler wearing Quonservative quonspiracy theorist) and the music is great. The Colbert show house band, Stay Human led by Jon Batiste really is the best chat show band around (and I've gone through the lot...). They play everything beautifully... From Blue Note style Jazz... To sea shanties... And the music guests have given me some new leads on great music. Musically, I have a lot to explore, which really is different from the blandness of Brit-chat, which usually goes for what is being promoted by the large brit-music industry concerns. Blando boogie created by daddies money. 

{House band leader, Jon Batiste

It is odd, and pretty brilliant, that its easy to catch up on decent TV via Youtube. I was an early adopter of Youtube... And I am still surprised as to where it has led us. I haven't adopted TikTok... It really seems like Twitter for the less literate... I'm being  unfair as some people are in it to promote themselves using the language of the auteur aiming at an audience of Dory minded fish. Quick quality. 

And odd that I discovered David Letterman during the first lockdown (in particular, I watched all of the brilliant Andy Kauffman slots and interviews). Letterman was the previous incumbent in The Late Show, and pretty much the inspiration for Jonathon Ross, whose show in the eighties on Channel 4 were decent. I recommend Letterman's more recent long interviews, which can be found on Prime, I think. And he has become a little more political as well.

Watching the most recent episodes over breakfast has become part of my routine, as has watching MSNBC . Its brilliant seeing the view of here from there, in particular the view of Brexit, Scottish independence (Jon Stewart's interview of Nicola Sturgeon is a must see) and of the buffoons controlling the UK. Also a must see is Colbert's interviews of Jacinta Ardern, and his visit to New Zealand.

And of course, Colbert has been brilliant viewing during the Trump Show and the subsequent opening days of the Biden administration. It is partisan, but intelligent, rational and "fair," as opposed to Fox Faux News and its new ultra right wing rivals who are competing for the still fooled Q-Trump viewers.

Of course, ultra left friends will bemoan the liberal intelligensia and establishment credentials of Colbert. But anyone who can say directly to President Bush, by way of a satirical character he played invited to speak at a Whitehouse dinner,-

"I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers, and rubble, and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message: that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound—with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world. -

is alright by me.

Visit Colbert on YouTube HERE


Tuesday, 2 February 2021

2020 Gob Redux...

 I remember reading , quite a few years ago, a long essay in a magazine, by the writer Martin Amis. He was bemoaning his middle aged teeth, and the pains he was going through as they crumbled, and infested and pulsed with pain. Amis went on to have all of his teeth  removed and replaced with drilled and screwed in falsies, and was reportedly paid a million pounds for the story. American, porcelain pearly whites. 

When I read about Amis' troubles in a long form essay, (an essay written before his ultimate surgery), I was a young thing, who had 1970’s teeth, with all of the problems that crunchie bars, a ton of Mairie biscuits and sweet, sweet cereal and fizzy drinks had given me. I had by that time, kind of sorted out my eating into a more healthy regime and thought I could outrun the “middle aged crumbling teeth” thing.


I didn’t. I wrote a few weeks ago about my agonies that kept me up all night in pain I  imagine a medieval torturer full of the Holy Spirit, drink, with a stomach ulcer, a hatred for living things, and the fervour to crack a "witch" would struggle to inflict on a cake hole.  

I've had a lot of work done since those halcyon late 2020 days of pain free gums. Repairs, caps, a triple root canal, fillings and scaffoldings worthy of the awnings and restoration at present concealing Big Ben, all failed last night at around 4pm in the morning as I sat with my old dog, who had been a little distressed at waking up to find noone there. As I sat with him, watching American chat show comedian, jazz fan and all round clever, charming guy, Stephen Colbert peel the orange ex POTUS, I chewed on some dried fruit. And blam. My refurbished molar exploded, the metal core rattling around my bottom teeth and the outer casing of the tooth, split apart, but still rooted in my gum. 

Is this my future? A future in which dried fruit is too tough for my teeth? A future of seering pain, hours on my back, gob gaping, filled full of drilling, heating, blowing, poking metal tools and crumbling, sometimes exploding teeth? 

Even now, many hours later, my mouth isn't fully defrosted, and I am feeling the first signs of the bruising it underwent to save what is left. And I await the next session later in the month staring at the light, mouth full of machinery, screws and chippings, wondering how many American porcelain teeth you can get for the price of a ton of Maire biscuits. 

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

The Covid Comedy Show

After a year of good old classic Brit- Comedy blunders that has meant Northern Ireland has suffered half of the amount of deaths of covid than it did in thirty years of bombs, bullets and mayhem and the UK has suffered more civilian deaths than the whole of ww2, including the London blitz and all of the other cities targeted by the nazis, England is still polling the tories ahead .
Every afternoon, the dark comedy called, "Daily Death Briefing," with comedy duo, Boris and Hancock are still getting all of the chuckles and nods Tony Hancock, Sid James and Kenneth Williams used to get in their half hour.

 Memorable editions like, "Operation last gasp," "The Invisible Mugger," and the classic, retro seventies "racism is ok" edition, "Squash that Sombrero," keep us all laughing while our children, neighbours, parents and grandparents die in their thousands. Labour are of course crap, because after all, entertainment is key. Keep us laughing as we fall over a cliff. Who wants that po faced Starmer, with all of his straight faced delivery of facts and figures and sensible suggestions of lockdowns at the right time? (and the left are prepared to let people die because he's not Corbyn, after all, he would neolib us all, in comparison to the, of course, more acceptable far right-ing Boris is doing). 

Of course, this very English love of Carry On  Deadly Virus, ensures that the rest of the uk is stuck to Boris's Trumpian, murderous smirking, tousled haired "I couldn't care less" pantomime and the death toll will continue to be high. Regardless (or not) of sensible leadership in the devolved Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish administrations and Governments, the comedy cast of Boris , Hancock, Williamson, Raab et al, have their clown oversized shoes on the throat of good management.
Boris: "Let the market decide who lives and dies..."

Voices off: "But think of the polls, Boris!"

Polls: Tories Trump Labour [canned laughter] 

Smirking , tousled Boris: "Let the market decide who lives and dies..."

Voices off: rising deathtoll...

Boris: "What does, Rupert say?"

The Sun: "Fury at Closed Pubs."

Boris' "Let them drink beer!"

Voices off: rising deathtoll...

Boris : "What does The Mail say?" 

The Daily Mail: "Fury That Golf Clubs are Closed!"

Boris : "Let them hit their tiny balls! The public have spoken! Happy Monday! Eat Out to Help Out! Rub Shoulders to be Virulent Day! Go Dominic, go... Drive that virus to the North! The South! Barnard Castle if you must! Give them granny at Christmas! The populist press, with its finger on the pulse have spoken ... The public gets what the public wants... It's not OUR fault they are dying! Everyday rule breakers on the beach, at the airport, on the London Underground, granny carving turkey, are to blame... Not us! 

[Public, 96% of whom have stuck to the inferred rather than enforced rules regardless of the  Sun, Mail, and Boris's Half Hour, laughs... And dies]

Monday, 18 January 2021

My Struggle, by Herr Drumpf

"Dear diary.

You are the most bestest diary in the whole, wide world. Ever. 

E-F-E-R. 

There has never been a bestest diary. 

Anyway... I want to tell you about my struggle. They made up fake news about me. I know, I know. I mean, I was the greatest President that ever was a president. The presidentiest. Never better... So they say... I dont know ... But they say it. 

And they launched the biggest witch hunt in the history of history. Never in history has there been a history as witch hunted as bigly as me. 

Biggest.

 I made deals that created jerbs across amerka. The best deals. And jerbs bigger than jerbs were before. 

Jerby jerbs. 

The biggest. So they say... They do. I don't know.

Diary, biggest diary ever... E-F-E-R. They came after me... Crooked Hilary, slo joe and fake news meejeea cnn. And here I lie, lying here in this jail... The bigliest jail ever. E-F-E-R. Biggest. 

So they say, I dont know...

Im a perfect human specimen. The most perfect. My doctor said he has never seen a more perfect specimen. Messy. 

Here in the jail, Mr Big, he might not say it , but he agrees. I'm his biggest bestest bitch ever. His pussiest pussy. Mr Big's perfect specimen bitch. Or something. Biggliest E-F-E-R. 

So they say. 

I dont know..."

Saturday, 16 January 2021

Belief... Cults... The new dark ages?

The nature of cults. 

I think this Guardian article skirts on as to why people seek meaning in cults and religious belief, and the, Qanon cult. It is definately a good place to start.
Regarding conspiracy beliefs, I'm always drawn back to the labyrinthine thinking of the Branch Davidian 7th Day Adventists, and the Waco seige. During that seige, the FBI brought in experts in this sort of conspiratorial, end times apocalyptic biblical theology, and by actually knowing the language, the world they inherited, they began to make progress in persuading the Davidians that their end times had not come. The FBI, unable to understand this different reality, dismissed the progress , and advanced the torture and eventually the assault that led to so many deaths.

The Davidians and Koresh were castigated by secular society as strange, suicidal idiots. They really weren't. They were victims of society that celebrates mystics and people and systems that constitute all that is not understood by science as a "God." A mystic experience. A divine something that seeks attention, worship, and hides meaning in codes only some, an elite, can decipher. The Branch Davidians, like all religious believers, seek assurance that nothing in the world happens by coincidence. Every nuance of action and text and speech has some place in a world view that seeks meaning. 

Whats more, they create a "they." A group of people who are doing harm to good people and innocents. A "They" that are destroying lives and the world and souls. Only an elite can understand this. Modern conspiracy theory and cult belief has opened up this belonging to an elite who can undersrand the runes, to more people, though there are hierarchies of seeker and leader within these groups. David Koresh "opened the seven seals." Qanon and other cults both political and mystical (and some with both of these traits) have their high priests. 
This isn't  just a phenomena of the industrial capitalist world. Conspiracy theories have been recorded throughout the ancient world, as well as the western medieval and post medieval world. The most obvious being the witch hunts that led to the community lynching and church sanctioned murder of women believed to be casting pagan spells on populations. 
In the ancient world, Christianity - the affirmation of an unquestioning belief in "God" as a passage to ever lasting life, rather than the Greek philosophical schools that sought to question everything in order to properly understand, was seen as a dangerous cult that created groups of dangerously fervent believers who were a threat to civil order. Order was a goal. And the ancient literati and academics who moved from the philosophical schools to Christianity, failed to appreciate two things. One, their belief in writings and signs, would of course create more labyrinthine argument, debate and indeed quandary and two, the philosphical schools were by design, places of dispute and progress. 

Tatian (author of Diatessaron, mid second century) sought order after abandoning his Greek education (in the philosophical schools) and asserted that the order of unquestioning belief (in one unifying God) was superior to 'barbarian philosophy' as Christians 'behave better.' "Wherefore," he warns, "be not led away by the solemn assemblies of philosophers who are no philosophers, who dogmatise one against the other, though each one vents but the crude fancies of the moment." Christians, in contrast, Tatian argued, worship one God and do not dispute amongst themselves. {A New History of Early Christianity, Charles Freeman, p180}. Argument, interrogation of scientific theory and philosophy were "barbaric." (He also held views on how morally terrible the intellectual elite were). 
Drain the swampIntellectuals and political elites are pagans who do us harm, became a familiar theme in the centuries after the interpretive writings were laid down, following the events in the middle east two thousand years ago. "Believers and non believers" became a battleground that in different periods of the past two millenia, was a cauldron of conspiracy against evil and evil doers, usually powerless, people and small communities, (eg jewish pogroms) and women, and at times, against intellectual activity and power structures. 

Second century Christians used to beg to be martyred after they ate the body of Christ and drank his blood. It parted the red sea. It opened up heaven and ever lasting life.  Accounts describe martyrs laughing as nails were driven in or the fire lit beneath them. Christian poet Prudentius reported Lawrence quipping to his excecutioners while being roasted, "This part of my body has been burned long enough. Turn it round and try what your hot god of fire has done." Though these reports, of course were written by Christians urging other christians to do the same, so should be read with caution. Koresh, Aum Shrinrikyo, Heavens Gate, even Jim Jones are more modern versions of this mass hysteria, this devotion. This shit has happened throughout history. Q will lead to more, awful stuff.
Today, the internet rabbit holes "seekers" go down to find meaning... the "research" activity, watching video after video of high priests of conspiracy interpreters and the self congratulating social aspect of "woke-ness" (as opposed to non wokeness and non believers) all come together in a heady cocktail that really can't end well.

  Drain the swamp. Believers and non believers. And attacks on black communities in America, and of course on academia and political philosophy and systems. Qanon has roots in antisemitism, the fake, and launchpad for conspiracy theory that led to the Nazi Holocaust, Protocols of the Elders of Zion is held up as evidence for a world wide jewish elitist plot. This short article gives a background to Qanon theory. 

And the seekers who try to find meaning, just find more rabbitholes, more urgency, and more attacks upon them and imagined victims. 

In todays political landscape, cult behaviour is both left and right wing. Speaking as someone on the left, the "truths", the shibboleths that make up the starting point of  analysis, sometimes recited in the main stream media, can be based on nothing more than the stitching together of unknowns that in the past were weaved to fit in to a world where injustices MUST centre on a person, a party or an event. A kind of thinking that dismisses reality for long held "truths" about the west, the east, capitalism and countries that were in the past seen as anti capitalist. Evidence gathered by professional journalists and academics is dismissed for long held beliefs, and the shibboleth is patched up and forms the basis of further analysis. This can be best seen with some on the left who attack the west regardless of evidence of intent, while almost blindly defending Putin, Assad or Xi. 
Conspiracy and seeking to tie conspiratorial and "belief" threads together is evident across our political world. Huge swathes of populations seek meaning in trying to pull threads of complex data together to form some sort of fabric on which to place their "knowledge." A belief system that explains everything, all existing complex systems, in a oner. 

"Seekers" are not simply defined (class, education, gender etc as well as what floats their boat) and are not "fools." And those they congregate towards; narcissistic, messianic interpreters of runes, texts, and the ether, arent either. All of these people are creating a reality that feels good and is rewarding for those who are active. A community they all crave. 

Qanon is far from finished regarding the damage it will do. In fact, the events on Capitol Hill will be read by them as their first assault on the system that must be destroyed and replaced. 

Philosophy and enlightened thought are only really recovering after the fall of Greek and, Roman philosophy and exploration of science and mathematical theory. Are we entering a new dark ages when enemies will be seen everywhere, lynched or murdered? The next four years of American political development might be the saviour or (temporary?) end of true, free academic and intellectial rigour. It's that serious. 

Saturday, 9 January 2021

Reversing my Unthink

I suppose the analysis of the nature of the banality of "evil," [see, very flawed, article linked below] the banality of political wrongness/lies/deceits and how it spreads through what are now known as bubbles, more than anything, has caused a pause in my political engagement (which in recent times has become more about challenging "unthink" on the left, as people I know and respect trade slogans and shitpile dogma as truth or evidence, or a base for new or continuing analysis). 

I think the case that more than anything that pulled me back, was my own unthinking analysis of Syria, one I looked to some senior figures in the left movement for guidance. A jolt came from a Facebook friend a few years ago, and I suppose that the much, much more minor and insignificant case of the personal attacks on me by people I didnt know and who certainly did not know my views re "Rise" in Scotland (plus lies and deceits I witnessed from people i had hitherto trusted and respected ); the ongoing deceit  re Sheridan etc and my knowledge of social media, and how the msn works (and how it is, as a whole being discredited by right wing forces ) etc have played a part in my "whoa!" moment. 

I think the mass radicalisation of intellectually, educationally (and I mean that in a wider sense than "schooling" Thatcher/Reagan began the mass attack on critical thinking education , and it really has been under attack by populist tv programming and political actors on social media ) and disempowered people is across the left and right. Disempowered, by the way, does not necessarily mean "poor," but can include poor people. Capitalism disempowers most tiers in it's shit cake.

I feel we really, as the left, must ensure we aren't reactionary, nor should we accept slogan as fact. Or dogmatic reasoning as leadership. Or activism as an ends. Or all activism as positive (I watch in horror as a campaign unfolds from left and right against schools , for example. Something I'm sure I'll comment on in the future).

It really is about stripping everything back to asking the question, "how did this analysis take root?" Clinging on to "it came from the west, its bad; challenging Western hegemony is always good," leads to the kind of grudging admiration for the nazis, spiderfascists and conspiracy theorists climbing up the walls of the US Capitol Building, which is I've witnessed from SOME on the left over the past few days here on social media. {Spiderfash

Or an unthinking support for Brexit and its consequences by a small , but vociferous group on the left who have access to the newsstands and media. Or unthinking support for the likes of Chris Williamson, and others, who really have behaved abhorrently. Or unthinking support for the premise that there is no antisemitism on the left when it has been easy to see from way back, as conspiracy theory became canon for some. 

Perhaps this is a personal thing. But I really hope the left can discard the wrong turns it has made, from what I see, from the 1968 re-emergence of a left based on wrong turns in early 20th century left groupings.

Edit: Anyway,  THIS article starts well , but in using Arendt as a kick starter into covid denial, of course, I disagree..The part that prompted these thoughts are thus :

" Upon the Nazis’ rise to power, Hannah Arendt, a Jewish woman who would go on to become a considerable 20th century philosopher, had to flee with her family from her native Germany. 

Once the war was over and some prominent Nazis were brought to justice, Arendt attended the trial in Jerusalem of Adolph Eichmann, the architect of the Holocaust.

The experience left an indelible impression upon her, one that would shape the trajectory of her philosophical thinking.  What she observed was that, much to her surprise, Eichmann wasn’t the incarnation of evil that she expected to encounter.  His actions were monstrous, yes; but he was remarkably ordinary or “banal,” to use Arendt’s term of choice.

What struck Arendt was Eichmann’s “curious, but authentic, inability to think.”

However monstrous the deeds were, the doer was neither monstrous nor demonic, and the only specific characteristic one could detect in his past as well as in his behavior during the trial and the preceding police examination was something entirely negative: it was not stupidity but a curious, quite authentic inability to think.” 

Eichmann didn’t subscribe to any “theory or doctrine,” exhibited no “particularity of wickedness, pathology, or ideological conviction;” his “only personal distinction was a perhaps extraordinary shallowness.”

Note, Arendt did not intend her characterization to be interpreted as commentary upon Eichmann’s IQ.  Nor, for that matter, did she mean to suggest that he was literally incapable of thinking critically.  Rather, her point was that Eichmann showed no will to think beyond the clichés—the memes, bumper sticker slogans, and hashtags—of his day.

Because of his reliance upon “clichés,” “stock phrases,” and “conventional, standardized codes of expression and conduct”—all of which “have the socially recognized function of protecting us against reality,” “against the claim on our thinking attention which all events and facts arouse by virtue of their existence”—numerous “inconsistencies and flagrant contradictions” littered Eichmann’s testimony in court.

Yet he showed no signs of being in the least “bothered” by them.

Upon her experience with Eichmann, Arendt began to revisit an ancient thesis, one taken for granted by earlier generations of philosophers, that between the will to think and moral character there is an inseparable connection.

“Is evil doing, not just the sins of omission but the sins of commission, possible in the absence of not merely ‘base motives’ (as the law calls it) but any motives at all, any particular prompting of interest or volition? Is wickedness, however we may define it, this being ‘determined to prove a villain,’ not a necessary condition for evil-doing?”

Continuing, Arendt writes:

“Could the activity of thinking as such, the habit of examining and reflecting upon whatever happens to come to pass, regardless of specific content and quite independent of results, could this activity be of such a nature that it ‘conditions’ men against evil-doing?”

It is crucial for the reader to recognize that the phenomenon that she witnessed in Eichmann she knew was one that is endemic to human beings generally.

In other words, Arendt knew that there was nothing unique at all about Eichmann.  Quite the contrary: He was ordinary, all too ordinary, to paraphrase Nietzsche.  But this was the problem."

I haven't, beyond the importance of critical l thinking in Education, got any answers. Im working through this, stuff. Your analysis welcome. 


Friday, 8 January 2021

Moomins...

When I was little, in the seventies in Northern Ireland, there were no bookshops anywhere near my house. We had a library, a place of reverence, a place I loved. A place, as a child, that seemed (and was to me) more important than any other aspect of civic life in the province. 


In those days, as a working class boy, my only contact with books and reading were the onerous tasks given in school; prizes given to me by church; mind blowing, valuable but short, comics and the hushed, almost holy citadel of the library, and out of those quattuor libraruea, the local library took me further across landscapes I couldn't have ever imagined existed in the minds of others. It introduced me to people who did extraordinary things; warriors who felled legions of enemies; boys who solved mysteries and travelled the world, and friends who built extraordinary things.


 And in books wrapped in covers illustrated with pictures of creatures so strange, yet so familiar, who were polite, happy, yet some had sadnesses and secrets we found out and others so deep, we knew we would never find out what they were. The Moomins really were something far apart from other books. Serious, frivolous, happy, beautiful, ominous , sad, real. And Moomintroll and his family explained their world better than those  around me could at times, explain the real, odd, secretive, tragic, sad, happy places and events around me in real life.


And Moomintroll felt safe mostly, but also at various times alienated, lonely, afraid but safe with a family who loved him. A world like the real world that no other book quite got to, but so surreal , topsy-turvy and more appealing, mesmerising than any 1950's bike trip with Four posh kids and a dog. 

The Moomins and all who were in that world, were lovely people to be with as a child. 

And I was sad when they left. 


Saturday, 2 January 2021

New Years Day and the radicalism of U2

I play this song every year on New Years day. There is a bit of unlove for U2 on the left I am part of. And with some, serious musicians. U2 fans and detractors, stay with this... 


I spent a lot of time being annoyed with Bono between 2005 until well, I suppose, now. My reasons were because of his interventions in the Scottish G8  at the time (though Geldof's were much worse) and also for finding out his accountants were actively finding ways for U2 plc to avoid tax... So much for poverty intervention. Also, a few years ago he was on Wogan, playing their then new single (which was mince- something about Boots) and he berated an audience member for having the gall not to dance to the bilge he was performing. 

As, I say, bear with me. 

Before I was won over by U2, I was a U2 cynic. I've written elsewhere about the incredible fandom the group built in Ireland and the USA in the early to mid eighties. People I knew took fandom to lengths it really never have went to. I always thought expressions of fandom were weird, twee, to the point that when I once bought a Joy Division teeshirt in the early eighties, i rarely wore it "out," and it lay in my wardrobe for years... A dirty secret. Labels and writing on shirts were a no no for me. 

Fandom went on all around me, but not particularly in my house. My family liked music, but we weren't prone to screaming when singers or bands came on the telly. I took my music very seriously... I was an uneducated, but avid reader of a teenager, and lots of bands seemed to be saying things that were important. For someone who didn't go to university (until much later into my adulthood), and didn't come from a middle class, bookish family (though thanks mum for introducing me to the Library and comics!), the music press, and the music columns in newspapers were a huge part of my education... Springboards to the media, politics, issues.

Like everything in life, this was influenced by many factors. We weren't a religious family, but as a young person and a teenager, I went to church. And I was "Confirmed" into the Anglican Church of Ireland in Tullylish, which to me marked my right to say, "Im not going," every Sunday morning. There is a lot about this that makes me sad, not least it meant one less day I had contact with my Grandparents who lived in the beautiful, ancient, leafy townland of Tullylish. Stretching your teenaged self, rebelling, in retrospect, really was without realising, damaging, at times only to yourself. Anyway, the Anglican Minister at the time, The Rev David Coe, used to encourage me to read at the front of the church, and we went to ecumenical conferences, youth trips and the like. And it was at one of these events, someone from Christian Aid spoke about Aparthied. I immediately signed up to their newsletters, which arrived with regularity, outlining attrocities and the awful injustices in South Africa. And at these events, I learned more about CND than their representation in the media. Rejection of church didn't stop me from embracing CND, and the anti aparthied movements, and I remember as a young teenager sending for a UN report on South Africa. I was sent three reports, one on S. A, one on racism against the native Australian peoples and one on Ireland North and South. I devoured them. And joined CND, Greenpeace and Amnesty International. And as these influences on my politics were taking hold, music seemed to reflect the politics of peace, anti Thatcherism, Anti-aparthied, anti racism etc.

There is a famous line in the comedy series, "The Young Ones" from the time, (TV, alternative comedy and satire at the time was also very much shouting about the awful systems and killings of Thatcherite and Reaganite capitalism, and the awful shit happening in South Africa and in Ireland). "I shall write to the lead singer of Echo and the Bunnymen…" a statement that summed up, I suppose, the po facedness of lots of British Alternative/Indie music at the time. 

{Yesteryear's youth movements that were connected to working class music that had usurped the hippydom of the seventies middle classes

The seriousness, the political importance fans and the bands placed in what they sang about probably was a bit of an open goal for, satirists (Echo and the Bunnymen were not a particularly political band , though years later I did hear of their support for working class causes in Liverpool from a few Militant members and leaders from the time), but what this really signified was young people singing about and highlighting the destruction of their own communities by the awful bomb thrown into their midst by Thatcher and her thugs, who broke it all apart, squeezed as much profit from it and in the process, smashed communities that were glued together hundreds of years ago. In these days of privately educated, middle class stage school british pop stars, try to remember that the eighties were dominated by working class bands who cut their teeth in working class pubs and clubs.  The poshos have taken our media, and our mass cultural expression. 

Any song that protested the awful, unjust things in the world was part of my education that took me away from the blind loyalty to a Kingdom with an unelected Queen, and a government that took our industries and decently paid, unionised work from us. And away from a culture that flew flags celebrating massacres around a dead Empire and cheered tit for tat bombings, murder and mayhem (I'll quickly add, my immediate family were very much against, and cursed the awful thuggery going on around us, but supposedly in our name). 

In 1983 I stretched my legs further into pubs and clubs, and one of those pubs was The Coach Bar. The Coach was one of those, what I now realise was rare, mixing places in Northern Ireland that my town had an abundance of. Another was the Technical College I dossed in for a year, where my best friends were from the "other community." 

My first mixing with catholics had happened years before, when as a child my best friend was the great Micky Neeson, who had taught me what bigotry meant, and so many other things. My second friendship across these barricades that really were only in peoples heads, was with Thomas Moore. "Tam" was a U2 fan. And around us at "The Tech," were Duran Duran fans, Two Tone fans, punk fans, Adam and the Ants fans, etc. I was an anti fan, disparaging them all, expressing my rebellion in my anti fandom of Joy Division, early po faced New Order and focussing on the political messages of various bands and movements rather than the want to join any youth tribe. A cynical fool, really. 

And I remember seeing the "New Years Day," video in The Coach bar, which had embraced the new tech of a video jukebox. The video, the lyrics seemed to be important, as did their horse back flown white flags. And in a majority Unionist town, a video jukebox that played a song by a Dublin band called "Sunday Bloody Sunday," with those word's connotations in recent Northern Ireland and early twentieth century Dublin history, really did seem in some way radical. 

{Found on the rainy winter streets of Belfast, 1984}

Around this time, on either a clothes and record buying trip to Belfast or on my way home from work in the City Centre (winter 1984), I found a cassette album of U2's second album, October on a footpath. I played the thing to death. Bono said of the album in 2005, 

"Influences, primarily Joy Division, Invisible Girls. A great example of how you can write a song and not know what you're writing about. A song called 'Tomorrow' is a detailed account of my mother's funeral. But I had no idea when I was writing it." 

And that sadness, heavy atmosphere really was there and fitted with my internal seriousness (a seriousness I kept well hidden at the weekends and on my nights out!). Lyrics that made me think, and drum laden tracks and muted, echoey guitars, and Bono's voice crying, pleading, and using language bands didn't use. Language of the religion I had rejected. 

{Listen to the beautiful title track HERE

Then came "Pride, in the name of Love." A track with more education attached... And a track that again had me in the local library reading about Martin Luther King after reading brief synopsis' of his life in the music press. The video (there were two), of the band recording in Slane Castle also appealed to my love of history, the old. Buildings seeped with lives and meanings that created the place I lived in, and the echo in the jangly guitar, seemed to merge with the chill of the big historical house and the down at heel charm of Dublin. I bought the album The Unforgettable Fire, which also coincided with my first, eye opening visit to the amazing, beautiful, historical, cosmopolitan (much more than Belfast and Banbridge!) Irish capital. 

{The Slane Castle, Pride in the name of Love video.. The one that hooked me...} 

In 1985 I prepared for my first go at the Cooperation North Maracycle. A cycle from Belfast to Dublin, across an army and police and guerilla army danger zone. A friend, Nigel Kerrigan and I practised around the County Down and County Louth coasts. And we found out that our overnight stay in Dublin (cycling back to Belfast the next day), coincided with U2 playing in the famous, historical Croke Park. We joined thousands of cyclists with varying levels of expertise, and cycled, cheering and waving across the border as if it didn't exist, and, knackered after 103 miles, made our way to our first stadium gig. And what a gig. More than that, I met Thomas Moore and a big contingent from Banbridge on the way out… A mixed crowd (catholic and protestant) wearing U2 bandanas, linking arms and singing. And that image seared itself into my memory. A band singing about peace, and anti racism , and about political ideas that at that time in the twentieth century, in that place, were giving the finger to the fear generated by the politics of division, hate and murder. 

{These four photos are all I can find of the Concert. Pre selfie days. Pre being able to lug a large zoom lense about. And in days when each frame of film cost me money!} 


Other bands brought communities together in Ireland, Stiff Little Fingers, The Pogues (which always surprised me) The Undertones, the wonderful Sinead O'Connor, and others… But none on the same scale as the pomp of, and seemingly ego driven, U2. 

So aye, Bono and U2 have annoyed me with their submersion in the hegemony that brought us awful neoliberalism, a system that had idealists compromising with the worst aspects of American, interventionist war making capitalism, but I always feel that what U2 did for Northern Ireland really over rides their naivety on the global political stage. A naivety I understand completely as of course, we all make political mistakes in trying to make the world a better place. 

If you are playing this piece of pomp stadium rock, I recommend the album version over the single. And I recommend you think about Thomas Moore, a catholic from Northern Ireland, linking arms in 1985 with a knackered protestant, singing "In the name of Love," outside the place where the original Bloody Sunday took place.

Friday, 1 January 2021

Resolutions?

Over the years, I have posted some kind of New, Years resolutions here... More for me, I suppose, because i have felt if I'm public, I'm more likely to change myself in some new, positive way. Last year, I resolved to write on my blog more. Id only posted twice in 2019, so I stuck to that one! 
Last year, New years 2019-20 was a very different one for me. I sat with my dad in Daisy Hill Hospital as he lay in a ward, unconscious. I sat and spoke with a stroke victim in the next bed, and he told me of his family, his son a classical musician and composer who lives on the continent and how he worried about him.
Dad woke up briefly and recognised me, and spoke to me for the first time in days and when he went back to sleep, I felt hopeful for 2020. Dad died, after a fight for life, on 31 January. His death came as a total shock and really has, more than covid, or brexit or any other generally experienced features of 2020, defined that year for me. I'm thankful that on the day he died , he and I spoke. He was happier than he had been, totally lucid and sat and read a paper I bought him. The hours and weeks that followed after we spoke are almost like an awful dream. I still expect to hear him at the end of the phone, telling me off for not phoning often enough.
The world stopped when dad died. Literally. And hasn't really restarted.

I'm not going to make resolutions. My want is to get back to normality... A normalcy that will mean I can visit mum  and sisters and other members of my amazing, positive, valuable family. And spend time in Banbridge , a place I never really left back in 1993 when i came to Scotland. I think 2020 has taught me more about family and the pricelessness of those connections more than any other year, ever.
I'm on week seven of a couch to 10k... And  over the past few two mile runs, although I'll never be able to return to the speed and strength of running i enjoyed in my teens and twenties, I've really enjoyed pounding the streets (rather than the springing, gazelle like glide young people run! ). And I am cycling when i can. If I have a resolution, it is to be able to cycle the 125 miles in a day, to Banbridge next summer (and then back again a few days later). I told my dad I was going to do that, and he was looking forward to it.
And I am determined to try to help to make lives of others better, through political, union and social engagement. 2021 is going to be a bleak year for many families. I hear every few days of job losses, illness, and desperation that really should not exist in this day and age. Poverty that is the result of political decisions by fools and vicious, uncaring, nasty people.
2020 seems to have left with one final, awful, event as it seems, a school friend of mine has passed away. Someone I remember as a smiling, happy, innocent person.
Anyway, let's hope 2021 is a good one for everyone. And let's look after each other as best we can.