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Whenever a new form of media comes along the early adopters are often naive about what they can and can’t do and are trusting, some might say complacent, about the consequences of ‘putting themselves out there!’  Of course in the early days there is an element of security through obscurity but trends take off and as the money men come in so all profitable angles become important with advertising is one of the most paramount of all.  In the old days marketers had to position their wares based on a large demographic such as people watching a certain television program or reading a certain newspaper, which often encompassed a wide and diverse set of people.  This also cost a lot of money, both to employ people to come up with the campaign and then in order to put the campaign somewhere, the more prominent the more costly.  However the Internet has revolutionised advertising by making ads more readily available and at far lower cost, in fact you could argue it is the democratisation of advertising, after all you receive ads more targeted to things in which you have already actively or passively expressed an interest.  You can even make ads yourself, or show your approval of ads from others.

Facebook has long since been regarded as something of a corporate battleground, we complained about the ads long ago and then complained about the metadata being used to target or attribute to them we bewailed the obvious snooping angles through this data being kept somewhere who knows where and accessible to who knows whom.  Now the reluctant acceptance of the widespread of data and personal information is almost complete, ‘we may not like it but after all what are we going to do?’  Today if you are not careful not only can you be traced via backdoor means but by the very open actions of your own friends and often you yourself.  What is worse is that you may have put your date of birth, phone number, email address, where you work, where you used to work and where you went to school (often used as a security question).  You may even have befriended your family (Mother’s maiden name very often used as a security question) and/or told people about your pet (name often used as a security question).  In addition to this you may have linked your twitter account, your linkedn account and used your Facebook account to log into all sorts of services. Did you turn off friends tagging you in their pictures or status updates, did you stop people tagging you in pictures that reveal where you were and when or with whom, or worse still where you might be and when?  What is on your public profile, visible to the whole world?  But this entry is not directly about Facebook and your personal security, this is about what you actively do believing you are acting for the right reasons and the consequences that these actions may increasingly have as a result of a new culture in pernicious advertising.

The recent furore surrounding the Emma Watson and 4Chan affair is a high profile case in point.  Long before I knew anything of the matter in origin I had seen innumerable posts decrying the actions of one party, expressing outrage that Emma Watson’s views should have caused such a disgraceful backlash and soundly lambasting the supposed perpetrator who appeared to be acting in some form of both spite and blackmail.  The ‘one party’ attacked was in fact a bulletin board community, thus it is rather like attacking Facebook for a user threatening to do something that isn’t illegal, good luck with that.  Whatever one may think of online communities, bulletin boards, dark internet etc. the fact is that it has hirthto been largely under the radar of the corporates.  This is clearly all about to change.

In order to infiltrate the new potential user base such things offer new strategies must be adopted, new ways to get information out there quickly and build user profiles in order to do so quicker still.  The traditional media remains quite passive in that it requires people specifically going to it and therefore are likely to be stored in the system somewhere already.  The new generation are more savvy and obtain and share their information and pursuits in different ways however some of those more prominent have already started to become more mainstream, the success of sites such as 38 Degrees and Avaaz has already been replicated by many of the international charities in order to harness armchair people power to promote and support their causes, this has shown a method of campaign proliferation that is far more active like a sort of idea crowd-surfing.  What this has shown a great deal of the time is that nothing spreads more like wildfire than moral outrage.  Indeed the speed with which some information goes around it makes Chinese Whispers look like the best way to obtain your news.  The trouble with this is that as with Chinese Whispers it is very difficult to tell what has been conflated/misinterpreted/misheard/reworded where and by whom and even were you to be able to do so by the time you had got to the bottom of it the message would have gone several stages further and your attempts to correct it would no longer be valid because they would not in effect have any relevance to what the message at that point was.  It would be rather like saying that homo erectus would actually have been better off with a tail after all.

The Emma Watson affair has made what would otherwise be a low-level exposure bulletin board very prominent and in a negative light, it remains to be seen what reach this will have for all associated with it but certainly it will be being trawled for information about its users and what they might be up to as we speak.  It has brought forward what appears on the surface to be a fictitious marketing company, this will only further increase speculation and keep public focus that little bit longer than if people were to really find out what or who was behind it all no matter how big or small they might have been.  Finally the only exposure that has actually happened has been that Emma Watson’s speech on feminism and equality has come to greater attention than i otherwise might have done which is a consolation.  Whether this was in any way intended (has everyone assumed automatically it wasn’t?) but it is something upon which to feel all was not entirely negative and assuages some people as to their haste to condemn as they will be able to cast their opinions over the very cause and effect of the whole affair and what it says about us as a society – herewith Exhibit A!

However it is not by any means an isolated example, nor is it the only method of publicising that which might otherwise be seen less favourably or be more obscure.  There are more forces than corporate money men involved.  The Emma Watson affair is my first conscious view of the use of people’s opposition to something to distribute widely but the use of people’s wish to affirm has been around for a while.

There has been a spate of seemingly uncontentious posts by a far-right group in England called Britain First (the clue is somewhat in the name really isn’t it?!) which advocates a number of singularly unpleasant policies and generally seeks to propagate them in an inflammatory manner such as turning up at mosques and holding hostile protests against Islam about which they appear to know very little and declaiming Christianity about which they appear to know only marginally more.  This is not anything especially new for the far-right and were that merely the extent of their action they would be marginalised severely by the fact that much of Britain’s mainstream political parties espouse the sort of nationalism that in the 1970s would have represented that of derided extremists the National Front, then seen as a group of fascist skinheads and thugs.  Fascists no longer wear the same uniform as one another and have blended far more into the mainstream political landscape across Europe as a whole and their appeal is broadening.  What Britain First have either cleverly or inadvertently done is to promulgate their existence with what look like innocuous positive affirmations such as supporting troops abroad, using the poppy symbol synonymous with the Royal British Legion and World War veterans (sad irony to have a fascist, nationalist party use a symbol for those who fought to oppose fascism and nationalism), even down to opposing animal rights abuses.  All the sorts of things that people might say “Who could possibly be against that…?”  Precisely, so why is there the need to share it?  Is it perhaps because to not do so implies you might be or be a supporter of “them [insert demon of the week here].”  Because really the implied suffix of the “Who could be against that...” question is “…unless you are one of them [insert aforementioned demon].”  And it is this that makes people share it in an effort to ensure no-one thinks that they might be one of “them.” (not that I’ve anything against “them” you understand, some of my friends are “them…!”)

One of Britain First’s particularly loathsome but widely-publicised efforts was to commandeer the death of soldier Lee Rigby who was murdered in the street in South East London by religious extremists.  Britain First used this event to their own islamophobic ends until Lee Rigby’s mother, Lyn complained publicly saying that the party did not represent her son’s views in the slightest and that he would and she was appalled by the way his cause had been hijacked.

“Well yet again can anymore heartbreak be thrown at me and my family, so heartbroken tonight. Electoral commission phoned saying that a party in Wales has stood for election in the European parliament named Britain First using Lee’s name to promote their party and some fucker from the commission allowed it to go through but [they] cannot take any action till after the election which is held on my sons anniversary of his murder. Their views are not what Lee believed in and has no support from the family. Their will be a family apology from the electoral commission but cannot be made public till after 22nd of May. Lee’s legacy will live on through Team Lee United Forces and all the good I hope to achieve xxxx”

By this time though the damage had been largely done as the phrase “Remember Lee Rigby” had already been used by Britain First as part of their entry on the Election ballot paper and the party was associated with what would be seen as positive enforcement of British values and memory of a soldier murdered.  No-one remembers the Electoral Commission’s apology, no-one remembers the investigation carried out by the Speaker of the Houses Of Parliament who presides over the Commission, nor whether such an investigation even took place.  They don’t even necessarily remember all the details of the situation but it started the creeping process of ‘normalising’ Britain First so they could claim to be ‘patriots’ which is a common name extreme nationalists use for themselves.

I have heard all too often the defence of “I would never have shared it if I had known who it was really from...” or “I know ‘person x’ and they would never have knowingly passed on something from ‘nasty group y.’” It is worth looking closer at the Britain First posts where very often there remains an undercurrent of racism and bigotry, the troops abroad, the animal rights abuses often being linked to the practice of halal butchery the Lee Rigby campaign and it’s demonising certain parts of the population.

There is the inevitable more blatant fascist post such as the one claiming asylum seekers and illegal immigrants were being given £29,000 in benefits and cutting snippets from the Daily Mail (always a sure sign of bigotry).  Many people will express shock and outrage, especially when it is put in the context of a paragraph stating that a pensioner gets around £6000 a year (a figure which lamentably is near enough correct).  If one stops to question at all then you can pick this argument apart quite easily.  Illegal immigrants get no benefit at all, they are illegal!  The Conservative government benefit cap is £26,000, this is the very maximum amount of money any household can have and that is subject to some fairly draconian methods of assessment so I am yet to come across anyone getting anywhere near that amount.  I have come across a fair few getting £4ooo ps though.  Anyway you get the picture.  Certainly some of the people sharing such posts are bigoted racists, but Britain First has 300,000 likes on its Facebook page are these all racist bigots or are many misguided and duped?

In the past it was just sometimes a question of memes, chain messages, spam that you may be inadvertently passing on, now it is more insidious and perhaps only viral marketing at best.  The other argument commonly used, indeed sometimes with the best intentions and even on occasions with results is the “I didn’t want to take the chance...” gambit.  This in its common form applies to something of abhorrence to people that has some degree of urgency in action required and people think it is better to ensure it is widespread in order to avoid the chance being lost and action (not) occurring.  However if taken to its lowest point it can be that which leads to the point of forwarding those chain emails that say bad luck will befall you if you do not or that some multinational company will pay you in the form of goods/services or hard cash if you tell all your friends about the scheme by sending this email to everyone in your address book.

Caveat Poster, if something seems far-fetched it probably is, if something is asking you to sign up to something think whether or not you would do so in the street.  If someone is asking you to share an opinion they have ask yourself if you’d let them stand up in court on your behalf, check the provenance of sources and one easy way to validate things is to run it through the hoaxkill type sites first, very often you will find that the tortured dog or 82 year old lady or homeless child is either something that never happened, or did so 10 years ago.

The trouble is that the advertisers already have you, because where do you draw the line, do you risk what you see as something bad happening by not reposting, retweeting, sharing, liking, tagging even if you haven’t had the chance to check its validity?  Or do you think that it shouldn’t do any great harm really and if it’s advertisers then they’re all bastards and something should be done about them, scum of the Earth etc. etc…?  Granted whilst it may not be as malign as the supposed inheritance you have from a fictitious relative in Africa but you are passing on something as if you had sneezed and then shaken hands with someone without even wiping.  Think of that next time you open a toilet door as well!

All that Twitter’s Is Not Necessarily Gold!

Song Of The Day ~ The Winners – Freedom

I think it hard to imagine there is anyone with access to global media who does not know of, or probably have a view on, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  Many have expressed their opinions whilst the silence from others has spoken volumes in itself.  Interestingly though when certain high profile people have spoken out in favour of the Palestinians they have been leapt upon and had the publicists in apoplexy whilst those of the pro-Zionist lobby seem able to express with relatively minor dissent.  This is very common practice, the Zionist lobby has long since held the power and not been afraid to wield, it it is not that long ago since my union were threatened with legal action by a powerful conglomerate in the US if they were to decide boycott Israeli universities in protest at the conflict.  If they were to decide to mind, not do it, no the censure came at the point where a policy would have been discussed and was to be agreed on. The debate had then to be that in theory were we able to find a method by which we could do so without punitive court costs would we do so, the vote was overwhelmingly in favour.  I suspect in no small part down to the moral outrage people felt at being told what they were or were not allowed to decide on before they’d had a chance to decide it.  Later pro-Zionist blogs came out naming and seeking to shame many of the people speaking in favour of the boycott, common practice has been to cite anti-semitism whenever someone expresses a view that is at odds with the extremely conservative Israeli state.  Anti-semitism has been a brush used for much tarring, often unfairly, in instances such as these but it is a useful way of not listening to any of the arguments propagated, it is the slightly more erudite version of “la la la, I can’t hear you,” I stress the word slightly!

Israel and its Zionist sympathisers principle weapon used with profligacy against the protesters and detractors alike has a chillingly macabre irony  as if somehow the reason for protesting against war crimes and butchery is somehow only related to the fact that it is jews who are carrying them out in this instance.  This is a crassness of such magnitude that perhaps its ability to exist and continue is merely based on a collective consciousness that finds it too incredulous to see on the radar.  In actual fact this method of dismissal causes far more harm to the Jewish community because it makes the actions of the Israeli government synonymous with a much wider and more diversely opinionated people whose link is faith and not political stance.  A way of radicalising that has been used many times before is to use the actions of a distant minority to justify outrages against others more locally, sweeping generalisations etc. The Jews themselves have been the victims of this before and not just once, now however it is a state that is claiming to stand in their name that is doing the very same thing and more of them must, for the sake of their wider community, disassociate from it or risk the continued sweep of outrage pervading countries across the globe and widening the violence as has already been happening.

The argument that Israel has a perfect right to defend itself in the face of the barrage of Hamas attacks is the equivalent of saying that a tank has the right to fire its shell at a child who is pelting it with a pea shooter.  This may sound at first flippant but this is the gulf between the hardware available to the Palestinians as opposed to that available to Israel.  Indeed would anyone dispute the prudence of guerrilla warfare when in the face of a superior armoured force, it would be ironic for the Americans to do so given the nature of their independence as won from Britain by just such a tactic.  Plucky freedom fighters and resistance heroes or insidious terrorists?  Israel has the ability to bombard an entire state the way the Palestinians have the ability to bombard a building, the difference therefore is to count the dead and from which areas they come.  We are not seeing children constantly being pulled out of Israeli buildings, the civilian death toll is almost exclusively on the one side as planes used for carpet bombing are a great deal less discriminatory than RPGs.  We have seen the tunnels used to get into Israeli areas by Palestinian fighters, we have seen, though with less expressed outrage the tanks and fighter jets used to get into Palestinian areas.

Israel claims that more than 2,800 rockets have been fired by Hamas from Gaza into Israel but that most have been intercepted by their “Iron Dome” defence – the Palestinian civilians have no such defence against the Israeli rockets and their air strikes and Gaza is being systematically razed to the ground.  World focus however has turned to the threat of ISIS, another nasty set of Islamic baddies almost conveniently thrust under our noses as if to show us who the real enemy are.  I will not go into the Syria conflict right now, I have given some of my opinions before in 2005, 2012 and there will be another post in due course.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library the death toll on both sides since 2000 numbers 1,327 Israeli dead (11,135 wounded) and 9,515 Palestinian dead (19,011 wounded).  According to NGOs and the UN over 80% of the 1,400 Palestinian casualties in Gaza in 2014 are civilians whilst 56 soldiers and 3 civilians have been killed on the Israeli side this year.  Whenever Israel starts any major offensive it is the Palestinian civilians who bear the brunt of it.

To subject Gaza to such systematic atrocity is also enormously stupid, if indeed one is looking at any form of lasting peace being the endgame.  The demolition of the structure necessary for forming a civilised state means the people in that state have nothing left to lose, they might just as well fight against the oppressor because it is a cause and they have little else left to believe in, or live in.  This is a very easy situation for Hamas to thrive in.  If Israel were to assist the Palestinians in building schools, nurseries, universities, utility distribution it would in turn fuel the moderates and their cause, it would create a new generation who would not have the reason to hate the Israeli state and would see them far more as a country with whom they cooperate even if they do not always agree.  Would it happen overnight, no of course not but then armed conflict isn’t exactly going to come to an end any time soon.  So the question is really one of what are people going to be dying for really isn’t it?

Perhaps a glance at the Irish situation may yield some comparison of how a diplomatic solution, whilst less than perfect, can be managed in a way where people are not dying in huge numbers and the extremists have been driven out of the mainstream and marginalised to the point of almost universal condemnation.  During the 1980s in Britain a ruthless Conservative government who had no intention of listening to its own people met the Irish republican dissidents with soldiers, water cannon, plastic bullets and guard posts everywhere, they also assisted loyalist paramilitaries to carry out sporadic attacks on Republican areas and civilians.  The IRA responded with bombs and guerrilla tactics, many of which were targeted at causing civilians damage but a large majority were phoned in with warnings to the police to avoid casualties.  Irrespective of who you may feel was right in the Irish troubles what is not open to question is that children lost parents and parents lost children on both sides of the sea and political divide.  The violence fuelled those who said you could not negotiate, the British government flatly refused to sit with Sinn Féin and attempt to reach any form of compromise, so people continued to die, including their own.  When governments did seek to meet and negotiate it began to give weight to the arguments of those who said that there was a way that did not involve killing and that it should be investigated.  When it was finally investigated a cautious truce was established, which turned into the wholesale decommissioning of weapons once the Good Friday Agreement had been signed up to by both parties, principally steered by the more moderate parities the SDLP on the Republican side and the UUP on the loyalist.  The dissident republicans and loyalists that remain armed are now marginalised to near extinction, their actions can promote violence and cause harm but they will not have the support of communities any more, they will not be sheltered and protected by communities who feel wrong, aggrieved and let down by the state supposed to look after them.  Do Irish republicans everywhere suddenly feel the matter is solved and that part of Ulster should still be ruled by the British, no, but people are no longer dying for that cause, just arguing vehemently over it in Parliaments, Councils, pubs and clubs.

That it is Israel carrying out these war crimes, for that is surely what they are – no less than Nixon and Kissinger in the Far East, is a hideous irony and not one lost on many people, in fact Israel is perhaps one of the only Western-allied nations where such oppression and perpetrations would be tolerated.  (aside from the oil-producing nations of course, no Arab Spring in Bahrain, no that is not the uprising you are looking for!)  Look at some of the Zionist press and see the rhetoric, the like of which was very evident in certain European countries in the 1930s.  Yes I used that analogy and having seen the justification of violence I use it very specifically because the parallels are extremely similar and therefore a valid comparison, I do not do so purely for effect for it should not need it.

Let us not forget that although the military conflict is taking place between Israel and the Gaza area of the Palestinian territories the Israeli machine acts illegally in the West Bank with settlements, Benjamin Netayahu continues to sanction and sign off more settlements to add to the existing ones, the Gollan Heights is particularly fashionable at the moment.  Whilst Israel bewails the Palestinian’s failure to live up to parts of any agreement so Neyanyahu in June authorised 1,500 new Israeli settlements in the occupied land.  This is nothing less than a creeping putsch designed to so entrench Israeli settlers as to make them more and more difficult to remove and thus the land less likely to be returned.  Under Section of the Geneva Convention “the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own population into the territory it occupies.” the international community almost in its entirety has condemned Israeli settlements as illegal occupation.  Israel contends that the territories it has occupied since the Six Day War do not constitute part of the Geneva Convention.

Votes in the UN have resulted in on one occasion condemnation by 158 nations out of 166 and then 160 out of 171 the countries voting against either directly or by abstentions are the usual suspects, the Western colonial powers such as the US, unsurprisingly along with their acolytes such as the Marshall Islands and Palau and the odd other country that seeks to curry favour with the giant and, more recently, by stealth the conservative Australian government.  It is difficult to see another situation where the views of the United Nations Security Council, United Nations General Assembly, International Court Of Justice, International Red Cross and the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention could be so flagrantly disregarded.  Given that the United States and its allies have used the non-compliance or flouting of a single UN Resolution, such as 1441, as a pretext for war it is interesting (though not surprising) that the international bodies should be cast aside in the case of Israel.

In fact there is evidence that the Israeli people do not agree wholeheartedly with their government’s actions. In 2003 76% of Israelis polled by Dahaf, a leading Israeli public opinion research firm, supported a two state solution and the return of sovereignty of Palestinian areas such as East Jerusalem.  Rather like the Irish situation most of the actual citizens of the country do not sanction slaughter and want to be able to live in peace and without fear, for either side to claim that by bombing it is trying to achieve that is nonsense but this is not a chicken and egg situation this is a position where an imperialist state is capitalising on the last guilt generation to which it has access to exploit in order to expand its borders and maintain its disproportionate influence.  Palestine is simply not large, enough, not equipped enough, not molised enough to constitute anything more than a pretext for Israeli military action.  Were you truly worried about you borders and all the actions why would you continue to be building more and more houses further and further out into “enemy” territory?  Would that not be a singular failure to look after your citizens?

Israel is at present a malignant conquering power, this is not because the people running it are Jews it is because they are arseholes and that trait runs throughout any section of humankind without exception.  It does not have to be so, a peace can be found if all parties truly want it, the Palestinian people have everything to gain by peace and nothing to lose so why would they be the ones truly standing in the way?  When the US wanted to broker peace in Ireland they did not go in merely slagging off one side because there was a desire for peace from the Irish community in the US and all sections of the Irish lobby.  So go do your research and make up your own mind who stands to gain more from the conflict continuing…

Song Of The Day ~ The The – Armageddon Days Are Here Again (the lyrics just as apposite as they were 20 years ago)

It’s been a bit of a shit time all in all Chez Baron and there are political rumblings currently in draft at the current atrocities going on in the Middle East and the media shutouts around the world.  However in an effort to raise spirits a little before wading back into the genocidal mire I decided to have a look to see if there had been any other uncovering of some of the weird and wonderful album covers such as I had milked for some mileage some time ago.

Lo and behold:

[Start here for a recap of Volumes 1 – 5 if you wish].

Alice In Wonderland

 

The Lyn Murray Singers And Orchestra – Alice In Wonderland

Well this is a good place to start – I mean what the hell is going on, there’s no doubt that the Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit are planning something in that teapot and it looks like Alice knows exactly what it is she’d better hope they are just Jihadists wanting her as a hostage!

 

GentlemenFour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gentlemen Four – We’ll Be Seeing You

Outsourcing really is de rigeur these days and Death has got this small firm to take over the running of things for him whilst he takes it easy for a while.  However unlike a great deal of outsourcing companies who are just in it to provide as shite a service for as much money as they can glean it looks rather like the gentlemen here will pursue their work with some zeal!

 

strip to hits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Difficult-To-Strip-To-Hits

Yep I have to say this one may well be right on the button I think I can state with some impunity that stripping was not on the mind of the Bee Gees when they wrote ‘New York Mining Disaster 1941’ and ‘You’re Having My Baby’ really is going to be quite a passion killer, though I think you could work with ‘The Imperial March’ and if you can’t get double entendre mileage out of ‘Born Free’ then you really aren’t trying!

 

heino-likes-poodles-album-cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heino

Heino is back, you knew he would be, remember him, of course you do, he’s been haunting your dreams hasn’t he?!  However this is the new smilier Heino, he seems happier now that he has successfully bumped off his mother though it looks as if he lost his right arm in the process and was forced to replace it with that of a chair.  I still don’t want him round for dinner that smile suggests that he isn’t stopping just with mother and that he has merely obtained a darker pair of glasses as a better disguise.

 

McdonaldConfidence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The McDonald Sisters – I’ve Got Confidence

And I’ve got my doors locked and the police on standby!

 

wayne miami

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wayne Cochran –  Goin’ Back To Miami

Seriously Wayne really don’t do that, the place has changed man, it’s not your kind of town anymore they won’t understand your brand of sartorial expression, they’ll string you up, or worse they’ll douse your hair!

 

samsacks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sam Sacks – Sing It Again, Sam!

I am prepared to wager good money that ‘inimitable’ is not the first adjective that would come to mind when listening to Sam’s probably unique butchering of your favourite hits.

 

whatsnext375

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Foster Edwards Orchestra – What’s Next?

Ok you got me I cannot begin to imagine the answer, trouble is I’m really not sure I even want to know, a leopard on bass, wildebeest on rhythm guitar, it surely can’t end well!

 

farta

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Børud-Gjengen – I Farta

Most people at least try to keep it to themselves, is the older boy a bully pushing the small kid toward the stench in an attempt to woo the flatulent girl or is he trying some sort of corking arrangement on the stinky little toad?

 

codymatheson

Cody Matheson – Can I Borrow Another Feelin’?

Look familiar? No, Cody hasn’t weathered very well has he?!  After his lengthy stay in the penitentiary Cody came out a little more savvy, ditching the Village People moustache and growing the mullet to end all mullets.  Note he is still using the same MO to try to come in to your home, you should still keep the doors locked and well away from the windows!

 

bronson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Twas The Night Before Bronson

Indeed, the night before Santa Bronson came in after a burglar and shot your dog, the tree and one of the kids.  Merry Christmas!

Song Of The Day ~ Ultimate Painting – Ultimate Painting

 

 

 

I have scanned the polling card on election day many times before and been saddened and sometimes angry at what I have seen that which serves only to greater highlight the democratic deficit.  In turn this fuels the need in my mind to break down some of this over-federalisation in order to put back some actual stake for people and their representatives in the affairs at a level that affects them day to day, rather than a succession of wooly contexts used by populists and demagogues whose wish is only to feather their own nests with a cushy number becoming ever more and more out of touch with those whom they are supposed to represent.

As regards the anti-federalist side of things I suppose I should be careful what I wish for really shouldn’t I?  This election card is awash with those who wish to decentralise from the European superstate and wrest back control of government on a more local level.  So, is this the great coming of Anarchism, is it the workers taking control of the means of production, is it the cohesion of people realising that they need control over what affects them and their families all the time?  No it is not, indeed it is anything but.  This is good old-fashioned racist, xenophobic, nimbyist, ‘I’m alright, Jack’, selfish, protectionist, money-orientated, contemptible BULLSHIT!  Personally I find it morally repugnant, as despicable as offensive and on a grand scale it seems to explain the root of where all the principle global problems emanate but this is not an election manifesto on behalf of the “Let’s Start Looking More At What We Ourselves Can Do Positively For Our Society And Environment And Less About What The Nasty People Who Look/Act/Sound/Appear Different From Us Are Doing: According To Those People Who Don’t Like Them And Make Shit Up To Justify Their Claims Which Are Motivated By Self-serving Greed” Party.  (Doesn’t trip off the tongue really does it?!  I’ve long history of names being too long for forms this is just another example of text-based discrimination where the name I want to put down will not fit in the box in which it is supposed to!)

Every country has benefitted from immigration just as it has given benefit to other countries by emigration, think of it this way how often when you are stuck on a sticky problem does a person with a different way of looking at things bring new impetus just by having an experience different from your own very often having things that are not more complicated just different?  Many hands make light work after all.  A-ha shouts the bigot but too many cooks spoil the broth but you will find there are more cliches about togetherness than there are about individualism and there is good reason for this namely that humans, biologically are not solitary animals, neither do they stay in the one conglomerate block for life again with good biological reasons not to do so.

The human race itself survives on movement in order to properly proliferate, it is in fact a genetic abomination to limit the gene pool because to go down that road to its furthest extent leads to incest.  Therefore by extension the widening of the gene pool creates as diverse a society as possible in doing so utilising every available quality for evolutionary efficiency, which is paramount.  This is not to say that things which are not biologically efficient are per se wrong or not natural, there are many examples across species and genii but there must be a majority of overall biological efficiency or the race is likely to wane rather than prosper.

Let us therefore talk about what is really all behind this, it is a nasty insidious racism and the mood across the Western World right now is one we have encountered before with catastrophic and genocidal consequences.  It is all too easy to think that this is nothing like the 1930s, to have a presumption that society is more civilised now – it won’t surprise many I’m sure to know that this is just what was thought in the 30s too.  Let us not forget that the National Socialist German Workers Party spread its net widely in order to collate votes from left and right, indeed there are many who still think because the word “socialist” was in the Nazis party name that this made them left-wing, but these people are idiots and should be pointed to and laughed at!

To put the cat slightly amongst the pigeons though the 1930s was at least consistent in its racism.  The Fascists shipped out rich and poor in an ethnic cleansing of very specific sections of society, merely stripping all down to the same bare bones, whilst these days if you have money then you may buy yourself immunity or even passage of legitimate immigration (In Britain currently there is no plan to alter the visa that an be obtained if the applicant has £1m to invest).  In these modern days society does not have ‘indulgences’ to absolve you from your wrongdoings in the eyes of the church, it has indulgence by the rich for the rich to absolve themselves from the responsibilities to, or restrictions of society around them.

The British National Party are an objectionable band of oldschool bigoted thugs.  It would be easy to try to dismiss them in this regard and think of them as in the 1970s when they were the National Front and scorned by most in society for whom memories of the blackshirts were all too prevalent.  However the BNP are all too emblematic of the very way this sort of right-wing hegemony has taken hold.  It isn’t so long ago that it was seen as shocking that they even were given a slot on TV for a Party Political Broadcast let alone any genuine exposure on things that mattered. Now it is seen almost as ‘normal’ that a representative is called to comment or even given platform on national debates.

In general though the BNP’s appeal remains anchored around the disenfranchised white working class male, those who before might have been seen to be usually core Labour Party and Trade Union movement supporters.  The Trade Union movement has long since been unfairly discredited on the political stage, seen as self-serving and obdurate, something perhaps people might like to reflect on as they enjoy their weekend! (However in the UK there are still more than 6 million trade union members which represents almost the entire national votes for the Liberal Democrats and more than half that of the total Conservative vote in the election in 2010).  The BNP has picked up the slack in this area in particular amongst the younger generation who do not have the knowledge of trade unionism as a force that their (grand)parents would have, thus its politics have sought to simply blame someone else for the disenfranchisement of its members, something of easy populist appeal.  The BNP still represent something less palatable for the Middle Classes who tend to see the BNP as far more associated with the blunter end of fascism though there were signs of this slowly changing as the BNP increased its vote not just in traditional working class areas.

It is clearly on the back of this trend that we now have the UK Independence Party.  Where the Scottish Nationalists and the Welsh Nationalists are more geared to the left and looking at a degree of social democracy and [hushed tones] the odd flirt with mild Socialism the UK Independence Party are fervently right-wing and far from being a complete anti-federailst party they are more that of separatism and self-interest.  UKIP are headed up by a former stockbroker and their representatives have been causing a great deal of controversy, one of their Members of the European Parliament, Godfrey Bloom, has been especially unpleasant and has made comments such as Britain should not send aid to “bongo bongo land” because the recipients spent the money on “Ray-Ban sunglasses, apartments in Paris, Ferraris and all the rest of it”. He was heard shouting “this room is full of sluts” at a London event about increasing the number of women in politics. In December 2013 a UKIP candidate was suspended over suggestions that compulsory abortion should be considered for foetuses with Down’s syndrome or spina bifid a referring to the termination of babies as part of potential NHS cost-cutting measures. If born these would become “a burden on the state as well as on the family”.

But it is one thing to besmirch the representatives of the party for things they have purported to say but it is quite another to examine the party’s standpoint and those who support it.  Indeed according to a piece of research conducted Dr Matt Wall, lecturer in politics at Swansea University, the broader views outside the Europhobic and anti-immigration tenets of those who say they support UKIP such as taxation and same sex marriage are considerately more disparate, which continues to bolster the notion that the vote is a protest one.   This is precisely the reason UKIP tends to steer away from questions that do not involve anything to do with Johnny Foreigner and his control of, or presence in, the UK.  To engage in these debates would highlight the difference and potentially less palatable policies that many prospective voters may

• TAX: UKIP favours a flat tax – a single combined rate of income tax and national insurance paid by all workers. claiming this would allow people to keep more of the money they have earned. They are yet to decide what rate it would be.  Their claims that this would lead to a smaller state being able to provide for the poorest seem at best shaky since it is also their plan to cut public spending by £77bn
• EDUCATION: UKIP backs selection by ability and would encourage the creation of new grammar schools.

• ENERGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE: UKIP is sceptical about the existence of man-made climate change and would scrap all subsidies for renewable energy.
• LAW AND ORDER: UKIP would double prison places and protect “frontline” policing to enforce “zero tolerance” of crime.

• THE ECONOMY: UKIP is proposing “tens of billions” of tax cuts and had set out £77bn of cuts to public expenditure to deal with the deficit.

• SOCIAL ISSUES: UKIP argues that multiculturalism has “split” British society. It would legislate to allow smoking in pubs, in designated rooms, and hold local referendums on repealing the hunting ban.
On the subject of homosexuality UKIP are particularly outspoken, a UKIP candidate allegedly described gay sex as “disgusting” and said homosexuals were not “normal” on a Ukip online forum another said that being gay Is a ‘Spiritual Disease’. The UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, stated thereafter he would not expel members for voicing “old-fashioned” views about homosexuality.  In fact they went further and the chairman of UKIP’s youth wing, Olly Neville, was sacked after speaking out in favour of gay marriage.

Naturally on the subject of foreigners the party does not hold back A Sunday Mirror investigation in 2013 found the party’s East Midlands chairman, Chris Pain had described illegal immigrants as “sandal-wearing, bomb-making, camel-riding, goat-fucking, rag heads”  UKIP Leader Nigel Farage was caught up in a media story that his right-wing views were seen as extreme whilst he was at Public School, Channel 4 went on to say that Farage was known for marching through a Sussex village singing Hitler Youth songs, an allegation Farage unsurprisingly denied.

If you look at the Office for National Statistics data in fact net migration (immigration minus migration) the figure has remained the same around 200,00 people per year.  Given that the statistics show that nearly 200,000 are either coming to study (170,000) or British nationals returning home (20,000) in fact the net migration is negligible as compared to what many would have you believe.  Furthermore the ‘flood’ of Romanians and Bulgarians predicted when the border controls were changed for citizens of these 2 countries to that of the rest of the EU has simply not happened. The number of Romanians and Bulgarians working in the UK has fallen by 4,000 since employment restrictions were lifted in January, the Office for National Statistics figures show a total of 140,000 employed in the UK between January and March 2014.  David Cameron told MPs the reduction was “notable” i.e. it is written down somewhere and not ‘remarkable’ in that he doesn’t intend to tell anyone!

It is also important to ask why people are coming at all.  Firstly if work is scarce and wages are low in your home country and another country in which you speak the language has opportunities you will certainly consider it, if you have a family that lure will be all the stronger.  If the minimum wage in that country is in fact higher than what you would reasonably expect to get at home then it makes it a more attractive proposition, this is also just as attractive to employers who can save themselves a large some of money employing cheap migrant labour with fewer working rights or conditions.  So who is at fault?

I have seen it said that to dismiss UKIP merely as a protest party or that of an appeal to a very specific middle class racist portion of the electorate would be wrong and indeed I agree, it would, this is not simply a group of trumped up toffs feeling aggrieved that their ability to make money is being infringed upon by bureaucrats, this is a group of racist toffs feeling aggrieved that their ability to make money is being infringed upon by bureaucrats whilst being supported by people with xenophobic or racist tendencies and those who have been informed solely by a rabidly right-wing media, run themselves by groups of racist toffs feeling aggrieved that their ability to make money is being infringed upon by bureaucrats.  The media is very much to blame here, for a long time there has been an anti-Europe campaign in sections of the press and although many of the myths purported about decisions made in Brussels have been debunked they have been so in less public an arena.  This has allowed the media to have long since reinforced their message and if necessary to print an apology and/or addendum on page 27 in the editorial section, that most of those who believe what they are spoon fed by the media won’t read anyway.  There is a BBC page about the “euromyths” here  where things have been reported by the media as attributable to Brussels.  You would be forgiven for thinking that most of this lot looks like a right bunch of old tripe but this is precisely the sort of constant campaigning that leads to a generally accepted viewpoint.  In the examples proven to be false I have still heard people say “yeah well that one might not have been true but look at the others…”

The problem does not finish with UKIP though it is the emergence of a large group of splinter far-right parties that have no counter balance on the Left or even in the Centre.  Some of these such as the English Democrats far from wanting simply the UK on the forefront of the agenda wish to go further and cite England should be the main focus.  (Though these people are often the very embodiment of a restricted gene pool!)  Others such as An Independence from Europe claim to be to the left of UKIP, rather like claiming to be a moderate Attila the Hun!  Liberty GB are another anti-European and it appears human rights, party and the Christian Peoples Alliance do not appear to be very Christian nor much of an alliance.

Again I’m afraid you need look no further than the German electoral position in the Weimar Republic from 1919-1933 where the parallels in political parties, media spin, xenophobia and desire to cut free from rules imposed by external powers are quite chilling.  You have been warned.

Song Of The Day ~ Manic Street Preachers – If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next

picture-18

Two years after the Stop in 2005 the Make Poverty History march took place in Edinburgh at the time when the G8 Summit was being held slightly further North at Gleneagles also in Scotland.  I attended and in fact I kept a diary of my time.  In spite of attempts to derail the movement, in spite of smear campaigns by some who claimed they shared our objectives we marched and formed a ring around the city almost all of us dressed in white.  It was a moving experience, a powerful experience.  Why do I bring it up now?  Because like the march in 2003 it united people of differing persuasions both left and right, atheist and religious, young and old who were all there to condemn the mindless slaughter of those disenfranchised in other countries by war, famine, disease and the simple lack of caring of the leaders of the Western World and their banking allies.  This was another example of people standing up for what they felt was right, and that they felt disenfranchised by the mainstream political parties who all seemed hell-bent on standing for the same neo-liberal agenda and policies.

I am still yet to forgive Bob Geldoff for those days and will not do so until he apologises for insinuating that we were the wreckers, the ones being unrealistic or idealist or cynical etc. etc. for claiming that the deals were hollow and in fact the cynicism was on the part of the leaders cashing in on what was clearly a powerful movement of non-violent dissent.  Geldoff effectively admitted we were right 5 years later but showed no remorse or contrition for the people he had slagged off at the time for casting doubt on the sincerity of the world leaders promises.  Furthermore it was he who helped organise concerts on the same day as the great march in Edinburgh and then claimed that it showed how many people wanted to get rid of poverty, it didn’t Bob it showed how many people wanted to see Pink Floyd reunite or be at an event that formed part of popular cultural history.  The ones who wanted to stop poverty were the ones who had to put their principles before their desire to see the Floyd as one for what will probably be the only time.  The fact that the concerts were put on the same day I found crass and offensive, it put into the shadow those who came to do something and reduced the day to a mere rock gig, the at best naive and at worst disgraceful statement that all the people attending were showing their opposition to poverty in Africa was simply not true.  I’m sure the people who attended did not specifically agree with poverty per se but protesting against it was not their primary reason for being there.  It was ours for making the trip to Edinburgh.  Furthermore we were not just protesting about Africa, we were protesting about poverty everywhere from continents far away to that which we see daily around us.  If even half the people in those stadiums (stadia) were to have been part of that ring around Edinburgh too then the message would have been louder still and the concerts can only have diluted the message we carried and the significance of it.  I specifically know of one couple who did get allocated tickets and were agonising about whether to go to Scotland or Wembley, they chose the latter.

The march on Gleneagles itself 4 days later was hampered and sabotaged by the police who tried to use radio news bulletins to claim the march had been called off and then when many still arrive sought to stop coaches and did indeed stop the 2nd wave (who then occupied Princes St. and got kettled and flushed by riot police for their trouble).  They pulled the 1st wave over on 3 occasions making us stand around wondering if all we might be able to protest on was a road junction roundabout.  We were told the “Anarchists had set up roadblocks which had closed off the A9″, what was shown later that I saw was that a piece of tree about 8 feet long and with a circumference around that of a milk saucepan that which barely covered one lane of the carriageway let alone the road. But eventually we got there and we made our voices heard.  It was empowering, exhausting and exhilarating.  We did not go to concerts, we did not stay at home, we came from different parts of the country – as did the police ;) and we made our views known.

[I was unaware at the time that a sweepstake was being run at work courtesy of a couple of “friends” who were very familiar with the penal code and felt that it was worth speculating on what charge I would be apprehended by the police – smart money apparently was on ‘Affray’ at 8/1, Incitement to Riot at 12/1 and someone had placed an outside bet on Treason at 500/1!  As it was I behaved myself and only nearly got arrested twice – once apparently for being a “f*cking smart arse” when I pointed out that I didn’t need to move back to avoid a “crush at the gates” because the fact that I wasn’t actually in contact with anyone meant I could not be contributing to anything.  The second time was when a police van revved at me as I was crossing a pedestrian crossing.  I made a gesture and the driver made for the door clearly to come and ‘have a word’ but he was pulled back by his passenger and the lights changed.  Money raised from the sweepstake went to Save The Children.]

On my return I was in mid-air when the bombs went off in London on the 7th and the whole family was in pandemonium since no-one knew where the other persons were.  Everything seemed suddenly to be about blitz spirit, everything suddenly became on a war footing again and that put paid to any reasoned debate on peace and diplomacy, “London will go on” we were told, the outrage was tangible and the demonstrations were long forgotten.  But does that make our actions wrong?  Far from it, it means we stood up in a way that was not open to us in the ballot box, against those for whom we had not voted and in a way that ultimately was vindicated when it became clear that the information used to justify the campaign was fabricated, or at best embellished.  People died for that, many people, leaving bereft and destroyed, more than just the buildings that made a number of rich people very much richer through huge outsourced rebuilding contracts, families and communities were irrevocably damaged in a way I suspect those born in this country after the 1940s can scarcely imagine.  People in Syria now will tell you and the blanket media campaign that I see now about the conflict reminds me very much of 10 years ago.

Will the Make Poverty History March and the march on the G8 Summit be better remembered than Live8 – no I’d be somewhat staggered if the former make more than a footnote in the pages of political history journals, since the Stop The War march in 2003 merits little more than that, whilst Live8 is enshrined in popular culture, but when those who attended the concerts look in the mirror I doubt they will have quite the same sense of integrity as those of us who stood up for those who were denied a voice.  And that is something I can tell my children when they ask the question that prompted this, and maintain eye contact whilst I do so.

 Song Of The Day ~ The Mono Polys – Insomnia

My blogging comrade Big John – himself going for the same decade as I have been – recently posted on the occasion of his 75th birthday about how things had been ‘in his day’ as opposed to that which is available (to children) now.  It got me in comparison mode so I decided to put another yardstick in giving how the world was in my childhood.  You have to bear in mind I was in Chelsea (when it still had council tenants) so what we had was in many respects streets ahead of those living outside ‘the smoke.’

Anyway John’s formative years involved the following:

  • Television .. Just the BBC on the radio wireless.
  • Telephone .. The nearest one was two streets away on a shop counter.
  • Computers .. Great fun was had playing games in the street.
  • Motor car .. If a tram or bus didn’t go there, then, neither did I, unless I walked.
  • Bathroom .. A scrub in the kitchen sink or a tin bath by the fire.
  • Toilet paper ! .. I won’t go into detail.
  • Fast Food .. Only fish and chips. ”Bring your own newspaper”.
  • Holidays .. Abroad ! Where was that ? .. Well, maybe a day by the sea.
  • Supermarket .. or “Can I scan your ration book?”
  • Refrigerator .. Only a daily walk to the shops by my mum.
  • Central heating .. Just open coal fires, even at school.
  • Shoes .. Oops ! .. No .. Sorry, I got carried away for a moment, so I’ll …

As opposed to a man in his 70s I was a child of the 70s and things were different, we had moved on, evolved, advanced with almost wanton abandon, things were thus:

  • Television .. Only bought when I was 13 and so my grandmother could watch the news, took up half the room in a wooden cabinet and 3 people to lift! Just two BBC and 1 ITV which I wasn’t allowed to watch because adverts were evil (this is quite correct of course!) Oh and it didn’t run in the morning except for schools programs and it didn’t come in the afternoon until 3.30 with Play School. It then shut down after the late film at around 11 and the National Anthem played! What’s a colour TV?

[Channel 4 came along in 1982 – it was such an event people took time off work to watch the opening… ceremony would be a bit strong, it started with Countdown one of the most sedentary gameshows ever!]

  • Telephone .. The nearest one was two streets away in a red phone box – queues down the street on a Sunday before dinner and hoping you had enough 5p coins to beat the pips!

[Later when we moved out of London in the 80s we had a 3-digit phone humber!]

  • Computers .. just came in – Yellow River on the BBC involving Xs or Spectrum cassette tapes which took hours to load and made a noise like a fax machine.

[I got my first computer in 1998 it was an Apple Powerbook Duo 280c and the snazziest system I had ever seen!]

  • Motor car .. Trams? Bloody luxury, we didnt have them in my day.  It was the No. 11 bus to school I had or a 20 min walk to the nearest tube station at weekends.

[I didn’t learn to drive until I was 28 and that was for a job.  I don’t exactly feel the richer for it, though my 27 year old car is cool!]

  • Bathroom .. Hot running water but an outside khazi still very much in evidence in the terraced housing, we had a separate toilet indoors in our flat for a while but when moved had to share a bathroom with the people above!

[Outside toilets were a nightmare, in the Winter it was bloody freezing and anything could be lurking in there and frequently was!]

  • Toilet paper ! .. Unlike the Big Man I will go into detail – shiny on one side and ripped your aris to ribbons it did. Izal – I’ll never forget it, I saw some on sale not so many years ago, heaven knows what idiot still buys it.
  • Fast Food .. Still only fish and chips. Newspaper provided! We did have an ice cream parlour – yes “parlour” but it was the Fulham Road you know!  In the very early 80s we went ‘into town’ to a Nepalese restaurant in Euston – it was the most exotic thing we had ever done or eaten in my life.  I still visit as and when I can.
  • Holidays .. Calais, we were cosmopolitan and my Grandmother lived in Kent!
  • Supermarket .. What? We had the grocer, the greengrocer, the butcher, the baker and knew them all by name. They’d give my mother a little extra because she was on her own and they liked my smile! (Tried that at Tescos and have another 6 months on the Anti-Social Behaviour order!)
  • Refrigerator .. I got to go on the daily shop with mother!
  • Central heating .. Coal? Ha you’ll be lucky, miners are on strike and all the powers off!
  • Shoes .. So many choices, Clarks or Start-Rite!

If there’s anyone else who wishes to reminisce either here or on your own page then I’d be interested and perhaps amused about your decade.  Feel free to share.

Song Of The Day ~ The Rifles – Shoot From The Lip

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,900 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 48 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

London StW 15Feb_2003

There is little of which I am truly proud in terms of my participation in this world, (my children being the principle exception to this) but the fact that I stood up 10 years ago and said “Enough, this has to end now” is something with which I may hold my head a little higher and feel that there was a reason for being here at this time.  For those who say the Stop The War marches in 2003 did not change anything I would say this, ten years on, I still remember them and I know many of the others do and if necessary I and they are prepared to go and speak up again.  I still believe I was right to do so the first time and as my children are older now I can tell them why I did it and why a part of the country’s parliamentary democracy died that day, where a smaller part of the grassroots democracy was truly born.  Did it lead to anything long-lasting – only history can tell that story but it did come at a time when people had been silent and suddenly many found their voice.

StW 2003 was the largest peacetime march in the country’s history, I’m not sure it wasn’t the largest in any time but people have always referred to it as the largest in peacetime.  Even the police figures said well over half a million (which itself was larger than the Countryside Alliance march some weeks before of whom 300-400,000 had marched in 2002 to protest about fox hunting and urban encroachment into rural values).  The BBC put the figure at over a million and generally on these occasions the real figure would be regarded as higher than that. (My figures of the Countryside Alliance march are going on the car bumper stickers the organisers had printed after the event in their claim to be the largest demo at that time.)

To remind people of the context, in the lead up to the march in 2003 the US and UK were already in Afghanistan on a somewhat questionable pretext and their aim was now to go into Iraq. The writing had been on the wall for Saddam Hussein for some time and an aide, I think it was Paul Bremmer, has since told of George W. Bush’s statement for them to get him something, anything that they could use to go and get Saddam on.  He wanted to finish the job started by his Pappy a decade earlier and remove the man the US had formerly propped up for years in the fight against Iran.  The US administration didn’t find anything concrete, and they ought to know since most of the hardware Iraq had would have gone through them, so they invented the WMD fiction and went in anyway.   Many innocents died on the pretext of liberation, the West claiming that they were doing this in the interests of the Iraqi people, presumably the interests the Iraqi people may not have known they had yet.  I saw one interview done by John Simpson, I believe, where he interviewed some Iraqis after Saddam’s forces had been defeated and asked them if they did not now feel that things were better after Saddam.  “George Bush, Saddam, we don’t care we just want peace” was the honest reply.  People will be divided on their opinions as to where Iraq post-Saddam is, in these polarised times many opinions will be made up mostly by the prevailing news channel that gives you all your “facts” but I think few would consider it truly a united or stable country even a decade later.  And as for Afghanistan…!

This may therefore seem like our effects were a futile and hollow gesture meriting record only of the current statistic of greatest size of action of its type.  However a Professor of Chemistry at Cairo University came and spoke at a meeting I attended sometime in late 2003, at the time we were indeed feeling a little deflated since we couldn’t help but start to feel the march had accomplished little of long-standing significance, given US intervention in Iraq anyway, people were dying and we had wanted to stop that happening but it was going on and we were being forced to witness it every night on the news.  Whilst we were able to tell ourselves that if nothing else we had stood up to be counted it was difficult to really convince the detractors that we had done something more than moral actions and plastic sabre-rattling.  The Professor though told us to look on things from a different angle as they had been marching on the same day in the Arab world and our efforts had not been in vain.

We were being given updates that there were 1.5 million on the streets in London, over 1 million in Barcelona, nearly 2 million in Madrid, 500,000 in Berlin, 200,000 in Paris millions in Rome etc.* and it told us that this war was not a Western war, it was not leaders acting with the support of their people but in spite of it.  It broke the glass facia that suggested a polarisation between the peoples of the West and the East.  The myth of a clash of civilisations.”  He went on to say that whilst we might not have stopped the US going into Iraq it was likely that they would not have the mandate or the inclination now to go into Syria which had certainly been mooted at various points both before and after the Iraq invasion.  (I intend to write more on Syria given its current relevance but since it has taken me sol ong to write even the one post this year I will publish this one before moving on).

I wish that all the people who had been on the march could have overheard the Professor and could have felt the strength and the vindication that they had done a good thing, a significant thing.  They would certainly not learn such things from the mainstream media who barely made reference to it at the time and certainly do not now.  It was important, it was genuine grass roots democracy, not just the usual dissenting suspects, not just an attempt to railroad people into a specific dogma, the participants came from too broad a spectrum for that.

What is difficult to refute by the detractors is the enormous global scale on which the march took place, the level of coordination was immense it was a different kind of globalisation and one which encompassed a pan-ideological base.  An unprecedented number of people across the planet mobilised in spite of their governments and gave an unequivocal message that what was happening was wrong.  In terms of the total figures worldwide it will always be impossible to get anywhere near the actual number with any degree of certainty or proof, indeed the ranges I have seen go from 6 million people to 30 million people in around 60 countries.  In Canada over 100,000 took the the streets of Montréal in temperatures of -30 (with wind chill), a group of Scientists from the McMurdo Station stood on the shore of the Ross Sea in Antarctica and a town in New South Wales had a march 2,500 strong which was the size of the town’s own population.

Some cite Canada’s reluctance to send troops to Iraq then as having been a consequence of the strength of feeling across the country, it may well have stopped others, Michael Moore has already pointed out the somewhat ridiculous claim that the coalition was anything more than the United States, a couple of its Western allies and a large amount of dependencies and military bases around the world.  The consequences of the march may in fact be felt for years to come, perhaps into the next decades.  I heard somebody speculate that in the UK almost every work place with more than 100 people in it was likely to have had someone who had attended the march on that weekend and that this meant news would be transferred in the old fashioned way by word of mouth and not a politically motivated sanitisation.   One might wonder whether 10 years later the reluctance of the British Parliament to write a blank cheque of British lives to the illegal action in Syria may stem from the actions of 2003 and aftermath, either by the involvement of some, or the memory of others.  What is clear is that there are cracks in that supposedly impenetrable ‘special relationship.’

Did we stop the action in Iraq happening in 2003 no we did not but I along with millions of others across the globe made it quite clear that this was not in our name, we did not support the action and that betrayal by our governments will sit long in the memory for some of us.  And it is reawakened now.

*The 2004 Guinness Book Of Records listed the march in Rome on the 15th February 2003 as having been attended by around 3 million and was the largest anti-war rally in history.  Wikipedia breakdown of figures by country

Song Of The Day ~ Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Cursed Sleep

I’m grateful to my new blog diving acquaintance Gabriela for providing the inspiration for this post, not to mention being the first new person in the blogosphere with whom I have interacted for some time.  It is always nice to receive inspiration for something from other’s viewpoints and directions.  I have always maintained that I am reactive generally, I cannot create new as such merely stamp my own colour of things on those that already exist.  In this regard, as well as many others I take my lead from the very great WH Auden who said “Some writers confuse authenticity, which they ought always to aim at, with originality, which they should never bother about.”  That is good enough for me.

/preamble

Gabriela’s post was on her alter egos, the facets as defined specific personalities in their own right that make her up as a whole.  This is not, as many still seem to think, anything to do with schizophrenia, look it up should you need to!  Anyway the post immediately struck a chord as I have for some time characterised myself in terms of the very different mood sets in a defined time period that seem themselves often diametrically opposed.  I had thought at first that it was a definite polarity with the two ‘beings’ but there may be more to it than that depending on how granular you choose to look at it.  Certainly there are more than one if choosing to accept the premise, and it interests me so I thought I would explore it.

Me

Fairly obvious, the de facto occupant as t’were, the commander of the unruly force within etc. etc. various mildly humorous analogies yada yada.  I am not too extreme a person, at least not in my opinion, I have passionate views, some might say dogmatic, but I believe in things that treat people as of equal value whilst recognising the myriad assortment of differences between us all.  I feel justifies in being dogmatic about that.  I have a fair few foibles, as anyone does,I am aware of a great many of them and I would assert that my heart is in the right place.  I am all too aware that I am not always consistent, that I don’t always practice what I preach but then I would challenge anyone else not to be the same.  I want to live life reasonably full and need sometimes a little prodding to help get there.  I am not as self-confident as I very often need to be, especially in certain circumstances, when I am comfortable and amongst friends I can relax, if I get too relaxed or if I am amongst a large group of people I don’t know He comes out.

The Baron (often referred to as Him – mainly because of Dom Deluise’s dual personality character in The Cannonball Run which both amused me as well as having a little resonance!)

The Baron is everything in the outside world I wished I was all the time (though this would bring it’s own problems.)  The Baron can hold court, talk upon a wide variety of subjects as if well-versed in all of them.  He comes across as confident, erudite and a social butterfly/pompous arse – depending on your point of view.  He can get women to fancy Him (at least He thinks He can!) with His quick wit and cavalier linguistic style.  He looks like me but doesn’t act like me.  He does not need or crave the approval from others, He feels that to a degree He has already attained it and has enough self-confidence that if He has not then He will win people over in the end.  Herein can lie the problem, there are times He hears but does not listen, He looks but does not always see, it is almost itself a pretence, no it is exactly itself a pretence, a mask behind which I may hide.  Not a mask I am aware how to control though.  It is not arrogance I should stress that, it is as if the self-confidence I might have had from teenage years had things gone differently had evolved as a separate person not hampered by the chattels of .

The Father

I am a father but not always a ‘real’ father in the sense that my children do not live with me.  As such sometimes decisions which would affect them are not taken in the context of them actually being there.  There are occasions that the father steps in and makes the correct and rational choices but at others he isn’t quick enough or is suppressed by the stronger darker character.  I am not satisfied with my performance of a father and I think this is probably a good thing, were I to be so I would not be trying to do more and that would be a far greater crime against my children.  Being a father is one of the things of which I am most proud and my children are the things of which I am most proud.  Given the circumstances of their upbringing they are remarkably well-rounded and this has far more to do with them than it does with me, however through them I can take some vicarious credit.

The Melancholic

My nemesis, short-termist, pessimistic, addictive personality.  The melancholic is not in control of the darker sides and is subsumed by them and the less attractive characteristics that goes with them.  He needs constant validation, assuaging, emotional quenching validation, an insecurity that is almost bottomless like a whirlpool into oblivion, it has destroyed much and many and carries on as if never sated.  In the absence of the neutralising validation it turns to short-term external factors such as sex, food, clothes, unwise purchases, anything that breaks the tedium of “normal” the mundanity that eats up the time in great gulps, the parasite of time.  This abhorrence of the everyday, the middle ground, should spur me to look to achieve greatness and probably die trying, better to have flown and be shot down in flames than to stand on the ground doing nothing.  But it is not like that.  The melancholic sits idly, over-analysing, sniping, demeaning the achievements of the other character facets both backdating and foreseeing.  He is the arms attached to my ankles holding me back, making walking forth near impossible, the constant temptation to give in and rest a while, have another go later makes him stronger and so much goes by the wayside because of his indolence and inactivity.  The not wasting a moment by doing anything that makes the time go faster.

Of course one has to be careful not to disassociate responsibility of the deeds of one from the sum of the whole.  This is all me and facets thereof, it is not as if I do not have any control over these aspects of myself, at least not outside the deterministic side of life anyway.  To understand one I have to understand all and this is not always easy, however the understanding is but the first step because I am good at cerebral activity that involves none of its physical counterpart, this is analysis it feeds my interest in understanding whilst staving off the ambiguity that I detest.  When I can tackle the physical side I may well begin to make progress and leave some facets behind whilst empowering the ones that have a positive impact.

Song Of The Day ~ Atomic Rooster – Devil’s Answer

The Annual Review 2012

Screen-Shot-2012-12-23-at-4.13.19-PM

Whilst it would seem a strange thing to have an annual review following a year that has only highlighted my descent into further indolence which is no mean achievement considering my starting point! However there is a rationale, for a change! Were Red Baron’s Words to have, or require, stakeholders you would be they by virtue of your presence and therefore you should be rewarded for your laudable persistence.  Furthermore having left a comment on Gema’s brand new blog it seemed I needed to stick up for us old hacks who’ve been at this silliness for nearly a decade now!  Even all the newbies have passed me and soon I will not even have my extensive back catalogue to rest laurels on!

It speaks volumes that I did not, as I usually have done previously, mark the anniversary of my starting this journey, such as it has been. On January 18th 2004 aged a mere 32 I decided that I was not going to right things down in books and notepaper that would get lost and would instead follow the example of luminaries and embracers of the new media such as Salaam Pax the “Baghdad Blogger.” Weblogs as they were then called were attracting a little attention precisely because no-one really knew a lot about them, such that had they been referred to in ways such as ‘online journal’ or ‘electronic diary’ it might have made quite clear what most people used the medium for. As it was it all sounded exotic to most people who at the time were not entirely convinced the internet was an idea that would catch on.

So this all in mind I decided that it would be fair and correct to give updates on the Pre-50 50 in order to see how I’ve been getting on, perhaps garner some hints, collect volunteers where applicable and generally hold myself to account a bit.

[The Pre-50 50 should you choose to revisit it.]

There are of course a number of things on the list that are ongoing and should be so one has to assess whether or not things are progressing as they should be.

Personal

1. Move abroad (again)

2. Leave IT for something meaningful

3. Go for custody of my children

4. Rationalise my stuff into want I need and a little of what commemorates my past for posterity.

In numbers 1-4 there has been little progression and in truth I would probably have expected as much. Which is not to say they should be forgotten, merely realistically assessed.  Due to circumstances beyond my control no.2 may have its hand forced before the end of this year.

5. Keep off the fags

This continues and this is a good thing, the wagon has bumps now and again one looks out as sees the vista as one thought it might have been but I remain reasonably steady.

6. Do an MA either in Linguistics or Trade Union relations

This is something that may sort of be happening in a roundabout way as I have embarked on the TUC Dipl Employment Law, it isn’t quite an MA but it is practical study for perhaps something to assist with No. 2

7. Write something every week

Hmm yes a little difficult to avoid scrutiny on this one. I am gradually getting back to it now, I did write last year, fits and starts, mostly poetry, some prose, not as much diatribe as I probably needed to! I do of course have my other new project which until February was progressing pretty well. Not yet up to scratch but I do have a compadre equally derelict in her duties, so maybe soon we’ll be back on track.

8. Read a book every month

For whatever reason I cannot seem to get going properly on the reading, I’ve been much the same with music as well. Reading for me is not generally the sort of thing I do when going to bed it is the sort of thing I do when travelling by train or eating lunch and the former happens precious few times whilst the latter I now rarely if ever tend to do alone.

9. Write a book every year – and not just part of a book either.

Well I didn’t finish one last year, I did write quite a bit more of one but no still not finished, must try harder!

10. Finish my play – to avoid it becoming like the books!

Yep bang to rights again, I don’t think I’ve actually done anything else on it last year in fairness so it’s not been on the radar.

11. Get an anthology of poetry published

I’m not sure about this one, right now it seems unimportant almost undesirable, perhaps that’ll change.  I do post poetry, I’ve even put some here, but others can be a little too raw.

12. Send more work to competitions and journals

Again there is a mixed feeling to this one so for now it’s on hold.

13. Take more photographs

I took comparatively few last year which is a shame, but my Christmas present to myself was a 9yr old 2nd hand camera that I have been after for nearly 9 years! I’m hoping this may reinvigorate. I should perhaps add to this one to take more video footage, the children grow up relentlessly and each week is one where you cannot go back to who they were and what they looked like then.

14. Do an anonymous selfless act each week

Well this hasn’t happened consciously which was sort of the point to ensure I did it. I’d like to hope I might do so as a general rule in life anyway but of course it is easy to think you’re being good whereas actually being so may be a little different.

15. Think before I speak more often

I still REALLY need to work on that!

16. Slow dance with someone.

Nope still a to do. The thing with something like this is that it would feel odd as a forced thing, doing it for the sake of crossing it off a list is different to doing it and gaining the enjoyment and then crossing it off the list with a story surrounding it.

17. Sit on top of a hill and watch the sun come up with someone

Again like 16 there kind of has to be someone to do it with.  I know a venue close and one far away where it would be wonderful.

18. Ask people out if I like them

Well confidence has always been a tricky one, I have on two occasions specifically asked the question and on a further two there seemed a possibility of some ‘organic chemistry’ but all came to naught. However it is sometimes easy to see the end result as rendering futile that which led you to the conclusion in the first place and that would be wrong. I have fulfilled my part of the bargain the fact that nothing came of it was neither within my control nor the subject of this point.

19. Go to a film marathon with someone

The opportunity has never arisen for this but I guess the point with such a list is to be proactive, you have to make things happen as by and large they will not happen of their own accord. If you allow life to dictate the terms it seldom turns out well.

20. Spend more time concerned with those who care about me and less concerned trying to convert those who do not.

It remains something of an ongoing thing and surely something that everybody at certain times is guilty of but those of us with little confidence wobbles perhaps more so or more often. It would be probably inaccurate to say I’ve improved but I haven’t got any worse!

21. Learn empathy

Rather like the point above it is more about a time investment.

Travel

22. Take someone I’m in love with to Ile Saint-Margueritte

Well the second part rather relies on the first doesn’t it?!

23. Visit St-Guilhem-Le-Désert (again)

Still a to do, I have been back to France but not there, yet.

24. Buy a sailing yacht

I should really have put this one after the next one as there is something of an interdependence!

25. Learn to sail

No movement, literally.

26. Visit Cuba

27. Visit Venezuela

There is a leetle monetary shortfall on this one but you never know, one day.

28. Drive a 1980s BMW 6 series along the French Riviera

Ah, still just a dream sadly

29. Drive a multi-national banger rally in either an old Mini or a BMW E30

Well I have a friend who is interested in doing this one with me now in the E30 (not mine!) so that’s progress and I would say definitely going to happen before 50, maybe even 45.

30. Spend a month travelling round India on trains

Every time the pyjama cricket comes on the TV it makes me think of India and the myriad assortment of things I wish to do.  As yet the cash is lacking but this will be the first one to be addressed when I have the time and money to do so.

31. Spend a week on the Isles of Scilly

Not even been back as yet, which is a bit poor really!

32. Leave the country once every year

So far so good on this, ok it’s only been 1 year in the scheme of things but we all start somewhere and I started in Portugal. The trip to France this year has already happened and I may be going again in the next couple of months.

33. Visit 1 new country every 5 years

Hurrah for Portugal ticking 2 boxes and giving me 4 years grace! It was nice to go somewhere new and I learnt a surprising amount about myself in a short space of time that I am almost a different person abroad. I am also hoping to get to Greece to visit a friend hopefully within the next 12 months so that would be another new.

34. Visit 2 continents within the 10 years

Sadly Portugal does not tick a triple whammy and the intercontinental endeavours must wait.

35. Take the children to Ireland

Disappointingly I’ve not been back to the homeland in a couple of years and it is high time even without the children. It is a place that seems to afford me a certain amount of peace which is much needed.

36. Take the children to France

This relies on the patronage of the other parent, as in fact does the above and that is yet to be granted.

37. Walk the route of the old Berlin Wall

I walked the great Hadrians Wall in 2011 with Captain Fay McDandy and it was most excellent, far from putting me off such efforts it fuelled the desire with evidence of its enjoyment, in all but a nasty encounter with Brown 187 and a last day that was as near to Northern hell as I would ever seek to experience.

38. Stay in the DDR theme hotel

This is probably one for the same time as the wall

Health

39. Get into the habit of 4 forms of exercise a week

The High Intensity Training as part of the academic study is making some real changes here, which is as well given the excesses of Christmas and shoulder tendonitis stopping me from the badminton.

40. Cycle to work (4.8 miles)

There is partly a health issue to blame here but it is too easy solely to blame my back problems. However the High Intensity Training has shown that I can cycle and the benefit in doing so is manifold. Definitely one to have a real tilt at this year.

41. Get down to 34″ waist

Ahem, yes, well…

42. Get down to 14 stone

Hahahahaha

43. Sort out the health niggles I’m always putting off.

Bloody niggles!

Money

44. Pay off debts (around £7000)

This has plagued me since I left university, it’s a gradual process but progress remains albeit little steps.

45. Don’t get into any more debt

46. Menu plan every meal

A lot better at this now which has proven valuable especially this month, knowing what you are going to eat and when does cut down on the desire to eat shite because you’re not standing in the kitchen after work thinking that you can’t be bothered to cook.

47. Don’t buy mindless things just to make me feel better or less bored.

I’ve been skint, this has helped!

48. Sell one item on ebay for each item I buy

I’m buying little and selling even less

49. Save some money each month, even if it’s a tenner. – longer you leave it harder it is.

I am now saving a tenner!

50. If I should be still writing (not to mention alive) at 60 I hope that I might continue the process and that it will be of as much interest as it may be now.

Well I’ve continued to make it so I guess that’s a success!

So there you go, feel free to sit in the board room and issue suitable admonishments.  If I’m feeling really productive I may even manage to respond, maybe even this month.  Let’s not be too hasty eh, small steps!

Song Of The Day ~ Junip – Line Of Fire

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