Friday, November 28, 2008

The Hearing

You may be interested to know--or you may not care--that Fred has avoided being sacked at his hearing this morning and comes through the experience much more aware of the possible pitfalls of speaking his mind too plainly on the internet. I say "aware", obviously, and not "disinclined to continue". But there are ways, boys, there are ways. He's also going to be much more careful about who he trusts in future. Fred is quite naive, in some ways (why is Fred writing about himself in the third person?). Fred had no idea that somebody he thought was his friend had been talking to those who wished to do him harm. But such is life. There have been so many people this week who've been supportive he couldn't possibly lose faith; in fact, he may have a bit more, if that doesn't contradict the statement about mistrust. And even if it does.

Damien Green and Democracy

Much as I hate even to be suspected of defending Tories, the arrest yesterday of MP Damien Green, it seems only for the charge of assisting moles in government to leak information to the Press that Brown et al would rather we didn't have, is profoundly worrying and a terrible indictment of the state of our democracy. We need to know, if we haven't been told already, why he was arrested, what they were looking for when they rooted through his personal possessions, why he was held for nine hours, and who was the motivating force behind the police action.

According to the radio this morning Brown knew nothing about it. But since the authorities informed Cameron and Green's arrest had profound constitutional implications, it's frankly pretty hard to believe that nobody told the Prime Minister. (Which is what the Tories have been trying to imply by calling the tactics "Stalineseque"--remember the LibDem leader's put-down on Gordon Brown as having gone from Stalin to Mr. Bean?)

As Damien Green himself has said--and again, may all the gods forgive me for seeming to show sympathy to a Conservative--it is the job of the Opposition to hold the Government of the day to account. (Labour may well be reminded of that very soon.) And one of the tools it has for holding the Government to account is the judicious use of leaking. They all do it. And they've all been doing it for as long as politics has been the handmaiden of the news media. As long as they're not giving nuclear codes to the enemy or informing Islamist rebels about troop movements in Afghanistan, who cares?

The terrorist attacks in India prove that democracy is necessary now more than ever as a counter-balance to the armies of fundamentalism, the armies of violence and unreason. Without thriving democracies to lead people away from their madness, those evil bastards would suck the world back into the Dark Ages. Let's not give them too much comfort and encouragement by starting to dismantle the best achievement of humanity since the Enlightenment they would have liked to snuff out.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I'm not sure who reads this page other than the kind people who leave a comment, but I'd just like to use the space here to say that production on our poetry blogzine whatsit THE BEATNIK has temporarily ceased, for obvious reasons. Everybody who has submitted is asked to sit tight and wait a while for the editors to respond. Things will get back to normal, one way or another, after the hearing over the Facebook thing is finished. And that hasn't even happened yet. Presumably it takes a while to ship in a strong enough rope, especially as the post slows down in the run-up to Christmas.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Grave New World

I have had a rare and rising sense of optimism these past few weeks. It began to seem as if things were working themselves out at last. I'd seen off the depression; I'd made new friends. Even the desire to write had come back, although not much actual writing had emerged yet (what appears here obviously being decorative spaghetti). But events of the last couple of days have thrown me off course again.

I can't say too much about it at the moment because I am involved in an investigation. Suspended from my job for something I wrote on Facebook. Just a comment left on the page of one of my friends, something funny I thought, but somebody saw it and reported it to my employer and now I'm being investigated for gross misconduct. Can you believe that? I didn't name anybody; I didn't name the company. But somehow I am supposed to have brought the company's good name into disrepute.

We'll see. Thankfully I am a union member so I won't have to go into the disciplinary hearing alone. But I still expect to be sacked at the end of it. It's ludicrous, and it would be a gross injustice, yes. But that is the way of the world. Obama's election produced such a feeling of euphoria on both sides of the Atlantic because the good guys very rarely win. Your mind is not your own anymore, dear reader. In your free time you are still a representative of the company who pays your wages; and if you behave in the manner of anything other than the characterless drone capitalism expects you to be you will be punished for it.

You have been warned.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Choosing Life

I've been conscious of my lack of productivity on the writing front lately. Haven't written a poem for so long I can't remember. And the last short story or novel attempt was a dog's age ago.

I want to get that back. I want to write. (What am I doing now?) It's been the mainstay of my life and the sinking post of my sanity since I was a wee nipper.

But it's complicated. I can't seem to write in Earls B, which is where I moved the Lookout when I finally accepted my relationship with you-know-who was over. The whole village became like the tomb I buried my old life in after that. I would lie in my flat in the dark remembering everything that had gone before and feeling like a dead man who had forgotten to fall down. "Walking through the leaves/ falling from the trees/ feeling like a stranger/ nobody sees," as Dylan says.

The continuity of my life in the world was interrupted. I went out to work--which any walking corpse can do--in fact, dead man status is a positive advantage in the workplace--but because everything good was over, everything precious lost, I never went anywhere when I was invited. Never did anything.I couldn't see the point; I had done it all before. And after a few months the people I knew, mystified by my unfriendly behaviour, stopped asking me out.

So I had no stimulus anymore. No inspiration. Nothing left to write about except the past. And without connection to the stimulus of the present, my memories became duller.Less a clear recall of past events and more a characterless, flavourless representation of something half-remembered, then reinvented by my turgid mind. I worked my memories over and over in the still air of my room until there was nothing left even of them.

So what do you write about when even your own memories seem worthless and uninteresting?

Things seem to be changing now. I made the decision a while ago that I would, as the old t-shirt slogan said, "choose life". I would move, as soon as my lease was up on the Earls B flat; I would come to town where the living were, and reconnect with the people and the opportunities I had turned my back on in my haste to get to the grave I thought I belonged in. And until I could move I would say yes when I was asked to go out, instead of no.

Invitations were slow in coming at first because I had said no so many times before. Nobody likes to be rejected. But once I had said yes a couple of times, the rate of invitations increased. Now I am going out again as frequently as I can afford to, like a living, feeling, breathing human being; and I am a lot happier, though I'm still--probably always will be--a tight bundle of anxiety and flat-out fear.

So the inspiration for writing should follow soon. I hope something good will come of it. I mean, other than the fact of having yet another shot at life and finding there is still some love and friendship out there for me, when I've done very little in this past year to deserve it.

Which will be a more than adequate return for me, actually, even if I never write another publishable poem.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Winter Prayer

It's a Sunday in the world and everything is strange, eerily so, but interesting. Coming out this morning there were black crows and falling leaves everywhere. Well, yes, you might say, it's autumn. Winter, even, to all intents and purposes. But lately I've had a feeling that everything was ending, and--dare I hope?--beginning. That I went to Earls B to bury my old life, which has been so full of false turns, ghastly mistakes, friendships lost and loves destroyed. Arrogance. Snobbery. Stupidity. "In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make," as the Beatles said. And all I've ever done is breathe out anger. Disguised as love, disguised as compassion, disguised as empathy sometimes, but anger. Have I ever seen other people as anything other than projections of my own ego? Images on my own giant movie screen? How vastly idiotic, to look at the universe as your own creation! It's a Sunday in the world, cold, wet, and no wonder I'm alone with no love, a headache and nothing to do except go to work again and make everybody suffer because they're at home enjoying themselves. More anger! What a gutless bastard. What a self-obsessed idiot I am. Forgive me. And may the bodhisattvas allow me enough time to rebuild my body and my mind so I can put some love into this world before I leave it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


You all know I love America, especially now that Barack Obama is heading for the White House. Its music and movies and its poetry have had a huge influence on my life. But it does make me laugh when I'm in Sosta Coffee on Abington Street in Northampton and I hear a procession of people in clothing combinations obviously copied from Sunday newspaper fashion supplements saying, to the congenial Greek chappie behind the counter, "Can I get a Latte?" or "Can I get a mochachocachino and two blueberry muffins, buddy?" or "Can I get an hour on the internet?" Since when was "get" an adequate or even necessary substitute for the word "have"? Since when was it even accurate? Obviously he can get a Latte, he's in a coffee shop, not an aquarium.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A State Funeral For Thatcher? You MUST Be Joking

One of the newspapers confirmed yesterday that the Government intends to confer the rare honour of a state funeral on former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher when she (finally(excuse me--who said that?)) dies.

I have one question.


The last British PM to get a state funeral was Winston Churchill. Which is fair enough. You could find a number of unflattering things to say about old Winston--any number of criticisms to hurl against his sacrosanct flanks--but even an old malcontent like me has to admit that Churchill saw Britain through World War II wonderfully. He embodied somehow all of the values our grandparents (those of my generation at least) were fighting to preserve against the savagery, the criminality, the immorality, the flat-out dumbness, of the Nazis. Some of Churchill's speeches are as famous now as Shakespeare's.

What did Margaret Thatcher see us through? The instigation of the untrammeled version of capitalism which has brought us to the brink, now, of the worst economic situation since the Great Depression. The devastation of the trade unions, which has created a climate of exploitation and managerial bullying in the workplace not seen for decades. A year-long miners strike which poisoned communities. More than three million unemployed at the height of her "economic miracle". A foreign war which historians generally agree she caused, and which she won by sanctioning war crimes such as the sinking of the General Belgrano.

Infamy. Stupidity. Hopelessness. Idiot children in white baseball caps getting high on coke and stabbing people to death in the streets. That's Margaret Thatcher's legacy.

She shouldn't get a state funeral for the destruction she wrought in this country; let the businessmen who got rich in the orgy of rape and plunder she created pay for her funeral if her own family can't afford it (which they can)--to put the expense onto the shoulders of the taxpayer would be a massive insult to anybody old enough to remember how royally she fucked them, and everything that was once decent in their country.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama And The Common Good

Obama's transition team have announced that Barack plans to veto a law passed under Bush making it acceptable to drill for oil in wilderness areas. I think that's the nub of it, anyway: I came in to a newsagents to shelter from the freezing rain and saw the story on the front of the Guardian newspaper. He's also heading for conflict with Gordon Brown over tax havens for the rich.

Wonderful! Can I apply for four-year citizenship in the United States with an option to renew for another four years dependent on the result of the next election?

Brown will trot out the tired old (Tory) argument that the rich and powerful cannot be hamstrung by legislation; that the only incentive they have to fatten the bank accounts and fill the dining tables of us all is complete freedom. Action cleansed of all moral, ethical and cultural considerations.

But it isn't the heads of the multinationals who have made Britain and America wealthy nations anyway. It's the ordinary men and women labouring their asses off every day in the companies run by the rich. Or at the very least it's the rich and powerful and the ordinary man and women working together. And what is the incentive of the ordinary man supposed to be?

I'm an ordinary man, albeit one with interests and opinions some consider eccentric (even dangerous, as a true belief in individual liberty is always considered to be); and I've never felt more inclined to work for the common good than I do at present knowing there's about to be an intelligent and moral man in the White House, someone who'll be working alongside me for things that matter. Ravage the sacred and the beautiful and fuck the poor as Bush has been doing for the last eight years to feed the insatiable bellies of the rich and all I want to do is sit in my flat cursing the stupidity of human kind.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Next War

One of the fabulous things about Obama's election is that when confronted with racism these past few days, I've been able to point out to the ignorant curs who perpetrate it that history has left them behind. You can stick to an increasingly deluded view of your superiority over a whole race of people if you like, feller,though quite how skin pigmentation is supposed to affect intelligence or morality I've never understood; but there's a black family heading for the White House now and the country everybody else presumes to be terminally racist has voted them in.

Rosa Parks didn't quite know what she was starting all those years ago when she refused to get up off her bus seat to let a white man sit down.

And the struggle for civil rights for black people (and Asians in this country) isn't finished yet. Obama is only the end of the beginning and if we allow ourselves to become complacent about black equality because of his triumph, the racists will sneak up on our flanks and reverse the successes we've had.

It interested me, however, to read in the paper yesterday that one of the most powerful weapons Republicans and religious nuts have in their campaign against equality for gays and lesbians is the support of the black community in America. Unless one man is free, no man is free, as far as I'm concerned. A community only now beginning to free itself from the tyranny of exclusion, disadvantage and violence ought not to be lending its arm to the oppression of another.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Well Done America, All Is Forgiven

Ted Pope just wrote to me, "We've got a president who's read more books than I have." He's right, and it's marvellous. Think about it. Barack Obama is so erudite, no rhetorical flight I could produce here to express my satisfaction at the American presidential election outcome, and why I think it will be important not only for America but for the world, would have a prayer of surpassing in style or content what Barack has already said himself. I feel--I hope temporarily--quite silenced by his prodigious gifts as a communicator. And I like that. I want to know that the most powerful man in the world is a man of extraordinary talents.

Well done, America. You played a blinder when you went to the polls the other day.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Cheney Endorses McCain

John McCain must have been privately squirming when he was publically endorsed by Dick Cheney the other day. Is that what the flagging Republican campaign really needs? The vocal support or a central figure in the Bush administration? Even Republicans don't like Bush anymore, not now that his plummeting support among moderate Americans threatens the interests the Republican Party is designed to protect.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Same Old Same Old

The world--well, the part of the world that is conscious and not preoccupied with survival--holds its breath. America is only a few days away from deciding its future, and by extension, everybody else's future too. Do they elect Barack Obama as president and send a signal to the world that they are renewed--that the torch, as Jack Kennedy might have said, has been passed to a new generation who want America to rediscover its sense of mission, its presumed destiny as the leader of a New Way that enshrines fairness "and justice for all"? Or do they elect John McCain, who stands for a slightly more liberal version of the same corrupt, greedy, lying, illiterate bullshit America has soured the world with for the last eight years (with my own country, which has never known any better, cheering it on).

The people I have spoken to--Africans and Pakistanis among them--men who have witnessed enough corruption and violence in their own countries to turn Michael Landon to drink and Devil worship--say McCain is so old he will be in a nursing home before the end of his first term. They say, correctly, "same old same old." They say, "America will never elect a black man."

Nobody anywhere else in the world appears to believe that America would dare to take such a bold and visionary step. The consensus is that voters must be lying to the pollsters and that come election day they will vote McCain with guilt in their hearts and never admit what they have done. I hope America proves them wrong and that hope triumphs over cynicism when the votes are cast. If it doesn't and McCain is elected it will be difficult for us ever to have faith in the value of political engagement again.