Friday, October 30, 2009

Che Guevara And The Street Gangs

(from the author's private journal)

Apparently that music the youngsters like to play in their shiney cars is called "grime". It's a word lifted from a Rolling Stone interview with Karen Carpenter. (Okay, it isn't.)

I discovered this fascinating fact during a news item on the radio about a movie (I didn't catch the name of it) depicting gang life in the Midlands. The movie has apparently been banned by some cinema chains because it glamorises guns, violence and drug abuse.

Well, congratulations idiots, now you've increased the cachet of the movie tenfold among the people you fear will be most influenced by it. Illegal downloads will be flying everywhere.It was interesting to consider the film, whatever it is called, and the lifestyle it depicts, after watching "Che Part One" last night.

One of the stars of the gang film was on the radio spouting all of the usual drivel we hear from apologists for these thugs: "It's a fact...It's the way it is...They look at a choice between a lifetime flipping burgers on the minimum wage or the guys in the gangs wearing expensive rings and driving around in big flash cars...What are they supposed to do?"(Grow up?)

So victimhood is the rationalisation they use for turning themselves into a more brutal micro-version of their own oppressors? exploiting the people in their own neighbourhoods for money and status? I don't necessarily accept that the people in the gangs are clever enough to think it through that intelligently, but supposing they did: how lazy, how pathetically cowardly, that would be.

Here's a suggestion from Amiri Baraka: "make some muscle in yr. head" if you want to escape a lifetime of poverty. I don't mean (again, necessarily), get educated and climb the Capitalist ladder--although some could, to some degree, if they stopped using environment as an excuse. I mean teach yourself how the System works, learn what the causes of social injustice are, if you don't want to play the game; then try to use the System against itself to change it. Or go for Revolution, if you really think that's the answer (history suggests it's not, but you will have to decide that for yourself). Be a MAN, not a whiney boy with a big gun shouting "It's not fair!" as you shoot down a defenceless shopkeeper.

Guevara may have been dogmatic; his methods may have been wrong (Individualism and Capitalism are far from the same thing--Capitalism transforms its subjects into drones just like Communism--but Che dismissed Individualism as bourgeois and denied the call of Spirit too)(that's why Allen Ginsberg was kicked out of Cuba). Che's vision and his courage, though, were enormous. He saw suffering and injustice and decided he would put his life at risk in a herculean effort to make it go away, for everyone. In the selfish world we live in now, where giving a shit about anyone except yourself is seen as passe and sentimental, that's tremendously inspiring.

Like I said, street gangs are just Capitalism in miniature. Uneducated avarice is what makes the whole darn Western world go round.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Another Day, Another Hate Crime. Gotta Love This Country

I was extremely disturbed to hear about the homophobic attack in Liverpool the other night, the one perpetrated by a large gang of teenagers on a gay man which has left him gravely ill in hospital. The list of the poor bastard's injuries is stomach churning.

You do have to wonder what sort of society we have allowed to develop when children (that is what they are at 14, regardless of what they might want you to think), are prepared to kick and beat somebody to the brink of death because his sexuality is different from theirs. (If they are even having sex, beyond the occasional desperate, unsatisfying wank.)

The ultimate responsibility is theirs, of course, since nobody forced them to set upon the victim, but what the hell were their parents doing letting them stay out at that time of the night at that age? And who are they hearing the kind of bilious, hate-filled rubbish from that shapes their malleable minds in such an unfortunate way?

Some of their music, yes. A lot of it is packed with ridiculous, infantile macho posturing that they are bound to imitate; it's in their movies and their games too, although less explicitly, perhaps, when you're talking about hate crimes like homphobic assault.

But you can't just blame the entertainments they're exposed to. They are also exposed to parents who should be proud to ingrain in their children the egalitarian principles a civilised society is based on. Problem is, principle is laughed at nowadays, and liberal principle particularly. Half of the parents who have teenage children now grew up in the Eighties when Margaret Thatcher declared that there was no such thing as society, and books which featured positive images of homosexuality were banned from our schools.

We also have the leader of the BNP publically declaring that he finds the sight of gay men kissing "creepy" and the Catholic Church doing backroom deals to steal from their home in the Church of England those who find the ordination of women and gay priests repellant.

When you think about it, nobody except the stupid white male stands a chance in this country anymore. But the gay community must feel particularly under assault.

Sometimes I think we're hurtling back into the Middle Ages so fast I may even have missed us landing.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

So One In Five Support The BNP? So Few?

I don't think the so-called "chattering classes"--of which I suppose I'm an honorary, if rather down-at-heel, member--should be too surprised at the poll which said 1 in 5 British voters would consider voting for the BNP, unless the surprise is caused by how minimal the poll suggests their support still is.They do reflect a strong vein of opinion in white British (and to them there is no other) life when it comes to immigration.

A great many white British people think there are too many "foreigners" in the country; and their scorn is not just reserved for those with darker skins than theirs--they curse the supposed preponderence of Polish people walking our streets and renting our mouldy over-priced terraced houses as well. "The Government's just letting anyone in," they'll tell you (I've heard it); though if you ask any of them for statistics relative to other European countries or immigration levels twenty years ago, they won't be able to give you any.

It's a feeling, you see, which is why it's so difficult to challenge; and as far as I'm concerned the feeling comes from racism. Listen to those same people, those people who think "something should be done" about immigration and admire Mr. Griffin for having the "courage" to try to do it, even if they profess not to admire all his methods (fearing, I suspect, the Nazi comparisons that are attached to him and his party). Among the worried white voters I know racist jokes about, and stereotypes of, Indians and Pakistanis are freely heard; so is the racist nomenclature. And anti-Muslim sentiment is as commonplace as ignorance about the Koran.

The latter has spread like a plague since the twin towers were destroyed and the buses were bombed in London. And in light of the horrors of those attacks it's almost understandable. When you feel that your lifestyle is threatened you draw in, become defensive, unreasonable about the person you perceive to be your enemy. It's a shame the Muslim-beaters I know can't see that this tendency in them is the same tendency we see in some quarters of the Islamic culture. And we aren't allowed to see what our guns and bombs are doing in Afghanistan, what they did in Iraq. What horrors were perpetrated there in the name of the spread of democracy? (other than the 800,000 Iraqis who died in that war, I mean).

Our political classes like to reassure themselves that Britain isn't a racist country; that we are to the last man or woman generous, open-hearted, gentle liberals whose destiny it is to nurture and suckle the world. I don't think that's true. I don't even think it's necessary to strike fear of difference completely from your heart to be considered an acceptable human being. But there's a meanness in the British character now (whether it was there before or not I don't know); there's an intolerance and a readiness to commit violence against the objects of our judgement which makes the dialogue on race that Mr Griffin has set raging not only distasteful, but frightening.

Let's have actual statistics on immigration from an objective source before we decide whether anything needs to be done about it. At the moment everybody, including me probably, is shouting their opinion from a point of view of complete ignorance.

And let these people who express sympathy with the BNP, but hide from themselves and from us behind the mask of polite concern for the state of the nation, understand what kind of party they are proposing to elect . If you put a cross against the BNP candidate at the election you are supporting, ultimately, the exclusion of all non-white people from the political debate and the forced repatriation of anybody who wasn't born pink-skinned singing "God Save The Queen" under a giant flag of St. George. You are also endorsing the leadership of a man who denied the Holocaust and finds the sight of two men kissing "creepy".

If that's okay with you, vote BNP with the blessing of everybody. But for Heaven's sake, stay away from my door.And be honest about your bigotry.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Nick Griffin On The BBC

Should BNP leader Nick Griffin be allowed to appear on Question Time this week alongside representatives of the political mainstream in Britain?

It leaves an unpleasant taste in the mouth to think that this racist, Holocaust-denying thug should be given the legitimacy of an appearance on the BBCs premier political debate show.

But we do not want to play to the sense of martyrdom and victimhood he and his supporters already have. "The only person no one listens to in this country is the poor white man" etc. etc. etc.

Let him talk and with any luck he will be exposed for the crypto-fascist he is. With any luck.

The other, less likely, scenario, which is that he will put on a fine rabble-rousing performance and pick up thousands more supporters to his cause, is too disturbing even to contemplate for long.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Religion And The Devil

I heard a Christian woman advising someone yesterday not to do yoga because it was part of the work of false idols (or something). That's the Devil working through those elegant contortions.

The Christianity I grew up around was so much sweeter and more relaxed than that. You could, as Gary Snyder says, "almost love (it) again."

I think the Devil, if he exists, does a big part of his work inside the anger and judgement of people who want to eliminate diversity and have us all worship the same God in the same way.

Fundamentalism is the same on every side, because it's a distortion of the human temperament which finds a place to settle in religion, or in politics.

So I don't blame God or Allah for some of the lunatics who follow them. Religion itself may be the only functioning tool we have to keep society from sliding into chaos.

But there is a powerful resemblance between people like that Christian woman yesterday and the Muslims she thinks so primitive and vile. No drink. No drugs. No sex outside marriage. Disease a punishment from God. Homosexuality a crime against Heaven. The programme is the same.

And we Buddhists sit in the middle of it seeking answers on the meditation cushion. Though there's a fair share of sexism and exclusion of women when you delve into the Buddhist scriptures.

It's just that most people pay no mind to it and understand these books were written in another time, when the social structure was quite different.

All creatures want to be free from suffering, down to the smallest insect. That's what the present Dalai Lama says.

And equal access to the dharma, in Buddhism, is the best way to achieve it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Uh-Oh, Trouble Is Coming To Town

That Dutch fellow is coming Friday, the MP who plans to show his film intercutting footage of 9/11 with quotes from the Koran in the House of Lords. The leader of that well-known bunch of political moderates UKIP invited him. The Government then banned him from coming on the grounds that the public airing of his views would sow seeds of racial and religious discord, but their decision was overturned in court as some sort of unfair restriction on freedom of speech.

He was on the radio this morning making ridiculous generalised statements about Muslims and equating Islam with fascism.The fact that the Bible is pretty extremist in its attitude to diversity and equality too, and there are those who interpret those writings seriously, seems to have slipped his mind conveniently. America had one as president for the last 8 years, and all through the 1980s. Do we imagine that someone is not a racist just because he says he's not a racist? Or a religious extremist because he insists he isn't that?

I find the extremist views of Islamists AND fundamentalist Christians rather frightening, having grown up in a relatively liberal democracy where the evolution of society has been towards equality (even if we haven't made it yet). But banning this Dutch fellow, whatever his name is, would only have added fuel to the martyr complex that white supremacists have about their status in the country already. My hope is that the MPs and whoever else has been invited to the screening of his movie simply won't show up.

Treat an intemperate and dangerous fool by refusing to feed the flames of his intolerance.

Then we should have a conference of world religions as the Ramadan Foundation suggested and really start to understand each other.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Letter

I found a letter tucked inside a book on my shelf.
One I hadn't seen before.Someone else had put it there when I lived in another house and I'd taken the book with me, not knowing.
The letter was from my landlord. To someone crazy I was caring for.
The crazy person and me were in a lot of trouble. The landlord wanted his house back, and he had brought in solicitors; he was serving notice.
He'd offered us purchase of the property. I didn't know this.
The letter said I'd blown it by walking away from the deal.
"Bruce's attitude makes that impossible," he said. My attitude. Unknowing, ignorant of all.
It was the house where I'd looked after my mother. The house where my mother had died one terrible summer morning.
The landlord said the crazy person's last letter was "unpleasant".
The landlord said we would be financially liable for damages to the house.
The landlord was a good guy. We'd exploited his kindness for a long time, though it didn't look that way to us then.
I can't quite remember where my head was back then.
Except this other person was crazy.
Living solely off my income. But freaking out if I worked.
Covering the appliances in bubble wrap.
Leaving loose leaves of paper all over the house with abuse of me scrawled all over it, the good parts underlined, in capitals, with three exclamation marks .
I can remember I put a heavy box in front of my bedroom door every night, fearing she'd come in and kill me.
That she told me the landlord had sexually abused her. That he'd raped her and touched her with his cock every time he got near her.
I was so fucked up I barely held down my job.
I had the definite feeling that the end might be coming.
When I reread that letter last night, all the fear, the confusion, the depression, of that time returned.
I wanted to get drunk.
I wanted to go to sleep and turn off my head.
I tore up the letter and buried it as deep as I could in the bin.
I don't want to remember that shit ever again.

I Wish

I could undo all the damage I've done by neglecting, exploiting, abusing my loved ones.

I wish I could glibly say I will make redress by doing the same things no more.

But I didn't realise that I was doing them then; I thought they were being done to me.

I lived in a world of parallel logic where I was a combination of choirboy and prophet.

I fear I still do.

And all the rationalisations I can offer don't make it better.


Pound's silence at the end of his life is the only wisdom.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Where Rebellion Really Lies

My dislike of television is well-known by people who are close to me. But I haven't turned the radio on a great deal either since I started writing again with anything like the seriousness it demands.

Why? It's because the babbling voices on the radio are the voices of consensus in its various forms. They have to be to acquire enough listeners to keep their stations afloat. Who wants to listen to radio that isn't about them?

But consensus is the enemy of creativity. You have to think your own thoughts, live in your own centre, to write well, not adopt the same mind as everybody else.

Think I'm being arrogant? Listen to the cliches of everyday speech they use, which are exactly the same as the cliches you hear at the bus stop.Listen to the assumptions of a shared position in the opinions they offer. Think about the topics they cover on the stations that pretend to some kind of objectivity.

It's all pitched towards a great mass of people who are assumed to be out there, lumbering through their lives in a pack like wet oxen.

The only radio station where you don't hear the voice of consensus anymore is Radio Three. Popularly presumed to be the soothing voice of the Establishment.

High culture is strictly for the minority these days, I suggest. The people running (and ruining) the world probably don't even know who Puccini or Kreisler are anymore.

The Establishment since the Thatcher era has been made up of rapacious philistines in business suits listening to white rock on their mp3 players, and using spell checks on their computers to work out where their apostrophes go.

TV & The Art Of Conversation

I walked into a room yesterday to find five perfectly intelligent people all watching tv with their mouths hanging just slightly slack and not a word passing between them. They were watching, if that's what they were doing with their heads turned towards the glowing box in the corner, a quiz show.

I waited for a few minutes. Nothing. I'm not sure anybody even blinked (though I could be wrong in that).

"What tv has done to the art of conversation, eh?" I said, tartly, to no one in particular.

"Hhhhnnnmmmm," said the more attentive of the group.

I could feel my brain shrinking to the size of a dried pea.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

It's Up To You, Whatever The Sun Says

At the moment, the British media is full of ruminations about the decision of that august publication The Sun to endorse David Cameron and the Tories at the General Election next year. Shows you what I know. I thought they supported them already, and had done for some time.

It doesn't surprise me they're endorsing Cameron, however, any more than it surprised me when they endorsed Blair and Labour in 1997. Blair, then, was offering a refined, apparently (though it was largely spin) socially conscious version of Thatcherism. He'd also spent a bit of time sucking up to Rupert Murdoch, who owns The Sun, and according to ex-employees dictates its agenda.

Murdoch endorses political parties who will help him further his immoral, rapacious business agenda, and Brown's slight, but nonetheless detectable, move left this past year, not to mention his famous Presbyterian moralism, makes him less of a potential ally to Murdoch than Blair was in 1997. And Cameron is a Tory, plain and simple. His instinct is to let Capitalism take its own course, without any intervention, whether it be ideologically or morally motivated.

Does The Sun have the power to influence the British voter to the extent that it can change an election result? Of course it does. It's a moronic newspaper, but it is deft with its propaganda. The half-truths and lies it spreads seep into the national consciousness like poisoned gas.

Do you want your vote to be dictated to you by a multi-millionaire whose only interest lies in getting rid of awkward legislation that stops him from controlling the whole of the media, and making more and more money in a world scarred by desperate poverty? That's something you must decide.

But I'm not going to be anybody's corporate shill.