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Showing posts from 2016

CHRISTMAS THOUGHTS 2016

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“For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning."
TS Eliot The Four Quartets
I To look back on a year like 2016 feels like looking back upon a devastated landscape, already decaying after the storm, already a wasteland. A year, to mix my metaphors, strangled by the forces of bitter reaction, with the recently impoverished and dispossessed, fed on the lies of opportunists, cynics and demagogues, providing the coup de grĂ¢ce on the prostrate body. It is a world in which, at least in the UK, those who feel cheated, have been led by those who have cheated them, rose in rebellion and rejected the post war pan European social democratic settlement. In the US even darker forces have prevailed, a Mussolini style rabble rouser has attained power in the world’s most powerful democracy.  Even before he has taken the oath of office terrible portents cloud an ever-darkening sky. The institution…

MEMORY AND THE MOBILE PHONE

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I Call My Brothers The Gate Theatre Notting Hill Gate 10 November – 03 December
What happens when fear and paranoia become as suffocating and pervasive as hunger or pain? This is the theme of the Gate’s new production, I Call My Brothers by Jonas Hassen Khemiri. In the wake of a terrorist attack in Central London anyone of Arabic, Middle Eastern or Pakistani appearance both feel and become suspect. For highly secular and western oriented individuals like Amor, -sharply and empathetically played by Richard Sumitro, - the central character of the play, this can be particularly bewildering, alienating and a deeply oppressive experience. The stark minimalist set accentuates this sense of a world of alienation and disconnect. This is further underlined by the fact that, as in contemporary life, so much of the dialogue is largely conducted, - disconnected, broken up, at cross purposes, - on mobile phone. Drunk coming home from a dance Amor is just another late-night reveller, or so he assume…

THE SMART SHIP AND THE ICEBERG

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There have been worse years in modern history, much worse, 1914, 1939, 1940for example, but they have been few. Closer to 2016 are 1933 or 1938, for this has been, like both of these years, a year that will have consequences which will be felt for decades to come. Once more the piggy face of nationalism and fascism are triumphant. From Poland to the US and UK the slogan peddled has been that rallying call of the dictator and demagogue down the centuries, “we will make you great again.”
The fact that a serious threat of the break-up of the UK was narrowly averted turned out merely to be a portent, a bell ringing in the wind, warning of a hurricane coming. For the storms of 2016 have been a long time in the making. The root causes are many and often intricately interwoven. From the left’s pandering to militant Islam, the shock and revulsion at the Jimmy Saville revelations and of grooming by Asian gangs of, predominantly white, young teenage girls, to the ravages of cuts to basic servi…

SEPTEMBER SWAN SONG EVERYBODY HATES TONY BLAIR

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Inheriting A Corpse
A few words, like a flare shot out to expose enemy positions, can in an instant reveal the nature of a political mind-set, the contours of a particular world view. So it was the other week when a member of the audience witnessing a debate between Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith was asked by the moderator why she kept booing the latter. In a barely coherent harrumph of anger and fetid spleen she spoke four words that stayed in my mind. "Everybody," she shouted, “hates Tony Blair!”
It’s the ‘everybody’ that gives the game away. For in her world everybody did indeed hate Tony Blair, who is a ‘war criminal.’ *   This, one of a whole set of givens, self-evident ‘truths,’ occupyingthe unchallengeable reality of the circles in which she moved. She lives in a world in which the notion that Tony Blair is anything other than the personification of evil is as much a given as the fact that Atlee is dead. Consequently, when confronted by a contrary proposition the cognitiv…

SEPTEMBER SONGS PART IV ON THE NATURE OF TIME

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The days in Sinemoritz are long. It is now a little after nine thirty and already an age has passed since the first stirrings of five o clock. Morning is the most wonderful time here. The sunrise can match anything the Aegean has to offer. If sufficiently awake it is well worth a visit to the beach. When the sun catches the sea on fire, when a mellow wind brushes against your cheeks, you know both that you are alive and that life holds the possibility of a certain kind of happiness.* The Sinemoritz I knew then has gone. The Bobby [Boris] I knew there is dead. I will not go back, it would be too difficult, emptied of its chaos it has become soulless, anaemic, just another tourist resort. That strange ephemeral place, a Brigadoon appearing momentarily in time on the windswept stretch of land on the Black Sea coast of Thrace. There are periods in life, provided we step outside the narrow circle of our comfort zone, which, particularly when associated with a specific location, can be experi…

SEPTEMBER SONGS III

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It seems we are set for an Indian summer, the atmosphere muggy and cloying, unusual for September. I open the window just after six to feel the cool breeze, which I experience like American air-conditioning. 
Such mornings as these feel heavily pregnant with post-holiday projects, further education classes, DIY, the sounds and smells of return to school or university. Yet against this backdrop of the new, the fresh, there is autumnal decay. The leaves make their slow meandering journey back to the dew soaked earth, rotten fruit lies under the pear and apple trees and, for those over a certain age, the alarming feeling of time draining away. ‘Can it really be September already?'

Though this year, for me, and I think many others, something new has been added to the fears and hopes of September. We are now menaced by the prospect of President Trump, the reality of the ongoing Brexit nightmare, and, more parochially, for those on the progressive left, the slow agonising death of the Bri…

SEPTEMBER SONGS PART II

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2 What Do We Want?
No SWP Placards! Saturday and the March for Europe. London can feel like a small place sometimes for I meet my next door neighbour amongst a relatively small group assembled in Park Lane. The mood is subdued and I begin to fear that a degree of despondency and defeatism may have set in. This soon changes as we get underway and as more and more people join in; by the time we approach Trafalgar Square the mood is confident even ebullient, as the mass of people, a snake, stretching far behind and in front of me.
Regular readers will know that I am not really a marching sort of person, too self-conscious  to be shouting or singing. However this one feels different, this is not the usual 'Protests R Us ' crowd, these are people who only protest as a last resort. Disproportionately, though not exclusively , white and middle class, the atmosphere is consequently polite and we’ll mannered. After the exchanges I have recently had on Twitter, with both Corbynites and t…

SEPTEMBER SONGS 1

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"History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake." James Joyce 1.  September and yet still more madness. Lying has become so prevalent amongst those either with power and influence or seeking to gain it, that it now often goes unchallenged. In the case of the Leave campaign the whole prospectus was a lie, from money freed for the NHS to immigration, the truth was simply discarded. Corbyn and Trump lie with reckless abandon clear in the knowledge that, as far as their own supporters are concerned, there will be no consequences. Indeed, Corbyn’s supporters actively collude with his rewriting of history, thus Corbyn, a long-time supporter of the IRA's ‘armed struggle,’ now casts himself as the great mediator, a man of peace, bringing all sides together. In the face of all the evidence to the contrary his fan club promotes this great lie. His latest untruth is that he appeared on the Iranian propaganda channel Press TV in order to raise human rights concerns. There is…

THE HUMAN FACE OF A GREAT HORROR

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The Maisky Diaries: Red Ambassador to the Court of St James's, 1932-1943
Edited by Gabriel Gorodetsky Pushkin Press  Stalin’s henchmen, sycophants constantly in fear for their lives, for very obvious reasons tended not to keep diaries or any other documentary evidence of their thoughts and feelings. This makes the discovery of Ivan Maisky’s diaries all the more astonishing. Soviet ambassador to the UK from 1932 to 1943, Maisky was unique in a great number of ways. He not only loved his posting but was extremely fond of the UK, and had many genuine friendships within the British establishment, being particularly close, amongst others, to Sydney and Beatrice Webb, Lloyd George, and George Bernard Shaw. He and Churchill got on well, and there were few in the Foreign Office with whom he did not have an amicable relationship. These years were amongst the most tumultuous in the twentieth century, leading up to the outbreak of a cataclysmic world war which, by 1943 when he was recalled t…

CORBYN THE RAMSAY MACDONALD OF THE LEFT

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I grew up in an age when changing your political allegiance was like changing the football team you supported, unthinkable. The world is more fluid now, though I find I still carry my allegiance to the Labour party as close as any football scarf. So for me, the slow, seemingly unstoppable destruction of the Labour Party feels like a former of torture.
It is tempting to blame everything on Corbyn and McDonnell, and both are the primary culprits  and extremely malign, but they could hardly have achieved this destructive exercise on their own. For make no mistake about it all those people, primarily from comfortable middle-class backgrounds, registering to vote Corbyn back in againknow that this will destroy the Labour Party as it currently exists. What they imagine will happen if, and it looks likely that he will be, is re-elected is unclear. However, if they imagine that the PLP will simply declare, “the membership has spoken, let’s embrace Corbyn’s world view and jump over the electo…

LONDON LETTER JULY 2016: WELCOME TO WEIMAR

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WELCOME TO WEIMAR
Images abound that summon up the current catastrophic crisis that in just 21 days have seen the political ‘establishment,’ (a word that has almost lost any meaning, so abused and misused has it been during the referendum campaign), brought to its knees.
For me, the most significant was a picture of Tom Watson Deputy leader of the Labour Party after he gave up on talks with Len McCluskey of the Unite trade union. The talks had been an attempt to deal with the impasse created by Jeremy Corbyn’s refusal to recognise the consequences of his having lost the confidence of the Parliamentary Labour Party, [PLP]. Watson knew the game was up. Days later at an NEC meeting, Corbyn seems, having been asked, to have refused to leave the room. Behaviour that would be disgraceful in a seven-year-old. So this is how a once great party, the party of Atlee and Bevin, dies, dragged into the shit by a petulant old man who has not had a fresh idea since the 1970’s. It is clear that Corby…

NAUSEA

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Rarely do you find out something horrible has happened directly these days, or at least that is how it has been with me recently.  I log on to twitter and see a tweet mentioning Charlie Hebbdo or Brussels and slowly the truth begins to emerge. So it was that I heard that an MP had been attacked and, amidst the cacophony of tweets, that she had died. Her murder, on the same day that UKIP launched a poster taken straight from the Nazi playbook c1939. I began to experience a range of symptoms, a visceral sense of my own impotence, rage and a sick heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach. Since that afternoon it has not gone away but has grown into a paralysing feeling of nausea, as I have witnessed  so much that I value and cherish about this country being  trashed. So I have not witnessed events unfold on the television screen but on social media, on Twitter. This has made it feel more personal and direct. It has also led to considerable  distortions and amplification of feelings of insul…

THE SUPERNOVA THAT WAS DADA

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100 years ago this month Dada was born in a cafe, The Cabaret Voltaire, in Zurich Switzerland,[1] - ‘a birdcage surrounded by roaring lions.’  Michael Ball, a German bohemian, mounted the stage dressed as a sort of human-bat and began flapping his ‘wings’ and shouting nonsense at the audience. The audience thought it truly terrible and consequently loved it. It was 1916 and Europe was destroying itself as young men slaughtered one another in a line of trenches that ran from the Swiss border to the channel coast. As a culture that looked upon itself as the pinnacle of civilisation descended into barbarism the only sane response was insanity.
‘The walls of the cabaret were decorated with primitivist masks and artworks by the likes of Picasso and Modigliani. Onstage, provocateurs mixed vaudeville acts and expressionist dance with performances that bordered on gibberish or lunacy, including a poem intoned in three languages at once, a Maori song belted out by the young [Tristan]Tzara weari…

STALKING*

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A great deal has been said about stalking recently, all, understandably, from the perspective of the victim. I am interested in the perspective of the perpetrator since it seems to me that if victims are to be better protected then we need to develop a greater understanding of the thought processes and psychological outlook of the stalker.
In my time working in mental health and addiction, I worked with several obsessive individuals and believe that I have some understanding of their worldview, that is how they perceive both themselves and their victims. So here are some of my reflections.
There have always been anti-social obsessives who can be categorised on a scale from relatively harmless to the psychopathic. Literature is full of examples and Hitchcock understood the type well. What has changed is modern means of communication and social media, which in the hands of an obsessive can be truly devastating. The seeds of the obsessive stalker reside in all of us, we all find it diff…