The train

August 20, 2010

I’m tired of being involved.
The other night train master came
and nearly took me.
I hang in healthily.
Two years and he ditched me.

He came looking flushed
apology on his lips.
“I’m in love.”
I realised what everything meant.
He had breakfast and looked amused.

Yes everything has a beginning a middle
and an end. But not modern stories
they seem to go on forever like me.
Self rules the world. His self importance
is tearing me apart.
I gaze out of the carriage petrified of the journey.

Will it stop now? Will my life be over
will the man come?

My father thinks mum
is poisoning him.
I think I have to go.
But mum doesn’t want to be alone with an old man.

I worked hard yet
I’m nothing.
My cats are fighting.
The kitten with the cat over
territory I wonder why not I?

He said, he said he loved me.
We must be courting for seventeen years now.
I know some and he knows that I’m being
taken for granted. Like some never make it.
And blondes are never taken for
granted especially if they wear their silicones well.

Jealousy will it be still.
I am a discarded tampon
stop tormenting me.
I’m always on the train and the journey
begins to jet lag me, then there is a break.
Something is wrong.
I climb the rails and it’s encouraged.
I want to speak but I’m tongue tied.

I imagine the trees and the shadows.
Years slip and I’m an infant and I’m swinging
in the orange groves of Cyprus and my
world is filled with fruits and candy and
I’m happy.

Everything is all right everything is fine
says my mum as I fall and graze my knee.
And I’m in my lover’s arms and he says
Everything will be all right.

Then the train hurtles into space
and I no longer have control.

Fatma Durmush

A ghost of myself…

August 9, 2010

Underground train –
in the dark window a ghost
of myself

Winter breakfast
tasting sun in summer’s jam –
last spoonful

heap of white feathers
blowing on the forest path –
silence

Martha Street

So I sit here staring out the window with my one good eye, like Odin the other’s been sacrificed to wisdom ( well, hardly that I s’pose, to be truthful ). My thoughts, unexpectedly, turn to the Mekon…

I first encountered him in the pages of The Eagle comic as a boy – an encounter that also encompassed a first time acquaintanceship with gas chambers. At the time, I couldn’t get my head around the idea of specifically building a “chamber” in which people were to be killed.

It seemed absurd.

Madness.

Monstrous.

The chamber, I recall, was all gleaming stainless steel – a truly sterile affair, where execution, the murder of one individual by the state (or in this case the Mekon), could be conducted in a clean, methodical manner. The victim’s only input in to this ritual, of course, was to die quietly.

At the time we had a gas fire in the living room and the gas had a musty unpleasant stink to it. I imagined that small stainless steel chamber gradually filling with the stink of gas. Was it the smell that killed you?

Anyway, the Mekon was this small green super-scientist with a huge head (reflecting I guess the size of his brain, hence his mind warping IQ) whose atrophied limbs required him to utilize this little hoverdisc that resembled nothing more than a flying commode. He was Lord of the Treens, a race of green meanies inhabiting the northern hemisphere of Venus. The Mekon, unhappy with half a planet, desired all of Venus , the earth, the solar system, everything. The Mekon was a true, textbook megalomaniac…(only such a condition isn’t recognised medically)

He was the creation of Frank Hampson, the brilliant originator of the Dan Dare comic strip. The Dare strip was ingenious and to the mind of a young boy, it was the future!

In one strip the Mekon declares ‘We shall overcome any misguided resistance and later reduce your population (i.e. the earth’s population) to scientific limits’.

Ummm, with hindsight, perhaps the human race would have been better off if the Mekon had taken over? Perhaps we’d have had less problems today? Instead of breeding like…well, like Rabbits, we would have been forced to conform to “scientific limits” on our numbers?

But the Mekon was thwarted by Dan Dare. The world remained free. The earth’s population continued to multiply – and to pollute the planet that birthed it. Of course, we now see the “misguided resistance”, so shocking to the Mekon’s sensibilities, was nothing more than a display of human greed. The world government on Earth was full of Neo-Colonialists who wished to exploit the mineral wealth of Venus…as always exploitation was the name of the game.

Today, I find it interesting that the Mekon and the Treens were green. Green for healthy. Green as a lettuce leaf. Green as…well, if I were a cynic, green as gangrene, except the puss from that is yellowish. Perhaps Frank Hampson was ahead of his time in suggesting we should look after our environment? Unfortunately, it was a message not heard or understood by many.

Slightly more people heard and listened to Rachel Carson. Her book Silent Spring back in 1962 launched the environmental movement. One could almost say that Carson made ecology “subversive”, science (or a scientist) against industry ( or greedy capitalists), when she went head-to-head with the chemical industry.

Today the earth really has need of the Mekon. We’ve got plenty of Dan Dares – too many, probably. What we need is a big headed, bright-green, super-scientist on a flying shitter, putting everything to rights…instead we get a George Bush or a Tony Blair or a Gordon Brown or a Nicolas Sarkozy or a clone of one or all of them – did you notice Sarkozy recently launched an attack on immigrants in France? He is himself the child of immigrants. What madness the scramble for popularity engenders…

We need a Mekon to ensure we reduce the number of planes in the air – the whole damn world flies off to attended a meeting on Climate Change. Have these people not heard of Video Conferencing?

We need a Mekon to reverse globalisation, create intelligent urban design, oversee decentralisation with all power returning to local communities (very like the Swiss local communes).

We need to make better use of our water supplies– for example in new buildings we ensure the recycling of water from bath or shower to a reserve tank used for flushing the WC etc, simple but efficient and not expensive to do. All over Germany and Austria I recently saw home power solar panels – huge numbers of dwellings have them, and Germany has built more windmills than any other country in Europe. In the UK we’re still arguing about them, and you hardly ever see a solar panel, they’re too expensive for the average family to install…

In Europe huge amounts of goods are moved by barge on a network of canals, many of the barges holding the load of up to seventy commercial vehicles. In the UK, it mostly travels by road. We’ve even managed to price the majority of commercial goods off the railways…

We need a Mekon to introduce an element of common sense. In time (a lot of time granted ) the earth will become like that gleaming steel gas chamber. Human greed will have condemned the race to death. We will go out not with a bang but a whimper…

And now, deep in ennui, it’s started to rain. The sound of the rain is the saddest of sounds. I seem to remember the Mekon once said about human beings:

STOP THEM! You fools STOP THEM!!

That says it all, doesn’t it?

Winter Economy

August 2, 2010

The horse turns its tail
into the flailing wind.

The labouring crow
is pitched over the oak
and heaves to on a fence post.

Under the hissing trees,
the lank cattle,
their coats greased with wet,
roll the night’s hay
in cud through their molars,
chewing over a week of thunder in June.

Roger Garfitt

Peedeel posted this HERE to comment on the true meaning of poverty in a global sense. In the developed nations, increasingly there is talk of internal “poverty” when what is really meant is economic deprivation or social disadvantage. Peedeel posited the theory that millions around the world would gladly change places with, for example, the UK poor.

Does anyone really believe for one minute that this isn’t the case?

Peedeel doesn’t suggest economic deprivation in the developed nations is a good thing. Quite the reverse. What he does suggest, however, is that a “benefits mentality” within the UK is a worrying development. A growing number of people feel the state, which let’s face it is the taxpayer, should take responsibility for the day to day problems in their lives; further, the attitude on display is often that this is a RIGHT (almost God given, one assumes) and should be set imperishably in stone!

Peedeel has no wish to explore here the philosophy behind the creation of a “welfare state”. The original ideas were sound; the aims beyond reproach.

However, as has been increasingly demonstrated with aid packages from the developed nations to the undeveloped nations, a climate of dependency is created. In turn manipulation of this situation by aid givers, inevitably results in the gaining of some pecuniary advantage for them – it’s a nasty form of neo-colonialism. Ultimately, the aim is exploitation. Likewise the creation of a “benefits culture” within the UK: in Peedeel’s view it creates dependency, erodes individual self-respect and allows the state (regardless of political persuasion) to manipulate a growing number of its citizens.

This by no means suggests that disadvantaged people in the UK should be left to flounder or starve in the way millions are left to starve in the third world. No. Instead Peedeel would like to see people of talent and vision in government – something that hasn’t happened in his lifetime, and, again, is something unlikely to occur in the near future. But that’s the real world for you. Mediocrity strives, rules…

Meaningful reform becomes impossible to implement.

The problems in a “benefits” orientated society are legion. For example see HERE. Or this HERE explaining how the Swiss handle the problem.

As Peedeel explained in his original post, years ago these benefits didn’t exist. You had to get by. It was called life.

Now, Peedeel will attempt to correct some urbane myths. In a reply to my post Deeply Flawed But Trying… wrote:

“THe only factors which contribute to that poverty are my gender and the fact that I have a child.”

In the real world, within the UK :

“Women are a bit – but only a bit – more likely to live in low-income households than men: 21% compared with 19%. Excluding couples, single women are still a bit – but only a bit – more likely to live in low-income households than single men: 29% compared with 24%.” (source the Joseph Rowntree Foundation).

Obviously the number of women as lone parents exceeds the number of males; but male lone parents are equally economically disadvantaged. Gender (for once) makes little difference. The child, however, makes a substantial impact:

“1998 is the year at which the trends in benefit levels for those with and without children starting following very different paths. Since 1998, the level of means-tested benefits for a couple with two children has risen by around 40% after allowing for inflation while that for a couple with one child has risen by 25%. By contrast, Income Support for a couple with no children has not changed (apart from inflation) since 1998. Income Support for a single working-age adult without dependent children has likewise not changed.

“Indeed, the level of means-tested for both pensioners and couples with two children is about 20% higher relative to average earnings that it was in 1998, with most of this increase occurred in the period between 1998 and 2003. By contrast, the value of this benefit for working-age adults with no dependent children is about 15% lower relative to earnings in 2010 than it was in 1998. This is despite an increase in the most recent two years (2009 and 2010).

“The reason for the difference in the trends for working-age families with differing numbers of children is that all the increases in benefit levels for working-age families have been in the child element rather than the adult element, so the fewer the children in the family the lower the increase in the benefit level. Means-tested benefits for a working-age couple with no children are around half the low-income threshold. By contrast, for a pensioner couple, means-tested benefits are similar to the low-income threshold. Working-age adults with no dependent children constitute half of all adults in receipt of State benefits. The majority of these people are either sick or disabled. (source Joseph Rowntree Foundation).

Peedeel in his previous post referred to conditions prevailing when he was a young man (and dinosaurs ruled the world). He stated that after the birth of his child life was a struggle – this purely in financial terms. This hasn’t changed an awful lot for young families with low incomes, even with the payment of benefits:

21% of income poor children are in a household with both parents, usually with one parent in employment. (Source HBAI survey).

Thus when Deeply Flawed But Trying… says:

“ Oh, and you didn’t become a single parent family. Because even though you had one income, there were TWO of you to share responsibility for childcare and domestic management.”

She is quite correct (not that Peedeel claimed otherwise?). It is also true to say that because of the long hours Peedeel worked he saw little of his child for the first six years of life. The real world. It’s hard…

Deeply Flawed But Trying…also writes:

“Welcome to the real world? The real world where you train for 3 years, paying for that training, and leaving yourself £12k in debt.”

Peedeel can only respond by saying: yes, that real world. When Peedeel finished school it was almost impossible to attend university without having the fees up front. There was little or no state aid. No interest free loans. No student grants. If you didn’t come from a relatively wealthy family, you didn’t go. End of story.

At least the “debt” is currently interest free (I believe this is changing in September?), and only needs repayment when you’re in employment, repayments from gross income at the rate of 9% of any income earned in excess of £15,000 a year.

To take on such a loan is a personal lifestyle choice: your decision, your debt. No one puts a gun to the head of any individual and forces them on a path of further education…

It’s hard but it’s called life. Welcome to the world.