Our political leaders are unenlightened and corrupt, but with rare exception, political leaders have always been unenlightened and corrupt. I stopped taking politics seriously a long, long time ago, therefore it’s had practically no effect on the way I’ve lived my life. In the end, politics is always a depressant, and I’ve preferred to be stimulated.

Tom Robbins
Jitterbug Perfume

Slaughter all

July 9, 2020

There is no ethnic group on the face of this earth that has not been slaughtered; viz Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Britons, and thousands of other tribes worldwide. When, after a conflict, the best balanced leaders who have a stake in the future of all persons, are bypassed, and instead power is seized by the angriest and most grudge-holding, whose greatest stake is in the past…without new consciousness, and without strong reconciling actions…thus erupts a horrible recycling of living out the least of what is human in this world.

Clarissa Pinkola Estés
Letter To The Prince on the Anniversary of Kristallnacht

To eat of meat joyously

June 19, 2020

To eat of meat joyously, a juicy loin cut
And with the fresh-baked, fragrant rye bread
Chunks from the whole cheese, and to swallow
Cold beer from the jug: such things are held in
Low esteem, but to my mind, to be put into the grave
Without ever enjoying a mouthful of good meat
Is inhuman, and I say that, I who
Am not good at eating.

Bertolt Brecht
Trans. Lee Baxendall

Humans were still not only the cheapest robots around, but also, for many tasks, the only robots that could do the job. They were self-reproducing robots too. They showed up and worked generation after generation; give them 3000 calories a day and a few amenities, a little time off, and a strong jolt of fear, and you could work them at almost anything. Give them some ameliorative drugs and you had a working class, reified and coglike.

Kim Stanley Robinson
2312

An Uncomfortable Truth

June 8, 2020

Black lives matter. Well, of course they do. But as a slogan for our times, it is basically a RACIST rant. All lives matter. Black, brown, yellow, pink, off-white – they all matter! To suggest only black lives matter, is to turn your back on well over half the human race. And surely that can’t be right.

I understand it is a form of words rooted in frustration and the ongoing struggle against the cultural constrictions of our times. But, I repeat, it is a racist message. It highlights and reinforces division. To use racism to fight racism is the road to hell.

The outrage that has gripped many nations in the wake of the death of George Floyd in the USA, is likely fuelled by resentment over Covid-19’s extreme impact on black communities. In the UK some of the most disadvantaged sections of society have suffered dreadfully because of the disease. People of Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, other Asian, Caribbean and other black backgrounds face a much higher risk of death – of between 10% and 50% – compared with white Britons from Covid-19. People of Bangladeshi background face the greatest danger of dying from the disease, according to a review by Public Health England. Their risk of death is double that seen among white British people.

The failure to tackle the disproportionate number of deaths of black, Asian and minority ethnic people from coronavirus fuels simmering tensions over racial injustice in Britain today. It is time we took the bull of structural racism by the horns. Be open, be honest. We aren’t going to get rid of racism overnight, but there are a number of things that can be done. As Mark Hendrick, the MP for Preston, recently said:

“Racism has bedevilled our societies through the generations; but the economic, social and health inequalities highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic have exposed racism in a way humanity has never seen before. Long after this crisis is over, we will be judged on how we sought to eradicate the virus of individual and structural racism by dealing with the conditions that have created it.”

Racism in the UK has changed significantly since I was a child. You no longer see signs in windows stating ‘Rooms To Let – No Blacks, No Foreigners’. Even so racism is as ill-understood and consequently remains as unaddressed today as it was way back then.

The Macpherson report published in February 1999 concluded that the investigation into the death of Stephen Lawrence “was marred by a combination of professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership by senior officers”. This institutional racism, the report explained, is “the collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people.”

Among its many recommendations, the report suggested that the police force boost its black representation, and that all officers be trained in racism awareness and cultural diversity. For a short period of time, activity took place that trained police officers to understand what “less favourable treatment” looked like and who and why it should be avoided. But as soon as the coalition government came to power almost all equality training was stopped.

“We tell ourselves that good people can’t be racist. We seem to think that true racism only exists in the hearts of evil people. We tell ourselves that racism is about moral values, when instead it is about the survival strategy of systemic power. When a large proportion of the population votes for politicians and political efforts that explicitly use racism as a campaigning tool, we tell ourselves that such huge sections of the electorate simply cannot be racist, as that would render them heartless monsters. But this isn’t about good and bad people. The covert nature of structural racism is difficult to hold to account. It slips out of your hands. You can’t spot it as easily as a St George’s flag and a bare belly at an English Defence League march. It’s much more respectable than that.”

Racism is a societal issue that is present in many institutions. A person of colour within the UK is four times more likely to end up in prison than their white counterparts. Four times more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act. BAME people account for over 50% of all stop and searches despite accounting for less than 15% of the population. Though, statistically, BAME people are more likely to access higher education than their white British peers, they are still far more likely to be unemployed afterwards. Whether it’s due to racial bias, pack mentality or anything else, our institutions seem like they’re built to preserve the status quo and lock BAME people out.

So, we should ALL reflect and closely inspect the lives we lead and ask ourselves how can we challenge discrimination in its many and often subtle nuances? It’s the responsibility of each and everyone of us to help work towards a fairer and more just world – a world in which rewards are give for merit and effort, not skin colour. It would also be good to remind ourselves (I include government here) that a state of paralysis is not one from which change can occur.

As Steve Taylor, Ph.D. wrote recently: “It is also helpful to remember that there is no biological basis for dividing the human race into distinct “races.” There are just groups of human beings — all of whom came from Africa originally — who developed slightly different physical characteristics over time as they traveled to, and adapted to, different climates and environments. The differences between us are very fuzzy and very superficial. Fundamentally, there are no races — just one human race.”

The lockdown enjoys huge popular support, according to polls, but those same polls also tell us a third of people who back the lockdown are routinely breaking the rules. And that’s just the ones willing to make an admission to pollsters. The real figure is undoubtedly much higher.

The wheels have fallen off the world, but the media is only interested in Dominic Cummings!

No wonder newspaper circulations are declining so rapidly.

But why is he the man we love to hate?

David Cameron described him as a “career psychopath”. Other MPs and ministers have variously described him as: “that jumped-up oik”, “a mutant virus”, “an unelected foul-mouthed oaf”. Well, of course, he headed up the Vote Leave team and Brexit –

If you are unfortunate enough to have seen the ‘news’ footage of Dominic Cummings returning to his home to a chorus of bellowing and heckling from neighbours and media hacks, none of whom are social distancing, you might be forgiven for thinking, “Is this what we have become: a nation of bullies and snoopers, content to use anyone in public life as a cipher for our own resentments?”

Certainly there are questions about Dominic Cummings that need answers: why does he wear his jumper inside out? Does he have any ‘real’ close friends? And did he finally manage to employ some “weirdos and misfits” for number ten?

I think we’re going to have to wait some considerable time before these all important questions for the nation are honestly answered.

inhuman

May 14, 2020

“…I have had such a sickening of men in masses, and of causes, that I would not cross this room to reform parliament or prevent the union or to bring about the millennium. I speak only for myself, mind – it is my own truth alone – but man as part of a movement or a crowd is indifferent to me. He is inhuman. And I have nothing to do with nations, or nationalism. The only feelings I have – for what they are – are for men as individuals; my loyalties, such as they may be, are to private persons alone.”

Patrick O’Brian
Master and Commander

Wealth and Poverty

May 12, 2020

Mistaking wealth for virtue is a cruelty of our time. By treating poverty as inevitable for parts of the population, and giving impoverished workers no means to rise out of it, America deprives not only them but society as a whole. Talented and hardworking people are denied the ability to contribute, and society is denied the benefits of their gifts. Poverty is not a character flaw. Poverty is not emblematic of intelligence. Poverty is lost potential, unheard contributions, silenced voices.

Sarah Kendzior
The View from Flyover Country: Dispatches from the Forgotten America

Yes, Yes – possible but so very unlikely!

the breath of God

May 2, 2020

Wealth was the power to set things and people in motion; and in America, therefore, wealth came to be frankly regarded as the breath of God, the divine spirit immanent in man. God was the supreme Boss, the universal Employer.

Olaf Stapledon
Last and First Men