400 words

'In the struggle between you and the world, back the world' – Franz Kafka

Time for a haircut!

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My Swiss banker buddy is in a grumpy mood this afternoon. He tells me with a certain malice that the UK economy has a deficit of 110% of its GDP, and asks me what should be done about it. Im a bit dubious about this statistic but don’t have my John Lanchester book to hand so can’t really contradict him. He argues forcefully that the only way out of this mess is to cut public spending. I’ve obviously heard this argument a great deal over the last few months but it’s the first opportunity I’ve had to discuss it face to face with a managing director of one of Europe’s leading investment banks, ie. a genuine full-on capitalist bastard.

When he lets me get a word in edgeways I pose him two questions: where did all this debt come from, and who is it owed to? Because as far as I can tell the answer to both questions is the same: the banks. It seems to me greatly unfair that public services should be cut in order to pay the banks so as to deal with the horrible mess that the banks themselves created. I ask him what happens if, as seems likely, one of the debtor countries can’t pay or refuses to do so? His answer is intriguing, and suggests a slogan other than ‘Can’t pay won’t pay!’: in that case, he says, the holders of goverment bonds have to take a haircut. This simply means that their bonds lose value, and their holders lose money. But it’s not just financial institutions and wealthy individuals, he points out, it’s also private pension funds, insurance companies, and all sorts of other interests. Their investments lose value, they reduce spending in other areas, people lose their jobs, the whole economy suffers.

Now I’m no expert and I’m not really in a position to dispute the scenario he’s just outlined. Nevertheless I’ve never quite sure if I even believe in this thing called ‘the economy’. Surely there are different economies, with conflicting interests, some more powerful than others. But even with leaving Naomi Klein aside for a brief moment, it seems to me preferable to force bond holders to take such a haircut, with the risk that this apparently implies of an economic downturn, than to close hospitals, schools and homes for the elderly, essentially privatise universities, starve the unemployed into non-existent jobs and generally abandon the poorest and most vulnerable to destitution and misery.

I’m not about to convince Herr GeldSäcke of any of this. But it’s been a useful session which seems to have cheered him up no end and which has taught me two important things: one, bond holders will need to take a haircut soon, and two: orange jeans and a black cardigan with little white skulls all down the arms combined with a shiny brand new pair of crocodile shoes is evidently a very popular look for forty something year old investment bankers in Zürich this year. Rather him than me.

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Written by richwill

January 4, 2011 at 8:43 pm

David Miliband’s secret Swiss bank accounts

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So I’m teaching Switzerland’s second richest man, apparently a close personal friend of that Indian fella who owns all the world’s steel deposits. He tells me he used to be a farmer who did the decathlon for the Swiss national team but didn’t go to the Olympics because the piglets were in flower or something, and then one day he decided to set up Switzerland’s second largest credit card company, did so, became stupendously wealthy, bought a nice place in St. Moritz (or maybe that was a nice place called St. Moritz) and is now managing director of one of the world’s biggest (maybe even second biggest) investment banks. He’s a nice guy, personable at least, although I’m well aware that while I’m talking to him thousands of minions are running round bankrupting Ireland on his behalf, which means what I’m doing is actually technically wrong in all sorts of important ways, but he asks me what I think of David Cameron and laughs heartily when it very rapidly becomes clear that our worldviews are as diametrically opposed as our income brackets. I’m to be one of his servants for the next five days and my impotent rage seems to entertain him at least. Plus he says things like I used to live in a willage and so you’d like to live in Chapan, and I’m pretty sure I can help him with that.

At 1pm precisely we part for lunch, he presumably to the toppest notchest place open near Exmouth market on a bank holiday, me to Sainsbury’s to spend one pound sixty five on a ham sandwich and a small banana. At precisely 2pm he returns, nearly closes the door behind him and we go back up to the fourth floor so I can continue to assist him in his work looting wulnerable economies. I help him with his pron. of words such as limousine, Bentley and privileged, and spend a slightly frustrating ten minutes trying to explain that the past form of the word read is not spelt red, which is confusing because I have written the word read in blue and the pronunciation, /red/, in red. But apart from that he is entertaining company, especially, or maybe except, when he shows me some photos of some charming young women he met in Wietnam and tells me his new vife is CEO of Europe’s largest (or maybe second largest) chewellry company.

Every hour exactly on the hour we have a break, so he can get on the phone and immiserate Portugal while I make some tea. At four pm I pop downstairs to check messages on my phone, which I left downstairs in the teachers’ room, except that it’s not there, except oh no wait it is, but my wallet’s missing, it’s been stolen, because the door is, as the old joke says, a jar, except it’s not at all funny, because it had my brand new one month zones one to three Oystercard in it and £130.

Back upstairs I happen to casually mention that my wallet has been robbed, to which he saliently points out that maybe, too, his bags, which he brought from Heathrow that morning in a taxi about which he did not once complain about the price, have been nicked. Curious, we go down and look. In a darkened room for which I am, mortifyingly, unable to locate the light switch, we discover that the thief has somehow overlooked his basically chewel-encrusted briefcase, which is presumably packed chock full of the details of Vladimir Putin’s, at at least David Miliband’s, secret bank accounts, the door code for the CERN laboratory and highly confidential information regarding the Swiss nuclear programme. Had they got their hands on it it would have been like wikileaks all over again, which rules out Julian Assange as a culprit, especially since neither of us have been…oh never mind.

The bag that they did take apparently just had some sports equipment and a pair of shoes in it, but he still seems pretty agitated, which is understandable, very few people like to have things stolen, or their economies pillaged, but what the hey. He sympathises with me over the loss of effectively three hundred pounds or pennies or whatever you people call them, but it eventually transpires that what bothers him is not the loss of a sweaty sports singlet and some of those black pumps you used to get at school. It’s not even any emotional attachment to his Prada bag. It’s the theft of his treasured $5,000 pair of crocodile shoes. It seems churlish to point out that he can get the money back on insurance. I suppose we both find it upsetting in our own way that somewhere on earth another crocodile is being prepared for the slaughter.

Me and Billy Bragg, Billy Bragg and me

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On my bedroom wall I have a signed poster of Billy Bragg. This suggests that I am a Billy Bragg fan, which is something about which I feel a certain awkwardness. To be a Billy Bragg fan is to associate oneself with someone always seen by many as gruff, proletarian, sexless, musically staid, and chippy. But nevertheless it remains a fact that the first single and album I bought were both his, his play ‘Pressure Drop’ was one of my highlights of last year, and I kicked myself recently on learning I’d missed his national tour, which ended last week. I’ve always felt an admiration with his seemingly boundless wit and warmth, and partly thanks to these qualities, and partly due to having, like that other group my fanship of whom has always occasioned a certain embarrassment, the Pet Shop Boys, he has managed to hang around just within public sight for over twenty five years without pissing off everyone too much and has in middle age been achieved the status of avuncular national treasure. Nevertheless like any uncle some of his pronouncements over the last few years have been somewhat dubious and increasingly conservative, especially around the questions of English national identity and tactical voting. There is an unpleasant element of both left-baiting in his relentless scorn for the far-left, and a not unrelated level of anti-intellectualism, both of which were evident in a Guardian interview published yesterday.

It is touching to read about his enthusiasm for the student protests, although predictably he also uses it as an excuse to indulge in some cheap digs at the far-left and anyone who tries to apply the lessons of the past to the present situation. There are signs that Bragg’s long-standing embarrassment with the legacy of socialism and communism colours his view of how things should develop, an awkwardness has always led him to temper his radicalism and try to sell it as instinctive, and organic, rather than intellectual. It seems churlish to point out that Bragg did not go to university and seems to harbour a certain resentment against those whose ideas for changing the world derive from detailed and patient analysis of complex ideas about society and how to change it. He is a proselytiser of what José Saramago used to call ‘hormonal’ socialism, although he now prefers to avoid the word itself if at all possible:

‘The people out protesting now, Bragg says, are the first generation ever to be able to talk about socialism without having the long shadow of Karl Marx hanging over them. If, indeed, they even describe it as such. “To be honest, I don’t care if it’s called socialism,” he says. “Anyway, what is socialism but organised compassion…They (the students) are making their own connections, and at the bottom of them all is an absolute sense of unfairness. That’s what’s politicised them. Not some abstract interest in dialectical materialism…We’ve got a lot to learn from them – their ability to join things up, take the initiative, not hang around and see what Marx would have said.”

He has also engaged in these debates in the last week or so, making very similar points on the already seminal Comment is Free piece by Laurie Penny:

“I now understand that what annoys you about Laurie and her generation is their refusal to be kettled in by either the Metropolitan Police or by the SWP and their ideological bedfellows.

Whether we like it or not, we are currently living in a post-ideological era. The language of Marxism is dead. Don’t mourn, organise! That’s what the students are doing – in a manner that is both different and challenging to those of us whose politics were forged in the 20th century.

We can either carp from the sidelines or join them as they take action.”

And is righteously smacked down:

“Laurie Penny, and in fact everyone ‘resisting’ the coalition’s education reform agenda, frequently draws on Marxism, even if she/they don’t know that that is what they are doing. And I don’t blame them, because if they want to talk about the ‘marketisation’ (i.e. commodification) of higher education, then they are de facto drawing on Marx! So to argue that the langauge of Marxism is dead is just a laughably ill-informed comment to make. It beggars belief.” (oxymoronic)

One wonders if Bragg has also been following that other debate about the meaning of communism and the role of Communist ideas in the struggle for a different world sparked off by Alain Badiou’s article in the New Left Review two years ago. The conference which that article inspired took place in the Logan Hall of the Institute of Education, the same venue as last year’s Compass conference, which Billy was at; but I suspect that the On the Idea of Communism event may have been anathema to him, given that it featured a series of Marxist intellectuals, two words guaranteed to provoke a spluttering splenetic reaction. It would be a shame if he hadn’t at least read Badiou’s article, because his aversion to the very names of Communism and Socialism is not uncommon, but to really think about what we do need to retain from the past, indeed to insist upon, and what we need to jettison, and who is this ‘we’ that needs to find answers to these questions, is an intellectual process, which demands that we analyse in depth revolutionary ideas and practices from the past. It is perhaps too easy to see Bragg’s dismissal of such debates of symptomatic of a British culture of anti-intellectualism, but it is highly likely that the experience of ferocious debates with SWP student firebrands on the Red Wedge tour in the 1980s traumatised the man and provoked this very evident revulsion at the very mention of revolutionary politics.

As I mentioned at the start, I love the wit and warmth at the heart of the best of Bragg’s music. Growing up I even preferred his poetry to that of Morrissey, someone who had a more grandiose emotional range which I as a teenager couldn’t yet aspire to. There was something in the combination of plaintiveness and gruffness in songs like ‘St. Swithin’s Day’ and ‘A Lover Sings’ which echoed my more stoical sense of myself. Morrissey seemed too much at home in his outsiderness, seemed to enjoy his symptoms too much, while Bragg was (for me) comfortingly gauche in his sense of romance and bitter at the world. I recognised myself in his songs, and admired his sense of engagement.

This heightened poetic sense can lead to political confusion, however. In yesterday’s interview he draws an analogy which seems to work beautifully at first, but quickly collapses when subject to further reflection. He rightly condemns the slavish devotion to market ‘dogma’ of all three parties over the last number of years (he clearly prefers this word to its near cousin ‘ideology’, which, given that he insists we live in a ‘post-ideological age’, would complicate things somewaht, but what the hey). But then he produces a metaphor which sounds apt, but isn’t:

“‘The market’s like fire, you know? Constrain it, harness it, and it’ll provide you with warmth and light and heat for your cooking … Let it rip, and it’ll destroy everything you hold dear.”

Now that is a fabulous image, but as I say it doesn’t work. Why not? Well, in a world increasingly subject to the iniquitous dictates of the so-called free market, billions around the world lack precisely that warmth, light and heat for their cooking. And this is not because the market is improperly regulated and managed, but because as reality shows quite clearly it is not an appropriate mechanism for providing the essentials of life. Warmth and heat and fuel for cooking are commodities exchanged for profit, but they are not, as Bill Clinton remarked of food, commodities like any other, or at least, they shouldn’t be. The market may one day have a role of some kind in a world ordered justly and democratically, but the essentials of life – housing, food, energy, transport, health, education – cannot be left to be distributed according to a system in which the winner takes all and the loser freezes or starves.

I very much hope that Billy Bragg continues to play a part in what appears to be a growing movement for radical change. But his aversion to intellectual and ideological debate may be an obstacle to his making a full contribution. The debates of the last week over the role of revolutionary organisations, and what new forms of media imply for how radical activists should and can organise have been very important and useful. The legacy of the reluctance of certain far-left groups to engage in honest and open debate in the past may be something that can be overcome, or it may be something that serves as an obstacle to greater unity, but at the very least people are now trying to have that debate rather than cynically bitching about the irrelevance and inadequacies of the far left, as Bragg has long been prone to do.

Written by richwill

January 2, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Posted in Politics

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Rio: Crime, corruption and mega-events

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‘The system is fucked’. That is the conclusion reached at the end of the film that has become in the last few weeks Brazil’s most succesful production of all time. ‘Tropa da Elite 2’ is the sequel to a film which itself broke box office records in 2007. It is, in the words of the film’s director José Padilha, unusual for such a politically and socially engaged film to meet with such success.

The first film depicted a series of invasions of favelas by the incredibly brutal military police known as BOPE. It was based on real accounts from former BPE agents, and focussed on the attempts to ‘clean up’ the favelas in preparation for the visit of the Pope in 1997. Some people interpreted the film’s tortured protaganist, Captain Nascimento, as an action hero mercilessly blowing away the bandits, which was not precisely the intention of the film makers.

Any kind of gung-ho interpretation of the sequel is not possible. In the new film Captain Nascimento joins forces with a prominent human rights activist to challenge the growing power of the milícias, mafia gangs mostly made up of former (and often serving) police officers who dominate life in many of the favelas, charging extortionate rates for services such as electricity and gas supplies, cable TV and internet, and threatening, beating and murdering those who stand up to them. The film depicts the way in which they have taken over from the drug gangs that used to dominate crime in the favelas, and also highlights the levels of corruption which permit and sustain their activity, reaching up to the highest echelons in the political system: corrupt politicians in the Rio government and in Brasilia itself – hence the stark and bitter conclusion to the film.

After the recent successful operation by the military to expel the drug trafficking gangs from their strongholds in certain favelas, police officers moving into areas previously outside their control were accused by residents of acting ‘just like in the film’ – demanding favours and a share of the income of local businesses. However in recent weeks the focus in the media has not been on the militias themselves, but on the drug gangs.

The drug gangs appear to be on the wane, but the power of the militias is much more deeply entrenched. Through intimidation and bribery they manage to get their own representatives elected to the city council, in order to protect and promote their interests. As for where the proceeds from extortion go, the profits do not all go into the pockets of those further up the scale, but also subsidise the pitifully low salaries of the police, who because they earn only around $800US per month often moonlight as private security guards, either independently or with the mafias. The book of the film even goes as far as to say that in Rio, the problem of violent crime is the police.

In Brazil the police and the military are know as the ‘public security’ forces. However, according to Marcelo Freixo, there is no such thing as public security. He is well placed to judge; for the last number of years he has been a human rights activist fighting against police corruption in the city. It is on Freixo that the character in the film who tries to take on the mafia gangs is based. He has also just begun his second term as a representative on the city council, on behalf of the Socialism and Freedom Party, which split from the ruling Worker’s Party in 2002.

In that capacity has sought to uncover corruption, to expose links between the mafias, the police and politicians, and it was he who instituted a far-reaching public inquiry into these questions. The recommendations that the inquiry produced have still not been implemented. Although the character in the film has a different name, in the book of the film he appears under his own name, and so he has gained a significant profile as someone prepared to challenge power in its most dangerous form. The film and the book both show clearly the terrible dangers that anyone brave enough to stand up to the milícias faces.

It is significant that in the first ‘Tropa da Elite’ film the favela is being cleaned up to ensure security for the visit of an international VIP, the Pope. Ten years later the Pan American Games saw the then governor of Rio reportedly embarking on a campaign to ‘retake the favelas’. The games brought new stadiums and a great deal of investment to some of the wealthier parts of the city, but, in the words of a community activist in one of the favelas, delivered ‘nada para os moradores’ – nothing for the people who actually live in the poorer parts of the city.

More recently the Rio government has launched a campaign to install police posts in some of the areas they were previously afraid to enter. By and large this has been a success in the limited areas where it has been implemented, and the events of the last few weeks, with supposedly impregnable strongholds of the drug gangs invaded and occupied in a very short space of time, have taken everyone by surprise, not least the drug gangs themselves. But as the film shows and as activists such as Marcelo Freixo have tried to make clear, the corruption and violence which blight the lives of hundreds of thousands of people throughout Rio is not at this stage directed or controlled by the drug gangs, but by the militias, whose power is more deeply entrenched.

It is very clear what the impetus for this current campaign to retake certain favelas is about: it is in preparation for the coming of the football World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games two years later. As an increasing amount of people around the world are aware, there is a history of the poor being shunted out of town to make way for these mega-events, as we have seen recently in Beijing, where the residents were impolitely requested to stay inside their homes so as not to get in the way of the important foreign guests, and in South Africa, where a movement sprung up fuelled by outrage at the forced evictions of shack dwellers to enable corrupt land deals backed up by the full force of the state.

Remaking the city for such events is not just a cosmetic exercise – it forms part of a strategy to remake the host city more amenable for business interests and tourism. It is also a means of forcing up rents and land and property prices – poverty that can not be physically forced out of sight and out of mind will not be able to withstand the increase in the cost of living as speculators move in – which raises the question of where the poor are to live. In the 1960s and 1970s the answer to the ‘problem’ of the favela was to uproot and force entire communities away from the centre, to the far west of the city. It has been suggested – and evidence shows – that this is what the preparations for the upcoming events will bring about.

Rio is said to be the capital of informality. The favelas are held to be one of its charms, and the views from some of the those located close to the centre are some of the most iconic images of the city. In Rio, the spontaneity and chaos are very much selling points, and the city is sometimes idealised as a space of democracy: rodas de samba, carnival and the beach, spaces which everyone, rich and poor, shares. Reality often and clearly contradicts this picture; the other side of this unboundedness is social exclusion, the threat of violence and the reality of third-world levels of deprivation. Tourists now flock to favelas on organised tours to get a closer look at this curious mix of heaven and hell. But if these spaces of informality are to be formalised, for whose benefit will it be? For the people who live there, or for the rich visitors? And to whom will these spaces belong once the VIPS have left?

Mega-events such as the Olympics and the World Cup seek to submit all local control to commercial interests backed up by the legal and physical might of the state, and to channel and control all surrounding economic activity in such a way as to benefit certain formal interests which operate, as Andrew Jennings has ably demonstrated, in a world of backhanders and sweeteners. The reality behind the airbrushed images is one of extortion and bribery, both formal and informal. Given the obscene corruption of FIFA and the Olympic Committee, amply documented on this site, and given the recent history of the brutal displacements in Beijing and South Africa, it is clear that corruption in Brazil is about to move up to another level. Fortunately there are signs of a growing movement in Rio to begin to expose and challenge the attempt to remake the city in the interests of corrupt international cartels which are much more powerful, but in a way very similar, to the mafia gangs that seek to control and exploit Rio’s favelas. It is, after all, in the words of Captain Nascimento, no accident that favelas exist in the first place.

In which I start blogging again

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My perfectionist instinct should inhibit me from thinking; it should inhibit me from even beginning. But I get distracted and start doing something‘. Bernardo Soares, The Book of Disquiet

Eleven years ago I moved from Ireland to Portugal. From time to time people ask me why I chose Portugal of all places.

I’m always a bit flummoxed when I’m asked this. Recently however I worked out the answer. The reason why I went to live in Portugal is that I wanted to go and live in Spain.

I suffer from a certain indecisiveness. Bearing this in mind makes it much easier to decipher my own actions.

Often I do things because I don’t want to, and often I don’t do things because I want to do them.

Sometimes the things I wanted to do resemble the things I end up doing.

Sometimes I end up liking the thing I do, but this is always conditioned by the feeling that there are things which I would rather have done, although I often still don’t know what these things are or were.

Very often I do something because it is the exact opposite of what I actually wanted to do, even when I know very clearly what that thing is. This could be something as simple as not asking for someone’s phone number when I know that I want to do so.

After I left Portugal I wanted to go to Brazil or Spain, or maybe Japan. So I went to live in China.

Adam Phillips poses the question, what would you do if you were cured. This is inevitably a very complicated question.

Sometimes I feel that if I could only look people in the eye when I’m talking to them about things that actually matter, this would be a measure of success.

Acting changes things, radically transforms one’s situation. Hesitating, failing to act, indeciding, to coin a word, does not.

Hesitating is a clear sign that I’m censoring myself.

However when I notice that I’m hesitating it’s too late to act. Sometimes I half-act, I act without fully committing myself to the action. This is not the same as acting. I can’t quite decide whether or not to wait and hold the door open for someone, so I hold the door half-open, and get in their way.

The objective is to act decisively, to overcome the abyss between deciding and acting in one fatal leap. To launch myself over the chasm, and in so doing to make that space of indecision retroactively disappear, not to bridge a gap but to close the breach.

To say something, to declare something to be true is an act. To write is an act.

I enjoy writing. I only bring myself to write rarely. Most of the time I spend suspended in midair somewhere between these two points. I’m scared that I won’t reach the other side, that I’ll plunge into the shameful depths below. In the words of Bernardo Soares again, I plumb myself and drop the plumb; I spend my life wondering if I’m deep or not. I’m terribly scared of exposing my depths of shame and of opening myself up to a toxic mix of indifference and ridicule. My natural style is to demolish what I’m saying in the act of saying it. I almost certainly do this when I speak. It might be something I have to address and to change. It might not.

There is a time and a place for not censoring myself when I speak.

One of the things I most admire about Fernando Pessoa is encapsulated in the quote at the beginning of the article? essay? reflection? I’ll come back to this.

All of the people I most admire are prolific in some way. They trust in what happens when they start to speak and to write.

Many people’s lives are made up of hesitations, pauses.

Others’ lives are made up of one long statement that encompasses many many other statements, some of which interrogate or explain earlier statements, and some of which contradict one another.

Then there is the question of dialogue; if one never speaks, never actually arrives at the point of articulating what appears at that moment to have the status of a truth, then one can never enter into a dialogue. This is self-evident.

Perhaps I have nothing whatsoever of depth or originality to offer, or, more likely, very little. Maybe my insights and reflections merely replicate those of others, but at a much less informed and thought-out level.

There is however a very strong argument for trying to articulate some sort of truth, and it comes from Paulo Freire:

‘Hopelessness and despair are both the consequence and the cause of inertia and immobilism’.

Here is another favourite quote, this time from Franz Kafka:

‘You can hold yourself back from the sufferings of the world; you are free to do so, and it accords with your nature. But perhaps this very holding back is the one suffering you could have avoided.’

I love that dizzying rush of ideas, when I think I’m onto something. My instinct these days is  go online and to track down someone who’s already thought of the same thing, so as to evade my own responsibility to articulate whatever it is that’s occurred to me. This can be a frustrating experience, and it is always self-defeating in the fullest sense.

I used to link a great deal. Blogging taught me how very easy it is in the space of a few short minutes to sound like and expert on things you know very little about. Bombard people with links and their resistance to the sometimes suspect logic of your argument soon breaks down. I know that when I speak I have the bad habit of using too many names.

There’s a particular word I came across a few years ago, a name for a kind of essay that starts off on one topic and ends up via a series of diversions talking about something entirely different. It may be called a vagrant essay, or something like that. It was a popular form in the eighteenth century I believe. Anyway. That’s the kind of thing that I kind of sort of quite like to write. Enough of censoring myself. More soon.

Written by richwill

July 7, 2010 at 5:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Mandeville & Wenlock

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Hey Mandeville!

Hey Wenlock!

So how’s things?

Ah, you know…I’m really not sure this being an Olympic mascot thing was such a good idea

Whyever not! We’ve been all over the media! you can’t buy that sort of publicity!

Yeah, but what kind of publicity?

What do you mean?

Well, someone on twitter said that we looked like ‘tortured tellitubbies’ and that i had a morrisons sign on my head. it’s…hurtful

What’s twitter?

It’s a social networking site where people post messages of less than 140 characters. On the internet.

Hmm. And tellitubbies?

Children’s tv characters

And Morrison’s?

Like tesco’s but smaller, and formerly only in the north

Doesn’t sound so bad to me! Better than costcutters! I don’t see what your problem is. At least we got to meet Sebastian Coe at that launch thing! Wasn’t that fun?! What was it you called him again?

I said he was a ‘tory twat’

yeah, he found that hilarious didn’t he.

certainly did, and he loved it when i said i hoped he’d soon go the same way as his fascist fuhrer saramanch

Hmm yes i suppose things did get a bit overexcited. i do think it wasn’t very polite of you to ask daley thompson if his piss was still sponsored by lucozade. and punching zola budd in the face was a little bit out of order, especially after she appeared to stop breathing. And it was very cruel of you to point out that david beckham’s new tattoo means ‘my wife’s a vapid slag’ in hindi…never mind, look at this letter! next tuesday we get to meet the prime minister!

really?(looks) (sounds disappointed) the *deputy* prime minister

what’s the difference?

Aah…I can’t really tell to be honest. Shame we didn’t get to meet Gordon Brown really, I feel we might have had more in common, what with him only having one eye and everything. It’s just…I don’t know…i just expected more from life. I mean, listen to this: ‘Their job is to make the 2012 games child friendly, and to sell more toys than could ever fit at the foot, let alone the peak, of Mount Olympus itself.’

What’s mount olympus?

It’s a mountain in ancient greece

Where is it now then

(exasperated) What?

Did they move it?

(realises) ohh…yeah. it’s in sweden now. i just…can’t help feeling that there’s something more i, we, should be doing. I don’t even particularly like children. and I fucking hate sport, to be absolutely honest

you’re starting to worry me slightly

Look, I had an idea. Nobody likes us…

Nooo…

It’s true. Someone called anethmalves in minas gerais said she thought we were in ‘tremendo mau gosto’. and she’s got 40 followers! we’re fucked.

what does that mean?

it means we’re in really bad trouble

no the trimindi gau mosto bit

I don’t know, but i don’t think it’s good. but listen, i think i can see a way out. Nobody seems to like us, they’re outraged that we’re getting such an easy ride from the media but they’re stuck with us for the next few years. and there are two of us…

what are you suggesting?

i think we should wait a couple of years until the time is ripe, gather our forces, then instigate a wave of street terror, burn down parliament, take advantage of the confusion to make a grab for power, close down all democratic institutions and declare an end to the sketch!

*brilliant* idea!

Written by richwill

May 19, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Jack Straw, Zizek and UK Border Force

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An article in last week’s Guardian made it difficult for me to take Jack Straw’s liberal posturing on Question Time at face value. A ten-year-old girl tried to hang herself after being locked up for the second time and faced with deportation to Nigeria. She had recently been dragged screaming from her home by a team of UK Border authority officials. The ten-year-old’s attempted suicide was also an echo of an incident in 2005, when an Angolan man said goodbye to his son and then hung himself in the stairwell of a detention centre, in order that his son be able to stay in the country as an unaccompanied minor.

Perhaps when both families were being dragged kicking and screaming from their homes they were being filmed for UK Border Force. This is a Sky One programme, now in its second season, which is presumably made with the full participation and encouragement of the Home Office. It showcases the Government’s policy of sending out teams to hunt down and and round up ‘illegals’ and highlights the ‘tragic stories and challenges’ that they (the immigration officials, not the immigrants) face every day. Raids have recently been staged on a market in East London, dragging off immigrants whose only hope of survival is to work illegally given that the Government not only forbids them from working legally, but is also actively reducing even their most basic means of survival. Presumably in this way New Labour ministers hope to quench the thirst for brutal violence as a solution to the ‘problem’ of ‘illegal immigration’ which is, of course, a mainstay of Jack Straw’s favourite newspaper (see above).

Perhaps the Daily Mail is missing the boat somewhat when it comes to their bitter opposition to further British involvement in and cooperation with the European Union. Slavoj Žižek recounts the case of the Tunisian fishermen who face up to fifteen years of imprisonment for rescuing forty-four immigrants off the coast of Lampedusa. Other fishermen who have beaten off boatloads of people with sticks and left them to drown suffered no punishment. Zizek then quotes what Robert Brasillach, a ‘moderate anti-semite’, wrote in 1938:

‘We grant ourselves permission to applaud Charlie Chaplin, a half Jew, at the movies; to admire Proust, a half Jew; to applaud Yehudi Menuhin, a Jew; and the voice of Hitler is carried over radio waves named after the Jew Hertz . We don’t want to kill anyone, we don’t want to organise any pogroms. But we also think that the best way to hinder the always unpredictable actions of instinctual anti-semitism is to organise a reasonable anti-semitism. ‘

I can only presume that this is what Jack Straw et al are up to with their quasi-fascist hounding of immigrants. They certainly don’t want to organise any pogroms, but they seem to think that TV programmes which present pogroms as entertainment might serve as a means of pacifying violent racists, somehow making them less inclined to get off their sofas and round up ‘illegals’ themselves. Attempts to use similar means to combat racism and fascism in the 1930s met with limited success.

Written by richwill

November 1, 2009 at 1:15 pm

Posted in Politics

Tagged with ,

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