Wednesday 30 July 2008

Lies of Our Generation Part One- The Falklands

When I read Margaret Thatcher's memoirs, it's the chapters around the time of the Falklands War I find most interesting.

I read every sentence and ask myself; Did you know?

At what level do you believe what you write?
In your heart of hearts, you must see what really happened. Even if those mandarins never spelt it out to you.
But you must have known. Even if, Maggie Thatcher, you don't admit it to yourself.

Why did those Argentinian ships sail into Port Stanley harbour?

To save British democracy.
Not real democracy, British democracy. There's a difference.

And the British people- like all tellyfed people don't look at the obvious facts- like the fact that our security services are in fact, strategically incompetent, rather than genuinely so.

Since 1945, there's been a comfortable deal. Two teams. It looks democratic enough- a choice every five years between red and blue.
Democratic two choices.

But it's a sham. If you really think government policy is ever very radically different, it's not. Go back and look at every piece of legislation brought in since 1945 and in most cases, whoever was in, would have passed that law. And whoever was in opposition, would have pretended to oppose it.
The exceptions are with regards to nationalisation/privatisation.

Who are you kidding? Ever see any personnel changes with those token handovers? No, they were overhauls, rebrandings.

In one case the clique that runs the UK runs these sectors openly, in another through its puppet government.

The UK is run by faceless civil servants answerable to a team of carefully chosen apparatchiks who are bankrolled by the people who pay for the adverts that fund the medium which tells you and I which team to choose.

But occasionally there's been a hiccup.

And the early eighties was such a time.

Things hadn't been good in the seventies. Britain wasn't working. Labour isn't working. Time for the clique to shuttle in the blue team and carry out radical systematic overhaul.

I guess the strategy was simple. These changes work quickly- and the blue team get back in, or they hurt a bit, and people vote the red team back in. Doesn't matter either way, the changes will have been made and the unions gone.

Only things didn't go according to plan this team.
What happened was, the changes were hurting a lot. Things seemingly had to get worse for a lot longer before there would be any sign of them getting better.

And the problem was, the red team had chosen just this moment to go democratic.

The red team was being taken over by its members. And its members had decided they'd had enough of consensus politics. Within the red team, the rank and file now believed Britain could not stay capitalist for long. The time had come.

So the powers that be needed to neutralise the red team. The problem was how. Unfortunately, the thing about cock up theory, as opposed to conspiracy theory, is that in cock up theory, the conspiring groups don't actually communicate with eachother very well- because they aren't sinister groups with a long term agenda, just fat cats hoping to stay fat and hope no one notices how it is they have all the milk.

So the only people who had any chance of bringing the red team back in line with the orthodoxy the British people had been brainfed on, gave up on the red team and set up the SDP.

The Alliance was born.
But there is a problem with the Alliance. It might be the SDP apparently driving the show, but the energy behind this bandwagon- it's the Liberals.

The Liberals- who they?

Well, in 1981, they were eleven amateur politicians elected in shoestring budget campaigns in parts of the country where no one noticed that the Liberals had been replaced by Labour about sixty years ago. No one took them seriously, they just made the House of Commons look more interesting.

They're not part of the postwar consensus- they are an anachronistic oddity, a leftover from the days when political parties weren't bankrolled by corporations.

But look at those polls!

The Red team will be annihilated, the Blues a heavily defeated opposition...

And the government benches? Well, of the four hundred odd 'Alliance' MPs, electoral geography dictates that it will be the Liberals who hold the whip hand.

For the first time in fifty years, the mandarins may have masters they cannot control.

How to save the day?

A lot of quite valid questions were asked about the Falkands war. And one very stupid question, which I can't help thinking was put there to distract us from the REAL questions.

Firstly- why remove the last remaining British troops from a crown colony the Argentinians claim as theirs, when Argentina is ruled by an unstable military dictator renowned for making rash decisions when drunk?

AFTER the Crosby by-election was shockingly won by Shirley Williams?

Secondly- Lord Carrington, the Foreign Secretary resigned after the invasion. The reason is well known. The Foreign Office had had to admit it 'hadn't taken seriously' repeated intelligence concerning Argentine troop movements in the weeks preceding the invasion.

Fall guy.

Are you seriously telling me that the world's fourth military power sat there and unthinkingly sent out an invite to a tinpot armed forces armed with our decommisioned weapons, that the security services, which when not run by the KGB, are still today probably second only to the KGB in efficient information gathering, failed to impress on on the Foreign Office with probably the best understanding of tactical realities of any in the world, that the Argentinians were coming?

Sorry, I don't believe it. I refuse to believe that they weren't sitting there in Whitehall waiting.

Waiting, for the chance to buy a decade and a half of power and kill the Alliance stone dead.

In 1956, Britain's international reputation died. Since we came back from Suez, tail between our legs, the Great had gone out of Britain. We didn't like how we felt. The swinging sixties had cheered us up for a bit, before the striking seventies woke us up to life as a decaying former superpower who couldn't even keep the Egyptians away from the canal we funded the construction of.

The Prime Minister who could give us back that feeling, would ride on a wave to carry out WHATEVER the powers that be desired.

They gave her a war.
And she won it.

And the Belgrano?
Red Herring. Because if you're getting all het up about that, you miss the real point. The war needn't have happened because we needn't have let them invade at all. We set them a honeytrap, just so we could kick their arses back to the Pampas and redeem the UK for its ignominious retreat from Suez.

Beaconsfield by-election, 1982.

Huge Conservative Majority.

Mitcham and Morden by-election 1982. Labour MP who defected to SDP resigns the seat to fight it for his new party.
The first time a sitting government WINS a seat from the opposition in over twenty years.

1983 General Election; Conservative 397, Labour 209, Alliance 23.

Britain? Great again.

The miners? Fucked.

Tuesday 29 July 2008

Market Forces- A Political Offer

I suppose politics has always played a major role in my life, one way or another.
It's been a curious route that brought me to the political views I now hold.

During my early teens, my political opinions were simple. I liked the colour blue, and if there's one thing I knew, it was that Britain was a dire drab country in the seventies and now it was a land of showhomes.

Labour might have a lot of good sounding ideals, but when it came to running countries, it didn't work.
So the simple truth was, the Tories might not SEEM caring, sharing types, but they ran the country better.
And then along came Blair.

Well, I never liked him. At sixteen, I was convinced the man was the sleaziest, most dishonest, slimy con artist the country had ever seen.
And if he got in, he'd ruin it.

An I also figured that after ten years of Tony ruining the country, there would be a Tory landslide...

And I'd be exactly the right age to be a PPC.

Now, I suppose my views changed a lot during my years within the party. Up till the '97 election, I was all for privatising anything that could be privatised and leaving the EU. And that, really, was about it.

But University opens your mind. The '97 defeat opens your mind. The 18 year old youth who collared Peter Lilley at Bournemouth Railway station in '96 and told him he should stand for leader once Major had lost the election was starting to vastly alter their outlook.

But my real hero in those days, was of course, the one I still have a soft spot for. For many years he was my real hero, and in some ways, of course, his journey and mine have things in common.

Michael Portillo.

I was Vice-Chairman of the party at uni- hardly a great achievement given that the Labour party outnumbered us ten to one- and was even Chairman for a term or so until I found that spending all day in bed with Joanna was more interesting and the urgency of student union elections rather less pressing than a far off general election.

So I kind of became a dormant member of the party. I never quite dropped out, but frankly, I thought they were now unelectable, and unless something changed, I wasn't going to waste my time.

The return of Portillo to the fray woke me up again.

Because all the things he was now saying, were co-inciding with what I was now thinking.
If the Tory party really could shed that Old-school patrician image and genuinely become a centre-right party based on meritocracy, the comprehensive system and free from the old class/gender issues, free from back to basics and all that conservative with a small c stuff, I was back on board.

Roundabout this time, I was starting to try free myself from the concept of left-right politics and preferred to describe myself as a 'radical progressive' believing in small government.

And so I was back doorknocking, suit pristine, curls artfully done, blue rosette prominent.
And the party loved me. Of course they did. There still weren't many young people in the party then, and most of those fitted the 'Tory' boy image. I was exactly the image they wanted to show. A product of the comprehensive system, Thatcher's child from the classless meritocracy, flings out his hand to grasp your own and says 'Sorry to trouble you, I'm canvassing on behalf of X, the Conservative candidate, and I was hoping we might be able to count on your vote?' (Angelic smile, flutter of eyelashes).

I was good. A good doorstep campaigner. And though I rarely said overmuch at meetings on politics itself, I used to have a fair bit to say on tactics and groups we should be targeting.

But it should not be forgotten, these were also the days when my double life reached its heights.

This was right after Claire's abortion. I worked hard, played hard. I hardly ever went home.
I was using either Cocaine or Ecstasy most days, I was out clubbing every weekend, I have no idea even the names of half the girls I got acquainted with in toilet cubicles, I was completely out of control.

The irony was, that at this point I did ALMOST allow my name to go forward to stand for the council. But I decided to wait till the next year. Till my career was more secure.
Good job really, or had I won, there would have been a by-election...

A friend of mine actually stood that year- for Labour in Wolverhampton. I thought it was quite ironic. Ironic, because I had heard him say that he liked Labour because it had no 'isms'. He actually hated socialism. And the EU.

I actually pointed out that he disagreed with Old Labour on pretty much everything. In fact, he agreed with Blair on everything except the EU, which he wanted to leave, so didn't that actually make him a Tory?
I pointed out that on pretty much every social issue either of us could think of, I was completely opposed to the line my party took, and in fact, except on the issue of economic management, really, I had no place in the party I was a member of.

But he didn't want to be in a party of losers, and I didn't want to be in a party of sycophants.

They were funny times, a time of riding on the edge. The two lives I lived couldn't be further apart.

But the real point of this story, is a day those worlds collided and stared into eachother's eyes. And the pretence they were that far apart disappeared for an instant.

It was a Saturday afternoon.
I walked into the Star.
It was packed, the football was on.

I put two full bags of CDs onto the counter- I'd just spent £200 in HMV.
I probably looked a state. Hair, that looks like it does when sweat, spray and gel merge, face white and covered in dry perspiration, tight black t-shirt, tight black jeans.
Those were kind of the days I look back to, in terms of physical appearance. My early twenties were good years. Old enough for a slight rugged edge to set off the boyish ambiance, but not yet old enough to spoil it, as it has now.

And I was full of myself. I was someone who'd never really lost. Had knockbacks yes, but still thinks they're God's gift.

Anyway, I recognised him. God knows what he was doing in the Star- as spit and sawdust a workingmen's pub as you can get, but there he was, Treasurer of the branch Conservative party, tweed jacket and all, bemusing the punters with his drunken ramblings.

Anyway, I guessed it was polite not to see him. Pragmatic too. I hardly look the image I want the rest of the committee members to have of me.

Until he comes over 'I'm sure I know you from somewhere.'
I smiled 'You do, we meet at least once a month.'

He tilted his head back and went 'No! xxx? You look so different!'

I smiled 'Yes. Just got back from clubbing. This is where I come to spend my Saturday afternoons.'
He laughed 'Dirty stopout! Ooh, I shall have to tell Janet, you know Janet? (Not actually her name, she was the branch secretary, redhead, fifty odd but looked a LOT younger, slim, yes I would have done). Between you and me, she has a little thing about you!'
'Really?' I smiled. Useful information. Maybe a chance to mix business and pleasure.

'Ooh, yes!' He went on. 'Very much so! But don't let on I told you.'

Anyway, he bought me a drink and we got to talking. He was one of those who really did say way too much when drunk. Like the fact he was gay. Not that this came as a shock. That he trawled pubs like this looking for action because in these circles no one knew who I was. I told him he needn't worry- after all, I was in there myself recovering from an Ecstasy session.

And then came the offer 'You know, you could earn good money, you know, as a sideline. It's up to you. I have a friend. And he has a lot of money, I mean a lot. He'd pay good money for an afternoon in the Marriot with you.'

I swilled my pint 'Interesting. What are we talking, when we say good money?'

He looked me up and down 'You're just his type. He'd LOVE you. If you stayed the weekend, you could get two grand out of it. It's up to you. I can pass your number on, if you're interested.'

Do you know what?
I thought about it.

I smiled and ordered another pint.
'I'm not sure it's my thing. No offence, but I'm not sure about it. Thinks for the suggestion though. If times change, I'll let you know.'

And that was it. It was never alluded to again.

It's a funny thing you know. With most things, I've always at least tried it once. But I've never actually had a homosexual experience. Not once. And bearing in mind I've had numerous offers on that front, you'd have thought my natural curiosity would have got the better of me. If asked about my sexuality I tend to say that to date I've found numerous women who have taken my fancy, but as yet, no men. And that's how I prefer to describe it- I can't be done with the need to define myself as gay or straight.

But increasingly, there are times when I wonder if I shouldn't have tried it at some point. I mean, I doubt that I would suddenly have become a fully fledged Graham Norton, I don't buy that argument that people are lured over to the dark side by being exposed to it. I think it obvious that even if I had tried it, I would still, given the choice have remained an adherent of the whole having sex with women thing, but maybe the whole occasional sex with men thing could have become a novelty interest. Or maybe I really wouldn't have enjoyed it.

I guess I'll never know now, because in that sense, I'm probably too set in my ways to experiment with that sort of thing. So I guess it is something I regret not having tried. Because it's an experience I'll die not having had- and I hate there being too many of those.

And this, this really was the one time when I think- Two Grand! For Christ's sake, kid, you should have done it!
Two Grand!

Even if you didn't enjoy it, it probably wouldn't have been that bad. Certainly worth lying back and thinking of England for!

Two Grand.
To sleep with another man for the weekend.

And I turned it down.

Yes, I'm pretty sure I regret that.

Monday 28 July 2008

You can't help caring.

Food, I Hate You

I've been very good of late regarding food.

I hate it. I hate the concept of eating. I hate the concept of the process, hate everything that it is. I find the whole thing quite loathsome.
A concession to being organic matter.

I hate the fact that I am compelled to carry out this process in order to stem hungers over which I don't even have theoretical control. You can suppress pretty much most things. But you have to eat.


All bodily functions feel good in their satisfaction.

The joy of tasting, the joy of chewing, the joy of swallowing.
Feeling the pangs of hunger die.

I try to keep it so I'm always just that little bit hungry.

But sometimes I fail.

Chimney Sweep started it. Breakfast at the cafe at 1 PM, Saturday...

Sausages, Bacon, Eggs, Black Pudding, Fried Bread...

But the problem with satisfying hunger to that level, is now you've given in to food you like, you might as well go for the lot...

Before you get home, you've had a McDonald's...

And Sunday, you polish off two Rustler Burgers, a packet of Croissants, three packets of crisps, a Shish Kebab, a packet of Dairy Lea Dunkers and three chocolate bars.

And about seven pints to aid in digestion.
Well, not digestion exactly.
To aid something else.

And you wake up on Monday morning and you can feel the bubble.

Which is what you hoped for.

If you didn't wake up with that bubble, you'd be worried.

Shower, shave, fag, check e-mails, cup of tea, fingers down your throat, three good heaves and all the food you ate over the weekend is in the U-bend.

And you don't feel hungry.

It did the job. You got two days free. You satisfied the hunger, but got rid of the food you used to do that with.

It passed the lips, but didn't touch the hips.

And you feel GOOD. You feel refreshed. Because when you feel your stomach twang as the insides of your stomach come rushing up your throat, it's GOOD.
Tantamount to an orgasm.

It's the best feeling in the world, knowing you beat eating.

That it satisfied your hunger, but it don't get to exact it's price. Down the bog it goes, bye bye food, screw you.

And you walk out the flat feeling on top of the world.

Because you love the feeling of sticking your fingers down your throat and disgorging as much as you possibly can.

And the day just feels so much better knowing you have.

The feeling you have as you know it has all come up, as you wash your lips and feel- empty, but not hungry- is beyond compare.

Friday 25 July 2008

The Insoluable Problem

Let's face it, you don't really know what to do.
It kind of seems to fit one kind of plan, but not what you had planned, and it doesn't quite make sense.

And you don't quite know how to handle it.

Slightly off the radar.

But you're going to go have a shave, Style your hair, emphasise those kiss curls, moisturise, get on the train to Coventry, Bel will pick you up from the station, you'll go back to CS's, ask Mrs CS loads of questions about Angela, have a smoke with CS, go to the pub, CS will witter on about saving the canals, you'll look lovingly into Bel's eyes, and ask caring questions about how she's handling life. It will distract you.

Not Bel you're thinking of. But by syphoning off a fair bit of your emotions into pretending to see Bel as a viable option, whilst having sordid thoughts about Mrs CS's hot black friends, you will distract yourself, albeit temporarily, from the woman you're actually thinking about.

You may fool yourself for the weekend.

Except you know what the first thing you'll do when you get home is.

And that's the problem.

You like the you you will be tonight. That's you. That's how you see yourself. That's the you like being, the you you have always been.
A you you enjoy being.

A you people know you as.
It's you.

It's quite cool being different in a fascinating way. Being a prima donna. Being a laconic yet excitable Dorian Gray figure who can flit from one woman to another, never really investing much time or emotions yet somehow getting what they want out of life.

It's good. Hard to maintain, but worth the effort.
People look after you, they look out for you.

Life's good to you on the whole.
You got it sussed, a good way to live.

You put a lot in, you get a lot out, both in sheer intensity of experience, but in the huge disparity in the heights of thrill and the lows of suffering you put yourself through in your sheer desire to seize life and experience to the full.

But now you're pretty fucking scared, really.

Because you can try whichever of your clever strategic self conditioning plans to direct yourself to a sliproad towards hardening yourself and putting yourself through the equivalent of an emotional rubber band being twanged in your face, and you can live indefinitely on this emotional line.

But you think you can do that. Just hang there and ride that emotional line. That line's pretty cool really. Seems to be motivating me back in to a good frame of mind, so that's all well and good.

You'll probably be at your best tonight, you will steal the show again tonight. And that, to you, is when you're happiest.

Stealing the show.
You live for that really.

You want to die the rebel without a cause, but be able to come back for your own funeral.

That's you.

And it's hard life to live, when that really is how you feel, but that's what attracts people to you, you live on that ambiance you create. But that's you, and its what either fascinates people by you, or downright repulses them, either way it tends to shock them, but that really is you, and your life consists entirely of that buzz.

You told her, she knows.
And she makes no comment.

And that really is best.
There are some things in life best just left as they are.

Because if she said more than that, whatever it was, YOU WOULD NOT BE ABLE TO DEAL WITH IT.
You would not be able to deal with anything more than 'I know'.

You like telling her. You like it she says nothing at all back.
It just makes life easier.

Because it means you can carry on living in your dream world, but never have to worry about the dream coming true.

You fear the dream coming true as much as you fear having your dreams shattered.

The dream appears to be enough.

All resemblances in this story to persons living or dead are purely co-incidental.

Thursday 24 July 2008

Happy Birthday, Chimney Sweep!

We're three close friends.
We've known eachother over a decade.

It's hard to really pinpoint the dynamics between the three of us. The Chimney Sweep likens me to the Friends character Joey, which I say makes him Ross and The Baker Chandler.
And D Monica...

Of course it's not an identical comparison. I'm not QUITE as dumb as Joey. In fact if awards were given out for making remarks ONLY Joey could make, the Chimney Sweep would win the lot. And The Baker, unlike Chandler, has always been a ladies man.
But in some ways, in terms of the dynamics between those three sitcom characters, it's close.

It's probably true that, especially now he's a married man, we go out together the three of us far less often. Possibly once every couple of months or so. The Baker and I still see eachother on average at least once a week, I'd say. And speak on the phone most days. We both see slightly less of The Chimney Sweep, but that doesn't mean he's out of the loop. I still make sure I see him once a month at least- we have a tradition of going to watch lower league football matches across the Midlands. They're good days out.

Of course it's always the jewel in the crown if the three of us can arrange it so we can all be in the same place at the same time, but that seems harder. It's ironic that whilst I see The Baker most weeks, when The Chimney Sweep has a window of opportunity, one or other of us just can't make it.

Which is a shame.

Tomorrow I will be going to the annual Chimney sweep anniversary party. Not only is he thirty-two, it is two years since he met Mrs Chimney Sweep.
His thirtieth.

Long term readers will remember some of the misgivings I had about the wedding in the first place.
Well, to date it seems my doubts were misplaced, but that doesn't mean I don't keep a watchful eye open.

I've had people say it's none of my business. I disagree. It's always my business. As I said when they got engaged, I'm not handing over responsibility for him to anyone, unless I'm sure they have his best interests at heart. The ties of ten years friendship mean I regard that guy as my brother.

And myself and Mrs Chimney Sweep have had several brutally frank discussions about it, when he was out of earshot.
Because he needs a woman to look after him, he really does, and as long as she does, all well and good.

But there's a gullible gene in the family. His sister got walked all over by a Mexican guy who married her and then left after the two years to claim permanent residency was up. And I will retain this prickly feeling that this runs in the family until we get to September 2009.

The Chimney Sweep.
He can make the mundane mystical.

Only the Chimney Sweep can walk out of a station, look directly at a taxi rank loaded with taxi drivers and say, as if it is the scientific discovery of the century 'I think we shouldn't have TOO much trouble getting a taxi...'

Or ring me three times to tell me he can't find an all night garage in Manchester, of all places.

But he's just a nice bloke.
Really is.

When he was younger, we used to take bets on how soon it would take him to pull in a club. His strategy was o so simple.

He just walked round and asked pretty much every female if they fancied it.
And he got a few slaps.
But it never took him much more than ten minutes.
Because he is a nice guy.
And it comes across.
Incapable of malice, but the downside is, he just can't see it in others.

Just not streetwise.

I look at the astounding progress in terms of DIY that goes on at his home and admit I just wouldn't get round to it. I just haven't got the determination to care.

The Chimney Sweep. Can witter for England on nothing at all.

The Baker and I have come up with a new joke at his expense from watching The Madness of King George.
There is a line in it where Ian Holm says 'If he witters on unceasingly at length about nothing in particular, HE WILL BE RESTRAINED!!!'

So now when The Chimney Sweep starts on one of his monologues, it is not long before one of us shouts out 'I have you in my eye, sir!'

I always say that one of the best ways to judge yourself is by the quality of your friends.
And the Chimney Sweep is one of those. That such a genuine, nice guy treats me as one of his closest friends, has even implied he wouldn't have overmuch of a problem if something was to happen between me and his sister, which it wouldn't because the idea seems a bit incestuous, is proof for me, I'm, doing something right.

Time and time again, when he introduces me to people, we go through the same ritual formula;
'One of the best is Crushed, top bloke'

And I'll nod and say 'You too mate. Even if you do talk a lot of sh*t.'

On his stag do, I made sure he knew that.

On the way up, he asked if I had anything planned.
I thought about it.
'Yes, we're going to play a game. You have to answer twenty direct questions with a simple yes or no answer.'

And at three AM, I reminded him of this.

So we sat on opposite sides of the table, the spectators wondering what would come next...

Question One: 'You never buy a Big Issue. But both he and you know you heard the bugger. Feel guilty about avoiding eye contact?'


Question Two: 'You and I both vote Tory. It suits us. Are we basing our decision ethically?'


The first section was like this. Then at question twelve we hit the ones I REALLY wanted to ask.

Question Twelve: 'You know I have misgivings about this marriage and the motives behind it?'


Question Thirteen: 'You understand it affects nothing between you and me?'

Of course.

Question Fourteen: 'And we'll carry on doing our things as before, and none of this affects me getting on with Mrs CS, which I do?'


Question Fifteen; 'And you know I'm always on the end of the phone, you can ALWAYS call me about ANYTHING?'


Question Sixteen: And you know that if it all goes tits up, if the worst, worst should happen, you have a bed to sleep in?


Question Seventeen: And you know you'll always be one of the most important people in the world to me?'


Thee was no need to carry the game on for twenty questions. Men don't hug eachother that often, but when we do, we mean it. And yes, there was a tear in my eye.

I'm looking forward to this weekend.

Friends, they're what life is all about. And this weekend, is all about the Chimney Sweep.

Wednesday 23 July 2008

Become. And Believe

Believe that Good will ultimately triumph over Evil.

Believe that Love is more powerful than Hate.

Believe that no matter how inexplicable, no matter how painful, everything happens for a reason.

Believe that you heart tells you true.

Believe that your life serves a purpose.

Expect nothing for yourself.

Give everything you can give.

Take only what you need.

Give your love freely and do not ask for it back.

Take as much pleasure as is needful, take as much pain as you can endure.

Lose yourself.

Be no longer ruled by your nerve endings, be no longer ruled by your self-image, be no longer ruled by your desires, be no longer ruled by your fears.

Be ruled by logic. Be ruled by will.

Transcend the fleshly form you inhabit.

Hunger for immortal death.
Feel the world that you are part of, the world of which your mind is just an angle, and embrace your life, irrelevant as self, indispensable in purpose.

God faces you in the mirror.

And believe.

Tuesday 22 July 2008

Cecil Rhodes- Hero or Villain?

Over time, history gets to judge. Though those judgements change.
History has recorded a verdict on Julius Caesar.
History has recorded a verdict on Genghis Khan.

But for figures in our recent past, the question mark sometimes remains. As I argued in the post I did some time back on Eamonn De Valera, sometimes one suspects, in time, history will change its judgement.

Cecil Rhodes is another such enigma.

Cecil Rhodes. Two words which sum up every single stereotype associated with the British Empire.
Cecil Rhodes, racist, nouveau riche, the white man who spoke with forked tongue.
Cecil Rhodes the man who carried in his head a blueprint for a world painted pink.

Even his time did not quite know how to judge him. And we look slightly askance at him, symbol of everything we try to forget once wrapped itself in the Union Jack.

But one day, will we hold him up again as a visionary? A man ahead of his time, who, constrained by the ideals of his day, strove towards a world his contemporaries had not even thought of?

I wonder.

Let's take a look at this unusual man.

Rhodes had energy and vision. That cannot be doubted. But he was in fact, always a sickly individual. The common image of him, 'The Colossus Rhodes', wearing safari gear and armed with repeating rifle, belie the reality.

Rhodes was a classical Oxford scholar, who would doubtless have gone into a fairly donnish career had his elder brother not died leaving him a stake in the newly discovered Kimberley Diamond mines.
Rhodes headed for the mines intending to sort out the estate and return home.

He never did.
Instead, he became the richest diamond magnate in South Africa.
Then, he went into politics.
He became Prime Minister of what was then the self-governing British colony of the Cape of Good Hope.
And he used this position to further part of his dream.

At this point, the scramble for Africa was beginning. The European powers were busy in conference rooms drawing lines across maps and allocating parts of Africa as yet unexplored to eachother, unbeknownst to the people actually living there.

And at both ends of the continent, at Cape Town and at Cairo, the British were established.
To Rhodes, it was simple. A railway between the two was needed, and to do that, everything in between needed to be pink.

It is often said that, unlike other Empires, the British Empire was founded largely by accident, a by-product of trade. In a sense this is true. As a general rule, the British governments only annexed territory when they absolutely had to. In other words, when their citizens forced them to.
A high proportion of British colonies began life as the ventures of private companies.

Nigeria began as the the Royal Niger Company, driven by Sir George Goldie, Kenya as the Imperial British East Africa Company, driven by Sir Frederick Lugard.

These men were the Tiny Rowlands and Mohammed al Fayeds of their day.

But Rhodes went a step further. Failing to get the British Government to take in an interest in his railway scheme- and the territorial annexation necessary, he decided to pay for it out of his own pocket. He founded the British South Africa Company, with himself as Chief executive, and from his position as Cape Premier, privately financed the annexation of the land to the north of the Boer republics. The land that was for almost a century, to bear his name.


This was the peak of his prowess.
Rhodes, hero of the Empire.

However, his career ended in a certain disgrace.
The Boer republics, to the north of the Cape, but to the South of Rhodesia were a perpetual thorn in his side. But there was a very good excuse to remove that thorn. In the Cape, anyone could vote, as long as they could read. In practice this meant that most voters were white, but the pretence of a colourblind franchise remained.

In the Boer republics, only Afrikaaners could vote. And in one of them, the largest, the Transvaal republic, English speakers- the Uitlanders- who had come to work the Johannesburg mines, accounted for almost half the white population.
Quite obviously, the Afrikaaners didn't feel like allowing them to vote, because then Afrikaaner hegemony was in trouble.

Rhodes attempted an invasion unsupported by the British government, though in reality the truth is, had things panned out better, they would have been only to ready to grant the all-conquering hero of the southern hemisphere a peerage.

As it is, this sorry event, the Jameson raid, ended in failure and was the end of Rhodes career.

And then, it passed to history to judge this man.

What can we say?
A Jingoist. A racist. Not averse to being two faced. Ruthless. Certainly NOT the image of the English gentleman. If you want the image of the brash colonialist pointing his rifle at a terrified villager, Rhodes is your man.
And as a man who made Apartheid possible, Rhodes too, plays a part. In a bid to make possible the integration of the Boer republics withing the British Empire, Rhodes was only too happy to sell the long established rights of native Africans in the Cape, to pacify the racist views that formed the majority opinion amongst the Afrikaaner population.

Rhodes was a master of Realpolitik and never let anything stand in his way. He achieved a lot, and he did much of it by ruthlessness and sheer strength of personality.

His arrogance was astounding. When he heard that his actions were being criticised by the Westminster parliament his reply was 'Yes, but how many of THEM have a country named after them?'
And yet, in a sense, wasn't that perhaps a fair response? How many of us ever have countries named after us in our lifetime?

He was brutal, especially in war. It is said that at one battle during the conquest of Rhodesia he personally dispatched fifty natives.

When we look at all that was negative about the 'Empah', doesn't Rhodes tick every box?

But here's the point. You have to understand what drove Rhodes. Because you see, he isn't that simple.

Rhodes once said 'To be born an Englishman is to have won first prize in the lottery of life.'
Now before you file that away as another racist comment by a fanatical jingoist, let's just consider.

At that time, if anyone was going to build a railway from the cape of Good Hope to Cairo, there is one characteristic that was essential, above all others.

Being English.

Rhodes was stating fact. At that point in world history, being born in England gave you advantages you just didn't have if born into an identical station elsewhere. In a way, a child born in an English slum at that point in history, had a greater chance of changing the world than a child born son to a chief in Africa.

Rhodes believed in the Empire BECAUSE Rhodes believed in progress. Rhodes believed that the world really would get better the pinker it got, because only the full might of the world's richest, most industrialised power and the benefits of the system that had created that power, truly could change the world for the better.

And his vision of Empire was not quite that you'd expect to see in such a jingoist. The British government distrusted him, because they saw him as too much on the side of the Boers. He was also a public supporter of Irish Nationalism, supporting the campaign to give Ireland its own parliament within the British Empire.

Because Rhodes believed in, and advocated, a Federal empire. Rhodes believed one day, that there should be an Imperial parliament, much like the European parliament, in which all parts of the Empire was represented equally according to population. Admittedly, this didn't mean that native Africans would be getting a huge say. Rhodes believed that the native question would solve itself due to white immigration into South Africa. Rhodes believed that by today, South Africa AND Rhodesia, would have white majorities.
But leaving that aside, it was a democratic vision. The Empire would be somewhat like the EU, only it would instead cover the area we now call the Commonwealth.

But his will says more. He left money for the setting up of what is now the Rhodean scholarship. But he also left instructions- which weren't followed- for the setting up of a society with a clear set of aims.

To gain British control over those portions of the world not under its direct control, but where there were enough British interests to make a takeover feasible, specifically, South America and the Holy Land.
And to find a way to federate the US back into this Imperial federation.

Such an Empire truly would include half the population of the world.

And what would happen next?
Well, in time, Rhodes guessed the difference between the two halves of the world would become apparent.
The rest of the world, over time, would come into the fold of their own free will.

The whole world painted pink...

But is this truly the dream of a megalomaniac?

Do the English, in this vision, have any supremacy over the other peoples of the globe?
No, it's a democratic one. Sure, the capital of this world federation would doubtless have been London, but what are we REALLY looking at here?

Federal world government.
Federal DEMOCRATIC world government.

But instead of a UN secretary general, the King of England.

Rhodes saw the British Empire as being the force for progress. The civilisation being forced on the natives of Africa was the dark beginnings in his mind to a truly enlightened world, a world of peace, a world of never ending progress.

A world with railways that spanned continents.

The dreams so many of us have today, the aims society works towards- or some of us do, they were the aims of Rhodes too. The fact that he espoused them, whilst waving the Union Jack to achieve them, sometimes blinds us to this.
But at heart, he was an internationalist, a progressive and a radical.

When one day we truly do have democracy across the globe, when all states truly are members of a disarmed, peaceful, global federation, when all parts of the global infrastructure serve the people of that region, when the world is no longer composed of contrasting continents, when we truly can say the whole world is one, we may remember, that idea was the hope of Cecil Rhodes.

So perhaps the only thing that makes us uncomfortable is that it was the Union Jack he waved while trying to do it.

Monday 21 July 2008

The Shackles of Hate

A cynic might look at our world today and justifiably say, hatred is stronger than love.

They take away our freedoms by stoking our hate.
Hatred of the woman in a burkha. Hatred of the dark skinned man with his 'Hey Mistah' accent. Hatred of the alternative lifestyle.


The six counties of the North of Ireland show what hate can do. Peace in the six counties? It's a simmering one, and one which will boil over very soon, I think.
You can't ever have lasting peace between two communities who have hated eachother for centuries. Every time it is tried, the middle ground disappears as voters flock to the extremists, disavowing the peace that is betrayal.

Paisley outflanked Trimble, now a new hardline group, the True Ulster Voice, appears behind him.
And how long before the Continuity IRA claim the mantle of the Provisionals?
The hatred is too ingrained.

Politics of hatred everywhere. There is an 'us' and a 'them'. Whether it be immigrants, or Brussels, or Muslims.
We have whole states founded on principles of hate.

For what is Israel built on, if not? Israel says 'The world hated us, now it's our turn to do some hating.'

Hatred seems to be a cycle. Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth is bad enough. But it never seems to be good enough. For so often, the eye just doesn't satisfy. The retaliation stroke is for BOTH eyes. And then the return stroke comes.

And it goes on till someone stops, or someone is annihilated.

We wince when we see it's most obvious examples. We recognise systems of hate in Nazism or Apartheid.
But what about the capacity to hate we breed ourselves?

We bring up our young to accept- even respect- retaliation and revenge, when done in the name of society. Oh, its wrong to smack a child, that's not the way to teach it. You simply teach it to retaliate.
Yet we build the justice system on which society is built on such principles.

Is there not something a little sickening about the mobs which congregate to cheer and bay for the blood of our most warped members of society?
Why on earth do people hate people they've never met? God knows how many letters Home Secretarys received telling them never to release Myra Hindley. Do people REALLY have nothing better to do with their lives?

And does that make us much better than the Romans watching Christians being torn to bits by the lions?

Hatred is the animal within us- it is the instincts of an animal protecting itself and that it holds dear.
It cannot construct, only destroy.

Every minute we waste on this emotion, is a minute of our lives spent in negativity, when we could be using that same minute to love someone.

So often, of course, hatred is born of warped love. The two sides in the six counties hate eachother because their love of their own side is so narrow. And sometimes it's born of fear- such as the fear of the white minority in South Africa that a black majority would make them pay.

And sometimes, it's a bit of both.

But all too often revenge plays a role. A desire to return hurt, or a perceived slight.
And this can achieve nothing. Nietzche called it a futile attempt to right the wrongs of the past. Which it is. Two wrongs will always be just that- two wrongs.

Sadly, few of us seem above it. Even I get wound up by the sight of marching orangeman. And the sight of a certain football shirt is likely to get me to mouth 'scum' under my breath. But frankly, I see hating the Villa as a good valve for using up my negative emotions and as long as Aston Villa FC is the sole repository of my venom, all is well in my world.
Blair used to be a good target for my venom too. Brown just doesn't get my back up the same way. He's too inept, but less slimy.

And of course Tom Cruse and Jennifer Lopez. And of course, Stephen Seagal. And McFly. Actually...

But seriously, hate is no good. And the things I've mentioned above, ell, they hardly come into the league of serious hates. Muttering under your breath is one thing, HATING, as in devoting large parts of your life to such a thing, rather than simply being excessively annoyed that they are in your immediate attention span, is another thing completely.

I don't like hating, not really. It's rare I end up really hating someone. I don't seethe point. if someone annoys you, you can ignore them. If you dislike someone, there are plenty of other people in the world.
I don't think I've ever hated anyone who hasn't hated me first. And when you end up hating them, as a direct result of their hatred, it's truly horrible.
But the worst bit is, deep down you hate them most, for making you hate.

You hate them, because they are using YOUR life up in hate. They are making you play their game.
It's so much easier in theory, this turn the other cheek.

But in the mind of the orangeman is the idea that if he turns the other cheek, a United Ireland will be born. So he'll stick with what he knows, hating.

In practice though, hatred has had a long hold on us. Retaliation comes as instinct. But revenge is never sweet.
Deep down we hate the person who makes us hate, for dragging us down to their level, for infecting us with their hatred, for MAKING us fight them on their own terms.
And we hate ourselves for sinking to it. For not turning the other cheek. For our inability to rise above it.

And when it's all over? What's the lasting feeling we have?

Is it victory? Is it defeat?
No, it's shame.

Shame that we, rational beings, allowed ourselves to sink to the level of animals.

We strike back for selfish reasons. But when we look at the rage of the hater, should we respond with rage? Or pity?
They hate because somewhere within, the capacity to love has been hi-jacked by more sinister primal instincts.
And we should not let the same happen to us.

After all, should we even hate the Devil, should he happen to exist?

He plans to seduce us, condemn us to eternal life with pokers shoved up our arses, surely we should hate him?

Pity the poor guy. Twisted with rage since a few instants after time began, stuck in a frozen lake at the centre of the earth, realising he's never going to win, nobody loves him, he's the most hated thing in existence and even his minions don't really like him. He only gets listened to because he controls all those toasting fork.

He can't really be a happy chappie.

Laugh at him, pity him, but don't hate him. If anyone ever cocked their life up, it was Satan.

You only get a finite amount of time in life. Don't waste it on hatred. It drains you, it eats you up, it soils you. You're better than that.
Don't hate- that's the easy bit.

Don't let haters make you hate them- turn the other cheek.
And I'm trying to master that one, just as much as we all are.

Sunday 20 July 2008

Music Sunday Returns- David Bowie

Music Sunday returns after it kind of disappeared in a malaise of scheduling kind of falling by the wayside.
A return to following scheduling patterns is imminent. With some new scheduling features.

David Bowie- the man with different coloured eyes.
In tracks like the above, he can be thought provoking, as cinematic as Keats, a compositional lyricist of our times.

Sometimes, too he can capture the mood of the times. This track sings 1983. It dates an era, yet at the same time, is timeless.

And sometimes he's unique. My favorite Bowie track in some ways, though dearie me, life just gets worse for Major Tom...
Last seen drifting towards the asteroid belt, he now returns as a junkie...

And sometimes, Bowie is just surreal.

Friday 18 July 2008

Faith and The One

Interesting comments to this post.

OK, let me just say how I see it.

Again, it goes back to what Christ taught. Can you love, without there being a bargain?

What Christ proposed was instead of us all doing something in the hope of getting something back, we do something and just have faith that the simple doing of it will reward us, without clarifying whether or not we'll actually get such reward.

Do it, and hope that what goes around comes around.

This is what is meant by faith, the hope that somehow your actions will be rewarded in the life to come.

Now myself, I believe that the whole promise of an afterlife is a bribe.
To me, it doesn't fit in with what we know of the world.

But I still maintain there is something being said there.
Because the whole point is, it does condition you to a certain mindset, and that mindset is a positive one.

Faith, Hope, Love.

Pascal's Wager is often misunderstood. People often see it as merely cynical.
It's usually taken as saying that believing in God is the better bet because if you're right, you go to Heaven, but if you're wrong you lose nothing, whereas Atheism is the bad bet, because if you're right you gain nothing, but if you're wrong you go to Hell.

Not quite what he said.

What Pascal said, concerned Faith.
What he said was, that the blessings of the afterlife, if it exists are infinite. Therefore, no matter what the likelihood of its existence, whatever the probabilities of its existence, statistically it makes sense to have faith. The point is, he was a mathematician, and the point is a mathematical one.

Of course, I'm still not convinced by the afterlife.

Now I guess, in regard to the post in question and the comments to it, is that actually this post is about unconditional love. As in, without conditions.

Now, I guess the question is, does unconditional love, exist.

And I would argue, yes it does.

Because I would argue that at some point in life, we all have to make ONE Faith decision and stick by it.
Just to know for sure we are who we feel we are.

Just so we can die knowing we were true to our hearts.
We have to have faith that the universe does not deceive us in how it prompts us to feel. We have to have faith in that, or life itself is a lie.

Well, I must admit to having gone through life an utter cynic in matters of the heart till fairly recently.
I was content to fling around those three little words without a lot of due care and attention.
Basically, waiting for the best bargain to show up. But I can't honestly say my heart was ever particularly in it.

And generally, I was hoping, as any good salesman does, to make a profit.
As in to be loved, without having to give much love.

And in my experience, it's not actually a good deal. Funny thing this surplus love. It seems to rot and turn into a kind of misery.

I think that's because it's love bought and sold, not love given in faith.

And I think this is it. If you're like me, you have to feel the miracle to believe. You have to see 'The One', before you can truly believe.
You see, I'm kind of the doubting Thomas. I didn't really believe in that kind of unconditional devotion. Well, I did in theory, indeed the CONCEPT of it, has always been fundamental. But in practical terms, you have to see the holes where the nails went through.

But 'Happier still are those who have not seen, and yet believe'.

And this is the point. Accepting the existence of 'The One'- your 'The One', is a major faith decision.

Because it's a gut feeling. you can't help it. They always say 'When you know, you'll know'. This never really made sense to me. But I guess that's the point. Recognising 'The One', is much the same as when Thomas saw the holes in Christ's hands.

But once you've done that, what does that mean?

Well, it means that you really just have to have faith. Of course there's no logical reason why YOU should also be THEIR one. But that doesn't really matter. The point is, what you feel and the point is, you can't lie to yourself and the universe.

To refuse to love The One, without conditions, is to lack faith. To turn away from The One and settle elsewhere, is to lack faith.

So of course it's a faith choice.
But it's like Pascal's wager.

I don't think everyone comes across 'The One'. I think maybe it really is kind of a miracle that strikes Doubting Thomases.
But once you do, it has the same odds.

Because if it's 'The One', there's no bargain. Unconditional devotion, really IS worth it. Suffering anything they throw at you really IS worth it. They really ARE worth it. So it really doesn't matter if they reject you and settle down with someone else.

Because in ten years they MAY change their mind.

And if they're The One, they're worth sticking around for.
Just in case.

And if you ever get to have 'The One', then anything they do is forgivable, because you already have something priceless.

The point is, loving 'The One' is its own reward. You don't need anything back for it, it is it's own reward.
It is like a religion, the joy is in the Faith, the Hope and the Love.

To give up on 'The One', to walk away, is to give up on life, to lose Faith that the universe tells you true.

So yes, loving The One IS an act of faith.

They're worth waiting for
And worth enduring anything for.

After all, Penelope waited twenty years for Odysseus.

Faith, Hope and Love.
The path to redemption.

Thursday 17 July 2008

Death of a Salesman

It's a strange career.

I think few people choose it, it chooses you.

It appeals to a certain type.
Ninety percent of those who try it give up very soon. So often you hear 'I did sales for a bit. Hated it.'

But those why stay, stay. Forever.
Because you can't do anything else.

Hate it? It happens. It's a hard task master. You really are only as good as your last month's figures. And herein lies the conundrum.

It attracts highs and lows people. People who live off adrenalin, people who love playing to the gallery, perpetual children stuck in suits to play strategic battles of will.

It's a Love-Hate relationship.

Because when it's good, it truly is the greatest way there is to earn a living. How many other careers can you 'live off a smile and a shoe shine?'

You can get away with murder, as long as you bring in the business. A certain degree of paperwork incompetence can be tolerated, as long as you are generating enough paperwork to start with. If you are, then your employers really don't mind the fact that half of someone else's salary is effectively devoted to tidying up your mess.

Sometimes I wonder, though, about what it does to us.

I sometimes think I work with complete lunatics. It's like a kindergarten. And often, I'm no better than the rest. Today for example, while The Diplodocus was in the toilet, I went and moved everything on his desk so that everything was in a completely different place. No real reason for this, other than to see if it freaked him out a bit.

Work outings are semi-obligatory, at least, if you avoid them, you'll slip out of the loop. Essentially, they're where the office politics are thrashed out, and the more alcohol is consumed, the more one starts to get down to brass tacks.

I wonder sometimes about the life strategy we are compelled to pursue.

Because we are, by nature, work hard, play hard types. And so much of our lives is devoted to riding that high.
Because we have too.

We can't afford to fall off that high.
If you don't work hard, you don't play hard, and if you don't play hard, you don't work hard. The two are linked.

We have to party, keep continually in a jubilant frame of mind to be that little bit extra, to be permanently enthused, because a bad day costs you money. And no money, means no partying. No partying, means more bad days.

And are we really happy, any of us?

We live by systematically programming ourselves. We have to. I often say to people 'People don't buy products, they buy people'.
And that's right.

But look at that.

We sell ourselves.

We are prostitutes. We sell our emotions to the highest bidder, we learn to enthuse ourselves, to commit doublethink, we MAKE OURSELVES BELIEVE, because our bonuses depend on it. Because we have to believe what we say. You can't do it otherwise, not properly.

The Baker and others often comment that I can be very difficult to pin down. Ask me pretty much anything, I'll skillfully evade the question. I give you the answers I want to give you, and the question is largely irrelevant. And you have to be on the ball to notice that I haven't answered your question.
It's gut instinct- question, parry.

A good salesman never lies- he doesn't have to. He can control the facts. He can carry out the supreme trick of always being totally honest, yet still carry out an optical illusion. I've done it. I've arranged facts in such a way as to imply something different to what is actually the case if you look at it.

'We can save you 10% on 85% of your calls, from the analysis I've done', hides a crucial fact. The other 15% will actually mean, we cost more overall.

And I did actually use that, many years ago.

By nature, we're emotive people. Very. We live off them. But directed. We learn to channell our passions, to browbeat them in to- stuff that really, doesn't matter to us in the slightest. Except it pays our bills.

Sometimes, sat in the pub, I stop and think 'Jesus, why am I getting so excited about this?'

Sometimes it worries me that we get enmeshed in this way of living. We use our highly strung natures and learn to direct those passions. And we build our lives round ensuring we have that buzz to give to our work.

Recently I was talking to the Gecko and he said '******ger', whatever shit's going on in your life, and it's obvious there is, because you've not been focused since Christmas, not the way you once were, I hope it's getting sorted, because right now you're coasting. And you get by, because you do your job, you get the results, but you're paperwork is a joke'.

Well, of late, I've kind of been pretty focused. I've been pretty chirpy of late and in spite of July usually being a slow month due to factory shutdowns, this is looking on course to be my best month ever.
Because in so many ways, a burden has been lifted from me and I can feel the pressure lifting off my shoulders. I can feel good things in my life and the hunger to achieve has returned.
But sometimes this worries me. Do I just use good things in my life as fuel to power a sales drive?
Do I seek happiness, not in itself, but merely to serve a need to break targets, to stick an extra few hundred on my monthly paycheque?

Because I was thinking about someone special today and how happy they make me, and while I'm thinking that, I'm looking at the stats this month to date, and I'm thanking that person for those stats.
And I had to stop myself and think 'I shouldn't be looking at it like that. I've got this the wrong way round, surely?'

But it takes over the way you think. That's the job. It appeals to addictive personalities, and play the game long enough, you just think in pure sales terms.

I look at some of the people I've worked with. One thing you can say about me, is I'm reliable. I'm rarely off sick, and when I do I'm honest.

There was a day a few months back when I rang the Gecko.

Gecko: ******ger, where are you? I've been trying to ring you. It's like, midday now.

Crushed: Yes. Which version do you want?

Gecko: What do you mean?

Crushed: Well, there's the crap excuse for why I didn't come in, or there's the truth.

Gecko: The truth.

Crushed: My phone went dead last night- which is also my alarm. Then me and my mate went out on the piss. And there was a lockin on. So I come home hammered, didn't plug my phone on, and basically.... I've just woke up.

Gecko: That is so not a good excuse.

Crushed: I'm not saying it is. In fact its dire. But there's no point me coming in now.

Gecko: So you're not coming in because you have a hangover. This isn't really a professional way forward. We're approaching month end (X contract) is in a pisspoor state and you really needed to be here to sort that one out.

Crushed: No, I'll give you that, it's a lame excuse. But, I could have come up with a load of shite about babies cutting themselves on tiles or mothers diagnosed with cancer like everyone else does.


Gecko: I'll see you tomorrow.

It's rare days off sick get paid.
I got paid for that day.

Because I was honest. The company know they can trust me. Cock ups, yeah I make many, but integrity, they can rely on me to put my hands up.

The same can't always be said of my colleagues. Attendance in such companies is dire. Especially from a certain type.

Nearly every sales company has at least one. All good salespeople are to some degree driven by demons, I think. We're all hyperactive extroverts who hide the fact that we just can't sit still take life as it comes.

But I look at those sales literally kills.

A certain type. Good, very good. The sales stars.

The biggest lie in sales is the one they spin you, the salesman. Of what you CAN earn. The OTE. On Target Earnings.

If you really earned that, you'd be living the dream.

But dream it is. And every so often you get these stars come in. Troubled people, really troubled. Scratch under the surface and you find an abuse victim, or someone who grew up under the witness protection programme, or has a drug problem.

And they live the dream in their figures.

And then they start to work the the three week month. They're always off sick for the week after payday, and then they come back to smash all targets in the remaining three weeks.

Loose cannons, volatile, slightly deranged.

We had one recently, nice guy, messed up life history. One pint wonder, two pint terror.
He had potential, that is how it is said. The potential to live that dream.
But no one who has that potential seems to do it.

He burned out.
And now he's literally disappeared.

Sometimes I reflect what a dark business it is in some ways, it squeezes us dry.

And I wonder if it's even good for me. Because do we ever switch off?
Once you have learned to control your emotions with a tap, how do you resist the temptation to use the tap?
When your job is dependent on 'conversation control', how can you avoid doing it all the time?

Are not all salesmen basically unhappy frightened children who have never really grown up, hiding behind an outwardly vibrant, overly outgoing, seemingly confident persona, where all life is nothing more than a game of strategy, where the name of the game is to sell someone their own vision and close down their options?

The problem, methinks, is that a good salesman is a button presser. He knows what works.
And if it works to earn him a living, it's hard to stop selling just because the clock has struck five. Selling works. We never stop to think what we really think or feel, just keep that buzz going, living on the instinct of the adrenalin rush, all life, merely going through the motions.

Sometimes I think salesmen die within. We are far more similar to prostitutes than we care to admit, and maybe something similar happens to us over time.

We choose a career path that allows us to be driven by our demons and never confront them. And so as life kicks us and gives us more demons, we are driven further in, to become more entrenched as salesmen- we have more demons to drive us.

It's a dangerous game.

I don't want to die the Death of a Salesman.

I don't ever want to even for a second think what I did today about the monthly stats.

Because the person who inspired that thought, is more important than my bonus.

Wednesday 16 July 2008

The Most Perfect of All Feelings

Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

How true.

Because never to love at all, is to be denied the greatest feeling of all.

To be loved?

Oh, that's easy enough.
Doesn't take much to accept someone's love.
You learned to do that as a child.

Accept a gift? That's not hard.

But to be loved can be a brackish gift. Because to be loved, when we do not love, is the love of the lotus eater.
We suck it in like a drug, demanding more.
And when we accept love without loving back, it deadens us. And the gift we thought would satisfy us turns to pain.

What we thought was a gift, becomes a burden.

To love and be loved, 'tis still easy.
To be a happy couple bargaining love.

To give and to receive.
But never forget, you get paid.

Do you really believe in Love?
Or just a bargain?

You cannot know the total Euphoria.
The most perfect of sensations.

To love with all your heart and soul.
To bow down in reverent awe before the object of your devotion.

To be prepared to devote your life to one person.

And when they make you feel small, when they spurn you, when they show you that your love for them means nothing,
When you walk away and let that bittersweet pain wash over you,
and you can turn round and look them in the eye, your love for them undiminished and everlasting.

The feeling you have then, is the most perfect of all feelings.

And if you can feel that once in your life, about one person at least, then you are redeemed.

This I believe.

Tuesday 15 July 2008

Sitting idly in my sidebar in dire need of updating, sits the prologue of my novel.

It's had a chequered history. I started writing it on A4 paper back in the year 2000, just before I met Claire.
The origins were very simple. I had already embarked on some of the speculations that underpin this blog, and my original vehicle for expressing some of those thoughts was 'In the Service of Order'.

Unfortunately, I'm not the most organised of people. Initially, I got quite into writing it, but I got sidetracked by work and Claire and DIY and visiting country homes at the weekend.
So ISO got shelved.

At various times in my life I returned to it, and before I started this blog, was starting to re-acquaint myself with the basic premises and go back and re-write bits of what I had already written.

So far, eight years after it's orgins, it hasn't progressed very far, really. The prologue and five chapters exist on paper. The prologue and two of those chapters exist on my hard drive. The full plot outline, such as it is, and the appendices also exist on my hard drive.

Why write the appendices first?

Well, because of the nature of the novel. I suppose loosely, it would be classed as sci-fi fantasy, which means that EVERYTHING in it, is made up. It is a hypothetical state of existence, with hypothetical places depicted.

The basic premise, is that it depicts a species that resembles the human type, living in a state of technological development an estimated four millenia or so after our state of development.

And I guess it is part dystopia, part utopia. The point really as to indulge some of my speculation on future technology and power structures.

The idea is that at some point in ancient history, a portion of the human race developed what might be termed psychokinetic powers. Inevitably, over time, those with those began to use their abilities and pretty much demand special treatment. Over time, they began to form essentially rogue confederacies inhabiting the further reaches of civilisation, forming bands known as the Septs.

In time these groups began to war against eachother and a dark age of perpetual war broke out during which the cradle world of the species and countless others were destroyed.

Out of this dark age finally emerged, however a concrete unity with a concrete philosophy.
The Galangic philosophy's fundamental tenet, is power for it's own sake. It states 'God is not omnipotent because he is God, he is God because he is omnipotent'.

In other words, those with psychokinetic abilities are recruited into a quasi-religious military order, the Servants of Order, organised into a rigid pyramid structure. At the top of this, are several tiers of Lords of the empire, each having personal dominion over thousands of world, and above them, His Divine Omnipotence, The President of the Unified Council of Septs, Bringer of Light, Ordained Arbiter of all Sentient Life, the Emperor himself.

A human being, with the literal power of God in his fingertips.

Writing the appendices in such detail was necessary mainly because one needs to ensure consistency. Full details of all the Imperial Directorates and how the Empire is administered needed to be worked out. Plus an account of the different factions existing within Imperial politics. as well as the 'heresies'. And of course, the history of all this.

The idea is that the Galangic philosophy works unceasingly to perpetually increase the number of sentient beings obeying a single will.
I intended to have on the opening page that quote of Voltaire's 'If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him'.

The novel is set in time of crisis. For 51 reigns, the Empire has had a single goal- conquer the galaxy. It always believed that before it achieved this, it would work out how to cross intergalactic space.
But it didn't.
And now a system which has been driven for as long as anyone can remember by perpetual expansion, has shuddered to a halt in its tracks.

And it is turning in on itself.

I made several decisions when I started writing. Firstly, I didn't want to focus on space travel. Novels about to days world don't focus on air travel, so why should all the action in futuristic novels be set in space?

Much of the action is set in the cities of the future- at least a third of the novel in the greatest of them all- Imperion.
Imperion, is a planet in its own right. A planet, which is entirely covered by buildings. It is home to 2 TRILLION souls. The entire star system it exists in, could be considered its metropolitan zone. The concept of such a city and the scale of activity there, of slum tower blocks so vast some of its inhabitants never see daylight, of vast road networks 100 lanes wide, of 'Pleasure domes' open to perpetual parting twenty four hours a day where devotees actually sacrifice themselves before holographic images of the Emperor, were things I was keen to explore. A city where the Execution channel shows the daily execution of thousands of 'heretics'.

But also the possibilities of future technology. The fact that really, the Lords of the Empire are no longer human. The Godhead programme- a kind of galactic internet is perpetually pumping so much information into their brain, that their thought processes can be regarded as largely computerised, and their body chemicals are entirely controlled by machines as well, so nothing they do or think can really be regarded as 'natural'.

When writing the history of the Emperors, I decided to have a majority of the later Emperors die of brain haemorrhages. The idea that those who rule under such conditions are eventually going to start going mad and eventually be themselves physically shut down by the network they are the centre of, I found rather compelling. I found the idea that the further up the system one rose, the less pleasant existence became at all, to be an interesting theme, and the idea of human beings no longer in control of themselves, completely oblivious to any natural thoughts or emotions being perpetually driven to surrender their humanity ever further just to feel a greater sensation of power to be a fascinating concept.

So I suppose it was a study in tyranny. But underlying it all, I guess, lay the shadow of our own times, which possibly was finding its expression in this vehicle.

A lot of themes would have been touched along the line somewhere or other.

Sometimes I think this blog has rendered the novel kind of obsolete. It seems to cover all the issues I wanted to explore when writing it.

I get the impression it may never be finished now.

But I've updated the blog, and added part of the first chapter.
I should add that if I ever DO decide to continue, large parts of this chapter have been earmarked for replacement.

I will post the second and slightly longer part of the first chapter, on Thursday.