Thursday, 31 March 2016

WE ARE THE DEAD: THE 1983 HARRODS BOMB




The most terrifying line in Orwell’s 1984 is the response to Julia’s plaintive lament;

“We are the dead”.

From behind the painting on the wall, a voice replies;

“You are the dead.”

Arrest and the awful, famous denouement of the book follow and, for Winston Smith, it is a kind of living death.

For an as-yet-unknown number of European people, death will come soon, and it will be just as unexpected and terrifying as the echo that ends the lovers’ tryst for the last time in the famous novel Orwell originally wanted to call The Last Man in Europe. The future killers of these unfortunate victims, these poor people who will simply arrive at a certain location, quite by chance, co-simultaneously with the detonation of a bomb, the rattle of ballistic weaponry, the quick thrust of a knife, or whatever other method for the dispatch of kufr our new European insurgents have devised to send their victims to hell, as they believe will happen, are like vampires. You have to invite them in but, once they are inside, they will not leave.

I don’t know whether you have ever been involved in a terrorist bombing, but it produces a kind of awe which will never leave you. At one point, I thought the Irish Republican Army might be after me personally. They blew up a pub opposite the local barracks in the town in which I grew up. I was about half a mile from the Grand Hotel in Brighton when they decimated that in an attempt to kill Margaret Thatcher and her Cabinet colleagues. But it was at London’s most famous department store where the IRA came closest to adding me to the list of the fallen in what was rather limp-wristedly referred to by the political and media class of the day as ‘The Troubles.’

Just before the dawning of 1984, the year Orwell transformed into the most famous date in fiction, December 17, 1983 was a cold, bright London day. I was working in Harrods in one of the ladies’ suit departments. It was a Saturday job to earn money while I went through university.

It was a reasonable part-time job, with some amusing colleagues and the usual doltish management I seem to have been plagued with all my working life. I served Diana Spencer there once, a charming young girl, now dead, and also Sebastian Coe, a nasty, impolite, runtish little man now known as Lord Coe because he could run faster than some other men. That day, I had been due to walk over to Hyde Park during my break and have lunch with the daughter of a politician who served under Thatcher. I knew her from university. I called her and cancelled, as I had a dreadful cough, didn’t want to give it to her, and didn’t much feel like it anyway. The cough also dissuaded me from my usual lunchtime trip across to a newspaper kiosk to buy a pack of Gauloise Mild cigarettes, which came in a light green pack and could hardly be bought elsewhere. As a result of a recent trip to France and the type of pseudo-existentialist pretentiousness one might expect of a 22-year-old man, I had found myself addicted to these aromatic cancer sticks.

At a few minutes before my designated break, a coded Tannoy message came over the speakers, something about all section team leaders reporting to someone or other. What it meant, to the staff at least, was that a credible bomb warning had been received, and that we were to look for suspicious objects. That’s right. Security services were not called. Young people like myself were asked – no, told – to make a sweep of our department. My task was to look in the pockets of the hanging suits. The IRA had been known to use so-called ‘cassette bombs’, small incendiary devices not intended to cause mayhem as such, but to ignite fires that would. Having completed my task with my fingers intact, I went off to lunch just a few minutes later than usual.

As mentioned, I had decided against a cross-infectious lunch with a friend, and ditto a pack of cigs that could only have made the problem worse. Instead, I rode the escalators to the top floor, where the old Way In department and the excellent staff canteen were near neighbours.

Only I never made it.

At a little before 13.30, a bomb exploded in the side street which runs down and away from Harrods, dividing the store into separate buildings. The escalators stopped dead. I saw a huge ball of white fire ascend past me through the windows ahead on the floor I was on. I felt its heat through the glass. Plaster rained from the ceiling like snow in a Scandinavian forest. There was a second or two of utter stillness. And then the screaming started. The six dead and 75 wounded were all in the street. We were actually safe, although everyone wanted to get out as we believed that there was a second bomb inside the store. The security guards ushered people down to the exit doors, where we were kept inside. Waiting. I peeked outside, just once.

As the BBC reported;

 

Staff at the Harrods store reported seeing windows blown out into the shop and seeing colleagues and shoppers badly injured.

 

Yes, yes we did. If it’s all the same to you, I’ll skip what I saw. I don’t exactly dream about it, all these decades later. But I won’t ever forget it.

And you should know what it is that these terrorist bombs do to human flesh, to lives, to the people in the immediate vicinity. Look it up. See the effects of flying shrapnel on human flesh. One of the survivors of the recent Brussels bombs described seeing people with no legs. He won’t be forgetting it in a hurry, I’m sure.

But our political leaders, the social engineers currently grovelling to plant their lips firmly on the buttocks of the medievalists who carry out this sort of thing, can easily forget it. When they say that their thoughts and prayers are with the families of the dead, they are lying, and ought really, in a sane world, to have their well-fed faces slapped and slapped hard for their arrogance.

If these people are not replaced – and it will have to be by force because the ballot box will not and cannot do the job – then some of us – if we choose to or are forced to remain in Europe – really are the dead.

Leaving Harrods 32 years ago, I leant my jacket to a shivering work colleague as we walked to the station like refugees. I wonder where she is now, because I could see that she was not going to get over that day’s events any time soon. I wonder whether she has read 1984, and truly believes we are the dead, or whether she has become one of those people who believes in untrammelled immigration, and believes any other viewpoint to be racist.

 

CODA

 

I could not hear properly for two days after the explosion. When I was back at work the following Saturday, I conducted a small experiment. I walked from my department to the exact spot I had reached when the bomb went off, and I timed the journey. I then went back to the department and set out again, this time heading out to the tobacco kiosk. When I had walked for exactly the same time I stopped. I was standing approximately in the section of the street you see in the photograph above. You must give up smoking. It really can kill you.

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

DOES HE KNOW WHO YOU ARE? KILL LIST



They are bad people. They should suffer.

Kill List

 

I don’t send them solicitor’s letters.

Performance

 


I was once asked by a girlfriend why it was that I was watching a particular movie for something like the 40th time. The answer seemed obvious to me, but it seems that some people fail to understand. Would you look at a van Gogh painting once and once only?

Imagine buying an album by a band you love. You play it once and you never listen to it again. Unlikely, I’m sure you’ll agree. You will play it, as we used to say, until the grooves wear out. For me, film is the same. I will gladly watch a film fifty, sixty, seventy times. Performance. Get Carter. Stalker. Apocalypse Now. Naked. Casino. Orphee. All films I have seen at least fifty times and would happily watch another fifty. 2011’s Kill List is one such film.

Directed by Ben Wheatley, who also directed Down Terrace – which I have not seen – and the extraordinary A Field in England, Kill List is the story of two ex-servicemen turned hit men. After a botched operation in Kiev, they are offered a job to execute three men. Their mysterious client pays them well, but the job becomes darker and more dangerous than they had bargained for.

The film develops with an eerie relentlessness. It is supported by a moral framework familiar to most movie-goers; bad guys who do good things. But it is punctuated with dreamlike moments of sinister portent. The scene in the doctor’s office in which Jay visits to have his slashed-open hand seen to is extraordinary.

England is made to look exactly as it is, ugly with occasional beauty. The camera work is jerky and realistic. Scenes move unevenly, but the lack of balance is intentional, the bleeding of the soundtrack across scene cuts deliberately disorienting. The central figures are deeply flawed men, stumbling, drinking and joking their way through their doomed and dark odyssey. As Jay begins to lose control, going at his work of execution ‘like a Hackney crackhead’, so the film itself begins to split and rupture.

If you know something about the structure of film screenplays, you will know that after 23 minutes you should have your first plot point, an incident, speech or occurrence that sets up the action to come. The power of Kill List lies in the first plot point, involving a girl at a dinner party who uses the bathroom. It hardly sounds enthralling, I grant you, but it is what she does in the bathroom that insists that you watch this film more than once. If you don’t re-watch it, it simply doesn’t make sense. I didn’t get close to grasping the film until about the fourth time of watching.

There is not a musical soundtrack to the film, in the usual sense of the term. A kind of orchestral white noise buzzes and rings about, and it ramps up the tension quite brilliantly.

The acting performances are incredible. In this age of talentless halfwits such as De Caprio and Pitt, we forget how difficult it is to portray the lives of ordinary people in extraordinary situations. Neil Maskell will be recognisable from various British films, and Michael Smiley – his partner in crime – is a brilliant actor.

The cross-cutting is fractured and disjointed, with some scenes functioning as strange non-sequiturs adding to the steady creep of terror the film produces. There are truly dreadful scenes. The killing of the librarian is one of the most stark filmic episodes I have ever seen. As the young people say on social media, you can’t unsee it.

 I can’t recommend Kill List highly enough. It’s the most inventive hitman movie I know, with an undercurrent of pure, metaphysical evil. Students of the occult will find much to interest them here. The film is riddled with clues and suggestions, and this is why it is not a film you can see once and only once. It is reminiscent, in curious ways, of The Wicker Man. The burst of extreme violence at the film’s climax recalls the orgiastic insanity of Taxi Driver and Straw Dogs.

Under no circumstances watch this film with a young person. It is shatteringly violent, and I still find one of the scenes difficult to sit through even at the tenth time of asking. A child who watched Kill List would be psychologically scarred for life. The last 20 minutes still haunt me, and I don’t care what I watch.

I believe it was Ian McKewan who said that in a society that is deeply troubled, its art – he was obviously talking about the novel – should reflect that disturbance at a fundamental level. So it is with film, the politicised, globalist crap that Hollywood churns out notwithstanding. McKewan went to my old university, Sussex, and allegedly began writing short stories to relieve the boredom of the courses he took. Boredom is the greatest enemy of the modern West, and sometimes it spits out art which makes one realise just how fractured and dysfunctional the modern world is.

If you care about film, you would not want to miss out on Kill List. If you do watch it, I hope you sleep tight afterwards.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

BRUSSELS AND THE KETTLING OF LOGIC



Governments have worked hard to control the stories told about the status quo – that is, about them.

Martin Gurri, The Revolt of the Public


It is sometimes hard to refrain from writing a satire.

Juvenal

 

The procedure is familiar now. A slaughter in a European city is followed by a full-scale crackdown. Not on the perpetrators, their ideology or their facilitators, however, but against any citizens foolish enough to voice their opinion as to the cause of these attacks. The media goes into lockdown and falls into lockstep, uniting to keep the narrative running smoothly, a narrative that runs in a curious parallel to Freud’s famous example of ‘kettle logic’.

In Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams and Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, Freud discusses a series of fallacious arguments presented by a man who has returned a neighbour’s kettle in a damaged condition. The man argues in his defence as follows;

1.     The kettle was returned undamaged.

2.     It was already damaged when I borrowed it.

3.     I didn’t borrow the kettle in the first place.

Of course, the fit is not exact – Freud is more concerned with the fractured logic of the dreamwork and the id - but the Western media response to something like the Brussels bombings is roughly as follows;

1.     The attack has nothing to do with Islam or Muslims.

2.     Even if it did, not all Muslims hate us.

3.     Even if Muslims hate us, it is justified because of our faults and actions.

What happens next is, of course, what concerns the authorities. But these are authorities who failed to apprehend a known terrorist who had been expelled twice from Turkey – with the appropriate level of warning accompanying him – and yet who managed in England to arrest a man who had sent a rather sneering Tweet concerning his challenging a random Muslim woman over the Brussels attacks. They are not interested in preventing terrorism, but they are obsessive when it comes to closing down freedom of speech regarding that terrorism. Being a known bomb-maker does not seem to attract the attention of the authorities; having the wrong tone on social media does.

What genuinely concerns the authorities is when the tipping-point will be reached. Even the rigged democracy of the EU is failing to prevent the rise of the Right in the polls. Voters in France, for example, are well aware that it is only an unprincipled coalition of feeble, neo-Vichy apologists that is stopping Marine Le Pen’s route to power. It is as though – no, it is the case that – democracy is being re-engineered so that the will of the people becomes something decorative, a hood ornament as opposed to a vital part of the engine.

Once the legal, democratic paths have been closed or so manipulated as to be unpassable, the people (a phrase which disgusts EU leaders such as Merkel, Juncker and Schulz) will search for other routes, and this is what keeps the security chiefs up at night. As I have said many times, radicalised mosques do not bother the British government; radicalised pubs do.

By coincidence, ‘kettling’ is a slang term for a British police tactic intended to isolate groups of demonstrators from the possibility of contact with their fellows. Simplistically, it is an authoritarian technique intended to prevent a simple freedom in the name of the authority it represents. Similarly, Freud’s kettle logic – or the version of it I have kidnapped for my purpose – is intended to restrict freedom of expression. But governments are playing a dangerous game on two fronts.

Firstly, if they believe they can ride the Islamic tiger, they may have to think again. History demonstrates that Islam has tried and only just failed to conquer the West on numerous occasions. You can’t suddenly appease a hatred with such duration, a millennial animus. Welfare checks, camp beds, mobile phones and segregated swimming pools are not going to placate warriors. The West has made the mistake of thinking that if you just explain concepts like liberalism, respect for women and homosexuals, the age of consent and so on, the grateful and enlightened Mohammedans will simply pack away their Korans and use their mosques purely ritually, or perhaps for farmers’ markets at the weekend,  as most Christians do in the West.

Secondly, the gauleiters of the West – many unelected as democracy becomes as ritualistic and symbolic as the Christian belief mentioned above – are relying on their provisional wings to enforce their programme of rapid and unassimilable Islamisation. The media present no problem. They have long been outriders for Islam, this season’s version of the Black Panthers for bored liberals to patronise and flutter around with an almost erotic yearning. The media will always shill for whatever ruinous, self-serving cause their paymasters require. But the police and the armed forces may not be quite so loyal to the Progressive cause once their colleagues start dying, or they see too much in the way of evisceration and death at railway stations and coffee shops familiar to them. Or, of course, they may stray into that off-limits area of free thought that will whisper to them that the values of Islam are not their values. The continued loyalty of the forces has been partly effected by weakening them, and even recruiting them as a partial fifth column. This explains, for example, why there is now deep foreboding about Islamic infiltration in the French police force, as well as the fact that Obama has described a clearly Islamist slaying at a US military base as ‘workplace violence’.

Freud’s logic of the kettle exists because it confounds reality, repelling the truth even under its fiercest onslaught. Western elites and their media waterboys are carrying out exactly the same exercise. The assumption is that we are all still happy with our garden centres and boxed sets of slickly produced televisual rubbish. Come a bad economic recession, however – and it can scarcely be denied that this looks likely – and things will change, as they have a habit of doing. The elites rely on their technocratic acumen to carry the ship of state through choppy waters. Reality, as it so often does, may have other ideas.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

SOMETHING IS ROTTEN IN THE FOURTH ESTATE: THE MEDIA'S TASK AFTER TRUMP'S DEFEAT



If or when Donald Trump loses the presidential election to Hillary Clinton in November, the Western media will immediately set to work. They will move quickly from spittle-soaked praise for the ascension of their nominated candidate to the new Peacock Throne, but editors will have swift instructions for their galley slaves. Overtime will be cancelled as a new tapestry of op-ed is spun with one goal and one only; close down the debate Trump opened up.

It makes absolutely no difference what anyone thinks of Donald Trump. As an individual, he is not particularly important. What is important is that he opened a new agora in a town which is trying to discourage free speech. America is not as far gone in its destruction of free expression as Europe, not yet. Perhaps its First Amendment has proved more of a shield against the new Lord Chancellors of Newspeak than Europe’s parlous ideological defences. Geert Wilders is currently on trial for a statement Trump throws out like candy bars.

But America has seen the future via Trump and his supporters, and the media will not forgive him – or them – for that transgression. It will be interesting, in the event of another Clinton presidency, to see how the wife of the serial adulterer attempts to punish with legislation both Trump voters and the property interests of the man himself.

It can’t seriously be avowed now that there is not a Progressivist, Globalist, Leftist ideological plantation which was planted after the Second World War, heavily fertilised and nourished in the 1960s, and slowly, surreptitiously tended ever since, nor that this is now coming to its fruit-bearing season. The extension of Islam, La Raza, and big government are being hooked together in sequence. There can be only one target, and that target is now turning up in its tens of thousands to watch Donald Trump speak. At least, they are turning up when their way is not blocked by violent opponents of free speech and democracy. And the furious SJWs wasting police time on the USA’s highways have a stalwart comrade; the media.

Nothing frightens the political elites as much as their current nightmare; a rich white man who needs no financial donors being cheered and voted for by thousands and thousands of white people who do not believe that diversity is America’s strength. The provisional wing of big government, the media, are now the fourth branch of that government in the same way that the UK refers to the Fourth Estate. But the media are not there to speak truth to power. They exist to create truth for power. If Trump falls at the last hurdle, it will be journalists cheering at the finish line.

 

Saturday, 19 March 2016

PURA VIDA: FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF COSTA RICA



For the past two months I have been in Central America in what is called by some ‘the Switzerland of America’; Costa Rica. Now, I am not widely travelled. In fact, to paraphrase Eddie Izzard from that period when he was funny, I’m thinly travelled. This is only the second time I’ve been outside Europe, after visiting Canada and what is referred to in The Simpsons as one of the freak states; Alaska. That is not a joke I repeat here. A good number of Alaskans visit Costa Rica. There are a lot of Canadians too, many of them Quebecoise. I have spoken far more French here than I did the last time I was in France.

I should stress that I have not seen Costa Rica, just one tiny area. I have left the small Pacific town of Quepos just once, and I can’t make a comparison yet between the town I am in and the suburbs of London, England in which I grew up, or at least got bigger. I don’t know an equivalent for Quepos back in blighted Blighty. This could be Margate or it could be Tunbridge Wells (apologies to readers from the USA for the obscure British reference). I just can’t tell yet.

So; travel notes from a non-traveller, I’m afraid. This is a mixture of street-level, Gringo experience in a dusty, sleepy town two hours from San Jose, and some research into Costa Rica the country.

Costa Rica has no standing army.  There are paramilitary units on border patrol – and ‘border patrol’ is a phrase which may be unfamiliar to European readers at the present time – but essentially this is a country whose entry points cannot be defended in the traditional, military sense. Nicaragua could invade. Panama could invade, although from what I’ve heard they would take a while to get that whole thing together. Good grief, The Church of Scientology could invade. The Salvation Army could put their tanks on the Costa Rican president’s lawn. All the Ticos [Costa Ricans] would do would be to hand every soldier flip-flops, pineapples and a bottle of Imperial lager. I was in Paris in December last, and that felt like an occupied city. I feel safer here than I do in south London.

Costa Rica almost leads the world in sustainable energy. Was it because of endless nagging by Leftie windbags trying to secure the neo-hippie vote? It was not. Costa Rica had a bad economic depression in the 1970s, went bust, and decided to lean on sustainables. The trade agreements with the USA were in their favour, and within two decades they became record-breaking in terms of actually doing what EU flapgums only ever talk about, and even then only ever if there is something in it for them and theirs. There was something in sustainables and renewables for Costa Rica – the ‘Rich Coast’ – as well, and it was called economic salvation. Again, this is not a phrase Europeans will be re-acquainting themselves with any time in the near future.

The environment is not some academic abstraction here. It’s not a trendy cause that some Liberal-Left harpy is blathering on about in a BBC studio. Once again, I am in a wee little hamlet. But the rainforest is actually here. It’s not on telly. There are Toucans, Howler Monkeys, Sloths, Tapirs, Geckoes. This week alone I’ve seen a gang of daredevil Squirrel Monkeys knocking mangoes out of tree before swarming down to grab them, like little pirates boarding a Buccaneer. They were twenty yards away. I’ve seen a Cinnamon Hummingbird flitting between great, trumpet-like flowers, utterly still in the air. You do not see this in Croydon, south London. A Tiger Heron sits on our neighbour’s roof, a roof over which Scarlet Macaws fly each morning at around 6.30. I saw an Iguana scuttle across the local soccer pitch, and I swear he put in more work-rate in the penalty box that the Arsenal forwards seem to have been capable of in my absence. When I left England, I was ambivalent about zoos. I didn’t really like the idea in principle, but it was the only way I was ever going to see White-Faced Capuchin Monkeys, for example. After I watched one of these little rogues nip down to an unattended rainforest villa breakfast table and abscond with a pastry – undoubtedly against his doctor’s advice – I knew I could never go to a zoo again. As for the local environment, let’s just say that I come from London, England. By comparison, the air here smells as though it is perfumed.

Finally, for now, the Ticos and Ticas themselves. I wondered if there might be an element of ‘anti Gringo’ down here. Not at all so far as I have seen. As I’ve stressed, I’ve seen one town and cannot generalise, but the Ticos I have met, mostly musicians, always leave me with a smile on my face after a conversation. People greet one another here, and warmly too, not formally. The national slogan of Costa Rica is pura vida, or the ‘pure life’, and this is often used as a greeting by Tico and Gringo alike. It is, I suppose, similar – although less stiff and British – to the way people would have acted in my late father’s London, but would not now. The Tico children wave at strangers and smile and say Hola! Small children and their parents here have not been conditioned to fear the bogeyman of the single male as they have in Britain. The only thing that scares me is the sight of a Tico on a motorbike with his girl on the back and infant child riding on the petrol tank, all helmetless.

I have a dreadful feeling of foreboding concerning England and Europe just at the moment, and Costa Rica is sufficiently far away for a Londoner to view proceedings with a wary eye. There are black vultures circling over Europe, figuratively speaking. I have black vultures circling over the apartment development in which I am sitting, literally. They ride the thermals between me and the Pacific Ocean, which I can see from my balcony. I know which I prefer.

Friday, 4 March 2016

NO ONE LIKES TRUMP BUT THE PUBLIC: THE TAMING OF THE ENEMEDIA



Donald Trump has been exercising the British media again, and the front cover of the UK’s Economist magazine may well provide one more framed picture for the Oval Office wall come November. The magazine’s hit-piece is just one among a swiftly developing, rather humdrum genre consistent with the lazy doggerel that passes now for British mainstream journalism.

Criticism of Trump in the UK has become generic, and there could be no greater difference than that between the reception afforded to Obama by our courtier class, and the venom hurled at Trump. British politicians wasted no time queuing up for photo-ops with President Obama before his fairy-dust rubbed off. Those same spoiled boulevardiers, however, recently wasted good parliamentary time debating whether this year’s leading presidential candidate could even come to the UK. But the keynote to the absurd posturing of the British political class is not that of principle – it rarely is – but that of fear, fear of the unknown.

The British political elite, aided and abetted as always by its media courtiers, has jumped up like a junkyard dog at the first scent of something unfamiliar. British politicians are essentially public relations people, often literally. Rites of passage for the gauleiters of Westminster include PR, advertising, journalism and the law, all areas where the truth is malleable, and presentation is everything.

Their main concern is with the construction of an image for a largely irrelevant public, and they expect their political leaders and their acolytes to conform to that model. They do not take it well when their technocratic blueprints are subverted or, worse, disregarded altogether.

Recently in Britain, United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage and newly elected Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn bucked the trend of production-line politicians, and the media response has been that of a wounded but dangerous animal. The treatment of Farage in particular, over his sceptical stance on Europe and immigration, has been particularly savage.

Now that Donald Trump has gone from fun and rumbustious outsider to a racing near-certainty for the GOP nomination at the very least, the UK’s political class – and therefore its provisional wing in the media – has decided to act. The Economist piece is exemplary.

According to the British press, when they have time to write between diversity training and the pub, Donald Trump is a political antichrist. The words ‘fascism’, ‘racism’ and their cognates, as well as obligatory cries of Hitler, have filled the air like bullets in a gunfight.

Perhaps it is a half-hearted response to Obama’s recent attempt to lobby for continuing British membership of the EU. Perhaps it is a twinge of fear at the heart of the proto-world government fanatics, an idea which has surely gone from conspiracy theory to what Aristotle would call a ‘plausible impossibility’.

The media insist that Trump is scaring the public when the truth is that Trump is scaring the media. They keep trying to go after him – see Megan Kelly on Fox News for the funniest example – and fail to see that their veyy failure lies in the fact that Donald Trump may very well be coming for them.

Without catching the attention of the public, the political class has finagled and finessed a global situation under the terms of which they choose not the actual political leaders, but the pool from which they may permissibly be drawn.

The Western media are terrified of Trump. It is all reminiscent of the Broadway producer whose hit show was pilloried by the critics. ‘No one liked the show,’ he explained, ‘but the public.’

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

SAFE EUROPEAN HOME: ON REFERENDUMS AND REALITY




Sitting here in my safe European home
The Clash, Safe European Home

 
Mankind cannot bear too much reality
T S Eliot, Four Quartets

 

A propos of a recent jotting, the coming UK referendum on membership of the European Union is already turning into the most extraordinary political theatre. There is scene-shifting, script re-writes, fluffed lines and cross-talk. For the media, it is riveting. Once again, unfortunately, for the people who will be most affected by the wisdom – or lack of wisdom – of the outcome, the truth is being both withheld and presented in the manner of Pepper’s Ghost.

Remembering the scholar who said he wandered into the work of Hegel one day and wandered out 20 years later, I have tried not to become embroiled in the endless mesh of fine print and contingency. The over-arching fact is that the actors who traipse constantly across the bridge behind Plato’s prisoners have never been so busy. The technocratic class likes to complicate, to amaze and confound with a sheer variety of often contradictory detail.

What, then, are the salient features of a referendum which had to be extorted from the British government like sticky sweets hidden behind a schoolboy’s back? The question being asked is not clear. The consequences of a ‘Leave’ vote have not been made clear. Public money appears to being spent funding the ‘Remain’ camp. There may be a second referendum after a renegotiation based on the first referendum. There is no question of the simplicity of an unadorned and concise question; it is more like the nation is being set a newspaper chess puzzle with one of the pieces missing.

Technocrats cannot ask a simple question because they know – and have known for years – that what they want is in direct contradistinction to what the general public would like to happen, to become reality. It is common knowledge in the years since its legal repeal that governments in Britain have never even considered a vote on capital punishment because they know which way it would go. On a related subject, of course, the importation of adherents to what the media like to term ‘the religion of peace’ would almost certainly vote ‘Yes’ in a referendum on the death penalty, being perhaps the only remaining genuine conservatives in the UK…

The United Kingdom has always had a laughable pretence of incorruptibility and likes to put it about that it is only Johnny Foreigner who cuts sleazy deals in fly-blown banana republic offices. This actually is, I feel, a type of racism. Simply because corrupt people attended one of Britain’s finest public schools does not dull the edge of their corruption. And our political class are morally corrupt. They no longer trade in brown envelopes stuffed with non-sequential bank notes, but in ideological favours.

On whichever rump – left or right -you want to brand the new technocratic political class, their task is not to communicate their message to you but to make the individual parts of that message as difficult and contradictory, as hard to follow for real people, as is possible on a budget entirely paid for by the duped themselves. Politicians often complain in the press that people are not politically engaged enough, as though that were something they actually wanted. If people were politically engaged enough, they would even now be dipping their brands into buckets of pitch and setting them aflame…

The economic websites I tend to browse are more or less unanimous that there is such a bad economic collapse coming globally, that a vote on whether or not to stay in the EU is effectively a sink-or-swim vote with the fear that even swimming may not take the West away from the pull of the sinking ship. Perhaps it might be better for us all if the technocrats were to turn their attentions from the fascinating subject of themselves and devote all available brain-power to reality, because as science fiction writer Philip K. Dick reminds us, reality is that which does not go away when you stop believing in it.

 

 

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

TO INSTRUCT AS WELL AS TO PLEASE: IN WHICH A BOOK IS DELIVERED BY SPECTRAL HAND


 
 

As a desire for the publication of some of these papers has been repeatedly expressed, the author has seen fit to embody them in the present volume. He will be much pleased if they are found more widely useful than he anticipated.

Charles Carroll Morgan, Preface to Variety Papers

 
I was recently given a book given by someone who claimed that it appeared one day, with no explanation, on a desk in a house in Virginia. Ghostly happenings, she added, were a regular occurrence in this particular house. I have no reason to doubt it. So much exists in the modern world which seems to go against all experience and common sense. Why should there not be ghosts? This wonderful book even mentions the spirit world, in passing.

The edition of Variety Papers by Charles Carroll Morgan that is pictured above begins with a charming dedication that invokes a simpler world, the intellectual bonhomie of the well-informed, empirical amateur;

‘To the fortnightly club of Nashua, New Hampshire, this little volume is respectfully dedicated by its author, in grateful acknowledgement of his agreeable relations with the club for more than twenty years.’

This winning epigraph already transports us back to a time in which a dedication was more likely to be a volume of edifying prose than a goal dedicated by a footballer to his dead mother.

The edition itself is dated 1910, not simply long before the internet, but long before television, even ten years before the first American radio stations began to emerge. Its sub-title is inspired;

Variety Papers, or, Glimpses of Romance in the World of Fact.

This edition was published by The Fort Hill Press, resident as they were at 176 to 184 High Street, Boston, Massachusetts. The publisher was one Samuel Usher, meaning, as publishers are often referred to as publishing houses, that Mr. Morgan’s modest collection was published by the House of Usher. But I digress.

Physically, the book is a very beautiful object. It features several lithographically reproduced photographs which I would say – as an amateur observer – were of excellent quality for a pre WWI publication. I had to cut several of the pages myself, which I assume makes me this particular copy’s first reader.

I am anticipating treasure trove with Variety Papers. This type of philanthropic but well-attested informed amateurism can be a delight for the reader who would like to stray from the commercial path. Books such as this are testament to a time when people met and discussed topics of interest, each hoping to enlighten the others with the experience and viewpoints of a single human being rather than a homogeneous commercialised, consumerist and corporatist perspective. ‘In accordance with the wishes of the club,’ writes Mr. Morgan, ‘the papers were meant to instruct as well as to please.’ And please they do.

Before the Taylorist specialisation of modern academia, there were often gentlemen autodidacts seeking to instruct their fellow men. The range of topics contained within Variety Papers is wide, the essay titles enchanting in themselves, including;

Wonders of the Human Mind

A Glimpse of the Feathered Tribes

Climbing Mont Blanc in a Snowstorm

Daniel Webster’s Oratory Comparatively Reviewed

I suspect Mr. Morgan would have made an excellent dinner guest.