Blake’s Heaven (another message from beyond the grave)

Yesterday I looked at the thoughts of American writer John Steinbeck on the subject of individualism and human creativity. Yesterday was also the 250th anniversary of another visionary who still speaks to us relevantly and eloquently from beyond the grave.
William Blake, poet, artist, was probably the most extraordinary visionary Britain has produced since Shakespeare. Though not in the same league as a writer Blake, writing in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, foresaw many of the problems that would face society two hundred years later.
Most people know this writer for the hymn Jerusalem and so think of him as a religious poet. It is true there are many references to God and Jesus in the poems and essays but an unholy row has been simmering in he Anglican church for many years as to whether Jerusalem is actually a Christian hymn or poem. The answer to that (its a pagan poem actually) does not matter, what is interesting and is a theme running through Blake’s work is that his religious views represent heresy to standard Christian beliefs. Blake sees God as a symbol of the oppressive authoritarianism of state and church and Jesus as the unifying spirit of humanity. An authoritarian God and a liberal, humanist Jesus.
All our lives we are required to choose between God; conformity, unquestioning obedience, commitment to work and money and unthinking acceptance of the status quo, and Jesus; freedom of thought and speech, questioning of injustice and a love of art and expression all of which Blake believed would lead to the overthrow of tyranny and the creation of a Utopian world, Jerusalem:
I will not cease from mental strife
nor will my sword rest in my hand
‘til we have built Jerusalem
in England’s green and pleasant land.
So no promises that it will be easy then, but plenty of references to The Da Vinci code, well, to the enduring myth that Jesus actually visited Britain a few years after his alleged crucifixion. A full book would be needed to explore the possible truths of that so we will skip nit for now.
Most people have probably been told the lines in the poem Jerusalem that go:
And was Jerusalem builded here
among these dark, satanic mills?
are actually using the “dark, satanic mills” as a metaphor for the protestant churches that were preaching a very hardline version of Christianity. This is true but not entirely true, Blake is using a double meaning. Remember he was writing at a time when the Industrial Revolution was at its height in Britain and also there was a second wave of the protestant reformation going on. The mills and factories of the manufacturers were certainly dark, satanic places, the workers endured long hours in vile, dehumanising conditions, working for a pittance; they could be laid off or sacked without notice, punishments were regularly handed out for misdemeanours as trivial as talking to the person at the next machine, wages could be reduced on a whim and, under the law of the day, nobody could leave to obtain better employment without the permission of their master. Yes master, not employer. The relationship was of master and servant, and despite all the pious words of abolitionists who campaigned to stop the slave trade, the condition of workers in the industrial cities of Britain were no better than a kind of slavery. The workers could submit to the will of their bosses or they were free to starve.
The protestant chapels were just as dark and Satanic in a different way. It was in such places and through their warped teachings the idea of the “undeserving poor” took root, the notion that poverty was a judgement imposed by God and those who did not endure it with stoicism and grace were deserving of further punishment at the hands of pious human tormentors who considered themselves to have been granted wealth because God recognised they were better people.
What did it take to be part of the “undeserving poor”? Well, complaining about injustices, poor wages, squalid living conditions and the exorbitant prices charged in the “truck” shops. Oh yes, truck shops, nearly forgot those. So concerned were the pious and godly rich people for the souls of their workers, they did not pay wages in legal coin but in tokens only redeemable in shops owned by the employer. This was ostensibly to prevent the “undeserving poor” from spending their earnings on sinful frivolities such as drinking, singing and dancing in the alehouse. Obviously such practices did not sit well alongside Blake’s notion that all human beings must be free to make their own choices.
It was not only religion and the cause of the workers that aroused the poet’s passion. He was quite prepared to embrace radical political causes and supported both the American and French revolutions, writing in support of Washington and Lafayette and denouncing the Kings of England and France.
By profession Blake was an engraver and illustrator and his fine draughtsmanship brought him to the attention of radical publisher Joseph Johnson who championed the work of writers such as Thomas Paine, sometimes known as “the firebrand of the American Revolution” and Mary Wollstonecraft, proto-feminist and mother of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley. Through Johnson, Blake also met people such as scientific pioneer and religious rebel Joseph Priestly, Radical theologian Gilbert Wakefield who popularised the Unitarian faith in Britain and poet William Cowper, a stylistic influence.
As Blake developed as a writer, ideas formed from contact with these influential thinkers were given shape by his own individual vision. The form of Christianity expressed in his poems, though heretic in the view of the Biblical fundamentalism of the day, was in reality derived from the much older tradition of Celtic Christianity and owing a lot to the fashionable revival of interest in paganism, mysticism and naturalism. In the Everlasting Gospel, his last and unfortunately unfinished poem he goes right out on a limb and proposes that the true God could only possibly be a female, while in The Song of Los his implication is that the endless cycle of nature, of death and renewal, is the reality while the idea of “resurrection into a better life” common the Abrahamic religions is a fanciful notion that appeals to the weak minded. To the mainstrean Christian all virtue comes from God, to Blake all virtue is human and all evil from over-zealous and hypocritical love of the patriarchal and materialistic God of the Abrahamic religions.
In summary then, Blake was as much a political as a religious poet, and as such he now speaks to us from beyond the grave, showing us how we must fight to retain our rights and freedoms including the freedom to believe or not believe in some sort of God.
He also shows us in the words to Jerusalem that we must slow the insane rush for technology, not turning back the clock to a medieval lifestyle as Blake’s critics claimed he was suggesting and as my critics, the immature and irrational boy – scientists (who think they are really really original) will try to claim I am suggesting. There is no need to turn back the clock, only to make sure we control technology rather than letting it, and those who profit from it, control us.
Blake’s Heaven then was not a dream world where everybody sprouted wings and a distinct lack of wedding tackle and went around playing little harps, it was a world in which all could live with dignity and have the opportunity to fulfil their potential. That is a dream that technology should have put within our reach. Unfortunately, because we have been misled by those who worship money and power it seems to be slipping further away from us all the time.

Dead Man Speaks. A Message From Beyond The Grave

OK, I know. That heading is just calculated to provoke certain people. But truly the dead can speak to us from the past of things in the present, as I will now prove.

Freedom, liberty and the need to preserve our ability to think for ourselves (and be self – destructively wrong if we choose) against the dark forces of authoritarianism are a regular theme of this blog. But I’m not famous, not even in the shallow way of modern celebrity, so why should people listen to me?

Perhaps nobel laureate and susperstar author John Steinbeck who died forty years ago will command more attention. Read what he has to say on the subject.


“Our species is the only creative species, and it has only one creative instrument, the individual mind and spirit of a man (and woman). Nothing was ever created by two men. There are no good collaborations, whether in music, in art, in poetry, in mathematics, in philosophy. Once the miracle of creation has taken place, the group can build and extend it, but the group never invents anything. The preciousness lies in the lonely mind of a man. And now the forces marshaled around the concept of the group have declared a war of extermination on that preciousness, the mind of man. By disparagement, by starvation, by repressions, forced direction, and the stunning hammerblows of conditioning, the free, roving mind is being pursued, roped, blunted, drugged. It is a sad suicidal course our species seems to have taken.
And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual This is what I am and what I am about. I can understand why a system built on a pattern must try to destroy the free mind, for that is the one thing which can by inspection destroy such a system. Surely I can understand this, and I hate it and I will fight against it to preserve the one thing that separates us from the uncreative beasts. If the glory can be killed, we are lost.”
– John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Well Steinbeck wrote those words around sixty years ago but how relevant they are to what is happening in our industrialised nations right now. From government, religions, business and academic community alike we come under increasing pressure to conform, to not question authority, to lay aside our ability to think for ourselves. Liberalism and the notions of personal liberty, civil rights and free speech are under attack.

In an earlier post I highlighted the dangers of social engineering and the threat of happy pills and modified gense poses.

It is time we all took up our pitchforks and cudgels and marched on the citadels of authority, like the revolting peasants of old would. We can’t all be righ, its a lie. We can’t all be successful, its a lie. We can all be slaves to debt and the system, they don’t tell you that. It is time to retake our individual freedom.

When the dead start speaking its time to stand up and take notice.

Not convinced? Read the book,
East of Eden by John Steinbeck

or if you fancy an even more radically life changing experience…
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Little White Lies and Big Brown Lies

Politicians tell lies; its not big news, just part of what politics is about. We all tell lies. “I had to work late darling,” “It was a bargain, reduced in the sale,” “the cheque is in the post,” “of course I love you,” “no your bum doesn’t look big in it, its perfect.” Little white lies intended to keep us out of trouble or spare peoples’ feelings. Politicians little white lies can turn into big purple lies though. “I did not have sex with that woman,”
Now there is a new colour of lie, big Brown lies. A big Brown lie is about promising one thing and doing the opposite. And then denying there is a contradiction.
“We must reduce carbon emissions by 50% over the next thirty years.”
“If Heathrow Airport in not expanded British businesses will not be able to compete.”
No contradiction there of course, a new generation of emission free jets could be just around the corner.
“This government will put the welfare of workers foremost.”
“We must relieve business of the burden of health and safety restrictions.”
Yeah, right.
“To enjoy the benefits of citizenship people must accept the responsibilities that go with it.”
“We must not drive away the wealth creators with heavy taxes.”
OK, so if someone is rich enough to qualify for non-domiciled status, tax is voluntary.

Then there is the loony plan to force the return to the workplace of severely disabled people like me and bendygirl, author of the excellent “benefit scrounging scum” blog (guaranteed to attract Daily Mail Readers and give them a glimpse of what it is like to be disabled in the bureaucratic dictatorship that is 21st century Britain.
The draft of this plan proposes people who can walk two hundred yards or get around in a wheelchair and can use a computer can hold down a job. Well I can walk two hundred yards. Then not so far the next time. Then the third time my brain starts to shut down. Its not a stereotypical after effect of strokes, but people who have had strokes tend to differ so widely. I would love to be able to work but were I to do so my quality of life would disappear. Still I would be a productive economic unit.

Things like the quality of life for disabled people do not matter to the government, the only things that matter are the votes of the fifty thousand or so floating voters in Nimbyland marginal constituencies who will swing the next election.

The Prime Minister does not care about fairness or justice, only about getting re-elected. So for the next two years at least you can expect big Brown lies and their consequences to become a part of your daily life.

Managing Mayhem (the failure of management)

During the Post Office strike a few weeks ago I let off a rabble-rousing leftie rant about the abuse of workers’ rights. A comment from Irish-le-feaux reminded me there are other considerations and sometimes managers have to be allowed to manage. He was right of course, the problem is having the ability to manage is a prerequisite of being allowed to manage. And the core skills of management seem to have gone the same way as those of teaching, policing, journalism and so many other professions. That applies in business as well as the public sector.
My experience of working with the Post Office and other public service organisations is that management skills were never encouraged or developed and this is underlined by the lost disks fiasco at HM Revenue and Customs.
Managing is completely alien to the public servant’s mindset. Procrastination, delaying decisions, evading responsibility, shifting blame and bean counting are the things they do well. The rest they do not do at all. When in doubt, take refuge in bureaucracy.
In every Post Office, when I headed up the Information Technology project to automate Post Office counter trade, there was a book of ancient scriptures. I think it was called The Post Officers Guide and Handbook, something like that. In it one would find instructions on what to do in every possible situation from selling a stamp to instructions on how to assist in childbirth should a pregnant woman go into labour while queuing for her maternity allowance. (For the benefit of those humourless boy-scientists who are stalking my posts, what I just did is known as exaggerating for comic effect.)
In the book of scriptures, and similar ones in Tax Offices, Benefits Offices, and anywhere the public meets the government, every decision a public servant will face is made for them. “Just follow procedure and you’ll be alright,” is the message.
This probably explains the child benefit information shambles. A situation arose that was not covered in the book so nobody knew what to do.
Bureaucracy is one of the ten modern plagues to afflict the Nation of New Labour of course. Bureaucracy and obsession with procedure has escaped the public sector and now invades business and private life but the burgeoning of bureaucracy is entirely due to the failure of management and the rise of a culture of bean counting. Tony Blair’s government style was commonly identified with control freakerey and an obsession with hiring consultants, in fact his approach to dealing with problems was based on techniques promulgated by his favourite consultancy firm McKinsey whose corporate motto is “If it can be measured, it can be managed.”
Management however is not about counting and measuring things, it is about dealing with those things that cannot be counted and measured. A famous management maxim from before the era of bean counters goes, “managing people is like herding cats.” It is true, but managers who cannot deal with people and all the quirks and eccentricities of human nature are doomed to fail. And managers who try to use bureaucratic procedures to reduce people to automations will not just fail, they will crash and burn.
On my last contract as a gainfully employed person I was working for a middle sized consultancy, Infact, on a huge technology project in Stockholm. We were expensive guys to employ, as well as our fees and the consultancies mark up, there was the question of five star hotels, meals in good restaurants, business class flights each week and all sorts of sundry expenses mostly called Ingrid. But Infact specialised in delivering solutions rather than procedures.
After a few months one of our Swedish colleagues, a devotee of modern management methods, decided to make a name for himself by asking what was the point of paying so much money for our services. “What do you do that we cannot?” he asked.
Andy, a non nonsense Scot looked at him and replied, “We make decisions.”

That is the difference between a manager and a bureaucrat.

When In Doubt, Do The Most Stupid Thing (Heathrow expansion)

At the present rate of expansion, Heathrow’s Terminal 99 and the fiftieth runway will be built somewhere near Bristol with work commencing in 2050. The latest extension to London’s monster airport have been nodded through without consideration for the impact on the environment so we can expect planning applications for extensions to Stanstead, Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Liverpool and any other airport that fancies doubling its traffic handling capacity to be fast tracked without the hassles of public enquiries and such.
Britain’s road system, both trunk routes and local roads, in near gridlock. What is the government’s answer? Build more roads, widen existing roads, make it impossible for people who want to shun the car to find a practical bus service or to afford a journey by rail. Sell more petrol and get extra revenue by taxing us per mile for our car journeys.
Climate Change crisis, what crisis? The government is aware of the challenges posed by climate change and is doing all it can to maximise the opportunities for businesses willing to offer market driven solutions.
So long as somebody makes a profit.
The City of Preston’s bus service is in crisis right now. The private operators were allowed to cherry pick profitable routes, the council tax funded City Transport Department is left to provide loss making services on other routes. Now, thanks to government imposed spending targets the transport department is bankrupt and having to withdraw services. And the private operators, freed of even the limited competition they had, are jacking up prices which causes hardship for the poor old and vulnerable.
As a nation we no longer have a transport system, we have a system for handing taxpayers money to private companies whose one area of competence is in moving profits offshore.
The expansion of Heathrow is madness as is any scheme that encourages more air travel, but as usual in this era of unbridled commerce, the last thing anybody wants to do is the sensible thing. The rich and powerful have serious issues about facing reality.
Along with drought (South East & South West U.S.A., Canada, Central & South East Europe, Central Asia, Africa, floods in Southern Asia, Southern Africa, China etc. etc. and the famine and disease than inevitably follows, we face a crisis of overpopulation and the hangover from unregulated industrialisation.
Yet when any green leaning commentator suggests we need to think about major changes in lifestyle, instead of more of everything faster, less of everything slower, much less, much slower NOW! some twunt* (usually a boy scientist from the Bad Science site in my case) will start sneering about going back to a medieval lifestyle. Not at all, unlike the boy-scientists us green campaigners are well up for change and innovation so long as it improves things. We want tidal and run of river power schemes, solar power as soon as a way of harnessing the solar energy that bombards the Earth without damaging the environment can be found, we want urban tramways, intercity mag-lev train services.

There is no point changing things if they change for the worse. To say “if we can’t improve let’s stay as we are” is not medievalism. So joint the protests readers, campaign to stop new road schemes, fight airport expansion and boot out politicians who are less than whole hearted in their support for environmentally friendly transport, power and building projects.

Its our world, only we can save it.

*twunt: a swear word that people like Russell Brand and Jonathan Woss have started using since Boggart Blog invented it and applied it to Brand around two years ago. Brand probably got it from Wossy who is always stealing my jokes. Russell Brand does not steal my jokes, if he did he might be funny although he would still lack comic timing.
Who says bloggers are not influential?

Blair’s Former Chief Scientist Warns Against Climate Change Scaremongering

Self Inflicted Wounds

You are not going to believe this.

Well OK, when I tell you its about the American military you will.

In past wars it was accepted that soldiers who caught pox or clap (sexually transmitted infections) were regarded as having harmed themselves and denied sick leave. Some were even given a dishonourable discharge.

Consider that against a news story featured on American news blog Crooks and Liars.

A new government policy directed as American troops wounded in the Iraq war requires soldiers wounded in action (this is loss of limbs, eyes etc. we are talking about, not a little dose of the clap)are being required to pay back their enlistment fees on grounds that they have failed to fulfil their contract.

And if the yanks have thought of it, will it be long befre someone here thinks of it too.

The world gets crazier.

The Triumph of Failure

Imagine what would happen to your career if you failed so utterly in every aspect of your job that the result was the exact opposite of what you were aiming for. You would not expect a big leaving party with a strippagram, lots of presents from grieving colleagues, a hyperbolic speech from the boss praising your professionalism and talent and a big fat cheque in appreciation of what you had done.
No, more likely you would be given thirty minutes to clear your desk before being escorted off the premises.
Little Nicky Machiavelli’s definition of social justice is very simple, SAME RULES APPLY, so we would hope that in any business whether the failure was of a low grade hireling, middle ranking exec. or a CEO the exit would be equally ignominious.
Are we all agreed?
Right. So can anybody explain why when a clerk, a shelf stackers or a burger flipper screws up you would think from the reaction they had sold their security pass to Satan as they departed with the words “and don’t expect a reference” ringing in their ears, the CEO of Northern Rock expects his severance package to run to millions while the recently departed CEO of the world’s biggest investment bankers Citigroup, whose wild adventures in the world of sub – prime lending will cost his finance company billions (they’re still counting) will be rewarded for his ffff failure with a golden handshake estimated at $95 million. Even at current exchange rates that’s a lot of money and makes failure an attractive career move.

And we have been told by politicians from Thatcher to Blair and Brown we should admire and seek to emulate America’s meritocracy. When it is put in perspective it makes our current economic plight (and theirs)more easy to understand.

Oh Brave New World…

Since I started to write about the boy-scientists (a phrase I will explain properly soon) in connection with the frequent reports and studies that are thrown at us every day, the misinformation and disinformation that comes out of certain branches of the scientific community and their unshakeable belief that us ordinary punters “cannot understand because we are not scientists,” it has occurred to me several times as I wrote of plans to put anti–depressants in water, to withhold medical treatment from those who self harm by having a cheese sandwich and a beer and to fiddle about with the genome to produce a perfect race, that I ought to do an article on Brave New World, Aldous Huxley’s 1930s novel of a technological utopia.
In common with Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four, forever imprinted on the minds of my generation because of the cover image of a military boot grinding on a human face, Brave New World was a novel that changed the way we viewed the world we lived in. In many ways it inspired aspects of the social revolution of the 1960s as people shrugged off the social controls that had imposed such restrictive conventions on western society.
Now of course the bright young things of the sixties are just boring old farts and people are tricked into conformity by promises of ever improving material benefits if they will only sustain constant economic growth. Consumerism has replaced patriotism in binding us into slavery.

Unfortunately I procrastinated too long. No less a literary luminary than Margaret Atwood has beaten me to the punch and written an excellent article about Huxley’s Brave New World with its compulsory drug doses, genetic engineering to produce social classes from A to E (Epsilon semi-moron aka chav) so reminiscent of toady’s ABC1 social classifications that have replaced the old aristocracy, upper and lower middle class and the much les stratified working classes. How like the modern world Atwood makes it all sound with a level of sexual liberation that deems it bad manners to refuse to have sex with anybody who offers, it’s genetically engineered “pneumatic” women, psychological manipulation, constant pressure to consume and deep suspicion of any sign of individualism.
The portrayal of the dystopic utopia is accurate though. We do seem to be blundering towards a version of that society. Messing about with nature is never a good idea.
You don’t have to take my word for it of course. Read Margaret Atwood’s article here.
Or better still, read Huxley’s novel of benign totalitarianism, Brave New World for yourself.
Even more chilling, Nineteen Eighty Four deals with the darker side of tyranny. With its Thought Police, Big Brother, Ministry of Love (where people who rebel againts the totalitarian regime are “re-educated” by the Though Police until they learn to love Big Brother again, its permanent war against a vague and nebulous enemy and the sinister Room 101 in the Ministry of Love, the novel presents an image of where we might be led if we reject the doubtful blessings of Brave New World.

“Oh brave new world that has such people in it” is a line from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Often interpreted as a play in which Shakespeare abandom his gift for writing as he senses his talents will wane, it has also been interpreted as a metaphor for the supersession of the old, easy going, humanisticic society of rural England by the philosophies and values of the protestant reformation.Either interpretation could be correct and probably both are because Shakespeare was nothing if not multi-layered

Because some people feel recent blogs have painted a very negative picture of the sciences, I have promised to set the record straight by writing a post showing that I am quite a fan actually (as you would expect from someone whose career was in computers) It is the arseholes who approach science like a zealot approaches religion that get up my nose.

The Green Fields of France ( Remembrance Day)

As usual I will not be wearing a poppy today. I know that though there are now very few survivors of the war the poppy symbol truly commemorates and that the day also is for showing respect to those who lost their lives in subsequent conflicts, observance of Armistice Day means a great deal to some people. I have always wondered though, is Poppy Day not something of a cop out. Would we not better respect the memory of those who gave their lives by trying to uphold the freedoms their sacrifice won?
Britain’s greatest ever Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, spoke of building a “land fit for heroes” as, in the wake of victory, he initiated vast slum clearance and social housing projects, laid the foundations of the welfare state, fought against the dark forces of conservatism to gain advances in social justice, including votes for all and decent conditions for factory, mine and agricultural workers? The young officers who died in hundreds and left us some great war poetry may have been from Eton or Charterhouse, Stowe or Stonyhurst, but the Tommies who died in their hundreds of thousands were apprentices, clerks and labourers who had left school at eleven or thirteen to work for a pittance.

To get an idea of how much remembrance means to the class that started the way, we need to consider the closure of the C of E Church of St. John The Evangelist in Accrington, which is deemed too expensive to maintain. St. Johns is an ordinary local church with no special architectural features that I know of. It does however house a small chapel dedicated to The Accrington Pals. This regiment, recruited entirely from the young men of the town, was wiped out almost to a man in ten crazy minutes on July 1st, 1916. A whole generation of a town’s men…
When I contacted various people to see if any effort was being launched to save the Church and its Pals Chapel neither the Diocese, local political groups nor the media were interested. I am in no way religious but I am an effective communicator and campaigner ad would have been glad to give my time. It was disgusting to find there was nothing I could do to preserve the memory of those young men.

It is not just that of course, the war waged by politicians on the working class over the past three decades, the abandonment of social housing and attacks on workers rights all insult the memory of the millions who died.

When the poppy sellers approach me I’m happy to give a pound to the charity but I will not take a poppy. I’d rather people think me a bastard than a hypocrite.

If you are turned off by the pomp and circumstance, the elitism and the hypocrisy of the official Armistice Day celebration, here’s a link to The Green Fields of France, probably the most moving and honest anti – war song ever recorded.

As well as the back story to the song The Green Fields Of France (words: Eric Bogle, music: traditional Irish & Scottish lament), the page also has two links to 2 mp3 recording to download free or listen to online. American readers might recognise the song as The Streets of Laredo, these old melodies certainly get around.

Rivers of Beetroot Soup

,How strange that a speech made forty years ago by a pointy headed intellectual of thE rabid right tendency should still arouse more passion than the systematic breakup of the welfare system, the privatisation of the health service and the reduction of the police to a revenue collecting bureaucracy, or Blair’s illegally leading us into an illegal war without consulting Parliament, but when an obscure Conservative of the sweaty – toothed tendency mentioned Enoch
Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech last week we saw the political establishment become more animated that they have for years.
So why do our usually colourless and ball-less politicians become excited by a non issue?
Well, anything to do with immigration is a key issue among the 50,000 people whose votes actually matter in General Elections.
In a small, overpopulated island like Britain large scale immigration must be a serious concern that deserves to be debated openly and honestly. Unfortunately due to the dark forces of Political Correctness, no debate that might result in criticism of certain factions of immigrant community will ever be tolerated. The dark forces of Political Correctness always shout so loudly for democratic debate that they completely drown out any opinions that differ from theirs. And more often than not, when somebody does try to question the Politically Correct line on immigration, old pointy – head Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech is brought up. So when one of my local councillors recently asked how a town the size of Accrington is supposed to cope with the sudden arrival of a few thousand Poles and groups from various other nations newly enrolled in the EU, nobody could say, “You have a point, we need support from central government,” because all the PC brigade were jumping up and down yelling “Enoch Powell, Rivers of Blood”.
In consequence of this silencing of debate we have over the last few years acquired lots of little local immigrant problems. Schools cannot cope with large numbers of pupils who cannot speak English, social housing agencies cannot cope with increased demand for low – cost, family – sized accommodation, welfare agencies and health services cannot cope with new arrivals needing high levels of support and so on. All the little problems only need one trigger to convert them into a big, national problem. This has happened in Italy in the past few days; the murder of an Italian woman by a Romanian gypsy whose record of violent crime would have prevented him obtaining a visa before Romania joined the EU and its people were able to travel to and settle anywhere in Europe.

The little local problems we have are a direct result of the most unfortunate coincidence in modern British politics. At the same time as the “Jolly Good Chaps” Conservatism of McMillan’s era gave way to the swivel eyed, bonkers-in-the-head politics of the Thatcher era, Old Labour imploded. This opened the way for two decades of bonkers-in-the-head government. Margaret Thatcher’s answer to every domestic problem was “shaft the poor, give the rich ( wealth – creators ) a tax cut.”
“There are no principles, only expedients,” declared the Iron Lady in justification of her knee jerk approach to policy making, thus eternally making fools of those who still admire her for sticking to her principles. Tragically, her grasp of expediency was as shaky as her sanity. Thatcher’s expedients (shaft the poor some more, give the rich another tax cut) were the equivalent of sticking a band aid on a gushing artery. Problems were never dealt with but simply swept under the carpet as her neo-cons pressed on with their war on the working class.
(NOTE for people who still think Thatcher was good; if your livelihood depends on a milk – cow, you don’t beat it to death for not giving enough milk. The working class are the milk cow of any industrial nation. Its not rocket science, not even for the swivel eyed tendency.)
Collective bargaining through unions was undermined, the expensive and totally unfair burden of training their workforce was lifted from those poor, hard done by employers, apprenticeships coupled to further education through day release was virtually abolished. Despite all the hypocritical speeches extolling family values, tax breaks designed to make it possible for a single income family on an average wage to have a decent lifestyle were abolished to fund tax cuts for the rich. After all, the basic principle of swivel eyed economics is that the best way to make everybody better off is to take money from the poor and give it to the rich.

Even after Thatcher was deposed by her own despairing party, the swivel eyed tendency held on to power through John Major’s Conservative rump (oops, pardon!) and then Thatcher clone Tony Blair. As a result, Thatcher’s flagship policies, all made up on the spur of the moment when a difficult question needed to be fended off, continued for another ten years to exacerbate the problems, thus creating the current skill shortage, debt crisis and chaos in the housing market, not to mention the immigration problem and the shortage of plumbers, brickies, electricians, mechanics, machine operators, nurses etc. etc.

Had Madame Swivel Eyes not so thoroughly antagonised our European partners we might have been able to command enough support to block the onward march of Federalism. Thus we may have been able to restrict immigration to people who have something to offer. Had she not so thoroughly destroyed the social and economic infrastructure that held the nation together we might have been better equipped to deal with the challenges of post – industrialism.

Now we have huge social problems queuing up and an unholy alliance of the self interested super rich and the Political Correctness police doing all they can to prevent these problems being dealt with in any sensible way. So with the increasing unrest will Enoch Powells Rivers of Blood turn into Rivers of Beetroot Soup? Will it be the hoards from Eastern Europe rather than the poor corners of a crumbling Empire that swamp our nation and hijack our cultural and social institutions? It is unlikely.

Perversely, most of the voices raised against immigration now belong to the people who wholeheartedly support “free enterprise” and “maket forces” and thing Margaret Thatcher “did a lot of good for this country.” If any of them would like to tell us how it makes sense to deskill the workforce, destroy our industrial base and force our workers to compete for jobs with workers in the low labour cost economies of South East Asia while we have to import trained plumbers, electricians, brickies and plasterers from the old Soviet Bloc nations is “doing a lot of good” we will be eternaslly grateful. If you cannot, however, shut the fuck up and learn to love beetroot soup.

The bulk of recent immigrants are from Poland and the Baltic states and given half a chance will assimilate quickly. All it needs is for national and local government to recognise that some communities, where the migrants are focused, will need special support and extras investment (OOPS, BLASPHEMY!).

Whether that can happen while the two main political parties are in thrall to those 50,000 voters in the marginal constituencies where NIMBYISM rules and the immigrants are concentrated in traditional “safe seats” where the thinking voters vote means nothing remains to be seen.

Interview With A Cybersweetie

This month I had the chance to interview my cybersweetie Janet Caldwell for Poetry Life and Times. Until ill health stopped her in her tracks a couple of years ago Janet was a phenominally popular web poet.

Read the interview as Janet speaks about her writing, her liver transplant earlier this year and the abuse she suffered in childhood that triggered so many of her problems with mental illness and addiction.

You will also find my review of Janet’s best selling poetry book 5 degrees to separation. 5 degrees is not available at the moment but we are hoping to get it back in print through Greenteeth Multi Media early in 2008.

Checkout the rest of the current mag
Poetry Life and Times November issue
including some of my poems (one features Janet in her role as muse) and contributions from many talented writers.

I’n’t Stephen Poliakoff Brilliant

For the first time in months I really enjoyed something on television (well, apart from the Rugby of course)

I hope everybody watched Joe’s Palace last night instead of the TV adaptation of A Room With A View a one off drama which could have only been a pale imitation of the Merchant Ivory film starring the ethereally beautiful Helena Bonham Carther (no, now behave, this is Machiavelli, not a Boggart Blog piss take.)
Poliakoff’s skilfully crafted script and multi-layered story made its points about life, lonliness and the passage of time with style and subtlety, the entire cast acted their socks off and the production was beauftifully presented thanks to the highest level of production values.
Shows what can bw done when the bottom line is not the governing factor.

If you work for the BBC, please kill a few bean counters NOW and give talent a chance.

Dr. Strangelove’s Secret Bacon Butty Weapon.

Those harbingers of misery, the clinical research laboratory technicians or “scientists” as they like to style themselves, The Dr. Stranglove’s of medical science are busy peddling their misinformation and disinformation, or “research results” as they like to call it, again. Having kept up their 100% record for talking utter arse dribble last month with warnings on hazardous drinking (actually moderate alcohol consumption which is good for us) and how even thinking about having a cheese sandwich increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer by ninety nine million percent, they are now directing their attention towards our bacon butties. Is no British institution safe from these people as they target our dietary habits.

Their five year mission (sorry, scrub that – I wouldn’t want to give the impression these people are sad obsessive geeks who spend all their time in laboratories molesting small furry animals and get together once a year to celebrate Mr. Spock’s birthday) their mission as they see it is to make everyone live forever. Their approach is to make life so boring we will not live forever but it will seem as if we have. If we heeded the warnings, everything that makes eating pleasurable would have been removed from our tables by now.

The problem with the Government’s letting these nerds off the leash is that because the warnings are general rather than selective, nobody takes any notice. We all know that what is going on is the manufacture by a government intent on privatising the National Health Service, of excuses for denying people treatment in publicly funded hospitals. Unfortunately due to this and to the ineptitude of civil servants in all aspects of PR, the warnings are going unheeded by the people who need to heed them. Instead of mumbling about obesity and the discredited Body Mass Index ( BMI – this is the method of measuring obesity that showed Lynford Christie and Lennox Lewis at the height of their careers were both clinically obese – yeah, right.) why not show pictures of a hugely overweight couple and their overweight kids and caption it “Mr & Mrs Too Fat To Wipe and their family.” That would bang the message home. Forget the effing Body Mass Index, check the mirror. Love handles are OK, saddle bags are a no – no.

The Strangelove boys will never get their heads round such effective ways of communicating, quite simply they cannot communicate with organisms more complex than lab rats. The idea that human beings are all individuals who think for ourselves and make our own decisions is beyond their understanding. And we understand that we all die of something and the choices we make may effect that.

But if the choice is between a couple of years extra tagged on to the incontinent, demented, non – ambulatory end of our lives or a tasty breakfast now, bring on the bacon butties.

No doubt the dull witted denizens of the Bad Science forum, followers of thick – boy science guru Ben Goldacre will be anxious to remind me that as I am not a scientist I cannot understand these things and merely react emotionally to the hysterical misrepresentations of the media. Well as usual I looked up the reports and they are written to give the impression that eating red meat three or more times a week is a critical factor in the development of intestinal cancers. The statistics used in the report however show that if there is any critical factor it is simply old age.

The key to writing these reports is to use language with such precision they cannot be spun. A high level of red meat and particularly processed meats in the diet, combined with other lifestyle and environmental factors may contribute to the development of certain cancers. There is a science to language you see. Unfortunately scientifically precise language is never going to be sensational and hysterical enough to attract any big fat research grants, which is the real purpose of all these reports.

Before I move on to politics, economics and corporate fascism, kudos to the guys who won the Nobel Physics prize this year for their work on giant magneto resistance. Absolutely fascinating stuff, bordering on the mystical in fact, and an evolution from a technology I helped develop during my career. Got that Bad Science Forum thick – boys. Science is a big church, we all have our specialities and only those who are wannabees would refer to themselves with characteristic lack of precision as “scientists.”

Colon Cancer Set To Increase say scientists


Nobody can accuse Little Nicky Machiavelli of not being eclectic. Last time we were looking at the DNA Database threat, now we are directing you to a post that will make you wonder if there is any politician with a good enough grip on reality to lead the world into the second decade of a new millennium.

If you thought Ronnie Reagan’s belief in UFO’s was scary and the belief of Bush and Blair in WMDs was terrifying, how would you feel if I told you there is not one leading candidate in the US Election race who will say openly that they reject the idead that the Bronze Age God of a primitive, illiterate tribe of semi – nomadic goat botherers in the Palestinian desert is true leader of the world’s greatest military power.

Is it to late for a total outsider from the rational tendency to mount a serious challenge for the White House in 2008?

Huffington Post thinks sanity still has a feasible candidate.