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

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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.