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Archive for the ‘Britain Today’ Category

Where has the radical freshness of christianity gone? How come the symbol of a martyr who was tortured so much he was resucitated three times before, literally, losing his head for his faith become the flag for a national football team…

Perhaps we in the West, and especially in England of whom the symbol is the national flag just wanted to know George was a soldier and a saint and lets not talk about how he peacefully made his protest of faith and was then tortured and killed for it – Let’s talk about dragons instead… And whilst we are here – here’s a question: Would we return George to his state so they could kill him? Nowadays we do send, or propose to send, folk back to countries which kill folk for their views on the grounds that we get a ‘guarantee’ from the state in question re looking after the asylum seeker – we have courts defending their rights not to be packaged out to be killed as there are protests in the press about the money they cost us… Is this the behaviour of a country St. George would want to be symbolic of?

Would he rather his flag would be waved around for a sporting event where, if not caught, a cheat is seen as herioc – the dives, the ‘ruff and tumble’, the penalties gained.. the list of the behaviour goes on… but if the team wins then the sins are washed clean and the flag can be waved in glory…

Victory was never George’s aim in his conduct and that’s a problem for the church and for society – he went and did what? St. George’s story is not boring so why do we not tell it?

Here’s quote from Vivian Stanshaw from 1983 –

Aparthied and prejudice,come before a fall,

but patronage is even worse, you’re walking towards that wall…

from his rare work of genius ‘Sir Henry at Ndidi’s Kraal’

I’ve had this thought for a while and have tried to figure out exactly how it works but I think going to history may help…

A while ago I managed to trundle through this work Constantine’s Bible which debunks the idea of the selection of the books of the New Testament as forced by the Emperor Constantine except by the power of patronage… True, there is the Council of Nicea and all that but what we do not talk about and thus do not see is the habitus of power that Constantine gave to the church… Thus clergy when given a nice big house, virtually, all said ‘Thankyou’ and with all those comments about trusting power from St Paul – hands were shaken and the church went to bat for the state – a boring conclusion.

Well it is now but way back Then when it seemed that the levers of power were influenced by the church – and indeed when the church managed some tight manouvring to have actual physical, legal and state granted [no matter how grudgingly]  power the the church was exciting but not for the reasons it should have been and as we make progress of the church moving away from the state’s machina for governance [note the sermons of the First World War and those before that for fighting for ‘King and Country’ – just like St. George?] we are left with the stain of granted patronage – we had the patronage of lords or the great and the good [whoever they are] and then the priests could trickle down the patronage of sanctity from God… I’m sure the fines for not going to church managed to keep some bums on the pews, right up into the 1900’s… and now when we see patronage for the skeletal effect it is when not given freely or only on demand the story of christians looks boring because we’ve lived the wrong story for far too long… and have been unable to come to grips with the fact that the history of christianity shows how we remember and honour those who stand against the powers that be whilst we find ways of twisting the story so that we no longer need to feel guilt for our normality…

no wonder we’ve grown dull.

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As I left the dog on her own to go off to the polling station I explained what I was off to do, it went something like this –

“I’m going to do something strange, human and pointless.”

As a clip from a former election campaign was played it prayed on my mind – it was a brief quote from James Callaghan who famously lost to Margaret Thatcher in 1979 where he declared that we had to decide what kind of society we wanted. Now I was too young to vote then but I have been thinking about that idea over the last weeks.

Every party is happy with policies that hound and harass 20% of the population – alright they may be smokers but is that enough to drive them away from where they would mix with wider society and make up 40% of the population. So what kind of society is it that we are voting for?

The idea of another five years of Gordon Brown scares me, the idea of being sold down the swanny to the Superstate of Europe gives me the heeby-jeebies thank you Clegg but I still did not vote for Cameron. Or anyone else for that matter…

When the political consensus agrees that 300 odd folk can choose to persecute one fifth of the population and then stick to it – What kind of society can we vote for?

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I’ve found on the good old UTube a video of an old song by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band

No Matter Who You Vote For the Government Always Gets In!

This is not the only version but it does have a good way of getting modern pictures and clips for this song… including clips of the would be leaders…

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I wrote about how the novel 1984 was Orwell’s view of how the UK was functioning in 1948 here and argued that he may have been right…

I recently read Anna Minton‘s Ground Control and found that all the debates and protests about whether we are living with ‘Big Brother’ are now redundant. Most folk agree that living in a ‘Big Brother Society’ would be a bad thing but then argue about how we are getting there and worries about how far society could/would go…

Well, the situation is worse than we thought.

In 1984 Orwell argued that the ‘proles’ were mostly left to their own devices and they could get on with their own lives. The problem within 1984 was born by those in government or part of the governing class. This is no longer the case. It might have been one of Orwell’s aims that anybody could read his book and be shaken out of complacency to react to the way we were governed by those who were left to rot by the ruling class.

One of the repeated pictures of ordinary life that Orwell gives is a ‘prole’ who continually hangs her washing out on her line – a classic image of life in Britain but now in 2009 there are areas were this – hanging washing out – is banned. Minton goes through the dreadful reality of ‘gated’ communities and some, as part of their conditions for living within their bounds, ban washing lines…

This is a petty point, to be sure, but it indicates the amount of fine toothed infractions on what is still considered everyday life but won’t be for much longer if we’re not careful. To show how bad things have become I wondered over various titles for this post and just as throwaway pictures I’ll give a couple here…

Why be proud of our armed forces when the government is destroying our way of life?

Government destroy our way society – what can terrorists do to us?

Now, they were not particularly thought through and in the end I plumped for the reference to Goerge Orwell. Make no mistake though – I still think they are right. Take our valued and precious ‘Rights of Way’ – these are being destroyed by government policy to allow private corporations to buy up city centres and privatise the streets. To give an example – I was walking down to meet the wife in High Wycombe through the Eden shopping centre which mixes open streets with ones with a high ceiling with my elderly and friendly dog [not the new arrival] and was told by a reasonable ‘guardian’ that dogs were not allowed. I was following a route that was a cut through that previously had no by laws regarding the four legged friends… The ‘right of way’ had been stopped and now it is a ‘conditional way’… True, the reasonable and private security individual allowed me on my way but he did not need to.

If you don’t like strange four legged life forms you may be sympathetic to the Eden centre but think about this stark fact – there are over a thousand ‘designated dispersal zones’ where groups of two or more can be  moved off. How many times have we not merely ‘hung around’ and waited for some friends. We did no harm but then again, we did not buy much then either and the thing we have to understand is that dispersal zones are in both shopping centres and working class areas who don’t, effectively, want the local kids to be able to grow up with friends they used to ‘kick around with’…

Shopping centres are being designed with CCTV of various calibres and one even uses drones that can fly around and watch folk as they meander around.

There is just too much to be stuffed into one post and so I’ll come back to other issues within Minton’s work at another time but for now I’ll leave you with this question – If we are really fighting the war on terror to preserve our way of life, then why does government policy itself tear our way of life apart?

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yes it’s that book by George Orwell

My rather plush copy came with a forward by Robert Harris although that had nothing to with my purchase – I simply mention it here because he claims in the forward that George originally thought that he had produced a gem of a book but by the time he had typed it up he despised it, not that Harris offers any explanation of that change himself…

I think it is simple – originally he wanted to call it 1948 and in changing the title to 1984 it was robbed of the intended impact Orwell intended it to have.

Awhile ago I read George’s book of Essays and found them such a profound read I blogged about them [please note that there are more essays in this collection than the recently released Shooting an Elephant with an introduction by Jeremy Paxman who does have a grand mind so if you want a smaller slice of Orwell and a word from Paxman this volume might be more to your liking – as a note just to be clear, every story in ‘Shooting…’ is in the collection of Essays…] and to make my case that 1984 is 1948 I’ll have to go back to those essays…

Part of the book has comments that Orwell made as observations in his essays. The prolonged rationing of the post war years gives credence to the idea of perpetual war and the ‘why’ of it. There were still identity cards…

Alright the extensive camera and listening devices were not around in 1948 – but all else in the book would have been possible then.  Indeed the ideas of doublethink and thoughtcrime were lifted from his pointed criticism of the intellectual left.  The idea of having a political class always in power subject to various tests – ability and hunger for power could well be the critique of someone who has seen anarchy and collectivism work – this is what has become quite clear in the british model of democracy, indeed this has grown and become even clearer since Thatcher and Blair… And when was the last president of the USA to be elected with a smaller campaigning budget than the other guy?

The most mentioned departments are called [and no spoilers here, thank you] Ministry of Peace, Love, and Truth – at one point the War Department became the Ministry of Defense… The judicial arm of the government is called the ‘Home Office’ where we can all feel a warm glow of being looked after… Ministry of Truth is harder but if you read Orwell’s Essays you find that he thought that the owners of the press, part of what was [and is] called ‘The Establishment’ and because they wish to continue the status quo ie staying in an influential place where there situation is protected – it is in the media’s interest to sell the story that they think will create the right reaction from within us… Either things don’t get reported and therefore never ‘happen’ in any way we would know or they are told in ways that will provoke the right reaction – note how folk accept each paper has an ‘editorial view’…

The other piece in this jigsaw is the civil service who can be vetted and made sure that their views and work comply to their orders and of course the higher up the ladder they climb and the fewer they become the more closely they can be watched.

And this is were the Thought Police come in… with the job of maintaining the work so ordered by the political class in the Post War Consensus… And the rest of us are left to sink in a way that blurred the lines between the middle and lower classes – partly by raising some up and making it possible only for so many to rise higher… Leaving the grand rump of society to a different set of rules that seek to govern their behaviour and to hide the insidious truth of the thoughtpolice and the hopeless plight they were in under the political rulers .

The question to some extent runs about why Orwell wrote this book. I think he wanted to have a much wider audience for his political observations than his essays received and in so changing the dates to coincide with the publishers demand that it not be ‘1948’ he felt it was robbed of it’s power and force – which would answer the question of why he thought it a terrible copy once he had typed it up…

Ironically one can see the sense that in the publisher being part of the establishment makes the case, in a small way, for the de facto Ministry of Truth…

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Just by a strange coincidence at the same time I was mostly through that tedious but famous read Frankenstein – the news broke that Newcastle and Durham’s collective University project has worked out how to manufacture sperm… As I mused on the wild silliness of that old feminist idea that men [as in the male half of the species] are not really needed and this can only add to that strange and destructive argument…

Of course one thing is that as they’ve worked out how to make a sperm from a skin cell – How long before they can make an egg? And then who will be needed? Alright – so that’s science fiction at the moment but last week making a sperm was as well. I’ll stick my neck out and say How Long Before Pregnancy Is A Luxury For The Rich Or Something The Poor Cannot Avoid?

In the late eightees I remember there was some interest in a ‘wet incubator’ that was having some success and how much more interest in developping a wet incubator will there be when sperm and egg can be manufactured, vetted and then wed… why not let them develop slightly longer in the lab… and if possible would the rich spend money on not being pregnant, would folk investigate a full term ‘artificial womb’ or incubator as it would relieve the poor from having to work hard and carry their child?

Frankenstein in his pride wanted to make a creature better than he – We in our pride are content to manufacture ourselves… and make ourselves redundant?

Will we abandon sex completely for the sake of  descandants? Will we automatically turn to contraceptives so that we need never worry about what could occur outside the Lab? Could this be the road to Barbarella where only the eccentric or the rich [possible only the rich eccentric] carry their babes?

Barbarella is a vision of a future without sex – could we turn towards sex as nothing more than fun and then for prudes to allow us to worry about diseases and dirt to say that we should refrain?

I don’t think the future is sexless or genderless, even though that might become possible by design… but I do wonder how wise we’d become in a world where hardship is having to go to the shops… How could we relate to another’s pain when all pain is striven to be discarded?

Now I’m sure there are some who have problems with the old ‘plumbing’ and that given that I’m not against an incubator that could help – I’m against what the widespread use of such could mean… Ordered children? Frozen embryoes to be thawed out at a given notice? Just come along at the appropiate appointment and take your child away and here’s some drugs to get you to lactate [if you so desire]… Male or female there could be a drug for either… [Men can lactate given real hardships… for more ask or be bewildered.]

Don’t want a screaming infant? Well, we could use a new and not quite tested method for allowing them to develop a bit more… yes, nutritional supplements and programmes for languages…

Why don’t you just say how old you want them and perhaps take one off the shelf?

If this were to pass over the years [at least two decades I think but I could be wrong…] would we notice any diference in how we related to each other, would we just say that we had come into some Golden Age? and what would we lose?

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In this day and age of ever increasing legislation into our private spaces I’m going to start this post with an imaginary situation…

I’m writing in my study. I’m on my own and so I smoke my pipe, happily as it happens. Of course I have to stop smoking as soon as anybody else comes into the room despite two windows being open – enough to allow the smoke to leave rather than just build up into a cloud but small enough to give the smoke time to weave into strange patterns I find almost mesmerizing and a little inspiring. No, it’s just tobacco swirling from the pipe bowl. If I don’t stop smoking then I may be charged as the laptop can be used as a spy in my study…

Alright, so we are not there but lets go over where we are…

Our mobile phones can be used as microphones for those with the ‘right’ software and clearance… and the government is looking at how to make our internet lives more, well, ordered… and if my study was down as a place of work then I would have to cease smoking if anybody came in…

As I’m writing this I wonder about the new legislation that is being proposed regarding smoking in cars. Some want it banned, after all these years of endangering our lives, because they want to stop everything that might distract the driver but the new drive is for the sake of our children

New research has indicated that the cost to the NHS from smokers is much higher than previously thought, here the story goes that the cost is £5.2 billion for 2005. The researchers go on about how bad the figures of £1.something billion are but fail to say how they then count for the £2.7 billion figure for last year, found here

There are all sorts of problems with this stuff. First we have to decide what is private and what is not and secondly we might actually want to see the full picture when it comes to a. health and b. other contributing factors… I cannot say that I know everything but I am trying to do part of the work for those lazy thinkers with their righteous motives…

Do we want to move into a society where the question of bad and good parenting as a moral one has been left behind and we have legal parenting and illegal parenting. It seems an awkward question that we should never have to face but in Endinburgh as reported here and explored by me in a post it seems that de facto the socail services won their case that it was illegal for an elderly couple to look after their grandchildren. Do we want to move into a society where a child could be taken from it’s parent/s if they smoke in it’s presence?

Parenting has always been subjected to some legalities – it was wrong and illegal to kill your little dearlings and there are other guidelines that empower socail services [if they are up to using them] which give them reason to remove the child and they are moving into more dubious areas. Alright it might not be the best thing for a parent to smoke in front of their little one/s but could they not on the whole still be good parents? Why is smoking in your own vehicle now becoming subject to this ‘moral’ imperative in a legal fashion and after our cars what about our homes?

Years ago I wrote a post about Scotland and the effects or, rather, lack of effects that the smoking ban will have on the health of the Scotish – no doubt those who read that sentence will have some problems with it but after years of having a smoking ban obesity is doing it’s job now… I said then that the most important factor in someone’s health is, statistically speaking, their diet and asked the rather nasty question of whether the Scotish Government would ban the chippy. Well, not yet but obesity has been tracked to help cancer along rather than your health whereas a good diet can help your body fight off or reduce the risks of cancer – including the ones you might get from smoking…

The last thing I’m going to throw in is that there is research out there to show the trouble with walking in suburban areas and town centres. Given vehicle emissions we breathe in carcinogens, amongst other things, which would – the story goes – be like having soot in our lungs. This raises issues in the sense of How can we reckon the cost of smoking tobacco and factor in the effects of where we live? It might prove an interesting research project…

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