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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Blog 120. From my Demon Toaster to Soylent Green...

...via TTIP?

‘Less is More’ was a consciously obscure minimalist fashion term. Now it beautifully epitomises life at the arse-end of Capitalism. Rampant Capitalism – that rabid dog that Thatcher took off the leash in the 80s savages us today.

I’ll get to the demonic toaster in a minute.

I was listening to a Radio 4 ‘commentator’ (clearly from the it’s-true-because-I-just-thought-it school of economics with a degree in ignoring-the-history-of-capitalism) bleating on about how we shouldn't obsess about inequality. Eye-watering wealth isn't a problem and – he opined – does not affect whether other people are poor. Really? He cited China as his shiny example with its burgeoning free enterprise and a growing middle class – everyone getting better off.

YES you idiot. That is how it starts. Ref; The Industrial Revolution and other stuff you could google. People trickle then pour in from the countryside to the new towns. They get exploited. Money is made. People organise themselves. There’s room for lots of snouts in the trough. Sometimes labour becomes in short supply so the workers have leverage to get better conditions and pay. Eventually gargantuan profits lessen and the only way for the top-feeders to maintain their profit margins is to cut wages and conditions (markets don’t just keep expanding) yada yada yada. Only these days the cycle goes faster.

Now Oxfam tell us we've reached a point where 1% of the richest people on the planet own half of the world’s wealth. 1% owns half and 99% share the other half.

1% of moneyed people owning half of all global wealth IS IS IS the reason folk at the at the bottom are starving/dying of curable disease/living miserable lives. It is a simple equation. Anyone who tells you it’s significantly more complicated than that needs a semester at the University of the Bloody Obvious (check out blog 77).

So – my new toaster.

I am not Mrs Gadget as regular bleaders know. For me a toaster is pretty modern and decadent. I was so pleased with the purchase that I read the instructions AND the warranty. It turns out that my warranty is void if my toaster gets “STRUCK BY LIGHTENING”. I kid you not.

At first I thought I’d bought a demon toaster. Was the manufacturer worried it would be targeted by an avenging deity? I had better not – I thought – eat toast from this toaster or I may become the handmaiden of Beelzebub. Then I recalled moving into my flat back in May. A cooker was delivered with no handle for the grill pan. I rang the shop and a young man informed me – with no trace of irony I could detect – that for health and safety reasons the manufacturers no longer supply a grill pan handle... When I asked if he thought it was safer for me to grab a hot grill pan without a handle he further informed me that I could buy a handle separately!!!!!!!!!

These silly examples are here purely to show how – in the west where you can’t rip people off blatantly because of the veneer of fairness - those guarding their profits have to do it subtly. But they are doing it. And everywhere less is presented as more whether its goods or service. My toaster warranty is worded to ensure that when the bloody thing breaks down after three months there will be myriad reasons why I cannot get a replacement – including satanic possession.

It’s why portions are smaller and you find strange things like non-specific horse flesh in your ‘beef’ burgers but not, as yet, Soylent Green.

On a grander scale tis why legal aid was cut and why things like the bedroom tax were introduced – so the poor get less. On the flip side the council tax and tax havens are there so the very rich contribute less.

One of the most insulting statements regularly used by the very rich is that people don’t realise how hard they work. The insinuation is that if the rest of the population weren't a bunch of lay-abouts they too would be rich. What rot. How hard do nurses work in a life and death setting? If anyone knows the disparity between the earnings of an NHS nurse on a 12 hour night shift and an even moderately successful hedge fund manager, do let me know. And just how hard do you have to work to inherit wealth - possibly made as the result of – oh I don’t know – diverting the natural resources of a country to your own benefit?

The fact is that those at the bottom of the pile have been hammered since the bankers wrecked the economy. As Capitalism runs out of steam the rich spend their efforts and considerable resources maintaining wealth and position. What is exhausting and insulting – like my toaster warranty – is all the ridiculous twaddle we are fed which aims to trick us into thinking it aint so.

Your mind may be brimming with books and films about nightmare dystopian futures where The 1% are using the rest as economic/service fodder. I have to say, the patterns emerging, that seem inevitably to lead there, are clearer than ever.

If you've not yet picked up on the potential giant backward step for mankind that is TTIP (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership) I suggest you look it up.

If TTIP continues its secret un-monitored progress, are we not ever further along that road to capitalist hell? With profit interest trumping elected governments and protections against the worst abuses of trade wiped away, who knows? Like Charlton Heston’s Soylent Green (the 1973 sci-fi film set just 7 years from now) we may become actual as well as metaphorical fodder, cannibalised in order to preserve Paradise for the 1%.

Remember “Soylent Green is People”.

No archive recommendations this week but there is a new cartoon if you click on the orange Amanda Baker in the right hand column.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Blog 119. Will tran-ban drive Russian motorists crazy?

(NB: I resisted the urge to call this blog ‘From Russia Without Love’!)

Where to begin with a response to the latest state-sponsored idiocy from Putin re banning trans-people from driving? The answer - my poetry pal Andi - who ably targets Putin with prose and poetry in this Brown Girl guest blog.

Andi is 1.88m of gender conundrum who stumbled out of 70’s Rock ‘n’ Roll fog into the heady world of Performance Poetry around a decade ago. Swapping the drum stool for tour management in 1985, Andi took on the role of Tour and Events manager whilst writing about life’s twists and turns. Step-parent to six kids over thirty years and Mother Hen to hundreds of touring performers, Andi now performs her poetry regularly and headed the Acoustic Night Bristol group hosting Open Mics at Halo CafĂ© Bar for the last eight years. She loves Bristol!

So, long before self-awareness took root, I remember being fascinated by colour, music and cars. The gender conundrum became apparent a couple of years later. Re-packaging, as I now describe my major life decision, came 45 years later by which time I had run the full gamut of role playing.  Yet those three stimulants have driven me all my life, bringing me undreamt-of experiences sublime, insane, physically painful and totally bliss-making.

As years passed observing misogyny and prejudice from inside my invisible string vest bubble, playing a masculine charade gave me time to pursue myriad interests. I held down scores of jobs that would be impossible as a Trans-lesbian in today’s Russia.

As a transwoman I would be labelled at best a misfit, sexually perverse and mentally deranged; now unfit even to manage a vehicle it seems. If I were ‘lucky’ they might still accept me cleaning the arse-cracks of my quadraplægic clients but how would I get to them if I couldn't drive?

What will be the futures of young transgendered Russians I wonder?

No chance their boys would resolutely grip the cymbal stands of their step-parent’s drum kit on a drop-side truck in a city parade. No chance that they would get heard and treated as a sentient being capable of love, responsibility for the health of others and a sense of community.

They will never drive through all four seasons from Bergen to Trondheim in one day, following two pert-buttocked, lycra clad road-skiers at 50kmph downhill through the mid Norway valleys. They will never get to rub noses and breathe in the grassy breath of an inquisitive, beautiful cow in a sleeping village or see NATO armed forces playing war games as I did when we drove back to Oslo.

Will they ever learn that Sat-Nav is a waste of time, try reading a map, write a prose poem about a man falling in love with the female voice on it and be able to perform it in public without derision?

I wonder how Putin would react if Charlie Hebdo front-paged him as a gay icon? If they haven’t already (other satirists have).

Of course Russia is not alone in this insidious action, sadly misinterpreting transpeople as deviants. But it has not always been so.

Wyanketcha, Berdache, the Native Americans called us – Two Spirit People – respected and revered as something special, often being the members of the tribe who knew about herbs, natural medicines and keeping the history and social balance of the tribe.

Clean up your act Vlad.

Why not try nailing the corrupt in your government, round up the child abusers, extremists and poisonous alcohol producers?

I guess there will now be a period of discreet social cleansing which in time will leak out on social media as surely as the incursions into Crimea and Ukraine,  fuelling more impotent outrage from some in more allegedly liberated countries.

For the time being I look on with underlying apprehension, sadness yet gratitude that I live here, for the time being cosseted by State pension,  wrinklies bus and railcard and a roof over my head.


For the cumulative guidance, love and support that has taken me from wretched being to one-ness.

For it came, not from one God, one source, but from each and every person I walked, talked and broke bread with.

For those with whom I have shared the raw edges of pain, tears and heart-ache.

For those who dedicate their lives to saving and improving the mortal lives of others. We all know who you are. Respect

For those with whom I have worked and travelled, from all over the world. The diversity affirming our similarities and at the same time our individualities. Taken beyond traditional religions, the bond of humanity working together, catalysed by words, music and dance, transcends boundaries and bureaucracies extending knowledge and awareness.

We may march to different drummers
But we all need to feel the beat



Thanks Andi

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Blog 118. Sexy New Politics

Is the SNP giving us Sexy New Politics?

I know the party itself aint new but their position, policy approach, possibilities and appeal seem fresh and sparkly like a washing-up liquid advertisement minus the portrayal of gormless women and ridiculously clinical houses and perfect teeth and children – (sorry I got diverted there).

Much as I planned not to be sucked into the full 7th May melee in January, its’ irresistible. And the SNP with its 70,000 new members since the referendum is looking funky.

Having only become a Scottish resident last year, I raced to get registered to vote YES in September so I could support the only party that was talking passionately and sincerely about striving for a more egalitarian society - I’m still pretty giddy.

It’s like we were murdering Claire de la lune on cracked plastic recorders for the hundredth time in music class and the new 14 yr old came in and played Nirvana on her semi-acoustic guitar. Everyone’s standing round with mouths open.

It seems the other parties too have settled into human-like stereotypes we recognise.

If the SNP is the cool kid on the block, Labour is the deaf arthritic uncle who can’t keep up.

UKIP is the creepy neighbour leering over the fence who your mum warns you to avoid.

Tories are the skeletal old aunt who lives for the bridge club, smells of decay and expensive perfume, feeds the dog on fillet mignon but won’t help her struggling nephew.

The Greens are the prophets screaming in the wilderness.

The Liberals are... Who cares!

I voted YES – not because I am a nationalist but because I yearn for a more equal society like someone lost in the desert craves a cool sip of water. It’s thrilling that the SNP held it together so well after the referendum results.

Here’s to them – a little acrostic appeal.

Scupper the Negative Posturing
Stale Nepotistic Plutocrats
Strike-out for New Possibilities
Scottish National Potential
Stop Nuclear Psychosis
Spread Nurturing Policies
Stuff Neanderthal Politicians
Stand up for No Prejudice
Commit to
Sustaining the National Panorama
(and a special one for me)
Support Nascent Poets J
Start Now Please

This week’s recommended blog is also one concerning the craving for equality -

Blog10. My One Night Stand with the Ghost of Bill Farrell

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Blog 117. Get those –darkies- back in their box...

The BBC forced us to stare into the abyss.

You can imagine the consternation when bedside radios across the land clicked on last Tuesday morning and the nation discovered that the ethnics had taken over the BBC’s flagship Today programme.

For some minutes a state of confusion and bewilderment must have reigned.

I know they have that nice darkee with the deep bass voice to do some in-between stuff and make announcements but really.... You can go too far with these things.

When reporting on other parts of the globe, the dear old Beeb have taken to letting ‘relevant foreigners’ present the information. It’s ever such fun and all to the good. Adds to the colour (if you get my drift) but certainly we expect to be catapulted back pretty quickly to those nice superior, white, slightly (deservedly) smug types who sooth us each day with a sense of the world being in the right place. The ‘right place’ being somewhere in the 1970s. We all know what a golden time that was for the BBC.

How would we cope, for example, without young John Humphries? I recall with fondness his interview with those people they call Royal Commentators (when the delectable Kate was due to be hitched to the one that definitely belongs to Charles). How they all did chortle at the multiple racist faux pas of our dear Duke as they discussed the role of a royal consort.

My favourite was an episode of Gardener’s Question Time a couple of years back when the panel were tickled by a hilarious comment about a certain plant reminding a woman of a black man’s willy. How droll. Actually more like the 50s than the 70s.

If not for the London-centric, upper class, elitist whiteness then what oh WHAT, we must ask ourselves, is the licence fee paying for? Indeed, are taxes of all kinds not in place to ensure that the comfortably off and the establishment can rely on their institutions doing what they want and being peopled by folk – well – like them.  Surely alternatives leave us staring over the abyss, in danger of slipping into the void.

That is how it felt last Tuesday when the BBC did the ethnic ambush.‘Wogs’ was the term at junior school then at secondary school it was‘coons’. How fashions change.

As I listened to Lenny Henry I felt the ground beneath me shifting (or rather the mattress). It was only after proper logical cogitation I realised all was well.
For a start off it was Tuesday 30th December. Listening figures would be down. The poor overworked dears at the BBC needed a rest. What better time to let the jolly ethnics have a go.

I recall once my daughter’s junior school letting chosen, trusted youngsters answer the school phone at lunch break. Few important calls came in at that time and it meant that the teachers could get their meals undisturbed.

It became clear that the experiment was just a little Christmas treat for the brown colonials - don’t they speak good English – well done.

Oh how I did chortle at my own silliness.

But before you knew it the darkies were back in their box.

It was all rather amusing. I do hope they do it again next year.
Good show the BBC.
You may be aware (blog 53. I suffer from P.A.N.T.S) that I am a relative luddite so if you like this blog and you are a young, plugged in, ‘withit’ person, do please feel free to “splash it all over” as Henry Cooper would have said...