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I'm a writer. I write about life with bipolar disorder - also known as manic depression - so my eponymous alter ego is MaNic Grant.

I've written more than 1 million words: it's the world's longest suicide note.

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Top Secret

6 min read

This is a story about government...

Letter

There's a fair bit of confusion as to what government is. Strictly speaking, Government (with a capital G) is the group of Members of Parliament who have a working majority, sufficient to convince the Queen to be allowed to form a Government - the would-be Prime Minister will go to Buckingham Palace after a General Election and ask to form a Government, and the Queen's advisers will tell her whether to give assent or not, depending on whether it seems clear that the would-be PM is backed by enough would-be Government MPs to be able to govern. Without a majority in the House of Commons, it's pretty hard to get any bills to be voted through, so Government would become ineffective, which is not what the Queen wants, because then the monarchy would have to go back to running the country, which she hasn't done since 1707.

Then, once a Government is in place, it can start attempting to make new laws and changing or repealing existing ones. Those laws still have to pass through the House of Lords and the laws have to be given royal assent by the Queen before they become statutory instruments on the statute book (i.e. actual enforceable laws).

So, what about tax collectors?

Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs is considered to be a Government department, and they somewhat act as directed by Government, but we have to remember that Governments come and go every 5 years, but a huge amount of the Civil Service will remain very constant and unchanging, unlike our political landscape. We should probably consider everything that's done to keep the country running is done in the name of the Crown, not in the name of Government.

When we complain about Government, what we often mean is government (lower case g) which is a synonym for all the very many Civil Service organisations which control, organise and run all the operations in the United Kingdom to keep British life civilised and orderly.

Tax collectors work for a non-ministerial department, which means that they are free from Government interference, even though taxes are what most people consider to be the most detestable part of government. Government has the power to change the tax laws, but government has to implement and enforce those laws. Clear? It's pretty hard to know who to be angry at when you get a big tax bill. Should it be the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is an elected MP and a member of the Government, and very much decides how much tax we should all pay? Should it be the Civil Servants of Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, who do not work for any minister so therefore are completely apolitical and nothing to do with Government? HMRC has no power to decide to change the tax laws, but it must enforce them and collect money, which we often think is for government/Government, but it's actually for the Crown... but Government can then decide how to spend it. Clear?

There are lots of bits of "government" which should probably be more accurately referred to as the Civil Service, but are confusingly just called UK Government departments. The use of the word "government" is confusing, because it's not the MPs in Westminster who have anything to do with collecting taxes.

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, who are responsible for collecting road tax, are a ministerial department. The transport minister - a Government MP - is very much in charge of the DVLA via the Department for Transport. In this way, we could be angry with the Government about our road tax, because it's clearly an agency of that Government MP's department, who are the ones who decide what road taxes should be paid, and collect that money. Again, the language gets very confusing - "department", "minister" and "agency" are the important words... despite the fact that all of it relates to actual Government with a big G. However, most of the DfT and DVLA will be staffed by Civil Servants, who are apolitical and therefore not part of Government... but most people would say that they "work for the government/Government" which is true in both senses.

If you work for the Government, then it means that your top boss is a Government minister - an MP - and your organisation has to do what the minister wants, providing it doesn't require any changes to the law first.

Colloquially, we might say that somebody works for the government, which means that you work for the Civil Service, and in fact you act on behalf of the Crown, not the Government at all.

That's why my letter has "On Her Majesty's Service" printed on it - because it was sent to me by a part of "government" which doesn't work for the Government... the letter was from a non-ministerial department. It's probably more accurate to say that the letter was sent to me by the Civil Service, but "government" has entered the popular vernacular as a colloquial synonym.

What was in the letter? Well, a Civil Servant wanted to come and talk to me - ask me some questions - which actually relates to my day job, but nothing to do with the scary security vetting process that's been stressing me out. Bizarrely, the organisation which I'm working for happened to randomly select me to interviewed by a colleague, assuming that I was an ordinary member of the public. I found it ironic that no sooner than I had moved into my new house, I had colleagues knocking on my door wanting to ask me questions.

Is any of this top secret? Well, in my experience of working in defence, "top secret" seemed to be a bit of a joke - the classification is used in films and novels, but today's classified material above "secret" would have a designation a lot more specific. I suppose I can't really talk about that, if I do want to pass my security vetting.

Anyway, that's the confusing world of UK life in a constitutional monarchy with a representative democracy and an enormous Civil Service, which often all gets lumped together under the catch-all convenience term: "government".

 

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Our Morals: The Ethics of Revolution

6 min read

This is a story about sedition and treason...

Security vetting form

Questions A, B and C seem pretty reasonable to ask. It seems like a good idea to ask people if they're spies, terrorists or saboteurs, if they're going to tell you the truth. It seems logical to assume that spies, terrorists and saboteurs are enemies of civilised society. It seems sensible to exclude spies, terrorists and saboteurs from positions where they could be a threat to public safety.

Upon closer examination, spies and saboteurs could sometimes arguably be said to conduct their actions in a responsible way, in the course of the furtherment of their laudable objectives, in the absence of other available options. Spies exist when diplomacy and co-operation have broken down. Saboteurs exist when tyranny, oppression and exploitation are so great that a worker must throw their clogs into the loom, to save themselves and their kin. Without wanting to fall foul of the nebulous terminology, it would be remiss of me to acknowledge that a person could certainly understand the reasons for spying and sabotage - in a theoretical and academic sense - and perhaps even excuse those acts, where the outcome clearly results in a positive outcome for the greater good, according to utilitarian philosophy.

Of course, I must tread very carefully.

I have to watch my words.

What on earth is question D getting at? I once destroyed my ballot paper as a political protest at the lack of a candidate and a party for whom I wanted to vote. Does that count as "[undermining] Parliamentary democracy by politcal … means"? Should I tick "YES" to this question? Is my spoiled ballot paper recorded in "national security records" which I'm reminded my answers will be checked against? Why even ask me if you already know the answer?

Of course, the idea of asking people "are you a terrorist?" is pretty ridiculous, so why shouldn't this same 66-page form ask vague questions which are almost impossible to answer, unless you think of yourself as such a perfect citizen and well-behaved patriotic loyal subject of Her Majesty Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, Northern Ireland, its dependencies and its overseas territories.

Do I believe in the Westminster system of Parliamentary democracy? Do I believe in democracy at all? For the purposes of my rational economic self-interest in the immediate short-term, within the context of filling in this 66-page form, which is of vital importance for the future of my career, the answer is "yes" for sure.

Why am I using such cautious and measured words? Why am I couching what I say in caveats and disclaimers?

The question arises: Is it irresponsible, socially destabilising or otherwise contrary to the interests of national security, to discuss the merits of 'political change' in a purely academic and theoretical context?

Do scholars who study, think about, write about and discuss alternative political systems, imply some "intent" to overthrow or undermine Parliamentary democracy. For example, in the instance that a learned professor were to stumble upon compelling evidence that there is a better system for the decision making which is supposed to improve the human condition and the lives of the masses, then is that professor allowed to discuss it; perhaps even to promote the idea? What if other academics take an interest in that professor's ideas, and they become supporters of the theory? What if this group of academics could be said to be a group of likeminded individuals, similarly swayed by the evidence and the ideas?

Have I made myself into an enemy of the state by taking an interest in philosophy, politics and economics, which has forced me to consider the question: Is our Parliamentary democracy the best available option, or should we change to a different system? Does posing this innocent question constitute an act of undermining Parliamentary democracy?

By the time we get to question F, I must surely answer in all truthfulness that I almost certainly would have - at some point in my life - had a close association with somebody who's been a member of a group or supported a group whose intent could easily be interpreted as 'offering an alternative' to Parliamentary democracy. This is about as close as I'm prepared to go, to admitting something which is against my rational economic self-interest in the short-term, for the furtherment of my career objectives.

Most of my friends are technologists. Many of my friends have created pieces of technology which must surely have undermined Parliamentary democracy. Many of my friends are the original engineers and architects - the visionaries - who are responsible for the birth of social media. What greater threat to the ruling elites has been born, since the invention of the printing press?

Terrorism and violence are hard to defend; seemingly always unethical. It's beyond the scope of this essay to discuss the ethics of violent rebellion by the victims of tyranny and oppression. I'm in too much of a vulnerable situation to say something like: "I can understand the reasons why desperate people might resort to violence, in the absence of all other options, like any cornered animal".

I may hold unspeakable views, which have no place in a civil position of public servitude. My upbringing in the company of academics, in and around the buildings of Oxford University, may well have scuppered any ambitions I might have of playing a role in the running of the country, and hopefully making a positive difference to as many lives as possible.

Even within the walls of a British university, an academic may find themselves falling afoul of laws - new and old - which are designed to punish any agitators who might threaten societal stability and the established order. The power of the internet allows compelling academic arguments to be disseminated to vast numbers of people at incredible speed, and for the public's imagination to be captured. Academic papers are no longer written in Latin and kept safely out of the hands of the hoi polloi, lest any revolutionary ideas they might be harbouring be provoked.

Do I hold my tongue for the greater good - in support of a paternalistic and elitist establishment - because it will perpetuate the state of unhappy stability, which is at least preferable to civil war? Do I speak my mind, because to do so is a privilege afforded by the unpalatable actions done in the interests of national security? If I don't take advantage of freedom of speech, am I really a patriotic citizen, loyal subject of Her Majesty and supporter of Parliament, given that wars are waged on my behalf so that I might enjoy the luxury of being able to write essays like this?

I think I'm just going to tick "no" to all the boxes, because I can't be bothered to have this conversation a second time, when I'm being interviewed by the thought police.

 

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Godless

10 min read

This is a story about faith...

Church

I have far too much of a skeptical inquiring mind to foolishly believe that religions are anything other than a terrestrial invention, born in the minds of mortal men who were afraid of death, during unenlightened pre-scientific times. I've had access to far too much knowledge and information to ever believe in fairy tales about omnipotent sky monsters. However, it does mean that my existence is pretty absurd and meaningless. Religion gives a sense of community and belonging - those who have chosen to follow a particular faith are able to identify others who believe the same weird things, because of their weird customs, their weird traditions, their weird buildings and the weird books they read. It must be nice to have that sense of belonging, and to strongly believe that there is order, purpose, meaning and easy-to-grasp comforting explanations for everything that happens in our otherwise hostile and chaotic universe... it's all part of God's plan.

I used to pity those who have religious faith as deluded simpletons. I used to want them to wake up and consider the evidence - or lack thereof - and to have a scientific awakening; to become atheists. However, I think it's those who don't subscribe to any kind of philosophical or theological framework, who should be pitied. What do you believe in if you know - from the overwhelming weight of empirical evidence - that the universe is nothing more that a cosmic accident; the byproduct of the universal laws of physics and nothing more. Why are we here? What meaning and purpose is there? Humanity will be wiped off the face of the Earth and everything that we ever thought was important will be erased; as if it never existed. We're not even a microscopic speck in the unimaginably huge - and ever-expanding - universe.

The author Douglas Adams wrote in one work of fiction, about the worst torture being to be shown the entire universe all at once such that you fully perceive your own insignificance, which would blow your mind and destroy you. So many good novelists are more imaginative than our best scientists, and they foresee the cultural and social problems which the inventors of new technology don't, because the inventors are too in love with their creations. Our thirst for knowledge, and the invention of the biggest and most complicated machine ever built, which connects most of humanity in a world wide web - the internet - has not brought with it any comfort, unlike religion. Having this incredible information vault accessible anytime, anywhere, along with the ability to communicate and connect with anybody, is something which no engineer who built the internet thought might lead to incredibly awful social and cultural problems. Engineers are utopians, but they invent things not ideas, philosophies and belief systems. Engineers created the internet and they left it up to others to decide what to do with it; they've left it to us to make sense of things.

Google and Wikipedia appear to be unopinionated. In theory, you can use Google and Wikipedia to simply discover the information which you're looking for, and consume it. In theory, Google and Wikipedia will not tell you that certain ideas are heretical, or ascribe a sinfulness to the pursuit of certain knowledge. You're free to search "anal fissures" out of pure morbid fascination with the disgusting and depraved, and you won't be judged - it's all just between you and the computer. You can ask Google the questions that you would have asked your priest 100 years ago, and Google will give you the information so that you can make up your own mind. In fact Google is giving you the information that the most people clicked on, and some information which has been growth hacked by people with a commercial objective. Wikipedia presents the prevailing consensus of opinion in academia, with some degree of peer-review process, however it's just the opinion of the handful of people who wrote the particular page you're reading.

None of the stuff you read online is informed by an over-arching unified goal of shepherding the flock towards a state of existence deemed better than pure anarchy. Perhaps certain online news sources have editorial leanings which border on the paternalistic, but the vast majority of what's published online is done so to satisfy the particular individual's personal goals, and not as part of any master plan.

You might think it's the role of the government to think about the future of society and civilisation, and the government will be strongly opinionated about the purpose and meaning of our lives, but in fact governments are simply the victors in a commercial popularity contest, driven by individual egos and the survival needs of the massive party-political organisations. As such, governments simply parrot back whatever the people are demanding.

Progressive policies which have advanced our society have not come about because people demanded that we drag ourselves out of the dark ages, but in fact as a result of opinionated elites pushing through changes in the law which were not at all popular with the public. The death sentence is not something the public wanted to see repealed. The public are barbaric baboons and the idea that true democracy would lead us towards a progressive liberal utopia is completely wrong - instead we'd legalise xenophobia, racism and the persecution of minorities, if we left it up to the masses; mob rule.

It's wrong to assume that we have within us a moral compass; a strong sense of right and wrong and social justice. It's wrong to assume that people are basically good; they're not. People are selfish assholes. People are only interested in them and theirs, at the expense of anybody who's not like them. People are just dirty beasts with fancy clothes.

Yes, I'm pro paternalistic elitism. I'm pro social engineering. I'm pro giving people what's good for them, even though they don't like it and it's not what they want. Any move towards greater democracy is a move towards barbarism and the collapse of civilised society.

In my experience, people want simple fables; they want to believe in goodies and baddies; they want to believe in a black and white world, where everything can be simplified into easy to digest nonsense, which strips away all the complexity of reality and replaces it with comforting falsehoods. In my experience, people want to believe in lies, because lies are easier than hard truths. In short, people want religion.

Nobody much cares about the universal laws of physics and the optical illusion which makes solid objects appear to be solid, when in actual fact they're made of mostly nothing; a scattering of particles with indeterminate positions. People don't want to know about the deeply unsettling subatomic world, where things behave in non-intuitive ways. People want to believe that the world is a magical, mysterious and unknowable place, invented by a sky monster, because it's easier than grasping quantum mechanics.

Nobody much cares about the complex history of humanity and all the inter-breeding that's gone on, such that there are no 'pure blood' races. People just want to separate into "us" and "them". People want to belong to clubs, clans, tribes, nations, parties, teams, dynasties and every other conceivable way of slicing and dicing ourselves, such that we feel part of something. People want to hate. People want war and they want to dominate.

Nobody much cares that there are perfectly viable ways to divide our wealth and peacefully co-exist. Nobody much cares that billions of people could have their standard of living dramatically improved, at the expense of greed and selfishness. People want to live under hierarchies; they want to worship prophets and elevate ordinary mortal men to positions and status which are obscene and unjustifiable. Do you really think that a TV pastor deserves to live in a huge mansion while there are people starving on the streets? That's what people want - they want the haves and the have-nots.

Our terrestrial mortal destiny is in our own hands, and we know - in our heart of hearts - that when we die it's all over. There is no afterlife. There is no promised land. It's all bullshit that was invented to lessen the fear of death and make our lives of suffering appear to have some meaning in an otherwise ludicrously absurd existence. In the end you. just. die.

If our destiny is in our own hands, why aren't we making our existence on Earth into a more pleasant experience? Why aren't we bothered about making the most of the short time we're alive? Why are we content to have so much struggle, pain and suffering? We're quite capable of alleviating that suffering, but there's no will to change. We busy ourselves with absurdities, like getting jobs as bakers so that we can earn money to afford to be able to buy a slice of bread, from one of the loaves which we baked. We've constructed ludicrous inefficient systems which only serve to enslave us and make us desperately unhappy.

Of course none of this is God's plan. If there is a God - which there isn't - then why would He have us punching made-up numbers into a spreadsheet, at a desk, in an office, in the middle of a concrete jungle? Why would He have us exchanging pieces of paper with each other until the day we die? Why would He have made the money lenders into the richest and most powerful people on the planet, when His son was evidently not a big fan of usury when he drove those money lenders out of Herod's Temple?

Those who are afflicted with the madness that is religious faith might in fact be onto something, because at least their lives have meaning and they're looking forward to something, as opposed to enduring awful suffering until the day they die. We end our lives afraid and in pain and we know we're not going to see our children and grandchildren again. It might be insane to believe in an immortal and everlasting afterlife, but it's a damnsight better than anything on offer in a world run for the sole benefit of the mega-rich, which we have willingly allowed to come into existence.

In a godless universe with no afterlife, what's the meaning and purpose of anything? Nothing has any meaning. You might as well go and commit whatever crimes you want, because we all die anyway. You might as well indulge hedonistic pursuits to the maximum, because none of us are getting out of this alive.

In a world without religion, what fills that void? It can't be the pursuit of wealth, because that's even more insane.

 

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The Arrogance of the Guardian Class

4 min read

This is a story about the end of democracy...

Don't bomb Syria

There's a widely held belief that our governments know what's best for us, because they're privy to information that the general public aren't. In the case of foreign affairs, our military intelligence gathering agencies will prepare briefings for those in power, which will persuade our government to act in the interests of national security. However, this runs contrary to the principles of civilised society, where information is presented transparently and we the people decide what's best for us - that's called justice, and that's called democracy.

Would you want to be imprisoned or sentenced to death at the whim of a powerful ruler, on the basis of a flimsy allegation? Would you do away with jury trials and the burden of proof? Would you prefer to hand all the power to a ruling elite who 'know better' than the rest of us, as opposed to having a democratic system?

The idea that there are a group of people who are smarter than all of us, and more capable of making an informed decision that's the best for everyone, has eroded the power of democracy and our own individual agency. Instead of being able to make our own informed decisions, the decisions are taken for us by people who think that they know best.

Life-or-death decisions are taken by people behind closed doors, who arrogantly believe that they are doing the right thing, because they surround themselves with other members of the guardian class. By talking privately amongst themselves in their bubble, they arrogantly believe that their intellect is superior to that of others, and that they will be able to reach a decision that's best for everyone, without consulting any mere mortals. This self-appointed elite believe they're smarter and make better decisions than the general populace, and have a right to hand down judgements as well as to keep their process and decision making opaque. By sticking together in a tiny clique, this arrogant group convince themselves that they're following a process that legitimises their tyranny.

There simply aren't a group of people who are better than the rest of us. There aren't a group of people who know better than the rest of us. The elites are self-appointed, and they mistakenly believe they are superior, because of exam grades, job titles and other social status symbols. The jury system delivers a consensus from a cross-section of society, which is a safeguard against arrogant people who believe their own bullshit and think they know it all.

Under communism, the belief that the greater good was more important than any individual's suffering or death, led to an end-justifies-the-means culture that killed millions. Today, we have a culture that worships the great and the good who believe they are infallible elites capable of deciding what's best for all of us, because they're better than the rest of us.

This is not anti-intellectualism. This is anti-elitism. You can be an intellectual without being an elitist. You can care about people and the fate of humanity without being a tyrant. You can be caring and compassionate without installing yourself in a position of ultimate power in people's lives. Nobody should have the power to rule over their peers, in a minority group - that erodes democracy and creates misery, suffering and death.

I abhor those committee sitters who are so hungry for power that they have abandoned public service, in pursuit of positions which afford them godlike powers over ordinary people's lives. I have a deep hatred for anybody who thinks that they alone can make a decision, when presented with some information which they guard and horde, lest it become an open and transparent decision making process and their power base is eroded.

I've witnessed first-hand the scramble to censor, cover-up and cover arses after a death, where the committee sitter was culpable. Instead of inviting transparency and admitting that the elitist arrogance was the cause of death, the committee sitters close ranks and become thick as thieves - skulking around in the shadows. The arrogance, when this behaviour is causing lives to be lost, is the reason that so many lives continue to be lost. Instead of relinquishing their power, admitting their mistakes, becoming open and transparent, those who are culpable for deaths continue to believe that they know best.

It sickens me that there are a group of people who think they have a license to kill; some kind of moral justification for their tyranny and the misery and deaths they cause.

 

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Cool Britannia

9 min read

This is a story about indoctrination...

Dunkirk IMAX ticket stub

I wrote a lengthy Facebook post on Sunday morning, condemning jingoistic rhetoric, especially in light of the emboldenment of closet racists by Brexit & Donald Trump. As our fathers and grandfathers who served in the armed forces during World War II die, I am angry that we seem to be left with a bunch of deluded nationalist wankers who think that warfare is a glorious thing. There are no winners in war - only one group getting to impose terms on another.

As children disengage from education and unjustly inherit a hopeless future of minimum wage zero-hours contract McJobs, we have witnessed the rise & rise of the Call of Duty series of computer games. The aggregate profits from Call of Duty, vastly eclipse all the money taken at the cinema box office & DVD sales, for war movies.

If you learn about warfare from computer games, not from history lessons, then you gain the false impression that wars are won by individual soldiers' heroic actions. The story told by computer games is that war is exciting entertainment and one man can be victorious against insurmountable numbers of enemy forces. When playing a computer game, you don't have the visceral fear that you are going to be wounded or killed. There's no risk to your life or health and you don't hear the screams of people, as they bleed to death in agony. When you kill a 'virtual' soldier you know they're not real - they're not human like you are. All humans have a family; you and the 'enemy' bleed red; everybody is equally shit scared of death and injury.

When we learn about history at school in the UK, it's all about World War I and World War II. We're taught about the USA sending cannon fodder for the D-Day beach landings. The Brits talk about 'winning the war'. The Yanks talk about 'helping the Brits win the war'. Due to Cold War propaganda, it's now no longer acknowledged that it was the Russians who conquered Berlin and cornered Hitler in his bunker, where he committed suicide. The fact is that Nazi Germany fought on too many fronts and over-stretched itself.

It's hard to conceptualise a war of attrition - trench warfare - like World War I, when ground troops would be sent 'over the top' only to be shot to pieces by machine guns. Through the genocide of the Native Americans and happy geographic accident, the USA has been able to pour trillions of dollars into the development of weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear bombs were dropped by the USA, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese civilians - men, women & children. The USA has a romanticised a kind of warfare that's cowardly, clean and clinical - dropping bombs on a defenceless 'enemy' thousands of feet below.

Every decisive weapon that has ever been developed in history - from the pointy stick to the suicide bomber - has conferred not only a military advantage but also a psychological one. If you've ever been prodded with a pointy stick, it's not very nice and it makes you wish you had a pointy stick, with which to at least defend yourself, if not to get revenge on the person who prodded you. If you have ever prodded an unarmed person with a pointy stick, then you are joining the ranks of every man who ever carried a spear, slingshot, bow & arrow, dagger, sword, musket, rifle, pistol, rocket launcher or machine gun. Weapons turn an ordinary animal that can only fight with teeth & claws, into an increasingly powerful combination of man & machine, capable of mass murder. The arms race is a natural reaction to armed oppression.

I like to think of myself as a cosmopolitan Citizen of the World, as opposed to a nationalist. Racists with the St. George's flag draped around their shoulders make me want to vomit. However, the educated middle-classes who work well-paid professional jobs, have many things of value - houses, cars, cash in the bank, stocks & shares, holiday homes and a bunch of other stuff too - but English white trash have nothing: no hope of a better life, and their life is dog shit anyway. The most valuable thing that an English 'chav/pleb/prole' has is their British citizenship, which entitles them to welfare benefits, free healthcare and social housing. I can somewhat understand why the Brexit brigade wouldn't want to share the only thing they've got in their life that's got any value: their UK government handouts.

I watched the Christopher Nolan film Dunkirk yesterday. I saw it at an IMAX cinema, shot on 70mm film (well, the digital equivalent anyway) which made it an immersive experience. I didn't expect it to affect me emotionally. I honestly could not have given a fuck whether Private Ryan was Saved or not.

I've been a keen sailor/yachtsman, since childhood. There's something inescapably British about living on a small island. I've spent lots of time at sea, and I have no illusions about what a formidable impasse any stretch of open seawater presents, even in the absence of man-eating sharks. The English Channel - where I've sailed and kitesurfed more than anywhere in the world - is one of the windiest places on Earth and has some of the biggest tides, which create dangerous fast-flowing currents that exceed the maximum speed of many boats.

In the film Dunkirk, when the flotilla of British fishermen and amateur pleasure boaters, appeared on the horizon - to evacuate the beach packed with 400,000 troops, surrounded on all sides by advancing Nazi troops - I was crying like a baby. This is a true story. 326,000 troops were evacuated by a hastily assembled hotchpotch of any vessel that was capable of making the channel crossing and getting close enough to the beach for soldiers to clamber aboard these motorboats, fishing trawlers, sailing yachts and every other kind of boat you could imagine.

Land of Hope and Glory or God Save the King did not play as the soundtrack, nor did Rule Britannia or any other overtly patriotic clichéd music. Dunkirk wasn't plastered with Union Jacks or other national symbols. However, when the film is about to end, the soundtrack finishes with a subtle reboot of Edward Elgar's Variation IX "Nimrod" which is played grave. The orchestral piece is played so slowly, that few would be able to immediately identify the chords, name the work and its original composer.

I don't wear a poppy on Remembrance Sunday and I don't watch any of the television coverage, let alone attend the ceremony.

The British Legion has metamorphosed into something that's got an unpleasant association with racists, and is on the same spectrum as the British National Party (BNP), the English Defence League (EDL) and Britain First. I have a knee-jerk reaction that causes me to reject the flag-waving nationalism that inversely correlates with the economic prosperity of our once-great nation and empire. Nationalism breeds bigotry and xenophobia, which leads to hate crimes and racially motivated atrocities.

Of course, to feel guilty about slavery, the conquest of nations, genocidal massacres, imperial aggression and oppression of whole nations - hundreds of millions of people - is not something I can take any rational personal responsibility for. I wasn't alive when the British gunned down over 1,000 unarmed Sikh men, women & children, who were peacefully gathered in Jallianwalla Bagh public gardens. I protested against the invasion of Iraq. I've protested against every war that Britain has fought, since reaching voting age - when in theory, all wars became fought in my name, as a member of the UK electorate. In a democracy, the blood of the innocent is spilled on every citizen's hands.

However, something about my upbringing in Britain has clearly indoctrinated me, as I was so deeply emotionally moved by Dunkirk. Perhaps living by the sea and being a keen dinghy sailor, yachtsman and kitesurfer, has given me an appreciation for the treachery of the oceans and the difficulty of evacuating 326,000 soldiers, trapped on a beach, to a place of safety. I can directly relate to feelings of every yacht skipper towards the safety of their crew and the duty of care that is morally owed to anybody who is in need of assistance - the sea is a cruel and deadly place, and to return crew, passengers and shipwreck victims to safe dry land is a responsibility felt amongst all captains and skippers.

Watching a very British war movie, doesn't make me want to build a wall and turn the United Kingdom into a fortress; I don't want to deport every Muslim and Eastern European; I don't want to racially abuse people who weren't born in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland; I don't want to EVER say that "national security" is a justification for the infringement of the sovereign rights of another nation state, through war, invasion, dropping bombs, drone strikes and UN economic sanctions that cause disproportionate suffering to innocent civilians. I didn't rush out of the cinema, and immediately want to punch the first foreign-looking person that I saw.

I'm obviously conflicted. It was a wake-up call, that I've been so subtly indoctrinated, that I'm not even aware of my own Britishness. I hope that doesn't mean that I'm more of a closet racist than I care to admit to myself or others. Am I really just as bad as Trump supporters and neo-Nazis, beneath my cultured & educated, compassionate liberal metropolitan tolerant & inclusive veneer?

It's a dichotomy, but I feel like I can watch a historically accurate dramatisation of true events, and be emotionally moved, but yet also stay true to my values: condemnation of nationalism and Donald Trump's undiplomatic rhetoric; and peacefully protesting against war and opposing racism, wherever I see it.

 

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Political Participation

7 min read

This is a story about learning through doing...

Monster Raving Loony

Why would somebody try to enter politics? Because they think it's easy? Obviously, there are an immense amount of obstacles in the path of anybody who seeks to challenge the two-party status quo, where the electorate mistakenly believes that any vote cast for a smaller party is a wasted one. It's specifically because it's such a hard challenge - to learn the complexities of the UK political system and stand for a seat in parliament -  that one would wish to do it. I want to do it just to learn how it all works.

The Monster Raving Loony Party are quite helpful to would-be Members of Parliament who are lunatics. They've furnished me with a step-by-step guide, which I assumed would be quite useless for a long while. I thought I would have plenty of time to prepare for a local by-election or an early general election. Bloody Tories. I'm wrong-footed from the very beginning. They must have heard about my political ambitions.

I now need submit the names of 10 people on the electoral roll in my constituency, who are prepared to back me as a political candidate: Manic Grant of The Monster Raving Loony Party. Then, I can start campaigning for votes.

The Tories and Labour are membership-driven organisations, and as such, their MPs will have to campaign under their party's manifesto and be constrained by a national political agenda. Any Labour or Tory politician who offered to fight to reverse our exit from the EU, would be making false promises, given that both parties are committed to acting on the 1.9% majority, who wished for the UK to leave the European Union at the time of the last referendum.

Monster Raving Loonies are more akin to independent candidates, in that each prospective MP can have their own manifesto. Should the Loonies gain the majority of seats in the House of Commons, then the party would struggle to elect a leader and form a cabinet, let alone agree on anything and successfully govern. It's rumoured that the Loonies have only one election promise: to call another general election if they win a majority. However, that rumour is untrue.

There is a deposit that has to be paid and other electoral expenses, but most Loonies can enjoy a certain amount of free publicity, public goodwill and donations from bookmakers - many betting men and women like to have a flutter on the prospect that a Monster Raving Loony MP is elected, or even that the Loonies win the majority of seats.

Politics has moved towards the centre and money has flooded into Labour and the Conservative party, from wealthy donors hoping to buy themselves political favours or even a peerage. This money pays for national advertising campaigns, branding, PR, spin doctors and a whole host of other advantages not enjoyed by the smaller parties. The immense size, power and wealth of the entrenched top two parties, plus their bland centrist manifestos, has been a massive turn-off for many eligible voters, fuelling a general disinterest in politics.

So many - especially younger - people believe that politics has no bearing on their lives. This widely held view has proven to be a massive success for those in power, who have governed without the constraints of an electorate who connect their daily struggles in life with the failings of their government.

The EU referendum seemed to awaken politically dormant segments of the electorate and highlight a lot of ordinary people's frustrations with the political machinery. However, it was a binary vote on a single policy issue. It seems unlikely that many of the voters who otherwise considered themselves disinterested in politics, are now going to be active participants in the general election.

What is a general election anyway? A vote for a colour: red or blue? Certainly, a lot of money is spent telling you that there are only two horses worth backing and that a bet on any other is a waste of time & money. Nobody likes to be on the losing side, do they?

With UKIP's aim seemingly achieved, much of the populist vote will swing with the weather on the day. If it's nice and sunny, why not vote Tory? As the days grow longer and it starts to get warmer, things seem to be improving. The stats show that weather is the best predictor of whether the incumbent government retains power or not. June 8th ought to have a good chance of being a nice day.

Corbyn has successfully divided his party and Labour supporters, into true socialists who have principles and stand resolutely by their beliefs, and idiots who just want to seize power at any cost. "New Labour" is a synonym for "nothing to do with the labour movement or the working class". It's true that the working class haven't held much political power historically, so successful election campaigns have sought to appeal to middle class greed, fear and bourgeois aspirations.

Who could ever vote Liberal Democrat again, after they formed a coalition with the Tories? What a betrayal of trust! What an absolutely disastrous outcome! What unimaginable horror!

We desperately need political reform, with proportional representation and preferential voting. The current system actively discourages voting for a smaller party, lest they form a coalition with the Tories, like the Lib Dems did. Perhaps voting slips could just contain an "anybody except the Tories" box.

Through all this complexity and excessive media fixation on politics, we the people, feel overwhelmed and unable to participate in the democracy that supposedly serves our interests and concerns.

I write this with a broken wrist, while heavily medicated for the pain of torn muscle and ligaments in my leg. Trapped and damaged nerves are slowly repairing themselves, which is uncomfortable at the best of times, and agonising at others. My cash reserves dwindle rapidly and bankruptcy and destitution beckon. I desperately need to be working, but I might need to have an operation to repair damage in my leg. I can't imagine having to use a mouse and keyboard all day, five days a week, and commute to work on my damaged foot/ankle. I can't imagine having to concentrate on work, when I'm on so much medication.

I was looking forward to playing around in the UK's political system when the opportunity presented itself - which it now has - but I've not yet even been able to deal with the more pressing concern: getting back to work before I run out of money.

So, it looks like professional politicians win again. I'm too embroiled in the struggle of daily existence to participate in the political games. Only those privileged few - especially public schoolboys - are able to involve themselves in the matters that affect the lives of every UK citizen. It seems like a great injustice and a perversion of what democracy is supposed to be about.

Like many of our wealthy professional politicians, I have been away from the seat of power, enjoying an Easter holiday. Perhaps I will be sufficiently enthused by politics when I get back to London later this afternoon - closer to the Westminster bubble - to overcome my depressed hopelessness. It would certainly solve my lack of a job, if I was elected as a Member of Parliament.

 

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A Brief History Lesson

19 min read

This is a story about conflict...

Partition

Israelis, are you fucking colour blind? The United Nations partitioned Palestine, to create the state of Israel in 1947. Stay behind your fucking border and stop killing Palestinian children with your American planes, bombs, guns, tanks, helicopters and every other piece of advanced military hardware that you have, to terrorise poor people who only have sticks and stones to defend themselves.

Israel, you have nuclear weapons, so the Arab countries that are in your proximity have a right to have them too, to defend themselves. You can't continue to bully and fuck over the poor nations in the region. You've got your territory. It's time to stop being such genocidal maniacs and total arseholes. You're the fucking reason why we have terrorists, along with your American sponsors.

Quit your fucking boo-hoo-hoo about the holocaust, and crying "ANTI SEMITE" whenever the international community criticises your atrocious violation of United Nation resolutions and your brutal assault on your impoverished neighbours. The Jews aren't the only group to have suffered a genocide. Check your fucking history books and have some fucking humility. Ever heard of the Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian Genocide? Quit your fucking self-pity and stay the fuck within your borders. Get the fuck out of Palestine and stop killing children.

Map

Can you see lines on a map? Can you read? Does the name of that place you're bombing or invading have the name of your country on it, or somebody else's? Why do you think that these places have existed for long enough to have borders and names? Do you think it's because some kind of peace and stability in the region has been achieved: an uneasy truce?

So, Saddam probably gassed some Kurds. So fucking what? Boo fucking hoo. Sadam kept a lid on the Sunni vs. Shia bullshit, and kept the fucking Kurds at bay. The goddam Kurds are the thorn in everybody's side: just ask the Turkish. They're like those fucking nutjobs who think Cornwall should be independent from the UK. Bunch of nutters.

The Assads aren't exactly chuffed about American troops occupying the Middle East. How would you like it if some bunch of trigger-happy jumped up twats decided to live in part of your fucking house? Hafaz el-Assad was quite successful at getting the Americans to fuck off. Bashar al-Assad was doing quite a decent job of building a modern Syria, until neighbouring Iraq got illegally invaded and the whole fucking region was thrown into chaos, allowing 'rebels' to have a stab at trying to grab power through violence and coup attempts.

You can dig up dirt on any government, which is trying to maintain stability and control. The longer the region is left to stabilise, the less brutal the government has to be. I'm no fan of the Tory regime, with the evil dictator Theresa May. I would be locked up as a political prisoner - persecuted - for my right to rebel against the government by getting a gun and trying to take power by force. How can people be expected to live under such appalling conditions?

Afghan

Afghanistan. Ever heard of this shitting place? I'm sure you've heard tales about how easy it's been for countries to take it over and control it. There's lots of history about how the British found it really easy there, and definitely didn't get totally massacred. Then the Russians were there and they had an absolutely wonderful time and didn't have any problems at all. Finally, the Americans decided that they'd have a go at this super soft target, because of the simplicity of the task of conquering this country with a long history of being easily dominated by massive military might. Yes, history has definitely shown that massive numbers of British, Russian and American troops, with all their military hardware, can easily control this strategically important country on the Silk Road. Nobody ever got their arses kicked... presumably. I'd need to check the history books, but I'm sure that it's written down somewhere that this is a totally cool place to invade.

You want to move goods from East to West, but there are only so many passes through the mountains where it's possible to get truckloads of whatever it is you're transporting, to be traded in the Middle East and Europe via Afghanistan. Maybe you've heard of the Khyber Pass and the Silk Road. It's pretty strategically important to have land-based supply chains.

Afghanistan looks innocuous enough on the map, but it's actually super important for anybody who doesn't want to be forced to deal with the Ruskies in the North.

Libya map

You know sometimes you hear the name of a country and you think "I really want to bomb that country, just because I don't like the name". Sometimes you think "god damn, there's a country with some really nice infrastructure and a thriving economy... we really should bomb the shit out of some of their stuff". That's what Americans think when they hear Libya.

In 1986, three people were killed in a nightclub bombing in Berlin - which is in Germany by the way - so the obvious response was for the Americans, who live nearly 5,000 miles away from Germany and over 6,000 miles from Libya, was to bomb the shit out of the Libyans.

Iran map

What about this poor bastard, Iran? The country that the US just won't leave the fuck alone. Oil rich and with a highly educated population, Iran has managed to get close to being able to defend itself, despite the US's attempt to use the monarchy to control the population for their own advantage. When the Shah started backing his Arab allies, especially as part of OPEC, the West had no more use for this puppet, and he was driven into exile. Ever since then, endless boo-hoo-hoo propaganda bullshit about how awful it is that now rich twats in Tehran have to act with some cultural sympathy, is fed to us in the West, while internally the country prospers as best as it can, despite bullshit sanctions designed to stop Iran from being able to stand up to the bullying imperialists, and be a strong Arab ally in the Middle East, to counter the disproportionate force of the genocidal Israelis.

In short: the world is a safer place if Iran gets nukes, because then the Israelis might have to stop acting like such utter cunts. If the Yanks and the Israelis stop pissing off the Arabs and destabilising the whole of the Middle East, then terrorism goes away and we all have a nice peaceful co-existence.

Basically, history since the end of World War II pretty much goes like this:

  • State of Israel created so that persecuted jews have somewhere to call home
  • Israelis start being right bunch of cunts, with American weapons, and pissing off all their fucking neighbours and threatening them with nukes and stuff
  • Invasion of Middle East and illegal occupation of countries, pisses of some really poor people
  • Americans and American-armed Israelis start killing Arab children and generally acting like fucking Nazis
  • Americans jam their thumb up the arse of the Arabs and smear pooh all over their face, just to piss them off
  • Israelis keep leaving human faeces on the doorstep of every Arab home
  • Eventually, the incredibly poor people who don't have any weapons start chucking stones at the occupying forces, with their body armour and tanks.
  • The Yanks and the Israelis start ethnic cleansing, blowing people and shit up and generally pursuing a policy of terrorism.
  • A tiny handful of extremely pissed off Arabs blow up some planes, nightclubs, army barracks and other targets, in attempt to get the invading and occupying forces to fuck off out of their countries.
  • The Israelis decide to invade and occupy parts of Egypt and Syria, just because they fucking can, because the Americans are backing them and they've got far superior weaponry. They even threaten to nuke the Egyptians.
  • The Americans invade and blow everything to fucking pieces and completely destroy all peace and stability in the region.
  • Some US government shit that shouldn't have even been in Libya gets attacked. Big deal. Get the fuck out of Benghazi - check the map... it's in Libya, not the United States.
  • The Americans blow up a convoy allowing the Libyan leader to be lynched, after already destabilising the whole place by selling guns to both sides.
  • "Regime change" is a synonym for "unleashing an unbelievably awful power struggle".
  • All the fucking nutters that Gadaffi, Saddam and the Assads kept under control, start fucking up the peace and stability of the region.
  • Iran is aggresively and relentlessly fucked over, because they're trying to defend themselves from American-sponsored Israeli aggression.
  • The policy of supporting the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine and Golem Heights in Syria, allowing the Israelis to threaten the Middle East with their nukes and generally act like total Nazis, and whinge about anti-Semitism, while committing atrocities, continues to aggravate the Arab world
  • Even a white middle-class British man who was born in Wales and grew up in Oxford, can sympathise with how fucked over the whole Arab world is by the Americans and the Israelis, and can understand why they would fight back by throwing stones or even suicide bombing
  • Every fucking nutjob thinks their particular ethnic region should be an independent country, even though they couldn't organise a piss up in a brewery, let alone agree how to divide the land and self-govern. The Kurds attempt to fuck Turkey and Syria up. Various religious nutters try to enforce their bullshit patriarchy on whole developed countries, because they're not getting enough sex.

You could say it's all about oil, but in actual fact, all those petrodollars had built some amazing infrastructure and raised living standards exceptionally high in the Middle East. The middle classes were thriving. Educational standards were amazing. The 'developing' world was threatening to become a bit too developed. The Yanks decided to bomb and destabilise, invade and occupy, until the whole of North Africa, the Middle East and the Gulf states were totally fucked, and collapsed into internecine conflict.

In 1973, the world got a very clear message from the Arab world: don't fuck with us, because we can turn off the oil taps. The Arab world asked to be treated with some fucking respect, because they wield some power too. The Yanks didn't like that very much.

The Brits had done a decent enough job of chopping up the Middle East and installing some rulers who would give the region some stability. OK, so it was stability achieved by machine-gunning large numbers of religious nutjobs, like the pesky Wahhabists. OK, so a few militant Kurds needed to be liquidated. Call it collateral damage. You can't argue with the fact that it was at least peaceful after World War II, thanks to the Brits understanding the history and culture of the region very well.

The Americans are a bit stupid when it comes to the definition of terrorism. When the IRA would blow up a pub or a hotel or something like that, that wasn't terrorism. When the Israelis would terrorise all the impoverished people in the Middle East using American high-tech weaponry, that wasn't terrorism.

Israel and the Americans got annoyed that somebody threw a rock at them that harmlessly bounced off their kevlar body armour, so they decided they'd better take over the management of the Middle East, by bombing the shit out of everybody, killing civilians without giving a fuck and getting rid of 'regimes' that kept the whole region stable.

Obviously, it pissed the Yanks off that they were asked nicely to respect other countries and treat them with decency. Obviously, it pissed the Yanks off that they couldn't just take everything they wanted, whenever they wanted it, while the whole world starves in squalor and they live in opulent luxury. After the indignity of having to pay slightly more for their petrol in the 1970s, they decided to destroy an entire continent's living standards and directly and indirectly kill millions of people, just because they wanted to feel like a "big guy".

More of the history of the Middle East and North Africa is about the Brits and the Americans being able to sell weapons and supply the Israeli military, than it is about oil. Oil only enters the equation, because the cartel of OPEC pisses off arrogant Americans, who think they're the boss of everything and need not show an ounce of respect or diplomacy towards anybody.

So, if you were wondering why we have to suffer Nazis like Nigel Farage, Donald Trump, Geert Wilders, Marine Le Pen and other truly deplorable twats who threaten to destroy the peaceful world we've been able to enjoy since the last world war, then the answer is: because America has totally screwed up the Middle East, with Britain tagging along for the ride, even though us Brits actually stabilised the region in the first place.

There's so much disproportionate revenge from the United States, using weapons of mass destruction. You kill one of their soldiers who's invaded your country and is occupying your land, and they'll drop an atomic bomb on hundreds of thousands of your civilians. That's the kind of bloodthirsty evil shit of a country that we're dealing with: a bully that's armed to the teeth, and will inflict horrible death and suffering using any excuse.

If you want to know why we can't all get along, why we have all those security checks at airports and we're scared of Arab-looking men, it's because we fucking deserve a good kicking. We've been part of America's global campaign to be an absolute dick to everybody with a brown face, kill mind-boggling numbers of innocent people and cause unimaginable suffering, in the interests of imperial arrogance.

How much, exactly, do you want to have? The 1950s sounded pretty awesome, and the 1960s too. Why not stop there? Why go marauding all over the globe, fucking up other people's shit? Why on earth does America need to flex its muscles and bully impoverished nations?

The Brits seemed to develop a smidgen of humility, and stop pissing the Irish off so much. Ireland is Ireland. The British invasion and occupation of Ireland is something we should apologise for and be ashamed of. You can see what a bad attitude the Brits had, when you look at the Argentinian Malvinas, which fucking arrogant Brits seem to think are somewhere off the coast of Cornwall and are called the Falkland Islands.

Empires are one thing, but fucking with the stability of a region is quite another. The American quest to fuck up Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya and just about anywhere else that's peaceful and prosperous, but doesn't buy much Coca Cola and McDonalds, is the reason why we have these 'national security threats'.

So, 52% of the UK population are intent on fucking up the unity of a peaceful Europe, because they don't like immigrants and refugees, and they're fucking paranoid about terrorism. But think about why people might want to hurt us, or might want to come here: because their home countries got fucked up by us, as part of an American-led campaign to keep the poor in their place. Americans can't feel prosperous unless they're making somebody else suffer.

A billionaire reality-TV star, who's completely useless as a businessman, having been bankrupt many times, has now been elected leader of the 'free' world, by being a racist; a Nazi. How did this come about? What kind of world has resulted in building massive walls, revoking visas and banning visitors from certain countries? How on earth does any of this not sound like we're just repeating the mistakes that led to world wars?

This is not democracy in action. This is awful. The marginal Brexit victory, and the technical victory of Donald Trump - he got less votes overall - does not show the will of the people. It shows the disgusting attitude of the people. These weren't votes... this was an opinion poll that showed that there are a terrifying number of racist cunts in our midst.

Democracy and capitalism are not only failing, but they're giving credibility to awful things. There's no way I can respect a vote to abuse immigrants. There's no way I can respect the portion of the electorate who want to do awful things to their fellow human beings.

Try to remember that the Nazis didn't take their power by force. Try to remember that we all have an individual responsibility to vote with our conscience, not with malice, xenophobia and bigotry. It takes effort to be kind and humanitarian, but we have a responsibility to act with decency; both collectively and individually. It's a terrible thing when a gang of thugs starts throwing their weight around, and thinking it's OK because there's safety in numbers.

We may well find that democracy is completely flawed, when people turn nasty, because they're protected by the anonymity of the voting booth. Imagine if there was a permanent public record of how you voted: you could be held jointly responsible for the damage, suffering and deaths you caused through your nastiness, thinking that you could get away with it. Imagine being prosecuted for a crime against humanity, because you voted for something so evil and selfish, that was harmful to so many people.

It's our job as citizens of democratic countries to curb the warmongering ambitions of our political leaders. Every prime minister and president wants a war to call their own. It's our collective responsibility to muzzle these dangerous dogs. These wars should not be fought in our name, even if some of us are stupid enough to be swayed by the propaganda.

Take another look at recent history, and try to look at it without the Hollywood bullshit, that tells us the world is made up of good guys and bad guys. Why don't you find out what it was really like to live in Iraq under Saddam, Syria under Assad, or Libya under Gadaffi, before these places were torn to shreds by forces unleashed when America and a few allies - like us Brits - attacked, invaded, bombed, drone struck and generally destabilised.

Take another look at why the 'bad guys' - who are far fewer than you might imagine - want to 'kill us'. Think about motive. Think about what we might have done to other countries, that makes our own countries a target for retaliation. Think about what injustices we perpetuate, oppressing people. What can these unarmed victims do, in the face of these invading armies who have all the latest high-tech weaponry? 

Re-tell the story, without bleating on about the holocaust - it was a long time ago, by the way - and painting this demonic figure of 'radical islam'. Let's hear the story about illegal invasions, occupation, aggression of militarily superior nations against impoverished nations with limited ability to defend themselves. Let's hear the story about the bullies beating up anybody who's advancing and improving: keeping things unfair; unbalanced.

If having nukes means that you act with kindness, restraint and generosity, then maybe it's OK if only a few nations have them: countries that set a good example for the rest. However, having nukes seems to make a country act with aggression, arrogance, cruelty and a thirst for world domination. Therefore, the only solution is for everybody to have nukes, so nobody gets bullied. The other solution would be for every nation to give up all their nukes, but that ain't ever going to happen.

Anyway, everything looks like it's about to blow. Everywhere I look, things are fucked. Greece and Italy are in big economic trouble. Turkey is so strategically important, but also in the middle of a massive power struggle. Iran is exercising its rights as a sovereign country to develop weapons to defend itself, but America doesn't need much of an excuse to start wars and fuck countries up. Iran's probably one of the last stable proper Islamic republic democracies in the Middle East: the Iranians voted "Yankee go home". As the weather warms up, the huge movement of migrants will start again. The French are pissed off with having everybody trying to get to the UK, fucking up Calais. A wave of right-wing Nazism threatens a clean-sweep across the globe: Le Pen and Wilders joining the likes of Farage and Trump, in a world that thinks that racism is suddenly OK now. All it's going to take is one trigger event - a stock market slump, economic calamity or a major act of terrorism - and a massive domino effect will be triggered. Take a look in your history books and tell me what's happened before when people feel poor and insecure. Fuck the stats: the reality is that most families are just about managing, and it's fucking stressful. Something's gotta give.

Debt levels are unsustainable, suicides are soaring. All the omens are very bad. There's definitely a whiff of the 1930s about what's going on, with hints of another Great Depression and the rise of fucking insane nationalist Nazi parties. It all makes me feel rather nauseated.

I reckon we've probably got one chance to step back from the brink of disaster, but nobody seems to be capable of saying "ooops, I was wrong. I made a mistake". Nobody seems to want to say "look, I know that so-and-so won on a technicality, but really, I don't think our democracy should be run by a bunch of racist cunts".

Everybody's too busy just about managing to be able to understand what's really going on and act with some human decency, rather than having our emotional buttons pushed by the very people who have exploited us and pushed us to breaking point.

Why are you not more worried about history judging you to be one of the bad guys, than taking a clear stand and fighting for what's obviously the right humanitarian, compassionate thing to do?

 

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An Essay in Support of Childish Writing

11 min read

This is a story about orotund pontification...

A plus

Please excuse my magniloquence, but I'm attempting to brow-beat you into submitting to my intellectual superiority. My ostentatious language is not intended to communicate, but to intimidate. The purpose of my education was not the pursuit of knowledge, but the ratification of my pre-eminence. The plebeians' obmutescence and the academic elites' hegemony is the natural order of things. The lower orders should be seen and not heard.

Our rulers and their mandarins are publicly schooled - Charterhouse, Eton, Harrow, Rugby, Shrewsbury, Westminster and Winchester - before studying PPE at Oxford. Inherited wealth, the nepotism of political dynasties and the inside track - knowing how the corridors of power function - means that we are governed by the elite of the elite, not by our peers.

Education and publishing are dominated by sycophantic courtiers - the landed gentry - reflecting our aristocracy's vested interest in culture and society being fixed and unchanging. Dead languages and classical chamber music are fetishised.

In order to prevent the working class from getting ahead many professions have overtly defended themselves through the use of Latin instead of English. Studying the classics will set you in good stead for medicine and law, although the majority of your patients or clients will not speak Ancient Greek.

Like a virulent disease, the self-interest of those in power, causes every aspect of our society to be shaped to reflect the values of the ruling class. The 'correct' answers in an examination are the ones that parrot conventional wisdom, maintaining the status quo. The 'correct' use of language is the most formal, not the colloquial.

Little by little, the self confidence to freely express your thoughts and feelings, is eroded by a hierarchy that wishes to clip your wings. It's a free country, provided you've attained the prerequisite level of education and write only in a manner which pleases your superiors.

As a little game, sometimes I posh it up a bit. Sometimes I talk like a public schoolboy and do you know what happens? Genuine posh people ask "where did you go to school?" as if I was one of them.

"Your evidence is anecdotal" I hear you say.

What about the Castilian lisp?

"Insufficient evidence"

What about the fact that people watch the Queen's speech or stand for the national anthem? What about the fact that people follow the life of Kim Kardashian?

Wherever we turn, we see ordinary people obsessed with the private lives of the ruling elites - the aristocracy, plutocracy, oligarchy and vapid celebrities - imitating their affectations.

Didn't you fantasise about being prime minister, marrying a prince or living in a castle, when you were a child? You still have those dreams today, but you pretend that you don't. Your desire to be special - number one - has been corralled into some specialist area. Maybe you're the best fudge packer in the factory, or maybe you got a 2:1 degree from a former polytechnic, but your creativity and energy was channelled into something that makes you feel like a king or queen in your little fiefdom.

You read Harry fucking Potter, didn't you?

There's a certain joyful lightness when you read something that's well written and not just written to obfuscate any meaning and stupefy everybody except for your elitist Oxbridge chums.

Why must we struggle through the supposed great works of literature, which are a crime against the enjoyment of reading? Why must we be told at every juncture, that we just don't understand how complex the world is and that we should leave it to the experts, because they know best.

It's extremely easy to come up with exceptions to any rule. It's extremely easy to pick holes in any theory or model. It's extremely easy to find areas where a person's worldview is incomplete. It's extremely easy to be the smug critic. This is the role of academia: to undermine and discredit any challengers, who threaten our dogmatic rulers.

We funnel our children through a system where they learn to kiss the arses of their teachers, lecturers, professors, Ph.D. supervisors, viva voce examiners and those who award tenured professorships. For anything to be printed, it must pander and conform to the preconceived notions of an editor or publisher. Only the most obedient servants will rise to prominence, because they are most complicit and compliant with the will of the ruling elite.

Nothing ever changes - for the better - because of the inherent homogeny created by our education system, which feeds into a political system predisposed to select a public schoolboy - born with a silver spoon in his mouth - with an Oxbridge degree, instead of a normal person who actually knows what it's like to be an average UK citizen.

We aren't choosing our brightest minds to help with the challenge of building a better society for all its members. We're choosing the very worst kind of people: snobs who think that dead languages and chamber music are culturally important.

There's a big difference between being anti-intellectual and being pro-ignorance. Being a great thinker is about having a brilliant mind, not about being able to follow a well-trodden path with your fellow privileged brethren, steered by your sharp-elbowed mother.

We've built walled gardens where spoiled middle-class children can strut and swank, safe from criticism that they're far removed from the real world. We've built robust defences to insulate the intelligentsia from responding to valid critique: only the views of other academic elites will be dignified with a response, and out of courtesy and wilful ignorance, nobody dares to burst anybody else's bubble.

Commentary and satirical magazines - Private Eye and The Spectator, for example - as well as the 'free' press gives the impression that there are some checks and balances. In fact, to have the good fortune to come under the critical gaze of one of these newspapers, is to feel as though you have been given a seal of approval: further endorsement of the importance of your good work.

What - pray tell - does the person who makes your lunch think of your job? Who cares. I doubt they can even string a sentence together.

There's an automatic filter, that rejects anything that sounds a bit common, you know?

On the lead up to the EU referendum, I noticed that social media was awash with rather over-zealous use of punctuation marks, capital letters, as well as a great deal of confusion over common homophones.

"That's unreadable" I heard you say.

Really? Does the use of a greengrocer's apostrophe or mixing up your "you're" and your "their" with your "they're" and "there" really make something unreadable? Does it really alter the meaning if you write "less" when you should have written "fewer"? You must be very stupid if you can't read something and see past a couple of typos.

Writing accessibly doesn't mean dumbing down. It's perfectly possible to set aside your arrogance and write in a manner in which you know you are much more likely to be understood, without a scramble for the dictionary. Are you really so insecure that you need to turn your writing into a demonstration of your extensive vocabulary? Save it for The Times crossword.

The fetish for institutionally issued 'qualifications' has led us to the situation where the vast majority of people are turned off by politics, philosophy and literature. The condescending manner in which our intellectual elites talk, has led to their rejection by the masses. Our finest minds have unwittingly - and stupidly - played straight into the hands of the populists, who write and speak to impress their audience, not their fellow elitists.

Politicians canvas public opinion, so that they can win votes, but they turn to their advisors - Whitehall, think tanks and academia - when they come to rule. Political parties, media and the think tanks are all funded by commercial interests - influencing public opinion by sheer weight of noise. A rising crescendo of contradictory opinion on social media was drowned out by the views of a handful of academic elites, with their puppet strings pulled by those who control the purse.

It offended me the other day when the philosopher A C Grayling wrote that ordinary people are "narcissistic" when they publish their opinions. It was tantamount to writing "STFU, plebs".

We need to have another Gutenberg moment, where ordinary people can finally overcome the barriers that stop them from being heard. Blogging platforms like Wordpress go some of the way, but mainstream media, academia and politics are doing an excellent job of marginalising and discrediting the groundswell of public opinion on social media. The constant bombardment of "fake news" stories in the [non-fake] news seems like an attempt to get us to disregard the opinion of our peers, in favour of the approved opinions printed by newspaper tycoons.

We need to change our society - from boardrooms dominated by wealthy old men, government dominated by privileged elites and publishing dominated by academics - to a society that's representative. I'm not championing ignorance and lies. I'm not suggesting that brain surgery should be performed by amateurs. I'm saying that snobbery and elitism has reached the end of the road and everything that's good in the world will get torn apart by destructive forces, unless we listen to the proletariat: they outnumber the cruel and condescending ruling class.

"My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge" -- Isaac Asimov

This quote seems to neatly encapsulate the battle between the stupid & ignorant and a class of people who know better than everybody else. Certainly, the letters after your name tell you that you're a cut above the rest don't they? You studied hard at university, so you must be more knowledgeable than those dimwitted fools who didn't attain the same standard of education as you, right?

As I wrote before, being anti-intellectual is not the same as being pro-ignorance.

Is it possible, that people are sick of being voiceless, unrepresented and talked down to by people who are so privileged that they have absolutely no idea what ordinary day-to-day life is like for most people? Is it possible that people are sick of being told that geopolitical complexities are beyond their comprehension and they should just leave things to the people who crashed the economy and started a bunch of wars, destabilising the world.

Is the desire to simplify problems and put things into terms and language that can be universally understood, the wrong approach? In my experience, jargon and impenetrable complexity exists only to justify pointless jobs and make talentless twits seem indispensable. If I was going to sack one person, would it be the front-line worker or the middle-manager? Is that a hard decision to make?

All this talk about facts and expert analysis: has it truly added any value?

Of course I want my bridges to be built by civil engineers, not amateurs, but I don't want career politicians, political commentators and intellectual masturbation.

The whole point about democracy is that the people govern themselves, through elected representatives. If our government and our media is not representative, because it's stuffed full of elitists, then we've completely failed to create a democratic society. It's not like a bunch of knuckle-dragging ignoramuses are saying they can do a better job of flying the plane than the pilot. It's literally that democracy has been perverted by the plutocracy.

Have a look at this list of autodidacts and ask yourself if they're ignorant fools who've contributed nothing to humanity.

Formal education, an obsession with conformity and the rejection of ordinary people's opinions, on the basis that they are stupid and ignorant, has led us to obscene wealth disparity and untold human misery. The reason why you don't believe it's true is because you're surrounded by people of the same socioeconomic class and you disregard the 'unreadable' comments of the great unwashed masses. The peasants are revolting.

Unless we give ordinary people a voice, they will never be able to develop their own philosophy for the 21st century, explore political ideas and challenge the plutocratic interests that seek to enslave them.

Until we end intellectual snobbery, we are on a collision-course with a popular uprising that will throw the baby out with the bathwater.

 

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Handling Setbacks

5 min read

This is a story about inevitable disappointment...

Letter to Mr Grant

Oh no! Bad news!

Time to press the FUCK IT button and self destruct. I just can't take shit like this any longer. Life is one long string of let-downs and anticlimaxes. Life is like being fucked up the arse with a red hot poker, until the day you die.

But, isn't this what separates the winners from the losers: how do you handle the bumps in the road? Do you fall to pieces, or do you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back on the horse?

How much can you take before you inevitably conclude that the world's got it in for you? A life of happiness and contentment just aren't on the cards. You're consigned to your fate, which is misery, failure and then death.

You could try to be philosophical and look for a silver lining in every cloud. Maybe the reason why you didn't get that job was because it wasn't meant to be: there's a better job waiting for you just around the corner. Maybe the reason why those shitty things happened was to toughen you up for the challenges ahead.

You could try to be pragmatic; realistic. Give up and get a cat, because you're going to be single and unemployed forever. Nobody wants you. The world's trying to send you a message and that message is crystal clear: fuck off and die.

We seem determined to build an adversarial zero-sum world, where our lives are dominated by stress and rejection. Instead of cooperating, collaborating and sharing, we want to have winners and losers. Instead of everybody having what they need, we want to create a world of haves and have-nots.

I read something the other day suggesting that participation medals for coming last place in a running race were a terrible idea, because they made victory taste less sweet. Supposedly, we'll be less hungry to dominate our peers if we start doing away with the spirit of competition. Yes. Yes, that's the point.

"That's loser talk" I hear you say.

Yes, if you think you're pretty great at something, you can get a bit carried away, can't you?

Remember: there can only be one ultimate winner, in a competitive world.

Taken to its ultimate conclusion, there'll be one person who has all the money, all the sexual partners, all the power. There'll be one person who's the best at sport, music, art, acting, writing, science, adding up numbers, memorising facts, spelling. Anything that you think you're good at and you enjoy... you'll find out you're inferior. Trust me, you're not going to like it.

You might think you're a big fish in your small pond, but remember there are 7 billion people crawling all over the surface of the planet, trying to fuck each other over. Your delusions of grandeur will be shattered and you'll find out that you were simply being used by powerful people, to further their ambitions.

You might think that competition is natural. You might think that survival of the fittest means that humans are evolved to fuck each other over, but in actual fact the success of our species is cooperation not competition.

We have baked adversarial practices into our society. We have the government and the opposition in politics. We have the prosecution and the defence in law. We have legal and illegal; right and wrong; black and white. We have native and immigrant; us and them. We pay our sports stars obscene amounts of money and we have football hooliganism in support of our favourite team.

This is a mistake.

The competition is with nature, not with each other. A hurricane will flatten our houses, so we should cooperate to build stronger buildings. A drought will leave us all thirsty, so we should cooperate to dig a well. Crop failures will leave us all starving, so we should cooperate to store our grain. Lions and tigers will eat us, so we should cooperate to warn each other of approaching danger.

So far as I can see, all the misery and suffering in the world is a man-made problem, because we refuse to rein in the horrible power-hungry and greedy aspects of humanity. Why do we celebrate celebrity, wealth and status? Instead, we should punish and shun the freakishly vain and selfish people, who consume and hoard more than their fair share. Democracy has been perverted to serve the interests of a few rich people, instead of the masses who toil in the factories, fields and build the houses.

If you ever wonder why bad shit happens to you and why life is such a struggle, the answer is fairly easy. In an adversarial competitive system, everybody has to suffer so that one person can be the 'winner'.

I'm now playing a waiting game. I'm clinging on with my fingernails, just waiting for the whole house of cards to collapse and the proletariat to rise up and strike down their cruel masters. Humanity has been enslaved by capitalism for too long. It doesn't work for 99% of humanity, and that's fucked up.

 

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Feedback Loop

9 min read

This is a story about reality checks...

Valves

When you're amplifying a signal - for example, a microphone connected to a public address loudspeaker - then you have to be careful that you don't get the microphone too close to the speakers, or else you will get horrible feedback.

My blog is read by friends who've known me for years & years, but I very rarely meet up with them. Sometimes I get an email or a Facebook message, and it's jaw-dropping that they understand me and what I've been going through so well. The usual trite platitudes (e.g. "why don't you try getting more exercise?") are certainly applicable to anybody and it does show that you care, but it's a wonderful experience when I communicate with friends and they've got all this background info on me.

Regarding my blog, only very rarely will anybody ever present an alternative opinion, or challenge me. I think I have a fairly persuasive manner of putting a point across, and I write with a great deal of certainty; forcefulness. It must be somewhat intimidating: the idea of potentially entering into debate with me.

A strange thing starts to happen when you think about things in isolation too much. Because I work with boolean algebra for a living, I start to think of everything as binary: there's a right answer and a wrong answer. I can use a lot of deductive reasoning to arrive at a set of beliefs that evolved purely from logic - a priori - as opposed to being shaped by experiences, discussions and human relationships. I labour the same points, over and over again, becoming ever more certain in my convictions and better and better at defending my position; entrenched in my stance.

It's quite satisfying to present your thesis quod erat demonstrandum.

Weirdly, if nobody calls you out on anything, then you assume that you must have made a valid unassailable point. When somebody does call you out on something, then things get a bit more fun, because you have to decide whether to dig into your trenches and defend, or whether to concede the validity of an alternative viewpoint that had not been considered.

I used to have a certain attitude that could be surmised as follows:

"Fuck you. You're wrong"

Once you have constructed a fairly infallible piece of logical reasoning, being told "no, I disagree" is the most frustrating thing in the world. You can't just disagree with something. It's point/counterpoint. You need to make your own reasoned counterargument. Contradiction is just stupidity. It's very frustrating to deal with people who don't even realise that they're complete idiots.

I deal with idiots for a job: they're called computers. If I tell a computer to jump off a cliff, it will do it. Computers just follow my instructions to the letter. Computers follow my logic with 100% precision. Being a computer programmer quickly teaches you how to logically reason things, leaving few loopholes. If you leave loopholes, these are called 'bugs'. Bugs will cause rockets to explode, trains to derail or aeroplanes to crash.

And so, a computer programmer arrives in the real world, and they're experts at spotting cognitive dissonance. "Fucking immigrants, coming over here, taking our jobs"... but, but, but you're an immigrant, stutters the programmer, incredulous that somebody could be so stupid as to not see the flaw in what they're saying.

Anyway, I'm not even part of the debate. I'm watching from the sidelines, writing my manifesto; proselytising my theology; broadcasting my dogma. Nobody is questioning the validity of anything I'm saying. Nobody is challenging my assumptions. Nobody has yet said "you're wrong, and this is why...".

Even to say the word manifesto sends a shiver down my spine. I fear that I might have gone mad. There are so many vilified people and policies, linked to a manifesto. In Britain we are not particularly terrified of communism. Being called "red", "Marxist" or "Trot" is not even pejorative, to me. However, if you were to point out that Anders Breivik also wrote a manifesto, and so did Hitler, then I start to feel a little defensive.

But, how the hell are you supposed to develop a political ideology, if you don't write it down? If you can't express a set of values and ideals for the betterment of humanity, then what? Am I only allowed to select from a menu of just a few mainstream choices? Of course, this is what party politics wants. The idea is that we should vote for party, not policy. If we voted for policies that we wanted as citizens, we'd be getting dangerously close to having a democracy.

If voting made any difference, they wouldn't let us do it.

I worry like crazy about how isolated and weird I'm getting, honing my ideas and developing my system of values, without very often discussing what I'm thinking over a pint of beer, with a good friend in the pub. Obviously, one must be mindful that Mein Kampf was conceived while Hitler was in hospital, and started when he was incarcerated. It's mad to speak this aloud, but I'm always asking myself: "am I more like Hitler or Jesus".

Christian values are actually pretty cool. Forget the ten commandments, because, I mean, rape isn't even on there. Graven images: no frigging way! Rape: no problem.

Jesus Christ was an awesome dude. He basically founded the Occupy Wall Street movement when he turned over the tables of the money lenders in Herod's Temple. Does that make him an anti-semite though? Could that have been a hate crime, given that it was an attack on Jewish businessmen, in a holy Jewish temple. Certainly a controversy worth pondering.

Then you get to thinking that Jesus Christ, The Prophet Mohammed and Adolf Hitler, all thought that earning interest should be abolished. Hitler was a socialist, as was Stalin, but then so was Tony Blair and he started an illegal war that ended up killing hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis. It's all so damn confusing.

To my mind, if you have a political system that's successful for the vast majority of people, the educated bourgeois can go to hell. To hell with your freedom of speech. To hell with your attempts to pervert government to better serve your own needs, at the expense of the majority. Go buy yourself a desert island if you want to run things in your own selfish interests.

Eventually, I arrive at the decision that it might be better to just write a utopian novel that merely disguises my manifesto. It should be no surprise that I've extensively read Orwell and Huxley. However, the dystopian novels seem to have become instruction manuals for our governments. Perhaps novels are powerfully influential, in all the wrong ways.

I love the Roman idea of the forum. The Internet discussion forum is a wonderful invention. The online communities are a lovely place to inhabit.

My writing and debating skils - or lack thereof - were honed in the arena of the online discussion forum. In a way, I did a lot of growing up, by reading, writing, trolling, debating and very often being shot down in flames.

Now, I have brought those writing skills, and the skill of making a reasoned argument expressed in a succinct and persuasive manner, to bear in the world of blogging.

I deliberately chose a non-Wordpress platform, because I wasn't looking for yet another blog and to connect with yet more bloggers. All the bloody comments sections are filled with other bloggers, link building back to their own blogs. It's such a ridiculous echo-chamber of people all clamouring for readers. How can you compose your thoughts and reach conclusions, when embryonic ideas are critiquéd so immediately?

I could have started to write on Medium, and I'm thrilled that my friend whose startup powers this blog, is now working for them. It might sound like intellectual snobbery, but there is a higher standard of writing and comments on Medium, than anywhere else on the 'Net right now.

But really, the biggest win for my blog has been to inform a bunch of my old friends from my discussion forum days, what the hell happened to me when I "went off the rails". It's been an opportunity to defend myself against malicious rumours. It's been an opportunity for me to ward off the shame and sense of failure, for things that happened.

Finally, the nicest thing happened the other day: I met up with a friend at the pub, and he reassured me that I'm still the same person who he knew, all those years ago, before the whole horrid mess in the middle. It's an immense relief to know your personality hasn't changed, your brain hasn't been damaged and the person that friends once knew, still lives and breathes and hasn't been replaced by some demonic creature.

Life is pretty hard without feedback, but equally, it's been useful to write at length without the debate that so ground me down and made me unwell before. It's a horrible thing, to be so misunderstood, and to feel like the people who are supposed to care about you are working against you. It's so hard to argue with multiple people at once. It's so hard to defend yourself against a mob.

Publishing is super powerful. Publishing is like a megaphone, to shout down the bullies.

However, the occasional reality check has very high value.

 

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