Privatise profit, socialise risk

November 29, 2010

I am not an economist.
Never studied economics.
The graphs, the analyses, the spreadsheets, the intricate data fine tooth-combing is not something I do on a regular basis. Even if I had studied economics, I might have a better understanding of the language we use to describe capital flow and its merits and contradictions; but I can’t honestly say i’d understand economics as a science, any better. When the Queen asked top economists at the London School of Economics, why they didn’t see the credit crunch coming, they couldn’t answer. They knew nothing. All those years at a top economist school taught them nothing when it came down to it. So therefore, I, like everyone else, can only comment on the relationship between society and economics as I see it, from my perspective.

This is how I interpret the financial crash.

The first thing to note, is that this isn’t Capitalism. This is a system of perpetual yet flimsy consumerism. It is not a free market system. It is a Financial Sector system.
The obvious link between this crises, and society as a whole is also the catalyst for the problems. The subprime mortgage market began plunging around 2005. It was largely ignored because those who were losing their homes and livelihoods in cities like Detroit in the US, were predominantly Hispanic or African American. The media did not question it. The economists did not question it. The Bush administration did not question it. But it was a small basement fire that before long would engulf the World.

When white middle class towns and cities around California for example started to experience a wave of foreclosures, and people started owing more than their properties were actually worth, the World took note. Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae all but died. Lehmann was allowed to collapse. AIG, who snook onto the gravy train, expecting the housing market to be on an upward turn forever and ever, were bailed out and then faced a liquidity crises. It’s a funny thing, because this started to happen in 2007. Two years after the poorer black communities felt the pinch hard. Suddenly millions were losing their homes in the US. This didn’t appear to upset those who actually caused the mess in the first place.

Wall Street gave out bonuses of well over $30bn in 2007, despite crushing the entire system. Often you will hear Right Wingers defend these obscene bonuses with “you have to pay the best to get the best”. These people aren’t the best. If Wayne Rooney single handedly drives Manchester United down into the First Division, from the Premiership and then the Championship, he isn’t likely to get a massive bonus at the end of it.

The point of neoliberalism today, as it was in the 1980s, is to protect financial institutions at all costs. An it has worked. It concentrates wealth within the Nations with big powerful financial institutions. A report by the World Institute for Development Economics Research at United Nations University found that 1% owned 40% of global assets in the year 2000, and that the richest 10% of adults own 85% overall. In the US, it was found that 38% of the Nation’s wealth is owned by 1% of the population.

A similar study from the Federal Reserve shows that between 1989 and 2004:

“there are indications that wealth became more concentrated”

and

“from 1992 to 2004 the wealth share of the least wealthy half of the population fell significantly to 2.5 percent of total wealth”

During the 1980s, real wage growth stagnated both here in the UK and in the US. Money did not trickle down. This great neoliberal Thatcherite/Reaganomic experiment actually did nothing but make the wealthy, very very wealthy. The poverty rate under Thatcher was higher than it has been since. The wages and assets of the guys at the top increased massively at the same time as the average workers’ wage stagnated. You see for example, the fact that you have to earn far over the National average to be able to afford a home now. We cannot afford homes, and we are working in the UK the longest hours in Europe. We have nothing to show for it, except stagnating wages, and massively inflated wages for the guys at the very top. But, the propaganda of Neoliberalism, tells us that they deserve their wealth, and we deserve nothing. So we get nothing. This creates a problem, because the workers are in the majority and they are where the demand comes from for the economy to flourish. How do you fill the gap between keeping the wealthy very wealthy, and making sure the masses can afford to consume? Well, if you’re a financial institution you employ an idiot to come up with the idea of easy credit. Give everyone a credit card. Give everyone store cards. Give everyone subprime mortgages. You are essentially giving people money that doesn’t yet exist, in the optimistic view that everything will be okay, and the money will exist sometime in the future. I was offered a Student Credit Card with £1500 on it. I’m 24, but presumably my bank had also offered this non-existent money to 18 year olds. They are only just allowed to legally buy alcohol, and banks are already luring them into this hellhole of consumer capitalism.

David Cameron, when accused of socially cleansing London of poorer people, with his plans to cut housing benefit, said:

“The point everyone in this House has got to consider: are we happy to go on paying housing benefit of £30,000, £40,000, £50,000?

“Our constituents working hard to give benefits so people can live in homes they couldn’t even dream of? I don’t think that’s fair.”

This is interesting for a few of reasons. Firstly, housing benefit has only gone up recently, because many people have been kicked out of their jobs as a result of the failings of the Neoliberal system David Cameron holds so dear. The benefit is a safety net for those who were unfortunate enough to lose their jobs. It is fine, if you managed to escape the chop, and can still afford your house. But no one knows what the future brings. What if double dip recession hits as a result of these cuts the Coalition are introducing? A lot more people will lose their jobs, and wont be able to find one for quite some time, when 10 or 12 people are chasing the same job. So, do they get kicked out of London too? They aren’t scrounging. They are victims of a crises of Neoliberalism.

Secondly, the comment suggests that David Cameron sees no inherent problem with the way the housing market actually works. He hasn’t said he’ll make it easier for people to be able to actually afford a house. He simply offers ways to prop up a grossly overvalued housing market. The reason that “constituents working hard” can’t afford home they “even dream of” is because the Tories of the 1980s sold all social housing, and the Financial Institutions have been ripping people off ever since. Apparently, Cameron has no issue with this.

And thirdly, kicking the poor out of London isn’t going to free up housing for Cameron’s “hard working constituents“. These hard working people wont suddenly flock to the City of London for homes that are now magically cheaper; purely because these hard working people are having to deal with stagnated wages, inflated prices, and a mass of debt encouraged by the Tories, Labour and the Banks for thirty years. The homes will be bought up by property developers, and people who want nice little London bachelor pads, becoming a city of croissant-at-Canary-Wharf-eating businessmen.

British households, on average, tripled their debt over the past thirty years, mostly housing market debt. They had to, in order to keep up. Now, what happens what you can no longer pay that debt back? The subprime crash happens. And then suddenly banks stop lending, because they have no money themselves. They gave out this fake money, that not only didn’t exist before, but doesn’t exist when they suddenly need it. So now business can’t borrow. So unemployment shoots up. But then demand across the marketplace falls, because people have less and less disposable income. So businesses go bust. Good times!

Millions became unemployed, millions lost their homes, the suicide rate shot up, the homeless rate was at a forty year high, and yet bonuses on Wall Street in 2008 were close to $32bn. Quite a nice rewarded for ruining lives.

Consumerism obviously can only exist and perpetuate if there is some sort of emotional attachment to it. The need to “fit in”. I HAD to have Nike trainers at school because kids have their own social heirarchy going on, and we all have to try to fit in with it. We are what we own, that is how consumerism, supported by governments and the media have presented life. Volvo embodied this idea beautifully, with the slogan “Life is better lived together”. We need to buy an XBox 360 because all our friends play online together, we don’t want to be left out. How can we afford it? Ah yes, student credit card. Or, buy on finance, on which you pay about one and a half times as much as you would have done if you’d have brought it from a shop. Easy credit rears its ugly head once more, to ease our need to “fit in”.

The Financial institutions keep getting fatter that way. Wealth becomes very concentrated. Capital becomes just as powerful and destructive, as the Unions were in the 1970s. This isn’t helped by the fact that businesses everywhere, and in fact, our consumer haven itself, relies on the Financial sector. The sector truly is too big to fail. They weren’t lying. Which means those working within the Financial sector are very very powerful people. And so people start to pump money into the Financial sector.

A few economists have pointed out, that although capital accumulation appears limitless, when you start to make a lot of money, you start to look for other avenues to invest in, in order to get one over on your competition. You need to expand. But there are limits to expansion (scarcity of labour supply, consumption, production etc). But those limits are barriers that need to be broken, according to Capitalist thought. Marx stated that “Every limit appears, as a barrier to be overcome” as being a massively destructive force at the heart of the Capitalist ideal. The consequence of being unable to use this mass amount of surplus profit in expansion, was that more money was pumped into speculating on the stock market, in unproductive ventures with absolutely no social good. When the stock market tanked, the money tanked with it.

When an entire financial system is built essentially on fake money, it is no wonder it didn’t last. For Nobel prize winning economists and top level financial experts at the Bank of England or the Federal Reserve, not to notice this, is a massive failure and quite frankly, disastrously unnerving. This isn’t Capitalism. It is a financial sector consumer economy. And out of nowhere, its failings are socialised. Suddenly we blame the public sector. Suddenly government spending on help for single mums has to be cut. Why? What have they done? They didn’t gamble away the Nation’s money on dodgy packages and risky easy credit. In fact, they took on the easy credit, because without it, they can’t afford to eat, what with wages stagnating across the board, and unemployment at a decade long high. Irresponsibility in the Financial sector has been ignored, and blamed entirely on the public sector.

That is how I viewed the crises.

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The Winter of Awakening

November 24, 2010

Nick Clegg is the biggest joke in British politics.
– David Cameron, before the election.

As students take to the streets for a second round of marching, London is bracing itself for more direct action. Thousands and thousands are marching as I type this, across London in what they are calling “Day X”. It is another chance for the voice to be heard, over the subject of tuition fees. Students have balls. As I said in a previous blog, we need to not worry about what Middle England thinks.

The BBC is reporting how awful direct action is. How they think students stayed home because it got violent last time. 0.26% of the protesters last time got violent. I personally wish more direct action would take place. But nonetheless, hardly any of it got violent. The BBC is becoming the voice of Middle England, and no one else.

The police have blocked Parliament Square. I have no idea why.
The protests are happening across the Country. London is getting violent at the moment, Cambridge has a large scale protest taking place with them invading their Senate House, Bristol’s protest is massive. 2000 people have circled Sheffied Town Hall. I wandered through Leicester earlier, and spotted a couple of hundred people protesting. Liberal Democrat HQ in London is ringed by police, and the street cut off. A show of solidarity from our Scottish friends, as they are doing a sit down protest outside Lib Dem HQ in Edinburgh.

It is a Winter of awakening.

I hope they break the police line and burn Lib Dem HQ to the ground.

The great John Pilger:

“There is no other way now. Direct action. Civil disobedience. Unerring. Read Shelley and do it. Born of the “never again” spirit of 1945, social democracy has surrendered to an extreme political cult of money worship. This reached its apogee when £1trn of public money was handed unconditionally to corrupt banks by a Labour government whose leader, Gordon Brown, had previously described “financiers” as the nation’s “great example” and his personal “inspiration”.

This is not to say parliamentary politics is meaningless. It has one meaning now: the replacement of democracy with a business plan for every human activity, every dream, every decency, every hope, every child born.”

– John Pilger

Back in April, Nick Clegg, and the Liberal Democrat Party won the votes of thousands of students, including my own, with his solemn pledge to abandon tuition fees altogether. They got into Coalition, and have instead chosen to raise the tuition fee cap from around £3,300 to £9000. That is a massive increase. I certainly wouldn’t have considered coming to University had that been the case.

Yesterday, a Nick Clegg who seems to have lost all credibility and support, said this:

“Examine our proposals before taking to the streets. Listen and look before you march and shout,”

I am not sure the man could be more patronising if he tried. We have examined the proposal. In fact, I sat last night and read through it, again and again, trying to see what i’ve missed, what is it that is good for us students, what have we got from this? I came up with this list; The tripling of tuition fees, to £9000 a year, also came with the policy of pay-nothing-back until you earn over £21,000 a year, compared to the £15,000 limit in place now. Most Universities will rise tuition fees to around £6000, with top Universities charging up to £9000. This is meaningless. I don’t care if i’m paying back £1 a year, the fact that I would leave university with well over £40,000 of debt, when you include living costs, before i’d even reached my 21st birthday, is ludicrous. If I have three children, and they want to go to University, that is going to amount £110,000+ worth of debt that my children end up with. Couple this, with the fact that England’s University budget has been cut by £449m, the teaching budget cut by £215mn, and Educational Maintenence Allowance (which I relied on to get me through college) scrapped, this does not represent a progressive plan for students.
Clegg talks as if we should be thanking him for tripling fees as opposed to scrapping them. As if we don’t understand the proposal. We understand perfectly well, we’re just not despicable Tories. Clegg is. There is nothing positive or progressive in the plans. Absolutely nothing.

The Universities Minister David Willetts said the proposals represent a:

“‘good deal for universities and for students”

Firstly, this isn’t a “deal”. We didn’t agree to this. Students and Universities are having this forced on them, by a Government that does not have a mandate to do it.

Interesting comments from Willetts. This from a man who went to University when it was free. This from a man who claimed £2,191 in Parliamentary expenses, for, amongst other jobs around the house that contribute in no way to his duties as an MP; paying workmen to change 25 lightbulbs in his house. Another £1,400 on plumbing work. Not to mention the £143,764 Mr Willetts claimed of taxpayers money he claimed on his second home allowance.

The BBC present it all one way. The real story is not the smashing of a few windows but the smashing of the welfare state. We will continue, until they change their policy, or we bring the Government down.

– Simon Hardy, student leader, interview on BBC News.

What would represent an even greater deal for students, would be if the Government hadn’t just allowed Vodaphone to get away with not paying the £4.8bn they allegedly avoided paying in tax. Allowing them to get away with such widespread abuse, whilst punishing the youngest and the most vulnerable, ie; placing the burden of the debt on the shoulders of the poor, and of 18 year olds, is going to cause mayhem.

I encourage the future generation to disregard anything the older generation has to say on who has the right to go to university. They got it wrong on the economy over the past thirty years, on housing over the past thirty years, on the climate over the past thirty years, on every-fucking-thing they touched.

To hear them lecture us on who deserves to go to uni, and who can come to Britain, is laughable. You had your chance, you failed. Fuck off.

Especially the Conservative lot. In love with free market Tories like Thatcher and Cameron, yet absolutely anti-free market in practice, more so than me. They want government to decide who deserves to go to University, they want government to decide what degrees are worthwhile, they want government to decide what migrant workers can come in. They want to tell government exactly whom companies should be employing, based on their place of birth. They want government to interfere with the market when it suits them. And then they expect us to take them seriously?

They appear to think that the only objective to education, is to earn money and nothing else. It is a deliberate attempt to rid us of conscientious people. Thatcher once told a girl in around 1988, that her degree in “Ancient Norse Literature” …was… “What a luxury“. Thatcher saw no value in a study of another culture and history, because there was no immediate economic value. We need people like that girl, people need to know about these things, their knowledge enriches culture. “What a luxury” suggests if there is little direct economic value, there is no value. That is the view of the older generation. We do not want a market based education system.

And again, if the past thirty – forty years had been amazing, then i might be inclined to agree with them. In fact, we’ve got a fucked climate that no one seems to give two shits about, the rise of the far right and xenophobic racism, wage stagnation on a level never seen before, illegal wars, no houses, and the biggest financial crash in living memory. They started the fire, and now they’re telling us how to put the fire out, and it appears to be with a bit more fuel. Forgive me for thinking they deserve no credibility whatsoever.

If the economy is to go on being as it was; i.e based entirely on easy credit, and money that doesn’t actually exist yet, and speculating that it might do in the future (which in turn causes crashes like subprime) then yes, we should follow the demands of the older generation. The generation that caused all the problems in the first place. If we want change, and a new way of doing things, then we should stick two fingers up to them, and tell them to stop fucking lecturing us on what a young person should do with their life. We need critical thinkers and a massive range of experts in as many fields as possible, so we don’t all become like the older generation. It is worth a try, because the old way didn’t work, it failed us all miserably.

Clegg today told the BBC he “massively regrets” having to break his pledge on tuition fees. If these new proposals are so great, why does he regret it? Apparently us students should be mightily happy.

Fight the cuts.
Fight the coalition.
Occupy headquarters.
Sit ins throughout Universities.
Close off the streets.
Break police lines.
Fight Clegg.

Direct Action across the Country.


The Enlightenment of the Devil

November 23, 2010

Dwindling aimlessly in the realm of unbelief, as I am doing recently, I am reading “God and the State” by Bakunin, along with a plethora of other books. A passage from God and the State stood out for me, because it sums up exactly how I feel about Christianity, and it’s obvious contradictions.

The quote:

“The Bible, which is a very interesting and here and there very profound book when considered as one of the oldest surviving manifestations of human wisdom and fancy, expresses this truth very naively in its myth of original sin. Jehovah, who of all the good gods adored by men was certainly the most jealous, the most vain, the most ferocious, the most unjust, the most bloodthirsty, the most despotic, and the most hostile to human dignity and liberty-Jehovah had just created Adam and Eve, to satisfy we know not what caprice; no doubt to while away his time, which must weigh heavy on his hands in his eternal egoistic solitude, or that he might have some new slaves.

He generously placed at their disposal the whole earth, with all its fruits and animals, and set but a single limit to this complete enjoyment. He expressly forbade them from touching the fruit of the tree of knowledge. He wished, therefore, that man, destitute of all understanding of himself, should remain an eternal beast, ever on all-fours before the eternal God, his creator and his master. But here steps in Satan, the eternal rebel, the first freethinker and the emancipator of worlds. He makes man ashamed of his bestial ignorance and obedience; he emancipates him, stamps upon his brow the seal of liberty and humanity, in urging him to disobey and eat of the fruit of knowledge.”

I wanted to expand on this quote.
What Bakunin is getting at, is the idea that the God of the Bible is a ruthless, heartless, crazed dictator. He wants His subjects to understand that they should not question Him. He holds the ultimate knowledge and they shouldn’t. If anyone disobeys him, as Adam and Eve did, they shall be punished. The Catholic Church similarly seemed to punish anyone throughout the centuries, who fell across ideas and discoveries that ran contrary to their teaching. The Church’s treatment of Galileo is a famous example of the brutality of the Church when its authority is challenged. God had the same superiority complex, and tantrum when humanity demanded educating, in the garden of Eden. He created the concept of sin, He punishes a concept that he created, and then a few thousand years later He sends His one begotten son, to die an horrific death in order to absorb the concept that He created in the first place.

God placed a restriction on knowledge. He demanded obedient slaves, and if they wanted to improve their knowledge, they would be punished. Alongside complete obedience, he demands worship. This seem like a game. It serves no overriding purpose. Pawns are played with. And to make matters worse, those pawns are given curiosity and a yearning for knowledge and self improvement, built into their mentality. This wretched little game played by God, is both pointless, and torturous.

Along comes Satan. A symbol of evil, simply, it seems, because he tempts humanity away from God. I’m not entirely sure why this is considered a great evil. We must first accept that we wish to be next to God, to be tempted from him. And that requires our faculties of reason. Perhaps then, Satan is getting a bit of a bad press. Why is the questioning of authority a bad thing? It seems to me that questioning authority, is the basis of liberty. God wants complete obedience as revealed through scripture. This means any progressive free thinking is entirely forbidden. It means if our conscience tells us that a cute old lesbian couple, deeply in love, are not evil people destined for hell, we are to ignore it and instead choose prejudice as sanctioned by the Bible. If we follow our conscience (a conscience given to us by God in the first place), we are simply being tested by the evil of Satan. It means, Galileo should have been imprisoned for questioning Christian dogma, dogma that plunged Europe into a devastating Dark Age, ruthlessly suppressing all advancement, and discarding advances made by the Greeks. Free thought and curiosity, according to God, is a sin. That is the way of God. Satan, if anything, tells you to think for yourself.

If I am to think that the the systematic murder of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of first born children, sanctioned and executed by God in the book of Exodus, is wrong, I am being tempted by the Devil away from God. I should be condemning those first born children. That is the reality of being close to God.

Further in Exodus, we see God demanding the deaths of anyone who dances around the golden calf. This includes family, children and friends of the group. Exodus 32:28 suggests 3000 people were slaughtered for dancing around a calf. I’d say this God is evil.

In Numbers 31, God commands the total annihilation of the Midianite people (The Midianites were a tribe of Abraham’s descendants through the line of Keturah. This story always struck me as particularly cruel, whenever I read the Bible. I have my copy of the Bible sat on my lap as I write this, and I cannot for the life of me workout how anyone can read it, and not despise this God as we despise people like Hitler and Pol Pot. He seems no different. After the annihilation of the Midianite people, Moses, working on the command of God, says:

“……. kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man intimately. But all the girls who have not known man intimately, spare for yourselves.”

Kill all the male children, but keep the female children, as long as they’re virgins, for themselves. Nice. 32,000 virgins in all. I am not sure how Christians or Jews can suggest that any children deserve that treatment. The Midianites inhabited a large area. Much of Northern Arabia was Midianite territory at one stage. They were a diverse people.

An authoritarian God, cannot also promote truly ethical values and behaviour. An authoritarian God necessarily negates free will. We must be good because we’re commanded to be good, by the standard of Holy Texts that most of us find the majority of, to be abhorrent to our sense of right and wrong. Morality is not morality, if it is forced and threatened.

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church”, a book of defined Catholicism suggests that Satan exists only because God allows him too. In paragraph 395, it states:

Although Satan may act in the world out of hatred for God and his kingdom in Christ Jesus, and although his action may cause grave injuries – of a spiritual nature and, indirectly, even of a physical nature- to each man and to society, the action is permitted by divine providence.

You may be mistaken into thinking that the above is the ramblings of an insane person. You’d be wrong. But only slightly. It is the ramblings of an insane institution; the Church. God allows Satan to exist. God therefore allows what he considers evil to exist. He is not at war with evil, he will never be at war with evil, because he is in complete control at all times. Which suggests, he isn’t all that loving afterall. But we knew that, given that he’s already wiped out a few million people, whilst condemning young virgins to a life of abuse at the hands of his followers (Catholic Priests are carrying on the tradition recently, it would seem).

Paragraph 397 states:

Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.

– Interesting use of the word ‘freedom‘. You are ‘free‘ to decide whether or not to believe in God’s word, but if you choose not to, you will be punished. That’s like saying to your child “You are free to play with the skateboard indoors, but if you do, I will put your head in the oven.” Freedom isn’t freedom if one of the two available chooses includes awful punishment.

In fact, there are virtually millions upon millions of people condemned to death, and violent deaths at that, by God. I cannot for the life of me find one death ordered by Satan. All he tends to do, is tempt people to question everything this maniac in the sky tells them. Satan, although portrayed in Christian literature (although not so much in the Bible) as the fallen angel turned demon, sent to tempt humanity into evil, seems actually to be the voice of reason. If we were to take the Bible as metaphor, perhaps one could infer that Satan represents reason, and enlightenment, whereas God represents Christian/Islamic dogma and slavery.

The only way we “know” that Satan is evil, is because it is alluded to in the Bible and subsequent Christian texts. Forgive me for saying, but I am not going to rely on the writings of the single most violent and corrupt institution that has existed over the past two thousand years, to lecture me on what is good and what is evil. How hypocritical of them. It also suggests that Satan is far more powerful than God. The entire history of humanity and its suffering, according to Biblical principles, was caused by Satan. The triumph of free thought over mind-dictatorship.

Bakunin points out that Satan is the first great rebel against great an evil authoritative figure. He encourages disobedience and questioning. He is the founder of the enlightenment, millennia before the enlightenment takes place. Satan is the Christian version of Prometheus. A champion of mankind. It would appear that Christianity has taught us, that an entity that gave us the courage to investigate for ourselves, and expand our understanding, and to question everything; is evil. Genocide on a scale that would make Stalin fall to his knees in awe, gets twisted and presented as “good”, whereas educating people away from this nonsense, is presented as “evil”. Christianity is therefore a very regressive force within society. The Catholic Church embodies this regressive nature perfectly.

The Enlightenment, and all the advances it brought with it. The scientific method, political and social rights, evolutionary theory, separation of Church and State….. This is what the Biblical God forbids, and attributes entirely to Satan.

We should perhaps be a little more critical of the Theocratic dictator God whom punishes you for loving the ‘wrong’ person, requires constant worship, and demands complete obedience, and a little less critical of the free thinking, enlightened Devil.


I smiled to myself

November 22, 2010

At bottom, every man knows perfectly well that he is a unique being, only once on this earth; and by no extraordinary chance will such a marvelously picturesque piece of diversity in unity as he is, ever be put together a second time.
– Nietzsche

Today was the funeral of both of my grandparents.
Funerals are strange occasions. Most notably because I do not ever know how to react. I let my mind wander. As explained in previous blogs, I prefer to celebrate the life of the person, rather than become overtaken by a morbid sense of intense loss. I feel privileged to have known my grandparents. They were fantastic people. And whilst I certainly feel like I have lost that, I am reminded how lucky I am to have been a part of their lives in the first place.

But still, I do not know how to react.
In the funeral procession, I sat in the back of the car. Up ahead were the two hearses and the undertaker. The first thing that popped into my head, was a scene in Only Fools and Horses, in which Del has got Rodney a job, and tells him he starts tomorrow. Rodney doesn’t know what he’s going to be doing but goes along anyway. A few scenes later, Del is stood in the market, and a funeral procession goes past. Del and his mates, and his Uncle lower their heads in respect. After the ingenius line to Uncle Albert, of “Unc, your taxis’ here“, they all notice Rodney at the front of the procession, in his new job as an undertaker whispering expletives in Del’s direction; so much so that he accidentally walks them down a one way street the wrong way, and the whole funeral procession has to turn round and go back the other way. Brilliance. I smiled to myself, as my thoughts brought me back to the car. I know that my grandparents would have smiled too. But the mood in that car was one of sorrow. It somehow seemed inappropriate to be making myself smile. And so a guilty feeling overtook me. As if there is a set way we should all react in that kind of situation.

We got to the Church, and went inside. The coffins sat side by side with “Mum” and “Dad” written beautifully in flowers. We all walked in; me, my dad, my sister, my cousins and aunts and uncles, friends of the family, and distant relatives, to the sound of my granddads favourite musician…… Al Jolson. Thankfully his appalling song choice was soon forgotten as my grandmas favourite musician, and markedly less awful came on….. Dean Martin. There were around 30 people altogether. I hope I know 30 people when i’m 85. I was surprised at the turn out. I met members of the family I had no idea existed. My grandmas 95 year old sister looks just like her. I met my new baby cousin for the first time too. He is extremely cute.

I couldn’t help but feel slightly odd, when the Priest read a passage from the Bible. I am paraphrasing him, but it was along the lines of: “If you love Jesus before you die, he will bring you to God’s kingdom“. I don’t love Jesus. I doubt he even existed. I don’t like the Bible at all. So reading between the lines, the Priest had just condemned me. Great. I tried to suppress my Atheist tendencies, but they were always there. Throughout a couple of hymns especially. It just seemed like a cult. Slightly uncomfortable. It’s funny how the mind moves away from things that actually matter. This was the day my grandparents were to be put to rest, and my mind spent a few minutes wanting to yell at the Priest for talking nonsense. How ludicrous. But this wasn’t my day, and I figured it gave comfort to many people in that room, which is not a bad thing.

I met a couple of my granddads old drinking buddies, from the Navy days during the War. They had known him since he was around 17. Apparently a pub opened in the 1930s, and all its members were given numbers. They all joined up in the 1940s sometime. My granddad was around number 500 when he joined. Every time someone died, the next person in line took their number. Like a league. Morbid isn’t it? My granddad was number 11 by the time he died. Whilst my granddad was number 11, his mate, who was at the funeral, is number 23…….. a child in comparison!!!

They were telling us how he used to leave the pub early, in the 1950s aswell as the 2000s, because he didn’t want to upset my grandma by being away too long. He doted on her. They said he has always been that way, since the day he met her. That, is incredible.

My dad is a good speaker. His brothers and sister don’t tend to do speeches. But my dad always does a good ‘un. He relayed to us a story of when they were kids, and my grandma and granddad took them on holiday. They got to a hill, just outside of Bath, on the way to Devon. The car wouldn’t get up the hill. This is before the days of the M5, so there was no motorway down to Devon. Just one or two roads. The car kept rolling back. It was only a few years later that my granma explained it was because they had loaded the trunk of the car with potatoes for the week. So many, that the car didn’t make it up the hill. That’s a lot of potatoes.

The organ player, was awful. Organs sound dreadful anyway. But this guy took it to a new extreme. I never saw who was playing it, but I presume it was an ape.

Apparently my grandma, on talking to my dad about John Lennon turning 70 soon had he still been alive, said “He was good footballer“. We presume she meant the ex-Leicester City player Neil Lennon. He’s 36. Not 70.

My granddads mate was telling us how they ran to Filbert Street one day, as 19 year olds, to watch a Leicester City match, and jumped the railings to avoid having to pay. But one of their mates got hung up by his shirt, on the top of the railing, and they couldn’t get him off. So they left him and ran. Genius!

We all then gathered together at a pub near to their house. His mate didn’t come, because he was finding it particularly difficult. Understandable, if you’ve known a bloke for 60 years, and now he’s gone. My aunt revealed to us, that my grandma had told her a secret. My grandma was born amidst a bit of a scandal. The man my dad and his siblings had been calling granddad, wasn’t their granddad. My grandma kept her real dad a secret, because in those days it would have been a scandal. She didn’t want my granddad to know she was born out of an affair between two married people, in the 1920s. The story confused me, and was incredibly fascinating. My grandmas side of the family were there. A lot of them though, are in Boston, in the US. My dad, on hearing that his granddad wasn’t actually his granddad, said whilst laughing “So the bloke who used to pick us up, with his fag on, whistling to himself, was actually just a random bloke, who probably didn’t know why we were calling him granddad?

Hearing the stories about their lives; stories I had never heard before, made me realise just how many lives they had an influence on. Running to football matches, trying to get cars up hills, having the same mates for 60 years – all the memories these people must have, and it all ended, in about 40 minutes, in that little room at the back of the Church, on a slightly rainy day in December. I felt privileged and honoured to be related to them. The contrast between the grand significance of a life, and the apparent insignificance and subtlety of a funeral is startling. The funeral and the tears are not important. The lives and the memories are important. It made me think about the lives I have an influence on, even in the most trivial of ways. It made me reflect on just how important my friends are to me. I have always taken them for granted. They are always there, and it becomes routine to accept them as always being there. But they actually mean the World to me. Even the ones I have known a relatively short time. When I grow old, I hope my friends are recounting stories with smiles on their faces, to my children.


The band

November 20, 2010

A couple of bands in the area that I live asked me to do a few sample photos for them at rehearsal. It is my first attempt at band photography. This is what I came up with:

This second lot of photos, is from a band called Soundtrack. They can be heard here.


Darwin is greater than Jesus and Muhammad

November 15, 2010

A couple of my Muslim friends wont let me touch their Koran. They think that because I don’t believe in their silly little fairy tale, I am somehow unworthy of touching their book of nonsense. It is sacred apparently. I have therefore took it upon myself to ban all my religious friends from touching my copy of The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. I do this, because in the book, Darwin applies logic and evidence to come up with the greatest revelation the World has ever known. This revelation wasn’t given by a vicious dictatorial God/Allah in some obscure corner of a desert to a man from a nation of angry warring illiterate tribes who were convinced for centuries that the Earth was the centre of the universe and executed people for heresy if they thought otherwise. This revelation was given by nature, as pure fact. Fact is something both the Bible and the Koran seem to be lacking, and so I ban them from touching my copy of the Origin of Species, because they are unworthy of reading anything other than pure fiction. They are though, more than welcome to read my copy of The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe. Although I fear they may take it literally and start ordering the immediate deaths of anyone who says a bad word against Aslan.

It is interesting what people find sacred. Religious books, I prefer to laugh at. They are pointless, archaic, and worthy of ridicule. They should not be taken seriously, and people in a position of power should not have to swear on them, when they take office. It is apparently all about devotion to God.

God, or Allah, or whatever name he has to go by (Apollo, Yahweh, El) is to be obeyed at all times. Prayed too constantly, sang about, worshipped endlessly, feared, loved, and never disobeyed on fear of burning for eternity in utter pain (but he loves you, remember that). God is a dictator. Pretty fucking evil at that.

The painter Caravaggio, one of my favourite painters of all time, paints a beautiful baroque style piece depicting Abraham on the verge of sacrificing his son Isaac by the word of God, as an angel appears to stop him, revealing it was all just a test to see how devoted Abraham was to God. The contrast of light and dark is beautifully striking in the painting. But the subject of the painting is clearly Isaac. Which is great, because Christians tend to ignore the importance of Isaac in this story. This story doesn’t portray God as all loving, or Abraham as a great devoted Prophet of God. It portrays God as a dictatorial maniac, and Abraham as insane.
In the painting, as in my mind, Abraham has absolutely no emotion on his face. He is a man possessed. By contrast, Isaac is terrified. His dad has bound his hands behind his back, is holding him face down on a stone alter, and is about to gut him…. because God demanded it. When I have children, if I am told to kidnap my child, tie him/her to a stone alter and stab him/her to death, for God, I will happily tell you, no matter how sacred your God may be, he is a despicable cunt.

Child sacrifice is prominent throughout the Old Testament. The king of Moab sends a burnt offering of his dead son up to God. It works too, because his nemesis is swiftly dealt with:

Then he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt-offering upon the wall. And there came great wrath upon Israel; and they departed from him, and returned to their own land.

God appears to endorse child murder. As long as it’s in his name. The book of Exodus seems to confirm God’s need for people to kill their children as a sign of devotion to him:

“You shall not delay to offer from the fullness of your harvest and from the outflow of your presses. The first-born of your sons you shall give to me.”

Less brutal, but just as despicable is both Judaism and Islam’s use of circumcision. I wont refer to it as circumcision for the remainder of this blog, it shall henceforth be known as child genital mutilation. According to Jewish law, a child should be genitally mutilated soon after birth. It is non-negotiable. The child has no say. He hasn’t even decided if he believes the bullshit his parents are forcing on him, before he is mutilated. It strikes me as utterly abhorrent, and worthy of prison (if I were to go out, and cut a bit off a kid’s penis, I am pretty sure i’d be thrown in prison and Daily Mail readers would call for the death penalty to be bought back for monsters like me), but instead, child genital mutilation is entirely legal purely because the cult that practices it, has quite a few members. No evidence for their logic, just strength in numbers. A logical fallacy if ever I saw one.

Islam is the largest group of people in the World that practice genital mutilation. The BBC website says:

Some Muslims see circumcision as a preventive measure against infection and diseases.

A better preventative measure against infection and disease, would be to recognise that the entire study and practice of modern medicine and biology, is based entirely and necessarily on Evolutionary theory, not on out dated, unnecessary, dirty, despicable rituals. Now, people who actively and happily mutilate babies, both Jewish and Muslim, are not bad people. Which suggests that their blind obedience to fairy tales leads them to make utterly absurd decisions. They are influenced by the illogical and the dangerous.

But that’s what happens when as a divine being, you spend 98,000 years of human existence ignoring them, and pop up in the last 2000 years, with a book of ridiculous rules. A book that you don’t bother giving to a society that has advanced to the stage where its population are largely literate and educated (China), but instead, you give it to crazed uneducated, illiterate tribesman in the middle of the fucking desert. God massively misjudged his original audience.

On the website Bible.ca, they have a page called “Darwin was wrong”. I read the first two paragraphs and sat wondering how anyone could be so ignorant and ridiculous. Then I noticed they were religious Americans. So I put 2 and 2 together.
Their website says:

If a fair maiden kisses a frog which instantly changes into a handsome prince, we would call it a fairy tale. But if the frog takes 40 million years to turn into a prince, we call it evolution. Time is the evolutionist’s magic wand. Fairy tales come in many forms!

– Apparently a talking snake in a magical garden of a man made out of dust and a woman made out of a rib of the man does not come under the whole idea of ‘fairy tale’. How ironic. Secondly. That isn’t what evolution says at all. No one has ever suggested a frog can become a human. A frog is just as evolved today, as you or I. A frog has adapted to its surroundings, and thus survived, and evolved to deal with change. 99% of all species throughout time have not been as lucky. I would happily start believing in God if a frog suddenly became a man. Stop misrepresenting Darwin, you absolute cretins.

Darwin’s theory of evolution says that over millions of years simple life forms (one celled creatures) slowly evolved into complex life forms (fish), and that one kind of animal evolved into another kind (ape to man)

No one has ever said a chimp suddenly became a businessman or politician (although George Bush exists, so I might be wrong). Man has simply adapted to changes in surroundings and climate over the millions of years of time on Earth, to situations and to the necessity of survival. We have evolved both biologically and socially over many millions of years. We are descended from the ape family, but we did not suddenly become human from ape, in the same way that your great grandad did not suddenly become you.

It isn’t even a debate any more. It is fact. Evolution is a fact. Natural Selection is the theory, the model behind Evolution. But Evolution itself is fact. Religion should be neglected; pushed aside as dangerous dogma and outdated superstition that has no place in the modern World.

I am taking quite a swipe at religion today. Most people on here know I hate religion and all it stands for. I hate its divisive nature. I hate its indoctrination of children. I hate that it has held science and discovery and human advancement back centuries. I hate its power. I hate when its members start getting violent and demanding special attention. I hate that I will get death threats to my email if I say “Isn’t God/Allah absolutely inhumane and a little bit shit“. I hate that I am supposed to respect religion. I don’t. It disgusts me. I say this, because both the books of Christianity and Islam condemn me, for being Atheist.

I was actually quite reassured when I read this verse in the Koran:

You shall not accept any information, unless you verify it for yourself. I have given you the hearing, the eyesight, and the brain, and you are responsible for using them.

On the surface, this seems like the most important, and logical verse, in any religious book anywhere. It seems to be suggesting that you are your own person, free from the influence of others. Think for yourself. Come to your own conclusions. Don’t be dictated too. Almost Atheist thinking right there in the Koran.
So, following that rule, I have verified for myself, after reading the Bible in its entirety, and much of the Koran, as well as The Origin of Species, God is not Great, The Selfish Gene, and knowing that my dog is the result of mixed breeding, and that I am losing my hair at 24 years old, just like my dad did…. that the Koran and the Bible are both entirely nonsensical, and Evolution outranks them both. Great. I used my own evidence. I did what the Koran told me too. Allah must love me for this.

” If you encounter those who disbelieve, you may strike the necks.”
– Koran 47:4

“Lo! the worst of beasts in Allah’s sight are the ungrateful who will not believe”
– Koran 8:55

“That (is the award), so taste it, and (know) that for disbelievers is the torment of the Fire.”
– Koran 8:14

“But as for those who disbelieve, for them is fire of hell; it taketh not complete effect upon them so that they can die, nor is its torment lightened for them. Thus We punish every ingrate. And they cry for help there, (saying): Our Lord! Release us; we will do right, not (the wrong) that we used to do. … Now taste (the flavour of your deeds), for evil-doers have no helper.”
– Koran 35:36-37

Oh….erm…… okay. So, what the verse about thinking for yourself actually meant was: Think about it, but then agree with Islam, otherwise you’re going to burn in hell, tortuously for eternity, after my followers kill you. Whilst burning in hell, we will then cry for help, from the very entity that condemned us in the first place.

The Bible isn’t much easier on us evil non-believers (by non-believers, I mean, intelligent people). Deuteronomy suggests that not only should those who don’t believe in the Christian God be put to death, but the entire town in which an Atheist (or believer in another Faith) lives, should be exterminated.

Suppose you hear in one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you that some worthless rabble among you have led their fellow citizens astray by encouraging them to worship foreign gods. In such cases, you must examine the facts carefully. If you find it is true and can prove that such a detestable act has occurred among you, you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock.
– Deuteronomy 13:13-19

They entered into a covenant to seek the Lord, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul; and everyone who would not seek the Lord, the God of Israel, was to be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.
– 2 Chronicles 15:12-13

Forgive me if I fail to respect religions that condemn me to the worst kind of punishment possible. I am clearly their enemy. So fuck them.

God/Allah/Hitler (they are all very similar) demands complete obedience. Which begs the question, what the fuck is the point of life? I despise these doctrines, and yet I’m supposed to follow them avidly or be eternally punished? What a horrible life. Atheism does not demand anything of the sort. We do not claim that you have to be moral because you might be punished in an afterlife if you aren’t. We say morality is based on social evolution and the need to survive.

We as a species are incredible. Morality comes from us, and nothing else. We do not need a vengeful lunatic fairy in the sky to make us perform good deeds. We do it for the sake of good, not for the sake of God. We do not need silly superstitions and rituals in an attempt to please a vindictive bastard in the sky, in the hope that we might go to a nice place when we die. Humanity is great. The discovery that Darwin made, is far more stunning and awe-inspiring (as well as truthful) than anything religion has ever had to offer. The name “Darwin” should be taught to children and heard in classrooms across the World, years before the names “Jesus” and “Muhammad” are uttered.

I would like to see Temple Mount in Jerusalem destroyed and replaced with a statue of Darwin, because Darwin makes the prophets of the two warring religions, look like amateurs in comparison.


The fight back begins

November 12, 2010

A letter of congratulations to the students and the EVIL ANARCHIST RIOTERS (who I happen to fully support, and whom were not Anarchists at all) has emerged, signed by some of the Nation’s most intellectual researchers and Professors.

Here is the letter:

Dear Sir/Madam,
We the undersigned wish to congratulate staff and students on the magnificent anti-cuts demonstration on Wednesday (‘Riot marks end of era of consensus’, Independent, 11 November). At least 50,000 people took to the streets to oppose the coalition government’s devastating proposals for education.

We also wish to condemn and distance ourselves from the divisive and, in our view, counterproductive statements issued by the UCU and NUS leadership concerning the occupation of the Conservative Party HQ. The real violence in this situation relates not to a smashed window but to the destructive impact of the cuts and privatisation that will follow if tuition fees are increased and if massive reductions in HE funding are
implemented.

Wednesday’s events demonstrate the deep hostility in the UK towards the cuts proposed in the Comprehensive Spending Review. We hope that this marks the beginning of a sustained defence of public services and welfare provision as well as higher education.

Signed:
Emma Dowling, Queen Mary, University of London,
Dr. Matteo Mandarini, Queen Mary, University of London,
Liam Campling, Queen Mary, University of London
Dr. Alberto Toscano, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr. John Wadworth, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr. Des Freedman, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr. Nina Power, Roehampton University
Clare Solomon, President University of London Union
Dr. Peter Thomas, Brunel University
Dr. Alex Anievas, University of Cambridge
Matilda Woulfe, Queen Mary, University of London
Dr. Victoria Sentas, King’s College London
Toni Prug, Queen Mary, University of London
Prof David Miller, Strathclyde University
Matthew Woodcraft, Goldsmiths, University of London
Richard Iveson, Goldsmiths, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr. Carrie Hamilton, Roehampton University
Dr. Nicole Wolf, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr. Gavin Butt, Goldsmiths, University of London
Marsha Bradfield, University of the Arts London
Manuela Zechner, Queen Mary University of London
Dr. Matthew Fuller, Goldsmiths, University of London
Prof. John Hutnyk, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr. Luciana Parisi, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr. Maud Anne Bracke, University of Glasgow
Janna Graham, Goldsmiths, University of London
Heidi Hasbrouck, Goldsmiths, University of London
Gordon Asher, University of Glasgow
Dr. Goetz Bachmann, Goldsmiths, University of London
Gerry Mooney, Open University
Dr. Catherine Eschle, University of Strathclyde
Dr. Filippo Del Lucchese, Brunel University
Dr David Lowe, Liverpool John Moores University
Tom Bunyard, Goldsmiths, University of London
Danai Konstanta, Goldsmiths, University of London
Bue Ruebner Hanssen, Queen Mary, University of London
Dr Alana Lentin, University of Sussex
Dr. Armin Beverungen, University of the West of England
Bipasha Ahmed, University of East London
Dr T L Akehurst, University of Sussex and Open University
Alex Anievas, University of Cambridge
Gordon Asher, University of Glasgow
Dr Maurizio Atzeni, Loughborough University
Camille Barbagallo, Queen Mary, University of London
Dr Armin Beverungen, University of the West of England
Dr. Maud Anne Bracke, University of Glasgow
Liam Campling, Queen Mary, University of London
Dr Svetlana Cicmil, University of the West of England
Dr Caroline Clarke, University of the West of England
Dr Chris Cocking, London Metropolitan University
Katherine Corbett, Middlesex University
Dr. Michael P. Craven, University of Nottingham
Dr John Cromby, Loughborough University
Dr Dimitrios Dalakoglou, University of Sussex
Prof Massimo De Angelis, University of East London
Filippo Del Lucchese, Brunel University
Prof Marie-Bénédicte Dembour, University of Sussex
Dr John Drury, University of Sussex
Benoit Dutilleul, University of the West of England
Leigh French, Glasgow, editor Varient magazine
Dr Fabian Frenzel, University of the West of England
Dr Matthew Fuller, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr Rachel Fyson, University of Nottingham
Dr Sara Gonzalez, University of Leeds
Hugo Gorringe, University of Edinburgh
Janna Graham, Goldsmiths University of London
Prof Peter Hallward, Kingston University,
Dr Kate Hardy, University of Leeds
Dr. Carrie Hamilton, Roehampton University
Georgia Harrison, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr Kaveri Harriss, University of Sussex
Prof Stefano Harney, Queen Mary University of London
Dr David Harvie, University of Leicester
Dr Stuart Hodkinson, University of Leeds
Dr John Hutnyk, Goldsmiths, University of London
Daniel Jewesbury, Belfast, editor, Variant magazine
Dr. Daniel Kane, University of Sussex
Jeanne Kay, Goldsmiths, University of London
Koehler-Ridley, Coventry University
Danai Konstanta, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr Les Levidow, Open University
Dr Simon Lewis, University of Leeds
Gwyneth Lonergan, University of Manchester
Dr Rob Lutton, University of Nottingham
Luke Martell, University of Sussex
Conal McStravick, Artist, Glasgow, member of Scottish Artists Union
Dr Shamira Meghani, University of Sussex
Dr Eugene Michail, University of Sussex
Keir Milburn, University of Leeds
Dr. Filippo Osella, University of Sussex
Dr Dimitris Papadopoulos, University of Leicester
Dr Luciana Parisi, Goldsmiths, University of London
Kathleen Poley, Goldsmiths University of London
Dr. Maria Puig de la Bellacasa, University of Leicester
Andre Pusey, University of Leeds
Prof Susannah Radstone, University of East London
Dr Olivier Ratle, University of the West of England
Dr Gavin Reid, University of Leeds & Vice-President Leeds University UCU
Bue Rübner Hansen, Queen Mary, University of London
Bert Russell, University of Leeds
Dr Lee Salter, University of the West of England
Jordan Savage, University of Essex
Dr Laura Schwatz, St Hugh’s College Oxford University
Jon K. Shaw, Goldsmiths, University of London
Dr Stevphen Shukaitis, University of Essex
Dr Anna Stavriasnakis, University of Sussex.
Stephanie Tan, Glasgow School of Art
Dr Claire Taylor, University of Nottingham
Dr Amal Treacher Kabesh, University of Nottingham
Jeroen Veldman, University of Leicester
Dr Paul Waley, University of Leeds
Dr Kenneth Weir, University of Leicester
Matthew Woodcraft, Goldsmiths, University of London
Hélène Samanci, Queen Mary, University of London
Dr Clément Mouhot, University of Cambridge

The picture on the left, is Nick Clegg holding a pledge which read “I pledge to vote against any increase in fees“. He has just voted to increase fees from £3,300 to £9000.
I hope more names can be added to that list of Professors any time soon.
Support for direct action, when it is in the face of the needless and harshest shock capitalism thrown at us in years, is what we need. To sit back and take it, is a waste of time, and my generation will regret refusing to act, or acting ‘peacefully’, as we watch homeless rates shoot up and misery ensue. Tuition fees is the start. When the cuts hits, when there are no jobs and yet the Government start making people work for the £1 an hour benefit; there will be mass rioting; it is inevitable. The young people are not the apathetic lifeless drones, the older generation like to suggest.

Students at Manchester University kept the momentum going, and took over a main room at their University, refusing to move. They issued the following statement:

“Students at Manchester University have peacefully occupied the John Owens building and are lobbying the finance board over the coalition attack on higher education.
We are demanding that the university opens its books so that we know where the cuts will fall, how many voluntary redundancies have already been made and to highlight the fact that the vice chancellor is paid 20 times the average salary. The financial director has denied any cuts are planned despite the fact that voluntary redundancies have been announced and the combined studies department has already been cut.
We are here to support lecturers and administrative staff who will be losing there jobs. To oppose the rise in tuition fees that will price out most working class students. And to oppose the privatisation of our universities.”

The more grey haired fat businessmen and politicians who masturbate furiously over them complain about direct action, the more I support it. The more Tories tell me it is entirely “unacceptable” the more I will promote it. The more Nick Clegg insists that raising tuition fees to £9000 a year, is in some way “progressive” and a “good deal for students”, the more I will protest, and demand my vote back.

I look forward to the many protests I will take part in over the coming years.