If Boris were intelligent…

People say Boris Johnson is intelligent. Well, he certainly has good recall of a mercurial and witty mind, though it does seem rather predisposed to a reliance on the Classics – when he’s not pretending to be the bumbling fool. He is clever and instinctively opportunist. Like a fox. But everyone knows intelligence has several aspects. Some are very important. Generalising, there’s how academic intelligence breaks down into the mathematical, linguistic, etc. There’s the artistic and physical. There’s artificial, of course – if the cap fits, Boris… And then, there’s the essential stuff, like common sense, intuitive, social, emotional…

An intelligence quotient test, therefore, does not really measure Intelligence, does it? It can’t. A person can be trained to take it just as one can buy extra coaching for GCSEs. If it were so reliable a test and so accurate a measure of ability school leavers could just be given their number on exit. It could be popped into a computer and CVs could become superfluous. The IQ ruse is a deeply unpleasant red herring of a platform, especially when used as justification for accepting inequality as inevitable. It screams slippery slope. Everyone with an ounce of reason, born before yesterday, understands that people are not equal in every measure. Someone is always better, faster, wealthier, prettier, funnier, stronger, luckier – yada yada. Equality under the Law is, perhaps, as much as can reasonably be expected.

Boris represents that appalling blend of both ancient and modern Establishment: Blue-blooded and Neoliberal. Like far too many in his self-elevated position, he seeks to place a market value on citizens. They are regarded as commodities with varying degrees of value and deservedness. Value as determined by those who would place more in a banker than a nurse; more in the cashier than the single parent; more in the cold-caller than the road-sweeper. If he were intelligent, he would conclude that everyone has human, social and spiritual value as an individual. But Boris would use the IQ as another fiat currency.

Everyone knows that competition can be healthy, rewarding and progressive. But to subscribe to Life-IS-Competition is an arcane feudalistic attitude and it is not a demonstration of some superior intelligence. It just shows the conceit of inherent power. How intelligent is it to have had automatic access to an upbringing which affords the highest privileges and the finest education that money can supposedly buy if what is taken from such a glorified opportunity are merely a means, the strong desire and a sense of entitlement to use it over others? Do these elite institutions teach this deliberately or is it an inevitable consequence of their curricula? Is an escape velocity involved? Are we to say ‘Poor lamb! He is a victim!’ when he has taken such a foundation and squandered it for his own ends? Not everyone from such a privileged background arrives at this state of mind, after all.

If Boris were intelligent, he would conclude that grabbing a few of the academically brightest children and gifting them with selective access is a poor second to making every state school in the land so damned good that only a fool would pay to send their children elsewhere. He would advocate that everyone has their unique worth and something to offer if they only had space and time and encouragement to discover and develop it. Education is supposed to open the mind and inform. It’s supposed to facilitate confidence, critical thinking, curiosity and a love of learning. It is supposed to reveal an individual’s potential. Look what he got from his: that humility and compassion are obstacles to a ‘cream and park’ mentality. As though human decency was a weakness.

Empathy is high-end emotional intelligence. It does not come only from shared experiences. If it did, wouldn’t there be less need of it? It comes also from having an emotional range and an imagination of things outside of and other to one’s self. It requires conscious observation, active listening and the will to understand. Boris cannot help the fortune of his birth, nor the choices made on his early behalf but he sure can help what he has chosen to do with having just about every advantage going.

If he were intelligent, he would understand that the Have-Nots do not suffer from envy. He would understand that the suffering comes from the perpetuation of outrageous injustice by those he so hails. He would understand that this didn’t happen overnight. He would realise that his competitive values contribute to the plundering of resources, the access, accumulation and hoarding of needs-in-common, the return of Serfdom… He would see that this has finite written all over it and that he accelerates his own extinction. He would admit that the systems and policies he advocates are at the expense of everyone else. He would know how insulting, patronising and ridiculous it is to suggest that Society should trust in the philanthropy of the rich and powerful. He would remember that, before the ownership of this world became a competition prize, it actually belonged to everyone. He would have as much shame in his beloved history as he has pride. He would see the context of his becoming and recognise that it is not the solution but a vehicle of cause. But, then, if Boris were truly intelligent, he would have shown some measure of common sense and wisdom ages ago.

Enough!

There, under leaden skies
The people clung to life as
They bore witness to the strife
And devastation wrought
Since Man saw fit to wield
Advantage for Self-serving
Ends.

There, through a scratched
And dirty lens were ill-conceived
The feudal realms wherein
Contained the Overwhelmed
By monsters with unfettered
Weaponry.

All Time is there and now and
Then and here unto Eternity
Beheld until it is no time at all;
Stood restless still in space
Confined.

There, Humankind arrived upon
The furthest, darkest rim where
Met its own corrupted, fetid yield
And cried from the Abyss:

“This is the limit of our Ignorance!
Enough!”

And there, by resonance and
Echoing, they turned and rushed
The barriers with Light and Love
And Knowing, where came
Flowing the Humanity they craved
To share and knew was always
Theirs; was always there.

The Conservatives are so clearly unfit to govern

The Conservatives are so clearly unfit to govern that it would surely be a kindness to them as much as to us if we threw them out now. It’s become an embarrassing situation for everyone. Toe curling. Why should we be made to wait another eighteen months just because Cameron et al decided, seemingly out of the blue, to fix the term of a Parliament. This was framed as a rational reform, designed to relieve politicians of strategic advantage. And rational it is except for the fact that a government could, traditionally be forced to call an election because public and media outcry demanded it. But this public advantage has evidently disappeared, too. It would have been a more palatable change had something like a People’s Veto for the dissolution of Parliament also been written in – well, some mechanism by which the balance of power can be sought, anyway. But, of course it wasn’t. Incompetence or wilful neglect? Hard to tell.

This is a big deal. Time is a funny old concept. It can rush along or crawl within relative space. In some respects, the General Election is fast approaching but the campaigning has started in earnest and it’s going to seem an interminably long way away on occasion. A government can do a whole heap of damage in eighteen months. Look at the carnage of the last three and half years and imagine what the Coalition will get up to, in front of our faces and behind the scenes, now they see an almost inevitable defeat looming – barring unforeseen catastrophe, of course. They will now redouble their already considerable efforts to grab what national assets/treasures they can for themselves. They will insure their own futures and ensure that Labour has such a quagmire of shit to untangle that we will likely all be complaining again within the same year. Obviously we might anyway: Labour is not wholly convincing, after all. See how quickly the panic erupted last week over benefits and the under-25s. The fact that everyone demanded clarification over whether Labour may not – or not yet – have any intention of adopting the IPPR’s advice is testimony to the experience of an electorate which feels terrified by ‘Modern’ Conservatism and justifiably, deeply suspicious of Labour, the only viable electoral alternative. This was an understandable panic.

But Compassionate Conservatism in the 21st Century is all about twinned Santas and win-win-for-self methodology. Modern (read neoliberal) Conservatives have little appreciation for history or ‘national interest’. They understand how to do favours for themselves. For all the harping on about traditional values, they have little capacity – or inclination – for recognising that history should not predict but should merely inform the future. We are only slaves to our past if we keep repeating it. And they do. They are a one-, or, at most, a two-trick pony. They think a continuum is a compulsory blueprint rather than a thread of choices linked to consequences. They think making connections means networking at parties and, while there is – was – whatever – undoubtedly an element of this in Labour, it has not been maintained as the actual ethos with which to actively drive the Party. Ed is appearing to make inroads into a more ethical style. He has at least noticed that TINA is a bunch of crap; that the road has forks. We can take this at face value or with a big, healthy grain of salt but, even if it turns out to be short-term cynical popularism more than an honest effort, we certainly can’t afford another year and a half of callous, self-serving cretinism, let alone a whole other fixed Parliamentary term. And yes: that is a cold comfort.

Eighteen months of rabid messiahs, mouthpiece ostriches, don’t-give-a-shitters and all their opportunist hangers-on. All either colluding with or being bullied by the corporate organ grinders. Eighteen months of shady deals that shaft the populace. Eighteen months of meaningless promises, empty rhetoric, emotional blackmail and missing the point. Eighteen concerted months of disparagement: immigrants, ethnic minorities, the disabled, the poor, the young, the left-leaning thinker – anyone that’s considered politically expedient. If a week is a long time in politics, then what is the potential in a year and a half?

On one level, I look forward to observing the antics. That’s the bit of me that relishes satire. On another, I am bored already with the Right-wing Media’s and the Tories’ tediously predictable tactics. I endured Thatcher: I’ve seen the show; it’s shallow, bitchy, dirty and deliberately obfuscating. And, it is rarely very witty – yet another act of criminal incompetence to add to the list.

Vote Blue, Get Screwed

Vote Blue, get crap
They know that
Fat cats piggy back
Freaky flashback

Now with added
Liberal Democrat.

Vote Blue, go green
Light admitting
Laissez-faire
Permitting
Those with means

And those without:
Despair

Vote Blue, choose greed
Overfill with overkill
Spilling into cold neglect
Until the Neo-conning
Vomit is the only diet left

Vote Blue, buy spin
Steal a win
Cheaters’ creed
By your leave
Feed moar
Monetise and bleed
The Poor.

Vote Blue, for the few
Just for you!
Hoard wealth
Help yourself!

Vote Blue, get real
Craven ravens
Seeking havens
Shoring
Hedging,
Empty zeal
Against the turning
Of the wheel.

Vote Blue, get screwed
How they roll
What they do
Chew
Or be chewed
What will you?

Vote Blue, get crap
Haze and trap
We know that.

We are not the ones…

We are not the idle ones,
The work-hard-shy or listless bums.
No, we are not the feckless sons
Who piss away prosperity for
Everyone,

For we are not the ones dismissing
Common sense, resisting exploration
Of sustainable alternatives.

And we are not the ones who give
Themselves to squander progress;
We are not the crazy, lazy-minded,
Reckless ones who shun accountability
With patronising explanation.

We are not the ones who, by the vanity
Of expectation, take their fun and run
With it at all Humanity’s expense.
No, we are not the ones become
Dependent on a grand pretence –
We are the under, funding it.

But we are not so dense as to imagine
What has brought us to our knees could
Ever be the route to our salvation.

We are not the ones who make
Oblation to unfettered profit;
We are not the careless ones who
Waste a world

And neither do we lack in aspiration –
Given half a chance!

But we are not the ones who did enhance
The obstacles and call them ‘Envy’
We are not the ones who drew fake
Lines and blamed the sums or claimed
Sufficient place for each to flourish and
Yet drank the space that nourished it.

No, we are not the profligate
And we are not the ones who do unpick
The seams and scheme to gorge upon
Another’s dreams
For we are not the libertines.

Left, Right and Centre

Does it matter from which theism or atheism some fundamentalists stem? And in politics (so much the same thing, of course), does it matter whether it’s fascism or communism? Fascinating history, devilish details, technical definitions and fashionable discourse aside, extremism is extremism when it’s applied. When a crazy utopian, messianic obsessive or cynical opportunist gets their hands on power over another, or a whole bunch of others, does it matter what is the colour of the authoritarianism; what shade the totalitarianism? Whether it came from ‘Above’ or the Left or the Right? If a person is labelled an infidel, a terrorist or a deviant; if a person/group is considered to be an undesirable element within its own society or by a whole block of global powers; if a person/group is denigrated by a powerful collective purely for its own convenience: how much does it matter what flavour the condemnation and punishment is to the person or group on the receiving end?

There is an arrogant, self-appointed, self-entitled, ownership class, a nervous, judgemental, compliant class and a disenfranchised but indispensable class. They each exist in every shade and flavour of every regime. The devilish details, technical definitions and fashionable discourse may explain the motivation and the how of achievement but, in the end, what happens is that Power rests with a few at the expense of an increasing majority. The effect is the same: fear, paranoia, division, diminution, violence, arbitrary punishment, dehumanisation…

~ * ~

The Left and Right sit side by side to overlapping at the centre and stretch to their opposite ends of a line: a spectrum. But if the ends are bent around they eventually meet and overlap. Like ultraviolet and infrared, they are merely different expressions of a shared source. Hence the irony in those with fascistic tendencies who fear any application of Marxist or other socialist theory so much as to automatically associate and equate it with Stalinism. Hence the irony of Führer Cameron Mao and his “Cultural Revolution” in “The National Interest” as he looks lovingly to China, where they have little of this messy democracy which interferes so dreadfully and which he is so keen to demolish to advance his kleptocratic whims. Hence Cameron’s ability to build a regime which straddles the potential of both disgusting political extremes.

For ages now, people have had no problem at all with claiming “no difference” between the way our main political parties occupy a modern notion of centre ground. Both parties, like so much of the world, have been englamoured by the scourge of short-termist, narcissistic neoliberalism. This is the nominated and seconded centre. In some ways Labour appears to be rehabilitating itself somewhat and, hopefully, it will be sufficient to at least slow the devastation of this fascicommunist coalition. But it will not be enough. For, as much as Labour is making some of the right noises about our economy, it is still tinkering at the edges rather than overhauling from the ground up. Neither is the economy an isolated feature in need of reform: there are all manner of legislative, executive and institutional abuses to redress. ‘Eternal vigilance’ must surely by the price of Democracy as well as ‘Liberty’.

Labour alone, will not save our sorry arses: at the most it will allow us just to take a breath; to buy time to worry less about literally surviving the day and more about well-overdue economic, institutional and democratic reformation. It is vital that that breathing space is not squandered if – no – when it comes; vital that the People do not heave too big a sigh of relief and go back to the complacency and lazy thinking that exacerbated the current state. For, as sure as night follows day, however much Labour is starting to look like the palatable alternative – and in so many ways, they are – notice that they are moving as little to the left as possible. It is difficult to tell whether this is reflective of the party’s real worldview or reflective of its inhibition in the face of the eager hysteria of mainstream media.

The way mainstream news, media and political parties gravitate to the centre ground makes of it a fiction because neither of what are considered in politics as either traditionally or new left or right can actually sit there (wherever on earth ‘there’ is) very comfortably. And yet they seriously believe they can occupy the same ground – the same centre – and still proclaim to offer substantial difference while also serving both the majority and the latest version of National Interest. The so-called centre ground is now as potentially extreme as its ends. It’s like some great joke played on the electorate in a manner comparable to some infinitely long game of cricket. You know: You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in… To the practised eye they look like two teams but sometimes you could swear blind it was just the one.

‘Kunstlied’

Call-me-Dave displays
Sincerity as a front
For he is a knave

His craving to serve
Is nought but a PR stunt
That speaks agenda

*Kunstlied in concrete
To hypnotise a country
Into stupid fright

Left, Right and Centre
Dance on a shifting carpet
While he prances round

Accessorising
Like a kleptomaniac
In a stolen crown

Striking down the weak
To feast is but to narrow
The needle’s sharp eye

Big Society
Means fitting out the fattest
With bells and whistles

Little is the mind
That seeks to bind us merely
To gild a lily.

Silly is the man
Who willingly leads flatworms
For all tides do turn

*An ‘art song’, especially as distinguished from a folk song.
Origin: German, equivalent to Kunst: art (Old High German: skill, ability) + Lied: song

Making Democracy Work

To be sure, there is a great deal about our democracy and its processes to be improved. We’ve made great leaps in vital areas at times and stagnated horribly at others. But look around the world: Democracy is a messy business and work in progress. It won’t be tidied or improve without the informed and active engagement of those it claims to serve. There are many differing arguments as to the best ways forward, from proportional representation to digital participation but these are irrelevant to me, right now for, not only are too many people disaffected but we are not a society that is anywhere near ready for such gown-up thinking as would be involved to have faith in such change. Besides, it’s not as if there aren’t plenty of other possible ways to improve our First Past the Post system.

There are three things, however, that I want to see happen pronto and which I think could be done in time for the 2015 General Election. And yes: this is very rough musing with gaping holes but I hope that you will see in generalised terms, what I’m getting at.

1 – A People’s Veto: I want this one right now. A mechanism by which the People can petition to force the Government to act or force them to stop an action. This could be achieved by determining a suitable threshold – probably a pretty high one – of the number of people required to effect such a mechanism. There are numerous occasions where such a system may be helpful to our citizenry interests – like ‘war’ and privatisation of our essentials – but the one that is uppermost in my mind is that, in the face of Fixed Term Parliaments, we should have the rebalancing right of power to demand a General Election. Why should the monarch be the only one with the right of Parliamentary/Governmental dissolution? This is our country and such a potential needs to be more than some symbolic gesture.

2 – ‘None of the above’: This could be added to ballot slips in a printed minute. And they would be counted. Imagine if the majority vote was for this box choice… It says not good enough; your manifestos are crap; we don’t believe you; you’re all failing; try listening and thinking; piss off…

In the meantime and in the absence of this magic box, please do spoil your ballot slip if you cannot bring yourself to select what’s on offer. Your spoiled ballot is counted, too. Please turn up.

Remember: not voting at all does nothing whatsoever to secure your interests. It does, however, guarantee a mandate to those with the most power who are NOT us.

3 – A ‘popular’ vote count: Now, I haven’t thought this through like one of those electoral expert types and I may well have overlooked an obvious thing or two but I think you are an intelligent lot who can read into the general spirit of what I’m saying. Any naivety aside, I think it is appalling that a significant proportion of votes are wasted by the present system and that the will of what might be a majority, both locally and nationally is faded into an unrepresented and justifiably resentful obscurity. I live in a seat so entrenched in complacent safety that effecting change seems impossible and I imagine that for many, this contributes to the “why bother” as much as does the complaint of “they’re all the same”.

Because I see ‘safe seats’ and boundaries as a hindrance to national governance, I would like two votes at a General Election. The first vote being for who I want my local representative to be in Parliament. This obviously entails a boundary of some sort and neither does it counter the ambiguous effects of the safe seat. I think, though, that a second vote would assist in softening its negative impacts. I want my second vote to be for the Party/leader to whom I would confer a mandate to govern nationally. This is the vote that I would like to see devoid of any constituency boundary. This is the vote which would not be inhibited by safe seat syndrome and would more clearly reflect the collective wish of the electorate. I would like to see how that looks.

Perhaps the answer I propose is not in actually having two votes but I think the problem itself is one that definitely needs addressing. Maybe there is another way but the answer is not in AV and nor is it proportional representation – at least for the foreseeable. I used to like the idea of the latter, by the way but ‘Borgen’ and our very real Coalition has quite put me off.

And, before you think I’m unconsciously desiring a republican state: this is not about constitutional monarchy versus a republic. Let’s please not get sidetracked by a load of unhelpful, outdated and equally flawed labels. The Republican systems may have features worthy to inspire but nothing to recommend a complete facsimile. They deliver no more real accountability or representation than what we’ve got. This is about making democracy work for us and by us and the processes that entails. We may well have to make some of them up, you know: use our imagination. Bespoke.

Oh, bless the Torygraph!

Oh, bless the Torygraph!
You have to laugh:
It tries so hard and yet its
Credibility decreases with
Each hoist of its irrational
Flag to telegraphic speech;
It parrots pieces of old time
And stereotype – all hype in
Frilly shirts and fancy bloomers –
This old Tory crooner preaches
Supplemental sugar treats
To those who take their slop
With a more modest garnish
Than the Daily Mail adopts.
No, not for nothing does it
Cultivate its outraged face in
Subtler tracts of seeming
People-pleasing Reason
To convince the Worried Well
And Pretty Comfortable that
Anything approaching left is
Recklessness personified.

It plies the great god
Umbrage with entitlement
From battlements bespoke
And smugly reassures the
Fearful Well and Safely
Comfortable that Earth is
Surely flat and that what’s
Right and proper is the more
Ensured by their dab hands
And fossil-brained demands.
Oh bless the Torygraph –
You have to laugh – It’s much
Too daft to be highbrow and
Somehow just refined enough
To seem a cut above the smut.

“Can you bring the coleslaw?”

I could go for days
With just me
For company
And sometimes
Wish I could
Alone is good
No inspection
No rejection

Sitting in a room
When all is trivial
Chatter
An endless stream
Of stuff that doesn’t
Matter to me –
Small talk in
Small doses please

“Can you bring the coleslaw?”
Did my shopping the day before.
Online. Lucky to cover more than
One aisle these days.

Pressure

Cash and logistics
Shit: a physical trip
To Pesky Tesci’s

The kindness of a lift
Door to door
Someone to carry the
Basket.
And an extra, along
For the ride.

The car park’s different
They’ve changed
The entrance, too
“Oh, it’s been like that
For ages”

Shuffle along
Older by thirty years
In the space
Of twenty minutes
Falling behind
Panic
Unnoticed
Saving everyone
From embarrassment:
Check.
Relief

A tattooed- headed man
I’ve never met
Pulls along side
With an open smile
And honest eyes
“Would you like to lean
On my trolley?”

The joy of faith in
Human spirit re-
Affirmed
Both softens
And heightens
Lonely’s turn.