#BritishValues

[June, 2014 – Tragic pertinence needs must rework and repeat]

 

What would you have us value, then?
What passes for these British traits?

Is it the wilful diminution of democracy
That separates the people from the State?

Or maybe our incessantly insistent view
That what we do is “help” the world for its own sake?

Oh, wait!
I think I’ve got it: it’s that fair play code we think we own!
How righteously polite we are!
Perhaps we should commission us a global honour mission
Thus we won’t feel so perceptibly alone.

So, is it in our famous law and order you’ve translated into Money talks?
Our globe-anointed tolerance that shadow-stalks the local masses?
Could it be the age-old choreography between the economic classes?
Is it in our Blighty-quaint ability to wait in lines? The neoliberal culture of
I’ll only pay for mine?

Stiff upper lip, is it?
The non-complaining strategy that manifestly rhymes
Neurotic and sclerotic with our passive-born aggression?
Or perhaps it’s that amazing, self-congratulating way
We tend to trip out on our history’s big lessons?

No, wait! Don’t tell me! Let me guess:
You mean like how you cherish our belovèd NHS?

Hang on..!

Or could it even be our undeniable capacity
To finger-point with swinging lead and buried heads?
Or might it be our deep, rich, grass-root, time-was Cool Britannia,
Now, by Cowell’s ilk and cynical palaver, made an operatic lather?
Is it in the way we gush and gift a paltry nobody to unreserved celebrity
And rush to make pariahs of the stars beyond our knowing?
Is it how we gloat and glower over uncontested power?
Yes! It surely has to be the Press, with all its freedom to impress?

Or is it how we toe the line
When Lord America decides
We might be useful hand-tools, after all?
Is it our poodle disposition or our sniffy exhibition
That defines our island character?

Do Britain’s expositions make her values truly worthy
Or just pompously perfidious and small?

Well?
What the hell and where the heck
Are all these dandy ‘British values’?
Suffer me my ignorance but,
Is it in the way you favour those already able?
Is it how you keep your brother
Or the fear that looks for other
In the refugee and immigrant?
The prisoner? Disabled?
Is it how you treat the NEETs?
The homeless, sleeping on the streets?
The single parent? Needy elders?
Every worker like a serf?

Is it how you are transfixed by everybody’s patriotic worth?

Perhaps you’d like our babies stamped at birth, like eggs,
With redly roaring lions? Then, once they’re schooled and duly cloned,
Be branded with a standard – maybe tractors backed by Union Flags
To make their British value known –
For, what is value worth that can’t be shown?

What are we living longer for?

What are we “living longer” for?
A few years more of being poor
To reach an age of destitution,
Helpless in dependency?

To be neglected; disrespected?
Sitting in the same old chair
In mean and squalid institutions,
Half aware, not really there?

Or, horror! With a lucid mind,
Enduring time and yet more time
To witness co-invented wars;
To weep at wasted brain and brawn?

Our social fabric worn and torn
To mourn lost generations born
Onto a scrapheap, harshly built
By systematic, alternating turns
Of greed and guilt.

[From February, 2013]

 

She said:

“I’m glad I am the age I am,” she said.
“I’m grateful that the road behind
Is longer than my road ahead,
For all I see is war and fear
And grasping greed by grubby hands:
The dark night of the Soul of Man
Enveloping all creeds and lands.

“There’s poison in the hearts of men,” she said.
“An undiluted self-belief and blinding faith
Casts bloody shadows, hollows Hope
And spreads an everlasting hate
Which fashions cold and steals Life’s hallowed Grace.

“There is a madness in the minds of men,
Whose messianic propagations bend
The Golden Bough and fray the sacred threads,
Which then, in haste, they darn with fœtid patches
Lest the Light be glimpsed –
The Truth lies in the gaps,” she said.

[From January, 2013]

Don’t get old‘ – Gaby Hinsliff, Guardian, December 2016

Do you remember?

Do you remember when you were young:
When they sold us a future in which everyone
Would have more time for leisure and
Life’s simple pleasures?

I do.

I remember how ‘progress’ was sold as the shift
Toward treasured Modernity’s time-saving gifts.
I remember when ‘free time’ were not dirty words,
But the envy of those who knew it was absurd
To work hard for The Man, at the cost of your Soul;
To neglect your own senses to fit in a mould;
To conform to consensus and stick to the path
Laid out in perpetuity – however daft…

And yet,

Where does the time go and how is it spent,
But by serving The Man just to pay him more rent?
And while faster goes quicker and more becomes less
Of a joy than a measure of burden and stress,
We regress to Draconia’s cold, hostile age
As a new class of servants with masters who wage
On us their aspirations for their perfect nation.

Obnoxious concoctions and new imitations
Of outdated thinking, consigned long ago
To the scrapyard of ignorant, privileged foes.
Resurrected prescribers and makers of woe
Who would keep us distracted and chained by the nose
To a grindstone which cripples and overly loads
On our bodies and minds and the whole of our time
Is spent rushing and pushing and fleeing and fighting
To be the first one to the end of the line.

 

[First posted: March 2013]

Corbyn isn’t working for Labour

The two main political parties are in meltdown and I feel like we’re just visiting different chapters of ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’. Each day I wonder which crazy land we are going to visit. Britain is on a full-on chaos trip and we must take care to not encourage or advance it. That does not mean, however that all radical and courageous options should be refuted or neglected: there is still useful chaos to be had.

First, I’m not a labour member. I’m just an ordinary voter who wants a credible, competent, pro-EU, not-Tory government. I welcomed Corbyn’s election and the opportunity to give oxygen to anti-TINA economics and a platform for socio-economic justice. I recognised and called out the sabotaging acts of his party’s right-wing and Media’s eagerness to scrutinise and sensationalise everything except his ideas. I voiced apprehension that he would be chewed up and spat out in our political climate. I mused over why he stuck with Labour and didn’t join the Green Party. And I wondered and worried about whether Jeremy would have the capacity, temperament and level of sophistication required to be a credible, long-term prospect. I wrote to those effects, several times, on this site and on social media. I did give him a chance. Chances, actually. In the end, the face palms I performed were over his own doing or failure to do and I saw that a glimmer of timely semi-eloquence, here and there, his constant need to maintain a difficult relationship with journalism, his inability to manage and command authority over his MPs and his preference for preaching to echo chambers was just not going to cut it.

But it was never actually about Jeremy Corbyn, for me; it was only ever about promoting the socio-economic narrative into mainstream discourse with a hope that Labour would recognise its mislaid purpose again.

It doesn’t mean I don’t sincerely wish that things were different. But they are not and now, the EU referendum result has produced special circumstances. Undoubtedly, Corbyn could have done more to better put the remain case for Labour but, how much he is responsible for the result is best left for in-party squabbles and psephologists: I was struggling to see him as a viable party leader, let alone a prime minister, way before that. We are in extraordinary times and now have a sudden opportunity for a General Election that may void Brexit, altogether and avert an utter catastrophe. I need a credible Labour Party to vote for but it has a shed load of work to do and time is of the essence.

The referendum campaign was a farce of outrageous proportions and yet Corbyn’s first public response, after the result was declared, was to announce that he’d respect the democratic will of the electorate. This is supposed to be how it works, except, this was a democratic will to irreversibly leave the EU, expressed by an indecently narrow majority, based on a campaign of incompetence, deception and outright lies. And there he was, the next day, calling for the government to get going on our exit negotiations immediately. This does not square with a self-declared Remainer who could be seizing the opportunity to void the referendum he has reduced to ‘a rejection of the status quo’. The rejection of the status quo is why people chose him, in the first place and he would put it in jeopardy.

At PMQs, Cameron’s evident concern for what he, himself, has recklessly unleashed was clear in his emotionally sincere and frustrated plea, to Corbyn of “for Heaven’s sake man, go!”. On previous days, Cameron’s response to Corbyn’s clumsy, accusatory validation of protest as motivation, I would have put down to his typical Flashman expedience. But Cameron knows, whatever he insists, publicly, that the referendum was a disaster and he was suggesting that Corbyn’s intransigence is now just adding to what stands in the way of a return to effective political sense. That sense being to hold a disreputable Conservative government to account, play smart, limit the damage and rescue Britain – as was already clear in his answers to the House, on Monday, when he quietly and quite cleverly hung Brexit out to dry.

Even if he could win a general election, it seems Corbyn would take us out of the EU, irrespective of current events, options and changing mood. The waves of resignation are from across Labour’s spectrum. They are not just from the opportunists who were always looking for this chance: many are from those who support his politics and have tried hard to promote them and yet his voting base focuses on conspiracy theories. There might well be a bit of two-birds-one-stone truth in them but there are also many, way better reasons for this ‘coup’ than Chilcot opportunism and/or deflection and ‘Red Tory’ framing.

Equally, I can’t blame people for being anxious at the idea of losing Corbyn, since no replacement can necessarily be guaranteed not to swing back to the right. What do his most ardent supporters want most, though? That Jeremy stay as a leader of a cult and lose the general election or perhaps win and be so Brexity or authoritatively hamstrung that the crises continue with more years squandered? Do he and his supporters not realise that the movement towards social justice would come to nothing if he cannot be taken seriously, once PM or if he lets the Tory/UKIP hands of the deregulating-market-is-God, bread and circus (bring your own bread) Brexiteers have their way? The first best chance for the country to achieve his socio-economic vision is by not leaving the EU and, right now, his lovely socio-economic visions count for little if he can’t even acknowledge that Brexit and increasingly he, himself, risks them all.

He says, rightly, that the Government is in disarray. He acknowledges that two thirds of his own party’s voters chose ‘remain’. And yet he only listens to his followers. And yet he wants to start exit plans now. It really doesn’t compute. Jeremy claims he is not resigning because he must represent his own voting base and, of course he must and I respect that. Nevertheless, he has to weigh the blind faith of his fans against the best interests of the country’s whole electorate.

If the Labour leadership election sees Jeremy Corbyn ousted, what I want to know, now, is: 1) will the candidate(s) who stands against Corbyn be actively concerned with trying to void the EU referendum and 2) can the Labour Party give reassurance that they have shifted left and that his replacement now shares his anti-neoliberal, pro social justice mindset. If the answer to either is no, then Labour dooms us all, anyway.

Brexit Bull

”We just don’t know,” said Brexit Bull
”Our heads are with fantasy, already full.
Experts and facts to the back of the queue
We’re busy with wishing and making that do.
We’ve got ifs in derivatives; hedges in coulds
And a spitfiery spirit you can’t overlook.
We are pedlars in miracles and magic beans;
We spin rich over-egging and push mighty memes.
We add garnish and condiments, relish and dread
To our circus and clarion (bring your own bread).
We’re the Bulldogs of Blighty who know what we want:
Passports that honi soit qui à bordeaux pense.
We want rid of the regs that endorse workers’ rights
And to loosen the standards that dignify life.
We’ll trade anything, anywhere, any old how
And swear we’re putting Great back in Britain now
We’ll screw everything, everywhere, for everyone
And declare it is you in control of what comes.”

“Envy”? That’s just nasty.

Hey, Cons,

You are obviously having some trouble understanding the people you govern; that ‘one nation” that you claim to represent. Now, I know, you don’t really give a shit about me, being as I didn’t and wouldn’t vote for you but you like to pretend that you do so I’m going to pretend that this little post will make any difference beyond its cathartic value.

The anger and frustration you are witnessing and feigning hurt feelings over, is due to the consistent gaps, in most matters, between your arrogant, clichéd, repetitive rhetoric and what you actually do and don’t do.

The tax fiasco you preside over is of your making. You are the law makers. You have had six years to draw a clear line between what is legal and what isn’t. You want to imagine that we conflate legitimate government schemes with tax evasion but it is you who keep citing aggressive avoidance as though it were not still evasion and you who use this obfuscation as an excuse to procrastinate and hinder, in order to protect a grotesque power structure. That is the wrong that David Cameron does. Just because you desperately need for us to be stupid does not mean that we are nor that you should treat us so.

This is NOT about ‘envy’; it is not about dead cat tax returns. It’s not about what you inherited or how wealthy you are. Reasonable people don’t care nearly as much as you seem to want them to. What they care about is the power that people have and how they use it, so stop insulting us with your narrow, simplistic, patronising ideas about why the People are so angry. You’re not even close.

The anger is about you trampling all over our natural and righteous desire for social justice. It’s the result of six years of enduring your relentlessly wilful socio-economic ignorance, your divisive modus operandi, your high-horse moralising and your piss-taking lip service. This anger hasn’t just happened over the last few days: it has been there and growing since the first year of your lot’s term as a coalition.

It’s about your neoliberal ideology that depends, entirely, on taking liberties at the expense of others. It’s about your unending support for gluttonous crony industry. It’s about how you think that you, alone, own OUR country because you think you are the only ones entitled, capable and worthy. You really are not. Your group mind is Britain’s nemesis.

We do not have a problem with “wealth creators” – we are your wealth creators, for gods’ sakes. And we are not the “enemies of aspiration”. We are the victims of your I’m alright Jack selfishness and gluttony. We aspire, given half a chance. We want secure, comfortable homes, livable incomes, full bellies, pensions; disposable income for, you know: savings and pleasure; we want better for our children; we want a dignified old age… Basic stuff, really and you don’t even try to get that right. No: you’re too busy aspiring to further your own good fortunes and lording it over us with your unethical and unsustainable let them eat austerity nonsense.

Anyone experiencing – even just observing – the record of your governance, cannot fail to see how you have undermined, reduced and impoverished the People and the country. You are the “low achievers”. Look at the state of our NHS, Education, public sector morale, the welfare scapegoats, the referenda, to name but a few. You sell us out and sell us short. Everywhere I look, you have created an almighty mess. You are wasting our chances and our time. Who on earth would envy you?

There are shifts in public consciousness that are, at last, reaching a critical mass. Connections are finally being made between the state we are in and your petty, demigod governance. We don’t need your nasty party’s “compassion“, we don’t deserve your contempt and we don’t need a government that doesn’t believe in its own citizens. What we need is a government with actual integrity.

This is our country, too. And we are millions.

Now go away.

Immeasurably fixed

He was panicked and embarrassed:
his us and them policies
had caught up with his privileged stock
and he found the process painful;
unfathomable.
His shares bled,
drip by drop;
immeasurably fixed
to quake the patron’s Rock,
transparent of his tricks.
And, still,
there, from the debris of the aftershocks,
came arrogant shticks with interlocking bricks,
to repair his crumbling, patriarchal edifice.

Papasaurus

Dinosaurs did not fall off
When Earth stopped being flat
As Papa built a modern model
Taking care of that

With pockets full of fogeys and
A briefcase packed with bogeymen
He scaffolded an abstract shelf
From which to make pretend

He ironed out the irksome bits
Where people creased his politics
And starched the floppy profiteers
‘Til stiff for TINA’s private bits

He dressed himself progressive
And he groomed himself designed
To make his platitudes and actions
Seem ahead of evidence and time

He said we’re doing all we can
To mitigate the state that drifts
Into potential evolution
With some minds that do not shift

His groupthink roamed the thinning crust
Insisting this and that on trust
As creatures due extinction do
Deny their own entropic thrust

What works is not what works, he said
What doesn’t work is under threat
What works is not what works, he said
My order lives though it be dead

Time and tide (Everybody out!)

Everybody out!
There’s a reckoning to come
Punch out; time’s ticking

Britons to the quick
There’s a kicking to be done
And con men to rout

We shall overcome
Grab your pitchforks, everyone
Tide is turning fast

One collective push
And the tower tumbles down
And the crown is passed

Time and tide are now
All together we are in
No doubt we can win

Democratic clout
Bring social justice in with
Everybody out!