Timothy Snyder (2017) On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century.

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On the eve of President Trump’s ‘working visit’ to the United Kingdom this is a handy book to read. President Trump features more than Putin, or other twenty-first century despots. I guess this short book is a riposte to that shock election result, which wasn’t a shock to Snyder. Depots don’t read books. And Trump doesn’t read. His library consists of stored Tweets.  Snyder’s lessons  On Tyranny shifted through the sands of the mass killings of the Holocaust and Stalinist purges looks at then and now. It’s a call for vigilance, but more than that it’s a call for democracy to be transparent and for that to happen we need a more equitable and just society in which each citizen can be held equally accountable for his or her actions.

Our own traditions demands that we examine history to understand the deep sources of tyranny, and to consider the proper responses to it. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communisim…

1 Do not obey in advance.

A citizen who adapts in this way is teaching power what it can do. #MeToo

First they came for the Socialists

I did not speak out.

I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Windrush generation

I did not speak out.

I was not black.

Then they came for the homeless and unemployed.

I did not speak out.

I was not homeless or unemployed.

2 Defend Institutions

We do not subscribe to the view that Mr Hitler…will suddenly deprive German Jews of their constitutional rights.

We do not subscribe to the view that Mrs May…will suddenly deprive us of the NHS and we will need to pay for health treatment.

We do not subscribe to the view that…some people do not deserve housing, or food, or their children should be educated.

We do not subscribe to the view that 1 in 4 children live in poverty.

3 Beware the one-party state.

‘eternal vigilance is the price of liberty’.

‘The hero of a David Lodge novel says that you don’t know when you make love for the last time that you are making love for the last time’.

We don’t know that when we see a Tory gerrymandered system based on patriotism and lies that we’d see such atrocities such as foodbanks on our streets and some children labelled at birth as being the wrong kind of children. Rejected.  Shame on us.

4 Take responsibility for the face of the world.

The symbols of today are the reality of tomorrow.

In the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin prosperous farmers were portrayed on propaganda posters as pigs.

Under the Cameron and Osborne era anyone on benefits were portrayed as the worst kind of scum. Channels 4 and 5 tried to outdo each other featuring characters, that happened to be –stereotyped- real people, with programmes ending in the tagline Benefits.

‘A neighbour portrayed a pig is someone whose land you can take.’

‘Thus the German who marked shops as ‘Jewish’ participated in the process by which Jews really did disappear.’

Amber Rudd’s migrant memo and ‘hostile environment’ for immigrants in which she did not/ did have targets really did make immigrants disappear.

5 Remember professional ethics

Before the Second World War, a man named Hans Frank was Hitler’s personal lawyer. Later, governor general of Poland where millions of Jews and other Poles were murdered.

I G Farben and other German firms exploited the labour of concentration camp inmates.

Poundstretchers take on staff from benefit office to ‘train’.

‘Just following orders’ doctors and nurses in the health assessment centre in Cadogan Street.

‘Just following orders’ the benefit clerk who sanctions the unemployed.

‘Just following orders’ care staff who puts your mother to bed at six o’clock

6 Be wary of paramilitaries.

‘American state government pay corporations to run prisons, the use of violence in the United States is already highly privatised.’

‘As a candidate, the president ordered a private security detail to clear opponents from rallies.’

Mob violence and the ideology of exclusion.

The British government pay corporations to run prisons…and schools and railways and the NHS.

7 Be reflective if you must be armed.

The evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers doing irregular things. Be ready to say no.

In the Great Terror of the Soviet Union, NKVD officers recorded 628 691 executions of supposed enemies of the state.

The Holocaust began not in the death facilities, but over the shooting pits in eastern Europe.

Black Lives Matter# because time and again it’s proven they don’t really.

8 Stand out.

Remember Rosa Parks.

Remember Hillsborough.

Remember Grenfell Towers.

9 Be Kind to Our Language

Read books.

Victor Klempner noticed how Hitler’s language rejected legitimate opposition. The people always meant some people and not others (the president [Donald Trump] uses the word in the same way) encounters were always struggles ( the president says winning), and any attempt by free people to understand the word in a different way was defamation of the leader (or, as the president puts it, libel).

George Osborne used the word welfare to legitimise the use of taking money from the poorest members of society and give it to the richest. This wasn’t called theft but wiping out the deficit and balancing the economy.

10 Believe in truth.

The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.

Victor Klempner – truth dies in four modes.

  1. Open hostility to verifiable reality. e.g. One attempt during the 2016 presidential campaign found that 78 percent of his factual claims were false. e.g. the cladding on Grenfell towers was fireproof.
  2. Shamanistic incantation and endless repetition. e.g. Build the wall. Lock her up. e.g. the NHS is safe in our hands
  • Magical thinking, or the open embrace of contradictions. e.g. president’s campaign involved cutting taxes for everyone, eliminating the national debt, and increasing spending on both social policy and national defence. e.g. George Osborne and the Conservative Party promised to eliminate the national debt and maintain the same levels of services. e.g. The NHS is asked to find savings from its savings and decrease bureaucracy by appointing more managers to manage change.

A blatant abandonment of reason. Amber Rudd’s I did not set targets for deportations of immigrants from the UK. These were set at a local level and they weren’t really targets.

  1. Misplaced faith. e.g. the Fuhrer’s all-knowing greatness. Trump’s ‘I alone can solve it’ from local crime to the problem with Russia or North Korea, but not Israel. He’s already solved that. e.g. the doublethink of Osborne cutting money to the poorest in our society and telling them he was helping them.

11 Investigate.

Like Hitler, the president [Trump] used the word lies to mean statements of facts not to his liking, and presented journalism as a campaign against himself.

We will be better off after Brexit. Lies.

The NHS will gain an extra £150 million a week. Lies.

There will be no hard border in Ireland? Really? How?

12 Make eye contact and small talk.

It was no great surprise that Teresa May fled from victims of the Grenfell fire. Like Trump she doesn’t like dealing with minions. They leave that kind of things to their servants.

13 Practice corporeal politics.

Power wants your body softening in a chair.

Solidarity in Poland began small. #MeToo. #Black Lives Matter.

14 Establish a Private Life.

Scrub your computer. Tyrants seek the hooks on which to hang you. Try not to have hooks.

Facebook theft and manipulation put Trump in the White House. Few journalists talked of Russian involvement and the trashing of privacy codes.

Hannah Arendt suggests totalitarian regimes seek to remove the idea of privacy, everything is public, unless you’ve got something to hide (tagline). Society becomes a mob seeking sanctioned scapegoats.

15 Contribute to good causes.

Support civil society and help others to do good.

16 Learn from peers in other countries.

Russia used many of the cyberwar techniques against the Ukraine that is deployed against the United States.

Most Americans do not have passports. Most claim they would die defending America, but against what?

17 Listen for dangerous words.

Extreminsm. Terrorism.

Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotism. We surrender freedom for safety against the other. Immigrants. Asylum Seekers.  Health tourists. Families on welfare. Feral children.

Extremism, those not in the mainstream. The poor and disadvantaged who need to be controlled. Locked up.

18 Be calm when the unthinkable arrives.

The oldest trick in the book, burn the Reichstag, blame the Jews, suspend freedom of expression, the right to a fair trial, the only way to deal with terrorists is to torture and terrorise.

Create a hostile environment in which asylum seekers do not have legal aid, do not have the right of appeal, do not have any rights. Send them home. Don’t worry where home is. We will define it for you.

19 Be a patriot.

Mr President. What is patriotism?

It is not patriotic to dodge the draft

It is not patriotic to mock war heroes.

It is not patriotic to discriminate against active-duty members of the armed forced (i) in one’s companies, or (ii) to campaign to keep disabled veterans from one’s property.

It is not patriotic to compare one’s search for sexual partners in New York with military service in Vietnam that one has paid to dodge.

It is not patriotic to avoid paying taxes, especially when American working families do pay.

It is not patriotic to expect American taxpayers to finance one’s own presidential

campaign and then to spend their contributions on one’s own companies.

It is not patriotic to admire foreign dictators

It is not patriotic to share an adviser with Russian oligarchs.

20 Be as courageous as you can.

Be an enemy of the people, if that what it takes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Celtic 5—0 Rangers

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Odsonne Edouard scored the first goal and the second, and teed up McGregor for another. Mikhael Lustig celebrated by putting on a policeman’s hat. Lustig also indicated to one of the Ranger’s players that he had him in his pocket. All over the pitch Celtic players were checking their pockets to see they didn’t inadvertently carry a Rangers’ player to seventh heaven and the championship party. Rogic pinged in another. James Forest even scored against Rangers. It was that sort of game.

In truth losing by five goals flattered Rangers. Andy Halliday rolled off the park and back onto it. He was better staying off and every time he took a throw in was cheered by the Celtic support. Morelos had his usual miss, but not as much of a shocker as his usual sitter. He too was cheered by the Celtic support.  Rangers were beaten in every department. No statement came from Ibrox. On and off the park they lacked class. Steven Gerard should have brought his boots.

 

Kirsty Logan (2016) The Gracekeepers.

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Kirsty Logan is appearing in Dalmuir Library as part of West Dunbartonshire Libraries’s Festival of Words. Her novel The Gracekeepers is currently novel of the month. I usually have a crack at novel of the month, having been nominated myself, but also because my reading tends to be predictable and sometimes it’s good to shake it up and try something new. I wouldn’t usually have picked the The Gracekeepers and I certainly wouldn’t have finished it. There’s lots of good things in it, but just not my thing.

In a world much like ours, the reader gets a sense of sameness and difference in the opening paragraph.

The first Callanish knew of the Circus Excalibur was the striped silk of their sails against the grey sky. They approached her island in convoy: the main boat with its bobbing trail of canvas-covered coracles following like ducklings, chained in an obedient line.

The world is split between those that live on the land (landlockers) and those that live at sea (damplings). Seas have risen. We learn later that it has something to do with banker’s greed and land is rare as the charity landlockers give to damplings. Our world is torn.

‘Gracekeepers were given one cup, one plate, one bowl, one spoon. They were not expected to entertain visitors.’

Gracekeepers, as the name implies, give grace and bury the dead at sea. In a world made of damplings and landlockers, gracekeepers have a house, which the waves wash against. Callenish is a landlocker, but she has a secret, and her secret is the secret that drives North, who performs with her bear on The Circus Excalibur.  Read on.

 

 

Alan Warner (2012) The Deadman’s Pedal.

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I’ve read Morvern Caller, The Sopranos, The Stars in the Bright Sky, and The Deadman’s Pedal. I liked them all, or I wouldn’t have finished reading them. Life’s too short to mess about reading shite. The Deadman’s Pedal, when we take the foot off the gas the train comes to a halt. There’s a metaphor there somewhere. The Deadman’s Pedal is my favourite Warner book of this collection.

The other books involved gaggles of young girl narrators from the Port, a wee town up past Fort William, making their drunken way into a world that doesn’t offer much, but fuck it, they’re taking it anyway. Red Hannah, for example, has a walk on part as Morvern Caller’s dad who adopted her, but has retired from the railways and ends up shagging her mate.

For those looking for clues who Alan Warner is then the dedication is a dead giveaway, ‘for Mike Moorcock and for all the boys of the old station’.

Red Hannah, also gets a walk on part, or train ride here, because he’s part of the twelve disciples, the train workers that run the trains from the Port to Glasgow and back again. Simon, the Young Fellah, leaves school and falls into the job of trainee driver, much as I’d expect a young Alan Warner did.

Warner is great at group gigs and his plotting runs as sweet as a British Rail timetable. Simon, being a bit of a shagger, has a number of girls on the go, but it never seems that way. We meet Simon on page 15, aged 15, outside the school gates with his pal, Galbraith and they’re talking about leaving school, but there’s no real need. Simon’s da is pretty wealthy, he runs a road haulage firm and has ten lorries on the road. Road haulage is replacing the railway as the way to transport goods. Simon can’t drive a lorry until he’s eighteen. No such age restriction apply to school girl Nikki Clarke.

As Galbraith says, ‘Imagine riding it. Legs. Little shoes with heely things.’

Simon fancies her, of course, he does. But he also fancies Nikki Caine’s older sister, who’s gallus in a way that we know from all those other Stars in the Bright Sky.

Hing on a minute you’ll be thinking, how come we’re at page 15 before all this happens? Well, the first part is about Little Moan, and goes back ten years to 1961, the ancestral home of the Bultitude’s and the Queen is paying a visit. As you’d expect it’s not a council estate, landed gentry, rich cunts that robbed the land.

Page 83, June 1973, Simon, his wee brother Jeff, Galbraith and Big Davie trail behind the Bultitude’s, ‘eight horses and their erect riders’. That’s not the only thing erect.

Big Davie puts Varie in the frame, much like Galbraith does with Nikki Clarke. ‘Davie said patiently, “That’s the daughter: Varie Bultitude. Fucking spunk-dripper on a set of legs, man. I’d shag her bedroom floor.”’

Good looking, beautiful, she looked like a young…Bridget Bardot, but with black hair, aye, if you’re trying your hand at creative writing I’ll let you away with the latter. ‘But fucking spunk dripper on a set of legs,’ aye, that’s more than beautiful, that’s so fucking true. Simon’s not so simple. Read on.

Celtic 4—0 Rangers

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Craig Gordon was questioned by Department of Employment officials yesterday over allegations that he had been working. He offered as evidence a second-half save from Bruno Alves (£30 000 something quid a week man that can’t get a start in this Rangers team) and other saves from the £8 million rated Morelos. The Department of Employment officials just started laughing when they heard Morelos had been involved and ripped up the paperwork.

There had been burst balloons all over the pitch. Halliday, for one, had a shouting match with his manager and the bench, when taken off before half time. Celtic’s stats were impressive. Two goals up, Rogic and McGregor and they were so far ahead that an ice cream van parked in the Celtic box to sell blue-and-white pokie hats with raspberry topping to Ranger’s diehards leaving the stadium.

Dembele’s penalty, a cheeky little dink, to make it 3-0 and the sending off of McCrorie made it a fun day out of the green-and-white brigade. Madden should have taken a leaf out of one of our old drunken Welfare league referees that had warned me he was going to leave me on the pitch as an abject lesson to the other players. Candeias was hooked and like Halliday took turns shouting at his manager and staff.

Celtic send on Paddy Roberts for a wee run about in the Hampden sun. He was brought down for the second penalty and Dembele passed the ball to his mate Nitcham and told him to back-heel it in with his eyes shut. Nitcham, being a spoil sport, whipped it into the bottom corner. Sinclair came on for a run about and Leigh Griffiths did a bit of ball juggling when taking a corner. The party hats were on. You’d think we’d won the final. Motherwell will give us a game.

Alan Warner (2011) The Stars in the Bright Sky.

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The librarian said you’re going to love this book. It’s exactly how young girls behave when they go on holiday. She was buzzed about it and even smiled.  And it was longlisted for the Man Brooker Prize in 2010. But any good stories got a BUT, I use them a lot. The laws of diminishing returns apply here.

I did love Morvern Caller, Alan Warner’s debut novel.  The Sopranos was great, six eighteen-year old girls from a Catholic school and a wee town about forty miles from Fort William hitting the big smoke of Edinburgh and giving it hell.

Here we have six twenty-one year old women, five of them from a wee Scottish town…hitting Gatwick airport, where nothing happens twice. Orla from The Sopranos is dead. We learn from Finn her dad was upright at the funeral but cried for three days when his neighbour’s cat died.

Or as Finn puts it when she bursts into tears and goes to hide in a Gatwick toilet, ‘When I come to write the book, Kay, it’ll be called: “Tears in the Toilet Cubicle: Our Social Circle’’.’

A toilet cubicle is where the action is in this and Warner’s previous novels. Gatwick Airport doubles as one big toilet from Friday Evening when the novel begins to Tuesday, when it ends, with bars and daft dancing machines and hotel room and drink. Drink pays a big part in Scottish culture and these young girls rip into it from a young, too young, age. Hey, the books say, you’ve got to love them, I did it too and that’s part of what gives Warner’s books its spark. #Me Too.

You can tell a lot from what a young lady drinks. And Warner like his list of music preferences, clothes and make up, gives the reader lists.

Manda: Pint of Guinness Extra Cold

Ava: Double straight Stolichnaya vodka with Red Bull

Kay: Medium-size glass of red wine.

Chell: Bacardi Breezer.

Finn: Tomato juice with vodka, unworthy of the title Bloody Mary.

Kylah: Red Bull and vodka.

Ava has taken the place of Orla from The Sopranos. She’s rich and very thin and pretty, an outsider, a bit like Kay was in The Sopranos that becomes central to the story.

With the jazz of so many voices clamouring to be heard it’s often difficult to tell who is who. In the Sopranos I often lost the thread of which character was speaking, but the narrative carried the book to its conclusion. This happens for me here too.

Look at the drink list above and you’ll see Manda Tassy stands out. A bit rougher than the rest, a bit of crude, when crude is the language of rude. She was a minor character in The Sopranos. Here she is central, more so than The Mighty Finn or sophisticated Kay, who falls apart, as they all do in their different ways. That’s part of the fun, falling down and getting up again. Manda is a running gag in the book, a plot point, detested and loved, in an oversized glass measure.

Laurel and Hardy with pretentions and the narrative often switches to Manda’s point of view. Can she carry the book, in the way that Morvern Caller? Nut. She’s just an annoying cow.

Whatever Happened to Paddy Roberts?

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A wee cameo, Hampden in the sun, this time last year. Celtic win the treble. Unbeatable. Kieran Tierney comes back from the hospital in crutches to pick up his medal. Paddy Roberts is waiting for him. The Likely Lads. It was a glorious sight to see wee Paddy in full flow and we were sad to see him go. Many of us thought he might even be good enough to play for his parent club Manchester City.

Not that I cared the only team that interests me is Celtic. Rodgers brought in Aberdeen’s best player that day and most other days, Johnny Hayes. Shame about his injury, but he doesn’t look good enough for Celtic.

Paddy does. He doesn’t. Simple. So when we hear the Paddy and Kieran bromance is back on over the summer. And it turns out to be true. Well, overjoyed, whoopee.

I just hope Paddy makes it back from injury. It’ll not be at Celtic. His season-long loan almost done.  He got the last 20 minutes in the 3—0 victory at Parkhead over Ross County. Midweek, when most commentators were salivating over the Manchester City-Liverpool European clash, us Bhoys were watching real fitba. Celtic v Dundee.

Gordon was back in goals for his 200th appearance. Great to see him. Tierney is injured. Calum McGregor playing left back. McGregor quite simply has proved he can play anywhere. Rodgers says he doesn’t give the ball away.

Let’s talk Boyata. He does give the ball away. Remember that game against Bayern, ball straight down the middle. Same again against Dundee. Boyata and ex-Dundee player Jack Hendry get into a kerfuffle. Just before half-time a Boyata tackle hits the inside of the Celtic goalpost, but doesn’t go in. It rolls along the line. Boyata makes more mistakes the Effe Ambrose and it’s nothing to do with skin colour, just ability. Neither is good enough. It needs to be asked, where is Marvin Compper?

We know where Paddy is, on the bench. A lightweight like Charly Musonda. Their place in the Celtic pecking order was shown after sixty turgid minutes against Dundee. Off goes Dembele, off goes Sinclair and off goes Armstrong. Rodgers makes three substitutions, throws the dice, but doesn’t call Paddy’s number.

That’s where Paddy is. The Celtic team regressing from the highs of last year. The league is won. The league cup is won. Only the Scottish Cup remains for back to back trebles. But for the first time in two years I think Rangers have a chance at Hampden on Sunday. Our big player, our best players, just haven’t turned up this season and the ones brought in to replace them are sub-Celtic standard. Paddy, Paddy, prove me wrong.