Seven Worlds, One Planet, BBC 1, BBC iPlayer, narrator David Attenborough.

There are countless wildlife programmes way back to the mists of time, but there’s only one David Attenborough. He’s the gold standard of natural history and been doing it a very long time. There he is onscreen, popping up in Borneo in 1964, when it was mostly jungle, now it’s not. There are wildlife sanctuaries instead, as soon as you say that you know something has gone drastically wrong.

Here we have it, Seven Worlds, One Planet, has a didactic purpose. Tarzan might have been king of the jungle, but it was Attenborough’s clout and pictures of a whale losing its baby because of plastic bags that led to revolution at home. Plastic bag use is shops is down something like 98% and that’s the Attenborough effect. What he’s telling us now is global warming is killing us, killing the planet and killing the wildlife we are meant to protect.

We can’t because Malthus was right and the clock’s ticking. Mankind scores high in every score in Robert Hare’s Psycopathy Checklist (Revised).

‘Glibness’. In Asia, walruses like to rest on ice, but when there’s none they need to rest on rock.  The problem is congestion. On the Siberian costs tens of thousands of walruses scramble up cliffs and rocks to get a space. Most of them weight a ton, literally and aren’t designed for hard landings. Polar bears find them easy pickings on land. A rare event, polar bears and walruses congregating together becomes the new normal. We can glibly say, ‘It’s only a walrus’. Until there were none.

‘Grandiose sense of self-worth.’ God above, man below, the steward of all. Aye, right. God can just fuck off. Because we’re the real deal. We’ll do what we want, when we want because we are God. Animals are there to be ate.

‘Need for stimulation’. This reminds me of when the great race was on to cover America in train tracks. Just for fun passengers used to get on a train, stick a rifle out the window and shoot buffalo.

‘Pathological lying’. See moron’s moron in the Whitehouse as basic role model for it wasnae me and if it was, it still wisnae me. David Attenborough is trying to bring a bit of sense into the argument. He’s talking eons, when what is now India collided with the Himalayas pushing them up five miles, above the clouds, creating snowfall and microclimates. Nobody’s listening, we’re too busy telling lies.

‘Manipulation’. The Paris Agreement in December 2015, 195 countries adopted the first ever, legally-binding, global climate reduction deal. The biggest fossil fuel debtor walked away, said there was no such thing as global warming. See moron’s moron above.

‘Lack of remorse’. When the last Sumatran rhino dies and we no longer hear its jungle song, will we care? I think not. See ‘Glibness’.

‘Shallow affect’. No crocodile tears, no tears at all. No crocodiles. Our emotions are skin deep.

‘Lack of empathy’. Empathy is usually described as putting yourself in another’s shoes. Bit clichéd. Attenborough tries to make us care by showing large-eyed baby orangutans clinging to their mother and climbing the tallest trees to get the best food. He tries to humanise them. See ‘Lack of remorse’.

‘Parasitic lifestyle’.  In The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, his boss CJ always ended his monologue with a story ‘I didn’t  get where I am today…’ Mankind is the world’s greatest parasite. There’s around 7.6 billion of us. Rising to 10 billion, soonish. But we account for only 0.01% of all species but have destroyed around 83% of all mammals and 50% of all plants, from fungi to fish we’re in the dock.

‘Poor behavioural controls’ Poor behaviour is mandatory around animals, plants, fungi and fish. Any kind of red tape is anathema to us. See moron’s morons ripping up almost 100 years of incremental improvements in taking care of the environment. I’m proud to say John Muir was Scottish. He was ‘Father of the National Parks’ in America. The moron’s moron has a smidgen of Scottish blood in his veins, but there the link ends.

‘Promiscuous sexual behaviour’.  Out on the desert-like Indian plateaus garishly coloured lizards fight for the right to have sex. Mankind doesn’t do much fighting for sex, but we do a lot of procreating. See ‘Parasitic lifestyle’.  

‘Early behavioural problems’. Man has always been a killer. Mass genocide of the American Indian, the aboriginal Australians and the murder and enslavement of black Africans is just a taster.

‘Lack of realistic, long-term goals’. We agreed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Then we didn’t. We disagreed about agreeing and up the ante to 2 degrees Celsius. See runaway global warming – it’s not going to wait.

‘Impulsivity’. Mankind isn’t impulsive. We just do what we want, when we want. Other species can also be red-blooded and impulsive, but usually it’s tied to a short-term goal. See ‘Lack of realistic, long-term goals’.

‘Irresponsibility’. Science is a noun and a verb. A body of knowledge and a methodology. Only man has the language of how stupid and irresponsible we are. We face planetary disaster yet we’d much rather the world burns than change. Science tells us this is going to happen. See ‘Impulsivity’.

‘Failure to accept responsibility for our own actions.’ In the frozen Kamchaka peninsula, brown bears waking after hibernation seek out active volcanoes. Mankind does that too, see moron’s moron.

‘Short-term marital relationships.’ Mankind is pretty good at that and we’re getting better. The moron’s moron’s only been married three times. One of them might be fake news. See ‘Parasitic lifestyle’.

‘Juvenile delinquency’. Mankind has had two global conflicts. The third one really will be apocalyptic. When nations fight for enough water to feed themselves, when every stream and river becomes a conflict zone and those higher up the pecking order control the waters of those below (see the Ganges river, for example) then juvenile delinquency really could come to blows.

‘Revocation of conditional release’.  Yeh, the Paris Agreement of 2015 was ratified, but in 2018 the perennial re-offender and moron’s moron walked away. He’s still on parole. Let’s hope it’s prison time for him, personally, soon.

‘Criminal versatility.’ Mankind has committed every kind of crime against our planet I’m tempted to start spouting like Donald Rumsfeld about ‘the known knowns’, ‘the known unknowns’ and the ‘unknown unknowns’.

Only David Attenborough can explain what we’ve done to our Blue Planet. We massacring it with criminal abandon. That’s the didactic element of Seven Worlds, One Planet. Some known known is sure to complain about a waste of taxpayer’s money. See Grandiose Sense of Self Worth, but watch Attenborough and learn. Mankind scores 20 out of 20 on the Psychopathy Checklist. We are not to be trusted. We fuel not only our own doom, but mass species extinction and we blame somebody else.  There’ll be no walking away this time. No Seven Worlds. No nothing.      

Storyville: Inside Lehman Brothers, BB4, BBC IPlayer, Director Jennifer Deschamps.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0009tpx/storyville-inside-lehman-brothers-the-whistleblowers

Lehman Brothers was one of the first dominoes to fall in the 2008 crash which brought down the world’s financial systems. Debts for Lehman Brothers were around $630 billion. Take a little time to think about that. It’s like the idea of infinity. Your mind shies away from how much money that is. Physicists like to simplify things. If your typical hospital, such as the one in Glasgow or Edinburgh cost £100 million, how many hospitals could you build? Boris Johnson proposes 26 new hospital, but he wasn’t very good at sums, someone quietly mentioned that he really meant six, which doesn’t have the same oomph, but he did throw in 20 000 new police officers in a great big tax giveaway before the next election.  Think of the Laurel and Hardy of British politics, Cameron and Osborne, forever telling us there was no money, while quietly shifting money from the poor to the rich. The United Kingdom and London, in particular, the money-laundering capital of the world.  Lehman Brothers isn’t the rogue bank, the cautionary tale that taught us a valuable lesson. As the billions of pounds and dollars levelled in fines show, all the banks were at it. Lehman brothers were offered up to the gods of finance because they were small enough to go under.

Winners and losers. Richard S. Fuld Jr, who was essentially Lehman Brothers, in all but corporate name and whose pitiful salary in 2007 was around $22 million and after appearing before a Congressional Committee and declaring it was a bull market and it ‘wasn’t me’. A common cry from uncommonly wealthy men.  Fuld walks away with $406 million in bonuses and is exonerated.

The sheriff’s department in finance, The Security and Exchange Commission, (SEC) which is meant to step in when financial irregularities occur, in theory, self regulates. What that means in practice is a representative from Morgan Stanley, for example, investigates Lehmann Brothers. Whistle blower at executive level, Matthew Lee, for example, informed the SEC that Lehmann Brothers were running a carousel in which they took around $50 billion off the audited books in America and sent them to Lehmann Brothers in London, then brought the money back, after the audit had taken place, to hide the subprime losses they were making. Trading followed a very basic principle if it wasn’t illegal, do it. If it was illegal still do it, as long as you make money, but don’t get caught. Lee had handed the SEC a smoking gun in a file called ‘Repo 105’.

After six months the SEC hadn’t got back to Matthew Lee but he had been fired by Lehman Brothers.

Self-regulation of the SEC was, in essence, like sending Harvey Weinstein to investigate Jeffrey Epstein.   

In 2018, the moron’s moron, Vietnam dodger, multiple bankrupt and other well-known sex pest, who also happens to be President of the United States, repealed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was set up after the financial crash 2008. Like the Glass-Steagall legislation it was seen as being overly bureaucratic, making the United States less competitive than its counterparts. In other words, let’s fill our boots again and don’t worry about consequences because little people don’t count.

Not only are banks and regulatory bodies for sale, as we’ve seen the position of President of the United States is too. Gearing up for the next election, Mark Zuckerberg, who did so much to get Trump elected has changed Facebook policy to allow politicians to publish alternative truth, ‘deceptive, false, or misleading content’.

Donald Trump was of course elected to ‘drain the swamp’. In 2017 there’s another bull market and bonuses once again reach 2007 level, running around $30 billion for traders. Algorithmic trading follow the crowd meaning a Lehman type crash will happen faster with greater fallout.

When we’re talking about money, put a face to it. There’s not all them here, not all of them are buffoons, but all of them are millionaires, some of them billionaires. Can another Lehman Brother’s crash happen?  Absolutely.

For Sama, by Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts, 2019, Channel 4, 9pm

https://www.channel4.com/programmes/for-sama/on-demand/66428-001

When you get personal, you get real. Waad al-Kateab, using phone and camcorder gives voice and sound and fury to what was once her home, Aleppo, before it was levelled and she, her husband and daughter, Sama, were forced into exile.

There’s echoes of other diarists such as James Baldwin’s, A Letter to My Nephew, which argues ‘it’s the innocence which constitutes the crime’.

Waad al-Kateab dedicates the film to her daughter, Sama. A precious child that sleeps soundly through air raids, missile, and barrel bomb attacks and knew nothing but war.

One of the most poignant scenes is a pregnant woman brought to the makeshift hospital where Hamaza, Waad al-Kateab’s husband and father of Sama, works as a volunteer doctor. Bashar al-Assad’s government forces routinely targeted hospitals. The woman has been wounded in the stomach and it’s pierced her womb, she’s nine months pregnant. Hamaza performs an emergency caesarean and the neonate is dead. An assistant tries to bring the baby back to life. He rubs its back. Massages its heart. Shakes it like a piece of meat. Then a miracle, the baby cries. The pregnant mother survives, reunited with her boy.

The Arab Spring offers a prelude to the winter of Aleppo in 2016. ‘Bashar has killed our people. That son of a killer,’ one banner read.

Aided by Russia, the war in Syria goes on. For Sama documents how its people can expect bombings, shooting, torture and death.  For the lucky few, exile – and hatred, classed as non-persons, refugees.

As Baldwin reminds us, ‘I know what the world has done to my brother and how narrowly he has survived it and I know, which is much worse, and this is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen and for which neither I nor time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it.’

Amen.

Gdansk

In November, 1988, a crowd of around 20 000 cheered as the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, met Lech Walesa. He was a shipyard worker from the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk and leader of Solidarity, the independent Polish trade union movement.  

Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski had Thatcher’s car stopped before she reached the airport to board a Royal Airforce jet to London and presented her with a bouquet of flowers.

‘I came to see and to have a long talk with Mr. Walesa . . . . I knew that I had to come and feel the spirit of Poland for myself,’ said Thatcher.

Almost thirty years ago, 17th September 1980, Walesa led a strike against a programme of economic austerity in which the Gdansk shipyard would close.

Walensa’s key demands were reinstatement of sacked workers and a wage rise for those in work. Strikes spread to other industries and throughout Poland.

‘We shall not be found wanting when Poland makes the progress toward freedom and democracy its people clearly seek,’ Thatcher said, garnering praise for her support of a free trade union movement.

Arthur Scargill, leader of the National Union of Mine Workers, in the miner’s strike, 1984-85, key demands were no different from Walesa, with his claim that the National Coal Board in the name of economic austerity had a ‘hit list’ of 75 pit closures and the government was stockpiling coal and converting power stations to burn other fossil fuels.

The spirit of Poland, support for a free trade union movement, and freedom of movement were reported sorely missing from the spirit of Thatcherism. 84 000 miners and then there were none. Lest we forget, that’s democracy for you.

Celtic 2—1 Lazio.

Celtic got lucky last night and I got unlucky, with my three quid bet on Christopher Julien to score the first goal, odds 40/1. Julien popped up with the winner on the last minute of the ninety. But there was still time for the Italians to fling players forward. Celtic held out. Prior to the nail-biting finale, with some stout defending, but for two wonder saves by Fraser Forster victory could and perhaps should have went to the Italian visitors.

Fraser Forster does what goalkeepers are meant to do. Win you games. Scott Bain stopped doing it, prior to his injury. Craig Gordon is so out of the picture he’s grew a beard and is auditioning for seasonal shifts as Santa in his local supermarket. Forster has his limitations. He’s not a goalkeeper that’s going to keep the ball and play dinky little passes to his midfield or defenders. He’s a humper of balls and that’s the way I like it. Forster also had a howler this season, if you look back at the second goal against Livingstone. The ball was kicked from one end of the park to the other and into his box. Stay or go. Forster stayed and went too late. It was his goal to lose and his fault. Simple.

But remember when Barcelona tagged him the big yellow banana, or something stupid. It might have been barrier. He was that good that world-class players, who would never remember the name Scott Brown, kinda remembered who he was. Forster took the iconic number 67 and put it on his back. He knows what that means.

Ryan Christie took the place of Tom Rogic, scored in 67 minutes to equalise a tie that looked to be slipping away from the Celts.

Celtic with a capacity crowd behind them—and me screaming from the pub couch, with a pint of Guinness in my hand—started brightly. Forest set up Odsonne Edouard, but the Celtic striker took too long to hit it and was blocked by the Italian defender Denis Vavro. Hatem Abd Elhamed was in for Jeremy Frimpong, the Dutch wonder kid, who played so well in the six-nil defeat of Ross County.  I’m tempted to quote Bruce Lee when he spotted somebody karate-ing their way through lumps of wood, ‘boards don’t hit back’. Lazio weathered these early setbacks. Our wingers, James Forest and Mohamed Elyounoussi, largely disappeared as attacking threats. The latter, was replaced late in the game by Tom Rogic, but it could have just as easily been Forest. And everybody that knows if you’re a winger and you get replaced by Rogic, you’re having a stinker.

Ryan Christie had shaved the outside of the post. Callum McGregor then came close with a dipping drive. There were shouts for a penalty. I was shouting anyway. We didn’t get a penalty, but we did lose a goal. That shut me up.

Boli Bolingoli was too high up the park. I’m not blaming him, although I’m tempted. He’s redeemed himself somewhat, after his performance at Ibrox, but he’s still the weakest link. A pass in behind Boli split the Celtic defence. Kristoffer Ajer went too late to block Lazarri. The Italian zipped the ball into the net at Forster’s near post. All three Celtic players were culpable, but despite his late heroics, perhaps the goalkeeper should have done better.

Celtic were a goal down at half-time and Lazio were the more dangerous and better team. Celtic didn’t offer the same energy at the start of the second half. Lazio looked the team more likely to score the second goal and win the tie. We got lucky again.

We’d almost scored. Edouard chased the ball down and worked his way into the box. Closed down by defenders he back-heeled the ball to Elyounoussi who had a clear shot on goal, but fluffed it. The ball broke to Christie who hit it at an on-rushing defender.

At the other end of the park, time seemed to stop as Joaquin Correa went through a one-on-one with Forster. The human banana blocked him and he flicked a shot off the base of the post. Celtic were still in the game.

And in 67 minutes Christie again scored in Europe, hitting the ball first time and curling it by the keeper.

Lazio looked the more likely team to get a winner. Forster made two world-class wonder saves. Lazarri had, once again, left Bolingoli needing a drone delivery to get back in, and Parlo met his nemesis in Forster. Parlo was in again later, to shank wide.

Julien popped up with that winner. Raising the roof. I’d like to say the best team won. Aye, we did. Kinda.  

Derren Brown (2016) Happy: Why more or less everything is fine.


I like Derren Brown which makes everything easier. As Billy Connolly said when people approach him they are usually smiling. Derren Brown doesn’t make me happy. You can only do that yourself and he’s not really sure that happiness exists, except as a transitory experience, a bi-product of something else. Derren Brown’s book reminds me f those chap-books heroines in nineteenth-century novels, written by Jane Austen, who were, for example, always scribbling in it remembrances such as   ‘Where our treasure is there will our hearts be also’.

I’m not knocking it. That’s what this blog is. Derren is a great debunker. I like that too. He’s got an inside track on how magic works and debunks mystics, especially charlatans that prey on the needy searching for answers that involve the afterlife. For Derren there’s no after life. The theme of his book is it’s this life we should concentrate on.

First up on the firing line are those selling the notion of positive thinking as a panacea for…well, just about everything positive. The negative stuff is your fault, for not being positive enough. If you’ve got cancer, it’s your fault for not being positive. As it progresses it’s your fault for not being positive enough. Derren isn’t saying positive thinking isn’t a good idea, but it’s not a cure, but a marketing strategy to hook the gullible and snake-oil for the most vulnerable and needy.  We don’t for example give a dog a tablet and tell it to think positively about it, or give a horse an injection and then complain that it no longer gallops as fast.

The problem as Derren (and economists) see it is our needs are limited our wants unlimited. The solution is asking why we want something, what story is being told to sell it? When we change ourselves we change the narratives of our lives.

Derren looks at the considered life. Stoicism and hedonism as propounded by the ancient Greek Epicureans. He flings in a bit of everything: Aristotle, Christianity, Renaissance and Marxism and stirs with a big spoon. (I’m going to look at that bit again, I’m always interested in Marxist dialectic because it sounds quite intellectual.)

The next major means of achieving happiness and redemption from the encumbrance of society was offered by the Marxists: work will set you free.  

(No it willnae, I hear myself saying).

To Marx, a bourgeois society alienates its working class from rewarding or creative labour.

(That’s more in line with my viewpoint. We all tell ourselves stories that resonate within us and seem true.)

Next up are the Stoic building blocks for a proper life. I can’t remember what they are, but they sounded to me like one of the steps in the AA handbook about powerlessness. To paraphrase, accepting the things you cannot change and having the wisdom to know the difference. You can get somebody (like Alexander the Great) to step out of the way so you can get the sunlight, but you can’t move the sun.

Derren rattles through more of life’s lessons, regarding being famous, being rich and being loved. As Meatloaf says 2 out of 3 ain’t bad. But Darren gives us the secret magic formula for success (which I’ve forgotten and will need to look up, again, but I’m happy too).

TALENT + ENERGY = SUCCESS

STYLE + ATTITUDE = BEING A STAR

Twinkle, twinkle I say, but Derren does allow for the Greek idea of FATE. This is shorthand for saying I don’t know. I often use it to bemoan my own fate. I’m often happy to do so.

The ending of the book is about death and happy endings. Funnily enough they’re not mutually exclusive. I recently came face to face with death. I like Derren’s take on all that positive thinking crap. He’s reiterating what I’ve often thought and written about. ‘How to Die Well’ is not often on the agenda. We ignore death until we cannot. His idea of ‘a good-enough death’ is lovely. He quotes Donald Winnicott:

I have extended the ‘good enough’ theory to most of my life and now my death. We are at times so obsessed or feel pressurised into ‘being the best at…the fastest at…the cleverest at…’ I genuinely worry about all this positive thinking/ life coaching!

…It is undoubtedly excellent to try to achieve one’s maximum potential, but that should be to please ourselves, not be judged by others, and for living a ‘good-enough’ life with its shares of wonders and disasters…

We’ve came to the end, as does Derren Brown, with a chapter And in the End. And Now. He’s perhaps gone too far, but hey, it’s entertaining and informative and I do like the guy.   

Darren McGarvey’s Scotland. West Dunbartonshire – Worst Place to Be a Woman, written and present by Darren McGarvey, directed by Stephen Bennet.

darren.jpg

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0008ncz/darren-mcgarveys-scotland-series-1-3-west-dunbartonshire-worst-place-to-be-a-woman

I live in Clydebank. That’s in West Dunbartonshire. The place where women in Scotland are most likely to be beaten up.  Poverty is not gender blind. Women, for example, are 60% more likely to be carers than men. Women (and men) living in poverty are far more likely than their more affluent neighbours, such as those living in areas such as Bearsden, in East Dunbartonshire, to die younger, to suffer from ill-health and mental-health issues, to be unemployed, homeless, to become an addict and be imprisoned. Poverty is a place marker. Pupils at Drumchapel High, as a rule, do not go to university. Children who attend Bearsden Academy, a mile away, a world away, in East Dunbartonshire, do.

The shill game of trickle-down economics and taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich is most keenly felt in West Dunbartonshire and experienced directly by women. Women have always carried the baby, and the burden of poverty. Darren McGarvey illustrates this with a figure in which public cuts to services have deprived the poorest of the poor women of £80 billion of public services they depended on, while cuts to men’s services total £10 billion.

We think in pictures and deal in emotions. Such figures are in a sense, meaningless without context. Brenda, a charity worker, is shown, for example, disturbing sanitary products, what us guys used to call fanny pads. We’ve had fuel poverty, in which women can’t afford to heat their home and, or, buy food. We’ve got food banks. We associate women using an old sock as a fanny pad as a Third World problem. But at the end of the month, women in poverty have to make hard choices about their bodies. £3 spent on fanny pads? Or £3 spent on their children’s food? That’s where the old sock comes in. Hard choices.

Darren McGarvey is filmed at a Reclaim the Night Rally in West Dunbartonshire. It seemed sparsely attended, only a handful of women. And Darren and the camera crew.  I’m not sure where it was. I’m not sure when it was. I hadn’t heard anything about it and I live here. As the target audience, a man, living in West Dunbartonshire, in microcosm, it wasn’t a success.

The experience of Astyn, whose boyfriend was a stalker, who strangled her, isolated her from her friends and beat her up, ended in a high-note, in that she’d left him.

Kirsty, a family counsellor, gave the viewer some insight into how the rich and the poor experience domestic abuse. Men in West Dunbartonshire tend to beat their partners. In comparison, women in East Dunbartonshire are far more likely to experience non-physical abuse, no bruising, but to the women’s psyche and soul.

Those of us that live in Clydebank need no introduction to who Paige Doherty was. She was a wee girl, barely out of school, murdered by a shopkeeper in Whitecrook and her body dumped in a field off Great Western Road. Her mum, Pamela, started a charity to channel her grief and offering children free self-defence classes.

It’s difficult to be critical of such a move, but although a good photo opportunity for Paige’s Promise also ended the programme on a high note. But listen to what Pamela said happened to her daughter. How many stab wounds and slashes Paige suffered. Watch the drama on BBC 4, Those That Kill. Kids play-fighting just doesn’t cut it in real-life scenarios. I should know, having been in plenty of brawls. It’s difficult to defend against the rogue psychopath. The larger narrative of unfashionable class warfare and public cuts are morally indefensible, but we lost the propaganda war. The rich feel justified in bleeding the poor. Boris Johnston’s promise to spend, spend, spend, shows how quickly the lie there is no money in the public purse becomes defunct and part of the great lie. I like Darren McGarvey, but this programme offers us what exactly? Paper cuts and empty promises of betterment.