Accidental Anarchist: Life Without Government, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, directed by John Archer and Clara Glynn.

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08z007p

This is the kind of programme I felt I should watch. For a start it’s got Anarchist in the title. I could mention Kropotkin, but I don’t know who he is, or Sid Vicious, Anarchy in the UK. For me it’s more an attitude. Life Without Government? Like Huxleys’s Utopia, I’m not sure it’s possible but Carne Ross seems to think it is. I hope he’s right.

What privileged position does Carne Ross come from that he gets his own documentary and an hour of our time to espouse his views and tell us what he thinks? Well, he’s an ex-diplomat. That should be impressive and for someone like me, working class and poor, you’d probably assume I don’t know, or meet, very many diplomats. But you’d be wrong. Old Lawrie who drinks in the same shithole as me, has a daughter who was a diplomat, and he’s been to Moscow, visiting her in the Foreign Office and some other places in China, but we’re not really interested in world peace because we’re watching Celtic and that’s all that matters. He loves Celtic and is always wants to ‘put one on him’ (punch him in the face). It’s his war cry when watching. His daughter is diplomatic when she hears him or comes to pick him up when he’s had one too many, but listen, who’s counting.

Carne Ross isn’t that kind of diplomat. You’ve just got to listen to his name. He’d fit in with the Brown and Blairs and ex-public school boys that do the right thing by serving their country, and even then he claimed he wanted to be –you’ve guessed it – not Prime Minister, like servant of the people David Cameron, nor Chancellor of the Exchequer, like that nice man George Osborne, but a diplomat.  He’s the kind of guy that stood behind Blair at the United Nations in New York ready to whisper in his ear and briefs him on the latest embryonic imbroglio in the Middle East.

What we need now is a Damascene conversion. You probably read in Acts about Saul’s conversion. He’s happily going along working day and night persecuting men and women that are Christian in a fashion similar to the way George Osborne persecuted poor people. A flash of light from heaven blinds Saul and allows him to see.

Carne from his apartment witnessed 9/11 and the planes crashing into the World Trade Center. He remembers the smoke and the ash lying on his window for months afterwards. These are novelistic details. He watched George W Bush ramp up the search for bad guys to blame so he and fellow Americans could play the good guys and take care of business. This led to wars in Afghanistan and the invasion of Iraq. He was friends with government scientist David Kelly, who in his role as weapons expert, said unequivocally there was no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In other words there was no reason for the invasion of Iraq. He had a front-row seat of the cover-up of ‘fake news’.

Pause there. Carne took a year’s sabbatical to think and read.  If you’re an ordinary Joe don’t try that at home. Don’t shout at your boss on the way out, I’m outta here, see you next year and I might come back as an anarchist you fuckwitt.

He didn’t know that at the time. He lucked into it in the same way that Saul/Paul bumped into Christians. It seemed obvious that those rich guys that were screwing the poor and were quite happy to invade other nations weren’t to be trusted.

Evidence that we can do things differently. Ho-hum. George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia. Carne interview Catalans that were there and some that were not. They all agree that if Stalin hadn’t betrayed POUM (the Anarchist Movement and Hitler hadn’t been developing his new blitzkrieg tactics and if Mussolini hadn’t sent troops) then things could have turned out different. Even if not the roots of Anarchism remain in a collective that took back some unused land and used it to farm and build houses. Here we see them building their own houses. These are called outliers. Think of the images of deprivation George Osborne used to slaughter those on welfare. Outliers that smoked and drank and had eight children.

He sees Anarchist roots in the Kurdish-run region of Rojava, which helped defeat ISIS but is bordered by Turkey and Syria.

He sees it in the ‘Occupy Movement’.

I don’t. And I’m sure the Chechens also thought they would be able to get autonomy from Russia, only to be crushed. Let’s not mention China, the new number one superpower and hardly a case for free speech and anarchism. And let’s not forget George W Bush was so dim he had to wear socks labelled ‘left’ and ‘right’ but compared to the moron’s moron that is the current President, well, I’ll let you fill in your own analogy (if you need any help with what analogy means don’t ask Donald J Trump). And the hawks of yesteryear seem like Christian doves compared to this US cabal of warmongers. I’m not betting against a world war. North Korea, of course, is only too happy to show the world its weapons of mass destruction. And let’s not forget the moron’s moron and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change he did not sign. That means in the short term millions on the move. I see anarchy, but not the vision  Carne Ross has of it. More like the four-horsemen-of-the apocalypse anarchy so beloved by novelists and the bible.  I pray he’s right.

 

 

The Problem with Donald J Trump is Donald J Trump.

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Donald J Trump’s mother, Mary came from the Isle of Lewis. There’s more than one Scottish word for her son. Bawbag is a good Scottish word to start with.

Perhaps Robert Burns, our national bard,  put it better in The Cotter’s Saturday Night, the kind of dwelling his mother Mary came from:

An honest man’s the noblest work of God;

And certes in fair virtue’s heavenly road;

What is a lording’s pomp? a cumbrous load,

Disguising oft the wretch of human kind,

Studied in arts of hell, in wickedness refin’d

Here’s Donald J’s take on intelligence. He holds up his first-born son for the camera and tells his audience he wants his son to be ‘strong, tough and vicious and I hope intelligent.’ Intelligence is an afterthought, and add on. Being vicious that’s the thing. Be a killer.

Donald is his father, Fred’s son. Freddy’s first born wasn’t smart. He did dumb things like when he was put in charge of a housing project he gave the tenants new window. Donald’s take on that was he was soft, a great guy, very, very intelligent, everybody liked him, but they took advantage of him.

I’m not as dumb as George W Bush and its worth remembering when it came to counting the chads in 2000, an election he lost, asked for a recount because he’d ran out of fingers and toes, but the numbers came up right and he won, even though he didn’t know who or what a chad was. Curtis Sittenfeld, American Wife’s narrator is a bookish girl that grows into a woman that marries somebody like George W Bush, who can’t be trusted to run the family firm and becomes United States President to keep him out of harm’s way. Lionel Shriver asks much the same question of Donald J Trump, that most writers do, ‘Faced with current reality, how can fiction compete?’

Donald J Trump cheerfully admits he is a cartoon character and yet he is the forty-fifth President of the United States. I’d like to say I predicted that. And I did, I did, but I’ve a tendency to say when playing The Chase on telly when the correct answer is read out, and out of three options I’ve got some part of it wrong, most part of it wrong, but I’m right because that’s the one I meant. Lining up reality and opinion is not always that easy, but fantasy always figures and finds the shortest route and in a post-factual society finds its way to the truth, by not being the truth, or a neologism in the Oxford dictionary, but a simulacrum. Who really cares about that stuff?  I like to quote Socrates, ‘Speak so I can see you,’ so that I can seem more intelligent. If we tried that experiment with Trump taking away his orange face, shiny suit and swept back blond mop and left the screen blank and simply listened to him, you’d laugh, because he lisps  and not like an eight-year old girl, but not Liza Simpson, and that’s a fact that’s been tested. You’d be saying grow up. Read a book. Something else Donald J admits he never does. Only dumb smucks have the time to read. But he’s published an international bestseller. The Art of the Deal. He didn’t write it, of course, but it’s his, because it’s got his name on the cover. Tony Schwatz who wrote the book shadowed Trump. He liked that, people following him about, disciples. A kid showing you his toys. Matt Damon mentioned it in a recent interview. Trump’s propensity to pop up when they were filming on his property and sneak into shot.  You see a snapshot of it in Anthony Bartlett’s Dispatches programme entitled President Trump’s Dirty Secrets. In truth his connection to big oil and his disdain for little people isn’t much of a secret. Any dolt with an internet connection can spend five minutes and find out everything that you need to know about Trump and even Putin’s not-so-secret dossier of Trump cavorting with two prostitutes in a hotel room and them peeing on a bed. Look more closely at the images outside the hotel room and you’ll see him squeezing the flesh of contestants at the Miss Universe contest, a project which he bought and owns. Perhaps he plans to buy a contestant and bring her home and put on the mantlepiece to replace Melanina. Before he buys he likes to try them, not that he’d know what droit de seigneur means, but he understand enough to know that the people that buy the land owns the people in the land and that give him the right to push up against them and feel them up. He’s admitted as much, boy’s stuff, locker-room chat. Not rape, of course, because the women were gagging for it. His lawyers say so.  And his toys are irresistible. Trump is happy hosting. See as an example Bartlett schmoozing in his car, Trump’s telling him how much the car cost and how the seat-belts are gold, yeh, real gold.

But Trump knows about discipline. He was sent to a military school when he went too far and his father, Fred, found he’d bought a flick knife. One of his classmates remembered him as being, and I’m thinking how to paraphrase this, an empty jacket. Someone that is hanging on the peg but isn’t all there. Psychopath, devoid of compassion, all human feelings, apart from vanity. Schwartz tells how Trump liked to start the day with what was in the news about him. Narcissus looking into a stream of photo feeds. Now he’s won the biggest beauty contest in the world, the American Presidency it will be a full-time job. The worry is he’ll not like what he sees or hears. A multiple bankrupt that has never been poor. A groper and potential rapist that has never been called to account or arrested. A non-tax payer whose father’s business was based on scamming the federal dollar to build houses for ex-servicemen. A Manhattan businessman that broke Federal laws and refused to sell or lease apartments to blacks and explained to young persecuting attorney, Elyse Goldweather, in an aside she admitted she couldn’t quite belief she was hearing, ‘Now, Elyse, you don’t want to live with them either.’ Black lives matter, but only to black people. The Ku Klux Khan represented in office. Right-wing feeds triumphant and showing Melanina replacing an image of a First Lady taken from the Planet of the Apes. Trump a boy that went to military academy but avoided the draft to serve in the military, but denigrates those that did has become Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces. You couldn’t make it up.

The FBI and CIA accuse him of being Putin’s dupe. Donald will sort it. He’ll win the war by tweets. Ewan McMullin, a former CIA officer tweeted: ‘While you avoided the draft, John Lewis risked his life for equality in America. You’ll never dream of such selfless patriotism.’

Donald J Trump settled his hash, he became President and boasted about how many Twitter followers he had in comparison to crooked Hillary. Fake news  such as ‘thousands and thousands’ of Muslims in Jersey City cheered as The World Trade Center crashed can be viewed on YouTube, alongside his pledges to build a wall along the Mexican border and make the Mexican government pay for it. The sting in the tail here is every comma in every sentence, every shady deal Trump has ever made will be uncovered. There is no hiding place when you are the American President. He asked to see Obama’s birth certificate. His detractors in a divided America will be asking to see a lot more than that.

Twitter feed, that’s where you’ll find the American President. 140 character tweets of what Trump’s policy is going to be, telling you what he and America is going to do next. There is a conflation here that Walt Disney might recognise, what is good for Donald J Trump is good for America and what it good for America is good for Donald J Trump. American Presidents are supposed to set up a blind trust, transparent so that they have no interests which conflict with that of running government and they should not directly, or indirectly, profit from the office of government. Nepotism and public office should also be divorced. The ethics committee set up to look into Trump’s financial arrangements for when he moves from becoming President elect to President started laughing. Cartoon characters are always funny, even when they’re trying to be serious. You love them or hate them and that is why Trump’s inauguration will not be a smooth transition from the outgoing President to the President elect, but the biggest protest since the Vietnam War divided America. Then again, I could be wrong on this. The business as usual model is stronger than any ideologue. Al Gore won more votes than George W Bush in 2000 Hillary Clinton gained 2.9 million more votes in 2016, both Democrats lost. To the winners the spoils. The casino President gambled and won. The billionaire daddy that says he’s too rich to care about money appoints his chum Ben Carson as housing tsar. Expect tens of millions or billions of US federal dollars to flow into the Trump real-estate coffers. Expect Trumps portfolio and investment in fossil fuels to grow exponentially. Oil is once more king. Alaska, with the help of global warming, a fish bowl open to being mined. One of his advisers – Paris Treaty on Global Warming, joke. Let’s laugh and end with that joke for a cartoon President.

Burt Reynolds summed Trump up as a fun guy, ‘but he might just start a war’.   He is the most powerful man in the world and could end the world in a tweet. And that’s no joke, but a worry. The world’s big worry, even greater than the backlash of the persecution of the poor, more worrying than the rise and rise of the super rich and the inevitable rise in global warming and pollution of our blue planet in a death march of rising acidic seas and failing crops and tens of millions on the move.  Inconceivable, as it seems, the question must be asked, like Bush, can Trump serve two terms as President? Is he despite his dimness, crafty enough, vicious enough? Or will the world end in a ball of fire first. I’m repeating myself, as Trump does. Listen to him. He says the same thing again and again and again and again, until you believe him. Funny, eh?

 

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Kurt Vonnegut: President of the United States.

lkurt vonnegut “From the Collection of the Artist.”

Kurt Vonnegut turns up in the most unlikely of places. I’m not familiar with his writing, but I’m reading a book by Michael Lewis Liar’s Poker in which the author quotes Vonnegut below to describe how the bond market works to distort reality, and  to make it seem normal, a theme the everyman Billy Pilgrim’s character stumbles into in his Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5.

 There is a magic moment, during which a man has surrendered a treasure, and during which the man who has to receive it has not done so. An alert lawyer [read bond trader] will make that moment his own, possessing that treasure for a magic microsecond, taking a little of it and passing it on.

This bring to mind the way coinage used to be debased when it was precious metals made out of a substance equal to value of the currency, for example, either gold or silver, and it was an offence against the king or ruler to shave a coin. Now New York and London Stock exchanges are one of the greatest industries, in monetary terms, devised by man, and when it fails thousands of billions of pounds of public money needs to be spent to keep the foul-smelling water of commerce drinkable for the rest of us.

In Slaughterhouse 5, Billy Pilgrim finds himself in a shop that sells porn, but he’s more interested in a badly written sci-fi book used as a front to make it seem like a respectable book store. The book is written by an author he knows and admires Kilgore Trout. The narrative in Kilgore’s book matches Pilgrim’s own experience of being abducted by the Tranfalmadorians and is about a man and woman kidnapped by extra-terrestrials and taken to another planet, Zircon-212, and put on display in a zoo. He has another of his epiphanies that underpin the wisdom of the book.

These fictitious people in the zoo had a big board supposedly showing stock market quotations and commodity prices along the wall of their habitat, and a news ticker, and a telephone that was supposedly connected to a brokerage on Earth. The creatures on Zircon-212 told their captives that they had invested a million dollars for them back on Earth and it was up to them to manage it so that they would be fabulously wealthy when they were returned to Earth.

The telephone and the big board were all fakes of course. They were simply stimulants to make the Earthlings perform vividly for the crowds at the zoo…

The Earthlings did very well on paper. That was part of the rigging, of course…The news ticker reminded them that the President of the United States had declared National Prayer Week and that everybody should pray. The Earthlings had had a bad week on the market before that. They had lost a small fortune in olive oil futures. So they gave praying a whirl.

It worked. Olive oil went up.

Billy Pilgrim’s ability to transcend time and travel backwards and forwards showed him the fickle fiction of such fortunes. He followed the traditional path to wealth by marrying the obese boss’s daughter nobody else wants to marry, including Billy.

But there is a prophetic touch in the car stickers Billy Pilgrim passes sporting the message Reagan for President. Vonnegut’s novel was published in 1969. He had no way of knowing that the friend of Bonzo—and I don’t mean George W—would actually become President. Not even Vonnegut could have imagined that.

To take a further jump in time and imagine a woman President in Hillary Clinton –perhaps? Vonnegut imagined a world in which the fire-bombing of Dresden with conventional weapons with a power more lethal than the atomic age of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was a war crime and unjustifiable. Hillary Clinton’s big message and big sell to the American people that the American future depend on equality of opportunity and is certainly far more left wing than the big two political parties in Britain offer:

To ensure a child born in the hills of Appalachia or the Rio Grande valley grows up with the same shot of success as Charlotte [Clinton] will.

Vonnegut’s character, Howard W Campbell, an American playwright that aligned himself with the Nazi Party strips the hubris of such messages to the bone.  Campbell writes a monograph that Billy Pilgrim gets to read. The reader looking over his character’s shoulder gets to read it too and assess its validity.

America is the wealthiest nation on Earth, but its people are mainly poor and urged to hate themselves. To quote the American humourist Kin Hubbard, ‘It ain’t no disgrace to be poor, but it might as well be.’ It is in fact a crime to be poor, even though America is a nation of poor. Every other nation has folk traditions of men who were poor, but extremely wise and virtuous, and therefore more estimable than anyone one with power or gold. No such tales are told by the American poor. They mock themselves and glorify their betters…asking this cruel question, ‘if you’re so smart how come you’re not rich?’

Their most destructive untruth is it is very easy to make money. They will in fact not acknowledge how hard money is to come by, and, therefore, those without money blame and blame and blame themselves. This inward blame has been a treasure for the rich and powerful, who have to do less for the poor publicly and privately.

I’m beginning to believe that Vonnegut and Billy Pilgrim were time-travellers and they’ve jumped in their spaceship and landed here in April 2015. If Vonnegut can pluck Billy Pilgrim from the ether, the Tranfalmadorians and their zoo, then perhaps we can pluck Vonnegut from death and elect him President of the United States, or even Britain. I’d vote for him.

http://unbound.co.uk/books/lily-poole

Curtis Sittenfeld (2009) American Wife.

The New York Times Bestseller runs to 637 pages, begins with melodrama, and ends with the tragedy that is George W Bush and the war in Iraq. Only, of course, this isn’t President Bush. This is fiction. President Blackwell is in the White House. It’s June 2007. His wife Alice Blackwell nee Lindgren narrates how he got there, traveling back through time and place to four different addresses — 1272 Amity Lane, 3859 Sproule Street, 402 Maronee Drive and finally, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Alice Blackwell Lindgren tells the reader ‘I didn’t vote for Charlie for president. I did vote for him both times for governor.’ Alice is not a Yes man. In fact she’s a very attractive woman. The paperback cover shows her sitting on an old-fashioned  bicycle, dressed modestly in a dark skirt and blouse, but with a bit of leg showing on the up step of the pedal, with what looks like a farmhouse in the background and acres of sky. I was thinking of Jackie Kennedy (although she did look like a fish) – and certainly the Blackwell’s families antics when they met up each year had me thinking of the Kennedy rather than the Bush clan, but I can’t claim to know much about either. Certainly as the book progresses it becomes obvious it’s George.

Alice loves her husband, but she doesn’t believe he can quit drinking. His family and friends think Charlie is a bit of a joke. And Dr Wycomb, Gladys Wycombe, Alice’s grannies secret love, who was in her mind ‘less a person than a destination, far away, yet not entirely familiar,’ tells her ‘those elections were fixed…and you’re a puppet’.

What makes the book shine is the author’s love of books. The fictional Alice is a school librarian.   She was not born to be a First Lady. ‘In 1954,’ Alice the narrator tells the reader, ‘the summer before I entered third grade, my grandmother mistook Andrew Imhof for a girl.’ Alice loves Andrew and Andrew loves Alice. Knowing the nature of the book the reader is lulled into thinking this is a poor man works his way up to greatness and gains the most powerful position in the world, but Sittenfeld knows how stories work and not an image or word is wasted.

I vote for Sittenfeld for President. She’s a great man and a fantastic writer.

http://unbound.co.uk/books/lily-poole