Storyville: One Child Nation, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, director Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang.


https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000bh0j/storyville-one-child-nation

I’ve been pondering the difference between affect and effect. The former is a verb. The latter is a noun and verb. The etymology of affect suggests it has its roots in ‘a little like love’.

The effect of China’s implementation of a one-child policy for couples, men and women, in the early 1980s was nothing like love. It was a top-down, Communist Party, misogynistic policy, based on pseudo-economics, demographics and projections of population growth. This was best summed up by a midwife who conducted tens of thousands of abortions and admitted drowning babies in buckets because she had no other choice. We’d starve and resort to cannibalism, she argued. The Great Famine of 1959-1961 instigated by Chairman Mao’s Great Leap Forward was in living memory so this propaganda drive was an idea that gained consensus.

The reversal of a one-child policy, around six years ago, was also an economic decision. China’s one child policy had the desired effect. It was no longer the most populous nation on earth. Under President Xi Jinping the Great Leap Forward has reached its conclusion. China is where America was before the first world war, a rival power trying to establish hegemonic influence.

But a simple rule of thumb and way to boost a countries GDP is to have more children. The more children the greater GDP. India is an example of this effect. Children also offset another ratio, the proportion of working population measured against the non-working population. In leaping forward, China has come to mirror the West in that it has a growing aging population and less workers to pay for their retirement. China also faces an additional demographic burden in that there are many more men than women. In our country, as I imagine in China, around sixty percent of the lowest paid jobs are done by women. Women’s work is not well-paid. But the misogynistic assumption that we need more women to care for our elderly holds a universal appeal. China’s implementation of a two-child policy is based on simple economics, or so they’d have us believe. The propaganda machine that churned out memes about the virtues of having one child has volte-faced and advocates two or more children as the perfect number. We live in an Orwellian world in more ways than one.

Nanfu Wang, a Chinese American, with her chid in tow, goes back to her homeland to document the one-child policy. She notes the irony that in China and America (Christian fundamentalist rights challenge of Roe v Wade) neither nation allows women to control their own bodies.

Wang returns to the rural village where she was born during China’s one-child policy. Her name tells you something about the villager’s aspirations. It’s a boy’s name. The one-child policy was modified to allow for two children to be born in some rural areas, but only if a five year gap appeared between births. Village elders had some discretionary power.  For those that failed to follow this policy, village elders were instructed to knock the down the house of the pregnant woman and fine them. Here Wang interviews the village elder who was responsible for these actions at that time. Like many in the village, a repeating motif, was that he was doing what he was told. He was powerless. The village elder’s equally elderly wife was however not affected by the same inertia and fatalism. She warned Wang that her mother, who still lived in their village, would pay, if her husband experiences any difficulties.

Pregnant women who nevertheless continued with their pregnancy, one woman, for example, hid in the pigsty, were hunted down and strapped to a stretcher and taken to the midwife.

The midwife Wang interviewed told her she would perform an abortion every ten minutes. And she’d performed thousands of such procedures. Foetuses at eight and nine months were left to die. Those born and breathing, drowned in a bucket. Mothers routinely sterilised.  

A Chinese photographer showed Wang his study of the corpses of aborted foetuses and other neonates lying in the trash.

One consequence of the one-child policy, especially in rural villages was the abandonment of female babies after they’d been born. Wang interviewed her Auntie and Uncle who’d left their daughter in the marketplace hoping someone else would take her and bring her up. They admitted their daughter had been ate by mosquitoes and died. Nobody wanted a female child. The marketplace was a graveyard for other female babies left by their parents.

The market place became just that when opportunities later came to sell children to wealthy foreigners in the United States, Europe and Canada. One American couple admitted adopting three Chinese babies. The prices they paid ranged from $10 000 to $25 000 or more. Female babies were no longer left to die in the market place, but swept up, with the finders paid a fee by State run orphanages from $50 to $200 per baby.

In a warped sense, this could be considered win-win, but with not enough babies and demand from abroad booming the next step was kidnapping infants. Village elders would, for example, visit the poorest members of their community, issue them with a fine and take a daughter for payment, until it was paid. The child would be classified as an orphan. Police officers would sign a form agreeing that the child had been found outside the orphanage, abandoned and the child would be sold to the highest bidder. In many ways it mirrors the scandal of Chinese prisons selling prisoner’s kidney, but is even sicker.

The effect of China’s one-child policy worked too well. The affect is devastation of lives and an increase in corruption from top down to bottom up. One Child Nation is the story of a holocaust.

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.

Storyville, Under the Wire, BBCiPlayer

marie colvini.jpg

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0002k62/storyville-under-the-wire

Unhappy is the land that needs heroes Bertolt Brecht.

A Private War directed by Matthew Heinemann and staring Rosamund Pike as the heroic shambles that was Marie Colvin is in cinemas now. I see no need to see it. It’s all here in Under the Wire. Based on a book by Paul Conroy and his experience in the massacres at Homs. Here we are at the last stand.

13th  February 2012, war-correspondent Marie Colvin and photographer Paul Conroy entered war-ravaged Syria. Homs.

Taste and see.

No sense of victory.

Through the lens of an eye

We witness a baby die

Her rage is pure

That’s no me

And not you

Common sense advises us not to pry

Humanity hunts and dies here

In a world of fear

Homs an exit strategy and obscenity

Little trace and little trade

Clinics bombed and shot

Barbed wire in every cot

Put stuff on a chair

It’s no longer there

On a bloody easy bed

Whoosh, barrel bombs and gas

World splintered and gone mad

Tourniquet on a leg

Three feet and so many dead

A reporter for The Sunday Times

Reports victims of war crimes

Assad you war criminal and crook

Where no words can cross the void

Vanity, vanity, vanity, of the house of Assad

May god judge you –soon

We pray every day

A black eye patch will appear

To tell hell how it was when you were here

Your legacy will be not judged by history

But the best you put to rest

A Dangerous Dynasty: The House of Assad, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, director Nick Green.

Storyville, Jailed in America, BBC 4, BBCiPlayer, 10pm director and narrator Roger Ross Williams.

jailed in america.jpg

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0bn6tr3/storyville-jailed-in-america

Roger Ross Williams recalled the time he first attended school in his home town of Easton, Pennsylvania and a white kid called him ‘nigger’. The white kid’s mum chastised him and told him not to do that or he would come and burn their house down. Here we are in Trump’s America, before the moron’s moron got to play at being presidential. Here we are in Trump’s America where $265 billion of Federal funds is annually allocated to jail 1 in 3 black men. As profits grown year on year, costs are cut. The quantity and quality of food, for example, for the richest nation on earth, would shame any third-world country – and it’s getting worse. A prison system that jails 2.2 million of its citizens, more incarcerations than every other nation combined. A prison system that is predicated on a simple model of taking money from the poor, incarcerating them and giving the tax dollars to the rich. Jim Crow didn’t go away, he just grew up in a different way.

Here is Ross William’s personal account of what happens to black men that don’t make it, like his old school friend, Tommy Alvin that committed suicide, leaving a daughter behind. We learn he had mental health problems, as do an estimated 67% of prisoners. Alvin was kept in a bubble, a type of transparent cage in a penitentiary for those on suicide watch. He was given a paper suit to wear.

Nothing I saw in this programme surprised me, apart from what seems to me the naïve belief of those like Adam Foss, an activist that attempts to re-educate the 31 000 public prosecutors about the real cost of jailing black people that if they knew the facts their attitude would change. It reminded me of stories of if the king only knew how us peasants suffered he’d be sure to act. If Hitler only knew how us poor Germans suffered he’d be sure to act. If Trump, the moron’s moron only knew…he’d be delighted. Not that he’d ever watch a documentary like this.

Karl Marx’s theory of surplus value shows exactly how important ‘worthless’ prison labour is to the economy. We did have one governor explaining to us ignorant viewers how it works, because in the real world prisoners don’t pay for their food, they don’t pay for their healthcare and they don’t pay rent. Slave owners on plantations used the same argument, it led to civil war. Here we are met with generalised indifference.

Marx, who knew a thing or two about propaganda, has a message from the past, for successful filmmakers like Ross Williams:

The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, the point is to change it. [italics my own].

Here we are preaching to the converted.

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Amen, to the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) who foresaw this mockery of natural justice.

 

Tokyo Girls, Storyville, BBC 4, BBC iPlayer, directed by Kiyoko Miyake

magna images.jpg

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08w9lvb/storyville-tokyo-girls

This is creepy and weird. Japan is the kind of insular society that a oriental version of Nigel Farage would approve. In stereotypical fashion the Japanese are polite, but they don’t like foreigners much and tend to stick to their own kind. But they have an aging population and the number of births falls lower every year. Tokyo has one of the highest population densities in the world. Old housing is knocked down and rebuilt, smaller, every thirty years. London bedsits by contrast would be seen as roomy and inexpensive. Every year there is a scandal about houses the size of a coffin None of this is in Tokyo Girls. It’s a simple storyline with the tag ‘Pop idol Rio Hiiragi’s journey toward fame’. I’m giving you the context.  She is a quite pretty girl, twenty-one when the programme ends, but ironically, far too old for many otaku, Japanese idol fans who tend to be middle-aged men with an obsessive interest in young girls.

Otaku originally described a young person who is obsessed with computers or particular aspects of popular culture to the detriment of their social skills. The so called lost generation stuck in their coffin-sized room, locked in with their aging parents, never meet females in the real world but have an obsessive interest in anime and manga fandom. The shy kid that doesn’t go out, but locks himself in. Pop idols like Rio are ready made anime images that they can interact with for a price. They can subscribe to their channels and even attend meets and greets, but they tend to be super-fans such as ‘Pidl’ a middle-aged salary-man who left his job to dedicate his life to Rio. He reckons he spends on average $2000 a month on following her.

Meeting idols is big business, fans such as ‘Pidl’ get to shake their idols hands and look them in the eye. A bouncer is on hand to move them along after about another minute another middle-aged man takes their place and holds the girl’s hand.

Take, for example, Amu, who is thirteen and an idol in a band called Harajuru, where each child has to compete with other children wanting a spot in the band and on stage. She is successful. Male fans get to hold her hand. Amu’s mum, said at first ‘she was scared’ but now thinks of Amu’s fans ‘as fathers to her’.  One of the father-figures declared that he preferred the much younger idols. My guess there’s a Gary Glitter on every corner and this feeds that crazy. To misquote  Robert Pirsig Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, ‘the silt of tomorrow’ grows in the shit of today.

 

OJ: Made in America, directed by Ezra Edleman. Storyville, BBC 4, iPlayer.

OJ.jpg

Winner of the 2017 Academy Award for best documentary this five-part series is an investment of time. The premium dividend is it shows how America is polarised around issues of class and race. Karl Marx’s dictum that history repeats itself the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce is apt. OJ is the poster boy. A black all American boy that went to a white college, became the All American hero used by Hertz to sell their cars. ‘Go OJ,’ the tag, but used white actors to screen wash skin colour away. He became an actor, starring in films, such as Naked Gun, the biggest role he played being himself. He was involved in the trial of the century. Accused of killing his estranged, second wife, white beauty queen, Nicole and a male visitor to her house 13th June 1994.   Evidence, including forensic evidence, placed OJ at the scene. Black jurors remained unconvinced. One of them agreed that it was ‘payback’ time for a Los Angeles Police Department that acted like an invading army in the black community and regularly got away with murder and the maiming of those of African American ethnicity. Polls taken after the trial showed that over 75% of white thought OJ was guilty. Over 80% of blacks thought him innocent. OJ proved himself more stupid than guilty, ghosting a book, ‘IF’ in which he admitted his hypothetical guilt. He was later jailed for thirty-three years for a botched robbery in which he tried to take back sporting mementos he had once owned from a collector and seller of memorabilia. Black and white commentators suggested this was payback time for OJ.

There is a postscript of course with a black president Obama, in the White House, followed by the moron’s moron, convicted in the supreme court of discriminating against blacks in term of housing, but still elected president on a platform of racial hatred – and appointing a member of the Ku Klux Klan to a senior position in his White House.

If you think black lives matter this is worth watching.   One of the stories OJ liked recalling was after retiring from American football, and becoming a full-time, paid, celebrity, he overhead a little old white women saying ‘she’d seen OJ, but he was sitting with a lot of niggers’. Race didn’t matter. OJ’s celebrity made others colour blind. Until it did. In the same way that class doesn’t matter, until it does. This is the best documentary you’ll see this decade.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08qldj6

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08rb30l

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08rb4wh

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08rb6f2

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08rb6zx

 

Storyville: Blackfish – The Whale That Killed, BBC 4, directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03j49l6/storyville-20132014-12-blackfish-the-whale-that-killed

We all know the story of Herman Melville’s classic Moby Dick. Man versus whale and neither wins. Score draw on the coupon. I’ve started the books a few times and never got beyond the first pages. Wooden ships used to go away for a year or more and come back loaded down with whale blubber and oil. Prototype factory ships.  Boiled down whale oil used to light our homes. Some of the bones were good for corsets. I can understand that. Food and oil. It’s a man’s world. Whales had a fighting chance.

I can even understand why, after the defeat of Japan, the Allies harvested the seas to feed a starving population. One whale can feed many mouths. Nowadays whales are still harvested for foodies under the guise of scientific research. Bullshit.

We’re getting to the stage when the only things left on the planet will be hominine and giant beef burghers with six legs. Blackfish takes us into a sewer even worse than that. It begins with the capture of a baby bull orca in the waters of Hafnarfjörður, near Reykjavík, Iceland in 1983. Spotter planes and speed boats using high explosives herded the group of whales into a watery cul de sac where they could separate the infant whale from its mother and family group. One grizzled veteran said he’s seen some heavy shit in his life, but the mother and other whales ‘talking’ to the traumatised baby being lifted from the water was something that stuck with him, even all these years later. Later in the programme another infant whale is separated from its mother, a captive whale in  Sealand of the Pacific in South Oak Bay, British Columbia and sent somewhere else because it was disruptive and because that’s where the money was. Whales have their own kind of intelligence. One expert suggests their limbic system, which mediates emotional responses, is far more developed than humans.  Sealand was in the business of transforming whale into performing pets. When we talk about a whale grieving for its baby and sending out sonic signals that are able to travel thousands of miles under water, we conflated anthropomorphism and basic science. All of the keepers interviewed here were fed the same diet of hearsay and became Sealand believers spouting the party line that these whales were better off in captivity, where they lived longer and received medical care. Dorsal fins that atrophy and collapse in isolation ponds and water pods is mirrored by those whales in the wild. Eh, no it isnae, but let’s face it, we don’t meet many whales when wondering down Sauchiehall Street.  The reality they later recognised was whales were cash cows used to fleece the public.

Tillicum (Tilly to its friends) the bull orca was milked for its sperm for breeding purposes and to provide a splash in performances. Bottom of the pecking order and with nowhere to flee two older female orcas given the names of Haida II and Nootka IV beat and slashed his body until male and female were separated.

Tilly killed three people. He grabbed them by the arm or leg and drowned them. Here Seaworld propaganda kicks in again. In the blame game those without money or power, the bottom of the food chain, a young female student and trainer, a man with mental health problems and a forty-year old female trainer were all to blame. They’d brought it on themselves. They’d did something they shouldn’t have. Tilly the cash cow was innocent. Money talks and Tilly walks. That’s the way the world works. It would be a good idea to fling in a few of those who invested in this barbarism into a pond with Tilly, because he’s so harmless. Only after they have been properly trained, of course. I’m not a monster.  Steel bucket filled with fish. Pair of flippers and rubber ring. Watch this and weep.