............................commentary......political note


C O N V E R S A T I O N:


WHEN WRITING, Interruptions occur all the time, but it's pretty obvious that to be able to write freely, one needs - to some extent, at any rate - to be able to isolate oneself for a while. Or if not isolate, at least to not be imposed upon.

Gogol is reputed to have written his best chapter of 'Dead Souls' (which in my view is Chapter-6) while in a bustling noisy ale-house. He was so involved in what he was doing, apparently, that he was able to ignore all the turmoil around him. But he was not being imposed upon.

Like Chekhov and several other accomplished writers, Gogol died before he reached the age at which I first tried writing - that is, writing more than most people write of everyday necessity. Attempting to start writing stories so late in life when the brain is well past formation and is actually on the decline, is a triumph of optimism (or maybe arrogance) over pragmatism. But doing something creative, however badly, is to some extent uplifting and, as I've said elsewhere, helps to keep some additional part of the brain alive. I realise only too well my vastly inferior intellect compared with people like Gogol, and that my meagre efforts are likely to suffer even more than for people like him from interruptions and impositions. 'Dead Souls' is a masterpiece of comedy, and provides a remarkable vision of the vastness of Russia together with the kind of society that existed in his day. His short story 'The Overcoat' is among the best ever.

Willa Catha (and no doubt many others too) advised that stories should be shoved in a drawer for several months or more before revising and then being shown.

All the usual everyday problems are nothing compared with what many people have land on their plates. Against the suffering endured by the poor devils in occupied Iraq and Afghanistan, for instance, my life is luxury and contentment - to think, the US (with the UK's help) have murdered an estimated 655,000 in Iraq alone! Who knows how many in Afghanistan have been slaughtered too? And who knows what horrors those injured and those living amidst rubble and deprivation, and in continual fear for their lives, have to suffer while the occupiers remain?

Then there's that tidal wave disaster. I remember discussing with Rod how fragile everything is. If one imagines a giant - as though we were Lilliputians - standing beside a jumbo jet at Heathrow, bending and picking up the jet in his hands, it would crush like rice-paper, and probably break in two. He'd have to place his hands flat under the wings and carefully lift to do it with any safety. The same kind of fragility is true for buildings - and for that matter just about everything. For the tidal wave, it's as if people were like ants on the shore of a pond when you throw a stone in and make a big wave. Everything is normally so finely balanced and stable.

When I moved to Hastings over a decade ago now, I bought a house that's fairly high up, though is only about half-a-mile from the seafront. If a tidal wave struck - about as likely as being hit by a meteorite, probably (for one thing there are no tectonic fault lines in the area) - I'd be quite safe. But if you imagine the English Channel with the water removed you'd see it was very shallow, and actually contained very little water, like a flat tea-tray of water. (I believe it was dry land only about 10,000-years ago). So even if a big earthquake jolted it, the size and energy of the resulting wave would be small in comparison with anything in the Pacific or indeed the sea off Indonesia where this one struck - probably! I know little about these things, so all this is speculation. We're just lucky the world is as consistent and stable as it is - at least until the effects of global warming really begin to show. On the scale of things, when you think about it, even that tidal wave was minuscule - though the consequences were terrible enough, and are likely to linger for years.


A while ago, on one of his famous TV shows, Derren Brown placed a bet on a horse that lost. Claiming the horse had won, he went to cash-in his betting slip and the woman there - a victim, supposedly, of 'mind-control' - paid up.

Surely this was a fix: wasn't the woman an actress? Then I recalled several instances from childhood when someone had persuaded me to half-believe something I knew to be incorrect. Why I yielded to a dubious 'certainty' rather than acknowledge what I knew to be true baffles me now; more to the point: why did I question the fallibility of my own eyes, memory or reasoning - which, to my knowledge, had not otherwise betrayed me? The answer lies in the state, at the time, of my self-confidence. Reflecting on this provided my first lesson in scepticism: trust no one, question everything - always, and without fail. (Later still, I learned too that the higher an authority, the less it can be trusted - a recognition with big implications).

All this came back to me recently when shopping in Sainsburys. (If that isn't too banal!) The charge for a couple of big mangos on a 'buy-one-get-one-free' deal was displayed as £1.09, but the checkout registered £1.59. Compared with other fruit - and considering they'd come all the way from Peru - those mangos were easily worth the latter. When I declared that the display read the former, the checkout woman briefly queried the matter then accepted what I said.

Afterwards I wondered if it was solely my certainty that had done the trick. No other customers waited, so the woman would not have felt pressured; and I made no real issue of it, merely stated the fact clearly. Also, I'm a placid, calm kind of person - so nor would she have felt bullied or hassled.

Now confidence is not a prominent feature of mine - though nor especially is the lack of it. If anything, as implied at the start of this piece and as anyone who knows me will confirm, the issue simply does not arise with me. But it is really only this kind of confidence that separates us ordinary folk from those who hoist themselves to positions of power… from where they mismanage, misrule, and frequently acquire great wealth. In my experience, and not counting the few among them who have pursued the arts, such people are, or soon become, insufferable monsters - even at a distance; perhaps the more so the greater the distance - and if I had my way they would be knocked permanently from their pedestals and consigned to subsistence.


After learning of Ken Livingston's recent quarrel with an aggressive and persistent reporter, I recalled the following:

During the 80s I worked as an engineer/operator in the recording dept of BBC TV. It must have been the summer of 1987 when I was assigned, over the Wimbledon Fortnight, to work in the VT control room (VT = videotape). My main responsibility here was, at appropriate times, to route VT machines to their designated lines as instructed on the 'lines-booking-sheets'. I was also expected to 'man' the phones, answer or pass-on calls, and otherwise respond to queries from callers and visitors - and, if that wasn't enough, to monitor the department's output too.

Out of all the jobs in VT, 'control-room dogsbody' was the one I most disliked. I knew why I'd been allocated: the manager who organised the scheduling for that fortnight just happened to be the only truly obnoxious person I've had the misfortune to work under. At some earlier time, in an unguarded moment, I'd informed him that working in VT control conflicted with my idea of a good time. Not that I felt victimised - as we'll see, no-one was immune from his venom. Luckily he was just one of five managers, but he made maximum use of his 'fifth' of power.

It wasn't until a black guy in the department asked to speak to the duty manager that I detected something amiss on that first day of the 'fortnight'. He wished to be moved from the booking that the idiot manager (now, conveniently, on leave) had scheduled him for. Naturally curious, I scanned the booking. The black guy had been assigned to transfer edited tennis highlights, via satellite, to Johannesburg - during, remember, that prolonged period of apartheid in South Africa - while trade boycotts were in place, backed by trade unions and many others.

To cut this story short: Very soon, some creep volunteered to take over the booking, and attempts were made to get the transfer under way. Yet to begin with at any rate, the transfer failed to proceed… because yours truly failed to route the line.

Interjecting here on 4th March 2009 due to information coming to light that illustrates my monumental naivete (and that of others too) at the time: The only detail I have of the reason for the subsequent 'lack of controversy' over how a public corporation came to facilitate a business deal between the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Association and a Johannesburg TV company - are that later that day I phoned 'The Observer' and spoke to a grateful reporter there, while at the same time unknown to me a sympathetic senior colleague was phoning 'The Guardian'. The next day after discussing the issue with an arts production team, I was advised to write a memo to Alan Yentob, their boss and Controller of BBC2 who was a Jew and therefore assumed to be automatically opposed to any kind of apartheid... (what a monumental mistake!) His reply a few days later stated, simply: "from C-BBC2: Will look into it." And during the next week several people scoured those two newspapers - to no avail. Today, scanning some political circulars that regularly drop their ever-growing bounty of data on world political mismanagement into my email intray, I find in one of them:

"During the apartheid era ties between Israel and South Africa were extremely strong, with the Jewish state helping to train South Africa's security forces as well as supplying the regime in Pretoria with weapons."

So now the mystery of why those 'liberal' newspapers failed to carry this news falls away. Obviously, to inform the licence payer that their BBC was colluding in private business transactions with apartheid South Africa, and that this 'involvement' was fascilitated by very senior Jewish (Zionist) figures in the corporation, would doubtless have sparked a political scandal. To recognise this now in March 2009 after the recent BBC boycott of the Gaza Appeal, reveals yet another blatant anomaly - since if one searches Google or Wikipedia for the current DG, one will find that he too is Jewish; and what's more that he has been to Israel and is well acquainted with the most senior figures in the Israeli government... How very prestigeous! But why would a DG do that? Why... even if - especially if - he's a Zionist? And why in the first place was such a person appointed to head a UK public body? THESE QUESTIONS appear now to me as purely rhetorical and they throw a torrid light on the true nature of our political elite (for it is they who make these appointments): what they actually stand for, what and who they truly represent... which is certainly NOT us ordinary non-Zionist (ie, non-Fascist) UK public. The answers hardly need spelling out!

Later, after wasting a respectable slice of satellite time and when the line was finally plugged, I found myself surrounded by managers. Glaring at me with pointing fingers they declared that by failing to route the line I had broken my contract and could be sacked.

I replied, pompously: 'I can live without this job, but not without my conscience; I wouldn't have routed that line, nor would I have turned the gas-taps on at Auschwitz.' (I guess, though, I'd have routed or turned-on anything if a gun had been held at my head)

They looked a bit shocked at this, and one replied: 'That's going a bit far!'

Although it didn't occur to me at the time, after conceding to the black guy they couldn't really sack me. That would have been discrimination. And earlier I had consulted the Union, who confirmed their full support - so my sacking could have initiated a strike in any case.

The next day junior staff were consulted on whether or not they would consent to work on bookings that breached anti-apartheid codes of practice. I imagine it was assumed that non-junior staff, by their earlier acceptance of a promotion, had already sold their souls to the company. From this, to the best of my knowledge, not one of those who declined was ever promoted. Our leaders in TV-recording had recognised a perfect opportunity to sift those of their ilk from those not of their ilk. Doubtless based on this kind of appraisal, I've witnessed the most incompetent pricks being promoted, while, over and over, real talent falls by the wayside. This is a lesson in obedience - competence doesn't come into it. And it explains why those who lead (apart perhaps from the 'self-made') are so utterly and consistently unimaginative and incompetent, and always make the very worst decisions - unless you count elevating their own prospects or lining their own pockets (at which they are usually inordinately proficient).

Certainly, this state of affairs can be explained - although on the grounds that we should always act according to our conscience, it can never be justified. The argument: 'What good is a disobedient genius?' holds no sway when you understand the basis for any kind of disobedience. But a manager is unlikely to keep his/her own job if (s)he appoints someone who is liable to consult their conscience before obeying an order - especially if to a job that might involve 'political' decision-making. So one can see the logic in the structure that's 'leading' humankind to self-destruction. (Looks impossible to stop, doesn't it? Ie: what corporate manager would promote someone who is known to check their conscience before obeying an order?)

As I said, I recalled the 'apartheid controversy' in VT after learning of Ken Livingston's quarrel with an aggressive and persistent reporter. After hassling K L and declaring that he was 'only doing his job', K L responded by comparing the reporter to a Nazi concentration camp guard who likewise was 'only doing his job'.

This reply of K L's - not very different from my own when confronted by those managers - contained the added dimension that the reporter was Jewish.

Even so, K L's reply, like my response, was justified because anyone who excuses themselves of anything on the grounds that they are 'only doing their job' - never mind moral or other implications - surely has to be a villain and a blackguard. If the reporter had said: 'I'm only doing my job, but I also believe I should be doing this.' then that's altogether different: he's taking personal responsibility. And shouldn't we all take personal responsibility in everything we do, whether it's our job or not?


A few months ago I accompanied a friend to the flat of an acquaintance of his. It was a small flat, and on a table in one corner of the lounge stood a large cage. In this cage, I soon discovered, was a python - maybe 3-metres long and as thick as a man's thigh. I was, to put it mildly, horrified - to think that this amazing creature had been reduced to such an inelegant fate, was trapped and confined in that tiny space… We - all of us - have an obligation to act if we see cruelty or injustice. We are surely responsible for the welfare of all creatures… If the crown jewels had been present on that table I would have grinned in admiration at the audacity of whoever was responsible. But that helpless suffering snake consigned to such an appalling destiny… what could I do?

I'm as indolent as anyone - more so - but those who can stand by with a clear conscience in issues like this are of a race unlike mine; that is, a race not distinguishable by appearance, but by behaviour. They are the fox hunters, the hare coursers, the whale harpooners…etc, who, from some primitive hunger, crave blood and take delight in suffering - so long as it's not themselves who suffer. I could include abattoir workers who are at best indifferent to the suffering their work causes - there are always alternatives. I could include the military… Call me a wimp if you like; but if I thought the world would be improved by more brutality, I would pull no punches. From what I observe, though, there is a substantial excess of brutality - and yet we are surrounded by people whose livelihoods depend upon it increasing. I refer here to nearly everything we do: we destroy so much, we destroy people in Iraq and Afghanistan, their buildings, even whole cities - and lay many including ourselves open to the risk of reprisals at which our leaders gleefully concoct draconian (controlling!) laws in supposed defence - we destroy the atmosphere, the climate, we pollute the sea… We destroy our own health, physical and mental (and no one who knows me would accuse me of being a killjoy). And we destroy wealth - deliberately - to keep the poor in their familiar, subservient, innocuous squalor: note, for instance, the 100's of $billions diverted from welfare to warfare in the US - whose fascist government are extremely anxious for the EU to follow suit!!!

When I say 'we' I mean primarily, of course, corporate enterprise - that entity charged with the sole obligation of generating profit (and expanding its compass), that entity which collectively controls even governments and will ultimately, in theory, engulf the planet and everything on it. This is possible only by design - the design of our aforementioned rulers whose activities are not shackled as mine are by issues of conscience. Should I feel hostile towards them? In many ways I've somehow been able to sidestep their most intrusive impositions. And by the time I throw in the towel I'll have contributed little that will survive me. So my own position is essentially unaffected. What limited future there may perchance be, who knows? It only puzzles me that there are so many 'elevated' people who are actually assisting this rush towards annihilation when there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to be gained by them as individuals (they are already billionaires) - while there is everything, absolutely everything, to be lost by generations that follow (let alone those they dominate in the here and now). I can only assume that these 'elevated' people are born 'reptilian', and not merely infected in childhood rather more indelibly than I was - since without much difficulty I managed to free myself and ignore the 'wisdom' of my devious heritage (which I would like to reject utterly, but am forced - from sheer laziness - to some extent to live by; unless I'm prepared to forego usual everyday comforts of living in the 21st C).