The Free World is Dead

July 30, 2013 at 7:14 pm

A hero is not a (wo)man who always follows orders unquestionably, a hero is a (wo)man who always questions orders.

I always question the mentality of a person who dismisses another based on their past. In the UK recently the press came down on Papiss Cissé, a footballer, who publicly declared that he would not wear a shirt adorned with the logo of his club’s new shirt sponsor, payday loan company Wonga. The reason for this is that he felt that it contradicted his Islamic Faith, which seems fair enough to me. Islam bans any form of usury, and Wonga are renowned for drawing profit from people who often don’t have a lot of money.

It didn’t take all that long for the press, not just the tabloids mind, to bring up the following facts that made his declaration look a bit ‘odd’:

  1. Newcastle Utd had Virgin Money emblazoned on their shirts last season, he had no issue with that at the time
  2. He was photographed visiting a Casino in November 2012
  3. Several of his team-mates are Muslims and they have no issue with it

All three are fairly pathetic observations:

  1. True enough Virgin Money are a similar type of organisation to Wonga albeit with far less negative publicity surrounding it, perhaps Papiss has recently had a spiritual awakening and/or thought that Wonga was just a step too far?
  2. Firstly, do we know that he was gambling in the casino? Secondly, this was eight months ago. People change.
  3. So what? Faith is unique to each individual, Islam is about people not robots. Just because two adherents don’t have an issue does not mean that the third person by default should follow suit.

These observations played out in the media were a pretty blatant attempt to discredit the guy, either orchestrated by his own club or by a media that has absolutely no intention of understanding the spiritual needs of someone who is a little bit ‘different’ to them. In the end, Papiss gave in. I don’t know why exactly he did give in, but I rather hoped that he wouldn’t, not based on Islamic principles but on the principle that Wonga exploit those in need with exorbitant interest rates. At least Papiss made a stand though, he’s not a hero as such but he should be commended for drawing attention to the issue.

Another man who was taken a rather more high-profile stand is of course Bradley Manning. Bradley truly is a hero, one of those people that come along once in a generation and take a stand against the highest form of evil in our world. The United States isn’t so dissimilar to the (in)famous empires we so keenly read about in history lessons at school, though there is one key difference. Where these famous empires failed in the past was their reliance on a strong leader or figurehead to steer them through the lowest of lows and lead them to the highest of highs.

Rome, The Mughals, The Macedonians and The Mongols are just a few examples of Empires that collapsed in the hands of weak or uncharismatic leaders. The American Empire is of course unofficial, we don’t know how much of the world is actually in their control but we can be certain that their influence is felt everywhere. That’s not necessarily sinister in itself, it just depends on how much of that influence is positive. What Bradley Manning showed us is that their influence is often negative. He showed us the dark truth that lurks just beneath the shiny, happy, smiley surface of The Corporate Empire of The United States of America. He said ‘This is not what I signed up for’ and instead of being ‘A Patriot’ and ignoring the issue, he confronted it head on, via Wikileaks.

He will now serve the rest of his life in a cold, dark cell. While he wastes away in there, Barack Obama and his successors will give orders to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people in far away lands. The CIA and maybe even the future Presidents themselves will work in the background to destabilise ‘threats’ across the globe from Venezuela to China. The US will seize upon unstable nations, even regions, they will make their profits, grab any resources they can and leave behind power vacuums to be filled with civil wars and decades of unrest.

America will continue to oppress those who quite simply do not wish to live the way Americans do, in fact America will even oppress Americans. More obviously it will continue to allow white murderers of black people go free, it will disproportionately imprison non-whites and ethnic minorities, and more discretely it will allow large corporations to continue buying off Senators and Congressmen/women to ensure that Average Joes and Janes, even if white, will always get a raw deal. They’ll still have to pay for healthcare, guns will never be controlled, Monsanto will still control (genetically modified) seeds and profits will always come before the good of the people.

Bradley Manning will still be in prison, he’ll still be innocent and the truly guilty will still walk free and remain unaccountable for the worst of all crimes: Crimes against Humanity.

The Free World is Dead. It has been for a long time, but I fear that the worst is yet to come. Steadily and gradually, life on this planet is only getting worse. Unless you’re filthy f**king rich or just don’t give a s**t about anyone else.

We Are Not Free

July 25, 2013 at 7:35 pm

This morning I began reading ‘We‘, a Russian novel by Yevgeny Zamyatin completed in 1921. I’m only on Chapter 8, or Record 8 to be true to Zamyatin’s naming convention yet already I find myself deep in thought because of it. Just a little background then, it’s set in the distant future following a 200 year war in a country called OneState. Our main protagonist is called D-503, people are not given names as we know them but are designated numbers. George Orwell’s 1984 drew heavy influence from it, and so far there are a great deal many similarities.

The reason I got to thinking is that D-503 loves OneState and revels in its uniformity and lack of freedom. Their entire lives are timetabled, even sleep. What does it mean to be free though? We may read novels like ‘We‘ and ‘1984‘ and think how horrendous these worlds are and how far removed they are from our own existence. But are they really? Are we really free?

Think about industry. Why does the banking industry exist? Why do manufacturing industries exist? Why do large supermarket chains exist? Why do cars exist? Why does the Military Industrial Complex exist? Why does anything like that exist? We are all born in to a system whether we like it or not. We are all put in to an education system that discourages children from thinking outside of this system. The media bang the drum for this system. Every day of our lives we live and breathe this system. Any respite from this system is only temporary. There is no escape.

We are all stuck in this perpetual cycle of waking up, going to work, coming home, going to sleep until your mind and/or body can no longer compete with the energy and productivity of youth. When you go to work, what do you do? I mean what do you actually do? Does your work make a positive difference to the lives of others? Do you even remember what you did at work yesterday? Probably not. Because the industries we work in are large, vacuous empty spaces seeking to fill themselves with money, money and more money. But to what end? Purely for the pleasure of making more money. What do those with all the wealth do? Do they enjoy it? No, they hoard it. While we work 9-5 in a meaningless job trying to pay our mortgages, loans, credit cards, utility bills whilst also trying to have as much fun as possible.

In totalitarian, dystopian future worlds as in 1984 the people are unable to speak out against their systems or against injustice, yet we are. So surely we are free! Well, let me ask you something. If you told 100 people that you were unhappy with the system, how many of those would agree with you? How many of those would attempt to talk you out of your unhappiness and into acceptance? How many would laugh at you? Our governments have no need to severely restrict freedom of speech or thought because our media, be that TV, Radio, Print or Web, do a perfectly fantastic job of that for them. They guide the thoughts of society down a deep, dark alleyway. The only original thinking they revere is thinking that takes further into the abyss. If a person questions the system, they are shot down. Not with bullets or by the police (at least not openly). But with laughter, derision and ignorance.

The world that we live in is not one that fits with my definition of ‘free’. A bird is free, a cat is free, a shark is free but we are not free. We are products of a system that is unjust, unfair and actually pretty evil. It moulds us to accept a life rich in standard yet poor in quality. It moulds us into unknowing machines of industry, ready to carry out the orders of the elites and expand their wealth. We are all slaves to the elites and they know it and they love it. They exploit the natural human desire for self-improvement and competition for their own benefit and to our detriment.

We really do live in a Matrix, where most of the population sleepwalk through life never really questioning anything, trying to convince themselves that they are free. They may be happy with their lives, but they are not truly free, not like the birds anyway.

Long Live The King

July 23, 2013 at 12:29 am

I’ve seen a good number of comments today from people talking of how Kate’s 9 months of pregnancy felt a lot longer than that. To me though it passed quite quickly, the main reason being that I have absolutely no interest whatsoever. Sure I get incredibly irritated when the royal family hog the headlines and we have to see the flabbergastingly pro-Royal brown-tongue Nicholas Witchell launch into another of his preposterous missives about how great everything royal is.

But I’ve largely ignored the whole royal baby story, and that’s worked out well for me. I don’t feel like it’s dragged on forever like one of those American TV serials that started off with a unique and interesting idea but sort of lost its way after three episodes and nothing exciting really happened until the finale. No, it’s not been like that at all. Only one word I can think of describes my feelings towards the whole situation:

Meh.”

Despite the Royal Family being a bunch of work-shy, benefit-claiming toe-rags I wish Kate and Wills and the new sprog prince no ill will whatsoever. Any new life being brought into this world is more than worthy of warm words and celebration. Any life at all, whether that be in a slum in Mumbai, a council house in Ilford, a palace in London or a favela in Rio de Janeiro; all life is to be celebrated equally.

What I have been less than impressed with is of course the media. And I’m only going to talk about the British press because I’m not altogether that bothered by what the foreign press prints on this issue. No, Fleet Street’s ‘finest’ have been clambering all over each other to remind us:

The World Awaits the Royal Baby!”

And:

A Nation Rejoices at the Birth of our Future King!”

Yes, I can just imagine a Bavarian pub packed to the rafters with German punters demanding the barkeep switch over to BBC World Service for a 24 hour news feed on the Royal Baby, sat on the edge of their stools in silence, eyes glued to the screen, a boorish man enters the pub asking “What’s going on?” to be met with a chorus of index fingers raised to the lips: “Shh, the kid might pop out any second.”

Let’s be honest, normal people of the world may raise a smile should they come across the news by chance. They don’t care. It’s a nice little feel-good story about a princess giving birth to a prince and they all lived happily ever after, but in the grand scheme of things it’s inconsequential. Unless he turns out to be batsh*t mental, dissolves parliament, seizes control of Britain, invades Belgium, Holland and France and enslaves half of the world from his new Flemish Castle. Highly improbable though.

And that touches on another point. I’m 28, and will either be dead or dying by the time this Prince becomes a King. So he’s inconsequential to me too, and I’m potentially one of his future subjects. And what exactly will this King, or the two between now and his reign for that matter, actually do anyway? Sit around on a throne, visit former colonial outposts and wave at kids who’ve been brainwashed into thinking they’re of some significance?

Kings, Queens, Princes, Princesses, Dukes, Duchesses, Earls, Barons and whatever other fancy titles these people all have are fantastic distractions from the real world. We can all forget about David Cameron and his Coalition government tearing apart our nation’s public institutions for the good of his private pals. We can forget about the civil war in Syria. We can forget about the messes we created in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Yemen. We can forget that we’re selling weapons to Bahrain, Saudi and Israel. We can forget that the NSA and GCHQ are colluding to spy against us normal civilians. We can forget that Mosques are being bombed. We can forget that a big earthquake killed hundreds in China. We can forget that Western exploitation of African resources is preventing African governments from providing their citizens with basic services. We can forget about Putin jailing his opponents in Russia. We can forget about Obama not releasing innocent men imprisoned for a decade without trial. We can forget he’s still bombing the sh*t out of Pakistan and killing innocent men, women and children. We can forget that Israel is breaching international law daily and oppressing the Palestinians. We can forget about all that.

Because Kate gave birth to a little baby boy.

“All the Interesting People Go To Hell…”

July 20, 2013 at 12:36 am

Yesterday I turned 28 and, inwardly at least, it provoked a little period of reflection. I don’t think this reflection was as a result of my age, or even of just getting a bit older, I think it was probably caused by the realisation that another year has passed. Another rung on the ladder has been climbed, slowly heading to the top.

A ladder is actually a pretty poor analogy for life though. If you’re climbing an actual ladder, and you decide after climbing 22 rungs that you don’t really like this ladder you can’t just hop on over to another one. You either keep climbing the one you’re on or you climb back down. In life, unless you’re Benjamin Button, you can’t really go back down. You also can’t get a new life either, though the way in which technology and science is progressing I wouldn’t rule this out before my current life is out.

If that does happen, I think I’ll choose to be some kind of Astronaut. Space is intriguing, seemingly infinite possibilities. But back to the ladder of life, you can’t climb back down or hop on to a completely new one. The reason a ladder is a bad analogy is because at any point in life you can re-invent yourself or change direction. You don’t have to keep going up and up and up, sometimes you stop climbing for just a second and think:

What if I were to actually look up, could I see where I’m going?”

The answer is no. You can’t successfully predict the future, but you can see where you think you’re going. If you’re on a ladder, you can’t really bend or contort it one way or the other unless you possess Uri Geller-style spoon bending abilities. Also, you can’t really re-invent your ladder either. You can’t suddenly make your red ladder turn blue. But in life you can re-invent yourself, if you’re working in a dull, monotonous, dead-end job you can quit or get trained in a new field or something.

That was a bit of a digression within a digression there, so back to reflection. I don’t think I’ve had to re-invent myself just yet, I think I’ve got to where I am today through a series of evolutions (try evolving a ladder!). I don’t mean that I’ve developed super-sensitive hearing or x-ray vision, though I could have a long debate with myself about which would be most fun, I mean that while 28 year old me is hugely different to 18 year old me that’s not down to a few one-off events, it’s more down to lots of tiny little ones.

You may think it’s obvious that I’d be different 10 years on, but I’m not so sure about that. I’ve lost contact with a couple of groups of friends that I had because I could see that whilst I was changing, they were not. At 20 I completely cut all ties with my school friends, some of whom I’d known all of my life, others since I was 11.

My closest friends used to go to clubs like Cream, Godskitchen and Gatecrasher (as did I) from the age of 16. From the outset I could see there was a difference between me and them. I went for the music, I was fascinated by it and was enthralled by it. They started that way too, but the allure of drugs was too much for them to resist. I didn’t get involved with all of that, I didn’t need or want it. I was already having great times as it was. It began with Ecstasy and weed, progressed through to Cocaine and Ketamin and pretty much anything they could get their hands on (mercifully not Heroin or Crack).

I could see all this happening and still took no part in it, the problem with drugs though is that even the lightest of users eventually become associated with batsh*t crazy addicts and/or some absolute filth. You’ll hear horrific tales of people hallucinating on Acid, thinking the world is out to kill them, leaping out of windows thinking they can fly. You’ll rub shoulders with bad influences, some just out to get as high as possible, others out to financially exploit them.

And so it was that I travelled across the country for a mate’s 21st to see Armand van Helden play at some club (he was awesome by the way). But it was a life-changing weekend for me, nothing drastic happened. My mates all took their drugs, got high, had fun and lived to get f*cked another weekend. It was what happened before we went out that changed everything. We were in his house, a three-story, terraced, inner city student house. There must have been 15-20 people in the house, spread out on all three floors getting ready for the night. On every floor the talk was of one thing: Drugs. Who was ordering what? When was the dealer getting here? Can he be trusted? How much do they cost? What time shall we take this? What time shall we take that? I tried talking of other things but it always came back to that.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt so out of place in my entire life, and these were my friends. I think maybe I could have tolerated it if it weren’t for the following patronising sentence being repeated to me endlessly:

I’ve got big respect for you, not needing the drugs and sticking to your principles.”

So I cut contact, and I think it may well have been eight or nine years now. I still have them on Facebook but I never interact with them, and every now and then I have a look at what’s going on in their lives hoping they might have changed. Not yet.

So after that I found myself getting more involved with a different group of friends, these were heavy drinkers. I’d actually started drinking in pubs and clubs at about 15, not binge drinking, just socially. But from 19 through to 22 I was a full-on binge drinker. It was fun at first, though looking back I can’t ever put my finger on why it was so fun. I actually began awakening to this when I met a very special woman who showed me that life didn’t have to be like this. Then I heard a friend repeat a quote:

I think I’d rather go to hell, that’s where all the interesting people are.”

I don’t think this was his intention at all, but I really got to thinking about that and how it could be matched up to my life. If interesting people are those that go out to pubs or clubs and get hammered with their mates every night, what kind of tales would they actually have? It seemed to me that all their reminiscing could be put into a formula:

I went to <club x> with <friend y> and <friend z> and drank <drink a> and <drink b> and the DJ played <song c> and we all went mental, then I got off with <person d> and ate <greasy takeaway food e>.

It’s so boring, you can even make a formula out of it. Why am I doing it? So I stopped. But my friends didn’t, and still haven’t. And just as my old school-friends’ lives and conversations revolved around drugs, my uni-friends’ lives revolved around alcohol. So again, I couldn’t really engage in any kind of conversation with them. Again, I have them on Facebook but I don’t interact with them either.

I may come across as harsh for cutting them out, but I don’t regret it. If I didn’t do it, I dread to imagine where I’d be now. A small part of me still cares about them deep down, but I’m not prepared to be patronised again or have to adapt myself to fit in with their lives.

Now I find myself looking to the future and wondering where I’m going to be in one, two, three, five, ten or twenty years and I honestly don’t really know. I look around at the world and often don’t like what I see, and I’m not talking about people drinking or taking drugs. There are two big things going on:

  1. The rich and the powerful are becoming richer and more powerful at the expense of the poor and the weak.
  2. Those in the middle either don’t notice, just sit and watch or fight amongst themselves.

I’m in the middle, and I definitely do notice but, aside from writing the occasional blog post or tweet here or there, am I just watching?

The answer is yes. It’s time to paint this ladder a new colour.

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