BLOOD MOON

Reading Time: 1 minute
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Steve McAuliffe 

I’m your master set in alabaster
And though my self-aggrandising policies
Are laundered and spun-dry through media machines
There are always certain aspects that require
The old distraction or filibuster schemes
And if resistance hits my purse
And the worse comes to the worse
Then dare you even mention
The tried and trusted strategy of tension?

Ice creams, scream queens, quantum flux-machines
Has-beens, skinny jeans and Judd Apatow’s penile-fixated stars of screen
We all agree upon
These hundred million played out scenes.

Distraction is what I need son
Something to take me out myself, you feel me son?
When the day’s done
And the sun
Drops like a hot stone behind the boarded-up shop-fronts
And the tired old moon finally drags its lazy arse to light these lazy cunts
Clapped-out wrung out, strung out b-list actors
Clapper-boards and flop-houses, doss-houses
And these swaggering men
Preening like this is their movie
They’re all convinced of their own omnificence
Unaware of their own impotence
It’s impudent and crass to boot
From branch to root
How these perceivers are little more than receivers
And the masters
Orchestrate disasters
And the wealth of the west is built upon the blood of the east
And the people howl
Howl at the blood-red crescent moon

 

From Steve’s collection of poems ‘Thamesmead’ – available on Amazon here.

 

Tweet for a fair World!

Reading Time: 9 minutes
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Neil Scott

newculturemediaversion2

I was really proud of this podcast this week.  When our collective found out that two pensioners, Brian Quail and Angela Zelter, had been jailed for protesting at the nuclear weapon storage and dispatch facility at Coulport here in Scotland, we decided to do something that an online collective can.  We wrote a letter to the two prisoners for peace.  And we asked people to sign it.  The response in the short time frame was phenomenal.  People from across the political world asked to sign.  You can find the letter here.

Then, the day after we sent the letter, the Trident two were released.  We are over the moon!

Their act, described by Brian as “infinitesimally small” was an act that touched thousands of people across Scotland and indeed the world.  I was shocked after my friend Kevin Gibney at Independence Livestream asked me to do an impromptu interview in their studio about the case that on checking as soon as we came off air, 17000 people had tuned in and watched me stammer and stutter what information I could give to people.  17000 people in a few minutes either found out about, or were reminded about, Brian and Angela, and I know they wont mind me saying, the infinitesimally bigger issue of nuclear weapons themselves.

And that made me think.  I am an advocate of the left using the internet in ways that forward our cause and the issues we agree with.  I wrote an article for Red Pepper a good few years ago about, at the time, how leaders on the left really didn’t take the internet seriously enough.  Although in the last ten years that has changed, especially as younger people find themselves as part of the leaderships of these organisations; younger people who are cyber-natives; I feel the internet and its power is still thought of with suspicion by lots of campaigning lefties and organisations. The left, for the most part, is represented by individuals. And this is a pity.  For many reasons… not least the fact that a huge amount of people find a political narrative from events and issues nowadays on social media.

And without really informed people getting properly involved, either as collectives using central accounts, for example a shared facebook page or group, or a shared twitter account, then we allow this space to be taken over by reactionaries who can divert good people from the truth.

I say this just after reading one of the weirdest twitter timelines I’ve seen for a while.

Twitter, for many years, was seen as dominated by the left.  Narratives surrounding political events and issues were mostly left wing narratives when you checked into twitter.  This wasn’t a coordinated narrative… it was mostly just left wing people posting links and commentary on these issues.  This, of course, was not balanced.  But it meant that the left could challenge the dominance of the right in the main stream media and through the rights dominance on facebook etc.

This is changing; and the timeline I just read sums up this change.  I am not going to name any of the twitter accounts I read the series of tweets on – nor am I going to directly quote – I really don’t want the twitter account to get any publicity.  The account has a blue tick beside it, and it is the account of a good looking young man.  The fact that he was retweeted by a left wing twitter account had  my alarm bells ringing.

So the narrative of this timeline went like this.  He has a pinned tweet that states, basically, that he no longer believes in some of the things that are resurfacing from his past.  He doesn’t believe – any longer – in naziism.  He doesn’t believe any longer in holocaust denial.  He doesn’t believe any longer in racist opinions he used to held about inferior races and he ends this with a quote from the bible about casting the first stone.

Now – as I said he is a young guy.  And I am so relieved that twitter – or any social media  – didn’t exist through my teenage years and early twenties as I am sure there would be plenty to cast up about me.  But holocaust denial?  Racism? Naziism?  Lets give him the benefit of the doubt that he really does regret those views.  When I look back, I think of my own – continuing – education I understand with the perspective of time, that there is always new knowledge, different sides to a story and sometimes hidden narratives in everything I read, hear or see.  This is why the teaching of a love for history; analysing texts and the media etc is hugely important.  And always understanding that what we know is never the whole story.

So, I looked at the tweet my left wing friend had rt’d.  It was of the young man, who describes himself as a journalist, being escorted from “reporting” at a port in Sicily.  Now, the tweet seemed to be about freedom of speech.  Journalists should always be allowed to go about their business without hampering.  At present the narrative on the harassment and the hampering of journalists seems to belong to Donald Trump, but press freedom can of course be hampered here in the uk by D notices and confiscation of source material etc.  And those things have happened in recent years when wikileaks have released material to newspapes like the guardian and others.  And as revealed by Seamus Milne over te years, in northern Ireland and during the miners strike.  Thatcher hated a free press.

But, I thought, is this guy who he says he is?  I was suspicious because of his pinned tweet and then seeing that his  being allegedly censored, was not really censorship.  He was there to harangue those who work on ships and NGOs who had rescued immigrants and refugees.  He had been harassing people portside and was asked to leave.  In fact the port authorities feared for the safety of the refugees and immigrants and workers on board the ship and kept them there until he was removed.  A further investigation of his timeline shows that far from ditching his racist views, he still holds them.  And it is peppered with tweets and RTs from other right wing sources on rapes and violence allegedly carried out by immigrants.

Now, I was able to process this all in around two minutes.  I knew what to look for, I know what is unreasonable, and I know what is dressed up racism and indeed neo-fascism.  But my friend on twitter, who could have seen the tweet, read it quickly, agreed that the press should not be in any way hindered, RT’d it to show solidarity.  And this fascist view, like that of Mail journalist Kati Hopkins, is read by more followers and his awful narrative of keeping refugees from refuge, is perpetuated.

See how it works?

What do we do?  Do we ignore this?  Do we allow the right wing to take over?

 

Another narrative I saw today regarding the new right wing surge on twitter was the absolutely reasonable debate and discussion that is going on about the abuse and threats public figures suffer online.  The racist, violent and vile abuse, for example, Diane Abbott receives – especially when she was ill during the last general election – was beyond the pale.  But, and here is the rub, Simon Hart, a tory MP, who I don’t doubt has suffered uncalled for abuse, blamed it on wait for it, unions and Momentum in particular.  Then on the same BBC magazine programme, a Liberal Democrat MP blamed it on the Yes campaign in Scotland.  And just to kick that ball right into the park… a Labour mp came on to also blame Momentum and some of the left.

Now here’s the thing.  I don’t doubt these people have had abuse.  I too have had online abuse.  But this abuse originates from the left and the independence movement in Scotland?  Really? Did they ask Katie Hopkins and John Mcternan to write their scripts today?

I don’t usually quote Stu Campbell, who is well known up here in Scotland as Wings over Scotland, I find his social media presence abrasive and it negates a lot of the good stuff he does in many ways, but he is taking the Scottish Labour leader to court over alleged defamation of character after a remark she made about him -she called him homophobic.  People I respect have taken up his cause.  And I don’t doubt he was defamed – I don’t follow him, or read his stuff very often, so don’t know all of the ins and outs.

He says on his site,

“For the last six years, the supporters of independence have been relentlessly abused, smeared and vilified by the Unionist parties and the media. We’ve been called Nazis, bullies, terrorists, fascists, Stalinists, thugs, viruses, racists, human sewers and just about every other slur under the sun. The most innocuous remarks have been blown up into shock-horror hysteria, and on the occasions when there haven’t even been any innocuous remarks they’ve simply been invented.”

And in these sentences, I agree with him.  The dreadful onslaught of the mainstream media against the Yes campaign was horrendous (one newspaper even presented us as swastika wielding thugs – the only swastika wielding thugs I saw during and after the independence campaign were right wing unionists parading in George Square – and on the Friday night after the referendum, seig heiling and beating up people on the streets of Glasgow).  The narrative of the history of the Yes campaign is still being attacked and slandered and dragged over the coals by the Tory and Tory-hugging No campaign.  Project fear continues to attack what was, from what I witnessed and took part in, a peaceful, positive celebration of difference and equality.  In all my campaigning days I have not taken part in anything more positive.  But the narrative is being hijacked. And eroded.

Stu Campbell may be someone some of us don’t like.  I’ve never met him, and to be honest, lots of his misdemeanours have been ones reported to me.  When I was the online person for a political party, we ensured our team steered away, just in case.  But in those sentences he wrote that I’ve quoted, and at least in the spirit of his case (because I don’t know the ins and outs of it) I support him.  Defamation is a serious thing, and I watch with interest.  He is one individual, supported by funding, who is at least, challenging a narrative.  But is he challenging abuse?  Abuse that more often than not is misogynist, homophobic and racist abuse?

As for Momentum, well, I have friends in Momentum.  Wonderful, thoughtful, hopeful fighters for equality.  None of my friends  tweet nasty threats to Tories.  They disagree wholeheartedly with the Conservative ideology, and yes, sometimes post strong tweets about Tory policy and its supporters, but abuse?  In the way that the house of commons politicos abuse each other?  In the way the Mail journalist Katie Hopkins abuses?  In the way Kelvin Mackenzie abused a city and families of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster?  In the way the Dowlers were abused by the press, Chris Jeffries? Rebecca Leighton? Sara Payne?

The right wing by far, control the narrative of the main stream media.  In my opinion there is a concerted campaign to own the  narrative on twitter and social media.  Social media has been the bane of the right in the past few years after all.

Independence livestream understand that.  Some groups understand that, but are in danger of being made to look as if they are poisonous when they launch legitimate campaigns.  And Ungagged understand that.  That’s why our podcast is one that is an across the left podcast – one that has podcasters from across the left who don’t always agree.  Not agreeing is a positive thing. It’s where we learn from each other.  And there lies the fear of older generation left leaders.  Previous left groups had to have the discipline of a party.  Some groups adopted a democratic centrist approach, where no one spoke out of turn outside the group.  That way of organising no longer works.  Why?  Because we are all throwing huge amounts of data out there that is analysed and recored on servers across the world. And if you control your narrative so strongly that in the massive online conversation is drowned, well, you are invisible.  You need to be there.  You need to be discussing or arguing or debating, in order to be relevant nowadays.  That is just a fact.

Holding a party line nowadays just silences a party.  The left is complex.  As complex as the right.  The right don’t need a party line – they just have one goal – to make more profits.  All else in and around the right – the thugs, the nationalism etc, are just ways to perpetuate that central tenet… that want to create more wealth for the already rich.

The left have a bigger goal – to change the world to ensure everyone has an equal share and equal access to the things this world has that enhance life.  Everything else – from the organisation structures, through to the meetings about meetings – all are there to help the left to this goal.  To me, Jeremy Corbyn and the corbynistas, and Nicola Sturgeon and the sturgeonettes have the same ultimate goal.  As do the leaders of the smaller left parties and groups.  I don’t agree with everything Corbyn and those around him say, nor do I agree with everything Sturgeon and those around her says.  I don’t agree with everything the SSP say, or the Greens or Syriza – But I’ll listen to them.  I know they are on the same journey as I am.

 

And that’s the ground I feel we must be walking on.  Yes, disagreeing and debating.  But always knowing it is a difference of opinion that could in the future disappear.  Always knowing that the defeat of greed and intolerance is our aim.

So, do I defend Stu Campbell in the way I defend Brian Quail and Angela Zelter?  Yes.  Do we need to challenge the right wing people standing threateningly at quayside waiting to abuse refugees?  Yes.  Do we challenge people who are sexist, misogynist racist transphobic online? Yes.  But lets do it together.  Lets ensure we are in affinity groups that can help each other when we are attacked by online thugs.  And lets use platforms created by people like Kevin Gibney at independence live stream to highlight injustices.  And please, get in touch or give us a few pounds via paypal if you want to help develop Ungagged as a place we can safely debate, disagree, agree, (and listen to music!) and fight for a fair world.

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
But leaves the greater villain loose
Who steals the common from off the goose.

The law demands that we atone
When we take things we do not own
But leaves the lords and ladies fine
Who take things that are yours and mine.

The poor and wretched don’t escape
If they conspire the law to break;
This must be so but they endure
Those who conspire to make the law.

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
And geese will still a common lack
Till they go and steal it back.

Anonymous

The Meaning of Life part 4: No Gods, No Masters

Reading Time: 6 minutes
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Chuck Hamilton 

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, we learn from a computer named Deep Thought that the Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything is “42”. In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, we learn that the Ultimate Question that produces that Answer is “What do you get if you multiply six by nine?”. For those of you saying, “Hey, wait a minute,” and getting out your calculators, that is actually a correct equation in base13 mathematics. Which could mean that we are a base10 race on a base10 planet in a base13 universe.

The word race as biological term applied to all lifeforms comes from the 19th century, where it was used for what is now usually called a subspecies. That is the sense in which I am about to use it now.

The Homo sapiens sapiens race began flourishing just 35 thousand years ago. Out of the four known races (sapiens, neanderthalensis, denisova, idaltu) of the 200 thousand years old Homo sapiens species, it is the only one remaining. There have been six other known species (habilis, naledi, ergaster, erectus, heidelbergensis, floresiensis) of the 2.8 million year old genus Homo, each of which has only one race identified in it, except for Homo erectus, of which nine races have been identified.

Of these eighteen races of Homo, or Human, known to have walked the Earth in the past 2.8 million years, only ours remains. So, when Edward James Olmos as his alter-ego Admiral Bill Adama of the Battlestar Galactica (BS-75) said in an appearance with his crew at the UN that there is only one race, the human race (and so say we all, or at least we should), he was literally as well as rhetorically accurate.

That’s why I say that I am a Terran, a citizen of Earth. The whole world is my home and all its people my brothers, sisters, and cousins.

Remember that the Universe is around 213 duovigintillion (1069) km3 in volume and 13.8 billion years old containing 2 trillion (1012) galaxies with 80 sextillion (1021) Class-M planets hosting around 123 nonillion (1030) sapient beings analogous to humans.

Against that vast expanse of spacetime and multitude of beings, regardless our status, strength, size, wealth, power, etc., compared to others of the One Human Race, nothing we do matters at all. Not a single member of the One Human Race on this miniscule planet in the outer reaches of the Milky Way galaxy is special. Our planet is not special. Neither our race nor our species nor even our genus is special. Not even the eight gods incarnate atop Earth’s socioeconomic food chain who have as much as the lowest 3.65 billion humans, even with their 75 million enablers who own as much as the remaining 49% counted in.

From the POV of the ‘Verse, each of those eight gods incarnate count no more than the poorest, the weakest, the youngest, the meekest of us lower humans, and the same goes for each of their 75 million retainers. No single one of us is better than any other because we are all of equal insignificance. Each of us is a red shirt. We are all just dust in the wind.

Life is just living, that is all. There’s no secret to discover, no divine plan, no special path, no purpose, no destiny, nothing to win. There is no divine reward for good nor godly payback for evil, in life or after life. But if there were, someone needing the threat of eternal punishment to avoid being evil, wouldn’t really be good. And if they were only being good in hope of an eternal reward, then they’d be a piece of shit just like Rust Cole says, nirvana being samsara and all that. Because you have to lose your life in order to save it.

None of us chose to be here, to be born, to exist, to live, not one. Every single one of us here on Earth, and for that matter each member of every sapient race on Class-M planets throughout the ‘Verse, shares that lack of choice. And none of us is getting out of here alive. So for any of us in the One Human Race to do anything but work for the welfare of us all is insanity, because neither we nor our planet are significant enough for anyone else to notice us or it. There is only us, we only have each other and Terra our home, and there is only Now, so while nothing we do matters against the vastness and depth of spacetime and nearly infinite numbers of other sapient beings in the ‘Verse, for all of us humans, here and now, all that matters is what we do today.

So, be the change you wish to see in the world, to show it what can be. First, love yourself, because if you don’t, you can’t love anyone else; it is impossible. Then, love every other person as you love yourself, and do not do to any other what you would not want done to you.

Take to heart, both literally and figuratively, this verse from the Quran: “If a single innocent person dies, it is as if the whole world has been killed, and if a single innocent person is saved, it is as if the whole world has been rescued”. And remember that the only true jihad is the one inside each and every one of us.

So, what’s this hippy-dippy love bullshit got to do with left-wing activism? I’ll let Che answer that: “The true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love,” he said. “It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality.”

And it is vitally important that you love yourself, for me as well as for you. Because if you don’t love yourself, if you do not believe that you are worth fighting for, how can you believe that I am worth fighting for? And I do need you to fight for me, as much as I want to see you fight for yourselves and for the rest of us.

One day we may even need to, or rather get to, spread to members of another sapient race from extraterrestrial space, but a much more pressing need is to expand that to all sapient beings here on Earth. Because AI, artificial intelligence, is not some far-off fantasy but an eminent surety, on our doorstep about to ring the bell.

In fact, that very thing is currently a matter of open dispute between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg on whether it will be harmful or beneficial. Of course, both Musk and Zuckerberg speak from the soley POV of the human race, not taking into account the potential desires and needs of those future synthetic beings. Like a U.S. Senate conference on women’s health of all men with no input from or regard for women themselves or a council hearing on estate housing for the poor with no input from or regard for the poor themselves. I look at it this way: such synthetic life will not have chosen to be here anymore than any of us and will share our own lack of choice in that matter, and thus deserve the same consideration we wish for ourselves.

Artists use lies to tell the truth, the saying goes, while politicians use the truth to tell lies. One of the truths artists have related through lies in the past couple of decades is of the need to prepare for first contact, first contact with synthetic life arising on our own planet, and the potential pitfalls of not doing so, most lately in the UK serial Humans and the American shows Dark Matter, Extant, and Battlestar Galactica.

In a free market, the only things free are the corporations. Change from within is a lie. Whether of the system or the state, of the Union or of the Union. The only thing that ever gets changed when you work from within is you, and those who dream of becoming masters always remain slaves. National borders are going to fall, and when they do, will the Earth belong to us, we the people, or will it belong to the corporations and the gods of wealth who run them?

Whenever any government, economic system, or political union becomes destructive of our welfare, when it serves the greed of the few ahead of the needs of the many, it is our right to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new forms, laying their foundations on such principles and organizing them in such form, as shall seem most likely to promote and sustain the safety and happiness of us all.

In ancient times, the words for “the universe” and “this planet” were often the same. In Hebrew, “ha-olam”, as in “Barukha atah Yahuweh Eloheinu, Melekh ha-olam” meant, and still means, both Earth and the universe. In Greek, “aion” carries the same dual meaning, as does the Old English word “world”. It comes, of course, from the idea that life here on Earth is all that is, but it can also mean that making a change in our own little corner of the spacetime is a step toward improving the lot of all, sending out ripples of change over the planet and across the cosmos.

I am a Terran, a child of the Universe and a citizen of Earth. The whole world is my home, and all its people my brothers, sisters, and cousins, regardless of organic or synthetic origin and including those of extraterrestrial races I may never see.

 

The Meaning of Life Part 3: The Endless Struggle

 

 

The Hidden Pod…

Reading Time: 1 minute

Available FREE on iTunes and Podbean

On this “hidden” themed Ungagged we’ll hear from Em Dehaney, on the hidden hate uncovered by Brexit and Trump, Victoria Pearson will be discussing the extraordinary situation unfolding in Rojava, Syria,  Chuck Hamilton will be giving us the 4th part of his Meaning of Life series, George Collins will be talking about the hidden culture of indigenous Americans, Debra Torrance will be talking hidden disabilities and hidden agendas, Sarah Mackie will be fact checking Theresa May’s claims about nurse numbers in the NHS,  Richie Venton will be chatting about the High Court descision regarding tribunal fees, and Neil Scott  will be discussing the rise of the right wing in traditionally left wing online spaces.

With music from The Empty Page, Phat Bollard, James King and the Lonewolves, Birdeatsbaby, Guttfull, The Eastern Swell, Girobabies, The Wakes, Those Unfortunates and Nervous Twitch.

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Ungagged is a not for profit co-operative, and we rely on the generosity of our listeners. If you’d like to donate us the cost of a newspaper or a cup of coffee, you can do so through PayPal.

 

Free The Trident 2

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Last week Ungagged reported on the Trident 2 – pensioners Brian Quail and Angela Zelter who were jailed for peacefully protesting the Trident WMDs held in Scotland.

We at Ungagged are increasingly concerned for the health and wellbeing of Brian and Angela, and will be sending them a letter of support today.

The undersigned are friends of Ungagged who abhor the existence of these weapons of indiscriminate murder. We feel that locking up pensioners with health problems for the “crime” of peaceful protest is a disproportionate reaction which infringes on their civil liberties, and sets a worrying precedent for the right to peacefully express dissent, which is absolutely vital for any functioning democracy.

Please show your support by adding your name and messages of encouragement in the comments.

 

We hope you are well.

 

We would also like to thank you for your actions on the behalf of all humanity, in drawing attention to the dreadful weapons housed in Scotland.  And we thank you for trying, with all you can, to hinder the ongoing crime of the creation, upkeep and housing of illegal weapons of mass murder and destruction on Scottish/ UK soil and on the soil and in the waters of the earth.

 

We at Ungagged fully support your actions, and indeed will support future actions by you, or anyone else, to try to rid the world of these machines of murder.

 

The justification of these weapons- jobs, defence, status and profits, are no defence at all with the evidence recently put to the UN and world governments of literally millions of deaths and birth defects caused by their use and production.

 

Millions of people are directly affected by the many bombs tested, and of course the two awful events in Japan in 1945. Yet, here in Scotland, 35 miles away from where I type, are housed an arsenal that could trigger the extinction of our species and many others.

 

Profits and jobs from war, “when we should be diving for pearls,” as the Elvis Costello song goes.

 

Weaponry justified, supported and promoted by profit takers in our legal system, our democratic system and our media who keep us as chickens, scratching in the dirt and accepting the scraps we are thrown when we could be soaring high with our sisters and brothers as eagles.

 

Morally this is wrong.  All of it.

 

We in the United Kingdom have in the past few weeks witnessed the absurdity of advocates for the jobs, defence, status and profits “gained” by the creation and upkeep of these weapons, denigrate political leaders who say they would not use nuclear weapons.  Their absurd notion that the use of nuclear weapons that will indiscriminately kill us all is a thing of strength – an act of love?

 

The politics of the mad organ playing, cat stroking Bond/ Pink Panther films seems to be the politics of the present hegemony.  And many, good people, like the dolphins in the Bikini Islands loyally following the nuclear test ships, seem to follow this logic.

 

Through actions like yours, more and more of us are looking to the sky and taking off.  We are learning about the murders that have happened in our names, and the murderous capacity of the rockets and their cargo based in Faslane. Through the “infinitesimally small thing” you do, you carry out a huge act of love for all of life on this world.

 

Signed

Neil Scott, Co Producer, Ungagged

V Pearson, Co Producer, Ungagged

Louise Robertson, Co-founder of Faslane Peace Camp

Les Robertson, Co-founder of Faslane Peace Camp

Maggi Sale, Grandmother of the Burning Hearth GCEF, PMS 1982 Convenor and Co-Founder of Faslane Peace Camp

Councillor Mary Bain Lockhart, former peace prisoner, Cornton Vale

Councillor Jim Bollan, socialist activist

Stuart Cosgrove, Scottish writer and broadcaster

Tam Dean Burn, actor.

Alan Bissett, novelist and playwright

Mark Little, Actor, Comedian, Friend of Ungagged

Paul Kavanagh, “Wee Ginger Dug,” writer, journalist.

Anmer Anwar, Human Rights Lawyer & Rector of University of Glasgow.

Alastair McIntosh, Scottish writer, academic and activist

Abi Wilkinson, journalist

Fuad Alakbarov, Human Rights Activist and Ungagged Contributor

Harjit Singh, Sikhs for Scotland

Jackie Walker, anti-racist activist

Richie Venton, Scottish Socialist Party, Ungagged Contributor

Steven Purcell, former Labour Leader of Glasgow City Council, Ungagged contributor

Debra F. Torrance, Ungagged Artistic Designer and contributor

John McHarg, aYe Scotland, Ungagged Contributor

Robert Mcewan, Anyvoices.

Alan Young, View from Gorgie fanzine, Fodderty

Neil Anderson, Editor, Ungagged

Joe Solo, Musician, activist and Ungagged Contributor

David Rovics, musician

The Wakes, musicians

Thee Faction, musicians

The Argonauts, musicians

Guttfull, musicians

Marshall Chipped, musicians

Natalie Webster, musician

Katherine Stewart, musician

Roy Møller, musician, Ungagged Contributor.

Alan Smart, Activist, Musician.

Pauline Bradley, musician.

Gavin Paterson, musician.

Red Raiph, artist, activist and Ungagged Contributor

Janine Booth, poet and Ungagged Contributor

Steve McAuliffe, Poet, Ungagged Contributor

D.S. Macpherson, musician, Ungagged Contributor

Babel Fish Project, musicians

Alison Barton, artist at Defiaye

Dave Riley, Socialist Alliance, Australia.

Allan Grogan, founder Labour for Independence, Ungagged Contributor

Ruth Hopkins, Dakota & Lakota (Sioux) writer, blogger, activist and judge, Ungagged Contributor

Damanvir Kaur, Sikh activist, research fellow,  Ungagged contributor

Phantom Power Films,

Collin Parks, President, Radio KRFP, Ungagged Contributor

Max Newland, Ungagged Contributor

Kevin Gibney, Independence Live, Ungagged Contributor

David McGowan, Independence Live, Ungagged Contributor

Christopher Graham, Bikers for Yes, Ungagged Contributor

Mariola Fiedorczuk, radio broadcaster, Ungagged Contributor

Nick Durie, Community Activist, Ungagged Contributor

John Andrew Hird, Activist, CWI. Ungagged Contributor

Sandra Webster, Activist, Ungagged Contributor

Tommy Ball, Activist, Ungagged Contributor

Chuck Hamilton, Ungagged Contributor

Em Dehaney, Ungagged Contributor

Dr. Bruce Scott, Ungagged Contributor

Sarah Mackie, Ungagged Contributor

Mara Leverkuhn, Ungagged Contributor

Teresa Durran, Ungagged Contributor

Amber Heather Poppitt, Ungagged Contributor

Ruth McAteer, Ungagged Contributor

Matthew Geraghty, writer, Ungagged Contributor

David McClemont, Co-Convenor of the South Lanarkshire Green Party

Brian Reid, Community Activist

Ian Maclellan, activist

Des Kenny, EIS Equalities Representative.

Danielle Ni Dhighe, U.S. Activist

Dr Marilyn Sangster, activist

John Couzin, Producer, Radical Glasgow blog

Alasdair McDougall, Activist

Alan Wyllie, Activist

Gabriel Neil, Activist

Ian Sanderson, Yes Alliance & SNP Tarbert

Catriona Grant, feminist and socialist

Joanne Telfer, IGS editor

Liam Young, socialist activist

Rikki Reid, socialist activist

Liz Swan, socialist activist

James Keegans, socialist activist

James McGinn, socialist activist

James Carroll, socialist activist

Charlie McCarthy, socialist activist, friend of Ungagged

Brian Watson, Branch Vice Convener Bearsden SNP, friend of Ungagged

Ryan Pearson, Milton Keynes

Michael Scott, Glasgow

Lauren Reid, Bathgate

Dr Sonya Scott, friend of Ungagged

Colin McKenna, friend of Ungagged

Jean Torrance, friend of Ungagged

E. Laodi, friend of Ungagged

Strong, Stable, and Unavailable

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

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The Secretary of State for Scotland, David (Fluffy) Mundell, the sort of guy who eats crumbs out his beard and happily shares a front bench with homophobes whilst hailing his own gay credentials, has somehow been magically elevated to a higher status than the democratically elected First Minister of Scotland.

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Let’s break down the two positions. 

“Her Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for Scotland (Scottish GaelicRùnaire Stàite na h-AlbaScotsSecretar o State for Scotland) is the principal minister of Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland representing Scotland. He heads the Scotland Office (formerly the Scottish Office), a government department based in London and Edinburgh. The post was created soon after the Union of the Crowns,but was abolished in 1746, following the Jacobite rebellion. Scottish affairs thereafter were managed by the Lord Advocate until 1827, when responsibility passed to the Home Office. 

In 1885 the post of Secretary for Scotland was re-created, with the incumbent usually (though not always) in the Cabinet. In 1926 this post was upgraded to a full Secretary of State appointment.

The 1999 Scottish devolution has meant the Scottish Office‘s powers were divided, with most transferred to the Scottish Government or to other UK Government departments, leaving only a limited role for the Scotland Office. Consequently, the role of Secretary of State for Scotland has been diminished. A recent Scottish Secretary, Des Browne, held the post whilst simultaneously being Secretary of State for Defence. The current Secretary of State for Scotland is David Mundell.”

And…

“The First Minister of Scotland (Scottish GaelicPrìomh Mhinistear na h-AlbaScotsHeid Meinister o Scotland) is the leader of the Scottish Government. The First Minister chairs the Scottish Cabinet and is primarily responsible for the formulation, development and presentation of Scottish Government policy. Additional functions of the First Minister include promoting and representing Scotland, in an official capacity, at home and abroad and responsibility for constitutional affairs, as they relate to devolution and the Scottish Government.

The First Minister is a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) and nominated by the Scottish Parliament before being officially appointed by the monarch. Members of the Cabinet and junior ministers of the Scottish Government as well as the Scottish law officers, are appointed by the First Minister. As head of the Scottish Government, the First Minister is directly accountable to the Scottish Parliament for their actions and the actions of the wider government.

Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party is the current First Minister of Scotland.

-Wiki

If we are to believe reports, somebody thinks David Mundell is of equal importance to Nicola Sturgeon. I suppose it depends on your perspective. So I asked twitter, who would you say is the leader of our county?

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What’s interesting about this “announcement” isn’t just the blatant disregard to the office of First Minister, but rather the accompanying quote in the articles that suggests it as an intentional attempt to “antagonise” SNP leadership. This actually rings quite true when you review the response from the SNP. There hasn’t really been one. Whereas the UK government has neither confirmed nor denied but assured that there has been more meetings and appointments between the devolved governments and Westminster. 

So when was the last time our FM met our PM, you know considering this whole Brexit malarkey?

I’m not sure, but I’m guessing the next time Ruth Davidson asks at First Minister Questions when the First Minister plans to next meet with the Prime Minister, there will be some banter.

With all the constitutional certainty of a chocolate fireguard in Great Britain just now, the fact the leader of Scotland isn’t meeting the Prime Minister at regular intervals should be sending alarm bells ringing all over our political spectrum. We are hurtling towards Brexit at the speed of sound without much direction and it appears that no-one knows, of those who are meant to know, what is in fact happening. 

If you happen to know, please get in touch, share your thoughts, get Ungagged!

George Collins Writing

Reading Time: 1 minute
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George Collins

 

News, Article and Opinion

 

 

 

 

George is a regular contributor to our podcast

The Frontlines of Rust Belt America

Reading Time: 6 minutes
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George Collins

My father is one of the most hardworking people I know. He works as a university administrator in the provost’s office of the school he taught at for nearly two decades. He served as Chair of the Faculty Senate with no additional pay prior to accepting that position. He maintained his duties in the provost’s office while also teaching an honor’s course this past academic year, and he now hosts a weekly music program on KRFP Radio Free Moscow in the town ten miles to the east. He still reserves time for extra projects and goals such as building models and he never once missed a sports game or special occasion of mine or my younger brother’s while we were growing up.
He once told me about his upbringing and how it contributed to his work ethic. Growing up in Flint, Michigan, his own father worked at the automotive assembly plants from early morning to mid-afternoon whereupon he would travel straight to his bulldozer to run his independent bulldozing business until it grew dark. This was the philosophy of blue collar Michigan in the mid-20th century: you worked until the job was done and until it was done well. How bloody your hands were or how much your body was screaming at you to take a rest were not acceptable metrics. My father admits that he doesn’t believe he works all that hard, and it’s easy to understand why he would think that when my grandfather’s life is the standard.
He credits these blue-collar roots as owing to his success in the university world. I credit them to my own success as well, as we were raised on a working-class mentality even though we were not a working-class household. Despite these benefits, those roots carry a hidden burden with them: the full comprehension of the decline of the American Rust Belt.
I had the chance to visit Flint early in the month of May. It was my first time visiting the town in ten years and my first visit equipped with the chops of my college political awakening. Though enjoyable and important for me on a personal and familial level, it will remain one of the most sobering experiences of my life.
Visits to Flint were common for my family during my childhood. The city carries a tremendous legacy for my bloodline, one with deep connections to American labor resistance. Some of my great grandparents participated in the famous Flint sit down strike that created the domestic auto workers unions in the United States. Almost all my parents’ extended family worked in the factories or supported the infrastructure in one way or another. Most of the family still lives in Michigan with a large chunk of that majority residing in or around the Flint area.
When the Flint water crisis emerged as an international headline, the whole scenario first seemed surreal to me. The city of my family history was suddenly vaulted into worldwide infamy. It brought up conversations about the shattered Midwest economy in the middle of a presidential election in which this topic became the cornerstone issue. Donald Trump capitalized on the anger and resentment of the forgotten population of laborers to win crucial states in the general election and brought the Democratic Party’s lack of class consciousness into the bright spotlight. All this because of events in the town I would see every summer as a child.
Most Americans know the story of the Rust Belt’s death, but witnessing the aftermath firsthand brings another level of understanding I was not fully prepared to absorb.
Before continuing, it needs to be noted that there are good developments occurring in Flint these days. Certain neighborhoods were spared the horror of lead-infused water due to copper piping being used in their houses. My mother’s stepmother resides in one such neighborhood. Downtown Flint sees economic growth every year as new businesses appear in storefronts abandoned decades ago. The Flint Farmer’s Market, which I had the pleasure of visiting, is a thriving business community of locally owned and operated vendors dealing in food, art, jewelry, and many other products and it is expanding its base at an incredible rate. There are several positives to identify in 2010s Flint, and they need to be acknowledged in any assessment of the city.
Even with these in mind, the harsh realities remain. Derelict houses line the streets with no sign of repair taking place. The same is true for storefronts outside the downtown region. These are not relegated to a single neighborhood or even a few; driving more than a single minute without encountering one is impossible. Signs of poverty and poor neighborhood health, a measure in public health characterized by a variety of factors such as church presence and quality of architecture, can be found in every district. Flint unemployment sits at about 9% in 2017, above the overall Michigan rate of 5%. A statistic offered by my grandmother tells the story succinctly: More than 300,000 people worked in the factories during the city’s prime. That is just factory workers; their families and all non-factory affiliates such as medical professionals would comprise several thousand more. In 2017, Flint’s total population rests below 100,000 and continues to shrink every year. The pangs of nostalgia for this heyday hang in the air like summer humidity even for somebody who did not experience my childhood there. I cannot begin to imagine the heartbreak of seeing the city’s decrepit state for my father and others whose identities are rooted in this place and who understand the full context of what this city’s strength once was.

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Dwarfing all these observations is the ongoing water crisis. The story itself has only been in wider public consciousness for just over a year, but the public health and infrastructure impacts stretch as far back as 2014 (The Detroit Free Press crafted an excellent timeline of the events that can be accessed for newcomers to the story). Though the crisis may not receive the same magnitude of coverage in the corporate media sphere as it once did, it is far from being resolved.

 

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Construction of new pipes is finally underway but most residents cannot expect to see repairs completed on their homes for months, and the city leadership now finds itself embroiled in a lawsuit from the state of Michigan itself.
These people are suffering and they have been suffering for a long time. Nobody in the political sphere even acknowledged their plight for years. No proposals for how to alleviate the unemployment rate or improve the infrastructure of the crumbling cities ever surfaces despite the ample opportunities to tackle the problem.

 

Solar power is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States. Take a guy from Flint whose entire career was wiring dashboards for cars and hand him a manual for how to wire a solar panel. An entire workforce is waiting in the Rust Belt to build this infrastructure. The fact that alternative energy is widely thought of as a “left-wing” idea will have no influence whatsoever over their decision to take these jobs. Instead we hear talk of “retraining”, a term with profound classism embedded in its usage that suggests working class people are stupid and cannot acquire other skills. It took independent media outlets like The Young Turks to finally break the water crisis story at the national level. Even so-called “progressive” outlets like MSNBC ignored it until they were forced to acknowledge it due to mounting public pressure.
It is not difficult to understand how someone like Donald Trump, as fraudulent as he appeared to most of us, could appeal to the deep pain this region continues to battle.
Yet, as I left Flint with this full comprehension of daily life there, my primary anger was not towards President Trump for exploiting this pain. Instead, my mind became occupied with the narratives I see and hear in my own progressive circles. The ones that proclaim these voters to be “stupid” or “uneducated” for being coerced into trusting a charlatan. The ones that talk down to such voters with the same classist rhetoric surrounding the aforementioned “retraining” discussions. The ones that ask not the question of how best to help these people and bring them to our side so they never fall for this charade again but rather the question of if these people being poisoned by their own water supply deserve to be helped at all.
We can disagree with these people’s decision to support Trump in the desperate hope of improving their lives (I certainly do and have written about it at length), but have we on the left reached a point where we no longer express empathy for the worst-off among us? Are we so devoid of class consciousness that we fail to see Trump’s election as the byproduct of the same systemic class oppression we work to destroy? I never thought I would see the day where we state with genuine intent no desire to help people subjected to the institutionalized violence we claim to oppose.
American socialists faced a similar situation a century ago when The Great Depression ravaged the lives of working and middle class Americans. They could have turned away from this suffering and degraded the victims of capitalist violence as heartless and racist as we do now. Instead, they chose to engage with these people and show them their true oppressors. Union membership soared and today we enjoy such benefits as Social Security and Medicare that are not dare touched even by the most right-wing among us, all because the leftists of the past had just a shred of empathy in their veins.
I’ve been back to the frontlines of Rust Belt America, and yes, it really is as bad as everyone says it is. If the left cannot understand this and find in our hearts the desire to help people genuinely suffering, then it is not a left I will call my own.

The Meaning of Life part 3 – The Endless Struggle

Reading Time: 5 minutes
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Chuck Hamilton

“Every generation must fight the same battles again and again and again,” said Tony Benn in one of his more memorable speeches. “There is no final victory, and there is no final defeat.”

Those who buy into what those trying to shift power from the ballot box to the market-place with austerity, balanced budgets, so-called free trade, and socially liberal fiscal conservatism repeat as a mantra like cult members on a mission from their God remind me of this story.

Scorpion comes to the edge of a creek he needs to cross to get to where he’s going, and wonders how he’s going to accomplish that.

“Hey, Frog,” he says to Frog, whom he sees resting by the creek-side, “how about giving me a lift across the water?”

“No way, Scorpion,” said Frog. “If I put you on my back, you’ll sting me as we cross the water, and I’ll drown.”

“Do you think I’m an idiot?” asked Scorpion. “If I do that, I’ll die too.”

Frog thought for a minute. “Ok,” he said, “I guess that makes sense”.

So Scorpion climbed on Frog’s back and they began swimming across the creek.

At about the halfway point, Scorpion’s stinger whips forward and sticks Frog in the back of his neck.

“But Scorpion,” Frog said miserably as he began to weaken and sink, “why? Now you’ll die too.”

Scorpion smiled sadly. “It’s in my nature.”

There is no god but Profit, and Ayn Rand is its Prophet. Or so say the 1% and their minions in the governments of UK, Republic of Ireland, USA, European Union, France, Germany, and even those which claim to hate all things Western, like that of Turkey. All of them have these words written in their hearts, and teach them diligently to their children, talking of them while sitting in their house and walking down the street, when they lie down, and when they rise up. They bind them as a sign on their hand and wear them as a frontlet between their eyes, writing them on their doorposts and on their gates.

Whatever name it wears, be it pragmatic progressivism, neoliberalism, supply-side, objectivism, trickle-down, horse-and-sparrow economics, it amounts to the same thing: telling us that if we feed their horse enough oats some will eventually pass through to be shit out onto the road for us sparrows to eat. We are living in a theocracy, a theocracy in which the greed of the few outweighs the needs of the many, in which avarice for excessive wealthy and ambitious lust for ever more power through robbery, slaughter, and plunder are elevated to the level of supreme virtue. By comparison, practicing Satanists have more morality.

Whenever anyone in government, any government, speaks to you of realism and pragmatism while calling for austerity, balanced budgets, cutting taxes, “job-creators”, globalization, privatization, pay caps, cutting costs, free trade, free markets, deregulation, corporations as persons, market-based solutions, personal responsibility, the value of work as an ethic, benefits earned rather than human rights deserved, how an individual’s sole worth is their ability to create profit, you are listening to a sermon. As a religion, it is evil, it is psychopathic, it is inhuman. Because as an ideology, it is indeed a religion, one which worships at the temple of the Invisible Hand of the Market-place, the Church of the god Profit.

Perhaps I shouldn’t call it evil, though, since psychopaths lack a conscience. They are like predators in the jungle. Why do Theresa May, Donald Trump, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, Malcolm Turnbull, Boris Johnson, Nikki Haley, Michael Gove, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Tony Blair, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Tony Abbot, David Cameron, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, and their ilk look at us the way they do? Because to them we are food, morsels at a banquet of excess. And yet they themselves are not even the masters; they are instead the house slaves, their masters’ pets.

Atop the pyramid of humanity our global economic system allows eight gods incarnate to take up as much as 3.72 BILLION other individuals humans or 465,250,000 (nearly half a billion) each. The same system allows the lesser gods and demigods below them to likewise use and waste huge amounts of the resources that are left, so that humanity’s wealthiest 1% take up as much as the other 99% of humanity. That 1% is 73 million individuals total, and if you take out the eight gods incarnate, it leaves 72,999,992 individuals who collectively take up as much resources as 364,927,000 other humans, for an average of 50 other individual human beings combined each. When I look around and see what that does to my brothers, sisters, and cousins around me and across the planet, I get bothered. I get angry. I get enraged.

Our so-called leaders, the enablers of the 1%, tell us to be rational, be reasonable, to accept life the way it is. Mostly because life the way it is put them and their patrons where they are. They make it seem sensible. They make selfishness and greed sound pragmatic. They make it seem as if willingly acquiesing to their manipulation, subjugation, and dehumanization will make us part of the in-crowd, that if we resist, if we fight, if we protest, if we ask questions, if we look around and say “Why?”, then we won’t be one of the cool kids, one of the “fiscally conservative, socially liberal”, one of the “pragmatic progressives”, one of the “progressives who get things done”, one of the soulless minions of their orthodoxy who accepts things the way they are, eating the sugar-covered shit they offer with a smile as if it were a brownie.

But good people don’t do that. Not if they are awake. Not if they are not numb, but bothered, angry, and enraged. They see the world as it is and refuse to accept it. They fight it, or at least begin to look for a way to fight it. Like Banksy wrote, “If we wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, we don’t remain neutral, we side with the powerful”.

So, to paraphrase Tony Benn, pick up the torch of anger against injustice in one hand and the torch of hope for a better world in the other and use them to fight for for us all.

As Bobby wrote on the 14th day of his hunger strike, “Everyone has his or her particular part to play. No part is too great or too small. No one is too old or too young to do something”.

At my junior high, there was a small group of friends who got picked on a lot. Then one day they were standing around and decided, “Hey, an injury to one of us is an injury to all of us”. So, when one of them got picked on, they all would go meet the bully and tell him would have to fight each of them one at at time, or he could quit. That started when they were in 7th grade, and by 9th grade there were several scores of them. They never picked fights or pushed anyone around, but they did stand up for each other, and even kids outside their group. And they never had to fight, not even once. They were the runts, but not even the biggest bully wants to fight 50 runts, even one at a time.

Our fight is not to win, because if we fight to win, to overcome, to rise above, then we are like the slaves who never become really free because they dream of becoming masters. The only way to win the game is not to play.

 

The Meaning of Life part 2

Pardon the Peaceful Protestors

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Scottish pensioner, 79 year old Brian Quail has been jailed for protesting Scotland’s illegal nuclear weapons.

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Retired Latin teacher and grandfather, Brian was arrested outside the UK Trident nuclear weapon storage facility at Coulport, along with 66 year old Angela Zelter, founding member of Trident Ploughshares. Sam Donaldson,29, a community worker from Hull, Almudena Izquierdo Olmo from Madrid and Juan Carlos Navarro Diaz 46, a librarian from the Canary Islands were also arrested, but accepted bail conditions that prevented them from returning to the camp, and were released.

Brian Quail is being held at HMP Moss and Angie Zelter is being held at HMP & YOI Corton Vale. Please write letters of support for the peaceful protestors, who we believe are being held contrary to sections 10 and 11 of the ECHR which guarantees the right to peaceful protest. Mr Quail has serious health issues and imprisoning him is, in our opinion, disproportionate to his offence and may damage his health.

You can send cards or letters of support to:

Brian Quail 

HMP Prison Low Moss

Crosshill Road

Bishopbriggs

Glasgow G64 2BQ

And

Angela Zelter 

21/1 Peebles House

HMP & YOI Corton Vale 

Corton Vale

Stirling FK9 5NU

 

The protesters were rightfully exercising their freedom of expression in opposing, as described by a Trident Ploughshares spokesperson; “the active deployment of a hideous weapons system that clearly breaches the Geneva Convention, which no less than 122 countries worldwide want to prohibit and eliminate, and which is rejected by the overwhelmingly majority of Scottish parliamentarians both at Holyrood and Westminster.”

Our legal entitlement as citizens to object actions of this government is fundamental to our democracy. Peacefully protesting is a traditional way of exercising those rights. Imprisoning pensioners for doing so infringes on your rights.

Ungagged urge politicians to get involved. Peaceful protest of internationally recognised illegal weapons should not mean a custodial sentence. We also urge Amnesty International to intervene, and the United Nations, who recently declared nuclear weapons illegal, to object to the jailing of these protestors.

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Contact your elected representative to let ask them to lend their support here, sign the petition, and leave us a comment below to show your support.