There were many more casualties resulting from the Twin Tower attacks than the 2,974 people who died in New York that day on 9/11. As well as those poor souls, there have been countless thousands killed in the resulting war on terror carried out in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya, and the fall out still continues, with victims continuing to be created in the wake of the chaos inflicted across the Middle East.
The latest iteration of this appeared in reports which came via CNN, who have recently published an investigation they have been carrying out in Libya following reports about slave auctions. Incredible as this is to believe in 2017, the evidence they have amassed looks pretty convincing. There are still thousands of people trying to reach the Mediterranean who cross Libya’s borders each year. This has contributed to the wave of boats trying to cross the Med, which is of itself a tragic tale of greed, need, prejudice and misery; figures complied on 24/10/17 show that more than 18,800 people had been intercepted so far this year, with over 111,000 successfully reaching Italy, the vast majority of whom travelled from Libya.
However, latterly Libyan coastguards (and militias) have been attempting to address this, and crossings have therefore dropped sharply since the summer. Nonetheless, migrants and refugees still continue to travel to Libya, which has led to a surplus of would-be passengers. People smuggling has become big business in the country, so the people behind it have done what any good capitalist would and diversified. If you believe people smuggling represents a good opportunity to make a profit, why would you baulk at extending this to slavery? What would be the difference to you between herding hundreds of people in a boat and sending them to an uncertain fate, and parading them as goods for sale at an auction?
Although the 1926 Slavery Convention was ratified by Libya in 1957, slave auctions have resurfaced there partially because of the instability caused by the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. He was undoubtedly a brutal dictator, but his overthrow highlighted the dangers of creating a power vacuum, and over half a decade later, Libya is no closer to being stable. Although there were no shortage of Western countries willing to get involved in air strikes under the auspices of NATO in 2011, there doesn’t seem to be a similar impulse to help deal with the fall out. As a result, Libya has effectively two governments operating out of Tobruk and Tripoli, a shattered economy and its own internal refugee problem. Small wonder that there seems to be little resource or will around in the country to deal with slave auctions.
CNN casting an international spotlight on this may bring about change; certainly, several countries seem to have been galvanized into action. One headline reads ‘Burkina Faso recalls ambassador to Libya over ‘slave markets’ report’ while another says ‘France pushes U.N. to impose sanctions over Libya migrant crisis’. However, Donald Trump’s war of words with CNN has proved a gift to the Libyan media; as he had repeatedly denounced the network as peddlers of ‘fake news’, the Libyan broadcaster Libya 218 has used trump’s tweets on the subject to doubt the veracity of the slave auction story, saying;
“Here the possibility arises that the channel has published the report of slavery in Libya to secure an as yet hidden political objective.”
What a mess. An ill thought out ‘war on terror’ initiated by the US post 9/11 brought, as widely predicted, greater instability to an already frighteningly unstable part of the world. The knock-on effect of this enabled NATO intervention in the Libyan civil war and the instability resulting from that and other nearby conflicts created the conditions for the slave auctions. And now their reporting may well be hobbled by the current US president, who is ignorant of, and entirely careless about, the effect of his words abroad. While he rides up and down in his golden elevator and continues his privileged life by other, more lucrative means, the tired, poor and huddled masses yearning to breathe free will just have to continue to yearn.
I like to think most men agree that grabbing a woman by the vagina without asking permission first is not a nice thing to do.
Most men would, I hope, agree that forcing parts of yourself into a woman while she is passed out drunk behind a dumpster is also not very nice.
Most men don’t lurk about on social media waiting to call women ‘entitled skanks’ and ‘sluts’, telling them they should get cancer or making vile comments about their miscarried babies.
Yeah, the world is full of men who treat women with respect, who never use misogynist language and would never dream of asking for nudes, let alone send a dick-pic.
The unsolicited dick-pic which has, by the way, become the 21st century equivalent of the flasher in the park. Instead of jumping out of the bushes waggling a shrivelled appendage from beneath a grubby mac, they now get their pervy kicks by sending slightly out of focus photos of their cock and balls to any women who has had the audacity to exist in a public online forum. Cheap, nasty thrills has to be why they do it. Sending someone a disembodied picture of your wang-doodle (or in most cases just doodle) can’t actually get you anything in return except ignored, blocked or bombarded with pictures of other men’s junk.
No how I met your mother story starts with ‘Well, I sent her a poorly lit picture of my semi-erect penis and the rest is history.’
But I digress.
The point is, most guys aren’t misogynistic, rapey arseholes. They are just nice guys. And we all know, nice guys finish last, right?
I read this article entitled ‘https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2FDangerousMindsBlog%2Fposts%2F1295376133850701&width=500“>The friend zone isn’t a thing and women don’t owe you shit.’
But, according to a whole bunch of ‘nice guys’ in the comments section, they do. These guys would never call a woman a bitch or cat-call you in the street. They will tell you how they think female stand-up comedians are actually really funny and how much they like the latest Beyonce album because it’s so empowering. They are just poor, nice guys, telling us how it really is.
“The truth is if we are attracted to a woman, we never want to be just friends.”
Oh, well that’s just rude. I thought we had loads in common. We like the same music/support the same football team/both hate our boss and like to create ever more elaborate comedy scenarios which result in him losing his job. But we can’t be friends because I have lady parts and you don’t think I’m completely ugly. Cheers mate.
“He had a desire for her, she should directly reject him as soon as she knows she doesn’t feel the same way, and have no expectation that he wanted to be friends.”
Yeah women, if a man starts talking to you, instantly assume he wants to have sex with you and then shoot him down in the bluntest way you can.
“Not every compliment is an attempt to sleep with a woman. Some grown ass women could just plain and simply be polite about rejection.”
But wait…didn’t that other nice guy just say…oh, now my silly woman head is confused.
“The friend-zone is not about sex. It is about unrequited love. It’s about a woman being tone deaf about the feelings of a man. I submit that if a man has romantic interest in a woman, then she relegates the man to the friend-zone, she is communicating to him that you are not good enough to be my lover.”
Newsflash my dude, there is no such thing as ‘unrequited love’. You don’t live in a fucking Mediaeval courtly love story. That is infatuation, pure and simple. And it’s all in your head.
This reminded me of someone I once knew. Let’s call him Neil. Neil had been infatuated with a certain girl since school. Nothing more than a few drunken goodnight kisses ever happened between them, but he was her faithful puppy dog. She even drove his car whilst drunk and crashed it. He, of course, took the blame. What a bitch, right? What a prick tease? Stringing poor Neil along like that. He used to ask my advice. I always told him she wasn’t interested in him in that way, and to give it up. He didn’t. He hung around just in case she ever changed her mind and realised she had been in love with him all along. She didn’t. Ever.
But the thing about Neil isn’t that he was treated badly by this particular friend-zoner, it’s that he was also treated like this by his so-called male friends. They kept him around because he gave them lifts and let them take drugs at his parent’s house when they were on holiday, but behind his back they called him a loser and a geek and laughed at how tried so hard to be like them but never quite made it. He was friend-zoned by his actual friends, and he didn’t even know it.
My day got even better, when this little gem popped up on my Twitter feed.
I don’t want to link to the article and give it click-oxygen. You’re clever, if you really want to read it, you’ll find it. I’ve saved you the trouble however, by picking out the choicest cuts of nice-guy wisdom.
‘You had your chance on our first (and only) date. I was wonderful to you, I was a gentleman. I treated you with respect … I didn’t expect anything in return except a chance to win your heart… I’m the man of your dreams, but you couldn’t see that.’
Ahh, he wanted to win my heart, how sweet. I mean sure, he thinks he knows what I want better than I do, but he sounds like a super nice guy.
‘I get it though, now that you’re on the downside of 30, the wrinkles are starting, the body is sagging…I know it was impossible to see that that deadbeat irresponsible jerk was actually a deadbeat irresponsible jerk, but that’s not my problem. While you were waiting for those texts that never came I was busy getting my career in order and maximizing my credit score. Now my biggest issue is deciding which colour Audi I’m going to buy.’
What a catch. How could I have let him slip though my fingers?
Sure, I know “Leo Stevens” probably isn’t real, and none of this ever happened, but if anything that makes it worse. There are plenty of men out there who truly believe they are the nice guys. That they are everything you are looking for and you are going to regret turning them down, because how could you possibly not find them worthy of your affections? How could you not love them? They love you. They really do. Bitch.
Reading Time: 8 minutesHow Victoria Pearson, a writer in Bedfordshire who works for Scottish Pro-Indy podcast Ungagged, ended up being trolled as a result of being caught in the crossfire of the twitter storm about all male panels.
I often think of twitter as a big noisy pub. Your mates are all in there, but so are loads of people you don’t know. You’ve got really interesting, passionate and important conversations going on in some corners, people snogging in others, people playing music or showing off what they had for tea, arguing over who would win in a fight between The Hulk and Mr Hyde. It’s a big pub, I’ll give you that, and it can be rough at times, despite the champagne guzzlers in the corner, trying to seem “authentic” and down with the crowd, but I’ve always felt very much at home there.
This weekend I learned that, much like in the pub, there are times when a snatch of conversation can be overheard, misinterpreted, and spread through Chinese whispers until it is totally divorced from any of its original meaning. Unlike the pub, where it can all be sorted with some yelling, a bit of shoving, an admission that I love you really and a kebab on the way home, twitter can quickly spill over into real life, and cause real and lasting damage.
By now anyone who is reading this has probably heard about the event in East Kilbride, that had an all male panel. They got a lot of flak for it, perhaps, to be fair, disproportionately so, given they had featured an all female panel not too long before. During the backlash though, the people running the EKsaysYES twitter account, who were running/promoting the event, decided to give a masterclass in how not to respond to critics, becoming increasingly irate and aggressive with women asking why they weren’t represented.
As anyone who runs a business or community group account knows, the best way to deal with any criticism – even if you personally disagree with it – is to thank your complainant for their input, take it on board, and say you’ll do better. It stops things running out of hand. But I digress.
My involvement in the furore was periphery at best, but the blowback was staggering, and is still ongoing. A dear friend, valued colleague and comrade was involved in the conversation, mentioning that she hadn’t seen a call by EK Yes for female speakers – that she was surprised by that since she is in many Indy groups and women’s groups online, as well as a follower of the group itself’s page. She said if she had seen the call, she would have rallied her friends and acquaintances and gotten them some female speakers.
Instead of replying with “Thanks for the offer, we’d love your help for next time” they – rather condescendingly, in my opinion — responded “But what groups or parties would they represent? Remember we are looking for independent media specialists.”
This is where I came in. No knowledge of the background or what’s going on at all, I’m responding purely to that tweet. I ask if they mean to imply there are no female independent media specialists? Because in my experience, they are the creative driving force behind the alt-media industry.
Someone else responded with “And you’d know this by virtue of the fact you’re a woman?” and the EKsaysYES account liked the response, which shocked me. It seemed unnecessarily aggressive, and an odd tweet for a professional to endorse. But I responded that no, my knowledge was based on being a woman in the independent media industry, and being lucky enough to work with hundreds of amazing women as a result. I went off to make a cuppa, thinking my part in it was done.
When I returned to my keyboard 2 minutes later, I had 4 responses from EKsaysYes, each more aggressive in tone than the last, all demanding I go and speak for them in February.
I’m a professional writer, and I was utterly shocked at being approached in such an unprofessional manner. Not only was I being yelled at in a thread with over 15 other people tagged in, the person demanding I speak for them had clearly not even looked at my profile first. You see, I’m English, I live in South East England, I’ve never set foot in Scotland in my life. There were dozens of Scottish women – who have put far more hours into Independence than I have– literally in EK’s mentions saying they’d like to be heard, but instead they chose to demand that I speak, to a Scottish group about Scottish Independence, a round trip of over 600miles away. My professional information is not at all hidden, just googling my name would bring all of this info up instantly. I was staggered.
So I replied in a way that I thought was blatantly obviously sarcasm with “DM me and I’ll send you my fee list.”
From the reaction, you’d think I stripped off naked in the high street and started skinning puppies in the name of Nuggan.
EK responded along the lines that they doubt I even know what I’m talking about (they were asked later, by someone else, if they thought that due to my gender, my nationality, or simply because they didn’t like my attitude, but they declined to respond) and their friend from earlier in the thread started to go through my blog, ridiculing me because I once wrote a single article about menstrual cups as an alternative to tampons and sanitary towels for people who didn’t want to give money to prolife organisations through the tampon tax – all the while demanding to know who I thought I was, and who I worked for.
I told them Google is their friend, because honestly why should I trouble myself to present my credentials to people who can’t be bothered to look me up for themselves? Had they scrolled back through my timeline just a tiny bit, they’d have seen that a few days before I tweeted how much I love working on the Pro-Independence podcast and alt-media org Ungagged, tagging in many of the people who also work there, as well as the Ungagged twitter account itself.
I was laughing at the time, because, had they clicked on the ‘about me’ section on the blog they were trashing, they’d have seen my bio, where I clearly state that I will write, speak, or give social media advice for food and that my rates go up the ruder you are.
The other link on my twitter bio leads to my Amazon page, which states “Victoria Pearson lives behind a keyboard in rural Bedfordshire.” This information is not hard to find, and, as someone who has had to gather speakers for events myself, I think it’s pretty basic to click links in someone’s bio information before inviting them to speak.
The fury unleashed by my very much tongue in cheek comment (believe me, if I charged a pound for every hour I put into Scottish Independence in my role as Web Producer for Ungagged, I wouldn’t be in the bottom 6% of uk earners[listen from 1 hr 7min mark]) has been completely disproportionate, and quite frightening.
Another person in the thread – who had been on the panel – took my words as a personal attack on him (I still don’t understand why, as I wasn’t criticising the panel or event at all) and became infuriated with me – scarily so. He berated me for hours over it, saying that he would never charge to speak for independence, that he had had to give up his time, time with his partner, etc to speak.
I’m guessing he wouldn’t have had to find childcare for 4 children or have his partner lose 2 days wages to travel a 620 mile, 18 hour round trip and spend around £800 to get there and back either, but that really is beside the point.
He eventually accused me of bullying him. Somewhat ironic given he was helping to fan the flames of a witchhunt against me, but I still immediately told him it definitely wasn’t my intention to be unkind, that I had no issue with him and if he could please show me where I had been rude, I’d gladly apologise. He stopped replying, because I hadn’t been rude, unkind, or displayed bullying behaviour once.
I then went to bed early, ready to take my four children out the next day. I assumed my part in this melodrama was done. I came home the next evening , tired but happy from taking my youngest to see Santa for the very first time, to find all hell had broken loose on my timeline in my absence.
EK had deleted tweets, breaking the thread so that casual readers couldn’t see the many tweets I followed my fee tweet up with, clarifying that had I wanted to speak – which I do not- at best I would’ve asked for a sandwich and help crowdfunding my train fare. They then screenshotted what was left, making it seem like they had asked me to speak and I demanded a fee without any other interaction. They were telling people that I had asked to speak and then demanded money.
I want it made crystal clear that I did not and would not ask to speak to a Scottish audience about Independence. I’ve repeatedly said for the last two years that I refuse, point blank, to Britsplain Independence to Scottish people. The very last thing anyone in Scotland needs or wants is yet another English voice telling them what to do. I’ve been a writer for 15 years, and I’ve written about independence once, for Ungagged, entirely from an outsiders point of view. I very much see my role in the fight for Independence as providing a boost and a platform for voices within the movement who don’t usually get a chance to be heard – whether that’s because of class, race, gender, disability or sexuality or any other barrier. I work very hard to do that. I do not speak for people, I pass them the microphone.
What should have been no more than a twitter spat that should have blown over in a day at most had turned into huge accounts sharing that screenshot with demands to find out where I live, and who I work for. Screenshots of my account posted with the caption “A liar.”
The threads spawning from them were vile and filled with paranoid fantasies that would be more at home on conspiracy websites than coming out of the mouths of supposedly serious commentators. I’m mi5, I’m a “media agent from the BBC”, a Russian bot, a Unionist, Momentum, RISE. I’m deliberately harming the Independence movement. I should’ve been grateful to be asked. I should pay them for the privilege of speaking. I’m a liar. I’m trying to build a cosy career for myself off the back of Independence.
An actual article appeared in The Herald, conflating several points and muddying the waters still further, underlining the idea that I’m profiteering even more. The hornets nest, just starting to calm, was kicked again, starting the cycle afresh, leading a certain writer with a twitter following of over 12 thousand people to spend an entire day making snide comments about me without using my name, and retweeting nasty comments about my supposed motivations.
This has led me to feeling very unsafe. My twitter account is public, my profile picture is my face, my handle my full name. My full name appears several times in my cover photo. The fact I have 4 children is in my bio.
Being so open on twitter is a doubled edged sword. On the one hand, it has made the veiled threats of doxing and the threat that implies very frightening, not just from a perspective of my own personal safety, but that of my husband and children, and my other relatives and friends who may be caught up in crossfire by association. After all, the people attacking me clearly don’t value getting all of the facts before jumping in feet first.
On the other hand, the best of the Indy movement, who know me well online, have come out in my defence, knowing as they do that the picture painted of me is inaccurate, unfair and damaging. The Yes movement I know – the inclusive, outward looking, socially aware movement that wants an independent country in order to make it better for everyone – have been amazing, setting the record straight where they can and urging others to do their research. Unfortunately this has led to blowback for a lot of them and for that I’m truly sorry. Their solidarity should not cost them in that way.
So what can we learn from this? I’m not sure. I am certain this behaviour is not representative of the East Kilbride Yes community group. I refuse to believe people working so hard for the good of others would condone the harassment, abuse and stalking behaviour incited by the person behind their twitter account. This kind of bullying is not only bad for their group, but the movement as a whole. If they’d like to apologise, delete their defamatory tweets and ask their followers to stop attacking me, I’ll gladly accept and move forward for the sake of the movement I believe strongly in.
I know the people calling for my blood are not representative of this wonderful movement in any way. But something does have to be done about the toxicity of the narrative here. This kind of behaviour is not ok. And for the very first time in my 8 years on twitter, I’m considering taking legal action.
This report contains images some readers may find distressing.
The police watchdog, IPCC, is investigating after a 15 year old child was severely injured during an attempted arrest in South London on Tuesday night, needing hospital treatment.
The boy, Terrell Decosta Jones-Burton, was treated in a critical care unit in a south London hospital for a split lip, lost teeth, broken jawbone, bruising on the brain and abdominal pain. His condition is currently described as “stable”.
Police say they were contacted by a woman at around 9pm who reported that her phone had been stolen by a male Youth who had then fled on a bicycle. A short while later police attempted to detain Terrell. According to their statement;
“While being detained, [Terrell] came off his bicycle and was taken by the London Ambulance Service to a south London hospital where he remains in a stable condition with facial injuries.”
It’s not clear from the police’s statement exactly how he “came off his bicycle”, and they have not elaborated further at this point. His injuries – which potentially include internal bleeding – would appear to be extremely severe and extensive if they are the result of a simple fall.
Terrell’s mother Shereen Jones, who posted pictures of her son’s injuries to the hashtag #JusticeForTerrell, says that he was heading home from the shops when he was attacked by police.
‘He has no criminal record and no involvement with the police.’
Speaking on her facebook page, Terrell’s mother Shereen said:
“Was all of this necessary over a phone? Police brutality on young black boys has to stop.”
Statistics confirm her accusation of brutality, showing the UK’s largest police force do use force disproportionately against black suspects.
Rotherhithe, where Tuesday’s incident took place, has seen a recent spike in robberies of mobile phones snatched from pedestrians by muggers on mopeds, bicycles or on foot, and police are struggling to deal with a 13% rise in crime amid their budgets being squeezed, but nothing excuses this level of force used on anyone, much less a minor. Children deserve to feel safe on our streets, and they deserve to feel protected, not afraid, of police while going about their daily lives.
We will bring you more information as the story develops.
Anyone who may have witnessed the police interaction with Terrell Decosta Jones-Burton is asked to contact IPCC investigators on 0800 029 4687 or email@example.com.
Utopias we want to build are always, of course, something much better than what we are part of at present. And part of is the key. Not marching in time with. Not a cog. But an active participant. Alive. Human.
When I was a child, my utopia was Blackpool. We went there for our holidays for quite a few years in a row. I anticipated and spoke about Blackpool months in advance of going, like I did Christmas when I arrived home. Blackpool was a break from school, a break from the streets, a chance to do stuff with my English cousin. I loved the journey to get there, Larne, Stranraer, and a bone shaking drive in our VW beetle through Dumfriesshire and then a couple of nights in the lake district, the beach, the tower, the piers and the pleasure beach. The confusion of it all. The crowds, all out for good times. Families together, not trying to fit in a life around must do and routines.
All innocent, 1970’s pre-Thatcherite fun. A childhood utopia, something away from the mundane, for 10 days every year.
I was full of imagination. I made up worlds, written, drawn and with my mates on riverbanks, in fields, around the housing estates and at the top and bottom of trees, and hills, and wasteland. We were lucky, we lived on the edge of the countryside, within view of the magical world of Narnia – well, the place that inspired CS Lewis Narnia – the Mourne Mountains. And we visited Narnia and its coast – the county down coast – regularly. And I still do. A utopia of natural beauty.
And most of the people of Narnia and its surrounds are wonderful… but to borrow a phrase , wherever you go, hell is other people. Utopia is always ruined by others interacting within it in a way you feel you don’t- and some never seem to appreciate the utopia you see.
And then some upset the utopia, ever so slightly, with their want to exploit what draws people there. And you judge, so you are in that room Sartre created. You are part of the torture.
So, what is utopia? Is it just these personal places we yearn for? These places we can be happy?
As political beings, we are always searching for it. And as social beings, utopias are not solitary things, so I suggest, we can only really find utopia in our lifetimes, as somewhere we like to be with people we trust and want to be with.
Build any physical utopia, and it will be undermined and exploited by people with different reactions and interactions with your creation. A political utopia in my opinion, is not a bright summer day watching the ocean for the rest of our lives.
I started writing this piece with the video of They Don’t Know About Us, by Tracy Ullman in my mind.
Weird when I’m supposed to be talking about utopias. But the video is about the utopia that the character who Tracy plays is aiming for in her working class, 1970’s disco night out, teenaged world. It makes me cry every time I watch the bloody thing! Her utopia isn’t realised, only in her dream. I remember my aunt Jean loved the video – she and others in my family laughed in recognition of Tracy’s reality versus her dream. Working class people did these things – and still do. Because they live in their hope, or disappointment at the reality of our proto-utopia, and Tracy’s character ends up exactly where lots of people they knew, did. And still do. In the reality of walking down that supermarket aisle in your fluffy slippers, not caring about your appearance, your whole being about others, and feeling you are failing because of the system you live in isn’t anyone’s idea of utopia – and certainly does not support you.
Well, this world is utopia for a small percentage of people who control all its resources and political narratives. They don’t understand us. They don’t know about us.
Why that song? Why that video? Well, it sits well with four other songs I love that kind of explain my idea that the golden citadel we all think we are struggling for is a hard struggle against ourselves, and not just “them. “ At least those of us struggling with this capitalist rat race. Three songs enhanced by their videos, one not at all.
Three of the song videos are by the Manic Street Preachers. A band I put up there in my top ten. And a band I have never seen live because of the bloody awful capitalist ticket system we endure every time tickets are released…
The first one to watch, Show me wonder… The utopia of the dance, the young woman putting on her late seventies/ early eighties make up to go to the club and the young guy with his mates all going to the same place (a miners welfare somewhere in Wales), the whole atmosphere of the dance, which I remember really well, as it would have been part of the mix of the types of places I week ended in.
Live music, a hooley and a coort (what young people did at the end of the night with someone they had fallen deeply in love with during the dancing). That’s what was a successful night in those days, and I’m sure for many a teenager nowadays it isn’t THAT different. Different destinations and drugs, but largely the same night. The utopia of the weekend after a week’s graft. Increasingly in our world, the weekend is becoming a minorities luxury yet again.
And the working men’s club (not being sexist here – that’s what they were called!) as the centre of the community. It’s a joyous place, a joyous, beautifully executed video with a wonderful story.
The second video, Anthem for a lost cause then starts in the early eighties, with the beginning of the end of what was a sort of utopia for many of us. A world in which we marched together, we struck for a better world. We weekended together. We learned and loved together. There was equality in the UK like there had never been seen in the history of the country, ever. And we see Thatcher’s destruction beginning with the miners’ strike. We hear a woman’s voice say, “no one in this country is going to be starved back to work.” Defiant. Strong. And we watch as the woman in the story from the previous video finds her voice and stands and fights. I won’t spoil the story. That’s not the whole thing. Watch it.
And then we forgot. We had forgotten the pre-war conditions – and the equality we first found in death, destruction, and grief in World War One, that led to our welfare state and National Health Service-free and accessed easily by all.
And we were defeated. And the third Manics video, Rewind the Film, sung by Richards Hawley, shows the same miners welfare social club as it stands now, almost deserted. Tatty. Almost without hope. A place out of time in our increasingly gentrified town centres. A place for those who had dreams to still come together, amongst the decay of what Thatcher and her successors forced on us, though the weaknesses the Tories recognised. Through the cracks in our solidarity. And through their forgetting again that those with less than them are people too. The video shows a community, not without hope. But weak, old.
The forth song is one whose lyrics are remembered in Show Me Wonder, the first Manics video I asked you to watch. “Heaven is a place, were nothing ever happens…”
The Talking Heads song, “Heaven.”
A song that is designed and written to express that being trapped in a utopia can be hell. A song that recalls Sartres words in context. Hell is other people trapped in the same room you are. I really love that Talking Heads song. As a lover of dystopian fiction, books like, This perfect Day by Ira Levin, We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, The Machine Stops by EM Forster, and of course, Huxley’s Brave New World, that song sums them all up.
We almost achieved an equality. But then came along punk, coinciding with the dissatisfaction theThatcherite media threw at us. We were young, and told we could be different. We didn’t have to be our boring parents. We yearned from a utopia away from working class sameness.
Rebellion from sameness.
A sameness, a golden age, we all as working class people, hark back to. A golden era we fondly remember, even through the propagandised the Winter of Discontent tries to stamp on. A discontent the working class mostly only felt as the aristocratic empire failed us.
A breakout from the room of the working class certainties. Away from the working mans clubs, away from the doing the same job your forefather did all their lives. And we the working class, loved punk. Punk became post punk and yuppies and dayglo and Blair and Cameron and now May and Boris and Brexit. Back then, our rebellion was sitting with Mohicans on St Pauls Cathedral steps, and squatting and dressing differently in our grandads long coats with lacquered hair with no other way to rebel until Thatcherism kicked in and kicked the working class out of our certainties…
Now my generations new, tory driven rebellion is fucking with their children and grandchildrens future. More bloody tories and brexit. Boris’s carefully constructed messy hair, I’m sure, harks back to the days we took hours to make our hair look different.
The present revisiting of the 1980’s is almost laughable. People pick out records of hope – most of which are made up of bland, meaningless lyrics, don dayglo and legwarmers and tell us “this is the eighties.”
The eighties for me was the busting of a kind of utopia. A place and time when jobs were jobs for life. When taxes meant that we had real affordable homes, decent reasonably priced communications, gas, electricity, travel etc and surpluses that went back into the creation of jobs, and better things. I worked in a factory on the eighties, and every few months, we saw more of our union power eroded, and our pay and conditions chipped away.
My eighties were the discordant post punk era. An era when people wrote, moaned and whined about the dystopian nature of every day being like Sunday, and Huxley was pushed aside and Orwell was waved in our face as Thatcher and her mob along with the left, told us that that is where our social democracy would lead to.
Our proto-Huxleyan state began to crack when some were told they were better than others, and looking around them they began to wonder why their taxes were paying for things for their neighbours, they didn’t yet or never would need.
They moved from the council estate after buying their council home and selling it for a big profit, and went on to vote tory in their misguided individualist, mortgaged, Pimms soaked, Lady Di hairstyle, big shoulder pad, Dynasty anger.
How to dismantle a welfare state. Convince the middle class they are being ripped off by helping those in need.
And we the young helped Thatcher dismantle what had taken 200 hundred years to create… a state in which working class and poor people experienced an equality never before or since seen on these islands. We huffed and puffed about bringing the state down.
And Thatcher loved us for it.
We created our Thatcherite indie music labels, most perversely anti-Thatcherite in the art they produced, but financially living in her handbag. But perhaps the music some of them left gives us cause for a pause to think over the philosophies the singing pseuds poured over to write their lyrics. And the working class fightback lyrics of others. And the increased beats per minute in the real indie scene in secret fields and hangars, not the AEIOU’s and D I S C O’s of the selling of plastic to people seeking their utopia in new designer lagers and nightclubs.
We railed against her, in our comedy – some of those who made their money on anti-thatch humour are now the supporters of the Eddie Izzard Blairite bunch who will chip away at the left that the labour party and British politics need so badly.
I could speak, ashamed, for hours about how the utopia, the golden citadel that the pre-1945 generations fought for was destroyed by my generation. I could speak for hours on how many who listen to this will deny they were part of it, but we were very much part of it whether we knew it or not.
But that’s for another time.
But lets say, Utopia was betrayed by the 1980’s before it was allowed to take shape properly. Not to say that in lots of respects, the proto-utopia social democratic UK was not hugely flawed-and beginning to fail just as equality was being reached. It was. In many ways – including the fact it was still reliant on the labours of the empire… the poverty of most of the rest of the world, a desperate world others were baring arms to try to destroy in Cuba, Angola, Bolivia and many other places.
And our destruction was reliant on the discovery of Scottish oil, now a commodity that like coal, will become much too expensive to take out of the ground.
So. What is utopia?
Well, as a reader of science fiction, dystopian nightmares and utopian dreams I have a few favourites, including those I listed before. I love Edward Bellamy’s 19th century book, Looking Backward. A book that spawned more socialist societies across the world than Marx ever did. A novel so hopeful that socialism was going to be a middle class utopia, it seems quaint nowadays. But a novel that predicted much that has happened, like the supermarket, the debit card, radio, and much more. If middle class lefties nowadays wrote a novel set in a utopian left-wing world a hundred years hence, I know it would be full of the horrors Bellamy described in his present day Boston, because the levels of poverty and homelessness, as always when Tories are in control, is shameful. The book would, like Bellamy‘s, be full of their middle-class presumptions of what utopia would be like and THEIR wants.
So, back to Tracy and Blackpool. Ullmans video has her dreaming of her utopia at the end of the video, a utopia that is based in her characters working class world, inside a small car with Paul McCartney. A dream far from her character’s reality.
I revisited Blackpool in recent years, and it is far from the 1970’s utopia of my childhood where we could be set free by our parents amongst the flashing lights and sounds of screams of laughter.
The reality of our new world, summed up by these videos and by way of these novelists don’t perhaps offer much hope.
Maybe. But they all have one thing in common. They all seek something better for more than the person in the video or book (with the exception of Tracy’s character, who is trapped, but still dreaming for her own Paul).
And my dream? My dream is that I live to see a time when we have a society not far from the imperfect, perfect society envisaged by Iain M Banks. A Culture exploring ourselves and the stars, in which we have individual care, and long productive interesting lives. And the ability to become Tamara Bunke, Tanya the spy, inserting ourselves into worlds yet to change, with the exciting danger that that brings.
Utopias should be exciting.
And Utopians should never forget.
Our utopia shouldn’t let us forget that we are all equal and we should all be looking out for each other, or they’ll still be building statues to Thatcher while people freeze to death on our streets and children starve.
The world is full of doom and gloom, and in today’s messed up world, it’s easy to get bogged down in all the things we as a species are getting wrong. But to build a better world, you need a clear idea of what a better world would look like, as well as knowing what needs improvement. So today on Ungagged we will be exploring ideas of how to build utopia.
We’ll be hearing from Fuad Alakbarov on five ways to deal with tax havens, Victoria Pearson on how possible it actually is to build utopia, Richie Venton on the 1917 Russian Revolution, Damanvir Kaur, on the campaign to free Scottish citizen Jagtar Singh from unlawful detention in India, George Collins on the unconstitutional neoliberal landgrab happening in Barbuda. Debra Torrance asks what kind of catastrophe we’do need to kickstart a global revolution of empathy, Chuck Hamilton talks gun control in America, and why he’s unimpressed with Leninism. Red Raiph ponders World Kindness Day, tax avoidance and inequality, Sandra Webster* talks about services for children on the autistic spectrum in Scotland, and the role of kindness in building utopia, Thomas Morris discusses imaginary borders, the nature of Independence, and visiting countries that dont exist, Neil Scott** talks about the proto-utopia torn down in the 80s, Marisa Snider speaks from her perspective as a Native American woman in a STEM field about the need for greater access to the internet on Native reservations, Masta X-Kid talks about the dystopia Trump is creating in Ungagged America, and Derek Stewart Macpherson will be joining us for the final part of his conversations with his daughter, and the result of the Equal Marriage referendum in Australia.
What would your utopia look like? How do we start to build a better world? Think we are all talking utter pish? Get yourself Ungagged and let us know your thoughts in the comments, or on our twitter or Facebook.
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Master of Slaps,
Connoisseur of Underground Hip Hop & Punk Rawkness
Masta X-Kid is CEO of Immaculate Flave and spearheads a variety of musical projects, including Cannabidroids, 817 INC, SnagglePuzzy & Riot AF. Flaveworld host events, tours and a lot of other super freshness. Masta X-Kid is an activist and creates art to inspire people to observe and question manufactured reality and increase positive energy to make the world a better place.
G.A.Y.R. is the product of some trans(atlantic) queers making a mess with instruments in hand. As an ode to the Figure of the Gladiator in the recent past and the sometimes long and forgotten legacy of humanity’s struggle against itself, G.A.Y.R.’s Greatest Hits EP pays tribute to our fallen comrades (whether televised, preserved through writing, paint, sculpture, or immortalized in tales of yore). Sifting through those back alleyways and underground passages of future-Time, G.A.Y.R. emerges as the masked brigade of an all out war against complacency with this world. Testo-fueled, spandex clad, and enraged at the core, G.A.Y.R. makes some queer noise without respect to national borders; this noise being something to clear the air from the suffocating onslaught that claims to inspire something other than dread at the fate of terrestrial life.
And as daily drudgeries now serve as the true motor of our history everyone panics that an increasing number of the population simply no longer gives a fuck (#dgaf). G.A.Y.R. finds something of value in this. If there is nothing to give a fuck about, don’t feign the zeal in the hope that delusions can be substituted for reality. If there’s nothing to give a fuck about, then make something worth giving a fuck about; something worth fucking with and about. Since, let’s face it, we are being confronted with a new kind of hot, psychotropic, punk world order. Today, the floating mass known as the ‘plastic island’ in the North Pacific that is supposedly the size of Texas has become the largest water architecture of the twenty-first century.
So it’s clear we’ve been fucked for a while. No one is coming to save us but we have some time to kill before total societal collapse. Now the only question is what to do on our way out? G.A.Y.R. encourages you to be worthy of our own fall from terrestrial grace and imagine for the time left the components of a refashioned gladiator-techno-punk armature; the updated software of a war-machine program; all the better to fabricate a new aesthetic paradigm worthy of our time. A type of fusion between Spartacus and that Y2K virus that never arrived. Well, better late than never. So, contestants… are you ready?
The Cundeez are a band hailing from the streets of Dundee and bring a totally unique, fresh and exciting sound to the world music scene. The words are unashamedly performed in the raw Dundee dialect and combine punching guitars, pounding drums and occasional bagpipes to produce a sound free from the shackles of genre……… The Oary Rock is coming!….”