Or…JLB Didn’t Invent Television.
The Real Pub Landlord; Tariff Reform – What Would Joe Chamberlain Say?; Two Sides of Bigotry; Democracy in Action; We Were Lied To From The Start; Emotional Politics; Dying For Freedom; Conclusive Press Summary.
“There’s nothing falling off the walls.” – Tim Martin on the John Logie Baird, Hastings.
“No. You’re wrong (again). A negotiation is about compromise. You’ve put us in an inevitable situation. Because this is what happens @Nigel_Farage, when you lie to people and make false promises. You let them down. Big time. I think you owe us all an apology. #stopbrexit” – Madeleina Kay, EU Supergirl, Twitter feed.
“Being on the news doesn’t make it true.” – a wise bystander in the JLB, Hastings.
The other week I woke up with a sense of genuine excitement. That doesn’t happen so often these days. I mean I get some pretty zainy dreams and remember them. If the dream plotline hasn’t finished, I’m desperate to go back to sleep: you stay up for a few seconds too long and you realise how stupid the plot was, lose track of the flow, notice the absence of logical integrity. In dreamland, the plot holes are filled by some mystical brain force, something more than drugs, something almost spiritual if it wasn’t so easy for the psychologists to explain. It’s brilliant. So most mornings either I’m stuck in the mists of snooze, or I’m just trying not to be awake. “Why not start a new dream?” I think. Morning fug is a great set up for clear dreaming. But not this time.
On Thursday 10th I had an excuse to jump out of bed, run across town, and start in on the drink at 11 in the AM. Normally, you don’t. You know, for propriety’s sake, for health, to save vital funds. Well, barring the breakfast whisky if there’s any around; and if it’s that sort of day. Breakfast whisky doesn’t count unless it’s, well, Whyte&Mackay, Bells, desperation. Asda Islay isn’t too bad, and less than £20 a bottle. Pernod too, though the sugar rots your teeth if you’re not careful. Drunk doesn’t hit you the same with a purer spirit, and I never got into vodka by the way, but there’s time yet.
At 11am the John Logie Baird was getting full, maybe 60 patrons, more, perhaps. The irregulars queuing by the entrance for eternal Lavazza coffees. Lavazza is good if you drink it without milk. I don’t trust milk at the best of times but also, milk in a Spoons? I mean I’ll drink their beer and eat their food but their cut-price dairy…maybe it’s an inbuilt prejudice of some kind I’m not sure. Probably so. I bought a £2 ale, which is very good, and apparently the result of an “underannounced” January sale. Guest ales are normally £2.15 I hear – also pretty good, but a figure that lacks the reassuring wholesomeness of “£2 pint”. Every little helps when it comes to sales. And then the talk was starting a little way back from the front of house where you can see out onto the grey of Havelock Road and the town centre.
Tim Martin, of Wetherspoons fame, has been touring his pubs to lecture on the benefits of a No Deal Brexit. No doubt there are interesting things to be said about which pubs, and the fact it isn’t all of them, but I’ll leave that kind of talk to others. The talk about minimum wage-slaves and related ethical/social quandaries will also be another time – I mean that’s probably going to be a whole other longread. So he’s there in the dark theatre pit of the John Logie Baird’s interior, a circle of onlookers around, a spread looking important but ultimately just lucky sitting or standing in the raised area not unlike a stage. The pub’s columns guiding everyone in to the central point of TM in a black polo shirt and battered jeans: standard attire for a qualified barrister and highly successful business owner.
A tv crew buzz around – I thought his but apparently just a French programme (on Channel TF1) interested in the whole Brexit issue. Probably Normans scouting for a second invasion. I mean well done to them for coming to Hastings, really, but then I guess we do get a lot of students turning up here. We were one of the Cinque Ports. We might be genuinely wronged on the fishing front, maybe they feel guilty. So some interest there. I’m not sure anyone knew the crew weren’t Tim’s until they upped and left mid speech to interview people around the pub, including my fellow editor at the Hastings Independent, Steve Brown.
And maybe it was the presence of the TV crew that stopped me, but I really couldn’t think of Tim as a pub landlord. Not that he was trying to be, or is. But in his knackered and casual gear, addressing his punters – the suggestion was hanging in the air. Thing is, like our other famous publican, the fictional bigoted side of Al Murray, neither Tim’s role nor background is in pubs. Al studied History at Oxford and does comedy. Tim, as mentioned, qualified as a barrister in 1979. He invested in pubs shortly after. Tim does business. Not that I know much about his early years in the pub trade, but I know from Spoons now that he does everything to look like a pub, without actually making a pub. Comes with the territory of creating a chain – you (largely) annhilate the individuality of each member. I say he does this, in 2012 he only owned about 26.6% of Spoons shares, according to the Guardian. A fact which may or may not surprise you.
Perhaps these judgements aren’t entirely fair of me. Pub? No pub? Look, you go to a Spoons because it has decent food and drink, sometimes a good atmosphere too, and at a very affordable price. They even have a good selection for vegetarians and vegans, with the booze and the food. Yeah there’s some drink that’s not vegan or veggie friendly – and Spoons know that. You go to Spoons, therefore, because of the money, and because it’s easy.
Still I don’t know about you, but I feel like while the staff are often very friendly and helpful, they’re bar staff and not pub staff. There’s something bruised, desperate and casual about a pub that a Spoons can’t capture. A knackered charm, where the lines between alcohol abuse and ‘character’ powerfully blur. Spoon’s purple-faced haggards and young degenerates just can’t match that half-hostile, half-friendly mystery. Despite the reputation for hosting alcoholics and undesireables, a Spoons is generally quite well kept. Formalised, commercialised. Other chains do the same – they’re converting the look and feel of a pub into a saleable model of a bar with finger food.
Why does this matter?
Because a big part of the Brexit debate is about democracy. Tim ended up mentioning it a few times, though really quite vaguely. I guess in the current political climate, you’re not usually required to specify or clarify. Democracy is almost always sold as a veneer rather than given as a truth. We don’t have democracy in this country, we have a thing called constitutional monarchy, or alternatively ‘elective oligarchy’. It’s not bad, because our so-called representatives do seek our good opinion, and we do get to vote for them. But it’s not a democracy. There’s a comparison with the pub situation here.
A chain of cozy bars serving pints and easy food work by formula, and work to expand. Similarly with our government. It works by formula, the constitution, the parliament, the traditions, and its work is the constant expansion and contraction of laws, of legal controls, of worldly influence of all kinds. Our politicians view themselves as big leaders doing big things for “the nation”. Bar chains think they’re giving quality and comfort but still making a profit. Profiting personally in the noble pursuit of feeding and entertaining the nation. You’ve got to credit Spoons on that score – unless they’re really fucking over their suppliers, they must be sneaking it by on the margins. At least with drink. Food and snacks probably get them a lot. Plus economies of scale – consumerism won’t let you forget that phrase.
Real democracy is no government, is communities doing what they need from the people up. A real pub is a venue drawn from the community, working for the community, more interested in providing the service than drawing enough profit to expand. Maybe they’ve got their own small-scale brewing and distilling going on out back, or down the road. They don’t need to charge much. They don’t need to be particularly formalised. They don’t need to worry quite as much about trouble because everyone knows everyone. That’s the ideal, like with democracy. And despite the appearance, Spoons is very far from the ideal. Spoons is probably helping to kill off Britain’s traditional pubs, which to a limited extent might be deserved: the drinking landscape in the UK is constantly changing after all. And a lot of political spokespeople on Brexit are trying to associate the word “democracy” with idiocy and bigotry – slowing down democracy’s inevitable arrival. But then, it’s good to see when democracy, as a word, is being abused by rampant populists.
Tim disguises himself as a common man, and the government hides behind the veneer of democracy. Whatever accidental benefits their actions might have, their motivations are largely self-centred, just like the rest of us. And self-centred for them means more money/power. It means different things to different people. You know, when it comes to money/power, everyone’s a populist really. Some are just more successful or noticeable than others. Pro-Brexit “the democratic will of the referendum vote”. Anti-Brexit “we need a People’s Vote”. What, a referendum on leaving the EU also entitles you to fuck things up does it? Entails exit at any cost? No fucking way. The text of the referendum doesn’t specify “at any cost”, it implies “with the wisdom and care of good democratic governance”, which, again, we don’t have. And “the People’s Vote”? What? The People (whoever they are) didn’t vote last time? Nonsense. Rampant populism by all conerned. We like to blame Farage and Trump with it, but they’re just the most brazen, their success is just the most obviously distasteful.
Ah but I’m wandering slightly from the path. John Logie Baird. 10th Jan. An actual place, an actual date. I never much liked that sort of info back when learning history, but I guess I can see the importance of pinning yourself to things that clearly happened, even if you don’t know exactly how they happened. Not everyone gets the references, not everyone agrees. Perhaps very few people agree. I preferred looking into lives, you know? John Logie Baird was a Scottish Engineer who helped pioneer television, not a series of dates or a pub in a vaguely depressed town centre. You look at the lives and you get real information, not facts but meanings. But back to the story:
TM managed to open his lecture with the idea that we’ll save £39 billion in leaving, before his dedicated pro-EU heckler Dave chipped in and so got an official introduction to the room. Dave has been following TM throughout the tour, we hear. And apparently this £39 billion – I still think I misheard that but whatever – is the figure that a House of Lords Committee came up with last year as an accumilation of all the debts to the EU we could legally ignore. At least, this is where the argument went. Dave and others shouting that we should pay our debts, Tim responding that we aren’t or wouldn’t be legally indebted to anyone, and so under a no deal could walk scott free. That or with big sacks slung over each shoulder, marked “swag”. Now, people seemed to struggle to deny this confident argument but we all felt there’s something fundamentally wrong with walking out on a debt, even, perhaps, if it’s a dishonourable one to a dodgy lender. We might want to be confident, but we don’t want to be perfidious Albion or any of that. Don’t want to confirm the French history books.
But Tim ploughed on from this, not leaving time for anyone to consider what these “debts” (perhaps read “contributions”) normally pay for. He got out with a reference to fishing. A line like “we’ll of course reclaim our fishing waters”, but he basically could have just said “fishing” and got the same response: the crowd clapped and cheered. Maybe the only point which Dave didn’t question, or couldn’t be heard questioning. He wasn’t in my line of sight but I could picture him, eyes glazed over at the thought of some cuttlefish-gurnard-man with a boathook staggering through the back door, dripping with salt water, gurgling some unholy noise, and heading straight at the urbanite fool who’d gladly take away his historic living for the sake of a European directive. If too many had murmured a criticism, it’s clear the fishmen would’ve butchered us all in cold wash, a grizzly scene, an expression of righteous, if unsanctified fury.
Which somehow segued into a ‘discussion’ of international trading arrangements, a topic that would reappear consistently throughout the rest of Tim’s talk. Again, the EU is stealing from us – they make us charge these tariffs and we don’t even get most of the profits from them! What about free trade? What about liberal principles? Someone in the crowd had had enough: “the EU is the largest free-trading bloc in the world!”.
This broke proceedings slightly. The thought had already occurred to many in the audience that heckling a lecturer seems in slightly poor taste. While Tim was indeed trying to pretend to be, vaguely, ‘one of us’, the format of his talks was clearly lecture. It was expected that we would be able to ask questions, and even shout the occasional comment. Talk’s in a pub after all, well, a Spoons. But that this format would so soon be disrupted by Tim’s political opposition was slightly unnerving. The presence of Dave and other agitators was psychologically troubling to the group mentality, not just because many there liked the idea of some kind of Brexit (if not a No Deal) while Dave seemed vehemently opposed, but because this was a lecture on the peculiarites of Brexit, on ‘home turf’, well at least for the lecturer. It wasn’t a rally out in the streets. It had billing. It wasn’t challenging these people to a fight, so why were they there? At least, I imagine this is what some of the JLB’s crowd were thinking as they shouted back or looked quizzical.
Someone responded to the Remain lobby saying, “We’ve had enough of that chat for years, now we want to hear the other side.” From my terrible notes, I can’t tell whether this is an accurate quote or paraphrasing, but it’s reflected in other sayings I do have accurately down. Dave the Remainer – very distantly reminscent of David Cameron – conjuring up all the wrong feelings. It wasn’t meant to be a protest talk, it wasn’t meant to elicit this kind of bile until the questions afterward. Well, we don’t know exactly what kind of talk it was meant to be to be honest. Maybe just free entertainment for the morning’s alkies and the local press. But the mood was meant to be more relaxed. Who can be angry in Spoons at 11.30 in the morning?
And that’s possibly one of the conflicts at the core of UK politics today. I’ve been talking about Tim’s talks as though they were innocent – no, they just felt like they’d be relatively calm. Tim represents the rabid traditionalists. Dave represents, perhaps, the rabid progressives. And the conflict lies in there being a small reversal of the two sides’ key behaviours.
Many progressives are digging trenches: for years they’re been trying to defend and protect what they think they’ve gained, particularly because leaders on all sides have been using the language of rights and polite terminology. It’s now common parlance. Leaders, speakers on all sides have been throwing around the idea that the progression, the positive changes we’ve had over the last century, won’t stand unless we build bunkers around them, because they’re no longer normal, expected parts of human life, no – they’re inalienable rights. Almost sounds like they’re handed down from God. Like we didn’t earn them through understanding and co-operation. Meanwhile, the traditionalists have been finding new and terrifyingly exciting ways of engaging with the modern world and bending it to their outdated old world principles. We’ve now got traditionalist progressives and progressive traditionalists. Really. We do.
Which is why Dave didn’t sound like the voice of reason in a room of bigots, which is why, in fact, the room wasn’t full of bigots. Or at least not in any conventional sense. Whether the EU is good for us or not, you won’t find the answer by fierce and blind loyalty. Same with an independent Britain. The only way through this debate is with intense and satirical scepticism and cynicism. Analysing the shit out of everything that happens, or just not caring at all. The main poles of discussion are bigoted. A kind of: “if you believe in the EU, if you believe in Brexit, you’re betraying your country and your people, your own future, the future of your children, you’re a typical example of that sort of traditionalist/progressive we hate…really fucking everything up for everybody.” We’ve been talking in generalisations for so long, most people aren’t equipped to have a real dialogue.
Tim says that the EU, while a large free-trading bloc, only represents about 7% of the world. I have to say, I’m no economist but I doubt being out of the EU means we’d have free trade with anyone. We’ve got no good negotiators up at the moment and why would other countries drop their tariffs, even if we drop ours? Tim moves on: “the main thing is that if we leave the EU we increase the levels of democracy in the UK”. Now, this is well-phrased, but, like most allusions to democracy made today, totally lacking in context or meaning i.e. it’s fucking bullshit. This goes back to the referendum. That kicked off the whole chat about ‘democracy’.
So, for a while, UKIP was riding the waves of popular dissatisfaction and longstanding campaigns by groups like the Electoral Reform Society, who Tim mentioned in his talk. Those are democratic forces: angry, dissatisfied, dumb masses. Dumb like unable to speak. And the best the progressive establishment can give them is pressure groups like Unlock Democracy and the Electoral Reform Society. We couldn’t even get a popular campaign together for the AV referendum, though that was rigged from the start. Like this referendum, I might add.
So, because these masses don’t know exactly what to do or where their loyalties lie, UKIP’s message was breaking through to them. And UKIP aren’t the only ones talking about problems in Europe. Jeremy Corbyn was against a lot of bad European policy. Many others in Labour must’ve been since they were the ones behind all that devolution stuff and the abortive attempts at establishing regional assemblies in England. At least rationally that stinks of wanting a small trading Europe, not a federal EU. Not that UK politicians are ever rational or even human. And some Conservatives don’t like the EU because of their patriotic values or business interests or both.
There’s a consensus there along parts of the progressive-traditional divide: along the trenchlines there are some truces over leaving the EU. Over staying in too. Yet somehow we still have the fictional image of Brexiteers being racist arseholes who only care about immigration policy, and Remainers being the enlightened holy ones who couldn’t hurt a fly if they tried, except in defence of that fly’s rights and best interests. Then they’d probably tear it to sheds for its own well being. But whatever.
Yet it’s the partial consensus that got us here. There were enough potential Conservative voters, standard traditionalists, some who might just have been progressives, some who were strategic voters, who wanted a referendum on the EU so much that said referendum made it into the manifesto. But it was clearly a bad idea. The political establishment knew that, and David Cameron had it critically sabotaged from the start. It’s amazing that it slipped by, frankly. It’s amazing that UKIP and others managed to rally a reformist consensus across ideologies long enough to push through on a slim majority. And that’s why Farage left the party by the way. Scumbag he may be, but he moved to capture the consensus, not to run UKIP and whatever freak of nature it was quickly becoming. Getting Brexit was all he wanted – and I’m still not sure why he wanted it. Probably some stock scheme or other. I guess you should respect the man’s boldness and wits even if you hate him for a scum-sucker saddled to Trump’s wilting penis. At the same time, the less people say about Trump and Farage the better – their blood is populism, you cut it off and they’ll dry out. I mean Farage is one of the scariest populists this country has seen in recent years. He’s bold, brash, and, well, popular. Turn your back on him and people will cheer as he stabs you. Like with Trump.
What is a referendum in this country? It’s not democratic. Sure, it’s more democratic than a party manifesto deciding policy. But it’s just one question. How far it’s technically binding is open to debate. It’s on one broad policy issue. It gives you one vote, if you’re free and of a certain age, a certain ability, a certain inclination. It doesn’t let you speak, it lets you scribble on a piece of paper, and even then your scribble might not make it to the final count. Because DC really didn’t want it to happen, and because the reformist mass of anger and discontent really did want it to happen…the whole thing ended up feeling like more of a democratic turning point than it was. Which is why folk still refer to it as the will of the people and other such wanton crapulence.
The meaning of the referendum was simple: “you’ve asked us to help you make a policy decision, we just about want you to get us out of the EU; so you better get some good negotiators out in the field, because the only way this divided electorate is going to agree is if you get us a damn good deal.” That was the nation speaking in unison (read “on average”) by the way. In case that wasn’t clear.
Which is why Tim talking about democracy in the context of a No Deal is pretty fucking funny. Everyone talks about the people this and democracy that. The only way to get democracy is to have everyone – everyone – speaking and all their words and opinions and actions filtering directly into ‘government’ i.e. whatever system by which society maintains itself. Devolution helps with that but it needed to be regional, not a resurrection of national pride. So I was pretty pissed off when English regional assemblies didn’t happen, but Scotland and Wales got theirs. Democracy needs to be localised, by definition. It needs to be direct. From the bottom up. Not the top down. Representatives need to be delegates, not rulers. But that is genuinely a discussion for another time. Suffice to say, no-one has meaningfully mentioned democracy in this debate over Brexit. However, leaving might help the localisation, decentralisation, devolution of our government in a way that ultimately helps democracy. Might. And that’s all you need to know about that.
Tim’s calls are pretence, and so’s “the People’s Vote”. The people? Pah. What a filthy piece of obvious propaganda. Not even remotely concealed in any kind of subtlety. As a virulent modernised traditionalist, Tim knows to do the pub tours and talk about the people…because that looks and feels more honest at this point than calls for “the People’s Vote”…which is pretty amazing because a businessman telling his customers how to behave isn’t remotely democratic either.
Where are we? Ah yes. Dave: ‘laws are passed by elected MEPs. The leading councils are full of elected national politicans. The EU is largely based on the UK’s legal system.’ The MEPs in Europe are like the House of Lords here, and even if other countries have elected national leaders representing them, we don’t. Our PM is elected as an MP, then promoted by the leading pigs into a position of further power, confirmed by the ceremonial head hog in Buckingham Sty. Laws formulated by a few ruling swine, confirmed by an only vaguely representative elect, and all based on the King Compromise that brought about the most effective and progressive repression of peoples in the history of the world…I don’t find any of that particularly reassuring. But then that’s just me.
And maybe some people in the crowd had similar sentiments. Someone chimed in “A lot of us would’ve been happier with the common market” and someone else broadly agreed: “We were lied to from the start”. It was around this time also that we heard the delightful “being on the news doesn’t make it true” as chat around exactly how democratic EU institutions might be sparked about the room.
It was all too much for Tim. Doubt was growing. He had to bring the room back, fast. Soon they’d be realising he was just as valid as the news. But, fishing already largely exhausted as a quick hurrah, he had to go onto booze. People cheered as he talked about champagne being replaced by sparkling wine, possibly from Australia, certainly not from Europe. A few faces looked confused at this. Clearly Hastings alcoholics and regular drinkers inspire less fear and awe than the fisher folk. And then again, the real value of champagne in a cheap boozer was always going to be a bit of a weird one. Yes we’d like to celebrate, but no no-one really cares if it’s champers any more. It just has to sparkle and go down easy, and preferably have gold on the bottle, plus a pop-off cork. Not much to ask for at the end of a working week.
If you’re keeping track we’re now back on the tariffs. Frankly, I’m struggling to keep track at this point. “If we leave the EU our government can eliminate tariffs on anything coming to the UK” says Tim. I immediately wrote “can and in” which might not make the most sense to the casual observer, but means, “yeah, sure, and we could also institute safe sewage residence and compulsory asparagus servings at breakfast, but it ain’t necessarily gonna be so”. Plus of course we can’t control what tariffs are put on our exports, which might stimulate our leaders to put tariffs on imports in reply. Again, I ain’t no expert or whatever but some of these promises are more vague and misleading than “these politicians will be able to negotiate”. Or do I mean £350mil for the NHS?
It seemed to go back to the democracy point for a while here. We must’ve got on to questions. Tim’s model for these talks, in true soapbox style, is to talk until he or the room has run out of steam, at which point he prompts for questions and ultimately hopes to get on to his next appointment before the remainers and any press corner him in a half nelson. I mean fair enough, I’d work the same strategem. Someone says “What effects might there be on the property market?”. Look, I’ll give you the Tim in advance. He says it depends on the general economy, and he says people thought it would be worse than it turned out to be after the referendum. i.e. he pushes the highly successful and valuable confidence argument. Fair enough, but it doesn’t work because no-one else is really doing that. Confidence on a national scale only works if more than 50% of us are substantially and vocally confident. And we’re not.
Now that’s done, what fucker is asking about property values? I thought Spoons was supposed to be largely immune to that particular variety of blood-flecked vomit that is someone who’s sad when property prices go down. So, it’s clear to anyone who’s looking, the average home in the South of England is about £100,000, probably £200,000 more expensive than it ought to be. Forget about London – that’ll give you an aneurysm, easy. A two bed home should be…what? £80,000? Yeah. Even in today’s money. But that thinking is instantly laughed out of the room as a pipedream, because property is basically a kind of stock in trade. It’s a way to make the big bucks once you’ve qualified for your initial investment. So many powerful people are keen to make money off it, and so many not so powerful scum-suckers (read “estate agents”) are keen to help them do it, that we’ve been riding this property bubble for fuck-knows-how-long, and straight down to Hell. Only Satan could keep this bubble from bursting. Only the unholy power of the Other could keep this flimsy airship sailing along.
Property is what’s ruining all of Western Society. You don’t have to believe me, you just have to give the notion some small amount of credence. I’m not living a caravan in a field, free, nomadic. Not yet anyway. So I’m admitting we probably won’t fix the world in our lifetimes, even if we know all the details. Don’t worry about it. I’m not guilt-tripping you into voting Labour. Don’t vote in the nationals at all, if you can help it. I just want you to be aware of the facts, such as they are.
Right. Tim. Spoons. We have a repeat of tariffs that doesn’t add anything. We have a reprise on the debt question…people are starting to come round to Tim’s point of view. You get a bit of a feeling of “fuck these uppity EU twats”. Just a taste. Just some well-proportioned seasoning on the Impossible No Deal Soup. I mean Dave and the Remainers present encouraged them, I think, frankly. Gave them something to compete with other than eachother, which is how it could’ve been. Instead of a soft vs hard debate, it became more “fuck these remainers”. And Tim talks about his articles on Wetherspoons News, an outlet I have yet to visit. Don’t worry people, I’ll head over there soon enough and give you the score out of ten. And Michael Heseltine apparently saying something about supranational societies. Fuck that. The other day, someone got me a quote from Slavoj Zizek, saying that supranational societies do more for democracy than nations, and that therefore the EU is better for democracy than not. Mate, I don’t think I need to tell you what I think of that. But one bad comment can’t cloud our judgement of anyone. I’ve got to give Slavozek some time to come up with an explanation before I roast him on how bad it is.
There was also a delightful question about Ireland. Delightful not so much because it’s a highly pertinent question, but because Tim decided to break into various mutated forms of Irish accent while answering the question. Like English throughout but ye ask me aboot dear auld Ireland an’, ho Jesus, ho begara, Imma gonna tell it to ya streight: the troubles were hella bad. His accent wasn’t that bad, but the way it turned up all of a sudden really was that bad. Sure he lived there for a large fraction of his life, but you keep that stage English performance up throughout the talk or you don’t bother with it at all. TF1, the only recording crew I recall, didn’t even have the camera on that one I think. So the secret didn’t even need to get out…but he did such a shit job of disguising the unnatural (given the context) change from one manner of speak to the other, now it has to come out. He’s a shitbag. A wealthy and capable one, but still.
On Ireland, and the Empire, by the way: I’m a history student. In Britain we laugh at things like the Nazis teaching racism and militarism in maths, but we don’t half trumpet our vicious imperialistic bullshit like it was butter on scones for tea. And by that I mean it took me years to realise the Empire really was bad, and that, specifically, we’d been shitting on Ireland for almost 2000 years. The pre-medieval justification of “we beat you in the fighting” wears out pretty quickly given a lot of people settled and became Irish, then got wiped out years down the line. And again. And again. And again. Look, I’m trying to talk about a lot of history, not all of which is well documented, in a very short space of time. Point being, we bullied countries into submission, they never stopped hating it, and we mostly administered them using our spare degenerates, upper class, inbred, physically and mentally disabled, and our worst, most vicious capitalistic scroat-sacks. That’s how we “made the world”. You look at the details and it’s far from pretty. What did the Romans do for us? Yeah roads and shit but also 2000 years of Roman Catholic Church cultural oppression. Britain? Pushed production to a point where the peasants could be packed in sardine cans for 22 hours in the day, still working with relative efficiency and almost no wages. We’re fucked up.
But put that all to one side. Topic for another time.
Brexit Ireland? It’s our fucking fault that Ireland is split in the first place. If only we hadn’t ruined the North so bad it couldn’t be joined to the South. If only we hadn’t ruined the country so bad it couldn’t be a pal. If only…if only. The main point here, as far as I’m concerned, in my capacity as a casual Hastinga, mainly concerned with the ins and outs of our relatively large seaside town, is that our politicians aren’t good enough to deal with this stuff. Maybe no-one ever was. But our politicians especially. They’re the scum of British history, narrowly beaten by the Imperial Inbreds. And we picked them to handle Brexit? Well, they picked us to suffer Brexit. More or less. It was pointed out recently that Theresa May showed her utter unsuitability for Brexit negotiations when she did that shit of deal with the DUP. Hear hear, pal. Hear hear.
The closing elements of question time, before Tim moved on to private questions and then a hasty retreat, focussed on respectability and the military. I mean, well, obviously. Someone said reform the EU from the inside. Tim called this “respectable” and meant it. Delightful self-restraint for a No-Dealer on the campaign trail. Next the military. Tim loves America on this front. I don’t. I love the democratic solution, as ever. I love us making a community-based democratic model work, so that if anyone invades they have to deal with millions of highly organised guerilla fighters, completely independent of central direction, with nothing to lose since their only cares in the world have already been invaded and put at risk. You’d have to annhilate every single one of us before we’d stop fighting. But bear in mind we don’t and won’t have democracy for some time…Tim says America. NATO. Yeah. We don’t really want the EU becoming a military organisation, particularly if our main concern in military terms is Russia, because it’s better to have us, America, and any remaining allies from North Africa and the Middle East, than it is to be the EU waiting for America to join in late again. If we give them the chance, they will fuck off and let us take the brunt of any trouble. They’ve got reason, they’ve got form. I’d do it if I were them. So Tim makes sense there.
Thing is, after the questions, in the next tier, the private questions, Tim talks about America being great and us modelling ourselves more along the lines of their constitution. Not the words of a seasoned politics student, mate. While there’s much good in the American Constitution, it’s a lot harder to change once corrupted than our free-wheeling shit-show designed to entrench the liberty of the middle classes…and pretty soon we’re all going to be what was once called “the middle classes”. As much as I dislike Britain’s political arrangements, we’ve got it better constitutionally than most of the world. A flexible beauty based off a few little principles including parliamentary sovereignty. It’s a damn fine thing to behold. Hard to behold though. Not unlike one version of the mythical dragon of the Arthurian cycle, beheld by Merlin the Magician. “A being of such power that if you should see it in one glance, whole and complete, it would burn you to cinders.” That’s something like a quote on that old dragon of a constitution we have. Anyone who gets the Excalibur reference can have a free pint, redeemable at Wetherspoons.
Before Tim departed, and while I was working out whether I could squeeze in some irrelevant words with him, Madeleina Kay, the supergirl herself, appeared to quiz him on some vital points. I wanted to be a supergirl, but it’s not so easy for me. Even if I hated Brexit with every fibre of my form and could sing…the costume still couldn’t pull it. I’d have to be some conceptual transvestite wonder more skilled in female impersonation than women are at being women. Or I’d have to be a joke. Doesn’t matter. This is all I got out of Tim’s response to an unknown question “I didn’t live in England until I was 19. It’s more about democracy….ensures the future of the world…I think we should model ourselves more along the American Constitution”, which my notes tell me is actually a selection of his words in response to the TF1 crew. Who knows what he said to Supergirl, landscape gardener extraordinaire. I don’t actually know if it was landscape gardening she studied – there was an interview about her old course that mentioned “landscape” – but apparently she’s a dropout like me. I like to think I’m one of the few people who won’t throw shit on her for that, though since I was taking history I can try and laugh at her subject choice. Not that history is that respectable either.
Generally on the self-proclaimed EU Supergirl, she only joined this debate after the referendum, which I can’t abide, and she makes some good points about the disassociation of young people from politics, but that’s old hat. I mean endlessly unresolved. I like Hunter Thompson on it: the university-age kids get into politics with innocence and stupidity, get burned, and then mostly don’t come back for ten or twenty years. Politics is for the very young and the rather old. Everyone else is too busy working for a living. Really it’s that the young know too much about how the world should be, and don’t understand enough of how it actually is. They’ve generally not had the training to cope with reality, and some people never really manage to learn. Those who do I think often reject large parts of reality on a regular basis since it’s so obviously the fever-dream of some insane despot from millenia ago with a Jesus complex. I mean Western Society is that fever dream, not so much reality in general. But for many of us, Western Society is reality. It’s the drunken face of Barnes in Platoon saying “what, you guys smoke this shit to escape from reality? I am reality.” And that’s enough of that.
I was too far gone by the time Tim left…just in terms of the wonderful people I was chatting to and had been introduced to. Not just HIP’s own Alan Bolwell and Steve Brown, always good for the convo, but numerous others who’d engaged our small company, and a fine American gentleman who reassured me that he wasn’t much into drinking anymore, before we started an excellent round of rounds. For me, happy conversation often comes with drinks in abundance.
Before he went someone managed to ask Tim why Hastings Spoons is so much shitter than Bexhill though, even going so far as to ask “why didn’t you come to Bexhill? Bexhill is the best.” Yeah…why isn’t he going to Bexhill?
This whole mess we’re in at the moment makes me think of Orwell. I was in a different pub, the Windsor Castle in Victoria (Sam Smiths representin’) drinking with some fancy pals of mine, and we stumbled onto that topic. My friend made a reference to Animal Farm, which I thought was actually a reference to this old wild satirical show Comic Strip, with French&Saunders, Adrian Edmonson, Keith Allen, others…a well-varied cast, and Alexi Sayle even turned up for an episode or two. We started talking about totalitarianism and all the different varieties of absolute government. And we came to the realisation that Orwell wasn’t just warning us against all that, about the corruption of socialism into despotism: he was warning us about how easily our emotions are manipulated to change the ways we behave.
There was a good Radio 4 programme about that recently, I’m mentioning it to everyone but I haven’t got the name. It said most casinos make the lion’s share of their take from the slot machines, the one-armed-bandits. Explained that there’s a simple action-reward dynamic that animals find it really easy to operate along. Even if you don’t win with a slot machine, inserting a coin and pulling the lever gives you this reward feeling with the spinning pictures and the bright lights and the noise…if you’re not concentrating you just fall into it. I get that with video games. Radio 4 talked about it being directly deployed in Facebook, you know, the like button and the whole system favouring empty and inane comments, not proper responses. It’s designed to keep you on Facebook so you give away more information to sell to advertisers who then buy ad space on Facebook. Genius, if you’re a capitalist.
This is the thing: Orwellian manipulation is happening in our society, and has been for years, but it’s not organised and scary like in 1984. It’s not trying to suck the life out of you, it’s just if you stop resisting for long enough it accidentally sucks the life out of you. Business-owners don’t want you to be completely mindless drones – they want you to be interesting and independent enough to earn the income to spend on a broad range of products and services that can also give a living to marketing executives who need to tell you good stories as part of any sale. It’s traditionalist. Really, if the capitalists were being serious about their lust for power, they would be pushing for some Illuminati/1984 bullshit. But they’re not that free or clever. Most business owners are miserable – they’ve made huge numbers of personal sacrifices to get to a point where they make the amount of money they do. The money eventually becomes more of a slot machine addiction than the power it brings. And more than that, because it’s used as a justification, it becomes a religious thing. Like after so long following that god of ever-increasing income, giving up would mean life had been wasted. You surrender that much, sacrifice so many sons to the cause, you can’t admit defeat – it’d be a form of suicide, and dishonouring the only god you ever really believed in.
But, pulling away from the business owners for a moment: our politicians. Our politics. It’s emotional manipulation. It’s all appealling to the lowest common denominator to force through a technical consensus totally lacking in any substantial value. And it happens because capitalistic consumerism is so good at playing on our emotions. The politics just plugs into an existing system of manipulation. Like “oh, if they’re going to buy that action movie because the trailer has more than 10 explosions in it, maybe we can scare them into hating immigrants. Yeah, immigrants are the ones coming over here and stabbing people, not our boys. Yeah, action, fear, vague suggestions of reality. That’s like a subtly racist action-horror-thrill-extravaganza.” And we lap it up. Oh “closing the border will fix it, building a wall will fix it”. Simple solutions to complicated problems that don’t need to elicit interpersonal hatred. But it’s much harder for the politicos to make it in the polls if they don’t scare the shit out of you. If they want to do better, they have to get you educated, they have to give you better and more interactive local government, improve your employment prospects and publically-available free learning tools. In short, they have to get rid of their power.
Our politicians are some of the most fucked-up people you will ever meet, because unlike business folk addicted to money, they’re actually addicted to the illusion of their own influence. They’re addicted to the game of politics. Hunter Thompson talks about it real well – I love that guy – about getting in on that trip, about how it messes you up just being there in the nest of vipers. Like getting obscenely drunk or high (which you probably would be as well) national politics puts sugar in your veins. It’s for freaks. Don’t trust anyone who wants to be in that game, because they almost certainly know it’s a game. They’ve known since it was rigged by the one tribal leader who convinced everyone else they needed to lead for the tribe’s safety and security or whatever. Bullshit. Democracy worked for non-violent tribes, you know. Ones who didn’t want to kill eachother to steal women, food and hunting trophies. But non-violence doesn’t work against a mass-murdering, raping war machine. And tribal democracies didn’t have the tech or organisation we do – they couldn’t summon up a bunch of mad guerillas from out of no-where unless they’d made friends with the local, literal gorillas. I hate Mel Gibson but Apocalypto does an interesting job depicting that one. Not the gorillas but the relatively peaceful little tribe getting fucked over, and the suffering of the remnants that make it out alive and even relatively free.
Okay, where are we? Near the end. Yes, don’t worry. If you’re still here: well done. I owe you a biscuit. Right, dying for freedom. One comment that stuck with me from the crowd “many have lost their lives for our freedom yet that doesn’t seem to register with the EU”. What? So the EU didn’t lose millions and huge amounts of residential, commercial and industrial property in WW1 and 2? Didn’t have its Jewish population collected for processing? Didn’t fight back against impossible odds, betrayed by its national leaders and security forces? Didn’t get together after those wars to stop those threats to freedom from home European turf ever rising again? Only the most idiotic of jeering Englishmen would let himself think that our poor fools sacrificed by the state to the maw of Moloch are, first, protecting “freedom” and, second, protecting something that Europeans weren’t or aren’t protecting. It’s part of a stupid, jingoistic pride we have in our military. I get it, I had it too for most of my life. Like most, or at least a lot of, male children, I played with model soldiers and wanted to join the army when I was 9. Yeah, before you even really know what a job is or why you end up doing one.
My dad – who’s dead – was born on Armistice Day. 11th November. Brilliant man, a brilliant Briton. Sometimes went by the name of Albion, was a pagan, came up with a small fashion movement called Geovictwardianism, was a highly talented lawyer (don’t believe what you read in the papers) and he liked all that Rememberance Day stuff, all that pro-military sentiment. He talked in military metaphors, he wrote stories involving antique British Army bayonets and trench-raid tactics. I grew up on all that, happily. But now I look at Rememberance Day and the Legion with disgust. Don’t get me wrong, huge respect for the fighting Tommy. Huge respect for our lads dying out there, or getting maimed, or getting PTSD’d, or murdering for Britain. It’s not on them – I’m blaming the commanders and the well-wishers and the training institutions and the politicians back here, and out in the world. Rememberance Day glorifies their sacrifice. It’s not their sacrifice, it’s them being sacrificed. Hecatombs etc. They’re sent for state-sanctioned murder, albeit mostly the murder of other kinds of sanctioned murderer. It’s an ugly gig, and increasingly unecessary. Which is why you should give the White Poppy peace movement a chance next November.
All that said, Doug Stanhope has a good line on war – let the psychos kill eachother. Saves on police and legal fees. Yet in both my words there and Doug’s, we forget that a lot of the recent wars the West has taken part in have been on other nations’ home turfs. We’ve invaded not to conquor land, but to conquor culturally and economically. And the locals have shoved us out every time, but only once we (if the West can be a we) have infected and infested them with our capitalistic socio-economics so badly that they’ve ended up working some masterfully corrupt angles in all areas of public and private life by the time we’ve pulled the troops out. As ever, total war fucks up totally. And if you’re looking at troops with specialised agression training and operating by kill-counts rather than meaningful objectives (I see you America) then the war is pretty damn total.
Pissed off at this strange brand of peace-talk? Maybe you’d feel better if I told you, if we were invaded, I’d let the mass-murdering psychopathic killer beast in me burst out pretty quickly. It’s not about being afraid of violence or disliking it unreasonably. It’s about knowing that violence doesn’t help. Usually. Almost always, now, in the magical Western peace land. Other places too. But I totally get these places we invade. “We”. The invaders. From Ireland to Vietnam to Libya taking our bombs and guns. Wherever. The locals are defending every shred of meaning they’ve accumilated in their hard little lives. If I were in their shoes I’d be fighting with every fucking fibre in my body. That or fleeing as a refugee. What you have now is a situation where a lot of countries have already been so ruined by international capitalism and national corruption that they have no localised culture left worth caring about, no real home to fall back on, and so the move to refugee status comes easier than the move to a cut-price Ak-47, which has often already been tried and failed several times. The shreds of meaning in many lives out there relate to personal and familial survival. Not glorious leaders. They don’t have time for glory, or leaders. So, better to take what good you can remember and start again, rather than defend a corpse that’s also probably trying to kill you. In a zombie apocalypse, you don’t defend the zombified remains of your best friend, you put those remains out of their eternal mysery.
Which does have some relevance to events unfolding in the UK but I’m not sure now is the time to expand on that particular area of discussion.
It’s been said before, but I’ll say it again: journalism is a strange gig. I’m not a journalist yet but I’m trying to be. I’m close. Maybe this piece here is the start of it actually. And like every journalist or journalism-enthusiast knows, our voyeuristic tendencies are off the charts. We’re no less freaks than the freaks we constantly accuse of freakery. But at least we’re generally honest, explicit in what we do. At least honesty and communication are our ideals. I find that comforting even if you don’t.
And that’s why this piece comes at you like it does. If you tell people what’s what with academic language and footnotes, they’re likely to ignore you or even believe you. I don’t want either. I want critical engagement with the story as it unfolds. And the story here, overall, is the people getting fucked over by the ruling classes again. Not because Brexit is or isn’t happening, but because our government and society is what it is. The shitshow that is Brexit is just a particularly extensive tearing of the veil. If you don’t want to look through that tear, well, you do your own thing, but frankly I think it’s better to know and be miserable than to not know and be happy. Misery isn’t as bad as all that, and it eventually gives you a freedom that can be fed into euphoric moments and more general contentment. Question me, and question all this shit, folks. Do not accept anything told to you unless you’ve tested it, and even then you should withhold absolute belief in its veracity. Safer to assume nothing is true and instead work with what’s adequate. That’s my advice anyway.