Categories
activism economics Housing media NHS Politics prejudice Uncategorized

Transports of delight!

Oh, what an original idea! Gather up all these alarming, inconvenient people and send them to some far-flung corner of the world we have a bit of control over.

https://www.dumptheguardian.com/world/2021/nov/21/migrant-crossings-are-becoming-a-problem-for-red-wall-tory-mps

It worked before, didn’t it? That’s why Australia is what it is. Come to think of it, lots of UK citizens who hadn’t been marked as undesirable followed them, once the country got on its feet. I think we should all consider jumping the gun this time – depart Cruel Brittania, and go with the refugees to a new world built by those the Tories always did, and always will think of as ‘undesirables’.

Now, what next? As they dismantle and sell off the remains of our services (the NHS is to all intents and purposes under the hammer in parliament this week) which of the Victorians’ cruel ideas do you think our abysmal politicians are going to try out next in their endless attempts to avoid the obvious truth?

The obvious truth

We had the best NHS in the world. We had transport, power, education and care services that were faulty but sort of worked. Now so many of us are struggling to find dentists, get medical and social care, we realise ‘sort of’ was a lot better than nothing. We got as far as ‘sort of’ because we had a government that saw its job as running the country, and local authorities that saw their jobs as running the services in their areas. We knew that all those administrators were there to provide people’s needs. They were paid to do it, and paid enough to live decently, not to get rich off our services. For decades, we’ve been told our services all needed to be sold off because they were faulty. Not so. We needed a government that would keep at it, make the poor services better and the good truly great.

Demand better – demand change. If you’re over 50, you’ll know we did it once before so we can do it again. If you’re under 50, ask granny how the NHS, housing, education, social services etc etc used to work. Fight back. If acting on your own doesn’t work, get some people around you and become an active part of everyone who’s demanding better.

What’s it got to do with refugees?

All those services we fought for and won in the last century – we did all that in time when (as now) lots of people emigrated to the UK when things were unsustainable where they lived. They came because they heard the UK was better. This was not a bad thing. They can’t help coming now. The ones who reach the north coast of France and get bullied into the sea by the French authorities are a minority of the refugees on the move. Pity them – they’ve landed in a country with a merciless government, and next to no local services.

But one thing we do know about the people washing up on our beaches is that they’re strong enough and clever enough to get that far. Maybe they’re strong enough and clever enough to help make a new country, either here or on the other side of the world when we all get sent to the Falklands for stealing our daily bread, like desperate people did in the bad old days before the NHS, social care services, etc etc.

This week’s ‘Destruction of the NHS’ Bill in parliament

If you want some help fighting back, contact the People’s Assembly office@thepeoplesassembly.org.uk Or try your local Trades Council. Or check if there’s a local branch of Defend the NHS where you are.

Categories
economics media Politics

VIRUS WARS

Where do you lay the blame?

The current mood across the nation is what some drivers call ‘hoot first, brake second’. If something goes wrong, the first thing do is decide whose fault it was and have a go at them.

Most people agree, now, that the national response to COVID went badly, badly wrong. First off, it was most definitely the fault of the government. They fiddle faddled around over public safety measures and lockdown dates, whilst just about everyone else threw themselves into working out safe ways of going on, volunteering with food banks, with local teams to help those who were isolating at home alone and, in small armies it seemed to me, helping out at vaccine centres once the roll-out started.

Later, people got more chaotic, and some got rebellious, over masks and lockdown rules – who was to blame for that? The government again, with their hokey cokey of rules and lockdown dates.

But some people refused the vaccines. At first, I was saying (and I still do say) vaccine take-up does not need to be 100% to work, so there’s room for a few who just can’t go along with the practice for whatever reasons – fear of needles, fear of side-effects, objection to vaccine ingredients – there are loads of reasons.

But surely the government can’t be blamed for the ‘freedom’ protesters and the spread of anti-vax conspiracies? Well actually, they can. Consider this: both the social rules (masks, distancing etc) and the vaccine roll-out are PUBLIC health measures. It’s quite possible to come to the conclusion that you personally don’t need them, or even that they might pose a risk to you personally, but that’s not how public health actions work. The idea is that you join in because, overall, it helps the most people. You may well be doing something that’s not necessary or not well suited TO YOU for the sake of someone at the other end of the country. It’s best for ‘us’ if you have a concept of the collective ‘us’.

Some people don’t do solidarity. They don’t get the ‘us’ thing. Whose fault is that? Who’s been pushing for a selfish, capitalist, me-for-me economic system for decades? Who’s insisted on an education system that’s all about league tables, and personal victories? Who’s been using divide-and-rule tactics to turn people against each other, and protect themselves from the consequences of their bad policies?

And some people suspect the government – and all establishment ‘authorities’ are lying to them, and mean them harm, so they simply don’t believe that the vaccines or other measures are good for us. Whose fault is it then, that people no longer trust the government or the suits reading the news?

Hmm. It’s not that bloke in the shop that’s not wearing a mask, or the woman down your street who thinks the vaccine is an evil trick, is it?

And as for the latest attempt to blame the Chinese – well, who knows? And does it matter? Coronavirus is not the only troublesome virus, and the military and industrial authorities in most countries mess around with viruses. The reason any virus can become a global problem is the amount and speed of international travel. There are people who are so over-paid and so over-involved in international power-games that they are jumping on planes and zapping round the world ALL THE TIME – and the odd time they get a week or so when there’s nothing international to stick their oar in, they jump on planes so they can go show off their diamonds at big, expensive parties.

Who are they? Government ministers and their big business chums – the people who are supposed to spend their time running the country. Let’s give our neighbours a break, do our best to do what’s right, and don’t forget, when the elections come round, BLAME THE GOVERNMENT.

Categories
Book reviews book shops Short stories young fiction

The kids already know about giants, unicorns, mermaids and dragons, but …

We all know some people are a whole lot more keen to tell their stories than others. All those big hairy mythical creatures – and even some watery ones – were eager to get into the pages of the story books…

The faun, in his woodland scene, surrounded by vines, eagerly tells his story

…but one little creature was better at listening than telling, and whilst you may not have heard of him, you have *certainly* heard of all the stories *he* knows about…

The froggicorn hides in his pool, until the ancient teller of stories comes and finds him

Here is your chance to find out about a not so well known story. Click here to unlock the secret story…

Categories
Book reviews book shops Hastings

Give the spirit of summer for Christmas!

How many years of Jack in the Green?

On the back of Keith Leech’s superb and lavishly illustrated record of Hastings’ biggest annual festival, he writes “It is now 25 years since the revival of the Hastings Jack in the Green in May 1983”.

The back of the book, showing a photo of the old May Day parade, many years ago.

My daughter was a teenager, I think, when I first took her along, and we got all excited, following the procession that, back then, used to take over the whole seafront, and drum and whoop and shout its way through the town and up to the castle by the proper way in.

Pages of the book showing characters in the parade, and text 'what is Jack in the Green?'

I won’t say how old she is now but like many in Hastings, we have so many memories of how that unique festival day changed and grew – with the combined mayhem of the morris gathering, the three-day sing-around in the pubs, and the huge bikers’ rally culminating on the seafront in the middle of it all.

One of the many colour photo pages, this one showing Jack emerging at the start of the rally.

It’s been a joy, a benchmark of joy of what it was to bring up a family in Hastings and Leech’s book (which I bought a batch of over ten years ago!) is the very, very best memento of it all I have come across.

Page from the book showing photos of the rally and the text, the story of May Day

If you’re buying a Christmas gift for a Hastings lover, you can’t do better than buying them this – the Spirit of Summer under the Christmas tree.

One of the many photos from my family collection. Very green jack-in-the-green people in a pub garden
This one’s from our family photo collection – one of the many
Mayday pub garden gatherings.

Hastings Traditional Jack in the Green by Keith Leech, photography by Peter Stevens, is £7.95. I have around half a dozen copies left. I’m keeping one forever, but that leaves a few spare, so if you’re in or near Hastings, contact me to have a copy delivered to your door, post-free.

Categories
activism economics Election Labour media Uncategorized women

Luxury beliefs versus vulnerable women

This week on the BBC, we saw a stand off by the two sides of the deepest and most harmful split I have ever seen in left politics, one that I am still waiting for many on the left to even acknowledge.

I believe that the resurgence of the establishment wing of the Labour Party re-establishes their inability to see what most people see – that we are once again faced with a Labour Party that can’t communicate with ordinary people. I also believe that the lines in the sand are not where they appear to be. All those lefty unpaid interns and academics who were brought into the limelight by Corbyn and MacDonnell a few years ago really do not count as ordinary. They were popular because they brought in ‘the new economics’ that we needed, to challenge the corporate stranglehold on our economy, but they were not ‘ordinary’ people so no, this dreadful split is not about left and right, but it IS about class.

The trendy left who had such a good time during the Corbyn movement era are every bit as off-key on this issue as the ‘centrists’ who are now in charge. It shows up painfully in the interview with Rosie Duffield and Ellie Mae O’Hagan, which many lefty commentators have automatically responded to by rushing to defend O’Hagan’s side of the debate.

Ellie Mae O’Hagan is a member of ‘CLASS’ but, as the average working class person does not get to expound their views on the telly, I think wherever she started from, she now belongs with the ‘trendy left’ rather than the working class. This would explain why she completely misses anything that could be understood by a class analysis of the point in question.

Rosie Duffield is also a maverick here. The perfect example of the misfit who by their very existence flags up hidden problems, Duffield rode to victory and became an MP (well-paid middle class professional by definition) on the wave of the Corbyn movement. When she says that before that, she was ‘just normal’ it is far more true than it is when most MPs say that. She can remember having an ordinary job that didn’t easily cover ordinary needs. I was among many who were underwhelmed by her in 2017 because she did not acknowledge the movement that carried her to victory, so one would expect to think of her as on the ‘establiishment’ side of the debate. It feels odd to be fighting her corner, but here’s the thing:

The divide

It all hinges on whether you’re willing to pretend you don’t know what the vast majority of people mean when they say ‘woman’, and if you follow the currently fashionable mantra that trans women are women (TWAW), or whether you are one of those who think sex matters, and real women – vulnerable, ordinary women, can suffer terribly if you sit in a well-protected, middle-class professional space, and pretend it doesn’t matter, that it’s all a case of applying good drawing room manners and being ‘nice’.

Duffield can see what her constituents experience, and therefore does not think that TWAW is sufficiently captivating as a progressive idea that she can forget what ordinary, unprivileged women go through when women’s spaces and services are inadequate.

Here’s the interview, with its groovy, trendy header quote and my comment and transcript below:

Let’s look at (my attempt to produce) a transcript, with some interpretations added, then I’ll say a bit more about why I think Duffield is the way she is.

The unasked and the unanswered

It’s not unusual to listen to TV interviews and hear yourself squeaking in frustration because the interviewees are not answering the questions asked but this is a particularly strange case because there is such a hammered-on script for the TWAW stance that I found I could hear the unasked questions O’Hagan was actually answering, so I am going to reproduce that conversation, and try to shine some light. At the end of this commentated transcript, I will say a bit about the situation we are in, and why mavericks like Duffield are appearing.

The interview

The video cuts in slightly oddly, but I think we can imagine how it starts. Interviewer: “… views that are expressed by Rosie that are held by many in society and yet they seem to be unacceptable to express, certainly in some forums – why?”

Ellie Mae O’Hagan: “Well the first thing to say is that the majority of women actually do support transgender rights and they do say that a trans woman is a woman and so actually it may be held by some in society but it’s not the majority view of women I think that’s the first thing to say.”

My response: The question O’Hagan actually answered was ‘do you think we should support people’s right to live and express themselves as they choose?’ O’Hagan is being extremely rude to Dufflield by assuming that Duffield’s opinion is that they should not. I suspect O’Hagan knows perfectly well that most of us, including Duffield, accept trans women as women socially, but she is stretching this to assume most of us accept them as women legally, which is what self-ID, and gender-identity theory, require, and what the ‘trans rights’ campaign is actually asking for. Duffield has not rejected trans women socially. I can’t believe that O’Hagan doesn’t know that, so why is she answering a different, unasked question? I suspect because neither published polls nor experience in the real world support the idea that a majority accept trans women as women legally. People like O’Hagan prefer to fudge the issue, and just make the social argument (which really is a ‘no brainer’ in most cases, and is covered by ‘be nice’).

The interviewer realises this, and tries to sort it out by asking: “But what about the definition of woman as by your biological sex rather than as by your preferred gender identity?”

O’Hagan answers: “You know I actually don’t know why some people are women and some people are men. No-one on this panel does and anyone who claims to know the answer to that question is a liar. All I care about is the principle of live and let live, and showing one another respect, and if a person says ‘yes I was born a man but I am a woman and this is how I live my life’, I want to respect that person as who they are because I don’t think they’re doing anything wrong and they are certainly not bothering me in any way so I think the ultimate important principle here that we should all share who want a free and accepting society is ‘live and let live’.”

My response: Although it was not asked, the question O’Hagan actually answered is ‘do you think it is dangerous to pretend we don’t know the physical difference between men and women?’ This is the key point because O’Hagan’s answer is that it is not dangerous to her. She is not a sportswoman, or a young girl in a badly managed, mixed school. She’s not likely to end up in prison, or a hostel, or insecure housing in a dodgy area, and her answer therefore is ‘I don’t care about women in those situations.’ That’s why I call her TWAW stance a luxury belief.

She has already negated her claim that she believes in ‘live and let live’ by dumping the fears of vulnerable women, in effect saying ‘live fashionably and let them take the hit’ and she has negated her claim to value ‘showing one another respect’ by telling Duffield to her face, and viewers by default, that they are liars.

Duffield then explains who the women are who are at risk: “if you are a woman who has been abused all of your life and ended up in prison you may not feel quite that liberal towards someone in a male body …. It’s usually working class women who haven’t necessarily had the best start in life or the best experience that are really worried about this, and are the ones that are having to deal with it, rather than politicians.”

O’Hagan retains her claim that “the majority of woman actually agree with me on this issue” She hasn’t answered the point at all, so I suppose we must take that as a re-iteration of ‘I don’t care about the women who are vulnerable.’ But the interviewer does stop her and press for a proper response, and Duffield manages to get in an important question – is she “talking about self-ID particularly?”

O’Hagan answers: “No, I’m talking about the broad, um, the broad principles of supporting people to change gender which they’re legally allowed to do.”

My response: so she does know she’s not really answering the issue Duffield has presented. She then busily talks over Duffield’s “so do I”, and pushes on before we get a chance to think about the difference between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’, which is the smokescreen she is using. She is now answering an imaginary question along the lines of ‘why is Duffield so old fashioned, when we are so progressive?’

Then she goes on to answer a second imaginary question … “So let me finish my point. Um, I think you know, we’ve seen other issues like um, abortion for example where, er people who oppose often use the most extreme er cases to argue against in principle against what are positions we could all agree with which is people should be respected for who they are, and actually when we’re saying that a small group of people should not be allowed to live as they are because other people might be upset about it well that is the very essence of discrimination and I don’t think that most of your viewers watching this would support that.”

My response: So O’Hagan has now re-imagined Duffield’s position completely and appeals directly to the viewers not to support people ‘being upset about’ an ‘extreme example’ – that is, ‘please forget about the very real and present danger to a vulnerable woman of being confined with a male sex offender’.

Can you imagine the horror of that situation? Because it is happening now, in our prisons. In the face of that, why should we do as she says? Because in her view, recognising a male as a male makes you a liar, even if he is a violent, in tact, male. In this situation, says O’Hagan, standing by your legal right to recognise sex as reality is ‘the essence of discrimination’.

She has now turned the law, and our lived experience, completely on their heads. If I was that interviewer, I would now ask O’Hagan if her trans friends would really thank her for persistently confusing them with self-IDed male sex offenders.

Duffield is asked if she agrees. She pulls the conversation back to the real point by saying: “I fundamentally disagree that we should impose male-bodied people on single sex spaces and if that’s called discrimination I think that ‘s really unfortunate. I think we need a conversation about…”

O’Hagan interrupts: “I’m really glad you said that because I think you’ve hit on exactly what the problem is there. So instead of saying, first of all there are transgender men which don’t seem to be part of this conversation, but what you’ve said there is ‘male bodied people’ and I want the viewers at home to really think about why it might be upsetting for a transgender woman who has suffered a lot – I have a few friends who are transgender women, who have had periods of their lives where they have not been able to leave the house because they are abused in the street and where the process of changing gender has been quite distressing and difficult and to go through all of that and to have somebody in public life who is a representative of the public and has a big public platform and a lot of responsibility to call them male bodied people, I think what is being communicated there is ‘I don’t accept and respect you for who you are, I am not interested in your journey’.”

My response: This is a baffling response by O’Hagan, but one I have seen many times. Duffield is talking about male-bodied people – that is, people whose only concession to ‘transition’ has been to say ‘I am a woman’. That is self-ID, and it is what is happening in prisons, and it is why Duffield and others are objecting. These self-ID males arrive in prison with all their bits, and a history of sexual violence, and cause dread, fear and danger. It seems to me very obvious that they are the people Duffield is talking about.

But O’Hagan’s answer doesn’t address this. In effect, she says: I have friends who have transitioned, who have taken every step available to them to leave the estate of men – they’ve had surgery, they’ve taken hormones, they have no history of sexual offending, and they will be very upset when I tell them you have called them male-bodied people.’

But Duffield did not say that. It is trendy lefties like O’Hagan here who are creating the fear and hatred her friends felt in the street, by pretending they have so many ‘anti-trans’ enemies. Thankfully, the interviewer interrupts at that point and says “Rosie, is that what you mean? And does Rosie have rights that she is also trying to protect here?”

Duffield replies: “51% of the population are physically female and have the right to at least debate or talk about whether people in a male body are allowed in single sex spaces without any debate or discussion.”

I say well done Duffield. If you cut through all the crap that went before, you have the key issue there in her final statement. Women currently have legal, sex-based rights that are being infringed by people who try to claim that sex does not exist, or is not evidencable. Women who have harder lives, who live in the real world, understand the dangers. Those women could answer O’Hagan’s point about why trans men are not mentioned in the context of prisons. They are not mentioned because trans men (who are female) are not queuing up to be admitted to male prisons, because they simply and obviously would not be safe there.

Why can’t MPs and celebrities see why so many women are rebelling over ‘TWAW’?

I wrote about Duffield once before, along with J K Rowling. Do you know what those two have in common? Something that comes before the somewhat overplayed rags-to-riches stories? If you don’t, here’s the story. They both started out in a sufficiently ordinary place that they can remember being truly vulnerable.

And here’s another clue. Afshan Arad is pretty much the only member of the cast of the Harry Potter movie who chose to stick up for J K Rowling, and the reason would appear to be that Arad understands all too well the fear and the danger women encounter, when there is no getting away from a violent male.

I once had an apparently useful conversation with John MacDonnell about this. He seemed genuinely concerned but men of the left, like the privileged, protected women who reach political circles, are not in the firing line on this, and can easily disregard the fear and the danger. I’m sorry to say that he’s lost it. On seeing this interview, he immediately took to twitter to join the charge of the blind, encouraging women to address this real, legal threat to their safety by ‘being nice’.

John MacDonnell praises O'Hagan's 'empathy', and careful and caring tone.

Women who are actually using their brains responded thusly…

women's groups disagree with John Mac's tweet

That era when we thought ‘the many’ would take over party politics has passed. Very few MPs, left right or centre, are going to get this. They all live in protected space. The left has deserted working class and other vulnerable women. It’s up to the rest of us – ordinary women with no special privileges, those of us who have experienced, or have been near enough to imagine, the fear and the dread of ending up in a prison or hostel, facing a violent male. We must drop party factional politics and fight this on behalf of those women who are facing that fear and dread right now.

Categories
Book reviews book shops Earlyworks Press flash fiction Short stories

The Ball of the Future

Not yet born, not yet touched by man, it glows like a mercurial object. But I want to touch it. I want to caress the curvature of its sides and delve into its golden light. I think the inside must be huge and endless, like a stream without end, like an infinite well of possibility. This tiny ball represents the future, yet I am the past. As I move towards it my own light begins to fade, and as I enter it there is nothing left. I cease to exist…

That was The Ball of the Future by Paul Dawson – yes, that was all of it – the shortest of the stories in this collection, but by no means the easiest to forget. That’s why we borrowed Paul’s title for the collection.

The Ball of the Future book cover
Artwork by Mark Sheeky

The James Webb telescope launch has less than a month to go now – see countdown – but being a futuristic set of stories, we launched Telescoping Time (the collection that features the telescope on its cover) in 2012. It’s still worth a read in 2021!

As is The Road Unravelled, Earlyworks Press’s biggest collection of sci-fi stories. In this book you can find out what immortality is really like, what happens when a city really does have a brain, and explore changing views of life, death and genetics, intelligence natural, artificial and divine – even re-learn the laws of evolution that we thought we knew.

Three book covers: The Ball of the Future, The Road Unravelled and Telescoping Time

The Ball of the Future is £8.99, Telescoping Time £7.49 and The Road Unravelled £9.75

All can be ordered from your local bookshop, or contact me to buy all three for £20 – delivered free to your door if you’re in or near Hastings, UK

Categories
Book reviews book shops

I know the date the world will end

Every generation, someone says that – and there are other favourite dramatic ideas that come round again and again. And when they do, people rally to them so eagerly. What is belief, that it can light such fires? Some get involved because they’re just longing to believe something. Some get involved because it’s such fun trying to shoot down a stupid idea (go on, admit it – are you one of the ones who clicked through to this blog to tell me I’m deluded, and that I do NOT know when the world will end?)

Most of us (I think) laugh at those ideas about illuminati and lizards and things but most of us have also, at one time or another fallen for ‘the myth of the day’. Perhaps it was the one about how leaving the EU would automatically make us rich and powerful, or the one about Jeremy Corbyn being anti-semitic, or the one about COVID being a government plot (or a Bill Gates plot). Or perhaps you reckon those are true, and some of the things I believe are red herrings. Please don’t worry about that – I know either of us could be right or wrong on some of them.

Are you sure the world is round?

Cover - the end of the world is flat by simon edge

Surely no-one would doubt that….. Surely? ……. What many of us are currently worried about is how quickly and efficiently those mad ideas spread, now we have social media, and that is why I’m recommending a Simon Edge novel today. He planned the book with one particular wild-idea effect in mind but he chose his own myth – that of the world being flat, and imagined how someone well placed to do so might spread the idea.

I asked Simon how he found out how it was done. He really appeared to have a startling amount of inside information. Turns out, he didn’t. He told me he’d looked at a series of the plague-like myths that had flown round the world, looked at the people who appeared to be behind them, and asked himself how he would go about such a project. Read this book! I think he’s right!

I asked which particular plague-like myths he had looked at. He replied…

Part of the power of social media is that it allows us to sort ourselves into self-selected bubbles where certain narratives dominate and, in some cases, go completely unchallenged.

During Brexit, the Leave campaign worked out they could use Facebook to target a particular anti-foreigner line to anyone they thought would be receptive. Remainers never even saw the ads – which meant the other side could get away with whatever false claims they wanted.

Twitter doesn’t permit that kind of covert operation, because all posts are available for everyone to see (unless you’re blocked). Nevertheless, it does organise people into echo chambers which can be immensely deceptive. If you support a certain party at an election and you spend a lot of time on Twitter, you can get a nasty shock when not everyone in the real world votes the same way as your bubble.

In those bubbles, misinformation and disinformation can spread like wildfire. The anti-vax movement has come out of nowhere, gaining extraordinary traction. My hunch is that it stems in large part from fear of needles: the entire conspiracy is a way of refusing the jab without admitting to the phobia.

Meanwhile two-thirds of Republicans still believe the November 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump, despite zero evidence. That’s frightening: if they sincerely believe the election was rigged, which they genuinely do, it’s no wonder they’re angry and mutinous.

So those are three pretty major con tricks, but the one that drives me up the wall is the distortion of my own history. No, a transwoman didn’t throw the first brick at the Stonewall riots, because the person in question a) was a gay man and b) wasn’t even there until much later. This narrative has been deliberately created for political reasons, to make ‘LGBT’ seem like some natural grouping, rather than an invention of the past six years. Thanks in large part to social media, it has stuck fast.

– Simon Edge, author of The End of the World is Flat

You’re probably with Simon on some of those issues and not others – but either way, we all need to understand how the plague-ideas spread, and what the consequences can be.

The consequences of believing your own soc media bubble

My own favourite example of the blinding effect of social media is the recent battle for the top job at Unite. Looking on Facebook and Twitter, I was sure, like most of the people I knew (on Facebook and Twitter) that it was a battle between Howard Beckett and Steve Turner, and we were all worried about whether the vote would split between those two, and allow a third candidate, Gerard Coyne, to get the job. Well, we all know what happened. There were FOUR candidates. But one of those candidates wasn’t spending so much time battling for our social media likes. She was touring the country, talking to Unite members about their workplaces. Guess who blind-sided all of us, and won the top job!

Sharon Graham, GS of Unite

If you are one of those who *did* notice Sharon Graham, you will understand why those of us who *did* think sex matters had a good old laugh the day the social media hacks finally noticed us. On the left, one poor soul who thought the mysterious appearance of a journalist who wanted to talk about women – lesbians in particular – must have been nobbled by some kind of BBC Stazi. On the right, a bunch of his friends who thought we must have come out of nowhere. In their twitter-bubbles, they had actually convinced themselves that only ‘transphobes’ and conspiracy theorists knew, or cared, about why sex matters.

But battles over delusions started long before social media. Why else have we all heard of the Spanish Inquisition?

Let’s face it, we’ve learned to expect them

If you haven’t been involved in any of the battles of our generation, I think it’s really important to better understand how the rich and the powerful manipulate the public conversation, so please consider reading Edge’s novel, and join the conversation about how they happen, and how societies can find their way back to demanding evidenced truths.

If you have been involved in any of those battles, I think it’s really important that you get some relaxation, therapy and reassurance that you’re not mad. Edge’s novel will do that for you. Read it!

Cover - the end of the world is flat by simon edge

It’s also a seriously good laugh – especially Edge’s examples of what passes for conversation on Twitter. I really did hurt my ribs, reading those.

Buy The End of the World is Flat from Foyles

Categories
activism Corbyn Labour media NHS Politics Uncategorized

Who is best placed to get the Tories out?

We know, we know – Jeremy Corbyn is still the most popular option among Labour voters.

Graph showing popularity of various politicians. Corbyn is still preferred by Labour voters.

I do think we should all support those good people who are trying to reinstate their MP in the Labour Party, even if we have rejected and reviled the Party in its current form. His reinstatement as a Labour MP is a point that needs making.

Twitterstorm 18th Nov 7pm #ReinstateJeremyCorbyn
Islington Friends of Jeremy Corbyn

Please join in the Twitterstorm – and all the rest of the noise. Because people-power works. Understanding that is how you get your power back – the power we lost when we thought losing Corbyn, losing the election, losing the Labour Party, was the end of everything.

Where socialism went wrong – both in 1945 and in 2017 – was putting all its faith in one man, expecting salvation to come top-down, or from the centre. Who knows whether, given the chance, Corbyn would want to go through all that all over again – but what he did remains valid. He called together the biggest gathering of socialists in Europe. He called together a force that was – and is – big enough to push politics where we want it to go. The very least we can do in return is to make sure he gets his proper job back. But that’s not THE issue. The real pay-back to Corbyn, and for all of us – is to stay powerful, stay confident, and stay active.

Sleaze? Call it shameless theft

Never mind what the media says, we, the people, are unforgiving of MPs who use their position to get rich, and don’t address the problems we have. That’s why the ‘sleaze story’ won’t go away. Those few MPs who are on our side continue to help plug OUR concerns…

Don’t let their efforts be in vain. Join in the noise. Our determination to address the ‘second jobs’ problem has forced a reluctant Boris Johnson to try to look as though he’s taking action, and in his limited and compromised way, Starmer is trying too – but he can’t do much, he has his own skeletons to cover up.

But we can do something. All of us, and any one of us. That popular outrage – over the severe limitations of COP26, over the degradation of our NHS, over the increasing expense to us of rip-off Britain and now, over the discoveries about just how much MPs are earning by NOT treating their parliamentary roles as full time jobs has forced the leaders to do something. We need to keep that rolling, and force them to do more than a bit of PR.

This anger, this very visible anger, demonstrates the continuing force of ‘the many’ who Corbyn called together, and the door is still open for a new way for the many to do politics. Don’t give up, don’t give in – keep it going by keeping in touch with all those who are ready to stand beside you and do politics. You could join a union, you could get more active in your union, or you could just contact all those people you were working with when the Labour Party was really active. You could get together and visit your MP, or write to them, or do a public demo on any of the issues that really matter to us all. Whatever you do though, never forget, your small, local action is enormous and powerful because it’s a part of what we, the people, are doing …

Corbyn: it's not me they fear, it's you

Who is best placed to get the Tories out? WE ARE. Who is best placed to force the next government, whoever they are, to address our problems? WE ARE.

Categories
Book reviews book shops Earlyworks Press Hastings Poetry Uncategorized

20th Century Art in Hastings

This article, adapted from a piece in a former Hastings anthology, Visions of Hastings, explains how the Hastings Modern Art Beach Book came to be…

text © 2010 K Green, pictures © 2010 K Reekie

They threatened to build an art gallery on The Stade in Hastings and, despite a furious tide of resistance, they did. It was to house the famous Jerwood Collection, the existence of which most people in Hastings were blissfully unaware. Well, the Jerwood Collection came and went, and Hastings is still as full of art … and as contrary … as ever. One of the many things that came out of our brush with Jerwood though was a project I set about with poet and art critic Joe Fearn and artist Katherine Reekie.

Katherine, Joe and Kay present the book,
poems and paintings in a local bookshop

First, find out what ‘modern art’ is…

I was the guinea pig. Like a lot of people in Hastings, I knew very little about modern art and was very suspicious of the whole ‘scene’. I first got involved when I went to see Katherine’s collection at Hastings Arts Forum. I got talking to Joe, already an experienced arts commentator, about how difficult it is for ‘outsiders’ to see what’s going on in the art world. Next thing I knew, I was wandering around art galleries in Edinburgh and London, trying to educate myself on the subject, and reporting back experiences which ranged from baffling through infuriating to utterly amazing.

Featuring Reekie’s
Art on the Beach collection

The three of us presented our conclusions, along with a range of opinions on Hastings and art by local commentators such as creative community moderator Erica Smith, social policy researcher Peter Saunders, and art promoter Lesley Samms. There is also a range of Hastings and/or beach-themed work and commentary by writers and artists such as beach artist Laetitia Yhap, illustrators Ian Ellery and Cathy Simpson and poet Sandra Burdett. Hastings is a wonderful and terrible place. It’s bung full of music, poetry, art and street-drama, and it’s been at war with itself since long before 1066. There’s no helping this. Just like good friends who are constantly fighting, if you try to help, they turn on you. Perhaps they’re enjoying the battle too much to give it up.

Perhaps it’s because of The Stade. There is one set of laws to cover the ownership and access to land, and a different set to cover the same issues in the case of beaches. Where onshore drift causes a build-up of shingle which becomes sufficiently embedded to deserve the name ‘land’, what you have is what lawyers would probably call an on-going earning opportunity and what everyone else would call outright war.

By the time we’d finished working on the book, the art gallery was pretty much built, and the remaining argument was mostly about the ownership of a scrap of land on which the electricity generator for the gallery stood. I had spent a lot of time learning about art galleries, Joe had spent a lot of time looking at boats and talking to people who work on the beach, and Katherine had painted a lot more pictures. All the time, all of us continued to be amazed, outraged, delighted and baffled by the relationship between Hastings, Modern Art, the beach, art galleries and the words and the pictures of all involved, many of which we collected as part of the journey, and became part of this oh, so very Hastings book.

Buy The Hastings Modern Art Beach Book from Foyles

Buy Visions of Hastings from Foyles

The Hastings Modern Art Beach Book is £12.99, including postage, to the UK but if you’re in or near Hastings, contact me and you can have one delivered to your door for a tenner.

Or (again, if you are local) and you’d like both the Hastings Modern Art Beach Book and Visions of Hastings, delivered to your door, for £15, just give me a shout.

Categories
activism Labour media Politics

The slings and arrows of outrageous social media

When you set up a forum or a social media group, the software sets out a series of steps for you which assume an authoritarian hierarchy. It assumes you are ‘the administrator’ – although you have the option of setting up further administrators. Then it asks you to specify the moderators (sort of electronic grand viziers) and you write the rules. You then get to decide who can post stuff, who can see stuff, and a host of other things like whether admins or moderators get to see, and pass or decline posts, before or after they appear on the page.

You also, of course, have the inalienable right to ‘switch off’ anyone who, after you have made your personal interpretation of your rules, has committed a cardinal sin. It is fascinating to watch these groups emerge and evolve. If you watch with this perspective in mind, you see dictators rise and fall, you see oligarchies, democracies, autonomous collectives and every other permutation of human organisation developing and falling.

But the software was designed with dictatorship in mind, and where humans manage to create something else, they do so ‘against the tide’, as it were. They manage it surprisingly often. Three social media situations in my personal online world this week caused me to do some serious thinking.

Who would fardels bear?

  1. The temptation to rule

I’m currently a despot in one social media group, which I set up with another person who then disappeared. I’ve posted an appeal for two more volunteers which so far, members are managing not to notice. I can just feel those power-muscles twitching – come on, comrades! Quick, volunteer before I become immovable!

2. People power bites back

Elsewhere, a large, locally focused political group (around 1000 members) was set up with two administrators (always dodgy that – if you’re going for dictatorship, have one or three, then you can’t come to an impasse, with one saying ‘yes’ and one saying ‘no’). This group had a rule with massive room for interpretation:  local issues only, admins to decide what counts as ‘local’. How big is local? How far do national stories impact on local elections, and thereby become local issues?

No surprise that it became a point of contention. (If you’re going for any kind of system of management, have rules that are not wide open to interpretation). Personally, I would have resolved it by saying okay, if you think a national and/or party-political issue is relevant to local elections, please post with a comment saying why, and what the local discussion point is. Another option would be to do the hands-on moderator thing and just delete any posts that you don’t consider local.

Yet another option would be to tell people off for doing it, and if they do it again, boot them out. That happened once too often in this particular group, and the organic nature of human social groups came into play. Quite a few members felt the people who’d been booted out mattered. Some (myself included) made “I’m leaving this group” statements and left. Others argued the decision on the page. Someone set up a poll, and lots of others joined in both the poll and the discussion in the comments after it.

To me, it was all very interesting, and I’d expect the group to be the better for it. To the administrator and the grand viz… sorry, admin two (or was it moderator?) It was a ‘horrendous situation’. People got very upset and switched their accounts off entirely, and an attempt has been made to go back to the original rule, and a warning about breaking it. No progress there, then. I suspect another rebellion will happen, somewhere down the line.

Proud contumelies

3. Partisan administration

Meanwhile, in a national Labour discussion group with around three and a half thousand members, someone posted an article from a lefty Jewish website, and one of the three admins rejected it. The Jewish poster messaged an appeal to an admin, and was angrily told that his post was ‘contentious’.  Well, you do hear things about Labour and anti-semitism, and I personally have the impression that the current leadership of Labour are very agin socialist Jews so I tried posting another Jewish socialist article to test the situation. It was deleted with no message to me, but a telling off to the original poster for ‘telling’.

I considered starting a revolution in that group, then I thought about what strange little worlds these are, and about how upset the (now self-deleted) admin of that local group was and I thought nah, I won’t fight this one, because…

Strutting your hour on the stage

What we really need to remember, whilst observing and or participating in all this stuff, is that admins are not really in charge; that over and above all these lessons in human organisation, there is this thing called the CEO – because after all, very few popular social media sites are open source. Most of them are profiteering companies, standing ready to switch off any group that they feel is seriously interfering with where they want their profit-spinning content to be going.

If the boss hasn’t switched your group off, your group is not doing anything they consider seriously threatening. If the boss has switched your group off (I know of one very big, very politically relevant Instagram account that disappeared this week) if that happens to your group, you should probably congratulate yourself for giving the system a serious scare, find another platform and KEEP DOING WHAT YOU’RE DOING.

If that hasn’t happened to your group, stay cool and just regard it all as lessons in human society. Try not to get upset about the fate of little worlds, and plug on…. or not, if you have a better idea. Two of the players in those dramas I describe above (sorry about me waxing Shakespearian with the titles, it just got me that way) – two of those players got so upset they switched their accounts off. Maybe they even deleted them. But don’t worry, girls and boys – even if they did that, they are probably still alive out there in the world. You could even go and have a coffee with them, as long as you know how to contact them – surely you haven’t been depending on soc media messaging to contact people?

Friends

There are social media contacts, and there are friends. If your social and political life is largely online, make sure you have phone numbers or email addies for the people who matter to you. As to real friends, for heaven’s sake, know who you can trust, and have real world contact details for them (addresses for the people you *really* trust and *actually* know, and fave pub/cafe meet-up places/days for the rest).