Friday, 30 May 2014


This book will change your life,  is  a fiction much over-used by the ghastlies of the publishing world but now and again one does change your life.  I abandoned fiction, more or less, years ago; mr verge, among others, recommends things now and again and I read them and enjoy them but he is un homme des lettres transgressif and I am not, I am a furniture polisher yet I can make up my own stories and I rebel at the proposition that somebody with nothing to polish, nothing  better to do, can, through his own edited and finessed, stylised  imaginings, lead me to an invaluable  truth or an insight, as though I was a dog at Crufts, led this way and that, prodded, tricked and finally given a treat, a treat which disappears in a moment.  I hate them, in the main, novelists and would cheerfully set them to rebuilding Yorkshire's dry stone walls, let them do one good deed before they die.

Feeling that my rejection of StoryTime was a little eccentric, though - mrs ishmael is e-voracious as well as a proper, bookshop-library bibliophile - the last time I was in hospital I tried, out of deference to the occasional mr the dyers garden, to read Homer, I tried and I tried - straight, drugged, pre-op, post-op;  did me fucking head in, the Illiad just seemed to be endless lists of shit, names of warriors, warriors' families,  warriors' dominions, names of gods, lists of feast menus.  I knew the stories from school of course but it all seemed like shopping lists of rubbish, interspersed with bestial incest and bloody combat, and so now it's back on one of the posh shelves, the Illiad, unopened for another decade, probably for ever, generating and embracing classical dust, along with the many-volumed history of English literature,  I have shitloads of that stuff, dictionarioes of everything.  I suppose it did change my life in a way, the Illiad, my envy of the classical scholar remains but I no longer wish to do anything about it. Plato can stay where he is.

Robert Persig's Zen and the Art of MotorCycle Maintainance,  an Enquiry into Values, however, did change my life, changed the way I think about things, anyway, is that the same thing?  I don't think it seasons these commentaries, I am at home here, native and to the manor born and actually, a passing  truth to tell, a Dane, myself, genetically;  a Dane, a Frog, a Rosbif, a Scot, like many people now exercising themselves over their particular, precious, historically incidental nation state,  like Mr Salmond and Mr Farage, each revving-up their slightly dodgy back-to-the-futuremobiles.  Elsewhere, though, even though I don't get out that much, I find myself less sanguine,  less confident in my language, endlessly self-correcting. I comment now and again on mrs woar's blog and contrasted with her understated lucidity and authority my comments rebuke me even as I write them and I amend and qualify and expand them as I go along;  this is Persig, the biker-philosopher, chiding me about hypotheses and evidence and  Quality.

In his book, an autobiographical post mortem, neither fact nor fiction yet both,  Persig scattered many of Reason's  jewels; I am sure I could recall and display them from here to Eternity but the one which has come to mind relates to a period, before he suffered state-ordered personality annihilation, when he taught English at Montana State College.  Write me an essay about the USA,  five hundred words, he instructed his students and one girl, after failing to hand anything in, said she was flummoxed;  OK, make it about this town, Bozeman; nothing doing; OK, make it about the college; again she could produce nothing;  OK, make it about a room, a lecture hall;  same again;  eventually  he said, forget about the United States, forget about the college, write me an essay about a brick, one brick.  Thus directed, she couldn't stop writing, she handed in a five- thousand word brick essay, her writer's block was overcome; once she looked at things a brick at a time she saw that every supposed fact had an infinity of hypotheses which she could explore and narrate;  just in a split second, just by the way she looked at something, she had invoked a bombardment of information;  it doesn't matter if it's a brick in the wall or a grain of sand,  they are vast; the more you look, the more you see. I have since found that looking at things moreso can be wearying but once you start there's no direction home, life gets microscopic. I think these days we call that sort of meta-analysis Deconstruction; one of the ghastlies, Kirsty Wark, Mariella Frostrup, Mark Kermode, PotatoFace Lawson, one of them will have a word for it, this super-specifity. See?  See what I mean? Super specifity?  Once somebody has had the thought and done the work, a critic will come along and devise a label, telling us what whatever it is is  really all about, for  aren't they, after all, the ghastlies, aren't they great writers, themselves?

At the very first televised word of Ed Miliband's speech at Thurrock, yesterday,  I,   just like Persig's student, experienced  a  massive, multi-coloured  firework display in my  mind.   In a BigBang instant the history and background  of the unequal battles between the rich and the poor, of the struggles which distilled, briefly, into the  labour movement reprised themselves.  It was an all-at-once, 360 degree view of it all, of  the the short and simple annals of the poor,  the clearances, the enclosures, the lock-outs,  the hungry, famished and frozen;  the malnourished illness, the marches, the mining disasters,  the slums,  the unions, the banners, the galas, the working men's clubs, the credit unions, the Provident Society, the Co-Op;  the endless, uneven struggle between capital and labour,  between the haves and the have-nots, the rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate;  evictions, whippings, floggings, hangings, the stocks and transportation;  health and safety, the shops and factories acts, holiday pay, sick leave, affordable council housing - all now under attack  from head-up-their-arse-rednecks, their prejudices puppeteered by belligerent billionaire larcenous press pornobarons, filth like Murdoch -  the right to vote, the old-age pension, the national health service, the minimum wage, all these things, now - despite our being one of the wealthiest nations in history- unaffordable, privatiseable, cuttable, all dowithoutable  and, as remedy to this theft, this vandalism, this trickle-up, class warfare, as remedy, this man proposes himself.

hurdy gurdy, hurdy gurdy, 
hurdy gurdy gurdy, he sang.

In an instant,  yesterday, maybe blinded by the light,  maybe by an  enhanced  recognition triggered by chronic pain, this welter of  affection and respect  for  centuries of struggle collided with the startling realisation, the full bucket-of-shit-in-the-face realisation, that this man presents himself as the Keeper of Decency's flame. And in an instant I left the room, fled the image and the voice. It was one of those, we all have them, one of those OH, FOR FUCKS SAKE, NO moments.

I was genuinely upset, it wasn't my inbred cynicism about these people, it was the opposite, I was hurt, naively; I was hurt for countless generations of struggle;  I was hurt by the fact that while Goodness hides behind its gates, people like this force their way front and centre.  I could've cried. 

 It's not that I was ever a member of the Labour party, or any party, or any union, it's just that my instincts draw me always to what used to be called the Left.  I am a bit old to have an Animal Farm moment and have, anyway, known for  as long as I have known anything, that politicians and political parties  are vermin, all of them; now and again, though, as in my Thurrock moment, yesterday, something reinforces anew the shocking truth.

I was so shocked by my sudden forbidding realisation that I just dashed into another room without turning off the telly and I could hear that he still droned on,  that  whining, adolescent, adenoidal voice, a voice which invites its own strangulation; doesn't matter what he's  saying, he could be reciting the Sermon in the Mount, his are the cadences of discomfort, he is a pain in the neck.  The correct would say it is unfair, he obviously  can't help the way he speaks, but  he can, we all can. Even Whisky Maggie Thatcher, strident and shrill as a shrew on speed, managed to take some simple voice coaching, never harmonised her own discordant demons, nothing would, this side of the grave but at least she recognised the ugliness of her timbre;  but even if Miliband cultivated the oratorical fluency of Laurence Olivier  what he said would still be intolerable.

I heard the odd phrase and quickly got the message. Mr Miliband had come among the ordinary people, whose ills he could diagnose and cure. His repeated use of this fucking miserly phrase, ordinary people,  indicated that while he might be with them, he was certainly not of them.  To be fair to him he never actually said that he, too, was ordinary for how could he, ordinary people cannot divine their own situation,  that's why they're ordinary, but he could, he could tell ordinary people how they were wrong about things, like, in voting for Mr UKIP, he understood why they did that, it was understandable, because they just didn't understand things very well. Because of being ordinary.  But not to worry, he was there to explain their ordinariness to them, explain its shortcomings. He was ordinary but in an extraordinary way. And as everybody knows, extra just means more, so, in fact, he was more ordinary than ordinary people.  His years at Oxbridge and in the States and in MediaMinster made him more ordinary than ordinary people who have to go to work, doing things. But his downbeat, teacherly, preacherly syntax, his calm and patient identification of ordinary people's lack of understanding, failures of judgement, need for gentle patient correction didn't quite camouflage the bivouac of concet from which he sallied forth, at times like these.

Listen, he might have said, I am ordinary and my friends are ordinary.  Take me and my brother, it was entirely ordinary how a pair of worthless tossers like us became foreign seckatry and energy seckatry;  it was dead ordinary, it was just that our leader, Mr Gordon Snot, was less scared of us than he was of other ordinary people in the govament.  And while I'm here, let me just make clear that when we all spoke collegiately about the end of boom and bust you must all have misunderstood us, what we really meant was end of boom and permanent bust.  What was the real policy was that we would just borrow money into existence.  You don't have to actually have anything, you just borrow it into existence and then give it to the bankers who will lend it to you,  the ordinary people;  the money doesn't exist but your debt to them does.  And then, just to oil the wheels of commerce, our friends in the banks can lend this borrowed into existence money to people who cannot repay it, award themselves bonuses on the strength of what we call subprime loans and on top of that we can give them knighthoods, in exchange for our own directorships in the banks, after we retire from serving you, the ordinary people.  Ordinary people like you might wonder what happens when the loans aren't repaid.  That's simple,  they are sold on again to some other bankers who obviously give themselves bonuses, too and then, eventually, although that is someway down the line, eventually,  when  not even a filthy money-laundering gangster will touch these loans Mr Snot pays them all off with your money.  What could be more ordinary than that?  And that's why we are the party of ordinary people.

I even have ordinary people in my shadow cabinet.  An ordinary hard-working family like Mr and Mrs Balls, for instance, followed a quite ordinary career trajectory, from Oxford to MediaMinster and then into a safe ordinary Labour seat and then into Mr Snot's ordinary circle of blackmailing ministers. Like any ordinary couple they claim for, and flip, a second home,  they claim for food - everybody has to eat, don't they -  they claim for anything they can, even though their joint salary is huge  Like I say, we know how hard it can be, being ordinary ourselves, but not exactly.

Miliband's blatantly offensive hypocrisies, piled up, would reach the sky, in this he is no different from many, from most in his grimy trade.  But even in the short period since Mr Snot was thrown out that trade has become  more image-conscious, more yoof-ful;  Cameron and Clegg, empty, shallow clowns, thieves and arseholes, recognise this change and represent it, empty heads, shiny faces in shiny suits.  Miliband's nauseating Day Of The Ordinary Man may have been his attempt at rebranding for the New People. Even in that feeble endeavour, he failed.

 As for me, Miliband did change my life, no struggle worth the name could ever be associated with him and  nothing for me  will ever be the same again, in electing him its leader, the Labour party deleted itself, and this action cannot be undone.

 It was just a moment, loaded with horror, like waking up in a coffin; it was, I hope, this unsuspecting encounter with Ed Miliband, the closest I shall come to premature burial.


Anonymous said...

"...a voice which invites its own strangulation..."


Oldrightie said...

The blinding flash of realisation that Labour is the standard bearer for hypocrisy.

At least Maggie gave many ordinary people a chance of having tangible assets in the form of freedom from landlords and Council run rent scams. The same councils who were supposed to reinvest sales income in new houses, not their own allowances and underhand activities.

call me ishmael said...

Not as many chances, mr or, as she gave her chums in the City or Murdoch or Pinochet or son Marky or Tebbit of Telecom and so on, but I know what you mean. Didn't do too bad, herself, out of her own, what did they call it, Foundation, was it, the Thatcher Foundation.

I have my own theory that she, BigBangMaggie, was the founder member of the Politics of Greed, both as an electoral mantra but particularly as a code of conduct among politicians, steal it if you can, flog it off if you can't, Cameron - and Osborne - may see himself as the Heir to Blair but Blair saw himself as the Heir to Thatcher.

They are all hypocrites, the difference between her and Milosoband is that she made no bones about it and was thus marginally more agreeable.

I haven't had a kick in the nuts in my adult life but I can remember the waves of pain and sickness and shock and while I have known since I saw Miliband what he was, it was just that the Thurrock speech drove it home as forcefully as that.

Never mind Clegg, Milosoband is Cameron's most valuable lieutenant.

mongoose said...

It isn't so much, Mr Ishmael, that Milibastard is actually - as the children now say - any worse than the others but that he is just every bit as bad. It is the resonance of all their bleatings that has finally been detected by the unwashed us. Some have gone to UKIP heaven, some have stayed at home weeping buckets of tears, and a valiant few have stormed what barricades they could find - although they looked daft to the rest of us at the time.

Tactics is now everything. Manage the news, stay on message, bribery by policy, fix it with a cheap cap on gypos or pikeys. There was an article in the paper yesterday by Hannan - probably the least bad Tory of them all at the moment - and even he doesn't get it. He fails to see that an accommodation by UKIP with the Tories would just be more of the same, baring their backside for a jam butty in No10 for Nigel and a promise of a rigged vote on the EU. Sure, it would keep Milliband out. But why? To what real good that we could trust to turn up?

I think that the People's Century will be over come the Newark vote and that we are witnessing the third generation takeover of the new bourgoisie. Their grandads would curse the lot of them. Was it all for this?

call me ishmael said...

It was about Whiggery wasn't it, a showy piece of LookAtMe political history, I don't think his commenters thought too much of him. The thing with Hannan,mr mongoose, is that he takes his position as an MEP as no more than a platform on which to do his real job, which he sees as "thinking," being a thinker; although his real job, of course, as with Bo-Jo, is being a well-paid hack for the Barclay TwinHeaded monster. I think the Filth-O-Graph describes him as such doesn't it, a thinker; whatever next, a professional breather? It's part of the segregation, I suppose, part of how they "Manage the news, stay on message," every last rotten one of them, thinkers, writers, broadcasters and politicians would prefer Farage or Miliband or Clegg in Number Ten than you or I or anyone like us. I would drown them all in an think tank.

I was thinking about you the other day, watching a CBS interview with Joni Mitchell, she was as mad as a fucking hatter but refreshingly sane, if only w emight all age so.

mongoose said...

I think he bills himself as a Journalist but whatever. As I say, the least bad. It could be worse; Ed Balls - Man of the People - is at Bilderbeurg this weekend. But only just. He did look mighty cross. "Don't you know who I am, copper?" And, yes, I just looked up that Joni thing. Crazy St Joan in a mad green cardy. "And this is a picture of my property in Saskatchewan." Peas in a pod now.

yardarm said...

A peculiar wretch, manifestly out of his depth in the Sahara, transfixed by terror that he might just at least form a minority government lasting a few months.

He`s like a fucking alien tasked with pretending to be human. No ideas, no charisma, an inability to fire and hit a barn door target such as the junta. Why should this overpromoted spod, backroom boy, clerk, even consider being an MP ?

Yet he stiffed his brother, the eunuch, who, blarting wife in tow, crept off to enjoy the rewards of his obedience, his kneepadding Quisling acquiescence, clerking for some old bollocks in the States.

Worthless cretinous think tank cunt, tipped out of his specimen jar and wriggling.

tdg said...

Reading is for when one cannot write, and you are yet to fail.

Woman on a Raft said...

Thank you for the name check and extravagant praise.

Funny you should mention the Enclosures; I draw to your attention The Land magazine

which I found at the back of one of those disreputable shops I enjoy so much - all hair tonic and spell books. This one had a political section which aligned the lady shopkeeper with the Freemen of the Land, a chippy lot whose legal theories are despised by serious lawyers. So I warmed to her immediately and bought the magazine and some incense.

The article about the Land Workers' Alliance (Chris Smaje) insists there is a fundamental relationship with the land. If this is true, then this relationship may be re-asserting itself through the strong British preference for home ownership.

The Enclosures forced subsistence farmers away from local land use and in to industry. However, it coincided with the creation of the British identity. People accepted this identity cobbled together out of data from local nations. So long as the British identity stood firm, they would locate themselves in 'the narrative' rather than the land.

That identity may be breaking up now. It follows that they will begin to strive to re-connect with the land, and it won't be pretty. Land, unlike funny money, cannot be borrowed in to existence.

Alphons said...

Woman on a Raft said...

"The article about the Land Workers' Alliance (Chris Smaje) insists there is a fundamental relationship with the land. If this is true, then this relationship may be re-asserting itself through the strong British preference for home ownership."

I think "there is a fundamental relationship with the land" may well be true. Mankind could not exist without "raw materials" and all our raw materials come from the land in one way or another. Those people who ignore this are doing the world, and its population, a great disservice.