Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Outsiders

(I grew up in a village very much like the one that I'm about to describe, but it's unlikely that any real village would develop in exactly the way that this one developed.  Which is another way of saying - don't take it too literally, because it's just for fun).

The village was originally a mining town but the seam ran dry in 1928, so the locals had to find a new way of life.  They settled on agriculture and for fifty years, life went on much as it had done, but overground rather than underground.

The farm jobs were poorly paid but the people of the village were a community, and everyone knew everyone, and everyone was happy, or at least they pretended to be in public.

By the mid-eighties though, the villagers were feeling the strain.  Farming didn't pay well and the kids were all moving away to the City, chasing bright lights and excitement.  The village was dying, just a lot of old, angry, crinkly people in a sleepy corner of the country, getting crinklier and angrier.

The people petitioned the Council.  How come our neighbours in the City are so well-off, they asked, and we have bugger-all and are left hoiking tatties for fifty-seven pence an hour?  We can't get jobs in the City, because it takes forever to get there, and our kids can't wait to get away.  The village is dying on its arse. 

So the Council thought it over and luckily, a huge government grant came their way.  And so the Council spent that grant on a massive dual-carriageway road that connected the village to the City.

Now, the villagers could get into the City three times quicker, for half the cost, with full access to all those jobs and opportunities that had been denied to them for so long.

Perfect, the Council thought.  Now everyone will be happy and we won't have so many complaints. 

But sadly for the Council, it didn't work out like that.  Sure, the villagers could now access the City, and they could get jobs and bring money into the village, and they were a lot wealthier than they'd ever been before.  They could go out and see a movie or have some dinner with the extra money that they earned, if they wanted to, and they could buy whatever crap makes people happy. 

But the villagers still weren't happy.

They weren't happy because now the massive dual-carriageway road had brought their village into the commuter belt for the City, and suddenly it was filling up with Outsiders who wanted to raise their kids outside of the City, in a nice little village full of nice, happy people.  Which meant that every house that became vacant was soon occupied by an Outsider and, since houses in the village were now worth lots of money, houses became vacant very often.

Very often.

And while the Outsiders brought in money - lots of money - most of it was spent in the new shops and the new supermarket, which quickly replaced the old shops.  And while there were a lot of jobs going in the new supermarket, most of them paid pretty badly.

So the villagers petitioned the Council and said, We didn't want this.  And, We're not happy.  There are lots of Outsiders taking over our way of life.

And they weren't being overdramatic - it was true.  The Outsiders had lots of ideas about the school sports day and the village gala day, and how the village pub could be tarted up a little, and they weren't shy at all about making their opinions known.  And, being Outsiders, they did it in a really annoying, Outsidery way, as Outsiders do.

Soon, companies started building new housing estates on the edge of the village, but the local kids who actually wanted to buy houses near their parents - not that there were many - were utterly outpriced by Outsiders, and had to move miles and miles away.

Well, this annoyed the villagers more and more.  They started to notice that it was more difficult to get an appointment at the doctor's surgery than it had been before all these new Outsiders moved in.  Suddenly, the Council weren't paying complaints about accommodation the attention that they had done before, and the local schools were bursting at the seams.

And so, the villagers decided to vote for a new Council, a Council who would put a stop to the influx of Outsiders.  There was only one problem, though - the villagers were mostly old and cranky, and the only councillors paying attention to them were properly mean and nasty.

So the villagers all voted for the meanest, nastiest motherfuckers on the ballot, and those politicians instituted huge cuts to local public services, much to the old villagers' delight. 

But the Outsiders noticed, and didn't much appreciate the slashed budgets to local education and healthcare, even if it left the Outsiders better off personally, because they were basically rich.

As you can imagine, any time the villagers and the Outsiders tried to discuss this, it didn't go very well.  It was almost like they had a shared interest, but whenever they tried to discuss it they found that there were insuperable barriers between them, for some unfathomable reason.

And so the very happy village split between the pissed-off villagers and the pissed-off Outsiders, who shared a basic interest in the wellbeing of the village but couldn't agree on how to manage it, and the Council had to make some hard choices.

This is the choice that the Council has to make:

A) Ignore the Outsiders and rip up the road.

B) Ignore the villagers, and leave things as they are.

C) Drastically reform the entirety of modern global capitalism.


Which would you choose?

Points to remember - the villagers have democratically precluded any kind of government investment in services or housing, so that's out.

And this is before anyone with a particular financial or political interest gets in there and starts stoking mischief.

(A note here - My parents moved to a village much like this in 1981, where they raised me.  They're still Outsiders to this day, and so am I).

The Saga Of Jeremy Cantgovern

SCENE: Little Humpingham Town Hall.

The residents of Little Humpingham have gathered to elect a new Mayor.  The audience watch expectantly as the Chairman invites the candidates - VIOLET SENSIBLE, HENRY SAVAGE, TARQUIN TITTERING-BERK and JEREMY CANTGOVERN - to make their closing arguments.  At the back of the room, two local JOURNALISTS look on.

CHAIRMAN:  Ladies and gentlemen, your final statements, please.

VIOLET SENSIBLE:  We should immediately close the nursery, fire the postman and blow up the donkey sanctuary.

HENRY SAVAGE:  Let's invade our neighbours in Dogdickington village and beat them with hockey sticks.  It's for their own good and it's the only language they understand.

TARQUIN TITTERING-BERK:  We need to be realistic.  I think we should all be racist.  Not racist in a bad way, but racist in a very reasonable way.  Reasonably racist.

JEREMY CANTGOVERN:  Well, I think that we should be nice.  We should all be nice in a faffing, ineffectual, slapstick kind of manner.  We should also be weird and get bizarrely annoyed about matters that are ultimately fairly unimportant.

(Polite applause) 

FIRST JOURNALIST:  They'll never elect Cantgovern.  He's a dinosaur.  He doesn't even like hitting people with hockey sticks.

SECOND JOURNALIST:  He'd be a disaster.  If they elect him, we'll almost certainly catch Anthrax until we die.

CHAIRMAN:  Thank you.  And now we will take a vote...

(The audience vote). 

CHAIRMAN:  There...  Well, the votes have been counted and I can announce that Jeremy Cantgovern has won by ninety-eight votes to zero for any other candidate.  I hereby declare that Jeremy Cantgovern is the new Mayor of Little Humpingham.

(Polite applause) 

FIRST JOURNALIST:  Fuck me.

SECOND JOURNALIST:  (Scrawls in notepad: EARTH-SHATTERING CATASTROPHE)

CHAIRMAN:  Mr Cantgovern, you have the floor.

JEREMY CANTGOVERN:  Thank, you Mr Chairman.  Can I just start by saying that now is the time -

SENSIBLE:  Boo!  You suck, Cantgovern!  Boo!

SAVAGE:  You're shit!  You can't lead!  You're a lightweight!

TITTERING-BERK:  Resign, resign!  Have you no shame, sir?  Have you no shame, even now?

(The CHAIRMAN bangs his gavel and calls the meeting to order) 

CHAIRMAN:  Order, order!  Mr Cantgovern, I would thank you to tone down your remarks.  This is no place for that kind of intemperate rhetoric.

JEREMY CANTGOVERN:  Apologies, Mr Chairman.  As I was saying, I think that now is the time to take immediate action to tackle child poverty in the village, perhaps through the medium of interpretive dance.

SENSIBLE:  That's an awful idea!  You're a moron!  You stink like pissy cabbage!

SAVAGE:  The man's a liability.  He must go.

TITTERING-BERK:  What a retard.  I hope he dies.

(An AUDIENCE MEMBER stands up)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Why don't you let Mr Cantgovern speak?  I want to hear what he has to say.

SENSIBLE: (Aghast)  Mob rule!

SAVAGE:  Unbelievable fascism!

TITTERING-BERK:  This blatant intimidation is unacceptable!  Call off your thugs, Cantgovern!

CHAIRMAN:  Order, order!  Mr Cantgovern, please try to control your supporters.  We can't have hooligans terrorising us with their foul language.

JEREMY CANTGOVERN:  Yes, please calm down everyone.  If you must show disapproval, please don't shout.  I suggest that you click your fingers instead.  It's less aggressive, and also quite fun.  (Clicks fingers)

SENSIBLE:  Incredible!  He's egging them on!

SAVAGE:  Shocking, unbelievable conduct.  The man's a psychopath.

TITTERING-BERK:  And he's racist.

(The audience - Sharp intake of breath) 

FIRST JOURNALIST:  That proves it.  Cantgovern is the new Mussolini.

SECOND JOURNALIST:  (Scrawls in notepad: CANTGOVERN = NEW MUSSOLINI)

CHAIRMAN:  I'm sorry Mr Tittering-Berk, I'm not sure that I heard you correctly.  Did you just say that Mr Cantgovern is racist?

TITTERING-BERK:  He's tremendously racist, and not in a good way, either.  In a bad way.

JEREMY CANTGOVERN:  This is an outrageous slur.  I abhor racism in all its forms.

SENSIBLE:  Yes, but do you condemn it?  Do you denounce it?

JEREMY CANTGOVERN:  I utterly condemn racism.  I denounce it.

SAVAGE:  He's a liar.  Just look at him, you can smell the fucking racism.  And the evil.

TITTERING-BERK:  How much to you despise racism?  Do you despise it times a hundred?

(Gasps) 

JEREMY CANTGOVERN:  I despise racism times a thousand.   No, actually, I despise it times infinity.

(Shouts, fainting) 

TITTERING-BERK:  Put your hands on your head and say that.

JEREMY CANTGOVERN:  (Puts hands on head)  I despise racism times infinity.

SENSIBLE:  Hop on one leg and say you despise it.

JEREMY CANTGOVERN:  (Trying and failing to hop with hands on head)  I despise... Look, I'm sorry, my knees...

(Gasps, screams from the audience)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Oh my God, he's a Nazi.

SENSIBLE:  THIS MAN IS LITERALLY HITLER.

(A young boy runs into the room and hands the CHAIRMAN a note) 

CHAIRMAN:  (Bashes gavel)  Apologies everyone, I'm afraid I've just received some rather bad news from Mr Cameron, the bank manager.  He says that he's very sorry, but he's burned the bank down...  All of our money... Utterly destroyed...  We are doomed... All going to starve.  Sorry again.

SAVAGE:  This is your fault, Cantgovern.  You're a fucking liability, mate.

SENSIBLE:  Resign, for the love of God, resign before you ruin us all!

JEREMY CANTGOVERN:  But this isn't my fault.  It wasn't me that burned down the bank.  I wanted to abolish the bank and replace it with a wholefoods shop.

FIRST JOURNALIST:  Why won't he just shut up and go away?  God, I hate him.

SECOND JOURNALIST:  (Scrawling in notepad:  SHAMELESS JEREMY CLINGS ON, DENIES BURNING DOWN BANK)

(Uproar in the Town Hall.  The CHAIRMAN brings the meeting to order). 

CHAIRMAN:  Order, order!  Well, given Mr Cantgovern's appalling behaviour, it's clear that we need to have a new election for Mayor.  Candidates, would you please give us your opening statements.

SENSIBLE:  We should immediately blow up the postman, close the nursery and fire the donkey sanctuary.

SAVAGE:  Let's invade Dogdickington and beat the residents with crowbars.

TITTERING-BERK:  I think we should all be racist, and not in a reasonable way, but in a bad way.  Badly racist.

JEREMY CANTGOVERN:  Well, I think we should be nice to everyone... except the other candidates.

(Sharp intake of breath)

JEREMY CANTGOVERN:  In fact, I think we should be quite rude to the other candidates.  In a comically faffing and ineffectual manner.

(Screams) 

CHAIRMAN:  UNBELIEVABLE FASCISM!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Bring Back The Free Owls

It's the ten-year anniversary for the blog today, and it's ironic that it falls on referendum day.

When I started, my declared aim was: If there must be bullshit, at least let it be entertaining bullshit.  I like to think that I succeeded, if only occasionally.  I was young at the time, and I had a naive fear that the growing reach of social media was making us all angrier, more resentful and less tolerant of each other.

Well, I needn't have worried.  The only blogs that anyone reads these days are the professional ones like Guido Fawkes, and the only people who read those are politicians, political journalists and cunts.

The maximum political content that most people get out of e.g. Facebook in the average day is likely to be their racist uncle sharing one of those dipshit photo memes - Army veterans are homeless, but Abu Hamza lives in a castle made of tits with a champagne moat, and he guzzles taxpayer-funded Micro-Chips.  Britain First!

To be honest, going by the last few weeks, I'd say that the mainstream news orgs are more than capable of providing all the anger, resentment and intolerance that we could ever need.

Still, since it is my anniversary, it's probably worth a few observations on the referendum, for old times' sake.

What does this tell us about ourselves, as a nation? 

This question has mainly been coming from the Hey Guys, Why Don't We Stage an Inclusive Democratic Revolution, Right Here In The Church Hall? wing of Labour Twitter, and it strikes me as a reasonable one.  What have we become, lads?

Well, let's have a look at the respective campaigns and try to draw some conclusions.

Remain has been pretty much what you'd expect from a modern political campaign, insofar as it's been a barrage of focus-grouped, feelgood horseshit with continual outbreaks of hysterical terror.

And to be fair, it's probably true that we'd all be a bit poorer if we voluntarily left one of the world's largest trading blocs - maybe even considerably poorer.  On the other hand, we would probably manage to survive.

Without going into detail, the Remain campaign has mostly been deceitful and fear-crazed, but that's pretty much standard in the modern era.

Still, I have a particular affection for the earnest pundits who have spent the last few months anxiously warning us all that If Britain leaves the EU, then It will make Vladimir Putin happy.  I have no idea why the hacks are so certain that any part of the British electorate gives a shit what a Russian gangster-politician thinks about anything, but lots of them are absolutely convinced of it.

On the Leave side... Well, I don't want to exaggerate, but practically every statement out of the campaign leaders' weasel mouths has been a flagrant misrepresentation, an outrageous lie or an outright incitement.  The Leave campaign is a vast field of poisoned slurry, trailing a hateful stench that will stink out the entire nation for decades.  A lifetime of determined hosing won't shift it. Every single person involved in it should be ashamed of themselves and every notable figure within it should be immediately drummed out of public life.

If we end up voting to leave, we won't even be able to claim that we were suckered by clever, polished PR men.  We'll have enthusiastically bought a fistful of farts and fuck-all, from what may be the most blatantly crooked clique of conmen ever assembled in British politics.

And even now, it looks like Leave have a good chance at winning!

It's not too early to draw conclusions from that, and here's what it tells us - that you can promise us a lovely roast duck on a silver platter, and then serve us up a donkey-dick on a dishcloth, and fifty percent of us will love you for it.

So, that's who we are.  A huge chunk of the populace are the type of people who joyfully vote to slash their own public services and then blame foreigners because they can't get a doctor's appointment.

But again, this is normal.  Many other countries are exactly the same and have been forever.

And while so many pundits are commanding us all to respect the views of Leave voters, it's worth pointing out here that

Class is a major issue this referendum in the same way that meerkats are a major issue in car insurance

My dad's a mechanic, and he's voting remain.  Mrs R's dad was a miner, and he's probably voting leave.

The campaigns themselves, by contrast, are led a shower of galloping Hooray-fucking-Henries, and their various opinion-creatures are Oxbridge down to their last straw boater.

Treat anyone who tells you that the referendum is about class in the same way that you'd treat an urgent email from Prince Billy Akatakatawengo, who has five million pounds going spare and only needs a handy bank account to keep it in.


Oh my, how surprising! 

But my absolute favourite thing about this referendum has been the sheer number of people who are just staggered, astounded, to discover that e.g. racism is popular with racists, or that politicians are happy to peddle racism for votes.

Seriously, the number of hacks that I've seen asking some variation upon - What is Michael Gove doing, associating himself with racists and cranks, in a bid to gain political power?  It's awesome.

What in the world could a politician be trying to achieve, by sucking up to racists for political benefit?  Truly, it is an enigma wrapped in a mystery and stuffed into a cough-medicine bottle. 

I can summarise this one in an image, from Monday's Times...

Yes, that is that awful Mr Farage, forcing that nice Mr Gove and Mr Johnson to be all racist against their will.

The idea that a fool like Farage could force anything on his Tory chums is hilarious, and it tells us a lot about how far certain people will go to either delude themselves, or just to keep themselves in the good graces of the powerful.

And while this may be funny, it represents a far more serious problem.  The reason why this type of campaign was even possible - the reason why it wasn't fragged into electoral space-dust, the very instant that it started plastering up pictures of refugees - is because the political mainstream isn't just accommodating of open racism.  It's courting it and stoking it, and it's been doing so for a very, very long time.

Ten years ago people laughed at Michael Howard's rubbish election posters, but I notice that they're not laughing now.  Now that our outright xenophobia has reached the point where it can bring the nation to the point of financial calamity, it's not quite as funny as it used to be.

And that's the really important point here.  For a while, overt racism was a characteristic of the political fringe.  And yet here it is, front-and-centre on the nightly news, on the front page of the Metro.  This is the product of years-worth of earnest articles about the Very Real Concerns of voters; of hand-wringing and poll-watching, of politicians and pundits haggling amongst themselves to establish what is the permissable level of prejudice in any particular campaign.

The BNP used to get a million votes in this country, but now that Nigel Farage is a figure of fun and a even a celebrity in his own right, they've all miraculously disappeared.  Where did they go?

The answer - they all went right into the heart of the political mainstream, into the sensible centre of establishment politics from where this referendum sprang in the first place.  The mushy middle of politics, where Times columnists announce that Leave should pal up with the French National Front, because their leader doesn't deny the Holocaust like her dad does.

And the really awful thing here is, we won't admit that this is mostly just old-fashioned racist nationalism, any more than we could admit that the Leave campaign were selling old-fashioned racist nationalism. The Guardian has the balls to call its own readers all manner of fannies, but none of the others will ever tell their customers what they are to their faces.

To be blunt about it - if we can't even admit that we might have a racism problem after a Nazi has gunned down an MP in broad daylight, for no better reason than because we're so very addicted to ticking off a bunch of metropolitan hipsters for snobbery, then we have a long, long way down to fall yet.

And to think, it's only been a year or so since our worst national concern was a crippling fear that that communist firebrand, Ed Miliband, might start handing out free owls.

Compared to Cameron's awesome idea of giving the country a nice, cleansing referendum, it's difficult to imagine what Red Ed could've done that could possibly have been worse - mandatory petrol for toddlers maybe, or the reintroduction of anthrax in the wild.  Thank God we listened to all those sensible centrists.

Ah, 2006 doesn't half seem like the distant past.  Lordi, Zinedine Zidane headbutting Materazzi, carbombs in Baghdad.

It wasn't especially great at the time, but it was surely better than this.