December, 2010

Freedom 2 – A ray of light

Monday, December 13th, 2010

As a matter of public record.

I ranted on this in this month’s freedom column about taking responsibility for us, collectively, on demonstrations.

I’ve been remonstrated with for taking that stance, and I note as a result, that there are other points of view, which I don’t agree with, but which nevertheless are valid, sound view which deserve consideration.

However, I’m not really addressing those arguments here because they were put forward in an another forum.

What I would like to note as an addenda to the foregoing, is that Thersa May in Parliament today, publicly noted that the Police felt that most of the protesters were genuinely upset, genuinely protesting, and that there was a hard core of separate trouble-makers around who were out to cause trouble.  Well done on the Police for identifying this and being willing to say it, well done on Theresa May on saying it in Parliament.

Here is the statement. This is right on statement.

It is these people that we must eject from protests that arise as a matter of genuine unrest.

Violence only detracts from the message.

Don’t let them do it to you people.

BUT, remember this moment, it is a moment of acknowledgement, a light in the darkness.

It’s not the Miners strike after all.

It’s nice to be wrong sometimes.


Friday, December 10th, 2010

I’m writing in the UK and I’m a UK citizen, I was born and bred here.  Any remarks I make have the full set of prejudices that I carry with me as a result of this, and must be considered in this light.

This said, racially I have some Asian background, but no culture because I was discouraged from having any.  I’m aware of it though and it has had influence previously in my life.


We enjoy a certain amount of freedom in this country, and although we frown at the CCTV, the actions of the Police, (Protests, photography), we can roam the street with a certain amount of immunity from violence, (generally, there is always the criminal element), random arrests, spying, (but bear in mind what I said about CCTV) and the other trappings of rule that is an indication of an insecure culture and government.

I’m aware that people are fed up with our current government already, if the tweets and news I see are anything to go by, then they are very fed up indeed.  I think the Lib-Dems shall not see power again this century.  I think that people feel betrayed.

There is a time-line here.

In 2008 we had another financial crash.  Commentators doing the analysis called the recovery and rescue of the banks “Socialisation of the debt” and “Privatisation of the profit”.  The banks have us over a barrel, “the best will leave” if we are too punitive.  Banks will offshore their activities, more than they do already, and the government will lose billions in tax revenue.

That’s a problem, where does the power truly lie?  From the little scenario above, it seems that it lies in the hand of the banks who certainly do not answer to the will of the people.

But it seems from the unrest that the government do not actually answer to the will of the people.  There are many fine words about compromise, but they cut no ice when jobs are going, and we are approaching the one in ten of the famous song about hard times in the eighties.  People are angry, very angry.  Angry at the protests, angry at the cuts, angry at the damage, angry.

They have every right to be angry.  We should be angry.

We should be absolutely hopping mad.

Oh look there’s a student or hanger on throwing a half brick.


I started by saying that we enjoy freedoms in this country, and we do.  We can be dissidents, unlike say, oh I don’t know Liu Xiaobo, who today got Nobel Peace Prize, denounced by China as interference.  China needs to be put under pressure to free Liu Xiaobo, but it will not respond to it.  China was praised by Thorbjorn Jagland, according to the BBC, for “Lifting millions of people out of poverty.”

I’ve met plenty of Chinese Students, they are proud of their country.  I know people who have gone their and travelled freely, taught, lived, loved.  The everyday experience of the Chinese seems to be improving.  The government lets go of control slowly.

Liu Xiaobo should be freed, but rapid change in governmental policy is chaotic, sudden freedoms mean that one is free, as Heinlein once wrote, “free to starve too…” because economic changes come too rapidly for the government of the day to make sure that everyone eats, the trash is collected and that people are not too corrupt.  I invite the reader, and I’m going to apologise in advance to an entire country here, to compare and contrast Russia’s experience with China.  Forward to freedom, but not too fast, because otherwise there are no queues for bread or rice, because is no bread or rice.  Take a look, and I’m NOT apologising here, at North Korea.

The Chinese don’t riot not just because their government will oppress them, but because things are getting better.  Students have told me this.  They recognise that there are problems, but if you change everything all at once, things will go very wrong, and that there will  be unrest.  They have the assurance of a consistent government, even if we in the west think it is a bad government in many ways.  China creeps towards freedom, and Liu Xiaobo pays the price, because China needs activists, but the government will assert its power when it feels threatened, and thus he is in prison.  It is not a travesty of justice so much as a result of an individual losing the argument by might, the government’s might.  Free Liu Xiaobo.

We, here in the UK are changing things quickly, the new inexperienced government thinks that all the changes are necessary and good, and we do not.  We have good reason, people bandy about figures for how much tax is avoided on the part of big companies and rich individuals and I could do that too, but it is just sufficient in my view to say that rich individuals and big companies can afford big lawyers and fat fees and off-shoring to help them avoid tax, and I can tell you that in every contact I have had with the tax system weather as student, a company bod, a consultant or whatever, the same message comes, don’t pay tax if you don’t have to.

Fine, but now we say that there is a moral obligation for companies &c. to pay the tax they morally owe, because we subsidised the banks when they were in trouble.  Are they doing the same for us?   No.

No, they are not. They are in profit once more, and we are suffering the cuts.  And so student fees triple, the Lib-Dems guarantee that they are basically seen as liars, (I get that they are in coalition, but emotionally I feel the same, intellectually, more complex), and students are on the streets protesting.

I have seen interesting pictures around this, school girls protecting a police van, (well done those girls), random protesters protecting policemen under attack, and most clearly of all, someone saying “Wind the  window up !” to Prince Charles and Camilla.

Ah, now we arrive at it.

Remember the miner’s strike?  What happened?  It turned nasty, and new, and in my view pretty draconian laws were enacted to prevent secondary strike action, striking without some pretty severe rules on balloting, (think BA in the summer stopped several times by the courts, because that is what companies turn to now even for the smallest infraction of the ballot rules), and generally tore the heart of the unions, and I feel for the country.

France still strikes, rebels when the people get hacked off.  We laugh at them, then sympathise.

But oh, oh you protesters yesterday, you waste your time and effort, because we have already seen violence, and that is wrong.

Oh deface a building or a statue, these things can be repaired, though you risk offence if you deface, I dunno, the Cenotaph, when soldiers are still dying for Afghanistan, so doing that would be dumb right?

And say, attacking the Prince of Wales, who just happens to be Chancellor of the University of Wales, (as we are reminded in a typically flippant student council agenda), which includes Bangor, which I happen to be an Alumni thereof, and having participated a little bit in student democracy happen to that his Chancellorship is fully supported by the student body and has been for a long time.

I went off on one.

Point is, you dumb-asses, don’t attack the most “right on” eccentric royal and don’t attack the chancellor because now Cameron is going to rain a very large drum of Whoop ass on your heads and prosecutions will follow.  And then there will be new laws.

Stop cocking the protests up.  STOP.

Protest peacefully, give the police the run around, disobey, be dissident, but stop being violent, because you’re making a right mess of it if you do that, because the media does not then get the message across that we’re really really un-happy, it just shows a few more pictures of some arse-hole putting the boot in or swingin on the flag, or god forbid that damned silly still of Charles and Camilla looking horrified.

Stop being stupid, stop getting us in a situation in which the government is going  to punish us all by creating even more draconian and daft laws than the last one did.

And by the way, I’m no great lover of the police as the state enforcers, but these people have lives and families, and some of them even sympathise because they do not live in isolation from the rest of us.  Show them some respect by not beating the living daylights out of them and maybe they will not act out of fear either.

Yes, protest, disobey, be dissident, but do so peacefully; because unlike Liu Xiaobo, you don’t face being locked up just for being dissident.  Remember that you are essentially free.


Addendum, and Police, remember that we don’t need this sort of bollocks from you either.  It cuts both ways.


Corrected for grammar and spelling.

Sociologists the scientists

Monday, December 6th, 2010

This will probably be short.  Or not, I don’t know.

I have decided, while writing Snow, that Sociologists, and by this I mean social workers and the like, are the ultimate experiential experimenters.

They look, like any scientist, for causes.

This idea, this search for causes infects us like the greatest of memes.  It enters our daily life, this seeking for causes, it drives our justice system, at least, in the UK, (not presuming to speak for other places I don’t have experience of…), drives our social policy, our policing, our television, (think Discovery Channel), but not unfortunately our politicians, (see, can you say “pillocks”?)

Anyway, I’m not ranting about that now, I wanted to reflect that while writing Snow I constantly return to causes.  I’m driven to it even while the writing is driven by the stream of consciousness kind of outpouring that gives my creativity a space to play in, and some of the more bizarre parts a space to get out.

It’s hard to open that channel.

But even when that outpouring happens, I find myself looking for causes, and when I look, and in my head I am looking around a vista of the world that I am reporting, muchly, and sometimes that world is a memory of the past, (the character’s past, I’m trying to cut down on the hideous revenge shooting and subsequent torture these days, because it sets a bad example for the boys, and I don’t their mother rolling their eyes in exasperation, so no, I pass on that.  Even for some interface designers, though in my darker moments wresting with some new program….  )

Moving on.

I look for causes, and I think and increasing number of us look for causes, because we have become social scientists, chemists, physicists, biologists, and practically anything in fact, with an “ology” in it, even on occasion, oologists; studiers of eggs.  Particularly when associated with the study of Pigs, or Baconology.

Point is, I remember what my character remembers, which is a particularly difficult thing to do, because I “see” what I am writing, and “live” memories of characters I write in the first person, and sometimes I get these flashbacks because I am seeking the causes.

We have all been made scientists, to some degree.

What we could do with, is the mathematical language with which to express it.  For sociologists, that doesn’t always exist, yet.

The Santa Chronicles, and why I’m truly evil

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Go away children this isn’t for you, it’s for adults, even though it contains no actual “adult” material, where “adult” is used as a euphemism for scatology or sex.


I had trouble with Christmas when I was first married, hated it, always stressy, always dreadful at childhood home in later years.

Actually in the very early years, I remember it being quite pleasant, masses of family around, toys, lots of baking and Aunts.  I really enjoyed that.  It was jolly, not because my parents were believers, but because there was always something good going on.  I like to hang on to that thought, because it’s quite a good memory.

By the time the boys came along, Paula had gone mad every Christmas and spoiled me rotten, as she does now with the boys, and jollied me up again.  And we spent a lot of time off at Christmas and visited, and hung out and it was generally wonderful.

But the boys started asking questions to which I had not which I had not any answers.

Like how could Santa get around the world in one day?  How does he know if we’ve been bad or good?  Who decorates the Christmas tree on the evening of Uly’s birthday, (six days before Christmas).  Why don’t we park on Yellow lines?

We don’t park on yellow lines because they have a compound that melts tyres, and then the ticket is for littering.

So, in the style of Calvin’s Dad, I answered the questions as best I could.

It’s clear to me that when I die I’m going to hell.

For example,

How could Santa get around the world in one day?

Ah, well, you see Santa doesn’t actually have get around the world in a single day.  The Dutch, to pick someone at random, have their gifts on December 5th.  Different people do things at different times.  Santa has a holiday in the summer like everyone else, as depicted in Father Christmas goes on Holiday.

How does Santa afford all the presents?

Hobbes, the tiger philosopher seems to think that Santa is just getting into debt, but this is clearly not the case.  Santa can easily afford anything thanks to his lucrative sponsorships deals, (Dom pointed this one out to me when he was very young and we were not sure how we were going to do Christmas one time, so we were trying to manage his expectations), with the life of Coca Cola.  Dom seemed to think at the time that any information on the internet saying that Santa, (no children here, right?), wasn’t real, was an adult conspiracy, was clearly just part of that conspiracy.  We had to “have a word” with Uly before he went to Big School, because we were not sure what his belief status was.  Thanks to my clever evil explanations, his belief was extremely sound indeed.  Um.

How does Santa know if we’ve been good?

Easy one this.  Despite all the spying work they do on the side, Santa’s sponsorship deals are so very lucrative, do a simple search on the web to see how many places his images appear, all that royalty can pay for a great deal of information, and it is the CIA, cleverly disguised as the USA’s Central Intelligence Agency, that collects this information.   Three simple words, Keyhole Satellite Imagery.  It also explains why NORAD are so willing to tracks Santa’s progress on Christmas Eve. It’s actually the CHRISTMAS Intelligence Agency, it just does spying and stuff on the side, because you know, as you’ve got it, might as well use it for terrorism protection and stuff, no point in doubling up.

Who puts up the Christmas tree?

That would be the Christmas Fairy.  Ulysses asks,

“But I saw Mum putting it up one year, couldn’t the Christmas Fairy come?”

“Ah, no son, she is the Christmas Fairy.  She gave up an immortal life to be with me.”

“Oh, cool.”

And that was just fine until we got divorced, (and I can I just say that, as I’m referring to this, that our divorce is basically my fault and not hers, and she still has my utmost respect and love.  More so actually, because she has behaved with openness, grace and dignity throughout.  She still behaves with love and respect towards me and we co-parent.  I go to stay and we get on well.  She is the epitome of a dignified and loving woman).

So Ulysses one day said to me..

“So I just want to get one thing straight Dad.”

“What’s that son?”

“You remember you said Mum was the Christmas Fairy?”


“And you said that she was the Christmas Fairy and that she had given up an immortal life to be with you…”

“Uh, yes.”

“And now you’re divorced.  Just saying , you know.”


Oh, I’m going to hell.  In a hand basket.