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The Primal Country

The US is hard wired to a violent fixation. What other country since Rome can trace it’s own existence so clearly in flowing lines of physical conflict, oppression, panicked escape and reactionary vengeance? The earliest colonists were running from a continent riven by religious conflict and into a self-proclaimed new world where the borders were to be re-drawn by survivalist intent, the gun held not as a right but as a perceived necessity for existence. And like Rome the first boatloads become almost deified, an active denial of the eclectic nature of their intents – after all, no founding myth can be honest.

A nation was born by revolt, not for freedom – the US was never Haiti except in it’s own blurred and militant view of itself and it grew by genocide which was with every shot veiled with the comforting blankets of self-justification. Strength made it right, God made it right, civilisation made it right but an itchy trigger finger made it necessary above all else because the only identity to be had was one of force.

Slavery fuelled it, more righteous acts loudly proclaimed over the inhuman other shipped in to lend their blood and bones to the foundation of something that needed to exist because it needed to exist. Not towards some glorious end but because the violence had to be expressed. An export from an old world overflowing with it perhaps, a gladiator’s arena for the suddenly aloof excesses of a Europe obsessed since millennia before by the power of it’s own aggression.

A civil war fought to retain the right to stamped down human foundations for the land of the free and more and more violence. Ideas always secondary, concepts always divine only as far as they lent themselves to the ongoing quest to fight, oppress and expand.

More wars, endless wars, everywhere – no worse than any other continent or country but untempered, unsullied by the march of history which turned all other founding myths into functional self-perception. Rome slaughtered Gauls long enough ago for the violence to be honestly separated from the result by minds too young and too short lived to tie the two together. The Mongols who flooded through the great Empire were defined by that same impulse of the violent as the inescapable but they’re long gone too, subsumed into a far from peaceful history but one that has at least had time to assimilate it’s own fallacies of civility. Only the US stands in our working memory as a clear presentation of an earlier state, a flourishing human expression of cruelty born out of some necessity that but for kneejerk expressions met with tired horror we’ve come to abhor as alien no matter how common it may still be. Only the US is there to remind us of the megadeaths of history which brought us all to where we are, the Imperial equivalent of re-enactors spending a damp weekend in a field playing at being legionnaires or nomadic horsemen.

There’s no reflection here on the people of the country. Although from across the world we all search active shooters and twenty-four hour rolling murders for proof of who the inhabitants of the last conquering Empire are. People are people though, undefined by their country of origin when held alone, even if collectively the nature of the nation formed by all origins, all crimes and all acts does manifest into some sort of whole. A whole gone full circle now, revisiting the violent tendencies drained from the old world back upon it with smiling vengeance. Wars, music, film, art, games – the country founded by the necessary violence of it’s own existence reflects it all back on us. Daily trying to sanitise it, mythologise it and rationalise it – turning their own macro version of the Rape of the Sabine women into a blessing – looking for the victims to finally nod that yes, it was all for the best, or if they refuse demanding their silence in perpetuity. An easy desire to disdain if only we weren’t all as susceptible to it ourselves but for the jaded and comfortable ignorance blessed unto us by the dusty detachment of centuries.

What the US will be, what pedestal or grave it will elevate or entomb it’s vital sense of violence on to is now and for centuries to come unknown. All anyone can do is wait and see what lies history leads the giant to choose for itself and how bitter the truth beneath them will taste when the acrid burn of the first experience fades away.

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UOWN – Yes, you too can be a profiteering absentee landlord…

How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways…

UOWN, founded by Shaan and Haaris Ahmed, is a brand new model for vulture landlordism.

I came across them by spotting one of their ads online and, feeling fairly certain I wouldn’t like it, clicking on through to see what they were about. The basic gist is that they use crowdfunding to act as surrogate landlords for anyone who fancies investing, or at least the (Ahmed) family business the Parklane Group does. So far so unsurprising, the UK housing market at the moment is dominated by profiteering investors whose only conception of their tenants is as figures jiggling about on a bank balance (or minor irritants, if there’s more money to be made by moving them on). What sets UOWN aside though, or at least what initially highlighted them from the rest, is the pawing theft of vaguely left wing phrasing they’re using to frame their get rich scheme. Their website spiel is loaded with terms like ‘city fat cats’ and calls to beat back those dastardly ‘privileged few’ in the name of the 99% – all by making yourself a low level imitation of those exact same people.

 

 

Investments potentially start at an affordable £20 which is, seemingly, just about the only point at which their sales pitch tallies with the reality of what they do although it’s a fairly safe bet that such low level investors aren’t going to be reaping much of the promised rewards. And it is all about the rewards after all, while they rattle off mantras of equality, power to the people and ‘democratising’ the process all it really boils down to is a quick shot for the greedy and the gullible to add a further dimension to the sticky fingered exploitation of the UK housing system.

Pretty much the sole mention I could find of tenants on their site was a vague allusion to a property management company that would fix ‘leaky pipes’ – a management company which I’m assuming is Parklane given the family links. And I’m fairly sure that anyone who’s lived in privately rented accommodation can vouch for how reliable agents can be, especially when there’s no direct landlord to talk to but a inaccessible mess of investors who’ll never know or care what happens with the property.

What you do get plenty of mentions of though is the potential returns, with payments guaranteed before a property is even purchased to be let out. And if there’s one thing you can have faith in it’s that tenants will be gouged to a profitable level regardless of all else.

These guys are far from a unique example of the property as detached investment trend and in the way they manage their holdings they may not even be that bad but that does nothing to negate the crappiness of their model. Their ‘for the people’ nonsense is a paper thin front for the company backing them whose profits run into the millions, their equality and democracy lines are a hollow boon to the basic model of greed that they’re operating on and the potential for further alienating and exploiting tenants inherent in it all is, throughout, a barely mentioned side note.

The ‘democratisation’ of housing doesn’t need to come from enabling more and more profiteers, it needs to come from opening up access to people who need it. What the Ahmed’s are doing isn’t serving any ‘99%’, it’s a cheap route for the greedy and the indifferent to try and shunt their way up to the 1% and with promises of returns in the background it’s only going to end as another stick to beat money out of people who just need somewhere to live. Stealing the language of people trying to fight against this sort of parasitism is just the icing on the cynical, greedy marketing cake.

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Toxic Internet

Outrage about online abuse seems to be the erratically undulating fixation of the media and politicians at the moment. Whether you watch the display of professed outrage and think of cynical opportunism or earnest determination to moderate the social discourse moral indignation about such abuse remains an increasingly prominent feature of the commentariat and news cycle. Which is as it should be, really.

Our political (and social) landscape is a toxic place, abuse is ubiquitous and pretty much everyone who talks about pretty much anything is liable to find themselves on the receiving end of it. There’s no doubting either that as it’s fed into by sexism, racism, anti-semitism and general bigotry the force and prolificness of it ratchets up too. All the way to the point where someone like Jo Cox can be murdered while a hundred others, with minimal attention, put up with daily threats of violence and death, never mind the more routine insults and attacks. With that in mind it’d be nice to think that the voices of outrage which echo out the loudest were, as a rare show of society wide disgust, setting out a universal line in the sand which everyone could acknowledge and accept as one which we don’t want to cross. Unfortunately though there’s not much reason to believe that’s the case.

Instead the issue of abuse seems to be distilled into a commodity almost. Not by the victims, I’ll add that straight off, but by a wider political and media community which, in some cases, seems unable to simply condemn without trying to score some marginal profit or moral kudos off of it all.

Online abuse, online threats of violence and general hostility are societal issues. They effect everyone to one degree or another. There’s no opinion so mundane, no act so bland and innocuous that mentioning them on Twitter won’t result in some form of hostility from one corner or another. If you use Twitter, or any other social media platform, you probably know that already. Insults and threats are made mundane with the prevailing attitude being that you either suck it up or give up. The lazy response to any complaints usually being that ‘it is what it is’, a judgement commonly delivered by the perpetrators themselves. Work through the disparate demographics of social media and you can see the abuse build up too as racism, sexism and bigotry are all met with the same shrugging acceptance by people who usually aren’t in a position to be a victim of any of them.

It’s the ubiquity of this sort of thing that makes the mainstream discussion of abuse seem hollow really. There’s not a trace of doubt that the attacks on people like Diane Abbott and Laura Kuenssberg should be acknowledged and condemned but there’s plenty of doubt to be had about the way it’s done. With the former it’s often half-hearted and laced with sniggering disdain, with the latter it seems almost directly fuelled by political point scoring against a political left which is imagined to be far more coherent than it is. In neither case is it approached as the sort of society wide issue that it is. Some of the loudest voices of complaint seem to infinitely prefer recognisable totems for their outrage to genuine efforts against something which is increasingly universal in it’s effects.

It’s an instinct, I think, which has become inherent to the media and politics these days. Real moral outrage is consistently subjugated to individual narratives. You can see the same happening in the US with almost every declaration Trump makes – like his recent NFL nonsense. What started with a protest against the treatment of black Americans has ended with Il Douche picking more or less personal fights with people he doesn’t like and the mainstream opposition gleefully ‘taking a knee’ against him without any real awareness or interest in what made Colin Kaepernick do it in the first place. With both issues the narratives have increasingly become ones about a small cast of individuals rather than real, society wide problems. Something I’m pretty certain that none of the oft cited, recognisable, victims would want never mind it being of actual use in confronting the issues at hand.

As things stand now, as the mainstream narrative appears to be playing out, this story has a long way to run. By myopically framing arguments about online abuse with individuals who are quite clearly classified in the reporting as members of one ‘side’ or another there’s no room for anything to be solved. The perpetrators get a constant free pass to justify their actions by their objections to the individual. With a shrug of ‘I know it’s not right’ there’s always a ‘but…’ allowed to follow it up. A completely hollow defence, no doubt, but still one which has been allowed to fester into being. And while commentators eagerly lay the blame for the abuse on the faction that they don’t belong too it’s always set up as an adversarial fight – whose bigots are worse, whose death threats merit more column inches, whose Trolls are nastier. A line you can only really push if you yourself are safely out of the groups likely to be effected. Whereas what we really need is a wider acknowledgement and blanket condemnation of the realities of abusive behaviour. Not because it’s reached a recognisable name but because it reaches millions of people, repeatedly, every day. And in all it’s forms, racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, homophobic and broadly bigoted it’s a problem for all of us. Not a story we need to be told about any given politician, journalist, celebrity or sportsperson.

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When We Loved

You cornered me with love
a contortion into hate
between what you said
and what you did
who you claimed
and who you were
a chaotic contradiction
out of which I ended up believing
that to control
was to care
and to fear
was to feel

You wielded over me all the power I longed for
through force you shaped my self
while I wished to have a different form
but incapable I gave myself over to you
to make me what I thought was better
but which turned out to be just you,
your image,
your dream
and your ideal
broken imitations
of who I used to be
and corrupted lies
of who I should be

In the end I broke our love
or so you said
yanking at frayed ropes which had bound me
trying to drag me back into your world
as I sought out a new one

I’d like to say the power is mine now,
that my hands took over
but I know that’s not true
over every move I make
lingers your so called love
eager to recount
another cruel fable
of who I used to be
and who I should be

Time stands at my side though
the time I need to forget
and regrow
beyond the chaotic contradiction
of your love

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A Connection, I Suppose

This body politic is infected
broken down by a pathogen that’s half self aware
half selfish
insidious in nature
consuming in scope
and proud to say it’ll get us
before any other disease will
a form of connection
I suppose

This country’s economic ghetto
is under the thumb
held in stasis by a financial Cosa Nostra
maintaining order through exploitation
and tradition through corruption
with ageing Dons counting cash
assuring the hungry that it only gets worse
when new gangs arrive
holding us safe from invasion,
only to kill us themselves
a form of connection
I suppose

This home and castle
has a Lord
claiming Prima Nocta
to fuck us
and calling it Right
because who put up the walls that keep the enemy out?
Who swings the sword against the outsider
even before we’ve heard their name
or had a chance to know why they came
attention drawn away
by cap doffing obedience
to Regal right
a form of connection
I suppose

This story has no ending
not the way it’s told
the dulcit tones just carry on
until the body’s cold
always reassuring
that the teller’s got it right
always disavowing
any poor, unknown insight
It’s words are getting louder
it’s silences obscure
and the chance of thinking round it
ain’t quite there any more
a form of connection
I suppose

But we still have one reminder
of what we were and are
beneath all of the diseases
and Mafiosi power
we’re the one’s who live life
not the ones who say it loud,
not the ones who run it
or build walls
and steal crowns
and sooner rather than later
the body will react
locals will stop paying dues
all that bowing we’ll retract
we’ll find the final fullstop
start on another page
and all of those connections
will be from a dying age

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