It’s a couple of days after another mass murder in Paris. I wanted to write something about it, some prose or poetry to try and comprehend or frame the event with what I consider to be sanity, but then I realised I have nothing left to write. After Boko Haram undertook a slaughter in Nigeria I wrote something, after the attack on Charlie Hebdo I wrote something, after the Saudi bombing of Yemen and the numerous attacks in Afghanistan, I wrote something. This time though I’ve nothing new to add in abstracted attempts at communication. No new defence of humanity or appeal to our better natures. Because this feels more like a tired repeat than anything. And the same goes for the reaction to it. Continue reading Beirut and Paris
As Tristram Hunt and Chukka Umunna rally the faithful to launch the Resistance to Jeremy Corbyn I figured I’d write this…
Tristram rested a hand on the pommel of his sword. He could afford the comfort of calmness now, he was home, at last, in sight of the great white cliffs of Dover. At the peak of which lay the crown of his expectations.
On the estates and farms, in shops and factories, branches of Waitrose and office blocks, his people awaited him. Desperate to break the shackles cast upon them by the Usurper, the thief, the rabble rouser who’d driven out their one true leader, him.
Yes, the time of his absence had been hard on them. Yoked to the plough of Corbyn, forced to dark Labours by his rabid followers who held no regard for the ancient rights of their betters. Bullied by uncouth barbarians in donkey jackets, flat caps and conspicuous by their refusal to wear a tie like they should. How could they not dream of his return? Singing the forbidden hymns in quiet moments, hidden from the heavy glare of thuggish union boot boys culled from the degenerate masses. Reciting tracts of virtue and Agas smuggled to them by the resolute exiles of Comment is Free as if the beacon of civility could keep them warm in their long, hard Autumn of discontent. Oh what triumphs would be declared! What exultations of joy would be heard when their rightful ruler delivered to them the treasures of sensible private sector involvement and true consensus government in the realm!
And to the traitors? The agitating barrow boys, reckless youths and belligerent peasantry? A swift death. For a true ruler could not be without mercy. And the ten thousand screaming Guardian readers at his back would see that their resistance would be but fleeting. Recruited from their poor exile in Provence with barely half a tonne of Quinoia and a copy of ‘Unspeakable Things’ to their name their blood-lust shocked even Tristram himself. Especially that of the Lady of Kendall, who by her own hands had already shed the blood of many a Corbynite whilst he himself had sought refuge in exile, alongside the Lord Chukka and his strange coterie of tabloid intriguing adherents. But their loyalty was treasured and did they not have cause enough for revenge? Was it not their investment properties that had been rent controlled? Their free schools that had been handed back to the vile masses? Necessity demanded that they be offered flesh in payment for such slights. And, as ever, justice was a ruler’s duty. As was resistance.
Tristram smiled to himself. The end was nigh and things could only get better.
Clarity is hard to come by from a London point of view. If you’re from here, you are here, very hard to get perspective from that deep buried position. But anyway, this city is my home, as it is for a lot of others. It’s not a lifestyle we choose or an experience to be had, it’s what we wake up to every day. It’s friends and family, those experiences we’d rather forget and those we revel in. It’s hard to reconcile that with all the people to whom this city is an adventure, a lifestyle choice, a test of themselves or whatever.
Y’see we, as native Londoners, get split. On the one hand we have our home, which we know to be a magical, wondrous place, just as everyone says it is. But on the other it’s ours, it’s familiar, no more special than Kent or Norwich or Leeds is to you. And as the fight for the soul of the place grows harder, as gentrification and civlization drives us out in favour of someone elses dream, we have a hard time connecting that. Because our home is the place where we go down the shop, drink in the shitty pub, get by in the flat we can afford. Why is it so special as to need stealing from us? It’s just home, right? But of course it isn’t. It’s a warzone.
One where I’ve heard people say ‘be nice, don’t be intolerant of change’ and ‘fuck change, kill them all’. And that’s a question Londoners face. I’m not including some struggling Somali refugee or desperate seeker for a safe life and a safe home. Nor the people who come to build a life as they are, rather than demanding a new image in the city of who they want to be. I’m talking about the immigrants to London who are making a vain choice, those coming from the home counties, or the EU, or the US, the ones who want a lifestyle. Why should we give that to you? This city is a product of the people who live here, not the money you can wield to buy a bespoke experience.
At a certain point we need to choose how far we’ll go to defend that. Foxtons in Brixton had their windows bricked three times in the last year – good, to be honest. I don’t like a lot of the incomers to London but I’m indifferent to even more of them. Right now though, right here, it’s a conflict of my home vs your dream. And to be quite honest I don’t give a fuck if you feel scared or uncomfortable in this city. If you feel excluded by hostile locals or sneering jibes at your little purchased islands of ‘culture’. You should. Because the people selling it to you don’t give a fuck about the effects of their actions. We do. And we need you to check yourself before you start saying things about ‘Nunhead Village’ or gentrifying Lewisham. It’s our home after all. Maybe not always as magical or beautiful a place as was advertised to you, but still.
London has always been here for those who need to build a life but why should it be here for those who just have enough money to play at one?
It’s odd to be a Londoner abroad. Or any city-dweller for that matter. Looking at local life beyond your metropolis and knowing how small and meagre a re-imagining it is compared to the crazed and fiery life of millions of people clinging to one united concrete haven. Aware on top of that that the natives call this parochial stasis civilization. All the life they know is herded into strangling borders, nailing them into place and into self. Butterflies, or wasps, pinned under dusty glass on view to the panopticon of similar cases that house the rest of the hive.
But who are we? Not some alien breed. Not some segregated other drawn from urban blocks to gaze at specimens. Nothing so grand. We’re insects ourselves – our hive bigger, more chaotic – in our imagination perhaps even freer. If we look at their narrow homes with pity though how do they look at ours? Our confines where we are unknown and unseen, our cases buffed to a dull sheen but finished with frosted glass to keep hidden forever ourselves and our own. Busy in solitude even if we warm ourselves on a million vibrating heart beats around us.
That’s the thought that halts our travels and silences our judgement. The though that cuts us adrift from our wryly knowing observation and anchors the urbane to the isolated. Obscuring the differences and leaving us to wonder whose way is sunk most by its’ frailties and when, if ever, we should start running from both.
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By which I obviously don’t mean ‘abstinence’ in the dull, Christian, Johnny-sinned-when-he-touched-himself way but in the political sense of abstaining from a popular vote.
Elections here in the UK are looming ever larger on the horizon and, this time round, with the colourful, folksy bigotry of UKIP and big haired, drug frazzled, sexually harassing excitement of Russell Brand it’s more a carnival than ever before. Already people are drawing up the battle lines, usually in a confused zig-zag array like a spider on LSD and berating those who aren’t on their side for being feckless, greedy, mad, bad or outright stupid. For some of them it even seems to really matter which is perhaps the most worrying aspect of it all from my deeply cynical point of view. Not to say that politics doesn’t matter of course, it really, really does but the clown antics which have been set front and centre so far aren’t really politics in any substantive sense. Continue reading Abstinence is Fun