Monthly Archives: January 2016

Donald Trump: Share If You Agree!

My rough guess is that over the past few months, for every minute scrolling through my Facebook timeline, an image of Donald Trump has confronted my eyeballs four times. The vast majority of the images come from links about some vile or ridiculous or outrageous thing he has said or done, or simply how outrageous or ridiculous or vile he is, with accompanying commentary. I try not to pay it much attention. I thought a recent New Yorker cartoon captured this feeling well. So I shared it.

Schwartz

Then it occurred to me that my attempts at not staring into the abyss was not going well. What if the New Yorker cartoon was part of the abyss too, and now the abyss was sharing photos for me?

Trump is a monstrosity, a grotesque, and so it is easy to outline where you stand on him and his followers. As another New Yorker contributor puts it: Palin Endorsement Widens Trump’s Lead Among Idiots. Trump is a monster and his followers are idiots. Maybe a more interesting question is where you stand in relation to Donald Trump. I mean, the fact his horrible face crops up everywhere with such appalling regularity must mean that there is a constituency interested in how atrocious he is, right? Maybe you and me form part of an ad hoc public of sensible, reasonable, enlightened people who, however much we might differ on other matters, are appalled at this rough beast, this array of desperate morons who have anointed this puffing, preening turd as their chosen leader?

You might have subscriptions to The Economist, I might have a Rosa Luxemburg t-shirt, but perhaps we are at one when it comes to Trump’s remarks about deporting Muslims or persecuting so-called ‘illegal immigrants’ or bombing the shit out of Iran or wherever. Does Trump not provide us with a common bond, one that we might otherwise never realise existed? Does he not provide us with a shared perspective on things, a sense that whatever else might be wrong with the world, we should set all that aside so this dreadful threat can be forestalled? Or maybe you and me disagree on the scale of the threat posed, but we can at least agree on the fact that he is a terrible creature?

You can see how this kind of shared feeling works its way into the realm of elections. Since it is unthinkable that someone like Trump should be afforded the reins of political power, it is preferable -or so it is suggested- that Hillary Clinton be given the job instead. In reality, given Clinton’s history and her donors, this translates into rejecting the overtures of one billionaire in favour of the representative of the billionaire community at large. This is the logical course of action, on which our newfound community must surely agree. It boils down, as elsewhere, to the choice presented between stability and chaos. This stability, in reality, is the continuation of rule by big business, of perpetual war, of environmental destruction, the dismantling of each and every institution founded on collective solidarity and its replacement by subjection to the market, of the stripping away of social and labour rights. That is what figures like Clinton stand for, and the fundamental thing they have to propel them is nothing other the sense that the alternative is worse.

Sarah Palin made a speech yesterday. Or was it the day before? I can’t be sure. I’ve seen several articles from mainstream sources parsing her speech, the images she used, her syntax and so on. Yet as Jon Schwartz notes, some of it made quite a lot of sense. But the consensus arising from this critical analysis is that she fell short, way short, of the standards demanded by reasonable people like us. Only the brutes and the rubes of our imagination will like it.

Those would be the same brutes and rubes who are, in sum, the product of decades-long media stereotyping of working class people. You know, the people who can’t read or write or think properly and who never proved capable of making their way in the world the way you did. But suppose you were to go looking for someone who fits such a stereotype. Suppose you had to fetch just one from the hundreds of millions who are supposed to fit it, one single person who, on close examination, demonstrates that your model is correct. You would not be able to find a single one who continued to fit the stereotype after an hour’s conversation and closer examination. If you examine Sarah Palin’s rhetoric properly, you can see how it is tailored to appeal to people who know very well they don’t fit the stereotype created for them.

It’s true enough that neither Sarah Palin nor Donald Trump actually gives a shit about such people and see them only in terms of getting just enough of them as a means to their end. But the sense of being caricatured and denigrated is likely based on real experience. It wouldn’t be unexpected for such people on occasion to identify with an aggressor and project their own fears onto someone else who may be in a far worse position: black people, ‘illegal immigrants’, Muslims, and so on. Trump and Palin, like many other demagogues, amplify people’s fears and then promote themselves as just the people to do something about it. Then figures like Trump and Palin appear, in turn, as the threat to the reasonable consensus, even when it is precisely this reasonable consensus that has done so much to produce and maintain these fears in the first place. And even then, the journals of respectability that would have no difficulty in describing Islamic State, say, as ‘the terrorist group Islamic State’ would never make mention of ‘the racist US presidential candidate, Donald Trump’.

Fortunately, the billionaire community at large is far too sensible to allow these things to get completely out of control. That is why it is so important to vote for whoever stands for stability in the next elections in a Western democracy near you. Voting will save us in the end. Share if you agree!

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Winter Words

The Angels Over The Body Of Christ by William Blake

The Angels Over The Body Of Christ by William Blake

The other night my son asked me if angels were real. He looked worried. No, I said. Then he looked relieved.

I said, well, there is no such thing as men and women flying around with wings. He smiled.

But, I went on, sometimes people use images of things to express the way they feel about stuff, the way stuff affects them. And so people might talk about angels because it’s a way of talking about good things or feelings that you find hard to describe.
-What?

I said, do you know who Winston Churchill is?
-No.

Winston Churchill was the prime minister of Great Britain during the Second World War. He used to have depression. Do you know what depression is?
-No.

Well, depression is when you feel really bad and anxious about things and you find it all overwhelming. Winston Churchill used to get depression, and he would call it the ‘black dog’. Of course the black dog didn’t exist. There wasn’t a black dog sitting in the room that made him feel depressed. (He laughed)

But it was a way of talking about things. Well sometimes when people talk about angels, that’s what they’re really doing.
-What?

Well people often use images to express things instead of just describing them, like in poems.
-What?

OK, let me show you. Here’s a poem that talks about angels. (I open a webpage showing Timothy Winters by Charles Causley. I start to remember the scene from some Jimmy McGovern TV drama where a character played by Christopher Eccleston gets worked up while explaining the poem to a class, banging out the rhythm of the lines on the table. I decide to play it cool. I start reading)

‘Timothy Winters comes to school
With eyes as wide as a football-pool’

-What’s a football-pool?
Do you know what football pools are?
-No.
Well, back before people played the lottery lots of people used to enter a competition every week. They’d get a list of all the football fixtures for the weekend, and they’d have to pick out score draws. If they picked out enough score draws they’d get a prize. It used to be that eight score draws would give you the biggest prize you could get.
-So you would be like Man Utd are going to draw against Arsenal?
Yes.
-Why are his eyes like that then?
Well his eyes are wide. When are people’s eyes wide?
-Em, when they’ve got a big face?
Maybe, but not really. When you see someone with their eyes wide open, what does that say?
-Em, that they’re afraid?
Yeah, sometimes. But sometimes it can be because you’re looking at something really big and exciting and new.
(Pause)
-Yeah but he’s going to school.
That’s right. And you never know. Maybe the school is like a big shiny new building. Or maybe he’s never seen so many people in one place. Or maybe that’s just how he looks at the world.
-Why are they like a football pool then?
I don’t know, you tell me.
-Because he likes football? I mean, because he’s thinking about football?
Yeah it could be. But think about the football pools. You would fill out a form and it had the names of towns all throughout England. And all those towns were full of people-
-Was it just the Premier League?
They didn’t have the Premier League then. They just had Divisions One to Four.
-Was Stevenage in it?
I don’t know. Maybe they were in the Conference or whatever it was called.
-Was Bournemouth in it?
I think so. So anyway, when-
-Was Northampton in it?
Probably.
-Maybe his eyes are big because he’s thinking about all the money he’s going to get.
Yes, could be.

I go on.

‘Ears like bombs and teeth like splinters’
-Haha.
What?
-Ears like bombs.
What do you think of that?
-He has really big ears. They go all over the place, like bombs.
Could be. Or maybe he has heard bombs going off. Maybe they were very loud, and the noise stayed in his ears.
-No, I don’t think so.
What about teeth like splinters?
-They’re small and made out of wood, like cocktail sticks?
Could be. Well I don’t think they’re really made out of wood. They’re like splinters, but that doesn’t mean they *are* splinters.
-Maybe they’re broken.
Yes.

‘A blitz of a boy is Timothy Winters’.
-What’s a blitz?
A blitz is a German word.
-Like the reindeer.
Yes, like Blitzen the reindeer. It comes from the same place. ‘Blitzen’ means flash, I think. And ‘blitz’ means lightning. But in the Second World War the blitz was the name people gave to the bombs that got dropped by the Germans on British towns and cities. They dropped them on Belfast and Dublin too.
-Was it like in Star Wars when they attack the village?
Yeah, it was, a bit. So what does that tell you about Timothy Winters?
-Em, that he runs around wrecking everything?
Maybe. But maybe it also says that he was around when the bombs were being dropped. During the war lots of children were moved from the big cities out into the country. But not all of them, some of them stayed with their parents.
-And did lots of people die?
Yeah they did.

We go on, line by line. Maybe the wind blows through his trousers because they are full of holes. Or maybe the wind actually blows between his legs because he has rickets. We figure that maybe he licks the pattern off his plate because he’s so hungry but also maybe because he likes the food. Maybe he has bloody feet because he walked on a nail on the way to school. Or maybe he has no shoes.

Maybe he lives on Suez Street because Suez is the name of a big canal that was built so goods could be shipped from South Asia to Europe and so the people who live on that street are a bit like the goods carried along the canal. Yes, maybe the bombardier Timothy’s mother ran off with is a bit like an X-wing fighter pilot. The Master is another name for a teacher, but a master could also be someone who owned you, like a slave.

And the Master talks as if he was the same as the rest of the children but he really wasn’t, not if they were like Timothy Winters. And ‘Amen!’ means ‘I agree’ but maybe Timothy Winters isn’t really agreeing but he’s really just shouting out because that’s what you’re supposed to say and he’s bored. But maybe he does agree and he thinks there are people who have it harder than him.

We get to the bit about the angels some twenty minutes after I planned. Why is the poem calling on the angels? -So that they look after Timothy Winters? Maybe. Or maybe he is picking a fight with them, planning to take them all on. Or maybe it’s children like Timothy Winters that angels should really be worried about.

Do you know what a verb is?
-Yeah.
What is it?
-It’s a doing word.
That’s right. It’s words like jump or look.
-Or eat.
Yeah. Well, look at the name Timothy Winters.
-What?
Look at the name.
-OK…
‘Winters’, that could be a verb.
-What?
Winter. It isn’t just the name of a season. It’s also a verb. You sometimes read about people wintering somewhere. That means they spend the winter there. So ‘Timothy Winters.’ could be a sentence. Like ‘Timothy spends winter’.
-Yeah but where is he spending the winter?
I don’t know, wherever he is, I suppose. Maybe it’s always winter for him.
-Maybe there are storm troopers there, like in The Empire Strikes Back.
Yeah maybe.

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