Great Britain – those glory days of the past. What a myth.

Great Britain – those glory days of the past. What a myth.

I keep hearing about how great it used to be in the past. You must be joking! It stank.

Back in the days of Empire Britain exploited a great deal of the world, robbed their wealth, stole their resources and used cheap labour to create huge wealth. That wealth came back into the aristocracy and the huge stately homes but did not filter down to the workers. Their conditions were appalling.

My Grandfather fought in the First World War. My father’s generation fought in the Second World War. I was in the first generation that didn’t get massacred in war. Fortunately my sons and daughters have not had to fight either. Things are much better. I wouldn’t want that worry.

Times were hard when I was young despite being risen middle class. The house was so cold I got chilblains every winter. There was no central heating, telephone and we got the first TV on the block – a little black and white.

My Dad worked in Fleet Street in London. He worked six days a week. Left the house at six thirty and got back at six thirty. He ate his tea, read the newspapers, watched a little TV and went to bed at ten. On Sunday he cut the roast and mowed the grass. He had two weeks holiday a year.

From where I stood he had no life. He had no possessions. His life was hard and regimented. He wore his suit and toed the line.

Britain was great? No. The aristocracy and wealthy creamed it all off. The middle class were subservient and knew their place and the working class worked hard for low wages in dangerous conditions. One of my classmates was killed at work in the first three weeks after he left school. Thank heavens for unions and a decent wage. Thank heavens for the health and safety that the unions fought for. They had to be wrested from a screaming management.

My father was a man of great integrity, intelligence and principles – but he was a product of his time. Because of his poor background he was shunned by management and ostracised. He knew his place and just got on with it. There was such a rigid class system that it was claustrophobic. If you were part of it you got on and had it made. The Old Boys’ network ruled. The Rotary Club and Masons, the all-male clubs in London. It was obscene.

I was offered Rotary and Masons and turned them down flat. I will have nothing to do with secret societies scratching each others backs. The Old Boy network and class system stink worse than a room of dead rats.

Women were second-class citizens – good for typing, shop-work and nursing.

Racism was extant. My father believed that a white Englishman was better than everybody else. He was racist and refused to employ foreigners, blacks or Asians. He had an impossible test he gave any applicants he did not like. We would argue like mad about it.

Where is this greatness?

Back in the early twentieth century we were a major power. Yes we were. That was because we robbed our empire and stole all the raw materials and exploited our own working population. The profits went to the rich and powerful.

We were respected? I’m not so sure about that. We were feared because we were so brutal, but respected?

So we are heading back to greatness when everything was great. So where is this wealth coming from now? We have no empire anymore. The working class don’t want to work for low pay and be exploited and we have little manufacturing and resources.

I had a great life. I had fun fighting for a liberal world and an outgoing society. I wanted fun, freedom, fairness and equality and had a great life fighting for it. I have a life with possessions and travel and a standard of living that my parents could only have dreamed of.

Great – this is the greatest it’s ever been!

Billy Bragg – It Says Here – Lyrics about the media – Can we have democracy if the information we are fed is false?

Billy Bragg – It Says Here – Lyrics about the media – Can we have democracy if the information we are fed is false?

In order for people to be able to make decisions on important issues and electable candidates it is necessary to have access to unbiased information. Failing that it is important to have information from different sides of the argument with a clear knowledge of what the bias is.

Unfortunately this is far from the case. All our information in the media is biased towards the establishment. Information on the web comes from a number of dubious sources for a variety of reasons.

Our newspapers are owned by exceedingly rich individuals and feed us with a pile of lies, exaggerations and rubbish. They would prefer that we do not think about issues at all and concentrate on celebrity nonsense, fashion, trivia, Royals and sex. What they do put out is strongly biased to feed us the story they want us to believe.

The BBC has a reputation for being objective. This is simply not true. After seeing the scandalous way the Orgreave situation was reported on BBC news, with an editorial decision to reverse the order of the film to completely alter the narrative and blame the miners, one can clearly see the establishment bias revealed. BBC news cannot be trusted. This is increasingly true following the loading of the BBC board with Tory people. Politics has no place in the reporting of news.

Brexit clearly demonstrated this. Lies and exaggerations were the prevailing diet and went completely unchallenged.

Can you have democracy without unbiased news? I think not.

If the electorate are consistently fed political propaganda without balance they are being indoctrinated. That is not democracy.

Is Jeremy Corbyn really a left-wing nutter who is unelectable? Or do his policies make complete sense?

The brilliant Billy Bragg summed it up:-

Billy Bragg – It Says Here

It says here that the unions will never learn
It says here that the economy is on the upturn
And it says here we should be proud
That we are free
And our free press reflects our democracyThose braying voices on the right of the House
Are echoed down the Street of Shame
Where politics mix with bingo and tits
In a strictly money and numbers gameWhere they offer you a feature
On stockings and suspenders
Next to a call for stiffer penalties for sex offenders

It says here that this year’s prince is born
It says here do you ever wish
That you were better informed
And it says here that we can only stop the rot
With a large dose of Law and Order
And a touch of the short sharp shock

If this does not reflect your view you should understand
That those who own the papers also own this land
And they’d rather you believe
In Coronation Street capers
In the war of circulation, it sells newspapers
Could it be an infringement
Of the freedom of the press
To print pictures of women in states of undress

When you wake up to the fact
That your paper is Tory
Just remember, there are two sides to every story

George Orwell Quotes – a man who saw politics for what it is – deceit, control and betrayal.

George Orwell Quotes – a man who saw politics for what it is – deceit, control and betrayal.

George was extremely intelligent, far-seeing and perceptive. His words still ring true.

In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
The lies we are fed by politicians and the media!
If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.
Governments and corporations control and manipulate us.
Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.
History is written by the winners.
Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
We call that spin. They stoke up division and hatred. Make black and white out of grey and get us to vote for war.
War is a way of shattering to pieces… materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable and… too intelligent.
If only all the money spent on nuclear bombs, fighter planes, armies, tanks and war-ships was put into education and music the world would be a better place.
All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.
I thought this was pertinent to all Trump, Clinton, Brexit and Bremain supporters.
Big Brother is watching you!
In this age of surveillance it has never been truer! But it’s in our own interests – right?

Poetry – A Green Lung full of Fire

A Green Lung full of Fire

 

A great green lung full of fire.

Nature consumed by greed,

Killed by inequality.

Despite the fact that there’s more than enough

They always want more.

It’s an addiction.

 

While eight billion mouths need feeding

There are those

Who seek to exploit

Without a thought

For their effect on the planet.

It’s complete madness.

 

As climate changes and species die

The deniers

Ignore experts and scientists

In the face of overwhelming evidence.

It’s a tragedy.

 

Opher – 1.3.2020

A Medieval Spin Story.

A Medieval Spin Story.

I was contentedly lazing back in my favourite chair, snug in the cushions, gnawing on a haunch of venison left over from the feast, and draining the dregs of a goblet of sweet ruby wine. I noticed that the fire was dying down.

‘PAGE!!!’ I bellowed.

There was a scurrying in the wings. Two lanky page boys stood before me, wide-eyed and trembling.

I surveyed them with a stern face for a full five seconds and then nodded towards the grate. They rushed over and piled more logs on the fire.

‘WENCH!!’ I bellowed.

A comely young, fresh-faced wench rushed in, pre-empting my needs, clutching a ewer of wine. Averting her eyes deliciously, she topped up my goblet. I did not have a free hand to smack her on the rump but I watched her with a smirk on my face, and noted her down for later.

I glanced out the window. There was a full moon shining on the thick snow making it as bright as day. I noticed this ragged peasant struggling through the drifts with a great stack of wood on his back.

Fascinating.

I watched with amusement. It was freezing out there. The snow was deep and crisp. The stupid cretin was floundering around, trying to dig branches out and add them to the huge load he was carrying.

That was when the idea struck me.

‘PAGE!!’ I bellowed. The two page boys rushed in and stood there, trembling. ‘Who is that peasant out there?’

‘That’s Peter,’ one of the boys ventured, peering out of the window at the labouring peasant.

‘What he doing stealing my wood?’ I asked with a sinister leer.

‘He has a little hovel half a mile away, under the mountain, next to the forest fence, by the fountain.’ the other boy explained. ‘He lives there with his wife and eight children.’

I tilted my head and waited for him to continue. The boy seemed scared to go on. He licked his lips and shifted his feet. ‘So why is he stealing my wood?’ I repeated ominously, piercing him with my eyes.

‘Er, well, seeing as how you’ve fenced off the forest, he has to go further afield to get fuel.’ He bobbed and looked down as I eyed him. ‘His kiddies would freeze to death.’

I grimaced. ‘BRING HIM TO ME!!’ I bellowed. They hurried off to put on their robes, boots, hats and gloves. I watched out the window as they rushed off into the deep snow. The peasant saw them coming, dropped his load and tried to run away. They ran him down and began to drag him back.

‘WENCH!!’

The girl appeared looking flushed and timid.

‘Wine and meat!’ I ordered, pointing to the table. She threw me a puzzled look then rushed off to prepare plates and goblets.

I watched the two pages fight with the man. He was desperate to get away and they were equally desperate to bring him to me. They floundered around in the drifts as the wind howled around them. The moon had gone in behind a cloud. It was dark and the gusts, blowing a gale, were sending the crisp ice-crystals into their faces like tiny daggers. I laughed.

Eventually, exhausted, frozen and battered, they brought him in.

He stood trembling before me, his pinched face terrified. I enjoyed that. Then I laughed – I nodded to the table laden with meat and wine. ‘Tuck in good fellow,’ I said in a strange kindly voice that even surprised me.

He did not know what to do, his eyes going back and forth from me to the table. I motioned with my hand. Querulously he took a seat and began to dig into the food.

As he warmed up in the heat from the blazing fire the fellow began to reek, but the sight of him devouring the venison and swilling the wine amused me.

‘BARD!!’ I yelled. My young bard, Cummings, dressed in jester’s costume, complete with lute, rushed in. ‘I want a carol. Right now! How I did the Christianly thing for this stinking peasant.’ I waved towards the bemused man who was stuffing his mouth as fast as he could.

My bard began writing and playing.

‘PAGE!!’ The two boys were standing there. ‘Throw the stinking fool out.’

I quite liked what that bard came up with. It might stand the test of time.

How to change the world for the better! Easy step

How to change the world for the better! Easy steps!

The first step is to acknowledge that things are not so bad as they might be:

  • We are not dead
  • We are not starving
  • We are not at war
  • Hardly anyone has been killed by terrorism
  • We are quite comfortable
  • We are not cold
  • We are not in great danger
  • Our children and grandchildren are safe
  • If we need help we will be taken care of

In fact we are exceedingly lucky when compared to the conditions most of the world lives in!

The second step is to realise that most of the things we worry about do have solutions:

  • Islamic terrorism will be defeated
  • War in Syria/Libya/Iraq/Afghanistan will come to an end
  • The environment can be protected
  • Poaching of rhino and elephants can be stopped
  • Overpopulation can be dealt with
  • Global corporations can be controlled
  • Inequality and poverty can be addressed
  • Racism, sexism and xenophobia can be addressed
  • We can create global legislation
  • We can enforce global laws
  • We can prevent and cure cancer and heart disease
  • We can set up a colony on Mars and the Moon

All it takes is the will. Some of the things are hard but they are not impossible.

The third step is to recognise that there are a lot of things that are much better now:

  • We have had peace in Europe for the longest time in history
  • We do not have marauders coming through killing us
  • We live comfortably without great threat
  • We are not cold and hungry
  • We have a much better standard of living than our parents and grandparents
  • We can travel the world
  • Violence and murder is on the decrease
  • Racism and sexism are being addressed
  • There is no systematic cruelty to animals – dog fighting, badger baiting, cock fighting
  • We have welfare and support for those in need
  • We live in far greater comfort
  • We live longer
  • Education is much better

We have a tendency to think that things were better in the past. But they weren’t. Looking back over the last three hundred years you can see the journey we have made. We have become more civilised.

Over the next hundred years we can, via the internet and education, create a quantum leap forward.

The fourth step is to help build that change in mass psychology – the new positive zeitgeist:

  • To be optimistic
  • To highlight the problems and issues that need addressing
  • To harry and force politicians to act
  • To provide a positive force for change
  • To be outward looking, full of compassion and realism

In future posts I will outline my thinking on how to deal with all of the major issues besetting us. They are all able to be solved.

Is There a Formula for Happiness? – A Small Experiment

Is There a Formula for Happiness? – A Small Experiment

Here’s my list of things that would make me happy
(Not necessarily in order)
A Good Education
Lots of Friends
A Good Sense of Humor
Great sex
A society that is compassionate
No war
A community and world in harmony with the planet and nature
Appreciation of the wonder around us – trees, rocks, countryside, culture, sunsets, geology
No religion
Plenty of love, children, family
Pets and wildlife
Creativity
Debate and argument
Relaxation and sport
Writing and painting
Photographing beautiful things
Communicating
Alcohol
Great food
Warm weather
Being respected and valued
Valuing and respecting others
A good marriage
Good neighbours
Great music
Discussion and close friends
Adventure
Health and fitness
A great job doing some good
Making a difference to the world.
Meeting interesting people and going interesting places

That should do it!

I think, therefore I exist.

Happiness is hard to understand: sometimes something bad happens but you still feel happy and sometimes you’re unhappy with no logical reason as good things are happening. Everyone has their own personal factors that make them personally happy and unhappy. There are some universal aspects, however. Some things – like poverty, low self-esteem or loneliness (not feeling alone) can be objectively linked to unhappiness.

So is there list of ingredients, which applied to everyone in the world would mean happiness to everyone?

I will ask for your collaboration in this one. Below there is a list of possible ingredients. I ask you to think about what would be a universal factor of happiness and either organize them from most important to less important or give a top 5 of most important.

  • A Good Sense of Humor
  • A Beautiful Big House
  • A Healthy Diet
  • Children and Grandchildren
  • Predictability
  • Good Government
  • An Interesting…

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Phil Ochs Quotes – A man who sang songs of protest, humour and beauty.

Phil Ochs Quotes – A man who sang songs of protest, humour and beauty.

Unfortunately I did not manage to see Phil perform live – but I’ve got every single thing he ever produced – including all the live stuff available. I liked all his phases. His first period of creativity was writing topical songs. Dylan accused him of merely being a journalist. He was always a lot more than that. Like Dylan he selected news items to transform into songs. He wrote songs which had real bite but still had a lot of humour and satire. As the sixties progressed he developed a more poetic surreal style with songs full of imagery and intricacy. It seemed that he was always following in Dylan’s footsteps and falling short. There again – everybody fell short. In the late sixties he was heavily involved with the politics of the YIPPIE movement along with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin.

Phil wrote many excellent songs on social issues – civil rights and anti-war. But he also wrote songs of great beauty. Joan Baez recorded his wonderful ‘There But For Fortune’ but of his more beautiful songs I prefer ‘Changes’ – it has so very special lines.

Unfortunately alcohol and depression ate Phil away and he took his own life. What a waste.

Phil left behind a legacy of real songs – songs with meaning and passion.

In such ugly times, the only true protest is beauty.
Looks like with Trump/Clinton we need to protest with a reaffirmation of beauty. That’s a true rebellion against hatred.
Even though you can’t expect to defeat the absurdity of the world, you must make that attempt. That’s morality, that’s religion. That’s art. That’s life.
The gesture is maybe all we have – perhaps all we ever had. But gestures are important. It is best to have fought for what is right and lost rather than never having tried.
The final story, the final chapter of western man, I believe, lies in Los Angeles.
I suppose Los Angeles epitomised all the harshness and brutality of modern civilisation with its greed, selfishness and violence. That uncaring attitude is what is destroying the planet. The concrete and smog replace the green plantations and nature. The viciousness that puts profit before people or nature.

Nick Harper – The Magnificent G7 – a plea for fairness

Nick Harper – The Magnificent G7 – a plea for fairness

I think this is my favourite Nick Harper track. That is really saying something as he has written some extraordinary songs.

It is a heartfelt plea to the world leaders to do something about poverty.

The G7 nations meet but play games. They are not bothered about sorting out the world’s problems. The wars rage, inequality creates mass poverty, everything runs on profit, the rich organise the system to make them richer, babies starve, parents are desperate and the environment is destroyed.

Nick made the comparison of the G7 nations with the Magnificent 7 film. So who is going to come to the aid of the poor villagers?

The song is a beautiful lilting song with some incredible use of harmonics and string winding. It is a real contrast to the desperation it describes.

The Magnificent G7

Poor men can hope but there’s not much time  You have the power to banish the poverty

Holding their fate  You’re living in a movie  But you are only seven men  Really only seven men  You are only seven men they are nations

Break them some bread for their children  Who are their dreams who are their future

Holding their fate  You’re living in a movie  But you are only seven men  Really only seven men  You are only seven men they are nations

Mountains of money  Mountains of grain  Mountains between you  Mountains of shame

Holding their fate  You’re living in a movie  But you are only seven men  Really only seven men  You are only seven men they are nations