Jun 022015
You and I Soapbox141

‘A Sweet Disorder’

Pardon my sarong. I’ll have a Shirley Temple.
Certainly, sir. Do you want a cherry with that?
I guess so. It’s part of it, isn’t it?

Words! It is the words, isn’t it, that are increasingly hard to believe in. Without terminal humor (sic) that is – the above lines come from the beginning of a new poem by John Ashbery (age 88), and are published in his latest collection Breezeway, of which a New York critic writes: “The poems anticipate death but hold it off—they filibuster—by transfiguring it into comic forms.”

Harry Kratchnikov was nowhere to be seen but then deep in the Snigger Space with men beyond fifty, if not MB50, this wasn’t a history lesson either.

Yesterday – it was Sunday afternoon and I was being roughed up. Yesterday – it was Sunday afternoon and Dio and Trixie were being roughed up by an older man – and one old enough to know better – a monk no less in a sarong or something like it…
…The monk was about thirty silent yearswordstalk. He sat in a chair. Dio and Trixie sat side by side facing him. He spoke. They listened. No answering back. No cherry on offer either.

Afterwards Trixie said that she was not amused by this capacity men have to take themselves so seriously, and that there was no mistaking this marketplace:
Men only

Ignorance? You don’t know the meaning of the word, he said. Hardships. Trixie winced at the hard line of his bony jaw. And above it his burnt face and lips. Years and years in the outback.
You don’t know what hardship is, he said.

He spoke like a man stood at a bar, a bar where Dio couldn’t find a place to stand. Dio was hearing one thing, but seeing something else altogether. Cold anger swept up his spine. Was that meant to be a mistake for love he thought. Love? That’s a dirty Word. That’s a really dirty Word mate.

He went on and on, poking each one of his words into Dio’s softy soft belly.
Y’are not hardcore at all are yer? He said.
Ye bitch!
Try some kind of middle position between Love and Hate then: Did you get over the beatings eventually?
You’re fucked mate, he might as well have said. Go down.

A hot dusty wind. Bare arms.
What he was saying was rubbish. Sheepshearer, outback nonsense. Round and round it went, birth after rebirth, life after life, and every word filled with misery. He’d have looked as good with a beaten mongo hat and red-brown with outback dirt.

Only that Sunday afternoon there was no beer on tap, and despite where he’d come from being hellish hot and sweaty, Jeepers, here it was cold, not hot. Still he wasn’t about to get soft putting on extra clothes. Over his brown sarong or whatever he liked to call it.

Sure it was madness. Nonsense talk, every word rubbish. Taunting Dio to step up. Toe to toe. Yea, he’d probably even let you land a few punches, just to draw you in even further. Then PkoomPhoom out cold, flat on your back.

Easier ways to get there, Trixie said guiding Dio towards the exit.

Sure it was madness. Thirty crazy years too long stood staring at the sun.

Holy Men, I ask you, Trixie said.

But the bitter sense of what he had said was not missed on them.
A Sweet Disorder.

Jun 272014
Pix NOTE141 031

‘Writing I believe is a sort of co-production’. In the continuing ficto-documentary spirit of this dialogic project of ours, I now also read and repeat : ‘If it is not fair, it is not Christian either’ (Alan Bennet LRB Vol 36 No 12 19th June 2014).

To begin with: we are all are equal in the sight of God. It is a reasonable idea and one might have a liking for it, as we think how it might help us to prosper at the end if we succeed in living better lives. But as we continue our journey through life with this great-great-grandfather (nineteenth century) proposition of egalitarianism hung around our neck like a dead and rotting chicken, we observe fewer and fewer grounds for believing in it, neither as an objective truth in the world nor as an equal chance in eternal life metaphysically speaking.

Equality. Dare we speak of Luis Suarez, let alone of God? If it is not fair…

If it is not fair, then it is always exceptional. What does the exceptional genius of a young Venezuelan footballer care about fairness or equality? Or an Isis jehadist, or a red-headed ex-Sunday Newspaper editor, or HM British government for that matter – what do any of them care for equality? If you can argue cleverly enough, there are always grounds for making an exception.

What does HE care for equality?

Don’t even ask, you say. But here’s the thing:

“A funny old man of Hot-ass
Refused to make jokes at the Mass.
When asked, Ain’t it odd
Not to chuckle with God,
Said, Yes, it’s quite an impasse. ”

Hilarious Life/Death – I am for full disclosure and Agnes agrees. SHE, in contrast to most of the other implacable divines, is always game for a good laugh, and can be relied upon to bring me to another climax in holograph whenever.

I don’t like growing lists of exceptional States of Emergency whether they involve the toothsome violence of a young football celebrity, or the heavily armed violence of the forces of the constituted State or a would-be Caliphate. Nor does Agnes… and SHE is best not aroused, since an angry Agnes, demons beware of Krodhakali, refuse to make any exceptions – even of God.

No joking, I think somebody should be talking to HIM.

Feb 042014
Uruguay's president José Mujica, a former guerrilla, at the farm he prefers to presidential palace

From Prognostication for 1533: “I do warn you one thing, however, if you fail to believe it all, you are doing me a bad turn for which you will be grievously punished. So now, my little lads, wipe your noses, adjust your glasses and weigh well these words…”
“…old age will prove incurable this year.”
(from Chapter 3)

How vulnerable ageing apples look. Those that were picked in time and not left to rot on the ground that is. Laid on wooden racks in a cool outhouse their skins have become wrinkled and dark blemishes have appeared. Some have begun to brown near their stalks. Their heads and tails are going soft.

The argument over the colour green which Piet Mondrian set off probably continued among other artists of the mid twentieth century. For and against. Was it an artistic argument over representation and abstraction? Or between the play of shadow and the light?

The ageing apples are squishy, soft and vulnerable. More or less like us. However, their sweetness remains. Indeed it has increased with maturity. They have lost their crispness and firmness, and some have begun to fur. But no loss of taste.

The argument about insecurity also continues. Does vulnerability equal insecurity? And are both equally good for us in fact as we age? Beneficial to the older life well lived. When it comes to the growing insecurity of people in work, there is a strong case to be made against. Check out Guy Standing, The Precariat: the New Dangerous Class, Bloomsbury Academic, London.

The evidence of an emerging class is that with every recession since the 1970′s, lengthy episodes of high unemployment, privitisations and public sector cutbacks have served to weaken the position of labour. Flexibility is the neo-liberal word to mask a programme of increasing insecurity: working people have to learn to be more flexible. It is like some queer yoga. Standing’s book argues the effects among what he calls the new Precariat Class are “four A’s: anger, anomie, anxiety and alienation”.

Precarious. From the Latin precari: to beg, pray, entreat – be unstable, exposed to danger, with uncertain tenure. Insecure. Does that mean the same as being vulnerable?

I am no visual artist and, like the argument over the colour green, I’ve not lifted a paint brush to read the actual book. I’ve only gleaned these thoughts from the Jan Breman review in the latest NLR . Jan argues that the Precariat Class is a phony idea, and there is a far bigger perspective than the Anglo/Euro-phone speaking developed world: ‘according to the 2013 Global Employment Report on “vulnerable employment”, only 3% (some 47 million out of a world total of 1,539 million) are to be found in the developed countries, including the US and EU, compared to 247 million in sub-Saharan Africa, 405 million in East Asia, and 490 million in South Asia’.

In other words, there are many different ways to experience insecurity (and many paths of insecurity’s historical development). As when one of the little lads pipes up in the orchard and says, please but ivy is as good as any old apple tree. Category errors like these between vulnerability and insecurity play havoc with the bees. Total hive collapse can result.

As in human society for bees and for apples there are many kinds of insecurity. Ageing fruit will all become equally wrinkled and vulnerable to decay. How about saying that vulnerability and insecurity are two different kinds of seeing green?

Or asked another way what kind of apple would you prefer to have as your head of state? My answer is to be found above in the picture of Jose Mujica, President of Uruguay, in his dressing gown. He has reached 78 years old, and he has got his ageing teeth into an apple. His apple is my choice to be President of Ukania.

A Prognostication for 2014: “Insecurity will prove incurable this year”. Here is a story of an ageing man who lives in increasing vulnerability, and spends all his waking hours and energies getting his teeth into opposing insecurity. If you fail to believe me you will be grievously punished.

Jul 032013
Sun of Venice... Copy of Turner131

I‘ve been lurking in shadows this week, Malcolm said, naming his growing  indifference and irritability – “blacker and denser it is” (after Carl Jung) the less we embody it.

Boldness helps to spread encouragement, I thought, and free things up. And simultaneously lurking in the shadows the less I embody it, equally paralysed – frozen feelings, timidity, unable to breath.

Passionate champions like Malcolm: he just can’t stop struggling with the question of how we can make a difference – wrestling with how to bring about change. Then later – Most of us would rather not get involved, he said beginning to showing his annoyance. The next day when we met again Malcolm lost his temper.

Splitting us up as “good guys” or “bad guys”, we all have our primary storylines. Like men of boldness and paralysis commonly do, at times I feel far away. Or the other guy I was staying with, constantly intoxicated by desire for a woman’s love, the lurking shadow of aloneness in a house of cool colours.

Far away, incessant airport music in my ears I am heading back – in Glasgow Airport Departures heading back from Scotland after a couple of busy days. Day one I put the deal on the table and to begin with we seemed to be making progress. Boldness and I noticed myself liking Malcolm’s champion passion as we faced each other. Visibly relaxed, and easier to breath.

Then she came into the room.

She’s the one I have to sleep with at night, he joked. Disembodied, a cloud was passing over us as we felt the temperature of the room beginning to fall. The next day it was even worse. Malcolm lost his temper. So it goes.

If you have taken this rubble for my past
Raking though it for fragments you could sell
Know that I long ago moved on
Deeper into the heart of the matter

If you think you can grasp me, think again:
My story flows in more than one direction
A delta springing from the riverbed
With its five fingers spread.

Adrienne Rich, from Later Poems (p199)

Apr 102013
tatlin tower

High Purposes:

All aboard the Orient Express boat-train because the woman with the two green and red flags is about to blow her whistle, and around these isles these days there is not much evidence of courage and sanity , a combination which was also sometimes equated with “High Purposes of Political Action” – being at least enough of these qualities to realise that poverty is an evil (a moral wrong in the “space of reason)…

…And where the idea that more equality is better than less has an ethical value – the radical tradition supported by collective democratic deliberations – at first glance something along these lines as recently written by Peter Jay :
“…a long and honourable tradition of the British left, the non-marxist egalitarians who wanted to apply intelligent economics to mitigating gross inequalities mainly through the use of public sector projects funded from progressive taxation to reduce poverty.
This was the legacy of Attlee, Bevin, Cripps, Gaitskell, Crosland and Callaghan: and Brown was its heir…”
“… as Balls is now. ” Peter Jay concludes (Good grief! But – Dammit – you’re not being asked to like the man!).

But there is a hollow ring to the phrase High Purposes isn’t there? (Read on Part 3)

Apr 102013
2007-2008 008

What happened concerning poverty and equality? I don’t believe our Ukanian “precariat” spirits have been worn down by centuries of oppression, it is just we need to travel and breath in some fresh air in order to get rid  of the misty antipathies after the long winter.

For instance, writing in Australia take a simple look at poverty from the literary viewpoint of Coetzee – from a letter from Here and Now… a dialogic project now published years later after the writing (NB Wordstall take note!):

“Our cities stand intact, our farms remain productive, our shops are full of goods. What then happened to make us poorer? The answer we are given is that certain numbers changed. Certain numbers that used to be high suddenly became low, and as a result we are poorer.”

Or explore Africa, the Americas, the Near East and the Pacific from the complexities of a social evolution of inequality from the magisterial and data rich standpoint of Flannery and Marcus, The Creation of Inequality: How our ancestors set the Stage for Monarchy, Slavery, and Empire (2012) – LRB review by Steven Mithen (11 April 2013: 35. 7: P17-18). Their data baseline is the more or less egalitarian hunter-gatherer society of 15,000 years ago and the evidence they have garnered shows that it has been downhill ever since. But there is no teleological arrow that is pointing us towards an endpoint of inequality, and no argument of historical purpose. Flannery and Marcus demonstrate that Empires, Monarchies Slave State (and totalitarian regimes) simply come. And they go.

And we can change the numbers up or down whenever we like, only we may well have to also learn to speak Spanish to do so. And exercise judgement (courage and sanity). It is called class struggle, only it is not the nineteenth century style of masculine fist-i-cuffs Marx envisaged, more the version of war Elizabeth Bowen defined: “thinning of the membrane between the this and the that”.

And what do you mean, spiritual?

 Posted by at 2:58 pm  Holy Fool/Hero, ON the STREET  Comments Off
Feb 122013

18092012038Don’t you think capitalism is amazing? The way it infiltrates each and every tiny corner of our lives. Nothing can be left uncommodified – it must be turned to profit. But sometimes I react with resistance – I should just write poetry – wait for the pressure to build into words, wait until I’m feeling that old low grade illness, even though at the time I’ve no notion of what afflicts me – only aware in that unnamed way that there is this grudging discomfort. And then slowly discover, as the first few words emerge and the writing begins its flow to the ocean – freely or awkwardly – that, oh yes, this is what I needed to do.

Of course, capitalism seems quite efficient (and efficiency is a key justification for apologists of capital terrorism) at moving goods and money around. We do our best to turn a blind eye because indulging our desires for new and wondrous goodies is more often than not too difficult to resist but at the same time it is hard to disguise the fact that most of the circulating money ends up travelling in one direction – into the gargantuan pockets of the super-wealthy. It is apparently necessary that we are left gasping for breath and asking ourselves and anybody else who happens to be around, is the cost too great? And is our current gangster capitalism the best we can do as it wreaks moral and ecological havoc? And, are we here again? How did they do this to us, again?

Though there is always that residual awareness that the left hand knows not what the right hand is doing; that we will always be subjected to unintended consequences; that the cunning and the clever will always find legal (or illegal, come to that) ways of ripping off the majority – those of us who are too slow, too disinterested, too impoverished, too ground into the dust to demand the validity of our own resistance.

And in the light of the Pope’s resignation (I didn’t even know that it was allowed!) what do you mean, spiritual?

Dec 212009

Are we answerable? Angelina asks.


Who is Angelina*? She used those actual words in her question. We hadn’t heard of her before, and now it seems almost too late, but even if we had known her sooner, would it have made a difference? Would it have effected (be effecting now) our departure?


* age 13, and who had written a message asking the world for an answer, and came, she said, from a provincial city in Mexico about two hour’s drive from the capital. Apparently. Or was it another money-begging hoax from Russia, but then I thought how else does an Angelina, a little angel, send messages these days, and Mexico might explain the other Spanish phrases creeping into these texts, busca sangre (sudden blood), and all the rest.


And her question, are we answerable.


About the Extinction Plan -


Being the coincidence of her message, and that of the Sudanese chairman of the G-77 (group of 130 ‘Poorer Nations’) last weekend at the end of the Climate Change conference in Copenhagen…

‘The plan asks Africa to sign a suicide, an incineration pact, in order to maintain the economic dominance of a few countries,’ said Lumumba Stanislaus Dia-ping. ‘It is a solution based on values, the very same values in our opinion that funnelled six million people into furnaces.’


…And our departure into violence – busca sangre – and silence. Sudden blood, long regrets.

- And Answerability


Lumumba Stanislaus Dia-ping’s message was broadcast only once on the BBC, about 8.15am on Saturday December 19th. Since then it appears to have been airbrushed out of existence, unlike the words of the President of the United States of America.


It is not fiction, the President said at the start of his reported speech before leaving Copenhagen, It is science.


More value judgements concerning our departure: a disgusting comparison according to Ed Milliband, Britain’s climate minister. Different words might have been grotesque, abject, alternate monologism or perhaps carnivalesque ambivalence.


Is there a value to answerability? Is Angelina answerable? Are we?