smokingboot: (snail)
Back in the 90s I had a job in the South Korean Embassy. I was considered an odd choice, for I had much considered wrong/ugly in South Korean tradition. I was the daughter of two different nations-considered-races and I had freckles. Worst of all, I was left-handed. They didn't notice this latter till I started work.

'If we had seen it, we would never have hired you,' said one employee obligingly. Left-handedness meant at best stupidity, at worst demon possession. Still they kept me on, and the attache I worked for even went so far as to compliment 'these mongrels who are smart and healthy, and live a long time...' Yes, he meant me. He wouldn't have been surprised to see me gallop up to him covered in mud carrying sticks in my mouth. Others told me that in Korean his words would translate as a witty and elegant compliment...then laughed at my unimpressed expression. I did not find him a charming employer

My left-handedness and mongrel ancestry did line me up for demeaning work, so when Seoul demanded research into bringing South Korean public hygiene into line with EU standards, the challenge ended up on my desk. And yes, I had contact with the famous Mr Toilet; if you are ever in Seoul and you find a nice public loo, I have played my part in supplying it. Please don't feel you have to think of me in situ.

The diplomats were funny. One dismissed Princess Diana as being 'too tall with a big nose.' I had the interesting experience of watching Fergie leap out of a car and race bow-leggedly to a meeting with one of our bemused attaches, followed by her bodyguards. According to others who watched her and Prince Andrew dine, they both had dreadful table manners, lots of grunting and food swilling round laundromat mouths.

One day was not so funny; an attache came in waving some piece of paper, his face its equal in whiteness. The news was secret and therefore not generally known around the embassy til that afternoon; North Korea had nuclear capacity. Whether they had developed something or bought something or tested something, whether they had the works or just part of an on going deal, or whether this was just a scare I never knew. One thing was certain; everyone took it deadly seriously.

Decades later, maybe it's all a boast. It's a bloody poor country apparently, maybe its weapons are old hat. Maybe the fierce old guard are gone and Kim Jong Un is just a wee round gadfly. But I'd not stake much on that... I wouldn't stake much on that at all.
smokingboot: (astrolabe)
But possibly not as smart as Mr Putin/Mr Surkov*/Whoever. This morning the Times and the Beeb are reporting on a CIA secret assessment claiming that Russia  intervened covertly in the American election, boosting Mr Trump to victory ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-38273933?SThisFB) Understandably the US Press have exploded all over it; USA Today goes one further than the Washington Post and presents us with a picture of Putin that makes him look like some supervillain in waiting, smile faintly mocking, eyes - are they sly? - and ruddy great shadows looming behind him.http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/onpolitics/2016/12/09/washington-post-cia-report-russia-intervened-election/95230696/

Natch the Donald is having none of it. According to the Washington Post, he said the hacking 'Could be Russia. Could be China. And it could be some guy in his home in New Jersey.' News flash from the post factual age: It can't be about Russia or New Jersey because Donald wants it to be about China. Stop confusing the President Elect!

I've never been weird about Russia or the States; stepping off the plane they both gave me a similar sense, like a booming sound in my soul, a welcome. I have friends who boycott one or the other; that's not my interest, I come from the land of the first big bad guys, I'm not judging villains by passport. But it remains one of my regrets that I couldn't stay in Moscow. When I landed there, they said the tanks were headed down the street, and that changing dollars into rubels was like burning money. So instead, I went onto Nepal, which was great - but yes, I missed an opportunity and I regret it. Still, always tomorrow.

There have also been murmurs of Russian influence on the Brexit Referendum, indeed, on elections and referendums across Europe. We won't be hearing much about this possibility, because the far right likes the result as much as the far left. Personally, I am inclined to the Kind Hearts and Coronets theory; when a freak occurence happens, it may indeed just be a coincidence. But when they keep happening to the benefit of one specific group/individual, it is time to keep a closer eye on dear Louis.

I say this. We won't, of course. The EU splintering would justify all those apologists who want Brexit to be, less a commentary on the state of GB. and more a response to something inevitable that we just had the foresight to duck away from, congratulating ourselves on another self-fulfilling prophecy.  If the EU collapses,we won't be among those terrified of Russia encroaching on their borders, we'll just do what the US says and wee ourselves if the president tells us to join him in expressing a problem with China. Taking back control, they call it. I doubt if Putin will be calling any man on these island, 'smart.' No, nor woman neither.

*Likes Jackson Pollock,apparently, so doubtless bringing the apocalypse with him.
smokingboot: (default)
There's a part of the heavens some call the Via Combusta. It means 'The Fiery Way,' and has an ominous reputation, stretching as it does between the claws of the scorpion through the coils of the serpent. I imagine it stretching through the veins of Britain; bright stars above, flames on the road. What is happening all around us? What are we becoming?

It is so hard not to draw parallels with the early 30s, I'm giving up trying, and instead will ask the question: Does Britain Actually Need A Fascist Revolution?

Perhaps war has its uses. War wakes people up

After each World War, even as victors, we lost; the first one bled us dry and signalled our descent from the foremost place among the world powers. The second one we had to fight because invasion was coming, and it led to a crystalisation of excellent ideas and ideals: the NHS, the welfare state, the realisation that if your homeland is fit to die for it should be fit to live in. But Germany's lessons seem to have been more profound; the general awareness that all the racist resentments against Jews throughout Europe culminated in such an evil as to never be forgotten throughout humanity's history, and a shame that nation still shudders to bear.

Maybe this is Britain's tragedy. Maybe the thing we need, once and for all, is to know what it is like to feed on the poison of nationalism until the pustule bursts, and everything is left stinking and dirty. But we shouldn't need it; we learned all right. The real tragedy is that we got the lesson via WWI, and we learned it hard, but not well. A hundred years on and what am I seeing on FB walls and all over the net?

Britain First rubbish being shared with depressing regularity. Anger at the Daesh manifesting as 'justified' racism and cultural disdain. There's one with Winnie doing the old two finger salute, with the caption: 'Fuck off muslims! We didn't win two world wars to hand ENGLAND over to you!!!' Apart from the sheer stupidity of it (No-one is asking anyone to hand England over to anybody) the emphasis makes it sound as though Winnie won't surrender Albion, but he might be persuaded to part with everything west of the Severn and north of Hawick. There seems to remain this hatred of other bubbling away underneath, as if we never really learned on our own account what extreme nationalism leads to; apparently the loss of a whole generation of young men between 1914 and 1918 doesn't count. And then there's the whole ECHR thing. No, we won't be told what our human rights are by some external court way off in Europe, we'll have our own court, upheld by our own ideals! So let's consider; if anyone has a human rights problem, who is it likely to be with? Possibly their employer but also possibly the government, given recent anti-freedom legislation. Do we think the government will defend the rights of the individual against the desires of the government? Do we think at all?

Hitler frightened many and hurt many more, but it must not be forgotten how immensely popular he was, how he courted Germany through patriotism and wounded pride. Do we need the kind of salutary lesson in humanity that Germany got? It's as though every other lesson, the war poets, the footage, the graves, the memories, the diaries, the wounded, the cruelty, the ruined land, the rubble of cities, the concentration camps, the starving, the crippled, the lost and the dead, these just wash over us because we weren't there and all we know is that we won. We once understood the limits of winning. What do we understand now?

If we don't have an answer, a good answer, we're off again down the Via Combusta, all along the Fiery Way.

Via Combusta
smokingboot: (default)
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/conservative-party-conference-david-cameron-accidentally-says-tories-resent-the-poor-9768106.html

How the ex Bullingdon boy, 5th great-grandson of King William IV, can talk about the Tory party representing poor kids who grew up on council estates absolutely beats me. If they will accept this flagrant lie, they are just being deliberately obtuse to justify their own greed. And the bribes are ready... the question is, where are all these tax cuts coming from? The answer is, if you cut welfare to the quick, of course there's more money spare. Fortunes have been made from slavery, and at the height of the British Empire, the poverty on the streets of London was hideous. Abuse of the desperate and the choiceless pays well. There's no virtue in the accumulation of wealth, though it's very convenient, and guards against many dangers. So we should extend the safety of wealth to everyone surely. A prosperous society is a safe society... trouble is, they don't seem to define society beyond themselves and their buddies. This is considerable evolution though, considering Thatcher's declaration that there is no society a few decades back. Give them another 50 years and they may concede that a welfare state might be a good thing.

I could go do some training with the Labour party tomorrow, it will just be data entry and all that. Oh, but I don't feel for them anymore, and they represent dangers of their own, but they are the only real hope of getting rid of those cruel wretches. Also, if I am offered this film work, looks like it might be an overnight shift, in which case I could go spend Saturday morning in the park looking for deer, but there's no way I could go from that to Labour Party headquarters, spend a full day there, and catch up with mates in the evening.

I don't know what to do. My only recourse is to drink even more hazelnut milk. I discovered it two days ago, and am now addicted.
smokingboot: (default)
So it's done and dusted - for now. But the fallout is interesting and could lead to great things. There is so much that has disturbed me about this campaign. On a personal level, I realised that the Union loves Scotland rather more than Scotland loves the Union, and that my dreams of living up there might not be such a pleasant reality if I am judged by my accent and birthplace. I came across an undercurrent of nationalism, sometimes soft edged, unconscious even, but still there.

An associate of mine from the studio printed one of Rabbie Burns' more unpleasant pieces about the evil English and the woes of 'English gold.' She wrote at the bottom that we should substitute the word 'English' for 'Parliament,' but even so, it was an unpleasant thing to read and I marvel that she couldn't find a non racist piece to demonstrate her point. Another more rational friend mentioned that in the event of Independence, to cut the Scottish off would be petty and cruel... then, a few comments down in his discourse, he talked about the possibilities of negotiating Spain out of using its EU veto in the hope of 'weakening the UK.' So England refusing to aid Scotland as a fledgeling state would be cruel, but Scotland sabotaging the English state would be OK. Said friend means well, but there was no getting away from the twin standard to which he was adhering, of which he seemed unaware.

From what I could make out, the road to freedom seemed to lead through using the BoE as a guarantor for any and all spending and then working backroom deals to scupper the UK in order to get into the EU. Never mind the utter stupidity of working to weaken the very currency you are relying on to build your utopia, the sheer doublethink of it was enough to harden the heart - as was a comment this morning I read, someone describing Scotland now seeing England as 'prey' after a demonstration of 'snivelling weakness.' So if the UK agreed to share the pound in style of the Euro, and take upon itself all the debts of a spending Scotland, it would be a fool to be despised and used for as much as possible out of sheer historical malice; and if the UK stood by its already declared intention not to share the pound, it would be the evil empire trying to destroy Scotland. Scotland might give up many things for Independence but not its scapegoat.

To make matters worse, the guilt tripping of Scottish No voters has been difficult to avoid, on the net at least. Maybe this is why the polls indicated a closer run fight - perhaps No voters knew how Yes voters would respond, and kept quiet. There are of course, claims of rigging the vote - and perhaps it has happened in isolated cases, who can say? But I find it hard to believe in some uber conspiracy from Westminster to rig it from the start, because if that was the case, Cameron would have stayed silent, knowing that he need do nothing. He certainly wouldn't have created a constitutional crisis and handed so much ammunition to his closest rivals on the right. Whatever happens now, his position is weaker; not as weak as Milliband's but still... Though there have been plenty of comments suggesting that Yes voters should just get a grip and accept the will of the people, I believe there should be an independent recount just to be absolutely sure of the result. But even here, there is a kind of hysteria; after all, if the votes were rigged then the outcome can't be the fault of the No voters, and if the No voters were genuine, then welcome to democracy in action.

There's a fury, a raw emotional response, and I can understand it in a way: there are photos of Mel Gibson as William Wallace looking on in disbelief as the Scots vote 'against freedom'; Hollywood comes to Holyrood. The worst I have seen is a list of companies and businesses that 'frightened' Scotland, meaning said companies warned that Independence might be bad for trade. The idea is to boycott these companies for daring to speak out and 'scare' people. So what happens if people don't buy Tunnocks teacakes, don't shop in Tescos, don't use the Royal Bank of Scotland? Does this affect the baddies in Westminster? Hardly. All that happens is that local people who work in these places get laid off, unemployment rises and the economy shrinks, just as Scotland needs to boost its economy...without which there is no hope for Independence!

Personally, I am for Independence if this is what Scotland really wants. The vote didn't seem to indicate that, but if it does at some point in the future, if those bampots in Westminster renege on their frantic promises, Scotland will only ever have that independence if it has a central bank, its own currency and its own resources with which to guarantee that currency. Scotland must be able to pay pensions and wages and mortgages, to sustain its own infrastructure. Given that, I think it could thrive independent of the South. I never felt that England or Spain was my home, guess I always considered that to be Scotland. But would I be happy in a place where a significant number need to hate my kind, my voice, my background, in order to have an identity of its own? There's a slight forlornness about not belonging anywhere, but that will pass. Love Scotland always but in the end, guess I'm a traveller.

The Vow

Sep. 17th, 2014 12:53 pm
smokingboot: (default)
Oh for god's sake.

What half-wits our party leaders are. Bribing the Scots not to leave the Union? Let them go if they wish, don't give favours the rest of the UK doesn't get...as if there isn't going to be enough bad feeling whichever way this goes! It's not just between the Yes and No voters; maybe it is my imagination but I detect a hardening of attitudes south of the border. To give nothing and let them eat Salmond may become a popular option, certainly more popular than this ridiculous vow. The Velvet Divorce becomes less and less likely.

Of course Cameron is desperate - he doesn't want to go down in British history as the man who lost the Union. And despite his avowal not to resign, his job is on the line...the Tories will not forgive such a failure. But he's in trouble whatever happens because the vow favours Scotland far too much, and he will face riot in his own back yard.
As for Ed Milliband, what an empty suit he is. His party will face utter ruin if Scotland goes independent, and all he can do is snuffle around with nothing to say except how nasty the campaign is getting. Clegg, Clegg who? Who Clegg? Devils, long spoons, all that. If that damned vow keeps Scotland in the Union, the real winners will be UKip. Farage will happily spin a great story about how the English have been unjustly treated so that our leaders can extricate themselves, and he'll get votes too, plenty of them. Then we have another problem.

What a colossal mess.
smokingboot: (default)
How strange, that this matters so much to me! Pushing and pulling, reading and thinking... Scottish Labour voters are now voting yes to an independent Scotland,not out of a braveheart fantasy but because they have been ignored, and their needs dismissed. Part of that is the lack of connection between the people of the UK and the political establishment, not just the Tory party, though they are the most visible, they represent the most overtly wealthy and are perceived as the most arrogant. Cameron with his shining face and plum voice, his slight air of upper class twitdom and his Bullingdon boy background...of course they hate him. They would always have hated him, but even more so at a time when the numbers of poor relying on foodbanks has exploded, when rickets and TB have returned to our cities, and reports cite Britain as a country still riddled with class privilege and social injustice. Who wouldn't want to start again, to try to create a fairer society? If it was anyone other than Salmond, I'd want to go myself. In fact, I still want to, despite my instincts re that declaiming weasel. If I feel the pull towards a kinder world, how much more do those who feel so disenfranchised?

At the end of my last post, I said 'we' would be all right. But that depends on who 'we' are. The UK as a social construct will get past a division, however painful, though I think more cities will look for devolved powers, and that may be good. But the poor, and those who strive for equality, those who seek to protect the welfare state and the NHS, those who relied on Labour MPs to get them out from under Tory rule?

Here is the thing about the poor, they can't be ignored forever. The state is not just a business machine, it has a moral duty to protect its members. If sight of that is lost, then prepare to lose much more.
smokingboot: (default)
Increasingly I am disturbed by the Yes campaign.

I've listed my emotional leanings in an earlier post; it's easy to see and understand the desire for a Scotland free from the greed and self service of Westminster, but it seems that Westminster is being equated with London and London is being equated with England, in a kind of lumpen broth of things and people it's OK to hate.

When all is said and done, that's a matter of choice. It's the practicality of the thing I don't get. Salmond keeps telling the Yes camp that of course there will be a shared currency, that Scotland will have the pound and the BoE will guarantee it. But why would the BoE guarantee the spending splurge promised by Salmond? This is the man who brought Fred the Shred to the fore, the man who spent £20,000 of taxpayers money in court to prove that he had got legal advice on the standing of Scotland in the EU; the court ruled that he had not got the advice he claimed. I wouldn't trust this man with a fiver, never mind a country's budget. The response to adamant claims that England won't share the pound? Salmond and chums claim that England is bluffing, that of course we will share the pound. But surely we never would unless we could determine and veto the money, and what kind of independence is that? But there just seems to be this blank assurance that England is playing chicken...maybe it is. But it's a dangerous game, and I see no gain to England in it. As important, I see no loss to England in refusing to play. Scotland is the player at risk. I think. But my fiscal knowledge is very slight.

The response has been that if England doesn't share the pound, Scotland will just renege on its part of the UK debt. Despite the hit our GDP would take, the temptation would be to shrug. After all, there are a lot of lenders out there; Scotland can go enjoy the interest rates any bad debtor faces. Of course, the oil might help a great deal, but there is so much finagling about how much oil there actually is and what it's worth, who can judge? Of course someone will buy it and just as well, with the loss of the financial sector, and the need to renegotiate everything from whisky exports to military shipping - both of which gain their major custom south of the border - said oil may well have to cover a lot of expenses. But it is worrying to depend so much on one resource; it makes for a wobbly utopia.

Then there's the EU. Salmond has claimed all sorts of rubbish, from fast-tracking onwards, and I think there is a hope that Europe will welcome them in just to annoy the evil English. Maybe that will happen. If so, Scotland will have to adopt the Euro, for all its sins. But an independent Scotland wants the same get out clauses and exceptions negotiated by the UK. And that might happen too, but there's no guarantee. What there are, are potential vetoes...

Of course, none of it may happen. What do I know? But it has an ominous feeling to me, the sense of a grand kilted party, and then a hangover lasting longer than William Wallace's legend. If the worst should come to pass I have no doubt that Scotland will survive, though it will be hard. But to see the end of the Union? Something in me sorrows, another part of me knows that we'll be OK.
smokingboot: (default)
Not so pleasant this time, last night.

The story has faded through the day, only the sense of a chase through a tesseract of walls and houses, a blonde youth having his bike stolen, then both of us running and many following, an eerie paranoid feel. Turned out the only way to deal with it was to turn and aggressively face the pursuers, to the extent of outright attack. It was only then that I discovered that attack didn't work - some force stopped punches from connecting. So there was no point anyone fighting, and they all went home. Later I learned the blonde boy had no genitals and many diseases. Full moon nights, good for bringing out my not so inner loon...

I am troubled by the Scottish referendum. Some of it is selfish...I don't want to think of my father's country as a foreign land; it's never been clear to me where home is, only memories of childhood when, in Scotland people were kind to me, and in England they were not.

To me it seems that England has long been in love with the idea of the rich, a sort of Upstairs Downstairs obsession, most assuming that they would somehow be upstairs enjoying the parties. In Scotland, the Highland Clearances and other historical issues seems to have left a less drooling idea of the Lovely Rich and What They Do. If only Salmond was a man worth trusting! There's a craftiness and excitability about him I don't like. It worries me that he just expects to have the pound, expects the Bank of England will guarantee his spending, or, he says, Scotland will renege on its part of the UK's debt - hardly an inducement for any other lender to help out or invest in Scotland. I think he is so eager to go down in history, he can't be bothered with details.

As far as I can tell, Scotland doesn't want the NHS to be dismantled (neither does England, but the NHS marches going on just don't get reported by the Beeb or Sky) nor do they want the kind of austerity measures that kill people http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/09/david-clapson-benefit-sanctions-death-government-policies?CMP=fb_gu) they don't want the extraordinary cult of inequality and privilege that has shaped our society,(http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/old-boys-club-still-dominates-public-life-according-to-major-new-report-9695229.html) and they don't want a corrupt government we can't change because the very system of parliament we rely on makes it impossible to remove them. Take fox hunting for example. The British public are overwhemingly against it, something like 80%. Cameron hunts, in fact, the master of his local hunt was one of the first to be taken to court for illegally hunting. If Cameron gets a second term, he wants to put the hunt thing to the vote again - not a national referendum of course, but he would get the MPs to vote on it, and if he has enough MPs he'll overturn it. Knowing the hunting ban is the will of the people, he will dismiss it because his friends don't like it. Fracking? The people don’t want it, so he will change the law to make their opinion irrelevant. Badger cull? Independent scientists and advisors warn that it is inefficient and being carried out inhumanely, so this year, there will be no independent observers. What manner of government is this? No wonder Scotland doesn't want it. I don't want it either.

I love this dream of a new Old Land where the ideal of fairness for everyone is important. The childish part of me gets excited by imagining a new heraldic device for Scotland, a unicorn unchained, as opposed to the maltreated circus lion of the south. Very recently a TUC leader was giving a speech on the UK's seeming return to a nastier poorer society, defined by class distinction and poverty. Her broadcast was cut short by a newsflash on the next royal baby (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tuc-leader-frances-ogrady-speech-on-class-system-cut-off-by-royal-baby-newsflash-9719503.html)

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