After the Party

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Watching America from across the pond, it’s like looking at the House Party from Hell. Where that one guest turns up late and they haven’t brought any booze, but they still feel entitled to get roaring drunk on everyone else’s good stuff.  They shout and stomp and insult the other guests.  Start a fight.  Trash the place.  Throw up in the dog basket.  Then fall into a snoring coma on the couch with a lit cigarette in one hand and the other one down their pants.  And even after all that, you wake them up in the morning with a cup of fresh-brewed coffee and a couple of Advil, and offer them breakfast.

‘Man,’ he says, ‘that was a great party, wasn’t it?’

You look around at your destroyed house.  ‘No, Chuck, it wasn’t.  You ruined it for everybody.’

The rest of world likes to whale on the US – often with good reason, it has to be said.  But America is like the over-achieving Uncle you love to hate.  You can spend a whole afternoon shouting at him for being a bullying moron, but if you’re in a bind, he’s the one you call; because you know he’ll jump in his car and come and get you, even if it’s the middle of the night.

But now your uncle has been slipped a Roofie and he’s had some kind of psychotic break and you realise you can’t rely on him anymore.  And that is a terrifying thought.

You want to take back all those times you called him a moron; when you railed against him for being a bully – because he was, in the end, your bully.  You want him back the way he used to be.  Sure, he could be an overbearing, annoying and even arrogant S.O.B.  But he could also make your heart soar with his generosity and his ingenuity; his refusal to acknowledge the word ‘impossible’ and his unshakeable belief in Doing The Right Thing.

You loved him.

But the party’s over and the house is trashed and Uncle Sam has got dementia.

Five Ways To Make Sure #Love Trumps Hate

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America chose Donald Trump as its 45th President on November 8th.

“What the actual fuck?”said the world.

“No really, it’s going to be fine,” said America, as the immigration website for Canada crashed.

Look, the world is going to be shit for at least four years.  All those right-wing nut job fears about FEMA camps and the like … that could become a reality for immigrants and Muslims.  If you think that’s cray-cray – the US has form for this.  Guantanamo Bay.  The internment of US citizens of Japanese descent during WW2.  Hell, the whole of US history up until right now has been predicated on the oppression of the brown person.  And now, for the first time in forever, America will have an openly racist President backed by the KKK and the alt-right.  If that doesn’t scare you, then with respect you need to get your head out of your ass.  And once you’ve done that, you need to stop wringing your hands and shaking that head in despair and ACT.

What to do

  1. Stand up when we see someone being abused in public. Literally, stand up.  Move your ass, get over there, stand beside the person being abused and say ‘No.’  That’s all it takes.  In this New World Order, we cannot afford to be bystanders any longer.  Brexit resulted in a massive upsurge in the UK of hate crimes and openly racist verbal attacks in the street and it’s already started in the US.  If you’re white, now is the time more than ever to use your privilege to help people of colour, the LGBTQ community, immigrants, refugees and Muslims.
  2. Join a group. Any group.  Foodbank group.  Green group.  Knitting club.  Community action group.  It doesn’t have to be political.  It doesn’t have to be big.  It could be you and a few friends.  But the purpose is the same: action leading to change.  Put down the keyboard and pick up a spade.  Get up off the couch and get out in the world.  Stop typing and start doing.  Love only trumps hate if it’s manifested by action.
  3. Find your level. Some folks have a lot of money.  Some have a lot of time.  Some have both.  Some have neither.  But everybody has something. For example, if your job or circumstance means you can’t be seen demonstrating, you may be able to help in the back office, making coffee, knitting balaclavas, writing copy, setting up a network.  And you don’t need money to do something.  Yes, money helps – a lot – but the real change, the real impact, comes from people moving their ass, joining a group, and DOING something physical to effect change.  Give what you can by doing what you can.
  4. Actively broaden your circle. Hate flourishes when there’s a fence (or a wall) between “us” and “them”.  You can start this very simply by smiling or saying hello to people you see at the grocery store, in line at the bank or coffee shop, on the way to work, who are clearly different to you.  Give up your seat on the bus.  If there’s a festival going on, a food market, a talk, a performance involving a different culture, go see it, taste it, experience it.  Watch foreign language films.  Read books about life outside the US.  Stop talking and start listening to people who experience life differently to you.
  5. Stop watching TV.   If you do the first four things you won’t have time to watch a lot of TV anyway.  If you turn off the TV it will give you time to do the other four things.  Win either way.  A quarter of US TV programming is adverts.  Watching TV makes us lazy, physically and mentally.  It wastes our time (Americans spend on average more than 5 hours a day watching TV).  It inhibits critical thinking.  Tune out so you can tune in.

“When fear becomes collective, when anger becomes collective, it’s extremely dangerous. It is overwhelming… The mass media and the military-industrial complex create a prison for us, so we continue to think, see, and act in the same way… We need the courage to express ourselves even when the majority is going in the opposite direction… because a change of direction can happen only when there is a collective awakening… Therefore, it is very important to say, ‘I am here!’ to those who share the same kind of insight.”

Thich Naht Hahn, The Art of Power (read this book by the way)

Game of (Political) Thrones

I love Buzzfeed, but this time the icon of internet mayhem got it wrong in its 9 Politicians As ‘Game of Thrones’ Characters.

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1. Nigel Farage as Jon Snow?  You know nothing, Buzzfeed.  Nigel Farage is quite clearly Stannis Baratheon – so desperate for the crown that he surrounds himself with thieves and lunatics and is prepared to set fire to the world to rule it.

2. Theresa May as Daenerys Targaryen? I think not, Khaleesi.  Theresa is obviously Cersei Lannister – utterly ruthless with an inflated sense of her own importance, yet perfectly coiffed with a nice sense of style.

3. David Cameron as Varys? Sorry, but Cameron is far too shallow and one-dimensional to be the Westerosi version of George Smiley.  I’m afraid ‘Call Me Dave’ could only be the self-serving, sly and perpetually conniving Petyr Baelish.

4. Nick Clegg as Tyrion Lannister? Oh Buzzfeed, I will hurt you for this.  A day will come when you think you are safe and happy, and your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth. And you will know the debt is paid.  Cleggy must be Renly Baratheon – the wannabe playing with the big boys, always the bridesmaid never the bride (for obvious reasons in Renly’s case), his destiny is to be fucked over by everyone and murdered horribly by a demon ejected from the loins of a (Conservative) witch.

5. George Osborne as King Joffrey?  Admittedly, I would pay good money to see Gideon gasping his last breath on the floor of the House, but he clearly plays the role of Viserys Targaryen – ruthlessly ambitious, heartless and cruel; driven by greed, he finally gets all the gold his little head desires but, like all of Gideon’s grand plans, not quite in the way he expected.

6. Caroline Lucas as Cersei Lannister?  What were you thinking, Buzzfeed?  The Queen of Green and social justice can only be Daenerys Stormborn – champion of slaves and the dispossessed; underestimated by everyone around her.  If Caroline Lucas had an army of the Unsullied (and a couple of dragons, admittedly) she could be Prime Minister.

7. Ed Miliband as Renly Baratheon?  Okay, I think I see where you were trying to go with this, younger brother and all that.  But clearly, Ed Milliband is the orphan outsider Jon Snow.  His brother, in whose shadow he languished, has been cut out of the scene (gone to New York to Do Good Works or beheaded at the Red Wedding, take your pick); he’s banished to the hinterlands and must somehow pull together a ragtag rabble of outcasts, misfits and miscreants into a winning team.  And he knows nothing, let’s not forget that.

8. Michael Gove as Viserys Targaryen?  Well, if you want to undersell the untrammelled evil of Gove, then sure.  But truly, Gove can be none other than King Joffrey.  Let’s look at the evidence.  The only person who loves him is his mother.  Check.  His sick and twisted imagination endlessly invents new ways to hurt people.  Check.  He takes perverse delight in punishing the poor.  Check.  He loathes the sick, the disabled…hell, everyone.  Check.

9. Eric Pickles as Khal Drogo?  Moon and stars, Buzzfeed!  Are you drunk on fermented horse milk?  The Pickle-ator is more like The Hound, willing to chop off heads (or any other body part) at his master’s bidding with not a shred of remorse, completely lacking in moral fibre, and with a penchant for eating (copious amounts) with his hands.

And there you have it.  And remember: Everything’s better with some wine in the belly.