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Sunday 27 December 2015

You Can Do It

It's halfway between Christmas and New Year, and I am already all holiday'd out.

I'm glad that the people that had a good time, did. I'm sad that those who didn't, didn't. I wish everyone could have had a good time. Likewise I wish those who didn't want to do this whole thing (but ended up kind of having to do it anyway) could have sidestepped it.

What is coming up is New Year's Eve, and there will be many things going on, in people's heads and on social media.

Amongst all the chat about this and that, there will probably be a significant amount of thoughts relating to new year, new person. A lot of this may be accompanied by motivational posters; and it's those particular posters that on occasion catch my eye.

See...I am a depressive. Have been for a long time. A bit of a cynic too. So whenever I see those messages of positivity, my instinct is to sneer. I don't know if they actually work for anyone - if they make people feel better, give them the drive or determination that they need - but for me, it never seems to ring true.

That said - if it WORKS for you? You do you. Unless something someone does is harmful (to them or anyone else) then I probably shouldn't have any say in it. I just don't understand the mindset that MAKES it work. It's beyond me.

Likewise, New Year's resolutions. I've made some in the past. It just....doesn't really work for me now. If I have one each year, it's to make it through to next year; and some days, that is harder than others. My health makes actually going out and having adventures fairly difficult - and besides, for me, the draw of them has faded a little. Perhaps that is cynicism, too. Perhaps I just value things differently, now.

Sure, there's things I want to do in 2016. There's things I am hopeful for. I want to be able to get more tattoos. I want to attend some gigs. I want to get some serious writing done. I want to be in a better financial place by the end of the year - and at least 80% of that is just on me, so I am hopeful.

Work looks positive. We've got a lot of good work coming up, which is gonna keep us busy as heeell. Predicting a few late finishes, which is fine. Even looking down the barrel of a shedload of work - my team is a good one, we'll be okay.

Got all sorts of fun events coming up, too. Nine Worlds convention in the late summer, which I am SERIOUSLY looking forward to. A trip up to London to catch a showing of The Room at the Prince Charles theater, which I am still sourcing plastic spoons and an American football for. Visits to friends, hopefully - both near AND far. (Assuming you wanna see me that is!)

So...why not 2016? Why not. I'm not gonna say it is going to be the super-best year ever - but I will settle for it being a good year.

Hopefully not just for me, either. I'm hoping America has a good year, by avoiding the Trump Bullet. I'm hoping folks the world over have a more acceptant time, an easier time, a time less plagued by the ignorance and greed of others.

Hell...maybe I AM looking forward to it.

Thursday 17 December 2015

Hijacking The Narrative

A story can be very different when taken from another perspective.

Take, for example, the well-known tale of the brave police officers trying to counteract the criminal activity of a well-connected crime family in the 50s and 60s. Their fortitude in the face of a crime boss of significant power and means is an inspiration to us all. The Untouchables -

...wait, is that what I am talking about? Because I'm pretty sure that is also The Godfather, from another angle.

Think about those two novels, those two movies. They are different, yes - but they could almost be two sides of the same coin, with very little shifting. The two sets of events could happen in the same storyline, but who we root for and who we sympathise for is a case of perspective.

(I'm more of a Corleone man than an Elliot Ness - but that's just me.)

That's an example of two stories that can be seen as vaguely similar. Taking a different perspective in an existing story can lead to just as different results.

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead is a fresh take on Hamlet. It's a play that literally takes place in and around the events of Hamlet, with the two titular buffoons as main characters. Where Hamlet itself, as a play, is afflicted with the air of melancholy and paranoia that is inherent in its main character - R&GAD is absurd and comedic, with the two regularly forgetting which of them is which.

Sometimes if we want examples of this, we aren't so lucky as to have opposing viewpoints presented in canonical media. We have to think for ourselves. (Rare, right?) So there's the story about the engineer whose family were killed in an insurgency who dedicates the rest of his life to building the ultimate deterrent against future insurgency...who is unfortunately killed when the Rebels attack the second Death Star.

This happens in real life, too. I mean history is a thing of many different stories, and history is heavily reliant on perspective. Anyone who knows anything about the second world war knows how different it went to how people think it went. The story pans out in different ways depending on whose history you read. As long as we're aware of this, though, we're capable of stepping outside the box and forming a kind of aggregate narrative that is closer to the truth than any one angle.

This is how novelists do it with complex multi-character multi-arc stories, too. Usually the end result is a pastiche of multiple stories that hammer together into one single narrative, presenting a more rounded and filled-out story than one perspective could allow for.

But if a fiction can be altered by changing perspective - if an author can make the story seem like it is going one particular way, then alter how we feel about it and what we think is going on at the drop of a hat - then surely, so can a reality.

The thing with this is that an author or creator or writer has control over their product (hopefully). They can dictate perspective as they see fit - the narrative is theirs to control. Real life doesn't always work like that, as much as people would like it to.

You see politicians do it all the time. If a story is unfavourable to them, they will try and frame it in such a way that it minimizes that lack of favour. Spin doctors specialise in this - and the hope is that the perspective shift becomes what people accept as the only truth. (This happens quite often. More often than anyone would like.)

It's not a case of opposition, either. Sometimes even a slight adjustment of angle can produce a very different result. What's the difference between a zealot and a true believer? What's the difference between a militant and a soldier? The angle of how the shadows fall. Language is very important in how we think of things, and those who use language carefully can be instrumental in dictating opinion and perspective.

Where am I going with this? Didn't start off with a conclusion in mind, really; but I think I have some idea.

Once upon a time there was a baby born. He was born in poverty, due to inefficient bureaucracy and basic lack of equality; and so we aren't surprised when this young man grows up to be very conscientious, and considerate - almost to his own detriment. He shows favour to people that he's expected to shun, and he preaches that we should help each other. Like all the time. Like the only way we can make things better for US is to make things better for THEM, because THEY are US.

He sees that people are hungry and he feeds them. He sees that the poor are being taken advantage of by the wealthy, and does something about it. He sees injustice all around him, and tries to fix it...and is criminalised for it. To the point that, in the end, he is put to death alongside murderers and thieves, because he's considered an enemy of the state - a state made great (in part) by wealth division and bureaucracy, the very things he stood against.

By now I am fairly convinced that you've realised I'm putting a spin on the life of Jesus of Nazareth. It's a perspective that I buy into far more than the entire son-of-God narrative. Because isn't it actually far more worthy, far more holy, to do good things just BECAUSE they are good things? To try and make life better for people because it is not only LOGICALLY the best thing to do but also MORALLY? Isn't that a far stronger message than...well...

...than the narrative that he was the predestined Messiah, which was altered on and off over a period of centuries, mostly to suit whoever was in charge at the time, wherein he was pretty much forced to be the ultimate dude bro because of God-dad and was sent down to die for our sins? Which by the way is weak as hell - die for our sins? Why not show us how to NOT SIN? Why not show us how to not be shitty people? Nope, instead he gets to be martyred. All he does in life is overshadowed by the fact that God-dad wants him to be strapped to wood and killed by exhaustion and asphyxiation.

But that's the narrative that we use. It's the narrative that is adopted by the culture I am surrounded by. It's the easier one to get behind. That way we don't need to actually DO good things in a very pro-active and charitable way - we just need to be vaguely good, because Jesus wasn't here to show us how to live, he was here to show us that God-dad loves us so much he'd kill his own adopted son.

This is what happens when we let perspective be dictated to us - this is a literal hijacking of the narrative. I quite often like to talk about unpopular or contrary interpretations of how things are or the way things have been, if only because it shows that there is a different perspetive that may otherwise be overlooked. It's as much a reminder to those I talk to, as it is a reminder to myself. Challenge the narrative. Find a contrary viewpoint. Draw information from multiple sources. Informed decisions are cool, people! Be people that are cool.

Don't let your perspective be hijacked.

Tuesday 8 December 2015

People Live Here

I want to share a song with you.

This song is by a band called Rise Against; it's from their most recent album at time of writing, Black Markets. It's called People Live Here.

The first time I heard this song, I was in public, so I just...swallowed, and kept going. Then I got home and listened to it again, and really let it sink in, and that was a messy one. It's one of those songs - there's a few of them that really get to me.

The lyrics are below:
My god is better than yours
And the walls of my house are so thick I hear nothing at all
I followed you out in the storm, but it carried you off
And I burned every picture of yours, was that not enough?

My gun is bigger than yours
So let's arm the masses and see what the bastards do then
Walking tall once set us apart, now we're down on all fours
Do you cry my name in the dark like I do yours?

These storms are getting stronger now, the trusses all bend and sway
The lightning hits, the power goes out in the fray
As the waves crash high and the shoreline disappears
I will scream to the sky "Hey people live here"

But my dreams are not unlike yours
They long for the safety and break like a glass chandelier
But there's laughter and oh there is love, just past the edge of our fears
And there's chaos when push comes to shove, but it's music to my ears

May you be in heaven before the devil knows you're dead
And may these winds be always at your back
'Cause when we're all just ghosts and the madness overtakes us
We will look at the ashes and say "People lived here"

From the penthouse to the holy martyr, sea to shining sea
From the coffins full of kindergarteners, is this what you call free?
From the hate that drips from all your crosses, are your hands so clean?
There's a wildfire and it's spreading far, from sea to shining sea

When we're all just ghosts and the madness overtakes us
I will scream to the sky
Yeah I'll scream to the sky
Yeah I'll scream to the sky
"Hey people live here" you...get it?

Like does it needle you like it needles me? Does it tug on that nerve inside of you, that runs right to your brain, and demands that you FEEL something?

Like all pain?

Just...god. For the last few days I feel like I've been rent open. I've been ill, that much I know - I can hear it when I lay down and breathe, like popping candy in my trachea. I've had some bad news that I don't want to go into publically, though if you ask I may tell. On top of all this, I've seen more racism, hysteria, xenophobia and bastardly behaviour in the past few weeks thanI recall seeing in the past few years.

I can understand why people get so frustrated at the world. Like identifying all of the individual ways in which it is fucked up and diagnosing causality, that is difficult, and takes time, and can be agonising - it requires a lot of reading in a lot of different areas. It can be very hard to identify one's own bias and try and work around that, too. If you even recognise that you ARE biased.p

I'm biased.

I'm biased because right now I'm seeing a war being prosecuted by a right wing organisation against everyone else, and another war of a different type being prosecuted by another right wing organisation against everyone else, and yet another war of yet another different type being prosecuted by yet another right wing organisation against STILL EVERYONE ELSE. And some of those right wing organisations are fighting each other, and everyone else at the same time.

I'm biased because I can't see how any of the parties involved can't see that they are doing a huge amount of harm to people that don't deserve it. It maddens me that grinning idiots and smirking madmen and flushed pompadours and furious fanatics deliberately hurt and kill people, some directly, some indirectly. Some pull the trigger, some pull the funding, some sit in the middle and point fingers and hate, and hate, and hate.

I want to grab them all by the shoulders and scream at them, yell and bawl and cry and shout until I can't feel my throat burning. Stop it. You know you're doing it. STOP IT. We're all just PEOPLE, you fucking monsters. We're just trying to live. Our lives are so FUCKING HARD before you even decide to weigh your shit into it and you just make it worse because of whatever fucking STUPID REASON you care to use to justify your abominable behaviour, and it's WRONG, and you need to NOT FUCKING DO IT.

I swallow that down. It's all I can do to swallow that down. I try and deal with my problems as best I can, a step at a time, and not resort to yelling, because yelling won't help anyone.




Wednesday 2 December 2015

Terrorist Sympathiser

I found out very recently that I am a terrorist sympathiser.

I am a terrorist sympathiser because I don't believe that a bombing campaign, or even a full-fledged all-arms military campaign, in Syria will actually get rid of Islamic State or reduce their ability to hurt us, which leads me to think that signing off on a bombing campaign is a bad idea.

I am a terrorist sympathiser because I don't believe that the Russian bombing campaign is achieving the goals we are being told it is, because the Russian air force is busy flattening targets identified by President Assad's loyalists. It's fairly likely, therefore, the Russian bombing campaign is busy killing everyone that isn't in Assad's camp - which includes the 70,000 on-the-ground fighters that our government has quoted as being the actual troops with which IS will be defeated.

I am a terrorist sympathiser because I don't believe that any other nation's bombing of targets in the region made anyone on Earth any safer, which is in part borne out by the fact that bombing has been occurring long before the terror attacks on Paris, the Lebanon and Iraq took place. In fact, it is perhaps up for debate that the bombing campaign conducted by the French air force may have led to Paris being targeted either directly or indirectly, having the opposite of the intended effect.

I am a terrorist sympathiser because the military situation as it stands is less like World War 2, with very clearly delineated battle lines and forces, and far more like the Vietnam War. Even with close eyes on the ground, we can guarantee that there will be civilian casualties. It is inconceivable that there won't be. Several nations are basically okay with this, and several people within this nation are likewise - I am not.

I am a terrorist sympathiser because every single time we interfere with the Middle East, we cause more problems than we solve. It's like a wound that we made, that we can't help but touch and scratch and toy with. The story repeats itself, constantly, over and over again. We arm and support the rebels, or we arm and support the establishment, and people die. More and more people die. Because everyone remembers that the Russians were the antagonists of Rambo 3, but everyone forgets that the good guys became the Taliban.

I am a terrorist sympathiser because every house we blow up, every school we implode, every building we collapse produces more people fleeing for their lives from a nation already riddled with war and death. Many of those people will try and come here. Shamefully, a significant amount of British citizens have shown themselves as finding this situation intolerable; they seem to be the same people who are very much in support of an action that would create yet more of those same refugees.

I am a terrorist sympathiser because the loadout of a single strike aircraft costs enough to house and feed a significant percentage of the homeless in this country. A single Storm Shadow missile costs almost £800,000. If we fire six Storm Shadow missiles, that is the cost of a brand new hospital, fully staffed and with all modern technology and equipment. At a time when the public infrastructure is (some might say deliberately) overtaxed and under-budgeted, it is sheer madness to literally throw away such sums of money on achieving - as mentioned before - very little.

I am a terrorist sympathiser because our Prime Minister is showing himself to be an insecure schoolboy, desperately trying to show off to his head-of-state peers, and is willing to risk lives to do so. He wants to prove he's just as tough and brave as all of his chums, and will bully his opposition and cajole them until they let him go along with his multi-million-pound ego trip. He is the one that labelled me a sympathiser, in fact; it's a label he has dished out to everyone not siding with him in today's debate. He claims that inaction is not a strategy, as do many others. I can name two dozen nations that have done nothing and not suffered terrorist attacks at the hands of IS. It seems to be quite an effective strategy.

Finally, I am a terrorist sympathiser because if the powers that be insist on using this kind of rhetoric to reinforce their power and control over the citizenry, then I cannot conscientiously align myself with them. The greatest threat to our way of life today is not a group of militants in a far-away country - nor is that greatest threat a group of individuals who have lived in their target country for a significant period of time, far away from the far-away country that it is proposed that we bomb.

The greatest threat to our way of life is people like David Cameron, who truly believe that the best way to govern a nation is to drive it into austerity - for whom the health and wealth of corporate entities is of greater importance than the population of the nation. IS will never control Europe; but significant parts of Europe are already under the control of people like David Cameron. A man who marries himself to toxic media empires and desperately finger-points and blusters to protect his friends in office, regardless of their evil and incompetence. A man whose political stance is that of doing harm to his citizens, over and over again - death by a thousand cuts.

If all of these beliefs, all of these logical processes make me a terrorist sympathiser, then I will wear that label, and I will wear it with a defiant pride. I will not be intimidated by those who use fear to try and achieve their political ends - David Cameron - into forsaking my morals and my conscience.

I am a terrorist sympathiser.

Just ask the terrorists.