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I see no heroes

IMG_20171015_165153_processedAs a rule of thumb it’s best to assume there’s more behind the day’s headlines than we know, or could ever imagine. Trump and BREXIT have dominated UK current affairs for years now, both of them beginning as little things we did not believe could happen, but which went on to happen in a big way, to the extent they have now mired the western world in crises too numerous to be unpicked here – even if I knew how.

I had thought it the result of a kind of cyclical madness, that once every couple of generations, the veneer of political stability naturally fell apart, that it was a kind of madness too that we could become normalised to what is now, frankly, a bewildering state of world affairs. But the picture emerging of the story behind this story, is not one of collective madness at all, more one of a concerted and clandestine campaign of disinformation and psychological warfare – specifically, the deployment of techniques developed to win over the hearts and minds of an enemy, or failing that to collapse their will, and therefore their resistance, to ideas and to forces they might otherwise see as harmful. In this case, the enemy is us, the civilian populations of the UK, Europe and the United States.

It was achieved through the medium of the truly Orwellian Visiphone, one many of us carry, all the time – our phones, our laptops, our swish tablet computers. They watch us, they look, listen, take note of the things we like, the things we don’t like, and make predictions based upon that data – what else we might like, or how we might be persuaded to like or not to like certain things. It logs our every step, everywhere we go, and how often. It makes note of our contacts. It can even make predictions of the likelihood of our committing future crimes, the likelihood we belong to an ethnic, religious or sexual minority group, the likelihood we are to the left or the right of the political divide.

Those deploying such weapons are not governments. ‘They’ are the plutocrats who own the world’s money, the unimaginably rich whose goal it is to further consolidate control of the world’s money flows. They have done this since the dawn of time by partly infiltrating and lobbying government, by funding and effectively blackmailing politicians into obedience, and more lately by owning and deploying with deadly effect that most recent Pandora’s box of nefarious possibility – Big Data.

Big Data is everything conceivably knowable about you and me, and we give it away in exchange for the convenient services we are offered in return – essentially messaging, information, entertainment and navigation via our Visiphones. Want to play that crazy cat game? You have to sign away all objections to your data being harvested first. Sounds dodgy? It is. But you know what? We do it anyway.

We have been at war for a long time without realising it. It’s basically a class war like no other ever waged in history, and we’re losing it. Worse, I see no heroes coming to our rescue, only leader after leader lying brazenly with their pants on fire as if to own the truth by denying its very existence. No one reading Carol Cadwalladr’s reports here, can be in any doubt now the result of the BREXIT vote was influenced by the self interest of an international plutocratic elite, virtue of the psychological weapons it deployed in the run-up to the vote, weapons purchased at great cost, yet secreted through various murky back-channels. To all rational thinkers the result of the BREXIT vote is null and void, democracy was undermined, yet we remain transfixed as the train rushes towards us, frozen in our disbelief.

The result for the UK is the destabilising chaos that has been BREXIT, and a government now torn between those within it who would work towards minimising the damage it will do, and those who would maximise that damage for their own purposes – damage here meaning severe detriment to the working and the middle classes of the UK, with the implication that whatever the outcome, that damage is now unavoidable and will be substantial. Already stripped of our former securities we face a further collapse of all certainties concerning healthcare, social provision and any kind of worthwhile work, both for ourselves and the generations who follow. This is a new world order. It’s Orwellian, it’s oppressive, and it came out of nowhere.

Plutocrats traditionally inhabit the far right of the political landscape, but so far as I can tell, not from any particular affinity with its ideology. Right leaning politicians and their cheerleaders are merely convenient bedfellows, and similarly contemptuous towards the common enemy, this being “The People”.

Persuading “the people” to vote or to support the policies of the right, policies that aid the plutocratic cause, and which are inherently harmful to “the people”  relies upon sowing the seeds of an irrational fear to distract from the actual facts – like vote for me and I’ll make you poorer, and I’ll make your children suffer. To pull that off is an act of astonishing sleight of hand, but it’s as effective now as it was in the nineteen twenties, and the fears stoked are the same – fear of the foreigner, or the other who is not like you, who will take your job and ruin the purity of your imagined native heritage.

The difference now is the plutocrat is not restricted in his disinformation to the partial media, which they mostly own. Now they have access to our primary means of information as well – to our Visiphones. Now they can make us hate anyone and anything they want, merely by a form of subliminal suggestion through the images and the adverts we are served. They can make us say and do stupid things, make us vote in strange ways, make us saw off the branch of the tree we’re sitting on. They are the Svengalis of the modern world.

Armed with a sufficient level of education, a knowledge of the dangers of this all-pervasive media, who controls it and how they control it helps one view information thus gleaned with circumspection. But not everyone is interested, or cares that much and it’s been proven anyway that, given sufficient motivation, even good people can be persuaded to do harm to others without just cause. Our will is weakened by a constant bombardment of unsettling and confusing issues to the point where we know something is badly wrong and we can’t believe anything we’re seeing, yet cannot conceive of any alternative, let alone how we go about achieving it.

I’m at the stage now where I want to close my eyes to that train heading full pelt in our direction. It might help if I focus my attention on a future world, one interpolated from the data plots already marked on the chart, and from the general direction we seem to be heading. It’s a world without any meaningful work, and a population enslaved, working two or three of those meaningless jobs for a minimum wage, eighty hours or more a week, just to pay the rent. None of us will own anything, not even the Visphones in our pockets, and the only satisfaction in life we’ll have is counting the likes we got for that stupid video we re-posted from somewhere else. Meanwhile the plutocrats in their super-yachts will be anchored offshore, grey silhouettes in the sunset, like the battleships of a conquering nation, a vision both futuristic and medieval. And there’s not a damned thing we can do about it. Except, next time, before you click, think about what information you’re giving away to the enemy, and what you might already have lost on account of it.

I’m off to West Wales now, to a little place half way up a mountain where there’s no ‘phone signal, and no Internet, where I can still believe the world is a beautiful place, and worth the shout and where my Visiphone won’t be urging me to hate any more.

 

 

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tmp_2018071515122033598A bit of poetry for a change, and a book that seems to have chosen me rather than the other way around – a charity shop find, and a casual purchase that’s been well worth the fifty pence I paid for it. It’s a paperback version from 1963, much scribbled in by lit students and contains a love letter, secreted there long ago, from a time when men used to write such things to girls. It adds mystery and charm,  hints at unknown lives. But that’s second hand books for you. They are multidimensional, multi-layered things trailing the history of their readers as well as the work of their writers.

But does anyone buy poetry any more when they don’t have to, I mean other than having to study it in order to pass an exam? Like writing love letters, does anyone actually do poetry? I mean read it, live it, follow it, even write it themselves? Of course they do. Indeed, in a world dominated by hateful commentary, poetry provides the perfect antidote, lowering us back into a place of thoughtfulness and calm.

Collected and published after his death in 1958, Miscellany One contains perhaps Dylan Thomas’ most famous poem: Do not go gentle into that good night/Old age should burn and rave Rage/Rage against the dying of the light.

It was quoted by Michael Caine in the movie Interstellar, this as an exaltation for us to quit an ailing earth, one that we’d pretty much destroyed, risk it all on one last shout, then presumably we could go and destroy somewhere else. It wasn’t the context in which the poem was written of course, nor intended. It was actually written upon the death of Dylan Thomas’ father, and Thomas’ intent here, urging struggle in the face of the inevitable troubles me. But that’s poetry for you. It rises from the subliminal depths of one mind and settles to work in the subliminal places of another. And there’s no telling what the effects might be.

I reference “Miscellany” in my current novel in progress – an outrageous liberty, I know. I might be accused of borrowing something of depth in order to disguise the shallowness of my own work – a bit like Interstellar. I use it to connect a pair of characters, to draw them together in conspiracy by using the book as a basis for encoded messages in order to avoid web-snooping and other tropes of the modern surveillance culture. But that’s literally another story – and one that isn’t finished yet.

There are other poems here of course, also short stories, and radio scripts. And I find the writer is an intriguing one, immensely popular in his own lifetime but with critical opinion divided as regards his actual literary merit. Personally, I find the poetry lyrical and powerful, and I’m bewitched by the use of odd and at times deeply obscure language. He can also be rousingly alliterative, rhythms loosely punctuated by internal rhyme. There can be a formal structure to the work, but one that’s not always apparent. The poem “prologue” appears to have no structure at all, but in fact consists of a hundred lines of rhyming couplets that start in the middle and work outwards. It’s a form that appears to have no form, yet hides a startling symmetry, like ripples moving out upon the surface of a pond, from the epicentre of a tossed stone.

This day winding down now
At God speeded summer’s end
In the torrent salmon sun,
In my sea shaken house
On a breakneck of rocks,..

I know virtually nothing about Dylan Thomas, therefore I must tread lightly in my speaking of him, speak here perhaps only of first impressions. And my impressions are of an infectious use of language. There is also the passing glimpse of a curious existential view. Born in 1914, in the thick of war, his poem “I dreamed my genesis” has him as the rebirth of someone dying in the carnage of France, at least in the sense that as one wave breaks upon the shores of our mortality, another is already forming behind it, ready to break in its turn – life and nature cyclical, repetitive, unstoppable.

As an artist he was courageous to the point of self destruction, driven even from boyhood to be a poet, and determined to make a living at it, instead of settling to a more secure profession. But in spite of attaining the near impossibility of popular acclaim in his own lifetime, he spent that life largely penniless, indeed indebted to the tune of writing begging letters to other literary figures. He was also heavy drinker, a hell raiser, and a serial philanderer who burned his candle at both ends, and died following a spectacular drinking binge while on tour in America – the stuff of myth and raucous legend.

Speaking as a non poet or a wannabe poet, or just as a reader and lovers of words, I find his words enchanting, a powerful voice that must be listened to, in the best bardic tradition. It may be that we hold a special place in our hearts for those who have fallen while trying so hard, and we project something more of the hero onto them than onto those who make their success seem all too effortless.

 

On a dust dry afternoon,
In a quake of stupefying heat,
I tip the pencil to the page
Of thoughts as yet unspun,
And pause.

So long a ghost now, flitting soft,
Unseen, unheard while held aloft
On gossamer threads,
Wind-trailed for fey arachnid flight,
Afraid to freeze myself,
Descend into uncompromising shape,
And speak.

Let it fly!

There was some debate over whether or not the Baby Trump blimp (AKA Hairpiece One) would be allowed to fly over London in response to the visit of POTUS  this week. But permission has now been granted and I’m pleased as it shows that, in spite of the world being in free-fall these days, we British have still not lost our sense of humour. It’s an unflattering likeness for sure, but one done in that age old satirical tradition, a visual raspberry to deflate an arch display of pomposity and bombast.

The thing with laughter is it can defuse anger, and thereby restore a sense of reason that might otherwise be swept away by stronger, darker emotions. Laughter is important . We laugh, then pause to wonder more soberly and deeply where the world has gone wrong in recent years, and why of a sudden there’s so much hate and spittle flying about.

The above Youtube clip is of an interview given by Owen Jones, on the BBC’s Newsnight program. Owen is a regular political commentator, a respected journalist, and columnist for the Guardian Newspaper. Very much to the left of the political centre Owen is here voicing his support for the flight of “Hairpiece One”, against an opposing view from a POTUS supporter.

But what struck me most of all were the comments that followed this clip. I use Youtube a lot, and in return it mines my deepest Freudian cavities for personalised marketing opportunities. Its largely unmoderated and immoderate commentary is also notoriously sickening, therefore daunting for polite company to wade through, and actually quite useless in rational debate,  so I rarely bother with it. Except this time I found it upsetting. The fact of its anonymity of course invites all manner of cowardly and ill judged sniping. But there we are.

In the case of the “Hairpiece One” piece, the comments section predictably acted as a lightning rod for the loud energy of the intolerant, the misogynistic, the racist and the merely ignorant tendencies. In short, there was such a lot of hate – ill informed, indeed juvenile and no one of any intelligence would enter into debate with it, but it’s still worth taking note of because I see dangers in it.

The piece was discussing the rights and wrongs of flying a satirical balloon over London as a means of peaceful protest against a world leader whose policies are controversial to say the least, a leader buoyed along upon comments that seem to come exclusively from the mouths of angry white men, utterly entrenched in their unswerving hatred of almost everything that they are not: towards Gay people, people of colour, people of intelligence, people of left leaning liberal values, people of the Muslim faith – hatred towards British people too, of how our capital is a war-zone, the streets running with blood, of how badly our National Health system “sucks”, and it’s all our fault for being “soft ” on immigration and not taking up the same draconian policies of POTUS, which would make us great again! And more, I read of the visceral hate of “communism”, and it’s usual tiresomely inaccurate conflation with “socialism”, all of these being echoes from recent conservative news-media tropes, and all of them expressed in the most vile, inebriate public-house language. It’s if one had slipped the catch on a huge, overstuffed Bluebeard’s cupboard and been buried in an avalanche of nefarious material that would be better unseen by polite company.

All this the result of a visit to the UK by POTUS.

So is it better in the open, then we know what the incoming tide is bringing with it? Of course, a hundred vile comments do not represent the views of the silent majority of American citizens, some of whom I’ve had the great pleasure of speaking to and meeting virtually via this media. But what shocks me is the subliminal energy behind those comments, and the risk those nominated to lead, or guard our flanks – the policemen, the border patrols, the military, become infiltrated by that same shallow, hateful mindset. In short we should be careful to whom we grant the keys of the nation, lest they go berserk in the lockings up. Some might say it’s too late, that the Genie is out of the bottle now and he’s not for going back in. Naturally I hope that’s not the case, nor that it presages the loss of yet another generation and much bloodletting to flay the demons of hate out of existence for yet another century.

Love and compassion won’t always trump evil. But it’s better than joining in with the hate. I wish Hairpiece One well, and all who sail in her.

history of loneliness

A History of Loneliness is a novel about the abuse of children in the Catholic Church in Ireland. It’s an important and unflinching work exploring the corruption of power on a vast scale, its systematic cover-up, and the devastating effect the scandal had upon the psyche of a nation when it woke up to the truth of its betrayal.

Odran Yates, is a good man, sent for the priesthood by his mother at the age of 17. He’s not sure if he has a true calling. It was simply the done thing and, in common with many other lads of his age, he simply went along with it. But he finds he enjoys the seminary life and excels at his studies. Scarred by tragic childhood events, and abused by the parish Priest – a thing he’s long suppressed – Odran is more damaged than he seems. Is the Church to be his rehabilitation into back life, or an escape from it?

Reticent and bookish, he begins his career teaching at the Catholic school, thinking to settle into the quiet cloistered life. For decades, he keeps the real world at bay, only to find himself suddenly sent to cover a parish for his old friend and fellow priest Tom Cardle who, after only a short tenure, has been quietly “moved on”. Although promised it’s only a temporary thing, Odran finds himself marooned in the position, a hapless pawn in a grand power-play as the first paedophile cases begin to break, and the church seeks to cover itself. We learn it’s not the first time Tom Cardle has been moved on, and though it’s obvious to us now in hindsight why, to Odran it remains a mystery.

To be a priest in Ireland at the outset of Odran’s career, was to be man highly regarded and trusted. People gave up their seats on trains for him, bought him food and drink and generally prostrated themselves in hope of currying favour with God. But when the scandal breaks, the priesthood becomes at once universally reviled, priests reluctant to go about in their collars for fear of attack. Odran is accused of attempting to kidnap a small boy when he was only trying to help the child who had lost its mother. Such is the paranoia and hatred of the public, he is set upon in the street, punched to the ground, then treated appallingly by the Garda who are quick assume him to be a paedophile “like all the rest”.

As the story shuttles back and forth in time, pieces of the puzzle and the all too human weaknesses in Odran’s character are revealed and we are forced to ask: how could such an intelligent man really have been so naive as not to know what was going on? Did Odran, and all the other good men of the Priesthood, simply turn a blind eye? Or were the good men themselves also victim to the institution they so loyally served?

Worse is to come with Odran discovering how the corruption goes to the core of the Church, that rather than work with the authorities in exposing and punishing rogue priests like Tom Cardle, the Church has defended them, covered for them, because the Church could not be seen to be anything less than omnipotent, having set itself above all other authority save God – above the state, and the law – that Ireland had become up to the time of the crisis a virtual theocracy, the Church unchallenged in its domination over the lives of the Catholic population, and under the cover of which many an appalling abuse took place.

All Odran wants is a return to the quiet life of the school, but as the layers of deceit unfold he looks back and asks himself has he not wasted his life in devotion to an institution that is morally unworthy, indeed responsible for ruining the lives of so many innocents? And as an outraged public turns upon anyone wearing the collar, including Odran, are the good priests not equally culpable and deserving of the public’s anger? But if that’s the case, with so many wrongs in world, who among us is entirely without sin? Who among us has never turned a blind eye to a thing out of a sense of one’s own powerlessness to make any difference whatsoever to a rottenness so deep?

Read this book if you can bear it. Put yourself in Odran’s shoes, then ask yourself, honestly, what would, what could you have done?

avia-peseus

So, I write this blog and I publish novels online. I do it all for free because publishers don’t want my stuff, and life’s too short to be endlessly promoting it against a tide of whims all running the other way, and it doesn’t matter anyway because there are far too many books in the world and too few of them ever made a difference to anything, and no one actually reads books anymore, do they?

Writers! Well, we’re a pretty conceited bunch, all of us thinking our book, our blog, is going to change the world if only the world would shut up and listen, ether that or we’re thinking it might help us to get laid, or that this small clique of other writers we hob-nob with, will be daunted, if only for a moment, by the size of our gargantuan ego/intellect, as demonstrated by our latest killer piece.

There was an age when books changed the world, I suppose, back when knowledge was first written down and disseminated by copy-scribes – the mathematics of the Greeks, perhaps? Nowadays someone would be making it up, just to get a name for themselves and refusing to blush when the logic fell apart and swearing blind it was someone else’s fault, and everything is fake anyway, and most of us couldn’t tell the difference. And books are hard to take in, aren’t they? Five hours the last one took me to read, and I can barely remember any of it now. As for those seriously droneful fictions of the Victorian era, I’d sooner watch the box-set.

Books simply don’t matter any more. Nowadays we’ ve got Youflicks and Fishwit, and that Tweety-Bird thing and we believe every damned thing they tell us, their psychometric algorithms feeding back on our deepest darkest selves as betrayed by our clicks, and tuned in turn to bend the shapes of who and what it is we love or hate, and even how we vote. The Internet is the thing, you see? For sure it is! At least it is in its most addictive incarnations, where we crave the novelty of that latest notification and all in the hope it’ll finally change everything for the better. And even though you know by now it won’t,… go on, resist it, I challenge you. The Internet for five minutes is the same as all the books in the world on steroids. People walk the street like zombies, glued to it, plugged into it, oblivious of reality, so defenceless are we now against its clever little memes and all its tiny brain-devouring worms.

I mean how else do you explain it?

The fix we’re in.

real magic

Psychical research, or Psi, is a subject I think most of us are interested in, though perhaps without going so far as to admit any firm beliefs in it – at least not to our friends. Indeed, a cautious approach is advisable, this being a field beset with poseurs and frauds. But there are serious researchers too, and Dean Radin is one of them.

By Psi we mean things like ESP, Psychokinesis, Divination, Clairvoyance and Mediumship. His previous books, Supernormal, Entangled Minds and the Conscious Universe detail his careful research
going back over the decades of his long career. What’s always separated him from other writers on this subject though is a reluctance to fly his kites too high. He sticks with the research, with the methods, and most of all with the evidence. And the evidence he has published is consistently persuasive.

One of the fascinations in this field is the ingenious methods devised by researchers to tease out what could be genuine anomalous phenomenon, and to isolate them from other effects, be they error, wishful thinking, or simply fraud. At times I’ve struggled to bend my head not only around the extraordinary concepts Psi research explores but also the fiendishly elegant reasoning behind the experiments. As a result Dean Radin’s books are ones I tend to have to revisit from time to time just to see if I’ve got it right, that he’s actually saying and showing what I think he is.

In his latest book though, ‘Real Magic’, it’s as if he’s looked back over a long career, crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s of these careful, double blinded experiments, and he’s said: you know what? To hell with it, here it is straight up: Psi is real, now let’s talk about what that means.

Psi effects in the general population are imperceptibly small. There may be just the odd occasion when they flare up and produce an effect that is stunning, at least to the person involved – say dreaming of something that comes true, or knowing with absolute certainty something bad has happened to a loved one. But as with all skills, some people are better at it than others, with some indeed being naturally talented to a degree that inspires either awe or deep suspicion. And so it is with Psi. In certain individuals these effects can be very strong but the trick is knowing who those individuals are, and how you tell them apart from the fraudsters.

For most of us its probably safer to assume someone’s pulling your leg when they say they can read your mind. But that people can indeed sometimes read minds, is proven and has been for a long time. They can sometimes see into the future, they sometimes know who’s ringing before they pick up the telephone. The fact that for most of us these effects are very small can be disappointing, but this misses the point, that what even a fraction of a percentage deviation from chance when guessing those cards tells us, is that the universe isn’t what a couple of hundred years of materialism has browbeaten us into believing it is. It’s actually more like what the Perennial Philosophy tell us, what Hermes Trismegistus tells us, and several millennia of other esoteric writings, be they religious, alchemical, mystical, heretical or downright diabolical, that at some fundamental level what underpins the physical reality of the universe is consciousness.

Real Magic is one of Dean Radin’s more accessible books. If you want to immerse yourself in the evidence you’ll need to look back over his other works. But what Real Magic tells us is that psi research over the past hundred years is where the scientific method has looked at “Magic”, not trick magic, but ‘real magic’, and has concluded that actually those old world magicians, alchemists, shamans, mystics, and holy-men weren’t completely crazy after all. Through their esoteric traditions, they were pursuing effects and working with a theory of the universe, millennia ago, that science is going to have to come to terms with if it wants to advance beyond its current materialistic impasse.

But this is not to say we abandon reason, quite the opposite. The protocols observed in Psi research are among the most stringent because they have to be. It’s only by applying such gold standards in a notoriously murky field we can expect to make reliable progress. But one of the reasons this work is not more widely known is an abiding prejudice within the established scientific community, also it must be said among even moderately educated people in general who ape the sneers of their scientific elders and betters – and for the first half of my life I would count myself among their number. This is understandable. It is by far the safest option, when reading about Psi, to react with a smug expression and dismiss anything that questions the mechanistic, materialistic world view as “woo woo”. In doing so we seek safety in the prevailing paradigm, but close our eyes to the real magic of the universe itself.

Such prejudice is of course strongest where vested interests are concerned. Those  who persecuted Galileo refused even to look through his telescope. Similarly much Psi research is undeservedly rubbished by ignorant, sneering debunkers, including many otherwise serious scientific minds, who refuse to even look at the evidence. I looked at the evidence, and was persuaded to open my eyes a little.

Real Magic is a compelling read from a highly respected, unflappable, and very sober-minded researcher of psi – there are even some instructions on how to practice a little bit of magic yourself. But as with all magic, be careful what you wish for or you might just get it.

I leave you with the man himself: