A Journal of the Plague Year Day 43

Wednesday 29th April 2020

Day 3 of the migraine, OMiGaaaahd. Yesterday, about 5pm I hit the absolute PiTs. Having necked:

2 Alka Seltzer XS – dulled it slightly for about 15 mins

then another 2, this time dragged myself into making food to help with the effects. I say ‘food’ optimistically, the kind one can do if bleeding parapleeging, i.e. torn chunka bread or raw vegetable. No change

then hours later 2 Cocodemol industrial strength, once again forcing myself to cook a proper meal (awful, slurry-like) – no effect

then another two + more food (popty-ping) = still no shitting effect

Then googled it and read that a certain percentage of people lack the enzyme to process codeine and I was just needlessly exerting and poisoning myself. Like running an ass-ault course with an injury, a job interview with a hangover, getting trapped in a KKKlub on a mfing whitie.

At that stage, after lying face down for the good part of 2 days and nights, unable to sleep, and trying to write (horrible, problems with the website), and surf the domestic politix (don’t ask) I hit peeek MISERY. Went to the kitchen and necked 5 ibuprofen fuckitfuckem. Then proceeded to shut the door, turn on the radio and schlapp myself in the face. Like crazy slap.

SCHLAP SCHLAP SCHLAPPITY

Now there’s a fine line between a manly punching at the wall, for which I’ve learned my lesson via broken knuckles, and some kind of emo-Goth shower scene with a scoring of their thigh, tears and dribbling mascara. I think happyslapping’s a nice compromise. Let me convert you; I’ve laid scented candles the whole way.

Right, first off for all the stuff about calls for attention or a cry for help -and I’m sure that that goes on -this isn’t it. This is more bespoke treatment: try and envisage a spa break with WCW wrestler as masseuse. In the past, when witch doctors and soothsayers were a thing, if a part of your body hurt they’d then go and hurt a different area. Sounds batshit crazy and for a large part it was, although cultures all round the spinner practiced that. Back in the day Mum got quite a prescription from the local quackery (Hainan island, 1950s, one of the poorest places in the world, in a jungle village unmapped). After she dislocated a knee as a child, the obvious medicine was… to beat her, on the legs. To this day her knee still has problems.

However, contrary to that scene (imagine taking a bat to an 8 year old girl with a dislocated leg) in this day and age it feels better to punch something rather than pay the local village schizoid to mete out their fantasies. Despite you’re adding pain to pain, it starts to subside immediately, into a numbing feeling.

Okay, as Dr. Jennifer Anistonopoulos famously quipped: here’s the science bit. The parts of the brain that process pain are the anterior insula and the anterior cingulate cortex at the back -and this is key -they don’t distinguish between physical and mental. Thus taking a paracetomol can assuage the feelings of rejection or malaise, and self-harm fans mention anguish can be bled out. After initial pain comes the comedown (in the best connotation of the word), of not just sensation but emotion.

It has been found to be a quick, instant relief, but not a lasting one. Hence why repeat fans start looking like Freddy Kruger. Yet an approach that’s proven quite consistent as traditional cures, popular with homeopaths around the world, throughout time. One example that’s survived is cold water swimming (far more hale and healthy than taking bench tools to yourself), a treatment for anxiety and depression that’s now prescribed by the NHS.

Okay here’s the non-sciency bit, as warning. Scientists don’t yet understand why swimming in ponds in midwinter (or for that case, any time of year in the UK) helps to blunt low feelings – even providing joy in bereavement. However they think it may have something to do ‘cross-adaptation’. When the body is forced to adapt to another form of stress, and either learns from the process or gets distracted by it. A bit like tickling the skin around an injection (to confuse the sensation as the needle goes in), or moving resources in war from one front to the other.

Exercising in general may run in the same lines, alongside the positive mindsetting and reinvigoration of parts. -Once again all this is anecdotal, and no proof yet other than in the pudding. It seems to work, we just don’t know how.

A great deal can also be said about the Placebo Affect, which puts your body into a positive, healing mode via a complex neurobiological reaction with the brain, and that science increasingly acknowledges as an option.

Thus it seems the logic of distracting the brain from the agony of a dislodged kneecap, by entertaining pain in a different part of the corpus may have some grounding. However, the execution can often be found wanting, especially the bit about mending one broken leg by trying to break the other, all the while covered in warpaint and screaming about spirits into the night.

Anyhoo, felt so much better. Next time I forget the Oyster, I’ll get myself punched in the face.

Recently people have been protesting the lockdown in the US, while rioting has occured in the Parisian banlieues, plus looting in Italy. Apparently when inmates are let out of solitary, they start attacking each other, crazed. I remember Tom Bagley, the kid with ‘issues’ who, when bullied, would run at everyone screaming and spinning his arms. It was called the Invisible Skipping Rope or Thomas The Tank Engine’s Gone Mad Again Miss. Maybe there’s something to that, the distraction of acting out resolving the pain -exorcising it while exhorting it. Or maybe it’s just you know, Men.

The migraine ended at 11am, 3 days after it started. I can now catch up with life, and it’s been accumulating, collecting in increasing flurries behind the padded walls, and avalanche-prone once I open that door.

Ring and email Sainsbury’s Bank for the 7th time. Do my shopping (ran out near a week ago), and A’s too. Cut hair. Clean fridge. Clean kitchen. Wash up. Sort blocked sink (buy plunger, or find a promising shaped stick). Feed the pigeons (no, really). Renew Netflix. Ring back fam, they left messages I can’t access. Update voicemail (they’re going to the wrong address). Cancel night walk with Dave. Spend some quality time with A, who is lonesome from neglect. Write this piece of shit. Exercise. Cook. Chill. It’s been too long.

Talk to J about having an extra tenant move in for a bit, an offer to someone from Trafalgar Square, newly homeless. This has been absolutely eating me up the past few days. Be the change you want to see.

I mean how did we all cope when we had to insert 8-12 hrs of working and commuting each day, on top of the usual BS? It’s as if whenever we find a problem, we just distract it with another. Nowadays we have it in-yer-face, malingering, and we can’t get away. Time to braiK shit up. The schizzz.

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A Journal of the Plague Year Day 42

Tuesday 28th April 2020

London is so strange and sad’: the sacked hospitality workers sleeping rough

By Amelia Gentleman, The Guardian 28th April 2020

Homelessness charity says it has ‘never witnessed a more distressing situation’ than during coronavirus crisis

Trafalgar Square at night is silent and almost empty, the usual crowds of noisy tourists visiting London replaced by clusters of homeless people, who wait on the steps of the National Gallery for food to be distributed. But these are not all long-term rough sleepers: central London is seeing a surge of newly unemployed restaurant and pub workers forced to sleep on the streets because they can no longer afford to pay rent.

Rough sleepers like Martin, a recently-sacked chef from Poland, are finding life under lockdown increasingly difficult and dangerous. “London has become so strange and sad. The only people who are out look like they are looking for drugs. There are a lot of crazy people with knives,” he said.

The government says it has housed 90% of those who were sleeping rough nationally by paying for hotel rooms, in an unprecedented drive over the past month to stop the spread of Covid-19, with 5,400 housed including 1,800 in 10 hotels across London. But in the capital, hundreds of tents and cardboard box encampments remain and conditions are getting much harsher for those still – or newly – on the streets.

The city’s day centres have been closed to prevent the transmission of the virus, leaving the homeless with no place to shower or wash their clothes, no toilets and nowhere to access regular food supplies.

The disappearance of commuters means that no one is offering money to the destitute, at a time when most soup kitchens and food banks are not operating, and when the closure of cafes has meant the homeless no longer receive unsold sandwiches at the end of the day. It has been left to a few small groups of volunteers to provide thousands of meals a week.

Although a minority of those who remain sleeping rough are there by choice and have rejected offers of hotel rooms, most of the newly homeless are still hoping for help, and feeling very vulnerable in the deserted backstreets of central London at night.

Martin, 27, worked his way up through London’s kitchens, starting as a porter when he arrived in the UK eight years ago to his most recent job as chef de partie at a fashionable restaurant in east London. He was abruptly sacked shortly before the lockdown began, and had to leave the room he was renting because he had no savings. He has been sleeping on a bit of pavement near Charing Cross station for six weeks. Advertisement

He said he has been told five or six times by outreach workers that someone will call him to organise a room in a hotel. “I waited for a call. I’m still waiting. Maybe the hotels are full,” he said. In the last couple of days his phone battery has in any case gone dead, and with cafes closed there is nowhere to charge it. He finds sleeping on the street unsafe and alarming.

Brian Whiting, a volunteer with the organisation Under One Sky, which started nightly food deliveries at the end of March, said he was disturbed by the number of newly homeless ex-hotel and restaurant staff. “One of the really distressing new things is the hospitality homeless. We’re seeing so many people who were working in kitchens, hotels and pubs until a few weeks ago. They’re so obviously ill-equipped to be out there. The long-term rough sleepers know how it works, but for them it’s very new. They look shell-shocked.”

“I’m still hanging on to my sanity, just,” a man from South Africa, who had been working for five years as a waiter in London, said from the office doorstep where he has slept for the past three weeks since losing his job. He laughed when the volunteer asked him if he was eligible for furlough payments, and said the job came through an agency, and there had been no mention of financial support. Most of those pushed into homelessness had insecure jobs and precarious living arrangements, and no ability to navigate the benefits system or wait for payments.

On the other side of the street, Whiting was dismayed to see Katarina, 34, a recently-sacked waitress from Italy, preparing to sleep again in the doorway of a cocktail bar. “It’s nice to see you, but I wish you weren’t here,” he said, giving food to her. He was concerned about her deteriorating mental health, and suspected she had started taking class A drugs. He has reported her to Streetlink, a charity that connects rough sleepers to support services, a few times, but she remains in the same spot. “She wants to be helped. I don’t understand why she hasn’t been picked up.” https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Aside from the practical difficulties, everyone remarks on the disconcerting silence of the capital.

All the normal sounds and smells are absent – the salty, greasy smells from fast food restaurants, the wafts of coffee from snack bars, stale beer odours rising up from sticky pavements, the stench of rotting food seeping out from kitchen dustbins, even the trails of diesel fumes, have all gone.

There is no noise of people laughing or shouting, no one bellowing into their mobile phones, no sounds of plates clattering at pavement cafes. Bins are not overflowing with coffee cups and discarded newspapers. Even the pigeons seem hungrier, rushing to peck at food parcels placed on the pavement by volunteers, who are instructed to not to hand them to people in order to maintain a 2-metre distance. A woman picking up cigarette butts has to search harder to find anything worth collecting.

Amrit Maan, the owner of the Punjab restaurant in Covent Garden, who has kept his kitchens open to cook around 2,500 meals a week for Under One Sky and a Sikh charity, Nishkam Swat, to distribute, said he was troubled by the emptiness. “You can hear the wind rushing through the streets. It feels so eerie, like waking up in a post-apocalypse movie.”

A welder from Poland, sleeping in the park behind the Savoy, declined food but wanted information about where he could wash; he said he had been unable to have a shower for the past five weeks since arriving in London speculatively to look for work. Whiting left food for a man asleep beneath the stucco columns of the Lyceum Theatre, where the Lion King is no longer showing. “There’s some human excrement. I’m sorry to point it out, but it’s inevitable. Everything is closed,” he said. Advertisement

Alexander, from Romania, who worked as a cleaner and caretaker at a pizza chain until he says he was sacked just before the lockdown, was more experienced at sleeping rough in central London, since he was already unable to afford to rent a room on his minimum wage earnings even when he was in work, and has been living on the streets near Leicester Square for 18 months.

But finding enough cardboard to build himself a sheltered space to sleep in has become much more problematic since all the businesses closed down and stopped throwing away packaging. He spent the past few weeks recording thousands of videos on his phone of deserted London streets, from different vantage points, and posting them on Twitter – providing fascinating pavement-level footage of a city in lockdown – until his phone was stolen.

Adrian Potcki, 24, from Poland, also had his phone stolen while he slept in a restaurant doorway, in St Martin’s Lane, next to the now-empty Coliseum. He was working as a night cleaner for a bank, an agency job, before being sacked when lockdown was announced. He found himself unable to continue paying for his room in a flatshare in north London. “I think the bank closed, and didn’t need cleaning,” he said, but he is unsure, because the agency simply told him the job was over. “I couldn’t pay the rent for my room. I tried to ask the landlord to give me time, but I couldn’t work it out with him,” he said. He was finding his first exposure to homelessness very difficult. “It’s a really tough time. I don’t feel safe.”

He, like most of the other recently-unemployed new rough sleepers interviewed, said he did not want to have his photograph taken. “I don’t want to become a famous person because I’m homeless. This is something I would like to forget,” he said.

Previously Under One Sky has only organised food handouts in the winter, but began providing food for rough sleepers when it became clear that lockdown was causing unprecedented difficulties. “In the eight years since we have been serving this community, we have never witnessed a more distressing situation for those sleeping rough in London than the one unfolding right now,” said Mikkel Juel Iversen, who set up the organisation in 2012.

“Two days after lockdown we went out on the streets to see what the situation was like and we met people who hadn’t eaten for days. There are now large parts of central London where the only people you see are homeless people, drug dealers and police. There is a growing sense of desperation. We have been ramping up numbers every week.”

The newly-homeless also include people like Robin Clark, released last week from prison, and still trying to get his life together. “I can look after myself but it is hard with no showers or toilets.” Lalji Kanbi has been homeless for a while, and is hoping for a hotel room. “The hotels – it’s like a lottery, if you win, you win. I’ve given them my details twice.”

Within the rough sleeper populations there are hierarchies of destitution. There are those like Colin Reynolds, 47, currently sleeping in a tent near the Thames because he was unable to live with his parents during lockdown, who feel they are just about coping. But there are others who look close to death.

About 10 people are sheltering beneath a scaffolded shop front near Charing Cross station (where the underpasses that used to shelter dozens of homeless have been closed off); volunteers said most had long-term drug and alcohol problems. One man was lying in a foetal position on the cold pavement, passed out, watched over by his girlfriend. No one here was hungry, but they accepted water and biscuits for their dogs.

Tom Copley, London’s deputy mayor for housing, acknowledged that there was more work to be done, noting that a count last week had registered 498 people still sleeping rough. “It’s possible that the actual number will be larger, but we’ve been working at this as fast as we can; we’re trying to get more people in every day.” But he remained optimistic that the government drive to get most rough sleepers in for the duration of the lockdown could have positive long-term consequences. “We could transform the way we deal with rough sleeping and homelessness to make sure that the issue is dealt with in the long term,” he said.

There is caution from others involved in the process. “There is no clear exit strategy from central government. Some councils are working to make sure that no one is returned to the streets, but that is very difficult to sustain unless there is a commitment to funding because the cost of that is so beyond what’s available from central government,” one official, working on the national drive to house rough sleepers centrally, said. Advertisement

Jason Moyer-Lee, the general secretary of the Independent Workers of Great Britain Union, which represents agency staff, said more needed to be done for people made homeless after being sacked. “Low-paid service sector jobs, with zero-hour contracts and agency workers, were extremely precarious before this situation, and the fact that, despite the government schemes, some people are being driven into homelessness demonstrates the inadequacy of these schemes. This needs to be sorted now.”

By Amelia Gentleman, The Guardian, 28th April 2020

^This article that appeared yesterday needs to be heard. These people could be us, they are us.

A has been on bike rides past Trafalgar Square recently, and noted how there were quite some daytrippers seated on the steps, just watching the space. No police were moving them on, they appeared well-dressed, just like you and me. Now we realise who they were, the newly homeless.

Be the change you want to see.

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A Journal of the Plague Year Day 41

Monday 27th April 2020

Literally today has been the worst.

WordPress is shit.

WordPress is shit.

WordPress is shit.

WordPress is shit.

WordPress is shit.

Please recite this mantra with me. Do not under any circumstances take up WordPress to set up any form of anything ever, use Wix. It is classically designed by the autistic for the autistic, believing everything is linear, and nothing intuitive. It celebrates the most long-winded, roundabout way to do things, coupled with a new ‘block’ party format to write in, hoisted onto you with a pop-up questioning if you wanna join at every click, then defaulting into it anyway (and still asking, like a needy neurotic). Oh and it’s absolutely riddled with bugs. I really wish they’d sort this crap out before release.

Everything so slow I even downloaded Chrome, and had to do the usual rigmarole of trying to stop them syncing everything to make you another Google Sim, your every interaction requiring their devices. If they could they’d make you download their apps every time you needed a shit. Also not only do they use your data, but your comp’s brainage space too when you’re not looking. And their default search engine (impossible to opt out) is Yahoo. Now who in God’s shitting earth willingly goes to Yahoo these days?? A vintage has-been of a company that sells nothing and relies on lost visitors to waylay. Like when you accidentally find yourself in the women’s lingerie section at the dept store. That must’ve been one hell of a kickback to get Chrome in bed with it, possibly employing strippers, vodka and secret cams.

So the other option is Firefox, legendary wastage of so much customisation it’s MO is to literally lurch from crisis to crisis, year on year, and sends updates every 6hrs because Shazza Naylor in Felixstowe just typed in ‘Internet’ on the internet after turning her landing page pink.

And don’t even get me started on Edge, in the best tradition of it’s earlier namesake, Explorer which it likes to pretend never happened. As always a year or three behind everyone else, like that kid at school smelling of wee and sporting clothes circa 15 years old (never so much as to be pleasingly retro), as dressed by his highly embarrassing Mum. Who in turn received her first mobile phone last week, and still uses the post office religiously as bank, wireless, shopping and community centre.

Fuckem, the three horsemen of the Apocashit. I’m talking about browsers btw, they’re differing portals to the internet that try and fuck you on the way in.

WordPress was still slow AF, perhaps to do with our Virgin router, an endless source of intrigue, dinnerparty conversation, overcharging and wall punching throughout the year. J keeps saying he’ll replace it. It’s been erratic and patchy to say the least, like a patchouli-scented Garbage Patch Kid named Patch patching a patchwork blanket in a cabbage patch. The 5G no longer working and people across the country complaining even 2G’s down, sometimes for days.

Serves Branson right, whose planes are now being impounded round the world as he tries to shirk airport fees. Maybe he can sell tickets to his damned island lair his family and other animals live out on in the tax-dodging Caribbean.

When trying to update a webpage WordPress will helpfully flip it so that you are occasionally updating a different one, to keep you on your toes. When editing a sentence it will jump to the bottom each time forcing you to write blind. After editing, a pop up will appear for a second (you sometimes have to chase it round the screen as it flashes mirage-like in and out), which if you miss means you will forever be stranded on the editing page and have to log out again. It also puts an immovable date, automatically on any banner, which made me:

1. Delete all the dates I’d already written in, at the start of each of 40 posts.

2. Then realised the dates didn’t correspond, and had to correct them one by fucking one. And there’s no overall layout, you just have to click and memorise.

3. Then realised they disappeared again when scrolling from the Home Page.

4. So had to write them in again, using the wonderful editor tool throughout, and it’s love of playing counter-intuitive games, and lying.

Oh and I found out I missed a day on the blog, after the detective work corresponding dates and publishing dates and days. Along with the 3 days of the diary I’ve just written it’s taken me 14 hours so far without meal or break. May the God-of-All-Things-Just infect the WordPress team with Twat Polka (Riverdance with vogueing) and make them do a 14 stage choreography for every step they intend to take for the rest of their lives. And if they get it wrong they have to start back from their little wankernomic office chairs again. Bunch of pandafucks. Based in a distant campus in San Francisco -says it all.

Half the fucking pictures across the website also need re-sizing now they’ve made a new resizing tool (and you’ll have to do it twice as the first time has no effect). Pure fuckery, how an automated update forces you to rework everything you’ve ever done, to compensate for their spack-handed bullshit. It is the classic of companies starting to get too big for their boots, and trying out a good arse-kick: once they have you as loyal within the barrel, they make you do the work so they don’t have to.

When you update something, putting in a blizzard of extra steps, relying on pop ups that spend most of their time on a fag break or hiding, and mislaying buttons (and linking entire pathways via them), then converting all labeling into hieroglyphs it’s not really an update is it? It’s not really user-‘friendly’. Despite what they sold it as in the spotless white boardroom, the kind where people whoop and think it’s cool they get to eat cronuts. I reckon it just makes it a bit easier for the spectrum-courting programmers, and having less of a fit every time someone puts an icon out of order. Card-carrying members of the Wankstain Society they are.

Tried to tessellate two pictures today -an all-day family affair that’s proven it’s less challenging, and faster to climb K2.

Nothing is working anymore. The front door interminably rattles every 15 seconds in a mystery draught (which stops if you lock the top, but then you can’t reopen it again as the key gets stuck), the sink in the bathroom is blocked no matter what I try and do with it (plungers, ice-cream scoops, cucumbers), and I’m trying to dye my hair still (now progressed into lemon, possibly custard).

May just fucking go ape, and start shooting people I think look Californian from the top of the tower block. It’s that kinda day.

Fuckers.

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A Journal of the Plague Year Day 40

Sunday 26th April 2020

Donald Trump is a sociopath.

The more one looks at his behaviour, the classic signs of a Narcissistic Personality Disorder appear.

  1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance.
  2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.
  3. Believes themselves ‘special’ and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with other special or high-status people /institutions.
  4. Requires excessive admiration, regularly fishing for compliments, and highly susceptible to flattery.
  5. Has a sense of entitlement.
  6. Is interpersonally exploitative.
  7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling or unable to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others.
  8. Is often envious of others or believes them envious in return.
  9. Shows arrogant, haughty behavior or attitudes.
  10. Highly reactive to criticism and can be inordinately self-righteous or defensive, often reacting to contrary viewpoints with anger or rage.

Outta the way ProMo of Monto-nogo!

^That btw is also the 101 on standard business practice. Think about it: does a business apologise for bad customer service because it’s genuinely sorry, or a ploy to keep you spending, and unraging on Twitter? Does it give discounts/ deals because it genuinely wants to benefit you, by imparting a loss in profits? Does it ever cut costs from the top to bottom? And does its pay structure reflect this? Does it ever, ever give back to the customer if getting nothing back?

For that would be bad business sense -the lowest common denominator, the shareholder value, the constant demands for growth, and the pyramid schemes for those at the top they soon start to resemble, well until the next financial fall-out. They say psychopaths are 1 in 200, or 1 in 60 for those on the spectrum (so about 60 of the nutters running amok on your regular cruise ship). They tend towards positions such as doctors, surgeons, lawyers, the clergy and business. By the time you’re hitting higher finance management they say it’s as high as 1 in 7.

Trump appears somewhere between textbook sociopathy and narcissism. Tom Schwartz, the ghost author of his bestselling biography, The Art of the Deal, said if given a second chance he’d rename it The Sociopath.

Before all this applied to the dictators and aristocracy, then banking, then multinationals, the military-industrial complex, and now the US government. And it’s impossible to negotiate with this kernel of supporters behind the grand plan, not just for their vastly vested interests, but their condition. Everyone it’s said ‘has their heart in the right place’ -not so much this cabal. And neither is it them we should blame -they are after all pathologically inclined to behave as they do, and for most part cannot help it. What we should be looking at are the enablers, and blimmin eck, what an army that is. The droves of downvoters, upvoters, voters, rallyists, tweeters, meme-makers and story sharers (which of course we are as guilty of in our own camp).

Thus Trump appeals to those on the spectrum, and frankly, the stupid, taken in by their visions.

What is interesting is those stricken with sociopathy, psychopathy and narcissism, are deficient in the same part of the brain as those who are a bit shit in critical thinking -the frontal lobe responsible for reasoning, decision-making, empathy and regulating emotion.

There was a time when right wing politics attracted normal people (friends and everything!), who maybe preferred a different tax structure (notably paying less) or a different policy on say dentistry funding, park management, the way their local rep behaved, or simply envisaged a different approach to help others.

One can see as late as the 1980s the traditionally Republican heartlands today of the southern States and prairielands were openly voting for the Democrats. In short, sides were interchangeable, and not as partisan and set into stone as it is today, the age of the algorithm, social media and fake news.

1984 election results – blue centre left, red centre right. Heartlands such as Texas, Kansas, Alabama, Mississippi, Lousiana, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, the Carolinas, the Dakotas and Virginias, all voting Democrat:

Today is another story entirely. Donald Trump’s 2016 win:

A word of warning: this does not mean all those who voted for Trump that year still currently believe in him, nor that they aren’t just voting for their ruralised or industrial sector interests as promised. Also despite the large blanketing of Trumpian red, more people actually voted for Clinton by 2.5 million, who was better represented by the smaller but more densely populated urban areas.

It’s just a strong shame so many don’t any longer hear the opposing side. It is how a democracy is not necessarily functioning as one.

The current Benny Hill show that is the White House has given democracy a bad name, and increasingly invalidated. It gives equal power to ignorance (if not more so) than facts, patriotism over charity, xenophobia over universality. The Dunning-Kruger Effect won the Nobel prize by showing that stupid people are more believing in their capabilities, and thus more vocal, while those with a higher EQ/ intelligence were less so -and adversely more liable to give platform to the belligerent and shouty. Listening politely and attentively -discussing, engaging, and thus allowing batshit crazy views onto the table, and the vote. Dunning and Kruger won the prize as they showed how the world gets changed:



“Why, of course, the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood.”

“…voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

Hermann Goerring 1946

In short our world has long been a shitshow of keeping the sociopaths and those on the spectrum in power, enabled by legions of the easily led and patriotic, and who lack critical thinking.

It can be summed up by:

Do not understimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

The great man also said: “Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.”

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A Journal of the Plague Year Week 7

Saturday 25th April 2020

Pain is the great leveler, bringing the highest and lowest to their knees regardless. You can assuage it with expensive spa treatments and meds, sure, but pain is pain, anguish anguish before all that. They say pain can be a perspective, a viewpoint, an opinion. A fucking approach.

Then you have migraines. The greatest purported pain known to Man is said to be the cluster attack, the kind where people do involuntary things (banging head, becoming violent, collapsing, fitting) and the pain reaches such a crescendo suicide becomes an option. In one case a man took up arms and held people hostage in order to get some form of medication. It targets the eye, has no known cure, no known trigger, and repeatedly attacks, hence its name.

s

I tend to start off with migraine on one side, that for some reason, then moves to encompass both sides after an hour or two, overtaking the entire head. It’s a deep, dull tide. It’s heavy – I worked out a way to measure it: the amount of pressure needed (balanced books /skull visor/ headlock grip) for the pain to numb, as the excess blood is pushed out. Like translating the pain into compression. It’s about 3kg normally, wedged into a corner, face down, balancing a dumbbell on my head like a performance piece. They normally last 11-12 hrs.

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Sometimes, maybe once or twice a year the pain reaches acidic levels, like a razor blade slicing inside and all around, or occasionally that dream you’re being stabbed in the head and on waking it still ongoing. Where blinking becomes tender, movement vomitous, courting dreams of trepanning and a hand drill, to let the spirits float free.

The worst ever: a ‘suicide’ level event after getting a wrong prescription, from some idiot pharmacist in Italy who diagnosed dehydration and the strongest stuff for it. Which resulted in bawling in a ball, involuntarily drooling and crying, cursing passersby. Stripping and vomming on the street, like a skagger’s lapdance, or a day in Glasgow. They say art therapy helps, to paint the pain. Normally it’s a grey, your brain a surrealist sponge that when squeezed reveals cigarette-at-bottom-of-pint dregs. Or it’s the stark black and white and bleeding edges of some horrible Mondrian tesselation. But that time it was more splatter art, a Pollock of blood and vomit and teeth and machetes.

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So I will round onto today’s ordeal. A bottle of industrial strength hair dye, sensitive skin and fumes that would trip a horse. Oh and a giant scoop of at-all-costs vanity. You don’t mess when you’re messing with hair. So the fumes trigger a pounding, wretched migraine, while the paste itself begins to burn, itching manically, as if combing with razors.

And a strange, delightful quirk in behaviour when migrained is a preposterous pedantry, like OCD, even if it entails more pain. I just have to shut that door behind myself, check that tap, wash the dishes, maybe tidy the sock drawer, nauseatingly. So thus I enter that seventh vicious cycle of hell, turn after turn of dyeing and dying. After three treatments, a vomiting session, haircut and clean of the bathroom my head is orange. Not carrot, more peach.

I’m trying to look like Zayn. Or those 90s backing dancers. It’s meant to be cool. I’ve used up one packet of the spice mix, another three I have spare. I have burn marks on my scalp. Whoever in L’Oréal (lab coat, specs, mascara, clinical teams of marketing twats) thought up ‘Because you’re worth it!’ missed a beat. It should really be ‘Because you’re not worth it but dammit everyone else is’. Or if you prefer: Because I’m Worth Shit.

They say advertising is really made up of fear, and taking down self-esteem, like any schoolyard bully asking for change, who’ll progress into a mafia don and a protection racket. Don’t get halitosis. Don’t be that Billy No Mates. Don’t miss out.

Well burn’s or no burns, what’s fucking sure is I’m not doing that Zoom call tomorrow looking like the sunrise in Miami. Onward.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 38

Friday 24th April 2020

PUBLIC DISCLAIMER

DO NOT READ THIS LOOK AWAY NOW

If you’re looking for escape this, today, is not where to find it. For never was a story of more woe. Thus following, reality.

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Another day another dollar. Scroll. Brush teeth. Scroll. Sleep. Shower. Lunch. Netflix. Scroll. Sleep. Film. Sleep.

A Friday so I treated myself to takeaway for lunch, which turned out to be the stodgiest fried calamari in the city, like chewing on bread crust. Our local really is the worst, but beggars can’t be reviewers. The night’s film was the other highlight, a tankard of cider to go with An American Werewolf in London, and a good catch up with J while A is getting ever more islanded, which he may be enjoying. It was Orthodox Easter recently, the equivalent to Greek Xmas (regardless if you’re religious or not) which he’s not celebrated, separated from family all these years. We’ll try and do something later maybe, though he’ll typically veto it.

The C-19 death toll in the UK hit 20,000, which is only counting those from hospitals. It’s significantly higher if they tally up those in care homes and residences, so we may be closer double that. This could yield the world’s highest deaths per capita, over current leader Belgium, who counts live fatalities and not just in healthcare. It all depends whether the UK extra deaths are at the 40% or 100% ends of hospital totals.

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I’ve been increasingly worried about the ‘biblical famines’ the UN is warning may transpire within months. They will start in the world’s current war zones where infrastructure is broken and farming majorly disrupted by fighting. DPR Congo, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, Niger. It’s also unlikely for people or countries to give aid, such is the situation in their own backyard. DPR Congo is a prime example of what a disruption of infrastructure results in. The Second Congo War ended in 2003, where fighting killed an estimated 20,000. However excess deaths continued well after taking 5.4 million by 2008, due to the complete collapse of food industries, healthcare and transportation networks.

Likewise the UN sanctions before the Gulf War against Iraq, that resulted in an extra million deaths (560,000 of them being children). They targetted the populace not the regime as hostage -banning food, water, medicines, medical equipment, water purifiers, even baby food and milk powder. And lasted for 12 years after the US and UK repeatedly blocked UN attempts to end them, plus three successive UN Generals resigning in protest. When Ambassador Madeleine Albright was told in interview that half a million children had died, she infamously said: “we think the price was worth it”.

This scenario is even keeping me up at night, and becoming one of the things when waking. It’s not normal for me, and I doubt for anyone. When we hear of untold horror and misery abroad we may well shed a tear at the news report, given it’s sufficiently graphic enough. But no one really takes it home with them, into their daily thoughts and fears and dreams. The only time I’ve seen any kind of widely depressionable story has been for the death of a single person, Princess Diana. Forget the 250,000 killed in the 2004 tsunami, or the additional million in Iraq following invasion, it’s the death of a celeb people grew up with, who felt they personally knew that got people crying beyond the screentime. Witness footage of her funeral, as thousands of mourners spontaneously burst into tears as her cortège rolls by (one of them myself). It’s like something out of North Korea.

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On that subject Kin Jong Un, rotund dictator of said country is currently MIA on the global stage, with rumours thick and fast that he may be dying after heart surgery. All eyes now on his sister who will likely take the reins if he expires. Now, I’m no fan of an autocratic regime that has in the past kidnapped random South Koreans, taken down passenger planes and operates internment camps, but the South Koreans are just as gung-ho, trigger-happy and belligerent. Just as liable to be the first to shell the opposite side, shoot over a prow, or hold mass army drills on the border, in a giant show of two fingers against the horizon.

The US is also increasingly seen as playing both sides off each other -the situation allows them to keep foreign bases on the peninsular and Japan, thus controlling the north Pacific and hemming in China. Notably George Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil’ speech even after NoKo had agreed to dismantle it’s nuclear capabilities, that subsequently made Kim restart them in defence, and defiance. Or the abrupt ending of the 2018 thaw (both sides had even competed as the same country in the Olympics) when the US held mass joint-training exercises, thus restarting the arms race.

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South Korea is also quite propagandic and equally dogmatic. All the lurid tabloid tales on the uncles being thrown to bloodthirsty hounds (in fact he was shot by firing squad, following a failed assassination attempt) or execution of former girlfriends for prostitution (she turned up a year later as a newscaster), of the Pyongyang Metro being fake, and that everyone on the streets are actors (thousands of them) are all sourced from the south, via media agencies citing ‘cross-border sources’.

In fact South Korea is studied by sociologists as a prime example of how propaganda is just as rampant in democracies, fueled by complicit media agencies as well as their avid audiences. One only has to look at the partisan politicking in the US (**cough Fox News /cough**), or the Rupert Murdoch-owned press at large here (**Daily Mail, Sun**).

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When Kim Jong-Il died NoKo released its usual dreary propaganda to the world, showcasing endless streams of people distraught at his death (the kind who’d throw themselves on the coffin as it gets lowered), of course the world took this as how very indoctrinated the North Koreans were. Then people started pointing out that in the background, no one was crying, only those in front facing the lens were suddenly found to be apoplectic with grief.

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Thus SoKo subsequently followed up with lurid tales of everyone who didn’t cry getting 6 months free stay in a labour camp.

North Koreans Face Six Months Labour Camp for Not Crying at Kim Jong-il’s Death

Thus parroted by the rest of the world:

Punished for not crying: Thousands of North Koreans face labour camps for not being upset enough


At the end of the day North Korea is a study on journalistic integrity and standards. Almost no stories coming from there can be fact-checked or corroborated… but neither can anyone call them out on it if they decide to go to print. Thus much of the world just ends up reporting it anyway, straight from South Korean tabloids, even if you’re a respected broadsheet. Which is telling -it fits with the narrative.

It’s also telling which papers are reporting the dictator’s death (Daily Express, Sun, NY Post), as rumour-milled via a Chinese social network, and which are waiting for official confirmation, or at least putting a question mark in the headline.

The fat twat.

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And talking of convenience, where for example is the coverage or navel-gazing (surely one story?) for the current human tragedies of the US/UK-backed sanctions: Iran, Venezuela, and of course North Korea? Despite sitting on vast commodities or one of the leading science powers, they’ve been denied medical equipment and ICU’s they could otherwise have afforded easily. We even cover Iran building mass graves, and tut at their imagined cover up of figures, without nary a mention of our role in it. The latest humanitarian crisis on the now closed Colombian-Venezuelan border likewise ignored, as has been the US calls for the country to hold new elections (read: exit President Maduro) in order to allow the meds in, plus access to the world’s largest oil reserves. Sounds a lot like a ransom, and exploiting a tragedy to do so.

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It appears this global crisis is only spewing division and geopolitical rivalry, as opposed to the Bennetton ad we all imagined a shared experience would engender, and cooperation between states. That democracy is a veil over ignorance, selfishness and prejudice, if not a platform for it. Witness country after country stealing vital equipment before being sent off, or even en route, and ignoring all calls of aid from its neighbours. See the comments following any, ANY news story.

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How depressing, but it had to catch up some time. The air weighs heavy so it’s time to take a walk, chew some cud and maybe take in an 80s film, back when it was all so much simpler. Life is but a scroll away.

Oh and the Great Orange Dolphin just suggested we all inject bleach and sunlight into our lives and limbs, to vanquish the plague. His wranglers are now desperately attempting to shut him the fuck up and wind down his daily updates. Perhaps throwing playballs in the other room and bustling him out -today’s was the shortest yet, at 22 mins, rather than the hours he normally courts. This I think would be a mistake.

As a great woman once said, I’m not saying kill all stupid people, just get rid of the health and safety signs and let the problem sort itself.

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Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 37

Thursday 23rd April 2020

Today will be a new day, a new me. Oh yes.

Threw myself and J a picnic on the lawn outside, after having taken the recycling out and noticing the surrounds -the weather nigh on perfect: cool, clear, sunny. All the new leaves brilliantly green, creating wavering glades and dells.

However when we ventured out carrying everything unfeasibly, they were watering the lawns, as if nefariously seen my planning. In the end we managed to bag a spot in the corner -ours a rare gated estate, normally banned in London. Then settling down for crudités (which to us non-French mortals means raw veg and dips), followed by a spell lying in the sun, pillowed and reading. Armchair travelling: India and Russia.

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All was light and blue skies, and nary a care in the world. A lot of the residents were doing the same, each in small huddles respectfully distant, occupying every patch of grass and nurturing an almost smug relaxation.

Then the call from work.

I’m being furloughed, but on full pay, and due to how crowded the museum gets we’re looking at June, possibly as late as October. A long wait though really can’t complain with so many people out there without the option, nor income. I’m free to find another job for the time being, for my new dependents.

It all coming back. The outside world, battling beyond the gates.

There’s a controversial new meme going round following another Redditt viral vid. A bunch of women castigating a respectful, patient cop for closing a park playground in the US, till he subsequently arrests one of them (she’d offered up her hands), thus birthing a new martyr for the right. Likewise, it all runs in with the militant anti-vaxxers, some of whom are now protesting outside another policeman’s house following the similar arrest of a rebellious ‘playdate party’ organiser.

So the meme is Karen. Karen has a distinctive bob haircut, and is the type of mumsy woman who complains a lot to service staff; she always wants to speak to a manager and is outraged at minor things. It basically screams entitlement and/ or bullying. It started out as a meme quite a few years ago, and was initially nameless.

2017:

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However today she’s been updated -the current sideshow for Karen is subtly based on race (as is everything in the US), and age, and income. She’s White and starting out or is in her middle ages (‘right, Karen’ is the new ‘ok, Boomer’ riposte for Generation X). She’s churchgoing, anti-vax and likes to target ethnic minority servers. Also conspicuously middle class, with a predilection to sticking up that Laugh Love Life sign in her living room.

2020:

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This comes on a recent rash of women caught hassling other park users (even calling the police or impersonating them) for nothing more than hanging out there and being people of colour. Although it’s happened since time immemorial, this time round people have been filming it and using the hashtags, eg #SwingsetSusan.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/woman-dubbed-swing-set-susan-charged-impersonating-officer-chase-hispanic-n1071356

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As a lifelong member of service personnel I can definitely attest to the existence of ‘Karens’, that there is a certain ilk of middle-aged woman (more so than other age groups and of men) who will be cause of outstanding drama and revel in it, knowing full well her rights to do so. Often setting traps (I don’t have a receipt -your staff never gave me one!), knowingly committing fraud (well that’s the pricetag right there so you have to honour it!) or demanding special treatment above others (I’m only buying one thing!), all of which are the three most common confrontations. So I do look on with a certain joy that she’s finally been called out. That the starched yet cartoonish Fox-News-presenter-look has been exposed as ridiculous rather than venerated.

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However, look a bit closer and the meme is now transforming. The Redditt page is indeed drawing up sub-Redditts on people’s experiences, though it’s obvious many are just dealing with your classic narcissists and sociopaths. So why the gender specifics? It appears this meme is finding fuel from your standard misogyny -it’s not enough that you call out bad people, but increasingly their gender adds to their damnation. There is a long list of contributors who are embittered ex-partners and divorcés, and only a handful who put forward ‘he-Karens’.

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Thus Karen is not just entitled, sociopathic, White, middle class and sporting a bob anymore, but also anti-vax, racist, slutty (but pretending otherwise) and divorced and lying to the judge. Some part of me thinks you gotta laugh, that some people are getting their long-neglected comeuppance. Another part thanks god I’m not called Karen.

Surely there needs to be a male counterpart. Once again from twenty years customer service experience I can also attest -the belligerent, arrogant, dismissive male, also tending towards the upper middle class, middle aged, and a big fan of bullying young women. Who complains hoarsely, talks over anyone and if not getting his way, leaves with a barrage of insults, foiled with swearing or thrown money/ products. Also very liable to change behaviour when ‘escalated’ to another man, and transforming into a vision of studious gentility and grace, often with an aside about the atrocious young girl we employ. We can call him Jeremy. He wears a suit or Dad jeans, is plump, red in the face (casual alcoholism), greying, balding and posh speaking.

He has a small, kept woman, who is trying to divorce him first chance she gets or at least outlive the bastard (perhaps accidentally, repeatedly, reversing over him in his double garage). He drives a saloon, or tank and has three kids in private schooling, and a dominatrix mistress in Colchester. Likes shooting wildlife, Thatcherite, casually racist and a businessman. Has a cottage in France and a dog called Gravel, or Gavel.

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These are perhaps the memes in life we encounter in our everyday, in certain fields. On one hand that public recognition can curb the behaviour, on the other it’s obvious everything ever could become a meme -the chav, the soccer mom, the footballer’s wife, the gangsta, the SJW, the bag lady, the A-Gay, the emo, the Guido, the hipster, the nerd, the geek, the stoner, the trailer park trash, the hillbilly, the Essex girl.

The Chinese tourist, the Brit Abroad, the Florida Man, the WASP, the Chelsea fan, the Sloane Ranger, the Scouser, the trainspotter, the truck driver, the art student, the tree hugger, the banker, the lawyer. It’s basically an acceptable form of social stereotype.

Think of your job title. And add in your name. Now use that as an insult.

“Okay Paul, Accounts Executive.”

Tara, you… Commercial BID WRITER.”

“Right, Louise, Retail. Manager.”

“Sure Sarah, Multinational Cee. Eee. Oh.”

Mo, CHARITY Worker.”

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Perhaps there is truth in parts, that a certain look or upbringing follows/ imparts a certain behaviour. When wearing a smart suit and working in finance you do become that much more forward. When feeling indentured or down, those dark clothes suddenly appeal. When feeling empowered, masculated does the bob haircut -halfway house between male and female -embody your mindset? This is what makes a culture, we just got to remember it’s a sum of parts. In the same way we look at our own countries/ schools/ workplaces as having all representative personality types, it applies to every tranche. The same creatives, jokers, rebels, intellectuals, artists, nerds, hipsters, hippies, emos and jocks whether you’re Inuit or Amish. A Black feminist lesbian or a Welsh male rugby player, a tribal hunter in the Congo or a factory worker in Sichuan. Just don’t all get the same haircut.

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I think of it distantly now, that other life when we were in proximity.

I am now attempting to watch I Am That Pretty Little Thing That Lives In The House.

It is like a beautiful rendition of my nightmare the other morning, slow, unsettling and domestic, with a carer spending her days in isolation. I’ve only seen the first 20 mins as Netflix has gone kaput yet again, but it’s promising, although J who’s seen it swears nothing’s gonna happen. It is as if life is imitating art.

There perhaps should be a meme about this, us, the stay-at-homers like drones watching Netflixian propaganda, unsullied by wind or sun to give off a cold, screen-like glow. Monosyllabic, licking out jam jars, crisp packets and greasy keyboards, dressed in our all-day finery of underwear or bathrobe

We can call ourselves Dave, and/ or Emma. A heteronormative couple, childless, furloughed, avid readers of the rolling news. Trump-haters, Harry Potter/ GOT fans, iPhone subscribers and pizza lovers. We have an old cat called Tuppence, or Teapot, adore re-runs of Peep Show and The Office and worry about the mortgage, airline vouchers, Waitrose stocks of smoked salmon, our mums and when all this horridness will just blow over so we can go on holiday again. And like all memes, we wear ourselves with pride. Redditt bitches, bring it on.

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