A Journal of the Plague Year Week 8

Sunday 3rd May 2020

J has decamped to his other half’s house for a week, just across the Common, 45 mins walk away. The place will be quieter without him pottering about, researching his silver in the living room, though hopefully replaced by A who will creep out more surely. He is a little snail.

Stocked up at the local Tesco Metro, the only supermarket open after 5 on a Sunday. There was the same homeless guy outside as there’s ever been asking for change to get himself a hostel -though not a lot of cash about these days. I was a bit dubious at the sign, as the government was meant to be providing hotel shelter, though looks like many haven’t transpired. In the Guardian article all on the streets had fallen through the net. That they’d rung 5 or 6x and never heard anything back, perhaps due to them being EU and us having just left. I entertained the idea of bringing him home but I doubt J would have that happen, being responsible for the flat and the copious amounts of silver. We’d talked the other day and it had been a veto, though that’s understandable.

The 500,000 positions needed for UK’s annual fruit picking fest appears unable to be filled. Of the hundreds of thousands of Brits employed to do it, a whopping 115 chose to stay on, after facing a back-breaking 8 hr shift of bending over coupled with Repetitive Strain Injury. So much for the Brexit promises eh? They are now drafting in people from Romania more willing to be exploited for minimum wage -and a day upped to being 12hrs, 5x a week.

This is what many of us willfully believe our fruit and veg comes in from:

Rather than this:

The country will just have to come to terms that there are day-to-day jobs our populace is unwilling to work, at all costs, because Britons never, ever shall be slaves. Or accept we operate sweatshops in a foreign corner of every field. It seems this pandemic has exposed the facade that is our everyday, in every facet -how fragile our economies, societies, respectability and governments are behind the mask, how very reliant are lives have been made into spending for it.

The reality is picking the fruit is not able to be automated, as one also needs to be able to check if it’s ripe (smell, look and feel), not just spot them and navigate around the leaves and brances. This added cost puts quite a strain on the profits, and many unscrupulous farmers employ slave labour: indentured East Europeans and refugees from further afield who work for well under the minimum wage, sleep several to a wagon and get fed the most basic of nutritional needs, the lowest common denominator impossible to save up from.

Many get trapped with confiscation of passports, threats to family back home, money owed for smuggling them there, systemic abuse or the sheer inability to save for a ticket back. They provide the ripe fields for recruiting prostitutes, house slaves, drug runners and human traffic, often sold as bespoke teaching or nanny positions for some rich family, then kidnapped. It has always been a problem to be swept under the carpet -a frontline job we can ill afford (or we can but save so much from not doing so).

The Atlantic has posted a new story: We Are Living In A Failed State, where blame for the corona cack-handedness lies squarely at the door of POTUS and his armed sycophants. It’s hot on the heels of the March story (different author): America Is Acting Like A Failed State, unable to project authority or ensure its populace. Meanwhile The Great Orange Dolphin is busy doing a victory lap as the deaths hit 60,000 in the US, and NY State -if it were a nation -would now have the world’s highest death rate, overtaking tiny San Marino (where 40 out of 33,344 people have died), almost double Belgium, and approaching 3x Italy.

The Top 30 death rates per million:

New York – 1,242

San Marino – 1,208

New Jersey – 872

Connecticut – 680

Belgium – 670

Andorra – 569

Massachusetts – 563

Spain – 537

Italy – 475

Louisiana – 427

UK – 414

Michigan – 404

France – 379

District of Columbia – 351

Netherlands – 291

Rhode Island – 280

Sweden – 264

Republic of Ireland – 260

Pennsylvania – 217

Maryland – 208

Switzerland – 204

Illinois – 200

Indiana – 185

Delaware – 177

Colorado – 150

Luxembourg – 147

Washington State – 115

Georgia (USA) – 114

Monaco – 102

Portugal – 100

Now imagine the orange buffoon, fat face beatific, eyes closed doing the airplane round the stadium as his Republican fanbase whoop him on on one side (confederate flags, anti-Mexican waves, salutes, mini-bugles) and the other boo him (upside-down flags, one finger salutes, lobbed bogroll), while the cheerleaders who resemble beardy hunters in camo let off a round of gunfire. Or you could imagine him doing the same with the entire stadium dead. No joke, he is already bringing MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banners out of the Eisenhower Executive Office.

 

Meanwhile, life carries on. At Tesco I indulged in the Sunday tradition of sweeping all of the reduced items of the week, collected in last-minute flurries in a specific fridge only those in the know seek out. All the stodgy ready-meals, red alerted as artery cloggers but ever moreish for it: shepherds pie, steak pie, duck pancakes and chicken kievs. Nabbed the lot.

https://www.facebook.com/paulmannart/

Youth China (one of myriad companies -the country operates the largest survey industries in the world for business, government and leisure) has recently been gauging the effect the lockdown has been having on people, particularly in Wuhan, who entered first, lasted the longest and came out first. It looks as people will be divided into two camps from now on, those YOLO fans now drawn to cafes, clubs and crowds, ‘revenge’ shopping and holidaying, and those more cautious because life is precious and must be safeguarded, reluctant even to come out of a self-imposed lockdown. It looks as life as we know it now is here to stay, perhaps for another 2 years. Forever changed, should we survive it.

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A Journal of the Plague Year Day 44

Friday 1st May 2020

Yesterday was quiz night. It went on for 6hrs. Dear fuckitty. By 3am, quiz over hours ago, we’d swapped tattoos, sharpied each our faces and occasionally undressed. At the end we argued :(. Alcohol is perhaps not the best wingman.

We connected via Google Meet. Zoom apparently forces you to log out and in after 40 mins, whereas GM was unlimited. But the audio was terrible, only really allowing one person to talk at any one time, and a delay for quite a few seconds. Don’t expect punchline responses.

Overall, don’t do GM, go for Zoom, the fuckers have enough money anyway.

Pretty much my highlight of the day.

Have had a migraine every day for a week, I’m wondering if it’s my hair, seems I’m allergic to blonde, despite the compliments. Maybe due to residue from the bleach -the fumes were definitely a trigger at the time, akin to eau de chemical pain.

Meanwhile a select few countries appear to be rolling out plans for opening up again from lockdowns. However the several states that have started in the US are subsequently dealing wth outbreaks in factories and businesses that force them to close yet again. The Michigan Capitol was also stormed by armed protesters.

On the shopping foray out I noticed a lot of people getting into arguments, myself included -no less than four. First the Asda (of course) ‘helper’ shouting at us to stay behind the line at self service, after silently watching us approach the entire bank of empty checkouts (I yelled back). Then a man at Lidl who castigated the doorman for stopping the line at him before entry, both facing off. Once inside the woman stomping off after crashing baskets, then at a stop the police being called to some shouty women ejected from the bus (it looked like one had dropped a phone under it and the driver refused to back up). The police looked very persevering.

I think people are starting to hit that stage where they’re getting antsy across the board -skin itching, hair-tearing and needing a fag. There’s something about stress, and the need for humans to take it out on others, to relieve the pressure and just generally be in that negative mindset. We all know it, we all do it. Just the world would so much be a better place without it, if we learn to recognise that behaviour in ourselves and curb it /call it out. The kinda shit that stops wars.

On the subject, the US looks like its garnering support to try and bill China for compensation, from both right and left, with the states of Missouri and Mississippi having filed official claims. 2/3 of the population polled now hold strongly negative views on China -with Trump at the helm it looks likely the entire country will follow.

I’m just wondering if it could end in all out war. Apparently Trump, being a sociopath, repeatedly asked why he couldn’t just nuke North Korea. And when denied then tried to get Seoul to evacuate, as a ruse to scare the North. That’s 25 million people he tried to move out from the world’s 3rd richest city behind Tokyo and New York. Wrecking an economy (half of all South Koreans live there) as a tit-for-tat move for his personal war games.

It’s also reported he’s starting to agitate his relationship with Fix News, who’ve long been bedpartners, sending out texts and burning their Valentine cards. He’s been actively calling for an alternative -and that conveniently looks like the One America News Network (OANN), renowned for pushing conspiracy theories to the nest of the weird that is increasingly Middle America. Word out is he’s also likely to start his own news and entertainment network once out of office. Dear lord. We can imagine what that’s gonna look like, sweeping vistas of his face on Mt Rushmore at every segment, perhaps obliterating Lincoln or Washington -or both given how round it is. The sound of choppers and rockets, the billowing flag, the bimbofied newsreaders, fireworks and lurid graphics. Everything in gold.

It remains where Fox will go with this, blindly, arse-rimmingly loyal, but now running anti-Trump ads. Ah, those golden years…

Today has also been International Workers Day or Mayday, when workers of the world unite, parade or protest, especially on the continent. They have of course been universally banned due to C-19, thus fueling even more sentiment that citizen rights are being curbed as an excuse. Some have been sensible about things.

Germany

Athens

Vienna

Rome

Others less so

USA

Istanbul

Protesters marching against Erdogan are arrested in Istanbul

Ah, back when we could touch each other, comrades in arms. Workers of the world, unite!

 

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A Journal of the Plague Year Day 28

Tuesday 14th April 2020

The horror movie checklist:

  1. Large house with multiple rooms. Old.
  2. Dark house, where multiple 20W lamps are needed in every heavily curtained space. Even in daytime, thanks to broody, rainy locations like Southern California. Firelight.
  3. A basement/ attic stuffed with middle class clutter and weird AF shit.
  4. A basement door to the garden that is jammed. Extra point if a spade is resting outside, with a wooden handle.
  5. An unlocked front door. All exteriors are pretty much unlocked, the opposite once inside.
  6. Creepy doll
  7. Jewellery box with a twirling ballerina.
  8. Painting close up. The eyes.
  9. Door knob slowly turning.
  10. Looking through a slat. Surprise!
  11. Key doesn’t work. It will later.
  12. Old newspaper/ photo album with grainy black and white of an unhappy loner.
  13. A diary/ investigation wall. Tortured drawings.
  14. Upper middle class family. One of the parents is creative.
  15. Pale, sickly looking child. Very serious. Nerdy, independent.
  16. Pale, sickly looking service staff. Extra point if they look and act Victorian, despite hitting their twenties in the 1990s.
  17. Creepy old person/ disabled person. Extra point if they have a foreign accent.
  18. Skin disease.
  19. Teen sex scene.
  20. School angst. Bullying.
  21. Southern accent
  22. British accent.
  23. Someone innocently bursting into a room, or grabbing someone by the shoulders from behind, to greet them as you do. Or just walking past with the sudden sound of screeching strings.
  24. Walking into a room. Stopping. Freezing.
  25. Calling on someone and finding them violently compromised by a household object.
  26. Explosive flurry of urban wildlife: birds/ bats/ rats/ a cat.
  27. A barking dog, that becomes a whine.
  28. And then I woke up!
  29. Secret room.
  30. Sharpened bench/ farm tools.
  31. Shower scene, eyes closed. Extra point if she doesn’t check the heat/ wait for it to warm.
  32. A fall from height.
  33. Woman/ child calling stupidly, announcing herself at all times no matter the glimpsed shapes and skittering sounds. Half a point if it’s a teenage guy.
  34. Quit it guys! This ain’t funny guys!
  35. She who runs falls.
  36. I have a great idea: let’s split up.
  37. No one believes me! /I’m going mad! Can I trust mine own eyes?
  38. Noises on the level above. Tracking them.
  39. Hiding in closet/ under the bed scene.
  40. Blissful diorama at the end. But it’s not the end…

Score: Child’s Play (2019) – 11/40 Surprisingly refreshing, though everything as trashy as promised and quite a dalliance into torture porn, ewww.

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Another blanket-drowned day. Up at 5am, back to bed again by 8. Then awake by 11. No breakfast. Attempted lunch at 4pm.

Grated up a swede, threw in a potato too why not. Garlic and onions. Bacon. This’ll be like one of those German potato cakes, or latke, yeah!

Dash of soya, green tabasco. Some of that Bosnian spice mix why not. Fry, till crispy on the edges.

Doesn’t work. Crispy, yet soggy. Smoking AF. Tried it anyway.

Waaay too salty, it’s that Bosnian stock mix thing. Better make rice to water it down. It’ll be like what rice was designed for, a few choice slivers of flavour intensity like jewels in creamy fluffiness. Yes.

Gawd, it’s still awful. This calls for an egg, no three. A full on omelette. Like a tortilla. Yes. Separate the rice, return it to the pan.

OMFG inedible. Salty, sludgey, eggy. Like super eggy. Burnt.

Every surface smells of egg, room is noxious too with weird smoke pong. Open window, re-wash all the china, glasses and cutlery.

Let’s try rice porridge. The kind that actually demands a salty accompaniment, commonly duck egg or thousand year egg. That’ll surely utilise the flavour. Yes.

OMFG it’s literally poison. Burning a hole into the bowl. Complete fucking giant egg write-off. Half my larder gone on it too. This is like McCandless’s existential nadir when he kills that moose in Into The Wild.

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Pounding, vomitous migraine from disrupted sleep plus no food.

Looked up some foreign cinema, after my diatribe about Americana yesterday. After an hour of research, downloaded a Chinese film noir, The Wild Goose Lake, apparently second place to the Palmes D’Or. Took an age to get started (clicking away pop ups like Whack-A-Mole, restarting on new tabs, loading up a stream at dial-up speed). Then no subtitles. None found either online.

Have a sudden urge to play whack-a-mole with real moles.

Tomorrow I’ll try and give the chum to the pigeons, they’re probably starving. Though I tried the last few days to feed them.

They have got to be the most stupid animals I’ve met. They watch me throw them crumbs, then whole slices like a performance artist. One of them works out it’s bread, but the minute it falls off the roof, it’s as if disappeared. They do not make the connection, as slice after slice ends up on the floor below. Even when a day later I collect them and deposit them, shrine-like, in the middle of the carpark, they remain like modern art. Speaking volumes about our disposable consumerism at an epoch-changing time of want and the Heiglian ideal. Yes.

They’re probably new pigeons. The rest have starved to death, and these were the chicks that survived. They have no idea what bread is, but if they’re willing to peck at vomit, they’ll maybe be able to peck at my lunch dinner attempt.

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In the news.

  • Trump has had a meltdown, publicly ranting at reporters for an hour and a half, and including a pre-prepared video on the injustice he’s endured, notably under questions on his running of the C-19 show.
  • Many Africans in China are now facing homelessness following an outbreak of C-19 reinfection in the African districts of Guangzhou, and a nurse who was attacked after a man escaped an isolation ward. A slew of evictions followed, and a sign even put up asking Black customers to please not enter a McDonalds (later the company apologised). Although social media campaigns have now sorted food, clothing and re-housing, and the govt is making a statement they have a zero tolerance to racism, the local police were said to be hassling the unfortunates, and even blocking aid-givers.
  • It’s seen as an excuse for the council to finally push the community out, once hundreds of thousands strong, inline with a crackdown from 2018 eliminating visa-overstayers and illegals, which China has been increasingly inundated with this last decade. The history of racism and pandemics goes hand-in-hand, and galling given that Chinese round the world have been victims, but now fellow perpetrators. The world is studded with fucking idiots.
  • World food production is looking increasingly threatened by the collapse of logistical transport networks, processing factories and retail. Most immediately vulnerable are Pacific nations, with desert nations and smaller European/ island countries to follow.
  • Russia is giving hints it’s gotten serious over there, Putin looking serious alongside. China has recently been having many cases of reinfection coming from across its northern border, notably the border city of Suifenhe reentering lockdown.
  • Japan is also looking worse, with hundreds more cases. Like Russia it’s been following a light lockdown if none at all, relying on masks and social distancing. China’s other re-lockdowned city is a port that services Japan, Jiaozhou.
  • Another 778 died in UK hospitals today, bringing the total over 12,000, despite still an undercount. The BBC is no longer reporting the deaths, or at least making it obvious.
  • Globally deaths are at 120,000 and 2 million infected.

Yesterday

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A Journal of the Plague Year Day 22

Wednesday 8th April

Have just returned from an evening walk -the Italians call it the passeggiata, where after dinner you put on your Sunday best and go for a stroll. Everyone tends to meet up in the town square and have a good old gossip, loiter and flirt in the lilting light. This is a daily ritual played out all over the Mediterranean and Middle East, and I see why. No pressure to spend in order to be happy, to drink to socialise, or be exercising to go out. No plan, no destination, no rendez-vous. You’re just out for a walk, and anything that may come your way, in mind and body. Also an English tradition to clear one’s head, practiced back from mid century and before. I do remember it in Wind in the Willows, where Mole always swore by going for an evening walk come rain or shine, and that everyone needed to do it. I thought it a splendid idea as a kid, but when faced with a treasure trail of bus stops and army estates it proved a bit more shite in reality. I think the timing’s key, when the colours begin to glow.

The place now is often a beautiful ghost town.

IMG_3557IMG_3563

We ended up by the river, the Thames Path full of joggers and couples, or lone people on benches, some just leaning on walls and staring mistily at the Danubian waters, beneath the vaulting towers of Vauxhall. The architecture a story writ in stone and steel offsetting each other in style, typical of London. Every street was varied, where centuries-old churchtowers faced off postwar highrises or glass condos, and making perfect photo ops, which I kept annoying A to borrow his phone for, or make take a snap, having forgotten mine. The skies were ethereal.

On the way back we got lost, finding some nice pubs and a French bistrot (for ‘when this is all over’), but then ending up in the concrete wastes that is so much of Battersea, riddled with pre-fabs that look alike. We walked in the entirely wrong direction attempting to head to our own block squatting on the horizon, before realising it just another ugly doppelganger. Brick, concrete, square windows, utterly functional and uninspired, in contrast to the high end views of the Thames, like sentinel ships.

By that stage it had been all hush -emptied streets and a languid summer feel, punctuated with glowing visions of warmth and other lives. But by walking interminably the wrong way then back again I got increasingly frustrated, a switch from an elegant, arm-in-armness. I have a deep-seated intolerance to such a pitch of inefficiency, the kind of bottled up anger that makes you want to scream, punch walls and upend bins. I imagined myself raking at the damn blossoms like a madman, stomping on people’s daffodils stupidfuckingword, their picket fences handy javelins into their shitty lives, framed by chintz. We’d spent a good 45 mins plodding a huge loop back to the river, while my dinner sat uncooked and going off.

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At home still furious, made worse by having to simmer it beneath the veneer: that everything’s all right, and no one is to blame, and let’s all have a nice sit down, and not cleaver the TV, or use the wok as a fucking baseball bat. Dinner was veal burgers and rice, wrongly cooked, while film night got ignored until I masking taped everyone into the sofa. I’m going to go to bed with a brick, and will gnaw at it. Piece of shite. I think sometimes things culminate, and I know, know, know I don’t have the right.

Yesterday 850 died in the UK from the C-19. About 60 of them were from outside the hospitals, and there may be more not yet counted in a daily lag. The way things are going, any rumour of a release from lockdown in the next few weeks is now off the menu. Another report came out today, based on the daily figures, that the UK may be in line to have more deaths than France, Italy and Spain combined, at 66,000.

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Meanwhile, The Great Orange Dolphin (GOD) plated up a tumultuous, rambling briefing, following the highest death toll so far on a single day from any country -1,800 – despite many hints of undercounting. The reporters endured an embarrassing diatribe throwing barbs on all sides to deflect their questions on his recent leadership (or lack of), mixing messages, before rounding on the World Health Organisation (WHO). He went on to claim he’d no longer fund the organisation tasked to bring nations, their governments and their science together to collectively fight infection, mitigate the spread, treat the sick and protect the healthy. His reason to withdraw US contributions (about 1/8 of its $4 billion budget) being that it was too ‘China-centric’, though many see it as a typical sociopath’s deflection of blame by pointing at another. Basically show up at the party for cake, and the G.O.D. who was meant to bring it will subsequently point his harpoon at the birthday girl, squeak-screaming how she prefers pilot whales and he wants his pressie back.

Despite that withdrawing funds for this global organisation in the middle of a pandemic would be a major attack against domestic and international recovery, this is now being sold as protectionist realignment by the American right, notably Fox News, in the spirit of a just and superior power not to heckled, and not to be made a fool of. The WHO is now the sudden posterchild of villain and hero, for both sides, and is desperately  sending out public requests to end the politicisation of a pandemic. That one cannot have your cake and eat it, then kill everyone.

U.S. President Trump leads daily coronavirus response briefing at the White House in Washington

In other news the victims of C-19 in the US appears unfairly slanted to Black and African American groups, in Louisiana for example making up 70% of the deaths. There is a questioning of the different forces at play, from the higher rates of obesity and illness that contribute to the fatality rates, to the lower income thresholds that are more unlikely to seek or receive help. To the fact many Black Americans complain that using bandanas/ cloths during the face mask shortage is tantamount to being framed as criminals, from being turned away from stores to getting shot, hence why they’re reluctant to do so. The papers are also still full of opinion pieces on how the US got into the position of having to rely on China as its saviour (via providing Personal Protective Equipment and Intensive Care Units), and the Chinese propaganda machine now repainting itself as such. They are of course brimming with rage, both left and right, justified and unjustifiable, at China’s role in its spread in the first place, while receiving millions of donated PPE and ICUs.

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Today I promised not to write so much, limiting it to the morning, then embarking on a sojourn into gaming. Set up the laptop, unpacked the controller, and reloaded Steam. I’m not much of a gamer, though was seriously addicted to Streetfighter II as a kid – but have mostly missed out on a huge round of development, whereby gaming is now overshadowing the film industry itself, and the graphics are no longer cubist, or a floating world.

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Skyrim: Elder Scrolls was the choice. Now, I’m not one to know what the fuck I’m doing half the pixelated time, battling with the controls more than on-screen baddies, and occasionally screaming or throwing TVs out the window, so opening up the veritable universe of such a game is a risk. The complexity of it is galling, with a million different functions, controls, options and tasks. For example collecting various shit in various locations to make various spells for various occasions, via an encyclopedic menu. Or trying to kill that giant flipping spider with shitty little arrows, while nipping in and out of a corner, while the controls freeze up then change. It all sounds too much like hard work.

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There were those early Playstation ads where they basically inferred gaming was akin to a new life, being able to experience unimaginable things, from a conqueror of worlds, to just a platform, or a golf swing. Well, if they did a version of modern life, imagine walking around trying to access menus whenever having a thought or move, carrying round untold baggage like any trolley-pushing, homeless granny, and a good few scrolling options to find out whichever bag it’s in as the queue waits fuming. VR’s gonna be the future, you just reach to your abstract pocket on the side to grab that axe, or ray gun or shrinking potion as that tentacle whips towards you, as opposed to pausing and going through an Excel sheet each time. Ah, life, virtual, imagined or real – still stuck with the same bureaucratic shite.

When computers start simplifying life will be when they actually lift off as useful to humans.

Tomorrow I’ll probably take up Streetfighter again (now on it’s fifth offering), and my days will effectively cease, the lockdown being the rest of my life, when I’ll have starved to death, swaddled in adult nappies. Cold dead joysticky hands.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 16

Thursday 2nd April 2020

Needing

A

Break.

Increasingly lethargic to write. Headachey all day, writing all day. Fuckers.

Stuck in a rut.

I imagine about 12 hours worth, of which 1 hr on admin (weeerk emails and texts), 4 hrs on the book conundrum (so hair-tearingly stuck I’ve had to contact a stranger to help), an hr on this blog and about 6hrs doing sweet FA on news forums where I’ve taken full time employment as a keyboard warrior. I mean who still does that? Chatrooms were sooo noughties. Boomers obviously, emanating great globs of social division as they crawl through cyberspace like giant pale, male slugs of patriarchy. Writing crappy articles in effect, as a post that will be argued by one odious oversized mollusc and looked at by another five, before sliming over to a new page.

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I am of course being sucked into the black hole that is the algorithm laced Internet, where I’ll be later bombarded by more material to further polarise my views, perhaps unintentionally -or not -but to further partisan up the great unplugged. This is how the giant slugs came about in the first place, once fellow victims with kitchens and friends and everything. With algorithms ruling every roost, you’ll never be surprised into new things, and every echo chamber only ever gets deeper. That’s how Netflix gets positively boring. I’m currently stuck in a purgatory of low budget horrors, food porn and lots and lots of immersive Americans standing round talking to, with and about each other. No other suggestions come forward.

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But no. Don’t settle -the world is bigger than that.  Go, seek out that animated history of the Slovakian harp, or some shorts from the Saudi indy scene, or just anything waaaay out there ker-azee, unwatched by anyone else ever, the most obscure offering you can eke out of the molehill of Mongolian film history. Then maybe things will spice up, hopefully.

CATS

Also watched a mix of the Big Brother contestants only now being informed of the C-19 pandemic (Germany, Brazil and Canada, last week), without a clue as to what they were saying, just seeing their shocked expressions in close up. It must be terrifying to be launched straight into it, without the creeping build-up we’ve all been privy to these last weeks. The Germans were most shocked when they found out people were self-isolating, the Brazilians that every non essential shop and business was winding down, and the Canadians that the US border was closed.

There is something macabrely intriguing about seeing the dawning realisation of something on another. From a position of safety, or prior knowledge beforehand, makes it perhaps a position of power. Not quite sure about that ethically, but I thoroughly enjoyed every second.

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A following vid (as you do, clicking randomly through your algorithmic menu) was of a brother and sister discovering each other on another BB show in the States, who realised they had the same father when cross-referencing names and descriptions (war vet, missing foot). I mean bizarre, yet amazing, and warming, though a little inbred in that Southern charm kinda way. Then followed up, just as randomly by PM Julia Gilliard’s rousing 2012 speech against sexism and misogyny, voted Australia’s most unforgettable TV moment. Impressive viewing once again, which I dawdled a delicious hour through following up on the issues she’d been specifying, on sordid texts, lascivious expense scandals and bullheaded villainry. I think the algorithm is targeting my emotions, the act of getting jawdropped in a sea of domestic mundanity.

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She keeps the world turning, even from seven years ago.

For a large chunk of the day Netflix’s docurama Rome played in the background, a haze of murder, nudity and intrigue that kept making me look up over the screen as it flashed tit and blood and Doric columns. Annoying.

Then the 8pm Clap-A-Thon for the NHS, echoing across the land and this time people were playing instruments (bugles, horns, drums). I kind of had that very awkward Britishism, caught in a window full of other windows facing me, and dragged into clapping alongside rather than looking like an emotionally stunted Billy No Mates. It’s not that I don’t support the NHS, or didn’t find it genuinely magic, I’m just not the kind to clap or hoot or do anything other than sway a little, even if I was front row at America’s Got Motherfucking Talent, my cat just won and the camera on me. So I pretended to clap. Yes I did. Though genuinely smiling. Anyhoo, for what it’s worth, Thankyou NHS x

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In similar circumstances the people of Brazil took to their pots and pans, but this time to express their outrage at the leadership of Jair Bolsanaro, the outspoken far right president, similar to Trump, who’s been valiantly holding the virus at bay by diagnosing it as the sniffles, refusing lockdowns, and maintaining it a bad dream we’ll soon wake up from, to a strong coffee and some light tennis on the beach. That is till this biggest protest of his rule to date, racketing out from a few hundred million balconies. Democracies have increasingly been shown to be undemocratic and graspingly unprofessional in all this -it should never reach this stage.

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There’s something to be said about sociopaths in power… I mean it’s a no brainer literally just stepping back and letting the medical experts advise you on what to say. And look grave, possibly even upset at press meetings on people dying. Just so long as you maintain that serious facade and try pretending that people’s lives equate to say, a dollar in your pocket, then you’ll likely be bolstered by sweeping support from all sides, as seen in countries under siege mentality. Such as the noticeable uptick in adoration exhibited for the Great Orange Dolphin (G.O.D.), even from Democrat hills, that has him at his highest ratings ever (49%). Even when all he can think to talk about are the ratings for these briefings, as thousands gasp it out.

Like he literally cannot see what that looks like, literally cannot fathom a logic that hundreds of thousands of human lives are more important than his spotlight. Look at that little facial icon in the corner, ready to fight on the beaches. A look of cold steel to the wind, hair catflapping madly as he raises the flamethrower. Then he opens his mouth.

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Yet given the set-up, script and role these arrivistes still seem unable to tear themselves from their tried and tested MO on or off stage: of pathologically lying on any given subject, and making for the usual pfaff of bluster, disbelief, grandiosity and unimpeachability (God complex). Until the last minute when they lose grip (cold, dead hands, crowbarred by an upset secretary), at the untold cost of thousands of preventable deaths. Imagine Trump, embattled, washed up, squeak-screaming again under the presidential desk as the staff try and tease him out with oil contracts and Fox cameras, maybe some Russian ladies of the night with incontinence issues. It will take till then, that delicately held point in time and history books – possibly a black and white Newsweek cover of the whole Benny Hill scene- before we ever get to turn the corner on this thing.

Amazon Pink River Dolphin or Boto Inia geoffrensis Underwater, Rio Negro BRAZIL

Amazon Pink River Dolphin or Boto Inia geoffrensis Underwater, Rio Negro BRAZIL

Am stuck increasingly with nothing to do. No board games, no one interested in computer games either -it’s the soul sucking internet, or Netflix for most of the day. We contemplated going out for a walk, but the kind of cold, dark, empty walk you’d get at 10.30pm during a ghostly pandemic lockdown of a not particularly pretty part of town, all train tracks, brick terraces and highrises to the tune of litter confetti and plastic tumbleweed. Like Dune, but a budget where they had to make do with Felixstowe for location. Noone cleans the streets anymore.

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In the end we opted to have our souls sucked, promising tomorrow to be a constructed, constructive day full of tasks, shopping and prep for a Sunday dinner party we’ll be throwing in honour of ourselves, for which J will get his antique silverware out. Tomorrow morning will be a conference call for work, to vote on some products for the new Wildlife Photographer of the Year comp. Kind of looking forward to doing something, anything again yet tentative to rejoin public life, like a first day of school encore. Will even have to get out of my one-piece, all-day bathrobe, which now looks like one of those over-the-shoulder numbers cavemen always wear, or a large, splayed cat.

Lunch a milkshake and chicken kiev (overcooked, popped and fizzled away), dinner 3 slices of bread and some ineffective painkillers. Life’s a little bit shit.

Currently it’s Fool’s Gold, Kate Hudson, Matthew McConaughey, and a youthful Kevin Hart chasing Conquistadore treasure in the Caribbean. A camp, long-winded ‘action-comedy’ set in crystal waters that’s particularly refreshing after a steady diet of horror, arthouse and psychological/ historical drama. I’m not sure what’s going on but I am peeping up whenever Mr McCona-heeeyyy is going shirtless, which is like in every scene ever, even when shopping or arguing over divorce papers. I’ve heard he’s always crossing his arms across his lovely chest, or generally gesticulating as he talks, because if he puts them to his sides you’ll see they’re preternaturally short. Like a baby penguin.

I’ve been avoiding the news, but like the ghastly spectacle it is, on your doorstep, I looked. Infections now over 1 million, and Spain with another 950 deaths, UK 569. Morgues are being set up all over the country, in makeshift tents and every purported ice rink which noone’s ever going to return to. The US grabbed something like 5 million masks destined for France, by paying 3x the price in cash and redirecting the plane just as it was about to taxi off from China. Trump also invoked his emergency powers to get 3M to stop its mask shipments, destined for a SE Asian locale from their Singaporean factory, to be redirected to the US of A. And to stop making them for anyone other than their own. They refused, but were brought to task by the G.O.D. via Twitter, who is now vowing they’ll ‘have a big price to pay’.

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At the same time, CIA documents show China covered up infections near the start (the thing with the doctor), and on human> human transmission, or at least was too delayed in announcing it, as if not to be outdone in the panto-villain stakes. Not promising.

The Thucidydes Trap between the two posers looks ever more worrying.

But to bed, to bed. For another day, and another keyboard offensive.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 7

Tuesday, 24th March 2020

Lockdown. As of last night, PM Boris Johnson came on to let us know that we’re no longer allowed out other than one exercise (type) a day, to go shopping (only food, pet stores and pharmacies) or to work (essential workers, or if you ‘absolutely have to’). The Telegraph of course emblazoned its headline this morning as ‘The End of Freedom’.

We’ll get fined otherwise, and if we hang out in groups of more than 2 it’ll get broken up, similar to the days of Thatcherism where more than 8 people around a radio constituted an illegal rave. I don’t however see myself joining a Reclaim the Streets brigade.

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It’s not so much that the lockdown is now in place, but why it took so long, given the track record of not acting quickly enough in Italy and Wuhan, alongside the proven benefits that South Korea, Singapore and the rest of China managed to pull off (for the time being -reinfection is still a fear, albeit with standard testing at every corner). Opinion posits this late joining to the party has been BoJo’s long championing of personal liberties; he famously wrote in his former Telegraph column that the ban on public smoking was akin to killing Iraqis to free them.

Well after the droves of people witnessed across the country’s parks and beauty spots over the sunny weekend, he had to bite the bullet. It sounds like in the West that’s exactly what is needed in order to keep the population indoors: guns, with the army having to be called in across the continent – Italy alone has had hundreds of thousands of people fined already. The army helicopters did a flypast over our estate last night, spotting some chinooks out of the eight before we stopped counting.

As mentioned before, us Brits are a libertine bunch, a bit too entitled since the days of Empire, and in contrast to a Germany where the death toll per capita is lower than its neighbours, perhaps due to a more heedful populace in a regimented Germanic stereotype. Albeit Austria -more specifically the apres-Ski resort of Ischgl -has now been pinpointed as a main source for infecting much of Mitteleuropa, notably a majority of the spreader Germans and Danes and as far away as Iceland. All thanks to a sick barman (who blew whistles to clear the drunken droves engaging in body fluid beer pong), and an ensuing cover-up, the management and council in cahoots. Austria had consistently denied the link until it became too obvious, with hundreds of patients sharing that same hand-warming, shoulder-rubbing vector-point.

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The US too appears ever hassled, with its right to bear arms in a similar cultural quandary as the UK, whereby it’s populace may now prove to be its own worst enemy. It’s one thing to have 165 million people left with a month’s worth of money before facing homelessness and destitution, as the current fiscal roll out is promising, it’s another to give them guns to go with their desperation. The Stateside press is fervent with calls to take out Nancy Pelosi, who undid the emergency draft of economic measures after noticing it did nothing for the common man and a lot for uncommon, big business. Predictably so -barging into DC and plonking down her 1,400 page amendment as a rebuttal to much more rebuttal. Going by what the Republicans had intended your average white collar worker would get $1200 a head, while blue collar families $600, as a random example.

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Meanwhile the Democrats took the opportunity to attempt a sea change in policy to come with the draft, from affirmative action rolled out into the corporate echelons to gender/ minority equity in the payscale, from halving greenhouse gases to increased union power, freer healthcare to free internet. This has of course stymied the fast-tracked path of the bailout, as businesses continue to fold and a large chunk of the population waits in limbo, attack rifles readied.

The fact that for most Americans keeping yourself in work is vital to paying for your healthcare, has become a vicious Catch 22 in these climes, whereby even the threat of illness negates work which in turn negates any chance of proper treatment, or will further indebt you for decades. This is what Obamacare, increasingly indentured, attempted to bypass. It seems the end is nigh for the American Dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, even if that entailed for some, the white picket fencing off from community and a God-given right to bear arms. And it has come not in the shape of the Red Scare, foreign attack, immigrant takeover, economic overshadowing, nuclear war or a Hollywood alien race, but a mere virus exposing the flaws in every society so far. Plus a global, capitalist system utterly reliant on unceasing spending, no matter whether you’re in Louisiana or Lusaka.

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The fact Trump is now seeking to reinstate this system to the tune of untold dying is a sign of our times, and the monster we’ve nurtured, whereby dollars > death. The House Senate is now looking to shorten lockdowns, if even have them in place, which isn’t exactly democratic in any way given the commercial lobbying (read: corruption) and the lack of people voting on their own fates.

Yesterday we watched Doomsday Preppers straight after BoJo’s speech, which wasn’t the best choice in hindsight. I ended up yelling at the screen after having every button pressed repeatedly in seeing grown men (all terse, overweight and suburban) bring up their kids and inveigle other families and long-suffering wives into a life of unputdownable threat and big boys’ army games. Which got me triggered, so to speak. Watching white-socked wannabees bowling round pristine lawns armed with uzis and a well-tended fear of cityfolk, or the sweaty ranch-owning narcissist who puts his kids in life-or-death scenarios as per norm, in preparation for a terrorist takeover. His hiring of local law enforcers -constructively nurturing more trigger happiness -to stage a shouty ransoming of family members, guns to heads was especially revealing. All in aid of seeing what the 7 year old would do (he caved and put the shotgun down, bless his little warm, living hands).

I honestly think there is an unsaid link between our sociopathy spectrum levels with a hangover from our predatory evolution. That those on the far right have been shown to share nightmares of being hunted, hounded by constant threat (darkies chasing them with machetes, feminazis throwing tampons, trees getting hugged) -and that we ourselves demonstrate when put in the corner. When forced to defend our loved ones the last feelings of empathy or concern for the Other (side) goes well out the reinforced window. It’s a certain mix of cold disregard with wheedling attention and premonition that is a pathological condition methinks, and the series is making the most of it. I was shocked to find it was from the National Geographic, though of course majority stakes went to Rupert Murdoch a few years ago, and the channel’s always been in bed with Fox since 2001.

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Anyhoo they must be loving life right now. So I am not convinced this world deserves us, and that we deserve the world, regardless of how glossy a cover it makes and how, like most relationships in life, we pretend to care and support each other.

More commuting horrors of the tube were snapped this morning – but before we tut our middle class tongues, look again at the pics and note this is just the normal 5-7am rush hour for the poor as it is every day – construction crews, supermarket shelvers, carers, caterers, cleaners, transportation workers who have to come in from far to service the centre. Take away their trains and frequencies and it can only get worse -it’s a telling sign that somewhere like Denmark puts on more trains to enable social distancing, and we do the opposite to systemise it. Is that plain stupidity or just the usual punishing of the poor, at best callous, at worst intentional?

These people are not wilfully there, they are not congregating at sunrise for a latte in the park. They are trying to survive, and running a new gauntlet to do so; choice being a luxury we may have and they do not.

In short this is more a picture of desperation than disregard.

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There is always an underlying economy beneath our everyday, the background workers shunted into fruit picking, manual labour, cleaning and human exploitation from nail bars to prostitutes to garage workers to sweatshop droves in territories beyond. The fact most Londoners have no idea there is a peak travel time at dawn, where it’s standing room only on buses and trains, so long as you live out in Zones 4-9, and are up early enough to witness it, perhaps when catching our flights to more aspirational destinations.

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You can actually work out how many slaves work for you here; take note that by namedropping you live in London you actually entail more indentured labour than if you opted for Dubai, pariah of a vast underclass behind the steel and glass, just less hidden. This appears to be our question in these days of our lives, do we look out for that unseen economy? Do we worry for and change habits for the untold numbers at the edges of society, the shadows in our peripherals, blocking the sun? The old, the sick, the alone, the homeless, the vulnerable who will be dying soon in forgotten wards and warehouses across the country in the next few weeks.

Italy has seen a fall in deaths again today, though still in the hundreds. It may be over the worst, though Spain looks soon to take that mantle. The UK waits in the wings, and a judgement on what our policy of half-arsed mitigation has sown. When push comes to shove, and for all our navel-gazing entreaties, how much will we look out for others, or take up arms against them? There’s a lot to be said about being alone in a crowd.

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In other news J, who was a photographer and artist in another life has had his image on valuable items, for an upcoming auction (online of course) added to the Chiswick house feed where he works. Very apt, and a sign of the times. When I saw it, jaw-dropped, I did actually ask where he got them from. What is it that we hold dear, no really?

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John Rogers, @durbinlewis

“Right now in today’s world our perception of value might have shifted somewhat since 1766, when Sir Thomas Broughton and Mary Wicker had their coat of arms engraved upon this soup tureen as part of their marriage silver. Nevertheless the timeless quality of the silver sold through the Wakelin partnerships continues to captivate collectors and aesthetes alike.

Lot 580 on the 25th March Silver & Objects of Vertu auction

Just saw two of our neighbours from the window, coming up with their shopping (Sainsbury’s looks like), and proving life can be normalised despite. The sun is out and it almost looks a vision of lost mundanity, with their produce and smiles and nice clothing, all satisfaction arising in a time of want. They’ve even managed to find loo roll.

The stairs, that’s where we’ll get them.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Week 2

Sunday 22nd March 2020

The sun is out. People are on the streets, and in the parks, basking like how you’d expect in a perfectly normal day on Planet Earth in the early 21st century, and in groups too. From the older lady I spied statuesque in the carpark, soaking up her Sunny D, to the gaggles of teenagers manning street corners and park benches, impervious to care and often reason. A who has been going for a normally lonesome walk every day due to anxiety, reported on the sudden herds. No wonder the govt has had to close down pubs and cafes, throwing heed and germs to the wind appears endemic.

In short, it looked like a quiet Sunday morning. The only difference being the distinct lessening of the traffic.

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I do think there is a libertine element still in London, a mix of Britons never ever being slaves (well, except under the Romans, and Picts, and Saxons, and Vikings, and Normans), and the anything-goes culture of a cosmopolis. On the one hand it lifted my spirits, seeing this semblance of normality, and a reminder that perhaps there is a focus beyond the infectious headlines, on another heavily gloved mit I felt uneasy about the varying options in contagion. A few of the food shops and small supermarkets operated short queues to get in (gone within 5 minutes) akin to exclusive, chichi nightspots albeit dampened by the homeless man sprawled at the entrance, sleeping it off to a sign asking for a hostel room. I’ve heard the homeless will be housed in the emptied hotels, and the Mayor will pay for it. I hope this transpires, that It Is For Real, as few people would notice, or care so much right now.

I managed to buy some face masks from a corner store, the owner having a veritable pile of them for £2.10 a pop at the till (highly suspicious, I’m never lucky). I bought 3, vowing to post them to The Fam. Along with the usual smattering of crisps, a tinned curry and packet of mystery milk, possibly camel. In the small Sainsbury’s opposite it looked normally stocked (read: amazingly stocked), I even got two packets of fresh pasta, which I may build a bidding website for. I can imagine the Die Hard style trials and tribulations an army of unsung transporter heroes must have had to make to get it there, involving car chases, gunsights and terse video calls on zoom.

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Just outside our estate there’s an unofficial corner (read: cul-de-sac) where people leave junk to be collected by the council, or just leave junk. Tawdry closets, mangled sofas, desperately dated drawers, that kinda thing. Today’s offerings were a brand new leather and gilt armchair and a spotless new mattress, glinting in the sun. I’m wondering if anyone will grab them if ever, with the idea of contamination now imbedded as a poo stain, or murder scene. The last time this happened I moved two new chairs to sit them outside the charity shop a whole 20 yards further, but today even I was worried to touch them. I went down again to snap a pic and the chair had been taken, bless. Noticing a bargain is the last stand in functioning society.

There was suddenly something deeply inviting about the bed, in the sun.

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The air feels fresh. I made the mistake of wearing my shoes inside, twice now on the same day, when before I’d warned others about taking them off, the pavements being quite the vector for anything coming out of the human body, and absorbed when wet. I even put it as a Facebook post, like how grannies do the same on some kitten charity or the latest scam you must pass on to all otherwise it means you hate them and want them robbed.

Also sat through an online tutorial, about how the virus is covered in fat, acting a bit like an oil droplet which won’t come off with just water, but needs regular soap or handwash to break it down, and 20 seconds worth. Alongside a vid of how to wash, a short from China showing the bits you’ll likely miss using dye. I did it properly when coming home from my little sojourn, but popping out just now I halved the time. There’s a lot to be said about my enthusiasm for a cause when having relaxed just the teeniest bit, and the saddening studies on how punishment motivates people more than a prize. Or laziness, just sheer I cannot-be-arsed-right-nowness. Those idiots laughing slow mo in the park, that could be me.

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I’ve not looked at the news today, though I did sink to trawling through a news forum. Once again there’s a lot of back and forth about Trump and China being in the sights for global blame. I did get involved, mentioning how China’s localised cover-up was not so much to blame (having informed the World Health Organisation -WHO – a full two weeks before ever castigating Dr Li Wenliang and his private Wechat group).

What we can definitely shake a stick at China for is the fact it hadn’t quarantined the infections believing them only animal > human for nearly a month. The WHO is still haunted by a tweet on Jan 14th maintaining that no evidence had yet to be found of human to human infection. Likely from now on it’ll have to change procedure that any new disease be treated as human > human rather than waiting for a patient to turn up without any contact with wildlife, markets, handlers or farmers (about 3 or 4 new human viruses are discovered every year from animals, but don’t require lockdowns). Also Trump and his cronies insistence to call it a Chinese disease points towards a political tool, perhaps to dive from the spotlight accusing him of gross mismanagement, perhaps in reply to the equally idiotic Chinese General hinting it was all a US spy infection, planted during their joint Hubei exercises.

Imagine Trump diving. Like a fat dolphin, squeak-screaming under the kitchen table and toppling no end of shit.

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There are other diseases out there with place names such as Spanish Flu (rather unfairly Spain was just the country not under media lockdown during WWI and openly spread the word, it originally came from a pig farm in Kansas). Or West Nile Virus, itself a branch of Japanese Encephalitis. However all these were named from the 1930s backwards, or centuries before, and the practice has died out -we don’t call HIV the African disease, nor the Los Angeles Disease, where it was formally identified. To do again in this day and age is courting xenophobia, as if East Asians or anyone who looks like them don’t have enough to deal with right now in a surge of viral racism.

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This ends today’s public announcement. I’m weaning myself off the pollyticks. Really I am, promise. That was only two paragraphs; It really does help when you avoid the screaming headlines. I have no global update to post today.

Mum rang yesterday, she opted to take leave from work, the proud firm of Keeler Ltd, provider of opthalmic equipment round the world and so far protected by being in the private health sector. They’re doing the honourable thing and keeping her on the payroll till it all blows over. She joked with the HR woman’s noncommital gestures -that if they had suggested a course of action (stay away /don’t stay away) and Mum subsequently popped her clogs they’d become liable. I told her not to be mean, that the nice HR lady was doing her job, but Mum maintains the woman found it funny. I can imagine that pained, whooping laugh and beseeching niceties while they stood metres apart.

But joking aside, they are a fantastic, refreshingly humane company that consciously chose not to outsource to a sweatshop in the Global South back in the day, and I beseech the world to each buy a retinal scanner when all this is over.

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At 77, with multiple health issues, she’s high risk and may have to be cocooned away for quite a sentence – 4 months to next year even according to the official hints. Enough to get cabin fever and drive herself and my sister up the tiny cramped walls of the ’60s terrace, stuffed to the eaves with things hoarders hoard. Before she seemed calm, and was going to keep working until I persuaded her otherwise (there’s a legendary 83 y.o. lady who vows to carry on on the factory floor, now laid out so worktables occupy separated rows from each other); she’s now a little more fearful, having seen the numbers in town rise from 2 to 20 almost overnight. That a doctor in the next town over was caught with the disease while treating patients. The fact there may be 20x more infected than officially tested for round the country, it all really hit home, her home.

I felt distant, in every way, and wonder when I’ll next see her.

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My daily structure is becoming less regimented, but still there. Rather than me sitting rod straight on the table tapping away, I’m on the sofa with Netflix in the background. Yesterday  we made the disastrous decision to watch The Leisure Seeker (pronounced Leezhur) starring Helen Mirren (Golden Globe award nominee for the part) and Donald Sutherland as an aged couple kidnapping their own camper van to enjoy a vacay to the umbrage of their kids. Was kind of expecting a delightful mix of Bad Grandpa and Dukes of Hazzard, but it was of course a timeless study on our slow and inexorable act of dying from a largely Italian arthouse team. Donald is a former arts and lit professor deteriorating with Alzheimer’s, liable to accuse his wife of polygamy as he is to burst into quote on Hemingway; Helen his long-suffering, perky Southern belle of a wife liable to chat endlessly to strangers as she is to take up shotguns. No spoilers here but turns out, she’s dying too. Oops, may have fudged that a bit.

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Like you were ever gonna see it.

At the end I felt like shooting myself in the gullet. In one scene they enter an old folks home and point an unloaded shotgun around at several members of the bedded community, then get told off about it and offered a price leaflet. If that happened here it’d be ten years just for possession, and the rest of the fucking story would just end there. Fin. And we would not have had to watch them die and pretend everything was absofuckinglutely fine behind those walls.

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The whole thing felt like a demise mere days from now, dripping slowly worries, fondness, memories and saying goodbye to a sacrament of decaying time -rather than an exercise savoured for your twilight years multiple decades in the future. I may have cried for an instant. Right now America’s Got Talent (AGT!) is playing in the background, by contrast. By very very fucking contrast. So full of cheering and trashy pizzazz I want to reach through the screen and slap everyone of the goobers with a brick. How can people be so very whoopingly supportive, so very worshipping of any given status quo? Does the studio director say jump and they fucking imbed their heads in the ceiling? While Nipplepants Cowell lords over them like an arsey, stuck up demigod, hovering from his red buttoned throne. How can people be so willing to submit to hierarchy, to appraise or condemn from their exalted, cup-holding audience seats? This series will date badly, to the point of becoming historical reference. Culture, society, economy.

I need to get out more. I think rather it was just a reminder of a simpler, freer time that pissed me off so much. History envy may be a thing now.

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What is happening out there? What is happening to my friends and family and everyone I’ve ever known, outside of re-run land where what we see is no longer there, and always Has Been? What is reality from a different lens?

A welcome respite is not really one, when that breath of fresh air is deepening a chasm. It’s not so much a list of cliches: living for the moment, putting off the inevitable and all that jazz, but that we can enjoy ourselves, the air, the sun, and others with social distancing. We need to learn now how to do it, not later, not too late. 800 people died today in Italy, and a week or two ago they too were sunning themselves on passegiata. Eight hundred.

J came home shortly after in a huff, wiping down the door handles on everything -a blindsided colleague of his had admitted his wife had the lergy, yet had come in 3x to work, plus met clients. Well I suppose, I’ll swap that guilt for the kitchen fire last night. J’s working again today, apparently before any auction the dept heads have to work an unpaid weekend, to put in the extra time and commitment. Illegal surely, but suddenly acceptable in these current climes. We wound down with two episodes of Drag Race, all bright colours to bitchiness which J is obsessed by, and is infecting us with. Sakura was kicked out last night, rather unfairly I may add, especially in comparison to that rather uninspired Emo-Minelli, who resembles a pretty slug.

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A car in the lot below has a bookshelf tied to its roof, liberally balancing an assortment of heavy boxes, houseplants, coat stands, bench tools and books on top. Looks like a tenant is moving with his father, back to the country where they can hold out longer, perhaps in a castle. It can’t end well, an opener for Final Destination if ever I saw one. Plus I know how it’ll end for the survivors.

I’m bored. As fuck. I took a picture of the flowers outside, just like little old ladies on social media are wont to do. We can pleasure ourselves for hours over this: I think it’s Spring.

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Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 2

Thursday 19th March 2020

Today was to be the new routine I’d set out for myself to structure the day. The alternative being where you wake, spend untold hours in thrall of the internet, then drop out of bed log-like, and rustle something up in your underwear (who needs PJ’s?), perhaps staring at a microwave woodenly or eating jam back under the covers, to more internet, hours irrelevant, each day or night merging and drifting like clouds. To start smelling, hair/ beard/ armpits a nest, clothes a memory, monosyllabic, perhaps drooling.

Against this scenario I aim to wake, and:

  • check the situation online -the ubiquitous news sites and chat fora, an hour tops.
  • Then lug myself to wash, do my hair, choose some proper attire (avoid ‘comfortable’ attire), perhaps a hat why ever not.
  • No breakfast, I’m never hungry in the mornings and it’ll save on the food. Instead write, work on the book, the diary, creative stuff like starting a photo essay.
  • Tidy, the little odds and ends. To music.
  • Make lunch, sit down to eat, communally if plausible.
  • Learn a language – carry on with online French lessons, start Mandarin.
  • Exercise. Make use of all our gym stuff I salvaged from the communal one.
  • Watch an episode of something, hour tops. Take a very privated walk, if in lockdown just the gated area (the postwar Estate was fenced off in the Eighties due to crime, a process now illegalised in London but done so before the law came into force).
  • Write on the book
  • No tea, dinner.
  • Check in on the craziness online.
  • Movie
  • Wash, cuddle, sleep.

Well one out of two ain’t bad. Will try harder.

Yesterday it had gone swimmingly, I genuinely felt better for having done all of that. Today I spent hours online in bed, fell out to brush my teeth then fell asleep again for 4 hours. Not the best start, tapping away in my dressing gown, but onwards.

Today’s chart:

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Roylab Stats

Yesterday I got news from a Civil Servant that they’d been told not to enter London from today, and that the M25 was about to become a new non-porous border. Then frantic messaging to all I knew on the coming lockdown. It even got leaked to some of the papers within the hour, not just in the UK but in Italy, who printed that London was falling. Coupled with that was footage of soldiers marching down our local High Street, that set Twitter aflame with rumour of the impending sanction.

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However we’ve all woken up, spied people on the street (shopping as per norm) and realised this has not come to pass. The soldiers snapped in Clapham were cadets, off to a local training centre, and apparently they do that every week. Well, now I feel a bit of a plum, having told everyone that’s dear to me (and discovering only then that some of them had fled to their native France and Australia), but assuaged by the fact they then probably did the same. The papers are now hinting it will come in force tomorrow, Friday. Luckily we’ve done our hoarding already, and will miss out on the shopping circus every supermarket must now be in, their shelves emptied and customers only allowed 3-5 purchases a pop.

I saw a video today of East Asian women in a supermarket being harrassed about wearing face masks, and why they were covering up they were sick. The accuser then summoned the staff, after which the group were thrown out by the security guards. I can’t describe how palpitating a mix of rage and sadness I felt watching that, especially with a bit of a familiar past to draw on.

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East Asians are the most likely to be racially harassed, to have racial violence upon the person, and the least likely to be promoted despite having the best grades, performance, and education levels (aka the Bamboo Ceiling). East Asians come shackled to the idea they are meek and thus an easy target, and living as one is a minefield, that directly affects your life plan no matter how hard you try and ignore it. The ancestral culture an automatic mockery from the sound of the language to the food we eat to the way we look, to the regimes we entertain, plus the usual alienness of blood libel – in short no matter how laurel-lying we are, we’ll always be lesser -in emotional intelligence, or EQ, in culture, in viability. Any intelligence is the semi-autistic variety, those world-beating grades or IQ scores passed off as rote learning, a stark lack of higher job prospects excused by a bundle of ‘studies’ projecting it’s our Confucian upbringing and cultural cues to blame. -Despite the fact there exist managers across Asia, and they function just as well, and not the usual workplace bias as suffered by women, other races, LGBTQIA, the disabled, the overweight, the accented, and pretty much anything that’s not the Tall Heterosexual White Male. Sorry if you happen to be that, but you get a privilege that’s not in your control -to be treated more as human, the rest more as sub. Not your fault, but we treat you better, all you 5%’ers of the world.

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And don’t even get me started on relationship prospects, where the swipe is the last great bastion (and indicator) of socially acceptable racism. How EA men fall short, so to speak, tarred by the same tiny brush that refuses to entertain the thought it might not always be the case for every er, member of a 2 billion strong people. I’d get it out, but that would be positively louche. -While women are rocketed way higher, in the objectification kind of way, you’re either a gogo girl or geisha, just don’t take your make up off. And never, ever burp or fart or nowadays, COUGH.

I could go on for days about this, thanks to an upbringing on a skinhead /army estate in the metro’s most racially divided wards, in their glory years of Thatcherism. The kind where, like missiles of a bygone age, bricks, sticks and stones came over the wall, 6 year old sisters got beaten up, shit got smeared,  words got sprayed, cars got leaned out of and flob got thrown. Where walking past any playground was to be avoided, and every street heads swivelled to wherever you were GPS located, meerkat style. Then your schools disbelieving and accusatory, pointing those same fingers due to essays too accomplished. Even after I left I’ve come across it in almost every workplace I’ve had, sometimes overt, most often insititutionalised. And no one fucking talks about it, how it’s acceptable to say and do certain things to one race but not the others. A facade I sometimes feel only I see.

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Says it all really, you not only have to battle the damn street, but the establishment, and a complicit society. That was the Eighties and Nineties, when people were less ‘woke’, yet now I see it re-emerging again in the Twenties, in light of this first globalised disaster. I see how this spread from a culture that apparently tortures animals as per norm (that evidence of low EQ, inhumane), eating them in disgusting ways (alien, blood libel, civilisational war, dirty, laughable), then spreading it through complicit government cover ups (not to be trusted, inscrutable, indoctrinated). Not that most people go around thinking all those things, but it does reinforce the assumptions they make when coming across it.

When I tell people the things I’ve seen over the years they’re appalled, and all this build-up over the past few months is bringing it to a crux. The Taiwanese girl at work who a customer was ‘disgusted’ with, and dropped her money on the till in a show of non-contact, the unremitting stares I get on the street, Benny Hill style seat-swapping on the bus, then reading the stories of the randomised people assaulted (often women), the humiliation of public tirades, avoidance and harassment on PT (to the point many changed their commute), the pupils being sent out for coughing or getting their jaws broken in the playground, people turned away from every hotel and now more, of complicit businesses backing up the racism.

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A bitter note in the fear. It doesn’t help, these divisions, those attempts at blame. I do see that people can’t hack it and have to take it out on another -a show of weakness rather than strength that’ll always manifest our societies, on all sides. From the idioted Chinese generals hinting the disease was left by the US Army during their recent training exercises in the area (with reminders the U.S. spread Mexican Swine Fever that killed 1.4 million), to the insistence it’s a ‘Chinese’ disease by POTUS and his inner circle. All alongside the usual calls in the press for who to crucify even as we wallow with greater priorities right now. My friend who has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is finding things harder, his fear of germs ratcheting to a peak on top of everything else. This is similar for East Asians, myself included, the layers of fear on top of fear.

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Ok, breathe (through face mask I’m too scared to wear).

I suddenly feel now I’ve written too much on this. A Pandora’s box I always look back on and get embarrassed, if ever I pique on the subject. It’s a bit like name dropping Dinosaurs in earshot of Richard Hammond from Jurassic Park. But let’s not talk politics, despite it being so Right Now. I even castigated finger-pointing only what? a whole 24 hours ago in the last post. Some notes:

  • The tenancy agency rang back (sound of numerous phones going off in the background), sounding annoyed and terse -I cut to the chase and got him to say basically nothing had changed for anyone who couldn’t pay, as if coronovirus wasn’t on, and that we’d contact him from there if we couldn’t. The government announced shortly after there would be some provisions of people like ourselves, private renters without income/ new dependents, which we await the deets with bated breath, excuse the pun.
  • The streets were yesterday moderately populated (although nowhere near as London normally is, which has nothing but crowds all day and night), of the usual hoarder hordes but also quite a few trying to make the best of their new time off, with the parks and cafes full and the pub to boot, a group of men carrying packs of lager somewhere. The sun had come out. Today is grey, the train station that faces our window silent, when usually it’s a constant bevy of noise and announcements – it’s the world’s busiest with a train on average every 30 seconds, a vast interchange rather than a main terminus, of which London has nine. It’s obsolete now, along with 40 tube stations closed.

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  • I am thinking of cutting my hair. Maybe dyeing it, my one chance to go all K-Pop and crazy without work to worry about. But then I want it long on top for my trip to New York, a holiday planned pretty much all my life and set for May, though likely it’ll be canceled. Such a distant perception these days, almost surreal when you scroll back and see images of people outside enjoying themselves, even just vague figures in the streets doing their day to day without such a specific care in the world.
  • Some leading members of government over the other side of the pond are calling it now the end of America. The effect of that on the populace, dealing with no end of shit right now, is not heartening, at a time we need it most.
  • China has announced zero new cases, for the past few days its handful have been coming off the planes. The web is alive with disbelief and recrimination in light of this, rather than hope.

Oops, there I go again. Politicising thingies.

On a smaller scale, got some tidying to do. J will likely want to polish his silver, a thing he does for his work which I see in a sense of calm, and the appreciation of detail, and beauty. We need this right now.

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I will get changed. I will do my hair. I will cook lunch. I will write some of The Book. I will not look at the news. I will read a book. About a house in the forest.

It’s only fucking Day 2.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

The Rise of the Right

So what happened? Across the West we are seeing a wave of xenophobia and politicking that is fast becoming a ‘hyper-norm’ for hundreds of millions who remember a less volatile and divisive upbringing. Entire countries lurching towards the right after years of complicit media campaigns, with a resultant lurch to the left for its opposition parties. From Greece’s dalliance with Golden Dawn to Brexit, France’s Marine Le Pen to America’s Trump, the Netherlands’ tellingly named Party for Freedom to Hungary’s correctional Jobbik. Even Turkey, bastion of secularism in a sea of religiosity on either side of its continental spans, is undergoing transition back to its purported roots under Erdogan. There are of course the countries that have swerved against the momentum – Portugal, Romania and a trend-bucking Greece with their new left wing governments, and a Russia playing all sides from staging neo-Nazi rallies to funding anti-Nazi leagues with the self same sword. But overall the story is one of a steady quickstep to the right, in the manifold glow of patriotism, rhetoric and righteousness, offset by virulent pleas and increasingly angered remonstrations of a once apolitical youth. Indeed, what did happen to put us in this spin?

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To sum it up: regional destabilisation. If we were to try and pinpoint one episode that set it off we can look to Cheney’s puppeteered invasion of Iraq in 2003, that the CIA warned would unbalance the entire region. We could look further back to what led to that invasion – 911, Amerika’s final decade of oil independence, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, WWII, colonialism – but the latest boot up the arse that we can say pushed us off the collective edge would be Gulf War 2.0.

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Let’s try and put it in a sentence: Gulf War = legitimisation of Sunni/Shia conflict = destabilisation of the Middle East = Arab Spring = destabilisation of North Africa also = ISIS-Daesh = terrorism = more refugees = increasing destabilisation of Europe = destabilisation of the US. All to a backdrop of a media agenda in which the waves of right wing populism support the status quo of the global elite, notably a certain media baron that is the de-facto Head of State of several powerful nations.

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No it’s not all conspiracy theories, but we will have to wait a good few decades before it becomes textbook history, in which we’ll look back from afar and think: Gawd what fools, that could never happen in this day and age. But look at history; we never seem to learn. Give it approximately 75 years- in short the lifespan of the last possible survivors – and we repeat the same mistakes. Amber Rudd’s fiery 2016 speech in the Conservative Party Conference following Brexit (a year after the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII), calling on companies to submit lists of their foreign workers in a name-and-shame campaign, was highlighted as enacting chapter II of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. Some went on to suggest she should garner a task force called the Greater Europe Search, Transfer, And Prevent Operation, or GESTAPO.

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The similar rise of hate-speech and media portrayal of entire peoples following the grisly terrorist acts across Europe this year mirrored those following Zionist bombings and the burning down of the Reichstag in the 1930s. Not to mention the turning away of thousands of refugees, closing down of borders and an utter lack of empathy for the dispossessed finding parallels to the forgotten flotillas of Jews fleeing continental Europe, only to be turned back to a certain fate. Yet all these past lessons flow under a generalised, collective blinkerdom, behind an epic assault of the here and now with a swipe of the phone.

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It’s enough to make writers and journos turn to their window and think of writing a lovely misty piece on autumnal colours instead. That is of course the head-burying stance of  much of today’s youth, enamoured by social media and Kim Kardashian’s abusive, powder keg relationships with diamonds and make up. There are infinitely more hits and cultural change attributed to shouty, always-late pop idols, or cool places to travel to, or American pranking on camera, or Russian dash-cam amazingness than any kind of socio-political legacy and their cronyist, bickering leaders of a certain vintage. As they say, politics is Hollywood for ugly people.

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Yawn, what were we talking about again? It’s the end of the West, the end of now, the end of thinking, as we scroll through memes and kitten gifs and blockbuster trailers, but can you blame us? Disillusionment is the name of the day, propelling the voting as well as the lack of. It’s so much more enticing being cozy and nosy, and loved and funny than wrestling with socio-political discourse each and every damn day. Yes, there are indeed the battalions of celebs and kittens decrying the fall of America or Europe to suburban fencing (and the lone, haunting tweets of Clint Eastwood and er, Kirsty Alley who celebrate it), but overall it’s gonna be a  long while before their PR teams realise the potential in actually getting arrested, and spray painting those picket fences with allegiant colours.

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Only a little more than a quarter of eligible voters were needed to see in the triumphant Trump to power, with 90 million abstaining or busy watching teevee, or just tired after the endless rounds of voting in the average US year, with more not having registered ,and the complications involved. Even in higher voter turn-outs, such as the Brexit referendum it still only took 26% of the population to win and direct the outcome for the remaining 74%. To add another layer of murkiness, voters have differing powers depending on where they live, and by default, even how much they earn, their age or their ethnic (read: ‘native’ or ‘non-native’) background. Hillary even won the ‘popular’ vote, with 2.9 million more voting for her than the questionable hair piece (more than the win for Kennedy), but by dint of regional representation in which seats are allocated to jurisdictional areas rather than equalised population catchments, rural, sparsely populated plots can have more voting power than teeming cities. If you read between the lines this is not democracy. This is another dimension to what fuels the disillusionment: the utter complexity, seriousness, and draining task ahead in taking on the rot in the system.

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It’s becoming increasingly evident democracy needs safeguards. On the one hand it needs to ensure it is a democracy in the first place, and not the kind of regional representation that leads to one or two party states, with an elitist slant to power of certain moneyed demographics as the UK and US are now experiencing. On the other hand, even if it is a bona fide democracy it needs to ensure it doesn’t vote to you know, kill the Jews or the Tutsis or the Gypsies. Or lock up the Syrians or the gays or the women, or the poor. Humans can’t really be trusted not to wreck each others lives, turn a blind eye and grab the money, even with the lessons of history. That’s why we have constitutions, and differing lines of political thought. To manage our base instincts of battling over the remaining resources, mammoth carcasses and available females, while instating hierarchies, power, control, and economic pyramid schemes.

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So let’s make this as snappy and invigorating as a giant herd of kittens taking over Kim and Justin’s bathtime. It’s like a reaallly cool story bro.

Back in 1950s time (think Marilyn Monroe and Elvis and milkshakes and lynching) Paris was the place to be for the coolcats. The youth were like, always asking questions after that really bad world war, and seeing in the commies on one side and coca cola on the other. So basically there were two sides: free to be free (coke), or forced to be free (commies), coz like people wouldn’t know otherwise ya know.

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On the one side there was coke and water skiing and bikinis and the American dream of a pin-up housewife, giant car, meatloaf and a retro pad with perfect lawn and no Black folk to bother ya’ll. You were free to be free. To buy all these cool things and one day, one day… get a whole fucking hoover and even a tele-vision, that would make all universities obsolete within the decade as we’d all be learning from it and going to the moon and shit and not shooting each other. After you know, an initial period of gross inequality, crime, corruption, and greed depending on your looks or race or class or gender. Individualism would be something to nurture and flower, like a selfie with 10 million hits of fame, and anyone could be anything if you wanted it enough. This we can dub Negative Freedom.

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On the other side you were forced made to be free, where everyone agreed to share the goodness of the earth and their work and the profits, and bask in this playground of light and industry and light industry, after you know, an initial period of killing off reeducating the old elite into equally likeable, free spirits working for a greater good, no matter your background, gender, race and class – I mean, what’s class again? People can’t be trusted you know, they need to be guided, at least until one day when they can be free from the stricture of law and prejudice and even governing. With all this collectivised effort we’d be going to the moon and shit and not shooting each other. The meaning of your life was not to merely buy crap, but to go all worker’s paradise in family, friends, children, and forwarding the arts, society and culture for the progression of all, so everyone could be everything if you worked for it together. This we can dub Positive Freedom.

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So some of these students coming out of Parisian universities at the time took these ideas of positive freedom to the holiday homes that Europe had set up around the world, those places like Algeria. This extension block of France had the pesky problem called Algerians, who lived there, and didn’t much like not having you know, a vote, and getting rule and divide, generations of mis-education and their resources stripped. How annoying right!?

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Anyhoo these students believed they had to force people to be free, so they started a civil war, but a really efficient one where they could plant a single bomb on some trendy cafe in Algiers and kill only a few people yet getting loads of attention and fear (almost as bad as accidentally clicking the Facebook Like button on porn). Plus undo the economy and stuff that would make things more expensive to police and fix than keep, a bit like iPhones. Rather than launch a badly thought out battle like you see in Zulu or cowboy movies, where loads and loads of savage darkies get mown down by the gazillion and quite a handful of handsome whities too, you could do the one selfie blow up and get a million hits overnight. No staging of overnight coups, picking battlefields or recalibrating satellites nosiree.

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This was a really good way to win. They used hardly any arguing and resources compared to you know, Game of Thrones, although the killing turned out pretty bad when France went all Call of Duty on them and took out about 1.5 million Algies. But they still won, and the European holiday homes and farmsteads and mining operations and slave colonies around the world fell one by one following the same inordinately successful technique, in which some of the world’s poorest nations usurped many of the world’s richest, although at a cost of millions of lives. Most of these places switched after the initial war from positive freedom (forced to be free) straight into negative freedom (free to be free), as democratic, capitalist states (which means you watch teevee all day and buy stuff off TVC).

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However the European nations they had freed themselves from would have charged them for the years and years of ‘looking after them’, for every brick built, rail laid and bullet shot in that time, as terms of independence, but kind of forgetting you know, the years of er, human and cultural genocide, plus nabbing the oil and gold and labour and crown jewels.

But hey, a few years of debt and astronomical interest rates on the mastercard is priceless for that sweet freedom right? We’ll have everything up and running again in no time – no matter the generations of miseducation, rule and divide and the fact we’re really made up of several countries and several hundred ethnic groups that won’t bicker a-Tall. Not once democracy sets in and the majority (group) get the final say. They won’t behave like the colonial powers they just booted out, no.

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So the result is these nations become instantly chavvy and start fighting among themselves. Places like Sudan, speaking 200 languages, launching into 6 simultaneous civil wars from day one that it’s still fighting today, and mirrored across much of Africa and all those places where the world holds its resources… but strangely also most of its poverty and wars. And those European powers? Well we can call them ‘multinationals’ now coz everyone rich from everywhere has jumped in on it too. For every $1 billion given in aid $8 billion is taken back in interest payments (not even debt repayment, which has already been paid back several times over), and most of the resources (like water, land) bought up again and sold back to the darkies at a million percent profit. But as we said, we can’t be trusted. Places like Philippines became one big shoe shop for the queenie there, while America went on funding baddies and wars all over the place to keep itself rich and pretending to be a goody. The negative freedom (coke) in these cases resulted in so much corruption, division and inequality we can see humans were free to be free, but also free to step all over each other into total fails, aka ‘Failed States’.

Mogadishu Tense As Islamists Reinforce Southern Positions

Meanwhile other places continued their revolutions even after winning, and becoming positive democracies, like Eye-Ran. The country, inspired by Harry Truman’s promise to defend and free the oppressed peoples of the world, had originally elected a president, Mohammed Mossadegh, who promised no religious or royalty crap and instead democracy and taking the oil out of the hands of the Brits, that even won him Time Magazine Man of the Year back in the 50s.

But then, oops. The Yanks got a new president, and in league with the Brits ousted Mossie-Dig from power, reinstating the King, and taking control AGAIN of all the oil with half now going to the USAians. So in the end the Eye-Ranians rose up AGAIN (ha!), but this time opting for the positive freedom package. Like SO predictable yeah.

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Where people were forced to be free, the new leader, Mr Ayatollah Khomeini (pronounced Iyatoller Hominee) had a masterstroke of combining religion with politics (usually one cancelled the other), a bit like finally setting up Ant with Dec as a duo, after Ant kept shitting over Dec’s mum for years. Mr Hominy said that religion had all these sayings which supported positive freedom, bits like where women were free from inequality, fear, attack, rape and upskirt phone-cams by dressing them up in black picnic blankets and taking them out of dangerous situations, such as rooms with men in them.

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When the big war with Eye-Rack next door finally loomed, backed by Western guns, Eye-Ran got surrounded with nowhere to turn. It was seemingly Game Over. But once again there was that masterstroke of having religion be the back up buddy when they ferried legions of voluntary teenagers into becoming martyrs, by marching them into minefields to form an escape route for the rest. So Eye-Ran was no longer running, but winning, in thanks to the fact it’s Shia Muslim, which kinda, possibly maybe, means you could sacrifice yourself in the name of your faith, like that adorable nutterdad in Independence Day who first zaps the alien destructo-laser. Shia Muslims have this thing they do like in their version of Christmas or something where instead of giving presents they beat themselves with chains and whips and fire walk in respect of the sacrifice someone or other made sometime in the Book, and they’re not meant to enjoy it or pay anyone to do it by the hour either.

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This shocked the rest of the Sunni Muslim world, where suicide was considered a totally uncool thing to do, as only the Big Guy, peace be upon him, could decide where and when you popped your Nike-Airs. But it was a pretty rad idea and this cleric on the other side in Sunny-land Arabia said it was all a-okay and there was suddenly stuff about 72 virgins and all-you-can-eat ice cream thrown in, and everyone was like STILL NO, but some of them were like okaaaaay, lets see. So they did, and Ham Ass from Palestine went and started bombing Israelis, officially targeting citizens for the first time, in buses and cafes and beaches, much like in Algeria not so long ago, but all kamikaze style and justified, and starting a hero-worship culture.

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Meanwhile there was this place nearby called Syria, led by this ruthless dude called Hafez al-Assad (pronouced Ass Ad), who looked a bit like Frankenstein but a bit nerdier. Even though he was a scary mutherhumper he had some great visions for the Arab (pronounced Ay-rab)  world, which could extricate itself from the predatory West, like some vast horrible octopus sitting on its left, starting wars and overturning ships and planes and nations with its sucking tentacles, covered in oil and blood over 500 million people.

Ass Ad was given all these promises and secret deals, and totes played by the West, only to be betrayed in the war against Israel they said they’d back him against but backed them instead. So he went all gloomy and hellbent on revenge, and started to fund suicide bombing against the Israelis and Americans in Lebanon (killing 270 in one barracks). Which shortly after led to the Americans pulling out, humiliated. Re-sult!

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However the U.S of A had found a different fall guy, in the richest guy in the world, drum roll please… Mr Colonel Gaddafi. A bit of a weirdo who had been stationed in the UK, near a delightful little model village called Beaconskot, and who endured racist bullying from ex-colonial officers. As leader of his country he was mad as a bag of snakes, always going on about his ‘Third Way’ which was the dangerously upsetting alternative to negative and positive freedom, as bolstered by contemporaries such as Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. Gaddafi’s version of the Third Way united right wing economics ($$$) with left wing socialism (@@@), but this time from out of the yoke of Western imperialism and its motherfucking legolands.

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Except he wasn’t all that batshit crazy, what with setting up a state safety net giving out free education, healthcare, electricity, unemployment benefit equal to their professions, starter homes, starter cars, and child funds, and ensuring each person shared in the profits made from the voluminous amount of state oil. Anyhoo, they blamed the Lockerbie plane bombing on him (despite the CIA saying it had come from Eye-Ran, in retaliation for a similar jumbo jet lost to a US missile), and a Berlin nightclub bombing that killed three including American servicemen (most likely a Syrian bomb). They said he had weapons of mass destruction, then bombed the capital, and his gaudy palace, and reportedly his adopted 3 year old daughter out of existence, if she existed.

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So now we have quite a complicated picture, a bit like Bieber’s tour dates, causing grief and demonstrations across the globe. This vast squid thing has its tips inserted in pies so far in: Algeria, Eye-Ran, Eye-Rack, Libya, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and Syria (oh and Egypt, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Pakistan, Turkey, Yemen and Jordan too). Fast forward a few decades and through 11 Western backed wars and the suicidal/ positive freedom, once unleashed by Syria is now biting it on its own arse. This malignant beast we can now call Eye-Sis. A certain Monsieur Gaddaffi is suddenly of use again.

In a screeching u-turn the world leaders announce he’s one of the good guys all of a sudden. They shake hands in a blizzard of flashes, sign glitzy new trade deals, take in his family into their glittering celeb elites, and eye up the $200 billion the guy has in his South African bank accounts. He does of course, have to admit he will destroy his non-existent weapons of mass destruction, own up to the Lockerbie bombing and promise not to do anything batshit crazy again in order to get this rehabilitation, and a priceless platform for his Third Way. Despite the European and American intelligence agencies agreeing he did / owned none of these.

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But then came the Arab Spring. Like the Paris Spring of 1968, when all those positive freedom students finally took to the streets of the French capital protesting the old skool bling, it would come full circle again. A poor Tunisian dude called Mohamed Bouazizi (sod it, if you can’t pronounce it just try and remember that name), was publicly humiliated and left destitute one day at the start of 2011 by a police officer who took away his livelihood when she confiscated his unlicensed market stall, and slapped him in the face too, the fat bitch. This was not the first time. The poor guy went and stood outside the police station, and in his final act, set himself on fire, and straight into a culture changing force.

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Like FUCK! He really went up like a candle into history. The publicity started protests, already blazed up by a WikiLeaks special a coupla months earlier exposing the corruption of the Tunisian state, with its high inflation, unemployment and institutional grafting, and the demos getting bigger and bigger and setting off copycat movements across the Arab world. Powered by social media that could organise and reorganise people power with an instant tweet or status update, government after government fell, including Libya.

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It was all quite embarrassing really, here was people-power in action, long upheld by other democracies as the way to be and go. But these people were protesting the Western-backed regimes, that had so long kept them in the shitter. And they were demanding what the Arabs had wanted for so long – not religious righteousness, or historical rightings of wrongs, or land or resources or power. They wanted jobs, they wanted equal opportunities, they wanted an end to poverty and corruption and having to hustle up sex and drugs but no rock n roll for a living.

But in the end, the absence of any viable alternative saw religion step into the void to unite the  disparate voices. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Ever more AWKWARD. Even the journos found it hard to report on the unsavoury aspects of people power, and what they fought against – notably us, the tyrannical ‘we’ in the West – despite it being the biggest wobbling of the world seen for generations to come. Here were heartfelt images of people all candle-lit in vigils and uniting for a common cause: for freedom after years of subjugation and that would change the world forever – but one against the regimes that we had kept propped in power, against the globalised culture we tried to sow.

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This was highly fucked, like a selfie on your loo uploaded everywhere ever. Batshit Crazy Gaddafi had only just joined the cool kids at the table, now he was exposed as a tyrant and a dictator that they were all sharing lunch with, and everyone suddenly wanted to leave. And maybe chuck a grenade or three behind them, to pretend none of this ever happened, and that they weren’t just having a jolly with his handsome sons and daughters after inviting them out at prom. Gadaffi’s end came when a US drone bombed his convoy, then a beating and a shot fired by a rebel group as he hid in a service tunnel.

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So there we have it: one vast tentacle eating its way through several nations, then biting back on itself, and clawing a way out again. This happened again, on a much larger scale, involving several wandering, bloodthirsty limbs.

When the Americans invaded Eye-Rack a second time, it planned for the war, but not the ‘peace’. As seen in Africa, the onset of democracy meant the competition of those straining for representation, especially the minorities that would lose votes by dint of lower numbers, and thus their bling. Democracy in this case kind of means if you’re all sassy and hawt – but there’s only you – the bigger guys get to take your iphone and selfie stick and pearls to share. This means fight fight fight!

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Eye-Rack soon broke up into squabbles and bombings and massacres when the Americans instated a corrupt government that would  have automatically put the majority (70%) Shias in power, leading in turn to an insurgency that led to the real extreme kid on the block to rise, Eye-Sis, or Eye-Sill, or Daesh for short.

Of the myriad fighting groups in neighbouring Syria, now stricken by its much bloodier version of the Arab Spring and a new helmsman at the fore in the more-flattering-but-just-as-vicious, Basher al Ass Ad, Daesh proved to be the longest lasting kingpin to sway his power.

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This guy Dish was bad, real bad. And savvy. He knew the inherent weaknesses of every bully in the playground let alone every kid. He used their own social media against them to highlight their failings, and to bully them too – setting up horrific websites selling ransomed prisoners, shock scenes in their captured cities, mass executions – plus different websites, targeting schizos and those smelly people on buses that talk to themselves to blow people up, or run them over. Haunting things designed to disturb the comfy echelons that ruled from afar, as yet relatively divided from the horrors on the ground. So this of course leads to millions and millions of refugees, in turn fleeing a society gone mad and a war with an estimated 700 sides.

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The story so far: two tentacles have embarked on a path to positive freedom, war, and suicide bombing and see their return by bombing and terrorising their own body back in Syria and Europe. Now other arms are sending refugees by the million, across treacherous waters, through minefields, deserts, soldiers, bombs and predatory gangs. Organised crime spots the opportunity to recruit a wealth of sex workers, kidnap children and exploit the desperate dispossessed, while innocents drown in their thousands off Trip Advisor highlights.

Migrant boat accident in Turkey

Aylan Kurdi.

So the European population is 750 million, they can absorb a million or three more surely? Plus its ageing population and slowing economies are calling out for precisely this kind of youthful, independent boost that will be a demographic dividend for generations to come. Not likely. A wave of revulsion from the right wing press, the terrorised and the patriotic has made it a destabilising issue, as a path is forged to the voting booths across the region to keep them out, and any others. Europe, the late 20th Century and 21st Century destination of choice for the worlds’ migrants, is full they say. Many of its states, once the world’s most popular tourist destinations, are now finding themselves on the list of most dangerous places in the world to visit, due to a wave of horrific suicide attacks, and a traumatised public dealing with the fall out. Never mind that out of the 2,984 terrorist attacks in Europe over the last 7 years,  only 18 were Islamist (that’s 99.3% being committed by other nutters for other politics – mostly independence movements), the coverage was global, bloody and penetrating.

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And look again at the stats. Of the world’s largest refugee hosting nations they are dominated by the Developing World, not the Developed, the poor guys not the rich, many of whom suffer their own internal conflicts and refugee movements.

  1. Jordan >4.5 million (70% of the population)
  2. Turkey, 3.1 million
  3. Lebanon 2 million ( a jump from the 69th largest refugee population in only 3 years, and now making up 45% of the population)
  4. Saudi Arabia 1.7million (not part of the UN agreement on refugees, but accepting them in all but name)
  5. Pakistan 1.6 million
  6. Iran >1 million
  7. Germany 1 million
  8. Ethiopia 700,000
  9. Uganda 700,000
  10. Kenya 600,000
  11. Chad 500,000
  12. Sudan 330,000 (likely to double this year).

For comparison the US comes in at 17th (267,000), less than China (300,000) or even those fleeing TO Iraq (300,000), a country already struggling with 4 million internally displaced refugees. UK is 30th with 117,000.

(Btw Iraq, despite, and perhaps because of its troubles, happens to be the worlds most charitable nation, with 70% of the population having helped out a stranger in the last week.)

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So there you have it, it’s a big fuss over nothing, a drop in the ocean, but a big big something in the background. Never mind the million+ dead, the faces of the survivors, or the fates of those to await, now is a time as Adam Curtis puts it, to give up the complexities of the real world and indulge in the comforts of the fake one. The Hypernormalisation of the craziness, blood lust and intricacies of all that is around, but photo bombed by what we want, not what we need.

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If there is a lesson in all of this, we perhaps need to wrest the reins from the propaganda merchants for at least one last leg of the journey to the cliff, and not to lie willingly while our world and our judgments go the way of shit hitteth the fan. History has taught us, like a stuck record, skipping CD  corrupted download, to ignore it is to see it worsen, until it becomes that huge glowering thing of nightmares behind the bed nothing can swipe away. That the seeds our elected leaders sow do have consequences, no matter how much we brush it under the carpet, like a giant quivering mound of triffid smelling of wee and death.

And even if it really, really is just about us, it’s gonna take a chump out of our future, and in terms of self preservation, that’s not good. We can still try and feel safe, and loved with a future that beckons, where we will grow up to do great things and discover a life, but to ignore it is to tempt fate.

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Aylan Kurdi.

And our journos may do well to respect the tradition of truth, even in a post-Truth world, where controversy and exposé do little to dent popularity based on our inbuilt chauvinism – even powers it, through the orators du jour that cater to what we want to hear not what we need to. Patriotism makes us feel warm, righteous and gives us meaning. It rekindles and celebrates our culture under the onslaught of constant change, it defends our proud history. It nurtures the kind of heroism reserved for fighting for others, and legitimised by a complicit media and millions of our kin. But beware what you bring into the room, it needs feeding.

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Anyhoo, enough doom and gloom, in the great new journalistic tradition – less of Robot Wars and more of Strictly, so lets end on a high note. No article can be complete without a cat in it somewhere. We know this. May we all live long and prosper. Choose Life. Or something profound like that.

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