Szyzygy's Blog

March 2, 2010

A petition to support the BBC against enforced cutbacks

Filed under: Uncategorized — syzygy @ 10:25 am
Tags: , , , ,

The BBC, dumbed down as it may have been by the aftermath of the Hutton whitewash, is a British national treasure. It is now under pressure to reduce significantly its output and outreach, principally by ruthless and financially motivated individuals such as Rupert Murdoch who want people to pay through the nose for information and knowledge. I would implore anyone in the UK who reads this to sign the Avaaz petition to oppose these changes to send a very clear signal to the powers that like to think they are that we aren’t going to stand for these corporate vultures attempting to suppress a vital and vibrant British institution. The link is here.


February 24, 2010

Orthographically challenged English Democrat alert

Filed under: Politics — syzygy @ 12:19 pm
Tags: , , ,

In a recent blog post, Dean Lacey who is proud to say he’s English and is apparently standing as a PPC for the (new?) English Democrat party introduces some interesting new ways of perverting the English language such that many primary school children could have made a better fist of the job. I don’t however honestly think I could vote for someone who fails to grasp the importance and primacy of the English language whilst loudly proclaiming to be proud to be English. If Mr Lacey wants to convince me that it’s time for change, then he could reasonably begin by sorting out his spelling, failure to correctly capitalise proper nouns, and to adequately deploy punctuation. Anything else I might have missed? Oh, yes, Mr Lacey, if you want to voice my opinion, you’d better sort your act out and make sure you can articulate (and correctly spell) words with more than two syllables that don’t just constitute platitudinous slogans…. If this is amongst the best that the English Democrats can do in terms of prospective parliamentary material, they’re doomed from the word go….

November 14, 2009

Reflections on kleptocracy as a mode of government

Let us disabuse ourselves of the vaguest notion that we live within an ordered and coherent democracy. The depth and sheer quantity of instances of abuses of political power by the existing status quo of all political persuasions represented within Whitehall and its inbred idiot cousin, the Civil Service, long since disqualified the sensible use of the term to approximate reality. If this were the Monty Python sketch about parrots, the customer, in this case the electorate, would have long since realised that the parrot was not merely resting, but that it was, in point of fact, extinct, an ex-parrot, nailed only to the perch by the yellow press and the other apparatus of state ideological process, the media, the judiciary, and all the other ancillary paraphernalia associated with and pertaining to government. But what, I hear you ask, what has Parliament ever done for us? Well there are the roads (in a frankly shocking state of disrepair, for the dubious pleasure of using which which the motorist is taxed to the quick), the scandalous state of the National Health (a drain on the public purse of an extravagance beyond the wildest dreams of any expenses fiddler and almost as broken as the banking system),  and more particularly a war on drugs based more on political opportunism than science and available evidence.  A war on drugs which effectively entails the electorate paying for the prejudices of a few, in which some of the more dangerous (in terms of both social and health risk)  substances are legal and effective cash-cows for the government, while the criminalisation of others of comparative or lesser evil has led to an extent and depth of both  organised and disorganised crime contributory to a society sadly teetering on the verge of several nervous breakdowns.  The recent sacking of Professor Nutt illuminates the nub of the problem; we, as a society, are not only paying for the exercise of the prejudices of a few, but are also subject to a legislative process which is not based on science or evidence but on political expediency and whim. Then of course the government has also given us the expenses scandals. And the Hutton whitewash.  The list is almost endless, a depressing litany of widespread abuses and scandal. None of the parties with representation in parliament, I feel, realise just how hated and despised they are.

Kleptocracy, a reasonable definition of which may be found here  in Wikipedia, goes a long way to explaining this unsatisfactory state of affairs, a state of affairs in which this country is  perilously close to the brink. Given the goverment’s hand in glove relationship with the alcohol industry, one could go a step further and characterise it to an extent as a narcokleptocracy. The government and the opposition aren’t joined up enough in their thinking to see how suspiciously and cynically the electorate, their customer base, now regard them. It is estimated that fewer than 60% of the enfranchised population are likely to vote at the next election; I would say from conversations with people in real life that this is a figure in the wild flights of fantasy – more than 2/3 of the people I have spoken to say there’s just no point in voting, although some of these inevitably will in deeply misguided optimism that their vote might just make a difference to the outcome.  I can’t really disgree with this line of argument and it is hardly suprising; the two parties with enough of a habituated or politically stupid enough percentile of the electorate to vote for them are fundamentally indistinguishable and are both equally prone to kleptocracy on both the grand and petty scale – let’s not forget the arms to Iraq scandal, the perjuries,  etc, etc of the previous junta, but one must hope that a change might make things better, much as experience has taught us time and again that it won’t.

They have gone on with this long enough in the name of democracy; I am of a mind to report the lot of them to the Advertising Standards Agency the next time one of these simpering mendicants has the gall to spout forth on the importance of democracy blah blah blah. Well I would do, but like all regulatory authorities it is firmly in the back pocket of the kleptocracy. The circle is complete. The government not only controls processes of the government it also controls and owns the checks and controls on government. The ballot box cannot in its present implementation save us from these thieves and liars.  It can however hurt them.  It really doesn’t matter who you’re voting for, the government will always get in. So here’s an idea for doing something different next time round. Let’s make their positions a little more tenuous by not voting for sitting candidates. Let’s also send the alleged opposition, otherwise to be referred to hereinafter  as the “kleptocrats in waiting”,  a similar message by not voting for them either.  If there is a viable third party (other of course than the BNP or similar manifestly unsavoury organisations),  a vote for them, by enough people would send a shiver down the back of the kleptocracy. 

What is needed is wholesale political reform on an unparalleled level; the status quo know that voting for this is like turkeys voting for Christmas, and is not something likely to occur unless we as a society make it occur. If we want the better and more equitably governed society that we deserve, and we manifestly can’t go on like this forever, we need to move towards real enfranchisement, real democratic process, and real accountability of all organs of and pertaining to the state. We need to remove from the political vocabulary the concept of a “safe seat”; there should be no such thing for the fairly obvious reason that an unaccountable representative with no fear of his/her electorate is more prone to disregard the wishes of the constituency and the electorate at large than would otherwise be the case.  Once they are sitting uncomfortably, then we can begin.

I will not vote labour or conservative – I will vote! – more democracy Facebook group:

November 7, 2009

Notes from the future: The origins of Open Source Democracy

If nothing else, the peremptory sacking of David Nutt by Home Secretary Alan Johnson in October 2009 exposed the aching chasm which  existed between rational thought and political thought, such as it was in early 21st century Britain.  In the grips of a deep recession, a failing Labour administration, confronted by a Conservative party even more devoid of political wisdom and insight than themselves, sought to establish clear leeway between themselves and their opponents by a number of headlining manouevres. David Nutt, an eminent scientist, whose contribution to knowledge in the sphere of psychopharmacology was of the very first order, was to be their patsy. Unfortunately, as events subsequently transpired, it was to not only rebound on themselves, but to bring into question the very legitimacy of a mode of political representation which had existed, largely unchanged, since the mid-19th century. 

David Nutt, a quiet-spoken and eloquent advocate of scientific principle could not have appeared more reasonable than his simian aggressor, and a very clear delineation in their intellectual capacities was immediately more than superficially apparent. Moreover he was right: when comparing and categorising risk, objectivity was paramount.  Mr Johnson’s pretext for sacking Professor Nutt was that he had in some way stepped into politics by stating the blindingly obvious during the course of an academic lecture. The populace were unconvinced and an obviously tired and emotional Johnson did not help his case by addressing them as though they were a round of postmen to be whipped up in fury and led out on strike at protest at t’management.

A number of MPs, seeing the writing writ large upon the wall, could not have been more suprised than Belshazzar himself to have been found weighed in the balance and found wanting; questions were asked in the House, an Early Day Motion was hurriedly tabled to the effect that this House believes that Government policy on alcohol and drugs misuse and harm should be based on scientific evidence. But it was too late, the British public, much like the bosun of an 18th century man of war, removed the cat from out of the bag, lashed the prisoner to the gratings and flogged him round the prevalent media.  They were evidently not remotely amused. Decades of parliamentary abuse of privilege, compounded by fiascos such as the cheap sell-offs of public assets under the previous administration, the whitewashing of the state-instituted murder of Dr David Kelly in the Hutton Report, the expenses scandal, had taken their toll.

People began to wonder how it was that an uneducated former Marxist postman from Bow could wield such exorbitant power. The conclusion that they were forced to was that it was a symptom of a much deeper malaise, that the very process of government itself was broken, and that the unpleasant phenomenon of Alan Johnson was yet another case of jobs for the boys. The technological mechanisms for real democratisation and  enfranchisement of the electorate had been in place for many years; the internet was ubiqitous. The existing status ante quo had however made little if any attempt to embrace the technology to extend the reach of democracy. 

Social networking sites were to prove to be a fertile breeding ground for opposition. The wikia picked up the events faster than the mainstream media, and both Johnson and Nutt’s entries in Wikipedia were objectively modfied within hours of events occurring. It would only be a question of time before someone would ask the question “if paid for government is as broken, expensive and fundamentally bloated as Micro$oft software, why isn’t there an open source alternative?” The inexorable rise of Open Source Democracy had begun…..

November 3, 2009

The impact of the Nutt Affair on British politics

In any two party state, in which protagonist and antagonist are bankrolled by slush money from corporates and wealthy individuals, there can only be one plurality of losers, the electorate. Many people in Britain, never the most rationally governed of states,  are increasingly becoming aware of the fact that party-centric politics as a mechanism for government and maintenance of social order in post-technological society is broken beyond repair and are actively scouting for alternatives. Most, if not all, will conclude that the answer does not lie in the ballot box, since, to borrow the hackneyed joke, whoever you vote for the government always gets in. There is little to choose between either of the two main political parties; they are equally mendacious, corrupt and overwhelmingly filled with people you would not wish to entertain in your own home.

The lingering and unpleasant shadow of the David Nutt affair has brought this point to the attention of many; those incapable of reading the writing on the wall of the arbitrary and dirigiste sacking of the chair of the ACMD, the government’s drugs advisory committee, would do well to reflect on the fact that the killing of the messenger bearing unpleasant tidings was largely discontinued in the unfathomable depths of time immemorial and moreover does not reflect well upon the executioner. Professor Nutt had the temerity to point out that a number of socially and legally proscribed drugs, amongst them cannabis, on most objective criteria of risk assessment, were significantly less dangerous than a number of other drugs, notably tobacco and alcohol, from which the government (and it should be noted many of their financial backers and puppet-masters) derive considerable revenue. For this, under a pretext, he was sacked. The people of the Britain deserve respect and openness from their governments; sadly the opposite, a cold and revolting dish of contempt and lies is what is and has always invariably been set before them.  It is unsuprising that cynicism, the inevitable precursor to change, has set in.

The sacking of David Nutt has moved the hands of the clock for major political reform a little closer to midnight;  you can’t, to paraphrase George Washington, fool all of the people all of the time. And the ones you can’t fool will be the ones who will be coming for you.

Facebook support group for David Nutt:

September 29, 2009

The Last Wobble…

Filed under: Politics,Uncategorized — syzygy @ 6:08 am
Tags: , ,

Today the unelected blancmange nominally in charge of the British ship of state, James Gordon Brown, will deliver a keynote speech at the Labour party conference, and, according to the lead article on the BBC website at time of writing, in it he will be announcing a crackdown on anti-social behaviour. I don’t as a rule write on Politics with a capital P, but the prospect of this uninspiring and intellectually unprepossessing individual pontificating on the subject of antisocial behaviour strikes me as not being unakin to Herr Hitler delivering a speech to the Nuremberg rallies on the public need for humility and self-deprecation, minus, of course, the erstwhile Reichskanzler’s undoubted passion, charisma and flair for oratory.  The government which the former Chancellor Mr Brown nominally leads has somehow contrived to effect even more damage to the weft and weave of British society than the last one, a singular achievement given that the oppositional administration prior to the much-vaunted Neu Labour was the strangled afterbirth of Margaret Thatcher’s demented vision, the central philosophical tenet of which being that “There is no such thing as society”, led, lest we have  forgotten, by yet another charmless political nonentity, John Major.

In the years since Britain fell under the new-Nazi New Labour yoke, the rich have become ineffably richer, the poor irrefutably poorer, and the middle-classes reduced to desparation. The dumbing down of Britain, a central project of this administration, has continued apace. Once upon a time there were lies, damned lies and statistics. Now there are just lies. The spur for Mr Brown’s forthcoming tirade was a piece of headline news  in which a mother of a handicapped child, driven to desparation by continual attacks by groups of (what will be characterised no doubt as deprived children in desparate need of social attention) vicious thugs and yobs upon her home, person and property, doused her car in petrol, and committed suicide alongside her daughter.  The govenrment’s response? The Independent Police Complaints Commission (a misnomer if ever there were, being not remotely independent, yet another wing of the of the administration) is to investigate to see whether the police’s response was “proportionate”.  I kid you not. The greasy mechanism of spin is both tireless and and circular. There is nothing in there about addressing the real issues, which, as anybody in Britain knows boil down to the simple fact that the perpetrators of such iniquities have more rights than their victims, and that the police are terrified to act for fear of upsetting one of these little darlings.  This is of course the logic of the madhouse in action, and not particularly suprising when you look at the inmates in overall charge of the asylum.

September 7, 2009

What kafkaesque is…

Filed under: Uncategorized — syzygy @ 7:53 pm
Tags: , , ,

I have been thinking much recently about the nature of what it might be, exactly, that constitutes something which can be described as kafkaesque. There are strong personal reasons for this line of reflection although I do not feel particularly comfortable expounding them in what is essentially a new and fairly unfamiliar public place for me, the much vaunted blogosphere. You will have to take it on trust that while I am not going to go there, a rationale exists for me to be gnawing this particular philosophical bone at this particular time.

In this line of inquiry I am much assisted by an article I read many years ago  by Milan Kundera. Being the information-acquisitive sort of soul that I am and always have been, I made a journal note of the key points of Kundera’s observations. Delving through my accumulated journals, Volume IV, which covers much of the mid 1980s, produced the necessary information, and more which I had forgotten about altogether, some of which is, in the cold light of incipient senility at least, even more interesting.

Apparently Josef Skvorecky related to Kundera the true story of a Prague engineer during the grim years of the Comintern’s iron grip on Czech society who got the opportunity to travel to a seminar in London. He duly went, took part in the seminar, and returned post-haste to Praha. Barely a few hours after his return, a story appeared in Rude Pravo, the official mouthpiece of the Czech communist party of the time, which stated “A Czech engineer, travelling to a seminar in London, has, according to Western press reports, condemned his socialist fatherland and decided to remain in the West.” It should be noted that the penalty for illegal emigration under the communist regime was 20 years penal confinement. The engineer was in a state of shock; it was undoubtedly him they were writing about.  He rushed round to the editor of Rude Pravo – the matter, alas, was out of his hands, and he was referred to the Ministry of the Interior. He went there, only to be told that it was also out of their hands; they had had their report from their secret service in London. He asked for a retraction but they gave him to understand that this was unnecessary. The engineer, not trusting the verbal assurance, asked for it in writing but this they refused to do. He became depressed and was unable to sleep at night. Eventually, he became so nervous and paranoid that he emigrated illegally.

The above, Kundera opined, was very much symptomatic of Prague of the time, and could clearly be defined as kafkaesque according to the aspects which Kundera notes as being salient. Firstly, the tale reflects what Kundera characterises as an ‘invisible labyrinth’; the individual in the story is lost in a maze of process whose beginning, middle and end are imperceptible yet omnipresent, much as was the case of Josef K. in The Trial. Then, the rules of the invisible labyrinth are out of step with ‘real’ reality but are nevertheless entirely consistent to their own logic.  Another determining factor is that the innocent are guilty until capable (never) of proving their innocence. Finally, there is an element of farce intertwined with grand guignol: the reader laughs and yet the prospect of it all becoming horribly real can evince the other sort of laughter, the chimpanzee fear-laugh.

September 4, 2009

Beyond fantasy…

Filed under: LitCrit — syzygy @ 6:06 pm
Tags: ,

I had, in my earlier years, thought to write an epic fantasy to vie with the works of Tolkien, Lovecraft, Eddison and Dunsany, those incomparable lords of the genre, but, in the middle to end of my life, I find that this task is, if not beyond me, one whose purpose I can no longer clearly define and probably could not defend.

Now I am of the opinion that concision rather than expansion is the optimal road for the writer to travel upon, that and the straight and narrow path of actuality and not of fiction. Too much is and already has been written, and little of it is of any consequence. My models now are not those rambling gothic edifices of my youth, but the clean and elegant stylistics of the likes of Borges, Chandler, and that other American ray of literary quality, Carver. I will put to one side the rationale, the swing from one end of the extreme to its furthermost antipodes, since it requires little explanation if one has already made that quantum jump of realisation, and instead concern myself with some of my thinking on what I ought to be doing as a writer.

Obvious themes and motifs spring to mind, many of them of a mundane and functional nature. At the time of writing this the world banking economy is having what can only be described circumlocutorily as a bad comedown. Iraq, seemingly, is coming to its senses and turning into the poodle state which America wants it to be. Pakistan goes from bad to worse, and Afghanistan is a gaping wound. Europe however has settled into a smug and cosy state of detente not unakin to being comatose. Britain becomes ever more insular albeit with a largely and increasingly un-British society, certainly one which would have been unrecognisable to me in my youth. So there we have a backdrop. Urban Britain in the arse-end of the credit crunch managed by an inept government, staffed by a reluctant and charmless army of mortgage-slave conscripts and, to use that masterpiece weasel-word phrase of yellow-press journalese and politicians, economic migrants, more correctly defined as cheap and compliant economically pressed labour. And we haven’t mentioned the condition of Africa once yet, let alone the perilous state of affairs a propos our two large friends in the east. An uncivil society, Britain, managed by morons and staffed by the unwilling on the brink of World War III. Mervyn Peake would have been hard pressed to have constructed an architecture as perplexingly Byzantine as the current status quo, and Kafka likewise to have invented a set of circumstances as orderly, obvious and stark staring mad. It takes little imagination to see quite how easily this little lot could topple over the precipice.

The reality is perhaps more fantastical than fantasy itself…. And ineffably more disturbing.

Blog at