In the New Year unite and fight for humanity’s sake

The ruling class, the elite, the powerful [call them, what you will] wish to render us perpetually anxious. In the last few years energised by the ‘pandemic’, their propaganda has sought to leave us in a suspended state of fear. The next existential crisis, the latest emergency is always imminent, staring us in our oft-masked faces or lying suspiciously in wait just around the next corner. We are witnessing disaster capitalism in full flight from the consequence of its wilful, almost mindless exploitation of humanity and the earth.

Aided by their behavioural lackeys and the supine mainstream media, they use the time-honoured and still profoundly effective tactic of ‘divide and rule’. To this end, politicians, bureaucrats, psychologists and journalists [or rather stenographers] lie and deceive. In particular the unvaccinated were identified, chastised and depicted as a death-inducing threat to young and old, whilst children were told they could kill their grandparents. Medical practitioners, great and small, questioning the absurdity of governments’ claim to be following the Science had their reputations and prospects trashed.

As for ourselves how do we explain our embrace of or our resistance to this calculated conspiracy of contempt? On what I suppose is my side of the fence many took to Mattias Desmet’s theory of mass formation psychosis, in which a majority of society is said to have been captured and mesmerised by the dominant narrative. I am not so taken. Such a generalised view of human practice offends my decades-long, faltering attempt to comprehend the unique, yet always social individual. For my part I prefer to call on the idea of ‘uneven consciousness’ to express the differing degrees of consistency and contradiction in our thought and practice. I am loathe to accept that people are hypnotised into compliance with authoritarianism. I am loathe to see those, who have disobeyed the orders from above, as enlightenment incarnate. In the main, we are neither sinners nor saints.

Tellingly none of the draconian restrictions upon our existence suffered during the ‘pandemic’ were even subject to the illusions of representative democracy. Parliaments were utterly ignored. The demos was conspicuous by its absence. For now, the constraints have been largely lifted but continue to be available as the powerful see fit.

It seems to me, to borrow Malcolm Ball’s favourite opening caveat, that the dehumanising grip of technocratic authoritarianism can only be loosened by the emergence of diverse forms of direct democracy at local regional, national and international levels. To imagine such a revolutionary development demands humility on all fronts. It will demand being in critical dialogue across ideologies and faiths, which have seen themselves as in opposition to one another. It will require listening to one another, setting aside prejudices, refusing to jump to immediate judgements. It will necessitate cooperating in the service of a shared sense of purpose despite significant disagreements. For what it’s worth, back in the 1980s I was mortified by the refusal of feminists, whom I knew well, to support the 84/85 Strike on the grounds of the miners’ sexism. Yet, across ensuing years we worked together across a range of political issues. Today, given the emphasis on identity politics. is it possible to envisage relating to someone, who joins the public service picket lines, is involved in ‘Kick Racism Out ‘ yet continues to believe that biological sex matters? Is this person to be excluded from the oppositional alliances we need to create? We need beware the imposition within our own ranks of correct lines, which cannot be criticised, lest excommunication follows.

Images from the 1970s in Birmingham, I think – trying to find out more. Ta to the flatpackfestival.org.uk

Who you are is what you do

The politics of identity which led individuals to use an innate aspect (their gender, colour etc) as ipso facto a right from which to judge others, could itself become a way of setting up a hierarchy of oppressions. Siva criticised all forms of identity politics which did not reach out to try to transform society, for, not just the self, but for all. The transformation of the individual would take place in the process of a larger collective struggle but a politics based in the self would not open out in that way. Identity would not be confirmed in isolation. ‘Who you are is what you do’ [A. Sivanandan writing in the 1980s] 

To paraphrase something I wrote long before I came across the idea of intersectionality. ‘My point is no more and no less than that the political struggle for individual and social autonomy, against technocratic authoritarian capitalism, must have a rounded and interrelated understanding of the oppressive and exploitative relations of class, gender, race, sexuality, disability and faith. None of them makes emancipatory sense without constant reference to each other’. 

Time to take a breath I set off scribbling without knowing where I was going. Obviously, this erratic ensemble of assertions begs more questions than it answers. If only for my own sanity I’ll pursue these in future posts in 2023. We will see.

A Day in the Life of…….

One of Marilyn’s latest paintings, ‘A Village at Dusk’

Of course these perhaps pretentious and pompous pronouncements are the backdrop to ordinary folk getting on with their ordinary, sometimes weary, sometimes invigorating lives. On the ground, my somewhat pessimistic outlook is countered by people simply getting on with things. As for ourselves on the morning of New Year’s Eve, I walked our Glyka, disobeying my music teacher’s instructions not to warble a particular song because in doing so I compounded my mistaken entry – the piece being John Ireland’s setting of ‘Sally Gardens’. If this sounds stuffy I also tried ‘Georgia on my mind’.

After carefully cooked bowls of porridge dripping with honey poured over our very own oranges, managed expertly with cats on her knee, Marilyn fled the house, cash in hand, eager to exchange greetings in our local shops, where everyone knows everyone. Essentials purchased, word had it that some new horses and donkeys had appeared in a nearby village so Marilyn went off in search. To her joy she found them. To her frustration she couldn’t get near enough to inhale their seductive smell. Next time?

In the afternoon we joined hands, electric saw and axe at the ready, in cutting and chopping wood for our two stoves, our primary source of heating – a fall from environmental grace to be rectified, cost allowing, who knows when? After which Marilyn started a new water-colour and I amused as ever the blokes seated outside the village kafeneio by my ageing effort to race walk. To be fair their generous shouts of ‘Bravo’ spurred me on. As dusk fell I accompanied a sciatica-stricken friend’s dogs, Filos and Toula on their evening traipse. I’ve grown to love dogs and there’s something about the three of us having a roadside piss together that cheers me up no end.

Back home preparations for the evening were in full swing. As is only proper Marilyn was making a Hot-Pot with a suet crust, decorated with homemade red cabbage. It was beltin’. There being no real ale available it was washed down with a mix of sparkling plonk and the local village red. Thus fortified we watched an old black and white Agatha Christie film with Charles Laughton and Marlene Dietrich, compellingly all dialogue and no action. Not a car chase in sight. Fortunately, perchance the alcohol, we’d both forgotten the last-minute twist in the courtroom drama wherein Marlene executes her faithless lover. He had it coming. Thence to the highlight of any New Year’s Eve, at least in Germany, the comedy sketch, ‘Dinner for One’, featuring the wonderful Freddie Frinton as the drunken butler, a role he had honed on stage in Britain’s music halls. Evidently, first shown in 1962 on German television, it has acquired cult status in the country.

By this time midnight was still two hours away and the writing was on the wall. Not for the first time, we wouldn’t be welcoming in the New Year. After all nobody was likely to turn up as the first foot through the door with a piece of coal in hand. Hence Marilyn, head buried in her latest book, was in bed by 10ish with a cup of hot chocolate and the ever-faithful, Glyka. She was fast asleep by 11. Basking in the glow of the dying embers I watched a bit of football before putting on some soothing Satie. I was so soothed I fell asleep and wasn’t disturbed even by the rattle of gunfire and blast of explosions echoing across our valley. I crept to bed in the New Year to dream of revolution and the overthrow of capitalism. It’s getting to be something of a tradition.

Time’s running out for me but the fight continues on the streets of Iran, in the fields of Holland and India, on picket lines across the globe and in a plethora of places out of sight, out of mind as far as our ‘betters and experts’ are concerned.

Here’s to a New Year, in which we stop bickering amongst ourselves and renew our shared sense of solidarity in the face of a would-be tyranny, within which our existence will be increasingly policed ‘for our own good’.

Reflections on the Meaning of Existence whilst Leaning on a Lamp-Post

The audience starts to assemble. Ta to Xavier

Further to my self-centred announcement of my 75th birthday, the following seeks to offer an insight into the tribulations plus a number of images of the celebratory event held at our house. I’m hoping that doing so might kick-start me into renewing the momentum of this blog. We will see. Perhaps predictably I’ve found myself in the past few days, as befits my three scores and fifteen, dwelling upon the question of what I’ve been up to in my life. Living in the birthplace of Western philosophy demands such reflection. For now, though this musing remains hazy in keeping with me being dazy for the past week or so.

My dazed condition dates back to an alarming moment when, on a longish journey home, the brakes on our stalwart Suzuki car failed. One tortuous way and another we limped to the garage where the dear girl, 22 years old was declared beyond repair. With the birthday bash only two days away, without transport, our predilection to be anxious reared its nagging head. Fortunately, neighbours and friends came to our aid as we remembered, yet again, something else we had forgotten, notably, παγάκιa, the essential ice cubes. The temperature was forecast to be 32 degrees.

A glimpse of our eclectic assortment of chairs/kαρέκλες and indeed friends. Ta to Xavier

Not a single eddy disturbed the tranquil opening to Sunday itself. Not a wisp of a breeze could be discerned. Only the animated birdsong and a cock crowing pierced the silence. It was going to be bloody hot. The start of the evening’s delights would have to be delayed. Nevertheless, the first task if we were to be ahead of ourselves was arranging the seating. Over 40 chairs had been begged and borrowed. Being diverse and inclusive by nature rather than being in thrall to some Johnny-come-lately Human Relations influencers, we refused none on the grounds of shape, size or colour. Thus, when completed, the eclectic composition of kαρέκλες fitted perfectly the natural amphitheatre provided by our back garden. We were pleased with ourselves which was to be our undoing.

Despite the resplendent garden defying our horticultural ignorance, Marilyn ventured that a couple more bursts of colour wouldn’t come amiss. All the more so as our neighbourhood pine marten seemed to take great pleasure in digging up and destroying the prettiest of our flowers. Despite it being the day of repose Mark and I volunteered to go in search. Intuitively perhaps we knew. The charming little florist in the next village, Vamos, was indeed closed. However, opposite was situated the seductive sight of the Mosaico cafe. It seemed irreverent on a hot Holy Day not to seek refreshment. Two pale ales and toast later we realised we best return at speed except we were empty-handed. In a last throw of the dice, we dashed to nearby Kalives where alas the florist was also closed. Yet two rows of plants had been left outside on the narrow pavement and this was Crete. Thus I chose two colourful offerings, nipped into the next-door craft shop where I left the money owed in the helpful hands of the unphased, artistic owner. Σε ευχαριστώ πολύ.

Mutterings aside and acknowledging the flowers in hand, Marilyn and Sara forgave our boyish antics but nonetheless, the preparations had been concertinaed. Before we knew where we were, folk were arriving, not least Maria Manousaki and the band, Hot Club de Grece. In fact, these brilliant musicians were no trouble, escaping into the shade to practise together.

Yiannis inseparable from his guitar even during a break. Ta to Xavier

As for ourselves, our brains fled to the mountains. We forgot all sorts – the aforesaid ice, the bread, the prosecco, the beers and much more. If we’d ordered pies, them too, for sure. Meanwhile Francesca, in charge of the canapes, was serenity itself. Whilst Linda, Lizzie and Marie recognising our plight mucked in on plying guests with drinks and nibbles.

Marilyn arrives with Rosemary’s glorious orange drizzle cake. Ta to Sara

As for Marilyn and I being by default master and mistress of ceremonies we sought to pull ourselves together, to stop being mard-arsed. Marilyn floated amongst our guests, exuding welcoming warmth. I ventured to the front of proceedings with an eye on a retreating, still blazing sun, ready to capture the audience’s attention. In doing so I set aside half a century of experience. It was my wont never to speak publicly without rehearsing, indeed almost memorising the script I had written in long hand. Thus armed, I scarcely ever looked down at my scribbling. I strutted the lecture and conference hall with confidence.

Dazed but not drunk, forgetting my lines. Dimitris, our dear neighbour, who climbed up our back wall from his olive grove below, looks concerned. Ta to Sara

Yet there I was without a note in my hand. The rest is an embarrassing blur. I said something about being fortunate to grow up at a time when, under proletarian pressure, Capitalism had made a number of profound concessions to the working class, notably free education from cradle to grave. I muttered something about education being to do with the creation of questioning, active citizens, not the indoctrination of obedient, passive consumers. I declared that we were at a crossroads in a clash between the struggle for authentic democracy and the imposition of technocratic authoritarianism. All of which needed much explanation. It was neither the time nor place but whenever is? Time for a ditty though?

Thus I sang ‘Ol’ Man River’, a song of age, conformity and resistance with a falter before intoning Paul Robeson’s rewriting of the closing lines – ‘I’ll keep laughin’ instead of cryin’, I must keep fightin’ till I’m dyin’. At the end of which I departed dizzily stage left without even introducing Maria, Yiannis, Antonis and Georgos, the Hot Club. Fortunately, there was no need for such niceties. From the first strum, la pompe, the voices of violin, guitars and double-bass intertwined seemingly effortlessly in a tour de force of jazz manouche. We swung and were captivated.

Maria swinging with the Hot Club. Ta to Xavier

At the break Marilyn and I had decided, given our advancing years, to allow ourselves a nostalgic glance back to growing up in Lancashire, sitting in front of the telly watching the comic films of Gracie Fields and George Formby.

Hence I began by singing our Gracie’s signature tune, ‘Sally in our Alley’. It is now claimed there wasn’t a dry eye in the garden. Tears of emotion or laughter, we shall never know.

After which I was joined by the Backyard Boys, Phil on ukulele, John banjo and Ian washboard to deliver George’s greatest giggle of a hit, ‘Leaning on a Lamp-post’. Their consummate backing was much admired. As was Phil’s account of a touching poem penned by Linda Manousaki.

Begging Sally to marry me. Ta to Sara
Leaning on a lamp-post waiting for a lass called Marilyn to pass by. Ta to Xavier
Phil reads Linda’s generous tribute to my scribbling. Ta to Xavier

Maria and the Hot Club opened the second set by generously accompanying my effort to do justice to a popular Greek number, ‘Τι είναι αυτό που λένε αγάπη;’ translated as ‘What is this thing called love?’. I will take solace in the fact that Anastasia was impressed with my performance. Once I was out of the way Maria and the Hot Club returned us to the joys of their musicianship.

Honoured to be singing ‘Τι είναι αυτό’ with these wonderful musicians. Ta to Rod
Anastasia evidently pleased with my rendition of ‘Τι είναι αυτό’ . Carsten can’t quite believe what he is hearing. Ta to Xavier

It was at this point that Marilyn and I cast off our cloak of anxiety, tried to stop stressing and sought to bask in the atmosphere of shared pleasure created in our idyllic back garden. To add to our delight the band played her special request, ‘Misty’. At the end, rapturous applause rang down our lane and folk went their separate ways.

It’s tempting to think Marilyn is listening to the ageless melody of ‘Misty’. Ta to Xavier

At a pivotal moment when the ruling class would like to divide us and consign us to a virtual world of their making, a collective experience created by improvisatory live music cocks a snook at the powerful. It belongs to us and no one else. Our gratitude is due to everyone for being involved in all manner of supportive and helpful ways. On the Sunday itself, we vowed ‘never again’ but with each passing day our affection for the occasion grows. Whatever transpires in the future as the old song goes, ‘Thanks for the memories’. The struggle ever continues but between whom?

Well, Linda and Maria seem to have enjoyed the occasion. Ta to Sara
Thanks all round. Ta to Sara
The party’s over. Ta to Xavier

Many thanks to Xavier Rouchaud, Sara Gilding and Rod Waters for the atmospheric photos.

Our bucket collection raised 325 Euros towards Medical Aid for Palestinians. Much appreciated.

Postscript.

Thanks to Rod or not as the case might be – Leaning on a Lamp-post live from Gavalohori with the Backyard Boys! Eat your heart out, George.