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“He drives a slick silver Audi that smells of new leather and stale cigarette smoke…” (Fahrinisa Oswald)

silvaudi

I could never be a people smuggler, I haven’t got the smarts. Skipping over the primary situation of the overloaded boat people with the fake life jackets and assuming they’ve got as far as mainland Greece, thanks to Inside the world of human smuggling even those of us standing at the sidelines can peek thru cracks in the Wall and see stuff for ourselves when it gets to  Airport stage.

Where some see the refugee burden as a cost for Greece, its economy already overburdened, others see an opportunity if you sport a blind eye, since it harnesses the pressure of the desire to move on up to native ingenuity in by-passing rules and the tech savvy of young people with a taste for success.

The vocabulary has been there a long time, false papers, bribed guards it hasn’t needed a lot of organising and once the wheel starts to spin it sucks in the refugees cash and funnels it down into Greece and spreads it in neat packets, steadily rising, around Athens and other significant localities. Watch out for Gangsta Rococco building boom, tell it by the screaming heads on the gateposts.

Free ports, enterprise zones. Except here it is not top down, it is constructed informally by unknowing and unknown agents. The community at large is left with the problem of what goes along with this creative process, the ugliness, the violence organised or not, the slavery, the corruption. But just who is the community at large?. Is it the city of Athens? Is it Greece, is it Europe?

In 1941 Arthur Koestler wrote the classic insiders study of how human hierarchies get constructed from zero. Titled The Scum of the Earth it dealt with his imprisonment by the French as an enemy of the state. He came to realise that in a finite crowd every transaction changes both the parties standing in relation to all the other parties. A form of sorting by having or successfully pretending to have an advantage, knowing when and how to deploy it and, very important, having a self conscious idea of better conditions, more sleep, more space, more food, more security, always in relation to the enclosing powers, the guards and the criminals.

History’s giant brown peristaltic motion squeezed a bunch of people into bare-bones living, primitive sanitation, physical cruelty and sub-existence rations just so that a gifted science journalist could bear witness you might think. Something like this must be going on today in those places centered on a depository for arrivals surrounded by a more or less porous fence and then a host community. The fact that the fence is porous implies association with the host community, “I walk carrying my baggage, in one hand I carry the good stuff, in the other the bad. Do you want to help me clean up?”

I am not a responsible person so it is not for me to wonder why  refugees with  fake Italian or French passports (despite supposed EU joined up action) aren’t faced with having to speak Italian or French at the airport check-in. The teeth of the comb meant to filter the good and the bad end up being human somewhere down the line. Human hence fallible, bribable, complex and these complex human encounters, so far unmodelable, allied with faceless ubiquitous technologies and their savvier than thou operators that are making, below the media horizon, a new transnational diasporic world whose crowds will not stop swirling chaotically in and around the embittered old white elites in their shrinking, stinking, fortified refuges.

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Hey Capn’ America, what’s with the red neckties?

Bankers used to sport blue or silver now, just look at the photos, it’s red. The red the President wears. The same red some of the protection agents wore Inauguration day. I’m sure there is a style maven out there who can tell me how this works. Somebody must have the job of sending the coded message to favored partners, red tie tomorrow.

I suppose the thinking is to demonstrate how close you are to the boss, that he doesn’t have to lie awake at night worrying you are a secret dissident. The return to vestimentary language is all part of the swashbuckling approach of these corporate pirate kings, the ones destroying our earth to find all the money they can get.

Of course tucked away in the hills south east of Toulouse France I’m too comfortable for words, or should be, only now that the land I was born, England, is sniffing Uncle Sam’s armpits and wagging its tail and our peninsula is threatened with disruption by Ted Malloch on one side and Kremlin Gremlins the other I find suddenly it’s time to look and tell, ask and see.

Burn your neckties!

 

 

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Trump’s flamboyant putsch, sorry, I mean pitch.

 

There are those who say the object of the world is to generate fiction, well, here’s one to be going on with.

I wager one of the more far out of the communications advisers in Donald’s camp will suggest he don military threads for the inauguration like they tend to do below the north south American belt, Mexico here we come, jealous of your juntas. And big sunglasses.

I am sure the Generals about to take positions of civil executive power in Washington will be itching to slip into their green or blue serge as they stand with their heavy, career damaged faces just back of Trump on the Capitol steps.

The fact that British Bosswoman Teresa May sent her Chiefs of Staff, her military top brass, to talk with Trump’s people rather than her Ambassador indicates that the military industrial complex which former President Eisenhower famously warned about now sits openly at the top table. A glance at Bartholomew’s Mini World Atlas, in reach of my armchair, shows why this may be so right now.

We know that a lot of Trump’s support comes from people who don’t go along with the idea of a multicolored, multistrand, networked future. They would prefer to resist, stand on a shrinking ice island and fight back. Their main external support is white Russia and the other ex Soviet countries who, urged on by their Church, have an uncomplicatedly negative view of people with dark skin.

I think this accounts for the mixed signals spattering out of Trump. Yes he does want to get into bed with Russian gas and oil and dammit all develop the country (gold elevators) but he doesn’t want them treading on his toes elsewhere on the globe. I’m sure they are well on their way to a deal since Trump’s magnificently overblown persona is something that vibrates the Russian soul – think Yeltsin.

The Russo-americo military would nod their heads vigourously if I let them peek at the line I have drawn on my Atlas. The heartland of the citadel is the Arctic ocean with its interior lines of communication. The two major blocs, the Americas and the ex-Soviet Union drop down from there. The tricky part is Europe, which is why the political evolutions there are central to this new, hot, game. My pencil wavers when it comes to the Scandinavian countries, Benelux and Germany, they could go either way. The Marines are arriving in Norway at this moment. They are going to learn to ski and to practice killing on packs of savage dogs with pre-torn throats.

Brexit means of course that Britain will be an American owned threat tasked to bully and subvert the easy going muddle headed frogs dagos wops and greeks. According to the MIC the countries bordering the northern Mediterranean shore are porous, soft, crumbling away. You can’t make a wall which stands up to the alien faith populations breaking out of the sea with bricks like that. The MIC sees it like – lets get those beach casualties up nearer to the D Day mark, say fifteen per cent, that should discourage them some…

Now I’ve got that bitter taste rising in my mouth. Would it were blood or spit but its just the residue from the breakfast coffee. Time to get out of the armchair and see if the legs still work.

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North American History

Willis W. Harman (1919-1997) stole into my life thru a back door in a book I am writing about America called Success=True. He gave me this authentically chilling film noire line,

“There’s a war going on between your side and mine. And my side is not going to lose.”

The line was delivered to Michael Rossman of the Berkley Free Speech Movement when Harman  (sometimes misknown as Harmon) was with Stanford Research Institute in the “early seventies”.

My question was which were the sides? And my temptation was to backdate it to the early sixties for my book’s narrative. I knew I would get into trouble and I did, the whole of the writing got out of gear and shuddered to a halt. I had to climb out of the wreck and try to fix it. First of all, I thought, I have to disentangle the Harman thing.

I asked myself which would have been the two sides in the early seventies and would this retroje(c)t backwards? My flash card stereotypes were ready: crew cut CIA goon stroke mad scientist up against soft flowing hippy poet revolutionary.

But it turned out to be not so simple. I read an interview with Willis Harman in 1995 by Sarah Van Guelder. Judge for your self but I couldn’t fit the gun slinger of the early seventies with the guy who was saying,

“It turns out that if you look at the assumptions underlying our economic system – especially the ones regarding the prerogatives of ownership – and then you look at the goals we humans have about how we want to live our lives, there is no compatibility. The assumptions can never lead to the goals”

Was Harman’s life arc like the American Stalinists of the 1930’s who became hard line neo-conservatives, only in reverse?

And then there was a letter Harman wrote on Stanford Research Institute paper to Al Hubbard (known as the Johnny Appleseed of LSD) in October 1968,

“Our investigations of some of the current social movements affecting education indicate that the drug usage prevalent among student members of the New Left is not entirely undesigned. Some of it appears to be present as a deliberate weapon aimed at political change.

We are concerned with assessing the significance of this as it impacts on matters of long range educational policy. In this connection it would be advantageous to have you considered in the capacity of a special investigative agent who might have access to relevant data which is not ordinarily available. If this can be arranged I believe it could help us a great deal”

Harman was turned on by Hubbard in 1956 and showed no sign of repenting use of mind-expanding drugs. Perhaps as an ex-engineer (he had been a colleague of LSD pioneer Myron Stolaroff on the board of Ampex) he instinctively opted for working within a tight set up, cleansed of the whatever and that’s the way it goes of flower child fatalism.

In a charcoal suit, even stoned, you can merge with the granite walls of the corporation which in turn merges with the universe while Michael Rossman’s side let their tiny naked soul-pieces build patterns directly from multi-colored ubermatter.

Or perhaps Harman’s “two sides” schtick was an argument between two philosophies of change. One side wedded to a psychedelically enlightened elite with ultra modern persuasive (read coercive) power to direct the unenlightened masses. The other side setting psychedelic fire to the bundle of dead wood in each citizen and changing society by ten million tiny transformations.

It is the old old story isn’t it? The struggle during the Reformation to have the Bible translated into the vernacular rather than kept in the priest’s tongue. As Claire Luce, one of the lucky few, influential in her own right and husband of Time-Life boss Henry said,

“We wouldn’t want everyone doing too much of a good thing”

Whose side are you on?

*

All of this bugged me. Harman resisted being squeezed into my text. I had to take time off, chop wood, shift sand, re-make the level of the garden pond a second time, feeling out whether to go in deeper or let the iceberg of my ignorance float unattached to maybe smash my book a month down the line.

I plunged into the Wikipedia wormholes, came out at unexpected places, resisted deep conspiracy whirlpools and wrestled together a holding statement that went something like this: the program of turning on the elite went a long way until it began to suffer from its own contradictions. Like a pincer movement where one claw doesn’t really know what the other claw is doing. You’ve got these brilliant young chemists making the stuff in pails and dishing it out to the street, then you’ve got the war medicine people slipping it into circuits they believe they control.

“So what’s the prey”

“Its the squashy center where most people loan their dreams to the powerful for life”

By this reading the contradictions flared up to a crisis in 1965, around the time they needed a hell of a lot more young men’s bodies in Vietnam. In October 1966 LBJ signed a new law banning LSD, despite ex-pharmacist Hubert Humphrey lobbying for it’s controlled use. They sealed off the pass. But by that time there was a generation moving at all levels in society who had gone thru a mind expanding experience. Not all of the trips had been good, some of the charcoal suit people came back to their offices with a hint of malevolent madness in their eyes, they were out to get someone for that. Madness in those higher echelons persists because structures and processes were established and endure that had been built in its light.

On the way to that holding statement I got some nice licks I thought I could use even if I had to drop Harman. Like the phrase the men who stare at goats At first I took this as a neat descriptive of behavioral scientists but then the information came that there was indeed a Company program to see whether by thought power humans could kill animals.

And then there was this,

We now know that the total number of possible states of the brain can be given only by a number of truly astronomical proportions- according to Anokhin (1971), one followed by a line of zeros stretching out into space twenty four times the distance from the earth to the moon!

Like a first year yeshiva student I asked,

“Yes but how big do you write your zeros?

And there was the highly suggestive results from Puthoff and Targ (1974) that appeared to show that we can have unconscious knowledge of a state of mind of another which is not available to consciousness,

If a stroboscopic light is shined in a subject’s eyes, a characteristic alpha component appears in his electroencephalogram. Some prior rapport is established between two remotely isolated subjects. The light is flashed in one subject’s eyes and the other is asked to guess whether the light is on or off. Subject is usually unable to guess better than chance but the telltale alpha component appears in his EEG. Unconsciously he knows with certainty when the light is in the other person’s eyes while he is denying such knowledge to his conscious mind.

*

The November rains had come and our trees were dropping leaves at our feet. The slope down to the bamboos was getting its clay wetted to perfect slip state. Time to get on, I took the simplest path. I put the chilling line into this piece. I knew I would never reach the early seventies with Success=True except as an epilogue, and I felt no desire to change the construction. I made a list of what I knew of Harman’s life, with a rule not to look further, and turning back to the interrupted chapter erased the line and went on,

The coaming of the pool was underlit with a cool lime green. A flashbulb caught them dancing, Willis Harmon with his eyes half shut and something scruffy about his shirt, a little drunk. And Arlene with a fixed grin just coming out of a jive twirl.

“I see it like this…”

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A Shangai scrap yard / Adam Minter

A click-bait sized hole was torn off England’s fairy tale cover with the news that five workers had lost their lives in a metal recycling plant in Birmingham. The businessman said,”It’s a tragedy, the metal re-cycling world is a small one. We all know each other, a tragedy” The landlord said, “They were good people, he even helped me with my bags”
The friend said, “He watched the Wales vs Portugal game with me yesterday, then I drove him to the mosque” One of the dead, before the tragedy, “My family is coming over from the Gambia, I will need a bigger room” In fact he got a much much smaller room – the space it leaves you to breathe and do all your living in when a one and a half ton concrete block is shoved over by an unknown (because unmeasured?) tonnage of scrap iron. Right on top of you.

Of the five workers killed Thursday 7 June at Hawkeswood Metal, four were originally from the West Coast African state of Gambia and one from Senegal. They had been directly recruited in Spain, this was possible because England was still a member of the European Community, could still get cheap labour in.

The metal recycling trade? Ships arrive from China stuffed with cheap goods, the brands the natives love, and go back home with scrap metal. Thirty years ago the scrap would have gone back into furnaces to feed fresh metal to the factories in which the West Midlands natives made things. Today eighty per cent of the scrap is exported.

The market for scrap iron to China was strong but recently demand weakened so pressure on storage increased. The margins are small so you improvise storage bins which won’t necessarily stand the burden. You long ago got away from English native teams, with their unions and their tea breaks and their stubborn attachment to safe working practice.

You recruit gangs of strong young men who have already proved their resilience and initiative by braving the voyage to Europe and for whom the local Gambian community (rather say internal colony) makes up for the miserable weather and for whom the challenge and stimulation of being in a foreign culture makes up for the low, low wages and the zero hours contract.

The internal colony at Birmingham (Britain’s second city by population) is in a district called Aston. Do you like figures? Aston has an area of 6.4 km². Already fifteen years ago there was a population density of 4,185 people per km² compared with 3,649 people per km² for Birmingham as a whole. 70.6% of the area’s population are non-white compared with 29.6% for Birmingham. 36.9% were born outside the United Kingdom, nearly four times the national average.

Described as gang ridden Aston is now chiefly owned, in terms of property, by people from Pakistan who house their fellow Muslims, 44.3% of the ward’s population, in handy red brick slices served quick: here, split this house between you and be quick about it.

The phrase internal colony springs from the Brexiters world view. Nostalgia for the days when oak hearted fellows from the Shires of England buccaneered for silver in the Spanish Main – free trade under-writ by violence. The fantasy of the bush hat, the knee socks, the sambok and naked black porters toting bales. An internal colony as Empire theme park with real live nasties. Build it right there in Birmingham, with the help of entrepreneurial landlords and shopkeepers and no nonsense metal traders.

At sight of the tragedy at Hawkeswood I paused the video on three team members of a specialised rescue unit. They all had shaven heads. Workplace fashion. A white man goes for a job, not very energetic, he likes the idea of a uniform, he doesn’t mind working at night. He gets a job in the security industry and shaves his head. He has classes in first aid and intruder recognition. He takes part in exercises with the police, fire service and ambulance services. He is described in Whitehall working papers as a civilian auxiliary.

Our man is allowed, encouraged even, to wear his uniform off-duty. He is sent on an Army run course on non-lethal restraint techniques. Everybody wears the same coveralls. Each of them has been given a little bit of authority. They can drive in the bus lanes. They are called on if there is trouble in the internal colonies.

While the deepest recesses of the internal colony is allowed to be self-governing and a blind eye turned to sharia and voodoo at the margins the picture is less clear. There is a ribbon of territory whose limits are known only by doing battle there. This is how the young learn their place and where the whites get their extra-legal kicks. Plenty trouble. See this link http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x4jwnkv

But wait, who am I to say all this? I kneel before the spirit lives of Saibo Sillah, Bagally Dukureh, Muhamadou Jagana, Alimamo Jammeh, Ousmane Diabi. Your deaths were just too good to miss.

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The Great Trumpeter

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I must have known about the knighthood for Lynton Crosby but it took a screenshot in the Khan victory story in the Guardian to make it a tipping point. Lynton honoured by the Realm but Son of Millions loses to Son of Bus Driver demonstrating that world city London, complicated, shadowy, super-energetic can stand up to ugly English chauvinism, the bluff geniality, the expensive broadcloth, the cobwebby mind – arise Sir Lynton. Who would not willingly manhandle “king” Charles to his doom? But Kingship projects beyond the person. Divestment would be more effective, the regal sway would become muddied, unmagicked, the body live on in a nothing.

The bounds of us and them are widening for some, fatally narrowing for others. Look westwards over the sea, beyond the Dook’s Cornwall. The Americans seem to be having their own monarchy moment. The pioneers left the monarchical idea behind, and greeted the huddled masses escaping the pogroms and famine, future kings all. The Great Trumpeter has formed a king shaped hole in the United States of America where the people can shelter like birds in a tree, even in his armpits and even knowing that if they look at the King’s face they’ll come over all digital.

The drama of America – who would be without it? Owing less and less to European origins like mine it becomes enchantingly unintelligible. I imagine the poor whites wanting their leader to be as greedy for comfort, as narrow, as ugly as they are but endowed with magic powers. The Barons of the algorithm, the machine politicians with their tailored numbspeak have blocked the view – the mob can’t see the majesty. Make America great again. When was it not? What can he mean?

Only this it seems: to lead them into the desert and suffer with them. The meme of the few rickety carts in a circle against the Indians. Trump is leading the unwanted poor of America into a terrible ambush. He is drawing off the last muscular opposition to the machine. Win or lose, crowned by his golden hair, cloaked in Las Vegas purple, riding a great white horse mobbed and petted by a thousand animal-faced maidens, guarded by disemployed but armed-to-the-teeth janitors the Trumpers will march through every city of America, across every mountain range, through every wheat prairie sowing dislocation agony and death until at the head of some dead end valley, some hill top encampment, some muddy lake King Trump decides the moment has come and passes out the S pills. And finds in sacrifice the punishment he’s always asked for. Hit me Daddy hit me.

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Capitalism = limitless creativity

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It’s like the parachute joke come to life. If it doesn’t work come back and we’ll hand over your money. In the strips of gift shops, bars and clothes boutiques round Izmir  and other Turkish ports, vendors are supplying fake life-jackets to people fleeing the war zones of the Permanent Battleground.
I like it, it gives me a chance to feel self-righteous. But that feeling neither satisfies or lasts so I get lost in speculation: why is it that I can’t place myself in one of those back streets, re-tailoring back-packs to look like life vests? Why can’t I see myself chortling as customers hesitate between the ones for thirty euros and the ones I’m selling at ten? Someone asks me in English – is good? Very good – I say and point at the fake label. Won’t see them again, not in my street, not in my family – people of no account.
I search for the phrase: the blind hand of the market? No that can’t be right, the dumb hand of the market? Perhaps the unfeeling hand of the market, pretending to be invisible. There is a demand for life jackets. Never mind that there are mountains of them piling up on Greek beaches, the demand is on the Turkish coastline. At first the demand is satisfied along regular lines, just the price shoots up a bit. Then maybe there is a hiccup in the regular supply, the boss is standing there looking into the container load of backpacks just offloaded on the docks. He has his capitalist moment: backpacks are down, life jackets are up – get sewing. It might even have been an idealist who first saw a way of bridging the gap and actually used sturdy buckles and proper floatable wadding.
Then someone made the analysis – what is a life-jacket in terms of the market place? A brightly colored arrangement of cloth, padding and straps. They stripped out all the mattress workshops they could find. They made the skimpy polyester look padded. There was a shortage of those clever plastic clips so they rationed them – two instead of four. There was a premium on the Hi-Vis orange or red but they get away with green and even blue. You could see the women hesitating between the colors just like normal shopping. All counterfeiters rely on things being much stronger in the head of the consumer than their forensic ability to fossick out the truth. The consumer buys the concept (if I knew Greek better I’d like to say the ideational form) that the salesman sells them. When you buy a fake life jacket you are one hundred per cent satisfied as a consumer because you now own something which materializes the idea LIFEJACKET. It will go on faithfully doing that until you jump in the water on a dark night and get that uh-uh feeling square in the gut, a fraction before the water goes up your nose.
Somebody says we should rejoice. Look at the business activity, the side-shows this generates. Pass one hundred thousand people thru these sleepy seaside places in six months and see the villas that spring up, the car concessions, see the jobs the poor get polishing the marble. The long view, the one you can only get from the top floor of a skyscraper looking down like Orson Welles did from the Ferris wheel in The Third Man (tk reference) and seeing people as replaceable ants, or worms.
At what point one wonders does the long view morph into God’s care for all his creatures? Doesn’t feel anytime soon for me here seventeen hundred kilometers west of the trouble – I still own plenty of time to strip down to one suitcase of necessities, to learn to fire a gun. And yes, to buy the mother of all life-jackets.

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