The essay below is based on a combination of what I was thinking when I wrote the ‘Stormcock’ album, which was released in early 1971, and my thoughts about it over four decades later.
The conditions in which the thoughts for the inspirations occurred are largely the same in 2008. Certainly my state of mind, and particularly with regard to the subject matter, has only altered in that the experiences that garnered these compositions has been further reinforced. This piece is all about the kinds of ‘state of mind’ I had long before the album was thought about, that were automatically being built into a progression of prosodic statements I was committing to vinyl. Mental attitudes to the same kinds of questions I still find myself asking today, decades later. I find that very little has changed over the years since 1969 and that I still regard the content of the album as being wholly relevant to the 21st Century.
The subjects of the album; the human species, it’s state, it’s church and it’s law have changed very little in the intervening years. I still regard the church, the state and a lot of it’s laws as fundamental enemies of the species. In most instances the state has inevitably become even more systemized than it was at the time, and those systems have now really come into their own as mazes of monolithic obstacles to coherence. For the last few thousand years, the state has always been a necessarily speculative projection of what it might take to keep ourselves in some kind of order, but it’s never actually been accurate enough in either it’s aims or it’s collective means to accomplish the kind of order that has any hope of satisfying the progressive requirements of it’s citizenry. Order, however, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. For some of us, the state, it’s proclivities, religions, leaders, messages, and intent are all. For others among us it now represents little more than a gigantic cipher of failed intention. An incredible morass of truncated ‘fast food’ wisdoms doled out to billions of Orwellian proles by thousands of con-masters. At best, a stuttering host of temporary solutions to obvious and permanent problems of community. Bandages for heart disease.
The church is a continuing emotional and political failure, and an embarrassment to reason. The law is forever condemned to be behind the times it’s operating in, by some distance, because it can neither adjust to the speed of changing societies nor their shifting ethical views; and the species is in trouble because it’s mushrooming populations can never act to intercept the results of their own worst failings in time to stop consequent emergencies becoming even more threatening. There are positives, but in the current critical climate it’s difficult to bring such things as increased social awareness, medical improvements, spread of knowledge, technological advancement and the not so obvious supremacy of reason to bear, especially with the planet of the apes in such confusion.
You may find that this essay wanders into the high mountains, deep oceans and odd corners of the territories of these subjects in such a way that you find it difficult to understand, or follow, and seemingly into unnecessary perspectives. In which case you should stop here, get off the bus and go check the loony in the mirror. If you wish to stay on board, welcome to some of the inner machinations of a fellow traveler, who, in his youth, which is ongoing, thinks that there may be some questions that are not properly being addressed by his betters. And that the crises we now face were evident at least four decades ago…. and could have been at least partially addressed with earlier resorts to generosity of spirit, before they became global emergencies.
In 1967 I wrote, “The worst thing about the system is the system” (‘Circle’ on ‘Come Out Fighting Ghengis Smith’). This was three albums before ‘Stormcock’. Most of us knew these things back then. A lot of us were pushed aside by fashion, time and tide, but most of those who went on to lead us were absolutely fully aware that the rational world needed a fundamental shift in attitude in order to stem the continuing turmoil that has dogged us for thousands of years. What happened to us? What happened to that requirement? What happened to me? Is ego that important, I ask myself? When I finally look in the mirror, I realize that I didn’t measure up as a leader myself. Perhaps I had the tools, but I didn’t have sufficient ego to carry my own faction into enough political will to enable the consciousness of the need for immediate change to percolate through to mass acceptance. I’m angry with myself that I didn’t have that, and angry with the human world that no one else, among potential future leaders, thought that any kind of a fresh assessment of human social direction was anything like necessary. Why would they? After all, only a decade before, to paraphrase Harold Macmillan, the Conservative Prime Minister in 1955, they’d “never had it so good”…
I thought, when I was writing ‘Stormcock’, that all we would have to do would be to address our own generation with regard to the historical cynicism and general dishonesty that surrounds the politics of organized religion. We wouldn’t have to do any more than that, I thought. Just point things out. Ask people to be honest about what they were thinking. Following generations would then pick up from where we’d left off. To expose that dishonesty, I thought, would progress a lot of younger people’s thinking to a point where religion would automatically and rightly be understood to be some kind of archaic mental reflex that wasn’t necessarily that pertinent any longer. Particularly in it’s historical context, where clearly, ‘the church’ is, and always has been, a political instrument. I thought that all we had to do was to state the obvious, whereupon belief mechanisms like this would become out-moded as society became more able to put religion under a much more rigourous public scrutiny. That people would decide, by a huge consensus, that the past should be properly left in the past and that humanity should move on. I was wrong.
In fact, I’d assumed the future to the point of arrogance. While we all know that the next tide will be along before we know it, little did I know how effectively I was going to be washed away on that next cultural tide, along with a lot I held dear, and that it was going to happen so quickly. So, from a very positive start, thinking that the world will finally have to change it’s ideas in order to be able to present more freedom, more speedily, to more people, one quickly realizes that succeeding generations have.. and will all become.. prey to religious fantasy and manipulation…. Whatever is said.. by anyone. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the ‘savior’ will never come. There is better news than this though, which I’ll come to in a later fragment. Hopefully it won’t be as seemingly arrogant as that. For now, I’ll call it The Mystery.
I thought, when I was writing ‘Stormcock’, that personal religious emotion could also be guided by and towards empiricism. I was wrong. The great masses of human populations increasingly carry huge amounts of superstitious/religious baggage… for example, ‘confession’, in the roman catholic religious ritual, would seem to virtually absolve responsibility, while the hugely similar religion of Islam declares jihad and fatwa on populations and individuals who have crossed any one of a myriad lines drawn in the imaginary sands of seemingly static yet politically shifting sectarian tides. Most people aren’t looking for truth, or fact, they’re looking for the next crack in the pavement to step over. The next compulsive ritual to complete.
The majority in both religions are obviously moderates, but their voices are very often muted by the fashionable and impressionable raging hordes on streets east of Anatolia and west of Shrinigar, and the raving mad Palins in the US neocon christian outback and equivalent places in the ‘west’. (You would have to treat places like Gaza differently however, if only because extreme violence that has poverty and coercive marginalization at it’s root, on top of the oppression already being fed to the rank and file by their religion, cannot be said to be subject to the same mobocracy for quite the same fashion reasons. That some of it may be said to be self-inflicted in Gaza is a cause for extreme concern.*1. Also, it goes without saying that the recent spread into India seems to be purely political.)
This raises a question as to whether the discrepancy between what is seen in one society as seemingly oppressive, but perhaps might not be felt in another society as being that oppressive at all, can ever be measured by any social science. If only because people have grown up in a certain situation and are used to it; and are desensitized by their circumstances to varying degrees. Ethics can very often comprise opinions reached by pragmatism in certain stratas of human society. (I.e. arranged marriage). However, the manner in which people behave and react to conditions can surely provide clues as to a society’s health, strengths and weaknesses.
I was wrong to think that ‘we’ had the great ugly beast of religion on the ropes. It would be more realistic to think that it was the other way round. In the event, ‘we’ are nowhere near having it on the ropes, and increasingly we’re becoming a minority. When I say ‘we’, I’m thinking of all the free thinkers I knew or knew of in my youth.
One of the things I didn’t properly take into consideration was that fashion played such a huge role in the kind of human affairs that some of us would like to think of as being above fashion… but fashion rules the markets. And religion is fashionable again… in spades. You can almost hear repressive governments breathing sighs of relief. One of their major control tools is back. Enough to make even Vladimir manage a smile. More of that later.
When I was writing ‘Stormcock’, I thought that taking care of the environment would be a given, once research had really kicked in. I knew that it was late, but what I didn’t realize was how late it really was, I just felt lateness in my bones when I was writing ‘Space is just an ashtray/Flesh is my best wheel/The atmosphere’s my highway/and the landscape’s my next meal/I need my own good Friday/And I’m trying to fix the deal/Dead on arrival/right where I stand’.
Although many of us were really concerned, I don’t think that any of us at the time quite realized the potential speed of human assisted environmental evolution. Lots of us skipped through the first Gaia book, and we’ve noted its changes and progress as a theory over the last thirty odd years. Later there was The Biosphere Catalogue, which was much more like a technical access book, but just as enjoyable. But the original ‘Whole Earth Catalogue’ was the real inspiration for many of us. Some crazy and some great stuff in there, the kind of mix you’d want in a book like that. I particularly enjoyed some of the ads for tools and where to get them, ‘Freight hopping’, ‘How to have a green thumb without an aching back’, great builders tools, alternative living, hammocks, furniture and co-operative ventures everywhere. Thousands of things. Sometimes I wish I’d just gone to live in one of those places back there. Saved myself the trouble.
You could see a future world in lots of those ads, comments and ideas. Green and holistic medicine for our minds. There were some clues, and lots of us were party to them. The fact that we’d understood much more about the fragility of the environment by the time I wrote ‘Burn The World’ in 1983 again goes without saying. The speed of change had definitely been noted by then and of course random carbon dumping has moved on again from there. None-the-less, it was there for all to see in 1969, and it was a recognizable emergency that the hierarchies could all see but chose to take little notice of. It would have been easier to come to terms with had it been addressed at the time. After all, regardless of the speed of change, it was obvious by 1970.
There are people who resort to different premises for an alternative suggestion that the seemingly brief ‘warming’ phase we have recently been experiencing on the planet, (all through the 80s and 90s up until ’97), is part of a more natural phenomenon. That the world goes through warming and cooling phases. Agreed, but I don’t agree with giving that underlying premise too much time of day as scientific proof in the early 21st century. I think that there is just a little too much evidence in favour of ape-assisted climate change right now. The cool summer of 2008 here in the northern latitudes can perhaps be put down to more cloud (water) in the atmosphere up here, which is probably a by-product of a warmer world. (World temperature data would seem to have temperature on a plateau since 1997, but wasn’t it in 2003 that 14,802 people died in France due to high temperatures being sustained day and night through a two week period?).
I mention climate change here because I feel the need to point to it as an example of how humanity often shelves and attempts to postpone items that don’t seem as though they’re that urgent compared with getting to the next trading day on the stock markets. Religion is another of these. It’s not as important in the West and the Far East as is the state of the markets, but from Pakistan to Morocco it’s a different matter. With a couple of exceptions, the 2000+ years of a progressed Greco-Roman idea of an elected secular legislative body has no real currency east of Ankara. Here there are copycat media structures in place nominally equivalent to those in The West, with information, as biased as it often is in The West, reasonably available. But the political structures are not as liberated, the people are consequently poorer, equality with the power burning West is out of reach, and a self-knowledge of their own material whereabouts in the world has angered many of them, and particularly, it would seem, the deeply superstitious conservative poorer believers. In these circumstances, their well established religion is all-powerful. With the support of a billion such believers, it becomes a potential revolutionary force for world change. So what does this force say? What does that mean? And how does it say it? What kind of change can it bring about? And how? These are the type of questions most frequently asked on current affairs forums presented by mainstream world media.
The answers to such questions obviously lie in trying to look into the future. But 20-20 vision isn’t even possible when looking into the past, into what history tells us has already happened. Talk to a thousand people and there will be a thousand different versions of events. The answers to the above questions can perhaps be said to lie in a consensus of interpretation of this religiopolitik. Interpretation, however, (which is all we have as open and free-thinkers in these circumstances), is fluid.
In a conversation with a friend recently, I managed to reasonably articulate what I’ve been thinking for some time with regard to interpretation. Interpretation has always presented problems for traditional culture; indeed, for anyone who is trying to interpret law, customs and societies as being in some kind of a glorious stasis. We all develop, and understand, in different ways. Culture covers the whole of human activity that is in any way passed on to succeeding generations. In effect it amounts to many differing chosen ways of life, and expresses everything we are that is learned over time, i.e., any cultural intelligence we take on board that isn’t innate. Literature, customs, science, language, art, manners, and religion are just a few such learned items, and none remain static. Roughly, this was what I said to him at the time.
“We are the sum of our culture.. At any given moment…. All creatures on the planet, to a greater or lesser extent, can be said to have a culture, but none of the others has a written history of it’s culture, of it’s consciousness. (A growing consciousness of itself in the cosmos. An actual diary of the evolution of human thought over the last 7000 years or so. Since we rapidly began to evolve sprawling cities, retractable philosophies and codes for communicating thought).
We don’t have anything more valuable than our culture, but human culture is all about the evolution of interpretation”.
Thus, for instance, the christian tenth commandment originally read, ‘Neither shall you desire your neighbour’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour’; but about 300 years later, in Islamic text, that apparently becomes ‘And do not covet what we bestowed upon any other people. Such are temporary ornaments of this life, whereby we put them to the test. What your Lord provides for you is far better, and everlasting’; which in later Judaic text mutates to “Do not covert your neighbour’s wife.” All of these were purportedly delivered to Moses on Mt Sinai by god as the tenth Commandment! The first question to ask in this particular instance is which 2 of these are interpretations? Or is it 3?! Or, more realistically, what’s up doc?
In trying to address the original questions posed 6 paragraphs above, there are ongoing serious problems. One basic problem a particular set of ‘believers’ have is that their religion, Islam, has conspicuously feudalized them for a thousand years. (christianity did the same thing between c. the seventh and seventeenth centuries). A much freer expression has been developed elsewhere, mainly by revolution. Industrial and political revolutions have been important in developing mass awareness. When such revolutions are disqualified by religion, or contained within religion, there is next to no real social progress or mobility. A thousand years ago, the Middle East was a long way ahead of what is now The West in understanding science and applying medicine. Medical procedures and implements were being used in Alexandria and Bagdad that wouldn’t be re-discovered and used again until post Renaissance, and many wouldn’t be used again for the best part of a thousand years, but we’ve been here before.. Suffice to say that two or three religions have largely blocked the progress of clinical medicine between India and the Outer Hebrides, and all points north and south, for a thousand years.. enough said.
So, the problem with having a revolutionary force of a billion is managing to get it to articulate with a single voice; but this is impossible because that voice can never be unified. It’s more extreme manifestation can bomb the whole world into development of expensive firewall security systems that double travel times, and ration oil sales until oil is outmoded by cheaper sources of fuel, but extreme and sudden change is not going to work. There’s too much vested interest elsewhere in the world for that kind of a faction to become any more of a danger. In twenty years time, it’s possible that the middle classes in China, India and Russia are going to be looking at the rusty conflict between The West and Islam as a fairly small side-show. This relegates what Islam and christianity mean to that same sideshow. China and Russia are not encumbered by having courts with mountains of human rights to defend, so that in spite of Uighurs, Chechens, Georgians, Tibetans, Kurds and all the rest being part of their peripheral borderlands, not much in the way of equal rights are going to be shown to those who are not toeing the one-party line; and that would include any encroachment by any religion, or external faction, into state affairs.
Although the Russian Orthodox Church has a nominal support of over a hundred million people worldwide, there are not that many of them who actually ‘go to church’. The church is separated from the state in Russia, non-existent in China and wonderfully coloured, diverse and folk orientated in India, with absolutely no threat to the secular state. (Although the small minority of Indian Muslim extremists would have us think otherwise). At the same time, it has to be said, in all truth, that although many young muslim men celebrate Aasoora by beating themselves with chains and swords in the streets, it’s likely that the great mass of the muslim public are likely to want to settle for an easier life. Particularly if they can develop systems that encourage the growth of a better-off middle class. The problem there will be to separate the church from the state. Not easy when the church has all the power. Oh how the Palins and other factions of the American bible belt would love that to be their lot! To counter the bible belt faction, secular education has to start and be continually buttressed with the prolonged establishment of real basic human rights that are suggested rather by integrity and modern common sense than ancient scripture and mumbo-jumbo.
A billion lurk
As children work
Meanwhile, back at Camp Goliath, the kind of infrastructure required to enhance rational medical advancement and decision-making is still being stalled by a proxy religious superstition. The simple reason for this is that personal freedom of expression is severely curtailed by draconian religious (and political) practices in places where thinking outside of the bubble can invite severe penalty. (There are potential genetic treatments for disease being hampered by law that was anachronistic a thousand years ago. None of us would be suggesting a free-for-all, ethical care must be taken, but disease and death invariably involve pain and suffering, and personally, I’d like to fight all four of those with all reasonable means. I realize that this is controversial, but the quest for longevity is going to continue anyway.) So, until such time as it is recognized that a longer and healthier working life will benefit humanity in terms of helping the species to avoid obvious repetitive historical errors, and there is a general social imperative to do so, change will continue to be disqualified by religious pressures. Life could be more valuable than it is at present.
There’s the view from another side of a different coin, which would roughly read, ‘Is so-called ‘progress’ for the best? ‘Does The West need slowing down?’ Well, yes, but it’s too late, because the materialistic process engendered by the nature of the politics evolved and the industries invented in The West has long since gone global and is now burning the whole world: and no, because you’d entrench poverty for a few generations, you’d reduce the pace of emancipation and you’d miss rapid technological and medical advances if you slowed it all down. There’s risk in both. Many would also say that in slowing it you would also miss the kind of social advancement that liberal politics promotes…. but attempts to qualify definitions of ‘liberal politics’ and ‘social advancement’, such as ‘equal rights for women in Riyadh’ v ‘screaming drunken sirens in the streets in Ribchester’, would be quite subjective, and would imply intense philosophical considerations outside of the intended simplicity of this essay. Add to the above that China, Russia and India are now firmly in this mix; and that none of them will be in the mood to ‘slow down’, and you have a pretty pickle, as they used to say…
It’s my view, and it has been since circa 1977, that world politics is necessarily swinging to the right. There were brief periods in the 20th century before 1977 when commonality of purpose was sought by widespread agreement. There were periods when the so-called ‘intelligentsia’ comprised of huge numbers of students, alumni and artisans who had a shared feeling that they were taking part in the great societal decision making of the day. I don’t feel that this is the case any longer. I think that decision making is now in the hands of expert lawyer politicians and professional paper reading bureaucrats such as the hugely indispensable, (to himself), European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson. People who play chess with the lives of millions, all on paper.
Example. (Ireland, Italy, Poland and Lithuania [among others, including the USA] expressed misgivings about the latest WTO proposals on agriculture and industrial goods in July 2008, saying that the 27-nation EU is giving up much more than it’s getting back. They say that Europe is compromising more on cutting farm aid than developing nations such as Brazil and India are on opening their markets to European products and services.) The take on Irish radio in August 2008 was that the WTO is seemingly trying to trade European agriculture off for a better deal for ‘services’ in the latest WTO (Doha) trade round. French President Sarkozy stepped in with the threat of a virtual French veto, backed by the aforementioned countries, who can’t afford to guess that by dropping farm subsidies and the like they will actually in the long run contribute to feeding people. Including their own people. At a time when food has doubled in price in a very short time, a French farming representative was reported as saying “Is food not more important than finance?” The Brits didn’t seem to say that much.. farming in Britain would seem to be much less of a priority than swapping it for jobs in ‘the city’. Mandelson’s most ‘altruistic’ view may very well be that he’s attempting to feed Africa, but it may very well be at the expense of inflation, poverty and further crises in Marseilles, Glasgow, Warsaw, Belfast, Rotterdam, Liverpool, Bratislava, you name it.
In the wake of the collapse of the markets in the last few days and weeks, jobs in the city have come under the kind of scrutiny that should have been being exercised since The Great Depression. Yet another example of the kind of compartmentalization of memory that automatically leads to repetition of historical error. Another symptom of gathering global malaise you might say, but globalization is going to be prone to the same slings and arrows of supply and demand which were already evident in the Dutch tulip boom of 1637, the famous South Sea Bubble of 1720 right through to the Dot com bubble on the millennium, the housing bubbles and now the Credit Crunch. It’s not as if no one knew.. most people did, but that’s an article for another day.
Whether bureaucrats can be successfully trusted to feed the world or not, rather than themselves, is still open to serious doubt. Personally, I think that it would require doctorates in pocket snooker and marbles to even be able to successfully develop a position on this one, but that’s the point; it would take at least a year of study to develop a mature view. By which time it’ll have moved on again! A job for a boffin/political nerd. But what kind of a job is that? Can we trust the future to be negotiated and regulated away by people we don’t know, can’t understand, and cannot identify with? Whose only life is one of studying political maneuvering, while not sharing the real down to earth experience that most of us have? Will we absolutely have to be resigned to trusting representatives who are always going to be economical with particular versions of the truth, and sometimes our own? Are questions of destiny now truly out of our hands? Are we now palpably..losing a certain grip? And when did we start to lose it? Was it 3000 years ago; or 150,000 years ago? When Barnie became Caligula’s horse or when Constantine blinked..
The point in trying to bring this to your notice in this piece is that I think the system now has us by the balls and our voice(s) as working people is likely to become increasingly restricted. The rebirth of religion confirms this bureaucratization and drift to the right. (When crises arrive, and instability threatens, conservatism kicks in further, and one of the first results can often be seen to be the erosion of rights that have been fought for over long periods of time.) Controlling billions of people demands a more strict obedience to the letter of the law. The spirit of the law can be exercised in individual circumstances, but the letter of the law is none negotiable insofar as it’s public application is concerned. We can now see various models of this throughout the world. Singapore is a ‘successful’ model (of the law being observed to the letter by over 95% of the populace), whereas Zimbabwe is currently and obviously a failed model, even though they have been peas in the same kind of pod. China will be interested in ‘buying’ territories like Zimbabwe in Africa and South America where it can introduce the successful Singaporean model. Religion won’t matter that much, because the state is powerful enough to crush it, assimilate it and virtually ignore it; and use it as a tool, much as Augustan Rome did. And of course the patriarchs obey, kowtow and play second fiddle.. until such time as the state is in collapse and needs religion to whip up the ‘god fearing’ superstitious into armies of martyrs to keep the new heathens from breeching the borders. Boom and bust…
While acknowledging that we have what we hold, in law, from our ‘democratic’ peak, this begs all kinds of questions, including.. was ‘the left’ ever anything more than a pipe dream? Could it ever have made the leap from philosophy to reality among sufficient numbers of an animal who’s primary strength lies in its conservative nature? And, when you think about it, it wouldn’t be too far off the mark to suggest that one of the main reasons that climate change is still not being addressed with the urgency that it should be is that a selfish, (in all senses of the word), and conservative nature has been part and parcel of the survival of the animal to this point. But qualities that have benefited by, and a lot of times overcome, successive crises of critical masses of first, family, secondly, tribal, and then thirdly national management; and then with some greater difficulty management crises of critical mass at international level, may finally be unable to respond with anything timely by way of decision-making as the animal is subjected to having to make decisions that are truly global in scale. A critical mass may be reached that can no longer sustain, curtail or regulate it’s growth on the planet without potential catastrophe. Understanding the scale of this is perhaps not beyond the reaches of present intelligence, but it’s definitely beyond all means of present control. This begs another question.
What kind of a life
In spite of the ‘it’s not really happening’ argument, re-climate change, which for me is extremely hard to believe and is actually just a sidetrack here, I continue to feel that a much more pressing concern among us has to be directed towards an honest appraisal of our belief systems, because I think that a cumulative trait in human behaviour has lead us into real mental, physical, emotional and material chaos. You can shout at me through a megaphone at my death-bedside to the effect that religion doesn’t lead to dereliction of responsibility, and therefore ultimately to chaos, but I’d like to be more honest than that. It’s important to me to be as honest as I can be about what I perceive to be general human matters. My character depends on that. And that particular kind of inner character I have is telling me that religion has to be treated with extreme caution. I constantly re-examine this, and I constantly question my inner character, but it’s told me that same thing now for a lifetime. I rarely articulate these thoughts adequately as they fly through in thought time, but they’re still the same as they always were, and ‘extreme caution’ is the kind of emotional response that arrives with an honest evaluation of religion.
With regard to how I feel about the concept of honesty, and how I deal with it, I would like to say this…. In my dealings with myself, I’m ruthlessly honest, and so the songs are written with this as an underlying tenet. In my dealings with others, my level of honesty varies. In my own experience, government is largely dishonest, so I play that one with my cards to my chest. A lot of organizations and corporations used to try to mirror the general ethic of their combined workforce, or was that vice-versa which I used to deal with in kind.
In the impersonal ‘everyone for herself’ world of post 1977, this is no longer the case. As the combined weight of debt and expectancy has engulfed a ballooning population, there’s been a mad dash to get onto whichever ladder is nearest to avoid a perceived encroaching public poverty, and to avoid the worst privations and insecurities of potential over-population. With the thinning of most of the traditional profit margins and progression of consumer law, the bigger corporations now have to act in a very impersonal manner, and I often find myself writing to them to remind them that they are not behaving with respect, or not delivering as promised. I nearly always need to be as dishonest with them as they are with me. There are surely supposed to be items in the usual ‘terms and conditions’ that favour an equality between consumer and company, but these can never be weighted in favour of the woman in the street. The markets would collapse forever if they were, if every honest working person could be recompensed for every perceptible penny lost. Credit would finally be crunched… but alas, that’s not going to happen until the actual deluge, because civilization has to rely on ripping it’s population off with taxes and short change to oil itself, to continue to grease the wheels.
Despite a potential for changing populations to impact on living standards, there’s an obvious security, but also a great dishonesty, as there always was, in hiding among great numbers of people. In corporations, in religions and in general politics. Fish, herds, and most birds gather in times of extreme danger to try to avoid personal fatality. A flock of fifty sheep has a hundred eyes. When one has seen you.. they’ve all seen you. The flock mentality has to be maintained. Most of their time is spent with eyes to the ground. Humans have adapted this primeval protective trait in the modern world, and now often hide in great numbers to avoid personal reality. Eventually, however, this has had the effect of enabling the vast majority to switch off… to effectively become a sidelined proletariat divorced from a reality that has nothing like the same connection to the planet it might have had even 3000 years ago. For instance, a local knowledge of medicinal herbs is now lost to the majority and is presently stored in the secret patented vaults of a minority of one in a million instead of at least one per village, as once it would have been: which isn’t a dishonesty in itself, but springs from an alienation experienced in concrete jungles and the like that we have to associate with deceits that seem to be common to over-population.
In my dealings with acquaintances and lovers, my honesty varies according to how demanding, giving, obnoxious, loving or overbearing they’re being. Balance and composure are the keys, and I’m not always perfect. In my dealings with friends, I’m an open book. What you see is what you get, and I’ll level with you permanently; you are of me, and I am of you.
I realize that being largely honest is unfashionable in the present iffy-drenched demimonde of disingenuous celebrity, and that this is likely to get a lot worse before it gets any better, but there may come a time again when human character is examined more closely by circumstance than it is at present. Well.. it’s conceivable. Post deluge perhaps!? I’m not talking about white lying, daydreaming, committing so-called adultery, being flakey or breaking any one rule of the many ethical codes set up by well-intentioned former law makers; I’m talking about owning up to fact.. as in exhaustively tested and 99% proven, accurate information. Like, admitting that red is an accepted shade in the generally accepted spectrum perceived by the average human eye. If you’re colour blind, then as one whispering snooker commentator famously told his TV audience, ‘For those of you watching in black and white, the blue is behind the pink’.
You may just be ‘fact blind’, however. A lot of people are. This is not to discount imagination of course, just to say that some of us regularly use our imaginations in ways that relate to observation and experiment, or at least to trial and error. A world in which theory is put to the test. At it’s very very best, religion is theory. Of the imagination; and very little else. There is no proof, for or against, as to the existence of any god. Nor is there ever likely to be. The discovery of beings with greater intelligence than we have is possible, but they’ll possibly be every bit as shady as we are… but who knows, time travel may involve the necessity to gain a capacity for innate integrity. Profound honesty. Who knows what exigencies lie ahead? Mental and physiological…
However, going back to ‘extreme caution’ being the kind of emotional response that arrives with an honest evaluation of religion, I would also have to say that religion promotes and goes hand in glove with conservative politics. I would go as far as to say that fascism and religion are ideal suitors. In practice, catholicism and the one party state always seem to be strange bedfellows, but they’re two farthings in the same halfpenny. They’re both autocratic, both dogmatic, pedantic, strict and doctrinaire. With no room for maneuver. And a worry bead’s breadth divides a part-time believer from a full-blown suicide bomber.
To sum up my feelings before I start to discuss ‘The Code In The Artwork’, I’d like to say this. With regard to a call for extreme caution when dealing with religionism, I feel that one of the most disappointing aspects of the drift back into the fantasy of religion is that generally the youth appear to have been successfully conned by themselves and their own peers into allowing a new fashion for religion to gain hold again, and, it would appear, simply because they seem to feel that there’s an emotional hole to fill that they have to fill immediately. A hole that the majority obviously feels it can only fill with fantasy. In order to be instantly gratified. On a par with retail therapy, we have instant emotional therapy, with a reactionary and nostalgic flavour. For someone like me, it’s like seeing your life’s work in flames, and beyond rescue. It’s like a re-visitation, on your deathbed, of all the historical mistakes ever committed. It’s like seeing Caligula, followed 2000 years later by Hitler, through a long line of callous idiots, with no lessons learned, just savagery, whim, stupidity, cynicism, butchery, carelessness and brutality forever repeated, ad nauseam. With a repetitive comedic edge thrown in. A virtual world, whose ‘god’ remains untested; and can never BE tested.
The great consensus of ‘the wise’ consider it bad form.. almost illegal.. immoral.. to test ‘god’. To free the general population of a conformity that is still perceived by the masters to be a helpful constraint against individualism. Like, “Is Joe Bloggs going to risk his own fantasy supernatural life after death by gainsaying his betters?” Not really. Nor would the masters ever challenge Joe Bloggs’ idea of what’s going to happen to him when he finally crumples… so long as he keeps it to himself… and keeps his nose clean… ‘God’ will never be tested. This isn’t because ‘He’ can’t be, but simply because the ape status quo just doesn’t have the wherewithal to ban it’s major opiate, the bollocks to own up to a few thousand years of bollocks, the willingness to use ancient and beautiful church buildings for wider community purposes or the heart to disinherit a billion prostrate grandmas on the eve of the abyss. But this god is not benign.
One of the major contributors to the survival of religion in it’s present form is the generally accepted reality that organized force is always ‘right’. This has always been the case, and will continue to be so. When the Romans invaded Britain a couple of thousand years ago, the local inhabitants were easy meat. The main reason for this was that instead of recognizing the invading Empire for what it was, and joining forces to try to defeat it, all who were not initially wooed by the Roman way of life then took it in turns to take on a superior fighting machine of professional career soldiers.. and all, in turn, lost. The thought that they could have joined forces and developed joint strategies was too complex for them to be able to grasp. There were too many imponderables. Too many different universes to take into consideration. Too many issues that were unapproachable for them. They would have had to have integrated with people who were sworn enemies.*2
The way the ancients confronted the Roman invasion is equivalent to how modern secular people generally act when confronted by religion. They certainly don’t fight as an army. More often than not, they just about make their voices heard as singular entities at ‘letters to the editor’ level. They rarely band together, because, in their own ranks, they know that there are so many different shades of opinion, interpretation and awareness that what you have is the human equivalent of a herd of cats. And they never went anywhere other than further apart, and one of the real reasons for that is that there are billions of unique reasons among secularists which would lead to mutual, but distant, respect. This is not a fighting machine. The Bishop of Lancaster wins hands down. He wants to ‘stop ‘safe sex’ education, and place crucifixes in all classrooms’. There are at least 3 people who agree with him, so that the cats are always out-numbered. Such is the life of a cat. You know that for most of the time, the ‘will of the people’ is in oily hands. Look in the mirror. What you see in there is often a slippery customer. (A poacher with a gamekeeper’s mentality perhaps, or vice ver..) So we don’t really fight.. on the secular side of the fence.. we’re generally too polite, understanding and respectful. Well I’m tired of that, especially now that the human world is really beginning to suffer from the blind stupidity of state organised superstition, deaf politics and dumb global cacophony. I’ve had forty years of this. I’ve tried to speak out, but I’m not really a performer, an orator or a politician. So what does a pretty simple hermit who thinks a bit, writes musical poems and drinks the odd pint of bitter do about it? He continues to write down, from the bunker, selections of odd notes he hears, echoing across the vast canyons of millennia, in an attempt to finally establish the overdue independent free thinker in the written minutes of a liberated future.
*1 Neo-con Israel is the same thorn as Palestinian Hamas, but with hard work the situation there will hopefully calm and become more realistic. Eventually, there can be an acceptance of each other’s differences, especially if the Palestinians can recognize that the Israelis cannot just leave, and the Israelis can resist building on what is Palestinian land!
*2 When the Romans left again post 420AD, they perhaps left some useful forensic info behind which had remained intact during the near 400 years of occupation, namely vague tribal boundaries. The regional English accents surviving today perhaps betray something of the original tribal areas that survive alongside them. These tribal boundaries were largely untouched by either the Roman invasion or the ‘invading’, (but mostly peaceful) Anglo-Saxon language that arrived in the fifth and sixth century AD from across the North Sea. Anglo-Saxon had necessarily reached proportions of lingua franca in the Post-Roman Britain of the seventh century, and was obviously used by Saxon and Celt alike to trade, to exchange information and to live in the new way. However, it seems obvious to me that the original physical and metaphysical impression of those ancient Celtic dominions remains on the terrain and also in the culture by way of a host of variable Anglo-Saxon accent imprints which were very firmly established by 800AD. The further west and north you go, the more ‘barth’ becomes ‘bath’, and etc, etc, etc.. What is now Lancashire learned an Anglo-Saxon with a different accent than Yorkshire; Essex a different one than Wessex.
Copyright 2008 Roy Harper