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An Erratic Orbit

A bipolar perspective on the 3rd planet

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LGBTI

Identity

People often say to me “Dave, in today’s fraught and polarised world, how can I tell if I’m turning into a bigot?”

And I say,

“Have you found yourself using any of the following four phrases in a negative way, in some rant about things that you didn’t have much interest in until you found yourself turning either reddish pink, or with an almost imperceptible alteration to your skin tone ( because I don’t want to be “racist against white people” or bloodpressure-ist)? Have you found yourself getting angry and ranting, whether your skin colour changed to something resembling a joint of ham or not? Whether you’re white, straight, a farmer, a Tory, a foxhunter, an immigrant-hater, a murderer…. Whatever your orientation… whether you loathe the NHS or want to see us all vaporised in mutually assured nuclear destruction… Whoever you are, gammon or any other kind of red faced man. Or magistrate-

Peter Cook as a judge
Image: https://garethstack.com/category/history-of-comedy/

-Have you found yourself using any of the following four phrases in some kind of rant about how the world isn’t concentrating on The Important Things… ?”

Now I’m not trying to stereotype people, because I know there are people who say “I’m on the left. I bought that Sting album once. I sing along to Billy Bragg at festivals. I hate the Tories. I want the working class to, well, not own the means of production- Let’s not go overboard- but maybe smell the means of production. Or at least have weekend visitation rights to the means of production, for a small fee. And that small fee will help pay for a theatre project, perhaps. I don’t know. The point is, Dave, I’m not a right wing reactionary…I actually want to renationalise the railways and…stuff…”

…some people who would say those exact words without hesitation, deviation, or repetition… Yes them… some of these people might accidentally use the four phrases. So you see, its not a straightforward thing, turning into a bigot. It can sneak up on the most liberal people… And those four phrases that, if you use them disparagingly, might give you a clue you are turning into a reactionary bigot, or the supposed concepts they represent, are, according to people who are turning into reactionary bigots, the reason we aren’t living in a Socialist utopia like Canada (where workers can view the means of production through a coin operated telescope).

This country could be a paradise, so they say, were it not for four things:

Cultural Marxism.
Political Correctness Gone Mad.
Identity Politics.
And, Gary Lineker.

Gary Lineker
Image: Christophe95 (Wikipedia)

And you might say in response,

“Well… Hold on. What you’ve done there is yourself conflate four things you dislike but are all different. Namely, genuine right wing reactionaries, misguided liberals, unsophisticated Marxists who fear any challenge or nuanced approach to a tentative 19th century historical framework, and Piers Morgan.”

Maybe so but to me they are all the same. These minor differences of identity are irrelevant, I say, and cannot be allowed to detract from the overarching narrative. That is, they are all shitstains.

They say these four concepts are the REASON FOR the rise of fascism, the literal cause of Donald Trump. A Tanzanian Lesbian Mothers’ Bookclub: That’s what’s causes Nazis! Don’t know about you but I had to start worshipping Hitler when I heard about Disabled Irish Men Against Hate. How dare they? Fucking up our radical post-neoliberal economics with their collective organisation and critique of failures to put in wheelchair accessible entrances in Cork. No wonder America embraced the right. You made Steve Bannon happen, feminism, with your demands for maternity leave and equal pay.

Bing image search: Tanzanian Lesbian Mothers Bookclub

Then Piers Morgan or the dogmatic resident of the 19th Century says “No. It’s not those things. Obviously we are for those things. But the failure to put them in the proper socio-economic context allowed Thatcherism to take hold.” And I say, yeah, thats why the public rejected Keynesianism. Nothing to do with the oil crisis, unemployment, stagflation, or the undermining of the unions by various forces. It was black women in academia! It was Alan Turing having the thoughtlessness to get chemically castrated as a punishment for being gay despite not being remotely proletarian.

“But the GLC alienating the public by building multiculturalism when what the people needed is Volume 3 of Capital…”

Page from Capital Vol 3

Volume 3 of Karl Marx’s Capital, also known as ‘Raw Sex: The Hot Bits’.

“But all this about hedgehog flavour crisps insulting gays… It’s identity politics gone mad. It’s a Gary Lineker marketing ploy!”

It invariably turns out that it wasn’t like that at all. They got the wrong end of the stick.

“But what about all the books they are highlighting as racist? Why are they bringing attention to racist books? What harm have racist books ever done?”

Statue of Robert E Lee being taken down
Image: https://abcnews.go.com/US

“And the statues. General Lee… Wilfred Rhodes. Who next? Before you know it, they’ll be wanting to tear down the statue of Churchill. Or the one of Oliver Cromwell outside Parliament.”

I don’t discriminate. I don’t get bogged down in these insignificant differences of identity. So to all of those people:

Fuck off, Piers Morgan.

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George Michael 1963— Donald

We find it comforting to name impersonal forces. It may seem as though knowing the winds that totalled your car are called Barbara isn’t going to do much for you (and it’s entirely unfair on my elderly aunt) but personalization is at the heart of every inner storm too.

By this point, 2016 has earned a name of its own. The obvious choice is Donald. Capricious, petty, and no friend of musicians from the world of pop and rock. Donald killed an uncle of mine this year for good measure, although Happy Birthday at five eighths of a semitone lower or higher than everyone else aside, I don’t recall hearing him sing more than a couple of lines. 

We might have hoped that Donald had done its worst, its reign of terror almost over, but there was one more horrible surprise on Christmas Day.

​George Michael was a gay North Londoner. He sang about Finsbury Park. He struggled with prejudice and his identity. He cruised the West Heath. He was just nine years older than me. His end hits me harder than any of the famous others in 2016.

Finsbury Park
Finsbury Park. Image: http://www.lovehomeswap.com

Although there are no details of his death released yet, growing up gay in a prejudiced world certainly  contributed to physical and mental  health problems. 

You can’t ignore also that he was part of an immigrant population. Like many of the Georges, Michaels, and Chrisses I grew up with, Anglicizing your Greek name was what Greek Cypriots did to seek greater acceptance. Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou was no name for the cover of Smash Hits magazine. 

Although he never cast off the trappings of celebrity and wealth bestowed upon him at a young age, by his mid twenties he was maturing as artist, operating out of the mainstream yet producing a range of pieces with a subtly original twist. Some of his music is not just deeply moving, it is harrowing. These two aspects of his music set him apart from some prominent stars who will take this opportunity to appear on TV talking about his influence on them. George had that universality of appeal which ensured his fortune, but his lasting legacy will be beyond the attainment of almost all ex-Boy Band songwriters. 

On Christmas Eve I listened to John Lennon’s last interview, with Yoko Ono, a conversation with Andy Peebles of BBC Radio two days before he died. It was clear he was relaxed and happy to be part of a stable family. I don’t think George Michael ever found quite the same peace in life. I am not the only person who will find “John And Elvis Are Dead” an especially poignant song at this time. 

The thing he softly said
It stayed with me, it keeps messing with my head
If Jesus Christ is alive and well
Then how come John and Elvis are dead?

In common with Lennon, George Michael found a simple but penetrative honesty in some of his best songwriting that is rare in the world of pop. A Different Corner is one of my favourite pop songs in the whole world. Precious Box is a great crossover of 80s/90s club dance music and traditional songwriting “bout private feelings ‘n all”. Many people will think of songs from Listen Without Prejudice. Praying For Time will now forever be associated with the televisual history of Donald. If I’m going to choose one song to remember George by though, it would be remiss to not look death as squarely in the eye as he did. So it has to be this haunting one he wrote to himself. Of course there is something in it for everyone. Even Donalds. This is the album version. .  . 

Love you, George. 

A more reflective look at the Jacqueline Walker affair 

In the context of a torrid summer, the  timing of the suspension of a black member from the left of the Labour Party has naturally led many to feel this is the final straw. To suspend a black woman with Jewish heritage and a Jewish partner for anti-Semitism straight after conference and Momentum’s The World Transformed, while others have got away with all kinds of attacks,  was always going to appear to be to many another targeted smear  

Although not one person is free of prejudice, and the Party needs to be welcoming (and to black members especially), leadership requires responsibility. Is her position now untenable? Or where her remarks taken out of context? 

a mirror on a wall, reflecting a glass patio door
Image: http://blog.homedepot.com

As a member, Walker must accept the need for education, but here we get into the difficulty. Owen Smith began his leadership campaign with a homophobic dogwhistle and should have been suspended immediately. Several MPs, “normal” and singular, have failed to act in an exemplary manner, and have not been sanctioned for their conduct. Meanwhile, there are numerous examples of suspensions of members for petty reasons. At the very least The Compliance Unit have been heavy handed and until there is an inquiry into what has been dubbed “The Purge”, unity will be impossible to achieve. 

It is very hard to keep one’s head when all around others have demonstrably lost theirs. I called Owen Jones a “stooge” and I am sorry for that. This much is true: As things unravel, naked tensions reveal themselves. A white man commenting on the actions of a black woman becomes ever more problematic. 

The Labour Party, if it is to safely negotiate these troubled  times, does not have the option the Conservatives can employ: burying these tensions in the pursuit of mutual financial and career advancement. Can the necessary radical self-examinations take place on a personal level so that we can come together politically? Or is an explosive fragmentation inevitable? 

Can we apply the rules fairly? What can we accept? What can we accept about ourselves? What is an acceptable human flaw for a member of the Labour Party? How many mistakes can an individual make? How conscious must they be? What will we do about Owen Smith and Jacqueline Walker? And what will the outcome say about The Labour Party? 

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