Friday, 3 April 2020

Weekender 3: The Chance We Must Take

Looks like it's going to be nice for the weekend.

I broke the rules though. I went for an 'extra' walk today (and yesterday, although that was for provisions). Living in the countryside has its pros and cons: one benefit is it's easier to get fresh air and keep social distance. There's a lot of distance, just no much social! When you do see people, you can tell they think the same. People hunger for freedom and oxygen.

It's peculiar. A slight on the ordinary as though being outside is false. Normally I walk early in the morning; right after getting up because I know how quiet that period is. You get the odd early bird of course. Popping out for fifteen-twenty minutes after lunch, however, feels like absconding. Doing something normally familiar has a breathless touch of the forbidden. Like skipping school to come home early: being in a familiar place at the 'wrong' time,

Until the school rings up and asks why you skipped PE. I got more exercise riding home on my bike, and besides PE is (or certainly was) a giant waste of time!

I think the sunlight is going to provide the defining factor for this lockdown (that and the virus!). It's going to compel people into the outdoors. Certainly locally where we have the blessing of open countryside. I feel for people stuck in towns or tower blocks that don't have this luxury.

This situation is a mixture of things, making it a very alien time. On one hand there is the terror of an incurable plague over which our inept leaders have no control. But on the other there is an opportunity to take stock (where possible). Where behaviours can change. I hope that's an attitude I can carry forward, along with my newfound appreciation for taking a bath (instead of a shower). Suddenly old habits are thrown into sharp relief; somethings just aren't so important anymore.

Coming out of this, eventually (and hopefully properly), I sense the potential for a new outlook. Maybe others will feel the same. Beyond the deadly importance of politics and right through society. A shot in the arm of the social body We're forced to witness a brief renewal of the outside world; a taste of victory in the coming climate crisis - perhaps the next big struggle.

Where once planet earth shrank at our touch, now its the reverse. As we recoil, locking ourselves away from the microbial rampage, nature has the chance to out itself. The virus is nature, and it's a fight we can't win on its terms. We must find better measures, in the process learn a little humility. We cannot return to coughing up our lungs and spewing dirt and misery over sky and sea. Precious, this world is. A jewel in mute self renewal.

This could be, when all is said and done, the best chance in our lifetimes for real change. It won't be easy of course. There is no doubt the economic shock to the capitalist system will affect many, quite deeply. The capitalists will revert to type; they will impose heavy asuerity and cuts but we must resist. They will demand a heavy toll; but there must be no levy on our right to survive. The puppet master has been exposed. We see how the trick is done and you've been found wanting.

Our time will come soon. It may never come again.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Lockdown Tales: Toilet Rolls Will Be Our Epitaph

Praise the clockwork precision of an impersonal universe, Tesco seems to be restocked!

Or maybe I just got lucky this morning, before the crazy people arrived. Still the toilet roll supply is diminished. Will this nonsense never end? What is wrong with people (other than perhaps diarrhea) - there is no reason (other than perhaps diarrhea) for people to do this?

Here lies humanity, death by dearth of bog roll.

Some alien foreman in the Vogon Construction HQ, planning to build that hyperspace bypass through our pale blue dot, will gloss over that in the Galactic Obituaries section of the Interstellar Echo newspaper.

Toilet paper.

Flushed civilisation.

Tesco also doesn't seem to smell of disinfectant, but I may have visited between cleaning cycles. Staff still wear gloves. I still wear gloves, it's still bloody cold in the mornings. Still food appears to be on the shelves. As it should be - as it must be. There is no rationale for panic buying except fear. Sadly people are frightened. It's understandable. It's just not sustainable.

Now them, who's clapping?

I've never seen something so fundamental and so moving that ordinary people do, right on their doorstep. This is a message with real depth expressed so simply and yet so sharply. People care, Mr Johnson. But they don't care about you.

This expression cannot be corrupted or co opted, I feel. Don't dare to try and do so either, Tories, you will not win. This is real. It's not a confection; a manufactured sentiment like a greetings card. Every clap is a real expression of real human sentiment. That cannot be anything other than authentic. It cannot be faked.

The genie is out of the bottle now; the emperor's clothes are a canard. The days for this government must be numbered. They cannot endure this and we must make sure they don't. As was said upon the oh-so tragic demise of Maggie Thatcher (the milk snatcher):

Tramp. The. Dirt. Down.

Clap for support. Clap for life. Life will out.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Lockdown Tales: Workers Charter (c/o the Socialist Party of England and Wales)

Today's entry features the Workers Charter, authored by the Socialist Party of England and Wales. I fully agree with these demands. We must settle for nothing less because if we don't capitalism and its adherents will proliferate like weeds, returning to try and claim what they think is theirs. They will scapegoat whomever they can for this crisis. Unlike the banking crisis they cannot blame Labour. The Tories are alone here, but with the aid of the vile media (complicit in much of their conduct) they will seek to scapegoat the working class: people walking their dogs, people working in 'non essential' services, even doctors (for daring to call out the Tories - you watch).

There is nowhere for them to turn, they are caught in a hall of mirrors now and must be kept there. Facing their own shame and ineptitude, exposing this wretched system for what it has done - and would do again. Already we see business and capitalists seeking to exploit the situation: look at Amazon. While covid ferments (I've no doubt) in the pressure cooker warehouse environments, workers will be exploited as consumer society turns to Amazon to provide for them. They know this and so we must show solidarity with workers. Get what you need if you must, there's no shame in that (I'm going to have to), but be aware of how Amazon wants to benefit from this. Crisis is capitalism and crisis is opportunity in capitalism. That's part of hte shock doctrine of course.

Labour crowns its new leader this weekend, assuming anyone remembers the leadership contest. It's likely that Keir Starmer will win. A dyed in the wool centrist and man of the establishment. His politics offer nothing. Meanwhile his opponent, Rebecca Long Bailey is seen as the Corbyn candidate. But she has very little to offer. Labour are irrelevant now. It's up to us. It doesn't matter which of them wins, they will become marginalised, small, and ultimately inconsequential. More importantly they will become ineffective. Whatever happens, the Corbyn supporters will become increasingly disillusioned and leave. A husk will remain, compliant to the needs of the state, only with a softer glove than the iron fist of the Tories.

What this means for the working class is an ipportunity to meet crisis-riddled capitalism with a vigorous new, or reinvigorated, movement. The chance for the angry exploited working class, currently locked down or struggling (or both) to express that anger en masse. As it should be, on the streets.

National Health Service
  • Emergency increase in funding for the NHS and for social care
  • Adequate protection for all front-line workers
  • NHS to take over private healthcare facilities and staff, and any other private facilities necessary for care, quarantine, and supplies. No compensation to the private fat cats
  • Emergency training of NHS staff to deal with the coronavirus crisis
  • Resources to be mobilised from government and big-business sources so that anyone with flu or cold-like symptoms has the right to a free coronavirus test with results available within hours, as has been the case in South Korea and some other countries. Requisition private testing and analysis facilities
  • Increase production to meet the urgent need for more protective and medical equipment, including ventilators and virus testing. Convert production where necessary, under the democratic control of workers in those industries and in the wider workforce
  • Reverse privatisation in the NHS, remove the privateers and cancel all the estimated £50 billion annual PFI payments
  • Nationalise the big pharmaceutical companies to guarantee research, production and supply of medicines, vaccines and treatments
  • Suspend fees for overseas NHS patients - treat all patients for free without the need to register to control the spread. Scrap prescription charges

Pay and benefits

  • Work or full pay. Workers, especially those on low pay, can’t afford to lose 20% of their income. Any worker who has to self-isolate or cannot go to work should receive full pay from day one and not be forced to take annual leave. Pay should be paid directly to the worker not via the employer
  • Increase benefits to the level of the national minimum wage. No delay in the payment of benefits
  • Increase the minimum wage immediately to at least £12 an hour, £15 in London
  • Workers who follow health advice to be absent from work to avoid potential spread should be excluded from any attendance-management procedures
  • Open the books of any company threatening redundancies or closure, to inspection by the workforce and trade unions
  • To defend workers' jobs and incomes, industries should be nationalised under democratic workers' control and management with compensation only on the basis of proven need

Public services and housing

  • Emergency funding to take on more workers in essential services. Resources to protect workers, patients, and service users
  • Councils to coordinate a local response. Scrap existing cuts budgets. Councils to use reserves and borrowing powers to fund necessary jobs and services
  • 24 hour helpline for vulnerable and elderly people forced to self-isolate. Community and trade union control over local distribution of food, medicines and other supplies
  • Workload demands must be reduced and time made available to prioritise protecting the health, safety and welfare of staff and service users. Workers asked to work from home must be supplied with adequate equipment and performance monitoring should be scrapped
  • No school to be expected to remain open unless they have staffing levels and sufficient cleaning, testing and hand-washing provision to control the spread of infection. No to any removal of statutory class size limits
  • If schools close, all staff must receive full pay. Quality childcare for vulnerable families and children of essential workers must be organised under the democratic control of education and care workers, with adequate protection for all. Emergency local authority provision of meals to children normally in receipt of free school meals under community and trade union control
  • Nobody should lose their home because of coronavirus. Mortgage and rent payments should be suspended. Government funds for democratically controlled local authority hardship funds for landlords in genuine need
  • Councils to take over empty homes to house the homeless and those in inadequate housing. Hotels to be used to provide emergency accommodation
  • Funding for 24 hour helplines and emergency accommodation for victims of domestic violence
  • No action to be taken for non-payment of utilities. Free broadband for all

Trade union and workers' action

  • Trade unions to establish an all-union health and safety committee in every workplace to agree joint actions required to guarantee safety
  • For the Trade Union Congress and the unions, the biggest voluntary national organisation with over six million members across the country, to prepare to lead national coordinated strike action to protect people should necessary health and safety measures not be taken
  • Democratic trade union oversight over any government or private sector emergency measures taken to contain the virus, such as restrictions on public assemblies or strikes and supermarket supply rationing
  • No profiteering. Prices to be controlled by democratically elected committees of workers and consumers
  • No erosion of workers' right to organise, including the democratic functioning of trade unions and parties
  • No trust in the Tories and other pro-capitalist politicians who are responsible for the crisis in the NHS and other public services to deal with the coronavirus crisis. For a mass workers' party, drawing together workers, young people, socialists and activists from workplaces and community, environmental, anti-racist and anti-cuts campaigns, to provide a fighting political alternative to the pro-big business parties
  • The resources are there to deal with the crisis. Introduce an immediate 50% levy on the hoarded £750 billion lying idle in the bank accounts of big business
  • The capitalist market system that prioritises profit and is based on competition cannot keep society safe. We need a democratic socialist plan of production and distribution to meet the needs of the majority in society. Take into public ownership the banks, financial institutions and the top 150 companies that dominate the British economy and run them under the democratic control and management of working-class people so that we can make the decisions about what is needed. Compensation to be paid only on the basis of proven need.
  • For international socialist cooperation

(source here)

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Lockdown Tales: Are We Doing The Right Thing?

Some genius from XR was saying the government are to be writing out to people telling them that lockdown conditions are set to get harsher. I've no idea if this is true, XR are unfortunately prone to hyperbole. I'm not sure what this means. In fact I'm not even sure the post is working! My greatest fear: rationing. Though I think that (hope to god!) unlikely as it would be an administrative nightmare. Not that that ever stops these idiots in charge.

I just put the bins out. A very weird experience for something so mundane. But that's how it is now. Everything has a weird yet invisible sheen. As if the perimeter of the property, when I place the bins, has some social shielding I must not breach. I feel the eyes of the neighbourhood peering out to ensure correct protocols are enforced. Are the bins even 'clean'? What will I catch from the bins after they have been cleaned? A million insane questions spin; the product of a world gone mad.

Sometimes I wonder if we are overreacting. It's hard to think so without coming across as a conspiracy peddler or an attention seeker. But yet, as I've said before, we must have perspective. The XR clip spoke of a death count as if it was some biblical slaughter. People have died, of course they have. Denying that is grotesque. But excess winter deaths are always high, even with 'regular' flu which we can vaccinate against. Is this the right approach?

Honestly? 

I don't know. Maybe lockdown is necessary because our government have so spectacularly fucked up. That is indisputable. They've not just been caught with their pants down; they've actively stood in front of a charging bull called Covid, pulled their pants down themselves and painted their arses bright red. This is a horrible mess of their own making. Now we are paying the price, whatever the correct course of action may be. I guess only time will tell. In many ways whether or not I agree doesn't really matter since they aren't going to listen to me.

This is only week 2! They say truth is always the first casualty of war.

I think we can all agree that this should have been dealt with earlier, and more thoroughly. Test, trace, quarantine where necessary. We didn't. 

But on the other hand, it's a certainty surely that there are more people who have been infected/are infected than is being recorded. It is also quite credible to assert the virus has been circulating in Britain for longer. Which means we can compare it to the seasonal flu figures (which are collected or the totality of the season). Is it as bad? What does it mean if it is given that we don't lockdown the country over the flu. I hate to sound like Peter bloody Hitchens of all people (because he's a self righteous anachronism), but this is a valid inquiry and, if nothing else, I want to believe this can be better and not the doom laden scenario prophesied by the likes of XR.

But maybe they're right


Monday, 30 March 2020

Lockdown Tales: Hold Them To Account

Mother dearest had an Amazon delivery today.

Never has the arrival of a cooker been so confusing and terrifying. Do you leave it on the doorstep, staring at it hoping your eyesight can disinfect whatever germs lay hidden on the surface? Eventually she put on some marigolds and opened it up. Ultimately pointless, since you'd have to forensically clean everything at every stage, including yourself, until you reached the point where the product itself remained, cleaned.

Yeah, that didn't happen. If, at any stage in the packaging and delivery process, the virus got transferred onto this then we're fucked. To be honest, what realistically can you do? At some point you have to let go. Given how overworked Amazon staff are at the best of times I think it's only a matter of time before someone there catches, then inevitably spreads, the virus. I would assume that Amazon aren't in the habit of caring for their staff such that they'll be testing them.

So that's us then.

I'm starting to forget what it was like when things were normal. As far as normality goes in the pre-climate collapse capitalist crisis era. Something was boudn to go wrong, though I'd have preferred it to be something less...bacterial. It's pretty obvious human civilisation is undergoing a radical shift. Neoliberalism, dare I say it, has run its course, surviving on the fumes of credit and the desperation of powerful men that depend on it. Even now, while their societies splutter into oblivion they cling to this dream. Too frightened of change.

But change we must. To live again. Something is waiting to be born. It cannot be denied. It is screaming inside each of us. Whether individually and collectively we deny this will decide the coming period. Either we win or the ruling elite enforces harsher systems and increased austerity while the poor, predictably, get the blame. Don't fool yourself: that's exactly what will happen. The poor and the sick - the marginalised - will be scapegoated. Already the west are trying to blame China, ignorant of the fact that, as ground zero for the outbreak, they may be useful allies in dealing with it.

The capitalists revert to type. Parochial scapegoating, othering and racism are par for the course for the clowns currently in charge. Let us hope that is not for much longer. I cannot, in all reason, believe they can survive this. Surely this amount of fatal incompetence can only be met with the boot. Right up Johnson's fat self entitled arsehole.

Yet we know these slippery bastards have the means to survive. The media will rally around, questions that should be asked will go unspoken. Journalists exist now to serve the status quo. Never to question. It will be decades, generations, until the truth - probably in the form of a docu-drama (or reality show) - is revealed. Why our government, back then in 2020, fucked up so spectacularly. Until then, when the dramatis personae have dramatis passed away, they will redouble their efforts to oppress and obfuscate.

This must not be allowed to happen. Our eyes are open. We see  you.

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Weekender 2: Longer Rays From An Old Sun

Ah the Summer we'd all rather forget is about to happen. Or maybe it will turn out good and the virus will recede or even disappear (at least enough for some semblance of normality). We simply do not know.

I fear I may be getting lax in keeping a daily blog. I try to avoid the news. It's just too depressing and too overwhelming. Inevitably the death rate will increase. In fact that isn't as alarming as it might sound (clearly it's awful, and I fully blame our Clown Car Crew flaccidly calling themselves a government). We know that recorded cases of the virus represent those in hospital; people already sick enough to run a greater than perhaps 'average' risk of dying. This skews our perception of the threat posed. So it isn't surprising that death rates will rise from among that cohort. It takes time for the virus to do it's evil work. People aren't dying the moment they contract the virus; their is a lag. They go into hospital, stay sick, and eventually pass (or recover - hopefully the latter). So it doesn't mean the virus is killing more people in the way you might imagine as it cleaves through the community, but that those already sick are finally reaching an outcome.

Furthermore, the news will not divulge comorbidities or existing health conditions. Even that young woman who was mentioned...they say she was otherwise healthy. But as far as the news is concerned what does that mean? The government considers eating what is, quite frankly, rubbish (grains, cereals, a whole host of inflammatory foods) to be a 'balanced' (i.e. healthy) diet. She could have smoked, enjoyed a drink now and again - just enough to be 'normal', but that's not a synonym for healthy.

Anyway. Let's leave that there for now; I'm not a scientist.

It's the first day of Summer. A day I normally mark, even though, these days, it's a lot colder at this time of year than childhood memories affirm. Perhaps that's how the climate has changed, or perhaps I just remember poorly and 'twas ever thus. I'd like to think otherwise: I always associate the elongation of the day, the start of summer time, with the warmth of the widening rays. It feels cleansing to do so. It feels right

I mark this time on the psychic calendar; to manage the days. More so now that we find ourselves in this difficult period; unprecedented. We can say goodbye to Winter (hopefully - I hear it's been snowing). As a reward for strength of soul through the dark months, we are blessed by Mother Sun. Ra raises us up. Atem-tion!. Hopefully it won't be long before we can say goodbye to the Corona virus.

Maybe this can be a turning point. That is it's purpose for me. The value of the aforementioned psychic calendar. A way to map out the days to pace yourself and prepare throughout the year as the seasons shift and change and the days grow long and short. Some can stumble through the days; they seem to tumble down the stairs of our lives always landing softly on the feathers of good fortune. That person is not me. This is about a spiritual map; a mandala if you will. One can navigate life on an emotional level this way. It's why, I believe, we benefit rom traditions that mark things like the harvest, the end of the year, the return of spring, etc.

I think we need them now, more than ever.

Saturday, 28 March 2020

Weekender 2: We May Be Here A While

The weather's changed: gotten colder and windier. Hopefully this won't last for too long. I could say the same thing about the wider situation. Unfortunately I'm starting to really feel that isn't going to be the case.

The likelihood of there being a vaccine any time soon is slim. It took a long time for SARS to get one. Perhaps they can build on that, I hope so. What is needed now is a concerted, and sadly unprecedented, global effort. Capitalism won't like that. No profit in it.

So here we are.

There's a possibility that the summer heat (and perhaps early summer heat - global warming we need you!) could force the virus into recession (much like the economy). But can our country survive like this until then. That's three months away, and even then it only really ramps up around July/August. I cannot see this situation sustaining until then.

If it does then it will move into the global south where, next winter, there is every chance of it returning here. I have no faith in our leaders' taking advantage of a period of calm to do anything practical or preparatory. So what happens then; shut down again? How can a country survive like that? Coming out of economic hibernation every summer before shutting down the rest of the year. The answer is they cannot.

If there is a period of respite - and hopefully something better - then that must be exploited. We must push hard for new leaders and new leadership if that's what it takes. But our economy will be battered. They will try and inflict further austerity, of that you can be sure. If the answer to the crisis of 2007/8 was austerity then what now if not the same? I don't even want to think about how much more can be cut.

We may be fighting for our lives in more ways than one.

Our leaders have failed us in the worst possible way - and don't forget (as if you could) that in December Brexit time's up and we are set to crash out. You might hope that won't happen all thigs considered, but we cannot count on the Tories to really care about that. Especially under Coris the (coughing) Clown.

We could well see the onset of genuine societal collapse.

I want a better world. But at the same time I am currently so out of my comfort zone. This situation is continually scary. There is no pressure valve here. I have to find things to do, which, fortunately so far, hasn't been too difficult, but there is no break from this. The longer it goes, the harder it will be. When the weather turns, even going for a walk (which I could do more as I'm lucky to have the space nearby - and no police drones) is difficult. You might think, then, that staying at home is all the more appealing. But when there are no restrictions on going out it isn't a problem to choose not to, paradoxically.

This is difficult. I imagine there are plenty of people struggling right now. They are going to struggle more in the coming weeks, if not days. Finding things to do isn't impossible, I have tings to do, it's knowing that you have to that causes the frustration.

That is all I have to say for now. I wanted these posts to be more upbeat, or at least quirky. But right now, I think I need to vent. That's likely to happen more and more I'm afraid.

Weekender 3: The Chance We Must Take

Looks like it's going to be nice for the weekend. I broke the rules though. I went for an 'extra' walk today (and yesterday, a...