Strangeways, Here We Come

There is a certain attitude that believes writing in a notebook is obsolete. I suppose that same posturing might also believe that using one’s brain is passe. I mean, why fire-up the synapses when everything under the sun can be recorded, logged away, stored, and archived into a binary spectrum of unending virtual space. No, I’m actually not talking about the brain, I’m talking about an electronic platform where we can arrange it all, remember everything — and forget to use our biggest remembering system: the brain.

Forget about remembering. Who needs it? We have devices to the left of us, devices to the right of us that can remember so much better than we can. Come on, even a Luddite can’t retain information as well as an iPhone can.

We are all over-loaded with info in this new App Age. (Although I’m still waiting for them to develop an app so that I won’t have to get up in the middle of the night to piss. Oh, and I’d like one to drive me to work. Oh, and remove the rubbish from my house. Plus make love to my wife when I’m just too busy retaining information and facts to my electronic device.)

I just don’t believe that the brain should get squatter’s rights in my cranium. It should earn its keep. And one of the things the brain does well (and now it seems, even better after a couple glasses of Port) is to retain knowledge in all the myraid ways it is delivered to us. And the act of writing something down, physically pressing the words out, stringing ideas together into some coherent thought-sense, helps me to remember things so much better. It’s as if scratching something down on paper has the sympathetic effect of engraving it into the brain. In fact, the latest discoveries in neuroscience have overturned all that dogma about losing brain cells as we age. The truth is, our brains continue to produce more brain cells and it’s far more resilient, too. So we now have virtually proved that the brain stays vital and active well into old age. We do become wiser.

But how is this to happen if we stop using the brain for what it does best? The brain is our motherboard.

And why must our lives be made easier? I want to live and trust to the difficult. There are certain things in life I couldn’t do without to make my life easier, like the washing machine, cooker, electric lights, car (although I could easily ride an ass), Netflix, etc, etc. What I don’t want to make easier is the work my brain does.

Besides, I think as a culture, we’ve had enough of easy. Christianity has made spirituality easy by having a saviour all die for us and rid us of our sins. Thanks, but I don’t need salvation. And the media has made it easy for us to shut down our brains and our opinions with their information overload. Even government has made it easy for us to give up our freedom for the rule of a few.

If life gets any easier, we might as well get a somatic implant that will allow us to fully escape into a virtual nirvana as our brains shrink and become a simple electrical apparatus that supplies the illusion.


“Death of A Disco Dancer” The Smiths

“The Amorous Humphrey Plug” Scott Walker

“Dance With the Devil” UB40

“Rubberband Girl” Kate Bush

“Down in the Cockpit” XTC

“I Can’t Help Myself” Orange Juice

“Ring the Alarm” Black Dub

“Newborn” Elbow

“I Love You…I’ll Kill You” Enigma


Mind Bomb

I’m always, it seems, a day late and a pound short.

But this blog wouldn’t be worth its smoke if I didn’t comment on the Bin Laden killing. A blog is for opinion, and I’ve got some.

I’m not saying what I have to say is wise, comfortable (there’s a couch for that), insightful, or even got a lingering smell of intellectual debate about it. But it’s got feeling. And that’s how I think I need to respond to this event. As a cri de coeur.

But I’m still unsure how to feel about the assassination of Bin Laden. Lots of shit is going through my brain. Yes, he was a terrorist, a killer, the enemy, a villain. But the bloodlust in the streets, the howling for more death is unsettling. But I’m sure the Irish wanted Cromwell’s head on a pike, too.

Maybe I’m just cynical after years of being cynical, but one man’s death, even if he’s the enemy, is nothing to dance over. Or is it? The ancient Celts would cut off their sworn enemy’s head and bring it back to the settlement for all the tribes to come and pay their respect to a worthy enemy. It made the tribes stronger. It also was a clear indication that is was not bloodlust, but a blood feud. That is a form of dancing. But it was more a celebration for the lives spared, not the bodies slaughtered and rotting under death’s ironic smirk.

I’d say America needed an enemy like Bin Laden to define what democracy is. He made the US stronger. So, yes, maybe we should dance for his death. But I’ve still not got my dancing boots on. Shit, during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the CIA had meetings with Bin Laden and his ilk to fend off the cold war threat of the Commies.

So where’s the truth? In the hands of those who hope to gain the most from making truth as subjective as possible.

And dumping a body in the ocean is cowardly. OK, cowardly is a bit strong. But the act of dumping doesn’t sit right. Must be my barbarian spirit. If you kill an enemy, then bring him to the gates. Or else drag him behind a chariot. I want to see the face of death. It’s cowardly action to think that the US populace is a bunch of scared children. If he is the evil monster he is made out to be, then let’s all take responsibility for his death, not just the government.

And now he’s martyred. And now he will have more acolytes to carry out his death wishes. Haven’t we learnt from history that the dead are more powerful than the living? Look at Jesus Christ. The Romans crucified him and he became bigger than Facebook. (Ok, Jesus never killed innocent people, but he’s infected them with a religious virus that has caused lots of suffering.)

But what was the US to do? Keep Bin Laden a prisoner? It’s revenge. But is it justice?

In fact, me, my loved ones, friends, and the whole world are just as complicit in the killing. But I bet you most of us would rather not think about that. And so when the retaliation comes, and it will, there will be the herd who will cry out, “Unfair, what real rotters they are to attack this wonderful country.”

That’s my rub with all of this: Mendacity. War. It’s not so black and white any more as was WWII. Everybody knew what Hitler was about: world domination and genocide. Nobody wanted to use him as a little pawn and then let him go back to the sea to defile it.

And I know the extremists want my demise. But then so would a good portion of conservative, religious America. Sure, they are not going to act out their hatred on me, but it has happened — think  MLK, segregation, lynchings. We don’t need Muslim extremists to turn against us. Our own can easily do so, too.

So it’s not like the Muslim extremists are doing anything diff to what people who hate and fear and loathe have been doing since the dawn of time. But I also understand that the extremist threat is real. But so is the threat of the climate, Mother Nature. Why aren’t we going after the terrorists of the natural world? Surely they are more of a threat to our lives. You’re more likely to die from a natural disaster of even cancer than a Muslim extremist.

And everybody has a hand in the game of eroding another’s freedom. In civilized countries it’s called “survival of the fittest.” Maybe not in Maine, but there are fuckers out there who would not think twice about breaking into my home (your home), stealing my stuff and even killing me. Madmen are all around us. The whole world is not free from that!

So it’s ok to go killing Bin Laden, but what about the fucked-up killers in the US? Kids who take guns into schools to kill other kids; homophobes who torment young gay kids until they kill themselves, etc, etc, etc.

It’s the madness of killing, war, that makes me sad. Let’s take out who ever is perpetuating it if we really want to make some progress as humanity: be it an extremist or a rapist or a serial killer. Don’t stop in other countries and say freedom is alive and well and working when another young mother on welfare can’t feed her kids or a killer shoots down a young kid.

Just don’t tell me the “enemy” is not among us but is some foreigner in a turbine with fucked-up ideas about what it means to be human.

They should all die! Right?

But how the hell do we begin such genocide. It’s an apocalyptic vision.

So I say, give me my Lake Isle of Innishfree (notice the “free” on the end). I’m sick of war and ashes and blood. I want men and woman who want to create, make life, the supreme sacrifice, not death. Our blood is our life, it’s our life but we spill it like it’s some fantastic god to death. Make it flow for the right reasons, I say.

Shit, give me my own Llareggub under Milkwood. Let me make a place where the insane and the mad for life could live, while the rest of the herd go about comforting themselves with shadows. I would rather live as a shadow in the world than as a wraith, waiting for death.

And there’s no way sitting down with Bin Laden for a Socratic exchange would have worked. That would have been like trying to paint the roses red. Some people will never be changed from their plans. (Look at the young American revolutionaries, fed up with the English crown and its monopoly. So they became terrorists, attacking trade and the king’s soldiers. All for freedom from an oppressor.)

And I’m not saying I even have a pinch of empathy for Bin Landen, but I imagine he was also trying to shake off the shackles of the oppressor (the West).

I just don’t believe in his holy war. Nor does the rest of the world. But then the IRA didn’t believe in English rule. And tons of Americans supported the IRA with money.

We choose our alliances, don’t we? Or we don’t. And I don’t. Because I’m sick and fed up of war and being told this is the enemy, no, this is the enemy, no, sorry, this is really the enemy.

I’m sick of games of hatred. I just want to love what I want to love and live my life. That’s my freedom. And I won’t let anyone take it away, friend or foe.

I’m just not one to believe in the Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. I’d rather live for myself and my loved ones and add my little bit of wisdom to the world — or just my books. And I know that is probably so unpopular to say in the US, a country where the highest good is to die for it. But then I’m Welsh. And the Welsh have died enough!

And I know Bin Laden was a villain the whole world could hate without reservation. And the victims of 911 got their revenge at last. It’s that “eye for an eye.” It is so strong in us. But fuck the Bible! It’s time we stopped using it as our moral backbone. It hasn’t worked. It doesn’t work. And we can’t trust everything that’s in that book. We don’t trust everything that is in our hearts, do we? Plus we are modern man, or presume to be, so let’s show that we are and make some new morality. Because the Bible also said “Turn the other cheek.” And who’s strong enough to do that?

Maybe the revenge adds a sense of closure for some. And I’m glad that it does. But all that dancing in the streets and waving flags makes me think there are some who want more blood, any blood.

And does the blood of one man then wash away all the blood that has been spilled? Does it? Christ was crucified to free us of sin. Well, that’s not happened, has it?

Bin Laden’s blood is never going to be enough to equal out the crime of 911. More and more will have to be spilled. I mean, look at all the deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. Has that remedied anything? Has that made the scales of justice balance with a happy equilibrium?

More and more death, is what governments want. The US, too. Keep people afraid and feeling like they have a superhuman strength, and imagine what wonders you can perform? What kind of government would want to give that up? It’s the sweet drug of dreams….

I shall end with Dylan Thomas from Under Milkwood. That mad Celtic bard who lived life to its fullest: “Before you let the sun in, mind it wipes its shoes.”